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Cartridgeblowers
Jan 3, 2006

Super Mario Bros 3




Me.

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Cartridgeblowers
Jan 3, 2006

Super Mario Bros 3




Wait Won't people just vote out the strongest writers so they can win?

Cartridgeblowers
Jan 3, 2006

Super Mario Bros 3




Let's all post one chapter and then promise not to vote at all. Then we're all eliminated with a handful of unfinished masterpieces that will leave BottleKnight frustrated forever.

Cartridgeblowers
Jan 3, 2006

Super Mario Bros 3




When is deadline? I have company coming over tonight.

Cartridgeblowers
Jan 3, 2006

Super Mario Bros 3




Chapter One: The Dream

The dream always starts the same. It's an old, unorganized office with a mahogany desk in the middle of it. A coat rack holds an old fedora and a trench full of cigarettes, matchbooks, and souvenirs. I am sitting in the desk chair. The sounds outside the window are muddled together in a dull roar; a parade, maybe? I'm miles above them in an old, smoky room and I am content in the solace that is silence.

Then the door opens and she walks in. It's all so cliche', but it has to be real. Her lips match her red dress, and her hair matches her pale skin. She is color-coded and manufactured to be desirable to me. She seems fictional and if she wasn't walking right toward me I would rub my eyes. Her legs move in perfect motion, swaying back and forth as she almost floats toward the desk. She finally sits and crosses her legs, sending me a wry smile.

I can't talk. I move my mouth and words don't come out. The world exists in sepia tone and we're relics of a bygone age. I'm a Raymond Chandler character lying dead on the page. She continues smiling and her lips part. For the first time I hear the real sounds of the world I am in. Her words slur slowly and as she speaks, she cocks her head to the side.

"Solve me," she says. Her words echo around the room but come back as a million other sounds. Trucks, trains, guns; a cacophony of bangs and whizzes. I look at her and then behind me. The window is gone. I am on the tracks and the train is coming for me. I cannot move.



It's normally around that part that I wake up. Sometimes I feel the train brush against my skin and sometimes I'm sweating so bad I wake up just as the train comes into view. That version's the most frightening, by far. I don't even get a chance to figure out why the train's coming or what I can do to get away. I don't get the opportunity to solve my own murder.

The walls in my bedroom are cracked and peeling, green floral print hanging over my musty mattress. The sink is filled with dishes and the stench is fairly appalling. I can afford better, but I've told myself I don't need it. A life of grime is how someone like me is supposed to live. I am not supposed to live in a mansion, attending balls and regaling the ladies with my legendary wit. I am supposed to live in squalor and, by day, I am supposed to work in the trenches. I have convinced myself of this and to others it seems yet another unsolvable mystery.

My name is James Black and I like to say I've been a detective since I was ten years old. That's about the time I solved my first case, though it was certainly nothing to put to paper. It involved stolen pies and a rotten dog with a taste for cinnamon. Me, of course, I knew everything there was to know about the whole deal: the dog’s history, what old lady Applebaum put in her pies (hint: it was apples), and even how long it would take a Siberian Husky weighing 48 pounds to get across a three block neighborhood.

Nowadays, of course, being a detective is a lot different. It’s a lot less about knowing things than it is finding out things, though the knowing things can help. Most of the other guys I know in the city who still do this are your average sleazeballs and they’re always asking “why do you do this poo poo job if you don’t want any money?” I don’t really like to answer them. It’s better to just leave them hanging, wondering about the unshaven genius who works pro bono. Helps drive clients my way, anyway.

The television’s still on from the night before. Game Show Network, playing another re-run of that Millionaire show. The answer is “Paula Abdul,” and the answer after that’s going to be “neutron.” I remember the night I said those answers the first time. I reach over and grab the red plastic cup that was full of whiskey, now spilled onto the carpet - probably from the tumbling in my sleep. The sun is piercing through my window like a switchblade and I roll out of harm’s way, searching for another bottle under the bed.

The phone rings, drowned out by the television host’s loud cajoling. I run my hand blindly over the nightstand, reaching for an old flip phone - I know I should use a landline, but it’s just so inconvenient these days. The name on the screen flashes: “HATTIE.” A name I haven’t thought of in years. My eyes finally adjust to the dim light, dust mites flying across the haze, mixing in with visions of a better time: a smiling girl, twenty young hands held tightly together, a thick book of memories bound in old brown leather.

The ringing stops.

I call her back.

“Harriet?” I ask. My voice slurs and I sip in some wayward drool before repeating her name again, this time less like a question and more like a fond statement. “It’s been awhile. What’s-?”

“Jimmy, can we meet?” Her voice has changed since I last saw her. Did she take up smoking? No, the voice is too wet. It’s shock. There’s a long pause before I answer her.

“I’m in the city, Harriet. Can’t get down to D.C. in any quick fashion.”

“I can be there. Can we meet?”

She’s desperate. Her voice is quicker than usual. Harriet Adams usually speaks in deliberate, hushed tones. She can make a man say the right thing when she wants him to say it. There’s nothing hidden here, though. She wants what she says.

“Harriet, what’s wrong?” I’m genuine. A year apart and now it’s like we just saw each other last night. She’s shaken and now I think I’m shaken, too. I’ve never heard this Harriet Adams before.

“Zach’s dead,” she replies. Her voice cracks. “And Jimmy, he had the Crime Diary.”

I flinch. The phone pulls itself away from my ear.

“Did you hear what I said, James?”

I did.

“I'm coming to you.”

We make arrangements and I have tickets within the hour. One of my oldest friends is dead and this entire time he has apparently had that damned book. I think back to the dream, the leggy blonde walking in and asking me to solve her. How do you solve a person? Who is she? I talked to a shrink once. He said she was the mystery I need to get me going, to keep me from falling too deep into the bottle. The mystery I've always needed ever since I got famous from solving who stole a cinnamon pie, ever since I won enough money from solving games to do whatever the hell I wanted, ever since I lost that book. I'm looking for that one, final mystery.

And that’s where this plane’s taking me.

Cartridgeblowers
Jan 3, 2006

Super Mario Bros 3




I wish we could just all vote Diqnol instead of modkilling him then we could all get a second chapter in!

I am not particularly pleased with my first chapter, but it was rushed. Admittedly, the conceit of my story doesn't really begin until chapter two. Mostly it's introducing a character's motivation and the main mystery.

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Cartridgeblowers
Jan 3, 2006

Super Mario Bros 3




I was thinking of going either with a sweeping space comedy, an existential mystery, Presidential fanfiction, or what I actually went with. I believe I made the right choice!

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