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Feb 15, 2005
I'll sign up this year.


Feb 15, 2005
The Pearl, 1,258 Words

Joe would wake up early enough that he wouldn't have to talk to his wife. He would shower, shave, and head towards the kitchen. He'd have a light breakfast of eggs and toast with freshly ground coffee - he would dump out the rest of the pot when he finished. He would put on his suit, reach for his tie, and then remind himself that retired men don't wear ties. When he heard Sarah shuffling around in the bedroom, he would slip out the front door to his car, usually around 8 o'clock. In his car, he would take off his wedding ring and hide it in the ash tray.

He would reach the diner and order himself a coffee before the morning rush would start. There, he would chat with the other old timers who showed up. He was younger than them, and looked younger still. Sometimes he wondered if the waitresses believed him when he said he was retired. He wondered if the judgmental bitches thought he was lying, that he hadn't retired by choice, that he had been laid off. He saw them smirking, thinking that he was too old and lacking the skills to find another job.

He had earned his retirement, goddamn it.

He'd leave a five dollar tip, and get out before the lunch rush really started the full swing. He'd go to the library, and read about explorers and far-away lands. He imagined if he hadn't stayed in New Oxford. He imagined himself living in Johannesburg, or Venice, or some untouched island near Indonesia. He imagined if he had joined the air force, worked hard, and became an astronaut like he had always dreamed.

Then, around four o'clock, he'd return his book and leave. He'd drive home before rush hour, put his wedding ring back on, and return home. Sarah would be in bed again. On a good day she would have cleaned up a little bit. Most days it looked like she hadn't left the bedroom.

That's how most days would go.

But it was New Years, and the coffee shop and library were closed today. So he put on his suit, and he sat down to read a book.

It was eleven o'clock when the postman came. The dreadful chiming of the door bell destroyed his beautiful world, stealing him away from 1960's Moscow. The adjustment was so jarring that he didn't know where he was at first.

He heard Sarah desperately trying to get herself together. Joe easily beat her to the door.

It was a small package, but heavy. The postman needed a signature - the sender had paid extra for the service. Joe smiled, chatted with the postman, acted like nothing was wrong. He expressed his surprise that the postman was making his deliveries today. The package was bearing down on him, like an anchor around his neck. He imagined himself in the waters off Cuba, watching as the sharks swam above him. The postman wished him good day, and left.

Sarah was standing there, disheveled but dressed. Her eyes were locked on it. He watched her as she slowly opened and closed her hands. Joe was ready when she screeched and grabbed for the package. He easily balanced it in one hand and slapped her away with the other.

She crumbled, deflated into her clothes. He ignored her quiet sobs and went to the kitchen for a knife. The package had been secured taped, of course. Joe glanced behind him, to make sure Sarah wasn't going to make another grab for it.

Joe stared at the name on the return address. The name of the man who would have destroyed everything. No, that wasn't right. The Lover had destroyed everything, alright, and all Joe had preserved was the illusion of normality. Even if Sarah's body was here in New Oxford, her heart was long gone. He angrily crossed out the name with the knife, leaving little bits of cardboard all over the kitchen top.

Inside was jewelry - pounds of it, wrapped in neat little bits of paper and small boxes. Some of it, he recognized from when he had forced Sarah to give it back. The rest was new, different. He unfolded the letter.

The Lover told about how he never loved again, how every day he had tried to replace Sarah with women and drink. How every year, on the anniversary of their departure, the Lover had bought her a piece of jewelry and kept it. How the doctors had diagnosed him with cirrhosis of the liver, how his dying thoughts had been of her. How he had bought a special amulet, to ensure they could be together in another life.

Joe ripped the paper into shreds. The Lover wasn't in love in Sarah - he was in love with the image of her, the memory. She had been the one thing he couldn't have, the one thing denied to him. If Joe hadn't intervened, The Lover would have used her up and left her for some other woman. And what had he gotten in return, for protecting her? Nothing!

He grabbed big handfuls of jewelry, and threw them on the ground. He stomped on them, and ripped the delicate gold chains apart. The bastard! THE BASTARD! Even in death, He had to destroy everything.

At the bottom was a pearl the size of an egg, carved with delicate runes. He grabbed it, and slammed it to the ground with all his might. The pearl shattered, and Joe's life flashed.


"Whatchu thinking about, Joe?" Mary asked across the bar.

"What makes you think I'm thinking? Maybe I'm just enjoying the beach air."

"You ain't touched your margarita all morning, bub. I know you like to savor them, but the drat thing's half melted. After all that work I put into it."

"The best on the island," Joe said with a smile. "But you're right. I was just thinking about my ex-wife."

"Not a happy thought to have on New Years, Joe."

"Yeah, weird ain't it? About twenty years ago today. Found out she had another man on the side. I decided, hell with it, let her choose who she really loves, and if it isn't me, so be it."

"And it wasn't you?"

"Nope. Put a damper on things, you know? So quit my job, sell my house, and run off to play explorer."

"And now you're sitting on a beach drinking, letting your margarita melt. Seems like you got the good end of the deal, Joe."

"Yeah, I guess. But you've always got to wonder. How would things have shook out the other way, if-" He didn't finish his sentence. Instead, he made a sort of gurgling noise.

"What's wrong, Joe?"

"That's her, Mary." He turned away from the door, hid his face behind his glass. "That's Sarah."

"Your ex? The pretty blonde who just walked in?" Mary made a mischievous face. "She's looking pretty good for her age. 'Nough to shut you up."

"Don't you dare, Mary," he hissed.


Her head snapped up, and a look of shock crossed her face. No doubt about it, Joe knew she had recognized him. She was a bit more weathered now, but she still had that lively look to her. She smiled a genuine smile, and started heading over. Joe couldn't help but notice the missing wedding ring.

"Well, maybe this won't be so bad after all," he muttered to himself.

"On the house, Joe. Two margaritas coming up."

Feb 15, 2005
Did I say I was in yet? Because I'm in.

Feb 15, 2005
Desert Magic, 864 words

Las Vegas! The city of a thousand lights, and a million chances! A winner is made every day, and a sucker born every minute. What a place to be, like New York without the modesty.

Not that I had a chance to see it. They had us in a convention hall, far away from the green felt tables and guests in tuxedos. We had no time for such niceties. The people in this room had gathered for a singular purpose - the greatest gathering of Magic players, ever. The man who won this tournament would be legendary. I would be legendary.

My mind was prepared, my deck had been fine-tuned to a razor sharpness, and I could feel it. The thrum in my veins, a melody pumping in my blood, singing a hymn to my approaching legacy. The heart of the cards beat in my chest, and Lady Luck was at my side.

A few of the guys wanted me to go out the night before. They wanted to see the lights, the glamour, the ladies of the night. Others had tried to tempt me with other card games, a chance at the pay out at the poker table. Jealous fools, I saw through their ploy. They were trying to weaken him, take away his edge. I got a good night's sleep and woke well rested.

The greatest Magic tournament of all time had begun. This oasis in the desert would be the scene of my Apotheosis.

I dispatched my first opponent with careless ease. He was playing some pathetic red-green creation that he had designed himself. The mountains and the forests were swept away by the force of the sea.

My second and third opponents were equally ill-equipped to challenge my brilliance. It was simple, easy. It felt like I was playing children. They had no respect for the game - I heard one of them say he was just here for the experience.

I admit, I had a flaw. Every great hero has one - Hubris. I grew overconfident, self-assured. I thought myself invincible.
I stumbled.

I allowed a victory to slip away from me. Far too early in the day. It was the Lady chiding me, bringing me down a peg. I took the hint, and played tight throughout the day.

A fourth win, and then a fifth. Slowly the field was being winnowed down. The day was winding along, and I started to feel hungry and tired. I looked around for my friends, started texting them. They weren't answering me. It seems I had offended them by implying they weren't as committed as me.

Hubris, my only flaw.

With no one to bring me food, I had to soldier on with what I had brought with me. Again, I stumbled. I missed a vital play, and let the whelp steal the game. There was time before the next match, and sated myself on a nearby Hot Dog stand.

There was no more opportunity for mistakes. I had lost far too early in the day to even hope that tie breakers would save it. It didn't matter anyway - this was the largest tournament ever, only those with 7 wins would advance.
I had to win two more games, or my victory - my Triumph - would be denied to me. I wouldn't even be in the contention.

I played tight, careful, a bit slow. My opponent grew restless, but I didn't care. I won, he lost, and he was eliminated.

One more win, and I would be victorious.

He was a beanpole of a man, with a smug little look on his face. Like me, he had six wins and two losses. Whoever won this match would go on to tomorrow. Whoever lost would be defeated completely.

I hated him with every fiber of my being.

The Lady seemed to have abandoned me. Every opening hand was worthless, and every mulligan was worse. I drew lands when I needed spells, without fail. Still, I struggled and scrapped. He won the first game, and I won the second. Still the Lady seemed to scorn me.

The third game, I never had a chance. Luck was against me completely, and he seemed to draw the right card with uncanny precision. I conceded the game.

And then I noticed it. The strange little motion he made as he drew his cards. The odd way he held the cards as he shuffled.

The bastard had been cheating. And he had cheated me out of my Destiny.

I extended my hand, the gracious sportsman. I leaned in close, so the judge couldn't hear us.

"You're a cheating little poo poo."

His smile was infuriating. "You'll never prove it."

I went back to my hotel room, and cried myself to sleep.


"Trevor Humphries was given a four year ban from Magic organized tournaments yesterday, after eagle-eyed spectators on the internet noticed Mr. Humphries using sleight of hand on his opponents' deck. Mr. Humphries still proclaims his innocence, and that he is the victim of a 'Cyber Witch Hunt'. It is unlikely that his appeal will be successful."

I sat back, pleased with my success.

Feb 15, 2005
In with The Citadel Of Dwarves, but The King Of The Whores is very tempting as well...

Feb 15, 2005
The Citadel of Dwarves, 652 words

Far underground I found the gate unbarred,
Beyond the gaping chasm stood the door
to chthonic structures bathed in darkness deep.
A city chisel壇 out of stone and rock -
Wonder beyond compare, made history
by the discoverer, myself, I hoped.
Elated I did enter carefully
The buildings strangely stood askew, shrunken
As if press壇 down by giant hands above
So that I need crouch down to enter them
Like a play house for children, wrought in stone
Catastrophe came slow, unmark壇, sans  death
No signs of war or blood - eerie quiet
and time was all that claimed my city find
All evidence point to abandonment.
The silence of mausoleums held sway.
No drip of water heard, nor living thing
This strange and ancient place unsettled me.
But lust for glory calls to man, so yet
I further on explore, a glance to it
The gate unbarred behind me still to home.
Far deep inside I found the jet black bell
Engraved with gold, inlaid with jewels, perhaps
a holy treasure, relic of  their god.
a guarded place, but yet, the gate unbarred
I stared, entranc壇, its beauty greater than
the artifacts of any museum known.
But yet I sensed some profane risk abound.
展hat brings you here, creature of the sunlight,
down to this desolate place, grim and dark?
a shade unseen but still here ask壇 of me.
的 seek to know this city痴 history,
And nothing more, my good spirit. I値l leave.
Shadows took form - a dwarf, so grim and stout
Was standing by the bell. A priest, I think.
的値l grant your wish, but quick. Creatures alive
are ill suited for this necropolis.
                      Nuada was our king, who ruled us well.
                      So wise and just, his reign a glory age
                      So that our vaults did fill with gold and jewels
                      But King Nuada had a flaw - such pride
                      To make grand feats and boasts - prestige did drive
                      his every thought - his legacy premier.
                      An arrogant reagent, flawed, tis true.
                      He built a bell made of white gold, bejewel壇
                      By precious gems and rune mark壇 by high priests,
                      to represent the glory of his rule
                      And raise this city up above all else.
                      He claimed the rank Dak Marr, the emperor
                      Of all, a figure in our prophecies.
                      The other kings could not abide this act
                      of blatant heresy. What痴 more, they grew
                      to envy and to covet such the bell,
                       the bell made of white gold of the Dak Marr.
                      Our allies turned against us and did join
                      the host that would destroy our home and king.
                      Nuada knew: a swarm of ants could kill
                      a dragon wurm. His might was greater than
                      a thousand warriors at arms and shield
                      And yet the host did have ten thousand more.
                      He turn壇 to dark and evil means to save
                      his city, bell, and legacy at once.
                      A creature of beyond our mortal realm
                      did heed the frantic call. A bargain, pact,
                      foul deal was offer壇 to Nuada here,
                      This room where we do stand. The bell, white gold,
                      was turn to blackest jet, foul chimes rang out
                      And all who dare oppose our king - erased.
                      But deals have terms, always, and this bargain
                      was not exempt. No living thing could grow
                      within the city walls - a fallow field
                      the rule. Our king did not yet realize
                      the wombs of wives made barren and empty.
                      Nuada was our king, who ruled us well,
                      But none shall carry on his legacy.
                      He lies forgotten save for this poor shade.
                      Go now, the story told completes your wish.
I thanked the shade and fled the jet black bell
And hurry on straight to the gate unbarred
I took no artifact nor evidence
I told no one of what did lie beneath
The history of man ill needs the tale
Of  King Nuada and his gate unbarred.

Feb 15, 2005
Sure, I'm in

Feb 15, 2005
I will also like to submit my story via scanned type written pages, in.

Feb 15, 2005
Oneiromancy, 1300 words

Jarl watched his master as he carefully circled around him, ready to strike. Salizar, his mentor, simply waited. Before his training, Jarl had associated oneiromancy with sleepy elders and dream interpretation. The reality had been much more physical. Jarl attacked, parried Salizar痴 riposte, and thrust the sword against the wizard痴 neck. A good hit, but the insistent poking of Salizar痴 sword against his groin kept him humble.

敵ood, Jarl, good! Perhaps the oracles were wrong, and you should be apprenticed to a War Wizard.

的値l stick to dreams, Sir. Not much taste for killing. Jarl stepped back and stretched a bit.

A loud knock at the door interrupted the training session. One of the Baron痴 men let himself in, and stood at attention. Salizar gave him an annoyed look.

添es, soldier?

典here are rumors of assassins in the city, Sir. Informants claim that there is a plot, to be executed tonight.

典he Baron bothers me over this? I知 not a court mage, drat it, involved in petty political squabbles. Does the Baron doubt his own soldiers so much?

哲o, Sir- the Baron says the Red King is threatened, and that I should take you there immediately.

A look of concern passed over Salizar痴 face, and Jarl felt an icy cold wind swept through the room. When a wizard showed fear, things were dire.

典hank you, soldier, but that won稚 be necessary. Go and tell the Baron that I知 making preparations and will be there soon. Jarl, follow me.

The wizard led his apprentice into his personal study a plain and simple room with a single closet. Salizar begun mixing together a potion, and motioned of Jarl to sit on the floor. Soon enough, he placed a strange teal drink in front of Jarl.

的t is earlier than planned, but I believe you are ready. Jarl, we are going to take your first Dream Journey, and it will not be easy. I would have preferred to make things less frightening the first time, but well, Jarl, we are going to need a Nightmare. You are a strong, wise young man, but such things are never safe.

的t could drive me mad, Jarl replied.

添es, Salizar replied.

的s this Red King worth that?


Jarl nodded, and took the drink. It tasted like oranges, and burned inside. An overwhelming need to sleep took him, and Jarl felt Salizar lay him down. Through the haze, he could hear Salizar telling him to remember his training.

哲one of it is real - yet.

He was in a swamp, with no sign of a trail or Salizar. Jarl began walking. The murky water was knee-deep, and the mud pulled at his feet - every step was a struggle. His rational mind knew that this was the lightest level of a dream, the mere hint of dreaming. But the potion had filled him with an incredible fear, and he couldn稚 control his heartbeat or his breathing.

A thorn caught his arm. Jarl tried to shrug it off, but it only dug deeper. He reached over to pull the thorn free, and yelled as the branch tangled his hand, stabbing more thorns into his palm. He started to struggle, and seemed to stumble into more and more thorn-covered vines. They seemed almost alive, pulling his body apart inch by painful inch. He felt himself dragged down into the swamp as the plants tore him apart.

He couldn稚 breathe. A wet, cloth-like film covered his mouth and nose, preventing from drawing breath. He was trapped in some thick liquid, and couldn稚 struggle hard enough to reach his hands to his face. He struggled long after he should have suffocated and died again. Instead, he was trapped in this state of drowning. It took all the strength of his rational mind to keep him aware that none of this was real. Somewhere, he heard Salizar痴 muffled voice.

The dream wizard was nearby, calling his name. Jarl grasped onto that fact, and willed a dagger into existence. With pure desperation, he grabbed the blade and slowly, painfully, hacked his way out. With a loud gush and the smell of blood, he pulled himself free, and tore the film away from his face. Jarl simply laid there, breathing the fetid and rotten air around him, enjoying every gasp. Salizar was still calling his name, somewhere.

When Jarl opened his eyes, he turned away and vomited. A gigantic and grotesque version of his mother痴 naked body laid in front of him, with a long and jagged wound across her stomach. He forced the image from his mind. Instead, eyes closed, he followed Salizar痴 voice. It was slow going without his vision, but Jarl痴 sanity had been pushed to the breaking point already, and the noises around him were easier to ignore.

Finally, he found Salizar, and opened his eyes. A younger version of the old wizard in a blue robe with inlaid ivory patterns stood before him. Behind him was the Nightmare, a hideous demon with Jarl痴 features, covered with obscene symbols. Jarl hated the thing more than anything in the world. Salizar had placed a silver chain around its neck.

笛arl! You went much deeper, much faster than expected. I値l admit that I was afraid for your sanity. But it seems the oracle chose wisely when she gave you as my apprentice. Come on, we致e been here too long. Hopefully we are not too late to save the Red King. We have to make our way back up.

Jarl willed his beating heart to slow and to ignore the physical effects of Salizar痴 nightmare potion until they reached the swamp where it had all started. A wooden door had appeared, like the sort you would see on a closet. Salizar stopped in front of it, brought out his staff, and and steadied himself. He turned, and knocked the staff against Jarl痴 head.

的t痴 time to wake up now, apprentice. Do not bring anything with you!

The swamp around them begun to smear and merge, like an oil painting in the rain. The sky above him became a disorientating swirl of colors. Jarl struggled to make his muscles obey him. He watched as the wizard disappeared through the door, with the Nightmare following behind him, and was struck with the overwhelming fear of being trapped in this horrible place forever. He crawled forward, and slipped through the door before it could close.

They were somewhere in the castle now and Jarl could feel the effects of Salizar痴 potion leaving him. A man with a red mask was lying on the bed, arms folded like a corpse. He was gently snoring despite the violence.

The Baron was here, with a half dozen of his best men. They had barred the bedroom door, and many of them were bleeding or wounded. All their eyes were on Jarl痴 Nightmare, despite the pounding on the door. The creature looked even worse in the real world - the lack of a dream痴 haze made it far too real, and far too close. Salizar waved it forward.

The Nightmare broke through the door like kindling. The assassins were skillful and well-armed, but they were no match for the demon. Their blows were useless as the monster tore through their ranks. As the last of the screams died down, the Nightmare returned, covered in gore. Salizar waved his staff, and the monster meekly entered the closet door.

釘aron, my good sir, the world owes you and your men an incredible debt. But I知 afraid I need to ask another favor of you. Send a messenger to your counterparts. Tell them what happened here, and that their own dreamers may be at risk. And tell them, Salizar looked at Jarl now, with regret.

典ell them another dream has started.

Feb 15, 2005
I'm in I guess whatever

Feb 15, 2005
Bathsheba, 1196 words

"He sounds like a stalker," Gina said over her latte.

"He's a romantic," Beth replied. "Love at first sight and all that."

"He had someone follow you back from the gym, find out your name, and bundle you off in a limo. That's a little creepy."

Beth took a big sip of her coff. The liquid burnt her tongue, and her eyes watered.

"And you're married, Beth. To a soldier! That's like... treason, or something."

"Like Dave isn't loving around overseas-" Beth winced as she realized how loud she was speaking in public. "I'm not proud of it, Gina, but I have needs. Dave is off abroad, and I'm lonely, and a powerful man is smitten with me.

"Not mention handsome," Gina smirked.

"How did you know - no, you're trying to tick me"

"So he IS handsome! Powerful, handsome, goes to Club Fit - oh Beth -"

"No," Beth whispered over her latte.

"- oh my god, you scandalizing minx, the rising star of-"

"SHUT UP!" Beth quickly gulped down another burning mouthful of coffee. She felt herself blushing, could feel the eyes of the other cafe patrons on her. Swallowing the coffee gave her time to recover her composure. "Yes. Yes, Gina, you're right, so not another word, not another syllable. It would destroy his career."

"And your marriage, darling. My lips are sealed. Still, you weren't lying when you said he was powerful."

Beth wished she had gotten something iced instead. She needed to tell someone, anyone, and Gina was her only friend of sufficiently open mind and tight lips to be trusted. Actually saying the words out loud had been both a great relief and terribly frightening. She took another large gulp of her coffee instead of replying, finishing her cup. It had finally cooled enough that she could taste the supposed hazelnut undertones.

Gina gave her sweet little chuckle, like wind chimes.

"When are you seeing him again?"

"Tonight," Beth replied, with a blushing face and defiant eyes.

"Oh no, oh god-" her stomach roiled and jerked to the left. Beth barely had time to lurch to the bathroom before last night's dinner made a reappearance. Her body shook and convulsed, and then gave one last little shake - just to make sure everything was well and truly out.

Beth closed her eyes and focused on the smell of soapwood and the sound of her gurgling water next to her. She gave the toilet an extra flush just to be extra sure the mess was extra gone.

A terrible thought ran screaming through her mind as she brushed her teeth. Her mother had warned her that it starts early. The woman of her lineage had very sensitive stomachs.

Beth drove to the pharmacy on the other side of town, just to be safe. The bored looking teenager rang up the pregnancy test without a second thought. When she came up positive, in her haven of soapwood and vanilla, Beth wished she had the foresight to buy another half dozen test, to be sure.


"Come to bed, Dave. I've missed you." There was a tinge of desperation to her voice. The personal visit had been a lucky event, perhaps a tad engineered by her powerful friend. But Beth was running out of opportunities. The slinky material of her teddy was beginning to feel like a mockery against her skin. The expensive perfume had taken on unpleasant notes failure.

Dave didn't look at her or the bed. "Listen, honey, I had a busy day today..."

"Then we'll take it easy."

"I'm sore from hanging out with the guys..."

"I'll do all the work."

"Beth, I'm sorry, but..."

"No." Dave looked at his wife, then. She had always been a proper little housewife, raised in a very traditionally-minded household. Dave couldn't remember the last time she had simply refused something. Not begged off, not made excuses, just 'no.' He held up his hands.

"What do you want me to say, Beth?"

"The truth, for starters." Beth stood up from the bed, her bare skin prickling in the cool night air. "Every night. Every single night, I made it clear what I wanted, what I needed from you. You, Dave! My husband, remember? So if you can't do your duty as my husband, you can at least do your duty as a man and tell me why!" Her voice had gotten louder and louder as she spoke, until Beth felt like she'd deafen herself with her own voice. Good women don't shout, good women don't throw their husband's honor in his face - but she wasn't a good woman. She was a woman who wanted an answer.

The silence had a deafening roar of its own. Dave stared at her, slumped and embarrassed. "I was going to figure out the right time to tell you, but it never seemed right. I want a divorce, Beth. I'm... I'm a man who is attracted to men, and I can't hide that anymore. I'm sorry."

"Well." Said Beth, as she grabbed her robe. "Well. You better sit down, because we have a lot to talk about."

"There's nothing to talk about, I've made up my mind-"

"Shut up. Sit down. Listen."


Beth dreaded the bathroom. The rest of the day she could ignore it, the slow horrible transition from pregnancy to- to not. She could accept the fact that most pregnancies self-terminate, that these things happen and it's nobody's fault. She could hear her doctor's words, as the usually stern and imposing woman became soft and sympathetic. These things happen. You didn't do anything wrong. The next few days will be tough.

I'm sorry for your loss.

But in the bathroom, where the bits of matter remained from her body's slow cleaning-up, no. There, she knew exactly who was at fault. God was punishing her for being evil. Divorce was a sin, adultery was a sin, homosexuality - in the bathroom, as her body accepted punishment, she knew that somehow even Dave was her fault.

She had packed up the soapwood and vanilla, the bath towels and toiletries. It was cold, and clean, and smelled vaguely antiseptic in the bathroom. She washed her hands before realizing she had packed away the soap. She used toilet paper instead, and flushed it away.

There was a knock at the door. It was far too early for the movers. Beth thought about acting as if she wasn't home, but decided against it. The movers could be early - she'd just have to risk another neighbor stopping by the express condolences for the 'fallen woman'.

It was Senator O'Toole instead. He was alone, Beth noticed. His driver watched, hawk-eyed, from car, but the man himself was alone.

"Beth, I'm sorry- I didn't know, I thought you just didn't want to see me. I wanted to respect your-"

"Get in here," she hissed. "Before anyone sees you. You'll ruin your career!"

"I don't care. I don't care what anyone thinks about you and me anymore."

"Bullshit," Beth replied. But then, "At least come in so I can offer you a drink."

The driver kept watch while the door closed.

Feb 15, 2005
In with Electro Velvet's "Still In Love With You"

Feb 15, 2005
Love You While I'm Gone. 385 Words

"Wake up, Mr Jones. Wake up."

I heard the voice in the darkness, at the edge of my mind, but pushed it away. The voices weren't going to bother me today, here, at my bachelor party. No, I was going to enjoy myself, dead mad ghosts in my head or not. My wife was having a good time of her own, at the other speakeasy. We had... made an arrangement. The last time it wouldn't be adultery.


She was beautiful, the prostitute. A young and boxom woman, full of grace and life. My best man had chosen well. She danced like an angel. I ordered another shot of moonshine, and danced a little closer.

"It is an established fact that after two weeks, the likelihood of recovery in these situations becomes increasingly unlikely. You hear of those stories, of the two months, two years, two decades - they are very much the exception, and we must be realistic when dealing with the emotions and expectations of family members."

Shut up, I told the voice. She wore the flapper style, but it didn't match her. My wife-to-be was fashionable, she was thin and wore those neat little dresses. But that's the style today, but that's not what I liked, not really. No, I liked them Rubinesque - curvacous. And this woman had the curves to fit my taste.

"I'm sorry, Mike. I can't wait anymore. I can't... hold onto this false hope. We never talked about it, never really established what you would have wanted. But I'm guessing it wasn't this. But... I'm not going to lie to myself. I'm not doing this for you."

She led me into the back. I followed like a puppy, eager and expectant. She placed a small bit of opium on the night stand. She lit it and I let the warm fuzzy fill up my body. It felt like I was slowing losing the connections between my fingers and my brain. The booze and the music and the scent of a woman mixed with the black tar to create an amazing sensation. The last night of freedom - it was our agreement.

"No, he won't suffer. He'll just... fade away. After we remove the life support, things will take their natural course."

The orgasm was amazing, and I drifted off into a gentle, lovely sleep.

Feb 15, 2005
Untitled Opening, 500 Words

I desperately needed to switch into the 3:30 Psych class, but my advisor, Mister Black was being a huge roadblock - a real cock-gobbling dickhole. Did that even make sense? Some sort of cannibalistic dick monster? Whatever. The point is, my personal future and the fate of all mankind depended on me switching out of Chem, and I didn't have the proper papers signed.

I gave a sigh and brushed a lock of blond hair out of my face. I didn't really need the papers, of course. A lifetime of careful envelope pushing had ingrained in me an almost supernatural sense of who could grease what wheels, and Mr. Black was the lube keeper of this particular train. Unfortunately, he had 'reservations'.

"I understand that Psych would fulfill your natural science requirement just as well as Chem, Stacey. But you told me that you wanted to be an engineer. I'm just worried that you're sidetracking your future over, um...." He looked mildly uncomfortable.

"A spring fling," I provided helpfully. I was aware of my 'reputation', and Mr. Black wasn't too far off from the mark. I WAS switching classes to be closer to a guy, after all. Just not the way he thought. I gave another exasperated sigh - I really didn't have the time or energy to deal with this.

"Mr. Black - Marcus..."

He looked up, stricken. He knew what was coming.

I gave a calming smile. "Remember last summer - my ex-boyfriend, trying to figure things out with, you know, 'things'. And then I stumbled in on the two of you. Together."

"Now, Stacey, you promised me you wouldn't say anything-"

"I did, and I kept my promise, didn't I? I showed you just how trustworthy I could be at keeping secrets. And now, Marcus, I'm asking you to trust me again. It's very, very important that I take this class. Please? For someone who has done so much for you?"

Mr. Black sighed and signed the document. "I guess you池e really determined about this, Stacey. I just hope you know what you're doing."

Oh, I did. If there was anything I knew, it was the vital importance of getting close my target. I smiled and took the class transfer. Becky was waiting outside. My partner in crime was fidgeting with something in her pocket.

"I assume you've got it, the way you're acting so suspicious," I scolded her, softly. "Seriously, girlfriend, relax. We haven't doing anything wrong... yet."

"Sorry," she said, staring at her Mary Janes. She was a mousy, quiet little thing who dressed modestly, in stark contrast to myself. She was my favorite person in the world. "I just never did anything like this before."

"Yeah, well, me neither. But there's a first time for everything. And the important bit is confidence and normality. Come on, we're in a secluded spot. Hand it over so I can take care of things on Thursday."

Becky nodded and pulled it out of her pocket.

Feb 15, 2005
The Fire and the Slave, 937 words

滴e does smell quite bad, doesn't he?

Those were the words that Clavius had heard the most often in the past few days. They weren't directed at him, no, but that didn't help much. He motioned for his slave to follow him, something he had done so often he could swear his wrist couldn't take it anymore. And as Clavius and Vicengo stepped outside the trader's mansion, the smell didn't stay far behind.

Clavius took a look another look at his bipedal property and saw those wide, watery bovine eyes staring back at him. While it could be argued that cows made for better company and were possessed with better fragrance, the eyes were what sparred Vicengo beatings. Can't really stay mad at the that clump of oily hair, skin and bones staring at you, not with those peepers of his.

Can't really sell him, either.

The slave market, mostly quiet in the light afternoon rain, was full living proof of that. All of them smelled better, a good part had the physique of born workers, and others were learned all qualities that seemed to have evaded Clavius' walking wares.

As they walked down the market of flesh, Clavius' mind raced the streets back to a room in an inn. The relatively clean place contained all of his property everything wasn't on his back or following behind. Namely, there was a good quality helmet, a fearsome looking suit of armor, a short sword in an unremarkable sheath, four throwing spears (Clavius got a discount) and a bundle of miscellaneous gear. Notably missing was a shield, something he壇 desperately need to join the legion.

笛oin the legion, boys, and I'll make sure you get the same tent. I know a good decanus in need of men, Publius' uncle had said and later that night, in a somewhat sour smelling alley under full, ten somewhat tipsy friends swore to join the legion. All they needed was to buy their gear.

That was three days ago.

All Clavius needed was to get a shield. Unfortunately, that was where his money ran short with only one piece of property left to sell. Vicengo.

Vicengo was left to him by an uncle and a nuisance for most part, but still better than having no slaves. Clavius' friends, however, were much more important. The band was collected over the years, but the core started young, running in the streets, playing with toy swords, annoying traders, gawking at nobles' palanquins. Such childish pursuits were later replaced with running after girls, drinking young wine, throwing dice... Publius was the first one to get into any adventure, so he was, unsurprisingly, the one who initiated the whole legion idea. And then there was Marcus, who was rarely bested in any scrap, and Severus who was popular with the girls and actually good at writing...

Yet all those friends would march to glory without Clavius; thus he'd fail both his mates and himself. But if the alternative was selling his inheritance and traveling companion...

添our slave stinks, said a voice behind him. 釘ut he痴 got that wiry look.

的致e noticed, Clavius curtly replied without turning. The trip seemed pointless. Not only did no one want a dumb but sweet slave, Clavius wasn稚 even sure he could go without Vicengo痴 dogged presence.

鄭 denarius for him.

Clavius looked now. He was a short, ugly man covered with small burns and scars. His left leg was warped and deformed, but his hands and arms were big and strong. To Clavius, he looked like the archetype of a Blacksmith.

的知 not a slave trader, Clavius replied.

The man grabbed Clavius shoulder with an iron grip. "You're walking through the slave market. Two denarii - I need a fool to man my bellows."

Two denarii would buy a cheap shield, and some good wine as well. But- "Sorry, he's afraid of fire. A smithy would terrify him."

The man cackled. "That's fine! I'll just beat him til he's more afraid of me than fire. Come on, what do you care?"

Clavius looked Vicengo in his sad, dumb eyes. The slave didn't understand the conversation. What did Clavius owe him? He was property, a nuisance and a burden. There would be no better deal than this - definitely no shield.

"I'm sorry," Clavius replied finally. "But he's not for sale."

The world froze, then burned. Clavius sweat and shook as the air become hotter than any inferno. It felt like he had been transported to the very center of a volcano, with sweltering heat at all sides. Besides himself, the whole had completely ceased to move.

Clavius looked towards the would-be buyer. The man had been replaced by a god of fire and molten metals, too bright to see. Instinctively, he recognized him: Vulcan, husband of Venus, god of fire and the forge. To Clavius, it felt like his eyes were being burned out of his sockets, even with his eyelids tightly closed.

"Mighty God..." Clavius whispered, falling to his knees. "Please, I meant no offense."

"And none was taken," said a voice of hot metal doused in water. "I... value fidelity highly. I enjoy seeing it in mortals."

Then He was gone, and Clavius shivered as the relatively cool air washed over him. His eyes still hurt, and his ears rang with the power of those few words. But he could feel the shield in his hands - warm and smooth, and lighter than air. Somehow, Clavius knew no blow would ever break it.

Vicengo simply stared with dull eyes as his master laughed and laughed until he cried.

Feb 15, 2005
I'm in

Feb 15, 2005
The True Last Battle of the Civil War, 1123 words

General Kilgore had never been a general in the United States Army, and had barely attained the rank in the Confederate Army when the war ended. Still, the title had followed him through the decade of his "retirement". He brought it on himself, really - he wore his suits cut in the calvary style, and held himself with a military bearing. He was a handsome man, despite the battle-scarred face.

The men in front of him, however, weren't handsome at all. They stood in neat, orderly rows as Gen. Kilgore inspected them. Veterans, ex-convicts, escaped criminals from Back East - the dregs of society, rejected and exiled by the decadent Yankee lords. The faces of the men were ravaged by pox, consumption, and a lifetime of malnutrition. But Gen. Kilgore looked past that, to the shining light of loyalty in their eye. From the dregs, he created an army.

Kilgore gave a satisfied nod, and turned from the sudden burst of activity. Officers shouted out orders, as horses were saddled and the men collected their weapons.

"We can still turn back," Garcia said quietly.

Kilgore didn't even turn to look at his second in command. "A bit late for second thoughts."

Garcia placed a hand on Kilgore's shoulder, and the general stopped walking. "I would follow you into Hell. But I would also advise taking a different route. The burning of New Sheba is your Rubicon, Sir. Do not cross it lightly."

"The Western Territory is the inheritance of the White Man, and New Sheba is a blight upon that bequest. If we wait, the blight will spread and the inheritance will be wasted. Make sure everything is in place, Mister Garcia. The South will rise again." Gen. Kilgore saluted.

Garcia returned the salute. "In the name of General Lee and President Davis."

In a few hours, the homestead made its final transformation into a military headquarters. The silos were emptied and the pack animals were loaded up. The gold mines were carefully buried and disguised. The men formed up units and marched towards their destination.

New Sheba was a day's journey from Kilgore' holdings, for a lone man pushing his horse half to death. For an army of men, slowed down by a dozen cannons, it took the better part of a week. Add on the constant sabotage and harassment from Sheriff Iweala's men, and the glorious march had slowed to a painful crawl. It started when they entered Burgess Pass - a deluge of boulders had injured a dozen men and buried one of the cannons. A day had been lost digging it out. Once they had exited the pass, the freemen had turned their plows into a weapon of attrition - they had dug deep grooves in the path that would subtly guide the wagons and cannon wheels into ditches and soft Badland sands. All it took was a moment of distraction by one of the teamsters, and the men were stuck for an hour pushing the wagon back onto the path.

The effect on Kilgore was maddening. He felt like Sheriff Iweala was like a demon-spirit, constantly haunting his every move and trying to break his will. He started seeing the man's dark-skinned face in his dreams, mocking him. Still, his will was hard as iron - the free black town of New Sheba would burn to the ground.

When he finally saw the town, Gen. Kilgore gave a mirthless grin. The former slaves had used their time effectively, and New Sheba was ready for a siege. The streets had been blockade with wood and furniture, and sniper nests dotted the corners. Even from a distance, he could see the tiny black figures training and working - even their womenfolk were involved. All it meant was that the final victory of Kilgore and his men would be all the sweeter.

There was no more delays. His men gathered and prepared themselves for this battle. An unnatural silence covered the land. Gen. Kilgore gave no speech - there was no need. The hideous abomination of New Sheba was proof enough of his cause for the good Southern men under his command.

Then the cannons fired, the men charged, and the air filled with the sound of the wounded and the smell of gunpowder. Kilgore didn't commit his personal guard just yet - his eyes were searching for the unmistakable figure of Sheriff Iweala, to no avail. After a while, he decided the coward must have shown his true colors, and fled his duty.

"It's just as I said, Mister Garcia - the black man is not fit for positions of leadership and authority."

Garcia didn't reply - his eyes were focused on a ridge to their left. Kilgore followed his gaze, and saw a flash of something. A man, perhaps? Framed by the dying light of the sun, it was hard to tell, but perhaps-

Garcia made a choked groan, as Kilgore wheeled to shout orders. Sheriff Iweala had arrived, and he was not alone. What remained of the Cherokee people, armed for war, had arrived with him.

"Regroup! Regroup!" The men fell back, retreating from the faltering defenders of New Sheba. They quickly tried to reform their units as the reinforcement attacked. Soon, the battle became a disorganized, chaotic brawl.

Kilgore didn't bother to give anymore orders - there was no use in this confusion. There was only one solution. He kept his eyes focused on the Sheriff, as he led the charge towards his nemesis.

"Iweala! Surrender now, and I promise you a long life of working my fields. Fight, and I'll send you to Hell!"

"Nuts!" was the only reply. The two men slammed into each other with titanic force. Iweala deflected Kilgore's saber with the butt of his rifle, and slammed his shoulder into the man's chest. Both men fell from their horses, landing with a painful thump on the ground. Kilgore reached for his cavalry dagger, but Iweala was quicker. Kilgore coughed as he felt the bowie knife slip into his chest.

Kilgore pushed the man off of his him and gave a wild slash. The blow cut a shallow slash on Iweala's arm. The sheriff backed off, reaching for his six-shooter.

"Garcia! Help me!"

Garcia didn't look back. He was too busy fleeing for his life. In fact, all his men were running - routed by the combined forces of Freemen and Cherokee. Kilgore looked towards New Sheba - burning, shell shocked, but unbowed.

"Never again, Kilgore," Sheriff Iweala said behind him. "Not by you, or any other men. Never again a slave."

There was no point in fighting anymore. He accepted the coup de grace with all the dignity of a Southern Gentleman.

Feb 15, 2005
Also I'm in for the fail brawl.

Feb 15, 2005
I'm in again.

Feb 15, 2005
The Deserter, 328 words

Great men are forged in fire, while it is the duty of lesser men to light the flame. Long ago, I had realized greatness was not my destiny. But He had shone with power, with the robes of fate.

I dropped the canteen back into my saddlebag. I would need it if I lucked onto an oasis. My throat burned, as dry as the badlands around me. Still, hope springs eternal.

Kilgore had been worthy of devotion. He had vision, the guidance of the divine. I had never been east of the Mississippi. My lineage had been tied to this dry, hard land since Vasquez de Coronado. But when Kilgore spoke of the Lost Cause and the Noble South

The horse collapsed beneath me. I gently slit its throat and drank as much of its lifeblood as my stomach could hold. I filled my canteen.

The Garcia line had stayed pure - no dilution with Indios or Esclavos. But I had realized my place as the end of the lineage. I told Kilgore I壇 follow him to Hell, but that had been a lie. My courage failed me, and the thread of fate had been cut. He died calling out my name.

The sun began to set, and a cold creeped into my bones. Making a fire wasn稚 option, not with my enemies so close behind. But my legs were so tired. I could hear his voice - Kilgore. He was calling for me on the win. I found a secluded spot behind a boulder, and tried to my warm myself.

Was that Him walking towards me?

I wanted to rest. Kilgore would catch up with me soon. I just needed to sleep. I wasn稚 even cold anymore.

The desert is so beautiful at night.

I知 sorry, Sir. I should have died by your side.

The moon! Where was the moon? It was so dark out. But the stars twinkled like diamonds.

I知 coming, Sir. Come find me.

Feb 15, 2005
The Final Lap, 1077 words

The world shattered, spun, then collapsed. Distantly I could hear the track crew shouting my name, demanding a response. Petrol was slowly pooling around me, as it drained from the race car's thanks. I coughed, and tried to clear my head. My throat refused to work.

Racing is a death sport, regardless of the noble words spoken by team owners and race promoters. The fans wanted dangerous races - they wanted the screech of tormented metal and bloody crashes. Sure, they'd fall silent as the crews carried away a mangled body, but the chittering would return soon enough. They wanted the visceral thrill of their hero risking life and limb.

It had started small - amendments to the rules that increased the speed, and so forth, They relaxed the safety regs, allowed lighter frames, allowed fewer safety features. We went faster, and crashed harder. Not that us drivers had any illusions about what was going on. Those who valued their lives retired, and those who stuck with it, well... we demanded compensation. You could tell if a new rule was going to kill someone - in the hours after an announcement, you'd get a flurry of contract negotiations and bonuses.

It wasn't an official thing, of course. Nobody was saying "Hey, murder someone on live TV, and we'll put you in the commercials, we'll put you on the talk shows, we'll put you on the cereal box." But it didn't take a cynic to understand.

That's what I thought about, as the fuel washed over me, soaking into my gear. I remembered when I first killed someone on the track. Michael Rogers - we had been competing for Rookie of the Year. The season had been coming to a close in San Diego, two or three races left. We came down the final stretch on the final lap, jockeying for position. We were towards the front of the pack, I remember that. Fourth or fifth.

I bumped his back wheel. It was an accident, mostly. But his back wheel popped, leaving shredded rubber behind him. It was like when a calf stumbles in a stampede - Rogers was trampled underneath. He slammed against the barrier, flipped, then skid as two of the cards behind us slammed into the poor bastard. I sailed to a respectable finish, while Rogers had his brain slammed against the side of his skull before filling up with blood.

They told me it was instantaneous.

I felt dead inside, afterwards. Like someone had doused my soul with ice water. But the owner came in, that smiling rich shithead. He slapped me on the back and said. "Congrats, you're going to be Rookie of the Year."

At the moment I wanted to punch him. But six months later, when I got the sponsorship money and groupies, when they put me on the video game cover, and little kids would come up and ask for my autograph... well, I had to admit that celebrations were in order. Cheers to the dead man, we drink to his memory.

It started from there. Each season I drove a little more aggressive, a little more reckless. I'd be involved in a crash, and I'd feel bad for a day or two. But as soon as the body was in the ground, the money and the women would start rolling in, and I'd get over it a little bit quicker. Oh, the crowd loved it.

The track crew was running away now. I couldn't really blame them.What was his name, that kid that was my first victim? The first one I deliberately murdered, whose life I took on purpose? I couldn't remember his name or face. I just remember him being in front of me. I slammed him, sent him into a spin. I didn't bother to watch the crash - he had fulfilled his purpose. The pack behind me slowed down, either as they slammed into his car or tried to avoid the wreckage. I got my first place finish.

Things changed after that. They started calling me "The Headhunter", and the old timers looked at me differently, whispered things behind my back. But the younger guys understood - nothing personal, just business. It's a dog eat dog world, and everyone is hungry. The new guys followed my lead, and things were bloody for a bit. So bloody, it seemed like it was too much even for the owners. But then they saw the ratings and the PPV revenue, and they got their spines back

One by one, the old timers retired or bit it on the track - all but me. Every now and then, someone tried to take out. I smeared them across the asphalt, and let my reputation deal with the rest. I was the king of the blood-stained track.

But such things can稚 last forever. The owners, they got sick of me being the time-scarred face of the sport. They壇 put up some young fighter as the new face of the sport, and he壇 get too big for his britches. He壇 try to take me down - or she, a couple times - and I壇 respond in kind. I壇 leave them battered or broken, too scared to come at me again. The crowd didn稚 like that so much, me killing their heroes. They started turning against me.

There wasn稚 much to do at this point, except wait for the inevitable. I always wondered how those other guys went out, whether they were cowards or faced the it with courage. I guess now I realized that it didn稚 matter. A stiff upper lip or blubbery tears, it wasn稚 going to change anything. I guess now I really understood.

It was how it happened that bothered me. The steering it was loose. The whole thing seemed too convenient. I had noticed it the first couple hundred laps, but didn稚 think about it too much. Maybe I was looking for an excuse, a reason why it wasn稚 my fault. But as I came around the bend, I couldn稚 quite get into it. I知 not sure who came in behind me, but he slammed into my rear and suddenly I lost control.

Everything after that didn稚 make any real sense. It was just sounds and colors, a mess of images as the world moved around me. It seemed like it took a long time for the fire to ignite.

I wondered if they壇 say it was instantaneous.

Feb 15, 2005
I am in.

Feb 15, 2005
gently caress it, :toxx: and give me a flash rule.

Feb 15, 2005
Oh my god you whiny little babies this is what brawls are for.

Feb 15, 2005

Ironic Twist posted:

I think Benny's well aware of what brawls are for
imma brawl you backtalker

Feb 15, 2005

Broenheim posted:

um.... ok ill do it

also Jonked and Ironic Twist im changing the deadline to 11:59 PST because gently caress texas, same date, same prompt, same word count, different timezone
I am irrationally upset and angry about this to the point of madness.

Feb 15, 2005
Balcony Two of the Theater of the Mind, 993 words

"Rectum? drat near KILLED him! Doh-oh-oh-oh-oh!" Good and Evil shouted out the punchline at the same time, before starting up with that stupid laugh. I ignored them as best I could, which was easier some days than others. Instead, I focused on the rum and coke in front of me and busy dance floor behind me. I watched in the mirror as an immaculately coiffed young man wander behind me.

"Woah!" said Good. "I thought the Gays were suppose to be fashionable."

"They are," Evil replied. "You can fashion their hair gel into a crude flotation device. Doh-oh-oh-oh!"

Snapping at them never helped my situation in the past - they just laughed, and everybody else stared at you for yelling at the voices in your head. It was better to just ignore their heckling and focus on the real. Right now, that meant working up the courage to join the dance floor. I finished my drink and let the music flow over me. It was some disco pop fusion - loud, catchy, and musically distinct.

"Look alive, the king of swing is about the move."

"Hold on, let me grab my barf bag!"

I slam the glass down a tad too hard, and got a nasty look from the bartender. It wasn't going to get any better, so might as well bite the bullet. I focused on the music, letting it flow over me, letting the rhythm into my bones. More importantly, I tried to ignore the watching eyes around me. At the straight clubs, I had always been one of the better guy dancers. Here at Pegasus, however, the stakes were a little higher.

"The peacock has flashed his wings. 50 years off for me!"

Good grumbled indistinctly, and then muttered "A century says he goes home alone with his hand."

"I'll take that bet!" Evil replied. "Look, he's already got somebody on his tail. Surprised the boy can't feel someone staring a hole through his back pocket. Doh-oh-oh-oh!"

I quashed the urge to run, and instead nonchalantly turned around. What I saw took my breathe away, and gave me a precious few seconds of silence. They were the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen, set in the face of a young latin George Clooney. I lost the beat for a moment, and awkwardly recovered. George didn't seem to mind, as he danced a little closer. A song went by, and then another.

"Not going to happen," said Good. "He's going to start thinking about his wife."

"Bad form! Have you no honor, you little cheat?" Evil replied.

But it was too late - unbidden, thoughts of Julie came to mind. George had just lightly grabbed me around the waist, but I suppose my thoughts showed on my face. He broke off and gave an apologetic wave at his perceived mistake. I reached out and grabbed his hand.

"Buy you a drink?" I mouthed to him. He gave a cocky grin and led me towards one of the quiet booths near the VIP lounge. We shared a drink and chatted about certain inconsequential things. I was still tense, ready to bolt at any moment. I didn't belong here. Mario - that was George's real name - was still holding my hand.

He rubbed his thumb over the indent my wedding ring had made. "So, are you going to tell me about this?"

"Seems like a bit of a personal question for this point," I replied, a bit harshly.

Mario shrugged and pulled his hand away. "Well, I'm not going to be on the down low. I've had enough of that in my life."

I didn't realize how warm and soft his hands had been, until he took them away. The voices were chortling at my misfortune. "We're separated. Not legally divorced yet, but that's a matter of paperwork at this point. Crossing the T's and all that."

"Because you're gay?"

The question felt like a trap, or a test. "No... she was okay with that. It was more the dirty dishes in the sink and the long nights at the office."

Mario laughed, a big lovely laugh that seemed more fit for Santa than his lithe, muscular form. "Sounds like me and my ex. I think finding that man in our bed was her excuse to the Holy See." He gave a mocking sign of the cross.

I looked at Mario a little closer now. He wasn't as young as I had thought, just healthy and well-preserved. But on a more thorough inspection, I noticed the beginning of wrinkles at the side of his mouth, and the corner of his eyes. He noticed me staring, so I quickly turned back to my drink.

"At least it's not weird. I was worried I'd be an outcast." I leaned back, and felt some of the stress flow out of me. I closed my eyes. The voices were still back there, somewhere, giving their running commentary. Somehow I didn't mind - I was listening to the music, to the sound of people enjoying themselves.

I felt Mario's hand on my back, his warmth as he leaned in. I looked into his eyes, mere inches away from mine, before melting into the kiss. His mouth was soft and warm, and the kiss was gentle - slow - restrained. But I could feel the hunger behind it, the burning passion being held back so as to not scare me off. The kiss ended then, an eternity that was far too short. I gave a little gasp and smiled.

There was no where I wanted to be, besides here. This was the place for me.

"Does it count if they don't actually leave the club before rutting?" Good asked.

"You're just regretting that century of service you put up. Go on, dog, bury that bone!"

And then they were back. Still, I couldn't help but smile as Mario pulled me back out to the dance floor.

Feb 15, 2005
I'm in.

Feb 15, 2005
Frontier Justice, 2000 words

The wolf and I slowly circled the calf, eyes locked on each other. The wolves had learned years ago that Man meant guns and death, but this particular creature didn稚 seem the educated type. It was a runty thing, an outcast of his pack, and starved enough that I could see its ribs through the patchy gray fur. The winter hadn稚 been easy for it.

I was brandishing my bowie knife, hoping a sharp edge and a bluff would scare the beast off. This wouldn稚 be the first calf I壇 lost to the Montana Territory, but I liked the little guy. So we continued our skirmish.

The twig snapped underfoot broke my concentration. As I looked over towards the approaching stranger, the wolf jumped forward and disemboweled my poor calf. I drew and fired, far too late - the dead wolf had its snout half-buried in the calf痴 stomach. I put the calf out of its misery, and turned to deal with the stranger.

He looked Shoshone, maybe, or mixed. A young-ish man. He was also slumped to the ground, and white as a ghost. I took a few cautious steps forward.

添ou okay there, partner? I asked.

滴elp me The kid managed to gasp out. I saw the bullet wound then, right in his gut and to the left. I had seen similar wounds at Gettysburg - the pain was excruciating.

的値l get you back to my homestead. The whole situation stank of trouble. But leaving the kid to the wolves and ravens didn稚 sit right with me either. We walked most of the way back to my horse before the kid passed out, and I had to drag him for the rest. Still, he was warm and breathing by the time we got back, and that was enough for me.

Missy, my wife, had been a nurse in the War. She didn稚 ask much about the situation - the boy was bleeding and I hadn稚 shot him, so that was enough for her. She also didn稚 say much when I brought out my rifle, and made sure it was in good working order. But she was furious when I sent them to the cellar.

泥on稚 pick a fight, Malcolm, she scolded me.

的 won稚, love.

添ou pick a fight, Malcolm, and I ain稚 sticking around to piece you back together. You hear me? You served your years. A horse couldn稚 budge Missy if she was in a stubborn mood.

的 won稚. I promise. She nodded, and closed the trap door to the cellar.

After that, it was a waiting game. Funny how the old habits came back fast - I壇 spent nights on picket duty, waiting for Johnny Reb. If I was right and the boy was a fugitive, we壇 be getting a visit soon enough.

The sun had set for a bit when I heard them. Five horses, if I had to guess, crunching the snow underfoot. Eventually, I could make out the hulking form of Bubba McDaniels. I壇 have recognized his broad shoulders from a mile away, white hood or no. Four more were with him, probably his boys. I took a bit of comfort in the fact that their weapons were still holstered.

溺alcolm, come on out! We mean you no harm.

溺uch rather talk to you from here, Bubba, I hollered back. That caused a bit of strife among them - I guess they really thought those hoods would work. Eventually they settled down, and Bubba McDaniels pulled his hood off.

展e池e looking for a murderer named Chogan Smith. We池e going to bring him to justice.

泥on稚 look much like a posse to me, I called back. 鏑ook more like a lynch mob.

鄭lright, do you have Chogan there, or are you just being your usual Yankee rear end in a top hat self?

I bit back my tongue before I could say something cheeky - I壇 promise Missy no picking fights, and Bubba could have a temper. Better to be diplomatic instead. 鼎ome on in here so we can chat, Bubba. One on one. That one caused even more strife, as they argued amongst themselves. I watched, all tension, until my knuckles turned white around the stock of my rifle.

Finally I heard Bubba hollar 電rat it, boys, just loving wait here. I met him at the door and made a big show of putting aside my rifle. Bubba paused for a moment, then left his own rifle with his saddlebag. He was a real brute, too big to fit through the door without hunching forward. I offered him a mug for coffee - it looked like an English teacup in his palms. He muttered a thank you.

The camaraderie was forced. I hated his Southern hide as much as he hated mine, and while I still had my revolver at hand, Bubba wouldn稚 have much trouble wringing my neck like a chicken. We sat in silence for a bit while he warmed up.

添ou left Chogan alone with Missy? He finally asked. 鉄eems a bit dangerous.

鉄omeone nailed the boy with a gut shot. I doubt he値l survive the night, let alone fight anyone. 全ides, Missy isn稚 a wilting violet. She can handle herself.

鉄o he痴 bleeding out.

溺aybe, I replied.

釘ut you池e not going to give him up.


摘ven though he痴 a killer and it probably wouldn稚 matter.


Bubba let out a groan of frustration. 鄭re you at least gonna tell me why you池e being such an obstinate rear end?

That gave me pause for a bit. I sipped my coffee and thought it over. 滴e asked for my help. I could have left him to die out there on my land, came back when he was hard as wood. Seems wrong, somehow, to bring him here and patch him up just so I could toss him out later. Besides, for all I know he痴 innocent. Who痴 he accused of killing anyway?

迭obbie, Bubba replied. That took a bit of air out of my sails. Robbie is - was - Bubba痴 brother.

的知 sorry for your loss, I said quietly. 的f he survives the night, we値l take him into town come dawn. If you please.

Bubba was squeezing the mug between his hands, and I imagined him wringing my neck. It wasn稚 a pleasant thought. Finally he nodded. 展e値l do it your way. Don稚 make me regret this, Malcolm.

Chogan survived the night, although he didn稚 wake up. We made a cart for him, and pulled him to the sheriff. Sheriff Jones hadn稚 even bothered with the posse - he must have figured that the McDaniels would handle it. They stuck Chogan in a cell, and called a judge. That痴 when the question of representation came up.

的 don稚 see the drat use in waiting for him to wake up, Bubba said. 摘ither he痴 guilty or he痴 not. We should get the trial over with.

展ell, every man has the right to a defense, Sheriff Jones replied. 的t wouldn稚 be much of a trial otherwise. He needs some representation, otherwise the trial waits.

展ell, justice isn稚 waiting and neither am I, Sheriff. You got a problem with that?

I didn稚 much like the way this situation was going, for either Chogan or Bubba. So I did the second most stupid thing I致e done - I got myself dug in deeper. 的 could represent him, I said.

Surprisingly, no one objected. That痴 how I found myself standing in front of a dozen of Leesburg痴 finest citizens, with Sheriff Jones and the judge across from me. We had put Angela McDaniels on the witness stand - Robbie痴 widow, and the only speaking witness to what had happened.

敵o on, Mrs. Angela. Tell us what you saw, said Sheriff Jones.

展ell, Angela started off quietly. 的t all happened so fast. Robbie and Chogan were shouting about something - it sounded like Chogan had been caught stealing. Robbie and Chogan had been close, Robbie treated the boy like his own flesh and blood. So when he found Chogan stealing my jewelry, he was furious, told Chogan he was going to have it arrested.

鼎hogan started yelling about how he was never going to jail, that the white man owed him. Robbie slapped him then. That痴 when that痴 when Chogan went for Robbie痴 pistol. The two of them struggled over it, trying to pull it away from each other. It went off a couple times, hitting our dining room wall.

典hen Robbie got the upper hand, I guess. He had the revolver against Chogan痴 stomach, and it went off again. I could see the Chogan was bleeding so much. I guess it shocked Robbie too, because he let go of the gun. Chogan pulled it away, and Robbie put his hands up. That痴 when Chogan shot Robbie. Three times right in the chest.

鄭nd then what happened, Mrs. Angela? Sheriff Jones asked. The courtroom had taken an icy chill to it.

鼎hogan was standing over Robbie痴 body, and I guess I made a sound because he looked up at me. The revolver was empty, so he threw it at my face and ran out the door. I went over to Robbie, but he was already dead. I picked up the revolver, and Mary Jo, our maid, ran in. I can still hear her screaming

典hank you, Mrs. Angela. The prosecution rests. Sheriff Jones nodded his head towards me. 的t痴 your floor, Malcolm.

Something about the story didn稚 sit right with me. I stood up and paced the courtroom, ignoring the tension that hung around me. Something stuck out. The muttering among the crowd had taken on a dull roar before I stopped pacing and figured it out.

笛udge, may I ask Bubba McDaniels a question? The old man nodded. 釘ubba, what sort of revolver did Robbie have?

Bubba looked a bit confused at the question. 展ell, a Cooper Pocket revolver. Our pa bought us a matching set.

溺rs. Angela, you told a horrifying story, one that would shake me to my core. I paused, and looked each member of the jury in the eye. 的t would, if it was true.

徹RDER! ORDER! screamed Sheriff Jones, until the crowd finally settled down. I started up again.

的壇 like to tell you a different story. Robbie wasn稚 a great husband. That痴 how you got that shiner, Robbie hit you. So you take Robbie痴 revolver, and as he痴 standing in your dining room, you shoot at him. Five shots, three that hit your husband, two that missed.

徹bjection, Sheriff Jones said quietly. 典his is all speculation.

的知 getting to that.

The judge just shrugged. Frankly, the old man seemed half dead.

The blood had drained out of Angela痴 face, but she wasn稚 denying it. I continued talking. 添ou池e standing over his body, and you start reloading the pistol. You池e going to make sure to finish the job. Five shots, you see, because that痴 all a Cooper Pocket holds. You manage to get one chamber loaded when, lo and behold! In runs Chogan, to see what all the shooting is about. So you panicked, and you shot that boy right in the gut. He runs, and just keeps running. You turn back to finish the job, but Mary Jo comes in then. You池e out of shots, so you can稚 shoot her too.

鉄ee, that痴 the only way I figure this makes sense. I held up the open revolver, showing the five chambers. 鉄omewhere in there, this pistol was reloaded. That makes you a liar. So tell me, Angela, what did I get wrong?

The courtroom was as silent as a tomb, so even as she whispered everyone could hear her. 添ou池e wrong about Mary Jo. Chogan, he was just as bad as Robbie. But Mary Jo was always nice to me. That痴 why I didn稚 shoot her.

Chogan didn稚 survive the night, drifting off sometime in that jail cell. They hung Angela McDaniels, for two counts of murder. I suppose justice had been done.

Feb 15, 2005
An Investigator, An Accountant, and a Fistful of Bullets, 1453 words

I walked around the bod, noting the ol fashioned BizSuit and missing face. Someone had snapped off the apparatchik at close range with a shotty. Eye Scan of the blood splatter said that someone had been sitting down behind him, and got a brain matter facial. A bit brutal for CorpSec, but clearly a practiced professional. Nothing too surprising yet.

I slid back the Vid Gogs and looked with analog eyes. I hadn稚 worked a Crim case since going freelance in 28, but it was just like riding a bicycle. Besides, I hadn稚 landed a big case in a few weeks and was hungry. A P.I. can稚 live on mistress followings alone.

Turns out I wasn稚 the only one who smelled money. The boys in blue were hands off this one. I had caught the bod from the IRS - Brainless here was a tax man meeting with an informant, which meant somebody wasn稚 paying the piper. The Service would pay my fee, but only if I brought their man along.

Flores was across from me, a mid-thirty career woman with a hand cannon. I noticed that she壇 retracted her own glasses and was also getting an analog view. 5 minutes of business, and I had decided I didn稚 mind her help. It doesn稚 take long to tell who needed a babysitter and who could cut it freelance, and Flores was definitely a lady for the second category.

鉄o no idea on the informant? I asked.

釘oss said Thomas was close to vest. Kept that way with all his informants, Flores replied. 鼎an稚 blame him, really. The Service isn稚 rat-proof.

Figures it wouldn稚 be that easy. Still, I liked our odds - our informant was still alive, somewhere. Once we got a name, it wouldn稚 take much to track down their watch. Flores was already working the bod. She had pulled off Thomas wrist watch and was dumping locations, calls, and data. For my part, I was using my old PD access. They never shut me off the public camera feeds, thankfully. I didn稚 expect to see our killer - no such luck - but a quick look at the local transients would be a start.

敵ot the dump? I asked Flores.

添eah, she replied. 展e moving on a lead?

鏑ocal bum I know, right up the alley. Might not want to cooperate. You okay going physical? I asked. Flores gave me an annoyed look, and I dropped it.

Seattle had the most transients of any city on the mainland, so of course it痴 Crazy Joe manning the street corner. Joe gave me one look and dashed it the other way. Flores was waiting for him, and sat him down with a hip check, elbow combo. He was still coughing up blood and curses when I caught up.

的 ain稚 got poo poo to say to you, welch, Crazy Joe spat at me. 的 don稚 deal with two-bit shirks. Flores slammed a fist into Joe痴 gut, leaving him doubled over and gasping in pain.

泥eal with her then, I said before bring up a picture of Thomas, with his face. 鼎aught a bod - looking for whoever he was with.

Crazy Joe looked at my watch and scoffed. 添ou jacking me about a cocotte? Bright pink hair and a busted lip. Brothels right there, rear end in a top hat. He pointed to a non-descript door down the alley way. I handed him tenner and watched him skulk off.

擢ound it, Flores said, holding up a number out of Thomas dump. 滴e called in a side piece a couple time, and locations say he always came here. Lines up with when he was expensing for the investigation.

溺ake senses, I replied. 滴is informant is a working girl, so he sets up a bit of action as cover for their meetings. Explains how the cleaner with the shotty found him so easy, and why they didn稚 off the informant too.

鉄he痴 valuable property, Flores said with mild disgust. Good - for what I was planning next, I wanted her angry. I hit one of the judges from the old days, calling in a favor. 20 minutes later, I had a Knock-and-Enter warrant for Flores, with me as a local advisor. I would have preferred a couple of boys in blue to come along for the ride, but it was a shaky case and I didn稚 want to gently caress up the jurisdiction. Flores didn稚 seem to take issue with the odds.

I switched my Gogs to thermal, and tried to get a look through the door. Not much use, of course - best guess was two or three boys. Since it was early afternoon, they probably weren稚 going to be on high alert, but I still didn稚 like shooting blind. Then again, when did you ever have a perfect raid?

I could tell this wasn稚 Flores first rodeo - she had pulled some Boom Gel out of her bag of tricks and was applying it to the lock and hinges. Alright, fast and loud, at least we were on the same page. She pulled out her hand cannon - closer to a sawed-off shotty - and I took out my service revolver. Between her two shots and my six, we had enough stopping power to kill a tank. The only trick would be reloading.

典hree, two, one, BREACH! Flores blasted the door and sent it flying towards the door. She led the way, snapping off the two boys in the front before stepping aside to reload. I hit the third boy in the brain pan before he could get his pistol up, and started up the hallway. None of the boys had a shotty, I noticed.

The brothel had a real dorm room feel to it, except all the doors locked from the outside. The cocotte must have been fairly high class, since each room had its own bathroom and kitchenette. We scared a couple girls busting in on them, but none of them matched Crazy Joe痴 description. In fact, every room had a girl in it, except one. I got a sinking feeling in my stomach - they must been interrogating Thomas informant, and they壇 been at it for a couple hours.

The last door at the end of the hallway led into a nice little office space. The door beyond that led into an bare room with a cement floor and a drain. Inside, the cleaner had his shotty pressed against the informant痴 pretty pink hair, while the pimp boss point a pistol towards us. It looked like he had a vest under his ice cream suit.

鉄eattle PD, drop the weapon. You池e wanted for murder, kidnapping, and tax evasion. I tried to put on my best officer voice, while Flores kept her cannon trained on the pimp.

的 don稚 see any badges, the pimp replied.

poo poo.

Flores snapped off both shots, obliterating his face. The cleaner raised his shotty, and I unloaded the five shots of my own. He unloaded the shotty into the door frame, before hitting the ground like wet meat. I had felt the wood splinter across my face - a bit of good luck for all the bad. The informant wasn稚 even hit either, which was a nice little bonus.

Flores took two leaping steps forward, and produced a knife from somewhere. She cut the cocotte loose, and pulled her forward. The cocotte still had bits of Thomas in her hair, and more than a busted lip.

展ho are you? the girl managed to croak out.

展e池e with the Service, with Thomas. We池e going to get you out of here so you can testify against the bastards, Flores replied.

鉄he痴 not testifying, I said. 鄭t least, not for the tax evasion. Something had been bugging me for a minute, and was just now coming together. It was the guilty, scared look at the girl痴 face that did it.

展hat the hell? Flores asked, looking ready to hit something.

的t was a scheme by Thomas to get her out. Right, Pink?

The girl nodded. 的 knew Thomas back in college. We had Tax Law together. I got mixed up in some stuff here, and thought maybe he could get me out. He said if I was an informant, he could get me into Witness Protection.

鉄o he was going to dig up charges, and give her credit as the informant who broke the case, I finished. 鄭 whole new life somewhere in the flyover states.

鄭t least we got the girls, Flores replied. 典hat痴 not nothing.

添eah, that痴 true. It didn稚 seem appropriate to mention how little my ten percent commission was going to be. Turns out, I was still going to be hungry.

Feb 15, 2005
I feel like there's a joke here that I'm not getting.

Feb 15, 2005
Y'all a bunch of weirdos

Feb 15, 2005
I'm in.

Feb 15, 2005
The Once and Future King, 1076 words

I used to hate my shifts on the farm. The dirt, the toil - it was beneath the dignity of a warrior. To a man who took lives and risked his own, it seemed insulting. These years, however, it was the highlight of each month. When you ignore the rocky ceiling, it was almost like being topside. When you closed your eyes, the endless racks of lights felt like the old English sun.

I don't offer this as an excuse, just as a bit of context and understanding. I'd heed my nation's call without complaint, really. But when that smug young prick, that little poo poo in a major's uniform, came up to me... he had never felt the heat of battle, or heard a death rattle, or truly lived. But there he stood, ordering me from the from the fields - and there was my fist, bloodying up his nose.

Good lads, those MPs. Used the absolute minimum force.

So there I sat, staring at a wall of roughly carved stone, somewhere in the military part of the compound. Missing that piss poor simulation of an English summer.

The kid was there, with two tissues shoved up his nose. He was idly flipping through my military records.

"I feel like I should apologize, for what happened. I'm Percy," the kid said. He offered his hand.

"You should drop the false humility," I said, shaking his hand. "It's unbecoming of an officer. I'm Lance."

"Yes, well, I suppose we should get to business. I assure you that I'm completely serious." Percy paused, and braced himself for ridicule. "King Arthur believes that you are the reincarnation of one of his knights of the round table."

I didn't laugh. "Which one?"

Percy flipped through the notes. "I'm not sure if - erm - that is to say - it's a touchy subject, but-"

"Sir Balin, the Knight with Two Swords," interrupted the man behind Percy. He looked wise and handsome, the perfect image of nobility. Percy and I instinctively stood up and bowed.

"Sir Arthur, I suppose." I didn't phrase it as a question.

"In the flesh," he replied. He was wearing a simple military uniform, sans rank or insignia.

"Seems you're a bit late for the war. London already burned."

He waved for me and Percy to sit."Not much I can do about the Russians and Americans. Besides, an underground fallout shelter seems like a much more precarious place for British survival."

"Seems about as impervious to your influence down here as the ash does upstairs," I replied. "Are you going to feed us? Keep up morale as we slowly go insane?"

Percy jumped up for a row, but Arthur shushed him. "War is still war - fighting for glory and treasure. It seems the French have also survived, and brought some tunnelers down with them. They've been digging this way."

That did get a laugh out of me. "Of course they did. No chance they've come to exchange tea and crumpets?"

Arthur shook his head.

"And you know this... how, exactly?" I asked

"Because I'm here," Arthur replied. I scoffed.

Percy leapt across the table and tackled me to the ground. I have him a punch to the ear and a knee to the gut for his troubles. We wrestled for a bit before Arthur gave a disapproving cough.

Reluctantly, we separated. "You two never did get along. Well, get over it. Percy, you'll be in charge of logistics and fortifications. Lance, you'll be training our men. You have two months."

The French hadn't expected resistance. We opened fire on them as soon as the tunneler broke through. We pushed them back a good 20 miles before they regrouped. Even then, it was hard going. The tunnel was dark and the flood uneven - but lights just let the enemy know where to shoot. As we got closer to their side, the fortifications got more complex.

Then, our supply of ammunition ran low. They pushed us back a good 5 miles, although we fought for every step. With the right barricades, they couldn't shoot us, and a bayonet was just as good as a rifle when the enemy was a foot away. A long narrow tunnel made for a difficult battle ground, even if you have superior weaponry.

But soon enough, their supplies ran low, and firearms went extinct. That's when things became a real slog. It was amazing how much I missed the simple comforts of the compound.

So there I was, pike in hand, when the Frenchman approached our lines. He was waving a white flag, and was unarmed. I went to talk to him.

My French was rusty, but better than his English. We managed.

"We want to talk. We, the soldiers."

"Not the leaders?"

The Frenchman shook his head. "Not permitted. We think fighting is stupid. It take forever to... reach the end. Your side."

I nodded in agreement. "We think so too. But our king disagrees."

"Our leader is an idiot. But we," he pointed to the other soldiers, "Are not."

I nodded, and considered the situation. Finally, I produced a flask from my pocket.
"I miss my farm. Do you have any cigarettes?"

The Frenchman gave me a light. "To peace in our world, yes!"

鄭rthur! Come out! I held the pistol at the door. We had only a dozen rounds left, but it would be more than enough. 敵ive up and come out peacefully. There痴 no more need for blood!

典raitor! I heard Percy call from inside. Of course.

I fired two shots into where I thought he was. The shout from inside meant I was close. I nodded, and the soldier with the sledgehammer stepped forward. As soon as the lock busted open, the pikeman stabbed in. The blades came back wet with blood.

典hat痴 enough, Arthur! The war is over! I waved the soldiers back, and looked through the door myself. Percy was on the floor, bleeding out. Arthur was sitting behind the desk, calmly surveying the situation.

展ar is never over. You, of all people, should know that. His hands were below the desk, and that made me nervous.

的 was wondering why you showed up here. And then I realized. I stepped the rest of the way into the office. 展e survived just fine the last time you died. And we値l survive again.

He brought the pistol up. I didn稚 hesitate to shoot him dead.

Feb 15, 2005
I'm in and would like a flash rule.

Feb 15, 2005
Waiting for Gu奪ul, 1258 words

For the third time today, Isa rattled the bar of their cage and searched for a weak point. For the 15th time since they had been captured, the young wizard sighed in defeat.

的t痴 no use, muttered Thrun. The dwarf was trying to nap in the corner. 添ou池e just making noise at this point.

Isa turned to glare at him. 的 don稚 see you doing anything! Didn稚 you brag about getting into or out of anywhere? Some thief you turned out to be!

典reasurer Hunter, Thrun replied sharply. 鄭nd I said ALMOST anywhere. But goblins make very solid locks. Even if the look a bit ramshackle.

鉄o what! Isa stomped her foot. 添ou should still be doing something!

的知 waiting for Gu壇ul to get back with help. Conjure up some arcane fire and melt a hole if you池e in such a hurry.

的sa, come here, interrupted Antona before Isa could release a stream of obscenities. 撤ractice your sword work with me.

釘ut! Isa caught the wooden sword Antona had thrown to her, and managed to parry the elf痴 swing.

展atch my torso, not my arms, chided Antona as she swung again. 撤arry away, not towards.

釘UT! Isa sputtered as the strong practiced blows wore her down.

展atch your feet, dear. Strong stance! Thrun said from his corner.

滴ush, dwarf, Antona turned to glare at him. 滴er feet are fine.

擢or falling over, muttered Thrun.

釘ut I知 a wizard! screamed Isa, throwing her sword down and stomping her foot. 的知 not suppose to be good at sword fighting!


The three prisoners turned to stare at the goblin herald just outside their cage.

典he Goblin King is preoccupied with the kobold tribes to the south, and is too busy today. As such, your trial has been postponed til tomorrow. The Goblin King ordered me to convey his apologies.

徹h, don稚 bother yourself on our account, Thrun said graciously. 展e池e in no hurry.

Antona blinked the sleep from her eyes. Bits and pieces of the dream flitted through her mind. It was foggy now, but she remembered being a she-wolf. Gu壇ul had been there as well, transformed into a strong and handsome alpha. The elf chuckled to herself - the only time she found the orc handsome, he had been on four legs and covered with fur.

Isa had been snuggled between her and Thrun. Antona looked down at her matronly. Humans always looked awkward and vulnerable to the elf warrior, but Isa especially so. Like a puppy, really.

Isa stirred awake, and gave out a powerful yawn. 的 just had the strangest dream about Gu壇ul.

添ou and him were wolves in the forest? Antona asked.

滴ow did you know?

的t痴 too early for chittering and chattering, grumbled Thrun. 鏑emme sleep!

徹ur execution is today.Are you going to spend it sleeping? Isa asked.

徹ur execution was last Thor痴 Day, and the Freya痴 Day before that. Thrun sat up now and started combing the straw from his beard. 鏑et me tell you the best part about dealing with goblins. Everything is an emergency, or something you can deal with later. We aren稚 going anywhere, therefore we can wait.

滴mph, Antona snorted as she pried the stone loose from the wall.

哲ot convinced? Thrun asked.

添ou said we壇 never go to trial either.

添eah, well, Thrun blustered, 典hat was before you tried to snap the jailer痴 neck!

的 didn稚 try.

哲evermind! Isa interrupted. 鏑et痴 focus on the important thing. How are we going to escape before we die?

Antona held up the stone for Isa to see. It was smooth, except for the edge. There, Antona had knapped into a sharp point.

的 don稚 think one arrow will do us much good, Isa replied.

鄭 spear, dear, Thrun said. 鉄he痴 making a spear.

泥o you think it値l be enough?

哲o, Antona replied. 的t痴 not finished, and I知 just one elf. That痴 why we致e been practicing your sword work. Really, I知 surprised they don稚 teach it at that university of yours.

展e have magic to defend us, Isa said meekly.

滴mm. Antona gave a meaningful look at Isa痴 staff, locked in another cage with the rest of their gear.

The door to the dungeon opened, and in walked the goblin herald. We was very careful to stand outside Antona痴 reach.

添ou池e late, Thrun said. 展here is the royal executioner?

典here, ah, has been a small difficulty. The royal executioner has been executed for the crime of murder. The goblin said with a tinge of embarrassment.

徹h, said Isa.

展ho壇 he kill? asked Antona. 的 mean, besides all those people he executed.

典he ah, well, um, the goblin had turned a bright green at this point. 典he Goblin King.

滴old on a moment, Thrun said, sitting up from his corner. 典hat means the decree for our death is void. We get a new trial.

添ou池e awfully familiar with Goblin criminal law, muttered the herald.

滴old on! Isa shouted. 的s it true? We aren稚 going to be executed?

的値l inform the new Goblin King that you want a new trial as soon as possible, replied the herald as he turned to go.

的f it痴 convenient! Thrun called after him. 的知 sure he痴 busy!

的sa, Antona called, trying not to sound stern. 典hat痴 not how you swing a sword. You壇 never disembowel a foe like that.

的知 not trying to disembowel anyone, Isa strained through gritted teeth. 的知 trying to - rrr - cast a spell using - uh - this wooden sword.

泥on稚 you need, like magical wood, or something? Thrun asked

Isa dropped the wooden sword and collapsed into a puddle of exhaustion. 哲o but makes it easier. Some wizards can write the runes with only their finger. I was hoping with enough practice

鉄o you don稚 need wood, Antona said. 鼎ould you, in theory, use iron?

鉄ure, Isa said. 的t壇 be heavy though. Why?

徹h, I was just wondering, Antona replied as she looked from Isa to her collection of weapons.

展ell, nevermind that, Thrun said. 敵u壇ul should have just about reached civilization now. Yep, help is on the way.

Isa and Antona gave synchronized snorts of derision.

As Gu壇ul entered the town, he dropped the shaggy form of a wolf and become his true, unkempt orc self. The townsfolk looked on with mild amusement.

He stretched and turned, getting used to the feeling of hands and two legs before stumbling towards the town bar.

添ou look like you致e come a long way, said the bartender.

展ays are but a means - all steps are journeys, Gu壇ul replied before gulping down a mug of ale. 釘ut my steps have covered the earth like leaves.

摘r, right said the barkeep, as he settled in for another adventurer痴 story.

哲ow! yelled Thrun, as he ducked. Antona vaulted over the dwarf, and sunk her crude spear into the Goblin King痴 throat. With one smooth motion, Isa grabbed the royal blade and tossed it to Isa.

擢lee before the wrath of Isa the War-Wizard, shouted the young woman. A burst of flame erupted from the sword tip and burned half the royal guard. 滴A HA HA HA!

鄭 bit, uh, maniacal there, muttered Thrun from their shelter behind the throne.

的 know, Antona replied. 的知 so proud of our little human.


添es, right, time to go, said Thrun. 的値l let you handle that.



Feb 15, 2005

Feb 15, 2005
The Top, 893 words

John looked back at the passed out form of Mike on the couch, and felt a tinge of guilt. The beers and whiskey had done their trick, and his friend was all but dead to the world. Mike probably wouldn稚 even realize his betrayal. And it was his fault, really - John had tried to do things the right way.

John reached out, and put the spinning top in his pocket.

Mike hadn稚 realized the significance of the top when he brought it out. It was a small metal thing, like a toy out of a cracker jack box. Mike had been pretty buzzed when he held it up, and with a drunken flourish, he set it spinning. 溺y grandpa gave it to me. Old man claimed it was good luck.

典hat痴 cool, John had replied, looking down at his phone.

哲aw, man, look. It痴 still spinning, right? Freaky.

John had looked up then, and watched the top for a bit. After about a minute, he started a stopwatch. The top simply kept spinning. Mike talked about other things, and John had half-listened. Finally, around the 20 minute mark, John reached forward and picked the top up.

展hat痴 the trick? he asked, turning it in his hands. 溺agnets?

哲aw, no trick. It just really spins, Mike replied. 滴ere, you spin it, wherever you like.

Two hours later, and it had still been spinning, and Mike was completely wasted. John pulled out his wallet and held up a fiver. 滴ow much for it?

溺y grandpa痴 top? No, man. That痴 like an heirloom. It痴 lucky.

鉄eriously, Mike, this is crazy. I need to study it. For science.

Mike laughed. 的t痴 just a top. Forget about it, John.

添eah John said quietly as put the bill away. He poured a nice big glass for Mike, and a smaller one for himself. 滴ere, have a sip.

笛ohn, you dick, give it back! Mike was standing at the front door of his apartment, pissed off as all hell, when John opened up.

溺ike! What痴 up?

添ou know what痴 up! Give it back! I told you, it was my grandpa痴 lucky top.

''Your top? Mike, I don't have it. Are you sure you didn't lose it at the party?" John tried his hardest to act natural, believable. He could feel the smile on his face - fake, misshapen. He was a terrible liar.

Mike stepped back, and shook his head in disbelief. "I thought you were better than this, John. Keep the top - it's worth more to me to know who my real friends are."

John watched him leave. He considered calling out to Mike, saying he's sorry, trying to explain. But the march of science was more important than that - the top was too important. He closed the door and went back to his home office. The stopwatch next to the top had just reached 38 hours, and John wondered how many video his camera could hold.

"Mr. Pearson, the reason we've called you into the office is this: your co-workers have issued multiple complaints over the last week, both for rude behavior and wasting valuable University lab time."

John rubbed his sweaty palms against his pants. "I'm sorry that I've been, uh, unpleasant. I'm just very close to a breakthrough with my research. I-"

"You called Mrs. Anderson a oval office, John. You called her that, because she wouldn't let you use her time on the spectro-analyzer to identify the materials in a toy."

"A top, sir, and it's extremely vital. What I'm doing now is going to revolutionize physics. Everything we know about angular motion and entropy must be wrong, the top proves-"

"Go home, John."

He blinked in disbelief, sitting still for the first time since he came into the office. He gripped his knees until his knuckles were white.

"You have three months of sabbatical built up. You are going to start using them today, John. You are going to go home, relax, and let whatever this is pass."

"But my research is-"

"A waste of time, John. A top doesn't spin forever, end of story. Get help, John. Get some rest. Marcy, please have Mr. Grayson escort Mr. Pearson out, then please send in my 10 o'clock." The security guard came in, and gently led John back to his office to collect his stuff.

"The world doesn't make sense, and I cannot abide that. All my research, all my investigation, has revealed one simple fact - the top does not obey physical rules. There is no trick, no explanation - it simply ignores the law of entropy. The unraveling from this point is as complete as it is horrible. There are no laws that govern this universe, and as such all science, all materialistic views of the universe are wrong. Chaos reigns, and all attempts to understand it are ultimately futile. My PhD is as valuable for knowledge as a roll of toilet paper. I don't want to exist in a place like that anymore. I will not be ruled by petty gods and capricious demons. Forgive me - I知 sorry."

John signed the paper, carefully double checked it for errors, then set it aside. He spun the top, watched for a moment, and sighed. He picked up the pistol, put it in his mouth, and pulled the trigger.

Feb 15, 2005
I'll be in.


Feb 15, 2005
Sweat Tea in a Tin Can, 1094 words

The car baked in the Atlanta heat, the hood of the Crown Vic as hot as a diner flat top. Al held the camera against his chest, waiting. The man in the suit walked away, only glancing into the windows of the shop. Al sighed as Frankie got into the car.

滴ere痴 your sweet tea. Did I miss anything? Frankie said, looking at the camera.

典hanks. Naw, just a window shopper. Al put the camera back in its case before taking a long sip of the tea.

展hole lot of nothing, muttered Frankie.

的f you signed up for shoot outs and police chases-

添eah, yeah, I know. Real police work takes time. Doesn稚 mean it痴 not boring.

鄭in稚 that the truth, chuckled Al. 釘oring as hell. He pulled out his handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his pink brow. The two officers sat in silence for a bit, sipping their drinks. Frankie couldn稚 seem to get comfortable.

鄭l I gotta tell you something

滴old on, Al replied, grabbing the camera case. 的 think someone is coming out. They waited as a shape came to the door. The man - it looked like the shape of a man - stood for a bit, maybe staring at the car. He disappeared back inside, and Al sighed again.

的 hate stakeouts in the summer. A hot mess of nothing, just boiling in a tin can. Al started putting the camera away.

鄭l, Frankie said quietly, 溺iri is cheating on you. Al finished putting the camera away, and took a sip.

泥id you hear me? I said-

鄭re you loving her? Al asked.

Frankie looked away. He wasn稚 sweating from the heat, and the Crown Vic seemed too small. 泥id you hear me? Al asked again, mockingly. He let Frankie stew in his juices for a bit, and finished sipping his drink. It made him think of the interrogation rooms - they didn稚 put air vents in them. As time went on, the room would heat up, and the suspect would start the sweat. But Frankie deserved a break.

的知 gonna take a leak.

的知 sorry, Frankie said, grabbing Al痴 shoulder. 的知 real sorry.

徹kay, Al said. The word hung in the air. Al stared at the shop, while Frankie stared at Al.

徹kay? That痴 all you池e going to say? Frankie said with a hint of anger.

展hat do you want me to say? Want me to try and put my fist through your skull? Get all red and mad? Al started groping for something under his seat. 鼎hrist, you池e such a boy scout.

的知 trying to do the right thing here, okay? I知 telling you the truth because-

鉄hut up, Al said quietly, pulling a pack of Newports from its hiding place. 迭oll down your window.

的 thought you quit, Frankie replied. Al stared at him as he lit the cigarette, and Frankie rolled down his window. They sat there for a bit, until Al finished his first cigarette and started another.

添ou know why you told me, Frankie?

釘ecause I知 trying to do the right thing.

添eah? Al said, looking him in the eye. 泥id you tell Jasmine yet? Are you gonna? Seems like she痴 a shitton more hurt by this than I am. Frankie couldn稚 hold his gaze.

典he reason you told me is because you want to be a good guy. You want to be just the greatest guy ever, the black Captain America of the Atlanta PD. And so you tell the truth and admit your mistakes and accept the consequences, but you know what, Frankie? You池e still an rear end in a top hat. You池e still a lying rear end in a top hat who sleeps with his friend痴 wife, and cheats on his girlfriend. You don稚 get to change that. Now watch the store, I知 taking a piss.

Frankie didn稚 say anything as Al took one last drag of his cigarette and stepped out of the car. He just stared out at the street. There wasn稚 much to see - a couple empty storefronts, and a couple more with small time businesses. A booze store at the corner, mostly sitting quiet in the late morning heat - it壇 get busier later on, attract a crowd as people got off work. And halfway up set the shop, selling alleged stolen phones and cameras, and maybe more. A man walked by, his dark skin glistening in the sun, and Frankie didn稚 even bother grabbing the camera - he continued on, towards the liquor store.

Al seemed to be gone longer than just a piss, but he couldn稚 tell. Sweating in the heat, time seemed to lengthen and pool like a lazy river, the stakeout shifts stretching off forever into misery before coming to abrupt ends. He jumped as Al opened the door.

鄭ny action? Al asked.

哲ot a thing.


A pause, then- 展hen did you find out?

Al looked out the window, focusing really hard on something halfway up the street. 鏑eave it alone, Frankie.

添ou give me that big speech, you致e got to tell me. When did you find out? You owe me that much.

鏑eave it alone!

釘ecause I was thinking back to it, and some odd things are sticking out. I was suppose to meet up with you, but you weren稚 there. And Miri gave me some weird vague answer about how you were around-

擢rankie- Al痴 voice had softened now.

-And now I知 wondering where you were, Al. I知 wondering how in the hell I stepped into this hosed up situation in the first place. I知 wondering if you not mad at me because I slept with Miri, how maybe you池e mad that I told you. So where were you, Al?

Silence. 泥id you hear me?


Someone came to the door of the shop again, and Frankie grabbed the camera case. He held it at the ready as a kid, maybe eighteen or twenty, stuck his head out the door. He snapped off a few quick pictures as the kid looked up and down the street for someone. He disappeared back inside.

的知 sorry, Frankie. I just wanted you to drop it.

釘ringing up Jasmine was a low blow, though.

鄭re you going to tell her? Al asked.

哲aw. Frankie cradled the camera against his chest. 展ell maybe. I dunno. Maybe she doesn稚 need to know.

They both sat up as a rent-a-van pulled up and the kid stepped outside. Frankie held the camera at the ready. Clear as day, they snapped a dozen pictures of the van being unloaded of clearly stolen goods.

擢inally, muttered Al.

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