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Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

I'm in.

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Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers (1318 words)

Death's skull lay on a table backstage, facing the ceiling. A smouldering cigarette was balanced on the edge of an eye socket and a thick layer of ash had piled up inside.

#

Three-hundred-and-seventy-two years earlier, on what should have been a routine night, Death walked into a crappy backstage green room. Peeling paint, a sofa with its insides spilling over the floor and, in the corner, a lead singer drowning in a puddle of vomit.

Death walked forward. The cigarette smoke moved around his robe, forming the faces of young, old, black, white, men, women, anybody who'd breathed their last. He stretched out his right arm and his scythe appeared, gripped between his skeletal fingers.

He swept it in a practised arc towards the singer's heart. The blade reflected the fluorescent lights, the side table crammed with empty bottles, the angry face of the drummer who'd just walked in.

"Get the gently caress away from Alfie, you son of a bitch!" roared the thick-armed man, throwing himself across the room. He twisted as he charged, brought his shoulder up, slammed into Death below the ribs. Death collapsed exactly as you'd expect a robe filled with bones to. His scythe fell sideways, clattered against the wall, vanished.

#

That first night, Death hadn't known the name of the band. Nothing but the harvest mattered. Now, lying dismembered on a table, the smell of cigarettes soaking into his skull, the name 'Destiny Beggars' felt etched inside him. They'd changed the name fifty or sixty times since, but that's what they'd been when they captured him. He still didn't know how they'd done it. The full moon maybe. Something special about the drummer perhaps. Similar things had happened before but they ended in a game of chess or riddles, not physical assault.

#

"Skinny guy, isn't he?" said the bassist.

"How's Alfie doing?" asked the drummer, tearing another band t-shirt into strips and continuing to tie up Death's arms and legs in ever thicker knots.

"Gonna be fine. Miraculous recovery, doctor said."

"And what do we do with this guy?"

"Keep him around and let Alfie decide. Alfie's the one who nearly got hosed up by the freak."

"I reckon he's Death. The Grim Reaper himself," said the lead guitarist.

"Of course he's loving Death," spat the bassist, taking the cigarette from between his lips, "skeleton in black robes with a scythe? Obviously the grim reaper. Have to be stupid not to recognise him. But he's ours now so what the gently caress is he going to do about it?" and he flicked the cigarette, the first of many, into Death's eye socket.

While Alfie recovered, the band kept Death tied up in their van and the waiting souls piled up. People got sick or hurt, but they always recovered. Always. There was nobody there to shepherd them away. They just kept going. When Alfie came back, he was pissed. He said there was "no loving way" they were letting him go. "Think about it," he said, "we're loving heroes. We've stopped Death."

They started parading him around at gigs. People thought it was a commentary on recent events, the new era of invincible humanity. The band knew better.

They knocked his head off once but found it reattached itself if they held it close to the body. They began commandeering different body parts for jokes, stage props, ashtrays, whatever they felt like. Each bone reattached itself even if it had to jump across the room to do so. Death thought he'd reached his lowest one night as his skull swung in circles on the drummer's penis, but the band found ways to make things worse.

The years passed, turned to decades, turned to centuries. Nobody died and the band kept touring, never making it big but always getting by. Every time they had new t-shirts made they'd rebind him in one.

The world around them became stranger without Death. He could see it when they held him up on stage. Marks of disease, starvation and injury were more common on the faces in the crowd. The band suffered too, spending days coughing, hacking, vomitting, close to dying but never making it, recovering for a few weeks and then being hit by the next affliction. Still they kept him bound, changing the t-shirts, parading him.

#

The cigarette in his eye socket continued to smoulder. Death stared at it. He had no choice. A thin column of smoke drifted toward the ceiling and the ash fell into Death's skull. The rest of the cigarette, free of its dead weight, rolled backwards, bounced off Death's cheekbone and landed in a bin by the table. The bin, filled with cigarette butts and fast food wrappers, began to smoke. The first flickers of flame began on a crumpled Subway bag.

"What the gently caress is this?" muttered Alfie, walking out of the performers' toilet. He poured his beer into the bin, extinguishing it. "That better not have been you, you little prick," he said to the head of Death, staring into its empty sockets. Death stared back at Alfie. He'd taken Death's body and tied it over a black jumpsuit. Alfie thought it looked amazing. A living skeleton, a halloween costume made of real bones. Alfie was wrong.

"This is going to be our big night," Alfie continued, wagging his finger at Death, "we're going to make it huge after this, I can tell. Get a tour bus instead of our lovely van. Maybe strap you to the front of it, yeah?" Alfie said this before almost every gig, "and tonight we've got the tools to make it happen."

Death didn't know what that meant. He contemplated it as Alfie picked up him up, emptied the ash into the bin, looped the final strip of t-shirt through his eye sockets to tie him on top of his head. Alfie paused in front of the mirror before heading out. Death stared down at his bones.

The band had begun playing before Alfie walked out, arms raised to greet an adoring fanbase. There was no reaction. The poorly-lit faces of the crowd swung before Death's eyes as Alfie rolled his head back and forth and side to side, screaming into a microphone. It had been three-hundred-and-seventy-two years and the set was almost unchanged until the fourth song: Alfie's favourite.

From the front of the stage four pillars of white sparks bloomed, throwing light across the crowd and band. Alfie continued as the pyrotechnics blasted. The far left pillar began sputtering. "Cheap pieces of poo poo," Death heard the guitarist yell over the noise.

Alfie loved it. He wasn't going to let a dodgy firework ruin the performance. He went right to the front of the stage, stamping to the beat, and of course he stamped hard enough to dislodge one of the pyrotechnics. Of course he did.

Death watched as he and Alfie were engulfed, as Alfie fell backwards, as sparks ignited the cheap polyester t-shirt strips. His bones fell to the ground around Alfie. The bindings were gone. The bones were all there, all within reach. He pulled himself together.

And he stood up.

The curtain at the back of the stage went up in flames as the sparks continued to fly. The drummer screamed and knocked aside his kit. He charged at Death. Death's hand swung in a smooth arc. His scythe appeared between his skeletal fingers.

The bassist watched the drummer fall to the ground. There was no blood, no scream, just a lifeless body dropping to the floor. The skeleton disappeared.

Nobody else was rushing at him. The audience were screaming and jamming the exits. The flames were spreading across the wall. Death picked up a fallen piece of the black curtain, smoking at the edges, and wrapped it around himself. He had a lot of catching up to do.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

In.

Amused Frog
Sep 8, 2006
Waah no fair my thread!

Labyrinthitis - 1110 words

"Hold still or we'll stab your ear out."

Grey continued to shake his head from side to side as the needle drew closer.

"This is only going to make things worse for you," said the man in front of him, thick eyebrows creased above his glasses.

Grey didn't care. He could see the silver spike getting closer to his left ear. Inch by inch, shining in the fluorescent lights. His medical gown was soaked with sweat.

"This isn't going to work. Mag-lock him."

Grey's head slammed back against the chair. His body went rigid, stuck in place on the seat. At each point where the magnets were buried deep in his bones, he could feel them trying to burst their way out. It was agony. He tried to scream but his jaw was sealed shut, his teeth clamped together so hard that blood seeped from his gums. All he could do was whine and grimace.

"This is your fault, Grey. Remember that. You had more than enough chances."

#

As he was dragged back to his cell, all he could hear was the ringing in his ears. His vision swung back and forth in front of him, and each light shone like the sun, threatening to swallow him up.

The guards pushed him through the door and he fell to the ground. The ringing continued. He shut his eyes against the light, arms wrapped around his face. There was a pressure building in his head, pounding against his skull. He curled up on the cold floor with his eyes shut and wished for sleep.

#

He woke up to a dribble of vomit running out the side of his mouth and into a small puddle by his head. Trying to move away from it, he had to peel his ear away from the floor. It had bled while he slept, and the blood dried to seal his face to the floor with a neat imprint of his jawline.

There was a tray of breakfast food and a paper cup of pills by the door. It must be nearly midday judging by the temperature of his meal.

The ringing in his ears was gone. His eyes were fine. After he had wolfed down his food, he waited for the knock of the guards.

#

"Do you know why you're here, Grey?"

The man with glasses was leaning over him, asking questions. This wasn't like any experiment he remembered. "Where are the needles?" he asked.

"Answer the question. Do you know why you're here?"

Grey thought about it. "No."

The other man, sitting in the corner of the room, scribbled in a notepad.

"We thought as much," said the man leaning over him, "Do you remember what you did?"

"When?"

"Before you came here."

"No."

The man nodded and stepped back. "You are in a correctional research facility, Grey, because you comitted a crime."

Grey nodded. He didn't know what the man was talking about but it sounded right.

"Do you know what that crime was?"

Grey shook his head.

"We need you to answer out loud, Grey."

"No, I don't know."

"Yesterday's experiment was the first in a series. We have fitted you with a device that will stimulate key areas of your brain in an effort to make you remember your crime. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"Good. Each day, we will ask you to tell us what you did that brought you here. The experiment will continue until you remember correctly. There's no point keeping you here unless you know why you're being punished, is there?"

Grey shook his head.

"Verbally."

"No. No point."

The man with glasses nodded and looked satisfied. He didn't ask Grey anymore questions.

When the needle came back out, Grey struggled until he was mag-locked. Afterwards, he was taken back to his cell, ears ringing, each light burning through his eyes.

#

On the second day, Grey still didn't remember. When it reached the fifth day and he still had no idea, the men in lab coats increased the voltage. On the eighth day, Grey tried lying.

"I remember," he said.

"Then what did you do, Grey?"

Grey hesitated. He had not thought this far ahead. "I killed a woman."

The man in glasses sighed and signalled the other to prepare the needle. Grey began screaming.

#

On the twelfth day, Grey did remember something. He remembered being found guilty, and he remembered talking to his lawyers. They said he should push for a place in a research prison. He was young, they said, and relatively healthy, which made him a good candidate. "It's better than the death sentence," they told him.

When sentencing was over, he found out that 13% of those sent to research prisons ended up dead as a result of experiments, 22% comitted suicide and 59% were comitted to asylums when their imprisonment was over. Of the remaining 6%, half re-offended. But negotiating a space in a correctional research facility looked better than a client receiving the death sentence.

When he told the men in lab coats this, they seemed happy.

"The treatment seems to be working, Grey. Isn't that good news?"

"Yes," said Grey, smiling and waiting to be released.

He screamed as they brought out the needle again.

#

Grey couldn't see anything. He lay on the floor, eyes open, and there was nothing but white light. The ringing sound was his entire universe. Nothing was as he felt it should be. He tried to move but would find his limbs in unexpected places, bumping into each other when he thought he was lying spread-eagled, or not touching each other when he tried to bring them together.

He shut his eyes but the brightness continued. He screamed but couldn't hear it over the ringing. And then finally, as if the past was boring its into his head, he felt everything give way and remembered.

The next day, he told the men everything. He sat sobbing, dribbling and twitching as he related every tiny detail.

"That, Grey, is perfect. Thank you," said the man in glasses.

Grey nodded.

The man with glasses turned to his colelague. "Begin this treatment for all inmates that have been here for three years or longer. Get Grey back on the regular schedule," turning back to Grey, he said "remember: in here, you're helping far more people than you ever hurt."

The man in the corner nodded and scribbled more. Grey let his head hang as the memory looped over and over again.

As he was dragged back to his cell, he could hear every footfall, but the lights still blurred in his eyes.

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