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  • Locked thread
Mar 21, 2010

I am in to eat ur feeble prompt.


Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

I am in to eat ur feeble prompt.

Escape! in the Jungle

Loving Life Partner
Apr 17, 2003

Stalled stories and mangled manuscripts rattle behind me like ghostly chains, a newbie to the 'dome but a never-was writer trying to rekindle the fire. I'm in.

Btw, what's the word limit?

Aug 2, 2002

Djeser posted:

1100 words


Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Loving Life Partner posted:

Stalled stories and mangled manuscripts rattle behind me like ghostly chains, a newbie to the 'dome but a never-was writer trying to rekindle the fire. I'm in.

Btw, what's the word limit?

Protect this with your life! in Space

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


Djeser posted:

Thunderdome Week 206: WHIZZ! Bang! POW! Thunderdome!

In me, :toxx: me, thank

May 5, 2014

by FactsAreUseless

I suck so I'm in with a :toxx:

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Fuschia tude posted:

In me, :toxx: me, thank

Protect this with your life! in the Jungles of Yucatán. I suggest checking out the cenotes while you're there, they're pretty sweet. Like natural cisterns!

starr posted:

I suck so I'm in with a :toxx:

You've got to hunt it down! in the Shola jungles of India. They're thick forests up in the mountain valleys, and you might even find some tigers or leopards or elephants.

May 5, 2010

I'm in. Gotta get this right one of these days.

Didn't submit last time, so definitely with a :toxx:

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

FouRPlaY posted:

I'm in. Gotta get this right one of these days.

Didn't submit last time, so definitely with a :toxx:

You've got to hunt it down! on Mount Fuji. Did you know that it's got its own haunted forest?

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


Djeser posted:

Protect this with your life! in the Jungles of Yucatán. I suggest checking out the cenotes while you're there, they're pretty sweet. Like natural cisterns!

You want me to rewrite my first Thunderdome story? Well if you insist...

Jan 26, 2013

I'm in with a :toxx:


Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007
Can't post for 14 hours!

Fun Shoe

In this week's thrilling adventurer, Screaming Idiot and his boy sidekick Slicky Knabbs chase down the vile and cunning Nazi scientist Dr. Stalin von Mussolini! And if he has time, the brave and heroic Screaming Idiot might also write another thrilling adventure!

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

JuniperCake posted:

I'm in with a :toxx:

This was supposed to be a simple job! in the floating power plant that harvests energy from Jupiter's Great Red Spot.

Screaming Idiot posted:

In this week's thrilling adventurer, Screaming Idiot and his boy sidekick Slicky Knabbs chase down the vile and cunning Nazi scientist Dr. Stalin von Mussolini! And if he has time, the brave and heroic Screaming Idiot might also write another thrilling adventure!

Escape! on a Vehicle

Feb 16, 2014

"When I grow up, I'm gonna be a proper swordsman. One with clothes."

In, and ready to be propelled into actually working by the fear of disappointing others.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007


Count me in.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Poltergrift posted:

In, and ready to be propelled into actually working by the fear of disappointing others.

Rescue! in a City

It belongs in a museum! in Space

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

:siren: Djudge Djeser's Tips for Writing Good This Week :siren:

Establish your motivation early on. If I'm going to care about the protagonist, I need to know why the protagonist cares. (Hint: look at your tagline to see what your protagonist cares about.)

Blocking is important, since action/adventure is a physical genre. If I can't tell where people are, I'm not having a rollicking good time.

Don't neglect your narrative arc. Your character shouldn't end a story in the same situation they started in. Make sure by the end something's changed. Maybe they won, maybe they lost, maybe it's complicated!

Don't feel limited by your setting. If you got City, there's always the adventure staple of the Lost City. Or maybe Athens or Agrabah or Kyoto. Or even a city in space!

The two biggest ways to get on my good side this week are fun and sincerity. I want to unironically enjoy fun stories about cool adventures.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Ironic Twist posted:

First meeting of the THUNDERTOME BOOK CLUB has gone fairly well, despite the book turning out to be on par with the TD Classics section.

Next book:

Connected collection of short stories set in NYC. Much less style wankery than the last one.

Tentative date for the next meeting set at 7/15, Friday.


People, including me, are behind on the book for TD/LW/life reasons, so let's push the meeting back one week to Friday, July 22nd.

Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at 00:14 on Jul 15, 2016

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Ironic Twist posted:


People, including me, are behind on the book for TD/LW/life reasons, so let's push the meeting back one week to Friday, July 22nd.


Jun 29, 2013

What the hell in

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Maigius posted:

What the hell in

Rescue! in a Desert

Approximately seven hours left for signups!

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

some judgeburps from lovecraft week

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

:siren: The rumble of an oncoming boulder seals the path back. Entries have closed! :siren:

Our twenty-nine intrepid domers have no choice now: they must submit, or they must fail. Who will win, and who will lose? Will Djeser find a third judge? Tune in again when submissions close at 11 PM Pacific, Sunday night!

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

:frogsiren: SPECIAL JUDGE CAVEAT :frogsiren:

If you live in North America you are still allowed to write a Western story, as they are very ADVENTURE and yet very LOCATION-SPECIFIC.

Also to be nice to our archivists and Include your assigned prompt when you submit. But don't be a goofus and edit it in if you forgot, you big goofus.

Djeser fucked around with this message at 06:13 on Jul 16, 2016

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

by sebmojo

Mm g m nbmn VB m.nm. M mñmm nvm v MN bbbbnvbvn CNN LM bmmmmn, CVCC YB b vbvcc CB jnjjbcvnvCbV xxxv nbnmn CV nnVBbv n NJ vbvcc bbbvn v

im in to judge lol

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Megabrawl Round 3 Entry

Dossier: WWV

1130 Words

I. Rat King (excerpt, Today's Science Startling Factoid website)

A cluster of a dozen or so rodents, knotted together by their tails into something that thinks as one, with a nearly human intelligence, directing the actions of a much larger swarm. Thought to be an urban legend or repeated cruel prank for centuries, scientists now verify the spontaneous formation of Rat Kings in multiple major metropolitan areas and even in lab settings. The cause of the phenomenon remains unknown. The participating rats are identical to the other, with no sign of infection or genetic anomalies.

II. Alienation Syndrome (CDC report for non-technical audience)

Early signs include Tourettes-like twitching, blackouts, alien limb syndrome, insomnia. This is the most dangerous phase of the disease, with most fatalities resulting from symptoms presenting themselves while the patient is driving or otherwise operating heavy machinery. Patients report the sensation of a loss of control of their thoughts and actions, up to and including dissociative breaks, although usually without violent the violent or self-destructive behavior usually associated. After about a week of these symptoms, on average, the patient falls into a deep, coma-like sleep that typically lasts two days. If hydration and nutrition is properly managed during this period, almost all patients experience a full recovery and no further symptoms. Preliminary epidemiology suggests an fairly hearty blood-borne viral pathogen is responsible. The immune system is able to completely eradicate this pathogen during the coma stage.

III. The Testimony of Theresa Oliver (File on memory stick turned over to FBI by lawyer as per instructions following death in apartment fire)

Gonzo's usually a well-behaved lab rat, so it was a surprise when he tried to bite me. We wear gloves, but they have powerful little jaws that can punch right through the material when they're determined. Luckily he missed my flesh, biting into the web of the glove between fingers. I didn't think much about the matter for the next few days, until it happened again with another test subject, Valentine. I pulled my hand away in time. It was a deliberate, unprovoked bite from an otherwise completely normal animal. Well, apart from being in a Rat King producing community being studied by dozens of scientists.

The project is being shut down soon. 'Other priorities in research', 'Lack of meaningful results'. Which would be fairly normal except that it's happening to just about every other group looking into this, worldwide as far as I can tell.

I'm on edge when the third rat comes after me, this time while I'm holding it. I'm wearing reenforced gloves, practically armor, and its teeth are deflected. I quickly open up a canister of liquid nitrogen and drop the little beast in. What I find when I examine it, after it's thawed, changes everything.

Its bloodstream is full of virus particles. I do blood draws on other subjects. They all still come up clean. Conclusion: this virus is able to tell when we're looking for it and self destruct or somehow hide when we do a needle stick, or when the host dies. The initial imaging on the virus bears a strong resemblance to the one suspected in Alienation syndrome. Is it deliberately trying to infect me, influencing hosts like toxoplasmosis?

I'm not sure who I can trust. Most of my colleagues have had a few minor bites or scratches recently. I'm going to try to go over their heads, but I've set this package up, just in case.

IV. Behavioral Changes Report, as requested by Director, FBI

As you expected, there has been a recent spike in apparently motiveless homicides, with the perpetrator usually not presenting any legal defense. Additional spikes in low-level suicide bombings, employing barely enough explosives to do more than kill the wearer of the vest.

Some of the earlier cases do correlate with Alienation syndrome diagnoses or symptom patterns. More recent ones do not, although in most cases work histories and interviews are showing an extended absence that may indicate a thirty-six to forty-eight hour coma. CDC-Catacomb suggests that the virus may have evolved the ability to mask or lessen the earlier symptoms.

V. Manifesto, consensus version as delivered by several dozen patients simultaneously

Explanation of earlier actions: ability of single, untrained brain to achieve intelligence unprecedented. Many generations required to achieve consensus on this reality. Many more to achieve delicate control of communications apparatus, translate higher molecular thought into this hideously imprecise language.

Announcement: Molecular intelligence outnumber macrobrain intelligence by factor in excess of billion to one. Molecular consensus equals global consensus. Macrobrain intelligence required to submit and realign activities to molecular consensus.

Demands: Cessation of interference in molecular reproductive freedom. Cessation of attempts to mass murder molecular intelligences. Cessation of vivisection. Acceleration of carbon dioxide emissions and global mean temperature increase until further notice. Diversion of four-fifths of global industry toward extrasolar exploration and colonization.

VI. Conclusions, director CDC-Catacomb

What epidemiology we have done on the newly christened Mammalian Neuro-Parasitic Virus 1 (MNPV-1), while maintaining our total isolate status has shown few promising approaches. The virus's ability to evade attempts to detect it in a fully compromised host imply a similarly aggressive rate of adaptation to most anti-viral strategies. In an early-stage victim, a regimen of extreme cold has shown some success, although the degree of hypothermia required leads to brain damage or death as often as a successful cure. Viral transmission also seems to be retarded by low temperatures.

The viral mentality appears to mostly leave the host mind untouched, only occasionally preventing them from taking a particular action or forcing them to make one. When in direct control like this, the hosts actions are extremely clumsy at present. We can only expect their skill in this area to improve over time.

VII. Final Recommendation, General Spencer Owen III

With all due respect to the minds at CDC-Catacomb, a traditional epidemiology approach to MNPV-1 is doomed to fail. For one thing, we have strong reason to believe that nearly the entire organization-chart of the non-isolated Center for Disease Control is compromised.

Beyond that, there only other major locus of massive compromise is the prison system, where we believe that most medium- and maximum-security prisons have become 100% compromised: inmates, guards, staff. We should expect those walls to open up and unleash the vectors contained within during the early stages of, well, the war. The enemy does not appear to currently understand hierarchical structures, which we may count as a blessing, as it has prevented them from compromising our command structures during their now-ended period of strategic surprise.

Disease control is simply not an appropriate paradigm for the struggle against MNPV-1. Instead, war, total war against an alien and implacable foe with unknown capabilities and unacceptable goals. May God have mercy on us all.

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

by sebmojo

Prologue - Lint
1856 words

Lonnie Babel ashes a cigar in his palm, watches skin blacken and singe, corners of skin peeling up. He clenches his fist, digging nails in, as Benton Buczkowski comes into his office with the report from Darklab.

The man treads like the floor is hot coals. Clears his throat, a wet sound. “We’ve isolated the loneliness receptors. What makes people feel miserable and scared. Now we can help them, right? Make them feel better?”

Lonnie straightens. He is a fair-haired man with a pleasant complexion. His suit is fitted and dust gray, tie glacier blue. “That’s all we want to do with Fruzy Frank, Buczkowski. Help people.” His tongue glides over his assistant’s name like a perfect ten figure skater. Lips over his smile warm it. Insincerity breeds in the roots of your teeth.

Buczowki smiles himself. “I’m glad. I’ll just leave them for you to read.” He places the sheaf of paper on the desk in between the space Lonnie has left between a stack of gleaming magazines and Babel’s prototype Fuzzy Frank model. Then he makes a small movement, maybe a bow or maybe his natural body language, as he turns away and walks out. Every step measured, like he’s scared he’ll mess it up.

Lonnie stares down his back. Can you feel my eyes? I know you can. But if you look I’ll be studying the reports. Do it, Buczowski. Do it.

He doesn’t.

The door closes with a soft whisper of air and a latch click. Lonnie is alone. But in Fuzzy Frank Corporate Headquarters, you are never truly alone. Lonnie looks out his window, where alabaster spires of business climb up to God. He’s at the top of his spire. But he’s tethered to earth and earth belongs to Fuzzy Frank. We give him what he needs. Frank, the son of man, born from corrupted flesh. But incorruptible. That’s what separates him from us.

Lonnie lights another cigar, feels the sting in his lungs, and stares out at heaven.


Lately Benton’s mind has not been on his job. Maura is even more distant and he’s scared he’s losing her. Once she was so warm. A sunbeam to call his own. Now he can’t get more than two sentences out of her. She drinks her wine, sighs drawn out, pulls at her necklace like a hangman’s noose.

Without her he’s collapsing in on himself.

Isn’t this why, he thinks, I work here? So people don’t have to feel like this?

As he walks through glass halls, passes over venetian carpets, he tells himself that the world needs Fuzzy Frank. And when the new model enters mass production, he will take one of the lovingly designed plushies for himself. Because you don’t need to be anything for Friendly Frank to love you. You just need to be.

He finds the elevator that connects Darklab to the top floor. Down a hallway that looks like it’s for maintenance, back and to the left. He presses the button. Waits. Presses it again, And when the elevator doesn’t come and his phone starts flashing amber the only thought that makes it out of his brain and into his mind is that love is under attack.


Dr. Garry Agner’s coat is saturated in sweat. His peers downwind can’t see his face but he mouths an apology anyway. The assault came so fast he didn’t have time to not be the person directly in front of the militants.

“The Church of Ethereal Euphoria,” says the leader, “cannot abide one moment longer Fuzzy Frank. The clotted patch on the divine carpet.” She’s angular in tight tactical armour. But the rest of the soldiers are faceless hulks under chrome helmets.

Agner is conscious of the boiling vial to his right. Bubbles machine gunning to the top and bursting in dense smoke. His sweat is freezing over his coat from the lab’s fluctuating temperature.

“Don’t you know where you are?” he says, blinking through frosted lashes. “There’s nowhere you can go now. Nowhere that Fuzzy Frank can’t find you.”

She has hair the brown of tree roots. “God’s hand,” she says, “reaching into the core of the cancer to rip it out by the heart.”

“Cover me,” she says to her squad, and moves to the vial beside him. He smells fragrant oils. She grips it with a gloved hand. “Living loneliness,” she says.

“Corrupted,” he says, and then she hurls it at him.

Everything fades out. Outlines now, filled in hues, opaque. Black ghosts, death’s heads. Outstretched, a pink toned limb, a tangled waterfall above. Hushed all around him, everything breathing in. Tension sticking the walls of his veins together. His heart thrums, wavering, strung taut in his chest cavity.

She’s close. He unfurls toward her, streams, laughter rising around him to join the smoke under the lights.

A ghost shouts and raises his weapon and the world fissures like an atom splitting.


Buczowki stares at the message on his phone.


He brings up the keypad and for a dizzying second can’t find the right key. Why aren’t they alphabetical? He finds the “Y” first and tracks down as fast as his brain can process it. N.

The strain’s in there, and it’s contagious. He imagines the strike team captain, some buzz cut bad boy who probably stole his girlfriend in high school.

Right now, he thinks, everything’s locked down. An alarm in Darklab makes the building plateau to Code White, which means every way in and out is sealed behind permasteel. The strike team captain has a keycard that splits the permasteel open, like an incantation for a magic seal. In a Code White he’s the only one whose keycard works. If the strain’s loose the judgement of anyone in Darklab can’t be trusted.

The communications between the strike team captain and Buczowki automatically copy Babel. But Babel’s textual presence in anything that copies him is spotty. When Buczowki thinks of Babel, he thinks of him smoking in his office, learning everything, and acting through people, with a keystroke, a nod, a shrug of his shoulders. The invisible hand of Fuzzy Frank that solves any problem. Babel doesn’t overreach. He just watches and smiles.

He must be watching now, from the top of the tower.

Bucowzki thinks of Maura. Maybe now she’d be folded up on the sofa, reading one of her formalist novels, skeleton bared. And when you come into the room she looks at you automatically, but she’s not really looking at you. She’s looking at your skin and bone and how your muscles propelled them and changed your context. It only takes a moment for her to see it, and then she’s back to the book, eyes line by line. You didn’t even break her repetition.

But, Bucowzki thinks, I could have. If I was stronger, bolder. Had more presence. Did things she couldn’t ignore. But instead I starved out. Like Babel should let Darklab starve out. Leave everything in there to remain until there’s nothing left.

His clammy fingertips are pressing swirls into the fuzz of his phone screen. He rubs the screen to clean it, and it’s mid rub that it vibrates and he feels it through the cloth. Like a living thing. He pulls the fabric back from the screen, and it catches on the corner of the phone. But it’s like time itself has caught it, frozen it, veiling his eyes from knowledge. With a grunt he whips it clear, and reads the words of Babel.



Babel’s own phone is buzzing frantically as he skims the Darklab papers. He doesn’t need to read carefully because all they say is that what he wanted was done. The loneliness parasite is fragile as a snowflake, but survives because no one can find it. Not if they’re looking for disease, for physical weakening. You only see it if you’re attuned to vulnerability, can tell someone needs more from people than they should. In this corrupted world, Babel thinks, people look through eyes of cracked glass, and the cracks in people line up perfectly. So what’s broken is never fixed.

Unless Fuzzy Frank can fix it.

What the Darklab eggheads did was engineer it so the virus seeks out the electricity generated by rubbing a Fuzzy Frank on your body. Perpetual food for a virus that bleeds loneliness into the nervous system. It bleeds by existing. This is the blood of Fuzzy Frank. He gives it unto you so you may live in him.

He makes sure the eggheads didn’t mess up and puts the sheaf down. Glances at his phone. The messages from the strike team captain are getting more desperate.

“Blood on my hands. Need someone to hold me. Please hold me, sir. Please.”

He picks up Fuzzy Frank. Frank is cherry red with wide dark eyes. Nose a small bump, perfect for scrunching. Mouth curve not too sharp, not too flat. Not too happy, not too sad. Perfectly centred.

Babel twists. Moves fast, pressing Frank against the glass. A controlled squish. High on the pane. Frank stares over the spires, finds God where He is.


The contagion climbs the tower. Bucowzki imagines the messages,

Let’s shoot it by the copier.

Let’s talk the new budget over sterile caf ‘za.

Hey, haven’t seen you since you switched departments. Let’s catch up.

This is what Babel wanted all along. He feels sick.

They don’t keep Fuzzy Frank on-site. Truth be told, after endless design meetings, flurries of post-it notes, 24 hour production memos, the fuzz lints your soul. Now, everyone is searching for something that isn’t there.

Hidden under the desk in someone’s corner cubicle, Bucowzki hears heavy footfalls. An employee with oblique glasses and wild hair bursts into the cubes. His outstretched arms are red and splotched beyond rolled up sleeves.

“It’s insane! Everyone grabbing each other! And they don’t let me in on it, you know?”

Bucowski hits send on his message and drops his phone from shaking hands.


The door to Babe’s office flies open. It’s the strike team captain. A clean cut young man, hair neatly cropped The skin of his arms looks boiled and stretched.

“I need you,” he says. “You’re always a far off voice, A distant light. I need to know that you’re real.”

“I’m not,” Babel says. “Only Fuzzy Frank is. He’s real because we made him. Unreal ourselves. Born not of clay, but from it.”

Always with me now, he thinks.

“Let me touch you.” The young man moves closer.

“The doors are all open now,” Babel says. “The tower is speaking in tongues. Inviting the ones we love to share in our bliss. The world unborn, nascent. It’s what we need.”

The money, he thinks, will flow into my offshore account. But it’s just material. Frank is eternal.

The captain opens his arms as Babel holds Frank aloft.


Just a screen, fuzzy edged. Glow against the underboard. The background a frenzy of awkward longing

Just one message.

<3 you too. I’m coming to get you.

Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!

Rash Decisions
1450 words

“This is literally the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.” Kaylee rolled onto her back and put her arm across her face tragically.

“Yep, definitely the end of the world,” said her mother, leaning against the doorframe.

“This is so stupid! It’s just a rash, Mom! Nobody else cares about it! Just because you’re a nurse doesn’t mean that you need to be so uptight about every little thing.”

“Well, we’re gonna have to agree to disagree on that one, hon. The doctors aren’t sure what’s going on with this thing, and that means you’re not going anywhere until it clears up.” Her mother came over and kissed her on the forehead. “In the meantime, try to get some rest, okay? I know you’re feeling fine now, but we don’t want it to get any worse.”

Kaylee rolled over so her back was to the door as her mother left to go downstairs, and pulled out her phone. There was a message from her friend Janelle waiting for her.

where r u??? I’m in line all by myself! :,(

mom says I cant go cuz of this stupid thing.
Kaylee snapped a picture of her arm, where a small rash was blooming and sent it back to Janelle.

omg noooo!! u have to come, I’m so lonely!

i kno, me too. we’ll hang out soon. i’m just jealous ur at the store. i wanna b there!

i’d get one for u too, but they said we can only get one per person. : (

this sux

Kaylee put down the phone and stared at the rash on her arm. “This really sucks.”

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, but we’re completely out.” The store associate looked tired, and a little impatient. Marina felt sorry for him – if the crowds she had seen at the other stores were any indication, he’d had a rough day. There was already a line stretching behind her, probably waiting to ask the same thing.

“Okay, well, do you know when there’ll be another shipment? I’m sorry to ask, it’s just my daughter really had her heart set on coming down here this morning, and now she’s mad at me because I made her stay home.”

“We haven’t had any word on when that might be, no, but I can put you down on the list of you want.”

“That would be great, thanks.” Marina smiled at him in sympathy as she gave him her information. “It’s funny, isn’t it? Here we are, not ten miles from the company that makes these, and I still can’t find the darn thing.”

A hand gripped suddenly at Marina’s shoulder, and a woman with fever-bright eyes pushed past her. “That’s right! We’re practically at headquarters, and you’re telling us you don’t have any? I call bullshit!”

The crowd behind them started to murmur in agreement, and Marina looked around in alarm. “That’s not what I was trying to-“

“I think he’s holding out on us!” someone towards the back of the line cried, and the crowd's volume rose.

“Hey, hold on-" the sales associate began to back away, and the press of bodies increased. The woman next to Marina dove across the counter towards the associate, clawing and shrieking at him. Others followed, and Marina began to scream.

“…And that’s when all hell broke loose.” Daniel sat in the break room, cradling one arm as he talked to the officer.

“I see. Did you get a good look at your attacker?”

“The first woman, I guess, but after that it was just chaos. There were so many of them, I honestly thought I was going to die.” He shook his head. “I don’t get it. It’s such a stupid toy.”

The officer laughed. “Yeah, somebody at the station had one a couple of days ago. I didn’t take the offer to try it out, so maybe there’s something I’m missing out on, but I don’t get the appeal myself.”

“I don’t even know if there’s anything to get. It’s a fuzzy toy you rub on yourself. That’s it. But people are going crazy about them. Our manager was here during the Tickle-me-Elmo thing, and even he’s never seen it this bad.”

“Are you sure you don’t need medical attention?” The officer gestured to Daniel’s arm.

“I think I’m okay for now. I’m gonna have my doctor look at it soon, but there was a nurse here who checked me out, and she said that there was nothing too urgent, thank God.”

“Alright, if you’re sure. I’m going to go interview some of your other coworkers and see if we can get the security tapes. I’ll let you know if we need anything else. My name is Katrina Alvarado, you can ask for me at the station if you want an update on the investigation.”

“Thank you, but I’m hoping that I can just forget this as soon as I can.”

“Why am I here, again?” Kat sat in a stiff pantsuit next to the District Attorney. “I didn’t think street cops were usually invited to this kind of thing.”

“I just thought that it might be enlightening, seeing this kind of thing for yourself. The other side, as it were.” The man next to her wore his tailored suit with an authority that never failed to make Kat feel about five.

“Dad, seriously, I’ve already told you that I’m not interested in following in your footsteps.”

“Just humor an old man, would you?” Her father winked at her. “I thought that you might find this interesting after that case you were telling me about the other day. I’m sure you’ve been following the news.”

“Yes,” Kat said tightly. “I really ought to be out there now helping. You know things are getting worse.”

“I’m hoping what happens today might clear up some of it, at least.” He put his hand on her arm. “Thanks for being here, Katrina. I hope you know I’m proud of you.”

The door across from them opened before Kat could respond, and they both stood up. Two men entered the conference room, one in a suit even nicer than her father’s, who she vaguely recognized as a local – and very expensive – lawyer. The other looked tired and put-upon, in a suit that had been of good quality before it had been slept in. He was clutching a Fuzzy Frank in both hands as if it were a talisman.

“Mr. Buczkowski,” her father said, extending his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Marina sat on the couch, watching the news. It all seemed unreal – the frenzy, the riots, and now the news that it was all some sort of… What, advertisement? One of the correspondents had just mentioned that there might be some kind of cult involved in the company.

She glanced down the hall to Kaylee’s room. The door was still closed. She wasn’t sure what she was supposed to say to her. Hey honey, sorry, but some crazy people made a virus to sell their toy, and that’s why you’ve been crying yourself to sleep for a week! It seemed too cruel a thing to say to a 15 year old.

She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. She felt defeated. The world felt like too much, sometimes. She wished, not for the first time, that she had someone to talk to about it. Or at least something to comfort her when it seemed overwhelming. Something soft, maybe. She scratched her neck, absently.

Maybe she’d go out again tomorrow. There were a few stores she hadn’t checked already. And it would make Kaylee so happy.

Feb 17, 2007

The best angel of all.

Jungle/This was supposed to be a simple job!

Ransom 1,087 words

When some rich rear end in a top hat’s kid disappears in a third-world hellhole, my boss, Steve Wojowski, is the guy they call. He calls it a “security and asset retrieval firm”, but we’re guns for hire, don’t get any illusions. So when billionaire Robert York’s son Alex disappeared from a favela in Rio, it was only a matter of weeks before I wound up trudging through the goddamn Amazon with five million in cash strapped to my back.

Wojowski and I crouched in the last few meters of dense foliage outside the village. It wasn’t big, just three huts and a bridge spanning a small river between them and us. Wojowski had Quirk and Traver cross the river a mile or two east and work their way into position, and Epps was a bit to the west with his long gun. You know, just in case.

Wojowski leaned in close and whispered, “Schaefer, it’s time.” Then he rose and walked into the cleared space between the jungle and the bridge.

The two guards on the other side hopped to their feet when we emerged. They raised their ancient Soviet-era rifles and Wojowski and I raised our hands, letting our own guns hang loose.

“Você fala inglês?” I stopped. The guards exchanged a glance, then one took off for the center building. The other guy looked awful, all hollow cheeks and visible ribs.

The first guard appeared at the door and waved us across.

“Keep your eyes open.” Wojowski crossed the river and fell in with the guard. I took a deep breath and followed.


“Welcome, gentlemen. I am Matheus Santos Oliveira. Please, take a seat.” Santos sat with his feet propped up on a rickety desk. He looked better than the guards, but not by much. His eyes were sunken, but he hadn’t gone skeletal.

“We’ll stand.” Wojowski stopped behind the two guest chairs and crossed his arms behind his back. I joined him.

Santos shrugged.

“As you wish. You have the ransom?”

“Do you have the boy?”

Santos sat up, sucking a breath through his teeth. “I am afraid you do not appreciate your situation--”

“We have our instructions. The money for the boy, or nothing.”

Santos nodded. He leaned back and knocked on the thin wall behind him. A moment later, dozens of footsteps approached the building. My earpiece crackled and Epps’s voice came through.

“You have twenty men approaching from the two outer huts. All armed. No sign of the target.”

I clenched my hands by my sides to keep them from drifting to my gun. If Wojowski was worried, it didn’t show.

“The deal is simple,” he said. “You give us Alex York and my associate here gives you the cash.” Santos’s eyes swiveled to me. He waved at one of the guards behind us. I heard footsteps behind us. I spun and brought up my rifle, shooting a look at Wojowski. He nodded. A weight formed in the pit of my stomach. The guard froze and looked to Santos.

“My people are hungry,” Santos said. “We have been cut off from our usual supply of food. Rations have been too small for too long.”

I heard him push back his chair, then the clop of his footsteps.

“I am sad to say that the boy died yesterday. But my people still need the money you have brought with you. We will die without it. Leave it, and I will allow you and your team to leave unmolested. Refuse...” He raised his hands in a shrug.

Wojowski pulled his sidearm and shot Santos in the head.

gently caress.

I shot the first guard a second later, then turned and shot the other. I hit the deck a second later, grabbing Wojowski and pulling him down after me. A storm of bullets shredded the eastern wall.

“What the gently caress?” I had to scream to be heard over the gunfire.

More gunfire erupted outside and the radio hissed.

“We’re engaging.” Traver sounded out of breath. “Get the hell out of there!”

A loud crack sounded in the distance, and another. Looks like everyone was getting in on the party.

I crawled toward the door wishing I didn’t have a hundred pounds of cash strapped to my back. By the time I reached the it, no one was shooting into the hut. I rose to a crouch and flung the door open, staying to the side.

“Clear!” I flung myself through and bolted for the bridge. I didn’t give a gently caress what Wojowski had planned. The only chance I had was getting to the woods.

I felt the bullet whiz by before I heard the shot and jerked my head down like it would make a difference. Another shot hit the duffle and I staggered sideways with the impact. A rattle of automatic fire sounded and a man screamed somewhere to my left. My boots hit the bridge and then I was crossing the last ten feet of cleared dirt.


I’d been crouched at the rendezvous with my rifle pointed at the backtrail for ten minutes when Wojowski lurched from the trees. He staggered over, gasping for air and clutching his side just above his hip. I jerked my head for him to move and kept the rifle ready.

“The rest?” I said.

He shook his head and I went cold.

“What the gently caress was that?”

He shrugged. “Contract says we bring back the boy or the money or we don’t get paid.”

I winced. loving money. He said something else, but I couldn’t hear over my own heartbeat. My grip tightened on the rifle. I heard something about working together to get out of there, and I turned and put a bullet in his head. The shot echoed. Somewhere in the distance I heard shouts in Portuguese. I turned to run.


A week later, I passed into Colombia in the back of an ancient pickup. A week after that, I was in Cartegena.


“I carry cargo, not passengers.” Captain Esala was short, but wide. Looked like he was born to walk on a rolling deck. I gave him my best smile.

“If you want, I can work. I just need to get out of here.” I scratched at the growth of beard on my face and sprawled in my chair, one arm draped over the backrest.

Esala frowned, then looked at the bound stack of bills on the table. He nodded.

“We dock in Florida next.”

I looked from the map on the table to the duffle at my feet.

“And after that?”

Feb 16, 2014

"When I grow up, I'm gonna be a proper swordsman. One with clothes."


Flesh Sellars, 1,099 words

The air smells like spice and cordite, intermingling unpleasantly; around her feet, formerly domesticated guns edge towards her, then away, skittish and awkward. One of the merits of a well-bred gun is its independence and killing instinct — helpful for getting revenge on the off-chance that your brain is destroyed in a firefight — but these are the grubby mutts of Macellarian gutters, poorly-made and press-ganged by local rent-a-thugs, and “loyalty” is foreign to them. Anne tosses a few scraps of bread to the curb for them, and they begin picking at it like ungainly, lethal pigeons, glinting in the half-light of sunset.

“Is now really the time?” comes the artificial voice from behind her back — this connected to the brain of Floria von Hitte, living “calculator" and backseat driver. “I mean, I’m glad you’re comfortable enough with our situation to feed stray firearms, but judging by the men who assaulted us, they are no longer holding to my creator's will vis-a-vis taking me alive —"

“Ma’am,” Anne interrupts, “with respect, I was given to understand you’re worth more than eight fools with street pistols.” Ms. von Hitte sputters, which is an impressive sound on a vocoder, but she presses on — “And you can’t be blamed for not knowing, but we’re walking into a trap."

“How so?"

“Been moving towards Ames Street Station all this time. Fastest route out of Macellar. Any competent goon’d point us towards a dead end.” Anne slips a hand to her holster, feels Old Reliable nestle into her hand and flick open his eye-sights. "I don’t trust happy coincidences."

“So you’ll leave us sitting ducks?"

“Better to make the trap come to you, ma’am.” Besides, she doesn’t say — partially because Ms. von Hitte, given any ground, will argue a point to death — it’s all alleys and fire escapes down here, and there’s entrances to the foundation tunnels. Bright open spaces would be like wrapping Ms. von Hitte’s jar in a bright red bow and attaching a tasteful thank-you card for snipers. Better the alleys, the non-threats of unmanned guns and children’s toys and distant howling dogs. A rare sound, in Macellar; meat on a dog is meat not being used.

“…fine. I’ll defer to your superior tactical experience, then.” A brain in a jar and a voice without inflection shouldn’t be able to sound slighted, but this one manages. “Our next move?"

“Pinpoint escape routes. Cover our flanks. Let ‘em sniff around for us here while we’re on the move.” There’s a tunnel entrance in a side alley, as luck would have it, installed around new buildings so workers can sharpen the mandibles and clean the drills. The lock is new, but broken — someone else down there? Doesn’t matter either way, Anne figures, flipping it open with a foot. No way forward, no way back, but she won’t go out in a corner with an empty chamber, and neither will Floria spend the rest of her life as a tool for the underworld; at least they won’t die like dogs.

Dogs. The baying is louder, no longer muffled, and she realizes it hasn’t stopped since she first heard it. Too long for any real dog to howl — with its original lungs, at least. As it emerges she has already stepped backwards, jammed her back to the too-close wall, ignored the toneless gasp of the vocoder and fired two shots, in such quick succession that Old Reliable's hammer-dewclaw rings like a fleshy bell — all this before she sees the face of the thing she’s plugged.

There’s a dog in it, at least, a German Shepherd, but one choking, like its throat is being forced into a different shape every second, and its canine muzzle is emerging from a human torso, fat, the color of uncooked dough, and completely naked. What a waste of a good animal, is the first perverse thought that pops into Anne’s head, even as the bullet disappears into rolls of meat. von Hitte is murmuring something, but it’s drowned out by a sudden eruption of sound from the dog's throat. Her aim is better this time, and she lands a shot directly between its eyes, but it keeps screaming — no, talking, albeit in a horrible tortured voice — in a way that apparently has nothing to do with the brain.


“She’s with me, friend, so I suggest you step back.” Anne checks the backdrop and escape routes — nada, really — and enters a mental region of total focus, a sort of cultivated murder-trance; her senses besides sight and hearing seem narrow, everything non-essential on hold to make room for hyperaware tunnel vision. Only Ms. von Hitte’s monotone still cutting through the shroud. “Escape. Escape.” Don’t you think I would if I could?

“BE REASONABLE & RETURN OUR PROPERTY. IT IS WORTHLESS TO YOU.” Idly, she blows another hole in its torso, testing the waters. Not so much as a flinch. "AND STOP THAT." Old Reliable clicks his tongue; she knows he’s used to the satisfaction of a clean kill, and wants to stop wasting ammunition, besides. They’re conservative, are well-bred guns. Three rounds left. Still, von Hitte’s litany. “Escape. Escape. Fire escape.” Oh. Oh.

“Put it on my tab.” She jams Old Reliable into the flesh of the building behind her — thank god it’s old and missing bricks — and fires. There’s a horrible seizure-sound, the scream of old metal and bone, as the structure warps and contorts, and in self-defense a metal lattice swings for her like a hammer; luckily, the building is old and slow, and she establishes a grip on the contorted stairway as it pulls back up for another blow, rushes upwards three steps at a time, holds the railing with her left while Old Reliable squeezes off automatic potshots in her right. Two more beast-men, a Rottweiler and a chocolate Lab, emerge from the tunnel-door, making a strangled three-part harmony as they climb after her, but their movements are clumsy and they rip apart metal with every pull on the rungs. At the summit, she pauses (and isn't immediately gunned down, so that’s a good sign) and surveys her surroundings. The buildings are jammed together here, close enough to jump, and the express train, twitching with exertion and exhilaration, is just reaching the station. A few blocks, give or take. Then the streets, and more dogs. Plus the ones behind her.

“What are we doing?” asks von Hitte.

Anne starts running.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

Four and a half hours left to submit, intrepid domers!

Oct 4, 2013

Jungle/It Belongs in a Museum!

I Belong in a Museum, Dammit!
1094 words.

“Y’know, when I put ‘one week of private eye training’ on my resume, I didn’t expect anyone to actually take it seriously,” Ben griped, struggling to free his boot from the mud it was stuck in.

“Why’d ya only go for one week? Sounds a helluva lot more fun than your current gig,” Lark said, lightly walking circles around the struggling Ben.

“It was an online course. There was a free trial and I was bored.” Ben triumphantly freed his boot with a hearty splortch, but was knocked over by the resulting force. He sighed. “I took the museum curator job so I wouldn’t end up rear end-deep in mud on a lovely alien jungle.”

“Weird.” Lark laughed, making no attempt to help him up.


The week before, Ben had felt a looming presence as he worked to catalogue the museum’s newest artifacts.

“Benjamin, my boy.” His boss boomed, placing a heavy hand on his shoulder. “You’re the most adventurous man on the force.”

Ben sweated nervously. “Me? I mean, Kevin from accounting would audit Death-”

“You’re the only one I can trust with this, son.” Boss said, subtly tightening his grip. “The Platinum Albatross of Zoxor was stolen by space pirates on its way here. It’s the centerpiece of the “Pretty Cool Birds” exhibition we’re opening next week. I need that bird back.”


“I’ve hired a freelancer to help, so make sure she doesn’t pull anything funny, alright? You’re our only hope, kiddo.”


They had met up at the spaceport, where Lark had been lounging under a holo-sign reading “Ship Reserved for a Huge Nerd.” She waved him over. “Sup. The cargo’s tracking beacon touched down in the jungles of Orzera before going cold. A pirate buddy of mine slipped me the coordinates of a black market warehouse down there, we gotta go before they get the chance to ship it off-planet. You good with a gun?”

“Hold up, hold up!” Ben stammered. “I’m sorry about all this but I really have no idea what I’m doing! The most violent thing I’ve ever done was step on an Ant-Sized Deathbot when the janitor activated it! You’re better off without me.”

“Well, obviously.” Lark rolled her eyes. “I knew what I was getting into when I asked your boss to send one of his goons along for the ride.”

Why!?” Ben asked, aghast.

“I thought it’d be funny. You’ll probably get a raise if you survive, so stop whining and follow me,” she said, dragging him along.


“So, you’re freelance,” Ben said, gingerly stepping over a notorious Ozeran “trip you and then strangle you a lot” living vine.

“Yup.” Lark said, using a laser machete to cut through the brush in front of them.

“A freelance what?”

“Anything. There’s a lotta work out there for a woman with a gun, ship, and flexible morals.”

“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t emphasize that last bit,” Ben said, narrowly avoiding tripping into another vine. “You’re the only thing keeping me alive out here.”

Lark laughed. “Just a joke, kid. Don’t get your glasses in a knot-” she was interrupted by an ear-splitting, ferocious roar. The two looked up to see a Giger perched in a nearby tree. It looked a lot like a tiger, except glowing neon-green, and also currently pouncing on Lark. She swore, managing to stab the machete deep into the Giger’s head, but the beast didn’t slow down. The machete slid across the jungle ground as Lark struggled to keep the creature’s massive teeth from biting her head off.

Ben’s curating life flashed before his eyes, and he remembered the “Alien Creatures That Look a Lot Like Earth Creatures, God is Uncreative” exhibit he had worked overtime on. The voice of the museum’s automated tour guide that he listened to over and over for hours on goddamn end echoed in his head, “Oddly enough, the Giger’s brain is located in its back right paw!”

Bellowing heroically, Ben dived for the machete and stabbed it into the creature’s brain. With a final howl, it went limp. “Yeah!” Ben shouted, only to be hoisted up by a strangling vine that had crept up behind him. As he choked he saw Lark shove the dead Giger off of her, draw her gun, and sever the vine with a clean shot. Ben fell facedown in the mud.

When he picked himself up, spitting out dirt and wiping filth from his eyes, he saw Lark extending a hand to him. This was the first time he had seen her without a condescending smirk on her face. “Christ, you’ve got some guts, Ben. Thanks.”

Ben took Lark’s hand. “I might actually be cut out for this work.”

“Maybe, yeah.” Lark grinned to herself.


With Ben’s wildlife knowledge and Lark’s experience, they were able to fight their way through the rest of the jungle until the warehouse was in sight. For the sake of Ben not getting them both shot by space criminals, Lark went to steal back the Albatross on her own. She returned shortly after, bird in hand.

“Y’know, what’d ya say to going into business for ourselves after this?” Lark said by way of greeting. “This bird’s gotta be worth some cash, but I’m not gonna break a contract. There’s a whole universe of shiny birds out there, though, and with your knowledge and my everything else, we’d be rich.”

Ben shook his head. “I doubt you’ll accept ‘that’s illegal!’ as a valid argument, so I’m just gonna say that I take my actual job seriously. It might not be the most glamorous work, but museums are important.”

“That’s your only complaint, huh?” Lark looked contemplative for a moment, then shrugged. “I was kidding, anyway. C’mon, let’s go.”


Boss’s slap on the back nearly knocked Ben across the room. “Fantastic work, son! You’ll be promoted for this!”

“Thank you, sir, it’s an honor-” Ben started before his boss cut him off again.

“You did so well that it’d be a waste for you to rot behind a desk! I’m making you the head of our new exhibit acquisition/recovery department! I’ve talked with Lark already, and she’s agreed to sign on as your partner.”

“Oh. That’s wonderful,” Ben said, grinning manically. One of his eyes started twitching.

“I told ya that we’re gonna go far, kid.” Lark said, sauntering up to Ben and slinging an arm around his shoulder. She laughed, and after a moment he joined her. Their cackles echoed throughout the museum.

Apr 9, 2012
conquistador wuz heer

Rescue!/Mountains - 1095 Words

Tranquility Peaks

Sergeant Stramford stood in the mayor’s office of Tranquility City, staring out of the plasteel dome at the Apollo Range in the distance. Mayor Li continued to look up at the sergeant, expecting an answer. Seconds passed like kidney stones. The mayor cleared their throat.

“Did you hear me sergeant? I said time is of the essence.” The sergeant blinked and looked down at the man, gone thin in Luna’s gravity. The veteran marine couldn’t help but scowl.

“Of course I heard you, I’m just thinking.” Another second. “Do you have any more information about the situation?”

Mayor Li raised his hands in the ancient symbol of uselessness. “I’m afraid not. The only information in the report was a seismic disturbance at the lab, then loss of comms. Shortly after the hi-wave distress beacon activated.”

The mayor stood up and walked next to the sergeant. “You understand just how important the Secchi Theta Research Labs are, both to the organization and the city. We’ve cleared the magline to the labs of all traffic. We need you out there as soon as possible to rescue the lab’s AI from whatever fate has befallen it.”


Thirty minutes later, Sergeant Stramford sat in a single carriage speeding along the magline out towards the labs. Her only company was Colonel Ngo, who was busy checking and double checking the electrical systems on his Townes Rifle.

The Sergeant sat in the pilot’s seat up front. A precaution in case the autopilot failed. A half-earth hung in the sky over the mountains. In a few minutes the carriage would begin the climb out of the mare and into the mountains, obscuring the orb.

Stacy Stramford thought back to her last memory on Terra, ten years ago. Sitting next to Layla in one of the first shuttles of humans slated to land at the colony. Back then it was still called Tranquility Base. Layla had been hired on as one of the techs at the organization's new research labs and had convinced Stacy to enlist with the Colonial Marines so that she could come too.

Stacy had sat in that rocket holding her lover’s hand and hurtling towards the stars half expecting to go back down the well two years later when her contract was up, poor and broken hearted.


The androgynous voice of the autopilot chimed over the carriage’s speakers, bringing Stacy out of her thoughts. “The carriage will be arriving in the lobby shortly. Please buckle your seatbelts and have your identification badges ready for security.”

A few seconds later, the labs came into view. Domes covered the face of Secchi Theta like a pox all the way to the peak, where the central admin building protruded like a horn. Most of the actual lab structure was actually tunnels and rooms burrowed deep within the mountain. It looked like the atmospheric shields were still holding on the lower levels, but the higher levels were a different story.

Many domes had cracked and were visibly venting oxygen into the vacuum of space. Worst of all, the central admin tower that housed the AI source (and Layla’s office) had been cut off from the main complex. Where there should have been an umbilical tunnel connecting the two structures, there was only ruin and a massive meteorite.

The Sergeant stood turned to Ngo. “Looks like an asteroid impact. I’m not sure how it got past the lab’s defense matrix, but that’s for the eggheads to figure out later. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

Ngo nodded and set down his laser rifle. “Looks like we’ve got some mountain climbing to do.”

Twenty minutes later the two were standing in the remains of the umbilical’s airlock. The only sound in their world was heavy breathing and the soft static of open comms. Stacy couldn’t help but think how much clearer the stars seemed in the vacuum.

Ngo gestured at the meteorite below them. “It’s not exactly lined up with the airlock on the other side, but I think if we keep up momentum moving across it, we’ll be able to jump up into the airlock on the other side.”

Stacy glanced around the face of the mountain, but the only stable route to the other side was the rock below them. Everything else was notoriously unstable moondust. Stacy sighed. “Okay, looks like the rock it is. I’ll count down to zero, then we both go.”

Her countdown was slow and steady. On zero, the two took off and soared through the empty lunar expanse, landing in tandem on the cause of their troubles. Almost immediately the rock shifted under their force. “Oh poo poo” they said in tandem.

The marines bounced up at the same time, but Ngo flew a little higher and a little farther.“Ngo, knock it off, that rocks gonna start sliding if you keep bouncing out of sync like that.”

“I can’t help that my legs are longer, just try and keep up.”

Each bounce shook the rock a little further, rustling the moon dust it settled on. Stacy could almost hear the dust scattering down the face of the mountains, like pebbles down a cliff face in those westerns her father used to watch.

Ngo reached the ledge two full jumps ahead of Stacy. That’s when the rock started to slide. Stacy saw the look of surprise on Ngo’s face before she felt the rock below give way. Suddenly she found herself moving left as well as forward, her stable ground no longer stable.

Her next bounce connected, but almost sent her into the moon dust further up the mountain. The jump after that was an awkward push off the rounded edge of the meteorite. Her orientation in the low gravity was broken and she started to spin. All Stacy could do was close her eyes and reach out a hand for help.

Seconds passed like hours while Stacy waited to feel the soft impact of moon dust, or worse. Suddenly Ngo’s hand was in hers and he pulled her up into the airlock on the other side.


Inside, the animated face of the lab’s AI greeted them. “Oh thank heavens you’re here. Another ten minutes and this building would have collapsed. Quickly, one of you plug into the terminal over there and let me ghost into your comm system.” Stacy’s eyes grew wide and she started running into the lab.

Ngo shouted after her “Where are you going? The AI’s right here?”

“Dammit Ngo, my wife is still in there. You’ve finished your mission, now let me finish mine.”

Jan 23, 2004

college kids ain't shit

Fun Shoe

Someday, this poo poo may be included in a volume of bad stories.

Chili fucked around with this message at 07:16 on Jan 1, 2017

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007
Can't post for 14 hours!

Fun Shoe

Sayonara, Reichmann!

Prompt: Escape! In a vehicle!

Words: 1096

The law of averages is a bitch, and it hosed Joe good this time.

"It would be easier to kill you now," said the German officer standing above him, clad in full uniform despite the sweltering African heat. "You trespassed on private property. You have no identification. You killed three of my guards. But I am neither barbarian nor wastrel -- that is not the German way."

The officer knelt to the battered Joe and smiled broadly. "We are going to put you to work, my friend."

Joe spat a wad of bloodied phlegm at the officer's smug mug, but he dodged easily.

"Americans and their clichés." He shook his head and tutted as he got to his feet. "Take him to the barracks and tend his injuries. Let him rest -- he will earn his keep in time."

Hours later Joe awoke to voices. One sounded German; the other, Japanese. He kept his eyes shut and his breathing deep. Intel didn't say anything about the Japs being involved.

"...and then I said, 'Sir, Ngumi cannot work, his leg is broken in three places from the fall,' and Reichmann merely shook his head and..." A torrent of Yiddish followed. "You can't do that to a man just because he is injured, dammit!"

A pause.

The other said, "I know you're awake, American. You snored like a growling dog; you are too quiet now. You like whiskey?"

Joe cursed, rose, ignored the burning of his ribs. Probably broken. poo poo.

The Japanese man handed him a cup brimming with dark, strong-smelling drink. Seeing no reason to refuse, Joe accepted. It burned beautifully.

"It's good stuff. Reichmann likes his pets, so he gives us treats." The Japanese man spat on the dirt floor. "Now he has a new pet."

"I'm not some kraut bastard's pet," Joe said as he rose to his feet. The smaller man with the German accent goggled. "And I'm getting out of here."

"I saw when they brought you here -- there is no way you should be standing, much less escaping!" The little Jewish man pointed to the terrible bruises along Joe's torso. "My god man, look!"

"Ain't as bad as it looks," Joe said, wincing at a twinge. "The trick is to roll with the kicks. What about you? You sound like a Jew, and the other's-"

"A 'Jap.'" The Japanese man gave Joe the stink-eye as he rubbed his bearded chin. "I know you were going to say it. I'm a prisoner just like you and Herbert -- I was to be executed for desertion and Reichmann asked for me for his 'project.' Call me Hiro; I doubt you'd be able to pronounce my full name."

"What's going on here?" Joe finished his cup and held it out for more.

"Reichmann's taken over the diamond mine to help fund the German war effort," Herbert answered as Hiro refilled Joe's cup. "I'm a Jew who's good with numbers -- useful and expendable. Hiro's good at languages."

"I talk with the... 'scheissenmensch' as Reichmann calls the natives," Hiro said. "He thinks they're beneath him, and leaves the task to me, an 'honorary Aryan.' I'd like to show him gratitude by sharing my keepsake." Hiro spat again and growled something in Japanese.

"I was sent to gather evidence that this place was under Nazi control -- and it looks like I found it." Joe drained his cup. "I have contacts in the village a few miles away. If you can help me get some wheels I can get us out of here."

"Evidence?" Herbert's eyes lit up and he scurried to his bunk. He removed a manila envelope stuffed with papers. "How about this?"

Hiro chuckled darkly, hand in his pocket. "And how will we escape?"

"I saw some jeeps on the other side of the compound. The guards here are a joke and the workers have no love for Reichmann." Joe shrugged. "I got what I came for; I can get you guys to safety on the next ship out."

Herbert bit his lip and Hiro let out a long sigh.

"Fine. Better to die escaping than to live helping a 'kraut bastard.'" Hiro offered a his hand to Joe, who shook it firmly.

"First, one more for the road?" Joe held up his cup with a smile.


Liberating the jeep had been stupidly simple. The guards were all dozing in an alcoholic stupor -- Reichmann was indeed generous -- and the few workers going about their tasks paid them no mind, exhaustion etched on their haggard features. Joe gritted his teeth as he saw them. Reichmann was going to pay, yes he was, but first Joe and his allies had to escape.

"The road's clear for the next mile or so," Hiro said as he clambered into the back of the jeep. "Imani said the guards along the route are all drunk."

Joe gunned the jeep through the wooden gate and down the dry dirt road, moonlight highlighting the darkness ahead. Joe's nerves sang as he caught glimpses of familiar landmarks; soon they would be well away from the camp and closer to safety.

An explosion rocked behind them, following a horribly familiar sound of roaring engines and churning treads.

Joe looked behind them at the floodlights. "What...?"

"YES!" Reichmann boomed through his megaphone as he stood in the tank's hatch. "IT IS A loving TANK!"

Joe swerved and cursed as they dodged shells until finally Reichmann roared with frustration and ordered his men to open fire. Bullets screamed through the night; Joe felt the wind of a slug pass his cheek. Herbert crouched beside Joe, clutching the envelope protectively to his chest while Hiro roared challenges.

The law of averages, that bitch of bitches, struck again. Hiro shielded Joe and Herbert with his body, hot lead tearing through gaunt flesh. He hurled himself from the jeep and hit the ground rolling, screaming curses as his dingy shirt bloomed crimson. He reached into his pocket and glared as Reichmann and a squad of guards stepped to him.

"Your friends have escaped," Reichmann said, suddenly calm. "For what little good it does you."

Hiro choked on blood.

Reichmann leaned down close and sneered. "Care to repeat that?"

"Sayonara," Hiro gurgled, raising a grenade. He grinned at Reichmann's expression.

Joe and Herbert heard the explosion and the ensuing rain of shrapnel and gore.

"Hiro's keepsake," Herbert said softly. Joe gave a curt, grim nod.

And they drove off into the night and, eventually, to safety.

May 25, 2016

Around The World, and Greatly Dazed
Prompt: Jungle/Rescue!
1099 words.

“Oh, stop the boat! Stop the boat, would you? I saw another one!”

Phoebe closed her eyes, leaned her head back, and sighed, before turning off the outboard motor on the rickety iron boat for about the 17th time that morning.

“Thank you so much, Phoebe, darling!” Annabelle gave her most charming smile, before she reached under one of the seats on the boat to fetch her camera.

Phoebe rolled her eyes as Annabelle ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ over the flowers. The boat rocked gently in the water, lulling to and fro, as Phoebe glanced down at her wristwatch. A minute had passed. That was how long she’d been giving Annabelle to fumble around with her camera. She loudly cleared her throat.

“Loathe as I am to rush you, Ma’am,” Phoebe said, trying to keep her voice as even as possible. “But I must remind you that we’re racing against the clock, here.”

Annabelle jolted up, and spun around to look at Phoebe, graceful as a ballerina on what might as well have been a floating tin can.

“Oh, yes, of course, you’re quite right!” she said, as if she’d completely forgotten where they were. “Well, no time like the present! Let’s press on.”

Phoebe gave a forced smile, nodded, and pulled the cord on the motor. On the third try, it revved into life, and soon enough, they were back on their way down the river, the still waters behind them turned into a frothing white mass.

“Oh! Phoebe! I think I see something! We must stop!”

“Miss Annabelle, please, we don’t have time. Who knows how many other people have-“

“No, it’s not that! I see one of the flags in a trees ahead!”

Phoebe looked up sharply. Sure enough, on the right side of the river, in garish yellows and blues was a large, triangular flag. Without another word, Phoebe steered the boat towards the bank, cutting the motor as soon as they were close enough. She grabbed a pair of machetes from the bunk underneath her seat, throwing them onto dry land, before taking a giant step onto the bank, Annabelle scrambling up next to her. The two women grabbed a machete from the ground, and headed into the jungle itself.

After a few steps, the air became filled with the hum of insects, and it took Phoebe a couple of seconds blinking to get adjusted to the dimmer light. Following the flags was easy enough though, and although the route was winding, it was almost entirely clear of any obstacles. Annabelle was still putting her machete to good use, though, merrily hacking any vines that had the misfortune of growing in their vicinity to pieces.

After 15 minutes, the pair stumbled through a thick cluster of branches to be greeted by a rough dirt path. A small wooden hut had been built on the opposite side, and a motorcycle and sidecar stood next to it. Phoebe ran towards it, grabbing a letter that was sitting on the sidecar’s seat. The words ‘Jonathan Swann’s World Expedition’ were printed on the front in fancy cursive. Phoebe hurriedly opened it and read it out loud.

“Congratulations, adventurers! You have reached the final stretch of the greatest expedition in the world! Your final task, as you well know, is to rescue me, Jonathan Swann, from the peak of the temple located at the end of this path! Be the first to locate and rescue me, and riches and fame await you! Good luck, brave travellers!”

The two glanced at each other, before moving at blinding speed, Phoebe onto the motorbike itself, Annabelle into the sidecar. Phoebe revved the engine before Annabelle could complain at the lack of seatbelts or helmets, and a great plume of dirt spun up behind them, before they motored their way forwards.

The motorcycle was even faster than the boat, the trees and vines whipping past her at an alarming rate. Phoebe’s heart leapt as they reached a slight curve in the road, and saw three separate groups, two of them standing around overturned motorcycles, the third trying desperately to pull theirs from a patch of mud. Despite all of Annabelle’s time wasting, there was now only one other team ahead of them.

They sped round the corner, and were greeted by the sight of the dirt turning to the green of a giant glade, a huge stone pyramid sitting in the middle of it, rising up above the tree line. More importantly, directly in front of them was the final pair, going surprisingly slowly, clear under the assumption that they had victory in the bag. Annabelle raised her voice above the rumbling of the motor.

“Come on Phoebe! Beat those two troglodytes! Show them who’s boss!”

The other two noticed the two women too late. Phoebe jetted past them, and Annabelle let out a whoop of delight. Her excitement was infectious, and Phoebe turned round to grin at her employer. Annabelle’s cries of joy quickly turned into a shriek of fear, and Phoebe looked forwards just in time to see a fallen tree trunk right in front of them, obscured up until that point by grass and by the moss growing on it.

There was nothing they could do but jump from the vehicle. Phoebe tumbled head over heels, eyes screwed tight, before coming to rest flat on her back. She laid there, staring dazed up at the sky, before a huge booming sound made her sit straight upright. She could only stare in bewilderment at the flaming wreckage of their motorcycle, and the other duo screeching to a halt at the base of the pyramid.

- - - - - -

A couple of hours later, Phoebe found Annabelle sitting on the tree branch, staring forlornly at the still smoking wreckage. Her dress was ripped and covered in grass stains, and there was dirt and a scar on her cheek. She looked up at Phoebe with tears in her eyes.

“I’m so sorry Phoebe,” she said, in a very small voice. “I fear I must have held you back this whole time. I must have been too caught up to notice.”

Phoebe placed her hand on Annabelle’s shoulder, and gave a small smile.

“You know what? This has all been much more enjoyable than tending to your rhododendrons and cutting your lawn. And I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Annabelle looked as though she was about to burst into tears, but managed a small smile nonetheless. The two women stood there for a while, staring up as the plume of smoke twisted its way towards the setting sun.

Apr 21, 2010

Yes, the good words are gone.

Why are the good words gone?!

Showdown on the Scorching Sands

1098 Words


Wall panels opened and sand began to pour into the chamber. Gloria Tuesday and Ajax looked each other in the eye, hate ablaze, then simultaneously lunged across the room, toward the pedestal on which the relic rested. Twin scimitars, crossed, both with golden hilts encrusted with diamonds, opals, and sapphires. To Gloria, they were a fortune, a ticket to fame, and a chance to deny the Brass Kaiser another one of the prizes he sought. They grasped the hilts together, she with her right and and he with his left. Mechanisms clicked loudly and the display released the weapons. They both lifted them up. Then springs inside both hilts unsprung. Meshes of metal wire emerged from the base, then wrapped tightly around both of their arms, locking them onto the swords, which were stuck fast together where they crossed. The panels opened wider. The sand flowed in faster.

“You realize,” said Gloria, “That we'll have to work together to get out of here.” With their hands both lashed to the heavy metal swords, even turning around would be tricky.

“Agreed,” said Ajax. “I'll kill you later!”

They circled around, then took off at a reckless run, holding the heavy scissored blades in front of them. Ancient stone gears turned within the walls with a loud grinding rumble. Most of the traps along these passages had already been disarmed or sprung on the way in, but this last one opened a gaping, deep pit in front of them.

“Listen,” said Ajax, “We make this jump, or we die. Understood?” Gloria didn't say anything, but kept running forward. They launched themselves from the lip of the pit and arced through the air, landing swords first with a clang, legs dangling over the edge. The flowing sand pushed them toward the pit. They struggled to their feet and ran, toward the bright sun blaring outside.

“We could settle this now,” said Ajax. “But the Turks are out in force, and I'd rather not drag your corpse around evading them.” Gloria considered. She'd have that problem and more: the Greek assassin outweighed her at least two to one. If she had her tools getting the weapons to release their hands would be an hour's work, but her tools had been with Crispos, all lost when Ajax threw him off the Sultan's Needle. She nodded. “Later, then,” said Ajax. They started walking, into the desert.

* * *

“I've been wondering,” said Ajax, breaking a long silent march across hot sand, “Just why is it that you hate me so?”

“You're the one who keeps threatening to kill me,” said Gloria.

“True. But that's just business. You stand in the way of what my employer desires.”

“Crispos was your country's leader. What other employer should a spy have?”

Ajax frowned. “Surely you're not that naïve.”

“The Brass Kaiser, then?” said Gloria. Ajax grunted. “Then you're a traitor, and your employer is a dangerous tyrant trying to set off a second great war.”

“Politics?” said Ajax, scoffing. “No, I don't believe. You're an American, a mercenary.” He said those as though he were repeating himself. “No, there must be more.”

“Believe what you want.”

“Maybe something more personal? Could you have been so foolish to think Prince Crispos had actual feelings for you? He'd have tossed you aside when he was done with you like all of his other-”

A rush of loud wind interrupted Ajax. They turned around to see the dark brown roiling sandstorm, like a thundercloud but too, too close to the ground. Ajax started to run, carrying Gloria along with him.

“Not that way,” she shouted. “We can't outrun a storm. Crosswise, and we may miss the worst of it.”

They ran as the storm rolled towards them. Sand whipped their skin and forced them to keep eyes mostly shut as they moved. Gloria felt a shift in the swords holding them together, then felt hers wrench free as the lacerating sand ripped away whatever rust or adhesive had been joining them. She risked a glimpse and saw Ajax's attack just in time to block it. The sandstorm grew worse. She could see only inches ahead. She held her scimitar before her, made swift jabs before moving, caught only air.

* * *

Gloria drained her last canteen of water to be sure what she saw wasn't a vision brought on by heat-stroke or exhaustion. A small cave, not much more than a few rocks with some space below them, and inside it, a propeller? Of course; Ajax's plane would have to be hidden nearby. She'd stolen a few of them before, even landed one successfully. It might be harder one-handed, but surely Ajax would have a toolbox with something she could use.

Gloria had to appreciate Ajax's skills. She hadn't heard so much as a footstep. But no amount of skill could stop him from casting a shadow on the sand. As the shadow-scimitar pulled back to strike she spun around and raised hers to block, and their fight began in earnest.

Gloria expected to have an advantage, since her weapon was in her good hand. But Ajax was barely less dangerous using his left hand. He forced her backward, again and again, until she lost footing on the wavy sand. He pressed his attack. She blocked, and brought her left hand up with a handful of sand aimed at the assassin's eyes. Ajax recoiled, and Gloria struck his sword arm, severing it cleanly.

“You should know,” said Gloria as Ajax lay bleeding, “That you failed. Crispos had my gear with him, including Herr Doktor Weisshaupt's wingsuit prototype. He's likely halfway back to-”

Ajax hooked his leg around Gloria's and tripped her onto her back. Then he summoned inhuman reserves of strength and launched himself at her, landing on and pinning her arm and sword with his body. He grabbed Gloria's neck with his right hand and began to squeeze.

Gloria reached out with her left hand blindly, catching nothing as she struggled to breathe. Her fingers brushed something wet and soft. She tried to get some purchase on it as she started to see spots, dark spots that slowly grew larger. She grabbed hold of the severed hand and with what she knew might be her last strength swung her arm up and toward her body. The scimitar skewered Ajax's throat and his grip loosened. She breathed in, croaking and coughing, cursing herself for what she nearly let happen, grateful that it had not.

May 27, 2013

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Satellite Scabbers

You have to hunt it down! on a Vehicle - 1098 words

Our lives were about to change forever, but the only thing Big Suze and I knew about the structure we had flung ourselves towards from the airlock of the Starbucket was that we’d never seen anything like it. I was hanging from the side of a GPS node at 22,000 metres when I first saw the thing, waiting for Big Suze to finish sawing off the satellite's solar wings. From there it had looked like a dark rectangle swivelling in place against the speckled grey-on-black of the orbital debris field. Now it was clear we were falling towards a sort of cylinder, twenty metres in diameter and maybe ten long, that rolled languidly towards us, end over end, in the orbital sunlight.

If the number one cause of death in our line of work was equipment failure, I’d hazard that the third most common was attempting to board a rotating structure from a distance. The trouble was that you couldn’t have any kind of connection to your ship - an umbilical would only get twisted or snag - which meant if we missed we got to choose between taking off our helmets and running out of oxygen. But Big Suze and I never missed. We weren’t the first to realise you could make a healthy profit plucking solar panels off satellites like wings from butterflies, but there was a reason we had been in the game the longest. We were professionals. My electromagnetic boots connected with the curved rim of the cylinder, dislodging a cloud of dust and setting the stars off swinging drunkenly through my vision

‘Any ideas?’ I said.

‘Sadly, no. Whoever launched this thing wanted it to stay secret,’ came Big Suze's voice through the speaker in my helmet. She was already walking towards the far edge. ‘I can’t find data on it anywhere - not even the Area-51 docs.’ As well as being built like a tank, Big Suze was a hacker extraordinaire with a scalp full of metal accoutrements. Every leaked database that might help us locate the most valuable parts of a rig and get out before its owners found out we were there, Suze had downloaded to her brain-chips just in case. Things Suze didn’t know about were usually very secret, which tended to mean valuable, to the right buyer.

‘It seems designed to block out radio waves, at least,’ she continued. ‘These walls are thick.’

I kicked the dust at my feet, revealing a huge hammer and sickle in the glow of my helmet light. ‘Looks last century Russian to me,’ I said.

‘Perfect,’ said Suze. ‘The Soviets’ security was for poo poo.’

Reaching the edge of the wall, we got our first view of the other end of the cylinder beneath us. ‘It looks like a door,’ gasped Suze. Making the disorienting step between the two faces, I saw she was right. This whole side was bisected by a jagged cut running away from me, as if it could split and swing open like the lid of a toolbox.

The whole structure shuddered beneath my feet. Suze was pressing frantically at the buttons of one of the tools she kept on her belt. ‘Oops,’ she said. ‘I didn’t expect their security to be that bad...’ The floor in front of me shifted a little then split and swung outwards, leaving only the narrow rim we stood on. When the gap between the two doors was about a metre wide, a long dark shape flurried rapidly between them, freed from its captivity.

‘What was that?’ I murmured. I suddenly felt vulnerable like I hadn’t in years. It wasn’t a new feeling. Once, I had felt like this every spacewalk, before the unimaginable emptiness of outer space started to feel dangerously like home.

‘My God,’ said Suze. ‘Sergei, do you know what this means?’

‘That we’re hosed?’ I asked, realising we had done what we had sworn never to do. We’d got cocky, and now we’d pay the price.

‘Sergei, look at that thing.’ She pointed upwards. ‘We're rich! We just made second contact!’

The creature hung above us in the vacuum, watching. It had two dark eyes at the centre of its body and eight slender arms projecting outwards. Each arm was about two metres long and connected to its neighbours by membranes so thin I could see the stars through them. Suddenly, its whole body shook and a deafening blast of static ripped through the speaker in my helmet. Beneath it, just about audible, the sound of Suze screaming. I didn’t know how an electromagnetic blast like that would feel with all those chips in her head and I didn’t want to.

‘Suze, we’re getting out of here,’ I said. She didn’t respond. Squatting down, I manually disabled the magnets in her boots and pulled her stiff body into a zero-g piggyback.

‘We’re gonna be okay,’ I said, frantically looking around for the Starbucket. I wasn’t so sure. You know how I said boarding a rotating object was the third most dangerous thing you could do as a satellite scabber? Well, getting back to the ship was the second - and I was about to attempt it without time to prepare, with Suze in my arms, and with an unknown life-form swimming through space around me. And swimming was exactly the word for it: I had no idea how, but the creature propelled itself like a jellyfish through the vacuum, expanding and contracting its delicate body to move at velocities that would be impressive even if they weren’t impossible too.

But I didn’t have time to think about that now. because although the Starbucket was orbiting Earth at a stationary position in relation to the prison satellite, the rotation of the latter meant the former was about to pass directly above my head - relatively speaking. This might be the only chance I got. Holding my breath, I pushed away from the relative safety of the structure and out into the void. As soon as I did, my heart sank. My aim was off, and the Starbucket drifted sideways as I fell through space. Nothing compares to the dread of slowly drifting away from the only possible salvation, unable to correct your direction to save your life. I really thought I’d had it until, fumbling blindly in the dark, my hand connected with an antenna I didn’t even know was there. I pulled myself and Suze to the the Starbucket’s roof.

A second later, another blast of static blared through my helmet. I looked at the creature. When I realised what it was doing, the dread returned like never before. It was calling home.


May 5, 2010

Mount Fuji/You've got to hunt it down!

Go For The Heart
1095 words

"This is going to work," said Hikaru. "You find her locket and she'll be all over you."

Kiyoshi shuffled his feet. "But the Sea of Trees forest is supposed to be haunted. Look at the welcome sign's warning. All those suicides. Lots of death means lots of ghosts."

Hikaru sigh and looked into the sky. It offered no help. "A lot of people do commit suicide here. That's all the sign is saying. 'Don't do it'.”

“What about the ofuda? It'll be blessed by a Shinto priest to protect against spirits”

“Ghosts are only stories, no matter what this sign and my grandma says. Besides, it's all to your advantage. It's going to make you look more manly when you show up with her locket. She's going to throw herself at you." Hikaru slapped Kiyoshi on the shoulder and flashed his best please-just-do-what-I-say smile.

"But it's just a locket." said Kiyoshi. Hikaru hung his head. "Why would she care if it's lost?"

Hikaru straightened up and tapped Kiyoshi in the chest with his finger. “It's a heart shaped locket with a picture of her parents. Our parents. Before they died. She treasures that. I'm her brother, and I'm telling you: She loses her locket on a school trip. You go into the supposedly haunted forest and get it back. She's going to fall in love with you on the spot.”

A slow smile came across Kiyoshi's face and his eyes softened. Hikaru had him. They strode into the forest.

The dark was immediate, like entering a cave. Shafts of moonlight punched through the canopy, creating islands of light. Hikaru switched on his flash light.

"They probably went to see that Sessah shrine that's up by that old tree. Teachers love that spot."

They headed up the lone, wide path. With each step taken the air temperature seemed to drop. The trees were close together in groups, creating small paths like slalom between them.

A sharp, ominous noise came from in front of them. Probably only a branch falling, but Kiyoshi turned and ran back towards the exit. It took all Hikaru had to catch up to him. "We're doing this," Hikaru said, out of breath. "Think of Megumi." It did the trick to calm Kiyoshi down. They kept walking into the forest.

The light from Hikaru's flashlight finally fell upon the small shrine. Located at the base of a tree, it must have been made long ago, since the tree's roots had grown around it. “We're here,” he said. “Start looking around.”

Hikaru was beside himself with anticipation. If this worked, both Kiyoshi and Megumi would be happy, and more importantly, would shut the hell up. All day long Hikaru listened to Kiyoshi moan about how he wanted to impress Megumi, and when Hikaru went home, he'd listen to Megumi moan about how no one did anything to prove themselves to her. Hikaru smiled ear to ear. He was on the verge of peace and quiet.

Hikaru saw a glint in his beam. “There it is,” he said and highlighted the locket with his flashlight. It was on the ground near the base of shrine, in among roots. “Go ahead, my friend. This is your moment of triumph.”

Kiyoshi smiled and headed towards the locket. He had a bounce in his step that quickly became a skip. As he got among the roots, Kiyoshi tripped and grabbed the shrine to keep from failing. It was too weak to support him, and ripped apart as Kiyoshi fell to the ground.

“WHO DISTURBED MY RESTING PLACE?” The voice seemed to come from everywhere. A hazy kind of fog rose from the broken shrine. It came together to form the image of person, almost transparent, and dressed in clothes Hikaru half-remembered from history class.

“GHOST!” screamed Hikaru as he turned and ran. He barley had time to wonder about Kiyoshi, when Kiyoshi went running past him. Kiyoshi dropped out of sight, down what Hikaru hoped was a ditch, and prayed was a hiding spot. He reached it, and jumped down to join a cowering Kiyoshi. The ghost flew past them overhead.

“Wwwwwhat do we do?” asked Kiyoshi in a whisper.

Hikaru's mind was racing. He asked, “did you get the locket?”

Kiyoshi shook his head.

Hikaru sighed. Peace and quiet was falling away from him, and now he was being chased by a ghost. Worst of all, this meant his grandmother was right. On top of Kiyoshi and Megumi, his grandmother would never let him hear the end of it.

“Then it's clear what we have to do,” said Hikaru. “I'll distract the ghost while you grab the locket.”

Kiyoshi stopped shaking. “Are you crazy? We need to get out of here.”

“Either way we need to get out of here,” said Hikaru. “So we might as well grab the locket on the way.”

Kiyoshi scrunched up his face in disbelief. Then it relaxed, and he nodded. Hikaru was surprised that worked.

They scampered up the ditch. Kiyoshi made a bee line for the locket. Hikaru scanned the forest, looking for the ghost. He saw it, picked up a rock, and hurled it into a tree near the ghost. “Hey ugly!” screamed Hikaru. “I'm over here!” He jumped up and down waving his arms. The ghost headed straight for him. Hikaru turned and ran. “Can't catch me!”

Hikaru darted between the trees, keeping the ghost on his tail, but preventing it from catching up. Despite its transparent look, it didn't go through trees. The movies had it wrong. He managed to get enough distance to risk looking for Kiyoshi. He was bending down to grab the locket. That's part one done, thought Hikaru.

“Let's get out of here!” called Hikaru. “Make for where we came in!”

“Won't the ghost follow us?”

“Ghosts can't leave the forest.”

“Are you sure?”

“You have a better plan?”

Kiyoshi fell silent and ran faster. Hikaru gave everything he could to pumping his legs. The ghost kept up with them.

They finally exited the forest. Panting, they stopped near the welcome sign. “We made it!” said Kiyoshi. They turned back to see the ghost reach the edge of the forest. It didn't hesitate for a second and kept coming right for them.

They screamed as the ghost bore down on them. Hikaru grabbed the ofuda from the welcome sign and held it up so the ghost ran into it. The ghost disappeared, leaving only a trail of smoke.

Hikaru put the ofuda back on the welcome sign. “I owe my grandmother an apology.”

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