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ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


New challenger, In with Driftwood, Texas.
And TD can do his own drat laundry.

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ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


Not having a decent town to write about, I've opted to focus on a river running next to my house and center the story around returning home for good measure.

Home Again------- 740 Words
Trevor stares at the old creek bed, dry and split open in the summer's heat, listening to the great grandchildren of the crickets that had sung through his childhood. It was all the same as he remembered, but smaller now; The old bridge didn't tower so far above the banks below; The culverts that bisect it not yawning caverns to be fearfully explored, scampering back to the shore at the first sight of a scarlet-headed centipede uncurling in the dark.

He slips down the granite slope and sets off down the dead river, mud and leaves crunching under his shoes. Trevor could remember that sound too.

Sitting on the porch where the stone had broken to show the sand foundation beneath, filling it from the snaking green garden hose, watching the water sink down and leave the sand ready to be molded into castles.

No, he was wrong. It had changed, just a little. The river's course split for a ways around a new island, where a rotten log had caught among the weeds, dirt and pebbles piled up against it by the current. The smell too, that was different. Before it was damp and musty, the smell of earth after the rain and of dead trees crumbling into the soil. Now there's only the smell of warmth, a burning sensation as his nostrils dragged in the dry, hot air.

Fat tadpoles plucked from the river, squirming between his pudgy, childish fingers. Holding them by the tail, trying to see if they'd begin to grow their legs. Watching them swim endless circles inside the old mason jar.

The familiarity was cloying. Every shift of the speckled sunlight pouring through the skeletal branches overhead sparks some new recollection. He leaps from memory to memory. His feet walk the old riverbed, but his mind traverses the old one, back when the trees were still draped in green.

Clumsy oversized yellow boots slipping in the mud. Tumbling down the riverbanks in a panic, landing like a stone in the cold water. Coming up again, gasping for air, his sister helping drag him out.

Turning a bend in the river, Trevor lurched to a stop. Coldness crept through his gut. Sprouting up from the mud before is was an ugly thing: Lumpy, flesh-toned, folded over itself into slithery piles gleaming with slime, alien to the daylight pouring down and wrong. Wrong that it's here among his memories. The sight offends him. Trevor wants to retch, fighting his stomach's urge to upheave his lunch.

The tadpoles floating upside down in the water next morning, cooked by the sun. Sneaking out before his parents woke to cast them into the river.

The thing couldn't be alive. Couldn't be. It could only be a trick of his eyes that it moved. Reaching for a stick and hating his hand for shaking, he jabs at the thing. It gives no response. It must be a fungus, he thinks, some strange fungi risen from the depths of the earth. It smelled the part. Damp, old earth and rotting trees. How long had it been growing here, to reach this size?

The golden retriever stared at him, at the branch he fancied a walking stick. It lunged, wanting to play, but without thinking he swung at it. It snapped at him and broke the skin of his hand.

He jabs at it harder until it's skin splits open, insides mush divided with thin membranes. The smell spills out overwhelming and he wrinkles his nose, but it's done. Trevor knows what it is now. Nothing. Nothing more than he'd guessed, just a plant growing in the mud and a dead one now. Throwing the stick aside he walks away, feeling the sun again now, feeling silly at how he'd feared it.

The sharp crack of the rifle, seeing it jump in his father's grip and the dog fall dead. He watched from around the house, against his parents orders, crept in when his father left to lay a hand upon the corpse.
It had never really been his dog anyway. It'd never liked him, ran off when he tried to play with it.


Trevor walks back down the riverbed, like he'd done so many times in the long, dry summers. Where his steps crushed the old leaves underfoot, slimy things rushed out.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


In for High Stakes

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


Ooh, double titles you say?

In that case, could I beg permission from the judges to upgrade the generic High Stakes to the far ritzier High Stakes: Buried in Time?

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


Think I did better with the tenses this time, but I also may have gotten a bit ahead of myself. Definitely not writing to my strengths.

-------
High Stakes: Buried in Time --- 949 Words

A blazing middle-eastern sun glared down on the scene: A battered old humvee slowly sinking into an asphalt like, sticking out at an obtuse angle like a capsizing ship slowly turning belly-up. A miniature Titanic in a sea of tar.

The vehicle lurched, sinking another four inches into the tar with a thick, oily squelching sound as a methane bubble collapsed in the muck beneath it. Theo sighed and grabbed the ornament on the hood to steady himself.

"Ten minutes, you think?" He asked, looking over to where his companion perched on the fender, feet swinging over the edge. "Less." Garret replied, almost nonchalant.

"So, what is it you regret not doing?" Garret only grunted and shrugged his shoulders in response.

"Okay, who'll you miss most?"

"Dunno."

"Well, I'll miss my girlfriend. Wish I'd spent with more time with her. And played the lottery. Would've been nice to've won some money. But you know what's odd?"

Garret didn't bother answering and Theo didn't wait for him to do so. "What I really, really wish I'd done is ate one more hamburger before coming out here. No, a cheeseburger. A nice, thick American cheeseburger, with fries. How funny is that? About to die, all I can think about is eating."

"There's trailmix in the glove compartment. Climb down and get it."

He scowled at his companion's back. Christ, what an idiot. Better suited to be a Neanderthal than study them. It was him, his luck they were there, fate dragging down poor dumb Garret to join his ape brothers. Christ, he could almost hear them, the apes and the dinosaurs and the ugly half-fish things that crawled out of the sea all wriggling around in the the tar below. Laughing. Oh hardy har, now it was their turn to be buried alive, dragged down to the Mesozoic and Paleozoic until someone digs them up in a hundred years to stick little labels on their bones:

Specimens A & B: Tremendous Dipshits, Circa 2008

Theo stuck his tongue out at the lake, at the unfairness of it all. Beneath, another methane pocket collapsed and went rushing towards the surface in a dozen tiny bubbles, shifting the viscous tar in just the wrong way. The humvee slipped another few inches into the muck and tilted back, too far back, the weight of the front end suspended in the air pulling down and flipping the whole thing over.

Theo never saw it coming. His view spun between the black lake and the blue sky, and then heavy, choking blackness swallowed him up. He panicked and thrashed, but the tar's weight dragged at every movement, sucking him down towards the dinosaurs, the petrified bones of history. As his lungs began to ache and his mind drifted from escape to thinking of a good last prayer, his hand struck against something solid. Scrabbling his fingers over the smooth surface he found a handhold, then another, using them as an anchor to push himself up. With a desperate surge of strength he broke the surface and dragged himself onto the car's belly, gasping for breath.

When he'd smeared away enough of the tar to see, Garret was there, sitting with his arms wrapped around his knees like a child.

For a long time all Theo did was breathe and be thankful for it. By the time he did speak, an idea had formed.

"I think I know how one of us can get out."

Garret lifted his head, looking at him suspiciously. The same idea had clearly come to him.

"It's not far. If there was something to step on.."

"I'm not doing it. gently caress you, Theo."

"Rock paper scissors."

Garret blinked, eyelid sticking slightly with the residue of the tar. "What?" He asked, dumbly.

"Rock paper scissors, winner leaves, and the loser.."

Neither cared to finish that thought.

"Alright."

They shifted closer and raised their hands over their palms. Their eyes met, and Theo saw some of his own distaste for Garret echoed back. What had Garret been thinking all this time? Trying to find some way to dupe him, considering just throwing him off the edge? The bastard.

"Rock..."

Garret's face was hard to read. Not that he'd even now what to look. He'd only ever played when he was a child. But he was lucky, he remembered that. He'd won plenty of times.

"Paper..."

Theo remembered something he'd read somewhere: People usually choose scissors. Scissors, because that's the last word and the one they're thinking of. Garret would have to choose scissors. He was predictable like that. He'd never read about the psychology of children's games.

"Scissors!"

Theo's fist struck his palm and stayed there, curled into the shape of a rock. Garret's hand came down flat.


"Uh, best two out of three?"

------

As the ages old-tar pressed down on Theo and his lungs began to burn, he imagined he could see them; The fearsome velociraptor and the noble stegosaurus swimming through the tar, bones still clad in flesh and bright feathers, dreaming proudly of the world they used to rule. Mighty jungles sprung up in the dark, trees shaking to the beat of giant footsteps. A herd of pachycephalosaurus go running past as the footsteps grow closer. Over the ancient trees towers tyrannosaurus rex, king of them all.

The Lord of All Dinosaurs turned to look at Theo with fearsome yellow eyes, revealing a legion of teeth as it opens it's mouth.

"You too, huh?"

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


Welp. It's not the lowest score and I'm good with that.
Now hurry up with the next challenge!

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


Oh, hell. In.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


The Jumping Man -1058 words

10...

On the street below people began to chant out the count as the globe descended, in perfect synchronicity with it's grander double some six hundred miles away in Times Square. Compared to the raucous festivites of New York the event held here was quaint, done by halves, but that fit the character of the town to a T. A globe of plywood strung with old golden Christmas lights and a crowd of rich old coots who's idea of a 'wild time' was staying up past eleven; That was about the perfect snapshot of life in Bettensway, South Carolina.

5...

There in crowd was everybody who liked to think they mattered. The mayor, arm-and-arm with his wife and holding his third martini of the evening in the other hand, doling out a paint-by-numbers speech to the cameras of the local news. Adam Canston, the chief of police and a man of strong, handsome features, enduring with a patient stoicism the drunken flirtations of women twenty years his senior, all the while watching the pretty newslady interview the mayor and prayed she might talk to him next. The Reverend Hues and Charles Plimy, his deacon, both oblivious to the growing annoyance of those around them as they rattled on about the evils of what was being taught in school these days. Every one of them a self-described pillar of the community.

Sitting on the steps of city hall, far enough from the party that all the voices blended into one tremendous jumble of pointless noise, was Ed Newt, fire marshal, along with four off-duty firemen who had nothing better to do that night. They drank watered-down cocktails purloined from the buffet table and shared a pack of smokes amongst themselves as they waited, an old trampoline life-net sitting on the ground between them.

3....

While the mob worked their way towards a fever pitch, the firemen stubbed out their cigarettes on the stone lions that guarded the steps and hoisted the life-net, at the ready. Ed stepped back, cupping a hand over his eyes as he scanned the brim of the city hall roof, looking for a silhouette among the garlands of light and tinsel left over from the holidays. There was no such shadow to be seen and his brow furrowed up with confusion and worry.

1...

All across town, rockets screamed into the sky trailing bright sparks behind and exploded into splashes of color against the night. Elsewhere, people cheered or kissed or tilted back another beer. But the crowd outside city hall held their breath a little longer, following the Marshall's gaze to the roof and waiting on the grand finale of a proper Bettensway's New Year.


And as the opening seconds of January the 1st, 2013 slipped away, as the crowd's anticipation died into disappointment, Ed Newt was He ordered one of his men around the left side of the building and went running to cover the right himself, but to his great relief there was neither hide nor hair of the guest of honor to be found, either on the rooftops or the pavement below.
For the first time in eleven years, The Jumping Man had missed an appointment.
******

The whole ceremony had been introduced back in 2001, when the graduating class of that year built and presented the globe as, according to the cue cards their teacher had written out for them, 'a gift to the wonderful community of Bettensway, which had done right by them and their education.' On the same night they held the first drop, by the golden light of the globe the crowd saw a man throw himself from the roof onto the steps below. Luckily, there was a doctor among them still half-sober and the man lived to be discharged from the hospital and sent to a psychiatric ward.

Within three months he'd wormed in his way out of the mental institution, and the next year and all the years after that the Jumping Man lived up to his name, despite all attempts by the police to keep him away from the roof. In a larger town with proper institutions, he probably would've ended up wearing a straight jacket for life. In Bettensway, he simply became part of the local flavor, to the point where they soon gave up on having him committed and simply stationed the firemen outside city hall to catch him each year.

After all, he was harmless.

With small town living being as it was his name could hardly be expected to stay hidden long, despite the refusals of both the police and the hospital to release it, and quite soon it was a secret in name only. But beyond his name, nobody could really claim to know him. He was a quiet man who lived at the edge of the suburbs with his old mother, turning away all the visitors who came by after his leap, only ever seen outside his house at church or shopping for grocery.

In fact, it was how quiet he was that made him such a figure of myth in Bettensway; The enigma of the polite fellow with the small, sad smile who tried to take his own life every year. People couldn't help but wonder what could have happened to make him want to end it all, or why he didn't simply swallow a bottle of pills instead of leaping again and again.

After he'd gone, most people began to think he'd done just that. Or maybe he'd hung himself and his mother had hidden the body, or even better, maybe he'd rigged up some complex method of suicide that didn't leave anything behind at all. As time wore on and the Jumping Man wasn't seen at church or the grocery store, the rumors only got more lurid and ever more horrible deaths were ascribed to him.
******

The next year, as the town handyman prepared to hoist the globe onto it's perch and flicked the lights on and off to make sure they still worked, he found scratched on the plywood an inscription in small, spidery writing:

No need to worry about me, I'm alive and well
I won't be jumping anymore, after twelve years I've gotten the message:
I can't seem to fall without a friend showing up to catch me.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


In.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


I take it you're not drawing randomly? Some of these are just too perfect to have been invented by the random number god.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


Who's got two thumbs, a losertar and is taking a to get back in to the Thunderdome?

This guy.


Also, this guy would like a flash rule, please.

ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


Render Unto Caesar -1994 words

In the still hour of 6 A.M. David shuffled down his driveway and crawled into the embrace of his car, with it's heated seats and pleather upholstery. David loved that car. He loved the purr of the engine and the shiny red finish, loved driving it, loved zipping past the overcrowded busses on the way to work. It was getting to work he didn't love so much. There were eight more payments due on the car though, and he counted the dollars every day as he pulled on his white jacket and brewed a fresh cup of coffee.

He pulled into employee parking and slurped down the last few drops of coffee, checking his hair in the mirror, adjusting his outfit. By the time he stepped out there wasn't a trace of the lurching, grumbling mess that had fell out of bed. In it's place was a young man, reasonably handsome when well presented, with the brittle smile of a true professional in the service industry. David met the last real smile he'd see that day as he relieved his unlucky counterpart on the night shift. As their paths crossed, she nodded her head towards one of the players and leaned in to whisper, "Watch him, the boss thinks he's a cheater."

The man had to be in his seventies at the least, ruddy skin collapsed into folds around his mouth like a doberman. He wore a small straw hat, the kind David thought only hipsters could stand, and a cheap suit that couldn't quite contain him. The other players barely mattered. None of them were sitting on a pile of chips worth thousands of dollars.. Sure enough, the floor manager wasn't far away, looking on from the comfort of the bar.

David smiled to his audience and picked up the cards, fingers working on automatic. "Hi, I'm David, I'll be your dealer today." The deck flickered between his hands, splitting and merging, and David watched the old man for any reaction. The old man only had eyes for his own winnings. David dealt out two cards to himself and two to each player, waiting for the mark to look up, to try and count the cards. Nothing. He barely even looked at his own hand, a seventeen, before signaling for a hit. A four of spades came up. Blackjack. The mountain of blue chips David pushed across the felt would have paid for his car and then some.

On the next hand, the old man got a twenty right off the bat and kept. David drew a sixteen and went over with the next card. The early birds were flooding into the casino now as the all-nighters finally ran short and slouched away, but nobody at the table moved. The other players were all watching the fellow with the incredible luck as the mountain of money grew, and grew, and grew. He could feel the floor boss' eyes on the table. Not just on the lucky bastard, but on him. 'Bad luck' was enough of a reason to be fired.

The casino was full now. Full of people, swarming across the marble floors and dragging their hands over the shiny fixtures, and full of the noise they brought. Roulette balls rattled along the wheels and a chorus of slots tumbled out of tune. The machines sounded the winners with bright chirps and the losers were marked by the sound of another token being fed in. The noise echoed until it was a jackhammer pounding into David's temples. He struggled to maintain a smile as he counted out the winnings.

The casino security were there now, watching with all the non-challance that six foot bouncers could manage. The old man saw them too. He shuffled his chips around, stacking them up by tens, counting. Then again, counting by groups of ten tens. "Sir, please leave the table if you're not going to place a bet." David said, keeping his words polite by careful effort. What he wanted was to curse in frustration. The old man wasn't counting cards, so how was he doing it? How was he making thousands a hand, without fail, while David was being paid minimum wage to stand by and watch?

"Give me a minute."

Nobody else made a move to bet as the old man counted, arranging and rearranging the stacks until, finally, he leaned back in his chair. "Four hundred and seventy thousand dollars." He said, and let out a deep sigh. "That's quite a lot."

"Your bet, Sir?"

The old man looked at the security officers slowly circling the table. No doubt he'd be cut off soon. If there wasn't a crowd it would've happened earlier. "Wait, please, I need a moment.." For the first time David noticed the sweat trickling down the old man's face, the whiteness of his knuckles where he gripped the tables edge. It wasn't the sort of nervousness he'd expect from a cheater. Just the kind he normally saw, the fear of losing everything fighting with the terror of losing out on what might be won.

With a sigh, the old man shoved his entire mountain of winnings into the betting square. "All in."

One by one, the others at the table followed suit, and a few of the watching crowd reached out to pat the old man on the back, either to wish him luck or hope that some of it would rub off. Everyone wanted the impossible to happen. And they all wanted David to lose. His smile felt like it was tearing his face in half as he cut the cards. David thought, for a moment, that he could see the king of hearts and the ace of clubs flash by as he shuffled, imagining throwing the miracle hand in all their faces.

He dealt himself the ace he'd wished for along with the six of diamonds. Not a miracle, but not a bad hand, maybe a good enough one. His opponent only got a jack and a four. Slowly, the old man gestured for another card. This time it was the two of clubs. Sixteen. Still not enough. But also too much, too dangerous to draw on. The man hesitated, then turned to the crowd, "Should I?"

For once there was no happy buzz of conversation, nobody cheered him on. . Nobody dared to be the one to call it, to decide one way or the other. The old man turned back and leaned against the table, opening his mouth, then closing it again. The greatest con man alive couldn't have imitated the look of genuine misery on his face.

"Sir?"

"Pass."

Now the crowd looked to David, waiting for the big reveal. David looked to the floor manager, and caught a look that promised no mercy. One mistake and his job was gone. For nothing more than having bad luck. And they paid him peanuts in the first place.

"Dealer will draw." David said, and dealt himself another card. It still wasn't the king, no miracle for him, but it was a seven.

"Bust."

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ThirdEmperor
Aug 7, 2013

BEHOLD MY GLORY

AND THEN

BRAWL ME


Alright, I'm in with-

~Big Game Hunting For Chickens
~ The Beard That Grows and Grows

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