A Difficult Conversation (790 words)
Eli felt his lips split open as James’ fist smashed against his face. He fell hard, the steel deck of the trawler refusing to yield as his skull banged against it.
“Youmufucknassole!” James howled, individual words swirling together in the tempest of his fury. Gabriel had gotten hold of James from behind and was struggling to keep him held; he had a good forty pounds on him, but none of the fury fueling his rampage.
“James, come, come on, ease up,” Gabriel pleaded impotently between huffs and puffs of exertion.
Eli flopped on the deck, rolling in the gutted innards of the day’s catch, his consciousness returning to him in fits and starts, coming in flickers and bursts like a dying light bulb. James briefly wrestled free of Gabriel’s grip and managed to land another solid kick in Eli’s ribs before Gabriel grabbed him again. Relative to the screaming agony of his jaw, the sensation of pain in his chest was muted, almost polite. As if his brain was telling him, Pardon me sir, I know you’re busy, but there’s something else that requires your attention when you have a moment.
Eli struggled up to a kneeling position, propping himself against a pile of dead fish. He reflected that he hadn’t even meant to tell James that he was sleeping with his wife, not really. He had meant to say something else entirely, something about the day’s catch, but the words had just fallen out largely unprovoked. They were slippery little things, as hard to keep a grip on as a writhing, suffocating fish.
“Why motherfucker, why’d you do it?” James asked. The blind fury had passed, but the rage was still etched across his face and over every straining muscle. Gabriel was straining to hold him back, his face beet read and his knuckles bright white as they gripped the other man’s biceps.
Eli hocked and spat before answering, almost gagging from the bouquet of coppery blood and fishy effluence in his mouth. “You want the truth?” he asked, trying to look as haughty as a broken man lying on a pile of dead fish could look. “The truth is, Janet came to me. Told me how lonely she was. Told me you hadn’t touched her, hadn’t performed your husbandly duties in months.”
Eli raised his arms and braced himself for another battering, but remarkably James held back. He kept his eyes locked on James, wary of any sudden movement. “I just wanted to give her a shoulder to cry on, but the poor girl, she was doubting herself, y’know, as a woman.”
James’ face clenched up and Eli reflexively scooted back on his fish pile. He expected James to lunge at him at any moment, expected the barrage of fists that he, frankly, had no chance of stopping. James was a solid six foot two of pure muscle; it was a miracle that short, pudgy Gabriel had been able to hold him back at all.
“Keep going,” was all James said.
Eli arched an eyebrow despite himself, perplexed by James’ response. “She…she asked me if I thought she was pretty. She asked me, if me and her were married, would I be like you, not touching her for months at a time?” Eli stood up, wobbly, wanting to at least be on his feet for the fight he was sure was coming. Instead, James only remained still, looking down at the bloody deck like a bashful child who had just been caught misbehaving.
“And what did you tell her?”
Eli looked around and shrugged exasperatedly, as if he could pluck some understanding of the situation from the gut-strewn deck around him. “I told her the truth. Told her she was a beautiful woman who any man would be lucky to have. Then I did what you couldn’t do for her.”
A vicious sob burst through James’ clenched teeth, so abrupt and unexpected that Eli leapt back and got tangled in a mess of fish and soaking net.
Gabriel let go of his arms as James stood there sobbing, his entire body shaking and trembling as he wept. Gently, Gabriel took James’ hands in his own, and leaned in closely to whisper softly:
“Let it go. It’s over, let it go.”
Their fingers intertwined as they clasped their hands together. Gabriel wiped away the tears from James’ eyes, and his face took on a pained look as he caressed his split knuckles. “Let’s see if we can find something for these cuts, ok?” Gabriel asked, gently smiling. James said nothing, but nodded, and Gabriel led him by the hand into the ship’s cabin.
Eli sat in stunned silence, alone on the deck, wallowing in the pungent aroma of fish.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 06:52|
|# ? Jan 24, 2022 12:25|
sentientcarbon is an illiterate, noodle-armed, premature whippersnapper because there should be a comma in their statement located before and a semi-colon located after my name. <-you also forgot this common punctuation tool<
Hey everyone look at this chump with his second-person narrative, trying to write Bright Lights, Big Boat or something lol. You probably used second-person because you know that's the rank you're gonna get in this competition (second place)
On an unrelated note, grinding out 800 words when you only have half an hour free to write is rather difficult
Edit: Double the Eli's?! Get out of my head old man!
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 06:59|
Paul crossed his left leg over his right and shook his foot. The leather of his Steve Maddens was still tight, giving the back of his foot a blister. Caprice stood there, periodically looking between her shoes and at Paul’s unbuttoned neckline. She couldn’t look him in the eyes.
Paul just reclined in his office chair and rapped his fingers along the hardcover book he had been reading.
“Why are you so shocked to see me? Your wife isn’t home,” Caprice said.
“Because you’re dead,” Paul said, uncrossing his legs.
“I don’t believe you. I remember the things you used to tell me.”
“I didn’t say ‘dead to me,’ I said dead. As in I wrapped my hands around your throat and watched your pretty green eyes roll into the back of your head.”
Caprice stared at her feet. Placing his hands on his knees, Paul pushed himself up off the office chair. “And then, while you were still pliable, I stuffed you into a garbage bag, and put you in my trunk.”
Stepping closer to Caprice, Paul leaned in to her neck and took a deep breath. Lilac. Grimacing, he straightened back up and looked Caprice over again. Deep bruises lined her neck, with a slight cut on her right side where his wedding band had pinched the skin.
“It’s okay, I forgive you for trying to kill me, I know you still love me,” Caprice said, slowly turning her bag back and forth.
“Then I drove you out to the new suburb development, and I dug a real deep hole, and I tossed your used up, worthless piece of poo poo body in and buried you real nice.”
“It wasn’t deep enough, but that’s I guess that’s nothing new for you,” Caprice said smirking.
Paul’s hands shot up, grasping her face, placing his thumbs over her eyes. His nostrils flared wide, and he took a deep breath. Slowly, he returned his hands to his side and laughed.
“You’re a hallucination. A manifestation of stress, and probably the Ambien. Nothing more.”
“Have you been losing sleep over me? That’s so sweet.”
Paul ignored her. Returning to his seat he looked at his notepad. Groceries to buy. Bills to pay. Journals to submit to.
A skinny arm reached around his seat back, a warm hand sliding into his open shirt. His chest hairs tingled and his skin goosebumped over at the suddenness of the touch, but he didn’t react. A finger circled his right nipple slowly.
“Let’s just go, the two of us. We can leave it all behind.”
“Still on about that, are you?”
Caprice spun the chair around so he could face her as she bent close. Thick blood vessels tinged her whites, threatening to swallow the pupils whole.
“None of it matters, your wife, your patients,” Caprice said. Paul sighed, growing impatient. “All those rejection letters.”
“Ha!” Paul jumped to his feet, startling Caprice. “These only came in after you died. You’ve given yourself away, so please leave me alone now. I have work to do.”
“If the writing was anything like that novel you keep working on, rejection was a foregone conclusion. Just let it go, and lets get out of here.”
Paul reached up to her and caressed her head. Letting his head tilt slantways, his eyes widened. Grabbing a handful of hair, he pulled Caprice down by his ribs.
“You want to go somewhere? I know where we can go!”
Dropping her purse, Caprice clumsily clomped after Paul as he stormed to the garage. Wrenching open the door to his sedan, Paul threw Caprice forcefully into the passenger seat.
Paul slammed the door closed, and was halfway to the driver’s seat before he stopped. Taking a deep breath, Paul went back into the house. Coming back he held the notepad in his hand, and got into the car.
“Groceries,” he said, smiling.
“Don’t want to make wifey upset,” Caprice said, returning his smile. Paul glowered as he put the car in reverse.
“Why are you taking me grocery shopping?”
“Oh you won’t be here for that. You’re just a minor inconvenience. A test of willpower.”
“Maybe you could write a paper on willing mental illness away,” Caprice said.
The leather on the steering wheel creaked as Paul tightened his grip.
“You’re right, it’d probably get rejected too,” Caprice said, looking out the window. Paul pressed harder on the gas.
“We’re going to the lovely grave I buried you in, so you can see what the worms have done to your precious face,” Paul gloated.
“lovely? Do you put as much effort into your digging as your lovemaking?”
“Just wait. Oh just wait.”
Paul’s sedan raced through the half-built suburban neighborhood. Only the first few houses of the subdivision had actually been built and put on the market, the rest of the neighborhood was just a mud clearing when the development company went bankrupt. At the end of a winding, flat road came a cul-de-sac. Paul slowed down, but kept going as he hopped the sloped curb and drove into the mud.
“I didn’t get to see this place in the day, very bleak,” Caprice noted.
“Enjoy it while it lasts,” Paul said, putting the car in park. Popping the trunk, Paul opened the door and stepped out into the soft ground. The heels of his leather shoes sank into the dirt, the instability irritating the back of his feet. He regret not changing into sneakers and socks as he retrieved the same shovel he used the first time he was here.
Caprice followed Paul as he used the shovel as a walking stick. Paul looked around, looking for the spot he picked the last time he was here. After circling the area for several minutes, he picked a place and began to shovel.
After several shovels, he took his sport coat off, and thought about returning to the car.
“I can hold that for you,” Caprice said. Paul paused, but handed it over cautiously. Caprice folded it over her arms and pulled it close to her chest as she watched.
The back of his feet stung as sweat crept into open sores. His leather shoes were caked in mud, and the ends of his pants were soaked in due and perspiration. Deep, moist stains formed at the pits of his shirt. Looking at his watch, he frowned and hurried his pace.
“You’re not gonna find me down there,” Caprice said.
“You shut your mouth. Just shut your loving mouth,” Paul said pointing at her.
Paul dug deeper, and deeper, the pit now was above his head. He was now piling the dirt at the end of the hole, so that he had a step to pull himself out of the wet dirt. Every so often, dirt from the piles on the surface would slide back into the pit. Paul would curse as sweat poured into his eyes, but he remained silent every time he heard Caprice giggle.
“You’re just wasting your time. Everything you need is right here already,” she said.
Dirt slid into the hole, landing on his shoulder.
“gently caress!” he shouted. He looked up at Caprice, waiting for her to say a snide comment. The towering sides of the hole seemed to stretch much further than he remembered. Caprice shrugged and smiled at him. She seemed so far above him now. Paul sneered and returned to digging.
The shovel thumped against something solid. He smiled and began to dig around the mass. Brushing away dirt, he revealed the familiar plastic yard trash bag he buried Caprice in. Tearing open the bag, he pulled out decaying scraps of the white dress she had been wearing that day.
“See, you stupid bitch, do you see now?!” Paul kept brushing dirt away until he got to her head, mostly skull and hair. He stood triumphant holding the skull with an entire hand. Palming it like a basketball it seemed so small to him. He looked to the top of the grave, at the walls towering above him. Caprice was gone. Laughing to himself he made his way to the mound that served as his stepping stone.
Slipping on the loose dirt, he fell back into the hole, landing on top of Caprice’s skeletal body. Dirt from the pile above the grave started to slide back into the grave again. Paul scrambled back to his feet, throwing himself at the edge of the hole.
He threw the skull over the lip, and began to claw his way up, his leather oxfords slipping through the soft dirt. Larger clods began to fall as the side of the hole started to come loose. With a final surge, he hauled himself to the top of the grave, and breathed a sigh of relief. Standing to look, the grave was more shallow than he thought. The dirt he thought had collapsed in on him was barely a crumble, the depth of the grave hardly above waist height. He looked at Caprice’s skull in his hands and grimaced.
Turning, he made his way back to his sedan. Staring at the skull he began mulling ideas over in his head for new articles. He sucked his teeth and looked up, locking eyes with a police officer who was standing near his car. Paul froze and the police officer both froze. Caprice’s skull fell onto the ground and the officer hunched and unholstered his firearm. Paul vision began to twist and a buzz filled his ears.
Sinking to his knees, he couldn’t even hear the officer shouting, but he knew what to do. Paul put his hands behind his head and slowly laid himself down into the mud. He looked over at Caprice lying next to him. She was smiling.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 09:24|
Intersection at Chang'an and Chongwenmen (353)
I'm trapped in a steel box in the middle of Chang'an Avenue. drat bastard A/C is dead again and it’s the middle of a Beijing summer. Palms slick with sweat, eyelids drooping - just want to get home already. The earth moves and the stars fall before the perpendicular traffic dries up. The lights turn green. I hit the pedal and my car lurches forward, as worn and spent as I.
Clearing the intersection would’ve been too easy. A black Lexus careens into my lane, cutting me off. I slam the brakes. Bumper locks against bumper with a hollow shudder. Left hand instinctively thumps the horn, and he wails at me in kind. But you're cut off and I'm not, rear end in a top hat. Hand over hand, I wrench the steering wheel for a hard right, tires screeching in protest. Accelerate just in time for a taxi to cut across the lane to block me. Wipe my hands on my pants - gently caress it's hot. To my right, a beat-up Peugeot swerves into the crosswalk, trying to pass. I'm boxed in on four sides. Knuckles whiten, gripping the wheel. Take a deep breath. Wipe my brow. The taxi in front has a clear path out - until a geezer on a cargo trike steps off the crosswalk and decides to cut across the whole mess. The taxi driver thumps at his door in frustration. The Peugeot guns it through the walk, scattering pedestrians, but more importantly, clearing my path. I trundle forward, tailgating him.
Should've locked bumpers. The red taxi, the bastard, cuts in with a squeal of his tires. I swerve into the crosswalk, nearly running someone over. He knocks the hood of my car as he passes. In the rear-view mirror, an accordion-bus trundles ponderously off the sidewalk, its wheels landing on the road with a steady thump-thump.
gently caress you all. Home free now. I clear the crosswalk, clear the intersection. Exhale. Celebrate victory by rolling down the windows, breathing in the putrid smog. The whisper of a breeze feels like a refreshing gale.
The next intersection is in four-hundred metres.
Bring it on, Seldom Posts.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 10:49|
Consider it brought Found Sound (a.k.a. the late potato). Note how the first line has an idiom, but it's a badass Chinese one. That's how you play the game, son.
The Tangles and Left Turns of Wu Bin, Bus Driver, Martial Artist, Seeker of Justice and Seducer of Women (759 words)
A left turn is impossible. But I have another option. “Break the woks, sink the boats,” I mutter. Channelling General Yu, I pull the bus onto the sidewalk. I rev the engine so the walkers will know to move. Peugeots and Mercedes alike fall to the wayside, but I see another tangle in the intersection ahead, worse than the one I have just escaped.
The only thing my exalted boss, ‘honourable’ Zheng, hates more than scratches is lateness on the route. Scatches come out of my pay, but lateness brings a screaming fit punctuated by his terrible breath that smells of ginger and moonshine. I cannot succumb to this clusterfuck either. But how to escape this? I decide there is no escape. Perhaps it is time to stop the bus and take a nap. To hell with Zheng. I cast my eyes about.
Normally I avoid mirrors like a chòu biǎozi strung out on the pipe would. Like her, it’s better not to know. But there is one mirror that is my saviour. Better than television, it’s the passenger mirror. At an earlier stop, a beautiful woman, with fingers like scallions and mīmī like turnips had boarded and sat right in my view. Admiring her is one of the better things I can do with my time. I resolve to park in the cross walk, put my feet up, and stare into the mirror.
I look in the mirror. “Tā māde!” I curse. The woman is now behind some ugly men. I can only see the top of her head. But what is this? One of the uglies has chopsticks out and is angling for the back pocket of the businessman in front of him. Here is my inspiration!
As he is bold, I am bold. I move my bus into the next intersection, completely blocking a nice black Lexus and an illegal taxi.
He gently parts the lip of his target’s pocket. As he is smooth, I am smooth. I maintain speed, allowing no one to slip into the vacuum created by my presence.
He slips the sticks into the pocket and withdraws the wallet. As he is bold, I am bold. I insert the bus through the opening just as the light changes and make my move. A complete U-turn. I pass the original mess I escaped via the sidewalk and pull up to the stop. I open the door and turn to smile at the passengers as they file out.
The beautiful woman follows the ugly pickpocket. I sigh. My jībā makes me do stupid things. I reach out and grab the wrist of the ugly man.
“One moment, sir. Please return the wallet you stole.” As expected, the thief pulls his chopsticks with his other hand and stabs at my forearm. He has sharpened them like the bill of a kingfisher. I release the wrist and drop my hand to the floor. He keeps following my hand with the sticks. I stand up out of my seat and rabbit-punch him in the kidney. He screams, and quickly spins the hand I had grabbed into a chop towards my throat. I parry and fell back with the strike. As a side effect, I am now pressed up against the beautiful woman. Ah, fortune. “My apologies,” I say—it’s important to be gallant when beginning a seduction. The thief heads for the door. I lunge for the handle and close the door on him halfway out. As he wriggles free, I pluck the wallet from his coat pocket. The thief looks back at me as the door closes, then shrugs and walks away. I open the door again and toss the wallet to the businessman.
“Thank you, sir,” he says.
“It was nothing.” I turn to smile at the woman. “I am always happy to see justice done.” She smiles back at me.
“You are very brave sir.” I get her phone number, although a toothless old hag begins berating me for not driving the bus, and I have to get back behind the wheel before I can learn more. As I pull away from the curb, she blows me a kiss and waves my wallet at me.
“Tā māde!” I slam the wheel with my fist. She is prancing away down the street and into a tangle of cars. But I see my chance—all I need to do is make a left turn.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 12:41|
Goodbye Court Meridian
Eric's work ethos was focused around consistency, and around that work ethos he conducted his personal time much the same. This composition was tuned with such accuracy that any misstep or skipped note inevitably stood out. From these ripples disturbing the placid arrangement of his life, Eric found that it was not the simple disturbances and perturbations of day to day activities that annoyed him the most, but the absolute truth that if they were not corrected immediately, larger obscenities would follow.
This Tuesday night had begun with Eric making the slightest error in movement while changing the blade of his razor. He'd flensed a thin layer off of right thumb and forefinger. It wasn't the pain that got to him so much as the almost unceasing flow of blood that followed. With a rag clenched in his fist, he managed to shave entirely with his left hand. He brushed a slight sheen into his clay colored hair before continuing his preparations. He cautiously rubbed a painstakingly almost-but-not-quite damp cloth onto his suit jacket, removing any speck of hair or dust from it. The motions required to put it on with just one hand available, jamming the cleanly bandaged fingers of his injured hand through the sleeve, were gentle and precise. Struggling to affix his cufflinks was something else altogether, and only moments into the task did one drop straight down the drain of the sink. He flinched, refraining just barely from chasing it down the pipes with his injured fingers. He threw his hairbrush down onto the countertop as hard as he could, cracking the formica slightly. He scowled, caught himself in the mirror and looked away. As he descended the stairs and walked towards his place of work, he kept his arms to his side.
The Court Meridian was busy this Tuesday, and Eric had been in the door for moments before having to assure a shouting customer that the gin and soda they had not ordered would be quickly replaced with a gin and tonic. Smoothing that wrinkle had set him off balance as he strode through the doors to the kitchen to acquire a salad to deliver to the table corner. He balanced the tray carefully with his non-bandaged hand, hoping no one would notice the missing cufflink. As soon as he set the tray down, an accusation shot up his spine.
"Are there no croutons?" an older guest asked.
"No, unfortunately," Eric responded with feigned empathy. "this is the Waldorf salad. There are apples, instead."
He portioned it out, struggling to use the tongs as deftly as he would have liked. His mouth relayed the rest of the "would you like fresh drinks" business as his mind was stuck on how the word "unfortunately" signaled an apology that the complementary salad was not the usual, boring spring greens or Caesar; as well as the absolute obscenity of an idea that fortune had anything to do with the situation at all.
His break came, and he slipped away to the front desk. He rubbed his wrist with his good hand. He'd borrowed two hairpins from the coatroom girl to secure his shirt sleeve. He'd also, in increasingly ungentlemanly steps, borrowed a cigarette, her lighter, and the keys to the coatroom. Locking himself in, he figured he'd have a moment to think. The night was simply off-kilter, and there was no clear way that he could see to stabilize it. The rest of the staff had seemed content to compensate for the evening rush by jumping over the details and into mistakes. They were problematic. With a quick rasp of his thumb across the spark wheel, he lit the cigarette and illuminated the inside of the coatroom. Here was a perfect mirror of the crowds assembled in the dining area. Disheveled cheap overcoats, or overly gaudy fur lined things that simply would not hold up to real weather.
He took a drag, long and slow, metering his break out as long as possible. He flicked the lighter again, looking closely for two sparkling dots he'd seen moments before. Here was something that was far and away the most hideous thing he'd seen all night. A non-descript fur coat topped with a greasy mink stole. He scowled at its eyes, which were absolutely replaced by diamonds some perverse taxidermist. He glared at it until his cigarette burned down to singe his already bloodied fingertips. He dropped the smoldering butt into the pocked of the coat and couldn't break eye contact as the thing ignited, flames reaching up and digging into the mink sewn into the top.
Eric backed towards the door and locked it from the inside. Smoke filled his lungs as he watched the fire reveal the diamond eyed creature's skeleton.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 13:00|
You've already said everything about yourself for me.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 13:10|
Check Engine (644 Words)
Nothing. Not a god drat thing. Somewhere there’s this guy laughing his rear end off because he tricked some guy up in Newfoundland into paying $90 for a cactus. I could have paid for the whole night with that. I’m going to head down to the festival anyway.
The cab pulls into the driveway. It’s an old piece of poo poo, but gently caress, I’m just getting a run downtown. The driver backs out of the driveway, “Where to, my buddy?”
“Busy down there tonight. My jesus, there’s some nice lookin’ young women around.”
“I don’t know how half of ‘em don’t freeze. Goin’ around with nothing on.”
We’re driving down Main Road and holy poo poo. Someone’s grabbed hold of my brain and they’re pulling it in three directions. I don’t say a word. We’re driving past the dairy farm. I’m glad the cows are alive. Does their life matter once their dead? Does anyone know they exist?
Ping. The check engine light comes on. It’s the car screaming, “For the love of god! I’m going to die.” The cab driver floors it. This car is dying. It dies just like a man. The doctor/mechanic says “I’m sorry sir, you have cancer/a cracked engine-head.” Is there a difference? Am I just a car? Am I a machine made out of meat? Maybe the only difference between us is a few misplaced atoms. I’m just a machine made out of meat, pretending I don’t have a one track mind and that I have this god and that I’m special. A machine built to pass on DNA and that’s it. A car is a machine that carries people. People are machines that carry DNA. I’m a machine. Oh gently caress I’m just a machine.
The cab driver interrupts my thoughts, “It’s alright, me buddy, it’s only the check engine light.”
He knows about the mescaline. He has to. How could he? He can’t. He knew I was looking at the light. “You’re some quiet.” It’s sinister. This man is sinister. The universe is sinister. Fump! The car misses. Fump! It misses again. “You loving piece of poo poo!” Fump! Fump! Fump! “Sorry me son, I’m gonna have to bring her into the shop. My buddy got one just down the road.” We pull into the garage. He picks up his radio and calls another cab for me. I get out. The cab driver talks to the guy at the garage. I go off to the side of the building to wait for the cab by myself. I watch them talk. I know every word they’re saying. High b’y, high as a fuckin’ kite. What are ya gonna do? Call the cops I ‘spose. They’ll cart him off in the paddy wagon. It’s all a big loving trap. Washroom. Go in. Left foot right foot. I lock the door. I’m safe. No one exists outside this little box. I’m just a sperm machine floating through space in my own, quiet little box. I always existed in the box. Nothing else ever did. Never outside. Never in. The mirror this is not me the me in the mirror is not the me in my head is this the me that everyone else sees the machine the truck the pulley the shovel
Breath slower. Nobody knows. Nobody knows you bought a cactus. No one knows you made cactus tea. You look fine. You look normal. Smile. People go down the street high every night and nobody knows. I scrawl, “Everything is OK ” on my hand. You can do this. I look at my hand. “Everything is OK .” Thanks hand. I leave the washroom and walk around to the back of the garage. Hordes and hordes of corpses. Broken down. Beat up. Every year, make and model you can imagine. My fellow machines.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 14:41|
Check Engine (644 Words)
I really like that your response to 'horde of corpses' was the George St. Festival.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 16:05|
The Saddest Rhino v sebmojo
One Hundred Leaves of Sentience
The skin of the man was jaundiced, ribs sticking out and dilated pupils cloudy. Puncture marks peppered across his forearms, broken at odd angles, and his left leg exposed worn muscle and bones. Harris prodded at the dislocated jaw, noting the wooden splinters and glass bits on the bruises. The car it was lying on still had its alarm blaring, hood caved in and the windows smashed.
Harris looked up. Stray curtains flowed in the wind of an open window. He took one last long drag, and flicked his cigarette at the corpse.
“Who the gently caress are you?” A police officer approached Harris, baton ready. Harris showed him the thing in his hand. “The Fed?” The officer said. “You’re fast.”
“What’s the story?” Harris asked.
“Skel jumper’s a homicide,” the officer said. “Jones was first to the scene, went in, stopped talking.” He pointed at the door of the apartment building, where several other policemen were standing around. “We sent Lee and Fellows in. They went quiet too.”
“Sounds heavy,” Harris said. “Go home,” he instructed.
The officer turned around and went to his patrol car.
The policemen at the doorway stared at the strange black man approaching them. “All of you.” Harris waved the thing in his hand at them. “Close the file. Remember nothing.”
They left, and Harris was alone before the building. He threw away the crumpled cigarette packet in his hand, and opened the door.
It was a mausoleum. Where the concierge desk used to be were mattresses stained in various shades of brown, surrounded by plastic bags and broken vials. A roach climbed up Harris’s shoe. He flicked it away, nearly kicking a face. Two of the policemen were down but breathing, bloodied faces swollen and missing various teeth. Another with a knife sticking out of his left shoulder was sprawled on the staircase, crawling towards the door.
Above the stairs were the occupants in different degrees of undress. All of them had glass-blank eyes, makeshift weapons in their hands steady. Their faces were covered with blood not belonging to them. Junkies and degenerates and hookers and tramps, guarding the second floor, ready to kill. Ready to die.
“I’m here to help,” Harris said, his palms held up.
He took a step up.
The group flinched and moved back.
He continued walking up, one step at a time. The group retreated, one step at a time.
Harris reached the first floor.
A naked youth with pierced lips jumped out of the group before Harris. His gaunt fingers bunched up into a fist, he punched Harris in the right cheek, which barely registered. Before Harris could react, a girl with pink hair bit into the youth’s left ear and tore it right off. The blood splatter formed a line on the floor between Harris and the group as other members attacked the youth.
Harris backed away, up the stairs to the second floor. The group remained where they were, and the youth’s screams punctuated the night chill.
All the doors were open save for Apt 204. Harris kicked out the latch, and entered.
He found the mother lying on the living room floor, her dress torn and her right breast exposed. Beside her was an open window with a broken frame, and Harris found blood-stained shards, broken syringes and a snapped stool leg. The mother had the same glassy look as her neighbours. Harris walked away from the plastic bags of waste and filth, and entered the smallest bedroom of the apartment where the anomaly was seated.
“Hey, girl,” Harris said.
She was barely six years old, her large eyes red and dried tear trails stained her cheeks. She held onto the only movable thing in the room – a dumpster dived-teddy bear. Her hair was jet black, and growing from her head was a forest of white lights going up to the ceiling and as wide as the room.
Tiny, fragile white threads, like those of a silkworm, criss-crossed and layered and foliaged from her head, creating a complicated map of capillaries, like busy interstate highways. Flashes of white traversed across the threads, blinking silently and randomly, each ending with pale glows of dandelion flower heads the size of distant stars.
“Thanks for letting me in.” Harris sat on the bed beside her. “What’s your name?”
Her voice was quiet, cracking and strained. “Lily.”
“Your dad, right?” Harris asked. She nodded, the forest of nerves from her head scattering dusts of radiance all over her fungus-infested room. “She hurt your mom?”
“No,” she whispered.
“But he crossed the line.”
He put her arms on her shoulders. “My name’s Harris,” he said. “And I want to help you. Make everyone okay. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll do what I can, you good with that?”
She looked down at her bear. “Dad?”
“Can’t fix that.”
He reached out to her nerves of consciousness. Fingers deft as a jazz pianist in a smoky bar, he plucked one thought after another, holding them between his fingers and analysing their secrets and regrets. He spun and edited, reversing decisions and rearranging memories. For each sentience he squeezed it tight, before releasing into a puff of dandelion seeds. Threads withered and fell off her head, dissipating into the void.
It took time. When it was done, the anomaly was a girl in a broken house.
“Do you need a hug?” Harris asked.
Harris wrapped Lily in his coat, picked her up and walked out of the apartment. The girl barely protested as they left her drugged-out mother behind. He stepped over the strewn bodies of her unconscious, mumbling neighbours, and walked into the backstreets.
Lily covered her face from the shock of cold air and snow.
“Where’re we going?” she asked.
“You know Hogwarts?”
“We’re going to the one for smart people,” Harris said with a smile, tapping the side of his head.
They walked into the night, and then disappeared from all public records altogether.
(Serioustalk/boringtalk, I forgot to dropbox this draft and left it in the office PC, so I drove back after a drinky session, triggered the silent alarm and security found me with alcohol on my breath cursing at the computer. I had to prove to them for 30 minutes that I wasn't transgressing boundaries and it was pretty annoying actually! Well that's my account where I nearly got into poo poo because I needed to write things for the Internet I hope you like it)
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 17:47|
By the way I figured since everyone is in a dickmeasuring contest I will write an extra hot entry for you all that still fits the prompt requested
Love in the Time of Circuitry (799 words)
Sam was all smiles when Jim slammed the door opened. “Sam?” Jim said. “What are you doing here?”
“I baked muffins,” Sam said, holding up a basket. “Sugar-free.”
Jim grunted and tipped his hat. “Thanks, scruffy.” Sam marched proudly into Jim’s house, inside barely lit save for a lone bare bulb hanging. Monitors spanned across Jim’s living room floor, blue teletext scrolling down the screens.
“Give me your phone,” Jim said. Sam obliged, and put down the basket on a chair.
“I brought red wine,” Sam said and winked at him. “Good for the heart!”
Jim did not respond. Sam pouted, watching Jim remove the battery and making irreparable scratches to the leather casing.
Sam looked around the room, just noticing the boxes and luggage piled all around. Most of them were filled with charts and diagrams, lined with tight handwritten notes. A box contained magazines. “You’re finally getting rid of those horrid Fortean Times!” Sam said.
Jim threw Sam’s phone at the sofa. “I have to destroy them,” Jim said. “Then I’ve got to leave. Tonight. They’re on to me.”
Sam stroked his salt-and-pepper goatee and went to Jim. “Spooks again?”
“They crossed the line last night. Again ten minutes ago. Your phone. Oh god your phone. Neurotransmitter’s tingling like crazy and I was staying non-incommunicado…”
Sam sighed. “Yes, the thing they put in your head. Darling, the cubs at the Frangipani call that a migraine.” He swirled his fingers through Jim’s chest and belly fur, then jumped back. “You’re sweaty all over!” Sam protested and shook his fingers. “I’ll get you a towel, you big baby.”
“Stop contradicting me!” Jim buried his face in his hands. “They are coming. They’ll put the cables in me and connect me to the servers and …”
Sam responded by rolling his eyes.
“By the way,” Sam said with a fake levity. “Shaving off the beard? Not my thing but soooo much better than your old conspiracy theorist hobo look. Woof.”
“I am not a hobo!”
“Jim, you are gorgeous, but you looked like you were going to crash my NYC fashion week photoshoot. Lose the hat too.”
“I can’t risk exposing myself!” Jim screamed at him. The lone light bulb flickered then blew up, scattering glass shards all over the muffins. Sam yelped, fell backwards, and flattened the Fortean Times. Burnt electrical smell filled the house as each computer monitor shut down one after another, sparks spurting like fireworks.
“I have to run,” said Jim.
Sam stared up at Jim in the darkness. Under the thin canvas of Jim’s trucker hat was the hint of a blue glimmer above his left ear.
Sam asked, “Are you breaking up with-”
Before he could finish, the room was lit with cones of flashlights from the windows. A loudspeaker echo screeched outside.
Sam picked himself up with some difficulty. By the time he stood up the light of tactical strobe lamps flooded into the hallway.
Jim was at the patio before the open door. Men in SWAT gear pointed guns at him. A helicopter hovered over them, chopping blades drowning out voices.
“You are trespassing!” Jim yelled at them. “Into my house! My head!”
The man with the loudspeaker spoke. “We’re taking you back, Bukowski,” He said. “It’s for the good of the nation. Please surrender.”
“gently caress off! I retired!”
Jim removed his hat.
Above his left ear was a large shaved patch, thin wires of copper and gold sticking out in random places, their ends glimmering with dull white neon heat. Beneath the skin was an artificial growth, protruding like a giant egg, the pattern of a circuit board constantly changing, glowing and sparking in short bursts.
The man clicked the loudspeaker off and made a pointing signal.
Sam got behind Jim, and grabbed his hand.
Red laser dots appeared on Jim’s forehead.
SHUT DOWN, Jim initiated the sequence.
High frequency feedback shrieked through the headset of the men. They slumped down to the ground without protest, disturbed by short spastic bursts as the comm devices on their belts exploded. One by one, the lights of the streets went out, and the helicopter descended, like a dragonfly missing wings, into the woods faraway. The night was briefly illuminated by the orange-red of a distant explosion, and finally went dark.
Jim was on all fours at the patio. Sam picked up and put the hat back on for Jim, covering the pulsating thing above his left ear.
“We should run,” Jim said, still looking down between pants.
Sam’s expression brightened. “We are still an item?”
Jim did not answer. Sam supported him with his shoulders as they walked across Jim’s lawn, carefully stepping over the SWAT men.
“Between your blood sugar and mine,” Sam said. “We’ll take my Hybrid and not run, ok?”
sebmojo I bet you cannot write as sexily as I do.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 17:55|
The Dog and The Corpse (1014 words)
Based on the Russian folktale
A corpse walked towards Filon. He kneeled by the stone heap, his satchel of tools forgotten, the fragment of bone he had found ground into his hand. As the corpse came Filon noticed that its feet didn't touch the ground. It walked about a foot above the earth, moving over the rocks and scrabble grass and the turns of the labyrinth. Grey shall blowing in the chill wind, head listing to the side, its eyes turned upwards unseeing. A moan found its way from Filon's throat and he fell back onto the heap. Stones scattered and tumbled from its sides. The corpse was nearly upon him. It bent down, a decaying arm emerging from the shall. Filon could see the broken nails and sagging flesh of its fingers as it reached, feel the scratch of those nails across his cheek as it caressed his face, smell the reek of earth and rot as the hand began to tighten its grip.
Filon's head jerked forward sharply as the hand was yanked away. The corpse was pulled back by a dark shape on the ground. Polka had his jaws around the corpse's shall and was jerking it left and right. The corpse struggled with the folds as Polka pulled it to the ground. The corpse managed to free its arms and wrap them around Polka just as the dog got its jaws locked on the corpse's throat. Filon didn't see what happened next because he was already fleeing out of the labyrinth and over the hills and across Bolshoi Zayatsky Island back to the port and civilization.
He was standing on the deck of the ferry when he saw Polka trotting down the dock carrying the satchel in his mouth.
"Amazing dog you have there, to bring your bag all this way," said the ferryman as he helped lower a plank from ferry to dock.
"Yes, I was doing some amateur archeology in the labyrinths when I misplaced my satchel. I lost sight of Polka not long after. I was afraid I had lost them both."
"You're a lucky man then," said the ferryman as he petted Polka's side. But when Filon reached out to take the satchel Polka growled and his fur bristled. In the end the ferryman had to retrieve the satchel for him and for the rest of the trip Polka was distant and hostile. He even snapped at Filon's hand when he tried to offer a bit of food.
"I don't understand," said Filon to the barman back in Solovetsky. Why would he bring back my satchel only to treat me with such hostility?" Polka was chained up outside of the tavern and his barks could be heard over the music from the radio. "He's never been like this. I've never had to use a chain but he wouldn't leave with me off the boat and he's never barked like this. I don't know what happened." Filon glanced up from his beer, nearly meeting the barman's eye.
"You say you lost him on the island?"
"Yes, in a labyrinth. I was investigating one of the stone mounds that are all over the place and when I looked around he was gone."
"Perhaps he meet up with some wild animals. Got hurt."
"Yeah... maybe. I'll take him to the vet when we get back to the mainland." Filon looked around the tavern, but it was not yet noon and they were the only people in it. "Look. You're not going to believe me, but I saw a ghost." Filon waited for the barman to laugh or dismiss him as crazy or drunk, but the barman just waited for Filon to continue. And so Filon told him about finding the bones in the mound and the floating corpse and how Polka had saved his life.
"A bad piece of work. But that explains why your dog's acting up. It's disgusted at your not helping it. There it was fighting with the spirit--and you deserted it and thought only of saving yourself. It's got a grudge and you've to make amends."
"But why bring back my satchel if he hates me now?"
"Because that's a good loyal dog you've got there, and you should do all you can to show your gratitude."
And so through the rest of the trip Filon offered Polka rich meats and treats, though Polka would not take them from his hand. He took Polka on long walks through the town and up towards the monastery and back but Polka pulled on the chain and refused to walk with him. He even invited Polka to sleep on the bed but Polka would stay in the hotel room's furthest corner and glare at Filon throughout the night.
Back in St. Petersburg thing were no better. The vets could find nothing wrong with Polka. Filon pampered him with expensive visits to fancy groomers and luxury dog toys. But still Polka would growl when he got near. Before long the hostility was more than Filon could bear. He pleaded with his friends and relatives to take Polka in. But there was either no room, or no money, or they were allergic to dogs, or were weary of the way Polka would snap and bite at Filon.
In the end Filon took Polka to a dog shelter. He told himself that Polka would get adopted and live a long happy life, though he did not believe it. Without Polka around life became easier for Filon. He packed up all the expensive toys in a box and stashed it in the attic. He took the small piece of bone that he had kept from Bolshoi Zayatsky and put it on a shelf by his front door. His life returned to routine and he began to plan a trip to the Denisova Cave. Some nights he would lay awake and wonder if Polka had survived the shelter, if Polka lived the life he deserved. He would try to think if he had ever simply thanked the dog, but he could not remember.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 18:17|
Three Card Monte (1124 words)
“You know why they’re called con games, right Marco?” I stop shuffling cards as I say this and turn to look at him.
“Well cause you’ve got to con stupid folk out of their money. It’s right there in the name.”
I sigh. “Well, you’re right about it being in the name, but con is shorthand for confidence. You gotta have confidence and whoever you’re conning has gotta have confidence they’re not being made a sucker.”
We’re standing around a small folding TV tray that we found by the dumpster behind my apartment. On it rest two jokers and the king of hearts, face down. The backs are brown with the yellow logo of the hotel they’re from. The flat concrete, dusty black asphalt, and the rough brickwork of the street are dull in the overcast light. It better not rain. Rain could kill our work for today. We wait but no one passes. Marco shifts his weight, keeps looking up and down the street.
“Hey, can we go over the drill again? Just to be sure.” I can hear the boredom and anxiety creeping into his voice. I agree, to soothe my mind as much as his.
“Yeah sure. When you spot someone coming up the street, we play a couple of rounds as they walk up to us. I’ll make a gesture so you know where the king is. I’ll make the game look easy, you throw the round, and then hopefully our mark will take the bait.”
“Alright, cool cool. Sounds easy enough.” He pauses. “How much did you say we’ll make off of this again?”
“I dunno man. The guy I watched in the park down by the museum last week looked like he made close to a hundred bucks in an hour.”
“Well why the gently caress aren’t we down at the park then? This place is loving dead. I haven’t even seen a goddamn dog in the thirty minutes we’ve been out here.”
“Because you can’t have two tables running cons right next to each other. It looks fishy and cuts into each other’s profit. Jesus Christ Almighty Marco you really are stupid. I can see why you flunked the eighth grade.”
“Hey, I got chicken pox and missed six weeks. That’s why I failed the eighth grade.”
“Yeah, but you were already failing before you got sick.”
I turn to look at Marco just as his fist connects with my jaw. It feels like my jaw shifts left into the next county and I think I taste blood. There’s a soft creak as my body falls onto the TV tray and I feel the legs give way under my weight. I get up and a quick spit on the ground leaves only saliva chilling with the leaves and dirt in the sidewalk cracks. Turning to face Marco all I see is him staring up the street dumbfounded. Following his eyes leads mine to three figures walking towards us.
“Oh poo poo. Marco help me get this setup again. I’ll kick your rear end later.”
“Like hell you will” but he comes over and helps me unbend the legs. The wind picks up and sends the card scattering so we barely have enough time to chase them down and get a round finished up just as the three men approach us.
“Tough luck there bud. Better luck next time.” I catch the eye of one of the men. He’s standing in front of the other two. Nice suit, nice watch, gold chain, and he’s smiling. Jackpot. “Oh, hello sir, interested in a game? The rules are quite simple. Only a fifty dollar bet.”
He looks back at the other two and laughs. His friends don’t even twitch, just keep staring at me and Marco from behind their sunglasses. My heart is beating faster and my stomach is feeling weird, but now his money is on the table. No way I’m going to back out now.
Flip the cards up. Joker joker king. Flip the cards over. Pick them up, one in my left, two in my right. Shuffle them and drop. The steps echo in my head the same as the last two hundred times I’ve done it. I set them down. The man looks at the cards, then me, then points at the middle.
I flip and a joker stares back at us. The man frowns, looks behind him, turns back and laughs.
“Well that’s the strangest looking king of hearts I’ve ever seen. Son you might want to get a better deck.” He starts to reach for the cash but I snatch it away.
“What are you talking about, that’s obviously a joker.” I flip the other two cards to prove my point. The king sits on the right.
The man coughs twice into his hand and his friends charge forward. They look like pit bulls, all snarl and slobber and rage. They run through the table, sending cards and cheap aluminum flying. Locked in place, I stare one in the eyes as he barrels down on me. The other peels off for Marco.
A fist connects with my torso. A thousand cheap metaphors of pain fill my mind. Spots, stars, then blackness fill my vision and all thoughts slip away. Seconds later I drift back into consciousness. Spit, dust, leaves, and shined leather shoes fill my vision. I hear Marco groaning to my side. Another pair of black leather shoes step into sight..
“You little shitlords want to run a game on my streets, you need to pay for the right.” The dull blunt of oxfords dig into my side. I hear Marco grunt.
“You try to run a con on the Marioni's you pay the price.” Another dig into my ribs. Blunt tips on stiff bone.
“Now pay attention, we’re talking business here.” Another kick and a crack is almost audible. I’m pretty sure he just broke one of my ribs. Oh god he broke my ribs. A cry escapes my lips and I start sobbing quietly. It feels right, but each heave hurts my side. I can barely breathe.
“Now you jokers listen and you listen good. You work for me now. So every loving Sunday I want to see an envelope with a thousand bucks in it in the collection plate at Saint Marcs. And if one week it isn’t there, I’m going to send my friends here to hunt you down and mail your heads to your mothers? Okay?” All Marco and I can muster is groans. The six feet in shoes depart, continuing down the street. The last thing I hear before I pass out is Marioni.
“Remember; Saint Marcs every Sunday, every goddamn week, for the rest of your useless loving lives”
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 18:35|
The instruction to keep things moving and full of bloody energy really contradicted the slow, creeping, petty paranoia at the heart of Tom Wait's song and poem. At 791 words, I hope it works.
(Sorry Sitting Here, couldn't wait any longer.)
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 18:57|
The Old Ship of Zion (789 words)
Mama's always tellin me not to go wandering outside when it's light out, an the sky is flashing with the green, but now that she's big she can't chase me as quick. I don't mind her hollering, cause I wanna catch an eyeful of them ships that drop down to our swamp once every while. Once they gone, won't be no more for a whole year. All I want is just an eyeful of that pretty black metal; I'll just think on that while Mama wallops me later. Just a tip of a teaspoon of a look at them ships is worth all the wallops in the world.
Mama hollering, but I keep walking through the wet wooded strips that lead to the landing place. The swamp's dark and I feel night shivers even though I know it's daytime. Even as they dead, them big old cypress trees is doin a real good job keepin the sun out. That's why we can get by with just a layer of mud, Mama say, unlike the bubble folk who can't even go outside without turning pink like they been turned inside-out. The bubble folk can't even have babies on they own, so they gotta have Mama do it for them. Mama says too that I better watch for snakes and spiders and such things when I'm out, but I ain't never seen any of them lately. When they took all the birds and the gators and the swamp rats and Daddy, I reckon they took the snakes and spiders too.
The landing place is just three hail marys' worth a walk away from our house, so it ain't long before I see the legs of the ships shine through the trees. They exactly as I remember: bigger n' taller than the biggest cypress I ever saw and smoother than my Mama's belly. Once I caught them as they was leaving, and I saw them float away like dandelion seeds. Other people here too, but they too clean-looking to have been here long as us. Mama says don't talk to none like those cause we ain't ship beggars like them. They probably ain't even Cajuns. I love my Mama enough to keep quiet, at least, so I jus stay behind a tree and watch.
All them cleaner people wearing rags, begging off the men hauling boxes and roll-ups from the ships. When the men start firing they guns to scare off the crowd, I run back into the swamp. They'll come by our place later too probably.
"Kerm! Je le jure devant Dieu, inside right this now!" Mama says standing in our doorway, waiting for me with water on her cheeks. I try to squeeze past her, but it ain't no use when she's so big. She grabs my shirt by the collar, drags me inside, and wallops me hard. I close my eyes and try to see the ships in the black part behind my eyelids. Mama cries.
When I wake up again, I wear my helmet and Mama's put my show on. Our helmets got wires, so I have to stay on the couch or else the wires will pop right out the back.
"On today's episode," the light-skin clean man say, "we have Brenda, who says that she's in love with a hologram!" The place where he's at is pretty and clean and peach-colored, with chairs that don't look like nobody's sweated on them. I don't know what's a hologram, but I keep watching anyway. "But not just any hologram, ladies and gentlemen: he's also a Klansman!" Videos of blowed-up white buildings flash and there's fire, and people yell and cuss. Just when the show gets to the good part, Mama pulls the helmet off.
"Naw, Mama!" Quick as that, I'm crying a little. She shushes me and says that the men from the ship'r here. Soon as I hear that, I suck the tears back up again and stand up with my back straight. The men are standing inside our little house, holding a box of the big, pink loaves, with the red and yellow lines of vitamin, plus cartridges of helmet pictures for kids. I'd rather have crawfish, but I don't say nothin. Mama says I gotta be a man, especially for the clean gun men.
The men look nervous, but they don't say nothing. "I'm ready," Mama says, and she puts her hand on my head. "Kiss her bye-bye, Kerm." I lean over and give the side of her belly a little peck, just like before. The men open up a box full of tools as smooth and shiny as they ship. Mama sends me outside to wait. I wonder what shows they got this time.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 19:16|
The sun was hot overhead. I took a breath and a firmer grip on my sweat-slick shovel. Jammed it into the hard earth. A wedge of dirt levered out and I put my boot on the blade to make it count. The grass was dry under my feet and the boards of the fence next to me radiated heat. It hadn’t rained for weeks.
I heard a door open and looked up, wiping sweat out of my eyes. It was Tracey, the wife of my neighbor Jack. She looked worried, leaning on the door frame. I looked down and kept on digging. That dog was still barking down the road. I stepped on the shovel to work it deeper into the dirt, imagined I was standing on its loving head. Feeling the vertebrae crunch under my boots.
“Dan, I … we… need to talk,” she said. I glanced up. She was leaning over the fence, heavy gold hair hanging lifeless in the still air.
“Nothing to talk about,” I said. I lifted a heavy shovel load, threw it on the pile behind me. Not long to go.
“But what are we going to do,” she said.
I leaned on my shovel, looked up at the cloudless sky. The sun was a blazing hole in it, pitiless and watchful. I looked at it a moment, then over at her. She was crying. “Go back in the house, Tracey,” I said. “Finish packing.”
Jack had thrown a brick through my window first. Come through after it, knife in hand. I’d gripped his wrist, slammed the hand into the wall. Taken his headbutt, fallen over. He’d kicked me twice, three times. I remember the sound of his boot hitting me, the sound of a rib cracking. I remember grabbing the knife from the floor, stabbing up. His hot blood washing off in the shower afterwards, spiraling down the plughole.
The hole was deep enough. I threw down the shovel. Tracey had gone. I put both hands on the curtain-wrapped bundle, rolled it over. He was heavy in death. Rolled it again. We’d got on well enough, even played poker at his house few times. And again. I was panting, drop of sweat hanging on the end of my nose. But then one night I’d looked up, seen Tracey staring at him. Loathing him. Her beautiful face a mask. In the end I wasn’t even sure who seduced who.
I tipped the body into the hole. It landed with a sodden sound. Cool down there, and dark. I had a sudden urge to climb down on top of the body and pull the dirt in after me. To lie there forever, wrapped in earth.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 19:39|
The pistol smashes into my face and I fall to the floor. Hands bound behind cannot break it but the soft rug does, deep pile, Persian, from my friend Mohammed Reza. I feel the wet warm spreading under my face and doubtless staining it. A pity.
The blow explodes in my guts and I can’t breathe and then more and more detonate all over, my ribs, my crotch, my back, my face, and then they stop and there is only the pain left. My ears ring, I think the men are talking but I can’t tell. My suit is probably ruined. Then they haul me to my feet and I black out for a moment and then I am staring at one of them.
“Mister President.” He is a young man, bright eyes, with stars on his collar. Green uniform once smart I suspect. He has the kerchief of a slum thug, red of course, but his accent is barely disguised middle-class. No doubt a university brat. What a fool I was to let them run afield for so long. Too kind to memories of my own youth chasing skirts and dodging lectures.
“We have killed your guards and secured the palace. The city is falling. It's over for you.”
“I am at your service.” I put on a smile and my face hurts but yields enough expression to make him scowl.
"Do as you will."
The commander gestures and they drag me to the balcony. A low red sun paints the streets bloody but so many of them need no such aid. Smoke rises from fires and guns still call over the rooftops. The revolutionary directs my gaze ahead to the plaza, where I stand, giant, pointing the path to the future.
"All these monuments to your ego," he croons in my ear. "We will destroy them."
"If you like. It doesn't matter now." I try to look at him but my eye on that side is not working. I do not think I could stand if they were not holding me.
"It doesn't matter? You are putting on a brave face Mister President, but do not think you are commending yourself to posterity. The people know the scum you are. Your crimes will be heard in the courtroom and then you will swing from the scaffold."
Something hammers my gut and it twists into a knot of breathless pain. A wave of haute cuisine floods my shirt. As I fumble for breath they drag me back inside and the commander stares down at me. His eyes are bright but now he is angry, a last gift.
"We are taking all of this from you. This palace. This country. They will go to the people. Why bother to affect calm? Maybe if you beg we will give you a more comfortable cell."
It takes effort to control my breathing. There is pain in my chest. "Because really, you are taking very little. What will you do with this place?"
The commander grins. "The people's republic will be headquartered here temporarily," he says. "Then we will make it a museum, or a hospital, or a university."
"And so every day people in the plaza will walk past my palace, sitting there looming over them, as if I was still there." I cough and my ribs scream. "You might as well leave the statue standing."
"If the people find the building offensive, then we will tear it down. If not, no matter."
"And will you tear down the factories too, and the roads? This whole country is mine. It was made with American dollars, that I found for us. Seize the 'means of production' if you like. Every scrap you make with them for your new Mister President in Moscow will be another piece of my legacy."
The pistol again and the rug again. Such a good rug. I'm sorry, Mohammed. Visit my family in America, won't you? And move faster than me when this happens to you. There is a chill between my eyes and I open them to find the barrel of a pistol.
"All these things were made by the people, not by you!" His spittle hits me and then the middle-class calm drops over his face again, fitting badly. "And we would have more of them without your graft. We are merely taking them back."
"Do you have nothing more than your tired Marxist formulae?"
"Formulae that are defeating your thugs. Enough of this." He looks across the room at someone I cannot see. "Comrade. How goes the fighting?"
"We have repulsed the fascist from the airport. The city is coming under our control. Though we have lost contact with the force in Revolution Square. Reinforcements are on the way to investigate."
"That force is watching our flank. Make sure we keep it secure." He turns back to me and presses the gun into my skin. "You hear, Mister President. You are losing the war. The Americans cannot help you now."
"No. No, they cannot." They are still licking their Asian wounds. "But they don't need to. Will you wipe the photographs and histories like your hero Stalin did? Even that will not be enough. The widows are mine and their sad songs are mine. I am in their hearts, and you cannot cleanse a heart of blood without stopping it." I push forward into the barrel but his arm is unyielding. The warm metal presses on my forehead.
He stares with revulsion. I let not a flicker cross my face.
"Fire if you like. You cannot kill me."
Then there is a blast, a commotion, somewhere in the building. The noise of the battle is loud in the air now, not sequestered in distant streets.
“drat them - through the square!"
“Commander! We must go!”
"With him? He'll slow us."
There is gunfire and shouting close, so close, and I stare down the gun at the bright eyes. Son of mine, you were always smarter than your father. You will do well in America where our friends are and where people are free. Use your inheritance well and look after your mother. The bright eyes squeeze the trigger.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 19:49|
Meaning (734 Words)
He was putting the money on the table when he heard her stir. He turned back towards the bed and she gave him a shy smile that turned into something raw and damaged when she saw what was in his hand.
A woman will find meaning in cash left on a table and a man slipping his clothes on in the early morning light, meaning that rises above barriers of language and speaks itself clearly.
Before he had a chance to say anything, before it even seemed possible that she could have moved he found himself on the receiving end of a series of slaps that set his ears ringing and his adrenaline surging. She was almost growling as she slapped at him and it was only with a desperate, strangling sort of self control that that he merely shielded his face with his forearms and grabbed for her wrists.
Last night, the language barrier between them was cute and romantic, their muddied attempts at communication sweet like two toddlers speaking of love but now it seemed like she spoke only in shrieks, guttural and gruff and he couldn’t understand a word of it. She seemed to share the same affliction because she wasn’t listening at all to his protestations as she wiggled to loosen his grip on her, fingernails digging at his arms.
They danced this way around the room, stumbling over the hastily strewn clothes littering the floor, her twisting and gouging, him trying to keep a grip on her and avoid the knee she was trying to drive into him. In panicky desperation, he released her wrists and gave her a firm shove back towards the bed. She stumbled backwards, calves hitting the side of the bed, forcing her to sit awkwardly.
With that, the fight seemed to go out of her. She sat pitifully on the side of the bed rubbing the angry red marks on her wrists where he had gripped her. She lowered her head, hiding her face behind her tangled dark hair and her shoulders began to shake.
“Oh Jesus.. Don’t do that..”
She rubbed her fists angrily into her eye sockets, grinding away her tears and then looked up at him.
“Go,” she hissed and then lowered her head again.
She looked so stricken sitting there, shoulders slumped, sobbing, that he stepped closer and tentatively touched her shoulder. With an angry motion, she shrugged his hand off her shoulder and stood, defiantly looking him straight in the eye.
“Get out you.. you.. gently caress!” she shrieked and raised her hand to slap him again but instead began weeping brokenly and sank weakly back down onto the bed.
He stepped back quickly, hands again raised to show his innocence. He had no words to explain himself to her, to explain that the money wasn’t payment but just spontaneous kindness. Kindness to a girl who was as lost in this country as he was, kindness for her tiny apartment, for the cramped kitchen, for the sagging mattress and dripping sink, for the battered and dog eared German/Greek dictionary, and for the heartbreaking effort she had made to create a home from all of this, her cheery curtains that looked out on a dreary parking lot, the handpicked flowers on her small table.
For a few hours, she had brought joy and beauty and romance to his life, he had merely wanted to offer something to alleviate some of the quiet desperation of hers.
“I’m sorry,” he said as he awkwardly wiggled his feet into his shoes and picked his back pack up off the floor.
She didn’t look up as he backed from the room and closed the door.
He stood in the dark hallway, bewildered and shaken. He shook his head to clear it and then stepped past the broken elevator and walked down the stairs that had seemed so romantic and foreign the night before but merely looked drab and depressing now. He paused in the foyer and looked wistfully back towards the stairs and then opened the door and stepped out. The air was fresh still from an early morning rain and the street glistened in the light of the rising sun. In his pocket, forgotten, was the note he had written in painfully rendered high school German to explain the money.
It was his second day in Munich. He still had a lot to learn.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 19:55|
One hour to the close of Round 1.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 20:03|
Caprice breezed through the door, dropping her purse on top of the shelf before coming to a stop in front of Paul with her hands on her hips, the fabric in her dress still swirling around her. He was in the middle of his morning coffee and just stared at her over the edge of the cup at first, trying to think of something to say. They stayed like that for a bit before Caprice realized that she was going to have do break the ice.
“Hi, Paul. How're things?”
Hearing her voice broke the spell and he hurriedly put down the cup and jolted to his feet, awkwardly sticking out a hand she proceeded to ignore entirely as she swept him into a hug. When they pulled apart he was smiling and somewhat coherent.
“Hi back,” he said, grinning. “Still letting yourself into people's houses, I see.”
“Eh, saves time and lets me make a dramatic entrance” she said, waving a hand dismissively. “You want me to stay out, buy better locks.”
“I can't afford what I'd need.”
“Aha!” she said, raising a finger into the air. “Already you've hit on the reason I'm here, you destitute bastard.” She paused a moment, looking him over. “You up for some work?” she asked, her tone light and challenging. “Some real work I mean, not sitting around in a glass box waiting to die of boredom.”
He stiffened, then crossed his arms and shook his head.
“No,” he said, firmly. “Caprice, it's great to see you but I got out. For several very good reasons, not the least of which is that I'd actually like to die of boredom, instead of bleeding out in a back alley somewhere. I've turned a new leaf, dammit, and I won't let you drag me back down!” He glared at her and managed to last a whole five seconds before he let out a tiny snort and they both broke down laughing.
“You used to be able to hold it longer,” she said, chuckling.
“What can I say, I'm a little rusty after two years.” he said, spreading his hands ruefully.
“C'mon, escort me into what I'm assuming is a tastefully appointed kitchen, pour me a cup of coffee and we'll talk.”
* * * *
He was crouched by the junction box, comparing the tangled mess of wires in front of him to the schematic he'd been given. Laminated, which was another reason he always enjoyed working with Caprice. She thought of the little things, like “It might be raining and paper gets wet.”
Let's see, he thought, this tells the security company that the alarm's being tampered with, so it goes first, then we reroute this, snip this, aaaaand “We're in,” he said into the headset. “Alarms are safe, they can buzz all they want but no one's going to hear.”
“Pulling up front with the delivery truck now,” Caprice's voice came over the radio. “Head down to the back with Frank and Charlie.”
Paul had already rolled up his tools and begun heading towards the ladder at the back of the roof. It was a rainy night, miserably cold, and he was glad to get his gloves back on. Down the ladder and across the alley waited the two guys he'd been introduced to, Frank behind the wheel of the panel van they'd quietly stolen from a rental lot two weeks ago and Charlie sitting in the back holding onto two guns. He silently passed Paul one and they waited, not talking, until they heard the sound of the delivery truck coming down the back alley.
Caprice parked so that her truck blocked the van and got out without acknowledging them, just heading to the back door of the building and knocking on it. After a brief wait somebody opened it and they caught a few snatches of conversation.
“Rookie mistake, I'm sorry...”
“Nah, everyone does it at least once, just let me open the main door for you and back in nice and gently...”
Caprice headed back towards the truck, swinging it around as the main gate opened and then Fred hit the gas and they reversed into the loading bay. Before the solitary guard could even finish gaping Paul and Charlie had piled out of the back and Charlie had his gun in the man's face, telling him calmly to lie down on the floor, now, hands behind your back, good man, no one's going to get hurt just do as I say. They gagged him and zip tied his hands, then left him on the floor, off to the side. Caprice came in with her gun out.
“Same as always, two guards left in the front, both at the desk, not paying attention to anything.” she said.
Charlie and her headed off to deal with them. Paul stayed back at the loading dock in case somebody was moving around unexpectedly, but three minutes later they were back, pushing the two guards ahead of them.
Then it was just a matter of moving a series of locked steel suitcases from a room into the back of the van and within twenty minutes they'd peeled off, leaving the delivery van in the loading dock. They drove for a bit, stopped at a deserted warehouse and switched out the suitcases to two different cars they had stashed there, and only then did Paul crack a smile.
“Well, that's another one,” he said, giving Caprice a hug. “I'll see you in a week at the rendezvous,”
“Have fun and don't make a pass at Frank, you jackass.” she said, hugging him back. They broke off, and suddenly he saw Charlie with his gun out pointing at them. He threw them both to the ground, heard the shot go off, heard Frank start swearing and firing too.
Paul fumbled for his gun and got it out, tried to figure out who was shooting who and why but then he felt the hammer of God come down on his shoulder and he dropped the gun and fell to the ground, trying to scramble away to recoup but his vision went black and he fell into oblivion. The last thing thing he heard was Caprice yelling something, but he couldn't make out what.
* * * * *
He was holed up in a motel, bullets pulled out of him by a vet who didn't ask questions and no company but the drone of the TV. It'd been long enough that he didn't need the pain pills anymore but he still had some, so why not?
She breezed in again, even though he'd bolted it from the inside. He'd been expecting her on some level and so didn't flinch this time, just glared at her.
“Out,” he said. “I don't give a poo poo what you have to say, just turn around and get out. You put me in deep poo poo and I'm not going to give you that chance again.”
She looked at him, wounded, unable to speak, then turned her back to him and started shaking.
“You heard me,” he said sternly. “Don't pull this with me, it's not going to...ah hell.” he said, giving up and starting to laugh.
She turned back around, grinning wide. “I don't even know why you still try that.”
“Because one day I'm going to mean it and I need practice. You got my cut?”
“Sure do,” she said, and sat down on the bed to spread out the takings.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 20:07|
Hope you're ready for some experimental mumbo jumbo, because I'm not.
Understanding (419 words)
I don’t love you I never said. I didn’t have to. Didn’t need to. It was the 41st century and we were no longer slaves to our needs. The attunement a success, we understood each other perfectly, the alternative long impossible.
I know you didn’t say. Couldn’t say. Didn’t have to say. Our forms hung limp, adrift in the monochrome; placeholders for the abstraction we had become. You said nothing, but the chemical signature of your soul betrayed you. As did mine. Your eyes unseeing stared at nothing in particular, but the electric contours of your thoughts danced madly across your cortex releasing fumes of emotion enough to choke me. Yellowing clouds of pain and regret laced with red, dark red, and hate. I gasped for breath in the sea of information, but I would not drown. I could not drown. And I could not find it, the one emotion I wished to see. There was no sorrow.
The very thought cut across your psyche like a razor. You want me to be upset?
I only thought you might be. We shared some good times.
Those times are meaningless now.
I know. I know.
That curt pragmatism. Even before we’d had the procedure. I’d loved that about you, yes. I still did. Your pragmatism. Love it. But you yourself no longer.
The soul between your synapses churned darkly, your next thought a surprise to no one.
You don’t even know why.
I knew this was true. It didn't even require acceptance.
You’re right. I don’t.
I could withhold nothing. Not even that. Tact and deception had become a foreign language to us. We only had each other. Our thoughts were one. We could hurt no one but ourselves.
It should have troubled me, but it didn’t. That I didn’t know why. I didn’t know why. Still I extended my consciousness to trace your psyche, but could not hide my reason for doing so. Comfort. My own comfort. I was searching. Searching for the flaw, the imperfection. The reason I didn’t love you. Not anymore. Your mind struggled under my caress, yet you could not escape it.
What’s wrong with you.
What’s wrong with you.
The chemistry of our thoughts exploded, the room filled with the bioluminescence of life. From within the flush struck the spear, infinite in length. Along every inch was inscribed the reason, my reason. It pierced your soul and mine, yet for all its majesty rung hollow.
We've grown too close.
...You're a pissant, Jim.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 20:36|
Wait, that probably counts as an idiom near the end there doesn't it. Shoot.
Congratulations Tender on your victory.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 20:43|
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 20:49|
Even though we didn't have to, I decided to answer Mr. Waits' question anyway.
Silent Night, Holy Night
The night before Christmas and the end of the world, I stood on my roof.
"Goodbye Miss Susan, Frances and Ted," I murmured. "Goodbye corner store, and Agnes and Fred." I said goodbye to the neighborhood that night, one by one until morning's light turned the sky greyish-blue. "I'm sorry," I said to the sleepy rooftops and quiet chimneys, who never did anything wrong.
Down in the living room, the pregnant floor bulged and heaved and the air was hot and fetid like a fevered womb. The floorboards heaved and shifted, and out of habit I went for my nails and scrap wood to patch it up.
"Oh ho!" I said when a tremor shook my whole house. "Baby's a 'comin." I let the floor be, to warp and twist and fragment as the thing underneath moved up, slowly up. The world itself seemed to dilate and stretch sensuously around my little house as time and space spread their legs to let my baby out.
I sidled around the edges of the living room to my bedroom door. Sticky notes, print outs and newspaper clippings fluttered on the walls and ceiling when I entered, stirred by a gush of hot air.
Outside, the first concerned citizen pounded on my door.
I kicked back on the bed and turned on the television. The twenty-four hour news cycle blathered about elections that would never happen. The cooking channel urged me to try exotic restaurants in places no one would ever go again. Cartoons taught children values they would never use.
Another tremor. The pounding at the front door came again.
I felt giddy and voyeuristic watching the television, knowing the answer to the unspoken question implicit in every heartbeat of every living thing: Yes it all ends. Soon.
There was a mighty crack! as the first of the floorboards split. I jumped up with a whoop and ran into the steamy living room where the floor and the very earth itself were heaving and churning up, up, up.
They were trying to force the door from outside, Frank and Ken and Jaden and all the neighborhood boys. They couldn't stop the birth, oh no, but I wasn't about to midwife this baby into a hostile environment. Nuh uh. I took up my hammer and nails and wood, braced my feet on the undulating floor, and I started pounding.
The door splintered inward, but held. I hammered the first board in place and then started on another. The windows I had done long before, when the neighborhood brownnosers and peeping Toms decided they had some right to know what I was up to in my own home. I heard the muffled sound of glass shattering against plywood.
"Mr. Brown," someone shouted through the door. "We're coming in there Mr. Brown."
I wondered how they knew my name, which of the wretches had nosed around in my mail, but then---
but then. Beautiful, glorious, inscrutable, my child reared its terrible and wonderful head. It breached the growing hole in the floor, surged upward in a torrent of sulfurous effluent. It was a tangle of ridges and mouths and elegant angles that defied the mind. The foundation of the house rocked, and I heard the men beyond the door scatter too late, voices raised in fear and confusion.
The air was hot, growing hotter, and my skin broiled and puckered and I fell to my knees in awe and pride, reaching up, running a hand along one of the infinite facets of my child's face.
There was another contraction and then debris were raining down around me and jagged wood and metal were ripping me apart and the last thing I knew was dawn breaking on Christmas morning and the sublime flesh of my son, my only son.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 20:50|
I don't know why everyone's ignoring the word count but whatevs!
Shipping and Services (1160 words)
The third receptionist (Ms. J Lilles, under the employ of Ms. R Rodriguez, under the employ of Ms. A Larson) is unhelpful. She gazes at her nail file from beneath her acutely purple eyelids. She tells Waldo, “Ms.Rodriguez is very busy receiving other clients.” The file grinds its way across her nails and Waldo can see tiny flakes of polish falling scattershot onto her desk.
“Clients with appointments.”
They're getting all over the papers.
“Clients with pertinent issues.”
They're on his face, fisheyed and passive and emblazoned onto the document like a witch doctor's fetish. Waldo's eye twitches. He tells her, “I've been trying to get through for an hour. I don't have much time left.”
“You'll have to wait. Did you purchase the warranty? Are you a preferred customer?” Her eyes flick back up to him, and narrow. He can hear the silty movement of the file.
“You'll have to wait.”
“I can't.” He brushes the paper off and stabs a finger at the time of death. “You need to fix this.”
“It looks perfectly fine to me,” the receptionist says. “It matches our records and the records we have on file.”
“I'm right here. Talking to you.”
She grimaces, and picks up the phone on her desk. Her hand hovers over the button pad. “I'll see what can be done, Mr. Estock, but these seem in order. Whether you have failed to pass on is not the filing system's fault.” She puts the mouthpiece to her tinted lips and presses one button. “Mr. Stone,” she says. “A... Waldo Estock is here and he has an issue with his file. Yes. I know. Yes. No, he didn't. Yes. I told him he'd have to wait for Ms. Rodriguez but he is very insistent. Yes. Okay. Yes.”
She replaces the phone.
“I'm going to send you to Mr. Stone in Databases,” she tells Waldo. “Go out the door you came in, round the hallway, take a left at the end, up two floors and he'll be in the second office on the left in the far side of the room.”
Waldo wants to say something but he can't think of what. He turns and pushes his way through the door and back into the hallway. The fluorescents shudder and wink at him. They hum in frequency with the back of his teeth. He rounds the corner past three employees at a vending machine, discussing the lawn party of Anne Something. He climbs the stairs. He enters Mr. Stone's office.
Mr. Stone bounces a racquetball off of the wall behind Waldo's head. He is as solid and amorphous as his name suggests. “Wally. Look, Wally, once you're out of the database it's verrry difficult to put you back in.”
“It's a necessary difficulty, Mr. Stone,” says Wally. “It's my life at stake.”
Stone holds up the paper in one hand, forming a small crease with his thumb. The ball bounces off the wall again. “Wally. The database we have is verrry efficient. And it's saying:” he shifts his laptop to show Waldo. “Three dead in head-on collision on I-575. Boone L Dickinson, Abbey J Dickinson, Waldo D Estock. You're Waldo D Estock?”
“Wally, I'm truly very sorry, my condolences, but you've passed on. It says so right here”
“You can't raise the dead, Wally.”
“I'm not dead,” says Waldo. “I've never even driven on I-575. I had an English Muffin for breakfast yesterday morning and then I went for a jog and when I got home I read the letters of bereavement and I sent in the loving form.”
“The PD-46. I sent you people the thing and I haven't heard back and my funeral is in fifteen minutes. Fix this.”
“Wally.” Stone catches the racquetball in one paw and squeezes it. “The database doesn't make mistakes. I made the database. Are you telling me I made a mistake?”
Stone carefully places the racquetball on his desk. “You're going to need to talk to Customer Services.”
“I was just in line for customer services for an hour. Where's the form?”
“Ask the Mail Room. Two floors down, take the hallway to the right, it's the door in front of you. But Wally.” Stone rolls the ball off the desk. It lands percussively on the floor and bounces three times. “You aren't some sort of Lazarus rising from the pit. And check your watch: the funeral's in five minutes.”
Waldo glances at his watch then charges out the door and down the stairs. His feet spring off the vague green carpeting. He rushes past the drones at the vending machine. One of them says something as he passes to make the others laugh.
The mailroom is close and sweaty and the close, sweaty mailroom clerk snaps his gum. “PD-46? The resurrection notice? I think I'd remember one of those.”
Waldo is no longer listening. He rifles through the forms and pages and birthday cards on the sorting table. Watch. Two minutes. He gathers swathes of paper and pushes his way past the clerk, who calls after him: “I'm very sorry for your loss.”
He shoulders the door open and tears down the halls. Papers fall from him like leaves off a dying tree. The fluorescents sallow his skin. He mantles the receptionist's receptionist's receptionist's desk to her loud protest. He knocks over one of the jawing effigies at the vending machine. The other two low at him as he bounds up the stairs. He floods Stone's desk with funding reports and get-well cards and e-mail transcripts. “There. Look in there. I sent the form.”
Stone says, “Wally. It's time for your funeral, my man. My hands are tied now.”
“I'm alive. Look at me. Please.”
The receptionist is behind him, in the hallway. The clerk is with her, and four men dressed in black. They are dragging his coffin. Stone stands and puts one hand on Waldo's shoulder. He steers him toward the door. “Look, Wally. You seem healthy enough but in my experience (and I'm sure Ms. Lilles here will back me up) the world is a very complicated and chaotic place. The databases and spreadsheets we tender here at the department are binary and much less messy and in my experience (and Ms. Lilles will vouch for me) a lot more trustworthy than the real world.”
Wally starts to scream.
The men restrain him and lower him into his coffin. Stone stands over him. “If it's any consolation, Wally, this little issue we have will fix itself after about a week down there anyway. I think we all got very lucky, don't you.”
“Help. Please. No.”
“Thank you for visiting, Wally. I hope the service is lovely.”
The coffin lid closes over him with the sound of a filing cabinet sliding shut.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 20:56|
Rebirth - Word Count: 1320
Zheng Lan had been a good man, once. In days long passed he had cared for his aging mother, loved his wife and sired three healthy children. He had ploughed the land and toiled to provide for them. On hot summer's days he had salted the earth from his brow. On freezing winter's evenings his sinewy muscles had split icebitten logs for the fire. He asked for little and received it.
One unremarkable afternoon, men in uniform had arrived. Lijuan, his wife, had run from the kitchen into the field he was tilling. He had looked up to watch her run. His eyes followed her the whole way, appreciating the ruddy warmth in her cheeks and her taut, elegant figure. She was beautiful to him still.
She informed him of their guests and he dusted the earth from his hands. Still in his overalls, he sat down at the table where his mother had served tea. Three stern men, two in the deep khaki and red of the military, rifles resting on their chairs. They sat impassively beside a bureaucratic man in spectacles and grey flannel suit who sipped, frowning, at his mother's tea.
Zheng Lan had bowed, inwardly perplexed. To see somebody so finely dressed somewhere this remote was unusual. The man did not reciprocate his gesture. Zheng Lan hid his offence. Nobody said a word. His eyes flicked to the floor, where he noticed they had neglected to remove their shoes. He saw his stooped mother wringing her hands, nervous. They had brought no gift. Zheng Lan declined to sit. The green tea in his cup steamed and grew cool.
The man in spectacles had spoken at last, to tell him that in the name of progress, and for the good of the people, they would be requisitioning a portion of his grain. Zheng Lan had smiled and had nodded. He had politely bowed to their backs as they departed.
The bespectacled man had never returned, but true to his words, soldiers had come every week to take a little more. At first there was less to go around, then there was not enough. They came for their little coal, their logs, their preserves in the larder. All he reaped, they repossessed. They came for their pots and pans. Every week a new small evil.
His elderly mother withered away and died. A small mercy, but she had eaten as much as a mouse. His dry, haggard eyes could find no tears. His wife could. She clutched his sturdy body at night to cry into his chest. She asked why but he had no answer.
A week after that, he buried the corpse of his old friend who had gone out to protest at the trucks loaded with his year's crop of yams. Days later he dug another grave beside it for his youngest daughter, who had perished during the night. He knew they could not stay. Then his son grew gravely ill, and his beautiful Lijuan with him. Bed-ridden and unable to travel, he had walked for a day and a night to the local doctor. But when he got there, the man said he could not help him. He had shamed himself and begged, but the careworn doctor still said he could not. Did not have the medicines nor the means to help them. Even still Zheng Lan persisted and the doctor, in his pity, gave him some herbs to boil up as a tea.
He walked back, clutching the herbs to his chest tightly, not once stopping for rest. With the dawn creeping over the horizon, he reached his home. He found his eldest, curled up in a pile of rags beside his wife. Lijuan lay there, white skinned and beautiful. He touched her forehead with the back of his hand. Beautiful but cold. He had been too late. Her dead arms curled around his dead son and sleeping daughter. He ground the dry herbs into dust in his fist. Zhang Lan did not sleep.
He went to the outhouse where he kept his tools. His spade was splintered and broken, the metal end taken to the furnaces. There was nothing left in there but splinters and cobwebs. He walked the hill where he had buried his daughter and friend. A cool breeze whistled down through the long grass and he felt the light touch of autumn on his skin. On hands and knees he dug his wife and son an unfit grave. It took hours, and even when it was done it was a shallow and pathetic effort. Blood trickled from his fingernails and his hands were so cold he could no longer feel them. He buried them together, arms intertwined like he had found them on the bed.
When he returned to the house, it was nightfall. He slept fitfully, with his eldest daughter's bony arms clasped around his shoulders. The next morning, he gathered what little food and money he had managed to keep hidden. He left his home and his life behind, hand in hand with his daughter. It was twelve days walk to Chongqing.
On the tenth day, she could walk no further. They had eaten all they had. He bundled her up and carried her in his arms. It began to rain, a bitter and chilling rain that would not cease. His every step was agony from blisters. He travelled alongside a retinue of ghosts. Depleted and empty men like himself, seeking better fortune in the cities. They exchanged no pleasantries, nor stopped to help one another. Army trucks drove down the road, carving muddy tracks. Soldiers aboard leered without emotion at the grey train of people heading towards the city, utterly distant.
On the eleventh day, the last breath escaped the lips of his last surviving family member. He kissed her on her rain-wet lips and laid her gently in a muddy ditch beside the road. He had not the strength to bury her. She joined the multitudes of dead that lined the roads, emaciated and sick. Only the rain kept the flies and smell away.
On the twelfth day he reached the outskirts of the city. He had nothing left to give nor anything left to be taken from him, save his life, and many said he had lost that too. He was in a hole deep enough that light could not reach him.
Zheng Lan the good man had died that day. He was also reborn. Zealot Zhang they whispered behind his back. A man whose fervour for change was unmatched, his ruthlessness unparalleled. He could not be bribed nor dissuaded and he feared no-one.
It was raining that day too, when he swaggered into that house. The meek woman at the door's protests had died in her throat when she saw his red armband. He tracked dirt from his thick boots onto the floor and barged into the room. A long table, full of the finest foods was set out. And at the end of the table sat a man, wearing spectacles and a crisp grey flannel suit. Zheng Lan walked over the table, boots crunching into the fine ceramic bowls.
He drew his truncheon. The woman from the door cried and ran over to him and he slapped her to the floor. The bespectacled man did nothing, remained sitting at the head of the table.
Zheng Lan spoke "I have brought no gifts and I wish no tea. I wish only progress and the good of the people."
He raised his truncheon.
It wasn't about what was good for him. It was about what was good for the many. He regarded the elederly man in spectacles through his haggard eyes. The man made to move and Zheng's sinewy arms brought the truncheon down with merciless force. Out with the old, in with the new.
I kind of extended this a little so the word count match-up wouldn't be so weird.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 21:00|
Round one is Over!
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 21:04|
You mean I did a lot of research for a band I don't listen to and a genre I don't read or watch for a fight in which I got stood up?
I will find you, Canadian Surf Club, and I will tell you a bad story. It will be badly constructed in every aspect and not edited. You will hate it. I will make you listen to the whole thing and you'll be like "that was terrible." It will be harsh justice befitting the way you have thwarted my desire for a worthy foe.
Or I'll just have some pizza.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 21:09|
^^^^Thems some of the weakest fighting words I've ever seen and I work in a baby fighting ring
Over a few words and maybe time? Deal with it, I'm Canadian.
Zero Year - 803 words
"Art is Resistance" screamed the posters on the alley wall. I liked the slogan, couldn't say the same for the movement. Revolutions had sparked all kinds of interesting styles, but I never saw the Mona Lisa throw a molotov. They were serious though and every lead they fed me on the Paepin case had worked out, right until the doors of the Cedocore boardroom turned into a dead end. Without knowing who was saying what inside, my case wasn't going nowhere. Didn't help that Homeland had busted into my place and bugged up everything that sent or received a signal. They were even kind enough to leave a notice on my door informing me of the surveillance, a subtle "gently caress you, back off" in a language I could speak. Without my computer, my secure wire line, or my listening gadgets, my days as an independent PI were over.
But these resistance guys were happy to prey on need and make sure you owed them one. Didn't win them any fans but it sure got them what they needed, even if it was by proxy. They had set up a meeting between me and an insider at Cedocore, some secretary or someone who at least handled paperwork before it disappeared into the furnace of deniability. What I expected was some scrawny kid just out of the state-run theocollege, what I got was a 6'4" tower of muscle and a white smile that set off all the wrong bells.
"You Angry Sniper?" I asked the silhouette at the end of the alley.
"Yeah." The man said, taking a step forward and offering a black suitcase to me.
I pulled it away from him and found it heavier than expected. I was used to the hollow feel of a suitcase full of papers, this one had something else, something thick and weighty inside.
"Didn't know hippies employed muscle these days."
"You'd be surprised what you don't know." The man straightened himself up but kept his hands open and loose, hanging by his side.
"Is there something I should know now?"
"Play your part, keep your mouth shut."
"Yeah? But I was told to ask for a codephrase."
"Get lost." The man snorted his indignation and waved me off.
"Sorry, try again."
I lifted the suitcase and undid the locks. Inside was a plastic bag full of silver Opal capsules, must have been a couple grand worth, and a pistol in black kevlar. I dropped the suitcase just as the first fist came at me, stepping back out of reach.
The brute wasn't done, closing the distant and thrashing like something primal had opened up within him, his face set stern but his beady eyes open wide and wild. I grabbed the nightstick off my belt but he swatted it away with a flat backhand and grabbed my shoulder, throwing me into the alley wall just to line up the next punch square into my gut.
"Snoops get snuffed." He growled, clenching my throat and waking me up with a few hits across the cheeks.
I popped the inside of his elbow and pushed off the wall, his grip buckling just enough for me to reach his noise with my widow's peak. He fell back and I clung to him, hands weaving under and groping inside his jacket until I felt it, the smooth worn leather of a grip. The holster's top popped with one tug and the next move was all instinct and reflex, twisting the pistol from its hole into his side and squeezing the trigger once, no twice, how about three times just to be safe. The man barely made a noise, just growled a pain that cut short as he fell headfirst into the wall and slumped onto the cold pavement.
I took a moment to compose, pocketed the pistol and rummaged through my assailant. In a secret pocket I found the ID that read Bureau of Morality and a silver badge censored with black tape, something he had probably applied with smug satisfaction. The possibility of a double cross lurked like every regret after a few stiff ones but I choked it down and kept my focus. Goons like this only got bags of Opal that big straight from the source. A secretary with inside paperwork was one lead, but a government goon with a connection to Cedocore was a whole other ballgame. I set the body to look like any other sleeping bum and tore off into the street, already piecing together my next conversation with the resistance boys. I had done my bit, got what I needed to know to keep living, so now it was time for them or the boardroom to make the next move. Only time would tell how this went down, and that dame wasn't the talking type.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 21:10|
A'right, you can share some pizza I guess.
/\/\Those weren't fighting words, those were Disappointed In You words, but the judge said you're in so I don't have to write a really bad story now.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 21:13|
Wait, that probably counts as an idiom near the end there doesn't it. Shoot.
We've yet to see if bayou sci fi is legit enough for this competition! Thanks for the inspiration.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 21:13|
I'll allow Canadian Surf Club.
NOT SUBMITTED: Rookie AutoSnakes and Martello!
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 21:18|
I don't want to live in a world where it is not legit.
We've yet to see if bayou sci fi is legit enough for this competition! Thanks for the inspiration.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 21:26|
I'll allow Canadian Surf Club.
Hey guess what cockhole I'm a judge and founding father and I have a highly demanding job on salary with no specific hours so I'll submit tonight.
And maybe read all the entries instead of arbitrarily picking winners.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 21:49|
Hey guess what cockhole I'm a judge and founding father and I have a highly demanding job on salary with no specific hours so I'll submit tonight.
Semen may be salty, but I don't think that counts as a salary.
However, I do guess hookin' is demanding with unset hours.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 21:52|
I just found this thread.
It is a good thread. Spent all day reading this week's entries, loved all of them! That's a lie, I loved a lot of them, liked most, and a few were just ok. Nothing was bad though! And still probably all better than anything I could write! I'm kind of out of practice. I'm pretty sure I haven't worked on anything in well over a year, and I was never that amazing to begin with... But hey, I've decided to get back into writing, so I think I'll join in with this next week. A challenge like this would be helpful. I'll no doubt get my arse torn to shreds, but hey, it looks like a fun thing to do!
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 22:14|
I just found this thread.
On the upside, if you lose, at least you won't be stuck with that anime avatar anymore.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 22:38|
On the upside, if you lose, at least you won't be stuck with that anime avatar anymore.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 22:39|
Noah now that we have traded blows honorably I can reveal that your avatar is loving terrifying. I keep imagining this dead bird coming to me in my dreams and telling me your story in the voice of a man.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 22:40|
|# ? Jan 24, 2022 12:25|
On the upside, if you lose, at least you won't be stuck with that anime avatar anymore.
Unless we change the losertar to be anime. That would be a punishment worth fearing.
|# ? Dec 7, 2012 22:41|