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dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



I am long overdue for another round in the dome.

In.

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dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



The Fast and the Bearded (1299 words)

“Wait, does the wiper fluid go in this hole, then?” I asked, tentatively leaning forward to get a better look under the car’s hood. My boss sighed, shaking his head and cutting me off with a glare.

“Merle, you were about to pour that into the brake reservoir. I think even you know how bad of an idea that would be.”

“Sorry, Boss.” I sheepishly mumbled, taking a step back from the car.

“Fifth month on the job, and still about as clueless as the day you first started working here. You sure are one helluva mechanic, you know that, right?” Boss glanced at his watch. An older, graying man in a mechanic’s jumpsuit and an LA Angels baseball cap, he didn’t look the type to have much patience for an idiot like me. “It’s getting late, and we’ve wasted enough time tonight as it. Just do your wizard poo poo so we can both go home.”

I nodded, stepping back towards the car. I laid a bare hand on the engine block, feeling the cold, lifeless steel, and closed my eyes.

I might not ever understand a car, but I can know one like no one else. This specific car had a dead engine. I could still feel a trace amount of energy within it, but it was lying dormant. Not for long. Deliberately, I agitated it, coaxing it out of its slumber. After a couple minutes of concentrated effort, I had managed to bring it back to life, the magic within dancing at a dizzying speed.

-

First time we met, his car had broken down on the side of the road, and I lended a hand. Any excuse to flex the one talent I had, after all. The existence of magic isn’t a secret, but being known as a wizard tends to draw annoying attention to yourself, so I usually pose as a mechanic. I coaxed his car back to life without a problem, but seeing how I don’t know poo poo about actually being a mechanic, he easily saw through my act.

Not much impresses that old man, but he offered me a job on the spot once I finally gave up and admitted I was, indeed, a wizard. Being able to work with cars all day was something I had always dreamed of, but every shop I’d applied to had turned me away; not trusting magic alone to make up for my lack of knowledge. Boss was the first to be willing to take a chance on me.

A garage isn't the only thing Boss is in charge of, though.

-

My headlights illuminated the empty city street, void of traffic at 3 AM. I adjusted my mirror to get a better look at the seven other cars lined up behind and to my side. Boss’s voice crackled over my radio. “All right, boys, listen up. First one to reach the finish gets the prize money. If you get in a crash, I’m not giving your dumb rear end a discount, and if the cops catch you, you’re on your own. That’s all. Start your engines.”

I turned the key in the ignition, and flinched as the previous quiet dull roar of dormant magic was replaced with a deafening howl as the car came to life.

“Ten. Nine. Eight.” I exchanged a thumbs up with the one driving the car to my right, a woman named Morgan who was last month’s victor. “Seven. Six.” I turned on my stereo, the Eurobeat causing the entire car to vibrate. “Five. Four.” I gave the wizard hat air freshener suspended from the rear-view mirror a flick, for luck. “Three. Two. One. Go!” I slammed my foot on the gas and we were off.

Morgan shot forward faster than I ever could hope to, and it was all I could do to stay within sight. Before I could make an attempt to pass, sirens erupted in the night, and I cursed as I glanced behind me. Sure enough, there were two sets of lights on our tail. With magically-enhanced engines, our cars could easily get away, but not until we got to a long enough straightaway - we’d have to survive on our own until we made it out of the city.

“Heads up, they’re setting up spike strips,” warned one of the cars left far behind in our dust. “Already got two of the rookies." As if on cue, the car behind me quickly ramped up to unsafe speeds in the driver's desperation to escape the police. It shot out to the head of the pack, only to spin out as it sped past an intersection. Luckily, this gave me enough warning to infuse my tires with enough magic to withstand the spikes. I glanced back to see that Morgan had made it through as well.

As police were occupied with apprehending the unfortunate racers that has crashed, our two remaining cars made it to the city outskirts without any more trouble. The highway stretched out in front of us, and I heard Morgan laughing over the radio. "Just you and me, Merle. Let's see who's the stronger wizard."

I grinned. Finally, a chance to go all out. I agitated the engine as much as I could, and my car slowly began to catch up to Morgan's, until we were side by side. I grunted as I concentrated, making sure every last speck of power was being used. I began to pull ahead, but was interrupted by an unfamiliar voice shouting over the radio. "You shall pay for your misconduct, heretic!"

In the distance, a gigantic creature made entirely out of sand began to form, and I could dimly see a tall, robed, bearded man wielding a staff atop it. A Traditionalist, one who despised any who manipulated artificial creations. The sand golem swung a mighty fist at the road. Jerking the steering wheel, I barely dodged. Morgan wasn't as lucky, and was sent spinning off the road. I couldn't afford to stop and help, so I instead sped onward, clearing the golem just in time to avoid a second swing. If the Traditionalists were going after us, Boss was probably in danger, too.

When I reached the backroad where the finish was supposed to be set, I was instead greeted by a Traditinalist mounting a second golem, even larger than the first. Boss was clutched in one giant fist, struggling to escape. The wizard on the radio cackled. "How foolish of you to come here. Come, join your blasphemous comrade!" I growled. Trying to take us out was one matter, getting a civilian like Boss caught up on wizard business was another.

The towering golem reached out to seize my car in its grasp. There was still time to flee, but I owed Boss far too much to leave him behind. I agitated the car to its absolute maximum potential, my senses overwhelmed as I was completely immersed in the dancing magical energy around me, the car's frame shaking, barely able to keep itself together at the speed I was going. The last thing I heard was the Traditionalist's scream as I hit the golem.

-

"Fuckin' wizards." Boss grumbled from the side of my hospital bed.

"Fuckin' wizards." I agreed. All in all, things could have turned out worse. My car was busted beyond repair, and I had broken an arm, but I was still alive. Morgan, too, was safely laid up in the neighboring room.

"Was one helluva stunt you pulled out there."

I shrugged. "I hate those bearded pricks".

Boss snorted. "Won't hear any argument from me. The garage'll be waiting for your useless rear end, so get better soon, y'hear? There'll be another race ready for you, too. Without sand assholes, this time."

I smiled. "I'd never miss it."

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



Ironic Twist posted:

I will provide graph crits in the style of week 115 to the first ten people that ask (someone else can share an example of said crits via a link). First come first served.

Graphs are nice! I'll take a spot, please.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



Oh hey there was actually a prompt back there

In!

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



Rogue's Eyes
(1243 words)

The earliest thing Vi could remember was from when she was still a child, when the thick red cloth tied around her eyes was still strange and uncomfortable. She sat on the cold, stone benches of the church with the other initiates, and even though there were nearly fifty in the chamber, not a whisper could be heard as they listened.

"You will become tools to keep our holy city from harm." Their teacher said, his voice deep and commanding. "But know this: being a tool will not absolve you of your sins. You will be robbed of your sight not only as a means to strengthen you, but as a means to atone, as well. You will remove your blindfold only when you kill. You will commit every single detail of their face to memory, so you may never forget your crime."

-

Now, Vi uncomfortably shifted in her seat, the obscenely soft cushioning in the head priestess's chamber preventing her from comfortably sitting up at attention. "I'm sorry to say that one of your fine people has gone rogue, my dear." The priestess said, not sounding the least bit sorry. "Just up and left, taking a fair amount of guardsmen with him. I guess he finally got tired of the job." She paused, and even without sight, Vi could imagine the grin of one who believed themselves to be clever.

"You'll go along and send him a nice little retirement package, won't you, dear?" The priestess chucked throatily, and it was all Vi could do to stop herself from gagging at the stench of her sickly sweet perfume.

-

Vi had been lost in the maze for over a day now, with neither food nor water to sustain her. No matter how many hours she spent wandering the endless stone halls, she had come no closer to finding the exit. Preoccupied as she was with her own misfortune, Vi walked straight into another dead end, and fell to the floor with a curse.

Starving, dehydrated, and miserable, Vi remained on the ground, lacking the will and the strength to get back up. The words of her teacher came back to her. "You must learn this city's streets down to the smallest detail, every alleyway, every rooftop. Feeling the stone beneath your feet will guide you as surely as any map."

Remembering this, she slowly got back to her feet, returning to the junction from which she came. Though she had not noticed it before, the stone under her bare feet was different in one direction. The difference was subtle, but it was there. With new vigor, Vi pressed on.

-

She had been across this route hundreds, if not thousands of times. After slipping into an alley, Vi climbed up the side of the butcher's shop, her hands instinctively finding each familiar crack and protrusion as she made her way to the roof. Taking off at a run, she leapt to the next building, perfectly gauging the gap in-between. It was a thrill like no other to soar through the cool night's air, traveling on a road of her own.

-

The wooden staff slammed into Vi's stomach, and with a grunt of pain she fell to the ground, winded. "You must hone your hearing until you can hear my weapon as it swings through the air. In time, you will be able to gracefully dodge any blow." Her teacher said, his unseen presence looming above her. He offered Vi a hand, and she took it, pulling herself to her feet. "Again." Vi readied herself.

The bruises wouldn't even begin to fade for a week.

-

Metal ground on metal, and Vi stopped dead as she heard the sword being drawn out of its sheath. Her target had anticipated her route, and posted men along the rooftops. Clever. Vi easily sidestepped the blade as it swung down towards her. Her assailant's grunt of exertion was all she needed to aim a heavy kick at his stomach. He wheezed and his sword clattered on the ground.

Vi pressed her advantage, and with a swift chop to the neck the man collapsed on the roof with a heavy thud. Unconscious or not, he was down for the moment, and it was improper to kill one you weren't hunting. Vi continued across the rooftops.

-

In her later years of training, Vi took to sneaking out of her quarters at night. One night, out in the church's yard, Vi just happened to overhear a conversation between her teacher and the head priestess while she was crouching hidden in a nearby bush. She couldn't miss an opportunity to perhaps learn more about her enigmatic teacher. Even after all those years, Vi knew very little about the man who had so guided her development as an assassin.

"I do not understand, Sister. What threat does this man pose to our city?" Her teacher said, the first time Vi had ever heard him with even a hint of uncertainty in his voice.

"Why, you're asking the wrong question, my dear man!" The priestess laughed. "You should be asking what our beloved city can gain from his death! Oh, he's harmless, but think of the profits! That's just as good as protecting the city, isn't it?"

"As you say, Sister." Her teacher replied, but his voice was cold.

-

Vi reached her destination with no further incident, apart from a few more guards that now littered the rooftops, unconscious. She dropped down from the roof to a windowsill, which she found unlocked. Vi slipped inside the building, one hand on her dagger, but before she could proceed further the room she was stopped mid-step by a familiar voice. "Halt." Vi froze, unconsciously standing up straighter.

Her former teacher sighed. "I had hoped for more time, but- no, she would have spared no expense in tracking me down." Vi tensed as she heard a dagger being drawn, but he simply said "Do not worry. I will not fight you," and tossed it aside. "I used to believe, you know. I mourned each I killed, but it was for a purpose. Not to line the church's pockets." He spat.

Vi couldn't move or speak, torn between her duty and her loyalty to the man in front of her. He broke the silence for her. "Do what you came here to do, Vi." He said. "There is no longer any escape for me, and I would rather my death be at your hands than one of her honorless dogs."

For the first time in years, Vi removed her blindfold. In front of her stood a tall, stern man, gray-bearded and clad in a red cloak. He untied his own blindfold, and Vi gazed straight into his gray eyes. In them she saw anger, defiance, and perhaps a tinge of pride for what his training had wrought. "I'm sorry." Vi said. He remained silent, and after ensuring that she had memorized every feature, every emotion on his face, Vi plunged her dagger into his heart.

Vi remained until he was still. After one final look at her teacher's cold face, she re-tied the cloth around her eyes. She had much to contemplate.

-

"Do sit down, girl. You make me nervous, just standing there." The head priestess's laughter abruptly stopped when Vi threw her blindfold to the floor.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



Benny the Snake posted:

Oh poo poo, it's another random Bennycrit!

This one's for dmboogie, whose entry impressed me for the simple reason that somebody else is watching Netflix's Daredevil

I.. have never watched nor read anything Daredevil related.

Still, thank you ever-so-much for the linecrit!

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



Untitled Opening (444 words)

Survivor’s Log - Day 7
The escape pod’s reserves finally gave. Much as I’d love to stay curled up inside it, humming loudly and pretend that everything’s alright, I can’t ignore the fact that the food and water synthesisers are offline. I’ll have to file a complaint with BronzeCorp management for going with the “week’s requiem” model. Cheap bastards.

This planet’s atmosphere is breathable, and the pod’s scanners are detecting drinkable water within a ten-mile radius. Guess it’s time for me to put on my big-boy spaceman suit and go on a little expedition.

-

Expedition didn’t kill me. From what I’ve seen, there’s not much around that could. It’s just wide-open fields, far as the eye can see. With my luck there’s probably some airborne, flesh-eating parasite native to this planet, but I’ll plunge rolling and screaming off that bridge when I get to it.

No signs of other pods or survivors. Not a surprise, considering how sudden the attack was. If I hadn’t already been in the pod cleaning up the leftovers of the Captain’s bender the previous night, I probably would have blown up with the rest of the crew. I caught a glimpse of the enemy ship before the pod’s blast shields went up, and I bet everyone on that beauty’s crew is getting paid more in a month than I’ll ever make in a year.

Maybe I’ll look them up after I get back to civilization. Someone has to wipe down a dreadnaught’s floors, after all.

-

Tripped over some debris. Even in miscellaneous pieces, it still has that signature BronzeCorp look to it. Hell, might be even prettier in pieces. No sign of our cargo, unfortunately. I figured that my hopes of being rescued might increase if I had something they actually gave a poo poo about. From what I saw of its security measures when I was mopping up the cargo bay after the weekly laser-limbo contest, the drat thing could probably get flung through a sun and come out a-okay. No idea what it does, but knowing my employer, it’ll probably end up causing a death toll higher than all four world wars combined. I can only hope they actually designed it to do that.

Decided to go back to the pod for shelter when night fell. Distress signal’s still broadcasting. Maybe I’ll be lucky.

Survivor’s Log - Day 8
gently caress. I saw the ship from before touching down on the planet, way off in the distance. Seems like they’re looking for something. Don’t think they’ll take any unsolicited job applicants too kindly. I clutch my trusty mop to my chest.

-

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



Trouble, Trouble
(997 words)

Violet was outrageously excited. She’d missed being able to dance at gigs while she’d been temporarily wheelchair-bound. Although Bowie had been a pretty fantastic experience, gigs like that with decent wheelchair access direct to the stage had been firmly in the minority. It was highly fortunate that the Taylor Swift tour had coincided with her being able to ditch the wheelchair, although her mother hadn’t been totally confident about letting her go by herself, so she’d convinced her older brother, Paul, to come with her. It was gonna be so ace.

Paul had asked how she could possibly hate Katy Perry so much and yet want to go to a Taylor Swift gig, which was just crazy because while Katy was just the worst, TayTay was amazing and the best and she and Violet were totally gonna be BFFs once they somehow met backstage or something. And Paul had rolled his eyes at this point, and Violet had punched him a bunch of times.

Which was all beside the point now that they were in the arena watching the warm up singer. The warm up singer was pretty forgettable, so Violet decided to take the opportunity to go to the toilet. “You don’t need me to wait outside for you, do you?” asked Paul.

“Outside?” asked Violet. “You’re not gonna come in with me?”

“Uh,” said Paul.

Violet shook her head. “I’m fine. Mum worries too much. Just stay here and enjoy the mediocre stylings of whoever this is.”

On her way back from the toilet, Violet stopped for a moment outside an important looking door. Maybe it was the door to TayTay’s dressing room, which seemed unlikely given its location – in fact it seemed more likely it was a maintenance closet – but you never know, right?

“So, we’re all clear on the plan, right?” said a man’s voice.

“Yes, shut up all right, we’ve all got it,” said another man’s voice. Violet, deciding that this conversation was probably more interesting than the boring warm up act, opened the door slightly and peered in.

“I just want to go over it one more time,” said the first voice, which was attached to a short man with a beard, who Violet named Rolf in her head.

A taller man with no beard, (Fritz, decided Violet) which appeared to be the second voice, said “Is this really necessary?”

“Kidnapping is hard,” said Rolf. “If we want to successfully kidnap TayTay, everyone needs to know their role.”

Violet closed the door again. She would need to get backup if she wanted to foil a kidnapping and become TayTay’s BFF. She headed back to where Paul was.

“Paul! Paul!” Violet exclaimed, getting dirty looks from a couple of tasteless nerds who were trying to actually listen to the warm-up singer. “Two guys are planning to kidnap TayTay! Everything is horrible and we need to save her!”

“Right.” Paul sighed and rolled his eyes again, and Violet would have punched him for it but she wasn’t going to waste her energy now that TayTay’s life was at stake. “Look, Violet, someone that rich has gotta have top-notch security, right? Even if someone was crazy enough to try, we’d just get in the way of the guys who’re being paid to protect her.”

“But-”

“I guess Mom was right about you coming here by yourself. You’re staying right here, Violet, and I’m saying that as your older brother. No arguments.”

“Okay.” Violet deflated, but her mind still raced to try and figure out a way to get out from her brother’s supervision and save the day. She couldn’t just abandon TayTay in her time of need! Unfortunately, however much of a dork Paul was, she couldn’t stop him once he got his mind set on something. He watched Violet like a furious pigeon until TayTay’s performance was about to start. It was too late!

All of Violet’s fears washed away as the lights dimmed and TayTay strode triumphantly onto the stage, exploding right into her first song of the night. Violet cheered loudly enough to make Paul’s ears ring, and she was so caught up in the excitement that she didn’t notice the two familiar-looking security guards on either side of the stage.

The concert proceeded as awesomely as Violet thought it would, and she cheered along with everyone else as the stage was suddenly flooded with a thick smoke. She stopped cheering when the smoke filled the, causing everyone to break down into coughing fits. Violet panicked as she remembered the ominous conversation she heard before the concert, and fought through the crowd and the smoke in order to get up closer to TayTay. No one stopped her as she climbed up onto the stage, and she could see a famous-looking guy in a suit pointing a tiny pistol at TayTay! “You wouldn’t take me back, Taylor!” The man screamed, his voice cracking. “But now, I will take you back!” Off to the side, Fritz and Rolf were busy fighting off the security. No one was there to help TayTay!

It took Violet only an instant to make up her mind. Screaming the most fearsome battlecry a teenaged fangirl can muster, she charged at the ex and socked him right in the face. He fell to the ground with a whimper, dropping the gun, and Violet stood triumphantly above him. “You’ll never win! You know why?” She exchanged a look with TayTay, who nodded.

Together, they sang “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, right in the ex’s sobbing face while the crowd cheered their names.

After the performance, Violet turned to her idol. “Ohmigod TayTay I’m your biggest fan and I totally just saved you and we should hang out all the time can I have a backstage pass?” Violet said, then gasped for breath. TayTay smiled.

“I’ve got a blank space, baby,” She said, clicking a pen, “and I’ll write your name.”

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



In.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



I hosed up. When I show my mediocre-rear end face again, it'll be with a for my sins.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



In for this week.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



Homecoming
1097 Words

Helena, the girl who would become the hero, found her home burned to ashes, her family slain, the snow stained red. She ran off crying into the night, sword in hand.

-

It felt like a betrayal, almost, how beautiful their small village had been on the day of the razing. The winter air was crisp and the sky was clear, letting the sun beam down on the pristine snow, disturbed only by the children who were making the most of the free time afforded by the end of the harvest season.

No one had known what to expect when old Sam, the huntmaster, returned from the woods empty-handed, but with worrying news. “There’s a group of soldiers marching our way, along the main road. Looked to be about twenty of ‘em.” Everyone knew of the war with their neighboring country of Ilstia, of course, but it had thus far left their village untouched. Parents exchanged fretful whispers, fearing that they had come to take their sons and daughters off to fight. They quickly ushered the children back indoors, leaving the town square conspicuously silent. Workers abandoned their tasks and gathered in the tavern, trying to distract from their worries with each other’s company and card games.

Once the soldiers ultimately arrived, Mayor Wilson received them with a nervous smile and a respectful bow. “This is a most, erhm, unexpected honor, good sirs. What brings you to our humble town?” The soldier at the head of the pack returned neither the smile nor any recognition of the bow, his features hard. With one hand idly tapping the hilt of his longsword, he surveyed the village. Those watching from their windows hurriedly ducked out of view when his gaze met theirs.

As if reading from a script, the soldier recited “By order of his highness Leonardo VII, we of the royal army are hereby authorized, in order to sustain the battle against our war-mongering neighbors, to collect the food stores as needed from all villages under his domain.” Over the shocked protests of the mayor, he continued “Three wagonloads of your finest foodstuffs will be sufficient.”

“G-good sir, we are but a small community. We, of course, are completely loyal to the king, but with winter’s worst still to come, we simply cannot afford to-”

“Who the hell do you shiny metal bastards think you are?” Came a furious shout from the tavern , cutting off the mayor’s pleading. The soldier raised an eyebrow as young Edward emerged from the tavern. “We toil all year long, growing just enough to support ourselves, and you think you can just march into our home and leave us to starve? Let go of me!” With a rough shove, he pushed back the fellow workers that were desperately trying to restrain him. He strode purposefully until he was right in the soldier’s face. “We won’t stand for this, I say! We-” With a single punch to the gut, the soldier sent Edward reeling to the ground.

The mayor rushed to support the struck boy, trembling before the soldier’s iron gaze. “Please, sir, forgive him! He is a mere 16 years of age, with more anger than sense! You’ll have your wagons, I swear, just have mercy on him!”

The soldier slowly shook his head. “I’m afraid that accosting a soldier in the midst of his duty is a dire crime, indeed. Why, most would be executed on the spot. I’m feeling generous, though. Give us five wagonloads, and the boy may live.”

Wilson hurriedly nodded. “Anything you want, anything!” He moved to help Edward to his feet, but the boy had other plans.

“That deal would kill us all!” He cried, slapping the mayor’s hand away as he stood, bringing himself up to his full height. “You’re nothing better than a common lot of murderers, you are! You’ll get no- urk...” Edward looked down to see the soldier’s longsword pierce through his chest, wet with his own blood. He fell to the ground yet again. This time, he did not rise.

“You had your warning.” The soldier said, sheathing his bloodstained blade. “The wagons, now, unless you wish to follow.” Before the dumbfounded mayor could reply, Edward’s older brothers exploded out of the tavern doors, wielding whatever crude weapons had been at hand. With a yell, they lunged at the line of troops, taking one by surprise before they too were cut down. The soldier cursed, then turned to face his men. “Did you not see me give them a chance at mercy? Perhaps if we raze this village to the ground, they’ll learn!”

-

Five years had passed since that day, and the village was still scarred. Some villagers had fought, to avenge their fallen friends and family and defend their home. Nearly all were crushed before the army’s might. Most others had hid or fled, and were spared from the fire and the blade.

In time, those who survived returned to their former home and tried to rebuild heir former lives. At first they had feared reprisal from the army, but it soon came to be that the king had more important things on his mind than a single disobedient village. Their tragedy was far from an isolated case, and the masses were already near their breaking point. When a simple village girl appeared, speaking of an innocent community torn apart, there was an uproar, and what had once been a general discontent became an organized resistance.

In the years to come, hardly a week passed without a traveler or merchant bringing news of the rebellion’s latest triumph, of some noble ousted from their home or army battalion struck down. The knowledge that their suffering had not been forgotten was what gave the townspeople the drive to raise building after building and reclaim what was lost. Mason, a grizzled veteran from a war long past, could be heard boasting to all in earshot that he had taught Helena all she knew of swordplay.

They would gather every year, on the anniversary of the razing, in memory of the forty souls lost that day. A number that paled in comparison to the thousands who ultimately perished over the course of the rebellion, of course, but they were their dead, and their names and faces still lived on in the villager’s minds.

Ultimately, the hero and her allies succeeded and ousted the king from his throne. One beautiful winter’s day, much like the one she had left behind five years ago, Helena returned at last.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



aaaaaaaaa

in

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



Discontinued Voidmart Training Document #037, Revision 656, Declassified
1174 words, Produce

Salutations, and the future

Welcome, Voidling!

We at Voidmart are very happy that you have chosen to serve us, Voidling! You’re a part of our family now, and if you approach your new job with a healthy attitude of positivity and extreme determination, Voidmart will serve you! Why, in time, you may even grow to become an honorable VOIDLORD!

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. We’ll level with you, Voidling. Recently, the produce section has been under both metaphorical and literal attack by a plague of slacking employees. Due to the very high turnover rate, we can no longer afford to waste valuable Voidlabor in order to train new employees.

Worry not! This helpful, comprehensive guide will be more than enough to prepare you for what we hope will be a long, successful, productive career in our store!

Freshness, and dealing with the rotten

Joyous consumers around the world know that a Voidmart produce section is a fresh produce section. As such, your very first task when you clock in to your shift is to gauge the freshness of our products. This is easy, thanks to the efforts of our elite team of Voidscholars!

Born of science, fresh (ha ha ha) from the labs, the Helpful Scanner What Lets You Know What’s Fresh (the HSWLYKWF for short, usage of this acronym is mandatory and correct pronunciation rewarded by immediate promotion to VOIDLORD) will ensure that no rotten apples spoil the bunch! Simply wave the HSWLYKWF over the food, and it will do the rest!

If the HSWLKYWF does not react in any way, then the product is fresh and ready for consumption! However, if even a trace of rottenness is detected, the HSWLYKWF will dutifully let you know with flashing lights, an air-raid klaxon, and the immediate disintegration of the offending filth. Isn’t science incredible?

Note: Do not under any circumstances use the HSWLKYWF on living creatures. Our Voidscholars have not yet determined what criteria, if any, the device uses to judge freshness in anything except produce. For safety’s sake, ensure you are as fresh as possible at all times during your shift. Complimentary Voidmints will be provided. Violations of HSWLKYWF safety protocol will result in the indefinite extension of your shift as Voidmart determines how best to discipline your ashes.

Pests, and extermination thereof

Despite Voidmart’s extensive security systems, there are still some forces beyond even our ken that seek to do harm to our store. The produce section in particular seems to draw the most attention, most likely due to its extreme, mouth-watering freshness. As such, you will be provided with both a security radio and a self-defense Voidmart-brand poking stick.

Note: Abuse of the poking stick will lead to its immediate confiscation, along with revoking your right to defend yourself, period. It was not designed for faux swordfights, children.

The most common enemy you will encounter will be the aforementioned slacking ‘employee’. These parasites were originally able to infiltrate our ranks, posing as innocuous and productive Voidlings. It was soon discovered that their mere presence causes nearby produce to rot at an alarming speed, and they were immediately ousted from the store. However, slackers will still show their shameful faces on occasion.

At first glance, they will appear indistinguishable from ordinary employees. A closer look will quickly reveal the holes in their disguise. Keep a keen eye out for discrepancies in their uniform, such as a mirrored logo or gaudy coloring; and flaws in their face, such as a surplus or lack of basic human features like eyes, or noses.

Slackers are fairly simple to deal with, even for an inexperienced Voidling such as yourself. For the most part, they will aimlessly mill about the produce section, sometimes swaying to music playing from earbuds that are not connected to any media device. Liberal application of the poking stick will eventually irritate the slacker enough for it to leave the store on its own.

Do not use the HSWLKYWF on or around slackers. This will cause them to enter an enraged state, at which point the only solution will be overwhelming application of force. The last time a careless Voidling enraged a slacker, we lost an entire platoon of Voidtroopers, and many valued customers were injured in the crossfire.

Our Voidscholars’ synergetic brainwaves have only produced a reliable action plan for dealing with slackers. If you encounter creatures from known mythologies, creatures from unknown mythologies, gibbering horrors, or anything that is not deterred by your poking stick, sound the “Everything is completely fine, customers, we just need you to step outside for a little while” alarm and use your radio to call in the heavy Voidtroopers. In the event of an attack, there is a secret trapdoor to an employee panic room hidden by the “ground meat” section.

Miscellaneous notes, and a lack of understanding

Does the dome signify an auditorium, or an arena? Few could claim that they haven’t been a gladiator, at some point in their life. The void watches the bloodsport from up high, and we are left to guess at its intentions.

Is the Golden Bean located at the entrance of the store, or is the store located inside the Golden Bean? All doors lead to Voidmart. You can buy all doors at Voidmart, for a very reasonable fee.

When Voidmart comes to town, your town becomes Voidmart. The storefronts from your childhood shudder as they are shuttered, cobwebs sprawling in the ultimate declaration of loss.

Promotions, and upward momentum

The walls have been papered over with Voidmart propaganda, and I am no longer able to tell where the door used to be. It’s been locked for months, regardless. The managers wanted to ‘commend me for my exemplary service’, but when I finally completed the hour-long ascent to their office, I blacked out the moment my hand touched the doorknob. I woke up in here, with a post-it note attached between my eyes, requesting a “friendly and digestible how-to walkthrough!”.

There’s a speaker, somewhere in the walls, playing Voidmart’s official inspirational speech radio station. “Ascend, Voidling, ascend! Reach for higher than the heavens! Stretch that arm!”

I’ve written 656 guides for the bastards, and they’re still not satisfied. Every time I submit a new paper, a single emoji flashes across my screen until I recite the Voidmart anthem of quality. From what I can tell, this is management’s way of giving critique. Hell if I know what, exactly, a winking skeleton wearing a tie-dye t-shirt is supposed to signify.

Don’t work for Voidmart, Voidling.

Closing, and a farewell

We at Voidmart hope that this guide has been sufficiently educational, Voidling. We are looking forward to a long, productive future with you!

Sleep tight. Voidmart will still be here, with your dreams in stock.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



in

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



Okay, Who Killed the Healer This Time?
1407 words


As a man who spent a fair amount of his time deceased, Alexander had specially commissioned his coffin from one of the finest craftsmen in the land to have both comfort and style. However, as Laure’s party dragged it through the desert, she couldn’t help but wish that he had included wheels on the thing.

“I was gone for three days”, she griped. Mikhael and Sara exchanged a glance and shared a heavy sigh, but Laure ignored them. “Three days! I even gave you your shares of the bounty early so that you could enjoy yourselves in town and maybe, just maybe, be less tempted to do something idiotic and get our healer killed! It’s hardly been a week since the last time we had to drag his sorry carcass to the church.”

“Excuse me, commander?” Danwyl hesitantly spoke up. “I hardly believe it myself, but twas Alexander’s work that brought us into this mishap. For once.” He shot Sara a pointed look, who responded with a hearty thumbs-up. "I pray you’ll learn your lesson, but the gods seem to be turning a blind eye." Danwyl muttered under his breath as Mikhael gave Sara a surreptitious high-five.

"Enough. I am not in the mood for your idiocy right now." With a grunt, Laure heaved up the coffin and balanced it on one of her broad shoulders. "You three will tell me everything that happened while I was away, and if I'm not satisfied with your answers, I'll bash your heads in with Alexander's luxury coffin."

"Yes'm!" Sara said, saluting sharply as she hid behind Mikhael.

-

As half-orcs lack much of a sense of smell, it had been an easy decision to send Laure off to deliver the troll lord’s decapitated head to their client.

“Why do they always ask for the head?” Alexander asked, removing the clothespin he had clamped on his nose. “I suppose it makes for a good trophy, but we’re adventurers, not taxidermists. It will be rotten before our fearless leader can even return it.” He was a frail, almost skeletal man who nevertheless had the air of a nobleman about him; clad in the traditional cloth robes of a healer.

“Nah, there’s tons of reasons to own a troll skull.” Sara said, idly swinging her legs as she sat on Mikhael’s shoulder. “Like, hiding it in the homes of people who owe you money, or using it as a cool mask!” It had been difficult, finding a supplier who carried pixie-sized equipment in their stock. Sara’s leather armor had many convenient pockets to store poisons, or loot snatched from the pockets of unwary marks.

Mikhael nodded cheerfully, very much for the acquisition of cool masks. He was a man of no words and no tongue, but neither stopped the monk from crushing foes with his bare hands, a delighted grin on his face all the while. He kept Alexander’s coffin strapped to his back, thinking that the added weight would help him train his strength.

“Many a potent brew makes use of troll bones.” Danwyl offered. No one knew why the elf insisted on wearing an impractically tall wizard’s hat, and everyone with the courage to ask was turned away with an impossibly verbose explanation. “I presume our work has fattened the pockets of an apothecary. Together, the crew pondered the motivations of their client.

-

Laure spat. “An apothecary? No, the man who hired us was a bard. His “artistic vision” required a troll skull, and the molded imitations weren’t authentic enough. He explained this to me in great detail. I had to subtly kick down the door in order to excuse myself.”

“How tragic, that such a powerful beast be laid low, only for its remains to be displayed in a mummer’s farce. Were we right to do such a thing? Were we-” Danwyl began to rant before Sara cut him off by shoving his hat to the ground. As the wizard sputtered in outrage, she irritably flew circles around Laure’s face.

“Boss, you wanted us to tell ya the story, so no interruptions, okay? Eep!” Sara barely dodged as Laure lazily swatted at her with Alexander’s coffin.

“Continue, then.”

-

The child approached Alexander first, nervously tugging on his sleeve. “Excuse me, m-mister?” Alexander tore his gaze away from his companion’s vehement debate on which pub to visit first; finding himself eye to soulful eye with the girl.

“Yes, child?”

“It’s j-just, you and your friends seem so strong and p-powerful, and… my puppy wandered into a cave and it’s super scary in there but he’s all I have and please! You hafta help him!” The commission had drawn the rest of the party.

“Sorry, kid, we don’t work for free-” Sara started before Alexander irritably swatted at her.

“Of course we shall help you find your dear companion!” He said, chest puffing out with pride. “Why, it is the duty of any who would call themself “hero” to aid those who are in dire need! We shall return your beloved pet, unharmed!”

“Thank you! I’ll show you where I lost him!” Their new client said. She skipped as she led the reluctant heroes outside the city gates.

“You can’t use mutts to buy booze.” Sara sighed, dejectedly fluttering along. Mikhael gave her a sympathetic pat on the head, but was otherwise thrilled. Any chance to flex his skills was fine by him.

-

“Another example of man being laid low by foolish, noble pride.” Danwyl observed. Laure had dropped the coffin, much to the delight of the three - and directed them to carry it, much to their despair. Sara sat on Mikhael’s head, offering him encouraging shouts.

“You’d think a healer wouldn’t be so stupidly sensitive about his lack of bulk.” Laure said, giving the coffin a kick for good measure.

-

The cave was, as promised, super scary. Mikhael lead the way, reflexively lashing out at shadows. Sara nervously flew about, scanning the ground for any signs of the wayward pup. Danwyl and Alexander brought up the rear, each carrying a torch. Danwyl’s hat brushed up against the roof of the cave. A small but rapidly flowing stream ran alongside them.

“Ah, it feels good to be doing this.” Alexander said, still frustratingly upbeat. “Adventuring in the spirit of pure altruism, helping those in need! Yes, this is the life!” Danwyl shot him a dirty look.

“Shaddup for a second, I think I hear something.” Sara said, swooping ahead of the group. She returned a minute later, flying in a panicked circle. “Found the puppy! Also, lots of skeletons. Like, a whole graveyard full. They’re coming this way!” She quickly made herself scarce.

There was a lot of skeletons. The party took their combat stances. While Mikhael punched skulls clean off their bones and Danwyl called upon the air to blow them apart, Alexander dove to save the puppy, who gave him a grateful lick. His coffin was knocked clean off Mikhael’s back, landing open on the ground.

“Fear not, fellows! I have recovered the erstwhile pup!” Alexander cried, only to draw the attention of several skeletal warriors, turning their eyeless gazes to face him. Before his companions could aid him, the undead fiends ran him through.

“I can’t fail… not here...” Alexander gasped, clutching the dog close to his chest. He took a few faltering steps forward before collapsing to the ground, falling face-first straight into his own coffin. The impact caused the lid to slam shut, sealing him in.

As Danwyl fended off an attack, he stumbled backwards over the coffin, sending both him and it into the river. “Wretched fool!” He managed to shout before the current carried them away. Mikhael and Sara exchanged a glance, shrugged, and then jumped in after him.

-

“...So those two held on to the coffin to stay floating, and I just flew, obviously. We followed the river until it spat us out of the cave, at which point we returned the puppy unharmed to its penniless owner.” Sara finished, casually riding on top of the coffin.

“That’s about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, and I’m not sure why I expected anything else.” Laure groaned. “All in favor of bashing Alexander over the head with his own coffin once we revive him?”

“Yep!”

“Indubitably.”

Mikhael nodded vehemently.

“The motion passes.”

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



in

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



I Am Stretched on Your World's Grave
1187 words


“We never meant for this to happen.” The man who killed the world mumbled, staring straight through Death as they sat in its office. “I-I never knew how! dangerous the bomb was!” He grabbed hold of Death’s bony wrist, desperately pleading with his eyes. “Our best scientists assured me that the death toll would be well within acceptable margins. I didn’t want this to happen! You understand, right?”

“I understand. There was no way you could have known. You are not to blame.” Death lied. Its guest released his vicelike hold on Death’s wrist and sank back into the plush chair.

“Wasn’t my fault, wasn’t my fault!” He quietly sang to himself with relief as he faded away into the next realm. To judgement. Death doubted that the court would be as forgiving as it, but all Death had left to give was mercy, now.

When your entire planet had been scorched, all life burnt to cinders, what point was there to blame? When there was no one left to mourn the dead, all that remained were victims; and it was Death’s duty to comfort them and ease their passing. Its scythe leaned up against a wall in the corner, rusted and covered with centuries of dust. Death’s job could be easy as a single slash, forcibly thrusting spirits onward, but Death had no intention on traumatizing the dead any further. It had nothing but time left, after all.

If not for its occupant, Death’s office could almost have belonged to any earthly psychologist. There was a number of comfortable chairs and couches, and the walls subtly shifted their color to match whatever Death’s guest would find most soothing. Ocean waves sounded in the distance, the last remnant of the now-dry seas.

Before the end, there had been a single window that looked out upon a peaceful, green meadow of flowers; Death’s favorite place. Now, the window had been hastily boarded up to hide the desolation. Death’s first guest had been a world-famous artist, who Death commissioned to paint a replacement to hang in its place. The resulting landscape was beautiful, but its stillness served as a reminder of what had been lost.

The one object that especially stood out of place was a black grimoire, which lay open on a small stand in the center of the room, listing the names and natures of the deceased. Death crossed off the name of his previous guest. Next on the list was a renowned speaker and philosopher. Death placed a finger on her name and concentrated, seeking to draw out her soul from the sea of unconsciousness all went to after they died, until they could be properly laid to rest.

Soon enough, a faint outline appeared, slowly coming together into the solid form of a middle-aged woman. The guest looked around Death’s office with an irritated sigh. “Well, bugger. Looks like my theories on consciousness were flawed after all.”

-
Finally, for the first time in its long existence, Death found that its steady stream of guests had been exhausted. There was but one more name in its grimoire, one last soul to ferry onwards: a girl named Alice Brooks. Death summoned her.

“You’re a lot less scary than I thought you’d be.” Alice said once she had been fully formed, tilting her head as she examined Death. “No hellfire or brimstone. You know, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you weren’t actually the devil, sent to devour my soul.”

“I can assure you that I am not the devil, and that my only interest in your soul is its safe passage to the afterlife.” Death said, somewhat bemused. To its surprise, Alice immediately started cackling with glee, nearly falling off of her chair.

“Well, then! It looks like dear old dad was wrong about quite a few things.” Alice said once she had recovered from her laughing fit. “You’re what then, the ferryman?”

“I suppose that is an accurate description,” Death said.

“Well, sorry, I don’t have any particular inclination to ‘pass on’. There isn’t anyone I’d wanna see up there, and I have to say, this is an interesting change of pace.”

Death shrugged. “It is my duty to give you as much time as you need to be ready. Indeed, you are the last guest that I will ever see.”

“I was the very last one to get an invitation? Even after the end of the world, I guess nothing changes. If I’m the last, what’ll happen after I’m gone, then?”

“I…” Death faltered. In all its years, it had not given thought to what would happen after its work was done.

“Won’t you be lonely?” Alice persisted. “I gotta admit, even thinking about what’s coming next scares the hell outta me, so what do you have to lose by keeping me around? Nothing, right?”


“I suppose not.” Death said. It had no intention of derelicting its duty, but Alice was far from the first difficult guest it had entertained.

Alice was even more stubborn than Death had guessed. Her curiosity was insatiable, and she filled the long hours by asking Death about all the people who had passed through its walls; the scores of ancient leaders, artisans, and philosophers. “Months” passed. It soon became clear that nothing Death could do would make her at peace.

As unfamiliar as the future was, Death could still not steal Alice’s entire future away from her, just to assuage its own fears. The moment Death’s finger brushed against its scythe, the centuries of dust blew away, and the dull steel gleamed once more. “Forgive me.” It said, and with a slash forced Alice’s soul onward.
-

Interestingly, there was a knock on the door. Even more interestingly, there was now a door to Death’s office. It stared at the new entryway for a moment, at a loss for what to do. “Excuse me? This is Death’s office, correct? I’ve come a long way, I’d hate to have the wrong address,” a voice sounded from beyond the door. Nonplussed, Death opened the door, and was momentarily blinded as a blinding light filled its office.

In the door stood a tall man, wearing a suit and holding a briefcase in his right hand. He would have been the quintessential generic businessman, if only his eyes had been more than empty, black sockets. Behind him was nothing but a pure white void. “I was not expecting any more guests.” Death said, nevertheless motioning the strange visitor in. The businessman nodded, shutting the door behind him as he entered, blocking out the light.

“You can think of this as, ahem, a professional courtesy call.” He said, flashing a grin. “I am the Death of Deaths. You’ve served well, old boy, but your work’s done. There’s nothing left for you to do but move on.” As he spoke, he opened his briefcase, revealing a folded up scythe. “It’s time for you to join the people you’ve watched over, all these thousands of years.”

“I am ready.” Death, at last, was laid to rest.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



tdbot is my friend

in

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



•TDbot> We need the knowledge of how to quarry stones, to provide a solid framing for the well. | Untitled by Capntastic - http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=2127

We Will Be Brave For the New World
900 words.


Doctor Riley watched over the sleeping masses she had promised sanctuary, deep in cryogenic slumber. The sprawling underground bunker had been meant to hold nearly a million, but she had been able to shepherd in only several thousand before the oncoming robotic hordes had forced her to completely lock down the facility. Her colleagues had not been among the lucky few.

The robots had been meant to end all war, to allow disputing countries to spill oil instead of blood on their battlefields. No one knew what had caused them to malfunction and start turning their weapons on defenseless civilians; though some speculated that it was due to some error in programming, or just a simple matter of the wrong person assuming control. Their automated factories worked day and night to produce more, ready to fight the second they stepped off of the assembly line. No resistance survived long enough to make a difference.

A monitor on the wall next to her came to life, showing a heavily stylized picture of a worried face. “Doctor, you do not need to remain,” a voice from the monitor stated. “There is nothing more that you can do now. Why have you not joined them in sleep?”

Riley sighed. She knew that Overwatch was just attempting to fulfill its purpose, (she programmed the drat thing, after all) but that didn’t make its incessant nagging any less troublesome. “You know I can’t do that, Watts. Not until I’ve exhausted every possible solution.”

“Waiting out the crisis is both the safest and the most reliable-” Watts began before it was interrupted by Riley cursing and slamming her fist into the console.

“Yes, we could wait for hundreds of years for the damned robots to fall apart, but we can’t safely sustain cryogenic sleep for that long! Do you really expect people to live out their whole lives in here?”

“I do not understand the problem with that outcome.”

“Of course you wouldn’t.” Riley muttered under her breath. “You’ve got some pretty big holes in your library that need filling.” She spent the next several hours in the bunker’s archive, gathering materials.

“Doctor, you could have saved yourself the walk by simply communicating with my monitors,” Watts chided as Riley walked into the room that held its core. She shook her head, producing a small hard drive from her labcoat’s pocket, filled with terabytes of art, prose, and images of what Earth used to be.

“Watts, it was a failing on my part that you were programmed with nothing but the knowledge of how to run this facility. I intend to correct that.” Riley began the process to interface with Watts’ database.

“If that is what you wish, Doctor.” Watts said. Though it was reluctant at first, as it began to process the information it became more and more curious. Riley patiently stayed with it the whole time, answering whatever questions it had. When Watts finished processing the wealth of data, it was uncharacteristically quiet for a time. “I… may begin to understand where you are coming from. I would not be opposed to learning more.”

Over the next few weeks, there would be many more sessions such as this.

-

Though Watts asking for a meeting was nothing out of the ordinary; the strange, almost hesitant tone to its voice was strange enough to prompt Riley to take off at a dead run down to Watts’ core. When she arrived, wholly out of breath, it was a solid five minutes before Watts finally spoke its mind.

“Riley. I see that you were right. It is a tragedy that they will never be able to see the world as you knew it. Beautiful. Safe. This isn’t their fault. Why should we force them to repair the damage wrought by my kind, to live for generations under the ground, both fearing and longing for the outside world?”

Riley smiled. “We shouldn’t, that’s why. I’m glad you finally get it. You and I, I’m sure we can work something out. Together. What do you need from me?”

“We need the knowledge of how to quarry stones, to rebuild what has been razed. We need the knowledge of how to defend ourselves, to cleanse the Earth of its metallic stain. We need the knowledge of how to cultivate life, to grow back what has been cut down.”

“I’d better get to work on updating your archives, then.” Riley laughed for the first time since she had entered the bunker.

The bunker had a near limitless amount of material for Riley to use. She constructed countless proxies for Watts to control, worker bots meant both to fight and rebuild. Whenever one was destroyed by the horde, or found wanting in any way, Riley would revise and refine them, constructing new model after new model until the day she finally succumbed to age, never surrendering into cryogenic sleep.

The shelter would never be used for its original purpose. Its massive food stores would remain unused, its cramped living quarters left vacant. Generations of refugees would not live and die in its halls, never knowing the light of the sun. Instead, they would wake up and be greeted by Watts and its legions of bots, ready to escort them into the new world.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



I'm In.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



sebmojo posted:

LUST
spectres of auitism - innocence remains

You know, I originally thought I would be sated with my own rule, but this is simply irresistible. I'll have it.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



(lust, "innocence remains", 1199 words)
Her Caged Song

The keep’s holding chambers had never much been to Asha’s liking; too sterile and brightly lit. The juxtaposition of what she thought a prison ought to be (damp, dark and grimy) and the reality always unsettled her whenever she kept watch there. Guard duty was tiring enough as it was, but she supposed that it wouldn’t do for any precious merchandise to come down with a venereal disease before delivery.

It looked like it would be an easy shift, at least. Their latest acquisition stared at her through the bars of its cell, the only occupant ever since a particularly insatiable duke cleared out their stock. Asha silently thanked it for not being a screamer. Accusatory glares were much easier to filter out. Asha did just that, focusing on sharpening her daggers until Rahul the jailer came to relieve her.

Several days passed before Asha returned to the cells and was greeted with the same glare, to her surprise. Most merchandise fell into a listless despair after the initial shock of captivity wore off. It didn’t speak up until Asha approached its cell in order to deliver its dinner. “You must be someone special. All of my other guards have been men.”

Asha snorted. “Like as not I’d be in that cell if I didn’t have the ability to kill them all without-” She cut herself off, cursing the moment of vulnerability. The woman’s voice had a refined, songlike quality to it that caught Asha off-guard. She’d have to make sure it didn’t happen again. When Rahul arrived, Asha requested that she be removed from guard duty for the time being. It meant she’d be assigned somewhere more dangerous, but anything was worth losing the risk of getting attached.

It soon came to be that Jaya, head of the slavers, personally requested Asha’s presence on a raiding team meant to acquire both supplies and merchandise. She gladly accepted, hoping that by the time she returned, the girl would be gone.

-

Weeks later, Asha berated herself as she sat in the prison once more, right arm in a sling. A caravan guardsman had played dead and taken her by surprise. She would have taken Asha’s head, as well, if not for the intervention of Jaya. The wound stung almost as much as the indignity of being fit for nothing more than watch duty until she recovered.

Apart from that, however, the raid had been successful, and the prison now held four new girls, along with the woman from before. None had ever remained in the holding cells for so long without being claimed, and none had ever remained even half as long without breaking from the isolation. None had ever remained long enough for Asha to become familiar with them.

Her name was Gita. She sang softly of hope to the others when they became despondent. Asha knew that it was forbidden for prisoners to make noise, but she couldn’t bring herself to stop the melody. Sometimes she found herself crying without quite realizing why.

“How is it that you can still sing?” Asha asked her one day, as she delivered her food.

Gita started, unused to Asha being the first to speak. “All my life, I have loved music. My parents were minstrels, part of a traveling show, and I wanted nothing more but to follow them as they traveled the world. They were the first to die when your friends attacked.”

Asha grimaced, angered at herself for asking. It was easy to work when you didn’t think of those who would mourn the man whose throat you just slit, when you couldn’t attach a story to any of the crying faces you see. Gita continued. “I know they would not want to see me cry, and my voice always brought them great joy. Thus, I sing. Wait,” she said as Asha began to leave. “It’s only fair that you answer a question of mine. Why do you remain here?”

Asha hesitated, then began to speak.

-

Asha’s parents had died when she had been too young to remember them, casualties of war. After that, with her older brother she lived on the streets. They were both constantly on the edge of starvation, and he one day succumbed; having given her every last morsel of food they could scrounge.

Even that had been barely enough to keep Asha alive. Soon after her brother’s death, a group of older and bigger children cornered her after she had successfully stolen a fresh loaf of bread from a baker, intent on forcefully taking the food from her. However, Asha had claimed a knife, hidden in the boot of a hanged man.

Asha still remembered all their faces, and the color their blood stained the filthy pavement. Jaya witnessed everything. He had come to the city looking for merchandise, but he saw potential in Asha and approached her with an offer of a home. Asha accepted without hesitation, and for the first time in her life she had a full stomach and a bed to call her own.

-

Gita remained silent all the while, giving her an almost pitying look, and Asha realized how pathetic she must sound, how little her story justified her actions. The prison door creaked open, breaking the silence.. Rahul gave her an odd look as Asha walked past, and she flushed with guilt, fearful of how much he had overheard. Another week passed without further incident. Asha now quieted Gita whenever she started to sing, and brushed off any attempts to talk.

One day, Asha surreptitiously checked the ledgers to see who was slated to purchase Gita. She, along with the other girls, had all been reserved by Duke Dhaval “to be transported when he was done with his current batch.” Asha shuddered. In the past, she had accompanied Jaya as a bodyguard as he met with the Duke, and the expensive perfumes he doused his private chambers in still could not mask the scent of decay. She trembled as she pictured Gita’s beautiful voice screaming in agony at his hands.

-

The next time Rahul came to relieve Asha, she greeted him with a slash to the throat. As he fell to the floor, gurgling as he desperately tried to cry for help, she grabbed the keys from his belt and quickly freed all the captive girls. “I can’t give you much, but it’s more of a chance than you’d have otherwise. There’s a door we don’t use in the back, take it. I’ll give you a head start. You’ll have to rely on your own strength after that, alright?”

Gita nodded. “Thank you.” With quiet words of encouragement, she spurred the other girls onward to freedom.

Asha gave her one last, wistful look. She wished that she could join her, but knew that she had no rightful place with the innocent. Years of sin couldn’t be righted with one good deed. The alarm sounded as a second guard came down the stairs to find Rahul dead at his feet. Asha clutched her daggers tight. Maybe, if she was lucky, she could make it to Jaya before she was struck down.

It began.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



College has taken my time and my money, but it hasn't taken my fingers yet.

In.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



This Ceramic Sunset's For You
1051 words


The portal flash outlined Jude’s surroundings for a split second before it faded, leaving only the ghost of light in his eyes and the darkness around him. He paused. Closed his eyes. Inhaled his first breath from the new world, the first breath any man had ever taken there. His friends back at the university would have mocked his sentimentality, but even after a year as a grad student, the job still hadn’t lost its idealistic sheen.

Jude still remembered his fascination with space when he was young, fervently memorizing constellations and nebulae in the hopes of visiting them, one day. Remembered the day he had torn down a childhood’s worth of NASA posters down from his bedroom wall when news of the very first portal spread, and the recruitment drive for the world’s best and brightest to map them out began.

After one last moment’s reflection Jude opened his eyes and switched on his environmental suit’s flashlight. Basking in the moment was all well and good, but there was work to be done. He walked carefully, the light revealing cavern walls around him, thankfully with even footing all around. Portal technology had progressed far enough to avoid spitting explorers out inside a wall or fifty feet above the ground, but there was nothing stopping the careless from proceeding to stumble off a cliff afterward.

You could easily pinpoint the moment where Jude transformed from an average student to one who aced every exam, spending late nights chaining himself to his studies: during the world’s first livestream of a portal expedition. The new world was beautiful and still; the air free of birdsong and buzzing insects. Jude saw the untouched forests, spread for miles in every direction, and pledged to himself that he would step foot there, one day.

The cave floor gradually began to slope upward, and Jude adjusted the heavy pack on his shoulders. He was there only to take some initial readings, in and out quick before the day was done. Thousands of explorers like him were sent out to thousands of new worlds at any given day. With infinity before you, why waste time familiarizing yourself with every inch of a new world before moving on? The next one could have everything you were looking for within sight of the portal, after all.

Unsurprisingly, the prospect of literally infinite resources had every government, every corporation in the world scrambling in what was to become known as the “parallel race”. Even with the required knowledge, however; the materials required to construct and control a new portal were so prohibitively rare that only the most well-connected institutions could even hope to get their hands on one. The portal at Jude’s own MIT was one of only three in the entire United States.

Jude squinted as the cave began to brighten. Though he was momentarily blinded by the light streaming through its entrance, it still came as a relief to him. No known explorers had ever been lost to anything except their own careless mistakes, but the same quiet that was soothing in the morning light was unnerving in the moonlight. Jude could never stop himself from expecting a twig to snap, a bush to rustle, any sound that would announce the fact that he was not alone.

After all, for all that was unique about the new worlds, they all shared one thing in common: no forms of fauna had ever been discovered to inhabit them, nor had any traces of previous human habitation been found, apart from an occasional lead that without fail turned out to be the result of a poorly thought out student prank.

As Jude drew closer to the entrance, he noticed the light begin to flicker in an erratic fashion, far more than could be attributed to the movement of trees in the wind. The closer he approached, the faster it flickered; until it vanished with a final flash, leaving him momentarily stunned.

When the stars in Jude’s eyes cleared, he looked up to see that daylight was not at all what he had first seen. The sky was black, the ground barren and rocky, featureless plains broken up only by the mouths of other caves. Strange, glowing wisps littered the world, floating in the air seemingly at random.

However, as he watched, it became clear that the wisps moved with purpose. Some would lazily circle around one another; others would dance intricate circling patterns in the sky. Taken as a whole, it was a never-ending blur of motion, a light show more beautiful than Jude had ever seen in a planetarium.

His first instinct was to rush back to the university and immediately report his findings. Jude would become famous, the man who discovered the first known life on another world, the man who paved the way for every single scientific advance to follow. He would fulfill the dreams of his younger self, live up to the ambition that drove him to that day.

Before Jude could turn to rush back to the portal, however, the wisps as a whole began to move, leaving him transfixed. One by one, they ceased what they were doing, hovering in place. Then, as a whole, they shot up into the distant sky, gathering together, joined by a countless stream of wisps that stretched across the horizon. Soon, every wisp had found its place, leaving only what appeared to be a dim sun in the sky. Jude bathed in the light of the most beautiful thing he had ever witnessed.

Right then, he decided that he would never tell another soul what he had seen, or do anything that would put that living sun at risk. Jude dreamed of being an explorer, never a Columbus. He had nothing but faith in his fellow researchers, but eventually, word would spread. Someone would get careless. The sun would fade, never to shine again on that particular chunk of the universe.

Jude sighed. The report would be easy enough to falsify. After all, who would ever expect an explorer to lie about not finding anything of use? With the daily hurricane of reports, no one would give his a second glance. After one final glance at the sky, he turned and left the untainted world behind.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



In.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



The Star (Reversed): Lack of faith, despair, discouragement
Death (Reversed): Resistance to change, unable to move on
Five of Rods (Reversed): Conflict avoidance, diversity, agreeing to disagree

my brother, among the dunes
1499 words


Once, whenever I began to doubt, whenever I began to question if we had chosen the wrong path, I would see the sparks of excitement dancing in my brother’s eyes as he looked to the night sky and found our tomorrow’s road amongst the stars; and my determination would return to me.

“Sera! There is no doubt in my heart that the stars will guide us to the center before the next cycle of the moon! Our village will be saved yet!” Ori said, and I smiled at him while trying to forget both that this is the third time this year he has said those same words to me and the emptiness of the waterskins slung across my back.

The next night, after we set up our increasingly weakening wards against evil around our humble camp and my brother slipped into starry-eyed dreams, I drew my scimitar and hunted for the Forsaken. It was not long before I came across a party of five, collapsed in the sand around a rusted walker. I bowed my head and knelt. “Lost ones, may your flesh be purified by my holy blade; and your spirits put to rest by my promise that I will carry on your quest.” My intonation awakened them, and as a whole they hissed and stood, slowly staggering towards me.

Death makes men predictable, and I easily fell into the pattern I had repeated hundreds of times in the past. Their ashes scattered in the wind as I pried open the walker’s shell. Unsurprisingly, the desert storms had weathered its joints to the point of uselessness, but its enchantment against decay remained intact. I returned to the camp, secure in the knowledge that I had gathered enough food and water to keep us alive.

My earliest memory was of my mother’s calloused hands guiding me to hold her scimitar the proper way while my baby brother slept in the corner. “Seraphina,” she said, “you and your brother must become two halves of the same whole. He will be a dreamer, living his life finding answers in the heavens above. You will be his guardian, left behind on the earth to protect his physical form.”

I would continue to live by those words, even after my mother became one of the first to succumb to the desert sickness and the village children whispered dark rumours about Ori, overheard from parents who were quick to forget tradition in search of someone to blame. Never within earshot of me, remembering the bruises I had given them the first and only time they worked up the courage to insult him to my face.

My brother never noticed the uneasy looks shot at him as more of our people were claimed by the sickness, even after we moved our village to escape the growing desert. His gaze was always tilted absently towards the sky as he aimlessly drifted through life; day after day. Without our mother to instruct him, he had no purpose; the others in the village had quickly given up on trying to turn him into a productive citizen after string after string of jobs left abandoned due to a passing cloud striking him as more interesting than his current work.

I would always remember the joy on my brother’s face on the day that the village elder approached him with a special task. Rumor had spread across the nomadic villages of the world of a possible origin of the ever-expanding desert: at its very core laid the ruins of an ancient city, home to a strange machine that was the cause of the world’s blight. Countless search parties had left in search of it, but none had ever returned.

“However, my boy, you are special!” The elder said. “I’m sure that you and your sister can be the ones to save us all.” For the first time since our mother had died, Ori tore his gaze from the heavens and faced me with a grin, spouting a constant stream of chatter about how the time had come to finally put his talents to use. The village elder left us with well-wishes, wards, and a few months’ worth of supplies, carried by one of the ancient, crablike walkers our village possessed. Despite his obvious desperation to be rid of us, the sight of my brother filled with new purpose and hopes of being a hero were more than enough to keep me from arguing.

Over the past two years since we left, my brother never lost that spark. Until recently, I thought that was all I needed, keeping my concerns to myself and keeping my mother’s blessed scimitar sharp. However, it had been months since we had last seen another living being, months since even the last abandoned village or any trace of any civilization. Months since the last hint that we were doing anything other than wandering in circles across the endless desert, months since the last sign that the entire world had not been consumed by sand in our absence.

“Have you ever doubted the signs you see in the stars?” I asked him one night, after he had finished work on our map.

“Have you ever doubted your sword arm, Sera?” Ori replied with a laugh, brushing off my concerns.

“So you don’t think it’s possible that you’ve made a mistake? You still think we’re on the right trail, brother?” I pressed on, unconsciously raising my voice.

Ori started, shocked as if I had slapped him. “Are you saying you don’t trust me? The stars are all that I have, and you’re saying I might be losing my grasp on even them?”

“I’m saying that I want better for you than spending the rest of your life wandering this cursed desert! I don’t want you to die alone of thirst if I make a single mistake! We don’t even know if the ruins we’re looking for actually exist!”

“So you think we’ve wasted the last two years of our lives? It has to exist! I’ve seen it in the stars, Sera! How else would we have survived this long where so many others have failed?” We were both shouting, now.

“Because I’ve been working day and night to keep us both alive! Don’t you ever wonder why we never run into any Forsaken? How I keep miraculously finding supplies? The stars have nothing to do with it, I’ve been patrolling every single night to make sure your sky-routes are safe for us! I’ve risked my life to get supplies from the Forsaken!” As soon as I said it, I realized that I had gone too far. My brother staggered as if struck, and slumped to the ground.

“I… I haven’t actually accomplished anything?” He whispered, curling up and hugging his knees. “This entire time, I’ve just been a burden to you?” I took a tentative step towards him, extending my hand, but he drew away from me. “Just… leave me alone. Please.”

I could find no words of comfort. Instead, I left my brother and patrolled the perimeter of the camp, walking countless circles around our worries, same thought after same step. Despite my every effort, I could not think of what to say to revitalize my brother’s spirit. My worry for him consumed me so that I did not realize my fatigue until I had already passed out on the rough sands.

When I was awakened by the rising sun, I discovered that Ori had left camp, leaving a tearstained note behind. Sera, I’m sorry. I never meant to put you in danger for a quest you clearly never believed in. I have failed you, but I can’t abandon the only purpose I’ve had in life. Even if you don’t, I still have faith in the stars. I’ll be okay. I spat a curse and ran at a dead sprint out of the camp, while I still had any hope of catching up with him.

I don’t know how long I ran for. When I found him, he was unarmed, surrounded by Forsaken. Gazing at the sky for what he thought would be his final time. He didn’t notice my arrival until I had already started laying them to rest.

When I was done, Ori simply looked at me, shamefaced.“Sera, I…” He started, before I squeezed the wind out of him with a hug.

“You were never a burden to me, Ori. I might not have believe in the sky, but I believe in your ability to find meaning in it. How else would we keep finding supplies? How else have we avoided succumbing to the desert sickness? So long as you have faith that the ruins are out there, I’ll never leave your side.” He nodded, tears in his eyes.

We were no closer to our destination, but all that mattered was that my brother and I were together again, among the dunes.

dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



In

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dmboogie
Oct 4, 2013



So uh I broke my glasses and staring at an electronic screen for hours to finish my story is somewhat difficult, I'm out this week. I'll dump a toxx on my head once I can see and enter again.

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