in pic plz
|# ? Jul 29, 2017 00:10|
|# ? Aug 19, 2022 08:10|
Your story must be presented as a palindrome, meaning I can read it from the first paragraph forward or the last paragraph backwards and get basically the same story.
|# ? Jul 29, 2017 03:44|
In. Picture, please.
in pic plz
|# ? Jul 29, 2017 04:14|
In with the Magic School Bus:
|# ? Jul 29, 2017 04:29|
Teetering Towers (#798)
At age 64 I was diagnosed with the early onset stages of Alzheimer's. I had no wife to follow me into senility, no children to visit me, no living friends to remind me I needed to be reminded. Since I was a young man I’d found no pleasure that existed outside of my head and the ones that did never met my expectations. Still, my clumsy blue collar life had been made enjoyable by those places I dreamt up during the endless waiting of modern life.
To lose my mind would make me truly alone. No one could reassure me of who I was more than my thoughts. If those left than I’d have no identity, I’d be dead all the same. It seemed that a good strong rope and a reliable beam were in order.
With the noose looped over the exposed beam in my kitchen, I was set except for what to wear. It didn’t seem appropriate for my body to be dressed for going out when I would be hanging around instead. I went into my bedroom and looked through the remaining clothes I hadn’t given to charity.
Nothing seemed to fit. I glanced at the bedroom mirror and knew I’d be dangling naked. I posted a note to the headboard. It said that my remaining cash would go to whoever reported me. I felt bad for them finding me and thought they deserved something for their troubles.
Amongst the remaining items was my notebook. It contained the drawings of the far away places I threw my inner self into when life reminded me it wasn’t interesting. I scanned the coal scratched drawings of places I’d never seen.
A cathedral going into itself in a vacuum of stars and offerings was on the first page. Next, an ocean shore of raised stone chairs that regal herons sat at. The third drawing was a dingy book shop filled with columns of books. The titles were in various languages.
The drawing had disturbed me as to how detailed it was in comparison to the others. The titles in their Slavic and Arabic looking script meant nothing to me but all felt very personal. It was unusual for me to place so much realism in something I dreamed.
I threw the book away and readied my bloated body for further bloating. One step up onto the paint cracked bar stool and I knew I was ready. It was the only chair I’d kept. I knew the chair would be used like this the first day I moved in. With a kick to the side, I lurched forward and fell into darkness.
The rope was still around my throat but gone slack. I pawed in the blackness and my fingers brushed against something swaying and ridged. My eyes adjusted to the little light around me.
It was a stack of books rising into the second floor of a boarded up book shop. I saw empty bookshelves against the back of the shop and a rickety landing of decrepit stairs led to a second floor piled to the ceiling with tumbled stacks. Behind me was a cluster of volumes, grimoires, novels, taxonomies, leaning together into a wall blocking the window.
I pulled on the rope and picked myself up, the length of it went beyond what I had cut it too. It wormed up into the second floor through a grimy knothole in the supporting ribs of the ceiling.
The stack of volumes I’d touched with my fingers tumbled in an ear splitting crash. My head split and something left.
I stood perfectly still and concentrated on what was missing. What was my last meal? Who was President? Why did I try to hang myself? I knew these events and things existed but nothing else. One of the books had split open at its binding. In it was a picture of a grim looking woman. It was my grandmother.
I knew that as soon as I saw the page. I picked up the volume and it crumbled into paper and string in my fingers. A page of a barfight, a movie that made me sad, a woman I’d lusted for. The pages were everything that was me and now were tangled into a hopeless mass. This place was my mind.
Every stack of books was its remaining order. Weeks passed, maybe years before I changed.
I stayed still, fearful of knocking anything else down. All that kept me engaged was a little pinpoint of light shooting from the covered window. With it came a stray breeze with the smell of white sand and the debating calls of otherworldly herons.
Once I understood who they were talking about, I knew I wanted to join in.
|# ? Jul 29, 2017 07:04|
Sign-ups are closed.
|# ? Jul 29, 2017 09:48|
A Sinking Home
They’d travelled most of the world together, seen the best and worst of each other, and spoken a lot of ugly truths, yet Jamie never would have guessed Rob’s first question would be, “Are you still OK sharing a tent?” She laughed – a laugh of exasperated relief – and it echoed off the mountains surrounding the lake as she explained the practicalities; it’s easier to split one tent between two rucksacks, and anyway, they knew everything there was to know about each other, or at least they did now.
After a few moments he asked another question, “What should I call you? Are you changing your name?”
“Some say you should, to dissociate yourself from your past, but ‘Jamie’ is gender neutral. I’m not changing it.”
“And what about you? You’re not changing you, are you? You still like, all this, I mean, you’ll still want to...” He waved his hands over their isolated surrounds as the words departed him. “I mean, you won’t change?”
Jamie smiled and touched him on the shoulder. “I’m still the same person.” He nodded, shocked, as though the sunken boathouse had suddenly materialised in his back garden.
“Come on,” Jamie said. “Let’s swim.”
A rivulet of sweat flowed between Rob’s eyebrows, scrunched together and almost touching in a fight with the chilli’s capsicum.
“It’s sheer bravado,” Jamie said. “You’re not enjoying this.” She laughed and refilled his glass from the pitcher.
Gasping, he asked, “Who turned you into Mr. Sensible?”
He almost choked as he chugged greedily on the beer. “Ms. Sensible,” Jamie said.
Jamie rubbed at her dry face. They had seventeen tripadvisor tabs open. She didn’t know if she loved their long research, or hated it, just that it caused a kind of excitable tiredness. “I don’t like the look of that place,” she said. “It’s not near anything of note.”
“That’s why it’s cheap, and it’ll be closer to reality then.” Jamie didn’t want to say but it was the real side of places she was afraid of now; the bits of a place not worried about making nice for tourists like her.
“They didn’t even clean for the photos,” she said.
“They’re being honest. You know what you’re getting.”
Jamie clicked onto the first tab she had open. “Look, I’ll cover the cost of here. It even has a pool on the roof.” She knew it was a mistake the second she’d mentioned the pool. She’d refused to swim, or wear anything like a swimming costume since they’d dipped in the Alpine lake eighteen months ago.
The three women had left, and Jamie could understand why. “They just wanted to lie on the loungers, Rob.” One eyelid drooped, while his other eye was wild and staring.
“You’re a woman. Couldn’t you convince them to get in the jacuzzi?”
“How? With you offering them tequila every thirty seconds? They just wanted to rest for a while.”
“If they saw you in here instead of huddled in the corner with your phone they might have joined us?”
“Maybe I want a rest too, Rob.”
“Maybe you should go alone,” he said.
The waterlogged sand pushed around Jamie’s toes as she walked the shore of the beach in Phuket. Biting into the chilli from her pàt tai the mounting heat in her mouth reminded her of Rob’s pepper-machismo. It had been a six months since she booked the trip to Thailand, and a year since she told Rob her plans. She always knew they’d have to settle into their futures, and couldn’t be perpetual travellers their whole lives, but she’d hoped he could manage one last important trip with her. She didn’t know if the tears she fought were from the chilli’s spice, or the isolation of a busy, friendless beach. She wished someone, anyone was there to laugh with her, hand her a beer to quench the burn, and hold her hand. She wished Rob was there. Still, she knew it would get better.
The glacial runoff is a refreshing sting on Jamie’s hike-sore foot. The mountainside is just as she remembers from when she and Rob were there, and just as she’d hoped it would be. She smiles and watches her reflection catching on the water rippling off her submerged leg. She took the same joy from the arduous climb as ever, and sleeping in farmer’s barns along the way. So, somewhere, maybe, Rob had his answer. “No. I won’t change.” But she knows that isn’t true, for either of them.
Throwing her shorts and top to the shore, she walks far enough into the lake to submerge herself beneath the ice-cool water. Lost, and found, she swims to the sinking home trying to remember if this is what she dreamed of so many years ago.
|# ? Jul 29, 2017 16:28|
Aaaaaaand, it's gone!
Chili fucked around with this message at 11:41 on Jan 2, 2018
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 04:42|
How It Had Been
Henry stood in the gloom of the long-forgotten mall, now a decaying, rotting testament to what they had all chosen for themselves. Standing in a foot of murky, fetid water surrounded by moss covered walls stinking of must, he remembered. He recalled how it had been when he was a young boy, when his mother would take him to the store known then as Sears to buy clothes. What a long, drawn out agony it had been; not the buying of clothes, but the death of “going out”. As a young adult, it had been apparent that nobody wanted to leave the comfort of their homes to buy anything anymore. Everything you ever wanted and then some could be bought for cheaper and quicker on the World Wide Web. Amazon had been a huge behemoth at the forefront of future commerce with innovations such as drones, smart algorithms that knew what you wanted and when, and sorting robots. It had been on top then but now it was God. Walmart, Costco, Sears, the mom and pop shop down the block, you name it. They had all gone under or had been bought out by the Omnipotent long ago.
The mall was forgotten because it lay in an overgrown field, almost jungle-like due to rampant climate change, off to the side of the hyper-freeway that ran between San Francisco and LA. No one could see the hulking structure even though it stood four stories tall for two reasons. The first reason was mainly due to the fact that the overgrowth obscured most of the crumbling mess of a building. The second, and real reason, why no one could see it was that self-driving cars and all the “screens” that people had today made looking out the window redundant. It made his head feel like it was going to explode, constantly being bombarded by ads on every screen you looked at. They were everywhere now and they all served the same purpose, to squeeze out every ounce of money you had. In this day and age, you were only food for the beast.
He had tried to get her out of the house, to do something special for a change. For god’s sakes, it was their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and they should be celebrating it! He had pleaded with her, sitting on the couch, holding her hand and trying to get her to look into his eyes but she had not even seen him. She had brushed him away, like some pest. The new season of whatever the gently caress had just come out, and it had been apparent that it meant more to her than their dying marriage. That had been the last straw for him. He had already given up on his two children long ago.
Getting to the deteriorated ruin had been almost impossible, but midlife crises have a way of giving people superhuman abilities. The ability to say, “gently caress it”, throwing all care out the window because you don’t care anymore and you just "do". He had overridden his car’s autopilot, something that was absolutely mad considering he was going over three-hundred miles per hour, and had stopped in the emergency lane. He had fought through the jungle-like brush for hours and had finally come upon a concrete obelisk jutting up from the ground. It had turned out to be a section of the mall wall, covered in tangled knots of some species of invasive ivy. He had searched the base of the decaying façade and had found a doorway, partly open but cemented in place by rust, and had shimmied his way into darkness.
It took a while for his eyes to adjust. It took less for him to remember. Broken down as it was, he could still see how it had been. He recalled the faint elevator music that had constantly played in the background, the lights that had flashed out from the video arcade, and the seductive smell that had wafted in from the food court. The number of people shopping had been overwhelming: Families, friends and couples, just interacting with each other. The Mall had been a place full of voices and life. Most of all, he remembered what the two of them had been like when they were teenagers, just as the mall was beginning to close for good, store by store. They had held hands while they window-shopped, playing with each other’s fingers and giggling uncontrollably. When he had kissed her, she had looked at him with bright, vibrant blue eyes full of life. Today, they had been dead like the forgotten mall he stood in now.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 05:02|
A few minutes couldn’t hurt. Right? I mean, a few minutes at a time. I wasn’t just going to go in once. That’d be ridiculous. As long as I kept checking the lobby, I didn’t see a problem. In fact, all I really needed to do was poke my head out once or twice. I’d locked the front doors, so nobody else was getting in. And we just had the one auditorium. If I stood at the back, I’d be able to see most of the exits. I’d notice if any customers left. In fact, I didn’t see a reason why I couldn’t watch the whole movie. After all, this was an opportunity to see Force Majeure a week before release. I couldn't pass that up.
And, boy, was I glad I stuck around. Best movie I’d seen in my life. And that ending! They’d be talking about this for years. Decades! And I’d been part of the premiere! I couldn’t wait to tell everyone.
I hustled out of the auditorium as the credits began to roll, pleased with my decision to stay. I’d be out by the front doors before anyone noticed my absence.
My stomach roiled as I ran down the lobby stairs. The whole place had been trashed. Carpets ripped, tiles shattered, and the concession stand torn to pieces. Even the decades-old display candies were gone. But, as I wound my way to the ground floor, I realized the theater hadn’t just been wrecked. It had aged. Rotted. I’d been gone less than two hours, but it looked like the place had been deserted for twenty years. Of course, that wasn’t possible. But what else explained the boarded windows, blackened walls, and bloated floors?
What was I going to say to the customers? poo poo, what was I going to say to management?
I bolted back upstairs, toward the offices, but skidded to a stop as I passed the auditorium. There should have been music or crowd noise coming from the other side. Some sign of people leaving. But I hadn’t seen anyone.
I peeked in. Then entered. Nobody. Nothing on the screen or speakers. It looked like someone had taken a crowbar to the seats, splintering them, then doused the whole room with dust. But it was dark. That much was right. In fact, I could only spot a single source of illumination, the only reason I managed see my way up and down the aisles of the theater. And it came from above.
The projection booth.
Terrified – we had a packed house, what happened? – I ran out of the auditorium, toward the stairs at the end of the hall. I charged up, three steps at a time. Hit the top. The lights were on, but I didn’t see anyone. Just the projector humming away, like nothing was the matter. Except the film was going fast. Too fast. Like an out of control conveyor belt. The gate didn’t even have time to open, so no light escaped. No images projected. I took a step forward, but froze when someone spoke.
“Did you enjoy the movie?”
I jumped and did a mid-air quarter-turn.
He was old, and his Greek fisherman’s cap and browline glasses made him look ancient. A lit cigarette hung from his lips.
“Huh?” I managed, breathless from the stairs.
“Did you. Enjoy. The movie?” Only the left side of his mouth moved as he spoke.
“Yeah.” I shook my head. “Where is everyone?”
He shrugged. “Home? Who knows?”
“And the theater? What happened?”
He rapped a knuckle on a nearby splicing table. “Forty years will do a number on a place.”
“Forty years?” I tried a laugh, but my sides hurt.
“That’s right.” He stepped toward me, unsmiling. “That screening wasn’t for you. Cast and crew only. I couldn’t let you leave and blab about my ending.”
I backed up. “Excuse me?”
“What’s the matter? You don’t believe me?”
“Should I?” I kept retreating. “You say you didn’t want me to spoil a movie, so you sent me forty years into the future.” It sounded even more like garbage coming from me.
“I wanted to be on the safe side.” He flashed a lopsided grin. “It was quite a good movie, if I do say so myself. People only just stopped talking about it.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“See for yourself, then.” He motioned toward the stairs. “There’s a brand-new world to explore.”
“Fine.” But I didn’t leave. I went for the projector. Call it muscle memory, fire safety, or curiosity, but I wanted to stop it before I left.
He wagged his finger. “I wouldn’t.”
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 05:58|
Just Glue and Sand and Glass
Twenty-three year old Victoria lived in Echo Park because the rent was affordable since the recession hit. She wrote and made sand-art because they were cheap ways to kill time. And in under thirty minutes she’d be meeting Joan, a friend she hadn’t seen in a decade. One who expected a reunion with the sort of easy-going and joyful person she thought Vicki grew into. Victoria wanted to be more like that person.
Victoria spent the most time and money getting the look right for that personality and her own body-type. Her brown ankle boots and new-ish blue jeans were fine, but her other clothes didn’t work. She bought a sheer white blouse, a coppery cropped vest, and a blue cadet jacket. She also decided on very light makeup, with her hair in a simple ponytail and side-swept to the left.
There would be a tour: casual, affordable, and avoiding the touristy spots. Start off with a late lunch at the French bistro and an early show at the UCB Theater. Kill two hours with the activity determined by Joan’s mood. And end the night with dinner and Wall-E at the Cinerama Dome. Or pizza and wine at Victoria’s place. Joan would sleep on the living room futon until 5 am, time enough for a quick breakfast and shower before leaving for the airport with happy memories and a few lovingly handmade gifts for her and her family.
Victoria was carefully arranging the three gift pieces on her kitchenette counter/dining area when the plans were scuttled. She got a text from Joan. "Family emergency. Going to LAX now. Very sorry."
Victoria’s reply was an instinctive “I’m sorry, I’ll keep you in my prayers.”
At first there were no feelings, then there was a flood of them. Victoria decided to meditate instead of medicate. “Sit comfortably, breathe from the abdomen, think of the ocean rolling in and out; just let the thoughts flow.”
She thought of the relative peace and isolation of her favorite beach – Will Roger’s beach, several miles north of the Santa Monica pier. And then Breakwater Beach on Arrowhead Island. Where everything started going downhill. She continued breathing. And thinking. And breathing. And thinking. Until she needed to yell.
"gently caress that loving ship! That loving island! That loving year! And all the flakes in my life!"
Still enraged, she picked up the three sand-art pieces for Joan and threw them at the tile floor. "Seafloor", and "Desert Sunrise" were destroyed instantly. “Holiday”, a repurposed baby-food jar, landed on the remains of the others without shattering.
Victoria’s anger was replaced with shame. But if she knew where, when, and how things went wrong maybe she could figure out a fix. Unfortunately that information was essentially just a list of jumbled, incomplete facts. She claimed the largest breakwater as her ship, dubbing her the Queen Victoria. The Q.V. looked regal and seaworthy but she must not have been needed as a ship.
The pier was neglected and falling apart, negating the purpose of the breakwater. The beach itself was technically unnamed and poorly fenced off; “Breakwater Beach” was just an informal name. The island was where she met and became a thing with James. She was the older woman by a year and two months. And then they were intimate on the beach. And then he died. She couldn't remember the cause. Something to do with Q.V. Maybe he hit his head diving, or he went on board to explore her. She had her paper journals still, and her old livejournal. They could clear things up, but there was a mess to clean.
Victoria changed into sweats, a t-shirt, and slippers. She wiped “Holiday” off with a damp paper towel and placed it back on the kitchen counter. Then she swept the sand and glass up with a hand-held broom and dust pan. And then the entire kitchenette with a regular broom just to be thorough. Cleaning done, it was time for a new plan. Nobody would have to know about her loss of composure. She could shower, reapply makeup, change back into the “fashionably casual” costume, and go out to any of the places she planned on taking Joan. Or any place else!
By the time Victoria started her makeup she realized she couldn’t go through with it. Not that night. Not alone. She finished getting ready and ordered a medium pepperoni pizza; greeting the pizza-man as if she were expecting a friend or two. She wasn’t sure what she told him and he didn’t care. That was never the point: she just wanted anything about her noticed to keep from becoming abandoned and purposeless.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 08:27|
The following is a gentle reminder to include your photograph (and flashrule) with your story:
Please include your photograph (and flashrule) with your story. Thank you.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 08:30|
I know we can't edit, I hope posting this one post down is acceptable.
She kept her memories in jars.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 08:40|
THIS IS A DQ'd STORY, I'M ONLY WRITING IT OR FUN, I'M NOT EVEN GOING TO TELL YOU WHAT PIC INSPIRED IT EVEN THO IT'S REALLY OBVIOUS
We thought the ark came to rest in the mountains of Ararat. We were wrong.
I was a park ranger, more accustomed to clearing trails than studying the things that grew on either side of them. Years of weathering the many moods of the wilderness made me lean, strong, and full of an unexpected wonder at the natural world. I came to appreciate the shapes of plants, the brusque way nature discarded some patterns and coveted others.
My wonder led me to research, and research led me back to wonder. To my unschooled mind, it made a sort of intuitive sense that a thorn in the Americas would look just like a thorn in Asia, whether or not the plants that wore them were related. A claw was a claw, after all.
Springtime came, and with it, the Sisyphean task of clearing winter’s debris from summer’s trails. Out in the woods, my imagination went wild. Suppose there was something more than natural selection behind the recurring motifs of the natural world? I imagined a ship, bigger than anything else on the sea, traveling the reckless world and seeding it with sensible shapes.
I saved up for a year, gave my notice, and went to search for the ark.
Fifteen years later, I trudged along the most remote reaches of the Yarlung Tsangpo River. The ark was fast and clever, but I had it cornered. There was nowhere for it to go but downstream, which meant it would have to pass me.
I found it huddled against a glacier way up in the mountains. Its hull was vast and grey and weathered, but the forest that grew out of the upper deck was green as life itself. I stood, panting from exertion, and tried to wrap my mind around what I was seeing. It was a living derelict, a ghost ship with a towering canopy on its back.
The ark had grounded itself. I picked my way over slick, snow-covered rocks, until I was within fifty yards of the hull. I tilted my head back, looked up at the canopy of elder trees that had taken root in the ship. I was grateful to see colors other than grey and white after so long in the mountains, even if I had no idea how to board the ark.
There came the thwack of rope hitting wood. A ladder unfurled, tossed by an unseen hand over the railing. I wish I could say that I marched straight up to it and boarded the ark, but the truth is that it took me the better part of an hour to get up the courage.
When I finally did make the awkward, precarious climb, someone was there to help me onto the forested deck.
His hair was a tangle of lichen tassels. His eyes glittered like tidepools.
“Noah,” he rasped, touching his own chest. He pointed at me and said a word I didn’t know.
Seer. The translation drifted into my mind as a breeze through an open window.
I put a hand to my chest. “Seeker,” I corrected him. “I wanted to know…” But after fifteen years, it was hard to remember what it was that I’d been so curious about. The journey had eclipsed the question.
He said another word. Finder.
I looked around at the tall trees and giant ferns. For the first time in days, my cheeks were warm and I heard the hum of insects.
“Now that I’m here, I’m not really sure what I’ve found,” I admitted. Noah cocked his head to one side for a moment. Then his face split into a grin and he laughed.
The word rippled through my mind, tantalizing.
“I don’t think I know what you mean,” I said.
Noah gestured at the ship around him.
He gestured at himself again.
I inhaled sharply. “I don’t think…”
Possibility. He stared pointedly into my eyes. I made myself look at him. His skin was more gnarled than the bark of the trees around us. There were bald patches in his tangle of lichenous hair. Millennia were draped over him like a transparent shroud.
“Did you--” I swallowed “--call me here, or something?”
Need, Noah admitted.
There was a moment where the whole situation towered over me, too big to manage or even consider. Then I heard a noise. The sound of someone beginning the ascent up the rope ladder. I looked at Noah, feeling betrayed. He shrugged.
I hissed through my teeth, thought of my near-empty backpack. “Tell me what I need to know to run this boat,” I said. "And tell whoever that is that they're too late."
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 09:31|
“They never mention how you can’t stop,” Said the old man, he lay, taking shallow ragged breaths, in a coffin of silk sheets. The man in the black pinstripe suit nodded and said nothing. “I thought it would matter, back then. I was so young. They told me it would, when it first began.”
The man in the suit scribbled idly on a clipboard that he held casually in a pale gaunt hand. He tapped on it with his fingers, quietly counting out an uninterested rhythm, keeping a stranglehold pace on time as it slowly passed. The man in bed’s voice creaked as he spoke in a slow monotone.
“Everything started well, but I suppose many things do. I loved it, every minute of it. People looked at me and smiled, they said I was the best, and they flocked to me. It wasn’t until after, that it became difficult, after Daniel’s became Daniel’s and sons.” Wetness glistened in the corners of the old man’s eyes and the black clothed man averted his gaze politely. The old man’s body was wracked in a hacking wet cough, and time drifted on as it abated.
“The problem is you can never give enough, days, hours, weeks, and still the blasted beast calls for more. More blood, more life. The bigger it gets the more it wants, and the second you stop feeding the wretched thing it shrivels and dies. No loyalty, just an endless hungering pit that friends point to and say, ‘don’t you want more?’.” The man’s eyes flared with anger and his arm weakly flopped at his side as he fought to lift it into a fist.
Red lights flashed outside, and men with thick soled boots and good intentions trampled across an untended garden. The man in stripes pulled the fine velvet curtains and darkness once again encircled the room. He sat down in his spindle backed chair, legs crossed, listening with half an ear and tapping out the time with pointed fingertips, sharp rapid ticks against cheap corkboard.
“I gave it my son’s first birthday, I didn’t even regret it then. He wouldn’t remember, you understand, too young, too small, not important. Then it wanted an anniversary, I’ve long forgotten which one or how many. Couldn’t be helped, of course.” He spat, with all the vitriol he had left in him. “My wife smiled and told me she understood, there was meatloaf in the fridge when I got home.” It felt good to talk to somebody, though the words came out choked and hard. It had been years since he’d seen a soul that he didn’t pay to be there.
“At some point, I realized I was trapped, and I didn’t even fight it. I couldn’t stop, I was going to feed bits of my life into a grinding machine until I collapsed, turning time into gold with a plastic smile on my face. My family needed me to continue, to let the beast go hungry would be to let my own children starve. It was supposed to matter, one day, they would thank me, and understand, and it would be enough.” He made a choking sound and the striped man studied him with black eyes, watching as the man struggled to pull another breath. The lean man in the suit checked his expensive watch, the second hand slid smoothly in tiny circles, then he shook his head and began to rap his fingers once more.
“It demanded a holiday.” The old man said finally in a pained wheeze, “One of the big ones, I only remember being cold. Next time I’ll go with you, I told my son, next time I’ll ride with you on the plane, won’t it be fun. I gave the beast my life, and in turn it saved mine in a perverse demonic way. I’m still here,” a hacking cough, “but why.” Heavy boots and good intentioned men broke into the room.
The man shook once, a violent feeble jerk, then there were two men without heartbeats in the ancient too-big house. They walked tall through empty hallways and old dreams, the voices of children and life echoed in their footfalls, distant cries of times long past. The front door creaked on heavy iron hinges and rattled, its latch broken as well. They passed through it and were gone.
The garden preceded the house, already years overgrown while the man still waited alone, but it would all fall eventually. The arches and columns crushed beneath their own geometry, rotting wood and crumbling stone. Even the steel and chrome in the garage would erode eventually, no work of man could prevent itself falling apart to its base elements. In the end, there was nobody to remember and nothing to see.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 11:40|
It began when the thieves stole fire from heaven.
It’s the last time, and I’m not going to cry.
I duck my head and step through the hole in the fence. The hole was there when this place was open- hell, it’s probably one of the reasons SuperWorld went out of business. We barely had the population to support an amusement park, anyways, let alone one you could sneak into that easily.
Jess and I were fourteen the last night SuperWorld was open. Big hair, blush like warpaint- the full eighties fashion onslaught. Our plan? To be the first girls at Lamont JHS to get high school boyfriends. Like taking fire from the gods, we would snatch hot men with cars from the older girls.
Left of the Scrambler, about thirty feet away, there is a bashed-up clown sculpture. He’s looked better. Graffiti crawls across his face; the sign he holds is covered in nasty words. That night, you couldn’t see his face from the ground, just shadows. A nose. A bulging eye. The square of his sign. I kept my eyes on him the whole time.
The boy’s name was Terry. I’d seen him at school and thought he was cute, and he was a senior. I couldn’t believe he was flirting with me, touching my hair. Jess mouthed “Jealous!” as he led me away into the shadow of the clown.
She didn’t see me be swallowed up, obliterated, but she saw me slinking off afterwards like a humiliated cat. Jess coaxed me out, cleaned me up. And she called the cops that night, not me, not that anyone ever believed that.
All the kids blamed me for SuperWorld closing. No one thought it would be forever, just until the investigation was over, but Terry had been busy. More girls came forward. The trial went on forever. You’d think, after almost a year of other girls saying they’d also been attacked, that people would have blamed me a little less.
I light another cigarette as I stare at the clown. He’s still smiling after all these years, though he looks more like the Joker now. Someone’s drawn a dick on his face. “I guess it’s your turn,” I tell him.
I never saw Terry again. He was never in the courtroom with me. For my sake? For his? I don’t know. I honestly don’t remember it well- not the incident, not the trial, not the people looking at me with pity and disgust on their faces. All I’ve really kept in my mind over the years was this clown, silhouetted against the candy lights of the amusement park, looking out over his domain as Terry pinned my wrists to the ground and blew hot, boozy breath in my face.
I never saw Jess again, either. She sat next to me in the car, holding my hand, whispered to me to tell my mom as she climbed out. I called her the next day and she sounded distant, harried. Then she stopped coming to the phone altogether. Most of my friends were like that, but I expected more from her. My parents told me she probably just felt terribly guilty, sucking face with George Katsopoulos while Terry…but she should have known I didn’t blame her. Shouldn’t she? Or did she feel bad that I was the one who got blamed for calling the cops and the park being shut down that nnight?
Tomorrow, it all comes down. I read it in the paper. “Elegant Establishments for the Elderly,” a gated community for “active seniors”. In this town, that’s a lot more useful than a half-rotted amusement park. A lot of people moved away after that horrible summer, my family included, and the town’s been dying ever since.
I wonder if I’ll stop thinking about it after SuperWorld is destroyed? The roller coaster looks like it’s been dipped in acid. The whole place is sour, sulking, like it knows its hours are numbered. Like it knows it’s almost my fault.
I heft the baseball bat. Cigarette hanging out of my mouth like a cartoon housewife, I start beating the poo poo out of the clown.
He’s solid, even after all these years, but I make a few dents- chips, almost- before he finally loses an arm, obscene signage dropping to the ground and shattering. That is satisfying, that is what I wanted! I pick up speed, smashing and smashing and losing my cigarette, it’s all coming the gently caress down, and now I’m bashing his head, his loving stupid smile! It’s gone, it’s erased—
The anger leaves me as suddenly as it came. I drop the bat. The clown is dead, in pieces all over the uneven concrete. His face is in smithereens. I won, and I have one cigarette left.
Why don’t I feel better?
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 12:13|
I watch the girl in the mirror complete her makeup. First she brushes rouge around the apples of her cheeks. Next she smoothes it with her fingers to make it seamlessly blend. Finally she makes a fist and punches the rounded mirror from behind. Her face fractures into pieces and I turn away. My hand is bleeding.
I get up from the makeup table, remembering my husband rushing in from next door. In my memory he is distraught, terrified that I am going to make a scene on this night of nights. I drip blood all over my elaborate, crinoline-distended dress, down its satin creases toward the floor. Despite this he grabs my hand and tries to stop me from leaving. I say a single word to him, the word the girl in the mirror taught me. In my memory rage has made me strong, stronger even than he, and his head slams against the table corner, skull collapsing inward like a porcelain doll.
I glide smoothly out of the bedroom, into the gilded corridor. The yellow paint peels on the walls. There is a tiny flurry of paint-flakes as I pass, golden snow, as a breeze passes through a hole in the crumbling brickwork. In my mind's eye, I can still see the servant, see the look of horror on his face as he backs away to let me pass. I remember reaching out toward him with my bleeding hand, holding his face that must have seen something, must have known something. I am not looking into his eyes, though, I am looking at my hand, at all the tiny fragments of glass that lie buried in it. So many jagged shards, and surely more invisible splinters hidden by blood and flesh. Where does one even begin to heal? I recall the servant bowed somehow, escaping my grasp. Still looking at my hand, I let him fade into memory.
There is a staircase at the end of the hall, carved wood and iron-work, endlessly spiraling down into the palace depths. Each banister post has an iron motif, a single heart-shaped piece, bent sharply in the middle and with rounded curves that are bound to its post by more iron. I have counted each one a million times. I look down into the stairwell, holding the rail for support, and see stairs and hearts and carven curlicues twisting into the infinite. Blood from my hand pools on the rail until a single drop falls, down past two hundred hearts clapped in irons, down into the depths. Soon after, I follow.
It always takes an eternity to fall. I used to daydream that the dresses I was bound into each morning would become the method of my escape, that a zephyr would swirl beneath my vast, unwieldy skirt and take me into the clouds, toward new lands filled with romance and adventure. This same thought strikes me as I plummet, that the breeze could overtake me, carry me up, up, and out of this ancient building at last. There is wind rushing past my ears, but I know it will not save me. I find myself turned around, looking upwards with the ever-approaching floor behind me, and I see something that I had forgotten. Age has not dulled the paint beneath the spiralling stairs, though it too cracks and peels. I can see see that is blue like the sky, like I have fallen past the sky and am speeding ever faster into some heaven beyond.
But it is only a painted fantasy, so I close my eyes and land and crack and break all over again. We are all slaves to gravity and history.
I don't know how long it is before I open my eyes again. I watch the girl on the other side of the mirror, see her watching me as she sits at her makeup table. She seems pale, like a memory of an echo of a colour. She reaches for the rouge.
I lean in close to her and whisper everything I know.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 12:52|
Brawl me bro.
I'm not even going to say who the bro is that should brawl me because it's REALLY OBVIOUS.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 12:59|
The neighbors were terrifyingly human.
Salvaged (797 Words)
Gemma steered her kayak slowly towards what appeared to have been a cinema. Hezekiah perched on her paddle, constantly shifting his feet like he was riding a spinning barrel. She’d tried to move him to a more stable perch on the kayak itself, but he always moved back to the paddle, between her two hands.
The glass doors had been smashed, and she carefully navigated the kayak inside. As expected, nothing useable on the ground floor. She guided the kayak to the staircase, got out, and pulled the kayak up after her. Hopefully there was a vending machine upstairs.
When she and Hezekiah paddled back out of the cinema, they did so with several bottles of water and bags of chips in the bottom of the kayak. She opened a packet of Twisties, and they shared a snack. They were still snacking when they heard the splash, and the scream. Gemma paddled harder, and Hezekiah hopped onto her head for a more stable ride.
The splasher was in the water just ahead of them. Gemma pulled alongside, reached down and pulled the splasher up by their hand. “Hold on,” said Gemma, placing their hand on the side of the kayak. “Don’t try to climb up, or we’ll both fall in. Understand?” A small head nodded up at her.
Gemma glanced around. There was a multi storey office block with a fire escape on one side of the street; Gemma paddled over to it and the former splasher climbed up the ladder and lay panting on the metal grille. “You look a bit young to be out here by yourself,” said Gemma.
“I’m almost twelve!” said the splasher. Gemma raised an eyebrow. “My dad’s around somewhere. He’s doing some boring stuff for his work, so I was exploring.”
Gemma nodded. “I’d better hang around until he gets here.”
“Thanks, by the way,” said the splasher. “My name’s Carly.”
“Please to meet you, Carly,” said Gemma. She took a rope and tied her kayak to the ladder, then climbed up, with Hezekiah perched on her head still. “Do you know how much longer your father’s going to be?”
Carly shrugged. “Maybe an hour?”
Gemma sighed. “All right. Where were you supposed to meet him?”
“Around here,” said Carly.
So, they sat on the fire escape and waited.
“I like your bird,” said Carly.
Gemma glanced up at Hezekiah. “Him? Yeah, he’s all right.”
“Can I pat him?”
“Best you don’t,” said Gemma. “He doesn’t like strangers.”
They sat and chatted some more, or at least Carly chatted and Gemma nodded and shrugged and grunted at what seemed like the appropriate times to not be rude, and after what seemed like much longer than an hour, a motorboat came down the street.
A man stood up in the motorboat and looked up at them. “Didn’t expect someone else to be here. The area’s not supposed to be open to the public.”
“She helped me after I fell in,” said Carly. “She’s nice, and her bird is real neat too.”
He looked at Gemma. “That true?”
Gemma shrugged. “The bit about being nice is up for debate.”
He nodded. “Well, thank you then.” He shifted his gaze to Carly. “I thought I told you to stay put, young lady.”
“But I was bored!”
“But dry,” he said. He shook his head, and addressed Gemma again. “If you have nowhere else to stay tonight, we’ve got a pretty cosy corner in one of the office blocks. We’ve even got a generator up there.”
“All right,” said Gemma. It was getting quite late, and the hour she’d spent minding Carly was an hour she hadn’t been able to spend heading back to her camp.
“I’m Mike,” said the man.
“Nice to meet you, Mike,” said Gemma.
Mike waited for a moment, then shrugged when it became apparent that Gemma was not going to introduce herself. “Down you come, young lady,” he said, holding his hands up to Carly. She got into the motorboat, and Gemma and Hezekiah got back into her kayak, and the four of them navigated their way down the street.
Their setup in the office blocks was a pretty good one. Not only electricity, but blankets and mattresses, and even a towel and a change of clothes for Carly. Gemma started setting up the bed she’d been offered, while the other two sat and talked.
Half an hour later, it was clear they were going to keep talking, so Gemma excused herself and went to bed. After two more hours, the two of them were still talking, and Gemma despaired of ever sleeping.
She woke up to their snoring. She looked over at them, then collected Hezekiah and returned to her kayak.
“People talk too much,” she told him.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 13:57|
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:29 on Jan 8, 2018
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 14:18|
In for a brawl with un-chill-i up there
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 15:43|
Julie said the air’s bad down here but I don’t smell anything.
We wouldn’t even be here if she’d remembered to move 1970-1984 to the new records building. But she didn’t, and now it’s up to me and Eric to grab all these files before they finish up demolition tomorrow.
Julie said the records was in a storage room in the parking lot basement with some the Halloween decorations. Forget the other stuff she said, just grab the boxes.
I don’t see anything down there at first, I mean besides an empty parking lot. Everything echoed, and it smelled like wet magazines. Eric says the air ain’t bad and runs on ahead to check the metal doors, maybe one of them opened to a room instead of emergency stairs.
When he shouts that he found them, his voice sounds far away, and it’s off like he’s got a mouthful of cotton when he talks. And at first I figure it’s just the way his words echo around the dead parking lot, or maybe he’s already carrying some of the boxes.
Because there’s water, a good two or three inches where I’m standing and I don’t realize the ground keeps on descending at first. I’m like ten steps across the parking lot and the water’s now up to my knees, and I’m wondering did Eric swim to find them boxes?
I call out because Eric’s a joker. I know he’s hiding in the room waiting for me, that’s who he is. And I don’t want to get spooked, at least no more than I’m already spooked. He doesn’t respond. Come on Eric, I say, stop fooling around. He doesn’t answer.
Okay if that’s how it’s gonna be, I’ll sneak up on him too. But it’s not easy - I’m still knee deep in old water, and there’s power down here, the light’s on in the room Eric’s in, and right then it dawns on me how screwed we are if the power gets in the water.
I tell him Eric come on quit messing around there’s no time for this.
He still don’t respond, but that’s when I hear the echoes getting whooshy. It’s hard to explain, like there’s a giant fan next to my ears, running slow, and it’s bending the sound in waves.
And my head hurts.
And Eric still hasn’t answered me. I brace myself for his stupid jump scare and go on into the room. He’s not there. There’s the files on some shelves, at least four boxes on a desk: 1970 through 1974. Another box is upturned on the floor in the water.
And that’s where I find Eric, face down.
If he’s trying to scare me he’s going all out on this one.
Come on Eric get up quit playing you’re all wet and smell like dog rear end.
That’s when I hear my voice is all cotton filled like his was. It’s not the echoes it’s not the water. It’s the air.
The air’s bad.
I roll Eric over, he’s just floating there. Eyes open, he’s gone.
The room, the walls, they’re flexing like muscles pulsing at me. I’ve got to get out. I pull Eric up to the desk, lay him across it, but that’ll play out bad I know it will, they’ll say I killed him down here so I pick his fat rear end up and carry him with me.
The staircase is a hundred miles away, through knee deep water and the distance keeps growing. My eyes are watering, and the echoes in my ears coming through that giant fan are going faster. Everything sounds like it’s going whumpwhumpwhump. I drop Eric less than half way across the parking lot or else I’m as good as dead with him.
My lungs and my throat, they’re burning and I can’t get enough air to catch my breath. I know there’s good air up the stairs, I just have to make it to the stair case, get some good air, and send y’all back after him.
But by the time I’m at the top of the stairs my throat’s all closed up, barely any air makes it through and nobody’s up here waiting for me. Any sounds I try to make are a squeak. I lie here for five minutes.
That’s when Jeff drives by and seen me on the ground. He was over looking for Eric to go to lunch, I point to the stairs, Jeff said yeah I know he’s in the basement but I figured y’all’d be done by now.
What’s wrong with you he asks me. I can’t talk, and Jeff’s eyes do the math, something bad happened and Eric’s still down there.
He run off to get Eric, I’m trying to tell him the air’s bad, but I can’t.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 15:47|
Swap Meet Syndrome
(Already rewritten, gonna submit soon.)
Solitair fucked around with this message at 20:21 on Dec 28, 2017
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 15:51|
798 words and It wasn't illegal, not back then btw
Solitair fucked around with this message at 18:23 on Jul 30, 2017
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 15:53|
Yes, I will judge that for you no need to thank me all part of the service PROPMT what do we keep and what do we leave behind COUNT 600 words TIME 1200 PST 7 August
Brawl me bro.
In for a brawl with un-chill-i up there
yes good yes toxx up you illiterate sneebs
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 20:06 on Jul 30, 2017
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 16:01|
I never got my feet wet
There’s memories where I don’t go no more.
It’s like, uh – fractured.
There’s a house where I lived, and the door is locked. In autumn, in years gone, I made a wending way down a bridge my father made. It creaked and swayed beneath my feet, but I never once got wet. You know what lakewater smells like? It’s a little smell – so light in your nose you could mistake it for nothing. There’s thousand-dollar whiskey that works its rear end off to bring you that smell, and it never quite feels like the real thing.
I caught a frog once. Usually you just caught tadpoles and let ‘em grow in a fishtank, but I caught an honest-to-god frog. It had been raining all night. The house was only big enough for me and dad, and the roof was corrugated iron he beat out himself. When it rained, the pattering jig of raindrops on that roof was our entire world. I went outside after the rain had cleared. Frogs all over the drat show - their dark little shapes hopping in and out of the mist. Real frogs don’t ribbit, they krrrrrrrrRRRRR. Grabbed me the biggest frog while he was puffing himself up. He tried to lurch outta my grip, but I had him good. Ran inside with a croaking and wriggling frog, and dumped him in the fishtank.
By next morning, he’d eaten all the fish then died. Dad told me not to cry, because it was just a drat fish, or drat frog, or whatever. He checked the fishtank for damage, and found none.
School was an hour away. No busses or trains in our part of the world. There’d been a train station in the 60s, but it shut down when everything got privatised. I had to walk through the cold, and hug my cheap plastic raincoat tight. Dad showed me the way on my first day, then never again. Not once, for years. He said it cut into his work but I never saw him do anything but hammer nails and drink whisky. He didn’t hit me much, so that was good. He built things, and occasionally somebody from town paid for them. It kept us afloat, though never comfortable.
Came home from school one day and–
The memory just ain’t there. The door’s locked. I walked across the bridge, and it creaked beneath my feet. Creak creak krrrrrrrrr–
There’s a house with red walls, in the middle of a lake. The door was locked. My father was inside, because of course he was. Drinking and hammering nails, with a faint smile on his face. I didn’t see him, but that’s what he always did. I crossed the bridge and opened the d–
Trying to remember is like punching mist; like dancing through waist-high water. I opened the door to see my father and he was–
‘twenty years I’ve tried to open that door. Sometimes I go years without dreaming it, sometimes I can barely get a night’s respite. I walk down the bridge and it moves beneath my weight. The little house is in front of me. The door is locked, but it isn’t. There was a frog, and it was too drat big for the fishtank so it ate all the fish and died. I don’t know how it died or why it needed to take the fish with it, but that’s just how things played out. Big frog, little tank -- going mad surrounded by all that water and all those walls, then just gave up living. I know what my father did: people told me afterwards. I found him in our house, apparently. I walked an hour back to town and told my teachers.
I don’t remember any of it.
I remember a house on the lake. I remember rain on the roof, and frogs in the mist. I remember the bridge that creaked beneath my feat, and a door I opened and--
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 16:01|
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 16:07|
“I remember what it’s like to be small- gangly, thin like your frail bones. Once, I was nothing more than stick and leaf, trembling whenever the wind blew. Trembling like you now.
There’s a storm coming.
Don’t cry, slight things. The world is full of dangers worse than a bluster. Just listen to the wind’s song as my leaves rustle. What a choir you’d all make.
I know you have lovely voices.
How about this? Once the wind moves you to singing, I’ll move you with my sapling dance.
The years of my infancy were bathed in songs and shadow. While my brothers quickly grew tall and sturdy in the blessing of the sun, fortune cast my seed to the underneath, a much darker soil. It would be years before I understood its true name. Piano.
From the underneath, I learned to stretch and sway with the motion of the sun. Morning and evening found me lapping up the dim orange light of the world, but midday sent me stretching for any bright spot within reach.
Children would sometimes play the thing. Piano. One girl had practiced the art, playing it more beautifully than all others. Against her music, the swaying of my survival became almost enjoyable.
This is how I learned to dance.
Occasionally, a less welcome visitor would come to the underneath. Cardinal. In our first meeting he clamped onto my twig-base, yanking, determined to unearth me.
‘I’ll use your body to strengthen our nest,’ he said. ‘Mama will be so proud.’
Cardinal’s wings beat against my leaves as he clawed with everything he could summon, yet in the darkness of the underneath my roots had grown wide, deep, and unmovable.
‘I am a creature of the dark,’ I said. ‘I will not be moved.’
‘This won’t be forgotten, Sapling,’ Cardinal said. And he was off.
We were both so young then, although not nearly as young as you all.
The children were still visiting Piano in the early years, but as my trunk firmed and steadied, dancing to their songs became almost impossible. Only the girl could move me.
Sometimes, I can still hear her music.
Eventually, my body began to fruit in the darkness- green, unripened little things- but mine nonetheless.
Not long after I began my maturation, I heard the striking of keys above me in the girl’s familiar tune. Still, for all that this song was perfectly ordered, the playing was off, broken, slower. Furthermore, there was no person standing before me during the playing, and soon, chirps and cracks began to fill the air between the notes. Then the song stopped, and Cardinal plunged before me.
‘I thought you’d like to hear it for old times’ sake,’ Cardinal said.
‘You aren’t as good as her,’ I told him.
Cardinal fluttered onto one of my main branches. ‘She’s long forgotten this place,’ he said.
They all had forgotten.
‘You’ve grown larger over these years,’ I said.
‘As have you,’ he replied.
I began to speak. ‘If you’re thinking to pull me from the ground-’
‘Don’t be foolish,’ he said, ‘I haven’t come for a fight.’ It was then that I felt the familiar clamping of Cardinal’s beak, this time against softer flesh. ‘I’ve come for a snack.’
I managed to rock and sway against his relentless pecking, but the red menace was too quick, eventually plucking me bare.
‘I’ll return the next time I feel hungry,’ Cardinal said. ‘I’ll return again and again until the day your hardening body cements you. Then, I’ll roost in you, old friend.’
Weekly, Cardinal would strip me and fill his belly, always playing the girl’s song before feasting.
Weekly, I grew.
First, I grew until my leaves brushed the top of the underneath, flirting with its cracked surface. Then I grew until the wires holding Piano together snapped. Then until the whole of it split in half.
One day, Cardinal appeared with his typical appetite.
‘There’s less music in these woods now,’ he said, ‘and all of the other birds have flown to more pleasant places. I intend to follow them, and find a mate. Enjoy the silence, Sapling.’
This brings us to today, little hatchlings.
Time spent a decade hardening me, but neither Cardinal nor I forgot his promise. When you’re young storms can come and go on a bird’s wing, but some winds will always blow.
Don’t cry; I knew you’d make a wonderful choir.
Although age has made me brittle, I haven’t forgotten how to move. I’ve spent these years practicing. Look down, little ones, while I dance for a moment. Do you think some keys still work?
We could find out together. I bet you have your father’s gift for music.
When he finds you splayed against your instrument, he’ll be so proud.”
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 16:46|
The Girl in the Reactor
The handle on the thick metal door is absurdly large and difficult to budge. His clumsy radiation suit doesn't help. The scientist pushes down hard, and when it finally gives he feels a barbed spike of pain in his lower back. Straightening, the discomfort blooms into a wrenching pain that courses up towards his neck. He ignores it and pushes forward into the reactor chamber. This is important. It's the last thing to be done.
Besides, the pain in his heart is much worse.
The girl sits at a small table wearing a simple flowered dress. Bare feet dangle down, not quite reaching the concrete floor. Her blue eyes look up at him and widen in recognition. Her mother's eyes. The display monitor in the control room never did them justice.
"Paola," he says, his voice muffled through the filtration unit. "It's time to go."
She smiles at him warmly, "But papa, I've only just started playing." She gestures to the aliossi bones scattered across the table.
"The people voted. The reactor is being decommissioned." To her confused look he adds: "Shut down."
"Have I not done a good job?" Her face pinches in worry.
"Of course you have, my love. A very good job. We all owe you for—" he can't finish, because how can you explain something you don't understand? His little girl had saved them: saved the reactor, the village, the provincia. This was true. How she had done it, how her presence had cooled the melting fuel rods, silenced the shrieking alarms, dampened the escalating reactions and ended the catastrophe, of the how he had no idea. No one could say even how she'd gotten into the reaction chamber. Or how she'd survived. But it has been three years now.
He is merely a scientist. For all of this he has no answers.
"Come with me," he says. He extends a yellow-gloved hand. "They're going to flood the reactor chamber with water and seal it off soon."
Again she looks confused. Opal eyes regard him. "But my purpose is here, papa. She told me before she died. That I was to look out for you."
"And you have, my dear." Tears muddle his vision. "She would be very proud."
The radiation suit prevents him from wiping them away, so the scientist closes his eyes to clear them. Memories come, unbidden. His wife rides her bike across the piazza, dark hair blowing in her face as she laughs. Long afternoons spent in the cafes talking about politics, about poetry, and about the children they might someday have but never did. And at the end, the white sheets and cold machines of the hospital that took it all away.
"I miss her." Her voice echoes softly through the dim chamber.
He opens his eyes and for a flash he sees—he really sees. Blackened blisters of peeling flesh, her hair and simple dress burned away, charred skin split open to reveal dead gray bone beneath. Milk yellow eyes with pupils clouded from radiation burns. A charred, gnarled effigy. His daughter reduced to a cheap and twisted mockery of the human form.
The vision recedes into a fading afterimage. Before him she is whole again. Perfect.
The scientist's ragged breath is loud and hot within the confines of his suit. He again reaches his hand towards her.
"Come, my patatino," he says. "Let's leave this place. Forever."
With a shy smile she stands. Her hand is so small and delicate. He can't even feel it through his lead-lined gloves. "Of course, papa. We should go."
But before they get to the chamber door she hesitates. "I almost forgot," she says, and skips lightly back to the table. Pushing aside the aliossi stones she picks up a photograph. Returning, face bright, she shows it to him. It is of them, from before. The scientist and his wife, holding hands, and their daughter running across the frame, an unfocused blur, just a flash of blue eyes and black hair, as ethereal as a ghost.
She smiles, hands it to him, and takes his other hand in hers.
"Let's go, papa. I'm ready." Her hand is light, intangible. Like ashes scattering in a sudden breeze. .
"Me too, my love," he says.
Alone, the scientist closes the heavy door and the cleansing water rushes in.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 16:56|
Yes, I will judge that for you no need to thank me all part of the service PROPMT what do we keep and what do we leave behind COUNT 600 words TIME 48 hours from right.... now
There is no way I can get a story together of any sort within 48 hours. I'm working full time through then.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 16:56|
The Forgotten Places -- 800 words
“Why are you here?” Joel chambered a round and aimed his rifle at the dock below him. The man below ignored the question and looked up at Joel, his eyes tumultuous like the water behind him.
“I asked you why you’re here, you son of a bitch!” Joel whipped the rifle to the left, squeezed the trigger—CRACK—and sent the bullet racing out over the water. On the dock, the man jumped involuntarily, but soon returned his eyes—now calm, as if the wind had died suddenly—to Joel. The man spoke.
“I’m coming up. Shoot me if you want.” He began walking up the ramp. Joel did not shoot him.
There aren’t many places to hide left in the world.
Industrial expansion and population sprawl have swallowed up real estate voraciously. If there isn’t a human eye on the ground, there is a mechanical one in the sky. And even the most remote locations on Earth are now destinations for explorers.
There aren’t many places, but there are still some. You just have to find the places the world doesn’t want to go.
Joel thought he’d found one such place: an old Soviet testing station 2 miles off the coast of Makhachkala, Russia. Beaten to hell by the violence of the Caspian Sea and the creeping return of Mother Nature, the locals believed the place was haunted—and with good reason, thought Joel. The place looked it. And it seemed as if nobody had come to check on the ghosts for at least 50 years. A perfect place for a man to disappear forever.
And so he did. For a year, he survived in solitude on his artificial island. He fed on the bountiful sea life that flocked to the station and distilled the salty Caspian waters with a piece of plastic sheeting.
It was not easy. He arrived in summer, and the sun was ruthless. Joel found himself in a constant battle with the sun’s cruel light. It pursued him through broken windows and caved in roofs, and anytime he found a moment of refuge, it moved. Several times, he surrendered, and lay naked on the concrete, letting the sun do its merciless work. Only when he could not take it was he forced to explore the untouched and unlit depths of the station.
But he could not stay down there, not even for a night. The locals were right: there were ghosts here. In the utter darkness and stillborn air, you could hear them whisper in the pipes. Joel was not interested in what they had to say.
When the sun relented, the storms took their turn. Sheets of rain fell like artillery, and there were no foxholes left. Joel tried to hide in the lower levels again, but the water was thorough—it found every crack, every hole, worming its way downward inch by inch to meet the sea. Joel did not have the courage to travel deeper, to see if it ever got there, because on these days, the ghosts howled.
“Why are you here?” Joel raised the rifle again, this time at the door across from him, where the other man now stood.
“Put the gun down, Joel. You’re not going to shoot me.”
“Tell me why you’re here, Derek. Nobody comes to this place. Nobody has in decades. Why did you come to this place?” The gun remained pressed against Joel’s shoulder.
“You’re living in hell, Joel. You’re right, nobody comes to hell on purpose.” Derek raised his hands and took a step forward. Joel didn’t move. Derek took another step. “Unless they need to pull someone out of hell.”
Joel’s eyes narrowed. The tip of the rifle dipped. “I don’t need your help, Derek. You’ve been trying to tell me how to live for years. I don’t want it.”
Derek took two more steps forward. He was halfway across the space between them. “Come home, Joel.” Another two steps.
“Home? Home?” Joel’s hands raised the rifle almost involuntarily, but then let it drop even lower. “I have no home. I haven’t for years.”
“You can’t live like this. You can’t live in hell.” Derek took two more steps. Only a few feet separated the two men. “Come home. Mother has been a wreck.”
“I know where I’m not wanted, Derek.” The rifle hung only from the fingertips of one hand.
“Then what the hell am I doing here?”
Derek took two final steps and threw his arms around Joel. The rifle clattered to the floor, forgotten. For three interminable seconds, Joel did not move, did not react, could not even think. And then: a flow of tears more powerful than any storm poured down his cheeks, and his eyes shone with the intensity of two suns.
And the ghosts fled.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 17:06|
Time Will Forget Your Name
Lucie met her dead great-grandmother when she was ten. There was an old church she liked to play in, long abandoned. A stream had cut through it so that the soft sound of water over stone echoed on the high arched ceiling.
The old woman was sitting on a bench, in his priestly attire, watching her dance to the rhythm of her mind. Then she saw her. It took her a moment. In the old photos, Grandma Rosalie was not so faded and translucent.
“Grandma? Aren’t you supposed to be in heaven?”
The ghost smiled softly, but said nothing.
Lucie stopped dancing, and sat down next to her.
The ghost’s voice was like mist. “Memories fade. I fear I will be forgotten.”
“I remember you, Grandma.”
Rosalie shook her head. “Do you remember what I did in the Great War? Or the Second World War?”
Lucie shook her head.
“I remember German planes over the city, and the artillery all around. My parents didn’t want me to join, but I had to help. I saw a lot of dead men. But I helped save some. Then the war came again to France. We were spared the worst of it, at first. Then we were occupied too. But I remember when the American bombs drifted down and hit the school. I helped save some.” She sighed. “Ç'est la guerre.” War defies logic.
“I’ll remember, Grandma.”
“You should visit again.”
The years passed, and Lucie visited often. Grandma Rosalie still told her stories, but there were others too. She met a revolutionary named Gillet, who talked mournfully about the ideals of the revolution. She met a dark-skinned Roman legionnaire named Otho, who recounted his life as a soldier. She met a Gaul named Dumnorix, who told of his own long, forgotten battles.
The church was not as old as they were. Still, they came. There wasn’t peace amid the crumbling walls and eroded stone, but there was sanctuary. Solace.
Lucie heard their stories. How different their lives had been--and how similar! Dumnorix had hunted and butchered his own food, but still dealt with petty jealousies and the messiness of love.
In history class, Lucie’s eyes lit up when they talked about something her ghosts had mentioned, but the stories were so different. The textbook mentioned Julius Caesar, but never his soldier’s names. And the Caesar in the text was nothing like the one Otho remembered. She dug around online and in libraries, but could find no mention of the Otho she knew.
It went on like that. More ghosts visited. Lucie listened to them all, but with a sense of growing existential dread. Who would remember her? Would anyone?
Lucie grew older. Friends and lovers came and went from her life like ghosts. She remembered some, but forgot others. The spirits, though, she remembered all. She wrote their stories down. But life took its toll on her time. Her visits grew infrequent.
She married. She raised her children the best she could. She worked. She retired. The church stayed forgotten. She was the only one who visited.
“I’ll go with you some other time,” her daughter assured her.
“Those places always depress me,” her husband said. “Can’t we visit a park on a day like this?”
Life continued. She grew old. One by one, the people she knew were buried.
One summer day, she left for the church again.
“Where is grandma going?” Estelle, her granddaughter, asked.
“To visit old friends at the church.”
“Can I come?”
“No, sweetie. Grandma likes—”
“She can come,” Lucie interrupted. She saw the look in her daughter’s eyes. “I’ll take good care of her.”
The sunlight streamed through the old stone windows, stripped of stained glass. One by one, Lucie introduced Estelle to her old friends, and gave her a taste of their stories.
It was a long time before Lucie died. She died in the company of a loving family, but she died, and her experiences were buried with her. On the tombstone, it read Cherish the memories of those at rest, for we carry their legacy, and they have shaped us. A nice sentiment. People who passed her grave nodded at it, but knew nothing of the woman buried there.
Estelle, for her part, rarely visited that graveyard. She was too busy visiting the church. Her grandmother had told her it was a lonely, desolate place when she’d first visited, but Estelle couldn’t imagine it. There was so much warmth in the ruined church’s bones. Ghosts were sprawled about all over, talking, laughing. It was a place of friends and stories. In the middle of it all was Grandma Lucie, listening to it all, remembering names the rest of the world had forgotten.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 17:51|
So Far Away
The bus looked derelict the first time Orrin saw it, at seventeen and drunk on gas-station beer. Someone had tried to cover up the school-bus canary with other colors: green and white, like the sea. But the yellow bled through, worse than rust. Orrin grabbed a rock and threw it at the socket where a headlight had been. The trees all around muffled the clang into a pathetic note, and the vehicle's cracked windows stared impassively down, and Orrin felt shame and self-disgust arm-wrestling inside him to decide which would make him feel like more of a poo poo. The bus's open door offered a flimsy escape.
Inside, its seats held boxes. Cans. A cooler. Orrin cracked that open and found more beers sitting in lukewarm water and drowned flies. He took one and held the aluminum to his forehead without drinking. One peeling leather cushion was clear of debris. Flopping onto it, Orrin curled himself up so his knees were braced against the seat-back in front of him, let his head slump against the wall, and closed his eyes, just for a while.
A branch hit him in the face and woke him. Up front sat a driver, big and bearded. The bus rumbled through the woods, trees reaching in where there wasn't any window glass; one of them had slapped Orrin good, and he jerked upright and hollered, "Hey! What the hell!" He scrambled for the door. "Let me off!"
But there wasn't enough space between the bus and the trees to fit a gnat. Orrin was getting a good idea through his headache of why the paint job was so damaged. Jumping out into that? He wasn't suicidal. Quite. The bus kept moving; he lurched back down the aisle, and he met the driver's eyes in the rearview mirror. "You got somewhere else to be?" the man asked him.
Orrin sank back into the seat. "No," he said. "Not really."
The bus slid through the forest, over creeks, past collapsing shacks, staying off anything like a road. Orrin watched strange landmarks pass until they lulled him into sleep again. He came awake at night, the bus no longer moving, the driver gone--the door hanging open and a highway right outside. Orrin took another beer for the road and followed the asphalt into a new town.
The second time he found the bus, he was twenty-two and stone-cold sober. And when he climbed on, the driver was already there reading a battered Tom Clancy paperback. The driver set the book down and reached for the keys. "Going to be a long trip."
Orrin didn't say a word, just settled into the same seat. He didn't think of Francine or her pleas for him to stay. Didn't think of the shouting, her refusal to abort. He very carefully and deliberately did not. Much later, as the bus disgorged him on a boardwalk by the ocean, he avoided thinking of anything at all.
The bus ambushed him the third time. It stood where he never would have looked for it: on the lot of a terminal, at the edge and under shadow but unmistakable in its broken livery. Orrin, on the business end of thirty, took a step backward from it. His debit card would cover a Greyhound fare. But then he thought of speed and wheels that didn't need a road.
"I need you to take me to somewhere," Orrin said to the familiar driver once he was inside.
"My kid's sick in Kansas City. Francine says she has to have bone marrow."
The big man hoisted himself out of the front seat. "You'd better do the driving, boy."
The old plastic smelled stale, like sweat and age, and a few important dials had gone missing from the dash. Nothing measured this bus's fuel. Orrin pointed its nose at the trees verging the terminal. They pulled aside to let him through.
He drove due east, over rippling, baked sand. The bus crested dunes as easily as it did mountains. Orrin said, "I didn't ask for my parents." Moonlight paled the rocky ridges in front of him. "Didn't ask to be a parent. Can't afford it." The wheels threw up spray from the Arkansas River, drops that splashed in and spattered the old boxes. "I've never seen my daughter. She didn't ask for me, either." The sunrise turned Nebraska's wheat to gold.
"I can do this much for her," Orrin said, parking the bus in a stretch of trees three miles from the hospital.
He stood on numb legs and turned to check the ruined aisle, the cans and the cooler. There was no driver present but himself. Orrin left the keys in the ignition and didn't look back to watch the bus go.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 18:15|
The tunnel into The Dragon’s mouth was an abyss, as dark and dead as the forest that surrounded it. A blight had crept through the amusement park, darkening the branches of the trees into ash, corroding the rides until most of them lay in melted heaps on the ground. The only color that remained was The Dragon’s head, as if even the rainbows had fallen from the sky and lay draped over the husk of the slain coaster. The village elders had forbidden it, but Shihab wasn’t about to back down from a dare.
Shihab shined his flashlight into the opening, and The Dragon swallowed it gleefully. “I can’t see anything,” said Shihab. “Not even the back.”
“Because it never ends!” said Youssef. “It swallows you whole into Jahannam.”
Shihab looked over his shoulder and scowled. “That’s just a rumor to scare first years.” He turned back toward the tunnel. “Echo!” he shouted into the abyss, but nothing returned.
“You’re a first year, aren’t you?” laughed Youssef.
The other boys snickered, the logic infallible.
“Nobody’s really died down there though…” Shihab swallowed. “Right?”
Youssef slapped Shihab on the back. “You’re probably fine. I mean, unless it’s hungry again.”
Shihab stood and faced his tormentor. “I’m not scared of anything, especially your stupid fairy tales. It’s just a tunnel, not a demon, and it doesn’t require a sacrifice.”
“Oh good, it’s always easier when we don’t have to force the sacrifice inside, so if you aren’t afraid, go in.”
“Fine.” Shihab flicked on his flashlight.
Youssef snatched it from his hands. “But without this.”
Shihab was more worried about weasels or bats than he was any tales he’d been told at bedtime. Still, the boys that had dragged him out into the woods held metal bars in their hands, and he wasn’t certain they wouldn’t beat him if he refused. “You guys suck,” he said as he took his first steps into The Dragon’s maw.
He’d gone about as far in as his flashlight had reached when the boys at the entrance suddenly scrambled over each other. They pulled a large blanket from their backpack and hung it over the opening, and then Shihab stood alone in the preternatural darkness.
Then The Dragon’s stomach growled. A low, slow rumble that started back toward the entrance, but quickly grew louder as it rushed toward him. In between the banging of sheet metal he could hear the faint laughter of the other boys as they beat on the metal tunnel with their pipes. He rolled his eyes at their pathetic excuse to scare him.
He walked in the darkness until he saw faint wisps of light through a blanket hung over the exit. He smiled; he was just as brave as the older boys.
The Dragon’s stomach churned. The ground shook and low rumbling slowly built up inside the tunnel. The banging stopped, but cacophony deafened Shihab even with his fingers in his ears. He ran for the exit, guided by the light. The tunnel wretched and snarled as metal twisted and snapped behind him.
Shihab ran, his fingers barely brushing the shaking track. The Dragon screamed as Shihab hit the blanket at full sprint, falling into it in a hopeless tangle. He fought the blanket like a drowning man fights the sea, but could only listen helplessly as The Dragon freed itself from its earthen tomb and took the sky, it’s roar fading in the distance.
By the time Shihab freed himself from the tangled mess of blanket and debris, The Dragon was just a speck in the sky, the orange glow of its flames barely visible. He looked back at what was left of the tunnel. The space he’d stood in only minutes before was torn open. The opening had been blasted apart and laid in splinters around him.
“Youssef?” he called out, but nothing answered. His shattered flashlight lay on the ground a few feet away. Shihab trembled as he pulled himself to his feet. He fought back tears, then lost.
Shihab swayed on his legs, The Dragon’s darkness finding new sanctuary in him. He clawed at his skin as if he could tear it out, but it drenched him. He was infected with the blight that swallowed light and sound. He gulped air into his lungs as he stumbled forward, then as his feet found their footing, sprinted, back to his village, afraid of dragons.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 18:26|
The Opposite of a Memorial
Thranguy fucked around with this message at 02:06 on Dec 7, 2017
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 18:26|
Djeser fucked around with this message at 20:35 on Dec 28, 2017
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 18:36|
I met Anje in the climber's bar in Grindelwald, sitting beneath antique Alpenstocks; a pilgrim come to pay her respects in the Mordwand's long shadow to those who'd strived and died on its steep face. We fell into easy conversation, two women in a sport full of energy drink sponsored testosterone. She was a saisonnière: working ski resorts in winter, in summer orbiting the alpinist's constellation of Chamonix, Aosta and Saas. Her Italian was non-existent, her Schwyzerdütsch incomprehensible, but we filled the gaps in our bad French and broken English with gestures and laughter that grew wilder by the demipinte.
It was late when I took out the photo and told her its story. I'd found it in a high Dolomite rifugio, pinned on the hut's wall alongside a scrap of hand drawn map. A church tower rising from a lake of ice, the rest of the building drowned and frozen. The map fragment showed a hanging valley, surrounded by Hornli popular with climbers. Yet on the area's SwissTopo map there was no sign of the lake. I'd come to Switzerland, questioning local guides and alpinists to no avail. I had to find the valley.
"But I need a partner. The mountains, they are dangerous alone. Will you come?"
"Ja, natürlich. We climb together." She smiled as we shook hands.
Late next morning we were in Anje's battered T4 camper, rounding swooping hairpins at terrifying speed. Evening found us grabbing a few short hour's sleep near the trailhead. Well before dawn we scarfed down scalding coffee and squashed brioche, shouldered groaning packs and set out up the wooded slopes. By first light we'd already climbed a system of granite slabs and reached a shattered maze of dirty blue ice pouring down the mountainside.
Roped together, we hiked across icy walkways and snow bridges spanning bottomless chasms. The day grew warmer, the snow underfoot softening in the sun. As I crossed a snow bridge the ground fell away and I dropped, screaming, in a confusion of falling snow. The rope at my waist caught with a jolt. I dangled above a black crevasse, Anje's shouts muffled and distant. She went quiet, but the rope at my waist tugged and jerked as I shivered in the dark, cold air. Eventually, the line went tight and, little by little, I was lifted into sunlight. Anje rushed to me as I flopped into the snow. She gave me her down jacket, forced me to stand and stamp my feet to warm up. An angry red streak wrapped her left forearm, but she waved my concern away.
"It is nothing. I tangled in rope when you have fallen."
"Well, thank you for catching me." She grinned broadly.
"Of course! I do not carry on alone."
Above the glacier lay snow slopes, then a ridge leading to the hidden valley. We bivvied high on the mountain, huddled against the chill under a single sleeping bag. I woke often during the night - cold seeping through my many layers on one side, Anje's warmth on the other.
In the morning thick mists obscured the ridge, but we climbed with slow determination across rocky pinnacles and came at last to steep scree leading down. As we descended out of the clouds a frozen lake became visible, and a shiver ran through me as I stopped and stared. In the centre stood a familiar tower; steep roof, free of snow, above ancient brickwork with a single doorway. I caught up with Anje, already testing the ice.
"I think it's solid. Shall we see?"
We advanced slowly over the creaking ice. As Anje reached the tower's threshold a bell tolled once, the sound ringing across the flat valley and echoing off the mountains. She froze. I leapt. Clutching her close, we fell together through the doorway, plunging down into icy water. I gasped at the cold, the breath forced from my lungs. In my arms Anje went rigid. Muscles seizing in the freezing water, I held tight as she struggled in the darkness. For the longest time we held together, Anje's thrashing joined by my own as I convulsed with the need to breathe. Finally, I could hold out no longer and inhaled, releasing Anje's still body, the chill chasing into my lungs as I tried to cough, swallowing more and more water. I sank into darkness.
I woke on the ice. The tower leaned above me, its bell ringing one repeating note. I stumbled away across the frozen lake, not looking back at the tower. Hot tears ran down my face, fell and froze. Anje had been so warm, where I was always cold. Her stolen heat sustained me for now, but it wouldn't last. Already my exposed arms were white. On my left forearm, red rope marks throbbed.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 18:42|
The staircase was the only notable landmark on the beach; the remains of an old walkway down from the cliff. The walkway had fallen into disrepair after changing attitudes saw a decline in rural beaches, what few beachgoers were left preferred the better maintained beach at the park or the hotel a mile up the road. With the old walkway gone, there was no safe access to that section of the beach from land; the only options were a boat ride across the lake or a couple story climb down a sheer cliff face.
I'd been doing a report on local architecture for a class and decided to go out to what was left of the walkway and see if there was anything I could use. Renting a canoe at the hotel, I paddled out to the beach and looked around for snapshot opportunities. On the whole, it was unremarkable. The view was ok, about the same as the rest of the beach, nothing noteworthy on this stretch except for the staircase itself. The staircase was a spiraling metal thing, built to last long after the wood connecting it to the cliff above rotted away; it coiled up like a metal sea serpent lording over the shore. I took some photos of the staircase itself to use in my report and started poking around to see if there were any specific design elements I could talk about.
Looking around under the stairs, I saw a few carvings that bored kids had carved in the past. No doubt they'd be popular on urbex sites, so I decided I might as well look for some interesting ones. After the effort I spent getting out here, getting a little extra mileage out of it seemed like a good idea, but that was before I saw it.
I pulled back some of the foliage at the bottom of the stairs and saw a small metal box hidden underneath the bottom steps. Being a bit naive at the time, I assumed it was just a geocache and opened it up to discover I'd stumbled onto a dead drop for a local marijuana dealer. This was before legal weed had passed in this state and while most of the local dealers were pretty cool, there were a couple I did not want to get on the bad side of, so I decided to cut the trip short and head back to the hotel and return the canoe.
I returned to my apartment and went on with my life as normal after that, until a couple days later I awoke to find my roommate Joey's car missing from the driveway. This was unusual since he usually slept until noon and didn't get up in the morning without a good reason, until I remembered we were hanging out the previous night and after a couple beers I casually mentioned what I saw out on the beach.
Hours went by and he still hadn't returned. I had just about decided to go by the beach and see if he was there to satisfy the feeling of dread that had been building up, when suddenly there was an unfamiliar knock on the door. A policeman was standing outside the apartment.
"You Joey's roommate," he asked, to which I mumbled a confirmation.
"We found Joey out on the beach," he continued, "He fell over a cliff by an old staircase and hit his head on a rock."
"What," I replied, "I just showed him some photos of the area last night while we were drinking."
"Yep," he said, "Guess the beer got it into his head that he'd go take a look for himself. Still, I'd like you to come down to the station and answer a few questions."
I gave the police a statement on what happened and they didn't think there was anything suspicious about it, or at least didn't care. Through it all, all the shock and the guilt, even though I knew it was my fault, I couldn't help but wonder if there was more to it. Had he died while climbing or did he make it to the stash and get caught by its owner. I'll never know and a part of me never wants to.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 18:58|
I could close submissions now but I've decided to have lunch first for the sake of you stragglers.
Don't make me regret this decision any more than I already do.
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 19:22|
|# ? Aug 19, 2022 08:10|
There is no way I can get a story together of any sort within 48 hours. I'm working full time through then.
Tsk. 1200 pst 7 august then.
Your story must be presented as a palindrome, meaning I can read it from the first paragraph forward or the last paragraph backwards and get basically the same story.
Also, your protagonist is an organ grinder with a decrepit monkey which speaks only in German proverbs.
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 20:05 on Jul 30, 2017
|# ? Jul 30, 2017 19:45|