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bromplicated
Mar 28, 2003

Mur-ur-ur-ur

Parent Teacher Conference (135)

Parent-teacher conferences reached record levels of attendance ever since dinosaurs were rendered un-extinct. Kids started to go missing. Bloody streaks stretching into the periphery of the playground, wheeled sneakers with blinking lights half chewed.

"Can't we do something?" Asked a concerned mother.

"About what?" answered the teacher.

"You know, the dinsoaurs."

"Not really. They're protected under law as endangered species."

"But do they really have to drop them off next to our schools? Isn't there a deserted island they could live on instead?"

"Don't be silly."

"If we stopped treating them as ANIMALS, and started treating them as EQUALS, maybe this wouldn't be an issue!" Interjected the smelly woman who had no children, but attended the meetings anyways. She was eaten by a Velociraptor on her way home. Everyone was glad about that, at least.

bromplicated fucked around with this message at Jul 22, 2014 around 06:22

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bromplicated
Mar 28, 2003

Mur-ur-ur-ur

This should be interesting.

bromplicated
Mar 28, 2003

Mur-ur-ur-ur

In.

bromplicated
Mar 28, 2003

Mur-ur-ur-ur

Return from Evernight (1,189)

Humming to herself, Elia sat weaving a basket nestled between the roots of the oak in her garden. Even under the shade, the afternoon heat stung her skin. Sweat gathered at her temples, under her arms and breasts, coursing over her body. She wiped her forehead. Her attention focused on weaving a new basket; a small one for herbs, the wicker scraped along the tips of her callused fingers.

Looking up from her weaving, she saw approaching a familiar lanky figure, Loden, returned from afar. Every feature of his was her opposite: Tall, pale skin that nearly matched his white hair and beard. Lumbering up the garden path, shoulders rolled forward, torso stooped, his knapsack was filled with goods from the market, swaying side to side as he walked. Elia’s eyes widened as they saw his: Sagged and purplish. Usually after being gone for more than a few days he boisterously announced his arrival home when he came through the gate from his frequent trips out of town.

She stood and trotted over to him, mindful not to trip over her flowing dress, and took his hand. It was cold to the touch. He stopped and stood looking at her, seriousness in his eyes, something she’d never seen before. She threw herself into his chest, and held him tight. Slowly he returned the embrace, and gently kissed the top of her head.

#

Gone were his late afternoons spent chopping firewood muttering to himself, evenings spent heading to the pub after dinner, the next morning asking if she needed help with the garden even though he did more harm than good for it. Now he spent hours sitting, staring into the hearth’s fire, long after it had gone out. Days now, after his arrival home, his eyes were still puffy, with darkened flesh under them, his hands still cold. He insisted on his iron constitution, but he could not hide the uncertainty, the frailness which had crept into his voice. They were just little things at first: A tremor in his hand, skipping meals, getting lost on the day’s ride to town.

On the third night, his lips moved while he writhed in his sleep. Elia watched as he babbled nonsense. The next morning, he described his dreams: Him alone in a vast cathedral with no tapestries, windows, or pews, only white space. He cried out if anyone one was there, and there standing at the lectern, a black figure looking at him. While recanting his dream, she noticed his arms coursed with spidery black veins that appeared overnight.

He wept; something she’d never seen him do. This disease or curse that had taken root within him, he proclaimed, was his own doing. He knew little of Evernight before venturing there, except that it was alluring, deceptive, and dangerous. He could have gone and delivered the herbs to Lukas, collected his payment and returned, but he didn’t. Instead, he indulged in the multitude of ‘curiosities’ found there: Blue bonfires, naked dancing under the starless sky, spotted-mushroom stew smelling of damp and rot but instilling ravenous hunger, a tumble in the inn with a sad-eyed, ghostly white lass. He recounted his indulgences not with guilt, as a husband confessing to his wife, but with the eagerness and fascination of a boy. How over there, he said, just as the sun and moon stayed forever in eclipse, so too did dreams and nightmares.

Following supper that night, after Loden had settled in to another evening of staring into the fire, Elia went to consult the apothecary. The shop was on the edge of town, where beggar children huddled in the mud under dripping awnings, and cats’ eyes gleamed from alleyways. Elia approached the shop’s door, and thrashed the handle side to side, but it did not budge. Just before she let go, a hunchback man shorter than she in black robes pulled it open, making her stumble forward.

“Sorry,” he said, his voice low, slow and gravelly, “door’s been sticky lately.”

“Oh, thank you! I thought you were closed. My husband has been-“

“Yes, yes. One moment,” he said turning away from her and hobbling back behind the counter where he struggled to prop himself back up on his stool, giving out a relieved sigh as it bore his weight. “Now then,” he lit up a pipe, “what’s this about your husband?”
She stepped into the shop, which smelled rich with flora, fungus, and the tang of embalming fluid; from the ceiling hung bundles of thyme, lavender and thistles. On the walls were shelves of corked jars filled with all manner of herbs. Others were filled with viscous rust colored fluid in which bobbed various preserved creatures and organs.

Elia described to the apothecary Loden’s pallor, the purpled eyes with bags under them, the black lines on his arms, the listless staring into the fire, the dreams, Evernight.

The apothecary, puffing on his pipe, stopped her on that word, “Evernight.” He raised his thorny eyebrows, his eyes pools of black, searching the grain of the counter as if in there he may find way to explain this to her: “Your husband,” he hung on the last syllable, almost growling it, “may already be passed on.”

“What?” Her heart quickened.

“I’m sorry. He’s-“

“But he speaks! He walks, and eats! He’s alive-” her voice rose with confidence.

“Have you seen him eat?” To this she had no answer; Loden had certainly lost his appetite lately.

“That’s the first sign of it.”

“Of what?”

“Mmm, doesn’t have a name that I know. Don’t know what it is. I’ve seen it before though: It takes the mind first, then the heart. Again, I’m sorry to tell you all this. Be a dear, would you, and fetch me that bottle? The one with the black leaves?” He motioned with his pipe to a high shelf.

She did so, still sure he was mistaken, and handed him the bottle. While he peppered out a handful of the dry licorice smelling leaves into the mortar and began to pestle them into a course powder, he explained to her apologetically: Her husband wasn’t dead, but he would never be the same again. He was suffering, his pride keeping him from telling her. If she didn’t want him to suffer, she would mix this powder into his tea, now cinched into a small leather pouch, “and he’ll finally be rid of the dreams.”

“Will he wake back up?” she asked, but the apothecary only looked at her and puffed his pipe. She thanked him and began to reach for her coin purse, but he motioned ‘no.’

Elia returned to the cottage which was dark inside. Loden sat where she left him, staring into the dark. She relit the fire, brewed the tea.

“Can we just stay awake a bit longer?” he said, his voice was a mewling whimper.

“Yes dear,” she knelt down next to him and kissed the side of his head, and rested hers on his cold shoulder. Her tears soaked into his shirt, “as long as you’d like.” She cast the pouch into the flames.

bromplicated
Mar 28, 2003

Mur-ur-ur-ur


Thank you for the critique.

bromplicated
Mar 28, 2003

Mur-ur-ur-ur

>>In.<<

bromplicated fucked around with this message at Aug 19, 2014 around 23:44

bromplicated
Mar 28, 2003

Mur-ur-ur-ur

I would like to participate this week, please.

bromplicated
Mar 28, 2003

Mur-ur-ur-ur

House of Memories - 1,324

The old house talked to Lyle. He and it were the last ones that remembered all the bygone days. Even though everyone he knew from those days was gone, the house preserved them, kept them from being lost to time. When she was still alive, his Mom had said, “If these walls could talk,” and they really did, now that everyone else was gone.

It was a wreck: The foundation was cracked; the once white walls were now licked with rot, and its windows were covered in lichen.

Still a young man as far as years went, Lyle’s once fair skinned face now had the complexion of burnt toast, with icepick scars and little sores that never healed. He was rail thin with feathery black hair that had started to grey. His knobby elbows looked like doorknobs through his thin plaid shirt that lead to veiny forearms with taut, wiry muscles. He stood back from the porch, eying the house up and down. He bounced up and down on his heels and kept putting his hands in and out of his overall’s pockets. The dead house loomed over him, like it was rendered through a fish-eye lens.

Beside him stood his family’s contractor, Barry. He was red faced, reminiscent of some species of rodent, with snow white hair encircling a bald, sunburned crown. His thumbs were pressed behind suspenders straining aside his bulbous belly. His cheeks ballooned as he puttered air out from his lips, turning his gaze to Lyle. Lyle looked to Barry like he was lost in a dream; the young man’s sad grey eyes seemed to look right through the cracks in the foundation and into the bayou and beyond.

“Zoning office said you got six months to get it up to code, or they’re tearin’ it down,” said Barry. Lyle scratched his left arm through his shirt. “Don’t know what business they have doin’ that. All the way out here, it’s not an eyesore to nobody. Thing’s a piece of history.” They stood in silence for a while. The chirps and hoots of cicadas and loons crept in around them. Barry studied Lyle’s scowling face. “poo poo son, I’m sorry.” Barry put a hand on Lyle’s right shoulder, and felt him tense up, so he lifted the hand back off. “You probably got all kinds of recollections wrapped up in there--” Barry continued speaking, but Lyle wasn’t listening anymore.

He was trying to listen to the house. Beneath Barry’s speech, and the sounds of the woods, he heard it moan. The house wanted to die. It wanted to surrender to entropy, wanting to sink back into the soft green earth. He shushed through his teeth, trying to soothe the house. He wanted to tell it that he was going to fix it, heal it, make it just like it was all those years ago when things were simple.
“Young man like yourself, sure you’ve got time and energy to pour into her, but a thing like this, boy, it’ll pull you down with it. What’s gone is gone.” Lyle was still listening to the house; it had stopped moaning. “Sun’s going down. You want a ride back into town?” said Barry.

“Thank you, Barry, but, I’ll be stayin’ here.”

“This ain’t no place to be stayin’ Lyle. Shoot, I’ll put you up.”

“I’ll be staying here.” Lyle crossed his arms, straightened his back and nodded towards the house.

“Sleep? In there? You’re crazy, son. There’s black mold, poisonous spiders, all kinds of nasty poo poo in there. Place looks ready to fall down!”

“The place is my home, Barry.”

“Alright,” Barry started back towards his rust colored ‘59 Chevy pickup, “well, let me give you something before I go.” Barry pulled out a double barreled twelve-gauge and a box of shells from the truck’s bed. He unlatched the breach, peered down the barrel, then snapped it back shut. “You know that shanty town on Washington? Well, few days ago law came in, made ‘em clear out. All sorts of undesirables running around the woods now with no place to go. This’d be a real nice place for them to stay, black mold or not.”

“You don’t have to be giving me that, Barry,” Lyle said as he took the shotgun and inspected the breach himself. “Awful kind of you, though.”

“You’re a lot like your daddy was: Stubborn as all hell.” Barry got back into the truck and started it up. “I’ll be back in a few days, see what you’re up to. You take care, now.” Lyle shouldered the shotgun and nodded.

#

Lyle lay on a mattress on the floor of his parent’s old bedroom. He had found some old letters written in chicken scratch handwriting by his father to his mother, and was reading them by a kerosene lamp. They were from when his father was roughnecking back in Texas. Some of the letters had black thumbprints on them. There wasn’t much to them; just his father going on about how good the money was, how they’d have enough for a house soon, how he missed her. Lyle’s eyes grew heavy and he started to drift off.
He was lying on his side, propped up on his elbow when he woke up to what he thought was the house talking to him, but it was someone else in the room with him. A girl in her twenties with a dirty face was crouched beside him, looking right at him as she was reaching into his pants pocket for his wallet. Across the room was a young man in his twenties pointing the shotgun at him.

“Just keep your hands above your head,” said the young man.

“My wallets in my jacket,” said Lyle to the girl. The young man holding the shotgun smiled, his teeth were black and yellow. She pulled out the few dollars that were in his wallet, tossed it aside and stepped back. “Now what?”

“Kneel down on the floor, and face away from me,” said the young man. Lyle did as he said, and cupped his hands behind his head. He heard the young man take a few steps closer behind him. The girl whispered something to him, and he told her to shut up under his breath. The house moaned.

Lyle reached back without looking, and grabbed the shotgun with one hand. The young man tried to wrestle it free.

The shotgun went off next to his ear.

Lyle felt blood trickle down the side of his face. All sound was replaced with a high pitched whine. He wasn’t hit. Buckshot had sprayed across the room, and exploded the kerosene lamp which had caught the mattress and the old curtains on fire. “Help me put it out!” cried Lyle, he couldn’t hear his own voice. The couple were gone. Lyle tried to smother the fire with a blanket, but it had already spread across the room. Beneath the roar of the flames and his own coughing, Lyle heard the house creak. “No!” he shouted to the room around him. “I can still make it better!” Tears streamed down his face. His fathers letters were caught in the blaze, and he watched as the edges curl up as the flames consumed them. The smoke was too thick to breathe. He made it out of the room. At the bottom of the stairs he saw the shotgun and the young man lying beside it. His lower leg was bent sideways at the knee. Lyle made it down the steps, and pulled him out the front door, past the porch and onto the lawn in front of the steps.

Lyle watched the house burn. All the memories of his life were licked up in the flames, and floated away as dying embers. As the roof gave way and crumbled, he could hear what the house was saying clearly now: It was saying that everything would be alright.

bromplicated fucked around with this message at Aug 25, 2014 around 03:51

bromplicated
Mar 28, 2003

Mur-ur-ur-ur

I want to write another story for this week. I'm in!

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bromplicated
Mar 28, 2003

Mur-ur-ur-ur

Faces in the Dark - 1,380 words. 025 Library Operations


Until she became a librarian, Lucy had never considered the fate of so many library books. Most were never checked out or even opened. Occasionally, she would take one off the shelf and open it to let it breathe a little. She would take in the fragrance of the yellowed paper, flip through the pages, and slide it back into place. There were thousands of books like this: millions of words, so many endeavored thoughts poured out onto so many bound pages, never to be seen by anyone.

The feel of crisp paper and physical weight was slowly fading away. What few books still being read were now uploaded onto computers. Some tragedy that was unknown to most people had slowly crept up over the years, and Lucy was among the few to take note of it. The aroma and the yellow pages were now locked behind cold, uncaring LCD screens.

Looking past the reference desk, Lucy had a view of the front reading area. A young couple stood near the edge of a bookshelf, quietly chatting and giggling over something on one of their smart phones. An elderly man reclined in an armless loveseat reading a tablet. A group of school boys gathered around a workstation enthralled by a computer game.

One little girl sat at one of the old long study tables that were lined with green office-lamps, reading a young-reader mystery novel. The little girl happened to glance up at Lucy as she was looking her way, gave her a friendly wave, and refocused her attention back on the novel. The little girl, Mary, stopped by a couple times a week, even during the summer. Each time she visited, she dumped a stack of the books into the return bin and checked out another stack.

Outside, rain spattered against the old-fashioned jalousie windows. The trees in the nearby park strained against gusts of wind.

#

On the drive to work the following week, the radio give a storm warning, and that residents in the tri-county area should be prepared for power outages.

Shaking off her umbrella at the front entrance, Lucy went to her seat at the reference desk and began to sort through budget spreadsheets and ordering forms before returning her attention to an old copy of Sewell’s Black Beauty. Mary approached her desk, carrying a brand new reading tablet with a pink protective case.

“Hey, Lucy!” said Mary. Her bright chestnut eyes were magnified by her thick glasses.

“Hi Mary! Whatcha got there?” Lucy forced a smile. Her eyes were fixed on the tablet Mary was holding.

“Look what my dad bought me! He didn’t want me to lug all those heavy books around. He said they would hurt my back. I’ve got every single edition of Girls’ Detective Club now! I don’t have to check out books anymore!” She held up the tablet at arms length for Lucy to see.

“That’s great! I hope you’ll still come by and say ‘hi’ though. Also, there’s still lots of great stuff to read that maybe you won’t be able to find on that, so try not to forget about books altogether,” said Lucy.

For an instant, a hint of inquisition passed over Mary’s face, as if she knew that Lucy wasn’t thrilled with her new tablet.

“Ok, I won’t!” she said. A white flash of lightning shone through the windows. Mary was startled and dropped her tablet.

“Whoa! Getting pretty nasty out there, huh?”

“Yea-” Mary stooped down to grab her tablet and the roar of thunder cascaded around the building. The little girl shrieked and cowered under the lip of the reference desk.

“Hey, hey,” Lucy walked around to the front of the desk and knelt down beside Mary, placing a hand on her back. Mary leaned into Lucy.

“I hate this storm!”

“Oh, it will be over soon. It’s just making a bunch of noise. Before you know it the sun will--” The overhead lights in the library flickered, and then blinked out.

Hushed voices and even some giggles echoed throughout the lobby. Rows of ghostly faces were illuminated in bluish-white light of the LCD screens. A pang of anxiety that quickly turned into excitement passed through Lucy.

#

Three days later, gales of wind still hammered against the side of the building. The power was still out. The red emergency lights had grown too dim to read by, so Lucy and the custodian, Gabriel, an aged man with thick forearms and deep crows feet beside his eyes, started bringing in candles, electric lanterns and gas lamps. The faces, once illuminated by the harsh white light, were now lighted by a soft flickering yellow light.

There was a distinct absence of tablets, laptops and smart phones. The patrons of the library began to pull books off the shelves.

It was a mess at first, but it was a beautiful sort of mess. Piles of books were left stacked atop the study tables and the reference desks. Candlelight flickered underneath the red emergency lights as people read and whispered to one another. The encroaching technology invading the library was held at bay, supplanted by not only by the dark and books, but an easiness, a focused calm that had been lurking beneath the surface all along. Lucy never had to reshelve so many books before. For the first time, the long study tables were nearly filled with people, all reading books. A quiet intensity permeated the library as the storm raged outside. There was a certain camaraderie Lucy found in everyone taking shelter from the storm, but also in taking out and reading the old books.

Although it was dark, this was the sort of library Lucy remembered when she was a girl Mary’s age, and had imagined working in all along.

“Good news,” said Gabriel as he helped Lucy stock books back onto a shelf, “power is supposed to come back on today.”

Lucy feigned relief, and excused herself as she made her way to the utility closet. The library was old enough that it used a fuse box instead of a modern circuit breaker. Lucy began to tug at a fuse and twist it until it finally gave. It was surprising how firmly lodged into their sockets the fuses were.

“What are you doing?” said Gabriel. She could barely make out the outline of his silhouette as he stood at the door to the closet, aiming a flashlight at her.

“I just wanted to--”

“Are you messing with the fuse box?”

Lucy remained silent, she was cornered holding the fuse in her hand.

“What’s that you have there?” he said while slowly approaching her.

“A, uhm--” She curled her fingers around the fuse.

“Please give that to me.” His voice was even tempered, a calm monotone.

“Gabriel, don’t you think it’s better like this? Don’t you feel like this is the way things should be?”

“The way things should be? I don’t know what you’re talking about. Please give me the fuse, Lucy.”

“No!” Lucy stepped back and her back was pressed into the cold concrete wall.

“Lucy, you’re going to hurt your--”

“For once people are actually reading what this place is full of: Books. I’m tired of all the computers, screens. Look out there! Does anyone look like they need anything more than that? It’s perfect like this! This storm has fixed everything.”

“If you don’t hand me that fuse, I’ll have to call someone.”

“I’ll give you the fuse, but do you agree with me, or not?”

“I--” Gabriel paused a moment, “It’s been ok, a little scary, to be honest. But people are going to do what they’re going to do. Read books or screens, or whatever. You pulling the plug on everyone isn’t going to change anything.”

Lucy opened her palm, and let Gabriel take the fuse.

#

The storm died down. The sun came out. The power was back on.

Surrounded by people staring into screens, Mary was back at the long table reading a Girls’ Detective Club book.

“Hey,” said Lucy as she walked by, “what happened to your tablet?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I kind of just liked reading books instead of that thing, you know?

“Yeah, I do.” Lucy smiled and continued on into the stacks.

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