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Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

In!

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Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

Catching the Train 966 Words

It took fifteen minutes from the time he opened his eyes for Richard to realize what was wrong. He woke with the sun shining in on the hotel bed. He rose, showered, and dressed. It hit him as he packed his bags for the train ride to Berlin. On the third floor, his hotel had a lovely view of...whatever town this was. Somewhere outside of Rome. The lady from EuroGuide, Rita, had said the name as the bus pulled in yesterday, but Richard had been engrossed in the novel he’d bought for the trip. Whatever the name was, the important thing was that his window faced west.

Banging his hip on the dresser, he rushed to the bedside table and snatched his phone. It was 1:15. The train left in fifteen minutes.

How the hell did this happen? A quick glance at the alarm clock reminded him that he’d unplugged it last night to cut the red glare of the display. His phone had an alarm, no need for the clock. Except he hadn’t set the drat thing.

Two minutes later, he hit the lobby as he finished zipping his backpack. A short line waited on a lone clerk behind the desk, but Richard passed them and flashed what he hoped was an apologetic smile. The clerk rolled his eyes.

“Signore, I’m afraid you must wait in the line.” He nodded line, then turned back to the guest he’d been helping.

“Look,” Richard said, “I don’t want to be a pain, but my train leaves in just over ten minutes and I still need to get to the station.”

The clerk looked at him with a blank expression, then let out a deep sigh.

“Your key, signore.”

Flying out of the door a moment later, hands gripped on the straps of his pack, he turned left and ran.

Please let this be the right direction. A vague memory of how to get to the station lurked in the back of his mind, but it was too late to stop and check. Two blocks, turn left, then five more blocks. People milled on the sidewalk, going into and out of shops. It wasn’t precisely crowded, but Richard had to weave through. An old lady scrambled out of his way with a screech.

“Sorry!” His breath was turning ragged. A stream of Italian followed him down the sidewalk. From the tone, it wasn’t complimentary. He clipped a young man coming out of a store. Groceries scattered everywhere and something squished underfoot. Hoping the guy didn’t chase after him, Richard didn’t even turn to look.

I wish I read the drat phrase-book, he thought. At least I could apologize.

Turning the corner, he could see the station ahead. The train still rested at the platform. A few people scurried to hop on. The street sloped downhill, and Richard took off. A shrieking whistle pierced the air and his heart froze.

“No!” The words came between gasping breaths. “Wait, you bastard, wait!” His stride widened. Each step sent a shock of pain racing up through his knees into his spine. Horns blared as he crossed the street at a lurching gallop. Two blocks down. Pedestrians who saw him coming flattened against storefronts and yelled to those heading the other way.

He was a block away from the station when a man with a scraggly beard and a torn jacket stepped out from an alley way directly in front of him. There was only a second before Richard bowled into him, but he was sure the man smiled in that last instant.

Both men went sprawling to the sidewalk. Richard’s forehead smacked the pavement and sparks flashed through his vision. Needles of pain stabbed into his head. The street wobbled and spun, and Richard could taste bile in the back of his throat. Still, he pushed up to his knees.

The man was already on his feet and standing over Richard. His right hand was extended. Richard reached out to grab hold, then jerked away. The man was holding a knife.

“Money.” The man said the word slowly. The thick fog in Richard’s brain was slowly dissipating, but for a moment he just stared at the man with his brow scrunched down. An ear-splitting shriek came from the train. Pain shrunk to a dull buzz in the back of Richard’s mind. His eyes locked with the man’s.

Richard sprang up from his knees and drove the heel of his hand into the man’s nose. There was a wet crunch and the man let out a gurgling yell. Before the man could recover, he lashed out with his foot and connected with the man’s knee. As the man fell, Richard spun and began lurching toward the station. He could hear a police siren getting closer by the second. It didn’t matter, he had to be on that train.

He reached the stairs up to the platform and clung to the railing. Everything was spinning. His stomach contracted. Then he shook his head and put his foot on the first step. The train was there. A porter was walking over to the stairs with sharp, quick footsteps. His mouth was working, but Richard couldn’t hear anything he was saying.

“I need to get on that train.” Richard barely recognized his own voice. It was thick and slurred. He took another step up, and then he was back on the sidewalk in a heap. Fresh pain burned in his hip. All of the pain in his head burst forward. Everything looked watery. There was a man crouched over him wearing a black hat with a gold badge pinned to the front. He spoke a stream of gibberish with a concerned look on his face. A train whistle blew somewhere in the distance.

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

Thanks for the crits!

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

Growth 192 Words

There’s not much time left now. We should have done something sooner.

It took thirty hours from the first spotting until the duty officer woke me. In that time it had grown twenty times over. I went out with the first group of scientists. What we found was a gelatinous blob of white tissue. It was pebbled and folded like fat. A thick reek of sewage boiled from it.

We wasted days running tests. No one attributed the dying plants to the thing at first. Who knows what would have happened had we realized sooner? As it was, the soil grew brittle and dry, like there had been years of drought and searing sun. Not a plant within miles still lived.

When the strike finally happened, it was a fatty tumor twenty stories high. Napalm, incendiaries, irradiated munitions, nothing had an effect. It would just ripple and grow. Bombs blew writhing chunks for miles. They took root and grew.

The dead zone radius is hundreds of miles, maybe over a thousand. Rotting clumps of seaweed clog the shores. The coast recedes by the day.

And still it grows. And grows. And grows.

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

Thanks for the crit!

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

In

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

Rescue 497 Words

---------

It seemed like an easy enough job at first. Pick up a package, make the exchange, and return the cash. My cut wasn’t bad. It paid for Chryssa’s engagement ring. For a recent grad with no prospects, it was better than nothing. A broken window and missing package later, it was all kinds of complicated.

I called in right away, for all the good it did.

“Either come up with the cash or else,” Tony said, and hung up .

Two days later, the note was on my door.

Jack,

We have your pretty girl. Either you have the cash tomorrow or something ugly is going to happen to her.


No signature. Not that I needed one.

I sat at my desk, looking from the note to the half-empty bottle of bourbon on the shelf. Neither provided much consolation. Hours slipped by as fear grew in my gut like a rotten peach pit. There was one chance I could take. It was in the desk drawer, where it had sat since I bought it off one of Tony’s goons while he exchanged smirks and half-suppressed laughter with the other guards. A hell of a chance, but better than leaving Chryssa to them.

---------

Sleep came in fits and starts and in the morning I ached with exhaustion. The day stretched ahead of me like a desert. I grabbed an envelope and stuffed it with strips of paper. Not much of a diversion, but it’d have to be enough. I left the house with the envelope in my jacket and the pistol tucked into my waistband.

It was a cool day, but I was soaked in cold sweat by the time I reached Tony’s. Andre rose like a mountain from the porch, the Russian’s skin pale against his black leather jacket. He smirked and waved me in.

Tony sat on the couch, slouched with arms spread wide. A grin creased his face when he looked up. His guards turned long enough to see me and went back to what they were doing.

“So, you actually had the balls to show.” Tony clapped and rose, chuckling.

I reached into my pocket and brought out the envelope.

“Let her go.” My voice quivered and broke.

“That’s the thing.” His face scrunched in a theatrical grimace. “We got tired of waiting. Not too much left of your girl.”

The cold I’d been swimming in turned numbing. Black flecks narrowed my vision to a small point. I heard the envelope smack the floor and the flutter of paper spilling out. Tony’s face twisted and darkened, but by then the gun was in my fist and pointed at him. The pistol jumped when I squeezed the trigger and Tony’s left eye winked out in a spurt of blood. The recoil jolted my arm over and over until there was nothing but dull clicks. The room smelled hot and coppery. Silence dragged. The pistol slipped from my hand. I never heard the gunshot behind me.

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

In! Because working on a novel and a couple short stories just ain't enough

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

Joy 1,247 words

When Ms. Williams arrives, she sprawls onto the couch and casts her arm over her face. She’s a portly woman, and her form drapes over the edge of the cushions in a way that curdles my stomach. I stay seated behind my desk while she shifts and grunts her way into a comfortable position. Finally, she lets out a guttural sigh, which is my cue that she is ready to begin our session. I rise and move to the armchair opposite the couch and set my tea on the worn coffee table between us.

“Hello, Petunia.” Her words are muffled by her sleeve and her voice rattles with phlegm.

“Good afternoon, Audrey!” I say, forcing my lips into a smile. “How have you been?”

Her sleeve blows out as she snorts. “How do you think?” She lapses into silence, letting the seconds tick by like she’s not paying over five-hundred a session. I let her wallow in the quiet. After all, I get paid either way.

Without warning, she heaves herself upright and glares at me with red eyes. “I thought you said you could help me.” The phlegm is gone now and her voice is sharp. “This is my fifth time here, and I’m just as miserable.”

“I know, Audrey. These sessions are hard on you. But magic is a precise science, and we can’t go in half-cocked, now, can we?” The words come out by rote. All of my clients hit this wall eventually. They want their joy, and they want it now. As if they have any idea of what that means. “I do think we are at the end, though.”

“Really?” A smile flashes onto her face and, for a moment, she’s actually pretty. I can see the woman she would have been if things had taken other turns; the woman she will be again.

“Yes, I think I’ve gathered enough information that I can really make a difference.” I take a sip of tea and pause to enjoy the slight mint flavor. I can feel the coolness through the heat of the water and it courses through my veins. Not strictly necessary to the spell, but helpful, like letting the butter sit out a bit before spreading it on the toast.

Setting the cup down, I go over to the cabinet and start gathering the reagents. Audrey shifts on the couch, watching me scour through collections of bone fragments, dried flower buds, and assorted herbs. When I turn back, her face is flushed and her eyes flick back and forth between me and the table.

“What…what will change?” Now that she stands on the brink, her voice is small. The way she looks up at me with her head lowered reminds me of a dog that’s gone on the carpet.

“A lot of things, Audrey. Joy isn’t easy, especially coming from such misery.” Easier if you work for it yourself, but if people did that I’d be out of the job. I’d have to get work raising the dead or some such nonsense. “To be quite honest, I’m going for the total package: a new job, weight-loss, a new hobby, new friends, a new boyfriend.” Her head whips up at that, eyes ready to pop out of her skull. I suppress a sigh before it can start.

“A new boyfriend? What’s wrong with Jeffrey?” Her voice has gone whiny. She knows drat well why he has to go. Still, there are proprieties to observe, even for a wizard. I set the collection of ingredients down on the coffee table and take another sip of tea. It gives me a few moments to still my face.

“Audrey, I have been doing this for a long time. Listening to someone and finding the sources of their troubles is what I do.” I put on my best reassuring smile. “I know it seems strange to think I can figure all this out in just four hours of conversation, but believe me when I say I know what I am doing.”

Again, we sit in silence. Audrey stares intently at the table with the occasional twitching eyelid and facial tic. I note each movement in my mind. It’s a debate I’ve seen play out again and again. My clients get to the point of true joy and balk, afraid to give up what they have, misery and all. One man sat here for three hours, rocking back and forth on the couch and wringing his hands, before he could commit to moving forward.

Audrey doesn’t take that long. After fifteen minutes of staring blankly at the table, she looks into my eyes and nods. Her breath comes out in a sudden rasp and she slouches back into the couch, the tension holding her upright gone.

“Very good, then,” I say and begin mixing the reagents into a bowl. Audrey watches this from the couch with her lips drawn back to her gums and her forehead creased. I pull a box of matches from the waistband of my skirt, pull one out, and set it next to the bowl. Then, picking up my pestle from the center of the table, I grind the contents of the bowl into a fine powder.

“I’m not going to have to eat that, am I?” Audrey’s voice is faint and her face is a dull gray.

“God, no!” Setting the bowl aside, I let my eyes widen a bit, feigning shock. “I’m not a witch, Audrey. No potions.” I don’t know whether she’s convinced – she certainly doesn’t regain any of her color – but she nods.

Bowing my head, I begin to chant. The words are old and worn from use, but still good for their purpose. My vision fades to a field of black with a narrow porthole in the center. Sound flees completely. The coolness of the mint in my veins turns white-hot. The heat courses through me for the next few lines and then pools in my head. My body stiffens, and I see Audrey leaning across the table, her mouth working in shouts I can’t hear. I reach the final word with blazing coals behind my eyes. My body releases. I snatch the bowl and match, pop the match alight with my thumb, and drop it into the bowl. The mixture ignites and burns in a flash of crimson and I blow the puff of ash and smoke into Audrey’s face.

She slams back into the couch, coughing and sputtering. Blind and swiping at her face, she leaps to her feet, banging her shin on the coffee table. Deep down, I want to get up and help her, but I’m drained. I collapse into the chair and struggle to keep my gaze on her. She turns and races to the door, flings it open, and is gone with a slam. She must have cleared her vision enough to see.

I shift my eyes to the clock next to the door. It’s only two thirty-five. I still have twenty-five minutes to recover and prep for my three o’clock.

***

Audrey never came back. I received a check for the final session a week later. Two months later, walking to the bus stop, saw her. She was standing in a school-yard with her new class, slim with a radiant smile. There was a glint on her left hand when she brushed back her hair. When she looked up and saw me, her smile vanished and she turned back to her class.

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

RedTonic posted:

4.


You could have played up the central conflict in this tale more. The narrator was more interested in her own irritation than she was in Audrey's reluctance to give up the life she already knew, but I was more interested in Audrey than in the narrator's exasperation. Your wizard's griping felt self-indulgent, but Audrey's anxiety was actually interesting. Your diction could have been tighter in places; phrases like "I take a sip" work better as "I sip," and you let some passive voice slip in where it was unnecessary ("It’s a debate I’ve seen play out again and again" vs "I've seen this debate play out again and again").

Thanks for the crit!

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

Thanks for the crits!

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

In

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

Best laid plans

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

In

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

Seekers 1,197 Words

Prompt: Roast Mutton

---

I smelled meat roasting on the other side of the collapsed building. I sighed, and mist spilled out into the cold. My brother, Luke, crouched at the base of the mound, trying to see if we could climb up. Steel beams jutted out from chunks of cement at sharp angles, but I worried more about the narrow, jagged bits of rebar. If a rock slipped, I could be impaled on steel that’d been rusting for years. If I didn’t die of blood loss, it’d be infection.

“We should turn back,” I said in a low whisper.

“Shut up, Zeb.” He didn’t look at me. “We wouldn’t be out here if you could keep awake.”

My face burned. He was right. This was my fault. I’d fallen asleep during my watch. Men had come in the night, stolen ten of the village’s sheep, and killed the rest.

I looked up. A faint orange light flickered on the other side.

“Luke, we can’t climb this without something slipping loose,” I said. “They’ll hear.”

“No.” Luke turned. His eyes blazed in the dark. “We are getting our sheep back, understand? The village won’t last a year without them. We’ll be back on our own. Do you want that?”

My shoulders slumped and I shook my head.

“We can do this. We just need to go slow.” With that, he rose and started climbing. He put his foot down slow with each step, tested the mound. He crept along, but he was at the summit in twenty minutes.

It took me another ten to catch up. I tried to keep to the same route, but there was no way I could keep an eye on Luke and watch my footing. Twice, I put my foot down and the cement shifted under me. Both times I jerked my foot up before it could come loose and clatter down the pile. The second time, I smashed my knee on the block underneath me. I gritted my teeth and swallowed the groan that welled up in my throat.

At the top, Luke rested with enough of his head exposed that he could see down the other side. I inched along until I could see, too. For a moment, I worried we’d be spotted, but there was no even line along the ridge. It was just a ragged line of broken concrete and steel.

Three men sat around a fire just outside the shattered facade of a building. A thick leg ending in tattered flesh and gristle hung from a spit over the flame. One of our sheep lay nearby. They’d slit its gut and pulled the entrails loose. The fleece was stained near-black. One leg had been hacked and torn off. Uneasy bleats came from inside the building.

“We need to get close,” Luke whispered.

One of the men, huge and gray-haired, froze. He scanned the ridge-line. I held my breath. The man’s hand crept down and lifted a rifle from the ground beside him. Despite the cold, sweat beaded and ran down my face.

One of the others, a small man with long, dirty black hair, noticed the bigger man’s expression and stopped turning the spit.

“Seeker? You see somethin?” He kept his voice quiet, but it carried in the dark.

The Seeker said, “Quiet, Zach,” and kept looking. After a moment, he stood, came around the fire, walked halfway to the mound. He was looking directly at us.

Luke hissed, “poo poo,” under his breath and reached toward his belt knife.

“Friends!” the Seeker called out. His voice was a rumbling bass. “Come down and join us at the fire. There’s no need for you to look on in hunger.”

“Luke,” I whispered, “what do we do?” He didn’t answer. We lay there for a long moment with the Seeker staring up at us. My mind couldn’t accept that he’d seen or heard us, but fear lanced through me. What if he didn’t need his senses to know we were there? I stamped down on the thought.

I didn’t see any point in waiting. I pushed up slowly. The Seeker smiled.

“Hello there! Come down. Bring your friend.”

I looked down at Luke and shrugged. “We need to get close,” I said.

He glared up at me, gave a resigned sigh, and climbed to his feet. We made our way down.

The Seeker still held the rifle at his side, but he held his other arm out wide.

“Welcome! I am the Seeker. My friends here are Zach and Lev.” Both men nodded. Up close, Lev was broad-shouldered and scarred. “Who are you?”

I glanced at Luke, who scowled and stayed quiet.

“I’m Zeb. This is my brother, Luke.”

“Well, come and join us at the fire.”

Luke shook his head, but I just shrugged and followed. After a moment, I heard his footsteps behind me. Each of the men sat on a stone. I folded my legs under me and sat on the ground. Luke did the same.

“Why do you call yourself Seeker?” I said.

“It’s been foretold that my people will find a land without wreckage or disease. It falls to the Seeker to keep us alive until we do. I’m the seventh since the Great Dissolution.”

“And that calls for stealing sheep and leaving a village to starve?” Luke spoke through gritted teeth.

“My own people starve.” The Seeker shrugged. “Better you than us.”

I held my breath.

“We’re taking our sheep back.” Luke hadn’t moved, but Lev and Zach both reached for their belts.

“No, son, you’re not.” The Seeker sighed and reached for the rifle. Luke sprang to his feet and kicked the fire. Glowing embers shot into the Seeker’s face. He screamed and fell backward off his stone. Luke turned and launched at Lev, pulling his belt knife.

I turned and locked eyes with Zach. We both froze. Then he dove at me, knife drawn. I swatted at his blade, pulled my own, and jabbed out in panic. It drove into his throat. He went limp and I pushed him to the side. I scrambled to my feet in time to see Luke yank his own blade free from Lev’s body. Then I saw the Seeker. His face was a scowl and livid burns. He held the rifle to his shoulder, aimed at Luke. I leaped. There was a flash and sound disappeared into a high-pitched whine. I bowled into him. Something heavy smashed into my head and my vision swam, but I brought the knife down, again and again. By the time I could see again, the Seeker’s eyes were blank and his chest was a pulp of blood and torn flesh.

I pushed myself to my feet and staggered. My head spun. I found Luke on his back across the fire. A small, dark stain spread on his chest. Each breath was a ragged gurgle. I rushed to him, and he smiled when he saw me. He never said a word. I sat next to him until the sun was rising behind the filthy clouds, casting dim light over the world. Then I stood, and gathered the sheep. It was a long walk home.

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

Morning Bell posted:

Okay? Okay.
More crits later/maybe tomorrow.

Thanks!

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

docbeard posted:

Some much-belated Week 155 critiques.

Crits for Thranguy, Morning Bell, WeLandedOnTheMoon!, Jonked, Guiness13, Kaishai, Centurium, Tyrannosaurus, Cyty1, and Grizzled Patriarch.

Thanks for the crit!

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

Flicker 238 Words

Removed for submission.

Final version can be found here if you're interested.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

Guiness13 fucked around with this message at Nov 5, 2015 around 18:42

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

newtestleper posted:

Crits for Pham Nuwen and Guiness13

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...XEGdH7gKFk/edit

I'm happy to take another look at your stories once you've edited them, too. We have heaps of time - subs close on November 16

Thanks! And because Christmas is the time of giving, here's a crit for you and Pham Nuwen.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/...dit?usp=sharing

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

In

Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

The Fall of Palembang 1,482 words

Wilson stepped out into the thick, searing air with his cell pressed to his ear. His shirt soaked through within two steps, dark skin showing through the white fabric. Amir had the silver sedan parked at the curb and was standing at the back door with a tight smile. He opened it as Wilson approached, and Wilson slipped inside.

“Anyway, we’re all set here. I’ll be across the river and at the hotel in twenty minutes.” He checked his watch. “What time is the flight tomorrow?”

Amir settled into the driver’s seat and pulled out, heading for the street.

“Six a.m.” Elizabeth said. “If you hurry, we’ll have time for a private dinner. Alicia’s still out with Ramone. She wanted to see the Monpera before we left.”

“That sounds like a plan, love. I’ll see you soon.” He hung up and settled back into the seat, staring out at the looming glass structure for the last time.

A siren blared out, loud even in the insulated car. Within moments, a steady stream of traffic poured south along the main thoroughfare. Amir flicked on the radio. A lone voice filled the car, completely unintelligible to Wilson. Amir braked hard and stared at the radio with wide eyes.

“Mr. Landreau, we need to go south.”

Wilson shook his head. “No, Amir. My wife and daughter are on the other side of the river. We’re going north.”

Amir spun in his seat and stared back at Wilson. “The government is calling for evacuation to Kujuagung for everyone south of the Musi river. Something is coming.”

Wilson leaned forward and jabbed a finger at the radio. “I don’t care what they’re saying Amir. You can either drive north or get out and let me.”

Amir sat there for a moment, looked north, then slammed the car into park and got out.

“poo poo!” Wilson clambered out of the back seat and threw himself behind the wheel. By the time he reached the Ampera Bridge, he was crawling along on the sidewalk. Pedestrians streamed by on either side, parting in front of him. Men slapped his windows, speaking in rapid Musi and pointing back south, but he just revved his engine and kept on.

The bridge was jammed solid. A banner hung flapping down over the road from the first of the two vertical supports. Wilson gunned through a gap in traffic and onto the bridge. He parked behind the line of cars and climbed out, running north. Horns blared, two men were leaning out of their car windows and screaming at each other. Then a huge, bass roar filled the air.

Wilson clamped his hands over his ears and turned. A huge shape rushed toward the bridge from the east. It moved like a bear, heavy and muscular, but it was covered in mottled grey scales like a crocodile. It must have been a mile away but it covered incredible spans with each step. He had time to turn and take two steps toward the south bank when the bridge lurched. Screams filled the air and a wave of people crashed into him. He staggered and grabbed at the rail. The creature tore into the bridge and the vertical support bowed out over the road. There was a loud crack, and it fell. Wilson leapt over the side.

#

He washed up on the south bank half a mile downstream and pulled himself onto the grimey shore. Wilson could see the ruin of the bridge to his west as he lay on the mud gasping for breath. The north shore burned. The creature had roamed into the city, leaving a trail of collapsed huts and shattered red-tile roofs. He watched as it lunged, dipping its head to the ground and flinging a bus hundreds of feet in the air. It crouched on its haunches, watching the bus cartwheel, before batting it down as it descended.

“Oh, Christ, Alicia!” Wilson hauled himself to his feet. The Monpera was just north of the bridge.

Wilson tore his eyes from the north bank of the Musi and spun. Boats littered the mud, and fifty feet away, a bent, weathered man, bare-foot and wearing a sweat stained shirt, was pulling one up to a post. The paint of the boat had been blue once, but peeled away, exposing the graying wood of the hull. Wilson rushed over.

“Sir!” He grabbed the man, spun him around. “Sir, I need you to take me across the river!” He pointed at the boat and then the north shore.

The man followed Wilson’s hand from the boat to the far bank and twisted out of his grip. He shook his head and let out a barrage of words, jabbing his finger south repeatedly.

“Please, at least let me take your boat!” Wilson pointed to the boat and then to himself. The man hesitated, glanced north, shook his head. He turned and limped toward the road.

Wilson watched him go, shoulders slumped. When the man was gone, he untied the rope, shoved the boat into the water, and climbed in. The engine was bolted onto the back panel, and Wilson grabbed the rip-cord and yanked. It sputtered and died. He yanked again. Again. Again.

Nothing.

“Come on!” Wilson jerked his head left and right, searching for a paddle, anything. He heard a splash, and the old man hauled himself into the boat. He glared at Wilson, but crouched next to the motor, fiddled with it, and yanked the cord. It roared to life. He turned and pointed on the warped bench toward the front of the boat, then he sat and guided them across.

#

The man stopped long enough for Wilson to hop out twenty feet out from the north bank, then turned and raced back south. Wilson waved thanks, but the man never looked back.

Hundreds of people crowded the riverfront, and Wilson forced his way north up the shallow bank. The crowd pressed against him, streaming to the river. Over their heads, he saw the beast clutching a shattered minaret in its jaw. A man dangled from the parapet for a moment, then plunged to the ground.

An explosion rocked Wilson off his feet and the air burst from his lungs. A foot crushed his hand, a knee caught him in the ribs. When he stumbled to his feet, he saw bright flashes of light over the red-tiled roofs to the north. The thing bellowed, and Wilson clamped his hands over his ears.

At the first intersection he froze. To the east, he could see the hotel towering above the surrounding one-story structures. The creature was moving east, backing away from the torrent of firepower that streaked up at it. To the west, the waterfront by the bridge burned.

Wilson drove his hands deep into the thick curls of his hair. He turned left, then right, then back.

“Damnit!” He dropped to a crouch and pounded his fist on the sidewalk. With a last glance at the hotel, he rose and ran west.

Black smoke billowed into the air ahead and hung low in the humidity.

#

The plaza at the foot of the bridge was a burning ruin. Blackened bodies sprawled in the street by the dozen. Wilson darted among them, looking at the ruined faces one-by-one. The wrought-iron gate around the Menpora lay crumpled in the street.

He climbed over the destroyed fence. Huge cement walls, blackened with soot, jutted out like an upside-down pyramid with a giant eagle emblazoned on the front. There was no door. Wilson raced across the stonework. Around the first corner, right on the angle, the walls turned inward, forming a narrow gap. A clump of people sat huddled on the ground. One of them shot to their feet.

“Daddy?” Ash covered Alicia from head to toe, turning her skin a sickly gray. She lurched toward him, and he ran to her, swept her into his arms, both of them shaking with sobs.

“Are you ok?” he said when he could catch his breath.

“Yes, but Ramone...” Her voice hitched and fresh tears spilled down her cheeks. Wilson pulled her tight.

“Don’t, sweetheart. It’ll be ok. Shhh.” He patted her back and whispered to her until the tears passed. Then the creature screamed and he turned and saw it plow into the only tall structure he could see.

The hotel.

The building crumbled and the thing fell on top of it. A plume of gray dust swirled up from the ruin. Something whistled through the air, and a gout of fire and debris sprang from the dust cloud. Wilson could just hear his daughter’s screams over the roar of the explosion.

The creature lay still. Flames danced over its body and the shattered building, sending smoke pouring into the sky. Wilson clutched Alicia to his chest.

“It’ll be alright,” he said in a dull monotone. “It’ll be alright.”

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Guiness13
Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

RedTonic posted:

I Shouldn't Have Eaten That Souvlaki - Crits for Week #164

Seekers

Good execution of the prompt, but this suffered from being only the first of many probably-post-apocalyptic pieces in Food Week. You pulled through on story structure and delivery. I enjoyed reading this one; it landed on my high pile. Good imagery, clear conflict, decent characterization. What didn't make sense was that the brothers closed in on the Seeker and his cronies before they went to sleep. Why try to sneak so close when they're all clearly awake? It was a stupid decision seemingly made only to force an action scene. Ultimately, the story suffered for that decision and didn't nab a mention.


Thanks for the crit!

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