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Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



epoch. posted:

Be rough, it's my first time.

Hello fellow first timer.

In and ready to probably get a new rear end in a top hat torn open!

(also flash please/thanks)

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Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Doubting Thomas
(1493 words)
The party bard parties hard. Everyone else is varying degrees of done with him.

Thomas considered himself a man well traveled, but even he stood awestruck at the sight of the Forgotten City sprawling on for miles at the base of the hill. Towers, homes and stores alike shimmered beneath the sun, the faint remains of ancient magic clinging to the bleached white weavestone. Already a song formed at Thomas’s lips to mark the occasion, something snappy - city ditty tragic magic- instead, he rummaged in his mind for something more informative.

“They, uh, they say the Forgotten City is named because of the protections placed on it by wizards. Wards. An invisibility field wrapped around it. Traps! Should - do we really want to mess with a city half the size of the... capital?"

Thomas frowned, his words tapering off and his shoulders slumping at the familiar realization that nobody was listening. Nobody cared. How many times was he going to go through the same little song and dance? Bel'Vas, at least, showed the kindness to pause, antennae bouncing with every brisk step of all six legs.

“A no-see field of such size would be almost, but not entirely impossible, Master Thomas, we have been over this repeatedly! Just as we discussed most traps and wards would have expired by now,” Bel'vas explained, mandibles clicking in his effort to handle the common tongue. His oversized hat almost fell from his head as he rose up on his back legs, reaching with the top pair to force it down. “And pause for a moment, think! The knowledge such weavers of magic must have left behind if they could work such. Just the thought - oh! Come, or we will be late!"

Thomas blinked, watching the strange little wizard dart and scurry his way down the hill with a renewed burst of speed. Sighing deeply, and with a rub of his throbbing forehead, Thomas checked his gear one final time and hurried to catch up.

***

Bartholomew swung his blade, a harsh cry of triumph escaping him as the steel found its mark. The broadsword cut cleanly through the body of the enormous toad, then moved to deliver a backswing right into the neck of its goblin jockey. Two shards of earth whizzed by Bart's face, finding their marks in the charging ogres, nailing one straight through the heart and in the right eye of the second. Bart raised his blade to charge, but barely got two steps - the last of the overwhelmed ogres stumbling, grasping at wounds that seemed to come from nowhere. Their suffering was brief, throats slit by daggers flickering back into view along with their owner.

“Barty, if you keep on throwing yourself at everything that moves, I’m not gonna be the one to save you if you throw yourself right into a trap,” Cele lied, shooting the mass of armor and weaponry a lingering look. Her fingers traded blooded blades for a torch, wasting little time in providing further illumination to the dim, yet surprisingly clean great hall.

"Yet you come a'running to save me when I stumble right into one, don'tcha?" Bart flashed her a wink. "Besides. I can't help being so jumpy. Something about this place rubs me the wrong way. Magic. Ghosts. Pixies. One for three and you know one of the other two ain't far behind, sweets. Stupid - tears between realatees."

"Re-al-i-ties," clicked from the room's shadows.

"Three things, Bart, and just to let you know: the first is to never call me 'sweets' again."

"Shoot, sw— Cele."

"Two is a two-for-one: this city isn't haunted by anything worse than the stench of ogres and pixies don't exist. Thomas just made 'em up for his stories."

Cele paused, beginning to trace her gloved hand along the walls. It drew back with barely a hint of dust clinging to the leather, a detail eliciting a quiet 'hummh' of consideration. Bart cleared his throat behind her.

"Sorry. Three, I really think you should go talk to Thomas. Have you noticed him being drunk all the time these days?"

"No. Why do you suddenly care about Tom? Are you - did he do something while drunk?" Bart said.

"For - look. This isn't the first time I've asked you. And no, Thomas would never do something like that. If you don't believe me - Bel?"

"Master Thomas is exhibiting behavior typically indicative of what is commonly known as an alcoholic. It disrupts our—"

"Thank you, Bel'Vas. Look, are you the group's mother, now, Cel? Worried for little Tom? Tom is fine, an adult and he can take care of himself."

"Bart! Listen. We watch everyone's backs. That's how this works, that's how it's always worked. If Thomas can't keep himself sober..."

"Fine, fine, save me the speech, both of you." Bartholomew sighed, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "I'll do it. Was there anything else you both wanted to pile on to me about, or is it just our drunken bard?"

A sharp click rang out, followed by several quick taps against stone. Perking up, Celes hurried along the wall to where Bel'Vas indicated, digging her fingers into the stone. With a grunt of effort it came free, her arm reaching into the hiding place.

"Yeah. Four." The fat purse of coins jangled with every shake, a smile on the woman's lips. "Payday."

***

Camp duty was boring, but Thomas pulled the short straw, that much

Sentinel duty was worse. Sentinel duty was belittling.

Bart considered himself above sentinel duty.

Bel'Vas viewed himself too valuable to leave alone and always bugged out at the suggestion. (Thomas continued to find such a joke amusing to no end.)

Cele volunteered on occasions, but Thomas knew is ability to strike unerringly from a distance provided an advantage. It still didn't make the duty of being forced away from the rest of the party any easier. Where was the glory, the thrill? Even cleaning out the inn that could serve as their camp - a dozen goblins and one runty ogre - seemed to only further serve as a reminder of his inadequacy.

Demons. Now there were some worthwhile opponents. Strumming his lyre with one hand, his other fought a losing battle against such familiar demons as he refilled his flagon. A stray thought gave him pause, however, ceasing his strumming to listen to the sound of ale filling his mug for several quiet seconds.

Giggling, snorting, Thomas resumed his playing, the air beginning to shimmer around his lyre.

***

"I told you so! This place is haunted! Tom! TOM!" Bart yelled above the dull roar of constant, idle chatter.

Groaning, Cele held her head in her hands, trying her hardest to ignore their fearless leader. Bel'Vas, meanwhile, chirped with disapproval, waving his legs through the so-called ghosts. The chatty phantoms seemed to pay him no heed. Men and women alike continued to play out the strange tavern scene, drinking and laughing and arguing. "Ghosts do not fizzle when touched. We do not believe these to be spirits, do we? Simple illusions."

"Come on. Bart, check the basement, Bel, upstairs. We find Thomas, we leave. I think you were right, Bart, this place is off."

"You, uh, you know, I tried to tell you all that," came a familiar voice from the other room. Stumbling, a drink in both his hands and his bow around his neck, Thomas almost fell right onto Bel'Vas in a failed attempt to swerve around one of the illusions. Cele and Bel rushed forward to support their friend while Bart kept a tense hand on the pommel of his blade.

"We better get out of here, Barty! You know, you know, if they weren't on the way now, they are now! All my - all my new friends know about it!" Thomas gestured to the flickering illusions.

"Thomas, you're talking nonsense. Come on, let's get him out of here, Bart. Bart?"

"They? Who are they, Tom?"

"Making this whole - this whole place invisible would cause a stir every time some idiots - like us, or explorers - also like us! - bumped into this place. No, no, no!" Laughing nervously, the twisted grin that was spreading on Thomas's face was enough to make Bart draw. Moments later, the illusions began to wink out of existence, one by one.

"They wrapped it in a bubble, a time bubble! For the whole - the whole city. So tidy, barely any dust, weak monsters, and, guess what? Perfectly good magic-detecting wards!" By then, the nervousness was gone and Thomas seemed almost crazed in his laughing.

"And every single one of my poor, poor departed friends required a casting of an - an illusion. If they didn't know we were here before, they sure know now!"

Thomas kept laughing. Laughing as the realization crept into the party's faces, laughing as Bel'Vas' teleportation failed to go off, laughing as something roared far, far off in the distance. He laughed all the way out of the city, cursed every step of the way by the warrior that bore him on his back.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In!

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



The Frame Job 998 words

Two years with nothing but impersonal Christmas cards and a refusal to commit to my wedding. And now, according to the hasty scrawls on a cheap postcard, he needed me more than anything. Why? I flew out at once – anything to bring back one of Christ’s lost sheep to the fold.

My knuckles rapped against the door, and I cast my mind back to our last angry conversation years prior - the restored cross necklace around my neck seemed all the heavier, thinking of Jake. The man who opened the door snapped me from my thoughts: all of Jake’s features were in the right place, but everything seemed so wrong, his eyes sunken and his hair grayed. I successfully managed to keep most of my things together from the shock, save for a single pamphlet - a haunting, yet beautiful image of Christ crucified on the cover. Jake stooped to pick it up, frowning as he stuffed it between my fingers.

“Never miss a chance, Fred?” he sighed, straightening his broken glasses. “Come in.”

---

I expected a rigorous debate. What I got was an hour of talking at Jake, the takeout forgotten in my attempt to elicit any sort of emotional response.

“You know I would do anything for you, Jake. I can help you check out this place...” I grabbed one of the pamphlets and opened it up, showing off all the happy little people in their happy little pews.

Jake held up a hand.

“Anything?”

“Anything,” I said, not hesitating.

Jake tugged at my arm and dragged me back to the entry hall, refusing to answer any of my questions at his burst of sudden liveliness. My last question was nearly swallowed up in an attempt not to vomit, having expected the musty smell of attics everywhere when he lowered the steps – not the foul, unholy stench that washed over me. I braced myself, ready to bury a corpse for Jake.

Instead, the walls of the dim, poorly insulated room were piled high with pictures. Stacks of paintings, printouts, even the occasional drawing in crayon winked out at me from the piles. There was no sense to how they were arranged, beautiful portraits and landscapes mixed with terrifying and lewd images. Only one spot in the room stood out, a desk littered with notebooks, VCR tapes and a camera tangled in rope. Nearby, a tiny photograph of a forest hung on the wall, much too small for the chipped, wooden frame that displayed it.

“Jake – what is all this?”

He gave me no answer. Instead, he resumed his grip and dragged me over to the frame, shoving my arm through the glass. When my brain caught up to what exactly happened, I screamed and nearly tumbled into a pile of paintings from jerking back from the strange sensation. Pine needles tipped with dew clung to my sleeve.

“A portal, Fred. A portal. Infinite worlds. Dreams. Possibilities. Paintings. Pictures. Everything. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing!” His voice cracked as he pulled me closer. “The infinite! Your God is nothing. We could be gods! To create worlds!"

We stood there for a moment, the shepherd and the sheep listening to the howling wind. I opened my mouth to speak, but Jake saved me from blathering some irrelevant bible passage with the first of his sobs, the frail man slumping to the floor.

I searched my mind for any bit of wisdom for just such a situation - but came up blank. My fists balled at my side, not even realizing that I still held the Holy Church of Christ leaflet in my hand, the image of Christ and the cross crumpling in my fingers. Realizing the blasphemy I committed, I straightened out the pamphlet, going to great lengths to flatten out the face of my savior - and staring into his pained eyes, I found the beginnings of a plan forming in my mind. An opportunity to share Christ's love.

Whispering a protective prayer, I took the frame from the wall and switched the photograph for the smoothed pamphlet. Testing the surface of the glass once more revealed that not only did the portal work when off the wall but my own weakness – how I yearned to go through. To be so close, but so far from my Lord! I moved forward, frame raised over my head like some improvised murder weapon, only to have Jake look up at me at the last moment.

“Please, Fred. Stop it. The voices. The worlds. I've seen so much, I'm so tired."

I found myself paralyzed like a deer in headlights, the frame feeling so very heavy in my hands. Jake sat still as every prayer for his soul over the years went through my mind. The lost sheep, the last of the hundred was so easily within my grasp. Doubts slammed through my mind—

Can I be the good shepherd?
I would do anything for him.
For the lost sheep.
Anything.


—I screamed as I brought the portal down—

Can the good shepherd force his flock and still keep their love?

—and snapped the brittle frame over my knee.

Tossing the broken thing of the devil aside, I slid to the ground and wrapped my arms around Jake, holding him close. Laughing, already wondering if I made the right choice, I realized that I was shaking even more than Jake.

“Come on, Jake,” I whispered, unaware of how much time we spent in that cluttered attic. “Let’s go get dinner, let’s get out of here. We’ll get dinner, my treat.”

“Fred?” Jake's voice seemed clear, more awake.

“Yeah, buddy?”

“No more talking about gods - your God or otherwise.”

"Yeah, okay. We'll wait to—"

"Ever."

I swallowed, the idea hard to process - but nodded.

"Deal."

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In!

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Sun Mother
1196 words

The sun hung persistently in the cloudless sky, beating down without mercy on the flat, barren desert. Almost as if an act of defiance, life stubbornly continued on in the desert. And in a small village, one old mother considered her own act of defiance.

In her tiny tent, Idelsa paused in unpacking her things, distracted by the collage of old photos she kept. Daughters and mothers with their covered faces, men and sons posing for one last memory before moving away to the city for work all looked back at her. Idelsa added a few more, pictures of herself smiling, dancing and working with women from all over the world.

"It's nice to see you smiling, Idelsa."

The old mother turned with all the speed her aching hip allowed. A smile graced her lips at the sight of the younger woman with a child clinging to her legs.

"Kelitha!" Idelsa laughed, giving a hug to the younger woman and kisses to her child. "You would have loved it. There was so much to see, so much to learn! I have so much to teach you and the others."

Kelitha flinched away from the embrace, wringing her hands nervously.

"I - I shouldn't even be here. My husband—"

"—is an idiot and a bum who sits around all day," Idelsa finished. "You know he can't keep you from seeing the old mother. What? What is it, girl, speak!"

Kelitha took a deep draw from her freshly lit cigarette, shaking her head. "It's not just that, Idelsa. Things have changed in the months you've been gone. Behar has threatened retribution against those who use the panels."

The old mother hoped that Kelitha missed her scowl at the village elder's name.

"We can discuss that later. Stay, please, at least until it gets dark. Tell me what I have missed."

---

Idelsa bit back a groan, reminding herself to take the ladder slowly. Six months seemed like forever, but the panels and equipment came as promised. Not that such a fulfilled promise did any good in easing her aches and pains. Every morning was a struggle just to get out of bed, especially in the cooler months. Yet, the reward of seeing the eyes of the children and other women light up in awe, in interest at the potential of harnessing the power of the merciless sun!

The men refused to speak to her for her blessings, as Kelitha warned. Behar cut her fuel allotment, citing supply issues to the rest of the villagers. And while the women of the village might have been interested, not a single one came to Idelsa's lessons. She cursed the names of their husbands beneath her breath, one by one.

"Old mother! Hey, old mother!"

Kelitha hurried her way up the ladder, joining the old mother on one of the few solid roofs in the village. Even beginning to get on in age herself, Kel was plenty spry. Like every week, they shared a lunch together as Idelsa worked her engineering magic, setting up the panels in the optimal places and making sure that everything was in order.

"And your husband?" Idelsa asked, forcing her shaking hand to to properly grip the screwdriver for the last step of the installation.

"I - he still does not like the fact that I see you like this. But I tell him, who else will tend to the old mother? You really shouldn't be up here, Idelsa."

Waving her hand idly, the old mother decided it was time for a break and reached for the most vital tool in her collection: her solar engineering manual.

"Let my old eyes rest a while. Read to me again, for a little? Page eighteen, about the batteries..."

---

Idelsa passed away a year later, living long enough to see most of the tents and homes properly set up with their solar panels.

Behar decided not to remove the panels - his plan was much better than that, or so he thought. Why tear them down when they would fail? With nobody around to repair them, they would be useless and be forgotten like so many other things in the desert. The village would have no choice but to go back to buying kerosene for their lamps, and Behar would profit once more, uppity women and all..

All he had to do was wait.

And wait.

Behar came to realize his plan had failed several weeks later. The complaints came in, but instead of removing their panels, they would mysteriously be fixed or replaced within the same week. Worse still, even the last holdouts were beginning to come around. How was he to properly pay for the luxuries, the shelter of his house come summer?

Having his men tear down the installations was one thing. But what if there was another way?

---

Kelitha swore. Swore at her husband dozing away drunk in their tent, at the old woman who had dragged her into the mess, at Behar for his arrogance, and even at God. For once in her life, she finally had control over something that wasn't cooking supper or raising children. Even though the panels and parts were graciously provided at first, the government would soon come calling from the big city for the first monthly payment.

Even though she was far better with words than numbers, even Kelitha understood that the panels were the wiser investment by far - how much money did her husband only spend on fuel for their lamp? For their cooking fires? Money that was being saved all over the village, thanks to the solar panels! Yet when Kelitha, when a woman came calling to collect - that was the problem.

Kelitha had no idea what scared her worse: the thought of taking out a loan or the voice from behind her.

"You don't have to sneak like this, you know."

Another swear for Behar as the elder caught her red-handed, sneaking about with her little bundle of tools. Too lost in thought to sneak properly. Kelitha could at least appreciate the irony that the older man was using one of the solar lights in the darkness.

"Relax, please. I come to offer peace. Or a truce, if you would like. Smoke?"

Kelitha nodded.

"I was too hasty with Idelsa. I can only apologize to her spirit - and you. I am sorry," he said. "The idea of a woman doing... all this, is hard to swallow for many. I offer you this, as apologies." From his pocket he withdrew a sheet of paper, offering up his light to allow the young engineer light to read by.

"A contract?" she asked, stunned. Her eyes continued to scan the document, "You want to start a company. With me?"

It was Behar's turn to nod. Kelitha tried and failed keep the excitement from creeping into her voice.

"No deal. Not like this," she said, finally.

"What—"

"You can keep your unfair share of any profit, fine. Even stay president to my manger. But you let me handle it all. Assembly. Training. Maintenance. And you let me keep my title, of course."

"Which is?"

Kelitha thought of Idelsa.

"Solar engineer, of course. Our second."

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Password Dog
199 words

Harold tried to get comfortable in his lonely bed, stumped by the question posed by his laptop.

What was the name of your first pet?

The answer wasn’t Terrence, the cat that ran away.

Or Goldie, won at a carnival – and flushed.

Going to his life insurance site had been a mistake. But the question plagued at him, even when switching over to his baby monitor app. Little Jackie was sound asleep in her crib.

Harold concentrated, trying to think back before the others. When he was Jackie’s age.

The memory of fur came first, then of his own crib – and memories of his first friend and protector.

A huge, old mastiff sits patiently, drool trickling from his mouth. His tail wags, excitedly, as his humans tape the whole scene. The smallest, Harold, has only begun to walk – yet still crawls all over the patient mountain of fur.

It will be many more months of adventure and tail-pulling, of watchful nights at Harold’s bed before his deserved rest.


After that, his password was easy. Harold decided to increase his policy, but to leave the house for the first time in days – a dog for Jackie seemed a wise investment indeed.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In!

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



If Your Treehouse Falls and No One Is Around to Hear It, Does It Make a Sound?
1283 words

We screamed as the bulldozer came at us. Zach, brave as could be, kept his cool as the metal monster advanced. I squirmed, trying to escape the chains holding us tight to the tree. Realizing escape wasn't happening without Zach changing his mind, I squeezed my eyes tight and prepared to open them in heaven like mama said I would.

The bulldozer screeched to a stop feet away. I only dared to peek when I heard the bulldozer rumble away – a fat little man in an even littler suit yelling at the machine’s driver as it drove off. Zach exhaled, a grin wide on his face as his shaking hands slipped the key into the lock, letting us free.

“See? Toldja they just wanted to scare us.”

---

While the construction workers left their jobs, we regrouped in the Great Hall of our treehouse. Zach stood in the middle of us all, the target of whines and complaints from the others. Zach’s confident smile never seemed to falter through it all, even if his foot tapped with impatience.

“Your plan is dumb.”

“I’m hungry!”

“Dad is gonna kill me for being out late.”

“I’m tired, and – I, maybe, kinda, need new pants after the bulldozer…”

“Guys!” Zach laughed, hands thrust into his pockets. “Look. We can win this! We just gotta wait them out, right? Everyone can go home. We’ll figure out who will watch the house at what times tomorrow, okay?”

My own stomach grumbled, and I tried to distract myself from thoughts of mama preparing chicken or mac-n-cheese or any of her other amazing food. I moved my fingers over the wall next to me, letting them trace along the various cravings. Initials, messages, drawings and countless tic-tac-toe games with long inaccurate tallies all scratched into the wood, sometimes scratched over messages from years past. Only some of the older messages remained uncovered, messages from us and our parents when Zach and his dad first built the place.

None of us understood why Zach loved the house so much, but I knew it had history – our history – and that was important enough. Right?

Zach sat next to me, his knees drawn in close. Only the two of us remained in the cleared out room.

“Blake?”

“Yeah, Zach?”

“Here,” he said and reached into one of his coat’s pockets, pulling out a tiny misshapen package vaguely resembling a cookie. “I was gonna save it, but, uh. Your mom is gonna be so mad. I bet she’ll ground you for a hundred years or something. Maybe even without her awesome food.”

He snickered and handed over the cookie, the pass completed with our secret handshake ending in a fist bump.

“Blake?”

“Mm?"

Zach sighed and placed his head against his knees, trying to keep his cool. Our fearless leader couldn’t break down in front of one his most trusted soldiers! I placed my hand on his shoulder, and I leaned in to hear Zach's quiet voice.

“I’m scared. Like... a lot. But you better not tell anyone I said that, or I swear..." he said, punching halfheartedly at my shoulder.

“I promise! I promise. But... why? You said they just wanted to scare us with the bulldozer, right?" I asked. "Besides! This place is a fortress. We can defend our castle against all invaders, sir!" I stood and gave him a mock salute, hoping the soldier routine would cheer Zach up. Instead, he just stared up at me for a moment.

"Dad always told me a man has to defend his castle. I... can I, we really do this? Ugh. Go home, Blake. I need my lieutenant in tip-top form for our planning tomorrow. If your mom lets you."

Zach was right about one thing – mama grounded me pretty much on the spot when I got home. But when I told her everything about the chain and bulldozer, my sentence was upgraded to a "million" years.

---

I worried sleep would be difficult, that I would keep trying to figure out ways to save our awesome treehouse. I'd barely even considered the slingshots and water balloons stored in our armory when sleep took me. But not for long.

"...come on...!"

My sleepy self stumbled to the window and opened it. Zach had been tapping away at my window. His flushed face and ragged breath didn't stop him from whispering his orders at me. "Hurry up, dork! No one is at the treehouse right now. Come on! Hurry! Bring a pack - please?"

I grumbled something about the time to Zach, but something in the way he begged, whispered "please?" got me moving quicker. We ran through backyards, along the sparse treeline that seemed even further from the houses by the day. One tree stood out like an out of place thumb, one of the last stopping the road from being built.

Our tree.

Huffing, we climbed the ladder to the treehouse while Zach ignored any questions. I expected Zach to lead us into the Great Hall once more, but instead we caught our breath in a tiny room. A room only Zach usually entered, the only room in the house with a lock: the treasure room.

Zach stuffed the pack, filling it with our important treasures. A huge bag of marbles, my Game Boy, a one-eyed teddy bear. And Zach's private photo album.

"Zach? Why are you doing this? Do you think we're going to lose?"

"Go home. Run! But don't you dare drop this bag. You guard it with your life, Lieutenant Blake. We–"

Zach went silent as a machine outside started up. We both rushed for the parapets but Zach stopped and shoved me back toward the door.

"You have a mission, soldier! Go!"

The entire house shook as the machine crashed into it, and Zach pushed me again. I screamed after him, but he continued on, rushing into the armory. I escaped with the bag of treasures clutched to my chest, and yelled at the driver to no success - the pellets fired from the treehouse missed the bulldozer's cabin by a mile.

Only when seeing the treehouse at its death did I realize how small, crappy and vulnerable it was. Our Great Hall? Simply the biggest room in the house. The treasure room? A dinky closet. The parapets just an old wobbly railing. Was it Zach who made it all seem so much bigger?

A shadow flew from the house, moments before the tree fell. But instead of rolling and landing unharmed like some action movie hero, I could clearly hear the snap of something breaking, and not just the tree. Still holding the bag, I rushed to Zach's side.

---

Zach's stepdad left with my mama, promising they would return from the hospital cafeteria shortly. Seeing Zach, brave and invincible Zach laid up was so strange to me. He nodded in greeting, his eyes lighting up at the sight of the album in my hands.

"Thanks for bringing it, Blake. But - I wanna talk, I mean, but can you give me a sec with this? I... need a minute."

Zach turned away, opening up the album. I stepped, but didn't move, my curiosity getting the best of me. I peered over Zach's shoulder, watching him ignore the photos of us all at the back - instead, turning to the pictures at the front. Pictures of Zach and a huge man working together on the treehouse.

"Sorry, dad," he whispered, "I couldn't– I didn't save..."

I backed out of the room, letting Zach be alone with his memories. Mama told me that Zach's body would heal, but it would be up to me, to his loyal band of soldiers – friends – to help heal his spirit.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In! TDbot, do as you will.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In with a for my terrible failure last week.

Give me a Pokemon! This can only end well.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Hypnophobia
Prompt: Musharna
1134 words

Samuel paced across his patio in a valiant, pointless struggle against his foe. Every trick in the book ultimately failed him, but the fighter in him yearned to eke out even a few minutes more before his inevitable surrender. Already, Samuel felt the presence of his enemy, felt it sneaking up to drag him into the abyss he so utterly feared. Deciding it better to face his defeat with dignity instead of collapsing on the spot, Samuel deposited himself into his rocking chair. He reached for his coffee, but his hand failed to even make it halfway before sleep finally took him down.

Pedestrians mostly failed to notice the man snoring on the second floor patio, but word spread quickly to his neighbors. Headphones and earplugs plugged in. Stereos and televisions turned up. Conversations in progress at the time did anything they could to avoid discussing the nice old man in 6B that screamed and cried every few days - so unfortunate, what a pity, shame about his wife, did you see the game last night? Samuel remained trapped in his tormenting dreams, sobbing an old man's grief the world refused to acknowledge.

Samuel woke the next morning with a puddle of drool in his lap. Collecting the paper left on his patio, he moved through the drudgery of his morning routine. With his needs tended to, the kids outside his door yelled out and his first pot of coffee on the way, Samuel sat down and flipped through the paper. He flipped past the scores, past the stocks, and ignored the funnies - even Haggar and Snoopy couldn't make him smile. Samuel turned to the ads, looking for anything that promised hope. He'd tried two therapists, a hypnotist, a priest and even some drat hippy's sweat lodge - the last one, at least, made him feel something: filthy.

An advertisement on page three caught his eye:

DREAM CATCHER
Nightmares got YOU down?
Can't dream your way out of - or into - a paper bag?
We can help.
NO APPOINTMENT NEEDED
NO QUESTIONS ASKED
CASH PAYMENT UPFRONT

Samuel almost passed over it, the overly artistic and garishly pink font turning him off. The title kept nagging at him, though, reminding him of the dream catchers that hung in nearly every corner of his apartment crammed with such remedies. Deciding his dignity was spiraling down the drain anyway, Samuel scribbled down the address and gathered what cash was left in the jar marked for swears and the jar marked for the Greece trip - and made his way downtown.

---

Within seconds of arriving, Samuel found things to complain about.

"Can't you change this music?" he said to the receptionist, who obliged the old man happily - only to reveal that every other track on the playlist was just as soft, calming as the last.

"Don't you have somewhere to wait that ain't so - so - so drat pink?" he snapped, and again the receptionist begged Samuel's pardon.

"Don't you have somethin' not so soft?" he said and pulled himself out of his comfy chair for the fifth time in three minutes. Samuel threw his hands up in frustration and began to pace, already feeling driven to his favored last resort to stave off the enemy. It nearly got the jump on him twice on the bus ride over to the Dream Catcher.

"K., Samuel? The Catcher will see you now."

---

Samuel grumbled one final time at the receptionist on his way to the tiny back room. His mood only soured from bad to worse, forced to walk through quite the thick pink hazy material, only to find himself in a room filled with the stuff. The fog machine hidden somewhere leaving a pink mist on the floor sure didn't help Samuel, either. The temptation to march right out rose in him, but since he traveled so far...

A table sat in the middle of the room, and Samuel joined the room's other occupant, glad to feel a stool beneath his rear end instead of those overly plush chairs. The robed man barely seemed to notice Samuel's entrance, seeming more entranced with the act of balancing his cigarette holder - complete with unlit cigarette.

Samuel opened his mouth to speak-

"No questions asked, no answers given,"-and was cut short. The strange little man moved as if to take a drag from his cigarette, then turned the holder around and offered it to Samuel. "Please. After you. It is the reason you are here, yes."

Hesitating, Samuel took the offered implement. Something about the entire experience unnerved him, and a quick glance behind him confirmed his suspicion that the fog machine had clearly gone overboard with the mist filling the room. But had the door always been so far away? Feeling rather foolish at doing so with an unlit cigarette attached, Samuel brought the holder to his lips.

He coughed, violently. A dark cloud of smoke spewed from his lips, and the robed man lunged across the table, trapping the belched cloud of smoke within a glass container, the lid screwed down tight. But Samuel barely had time to process the series of events, still coughing when the jar was turned on him, the black smoke blown right back in his face.

Samuel slumped onto the table.

--

The dream is the same as it always is.

Samuel paces. The clock in the corner ticks. The numbers mean nothing to him. The minutes fade to hours and back again every time he looks up. 10:30 PM or 6:30 AM, the doctor comes out all the same, and Samuel can see in his face the results of the operation.

He holds his wife's hand for the final time. Again. He whispers her name, begs God to bring her back and to take him instead But for the first time, a sense of deja vu strikes him, just as he notices the pink mist seeping in from the door and windows.

This is a dream.

This is a dream.

Samuel doesn't even consider the thought of ressurecting her. Why would he defile his darling so, especially within his mind? No, he holds her hand tight and brings it to his lips, whispering the goodbyes he only now dares to utter, weeks after her death. Finally, the tears come.

---

The robed man gathered his payment, jarring up the smoke escaping from Samuel once more - pink, instead of black.

For his part, Samuel woke feeling properly rested for the first time in weeks from his nap, left momentarily disoriented as his mind struggled to make sense of things. He glanced at the pigeons gathered around the park bench and fed them. Samuel laughed, and readied himself to head home.

"Hope you little guys didn't mind me talking in my sleep, heh!"

Samuel couldn't wait to visit her grave.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In!

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER




Hey, I don't even know what sin or flash rule you're going to get, but I'm already just positively green with envy for you, already imagining how you're going to use it to weave a fantastic tale.

wait no sorry that's just me trying not to vomit at the thought of your story, oops

Whatever it is, I want your flash. Brawl, motherfucker. ( and all)

more blood

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In the Land of the Blind
1064 word
SIN: Envy
Diamonds in the rain on my windshield


The drafting pen hovered inches away from my good eye, ready to plunge if the whim struck me. It always felt heavier during my near monthly "special appointments" with it, almost as if the pen begged me to reconsider my thoughts. And yet, it whispered to me so invitingly, begging me to end my problems, that it would be just a brief period of pain before everything was better. Or, maybe it was just my cowardly and ashamed sides warring for control.

Either way, the result never changed.

I stared it down seconds longer before hurling it across the room, no doubt leaving another fresh scratch in my cellar’s walls. Sighing, I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of rain against the ceiling, listened to the last hurrah of the violent, destructive storm passing through town. Listened to the wet, splashing footsteps drawing closer.

“Graham? One-Eye? Hey, GRAHAM! Are you in there?”

Completely aware that hesitating would just have them splashing around forever, I threw open the cellar door and looked out at the two men kicking up water in my backyard. The sound of the door opening alerted them both, and they hurried over. I barely managed to bite back a laugh at how ridiculous they looked, a pair of violent splotches of clashing color rushing over. An entire goddamn city for the blind, automated to so many tiny details - and yet, nobody could figure out a machine to make sure people weren’t walking fashion disasters.

And why would they?

---

One-Eyed Graham, they called me. They snickered and teased behind my back, I was sure of it, just as they did when we grew up, just as they did every time I was around. Why did they think they could hide it? Did they forget, even as they made their fun, that I could see them conspiring against me?

I shook the thought from my head as we walked through the streets. To my dismay, the city managed to hold up fairly well through the storm. Only a few homes and businesses suffered any major damage.

We stopped in front of one of the most damaged houses, and I hoped that anyone inside hadn’t been in the way of the tree that fell through it. Being unfamiliar with the neighborhood we were in, I called over Matt - all too happy to trot over in his neon green coat and firetruck red hat.

“Matt - who lives here?”

I swore I could see the smug grin unfold on his face, reaching out to feel for the braille along the side of the fallen mailbox. Even if I had to guide his hand to it, he knew full well I couldn’t read it without his help. Why would they waste time teaching me braille when I could see?

“Maltin Residence,” he said, sounding so delighted, and I barely acknowledged the small talk he attempted. My mind was too busy elsewhere, thinking back to the spike I held not even an hour prior. I had little doubt how much it would hurt, how difficult the following days and even weeks might be - but would that be the price to finally be part of a world catered to me?

The Maltin’s home, just like any other building in our town, disgusted me. The angles, the colors all screamed madness, even if I understood the terrible logic behind it. So long as it all functioned, who cared about the form? At least my own home stood out as a bastion of sanity amidst the sea of architectural nightmares!

In my mental fit of design criticism, Matthew and Daniel took the lead, already looking around inside the house and calling out for anyone who needed help. Cursing myself and wishing that I blinded myself years ago, just to make it easier on myself, I hurried to catch up with them.

“Sheesh, does this place look as bad as I think it does?” Daniel said, as we explored the home. Nobody responded to our calls, but we had to make sure.

“Hey, ole’ One-Eye. Does this place look like a wreck or what?” Matt wheezed with laughter as we walked, with Daniel patting him on the back, or maybe elbowing him, I didn’t care. We made our way up to the second floor, navigating - or feeling, as the case was for them - with me calling out any step or spot I saw as unstable.

The second floor hadn’t fared any better, especially once the tree exposed the cozy little home to the elements of the storm. Splitting up, we went room by room, and our search found nothing but a desperate need for cleaning, renovation and rebuilding.

Until the last room.

I opened the door. A terrible stench assaulted my nostrils, and I knew something was wrong. I called out as I stepped inside, looking through the wrecked room. Praying I wouldn’t find something, I inched my way deeper, careful to avoid shards of broken window and nudging aside furniture. Peeking beneath a bed tossed aside by the storm, I regretted the decision immediately, but at least it drove home one thing.

I was done.

I ran out of the room, past a confused pair of clashing assholes, shouting as I fled the house.

“gently caress you. gently caress this. I didn’t ask for this poo poo. I’m done. Do you hear me? I am loving done with this!”

--

My drafting pen sits with the rest of my hastily gathered things in the trunk, the car set to drive itself in some random direction, away from the city. Daniel’s attempts to stop me, begging me, the only freak in a city of the blind, to stay. His words haunt me, but not nearly as much as their bodies do.

How do you tell a blind man about their faces, twisted and frozen in a moment of surprise? How do you tell him about their bodies crushed and brutalized by the debris of the storm?

I laugh as a single, bitter thought crosses my mind. The laughter doesn’t take long to turn to sobs, and eventually I doze off to the sound of rain growing louder and heavier against the windshield. I don't even realize that I've set the automated car straight toward the departing storm. Only one single thought stubbornly remains as I drift off:

Poor bastards didn’t even see it coming.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Spin to win.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Tyrannosaurus posted:

Film Noir Urban Fantasy'

Greg Davis, Private Investigatorc
1389 words

Slim. Blonde. Confident. All the boxes ticked to be just my type, except for the little rune pinned to her chest. The little rune letting me know she could roast me or freeze me with a thought. Funny, I’d never seen anyone with a rune in that color before - or a mage quite like her.

“Gruguk Davis?” she asked, and I grunted in response. She seemed like such a tiny thing, but everything seemed tiny when you were closer to the ten feet mark than most.

“Depends on who asks and what time of day, really,” I said. Not that it did me any good with my name on the door, right under the title of Private Investigatorc flippantly suggested by my landlord. She smiled and ignored my remark.

“I’ll be honest with you, Mr. Davis-”

“Greg will do just fine, Miss.”

The polite smile on her face slipped somewhat, and I could see the way her fingers twitched at her side. My own hand moved to one side beneath the desk, closer to the drawer that kept my pistol. Most orcs relied on their fists, but sometimes you needed something with range.

“I’ll be honest with you, Mr. Davis. I am not particularly fond of your type,” she sniffed, and I watched her nose wrinkle as she approached the desk.

“Did you come here to insult me, or…?”

A gloved hand slid into her handbag and I tensed. Instead of a weapon, however, she withdrew a pair of bulging envelopes and handed the smaller one over. I peeked inside and whistled at the stack of bills stuffed inside. More money than I’d ever had in my life sat in my palms, but only for a minute - plucked away just as quick as it came to my hands.

“I want you to find my brother, Mr. Davis. I happen to know he has fallen in with a bad crowd, but divination can’t find him, at all. He has… valuable information on him. I will contact you soon with further information. The first envelope - your payment for finding him. The second, well.”

She held a finger to her lips, and something in the room clinked. Icecubes filled my glass, and when I looked up she was gone - only the ice, her last words, and the smell of perfume lingering as trace as her visit.

“When you find him - kill him, would you?”

---

I couldn’t believe I said yes. But when someone comes along and gives a lifeline to your sinking ship - and a good one, at that - you take it. Anyone could be bought. Right?

Kathy called the next day and provided the information. Pete - her little brother - had supposedly been kidnapped by one of the smaller gangs across town in a play for money and power. The only question was - which?

No ransom call yet, either. And what could a kid know to attract the attention of a gang? Why would his sister want him dead? None of it made any goddamn sense to me.

Mulling over the case, such as it was, I decided that there was only one place to start: with the leader of the gang himself, Big Tony. Asking around on the streets and checking in with my connections revealed that Tony seemed rather generous of late. Why not go to the man himself and test that generosity?

---

That was a rhetorical question, of course.

I felt a pang of jealousy as I entered Big Tony’s office, after what seemed like forever of waiting at the bar. I towered over the man, and yet his office didn’t seem cramped in the slightest. It even seemed more opulent than my visit years before.

“Gruguk, it’s been so long! Please, sit!” Tony grinned from ear to ear, gesturing at his flunkies with his cigar. “Gentlemen! Don’t just stand there like idiots. Get the orc chair for Mr. Gruguk, will you? Chop to it, if you please.”

“Nice place, Tony. New desk? Looks like maple, if I had to guess?” I asked as I sat in the oversized chair, making sure to note where his bodyguards remained. The “big” man made a show of laughing and shaking my hand as we settled down to business.

“Cut the crap, Greg. We both know why you’re here. You think you’re the only man in this town who keeps his ears to the ground? Please.” Any man who thought he was the only one listening would get a rude awakening in little time. But I thought it best not to debate the point and only gave Tony one of my winning smiles mixed in with a second-place shrug.

Drugs, booze, rackets, the whole thing? It’d probably be better for everyone if you were behind bars for it all. Me? I don’t care. Hell, Tony, if I gave a drat about every crook in this city, I wouldn’t have a single care left for myself.

“But taking a kid? That’s low. Even for some second rate roaches like yourselves.”

Tony blew smoke in my face and laughed.

“Sometimes, Greggy, old pal, I wonder if you really keep up as much as you say you do. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that I did take the kid,” he began, snuffing out his cigar. “Tell me, if I don’t even make a call, what do I get out of the whole thing, other than a whiny brat asking for his mama?”

“Something valuable. A bargaining chip. The kid knows something? Something to force out another gang.” Either Big Tony had set the bait for a trap or was somehow even worse a poker player than I was. His face changed at the last suggestion, and I could see the guards approaching out of the corner of my eye.

Tony made some gesture to distract me that I barely acknowledged, waiting for the right moment. I jumped and threw the chair backwards, slamming it into one of the goons, knocking him right out of the fight. The other came at me with a knife and managed to take a chunk of coat and thick orc skin before getting a fist to the face.

To his credit, Tony was a quick man prepared for such occasions. Even with such a quick brawl, he escaped around us, out into the bar. Already, more of his flunkies were waiting for me and bullets filled the air. Not fast enough, with how slow on the draw they were. More than a few bullets grazed my skin, but fewer still found their mark.

I drew my own weapon as I dove behind the bar/ Most of Tony’s men left themselves needlessly exposed, counting on overwhelming firepower. One by one, I dropped them, careful not to crush the little gun between my fingers. In the confusion of the battle, Tony emerged from a side room, clutching what seemed to match the shape and size of Pete’s description - and exited the building. Against my better judgement, I gave chase behind him and emerged into an alley.

Where Tony sat, slumped against a wall a single hole in his forehead. Kathy whirled about, and before I knew it, several more holes opened up inside of me as well. A gun? What happened to the magic?

“You seem surprised, Mr. Davis. Tell me, even a dimwitted detective of your nature must have known something was wrong about all this. But I suppose it doesn’t matter. You did manage to do such a lovely job of finding Pete for me.” Another shot. I stumbled at her as the blood loss and exhaustion finally began to take its toll. “And really. Did you think I wouldn’t be tracking you, even if I couldn’t find Petey?”

“Tell you what. I’ll even be a good sport for you,” she said, leaving both her - passed out - brother and one of those drat envelopes next to me. “When - if - you wake up, you’ll have something. I always make good on my promises. More importantly, after all this? The cops won’t get anything out of poor, traumatized little Petey.”

I reached out for her one last time as she laughed all the way out of the alley. I swung my head around to look at the poor kid and to briefly wonder at his future - and then I knew no more.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Since I'm no longer looking for basic things like shelter, I can move up the hierarchy of needs of 'trying not to write a terrible story' - that's how it works, right?

In!

By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wide world's end-
Methinks it is no journey.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In. for my shameful failure last time.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



"A woman returns her friend's dog after three years and demands payment."

K9: Genuine Canine
WC: 1042

It was a pile of junk. Bolts, nuts, pieces of twisted metal mixed in with countless electronic components filled up nearly half his tiny bedroom, barely leaving any room for the bed or the workbench beside it. Inspection rules were lax in training, thankfully.

Yet, in his precious mountain of possibility, Andy saw promise. At first, the picture in his mind was vague, unfocused. The urge to simply create called to him, and Andy could not resist answering. Hands scarred from hours of tinkering on jumpdrive motors moved of their own accord, giving shape to the chaos.

There was a little dog at the junkyard Andy visited. The owner of the yard paid the youth little mind, but his dog was ever Andy’s loyal companion on most of his searches. He couldn’t remember its name, but the friendly trust it displayed left a deeper impact than he realized. Two metal legs became four, and instead of a humanoid chassis, something smaller, more canine shaped began to come together.

The first five versions were failures, left as a stark reminder that the process of creation was a flawed, imperfect thing. But the sixth...

---

“Where is my goddamn dog?”

Andy barreled through the starport, bag bouncing at his side. Greeter droids scrambled, whirring as they lurched out of the way. The rest of his ship - what was left of it - were barely cooling down the engines when Andy took off. He leered at the Security and Information Droid behind the desk, and only reflected a moment later that intimidation was lost on a machine.

“Sir, your companion is presently waiting in a stationary vehicle outside, and requested that you join her as soon as possible,” the SAID said.

Giving it one final glare and cursing his sister beneath his breath, Andy hurried to meet her outside. He didn’t have to look far - her old, beat up car barely managed to wobble a few inches above the ground. The urge to fix it itched at him powerfully, but he quickly smothered it and slipped inside the unlocked car.

“Little Andrew! Gosh, I feel like it’s been forever! How have you been? Mom has been super worried about you and always asks when you’re going to write and thinks you’re totally going to get yourself killed and--”

“Where is Henry, Daphne?” Andy jumped in the moment she took a breath. The wide, cheerful smile died a slow, steady death, replaced by a frown resembling the one on Andy’s face. Her fingers drummed against the steering wheel for several moments, breaking the silence between them. Daphne reached forward and put the vehicle into vertical drive.

Swearing, Andy threw open the door, but it was already too late - the ground wobbled before stabilizing 40, 50 feet in the air. Rather than falling from such a height, he slammed the door shut.

---

Over the next thirty minutes, Daphne tried to urge her brother to conversation, but each attempt fell on deaf ears. Almost as suddenly as the car started, it came to a stop, finally drawing a pained noise from Andy.

“What the hell—”

“If all you can think of is that - that - that thing,” she spat the word as she left the car, thankfully back just above the ground once more. “Then just take it.”

By the time Andy caught up with his sister, the trunk was already thrown open. He couldn’t see around her, at first, but the sight of his dog, once a beast of metal machinery, filled him with dread.

“Daphne - Daphne. What did you do?

“I made it better, Andy! I fixed it! Don’t - don’t you like it?”

Andy stared in horror as Henry padded around before him, the familiar little clanks of the old bits in his legs muffled by the flesh-like padding. Gone were the tinny, robotic panting noises, replaced with something sounding so much more real. It was almost as if someone had slipped a lifelike dog suit around the dog bot.

And standing there, watching Andy’s reaction with a hopeful look in her eyes, was his older sister. The mechanic opened and shut his mouth several times, uttering several worthless, pitiful syllables. Henry, before his … remodel, had been quite the bucket of bolts. Every exterior part had been replaced at least twice, and Daphne’s changes had every part functioning perfectly, Andy could tell - even if the movements all seemed so monstrous.

A peace offering. Yet, fixing everything had almost taken away Henry’s very soul. Someone had tampered with his friend and companion. Balling his fists at his side, and taking a deep breath, Andy had to say something. Something to let her down lightly. Anything.

“Did you have to kill another dog for this, Daph? Christ. You just can’t let things sit, huh?” Lowering down to his knees, Andy pet his dog, nearly flinching away at the first brush of his skin against Henry’s… flesh. Not real, thank goodness. But the tears streaming from Daphne’s face were plenty authentic.

“All you’ve ever cared about,” she whispered, staring down at him, “is those little machines.”

“Daph, I didn’t mean—”

“Fine. You wanna be that way, Andy? Take your dog. Take your dog on - on a walk. Yeah. Yeah! A long walk home.”

“Daph - hey, wait, I’m sorry—”

“And you know what, rear end in a top hat? Fixing your dog cost a whooooole lot of money! I’ll be sending you a bill in the mail!” she yelled, sticking her head out the window to glare at him one final time before taking off, leaving man and robot-dog in the dust.

---

Sitting on the side of the virtually unused road, Andy buried his head in his hands. With a jaunty bark, the strange dog creation plodded forward and nudged its way into its owner’s lap.

From his bag, Andy took a pen and tiny sheet of paper and glanced at his checklist. Get dog back check meet up with sister check make peace with sister - that one, he scribbled out, before writing it once more at the bottom of his list. After a moment of thought, he added, right beneath it fix dog and find lawyer??? and circled the last.

“It’s not your fault, boy. Don’t worry. We’ll get you fixed up, good as … old, I guess."

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Inn.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Dormant Faith
1123 words

Miriam ceased her pacing and stared into the dark abyss once more. For the fourth time, she clutched her holy symbol and whispered a prayer, followed by a count to ten as she lingered on the edge. Just like her previous prayers, the dormant volcano seemingly offered no reply.

From her perspective, the darkness rushed up to meet Miriam without warning. Less a leap of faith and more an accidental tumble, she screamed and snapped her eyes shut, calling out to any divinity or power that crossed her mind. Did she let herself drop? Was her whole life a waste? Questions raced through her mind as she fell.

A net of thick ropes answered her cries, bouncing her somewhat as it stopped her fall. Somewhere to her right, lanterns flickered to life, illuminating a roughly hewn path along the wall of the shallow magma chamber.

“GREETINGS, TRAVELLER!” A voice boomed, causing Miriam to bury her head in her hands with a sigh. She untangled herself from the net with a scowl as the voice continued, “WELCOME TO YE WHO HAS PASSED THE FIRST TRIAL. THE PATH AHEAD OF YOU IS LONG AND FILLED WITH GREAT TESTS! TESTS-”

“Cut the theatrics crap, Theo.” Miriam said, interjecting as the approaching old man finally took a breath.

“Yeah. Yeah. I was beginning to think you was gonna be a no show, oh late one,” Theo muttered, pulling back his hood while offering Miriam a hand, helping her back to solid ground. “Plus, would it kill you kids to indulge me every now and then? Don’t know the value of a good ole’ ritual, I swear.”

“Maybe if you didn’t waste all that time down in the valley last summer,” Miriam began, fists balling at her side, “I wouldn’t have dragged you into a volcano to try and speak with my god! Oh, look! I’m the guide of the gods! Everyone, listen to me talk for twenty hours! Hah!”

The two stared at one another, several long moments passing before the old man let out a self-deprecating chuckle and shrugged his shoulders helplessly.

“What can I say. Someone has to hold to the ancient customs if you won’t. Now. Are you going to stand there fuming like this ancient place once did, or are you going to come along?”

---

“Behold! The second of your trials, young one. You must - yadda, yadda. I’m sure you can figure out the drill. See you up ahead.” Throwing his hands up in the air at another glare from Miriam, the guide mumbled to himself and continued onward, up on the higher of two paths. With a resigned sigh, the pilgrim steeled herself for whatever trial awaited her on the lower path.

Her complaints grew silent at the sight of the task before her.

A single lantern dangled precariously above, illuminating the tiny rock shelf just barely jutting out over another drop. Pondering on the test, Miriam seized a stone from the ground and threw it over the edge - and waiting for several long moments before hearing it hit bottom.

“You know, if you really are up there - you’re kind of a dick!” Miriam shouted, and found herself hesitating once more. “And I don’t mean just for this!” Determined, she struggled to clear her mind of her negative, doubting thoughts - at the very least, someone she knew was real was waiting for her. After everything else they’d been through, Miriam was damned if she was going to Theo see her fall from her path at such a point.

Literally.

“Well, since it’s just you and me,” she continued, even while slowly beginning to shimmy her way across the tiny ledge, “I think we’re going to have … a little chat. Sound good?” Under her breath, Miriam whispered whatever comforting passages from her holy books came to mind, and did her best not to look down.

“So. About that whole thing with there being evil in the world…”

---

“Theo?”

“Mmmhm?”

“Why is the room filled with the mats from gym classes, except - orange?”

A disheveled mess from a number of physical challenges, including the outrunning of a boulder - which she thought might have been fake - Miriam had to bite back a laugh at the absurd sight. A tiny walkway connected the two halves of the room, complete with dizzying drop of barely two feet to the bright mats below it.

The old man rolled his eyes.

“Long ago, magma bubbled in this chamber, threatening seekers of the shrine with a fiery death if they fell. Look. We have to have some sort of allowances for modern times. So, you gonna cross the bridge or not?”

For once, Miriam’s answer to her challenge was instant - barely missing a beat as she strolled across the room, walking straight through the river of magma. Laughing, she took a moment of joy at the look in her guide’s face, before leading him onward to the final chamber, the destination at the end of her journey.

The final marker - and, hopefully, answers - awaited.

---

Miriam held the broken pieces of rock in her hands, stunned. What had once stood as a small monument was nothing more than rubble, shattered into countless pieces. Frantically, she tried to assemble the pieces back together, pulling out her holy symbol as a guide by which to line up the intricate carvings and inscriptions. Her guide’s hand came to rest lightly on her shoulder as she slumped in surrender.

“Hey. It was. Just a symbol, y’know? If your god can’t appreciate how much a scrap you got in to get here…” Theo said, shaking his head at the shattered shrine. “You take all the time you need. I’ll be down the hall, when you’re ready.”

Sniffling, Miriam bowed her head and let a quiet hymn come to her lips. She didn’t know all the words, but the unsteady song of hope echoed quietly in the dim cavern all the same. Afraid of the results, yet pressing on regardless, Miriam began to pray.

---

The path to the exit tunnel was a short walk for which Theo’s hips were grateful for. Taking a breath of less stale air for the first time in hours, he turned and gave thanks to the quiet volcano, as was custom. Miriam ignored the mountain, refusing to look back toward it while saying farewell to her guide.

Curious, both at the smile on her face and the time it took her to emerge, Theo ignored the pain in his hips, and ambled his way back toward the altar room.

Where the prayer marker once was, a cairn assembled of its pieces stood in its place. Perched delicately on the rubble, positioned so that it could stand up straight, sat Miriam’s holy symbol.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In. Spell me.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



Heroes
Wordcount: 1267 words
Spell: Gyrokinesis

“What’s the password?”

Joseph glanced around, hesitated, and decided that it was safe enough. Plenty of others had made the their own gestures in front of him: flashes of flame, blinking lights, growing fingers…

Fumbling, he pulled one of several balls of tinfoil from his winter coat, unwrapping it to display a still hot, fresh gyro from his restaurant. In response, the voice behind the door grunted impatiently.

Joseph whipped back his arm and threw his eventual dinner in the air. Throwing his arm out in a dramatic fashion, he concentrated, urging the sandwich to come to a sudden stop. It wiggled awkwardly in the air before returning to his hands.

The eyes behind the door glanced him over a final time, before the old wooden door swung open, allowing him to enter the hideout.

--

Doing his best to smile, laugh and wave at all his friends, Joseph desperately hoped none of them would try to join him at his booth. He slouched down in a failed bid to make himself look less suspicious, and glared at his phone. The meeting would be starting soon, and his mysterious handler would want his answer beforehand.

“Hey, Joe!”

Hanging up the phone, Joseph sat up straight, hoping the smile on his face didn’t look as awkward as it felt. The call had connected, but only for a few moments. He knew that calls could be traced, they mentioned it to him several times, but never how much time the tracing would need. It couldn’t have been enough to give away the hideout’s location for the week, right? Joseph discarded those thoughts as his friend Donald took a seat next to him.

“‘Sup, Don.” The two traded pleasantries, as well as their talents. Even if it wasn’t as good as the real thing, magically created beer was still good enough for the price tag of a few of his gyros.

“You look super bothered about somethin’, buddy. Everything alright? That wife of yours doin’ alright?” Don asked, reaching over to clap Joseph on the shoulder, already a few drinks in. Joseph shrugged away the question with a shrug and a shushing motion. Up at the podium, an old man in a funny looking hat began to read off roll and the memorial list, before launching into his presentation.

---

“... magical talent, no matter how insignificant, is something to be treasured. Protected.”

Fidgeting in his seat, Joe looked at his phone and decided, then and there, that he was going to call the whole thing off. There was no way it was worth it. But his earlier, failed attempt kept whispering to his mind, and fear took his heart.

He couldn’t tell them, could he? Would they believe him, the one who possibly sold them out?

Turning his head, he eyed his friend Donald. Despite being able to summon alcohol from wherever it was that magic came from, the little man was a notorious lightweight. Even with one and a half of those gyros devoured, Don seemed in danger of nodding off to sleep during the meeting. Joseph couldn’t blame him.

“... the greater community has no right, no right to sequester those of us away who cannot afford their policies!” The speaker at the podium droned on, the same as every week.

Was that the sound of people outside the door?

“Don. Hey, Don. You mind if we step outside for a second?”

The drunk man mumbled and barely stirred. Every sound seemed to be a malevolent force closing in on the magical little hideaway. Even as someone kept the temperature cool and refreshing, Joe felt beads of sweat beginning to drip down his face.

The old wooden door suddenly swung off its hinges, as men and women in uniforms began to march inside and began to arrest those without a minor practitioner's permit. Those who could vanish, did. A few fireballs and beams fired out at the attackers, but it was no use, they had surprise and numbers on their side. Joseph could only watch as they were led out the door, to whatever fate awaited those like himself, and—

He blinked, and Don was still barely keeping his head up next to him, the man at the podium banged his fist against the table, and the meeting went on.

“Goddamn psychics,” Joe sighed. He slid back in the booth and closed his eyes, finally feeling like he could relax. And then his phone chirped once, signaling a text.

From an unknown number.

be out in 5 min or else

The text deleted itself before his very eyes. With his heart thumping, he glanced around the room, before remembering Don once again. If his friend wouldn’t stir, he would have to find some way to make it happen.

One minute ticked by, as the speaker seemed at the podium seemed to be nearing his conclusion.

Two minutes passed as ever attempt to nudge, prod or move Don to life failed completely.

With only two minutes left on his clock — and was that the sound of a car outside? — Joseph debated leaving his friend behind and escaping into the night. In the end, it would all be worth it, right?

He tried one final thing.

A window shattered as two, three, four gyros went flying through it, followed by the remaining pieces of his own dinner. Joseph counted his blessings as Don finally seemed to snap to something resembling awareness.

“What the hell, man? Those were gonna be my lunches for—”

“Sorry. Sorry. I just kinda — looked over and then they were flying. You know how it is.” Joe raised his voice, “Sorry, everyone. Uh. I’m just gonna. Go get those, if that’s okay. Don, you want to help me get those? They were wrapped up, so they should be alright.”

Don grumbled and rose to his feet somewhat unsteadily, and slipped out of the hideaway’s back door with the rather insistent gyrokineticist.

“Don, listen to me.” The smaller man didn’t want anything to do with friend, mumbling a reply as he slipped to his hands and knees, searching through the dimly lit alley for his missing sandwiches.

“Don, please! I need to talk to you, this is really important!” Joseph begged, falling to the ground next to his friend. It took some effort, “If you — if you could make everything go away, and stop worrying that some freak little accident will wind you up on a list, or… or worse… would you do it?”

The jolly little man who could summon beer, who was the best friend of every party, had a look of horrified realization fall across his face. From somewhere close by, a sound eerily similar to a heavy wooden door hitting the ground could be heard. Steadily, Don rose to his feet as they listened to the shouts and fighting within the hideout.

“I think,” Don said, slowly, as he stumbled his way toward the back door, “I think that we need to go inside, right now. Or maybe. Maybe I should. Bye, Joe. Say hey to the wife for me.”

Almost every single day in his restaurant, Joseph found himself using his ability without thinking. Accidentally drop the veal? No problem when it never hit the floor. Or maybe he had an ingredient across the room he was too bus to get! Yet, all it would take was one report to put him — wherever minor magic talents wound up at.

Wherever his friends were going.

His minor practitioner's permit arrived in the mail a day later. He hung it in his little restaurant, right above the entrance.

Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



In with Florida Man Nearly Mauled After Opening Trunk, Finding Unconscious Bobcat Has Woken Up

Also, since I lost last week, let's slap down a while we're at it, why not.

(also thanks for crit, etc.)

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Social Studies 3rd Period
Oct 31, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER



The Proper Care and Feeding of Your Bobcat
1191 words
Florida Man Nearly Mauled After Opening Trunk, Finding Unconscious Bobcat Has Woken Up

Tyler drove through the mountains, alone. He listened to the steady, humming purr of his old car, the broken radio leaving him alone with his thoughts. Faraway concepts such as climate change mingled with overdue bills and a breakup.

Nestled within the car’s cushioned front compartment, Robert the bobcat had no such thoughts, as far as Tyler knew. He took care of the animal, and it did - whatever it did, in return. Some people used dogs, others had horses. But his father had passed the great, older, spotted cat to him for his first car, and drat if he wasn’t going to hold to tradition - at least while his father was alive.

Man and cat both exclaimed as the car passed over a deep pothole. The purring ceased, and the car sputtered to a stop. Flipping open the hood revealed a poor cat, still breathing but unconscious.

“Bob?”

The cat slowly came to, confused. Robert mrowled, before throwing himself forward, claws out, right at Tyler’s face. Tyler stumbled out of the way at the last moment, powerless to watch his cat vanish into the woods.

---

Tyler panted, hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. The bobcat was nowhere to be found and the sun had begun its journey. Convinced he was lost and on the verge of just walking back to the last time for help, a pleasant humming sound caught his attention.

Rounding the corner, Tyler caught sight of a quaint little home settled in a clearing in the forest. Plants, topiaries and flowers of various sorts surrounded the home. A man wielding shears and wearing a sunflower hat hummed as he tended to the garden in the fading sunlight.

“Hello. Is this your cat? He’s a friendly little guy. Aren’t you? Yes you are.” The stranger laughed and scratched behind Robert’s ears, carefully avoiding the bump on the spotted cat’s head. “Name’s Greg, by the way.”

“Uh. Sorry. Yeah… I hope he wasn’t a bother?”

“Oh, please. Sure, he was a little cranky, but a nice meal warmed him right up. Looks like he took a nasty bump on the head. You look exhausted. If you give me a minute to wash up, would you like to come in for supper?”

---

Tyler left the house in the woods two days later, cat lazily pacing at his side and a hum on his lips. For the first time in a long while, the concerns of the world didn’t seem so heavy on Tyler’s shoulders. Following Greg’s instructions, the wandering trip that took two hours was only thirty minutes on the return.

The act of kindness stayed with him for the rest of the week at his desk job. Even the usual bragging of his boss about his new, horse powered car - despite being bought months previous - didn’t seem to bother him. Tyler decided he simply had to pay Greg another visit. With a gift basket full of gardening goodies and Robert corralled into the car once more, Tyler set off for the mountains.

For his efforts, he received another bumbling adventure in the woods. In an attempt to recreate their first meeting, Tyler backed out and took the pothole on once more - only to find Robert dozing peacefully. Only then did he remember that Greg convinced him to re-fit the padding in the cat’s compartment.

Sitting by the road and stewing in quiet despair - his expectations dashed, he almost missed the spotted cat stirring and stretching his legs before jumping from the car. The two shared a moment, looking at one another.

“Go on, you stupid cat.”

Nothing.

“Go on! Lead me!

Tyler rose to his feet as the bobcat’s tail swished slowly. His fists balled at his side as he spoke.

“Look. I’m. Sorry about this, okay? I promise I’ll make it up to you, especially if this doesn’t work, but…”

Tyler looked down at the cat - and swung his leg forward as hard as he could, sending it flying with a yowl. Robert landed unevenly along some roots and stumbled, before running off into the woods. Tyler gathered up his gifts and hurriedly gave chase.

---

It was night by the time Tyler and Greg sat together at the table in his cottage, enjoying a meal. Robert sat in a corner, curled up in a cat bed much too small - and watched Tyler warily.

“Thank you so much for the gifts, Ty!” Greg said over his soup, perfect for the winter growing ever closer. “I’ll get these planted, right away. I’m afraid it’s my turn to ask… I hope the trip here wasn’t much trouble? My directions should still be good, but it’s been a while since I’ve really left my little home.”

Tyler withered under the combined weight of Greg’s question and the bobcat’s gaze. Honesty was supposed to be the best policy. But how could he admit the truth to those kind, caring, sweet eyes? Tyler grabbed his glass and took a long drink, granting himself a moment to think.

“They were. Fine. Um.”

Better to head things off at the pass.

“I’m not sure what happened to Bobby.” Had he ever called his cat that? “But once I realized he was walking a little funny, well… I just had to see you.”

The next moment took what felt like forever to Tyler - but thankfully, Greg eventually nodded. And smiled.

“I’m glad you thought of me! Don’t worry. With a bit of rest and T-L-C, he’ll be good as new! Just a bit of a strain.”

That smile was so sweet and so charming, Tyler almost melted on the spot. And…

“Would you care to help me with the garden? I have so much left to do tonight…”

---

And so it continued. No matter how many times Greg provided his directions, Tyler lost or forgot them. Really, Robert was already quite old, and wasn’t he providing the old bobcat a life of luxury, beyond the occasional moment of pain every few days?

“Isn’t it worth it?” Tyler whispered down to the cat as he opened his hood once more. His care barely ran, but at least within the cushioned confines, Robert was safe.But when the hood opened, the wounded bobcat needed no incentive - tumbling from the car as duo made their way to Greg’s house once more.

---

“You’re a lunatic. I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner...”

Flowers sat discarded in the trash can - an exotic bunch, from some far off land. The table where so many dinners, so many late brunches and discussions sat shattered, with Tyler sitting in its remains.

“And who’s the one that lives out in the middle of loving nowhere? Which of us is unreachable by anything but - but carrier pigeons? Which of us doesn’t want to make this serious?”

Tyler attempted to reach for Greg and Bob, but the old cat hissed at his previous owner. Throwing his hands up in defeat, Tyler wiped his tears as he listened to Greg’s words of assurance to the cat, and saw himself out. It was going to be a long, long walk home alone, in silence - and without Robert.

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