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kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I kept on telling myself that I was going to do this, but commitment is hard. So screw it, I'm in.

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kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


First Thunderdome entry ever. Help.

Final Thoughts?
869 Words


Chris’s mind was muddled as he walked out of the examination hall, sure that his GPA was doomed, his academic future in shambles. He stopped as he reached the steps down to the sidewalk, turned around, and scanned the remnants of the crowd leaving the building. Penny caught his eye and grinning widely, waved to him. With a false smile, Chris managed a twitch of his fingertips and watched as she, along with two other classmates - he thought their names were Diana and Jacqueline, made her way up to his side.

“That was really a difficult test, wasn’t it?” Penny asked, still smiling. “Thought my brain would just die right there in the examination hall and float away, leaving my body behind.”

Chris groaned. “I think that’s exactly what happened to me, to be honest. I couldn’t answer all the questions, and -”

“Well, being late couldn’t have helped,” Diana chirped. “I mean, I thought that you of all people would show up on time.”

“Did you just forget to set the alarm?” Jacqueline asked.
“Well, not really. Erm, I stayed up to like two in the morning studying and covering some stuff, so I just slept right through it.”

“Yowch.”

“I know.” Chris almost wailed. “I probably completely bombed it and my parents are going to kill me and they’re going to take away all my games and…”

As he continued venting (in this rather theatrical fashion), Diana raised an eyebrow as she looked at Penny, who just laughed. They continued walking back, and as Diana and Jacqueline left for the dining hall, Chris asked Penny how she did. Upon hearing “Erm, I’m pretty sure I did pretty well, you know” (along with the giggles at the joke she thought she made), Chris turned on Penny and spat out:

“What? But you never get any of the questions right in discussion! I mean, it’s practically a running joke in the class! How can somebody who can’t even remember what Avogadro’s number is for possibly think that she did ‘pretty well’?”

Penny laughed again, and Chris’ face became even stormier, and she finally said, “Silly! Didn’t you notice why I always answered wrong?” Upon seeing Chris’ confused expression, she said primly, “Think about it for a while, and we’ll meet up for dinner, okay?”

Chris nodded slowly, and asked, “Same time, right?”

“Right!”

---

Chris was still gloomy when Penny walked up to him, greeted him, and dragged him into Oceano, the local dining hall. Only when they had received and paid for their meals did she ask him about the question she asked earlier.

Sitting down into the wobbly chair, Chris answered slowly, “I think I might have an answer.”

She clapped her hands together, and said, “Tell me!”

“Well, you always - always - answer the question wrong, but you’re generally the first person to answer the question. I wasn’t joking about the ‘running joke’ thing - it’s almost a comedy routine in the class at this point. Johnson asks a question, you give an outlandish answer, the whole class laughs, and we continue on.” He looked up at her, and upon seeing her nod, continued. “You used to get the really basic answers wrong, but you never answered a question twice. So I guess you were just trying out trial and error? Learning from your mistakes?”

Penny shook her head. “Think again. Why did I always answer first?”

“...nobody else raised their hands?” Chris mumbled more to himself than anything, looking down at his plate - a slice of pizza along with an orange. “Uh, I think on the first day after we finally dealt with all the stupid admin stuff, nobody really wanted to answer any of Johnson’s questions even if they knew the answer.” Like me. “So you got sick of the silence and tried to throw something out there?”

“Not really. Why did everybody keep quiet? At the very least, why did you keep quiet?”

“Well, I was afraid…” of getting the question wrong. Oh. Chris looked up. “Wait, are you seriously telling me that you were just trying to get everybody else to participate?”

Penny giggled. “It worked, didn’t it? And everybody’s happier. Johnson doesn’t have to ask a question and wait thirty seconds for a response, and people can actually learn instead of falling asleep. And most people would know the correct answer afterwords, mostly because -”

“- because your answers were always really… eccentric.” Like calling HCl the divine nectar the Greek Gods drank, and that's why it neutralized "that nasty base" to form water. “Okay. I think I get it.”

They ate, and after they finished, Penny said, hesitantly, “You know, I think you’ll do fine on the final. The curve’s always there after all, even if it doesn’t work out as well as you’d have liked, you’ll pass. And there’s always next quarter.”

“I know. And well, uh…” Chris fidgeted. Penny raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”

“Could we study together next quarter? I think it would help.”

Ooh, the lone wolf joins the pack.” Chris flushed, and Penny continued. “Yeah, sure! It’d be fun! Well, not really fun, but helpful and educational and stuff like that. C’mon, let’s get back to the common room. I want to show this amazing new show! It’s got magic and mirrors and lots and lots of smoke and…”

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Thanks for the crit, Kalyco! I'll try to put up a crit of your story as thanks a bit later.

In for this prompt, even though I have no idea how I'll tackle it.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I said I'd crit your work as thanks, and here it is! I hope what I wrote makes sense and isn't too nitpicky.

Kalyco posted:

Ace of Fools
934 words

“I don’t know what’s wrong, Jessica, but you need to deal with it. You’ll lose your scholarship if you don’t bring these numbers up.”

“And nobody cares but you.”

Jess glared at the fox in the corner. He laughed, bobbing his whiskers.

“I know, Dr. Vance, I’ve just had a rough week,” she said.

“Rough?” the fox said. “Try negotiating with Tower ogres, Vancey, that’s rough, and not in the fun way!” Who exactly is the fox talking to? It sounds like the fox's one-upping 'Vancey' (who I assume is Vance), but Jess is the one who had the 'rough week'

Her professor heard none of this. “You’ve had a rough semester. The one before that wasn’t smooth either.” He finger-combed his greying hair. “Maybe you should take some time off. If it’s personal issues, or… or a boy…”

The fox rolled over laughing, paws in the air. His tail was bushy and his coat bright as a blood orange. She didn’t know how many vixens he had on the line, but no number would surprise her. I'm not quite sure why this is important. It seems out of nowhere. She tried not to blush. “Come on Dr. Vance, it’s a small liberal arts college, there are hardly any boys here.”

“You just,” he said, looking away from her, “look like you didn’t make it home, last night.” Splitting up the sentence like this makes it sound weird to me.

“Seriously?” She looked down. Dirty jeans, faded black hoodie, converse shoes. “I need to do laundry, but-“

“You smell,” the fox said.

“Better a dirty human than a dirty mutt, Sixt” she muttered.

“Jess?” Dr. Vance looked a specific kind of concerned. "Specific kind of concerned?" Specific as to what? The type of concerned expression one would have talking to a misbehaving student, or when talking to a potentially crazy person?

“Nothing, Professor.”

“Just get it together, alright? Your father wouldn’t appreciate me terminating your scholarship, but I won’t have a choice if your grades don’t change soon. Academic probation is no joke, especially for under-funded departments like ours.” He gestured to the picture on the wall of himself and her father at one of their digs in Greece for emphasis. Nice way of introducing the connection between the two without making it seem unnatural

“I’ll do my best, I-”

“And you need to think about the bigger picture,” he said. “You won’t qualify to have your work-study reinstated if you’re on probation for longer than a semester, and I can’t fund you privately. Books, dorm rooms, fees, food, they all cost money, and-” Jess’s stomach rumbled on queue.

“I know, Morgan,” she said, calling him by his first name like she used to when she was a kid. “I just… have a lot on my plate right-”

There was a crash outside like a ton of bricks falling five stories.

Sixt jumped and Dr. Vance didn’t, so Jess figured it for a different kind of crash. The fox nodded at her, then jumped out a window. Jess fidgeted.

“I just need you to get your act together. Every time I defend you in front of the funding committee I’m sticking my neck out, and you’re not helping by performing at such a-“ "performing" like what?

“Right! So, I’ll go work on that paper right now, ok? You’ll have it before midnight!” She was halfway out of the office before she’d finished speaking. “Thanks!” she yelled back as the door closed.

She ran out of the library, rounded a brick wall to the left and saw all she needed: a dragon was lying on the ground next to a tree, which looked like it’d been hit by lightning. Sixt was sitting next to the dragon, nodding. The professor's office is in the library, rather than a separate building?

Jess came over. “The Nil may speak?” Sixt asked for her. Nice way of clarifying the relationship the fox & Jess have as more than just antagonistic.

“Yes. The Ace of fifth Priest asks arbitration.” The dragon did not move its mouth – no vocal chords. Meetings with them always made Jess’s ears ring in the silence, and they were so formal, names and ranks and so forth.

“The Nil asks, what happened?” she asked.

The next hour answered some long-standing questions about flight restrictions established between the dragons of the fifth and the eagles of the seventh. Apparently the arcana – the open meeting for all ranks of the spirit world’s houses and races – had been issued for tonight, and as arbitrator the Nil had to be present. Long-standing questions that Jess had about flight restrictions? Is she the type of person that thinks a lot about such specific things?

“There goes my promise,” Jess said, watching the dragon take off. Some students had come over to comment on the fate of the tree, but none had stayed. Probably just old and in need of cutting down, right? Humans – the Nil, of the Fool – were remarkably self-regulating. I don't understand what you said in that last sentence. So humans are 'the Nil'? But it seems like a individual title.

“What, to the Empress? Or Dr. Stuffy-Face?” Sixt asked.

“He was the last Nil’s best friend,” she said. She's talking about her father, here, right? Then why not refer to him as such? (Yeah, I know you need to insert the idea that her father was 'the Nil' before her, but unless they had a distant relationship, this line sounds odd.)

“Friend of a Fool, still a stuffy-face.” Sixt trotted off. Jess headed back to her dorm to do what she could until the moon rose and the arcana was called. Tonight would not leave much time for paper writing. Sounds like they went their separate ways, but then the next scene has them together.

--

“Don’t bother me, I’m busy,” she told him. Sixt was lying on top of her bookcase. Books were open across her desk, and she tried to remember what she’d been looking for.

He licked a paw. “Tell me to go, then.”

She didn’t answer, just turned a few pages.

“I just don’t want to disappoint Dr. Vance, dragons or not,” she said as the door opened.

“Did you say something Jess?” her roommate asked, walking in and taking her earbuds out.

Jess rubbed her face. “Nope, just talking to myself. Got a paper due.”

“Bummer. Got your mail,” she said, tossing an envelope onto Jess’s desk.

“Thanks. It’s for Dr. Vance. I’m just trying to straighten everything out, you know?”

“Wasn’t that paper due last week?” So does this scene take place around a week after the last scene? I thought the timeskip was just a couple of hours before I read this line, and now I'm not sure.

“Yeah, but… what was the topic again?”

Sixteen, a Fox of the Tower, fell off the bookcase laughing. “Poor Fool,” Sixt said. “Too bad you can’t eat paper!” Why did you wait this long to introduce Sixt's full name and what he is? It comes off weird to me.

“Too bad I can’t eat you, either.”

“Who are you talking to?” her roommate asked.

“Just me mumbling. Wait-” She had opened the envelope.

From the Office of the Dean – We regret to inform you that, effective immediately…

I like all the little touches reinforcing that what Jess sees, hears, and feels are entirely unnoticed by those around her. I also feel like you've managed to convey the 'other world' that Jess is connected to pretty well - it feels complex and much bigger than just the bits mentioned in the text to me.

The length of the timeskip is important, though. I thought it was a couple of hours on my first read, and so the ending didn't really make sense. But if the timeskip was a week, and she flaked out on the paper, then the ending makes a lot more sense. Maybe I'm just a really inattentive reader, but I think you could make these cues a little more obvious.

I guess the comment Some Guy made about Jess having no personality is true. I could relate, a little, but I'm in college at the moment so whatever.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


What's the Point?
Words: 1179


Robert shaded his eyes with a hand as he watched a seagull circled in the blue sky overhead. He could hear Christine and the rest of her friends from the left; apparently they were still playing ultimate frisbee. He should probably join them, since older brothers generally weren’t supposed to be all mopey when their younger sister turned fifteen. But he didn’t really want to move – heck, that statement could be applied to his general situation. The bags he was supposed to pack for college were still empty, the thank-you letters to all his high school teachers left unfilled, and the sketch he wanted to give to Chris before he left still –

Splat.

Robert felt something wet soak into the shoulder of his t-shirt. As the seagull above made a handy escape from the vicinity, Robert resisted the urge to swear. What the hell was he supposed to do? It’s not like he carried convenient tissues in his back pocket, and there was a distinct lack of napkins in the area, since the all the birthday food was in their backyard. Which wasn’t too far – but the five-minute walk back with this disgusting trophy on his shoulder seemed like a huge pain. He looked down at the grassy ground.

At least nobody outright laughed when they found him, scrubbing at his forever-befouled shoulder with a handful of grass – but there were audible snickers from the six or seven teenagers behind her. His cheeks burned. So much for his hope of being the cool older brother, even if it was just to a bunch of strangers that he’d never see again.

Christine’s face twitched, probably with the effort it took to tamp down her smile. “We’re heading back now. Mom told us to come back by 3 so we could cut the cake, remember?”

Robert glared. “Yeah, I do. Let’s go.”

***

Robert looked at the mess of wrapping paper and plastic forks that littered the dining table, and with a sigh, began to pick it up. Mom had told Christine and her friends to enjoy themselves in the living room with the “Nintendos,” as she called it, and left it to him to clean up the aftermath of the unwrapping of Christine’s gifts. At least Christine had liked his gift – after living with her for fifteen years, he could tell by the expression on her face whether or not a gift was going to be used on a daily basis, or just one time to spare his feelings, and then placed in a drawer and never touched again.

After about ten minutes, the dining table looked relatively tidy. Robert took a moment to admire his work, then began to lug the bulging garbage bag outside to dump in the garbage can. When he caught sight of Chris’ garage door across the street, he absently recalled the flickering light of the flaming candles in the basement on the day Chris turned eighteen, and how they had burst into a off-tune, warbly rendition of “Still Alive”. They had accidentally set one of the napkins on fire, too, and in a panic, Chris had splashed the table all over with his glass of water. Robert wished Chris had attended the party; Christine didn’t mind him, and he’d have appreciated having somebody his own age to talk to. But Chris had a shift at the hardware store, so he couldn’t make it.

As he shoved the garbage bag into its intended place, he saw his dad drive up and park his car in the driveway. He looked a bit tired, but as cheerful as always, and he smiled when he saw Robert. “Hey, Bobby, how’s it going?”

“A seagull decided to poop on me,” Robert shrugged, “It’s a pretty decent day, all around.”

His father grinned. “And how about Christine? She having a good time?”

“Yeah, she’s having fun. I think.” Robert said.

“That’s good.” Robert’s father paused a moment, and then said, “Lend me an ear, okay?”

“Sure,” Robert said, startled, “What’d you want to talk about?”

His father looked him right in the eye. “Why haven’t you packed for college yet?”

Oh. Robert looked down and mumbled, “I just haven’t found the time for it.”

“C’mon, Bobby, don’t lie to me. It’s summer vacation, and you don’t have even have a summer job as an excuse.” Robert winced, and his father’s eyes narrowed. “Or is this about Chris?”

Robert was not feeling up to a heart-to-heart, so he answered, “What makes you think that?”

“Well, you’ve been acting weird whenever the subject of Chris comes up these days. I don’t see him much anymore, and –”

“He’s just busy. Y’know, with his job and all that.”

“Well, he’s not busy all the time. And since you guys are best friends, I’d thought you’d try to spend more time together, now that you’re going off to college.” Robert’s father watched him intently, but drat it, Robert couldn’t help but take the bait.

“Chris is going to college too, you know,” He said, rather tartly, “Just because he isn’t going a million miles away doesn’t mean that he isn’t getting a good education.”

His father relaxed, and said, “I never said that he wasn’t. Chris will do fine at San Juan. But you’ll do well at UC Irvine, too. You two needed to be apart for a while, anyways.”

“Why?” Robert demanded. “That’s total bullshi– I mean, that’s stupid! That’s just something people say that doesn’t mean anything!”

“Well, Bobby – “

“And I never wanted to go to Irvine, anyways! It’s so far away and –“

“Don’t interrupt me.” Robert’s father wasn’t quite frowning, but he looked serious. “You’re going to Irvine because you need to meet new people. You’re so nervous about trying to make friends here, and it’s pretty clear to me and your mother that you need a fresh start. A chance to reinvent yourself. Irvine seemed like a good choice.”

“I guess,” Robert mumbled.

“You’re going to be getting a good education, and you’ll always be able to call Chris up on the phone. It’s not the end of the world, Bobby.”

Robert didn’t reply, and just glared at the cracked asphalt by his feet. His father sighed.

“If it makes you feel better, I talked about it with Chris, and he said that if you really were getting all mopey about ‘leaving him behind,’ than you should remember the time that he placed a raw egg at the bottom of your backpack. And that time he put a spider egg in your sneakers.”

Robert shuddered as his father continued. “But the last thing he said was that you shouldn’t be such an idiot about this.”

Robert looked up, and made saw his father looking back at him. “Look, I know it’s hard, leaving everything behind. But you should go. After Christine’s friends leave, I want you to start packing your bags. And don’t worry – if you forget something, odds are you can buy it there.”

Robert nodded, and his father smiled. “C’mon, let’s go inside.”

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In for this week. Thanks for the crits, I'll do my best to take them into account and (hopefully) improve.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


gently caress. Well, here's my submission anyways. Sorry.

Let It (My Hand, I Mean) Go (801 words)

“As what has been termed ‘Texty Thumbs’ continues to spread across America, scientist are still at a complete loss as to the cause of this phenomenon. Nevertheless, its detrimental effects are becoming more apparent; as workers, students, and all other citizens unable to let go of their cellphones continue be entirely unproductive at work and at their other endea–”

As Richard tuned out the droning radio announcer, he took another bite into the hamburger, and grimaced as the taste of charcoal filled his mouth. Burnt. Since he was too busy reflecting on how the only reason he ever visited this dump of a restaurant was because of its location, he didn’t hear the automatic doors at the entrance slide open. Well, not the entering person ran up to him.

“Hey, Richard! I didn’t expect to see you here!” Carly’s cheerful expression showed no hint of dawning recognition that Richard might not be that pleased to see her.

“I visit this place everyday.” Richard’s tone was flat, and could not be remotely termed as “friendly”. Perhaps he was being a bit rude, but Richard just did not feel up to dealing with his overly cheerful classmate.

“Well, yeah, this is the first time I’ve come to this place. My friends were always talking about how the food here was really bad, and I came here to see if they were exaggerating. But you come here a lot, right? So what would you recommend?”

Richard’s gaze moved over the menu. “Most of the items here are awful. The only ones that taste halfway decent are the burgers.”

“Cool! I’ll order the veggie burger then.” Carly bounced off to join the line while Richard silently lamented the fact that for him, there was no escape. He put down the burger and wiped his face with the napkin, suddenly very aware that his left hand was immovably clenched around his cell phone.

––-

About five minutes later, Carly sat down across Richard, whose nose wrinkled at the smell wafting from the tray Carly held.

Oblivious to all this, Carly asked, “So did you hear about that ‘Texty thumbs’ thing going around lately? I mean, it’s pretty obvious it’s all a big hoax, but even the big networks are talking about it!”

Richard’s cell phone dug harder into his left hand as he replied, “What makes you think that it’s a hoax?”

Carly laughed. “Well, don’t you think a disease that makes people’s hands stay locked in one specific position around specific electronic devices has incredibly specific and arbitrary symptoms? I mean, you’d have to be an idiot to believe that’s real!” She paused for a bit, finally seeming to realize that her conversation partner had a rather stormy face. “What’s wrong? Did I say someth– oh, come on, Richard! You can’t possibly believe that ‘Texty Thumbs’ is something that exists.”

In response, Richard drew out his left hand and placed it on the table. Carly scoffed. “Oh, c’mon. I’m not that gullible.” She reached out and tried to pry Richard’s left hand from the death grip it had on his phone. “Geez, why are your hands so strong?”

Richard flushed. When he realized that he did so, it became quite apparent to him that he really did read too many romance novels if such a innocuous comment provoked a reaction, but that just made him more irritated. So he replied quite sharply, “Could you let go of my hand?”

Carly just rolled her eyes. “As long as you let go of your phone.”

“I can’t, okay?” Richard paused for a moment, wondering if he was really going to commit to his next couple of words and the response they were sure to cause. “Could you please go away? I have somewhere to go soon and I need to finish eating this quick.”

Carly’s mouth gaped open for a brief bit before she glared. “Wow, rude. And you would finish eating that a lot sooner if you let go of your cellphone, you know!” She grabbed Richard’s hand and twisted it around, trying once again to pry his fingers from the device. “You’re not going to die if you don’t hold your phone, you know!”

Richard winced. “Hey, that hurts! Let go!” He yanked his hand back, and Carly jerked forward, toppling her drink. The top popped off, and splashed all over his side of the table.. “Look what you did!”

She snapped, “I was going to let go, anyways!” Carly snatched her hand back – but Richard’s hand went along with it. He dragged their hands back, ignoring Carly’s protests, and looked closely at the position of their hands. They were both wrapped around the phone in what the tv networks had liked to call “the prime texting position” when they were covering the ‘outbreak’.

Crap. Really?

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I'm in. Hopefully I decide to start writing more than two hours before the deadline this week.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


gently caress

Unceasing Downpour (853 words)
Robin stood offstage with the other girls as she fiddled with her dress. This was it. The La Costa Variations choir’s last performance of the school year – a performance at a music festival held at Davies Symphony Hall. As the current group, the El Camino Youth Choir performed what seemed to be an old gospel song, Robin risked a peek at their main female soloist, Marie. She was quiet, still, her shoulders relaxed. In truth, Marie was the only reason the La Costa Variations were at this festival – at one of their earlier performances, her solo in “Wild Horses” had brought one of the rival choir directors to tears. Everybody knew she was going places.

People might think it strange, but Robin wasn’t bitter about Marie’s success at all. She earned it – rumor had it she spent five hours a day practicing with her tutor. And there were whispers that Marie was destined for Julliard. Good for Marie. What was Robin destined for? More hours behind one, maybe two, cash registers. Classes at the local community college, if she found the time and funds. But Robin found that she had become content with her lot about three months ago. This was around the time she found out that they were performing here. After all, isn’t this what the library books she read talked about? A perfect moment exposed indelibly on her brain, to pull out and look at when she worried about her job, when a customer got cranky, or when she was tired?

Marie straightened and walked forward, and Robin snapped out of her reverie. It was time. As Marie opened the door that led to the stage, light streamed in, and Robin was struck with sudden nerves. What if the judges didn’t like their first song choice? It was ridiculous, since she was the one who campaigned for it two months ago when they began preparing for this festival, but… a rock song for a choir? By an relatively obscure band? What was she thinking? What was everybody here, in this choir, thinking?

“Hey, hurry up!” The other girl’s whisper – Jennifer, was it? – enabled her to start moving again, and she stepped out onto the stage floor of Davies Symphony Hall. The bright lights shone down, and the murmur of the crowd reached her ears. Numbly, she stepped to the choir stands and took her position, and tried to reassure herself as Mrs. Deniro began to introduce the choir. After all, didn’t Marie take her side? Marie was the one who arranged the song to fit the group – slowing it down, writing the separate parts… seriously, who would’ve guessed that they loved the exact same band? But it should be fine. Robin and the rest of the choir, boys and girls, looked up as Mrs. Deniro rose her hands.

“Aaaahhh,” the boys sang, building up their vocal harmonies. Marie stepped out of the crowd and in front of one of the two microphones on the stage.

“So why the sudden change, and what’s this all about? I know they speak your name…” Marie, like usual, sang the first verse perfectly, her voice strong and slightly raspy. She launched into the chorus, and Robin, along with the other girls, supplied the harmonies, singing, “So where the heck’s my hope, and why can’t I just try?”

Robin reflected briefly on the censorship they had to apply to the song in order convince Mrs. Deniro to allow the choir to perform the song. That, along with Marie’s good word, was instrumental in swaying her.

As they made their way to their second chorus, Robin stepped out of the crowd, and made her way to the second microphone. Marie, angled towards her, smiled at Robin. As Robin looked across the crowd, she drew in a breath, and sang harmony to Marie on the second verse.
As the lyrics flew through her brain and out her mouth (Can I pull out all the stops, and get out of this town? I want to make you proud…), she found her vision begin to blur. But her throat thankfully remained clear throughout the second verse and second chorus, and when she finished her last couple lines, she wiped briefly at her eyes as she swapped places with one of the boys, who had stepped out to take his turn in the spotlight.

Finally, Marie’s voice lingered over the last note, and after a brief reshuffling, the choir launched into their second song. The rest of their set passed in a blur, but not without some hastily-wiped-away tear trails appearing on Robin’s cheeks. As they left the stage and emerged in the audience to watch the rest of the performances, Robin was persistently troubled by the thought that this moment wasn’t enough, in some inexplicable way. And despite her best efforts, she came to the conclusion that one photo looks pretty drat lonely in an album as she sat in the bus home.

At least graduation was next month. Another perfect moment to fill her photo album – as long as she managed to find a good dress.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I'm in for this week. And hopefully I'll turn my story in on time.

Present: Broken headphones.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Broken and Fixed Shut: 896 words
Presents used: broken headphones, elephants, pride

Ravey hadn’t seen Tom in three days.

But then again, she had been living in a enclosed, safe bubble since he decided to announce to the entire loving world that she might like girls. That absolutely mortifying moment in front of everybody in that mandatory Humanities class stuck like a stupid grease spot in her mind, despite all her attempts to scrub it out. She didn’t talk to anybody, not even her roommates – all they ever did was make stupid half-hearted attempts at conversation, and she could swear that they were just snickering every time they offered to be a listening ear.

“Ravey?” That would be Jessica, who she shared her double room with. “Er… there’s someone at the door for you.”

Ravey turned to ask if that person was Tom, but then he appeared right behind Jessica. He carried his crappy headphones in his right hand, along with what appeared to be a ten-dollar bill. Jessica quietly moved out of the way, allowing him into the room, but stayed in the doorway.

Tom didn’t flinch when Ravey glared at him, and just before she told him to gently caress off, he said, “You said that you would fix my headphones, remember?” At least he looked somewhat uncomfortable. Ravey opened her mouth again, but then thought better of it, and started rummaging around in her drawer. She would at least keep her promises, whether it be to fix poo poo or to keep one’s drat mouth quiet.

When she located her soldering kit – which consisted of a soldering iron, some solder, and some basic screwdrivers – and cleared off some stuff from her desk, she waved Tom over to her bed. “Just… sit over there. Don’t touch anything.”

“How about my headphones?”

“Just toss them over here.” When she saw Tom’s reluctant expression, she huffed. “They’re not going to get more broken. Hurry up.”

After catching them, she got to work, willfully ignoring the uncomfortable silence in the room. Before this whole mess started, Tom had described exactly how his headphones had stopped working, and it seemed to be a simple loose disconnection in the left housing. Just a quick resoldering of the wires, and it should be fixed. She plugged in her soldering iron, and stared at it as it heated up, hoping that Tom would just keep his drat mouth shut and they could both never see each other again.

But considering it was Tom’s flapping jaw that got her into this situation, that was clearly an unreasonable hope. He was clearly aware of the elephant in the room and her feelings regarding it, but that apparently didn’t serve as a large enough obstacle. After a couple minutes, he cleared his throat. “Ravey, I’d just like to say -”

“Say what?” Ravey snapped. “You’re sorry that you decided to reveal extremely personal matters that were clearly meant to be confidential in front of three hundred people?” The iron was hot enough, she judged, and she quickly disassembled the earpiece in front of her, and yep – the wires had clearly pulled away from their connection. This should be quick. Thank god.

“I understand that you’re upset about this, but don’t you think you’re being a bit irrational? I mean, you never told me it was supposed to be confidential.”

Ravey saw red, and it was a good thing – well, surprising, too – that Jessica jumped into the conversation, or else Tom might’ve lost his eye. “Are you saying that sexuality isn’t a personal thing?”

Tom stuttered, “B-but she didn’t say anything! I mean, how was I supposed to know that she thought that stuff was private? She talks about a lot of other stuff that people would consider personal information all the time!”

Ravey held the soldering iron’s tip to the wires, and watched the solder melt over them, connecting them to their proper space. She would’ve answered Tom, but Jessica jumped in again, which was awesome.

“But that was just an assumption. You should’ve asked her first.” Strange, really. Ravey had never heard Jessica say things with such conviction before. The solder hardened. It was done.

“That sounds stupid. Why should people have to constantly ask about this stuff? All it does is discourage conversation about these topics.” Ravey jammed the earpiece back together with a little more force than was necessary.

“Well, if you asked her first, she wouldn’t have been embarrassed in the first place.”

“She wasn’t embarrassed! Right, Ravey?”

That was it. Ravey shoved his cruddy headphones into his lap, snatched the tenner from him and told him, “Yes, I was embarrassed. Jessica is correct. Now leave.”

Tom opened his mouth again. Jessica glared, and said, “Leave.”

He left.

Ravey sat down on her bed, and motioned for Jessica to come join her. After a bit, she said, “Thanks.”
Jessica smiled. “No problem.”

Ravey smiled back, but quickly frowned. “Erm, I’m sorry about the way I’ve acted the past few days. I guess I had my head stuck up my rear end and thought that you guys were making fun of me.”

“Hey,” Jessica said. “Don’t worry about it. I understand what’s it like, a little.”

At Ravey’s questioning look, she clarified. “My cousin came out two years ago. He was a bit like you.”

Jessica then stood. “Do you want to get a soda?”

Ravey smiled. “Sure.”

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I'm in!

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Because I've been sitting in the airport for the past 3 hours (delayed flight) and all my electronics are about to die because I forgot to bring a charger, I won't be able to post anything until I get back - which is likely past the deadline. Sorry!

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Copied From My Handwritten Notes (a Flight Away) (1197 words):

Natasha squinted at the departures screen from the table she was sitting at and sighed. The first long-distance trip she took in years and her connecting flight was delayed by two hours – meaning that she would touch down in Seattle much closer to midnight than she’d have liked. She slumped back into her chair and looked around, trying not to think about what James might be doing at the moment, about the fight, and about the ease by which he just cut their relationship off. All those white-picket-fence dreams, slaughtered in an instant.

Her gloomy thoughts were interrupted when she noticed somebody strangely familiar at a table nearby. She looked exhausted – dark circles were beneath her eyes – and she was glaring at the book she was holding. While Natasha was trying to figure out why this person seemed so familiar, the stranger turned a page and looked up.

Natasha flinched away from her piercing gaze and hastily focused on the empty granola bar wrapper in front of her. Steps from her left came closer, and Natasha looked up, ready to apologize, even though she didn’t quite know what to say.

But the other person spoke first. “Are you Natasha? From La Mesa Community College?”

Recognition struck Natasha. She gasped and said, “Jane! I haven’t seen you in years!”

Jane grinned. “It has been a while, right?” She gestured at the seat opposite Natasha. “Can I sit down and talk? Do you have time?”

Natasha grimaced. “I have plenty of time. The drat plane’s late and my flight’s been pushed back till 10.”
Jane relaxed and she laughed. “You get used to it after a while. How have you been? I mean, I haven’t been to Greene since I transferred.”

“I’m…” Images of James forced their way behind her eyelids. “I’m fine.” Natasha scratched at the back of her neck and tried to change the subject. “So how about you? You were trying to become a newscaster, weren’t you?”

Jane smiled, but it seemed a bit forced. “Yeah, I was. I’m working at the local station, and I’m hoping to get a promotion soon.” She leaned forward. “How’re you and… um, what was his name? Johnny?”

Natasha’s hands clenched. Jane’s eyes flickered down at the movement and she hastily said, “Not that you have to tell me or anything. Where are you headed?”

“Seattle,” Natasha replied. “I’m looking for a job there.” The image of her elementary-school diary flashed through her head – she had found it while rummaging around in her old room after the break-up. Today we talked about what we want to be and I said I wanted to be a cook in the Space Needle because we ate there last summer and the food was really good. The ‘really good’ had been underlined about five times in glittery purple ink. “How about you?”

Jane froze. “W-well, it’s–” Natasha waited for her to speak and Jane stared at the table. “My niece passed away. I’m going to her funeral.”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”

Jane rubbed her eyes with a hand. “No, it’s fine.” After ten seconds of excruciatingly painful silence, she said, “You’re going to Seattle, correct? I’ve stayed there for a year. Do you need any help?”

Natasha grabbed for the lifeline offered to her. “Yeah! I’ve never lived there before. Do you know where I can get a good apartment?” Jane stared at her. “Is that a no?”

“Why on earth-” Jane cut herself off. “You’re flying to Seattle and you haven’t decided where you’re going to live?”

“W-well, I was going to stay in a nice hotel-”

“Do you have a job waiting for you in Seattle?” Jane demanded. It was sort of amazing, how quickly she transformed from a distraught aunt to this intimidating person.

Natasha tried, “I’ve sent out a dozen applications?” It didn’t seem like a good idea to mention that almost half of them were at fast food restaurants. To be honest, this whole idea – running away to a new city, to start a new life – didn’t really sound like a good idea after the initial rush.

Jane sighed, and all of those doubts were swept away in a sudden flash of red. Natasha stood.

“Natasha!” Jane exclaimed. “What’s wrong?”

“Look, I know this was a stupid idea, okay? But James broke up with me and I realized where I was. All I’ve been doing for the past two years was spending eight hours a day behind a cash register at the local supermarket!” A small part of Natasha noted that she wasn’t crying, thank God. “And I realize that I had wanted more as a kid, that I wanted to work at the loving Space Needle, and I-”

Jane placed a hand on Natasha’s shoulder, startling her out of her rant. She looked around, and saw several strangers suddenly become incredibly interested in their sandwiches and hot dogs. She flushed and said, “I’m sorry.”

Jane replied, “No need for that; I think I understand.” She guided Natasha back down into her seat, and took her own seat as well. Then she pulled out a piece of paper and a ballpoint pen and started scribbling something down. “You do have savings, right?”

Natasha grumbled, “Of course I do.”

“Sorry, just checking. How much?”

Natasha mumbled a vague estimate of her checking account balance, and then asked, “What are you doing?”

“Giving you my help. I’m friends with an good landlord, so at the very least, you won’t have to pay for a hotel room. Here’s her address, her phone number, and… you do have a cell phone, right?”

“Of course!”

“Good. I’ll send her an email about you after the-” Jane paused, swallowed, and resumed scribbling. “After. I also have a couple friends who might be hiring at the moment, so you’ll have a couple more options to help you get on your feet.”

Natasha watched Jane’s pen rapidly move across the paper. After a while, Jane cleared her throat and spoke again, saying, “Also, here’s a list of grocery stores near the apartments my friend owns, so you won’t have trouble finding food.” She gestured with the pen.

Natasha’s throat felt tight as she forced out the words, “Thank you so much. I don’t know how to repay this.”

Jane beamed. “Like I said, no need! Somebody really helped me a similar way a bit ago, and I’m just passing on the favor.” The intercom came on, calling for a Jane at gate 61, and she froze. “Crap! My flight!” Jane grabbed her bag and ran off, presumably towards her gate. She called back, “Make a copy, just in case you lose my sheet!”

Natasha waved back, but before she could reply, Jane was lost in the crowd. She gazed out at where Jane had been, then turned to the scribbled notes on the table. She checked the departure screen. She had plenty of time, so she might as well. She pulled out a pencil and a slightly crumpled piece of paper, and got to work.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I'm in for this week!

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Phobia posted:

This week, I will be doing line-for-lines for this week's loser and the DMs because I am still attempting to repent for the Gay Bomb story. I'm thinking there will be two or three DMs, unless Meinberg throws a hissyfit over me winning our brawl and DMs everyone then I guess everyone gets line-for-lines. Or if I lose/DM, which in that case, um, gently caress...

I am also opening this up to three people from last week too. That's three line-for-lines for last round, three for the current, theoretically speaking.

... You know this would have worked better if I posted this just after the Round 93 results. Whatever.

I don't suppose I could take one of your line-for-line crits?

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Brain Block: 825 words

School had just ended and man, I was pissed. Mom told me to talk to Mark so he could pass on a message to his mother, but he kept on running away whenever I got close. And this was definitely intentional, because three of my five attempts to talk to him included hollering at him from across the hall. Other attempts consisted of trying to grab him, but somehow, he always managed to disappear into the crowd in the hallways - which said a lot about either his hiding skills or my lack of perception, considering he apparently decided that he was incapable of sweating and covered himself up head-to-toe in fabric in the month of May.

After the last attempt, I came up with a plan. Mark always took an alleyway shortcut home, so at the very least, he couldn’t disappear into a convenient group of people if I confronted him there. So I skipped 7th period (Sorry, Mrs. Marks!) and entered the alleyway. Fortunately, not many people came by this part of town, so I didn’t have any nosy people asking me why I wasn’t in school.

Time passed as I listened to my iPod just by a corner, and after checking my watch for the fiftieth time, I finally heard footsteps… and Mark talking to himself. He sounded strange.

“Look, I don’t want to get Hillary involved in this, okay?”
“Why not? She’s looking for you, and I’ve gotten a lot better dealing with human senses.”

Mark slowed to a stop, apparently so he could yell louder at himself.

“Yeah, after you sent her brother and 10 of her classmates into a coma!”

Jack! I gasped - and realized that he had to have heard that. I was too close.

A clatter of pebbles from around the corner. The thought that he might run away flashed through my mind, and I ran around the corner - and nearly plowed into him. He yelped and fell on his butt. Good. I stared down at him.

“Mark.”

“H-Hillary. W-wow, fancy meeting you-”

“Cut the crap! I’ve been trying to talk with you all day!” I waved my fist threateningly as he tried to get up. “Stop moving!” He froze.

“Okay, first: My mom told me to tell you to tell your mother that she wants to meet up with her at the coffee shop this Tuesday at 2.”

“You been chasing me all day just to say that?” Mark was standing now, and now he looked pissed.

Like he had the right. “Yes, I have! She really needs someone to talk to, after, y’know…” Jack. There had been waves of them throughout town the past month, and none of the victims had woken up since.

“We need to tell her.” Mark said. I stared at him. He opened his mouth again - and then his mouth started to twitch. “Fine! Tell her!” Mark yelled. I started to edge backwards, because something was clearly wrong with Mark, and he wasn’t moving right, but then he grabbed me with his gloved hand.

“Look, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Hillary.” I shivered. “I know you’re confused, but let me explain. I’m a spirit from another -” Here Mark made a gagging sound - “and at the moment, I’m occupying your-” another gagging noise issued forth - “physical body.”

I tried to discreetly wipe the splatters of saliva off my shirt. Mark started talking normally again while I did so, his grip on my shoulder immovable.

“Er, so this guy had some trouble adjusting to our world. He couldn’t quite handle how the human body processes the world around it and its instincts, and he went a bit cuckoo whenever he tried hitching a ride on other people’s bodies.”

He must’ve took my silence for as an invitation to go on, because he kept on talking.

“He calmed down a bit when he entered me, though. So he can’t cause anymore trouble.”

Mark smiled - rather hopefully - and I saw red. “Look, even if I believed you, then that means he’s responsible for Jack being in the hospital!”

He backed up, and his mouth twisted. “I believe I can reverse what happened to them.” It was creepy Mark again. “All I have to do is conduct a couple of simple tests, and determine if the drawbacks your (garbled noise) is exhibiting outweigh the potential positives.”

That sounded good, but what did he mean about “potential positives”? And how would he conduct these “tests”?

Mark - or rather, creepy-Mark - stepped back and tugged off the glove on his right hand. “Don’t worry, I’ll try to avoid harm to your body.”

I realized just how he was going to carry out his tests in a flash of horror, but he stepped forward before I could react. I screamed, and I felt Mark’s hand close around my throat - and my view of the surroundings went up in a flash of light.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Ouch.

I'm in.

EDIT: Oops, sorry.

kurona_bright fucked around with this message at May 27, 2014 around 01:01

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Traveling Alone? (1203 words):

Picture:

Story: http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=739


Why don’t you stay?

Janet's words stuck in Megan’s head as she squinted through her windshield at the white van in front of her that said “FIRE SUPPORT”. The smoke had gotten especially bad in the last half-hour, and now she had trouble seeing things off in the distance. That meant that everybody sharing the road was moving at a relative snail's pace, considering that they were on a freeway. Very irritating, especially since it only gave Megan more time to wonder why she had turned down Janet's offer to become roommates. After all, they had always gotten along well, and while Megan had stayed over at Janet's apartment to attend her brother's graduation, their daily routines meshed well with each other.

At least Janet had been understanding, if a bit pushy. Megan jabbed at the radio switch, and the chorus of that annoyingly ubiquitous song drilled into her eardrums. As she fiddled with the stations, she continued to second-guess her rejection. Nothing was tying her down to her old apartment. She didn't particularly like her neighbors, and while her landlord was pleasant enough, it seemed like he would never approve her request to fix the drafty windows. She certainly didn't have a job, anymore, either; an unwise comment online had snowballed, and in the end, she had to clean out her locker. Megan suppose that in the end, it probably came down to her pride.

The smoke was steadily thickening, and now she couldn't see the road twenty feet in front of her. She swept her gaze across the gray landscape as her car inched forward, and saw a man and a small boy at the side of the road, next to a white minivan. The man – presumably to the boy's father – was scowling at the phone in his hand, and the boy was looking up at him, worried.

Before she could really think about it, she pulled over, and the pair looked up at her car. She carefully opened the door, and walked over to them.

"Are you all alright?" She called out to them. The man gripped the boy's hand and called back. "My phone's out of battery, and my car's out of gas. I don't suppose I can borrow your phone?"

She pulled her phone out of her pocket and handed it to the man. He raised an eyebrow, turned it on, and asked, "I don't suppose you could unlock it for me?"

Good thing Megan didn't flush easily. "O-of course. Sorry." A little fiddling, and she brought up the calling screen. "Here you go."

The man took her phone again, and after tapping on the screen, held it up to his ear. Megan caught the eyes of the boy by his side while standing awkwardly by, and smiled. He started coughing.

The man looked down and asked, "You alright?" The boy nodded, but then started coughing again. The man frowned, and started to bend down, but apparently the other line picked up, because he started talking again.

"It's me, James. Yeah. The car ran out of gas and I borrowed somebody else's phone." He grimaced and began to absentmindedly rub the boy's back. "Oh. Well, the thing is, Ellis is coughing a lot at the moment, so that's not really an option. Well, I don't – think that's…" He trailed off and looked at Megan, covering the receiver end of the phone. "Er, I hate to impose, but could you give us a ride?"

Under normal circumstances, Megan might refuse. But the boy – Ellis? – kept on coughing and coughing, so she couldn't really say no. She sighed. "Sure. Your car's locked, right?"

James nodded.

"Then you two can stay in the back."

She turned and made her way to her car, and opened the back car door for the pair. "Here you go."

They got in, and Megan asked, "So where do you guys need to go?"

James gave her instructions, and their house wasn't too far from her workplace. She started the car, and drove through the smoke while James spoke softly to Ellis, and the coughing eventually subsided.

*****

In the end, it took Megan a full hour longer than it should have to get to their destination, and the sun was setting. She parked by the curb, unlocked the door, and the pair came out. She was just about to drive off when James knocked on her door, and when she rolled down the window, he asked, "Come out for a bit. You must be tired, and it'd be rude of us not to repay you."

She made some token protests, but stepped out. Another man had apparently been waiting for her passengers to arrive, and he was currently talking to Ellis in low tones. As she walked with James toward them, he stood up and offered his hand. "I'm Tom. Thanks for driving these two home."

Megan took it. "Megan. It was no real trouble. This place isn't too far from where I live, so it was no real trouble."

Tom smiled and said, "That's good to hear. C'mon, stay for dinner. We have to pay you back somehow."

Megan was really too tired to refuse, and she followed Tom, James, and Ellis into their house. Tom pulled dishes out of the refrigerator, and placed them in the microwave. "Hope you don't mind microwaved food, but that's all we have at the moment. I didn't expect them to be delayed so much."

"Really, it's fine. Don't worry about it." Megan sat down into a chair that James pulled out for her. He then herded Ellis into another room, presumably to go to sleep. "I mean, I heard about all the wildfires recently, but I didn't know it was this bad."

James spoke this time. "Well, neither did we. Or rather, me." He gave Megan a sheepish smile. "I don't know what would've happened to us if you hadn't pulled over."

"Yeah, and you didn't even want to ask her at first." Tom placed the dishes on the table in front Megan, and pulled off the plastic wrap from the dishes. "I practically had to yell at you that it's okay to ask for help!"

James' smile got more sheepish. "Yeah, I was being an idiot. Sorry."

Judging from the fact that Tom kissed his cheek, James was forgiven. Megan smiled and asked, "Is it okay to eat now? It looks really good and I'm starving."

"Yeah, go ahead."

****

As Megan pulled into the garage by her apartment, she reflected on the evening. The dinner had been excellent, despite the fact that all of it had been microwaved. Or maybe her hunger at the time had tricked her tastebuds. Either way, it had been an enjoyable evening, especially after the crappy day she had – Tom and James were fun to talk with, and friendly. But –

It's okay to ask for help!

This time, Tom's words had been nagging at Megan while she was driving home. She turned off the engine, stepped out of the car, and locked the door. Then she sighed, pulled out her phone, and called Janet.

"Hey, Janet? It's me, Megan. Yeah, I got home safely. Listen, about what you said earlier…"

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Finals are over, so I'm back in! (Slice-of-life psychological horror on a train?)

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Inspired by: Dancing in the Street
The Smell of the City Streets (~ 975 words):

Whenever Taylor walked the city streets, she could almost smell her vomit. Logically, she knew that the rain and the snow had washed it away, and that much worse substances had splattered the same streets, but she couldn't shake the absurd notion that the sidewalk carried that awful scent. She glanced up to check the street signs. Two more blocks and a right turn to the local grocery store, and then the return trip. She dug her fingernails into her palms, staring at the cracked asphalt in front of her. Every stranger around her seemed to stare as she tugged her coat tighter around her – strange to have such a heavy coat, really, mid-June. So many people. So much space. A part of her mind was screaming in terror, but the rest of it was reminding her that the fridge was empty.

God, she wished that Jake was here. Then he could deal with the grocery shopping. But he was off on a weekend business trip… She forged on through the crowd, trying not to think about what would happen if she broke down again in the street. The stares. The occasional snicker. The sense of panic, dizziness, and the overwhelming certainty that she was going to suffocate right here in the middle of the street. She quickened her pace, and after glancing up once more, turned right. The grocery store was safer. Some people, but not too much. And the ceiling was lower.

She was in! Almost light-headed from relief, she allowed herself a half-minute for her breathing to slow, and then grabbed a shopping basket from the rack. Jack would be back tomorrow, so she didn't need much. A carton of eggs, a loaf of bread, and some juice would do. She finished picking them out quickly, but as she neared the check-out register, the brightly-colored wrappers of those chocolates Jake adored caught her eye. They were expensive, but she got them anyway. Jake had put up with so much these months – her humiliatingly public nervous breakdown, and the now-omnipresent sense of fear that accompanied her outdoors. They used to stroll down to the local theater just past the music store, which always played songs as old as her. And sometimes, if they both recognized the song that played, they would twirl each other down the street.

The first time they tried doing that after the nervous breakdown Jake was so alarmed that he called 911.

"Cash or credit?" The cashier looked bored as he waited for her response.

"Credit, please." Taylor handed over her card, and after taking her receipt, walked up to the exit. There was less strangers on the street now, but the vast height of the sky remained. Taylor took a deep breath, and calmed herself as best she could as she adjusted her heavy coat. Frankly, it was much too warm, but she couldn't give up the protection it offered. She stepped out and made her way home, counting each step.

*****

Just past midnight, somebody knocked on the door. Jake! Taylor put the book down and hurried to their front door, ready to welcome him back. But when she opened the door, she froze. Opened her mouth, and swallowed.

Jake looked at her and smiled. That was normal. What wasn't normal was the smell of alcohol drifting from him. He told me that he'd never drink again after –
"Hello, honey."

He didn't slur the words much, but that didn't mean much. She forced a smile, met his eyes, and replied, "Welcome back! How was the trip?"

"I got fired." Taylor stared at him. His face didn't shift. He was joking, right?

"Why?"

"Turns out that my boss didn't really appreciate my opinion on the Elderburry case. He turned me out." Jake smiled, and Taylor involuntarily stepped back. "C'mon, honey, don't be like that."

"Like what?" Taylor's voice sounded dazed to herself. "Jake, that smile's scaring me." His grin only got wider, as she continued talking. "You need to go to bed, and when you get past your hangover, we'll talk about what we're going to do."

Jake stepped forward, and grabbed her wrist. Taylor winced. "Jake, you're – "

"I don't need to go to bed." In any other situation, Taylor would've smiled at the childish words, but now – "I just need to spend the night with my wife. C'mon, let's go see a movie." Jake started dragging her towards the door.

"Jake, I don't want to – I'm, I'm not dressed up enough!" Taylor dug in her heels and pulled back, but it didn't have much of an effect. Jake simply turned back and smiled again.

"Taylor, it doesn't matter what you wear. You're always beautiful to me, as long as you're with me."

The conversation continued in this manner all the way down the stairwell of their apartment building, and no matter how desperate Taylor's pleas got, Jake just smiled and kept on dragging her. As they neared the door that would lead out into the street, Taylor started yanking back harder. All she was wearing was a t-shirt and long jeans – she couldn't leave now, she couldn't, she couldn't –

Taylor sat down, yanking Jake down along with her. He looked at her, startled, and Taylor thought that maybe he'd finally listen to her. She opened her mouth – but then he simply hoisted her over his shoulder, nudged the door open, and then walked out.

Nausea hit Taylor, along with all the fears she had pushed down during the earlier shopping trip. She pounded Jake's back and screamed for help – but nobody came. Her mind swirled, her breath stuttered, and her vision blurred. She lost track of time, she smelled vomit – whether it was Jake's or hers, she couldn't tell – and she eventually blacked out.

The next time she was fully conscious, she was in a padded room.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I'm in!

Ruth Lin is 21 years old, and wears her straight black hair in a ponytail. Completely blind without her glasses. Somewhat short and slightly overweight, she silently judges anybody who comments on it. Sticks to casual clothes in order to blend in with the crowd. Anybody who either manages to touch a nerve or mention photography, celebrities, or programming has their ear talked off.

She mans a cash register at a nearby hardware store while looking for a job that uses her newly-obtained community college degree. She hates the job, but is good at hiding it.

Her main hobby is street photography, and she has absolutely no qualms about possible invasions of privacy. Has become proficient at hiding her printed porny romance novels from her fellow bus passengers.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Out of Focus (998 words):

Ruth's trigger finger itched as she stood at the deserted bus stop. She had a perfect shot – the filthiness of her rambling target contrasted with his inexplicably beautifully-lettered signs. The setting was a bit dark, since her shift had ended well after sunset, but compensation was possible with a higher ISO setting or a wider aperture. Just imagining the possibilities made the destruction of her camera lens seem even more awful, since it would take months to save up enough from her dead-end job for a replacement. Maybe she could catch a break with tonight's meeting.
Right after she decided to make do with her cell phone camera, something crashed down from above. The noise startled her would-be photo subject, who gathered up his things and scurried away. Huh. He was rather tall.
Since the bus was running late again, Ruth walked over to the edge of the sidewalk, where she found a black attache case, seemingly unblemished by the fall. Upon closer examination, it had a combination lock, and a post-it note that said, don't bother returning the drat thing. When Ruth looked up at the buildings around her, all the nearby windows seemed to be closed. The bus arrived, so she made a snap decision, and she boarded with the mysterious case.

***

Ruth yawned as she sat down near the bus window. Two more stops to go until the meeting spot. She counted the cash she had left – just enough for both the cab ride back (including the tip) and this month's rent. Which was good, because Mrs. Dolores had threatened eviction if she was late on one more payment.
Done with tallying her money, she put it away, directed her attention to the black briefcase, and began trying out combinations. Normally, she would be trying to finish off Tattooing the Hellion Rake, but the question of the case's contents were more interesting than what (and who) Alice Moray would do next. She had almost reached the 200s when the bus arrived.

***

She walked into the bar, but her client didn't seem to be here yet. After placing the black briefcase at her feet, she asked for a ginger ale from the short-haired bartender. A couple minutes later, a man in a long trenchcoat entered the room. He saw her and headed over.
This was her client? He seemed more like a detective from an ancient movie than an art enthusiast. As she stared at him, he asked for a bottle of Jack, asking the bartender to make sure it was "the good kind". Then her manners kicked in.
Ruth extended a hand. "Hello. I'm Mrs. Lin. You said that you were interested in my work?"
He rubbed a hand over his eyes. "Let's skip the pleasantries. I'm interested in any photos you took by the Kennedy courthouse, last week, around 5 PM." The bartender arrived, and she seemed friendlier with him than she had been with her. Was he a regular? "Pretending that I was interested in your work was the easiest way to get you here."
Talk about a cold dose of reality. "What makes you think I was even there?". A shootout between some gangs had taken place there – was one of them called the Crazies or something? She couldn't quite remember much, other than the destruction of her lens by a fleeing bystander.
"Drop the act. I'm just interested in any photographs you have from there. I'm asking for a client."
"So you're a detective?" He snorted.
"Sure, whatever. Doesn't matter. I need every photograph you have of the shootout before it went bad."
Well, that was a shame. Ruth bent down to pick the attache case, and he stared at it. Strange. It was like he recognized it. She began to speak.
"I'm sorry, Mr. -"
"Dope."
"– Mr. Dope, but if your only interest in my photographs involves the criminal elements present in this city, then I'm not willing to share them. "
"I could be with the police."
"Then you would've said so. I really have no wish to become involved with the underworld in this city."
He let out a short, sharp bark of laughter.
"You're already involved. And if you think that turning me away makes you safe while you're holding that, then…" He smiled, and a chill ran down Ruth's spine.
"I'll take my chances." She had no idea what he was talking about, but she wanted to get out of this bar. He stood up as well, making eye contact.
"I'm serious. Lose the case. People died tonight because of that thing."
Ruth stared at his retreating back.
"Are you going to pay for your drinks?" The bartender again.
Slightly dazed, Ruth dug into her pockets. "Sure, give me a second." She paid and left. He had to be joking. It's not like he actually could've known that the case wasn't originally hers.
As these thoughts tumbled through her head, she stepped out onto the street and hailed a cab. She gave the driver directions to her apartment, settled back, and closed her eyes. Just for a moment…

***

"Ma'am?" Ruth jerked awake. It was the driver calling her name. "We're here."
"R-right." Did she really fall asleep? "How much do I owe you?"
She paid him – along with a generous tip, and counted the bills again as he drove off. Her eyes widened. She didn't have enough to pay rent tomorrow. How? She frantically recounted all the payments made earlier – and realized the gap was due to that douchebag who left her with the tab. There was no chance of finding him again before it was due, and there were no savings left in her apartment, so she couldn't make up the difference, either. There was a pawnshop nearby, but she had nothing to sell.
Actually, strike the previous statement. She still had her camera body. She stared off into the distance, and dimly realized that the briefcase was gone.

Good riddance.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


I'm in. (Also, I'm pretty sure I received the losertar for 'Brain Block'. What happened to it?)

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In with a

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


A Rose's Supposed Influence
(word count: 990 words)


"I need to talk to you for a minute, Earl." I paused at my apartment door and looked up at Renault. He had been the subject of my fantasies from the moment I met him. I would never tell him that, of course, but it was likely he already knew. Not much you could hide from a goblin-magician approaching his bicentennial birthday.

"What is it?"

"I found somebody that needs your help. Are you familiar with a 'Rose'?"

Her. That lying, deceiving – I pressed my thumb firmly to my door and watched as it swung open. "I'm not interested in seeing her."

Renault pressed on. "Isn't she an employee of yours?"

He wasn't going away without an answer, so I replied flatly, "Ex-employee."

A sudden silence. Sometimes I forgot just how scary Renault could be at times. When he spoke again, it was in low tones.
"One question: did you fire her because of her Ence rune?"

"I don't have to answer that." I turned back to my apartment door, but he grabbed my wrist. I flushed, but he continued.

"I took you to be a compassionate man. Not a person who would fire someone for such a ridiculous reason. Jobs are not easy to find these days, and with that, it would have been even harder for her to keep one."

I gritted my teeth, but refused to turn around. "What are you talking about? With that Ence rune, all she would have to do is shake the hand of any prospective employee, and she would have them following her like ducklings." I ended on a more bitter note than intended.

"If that is what you believe, then why did I find her on the streets, and why is she looking like death on my couch?"

That got my attention. I turned around again.

"What? I thought…" that she would be fine, especially with that blasted influence rune.

"I came to you because she needs medical help. You are the closest one who can provide it. I can go elsewhere if you refuse to assist."

My face flamed. "No, I'll help. Just give me– " I stumbled into my apartment, grabbed my curer's bag, and followed him up the stairs.

Seeing Rose was a shock. She looked absolutely awful – her skin gray, her hair matted and filthy, and her eyes sunken in with dark rings. I stood there, frozen, in Renault's doorway until he cleared his throat.

I tamped down my irritation and sat down by her in a nearby chair. After checking her pulse, I began pulling out the equipment I needed from my bag. Renault squatted down next to me, and helped me set the diagnosis spell up. Even though goblins were absolutely terrible with medical magic – something about being cut off from Life's flow – we'd done this often enough that he knew the procedure well.

I started the diagnosis, concentrating – and after a short bit, said curtly, "Her body's simply's been under a great deal of stress and hasn't been receiving proper nourishment. She'll be fine after some rest and good food."

Renault stood up. "That is a relief."

"It is," I said absently, staring at her. Then the memories of that evening came back – that awful second when I saw that Ence rune inscribed on her forearm and realized what she'd done to me, the suitably tragic tale she spun to explain her deception away, and the long silence afterwards when I told her to pack up her things and leave.

My compassion drained away, and I stood up as well. "If that's all that you need from me for the moment?" My tone was more clipped than it should've been.

Renault stared at me.

"I never took you to be so heartless."

I flushed. "I'm not. But there's nothing more I can do here."

"You think that this situation is her fault." His tone held that accusatory undertone once again, and I was reminded of the power he held. I glared at him.

"You know as well as I do that Ence runes require explicit agreement on part of the bearer. She agreed to it. Therefore, she wanted it, and therefore, she brought this down on herself."

His voice took on a disconcerting rumble. "And you know as well as I do that verbal agreement does not necessarily indicate true consent. Remember Richard? Remember how we first met?"

That was it. "Don't you dare mention that to me!" The imminent rant on my lips and the accompanying anger died when I saw Renault's stormy expression. Bad memories came back up, ones that reminded me of snakes and honeyed, silver words.

A brief pause, and Renault opened his mouth again.

I cut him off. "Alright, I get it." I sat back down.
"I was wrong in firing her, wrong in thinking that she would be fine, and wrong in thinking that she asked for the rune she carries."
I rubbed my hand over my face.
"I was just …upset that the first friendship I made in illusions was a complete farce."

"What are you talking about?" I stared up at Renault's confused expression.

" I'm talking about her Ence rune? You know, the friendship one?"

"That specific rune does not force friendship between the bearer and those she comes in contact with. It affects more …carnal desires."

The ensuing silence felt like it would last forever, but Renault had always been remarkably quick. He read my stricken face and formed the correct conclusion within seconds. "You need to make amends, Earl." His face betrayed the pity he kept from his voice.

I nodded numbly.

I cleared my throat. "Could you leave me alone for a bit?"

He nodded. "Certainly." He headed towards his study, surprisingly quiet for his size.

In the sudden silence, I stared at Rose, absently noting the regular rhythm of her breaths. How was I going to make this up to her?

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


All Gone Wrong
(Word Count: 1090)

Tonight was the night. A month of preparation – of sustained and constant vigilance, of long discussions on floor plans and proper approaches – would pay off, and the country's slide towards ruin would slow by another fraction.

John's blood thrummed with exhilaration, which he took unexpected relief in. He had found the old excitement dulled after the last operation, and worries about dragging Kurt, Ron, and Bert down, despite the reassurances they had provided afterwards:

Performing excisions on family members may seem disturbing, but the reasons for doing so haven't changed. We bring them back to their senses and remind them of the danger of the ideas they advocate.

Why are you so worried? He threw his lot in with those disgusting belly-crawling invaders, and now he's got a second chance.

Just give him another week to regain his speech and he'll be back to normal. The procedure's relatively benign, after all.


These sentiments had reminded him of the monologue he had given his bathroom mirror the day of the operation. Like the monologue, they did nothing to erase the two images stuck in his head – one of the terrified recognition on Dorian's face, and the other of his dull, slack, dead eyes even while John performed cerebral magic to excise the corruption the Snaci had left in his soul. But this familiar path through the cobbled city streets, with the soft sunset sunlight and the idle chatter of his comrades, seemed to finally chase away the gloom following him since Dorian's operation. Right now, it felt that the only step left between him and normalcy was his usual steak and potatoes at Earl's.

These comforting thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Kurt clearing his throat. The chatter from Ron and Bert died as they looked at him expectantly.

Kurt opened his mouth to speak, and found himself interrupted by a cough behind him. He spun around, clearly vexed, but stopped short when he found himself face-to-face with a woman, elegantly dressed in courier's colors.

"Message for John Hallin."

John noted with interest how quickly the irritation on Kurt's face was smoothed over and replaced with a polite interest. But all superficial thought died when he noticed what the courier was holding – a red envelope, with a very familiar wax seal. It was from Quatran.

It was a wonder that the paper didn't ignite from the force of all their stares.

Stiffly stepping forward and reaching out for the letter, John waved off the rest of the group.
"Go on ahead. I'll catch up later."

When they didn't move, it became John's turn to become irritated. He said pointedly, "Save some of the breadsticks for me."

Kurt took the hint, and after nudging Ron and Bert, got them to follow him on the path to Earl's.

John carefully opened the envelope, took the missive within out, and began to read. If anyone had bothered to study him during those moments, they would be forgiven for thinking he was made of wax.

====

The bright jingle of the bells from Earl's entrance caught Kurt's attention, and he looked over at the entrance. John had been delayed for quite a while – Ron and Bert had already received their order. Kurt looked over at him and waved, and John practically bounced over to them. But for all his apparent cheerfulness, John's smile didn't quite reach his eyes.

As he approached their table, John burst out, "You'll never believe what just happened!"

Ron dipped a biscuit in his soup as he asked, "What happened?"

"Dorian's going to join the Quatran!"

Bert put down his utensils, and began applauding, drawing irritated stares from the other patrons. Ron gaped at John, and Kurt felt like doing the same.

Dorian in the Quatran? The same Dorian who called the Quatran "a vicious, terrifying mob of people driven by fear of change and of their own impending irrelevance"? The Dorian who not only saw no problem with Snaci integration into society, but actively fought for favoritism of them by the government? The person who deliberately helped spread their corrupting music around the nation, the person who had forced the Quatran's hand?

The thought was simply too strange to contemplate. Kurt opened his mouth to say this, but he was interrupted by Ron, who had evidently gotten over his shock, and said, "Really? I've never heard of an excision this successful!"

John smiled and made some comment about cerebral magic being easier between siblings – but his eyes still refused to smile. They seemed frantic. Kurt increasingly felt that John was hiding something.

The rest of the meal passed by much like it usually did – the group idly discussed issues such as the successes other Quatran teams had in other excisions, and the probability that the disappearance last week was the subject of an XIO programming operation – procedures in which the target is forced into self-exile by making interaction with others unbearable. The control needed to rewire the mind in such a manner was unspeakably complex, but at the rate John was refining his craft, he probably would be able to perform such operations within the next year or so. But he remained uncharacteristically silent when the subject came up, when before he seemed so animated about the topic.

====

Kurt knocked on John's door.

According to their routine, they had split up after dinner for a brief preparatory period before meeting at the rendezvous point. And normally, Kurt would respect the privacy of this period, but something seemed wrong. Some instinct was nagging him, giving the conviction that John was hiding something deadly serious about that letter.

No answer. He knocked again. Again, no response.

After a brief inner struggle, Kurt placed his hand on John's door and muttered under his breath. The door opened slowly, revealing an silent, empty apartment, lit only by a gloworb in the corner. He strode through the doorway, and while scanning the room, his eyes fell upon the red envelope from earlier.

He opened it and read.

To John Hallin:

We have taken your request into consideration, but we cannot grant your request at the time. Dorian Hallin has proven himself uncontrollable and unrepentant, even after your excision, and as such, he will be subjected to the XIO procedure tonight when the moon reaches its zenith…


Kurt stared at the letter in shock, and then ran out of the apartment, intent on reaching the nearest Quatran operative. John was going to ruin everything.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


As Deep as Narnia
121 words

Dandy Nad walked down a street, smoking a merry cigarette. He was happy as he listened somebody quite lively give a speech. As he opened the front door he whistled, and his eight dogs came running. They led their happy, merry way to his bedroom and started scratching up his beautiful closet door. Nad was upset. His handsome oaken door!

He gave all of the dogs good, solid kicks to make sure they wouldn't do that again. They whimpered quite pitifully, and ran out of the bedroom. He shouted after them not to ruin his carpet.

Then he turned to his closet, to take off his work clothes and put on a nice t-shirt.

And then a skeleton popped out.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Wait, why did I get a DQ? I sent it in at 9 PM PST, and right after I sent it I saw crabrock talking about the extended deadline. Did I make a formatting mistake?

Also, that'll teach me to feel confident in my stories.

In for this week.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


crabrock posted:

One person got a DQ for being 200 words over the limit (TRUCKS)

one person got a DQ for not signing up before submitting a story (Claire)

one person got a DQ for misreading an email address

so which were you?

The second one, I guess. I honestly thought I pm'd N. Senada...
Oh, well. Sorry about that.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Don't worry about it. I've had brain errors when it comes to sending email and stuff before, so it's not exactly the biggest surprise for me.

Obliterati posted:

I will also do three line-by-lines for the first responders.

ALSO ALSO, I am in.

I know my story was DQ'd, but would you be willing to do that for me? I wrote "If At First...".

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Thanks for the line-by-line, Obliterati!

The Long-awaited Exhale (1197 words)

Surprisingly, Morgan's prodding of the fire did not result in an explosion of sparks. She glared at the sullen glow of the embers, and wrapped her coat tighter around herself. Seth should be waking up any moment now.

Huffing out a breath of mist, she looked up at the stars. The vernal equinox had been only last week, so it would be a little longer before the weather warmed. The chill only made it all the more baffling that her brother had apparently decided to travel this far from the village – and with only a handful of the proper supplies, to boot.

She heard rustling from the tent behind her, and she gritted her teeth.

"Morgan?"

Seth's voice had gotten deeper after a year. But it still held that familiar note of grogginess – the one that said he napped too long.

"Did you put on all the clothes I left out for you?" she asked. Not a perfect fit, but they'd at least be dry and clean.

"Yes, I did. Morgan, I– "

"Eat first." She picked up the bowl she had left by the fire and held it out behind her. This sudden determination to avoid any serious conversation would be funny if it weren't so sad. For heaven's sake, he was her brother! They had both giggled over the same stories, memorized the same songs…

He took the bowl from her and sat down next to her. He opened his mouth to speak, but upon seeing her expression, silently began eating.

As he ate, Morgan studied his face. Changes had been made since she left – he was a little taller, a little broader, and his eyes had lost that unfocused look.

When he finished eating, Morgan cut him off before he could speak. "What are you doing here? How did you know I'd be here?"

He grinned crookedly. "Those are the first things you ask?"

After a chilly silence, the smirk slipped off and he relented. "The village elders want you to come back. And everybody knows that you and another man stopped by here last spring, so they told me to come here." He looked around. "Where is he?"

"None of your business." Walker had taken ill, so he wasn't able to come. But that wasn't important. "What do you mean, the village elders want me back?"

"Exactly what I said. The village elders extend a formal invitation to you to return and receive your inheritance."

Morgan's breath caught. She said, "So Father's dead than?"

Seth nodded. "He passed away this winter, in one of the clinic beds."

***
The cool evening air brushed against Seth's face as he studied his sister. She still broadcasted her state of mind with every twitch she made, and every breath she took. The outside world hadn't changed that, apparently. But at the moment, she seemed lost in thought, and eerie in her lack of grief. "You don't seem upset."

Morgan stared at him for a little longer. When she spoke, her voice was stiff. "Why would in the world would I be?"

At Seth's silence, she went on. "He told everyone about my 'curse' and made living in the village impossible. He – "

Seth interrupted. "What do you mean impossible? The treatment of people like you -" he gestured vaguely in her direction, noting her darkening glare, "is a lot better! Don't you remember what happened to that woman – "

"Lethe." The fire flickered in a sudden breeze.

"– Yes, her! The village elders – "

"– had her burned alive– "

"– but with the new laws, you didn't have to worry about that! That's better, right?" Seth noted that his voice had gone up a complete octave.

"So what?" A gust of wind knocked him onto his behind, and Morgan closed in on him.

"Were you really that oblivious to the whispers behind my back? To the fact that all of my friends stopped being my friends?"

"Well, I– "

"What do you think it feels like, to be called a freak by the rest of the village, to be prevented from using something as natural as breathing? To be deemed so unnatural that you can't even kiss someone, let alone marry them, because of some senile fart's superstition about bloodlines and magic?"

Seth opened his mouth again, but she had turned away. her voice suddenly quiet and the air still. "I'm not reliving this argument. But I can guess your response: something about Taollan and the many misfortunes Virale tested him with."

"Uh– "

"And then you'll say that Virale is testing me as well, that I am the modern-day Taollan, and he gave me the wonderful burden of resisting the temptation of being who I was born as!"

At these last words, Morgan whipped around again. Seth swore her voice rumbled like thunder.

"Don't you remember? That very night you told Father, I stopped you from committing what your precious Chronicles say is the ultimate sin. I took the knife from your hand, and the anguish from your mind – and what did you repay me with?"

Seth finally found his feet. Meeting Morgan's furious eyes, he said, "I don't know what you're talking about."

Her face unfroze, and confusion sneaked in. "What?"

Seth continued, "All I remember about the night before everyone found out is – is taking the razor from its box, and then waking up in my bed the next morning. I thought I had been dreaming."

He tried to meet her eyes, but Morgan turned her head away. "Was I really going to do… that?"

She nodded. When she spoke again, breaking the long silence, her voice was soft. "Maybe that was my fault."

"What?"

"What I tried doing that night was generally too difficult for someone untrained like me. I might have erased your mind for that night – or for much longer." She sat down by the campfire again. Her shoulders started to shake, and she laughed bitterly, tears rolling down her cheeks. "And here I was, thinking I was a magical prodigy."

Seth spoke quietly. "Hey, I'm okay. And alive, thanks to you."

He gingerly approached her, and at her gesture, sat down next to her. Then she grabbed him and wiped her tears and snot off onto his shoulder, laughing at his grimace of disgust. "Sorry for erasing your mind for a night."

Seth tried on a shaky grin. "Sorry for all of what I said earlier. And being a clueless moron."

Morgan smiled at him, and said. "You can stay for the night, and then you can give my response back to the elders. "

"Uh, about that…"

"Yeah?" Morgan was looking at him suspiciously. She always did catch onto to him quickly.

"I lied about the village elders." Seth said in a small voice.

Morgan sighed. "Why am I not surprised?"

"Sorry."

"I'll be angry later. So what's the real reason, then?"

"I was expelled for gross immorality with another man." Seth said, as quickly as possible.

After a brief silence, Morgan finally clapped him on the shoulder. "No problem, then! I know someone you should meet."

Seth gawked at her. She grinned back. "At least now I know why all my matchmaking attempts back then failed."

Seth groaned.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In for this week. Never been drunk before.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Category 5 Jerk (992 words)

While Ms. G explained the nature of bitwise operators, Gloria glared daggers at the back of Eric Kane's head and reflected on just how well he hid his nature of complete jackass. Keep a safe difference from the douchebag, and he would appear to be just another one of the vaguely-handsome, scruffy-bearded frat boys littering the campus. Get a little closer, and anybody who had a thing for slightly jerkish guys would feel a distinct spike of lust. But get too close, and Kane's façade of decency would simply disappear, as if it were blown away, and the unfortunate victim would discover the nastiness, the arrogance, and the complete load of hot air kept just under his skin. Gloria was speaking from experience here.

A sequence of ones and zeros flashed up on the projector screen, and Gloria scribbled them down into her notebook. The responsible section of her brain told her to add some clarifying comments to avoid spending a half-hour deciphering them later, but she ignored it, and focused instead on the diatribe she was building in her head. It was going to be a thing of absolute beauty, and once she was done with it, Kane was going to be on his knees begging for forgiveness.

After the lecture finished, Gloria packed up her materials in record time. She didn't really feel like combing the entire campus for the aforementioned jerk, after all. Not worth her time. She scanned the crowd, looking, and… there! The target was exiting through one of the side doors near the front of the lecture hall – which wasn't a problem, since she had already scouted all the possible exit routes and their destinations. She stepped out of another exit, taking a turnabout route. Didn't want to give Eric advance warning, after all.

But when Eric finally stepped out of the building near her hiding space, he had acquired a friend. Well, more like his only non-fraternity friend – Curtis Pall – who held the distinct honor of being the only person that Eric Kane didn't swear at. This was a bit of a problem. Gloria liked to think that she had a decent relationship with Curtis, and she wasn't quite willing to unload her expertly-constructed tongue-lashing on Eric in his presence.

Clearly, the only solution here was to follow Eric around until Curtis went away.

Gloria swore as she fumbled one of her pens in her rush to pack up, causing it to roll underneath a row of seats. She needed to keep track of where Eric was, after all, since the last go proved unsuccessful. She stuffed her notebook into her backpack, and having accomplished that, turned around and – came eye-to-eye with Eric Kane. His face looked rather stormy, like – like…. a tropical storm? Either way, crap. Talk about intimidating.

She reached out for the pen he was holding. "Thanks." Even if she couldn't quite summon up the nerve to begin her verbal takedown, she managed to make her voice curt rather than tremulous.
He dropped the pen into her palm, and growled, "Stop being such a loving creeper, you hag."

By the time Gloria had caught her breath back, Eric was already leaving the lecture hall. Building up a good head of steam, she grabbed her backpack and stormed down to the front door, which had just closed behind him. She shoved the door open, jabbed him in the back, and hissed in his startled face, "What the gently caress's your problem?" In the back of her mind, she noted that they were drawing stares.

He snarled back, "Look who's talking – you were stalking us for an entire hour on Tuesday! So what the gently caress's yours?"

There it was – the perfect opening for her to start The Rant with. She took a deep breath and readied her response, feeling the calm before the storm.

"What's my deal? What's my deal is the way that you treated me like complete loving trash when we went to the movies last month!"

His laugh cut off her next sentence. "Oh my god, that's really what you're so pissed about? It was just a goddamn date, geez."

She gritted her teeth and yelled, fighting back tears, "That was my first date! Nobody ever asked me out before!"

He was just about to respond when a calm, level voice cut him off. "What in the world is going on here?"

Oh, great. It was Curtis. He walked up and saw her, saw Eric, and put the pieces together. "Eric, I thought you said you were going talk with her about this, not make her cry." The tone of his voice conveyed utter disappointment, and Gloria noted through her blurry eyes that Eric's demeanor had softened considerably.

What was even stranger was Eric's reply to Curtis – it wasn't yelled, or growled, or snarled – it was mumbled – the words garbled enough that she couldn't make out what he had said. Curtis whispered back something and then shoved Eric towards her.

Eric said in a low – possibly sincere – tone, "I'm sorry that I made you feel like poo poo on your first date by showing up late, making fun of your dress, and calling you an idiot when you said you liked the movie."

Gloria blinked in surprise. She looked up at Curtis, who nodded encouragingly at her. She sighed, all of the anger draining out of her. "I'm sorry I stalked you and Curtis for two hours on Tuesday after lecture." The watching bystanders began to applaud, and Gloria fought down a blush.

They both looked at Curtis, who beamed at both of them. Eric evidently took this as his cue to leave, and walked towards him. She watched the pair of them head off into the crowd, idly noticing Eric's hesitant smile at Curtis, and… oh.

Well, that certainly explained why Curtis seemed to be the only thing Eric Kane's eyes saw on Tuesday.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Yeah, that crit was really in-depth (and ended up giving me more credit than I deserved). Thanks for that!

Because I have finals next week, I'll opt for doing 3 crits for whoever wants me to instead of signing up. They'll probably go up after the 19th (this is for the last week, by the way).

kurona_bright fucked around with this message at Dec 12, 2014 around 22:29

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Okay, there is no way I'm passing this up. I already read too much of the stuff as it is.

In, but I haven't decided which two white guys to make bump uglies what work I'm going to use.

Edit: Diane Duane's Young Wizards series.

kurona_bright fucked around with this message at Dec 20, 2014 around 04:26

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


Errantry (1194 words)
Ryan's little sister had joined a cult.

Well, that's what he thought. What other explanation could be found for Ali's regular nightly excursions, the mispronounced, weirdly harmonic English she kept mumbling, and that bizarre figure-eight symbol she kept scribbling on her homework? Sure, the first item could be easily explained by reasons he'd prefer not to think about, but the other two? She started doing them at the same time, so there was a connection. And he was going to find out what it was. Even if she turned her puppy-dog eyes on him.

Was it just something with Bill? The two were close friends – ever since Ali turned 14, which was also when she started acting so weirdly, so maybe they were –

No. Not thinking about that.

Ryan's effort to not think about that was interrupted by soft footsteps down the stairs outside his door. He reached for his bag and quietly climbed out of his bedroom window, landing softly on the grass. By the time Ali stepped out the front door, Ryan was hiding in one of Mr. Cato's bushes. He followed Ali down the sidewalk, determined to ignore his guilty conscience. His attempts at stealth were awful, but Ali evidently wasn't paying attention – too busy jabbing at the new Kindle she had got for her birthday, muttering to herself.

They reached the local park by the time Ali stopped. She sighed and sat down on a picnic table; Ryan yawned and sat down behind a tree, peeking occasionally around to see what she was doing – but all she was doing was messing with her Kindle. Did she come out here just to re–

"Sorry for being late. My parents don't usually stay up that late." That was Bill. Why would she be meeting Bill at night? Ryan's stomach turned. Drugs? Alcohol? Or… His mind refused to go there.

"Don't worry about it. Got the wand and the rope? I've got the chip and the stone." He stood up, palms sweaty. They were getting into trouble, he was sure of it.

"Yeah. Ready to go?"

"Yes."

Ryan peeked around the tree trunk, and his eyes widened, then squinted in confusion. Were they… writing in the dirt? And now Bill was drawing a circle, using the rope to make sure it was even. He probably would've stared for another minute at what they were doing, because their drawings looked like they were glowing. But he didn't duck back behind the tree in time and Ali noticed him, face turning white.

"Ryan? What are you doing here?" Crap, crap, crap. He always hated getting put on the spot. He stepped out from behind the tree. "I could ask you the same question."

Bill groaned. "Ali, you really need to start using that muffling spell when sneaking out."

"The last time I did, we had to go to Charlene to fix it!" Ali snapped back. Spell?

"So? You just screwed up one of the variables. You'll get it right next time." Variables?

Ryan cleared his throat. The pair stared at him. "Uh, hello? What are you guys doing here?"

They stared back at each other. Bill spoke first. "What should we do? I'd suggest a psychotropic spell if we knew how to work one correctly, but…"

Ali shook her head, tapping at her Kindle. "Let's just ask Charlene."

While she was working, Ryan looked at Bill. "Spells? Do you think you're magicians or something?"

Bill opened his mouth, then hesitated. "Uhhh – "

"Wizards." They both looked at Ali. She looked nervous. "We're wizards." To Bill, she said, "Charlene said to bring him along. She'll explain everything – and if necessary, she'll help us with the spell."

"Okay, then. Uh, you should probably be the one to write his name out. I'll redraw the circle." Bill beckoned Ryan closer as he carefully scuffed out the circle surrounding Ali and him.

"On it." Ali bent down back over what she had scribbled earlier, and then started writing something else into the dirt. It started to glow.

"Wait, why should I do what you say? You're probably going to-" take my blood and drink it as a satanic ritual was what Ryan was about to say, but he realized that he would've sounded insane. Well, as insane as he could be when his sister was writing in light in the playground dirt and talking about spells.

But Ali just looked up at him, and spoke. "Look, it'll take too long to explain, and I'll probably screw it up somehow." She took in a deep breath. "Just – trust me, okay?" Huh. No puppy-dog eyes.

Alright, he'll believe that she isn't leading him to a bloody doom. "Fine."

He walked over to Bill, who finished drawing the circle around them. Ali had apparently finished writing out his name in some sort of elegant foreign-looking script, which glowed against the dark dirt. The strange figure-eight symbol was there too, near the end.

Bill spoke from right next to him, making him jump. "Better double-check, just in case."

Ali sighed. "Right. Ryan, just answer the next couple question, despite how weird they were. Don't screw around, either, or it could be lifechanging in the worst possible way."

Ryan nodded. "Okay."

It was weird. At first it was like filling out an medical form – birthday, weight – but then there were questions like favorite color. While Ali was quizzing Ryan on this, Bill was reading over what Ali had written out, murmuring to himself underneath his breath.

Finally, Ali look at Bill, who nodded and then spoke to Ryan. "No matter what, don't speak or move until we're done."

Feeling dumb, Ryan nodded again, and they took spaces at opposite ends of the circle. Ali looked down at her Kindle, Ryan at his cell phone, and they both began to read out loud in unison – and the world leaned in to listen. The rustling of the trees, the sound of cars passing by, and the occasional animal chirp all faded out to silence, and a prickling sensation started underneath his skin. Their words got louder and louder, strangely understandable – something about a spatial shift – and then absolute silence sunk in.

Ryan looked down at the gray rocky surface, and then looked up at the coal-black sky, peppered with shining stars. He turned around – and almost fell – and froze, staring at the cloud-streaked crescent of the blue-green Earth.

When he could finally speak, his voice came out surprisingly easily. "So. Magic and wizards, huh?"

Ali smiled. "Yup." Bill just grinned.

"So who's this 'Charlene' I'm supposed to meet?"

They pointed behind him, and he turned around. Wow. That was a lot of people – but at the head of the pack was a tall, dark-skinned lady walking toward them with a smile on her face.

"And those guys – " Ryan waved at the pack. "– are all wizards?"

"Yup. C'mon, hurry up!" Ali grabbed Ryan's hand, all enthusiasm now, and as she dragged him towards the happy group he risked one look backwards at the Earth, its green continents and blue oceans seeming to blaze against the midnight-black sky.

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


docbeard posted:

I feel like critting some stories this week. Three of 'em, first come, first served.

I may or may not judge you on the names you have given your characters. It will be an adventure finding out together.

I'll take you up on that offer! Sledgehammer's crit was really helpful (thanks, by the way!) but more opinions are better, right?

kurona_bright fucked around with this message at Dec 23, 2014 around 04:33

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kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


In with Mario merman.

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