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hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
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In this week.

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hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
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Coconut Shimmy 999 words

Mauritius


Gabriel stood on top of his pile of coconuts like an ancient conquistador. His defeated opponent collapsed to the ground, tired with bloody hands where skin split. Gabriel was the major player in what was considered a minor occupation on the island. Where most workers earned their wages in the sugar fields, Gabriel shimmied up and down trees, husking coconuts.

Each husker had a weekly quota of three thousand coconuts. Gabriel could finish by Wednesday. That didn’t stop bright young huskers trying to upset the status quo. Every week there was a new challenger, a young upstart eager to unseat Gabriel. Andre watched as week after week Gabriel beat all comers. On Sunday, during the official count, Gabriel always stood tall.

Andre watched Gabriel climb every day. Once or twice they even worked together. Andre was from an old family of coconut huskers, going several generations back. Andre was good at husking coconuts, but Gabriel was the best. Gabriel's muscled arms and thighs resembled the tree trunks he climbed. But Andre thought that Gabriel was starting to get a little old. He noticed that sometimes it took until Thursday for Gabriel to finish his weekly quota. And Andre noticed that as the years went on, his own arms began to look like tree trunks as well.

Then it was Andre’s turn to challenge Gabriel. People hounded Andre for months. They bought him drinks at the bar to try to convince him. He couldn’t even leave his home without someone approaching him. “There’s a lot of money to be made on it,” they told him time after time, “especially if you win.”

Andre wasn’t interested in money. Money was only good for the sugar plantation owners. He just wanted to be the best at what he did. Everyone else started where they started and died in the same place, he reckoned. Andre’s father had husked coconuts, and so had his father’s father. If Andre were to ever have a son, that son would probably be clinging to tree trunks long after Andre’s death.

Andre felt a charge in the air, like before a thunderstorm or when the pub was wired for electricity and his friend Marcel had touched the frayed cotton covering the wires. Bets were placed. The only person who was not excited about the contest was Andre’s own grandmother. “You know,” she said, “the only person who will win is the landlord.” It was sometimes hard for Andre to parse her Creole, he was nowhere near fluent. “You do all that extra work without getting paid a single penny more. All to stroke your ego. Boss will laugh all the way to the bank.”

Andre didn’t pay his grandmother much mind. This would be his week. He could feel it in the twitch of his thighs. He could feel it in the familiar heft of his machete, which had been passed down from his father but still had a razor's edge. Most of all he could feel it in the gaze of everyone in Port Louis as he walked out on his way to work.

He kept a blinding pace on his first day. The sun was dazzling but the tree fronds kept the worst of it out his eyes. His footing was sure as were his cuts. He didn’t bother to look for Gabriel and kept his mind on his own work. He heard three automobiles pass by and he knew they were to watch him. There were only forty eight automobiles on the island in that year.

Andre looked at his work at the end of the day and he was very proud. It was his best day’s work yet. He knew if he kept up the pace he could surely win. He drank with Marcel at the pub that night. A group of Indian sugar plantation workers spoke amongst themselves in Hindi. But Andre knew they were talking about him.

“What are they saying?” he asked Marcel.

“They’re worried that you might take too many risky chances. They saw Gabriel’s pile of coconuts on their way over and say your pile isn’t half the size.” Marcel said. Then when he saw his friend’s crestfallen look, he said, “But you can’t pay too close attention to talk in pubs. They have money riding on Gabriel and want to discourage you.”

Andre woke up early the next morning to take a look at Gabriel’s haul. The men in the bar were right, Andre’s own pile wasn’t even half of what Gabriel had done the previous day. Andre knew he would have to outdo himself. He set right to work. Coconuts hit the ground so quickly that it sounded like rainfall.

By noon a crowd had gathered and disaster struck. His grip on his machete slipped and the blade bit a deep gash into his palm. Andre didn’t stop. He tied up his hand with an extra piece of cotton and got back to work.

That night Andre didn’t go to the bar. He woke up even earlier the next morning and made his way to the grove. To his surprise, Gabriel was already up in a tree, hacking away. Andre climbed a tree. He ignored the throbbing in his palm and got to work.

The crowd that day was bigger than the one before. Both men were up and down trees impossibly quick. Andre’s legs burned. His breath was short and ragged. He wasn’t sure how long he could keep up the brutal pace Gabriel set.

There was a dangerous crack. The frond Gabriel grabbed had snapped. For the first time in his career, Gabriel tumbled out of the tree and fell flat on his back with a sickening thud. The crowd looked on in horror, their hero felled.

Andre knew this was his time to shine. He could win if…

But instead Andre climbed down out of his tree. He extended his good hand to Gabriel.

“Get up,” he said, “we have a contest to finish.”

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

I'm in and gonna lay down the law with the INSUFFERABLE COMMANDMENTS OF THE PAGAN SHRINE.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
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Insufferable Commandments of the Pagan Shrine 995 words

It was a good day to kill. The Skull Priest gave his vile sermon from the altar. Tufts of hair and skin still stuck to the fresh skull that made up his headdress. We stood tall, row after row of warriors waiting to be commanded. The Phalange Priests moved between us. They quietly girded us in blessed armor with heads bowed low. The finger bones sewn into their gloves clicked together as they worked. Some of my fellow Rib Priests mocked the Phalange Priests behind their backs, but I knew better. The Phalange Priests were the hands of the gods -- performing their divine will. Each of us had our place: the Skull Priest spoke for the gods, the Phalange Priests served the gods, and we, the Rib Priests, fought in the name of the gods.

As the benediction came to a close, the shrine grew silent. It was time for the gods to choose a sacrifice from among their servants. A death ensured victory. A low drone emanated from the altar and a dark voice spoke a name. The chosen priest hobbled towards the altar on a crutch. The left leg of his trousers was empty and dragged across the floor. He appeared to be in a trance, in ecstasy over his chance to serve the gods. The Skull Priest drew his dagger and dragged it across the sacrifice’s throat. It wasn’t a clean cut, but ragged. I looked away as the priest was murdered. I turned to my brother standing next to me. I could see in him the same ecstasy as the murdered priest.

The battle was favorable. My blade separated many souls from their bodies. We brought much glory to our dark lords and the world was one step closer to drowning in the blood of eternal darkness. It was not until the day was won that I heard of my brother’s injuries.

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

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

“The beast barely scratched me,” he said. “My pain is insubstantial next to the agony of our lords as they wait chained in their plane of torment to be loosed upon the world. It is my side that hurts more than anything.”

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

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

“I am worried about the next sacrifice.”

“Do not be.”

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

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

“Do you truly believe in the gods?”

“Do not ever let me hear you say such things again, brother.” The venom in his voice dripped off his tongue with every syllable. “For I might forget we share the same mother and murder you as I would any unbeliever.”

“I will not let anything happen to you.”

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

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

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

When the snows thawed we gathered again in the shrine for a blessing before battle. The tufts of skin on the Skull Priest’s headdress had rotted off. As the sermon neared its end my turmoil grew. I tried to adopt the placidity on my brother’s face. Finally, the hall grew quiet as we waited for the altar to speak. The voice like thunder issued forth and named my brother as sacrifice.

No. I would not allow it.

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

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

The gods were dead. The gods were not worth serving. I would become a god in their place.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
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In.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

In and requesting a fairy tale.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
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Thank you to everyone who has critted my works these past few weeks.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
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Finding Marlene - 1453 words The Juniper Tree

Sam Althaus had no reflection in a mirror. He couldn’t go into direct sunlight and he couldn’t stand on holy ground without bursting into flame. But his voice could be recorded and he had the most beautiful voice anybody had ever heard. So, as the first vampire pop star, his voice took over the world.

“Does he always wear those sunglasses?” the mic tech asked the technical director during sound check. They were in the safety of the control booth and there was no danger of being overheard.

“Always. Scarf too.”

“Why? It’s not like he gets cold.”

“I heard it’s to keep his head from falling off.”

“That doesn’t make any --”

They quieted down when Sam entered the recording stage. Sam gave them a thumbs-up. The technical director said into the booth mic, “Okay, Sam. First take. Start when you’re ready.”

The tape spun up. Sam sang a song of love and loss, of longing and desire. He sang of a beautiful woman who was unbearably sad. The song made anyone who heard it sad in the most exquisite way. It flew to the top of every chart.

***

“I don’t want to give another interview.” Sam said to his manager.

“This one is big. International stage big.”

“I’m tired of this,” Sam said. “I sing for myself. You just found a way to capitalize on it.” His manager saw a brief flash of fangs, but pushed the issue.

“Then you sure picked the wrong industry if you wanted to remain anonymous. You have to realize that your condition attracts you a lot of attention.”

Sam thought for a moment. His manager couldn’t help but think that Sam looked like a predatory animal when he was deep in thought. Like a lion. Sam grinned, all teeth. “At least the paparazzi can’t hound me for pictures,” he said.

***

Sam gave his hungriest stare to the interviewer. He had no intention to eat the man, but being the world’s first vampire superstar, he had a persona to maintain. This threw the interviewer for a few minutes, but then the good questions finally came.

“Why music specifically? You could be doing anything with your eternity. What drew you to sing?”

“Since I don’t breathe I’ve had a lot of time to experiment with forcing air through my vocal folds. I’m not constrained like humans with their singular focus on breathing to staying alive. It affords me greater range.”

“That tells me why you’re good at singing, but not why you sing.”

Sam liked the interviewer despite himself. He chose his next words very carefully, knowing he was going to bare his heart far beyond what he expected.

“I don’t remember much of my life before I was turned. Just brief glimpses, flashes. My first new memory is of Mother, she found me left for dead and gave me a second life. Or un-life, or un-death or whatever you’d want to call it.”

“What happened to Mother?”

“She perished. Singing is how I cope.”

“How many are there like you?”

Sam could only shrug.

“What’s your most persistent image from before?”

“I don’t know,” Sam lied. He thought of the sad woman from his song, the thought he couldn’t shake. Sam then realized something. Fame could work for him both ways. It was a way for the world to find out about him and a way for him to find out about the world. So then he said, “Just a name that pops up over and over. Marlene. I’m not sure who she is, just that I loved her and she was very important to me.”

***
That captured the attention of the world. Millions of letters poured in from men and women claiming to be Marlene. Most were bogus, the strongest connection being names that started with the letter “M” or names that rhymed with Marlene. A few people said that they felt like they were a Marlene in a past life.

Sam started his own record label in order to handle the spread of his message. He called it Juniper Tree Records. When asked what that meant, he would laugh and say, “It’s a Christ allegory. Junipers are evergreens and I’m alive when I should be dead.”

Sam thought that if he could get his face out there, somebody might recognize him. Photographs were out, and so was video. He hired an artist to paint his portrait, but the thing caught on fire halfway through. He tried to have a marble bust made, but it crumbled.

But Sam still had his voice. The more he sang, the more memories came back to him. He could sometimes see Marlene in his mind’s eye during the dark hours of the night when only he was awake. Sometimes he could even see flashes of color in those memories. He recorded a new album called “Gold Chains and Red Shoes” after what he saw. The lyrical imagery was more concrete, less abstract. In it, he sang about his childhood home. He realized he had a father. He wrote a song about his father’s heartbreak. He remembered a good man who was made weary by the world.

Then television producers offered him a reality show. People would go out and search for Marlene and would-be Marlenes would in turn audition for Sam. They could even make a hologram of Sam to show on the air. Sam vetoed that idea, remembering the other art projects that bore his image. He figured a hologram would probably short circuit the grid and burn the whole studio down.

Week after week the show shoved a parade of Marlenes at Sam. At first he just met them and shook his head no when they elicited no memories from him. Ratings were high, but the producers wanted to push it further. Soon he was going on dates with Marlenes. Then he was living in a house filled with them. All televised and beamed globally to a rapt audience. Eventually the search took up all his time. The more time he spent searching for Marlene, the less time he spent singing. Eventually his memories started to fade. The ghostly images he held in his mind of Marlene melted like the mist.

He left the show. Packed up his guitar and left town.

He went around, played shows in dive bars, sang on the street or in subway terminals. He played anywhere people would listen to him. His manager couldn’t get ahold of him. A trail of angry lawyers followed him around the country, waving the contract they claimed he broke by leaving. They followed every rumor of a singer in sunglasses and a scarf playing in a bus terminal or a public park, but Sam was always gone by the time they arrived.

It wasn’t easy for Sam. He could only travel at night and the blood banks where he stole his meals had heavy security. But the more he sang, the more clear his memories became. They beckoned to him and drew him like a magnet.

He spent days huddled and locked up in the bathrooms of cheap hotels. He duct taped the seams of the door so no stray sunbeam could get in. He had long since ditched his cell phone. It was too easy to track. One evening, just as the sun set, Sam woke from a dream to hear his room phone ring. He didn’t answer, there was nobody who could actually be looking for him here. The ringing didn’t stop. Sam ripped the tape off the door and crossed into the gloom of the room. He avoided patches of fading sunlight and answered the phone.

“Sam, is that you?” It was his manager.

“How did you get this number?”

“I’m your manager, it’s my job to know what you’re up to.”

“Then how did it take you this long to find me?”

“I’m not a very good manager. Come home, Sam.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m so close, I can feel it.”

“Stop chasing useless things. You have a life here. Live it.”

“I can’t.”

“Just stay there, okay? Stay there and let us pick you up and bring you home.”

Sam hung up the phone. Thirty minutes later he was on a bus out of town. A few nights later he played a set in a nearly-empty dive bar. His voice was solid. The patrons were entranced. Some moved to tears. Sam liked playing to people face-to-face like this. He liked watching people as his music flowed over them. He liked being able to see their eyes. He could see his memories reflected in them. Then, in the back of the bar, eyes streaked with tears, he saw Marlene.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

I'm in.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

In, but you can't quite see me because I'm extremely underexposed.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

Detention 500 words

I don’t know why I thought this time would be different. I looked at the slip Mrs. Smith handed me.

Detention.

The door to Room 123 squealed when I opened it. I’ve told the janitor a thousand times, get some WD-40. Give us some dignity going into detention.

Mr. Thompson’s gross coffee-stained teeth grinned at me from inside.

“Well, Tracy, detention wouldn’t be the same without you,” he said.

“I didn’t do anything.”

“I love this game we play every week.” He read over my slip and his eyes widened. “Stealing a Game Boy from Frankie? Dumb move.”

I took my normal seat in the corner by the window. I liked to see the world outside. Call me a student of life. I didn’t bother explaining that it wasn’t a Game Boy, it was a Nintendo DS. Besides, who would be dumb enough to steal from Frankie?

Miles sat next to me. I could tell he had big news from the way he fidgeted in his seat.

“Spit it out.”

“Frankie’s coming. He’s pissed you stole his DS. He got in a fight just to visit you.”

Crud. There was nowhere to hide.

The door flew open and there stood Frankie. He gave his slip to Mr. Well, but his eyes sought me out. I could die right there. He walked over and lifted Miles out of the seat next to me and placed him in a different chair before sitting down. I mean geez, the strength. I hated Mr. Thompson but at least I knew I was safe with him around.

Double crud. Thompson just finished his coffee, which meant an extended bathroom break. When he left the room so did my hope of making it to sixth grade.

“Where’s my DS?” Frankie’s words were as subtle as the fist he slammed into my stomach.

“I don’t got it.”

“Bologna. I ain’t afraid to hit a girl.” He twisted me around and slammed me against the window.

I looked outside, desperate for help. There were no teachers whose attention I could grab. My heart sunk. I was going to get beat. I saw that rat Gerald by the tree, real focused on something. I couldn’t believe it. It was Frankie’s DS. He saw me pressed against the window and he flashed me this crappy smile like what could I do about it? It wasn’t about what I would do about it, but what Frankie would do.

I used the last of my air to gasp out a noise that got Frankie’s attention. I tapped on the glass and my fingertip led Frankie’s eyes to Gerald, who bolted.

I opened the window with Frankie. We were going to get that guy. I was halfway out when Mr. Thompson returned. He glared at me with a fire in his eye.

“You’ll be in detention for the rest of the year if you go out that window.”

“I know,” I said, “but it’s the principle of the thing.” And out I went.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

In.

Naven is the god of wind and air who thinks it would be more fun to be the god of an abstract concept like love instead of a god governing the physical world.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

gods used: Naven (mine) and Inanis (Broenheim)

The Wind God's Tricks 1413 words


The gods lived on a mountain overlooking the sea. Between the mountain and the sea was a valley with a city. The city was blessed to live in the shadow of the mountain. The soil was fertile and the sea teemed with fish.

The people of the valley considered themselves fortunate to live in such a rich land. They lived in direct sight of the gods.

The gods themselves doted on the people of the valley, each in their own way. The god of bountiful harvests ensured that harvests were indeed bountiful. The goddess of triangles and mathematics taught humans to make towers that were taller and stronger than ever before.

There were only two gods on the mountain who were unhappy. They were Mabel, the goddess of unhappiness, and Naven, the god of wind and air. Naven was a very powerful and respected god, but he was unhappy nonetheless.

Naven wished he could be the god of an abstract concept. It seemed a far more interesting life to him than regulating air currents. What he wanted more than anything was to be like his friend Reth, the trickster god whose pranks were delightful and never mean-spirited. The more Naven watched Reth, the more jealous Naven grew. Reth delighted in his role, where Naven was expected to take things seriously.

One day, Naven decided he’d had enough. He was going to have fun with his job too. He was going to play a joke on the humans living in the valley. He thought about the perfect trick to play and decided he would blow his mighty winds from the south, a direction he had never tried before. The air to the south was much warmer and the people would delight in feeling such warmth so close to the end of autumn.

Naven spent a week constructing the perfect wind. It twisted and warmed in the south. However, when he brought it to the valley, it carried with it a driving, destructive rain. The valley experienced its first hurricane.

The unexpecting city was devastated. Buildings were flattened and flooding didn’t go down for weeks. The people called out to Naven. They wondered what they had done to anger him. What could they do to avoid his wrath in the future?

Naven was deeply troubled by this. He hadn’t acted out of anger. What he had planned as a harmless trick ended up destructive. The other gods grew dismayed at the apparent change in Naven’s behavior. They shunned his presence and ignored him when he floated by on his cloud chariot. Even Reth stopped talking to Naven. Only one goddess seemed to be pleased by his actions: Inanis, the goddess of nothingness.

Inanis welcomed the destruction of the world she saw as corrupt and evil. It was her goal to bring all things to an end, even herself. None of the other gods liked her and she didn’t like herself either.

“Now you see the world my way,” Inanis said to Naven, her voice the sound of a dew drop evaporating. “While I despise you, I welcome any assistance in bringing and end to creation.”

Naven was baffled, “That’s not what I meant at all. The wind from the south was supposed to be a joke.”

“Then you have a strange definition of a joke. Perhaps your actions will help you see the world as it really is.” Then Inanis sunk into a hole in the ground and disappeared.

Naven grew troubled by this. He knew the world was a good place. His last prank had angered people, but rightfully so. It was ill-planned. It just meant he had to plan the next one better.

He got to work. If he could think of one great joke, then people would see his value as a trickster god as well. He knew just the thing. He had never before brought to the valley a wind from the west beyond the mountain home of the gods. The lands to the west were colder and perhaps a chilly wind would cool the boiling attitudes directed at him.

Naven spent a month creating the perfect wind from beyond the mountain, but when he brought it to the valley it created a fierce blizzard. Homes were buried. Food and game grew scarce. The people cursed Naven and his fury. They became desperate in their plight and turned to violence and lawlessness to survive. The land plunged into chaos as man turned against man.

Naven watched all this in horror. He had only wanted to create a trick to delight the people of the valley. Inanis again came to visit him. She congratulated him on aiding her once again.

“Now you see the evil of the world. This chaos is the natural state. When people live in the blessing of the gods, it is easy for them to behave as a pet on a leash. Leave them to their own devices and their true nature comes forth.”

Naven could not believe this still. He blew the snow away with a brush of his hand. A mob grew outside the temples and shrines of the city.

“The gods have abandoned us,” said the angry men, “it is time for us to abandon the gods.” They tore down shrines and defaced many places of worship. The gods were dismayed and left the land in search of a new place to settle.

The mobs saved something special for the temple to Naven. A great many men set the temple ablaze and rejoiced as it burned to the ground. Their rejoicing turned sour as the fire leapt from building to building. Soon the entire city was engulfed in a conflagration.

The men of the valley begged for the assistance of the gods, but the gods had all left, save for Inanis and Naven.

Naven considered sending a wind to snuff out the flames like a candle, but his recent endeavors taught him him patience. He considered his actions. He realized that a wind would only fan the flames. He watched, helpless, as the land burned.

Inanis came to Naven a third time.

“Look how they treat each other without the gods. They only kill and destroy. This is why I seek the end to all things.”

Naven heard the truth in her words and turned to the land he once loved. But instead of seeing the people of the valley at their lowest, he saw something else. He saw mothers protecting their children. He saw newly homeless neighbors sharing their last crust of bread. He saw throngs of men work together to fight the flames. He saw this and knew that he saw love.

Naven sent Inanis away with a gust of wind and got to work. This was a world worth fighting for, even if no other god would stand with him. He knew he couldn’t use his wind to extinguish the fire. He searched the cumulonimbus cloud that formed his brain until inspiration struck him. He had tried winds blowing from every direction, but never this.

Naven pulled wind from the ground up. He sucked all the air from the valley into the sky. The fire could not breathe. Humans huddled together in awe at Naven’s power unleashed. The flames starved for lack of air and died down. Naven returned the air to the valley gradually.

Naven looked at the destruction he had caused. He watched as the people of the valley picked themselves up and rebuilt their lives. He saw neighbor help neighbor. He knew that he was right and Inanis was wrong.

He thought of ways to help. He sent a gentle wind among the budding plants and scattered seeds far and wide to take root. He carried the sound of laughter and merriment on gentle currents to bring joy to the weary. His touch cooled in the summer and brought sailors at sea back home safely.

Life returned to normal in the valley. The other gods moved back onto the mountain. All were impressed with Naven’s plan to stop the fire. Even Reth agreed that wind traveling from earth to sky was a good trick.

Naven is no longer an unhappy god. He delights in using his power to preserve the beauty of the world. However, he hasn’t given up on his tricks yet. They can still be seen in the cyclones that pepper the uninhabited plains or the wind that inexplicably carries a soft rain to a sunlit land.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

In and stuff.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

A True Believer - 1167 words

The left wheel of the wheelchair squeaked. It was hard to push myself through the grass, heavy as it was with morning dew. The wheel always squeaked when it was wet. I didn’t mind, it made things more theatrical. The line inched along towards the makeshift stage. My strain was completely real as I went through the crowd. The closer I got, the more attention I drew. People looked up from their prayers and supplications and I felt their pitying eyes on me. One man reached out to help me, but I ignored him. This was my struggle.

The crowd fell in love with me in that moment. They wanted the world for me, the man with enough faith to push himself through the fields to get to where the man of God could lay healing hands. They didn’t realize it, but they all held their breath as I rolled myself to the preacher. The air was vibrant. The preacher laid his hands on me and I rose out of my chair just as we’d rehearsed a thousand times. I swear this time I almost felt the Holy Ghost for real.

***

I headed into town with the preacher’s money heavy in my pocket. I found a gambling house. I almost had Bobby’s money saved up. With a lucky night I’d be able to show my face back home without fear of being found.

Helena approached me at the poker table.

“You’re that man from the tent revival. The one that got his legs healed.”

“Sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“No need to lie,” she looked around the hazy room, “I’m not the judging type.”

I invited her to sit. Helena was a true believer. It was tough to swallow. A true believer in a place like that.

“We all have our faults,” she said. She leaned into me so close that I could smell her cheap perfume. “Plus, I feel that games of chance are one way for God to smile down on us.” That was a sentiment I could get behind.

God smiled on me that night. I won hand after hand. Almost enough to pay Bobby back. Cheap beer made my spirits ride higher and a furtive look from Helena made me forget about Bobby. She had an easygoing innocence about her. It seemed she had all the worries in the world and yet still trusted that it would all turn out for the best. She hung on my every word, like she was a lump of clay waiting for me to mold her. She laughed when I wanted her to laugh. I even let her win a few hands of poker without her knowing. The night wore on, time seemed a blur.

“poo poo. What time is it?” The caravan that followed the preacher always left in the middle of the night, a parade of beaten-up trucks and jalopies growling in the night. Preacher liked to move before the town woke up and realized they were had.

“After midnight,” Helena said.

“I’ve got to get going.” The trucks were probably almost loaded already and I’d have to hoof it if I wanted to ride with them instead of paying for the train.

“Where do you have to go on a night like tonight?”

“I have to get home.” I took my cash and strode out the door. I struck a cigarette and grinned when she followed me out for a light. She touched the tip of her cigarette to mine and the orange glow lit her face like a lighthouse in the darkness.

She pulled away and took a drag, “You live nearby?”

“Staying a ways outside town.”

“Much too far this late. The roads are dark and rattlers like to lie down on them before they cool.”

“Seems like you have a better idea,” I knew I had her, but I wanted to hear it direct from her mouth.

“I got a room in town. You’re welcome to spend the night.”

I had her hooked. “I couldn’t be an inconvenience.”

She was stuck fast, “Helping a friend in need would make me feel like the Good Samaritan.”

She clutched my arm in the cooling night and led me into town. I could always catch a train in the morning to catch up with the preacher. I was only safe if I kept moving, but what was one night? We walked by the train station. Earlier it had been full of people coming from miles around to the revival. It was probably more people than the town had ever seen. The preacher might be a cheat, but I know the shopkeepers didn’t mind the extra business.

“Do you have a job waiting for you back home? Helena asked. “A family? Perhaps a wife?”

“God hasn’t blessed me with a wife yet. I was thinking of following the preacher for a while.”

“I know what you mean. I feel like I could leave everything behind to follow the right man to the ends of the earth.” She looked at me when she said this before she led me up the steps to her room.

***

I awoke cold, sheets still damp from sweat and Helena’s warm body no longer next to mine. But I wasn’t alone. Two men leaned over me: Ike and Harry, two of Bobby’s men.

“Rise and shine,” Ike said before Harry grabbed me and hold me down. He was a big brute of a man and I sunk into the mattress, unable to struggle free. Ike pulled out a heavy length of lead pipe.

“I’ve got Bobby’s money. I just needed the time to get away to gather it, you have to understand that.”

“Bobby understands, but he says it ain’t about the money. We sent people this way and that way looking for you, but you were always on the move. Thankfully Helena was able to send us word. Your problem is you always think you’re playing everyone else when you’re the one getting played.”

The pipe came down on my knee. Then my leg. Again and again until I forgot all sounds except those of metal hitting flesh, bones breaking, and my own screaming.

***

The left wheel of the wheelchair squeaked. It had rained the night before and much of the packed dirt of the field had turned to mud. I strained to hear the preacher’s voice as he called forward all those who needed the healing touch of Jesus Christ. I knew the mud would probably ruin the wheelchair, but I hoped I would never need it again. All I could do was move closer, inch by inch. The hot air inside the tent hit me as I crossed the threshold. I couldn’t see much through my swollen eyes, but I could feel the crowd watching me. Surely the preacher had one real miracle in him. I pulled up before the altar a broken man. The preacher laid his hands on me and I tried… I tried.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

In, slap one on me.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

How to Begin Again
869 words
Song: Memo to Human Resources

Tonight might be the worst decision of my life. Well, maybe more like second-worst. Here I am, locked in the bathroom. I figure I have a few minutes before they realize that I’ve been gone an abnormally long amount of time. I stare at the fuzzy blue hospital socks poking from my shoes. I hate these things, they always made my feet sweat.

A knock at the door. “Julie, you in there?” It was Sarah. My appointed guardian for the evening.

“Yeah, I’ll be right out.” One last look in the mirror. What am I doing there? I know the answer. Sarah says it will be good for me to get out and with people, but I agreed to come because if there is even the slightest chance that he’s here, I want to see him.

I remember to pull down the sleeves of my sweater as I open the door. Sarah pretends she doesn’t notice. She pretends she doesn’t want to stare at my wrist and she pretends she can’t see the little sliver of plastic from the hospital name tag poking out from the end of the sleeve.

We walk through the party and I feel like I’m on parade. All eyes are on me and not on me simultaneously. Every time somebody goes quiet when I pass it’s because they were talking about me.

“Terry just got here. He said he wants to see you.” She looks so excited to tell me this. Like I get that she thinks attention will make me feel better. She doesn’t get why it won’t, especially now. I almost feel too bad to say something and, besides, she’s my ride home.

“Yo girl,” Terry says. I roll my eyes. “Doctors give you anything good in there?” In the world of the high school party, the one with the percocet prescription is king. Sara looks mortified that Terry would even say the word hospital. I shouldn’t have come. Even if they don’t mention it, I know it’s all they think when they see me.

“Sorry dude,” is all I say.

“drat, that’s too bad.” I still can’t believe that guy has a full ride into UPenn waiting for him. His stoner eyes wander, looking for the next person he can hit up for some drugs. “Ryan,” Terry says, “long time no see!”

I freeze when I hear his name. I don’t look, I can’t look. Sarah looks like she doesn’t know what to do. Great. She’s just been a bundle of help tonight. Next thing I know, he’s beside me. I don’t look up right away. I just sort of stare at a loose thread poking out of his hoodie. My eyes follow the thread to his sleeve, then up his arm, until my gaze finally finds his. He looks perfect of course. I think about how terrible I must look right now with the dark circles under my eyes and how greasy my hair must be. I should’ve stopped home for a shower first.

“Hey Julie,” he says. It’s the first time I’ve heard his voice since the phone call.

“Hey Ryan,” I say. I don’t allow a hint of my longing or desire into my voice, which I consider a victory.

“Can I talk to you for a second?”

Sarah signals me “no” but I can’t help myself. “Yeah, I guess.” Another victory for me. Unless he can see through my chest and see just how hard my heart is thumping right now.

I follow him to the porch, where it’s quieter. The neighbors around here will usually turn a blind eye to a party contained in a house. They’ll only call the cops if it spills outside. He offers me a cigarette, but I decline. He inhales. I think he’s just trying to stall for time.

“How are you feeling?” He finally asks.

“Oh, you know. Good.” I say.

“That’s good.”

“Well, maybe not good. But I’m managing.”

“I’m glad.” he says. He finishes his cigarette. His fingers twitch like he wants another.

I can’t take it any longer. I can’t take him so close to me and acting as if I were a stranger.

“I love you,” I say. The words are desperate and he recoils from them.

“Look,” he says, “I’m sorry. I just can’t.”

I knew it was coming and yet deep inside I had hoped against hope.

“I don’t want you to hurt yourself,” he says. “It’s not fair for you to hurt yourself.”

I don’t know if he means fair to me or fair to him, but he has a point.

“I’m gonna go inside,” he says before leaving.

Sarah comes outside like she was inside watching the whole thing. Knowing her, she probably was.

“Can I have a cigarette?” I ask her.

She pulls out her pack and then hesitates. “Are you sure you’re okay to smoke these after being in the hospital?”

“Yeah, I was in for a suicide attempt, not lung cancer.” She hands me one and takes the time to light it for me. Sometimes she might be clueless but I’m still glad to have her around.

“What will you do now?” she says.

“Keep on living I guess.”

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

In.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

Sorry to put a damper on Benny's victory, but I'm going to be a big fat failure this week.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

In this week because I finally blah blah blah personal stuff that doesn't matter JUST WRITE.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

Howling - 1163 words

The howling began after midnight, just when Holden had dealt me my worst hand of the night. It echoed through the cabin and vibrated up the heavy beams of the cabin’s spine. I returned the ace I had palmed to the deck. The game was certainly over.

Esther came in as pale as her frozen breath. She allowed her face to wear the fear I tried so hard to bury.

“It’s so soon,” Esther said. “We just fed it the last goat two days ago and the next shipment is still three days off.”

We didn’t need to be told. The next shipment was on all our minds every time we passed the empty meat locker. Two feedings in a week. When might it reach a feeding a day?

“I’ll check the locker. Maybe there’s something we missed,” Holden said. Every step he took made the ancient floorboards creak and I swear the howling answered each step.

“Don’t just stand there,” I said to Esther. “Help me check the locks.” We went to the cellar door. The chains were secure. I double-checked that the heavy wooden beam was in its berth.

“There’s nothing in the meat locker,” Holden said. He had sneaked up behind us. I was already on edge with adrenaline, but that put me over.

“I could’ve told you that,” I said, not afraid to let some steel slip into my voice. I saw the look Esther gave Holden. I hated her for it.

“I’ll radio for instructions,” Esther said before locking herself in the radio room. I wondered if she could even hear anything over the hungry howling. I heard scratching as it tested its claws. I tried not to think about those claws. Or the teeth. Or its eyes, those gaping pools of blackness that compelled men to their graves.

There was nothing to do while we waited for instructions but be cold. I made my rounds in the cabin. The generator ran smoothly. Fuel would hold out for now. The roof held despite the heavy snowfall. We were out of powdered milk and eggs, but we had enough canned goods to last until the next shipment. The only thing that worried me were the rows of empty meat hooks.

Esther emerged an hour later with orders. “We’re to hunt enough meat for a feeding.”

“There’s nothing out there in this weather,” I said.

“We don’t even have a gun,” Holden said.

“Those are our orders.”

“Maybe I can set some traps. Catch some rabbits or rodents,” I said.

“Will it be enough?” Holden asked. Nobody answered. It would have to be enough.

***

At that point I would’ve done anything to get away from the howling. Walking through the snow wasn’t easy. It took less than a minute for the cold to penetrate my boots and mittens. The wind carried a forlorn sound.

I had to take my mittens off to set the traps. The cold bit straight to the bone. My knots were clumsy and loose. I knew the futility of my actions as I spread some feed as bait. The sky and ground melded into the same gray color. I knew there was no way any animal would find these traps in the blinding snow.

I contemplated leaving. I could take my chances in the snow. Maybe I could find shelter before I froze to death. The wind shifted in that moment, carrying the creature’s howls. I knew there was no escape. There was no place where I would be safe. I turned back towards the cabin, a coward.

***

The thing howled through the night and sent chills through my already freezing bones. None of us slept. I heard Esther and Holden whisper in the dark. Whenever I paced by they grew quiet.

I sat at the table, still covered in the remains of the card game. I gathered the cards together and shuffled them. Then laid them out and shuffled again. I kept shuffling until I heard scratches at the door. It was hungry. It had never before waited this long to eat. The chains on the door rattled. Then two hard slams that shook the cabin and a scream that pierced my skull and threatened to pop my eardrums.

The door held for now, but for how long I couldn’t be sure.

***

At first light I dragged my boots and mittens on to check the traps. Empty. I trudged through the snow and tried not to think about the thing beneath me. I wasn’t sure how big the cellar truly was. I had never explored it, even during the safe times when the monster slept. For all I knew, the cellar stretched out beneath the whole world.

When I returned to the cabin, Esther and Holden were huddled around the heater whispering.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Finally Esther spoke. “We received a call on the radio while you were out. There’s not going to be a shipment. Not for a while at least. The snow is simply too deep.”

I felt bile rise in my throat. “Don’t they know what we have to do out here?” All our eyes shot to the cellar door. Now the thumping had joined the howling as incessant. Chains rattled -- adding a percussive element to the shrieking.

“They told us a feeding must occur,” Holden said.

“With what? Traps were empty,” I said.

Neither of them could make eye contact with me. “Our orders are that one of us must make a sacrifice for the good of us all.”

“No. They can’t ask that of us.” I knew they could.

“We’re supposed to cast lots.” The door shuddered again and again with each impact. It wasn’t long now.

It was unthinkable, but we had to do something. I grabbed the deck of cards from the table. “Low card goes in.”

They both nodded. I shuffled the most careful, most deliberate, and most elaborate shuffle of my life. I placed the deck back onto the table.

Holden drew first: a jack. He sighed in relief. Odds were he was safe.

Esther drew a five. Her expression clouded over. Holden placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

I put my hand over the deck and pretended to draw. I flipped over the ace I had palmed during my shuffle. Holden gasped and Esther sobbed. I knew they both hoped I would be the one to draw the low card.

I allowed them a moment to themselves. The howling had reached a fever pitch. It knew a feeding was close. I prayed for this all to be over quickly. I couldn’t stand another moment of the noise.

I unlocked the chains. It took our combined strength to lift the wooden beam and open the heavy door.

There were the eyes. Esther didn’t spare us a last look. Just stepped inside. We slammed the door behind her. There was howling. There were screams. And then there was silence, if only for now.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

In.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

One Round in the Chamber 1203 words

I’m in the basement of the dry cleaner getting my side stitched up by some black market surgeon when I hear the news.

“Boss is alive,” I hear the fear in Tony’s voice over the phone, “We didn’t kill him.” And then the line dies. I’m not worried about Tony. He isn’t one for words and hanging up on someone is just his style. He’s two steps ahead of me, already out of the city and into the countryside to live a full life with a full wallet.

I’m not so lucky. I wince as the needle threads me. I pop a handful of aspirin, wash it down with a swig of vodka. The doctor gives me a dirty look. I wish I had the extra fifty bucks to pay him for some lidocaine.

And the news that Boss didn’t die…

I think of the miracle being pulled off by a team of doctors in an ICU somewhere to keep Boss alive. He survives a car bomb and meanwhile I’ll probably die of sepsis from this quack sewing me up. Life isn’t fair.

Doc wraps me up in so much gauze and tape that I can’t bend, which is for the best as I don’t want to pop my stitches. He recommends I take it easy, but he speaks without conviction. He knows taking it easy isn’t in the lifestyle of anyone who needs his services.

I need a plan. My face is probably all around the city, known to every cop and criminal alike. I step into the alley and put on a pair of sunglasses to hide my bruised face.

If I can get to the money, I’m golden. But my stash is half the city away. gently caress Tony for leaving. We were supposed to be a team. He nabs the cash, I take out Boss, we get out and nobody is the wiser. But Tony is gone and I’m still stuck here. I pull the revolver from my pants. One round left. The thing looks a little beat up from the blast that took out Boss’ car and sent that flying hunk of metal into my side. I’m not even sure if the thing will fire.

With Tony out of the picture, there’s only one person left in this town I can trust. I call Erica. She picks up on the first ring.

“Everyone’s looking for you.” She sounds worried. At least she’s still on my side.

“I know. Are you safe?”

“For now.”

“Good. I need you to do me a favor.”

***

I drive to the meeting spot in a cab. Blending into the sea of yellow is the only way to remain inconspicuous in a city with so many eyes. Nobody pays attention to yet another cab driving by.

Erica smokes on a park bench. She wears a pair of oversized sunglasses that I find both appealing and obnoxious. She doesn’t notice me yet, which is fine because I want to scope the place out. My head throbs along with my heart and my side with every breath I take. I force myself to count to a thousand. Erica finishes three cigarettes.

I get out the cab and her smile almost makes me forget the pain. She hands me a cigarette and lights her fourth.

“You’ve got the money with you?”

“Of course not. I’m not carrying that in public.”

“Where is it?”

She leans in as if to kiss me. Touches the tip of her cigarette to mine. I suck in air and smoke. I look over her shoulder and that’s when I see the men tailing her.

“I’m sorry,” is all she says.

***

I’m bleeding freely from my side again as they push me down on the chair. I know that’s the least of my worries. I’ve been in this sweat-stenched room in the abandoned tenement before. Normally I’m the one dragging some poor bastard here. Now I get a taste of my own medicine.

I hear footsteps on the stairs behind me. I know that’s part of the game. Not being able to see anything ramps up the terror. Well, it’s working. And when Charlie crosses in front of me he greets me with a right hook instead of an embrace.

The two men who brought me here hand Charlie my revolver, which he places on the fold-out table next to me. I eye it and know it’s a part of my torture. Having it just out of reach will torture my mind as Charlie tortures my body. The men leave me alone with him. I’m not going anywhere. This is Charlie’s show.

He doesn’t even ask questions. Just gets to work. The man is an artist with pain, but I’m not in a position to admire his work. He counts my bones as he breaks them. First to go is the bridge of my nose. My sinuses fill with blood and makes me feel like I’m drowning. The next blow breaks my zygomatic bone, which he explains to me is in my cheek.

Three bones later his cell phone rings. He answers, then holds it to my ear.

“Hello?” I spit blood onto the floor.

“I hope you now see the error of your ways,” Boss’ voice is weak and I can hear the beep of a heart monitor in the background. But he will end the day alive, so I guess he’s the big winner here.

“I hope you go gently caress yourself,” I say. It’s easy to say something brave when you know you’re going to die. Charlie takes the phone back and listens for a moment before he hangs up.

He grabs my revolver from the table.

“One round left. Very fitting,” he says. He spins the cylinder and points it at me.

Click.

“Let’s see how long your luck holds out.” He spins the cylinder again and takes aim. Next thing I know there’s a flash of light that drives all thought from my mind.

I can’t hear. I can’t see. But I’m still alive. My vision comes back slowly. My hearing doesn’t. There’s a ringing in my ears that feels like it will go on forever.

There’s a lot of smoke, but here’s what I see before me: Charlie twisting on the ground in pain. He clutches the charred, bloody stump of what’s left of his hand to his chest. He’s screaming, but I can’t hear it over the ringing.

The bullet exploded in the chamber. All because of the damage it took earlier when the car bomb went off. Saved by my previous gently caress up.

Nobody comes. Nobody can hear him. That’s the point of this place. I stagger to my feet and wish for the strength to kick him. He’ll survive, but I think he’ll remember this day for a long time to come. I step over him and make my way outside.

I’m alone. I was right about only having one person in this town I can trust and that person is me. Tony’s gone. Erica too. But the sun is shining. I take that to be a sign of good things on the horizon. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day, but today isn’t over yet.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

I like wizards. I'm in.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

Guys please don't post in this thread unless you also post an amazon link where your works can be found.

Amazon.com/giantbuttplugs is mine.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

The Wizard's Song 1265 words

I gripped the silent key until the teeth drove into my palm and drew blood. I had found it. After untold years and sacrifices, I had found it.

I was one of the few people who understood that the universe was made up of tiny motes too small to comprehend. These motes vibrated in the empty spaces to lend the appearance of substance to the physical world. Trillions upon countless trillions of these vibrations were the Song of the universe, which most people called magic.

I was a master of the Song. I heard the Song in everything. But the key I grasped in my hand was silent. The Song that bound the world together lived not in it. I turned it over. It looked to be an ordinary brass key, speckled and worn with age. I knew it for what it was. It opened a door to the silent place where the gods lived.

I turned to my shrine and prayed to the ten gods, each in their creche. Then I turned and bowed to the empty place, where the gods congregate. Ten fingers have we and ten gods as well. The gods gather in the eleventh space, always out of reach.

I grew aware of the sounds of men approaching. I heard not the noises they made. I heard the vibrations of every fiber of their being. They were quiet enough to sneak upon any normal man, but any half-trained wizard would hear them miles away. It spoke to my current state of distraction that they had gotten so close without being detected. The king had sent his assassins to purge me of my blasphemy. To go where the gods reside is to hear their secret names. To hear their secret games is to become a god. That is forbidden.

I turned the key in the lock to my cupboard door. It door opened and a warm breeze carried through. I could see a desert beyond the doorway where normally there would be only reagents used in my magic. I stepped through and closed the door behind me before the assassins reached me.

###

It was a desolate land, but the Song was rich and varied. It sang here stronger than any place I had ever known. I felt it congeal in puddles and streams of activity around me although there was no water.

I bent down to examine the dust. Millions of tiny insects marched in a line. Each carried a grain of sand in its mandibles. I could hear other lines of insects. They came from every which way and all traveled in the same direction, surely to converge somewhere in the distance. I could feel an immense power beckon me in the same direction the insects marched.

I set off following the trail of insects to their destination. I could see the tower hours into my trek, though the sun did not move in the sky. It was the only feature in a featureless land. My lips cracked in the heat. I grew weary and thirsty. I continued on. It would take more than mere thirst to stop a wizard.

The tower grew the closer I came. It was ancient. Untold years old as the stories said. Yet it still looked as new as the day it had been erected. As I approached it, the stone shifted and moved. A black mass swirled over it. I leaned in. The insects I had followed climbed over it. Each placed the grain of sand it carried onto the tower, repairing it one tiny piece at a time.

I recoiled from the teeming insects. A voice called out to me. It both echoed in the wilderness and whispered in my brain.

“Why have you come here, wizard?”

There were two paths to take. I could lie about my intentions and my desire to become a god. If the gods knew my lie, they would surely kill me. Though if I told the truth and they wished to punish me for my audacity, I would also surely die.

I was silent for a long moment. The last syllable of the question thrummed in my head. In the end I decided that a lie was more dangerous than the truth.

“I am here to know the secret names of the gods and join them.” I wove a simple spell that carried my voice into every stone in the tower. Let them judge me worthy or unworthy. I answered again and again in every language I knew, modern or ancient, living or dead. The insects stopped their movement as I spoke and did not move again until I had finished.

The door swung open. The interior of the tower was too dark for me to make out in the brightness of the desert. I had received my answer, but I would have to step inside to learn what it was.

###

I did not find my answer. All I found was a staircase spiraling around the interior of the tower. It reached up further than I could see.

I climbed. As I made my ascent I became more aware of the song around me. It thrummed inside my chest. I felt it in my fingertips. It grew stronger as I climbed. Louder. More insistent. My teeth rumbled in my head.

I saw a landing above me. The closer I got, the louder the Song grew. When I reached the landing it had become deafening. There was a door on the landing. Simple, unadorned. It was the only place to go. I created a spell of muffling to protect myself. It would do me no good if I were torn to pieces before I reached it.

The spell failed me when I grabbed onto the door’s latch. The Song invaded me. It threatened to deafen me. I grabbed the latch and it tore at me. I could feel the motes that made me ripping apart. I was so close to the point of creation. Just beyond this door were the gods and I would join them. I would become one of them. I opened the door and tumbled in.

The small room at the top of the tower was as featureless as the desert surrounding it.

It was empty. Empty of beings and empty of Song. I fell to the roughly hewn floor. Starved of the Song which filled every moment of my life. The gods to whom I had dedicated my life were not here. The floor was covered in a thick layer of undisturbed dust. There were only two fixtures: the door behind me and an identical door ahead.

The gods seemed to love doors. They were a way of offering hope while still obscuring the other side. My footsteps didn’t even make a sound as I approached the other door. My breathing didn’t make a sound. Nor my heart. To not hear those sounds that have been carried within me since birth was unnerving. My very identity stripped from me. The silence was oppressive. There were no gods for me here. I was nothing. I was no god. I was only what the Song shaped me to be.

I wrenched the door open and as I stumbled through I sighed in relief. I collapsed onto the cold stone floor back in my workshop. My ordeal over.

But the silence had followed me back into the world. I gathered my senses around me, but I could no longer hear the Song of the universe. I could no longer hear anything. I screamed silently, for I was nothing.

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up


Thank you for this!

hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

I appreciate what all the judges said about my work this week.

I'll be doing some crits for the newbies while plane hopping tomorrow and shall post when I get reliable internet.

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hotsoupdinner
Apr 12, 2007
eat up

Newbie crits part 1:

Noeland - Three Dimensions, More or Less

First two lines are great and then boom, clunky exposition. The entire piece reads like this. There will be a clever or cool line caught between two awkward ones.

It takes a long while to get into the story. This is something a lot of the first timers ran into. Lots of set up and backstory, then a paragraph of conflict at the end. With low word counts it really helps to establish conflict and character right away.

I'm not really sure what happens at the end. There's a lot of explanation of how dangerous a paper cut is, then the guy gets one, and it ends up benefitting him? I can't imagine that becoming a master of a certain kind of magic would bum any wizard out. Then I'm not sure what happens after.


Pham Nuwen - Chance Man

An interesting, fun concept that sometimes gets muddled in a lot of minutiae that doesn't matter.

Lots of good ideas, but they're explained in a dry manner which makes it harder for me to get in the character's head. Like when e cop's gun goes off. Does it bother him? I can't tell because I can't get a feel for him. Other than that it was a quick, fun read.


Claven666 - Lady Carbuncle

Some good turns of phrase that serve you well. Like the "take a nasty poo poo" line and the foreshadowing to the mayor's death. They feel authentic and leave me wanting more. I was prepared to hate the voice it was written in, but was pleasantly surprised with how easy it flowed.

Another late start story. Lots of backstory and then a flood of information at the end at felt rushed and had no impact.


AgentCooper - Tulpas for the One Percent

I don't really know what to say that hasn't been said. There really isn't any conflict or story here. Dialogue is expository and stiff. Creepy, and not in a good way.


Omi no Kami - The Nightly Portents

This story tries so hard to be clever. It uses "pshaw." I'm not sure what anyone is talking about or why I should care. The dialogue is used as a crutch instead of actually telling a story.

I do like the idea of a magical tv show and the lingo is actually close enough to feel authentic, but again I was given no reason to care.

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