MEGABRAWL PROMPT 3
making this simple
prompt: prose poem. cant be about love or death. 450 words.
crabrock vs trex
muffin vs sitting here
you each get a different individual flash rule decided by somebody you beat earlier in the megabrawl
crabrock, as dictated by jitzu, the tone of your piece must be sentimental, and as close to saccharine as possible.
trex, as dictated by thranguy, you will write about the grand and glorious sport of cheese-wheel rolling and the outcome of the contest is important, but not the central conflict
muffin, as dictated by djeser, great pyramids of giza
sitting here, as dictated by uranium phoenix, you must include space wizards and cyberpunk fairies
due oct 14, 11:59pm PST this is a saturday blah blah if you need an extension then tell me etc etc
|# ? Sep 27, 2017 20:01|
|# ? May 27, 2022 06:47|
quoting for new page, and also to say sorry, i'll be a lot more regular about uploading these in the near future.
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 01:32 on Sep 28, 2017
|# ? Sep 27, 2017 23:38|
It's been a while but I'd like to go in for this prompt. I'll take a flashrule as well (6).
|# ? Sep 28, 2017 10:55|
It's been a while but I'd like to go in for this prompt. I'll take a flashrule as well (6).
You get an R for Radical Quotes!
Use the following to get inspired and write from that inspiration!
"“They’d say “if ya play the record backwards, you can hear evil tings like grrrr!” and I would think, “Jeez, I didn’t know the devil sounded like that. I thought he was coherent, like the rest of us.”
Brian Johnson of ACDC - 2001
|# ? Sep 28, 2017 11:59|
I am going to need to unsign for this week
|# ? Sep 28, 2017 15:05|
|# ? Sep 29, 2017 17:50|
Tonight was the night. The Theater Manager held an anxious breath as he opened a safe hidden in his office. Within the safe was no money as one would expect. Instead it held one bottle of brandy, one revolver, and a simple wooden case. Retrieving the case but leaving the safe open, he dared not to open it. The Manager remembered the case well, his predecessor oversaw its upkeep and then entrusted it to him when he left the theater. As had he, as would he. The Manager remembered what lay within, when he had last seen it.
Tonight, the theater would put on the play of ‘The King In Yellow’ for the first time in thirty years. The Manager had joined the theater the night of its first, and only, showing at this establishment. He was a much younger man then, one who did not worry about the superstitions of the stage. Thought that those who did were foolish. Back then he had taken less care, less reverence with this case and what it contained. Age makes fools of us all.
The King In Yellow was an odd play. Until fifty years prior it was thought to be lost. Excerpts of the first act could be found scattered, but the bulk of the work had gone with its creator to a sanitorium. Like its creator, it was believed lost there as well. Lost to the insanity that had gripped the man, further lost to the flames that had consumed the place and taken the man’s life. Yet, in tearing down the husk of the madhouse, within the stonework of the walls it was discovered. Preserved, the papers yellowed with age, but otherwise unharmed.
Nothing about the King In Yellow was as strange as its reputation would belie. The Manager knew this better than most. Many theaters had put on the play to much fanfare and little consequence. Many, but not all. There was a common myth that the role of the Stranger was one of the greatest an actor could claim, that it could bring out the pinnacle of one’s performance at the cost of their own life. Superstition, of course.
Occasionally, not often enough to prove a pattern, the actor playing the role would commit suicide after the opening. There were any number of reasons for this, and the ways they killed themselves held no consistency. In fifty years, across innumerable showings around the world, forty-nine men had taken their lives. The Manager, when he had been a much younger man, had come across the thirtieth suicide after the one previous showing here. He had been a backstage worker at that point, running here and there. He was the one to find the body hanging from the rafters.
His grip on the case tightened as he made his way backstage. Steeling his nerves, he knocked on the dressing room door of the man who would play the Stranger this night. Kyle was his name and he was of very high spirits and a sunny disposition. The Manager smiled as the actor opened the door. One superstition that had arisen across the theater world was that certain things were saved until the opening night. Full costumes would not be worn, the exact music would not be played. One item was held back above all.
“Is that it?” Kyle seemed to lose his breath looking at the case.
The Manager couldn’t blame him. “It is. Wouldn’t do for our star to go out without it.”
Kyle stepped aside, the Manager bringing the case to the dressing room table. Kyle was already in his pale, tattered robes, and had been applying the makeup he needed. With some hesitation, the Manager put his fingers on the clasps holding the case shut. It was such an ordinary looking case, just an old worn oak box with a firm handle. Unlocking the case, he found it. The thing from his memories. The item that was always saved for opening night.
The Pallid Mask. It was such a simple thing, such an innocuous item. This too, the Manager had seen as a much younger man. Not on the face of the man hanging, no. His predecessor had received the item from the theater manager before him, the one who oversaw the original production. His predecessor was given it after the poor man committed suicide, and had passed it along to the present Manager upon his retirement. Where it had come from before that point no one could say.
Kyle stepped forward, all cheer and joy gone from his face. He stared at the mask with a hollow expression. The Manager stepped away while Kyle hovered his hand over the Pallid Mask, tracing the intricate carvings along its pale surface without daring to touch it. The Manager had seen this trance before. Knew what it meant.
“Thank you, sir.” His voice was numb, lacking the warmth it had just moments ago.
The Manager did not reply, knowing Kyle would not hear him. He closed the door and went to prepare. Seats had to be filled properly, the show had to go on. Once everything was in order, the Manager went to his office and retrieved the brandy from the safe. After drinking what was left, he sat with his head in his hands. He remained there for a time, after the audience found their place and act 1 had started. Opening his eyes, he knew what point of the play this was. Looking to the stage, he saw the Stranger make his entrance to the streets of Carcosa.
The Stranger immediately had a presence unlike any had experienced before, captivating the audience. Not the Manager. He had felt this before, once. He had attended many different productions of the King In Yellow, but never was it the right production. The one that was could captivate the soul and mind and make you think of nothing but the words and actions playing out on the stage. The only other time he had seen a production like that was when he was a much younger man.
He rose from his desk and made the trip back stage, careful to be quiet. Distantly, he could hear the voice of the actress playing Camilla.
“I know all the faces in Carcosa! So, who is this Stranger? I must ask!” Her words were weak, muffled. It was a miracle that he could hear them at all back here.
He approached the door of changing room belonging to Kyle. The Manager’s chest was heavy and he could barely lift his arm to open it.
“You Sir, should unmask!” Camilla again. The Manager could remember the words vividly. Next would be…
“Indeed?” The Stranger. The Manager did not have to strain his ears to hear this voice, unlike the actress playing Camilla. The Stranger’s voice boomed across the theater, through the walls, through your very flesh and bone. You did not hear it as much as you felt it.
“Indeed, it’s time! We have all laid aside disguise, but you!” Cassilda spoke now, all the more distant following the Stranger’s tone.
The Manager flung open the door.
“I wear no mask.”
Within the room was Kyle, hanging from a rope secured around his neck attached to the ceiling. There was no note to explain why, no reason, no understanding. The Manager stared at the sight, all too familiar with it. It was the same as before. Kyle did not look scared, or anxious. If anything, he looked at peace. The Manager hoped that was true. He spied the case. It remained open, undisturbed. As if nothing had touched it, nothing had moved it.
It was empty.
The screaming from the stage started, the Manager blocking it out. He shut the door for another to find the man once the play was finished. He returned to his office and sat down.
“Not upon us, oh king!” Camilla, closer now. “Not upon us!”
Act 1 would be ending soon. Act 2 would be worse. Few remembered the details of Act 2, but when it was played properly, none could forget it how it made them feel. The quiet melancholy, the devastated loss and emptiness. It hung over you, like a phantom that could never move on. In a way, the Manager felt the weight lift from his shoulders. The night was not over, nor would it be even when the curtains closed and the production ended. When the police came and the dead collected. Some would say that the night never ended at all, though for the Manager, he knew that wasn’t true.
Theaters were a superstitious place, but sometimes, even if you respected those superstitions to the best of your ability and acted every bit the fool you felt. Sometimes they still came true. It was time to move on, the Manager thought. It was time to pass the case on to another. The Manager removed the revolver from the safe. Tonight was the night he retired.
|# ? Sep 29, 2017 18:19|
|# ? Sep 29, 2017 21:18|
The new guy
It’s lunchtime but I’m sneaking back to my classroom. I’ve eaten my lunch in the staffroom with the other teachers as per expectations, but now I’ve made a polite escape, claiming I need to use the bathroom. Hopefully they won’t notice that I don’t come back. I am dying to have 10 minutes by myself, to rest my brain and not have to speak Japanese.
Hajimemashite, Dan desu. Nyuujiirando kara desu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu. Hi, I’m Dan. I’m from New Zealand. Nice to meet you. I feel like I’ve given this standard self-introduction a thousand times in the past month, since arriving in Japan for a one year stint as an assistant high school English teacher.
I don’t really know what I’m doing here. Basically I hated my job (well, mostly my boss, bitch) and needed an excuse to get out. Japan!, I thought, that’ll be fun, a chance to use the Japanese I learnt at uni, a place to reinvent myself.
It’s not like I regret my decision to come here, but the initial shine of newness is starting to wear off. I miss my friends; haven’t yet made any new ones. Can’t ask for help without giving away that I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing.
As I walk along the fifth floor corridor I get a good view of the huge school, all modern concrete and glass, big enough for thousands of students. There is a pair of cherry trees by the school gate, just losing the last of their delicate spring blossoms.
I reach my classroom and duck inside, pulling the door shut behind me, expecting it to be empty. It’s not. Satomi is sitting at her desk, staring fixedly at a book, gripping it, knuckles white. Three boys are standing over her, laughing. One of them – I’m pretty sure his name is Koji – is flicking a lighter, pretending, or perhaps really trying, to set her hair on fire.
I like Satomi. She is new here as well, her family recently returned to Japan after several years living in California. Her English is very good, but her Japanese is imperfect, American-accented. I have tried to talk to her - it is such a relief to speak English - but she is too shy, or, I suddenly click, too scared, to be on friendly terms with me, a teacher. The book she’s holding is in English, “The King in Yellow” on its cover. I’ve heard of this, it’s an old play, a weird choice for a high-schooler. I wonder if she was bullied in America too.
The door bangs as I shut it. The boys all turn to look at me. I hate petty bullies. A sudden disappointment hits me, that people like this are here as well. Of course they are. Satomi doesn’t hesitate, slips out of her chair and out of the classroom’s rear door without looking at any of us; survivor’s instincts.
“What are you doing?” I say in Japanese, trying to sound teacherly. It doesn’t work; these little shits think they’re tough and my Japanese makes me sound like a child trying hard to be polite. They move towards me, trying to intimidate me.
“Oi sensei…” Koji drawls, managing to make the usually polite word for teacher sound like an insult. He puts his lighter in his pocket and his hand returns holding a knife. He flicks it open and waves it at me. 15 years old and he thinks he’s in the yakuza.
I step forward and grab the wrist holding the knife. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’ve ever trained martial arts or anything, but I’m a fairly big dude and Koji is just a skinny high school kid. I've got 10 years and at least a foot of height on him. I twist his twiggy arm up behind his back and push between his shoulder blades, forcing him face down onto a desk. He squeals and says something no doubt extremely rude, but I am not fortunate enough to understand. The other two boys stand there open mouthed.
Through the classroom’s open windows I can hear the incessant summer whine of cicadas, kids yelling from the playing field below. The corridor outside the classroom is deserted.
I take the knife out of Koji’s fingers and, holding it awkwardly in my left hand, bring it close to his face, tip pointing right at his eye. His neck muscles strain, trying desperately to pull his face away. I lean a little bit harder on his twisted shoulder, just to make sure it is actively hurting and not merely going numb.
“Me ga torimashou ka?” I say. They gape at me. (Oh for fucks sake, I think to myself, realising that by using the particle “ga” I have made “your eye” the subject of the sentence, rather than the object of the verb “to take” as I intended. The correct particle should have been “wo”. loving particles).
“You know what I loving mean!” I shout at them in English. “gently caress you and your stupid language and its stupid particles!” I throw the knife left-handedly at one of the boys. It bounces harmlessly off his school blazer but he jerks his arms up in fright anyway. Pussy.
“Now gently caress off!” I shout, releasing Koji. They are terrible students, their English is poo poo, but tone of voice is universal. They scurry out the door, Koji grasping his sore shoulder melodramatically, throwing me a filthy look as he goes.
I breath deep, release a long sigh, rub my face with my hands. poo poo gently caress oval office baka ahou kuso.
Class will be starting soon, I can hear the sound of returning students coming down the corridor. I sit at my desk, shuffle through my notes as they file in and take their seats. Force a confident smile onto my face.
“Hai minna, hajimemashou ka?”
|# ? Sep 29, 2017 21:20|
im in for this week. Finally a decent wordcount!
blue squares fucked around with this message at 02:09 on Sep 30, 2017
|# ? Sep 30, 2017 02:04|
|# ? Sep 30, 2017 03:26|
Entries are closed
|# ? Sep 30, 2017 04:00|
Just checking, Friks, didn't see my name in the signups but I did sign up.
|# ? Sep 30, 2017 07:54|
Week#269 AMBROSE BIERCE SAW HIM FIRST
|# ? Sep 30, 2017 10:19|
Apologies. It's on there now.
|# ? Sep 30, 2017 10:20|
Just A Book
“The King in Yellow?”
“The nutjob one?”
“On your shelf?”
“But, why? Wait, don’t tell me that you’ve actually read it.”
I saw Howard’s reflection staring at my back incredulously and I leaned further towards the mirror in my entrance hallway, trying to apply mascara for my upcoming evening. It was hard to not leave smudges with the wand when the sunlight was shadowing me in the mirror. “I don’t buy books just to not read them, Howie.” I looked up at him, smiling at the expression on his face at the nickname. He reached to the top shelf of the bookcase which stood against the window and picked up what I could only assume was the book in question.
I glanced back down to where my reflection had been and saw a thing looking at me with no earthly features I could describe. It may have been a face, skin mottled white and yellow, but despite having no lips to move that I could see, it spoke. The king is coming. All shall serve. The intonation in my hearing was that of a priest proclaiming salvation. Howard didn’t so much as flinch.
“Now, you know that’s not true. You still haven’t cracked that book of adventure stories I bought you.” I could see him turn the book over in his hands. It was an old book with a leather-bound cover and no summary on the back. I almost laughed when I saw him realize that, and the thing that had replaced my reflection smiled back.
I set down the mascara and picked up my lipstick, stepping back from the thing slowly. “Like I said, I don’t buy books just to not read them.” He stuck his tongue out at me and I very clearly rolled my eyes back at him. “Put it down before you bust the cover or something, it’s old and I don’t trust you.”
“Alas, my wounded heart,” he kept holding on to the book just to be contrary, but he looked at where my eyes would be in the mirror. The pallid thing stared back at him, as he spoke. “Listen, Zee—have you—I mean, did you really read it?” He was worried, the tone of his voice was enough to convey it.
I set the lipstick down, trying to match his worry with earnestness, my vision stuck briefly on the voids in the reflections image where eyes should have been. “Yes. And before you ask the second half of that question, do I seem mad?” I rolled my eyes once more at his incredulous snort. “Fine, more that usual, I mean?”
“Well, what’s it about? “
“The King in Yellow.” I smiled placatingly at his annoyed look, “It’s a play, and a little difficult to describe, but it’s about the fall of a city called Yhtill to the King.” I saw the draping of tattered yellow cloth with scalloped edges over my shoulders as a mantle and reached up to readjust one, my touch landing only on my shirt.
“Wait, isn’t he the king? Why would he destroy his own city?”
“Well, it’s a little more complicated than that, and like I said, it’s hard to describe if you haven’t read it.” I saw him begin to flip open the first page of the book curiously. “You really should put it back.”
The thing glared at me. I saw the sun fade as black lights from strange stars began filtering in through the window behind my bookshelf, creating beautiful dancing patterns over my curtains. The king is coming. All shall serve. It hissed, a demand. Over the thing’s shoulder I watched Howard turn the book over in his hands one more time before reaching to put the book back and I sighed.
“Don’t read past the first act.”
He started, and looked at me through the mirror with a blank expression.
“I’m serious. If you’re going to read it, be careful and don’t just flip through the pages. The first act is safe, just stick to that.”
“But you’ve read the whole thing, haven’t you? Didn’t you just get done saying how it didn’t drive you any more loony than you already are?”
I shrugged, “You’re the one worried about the whole ‘oooooh, insanity’ thing.”
Howard had opened the book again, staring at one of the beginning pages again. I saw the tatters of the king begin to wrap around his wrists and begin winding up his arms. He stayed like that for an eternity before finally closing the book and looked at the thing in the mirror with an expression I couldn’t really understand. “Can I borrow it?:
I turned from the mirror, the thing, and the strange, beautiful lights, to face him directly, framed by warm sunshine in a somewhat rumpled suit with no yellow to be seen anywhere. I think I tried a smile, but I couldn’t read his response. “Sure. Just keep in mind what I told you and don’t dog-ear my pages. Or bend the binding backwards, or—“
This time he laughed, and his expression seemed to relax back into friendly mock-annoyance. “Yes, yes. Good borrower’s manners, I know.” He bundled the book safely away underneath his suit jacket. “Well, I’m off. Sonia’s going to have a fit if I’m late again. Thanks for letting me borrow it.”
“No problem! See you later.” I continued smiling as he left the hallway and let himself out my front door. When I heard the terminal thud of the door I turned back to the mirror. There I stood, silhouetted by the dying sunlight, with slightly smudged eyeliner and a lipstick line that extended past the right side of my mouth. I could see myself redden with embarrassment as I went to fix the error. In the moments after, I paused and gave myself one more look-over, noting the lined points of the Sign peeking over the collar of my button-down. I adjusted the shirt so that the edges were hidden once more, and then turned to put on my shoes.
The king is coming.
I serve, and so shall he.
|# ? Oct 1, 2017 20:51|
Shared between us
Exam season filled the whole dorm with an air of dread, and the only thing that relieved Liam of it was watching Eva in the common kitchen. She was in room number 5, he was in 4, and her books were stacked on the counter-top; English, Shakespeare, essays. He was the kind of guy who would spread his bag and binders across the shared dining table, saying that he liked the ambiance there. Especially in the evening, when Eva cooked. This particular Thursday, he had found something interesting, and besides him and Eva, the only other person in the kitchen was Olive munching on her granola bar before her evening run. He called Eva’s name, and she sighed and pushed a strand of her hair behind her ear as she came closer.
"What's that?" she asked.
Liam was the kind of guy to pretend he didn't just grab and copy the code she was looking at from the internet, so he took full credit and talked it up, too. He called it an RNN first, waiting for her confused expression before he explained the acronym - "It means a Recurrent Neural Network," he said. "Maybe you've seen a post on Facebook or Twitter or something like that. There's that post where a guy used one to generate super weird recipes."
"I don't think I've seen that," Eva said, glancing back at the stove.
"You feed it text and it learns how to write more text like it using what it's read." Liam leant forward in the chair, fingers stroking the keys. "We could make it generate something stupid. It’ll be fun. Any kind of text can be used as its data.”
Eva shrugged, drawing backwards like he had bad breath. He hoped he didn't, but got sidetracked thinking of whether or not he had brushed his teeth in the morning.
"Um... How about this?" Eva said, raising her anthology of American drama.
"We need a lot more than that."
Across the room, Olive from room 3 didn't even look up from her phone. He couldn't really get around to liking her, just because of the way she looked at him. Like he wasn’t allowed to sit there. She said, "There's got to be stuff on the internet."
There was more than just stuff. A little lazy googling later, Liam found a vast dump of files. Plain text. Plays. All sorts, not anything he recognized, but then again he never did read much. He made the program read all of it instead. ”It’s going to take a while,” he told Eva. ”I’ll be back in just 30 minutes, okay?”
Back in his room, he brushed his teeth and smelled his breath, thinking of how clever he'd been - usually, he couldn't talk about drama or novels at all, but as long as computers were involved, he had a home field advantage. Yeah. He and Eva would sit together at the table laughing at a stupid thing he'd made. Nonsense Shakespeare. He'd say that was how all poetry looked to him, to make her feel smart even though she couldn't get a simple script to run.
He found her sitting by the computer when he returned. She couldn’t have been there long, but her shoulders were already slightly hunched. She looked at him for just a second, as if afraid to take her eyes off the screen.
”I saw the weirdest thing,” she said. ”I thought it had made a line from this poem I really like – The Dry Salvages, you ever read that?”
Liam shook his head, inching closer to the computer.
”But it wasn’t that at all – it was something else. But it was coherent. Just this one line stuck in my head - but it won’t generate anything like it again…”
She still generated more prose, ridiculous grammar, strange metaphors.
"Of course," Liam replied, taing a seat beside her. "It's a computer. It doesn't know any English or anything besides what we put into it. Look at that!" And he pointed out a phrase that they both found funny, Eva’s giggles quiet as she pulled a pad of post-its from her pocket, writing down the words she had seen. Liam couldn't glean more than the word mask and a doodle.
"Hey, can I see that program again?" Eva asked, leaning over the table at breakfast. He let her borrow his computer – he’d always let her do whatever – and all she said was, "How long can I use it?"
"How long do you want to?" Liam smiled at her, and she smiled back; she had written on her hand in ink and rested her cheek against it so that she had mirrored, smudged letters on her jaw. "I can leave it with you. I don't need to take notes by hand anyway."
She pressed the button, generating eighty lines of senseless quotes. Watching over her shoulder, Liam saw her highlight just two words and stroke them with the mouse. She scribbled them on another post-it note.
When he returned from class he paused outside the kitchen door.
Now he heard more than just one person scribbling. Pencils scratched against paper, the sound joined by clicking and occasional speaking as if breathlessly enthralled by something. Words, fragments of sentences - Hali, one said, and another Tabithos, never with any laughter. Inside, he found four in all around the table, Olive and two others from the dorm having joined Eva, and they had all brought their laptops: Liam saw his program running on all screens.
"What's going on?" he asked, and it was Eva who answered him.
"We've almost found it. Your program's making something... pretty wild."
He reached for his computer.
Eva twitched. "Please, just a little longer? I've almost got it.
In the evening, he heard people talking through the walls.
”A paragraph!” someone exclaimed. "We've completed the first lines he spoke!"
The scene: A college campus, quiet with the tense stress of exams going on in little rooms. A week had passed, Throughout the entire week, various people looked down at lists of names and realized that there is someone who did not show up. Seats were empty. Only outside did people gossip about friends not answering their phones or Facebook messages.
Liam came back in the late afternoon, and from behind the kitchen door came the same noises.
On his knees, he looked through the keyhole.
He saw that the post-it notes now covered the wall in a vibrant yellow, like the scales of the wing of a giant moth. It seemed like the wall was breathing, bulging ever-so-slightly out, the growing more concave in a rythm slow enough that you could almost convince yourself it wasn't happening. He had heard more frantic movement throughout the night and morning as Olive and Eva added phrases to the tapestry. Heard them running to create yet more text, looking for those golden words that made their insides sing. No shadows passed over the uneven yellow surface now.
On the wall was not a play they were inventing, but one that they were discovering, fishing words and phrases out of the maelstrom of text in Liam’s program. Certain words in sequence was all that had been needed; now these fragments begged to become finished sentences. He could only guess at why it was so compelling and why it had ended up within the data in the first place. It was just a text from the internet – what play would it facinate them enough that they’d try to reconstruct it from scattered words?
His head swam with thoughts of Eva; of grabbing her and getting her out before the play was finished. Whatever happened in the kitchen was a kind of madness - he was sure of it, and his fist was clenched around a lighter. Light shined through as the door opened just a crack. A light like egg yolk on his shoes.
Inside the kitchen he averted his eyes from the wall, knowing instinctively that he shouldn't look - but he wanted to, because even though there should be no breeze in the humid room, he could hear the notes flapping and rustling.
He looked at the dirty lineoleum covered in wires, ink and pencil shavings. He expected to hear quick footsteps or see, perhaps, a hand belonging to someone sleeping from pure exhaustion on the floor, but the room was quiet and void of life.
Five people apart from him lived in this dorm, and he knew them by names and room numbers and morning routines, but all he found here was the sound of the post-its moving in a non-existant wind.
He turned his head.
Yellow paper moved, and beneath each note he did not see the brick wall, but something luminous and inexplicable, like there was a room lit by chandeliers just beyond the words scrawled more and more impresicely. As the light shone brighter, he strained to catch glimpses of that place behind the paper, hearing faint voices, faint music - wherever it was, he felt a desire to go there. He came close enough to see the individual words and Eva's neat handwriting, realizing only then that he had kept the lighter on the whole time.
Flames caught all that was flammable.
Liam couldn't care less that the fire devoured his notes and the books and even the curtains; he watched the play burn, and only when the foul smoke had almost choked him did he draw back and leave at last.
|# ? Oct 1, 2017 21:40|
The audience was a strange one. Teenagers with facial piercings and beanies, laughed and drank imported beers next to sour-faced college art types dressed in black, drinking overpriced cheap wine. There were couples who seemed out of their depth in the theatre, people who had perhaps walked off of the street and expected something else. A large woman who looked something like an opera singer, fanned herself with a folded up programme as sweat pooled in the cleavage forced up by her ridiculous evening dress. Her partner, a wiry older man, was scanning the crowd as I was with thin lips. For a moment, our eyes met and instantly we knew neither of us wanted to be there.
“Alexander,” a voice said beside me. I turned to see Amelia Frost, a theatre critic from a rival publication.
“Miss Frost,” I said.
“You ready for this?” she asked.
I made a face and she laughed, then moaned and collapsed against me, burying her face in my chest.
“Please don't make me watch it, Alex!” she mumbled dramatically. “Please don't force me to see the wretched thing!”
“Do you know anything about it? I've found nothing,” I said. “Please tell me it's at least short.”
She shook her head.
“He's playing the cards close to his chest on this one. Really building the mystery. I'm sure I won't be disappointed.”
“How about this?” I said. “Let's go get a drink and just say we watched the play.”
“We've both got reviews to write. Maybe you could write mine for me and let me pass it off as my own? At least that way only one of us has to see it?”
I laughed. A tall teenager with a waxed moustache and long dreadlocks bumped into me as he squeezed his way past to get to the bathroom.
“Or we could go and get a drink, then just find one of these kids' blogs and base our reviews off of what they're saying. Come on, that'll probably work! I'll back you up with your editor if you back me up with Hastings.”
“You're just trying to get me to go for a drink with you,” she said rolling her eyes. “Besides, I don't need to read anyone's blog to know what I'm going to write later. Jamie Bellows' latest piece, The King in Yellow, is a familiar and predictable return to mediocrity. Bla bla bla, terrible direction. Bla bla bla, stilted and lifeless dialogue. Bla bla bla some okay performances by young actors clearly doing their best despite Bellows' characteristic aimless vision...”
Amelia was interrupted by the bell ringing. The crowd began to filter into the auditorium. I took a deep breath and Amelia mimed crying as she took my hand and led me through the doors. It wasn't until later that I realised there were bars on the outside.
The auditorium was small, like most pop-ups, however it felt much much older than it was possible for it to be. The walls were damp with condensation that dribbled down them like sweat, painting lines in dust. The house lights embedded in the ceiling hissed and flickered and the currently dimmed stage lights seemed to swing gently on the safety chains attaching them to the rig. The damp walls and flickering fluorescent lights bathed the room in a sickly green. In the back of the room, rickety vents belched stale warm air over the audience filling their seats. It felt as if the whole room was laboriously breathing like some large, slowly dying thing.
I took my pad from my pocket and began scrawling some notes about how uncomfortable the room was. To my surprise, as I looked around, most of the people in the room were doing the same.
I glanced up at the stage. It was bare, aside from at the very back. A huge metal ring covered in candles and bizarre symbols had been placed against the far wall. It was the first time I had seen Bellows use anything even remotely interesting to look at. As I stared up at it, I felt a nervousness in my stomach. It looked like some instrument taken from a large industrial machine.
The house lights went down.
“Here we go,” Amelia sighed.
Jamie Bellows, dressed in faded Hessian rags, stepped out onto the stage. He held a malformed lumpy mask under one arm and rusted chains hung from his ankles and wrists. He smiled out at the audience as the stage lights came on, filling the room with an ugly hum.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he bellowed in an approximation of a Shakespearian actor. “Welcome to the premier performance of The King in Yellow. I thank you for attending tonight and I hope that you will enjoy the show. For those not yet aware, tonight's show is a by invitation only event! You are all here because you have one thing in common.”
Around me, the audience glanced about.
“You have all produced negative reviews of my previous work.”
Half of the crowd muttered in distaste. Someone laughed awkwardly.
“In fact, you have all published seething reviews of some of my prior work. The vast majority of you, whether in newspaper, magazine, or on the internet, have lambasted my entire repertoire! Well fear not, I have read your criticisms, reflected upon them, and hope that I have grown as an artist.”
He placed the mask upon his face and the lights began to dim.
“Jesus,” Amelia said. “Is he acting in this one?”
“Oh god, I think he's really doing it. He's pulling a Branagh,” I moaned.
“Is he going to talk like that all the way through?” she hissed.
“Allow me to introduce, The King in Yellow.”
There was a smattering of awkward applause, which I reluctantly joined. There was a blackout and two women stepped onto stage in the darkness.
“It began, long ago,” the women said in unison. I shuffled in my uncomfortable damp seat and prepared myself.
As the final scene of the first act ended, Bellows stepped out onto the stage and told us to hold any questions to the end, where all would apparently be revealed. After he had left, I turned to Amelia.
“What do you think?” I asked cautiously.
She looked confused.
“This is...weird. This isn't like anything he's done before. All his other stuff, all the stuff I've seen anyway, has been stereotypical mental illness slash addiction slash growing up poor garbage. This is so so much weirder.”
“But do you think it's any good?” I asked.
“Good? God no,” she laughed. “He's still a terrible director and I have no idea what's going on, and not in ambiguous clever way, in a badly portrayed message way.”
The lights dimmed again, though it had been less than a minute. The audience members who had risen to their feet to go to the bar, froze, and turned around in confusion. The actresses reappeared on stage, even though it had been my understanding that Cassilda had been vanquished in the final moments of the previous act. Awkwardly, those who had rose, returned to their seats.
“The stranger, in his pallid mask...” the actresses began.
Chaos filled the auditorium. The ring at the back of the stage was now vibrating so hard that it sung. The walls and the ceiling moved inward and outward with wet breaths. Amelia was screaming something, but there was a high-pitched noise reducing her words to silence. I grabbed her hand and dragged her violently to her feet.
“Come on!” I screamed, but my words were dragged from my lips by a deep wind that was pulling towards the stage.
Beads of sweat were ripped from my temples and vanished into the inky darkness where Bellows stood. Slowly, he raised his hands to the terrifying, misshapen mask from within which his eyes glowed like saffron fires.
“You would dare?” Bellows roared. “You would dare to criticize me?”
His voice was deafening and seemed to emanate from the very air around me. The whole room sweated and spat his words with him.
“Don't let him take it off!” Amelia managed to cry out over the howling around us. “Don't let him remove the mask!”
I looked up but it was too late. As he unhooked the mask, the ring at the back of the stage burst open and I found myself staring into a swirling abyss. The space within the ring twisted and bubbled and warped. I felt something inside me stretch, go stringy, then snap with the tension. I saw a city of tall twisted spires and high copper domes. The architecture was surreal and uneven, an ugly and unpredictable skyline beneath two huge burning suns. I felt waters unlike any I had ever felt before.
Cold air poured out from the ring and enveloped the auditorium, filling the room with the stench of sulfur and something I couldn't identify. Half of the audience were catatonic now, or writhing around on the floor. Of those standing, most had made their way to the locked doors where they pounded and hammered with fists until bones broke and blood splattered the metal.
Jamie's mask pulled away with a sound like wet tearing paper. Behind it was a pitch black void with two yellow eyes burning deeply at its centre. I could not tell where the city in the ring ended, and where Jamie began.
“Come, you who judge so harshly!” he roared, still affecting a Shakespearian actor's tone. "See what I have seen!"
The vortex within the ring rolled out into the room and swallowed us, pulling us through and into the ancient city. For a moment I was floating in free space, then I was falling, descending into darkness and towards the fallen city. I desperately tried to recall the play, but the warnings throughout it now seemed vague and distant.
I heard Jamie's manic laugh echoing through the city.
|# ? Oct 1, 2017 22:00|
His Name was Natale (1439 words)
From: Lorenzo Mancini
Subject: disturbing cartoon on canale 5
To: Giorgio Antonelli <Giorgio.Antonelli@metallurgiapiemonte.uil.it>
This might be a strange question to ask to my union representative, but have you ever heard of a cartoon called “Il re in giollo”?
Every Sunday, like clockwork, my son Alberto eats breakfast while watching it from the sofa. Some months ago, I think it was in June, I started watching with him after endless pestering from his part.
In a lot of ways it is a forgettable and generic children’s show, with talking animals having adventures in a forest, but it dawned upon me that the content is rather dark, with frequent references to death or illness. I paid it no attention at first, thinking this was standard for old cartoons (remember all the blood in Ginga and Rurouni Kenshin?) but it hit too close to home at times.
The most disturbing example happened last month. One of the main characters, incidentally Alberto’s favorite, is a silver-haired cat called Natale whose mischief gets him into trouble every week. In this particular episode, there is a visual gag where the cast are stuck on a burning ship, and Natale yells “Cats and children first!” as he jumps into the water. Unfortunately for him, he lands into an oil spill from the ship, which catches fire. Natale then sinks deeper and deeper into the sea, as his fur gradually changes to a charcoal black and he disappears beneath the waves.
Alberto did not find this very funny at all, and I had to console him all afternoon. I reassured him that Natale would just be back the next week, but…
Giorgio, Natale was gone. He did not come back that week, nor the next one, nor yesterday. I think the show writers killed him off for good, and what upsets me personally is that none of the other characters even mention him anymore. For all intents and purposes, it is like Natale never existed.
And then, with what happened with our colleague this week… I was there, Giorgio. I saw old man D’Angelo at the steel furnace when I arrived on Monday morning. He was looking out over the vats below, a melancholic orange glow cast over his cheeks, and jumped before he saw me. With how dense the molten steel is, he did not make any sort of splash, but crashed right on top as if it were solid, his arms and legs stretched out. The heat seared his flesh right off and I could smell the charring from the other end of the catwalk. I stared at him, floating on the surface, slowly being incinerated while the other engineers screamed and scrambled to put the steel casting on hold.
I then realized that such things are no laughing matter, and unfit for a children’s cartoon. I tried to find the name of the animation studio or show writers, but can’t find any information about Il re in giollo in Italian, and I do not speak enough English to find what I need. Giorgio, I know this is a bizarre request, but maybe you can find more information about this American cartoon?
I hope that, having witnessed the accident with D’Angelo from second hand, you will agree with me that this is an important concern to raise with the makers of the cartoon.
From: Giorgio Antonelli <Giorgio.Antonelli@portodipiemonte.uil.it>
Subject: Re: disturbing cartoon on canale 5
To: Lorenzo Mancini
Let me begin by reiterating my sincerest condolences for what happened at the smelter last week.
Don’t worry about your question, we’re here to help each other in any way we can.
I have looked into Il Re in Giollo and as you mentioned, information is scarce, even in English. It appears that the cartoon was made in 1991 and is based on an old play, called “The King in Yellow”, but the animation studio or lead writer remain a mystery.
It is rather puzzling that both the cartoon and actual play are so obscure, but considering Canale 5 is doing reruns, I fear getting in touch with the writer won’t matter with regards to its disturbing contents. If you were to write anyone at all, I suggest you address Canale 5 and request they reconsider their decision to broadcast Il Re in Giollo.
That aside, we are all deeply shocked by D’Angelo’s passing. In case you did not receive the memo during your absence from work, the funeral will be held this Wednesday.
If you have any other questions or concerns, you are of course welcome to pass by my office at any time.
From: Lorenzo Mancini
Subject: Re: Re: disturbing cartoon on canale 5
To: Giorgio Antonelli <Giorgio.Antonelli@metallurgiapiemonte.uil.it>
Giorgio, did you know D’Angelo’s first name was also Natale? I could not believe it at the funeral. I still cannot believe such a coincidence is possible in this world. God must have intended it as a warning, or the devil himself as a promise of sorts.
Searching through articles of I Tempi Piemontesi, I discovered multiple other examples that match deaths in the show. Gerardo the squirrel: crushed under a mountain of chestnuts. Gerardo di Mercurio, crushed in his home by an earthquake where he was the only victim, in 2014. Francesca the Fox, struck by lightning. Francesca Naggia, electrified in her bath in 2015 in a freak accident involving a hairdryer.
Giorgio, I ask you: who is next?
From: Giorgio Antonelli <Giorgio.Antonelli@portodipiemonte.uil.it>
Subject: Re: Re: Re: disturbing cartoon on canale 5
To: Lorenzo Mancini
We all miss D’Angelo dearly. While I admit the similarities to the episode you described are uncanny, accidents like the one we witnessed unfortunately happen and may have served as inspiration for the writers. I do not think they or God or anyone else predicted D'Angelo's passing in particular. With regards to the other accidents you describe, I fear you may be projecting too much. I noticed you were particularly anxious at work yesterday.
The best we can do now is comfort each other and D’Angelo’s family in this difficult time for them.
Nevertheless I share your concern for the mental well-being of the show’s writers in having chosen such morbid matter for the show’s content, as well as that of the children watching it. I suggest we take time to grieve for D’Angelo and write a sternly worded letter to Canale 5 next week, together if you wish. In the meantime I suggest you leave this ordeal and especially the cartoon behind you.
From: Lorenzo Mancini
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: disturbing cartoon on canale 5
To: Giorgio Antonelli <Giorgio.Antonelli@metallurgiapiemonte.uil.it>
I refuse to let Alberto watch that cartoon any longer. I thought he would be disappointed when I told him at breakfast, but he simply nodded and ate his cereals before going to school. Maybe he was relieved to hear it himself, or maybe indifferent, I could not say, but I have rarely seen my son behaving so out of it. My wife thought it was strange for me to forbid him from watching a TV show, but she thankfully did not press the issue.
I made my decision yesterday morning but did not have the stomach to tell him until today. For once, I did not watch with him, but walked by when that sinister show was on. Considering the events of last month, I asked Alberto if he still liked the cartoon now that cat was dead, but he looked right through me and asked “what cat?”
Giorgio, you will call me crazy or overstressed, but I swear the cat was there. It was his favorite character. When he told me the show never had a cat, I thought he was backtalking me and got angry at him. But by supper, he repeated that he earnestly did not know what I was talking about, and my shouting had genuinely confused and upset him.
Words fail to describe the feeling that came over me. I felt so alone, Giorgio, so misunderstood in a way I have never experienced. Like expecting a bath to be warm and jumping into a frigid tub, but it chilled me in my bones and heart.
In between the suicide and the recent misfortunes that have befallen others in Genua, I cannot stomach it any longer.
Yesterday the cartoon showed a family of four mice on a sinking ship. I’m too afraid to learn their names. I am thinking about leaving Metallurgia di Piemonte and moving to Milan. Will you be at the office tomorrow morning?
|# ? Oct 1, 2017 22:23|
Please include your flash rules in your entry to make archiving easier. For those who've already submitted, DO NOT EDIT YOUR POST TO PUT YOUR FLASH RULE IN. It's against the rules to edit your post after you've submitted. Everyone from here on out please put your flash rule within your entry preferably near the title section or at the bottom of your post.
|# ? Oct 1, 2017 23:00|
Sleep Song Somniloquy
- 1720 words. No Flash Rule.
And strange moons circle through the skies.
“Go on,” he whispered.
“God! You scared me!” I jolted awake, gasping at Uncle Franks’s coarse voice so close to my ear. In the dimness of the room, I could see the old man leaning over me, still in his jacket and shirt buttoned up to his collar.
“It’s late,” I said. “Is everything okay?” I rubbed my eyes, reaching for the clock. 4 A.M. I took a deep breath and caught the exotic aroma of incense from last night’s wake.
“Everything’s fine Linus. You were talking in your sleep, reciting something.” He glanced down at the notepad in his hand.
“Did I wake you?” I sat up and took a sip of tea, now cold.
“Not too loud, no.” He clicked a pen and tucked it into his coat pocket. “I was passing by and heard you call out. What were you dreaming?”
“I’m not sure. I…” I looked at the old man as if he was privy to my dream.
After a moment, it came to me and my voice trembled. “I remember. Aunt Mildred was singing like she did when I was little.” I wiped a tear from my face.
Uncle Frank awkwardly smiled, struggling to hide his own emotions. “I miss her too Linus. So much.”
Long ago, we might’ve hugged at a moment like this. But we were both much older now and he wasn’t one for any display of emotion. He patted my shoulder. “We’ve got a big day tomorrow, err—” he glanced at the clock. “Later today.”
He stood up, tucking the notepad into his jacket. “Try to get some sleep before we get ready for the funeral.” Uncle Frank shuffled out of the parlor, pulling the door behind him.
Aunt Mildred was a tiny, frail woman for as long as I could remember.
My parents were missionaries, and when they would go abroad I lived with her. When I was five, they never returned from a mission to South America, and despite Aunt Mildred actually being my father’s aunt, she raised me like her own. When I was ten, she married Uncle Frank, a professor at the college where she had worked as a librarian. Our home was filled with old books and bizarre statues from cultures, either long forgotten or recently discovered.
I moved out after graduation, and then returned a week ago when doctors sent her home saying there was nothing else they could do.
For the most part, the house was unchanged since I’d left decades earlier, save for a few more photos. She wasn’t in too much pain those last days. To keep her mind occupied, the three of us spoke at length of my childhood.
The service was pleasant enough. The minister spoke of a better place and a mansion with many rooms. The fact that he spoke so highly of her, despite having never met her, annoyed both Uncle Frank and me. But the rest of the service was nice enough.
Most of the elderly funeral attendees wore dark suits and dresses, as old as dirt. During the service, I was surrounded by the smell of cedar chests and mothballs, and I worried that some of the other pallbearers might stumble while carrying her casket.
After the service I sat on a concrete bench a short ways from her tomb, watching the attendees shamble back to their cars, heads dipped, shoulders hunched, like penguins marching against frozen polar winds.
It was then that I noticed small group of people who’d attended the funeral in brightly colored dresses and topcoats. Old people not dressed for a funeral, but rather a birthday party or a carnival. Each one gave my uncle a somber handshake and some brief words of encouragement. Even from where I was sitting, I could see flashy bangles and necklaces, and several of the men had hoops in their ears. Their mournful behavior went completely against such festive attire.
In the car on the way back to the apartment I asked Uncle Frank, “Who were those people at the funeral? The ones in the loud colors?”
“Associates of hers from a time long before you or I came along.” He leaned in close. "Actors," he whispered, in the same tone one might say cancer or creditor.
He blew his nose and then folded the kerchief. “They’ve asked to join us for dinner tonight. Said they want to discuss a matter of some urgency.”
I dried the dishes from lunch, wiped the counter a third time and then reorganized the refrigerator’s overflowing casserole dishes. I was always comfortable around Aunt Mildred and Uncle Frank, but now in the quiet apartment, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. They’d always had things to talk about, there was always a certain cheer and chatter in the place.
Uncle Frank was in the library seated in his maroon overstuffed chair. In the past, he’d always sat there, reading any one of his leather-bound tomes, pages cracked and yellowing. But on this occasion, he stared blankly at the bookshelves that line the walls. His face, slack and empty, matched the exhaustion I felt.
“Do you need anything else? If not, I’ll go lay down.”
After a thick hacking cough Uncle Frank said, “That’s fine, thank you boy.” He dabbed a kerchief at each eye. I’d never seen him upset. Of course, the loss of a lifelong partner was apt to make someone understandably upset, nonetheless, it was unsettling to see him like that.
“I’m not sure what I’ll do without her,” he said.
I couldn’t think of anything to say. Never before had he said anything so emotionally bare. He was always just Uncle Frank. And now, seeing him like this — weak and defeated — I found myself at a loss.
After remaining at the door a moment longer, I went into the parlor and unfolded the sofa bed with its creaking hinges and screaming springs. The mattress, so thin it barely deserved the name, was covered by a yellow quilt my aunt always brought out when I visited. The thought of her frail hands straightening out the wrinkles made my heart ache and my eyes burn.
Curled up under the quilt, I fell asleep.
The shadows lengthen. The twin suns sink behind the lake.
“… and then what?”
How late had I been asleep?
“Uncle Frank?” I cleared my throat. “What time is it?”
He coughed. “What’s that?” His pen clicked. “It’s around seven. You interested in some supper?”
Uncle Frank was seated in a tall wooden chair. Normally the chair creaked whenever anybody moved it, let alone sat in it. However, the chair was tucked right up to the sofa bed and I hadn’t heard it.
“Everything all right?” I said.
“You were dreaming again, reciting something again.” He closed the tiny notebook and tucked it into his coat. “I wrote some of it down. Fascinating.” He saw my expression and forced a laugh. “When I say it out loud, I suppose it sounds a little unsettling. I hope you don’t mind.” When I didn’t immediately reply he said, “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.”
He rose, the chair creaking like it always did, and pushed it back under the writing desk in the corner.
Still groggy from the nap, I struggled to find the right words. Mindful that he’d just lost his wife. I supposed he’s allowed to act a little odd, all things considered. I chose not to say that I thought it was creepy as hell, and instead I asked, “Did I say anything worth writing down?”
Uncle Frank was at the door. “Come on into the kitchen. The guests will be here soon. Might as well heat up another casserole.”
They were looking for a book. That’s what the oldest of the three said.
“She probably kept it hidden. Although, given the size of your library, it could be in plain sight.” His long index finger poked the divot in his chin. The man, as tall as a flagpole, tilted at the hips towards the shelves, scanning each title.
Uncle Frank had a tray with five teacups and a kettle. “We’ve got so many old books. Do you remember the title?”
“The King In Yellow,” the woman said.
There were three of them, the stilt-like old man scanning the books now, the old woman in a long flowing yellow and orange gown, and a younger man in a tight suit, wearing a fez. He had his own notepad and pen, though he’d taken no notes since they walked in.
“Never heard of it.” Uncle Frank said. “We’ve had these books here forever, and while I might not recite every title by heart, I’d know if it you said it. What’s it about?”
“It was a play.”
“Never heard of it,” my uncle repeated.
“I doubt you would’ve.” The flagpole said. “It’s only been performed once, by our, eh, group. And there was only one copy. Your wife, Mildred, she was tasked with keeping safe.”
The man in the fez said “It’s a rather unpopular text. Those who heard it weren’t the same. They lost something in their… you know…” He tapped his forehead.
“You performed it.” I said to the woman. “You seem all right.”
“Cotton. Stuffed in our ears.” The flagpole said. “We learned our lines independent from each other.”
“How did you study the lines without going mad?”
“We learned the lines in reverse.”
Uncle Frank’s eyes darted to mine for a moment but he said nothing.
For the first time since Aunt Mildred’s death, I awoke without Uncle Frank beside me, pen and paper in hand. Sunlight came through the closed blinds. It was well into the morning.
He didn’t answer.
I found him lifeless in his chair, pad and paper on the floor.
At some point in the evening while talking in my sleep, I must’ve completed reciting the rhyme I’d forgotten as a child. Upon the completion, and probably recalling what the acting troupe had told him, my great uncle came into the library and read his notes in reverse. He went mad and swallowed his tongue.
My hands trembled, calling the hospital.
“He’s with you now, Aunt Mildred. He’s with you now.”
|# ? Oct 1, 2017 23:12|
Crowning the New King
(1744 words, no flash rule)
(I'm not so sure about this one, but it might still have potential.)
Solitair fucked around with this message at 20:23 on Dec 28, 2017
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 00:43|
Detective Debra Veirs had a new case, a short fuse, a headache, and a thirteen-year-old living in her house. The last two were probably related.
After having spent the last three hours in a crime scene, she now walked into another.
“Why is there paint on the floor?” was her greeting after work. A few drips of off-white led from the kitchen to the hall, then met a big splash right outside James’ bedroom door.
He appeared at the door. “Yeah hi Mom, I tried to clean it up but paper towels didn’t do much and I didn’t want to use a sponge or something. That would probably be bad, I don’t know. Uh.” He blinked. “We need an alcohol, I think. A rubbing alcohol or something?”
“Google didn’t tell you that would ruin the finish on the floor?”
He shrugged, blank-faced.
“Right. So, good thing you don’t know how to look in the closet—”
“—because it would have caused more damage. Why were you carrying an open paint can to your room?”
Quiet now. “I just wanted a change.”
She glanced at one wall of his room, half-painted. “You don’t have any newspaper down or furniture moved or covered. Not even your bed.”
She sighed. “I’ll find a putty knife. This paint is dry already. You can start scraping—don’t damage the wood—and then I’m going to go get another gallon, to make up what you lost, and because I wasn’t done with my room yet.”
Veirs came back carrying the paint and a stack of old newspapers. The front page described the revival of the old popular play, The King in Yellow, at the theater downtown.
She called but heard no answer. She looked in James’ room and found him there, on the bed. He looked up when she came in.
“I was calling you!”
“Oh.” He switched off the radio on his bedside table. “I didn’t really hear you.”
Another rough day at work. The Captain was breathing down her neck for progress, and she was behind on the paperwork. She had had a tooth-grinding conversation with her ex during lunch. And now, she came into the apartment and the first thing she saw were all-too-familiar sticky-dark drops on the floor outside the bathroom. Blood.
Moving now, towards his room, louder, with an edge of panic: “James? Are you all right?”
His door swung open as she reached it. He stood just inside, shirtless. “Oh, right, right, yeah. I’m fine.” His hand was wrapped with a cloth, and there was a dark stain on it. “I cut myself with a knife, that’s all.”
“Let me see.” She instinctively reached forward.
“No.” He shrunk back. “It… it stopped bleeding. I want to leave it like that. For now.”
She sighed. She didn’t have the energy to fight him today. “Fine. But I want to see it when you change the dressing—in an hour,” she added, looking at the stained cloth. “If it’s still bleeding.”
“It’s not. Uh, I don’t think so, anyway.”
“I’m going to start dinner. Can you help?”
James’ eyes slid back into his room. “I have a lot of homework…”
She rubbed her temple. “All right,” she said. “But I want to see your hand before bed tonight.”
He made a noncommittal noise and shut his door again.
Veirs cooked dinner in an exhausted, menthol-fueled haze. She had to call three times and nearly reached James’ door before he opened it to come eat. It sounded like faint music playing in there. He shut the door behind him.
“Can you check in on him, Crystal?” Veirs hated to ask her, mostly because her sister was less than reliable. But she was already running late, and she wouldn’t be able to get out of the station any time soon. No one else would probably be available on such short notice.
“Absolutely. Whatever my dear sister needs.” Her voice crinkled like wrapping paper over the line. Veirs could tell she was enjoying this. She knew she would find a way to get her payback, sooner or later. But Veirs had no alternative.
“Thanks again, Crystal. I owe you.”
“Yes.” Her foot-wide smile was audible across the phone line. “You do.”
When Veirs got home that night, James was already in bed. “Any problems?” she asked Crystal.
“Oh, no. He’s never any problem when I’m around.” She smirked.
“Well, thanks for your help, Crystal—”
“That hand, though.” She was frowning. Veirs had been too tired the previous night; getting a good look at his hand had slipped her mind. “You let him play with knives? And the cut’s so deep!” Crystal tsked. “Mother would never have allowed this sort of thing…” She rolled her eyes.
“Maybe I’ll take a…nother look at it.”
Her sister nodded. “Well, I’d better get going before you start telling me how lovely everyone was at work today.”
“Crystal, I wasn’t…”
“Talk to you later, Dee. Good night.” She slipped out.
Veirs looked in James’ room. The door was half open, dark inside. She moved to the door, heard light breathing and behind it, a man’s voice, distant. She couldn’t make out any words. It continued for a few minutes, then there was the tinkling of faint music. He must have the radio on, she realized.
She stepped inside to shut it off.
“We now return to our nightly performance of the King…” She turned it off and the voice faded as the capacitor discharged.
She watched her son sleeping, one arm tucked by his side, the other with the bandaged hand splayed out at an angle towards the bedside table.
His eyes were open, looking at her.
“Are you awake?” she whispered.
His breathing remained slow and regular.
He must be asleep, she thought. She moved for the door and his eyes didn’t follow. Just somehow had fallen asleep with his eyes open.
“I need to go out on a field investigation.”
James kept his eyes on his bowl of cereal. Grape Crunch, his favorite. She couldn’t stand the sickly sweet stuff. But despite his attention focused on it, he hardly seemed interested in eating.
“Your father said he’d take you this week.”
“A week? You’re not, like, going out of state?” James asked. Veirs studied his face, still locked on the corn flakes floating in a pool of purple milk. He seemed to be ignoring her like never before, or trying to hide something from her. She felt like she was losing him, and she didn’t know what to do.
“No. I just have long postings, 24 hours or longer each… it’s kind of like a stakeout…” She sighed and started over. “I know you don’t always get along, you and him, but can you at least—”
“OK, I’ll go.” He looked up. “Just for the week, right?”
“That’s right. Your father and I… we appreciate this, James.”
He rolled his eyes, then popped out of his chair. “I need to… go get ready.”
Veirs hoped things would be different when James came back. They weren’t. Every answer from him had become one-word. He wouldn’t look her in the eyes. He spent nearly every waking hour shut up in his room. He had stitches in his hand. He wouldn't answer any questions about it.
The endless paperwork from closing out the last case combined with his behavior was driving her nutty. Their dinners together were nonexistent. If he showed up to eat, it was after the food had gone cold.
Veirs came home one day the next week to find loud music blaring from his room. She walked in and a candle broke underfoot. Several others were strewn around. Gobs of wax had melted into the carpet. She unplugged the radio and carted it out of there.
She confronted James when he got home, but he seemed taken aback… almost confused. “No. I didn’t light any candles.” He frowned.
She saw red. “You did! There were candles burnt on the floor, and wax dripped into the carpet! How else did they get there?”
He had no answer. She was losing her mind.
That night, a loud noise woke her. She came out to find James walking in his pajamas. He ignored her, walking back and forth up and down the hall—sleepwalking? There was a dim light coming from his room. Flickering.
Candles covered every part of his desk and side table, and several more were on the floor, nearly half of them lit, all different sizes and lengths, tall and short, thick and red or small and white. Every surface was covered in crude designs of thick black jagged lines.
“James,” she gasped, not comprehending what she saw.
“The King is coming,” came his voice from just behind her, and she jumped. Her foot caught a tall candle in a saucer on the floor and it toppled over. The bedspread ignited. Flames leaped onto the curtain.
It took three hours to extinguish the fire in the complex.
James didn’t mind his time in the Center, really. Every day, James got to draw as much as he wanted, though sometimes Nurse looked at them and got mad and yelled and took his drawings away. They kept James away from the other people after he told Frank he was going to get hurt. Being alone was how James liked it. And it meant James had time to think. To prepare.
For the coming of the King.
You got a G! For Grape Flavored Items!
Somewhere in your story, there should be someone disliking/or loving the taste of a grape flavored SOMETHING.
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 01:06|
A Crack Begins to Form
1750 words no flashrule
Whenever he knew some bad poo poo was going down, unless he was gonna be the one shivving his way wrist-deep into a kidney, Tashard laid low in the Dugout. A purposeless space, the guards never bothered to check it and it was hardly ever occupied. The room earned the name after a series of beatdowns occurred inside using a baseball bat stolen from the yard. Afterward, baseball was added to the long list of prohibited activities under Warden Pulzowski, who each year seemed dedicated to discovering new depths of sadism.
Tashard ducked into the Dugout as the harsh sounds of a fight intensified behind him. With six peopled killed this year and who knows how many badly wounded, the prison was becoming as deadly as a battlefield.
“gently caress off outta here, bitch” he heard.
Schuester. A man who maybe has never had a friend, but if he had, he sure didn’t look like Tashard. Your average Richards State Penitentiary response to Schuester would be to double the number of fucks and bitches and escalate to violent threats, but Tashard, despite the fact that he should know better by now, tried diplomacy: “Come on, man, poo poo’s hosed out there. Be easy.”
“Bitch I said get out.”
“Man, gently caress you,” Tashard said. He turned and steeled himself for facing whatever was going on outside the Dugout, but before he could reach the door, Schuester came up behind him, got a sweaty arm around Tashard’s neck, and hurled him across the room. Tashard stumbled over his own feet and slammed shoulder-first into the far wall. The crack he heard on impact had Tashard sure he’d broken something in his shoulder.
He landed on the grounded and curled his arms up to protect himself from Schuester’s followup, but when it didn’t come, opened his eyes. Schuester seemed to have forgotten all about Tashard, his eyes instead fixed on the spot on the wall where Tashard hit. Tashard followed Schuester’s gaze and saw that the wall had caved in.
“The hell is that?” Schuester said, pointing. Tashard eased himself up, keeping a wary eye on Schuester, then turned and examined the wall. Just on the other side of the wall was a thin book.
Neither man had seen a book in all their time at Richards. Like baseball, music, in-person visitations, chess, and a long list, books were not allowed.
“It’s a loving book,” Tashard whispered without realizing he was whispering, as if they’d discovered a body hidden in the wall.
“No poo poo.”
The fight forgotten, both men peered at the crack in the wall with expressions of increasing perplexity. “The King in Yellow,” Tashard read. They glanced at the door like a pair of schoolboys about to sneak a cigarette behind the school. Tashard reached a quivering hand out, grabbed the corner of the book with two fingers, and along with an impossible amount of dust, pulled it free. As it came out, a thunk accompanied the shifting of the hidden books on either side of The King in Yellow.
It was Schuester that guessed it first. “It’s the library.”
“There ain’t no library in this shithole,” Tashard said, his eyes locked on the cover of the book: yellow robes draping from a skeletal figure.
“There was. Nah, there is.” He grabbed the edge of the cracked wall and gave it a yank. The crack spread, revealing more shelves below. Between gaps in the books, he saw more shelves behind the first. The broken wall was hiding an even larger room, and from what they could see, it was full of thousands of forbidden books.
The sound of the fight outside had died away, but Tashard didn’t remember hearing it stop. Since the moment he spotted the book, the everything outside the Dugout melted away. He forgot the throbbing in his shoulder, forgot how much he hated Schuester. Hell, he even forgot he was serving a life sentence in what the Los Angeles Times once called “Hell on Earth.”
For a week, Tashard belonged to Robert W. Chambers. He kept the book hidden under his bunk, wedged between the mattress and the springs. Whenever he could, he slipped it free and got lost in the stories. Enough moonlight shone through high windows and onto the page if he held it just right. Schuester kept appearing, lurking, watching. Once, Tashard caught the man lingering near his bunk. When Tashard approached him, Schuester slinked away in uncharacteristic silence, and Tashard’s heart didn’t stop beating until he’d managed to reach a hand below the bed and reassure himself the book was still there.
But then it really was gone. Coming back one afternoon from his shift in the laundry, Tashard felt under the mattress for the book. He couldn’t accept it was missing until he flopped onto his stomach and gaped at the place where he left the book.
“That motherfucker,” he hissed.
Schuester wasn’t in the rec room or the lounge. There was only one place he could be. The Dugout.
After the discovery, he and Schuester moved a faded poster from the opposite wall to cover the crack. That loving smiling, bi-racial couple and the words “GOOD BEHAVIOR MEANS GOING HOME SOONER.” With a final glance at the door, Tashard peeled back one corner of the poster and checked the crack. Schuester had widened it into a hole, pushed a few books out of the way, and presumably climbed inside. Tashard went in after him, and the poster fluttered back in place, a pictueresque future that neither of them would ever experience.
His eyes adjusted to the meager light coming from a dusty window and he could make out enough to not crash into another shelf. Anger at Schuester’s theft made him want to scream the bastard’s name, but cold desire to get even kept him silent. Sneaking up on Schuester was his best chance to get out of this in one piece with his book. He crept forward low, his hands running along the smooth metal of the shelves.
In prison, silence does not exist. Inmates are always talking, talking, talking. And when they’re not, the old air conditioners are creaking along, guards are shouting, doors are slamming, and rats are squeaking. When you go without silence for so long, its return feels like a rush of water enveloping you, and Tashard couldn’t shake the feeling that he was made heavier by it. It practically hurt his ears to hear so much nothing.
He started to think Schuester wasn’t even there. His seething anger and outrage turned to uneasiness as he tried to remember which was the way back to the hole in the wall. He retraced his steps but was soon sure that he’d gone past the hole. A sudden need for water turned his mouth dry.
A hacking, wheezing, wet cough broke the silence and echoed in the library. It broke the silence like a jet engine firing up for the first flight of the the morning, and Tashard froze with his hands pressed to his ears.
“Schuester?” he croaked faintly, or at least thought he did. The coughing intensified, perhaps drawing nearer, though in the din Tashard had no idea where the sound was coming from. He reared back and tried to flee, but still trapped in the narrow stacks he collided with a shelf and fell to the floor. A few books tumbled off the shelves and landed on his head and back. A flash of memory to Tashard’s first days of prison when he was knocked to the ground and stomped repeatedly, leaving him in medical for days. He clambered onto his feet and ran in the darkness until his legs connected with something soft and he sprawled again.
“What the gently caress?!” the something soft said. It coughed again. “The hell are you doing?”
Tashard rolled onto his back and looked at Schuester, who sat cross-legged with his back to the rear wall of the library, just under the one window. “Schuester?”
Schuester wiped spit off his chin, held back a cough, and rubbed his ribs. “The gently caress are you running around in here for?”
Tashard, barely able to catch his breath, leaned back and rested his head on the floor. “You scared the poo poo out of me.”
“The beautiful sound of lung cancer.”
Suddenly remembering the reason he came here in the first place, Tashard sat up. “You stole my loving book.”
What Schuester said next shocked Tashard more than anything else so far: “Man, I’m sorry.” Schuester never said he was sorry, and Tashard was so taken aback that he forgot to be furious.
“I just... I wanted to read something,” Schuester said.
“There’s a whole goddamn library in here, pick some other motherfucking book, rear end in a top hat,” Tashard said as angrily as he could, although his heart wasn’t in it.
Schuester actually looked sheepish. His voice was low, and he spoke slowly, looking at the ground. “I didn’t know where to start. I don’t even know the last book I read. You seemed to like this one a lot. I just wanted to know why.”
“’Cause it’s loving weird. I don’t know.”
“It is loving weird. I didn’t get the first story, though, about the dude with all the books.”
Tashard stared in disbelief at Schuester, sitting there in the faint glow from the window, head cocked just to the side and clearly thinking so hard that smoke might start coming out his ears at any minute. Hardly believing himself, Tashard explained, “The problem is that you can’t exactly trust what the narrator is saying.”
Schuester’s jaw dropped open and his hands fell to his sides. “Wait, what?”
“Alright, look. So there’s this guy, right, and....
Eventually, they realized that they might get reported as missing and should get back before that happened. At the hole in the wall, just before Tashard poked at the edge of the poster to see if the coast was clear, Schuester put a hand on his shoulder. Tashard flinched, but less than he might have yesterday.
“Um,” Schuester whispered.
“What is it?”
“Can we bring someone else with us next time, too?”
“Next time?” Tashard said, then he realized what Schuester was asking. “What, you want to start a loving book club or some poo poo?”
Tashard’s first impulse, to mock him, quickly dissipated. “Yeah, aight man. You let me know when.”
Schuester held up The King in Yellow. “Your book.”
“Nah. You keep it, brother.”
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 01:13|
Beyond the Black Curtain
I wrenched down what felt like the thousandth clamp, locking another light to the row of battens over the stage. “Coming down,” I called, turning a dial and pressing a button on the control panel of the basket lift. I scanned the stage below as the Genie whined and cranked downwards. Andrew was nowhere in sight. If he had any sense, he’d finally given up and was curled up on a cot in one of the dressing rooms, hemmed in by the colorful collection of costumes, ready for the actors who’d be coming in just a few hours for morning rehearsals.
A yawn forced its way out of my own mouth. Andrew wasn’t the only walking dead around the theater. The whole production team had been thrown by a sudden change in what show we were staging. The board at the Randolph Theater had been building up to The King in Yellow for ages, touting the remounting of a “long lost work of art.” The whole process had been strange, though. Information was sparse, Jonas the director was a walking enigma, the show itself was an odd mashup of a sacred text and murder mystery. None of us had a script in hand for more than a day or two when the lead actor just up and disappeared.
When Noah left, so did the show. We were all pretty shaken, given he just walked out of the theater one night and never returned. Andrew and I had come up through college with Noah, so it felt particularly sharp to us.
It only got worse, though. After Noah split, director Jonas locked himself in a hotel room for a couple of days, buried his head in the script. We thought he was re-staging the show, or meeting with a new lead, but turns out he was piecing together evidence that Noah was taken by someone. It was a batty idea at first blush, but Randolph was no sprawling metropolis. Few hiding places sprung to mind, and fewer still when it was discovered Noah hadn’t taken his car when he split. We tried to coax Jonas out of his hotel room, but ended up having to call the cops. A desk clerk opened up the room. No Jonas, just a mess of script pages strewn across the floor, and a few select pages tacked up on the wall, certain odd passages circled in dark ink.
I had a nagging itch at the back of my brain from the whole experience that wasn’t totally quieted by the shift to working on a kinder, gentler Golden Age musical. I still half-expected Noah to walk through the stage door at the start of each rehearsal.
Tonight was another of an unbroken string of all-nighters I had to pull. Scenic was busting their asses to get the sets upright before tech rehearsals, so they were camped onstage just about any moment it was free, at least until 11pm. Then it was my dark, lonely kingdom for a few hours, until the actors rolled in a little after breakfast. Well, lonely but for Andrew, who had appointed himself the team’s all-in-one cheerleader and drill sergeant in an effort to bring all the pieces together in time.
“I’m downloading the video from tonight’s rehearsal if you wanna take a look.” The voice made me nearly jump out of my own skin. I spun around and spotted Andrew hunched behind his laptop, his face lit up with a dim blue glow.
“Awesome, I need to take a look at the last number in Act II, I was staring at my script and it flew by me,” I said, tossing the wrench on my backpack and dropping into one of the red-cushioned seats with a satisfied plonk.
Andrew scrolled through the footage, finding the top of the final musical number in the show. A few dozen tinny voices crackled out of the laptop’s speakers. As the number ended, I pulled out a notebook to write down some notes. Suddenly I heard more singing, before it stopped again. And once more. I looked up to Andrew. His eyes were glued to the screen as he backed up the footage to watch the last few seconds of the number again. His jaw was clenched.
“What is it?” I asked, moving a seat closer to him. I opened my mouth to repeat the question when he didn’t respond. At that moment, though, I saw what he did.
Far upstage, behind the dancing actors in the video, there was one stationary figure. It seemingly appeared from nowhere as a dancer passed by, and similarly evaporated into nothing moments later as another actor moved between it and the camera.
It was stock still, dressed in ragged pants and a faded red military jacket. It held what looked like a twisted shepherd’s crook, the end of it placed just next to one of its dirty, blackened feet. Worst was the faded indigo sack that covered its head. The eyeholes cut into the sack seemed to glow faintly from within, two ruddy pinpricks of light staring out from their depths.
“Somebody thinks they’re goddamned hilarious,” Andrew said.
“You think it’s a prank? Someone with poor taste trying to shake everybody up?” I asked.
Andrew turned to lock eyes with me. “Could be. Then again, maybe it’s not a prank.” The insinuation hung in the air, like a cloud, between the two of us. The costume had been Noah’s.
I couldn’t take it any longer. I slapped the laptop shut, cutting off another repeat of the final verse and nearly smashing one of Andrew’s fingers in the bargain. “Enough. We’re tired, things have been… trying, and someone has a poor sense of appropriate pranks. Whatever was up with Noah, I don’t think it’s like him to show up weeks later, haunting the theater.” I went to the light board a few seats away and began punching in cues.
Andrew tapped his laptop absentmindedly, as if debating whether he should crack it open again. The tapping stopped, and I heard a sharp intake of breath. “What’s that?” Andrew asked. I looked to where he was pointing. “Behind the scrim,” he added at a near-whisper.
I pushed up a fader, bringing up a bank of lights behind the scrim. A figure stood behind the gauzy black curtain. I stood, leaning over the table to get a better look. Andrew mirrored me.
“Could you switch on the work lights?” Andrew asked. I turned to head to the control booth. It wasn’t there. Neither were the four hundred seats that should have sloped up behind us. Instead, there was a single line of chairs, covered in cracked, ancient leather. Beyond them was an inky blackness that seemed to yawn into nothingness. I reached out to grab Andrew’s arm, but he was gone. Turning around, I suddenly found myself onstage. It was bare, and huge-- much larger than the Randolph. A black scrim still spanned the stage, a few long strides in front of me. I couldn’t see if the figure still stood behind it.
I called out Andrew’s name. My voice seemed to die in the air. A sound seemed to come in response, a repeated thud-thud-thud, slow and deliberate. The scrim began to rise, exposing the figure with his sackcloth hood and shepherd’s crook. He was slamming the butt of the crook into the stage floor, over and over.
“gently caress this,” I said to no one in particular, rushing forward and tearing the sack from the figure’s head. Andrew’s face stared back at me, though he seemed to fix his gaze on something far beyond me.
In that moment, a thunderous chorus of thumps came from all around. More figures had appeared, in robes and coats and all variety of garments, all slamming staves or sticks into the stage.
They had me ringed in. Each time I turned my head, they grew nearer and nearer. Andrew began chanting something, slowly, like a prayer. In a panic, I charged through the circle of figures, heading toward the wings.
I found a heavy wooden door set into the wall of the theater. A sickly red glow bled beneath it. I gripped the handle, terrified of what I might find. The percussive crack continued behind me, drawing closer with each strike. The door was a risk, but staying there didn’t seem a wise choice either.
The door swung open inward on silent hinges. I stepped through, and I heard the door click quietly behind me. I was thrust into near darkness broken only by the dim red glow. I felt suddenly claustrophobic, unable to breathe. There was something on my head. And something in my hand.
The sack was torn from my head. My hand raised, gripping the staff within it. I was no longer in control. The staff descended to the stage floor with a powerful, resounding crack. I regarded the seats stretching out ahead of me. Each was occupied, but I couldn’t put a name to the inhabitants.
I strained to move, to turn, to run back the way I came. But it was no longer my choice. I twisted one foot to the side, snapped my body with it in a crisp military turn. Next to me was a pedestal bearing a twisted crown.
Words rose to my lips. I bit my tongue, refusing them for as long as I could. It was not a battle I could win.
I heard my voice, used by something else, perverted and strange. “And so we rose from Lost Carcosa, to bear the crown forth. The King awaits.” I thumped my staff once more, and a distant light began to glow. A silhouette glowed, inhumanly large, casting a shadow that stretched like a creeping hand toward me. The figure turned to look at me. I screamed silently, lost in my own mind.
The King awaits.
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 03:09|
Rays from the setting sun bathed the room in a warm hue, adding a bit of colour to the otherwise unadorned, spartan decor. A chilly autumn breeze softly stirred the curtains, travelling to a bed where an old woman drifted on and off in the indolence of a late afternoon nap. The cool touch of the wind stirred the woman awake just as a soft knock sounded at the door. The door opened, letting in a woman in the traditional blue dress and white apron of a nurse.
“Good afternoon, Camilla! Your visitor’s here… I’m letting him in now.”
The nurse nodded to the man as she sidled past him and out of the room. He paused in the doorway for a moment, contemplating the frail woman as she stared blankly somewhere beyond the open window. “Hi, mum,” he said before sitting down next to the bed.
“Is that you, Robert?” she said, her gaze wandering towards him. “It’s so nice to see you…”
“Yes…” he said, not meeting her eye. “It’s me.”
“Oh, but I do hope Robert isn’t late… Everything is ready for our voyage. I so wanted him to show me his homeland.”
“Camilla,” he sighed, “you’re still bedridden and in no state to travel… You have to recover first.”
“Young man, could you please tell Robert that I’m waiting for him?”
He shook his head, drawing a bundle from his briefcase which he carefully unwrapped, revealing an aged manuscript. After waiting to no avail for any glimmer of recognition from Camilla, he began to read from the book in a soft voice. She remained silent, staring in the distance and showing no reaction or expression but a faint smile.
Lulled by the comforting sound of his voice, she soon drifted back to sleep.
Frost rimmed the window, giving a blue tinge to the sunlight that suffused the room. Camilla lay in bed contemplating the sunset, waiting for the early winter sunset that would announce her visitor. As the sun began dipping below the horizon, a soft rap sounded at the door. The man poked his head through the doorway and, finding her awake, entered.
“Good evening, mum,” he said, sitting down in the usual bedside chair. He took out the book and waited. Minutes stretched by as Camilla remained silent, staring at the window. Shrugging, the man began quietly reading from the book. He barely got halfway through the short story before Camilla stirred.
“Robert… Will you help me out of bed? They say I’m in no shape to walk and should remain in bed still. Oh, but I do want to look outside, see the sunset over the Lake.”
He looked up from his book then at the window, as if considering the distance. Then he nodded, carefully wrapping the manuscript before standing.
As he gently helped Camilla out of her bed, he saw she was smiling despite the effort. He had to draw his arm around her and support her as she stood. She tread gingerly at first, leaning heavily on his arm, but it was as if every step was lighter until they reached the windowsill. She stood wordlessly with a beatific smile fixed on her lips as she stared through the window.
“Oh, Robert,” she finally said, “it’s beautiful. Thank you.”
The man took this as a cue and helped her back to her bed. He did not even have time to sit down and pick up the book again before she was fast asleep.
Fierce flurries buffeted silently against the layer of accumulated snow matting the outside light. Occasional gusts managed to slip past gaps at just the proper angle, leeching cold air into the room with a triumphant whistle. These however quickly get stifled by the stuffy hot air keeping the resident of the room comfortable. Her eyes are closed, with barely a flutter of eyelids registering whenever the gales are heard.
The man sat in contemplation, his book lying unopened in his lap. He was waiting for her to awaken, to no avail. Had he arrived early, perhaps? But no, despite the snowstorm nearly paralysing the city, he had still made good time for his visit. After nearly an hour of this, he sighed and began reading regardless.
He did not make it past the first few pages when her eyes opened. Looking around furtively, she whispered, “Robert! They’ve been trying to keep me imprisoned… But I’ve been pretending to sleep to foil their plans.”
Dumbfounded, the man could only stare at her.
“Quick,” she continued, “the door’s unlocked, let’s sneak outside before they realise!”
“As you wish,” he nodded, stowing the book away. As soon as he had done so, Camilla sat up in her bed, fully dressed.
“It’s torrid in here, it must be such beautiful weather outside. Will you show me the towers of Carcosa?”
“Let’s get out of here first,” he replied while peeking through the doorway. “No one’s around, let’s go!”
With Camilla leading the way, they crept outside the room into a deserted hallway. With all the guards conveniently busy with other residents, they managed to make it all the way to the back door without raising a cry.
Camilla paused at the door. “I bundled some pillows to make it look like I’m asleep,” she stated. “We have maybe two or three hours before they come for supper and realise the subterfuge.”
“We should be able to make it there and back before then,” Robert reassured her.
She nodded then pushed open the door to blinding sunlight. Stepping out, she shaded her eyes with her hands, struggling to make out details. A soft breeze carried sweet scents of grasses and flowers. Her eyes grew slowly grew accustomed and she took in the vista. In the distance, a city nestled against a majestic mountain range and surrounded by lakes. The largest of them lay beneath the city, a road snaking around it all the way to where they stood.
Behind them, the sanatorium loomed tall, the small door they had just gone through so insignificant it seemed to blend into the wall as it shut. Robert vanished around the building and soon came back, leading a sleek white mare. Its mane was braided with flowers, the saddle embroidered with gilded detail.
“Robert, oh, Robert, my dear husband, you were always such a charmer.”
Robert just smiled back at her as he propped her up the saddle. Together, they rode towards the lake in the distance.
The sun travelled across the sky and had begun to redden as they drew close to the lake. Robert looked to Camilla and said, “Come, I know the perfect spot to observe the city.” He spurred the horse into motion, away from the road and towards the dense woods bordering the lake. He circled around the edge of the woods until finding a path concealed in between dense foliage.
Upon taking the path, they were immediately plunged into a gloom as the thick canopy overhead made short work of the dwindling sunlight. But the path was well trodden and remained visible despite the dim lighting, and Robert was able to guide the horse carefully as the path snaked deeper into the woods. This went on for a good half hour and Camilla might have felt lost if it weren’t for Robert’s quiet assurance.
The path pierced through the underbrush and widened, leading to a secluded little beach overlooking the Lake of Hali. The clearing was rimmed with flowers still in bloom despite the late hour. Turned towards the setting sun, it seemed as if they were glowing, pointing the way to the shore.
Robert dismounted before helping Camilla down. Holding hands, they walked closer to the shore, their view widening as they cleared the dense vegetation. Camilla’s breath caught as she beheld the beauty of the moment. Perfectly cradled between the mountains and the city, the sun wreathed the towers of Carcosa in an angelic glow. The still surface of the lake reflected all of this perfectly, making it look as if twin suns were sinking into the water.
They lay in the sand long after the moon had risen to replace the sun. Soothed by the sound of a nearby creek, Camilla slowly fell asleep.
The sun had set hours ago. The howling wind had quieted, as if the sun had taken the fury of the elements with it. The man had finished reading a while ago, the book laying open in his lap. He held Camilla’s hand. She had never opened her eyes, but her face was now suffused with a quiet smile. Her breathing had been slowing down and was now but a whisper, barely audible over what remained of the storm.
And then, even that whisper stopped.
After a while, the man closed the book his father Robert had written for his wife Camilla.
The title read, The King in Yellow.
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 03:18|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 22:05 on Oct 31, 2017
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 03:34|
All Shook Up 1089 words.
Barging into a toilet to find that it’s actually occupied can be a little embarrassing. Embarrassment quickly made way for other emotions as it became apparent that, firstly, the toilet was occupied by a corpse, and secondly, the corpse was his own.
Well, not his actual own, obviously. He took his own pulse just to be sure. But the hair, the sideburns, I mean it was a very good impersonation.
Ginger came in behind him, grabbed him around the waist and pulled him away. “Come on Elvis, we have to go, now!”
“Did you see…?”
“Yes. They meant for it to be you.” She dragged him out of the toilet and through the changing room.
“Hang on,” he said. “I can’t go like this.”
Ginger sighed. “Really? There are people trying to kill you.”
Elvis shrugged. “I’m not going out looking like a bum. If I’m gonna get murdered, I’m gonna look good doing it.”
He quickly went through his wardrobe, and came out moments later dressed in a gold suit. “Much better.”
“Yes, good, very inconspicuous,” said Ginger. “This will work well for trying to hide from them.”
“Who’s them anyway?” asked Elvis, once they had left the building and she was driving them both out of the city.
“Hard to say,” said Ginger. “Maybe they just don’t like your music.”
Elvis shook his head. “Who doesn’t like rock and roll, though?”
Ginger shrugged. “I have no idea.”
They drove until midnight, finally arriving at a small farm. “Well,” said Elvis, “I guess I’ve played smaller joints.”
“We’re here to lie low,” said Ginger, “not to play a gig.”
“The King doesn’t lie low.”
“The King will have to get used to it until we figure out who’s trying to kill him.”
The King looked around. “So where do we sleep, anyway?”
Ginger gestured around at the hay. “Figure it out.”
Elvis woke to Ginger shaking him. “What’s going on?” he asked.
Ginger put her finger to her lips. “A little less conversation,” she said. “Someone’s outside. Get ready to move, if need be.” She peered out through a crack in the wall. Elvis put his gold jacket and his blue suede shoes on and prepared himself for action.
Ginger hurried back to him, shaking her head. “Should’ve known not to trust anyone. We’re caught in a trap.”
“I’m ready to fight whoever it is,” said Elvis.
She shook her head. “Climb up to the loft. We’re going out through the roof.” So, they climbed up to the loft. Just as they reached the top, two men burst through the doors, wielding shotguns. A third followed behind, looking furtively from side to side.
“Where is she?” asked one of them.
“Guess she’s not here after all,” said the man behind. “My mistake.”
Elvis looked over at Ginger. “They’re not even after me?” he whispered. “Now that’s just insulting.”
Ginger frowned. “We can worry about this later,” she said. “For now, we’ve gotta get out of this place.”
The men with shotguns turned to the third man. “You lied to us,” said one of them.
“They were here before,” said that man, “I swear!”
“The other shotgun holding man shook his head. “In any case, we can’t leave any loose ends behind.”
He levelled his shotgun at the man.
As they climbed the second ladder to the roof of the barn, Elvis accidentally kicked the ladder behind him. It toppled down and clipped the lower ladder, which itself toppled over. The two shotgun wielding men turned around just in time to see the top end of the ladder land on their heads and knock them cold.
“Whoops,” said Elvis. Ginger shrugged, and the two of them quickly made it to the edge of the barn’s roof. “Bit of a drop,” said Elvis, as he looked down. Ginger planted both hands in his back and pushed him off.
“You could’ve told me there was a bale of hay underneath,” said Elvis, as they drove onwards.
Ginger smiled. “Didn’t have time.”
Elvis shook his head. “So why would they be after you, anyway? That doesn’t make sense, it was my fake corpse on the toilet.”
Ginger frowned. “I have some idea, but I really thought that was in my past now. It’s kind of a long story.”
“Well, we’ve got a bit of time, why don’t you explain it to me?”
Ginger wasn’t able to explain it, however, because she had to concentrate on the road to swerve around the flying saucer that had just landed on the road in front of them. The car went through a fence and came to rest in a ditch.
“Quick,” said Ginger. “Looks like we’re continuing on foot.”
“This has not been a great date, so far,” said Elvis. “If we get another car, I get to drive.”
“Sure, whatever,” said Ginger. “If we get out of this alive, and we get another car, you can drive.”
“Come out, Your Majesty,” called a voice from the road. “You and your bodyguard have nowhere to go.”
“Bodyguard?” said Elvis. “Now I’m angry.”
Ginger crawled out of the car, and Elvis crawled out behind her. They walked onto the road. The flying saucer had pulled over to the shoulder of the road, and was flashing its hazards. The two men from before were standing in front of it with their shotguns. “What do you mean by braking in front of us like that?” asked Ginger.
“Sorry,” said one of the men. “He’s still learning to drive the thing.” The other man sheepishly shrugged. “Anyway, not really the point of this meeting,” he said. “Did you think you could get away with stealing the sceptre?
“Well, yeah kinda,” said Ginger. “I mean, I’m royalty, so is it even theft? It’s like stealing from myself, really.”
The first man shook his head. “We don’t really see it that way, I’m afraid.” He lifted his shotgun. “Goodbye, Your Majesty.”
Two shots rang out in quick succession. Ginger looked over at Elvis, who had a pistol in his outstretched hand. He shrugged. “Always keep one in the glovebox. Now what’s this ‘Your Majesty’ thing?”
“It’s a long story,” she said, walking towards the flying saucer. “I promised you could drive, didn’t I?”
Elvis shrugged. “Don’t think my license covers this class of vehicle, you’d better drive.”
So they walked into the flying saucer, she climbed into the driver’s seat and he climbed into the passenger seat, and she told him a long story.
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 03:56|
Passion Hides in Painted Smiles
The hospitality officer, Inga, frolics through our cabin like a fawn in a meadow, tittering about the thread count of our sheets, the seventeen independent high-power jets in the private jacuzzi bath, and complimentary bottles of French champagne. Kevin's lips are pulled back tight over his teeth, rigidly locked in the smile that he employs for all photographs, while every so often letting his grey eyes meet mine with a cold gaze that makes clear that he has not enjoyed this vacation at all so far, and that he holds me responsible for his suffering. I feel a familiar resentment growing inside me like a tangle of Christmas lights.
"Well," said Inga, eyes dazzling behind thick eyelashes as though lifted directly from the Xanthous Princess's marketing brochure, "that rounds out our tour. Unless there are any questions?"
I smile at Inga and clasp my hands at my chest, shaking my head. There is a static dullness in the cabin's air, the prelude to a thunderstorm. Kevin scratches at his beard, a relatively recent development that still itches him terribly. "And our children, Mia and Sadie?" asked Kevin, in that smug tone I desperately hate. "Do we just pick them up in a week, or...?"
Inga, bless her heart, looks genuinely confused for a moment before realizing that Kevin is joking, and then laughs like a studio audience. "Oh heavens, no; the orientation activities for the children will finish at five o'clock, well in time for dinner," said Inga. She flashes a coy look at us, arching her right eyebrow by just a few seductive fractions of an inch. "We find that on the first day of the cruise, many of our couples with young children often appreciate a couple hours to settle into their cabins, in private."
Inga waggles an eyebrow coyly, and makes her exit. When the door closes, Kevin and I fight. Even our fights have become perfunctory and bloodless, a stroll through a garden along a well-trodden path, surrounded by familiar sights. After our first lap though the argument, neither of us has the energy to escalate, both of us drained from hours spent on airplanes and sitting in boarding areas. We sit in frustrated and impotent silence, hating one another.
I announce that I’m going to go explore the ship, and that I’ll see Kevin and the girls at dinner.
# # #
Among the various perks of the cruise package I won: a reserved table for each night in the Xanthous Princess’s finest dining room. The application packet I had completed had included a glossy pamphlet with photographs of the dining room, but it was another thing entirely to be inside that cavernous space, all the while acutely aware that, somehow, all of this grandeur is floating on the ocean encased in tens of thousands of tons of steel. Golden chandeliers descend from a fifty-foot-high ceiling, dripping with crystals like stars in the Milky Way. An ocean of dining tables, white tablecloths like frothy whitecaps on a stormy day, stretches to the horizon. Hundreds of service staff navigate between the tables in identical black and white uniforms, expertly piloting tiny crafts laden with silver serving dishes. I notice that the schlubby floral print and flip flops fashion sense that had been so prevalent earlier on in my tour around the ship had entirely disappeared. The men wear dark blazers with the insignia of, presumably, country clubs embroidered on their breasts. The women wear fashionable dresses and pearl necklaces.
Kevin and the girls are already seated at our table when I arrive at the dining room, and a wave of relief passes over me as I see that the girls seem to be behaving themselves well; they had traded episodes of screaming and crying on both legs of the flights earlier this morning, and there had been several tantrums thrown in the waiting area for boarding the ship when it seemed like everybody else was being let on before our group. Kevin sees me winding my way towards the table and gives me a little smile, a genuine one, and taps at his watch by way of asking what’s taken me so long. He seems to have forgotten his sullen mood from earlier, in the throes of which he had expressed in unambiguous terms that being trapped on a cruise ship for an entire week with a geriatric horde hardly qualified as vacation in his books. I’m pleasantly surprised to see his mood changed so drastically, for the most part -- I won’t lie, there’s that lovely voice in my head that suspects these are opening moves in an elaborate chess game that Kevin is playing to try and hurt me, but if he’s faking his apparent happiness, he’s faking it well.
# # #
It’s late by the time we get back to our cabin. Kevin puts the girls to sleep in the other room, and I flop down on top of the covers on our bed. Kevin eventually comes back into our room and lies down beside me.
“Hey,” I say. “I’m sorry about earlier.”
“Me too,” says Kevin.
“Did the girls go to sleep easy?”
“Well, now that Mia and Sadie have realized that Baked Alaska is a thing, I don’t know that a scoop of ice-cream is going to qualify as dessert once we get home.”
“I can’t believe they made it through their orientation without causing trouble.”
“Yeah -- apparently they got to choose their activities for the week, and the girls signed up for theater classes. They say they’re actually going to put on a play later in the week.”
“Mia and Sadie. In a play.”
“They seem really excited about it.”
# # #
In the last few days, I have swum in all three of the Xanthous Princess’s Olympic-size pools. I finished a novel that’s been on my nightstand for seven months. I have eaten lobster on two separate occasions. I have haggled for trinkets in portside markets. I won fifty dollars playing blackjack in the casino. The other passengers aboard the ship recognize me and smile.
The girls seem to have caught the theatre bug, and are spending hours each day in acting class. The transformation in their behavior has been, honestly, extraordinary. I realized that I had kind of already reached the conclusion that my daughters would never amount to much, a position that now seems obviously cruel when I put it in words, but to see them so excited about the performing arts has rekindled some of my old fantasies of their future success. They’ve been given the roles of Camilla and Cassilda in the children’s production of The King In Yellow, but have firmly refused to let me hear them practicing lines or even read over their script. It’s not a play I’m familiar with; presumably it’s something for kids.
Kevin seems like a different person entirely from the man he’s been for the last year and a half. He hasn’t been passive aggressive or sulky, and for the first time since he was fired from his old job, he’s actively reaching out and being friendly with strangers. We walk the decks together, his hand resting in the small of my back, and he flags down service staff to bring us champagne. We have had sex four times since boarding the ship, breaking an eight month dry spell, and it was, shockingly, actually good.
# # #
On the night of the play, the Xanthous Princess is traversing the open ocean between distant ports. All day, the view from the deck has been nothing but endless blue, and as night falls the sky fills with so many stars that it is difficult to find an isolated patch of sky that appears truly dark. Dinner is a formal black tie affair, and Kevin and I have been invited to join the Captain at his table. Kevin’s hand rests on my thigh for most of the meal. I had forgotten how well Kevin can clean up; for a guy who’s only ever worn one to a couple weddings here and there, he wears a tux well.
A grand stage has been erected behind the Captain’s table in the dining hall, obscured by an enormous and heavy-looking black curtain emblazoned with a vaguely Arabic-looking insignia in yellow. Service staff roll through the dining hall in waves, clearing away dishes from dinner and delivering tiny crystal flutes of yellow-green liqueur to every guest. I smell the contents of my own glass; it’s pungent and herbal, like one of those Chartreuse or Benedictine-type liqueurs made by various odd orders of monks.
The Captain stands from his seat and rings a tiny golden bell. It’s impressively loud for such a tiny thing; the peals from the bell reflect off the kaleidoscopic surfaces of the dining room and reverberate throughout the room.
He is a tall man, practically a giant. His voice is sweet and resonant, like an opera singer’s, and comes from a deep place in his torso. “My friends, those of you who have traveled aboard the Xanthous Princess before--” and here there is more applause than I would have expected “--know that the staging of The King in Yellow is the highlight of every voyage. In tonight’s performance, the star roles will be played by Sadie and Mia, the beautiful twin daughters of our lovely contest winner. Mrs. Barlow, if you would?”
I stand from my chair and wave, and the responding applause rolls like thunder through the room. I’m a little taken aback by their enthusiasm, and sit back down in my chair with a slight tremble. I look to Kevin, and he’s smiling at me, a smile of pure joy. I smile back at him, and rest my hand on top of his.
“And so, without further delay: The King In Yellow.”
At the Captain’s word, the lights in the dining room dim to almost pure black, and then a soft golden glow rises from unseen lamps, apparently hidden throughout the room. I squeeze Kevin’s hand, and he turns from the stage to smile at me. In the golden light from below, I now see a seam underneath his jaw that I hadn’t noticed before, that moves up the side of his face by his hairline.
A bell tolls behind the curtain, and the curtains begin to pull apart.
I put my hand to Kevin’s face, feeling at the seam. It pulls away from his skin easily.
Two bright spotlights illuminate the darkened stage.
“Are you wearing a mask?”
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 03:57|
Entries are closed! Me and Chili AND Thranguy are working on judgement! Good Job Y'all who submitted!
Jay W. Friks fucked around with this message at 05:06 on Oct 2, 2017
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 04:02|
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 04:07|
My friends, we have deliberated on who shall remain in Carcosa forevermore and the Judgment of our Yellow Liege has been passed through his esteemed Homunculi!
Honorable Mentions to Benny Profane for "Passion Hides", a dysfunctional family matriarch finds her contest winnings to include a cruise AND a much happier family. But is it all the same? A wonderfully cryptic tome that fed off its flash rule like a tick on a comatose pig.
Honorable Mentions to Tyrannosaurus's "marvel at the forest" for (as one of my co-judges puts it) a trainspotting like-narrative that this critic at first did not understand. After another glance, lichen grasped onto the walls of my consciousness. I too fell in love with its spiraling trip down a very troubled young woman's descent into a nightmare.
Dishonorable mentions to Solitairs thick as a brick exposition "Crowning the New King", one of my co-judges appreciated its Borges like style but I did not find the ability to appreciate this slatted wall of its yellow un-kindness
The Loss goes to Burkions "No Mask", a clunky work with confusing word choices and a slow plodding narrative. Good luck next time Burkion.
Disqualification to Chairchuckers "All Shook Up", Elvis in a gold suit isn't enough of a connection to bark your way out of this bush! No Playbook, No Hastur, No King in Yellow on top of a lack of a certain flash rule. Even if this prompt was about Elvis and aliens, the story as it is now is unfinished as far as this critic's eyes can see!
Now...we pay homage to our winner, the official new Emissary to Carcosa,
My friends, Pay homage to Deltasquid of Carcosa for his work "His name was Natale", a back and forth letter between a shell-shocked Italian factory worker and his union boss about a Malevolent American Saturday Morning cartoon sounds like a mess of things, but Deltasquid pulls it into a narrative that finds the true horror in fiction imitating life and vice-versa. His usage of the flash rule warms this homunculus heart and he is, and always shall be an honorary Emissary of the King in Yellow!
Take it away Deltasquid!
ThirdEmperor all failed
Jay W. Friks fucked around with this message at 06:01 on Oct 2, 2017
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 05:57|
But prompt though, what the gently caress.
Chili fucked around with this message at 07:10 on Oct 2, 2017
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 06:51|
But prompt though, what the gently caress.
yes where the goddam prompt at
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 07:20|
Semaine deux-cent-septante (270): La Belle Époque
I legit did not see this coming at all, you people are crazy.
Anyway to rub it in even harder that an English Third Language learner somehow beat you all this week, I'm going to make this Belgium week and you get to wallow in shame and misery for seven more days.
The prompt is as follows: Your story must have some sort of connection to Belgium or a Belgian thing. It doesn't have to be set in modern-day Belgium specifically but something Belgian must form an important connection to the story: a place, an object, or a person.
Because you guys are all horrible racists I am FORBIDDING any reference to chocolate, waffles, mussels or french fries. Be creative, you chucklefucks, there's like 200 wars that were fought out in Belgium and like a million paintings we made. Make it a historical piece set in the Spanish lowlands if you desire, or have someone use a gun manufactured by the Fabrique Nationale in Herstal, anything whatsoever, but god drat it do not write me about a single praline or waffle. If you do this anyway I will end you.
If you want a flash rule, tell me and I'll shoot you a piece of trivia about Belgium. I'll try to make sure it's obscure enough that you won't ever have heard of it, hopefully. You don't have to use it but you get extra words if you do. You don't have to literally include that piece of trivia but if it somehow influences your story then it's good to go.
You can write any genre you want but no erotica nor fan fiction, as usual.
WORDCOUNT MAX: 1750 (+250 if you use a flash rule)
Entry deadline is Friday 07/10/2017, 9 pm GMT+1 but you have some leeway because I tend to forget things.
Submission deadline is Monday 09/10/2017, 9 am GMT+1. Oh hey yes guess what, that's BELGIUM TIME you chucklefucks. I'm giving you time until MY Monday morning so none of you dumbasses fail to submit because you didn't read the prompt and my midnight is your 5 pm so here you go, Americans. You have time until midnight, give or take a few hours.
Citoyens de la belle époque:
Chairchucker (King Albert's Death trivia)
Thranguy (Ypres Cat Throwing trivia)
Sham Bam Bamina! (Article 324bis Code Pénal trivia)
Aesclepia (Ambroise Boimbo trivia)
Jay W. Fricks (La Redoute first casino trivia)
Burkion (Father Verbiest won an astronomy contest in Qing China trivia)
Toadsmash (Bayard folklore trivia)
Captain_Indigo (exiles in Brussels trivia)
derp (Gallo-Roman dodecahedron trivia)
Flesnolk (additional not to enter IRC until he doesn't fail or lose) (Belgian railways trivia)
Kaiju (closing of the Scheldt trivia)
Solitair (Belgium bookends the World Wars trivia)
Sebmojo (Westvleteren Trappist trivia)
Yoruichi (Bread machines & meat wall trivia)
Obliterati (Tchantchčs trivia)
Deltasquid fucked around with this message at 08:12 on Oct 7, 2017
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 08:36|
in and flash
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 08:39|
Belgian? More like Belg-in. And I'll take a flash too.
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 08:42|
in and flash
A passionate alpinist, King Albert I died in a mountaineering accident while climbing alone on the Roche du Vieux Bon Dieu at Marche-les-Dames, in the Ardennes region of Belgium near Namur. His death shocked the world and he was deeply mourned, both in Belgium and abroad. Because King Albert was an expert climber, some questioned the official version of his death and suggested that the king was murdered (or even committed suicide) somewhere else and that his body had never been at Marche-les-Dames, or that it was deposited there.
Belgian? More like Belg-in. And I'll take a flash too.
The earliest descriptions of cat throwing can be found in the city chronicles of the years 1410-1420. The Ypres chronicles often link the cat throwing with the Ascension fair that already existed in 1127.
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 08:49|
I'm in and will have a flash rule.
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 11:01|
|# ? May 27, 2022 06:47|
I'm waffling on this one, but OKAY FINE. I'm in!
|# ? Oct 2, 2017 13:02|