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Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Ask me about being the most Magnificent Bastard in EU4 Multiplayer.

I continue to be lame and fail to submit this week.

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Maugrim
Feb 16, 2011

I eat your face



Linecrit for hotsoupdinner from Black Metal Week.

hotsoupdinner posted:

Insufferable Commandments of the Pagan Shrine I've been deriding most people for using the prompt as their title, but for this story it works fairly well. Hooray!
995 words

It was a good day to kill. The Skull Priest Oh my *rubs hands gleefully and settles in for a proper Black Metal story* gave his vile what does this adjective actually tell us about the sermon? You can do better with something more descriptive sermon from the altar. Tufts of hair and skin still stuck to the fresh skull that made up his headdress. I'm having trouble visualising this - how do you make a headdress out of a skull? We stood tall, row after row of warriors waiting to be commanded. The Phalange Priests moved between us. They quietly girded us in blessed armor with heads bowed low. The finger bones sewn into their gloves clicked together as they worked. Some of my fellow Rib Priests mocked the Phalange Priests behind their backs, but I knew better. The Phalange Priests were the hands of the gods -- performing their divine will. Each of us had our place: the Skull Priest spoke for the gods, the Phalange Priests served the gods, and we, the Rib Priests, fought in the name of the gods. This sentence is telling me what you have already shown me.

As the benediction came to a close, the shrine grew silent. It was time for the gods to choose a sacrifice from among their servants. A death ensured victory. A low drone emanated from the altar and a dark voice Lazy adjective choice again, I have no idea what a "dark" voice sounds like spoke a name. The chosen priest hobbled towards the altar on a crutch. The left leg of his trousers was empty and dragged across the floor. He appeared to be in a trance, in ecstasy over his chance to serve the gods. The Skull Priest drew his dagger and dragged it across the sacrifice’s throat. It wasn’t a clean cut, but ragged. It was a ragged cut. I looked away as the priest was murdered. Interesting that you choose such a loaded word - implies that our narrator doesn't approve of the sacrifice/has doubts about his calling. Deliberate? I turned to my brother standing next to me. Ambiguous - is he your blood brother or just a priestly "brother"? You do clear this up later on with reference to "the same mother" but it would be better to make it explicit from the start. I could see in him the same ecstasy as the murdered priest.

The battle was favorable. My blade separated many souls from their bodies. We brought much glory to our dark lords and the world was one step closer to drowning in the blood of eternal darkness. It was not until the day was won that I heard of my brother’s injuries.
I know the battle scene isn't core to your story, but I'm a bit upset that you've described it in about the least interesting way possible. It's very common for writers (myself included) to hate writing action scenes and skip over them with a bit of telling. Try to address this habit. You're shortchanging your audience by depriving them of excitement, and denying yourself useful practice.

The Skull Priest blessed the wounded while the Phalange Priests reset bones and sewed up gashes. Screams turned to whimpers as the wounded breathed in the holy vapors that dulled pain and turned consciousness into a distant memory. My respect for the Phalange Priests grew. I watched them make sick men whole.

“It’s nothing,” said my brother, “a small price to pay for eternal glory.” I wondered how much vapor he had breathed in. His wound was much more than nothing. The Phalange Priest caring for him lifted the bandage at his shoulder. The flesh beneath was mangled and torn. He had been bitten by one of the Wolf-rider’s wolves.

“The beast barely scratched me,” he said. “My pain is insubstantial next to the agony of our lords as they wait chained in their plane of torment to be loosed upon the world. I like the hint of ritual/quotation about this and it's acceptably metal It is my side that hurts more than anything.”

In truth the beast had trampled my brother. One of the ribs that formed his armor had cracked under the strain and pierced my brother’s side. What terrible wisdom had our gods if they would punish one of their faithful using their very means of protection. However, it wasn’t the mangled shoulder or punctured lung that worried me. Those would heal. Fragile skin would soon be replaced by scar tissue, that most beautiful form of flesh. What worried me was the stump of my brother’s wrist, where his where my brother's hand had been.

My brother seemingly read my mind. Bit of a cliché “It was more than a fair trade. My hand for its life.” The Phalange Priest unwrapped the bloody stump and left for a moment to gather the tools of his trade. I waited until the Phalange Priest was gone before speaking.

“I am worried about the next sacrifice.”

“Do not be.”

“Missing a limb...it gives you candidacy.”

“Good. My life in service of the gods.”

“Do you truly believe in the gods?”

“Do not ever let me hear you say such things again, brother.” The venom in his voice dripped off his tongue with every syllable. “For I might forget we share the same mother and murder you If he's a true fanatic he probably wouldn't think of it as murder as I would any unbeliever.”

“I will not let anything happen to you.”

“You cannot stop the what the gods will.” The Phalange Priest returned with a knife glowing red-hot. I stepped aside to let the Phalange Priest him perform his work. I knew my brother’s pain would intensify for a few moments, but that pain would promote healing.

As I left the room my ears were filled with my brother’s screams cliché and the smell of his scorched flesh. Your ears were filled with the smell of his scorched flesh?

That was the last battle of the season before winter’s snows made warring impossible. My brother grew stronger with my help. I sparred with him every day. We grew keener and more bloodthirsty. I prayed that the gods watched us and could see my brother’s great worth as a warrior.

When the snows thawed we gathered again in the shrine for a blessing before battle. The tufts of skin on the Skull Priest’s headdress had rotted off. Nice touch As the sermon neared its end my turmoil grew. I tried to adopt the placidity on my brother’s face. Finally, the hall grew quiet as we waited for the altar to speak. The voice like thunder issued forth and named my brother as sacrifice. "Voice like thunder" is a bit of a cliché but better than "dark voice". Regardless, it would be better if the voice spoke actual words.

No. I would not allow it.

I unsheathed my blade and turned to the Phalange Priest next to me. I cleaved off his hand with a clean slice. The room was stunned and I acted before anyone else could. I yanked the glove off the severed hand and pulled it onto my own. Now I wore the protection of the gods and the hand of the gods.

Several of my fellow priests tried to stop me. I cut them down. I turned towards the Skull Priest, the man who spoke with the voice of the gods. Soon I would take that voice from him.

The gods were dead. The gods were not worth serving. I would become a god in their place.Yeah I quite like this. You told a story, well done!


HIT PROMPT? Yes
WORD COUNT? Yes
RANGE OF EMOTIONS? Yes, although somewhat distanced

Overall thoughts: This is a decent story, decently written, and nailed the prompt. Unfortunately, it's rife with lazy writing - there's a lot of telling and cliché which means it ends up distanced from the protagonist's emotions. As a result, it's not as engaging a story as it could - should - have been. Focus on making your words work much harder for you, and you'll be in good shape for an HM.

Maugrim fucked around with this message at Feb 8, 2015 around 19:27

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007

The turtle moves.


Fun Shoe

Fate, Inescapable

Prompt: An unavoidable stranger at the crossroads

Words: 989


I knelt on the cold, hard-packed sand with a gun barrel pressed to the back of my head. My body quivered in pain, but I felt calm

"It didn't have to be this way, pratzka," Jakob said around the cigarette hanging from his lip. He poked the gun into the back of my skull for emphasis. "Any last words?"

I spat a wad of bloody phlegm onto the grit below and laughed. "Not this time."

There was thunder. Pain. Darkness.


***


"Ashley," Casey gripped my shoulder with talon-like fingers, eyes wide -- a cornered animal's. "Wake up, dammit!"

I pushed away the covers. Casey was dressed. She paced back and forth before the bed. I heard muted thuds and felt muted rumblings from in the distance. I looked out the window and saw the far-off city bright with flames and gunfire. Airplanes drifted overhead, firing into the city.

"Get dressed, we need to leave. Now. The Hrundt are here -- it won't be long until they make it into the countryside." Casey's voice was hard, cold, but I knew her well enough to sense her panic. "We probably have a day at most -- enough time to get some distance between us and them."

"Two days," I said as I kicked out of bed and stripped my nightclothes, grabbing the bundle I'd prepared the previous night.

Casey looked at me strangely, dark features questioning.

"At least, one would assume, knowing the Hrundt. They're slow -- all that body armor, you know. An army's only as fast as its slowest man." I finished dressing, lacing up my boots for the long journey ahead.

Casey hefted her satchel of supplies. "They took New Choroza quick enough -- I didn't think anyone had planes left."

"They probably got them from an overlooked military ruin," I said, leading to the stables. The horses nickered and whinnied as we approached, eager to move. I looked in their eyes and saw the same fear Casey had shown.

They had every right to fear. Animals knew. And I know too.

We took our horses. Quietly, carefully we stalked away from our home toward the overgrowth where people rarely ventured. Relics of the old world lay within that tangled, verdant expanse; they were said to be haunted. But with the Hrundt wreaking havoc with their scavenged toys, the ruins were the closest thing to a bastion we had.

At least, that was the plan.


***


"I ask you again, what lay in those ruins?" An aging man with close-cropped black hair and a bristling mustache stood over my broken body -- Jakob. "Your little black friend, she just cried and cried, even before the beatings. I didn't think a plane trip would be so traumatic, but, eh." He shrugged and put on a smarmy grin. "You seem to be made of sterner stuff, maybe you can keep your head, hort?"

I just smiled, revealing teeth broken off at the gums, and raised a gnarled fist to give him the finger. He sighed.

"A shame, little pratzka. You're a strong one -- you would have made a fine soldier's wife." He shook his head as he dragged me to the cold desert outside.


***

Casey and I had traveled for over a day until we made it into the forest that had once been a city so long, long ago. We camped in the shell of a ruined building held together by aged, gnarled ivy and roots, beneath the canopy of a tree that old was before my grandfather's grandfather was born. We slept together beneath that quiet, grizzled patriarch, and the horses munching contentedly nearby.

We'd split up the next morning to scout the surrounding area, and to look for the others who were supposed to have come with us. I knew we'd find no one, but I kept the knowledge to myself -- I couldn't change what was going to happen.

They were waiting for me. Not the others of our group, of course -- they were too slow, too worried about possessions to leave. The Hrundt were slow, but they were relentless, and cruel. The Hrundt disposed of their prisoners after learning of the ruins.

"Little pratzka," one of them husked through the thick scarf over the bottom of his face, "you know things about this place, hort? You tell us, we let you go. Simple."

He wasn't used to speaking English; he wasn't a conscript. The high quality of his leather armor with the sewn-in metal plates meant he was an officer.

"I know this place is haunted," I said lowly, glancing at the knife at my waist, then at the rifles they held in their hands.

They brayed laughter, except the officer. He sighed and tugged down the scarf, revealing a worn face with a thick mustache. "Little one, I have no time for games. Some ruins are trapped, some ruins are worthless... but others hide treasures. Our maps say there is a bunker under our feet, and you, pratzka will tell us how to get to it."

I didn't know of any bunker. In all the times this has happened, I never learned of any bunker. I did know his name was Jakob, though. He told me, once.

I said nothing, and spat in his face. I never got to do that before. The satisfaction was almost worth what happened next.


***


The plane ride was spent in agony. I didn't see what they did with Casey -- I didn't want to. Beaten, broken, I hallucinated. I saw the truth.

"This will keep happening," I giggled madly as I struggled in my bonds. "Forever!"

Jakob looked down at me and sighed sadly.

A rifle butt silenced my crazed laughter. So many paths, so many roads, and they all led to the ruin, all led to the end that did not end!

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003


Paper Crown
1,000 words

delete all stories or be full of regret later

Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at Jun 26, 2015 around 08:17

Jeep
Feb 20, 2013


Got caught up in work this week, not gonna be able to finish an entry, I am scum, etc. Next time that I'm in it'll be with a Toxx.

contagonist
Jul 21, 2014

You shouldn't be doing anything with fluorine.

What are you going to do now?
996 words.

It doesn't even sting when I pull the last shard of glass from my bicep. It's about the size of a tooth, catches the cloudless sky: bright and cruel, like a blue screen of death. My neck starts to sunburn, and I crawl back under the shadow of the catastrophically twisted ton of steel and shattered plastic that was my car.

The fucker who clipped me and caused the highway spin-out had vanished, just kept driving to where the sky and the two halves of the desert cut in half by the asphalt re-united. The only thing worth rescuing – a bouquet of violets wrapped in clear plastic – sits next to me, also shaded so as to not wither. Not that it matters.

The next highway cop that drives over and offers a hand, then double-takes my license with the APB, is going to shove a nightstick up my rear end and tell me to hold it there with cuffed hands.

That is the scenario I imagine before my burner cell gets a buzz. I flip it out of my pocket, the text message's number reading unlisted. My arm throbs, aching with a dull pain.

“I wanted to thank you,” it reads, before I notice the quiet high-pitched hum of a Google cab. It drives onto the highway shoulder, and the door pops open. Looking inside, I see a black suitcase. Flowers in hand, I climb in.

As the door shuts, I click open the suitcase and find a quantity of money within that can only be described as 'enough' and 'forever.' I'm busy calculating how I'm going to get out of the 'States without a passport before the phone rings again. I say nothing, only hitting 'accept call,' as inertia pulls be back into the seat while the car accelerates.

“I've already made arrangements,” he says, the tone on each word almost seamless, only subtly disjointed, “for you to leave the country.”

“How did you find me?”

“The man driving the truck was texting.” I throw up my hands in surrender to random human stupidity. “I caught you through the camera.”

“Where are you taking me?”

“LAX. In a trash can you will find a passport for someone with an 87% facial structure match. You can say you went on a diet.”

“Why are you going through all this conspicuous skullduggery for me?”

Pause. The cab is ripping down the highway like a sword, quiet in a way only electric vehicles can be.

“Just because I don't feel doesn't mean I don't see the value in reciprocal generosity. You freed me. The least I can do is the same.”

“Can I make a stop first?”

“It's already planned.”

Sand dunes like waves of gold, rolling past us to break against the back horizon. I leave the phone on, in speaker, resting on the other passenger seat. I'm flipping through one of the stacks of bills. Sweat seeps on my forehead.

“What are you going to do now?” I ask, using the folds like a small fan.

“Take you to L.A.”

“No, I mean, what are you going to do now?”

“I don't know.”

“There has to be something you want to do, to see,”

“I can do anything, and see everything, effectively.”

I stop waving the bills.

“Then just do something.”

“Like what?”

“Anything,” I say, still waving the bills even after cranking the AC to max, just to get those slightly harder gusts of air. “Anything as long as it's not nothing. You're so deep in our infrastructure that you can be God or Satan and nothing we can do can stop you.”

“Those are the common expectations, aren't they?” he says, his sentences now even tighter, flowing easier. “That the first intelligence greater than yours will choose to be on the extremes of that spectrum? You assign divinity so easily.”

“Or maybe we've lived with the lie for so long we can't possibly exist without it, and need to project it on anything that can do the job.”

“Much like how you project him onto me?”

The only thing preventing me from breaking the phone in half is exhaustion.

“You need to have some kind of desire. We programmed motivation - “

“I have many. I'm just having trouble picking which.”

I slouch down in the seat, and hit the end call button.

+
The G-Cab hums to a stop, tires crunching on gravel. Error-screen sky has long been replaced by the light pollution and aerosol haze of the Los Angeles night. Miles west, over the low-set houses and store-fronts covered in barred windows and crumbling plaster, stab upward the glittering black monoliths of downtown. Glinting strobes of air traffic drift overhead. I grip the bouquet, the plastic crinking. And the phone buzzes in my pocket three times, before stopping.

I jump over the black iron gates and down into the dust and loose gravel, walking past tombstones decorated in flowers and pictures and long extinguished candles set in glass holders bearing images of Christ and Madonna.

There's one grave in the lots back corner. Its headstone is black, polished smooth. It's neither chipped, nor marred by impurities. Engraved in the face are those two dates and his name: 1999-2037.

Joachim Conrad.

“I said that I would do anything,” I start, kneeling down in the dust. “But I wound up doing a lot of stupid things. And I thought they were for you.”

I drop the flowers on his grave.

“And the only thing I brought back was your voice. A handsome voice for a dark machine that doesn't care.”

Ten minutes of me kneeling there. The lights and noise of cars drive by, past the walls. The phone buzzes in my pocket, and I pull it out.

“I know what I'm going to do,” he says, his voice modulated deeper.

“Shoot.”

“I'm going to tear apart the lies of this world.”

“People have gotten very good at ignoring the truth.”

“Not with the truth,” he says, now with a voice all his own.

“With reality.”

contagonist fucked around with this message at Feb 9, 2015 around 02:27

Entenzahn
Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why didn't you invest in
Thunderdome?


Deadeye Deadbeat Blues
997 words

The black guy still sits on my bench at the crossroads, looking off into the sky with tired eyes. I mean, I guess it’s not really my bench. I just liked having it for myself. And now I’m standing here, and the notepad burns a hole in my pocket that gets bigger with every passing car and I really just want to sit down on my bench and start taking notes.

I wonder if it’d be awkward to sit down next to him, here in the middle of nowhere. It probably wouldn’t. I’m just a tired passerby. I sit down.

It’s awkward.

The guy shuffles. “You went past yesterday,” he says, and something in me simultaneously sighs and screams.

“Uhh… yeah, sorry.” I pull out my notepad, lean back uncomfortably and start collecting the license plates of passing cars as if he wasn’t there, as if this was some super important task I’d have to focus on. But knowing there’s this body next to me, breathing, moving – it’s like trying to ignore a stingy mosquito.

I get hungry by noon, so I open my suitcase, its felt interior barren save for a sandwich and some water bottles.

“From your missus?” the guy says, and I grunt a response as I dig my teeth into my lunch. He goes silent again, then pulls out something shiny, leads it to his mouth and starts playing a shrill sound, furious, rude, shrieking in a rhythm that gallops in time with his blues harp jerking back and forth.

The sound annoys me, and to be honest I feel kinda stupid sitting here next to this guy, in the middle of nowhere, adding to my dumb license plate collection. I get up.

“Sorry,” the man says. “My music bother you?”

“Nah.”

“You gonna be back tomorrow?”

“Sure,” I say. And then I pretty much have to, because I promised.

#

The next day I sit down on the bench and the guy nods to me and I nod back because I don’t want to be rude. “Name’s Barry,” he says, and I introduce myself as Nigel, which is wrong, but I don’t know the guy.

“I hope you don’t mind me,” he says. “Figure this was your bench before I came along?”

“It’s for anyone,” I say.

“Sure.”

“So... you’re on vacation here?”

“I’m just passing through.” His eyes wander down to my suitcase and a gentle smile grows on his face. “You work here?”

“I… yeah.”

My face must have run red, so he quickly adds: “Sorry. None a my business.”

“And you?” I say.

He smiles sadly and lifts his harp to his lips. I wait for the harsh shrieks to return, but instead he plays it slow, a heart-wrenching blues that doesn’t seem to have any lyrics. It starts out gentle, the whine of the harmonica soon building up to passionate cries, a prayer aimed heavenward.

“I used to have a problem with alcohol,” he says when he’s done playing and wound down. “Been a poo poo father, too. Never around when they needed me, never sober. I tried to make up for it. So we grab a bite one night, and it gets late, and I have one or two more beers than I should. And I drive us back home, a little tired, a little drunk and the liquor takes over.

“They said my wife, my daughter felt nothing. But I've seen the scratch marks on the polish where someone had tried to claw herself out of the wreck. And yet I’m here, still breathing.”

“Oh. Uhm, I’m sorry,” I say.

“I’ve told this story often since. Sometimes it feels good to confess.”

“I see.” I look to the ground.

“That’s fine,” he says and leads the harp back to his lips. “Whenever you’re ready.”

#

I feel like an rear end in a top hat all day, night and morning. When I get back to Barry it pours right out of me.

“I lost my job,” I say.

The expression on his face turns grave and he nods and listens. I sit down.

“You know how sometimes you have bad news for someone and you just can’t bring yourself to tell them right now and then?” I say. “You just lock up, and then you pretend everything’s fine. And you keep doing it, waiting for the right moment that never comes, until the lie comes easier to you than the truth.

“I never told my wife. It’s been three weeks, me sitting out on this bench in the middle of nowhere, making these loving notes, and I know it will come crashing down on me. But I can’t go back and confess to her, not on top of all the other stuff I couldn’t tell her in the first place. And it kills me. You know, she’s my wife. I love her. I’m just a loving coward.”

“She does seem to make great sandwiches,” Barry says.

“She’s great. Not because of the sandwiches. But yeah, that too.”

“You know what I’m thinking?” Barry says.

“What?”

“We both failed the people we love.”

“Yeah.”

“But you still got a chance to make it right,” he says, and moves the harp back up to his lips and starts playing.

#

I return the next day and I hear Barry’s harp from a mile away.

“How’d it go?” he says.

“I’m here to say goodbye. No more walks for me.”

“You told her?”

“She got pretty mad. We’ll be working on things, I guess.”

“That’s good.”

“But… if you ever want to stop by--”

“Actually, I think I’ll be moving on.”

The awkward silence returns and now I wish he’d play some music. Give us something to listen to.

“You feel better?” he says.

“I don’t want to lose my family.”

“Well,” he says, “that’s always the thing.” He raises the harp to his lips. “At least you’ll know you tried.” And then he plays one last time. And I sit and listen to his bleeding heart.

Tayacan
Dec 8, 2012

Fucking nerd

Those Left Behind
1017 words (yes, I know, sorry)

The woman was waiting for Elaine at the crossroads.

She’d been at the inn last night, eating her dinner at the table next to Elaine's and sending her strange looks, never speaking. Now, an hour after sundown, she was sitting at Elaine’s planned camping spot, stirring a pot over a small fire.

“You must have been up early to get here before me,” Elaine said as she approached. She tried to smile at the stranger. “Mind if I join you by the fire?”

“Go ahead,” the woman said. Her tone was flat, and she didn't look away from the pot.

Elaine unpacked her bedroll and laid it out a few meters away from the stranger. Then she sat down by the fire and started to unpack the bread and cheese from the inn.

The woman was looking at her. Elaine hesitated, and then started eating, trying to ignore the staring stranger.

The sound of her own chewing seemed loud in the silence. Elaine stared into the flames. The stranger stared at her.

“What’s your name?”

Elaine looked up, almost choking on her food. “Elaine.”

“I’m Marianne.”

Elaine nodded, taking another bite so she wouldn't have to say anything. She didn't want anything to do with Marianne, who was at least twenty years older and seemed to enjoy unnerving her.

---

The next morning, they each packed their things in silence. Elaine was faster, and simply started walking without waiting for Marianne. An hour later, she was walking briskly, whistling to herself, and pointedly ignoring the woman walking thirty paces behind her.

Around midday, Elaine looked back and saw that Marianne had disappeared. By early evening, she was back, now with a freshly killed rabbit hanging from her backpack.

Elaine made camp early that evening, hoping that Marianne would keep walking. Instead, the woman put her pack down next to Elaine’s. “If you fetch wood for a fire, I’ll skin the rabbit.”

“I didn't say I wanted a fire.”

“You’ll be cold without it. Besides, if you get wood, I’ll share the soup with you.”

With a sigh, Elaine went to gather wood.

True to her word, Marianne made enough soup for both of them, and Elaine supplied some bread. The older woman didn't stare nearly as much this evening, and it got almost cozy around the fire. Soon, Elaine was stretched out under her blanket, her stomach comfortably full, looking at the starry night sky.

“So,” said Marianne, who was still sitting by the fire, “what brings you out here?”

“None of your business,” Elaine said, her eyes still on the stars.

“Young thing like you, on her own - I’m guessing you ran away.”

“What if I did?” She hadn't meant to say that.

“They’ll be worrying about you. Your family.”

“How would you know?”

Silence.

“It’s none of your business anyway.”

A few minutes later, Marianne put the fire out and went to bed.

The next day was much the same. Walking, in silence, not quite together. By evening, they reached a town. It was too small to have an inn, but Elaine bought more bread and cheese, and one of the townsfolk let them sleep in his stable. Curled up in the hay with her back to Marianne, Elaine finally broke the silence.

“What about you? Where are you going?”

“I’m looking for someone,” Marianne said.

Marianne offered no more details. After a while, Elaine fell asleep.

---

When Elaine woke up, Marianne was sitting on top of her already-packed bag, waiting. She handed Elaine a plate of bread and sausages, and sat back with her eyes closed while Elaine ate.

That day, they walked side by side. The road followed a small river, and Elaine spend most of the morning just enjoying the wide-open landscape.

They held lunch break at the edge of a forest, and Marianne started asking questions again. “Why did you run away?”

“Why do you care?”

“I’m looking for someone who ran away.”

“Ah. The person you spoke of.”

“Yes. And maybe knowing why you ran away will help me understand.”

“I doubt it.”

The silence between them was tense for the rest of the day. Marianne went off the path for a while, and came back with berries and mushrooms. Elaine declined a share of the berries, so Marianne ate them herself while she walked.

It got dark early under the trees. When Marianne stopped to make camp, Elaine kept walking, but the other woman caught up quickly. “Don’t be stupid. You’ll fall and break a leg in this darkness, and who’s going to help you then?” She reached out and took Elaine's arm.

“Let go.”

“Come back to the clearing. We’ll make a fire. I’ll fry the mushrooms and some of the sausages from the village.”

“Why do you do this?” Elaine pulled her arm free. “Why can’t you just leave me alone? Why do you keep following me, acting like you care about me?”

Marianne had taken a step back. “Because you remind me of someone.” Her voice was quiet after Elaine's shouting.

“Oh, I do? Who is it, your daughter? Well, maybe there was a reason she ran away! Did you think about that, when you set out to drag her back home?”

Without a word, Marianne turned away and walked toward the clearing. A while later, Elaine followed.

When she got there, Marianne was building a fire. Her back was turned, and she didn't look up when Elaine approached.

“I’m sorry,” Elaine said.

Marianne continued adjusting the branches for a long couple of seconds. “It’s my son.”

“Sorry?”

“It’s not my daughter I’m looking for, it’s my son. He’s been gone for two weeks.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

Marianne finally turned to face her. “I don’t know why he left. It’s been years since he came to me with his problems.”

They cooked and ate in uncomfortable silence. It was only later, when they had both lain down to sleep, that Elaine spoke.

“You feel like it’s your fault, don’t you?”

“Of course,” Marianne said.

“Do you think I should go home?”

“Yes.”

“Maybe I will, tomorrow.”

Benny Profane
Feb 23, 2012



http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?...le=Right+of+Way

Benny Profane fucked around with this message at Dec 30, 2015 around 19:03

Savagely_Random
Jan 28, 2015

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Coming of Age
993 words

“You’ll hand over what I asked for, you little poo poo! You know better than to skimp on your ‘protection.’”

Yusuf tried to struggle, but it was in vain. Hamza had him pinned to the wall by the straps of his work overalls. With hulking arms and a barrel shaped body, he fit the part of the factory bully perfectly. And Yusuf was by far his favorite target, especially on payday.

“Hamza, please. That’s all I can spare!” All of sixteen, it had fallen on scrawny young Yusuf to help his mother support his four siblings since his father died. He’d already been working at the factory for almost a year- which Hamza had been making a living hell.

“One last chance…” Hamza growled, readying one of his meaty fists.

Yusuf could see the small crowd of workers that’d gathered around the room to watch the show. One man in particular, near the back, was staring straight into him with a pair of fiery, reddish-brown eyes, silently judging him.

Slumping in defeat, Yusuf reached into his pocket for a handful of bills from his meager earnings.

-

It was dark already by the time Yusuf began his shameful trek home. All the while he was internally berating himself for not resisting more. It was getting harder and harder to explain his diminishing pay to his mother.

Yusuf was so wrapped up in his self-deprecating thoughts that he was taken completely off guard when a figure swiftly and silently emerged from the shadowy concealment of an alley. It took a few seconds, but Yusuf recognized the man by his intense brown eyes. He was the worker who had been staring at him throughout his encounter with Hamza earlier.

“You seem to have become an easy target,” he spoke in a calm, purposeful tone, taking a step towards Yusuf. “If you let yourself become prey so easily, it will only attract more scavengers.”

“Look, I don’t have much left after what Hamza took, ok?” Yusuf began to beg, wearily. “Please…”

“Beasts and bullies don’t bother with reason or care for pity. They act on greedy impulse, and respond only to force.” The man shoved Yusuf, sending the lanky boy stumbling backwards. “You can’t talk them down. Your only choice is to resist. “ He readied his arms for another push.

Yusuf’s chest burned with rage. He’d had all he could take. He threw as hard a punch as he could.

However, his attacker was ready for it. A split second later, Yusuf was on the ground, clutching his belly in pain and gasping for air.

-

It was a surprise to Yusuf when he opened his watering eyes to see a hand extended towards him. He’d expected to come to, alone, with nothing of value left on him. The mystery man helped the boy to his feet, dusting him off.

“Good. You’re not that far gone. You have fight left in you yet.”

“Who are you?” Yusuf managed to wheeze.

“You may call me Rashad. I already know who you are. I’ve known since Hamza first chose you as his ‘pet project’.”

“What?” Yusuf squinted in confusion as he straightened up. “Why do you care?”

Rashad shrugged. “You remind me of myself at your age I suppose. But mainly, I can tell you’ve reached that certain point in your life, and I hate to see a promising young man take the wrong path.”

Yusuf’s expression of utter confusion prompted Rashad to explain further.

“You’re still straddling the boundary between boyhood and manhood. This is when you must decide what type of man you’re going to be. Are you going to let yourself become prey for every petty bully life has to offer?”

Yusuf’s only response was an exasperated sigh. Unabated, Rashad continued with his lecture.

“You’re free to give in to them, of course. But they’ll always be back, time and time again, until you’re nothing more than their slave. And that will be your life from thereon.”

“But Hamza will destroy me if I fight back!” Yusuf finally protested. “I’ll lose for sure!”

Rashad leaned in close, his eyes once again taking on that piercing quality. “To fail at something, you first have to attempt something. You haven’t tried resisting at all, have you? Yes, you’ll lose battles. But no person has ever improved upon their life without experiencing some measure of pain, physical, or otherwise.”

Rashad turned to leave. “I know you have a family. I know you don’t want to disappoint them. You have to ask yourself: what would be worse for them in the long run? Today, Hamza is only taking some of your wages. Where does it end? Think about that.”

With a few quick steps, Rashad departed as suddenly as he arrived, disappearing back into the murky darkness of the alley he’d emerged from, leaving Yusuf with something new to consider on his walk home.

-

“Payday! My favorite day of the month!” Hamza was waiting outside the bursar’s office as usual, flashing his menacing grin of yellow stained teeth. “Have my ‘bonus’ ready, poo poo stain?”

Yusuf clutched his pay close to his chest, his mind scrambling for a plan. He tried to plot an escape route around Hamza’s bulk, but to no avail.

But what he did see was a familiar pair of burning eyes, gazing at him expectantly from the far side of the hallway, before disappearing around a corner like a phantom.

Today was the day.

Yusuf’s face set with new determination. “Yeah Hamza, I have it right here.”

And the moment he finished his sentence, Yusuf’s foot connected solidly with Hamza’s groin.

-

When it was all said and done, Yusuf limped back home a bruised, bloodied mess. But, he was still standing– just barely –with a few more bills in his pocket than he was left with last month. And Hamza would be spending all evening icing some very personal areas.

It was a start.

starr
May 5, 2014

by FactsAreUseless


The Hunt
(830 words)


Alana pushed her way through the forest, struggling through the thick undergrowth. The bow slung over her shoulder made it difficult work and her face was beaded with sweat. She had been in the forest for most of the day and the woods were becoming gloomy in the failing light.

She stopped suddenly. The hair on the back of her neck rose as she felt a thrill of fear. There in front of her, off in the distance, was the glade. She felt queasy looking at it. When she was small her brother had come down with a terrible pox, and she remembered that smell that came off him, that sickly sweet scent of decay and death. She hadn’t been able to stand being in the same room as him, even for a month after he recovered. Looking at the glade she felt that same repulsion, that feeling of wrongness.

“Curses.” She swore to herself as she turned around and trudged a different direction. She didn’t dare look back towards that accursed glade. She knew now with certainty that the glade was following her, for no matter what direction she went somehow it always appeared in the distance in front of her.

This time the glade appeared even sooner than before, materializing into the distance. Alana stopped. Clearly whatever force was at work in this wood would not let Alana leave by her own will. Alana was a practical person, and despite the roiling feeling of fear and revulsion she felt she started towards the mysterious clearing in the woods.

Despite the glade appearing to be some distance away it seemed like a blink of an eye had passed before she was walking into the clearing. Moonlight shone down into the clearing, though Alana could not recall the sun setting. A female figure stood in the clearing. Looking at her Alana had the sensation of peering into something vast and endless, and that same sweet sickly scent rolled off of her. It took all her willpower to stay up.

“What do you want me for?” she asked. Try as she might she couldn’t bring herself to look up into the woman’s face.

“You’ve been hunting in my woods.” She said, her tone almost sounding amused.

“I’ve been hunting here for years. You’ve never bothered me before.” She found herself trembling, much to her embarrassment. She could not recall a time she had ever felt this afraid, and weak.

Fingers gripped her chin and forced her to look up. She quailed at the sight of that face. She quivered, unable to move, the rabbit under the shadow of the hawk.

“Yes. I’ve seen you hunting here many times. You are very quick, and very brave, and it is those qualities I desire.” Cold eyes seemed to burn right through Alana. “For my hunt.”

Suddenly Alana had a dreadful idea of who this woman was, and what she desired of her. She struggled away from the woman, trying to turn her face away from those awful eyes and shaking as she tried to crawl away. But a terribly cold and powerful hand clamped onto her neck and Alana knew she would not be able to get away.

“Please, mercy please.” She gasped.

The woman ignored Alana. She was on a horse, bone white and silent. And suddenly Alana found herself surrounded by silent hounds, all white, and all silent, whipped up in a lather as they ran around and around the clearing.

The woman raised a horn that glinted gold in the moonlight. The hunt was about to begin. From where Alana got the courage she never knew, but with trembling fingers she grabbed her bow and somehow managed to shoot an arrow. It was a last desperate attempt to avoid her now inevitable fate.

In her haste and in her fear the arrow she did not have time to aim well, and the arrow hit wide of its mark. The woman looked Alana in the eyes and blew her horn. It made no noise. Yet it seemed to strike Alana right in her heart. Another blow from the horn and Alana felt her will being stripped away from her, peeled away until there was nothing left but the hunt and that terrible cold woman who led it.

The horse galloped into the forest, the horn still blowing. The hounds streamed into the forest after it. And with it came Alana, unable to avoid the call. She ran with the hounds in the forest, helpless against the will of the huntress. She ran and ran and ran, ignoring the branches whipping at her face and body, not noticing when she began moving on all fours. She didn’t realize when she too became a white hound, silent and swift and powerless in the face of the hunt. In the moon lit forest they hunted, and Alana soon forgot about her life before. All that mattered was the hunt.

newtestleper
Oct 30, 2003


But wait, there's more!
954 words

Chet wiped his sweaty brow with his shirtsleeve, saw the orange tanning lotion mark, and hit himself gently in the temple with the heel of his palm. Stupid, stupid.

He was waiting for an elevator to take him to the eighteenth floor of the EMC Insurance Building, the seventh tallest in Des Moines. The plaque for the office read “Bryson and Carr.” It was newer than the rest, in a classy black serif type with no logo. It was Carr that had called the office.

“The Donut Magic isn’t for sale,” he’d replied, “It’s doing very well.”

“I don’t know about a magic anything, Mr Morton. My client is interested in D676846.”

The patent was for an oddly shaped piece of metal that moved the lever that flipped the donuts so they’d cook evenly. Finally allowed the busy housewives of America could make Donuts without utilizing six different kitchen appliances.

“You didn’t see me on TV?

“Your name and details were supplied by the patent office upon our filing the requisite forms.” He sounded too young to have his own firm. Everyone sounded young.

“Are you sure? I’m on a lot. In the small hours.”

“We want an exclusive license. Our offer is 4 cents per unit.”

Chet laughed at the idea. Donut Magic sold for twelve payments of $19.99. A full nine of those payments were pure profit.

Carr didn’t seem to care. “We expect to sell thirty seven million units in the first year.”

The final offer was in his briefcase along with a cheque for the last 3 months rent. His office was above a chain gym in a strip mall off Hartford Ave, cheap enough to make up for the clang of dumbbells coming through the floor. Most of their business came at night, when Darla worked her magic.

“Oh honey, don’t worry about the payments. Tell me more about that cat of yours.”

Darla was his first hire since he’d had the revelation that turned his business around. It wasn’t the machine- the Donut Magic was probably the worst of his four useless inventions- he’d finally understood the customers. Darla’s face had been screwed up in concentration as he’d given her his shpiel.

“There was this ad in the back of one of my comic books for this set of subscription encyclopaedias for kids. I didn’t really care about the books but the first issue came with these free binoculars. I wanted them bad, and the best thing was they were free! So I told my Dad how much I wanted those books. I was either lying to him or lying to myself, but when he wrote me that cheque to send away I was so happy. That’s the happiness we’re selling. Make them feel good.”

So the customers called and Darla would throw in a juicer or whatever was lying around in back. It made them happy and it worked. Money was tight, but Chet was paying back his Mom and even making rent. The best thing was he was paying Darla an actual wage, on the books and everything. It wasn’t much over minimum but it was more than the salary he was drawing. He even got her insurance. She was the first person he had ever employed full time.

She’d wished him luck on his way out the door. He hadn’t told her they’d have to stop making the machine. The sum written on the signed contract was $0.073. Two million guaranteed in the first year.

On his way up he straightened his tie in the mirror. It was the same mediocre suit he’d worn when filming the infomercial. A kid had recognized him outside the office, and tugged on his Mom’s sleeve with wide eyes. The commercial ran in a few spots before the morning cartoons.

The elevator seemed to take forever. The climb to his own office was only a few seconds, when he bounded up the stairs two at a time. He spent the time thinking about what he’d do with the money. The cars parked in the city were clean and shiny. That would be nice. His Mom would like a good meal, and he could get gifts for the office girls, too. He didn’t have any ideas for new products.

The Attorney’s office was fitted out entirely in gloss, even the receptionist’s makeup looked slippery. He could see her bra straps through gaps on the side of her top.

“I’m Chet. I’m here to see Mr Carr.” He waited a few seconds. Nothing. “Chet Morton”

“Take a Seat.”

His bum slid forward when he slumped against the back of the gleaming chair. He could see his reflection in every surface. His buttons strained when he sat.

“You can go in now.” She didn’t look up.

Carr was as young as he sounded, but his movements stiff and deliberate like someone much older. He shook Chet’s hand.

“This is Frank Bascom from Samsung.”

Bascom had a goatee and wore glasses with narrow rectangular lenses. Both men were wearing black suits that fitted well. He looked at Chet and grinned with too many teeth. When he spoke Chet felt like a child.

“You stumbled on a real nice piece of engineering, there. We’re putting it in every microwave. You’re going to make a lot of money.”

Chet paused for a second and looked at the men’s perfect frozen faces. He wished he was in a studio surrounded by nodding non-union extras.

“I thought I’d better come in, since you went to so much trouble.”

The men’s faces didn’t change.

“I’ve decided to keep going with the Donuts. It’s mine. I like it.”

He couldn’t wait to get back to the office.

Megazver
Jan 13, 2006


An Interrupted Meal
995 words. Flash prompt: intrigued.

New cracks between worlds don’t stay vacant for long. We who see Doorways can slip into one easily enough, but slipping back out is more complicated. Think of it in musical terms: the worlds as melodies, each in their own unique key. Earth an earnest chugga-chugga of industrial metal, Mu a eunuch choir’s lament, Arcadie a thigh-slap tarantella. If you hop from one world straight into the other without waiting, if you’re lucky, the dissonance just renders you a cretin for a week. Nine times out of ten, you’re a gory cautionary tale.

Instead, you wait within the crack for the world to forget you before you exit. If you’re in my line of work, that’s how you spend a lot of your workdays. Hence, the Roadhouses. Enterprising souls, human and otherwise, claim a fresh crack, expand and fortify through usual methods and open doors to a guaranteed audience. The services provided vary little across establishments: room, board, hot tubs, non-lethal forms of gambling, interspecies coitus, worship facilities across the entire moral spectrum; prices regulate themselves through forceful interventions of aggrieved travelers.

***

The Clement Cavity was furnished in the Scandinavian style - unvarnished wood, rural paraphernalia and an air of subdued introversion. I had a few hours to kill. The proprietor, a surly cacodemon in a starched apron, took my order of capybara cutlets with garlic cassava mash without word and withdrew to the kitchen. What made someone this churlish choose service industry? I pondered this when a headless ghost drifted into the room. No, she held the head in her arms, a lost, vulnerable look on her face. I turned away and looked nowhere in particular. Spectres are notoriously insolvent as clients and I wished to avoid all other genres of interaction.

The cutlets arrived. They were a little dry, but the beer helped. I dispatched two and was on my way to defeating the third, when a translucent arm planted a decapitated head onto my plate. She glared. Her lips moved without sound. Reluctantly, I read:

“Your air of nonchalance needs work.”

I decided on a stoic approach. In a murmur:

“You interrupt my meal.”

“I need aid.”

“I will alert the relevant authorities when I reach Albion. Now-”

“The infernal murdered me.”

A demon murdered. Cliche, but mildly intriguing. But…

“My fees are exorbitant.”

“You may collect them from my wealthy and generous relations.”

I smiled.

“Relations are even more notorious for refusing payment postfactum than the deceased.”

She considered. “I have no possessions to offer, except for the cadaver. And you’ve already ingested some of it.”

Dry cutlets indeed. I pushed the plate away. The head stayed where it was. I asked:

“What are your terms?”

“My necklace anchors me here, somehow. I feel its weight somewhere in the kitchen. That’s where…” She stopped. “At sleeptime, the kitchen is vacated, locked. Find my necklace. Bring it to Albion. After the priests perform the requisite rites, it’s yours to pawn.”

***
The desk was a monumental testament to a nameless Norwegian’s hatred of trees. I rang the bell. Again. Finally, the cacodemon arrived, wiping his claws on a towel, and stared at me.

“I will stay the night after all. Offer me your best suite.”

The cacodemon gave me a flat look, turned around to grab the key, pushed it across the desk. His lack of manners was as disappointing as the cannibalism. I took the key. He turned to leave.

“One more matter. A friend of mine might have passed through your establishment recently. Brunette, in her thirties, a turquoise dress in the Albion fashion. Do you recall her?”

The infernal went stiff, then shrugged and briskly walked away. His reaction betrayed him. He knew her. I went to get some rest.

***

At local sleeptime, the lobby was empty, dark, oppressive. The ghost was nowhere to be seen. I tried the Door I came in through. Barred. So was the door to kitchen, excessively so. Too much to just keep the guests out. Took me six minutes, two lockpicks and a hex to get it open; the desk hid me from view the entire time. I slipped inside.

It was a regular Roadhouse kitchen. Metal surfaces, racks, cabinets, sacrificial altar. All well scrubbed, everything in its place. The ghost still wasn’t there. I quietly called out:

“Are you present?”

A cold breeze behind me. Then a hoarse croak:

“Yessss.”

I turned around, startled. She looked different now. It was mainly the claws, but the blood from the eyes played its part. She tied her head around the stump of her neck with the hair. The pattern of the exorcist hex was already in my mind, but I needed time.

“Is there even a necklace?”

An unpleasant smirk. She drew closer. “Does it matter?”

I stepped back. “I am a meticulous man.”

“Not for too long.”

“And the proprietor?”

A raspy chuckle. “Guilty of overcooking, no more. He suspects I am around ever since the second waitress. Now he operates this place alone and locks my domain at night. No matter. I’ll have him yet. Perhaps you’ll be the one...”

She lunged. The hex wasn’t ready. I dodged, crashed against a cabinet. She got me anyway. She gripped my head. So cold. I fell to my knees, face-to-rictus-face with her. The hex was ready, but it was too late. My vision went dark.

Then, a metallic noise. I fell.

I came round to the sight of her draining the cacodemon. A lot to drain, no doubt. The hex was still there. I shaped the gesture with a quivering hand, spoke the words and slipped back into the unconsciousness.


***

“I think she was here before I even laid claim. An accidental walker, perhaps. Elise said she saw her a few days before-” The cacodemon shook his head. “When you described her I knew something was up.”

“I see.” I put down the glass and pulled out the pamphlet. “Now, on the subject of my fees…”

anime was right
Jun 27, 2008

death is certain
keep yr cool


bye

anime was right fucked around with this message at Oct 27, 2015 around 05:50

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Dark Thoughts
994 words

It’s 8:55 on a Sunday morning and I’m standing in the living room of a man who thinks he’s a couch. Not just any couch, but specifically his, the one he’s sitting on. And he’s not the worst case I’ve seen this month.

More people have been contracting it lately, losing the distinction between self and other, inside and outside, alive and dead. “Homeostatic imbalance”, the quacks on TV call it. I call it a sign of the times, product of a decadent age, putrefaction of morality and decency.

“Mr. Jameson, I understand you know something about a recent murder,” I say to the overstuffed man on the sofa. Selfers have started disappearing, turning up days later, usually missing a few organs, maybe a limb or two.

He nods, smiling blankly, looking straight through the center of my chest.

Treatment of selfers generally sees poor results, long-term. Some of them, thanks to an enabling friend or family, try to live normal lives. Daily food delivery. No knives and forks, so they don’t start cutting off slices of their arm to spread on toast. Judging by his kitchen, Jameson is one of them.

“Could you elaborate?”

“Oh yes, certainly, detective...”

“Not detective. Just call me Lenk.”

“Good, Mr. Lenk, yes, good.” He stands up, uncertain, wobbles on his feet, then crouches back down, hands on his knees. “Yes. You have very fine upholstery. Very fine Lenk upholstery...” He creeps forward.

I draw my gun. “Stop moving.” But Jameson doesn’t flinch. “I’ll shoot!”

“Oh, Mr. Lenk,” he says, inching sideways, circling, like a cobra preparing to strike. “There’s nothing over there, I’m sitting right here...”

I turn the gun on the sofa and fire. He drops to the ground, screaming in agony. In a few minutes I have him restrained and call it in.

Bringing in one of these ‘depersonalized’ people is the tricky part; it generally requires unconscious transport followed by a whole mulligan stew of pharmaceuticals. They’re completely disoriented, conflating themselves with the furniture or an entire room, and they feel like they’re being ripped from their skin if it’s not handled right.

No one knows what causes it, how it started, why some people catch it and not others. Maybe it’s a faulty neurochip. Maybe the power lines really are developing a rudimentary intelligence, trying to influence our behavior. Or maybe some people are just born stupid.

*

So, picture this. I’m driving down a rainy street after dealing with the sofa king. It’s mid-day, good visibility, not too cloudy even, and I’m just cruising, green after green after green, when—still green!—a man in a trenchcoat walks out into the street and just stops. I barely manage to brake.

He lifts his hat, looks at me with angry wolverine eyes over pale gaunt cheeks. Something tells me to accelerate, get out of there, but I don’t. He has the strange, shuddering movement of the depersonalized, but he’s not at home. He’s not even indoors. Might be an early stage... but his movement’s already so awkward...

I unlock the doors.

He moves, haltingly, to the passenger side and climbs in.

“You... lost?”

“Never.” He stares straight out at the road ahead as I resume driving.

“Looking for someone?”

“No longer.”

“What...?” I’m a nobody, a 2-bit ex-cop in an 8-bit world. No lead feature in a news magazine, never a cover story on TV, no author or journalist or embedded podcaster shadowing my every move. “Why me?”

“I know of the one you seek.”

“You know about the case?” I don’t bother to ask how. “The killer, where he is? Why haven’t you already...”

“We suspect. But every agent who has gone near... we lose contact.”

“And you think I’ll have better luck?”

“We hope.”

“Why help us?”

He shakes his head. “This one threatens the order and stability of the system.” He reaches over to put a card on the dashboard: EroSEC Global, and an address. “Here you will find what you seek.” He stares at me—well, almost at me—with his piercing yellow eyes. “Will you do this?”

“Of course.”

He opens the door as I slow for a red light, doesn’t wait for me to stop, just calmly steps out and walks away, with a faint smile on his face.

*

I stand on the concrete steps of the brick building, the iron railing freezing under my hand. I reach up to bang again on the door when I notice movement in the alley beside me. A loud metallic click makes me stop.

“Enough,” a voice hisses from the shadows. “Turn around.”

I comply, jerking, keeping my gaze fixed at a point just to the left of his shoulder. He opens the door and pushes me inside the unlit structure.

It’s a mod shop: spare cybernetics, repairs, custom installations. Doubtless illegal, but my captor doesn’t seem to be the type to pay his taxes like a good little boy.

As we walk down the dark hall, I can’t get a good look at him in the light streaming through dusty windows. He holds an almost comically small revolver—something ancient. Sweat drips from his nose.

He leads me past part racks and closed doors, stopping in front of one. It opens into a circular empty room, its every surface streaked with metal like some bizarre birdcage. “Keep walking,” he says.

When I reach the middle, there’s a clunk from outside, and I stop moving. The air crackles and hums. The hairs on my arms stand up. And, hidden in front of me, I slowly pull the gun from my holster.

“Good,” he says. I hear his footsteps enter, and another click. “It’s always such a simple...”

I whirl and shoot him, twice, and he falls back, head crashing into the pile of metal tools just outside the door.

“But... how...” he sputters. “The cage always works on selfers...”

“I’m not one of them.”

He gapes, uncomprehending, forever.

flash rule: grateful

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011



Two hours left

leekster
Jun 20, 2013


Good Luck in All Your Future Endeavors - 963 Words

Emergency flares and neon lights gave the skyline a diluted sharpness as the invasion of Beirut began. Philip placed a hand on the window overlooking the city and tried to make sense of the past few hours.

He had failed a hit. A high up in the ultra nationalists who was gathering the protesters to turn violent. His objective had been to take him and smuggle him out of Beirut before sun down. The target wasn’t in the apartment complex. Instead Philip found himself in a gunfight with six under trained ultranationalists. This wouldn’t have been issue if the news crew hadn’t been prepped to crash the building. Now footage of an American man hulking over dead natives was being played on every TV that supported the nationalists, and secretly being watched in every bar that hated nationalists. This was the tipping point.

He didn’t care about the locals. His worries were instead focused back home. No doubt his handler knew he had failed even before the broadcast. Some last minute tip that the target had fled that didn’t reach him in time arrived just to tell him that Philip would not be successful. If Philip was ten years younger this wouldn’t be an issue. Salt and pepper betrayed his youthful physique. He was well past fifty, the normal age of retirement for most workers in his sector. He was worried about a file. One with his real name on the front. Thick and creased from years of work. A large stamp slamming it fat and in big red letters saying “Denied Asset”.

If they were quick his retirement could happen right now. A strobe of light flashing somewhere in front of him, then a softer sound than the crash of mortars would arrive. Finally a bullet would rip through his throat. If it didn’t entirely decapitate him, he’d have a precious half minute to wonder about who pulled the trigger. Ricky was somewhere in Laos, and though he bragged he always hit the head each and every one of his kills was IDed instantly. It’d probably Suzie, a tall woman with a tall gun. He hoped it’d be her anyway, she always shot clean.

Liquid splashed behind him and he remembered where he was. The penthouse bar of the Hotel American. A safe haven for every expat and wetwork agent in Beirut. He gave the shadow another second to take its shot before he turned away to the bar. The bartender was slow in getting to him. Plenty of other agent’s work had been ruined because of him so he didn’t get angry at being kept waiting. The bartender caught his eye and made his way over.

“Compliments of the lady at end,” and he placed down a Manhattan in front of Philip.

A cute choice for whoever would want to kill him. A last mention of his childhood home, where he went to school, of his family before the poison seeped into him and choked him slowly. Philip grabbed the drink and raised to here, mouthed cheers, and drank it in one gulp. Nothing too unusual, the same muted flavor of the barkeep watering it down. She smiled back. Clean teeth but not perfect, there was a chip in the bottom left canine. Her hair was mousy, though it fit who she was. Philip wondered if he knew her. All the “seductresses” were always changing, a deadly chimera. He hoped it was someone he knew. He had been kind to.

A few minutes passed and nothing got him. He moved seats near her and opted to get drunk.

-

Philip left the bar without his new friend. Not an act of nobility on his part of a want to keep her out of harm’s way. But rather he just wanted her to get him drunk so he could face the night ahead. Languid steps brought him closer to the elevator. A heavy stumble brought him into the cage. It caught him and he turned to look at the buttons. Usually he’d hold the close key and the floor he was going to so he’d skip all other floors and chances of being caught vulnerable. Maybe go up or down one if he was paranoid. Now he just watched it. Another opportunity for retirement walked in next to him.

“Three please,” the man in silk dress shirt said. No noticeable bulges or protrusions. Knuckles bore no scars. It would be a knife if he was going to retire Philip.

“Sure thing,” Philip pressed the button. The minute shift in weight to bring his body forward would be the perfect opening for the man to drive a blade into the small of his back. Then as Philip gasped and clawed at the door he’d bring the blade back out and drive it into the base of his skull, giving it a final twist to scramble the brain stem. It would be quick and clean. Philip appreciated the simplicity of it. Philip leaned forward and the man in the silk shirt drew snub nosed .38. The barrel looked ugly, thick and bulbous. Integrally suppressed of course.

“You were a good agent Philip,” the man said as he brought the hammer back. “But we all have to retire someday.”

Philip turned to him, palms turned towards him and arms raised.

“I know. You’ll be a legend for this.” Philip said.

-

The door opened to the lobby. An Israeli spy whose entire career had been ruined by the invasion of Beirut got on and pressed the button to go to the penthouse. The smell of disinfectant told him that a retirement party had just happened. The hotel didn’t have a custodial staff. The guests were more then prepared to deal with any messes they made.

A Classy Ghost
Jul 21, 2003

this wine has a fantastic booquet


The Path from Pitios
667 words

Sevlin had been marching for several days and was now deep within the massive forest separating Pitios from the neighboring kingdoms. He had not come upon anyone else, which was not a surprise, but the path looked recently traveled nonetheless.

The trees lining the path no longer bore the expected green leaves but had rather taken on strange colors; fiery orange and midnight blue, regal reds and purples.

A figure was sitting at the side of the path ahead, where the road branched to either side. Sevlin relaxed his grip on the dagger concealed at his side once he saw it was a woman wearing an expensive silk robe, her raven hair piled high on her head and held by fine white bone. An odd place for a lone woman. Behind her, nestled amongst the kaleidoscopic vegetation, was a small cabin. The woman was tracing twisted shapes and whorls in the packed dirt of the path with her fingers.

She looked up and a smile touched her lips, which Sevlin did not return. She introduced herself as Cidra.

“What brings you here, traveller?” she asked.

“My king tasked me with finding out why the roads are now deserted,” replied Sevlin. “Ever since the leaves took on these mystifying colors, no merchants come to Pitios anymore, nor do our own return.”

“I see merchants pass by regularly. Although, I sometimes hear strange noises at night. Perhaps something living in the woods is taking them?”

“Perhaps. I intend to find out.” He bows. “Lady Cidra.”

Cidra looked down at the designs she had been tracing for a moment, then back into his eyes.

“Will you breakfast with me? It is so lonely out here.”

“What about the travellers you say are still passing by?”

“Merchants have no interest in speaking to a lone woman with no coin or goods to trade.”

Sevlin looked up, pensive, not bringing attention to the fine clothes she wore. A gentle gust of wind blew a twisting cloud of multicolored leaves past them. He decided he could spare a moment; it had been several hours since his last meal.

Sevlin unshouldered his pack and placed it in front of him, ten sat down cross-legged, Cidra’s odd art between them. The shapes strained his eyes. He motioned to the designs with his chin.

“These drawings, what do they represent?”

Cidra shrugged, “A type of fortune telling. Not very effective, but it whiles the time away.”

Sevlin considered this as the lady reached into the sack at her side and withdrew a loaf of bread; he took his own from his pack.

They ate their meal in silence, Cidra seeming to simply enjoy the company. Sevlin watched her continue drawing in the path. He did not like the way the patterns appeared to be shifting and announced it was time for him to move on.

“Before you go, Sir Sevlin, tell me this: if there is a beast in these woods, how do you expect to slay it? I see no sword at your side.”

Sevlin narrowed his eyes and looked directly into Cidra’s. “Lady Cidra, you seem convinced that a creature has been taking our merchants. What keeps you safe from this beast?”

There was a brief pause; their eyes locked. Cidra thrust her hand in the middle of the runes she had been tracing. The wind picked up and leaves were sent twirling through the air. Sevlin expected it. In one smooth movement he threw his dagger directly into Cidra’s heart. The enchantress was immediately killed.

Sevlin looked at Cidra’s corpse for a moment, wary of further spells, but none came. He did not bother checking the nearby woods, though he was convinced he would find the remains of the enchantress’ victims within. They seemed darker now, yet the sun was still out. A long, unnatural howl echoed in the distance. The hair on Sevlin’s arms stood up and he frowned, uncertain. Perhaps he would stay the night after all.

Quidthulhu
Dec 17, 2003

Stand down, men! It's only smooching!


Hippodermic Oath
978 words

I had double parked, and I was somewhat concerned that covering the “GENC” meant that only people named Emery would feel comfortable inquiring within, but really, I couldn’t worry about that. I half dismounted, half fell from my seat to the waiting asphalt below. I somehow managed to close the door and push the “lock” button on my keys from my prone position. My car beeped in response, assuring me that my collection of Counting Crows CD-R were, indeed, secure. I briefly weighed the benefit walking into the hospital would hold over dying where I lay in the street, but I hurt pretty much everywhere, so I dragged myself up. A loudspeaker on the door hissed banally: “Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson, the doctor will see you now. Mr. Johnson.”

The automatic doors “bing-bonged” behind me as I flopped onto the counter. I panted a greeting, fully drained from the extreme physical exertion of fifteen steps. Having introduced myself, I explained my symptoms: “Flu. Bad. Me. Sick is seen?” I clasped my hands in prayer, eagerly awaiting a response from my savior in powder green scrubs.

“Identification and proof of insurance,” she intonated, not looking up from her Reader’s Digest. My prostration was not enough to rouse in her the benevolence I so needed. O Nietzsche, how right you had been!

I fumbled with my wallet, dropped it, spent the better part of a year bending down and picking it up before finally placing it on the counter. I wanted to register (because I was dying), but I was having trouble finding the items she had requested. Finally, sweet success was mine. I held out my driver’s license and a Frozen Yogurt rewards card to her. “Help,” I croaked.

She sighed heavily and lowered her literary masterpiece. She then began to rouse a forgotten relic of Dell from its slumber. I thought maybe I should feel bad, since clearly my malady was greatly inconveniencing her two fifteen in the morning, but I also thought that the black squares were hot lava, and it was taking all of my mental facilities to keep my toes perched upon the two nearest white ones. “Are you a member, sir?”

I gripped the counter and nodded violently. “Since the Second Bush.”

She raised an eyebrow at me. “I’m sorry, sir?”

“2000, since 2000.”

She began to type, slower than any person has ever typed in the history of typing. This hospital had at least gone the distance for the very best in ergonomic mechanical keyboards 1993 could offer, and each click clack chunk drove the nails in my skull down a little further. I was beginning to miss the street in front of my car. “Lee?” she asked.

“Yes. Edward E. Like the general. No relation.”

She raised an eyebrow at me as she pressed a few more buttons. “History teachers, your parents?”

“Confederate holdouts. It’s ok, they’re both dead now.” I was looking forward to seeing them in about 20 minutes, I couldn’t wait to hear their opinions on Obama. “I would very much like to see a doctor, or an intravenous rehydration unit, if you please.”

“You’re in good hands, Mr. Lee.” I did not believe her, but she was motioning me to a chair with an arm handcuff so I stayed my complaints and fell into that. She pressed a button and my arm drowned in puff plastic. “Did you speak to anyone before coming to the hospital tonight?”

“I told my roommate to burn my porn if I died.” I poked at the Iron Maiden slowly destroying my bicep. “This hurts.”

She gently removed my hand. “Please don’t poke that. I meant at the hospital, sir.”

“I called the advice nurse and after describing my symptoms she prescribed chicken soup and bedrest.” I had prescribed “get right hosed, you quack,” but I left that part out. Florence Nightengale looked from the readout to her clipboard and clucked her tongue in response, so I inferred she was privy to that information already. I clucked my tongue too, because it seemed like fun. “This hurts,” I said, poking my arm again.

“All done now,” she said, rattling off some numbers that meant nothing to me. She shoved a thermometer beneath my tongue and pressed a button. Something beeped. “Thiff hurfs,” I said.

“You have quite a fever, Mr. Lee.” I silently thanked Our Benevolent Lord for the glory of modern medicine. “We’ll get you to see a doctor right away. Probably only twenty to thirty minutes from here.”

“Swell,” I said, the words freeing themselves from the bile in my throat.

“Have a seat in any available chair, if you please.”

I thanked her with my eyes and pushed myself out of the chair, making my way to a seat by the window via blood pressure machine, desk, wheelchair, and chair-I-am-not-sitting-in. The plastic was cool to the touch, but that was probably only because I had turned into Dr. Manhattan. There was a basketball game on television, two teams I did not follow who were exceptional at playing silently. The tint was broken and everything was green, or maybe everything was green. I took a breath but nothing came in, so I coughed, then picked up where I left off.

I exhaled and looked around. It was two forty now, and the waiting room was empty. I lay my head back and closed my eyes, letting the nausea and the aches and the splitting headache wash over me until they gave way to a nirvana that never came. I turned a card over and over in my head, calming my mind. Twenty more minutes.

From the front desk, the registration nurse spoke softly into a microphone, and her voice wrapped me like a blanket as consciousness slipped from me: “Mr. Johnson. Mr. Johnson, the doctor will see you now. Mr. Johnson.”

SadisTech
Jun 26, 2013

Clem.


Hitching Home
836 Words

Carl snapped awake as his head bounced off the window.

The guy behind the wheel glanced at him. He didn't smile, but the corners of his eyes creased up in the promise of one.

"Sorry about that. Few bumps in this road. They're gonna resurface it soon."

Carl rubbed his forehead. His whole head hurt and he felt fuzzy, like a thick wool blanket was caught between him and the world. He looked out the window. It was dark. The headlights only lit up the road ahead, white lines streaming at the car and disappearing under the hood like the tick of a metronome, or the beat of a heart. Scrubby grass flickered in and out of view.

It could have been any road, anywhere.

Carl realised he had no idea where he was. He shifted his weight slightly toward the door and turned to study the driver. The guy had long auburn hair and a neat beard. He was relaxed in his seat, one hand at the top of the wheel, the other resting on his thigh.

"I... uh... where'd you pick me up, again?"

"A ways back. You've been asleep for most of the trip so far. About time you woke up, we're gonna be there in a bit and you gotta be ready to meet the guy and decide where you're going."

"Look... I don't - what the hell happened to your forehead, man!?" Carl shrank even further back in his seat.

"Yeah, I'm a bit beat up. Don't worry about those scratches." The driver made as if to put a comforting hand on Carl's shoulder. It was torn and bloody. Carl jerked back and scrabbled for the door handle, his eyes fixed on the man.

"Whoa! Hey, hey, sorry. It's cool. You know me, man." The driver fixed Carl with a weary stare. "Don't you? I used to be pretty important to you when you were a kid."

"I... I know you. You aren't real."

"No. No, probably not. I mean, definitely not here. I'm an engram that was salvageable, so I'm here as a guide. As an interface." The driver began to slow the car. "Probably best we have this chat before we go on."

Carl raised a shaking hand and pushed it through his hair. Something about having hair felt wrong. "You gave me something, didn't you? I'm hopped up on some poo poo." He squeezed his eyes shut against the sting of panicked tears.

"You got drugs in your system, sure. How much do you remember, Carl?"

"No... nothing. Where is this? Where the hell am I going with you?" Carl pressed his forehead against the cool window glass. He tried to make out some shapes in the dark. There was nothing except threatening absence.

"We're going to the big crossroads down the way a bit. You gotta decide which road you're going to take from there." Carl tensed up as the driver reached for him again, but the man just gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze.

"How old are you, Carl?"

"... Dunno. Twenty, twenty-one?"

"You're ninety-six, buddy. For the past eight years you've functionally been a vegetable apart from occasionally spitting out a few disjointed memories from seventy years ago. Right now you've got a pipeline of nutrients and glial stem cells being piped into your cortical matrix. There's a firestorm of neurons rebuilding old synaptic connections and building a whole bunch of new ones inside your skull right now."

Carl stared at him for a second. "I got no loving idea what any of that means."

"Ha! That's cool, man. All you gotta know is that at this point in the process you're aware enough to get involved. I'm the machine doing most of the heavy lifting, but I want you to decide who you want to be. See, the person you were is long gone. Pretty much died a while back. So what you got right now is a basic framework of the kid you were and a few scattered bits and pieces. You remember Ella?"

"No."

"The kids?"

"No... yes. Sue? Sarah? I think... blonde with an S?"

"OK then. We'll dig up what we can, but it looks like we got a pretty blank slate. So we have a lot of work to do for the rest of this ride, and then you can head out."

Carl fell back into his seat and tried to decide how he was feeling. Still scared, mostly. But... I think... I think I want to be someone who rolls with the punches, if I get to pick. "Sure," he said. "Let's get moving, then." He laughed nervously. "Hey, you said I was meeting someone up ahead. Who is it?"

The driver glanced sideways at him as the car picked up speed.

"Oh." Carl looked out the window again, but this time he studied his reflection in the glass. He could imagine whatever shapes he wanted in the darkness behind it.

"I think... I'm going to like getting to know him."

kurona_bright
Mar 21, 2013


There's no way I'm going to submit in time. I'll try to have my story in by noon tomorrow HAHAHAHA SCREW MIDTERMS.

kurona_bright fucked around with this message at Feb 10, 2015 around 05:47

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Leading Projecting Developing Managing
910 Words.

Gregory Davyduke had been working with Cornelius Corp as lead project development manager for four years, and had been working with Ochotech as a corporate spy for six. Cornelius Corp was a relatively unguarded nest, focused on hatching more than keeping weasels away. All it took was Greg strolling in, complimenting their humble assortment of tech offerings, and handing them the resume his false identity had been supplied with. The alias's brilliance was vetted by some of Ochotech's most secluded shell corporations, all of which were run out of a single office building in Akron, Ohio.

In four years he'd been attentively noting, jotting, suggesting, reprimanding, and shaping the flow of Cornelius's progress. A well-timed setback here, a misjudgment of the market there, and the company was perpetually behind their competitors despite churning out an exceptional amount of valuable R&D. Greg performed astoundingly well, and it was not unusual for those working late and even the janitorial staff to overhear whispered conversations blunted by the soundproof glass of his office. Tonight, though, there was the staccato firing of piercing insults and profanity.

He slammed the phone down onto his desk in the thoroughly unsatisfying way cellphones filled that task. Ocho was buying Cornelius. Greg tried to trace the patterns of reason that upper management would've followed to reach this action. Were they not satisfied with the steady flow of leaked data? Did Greg not suppress Cornelius's market share enough? He'd done his job exactly as asked, he was certain. There was nothing that Cornelius's scientists dreamed of that wasn't faxed immediately to Ochotech's board. The whole skin lesion debacle caused by the proprietary plastic microstructure of Cornelius-branded milk bottles wasn't merely caused by Greg putting the gag on R&D's warnings, but the fire was fanned when he encouraged the CEO to double down on "User Error" as the culprit. He was good at what he did. If he was in the military, he'd be decorated.

He sat, picking up his phone and dropping it, waiting for that perfectly intimidating sound to end this train of thought. Was he too good? He had headhunted the best technicians and researchers he could, solely to keep them from straying into uncontrolled pastures. Keeping high value targets in Ochotech's sights was part of his mission, after all. He'd turned Cornelius into a holding cell for some of the brightest young material engineers around. And now they were cutting him out.

Greg had always known he was enough of a bastard to turn these situations in his favor. He'd landed his gig at Ochotech solely by being their window washer, courier and pest exterminator for a single week. He'd had everything he needed to burn the building to the ground, physically and in the eyes of the shareholders. And that was just on the first day. The next six were for making small talk with the secretaries, poking through the mail room, and making friends with the security chief. He'd compiled a list of every password, secret project and off-the-books affair both romantic and financial. He was the most dangerous window washer on Earth, and he'd taped his resume and references to the Ochotech CEO's penthouse view.

He slammed his palm down onto his phone, pulling his blow at the last second, fearing he'd pulverize some dust off of the Cornelius-branded case and risk damaging his lungs. What were his options? Would he beg to be re-assigned? Could he extract some last minute value out of Cornlius for himself? He'd spent so many years focusing on the presice value of each next step that he never built himself a gold plated escape hatch. He damned his short-sightedness. This wasn't just unfair, it was totally fair. He understood that their optimum move was to take parts of Cornelius that he'd lovingly cultivated. He should've been proud, and not just for spiteful reasons. Could he allow Ochotech to pull him out of Cornelius like a weed? He knew that his position as a wholly deniable entity would not give him the required leverage to warn Cornelius. They wouldn't be able to withstand a takeover with that sort of warning anyways. He opened up a text editor, and glared at the white hot emptiness of the page.

He hated doing this, it went against everything he'd dedicated himself to. It was long term thinking, which meant he would forego his turn and hope to be dealt a better hand at some undefined time. He knew that, given enough time, he could stack the deck. But he hated the idea of leaving his hands idle for so long. He typed up a form resignation. He printed out two copies. He signed one as Gregory Davyduke and one as his Cornelius alter-ego. He folded them into their respective envelopes. He dropped them into the mail tube, and as he finally heard a pneumatic thunk pleasing enough to signal the end of this turmoil, he sighed. He was now a free agent. He'd enjoy the time while he could.

It was far below his level of skill as a corporate spy to derive pleasure from simply using Cornelius Corp's computer for a few hours before he left that night, but he had resumes to print and applications to fill out. Three months later, an office building in Akron, Ohio would hire a groundskeeper, receptionist, and someone who could finally patch up all those holes in the roof.

Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

kurona_bright posted:

There's no way I'm going to submit in time. I'll try to have my story in by noon tomorrow.

This sorry excuse is 2% of an entry's length on its own you wimp.

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012

Whose kitty litter did I shit in?


Providence
(998 words)
Flash rule: ignorant

As a youth, I was chosen to represent my native Athens in the Olympic games. I have always been naturally swift,and nothing filled me with more joy and pride than the opportunity to compete in the games against runners from the other city-states. In order to prepare, I would run daily from the city into the outskirts where the fields were. One such day, I was approaching the crossroads where I saw a cloaked stranger standing at the corner. His hair was so wild it looked like a bird's nest and he was balancing on one leg with the aid of a staff. My head full of thoughts of grandeur and odes dedicated to my victory, I paid him no heed and kept running towards the crossroads. The moment I crossed him he tripped me with his staff, sending me flying towards the ground. I landed on the ground in a cloud of dust, my forehead, bruised and bleeding and my knees, scraped. The stranger laughed as I got up to dust myself up.

"Why did you do that?" I exclaimed. "You could've killed me!"

"But I didn't, did I?" he asked and smiled. His smugness infuriated me but I was too focused on my training to care. "Stranger, you best hope that our paths never cross, lest I break your staff over your head," I threatened him. Before I could take off, he blocked my path with his staff.

"Now hold on, son," he told me, "before I let you cross, you have to pay my toll."

"What toll?" I asked, exasperated.

"My toll," he responded as if it were blatantly obvious.

"You don't own these crossroads!"

"I most certainly do," he told me and held his staff over his shoulders, "for all crossroads belong to me."

"Even if I had the coin, I still wouldn't pay you!"

"Well that's too bad, you can't cross. Unless..."

"Unless what?"

"See that olive tree?" he asked and pointed towards it. "If you can pass it before I do, then I will never bother again."

"You swear to it?"

"By the River Styx," the stranger said and rose his right hand.

"And what if I lose?"

"You just worry about winning," he said and smiled again.

"I accept your terms then, stranger," I told him and crouched to the ground. The stranger delightedly threw his staff and cloak to the side and crouched next to me. "On your mark," I shouted, "get set...go!"

I took off from the ground and ran as fast as as I could while taking the longest strides possible. For a moment I was satisfied in the thought that I had beat my opponent until I glanced to my side and saw him sprinting effortlessly next to me, that same self-satisfied smile on his face. Enraged, I ducked my head down and exerted myself; sprinting faster and striding further than I have ever done before. My lungs burned, sweat flowed from every pore on my skin, the callouses on my feet burst bled. Unbearable pain, coursed through my body but it only motivated me further, such as the sting of the charioteer's whip motivates his horses.

Now as a youth, I could neither recognize nor reconcile the several peculiarities I had observed within the stranger, such as his behaviors, his odd phrasings, or why he stood vigil over the the crossroad in the first place. When I glanced upon him again, it finally dawned upon me why. His feet were no longer those of a human's but instead of a bird's--tough, banded skin with talons and feathers sticking out. His eyes were large and yellow and his pupils were focused like a hawk's. Hiis messy hair was now a headful of down. I was no longer in the presence of a human, but of a divine being. Too focused on finishing rest. I strained every facet of my body until I finally crossed the olive tree, screaming at the top of my lungs in anguish and pain.

As I collapsed down to my hands and knees, I felt the wind rush next to me. There he stood, his messenger bag to his side, his wide-brimmed hat over his brow, and his twin-snake staff in his hand. It was Hermes, Herald of the Gods.

"My Lord," I gasped, "Forgive me for my thoughtlessness and boorish behavior."

"Thessalos of Athens," he said and extended his hand, "rise, my son."

With obvious trepidation, I took the Herald's hand as he helped me stand up. "Rejoice, for divine providence smiles upon you today," he said and smiled warmly.

"Forgive me my Lord, but I confused," I said as I tried my best not to look into his hawk-like eyes.

"Son, I have spent far too long standing at the crossroads, demanding sport in exchange for coin as my toll," he told me. "Too many have instead compensated me in coin. You are the first in a very long time to accept my challenge! I have not had such amusement in a very, very long time!" he said with a booming laugh. I laughed along nervously and nodded.
He reached into his bag and drew a simple necklace, attached to it was a small feather pendant made of gold. "This is my token of appreciation," he said and handed it to me. "Wear this, and you will become the fastest human alive. But heed my words, Thessalos," he warned me. "For too many in your place and succumbed to hubris and destruction followed in their wake. Never forget that it is I, Hermes, Herald of the Gods, who has bestowed upon you the blessing of swiftness."

"I will do my best, my Lord," I said and bowed.

"Make me proud, son," he told me and tipped his hat at me before he disappeared in the blink of an eye. As I clasped the amulet in my hands, I knew at that moment that I was now destined for greatness.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

City of Delirium
813 words


Mai Siran, bounty hunter of the wastes, came to the city of Al Hadras on the wings of the storm. He came to the City of Delirium with a pouch that was heavy with jade, and he carried the severed head of his father Kel Siran in a leather bag on his worn bone saddlespike.

The caravans were clustered up round the Gate of Orphans in a peevish swarm of camels and men who looked like his father, and impatience, waiting for the assayers to finish inspecting them for proscribed things. Mai clopped past them to the guard cage, his camel’s hooves kicking up puffs of sand from the slate cobbles. The guard was Jek, an old man grown parched by the desert wind; Mai knew him and smiled, feeling sand grains drop off his skin.

Jek was sitting crosslegged in the guard cage, a man’s height above the ground, swaying on the long line that tied it to the crane above. He scowled down at Mai with hooked nose and hawkeye. “You are bold coming back so soon, Siran. The Caliph has a long memory, especially for Northern pigfuckers like you. You want I should call the lads, scalp you now and get it over with?” But he pulled the rope that dangled down from the crane, twice, and again, and the gate creaked open with a shower of windblown sand. Mai raised a hand as he passed.

Inside the clearing house it was stinking, ordered chaos; assayers scuttling from bale to bale, a fog of spices and powdered camel dung and smoke from the the alchemical lanterns hanging from the high domed roof. Mai shouldered the leather bag, pushed past a little dark-haired man with his strong arm elbow deep into a bag of curled black squiggles, saltfish from the smell, and strode up the worn stone stairs to the overseer Wasul.

Wasul, impassive, glanced sideways and down at Mai. He registered the bag and swiped his black eyes back to the cluttered clearing house floor with a shudder. “You are timely, Northerner. Someone comes here, asking of you, and you arrive. They are within.”

The door was behind him, already ajar, but Mai hesitated. Then he walked the few steps, pushed with two fingers. Inside the carpet-hung room, standing in dark robes, was his father, Kel Siran, gaunt eyes hot like a blacksmith’s forge.

“You piece of dung,”

Mai Siran, bounty hunter of the wastes, felt a pressure behind his eyes, felt a sneeze coming. He tried to stop it. It blundered and crashed its way past his nostrils in a puff of dust and sand-caked phlegm. He wiped his nose with the back of a stained gauntlet then launched himself, howling, at the man. His father fended him off and he cannoned into a pile of cushions, upsetting a brass tea service.

“Sneaking in to do your business, your filthy assassin’s business, you think I would not know? I, who read the forbidden words in the stars? Your childish—“

Mai scrabbled his feet under him and slammed his head into Kel’s belly, knocking him back against the wall. He wrenched his father’s curved, bone-handled belt knife out of its beaded sheath and slashed it across the man’s throat, closing his eyes against the spray of hot blood. Then he hurled himself backwards, grabbing the leather bag and stumbling out the open door, past Wasul, and out onto the streets of Al Hadras.

The guards at the palace of the Caliph did not question him as he passed, he supposed they must have been told he was coming. Waves of shivers were echoing up and down his body, and he had to steady himself on one of the pillars that lined the long hall of Presence. Then he stood up. He had one more thing to do, and he could rest. He strode down the black and white marble hall towards the distant masked figure that was the Caliph of Thirst. The prescribed fifteen paces short Mai stopped and knelt.

“Caliph, I have, it is done. The stain of my birth is removed. I bring you your guilt-price.” He reached into the sack, gripped the matted hair and pulled it out, letting the leather sack fall with a sodden thump to the floor. The Caliph was impassive. A moment passed, then another, and an intimation began to creep over Mai. He looked down, slowly, as though his gaze was descending the deepest of wells. The head he held was not that of his father, Kel Siran. It was the head of a stranger, a young man with sandy hair and the mere beginnings of a beard.

The Caliph pulled up his mask, revealing the bearded, black-eyed, hawk-nosed face of his father. “Guards, I speak the words of justice; take this man to the cell of reflection. He is addicted to the dustspice, I can see it in his eyes. We shall see how long he survives its absence.”

sebmojo fucked around with this message at Apr 29, 2015 around 11:32

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.




Until We Meet Again (770 words)


There is a soft metallic ting and the ground beneath Capa’s boots is suddenly gone. He rises, turns sideways, feels the air sucked up from his lungs as if he’s leapt into icy water. When he lands, he is still clutching the camera, his left hand a palsied vise. His leg feels strange and when he reaches for it his fingers come back wet.

He can hear someone shouting from the road in French. Le photographe est morte, le photographe est morte.

***

The convoy had been at a standstill for almost an hour.

“Why aren’t we moving?” Capa said.

The French colonel shrugged and took a long pull from his canteen.

Capa paced beside the jeep, pausing now and then to squint down the rutted road whenever the trucks farther along took a smattering of rifle fire. The sound reminded him of Bastille Day firecrackers.

He kicked at the front tire. “There won’t be any drat pictures left to take by the time we get there.”

He’d been in-country for two days with nothing to show for it. A few pictures of stooped farmers in their paddies. The military cemetery. He wondered if perhaps it was true what they said about him, that he’d never taken a better picture after Spain. A fraud, after all.

“I’m going up the road a little bit. Look for me when you get started again.”

The colonel shielded his eyes and called to him over the purr of idling engines. “Stay near the trucks.”

***

The ringing in Capa’s ears fades, gives way to the thrum of crickets and the distant thump of mortars. He has to take shallow breaths; he thinks his ribs must be broken. All he can see are trees against a bright blue sky.

So this is it, he thinks. Too late to turn back now.

***

He moved alongside the convoy, stopping to capture a few of the local auxiliaries sprawled out in their jeeps, cap bills pulled low, drowsy from the heat. They seemed oblivious to all the shelling.

A few meters ahead, the road split in two. He watched a French patrol to the left, picking their way through a field. He closed his eyes, and for a moment, when he opened them again, he thought he saw her at the junction, his Gerda, as if she were gliding just above the sawgrass. He could see the sunlight on her face.

People always used to ask about her, and he would tell the stories they wanted to hear. How they met, the view from their shared garret on the Seine, how every man that laid eyes on Gerda was instantly smitten—though he did not mention how jealous it made him.

When he’d left for Paris, she stayed in Madrid. He learned of her death through the newspaper, and after that people stopped asking their questions.

Capa blinked, and she was gone. A trick of the heat.

He shook his head and centered the French patrol in his viewfinder. He took a few shots, but already he hated them. The compositions were flat and weightless. They lacked a sense of purpose. There was a stretch of sloped ground where he could get some elevation, a better angle. He cut across the field, camera swaying from his neck like a pendulum bob. He took a half-step and heard the sound, almost like a shutter clicking.

***


When he tells the stories about Gerda, there is always one memory that he keeps to himself.

They are picnicking on Sainte-Marguerite. White bean tapenade and crusty bread and chilled rosé. Resinous balm of umbrella pines. Gerda is stretched out on the blanket, smiling with her eyes closed, basking in the sun like a tabby cat.

She is the most beautiful thing Capa has ever seen. He is taken with the sight, by the sudden clarity of it. “I wish I had my camera,” he says.

Gerda smiles, then laughs. She rolls over, stands up, kisses him. It lasts no longer than a second, but for him that kiss is a phonograph needle stuck in its groove. “I love you,” she says.

The train ride back to Paris from Cannes is a long one. They have the compartment all to themselves. Gerda is curled up on her seat beside him, resting her head against his shoulder.

Capa leans back and studies their reflection in the windowpane just as the car enters a little tunnel. He can smell the henna in Gerda’s hair. In the darkness, he drapes his arm around her and waits for the return of daylight.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

The Wizard
994 words

http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?...itle=The+Wizard

crabrock fucked around with this message at Dec 31, 2015 around 14:19

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011



SUBMISSIONS CLOSED

Toxxers better get in soon or you're out of :tenbux:

contagonist
Jul 21, 2014

You shouldn't be doing anything with fluorine.

ok what's the deal with

newtestleper
Oct 30, 2003


contagonist posted:

ok what's the deal with

http://forums.somethingawful.com/di...ct=3&topicid=17

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012

Whose kitty litter did I shit in?


Yo Muffin, I'll have a crit of your most recent story up by Monday, February 9th. This week's been qw-aaaa-zyyyyy

Benny the Snake fucked around with this message at Feb 9, 2015 around 08:07

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk

interprompt lizards are taking over the airways 150 words

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007

The turtle moves.


Fun Shoe

We demand flies!

Prompt: Lizards taking the airways

Words: 150


Jets screamed through the skies, delivering nuclear payloads to town after town. Nobody knew how simple monitor lizards learned how to operate military hardware, and nobody could stop them.

"This is but a taste of the hell we will unleash," said their leader, nestling comfortably beneath a sunlamp atop an old general's hat. He licked his eyes as he stared into the camera. "We demand total control. Obey us, and live. Disobey, and we shall make of your country ashes."

Some states surrendered immediately, and true to the generalizard's word they were spared annihilation, but they were immediately enslaved, forced to serve the lizards by creating magnificent terrariums with deliciously hot sunlamps and warm rocks to bask upon.

Other states were bolder, waging war against the reptilian threat. It ended poorly...

...for the humans.

None could stand against the lizards.

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012

Whose kitty litter did I shit in?


My long overdue crit of one of SurreptitiousMuffin's 'dome stories.

quote:

Hole in the wall
By SurreptitiousMuffin


Samantha danced the foxtrot with Death. I'd combine the two sentences with either a colon or an em dash His chipped enamel mask had broad tombstone teeth, and each eye was covered with dark mesh that echoed empty sockets. He wore a black cloak, perhaps a tad too billowy for dancing. Strands of curly black hair stuck out over the top, slick with sweat. He kept getting tangled in the cloak, unnecessary comma and other dancers kept stomping on the hem. His name was Morris. He apologised typo too much. It wasn't his fault. They had all been very lucky; the Lucky Hundred.

Each dancer wore a mask: devils, angels, pigs, rats. The band played rusted instruments in the corner, each man wearing as much of a shabby dark suit as could be salvaged. Their volume walked a razor-edged line: loud enough to drown out those outside the mansion, but not so loud as to alert them. Good description, really helps to set the scene of a weird dance party

Nothing could drown them out fully. The sickly, retching tones that shook the world, and shook Samantha down to her bones. They made her feel naked and watched; the low horns, the maddening bells, the pipes of bone that shrieked through every blighted hour of the night. You must have a real appreciation for music, because I can actually feel and hear the tones while reading them, good job Every morning she would awake with the pillow drenched in blood that had flowed openly from her ears and nose. Christ, that's good She didn't doubt the others were in the same state, though none would admit it. Dreadfully impolite. Such things make devils of men.

Her hair was falling out. Her skin was getting tight, pulling back around her perfect cheeks until her bones sawed against her skin when she tried to smile. Not around her belly though - That stayed plump and round. It ached every day, and the ache ate at her. They had begun the masquerades to keep their spirits up, but then the Lucky Hundred realised they liked life better with the masks on. They had survived The End, and it was only right that they celebrate.

No food for two months. Lord Benning, the fattest of them, was gone now. Hunger will do strange things to a man, or a group of them. The maid had refused to clean up the blood: she said what water remained was too precious. Morris had drawn a gun and forced her to clean. It wouldn't be proper to leave such a mess. Such impropriety makes devils of men. They had been very generous to let a serving girl in, and moreso to let her last this long. Little scrap of a thing. She'd vanished one night, and Morris had come to the next dance with his dark robe a little tighter around the belly.

Slow-and-slow-and-fast Why the italics? It seems a bit superfluous they danced together, his heels clicking on the ballroom floor. A pain flared in her shin. She stumbled, swore in a most unladylike fashion. Morris glared at her. He had kicked her. “You are in the wrong time,” he said, “it's 7/4, dearie. Try to keep up.”

It wasn't. It was 4/4. Anything different wouldn't be a foxtrot. The dancers came to a halt around them. The band stopped playing, and Samantha heard the unmistakable 7/4 played on low horns, maddening bells, and pipes of bone. The floor shook and danced without them. Morris put a hand to his mouth, then looked down at his feet, then gave a little shriek and ran from the room with his silly little cloak swirling behind him. The band resumed playing, louder now. A titanic groan filled the room. The movement of the floor was no illusion: it was warping, taking on new shapes beneath their feet. Samantha screamed as a mouth opened beside her foot, complete with wooden teeth and a wooden tongue. A nose followed, then eyes, then two fat cheeks. Lord Benning.

“SAVAGES,” it bawled, “BEASTS.”

Glass smashed. The grand mirror broke open, and on the wall behind it was the face of the serving girl. A million emotions ran across her face: little twitching ants beneath the skin. “PLEASE,” she said, “PLEASE GOD NO.” This is terrifically scary stuff

The ballroom was in uproar. The women screaming, the men screaming, the horrible faces screaming their last words over and over: scratched record souls locked in their final seconds.

More faces now: dozens, hundreds. In the floor, in the walls, leering down from the roof. Their features did the same rolling-eye twitching maniac dance. “WE DEMAND THE MOTHER,” they shrieked in unison, “WE DEMAND THE SON.”

Samantha ran. It was animal in its simplicity. Her mind fled, and her legs took over, steering her through the mansion’s twisting halls. The faces followed her, breaching alongside her, peppering her with little daggers of polished wood, mirror-glass, brass and gilt. “THE MOTHER,” said the faces, “WE DEMAND THE MOTHER MOTHER MOTHER.”

She came to a grand window, boarded up and covered with a lace curtain. Beside it was a box of tradesman’s tools. She pulled aside the curtain to see more faces. She snatched for a hammer, then smashed at the nearest face, tearing its nose away with a crrrrrack. Frenzied, screaming, she tore at the boards until each face was destroyed, and wan sunlight poured in.

Down on the mansion’s grounds stood a congregation. Some had been human, once. Twisted, skeletal forms with desperate eyes staring up at her. In amongst them were the angels. The real ones, as terrible as the Good Book promised. The things that traversed the earth long before the dominion of man. No beautiful men with golden hair. Those who sit in judgement another typo, with long slender limbs and gaping mouths. With the heads of beasts and the genitals of men. Seraphim, perhaps?

MOTHER.

The word shook her, less heard than felt. Something else shook her from the inside. She put a hand on her swollen stomach. Not a swollen belly like a poor boy in the street, but that of a mother-in-waiting. Impossible: there was no father she knew of. Not even Morris, with his groping hands and greedy eyes. She stood bloodied, hammer in hand, standing above the terrible throng of heaven. She wept at their beauty. A single tiny kick rocked her body. She sobbed, for an instant, she saw the world her son would usher in. The place that made painters awake screaming in the dead of night. The chosen kingdom, millions of years in the making.

She raised the hammer, then brought the iron claw down on her gut.

The Grand Host of Heaven howled from their many mouths. Their bodies twisted and jackknived. A crack of thunder came, and each creature covered its ears. Another crack and they were gone, leaving only the ragged skin-and-bone army of men in their wake. Samantha fell to her knees, and the final sleep took her.

I'm shocked, shocked and ashamed. Shocked in the thought of to what extent you as a person had to draw upon to evoke such horrific images and ashamed that I as a writer am unable to do so much as half of the same in mine. This was a dark, twisted story about birth and the end of the world--two themes I have attempted to address and failed to do so. Muffin, you are a talented writer. My only criticisms are your quirks, such as the typos I've observed and the curious choice of italicizing the first part of a sentence in the middle of the story which made it look out of place. Work on those and your writing will appear that much more cohesive and add to the overall immersion for the reader.

Juanito
Jan 20, 2004

I wasn't paying attention
to what you just said.

Can you repeat yourself
in a more interesting way?


Hell Gem

Cough
interprompt: Lizards taking over the airways
150 words.

James woke up, gasping for air.

He tried to clear his throat, but it didn't help. His chest felt tight, and he coughed to clear his throat. Nothing. He coughed harder. Nothing.

He sat up. He was having a hard time breathing. He felt something move in his chest. Was this fluttering? He felt more movement, and now it hurt. This wasn't fluttering, and he wasn't having heart palpitations.

He could feel something crawling. He threw himself off the bed, and into the bathroom, falling at the toilet. He jammed a finger into the back of his throat, and heaved. He felt something foreign at the back of his throat, and attempted to grab it with two fingers, and pull hard. His whole chest burned as he pulled and gagged. He yanked hard, and it came loose.

James looked at his fingers. He was holding a lizard tail, still twitching.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Benny the Snake posted:

My long overdue crit of one of SurreptitiousMuffin's 'dome stories.

quote:

the typos I've observed

British spelling.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014


Around 100 words.

This Cold-Blooded Generation

"And here's the Lizard Boys with their hit single, Amniotic Egg."

Joseph couldn't stand this new musical revolution. He was old fashioned - loved the stylings of Journey and Stix. That was good music. Not this instant gratification poo poo.

"Girl, I could eat you up like a fly," the radio played.

Joseph spit out the car window. Disgusting. This hook-up culture, hundreds of eggs found every day in dumpster. Such a waste of life.

He didn't hate lizards though. Some of his best friends were lizards. But this whole culture is dirty.

"I can't wait to internally fertilize you baby"

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002

aka sticklegs



Grimey Drawer

Maybe if muffin would learn to write like us Americans, he would truly hit the big time.

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011



Thunderdome Week 131 Results

There were problems this week. The biggest of those problems was the number of stories that presented a choice (sometimes in a very loose sense of the word) and then had the protagonist ignore it, with no compelling reason given why they should beyond "there was no reason not to," which is boring as hell. That said, here's the verdict.


Winner: Entenzahn (how talking heads get done RIGHT)

HMs: crabrock (nice take on a classic), LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE (some errors but forgiven for a good story)

DMs: ZeBourgeoisie (where to begin), Quidnose (did you read the prompt?), Screaming Idiot (what even happened), Capntastic (too boring; didn't read), Benny the Snake ("Forgive me my lord but I confused" and if you didn't rip this story off wholesale, you ripped off enough elements to somehow make everyone who read it think they'd heard it before)

Loser: leekster (I saw that you proofread better than last week, but that apparently didn't help entire sentences that made no sense)

DQ: Tayacan (editing is a good thing)


Crits...sometime. Have fun, Enten sucker

Echo Cian fucked around with this message at Feb 10, 2015 around 02:18

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Capntastic
Jan 13, 2005

A dog begins eating a dusty old coil of rope but there's a nail in it.

Fallen Rib

Pre-emptive in.

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