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Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Grant Me an Empty Road
(Verse: I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it.)
(1,568 words)

Alene only had to pull the reins in by an inch to convince her hard-used mare to stop. The animal bowed her head until her neck was parallel with the sand, shaking all over from the exertion of breathing. On the ground, Alene staggered away, her own legs no more steady, but by force of will she kept her feet and stood before the road to Mosul-Munye.

The diamonds paving the way seared the eye, millions of them rolling out in a cold white band. Surely the desert should have buried them. Alene attempted to kneel and fell onto her knees, lurching forward--

Her whole body recoiled from the bolts of fear that drove in between her eyes and beneath her breastbone: she hit the sand on her back. So all the legend of this cursed place was true, she thought. That was good. Horror would not make her weep or turn away. She'd lived with it too long. She fought her way up to stand again, and she held her hand out, her fingertips hovering at the edge of brilliance.

"Ghosts! Don't drive us out. Don't kill us. I'll give to you freely." Alene took the knife from her belt and slashed her wrist across an old scar, a shallow gash that still splashed red onto the diamonds. They drank her blood on contact, burning the colder for it. She trembled and paled before she dared wrap her other hand tight around the cut. One step forward. Two. The diamonds pressed into the worn soles of her boots. No fresh fear touched her.

"More blood, every day you let me breathe," she said to the silence.

The Jeweled City waited beyond a mile on the diamond way. The towers of Mosul-Munye had been possible in another world, another time. Past aquamarine gates, they reached toward Heaven as fingers carved from topaz, from amethyst, from opal and carnelian. The moonstone tower had metal for mortar, silver woven around uncountable cabochons each larger than the hollow of Alene's palm, cut like the pupil of a feline eye. Bricks of cherry amber lay on each other in a courtyard wall. A dome of seamless emerald guarded a spring-fed pool, warm but clear.

Alene supported herself on one palm as she guzzled the green-lit water, noticing the absence of plant life only afterward. Yet she survived the drink; her mare survived. She sought orchards and soil worth tilling within the City's walls. She sought them without, but not for long, for the towers cast long afternoon shadows. Alene hurried the horse into a low lapis tower. Its opaque walls would shield them in darkness, come nightfall. She climbed spiral stairs to see through a window before the light was gone.

How still it was: for the past few days sand had hissed in her ears, blown by wind that didn't stir the City. Her heart beat. The mare fidgeted below. That was all the motion in or above Mosul-Munye.

When the sun died, when the sky was black, when the white ribbon of diamonds below was mirrored by a white swath of stars above, the dead magi walked out of the towers and milled on the street they'd laid. Cloudy memories of jewels weighted their brows and breasts.

Whispering a prayer, Alene ran down to walk among them. She stared into blind, milky eyes and into black hollows where eyes should be. "Sanctuary," she pleaded. Again and again; she knew they heard, they looked at her, and they left her living. Was that itself assent?

She drifted back to her tower before sunrise and slept curled up against a gold-veined wall. The mare lipped up the last few oats in the morning and drowsed again without calling for more. Alene cut herself a second time for the diamonds, and vertigo blinded her before her bleeding stopped. She sought vigorously for food. But nothing grew on the sand or bare rock for miles in either direction, if it ever had. Water filled her belly, but she nodded off while watching the empty road.

She rushed out past midnight. "Let me stay, gods, let me stay where he can't reach me," she begged the ghosts now, "and leave me enough blood to live on." One woman--her eyes were only holes--touched Alene's shoulder, chilling her to the marrow. Alene whispered, "Do you understand?" The ghost disappeared without answering. Dawn touched the garnet tower, tallest of all, and brought out the deep red of it.

Alene sat by her mare all the day, stroking her neck and humming the soft lullabies she'd learned from her grandfather. She caressed the curve of the horse's ribs, stark in her sides. She endured the City's terror until the mare's eyes rolled with it too, until the animal flung her head up, squealing, and tried to stand only to collapse, and it was mercy to them both to draw the knife and cut her throat--so Alene told herself through her tears. Blood splashed her arms and legs. Blood sank into the lapis floor. "Take your bribe!" Alene shouted. "Give me a few days for this much!"

She let go of the corpse and walked away from it on leaden legs. Through the door of the tower she saw the evening stars forming their milky band. Before the dead walked, or at least before she lost much time, she must make some kind of light and butcher the meat; she tested the knife's edge on her thumb and closed her eyes. The cuts across her wrist burned.

She turned back to her horse.

Night fell. Dead men streamed into her tower. Dead women poured down from above, rose up from below. The mare's carcass disappeared under pale, translucent limbs that firmed after lifting gobbets of flesh to ghostly mouths, and it was done before Alene's scream had stopped. All the food she needed--gone, as the ghosts were gone, not even bones for soup remaining.

Numb, she pressed her back to stone and pressed her forehead to her knees. The fear she'd brought to this place in her gut had only waited for her to know herself helpless. She jammed her fingers into her ears to block out the quiet, but she heard her own thin keen.

Then--sound from outside, still far away. Pounding hooves. His voice. "Alene!"

Even here. Even here, he would not let her be.

She crawled up the stairs to the window. Though her husband was just a snag of flesh in a stream of ghosts, his bulk--alone, his horse fled--filled her eyes. Magh's heavy boots and heavy hands didn't belong on the diamond way. The dead surrounded him, swirling and turning; he walked as though blind to them.

The hilt of her knife warmed her clammy fingers. Alene left the window and the tower on her feet. The spectral crowd drew apart before her. She saw Magh clearly, the mad spittle glittering in his beard, and he saw her, surely saw the weapon glinting in her hand because his laughter bellowed through Mosul-Munye.

Alene made two short, halting steps. Magh closed the rest of the distance in five easy strides. She stabbed at his belly, he struck her knife aside with a sweep of his arm and seized her shoulder, tightening his hold until her collarbone snapped. "Alene," he said, baring his teeth. "You craven bitch."

Fire punched through her gut. He carried a blade, too. He shoved her to the ground; she howled as the impact drove his dagger back out of her by an inch, blood spilling out with it. Magh kicked her side. She rolled away from the blow, gasping for air to sob with. His boot hit her back next. The cartilage of her knee shattered the second time he stomped on it.

Then--his curses and chuckles together faded; he'd moved back to admire his work as he would a blooming bruise. Alene scrabbled at the knife in her belly. The pain when she pulled at it was beyond her bearing.

A pale figure knelt before her, lay a hand on her torn skin. The cold of the touch killed all pain as it killed all feeling. The ghost woman held Alene's ruined knee, and the leg was useless, but it didn't hurt. Alene stared into the holes the woman had for eyes; the ghost nodded once.

Alene gripped the knife and slid it free. She supposed there was more blood. Her husband's boots approached again.

She felt very little as she braced her good knee against diamonds, rolled up and lunged, driving the knife into what she could reach: his groin, and up, cutting a scream out of him until she lost leverage and let go. She screamed too as Magh staggered: "Take him!"

He tried to run from the ghosts--his blood soaking their road. He made it past her sight before the dead closed on him and the City lived in the sounds of devouring.

Not her. They left her, for now. She had paid for the night already.

Soon, they would allow her to stay.

Sprawled on her back, Alene considered the white path the stars paved across Heaven. Exquisite. Empty. Its light burned clean; it led far from ghosts or men, and with her mind, with her soul, she walked it as she died.

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Jeza
Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.


Less than 4 hours until deadline. All those who have flaked, know that while I will ostensibly forgive you in public, deep down I will be holding a grudge for months, maybe even years.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



Urgh, I'm not getting in, either. I had a decent start going but schoolwork took up a lot more of my time than I anticipated,

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


Jeza posted:

Less than 4 hours until deadline. All those who have flaked, know that while I will ostensibly forgive you in public, deep down I will be holding a grudge for months, maybe even years.

Four hours? Deadline is 8pm EST? Because I'm not giving up, I'm not flaking out. I will submit a thing of words with characters and

docbeard
Jul 18, 2011

High marks for compassion, low marks for survival skills





I have had a lovely, busy, bitterly cold week full of dreary nonsense, quite possibly the worst week imaginable for there to have been an earlier-than-usual deadline. So it is with great regret that I must say that I HAVE NOT BACKED OUT BUT INSTEAD WROTE A GODDAMN STORY SO THERE.

Nothing But Nothing
614 Words

(The Prompt: Where black was the color, where none was the number)

I turned from the roaring fire to look out into the darkness, just in time to see the last of the stars go out. “It’s just us, then,” I said to the woman I’d seen sit down a moment before. “Just us and our fire. When it goes out, we’re finished. Nothing left but the cold, and the dark, forever.”

“Not forever,” she said, this woman I didn’t know. “Time’s being devoured too, from both ends. I don’t know how I know it, but I do. We’re going to be left with a cold, dark, empty now. Absence of heat, absence of light, absence of time. Nothing but absence. Nothing but nothing. This fire’s the last real thing.”

I turned back to the fire, raising my hand to shield my face from the blue-white glare. I could just about make out the old, hunched shape of her. “This fire and us,” I said.

“This fire, and us,” she repeated, “And nothing else. Which raises, to me, a question.” I watched her stand, a shadow on the far side of the flames. “Why should we wait for the end? Why not seize some control over our fate?” She drew a deep breath, and smiled as I did the same. I held up three fingers, two, one. We blew on the flames.



I turned from the fire to look out into the darkness. “It’s just us,” I said to the woman. I couldn’t remember her arrival, but I heard her sit. “Just us and our fire. When it goes out, we’re finished. Nothing but the cold and the dark.”

“Nothing but absence. Nothing but nothing,” I heard her say as I turned back to face the fire, raising my hand to shield my face from the furious red glare. I could see her, sitting straight and tall, “This fire’s the last real thing.”

“This fire and us,” I said. I watched her stand, a shadow on the far side of the flames.

“This fire, and us,” she repeated. “And nothing else. So why wait?” She drew a deep breath and I, seeing what she was about, followed suit. We blew on the flames.



I turned from the fire to look out into the darkness. “It’s just us,” I said to the girl who had always been there. “I suppose it’s always been us, and nothing else.”

“Nothing but absence,” I heard her say as I turned back around. “Nothing but nothing.” I could just about make out her young face in the glow from the coals.

“And us,” I said. She stood, her face falling into shadow with the rest of her.

“And us,” she said as she leaned over the coals. I quickly saw what she was about, and together we blew on the flames.



I turned from the embers to look out into the darkness. “There’s nothing else,” I said. There was no reply. The child couldn’t speak. I stood and stepped around the hot firepit to lift her into my arms. “Nothing but us.”

She squirmed in my arms and I held her out over the faintly glowing embers. We blew.

I looked out into the darkness. “There’s nothing,” I said, to no one. “Nothing but nothing.” Had someone else said that? There was no one else. I turned around, and while I couldn’t see the ashes, I could just barely feel the heat of the fire that had always just burned out. I leaned over them, took a deep breath, and blew.



I looked out into the darkness. There was nothing. I opened my mouth to breathe, and found nothing.



I looked out into the darkness.



I looked out.



I looked.



I.



.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

“I met a young woman whose body was burning”

A Light in Winter
566

“Dad’s a jerk,” said a voice in the dark.

I don’t think I had ever put those words together in my head before. But I knew as soon as I heard them that I agreed wholeheartedly. Dad was a jerk.

I don’t know which of my brothers said it. There were six of us that slept in that room back then. No one responded. Maybe we were all realizing the same thing at the same moment. Wishing we had the courage to say it outloud. I rolled onto my side and could just barely make out the outline of Paul’s face in the dark. His eyes were swollen shut. His lip was burst open. I wonder how bad I looked.

Dad had pummeled Paul the worst. We all got beat, mind you, but Paul got more for “lying.”

“I know you’ve been looking at these!” Dad had screamed, “Admit it, you miserable wretch! Repent!”

But Paul never admitted it. I did. Isaiah did. Thomas did. Everybody did but Paul. Paul was funny like that. They might have been his, too. I don’t know. Honestly, to this day I don’t know where those magazines came from. I had never seen them before Dad had them in his fists.

“Sin,” our father had spit the words out like curses, “Wickedness and corruption and damnation. And now lying!”

He was so angry he lit the magazines on fire. I’m sure it was supposed to be a meaningful metaphor for sin and Hell but in those flames I didn’t see doom. I saw the glory of God. I hadn’t known that those magazines were full of pictures of women.

Nude women.

There was this blonde with these great big breasts that she had to hold up with her hands. I only got to see her for a moment before the page was burnt and black but it was enough to shake my faith.

“Sin!” he screamed again.

I laid in bed that night and thought about that blonde. I thought about her at dinner the next day, too. And then on Sunday during the service. The preacher went on and on about abstaining from pleasures in this life to gain everlasting joy in the next one. He said if we did that then we’d get to bask in the worship of God for eternity. Now, I’d been going to church every Sunday since before I could remember and an eternity of worship service didn’t really sound like everlasting joy.

When we got home I walked to my room and took the Lord’s name in vain.

“God drat,” I said.

It felt good. So I said it again. And then again. God drat rolled off my tongue. It was so easy. God drat. Over and over. It built in volume until I was shouting it at the top of my lungs. God drat! The door suddenly burst open and my father was upon me.

“What are you doing?” he roared.

“God drat sinners,” I said quickly, “I hate sinners. drat them to hell.”

He look oddly pleased as he washed my mouth out with soap.

That night I heard my words repeated in the dark.

“God drat,” the voice said.

I couldn’t tell who said it. I rolled onto my side and I could just make out Paul smiling. I thought about that blonde and I went to sleep smiling, too.

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at Dec 8, 2013 around 22:09

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


So, who thought Thunderdome wouldn't be of use? Anyone? And hey, who remembers Sitting Here's week last month where she tricked us into submitting to a mag? Good. Because, oh hey, I got published thanks to that week.

Keep doming, kids. To celebrate, I give you a thing.

AND NOW BACK TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED BROGRAMMING.

Duke Guncock and the Nazindie Menace (1945 words)

Stylish, well-polished boots smashed Duke’s ribs. He rolled for the tiki hut’s door, but the bootmen were champion goalies and kicked him back against the bar. Duke’s beer glass fell and shattered. This was not how Spring Break was supposed to start!

His tormentors were tall men, blond, blue-eyed, and frocked in black-and-silver Boss uniforms and fair-trade woolen checkered scarves. One shimmied to Duke’s side and raised a skinny cane with a ball-peen tip.

“Halt!” A short man grabbed the assailant’s arm. “It is not yet hammer time. Haul him up!”

Duke shoved away the uniformed men, braced himself on a stool and stood. Shortie had side-swept hair, black plastic glasses and a tiny, well-waxed mustache. “They spilled my drink.”

“We will spill worse if you do not co-operate, Herr Guncock.” Adolf Hipler wiped his spectacles on a paisley chamois. “Where is the metal man?”

“You’ll never—“

Robot Lenin smashed through the ceiling and landed atop the bar, his chrome dome glistening amidst the tiki torches. He stood with steel hands on hips, staring down at the uniformed men. “Duke, I am not fond of the Germans by any means, but at the present time it is more advantageous to use them than to challenge them.”

Hipler gestured to his goons. “Take him away!”

The steel stallion of the working class dismounted the bar and leaned to Duke’s ear. “The bourgeoisie incites the workers of one nation against those of another, in the endeavor to keep them disunited.” He raised tungsten eyebrows and let himself be led from the tiki hut.

Duke surged to the door. The short man raised a finger and force-slammed Duke against a bamboo wall.

Duke sprung to his feet, tattooed fists raised. “I’ll kick you into next Tuesday, geek.”

“Still holding on to what you believe, little lion man?” Electricity crackled about Hipler’s hand. “Now that your brobot is mine, we can have fun.”

Lightning crackled across Duke’s face. His unkempt stubble exploded into a combed vandyke. Duke sank to his knees, cupping his chin.

“Feel the shame in your defeat, Herr Guncock! We will purify the land of your mainstream ‘bro’ scourge. Come tomorrow, the only sons that rise will be Mumford’s!”

Duke knelt, his magnificent abs writhing with rage. What was Robot Lenin’s plan? Even Duke’s biceps of the broletariat would be powerless if Hipler dropped an irony curtain upon Bromerica.

“Ever the master of evil, Adolf.” A hooded figure with an immense beard appeared in the doorway and held out a hand. “No more.”

“You!” Hipler growled. “We meet again, at last!” He threw lightning at the new arrival.

The bearded one caught the power in his own hand, flung it aside and shoved Duke out the door. “Quickly, to the car!” He shook a can of the King of Beers. Foamy pilsner gushed forth and hung in midair, a humming rod of low-cal lager. The hooded man swung his Bud Lightsaber and cut the supports holding up the tiki hut.

The beach swarmed with laser-armed Nazindie stormtroopers. The two men retreated along the shoreline, dodging and deflecting thrumming beams of acoustic energy.

“You got here in the nick of time.” Duke punched a laserbeam back at the Nazis. “Got one!”

“Don’t get cocky, son.”

They snuck around a boulder and there, on the sand, hovered a stainless steel car with six raised gull-wing doors. Duke dove into the stretch DeLorean. The man seated himself at the controls, closed the doors and rocketed the car into the sky.

From the tiki hut’s rubble, a solitary, black-gloved fist punched the sky and pointed at the retreating car. Hipler howled, “You’ll pay for this, Brobi-wan Kenobi!”

###

Safely cruising at ten-thousand feet, Brobi-wan folded away the controls and ducked back into the passenger compartment. Duke was nursing his wounds in the DeLorean’s champagne jacuzzi.

“Comfortable?” The robed man sat on a cushion, popped a pull tab and shotgunned beer.

“More comfortable than Robot Lenin.” Duke massaged his pecs. “We’re his only hope. Can you take us to the frat-house? Dr. Freedom will know what to do. She’s a Brodes scholar.”

“No, Duke. We cannot fight Hipler as two, or even three.” The Jedi brorrior pointed out the window at the blasted jungle beneath them. “Even now they advance on Bromerica. An army, Duke. We cannot stand alone.”

Duke sat up straight. “A bro asks for help no sooner than he asks for directions.”

“That may be sooner than you’d expect, Duke.”

Duke climbed from the champagne and toweled himself off. “Who are you, anyway? Some kind of angel from the heavens, coming to help a brother out?”

The Jedi chucked. “You could say that. Hipler calls me Brobi-wan, but, to you, my name is Fred.”

An explosion rocked the DeLorean and the car pitched earthwards. The Jedi leapt for the controls. “poo poo, we’re hit!”

Duke pushed his face against the window. Trees had given way to warehouses and concrete. The industrial jungle sprawled beneath them. “Fred, you can’t land here. This is Amazon territory!”

“No time to divert, two more missiles incoming. Bail out, Duke!”

The men grabbed parachutes, raised gull-wing doors and jumped into the yonder. Behind them, Maverick missiles obliterated the flying car in an orange-on-blue conflagration of fire and flying metal.

They landed in the rubble of a warehouse and shrugged off their chutes. A dozen women in logo-emblazoned polo shirts encircled them, spears leveled. Duke and Fred Kenobi drew themselves up to their full height, arms crossed.

“Well, Duke, my friend Mark said the chief idea of happiness is to fight.”

“And my friend Lenin said history moves in zig-zags.” Duke lowered his arms. “Ladies, we were just fighting the Nazis, on the beaches. They advance on your streets.”

A woman stepped forward. “We admit only those who seek deliverance.”

“The only thing I want to deliver is a boot to Hipler’s face.”

“Good. Make him squeal like a pig.” The amazons lowered their spears and led the men through a maze of warehouses. Boxes stacked upon boxes, dozens of women dashing to and fro with packages and weapons in hand. In the center of it all, atop a cardboard throne, sat the Amazon Queen.

She glared at them. “Guncock.”

“Michelle.” Duke crossed his muscled arms. “So you built this empire.”

The queen swept her hands open. “You rejected commerce for brocialism, Duke. This wealth could have been yours.”

Duke sneered and turned on his heel. “Come on, Fred. We’ll get nothing from these mercenaries.” Spears poked his abs. He raised his hands.

“Patience, Duke.” Fred approached the throne. “Queen, we are no threat to you. What advances is a storm cloud of hatred which prostitutes taste on an altar of irony. Should Hipler overrun Bromerica, he will not stop until even your fair city is beneath his boot.” He licked his lips. “Besides, if Duke’s men fall, who else will buy your stock of Nickelback albums?”

“Wisdom.” The queen swept a hand. A holographic map sprang from the floor. “But we must fight either in Bromerica or in my city. Someone will suffer.”

“Ah,” said Fred. He pointed to a patch of desert between the two. “Here, a stretch of blasted hills and desert claimed by both of you. We can crush them on this disputed levant.”

The queen smiled at Fred. “Intriguing.”

“We’ll go over the details in private.” Brobi-wan grinned at Duke. “Duke, Hipler has a weakness - the great Bromerican classics. Marshal your boombox saints. At dawn, we will meet you in the Brolan Heights.”

###

Bros rolled monster-wheeled sound systems atop the hills, slipped CDs into drives, and cranked the volume to eleven. There’s No Business like Bro Business echoed across the unfruited plain.

Opposite them, the Nazindie horde deployed an acoustic guitar half a mile long, hoisted a bloodstained golden triangle and strummed. On both sides men fell, ears spurting geysers of blood. The rest charged forth and met in melee.

“I don’t like this, Duke.” Doctor Freedom gazed through bronoculars at the carnage. “It’s almost dawn. Hipler’s winning. These amazons better deliver.”

Duke grimaced at his watch. “Goddamn mercenaries. Fred, where are they?”

Brobi-wan looked at the lightening sky. A storm brewed on the horizon. “Strange. They should be here. I have a Prime subscription.”

The sun rose over the battlefield. The Nazis knew the dustbowl dance well and pushed the bros back up onto their own hill. An amp fed back and exploded, silencing the bros’ support.

Duke grabbed a microphone. “Bro, bro, bro your boat…” It was no use. The brocialist ranks broke and ran. Wind whipped up dust, blotting out the lines and a typhoon blew in overhead.

A dapper bro in a suit and round glasses shoved Duke aside. “Man, I love you like a brother, but you’ve no ear for the standards. You need to stand beside us and guide us, not sing.”

Duke gave Irving Brolin a thumbs-up and handed over the mic.

The composer took a deep breath. A chorus of bikini-clad babes sprung up behind him. They sang. “God Bless Bromerica, land that I love!”

The torrent of patriotism halted the Nazi stormtroopers. They crouched, clutching stylish helmets.

“Duke, they’re here!” Brobi-wan pointed at the sky.

From above, spandex-clad women parachuted out of the raging storm. They landed and shot wrist-mounted glue-guns at the Nazis, ensnaring them in sticky nets. In moments, the Nazi army was mired in paste.

A uniformed woman strode up to Duke and saluted, ring and middle finger retracted, the others held straight. “Amazon Web Services, reporting for duty.”

“You took your sweet time,” said Doctor Freedom.

“Sorry ma’am.” She pointed at the storm overhead. “We had to deploy from the cloud.”

“Don’t count me out yet, Herr Guncock!” Hipler strode up the hill with an electromagnet against Robot Lenin’s metal head and shoved the metal man to his knees before Duke. “Make them throw down their weapons, or I fry your friend here.”

“Disarmament is the ideal of brocialism,” said Robot Lenin.

“A fine plan. Now act!” Hipler pressed the magnet against Lenin’s skull.

Duke nodded at Doctor Freedom and she nodded at the men. Guns dropped to the sand. Microphones were silenced. Irving Brolin sneered at Hipler. “What would you know of taste?”

“More than you, old man.” Hipler raised a pistol with his other hand and shot the composer. “Fear not, Duke. You will adapt to the new National Brocialist order.” He raised his arms, electricity crackling from fingertips. “When you recognize the importance of conserving the sound, with the acoustic free from intermixture with synth—”

Fred slipped behind Hipler and grabbed his wrists. “Duke, now!”

Duke pivoted and slammed his boot into Hipler’s jaw. The Nazi leader vanished in a blue burst of tachyons, but no orange, much to Michael Bay’s displeasure.

“Nice work, Fred. You’ve been a real guardian angel.”

“I try.” Friedrich ‘Brobi-Wan’ Engels lowered his hood. “I must report back to the council. Stretch DeLoreans don’t come cheap these days.”

####

Five years from Tuesday, a man in tight pants stood beside a body half-buried in sand. A black scarf flapped in the wind, a pair of shattered glasses lay nearby. The ragged man knelt and poured water on Hipler’s lips. “I’ve been waiting for you, friend.”

Hipler spluttered and drank.

“You’re here because of him, aren’t you?” asked Chad. “He kicked you.”

“Yes.” Hipler’s fists balled. “It was Duke. Gun… Gunc—“ Rage tented his pants. “Ock!”

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

Feedback Cascade
1154 words

On a nobody street in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a girl called Constance walks by an audio/video store with banks of flatscreen televisions in the window. She fears no ebb of time because ten identical meteorologists are waving at a greenscreen that says sunny and eighty-five.

Other places rain, Florida takes an afternoon shower.

-

Somewhere up in the nexus of thoughts and pixels, a staffer for a major online news aggregate receives a photo attachment in his email inbox. SUBJ: This Will Change Everthing[sic]. He deletes it, then undeletes it, marks it as unread. If it were so important, the anonymous sender would've sent it to the authorities, right? But the staffer can't put the photo out of his mind.

Over drinks with his colleagues he laughs too loud and casually pitches a new weekly piece for the website called "What's Ending the World This Time?"

-

In Mogadishu, Somalia, the rains have still not come.

Nadifa is taken to a hospital and left there by her mother, because her mother's new man is one of the Shabab and has his own fat, healthy children and Nadifa is small and weak and is another mouth to feed. It seems to Nadifa that her city is one big open wailing mouth, stretched so wide you can see all the way down into its empty belly. But there's nothing to fill that emptiness, and so it crawls up into the eyes of children and flies drink it from the corners of their eyelids.

But her long, skinny fingers are good for plucking morsels from piles of refuse, and she doesn't lay down and let the flies kiss her face.

-

One day, back to Florida now, Constance has to laugh at herself when she's caught in one of those afternoon showers sans umbrella. Without the canopy of nylon and metal wire over her head, the sky seems both lower and more vast, and Constance stops and lets the rain fall down on her face, and now looking up at the heavy afternoon clouds, really noticing them for the first time in years, she has a feeling like she's just walked in on a clown whose makeup is running.

The sky roars in decibels that dwarf the supersonic mumble of the jets that leave lines across its face. It will not be ignored.

Inside of Constance's air-conditioned condominium, the thunder rattles the dishes in the cupboards.

-

The staffer starts to have a lot of conversations with people about responsibility. About what obligates someone to act, and what is best left to the experts. About whether it's better to blow the whistle and be wrong, or wait things out and see where the chips fall.

He looks at the picture again, closes the message, marks it as unread. The authorities have probably already been alerted, he decides. This is just one fringe nut trying to get his pet disaster theory noticed. The staffer opens the image again, compares it to similar photos that have been doctored. The staffer can't decide one way or another if what he's looking at is real.

His colleagues take him out for a pitcher of beer, saying that the staffer has been all doom and gloom lately, and since when are they the ones who have to drag him out for a good time?

-

Nadifa becomes used to the smell of the diesel fuel splashed everywhere that can't quite drive off of the flies. The flies become the thunderous voice of the hungry, drinking their tears and then carrying those tears out onto the wind, a wall of sound, and they are swatted away like street urchins, with no more or less malice.

Outside of the hospital, as she and some other children are going to the dumps, Nadifa sees a white man holding a little plastic rectangle at her. She knows what a cellular phone is, but she cannot understand why this man aiming it her way. She wonders how come the men at the borders didn't take it.

The white man gestures that she should come over. The other children stop to watch but hang back, uncertain. Nadifa goes to the man, because no one has ever gone out of their way to call Nadifa to them, were always sending her away.

He asks her in broken Somali if she lives here. His face looks swollen like a ripe fruit. Nadifa nods.

He asks her where she's going. Nadifa points in the direction of the dumps. They are outside of the city proper, but no one from Mogadishu would have any doubt about where a skinny little girl with a torn plastic shopping bag was off to.

Hungry? He asks her. For how long?

Always.

Many have died, he comments. From the hungry. Nadifa doesn't nod or look away or say anything else. The man aims his cellphone at her again and it makes a camera sound.

-

Constance goes to the grocery store to buy the pomegranates that are supposed to be in season and there are none.

-

The staffer scrolls through his photos of starved and bereft faces, of melting glaciers and lakes that burn beneath Siberian ice. His is privileged, he knows, with the resources to go, see.

He'd quit his job at the major internet news aggregator, called in contacts and favors, and dumped his savings into the intercontinental trip he said he'd always take.

But there is an urgency to it that he hadn't envisioned before. He feels like it is the last thing he'll ever do, like he can hear the ending score of a movie that means soon credits'll be rolling on empty black. He hasn't looked at the photo in a long time because he doesn't need to, because he can see and hear and smell the truth of it in the falling dominos of the world.

He's in a hostel in Chersky, Russia and he puts all of his photos in a .zip file and sends them off to his email contact, the one who sent the picture. He has never emailed this person before. He had argued to himself in the beginning that to contact the sender would be to enable some painful, apocalyptic delusion. He feels almost ashamed now, crawling back after almost a year, but it is a good and healthy shame that lets him know that, if he can't save the world, he can at least vindicate this stranger who tried to.

-

Nadifa picks at trash. Good finds are rarer, now, as even the wealthy have to tighten their belt loops. One man's trash will become his treasure, if you take enough away from him. She daydreams of her own face on tall American billboards.

-

Constance's lights go out and the air-conditioner makes a death rattle. Outside it rains, and the thunder goes on and on.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


Computer woes. HDD hosed. I have a hard copy but work using a colleague's iPad, which I can barely use. Will try and post tomorrow or later tonight.

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

wordcount:1086

Rainbow

It was small in my hand, half a circle of light stretching from my thumb to my pinky, still glistening from recent rain. Trying to decide where one colour ended and another began was seven different kinds of impossible. I closed my fist around it, held it up to my face, peered through the tunnel of my rounded fingers. The rainbow was still there, shrunken to fit the space but giant to see so close. Beyond, through the gap at the other end of my tingling hand, the green of the countryside was filtered in prismatic light.

“Young girl?” I asked in the manner of dreams. “Why have you given me a rainbow?”

The girl smiled impishly. “Because you looked like you needed one.”

“Thank you,” I said, having been told it always served to be polite to her people. “I didn’t know I did need one, until now.”

And then the dream ended, and I was alone in my cell. My eyes didn’t want to open, but I forced them to. The darkness was almost complete, but there wasn’t much to see anyway; the outline of the steel toilet in the corner, reflecting what light there was, the bars of the cell door iron grey against the black of lights-out, a few, last wisps of smoke from the old man’s special candle. I withdrew my arm from beneath the impossibly scratchy prison blanket and slowly extended my fingers.

The rainbow was still there, stretching from pinky to thumb. Every colour radiated outward from it it, covering the cold stone walls in spectral luminescence.

Well, I thought, it’s beautiful. But what the hell am I supposed to do with it? Somewhere along the corridor another prisoner yelled to turn the damned light off, so I placed the rainbow back in my pocket, plunging the cell back into darkness. Curling up on my side, I tried unsuccessfully to sleep.

At breakfast the next morning, I sat next to the old man. His beard was catching more of the prison porridge than he was able to put in his mouth with his palsied hands, and I twice thought about offering to help, but the minute I looked as if I was about to try he glared viciously at me. When he'd finally finished he put down his spoon.

“So, did you see her?”

“Her or someone so similar as to make no difference.”

“Blood! So it’s true then. The old stories. What did she say?”

“Not much, actually.” I could tell he was eager for details, as his beard quivered. “I was short and to the point to prevent entanglement. And polite, just like you told me. She gave me a rainbow, because she said I looked like I needed one.”

“She gave you a rainbow?” The old man looked taken aback. “Not a weapon, or a tool, or anything actually useful? Lord on a motorbike, we’re hosed.” The old man rolled his eyes at me. “Still, they’re tricky folk, to hear tell of it. What does it do, this rainbow?”

I reached into my pocket, and grasped the rainbow, my hand tingling again, wondering whether or not to bring it out. I didn’t have a chance to tell him how the rainbow could illuminate a darkened room, but was otherwise insubstantial before one of the Sartic Brotherhood, all tattoos and muscles, sat down at our table. “You damned Astruc bastards, sitting here as if you had some kind of right to draw on God’s good air.”

“Oh, for crying out loud,” I said, as the old man’s eyes told me to keep my mouth shut. “We’re not bloody Astruc.”

“You Sartic, then?” he asked, leaning in close to my face.

“No, but…”

“Then you’re damned Astrucs.” He stood up fast, the chair behind him going skittering backwards across the linoleum. One meaty paw reached out and grabbed me by the tough prison shirt, the other went backwards, winding up for the big swing. I pulled my hand out of my pocket, still clutching the rainbow, and tried to get as much of my hips into a punch as I possibly could before his landed. My fist crashed against his jaw, then glanced off as his head turned to accommodate my blow. Almost instantly my hand was awash in fiery pain, and, shaking it, I dropped the rainbow, hardly seeing it in the harsh fluorescent light of the prison dining room. I barely had time to notice the old man diving out of his seat towards the fallen spray of light before my jaw got hit by an oncoming Sartic meteor, spinning me round like a top. I watched the floor come up to meet me, but I was out before I hit it.

When I finally came to I was in solitary, in the place they call The Hole, because that’s what it was. Four concrete walls, three feet wide each, open to the sky, with a small door in one wall, barely four feet high. No toilet, just the remains of my predecessors ordure. The temperature and the shadow high on the wall suggested it was early evening. The slightest of drizzles fell from the grey sky, the closest I’d been to running water in weeks. I checked myself, feeling the pain in my neck and jaw as I pulled my legs into a barely accommodated sitting position. I tried to say “Bloody Hell” but it came out as a muffled mumble. Great, I thought. Broken jaw.

Sitting there was remarkably uncomfortable, so I stood, groggily, and paced the cell, one step for each wall, testing the rest of my body. There was definitely someone wrong with my arse, not allowing me to walk comfortably. Looking around nervously for God knows what reason as there was no chance of being seen, I placed a hand down the back of my prison pants, and felt something unusual, to say the least. The tingling of the rainbow. How the hell? The old man? I extracted the young girl’s gift from where it had been wedged inside me, and brought it out into the dying light.

The rainbow glowed like precious stones. As if taking strength from the sight of the sky above me and the water in the air, its radiance grew, as did its circumference. I watched spellbound as it increased in size, until it seemed like I was standing by one side of a gigantic, multi-hued bridge, that rose out of The Hole at an impossible, yet traversable angle.

I started my ascent.

Purple Prince
Aug 20, 2011


I cave. The combined force of LAN DOTA and nicotine withdrawal crippled my writing ability.

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Ask me about being the most Magnificent Bastard in EU4 Multiplayer.

The Invincible Man Comes Home (1765 words)

Prompt: And the executioner's face is always well hidden


I knew it was going to be a rough one as my eyes followed the blood up the wall. The wreck at the end of the trail had been routine, another one to bag and report, but as I looked up, the handiwork became ever clearer, the blood reaching up above my head to the point of impact. All the autopsy was going to do was spread paper over an unpleasant fact: the Executioner was back in town.

It was the end of my shift, as well.

“Is this who I think it is?” I asked.

“Alasdair Crovan, sir,” said the cop on duty. “Head of the-”

“Yeah, I know that part. Who called it in?”

“Didn't leave a name, sir. Said you'd know, apparently.”

“Thanks,” I said, and went to make my report. As I got to the door of the ramshackle house, I turned. “Do me a favour – make sure no busybody gets wind of this one.

“The last thing we need to do is give the bastard airtime.”

---

My hands were shaking as I left the building. I went for a cigarette, and cursed. No matches. drat it all. Slipping back into the car, I reached for the phone.

“Reporting,” I said. “It's the Executioner all right.”

“He's gone. Let it go,” the Superintendent replied.

“It is what it is.”

“Just report, McCullough.”

“Certainly sir,” I said. “I report that someone's in town who can crush gang bosses by flinging them into walls, and it's not the guy we already know about.”

“On second thought, I think I prefer your first report.”

“As do I, boss. With permission, I'd like to follow this up.”

A silence. Then: “Do you think that's wise, Detective?”

“I don't think there is any wise option with the Executioner. But I still want to.” I opened the glove compartment and began to rummage.

“Look, John, I know how you feel about that rat, but you know it can't happen. I want you to finish your shift, go home, and come back in the morning. Understand?”

“You're wrong, sir. See you tomorrow.” I cut the connection, turned the key and drove off. No matches to be found.

---

Three in the morning is a hard time to find a light. The only places open in this mean city are those convenience stores where everything is at double price. I was walking out of one under the half-moon when the Executioner came to see me.

He was sitting on my car as I turned the corner. He was flipping a coin over and over, not a care in the whole drat world. If I didn't know the thin, angular face, that crazy costume's shades of blue and black, I'd have chased the bum off my car and back into the night, but I knew better.

If he was a man at all, he was not one to take lightly.

I lit up and drew fire. “You shouldn't have come back.”

He turned to look at me. His full gaze still unsettled; he never seemed to be blinking when you were looking. “Detective! I was hoping to run into you! You never returned my call.”

I looked again at his massive form draped across my windshield. “Guess you got lucky then, 'cause here I am. But there's nothing left for us to talk about.”

“Don't you want to know where I've been?”

“Why? It's always the goddamn same with you. Hell, or back.”

“Actually-”

“I don't care where you've been,” I said. “I care about where you're going. If you've got any sense left in that bloodlust brain of yours, you'll leave town again. Get the hell off my car.”

“Actually, I was following a trail. I'm sorry I took so long – was everything okay?”

“A lot more people made it to trial, if that's what you're asking.”

“I think I'm really on to something this time. That might not concern your co-workers, John, but I know it interests you. Why do you think I did it?”

“Same reason as all the other times. You lost control. Now do yourself a favour and go home, wherever that is, and burn that drat costume. Next time I see you, I'll have to stop you.”

He laughed. “Sure. I thought a few years of going by the book would have taught you something, John.” He rolled off the car, took a step towards me on the cold pavement. “Even if you 'don't care', you'll work it out pretty fast.”

He nodded to me and then he jumped. It had been a year since I saw him do it, but it was just as impossible then. Gaining height, he landed on the roof of the store, and disappeared.

---

I showed up in the morning like the boss said. The cop shop was in uproar. I wasn't surprised.

One of the staff sergeants came over to my desk. “Super wants to see you, McCullough.”

“Which one?”

“Very funny.”

I walked into the office. The Superintendent was chewing his peppermints again. They stank, sharp and acrid in my eyes. “Two more last night.”

“Who?”

“Only Barry Malone and Michael Stoop.”

I made the first connection. “Three mob kings in one night? He's planning something big.”

“Aspirational, isn't he?”

“I wish, sir.”

The Superintendent leant back in his soft chair and looked at me. “McCullough,” he said, “it almost sounds like you want him to win.”

“No sir,” I replied. “But he drat just might.”

Silence again. I didn't say the most important thing: I already had a theory.

“That'll be all, Detective. Keep your head down, will you?”

“Sir.” That was all.

---

When I spotted him crawling out of the wreckage of the coke dealer's truck, I knew he'd be trouble. I don't know if he was trying to make a point or what, but he certainly made an impact.

The truck was a write-off. He was fine, I guess. He'd been shot somehow, presumably when he stole it, and the blood flowed down his arm, but as he gently bent back the metal surrounding him he showed no pain; he was like something off a poster, his mouth a thin still line.

I drew on him. “Freeze, kid.”

I swear to God he reached for the sky. His arms tore through the last of the steel like wrapping paper and suddenly he was unchained. I nearly shot him then and there, but something – fear? Curiosity? - kept me from firing that single simple shot that would have fixed everything. Instead he spoke.

“This isn't necessary, Sergeant. This vehicle is criminal property, you see.”

“And you are doing what with it, exactly?”

He looked at me. “Disabling it,” he said.

“I don't think-”

And then he moved. I wasn't holding the gun any more, but I never saw it move. It was just elsewhere all of a sudden; in his hand. He grinned. “Check the back,” he said. After I got my head back together, I did.

I found the dealer deposited a block away, hogtied to a lampost. The cocaine and the plates were enough to secure a conviction, even with a vigilante in the picture. We never managed to nab him, either. After the fifth attempt the brass decided to just promote me: so he couldn't have the credit, I think.

They kept their hands-off policy. That's what I told myself anyway. They knew what was going on: once criminals started turning up wrapped in rope like a sailor's Christmas the whole drat burg knew. The fact that he got those names from somewhere never came up, never even a hard question. Hell, we never even asked about his.

---

So he wanted to kill mob bosses. Worked for me. The thing about mob bosses is that I already know who they are and where they live: it's making anything stick to their door that's hard. But that didn't matter tonight. Tonight was all about a simple process of elimination. Three down meant one to go, and Buddy Fats was that one.

I was rewarded around a quarter to one as I put out the last of the cigarettes. A colossal silhouette emerged from behind a wall, and before I could move he had bashed the drat door in and I started running, running -

His feet had left leviathan footprints in the ratty shag carpet. “Stop, drat you!” I roared. “Executioner! We need to talk!”

His voice came from inside the living room. “I thought we were done talking, John?”

The door was open, but I couldn't see him. I edged towards it. “I was wrong, okay? I'm a fool. Let's just talk about whatever you want to talk about before-” I edged round the door.

Fats lay in his recliner, feet in the air. When I saw his swollen face I knew it was over. The Executioner himself stood behind him in victory, his hands around the man's throat.

He had pushed his lights clean out. “Oh,” I said.

He looked up at me and smiled that smile. “You went to all this trouble for that?”

“Damnit, man, this is not the time for your sodding wit! Have you lost your mind?”

“No. Have you not realised what the plan is yet?”

“Yes,” I said. “But here's what I still don't get. You could have just given them to me, like the old days.”

“And risk him walking free yet again? I tried it your way, Detective. It just wasn't good enough. Now we do it this way. I always believed in sending a message, remember.”

“I remember.”

“This one is nice and clear. No more subtlety, John. When this man's replacement emerges-”

“You'll cut him down too,” I drew my pistol. “Murder and intent to commit murder. They're crimes too, old friend, and you used to oppose that.”

“I hardly think-”

“Give it up. This is over. It was better when you were gone.”

And he laughed now, his hands coming free of Fat's crushed neck, and he came towards me.

“Do you know what I realised when I was away? I don't need you any more, O brave officer of the law. You were great, but now it's time for you to let go.” He reached out and his great hand clapped on my shoulder. I nearly fell, but he held me up. The gun quivered in my hand. “Look after yourself,” he said, and walked away from me.

I lifted my arm, and he knew. He turned around.

“No,” he said.

The last lesson I taught him was the hardest.

Obliterati fucked around with this message at Dec 8, 2013 around 23:32

Radioactive Bears
Jun 27, 2012

Creatures of horrid visage and disposition.


Creeping Fireflies
Wordcount: 593
(Lyric: But I'll know my song well before I start singing)

Isaac was to a point where he wasn't sure there was ever anything other than this. Blindness, pain, fear. He used to remember how he got here, but now he couldn't. It had been so long. He used to remember how long. There was a house, abandoned. It could have had food for him and ol' Gus. He went in with the hound dog and was looking through cabinets when the floor gave way to the dark. He'd woken up and tried screaming at first but after the first few hours, or days, or years, he'd had to stop because he wasn't making noise anymore.

The smell of blood and dirt, the searing pain from his legs, and that gnawing fear went away after a while in the dark. There simply wasn't enough left in Isaac to notice them. The wreckage on his legs felt sharp and cold once, but now it just felt like nothing at all. Sometimes, when he was trying to fall asleep, Isaac could feel things somewhere, but he couldn't see anything in the dark. He couldn’t find anything. When he woke up in a panic, trying to scream again, Gus always barked and scared whatever was touching Isaac away. Gus was such a good boy.

The still, thick air in the dark got riled up when Gus started shaking under Isaac's arm. It was wonderful to feel something after so long without moving. It didn't occur to Isaac for a long while that Gus was shaking because he was afraid again. It was so hard to think down in the hole. Things stopped making sense, and Isaac couldn't remember what things meant. He'd stopped trying a while back. Even in the haze he knew he didn't want Gus to feel afraid. He started singing, and trying to stroke Gus' ears with a hand that had long since stopped feeling anything.

Isaac's songs had always made Gus happy before, and made his little stump of a tail wag.

Isaac even knew what he'd sing. The first time he'd tried singing to calm down ol' Gus the words came easy. It was a song he couldn't remember anymore, after so long in the dark. Something someone that loved Isaac once sang to him a long time ago. As the dark stretched on, the words got harder and harder to remember, and he started running out of things to sing to the tune. Now it was just wild sound.

The song started as loud as Isaac could muster. After so long in the quiet, it was nearly deafening, but he couldn't stop anymore. The lyrics that weren't there kept coming, and Isaac watched as fireflies danced into his eyes. It was the first thing he and Gus had seen in the dark in so long. With each wordless verse, the song got quieter, and it got harder to think. Isaac didn't even know who was singing anymore, he just wanted to keep listening.

Gus stopped shaking and untensed under Isaac's arm just as that song started sputtering out. There wasn't even enough left down in dark to smile at Gus, but Isaac tried anyhow. No way to tell how long either of them had been down in the dark, shaking, he was just glad Gus wasn't scared anymore. Isaac didn't want to be scared anymore either. Why was that singer stopping?

The fireflies kept getting closer and closer in Issac's eyes, and he heard the singing man somewhere grow quieter and quieter. He didn't care anymore if they stopped singing.

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011



What is this, wimpout week?


Cantata Mortis
(1446 words)

Life ends, as do all things. Whether that end comes sooner or later isn’t always up to us. Pierre knew that better than most, perhaps – or maybe he didn’t know at all, and that was why they’d found him sprawled facedown in a gutter beneath his apartment window. He’d still held a pen in his inkstained left hand.

I sat in his studio amid a sprawl of fifty sheets of erased paper, while the fireplace sat cold and empty. Why not burn them, if he didn’t want them? He'd erased some so roughly they were crumpled and torn; it wasn't as though he intended to reuse them.

Anette set a tray of teapot and cups beside me and looked over my shoulder at the paper I'd just rubbed graphite over. “Mom, where's that one go?”

Words showed in relief: child, why are you so cold? “Third pile,” I said, and she set it on top of the rest that opened with similar lines.

All these pages were revisions of song verses, his finished progress kept in a hand-bound book propped on a music stand. It ended mid-verse in a jittering line. There were several points like that. For each of them I’d found drafts beginning at the interruption, and organized them into several stacks on the floor in front of the fireplace. Most of them belonged to the last unfinished stanza. I wondered which draft had finally made him throw himself from the window. Lord knew all poets were already at least half-mad without their creativity blocked.

My second day, I found a candidate on a sheet hidden under the edge of his rug. In the margin, in scrawling letters unlike the rest of his handwriting, he'd left a note: THEY ARE NOT REAL.

Maybe it hadn't just been writer's block that drove him out the window. I frowned at it. He was odd, for certain – but surely he hadn't gone mad in a year? I moved his furniture and rolled up the carpet, but found nothing else.

I'd known him, but not well. Several years ago, long before this started, he came to my door with a notebook in hand and asked if I could play him the latest melody he'd written. He said he had no talent for instruments, only writing the words and music. He sat by my piano, propped the book in front of me with an inkwell and frowned at the floor while I played. I barely remembered the tune, something in a minor key that toyed with discordant notes. I liked parts of it, and told him as much. He'd thanked me and wandered back to his studio, his brow furrowed all the while.

A week later he back with the lyrics and a changed melody. I played it for him once again, and this time, sang. The images stayed with me though I'd forgotten the exact words. A man on the street with holes in his shoes who patted a growling dog. A traveler of many lands whose only friend in the end was the grass. Pierre again sat staring at the floor. He didn't frown. When he left, he thanked me with the briefest of smiles. I never heard more of that song.

This poem, though, was a string of nonsense verses about childhood. Another poet might have known what they meant, but I was no poet. Other people wrote songs; I just played them. I found notation on the third day, but only one legible line of it. The rest had been scribbled over. I copied the stanza down and hummed it. An odd tune. I compared it to the words until I was sick of hearing the same bit of melody and Anette complained about me repeating it, but it was no use; I couldn't find where it belonged.

The days passed and I spent more time in that studio. Bits of melody stayed in my mind all waking hours, kept me awake at night, entered my dreams when I did sleep. In those dreams I saw Pierre, hands clenched in his hair in front of the fire. He tapped a rhythm on the floor and beat his fists against his head as the words refused to come. As something else did come. Something he didn't want, couldn't bear, that lurked at the edges of his imagination, that was itself and many others all one and wanted him as One of Ones. I woke up sweating but couldn't have said why.

Anette wanted me to read to her, but I could only think of the poem, and she said it was creepy and she didn't want to hear it anymore. I stared at the notation and slammed my fists on the table and paced the room, humming and scattering sheets in my wake. Nothing sounded right. It wasn't right, wasn't real needed to be real.

A week later, Anette refused to come with me to the studio, and my pen ran out of ink. I picked up the first one I found on his desk, but it didn't write. I opened it to refill it and smelled something rancid. The inside was packed with something reddish-brown. I recapped it and threw it into the wastebasket, then buried it under crumpled paper.

Pierre's message had been scrawled in blood ink.

Didn't make sense. I had to know what had driven him. I wrote the notation on different sheets and shuffled them in front of the book until musical staffs merged together and notes became spiders that crawled across the sheet until I looked away and they were still again. I stared at the notation and hummed a new line in a different order, and I had it. The song clicked into place like a piece in Anette's jigsaw puzzle. I snatched paper and pen and wrote it down, staff and notes all. The words fit it. At long last. I flipped to the first page, and sang the poet’s last song from the beginning.

The melody flowed through my mind. The words rolled off my tongue, in a language I knew yet didn’t know. The words he’d written didn’t mean what I thought they’d meant. They didn’t even mean what he’d meant them to. I saw him at his desk, crouched over a paper out of reach of the sun. He wanted to write about a childhood lost and found, love crossed and returned, but the words were not his own. No matter how he tried, the poem ran away from him, and he felt it growing. Whispering in his ear. Tapping his shoulder. Write, it demanded. Write us into the world. We exist through you, you exist for us.

Sing,
it demanded of me as the words ran from me like water. I heard the melody, alien, twisting, clawing. Sing us into the world. We are you. You are us. This song was theirs. It was Pierre’s, but it was never Pierre’s. It was mine but never mine, never meant to be mine but here I was and there they were and they needed me to sing as they’d needed Pierre to write or they couldn’t exist, couldn’t come into reality like I was. They wanted that reality, flesh borrowed from words that described humanity, souls taken from stories of love and loss, but they didn’t understand any of it. They knew the words but they did not feel the words. I felt the words, but did not know them, but that was okay, I only needed to sing for them, weave them their flesh and their spirit and draw them into the One I was One with them and they were part of One and One and One and infinite Ones through worlds of song and music and melody they could not make because they could not feel could not understand could not Be part of World they wanted Me and Them become Us my flesh Theirs my soul Theirs my song Theirs the world Theirs hunger Theirs devour Theirs

tears burned My flesh

silence

I opened my eyes.

Anette clung to me. The song cracked, memory fractured. I was still me, and me alone, standing next to the open window and my daughter was hugging me and crying.

That was what Pierre had tried to escape. Why he'd erased his work, why he had thrown himself from the window rather than let Them use him. I found my own words. “Honey-”

“Burn them,” she sobbed.

They didn’t want it burned.

I swept up the paper, threw them into the fire and lit it. They howled, They raged, but They were not real. I hugged Anette to my chest and listened to paper crackle.

V for Vegas
Aug 31, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Samovar (1170)

The bridge arched into the moonlight, it’s white stones reflected by the black river flowing icily below. The snow had stopped falling about an hour earlier and lay on the stone abutments like white teapot lids. At the peak of the bridge, a small afterthought of a shack sat next to the candy-striped pole that barred passage across the border. A warm light ebbed from the one, shuttered window. Behind it, two men in greatcoats huddled around an old, beaten samovar rubbing their hands and holding them out to the trickle of warmth that flowed from its coals.

‘Alexei, where is your bottle?’

‘I just gave you the bottle Alexei.’

‘I know, I have asked you for it a second time. Don’t be so cheap – you know I will pay you back from my next ration.’

Little Alexei sighed. He reached into his greatcoat and pulled out a small bottle, half full of clear liquid.

Big Alexei smiled. ‘Yes, yes, you are a good man Alexei. Don’t worry, I will share my next ration with you. I am a man of my word and I always pay my debts. Once a man from Trissele gave me a pair of shoes when we were marching home from the war. I never forgot him and the next year I travelled to Trissele and knocked on every door in the town until I found that man again and repaid his kindness.’

Little Alexei’s eyes were fixed on the liquid Big Alexei was pouring out while he was re-telling this story. He had heard it many times before. ‘Enough Alexei,’ he said. ‘There will be none left.’

Big Alexei ignored him and poured a little more out before recapping the bottle and handing it back. Little Alexei marked the level of the liquid by scratching his thumbnail on the label and put the bottle back in his pocket.

With a crash the door to the shack burst open. The cold air whipped the faces of the Alexei’s as they turned to see a small, dark man in a brown overcoat stumble into the room. Big Alexei leaped up to close the door and then they both turned to stare at the intruder. He had already turned to face the samovar, opening his coat to reveal a neat pin-stripe suit he had on underneath.

‘Thank you my friends, I do not know how long I could have lasted outside on a night like tonight,’ the newcomer said.

The Alexei’s exchanged glances. Big Alexei laughed.

‘Of course my friend, come in, come in. You look frozen half to death. Here open your coat some more to let the heat in. Alexei, your bottle, we will all have a drink.’

Little Alexei stared at his companion. ‘Alexei,’ he said.

‘Come, come little man. Out with it or our friend here will catch his death.’

A new cup was produced and a round poured. The newcomer drained his cup without pause, a touch of colour coming back into his cheeks. ‘Thank you sirs, that is better than a warm embrace.’

‘Of course,’ said Big Alexei, slapping him on the back. ‘But we are surprised to have any visitors at this time, aren’t we Alexei?’

‘Yes Alexei, very surprised. This border has been closed.’

‘Oh, I am not trying to cross the border,’ said the visitor. ‘I am a doctor, I was called out to a homestead near here to a women in childbirth. Well, it was a long and painful labour, the baby had not turned, so both the mother and infant died in their bed. The father was so enraged he threw me out of the house in the dead of night with a shotgun blast to hurry me on my way.’ He rubbed his hands in front of the coals. ‘My horse died under me a mile away and it was by chance I saw a light from your window.’

The three men stood quietly after this speech. The wind howled outside, its icy fingers slipping in through the cracks in the walls that had been stuffed with sackcloth.

Big Alexei tsked with his teeth. ‘These are tough times,’ he said. ‘The omens are bad. Women dying in childbirth. Winters lasting longer and summers over before they begun. But the sky is large and the King is far away, am I right?’

‘I guess so,’ said the Doctor. ‘This is my first winter on this station and I have nearly been killed five times already. I have lost count of the number of people I have seen die.’

‘You will be fine man, just keep your head above water.’

‘I don’t know, I feel like I’m drowning,’ he said.

‘We’re all drowning Doctor,’ said Big Alexei. ‘Not all today, and not all at once. But that roar you hear in your head? That’s the despair that drowns everyone at some stage. Oh you can keep it at bay for a while with good friends and strong drink. But it always comes for you.

‘My nephew got it at a young age. My sister’s son. She was always nervous and fussing over him, worried he would be hurt. But I could see it in his eyes that he had given up inside. He shot himself in the head when he was fifteen. Other people may not give up until the very last of their days, until the moment when life’s shadows have grown so dark around them that they realise, in the end, they are truly alone.’

He took another swig from the bottle.

‘So I should try and fight it?’ asked the Doctor?

‘Fight it? Are you listening to what I’m saying? Can you fight the wind? Fight the ocean? Fight what you are? You’ve got to accept it, open your mouth underwater and inhale deeply until your lungs fill right up. Then, my friend. Then you realise you can breathe underwater.’

Little Alexei fed another coal into the samovar. ‘And then you realise you’re stuck at a border crossing at the end of the earth and it can’t get any worse.’

Big Alexei laughed again. ‘Well it can always get worse.’ He gave the bottle to the Doctor. ‘But there is no homestead for many miles in any direction near here, is there good Doctor?’

The Doctor took a sip and handed the bottle to Little Alexei. ‘No,’ he said. ‘There is not.’

‘No,’ repeated Big Alexei. ‘I thought not. Come then, you have not yet learned to breathe underwater.’

Little Alexei stared at the glowing coals as the two other men opened the door and walked outside. A little while later a shot rang out, stopping the wind and the snow for just a second.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


As per conditions of my winning duel, I have 300 extra words to call in against you Jeza, so I figure now would be nice to use some of those when you aren't even writing.


The Trail of Sun-Catchers
Words: 2130
Prompt: I saw a newborn with wild wolves all around him.

By the time the men discovered the third child’s skeleton, their revulsion had turned to fascination. They crouched around it, their mud-colored khakis tucked into their even darker leather boots, rifles slung across their backs.

They crowded around the cactus, each jockeying to see the newest corpse. I could see the skeleton, desiccated and bleached by the sun. All of the flesh and meaty bits stripped from the child by scavengers.

Pawtu, our guide, watched them silently. I saw him clench his fists, but I did not know why. I did not trust Pawtu. He was one of them, a tribesman we were to “re-locate.”

The cactus was short, stubby, but like a sea polyp, split in four cardinal directions, as though someone had lashed together the fingers of a child to grow together, and then let them out before they could become long, fingers of a man. Sprouting from the fat tentacles were thorns the size of a thumb, hooked and cruel. As copious as a hair on a beard, I felt the thorns, stiff and rigid.

“Sun-catchers,” Pawtu said. The men turned and allowed him to cut through the crowd. Pawtu knelt, and placed his hand carefully on the base of the cactus. He felt around before finally pausing, and then traced a symbol in an area curiously devoid of thorns.

“They placed the children in them,” Pawtu said. “Like so.”

“Why the hell,” one of my corporals said.

“A test,” Pawtu said. “A boy is not a man until he can escape the sun-catcher.” Pawtu rose and stroked the skull of the child. He tucked his hands into the arm pits and carefully lifted the skeleton out of the plant.

“And the boy crawls back up to the plateau to his waiting father.”

“It is not just a test of manhood,” he said. “It is a test of the father. If the son can make it back, the father is honored.”

“That’s insane,” I said.

“Is it truly? By how was your father proud of you?”

I said nothing.

“But this, this is insane,” Pawtu said looking at the small skeleton. “How can a boy so young be expected to do such a feat?”

“I don’t understand,” Corporal Senz said.

“The men have lost their way,” Pawtu said. “They have pushed their sons away from them, younger and further down the mountain, all for their own selfish glory.”

“All just to prove their own manhood?” Senz said.

“Sometimes that is all a man has left,” Pawtu said.

“Let’s keep moving,” I said. We gathered back together and proceeded up the desert trail into the mountains. Pawtu lingered behind, and I wanted to stay, to make sure someone kept an eye on him, but he had done the majority of his job. We found the path up the back of the mountains to the village.

“A sacred, unused path,” Pawtu had told me at the beginning of our expedition. “They only use this path once a year for ceremony and ritual.”

I never thought to ask what this ceremony was, and I wished I had, so that I would never have to be subject to these sights. As we moved on, the sinking feeling that this was a trap continued to grow. I was surprised when Pawtu re-appeared from behind the men, and to take the lead.

We passed sun-catchers after sun-catcher. As we climbed, few cacti had any contents, instead, we found more and more skeletons strewn upon the path, some facing the wrong way, or tucked under bushes.

“Why are they still here? Why don’t they bury them?” one of the men asked.

“Because they are trash, unfit for the village.”

“A permanent reminder of shame,” I said. Pawtu nodded ahead of me.

“How long, Pawtu,” I said.

“Six hours.”

I halted the men. We were ahead of schedule, and if we continued at our pace we’d arrive before nightfall. “Time to eat,” I said. Everyone breathed deeply, their muscles relaxing all at once. They sat and began to rummage through their packs. All but Pawtu.

I listened to the whispers of the men. Anger, and fear floated through the air as we sat on one of the switchback trails through the scrub. An eager, anxiousness infected their voices; they were excited at what we were here to do. We had somehow become vindicated before the fact, as though that somehow had any gravitas. We were here to erase these people from history, we should not pretend we were in the right from the beginning.

I sat next to Pawtu, and I could see the snaking scar tissue on his legs.

“I remember when I made it back to the village,” he said unprompted and quiet enough only I could hear. “I remember everything, as I was old enough to be able, unlike some of the boys we passed.”

I wanted to ask him why he was telling me this, but I hoped he would also reveal himself. So I could shoot him where he sat and turn my men around.

“I made it back on the second night, when all the fathers were still waiting. Back then, they would all surround me, to come and cheer, and honor both me and my father. I remember the eyes of my father, crying with pride. I was his third born, but I was now his only, I was his sun.”

My stomach flipped, as I thought of my own father.

“It is different now, they have grown so cold. The men, they do not see another’s success as triumphant, but an insult to their character. As though pride in ones son is the same as condemning another. And then the escalation, a competition, a conscious and targeted effort to murder their own children in hopes that they can spite their neighbor.”

Pawtu had tears in his eyes, and he spoke through clenched teeth. I did not want to know anything about this man, because I wanted him to die. I wanted to become lost in the desert, and turn away. I wanted to go home. Instead, we had to eat our tack and dried meat and continue up the mountain, weaving our way through the trails, and stepping over the bodies of dead children, with thorns stuck in their bones and fear seizing their jaws.

As we crept to the village I kept the guide in my vision the entire time. Waiting for him to turn on us. A signal, a flinch, anything and I would shoot the man dead and run. Visions flashed in my brain of what horrors they would visit on those who lived if we failed. They were willing to mutilate their own children, I felt my imagination would hardly prepare me for what we might face.

The quiet in the desert air made everything worse; every crunching rock a signal to the hidden guards, ready to cut us down from the shadows. But no bullets came. No arrows, no insane villagers with cudgels.

The first man we saw sat on a rug in front of the village. His legs crossed, back slumped forward a little, blended into the dark landscape like an unassuming rock. I signaled for a full halt, and Pawtu kept on going forward.

Finally, my suspicions would prove my both correct and a fool. I had led my men here to die, and all we would get out of it would be one dead villager. I lowered my rifle taking aim at the back of his neck. He held his hand out behind him, his lighter palm catching moonlight, and I paused.

Pawtu knelt next to the man, who had yet to move. He waved us closer, and I went alone. No one else should pay for my mistakes. He held his hand up again when I was two paces from them.

“He is in a trance,” he said. “He does not know we are here.”

“That’s not a very good guard,” I said.

“He does not guard, he waits.”

“Waiting for you?” I asked, my grip still tight on my rifle.

“No, he waits for his son.”

I looked around and I saw other rugs, similar to the one the man sat on, abandoned in different angles and positions, scattered around the entrance.

“But, there was no one alive,” I said.

Pawtu nodded.

“How long has he been sitting here?”

Pawtu inspected the man closer, peering under his neck, and lifting the thin cloth that clung to the bony back.

“He hasn’t eaten for many weeks, and I suspect he will die here waiting,” Pawtu said.

I nodded, and jammed my knife underneath his chin, and up through his jaw. The man’s eyes flicked open for a moment before his eyes rolled back into his head. When he fell against me I marveled at how light he was. I saw prominently now, the scars that lined his arms, reaching all the way underneath his clothing.

“He would wait for a son that would never come back?”

Pawtu said nothing, but I was glad he did not. I stood and motioned the men. Their muscles had been tensed since I walked with Pawtu to the village, and I could feel their chains be cast off as I gave the signal. Like trains, they started slowly, moving with continuing strength before they careened into the village wildly.

Gunfire mixed with screams as the village was obviously unprepared for us. Pawtu had not sold us out. Instead, he had disappeared into the village, and I hoped I would not see him again.

Fires had been set, and I could see them begin to consume the ramshackle huts. Corrugated steel roofs collapsed as the timber that held a majority of the huts alit. The men were shot in the homes, and as the women escaped, some with children clutched to their breasts, I pointed them out to my men who would shoot them as they ran. Or I would shoot them too as they ran towards the exit.

I saw some of my men covered in blood, holding their knives, as though they had never considered it possible to use a gun. They were no longer interested in efficiency. I would not be able to stop them, but only guide their animalistic instinct to destroy. To do what we had all been paid to do.

As the shouting began to die down, the flames picked up even further. I motioned to my lieutenant to begin to check the bodies. He collected a group and began to scour the village, putting an extra bullet in every fallen body.

And then I saw Pawtu again. He was naked, a quilt of scars, and he walked through the village as though it were a day at the beach. In his hand was a club, covered in hair and blood. In his other hand his pack, and a gleam in his eyes as he watched the fires. As my men moved back and forth I lost sight of the guide, but I was content to leave him in the fires, to burn with the rest of our memories of this horrid place.

I turned and went back to the back entrance of the village where I had murdered the man waiting for his son. I sat on one of the abandoned rugs, insulting the last vestige of these dead fathers.

The embers licked the ceiling of darkness, dancing away, far away from the burning village. Even the fire was ashamed to be here among the Pawtu and the men. They too danced, black silhouettes against the arson. The arson we were paid to do. I was paid to do.

I gripped the leather strap of my bolt-action for support. I couldn’t see their features, just black shadows prancing back and forth, stoking the fires and kicking corpses. But I could hear Pawtu. I heard him crying, laughing and crying, and then he stumbled out of the burning center of the village. Cradled in his arms was the skull of a child, swaddled in the scarred mess of his forearms.

Pawtu stroked the top of the skull, holding it tight with the other arm. We made eye contact as he looked up, but he saw through me, as though I was another silhouette of a cactus in the background. He turned and held the skull above his head triumphant, and screamed into the night.

I saw everyone turn and watch. Pawtu shouted above the fire, the crackling and falling timber fearful to make a sound in protest. When Pawtu stopped and breathed in, the men raised their guns above their head and echoed him into the night. I tightened my grip on the leather strap.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

In One Hand and the Other
1770 words


I announce myself by shooting star, an eyelash on cheek, or the hard snap of a wishbone. I wave hello in the wafting smoke of every birthday cake, and goodbye as I twirl through the waters of fountains.

The wind doesn’t blow aimlessly; it carries me to where I want to go. Right now I want to be here.

“Looks dead.”

The boy jumps at the sound of my voice. He sniffles and wipes his eyes. “I wished for a pony.”

“Looks like you got one.”

“But it’s dead.”

“As I stated earlier.”

The boy stares up at me with puffy eyes, and I assume this is the point that most people feel pity. “You shouldn’t smile.”

“Am I?”

“You’re a mean man, mister.”

“We all have our tells.”

The boy is dressed like a little sailor. His shoes reflect the dew-covered grass, and are spattered with blood. He doesn’t know what I mean, and I don’t feel obligated to enlighten him. I don’t know why I’m taking it out on him. Everybody wishes, and for a lot more banal things than him. It must be something about his face.

He scrunches it in the most annoying fashion. Yeah, it’s his face.

“Nevermind. Just stop wishing for cliches. It’s annoying.”

“My mom said that if I wish hard enough anything can come true.”

I hate women like her. Think if they sit around wishing all day, the world will magically provide. Haven’t these people heard of prayer? Why do I gotta get stuck with all their hopes and dreams? And not just people’s. An antelope drinking from a shrinking watering hole wishes for rain. A tiny sapling overshadowed by a redwood wishes for sunlight. Every living thing, all day long.

“Don’t worry kid, my mom lied to me too.”

“I just wish--”

I don’t know why I hit the kid. My anger gets the best of me sometimes. I’m jaded. I think it’s from hearing the pleas of dying soldiers. So many of them, slumped over, scattered on plains and hills and beaches.

“Ow!”

“Sorry kid, don’t know what got into me.”

“You can’t just go around hitting people. You’re lucky my dad isn’t here.”

“I doubt Luck has anything to do with that.”

The kid is on the ground, eye-to-eye with the contorted face of the dead pony, and before he can look back up to me, I escape on an autumn gust.

#

She’s hiding in fields of trifolium, in horseshoes hung over the lintel in old-west-themed bars. She is hoarded in found coins and faux bunny legs. We travel the wind together, passing each other as we attend to our chores.

Right now she’s walking to a casino. The breeze scoots newspapers down the sidewalk, and I run my hand over my hair, trying to look presentable. She rounds the corner, her arm hooked with some chump in a suit.

She notices me leaning against the brick wall trying to look casual and whispers something into the man’s ear. He nods and pulls out his wallet. He hands me a five and moves on.

As they walk past, she turns and winks to me. I catch my reflection in the storefront across the street, and understand why. I need to get some new clothes.

Still, the casino doesn’t have a dress code, and I pay the five-dollar cover.

They’re standing with their backs to me at the craps table. I need a drink to wash down the thick fog of cigarette smoke.

I sit at the bar and wave the bartender over.

“Can I see your ID?”

“Really?” I ask him.

He studies my face: cracked and pockmarked, perpetual stubble, wisps of gray streaking back from my temples.

“I guess I can let it slide. Let me guess: whisky?”

“Margarita.”

He frowns, but turns to scoop the ice. I’d probably have ordered a whiskey, but I don’t like that I’m predictable. The sound of the blender is barely audible over the roar of excitement from the tables. The man just won a big bet. I roll my eyes.

“That’s ten dollars.”

“Will you accept this instead?” I take a sip from the straw and hand him a wooden nickle.

He turns it over in his hands and scowls. “What the hell do I do with this?”

“It’s good for one wish. Anything you want.”

He tosses it back onto the bar. “I don’t think so bub. Ten dollars, or I’m calling Tony.”

I look over at Tony. He looks like he has more muscles than patience.

I shrug and put the nickel back into my pocket. I dig out ten wrinkled bills and set them down. “Thanks, this is delicious,” I say as I spin on the barstool and slurp.

She’s in a stunning red dress. Or is she stunning in a red dress? Either way, I wait until her man goes to the bathroom before I approach her. She’s watching his pile of chips.

“He’s doing well tonight,” I say, taking a black one off the top and slipping it into my pocket next to the nickel. I don’t need the money; I just like to take it.

She takes a sip of her drink and leaves a red lipstick mark. “I had to clean up your mess today you know.”

“How so?”

“That boy with the pony. You know what the police said when they arrived?”

“I didn’t bother to stick around.”

“‘If that branch had fallen half a foot to the left, we’d being calling the coroner instead of the veterinarian. He’s one lucky boy.’” Her finger traces the rim of the glass. “You’re getting sloppy.”

“I know.”

“You need to move on.”

“It’s difficult.”

“Following me to casinos doesn’t make it easier. Why do you want to watch this?”

I have no good answer. I guess we all have our own dead ponies to deal with. “Why them? Humans?”

She shrugs. “It’s fun. Naughty. They’re so amusing. You should try it; it might help.”

I have. “I’m not interested.”

The chump returns from the bathroom and extends his hand to me. “You look familiar. Have we met?”

“I don’t think so.”

We shake hands. He’s one of those guys who squeeze too tight like they got something to prove. Must make jerking off a hell of a chore.

I stand up. “I was just leaving.” I kiss Luck on the cheek. “It was great catching up.”

Outside, a storm is blowing in the direction I want to go, and it’s easy to run away from the past.

#

The old bunker is adorned with only a moth-eaten mattress and a few rusty bike parts, but it wreaks of unfulfilled wishes. Nobody comes through here, making it the perfect place to sit back, ignore the greedy, and collect my thoughts.

I catch my reflection in scratched-up slab of scrap metal, and it’s worse than before. I chose gray streaks because after I’d gone I wanted to leave people with the vision of wise man Wish. I doubt that’s how the boy saw me. My face is cracking and accumulating dirt. I can appear however I want, but haven’t had the will to change.

I sit on the floor and watch the concrete walls turn orange from the sunset pushing its way into the small observation slit. The day is its most beautiful at the end. There were times, earlier, when I’d take repose in tropical paradises. No matter how exotic the location, everybody stopped to take in the sunset.

Newlyweds who had spent all day staring into each other’s eyes turned their heads to watch. Small children who had been torturing lizards paused to stare wide-eyed into the clouds. Even Luck would sit out on the balcony with me and just sit in silence.

The color from the slit travels from the floor, up the wall, onto the ceiling, and then fades completely. The darkness seeps in and I clock out; the night belongs to Mayhem and Panic.

Luck is probably out there now, nudging this and steadying that--she works so quietly that even I don’t know when she’s around. She thinks it’s her duty to offset some of the dangers of the night. Nobody wishes when confronted with danger, they just curse and beg.

I think about what she said about moving on. Most of the others have already gone on to a new world that needs more help. I used to like helping people.

I think back to earlier this morning with the boy. He said I was smiling. I spend the rest of the night imagining his face, his tears, his shoes. It makes my heart sink to my stomach. I was never who she wanted me to be, and now I’m not even who I want to be.

I decide that it’s time for me to leave.

At sunrise I slip out of the abandoned structure and make my way back to the boy’s house. I knock on his front door and his father answers.

“I heard about your son’s accident.”

“We’re just glad he’s ok. He’s in bed still. He’s pretty shook up.”

I can tell he’s not lying. There is an uncomfortable silence. I didn’t plan this well.

“I was sad to hear about him losing his pony.”

“Oh, it wasn’t his. He believed that if his little sister got the pony she wanted, it would make her get better. He said he wished on a falling star, and it came true. But--”

I took a few steps backward.

“Are you ok?,” the boy’s dad asks.

“Yeah. I’m fine.” I stumble on the stairs, and the boy’s dad turns his head and yells for his wife to wife to call for help. But by the time he looks back I am gone.

There are so many wishes every day, that it’s hard to get to them all. I push myself, and for a few hours, I feel good. This is what I am meant to be doing. This is what I volunteered to do. And for a few hours on my last day, I remember why.

My last task before I depart is a pony in the field. I hide on the edge of the trees, waiting for the little boy to look out the window.

When he does, his face lights up with joy. Not for himself, but so he can give something to somebody in need. He inspires me to be like that again.

A solar flare collapses, and the fusion winds blow steadily. I catch a ride on the cosmic winds, finally ready to move on.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


right under the loving wire. I literally made someone drive me back from my own wedding weekend early so I could run up the stairs to my apartment at 3:57 and submit this, Thunderdome don't ever say I don't show you that I love you.

prompt: I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways

When the Highway Came Through Little Oak Park 1,997 words

My old car got hot cos Omar rolled down the window and punched some crazy white girl on a bicycle. That's why I bought the Corvette, which, my baby sister Jenny, she sittin in my apartment telling me it cost the same as we make off eighty-four ounces of smack. She got it all written down, like "street cost per gram", and yeah, I ask her why she doing this poo poo instead of her homework, but she just roll her eyes at me. I tell her she better burn that paper, we don't need nothing with "wholesale cost per ounce" sitting around my place.

So she get this nasty look on her face and she like Well hey, at least we ain't gonna get stuck behind no crazy white girls on bicycles no more. You remember that, Sean? When Omar punched that girl? She smiling at me with half her mouth.

Shut your mouth, I say. I am mad that car got hot. Even though the Corvette, it's pretty good too.

But Jenny says, Nah, be cool. What I heard, is the highway coming right through here. I was just on the corner talking to Lalo, and they gonna buy his store. He say he gonna retire and get outta this place. They gonna buy all them houses on School Street, and tear them down, build up a highway right through from I-58 to the north side.

Man, I say, that's okay, ain't gonna take us no hour to get home.

So I get this idea one day I'm gonna take a walk and see where this highway going. They bought Lalo's store and even my Auntie Bianca and Uncle Elijah's house, and they gave them a grip for that poo poo. So me and Marco walk over. They got this no-man's land like some Saving Private Ryan poo poo. You gotta walk up this hill, and on top there's all these old people in puffy coats going toe to toe with some bulldozers.

They all got signs that say "Don't divide our cities" and "Road rage" and "Trees not concrete". This one old lady, she sitting right down in the dirt, right in front of this big steamroller. The driver ain't going nowhere, though. That's what Marco says: They ain't going nowhere, let's go talk to them.

Marco says Can I ask what you're doing, ma'am?. Marco, he's this smart motherfucker, he do all my bookkeeping. He's good at talking to old people. This old lady, she got these crazy pale blue eyes and a Sherlock Holmes hat and she says, you kids from Little Oak? And Marco says Yeah, we from the Park.

She says Son, if they build this highway, we're all going to regret it. It's gonna be a big noisy mess right in the middle of our neighborhood, and it'll split Little Oak Park in two.

She don't care if she gets to drive fast, she just wanna walk to the grocery store. Marco shaking his head. I feel that same way too, drat if I don't want to drive that Corvette in the fast lane all the way to my front door. She gives us these flyers and tells us we better call the mayor's office. I actually bust out laughing at that one, but at least I wait til we back down that hill and halfway home. Me, calling the mayor's office. Yeah.

A few days later, me and Marco sitting in this girl's apartment where we been working out of. Her and her baby, they gone off to live somewhere else, and there's five or ten guys sitting here all day, making dime bags, taking phone calls, smoking.

Look at this, Marco says, and he's pointing at this long list of numbers all red and green.

Stop loving around and just say what you gonna say, Marco.

Well, we losing people, he says. They bothering people on bikes who try to go across that construction, don't nobody want to go over to West Oak anymore. All them side streets closed off for twenty blocks. And even less than nobody want to come all the way over here just to get they poo poo taken. I look at this fourteen-year-old kid sittin next to me.
They bothering people? I say.

They ain't bothering me, he say.

Don't smoke in here. I take the cigarette out of his hand. He don't say nothing more after that.

Look here, says Marco. We losing forty percent of our profits. All because of that dumb-rear end construction. What you expect people to do, drive they cars across the highway?
Well, I say. Wanna go talk to those old people? See if they about to figure something out? Maybe go scare some motherfuckers outta they bulldozers?

So I get Marco and Omar and Jenny and pull like fifteen other people right outta they work, cos I can do that, these days. We march up that little hill and right into the same scene as before, except they laid a little bit more asphalt now. Buncha squinty-face fat guys in bulldozers and this crowd of old people waving signs and singing. There's more of them now, too. And Marco gets this big smile on his face and he walks right up to that same old lady with the blue eyes and he says, We here to help you out.

Thanks, she says, we really appreciate your help. She lookin at us like she seen a ghost but she ain't scared of it. What're you boys' names? Do all y'all live here? Her sign says "Don't split up our communities" with a picture of a highway going right through the middle. We don't want this community split up, I say.

Well then, start making yourself some signs. I'll introduce you to everyone.

Jenny jumps right on them markers and poster paper and makes herself a sign with all these pictures of cars on fire and exploding, and flowers growing on top of them. Don't hurt our hood, the sign says. Marco's says Support Your Local Businesses. Local businesses, you know? Huh? he says, grinning. Marco, you such a fag, says Omar.

So us and the construction workers sit there and talk poo poo at each other. And funny enough, it's a real good time. People start gettin off work and they bring they kids and they grandmas and grandpas up to the highway. People textin me We gotta go forty minutes out of our way to get around this highway, the pigs hassling everybody, I just tell them hold up, we having ourselves a little protest. Walk yo rear end up to School and North and bring some food with you. Soon enough we having a regular block party right out here on the highway. Even the construction workers gettin into it, once we give them some corn on the cob.

This must be going on about two, three days. I ain't makin no money but if I listen to Marco, I wasn't before either.

Then one of the foremen like, you wanna get out of here tonight. They gonna be arresting people early in the morning, you obstructing our progress here. So one of them old men comes to me and tells me, get yo people together. He got squinty eyes and he wearing this sweater with a cat face on it. Man, I like your sweater, I say. Me and Omar been goin off to smoke in the bushes and I'm pretty high again by now. But this guy, he take control.

Some people light a little fire, and we got lawn chairs and stuff. The construction workers, they all confused. Y'all gonna get arrested in the morning, they sayin. We paved all we could back there, they sayin, we gotta keep movin north. But as soon as it's full dark, me and Omar, we get everybody together and we tell them, We gonna move these bulldozers right off the highway.

Marco says that a bulldozer weighs like twenty tons. We gonna need a lot of people, he says. Or these, that old lady with the blue eyes says, and she hold out her hand with the foreman's keys in it. She don't keep it for herself neither, she actually gives it to Marco. That old white lady, she okay. Marco, his face light up like it's Christmas.

So three in the morning, when everything all quiet, Marco finally gets himself a bulldozer. He pulls his shoelaces right out his shoes and he tyin down the gas pedal. And then he turn that key and start it up and it just goes right through the fence, right down that hill, and that's where it falls over, but it keeps sliding and groaning until it lands right where Lalo's shop used to be at, and even the treads still be spinning. The kids be cheering and hollering, Jenny be jumpin up and down clapping her hands. I even get myself a bulldozer too, and man, it feels pretty good. We make them a big old mess, even though we probably only there for ten minutes. But then we hear sirens and we all running back home, fast as hell. Me and Marco don't stop until we get back to my apartment.

So that didn't kill the highway, but it did show up on the news the next morning, with a headline sayin that they be lookin for us. Of course they lookin for us, too, not them old folks. But then that gave Marco some time. He ain't stupid enough to be working for no drug dealer when a bunch of construction workers all tellin the police bout his face. So instead, he lays low and does some research. And crazy thing, he find out that them contractors working on the highway, they all workin for this one guy. And I ain't gonna name names, but this guy, he comin down to the Park every week and buyin coke. We even got pictures of him gettin high at my boy's house.

So Marco makes himself an email account and sends out some tips. Me, I'm just hoping that that contractor didn't keep no records of who his dealer was, but it don't hurt me none, really, since his dealer better not have my own name written down nowhere. Assholes get they own in the end. And funny enough, that's the last straw. Marco just send out a couple of messages and all of a sudden, two days later, we seein on the news that the highway is going down once and for all. They even got that picture of the guy snorting coke, even though Marco swear up and down they didn't get it from him. Between that and the bulldozers, and this line in the news that talks about "popular opposition" but really means "some dumb motherfuckers sat on the highway until they asses got sore" - that highway ain't goin no further. I bet them old white folks celebratin'.

So in the end they built a park there, right where the construction ended. The rest of it, they turned into a road. Ain't no highway, but I can drive the Corvette on it fast enough. Funny thing, they call this place Little Oak Park but ain't never been no park around here before. But now there's a park you can walk right through without nobody bothering you. That's where I'm sittin' right now, watchin old men play chess and fat old ladies sit in they lawn chairs and kids ride by on they bicycles. Thinkin, maybe I ought to get myself a bicycle, get a little exercise. Go over to West Oak once in a while and check out how things goin over there. My business pretty much runnin itself these days, after all. I got Marco and Jenny to help me out, they good kids. Things lookin pretty good around here.

God Over Djinn fucked around with this message at Dec 9, 2013 around 00:03

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


The Crying Tree (946 words)

Aunt Waverly and I were both born on a leap year. The 29th of February, twelve years apart. It was all a bit cosmic for me, but Aunt Waverly insisted it was the reason we got along so well. Kindred spirits. Like eggs and jam.

When I turned twelve she bought me a boa constrictor. She named it Ernie and I approved, though mother didn’t. She found it and killed it and threw it away. I didn’t cry because mother didn’t approve of that either, so aunt Waverly bought me a book about them for being such a sport. In the dedication she wrote in memory of Ernie, the most excellent of snakes. Three years later when the house burned down it was the only thing I bothered to save. That is how I came to live with Aunt Waverly.

Aunt Waverly lived above an old movie theater. From time to time she would open it up and show old movies for free in black and white, but few of the locals ever attended. I remember getting the distinct feeling we were not well liked. I asked her about it over tea and she smiled.

“No, not at all. More mistrusted.”

The apartment above the theater was tiny and cramped. Aunt Waverly had a deep and dividing interest in things. The shelves were lined with cages and oddities, and the walls hung thick with trinkets and masks. We had tea every afternoon by the one window that overlooked the street. I made myself comfortable by a suit of samurai armor. Aunt Waverly always sat between an old globe and spyglass.

“Why?”

“Hmm?”

“Why don’t they trust us?”

“Not us, my dear, just me.”

I shook my head. I knew better. I was guilty by association. I’d learned that much from attending school.

“They say you’re a witch,” I said. “Is that true?” For as long as she lived she never answered that question.

Now Aunt Waverly’s favorite thing was not in our house, nor by it, nor behind it. When we wanted to see it we walked out to the woods. The air there was crisp and tasted of autumn. We never brought a map, but we always knew the way.

In the heart of the forest in a clearing stood a single tree, the bleakest and blackest I have ever seen. Gnarled and bony, it produced no leaves no matter the season. Its roots were long and thick and tangled, the sparse grass between them dyed a brilliant, shimmering red. The locals called it The Crying Tree. Aunt Waverly called it Harold.

“Who’s Harold?” I asked, then having my first inkling as to how Aunt Waverly named things.

“Someone I used to know a long time ago.”

Gathered at the base of the tree were a number of pots placed strategically beneath the outstretched tips of various branches. Once a month Aunt Waverly and I went out to collect them and replace them with new ones, the old ones filled to the brim with a deep crimson liquid that carried a metallic scent. It took us several trips to bring them all. At the end of the day Aunt Waverly always stopped to thank the tree, hands together, praying silently. I followed her lead, though at the time I could not understand why.

At home we bottled the liquid and used it for dyes. Aunt Waverly taught me how to knit, and subsequently marked our next several Christmases with the mutual exchange of crimson scarves. As the year went by the colors would fade, necessitating new scarves. Sometimes Aunt Waverly used the dye for other things. Most of the time she simply stored it away. The one thing I was never allowed to see was where she kept it.

Sometimes Aunt Waverly went away on business, and I was left to myself. I would pick out books at random and wander the theater reading them aloud. It was during one such reading I discovered the only thing of Harold’s Aunt Waverly had left.

It was a simple photograph, stained and sepia. It showed a little girl in the embrace of her parents, with another gentleman standing off to the side. The parents were stern, somber people, clothes ironed and creased. The gentleman was more crinkled and crumpled and weary, yet smiling. The little girl smiled also. She looked more like his than theirs.

The back of the photograph read in simple handwriting Uncle Harold comes to visit on his and Waverly’s birthday. That was all I ever learned about the man named Uncle Harold.

Aunt Waverly returned that evening. As always she was smiling. I never mentioned the photograph.

That summer there was an accident. An earthquake. The whole theater shook. I escaped. Aunt Waverly didn’t. They found her beneath a number of shelves in the basement, surrounded by blood and broken glass bottles. The basement has apparently contained hundreds of such bottles. When they turned her over she had the most serene smile on her face. I’ll never forget it.

The service was on a Wednesday. Aunt Waverly preferred them. I refused a burial at the churchyard. Instead I took her body out into the woods. There by Harold, I planted her in the ground. Into her hands I placed the old photograph.

It has been several years since then. I do not collect things in bottles nor things in general as Aunt Waverly did, but I look after the ones she left behind. Sometimes I go out into the forest. There, by Harold, a new sapling has since sprouted. It bears no leaves, but exhales a gentle trickle of red.

Jeza
Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.


Submissions are now closed.

If you submit now, your fate is within my whimsy. My cruel, British whimsy.

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007



Fun Shoe

dangit bobbeh

Winter’s mute 1490 words

The last embers were dying out and shadows reached across the tiny cabin. Kazan shivered. His sister moved closer to the fire pit. He wanted to scold her, but the hearthstone was hardly warm. She held her last piece of boiled birch bark over the embers.

“You should really finish your dinner,” he said, hardly convinced of his own words.

She dropped the bark into the fire.

“You’ll starve to death, you know,” he said, holding his hands out to the tiny flame.

They huddled under the blanket until the fire died. It was too cold to sleep, again. Kazan stood, suddenly, and cleared the hearthstone of ashes. It had already cooled.

“What are you doing?” his sister asked.

“I’m doing what father would have done,” he said, lifting the hearthstone. He braced himself against the polished rock.

“You can’t!” she yelled, and tried to push him away. He struck her across the face.

She fell to the floor, sobbing.

“I’m sorry!” The starvation haze cleared for a moment, the heaviness of feeling set in. But it was gone almost immediately, carried away on hunger pangs.

“What are they going to do? Shun us again? Spring isn’t coming for months. It’d be a mercy if they hung us. Besides, how are they going to find out?” he asked, lifting the stone and pulling it aside. He pulled a tightly wrapped box from the hole.

“The…the Obfuscator will know, won’t she?” his sister asked.

“You don’t actually believe that, do you? The Gods are the only ones with powers. The Obfuscator is a lie the Elders use to keep us in line,” he said.

“Then why haven’t the Gods come?” his sister asked.

He didn’t answer, instead he unwrapped the box and straightened the cloth out on the floor.

The cloth had markings that lit up in the moonlight. Four circles around a larger one, strange shapes filled the periphery. If he stared too long he’d see figures appear in deeper shades of black. He was sure it was delirium setting in.

He ran his hands along the box, it felt warm to his numbed hands. The latches let go with a click and he opened it just as his father had done.

He set the candles out in their respective circles and held his hands over the carved idols. He closed his eyes. A humming like that of locusts filled his head, he felt his fingers curl around an idol that radiated warmth. He placed it in the biggest circle.

He opened his eyes to a carving of woman, slender and painted white. Crimson ram’s horns grew from her head. He lit one of their last matches and lit each candle, murmuring the words he’d heard his father say. He asked for salvation.

Someone knocked at the door.

“Who goes!” Kazan yelled, blowing the candles out and frantically putting the idol away.

The door flew open, three men stood at the entrance, holding staves. The council.

“The Obfuscator grows hungry. We are here to take what you can spare,” one spoke.

“You’ve already taken everything,” Kazan stood before them, fists clenched.

“We were told you’d have food to spare,” one spoke with a soft aggression, a blade coated in honey.

“We have nothing. I’ll collect more bark tomorrow,” Kazan said. One of the men pushed him aside, the other two walked in, surveying his cabin.

“What’s this now?” One of the men picked up the cloth, and stared at the symbols.

“Following in your father’s footsteps, are we?

“Gods take you!” Kazan lunged for the elder, but a staff caught him in the head. He fell to the ground. Everything was spinning around him.

Someone spoke “Heresy is a capital offense, as you know. I think we can settle this with a payment, however…”

His sister screamed as they grabbed her. He tried lifting himself up, but a boot caught him in the chest. The world faded out.

There was searing pain before there was light. Everything tasted like blood. He tried to spit but his mouth wouldn’t open. Something held his hands.

It was dark, the smell of incense told him he was in the temple. Slowly, shapes started coming into focus. Gold glittered in faint lantern light, a naked corpse sat atop a throne. The Obfuscator.

A great tangle of tubes grew from her like roots from a tree, hair covered her face. Her sunken chest heaved slowly, like she was in great pain. He could see the bones in her arms, her ribcage shone through her flesh. Her fingers were curled around the throne’s armrests in a death grip.

The Elders stood before an altar, holding a dagger. Attached, or rather, growing from the hilt was a single clear tube. Something lay atop the polished marble.

His sister.

He tried to scream, but pain shot through his lips. They’d been stitched shut, they’d taken his tongue too, no doubt. The punishment for heresy was harsh.

The plunged the dagger into her chest; her ribs cracked. The tube filled with crimson, he watched her life-blood disappear into the throne. The Obfuscator’s breathing eased.

Her eyes opened. He tried to look away but could not. He locked eyes with an endless darkness, a hunger that could never be satiated. The sound of his father’s neck cracking in the noose echoed into infinity.

He was alone in the forest. A fierce wind blew snow through the trees and hid the sun. He couldn’t tell where the village was but would offer no salvation anyway.

“The penalty for heresy shall be expulsion or execution.” He could hear the words spoken, read from a book when they’d come for his father. The words were carried off on gusts of stinging wind. His fingers were already frozen, there was no way he could knapp a blade, much less build a shelter.

Kazan did the only thing that made sense to him. He started walking. The hunger pangs grew until they were they overwhelmed him. Still he pressed on, counting his breaths to keep his mind occupied. His eyes were beginning to freeze, he hadn’t felt his face for hours.
The light was fading when he stumbled onto a set of tracks. His heart raced, thoughts of a warm cabin and food and kind strangers filled his head. He steeled himself against fatigue and new strength. He tore free of his jacket and doubled his pace.

It was dark now, and he was in his undershirt. His inner heat was fading, but it was no matter. Soon the long moonlit shadows would give way to oil lamps and glowing hearths. He stomped into each foot-fall, peering through the trees looking for a glimmer of light. Suddenly, the tracks forked.

His heart sank. He’d been following his own tracks. He fell to the ground, not feeling anything at all and resigned himself to death. A great buzzing like locusts filled the forest.

“My child, what are you doing?” A woman spoke. Kazan looked up from the snow, there was a figure half-there, as though carried on moonlight. Crimson ram’s horns grew from her head.

He tried to speak, but only tasted blood. She reached out and touched his forehead, the pain disappeared. She looked through him and nodded, she’d taken the words right from his heart.

“Though we can’t touch what we cannot know, an Obfuscator is but mortal. Return home Kazan, Winter’s chosen son. Without the burial rites I can’t take you, but do this for me and you shall be free” she said before disappearing. An ivory dagger now hung from his belt.

The clouds dissipated, he followed a polestar into the village. Dark save for reflected moonlight, but it didn’t matter. He moved silently to the temple, fresh snow hiding his tracks. Tendrils of frost grew across the door where he pushed it. Each footstep left froze the floorboards under it as he moved towards the Sanctum.

The Obfuscator tensed and opened her mouth in a silent scream. Kazan stood before the throne and reached for his dagger. He paused for a moment, dropping the blade to the floor and laying down on the altar instead.

He plunged the dagger into his chest, frost ran up the tube. Slowly, frost overtook the Obfuscator’s throne, her fingers snapped as she dug them into the throne. He lay there, unfeeling with the darkness setting in again. The wind outside began to howl. He felt his spirit get carried away on a million sharpened flakes of snow.

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


The Love Of My Life Is A Rotten Goody Two Shoes Who Should Die From Cancer Of The Aids Of The Eyeballs. - 1,000 Words.

“Well look what the cat coughed up!”

Clay elbowed my ribs and nodded down the sidewalk.

We looked through the steam rising from the Little Caesars parking lot. It stopped raining thirty minutes earlier and now we were settling in for our liquid breakfast.

She emerged through the mist like one of them Whitesnake videos. Strutting in a tight dress, her hair short and puffed up nice.

“Tina! Look at you!”

“I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d find you guys back here.”

I’d never seen her look this nice. She smiled, and her complete set of gleaming white teeth surprised me and Clay both.

“You got teeth!" Clay shouted. "You look great!”

“Oh I don’t know. You think so?” She touched her new teeth for a second, then fiddled with an earring.

“Are you kidding? I’ve never seen you in a dress before.”

I lowered the bottle down between me and Clay. If she’d cleaned up, wasn’t no point rubbing it in her face.

“You look really good, Tina.”

Tina said, “So, Joe, you doing okay?”

“Yea, I do alright. You remember how it is; enjoying the scenery, doing some people watching.” I scratched my stomach and then pulled my t-shirt down over my beer gut. She picked a bad day to stop by.

Tina used to be one of us. We’d spent all summer back here behind the Little Caesars, drinking, getting high and dining on the leftovers when Eric managed the night shift.

“Wow, I’ve missed you guys.”

“So? What happened to you?” Clay said.

“I cleaned up!”

“Again?”

She smacked his shoulder. “That’s not nice! I did it for good this time. I started back at AA. And I found a good man.”

That stung a little. It was subtle, hell, I bet Clay didn’t catch it, but I did. And it hurt.

He said, “Well good for you. It's about time one of us got sober. What about this new man? Is he nice to you?”

She nodded and her fingertips went to her new teeth again. “He takes care of me.” She looked over her shoulder at the car and said, “He’s inside, waiting on a pizza. I told him I had to make a call.”

Clay picked up the bottle and took a sip. As he handed it to me he said, “It’s good to see you again. We was worried something bad happened to you.”

“Oh, wow. I’m sorry about that." She looked down and rubbed the back of her hand. "I woke up one morning and that was it. I had to change. It was hard leaving you guys behind. But Richard’s nice. He helped me out.”

She couldn’t stop poking me with that one.

I swirled the bottle and took a sip. The burn of the vodka felt good. If she wasn’t standing there, I’d have gulped down the whole thing.

Tina said, “Joe, I want y’all to come with me.”

“Where? To Richard’s house? He takes care of men too?” Clay laughed at that.

Ignoring my jab, she said, “Come with me back to a meeting. It’s a good group. It’s different. Richard runs it, that’s how we met. He helped me a lot those first few weeks when I didn’t have anywhere to go.”

Another little stab. She must've been planning for this moment. Over the summer, I was the one who took care of her. She had a place to go; it was here with me. Maybe I never drove her around or put her in fancy dresses, but I kept her safe. Up until the morning I woke up when she was gone.

“Tina, you never even stopped by to say hey. You just disappeared.”

“I had to. If I came back, I don’t think I’d been able to leave again. But that’s long ago. What do you say? Come with me?”

“Sorry, but I like who I am. I don’t need to clean up.”

She pulled at her watch, turning it around her wrist.

“Come on Joe, this isn’t living. You’re hiding back here from your own demons. Hell, I know I did. But it doesn’t have to be like this.”

“I appreciate it, but I like it here.” I took another sip. “We had some good times, you and me, right? I took care of you, didn’t I?”

“Well — sure — but we all deserve better than this.”

Clay reached for the bottle. “Joe, we’re almost out man, go easy.”

“We’ll get another one Clay, it don’t matter.”

I took another sip, a good long one, then I screwed the lid on tight.

“I like who I am. I’m happy. And, who are you coming down here anyhow? You think you’re better than us now?”

She got quiet. Her eyes went glassy, and for a moment I saw my old Tina. “I messed up Joe. I messed up bad. I had a drink, and then a few more drinks.”

Clay said, “Hey, it’s okay Tina. It happens to the best of us, we’re all human. But look at you! You lost weight, you found teeth. You’re doing good yeah?”

She smiled, and then glanced over her shoulder again. “It was stupid. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

She wiped her face. “I guess I should go.”

After she hugged Clay, she turned to ask me one last time. “Sure you won’t come with me?”

“This Richard guy, does he know where you come from? Back here with us I mean?”

She shook her head. Her eyes got glassy again. She started to say something, but a man called out from the car. “There you are, Cris!”

I whispered, “That’s him? You’re Cris now?”

She nodded, wiped her eyes and smiled.

“Be there in a minute dear. I was just giving these men some change.”

She gave us twenty bucks.

--

I never even got to hug her.

We crossed the street and got a case of Budweisers.

Back behind Little Caesars, Clay popped a beer and said, “One of these days, Joe, I’m going to get clean. I’m serious. This ain’t living.”

“Reminds me of a poem, Clay.
Quaintest thoughts and queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.


Clay gulped down the beer and said, “Look at you all fancy! Shakespeare?”

“Poe. Gimme a beer.”

Prompt: Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter. Several sources say Dylan was referring to Poe in the song.

magnificent7 fucked around with this message at Dec 9, 2013 around 00:57

Auraboks
Mar 24, 2013

...huh?


Your deadline means nothing to me, filthy Briton, and furthermore I am dreadfully sorry for the delay.

The city without stories (1159 words)

When I finally reached the marble city, I found a man in a golden robe waiting outside its gates.

"I welcome you on behalf of the Shining King, ambassador" he said. "For you I am the Jubilant, and it is my honor to be your guide."

I didn't know the customs of the marble city, of course, but I managed to fumble my way through a properly formal response. It wouldn't do to offend a potential ally during the first formal visit.

The Jubilant knocked on the gates, twice, and they swung open. The streets and buildings behind it, like the city walls and its gate, were all of polished marble, almost blindingly white in the sunlight. The guards on the inside offered friendly smiles as we went past, quite unlike the dour demeanor I hade come to expect from watchmen.

"Come," the Jubilant said. "I will show you our great city, and then you will rest, and only tomorrow will we talk politics."

"Great," I said. It had been a long trip, and I wasn't really up for verbal sparring just yet. A tour suited me fine.

The marble city was rich and well-known, but it wasn't large. The streets were regular, laid out in concentric circles with twelve spokes going from the walls to the center. Each sector had a single landmark — a square, an arena, a government building — but they were otherwise nearly identical, full of the functional, blocky houses where people lived.

People were scarce, but the Jubilant assured me this was merely because they were unused to strangers; once they got used to me, he said, I would meet many more. Most of the citizens we did run into appeared to be in a hurry, and didn't stop to chat. We only met one person who did not hide from or avoid us. In the middle of Sun's Square, we found a kneeling, weeping man. He did not raise his head to look at us; his eyes were fixed on his wrists, wrapped in blood-soaked bandages.

He had no hands.

"Do not look," the Jubilant said. "He is a criminal, not worth your pity."

"What did he do?" I asked, somewhat queasy. Very few crimes warranted mutilation back home.

"He stole," the Jubilant said. "He will not do it again."

Once we had seen all the landmarks — it only took a few hours, even on foot — the Jubilant took me to the hill at the heart of the city. A great palace stood on its top, with a dozen lesser buildings surrounding it. While the other buildings in the city were simple, boring things, this one had a domed ceiling, a door almost as large as the city gate, and decorative patterns carved around the windows.

Two white-clad young people, a man and a woman, met us outside the palace.

"To you, they are the Attending," the Jubilant said. "Whatever you need, they will provide. I will come again tomorrow, and we can talk."

The Attending showed me to one of the small houses near the palace, which had apparently been reserved for guest use.

Over the next week, I spent most of my time with the Jubilant; it seemed he was also the Shining King's diplomatic representative. Most of the time we talked about politics, trade agreements, and the possibility of war. I didn't see much of anyone else, except the Attending, and they weren't very talkative. One day, I remarked to the Jubilant that I hadn't seen any books around, or any writing at all for that matter.

"Few people in our city can read," he said. "The Shining King, myself, and a few mute clerks. It is much too dangerous a skill to teach everyone," he said.

"Really?" I said. "Where I am from, we have found that educating commoners makes them less disposed toward rebellion. Not to mention it makes bookkeeping far easier."

"Dangerous ideas spread like disease, and writing them down... It is like a ship full of plague victims, sailing from port to port. We cannot risk it."

I pondered this for a moment. "Subversive literature should be illegal, yes. But letters? Stories?"

At this, the Jubilant's eyes fell. "You mean lies. No. We do not allow these, not even spoken. Say no more of this."

But I continued. "Cultural differences, I suppose. No offense, but I guess it's a good thing I won't be staying here forever. No stories at all sounds... depressing."

The Jubilant sighed. "That was an unwise thing to say. Stories are lies. Lies are evil. No good can come of them, and saying otherwise... that is one of the dangerous ideas I mentioned before."

My heart stopped for a moment. Had I broken some obscure law? Was an alliance off the table now? The Attending, always nearby, were fidgeting and looking everywhere except at me.

"Your... thoughts... are no danger to me," said the Jubilant. "To the Shining King, I am the Trusted. But they" — he gestured to the Attending — "are not."

"We didn't hear anything!" said one of them. The other was quiet, her eyes wide and flickering from place to place. "We didn't hear anything, and we won't say anything. Please."

But the Jubilant paid them no heed. He signaled the guards with a gesture, and the Attending were soon apprehended.

"Follow," he said to me. "See what you have wrought."

I didn't want to see. But with nowhere else to go, I followed.

The guards dragged the Attending through the palace, the girl kicking and struggling, the man trying to talk through the gag they had stuffed in his mouth. We came at last to a secluded room with thicker walls, and no furniture except an already-lit fireplace. One of the guards drew a knife.

He did not kill them, as I had feared. Instead, he put his knife into the fire, leaving it there until it was red-hot. The two other guards forced the Attending girl to her knees and held her there. In the corner of my eye I saw the Jubilant do the same to the man.

Finally, the guard with the knife forced open the girl's mouth with one hand. He dug around in her mouth, trying to grab something. She screamed and struggled, and I couldn't tell if it was rage or fear or both. But when the burning metal severed her tongue, they turned to screams of pain.

When they did it again, I couldn't watch. I stared into the fire instead, tuning out the screams as best I could. A lump of flesh landing in the flames told me when it was over. The Attending had stopped resisting; now they only whimpered. The guards shoved them out of the room, leaving me alone with the Jubilant.

"You shouldn't... shouldn't have punished them," I said. "They didn't do anything wrong."

The Jubilant nodded. "No punishment. They are safe now, and cannot spread your toxic thoughts."

Apparently he had been the one who cut out the second tongue, because the knife was in his hand, still glowing faintly.

"You, however, did do wrong."

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


homework for Bad Seafood I always did my homework early.

Written while drunk post-wedding, barely edited, I'm sorry.

Customer Loyalty 498 words

Bells ringing and lights singing and the reflection of the jackpot sign - WE HAVE A WINNER! reflected off a thousand mirrors, the carpet so polyester-heavy it shines in the glitter of slot-machine neons, the jingling of coins plinking from the hopper magnified a billionfold as speakers squeak into action and the song of victory begins: a triumphant march tune, tinking percussion replaced by the sound of money shaking in a loosened fist. At last! sings my heart, at last, I will never be alone again.

I imagine swooning in the clutch and grab of a second heart attack, fluttering to the floor. I always fancied myself an ingenue, and now I sit, poised as a witless fortunate, on my slot-machine throne. Small-time gamblers dance and point at the jackpot sign, and Gary is running - I want to laugh, this is a man who doesn't run often, but now he's running for me - he's running, stumbling towards me across the maroon expanse of carpet.

"Miss Fox," says Gary, "I can't believe it!" He's grinning from ear to ear. Gary works for the Royale, sure, but he always says he'd take care of me even if I took my money somewhere else. I believe him, too. He once picked me up after a delayed flight brought me to Las Vegas at three in the morning, and he even stopped on the way to my suite for Virginia Slims, a muffin, and a local newspaper.

"Oh, Gary, love," I say, throwing my arm around his neck and planting a lipsticky kiss on his cheek, "I owe it all to you." I never had children, and my parents only had the one - and bless them, but they're long gone. Gary started out as just a casino employee, but he's become my closest confidante. Funny, isn't it, how you find the dearest of friends in the strangest of places?

"So, what are you going to do with the money?" he asks. "If you told me we wouldn't be seeing you around here anymore, Miss Fox, I'd just about cry." I look deeply into his eyes. I love this tragic stoicism that men have sometimes, when they run the risk of being hurt. I imagine that Gary once thought of me like any other client. I'm no fool - I know he makes his money on others like me. But I'm his dear Miss Fox, his sweet old friend who charms all the waiters and tips as much as I can afford.

"Oh, Gary," I say, "I'm an old lady, you know."

"Oh, Miss Fox-" he protests. But I persist in my brutal honesty. It's good to be honest, sometimes, with men. "You know I'll always come back to the Royale, jackpot or nothing. I just don't have as much fun anywhere else. After all, Gary, you always show me the best time."

"You really mean that, Miss Fox?" he says.

"I mean it from the bottom of my heart."

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


Sorry.

Prompt: Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley

1428 words

It Weeps


In a rather spacious and well lit alleyway, thanks to the bright clear morning sunlight, sat Edward with his head drooping listlessly between his knees. He was dressed in his motley coloured work uniform, his face painted white, his nose red. His purple wig lay discarded beside his feet. On his feet were oversized shoes, what some might consider as being comical in appearance. Unfortunately Edward's comic effect was dampened by the fact his make-up was ruined by the steady stream of tears running down his artificially cheery face. The faint sound of his sobbing was drowned out by the roar of children's laughter flooding out of the nearby house.

The noise grew louder as the door of the fun-filled home was opened by a woman who seemed to be merely constructed of bones and just a hint of flesh. She appeared kindly nonetheless.

'The children are asking after you, Mr Wirths. Will you be returning soon?'

Edward broke his gaze from the phone that he held between his legs and looked up at her. He smiled in an attempt to offset the horror his face had become. In fact, the smile only served to make the awful visage worse, as he probably should have suspected really.

The kindly bag of bones was clearly aghast at the sight of his face and made no attempt to conceal the fact.

'Are you all right, Mr Wirths!?'

'Oh, yes, Mrs Richardson. Quite all right, thanks. But I'm afraid I won't be returning to the children, just received an urgent phonecall.'

Edward and Mrs Richardson both found the formal manner of their discourse rather absurd but neither were comfortable enough to break away from it despite the situation seeming somewhat emotionally charged. And so Edward stood and shook the hand of Mrs Richardson. His tears having stopped now that he was in the presence of another soul and had been forced to adopt a more stoic demeanour.

'Thank you for your business, Mrs Richardson. Very much appreciated. And my apologies for the need for a swift departure.'

His earnest tone left her feeling bemused. The clear evidence of tears and the calm but almost jolly manner in which he spoke were in conflict: she was not convinced that he was in a good state at the moment but she could not be certain as his face was very much obscured by the mess covering it.

'It isn't much of anything. Thank you though, the children were very happy. And are you sure you're all right?'

'Yes, but I must leave now. Hopefully my taxi will arrive soon.'

'Wait a moment and I will go get my purse so as to pay you.'

But just at the moment the taxi arrived. This was made clear to the pair by the impatient tooting of a horn.

'No time to wait. I must leave right away. Thanks again!'

He made his way to the taxi and the tooting stopped as the driver seen him approach. The driver looked perplexed.

Mrs Richardson shouted after Edward, 'But I haven't paid you!'

Edward turned to the dismayed Mrs Richardson and smiled once more before entering the taxi. Mrs Richardson watched as her hired clown was driven away, left feeling confused and incredibly unsettled.

In the taxi, the driver continuously cast a suspicious glance upon his fare. He was uncertain whether Edward had intended to look as he did or if he had actually been crying for some reason. He no doubt would have felt more uneasy if he knew which was true with certainty. As it was he found some solace in not knowing.

'Royal Infirmary, aye?'

'Yes, indeed,' replied Edward while gazing out of the window. Edward made an effort to sound jolly as he was very conscious of the driver's discomfort. But in the end it was just another failed attempt to belie his tragic appearance.

'Know what building?'

'Oh, yes. It is G.'

Now that the driver had all the information he required, he tried with all his might to ignore the unsettling figure in his car. The only noise to be heard was the light drumming of Edward's fingers. Rather than seeming to just be a little impatient, Edward cut a rather frightful figure. This thought crossed his mind and so he stopped immediately. Stopping so abruptly drew the attention of the driver, and also his worry. It then dawned on Edward that he could do anything and it would seem sinister. He rued the fact that he had to arrive at the hospital looking as he did. It was not the sort of occasion that called for a walking nightmarish cliché.

A short time passed with both men ignoring the other, as is common in uncomfortable taxi drives. And then the taxi offered to break the silence with a cough and a splutter. This unwelcome noise was followed with the slowing of the taxi. Eventually it came to a halt. They had stopped on the biggest bridge crossing the city's river and many miles from Edward's destination.

'Sorry, mate. I'll call it in. Won't be long for a replacement.'

They waited. And then they waited. And having waited for a long time, as Edward thought, he jumped out of the car and started walking away from the pleas of the taxi driver. Walking in his work shoes did indeed look comical, but it was also frustratingly difficult. He persevered nonetheless. Before long he took out his phone and tried calling a taxi from a different company. None answered. And then as if fate was mocking Edward, his phone no longer showed any life. Now not quite frustrated but thoroughly enraged, Edward tossed the phone into the river.

It took Edward two hours to walk to the hospital. No free taxi passed him in that time. He had tried to flag them down, but failed numerous times so he could only presume they had not been free. To say that Edward arrived at the hospital in a sour mood would miss the mark by a long way. Thankfully, it was not such a maze to navigate the hospital grounds that it took an age to find the right building, but it still took longer than Edward was happy with.

Edward moved as quickly as he could but was still hampered by his laughter inducing footwear. He cursed them rather loudly and received a reproachful look from an ill-looking nurse out for a quick smoke. Another vulgar cliché he thought. He attempted to dash past the reception but misfortune befell him again. The nurse called after him asking for some justification for his undesired presence in the building. It turned out it was actually good fortune of sorts. He was in the wrong building.

He arrived at the next building and he hoped it was the correct one. He also hoped he wasn't too late. He had to go through the same process in this building but was thankful to find out it was indeed the correct one. Having thus been delayed, he tapped his foot as the elevator stopped at every floor. He was very weary of the looks. His patience had long left him.

At the last galling ding of the elevator, he leapt out and hobbled at pace towards the room. The feeling that he should have been there hours ago made him stop at the door before entering. When he did, everything was a surprise.

He was welcomed into the room by an horrific smell. His wife lay on a bed. She was a sweaty mess. She looked up at Edward, having been alerted to his arrival by the rather load entrance he had made, thanks largely to those god-forsaken shoes of his slapping loudly on the floor. She burst into a mirthful laughter. It was the first positive response he had had upon leaving the alleyway. He laughed too, all his stress and anxiety flooding away from him, gladdened that his wife was in good health.

'He is well too?' Edward asked.

'Yes, no problems at all. He is a heavy one though, ten-point-six pounds!'

She lifted the small bundle in her arms and asked Edward if he wanted to hold their son. He did, of course. In fact, there was not one thing in the world he would have rather done at that moment in time. And so he took his newborn son from his wife's arms.

'He's not crying, Marie!' he exclaimed. 'He's not crying.'

'Because he can't see your monstrous face, Edward.'

And they laughed.

Lazy Beggar fucked around with this message at Dec 9, 2013 around 18:22

Walamor
Dec 31, 2006

Fork 'em Devils!


Bad Seafood posted:

Walamor - Closure

This story was okay. Well-tread ground but decent results. Your flash rule actually does a lot to bring something extra to the party, and I was so prepared for the man's would-be murderer to show mercy that I was pleasantly surprised when she actually didn't. A little trim and some salt, the woman and the girl being more than well-worn stock characters, would go a long way towards putting this up there with Kaishai's piece.

HOMEWORK: Night has fallen over the Arizona desert. A shovel bursts out from the earth and three figures emerge from the underground. You have 500 words to tell me what happens next.

Dear Professor Seafood, as discussed, here's my 500 word submission as well as my longer version.

LONGER VERSION

The shovel glinted in the moonlight as it was thrust up through the last bit of sand and dirt, causing a cascade of soil to fall on the men below. Three men pushed through the detritus to finally emerge into the night, taking large gulps of the fresh air. They stayed low to the ground, listening intently for any signs of a reaction to their presence. Apparently satisfied, the men straightened up and took stock of their surroundings.

“Thank god,” said one of the men. “That recycled air smelled just like Danny after a week down there.”

“Because you two smell so sweet right now, right? Besides, you still looking that gift horse in the mouth, Rick? We’re lucky that some old coot with more money than sense had a personal bunker built in the first place,” said Danny. He leaned over and shook the dirt out of his hair, then looked around. The three men were in the background of a ranch style home popular in Arizona subdivisions. One of the houses next door seemed to be intact, though the house on the other side was just a blackened ruin like so many of the others in the neighborhood.

“Maybe that coot wasn’t so crazy, you know, since he was right about the apocalypse after all,” said the third man.

“Oh really, Mark? I had totally forgotten about that,” said Rick.

“Just sayin’,” said Mark.

“Shouldn’t we be looking for the others instead of reminiscing?” said Danny.

“If the rest of the group are even still here,” said Mark. He walked over to a corner of the house and looked out at the street, houses in various states of destruction lining the other side.

“They’ll be hanging around,” said Rick. “I’m sure they saw the Jokers come in into the house we were in and went to ground. They know no bodies came out, so they’ll wait for us to make contact.”

“I found them,” said Mark, his voice distant and emotionless. “I found the group.”

Icy terror seized Rick and Danny’s hearts, but they forced themselves to walk over to him, each step a sheer force of will.

The other eight members of their group were only a few hundred feet away from them, each dangling from a length of rope attached to the sign at the entrance to the subdivision. The original “Welcome to Hillcrest” had been defaced in the past week, now bearing a simple warning in blood red paint: Keep Out.

“No, this can’t be happening” said Danny. He sank to his knees, tears already flowing. “Michelle!”

Rick clapped his hand over Danny’s mouth, his eyes still focused on the figures swaying slightly from side to side. “Be quiet, Danny. The Jokers might still be around.”

Danny pulled his head away from Rick. “Get off me. I have to go to her.” He called out Michelle’s name again.

“She’s dead, and I’m sorry, but you’ll give us away,” said Rick, but Danny was already getting up and starting to run forward. Rick grabbed at him but Danny twisted out of his grasp and Rick’s fingers only caught Danny’s sack, ripping the old and worn bag free from his shoulder. Some clothes as tattered and dirty as the ones they wore fell to the ground, along with a book and a couple other keepsakes.

Danny froze when the pack tore open. “drat, I’m sorry,” said Rick, reaching down to grab the clothes on the ground. Danny sprang down to gather up his stuff, but Rick already had his hand on a shirt. As he picked the shirt up, a can rolled out of the bundle with a ringing metallic sound. All three men stared at the can of black beans.

“What the gently caress!” said Rick. He kicked at the rest of the bundle and two more cans spun out of the clump of clothing.

“You hid food,” said Mark, staring at Danny in frank disbelief.

“Look, it was from my stocks earlier. It’s for Michelle,” said Danny.

“You son of a bitch! We were starving down in that bunker and you had food? gently caress you, Danny,” said Rick, thrusting a finger in Danny’s face.

Danny backed up a step. “You don’t understand, it’s just from my supply of food from before! It’s not my fault you two lost your food.”

“You were the loving lookout. We wouldn’t have lost poo poo if you had not been completely useless and actually warned us that the Jokers were coming,” said Rick. His hands tightened into fists and his face was turning red as he walked towards Danny.

“I’m sorry for that, I already said I was sorry,” said Danny, his hands up in the air as if warding off Rick’s advance.

“No, Danny, no. gently caress you,” said Rick. He stopped and bent down in the middle of Danny’s things. Rick opened his own sack and started to shovel in everything that lay on the ground. Danny didn’t try to stop him; he just turned towards the sign. His shoulders shook and choked sobs escaped him as Rick finished packing up his bag.

“Come on, Mark,” said Rick as he slung his bag over his shoulder.

“Are you sure?” said Mark, his eyes darting from Rick to Danny.

“Aren’t you?” said Rick over his shoulder as he walked away.

Mark stood for a moment, watching Danny and looking back at the eight figures that were once his friends, then moved to follow Rick.

“Wait, please,” said Danny. “One last favor.”

Rick turned around. “We don’t owe you anything.”

“Just one thing,” Danny said, pausing and clearing his throat. “I just want some rope.”

Rick frowned and studied Danny before letting out a sad little sigh. He pulled his pack around and fished around in it until he pulled out a length of rope and tossed it at Danny’s feet.

“It should be long enough,” said Rick, his voice cracking a little bit. “Let’s go.”

Danny reached down and picked up the rope. “It’ll do just fine, thanks Rick.”

Rick refused to look back at him and walked off into the night. Mark took one last glance at Danny before he joined Rick.

“He was with us a long time,” said Mark.

“I know,” said Rick.

“Shouldn’t we…” said Mark, his voice trailing off.

“He’s made his choice,” said Rick as he picked his way through the rocky wash towards the next group of houses. “Don’t look back. We have to keep moving forward.”

But Mark kept looking back, even after he couldn’t see the nine figures dangling from the sign.

500 WORD VERSION

The shovel burst upwards through the last bit of dirt, causing a cascade of soil to fall on the men as they emerged into the night, taking large gulps of the fresh night air.

“Thank god,” said one of the men. “That recycled air smelled just like Danny after a week down there.”

“Because you smell so sweet right now, right Rick?” said Danny. He leaned over and shook the dirt out of his hair. The men were in the backyard of a spanish style house like all of the homes in the neighborhood, though this one was intact, not a blackened ruin like many others. “Mark clearly smells the worst anyways.” Mark made a show of sniffing himself as the other two laughed.

“gently caress you, buddy,” said Mark with a grin on his face as he gave Danny a playful push. Danny half stepped back, but his foot caught on a rock and he went down to the rocky desert ground with a thud. Danny’s sack snagged on a one of the many prickly pear cacti in the yard, ripping the old and worn bag free from his shoulder. Some clothes as tattered and dirty as the ones they wore fell to the ground, along with a couple other keepsakes.

Danny froze when the pack tore open. “drat, I’m sorry,” said Mark, reaching down to grab the clothes on the ground. Danny sprang to gather up his stuff, but Mark already had his hand on a shirt. As he picked the shirt up, a can rolled out of the bundle with a ringing metallic sound. All three men stared at the can of black beans.

“What the gently caress!” said Rick. He ran over and kicked at the rest of the bundle. Two more cans spun out of the clump of clothing.

“You hid food,” said Mark, staring at Danny in frank disbelief.

“Look, guys, calm down. It’s for Michelle,” said Danny.

“Michelle’s been dead for three months you son of a bitch!” said Rick, thrusting a finger in Danny’s face.

Danny backed up a step. “You don’t know that! We’ll find her!”

“No, Danny, no. gently caress you,” said Rick. He opened his own sack and started to shovel in everything that lay on the ground. Danny pleaded with him, always for Michelle, but he didn’t try to stop him. His shoulders shook and choked sobs escaped him as Rick finished packing up his bag.

“Come on, Mark,” said Rick as he slung his bag over his shoulder.

“Are you sure?” said Mark, his eyes darting from Rick to Danny.

“Aren’t you?” said Rick over his shoulder as he walked away.

“Wait, please,” said Danny. “Guys, come on!”

Rick refused to look back at him. Mark took one last glance at Danny before he joined Rick.

“Shouldn’t we…” said Mark, his voice trailing off.

“He made his choice,” said Rick as he made his way towards the next group of houses. “Don’t look back. We have to keep moving forward.”

Jeza
Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.


Thunderdome LXX Results

This week's winner is God Over Djinn. Overall, this stands out as one of the most solid weeks of TD I can recall. I didn't fall to my knees in abject despair at one single entry, which may well be a record. Also unusually, the highest quality of entries was located nearer the earliest entries rather than the end.

Despite a generally decent level, there weren't many truly excellent pieces this week. There are no Honourable Mentions this week which reflects that.

This week's loser is Lazy Beggar, who by name and nature, submitted late (this did not affect your result) and whose effort, while by no means being the worst loser I've seen, was incoherent and not a particularly enjoyable thing to read. A Dishonourable Mention goes to docbeard for writing a whole load of pretty much vapour.

God Over Djinn, throne is yours. Get thinking of a prompt.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


i wrote two thousand words in AAVE, so now you guys get a taste of the pain

THUNDERDOME SEVENTY-ONE: A way with words

Lots of prompts lately have involved some weird plot-related shizzlewizzle. But this prompt is about form more than function.

Your narrator and/or protagonist*, either:

- speaks a non-standard dialect of English (interpret 'non-standard' however you prefer); or
- is a non-native speaker of English (and interference from their native language is clearly reflected in their speech).

Their dialect/language background cannot be the same as your own. (That's cheating!)

The use of language, and your narrator/character's language background in particular, must be relevant to the plot. How you choose to interpret this requirement is up to you.

Here is a non-exhaustive buttload of English dialects: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...nglish_language When you sign up, indicate what dialect or language background you're working with.

Creativity and ambition will be rewarded. You don't need to be a linguist to get through this, but do at least a little research. Also if one of you motherfuckers writes in Singlish I'll love you forever.

Genre: any.

Word count: 1000, maximum.

Deadline: 10:00 PM Sunday, December 15, Pacific standard time. Signups close at 10:00 PM Friday, December 13.

Judges: Me, Erogenous Beef, and crabrock

Bold Combatants:

Tyrannosaurus - Hawaiian pidgin
Radioactive Bears - Singlish (my family used to live in Singapore I can't wait)
Bitchtits McGee - Geordie
Mercedes - AAVE
Nubile Hillock - Canuckian Backwoods Hickese
Obliterati - Victorian aristocratic English
foutre - like, valleyspeak?
Helsing - Scottish English

Wimpy Babbys:

The Leper Colon V who may or may not be writing something about sign language, if you do it'd better be fuckin cool


*Bonus points for picking 'narrator'.

God Over Djinn fucked around with this message at Dec 12, 2013 around 17:27

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006

I failed to submit because I was so excited about New Zealander Tim Price winning the Burghley Horse Trials on the quirky but freakishly talented Ringwood Sky Boy

I'm in.

Hawaiian pidgin.

Radioactive Bears
Jun 27, 2012

Creatures of horrid visage and disposition.


I'm in with Singlish.

PMush Perfect
Sep 30, 2009

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|PMush used Shitpost! |
|It's super effective!|
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Sure, what the hell, let's make my first one horrifyingly difficult.

I'm in. With... American Sign Language. (And anyone who says it isn't a different language can go get hosed. Seriously.)

Bitchtits McGee
Jul 1, 2011


Oh, goody. I get to write a whole story in Geordie, and nobody can stop me. Aah'll tackle this, wey aye.

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


God Over Djinn posted:

Judges: Me and some other people who have hopefully done more than three Thunderdomes. Oh god please help me

I hate myself enough to be terribly judgmental about bad stories.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

I'll help judge. I'm going to hate all the stories and I want to make sure there is somebody to tell you all how bad your stories are.

Mercedes
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.


I am black, but I don't actually speak ghetto. I speak with a Jersey accent.

That's why I'm going with African American Vernacular English

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Things I am really hoping somebody will do:

Newspeak
'Val'
Southern US or Appalachian (don't none a y'all wanna write about hillbillies?)

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

whoever does newspeak will probably win. or lose.

other option:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZXcRqFmFa8

PMush Perfect
Sep 30, 2009

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|PMush used Shitpost! |
|It's super effective!|
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Actually, I think I'm gonna withdraw my entry.

I can't think of a way to do this without being really ham-handed and kind of insulting.

autism ZX spectrum
Feb 7, 2007



Fun Shoe

I'm in with Canuckian Backwoods Hickese

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Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


The Leper Colon V posted:

I can't think of a way to do this without being really ham-handed and kind of insulting.

You haven't read much Thunderdome, have you?

Nubile Hillock posted:

I'm in with Canuckian Backwoods Hickese

God Over Djinn posted:

Their dialect/language background cannot be the same as your own. (That's cheating!)

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