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Beezle Bug
Jun 5, 2009

I love painting trees.

I'm in.

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Beezle Bug
Jun 5, 2009

I love painting trees.

Family Night - 1422 words

---

"There's a monster in the woods," said Abby, ever solemn, her tone freezer-crisp. A chill ran down Karen's spine, making her shoulders stutter even in the arid summer evening. She worked them into a shrug and scratched the back of her neck.

"There's no such thing as monsters," Karen said. Her voice was tinny with shrill cheer. Abby sighed, the world-weary exhalation of a tired old woman.

"We've been over this," Abby said. She pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers, a childhood mimicry of adult exasperation that was heartwarming in its sincerity. Karen smiled. She dropped down, child's-eye-level, and crouched on her heels to ruffle Abby's hair. Abby swatted her hand away. "You're not listening! There is a monster, and he says something bad is gonna happen."

"Abby, why would a monster talk to you?" she tilted Abby's chin up, looked into her eyes, and gave her what she hoped was a reassuring smile. Abby shrugged.

"I don't know, he didn't tell me. He just said we should go away and do it right now." Abby said. The color drained from Karen's face. She placed her hand on the counter and pulled herself up on unsteady feet.

"When was this?" Karen said. She gripped Abby's shoulders and searched her eyes. Abby's eyes went wide and she stammered while her brain tried to connect her thoughts to words.

"He just told me, he told me to go inside and tell you. I think he left though." Abby paused and concern knit her brow, "Mom, what's wrong?"

"What did he look like?"

"He was tall and black with big green eyes, but they were all green with no white or anything, and his voice sounded scary but he told me he was nice," Abby said. Her voice trailed off and tears formed in her eyes. "Mommy?"

"We need to leave," Karen said. Her eyes were glassy and distant, her jaw slack and her face blank. She shook her head and jerked back down to look at Abby. Focused clarity. "Now!"

Abby began to wail and Karen scanned the room. She snatched her purse off of the counter, upended it, sent a cascade of small luxuries clattering to the floor. In went trail mix, bottled water, from the drawers emerged a small flashlight, a lighter, and a knife. Karen threw her purse over her shoulder and knelt again in front of her daughter.

"Listen, sweetie, we have to go. The monster was right, okay? He was a nice monster, you were good to believe him. I know him," Karen said, smoothing Abby's hair. "He's protecting us." Abby's chest heaved, her tears choked and silenced by her terror. "Shh, shh, Abby."

Karen looked around, prey-eyed, and scooped Abby up in her arms. The child curled against her chest and clung to her shirt, to her hair, yanking some out by the roots. Karen's eyes watered but her steps did not falter as she shifted Abby's weight, her free hand seized and brandished the flashlight, and she raced out the back door and into the woods.

They traveled away from all paths, all settlements, winding through the dense underbrush serenaded by the calls of the night creatures. Karen's grip tightened around Abby until her arm was sore and her daughter wept as much from the pressure on her ribs as she did her fear. Her free hand flashlight-scanned the forest and stopped when the light settled on a run-down old farmhouse that sagged, defeated, under the weary burden of its age.

Karen tossed her flashlight to the floor. She left it on and pointed away from the outside. She shrugged off her coat and laid it down on the filthy floor, a nest for Abby. The child fell asleep within moments. Her shallow breathing and soft cries narrated her fearful dreams. It was not long before Karen heard quiet footsteps approaching the doorway.

"Please, come in," she said. Her voice rang hollow in the empty house and the bitter edge to her words clattered against the bare concrete. A man stepped into the flashlight beam and the smooth black material that covered him from head to toe seemed to shimmer in the fluorescent blue glow. His face was obscured by night-vision goggles and a mask that distorted the sounds of his breathing and his speech.

"Karen," he said. Even through the echoing crackle of his mask his voice was gentle. "How's Abby?"

"Scared. Tired. Hurt. I don't think that's gonna be changing for anybody now."

"It's not," he said. He nodded at her, then at Abby. "But you can make it easier on her. You're loving her for both of us now."

"I've been doing it for years. You don't need to tell me that," Karen snapped. "Why don't you just leave? I don't know what all of you just did, but I know enough to know it's not good. I know enough to know it'll bring them down on you--and not just on you, on all of us. The least you could do is help us survive."

"I am."

"She thinks you're a monster. You know that? That's what she called you when she told me what you said. From where I'm sitting, I don't think she was too far off."

He looked away. Karen scowled at him, a weaponized stare that bored into the side of his skull. He shifted and cleared his throat. She shook her head and cradled Abby on her knee. Karen tapped the girl's sides for bruises and trembled with sympathetic pain each time her daughter cringed away from her hand.

"Maybe I am," he said. Karen didn't look at him but she paused mid-motion, alert paralysis. "Hell, I know I am. I know--well, no, I can't know. I can't understand how hard this has been for you. But it's been hard on me too. I thought staying away would keep you safe, but it didn't. I don't know if you could ever be safe now. All I know is, run. Keep running. Maybe you'll find somewhere better. Maybe in the time it takes this place will get better. But it's all you can do. I've sent out the word. You know what the signs are and you know they'll mean safety. That safety won't last. You'll just have to keep moving."

Karen shook her head and gave a soft, bitter laugh. "Fine. Fine! Can you at least tell me if we'll be safe here tonight?"

"You will. I'm staying," he said. He looked at the ground. "If you'll let me."

"Family night?" Karen said. She looked at him and a gentle smile brightened her face, chasing away years of misery like shadows taking flight from the dawn.

"Family night."

He settled onto the floor with his back against the wall. He rested his elbows across his knees and his hands dangled limp above the floor. The cold glare of his goggles fell on Abby's sleeping silhouette. A sigh that was half sob was warped into an unearthly howl by his mouthless, dead-eyed mask. His pain dimmed Karen's smile.

"She's sound asleep," Karen said. "Don't think a marching band could wake her. Would you like to...?"

"Yes," he whispered. He scooted across the floor with a puppy's dignity and settled in next to her. His fingers trembled over Abby's head and Karen softly pressed down on the back of his hand. Gently, as though he were afraid she would shatter beneath his hand, he stroked his daughter's hair.

"She's a great girl. There's a lot of you in her. So serious," Karen said. She spoke of Abby but her gaze never left him.

"She's got your strength."

"Both of ours." Karen stroked his hand and leaned in towards him. She frowned and gently tapped his mask. He shook his head.

"I'm sorry, but you know I can't."

"Yeah. I know. You do what you can," she said. Her hand trailed down the side of his cheek, his neck, leaving ripples in his suit that smoothed within seconds of her passing. The grim mask she caressed regarded her with impassive dignity while the man behind it thrummed with a shifting swarm of emotions too numerous to define.

Karen drew Abby into her arms, close to her chest, and the monster shielded her back with his body, his arms draped over her and around Karen. He leaned his forehead against hers and when she closed her eyes it was almost as though he had never worn a mask at all.

Beezle Bug
Jun 5, 2009

I love painting trees.



Well then

Beezle Bug
Jun 5, 2009

I love painting trees.

In.

Beezle Bug
Jun 5, 2009

I love painting trees.

JGBeagle posted:

Does anyone know a good (and hopefully) free audio recorder for a webcam? I just want the audio when I read my story out loud.

I dunno about other webcams but I know mine has functioned as a mic for me for years. It's working just fine with that and Audacity.

Beezle Bug
Jun 5, 2009

I love painting trees.

Eulogy
4m49s

Beezle Bug
Jun 5, 2009

I love painting trees.

In as Gemini

Beezle Bug
Jun 5, 2009

I love painting trees.

Diamond Point - 1198 words

"I'm home," Patrick called, the crack of the door behind him punctuating his announcement. He hung his coat and walked to the living room, forced-casual, where he rested his hand against the door frame. Mitchell was sitting on the couch, his favorite chair and usual haunt empty, and he patted the seat next to him. Patrick slid in, home base, and gave Mitchell's cheek a gentle kiss.

"Happy birthday, handsome." He brushed Patrick's hair back and kissed his forehead. Mitchell reached behind his back and removed a small package wrapped in smooth black paper, all bold edges and sharp corners, tied with a slim silver bow.

"It never gets easier to unwrap these," Patrick said. Mitchell smiled and gave a modest shrug. Patrick tore aside the paper and lifted the lid beneath to reveal a rust-colored fountain pen with black ends and gold trim. Patrick's smile faded as he lifted it from its resting place. "A pen? I mean, not that I'm not grateful, it's really classy, but they're not exactly my thing."

"I know a pen doesn't seem very exciting, and frankly it isn't, but it is something better--it's satisfying. It'll pay off, trust me," Mitchell said. Patrick stared at Mitchell, who smiled at him. He looked back at the pen in his hands and sighed.

"I do. And I know you're just dying to tell me all about it."

"Guilty."

"Well, then, by all means," Patrick said. Mitchell scooted closer to him and placed an arm around his shoulder. He leaned in towards the pen and poked at its tip.

"Now, this is what's called a wet noodle nib. It writes a fine to double broad line, which is rather thick, and it does this depending on how much pressure you apply. If you're careful you can get some really lovely writing out of a pen like this, it's very versatile, but on the other hand if you don't pay attention your writing is going to look horrible."

"Sink or swim?"

"You can handle it. Don't even try the damsel in distress act," Mitchell said. Patrick held his hands up and laughed.

"You know me," he said. He leaned his head against Mitchell's shoulder and stroked the pen with his fingertip. "It looks nice. Old."

"Yeah, it's a Diamond Point pen, from the 1920s. They don't make wet noodle nibs anymore so I had to dig a bit to find one. It looked like it fit your taste."

"It does. I wonder who it belonged to. You know, like if we had anything else in common."

"It's had a while to belong to a few people, and even then I doubt it. People like you don't come along very often," Mitchell said. Patrick rolled his eyes and bit down on his lip in a futile attempt to suppress a beaming grin.

"Please, if you get me going then you'll never hear the end of it and then I'll never get to hear about this wet diamond pen."

"God forbid," Mitchell said. "And besides, if you look in the box there's still something left."

Patrick's eyes brightened and his hands dove into the box, parting the tissue paper inside to hunt for anything he may have missed. His search turned up two small bottles of ink.

"Now, that's two ounces of Heart of Darkness, it's a beautiful ink, very striking, but you absolutely can't spill it on your clothes, it'll ruin them. Much like with the pen itself, you'll really have to be meticulous or it's not going to work well for you, but--"

"But it'll really pay off, right?" Patrick said. Mitchell's brow furrowed and he began to speak but Patrick held up his hand, cutting him off. "Listen, I'm guessing you mean well, but it's starting to look like you're using a birthday present to criticize me."

"You've been talking about how you wish you had more focus and I think this would help."

"Which is sweet, really, except I haven't actually said that all that much and you're doing it by buying me something I get the sense that you'd want for yourself."

"Oh, no, not at all--I'm really very happy with my pens and this one isn't much to my taste."

"Smartass," Patrick sniffed and looked down, another failed attempt to mask a grin. "You know what I mean."

"I do, and think about it--if you pick this up there's nearly no limit to the ink colors you could use. Hell, they even make highlighter ink and I can only imagine what you'd do with that."

"Highlight?"

"Please, don't sell yourself short. We both know you'd be satisfied with highlighting for five minutes at the most before you started experimenting and found some unholy new application."

"Assuming I didn't get distracted and flutter off to something newer and shinier."

"I would hope that's not your approach to everything," Mitchell said. He drew back and examined Patrick with an exageratted scowl.

"Oh, Mitch, of course not!" Patrick waved his hands as if to dispel the notion. "I mean, I know you're kidding, but really."

"I just think you undersell yourself, Pat, and if you just found a way to focus you'd be a lot happier."

"Easier said than done," Patrick said, twisting the pen between his fingers. Mitchell took Patrick's hands, bringing the nervous motion to a halt, and brought them to his lips.

"I'm here for you, and I'm trying to find ways to help," he said. His eyes searched Patrick's as he stroked the back of his partner's hand with his thumb. "I think you'll like this, and besides, I'm sure it would help with your art if you learned to work with a bit more precision."

"You make it sound so fun, but I can't help but feel like there's some kind of trick involved. You know, you get my guard down, get me all into it, and then surprise! Suddenly I'm boring and you're getting me spreadsheets for my birthday."

"Spreadsheets?"

"Oh, I don't know, I couldn't think of anything else that was really dull."

"Listen, I honestly do think that you have a lot of potential. You just need to learn how to hold it together a little better, and I think the best way to learn that is to make it fun and make it challenging. I think this could be what you need, if you'd give it a chance."

"Maybe you should give me a crash course sometime, then," Patrick said. Mitchell stood up and held out his hands. Patrick tucked the pen into his pocket and Mitchell pulled him to his feet.

"Sometime? Hardly. There's nothing I'd like more than to start right now, if you're up for it," Mitchell said.

"Sounds perfect."

"Great. Meet me in my study," Mitchell said. He gave his partner a quick peck on the cheek and hurried for his office.

Patrick sighed and traced the outline of the pen through his pocket. From down the hallway clattering noise rang out from Mitchell's study, drawers snapping open and slamming shut as he searched for the perfect paper. Patrick shook his head, smiling as he patted his pocket and followed Mitchell inside.


--

Subjects were Gemini and fountain pens, which I researched here and got a decent amount out of the OP itself, and also posted here and here for some more info.

Beezle Bug
Jun 5, 2009

I love painting trees.

I'm in

Beezle Bug
Jun 5, 2009

I love painting trees.

When/if I Grow Up -- 956 words

A burst of light tickled Calan's eyes and dispersed into the night. The mage-artist bowed and looked at the hollow-eyed children with a radiant smile. It faded away as he watched them rise and shuffle away into the night. Calan's stare lingered on him for a moment before it returned to the veo calf in his lap. It was young yet, large-pawed and ungainly, and yet it nearly covered his body with its bulk.

The calf chattered a weak burst of sound cut off by a harsh wheeze. Its ribs heaved against his chest with every breath. Calan made soothing sounds at the young animal and Nanda hushed him with a sharp click of her tongue. He glared at her beneath his eyelashes and stroked the veo's keratin scales. She turned her attention back to a group of grim soldiers that in low voices. The light from their campfire flattened her into a vigilant silhouette.

"You don't have a name," Calan said. His confidental whisper was lifted by a hint of wonder. He had swaddled the calf with care in a soft blanket, its colors still bold beneath a coat of soot and dust. He moved to tuck the it under the animal's chin and felt the weak flutter of its pulse against his fingertips. The pink skin around its eyes faded further into white with each struggling breath. "Nanda?"

"Hm?" she said. Nanda craned her head in his direction. The majority of her attention remained focused on the soldiers. The mage-artist had moved on to a new group a short distance away from Calan's side. The man's gesturing hands conducted symphonies of light, image, and sound. Merrily colored caravans sparkled their way across the night sky. The light cast the weak and struggling animal in brilliant hues of red and blue.

"I think Dalni needs water." Calan said. Nanda turned to him and her wide eyes gleamed at him against the darkness.

"What did you say?"


"Dalni. I think she's sick. Her breathing is strange," Calan said. His unsteady voice found strength and held firm. He squared his tiny shoulders and held his head high. Nanda's eyes darted between the veo calf and Calan as her face mouth worked in silence. Tears brimmed at her eyelids and gathered at the edges with none willing to be the first to jump.

"Cal!" in a moment Nanda was kneeling in front of him. She shook his shoulders with white-knuckled fists. "Listen to me. You insult her memory by giving her name to an animal. An animal!" she spit on the ground. "Mama would weep at the shame of it, and haven't we all wept enough?"

Calan glared over her shoulder and his mouth worked into a sullen scowl. Nanda shot him a contemptuous look and returned to eavesdropping. Calen stuck out his tongue at her back and fussed at the veo's blanket. His chin trembled as he sniffed and cuffed at his eyes with the back of his fist.

"Dalni," he whispered. He shot a quick and fearful glance at Nanda's back. She was lost again in the soldiers's conversation. Calan relaxed and stroked the veo's long snout. He drew the animal close, struggling with its weight. "Dalni."

His eyes drooped and fell as the night grew colder. The frantic energy of the camp found no rest and he recoiled in his sleep at every nightmare sound. As the sun broke the night's frigid reign with its cruel heat Calan awoke to find the calf still and unmoving. He regarded its stiff body with a glassy stare.

"Nanda?" he asked. She stirred in her sleep. "Nanda?"

She sat up and rubbed her eyes. They focused on him through their haze and the fog cleared as they settled on Calan and the dead beast on the ground beside him.

"I think Dalni is dead," he said, confusion in his voice. He looked up and his eyes filled with tears. "Dalni is dead."

"Oh, Calan," Nanda said. Her voice cracked and the levee gave way. "I know, Calan, I know." She leaned back and brushed the tears from his eyes and gave him a watery smile. "It will get better if we keep moving. I promise."

Calan buried his head in her chest and each quaking sob jarred the animal's body further from his lap until it slid into the dust. Its body kicked up a cloud of sand and dirt that swirled in the air and settled on their tear-streaked faces and on its wide and unseeing eyes.

"Hey," said a soft voice. Calan looked up and blinked with blank eyes at the mage-artist. In the morning light Calan could see the man more clearly. His rounded face was unbroken by stubble and next to Nanda he seemed so much smaller than he had the night before. He smiled and held up his hand, a request for a moment. The mage-artist made a few ritual gestures but for a tiny burst of small sparks they had no effect. He sighed and gave Calan an apologetic smile.

"It doesn't always work," he said. Calan fixed him with an impassive stare and the mage-artist shifted under its weight. Calan extended his hands. His fingers wiggled in the air and called forth a flickering ribbon of light that coiled and wound between his fingers.

"It's a snake," Calan said. The young man laughed and Nanda smiled as she brushed the hair out of Calan's eyes. The mage-artist glanced at her in silent inquiry and she nodded assent. He moved to gather their meagre posessions. Around them the people of the camp were rising and packing as they gathered their lives in preparation for the day's first bloodied steps into the desert.

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Beezle Bug
Jun 5, 2009

I love painting trees.

I deserved every single word of that and it was all completely true, I actually had to laugh because the writeup was so spot on. I have thumbs, I will show you them someday

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