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lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


I'm in. I could use some motivation to start writing again.

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lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


I'm in, and ing myself so I don't chicken out. I'd like a flash rule too, please.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


Choices

1179 words

Kas sat and watched as the dictator screamed his life away into the cold tile floor. As the puddle of blood grew beneath the man, Kas began to recite the blessings, trying to pass along what love and mercy he could. He didn’t stir until the last gasps had faded away and the body slumped down, small and dark. Kas spread his wings and flew off, leaving the body alone; there was no family for him to comfort.

Back at work, he changed from his robe into his street clothes and prepared to go home. He winced as he raised his arms to put on his shirt: the two long vertical scars on his back still bothered him from time to time. As he was about to leave, he ran into his friend, Zaph. “Hey, Kas,” said Zaph, “Hey, I was just looking for you. Eva and I were talking last night, and she has a friend that we think you’d get along with. Would you be interested in meeting her?”

“I—I don’t think so,” said Kas, quietly trying to move past him.

“Kasiel,” said Zaph, grabbing him by the shoulders, “man, it’s been seven years now. You’re immortal; do you really want to be alone forever?”

Kas paused for a few seconds. “Let me think about it,” he finally mumbled, and walked off.

He flew home and sat down on the couch with a sigh. Zaph’s offer kept coming up, no matter how much he tried not to think about it. Kas was used to loneliness and didn’t mind it; instead, it was the thought of replacing Sara with anyone else that made him sick. I guess I should’ve moved on by now, he thought, but I still love her.


Kas had experienced a number of extraordinary things, from creation to the rebellion of the Fallen, but never in a hundred thousand years had he expected a divorce. “I really love you,” said Sara, “I do. But I know I won’t love you when I’m eighty and hunched over a walker and you’re still just the same as you are now. All I’ll feel is a sick sort of envy for what you have. Plus, after I die, who knows how many thousands of years it’ll be before we’re reunited on Judgment Day.”

“I don’t care at all if you get old,” Kas had said, all the feathers in his four wings trembling. “There are plenty of other angel-human couples out there who go through this, and it’s no big deal to them. And I don’t mind waiting, no matter how long it takes.”

“Well, I guess I’m petty then,” said Sara, a bit bitterly. “But I know that’s how I’ll feel, and I think I’d be better off with another person who will also grow old and wrinkled with me. And it’s not fair for you to have to wait for so long.”

They continued arguing for a long time, but Sara wouldn’t budge on the matter, regardless of how much she cried. Kas knew that she rarely changed her mind; he just didn’t understand why this was coming up now after five years of being together, when she’d never had this issue before. Sure, she had a few more lines on her face now, but what did that matter? Finally, he stood up, and, in the even tone he used for his blessings, said, “It’s not my way to interfere in the acts of people,” but his prismatic eyes were clouded over.

After Sara moved out, Kas had kept to himself mostly. He worked and he slept and he greeted the neighborhood kids, and out of the corner of his eye, the sun came up and the sun went down over and over without him paying much attention to it at all. The only time he had felt much of anything was on their anniversary the next year where, in a mood that could only be described as something between rage and despair, he had ripped off one pair of his wings, sobbing with the pain that followed. Six years later, they were still propped next to the front door, dusty and faded, as if waiting for their owner to return.


Still, he never wanted to return to that moment, wanted to stop the pain eating at him, so he hesitantly agreed to the date. Waiting at the restaurant table, he felt terribly anxious. I don’t think I should be doing this, he thought, but he remained seated. He was reciting Psalm 32 to himself when his date walked up to the table. “Hi, are you Kasiel?” she said.

“Yes, call me Kas—” Kas began, holding out his hand, and then dropped it when he saw his date. “Is this some kind of joke?” he said angrily.

“Maybe for you it is, but I have no issue dating angels of the Light”, said the fallen angel, rustling her dark grey wings slightly. “My name is Azza, may I sit down?” When Kas remained silent, she then proceeded to sit down and look at the specials menu.

Kas sat down as well and put his face in his hands. “This is what I get for trying to date again; I just knew it would go wrong.”

“Mm,” said Azza, fiddling with her necklace. “Eva told me you were divorced, but she didn’t mention this. Personally, I’m not very into men with a lot of baggage, so I think I’ll go.”

Kas ignored her. “What couldn’t I give her that she wanted?”

Azza rolled her eyes at him. “What’s her name?”

“Sara Gilbert.”

A dark red orb materialized on Azza’s hand. She held it out to Kas and said, “Take a look.”

Kas knew he was supposed to avoid the Fallen’s tricks, but he still looked anyway. In it, he saw an older Sara gazing with that sweet look of hers on a man with a giant bald spot. They sat on a park bench, holding hands and watching two young children run around with a golden retriever. The Sara he knew had never wanted anything like that, hadn’t even wanted kids.

Azza closed her hand and the orb disappeared. “There’s your answer,” she said. “Now move the gently caress on.” She stood up and left.

At home, Kas lay in bed and reflected on Sara’s content face. His thoughts then turned to the dictator who had bled to death alone in the palace. An angel is slow to change, if he ever does, he thought. People aren’t like that though: they only have a little while to make choices, right or wrong. He suspected that was the only answer he’d ever get.

He looked at the picture of them that he kept by his bedside; the two of them smiling at each other at the beach, him with a wing wrapped around her. He still loved her. In the morning, he wrapped his torn wings in garbage bags and put them in the coat closet. One day, he would be able to throw them away.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


I'm in and would like a flash rule, please.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


gently caress, I'm late. Posting it anyways because it's better than nothing.


Our Newest Display

1081 words

Overhead, the mermaids swam through the blue, languidly following a school of small grey fish. I stared in disgust at the bony emaciated forms that passed by. “Those are seriously gross,” I whispered to my friend Melissa; she giggled in response. “Angie, Melissa,” our teacher snapped at us from a few seats over where she’d been giving a lecture. I sighed and slumped down in the red plush bench, pretending like I was paying attention. I, like every other high school-age child, was on a field trip to see the mermaids at the aquarium. The teacher had said that it was so we could see the symptoms of the disease, to know what to look for—not so we could gawp at the freaks, though that’s why everybody really went there.
Two years later, I’d begun to dream of the ocean every night, of gliding though the cool water, of grabbing at the small fish which darted around me, tearing into them in a slow floating cloud of red. A few weeks later, I’d found the first few scales on my thigh: glimmering little death sentences. Now, eight months later, I’d been caught and put in a tank to float among the other sick, like a bunch of grocery store lobsters.


I swam through the tunnel that connected the aquarium tanks to the island that was closed off in the back of the building. Here, the people who could still breathe on land lived until their gills came in. I could see three of them there this morning. The first ignored me when I called, and the second was too busy sobbing to pay attention to me. The third one though was new, a teenage girl staring up at the lights in the ceiling. She was tiny, with sunk-in dull eyes and stringy blonde hair, large patches of scales glistening on her back and legs. Someone who had been caught in the early stages, it seemed. I called to her, and after a minute, she finally turned her head in my direction.

“I’m Angie,” I said. It hurt to talk nowadays, so I kept what little conversation I made short.

“Laura,” she replied quietly.

“Any news about a cure?” I asked everyone who came in about this, but there was never any good news, any hope. For all the talk of research and cures, the only thing that’d changed in the last seven years was the increasing number of aquariums being built.

“Not that I know of. My brother, Mike, got sick with it, so the doctors examined me as well. He ran away before they could take him too.” Her eyes teared up. “I’d been hiding the scales with long sleeves and pants until then. I was so scared.”

I nodded. I’d done the same with clothes and make-up until my legs had fused down to the point where I’d been unable to walk anymore without falling. Every day I’d woken up and examined every inch of skin in the mirror, feeling as though someone was wringing my stomach out with every new change I found.

I continued to visit Laura, and as time went by, we became what could be considered friends, if you consider commiserating about turning into monsters together to be a type of friendship. Laura held out hope that one day, Mike would save her. I tried to share her enthusiasm, but I figured Mike was probably dead or in a tank somewhere. I could still breathe out of water for a short time, though it made me feel faint, so I spent what time I could with her on the sand. I was trying as hard as I could to try to stay human, but at times, all I could focus on was the water and my next meal.


We were woken up one night by running and muffled voices outside. The door outside the island opened and a small group of people came in. They shone flashlights around whispering to each other as we all peered over at them anxiously. Laura perked up when she saw them.

“Mike?” she called quietly. A man in a wool hat came closer. “Oh, Darryl, hey,” she said, smiling. She turned to me and said, “He’s one of my brother’s friends.”

“Laura?” Darryl said. “poo poo, I didn’t expect to find you here.”

“Have you seen Mike recently?” Laura asked. Her webbed hands trembled slightly.

“No, I haven’t. I’m with one of the underground groups. We’ve been rescuing people who aren’t too far gone and trying to keep them alive until there’s a breakthrough. There’s no reason to keep you guys in a zoo; we’ve got some scientists who can look after you while they study this.”

“I can still walk—my legs are only fused at the top,” Laura said cheerfully. She glanced at me. “What about her?”

Darryl shook his head. “Too hard to carry, plus she’d probably die before we can get her in water again. You should be ok though.”

Laura shot a desperate look at me. I wanted to cry and scream for them to take me along, but I knew it was hopeless. Instead, I simply just said “Go.” She put her arm around Darryl’s shoulder and in a few minutes, they were gone.


I returned to the glass and thought only of fish, watching the high school kids snicker at us as they sat and enjoyed their safe, dry lives. All I could do was watch my body continue to shrink, to find myself forgetting details from my previous life. Who was it that I’d sat with at the aquarium that time? They were a complete blank to me.

One day, they hung up a bright red banner nearby. It was hard to read through the glass, but I managed to make out that it was for a new exhibit.

“Mermaid bodies on display…” I trailed off as I noticed the picture beneath it. It was of the head and shoulders of a mermaid girl with stringy blonde hair, the eyes closed and peaceful. Her face was mostly scaly now, but a patch of skin still curved around her left eye like a crescent moon.

I swam off, feeling like someone had driven a hook through my insides. Oh, to be a Siren at this moment. We were forgetting what it was like to be human, but it was clear that humanity had forgotten who we were long ago.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


As penance for submitting late, I'm offering three line-by-line crits to whomever asks first. If you want to crit my story in return, that would be cool too.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


Crit for Grizzled Patriarch:

Grizzled Patriarch posted:

edit: poo poo, deadline got called while I was trying to format this drat thing. I fall to my knees in the blood-soaked sands of the Dome, crying out for mercy until my throat is raw. I expect none.

Frequency (811 words)


Ben propped himself upright in bed and swore under his breath. He’d intended to sleep in on his only day off, but music from next door was thumping through the drywall, so loud that when he pressed his hand against the plaster he could feel it vibrating. Still bleary, he tugged on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, started a pot of coffee, and shuffled out into the second floor breezeway. this sentence could use some tweaking. this isn't a movie, so you don't have to describe every little detail. if he walked out in a clown suit after making some fish-flavored coffee, then it'd be worth describing, but normal stuff not so much unless it contributes to the story.

He had to knock four times before his neighbor answered, and once he did comma needed here Ben was embarrassed to find that he’d forgotten the man’s name. He had introduced himself when he first moved in, and they ran into each other once or twice a week at the mailboxes or in the parking lot, but otherwise their paths never seemed to intersect. unnecessary, either take it out or add a shortened version of it after a semi-colon to the previous sentence The man stood blinking at Ben as if he couldn’t fathom why he might be standing there. With the door cracked, the music was even louder. It was a strange sort of song, without any lyrics. Just a simple, droning bass line and a melody that seemed to shift and swell without reason. this is a sentence fragment; this sentence and the previous one would sound better combined together. also, that doesn't sound very strange; sounds like most electronica. i think this part could be described better.

“Hey,” Ben said. “I was wondering if maybe you could turn that down a bit. It’s just kind of early.”

His neighbor took a half-step back, then leaned forward against the door jamb. “Sure. Yeah, sure, sorry.” He slurred his words, letting them tumble out as if they had weight to them. what does that even mean?

Ben wondered if the man was drunk. He jerked his head toward the sound. “What is that, anyway?”

“I’m, uh, actually not sure. Just something I found on the radio, I guess.”

When Ben didn’t say anything else, the man made a few quick bobbing nods and shut the door, evidently satisfied that the issue had been settled.

Back in his own apartment, Ben decided there was no point in trying to fall back asleep. Instead comma his eyes were drawn to the clock radio on his nightstand. He sat on the edge of his bed and fiddled with the tuning knob, sifting through dead stations, morning talk shows, and evangelists, almost ready to give up when a few notes crackled through, drifting in and out of a sea of static. He bent closer and dialed in on it until the song came through.

***

The next morning he called in sick. His manager made an attempt to sound pleasant, but there was an unmistakable edge to his voice. Ben’s skull burned. It didn’t feel like any kind of headache, but rather like a hollow space had been scooped out between his ears and packed with glowing coals. He ground the palms of his hands into his eyes and went to the fridge for water. To makes things worse, that song was stuck in his head. He could hardly think of anything else. Even as he took long, icy pulls from the water bottle, he found his fingers drumming a beat on the countertop.

After a while he decided to run to the gas station for cigarettes. Maybe he just needed to get out of the house and take his mind off things for a few minutes. He drove with the radio off. don't think this part really needs to be a separate paragraph

***

An older woman was sitting on the first floor stairs when he got back. She didn’t look up when he sidled by, didn’t even seem to notice him. She was rocking her head back and forth, humming that song.

There was a new sound coming from his neighbor’s apartment, even louder than before. Anger flared up in him. He pounded on the door with a closed fist, then both fists when there was no answer. His head throbbed, until it felt like he might throw up. At last he gave the doorknob a vicious twist and almost tripped inside when it opened.

His neighbor sat hunched over on the floor in the living room, surrounded by a galaxy of appliances. i like the description as a "galaxy" There were half a dozen blenders and food processors, whirring like dental drills, left running so long that they filled the house with a smell like burning rubber. His tiny television was set to max volume, and the kitchen disposal gurgled and hummed.

Even kneeling a few inches away, Ben had to shout. “What the hell are you doing?”

His neighbor looked up at him. His face was swollen and dark, like the skin of a plum. When he spoke comma his tone was pleading, like a child trying to get out of some punishment. “That song, god, god is usually capitalized in written works it won’t stop. It’s burrowed in somewhere, somewhere deep. Have to drown it out.”

Ben had to go to his own apartment to dial 911. He slumped against the wall and smoked while he waited for them to arrive. All that noise had made the pain in his head almost unbearable. He closed his eyes, and little by little comma the song crept in. And then? Why cut off the story at an interesting part? You had 300 more words you could've used.

I thought the story was ok, but a bit dull. I think it would be better if you cut out some of the exposition, like all the stuff Ben does like drive to the gas station and focused more on how the song affects people (the neighbor surrounding himself with appliances and trying to drown out the noise, for example). As it is, it just seems really unoriginal, and there's not much to Ben's personality beyond he doesn't like being woken up by loud music.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


Crit for Phobia:

Phobia posted:

We Are All Diseased
1193 words

I'm just going to comment here that a lot of these paragraphs would be better combined together. A lot of the paragraphs aren't strong enough to stand on their own.

There are rules in funeral homes, rules of respect and civility. You are taught to embrace, to present yourself appropriately to the cognizance of others. You’re taught to speak kind but not patronize, sound sincere but not candid. Lastly, you learn how to keep your distance so you may not get any on you. not sure what "so you may not get any on you" means here

Even though I rarely went to the services, Father beat these lessons into my head. He did so with a smile. I smiled too, said my whenever necessary. is there a word missing here? it's like the previous sentence i noted, where it doesn't sound quite right Then I crossed the street and never looked back. Do it enough times and it becomes natural.

But it isn’t natural. It’s a cancer that you fool yourself into accepting.

It happened one afternoon in Autumn. I was walking home from school when I saw a deer on the side of the road.

He sat on the opposite side of the road, sprawled on his side with his legs brought together as though hogtied with rope. wait, he can't be both sitting and laying on his side Even in the distance, I could see his jaw hanging wide open.

If I didn’t should be hadn't made, not didn't make--mixed tenses make eye-contact with him, I would have kept walking.

It took a moment to see that he was a buck. I had trouble because his antlers snapped. these two sentences would work better combined I realized from the trail leading from the road that someone had dragged him over and out of the street. I did not need to see the tire tracks to know they did not stay long after. i'd recommend changing at least one of the "did not"s to "didn't" as this sentence sounds a bit stilted

He was in shock, I told myself. Once he snapped out of it, he’d would scramble to his feet and run away.

My hopes were dashed when I crossed the street and noticed that his legs were not bound by rope but by his entrails.

It was getting late. Father would be worried.

I brought my hands up in a defensive gesture, like it would help matters. that last part goes against her childish thinking The buck stared at me.

"He-Hey there," I said. "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you."

It did not occur to me that he was incapable of speaking. Perhaps it was my childish ideology skewing things comma needed here but I swore he understood. The glimmer in his milk dud eyes or the notion of a nod, whatever it was, I took it at face value.

I told him, "Stay there.” The deer stared.

I took hesitant steps. My legs wobbled with each one. I reached his side and got down onto my knees. I placed my hands on his torso, trying not to touch the gaping hole around his belly. Naively I thought that I could actually help him. Slap a bandaid band-aid is usually hyphenated to keep his guts from spilling out.

There was no inhale or exhale though. At the time comma I found it strange comma but nearly shrugged it off. That’s when I noticed. He had not so much as blinked in the several moments of my being there.

I snapped out of my stupor when a passing car honked. Not at the buck. At me.

I arrived back home a few minutes later. I left my schoolbag at the door and stepped into the foyer and past the glass chandelier when I noticed Father’s office was open.

Father was with a family. Middle-aged man, younger woman. A chilling silence hung over the room as all three turned to look at me.

"You’re home late, pumpkin," Father said. He called me that. Pumpkin. we know, you just said that He smiled at the man. "John, this is my daughter, Anna.”

The man turned to look at me, his face stained with familiar black pools. That was not unusual. He said nothing. Nothing unusual either. Both twisted the knife already embedded into my chest.

“Yeah,” I said. “I-I got caught up with something.”

“Really? Did you talk to anyone in school today?”

“No.” I was having a bad year. “It’s just…” trailing off sentences use four ellipses

I looked towards the woman. She had her head on the man’s shoulder, busy staring at the floor. When I turned away, I noticed a flash of read. oh, are they reading the story too, yuk yuk

I stared at my palms. They were stained a dull red. this just repeats the last sentence of the previous paragraph

Father must have seen something in my face because he frowned at me. “What’s wrong, Anna?”

"I'm sorry," I said.

Father laughed. "Sorry? What are you sorry for?"

I hope you die, Father.

“It’s nothing. Just… not feeling good.”

He scratched his head. “You look really pale.”

That’s because you make me sick, Dad. why is it dad here and father everywhere else You infect everyone that comes in here and they pay you for the privilege. I bet you wouldn’t even blink twice at that deer. Someone should break your legs and leave you to die, maybe then you’ll learn your lesson. Jesus Christ, I wished I could operate on you in order to dissect the sickness that YOU have been nursing inside of me for fifteen loving years. wait, how old is she in this story? she sounds like a child earlier, but now you mention fifteen years and then there's swearing? For gently caress’s sake stop smiling at me. Goddamn it. If mom were still alive she would have left you. this is kinda more telling than showing. i guess it works if she's some angsty fifteen-year-old, but it seems a bit weird for a child's inner monologue.

I forced the sob back into my throat. I smiled.

“It was something I ate,” I said. “I’m going to go lay down. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

He looked at me strangely, scratching the stubble under his chin. He smiled. “Okay, honey. I’ll come check up on you later.”

I turned and didn’t look back. I washed my hands and got into bed.

I had night terrors every night for a week. Same dream, always ending at the sink, scrubbing a bar of soap so hard into my palms that only bone remained, no blood. this part isn't needed I’d always wake, comma not needed here sweating, staring down at my hands.

I never told Father about any of this.

The family from before held their service on a Saturday. The whole home was packed with black suits and veils. The boy must have been my age when his friend ran into a telephone pole.

I stood in the foyer, arm slung around the railing leading upstairs. I did not know him. But I recognized his mother, the older woman from before, when she placed a hand on his chest and stared into his closed eyes.

I realized only then.

This is natural.

The deer was not an isolated incident. That very same year, a senior thought it would be a good idea to mix bourbon with sleeping pills. One kid in middle school went to the beach and swam too far out into the ocean. A girl in elementary fell ill. More than one, actually.

Darwanism, survival of the fittest, aren't these two pretty much the same thing? death. It’s all part of the same plague. We are all diseased. Some of us die on the operating table, others are eaten away from the inside. But we are all sick and we are all going to die. You, me, everyone we love, every religion and school of thought. We just have to fool ourselves into pretending otherwise.

I did not like it. I wished it wasn't true. But I had to swallow the pill without the luxury of water. Pull my head back, shove it in, choke on it until the bitter taste dissolved. these two sentences would sound better merged together Only then could I feel better.

So that’s what I did. It has helped, somewhat. I still have the night terrors though, on cold nights when I sit in bed wondering what death must feel like. tense-switching here. also, the last sentence doesn't really work as an ending sentence--needs to be stronger if you're going to end like that.

I feel like you captured a young person's first real exposure to death and a dead body fairly decently here. Main thing I'd say here is to consolidate your paragraphs so it looks more story-like and less blog entry-like. I feel like the ending could be a bit stronger though: it's a little cliche.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


I'm in. Flash me baby one more time.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


Djeser posted:

Lambeth flash rule: A quest for a divine rear end features in your story.

See earlier comment about goons and cigars. This rear end should be an ideal rear end, unchanging and perfect. Nothing enters or leaves this rear end.

This is awesome.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


Sorry, going to have to bow out this week. Health issues have gotten the best of me this weekend.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


Time for the weekly crushing of spirits working around writer's block. I'm in.

http://imgur.com/FQCPChc

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


Previous story: http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=65



The Wood-Carver’s Apprentice

1524 words

I bent, chopped, and tossed. Though my arms ached terribly, the wood pile behind me continued to grow until it blocked out the sight of the setting sun. As evening came on, I gathered up the first armful of wood and began to shuffle towards the work hut, my ankle chain dragging loudly through the grass. One lousy supper of beans later, I set again to work, delicate little rings falling around my feet as trees and people holding hands emerged. When my master came to unlock the hut at midnight, I was only starting the base.

Locked into bed, I lay awake and stared up at the darkness. When I was a little girl, I had dreamed of living in a castle of blue-roofed towers and shining white stone. But that was before my mother died, and my father had sold me as apprentice to the carver’s shop to help feed six other hungry mouths. “It’s this or begging for your supper, Caro,” he’d said, and being a scared and hungry child, I had nodded and glanced down so he couldn’t see my eyes filling up. Now I lay in a room that was only big enough for a child-sized cot and an old chipped table to keep clothes and the water bucket on.

Morning came, and, belly full of thick heavy porridge and beans, I continued chopping and carving. The carver’s shop was full of towers I’d made, each a little world of winter, delicate snowflakes falling on the people, animals, and trees and topped with a little propeller. My master had decided to create a human-size tower, something that would keep me busy for weeks. I sighed as I began to work on yet another tree. If only it were possible to use the propeller on the tower to fly away. Wait, could that actually work? I sat there for a moment, biting my lower lip. I hadn’t had much schooling, but I felt it wouldn’t work with a person, especially one with iron on their feet. It’d been a silly thought, I suppose, but flying seemed very appealing when I couldn’t run away again.

***

“Hurry up,” my master said as he saw me finishing the second platform. I forced a smile and nodded. I threw my knife down in disgust after he left and rubbed my cramping hand, grimacing as I tried to straighten out my fingers. As I sat down to my supper of gristle and beans, I heard a loud fluttering overhead and ducked as a large green butterfly flew past. It was trying to get at the candle in the lantern, and as I watched, it flew faster and faster around the glass, its green wings illuminated in the moonlight. “You’ll kill yourself,” I said.

A strange little chirping sound came, as if in response. I frowned as I then heard it again. Getting up, I looked around the hut, trying to pinpoint the noise. I heard it again coming from the direction of the butterfly still throwing itself against the glass. As I drew near it, it fluttered away to a nearby wall. I approached that wall and it flew away again. After trying to catch it a few times, I gave up and sat back down to supper and work. After a little while, I saw it fly back slowly and land on the lantern side. I let it crawl around the lantern for a few minutes and then quickly leaned in and pinched its wings between my thumb and forefinger.

The butterfly vibrated as it tried to get away. I held it up closer to the light and saw that the body in the middle was white with human-like limbs. Noticing its predicament, it turned its head to me; I waited for it to say something again, but instead, it tried to bite my finger with little dagger-like teeth. It was too far away to do anything though.

“Who are you?” I asked it, but it only proceeded to try and keep biting me. “Alright,” I said, and took it towards the barred window. In the moonlight, its body shone brilliantly. I let it go and it flew off, disappearing quickly. I was unsure what to think about what happened, so I turned back to carving snowflakes, my mind uneasy.

The next morning, as my master was unlocking the wood hut, I noticed a pair of green butterfly wings lying on the step. The body part was gone though. Maybe a cat had gotten it. I felt a little sad seeing the wings lying there though.

That night, I was doing some chiseling when I heard a loud fluttering sound coming from the window. In flew four of the creatures, who landed on my worktable. Two had red wings, one orange, and the largest one had blue wings dotted with black. The blue-winged one flew up and landed on my piece of wood.

“Hello human,” it said in a tiny high-pitched voice that had all the warmth of an icicle. “As queen of the fairies, I wanted to thank you for saving the life of Vrongil yesterday. Cousin Vrongil was never very bright, and how he made it to adulthood, I’ll never know, but your effort was noble nonetheless.”

“. . . Ok,” I replied, at a loss for what to say.

“As such, even though you are a filthy human, I will grant you one wish—whatever you want that’s in my power.”

“I wish to be free and somewhere else,” I responded immediately.

“Of course, we’ve already come up with a plan for that. Just follow our instructions and you’ll be free within a month or two.”

I pursed my lips. “You can’t free me now?”

The queen’s voice hardened. “I’m not a sorcerer, girl. Now, listen to the plan.”

I listened, and agreed to the idea. As they flew away, I started working on the first step. When my master came to bring me my lunch of bean soup and bread crusts the next day, I presented him with a little figurine of a fairy girl, her butterfly wings covered with spirals and dots. My master frowned and took the figurine in his hands. “For Avalee,” I said, smiling. When I said that, his frown wavered and he grunted softly.

“She’ll love it,” he said and slipped it into his pocket. I had worked with him long enough to know that his daughter was the one little area of sunshine in him.

“I was thinking, in addition to the tower, what if we had a life-size fairy as well? Probably would get a lot of little girls out to see the shop.”

I paused after saying that, as my master usually didn’t like me giving suggestions, but in this case, he nodded and said, “That’s fine. Just get the tower done first.”

***

The hours seemed all too short as I worked as fast I could to get the two pieces done. The fairies came a few times to inspect (and criticize) the fairy girl. I kept cheerful, knowing that soon, I would be free. Eventually, the morning of the fair came, and after watching my master’s sons carry my completed and painted works out, I prepared for the escape. My master had unlocked my chains in case he needed me in the store and had locked me in the back room. After a while, the fairy queen arrived with her followers. She touched the door and it swung open a crack. As I tiptoed forward, I thought I saw one of the fairies lick its lips, but when I glanced back, it was still.

My master was outside, talking to some families. I glanced at the fairies and the queen flew up next to my head. “Look,” she said, and pointed at the fairy statue. I looked and saw that the green wings of the statue were moving softly with the wind. They were real. “All you need to do is grab them and put them on and you can fly away!”

“Wonderful!” I said, clapping my hands. As I continued, my hand slid to the bag I’d hid in the corner. “Just let me get my belongings here. . . .”

Before the queen could react, I had wrapped her in my ankle chain. She shrieked as the iron burned against her flesh. “You must think I’m a fool,” I said, holding her up to my face. “If wooden wings worked, don’t you think I’d have made them years ago? And I doubt giant butterfly wings would work any better.”

The queen trembled angrily in my hand, hissing at me. The other fairies fluttered around anxiously, trying to avoid getting caught as well. “Now, shall we talk wish-granting?” I said to her sweetly.

***

As I looked down over the mountains and sparkling lake from my castle tower, I smiled and took a sip of mulled wine from my glass. Everything was exactly how I wanted it to be—well, with one exception. An iron castle wasn’t as attractive as a marble one, but it was very strong.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


In.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009




The Bodies in the Dumpster

Words: 1501

This city is mine in the hour before daybreak, from the smell of fresh graffiti on the walls to the light from headlights dancing past my eyes. I stroll casually down the street, just a mild-mannered man in a suit and hat, no tie. A few rips and wear here and there, but otherwise respectable. My name is Black Vengeance.

I suppose this ain’t much of a costume, but that poo poo is for people with money. Plus, with the governor cracking down on vigilantes, running around in a rubber suit gets you a SWAT team up the rear end. More inconspicuous, anyways. My calling card is my dagger; may seem a little outdated, but it works against most of those motherfuckers out there. And when those motherfuckers show up with guns, I’ve got a Colt on me that I ain’t got a concealed carry for.

Around 5:30, I start making my last rounds, my feet aching. Around here, the sleepy workers are busy getting the shops ready for the day. I’m thinking of stopping at the restaurant two doors down to see if I can get a lemonade, when I hear a scream and a loud thump. I take off running through the alley down the west side, and find Sherri, hands over her mouth and breathing rapidly near the dumpster, trash bag lying in a puddle a few feet away.

“Ray!” she shouts. From the doorway, I see two or three heads peeping out, but she shoos them back inside. “Thank the Lord you’re here!”

I scowl. “Woman, I’ve told you a million times to call me Black Vengeance when I’m making my rounds.” Sherri rolls her eyes. “You want people going after my family? Now, what happened?”

“I was taking out the trash and I found a body in the dumpster,” Sherri said in a hushed tone. I pull my gloves out of my pocket and raise the lid. Inside is a Mexican woman with a newspaper on her chest. I poke around her and the paper gently. Bruises around her neck but no wounds, and the paper doesn’t have any blood on it. I look at the date. September 7, 1988. Nothing suspicious in the headlines.

I drop the lid. This is the third one this month. “Call the police,” I say.

Sherri nods. “Thanks.” I’m walking off when she whispers “Ray?” I turn around. “Toni wanted to know if you’re coming to her party tonight.”

“Nope,” I say, holding up my hand for a goodbye. Behind me, I hear her scoff. Never get involved with your sister’s friends; I had to learn that the hard way.

***

I’m off work today, so after getting some sleep, I head to the library. I look it up, but nothing comes up for that date. I go watch the kids play soccer for a while and then head out for our hideout. White Lightning is already there, looking at something on his laptop. “BV!” he says, as we clasp hands.

“WL, my man!” I say. He don’t know my name and I don’t know his, and that’s how we like it. I drop onto the dirty old couch, trying to avoid the part where the spring pokes through. As always, the place is freezing. “Another body this morning, poo poo.”

“poo poo,” White Lightning says in sympathy. “What was the date this time?”

“September 7, 1988. Mexican lady.”

“Hmm.” He starts typing away on his laptop. “So now we’ve got May 12, 1992, October 27, 1962, and September 7, 1988. African-American man, African-American woman, Hispanic woman, three in 23 days.” He types for a little while before looking up and saying “Nothing in common so far.”

“poo poo.” I run my hand over my hair. “Ok, let’s make sure to cover the west part of town real thoroughly the next few days.” White Lightning nods and picks which part he’ll cover tonight. He’s a good man, even if he wears some ugly-rear end clothes. I had to get him to lose the glasses and cover his tats when he started, as he stood out way too much, but he’s improved a lot since then.

***

The weeks go by and more bodies show up—always strangled, always a newspaper, always in a dumpster. It gets on the news and people start freaking out, which makes it harder to investigate. I can hear the sirens getting louder while I’m quickly trying to get a picture of the newest body, when I notice a grey streak on its shoulder where its sweater is torn. I hold up my flashlight and it looks like some sort of silver paint. I snap my picture and get out.

I call White Lightning on my burner phone and show him the picture when he arrives at the hide-out. “Something’s not right,” I say, pacing around. Something about this case had become an itch that no amount of scratching had helped. Tonight, it itched worse than either. “Something’s off . . . it’s too—too—“

“Perfect?”

“Yes! Too clean. Ten bodies and none of them got mistakes on them till tonight. And no connection between none of the victims, the dates, the locations, no similarities, nothing. What kind of loving serial killer does that poo poo?”

White Lightning sits for a minute, head in his hands. “Maybe it’s not a serial killer. Maybe it’s someone pretending to be one. . . . But if so, what do they want?”

***

A few days later, I’m at work when my burner phone rings. “Turn on the news,” says White Lighting and hangs up. I unmute the TV in the restaurant area and turn it up.

The governor is onscreen, standing next to two assholes dressed up in superhero costumes, masks, capes, and all. I tilt my head back and sigh up at the ceiling. “My fellow citizens,” the governor oozes, “I’ve brought aboard two of the finest superheroes available to help us catch the killer that’s been terrorizing the city for the last two months. These are Captain Justice and his sidekick, Talon. Let’s make them feel welcome. I have no doubt that they will soon catch the killer and the city will soon sleep peacefully again.” After the cameras take their pictures, he continues, “I want to add that these gentlemen are professionals, and any vigilantes trying to copy them will face the same penalties as before.” Great. That’s all I need, more useless dicks to get in my way. Two more bodies show up over the next week and I can’t do poo poo with them thanks to these rear end-clowns.

The next week, I’m working with White Lightning on a case where the owner of a Mexican grocery got shot in front of his store, when we hear the familiar clang of a dumpster lid. We bolt off and locate the sound as coming from behind a Wal-mart. We run in and Captain Justice and Talon are already there, examining the body before the cops even get there. Captain Justice looks up at us, confused. “The hell are you?” he says.

I tilt my hat down. “Black Vengeance,” I say.

The two of them smirk. “Look at the vigilantes here, tough guys,” crows Talon. He looks over at White Lightning. “What are you, Reparations Boy?” I smile and punch him in the face. Next to me, White Lightning joins in, while I jump on the Captain, who’s come in swinging too.

We do that Batman poo poo until Captain Justice grabs me in a chokehold. I scrabble through my pockets until I find my dagger. A bit hard to do, but I slash at him until he lets go, clutching at the cut on his arm. “You little bitch!” he says. The beginning shrieks of a siren are heard and we all freeze for a second. White Lightning and I take that as an excuse to run like hell.

***

“You ok, man?” asks White Lightning.

“Yeah. You?”

“Yeah.”

My suit jacket is ripped, so I take it off. White Lightning’s eyes widen. “Holy poo poo!” he says. “Look at that!”

I look on the jacket shoulder and there, clear as day, is a streak of silver, same as with that one body. “Some of the paint must’ve sweated off his glove when we were fighting,” I say. “They planted those bodies,” I continued. “The governor has got to be behind this. He needed an excuse to bring them in, for people to be scared.”

“They’re here to protect him from . . . well, us.”

***

Three days later, a man named Vasu Khadampar is arrested for the murders. Wonder what they paid him. The newspaper dates all relate to events in his life, our new heroes exclaim proudly. The governor says they’re here to stay, to clean up this city.

Yeah, I’m sure they’ll come running when a black man gets shot in the projects. I’ll have work to do, always. She is my city, even when she hates me.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


A Big Black Mess, A Hunk of Love

14 words


"You know that song by the Pixies?"

"Yeah?"

"It wasn't like that at all."

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


In.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


I'm in. Toxxing myself.

lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


A Constant Itching Behind the Eyelids (1104 words)

“Room 136.” The lobby smells like someone took a poo poo in it, even with the door open and a fan in the corner going, each pushing the baked stale air back at each other. The desk girl only half-hides her staring when my arm twitches repeatedly, but hey, she’s got a massive centipede curled around her forehead who drools all down her cheeks, so who is she to judge?

Six PM, only the lamp near the bed works while I pick at my shithouse burger and fries. Everything is still frozen in the center, and only the popcorn button works on the microwave; by the time I get it blazing hot, it all tastes like rubber. Twelve AM, I read through a grey-and-brown stained copy of Naked Lunch that someone gave me at some point. Never has it been more boring. Six AM, still awake. Still awake. Still awake. My right leg jerks every thirty minutes. My record for the last however many months this has been going on (three? five?) has been five hours a week. Most weeks it’s been three.

I reach into my wallet and pull out the heavily-creased photo. Julie and Jacob and I, all smiling; Jacob beaming, showing both rows of teeth in his little red sweater as Julie and I hold him in our arms. Thank God for life insurance.

I’m gonna meet the man at eight, so I skip the stale bagels in the lobby and take a shower, check out. I get there early and smoke a while among the bums who sleep on the row of benches along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The guy is late, and I browse through a gift shop full of postcards with terrible puns until he touches me on the shoulder and we head out.

“You got the photo?” he says, and I nod and pull it out of my wallet. He jabs viciously at the picture twice. “That one.” I squint in the glaring daylight and see a man—tanned with muscular arms and the kind of swimming pool-blue eyes that you only see in movies. He and Julie and Jacob are all smiling; he and Julie are holding Jacob in their arms while Jacob attempts to grin by showing all his teeth.

“Who’s that?” I’ve never seen this guy before.

The man coughs. “The guy who’s been loving your wife for the last six weeks, idiot. Remember that?”

I really don’t. I have no idea what I came here for, and black scales keep growing and disappearing on this guy’s arms and it’s starting to freak me out. “So what do you want with him?” I ask.

“This prick owes me a lot of money. You want him, I want him, and you’ve got a death sentence hanging over you, so you know, two birds, one stone.”

I clear my throat nervously. Every now and then, my brain catches up with where my body is shuffling along, and I realize for a brief moment that in the fog that is slowly choking off my life, I’ve done something colossally stupid. Usually it’s something like I blink, and I’ve spent the last six hours calling phone sex numbers while a mildly pleasant voice on the line goes “Is there anything else you want me to do, honey? Hello? Hello? You still there?”

“Do you . . . do you have a gun?” It’s a stupid question, I know, and the man looks at me like I’m a goddamn idiot, before handing me a small shopping bag. “Ok . . . cool,” I stammer.

“Meet me on Friday at the same location, eight o’clock,” he says. I nod. “We good?” he continues, and I nod again while trying not to yawn. “Good.” He walks off, hands in his pocket, as I stand there sweating heavily in the sunlight. Behind me, comes a long hacking cough. I turn around and see a bum sitting on one of the chipped green benches. “They put autism in the water, I told the president that, I told him, I sent him five letters in the mail,” he says between coughs, his eyes cloudy. It is a sad thing to be envious of a homeless man.

***

“Room 41.” My signature on the receipt is half below the dotted line because my arm twitches halfway through. I want to jump off of the roof today, but the hotel is only one story. The hotel room smells like cat piss mixed with cheap perfume, even after I turn the air conditioning on for three hours. I watch HBO all night while munching on some crushed pretzels that I found at the bottom of my bag. At four AM, The sheets have faded yellow streaks in the corner and the crinkling plastic covering the cups near the sink gets on my nerves. I have a gun but for some reason, I can’t shoot myself. An eternity of—well, don’t say the word. Don’t even think it. When I think about it, my lungs feel like they’re being ripped apart.

I go over to the house at eleven. This guy Julie is loving works from home and in the shopping bag is a crumpled paper bag with a gun in it. Do I know how to use a gun? I don’t know. I have a key that opens the back door and I tiptoe in. Twenty feet away, I hear that dick yapping on the phone. I sneak in behind him; he’ll never see it coming. Except he does, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never used a gun before and my aim is off to the left. I get him in the shoulder on the third shot and then in the chest on the fourth. He’s down and bleeding fast. On his desk is a picture of him and Julie and Jacob lying in the grass and smiling. Jacob’s smile is missing a tooth on the top.

I bolt out and almost trip over a red kid’s bike that fell over in the corner. Wait, isn’t Jacob two. I do the mental math. No, he should still be two—or maybe three at this point? I don’t have time to figure this out, so I slip out the back and run like hell.

***

“Good job,” says the man and hands me a bookbag. Inside should be enough money to get me through another week or two of poo poo-loving existence. “I’ll be in touch with you soon for other opportunities,” he says with a weak smile before walking off. I don’t remember the ride to the airport after that.

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lambeth
Aug 31, 2009


sebmojo posted:

No-one wants a crit? Tsk.

I'm only sort of a newbie, but I'll take one.

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