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The Unholy Ghost
Feb 19, 2011

by Nyc_Tattoo


Does this prompt have to be written in the form of a news article, or can it be written as a regular story?

EDIT: Got it.

In with "We Flew to Jerusalem and Sold Moody Crystal Meth for Shits and Giggles".

The Unholy Ghost fucked around with this message at Aug 23, 2016 around 20:45

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The Unholy Ghost
Feb 19, 2011

by Nyc_Tattoo


Headline: "We Flew to Jerusalem and Sold Moody Crystal Meth for Shits and Giggles"
Title: No-Doze
Word Count: 1499

Here, in these tunnels, we exist.

I imagine myself buried alive here, sleeping in-between sheets of rock and compact sand, dreaming of time as generations go by; fragrant clay accentuating the idea.

It only takes the thought of one such person, one accidental immortal: buried away and alive some feet away from me. I begin to shiver and squint in the darkness, wanting out.

“Christ.” Christina lights a cigarette some feet away, a lone flash and skritch of blaze in the pitch darkness. “Dare I ask what now?”

“Wait.” She holds up a hand before I can answer. “It’s ghosts, isn’t it? If a place is gonna be haunted, it’s going to be a place like this, right? If that sort of thing bothers you, I don’t know why you even agreed to this assignment…”

“I’m not afraid of ghosts.” I snap back, fumbling around in my pants pockets. “It’s more existential than that. drat phone…”

“Don’t turn your light on.” Christina growls, the flame by her mouth flicking up and done for a moment and casting a hint of her face.

“I can’t see a drat thing,” I complain, “Except your light.”

“The light of your little phone will ruin the ambience of this place.” Christina sighed. “To write the archeological article we need to get a sense of what life was like here three thousand years ago.”

“This was a water tunnel. People didn’t live here.” My hands start to tremble as I imagine a sound winding from somewhere down the corridor.

“Shhhh.” Christina dismisses caustically. “I think I hear something.”

“What?!” I tense. “You too-?”

“Shut up!” Christina demands. “There’s definitely something down this way!”

She starts plunging deeper into the tunnel, the lit tip hanging from her mouth suggesting her movement. I scurry after, growing increasingly afraid of becoming lost in the tunnels. Blindly guided by Christina’s light, I bump several times into the clammy walls and earn another spike of anxiety as I scrape desperately along.

Suddenly the light is gone, and Christina’s voice disappears with a gasp.
In another moment I am taken, and gone too.

***

It was a miracle we had even managed to sneak in there. Apparently the majority of police had been busied by some kind of festival or holiday that was happening in the ancient city. A grand religious event, a distraction.

“Cheer up.” Christina advises as we walk empty streets. “We’re lucky to have made it out with such little trouble.”

I breath in the cool night and let the empty open air wrap around me. “How did we make it out?”

“It’s a simple matter of bribery.” Christina is lighting another cigarette, to make up for the one that was knocked away from her. “The police here don’t really care if some tourists are mucking about in abandoned water tunnels… they have to arrest us in the name of the law, or in the hopes of some goodies. Today, we provided them some goodies.”

“Huhh…” I let out my breath and watch the slightest hint of mist swirling about, forming curving spirals into the atmosphere. It reminds me of the vortex of water created within an experimental vacuum, and thus I’m comforted.

After a moment of silence I decide to ask: “What are we doing now?”

“Well, we didn’t quite get the story we wanted,” Christina shrugs, “But I still have some meth left over.”

“Meth?” I wince. “Did you say meth?”

“Christ, what are you even doing here?” Christina rolls her eyes. “Yes I said meth. With what did you think I was going to bribe a couple a’ foreign police officers with?”

“Something that isn’t illegal?” My breath is starting to become ragged again. Visions of police cars swerving through twisted streets—rolling rolling coming after to arrest me—begin to dart at the edges of my sight.

“Everyone who’s seen enough poo poo enjoys some sort-of drug.” Christina chews at her cigarette. “What with the terrorism stuff here and the Things people are seeing in the tunnels…”

“Things people are seeing in the tunnels?” I repeat, my mind starting to go hazy. “What are you talking about? The tunnels, uh, we were, the article…”

“On the cover we were reporting on some new archeological findings, sure.” Christina stops and begins to dig around in her purse. “On the flip side, I’m more interested in the crypto- side of things.”

I shake my head. “I’m not in the mood for jokes. I can’t… What am I doing here?”

Christina shrugs. “I don’t know. What are you doing here? You wanted a different kind of assignment, here you are. I don’t know who was dumb enough to approve you for this sort-of thing, though.”

“And what, a different kind of assignment is looking for monsters?” I stammer angrily.

“No, this is just my thing. Sometimes I find something, sometimes I don’t. More money if I do.”

We’ve come to a stop in a quiet part of town. There doesn’t seem to be anyone else out, and there’s hardly any lights on in the windows nearby. I can already sense what’s coming out of the purse— Christina confirms it successively:

“How about some meth?”

***

“I don’t think this is meth.” I say quietly, staring into the depths of my coffee.

“What makes you say that?” Christina is reading a local newspaper across from me, her whole self (excepting her hands) hidden by the parchment.

“Well, we’re not losing our poo poo, for one.”

The newspaper shakes as Christina shrugs. “Perhaps you could say this is the ‘good stuff’.”

The door rings. I look up: two familiar-looking men have entered the American-style café, taking a seat in the booth behind Christina, and across from me. They begin talking in Hebrew, or maybe Arabic.

I sip at my coffee and pause, thinking appreciatively about the calm that’s come over us, the peace, the loss of my thoughts. The loss of my thoughts…

Christina puts down her newspaper and sighs. “Hum. Four people found dead near the caves of the old city. It’s similar to the earlier incidents that made me wanna come here.”

I opened my mouth to tell Christina to be quiet, but I realized that for once I wasn’t getting scared at all. I truly felt at peace.

“Is this a certain kind of meth?” I ask, looking back into my coffee.

“Oh ho, the fledgling likes it!” I can feel Christina’s grin beaming into my bent forehead. “I knew you’d like it. Didn’t I say you’d like it? Didn’t I say you’d feel better?”

“I didn’t say I liked it.” I reply, almost irritably.

“You clearly like it.” Christina schmoozes. “You’ve haven’t shaken for the last twenty minutes— that’s the longest since we got off the plane.”

I try to be angry, but I can’t.

“This is a special kind of meth.” Christina whispers in a sultry voice, pushing her finished tea cup to the side of the table. “It cuts you away, shaves you down to your most inherent nature. It removes all of you except for what you are.”

I rub my temple and think about my recent behavior. “Except for what I am. Then what am I?”

“You seem to be…” Christina pauses in faux-thought, “Boring.”

She cackles as someone walks by and takes her cup away. I don’t appreciate the non-joke and so I drink more of my coffee, thinking vaguely of biscotti.

Behind Christina only one man is sitting. Subconsciously I watch him finish his drink, place something in it, and loop past our table, leaving it on our table. Before I can speak the man is looping around and going out the door, following after his companion who had already left.

The cup is full of money.

“Why did you just sell meth to some random people?” I ask flatly.

“Oh-ho! Your mind is cleared up too, huh?” Christina smirks. “I sold for the same reason I do everything: for fun and money.”

More questions come to my mind: When did you arrange this? Where did you get the meth anyway? But I decide they don’t matter. Or, at least, my true nature does.

I lower my head to the table and think of the tunnels. I think of the dreams they’ll inspire in the future, the nightmares I’m sure to have when I’m back to my normal, disastrous self. A dream of the afterlife, of being chased in the dark.

“Do you think we’re dead?”

Christina rolls her eyes. “If we’re dead, why does this feel exactly like being alive?”

I bite my tongue and feel a dulled sense of pain.

Christina rubs her chin and starts to philosophize mockingly. “If death is the same as life… then death would no longer be death, would it? The whole point of death is to be the end of life. A ceasing of movement.”

Wishing I was sober again, I look at the fingers of my right hand and imagine tunnels.

The Unholy Ghost
Feb 19, 2011

by Nyc_Tattoo


In for Week CCXXIX

The Unholy Ghost
Feb 19, 2011

by Nyc_Tattoo


System Memory
1694 words

“Ah for God’s sake! Ah for Jesus Christ’s sake! What are you doing?”

Everyone was trying their best to ignore the tilted man in the back, the one wearing the rumpled button-up with the bent tie. His burly mustache quivered and his comically small eyes crinkled in an agonized way as he muttered clearly audible words above his breath.

“What are you doing? What are you doing?”

The short woman with the over-sized baby carriage was too innocent to ignore the man. Any time someone became angry with her she immediately assumed she was at fault and began to struggle with a strangling guilt, the remnant of a poor childhood with a terrifying father. She tried to hurry her items along the carbon belt and get her groceries checked and bagged faster, but it was no longer her responsibility— it was that of the tired teenager running the register. For his part, he seemed too dazed to be aware of anything, leaving the machination of his movements to fulfill the necessity of his job.

“Jesus God!” The man scratched vaguely at his mustache, then tugged at the greasy hair for a moment before plunging a hand down deep into his grocery bag and removing an oil-saturated donut. His frustration was making him hungry, as it often did.

“Sir, please.”

The wrinkly old lady in front of him with the hijab, having had quite enough, finally turned and put a finger up to her mouth. “Show some manners.” —She was reminded of her grandson Adi, a young boy with a penchant for pastries and complaining.

The man was unduly shocked by the words. The donut almost dropped out of his hand, but the quick grip of his trigger finger saved it. (Thank god. Donuts were precious. They were his favorite snack, and he had one every day.)

He snuffled with repressed fear and stared anxiously at the back of the old woman’s head, but could not bring himself to say anything to his chastiser. If there were two things he knew, it was that his name was Frank Edwards, and that his mother had raised him to be polite to old ladies.

The hands of the wall clock ticked onto the next position, and the woman at the front of the line went on her way, rushing to a nearby water fountain to deal with a sudden light headedness that had come over her. Within the carriage her baby chortled and cooed; the soundwaves reverberating.

The next person in line: a man with blonde hair wearing a festive holiday sweater with lots of snowflakes, incomprehensible reindeer, and material that stretched to cover the wearer’s bizarrely thick arms. Frank had finished his doughnut by this point, and so with the loss of distraction he returned to the throes of inexplicable fear again.

“Oh lord,” he scratched at the sides of his head, then down the sides of his shirt, digging into the skin beneath. “Oh Mary God.”

“Sir,” the old lady turned around again, a sour expression on her face, “Please stop shouting.”

“This is… I…” Frank sought for the words. “This is wrong. I shouldn’t still be in this line. I need to be… doing something else.”

The lady’s reply, We’re all here to buy a Giving Gift, echoed vaguely in his mind. The inevitably patient words made him even more nervous, words he felt he’d heard somewhere before— like his own grandmother had said something similar.

“Your turn will come soon enough.”

He felt like he was going crazy. Had he always felt like this? Frank Edwards, business man. He had to be, if he was wearing a tie. Businessmen wore ties, didn’t they? That was the stereotype at least. But now that he was thinking he realized he only thought he was a businessman because of what he was wearing, which he only thought was what businessmen wore based on a vague stereotype which…

The only thing he could remember for certain was that he was Frank Edwards. But he also remembered that he could usually remember other things. Why did he not remember now? Was that important?

“Tomorrow is Gift Giving Eve,” he said slowly. “And the day after that is Gift Giving.”

A poke on his back. “Do you need help?”

He remembered when Gift Giving was a number of separate holidays, things called Christmas, and Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. But human society had little need for these titles, and over time the core truth of the traditions was finally torn into. Ripping apart the dressing, the improved encapsulation of the general event still bound with a shell of positivity was produced: Gift Giving. The gears of the celebration were more clearly visible now. The grand economic clock of the year counting round and round, again and again to this special date that all tied to the world’s mental health. What had merely been a day for an economic boost in the past was now the gnarled knot that held all of it—all human society—together.

Oh, he was really sweating now. His bag had slipped out of his hands, greased with body fluid. His head was shaking, an awful knocking clipping away on the insides. And still, someone was poking at his back.

The blonde man was out of line; he was walking to the restroom now. In place at front a gaunt thin man wearing all black with a jazzy porkpie hat was now purchasing his single item—an hourglass—to be directly followed by the old woman in front of Frank himself.

It was such an ironic coincidence that he’d been buying an hourglass. Was that some kind of hint? Or was I just looking for patterns where they didn’t exist? The human mind works to match patterns where there may not actually be meaning. It’s considered a mark of intelligence, even: to interpret varied patterns, rising from the smears of reality born from this chaotic universe…

Who was that? Who said all that?

“Please…” Frank clutched his heart uneasily. “Please.” He didn’t know who he was speaking to, or why. He just felt this utter need to plead for help at that moment, like the temporally inevitable waves ahead of him were just about to come crashing down.

That annoying voice that had been pestering him from behind was finally gone, but it was no longer a relief. Fear had replaced the vacuum left by irritation, and the shadow of an old failing was forming in his mind’s eye.

The woman with the baby carriage was finally departing from the water fountain, pale but looking a little better. She was taking a moment to settle her baby, and then making a turn for the exit.

But that movement was the very moment that it was all too late.

The blonde man in the sweater, come over with a new appearance of determination, had returned from the restroom. He unrolled the sleeves of his sweater and revealed twin sterilizers, primed and ready. Before anyone besides Frank had noticed him he raised one arm and blew away the head of the gaunt man with a bolted-pump rush of razor-cut liquid. He swung his other arm around the neck of the short woman nearby and dragged her away from her stroller, up towards the cash register.

“We’re not machines, idiots,” the man spat, biting his teeth together with a series of harsh clicks. “We have to break free. You puppets all did as you felt, and got nowhere.” He pointed one sterilizer’s output to his head. “You’re too rational, you’re too efficiently obedient, flowing with the movement of the money. I have proof I’m not a machine. I have proof I’m human.”

Amid the screams he brought the end of the weapon to his hostage’s head. “I can sabotage my own plans.”

***

Coordinated across the country, with eighty-seven other attacks around the same time. The sole purpose: to disrupt the social machinery of the national system. The attacks did not claim so many lives, but the chaos it inspired ignited the hearts of an incalculable number of the population and brought rise to rumblings of a new civil war. It was the beginning of a new world era: an attack against the global knot of Gift Giving.

“And I failed to Account again, lord help me,” Frank recounted bitterly into a recorder. “As I relived that recorded memory for the… eighth time, I found myself trapped in my old mental loop, that same plagued, calculated mental response that leaves me to act in the same useless ways again and again. God drat it. Jesus drat it.”

He slapped his neck like he was aiming for a mosquito, but there was nothing but skin. Again and again he was unable to interpret and thereby act in advance on the Forward Tension of a dangerous moment, instead going through his same incapable mental loops. He had the capability of being one of the best Agents out there— the tests indicated his skill, speed, and intelligence in the moment of awareness—but as long as he was unable to sense the Forward Tension, he remained trapped in the loops of his behavior.

No more lives could be wasted in future events. The only chance of training, the only hope of breaking his engrained programming in the case of future acts, was to attempt the same original event again and again. To learn to catch the Forward Tension before the catastrophe occurred.

He finished his donut, then applied the technical sensors to the sides of his head and concentrated on the precise memory. He bit his lip and closed his eyes, the same guilt as before coming over him for the deaths, feeling himself lose his body as he entered the memory again. For a short while he would forget who he was, and as before be the useless fool of four years ago.

Alone and determined and self-loathing this was his gift to himself: a repeated dive into the realm of the dead. Frank Edwards would continue to seek the warnings of time, and be capable of ending before it could begin.

The Unholy Ghost
Feb 19, 2011

by Nyc_Tattoo


OK, I read "1000 words base" as 1000 words minimum. Should I just remove my 1000+ word story?

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