Ok, just to help out for all you morons, here's the wordcounts for dumb people who cant math
blackmarketlimb - 1299
sadistech - 1220
Entenzahn - 1200
crabrock - 999
sebmojo - 1136 words with 134 given to thranguy
thranguy - 1384 words with help from mojo
titus82 - 1081 words
curlingiron - 1290 words
sitting here - 1200 words (fan words + minus baby points)
pham nuwen - 1300
ironic twist - 1300
kurona_bright - 1300
word bounty closed now get to loving writing, hope you kept track of your flash rules too
|# ? Jan 24, 2016 08:29|
|# ? Jan 27, 2022 15:49|
sebmojo - 1136 words with 134 given to thranguy
three words going free to anyone
|# ? Jan 24, 2016 09:54|
three words going free to anyone
|# ? Jan 24, 2016 09:58|
God Over Djinn fucked around with this message at 06:00 on Feb 1, 2016
|# ? Jan 24, 2016 18:10|
Leo Spraxus, captain of the Proxima Unica System Sky Surfers, is having a vision of the future. He sees himself antigravving through the Delta Tori System Bunker Buster zone while carrying the comet sphere. He winds up and hurls the comet sphere through the second highest scoring target. He’s just taken the Sky Surfers into the Holofield Championship.
Leo blinks. His coach is yelling at him over the headset shortwave to stick to his man. At this moment, he’s in the Sky Surfer zone, and the Bunker Busters are on the attack. But as Leo looks up, out of the corner of his eye he sees a teammate going in for a surprise steal.
Leo leaves it to faith as he zooms away from the Bunker Buster he’s guarding. The man’s eyes widen in surprise beneath his helmet. And suddenly the comet sphere is rocketing out towards him and Leo is meeting it exactly where the vision said he would be.
There’s no one near Leo, and he knows what to do with the comet sphere. It screams through the air, smashing through the shifting pixel patterns that make up the target. The pixels explode out into waves of colour and light while sound blares on several frequencies. Leo floats in place. He can only make out one thing through the confusion. His name. Spra-xus. Spra-xus.
Like he can hear everyone in the system at once.
He’s used to this. But for Leo Spraxus, victory has never been a guarantee. That’s why he works so hard.
This time was different. I saw it, he says to himself, and will tell his teammates later, when they all get blitzed on Honshu Blue Nova. They will be too out of it to listen.
I saw it, he will say.
Later, tossing around the comet sphere with his son, Reggie Spraxus, he figures it out. It’s second sight.
Like those broadcasts that are all over the Galaxy Wave. The Followers of Krovo. What do they say? That everyone is just programmed by God to do things. If you can see the programing, you’ll know what everyone is going to do next. You see the future. Krovo figured out how to do that, and you can too, if you go study under him at his temple. After you sign the contract, of course.
But I didn’t have to visit Krovo, Leo thinks. I somehow tapped into the second sight all by myself.
Why? It’s not like I need it. Everyone knows my name. I have everything I could ever want, he thinks, throwing the comet sphere.
He has another vision: the comet sphere upticking in speed. He must have misthrown. Its tail goes from a mild yellow to a slightly more alarming green. The speed change surprises Reggie, who still isn’t fully co-ordinated. As Leo watches, the comet weaves through Reggie’s outstretched arms and collides into his head with a thunk. Reggie begins to cry, the vision’s end cutting him off.
He’s back in the present, but the comet sphere has already left hands.
With a sunken heart he watches time repeat itself. The comet sphere’s impact actually sends Reggie flying backward, more from the kid stumbling than any real velocity. Still, Leo is a father, and no father can stand to watch his child hurt, for any reason. As he hugs the boy to him, he stares at the comet sphere, now sparking on the grass, and feels something break in him as well.
Leo is in the Sigma Helion System Empire Ants zone. It’s the offensive stage.
He’s managed to manipulate the sphere into following him through an extreme looping antigrav maneuver. But it looks like he’s been the only one to make it this far. He looks back and sees Empire Ants picking his teammates out of midair. It’s a rare turn of events; the majority of a team caught in antigrav jumps at the same time. He sees them being spiked into the holotraps, pitch black vortices that will blind them for a while. Now the Empire Ants are converging on him. The way the lights of the holofield play off their ant helmets makes it look like they all have death’s heads.
Leo grits his teeth.
He ascends sharply, manipulating his antigrav rig. Bursts of speed that seem random but are totally controlled. He’s out one side of the holofield and suddenly on the other side, his signature maneuver. He can almost see the Ants’ antennae waving back and forth to try and find him as he zooms over one Ant and under another. He hears cheers as he rockets toward the Ant keeper.
Then his third eye, or so he thinks of it now, opens.
The comet sphere is weaving back and forth, tail a pure red. It’s going for the second lowest scoring target, just enough to win. But the keeper is already there, reaching out with a long black arm.
And the comet sphere switches angles and collides into the highest scoring area.
It has to be the most amazing throw in holosphere history. And he’s disgusted by it.
This’ll keep happening, he thinks, because everything is set in stone. Everyone’s destiny. It all goes one way. I’ll keep watching myself do exactly what I’m supposed to do. Exactly what I’m programmed to do.
What is inevitability if not death?
The comet sphere is burning in his hand. With a grunt he hurls it and it misses wide.
I did it, he thinks, and for a second doesn’t understand the drone of disappointed murmurs.
Vito Diodonet is sitting in Tony’s Diner, a family joint.
A member of the family slides into the opposite side of the booth. Vito doesn’t know his name, but he sees him around. He always seemed nice enough.
Vito hands him an envelope. “Nothing personal,” he says, flashing a toothy grin. He counts it while Vito waits. Eventually he looks satisfied.
“I had a deadbeat try to welch today,” Vito says. “He said it was a fixup. Said Spraxus would never miss a shot like that unless something screwy was going on.”
“Anyone can crack under pressure,” the guy smirks.
“It is a fixup, though,” Vito says. “It’s all fixed up, all of it. An entire league full of, what do you call them, synthoids? Doesn’t it bother you?”
“You ever see those Krovo broadcasts?” the guy says. “They say we’re all programmed by God to do whatever, anyway. There’s no real difference, if you think about it.”
He gets up.
“Cheer up,” he says, noticing Vito’s expression. “You’ll go far if you don’t think about things too much.”
They even have synthoid families, Vito thinks as he watches the guy leave.
Suddenly he’s thinking about the future. He sees the family entrusting him with more and more responsibilities. He’s climbing the ranks, performing the rituals. He gets the boss’s ear. Maybe the old man takes a shine to him. One day, Vito thinks, he could be at the head of the most powerful organization in the galaxy. Every system kicking back to him. He’s imagining it now, like he’s there already.
Like second sight, he thinks.
|# ? Jan 24, 2016 20:58|
La Petite Roche
Little Rock languished in the long shadow of the Ozarks, who had fallen in love with the sky. She sighed when she caught them gazing at each other. They would apologize, but every year, before the trees had even lost their leaves, they grew impatient of their restraint, and would consummate their love with a million snowflake kisses.
The Arkansas River was Little Rock’s friend, confidant, and provocateur. She gushed in a hurry to meet her own lover, the Mississippi. “Oh honey,” said the Arkansas, witnessing Little Rock’s longing. “You really gotta find somebody.”
“Oh!” said Little Rock, as her oaks turned red and their leaves fell to the ground. “It’s hard to meet somebody when you’re a city.”
The river crashed against Little Rock’s banks, playfully flirting with her friend. “You meet tons of others,” she said. “Just last week I brought you a paddleboat. What was wrong with that?”
“I don’t know,” said Little Rock. “I imagine myself with something bigger. Somebody magnificent.”
“Nobody like that ever comes round these parts,” said the river. “I mean, you’re pretty and everything, but if you wanna attract somebody of that caliber, you gotta doll yourself up a little.”
“Like open a museum?”
The river laughed. “I’m talking parades, concerts—”
Little Rock’s factories belched smoke, buses looped through her neighborhoods, and streetlights clicked on at sunset. Months after toiling away, she had an epiphany.
It was time to primp.
The throng of jumbo jets on the tarmac at Clinton National Airport were painted in the various colors of their respective countries. Teams disembarked, dressed in tracksuits matching their airplanes, waving tiny flags that matched still. They smiled for the plethora of camera flashes.
Little Rock watched nervously, waiting for one plane in particular. But it hadn’t come.
“Don’t get too nervous,” said the river. “You’ll start raining.”
“I’m calm. I’m calm,” said Little Rock. A bus crashed into a double-parked van on Cantrell road. “Oops.”
“He’ll come,” said the river.
Little Rock felt like a debutante: her streets swept, banners fluttering from every light post, newly constructed arenas for the hodgepodge of events she’d planned. Though she was engorged with many potential suitors, they weren’t enticing like he was.
She glanced toward the Ozarks and the sky, who hadn’t yet kissed. She muttered curses under her breath. Yet another display of affection would hit like an avalanche. She’d heard of towns that had drowned their villagers in a fit of jealous rage. She wouldn’t do that—she hoped.
After all the teams had gone to their hotels, and the restaurants had closed, Little Rock still scanned the sky. Then, amongst storm clouds, a blinking light.
Team Syrena’s plane was a converted Kawasaki C-1 they’d purchased on the cheap at an auction, on account of the rust. She didn’t see the rust, only the green and blue of Syrena’s flag.
“He’s here!” shouted Little Rock. She felt the pressure rise in her water mains.
The plane landed and taxied to the terminal she’d specially prepared. The reporters had gone back to their hotels, and team Syrena disembarked sans flashes.
“What’s a small city like you doing hosting an event like this?” said Syrena.
Little Rock’s voice quivered. “Oh, you know, just things.”
“Hm,” replied Syrena, as one of his team tripped exiting the plane. “You look familiar. You ever been to Europe?”
“Well you’d fit right in with the castles there.”
“I’m thinking of getting some castles built,” she said.
He smiled. “You should.”
Little Rock gave Syrena the tour, and as the night progressed, she leaned in a little closer to him. At the end of the night, they huddled close and stared into each other’s souls.
Little Rock trembled. She wanted Syrena to kiss her, but he seemed distracted.
“Tonight has been lovely, but I have to go,” said Syrena.
“Was it my dump? I’ve been trying to get them to recycle, honest,” she blurted out.
Syrena laughed. “No, it’s my team. They need me now.” He looked over toward their hotel, where the last light went out. “You know, we’ve never won a gold medal. I can’t let myself get distracted now. Goodnight, Little Rock.” And he was gone.
Little Rock stayed up all night watching over her guests, replaying the night’s events over and over. The storm clouds rumbled over the Ozarks. She resolved to get her kiss before the first snow.
The sun popped up from the east, and people emerged from their hotels. The stadiums filled up and the speakers blared foreign music.
The 14th Autumn Olympics had begun.
[to be continued...]
|# ? Jan 24, 2016 21:54|
-130 words to SadisTech
I’m the headline act. Three months of recovery and I can barely walk without crutches, but I can sit, and I can push the gas pedal down, and my agent wants me to get back in the saddle before the fad is gone, and I want to get back in the saddle before I’m out for good.
Three months is a lot of time in the monster truck derby business.
The stadium is full. Of course it is. I’m a hot loving internet meme. Been ever since that late night host showed a photoshop of me chasing Freddy Krueger down Elm Street. “The Monster Trucker”. That was the joke. I drive a monster truck, and I look like a monster now. Some argued that making fun of a burn victim was a bit tasteless, and then half of Twitter fought over my dignity.
But it was an opportunity. They’d dropped me after the accident, and now they wanted me back. I got my own TV commercials. “Unleash the monster.” Good stuff. Scary, but good.
The announcer’s voice blares through the arena like the word of God filtered through a subway speaker. I can faintly make out the word “Monster.” It’s the first time I ever hear the crowd cheer even before the arena horn blows. My children are watching too, somewhere. Watching daddy drive the truck. I give them a show. I floor the gas pedal, let my engine roar like an approaching thunderstorm, and flick one of the switches on my pyrotechnics board. Flames shoot out the side of my car. The scars on my face tingle at the sight, and my face is all scars. But I’m not afraid.
The crash almost took everything from me. Today, I’m taking it back.
The arena horn blows. My wheels kick up a metric fuckton of dirt and I drive straight into the dust, into the storm. I already know what’s at the other end: a carambolage. It’s a sacred tradition, and it separates the wheat from the chaff. If your car sucks, if you suck, this is where your derby ends.
But my truck is massive, and I know how to drive this thing: straight-ahead. Because the front is more solid than anything else. Newbloods swerve and brake and that’s when you scoop them up and toss them aside like wet paper towels.
The carambolage claims its victims, engines stuttering out pathetically, throwing up smokescreens and belching fire, drivers thrashing around behind their windshields, the word “gently caress” clearly written on their lips. I know some of those guys. One of them made fun about me on facebook. I put the truck in reverse, drive halfway around him and slam my grill into the side of his silly green-camo lightweight. The look on his face as I topple his little toy truck is priceless.
I lose myself in the derby, this orgy of metallic noise and sparks, this clash of steel titans, obliterating one another, squashing each other like beer cans on an Alabama summer day. My hands all but melt into the wheel. I’m back in my element, a shark in the ocean, dashing through the smoke and the fumes and the fire, that battlefield of a stadium, always attacking, retreating, going in for the kill, regrouping, attacking again. The noise of the derby drowns in cheer. It’s a good show.
Eventually I’m the only one still going.
Maybe it’s the rush, the adrenaline, the finally being back on the stage. The knowledge that, if I’d have hosed up today, my comeback would have been over before it had started. Maybe it was rigged. I don’t know. I was good. I won. That’s all that matters.
I’m taking my victory round. I make a point out of crashing into every defeated enemy on my way. I flick another switch, and a distorted dinosaur roar blares from my speakers while flames shoot out of the roof of my truck. I bathe in chants.
Mary and the kids are by the pit. Out of the car, through the fence. I hobble towards them with open arms, the smile of a winner under my helmet. But Mary’s face is a rock, and she stands there like one too. The kids are running towards me. Then I move my hands up to my helmet, and they stop, and so do I.
We just stand there.
They shy away from me.
Because it doesn’t matter. Because my horrid face is still there, underneath the helmet, and all their memories are just that, memories of a friendlier face, a face that’s gone now, replaced by a halloween mask, the kind of horror they usually think is hiding in their closet at night.
The things third-degree burns do to a family.
“They saw your commercials,” Mary says. I don’t ask which. The kids are back to hiding behind her skirt, just like they’d done ever since they first saw me at the hospital. “So are you done now? Your one last time?”
“I… don’t know. I just won. I have to give them a rematch.” I think it’s a reasonable offer. The rematch is basically still part of the first match, and besides, I just proved that I’m safe in this truck. I can handle it.
But she disagrees, and it’s obvious long before she starts speaking, the way her face drops, the way she has to take a deep breath to stop her lips from quivering. “It’s always the same with you,” she says. “Your goddamn trucks. Nearly killed you and the first thing you do is, you come back here and do it all over again. I can’t take this anymore.”
She turns around before I can say anything else, kids hurrying behind her like a line of baby ducks, and I call after her, ask her to stop, stop and talk things out, but she doesn’t, and we don’t, and then I’m alone in the pit, just me and the crowd. So I get back in the truck, and the engine is still running but there’s nowhere for me to go and nowhere else I’d really wanna be, and I don’t wanna be here either but at least the engine and the crowd and the thundering applause drown out the two voices in my head, the monster and the father, and the monster roaring and the father crying his ugly little eyes out.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 01:58|
Overhand - 1200 words
“You can’t do it that way,” the old man said, mimicking my punch. “You punch straight like this, they’ll see it coming every time and block, get out of the way, counter.”
He shook his head and began throwing slow, winging haymakers that started from the waist.
“These’ll topple a bitch, ‘Los. See that?”
He sped up the motions, throwing hook after hook, his elbows were locked at 90-degree angles.
“Throw from outside their periphery and they’ll never see what hit ‘em.”
He breathed hard and collapsed back on the park bench, crossing his arms up above his head.
He was wrong, of course. I had read the books and seen the big names fight and none of them punched like that. It was cartoonish, like a child’s idea of what a strong punch would look like. Even knowing this I stood up from my crouch and punched like the old man wanted me to punch.
I don’t know why.
Maybe I’m humoring him, get this over with so I can get a few more precious days of real training before the tryouts. Part of me thinks the old man actually knows something, picked up some dirty techniques in one of his prison stints. He told me when you have a problem with your bunk mate you wait ‘till it’s dark out and beat on each other ‘till one of you gives up or dies.
“I never gave up,” the old man said.
He also never died, though his body was making a drat good effort to. He coughed, body racking, head between his legs. I matched the rhythm of my punches to them.
“You’re still bringing your fists back to your chin,” he said, adding another red glob of phlegm to the puddle near his feet.
“You don’t need that, it’s a crutch. Men in our family, we got iron chins.” He gave his scraggly beard a couple little play punches to make sure I got the point.
“Women, too.” I said, glaring at the old man.
He looked so small then. Pale, hunched over, specks of spittle on his beard. If he hadn’t told me who he was I might have shown him the way to the homeless shelter. Might be where he was staying anyway.
“That’s just the language your mother and I spoke, ‘Los.”
I balled my fists and looked him right in the eye.
“Mention her again and see how fluent I’ve become.”
I felt a rush inside me when I saw him flinch, and I grabbed the bench and flipped it over, the old man along with it. I think I would have jumped on him like an animal and bashed him six feet deep if he had been more of a father, but a handful of bad memories don’t make one of those. All I saw was a sad old man writhing and coughing in the dirt.
I took my gloves off and put school bag. My hands were wrapped and shaking and I had a lot of trouble working the zipper.
“Carlos, wait, let’s take a step back,” the old man said between fits of violent coughing.
“Keep swingin’ like I taught you.”
“This is the only thing you taught me, old man.”
I picked up my bag and walked away.
I liked to train in a secluded area of the park, at the end of a biking trail they made not knowing that the ghetto wasn’t exactly the biking trail sort of crowd. I started running as soon as I turned a bend, and threw up as I got home.
It felt good to hear my name called out loud for a crowd. It wasn’t over speakers like the big boys, but the ref’s voice carried through the hall and I even got a few cheers as I stepped into the ring.
The fight team tryouts were the real deal. I had my hands wrapped by a guy who said he wrapped Ali’s hands, way back when. The gloves they had for me were a little worn but made from real leather. I banged them together as I paced throughout the ring with a satisfying smack.
I threw out a few one-two’s to get my blood up.
My opponent walked out, his coach holding a boombox up high in both hands playing some truly awful death metal. A whole section of the bleachers cheered, mostly older, flabbier versions of the kid that walked up to me now. I stretched and smacked my gloves together and wondered how they’d sound after I was through with their boy.
There was a space in the bleachers cleared around a lone figure, and I froze as I realized it was the old man. All the poo poo in my life he could have been around to embarrass me at, and he chose this.
I shook my head and beat my chest and tried to focus on corn-fed white boy stepping into the ring with me.
He was a monster. It looked like he had at least 25 pounds on me, and must have cut off then reattached a limb in order to make weight. He had reach on me, as well, arms swinging almost down to his knees like a goddamn cave man.
The ref said the words, we went to our corners, and the bell rang.
We met in the middle of the ring and I threw out a jab to test my range, which he brushed aside like an afterthought. We didn’t get twelve rounds to feel each other out like the pros, so I followed up with a cross that would break his guard.
He stiff-jabbed me and I saw stars, my cross a foot away from reaching him. I followed up with more, all met by the same jab.
I smell acetone. Everything happens fast and slow at the same time.
I can’t reach him. I feel like a kid, swinging at air while he holds my head back and yawns. We dance around each other with our hands up. I see all three of his heads smiling and know I can’t win.
The bell rings.
He’s at his corner, doesn’t even sit down. His coach pats him on the back and gives him water. The guy at my corner tells me something I don’t hear. I don’t know him, he works for the association. A charity coach.
I look for the old man in the stands and instead see him making his way to the ring. He’s being restrained by two men wearing shirts that say “security”. He’s yelling something through a coughing fit. One of the men gets him in a headlock and pulls him to the ground. I blink away tears.
I look at the old man and raise a glove, then sprint out of my corner like a racehorse.
I start throwing out the old man’s ridiculous action movie haymakers. They don’t connect and never will, swinging like that goes against the first rules of boxing.
It doesn’t matter. I swing until I feel a tap on my iron chin.
I wake up to my father’s face.
“Almost got him, kid.”
“Almost got him, dad.”
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 02:09|
Alyssa caught the creep in a headlock with one arm and peeled the camera phone out of his hand with the other. Just like she’d thought, he’d been taking picture after picture of the gymnasts as they left the hotel lobby. When she’d shown the evidence to the police and they cuffed the shithead, it was the happiest she’d been ever since the test had ruined everything. Ever since Dr. Dyer had said the words “complete androgen insensitivity syndrome.” Just like that, she’d been ruled ineligible for her weightlifting event, and been given a hell of a situation to explain to Derrick back home.
She imagined the conversation over and over in her head. “Honey, don’t freak out,” she’d say, “but I’m genetically male. That doesn’t make me a man, I’m still the same person I always was. The doctor says I’d have never known if the Olympic committee didn’t test everyone. No, this doesn’t make you gay.”
No, she wasn’t ready for that sort of conversation. And it’d be even worse if he understood. She could just imagine him full of empty affirmations. “You’re the toughest girl I know,” he’d say. “You choked down nothing but protein shakes and yogurt for years. You could do anything!” And then he’d almost certainly tell her “You’ve got the balls.”
She couldn’t bear the thought of any reaction from him. And so she’d told Derrick that her agent had miscommunicated her eligibility, that he’d screwed things up with the Olympic committee. She’d kept her conversations brief ever since then, telling him she was just so busy that she didn’t have time to talk.
At least her agent was gracious enough to offer her a job in Olympic Village security. “You’ll have an Olympic experience, even if you can’t compete,” he’d said. And what an experience it was. Twelve hours a day, she’d stand in the lobby of this posh hotel, filled with athletes whose genetic makeup didn’t disqualify them from their dreams. They all annoyed her, in one way or another – the too-loud chatter of jetlagged Australians, the way the runners would slice through crowds of elderly officials, the impotence and irrelevance of anyone carrying a badminton racket.
But the divers were the worst. The loving divers.. Dumb as stumps, they all were, and rowdy stumps at that. Alyssa had only been on this security detail for three days, and she’d lost count of all the heavy-drinking divers she’d had to walk home. They hadn’t even competed yet. You’d think they’d wait until their fleeting moment of glory had passed.
Her radio sputtered. “Got a situation in the northwest building, fifth floor. Guy called in, said his guest won’t leave.”
“I got it,” Alyssa said. Another goddamned diver getting too liquored up, she was sure. She went up to the hotel’s fifth floor. Before the elevator doors opened, she could hear the slurring monologue:
“…really just looking for love, you know? But not inflatuation, that’s no good. My last boy? He was all into that. Saturation. You know what I mean? You’ve got a very understanding face.”
Alyssa rapped on the door. “Security!” she called.
“Oh, Christ, thank goodness.” A tall, disheveled man in a bathrobe and tighty-whities yanked open the door. “He just won’t leave. For the love of God, please, just make him leave.” Alyssa glanced behind him and caught sight of the shirtless, babbling, and yes, chlorine-bleached guest. Knew it.
She crossed the dingy room, stepping over a pile of blankets tossed to the floor. “C’mon. Let’s go home. Out we go,” she said, putting a hand on his shoulder. The kid with the bleached hair moaned, but complied, giving a last moony glance at the room’s resident before Alyssa closed the door behind him.
“Just the two of us,” he said. He wiggled his eyebrows and laughed like a hiccupping lemur. He reached out and grasped Alyssa’s bicep, gave it a good squeeze. “Oh drat. You’re ripped. You’re not one of those fatass rent-a-cops! You’re a swole rent-a-cop.” Again he cackled. Alyssa pulled the wallet out of his back pocket. Thom Starkey, his ID read. Oh no.
“Tell me you live here, Thom,” she said. She knew the name and the reputation, if not the face. Thom Starkey was as close to celebrity as a diver could get, although it was less for his diving skills and more for his bland good looks. A drunk Starkey caught out in public by the paparazzi? That’d be another Michael Phelps situation.
“Nope! I’m from Canada.” His rictus grin shrunk at Alyssa’s glare. “I knew what you meant. Twelveteenth floor, that’s me.”
Alyssa took Starkey by the arm, steadying him, and marched one tiny step at a time back to the elevators. She felt revolted by him, and it wasn’t just the fear that he might turn and vomit one of those high-calorie Olympic Village meals all over her uniform. It was the lack of self-control. Self-respect. Like the goddamned Olympic Games were some meaningless frat party. Her unexpressed genes barred her from competing, but Starkey’s conscious weakness meant nothing. They reached the elevator, but she pivoted to the stairs. “Come on,” she said, “up the stairs. Can’t have anyone seeing you like this.” She savored the way his face fell.
Starkey whimpered but obliged, taking the steps slow. Alyssa followed behind him, praying he wouldn’t trip or empty his stomach. “Don’t know why you’re so afraid of people seeing me,” he said. “I like to let it all hang out.”
“Sure you do,” she said. “But in the morning, you’ll be glad you didn’t. You don’t want people saying horrible things about you.” They had reached the twelfth floor landing.
“Only if they’re not true. Like, if they said ‘Starkey’s ugly and a terrible diver,’ that’d be hurtful. But if they said ‘Starkey gets drunk and sleeps with men,’ well, I got to own that, don’t I?”
“You have to have some dignity,” Alyssa said quietly.
“This is dignity. It’s the... integregal thing to do. Can’t keep secrets,” he said, wagging a finger too close to Alyssa’s face and striding into the hall. He stood in front of a door - hopefully his door - and Alyssa handed him back his wallet. He unlocked the door with his card key. “You’re a really nice lady,” he said. “You should watch me dive tomorrow.”
“Maybe,” Alyssa said, and shut the door between them. She walked back to the stairs and lingered on the landing. That was dignity, was it? Acting with no regard to the consequences? She imagined herself acting on all the impulses that might struck her - devouring a half gallon of ice cream, breaking into the Olympic pool and swimming a few laps, punching the rudest guests in the face.
Or coming clean to Derrick.
She put her hand in her pocket and considered calling him, right then and there. “Listen. Don’t freak out,” she’d say. “But I’ve had a hard time dealing with this thing.”
She pulled out the phone and, in a surge of nerves, made the call.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 02:47|
im write a story
one day there was wizard
he says "all you stories are terrible!"
then he spin around a in circle and say "BADBADBADBADSTORIESNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"
then he looked at his hands, and he said, in a trembling voice "all stories are solipsisms, and all solipsists are narcissists."
then he masturbated
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 03:04|
(1,167 words) (+33 gifted to Sitting Here)
Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 18:05 on Dec 31, 2016
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 03:05|
okay so one day there was a man
he was a very tall man and very handsome
we said "I want to marry Kim Kardashian!"
but he couldn't, because Kanye West was in the way
so he strangled Kanye West with a piano wire and Kim said "now I have to marry you! This is how it works."
and they were married happily every after
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 03:08|
The Agonizing Slowness of Light
Words: 1380 (+134 words from Sebmojo)
Gary's foothold breaks off and he's dangling by his hands, fifty meters above me and to the right. Every mountaineering instinct in me screams 'give aid', but he signals me off with a look. His position's unrecoverable. He pulls his legs up to where they're bent against the basalt face, then lets go and springs out with them at the same instant. It's the smart move. His shell might survive the two kilometer fall with a lucky landing. If he'd tried to recover and failed, it would have hit the cliff a dozen times on the way down. A smart move, but not the one I'd take. I'm not giving up, so neither can you. There's a ledge and a crack in the escarpment two hundred meters up. I climb up to it and wedge myself in, my endurance spent.
I double check my rigging and switch off. The illusion breaks and I'm aware of my own body, floating in a vat of kinesthetic smart-gel on Phobos Base. Gary's decanted by now, having a real meal in the loser's lounge. I have another dinner shot into me through the tube in my helmet before setting the rig to simulate a nice, warm bed.
Five hours of sleep and I'm up. I do some quick exercises to adjust myself to the light-speed lag: fifty milliseconds each way from Deimos to the mountain. Then I switch back to the shell, right where I left it, bracing itself into that crack on the cliff face. Bracing myself, now. I relax my muscles, swing out of the crack and resume the climb.
The shell's a human-shaped drone designed for surface work on Mars. It doesn't breathe, eat, or sleep. For the purposes of the First Martian Triathlon they're limited to the strength and speed of a human in top physical shape. If the shell experiences anything that would kill or incapacitate a human, the operator's race ends and they get a payout based on overall rank. If the shell itself suffers serious damage, they get nothing.
There were five hundred of us at the start. A message pops up: Thirty Contestants Remaining. I'm nearing the top of the cliff, after three days climbing. My equipment's mostly gone. No ropes, no rigging, just two spikes, both worn mostly blunt. I wedge one out of the rock. Instead of making a hole it knocks off a man-sized chunk of rock. I pull back, but those 50 milliseconds mean it smacks my hand before I can react. I drop the spike and am sent spinning, hitting the other side and barely keeping hold with my other hand. I'm not giving up, so you can't either. I put both hands on the hold and look at the wall where I'd been working. There's a natural handhold there. It might be stable. It is. One spike left. I can do this.
The same week I was selected for the Martian Triathlon, my brother was diagnosed with liver cancer. They gave him six months to live. It takes about eight months to get from Earth to Mars. “I know what you're thinking,” he told me. “You are going and that is that. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity-”
“And so's-” I said.
“So's watching me die? Yeah, I know which one I'd pick. If it comes to that, I'll die just fine without you. But I'm not giving up, so neither can you.”
They gave him six months, but he was still alive when I reached Phobos. Alive, but not well. I could tell he was near the end when we got to talk a while over the thirty-eight minutes and change delay of a two-way light-speed transmission. “I'm going to watch you,” he told me. “I've given the docs strict instructions to wake me up or kill me trying if I'm not conscious when you're coming down.”
The first leg of the Martian Triathlon was extreme base-jumping. Orbit to ground. Lots of different strategies: parachutes, winged gliders, insulated bouncing balls. I went with a rocket harness, which was so terrifying and joyous I forgot everything else for a while. I landed fifth closest to the target mark. Out of the five hundred, fifty-three landed without triggering the fatal injury sensors.
The second leg was the climb. After the cliff, that's a long hike up a gentle grade where the biggest danger is getting distracted. It's almost inevitable over four days, and I'm lucky that the dust pit I fall into isn't much deeper than my height. I'm not giving up. I have to scramble, nearly blind, to find an edge rough enough to climb before the shell decides I've asphyxiated
The third leg of the Martian Triathlon is coming down Olympus Mons, using whatever equipment you carried up. Nothing powered, no motors or electricity, just 'muscles' and gravity. There are lots of strategies in the twenty-six of us left. A few looked at their odds and just quit rather than risking the shell damage forfeit. Some doubled down on mountaineering gear. Most went with some variant on skiing equipment. Two brought giant hamster balls filled with impact foam. I brought a mountain bike.
Some people brought a bicycle and rappelling gear, or a bicycle and a wingsuit or glider. I'm the only one who brought only the bike. Coming down the dome, with a good downward slope and next to no air resistance I cover what took four days to walk in about as many hours. I don't go back to the cliff. I take a route over bare rock, avoiding the dustfields, to a part where Olympus Mons is only as steep as a mountain. I stop, check over the bike, disassemble it and replace every replaceable part.
The plan is so risky it would be completely insane in my own skin, probably is completely insane already considering the money at risk. As it stands my payoff would be good if my shell registers death, but if anything goes wrong it'll be torn apart and I'll get zilch. If I 'survive' this, though, I'll win outright. But this ride would be tricky in real time. With 50 milliseconds of lag, it'll take luck on top of skill.
I send the rig a command to detach the elimination gear around my groin. So far I've been able to do without sensation there, but I'll need to feel the bike from the seat to have any chance. I find a promising part of the edge of the dome, put the front wheel out, and lean forward.
It's almost no time at all before I'm traveling faster than anyone's ever been on a bicycle, dodging rocks and dropoffs, catching air and landing parallel. In a few minutes I'm at the fastest I can possible manage, keeping control with the brakes. I see what looks like smoke coming off my arms and think for a second that my shell is on fire, but there's not enough oxygen for that. No, it's all of the dust the shell has picked up being blown loose. I smile. Then it hits me – I mean, I'd known all along, but it really hits me – that I'm going to have to be doing this for hours. No stopping before the bottom.
I don't know if my brother is still alive. If news that he died reached Phobos after the race began, I won't find out until the end, lose or win. With every tough bump or landing part of me wants to just take a spill, just to know. I'm not giving up, so you can't either. I misjudge a jump, angling too high. No way to lower the wheel, so I pull up and land roughly after a flip.
The ground before me levels. I cross the invisible finish line, let the bike slide to a stop as congratulatory messages arrive from Phobos, crew and competitors alike. I kneel and wait. The last few hours felt like minutes. These minutes feel like years. The clock ticks to 19:21. He'd be watching me right now, if... Another eternity, and the clock reaches 38:42. I raise my hands in victory as I see one message from him in the flood.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 03:19|
Staves and Knaves
1291 words (1200 + 100 for fanpost)
I was halfway through a cigarette when they called for me. You try impersonating a wizard in a building full of 'em and tell me if it doesn't make you want a smoke just to soothe the nerves.
When Julian came to me and said he wanted me to disguise myself as a competitor in the Tourney of Staves, the biggest magic contest in the whole drat world, I told him he was nuts. After he handed me a staff pre-loaded with enough spells to fry an elephant, I told him he was still nuts but I'd take the job. Wizards didn't hire private investigators often, hell, they hardly even come in contact with us normal types, so I was curious to see what had the magic boys so stumped they had to call in an old-fashioned snoop.
On my way to the arena, I ran through my staff's trigger words in my head. “Blockem” for a shield. “Zapzap” for lightning. “Whammo” for an old-fashioned sucker punch. Wasn’t sure how that last one was going to work, but I didn’t get to pick the spells and I sure didn’t pick those comic-book trigger words.
Julian was running the Tourney that year. He was sure some of the competitors had been taking "performance enhancing potions". Wanted me to figure out who was selling. They'll boost your magical power, but the side effects are worse than a hellfire enema. You think regular doping’s bad; wizard poo poo brings the rage with a demon camped in your skull, and your wedding tackle shrinks so much it turns into a dark portal to Shem'harot. I guess some figured the Tourney's prize was worth it.
My opponent and I were in little balconies over the central floor. When the judges signaled, we threw our staves into the arena. The goal was to smash the other guy’s staff. Real wizards control their staves like puppets on magic strings, but yours truly was stuck with about 30 pre-loaded spells. Once those ran out, I’d be through. And if anyone caught on that I was just faking it, I’d be out on my rear end before you could say “Merlin”.
The round began. My opponent was a skinny wizard in a robe even Liberace woulda called gaudy. He stabbed his finger at the air while lightning shot out the end of his staff. I only just got out the words to bring up a shield in time. I hit back with two spells, a quick flash of light to dazzle, then a portal to the fire dimension. Would've roasted him, too, but he snapped his fingers and the staff vanished to reappear on the other side of mine as the portal winked out.
It went back and forth, no clear advantage for either of us. I was getting into it, even though it was just supposed to be the cover story to get me inside. Problem was, I already started to run low on the pre-loaded spells in the staff; Julian only loaded it with enough to make a good showing, he didn’t need me to win.
My opponent kept hammering at me with no signs of tiring. I wondered if he was on the wizard 'roids, traded functioning genitals for extra magical power. Finally I hit a point where I didn't have any defensive options left, just a few simple attacks. With the smuggest drat grin, he raised his hand and brought it down in a chopping motion as his staff smacked into mine, broke it in half.
drat! Like I said, it was just a ruse, but I wouldn't have minded getting into the second round at least. I slunk off the balcony in defeat while the crowd cheered the winner.
Back in the competitor's prep room, I sat in a quiet corner and closed my eyes to think. I needed to get cracking on the case or else I'd be twice a failure. Annoyed at losing, annoyed at Julian. Why the hell did he think some mundane slob like me could track down something he himself couldn't find with magic? Yeah, all that noise about anti-scrying wards and other mumbo-jumbo, but I was out of my drat element.
From past my closed eyelids someone spoke. "Pretty shameful show out there, running out of steam like that. Losing to a simple physical attack? You must have been completely wasted by then."
I cracked one eye open. Some weaselly schmuck in a crooked wizard's hat had sat down across from me.
"Yeah?" I answered. "Guess it was just an off day."
"You don't have to run out of juice like that, man," he said. "I've got something that'll really beef you up for next time."
Jesus, was this really happening? I bust rear end for three days trying to crack this operation, and all I had to do was lose a match? No wonder Julian and his cronies couldn't find it, these guys were only selling to losers like me.
"Sure, what've I got to lose?" I said. He told me to go to the storage room down the hall in 10 minutes.
The lights were off in the storage room. Flicking the switches didn't do anything. Fine, I thought, guess he wants to keep it nice and cliche. I was still carrying my staff around, so I leaned it against the wall and stuck my hands in my pockets. My right hand gripped my .38 snubnose while my left hand held the magic signal that would summon Julian.
The dealer wasn't there yet. I walked further into the room to get a feel for the space and let my eyes adjust. Footsteps in the hall and the door opened. Weaselly dealer poked his head in, saw I was alone, came in.
He walked toward me, pulling two glinting purple syringes from his bag. "Friend, this is what you want. Prices are reasonable, so--"
I drew on him and pressed the signal button at the same time. "Hold it! Move your arms or try to talk and I'll ventilate you." He froze, a syringe in each hand. Why were they even syringes, I wondered, why not something a little more magical?
Julian appeared in the room with a blinding flash of light. "Christ!" I yelled. My vision was temporarily ruined. I recovered just in time to see the dealer pull both syringes, empty now, out of his legs and drop them on the floor.
Before either of us could react, Julian and I were shoved back against the wall by strong invisible hands. The skin on my forehead tightened. "Anti-magic field, you bastards!" the dealer shrieked. I emptied my revolver at him, but the bullets stopped short and fell to the floor.
“poo poo,” I grunted.
"I'm not a cruel guy," he said, "I'm not going to kill you. By the time you get loose, I'll be a thousand miles away with a brand new face."
I swore at myself. Totally screwed, I thought, just like my staff in the tourney. Then I remembered.
"Hey, before you go," I said, "I just want to say one thing."
"WHAMMO!" I screamed the trigger word for the last spell I knew was still in my staff, one that hadn't been much good in the tourney. The staff bounced up off the wall, swung back, and gave that S.O.B. a whack that would put Mickey Mantle to shame.
Julian and I stepped away from the wall as the magic cut out. "Guess he'll be 'sticking' around after all!" I said. Julian groaned. So did the unconscious wizard on the floor. Screw 'em, I thought, I wonder if they still have those "I Kicked rear end At The Tourney of Staves" t-shirts for sale.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 03:51|
newtestleper fucked around with this message at 10:35 on Jan 7, 2017
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 03:59|
Word Count: 1077
He dreamed the same dream every night for a month. A dream in which he emerged from a dark tunnel into a blindly light cavernous chamber, flags from every foreign land hanging from the crisscrossed rafters. Wasam would try to find the familiar cyan and seafoam green of his country’s flag, but it was always lost somewhere in the kaleidoscope of colors. Then came his favorite part, when he would see Hamal, his shaggy pure white mountain of a dog, sitting atop a three-tiered platform being crowned Best in Show of the Autumn Olympics.
But now he couldn’t sleep. He was flying home after the competition, and while it was only the second flight in his entire life, he didn’t feel so much as a twinge at the roar of the engines and the rushing of the wind. The difference was, of course, that he was heading back to his hometown, not in triumph as his dreams had portended, but in failure.
Hamal, and by extension Wasam, had never even managed to make it into the show.
To make matters worse, Hamal was cooped up somewhere deep in the belly of the plane, nose squashed up against an undersized cage. All Wasam wanted was to dream the dream again, or hug Hamal. Instead he sat replaying the series of events, over and over again, that led him to defeat.
The day that Hamal had come into the world, Wasam had found his Papa crouched next to a pile of hay in their old barn, murmuring soft words he could not make out. He saw the old angry-looking brown shepherd dog lying in blood and had gasped in fright. Papa had turned and smiled, waving Wasam over.
“Is she dying, Papa?”
“No, she’s had pups.”
When he finally got close enough he saw them: half a dozen puppies suckling on their mother’s teats. All except for one, a little snow white pup with red eyes, off by itself. Wasam had pointed and noted the similarities between the Mastiff pup and the lambs of their flock. Papa had smiled at Wasam.
“You have named him,” Papa had said.
“Named him? I named him Hamal?”
“Yes, Lamb. It is a good name for a runt.”
Runt. Wasam hadn’t known what the word meant. He had asked an old Jaddah of the village and she told him that it was the one Papa knew would never grow large and couldn’t be sold at the market. She had also claimed that Hamal was an unnatural animal, an albino, and not to be trust around livestock. Papa had agreed. He would not allow Hamal near the flock.
Wasam had paid them no mind. He had cradled Hamal in his arms, feeding Hamal milk from a goat’s bladder, his tawny hands in stark contrast to the white fur. Wasam knew that Hamal would be a gentle dog. And Hamal had rarely barked at his flock, and never so much as nipped at the most obstinate and wayward of the goats.
Hamal had stood nearly half the size of a mule by the time Papa died.
It was a surprise, then, when Hamal bit the Judge at the Dog Show.
Traveling to America had been a shock for both of them, but the real shock had come at the Dog Show. When Wasam had entered the backstage, he was glossy eyed, confused, and exhausted. But all of that disappeared when he saw the competition. The sheer variety of dogs drew into question his very definition of what a dog was. They ranged from the rough-coated, pony sized, Irish Wolfhounds, to the tiny lamb-like Poodles. But most important were the Mastiffs. Not one Mastiff looked anything like Hamal, their features reminded Wasam of puppies. They had naturally gentle expressions, as opposed to the protruding fangs and snub nose of Hamal.
But if Wasam had taken this poorly, Hamal had taken it even worse. He had growled at the Irish Wolfhounds, but it was the treatment of the Toy Poodles that upset him. They had been primped and prodded, sprayed with cans of a cloyingly sweet aerosol, their masters handling them like little dolls. Hamal had pulled his leash taut and had begun to bark wildly when a weak-chinned woman, her grey hair as curly as her dogs, picked up the tiny Poodle.
Everything had stopped. The woman had clutched the Poodle close to her chest, which only drove Hamal wild. Wasam had been pulling on the leash and begging for Hamal to calm down, when a bald man with a swept-back mustache approached the pair.
“Sir! The contestants are strictly forbidden from barking,” the Judge shouted over Hamal. “I’m afraid if you are not able to control that, that dog, then you’ll be disqualified.”
The Judge had stepped in between Hamal and the Toy Poodle and that was the last straw. Hamal had lunged forward, causing Wasam to spill to the floor, and with a gentleness that only Wasam appreciated, nipped the Judge. It had not mattered that no blood was drawn, if a dog was not allowed to bark then it was not allowed to bite.
They had been expelled from the event.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Wasam had cried. Not to the Judge, but to Hamal.
After the plane landed, and after Wasam finally got Halam to settle down, and when he himself settled down, getting out all of his pent up hugging and petting, Wasam was able to say the words he meant to say earlier; “It wasn’t your fault, Hamal. You are a good Dog, a good shepherd, you were trying to protect your flock. If we can’t measure a dog by its actions, what can we measure them by?”
In the terminal, Wasam was slumped-shouldered, he didn’t expect to find anybody waiting for them. How had he ever expected such a rough beast to win an American Dog Show? He was foolish, his Papa had been right.
Then came the cheer.
Wasam looked up and found a sea of smiling faces, welcoming embraces, and congratulations. Nobody in the village’s collective memory had ever gone to America, and they all wanted to know what it was like. It mattered not that they hadn’t been on television, or won any medals - Hamal was the simple shepherd dog who flew to America. Not a runt, or an albino, but a Shepherd.
Do you see now, Papa? Wasam thought.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 04:18|
Falling into Place
WC: 1051 words (+100 gifted to crabrock)
I see the pieces falling, even when I close my eyes. The music follows shortly after, and I hum the theme from Tetris under my breath, before it starts to play in the arena.
I open my eyes and remember the stupid lessons they taught me: count to one hundred, focus on my breathing, and try not to imagine the lines around me being filled and made to disappear. The fat youngster dressed in the bright yellow standing to my right would complete the row in front of me perfectly. The thought makes me glance at my own line, and I breathe a sigh of relief—we won’t be vanishing anytime soon, at least.
He mutters something about the “wasted gramps” and thinks I can’t hear him. The massive screen on the stage finishes its display, and the towering pile of blocks vanishing in an orgy of lights sends a shiver down my spine. One by one, we march to the stage, our national anthems blaring in a display of pomp, pageantry and patriotism. I stumble on the steps up the stage, but thankfully recover quickly.
My coach made sure to take my drinks from me before the ceremony, including both of my flasks. I cast about for courage elsewhere. Never in a million years did I think I would have a passport, but it sits in my pocket, even as I wait for my match to be called. It sits next to the picture of my son and I together. We both look so happy in that picture, with him holding my Syrena Tetris Nationals - First Place trophy.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him there were only eight contestants - he had a papa to be proud of, for once.
My son always joked that I was trying to see the end of Tetris. It was never a joke he laughed at very much.
The audience roars, and I am jolted from my memories. The only match left of the first round is mine, with little unknown Syrena seeded against the Tetris champion of the world. Apparently, he’s never dropped a single game since getting in the sport.
The controller they hand me feels right and comfortable in my hands. It may look different, but it works the same as all the others, even down to the first one unwrapped so many years ago. How long did my father save up, to buy it from our little town’s only entertainment store?
Would he be proud of his son, for following so closely in his footsteps?
I banish long forgotten ghosts as the announcer explains the rules. First to fill their screen to the top loses, best two of three. My opponent, dressed in orange and blue, crinkles his nose as he approaches. He doesn’t seem so bad, really, shaking my hand and even wishing me luck.
The game begins.
Immediately, I realize that I am outclassed. He cuts me off from my first Tetris with one of his own, and flame geysers at the edge of the stage spout fire several feet in the air. I don’t go down without a fight, of course. With what limited space I have to work with, I push back, making sure to send at least a few lines over to him. In the end, his victory over me is complete.
Between rounds, I call for a timeout.
Backstage, I carefully unfold the picture from my pocket - and realize just how old and fragile it is.
“Hey, kid,” I say.
The champion looks up at me, startled. He barely has a chance to open his mouth before I have the picture of my son almost shoved in his face.
“Listen. I don’t want you to lose for me. I wouldn’t ask you that, but…” I want to hit myself. Are my words slurring? What is this kid thinking of a man twice his age rambling off about his son? “Could you. Could you maybe… let me win a round? Or at least let me look good. My son would love to see it, and if I call him, maybe, maybe he’ll…”
The kid looks at me, and I can only wonder what he’s thinking as I trail off. Somewhere, the officials are calling for us to return to the stage, and the kid finally gives me his answer after what feels like forever.
“Whatever,” the kid mutters.
I drag myself out to the stage, hoping he understood my voicemail.
The second round starts much the same as the first. There’s just no way I can keep up with the kid and the way he flawlessly clears out his lines. My screen fills up faster even than the first round, and I can already imagine the game over screen.
And then he makes a mistake. An obvious one.
He flips his long block at the last moment, and instead of another Tetris, he blocks himself off. I almost miss the opportunity, but I capitalize on it. The Tetris champion puts up a good fight, but I’ve got momentum over him, and nothing can slow down a dumb, determined Syrenian. The small group of Syrenians in the stands scream wildly as it goes 1-1.
My heart fills with pride for my country. I turn to the champ, to offer him some kind of thanks, but he says nothing. His eyes never leave the screen, and his hands almost turn the controller over and over in his hands.
When the third round begins, he confirms my earlier theory. The champion comes out swinging in full force, and I can barely keep my head above water. The pieces fall, faster and faster, blocks filling the screen and my vision. My space to maneuver in keeps getting smaller and smaller, but maybe I can pull off a Tetris and—
Game over. With my fingers aching and not even a trophy for participation, I remove myself from the stage. I can only think of Syrena and the fans I have failed. At how I have let everyone down, including myself. At least I can finally drown my sorrows away.
In my pocket, tucked away next to my passport and treasured photo, my phone buzzes. It’s my son, calling for the first time in years.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 04:37|
The Perpetual Catastrophe that is Cassie James
It was two weeks out from the lacrosse championship and South Little Rock River High was guaranteed one of the slots. They were playing today to determine their seed, to decide who would have home field advantage.
Cassie James would have the spotlight today, she could feel it. She was clumsy and gawky, all arms and legs, but on the field the awkwardness dropped away and she could really fly. The wind whipped through hair as she ran—she passed the ball—her teammate caught it—she threw for the goal—score.
“Good play, Lynn,” she said as they filed off the field after the match. But it hadn’t been enough. They still lost by two points. Coach hardly even acknowledged her after the game.
Blood roared in Cassie’s ears. Time to shower and get ready for math class. The next session bell rang just as she was getting her things together. When she went out, Raoul was standing on the other side of the hallway. Raoul, tall and handsome, with the hard chin and sharp eyebrows. Raoul who had never said a word to her. She was going to talk to him right now.
He looked over as she walked up, with no recognition in his eye. Someone standing in the group with him said something and they all started laughing. Her cheeks burning, she kept walking to class like she never noticed him.
The day dragged on. At last she could trudge home, crawl into bed and drown in her pillows.
Cassie launched herself into training after that. Lived for workouts and lifting. Watched her diet like a raptor stalking its prey. When her family went out for dinner, she had a salad with extra chicken.
She roped her brothers into playing with her. Dave practiced passing and Mike was the goalie. Those sessions rarely lasted more than an hour before they got too cold or tired and went back inside. After one particularly muddy outcome on a rainy afternoon, she was banned from enlisting her brothers in any more games during the school week.
But that wasn’t enough to slow her down. She rounded up the neighborhood to take their place. Even when the neighborhood kids weren’t available, she kept practicing on her own. She set up a target in her room and would practice with soft balls any free time she had, day or night.
Finally, it was the day of the title match. She went into the game with a steel determination. She picked up scraps of rubber from the field and rubbed them between her fingers as the players lined up for the toss-off.
Then they were off. Her school didn’t have the ball. She tried to stay at the front of the line, nudging teammates and opponents alike to get into advantageous position. Not enough to catch the ref’s eye.
Five minutes later, she had her chance. Sticks clashed between players and the ball popped free. She scooped it up and took off across the field, cradling the ball in her stick.
Two big defenders rushed at her from the goal line. She dodged one, just brushing under her jersey. The other slowed down, taking a moment to adjust, just enough time for Cassie to shoot the ball. The goalie was a split second too slow to react. They had first blood.
“Nice playing out there,” Coach Abheimer said when she came off the field. She nodded, sat down, drank the Gatorade. Waited for him to call her back in. One play passed. The quarter ran down.
“Hey, Coach,” she said, as she walked up to him standing on the sidelines. He waved her off.
“Not now, James,” he said. “You did good this week in practice. Don’t worry, I’m waiting for the right time to put you in.”
That time finally came late in the third quarter. “Can I count on you, James?”
“Easy, Coach.” She flashed him a smile. “It’ll be a snap.”
They were down by two points, then three. She never had a chance to get the ball. Nearly had her stick on it at one point, just close enough to feel it bounce off.
Finally, she saw the ball knocked free near her, and she dove for it.
So did a midfielder on the other team. They were both tripped up and her momentum sent her hard onto the other player’s stick.
Cassie lay on the ground for a few seconds. She tried to climb to her feet, using her arm to prop herself up, and the pain was a cargo train tackling her back to the ground.
It was a snap, all right. What happened next was a blur. She remembered later having heard a popping sound at the first impact. It turned out that was her arm: broken in three places.
But maybe it wasn’t all bad. There was a spread of cards set up on the table by her bed, but she only cared about one of them. It was a get well card, and written at the bottom, in an angular scrawl: If you need to talk—and he wrote his number—Raoul. She remembered him looking down at her on the field, asking if she was all right.
Maybe, if she didn’t win, at least she had something to show for it. She picked up her phone with her good hand and started to dial.
-288 words to Crabrock
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 04:50|
SadisTech fucked around with this message at 08:16 on Feb 10, 2016
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 04:52|
Flight of Whispers
1298 words (thank you, Jagermonster)
Red twilight glinted off fishtails and feathers for as far as Aon could see. Mermen and mermaids alike floated together in the vast ocean, salted tresses draped over suntanned shoulders, unfurling down to the rippling water as they reclined in the ocean’s embrace. Some of them used their tails as a perch to support the weight of the larger birds: eagles, pelicans, albatrosses, pouches of woven seaweed tied tightly around their necks. But Aon’s bird perched comfortably on his outstretched arm, pecking lightly at itself, letting out a sharp quack every so often. His pouch was in his other hand. He felt frozen in place, even though the water wasn’t cold, had never been cold or uninviting.
Everyone kept one eye on the sun, sinking closer to the horizon.
The evening marked the yearly Flight of Whispers, a celebration of the recent end of the War between the Oceans. The competitors each year trained fowl to fly from one side of the world to the other, carrying messages to those on the other side as the opposing factions did during wartime, back when rusted steel clashed and blood dripped from flesh and fishscale. Now the merfolk collected in the East Ocean, birds held high, each claiming that they were the fastest, that their words would be the first to grace the far waters.
Even though it was a competition for the sake of sport and timelessness, many claimed they had the best strategy. Seabirds were superior, said one school of thought—the hardy seagulls and albatrosses were suited for long distances. Those that preferred the eagle and the falcon scoffed at their frayed logic—surely the faster you flew, the less time you needed, and the less energy you expended. Tailfeathers were clipped short, talons were sharpened and filed, and regal crests were adorned with gold and jade flights—all sworn to improve aerodynamic effect.
Aon felt like a mullet in the belly of a whale in the midst of all the rabid tacticians, winning birds strutting back and forth across their upturned tailfins. He was just a boy at play in the surf, whistling to his pet duck. How could his pet stand up to these birds twice its size, meaner birds, tougher birds, birds that could snap a neck with one swift motion?
The sun was halfway below the water now. The noise and chatter from the crowd stilled.
It was now or never.
Aon took a deep breath, and remembered.
He set the bird down on his bare shoulder and fished a curl of red hair out of the seaweed pouch. He held it in front of the duck’s face, trying to get its attention. It looked for a moment, then pecked at the blond hair over his right ear.
Aon sighed, then brought the pouch to his lips before he could change his mind, slowly whispered something only he could hear. He grabbed the duck and tied the pouch around its neck, where the brown breast-feathers met the velvety green down covering its head.
Then, he waited. They all waited.
The sun was a semi-circle, a crescent, a line—and then gone.
An explosion of rustling and squawking happened as the merfolk threw their hands to the sky.
Aon watched the winged cloud disappear into the distance, hoping, filled with desperation borne of longing.
Aon’s face vaguely flitted throughout the duck’s mind as he flew, head pointed forward with the single-mindedness of an arrow fired by a god. As the birds dispersed, fell off to the side or down to the earth below in disinterest or fatigue, the duck kept flying.
Everywhere the duck looked, there was Aon, waiting. Flying through the grey clouds reminded him of the sea spray against his face as he looped and twirled above his master’s watchful eye. The rays of sunlight cascaded through the clouds like his master’s golden locks, flowing behind him as he leapt over the crashing surf. And in every calling bird, every jeering whistle or mocking ululation, he heard the sound of Aon’s voice, singing a song passed down from his mother, a melody that was mostly sound but every so often formed itself into words, grew clear like an endless blue sky: …I never lose the ones I love…
And something burned inside him that was stronger than pain.
“It’s late, Marius,” said Lia. She traced a finger along the small of Marius’s broad back, twirled a coil of his long hair. “Get someone else to stand as sentry for a few hours.”
Marius’s expression didn’t change. He stared off into the moonlit night, unflinching. “I said it already—I will be there for the winner.” He ran the palm of his hand over the scars on his chest, crisscrossing from his collarbone to his waist, dulled and yellowed in the aftermath of battle.
Lia sighed and turned away. She spoke to herself, just loud enough for Marius to hear: “Sleep isn’t for the weak, you know.”
Marius didn’t budge until Lia slid beneath the ocean’s surface, and then he grunted, ran his fingers through his thick beard. The waters were rising every year, they said. Each year, the waves advancing further and further up the shore, lapping at the heels of the walkers. Keep the water rising, rushing forward over the land, and then maybe he’d find peace.
His brother was peaceful, incredibly peaceful. His brother was at the bottom of the sea, crabs eating at his eyes, the beak of a stingray lodged in his throat. And Marius was still alive, for some reason, and everyone worth loving or killing was far beyond his reach, and then what was there to do? Lia had suggested collecting sand dollars, “just as a way to pass the time”. It had taken all of his strength not to scream in her face. Time flew when you could take your vengeance. Out here, with no one around, time slowed to a crawl.
And now, the Flight. The annual Flight, to celebrate Peace. Oh, how valuable they all said Peace was. Peace was just the furrow between each bloody wave of War.
There was something off in the distance. Marius craned his neck forward, looked.
It was a bird, a strange sort of bird, flapping half-heartedly and coasting on gusts of air. Marius grinned, then let out a whistle.
As the bird flew closer, he could see the pouch dangling from its neck, and his smile grew sharp. He held his arms out to the bird, and it collapsed against his chest, shuddering and quacking.
One simple motion, he thought. One twist of the wrist, and then someone’s happiness would descend into nothing. Them and their outstretched arms. He’d cut them all off at the elbows.
For a fortunate second, the duck fell silent.
Something in the back of Marius’s mind stirred. He wasn’t sure what he’d just heard.
He kept his hand around the duck’s neck, and opened the pouch.
Now he could hear it more clearly.
Marius took out the seashell, a pearlescent-pink nautilus, and held it up to his ear.
The recognition hit him at once.
…I never lose the ones I love…
He sank beneath the water as the sound ran through him. The duck squawked and slipped out of his grasp, settled down among the rippling waves.
Marius couldn’t think straight, could only stare down at the boundless depths he’d once welcomed.
He was still alive. Aon was still alive.
He threw his head back and laughed underwater, silvery bubbles escaping from his mouth and bursting against the night air. Above him, the sea softly crashed, whispering through his flowing red mane, sounding more and more like the voice flowing through his ears until he could barely tell the difference.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 05:06|
Get Your Goat (1195 words)
I still remember the fields where Kazuma Joe played. “Buzkashi needs to be played under an open sky,” my father told me. He was always saying things like that. “Coke is best in green glass bottles. A good pot of coffee needs a view of the sunrise.”
The Syrenian steppes seemed as endless as the ocean then, sparse grass beneath a blue sky. I was twelve, and my father thought I ought to experience one of our ancestral sports played by the best there ever was.
That was him: Kazuma Joe. He was the best. Galloping at top speed on horseback, reins in one hand, a dead goat held by the neck in the other. He wore an old soviet tank commander’s helmet like an imperial crown, horsewhip clutched between his teeth. He was smiling then and laughing later. Laughing like it was the end of the world. That’s what stuck with me, really. More than anyone else, he looked like he was having fun.
Buzkashi is the sport of nomads. Ten trained horsemen fighting over a goat; kicking, whipping, cursing, chasing. Kazuma Joe didn’t curse and he didn’t chase. He seized the goat and rode off howling like a madman.
“How’s it look, Fam?” I asked.
“Pretty bad, Buck. Kyrgyzstan slammed us pretty hard. First half was a slaughter. Don’t think we’ll be walking back from this.”
Fam lit a cigarette before he remembered we were in the locker room. A stern look from Khan was enough to make him snuff it. I sat there between then, head in my hands. I was rubbing my eyes and I didn’t know when I’d stop.
“What’s the damage?”
“Kept the goat for a bit then we never got it back. Bastards were studying us. Gave us a free point, took nine for themselves. Janissary and the rest should be back any minute. Try not to stare too hard or you’ll bore a hole in ‘em.”
On queue, our defeated countrymen shuffled through the door. Their faces were hard, their eyes to the ground. The first four entered silent into the showers; the last, Janissary, looked me in the eyes. “Your turn, kid,” he said. Then he too was gone.
Goose wandered in after the defeated party. He turned and slammed his fists into a locker. Fam clicked his tongue and looked at me. Khan continued getting ready. Slim Jim snapped his fingers.
“So what’s the plan, Buckaroo?”
“We ride cool, Jim. We ride cool.”
The five of us entered one at a time to a crowd of millions, the Syrenian flag displayed in our honor. High above a tarp had been stretched across the open mouth of the stadium. They said it might rain. It didn’t.
“Smile for the cameras, Khan,” said Fam. “This ain’t the old country. We’re on television. Let the people know you sometimes, occasionally, briefly entertain the thought of happiness.”
Khan was our best horseman. He was about as good at riding as he was at not smiling.
Across the field were our opponents, as impressive and imperial as a conquering army. Small yet muscular, they looked as though they’d been born and bred to play this game. I felt neither contempt nor pity from their eyes. We weren’t even human to them. We were obstacles.
A lone referee cut between us, a fresh goat carcass laid across the saddle of his horse. He walked beside his steed until they reached the center. He pulled the goat from his seat and placed it on the ground. For the next 45 minutes, that goat would be the center of the universe.
I gave Slim Jim a nod. Slim Jim snapped his fingers. He was a farmer’s boy, pure and simple, who spent many an afternoon snapping the necks of chicken with his bare hands. He was our grip, and we were glad to have him.
Our teams bowed to one another from across the way. The players from Kyrgyzstan all bowed as one; their horses, too.
“Now they’re just showing off,” said Fam.
“A well-oiled machine,” said Goose, a certain grim resignation in his tone.
There was silence, then a whistle. The game began.
Khan and Slim Jim broke for the center, whips in hand. The first to the center was one of theirs, followed by the Great Khan. Khan’s horse collided with his opponent’s and pressed it away, Khan’s whip raining down like the wrath of God. Slim Jim sped past and snapped up the goat. He circled around and tossed it to me.
Clutching the goat, I broke for the far side. All I needed was distance, but the arrival of the other team denied me. I held the goat tightly as the first blow came to the back of my neck, the next to my shoulders. Two horsemen, identical at a glance, had me at their mercy. I kicked the left away, but the right snuck in a strike against my chin. My teeth came down hard on my tongue. I tasted blood and was kicked from my saddle.
I struggled to my feet, but the rider I’d fended off returned. He snatched up the goat without giving me so much as a glance. I hadn’t let go, and was dragged several yards. My arm felt like it’d been yanked out of its socket. At last I released him, and the man rode to victory.
It was Goose who helped me to my feet as the rest of the team gathered. Slim Jim’s nose was broken. Fam’s mouth was open, his tongue inspecting his teeth.
“It’s ten to our one,” said Khan entirely unperturbed by the swelling in his face. “What’s our move?”
“Forfeit,” Goose said to me. “There’s no point in letting this continue. Even if they weren’t some unstoppable juggernaut, there’s no way we can make up that point difference. Let’s resign gracefully.”
Gracefully. There was something about that word that rubbed me the wrong way. In the theater of my mind an old reel showed Kazuma Joe. He was anything but graceful. He was wild, erratic. He whooped and hollered like a bandit. He’d ride his horse to exhaustion, fall off, and laugh.
I looked to our opponents across the way, each of them graceful and dignified. Graceful and soulless. Goose had had it right when he called them a well-oiled machine. Not one of them played out of love for the game.
“We can’t win,” said Goose.
“No,” I said, “But we can put up a fight. Go down in a blaze of glory.”
“Wait, what?” said Fam.”
“It’s the Olympics,” I said smiling softly. “If they want the gold so badly, let’s make sure they’ve earned it.”
My teammates responded with silence. In the distance I could see the referee approaching. Then, so loud that it started us, Khan began laughing. Then Slim Jim. Then Fam.
“Give ‘em hell then, eh?” Khan asked. I saw a strange power in his eyes. “We can do that.”
“Make ‘em remember Syrena,” said Fam.
Slim Jim nodded. Goose at last allowed himself to smile. “Alright then, let’s hit them where it hurts.”
We clasped hands.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 05:26|
Restraint - 1199 words
Cor riffed Eastern through the rhythm section’s blues shuffle, playing strange semitones in enigmatic syncopations. His American opponent had followed neatly with a jazz solo, making sure to sound just as weird.
Now it’s your turn, thought Pieter in his gallery seat, watching his pupil on the stage. We made it, don’t let go.
The American started adding simultaneous notes to his lead, soon turning them into whole chords, going rhythm. As he did so, Cor became less rhythmic, more dynamic and phrasal, a lead – his notes became a sad story that sang over the compass, which was still the blues.
He’s doing it – easy to play, hard to master blues, the way we practiced. Pieter could see the strain on Cor’s face; he was entranced, in a direct connection with his guitar, but also holding shut a dam in his mind. C’mon. I told you. We can endure.
Cor made his guitar gently weep, Clapton-like. Lamentations turned into a slow walk, hinting of an energy to be released – then, a silent second. It wailed.
Rhythm guitar and drums and bass followed suit, casting raging waves to Cor’s siren. He played the blues of Syrena, for the country and the streets he left to represent under cold American eyes.
He faced the stadium’s crowd with pained, closed eyes – but his guitar leaned toward them. He expressed himself to them, cast notes like poetry, each one going exactly where it should, like chapters reaching for a heartfelt conclusion –
“Looks like this’s gonna be it. We’re only at silver yet, but we’ll surely, as they say, ‘strike gold’. Bring it home, make it the country’s first – our first”, said Pieter from the window of the hotel room.
“They really liked you, kid. Other guy had the fast fingers and even some charisma, but you could sync better. Better than any 128th-note jackass. It’s a heart thing.”
Cor sat on an unplugged amp, strumming an unplugged guitar. “Yeah, I know.”
“Come on. It’s 9 asses you already kicked. The last – you’ll save it for him, won’t you? The Syrena Typhoon? Just don’t wind up overusing it.”
“Dunno. Maybe. He’s known for being keen. Don’t think my scale’s gonna surprise him much but, um, we’ll see”.
“We’ll do it, just you wait. I know I’m asking this a lot, but do you want to talk? Take a load off? You weren’t this quiet with me in a while. You know there’s nothing I’ll judge – I’m from the streets too, you know.”
“Nah, I’m fine. Just tired. I think I need to relax. Sleep isn’t doing that great with me lately, so I’m gonna zip for a little while. See you next morning. Old man,” Cor smiled.
Pieter smiled back, weakly. He then thought to protest, but Cor was already facing the door, turning the key. At least it’s three days before the duel, Pieter thought. Gotta stay optimistic.
The chauffeur led his black car through the riverside of Little Rock, Arkansas; it was all lit up by the colorful lights that commemorated that year’s surprisingly eventful Fall Olympics. People came and went everywhere in the city, despite the drab weather.
“Just drive,” Cor had told the chauffeur from the back seats. It wasn’t the first time they went around, so the driver already knew where the passenger would like to go.
They eventually reached Little Rock’s smallish party strip, where one could score small, but guaranteed hits. They stepped out of the parked car to disappear inside one bustling bar. When they returned, Cor’s face was the same as when they came in – blank.
The next phase of the night had them parking by corners with beautiful women. But whatever familiar face they’d pick from the usual sidewalk looked sideways, afraid – their routine broke as what Cor sought to dampen came back with the yells of a well-dressed man, who tripped one of the women and kicked her, merciless. None of her workmates helped. The chauffeur closed Cor’s window from the front controls and drove away.
Whatever he could do, his mind soon denied it, dragged down by helpless memories. “Don’t worry, it happens all the time”, the chauffeur would say as they returned.
One hour later he opened the hotel door, tumbled in with sedation, and woke up Pieter. In the dark he mumbled, “I’ll talk”, weeping.
“Now, to the left… from the beautiful shores of Syrena… From hit band Raw Destruct – Cor! A big round of applause for our guest!”
The crowd roared, shaken by rock fans of both countries. Cor smiled serenely, with a small bow. He believed what Pieter had told him in the morning, that he had been a new person for the last three days. He slept better nights; his face looked fuller on the mirror. He practiced fiercely, as if hammering iron: it was time.
He had the luck of the draw – his American opposite would get the first solo while he played rhythm, and then vice-versa. Last leads always made the greater impression.
They started with a ragtime waltz, a ballad of love. Cor gave it unexpected pauses – the American read them all, often introducing the next set of chords or letting a soft, sharp bend of Soul ring in the void. When it was time, the American’s transitional crescendo came after a solo that climbed, climbed – then fell into a march, embodying distorted power chords.
It was a Miles Davis sort of jazz-rock stomp, its rhythm constant, hardly stopping. In the American’s rhythm there was something different, some poison. Cor heard it swiftly, understanding it as a permission for release.
Hard attacks announced the Typhoon’s arrival, building tension. The opponent understood, inducing bass and drums to build a crest. Cor played a growing web of aggressive notes that grew faster, but still wove an intriguing melody. It was intertwined with his mind; it became the expression of his automatic unconscious, now a river unbound.
His mind showed him pictures of home, of an orphanage, of violence, like beasts. Of his guitar outpouring on Syrena’s stages, Pieter like a father, street trash like him: a hint of what he could be if only, if only, if only he didn’t return every time. He could only hear himself tell Pieter that night: beasts, beasts –
As he lost control, his web became a wall, and the wall became a sea, layers of conjoined notes and dissonance that threatened his opponent. But the American escalated and escalated, straining to match it, adding a progression that eventually reached its conclusion.
Cor didn’t. When he came to himself, it was too late to fix the mismatch. The rhythm had become smaller and slower, while he kept layering speed and weight. The American had won, his overall synchronization superior to any other vantage Cor could have.
As Cor stepped offstage, however, his feeling was one of learning. He couldn’t wait to hug Pieter and say I’m OK, old man – it’s just a lone mistake, ready to go home and learn.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 05:28|
"Show me a chain-edge cast-on, Ethan."
Ethan worked the hook around the needle, stopping part-way through the motion. This would've be easier if Dennis hadn't been using that 'why me' tone.
The assistant coach shook his head. Even beneath Dennis' jowls, Ethan could see his jaw muscles straining, clenching as he forced a smile that Ethan could only guess was supposed to look supportive.
"That's a cable cast-on, Ethan." Dennis' voice was slow and measured. "That isn't even Crochet."
Marcus put a hand on Dennis' shoulder, trying to calm him.
Dennis turned to the head coach, shrugging off his hand. "With all due respect," he started, as was custom when disrespecting a former champion. "Why would he even go in there with a crochet hook if he's just going to loving knit?"
Marcus grabbed Dennis' shoulder again, this time yanking him out of the chair, dragging him to the door, and shoving the crochet coach out of the locker room.
Ethan's eyes were fixed on the crochet hook. His stare was miles beyond it.
"Forget him," Marcus said. "Just stick to the basics when it comes to crochet, and you'll be fine. You'll make up for it with your knitting."
Ethan slowly shook his head. "He's right."
"No. Cyarnage Coulter. At the press conference."
Marcus knew exactly what Ethan meant. The 'Cyarnage' kid had said the era of specialists was over, and that if you couldn't crochet as well as knit, then you were obsolete. There was no shortage of evidence in the Olympic tournament: "Wolly" Warren Pollard, Ned "The Needle" Martin... hell, even "Cotton" Corey Collins, in his physical prime. All were masters of knitting, all eliminated by crochet.
The list went on, and it ended with Ethan. Twenty-two-year-old heavyweight Syrenian champion, and the last classically-trained knitter in contention at any class.
Ethan sighed, rolling the hook between his fingers. This wasn't knitting. Not anymore. Some joker thought he was clever bringing a crochet hook into the ring, and all of a sudden the world shifted on its axis.
Kids with lousy stitchwork were using rudimentary crochet to take down titans of knitting. The frustrating part was that crochet wasn't better, just different, and the old guard just didn't know how to deal with it.
Ethan became a knitting champion when he was twenty--the youngest champion the league had seen. Now he was already staring down the end of his career.
Ethan sighed. "loving crochet."
"loving crochet," Marcus echoed.
Ethan stared at the hook for a few moments more before Marcus continued.
"It ain't fair what's happening to you," he said. "In my day, you woulda been king of the loving world."
Ethan shrugged. "Maybe."
"No maybe about it. I ruled bantamweight 'til I was thirty, and I'm half the knitter you are."
Ethan's hands slumped, dropping his warm-up needles into his basket. "Heather wanted to have a baby."
"Don't do this to yourself. You've got a match in two minutes."
"You know what I told her? I told her it would be a distraction. I was gonna be a champion, and that I couldn't do that with a distraction like family. That's why we broke up."
"Forget Heather. Focus on Cyarnage."
"I loved her, Marc. I loved her more than anything else in the world... anything except knitting. And now..."
Ethan felt a sharp sting on his left cheek as Marcus slapped him hard enough to leave a welt. "And now nothing."
"You want to think of Heather? Go ahead. "
"Think of Heather with her new husband. Picture them in a room full of fat, happy babies. Better yet, think of her new husband putting another one in her."
Ethan could barely hear his coach over the rush of blood in his head. He didn't remember reaching into his basket, but he could feel a cold plastic crochet hook in the palm of his hand.
"You could have been the one with her. It could have been your home. Your family. Your wife."
"Marcus, I swear to God--"
"Tell me, Ethan. Tell me why you left her."
"For nothing." Ethan's voice was distant. "I'm going to lose. It was all for nothing."
Slap. Ethan's right cheek stung anew, burning with pain, with shame, with rage.
"Tell me why you left her."
"Marcus, shut the gently caress up. I--"
"Tell me why you left her."
Ethan lunged, knocking Marcus to the floor, jamming the crochet hook against his mentor's windpipe.
"I left her to be the loving knitting champion." The words were shouted so loud that they burned coming up, straining his vocal chords, launching into Marcus' face in a hail of spittle.
Ethan looked down to the crochet hook, a drop of blood rolling from Marcus' neck down the handle.
Ethan slowly leaned back, staring at the hook as he stood and repeated the words to himself: "To be a loving knitting champion." What was left of his voice left him in coarse rags.
gently caress crochet. He took the hook in both hands and snapped it in half, throwing each fragment to opposite sides of the locker room.
From the ground, Marcus looked up at him, nodding in approval. "You're goddamn right, kid. Now go out there and knit."
Ethan felt nothing but pain. The whole match rage and static. He knew it was over, but had no clue how. He could tell someone was holding him up--'Marcus,' his first thought. 'No, it's the referee.'
Wait. The hand wasn't under his armpits; it was across his chest. He wasn't being held up--he was being held back.
Ethan's eyes stung as sweat poured down his face. He finally relaxed his hands, needles clanging to the ground.
They were red.
His palms. His hands. His arms. They were red.
He touched his face, realizing that it wasn't sweat that the hot lights of the ring were caking onto his face. It was more red.
"Did I lose?" Ethan asked the ref, who seemed preoccupied with the chaos behind him.
Ethan could barely hear himself think over the roar of the crowd. He felt a pair of hands wrap around him in an embrace, lifting him and twirling before setting him down. When he turned, he saw his coach, face a twist of horror.
"Did I lose?" Ethan asked again.
The coach said something, his words drowned in the chaos, and gestured towards the swarm of coaches and assistants on the far side of the ring.
For just a moment, the crowd broke in just such a way to lend Ethan a glimpse at his opponent. Cyarnage was on his back, completely still. His needle was jammed through his chest, mountain of gauze trying to stop the bleeding around it. His crochet hook was jammed beneath his chin at such an angle that it protruded from his eye socket, his optic nerve twisted up with a strand of robin's egg blue, both saddled in the hook, eyeball dangling from the side.
Ethan began to laugh. He was going to be disqualified, stripped of his title, and disgraced from the sport, but he sure as hell didn't lose.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 05:29|
1226 words (+33 from Grizzled Patriarch)
Raul clenched his fists through the first two rounds of the Olympic capture the flag finals. By round three, when it was his turn to take the field, his palms had matching rows of bloody crescents from his fingernails. The Americans were ahead, 1-0. Raul’s teammates had been able to beat the US back in the first round, resulting in a draw. Round two barely lasted ten minutes; the US team had cut through their defensive formations like a hot meat cleaver through clarified butter.
Raul stood in the Syrenian staging area with his cadre. Claudia was beside him, her eyes hard. The muscles in her neck and jaw flexed. There was the faint sound of grinding teeth.
Without looking at Raul, she said, “We’re hosed.”
“We’re gonna bring it back. We have to,” Raul said. He just wanted to be out on the field, where there wasn’t time for speculation or anxiety. The physical need for victory was basically more than he could comprehend. It ballooned outward from somewhere deep in his torso, a desire so visceral and tangible that surely it was going to explode out of him and send shards of his ribcage flying like splinters into the skin of everyone around him. He noticed himself breathing heavily and stopped.
“You should’ve been in round one,” Claudia said. Now she was eyeing him sidelong. “We sent out our solid closers too early. Jamil. Sayyid. Babette. No loving idea why Coach put you in prime time.”
“You’re trying to blame me for losing a game we haven’t even played yet,” Raul said flatly. The rest of the cadre was dead silent around them. They were all wearing the colors of the Syrenian flag--all black with a slash of sky blue and sea green--but the cohesion of the cadre was slipping. Their faces were closed. Everyone was holed up in their own private mental territories, guarding flags of hope or fear or despair.
“Look,” he said. “The Americans, they caught us unawares last time. But they know they can’t pull that off twice. Hey!” He clapped his hands over his head. “Listen to me. They’re expecting us to be cautious, defensive. So let’s say gently caress the playbook and go for an all-out blitz. Every single player in this room going after that red white and blue like it’s the gold medal itself.”
Murmurs from the rest of the cadre, most of them in agreeance. Claudia crossed her arms and smiled a bitter half-smile. “You’re dead set on running our chances into the ground, huh?”
“You think you want this more than me?” Raul said. They were standing nose to nose before he realized what was happening. Claudia didn’t move or flinch, and her expression was neutral except for the slightest twinkle of mischief in her eyes.
“I sure hope not,” she said.
A klaxon went off and the door to the arena slid up and open. The air was warm and the sky was bright. The Arkansan autumn smelled strange, the way that other people’s houses smell strange. The capture the flag arena was a walled-in square mile of artificially enlivened terrain. There were thick forests, man made creeks and ponds, and even a few hillsides covered in imported scree.
The Syrenian flag fluttered weakly at the top of one such hillside. Raul glared at it. The wind picked up, teasing the flag out to its full length. That’s better.
He started to run. Half a beat later, he heard footsteps behind him. A maniacal grin spread across his face and air whistled through his teeth as he lead the Syrenians straight into the heart of American territory.
Claudia was like an avenging angel on the CTF field. Her black ponytail streamed out behind her as she lept fallen logs, dodged confused Americans, and sent more than a few members of the US team to the penalty box. And where she could not be, there was Raul. Those she could not tag were tagged by Raul. They carved their way through the thick membrane of the American defense, until they found themselves alone in a quiet, unpatrolled patch of forest.
“Let’s take a breath and have a think,” Claudia said, leaning against a nearby tree that Raul didn’t have a name for. Its bark was white, almost silver, with deep gashes of black across its skin. Claudia lifted up her right leg, massaged her calf, and winced.
“I can’t loving believe we made it this--are you okay?” The wince didn’t escape Raul’s notice, and he frowned at her.
“Yeah, it’s whatever,” she said. She planted both feet on the ground, hopped up and down. “See?”
There was the sound of running feet somewhere nearby, exclamations in English and Syrenian.
“Their flag can’t be more than a hundred meters north of here,” Claudia said. “We go. Now.”
She and Raul charged through the woods, side by side; if the honor of Syrena was a knife, they were its tip. For one bounding moment, Raul felt like a demon of the Wild Hunt, or a god of the wind. Then the forest gave way to an open field, and the Americans were on them.
The US flag waved insolently from the top of its mound. Raul could hear the collective breath of the US team like a storm behind him, could almost feel their hands snatching for him, though he didn’t chance a look back over his shoulder. Claudia pulled ever so slightly ahead of him. Raul made a decision.
He slowed down almost imperceptibly, then veered left. He heard Claudia shout something, but it was too late, the thing was done.
Three Americans, high on the chase, followed his new trajectory, leaving two on Claudia’s tail. He turned his head, just enough that he could see Claudia in his periphery, her strides almost preternaturally long, hurtling toward the flag like a bullet in black, green, and blue. He turned his head just enough that he missed the sixth American, directly in his path. He collided with the man, and then the US cadre was on him, literally on him, pinning him down with their bodies like they were playing American football. And through the tangle of their limbs he saw Claudia, no more than ten meters from the US flag, saw her right leg give out, saw her hit the rocky dirt face-first at full speed, saw the two Americans overtake her like cheetahs running down their kill.
Moments later, a klaxon rang out, announcing a US victory.
The Americans who’d tackled Raul got up slowly, backed away from him as though he were some wild animal. They didn’t cheer or congratulate each other, didn’t even look like they’d fully registered their own victory.
Raul’s ribs didn’t explode. The yearning for victory inside of him simply snuffed out, fragile as a candle flame. He pushed himself onto his hands and knees and looked across the field at Claudia, who’d managed to pull herself into a seated position. Their eyes met, just for a moment, and shared a look like two ex-lovers who’ve just glimpsed each other aboard a crowded train.
She shook her head sharply and looked away.
Raul flopped over onto his back and looked up into the wide Arkansan sky, and it seemed to him that there was nothing in the world but blue.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 05:31|
This is WLOTM!'s story. He had to go to bed so I am posting it for him.
Kasper’s earliest memories came from behind a set of eyeholes.
He had been taught to be brave and noble, so when the blaze swallowed his toys and his clothes and his family, Kasper didn’t run; he fought until it swallowed everything he loved.
And then it swallowed his face.
He awoke in the hospital, bathed in light and wrapped in gauze. At first, the whole city supported the orphan with new toys and new clothes and well wishes, but soon the attention faded.
His only sources of comfort during those days were the comic books. There were only a few in total, but Kasper read them cover to cover every night, studying each panel in a near-holy reverie.
“You know,” his night nurse said, “you’ve done things that are more heroic than anyone inked on newsprint.”
“But I failed when I tried,” he said.
“Don’t the men in your books fail sometime?” she asked.
He could only nod in agreement.
Kasper never once cried during his treatments. It was a matter of pride for him, to be tough, but when the bandages were cut away, clinging to the splotchy plastic skin of his disfigurement, his eyes welled in anticipation of a mirror.
So he wrapped his face back up.
At first he used up the gauze and surgical masks to recreate his coverings, but after the doctors removed all the bandages from his room, Kasper ripped the pillowcase away from his bed and punched out two eyeholes.
Eventually they took those away too.
Weeks later, Kasper was again visited by his night nurse.
“Kasper,” she said, “I am worried about you. Tomorrow you’ll be off with your aunt and soon you’ll be back to doing brave, dangerous, things.”
She held a gift, wrapped in newspaper, in her liverspotted hands.
“Please take it, and I hope that one day you can throw it away.”
Kasper slipped the contents over his bald head, and once again felt safe.
Main Event: Fight & Flight vs. The Bigg Boys
Six minutes after the main event has started, Kasper Krol will land a frogsplash from the top rope against Lucius Bigg for the three count. Syrena will upset the United States, winning the country’s first Olympic Gold.
Kasper ran his thumb over the embossed circles of the AIOC letterhead in dozens of revolutions. The stationary was heavy and formal-- the ink used to sign the document, smudgable and signed by Jos[color=#333333]é[/color] “Rabid” Rios, the head of the Olympic Professional Wrestling Federation.
It was legitimate.
The Americans would not be happy to lose in the title bout. Professional Tag Team Wrestling was their forté, but it had been predetermined. Tonight, the crowd would witness one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.
It was happening.
“For Syrena!” Kasper shouted.
“For us,” his partner, Igor said.
“Yes, my friend,” Igor repeated, “for us.” He took a half step towards the weight room before turning back once more. “The gold will look good around my waist,” he said before stepping off to finish his warm up.
“It will, my friend” Kasper agreed.
Kasper thumbed the pinstripes running down his singlet. Green and cyan, the colors of the sea. His mask was black like frostbite, and untied, so he pulled at the laces until the mottled skin of his face burned under the squeezing leather.
“It’s a good color on you,” a voice said.
Kasper immediately recognized the stocky man as Martin Ves, the owner and producer of the New National Wrestling Tour, the world’s largest promotion.
“I take it you know who I am,” Ves said with a wheeze that rattled in his throat. The man tottered across the room on the assistance of a cane. “And I know about you,” he said.
Ves had fingers as gnarled and stubby as tree bark, and in those fingers he held a comic book, the cover of which featured a horribly twisted face, grinning and hale with bloody eyes and a knife in his hands.
“Do you know this character?” Ves asked.
“No,” Kasper said.
“His name is Gore,” Ves said, “and his comic is the most popular book in America.”
“A villain?” Kasper asked.
“Don’t underestimate the villain,” he said as he lit a cigar. “Without the villain, how could the public root for the hero? The world needs villains.”
“Son,” the troll-like man said, “I need a villain.”
“There’s a steel chair hidden under the ring across from the announcer’s table. Tonight, when your goody-goody partner, whatever-his-name-is, is in the ring celebrating the win, get under the mat, then take him out. Do it, and the crowd will roar like you’ve never heard. Do it, and I’ll have you a visa before the night is done. You’ll top the card every night. You’ll be my champion, the world champion.”
Kasper took the comic from Ves’ knotty hand and dropped it into the trash.
The gymnasium was a sea of American colors, but Kasper could spot pockets of the homeland in the crowd. In the front row, a mother and father sat with their son. The boy’s face was painted cyan and green; he held a sign above his head:
Syrena ♥’s Fight and Flight!
The Americans started the match strong, nailing a running lariat against Igor before suplexing him into the mat. While Igor lay stunned, Liam Bigg tagged out to Lucius Bigg, who trapped Igor in an ankle lock. Kasper shouted over the crowd, urging Igor to use his massive arms to pull himself to the tagout, so he did.
Kasper came flying over the ropes with an assault of light punches and kicks on Lucius Bigg. Bigg rallied, kneeing Kasper in the gut and pulling him into a DDT headlock. Lucius held him for a second, and the crowd fell silent.
This was the moment for the reversal.
Lucius relaxed his grip enough for Kasper to slip the hold and somersault over the American’s shoulders, springing to the top of the turnbuckle. It was time for the finisher. From his perch, Kasper imagined leaping into the air and flying like the men in his books, flying home to Syrena with the gold around his waist.
Suddenly, a hand from his own corner swept his legs from beneath him.
As Kasper tumbled from the rope, he could see Liam Bigg slide a steel chair into the ring.
The impact of crashing into the mat was second to that of the chair across his back.
“The winners,” the announcer called, “via disqualification, from the nation of Syrena, Fight & Flight!”
Kasper tried to stand, ready to shake the pretense and actually brawl with the Americans, but instead he found a hand pulling at the laces along the back of his mask and lifting him.
The crowd erupted in anticipation.
From the corner of his eye, Kasper could see the painted boy crying into his hands.
“The world championship will look good on me,” Igor said. “Look for me on the television and remember this victory.”
Kasper wondered how bright the lights would be as the jagged seams ripped against his sensitive flesh. It was enough to blind him. Then, a steel chair against his skull sent the world to black.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 05:33|
The Dark that Makes the Stars Shine Brighter
1268 words (1200 + 68 from saying mean things about Djeser)
“Why is it that you’re never where you’re supposed to be when we skate?” Celia was coming back towards where Aaron was standing sheepishly, having once again failed to grab on to her at the appropriate moment. The move was supposed to signal the finale of their routine, but to Celia’s mind it was just another underscore in their incompatibility.
“I don’t know,” Aaron said. “I’ve never had this problem before.”
“Oh, so it’s my fault, then?” Celia laughed humorlessly.
“That’s not what I-”
“It doesn’t matter,” Celia said, cutting him off. “Look, let’s just try again. We’ve got a meet in two weeks. Pay attention this time, okay?”
“I don’t think that this partner thing is going to work out,” Celia said to James after yet another disastrous practice. “There’s just not enough time before the competition to make the routine any good.”
“Why don’t you let me worry about that. That’s what coaches are for, right?” James turned away.
“Why can’t I just go back to the solo routine I was working on?” Celia said, unwilling to let it drop.
“Look,” James said, meeting her eyes, “Celia, I like you. You’re a hard worker, and I know how much skating means to you. But you’re not a competitive solo skater.”
Celia felt the bottom of her stomach drop out beneath her.
“I wanted to try you at pairs skating to give you a chance to stay on the team. Aaron’s the only one who doesn’t have a partner right now, so if you can’t work with him, I don’t think that there’s a place for you here.”
“But you can’t do that to me!” she said, the blood rising to her face and tears forming unbidden in her eyes. “This is all that I’ve wanted my whole life! Please, I can get better, just let me-”
“I’m sorry, Celia, it’s not really up for discussion.”
Celia sat heavily down on a bench as James walked away from her. The cold of the rink, which she rarely noticed, suddenly seemed intense; it felt as though all the warmth in the world was being leeched away by James’ words.
Her teeth began to chatter uncontrollably, and she shook all over. What else was there for her to do? She had worked hard her whole life, perfecting her technique, driving towards her goal, and now it could just disappear in a day? What would be left of her if she didn’t have this?
She surged to her feet, fumbling for her bag, and made her way blindly to her car. She turned on the heater, but nothing seemed to chase the chill away from her bones. The tears that she had been tamping down began to trickle out of her, slowly at first, and then faster and faster, until her body was struggling to draw breath through her sobs.
There was a tap on her window, and Celia looked up sharply, a deep misery and embarrassment suffusing her at being caught crying.
Aaron was standing outside her passenger side window, staring at her. “Are you okay?”
Celia fumbled in her bag for tissues, hurriedly wiping her face, trying to deny the obvious fact of her emotional state. “I’m fine. I’m fine, don’t worry about it.”
“Well… If there’s anything that I can do to help, just let me know, okay?”
She gave a tight smile and put the car in reverse. “I’ll let you know, Aaron. See you later.”
Celia didn’t go to the rink the next day. She sent James a text saying that she was feeling under the weather, and that she’d be back tomorrow. Aaron called, but she sent it to voicemail.
She knew that she was sulking, but she didn’t care. She’d go back to being a responsible adult tomorrow. Today she just wanted to watch clips of past Olympic performances on Youtube and feel sorry for herself.
A few hours after practice was over, she got an email from James. I thought this might be helpful. Don’t give up just yet, okay? --James
She clicked on the attachment, and watched as a video popped up on her screen. She recognized herself right away, and after a few moments realized the skater beside her was Aaron.
It was strange seeing the routine from the outside. For her, skating was a ritual, a prayer released to the gods of the rink; every movement was as calculated and precise as a move in chess.
Aaron’s style was shockingly, jarringly different, so much so that she hadn’t seen herself skating besides him, she wouldn’t have recognized the routine. His style was technically good, but his movements were exaggerated and stylized, loose in ways that she found almost sacrilegious.
She felt annoyance rise in her, filling her chest with bile. This wasn’t going to work at all. She watched his movements, trying to see how she could possibly make herself fit into this haze of wild energy. It seemed impossible that there would be any way for her to come anywhere near him without her very being catching fire.
She closed her laptop and went to bed, feeling even more disheartened than before.
Aaron was waiting for her at the rink when she got there in the morning. “Hey. Um, I was wondering if I could talk to you before we start for the day.”
“What do you want?”
“Well… Ah, sorry. I just wanted to say that I think you’re a really great skater, and I’m sorry that I’ve been screwing up so much lately. I was… I was really excited when James told me that we were going to get to do a routine together, and I’m just sorry that it’s been so stressful for you.”
Celia sighed and looked up at him. “I’m sorry, too, Aaron, but I don’t think that this is going to work. Our styles are way too different.”
“But that’s what I think is so great about it!” he said, his face suddenly flushing. “Different styles coming together is one of the most interesting things about art! I really think that we can make this into something amazing, if you’ll give it a try.”
“Please, Celia, can we just try? One more time?”
She felt a strange apprehension in her chest as she strapped on her skates. She had come in to the rink basically resigned to the fact that her time on the team was over, knowing that her last shot at this was going to end in total failure. But Aaron had rekindled some strange sense of hope in her.
They made their way out on to the ice, and Aaron smiled at her.
“Are you ready?”
She nodded, and they began.
It was a strange sensation, as though she were learning to skate again for the first time. Her motions were awkward at first, and she almost missed the first grab, but his hand caught hers in a solid grip that seemed to ignite her bones.
It was easier then, even if she felt her usual calm falling away, melting against Aaron’s flame. Her pulse raced, and she couldn’t tell if it were fear or excitement. She was caught up in the moment and miles away, somewhere between what she knew and what she had thought impossible.
When she landed the last jump, it was like a meteor impact. Aaron spun her out, and suddenly she was back, staring as if she had never seen him, never seen anything before.
“That… was better,” Aaron said.
“...It was,” she said, and knew it would be alright.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 05:38|
All Hail the Worm Queen - 1196 words
Clare Ferris, Child Queen of the Worm Throne, sang for her squirmy followers. Their bodies were a moving carpet in the grass, a second turf in writhing pink. Her father plucked them for deposition in his holding jar. Clare knew why they came: for the rhythmical stirring of her garden fork, her breathless incantations to Wiggly Woo. Her father’s jar was heavy with worms. Clare Ferris already knew she had won.
“Short, sharp movements,” he father told her. “Really vibrate the ground. And tell me if you want to swap places.”
Clare would never want to swap places. Worm-plucking was a thankless job, and she needed the glory for herself. Beyond the boundaries of their plot, the school field buzzed with disparate industry. One pair tried to summon worms with a singing saw.
Mrs Farren from plot fifty-four floated by for a chat. “My, Clare,” she said, “what a lot of worms!”
Clare smiles but doesn’t stop singing.
“Well, best of luck. And you might actually need it – the Smiths have outdone themselves this time.”
The Smiths? She might not know it yet, but Sophie Smith was Clare’s arch-nemesis. Every year, the Smiths wriggled closer to the Ferris’ title. Last time there were only ten worms in it. What’s worse, Sophie Smith never got shunned for the hobby like Clare did. Sophie Smith made worm charming cool, but only for herself. When she gave presentations about her techniques in front of the school, Clare sat at the back, forgotten, consoling herself with the knowledge that she was the real Worm Queen. Being the Worm Queen made it okay to be alone.
Clare tried to bury her doubts and focus on the soil. Forget Mrs Farren – she was old and never got any worms. Mrs Farren’s face reminded Clare of looking into the compost bin to see her Hallowe’en pumpkin wilting in the muck, its dead eyes teeming with invertebrate life.
Another time, a family of rats had forced their way inside the bin to eat the worms. Trapped inside, their tails got matted with compost and blood and poo poo and fused together like the hub of a wheel. When her father cut the bin open, the whole group escaped across the lawn as one creature – a Rat King.
There was a wriggling clump in the grass by Clare’s foot. However entangled their bodies may seem, Clare knew worms would never conjoin like a Rat King. Animals with five hearts have little taste for company. While the nature of their monarchs makes rat society functionally democratic, the Worm Queen’s authority is near total – and not something Clare wanted to part with.
The Chief Wormer’s bells woke Clare from her reverie, marking the end of the competition. All valid receptacles were to be submitted to the Counters’ Table for processing.
“You alright?” asked her dad. “You spaced out a bit there.”
“Do you think we won?”
“Can’t say – we got more than last year, but so did everyone. The soil must be fertile. Want some lemonade?”
Her father’s composure unnerved her. Didn’t he realise what was at stake? In the lemonade queue, Clare caught a familiar voice in the crowd: “Catch lots of critters, Sophie?”
“Yeah, way more than last year,” Sophie Smith said to Clare’s teacher.
“Oh my God there were tonnes,” said one of Sophie Smith’s friends. “At first I was like, gross, but then somehow it was cool.”
Jealousy and anxiety gnawed in Clare’s brain. She’d charmed more worms than last year too, but not by much. Gazing down the field to the gazebo where their offerings awaited judgement, Clare was surprised to see it left so unguarded. Even the Chief Wormer was up this end, chatting with the contestants.
Making a quick excuse, Clare slipped away from the crowd and moved down the field as inconspicuously as she could. She imagined pouring Sophie Smith’s worms out onto the grass and stepping forward to burst their full bodies beneath her toes. She would take her shoes off first. She might take a handful into her mouth like a packet of strawberry laces, or drop them from above and let any that missed her mouth squirm into her hair.
Sticking to the edge of the field, Clare doubled back along the school’s wall and approached the gazebo from behind. Inside, every surface was covered with mason jars, each one half-filled with live worms. They were labelled only with their plot numbers, which meant Clare had no idea which was Sophie’s. She did find her own, though, and she had just scooped a handful from a neighbouring jar when a voice came from right outside:
“Like, she thinks she’s so great but does anyone like her?” Clare backed away from the table, pulling her right hand up into the sleeve of her hoodie, still holding its living cargo.
“I know, it’s not her fault though…” Sophie Smith ducked under the sloping roof, followed slowly by the same friends as before. “Oh!” she said. “Hi Clare! Having a good day?”
What sort of question was that? Clare studied Sophie’s smile for the trick, the obscure way by which a hasty answer would give up her secret, which had just started nosing the sensitive underside of her wrist. Finally, as Sophie and her friends circled the table, peering excitedly into the jars, Clare murmured: “Yeah, I guess.”
“How did you do, anyway?” asked Sophie. “Everyone got so many!”
“Fine, I think,” said Clare, trying ineffectually to manoeuvre away from the conversation without the people talking to her noticing she was doing so.
“Only fine? I’m sure you did great,” Sophie said. “You’re good at this. Here, can you take a picture of us all by the jars?” Sophie Smith held out her phone. Fortunately for Clare, both her hands were now free. As she raised her arm to take the picture, a wet lump rolled down the inside of her sleeve.
“Now girls,” came a man’s voice from behind her, “You’re all going to have to leave here while we tally the winners. I trust you were only looking?”
No one said anything. Either they really didn’t suspect her or they were playing a long game.
“Do you want to come sit with us, Clare?” Sophie asked.
Weighing up her options, Clare decided it was better to act natural. It was only after they’d sat down that Clare realised not only had she potentially been caught cheating, she had also failed to successfully cheat. While Sophie enthused about her favourite rake techniques, and the worms further advanced across her shoulders, Clare privately mourned a loss she now saw as inevitable. By the time the results were announced, Clare had become so accustomed to thinking of her loss that the news of her actual victory seemed anticlimactic.
Holding up her trophy in front of the crowd, Clare tried to feel like she deserved it. Sophie Smith and her family stood at the front, second place but beaming. “What did I tell you?” shouted Sophie. Clare smiled back. Cameras flashed. Human hands clapped. Long live Clare Ferris. Long live the Worm Queen. Her assembled followers would have clapped if they could.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 05:43|
Word Count: 1146
Caroline reckoned that news casting was kind of like a sport. There were teams, NBC, FOX, and the rest. There was a playing field, which in her station, KTOW 10, was Little Rock and its suburbs. The referees were the viewers, judging each play with mouse clicks and channel switches.
So when the Autumn Olympics came to town, improbable as they were, she jumped on the chance to take lead. It paid off too, the crew was running like a well oiled machine. At the five second to live count she took a moment to put on her game face, a big beaming southern smile and wide alert eyes.
Three. Two. One.
"Good evening, Little Rock, this is your KTOW Ten Sports Action Center! We've had a fantastic week so far at the Olympics! Let's go live to our agent in the field, James." Caroline knew that the camera would switch over quickly, but she kept her face up. She figured that it was easier to keep it up until the play was finished. Too many newscasters were caught these days with their fingers up their noses, and with YouTube it never went away.
"Thanks, Caroline. What an afternoon this has turned out to be. The nations are here in full force!" Caroline liked James. He had a better face for news then she did. As soon as the show was over she'd be hunting for the next fix of coffee. James would keep going, always alert. He never really smiled, though, but that was alright. The viewers seemed to like the straight edge game.
"It looks like the crowds are really going wild, James." Caroline couldn't see the crowds. She didn't need to. They were always going wild. No one wants to hear about non wild crowds.
"They are! The first bop-it competition is getting underway just now. We've got some strong contenders in the field. Madagascar, China, and Monaco are all posed to advance to the final round."
Caroline wanted to wince. Her eye twitched for just a second. She was fairly sure that Morocco was in the final round. Still, there would be time to correct him later. A quick motion from one of the newsroom technicians let her know that she would be back on shortly.
"Thanks for the update, James. Now onto local news. A family of rare starlings was rescued from the rafters of the Clinton Library today..."
James was easy to catch at lunch. He'd always be in the break room, scooting spoonfuls of oatmeal around his plate and never really eating any of it. He had the same newsroom look on his face when he ate lunch, as if oatmeal was the most interesting thing to happen in Little Rock.
Caroline wasn't much of one for lunch. She took coffee, a fiber bar, and a few extra caffeine pills for good measure. "Hey, James. Oatmeal again, huh?"
"Yeah. I really like it!" James pushed another big spoonful across his bowl and buried a few raisins in the white muck.
Caroline sat down and washed her pills back with a sip of hours old coffee. "Nice job on the broadcast last night, but I think you got Monaco mixed up with Morocco again.
James looked up at her, and winced. "Did I? Again. Oh, why didn't you tell me then!"
"What, and let everyone watching know?"
"They probably already knew!"
"Nah. No one knows where all the countries from over there even are." Caroline waved her hand into the distance and unwrapped her fiber bar.
"They don't?" James looked Caroline right in the eyes. Sometimes she wondered about his game face. He looked so sincere. You could see the confusion in his eyelids, just enough of a quiver to register. "Ugh. This is all so confusing."
"Oh, you're doing great. Don't be so hard on yourself."
James looked away. "It's just difficult."
"Well, that's why we don't all keep our faces on all the time."
James recoiled and blinked at her. Ha! Guess you could get him to drop his game face after all.
"Oh relax, sweetheart, I know you're just trying to impress everyone."
James shook his head. "This is all so complicated."
"It ain't an easy job."
James gave her that look of being utterly lost again. "Yeah. Sure, the job. Oh well, we've got this avarted."
"Avarted? It's averted. You gotta enunciate in this business, honey."
"No, not that word, the other one." James was back to digging into his oatmeal.
"I don't think there is another one. Avarted doesn't mean anything."
"It does it, just not in... Never mind. Thanks, Caroline. I'll make myself a note next broadcast." James put on a wooden smile for her.
They finished their pitiful meals and went their separate ways. Caroline was worried, though. She wasn't going to have her team ruined by doubt during such an important event. So she made a stop at the local donut shop and picked up a few treats. She knew what James needed. A pep talk, just like in the movies.
James was the new hire, so he got the small office that was partially obscured by the old Xerox machine. Caroline arrived after the six o'clock news with the donuts, and let herself in, quickly opening the door and striding inside.
"Listen, James, I've been a thinking." Caroline said, before pausing. James startled as she spoke up, turning around to look at her. His face was off. In fact, it was on his desk, draped over the keyboard like a thin rubber mask.
The donuts fell to the floor. Caroline gasped, and James stared at her, his face covered in green scales, his eyes bright and red. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Instead he just stared at her with uncertain, scared eyes, his lids trembling in fear and doubt.
"I-I'm sorry," he said finally, before grabbing his face off the keyboard and running out of the office.
James didn't show up for the report that evening. Caroline didn't say anything about what she saw. She glided through the news reports like a robot, haunted by that look he gave her as he stepped out.
The next day an intern took Jame's spot. Everyone held a small party for her in the break room, with store bought cookies warmed up in the microwave and fresh coffee. Caroline didn't attend. The intern’s first broadcast was that night. Caroline's game face was cracked. Dark circles lined her eyes.
"Next of course, is the international knitting competition," the intern said.
"Yarn spinning." Everyone in the news room looked at Caroline.
"Yarn spinning, with the spindles. Knitting is tomorrow's event." Caroline stared dead ahead as she corrected the intern.
"T-thanks, Caroline, I wouldn't have known."
"Don't mention it," Caroline said, her voice even and measured as always.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 05:47|
Hindsight Is 20/05 (1290 words)
(+100 words; thanks, jon joe!)
It was her final race as a Mountain View High cross-country runner, and Andrea was already gasping. She grimaced and slowed her pace. Cramping up here would make beating Sandra's time impossible, since Andrea couldn't even see the course's colossal climb of a halfway point.
It was a simple bet, proposed and shook on in a single rash moment. Andrea couldn't even remember the circumstances of its creation, but at least the wager was only ten bucks. Anyways, Sandra had managed a clean 20:05 in the sophomore race. If that time was for twelve laps around a flat track, Andrea wouldn't have much trouble beating it. Here, on the other hand...
She glanced around. Ahead of her were two runners, pulling further and further ahead of her. To the left and the right was an impenetrable mass of shrubbery, broken up by the occasional crooked tree. In the distance, she could see the small cluster of front-runners, almost an entire half-mile ahead at this point.
The two in front of her disappeared around a bend to the left, which meant that just a little further was what the varsity runners affectionately termed “Backbreaker's Bump”.
She resisted the urge to look behind her to see if anybody was gaining on her - she didn't fancy twisting her ankle. Instead, she stepped out a little faster, a little farther. She did not want to lose this bet - if Sandra got any smugger, then Andrea would be able to count her nostril hairs.
Honestly, what was Sandra's deal? The girl seemed to have it out for her from the moment they met - there’d been literal hair-pulling on the first day of practice, for god's sake.
She shook her head and looked ahead. There it was - the charred stump that marked the beginning of the trail’s climb. Andrea sucked in a breath - as much of one she could manage - and began her ascent. In her mind she could hear the coach telling her to keep a steady pace, and more importantly, to save some energy for the top.
Soon enough, the path before her twisted to the left, then leveled out. Andrea refused to be fooled. Just ahead, the trail would duck behind a convenient clump of pines and begin another dizzying climb, longer and steeper than the previous one. So she kept up a steady rhythm, and tried to ignore the faint, insistent nagging from her right side. Just a handful more minutes and she'd be at the top.
She took this slope a little slower, mindful of the increasingly louder complaints from her side. But soon, she heard someone behind her. Again, she had to fight off the urge to look back. She settled instead for watching out the corner of her eye as someone wearing a purple-white uniform slowly drew level with her, then began eking a lead out by inches.
The top was only fifty feet away. Another person passed her. Andrea gritted her teeth and kept a steady pace.
Twenty feet away. She took another glance around, and a corner of her mind said, This is probably the last time I'll see this view. Forests and mountainsides, gray cities and packed suburbs stretched out in front of her, and in the distance, there was the faint glimmer of ocean waters. She might've slowed down, if the opposite corner of her mind hadn't replied, I think I hear footsteps.
This time, Andrea's head began turning before she stopped herself. She bit her lip and told herself to focus on reaching the top.
Five feet away. Then finally, the trail leveled out and the strain on her legs eased. An urge to slow down washed over her, but she forced herself to pump her arms faster, and as a result, her legs followed suit.
Coach's advice paid off. Everybody who’d passed her on the way up had slowed after reaching the peak. By the time the trail began descending, she'd regained her former position. And by the third switchback on the way down, she managed to do one better. There was one last person in front of her, but she was far enough ahead that Andrea would just tire herself out trying to catch up.
From here on out, it was flat ground, even if there was still a half-mile to endure. This section was a retreading of the beginning of the course, so the starting line was also the finish line. In the distance, she could see that runners handing over their tags to the organizers past the finish line. Also visible was the silhouette of the large digital clock that the organizers used to mark time, but from this position, all she could see was its back.
Bystander's faces were a blur as Andrea passed them. This close to the finish line, cheering filled the air. Andrea heard her name shouted as she continued running, stepping up her pace ever-so-slightly. The back of the clock grew closer, and closer; when she finally passed it, Andrea almost stumbled trying to see the time. As she righted herself, she forcibly reminded herself that another minute and she'd be able to see her time without risking injury.
As Andrea drew closer to the U-turn ahead, she became aware of someone behind her - and whoever it was, she was catching up fast. She began sprinting.
Said bend passed in a loud, screaming blur. The person from earlier was still behind her - Andrea could practically feel her breathing on her shoulder.
The clock ahead read 19:17. Andrea pushed away the urge to glance back. The finish line rushed towards them, but it wasn't fast enough.
19:31. Her arms refused to swing any faster. Sweat rolled down her cheeks.
19:40. She still felt someone behind her, no matter how much she pushed herself.
19:44. Andrea couldn't take it anymore. Her head began to turn - but before she could see anything, her right foot landed on its edge instead of its sole, and her leg collapsed.
The whole world turned to a blur. When it finally settled, Andrea was sprawled in the dirt.
Her mouth worked, but she couldn't breathe. One, two runners passed by her as she struggled to push herself back up. She'd almost managed it when she made the mistake of putting weight on her right foot - her ankle's scream of protest forced tears to her eyes.
Suddenly, someone was in front of her. She took the hand they'd offered, and with their support, she managed to stand back up. When she looked at who'd helped her up, Andrea let out a choked giggle.
"Stop laughing, start walking!" Sandra snapped. Andrea followed orders, taking slow, painful steps towards the finish line.
Halfway to the finish line, one of the organizers arrived and took over for Sandra, guiding her the rest of the way to the hanging pennants. As Andrea passed the clock, she glanced over at it. 21:44.
As she tore off her runner's tag and handed it over, she glanced back. Sandra was there, watching Andrea with an inscrutable expression as people cheered around her. Andrea waved, but all Sandra did was turn and walk away.
When Andrea finally escaped the first-aid tent and asked about Sandra, she learned Sandra had left early.
The rest of the meet - the award ceremony, the coach’s final speech - passed in a blur. After Andrea helped roll up the tarp the team used, she opened her backpack, just to make sure she hadn't forgot anything. She looked inside, and froze.
Right on top of her scrunched-up sweater was a ten-dollar bill.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 05:57|
La Petite Roche cont.
Little Rock hid behind the Metropolitan Tower, peeking out every few seconds. Syrena roamed, looking for her. Was he mad? she thought. Was he happy? It was hard to tell.
He’d never kiss her know, she knew it. She’d grown impatient, watching the Syrenians fumble and fail. Even when they were competent, they couldn’t pull off a gold. They needed her. She had to help.
The skies above the mountains howled, and Little Rock shivered in the cold breez that swept over the city. She cowered behind the skyscraper.
“That was desparate,” said the river.
“Well, did you see them?”
The Arkansas River bubbled and splashed against the field where the Syrenians had humiliated themselves in capture the flag. “I saw.”
“I’d never have gotten that kiss if I didn’t do something,” said Little Rock.
“Maybe. Or maybe he’d be looking for a shoulder to cry on and you’d be there for him.”
“Does that ever work?”
“No. They usually just destroy things. You heard what the Mississippi did to New Orleans?”
Little Rock shuddered. “was that…”
The river nodded.
“Yeesh.” Little Rock peered around the tower at Syrena. He seemed angrier.
She spent the next few hours avoiding him, leaping from tower to tower, always out of view, fogging up the windows in the cold.
His search for her intensified, and she could only scamper so fast. She was frantic, zooming under tunnels and through the branches of trees awash with the color of fire. The pillars of the Big Dam Bridge offered her refuge, and Little Rock pressed herself against them.
“There you are!” said Syrena.
Little Rock froze.
He continued: “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“I didn’t do the thing they said!” she cried.
She’d said too much.
“Wait… the wrestling match. Was that… you?”
“Would you be mad?”
“I’m not mad,” he said. “It’s a gold.”
Little Rock turned away. “And so I guess you’ll be leaving now.”
“I have to.”
“I know. It’s just a part of me…” Little Rock trailed off. She didn’t want to say that all she had before he showed up was paddleboats and driftwood the river drudged up.
“I understand,” said Syrena. “It’s getting cold out.”
“Should we go to the ceremony?”
“I guess,” said Little Rock. She took Syrena’s hand and let him lead her to the stadium.
Little Rock and Syrena nestled against each other as they watched over the closing ceremonies.
The countries accepted their medals: in the lead was the United States, accustomed to bitter air and fallen foliage; next was Russia, immune to the site of leafless trees and dying grass. The countries’ anthems played in turn, and last was Syrena. They stood proud while their anthem played, and the hosts handed them the golden belt.
“Look at that belt,” beamed Syrena. “It’s shiny as poo poo.”
“I’m glad you like it,” said Little Rock. She leaned in close.
He leaned in close to her. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you ever since we landed,” he said.
“But you have to leave in the morning.”
“Then let’s make tonight count.”
Little Rock’s stadium went dark in preparation for the finale.
There were fireworks.
Among the flashes of red, green, and blue, the first snowflakes drifted from the clouds.
+218 fuschia tude
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 05:58|
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:54 on Jan 2, 2017
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 06:00|
Djeser fucked around with this message at 19:10 on Dec 31, 2016
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 06:03|
Done. blackmarketlimb is now officially SPARKLING MER's pinch hitter. If anybody on TEAM SPARKLING MER fails, blackmarketlimb can replace them. Offer good for one failure only.
blackmarketlimb, i swear to god if you don't post you've just become a persona non grata with me. I loving GAVE UP MY WORDS FOR YOU.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 06:08|
Where is the whistle ref
WHERE IS THE WHISTLE
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 06:21|
submissions closed i guess
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 06:34|
Djinn, Broenheim, Bluewher - thank you for the crit!
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 06:56|
blackmarketlimb, i swear to god if you don't post you've just become a persona non grata with me. I loving GAVE UP MY WORDS FOR YOU.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 18:58|
pizza party for team mermans when we win.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 21:22|
pizza party for team mermans when we win.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 21:51|
|# ? Jan 27, 2022 15:49|
You know, on account of the Mer forfeits.
|# ? Jan 25, 2016 22:27|