Pretty sure it was Cache Cab.
Huh. Genuinely sorry if that's a mistake. Who the hell was I thinking of? Somebody wrote terrible erotica, got mad then stormed off.
|# ? May 17, 2015 04:40|
|# ? Dec 6, 2022 07:17|
Somebody wrote terrible erotica, got mad then stormed off.
|# ? May 17, 2015 06:54|
|# ? May 17, 2015 07:10|
The C-word Out Of Space
Chester Bold, boy inventor, woke amidst the carnage in Lab 7C. All around him were bodies with clutching, disfigured limbs and horrified expressions on their faces. “Gosh,” he thought, and for a second it was all he could think, the words seeming to echo in his brain. For Chester, being unable to think more than one thought at a time was a rarity.
He could see Johnson, his security specialist and bodyguard, and Phillips, the 7C section director, sprawled amidst all the bodies. The place was a mess. It was as if some artist, of the type Chester never appreciated (for his mind was scientific, not artistic) had splattered red paint over the lab as if in some ideological protest against progress. But, Chester realized, that was not what had happened here. It’s The Experiment, he thought. It’s escaped.
Bold had always had a knack for inventing, and by the age of twelve had his own corporation and series of laboratories built deep underground, for secrecy. His ideas, admirers were saying, would keep America at the top, ahead of those Ruskies and other foreign powers. But for Chester, wireless toasters and holographic radios weren’t enough. He had always dreamed of creating life, the invention that itself could invent.
He had literally dreamed of it. He had seen, in chaotic slumbers, beautiful tentacles spiralling out from the center, a pulsing cube with bulging veins. It had spoken to him, but whenever he woke up he couldn’t remember what it had said. One night he had kept a notebook next to his bed, and struggled to write its message down through the morning fugue. “A CONSTANT SADNESS buggy like starwebs A PHANTOM PAIN,” read the hasty scribblings on the page, before his writing devolved into scratches so disordered that even Chester, with his reading level too high to even measure, could not make them out. Since that day he had been obsessed with talking to it with all his senses intact.
So he had built it, following genetic plans that his brain seemed to know instinctively. He had kept it a secret from anyone except for the workers in 7C; it was impossible to hide the fact that he was working on something, and their loyalty was such that they could be trusted absolutely. But when they asked him about it, he still downplayed its importance. “Just a side project for myself, just taking a break from the grind,” he said, and they let it go at that. If they noticed he would spend days in that room sometimes, they let that go too. Because Chester had already cured forty-five mortal diseases that year alone, and so he could do whatever he liked at this point.
He picked himself up off the floor, and began to follow the trail of death. Lab 7B, where his machines ripped viruses apart right down the spiral of their nucleic acids, neutered and lobotomized them and reassembled the pieces into lifesaving vaccines, traitors to virus-kind. The machines could probably be salvaged. The men who operated them could not. Lab 7A, where the bird-insect hybrids Bold had created to reality-check the punchline to a joke lived their short and painful lives. The Experiment may have seemed like mercy when it slaughtered them, but much less so for the men who tended them. Men, only men in Bold's laboratories. There had only ever been one woman or girl he trusted not to be a Ruskie spy or other deadly trap. That was Chester's sainted mother, Beatrice Bold. May she rest in peace.
Beyond Lab 7A was the foyer. Chester wondered if The Experiment could work the elevators. There was no other way to the surface or other levels, to blazes with fire codes, his labs were too deep for that anyway. He stepped into the foyer, where the question was answered. The Experiment was still there, floating obscenely over yet another corpse, yellow drool dripping from its horrific vertical mouth.
Chester's head suddenly felt like it was exploding with pain. His hands flew to his ears and he was surprised and relieved to find his skull intact. A voice, alien and yet familiar reached his mind without passing through his ears. “M-M-M-M-MOTHER?” Chester shook his head violently, denying everything in that voice. He was not its mother, never that. But the voice, the tiny part of it that was remotely human, that part was undeniably Beatrice's.
“FATHER, THEN,” said The Experiment. “YOU WENT TO GREAT LENGTHS TO SPEAK TO ME.”
“What,” started Chester, “What are you?”
“YOU KNOW WHAT I AM.”
“No,” said Chester. “No no no no no...”
“YOUR GREATEST FAILURE. FORTY FIVE MORTAL DISEASES CONQUERED, BUT ONE UNBOWED.”
Chester shook back and forth, still muttering denials.
“I KILLED THE ONLY HUMAN BEING YOU EVER CARED ABOUT OR EVER COULD.”
Chester stood up. The pain was no less than before, but he was past pain. He launched himself at The Experiment, his hands balled into clumsy fists. Its sharp tentacles shot out, impaling him through both shoulders and one thigh, suspending him feet above the floor.
“IN TIME, YOU MIGHT HAVE EVEN WON. THAT COULD NEVER BE ALLOWED.”
Chester's brain flared up in pain again, as if there were a crab inside it, pinching and tearing at his gray matter. The Experiment's thoughts began to invade his mind without even the medium of words between them, filling him with images of tumorous alien entities cannibalizing him from within, forcing him to play host to eating machines and doomed RNA computers running the distributed software of an artificial, alien, and implacably hostile intelligence.
Chester had but one solace in his final moments: knowledge that soon enough his heart would stop and the deadman switches he had long ago installed would activate. Atomic fire would cleanse this lab, destroying The Experiment if not the Elder Thing that it embodied. It would have to be enough.
|# ? May 17, 2015 07:12|
anime was right fucked around with this message at 05:55 on Oct 27, 2015
|# ? May 17, 2015 07:14|
The Art Lesson
After years of searching, Roberta Laksi stood before her sister’s murderer. She tried to imprint his outline into her brain, every crease, every wrinkle. He was seated at an easel facing the sun as it rose over the bay. He clutched a nub of charcoal in sharp bony fingers, using it to make thick, bold strokes on the page. In his left hand he held a rag which he used every so often to smudge and smooth in the image.
She watched him work in silence. He was nearly done. The sunlight glimmered from the corrugated siding of nearby factories by the time he seemed to be satisfied.
At last, he stood and acknowledged her for the first time. “Thank you,” he said, as he pocketed the charcoal. “It’s such a fleeting thing, you know, capturing the way the shadows fall in the early morning.” He continued to talk as she drew her gun, a revolver, awkward and heavy in her hands. “After that, the shadows almost disappear. There’s no light, no dark, no black and white, just gray.” She cocked the gun. “It’s dull, really. I can’t do anything with it after that point.”
She raised the pistol to a level in line with his wispy white head. “I just have one question,” she said. “Why did you do it?”
“Beg pardon?” the old man asked. He scratched under his chin.
“Why did you kill Leslie?”
“Hmm? I’m sorry, I don’t know who you’re...” He looked around, and his eyes fell on the drawing. “Oh!” He picked it up from the easel and turned it towards the light. “I’ve finished another one. It’s got some lovely contrast in it, don’t you think? I do love drawing here. It’s the perfect place to capture the sunrise.”
Roberta felt faint. Had she confronted the wrong man?
No. The aquiline nose and browline were unmistakable, if a bit sagged compared to how they appeared in the old photograph. And Sam had been adamant about this place: the old man came here every day to draw or paint, he said, as the fishing boats left the village. They had spent months together trying to track him down, scouring old travel documents, reading through file records abandoned in dusty government buildings, cross-referencing names and dates.
“Mr. Jackson?” she asked, hoping he would say no, hoping for anything at all but what came next.
The old man squinted at her. “Yes? I’m sorry, do I know you, girl? My memory’s not quite what it used to be, you know. You’ll have to be patient with me.”
Roberta shook her head. Jackson was staring down a revolver’s barrel, and instead of begging for his life he was playing the doddering old fool. She’d get no answers out of him.
The recoil came as a surprise. When she pulled the trigger the gun sprang from her hand. But where she expected to find a smoking revolver, she found instead a toy gun with a flag sticking out of the barrel. It read “Bang.”
“What?” Roberta croaked, breathless.
“Are you here for the art lesson, young Miss?”
Roberta thought of her sister. How she looked when she found her. Gray-blue skin, eyes bulging. A body slumped in a wheelchair, deep bruises on the neck. Frantic, Roberta scanned the ground for a wooden pallet, a piece of frame, anything besides a toy gun that she could use as a weapon.
Jackson frowned. “Things getting grayer now.” He bent down and pulled a charcoal engraving from his satchel, another depiction of the bay but with less contrast. In the middle ground, a woman held a gun with a flag sticking out. It read “Bang.”
Jackson turned to his stool beside the easel and slumped down on it. “Heard you were coming, Roberta. Sam is my best student. I’ll ask once more, are you here for the art lesson?”
“I’m here to get justice for Leslie.”
“Hmm. Can’t give you justice. Could sketch it though, while the lighting’s still good.”
“You took my sister from me!”
Jackson sat up with a start. “Took her? No, no. Borrowed her, maybe. If you’ll only stay for the lesson…”
Scanning the bony, effete old man, Roberta wondered if she needed a weapon at all. Perhaps she could exact justice with her bare hands.
“Everything exists somewhere,” Jackson began. “Nothing in the universe is created or destroyed. That includes art. You can’t depict what’s not real; you can only pull depictions from some reality, from the everything. And even then, art isn’t representational. It’s commutable. It’s a tunnel into the everything itself.” He bent down and rifled through his satchel. He grabbed an engraving and propped it on his knee.
Roberta had heard enough ranting. She stomped toward him, but hesitated when she focused on the engraving. It was Leslie. Not a representation, not charcoal. It was her sister, eyes alive, ascending a marble staircase. Walking.
Roberta shed one corrosive tear. It burned its way to her chin. “How?”
“I told you, I borrowed her. Liberated her from broken flesh in precisely the way she wanted,” said Jackson. “Pick the gun up, Roberta.”
As Roberta picked up the toy gun, Jackson began to sketch alterations to his depiction of her. She stuffed the flag back into the barrel, placed the gun inside her mouth and pulled the trigger. Then Jackson turned to the depiction of Leslie. With nimble strokes he placed Roberta there, arm in arm with her sister. Then he tucked the image under one arm, and stepped over the body beside him, casting no shadow upon it.
|# ? May 17, 2015 15:05|
Leaving it all Behind
Word Count: 999
Opening by Simplefish
There was an uncertainty in the wind that blew in over the prairies. Jack laughed, despite himself. Seventeen years and all that he had given her was a daughter; now, not even a home for that daughter to live in.
At least he hadn't taken away her mother. She did that herself upon news of the repossession. The owner-man hadn't sugar-coated his words. Jack could stand it, but Mary—it hurt so to say her name—hadn't sugar-coated her actions. She had decided that there was nothing left for her here now and with a small case of scant belongings rode with the bulldozer man back to the depot.
Hours later he was still in the same place but now the wind had roused a dust storm, and it rode in, rolled in as a great pyroclast or hurricane's wall. A broad cliff of dust, rising six stories high or more, Jack reckoned, but he'd never been to the city so it was hard to judge. He'd have to leave soon, he knew that. It was an era of selfishness, of inherited debts but lacking legacy. And surely his daughter would want to flee from it too. Perhaps she already had.
He turned to check. No, still there.
But land was a man's game, a male inheritance. You were born on your father's land, worked it, till you owned it yourself and died on it. Now the bank owned it, meaning several thousand investors owned an inch square of the acres each. What could a man do with a square inch of farm?
But it was no farm, not any more, just a great sandy landscape, featureless and barren. Not even a farmhouse now. He'd have to go West, find himself a—
But what was Jack looking for? A purpose? No, he had his daughter to live for, even if his wife didn't. A home? Well, home was where you laid your head, however much history a house had to make it a sad thing to lose, so it wasn't that either. No... find himself a—or was that it? find himself?
He smiled the thin smile of a cynic re-invigorated by the tantalising prospect of honest-to-God hope. Escape from fatalism in wrenching back control of one's own destiny was a heady, intoxicating prospect. Control was tempting, and Jack fell to its allure without a care for the outcome. His grin widened as he realised he'd literally thrown caution to the approaching easterly wind.
The path was clear. His grizzled jaw was set. He would head West to find himself—daughter in tow.
Jack and his fourteen-year-old daughter, Vera, were weeks on the road before the illness found him. They’d scraped by on Jack’s meager savings until he lucked into a position as a general handyman on a small traveling circus. The circus had just been closing up after their final performance in the small, dusty town of Goodluck, Oklahoma when Jack and Vera blew into town. The crowd ambled away, onlookers who looked so unaccustomed to smiling that even after the show finished they couldn’t stop and cracks showed in the dust that caked their faces. Jack spotted a broken axle on one of the wagons and fixed it. Ever since, Jack and Vera rode along with the circus.
Jack often sat with Vera in the rearmost wagon, watching the only land either of them had ever known disappear. Thunderstorms roamed the countryside and lightning flashed far away and Jack wished that one heavenly bolt would land where their goddamned old plot of land was and reduce it soot. Let the bankers squabble over that. But there was no resentment in Vera. She quickly grew impatient with watching the world recede and demand to be taken to the front to look out over all the wonders to come. Vera’s hope could not be diminished by the acts of men.
They’d gone on that way, heading West, biding their time, until Jack fell ill and couldn’t rise from bed. The management grew impatient and grumbled in deliberate earshot of Jack that they couldn’t afford to tow him along much longer.
Entire days passed in which Jack woke only to sip at water from the cup Vera tenderly held to his lips. Her tears fell into it and he tasted the salt of them but he could not raise his hand to wipe dry her cheeks. In his sleep he prayed only for Vera, not caring what happened to him as long as she were all right.
Suddenly, the management stopped coming by to grumble. Vera spent less time in the wagon. When she did, she had fresh fruit and meat and medicine. Jack grew stronger and when he was able, he asked her where she’d gotten these things. He feared that she’d borrowed and knew what happened when you had a debt you could not pay.
Vera only smiled coyly. She eased Jack to his feet and he realized the wagon wasn’t moving. The sounds of a crowd reached his ears. A show underway. Vera led Jack out of the wagon and pushed him in the direction of the audience. He staggered into the crowd and faced the stage.
Vera emerged on stage. She wore a pink ruffled dress that was vaguely Victorian and white leggings. She climbed a ladder to a waiting tightrope and took two careful, wobbling steps out onto the wire. Wind stirred her dress. The crowd gasped when she windmilled her arms and Jack felt his stomach lurch with fear and the last gasps of his illness. Vera winked at the audience and switched to one foot, balanced perfectly. She pranced backward across the tightrope, not a trace of wobbliness to her. Applause erupted and she bowed and disappeared behind the stage.
As the next act prepared, Jack found Vera in their wagon. “Where did you learn that?”
Vera only smiled and said, “Sometimes you take care of me, Daddy, and sometimes I take care of you.”
|# ? May 17, 2015 17:03|
The Fire and the Slave, 937 words
“He does smell quite bad, doesn't he?”
Those were the words that Clavius had heard the most often in the past few days. They weren't directed at him, no, but that didn't help much. He motioned for his slave to follow him, something he had done so often he could swear his wrist couldn't take it anymore. And as Clavius and Vicengo stepped outside the trader's mansion, the smell didn't stay far behind.
Clavius took a look another look at his bipedal property and saw those wide, watery bovine eyes staring back at him. While it could be argued that cows made for better company and were possessed with better fragrance, the eyes were what sparred Vicengo beatings. Can't really stay mad at the that clump of oily hair, skin and bones staring at you, not with those peepers of his.
Can't really sell him, either.
The slave market, mostly quiet in the light afternoon rain, was full living proof of that. All of them smelled better, a good part had the physique of born workers, and others were learned – all qualities that seemed to have evaded Clavius' walking wares.
As they walked down the market of flesh, Clavius' mind raced the streets back to a room in an inn. The relatively clean place contained all of his property – everything wasn't on his back or following behind. Namely, there was a good quality helmet, a fearsome looking suit of armor, a short sword in an unremarkable sheath, four throwing spears (Clavius got a discount) and a bundle of miscellaneous gear. Notably missing was a shield, something he’d desperately need to join the legion.
“Join the legion, boys, and I'll make sure you get the same tent. I know a good decanus in need of men,” Publius' uncle had said and later that night, in a somewhat sour smelling alley under full, ten somewhat tipsy friends swore to join the legion. All they needed was to buy their gear.
That was three days ago.
All Clavius needed was to get a shield. Unfortunately, that was where his money ran short with only one piece of property left to sell. Vicengo.
Vicengo was left to him by an uncle and a nuisance for most part, but still better than having no slaves. Clavius' friends, however, were much more important. The band was collected over the years, but the core started young, running in the streets, playing with toy swords, annoying traders, gawking at nobles' palanquins. Such childish pursuits were later replaced with running after girls, drinking young wine, throwing dice... Publius was the first one to get into any adventure, so he was, unsurprisingly, the one who initiated the whole legion idea. And then there was Marcus, who was rarely bested in any scrap, and Severus who was popular with the girls and actually good at writing...
Yet all those friends would march to glory without Clavius; thus he'd fail both his mates and himself. But if the alternative was selling his inheritance and traveling companion...
“Your slave stinks,” said a voice behind him. “But he’s got that wiry look.”
“I’ve noticed,” Clavius curtly replied without turning. The trip seemed pointless. Not only did no one want a dumb but sweet slave, Clavius wasn’t even sure he could go without Vicengo’s dogged presence.
“A denarius for him.”
Clavius looked now. He was a short, ugly man covered with small burns and scars. His left leg was warped and deformed, but his hands and arms were big and strong. To Clavius, he looked like the archetype of a Blacksmith.
“I’m not a slave trader,” Clavius replied.
The man grabbed Clavius’ shoulder with an iron grip. "You're walking through the slave market. Two denarii - I need a fool to man my bellows."
Two denarii would buy a cheap shield, and some good wine as well. But- "Sorry, he's afraid of fire. A smithy would terrify him."
The man cackled. "That's fine! I'll just beat him til he's more afraid of me than fire. Come on, what do you care?"
Clavius looked Vicengo in his sad, dumb eyes. The slave didn't understand the conversation. What did Clavius owe him? He was property, a nuisance and a burden. There would be no better deal than this - definitely no shield.
"I'm sorry," Clavius replied finally. "But he's not for sale."
The world froze, then burned. Clavius sweat and shook as the air become hotter than any inferno. It felt like he had been transported to the very center of a volcano, with sweltering heat at all sides. Besides himself, the whole had completely ceased to move.
Clavius looked towards the would-be buyer. The man had been replaced by a god of fire and molten metals, too bright to see. Instinctively, he recognized him: Vulcan, husband of Venus, god of fire and the forge. To Clavius, it felt like his eyes were being burned out of his sockets, even with his eyelids tightly closed.
"Mighty God..." Clavius whispered, falling to his knees. "Please, I meant no offense."
"And none was taken," said a voice of hot metal doused in water. "I... value fidelity highly. I enjoy seeing it in mortals."
Then He was gone, and Clavius shivered as the relatively cool air washed over him. His eyes still hurt, and his ears rang with the power of those few words. But he could feel the shield in his hands - warm and smooth, and lighter than air. Somehow, Clavius knew no blow would ever break it.
Vicengo simply stared with dull eyes as his master laughed and laughed until he cried.
|# ? May 17, 2015 18:27|
Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 19:20 on Dec 30, 2015
|# ? May 17, 2015 18:32|
The Princess Ball
“I told you, honey, tickets for the Princess Ball were too much. I couldn’t do it for you this year.” Eli dragged the razor down his neck, feeling the blade roughen on his cheek and knowing he’d have to put some lotion or something on it later. He sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“Okay!” he heard from the bedroom across the hall. “No Princess Ball, that’s okay. I’m just going to wear my dress, just in case though. Okay?”
Eli dropped his hand to the sink and squeezed his eyes shut, just for a second. He wondered how long it would take her to realize he wasn’t trying to surprise her.
“I really need you to change, honey. We’re going to dinner. I got you a present. I’ll give it to you when we get there. That’s all I have planned, I promise…” He left the last word in the air like a frustrated insect, unsure whether to keep buzzing or to land.
The bedroom was quiet.
He finished up his neck, wiped down his face, checked his teeth in the mirror, and tried on a face that was apologetic but with that hint of worn out frustration. It looked good. It looked serious. It looked exactly how he felt. He turned to the bedroom.
“Seriously, honey, you need to change out of that dress. I’m pretty sure they won’t have room in the cab for me, you, and the petticoats.”
“I’m not going unprepared, Eli,” his girlfriend shot back. The glitter on her cheeks made her eyes glow. “You promised me you’d take me to the ball for my twenty-fifth birthday. You’re not a great liar, you know.” She was still smiling a little, which was good. It was when she started smirking and clucking between those perfect teeth that he was in trouble. He could still swing this.
“Don’t you think I’m a little underdressed for a ball? I mean, it’s fine if you want to wear that out to the place, but I’m not going to put on riding pants or epaulets just to make you feel less ridiculous.” She huffed, eyebrows raised like warning flags but her tone still playful. “Did you just say I look ridiculous in my dress? The dress I stitched lovingly, with my own two hands—” “For three whole months, I know, I know,” he laughed. “You look gorgeous,” he said, and he put a hand on her twinkling cheek. “But you really should save it for when I can actually take you.”
The yellow streetlight through the cab window changed to a mint green, from the faux-gas lamps that decorated the restaurant. It was new, just opened. One of the ones with a celebrity chef’s name at the front, where you couldn’t be sure if they’d ever set foot in the door. He lingered in the cab after she’d gotten out, so she wouldn’t have to see the measly tip he thrust into the driver’s hand.
She huffed when the waiter seated them. “I’m not sure about this place.”
Eli groaned. “I know it’s not the Princess Ball, but everyone is talking about this place. It’s the place to be. I thought you’d like it. I had to book a table while it was still under construction.”
Her eyes jerked down the menu like a typewriter. “Can you even afford this food?” she asked.
“I’ve been saving. Not enough for the Ball but it’s not nothing.”
She pursed her lips. “They’d better be magic meatballs for twenty pounds,” she said.
“I’m sure they’re very good.” He scanned the right side of the menu for the cheapest price.
“I’ve already got all the magic balls I need,” she said.
He nodded, then snapped his eyes up and at her, glowing in her handmade dress next to the off-the-rack suits of the other guests. “What?” he asked, turning his attention to a crease he’d spotted on his cuff.
“Nothing,” she smirked. She closed the menu with a crack, swallowed up by the classical music humming from the speakers above their table. “Let’s go somewhere else,” she said.
“Are you joking?”
She pushed her chair back and strode past Eli, towards the door.
She walked the streets with surprising purpose as Eli struggled to keep up and talk to her at the same time. “Where are you going?” he asked, his heart sinking.
“Somewhere else,” was all she said for a while. Then, “how about here?”
Eli had been so preoccupied he hadn’t realised where they’d ended up. They were outside an average kebab shop, the sort you’d walk past a thousand times.
“This is where we first…”
“The usual?” she asked, pushing open the door, the warm air packed with meaty smells spilling out.
They took their food to go and both walked the same way together, not needing to discuss their route. Muscle memory found them going up to the hill in the nearby park. The same place they’d stayed up all night on their first date.
“I thought you’d be mad at me about the Princess Ball,” he admitted after they’d finished eating.
She laughed. “I’m sorry I let you get so worked up about it. But you should have known. All a Princess needs is her Prince anyhow.” She looked down at her dress. “I didn’t make this just to go out to a Ball, I made it to go out with you.”
They smiled. Eli flicked around on his phone, and dropped it to the grass as he stood up, slightly tinny pop music beginning to play.
“May I have this dance?” he asked her, holding out his hand.
The gentle night wind blew through the trees around them, but the phone’s speaker carried over the crinkling of the leaves. They just saw them swaying out of the corners of their eyes, neither one of them wanting to look away from one another, as they danced under the chandelier of stars.
|# ? May 17, 2015 19:13|
A week after she left, I tossed out all my denim and seceded from the Union.
I sent a letter to the lieutenant governor announcing my intent to peacefully and democratically free myself from the United States, but the envelope was returned marked “insufficient postage” in red block letters. Which wasn’t true; I even added an extra stamp, just to be sure.
The mailman told me that the US postal service doesn’t recognize hand-drawn stamps. Even ones that reflect the rich history and culture of Davelandia. I tried to argue with him, tried to make him see the error of his ways, but there was just no reasoning with him.
I asked him how it was that he couldn’t deliver my one letter, but he kept managing to bring me her mail even after she took back her maiden name and changed her forwarding address. Thick, glossy catalogs that smelled like perfume and offers for credit cards with exorbitant interest rates.
He didn’t make the rules, he said. He just delivered mail.
I shouted at him through the mail slot that he could forget about getting a tip come Christmas time. I wanted to make eye contact, show him I was serious, but all I could see was the tops of his socks and the hem of his khaki shorts.
He told me I hadn’t given him a tip the past two years anyway. Which was true. She had always handled that sort of thing.
So he had me there, and I may have overreacted. I may have told him that if he came back, I’d have two barrels of rock salt waiting for him. But the truth is that I didn’t care much if he stopped bringing me the mail. The only thing I ever got was bad news.
After he left, it was time to feed the bird. That was the other thing.
The bird was hers, too. Or, it had been. I thought about just letting him go, but he’s old, and his eyes are walled up by cataracts, and I figured he’d probably just get eaten by a hawk. It seemed cruel. So I take care of him, even though he’s ornery, and even though the first time I tried to feed him, he nipped me hard enough to break skin. Eventually I gave up and ordered a pair of those leather gloves that construction workers wear. We get along fine now, for the most part. In a way, I saw myself in that bird, broken down, but possessing a limitless desire to be free. I too wanted to escape my cage.
It was the day that I proudly flew my Davelandia flag that everything changed. I had sown it, inexpertly, so that my skin and blood became woven into the fabric. The design was crude, but still a stunning symbol of freedom: a skull crying tears of pain next to a powerful looking shotgun. The meaning was that I will shed tears for my lack of liberty, but still fight valiantly to reclaim it. It was because of this unapologetic symbol that they came for me.
The first to cross my threshold was a woman, looking prim and proper in a professional skirt and with her hair tied back. Despite her classy garb, I saw her immediately for what she was: an agent of the enemy. When I opened the door and let her inside, she immediately looked askance at my living quarters. (I believed that she was secretly impressed by my collection of founding father biographies. My intention to secede was, I believed, in the best tradition set down by heroes like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.)
“Mr. Davidson,” she said, “I represent the Aaron T. Beck institute, your local mental health facility. Your neighbours have been telling us that you’ve been acting strange lately. How would you describe your behaviour?”
“Incredibly rational,” I said, “if you consider that for all my life I’ve been living under an oppressive regime that taxes me exorbitantly and won’t even deliver my mail.”
“That’s right,” she said, consulting a notebook, “your problem with the post office. Mr. Davidson, you understand that they won’t deliver your letter because—,” and here I stopped listening.
“You can write in that goddamned notebook all you want,” I shouted, “but I refuse to submit to this Kafka-esque totalitarian oppression any longer! All I want is what God says I should have, the basic dignity of living the way I want to live! So you can call in your goons, your lackeys, your toadies, everyone who’s sold out to live in this slave state. I won’t budge an inch!”
“Interesting,” she said, her body language indicating that she was unnerved by this passionate outburst. “Is this the reason for that, uh, unique flag out there?”
“That flag is an artistic expression of my soul,” I said. “Did you know it’s made out of my skin and blood?”
“I see,” she said. “Mr. Davidson, I have some friends outside. They’re going to take you to a special place. You’ll be very happy there. It’s the finest treatment facility of its kind in the world.”
“The re-education gulags!” I yelled. “We fought a war against the commies for this poo poo and—,” but then I broke off because she was looking alarmed. “May I excuse myself?” I asked pleasantly. “I just need to get… something from the back room.”
“Mr. Davidson,” she said, “I’m calling my friends in.”
“This will just take a second,” I said, and without giving her a chance to protest I went into the back room.
There the caged bird was sitting beside the window. Levering the window open, I faced the cage towards it, and, crying, set the bird free. It flew outside immediately. “Your destiny is in your own talons now,” I told the vanishing silhouette.
Then I found Martha, the closest thing I had to a daughter. “Send in an army!” I shouted. “I’m ready!”
|# ? May 17, 2015 19:23|
The Monster in the Closet
833 words in collaboration with Jitzu_the_Monk
You grew up Mormon, but that’s not why you aren’t Mormon, is it? No, no. You smoke two packs a day and won’t drink anything unless it’s got caffeine or alcohol, but that’s not why you aren’t Mormon either. Get a grip on yourself, Jill. You can’t hide from your own mind. Hmm, you think it’s useless to ask unknowable questions like whether there’s a God, whether he’s married to another God, or whether given an eternity to grow after death all good people could achieve godhood. But all that pales before your true concerns. Denial doesn’t suit you, Jill. I will make you see.
Ah yes, now you’re staring it in the face. You aren’t Mormon because you’ve got a secret. It solves nothing to repress your own nature, Jill. No matter how much you try to block it from your mind, your secret stays with you. You hide it from family, from your colleagues at Harding Elementary, from anyone who might get close enough to find out that you’re a monster. Chapel is out of the question. You don’t need a community, nor the scrutiny that comes with it. Still, your heart betrays you. It cries out for a companion, someone who won’t judge. Maybe someone who could share in your…um…interests.
But vetting a companion is hard. Never forget that. You can’t get close to just anyone. Sure, your colleagues wander in and out of the teachers’ lounge, chit-chatting, trying to get to know their mysterious co-worker. But that doesn’t make them trustworthy. If they found out, it would be all over. You have to be discerning, Jill. Can’t just open your mouth and invite someone to the apartment, after all.
“Wanna hang out at my apartment after work?” Oh God. You just blurted it out. What have you done?
“Sure!” said Nuar.
Slipped up. Got too impulsive. Allowed your heart to steal away your good judgment. It’s wishful thinking. Yeah, Nuar used to team teach with you; she seemed open minded enough. But no. Jill, you need to get a hold of yourself. Nuar seems nice, I know you want this bad. But what if she saw…
“We’ll meet up in the parking garage. You can follow me back to my place.”
HALT THIS MADNESS.
Jill, let’s be reasonable. I feel for you, really I do. But what will Nuar think when she gets to your apartment and finds out what you really are? The world isn’t made for people like you. Oh God, JILL, what are you doing ?
Well, I have to admit it, Jill - I was wrong. I was wrong and you were right. Why did I EVER resist the monster inside you? Your parents tried to beat her out of you, but they couldn't kill her. She was always the strongest part of you, wasn't she? Yes, she was. Forever and in that very moment; A second heart, beating just within your breast, sending electric heatwaves into every corner of your body. You're hot to the touch! YOU'RE ON FIRE!!
"That was amazing."
There you go - right again, Jill.
"Mm-hmm," Nuar murmured, pressing her thigh against yours. You were right about her, too. I take back everything bad about I said about her when we taught together. About all those 'subconscious' glances I caught you sneaking. I thought it was the monster at work, yearning to sin and defile - I just didn't understand! Hence the nights we spent alone in our rooms, weeping for our contradictions... I'm sorry for all of them, and ashamed.
"Would you open the window?"
"Yeah, I'm hot too," she said, stretching away to lift the pane, her curves glistening with sweat. My goodness, Jill! You're absolutely shameless! Just taking her in like that... This monster is a bit of a rogue, isn't she? I can't deny that I'm coming to understand her charm - the subtle sway she's always had over you... and our body.
Nuar turned back and laid her hand on your neck. "This is... crazy," she said. "It never even crossed my mind that we'd..."
Hah hah, Jill. Very funny. Well, don't just lay there! Ask her if she wants a cup of tea! You've got to treat her properly if you want her for a companion, you know. YES - I'm saying we can keep her, but you'll have to do all the work! I will take on a purely advisory role.
"Mind if I smoke?"
That'll do, Jill.
"Only if I can have a drag," she said.
Nuar does have a rather sweet smile, after all, and she'll understand when I need to bitch about work stuff. I wonder what she'll bitch about. I find myself eager to understand her. I know what you're eager for... But do you see what we can do when we work together, Jill? You, me, and the monster inside? Don't worry, Jill. I have a plan for us. Who knows - perhaps one day we'll even let our monster out.
|# ? May 17, 2015 20:16|
Azari wanted nobody and anybody all at once.
He lived in a desert village, where it only rained twice a year and the nearest market was a day’s journey. Every day, the villagers had to sweep back the dunes of charred sand from where they had encroached overnight, flowing over the village walls and through the streets.
Every morning, Azari sat against the front wall of his hut and watched the village women beat and sweep and scatter the sand away with thick straw mats, while he loudly commented to anyone who would listen.
“That Neysa over there,” he’d say, “she’d make a fine wife were it not for that limp. How can a woman take care of a child when she can’t even stand up straight, I ask you? And Ori, you see her, so many spots on her chest and back. Too much time spent playing out in the sun, making kissy-faces at the other boys while the heat dried her skin out like an elephant’s hide. The sun makes wild beasts of them all…” On and on he went, about this woman’s palsy and this woman’s blemish, while constantly pounding a lump of clay in his hands, clay dredged from the bottom of the town’s massive well. Pounding and folding and crumpling.
Yet at night, inside his hut, he prayed to the gods to deliver to him the perfect wife. Azari saw what was left of his vitality disappearing little by little, and out of desperation, he prayed for companionship.
One night, as Azari finished his prayer, he felt a cold breath whisper against his ear. “I’m not a god,” he heard. “But I can help.”
The room suddenly became freezing cold, colder than Azari had ever imagined. Azari clasped his arms around his chest. “Who are you?” he shouted.
“Look,” the voice said. “There.”
Azari looked, then saw.
At the far end of his room was a circular column, a head taller than him and three feet wide. It was made of…something solid, whitish, almost clear but not quite. Azari reached out to touch it, then drew his hand back quickly from the chill it sent through his fingertips. “What is it?”
“Ice,” the voice said. “It won’t melt. Not without fire.”
“What am I supposed to do?” said Azari into the darkness.
“Use the fire to create her,” the voice said. “You are a sculptor at heart.”
Azari felt desert heat rush back into the room. He stood still, watching the column of ice.
Quickly, he grabbed a stick and ran out to one of the oil lanterns outside. He sheltered the burning twig as he re-entered his hut.
Carefully, he held the flame up to the side of the cylinder, and watched as a small patch of ice melted and dripped down the side.
Azari stopped. He thought he had heard something, like a muffled cry—but when he listened again, the wind fell voiceless upon his ears.
“Don’t worry. Let your hands guide you.”
Azari looked down at his hands and the flame, baffled. “Am I dreaming?” He asked the voice, but this time it did not respond. Azari was alone.
His brow furrowed with concentration as he held the flame to the ice. He heard another muffled cry, and this time he knew that the ice had made that sound. He hesitated, worried that he was hurting another being.
But there was no use in stopping now. Imagining the perfect woman, Azari started his work. He melted ice until a feminine face appeared. As he toiled, he felt as if he were crafting by instinct, like his hands had taken over all thought. Though the night wore on, Azari did not tire. He would not rest until he could share his bed with the perfect woman of his creation. Arms, torso, legs, and feet all took shape underneath the fire.
Azari finished his work as the first shafts of light peeked over the horizon and infiltrated his hut. For the first time, he could see his creation in the light of the hot desert sun.
He despaired. “She’s so ugly!” Azari exclaimed disgustedly as he examined the woman. Where he had expected a beautiful, feminine face, he instead found a face much too large with a thick snout to boot. The rest of the sculpted body followed, a larger figure that contradicted the thinner, yet vibrant, woman he had envisioned.
“Is she ugly?” The voice spoke on a cold gust that extinguished his flame.
“You lied to me!” Azari accused the voice. “How can this be the perfect woman?”
“She is your perfect woman because she is what your heart desired,” the voice said. “You think you want perfection, but such a thing cannot exist. Your heart desired more than beauty. You will soon realize this, and thank me.”
With a whirlwind of dust, the hot desert air chased away the cold. The woman’s flesh filled with color. She was alive.
Azari was speechless as the woman examined a clay lion he had sculpted. “Did you make this?” Her voice, though quiet, was the most beautiful sound Azari had ever heard.
She smiled and looked to Azari, her eyes like sapphires. “It’s wonderful. Do you think you could show me how you made it?”
He was stunned, and yet he felt complete, for now he had someone to share in the toil of his work. He would be lonely no longer, and that, he realized, was more important than anything else he could have wished for.
Under his breath, Azari thanked the ice spirit.
|# ? May 17, 2015 20:25|
Mummy Got Boned
Lizzie had a great smile, a cute rear end, and some really juicy organs. Most people couldn't tell how wet someone's insides were by sight, but Ram could. She had hella internal fluids, and he wanted to get all up in that. But first, he had to get through her cat.
Normally, a mummy would know to check for the signs of a cat: stray hairs on the shirt, a bit of cat dander in someone's smell. Why hadn't he picked any of that up? He was already in Lizzie's apartment; it was too late to run off now.
"You'd love Harmon. I've got allergies, but he's hypo-allergenic, so it doesn't even bother me. He's a little lonely, but I'd have to get him another cat like him or else I'd puff up so much," Lizzie said. She laughed and shook her head. "Oh, geez, sorry, too much information, I know."
Ram faked a sympathetic smile. "Wow, I…didn't know they could do that with cats."
"He's sleeping in kitchen anyway, don't worry about him. He's too shy to bother any of my friends. So, anyway, you were talking about river cruises?" she asked. She sat back down on the sofa facing Ram in his chair. Luckily for him, his rich skin made it hard for his cheeks to turn pale. If he had a complexion like Lizzie's, she might have wanted to ask him why he was nervous.
"It sounds really romantic, like the sort of thing you'd do in Europe. You've been there, right? I mean, you said you traveled internationally a lot, so I assume…"
"Oh, yeah. Most familiar with Greece personally, but lately I've been to France and England a lot," Ram said.
A bright chime cut the air between them and Lizzie dragged out her cell phone. She grimaced at Ram. "Sorry, it's my parents. Have to take this." She got up and walked into her bedroom, shutting the door behind her. Ram glanced over both shoulders, then got to his feet.
On the linoleum floor in a little cat bed, Harmon was sleeping. What was he going to do with it anyway? He could barely stand to touch a cat. If it woke up, he was going to have a snarling hellbeast trying to tear him apart, and it would make the entire business of trying to suck out someone's vital fluids all the more difficult.
It was asleep now, at least. If it stayed asleep, there would be no problem. He could suck Lizzie dry in her bedroom and it wouldn't know the difference, right?
As Ram turned to leave the kitchen, the floor creaked loudly. He glanced over his shoulder. Harmon stirred from his cat bed, looked up, and locked eyes with Ram.
“Oh my,” drawled the hairless cat in a voice like shifting sands and premium scented candles. “Mummy, I’m home.”
“Now look, cat,” said Ram. “There are like, billions of other humans you could be guarding. Can we, just this once, not make this a thing where you go into a protective fugue for the sake of some mortal who makes you poop in a box?”
“Why on Earth would I lay a claw on such a fine specimen?” said Harmon. He hopped out of his bed and sauntered toward Ram’s ankles. Ram backed out into the living room, stumbled backward onto the couch. Harmon was on him in an instant, purring lasciviously and kneading the mummy’s tummy like bread dough.
“Wow! He never acts like that with guests!” Lizzie was obviously done with her phone call. Ram was paralyzed by Harmon’s eyes, which were the color of a sunset caught in amber. There was something familiar there, something slightly more than feline.
“She can’t hear me, you know,” Harmon said. “I could help you suck her dry. For a price.” He licked his chops.
Realization clattered down through the aged workings of Ram’s brain like a ball in a Rube Goldberg machine. “Bast! No. Nope. Not playing your pervy games.” Ram tipped the cat onto the floor and turned to face Lizzie, whose hyper-cheery expression had clouded over.
“What the hell are you talking about, Ramie?” Lizzie said.
“Your cat is actually a nasty old goddess from, I mean, I guess I’m allergic after all! The allergens make me feel confused sometimes, haha, oh look, I forgot my antihistamines, guess I should be going,” Ram said as he edged subtly toward the door.
“You can’t be reacting to Harmon. It must be something in the apartment,” Lizzie said. “We could, could go to the coffee shop, maybe? And talk more about that river cruise?”
Ram balked, fumbled for a way out. He hadn’t really ever intended to spend much time talking to Lizzie. He wasn’t even sure if they really like-liked each other. Normally, things sort of progressed naturally to the whole slurping-internal-organs phase, and didn’t go any further than that. He supposed he could mummify her afterward, but that was a big commitment to someone he hardly knew.
“Listen, you unholy, undead piece of beautiful man-rear end,” Harmon said, winding between Ram’s legs. “You are going to take this girl out. You’re going to treat her like a pharaoh's wife. Then you are going to make an honest mummy of her, and have lots of satisfying sex in plain view of moi, or I will banish you to the underworld where you belong.”
Ram only half-heard the cat. He was too busy looking at Lizzie, imagining how lovely her high cheekbones would look once she was gaunt and dry and papery. And she seemed like the easy-going type, which would probably make things easier once he’d eaten her guts and bound her soul to the leftover husk of a body.
Yeah. He could totally see it working. Bast would have to be dealt with, but there was a well-connected psychopomp who owed him a favor. There were options.
He smiled at Lizzie. “You know, coffee sounds pretty great, actually.”
|# ? May 17, 2015 22:03|
Sole Survivor: Space Janitor
Word Count: 1,000
Survivor’s Log - Day 7
The escape pod’s reserves finally gave. Much as I’d love to stay curled up inside it, humming loudly and pretend that everything’s alright, I can’t ignore the fact that the food and water synthesisers are offline. I’ll have to file a complaint with BronzeCorp management for going with the “week’s requiem” model. Cheap bastards.
This planet’s atmosphere is breathable, and the pod’s scanners are detecting drinkable water within a ten-mile radius. Guess it’s time for me to put on my big-boy spaceman suit and go on a little expedition.
Expedition didn’t kill me. From what I’ve seen, there’s not much around that could. It’s just wide-open fields, far as the eye can see. With my luck there’s probably some airborne, flesh-eating parasite native to this planet, but I’ll plunge rolling and screaming off that bridge when I get to it.
No signs of other pods or survivors. Not a surprise, considering how sudden the attack was. If I hadn’t already been in the pod cleaning up the leftovers of the Captain’s bender the previous night, I probably would have blown up with the rest of the crew. I caught a glimpse of the enemy ship before the pod’s blast shields went up, and I bet everyone on that beauty’s crew is getting paid more in a month than I’ll ever make in a year.
Maybe I’ll look them up after I get back to civilization. Someone has to wipe down a dreadnought’s floors, after all.
Tripped over some debris. Even in miscellaneous pieces, it still has that signature BronzeCorp look to it. Hell, might be even prettier in pieces. No sign of our cargo, unfortunately. I figured that my hopes of being rescued might increase if I had something they actually gave a poo poo about. From what I saw of its security measures when I was mopping up the cargo bay after the weekly laser-limbo contest, the drat thing could probably get flung through a sun and come out a-okay. No idea what it does, but knowing my employer, it’ll probably end up causing a death toll higher than all four world wars combined. I can only hope they actually designed it to do that.
Decided to go back to the pod for shelter when night fell. Distress signal’s still broadcasting. Maybe I’ll be lucky.
Survivor’s Log - Day 8
gently caress. I saw the ship from before touching down on the planet, way off in the distance. Seems like they’re looking for something. Don’t think they’ll take any unsolicited job applicants too kindly. I clutch my trusty mop to my chest.
I’m going to look for the missing cargo. With luck, it’ll be drugs.
Survivor’s Log - Day 10
It wasn’t drugs. Dictating this from inside someone’s shed, I think.
Found the missing cargo half a klik from the pod. It’s a sorta spider-like robot and well-armed. Thought it would shoot me, but it recognized me as the last BronzeCorp survivor. That meant I got some kind of access. Just my luck, the guns didn’t work.
I learned that when the aliens caught me. Spiderbot’s all jammed with sand. It’s just lucky that these guys have ideas about hospitality and didn’t get that I wanted to blow them up. I’m hoping their ideas aren’t like the other guys’.
The aliens are kinda humanoid. They stay wrapped up in cloth, so I haven’t gotten a great look at them. They’re all taller than I am… Can’t understand them, either. I guess I’m the alien.
Brought my mop along with Spiderbot. Spiderbot doesn’t take up much space; it’s on the ceiling. Lucky the shed is all stone. There’s a cot in here for me, some crates, brooms, tools. Everything’s miserably dusty, like every other building I saw on the way in. The locals left a few little idols in here. One of them has a mop, too.
Food here gives me the trots. More later.
Survivor’s Log - Day 12
I’m now the special kind of guest, the type who can’t leave. If I step outside, my hosts shoo me back indoors. They’re probably figuring out what to do with me. I don’t know that I want to be around when they decide.
I don’t know if the distress signal’s still on. Being here is better than starving or meeting the crew from the enemy ship. I’d kill for a satellite uplink, though. Maybe I’ll go native, make half-alien children…
The sand is in everything. It’s killing me -- I swept this morning and it’s back already, fine like the powder on a donut. Maybe I can teach Spiderbot how to sweep. It has enough legs.
Survivor’s Log - Day 13
Spiderbot can sweep with six legs. When I explained, the bot came down. I tied some brooms to its legs and told it to do what I did. We had seven brooms, but Spiderbot broke one. Good thing the windows have no glass.
One of the locals came in while we were cleaning, but ran off. I think we scared him. Or her. Zie? Wish I knew something about anthropology.
Survivor’s Log - Day 14
They threw a party for us. One of them kept kinda gesturing at me so I figured that they wanted to see Spiderbot sweep. I ordered Spiderbot to clear out the pavilion with me. We piled up dust everywhere, but with a little sweat, we uncovered it--a huge mosaic of those idols. These guys went nuts like they’d won the Galactic Cup.
Then the enemy crew arrived. I don’t know if it was just bad luck or something else. I thought we were all dead: me, Sweeperbot, the locals--so I told Sweeperbot to sweep the poo poo out of the bastards.
Don’t know where they are now, but they’re not here and that’s what matters.
I think the locals sent their own expedition to drag my pod back. I hope the signal’s still working.
|# ? May 17, 2015 22:08|
“Good luck with the demo, mushroom girl,” Fred said. “Let me know when you’re done. I might be a bit slow getting back, though.” He gave Elle a peck on the cheek after she came out from under the table.
“I hope the grievance thing goes well,” she said, then blushed. She wanted to pretend it was from carrying tubs of mushrooms all across the farmer’s market. If Fred asked why she was so red, she would’ve been hard pressed to lie.
The indoor market was holding a demo, but Elle wasn’t participating. It was such a stupid thing to lie about. She dusted off her knees instead of giving in to the urge to babble.
“The teamsters’ work is never done… Sorry I couldn’t stay.” Fred kissed her nose and left.
With Fred out of the picture, Elle had one last chance to find the wedding band before the winter market building closed for renovations. The ring had vanished between set up and tear down at last week’s market. She had only discovered its disappearance when she had been about to propose to him.
Elle rushed to finish arranging her display. Her customary neighbor arrived just as she settled her cash box on her table.
“Ready for me?” Arlene asked. She sold goat milk soap, so she wasn’t a real competitor. They watched each other’s stands for coffee runs.
“Thank you so much,” Elle gushed. She didn’t want to insult Arlene, but -- what if Elle had to look for hours before finding it? She wasn’t sure how far she could trust Arlene not to pocket some of her sales.
“Oh, I’ve got Davey checking the parking lot, too.”
“Here’s my number if he finds it, just text me,” Elle said. “I’ll be back soon!”
“Good luck.” Arlene gave her two thumbs up, then lit up at the approach of a potential buyer.
Elle had already searched all around the stall while Fred had unloaded the bins. She retraced her steps but found nothing. The ring must have rolled a good ways away. She hadn’t let anyone else know about the ring. First, jerks might find it first, and second, she didn't want Fred to know. If he found out, her failure would prove that she was ditzy and unreliable.
She ignored the looks from patrons and vendors as she crawled around the floor. The ancient wood floor was riven with deep cracks. They'd collected a good deal of filth and coins over the years. A dollar coin should have been lucky, but today Elle only cursed.
"Not happy to see me?" The market coordinator startled Elle. She squinted at the staffer’s nametag.
"Uh, sorry, Amy," she said. "I'm a little busy right now--"
"I just need last month's rent check from you guys. Arlene didn't see it in your cash box. What are you doing? That's a real safety hazard, y'know."
"Oh, uh, I saw this coin in the cracks? Anyway, yeah, the rent wasn't in the box? I'll check again; maybe it's in the car? I'll get it to you by the end of the day," Elle said all in a rush. The rent wasn't in the car or the cash box. She had drained her account buying the ring and was counting on paying the rent out of today's profits.
"Ok, just make sure you get it to me today or you'll lose your booth!" Amy said, walking off to the baker's stall.
drat. Elle chewed her lip as she thought. If she didn't start selling, she wouldn't make rent--and all those unsold mushrooms would rot before the next market day. But the ring! It had to be somewhere. She could tell Arlene, ask her to help look, but what would Arlene think? She might not trust her to watch the soap stall any more, knowing she lost something that important.
"I'll do it all myself, then," she muttered to herself. Sell as many mushrooms as possible, but get Arlene to watch the stall occasionally while she searched for the ring. She'd have to make up some excuse about the breaks; maybe an upset stomach? After a final fruitless peek behind a trash can, Elle sighed and went back to her stall.
Elle dropped heavily into her chair. The market was closing in 15 minutes. She had a sore back, sore knees, and a stress headache the size of a Volkswagen. She checked the cash box. Enough to pay rent and a little more. But no ring. Her eyes stung with hot frustration at her failure; she'd just have to take the loss and start saving up for another ring, get married later.
Amy the coordinator was back. "Hey Elle, you find that check? You look really stressed, by the way--bad sales?"
Elle handed over a roll of cash by way of reply. Her voice was slightly hoarse as she explained, "No, I just -- I lost the engagement ring I bought for my boyfriend. I looked all day but I couldn't find it and I can't tell him I lost it, he'd think I'm a idiot."
With a slightly puzzled look, Amy replied, "Why didn't you ask me if anyone had found it? Somebody turned in a ring this morning--here, it's in my bag."
Amy fished out a plain gold ring and handed it to Elle, who accepted it with a slightly shaking hand.
"Y-Yes. That's it! Thank you, I can't believe someone turned it in! I figured whoever found it would keep it," Elle said.
"Don't underestimate people! Most of them are good, deep down. See you in a few weeks, and congratulations on the engagement!" Amy gave a wave as she headed for the door.
Elle looked down at the ring in her hand. Her ring had been thinner and paler, a little 14k band. This one was thicker, heavier. It's ok, she told herself. Now Fred won't think she's unreliable. He'll be impressed that she could get such a good ring.
|# ? May 17, 2015 22:14|
“OK, I know what your answer’s going to be, but I need to ask anyway – we’re about one light year out, and if you’re at all having second thoughts about this, now’d be a good time to turn back. Seriously, we can just turn this thing around and go home.”
Hork didn’t answer immediately. He pulled at his clingy silver spacesuit, which was always getting bunched up in his cloaca, and turned his huge snout towards his little grey companion. “I know this is probably a dumb idea, Iggzorp. It’s been tens of millions of years. I know it’s not the same world I’ll be coming back to. But something is calling me back to my home planet – sometimes, I just wonder what it would have been like if you guys had never come and taken me away, if I’d never become an intergalactic hero, you know? Like, what if you guys had picked some other dinosaur?”
Iggzorp shrugged. “Is that really a question? If you didn’t get some gross disease or die of old age — which, still: weirdest concept, just cannot get my head around that — I’m pretty sure that meteor would’ve sorted you out.”
“The Meteor.” Hork looked out the window at the pulsating colors of hyperspace. “Even now, when I think of my entire kind, wiped out in the blink of an eye, victims of some ancient trajectory—”
“Well, not your entire kind, Hork — remember birds?”
“Yeah, but those things are gross. None of the good dinosaurs made it, is what I’m saying.”
“Listen to yourself, man: none of the good dinosaurs made it. Seriously, the Earth’s really different these days. There’s this whole mammal infestation, and they’re pretty much in charge as far as we’ve been able to tell.”
“You have got to be kidding. Mammals?”
“Look, it’s like I’ve been trying to tell you. Things change a lot in 65 million years. You can’t go home again.”
“Pfff. That sounds like mammal talk.”
“Come on. How many adventures have we been on, Hork? You trust me, right? I’m telling you, this is a bad idea. We can visit a different planet. How about Mars? That’s a good planet, and it’s basically the same thing — whaddya say?”
“No, Iggzorp. We’ve come all this way, it’s gotta be Earth. But I’ll make you a deal. All I want is to slay something reasonably sized, sauropod-esque, feel its flesh come apart in my teeth, just for old time’s sake, and then we can go home. We don’t even have to take the carcass with us.”
With a colossal shudder the spaceship dropped out of hyperspace, and the giant blue Earth loomed in the viewport. Hork’s breath caught in his cavernous chest.
Iggzorp scanned the controls. “I want to go on record as saying this is a bad, very possibly the worst, idea.”
“Noted.” Hork tapped a claw against the viewport. “Put us down there.”
“Where? There’s no land.”
Hork looked at the viewport again. The screen was entirely blue.
“Pick a spot. We’ll hover.”
Iggzorp pressed another button, and the ship punched through the Earth’s atmosphere, descending until they were twenty feet in the air.
Below the ship’s underside was nothing but calm ripples, far off into the distance, until blue horizon met blue waves.
“This is odd,” said Iggzorp. “The readout said that this planet was dominated by—“
All at once, the water parted under their ship in a spray of white. A large and lengthy whale-like creature poked its bulbous head above the water and let out a loud, guttural moan. The ship’s language resonators automatically translated the sound into intelligible speech:
“What’s all this there then?”
Iggzorp spoke. “Greetings, being. Is there any land near here?” As Iggzorp spoke into the ship’s microphone, the language resonators transmitted a low, wavering tone back to the creature below.
“Not that I know-how,” said the sea-creature. “No two-legged whitemeats around.”
Iggzorp paused. “You mean homo sapiens?”
“Homeless statins? Yeah, they all went under a couple million years ago. Chlora-flora this and Ozone Slayer that. Good riddance for bad stomachs. Anyway, my name’s Oao. What can I do?”
“You sure there’s no land left?” said Hork into the resonator.
“Hork, I think we should leave,” Iggzorp said.
“Not as far as eyes can—wait, you said Hork?” said Oao.
Hork paused. “Uh…yes?”
“Hork!” Below them, the creature rolled over on its back and let out a series of choked grunts that ran through the resonator and transformed into high-pitched laughter. “The Hork! Hork-Hork! We still tell stories about you! Back from the mossysaurus days!”
Hork’s eyes lit up, and his mouth opened in a shocked smile. “Really? The mosasaurs kept telling each other about me?
“No kiddin’!” said Oao. “Usually it’s the ocean or the ground that swallows you scaleheads up, not every day that the sky does. ‘Course, we all thought you left ‘cause o’ that whole Archaeopteryx thing.”
Iggzorp looked at Hork. “Archaeopteryx thing?”
Hork stopped smiling. “Iggzorp, turn off the resonator.”
They both heard Oao burst out laughing again. “A foot-tall bird—probably coulda fit between his toes—and he runs away flapping his dumb arms and making this squealing noise like—oh boy—“ Oao gasped for breath as he laughed. “My great-great-greater-than-great uncle said he was diving down near the ocean floor and he still heard it—said he never believed that noise came from a—ahahahahaha—“
Without a word, Hork reached over with a forelimb and hit the rear thrusters. The swirling colors of hyperspace streamed past the ship’s windows as Hork leaned back in his seat, staring at the ceiling. He couldn’t look at his co-pilot.
“You bit chunks out of spaceships,” said Iggzorp, blinking his dark eyes in disbelief. “You swallowed seventeen Glavorxes whole.”
“Shut your mandibles, Iggzorp.”
“That reminds me—didn’t you say you wanted to slay something? We can go back—“
“Leave it,” said Hork. “I’ve lost my appetite.”
|# ? May 18, 2015 01:53|
It was at this very moment that Jay O realized, somehow, her eyes had breezed right over the actual prompt part of the week not related to the halfsies or wordcount part.
The "lighthearted fun stories only" part. Somehow, hadn't even noticed. Until literally an hour before the deadline.
WHOOPS. Sorry, Schneider Heim.
|# ? May 18, 2015 02:52|
Violet was outrageously excited. She’d missed being able to dance at gigs while she’d been temporarily wheelchair-bound. Although Bowie had been a pretty fantastic experience, gigs like that with decent wheelchair access direct to the stage had been firmly in the minority. It was highly fortunate that the Taylor Swift tour had coincided with her being able to ditch the wheelchair, although her mother hadn’t been totally confident about letting her go by herself, so she’d convinced her older brother, Paul, to come with her. It was gonna be so ace.
Paul had asked how she could possibly hate Katy Perry so much and yet want to go to a Taylor Swift gig, which was just crazy because while Katy was just the worst, TayTay was amazing and the best and she and Violet were totally gonna be BFFs once they somehow met backstage or something. And Paul had rolled his eyes at this point, and Violet had punched him a bunch of times.
Which was all beside the point now that they were in the arena watching the warm up singer. The warm up singer was pretty forgettable, so Violet decided to take the opportunity to go to the toilet. “You don’t need me to wait outside for you, do you?” asked Paul.
“Outside?” asked Violet. “You’re not gonna come in with me?”
“Uh,” said Paul.
Violet shook her head. “I’m fine. Mum worries too much. Just stay here and enjoy the mediocre stylings of whoever this is.”
On her way back from the toilet, Violet stopped for a moment outside an important looking door. Maybe it was the door to TayTay’s dressing room, which seemed unlikely given its location – in fact it seemed more likely it was a maintenance closet – but you never know, right?
“So, we’re all clear on the plan, right?” said a man’s voice.
“Yes, shut up all right, we’ve all got it,” said another man’s voice. Violet, deciding that this conversation was probably more interesting than the boring warm up act, opened the door slightly and peered in.
“I just want to go over it one more time,” said the first voice, which was attached to a short man with a beard, who Violet named Rolf in her head.
A taller man with no beard, (Fritz, decided Violet) which appeared to be the second voice, said “Is this really necessary?”
“Kidnapping is hard,” said Rolf. “If we want to successfully kidnap TayTay, everyone needs to know their role.”
Violet closed the door again. She would need to get backup if she wanted to foil a kidnapping and become TayTay’s BFF. She headed back to where Paul was.
“Paul! Paul!” Violet exclaimed, getting dirty looks from a couple of tasteless nerds who were trying to actually listen to the warm-up singer. “Two guys are planning to kidnap TayTay! Everything is horrible and we need to save her!”
“Right.” Paul sighed and rolled his eyes again, and Violet would have punched him for it but she wasn’t going to waste her energy now that TayTay’s life was at stake. “Look, Violet, someone that rich has gotta have top-notch security, right? Even if someone was crazy enough to try, we’d just get in the way of the guys who’re being paid to protect her.”
“I guess Mom was right about you coming here by yourself. You’re staying right here, Violet, and I’m saying that as your older brother. No arguments.”
“Okay.” Violet deflated, but her mind still raced to try and figure out a way to get out from her brother’s supervision and save the day. She couldn’t just abandon TayTay in her time of need! Unfortunately, however much of a dork Paul was, she couldn’t stop him once he got his mind set on something. He watched Violet like a furious pigeon until TayTay’s performance was about to start. It was too late!
All of Violet’s fears washed away as the lights dimmed and TayTay strode triumphantly onto the stage, exploding right into her first song of the night. Violet cheered loudly enough to make Paul’s ears ring, and she was so caught up in the excitement that she didn’t notice the two familiar-looking security guards on either side of the stage.
The concert proceeded as awesomely as Violet thought it would, and she cheered along with everyone else as the stage was suddenly flooded with a thick smoke. She stopped cheering when the smoke filled the, causing everyone to break down into coughing fits. Violet panicked as she remembered the ominous conversation she heard before the concert, and fought through the crowd and the smoke in order to get up closer to TayTay. No one stopped her as she climbed up onto the stage, and she could see a famous-looking guy in a suit pointing a tiny pistol at TayTay! “You wouldn’t take me back, Taylor!” The man screamed, his voice cracking. “But now, I will take you back!” Off to the side, Fritz and Rolf were busy fighting off the security. No one was there to help TayTay!
It took Violet only an instant to make up her mind. Screaming the most fearsome battlecry a teenaged fangirl can muster, she charged at the ex and socked him right in the face. He fell to the ground with a whimper, dropping the gun, and Violet stood triumphantly above him. “You’ll never win! You know why?” She exchanged a look with TayTay, who nodded.
Together, they sang “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, right in the ex’s sobbing face while the crowd cheered their names.
After the performance, Violet turned to her idol. “Ohmigod TayTay I’m your biggest fan and I totally just saved you and we should hang out all the time can I have a backstage pass?” Violet said, then gasped for breath. TayTay smiled.
“I’ve got a blank space, baby,” She said, clicking a pen, “and I’ll write your name.”
|# ? May 18, 2015 02:53|
It was at this very moment that Jay O realized, somehow, her eyes had breezed right over the actual prompt part of the week not related to the halfsies or wordcount part.
POST IT ANYWAY
|# ? May 18, 2015 02:54|
It was at this very moment that Jay O realized, somehow, her eyes had breezed right over the actual prompt part of the week not related to the halfsies or wordcount part.
500 words in an hour is loving simple, especially fun ones.
|# ? May 18, 2015 02:57|
Opening by Something Else
Paxton was overjoyed stepping onto the helicopter. Jeepers, he thought. Father was right about the perks of this internship. A helicopter ride! Already aboard were Dominique, the black girl who was also a new intern at Paul-Fentry Diametrics, and Kyle, their direct supervisor. Kyle had a strange way about him, which made him appear both bored and anxious at the same time. I’ll bet he’s been on helicopters a lot of times, thought Paxton. They idled on the helipad for several minutes before another man boarded, this one white-haired and bespoke-suited.
As they helicopter rose into the air, the older man located the bulky headset stored beneath his seat, fitted them over his ears and only then looked up, squinting under bushy eyebrows at Kyle, Dominique, and Paxton in turn. Paxton started to smile, his instinctual reaction to anything even remotely uncomfortable. Kyle looked like he was going to throw up. Dominique was the first of them to find her own headset under her seat, smirking as the two boys fumbled to follow suit.
“...bloody bastard jumped! Granted that was the idea, but one must want to remember one’s parachute in such cases.” Dominique laughed politely, feeding the older man’s roguish grin. Who was he talking about? I mustn’t ask, Paxton decided. Father always said a man never asks another man to repeat himself. Paxton failed to detect the irony in the fact that his father quoted that phrase at least twice a month.
The man clapped his hands on his knees. “Are we all plugged-in, gentlemen?” Paxton nodded, laughing a bit at nothing. The man glanced at Kyle expectantly, who swallowed, glancing up from the forest rumbling by below. Paxton noticed dark stains spreading out across Kyle’s pale blue shirt as he shifted towards the younger passengers.
“Interns, this is Sir Theodore Louis Fentry, one of the company’s founders. He’s here to--”
Fentry cut in with a wave of his wrinkled hand, but blinked as he clearly forgot Kyle’s name. “That’ll be all, er…”
Fentry grimaced. “Your surname, boy.”
“I-i-it’s H-H-H-Hargrove, sir!” Kyle flushed a deep red, unable to even look at Fentry.
“Thank you, Mr. Hargrove.” His sour expression morphed back into grandfatherly warmth, a coin he’d been flipping since he’d climbed aboard. “Now. Our summer interns. Paxton LaWitte and Dominique… what was it?”
“Yes, of course. Thank you. I’m mostly terrible with names, my dear.” But not with mine, thought Paxton. Father will be proud when I tell him! “I’m sure you’ve heard that our interns emerge at the top of the industry, moving into consultancy positions almost immediately. But what you might not have heard is how we narrow down the pool.” Fentry reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out the longest knife Paxton had ever seen. It just keeps going, Paxton marvelled, not yet fully comprehending what was about to happen. Dominique steeled herself, glancing between the three men wide-eyed; she understood perfectly, and reached her hand out for Fentry’s. He eased his grip, relinquishing the blade to her.
“Initiative, that’s what we want,” Fentry said, and turned his head to Paxton, “you’d best learn quick.”
Dominique didn’t need more prompting. Her lithe arm propelled the blade towards Paxton’s throat, but Fentry raised his hand, and caught the flat edge between his thumb and forefinger.
“I’d rather not have blood all over the . Lucky there’s a whole world where we needn’t pay for cleaners,” Fentry said, and dragged a parachute out from under his seat. He kicked it towards the open door and pressed the button on Paxton’s seatbelt. “Off you go, then.” Another kick sent Paxton sliding across the textured steel floor. It was dumb luck that saw his foot catch the strap of the chute and bring it out the door with him.
The second he’d wrestled himself into the backpack Paxton pulled the ripcord, while the metal clips that should have fastened around his waist still flapped about unbuckled. He felt a yank when the chute inflated, before the blinding pain of his shoulder dislocating. He dangled for a minute, losing his screams to the rushing air, until he remembered the prestige at stake and popped it back into place with a blow from his clenched fist.
Just as he recovered Paxton heard a piercing, doppler-compressed warcry above him. He looked up to see an impact ripple the chute like a raindrop, and Dominque’s sexy yet professional stiletto heels pierce the silk. These were followed by slashes from the blade, and she dropped through the deflating fabric onto Paxton’s shoulders, wrapping her legs around his neck.
She stabbed in a flurry, managing only to cut the pair loose from the now useless parachute that trailed them. They tumbled mid-air as they fought, tangled up in each other like a fantasy from a cheap billionaire-erotica story. When they came face to face he grabbed her wrist and twisted. She dropped the knife, and he mouthed sorry before knocking her out with a headbutt. She looked peaceful, despite the trails of mascara tears over her forehead.
Paxton had no time to switch into Dominique’s chute, so he grabbed her long ponytail, put one foot between her shoulders, the other on her rear end, and rode her like a surfboard, hoping the combination of drag and shock absorption afforded by her horizontal body might save him. Despite this the impact snapped both his legs. He blacked out.
* * *
Paxton woke, barely alive, to the sound of the chopper landing. Fentry clapped his hands together upon finding the intern alive.
“I told you he was the one! Pony up, Hargrove, no welching this time.”
Kyle handed a bill to Fentry, and stepped down out of the helicopter.
“I-I-It’s sad. A waste of talent,” Kyle said, wistful remembering Dominique’s tight sweaters.
“What’s sad, boy, is that they thought they had a chance at a job. In this Economy! Hurry up, now.”
Kyle drew a pistol and shot Paxton in the head.
|# ? May 18, 2015 03:00|
POST IT ANYWAY
500 words in an hour is loving simple, especially fun ones.
Oh no, you don't understand. I was apologizing to Schneider Heim for getting my first 500 words. (Which were kinda dour.)
Newtestleper's is the story I'm finishing and I'm sure it will warrant an entirely different kind of apology.
|# ? May 18, 2015 03:03|
oh. Helms can handle it, probably.
|# ? May 18, 2015 03:04|
Thee Tends Well
“Your helicopter is full of eels,” said the Captain. It was true. A full meter of wriggling, slick and slimy eels had been poured into the cockpit of Warrant Officer Jan Shenklmurkle’s Bell 412EPI reconnaissance helicopter.
“I was flying near the sea,” Jan explained.
A single eel flopped out of the helicopter window and splatted onto the flight deck, smearing it with eel-goo. The Captain looked at it. Then he shook his head minutely, left, right, as though calibrating.
“You were flying near the sea,” the Captain said.
Jan nodded. It was hot on the flight deck and trickles of sweat were schussing from his armpit down the inside of his shirt. “Captain, at approximately 1430 hours a freak gust of wind caused a localised waterspout, which—”
The Captain held up a finger, which was trembling like the tip of a tuning fork. “EELS, Warrant Officer Shenklmurkle!”
Jan smiled tolerantly. “Of course, Captain. The recent popularity of eel-meat as a constituent in—”
The Captain flushed a sudden and vibrant crimson like a Flamboyant Cuttlefish in a sea of raspberry jelly mix. “Shut up! This helicopter! One hour! No loving eels! Am I understood!?” The Captain whirled in place and stalked off like a rage-clotted Marabou Stork, or would have done so had the ship on the flight deck on which they were standing not suddenly lurched in response to the arrival of the bow wave of a supertanker maneuvering into port.
He put his foot back to keep his balance, but stepped on the patch of glistening eel-slime that the thrashings of the fallen eel had been spreading across the smooth metal of the flight deck. The Captain crashed to the ground, jamming his face into the rasping hide of the eel. He shrieked, a hoarse and fearful note, and jerked his head back into the belly of the Bell, making a hollow ‘bong’. As if in response to a summons, an additional handful of eels writhed over the lip of the window and onto his head.
The Captain made a sound that suggested he had left speech far behind. He scrabbled at his face and neck, brushing away the slithering coils, then reached into his shirt and pulled the last one out. He looked at it with cold loathing, then handed it to Jan. Jan took it. It was surprisingly warm, he thought.
The Captain brushed a ribbon of slime off his hands. “One hour, Shenklemurkle.” He walked away like a swan coated in tanker oil.
Getting the eels out, in itself, would not be a problem. Jan had a few favors to call in, and anyway he could pay his friends back in beer. And Mess Cook Rotterdam should buy the whole lot from him. The kitchen was always looking for cheap, quality protein, these days. Most eels should still be alive; they had only been out of the water for less than half an hour, and the helicopter was still partially flooded with eel-brine.
The problem would be getting them down to the kitchen. The cook was unusually principled, and he refused to accept anything that came to him already dead. Jan felt he was being overly picky, but Rotterdam once called him a “Neanderthal waste of flesh plebian bastard” for suggesting they might speed up food prep by using the kitchen microwave. Right now, Jan didn’t have time to argue with him.
First things first. He needed to get some pipe.
THE FOLLOWING TRANSCRIPT HAS BEEN MODIFIED TO REMOVE NAMES AND PERSONALLY IDENTIFYING CHARACTERISTICS Prosecutor: So, Warrant Officer, you landed at 0915 on the deck of the Sparitz, is that correct? Warrant Officer: Yes, Sir. P: And the craft was already engulfed with eels at that time? WO: I wouldn’t say “engulfed,” exactly. It still functioned, adjusting for the new and shifting center of mass. And I could still move around. It was a bit tight in there. P: It was filled, then, with eels. WO: No, Sir. It had been filled. P: I’m sorry? WO: It was not filled with eels when I landed, no. It had been filled with eels prior to that moment. P: Warrant Officer ########, were any eels added to your flight vehicle after you landed on the Sparitz at 0915? WO: Of course not. Sir. P: They all appeared in your flight vehicle before that moment. WO: They did. P: And you filled various washbasins with the eels, correct? WO: No, that was officers ########, ########, ########, and ########. P: Where were you at that time? WO: Obtaining the pipes. P: Stolen from the ship’s storage room? WO: Borrowed. P: Without consent. These were flexible plastic piping, as appear in Exhibit 39 Delta? WO: Right. Our basins weren’t enough for all the eels. We had to store them inside the pipes. P: Inside the pipes? WO: Yeah, held up like this, two people each, so they sag in the middle. Eels really want to flop out if you let them. P: Was it your idea to introduce them to the ship’s water supply? WO: That was never my intent, no. P: What did you intend? WO: To keep them in the ballast. P: Why? WO: They’re fish, they need salt water to live, man! They can’t breathe air. P: But they didn’t end up in the ballast tank, did they, Warrant Officer? WO: That’s what they tell me. P: No further questions.
Jan knew better, now, than to trust Jimenez with mission-critical tasks like “read the hatch label before you open and unload into it.”
He didn’t even mind the taste of eel meat so much. Early in Jan’s confinement, they started alternating baked eels with eel porridge, which at least varied the texture. But what really got to him after three weeks in the brig was the brackish eel-water served with it. Even boiling couldn’t kill the taste, the guards said.
He was beginning to loathe eels.
|# ? May 18, 2015 03:19|
What's Left When It All Goes Wrong
Djeser fucked around with this message at 05:35 on Jan 1, 2016
|# ? May 18, 2015 03:27|
I goofed too, I thought it was 400-500 words for both halves. I had already posted when I realized I came in like 170 words short, and I shouldn't edit, so, welp. Sorry Jitzu!
|# ? May 18, 2015 03:32|
Collaboration with Sitting Here
The heavy tower doors slammed shut, and Etain was alone in the Obsidian Crucible. The room looked big enough to accommodate a crowd of belligerent giants, and Etain had to admit the walls made entirely of black volcanic glass were pretty intimidating. But it wouldn’t do to start shaking in her boots on the very first level of the trial.
Which begged the question: how did she get up to the next floor? The room didn’t have an obvious exit. Which was probably the point. Etain whispered an incantation, and gathered what meagre, ambient light there was into one bright ball in her right hand. The obsidian glittered darkly when she shone her magic torch around the room. Pretty, but not helpful.
She was the last person in her training cadre to do the final test—the Crucible—and there were whispers that she didn’t have what it took to be a licensed wizard. It was one thing to read about lateral cognitophysics, it was quite a different thing to--
“They let you take the test but I wasn’t good enough?” The intruder was a young woman, slightly older than Etain.
Before Etain could ask how she’d managed to enter the tower without a sound or whiff of magic, the woman bounded across the room and disappeared into the floor. Etain trotted over to the place where the woman had fallen out of sight. The hole was black as oblivion itself, and in the dim light was almost indistinguishable from the dark glass around it.
Etain dropped down the hole before she had time to second guess herself. A current of magic slowed her descent. Then everything palpably flipped. She was upside down and rising feet-first, faster and faster. Her magical elevator spat her high into the air in a brightly lit room, and only a frantic incantation saved her from landing face-first on the marble floor.
“That was graceless. Go back while you can still give up,” the strange woman said before she disappeared through the wavering membrane of a portal. The world on the other side was a blur of leafy green and mud brown. Etain shook her hair out of her eyes. She was at the center of a circular room lined with portals. Going on the vague shapes and colors, some of them seemed to lead to rooms or interior spaces, while others hinted at caves or rolling terrain.
If Etain’s rival was a reject wizard, there was no reason to think she’d chosen the right portal. How to pick?
The strange woman burst back through the portal with a roar of magic and a complicated litany of profanities. A massive, three-taloned hand pushed into the room after her and groped around, a blind monster feeling for its prey. One of its claws grazed the stranger, knocked her flat on her back.
Etain raised both hands and hurled white-gold fire at the portal.
Searing flames splashed across the creature’s forearm. The thing howled and yanked its hand back through the portal, but the magical heat remained, rippling across the black glass walls until it felt like they were standing inside of a kiln. The intruder rolled onto her side, batting at the curled and smoking ends of her hair as she mouthed a spell.
The temperature in the room plummeted; Etain blinked hoarfrost from her eyelashes.
“Idiot.” The woman’s breath hung in the air.
Etain shifted, her fingers poised at waist level in a dueling stance that she’d only ever practiced.
The stranger snorted and turned her attention back to the portals. “Well, come on, then.”
Etain didn’t move. “What?”
“I think you know which portal is the right one,” she said. “And if you’re too stubborn to turn back, the least you can do is give me a hand.”
Etain let her arms go slack. She dropped her voice, as if the Academy proctors were listening even now. “It’s against the rules.”
“Outside help is against the rules. I’m inside. You can either play along, or I can make sure we both fail.”
Etain racked her brain. Was this a test? Part of the crucible? Surely someone in her cadre would have mentioned it?
“You have three seconds,” the intruder said. “Two seconds. One secon—”
“Alright,” Etain said. “Alright, I’ll do it.”
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, brow furrowed in concentration as she whispered the words. A spectral guiderope materialized around her waist, the other end trailing into the wavering mouth of a cave.
The intruder cocked her head toward the portal. “After you.”
Stepping through the portal made every bone in her body thrum. Once both of them were on the other side, Etain cast an illumination charm. Veins of silver ore glimmered in the feeble light, converging on a single orb embedded in the wall. The orb seemed to pulse with inner light; pale shapes drifted across its surface like skeins of fog.
“Is this it?”
Etain turned just in time to see gouts of energy leap from the intruder’s fingers and arc across the length of the cave. Her own fingers moved instinctively, weaving a weak ward. The force of the blast sent prickling numbness through her arm. Sunspots danced across the back of her eyelids. She blinked. The intruder was racing toward the portal, orb clutched in one hand while the other prepared another volley.
Without thinking, Etain’s lips shaped a desperate incantation, dredged up from some half-forgotten tome.
The woman’s feet sank into the floor. Earth gave way, turning thick and black as pitch. She twisted, trying to catch her balance. The orb slipped from her fingers and wobbled across the uneven stone.
Etain scooped the orb up, feeling the warmth that radiated from within. Behind her, the intruder trudged forward through the tarry stone, half-submerged, one arm thrust forward like a swimmer frozen mid-stroke.
Etain did not look back again. Her legs carried her toward the portal, toward the Academy. Toward home.
|# ? May 18, 2015 03:42|
A Better Place To Be In
When Ezekiel awoke, he found himself looking up at an ocean where the sky should be. Its furious waves beat at clustered stalactites far above his head, scattering a foamy, salty spray into the air. It seemed to hang in the space between ocean and Zeke for a long time before finally raining down on his bruised and swollen face. It stung. He coughed and spat a few times as the salt burned deep into all the tiny cuts across his face and neck. The throbbing pain in his skull and the painful effort it took to breathe consumed his focus for a few minutes. He was baffled by the skyward expanse of seawater until he saw a crumpled body among the "stalactites," with a mess like a smashed currant where its head should be, and a length of rope with frayed ends wrapped around its feet.
I must be hanging upside-down, he thought. He turned his head down to the sky above him. Frayed rope, knotted so tightly around his ankles he couldn't feel his feet anymore, seemed to extend forever to some unknown point on the cliff face. The land was as far above his feet as the ocean was beneath his head. Zeke's heart began to rattle as he realized that the shredded body on the rocks below was a herald of his own future. He relaxed his neck, and his brain spun around in his skull again as his eyes settled back on the body. With its head split open like that, Zeke couldn't even recognize the poor bastard, but he was dressed like a fellow sailor from the Blackadder. Then he noticed two more bodies a few yards past, one on top of the other. That one on top was Lathan. He couldn't see the one on the bottom, or see if it still had a face to even recognize. Both were dead, both almost certainly Blackadder crew.
The sight of his crewmate's dead face, twisted in terror, made Zeke tremble. This only further swayed the rope suspending him between life and death, so he turned his face back down to the sky and tried to concentrate on breathing. How had they ended up here? The last thing Zeke remembered was...
At that moment, a familiar face peered over the cliffside, followed by a hand grasping at Ezekiel's rope.
"Brody!" Zeke cried, "Brody!" It was a relief just to see a living crewmate, even if he and the cabin boy hadn't always been on the best terms.
Brody froze at the recognition. His hand tightened on the taut rope, and he dragged himself forward on his belly to get a better look at Zeke's face.
"Zeke," he responded. "I didn't think you'd be conscious."
His voice wavered with emotion, but there was no kindness in it.
Ezekiel realized there was something in Brody's other hand: a cutlass.
This was no rescue.
"Hell of a thing last night, eh?" Zeke called. As he wracked his head for memories that lead to his current predicament, the best way to buy time was to keep Brody talking.
Brody's face paled. He looked back a couple of times, gesturing at someone out of sight. The captain's head peeked out of the cliff, his distinctive hat tattered and beat since Zeke last saw it.
"Do you know why you're hanging upside-down?" the captain said. He took the sword from Brody and waved it around, grazing the rope with the flat of the blade.
Zeke shut his eyes. Last night they were at sea, and he was playing dice with Lathan and the others. Then the first mate ducked into the room, and someone stabbed him in the heart. The last thing Zeke remembered was pocketing the gold coin in the middle of the table and scrambling away to hide.
"Mutiny," Zeke said.
"Aye," the captain said. "You and your friends dashed us among the rocks and cost me half my men. Now we're starving in this goddamned island without supplies and hope. Any last words?"
Zeke forced himself not to think about what happened to the ship and focus on saving his own skin. "I'm innocent! I was only in the wrong place. Did you see me holding a sword? I don't even know how to use one!"
"We found you among the corpses of the mutineers," Brody said.
Zeke did not remember that. "Couldn't hide forever as a moving body," he said, hoping his explanation would make sense.
"Pull him up," the captain ordered.
The captain's face was set in stone. "Pull him up. We'll need every crewman we could get."
The ocean receded as men struggled to lift him to safety. Someone cut the rope tied to his feet.
Ezekiel lay spreadeagled on the hard, rocky ground. He thanked his rescuers as the midday sun shone on his aching face. He rubbed the gold coin where he had sewn a slit in his pants. He remembered the drunk merchant at the table proclaiming its protective powers. Guess it only protected the person owning it.
The men huddled around him, all holding swords.
"...the others were frothing mad."
"...eh, not too much meat in his bones."
"...least he's not as fat as Dario."
Zeke understood what was happening. He looked at Brody, the hunger twisting his soft face into something feral.
Maybe down was a better way to go.
He dashed to the cliff, but the captain tackled him on the rocks, bringing the wind out of him. Zeke retrieved the coin from his trousers and jammed it in the captain's eye. Using the last of his strength, he threw the man off his back, scrambled to his feet, and dived head-first to a place where men did not grow hungry, nor try to eat each other in times of extreme duress.
After all, it would only hurt for a moment.
|# ? May 18, 2015 03:42|
Ulterior Motives, 1000 Words
I desperately needed to switch into the 3:30 Psych class, but my advisor, Mister Black was being a huge roadblock - a real cock-gobbling dickhole. Did that even make sense? Some sort of cannibalistic dick monster? Whatever. The point is, my personal future and the fate of all mankind depended on me switching out of Chem, and I didn't have the proper papers signed.
I gave a sigh and brushed a lock of blond hair out of my face. I didn't really need the papers, of course. A lifetime of careful envelope pushing had ingrained in me an almost supernatural sense of who could grease what wheels, and Mr. Black was the lube keeper of this particular train. Unfortunately, he had 'reservations'.
"I understand that Psych would fulfill your natural science requirement just as well as Chem, Stacey. But you told me that you wanted to be an engineer. I'm just worried that you're sidetracking your future over, um...." He looked mildly uncomfortable.
"A spring fling," I provided helpfully. I was aware of my 'reputation', and Mr. Black wasn't too far off from the mark. I WAS switching classes to be closer to a guy, after all. Just not the way he thought. I gave another exasperated sigh - I really didn't have the time or energy to deal with this.
"Mr. Black - Marcus..."
He looked up, stricken. He knew what was coming.
I gave a calming smile. "Remember last summer - my ex-boyfriend, trying to figure things out with, you know, 'things'. And then I stumbled in on the two of you. Together."
"Now, Stacey, you promised me you wouldn't say anything-"
"I did, and I kept my promise, didn't I? I showed you just how trustworthy I could be at keeping secrets. And now, Marcus, I'm asking you to trust me again. It's very, very important that I take this class. Please? For someone who has done so much for you?"
Mr. Black sighed and signed the document. "I guess you’re really determined about this, Stacey. I just hope you know what you're doing."
Oh, I did. If there was anything I knew, it was the vital importance of getting close my target. I smiled and took the class transfer. Becky was waiting outside. My partner in crime was fidgeting with something in her pocket.
"I assume you've got it, the way you're acting so suspicious," I scolded her, softly. "Seriously, girlfriend, relax. We haven't done anything wrong... yet."
"Sorry," she said, staring at her Mary Janes. She was a mousy, quiet little thing who dressed modestly, in stark contrast to myself. She was my favorite person in the world. "I just never did anything like this before."
"Yeah, well, me neither. But there's a first time for everything. And the important bit is confidence and normality. Come on, we're in a secluded spot. Hand it over so I can take care of things on Thursday."
Becky nodded and pulled it out of her pocket.
A small, brown bottle of what I hoped was the colourless liquid I'd sent her for was thrust into my hand. As I clasped my fingers over Becky's I noticed my watch edging closer to 3:15. I was glad I'd brought the psych textbooks, just in case.
"Come on," I said, "It's nearly time."
I wasn't lying: what was in the bottle was strictly legal. What I was planning to do with it, however...
The liquid was for step two, and that would need Thursday's thunderstorm to carry off properly. Weather is unpredictable, and while that could wreak havoc with arrangements on longer missions, I'd run a few simulations and my arrival shouldn't have disturbed things just two years in. I still expected lightning.
The transfer papers had been step one of phase two. Phase one was Chem. My ex-lab-partner Ryan had no clue, but he was now on his way to figuring out the necessary compounds after my "meddling" in his experiments. As Becky and I power-walked across campus, I wondered whether I'd have to transfer back to chem to check his progress, or whether a chance encounter would do. Time would tell.
Becky stopped suddenly.
"This is it," she began, nervously. "Do you want me to wait, or..."
I picked up where she'd trailed off. "No, you can go."
Her shoulders, held almost to her ears in tension, relaxed. She scurried away down the corridor.
"Now, class, last time you'll remember that we -"
Ah, good, just in time. Without knocking, I cradled the brand-new textbooks in my right arm and flung open the door with my left. A squeak. A stage fall. Books everywhere. Everyone's attention. Perfect.
"I'm so sorry," I panted, deliberately scrabbling around more than was quite necessary on my hands and knees. I held the transfer papers out, Mr Black's signature almost still wet, "Here's my transfer."
The teacher grunted. We weren't going to get along, but I wasn't interested in him. I locked eyes with my target. It was Simon, in the back row. Simon Lane.
He looked different from his photos. No grey hair, no pinstripe suit and broad-knotted, boldly-coloured tie. No forced smile on marble steps, waving at anonymous lenses. Just a scrawny college kid with a messy mop and faded band T-shirt. In fact, as I sat next to him, he looked almost intimidated. Good. This shouldn't be too difficult.
Because this is where it happened. This is where, on a gloomy campus at a second-tier university, I pushed a previously-middling chemistry student to become a brilliant pioneer. Ryan would go on to develop the cure for a disease that in my past had ravaged mankind. For my now-classmates, it would be twenty-five years in their future. A cure was no good without funding, speedy approval, and a distribution infrastructure though, so I needed Simon. And he didn't know it yet, but here was also where I'd just sat beside who I'd make the future President of the United States.
simplefish fucked around with this message at 04:31 on May 18, 2015
|# ? May 18, 2015 03:55|
Square Pegs Are For Squares
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 03:22 on Jan 8, 2016
|# ? May 18, 2015 03:59|
Gifted and Talented
I knew it wouldn’t be long before the baby learned to work the locks on the doors. I could hear her in the bathroom, the expensive sound of breaking and spilling, occasionally punctuated by soft coos and giggles. She’d been up for six days straight, growing smarter and stronger the whole time, or maybe we’d got dumber and weaker. I hated to think what she was up to, locked in there with the high pressure showerhead, the anti-dandruff shampoo, the loofah. Locked in with the brown plastic bottles of pills, with Sarah’s pink plastic razors.
“She’s advanced for her age,” said Sarah, a tear down the side of her good work blouse exposing an alphagetti-stained bra strap, “most kids can’t use a door handle till they’re at least eighteen months.”
It was an understatement. To reach the handle the wee bugger had jumped from the landing balustrade, caught the chrome handle with her wiry little hands, and hung there while the door swung open with the force of her momentum. The backflip was impressive, but unnecessary, so I didn’t count it as part of the manoeuvre.
She’s cute, though, despite the malevolence. Like that time with the cat. The way she smiled and showed her seven tiny teeth as she spun it round by the tail. How she poked out her tongue in concentration as she let go. The cackles she made as it sailed, spreadeagled, through the kitchen window like a mewling tortoiseshell discus. It lives with the neighbours now.
Sarah ran her hand through her hair, and winced when it caught in a tangle set hard with dried vomit and talc. “Maybe we should look into one of those sleep consultants?” She said, “Jen’s little boy was up twice a night until they got that woman in to help out.”
I managed a scant nod. Do sleep consultants carry pepper spray?
The baby wasn’t coming out, so I went to the garage for a screwdriver. When I got back it was quiet, and Sarah was folded up on the floor with her ear pressed to the door.
“Maybe she’s asleep?” she mouthed, a mixture of terror and hope behind her heavy eyelids. I set to work taking apart the handle, while Sarah’s head slid down the rimu veneer until it rested, awkwardly sandwiched between her shoulder and the door.
Sarah was snoring by the time I popped the last screw from the lock. The weight of her head pushed the door open, and a sad, hollow noise came from her skull when it bounced on the tile-patterned lino of the bathroom floor. She didn’t wake.
The cold night air stung my eyeballs before I noticed the broken window.
"Hell's bells," I grumbled, "You opened the door just fine. Windows have handles too, you know."
The baby hung in the open air, squeezing its fat little foot with one hand while kicking at flakes of lightly falling snow with the other. Levitation typically only started after the terrible two's were over. Great. I guess Sarah's little crotch-dumpling was gifted and talented. No window in the bathroom now, and at least six days before the next support payment from Sarah's irresponsible client. This was going to be the coldest week in January, in the only room of the house where girls needed to lose their panties, without getting a stack of Benji's for the trouble.
I shuffled across the greasy tile, peppered with the baby's ruined playthings. Here a shampoo bottle turned inside out with space distortion, there a crystalline sculpture made from phase-shifted shaving cream. Was that mobile made of tampons hanging from the shower rod? Oh no, it was levitating as well. I had considered buying him a real one, until that incident with the cat. I liked that cat. Neighbors didn't deserve him. Vapid troglodytes were probably dog people.
"Brothel to the stars," I muttered, "It sounded so promising when we opened our doors, but..."
That's the problem with running a successful business in this particular cranny of commerce. Birth control technology can never keep up with good word-of-mouth.
I stuck my arm out the window and grabbed the baby by the foot. Just like the problem children before him, he lifted me right off the ground in return, with a squeal of disapproval.
"Sorry, booger. Being an early bloomer does you no favors on this one. You're much lighter than the floating three-year olds we've got wandering around here."
I dragged him back into the house like a gurgly, stinky carnival balloon and tapped his unconscious mother on the noggin. Sarah grunted and rolled over, before sitting up with shock at the sight of her impetuous infant squirming around in the air.
"He scares me to pieces sometimes, but...he's really something special, ain't he?" she laughed.
I rolled my eyes.
"I don't care what planet they say they're from, Sarah. The clients always wear a condom. At least one condom."
Sarah nodded and held out her hands for the little troublemaker, who reached his hands back down with a seven-toothed smile. I sighed and forced a smile of my own.
"Property damage aside, I guess he is pretty cute. I just miss that cat sometimes, you know? Maybe he'd get along better with a dog."
|# ? May 18, 2015 04:01|
There's a ghost in our apartment and I'm the only one who has to suffer. My husband leaves early in the morning and takes the last train home, so he's spared by it.
"If you're bothered by it, why don't you find a real job?" he tells me over breakfast, in which he displays his superpower of being able to talk with toast in his mouth.
"This is a real job!" I snapped. On a good day I can easily make double his daily wage. But I can't, because there's someone who rearranges my closet, unplugs our appliances when not in use, and does the dishes.
And I can't stand that, especially the last one; I like doing the dishes. But the ghost would do them once I leave the kitchen, leaving a spotless, sparkling array of dishes on the rack.
Next thing it does is sort out my laptop's files. My work directory is a mess, but I can find whatever I need because it's mine. All my drawings get sorted alphabetically, each revision numbered in a neat naming scheme. Whoever this ghost is, he or she doesn't have a single creative bone in their body. No chaos in one's soul, no dying star, etcetera etcetera.
I tell this to my husband as he goes to bed with me. "You should be thankful," he says.
"It's freaky and I hate it!" I say. But he snuggles with me and everything is all right, until the morning comes and he's waking me up for breakfast, toast in his mouth.
"I think you should confront the ghost," he says.
I stare at the ripples of my tea. "But it's a ghost, who knows what it'll do to me?"
"Or maybe it's not a ghost..."
"The heck it's not!"
My husband gobbles up the toast. "You could install a camera."
"Uh... I read about that guy who did that and he learned that a homeless woman was living in his cupboard. I don't know which one is sadder, a homeless person or a ghost."
He shoves toast in my mouth. "Eat." I do. It's delicious; he always makes good toast, despite not being able to cook otherwise.
"Can't you do anything about it?"
He hesitates by the door. "Only if you can't. I'm off."
"See you later!" I call after him with a tinge of anger. I pass the kitchen and go to our bedroom, where my laptop is sitting on a breakfast table. I draw until lunchtime and arrive at the kitchen to see the sink empty.
The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I feel another presence in the room.
"Who's there?" I ask. There's no audible reply, but I feel the presence shift, circling me like a predator. There’s a crawling down my back, worse than the other times, like an unseen timer ‘s ticking down and something’s going to happen when it gets to zero…
My fingers twitch. I curl them slowly into a fist, feeling each knuckle crack into place until my hands are tight as gnarled tree roots.
“Now hear this!” I yell. My voice sounds squeaky instead of gruff, so I modulate it down, aiming for R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket instead of Daffy Duck in Boobs in the Woods.
“If you’re there, then loving show yourself and stop hiding and skulking around like a goddam COWARD!”
The last word echoes flatly off the kitchen’s tiled splashback, and I wait, taut as a snare drum, for something to happen.
Finally I unclench, shake my head and puff out a brief, humourless ‘hah’. Well it made me feel better, at least. And that awful ominous skritching at the back of my next is gone.
I trudge back to my desk. It’s a battered and unlovely thrift shop number I rescued from an abandoned building and have somehow managed to hold on to through three moves and a flooding, sentimental value I tell myself since I drew my first sale on it. I sit down, push aside my laptop, pull my pad across the tattered felt, rub my hands across the tarnished brass nubbins around the edge as I do every time, and draw a spider.
It’s a good spider: a confident squat to its hairy legs, a cheeky quirk to its poinillistically rendered eye clusters. Cute yet menacing, as all cartoon spiders should be.
But I hadn’t wanted to draw a spider.
I wanted to draw a steam engine.
I wanted to draw Mr Puffy, the hero of my next spec kids book.
So I look at it, and frown.
And then, with a realisation that sends a skittering of little feet down my spine, I understand that it is looking back at me.
Its little eyes are twitching back and forth, scanning me, greedily.
I touch the paper with my pen and watch with a weird detached horror as it starts writing letters, words, sentences.
“I hope you like my presents,” it says. It has nice writing, quite unlike my scrawling. “Tidy is good and you are good. I have made things good for you.” My hand pauses and I realise it’s waiting politely.
I nod, then croak, “thanks”.
It continues: “The other one is not tidy. His hot bread fragments infest this place. He is not good.”
I whisper, “what do you want me to do?”
My hand twitches again, then draws a bobbin of thread, then another, then another, until I physically pull my hand back from the paper. “Wrap him and leave him,” the spider says. “Wrap him and leave him.”
I jump up and back, pushing my chair across the room. The desk seems to suddenly loom, and I look at it with new eyes.
Hubbie gets home and looks surprised at the Ikea chaos. “New desk? What happened to sentimental value?” he asks. I shrug, brightly.
“You can get too wrapped up in the past.”
|# ? May 18, 2015 04:12|
if you're the type of piece of poo poo to sign up for a prompt like this and then NOT submit anything for the second half, then gently caress you.
If you're the type of piece of poo poo who forgot to turn it in or whatever, you should still submit your story even though it'll be DQed, you'll probably get some crits on it.
Expect judgement within 24 hours.
|# ? May 18, 2015 04:18|
|# ? May 18, 2015 04:20|
gently caress you Skwidmonster go to hell and if you come back in here you better brawl me immediately. Whoever judges will write a beginning and we will both finish it and you will loving suck and I will win because you loving suck.
oh yeah also guess what im going to finish it myself and publish it for actual money which you will never do because you are a bad writer
blue squares fucked around with this message at 04:37 on May 18, 2015
|# ? May 18, 2015 04:22|
I just realised that I hosed up slightly (though not critically) and have a Marcus Black and Marcus Lane in a 1000-word story.
|# ? May 18, 2015 04:23|
I just realised that I hosed up slightly (though not critically) and have a Marcus Black and Marcus Lane in a 1000-word story.
You should just edit it into your story. I'm judging this week and I say it's alright.
|# ? May 18, 2015 04:26|
You should just edit it into your story. I'm judging this week and I say it's alright.
I accidentally changed your baby's gender, is it okay to restore its infant vagina?
|# ? May 18, 2015 04:27|
|# ? Dec 6, 2022 07:17|
E: Marcus Lane is now Simon Lane. For transparency, my opening also had a doing where it should have had a done, so I changed that too.
simplefish fucked around with this message at 04:34 on May 18, 2015
|# ? May 18, 2015 04:28|