Been too long. In
|# ¿ Feb 16, 2016 15:21|
|# ¿ Oct 4, 2022 00:19|
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avFq9errZCk ILOVEMAKONNEN feat. Drake, “Tuesday”
Tuesday Night Lock-In 1,361 words
They shut us in at nine. Joe and Trey forced the double-doors shut, locked the handles, tied them together. Joe held up thick plastic sheeting while Trey duct taped it around the frame and floor. I watched with the other club-rats, glancing around to see if Stacy made it. Someone banged on the door, and the plastic billowed out taut.
While Joe and Trey made their way around the room, sealing the vents and fire exits, the crowd milled toward the bar. I saw Vic and Anita and Luise, our usual Tuesday night crowd, but no sign of Stacy. I shook my head and fought my way to the tables and barstools at the back of the club. My feet throbbed; planter’s fascist, or whatever the doctor had said.
I checked my phone. Nothing since her last message on Sunday, in the middle of her ER shift.
“Its worse than on the news. Be safe. See u soon.”
I’d sent fifteen messages since, the last telling her I’d be at Club Divine for their lock-in and that I loved her.
“Rick! Glad you made it, man. Some party, right?” Vic appeared out of the crowd and sat across the table. “Stacy?”
I shook my head. He opened his mouth, but the lights went out and the music cut in before he got it out. Some song I didn’t know. They usually were. Stacy loved coming here. I came because I loved her.
In seconds, the dance floor filled with people, shaking, thrashing, gyrating to to deep bass pumping from the speakers. I saw flashes of faces in the strobes and twirling spotlights, grins and bright eyes. Faces confident that whatever was outside couldn’t reach in to touch them.
Vic shouted something, but the massive sound swallowed it. He slapped the table and leapt to join the crowd. I let him go, tapping my fingers, checking my phone, letting my eyes skim over the crowd.
I saw her in a sudden gap through the crowd, standing at the bar. I couldn’t be sure it was Stacy, but she had on that black hoodie she’d always worn on our Tuesday nights at the club, with one wing etched onto the fabric in the plastic poo poo that always flaked and wore off. I hopped off the chair, winced at the bright flash of pain in my feet, and wormed my way through the crowd. By the time I reached the bar, she was gone.
“Berto!” I shouted and knocked on the bar to get his attention. He came over and crooked an eyebrow. “Was Stacy just here?”
He frowned and shook his head, then gestured toward the stacks of bottles behind him.
He reached back and grabbed a bottle from the top shelf, a tall glass full of ice, and poured until it floated. It looked more like a glass of apple juice than whiskey. He laughed when he saw my face.
“It’s all on the house, so who cares?” he shouted. I just shook my head and wandered back through the mass of dancers.
It went on for hours. The thumping bass, pulsing and dropping and springing back, the crowd pulsing with it. I watched from my table, working my way through that first drink and a second, losing track of time, losing track of people, the dancers melding together into one mass of thrashing limbs. Then they parted and a clearing formed around one young black girl, staring around at the faces watching her with wild eyes. She coughed, and a spurt of crimson flew from her lips. Trey rushed into the empty space, elbowing people out of the way, and grabbed her, rushing her to the only door not covered with plastic. It opened with a flash of bright light, and a moment later Trey came back alone. The music never stopped.
The crowd closed in, and in moments it was like she’d never been. I watched them move with frantic energy, my eyes wide and my hand gripped tight on my glass.
A man staggered out of the throng and collapsed into the chair next to me. It took a moment for me to realize it was Vic. He’d stripped off his shirt and wore nothing but a yellowing white tank-top. He reeked of sweat and booze. I stared at him and he grinned at me. His teeth looked pink.
“Hell of a party, Rick. Hell of a party, am I right?” The words were a slurred mess, and he had to prop his weight up with an elbow.
“Christ, Vic,” I said. “That girl...”
The grin sagged, and for a moment it looked more like a grimace.
“poo poo happens, Rick. They got her out on time.” He nodded once, then again, more vigorously. Before I could say anything, he lurched to his feet and staggered back to the dance floor.
I couldn’t keep sitting there watching them. I circled the room, checked the doors. A huge bouncer stood guard on each. I knew Joe and Trey, but the rest I’d never seen before. Maybe the weekend crew, maybe new for tonight. A mass of people were lined up at the bar, Berto racing back and forth looking like he was rushing to disarm a bomb. I glanced at the dancers and saw a flash of that wing, the hooded profile, and rushed into the mass.
The heat on the dance floor was intense. My nose filled with the scent of sweat as I wound my way through, my eyes focused on the spot I’d seen her.
“Stacy!” I screamed to be heard over the music, but my voice barely reached my own ears. I reached the center of the crowd, jostled back and forth, caught an elbow in my ribs. I stood and turned a slow circle, shifting with the crowd, checking faces one by one. I rose up to my toes, wincing at the pain in my feet, trying to see through the forest of raised hands and swaying arms. “Stacy!”
I heard a hoarse, ragged cough to my right and something splattered on my face. I stepped back, swiping my face with my hands. They came back red. My stomach turned. I looked, and saw Vic, swaying behind some girl I didn’t recognize. He grinned and blood streamed down his chin.
“Some party, right Rick?” He screamed the words at me, blood spraying as he did. It misted the people around us. Someone shrieked when they turned and saw. A sharp thread of panic laced through the reek of sweat. I heard more coughing over the bass thrum. Vic looked around at the retreating crowd with a frown. Then he retched a stream of red, thick with black clots. I danced back, like it getting on my shoes would be the worst thing about this. The music still pulsed in the air, but the crowd pushed away from the floor. They massed at the sealed doors, pressing in. Except the doors open into the club. My mouth tasted of copper and the back of my throat itched. Vic fell to his knees, retching and coughing and sputtering. The crowd by the front door split and rushed back in, two thrashing shapes left in their wake. Blood dripped down the plastic. I saw Berto behind the bar, chugging a bottle of vodka. Vic lay in a pool of blackened blood and tissue. Red bubbles foamed at his lips. I coughed, and my hand came back with a faint mist of fresh blood. Coughing and screaming drowned out the music, but the bass still pulsed the air like a frantic heartbeat. Black flecks flashed at the edge of my vision.
I turned and Stacy stood there, the hood pulled down over her face. I pushed it back and she looked up at me with a smile and blood, oh Christ, the blood streamed from her eyes and she grinned crimson and she reached for me and took me and held me and all went dark and she leaned in close and I could feel the white heat of her and I whispered, “I’ve been looking for you...”
|# ¿ Feb 22, 2016 02:42|
|# ¿ Feb 23, 2016 01:18|
The Interview 999 words
He met me in the lobby with a warm smile and a brisk handshake.
“Mark Rigle,” he said. “You’ll be meeting with me and Mr. Hempstead.”
The elevator doors whisked open with a puff of cool, recycled air and we stepped inside. Faint music played overhead. I took a breath and clasped my hands to keep them still. Mark pressed a button and the doors swept shut.
“So, do you prefer Jeff or Jeffery?” he said.
I opened my eyes. Two men sat across a polished, cherry-colored table. One of them looked familiar, something in his grin. The other, I had no idea. He was squat and bearded with thick glasses. He did not smile.
“From everything we’ve seen, you’re exactly what we’re looking for.” The smiling guy, (Mark?), stood and stuck out his hand. I forced a smile onto my face and rose to shake it. The other guy sat there, staring at me with his arms crossed.
“That’s great,” I said. My hands shook. Mark walked me out, saying something about calling me after they finished interviews. I thanked him, and we waited for the elevator in silence.
The doors opened to a muted bell. I stepped in, gave a last smile to Mark, and hit “1”. The doors shut. I was alone with the music. Something tingled in the back of my mind.
“Well, I’m glad it went well, honey. I know it’s been rough on you.”
I froze. I stood in my bedroom in my shirt and slacks, the suit jacket and tie slung on the bed. I had my phone pressed to my ear, and my mother’s voice spoke in my ear.
“Jeffrey? Did I lose you?”
“No, mom,” I said. “Train of thought just derailed. Look, can I call you back?” My throat felt tight, and a cold sweat streamed down my sides.
“Of course. I suppose you should call your father, too. I’ll talk to you later. Love you!” She hung up before I could say anything else.
My knees buckled and I collapsed onto my bed. The phone slipped from my hand and fell to the floor.
“What the gently caress?”
I still sat there an hour later when the phone buzzed at my feet. I ducked and scooped it up and answered without looking at the display.
“Mr. Wilkins?” A mild, female voice I didn’t know. “Hold for Mr. Rigle, please.”
A click on the line, and then music. It seemed familiar...
The hot water died and I jumped out of the freezing spray. Pink water swirled the drain. My hands looked rusted. I scrubbed them and the pink deepened to red.
I got out, dried off, paced through my apartment trying to focus. My breath came in heaving gasps. My phone buzzed on the table, and I jumped. I didn’t answer, just let it rattle its way to voice mail. I turned on the TV, hoping to distract myself, and watched the news in horror.
The anchor went on and on, but the words just washed over me. I focused on the image. The image of me, pushing through a cordon of men in black suits and jamming a knife into the governor’s neck. Chaos erupted in a swarm of panicked and flailing bodies. Black suits swarmed the place I’d been. The fact I was home said I’d gotten away, but I couldn’t see how. The phone buzzed to life again, and I screamed. This time, the number was restricted. I remembered the start of the last call, and hurled it against the wall. It shattered, the battery flying one way, the broken remains another. I gripped the edge of the table to keep my balance.
I kept searching for some memory of why, and came up with nothing. The day passed in staccato images. I found the answer in the gaps. The first of which happened at my interview.
The building looked dark from the street, but the lobby door pushed open without a problem. I crept through the shadows to the elevators and hit the button. The arrow lit up bright in the gloom. When the doors whisked open, I stepped inside.
And paused with my finger hovering over the floor button. I stepped off and found the fire stairs.
I reached the tenth floor and caught my breath. The reception area was dark. I went down a hall, past the conference room, and found a large open area with offices lining the walls. A light burned at the far end. I made my way around and went in.
The second man from my interview sat behind a stout desk with his feet propped up on the blotter. His lips curled into a smile as I entered, but his eyes were grim.
“I thought you’d show up,” he said.
“What the hell did you do to me?”
“Take a seat.” He gestured to an empty chair. I didn’t move. He chuckled and sat up straight.
“Alright, then. Today is not the first time you’ve been here. We recruited you a year ago. You’ve been...conditioned. Today was your final test.” He grinned. “You passed.”
“Test? I killed someone!” I flexed my hands, trying to catch my breath. My head buzzed.
“Not just someone. The governor. Surrounded by security. And here you stand!”
Some connection broke in my mind. Before I knew it, I’d circled his desk, hauling up a heavy lamp as I went. He never flinched. As I brought it high over my head, he flicked something under his desk and his speakers crackled to life.
The engine roared and my seat bucked under me. Something was strapped to my back. A heavyset man staggered over and spoke in a thick accent.
“You are awake, yes? We are at your drop zone.”
He hauled me up and pushed me to an open door, latched a cord to a metal rod on the ceiling, and pushed me out into nothingness. In my helmet, my radio hissed to life.
|# ¿ Feb 28, 2016 23:30|
Thanks for the crits!
|# ¿ Feb 29, 2016 19:55|
In with Wabi-Sabi.
And thanks for the crit!
|# ¿ Mar 2, 2016 05:21|
All That Remained Were Ashes 1,181 words
Wabi-Sabi (Accepting the cycle of growth and decay.)
The world had burned and Death strode among the ruins.
Ash fell like snow, whipped horizontal by the wind. Death held the collar of his sweatshirt tight around his neck. His pale skin was streaked grey. The shattered remains of a building stood ahead. A massive drift of ash piled along one wall, and the roof had partially caved in. Death approached an open door and peered inside.
A woman sat cross-legged on bare tile along the far wall. Her skin was covered with grime, and her cheekbones protruded from her thin face. A babe suckled at her breast, and a young boy lay curled next to her, his head resting in her lap. The boy’s face shone with sweat, and he shook with rough coughs. She clutched the babe tighter when she saw him.
“You are Eve?” Death’s voice grated like grinding stones.
“Do you know who I am?”
She shook the boy awake and handed him the infant. Then she rose, using the wall for balance.
“What is it you want?” she said.
Death glanced at the boy.
“No.” Eve took a step forward, in front of the boy and infant. “You cannot have him.”
Death stepped inside and shook the soot from his dark hair. Dull light filtered through the haze from the gaping hole in the ceiling. The room was bare but for a pile of ash. Death bent and picked up a handful and held it out toward her.
“His lungs are filled with this. Is this what you want for him?” He let it sift through his fingers. His eyes were locked on hers.
Eve shook her head, but her eyes dropped to the floor. “He grows stronger everyday.”
The boy looked from Eve to Death with wide eyes.
“Momma? Who is he?” His lungs spasmed with a wet, ragged sound that cut through the muffled quiet.
“He is no one, Jacob. Mind your sister.”
The boy rocked the infant, but stared up at Death. Death smiled back. He sat down in the ash and gestured for Eve to join him. Her eyes narrowed, but she took two steps closer, to the edge of the cleared tiles, and sat.
“Is this where you offer to play a game?” she said. Death barked a laugh and shook his head.
“No. That is a thing of myth.” He pointed to the boy and asked her, “Do you believe I have the capacity to be wrong?”
Eve opened her mouth and paused, her eyes flicking down, losing focus. She frowned and shook her head.
“Then why fight it? He will suffer otherwise.”
A fit of violent coughing from Jacob punctuated the thought. The babe fussed in his arms, and he rocked back and forth, sucking in shallow, wheezing breaths. Death waved a hand at the boy and raised his eyebrows.
“When he was born, I had a vision.” Eve’s voice was soft, and she stared at the ash. “Through the pain, I saw his coming would change the world.”
Death shook his head. “Not in the way you want.”
Her eyes whipped up. “What?”
Death looked away, his pale skin flushing light pink. “No. I should not have said that.”
Eve sprang forward on hands and knees, crawling through the ash.
“You must. You must tell me!”
“It is his time. You cannot change that. If you convinced me otherwise he would only worsen, shrivel, turn into a living corpse. Is that what you want?”
She reached out and grabbed the collar of Death’s sweater and pulled him close. Cold rolled off him and her fingers burned like she gripped ice. She hissed in a breath, but held on.
“You will tell me,” she said through gritted teeth.
Death reached up and gently took her wrists and pulled them away from him. The fingers were bright red through the smeared ash. He tsk’d and shook his head. Then he let out a long sigh, staring up at the thin gruel of light coming through the ceiling.
“He will bring about a world without death.”
Eve’s back straightened and a grin split her face, straining her cracked lips.
“So, that’s it, is it? You want him to die so you can live?” She rose to her knees and leaned over Death. “That is not going to happen!”
“You mistake me. The last thing I want is for him to die. His death will crush you. You will follow within the week. Without you...” He shook his head. “You three are the last. When I take you, I will cease to have purpose.”
Eve stared down at Death with her lips drawn back over her teeth. She turned to look back at Jacob and his sister. The girl she hadn’t named. A tear ran down through the ash on her face and dropped from her chin, a dingy grey orb of moisture, absorbed as soon as it hit the ground. The boy’s mouth twisted into a weak smile. Flecks of pink stained his teeth. His eyes were sunken, the flesh around them grey and wrinkled like an old man’s. Eve sobbed, and clapped a hand over her mouth to hold back the wail before it burst from her and filled the empty, ash-filled silence. She turned back to Death and grabbed his hands.
“Then why?” she said. “Why do it at all?”
Death looked up and met her eyes.
“It is his time. And yours. And the girl’s.” He paused. “And mine.”
She looked back at her children. “Can you give us an hour?”
Death rose and strode out into the wind.
Death found the three of them huddled against the far wall when he returned. Eve held both children close and watched him come without stirring. He knelt before her, his hands clasped, and he lowered his head.
“It is time,” he said.
She nodded, and squeezed Jacob close. Death reached out and caressed the boy’s brow. Jacob’s eyes rolled back, and he sucked in a deep breath. When it whispered out, he did not take another.
Death rose and turned to leave.
“Wait.” Eve’s voice was small, now. She shook, like all the heat had gone out of her. “You said another week. Can you not just do it now? Both of us?”
Death knelt again, his hands resting on his knees. He frowned.
“It is not yet time.”
“Does that really matter?” Eve said.
Death shook his head. He rubbed his thumb over the infant’s eyes. The girl shuddered and lay still. Then he put his hand on Eve’s cheek. He leaned close and kissed each of her eyelids. When he pulled back, she was gone.
He left them, still huddled together along the wall, and walked into the storm. He wandered miles in the shapeless ashen world, a grey shape shuffling against the wind.
Death found a steep hill and clambered to the summit. He sat watching the far horizon. Waiting. Hoping that the clouds would break and let the light of the sun shine down on him one last time before the end,.
|# ¿ Mar 7, 2016 03:50|
Thanks for the crit!
Also, for this prompt, I'll be sleeping in.
|# ¿ Mar 8, 2016 04:51|
When I got bored crits is good crits
Yep! Thanks for that!
|# ¿ Mar 8, 2016 15:55|
For Old Times' Sake 1,499
I’d just put my feet up and opened my book when someone thundered on my door. I sighed and snapped the book shut. Tig stood on my porch wearing a tattered denim jacket. He hadn’t shaved in weeks, and the smell of him bowled me over.
“Jack!” He grinned, revealing blackened teeth.
“Christ,” I said. “I thought you were dead.”
Tig snorted a laugh and pushed past me.
“And you didn’t come to the funeral?” He collapsed into my chair and plopped his shoes on the coffee table.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
His grin sank, and he sat up and buried his face in his hands.
“It’s my ma. She’s got cancer. She’s laid up back home and I got no way to get to her, man.” He stood, paced the room. “I didn’t know where else to go.”
I crossed my arms.
“You want me to just drop my life and drive you to Pittsburgh, I got that right?”
He shrugged. “Yeah, pretty much.”
I stared at him for a moment, remembering the face of an 11 year-old boy as he flew his bike down the street; the way his mother had always greeted me with a smile and a glass of lemonade. It was the latter that made up my mind.
“Okay,” I said. “Just let me grab my keys.”
Three hours later I pulled into a rest stop outside of Toledo. I hauled myself out of the car and stretched while Tig waved and headed inside. My head ached from being cooped up with his reek.
I bought coffee and a burger and sat down, keeping an eye on the johns and wondering what the hell I was doing. I finished the burger with no sign of Tig. I downed the coffee and made for the men’s room.
At first glance, the place was empty. I took a piss, washed up, and was heading for the door when I heard a groan. The sound echoed off the bare tile. I winced and pinched the bridge of my nose.
He sat on the toilet in the last stall, propped up against the tank. A fresh track mark marred his right arm. Tig’s head leaned back and his jaw gaped, his eyes staring at nothing. I didn’t know how he could lay like that and not breath in rasping snores. I slapped him.
He didn’t react, so I slapped him again, harder. This time, he slipped sideways and reached out time to catch himself before he hit the wall. He looked up at me with blank, unfocused eyes. I grabbed him by the collar and yanked him to his feet. Fabric ripped and his smell filled my nose, but I pulled him close.
“You dumb gently caress!” I shook him. “You dumb gently caress! Is this how you want your dying ma to see you?” I shoved him out of the stall. He lurched in giant, cartwheeling steps until he caught himself on the counter.
“I’m sorry, man.” His shoulders shook with sniveling sobs. “I couldn’t help it.”
The rage slipped away. My knees wanted to let go and plop me down on the toilet he’d just vacated. I shook my head and squeezed my eyes shut for a beat.
“Don’t apologize. Just wash your hands and lets get outta here. You need to eat.”
I sat and watched as he downed two or three chicken nuggets and a handful of fries, and then we were back on the turnpike. I gripped the steering wheel until my knuckles ached. I didn’t see the headlights flash on behind me.
We sat in silence for a couple hundred miles. Tig revived a bit, though. His eyes flit back and forth and his knees bounced constantly.
“I gotta pee.” I jumped at the sudden sound.
“Congratulations.” I gritted my teeth and refused to turn and look at him.
“There’s a rest stop in two miles, man. We gotta stop.”
I let the silence drag out.
“Come on, Jack, next one is 20 miles! You want your car to smell like piss?”
“That’d be an improvement.” I took a deep, dramatic sniff. “In case you haven’t noticed, you reek like year-old poo poo.”
He laughed. I sighed and flicked on the blinker. I pulled into the closest spot and Tig flung open the door and bolted. I snatched the keys and chased after him. I’d be damned if I let him shoot up in the men’s room again.
Sure enough, he was bee-lining for the stalls when I walked in.
“Nope!” My voice echoed, and Tig stopped with his hand on the stall door.
“You said you had to take a piss. You’re staying where I can see you.”
“Man, what if I gotta take a poo poo?” Tig hadn’t moved.
“Either hold it or go in your pants. You’re not getting any alone time.”
He stared at me, his lips a thin, white line. Then he deflated and stepped over to the urinal.
A moment later, we stepped out into the cool air and three guys straightened from around my car. One of them held an aluminum bat. The guy closest to us grinned. Tig sucked in a breath and froze.
“Well, look who it is!” He stepped up onto the walk. Something bulged in his right jacket pocket. “Thought you’d just leave town, Tig? Where you goin’?”
“Oh, hey Tommy. Didn’t expect to see you here.” Tig dropped his eyes to the cement and jammed his hands into his pockets.
“I bet not,” Tommy said. He turned to me. “The gently caress are you?”
I sharp, white-hot shard of metal seemed to be churning in my gut. I tried to remember how far back the door to the rest stop was, and the family restroom beyond that. Not that it’d matter if he had a gun.
“I grew up with this rear end in a top hat,” I said, jutting a thumb at him. “I’m taking him home to see his mother. She’s got cancer. Who the gently caress are you?”
Tommy turned back to the other two guys and all three of them laughed.
“Yeah, I bet she does.”
Tig shuffled his feet. I could hear him mumbling. All three of the guys were staring at me. Great. I grabbed Tig and pulled him close.
“Who the gently caress are these guys?”
“I owe Tommy some money. He gave me some stuff to sell, and, well...” He sniffed, and a fat tear rolled down his face.
“Hey!” Tommy stepped closer, his face red. “You two can whisper sweet nothings later. We got business to discuss.”
“Look, I don’t know what he did to you three, but if you want him, you got him.” I shoved Tig towards Tommy. His foot caught the cement, and he stumbled head-first into Tommy’s nose. Tommy reared back, screaming and clutching his face. A gout of blood poured between his fingers.
“Ah, poo poo!” I grabbed Tig’s elbow before he fell and hauled him toward the car. The guy with the bat stepped up, and I dropped my shoulder and plowed into him. All three of us went down, and I heard the guy’s rib pop. I clawed to my feet and shoved Tig into the back seat. I slammed into reverse as the third guy opened the passenger door. The door swung wide and then thundered shut as I spun the wheel. I heard three sharp pops and the rear-window exploded. I floored it, cut off a semi coming off the ramp, and saw it twist and jack-knife behind us. I watched it tip in the rearview mirror, covering both lanes and the shoulder. I hoped the driver was alright, but I couldn’t help but feel relieved.
I caught the next exit, made a few random turns until the turnpike was buried behind trees and hills, and parked. Tig stared up at me from the backseat, panting. I got out and stalked away. I heard the door open, his footsteps rush up behind me. When I figured he was close enough, I spun and shot out my fist. His head snapped back and thin trickle of blood ran over his lips.
“What the gently caress was that?” I took a step toward him and he scrambled back.
“Take it easy, Jack! I didn’t know they’d follow me. I’m sorry!”
“Who the gently caress are they?”
He collapsed to the blacktop and blubbered. I stepped over and squatted in front of him.
“Is your ma even sick, Tig?” My voice was gentle, but he flinched like I’d screamed.
He paused, sniffled.
“She died two years ago.”
I was on the turnpike in five minutes. I never looked back. I pulled into the drive just as the sun peaked over the horizon. I dug an old box out of the closet and found the picture in moments; two young boys sitting at a table, candles still smoking on the cake before them. I traced their grins with my eyes, sighed, and shredded the picture in two.
|# ¿ Mar 14, 2016 01:57|
|# ¿ Mar 22, 2016 00:53|
Roy 392 words
She should have been home an hour ago. Dinner sits on the stove uneaten. You sit at the table with your fist pressed into your cheek, waiting. It’s the third time this week.
It’s been this way ever since the firm let you go. Tina spends all day on her feet for minimum wage, then comes home and bitches that you haven’t done anything, no matter how clean the house is. You’ve held off foreclosure, but the pile of bills on the table grows daily.
You notice the quiet and straighten in your chair. You can’t remember the last time you heard Jack’s laughter. You bolt to the back door and stare out at an empty yard with a frozen heart. The woods loom at the edge of your property, and the sun does not shine through the canopy. It is a wall of shadow.
“Jack!” Your voice echoes and is swallowed up by the woods. You hear no response.
You glance back at the stove. The clock reads five past eight. Only an hour until the sun sets. And Tina could be home any minute.
You sprint toward the woods screaming Jack’s name. After two hundred feet, you’re swallowed by dim twilight.
You cross a narrow deer-path and turn to follow it. There’s no reason to believe it’s the right way, but something in the bare soil packed solid underfoot pulls you along. You run despite the low-hanging branches whipping your face. A trickle of blood blurs the vision of your left eye.
You come to an empty clearing and stop, hands braced on your knees. Jack sits Indian-style before a large black rock, jagged and sharp. He caresses the edges with his fingers and giggles. His head is turned like he’s listening to something.
You take a step forward and his head snaps up. He grins wide when he sees you and leans back from the rock.
“Christ, Jackie, you had me so worried.” You bend, pick him up. “Let’s get home before mommy sees we’re gone!”
You never see the jagged rock in his hands. There’s a blur of motion as his arm whips up, then an explosion of white.
You lie on your back and stare up into Jackie’s blank eyes. He grins and raises the rock over his head.
“I love you daddy!”
The rock comes down.
Tina 493 words
Coming home was never easy. Don’t get me wrong, my feet ached and I looked forward to sitting down in Roy’s tattered old chair. But my heart ached every time I saw the place since he died.
I came in and tossed my purse on the dinner table. Jackie’s backpack hung off one of the chairs. I tossed a frozen pizza in the oven, set the alarm, and headed upstairs to let him know dinner would be ready soon. I opened his door to find Rita Billings, naked, back arched, on his bed, with his face between her legs.
I screamed “Oh!” and spun to face the hall. Rita screamed herself, and I heard them both scurry to find their clothes. My face flushed deep red.
“Damnit Jack! I told you, you aren’t allowed to have girls over when I’m not home!”
Rita pushed past me, her face gray, and she fled down the stairs. The door slammed. I turned to find Jack sitting on the bed with his face in his hands.
“I’m sorry, ma. I know, and I’m sorry.”
“Sorry doesn’t cut it, Jack. We’ll talk in a bit. I need to go cool off. Turn off the pizza when it buzzes, will you?”
I didn’t wait for his answer. A moment later I was deep in the woods, kicking through tangles of vines and branches.
“Damnit, Roy!” I snapped a thin branch from a tree and whipped the trunk. “drat you for leaving, you dumb clumsy gently caress!” I hit the tree until the branch snapped and sagged against the scored bark.
I don’t know how long I wandered. When I found the clearing, the sun was well on its way down. A big, black rock jutted out from the grass. It had been years since I came out here, but that rock looked the same. Something balanced on its top. I stepped closer. It was a skull, some sort of rodent. Something crunched underfoot. Skulls ringed the stone, a new circle every few feet. There were dozens of them. I pressed a hand over my mouth and my knees gave out. I plopped onto the grass next to the stone, not far from where they’d found Roy. I heaved a few breaths and then tried to stand, using the rock for support.
When I touched it, my vision went black. Images flashed in my head and were gone. I stood naked with blood red lines curving under my breasts and down my sternum. I held a wriggling cat and bit deeply into its guts as it yowled and scratched. I knelt over Roy’s corpse, green and rotting, and slipped his boney fingers inside me.
I snatched back my hand, screaming, and scrambled away. I hit a tree and stopped, squeezed my eyes shut, and sobbed until the visions faded. When I opened my eyes, Jack stood before me. He held a huge knife.
“You shouldn’t have come out here, mom.”
Jack 478 words
Roy sat at the table with paper and crayons. His tongue poked out the side of his mouth as he drew. Jack sat across from him and watched.
“Grandpa?” The boy waited until Jack said, “Yes?” “Mommy said your mommy ran away when you were a little boy. Is that true?”
“Kind of. I wasn’t a little boy, but she did leave when I was very young.”
“Why?” He’d stopped coloring and stared up at Jack with big eyes.
“Wish I knew, Baloo.” Jack hauled himself up. “I want to show you something. You up for a walk?”
Roy was at the back door before Jack could take a step, bouncing in anticipation. Jack laughed.
“Just take it easy. The old man doesn’t move like he used to.”
The air in the woods was cool and damp, the soil still moist from the last rain. Still, Jack made decent progress. They made the clearing in an hour.
The boy stopped at the edge of the clearing, staring down at something by his feet.
“Grandpa? What’s that?” He pointed.
“Looks like an old raccoon skull.” Jack clapped the boy on the arm and winked.
“There’s more. They’re all around!” Roy stepped back. “I want to go home.”
More than just old ‘coon skulls, if you dig. Jack smiled a small, private smile. He stepped over to the rock, now overgrown with dead leaves and wild grass. With a wince, he eased himself down to the grass beside it. He pried a jagged stone from the soil.
“Hey Baloo. Come on over. I want to show you something.”
Roy shook his head and slunk back into the trees.
“I’m scared, Grandpa. I want to go home.”
Jack smiled. “It’s alright. They’re just old bones. They can’t hurt you.”
Roy took a few hesitant steps, gnawing his lip. Jack sighed and forced a smile.
“Come on!” Jack urged him on. “I’m gonna need a hand up, anyway.”
Roy edged his way over. The second he was close enough, Jack snapped a hand out and clamped down on his wrist. He yanked the boy close. Roy tugged and pulled, but Jack’s hands were practiced, their grip tight despite arthritis.
He shoved the boys hand down onto the rock. Roy’s eyes went blank and he sagged to the ground.
When he came to, he grinned wide. His eyes were feral.
Jack put the stone in Roy’s hands.
“Your mother will be here soon. Do you want to show her what we found?”
“Yes! Can we go get her?” He took a step back toward the house.
“Of course!” Jack started to rise. He got as far as his hands and knees when the world exploded into white sparks. Something trickled into his eyes.
“I saw it, Grandpa.” Roy’s breath was hot in his ear. “Saw everything you did!” Another crash, and then blackness.
|# ¿ Mar 28, 2016 00:53|
Thanks for the crit!
|# ¿ Apr 7, 2016 04:32|
Thanks for the crit!
|# ¿ May 12, 2016 16:19|
|# ¿ May 31, 2016 01:37|
WEDNESDAY GOONS HERE IS YOUR FLASHRULE
Primary sense of smell, secondary sense of hunger
|# ¿ Jun 2, 2016 02:43|
Prompt: A man agonizes over his potatoes
Wednesday Flash: Senses of Smell and Hunger, brawl vs Ziji
Hope Takes Root 960 words
The worst part about waking up was the smell. Before I opened my eyes, even before the pain slid back into place, it greeted me. A thick, wet, sour smell. Rotting meat. Rotting me.
The scenery hadn’t changed much in the last forty-eight hours. I still lay on the crumpled ceiling of the jeep. My femur still jutted from my leg, although the skin had turned green and foul smelling pus leaked from the wound. Rick still dangled from the driver’s seat, hanging limp against the seat belt with a purple, bulging face. His intestines draped from a gash in his stomach.
It couldn’t be much past dawn, but the interior of the jeep shimmered with heat. Rick stank, and the humidity magnified the smell until it was all encompassing. I’d thought, after the first day, that I’d get used to it. I remembered the hippo house at the zoo when I was a boy. It reeked like wet poo poo when I walked in, but by the time I left I’d stopped noticing. Rick beat out the hippos.
My stomach squelched and I grimaced at the pang of hunger. I looked over at the small sack sitting just under Rick. I could see the potatoes through the loose opening. I’d intended to sell them when we reached the village. Now they were covered with blood and god knows what fluids from Rick’s body. I let out a long sigh and stared at them.
I could reach them, if I tried. Moving would mean the burning pain in my leg and hips would be stoked to a white hot rage, but they were just a couple feet away. I licked my cracked lips. I tore my eyes away from the potatoes and looked out the window.
Not much had changed there, either. I could see the sharp incline of the mountain we’d fallen from. Trees and foliage obscured the rest. If I moved my face closer to the window, I could smell a faint trace of the blooming orchids. I spent a lot of time with my face close to the window.
I woke up and blinked. The sun had risen to its zenith, and the jeep sweltered. I couldn’t remember falling asleep. Something liquid dripped and spattered over and over. I turned my head.
A dingy brown liquid dripped from Rick’s hair and hands onto the potatoes. The sack was damp, and each drop hit with a liquid smack. The smell had swollen in the heat. Putrefying skunks would have been preferable. At the same time, my stomach growled at the sight of the bag.
“No.” I twisted away. Pain flared in my hips, and I screamed through gritted teeth. I lay there panting, staring up at my seat, breathing through my mouth as much as I could. The smell coated my tongue, and I was glad my mouth was too dry to swallow.
At first, I didn’t recognize the sound of the engine. All I heard was a distant purr. I slowed my breathing and strained to hear. By the time I heard the wheels grinding on the dirt road somewhere above us, I’d pulled my head out the open window. I could smell the trees, the flowers, and the faint tang of gasoline.
My memories of the crash itself were scattered. I remembered Rick screaming as he pumped the brakes and the sudden weightless feeling that made my stomach leap into my chest. After that, just noise. I had no idea if we’d gone through a guardrail or how much evidence of our fall there would be on the road.
“Hey!” The scream tore at my throat, but I kept it up. “Hey! Down here! Help!”
I screamed until all I could produce was a formless yowl that left the taste of blood in my mouth. The sound of the wheels never stopped. A dust cloud blew out from the mountain way above me. An hour later, the car came by again. I had just as much luck. I clenched my jaw and forced myself back inside.
I gagged as the smell overtook me. I twisted onto my side and a thin gruel of bile spilled from my mouth. It smelled like rancid wine and blood. My throat burned. I lay back down and sobbed until I passed out.
My stomach woke me up. It gurgled and growled constantly. It felt like someone had jammed a vacuum hose down my throat and sucked out my insides.
I looked over at the sack. A dark stain had covered most of it. Only a thin strip of the brown burlap showed at the bottom. I stared for a long time.
The bag squelched when I grabbed it, and my hand was coated with a greasy liquid. It left a rust-colored smear when I dragged it over. The rank smell of rotten meat and poo poo baked in the humid July heat engulfed me. My throat clenched. I grabbed a potato. It was discolored and coated with slime, and it squished in my grip. The white flesh beneath the skin was stained brown. I flung it away.
The next was the same. And the next. After I’d thrown five out of easy reach, I started piling the rejects close by. Just in case.
Not one of them was unstained. They sat in a pile, each dented where my fingers had sank into their surface, each browned and reeking.
My stomach screamed for food.
I kept thinking about the car. They’d be back. We were expected two days ago. They’d be looking for us. They had to.
I picked up the least stained potato. The smell of it rolled my stomach. I reached up and pinched my nose shut and bit into it.
|# ¿ Jun 5, 2016 14:37|
I actually decided after I made that post that critting itself is a skill and I'd like to get better at it. So I did!
Thanks for the crit!
Will be going through a couple crits of my own once I get a chance to sit down and do it.
|# ¿ Jun 7, 2016 03:42|
Ok, I decided to scroll through the stories that hadn’t been critiqued in depth and pick one at random. I picked Ironic Twist’s Unknown.
I really enjoyed the first bit, especially the first line. It hooked me and set a nice anticipatory mood. The image of the jumbotrons really set an imposing image, almost menacing. The reveal of Audrina was well done, but I felt robbed when it all turned out to be a glorified MC gig. Total anti-climax.
Also, I know BPM stands for the Beatific Presence Monolith, but every goddamn time I read it as beats per minute. Maybe that was intentional, since the heart-beats of the ranked seems to play a role in the whole thing, but I found it distracting.
Once I got past that, though, the slow build to Audrina jumping ship after Unknown made #1 worked. Her mental breakdown and escape at the end was a bit muddled, though. It took a couple read-throughs before I really got a sense of what was going on, and even then I wasn’t positive until I followed it with the final scene again. Of course, that might just be me being a dumbass.
You definitely skirted around on the “can’t be depressing” part of your flashrule. (The two souls part is a bit of a stretch, too.) A large part of it, the hangers on, the desperate clinging to celebrity, the slow breakdown as it all slipped away, was pretty grim. It did end on a hopeful note, but she still seems a bit broken.
Overall, I enjoyed it. The dream sequences were fun, and I barely noticed the massive word-count once I got over my initial reaction of “Oh, gently caress this.”
|# ¿ Jun 9, 2016 01:53|
Thanks for the crits!
|# ¿ Jun 10, 2016 05:21|
It's been too long. In
|# ¿ Jul 12, 2016 09:17|
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.
“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.
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?”
|# ¿ Jul 17, 2016 20:04|
Thanks for the crits!
|# ¿ Jul 20, 2016 15:47|
And now, for the next meeting of the THUNDERTOME BOOK CLUB, something a bit less dense, but no less good.
In! Hopefully this time I'll be able to read the book and show up for the meeting portion. So far, I've only pulled off step one.
|# ¿ Jul 23, 2016 02:45|
In, #3 Here comes the bogeyman
|# ¿ Sep 14, 2016 05:20|
The Guest 1,062 words
Johnny had just snagged his first fish on the line when he saw the man across the river. Despite the late-August heat, the man wore a long coat and hat. Shadows hid his face. Johnny froze, the line tugging the rod. Then he shook his head and began reeling it in. Moments later, he hauled a tiny fish out of the water. He sighed, pried the hook from the thing’s jaw, and dropped it back into the river.
When he looked up, the man was gone. He scanned the riverbank in both directions and found nothing. A slow, creeping sensation, like a crawling spider, ran up his spine. A five mile trek separated him from home, with half of it through the woods. He knew there was no bridge across for two miles in either direction, but he packed up his rod and bait anyway.
Half an hour later, he emerged from the forest where the trail hit Hawthorn Street. He darted a look left and right. Mr. Earling was walking his dog across the street, but otherwise it was empty. Johnny waved, Mr. Earling nodded, and Johnny turned left toward home.
He turned onto Main two blocks later, and the man was there. He leaned on the wall of Ed’s Ice Cream. The dark coat fluttered. The man’s head was turned to watch the corner. Johnny felt his eyes on him. He took a deep breath and forced himself to walk. The man’s head swivelled to watch. Halfway down the block, Mr. Hewitt stepped out of his hardware store.
“Mr. Hewitt!” Johnny rushed toward him, the rod swinging wildly. He dropped the bait box on the sidewalk as he reached the old man. “Who is that across the street?”
Mr. Hewitt’s face scrunched up as he turned to look.
“Who you talkin’ about, son?”
The man was gone. No sign of him in either direction.
“I...he was there. Right in front of Ed’s.”
Mr. Hewitt looked a Johnny a long moment. Thin lines crinkled in the corners of his eyes.
“Well, he ain’t there now. Best you be gettin’ home.”
Johnny stared up at him with his mouth agape as the old man turned and stepped back into his shop. The door slammed with a sharp clack.
On the other side of town, Main turned into a long dirt road known only as Rt. 3. There were no intersections or driveways for a mile, just a line of unbroken scrub brush and trees blocking the sight of endless acres of corn. At the end of that mile was Johnny’s driveway. He managed fifty yards, turning every couple feet to check the road behind him, before mounting dread filled his feet and he began to run. He still glanced behind him every few steps, each time expecting the dark figure to step out from behind a tree, or to just be there, inches behind him and reaching. His foot caught on a rock and he tumbled to the dirt. Sharp pain bloomed in his knee, and the rod broke with a harsh snap. Something trickled down his calf, and a dark red stain seeped into his jeans. Johnny flung to shattered rod into the brush, hesitated, and kicked the bait box after it. When he looked back up the road, the man stood there, ten yards back. The shadows still hid his eyes, but Johnny could see his mouth. It pulled back in a grin, lips this white strips bordering yellowed teeth. He had pale, grey skin with no sign of stubble.
“Where are you going, boy?” The voice rasped, like a snake sliding over sandpaper.
Jonny hobbled back a step, then turned and broke into a lurching run. The man’s gritted laughter followed behind.
He reached his driveway and raced toward the house. His lungs burned. Each step brought new fire in his legs. Sweat ran into his eyes.
When he was halfway down the driveway, his mother stepped out on to the porch. Johnny forced himself to move faster, leaping up the porch steps and into her arms.
“My god, Johnny, what’s the matter?” She held him back and looked him up and down. “What happened to your leg?”
“The man...” Johnny gasped for air, trying to force the words out between gulps. “...followed me...saw him at the stream...right behind me.” He turned and pointed back up the driveway. No one was there. They both stood there for a long moment, waiting. No one turned in. An old, rusted out pickup drove by, leaving a trail of dust.
“Well, whoever he was, he must be gone now. We’ve got company coming, you get upstairs and clean up. Make sure you clean out the cut on your knee, and don’t you get blood on the carpet!” She ushered him inside and toward the stairs.
He stripped down and took a shower, wincing whenever the water touched his shredded knee. After, he wiped the torn skin with peroxide and covered as much of the was skin as he could with bandages. Back in his room, he put on fresh clothes and stared out the door, then stopped. He looked back, toward his window. Part of him wanted to go to it, to look outside. His room looked over the backyard. Maybe the man circled through the corn. Maybe he was out there right now. He reached toward the door handle, grasped it, and paused. He let it go and crossed the room. Each step brought his heart a little higher in his chest.
The yard was empty. The swings moved in the breeze, like ghost children, but there was nothing else.
“Johnny!” His mother’s voice came up from the stairs. “Our guest is here! Come on down!”
Relief surged through his chest and he hurried down the stairs. He hit the bottom, turned to the living room, and screamed. The man sat on the couch, still wearing the coat, but his hat was gone. Johnny’s mother sat across from him in a worn armchair. She grinned wide, but her eyes were glassy and blank. The man turned to him. Lank, greasy hair hung loose across his pale face. He had no eyebrows. No hair on his face at all. His eyes were mottled orange, and he grinned when he saw Johnny.
“Come on, son. Take a seat.”
|# ¿ Sep 19, 2016 01:25|
Thanks for the crits!
|# ¿ Sep 23, 2016 06:44|
So far I'm 4/4 on reading the book and missing the meeting. Been really enjoying the books, though. I'll be picking this one up, too.
|# ¿ Sep 24, 2016 03:48|
Guiness13 fucked around with this message at 02:16 on Oct 12, 2016
|# ¿ Oct 11, 2016 13:29|
A Night Out 1,484 words
Ypsilanti, MI Gothic
John sat across from me with one arm sprawled on the table, his hand curled around a half-empty bourbon. The other arm propped up his head. His eyelids drooped down, and every once in a while, his head nodded before he jerked it upright. I could smell the booze on his breath with each exhalation.
My own drink was still full. He’d ordered another round while I was in the bathroom, and I hadn’t decided whether to drink or not. The amber liquid shook, then began to slosh close to the brim. I looked at it with a frown until I heard the blast of a train whistle, then picked up the glass before it could spill.
A moment later, an Amtrak blew by while the whole building rattled around me. John turned his head to stare out the window, grunted, then dragged his glass to his lips. He drained it with a wince.
“I think it’s time to go.” I flagged down our waitress. I handed her my card, and she gave me a brief smile before flashing a glare at John. Christ, I didn’t want to know what he’d done while I was off pissing.
“Not gonna finish that?” He pointed at my drink.
“No. I told you I’d had enough.”
He reached for it and I snatched it back.
“You’ve had enough, too.”
“gently caress you, Greg.” He sagged back in his chair, pouting. “That’s what Rita said. Had enough of me drinking.”
I squeezed my eyes shut and took a deep breath.
The waitress brought my receipt. I stood and shrugged into my coat. John staggered to his feet, bowling into the back of the guy at the next table. I muttered an apology and threw John’s arm over my shoulders.
Outside, the street was empty. Leaves blew in the gutter. I steered John toward the crosswalk, but the railroad signal lit up and started tolling. A giant engine lumbered into view. I could see cars stretching far down the tracks.
“Let’s sit you down.” I turned him toward a bench, and he shoved away from me.
“Hell with that. It’s cold. I wanna take a walk.” He turned and listed down the sidewalk. I watched him go half a block before I followed. This whole night was a mistake.
I hung back far enough not to crowd him, but close enough I could reach him if he tripped. He headed right for the stairs down into Frog Island park. I grabbed his elbow.
“You’re going to kill yourself if you try those stairs. Let’s cross the bridge and go down the ramp.” I pulled him toward the sidewalk, but he jerked back.
“gently caress that. I’m not that drunk.” He clutched the railing and took the stairs in slow, methodical steps. Behind me, the railroad signal stopped and the guardrails rose. I sighed and followed him down.
The boardwalk over the river creaked as we made our way across. Beneath, the Huron burbled over stones and around old fallen trees that looked more like giant pieces of driftwood. John lurched his way to the opposite bank and staggered on into the park. He walked right up to the bank and plopped down in the frosted grass.
“Though you were cold,” I said.
“Head ‘s spinning.” He bent and cradled his head in his hands.
“I need to piss.” I headed toward the only structure in the park, a covered pavilion with a brick building on one end. “Try not to puke on yourself while I’m gone.”
I could kill Lisa for putting me up to this. I’d never liked her brother. He’d drunk himself out of U of M, wound up in some shithole apartment, and been utterly shocked when his fiancé left him over it. I’d agreed to take him out and try to cheer him up. Now I was stuck babysitting.
The bathrooms were locked, so I stepped behind the building and unzipped. When I finished, two men stood on either side of John. Both wore dark hoodies and black pants. They were hauling John upright by the elbows. John snatched one arm back and staggered. The man stepped forward and drove his fist into John’s face. John’s knees buckled. He only kept his feet because the other man still held him up.
“Hey!” My voice echoed through the empty park. Both men froze, their gazes locked onto me. I stormed over with clenched fists. The man who hit John stepped forward with one hand extended, palm up. As I reached him, he blew. White powder swirled out of his hand and coated my face. I gasped. Bitterness filled my mouth. My nose burned. Tears filled my eyes. Nausea rolled over me. I had the vague sensation of falling. Stars burst in my eyes when my head hit the ground. Darkness bled in from the corners of my vision. The last thing I remembered were vice-like hands grabbing my ankles and the feeling of the grass sliding under me.
I woke shivering on wet ground. The smell of moldering plants and rancid water filled my nose. I tried to roll. Course rope bound my hands and ankles. A sack covered my head, the opening tied tight around my throat.
A low chanting filled the air. Somewhere among the murmuring, John was sobbing.
I strained at the bonds around my wrists, twisting my hands, trying to free one. Sharp heat bloomed in my wrists, and a warm trickle ran up my arm.
I heard a wet plop. A huge buzzing, like a frog on steroids, pierced the night. The chanting rose. John’s voice rose above the noise, shrill and intense.
“Jesus! Jesus, what the gently caress?”
Something scuttled through dried reeds. The buzzing came in excited chirrups, cycling faster and faster. John screamed once. There was a sudden snap, and the scream turned into a wet, choking whistle. I heard the reeds snap and break, then a loud splash, and silence swept in.
Rough hands grabbed my arms. I squirmed, but someone else grabbed my ankles and put a booted foot on my knees. He pulled my feet up and pain shot through my legs. I froze. A cold blade slipped between my wrists, jerked, and my hands were free. Another sharp tug freed my ankles. Hands pinned my arms and legs, and a knife slipped between my neck and the cinched bag. I held my breath. The blade twisted, the edge scraping at my skin. Then it pulled away, hard and fast. The sack went loose, but a bright ribbon of pain burned on my throat. I clutched at the wound, expecting jets of blood, but found just a few drops had welled up. A hand clutched the end of the sack and yanked it off, pulling a clump of hair with it.
I blinked. A dozen hooded figures knelt over me. One leaned in close, and I saw a small, cherubic face framed in the hood. He grinned, looking almost friendly.
“I’m so sorry you got involved in this. We only needed one, and your friend was a prime candidate. A drunk, alone in the park at night? Who knows what could have happened to him?” He sighed and gave a little shrug. “Unfortunately, you’re here now, and it will not mind another sacrifice.”
He gestured to the other men. Blades glinted in the air above me. They tore into my clothing, slicing through sleeves, pant-legs, my underwear. Goosebumps crawled over my flesh. Two of the men grabbed my arms and hauled me to my feet. They dragged me to a muddy clearing separated from a swamp by about fifty feet of dried reeds. A puddle in the middle of the clearing reflected pink moonlight. My stomach turned. Two paths had been rent through the reeds.
The men kicked the backs of my knees and I collapsed into the mud. The cherubic man began chanting, and the others joined him. Bubbles rose in the swamp.
Something crawled ashore. Spindly arms and legs stuck out at odd angles. The stabbed up into the night as it edged through the reeds. That frog-like croak rang from its throat.
The man to my left released my arm and stepped away. Before the other could do the same, I whipped my arm over and grabbed his wrist. Sudden movement flashed at the corner of my eye and I yanked the man in front of me. He shrieked, and then two claws burst through his throat. He choked, wide-eyed with shock, and then flew backward as the thing retreated for the water.
Shocked silence surrounded me. I shot to my feet and charged the man at the end of the semi-circle surrounding me. I hit dead center with my shoulder and swept past into the woods. Branches whipped me. I could hear them shouting behind me. Somewhere in the distance, headlights flashed by.
|# ¿ Oct 17, 2016 00:54|
In with Investigator
|# ¿ Oct 17, 2016 15:49|
Prompt: The investigation of an unknown, undisclosed power source within Voidmart.
All Paths Lead to the End 1,177 words
Daily Report Log
Agent Ralph Fitzsimmons, Department of Energy
Finished Voidmart new employee training with no issues. May take longer than expected to locate source of power supply. Backroom is a warren of shelving, unpacked pallets, and back-hallways. I’ve been set to counting inventory in the electronics cage. Hard to get away except for breaks, especially since my supervisor hovers over my shoulder. Never says much. Guy looks like he hasn’t slept in days. Always watching, though.
Lucky break. Assigned to clear some long-neglected pallets in a far corner. There’s a stairwell close by. Only seen three people go in or out, all assistant managers. Will wait for my chance to sneak in.
Missed a couple of opportunities, but made it in today. Two AMs were arguing about something while they headed down. Couldn’t make out what, aside from one raising his voice to say, “He should have been back by now.” They were so focused on each other, they never noticed me slip in behind them. Hoping the access card you provided works down here.
Day 6, cont.
I’m sure this is the right place. The atmosphere down here feels off. I haven’t seen anyone since I ducked into a room to avoid the AMs, but I’d swear there was someone watching me every second. I’m hunkered down in a janitorial closet for the night. Took a risk and barricaded the door. There’s dust on everything in here, so it’s not likely anyone will come in, but I’d rather have some warning.
Spent the whole day searching, and I don’t think I’ve covered a quarter of the hallways down here. It’d be hard to say for certain, though. They’re all the same cement walls with a single track of lighting running overhead. The doors are all evenly spaced, so each hall looks identical to the last. It’s going to be a bitch getting out.
**all data saved for later retrieval**
Spotted another AM and followed her. Never seen anyone move like that. I couldn’t stay too close or risk being spotted, but I had to hustle to keep up. Seemed like every time I reached a corner, all I saw was a flash of her shoe as she turned the next.
Followed her all the way to a second staircase, further down. The stairs were metal, so I crept down as quietly as I could. She was gone by the time I reached the bottom. Everything feels closer down here. The ceiling almost brushes my head when I stand upright. The track lighting is gone. Now there’s a bare bulb every dozen feet. The space between is dark.
Still feel the eyes on me. The worst is crossing the shadows between lights. I keep spinning around, expecting something to be on my six. Haven’t spotted anything yet.
Stopping for the day, even though my watch says it’s just after five. Tired.
Hope you fuckers are happy. Spent the last days wandering through hall after hall. Got lucky and found some old vending machine fillers, so at least I’m not running out of food. Stale chips are hardly my ideal meal, but I could only carry so much with me when I came down. I better get a drat raise for this whe...
Day 11, cont.
I want out.
I want out, you bastards!
There’s something down here. I haven’t seen it, but it’s been on my rear end all day. I started the last report in a small connecting hallway with a door on each side. All I heard at first was slithering, like a giant snake coming down the hall outside. Then the door pushed in on the latch, once, twice. I heard wet breathing on the other side. When the handle turned, I bolted for the other door. I was through and running before it got the door open. I stopped paying attention to the turns, stopped trying to be quiet. All I could hear was that breathing, the slithering, and my own gasps for air. I found a hatch in the floor, like the cap on a submarine. That part...I was sure that thing would round the last corner while I spun that drat wheel. Practically fell down the ladder. Didn’t even think about shutting the hatch behind me. I lay there at the bottom, staring up at a circle of light, trying to catch my breath. Sure I was hosed. The circle blacked out. I couldn’t even scream. My breath caught in my lungs. But it never came through.
It was too big.
I don’t know how long I lay there. Long enough to be sure I should be dead. When I rolled over, a postcard lay in the dirt floor beside me. A picture of two metal coils with a bolt of electricity was on the front. On the back, someone had wrote, “The future seems dim, but we’re sure you’ll power through somehow.”
Get me the gently caress out.
All the floors slope down. All the halls curve to the left. All paths lead to the end.
Holed up in a crack in the wall. Trying to get some sleep. The chips and candy bars are almost gone. I’m so tired, but I can’t sleep. Something shuffled by in the hall. Dragging something behind it. A tail? A person? Couldn’t see. Thank Christ.
According to my watch, it’s three in the afternoon. It occurs to me that I never punched out before heading down here. Think of all the overtime.
I found it. For all the good it’s going to do me, I found it. At the end of the hall. Huge room, reeked of sewage and rotting meat. The dirt floor turned to muck. At the far end, the wall...the wall shimmered. Like a heat mirage. Thick cables and pipes fed out and up into the ceiling. And then something came through. It looked something like a lizard, but about the size of a bear. It had too many legs. They jutted out at all sides. They cracked and shuddered as it moved. It hissed when it saw me.
I ran. Been running most of the day. Don’t know how much longer I can. Every time I stop to catch my breath, I hear that crackling behind me. Can’t tell how close. Sound carries funny around the curve. Even if I outrun it, the are still things ahead. There’s a voice in my head telling me to stop. To just wait. Let it be over.
My legs burn. Something popped in my knee an hour ago. I’m slowing down. My mouth tastes like copper. I keep trying to spit, but I can’t get any moisture. I keep telling myself, the crack is still ahead. If I can reach it, maybe I can hide. But I keep answering, you passed it. Passed it hours ago. There’s only one way this ends.
|# ¿ Oct 24, 2016 01:05|
In. Beast me
|# ¿ Nov 16, 2016 04:01|
Chimera. Flash rule: Its heads disagree over a small matter.
Of Two Minds 1,091 words
If Sebastian knew anything, it was that a giant pile of chewed bones outside the mouth of a cave was a bad sign. The thick scent of decay didn’t speak too highly of the situation either. Any other day, he’d turn on his heel and creep back to town as quietly as he could manage. Today, though, he clutched his empty knapsack close to his body and forced his feet toward the gaping cavern.
Light disappeared after the first bend, and Sebastian stumbled forward with one hand on the wall. After a moment, he noticed a faint glow ahead.
The narrow tunnel opened up into a large chamber. A thin shaft of light shone through a crack in the ceiling. The plink of falling water echoed through the cave. At the center of the cavern stood a rough-hewn pedestal. On it lay a large, red stone.
Sebastian inched forward. The whole time, he swiveled his head back and forth, eyes wide.
Just as he reached the pedestal, a deep voice boomed through the chamber.
“Who dares approach the Stone of Ypsilanus?”
Sebastian whirled, arms clutched to his chest.
“For love of the Gods, Augustus, do you have to do that every time?” said a second voice, sounding bored.
“It’s part of the job, Mantaurus!” The first voice again, now hushed and intense. “Perhaps if you showed some level of enthusiasm--”
“The boy is still here.”
A deep growl filled the chamber. Sebastian took another step from the pedestal.
He froze when a massive bulk stepped into the light. It had the hindquarters of a bull, but it’s chest and forepaws were that of a bear. What froze a scream in Sebastian’s throat, however, were its two heads. On the right, the maned head of a lion, its eyes glinting. On the left, a ram with huge, curled horns.
Sebastian did what many young boys faced with such a beast would do; he screamed, took a scrambled step backward, and fell hard on his rump.
The ram rolled its eyes.
“See? I told you, it’s too much. We’re not going to get anywhere with you carrying on like that.”
The light in Augustus’s eyes flared, but he stayed focused on Sebastian. The creature padded closer, until both heads were all Sebastian could see.
“Who are you, boy?” Augustus said.
“It’s alright, child. He’s not going to eat you.”
“Sebastian, from Hilltop.”
“That hovel at the bottom of the hill?” Mantaurus snorted a laugh. “Gods, another one.”
“Why are you here?” Augustus’s gaze never faltered. Sebastian wanted to crawl away, but his arms had taken up root.
“My sister. She’s dying. They say the stone here can heal anything. I...I thought--”
“Thought you’d save the day, eh?” Mantaurus’s face twisted into a grin. “Not that simple.”
“But she’s just a babe, and--”
“And nothing,” Augustus said. “The stone holds great power. Too great for anyone to possess.”
“You wouldn’t even know how to use it.”
Sebastian had never been a brave boy. Milking cows and tilling fields had been his life. But the thought of Tessa burning up in her crib while this thing dismissed him burned in his gut. He sat a bit straighter and frowned.
“Maybe not, but you could tell me.”
“Oh! I like that!” Mantaurus turned to Augustus and nudged the lion’s head with his horn. “He has a point there.”
“No.” Augustus shook his head. “We could not.”
“Could not? Or will not?” Now Sebastian leaned towards the lion’s face. His cheeks burned, but he held tight to the image of Tessa. “I’m only asking for the chance to save my sister.”
“And what then?” Augustus growled. “When you walk into town with the stone of legend and heal your sister, will you just walk back up here and return it?”
“Easy to say, boy.” The lion snorted, then the beast settled back onto its haunches. Sebastian stood slowly, ready to leap back should the thing make any move.
“What my friend means to say is that it is not so simple as that.” Mantaurus offered a weak smile. “Many have come seeking the stone. I’m sure you noticed a few of them on the way in. Not everyone has such pure intentions.
“The stone has power, and not just to heal. We guard it because that power will one day be needed, and it must be here when it is. If you took it, you may do as you say, or you may not. But we are bound to this cave. We could not protect it if you changed your mind. Or if someone else stopped you and took it.”
“How will you know?” Sebastian said.
Augustus jerked his head back.
“When it’s time?” Sebastian gestured to the stone. “You said it would be needed one day. How will you know when?”
The two heads looked at each other.
“Do you not know?” Sebastian stepped forward. “If you don’t know when it’s needed, it could be now.”
“What?” Both heads spoke in unison for a moment, then started talking over each other.
“For some peasant girl?” Augustus said.
“That’s impossible!” Mantaurus said.
“Why not?” Sebastian reached out and put a hand on the side of each face. “She might just be a peasant, but who knows what she will be in the future? Why does she have to die?”
The two heads were silent for a long time. They looked at each other, at Sebastian, at the stone lying on its pedestal.
“Maybe,” said Augustus, at the same time as Mantaurus said, “No.”
Mantaurus whipped his head around.
“You? Mister ‘How-Dare-You-Approach’ can sit here and say he might be right? We were charged with guarding the stone until it is needed.”
“It is needed. By this boy. He does not seek power, but to save his sister. Who are we to judge his need?”
“Being the guardian, I’d say we’re the ideal people to judge his need!” Mantaurus’s voice hissed.
“No. The boy is right. We are to guard the stone until it is needed. He needs it.” Augustus turned back and cleared his throat. “Sebastian, do you vow to return the stone once your need is fulfilled?”
“Take the stone and hold it to your sister’s forehead. Concentrate on your need and it shall be granted.”
“Thank you!” Sebastian bowed, then retrieved the stone and stuck it in his knapsack. “I’ll bring this right back.”
And he did, but not for a long time.
|# ¿ Nov 21, 2016 03:32|
In, 16th century ad
|# ¿ Nov 22, 2016 14:42|
Prompt: 16th Century
Roanoke 1,795 words
The Croatoan idol lay in ruin in the center of the square. Beside it, a young native boy lay spread eagle, a stone knife jutting from his chest. His head had been stove in. A placard hung beneath the ruined skull. Savage.
John Fairweather stood over the dead boy. He turned and spat, then shook his head in disgust. A crowd of men had gathered. They murmured to themselves.
Mable Smith had found the body just after sunrise heading from the women’s house to the chicken coop. Her screams had woken the village.
“Who did this?” John scanned the faces of his men. Blank eyes stared back at him. When no answer came, he pointed out two men.
“Zachary, William. Get a tarp and wrap the body. And take that sign off him before you do.” He bent, grasped the leather-wrapped handle of the knife, and yanked it free. Thick, dark blood oozed up from the wound.
They arrived at the Croatoan village three hours later, Zachary and William carrying the body between them on a litter. Thatch-roofed huts formed a circle around a large communal firepit. The village was empty. Footprints crisscrossed the dirt.
A lone man sat before the firepit. His back had curved under the weight of his years, his skin wizened, his scalp a mass of scabby flesh with tufts of white hair sticking out at odd angles. He grinned when he saw John, revealing a lone, rotted tooth. Before him lay the shattered pieces of the village’s own idol.
The man spoke in his own tongue, lifting two pieces of the broken idol. John knelt and looked the man in the eye.
“Do you speak English?”
“Some, Englishman.” The old man’s voice was thin and buzzed like a reed.
“What happened here?”
The old man cackled.
“You have broken trust,” he said. “We have left. You will face alone.”
He would say no more. He handed John one piece of the broken idol, wrapping John’s fingers around it.
John stood and faced Zachary and William.
“Leave the body.”
A week later, Mable Smith was found dead. Her body still lay in bed, the blankets pulled up to her chin. When Elizabeth Clarke pulled it away, Mable’s head rolled and fell to the floor. Not a drop of blood stained the sheets.
When John arrived, Hector Pratchett was examining her body. The head had been placed on her pillow.
“It makes little sense, John.” Hector leaned forward, eyes squinted, to examine the wound. “Never seen anything that could cut this cleanly. Not on this island anyway. And the blood. The whole bed should be soaked.”
“Could she have been killed elsewhere?” John inspected the floor around the bed. There were footprints in the dust, but all small enough to be the women.
“She must have been, but Elizabeth Clarke is sure she saw Mable get into bed last night. None of the women recall anyone rising in the night.” Hector straightened.
“God save her soul,” John muttered. “Find two of the boys to dig a grave. I will be back when I can.”
Elizabeth sat weeping on the steps, a cluster of older women around her. John strode past them, heading straight to Thomas Clarke.
“Thomas, I want you to take Elijah and Zachary out south of the village. Search the woods as best you can. Look for any sign of who did this.” John started to turn, when Thomas’s hand clamped down on his shoulder.
“We know who did this, John. Those damned savages.”
“It would surprise me not,” John said, “but we do not know that. If you find anything, fire a shot. I will take William and Edward with me to the north. We’ll scour this island if we must.”
Leaves crunched underfoot as John led the younger men through barren trees. They’d been gone an hour and found no sign of the attacker. Already, Edward grumbled that they were wasting time.
“Are you daft, boy?” John reached back and hauled the boy by his lapels. “A woman lies dead in our home. We do not know who did this, or where they went after. I will not risk another life for the sake of your boredom!”
John shoved him back, and the boy stumbled and fell. A scowl twisted Edward’s face. William grabbed his elbow and hauled him to his feet.
“If there are no more complaints, we’ll continue on.” John turned, and then froze when a shot rang out to the south. John rushed past the two boys, grunting instructions to follow.
Two more shots cracked the air.
“Christ help us,” John muttered. He broke into a run.
Thomas’s tracks led due south from the village with little deviation. John cursed the man for leading his search with so little effort. Until they found the bodies.
Thomas’s body sat upright against a tree with his head in his lap. His face was locked in an expression of mild surprise. Zachary lay on his back, his musket still clenched in one fist. A gaping hole had been torn in his throat. His tongue jutted from the mess and draped over the collar of his shirt. Nothing remained of Elijah’s head but a lumpy gruel of bone and flesh. Not a drop of blood could be found.
Edward retched and disappeared behind a tree.
John knelt by Elijah’s body and picked up his gun. The ramrod jutted from the barrel.
“William,” he said, “circle around. If you find any tracks leaving here, call out.”
The boy’s face had turned grey, but he nodded and set to his task. A moment later, he returned.
“Nothing, John. It’s possible I missed something, but I do not think so.”
John nodded and bit his lip. Then he rose and found Edward, green faced with a trail of vomit down his jacket. He put a hand on the boy’s shoulder and squeezed.
“Are you ready to move?”
Edward nodded, then swiped a tear from the corner of his eye.
“We return to the village. I fear there’s nothing more we can do out here.”
“I thought you said we couldn’t stop searching?” Edward’s voice rasped.
“Three men have died already, and there is no sign of their killer. I have no wish to walk into whatever trap they fell to. We shall have to find another way.”
Neither boy spoke in objection.
John sat at the window with his musket cradled in his arm. The meeting hall had been cleared of its tables, and bedrolls filled the floor behind him. At each window, a man sat with a musket. Every one of them had at least one spare loaded and ready. Hector had a group of boys on the dais, drilling them on reloading.
Outside, a large bonfire blazed in the village square. The buildings he could see were lit with orange light. Shadows danced and flickered everywhere. If something came at them, it would be hard to spot.
John started when a hand clapped down on his shoulder. He spun to find Hector, a tired smile on his face.
“Are you sure all of this is necessary, John?”
“You did not see them. I won’t take any chances.” I turned back to the window.
“Fair enough. But it is a strain on everyone. Poor Elizabeth has been staring at the wall since we moved her here.”
“God be with her,” John muttered. The girl had collapsed when she heard the news about her father.
“How long do we keep this up?” Hector gestured to the rows of bedrolls and tangled blankets.
“Until we know we are safe.”
The fire had burned down to half its size. Half of the square was draped in shadow. John wondered whether he should send men out with more wood.
Behind him, the general burble of conversation had died, replaced by the steady breathing of the village. God help them if any of the watchers had joined them.
A sudden movement drew his eye to the barracks. Something had rounded the corner, but the shadows were deep.
“Be alert!” The sudden sounds of movement in wooden chairs behind him said that a few had indeed nodded off. There would be words in the morning.
“Did you see something?” Hector appeared at John’s shoulder with a musket in hand.
“Movement. By the barracks. Too much shadow to see anything else, yet.”
The quiet stretched. John’s eyes ached. He had to force himself to blink.
“I think I see something!” William’s voice. John turned in time to see glass explode inward and William yanked from his seat. A single scream came through the open window. A single moment of shocked silence stretched until Elizabeth Clarke’s scream shattered it. Men bolted from their chairs to rush to the broken window.
“Back to your positions!” John rose from his seat, but his shouts had no effect. In seconds, twenty men crowded William’s seat. Someone shouted, “My God!”
“Get back to your--” Three windows on the opposite side of the hall blew in. Shadows danced among the people, killing as they moved. The cluster of men turned. A few raised their muskets and fired. Florence Mayweather took a ball just below her chin. Blood spurted from the wound. Another window shattered. Everyone still living was up and fleeing the shades in all directions.
The shadows moved like nothing John had seen before. Each time he took aim at one, it darted so fast he couldn’t track it.
More gunshots roared, adding to the cacophony of screams. John saw Hector, standing alone amid the bedrolls, facing the far wall. He rushed over and spun him around. Hector’s face was gone. His eyes stared out from barren bone. His jaw opened, and he gurgled before falling to his knees.
John saw a flash of light, and then his shoulder exploded in pain. Hot blood poured down his chest, and he couldn’t lift his arm. His musket clattered to the floor. All around him, the dead lay among their severed limbs. He saw no one standing. The screams had all died off.
The three shades crouched before him. Up close, he could see their faces. They were gaunt and angular, inhuman. They reminded him of the shattered idol that had stood in the square. A gift from the Croatoan chief, delivered with a warning; the idol must stand or disaster would befall their village.
John watched them as they bent to the floor. He realized with horror that all of the blood coating the floor was flowing to them. In moments, they rose, and not a drop remained. Two of the beings slipped away. The third rose.
“You were warned,” it hissed. John saw a flash of movement and knew no more.
|# ¿ Nov 28, 2016 05:06|
Thanks for the crits!
|# ¿ Nov 29, 2016 03:19|
|# ¿ Nov 29, 2016 22:12|
|# ¿ Oct 4, 2022 00:19|
|# ¿ Nov 30, 2016 18:38|