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Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006

Illegal Hen

sebmojo posted:


Thanks for the crits sebmojo


Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006

Illegal Hen

I heard there was a bunch of tykes bawlin so I open this thread and goddamn it's all of you drongos pissing into the loving wind thinking you can brawl

In for the megabrawl fuckers

Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006

Illegal Hen

Early entry for Muffin's megabrawl.

Morning Bell fucked around with this message at 03:10 on Jun 20, 2016

Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006

Illegal Hen

Entry for Muffin's Megabrawl

Do You Know What Happens Next? 1446 words

They put me into the body of a hummingbird and gave me one million heartbeats to live. I see myself reflected in my love’s glasses, a grey sorrowful creature, and my tiny body shudders in horror and I look away and don’t get to the best part, don’t get to her eyes. But I remember them. They are the deep blue of the first moment of twilight. They would be the colour of wind, if wind had colour.

I perch atop the excavator’s dipper arm, and watch Laura in the cabin as she fumbles with the controls, yelps when the engine rumbles to life. Her high-vis vest is too large and her hardhat sits askew. A young construction worker, square-jawed and handsome, stands beside her wearing a half-smile. I want to swoop down and pluck the bastard’s eyes out, but instead I draw air into my pin-size lungs and then let it go, sing as loud as I can. Look up, Laura! See me! Hear how I sing! But the engine’s rumble drowns out my sad song and Laura does not look.

All I want in the world is for her to see me and recognise who I am.

A million heartbeats, for a hummingbird, is but a couple of hours. That’s enough time to see the park torn apart, to see the elms ripped from the soil, the lake drained, the clubhouse crushed to rubble. Her excavator jerks into motion, and I fly alongside while she scars the grass with dirty tire-marks. Laura rolls beneath a row of trees, under which we used to walk on the way back from the liquor store. Laura trundles past the bench on which I first told her that I loved her. The handsome young man walks after her, giving her a thumbs-up when she looks his way. I am a poo poo at his head, but it goes wide.

I wonder what Laura is thinking. Is she remembering our kisses by the park lake, our hands in each other’s pockets? Are those memories locked away in a chest too painful to open, or does some sliver of hope within her still live?

I fly to an eucalyptus tree and a black crow perches beside me, regards me with dull red eyes.

“Do you know what happens next?” he says.

I cannot reply. I do not know bird speech, so instead I let out a string of shrill tweets. Beneath us. Laura’s excavator rolls towards a freshly-painted rotunda. The young construction worker takes off his helmet and fixes his well-cut hair.


I have a quarter of a million heartbeats left.

I do not understand why they put me into the body of a bird and ordered Laura to be a demolition worker. Was it personalised sadistic cruelty, or practical and pragmatic punishment? There are more construction workers scattered around the park. There are old men, middle-aged women, children no older than sixteen, all in work-clothes and vests, destroying and dismantling everything around them. They used to be something, before. Doctors, bus drivers, students, mothers, friends. Now they wield axes and they tear grass from the earth in unison. We did not notice the world going mad at first, though the signs were there. The world was a kindly grandfather who suffered a stroke and awoke a drooling idiot, and still we sang soothing words while he spewed profanity and pissed his pants.

We descended into insanity gradually, almost purposefully. Incomprehensible nonsense in the newspapers, an illegible cacophony on the television. Armed police filled street corners and unhappy conversations hovered around dinner tables. An ice cream company bought the transport network and replaced all trams with ice-cream trucks. Education was outsourced to an off-shore company and schools turned into offices, children. They converted the airport into a mall, the only shops selling bathroom fittings and toilet seats. The community radio station was mandated by law to play Chopin’s funeral march on loop.

At first we chalked it down to the strangeness of the twenty-first millennium. But then letters arrived, telling everyone to pack one change of clean clothes and head for the nearest school or sports stadium or gymnasium. I knew what this meant, but Laura insisted there was a misunderstanding. They - that nameless, italicised They - were only monsters to other people. Never to us.

Laura’s trying to lift the excavator’s dipper arm beside the rotunda, now. The machine is a drunk trying to fit house-keys into a lock. Her face contorts in frustration, and I flit onto the edge of the excavator’s cabin and sing, again: Laura! Laura! But she pays me no heed. How long has passed since we left our apartment at dusk, duffle bags on shoulders, our hearts pounding vivacissimo? She’d squeeze my hand each time it trembled. She whistled You Are My Sunshine to calm me.

Don’t be afraid, she said — we’ll be together. You'll never know, dear, how much I love you.

The handsome young man leaps into the cab alongside her, lays his hand on top of hers on a big black lever. The cabin swings around, and the excavator’s arm smashed into the rotunda top. I take flight, and the freshly-pained white roof crashes to the ground.

I land on a gnarled elm and the black crow draws up beside me once more.

“Do you know what happens next?” he says.


There are only ten thousand heartbeats left and Laura still has not seen me.

The destruction of the park nears conclusion. A kid hacks at a sapling with a hatchet. One pretty girls helps another climb atop a hydraulic breaker. A crew of old ladies hoist wrecking ball beside the toilet block.

The black crow is alongside me again, and I wish I could ask him — why don’t the people stop? There are no guards or police. Everybody could drop everything and go home.

But I cannot talk, and the crow can, and he does. “Do you know what happens next?”

Laura and the young man sit side-by-side on a workbench. My love is pale, hunched over a steel cup of coffee. Steam rises and fogs up her glasses. The rotunda is in ruins and the excavator stands atop the rubble, its arm raised like a flag atop a conquered fortress.

I sing again, sing as loud as I can but the young man is talking and she’s looking at him intently. They sit far too close together.

Oh, I know what happens next! So I swoop down and aim at his head, but he turns and I strike his hard-hat and glance off. Laura yelps and her mug falls onto the grass, coffee spilling over her boots. The man says something. They both laugh nervously.

I have a thousand heartbeats left. Less than a minute.

“I know what happens next,” the black crow says.

I know what happens, too, crow.

I charge at it and drive my beak into its eye.I thrash my wings, filled of rage and injustice, ad my heart races and my heartbeats count down and there is a sick pleasure as the bird cries in pain. But a hummingbird is tiny, and my adversary dwarfs me. He strikes back, his beak slamming into me like an excavator’s dipper, and there’s a hot pain in my side and black fathers in my face, and I try to scream but a bird can not. I turn to flee, but my left wing won’t obey. My world is a storm of feathers and agony. I plunge to the ground.

And I land at Laura’s feet, in coffee-covered grass. I have only a handful of heartbeats left. At least I will die beside her.

“The poor thing, look!” she says. Her voice sounds distant, as if underwater.

“Don’t touch it,” comes the man’s voice, but she’s already kneeling down beside me, concern on her face, and I see my own reflection in her glasses again, and behind it, her irides are still the clearest blue. Ten heartbeats left. Tears well in her eyelids.

My heart skips a beat, stops. Ten heartbeats left.

Laura’s bottom lip trembles and my heart contracts. Beats once. Pauses.

Nine heartbeats left.

Laura is weeping now, and I draw my last ever breath (eight) and sing the song she whistled on our last day together, when we walked out of our apartment and lost our world forever, I sing You Are My Sunshine for you Laura (seven six five) and my love’s tears fall like soft rain upon me (four three two) and she whispers my name (one)

Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006

Illegal Hen


Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006

Illegal Hen

Prompt: Meet the Writers Behind Berlin's Version of T.O.W.I.E.

Life of the Party in Dead Berlin 1,469 words

Hans loved Kate and Kate loved that Spanish motherfucker, that pretty-boy with the poo poo-eating grin, that Pablo Fernando. God, it was so loving obvious. The way she stared at the vid-screen each time his mug swam on. The way she had a picture of him set as her iPhone 9 background. The way she said his name at every Season Fifteen writers meeting. Like it was a whispered secret. Like it was made of crystal, had to roll off her tiny lips and into the world softly, lest the precious thing might break. God, Kate’s lips were beautiful.

“It should be Pablo on all the posters.” Kate’s lips said. “He’s the viewers favourite. Ratings skyrocketed when him and and the two supermodels crashed the antigrav-bike last week. Did you see the way his hair looked, when he pulled them from the rubble?“

“Pablo goes on the posters, yes,” Herr Schmidt, the boss, said. “And Pablo is who I am thinking should have the central plot-line for Season Sixteen. I did see his hair. Nobody in Free Germany was watching anything else but his hair that night.”

Nobody in Free Germany was watching anything else except for Life of the Party in Dead Berlin because the Sino-Soviets were shelling Budapest again, and every living room in the country was weary form the on-going wartime feeds on the other channels. Pablo Fernando’s hair helped you forget that, all around Europe, Russian plasma-troopers and Chinese las-tanks tore cities to shreds. Berlin was already a ruin, from an older war, but at least it was a ruin reclaimed, firmly within Free Germany’s borders. Hans wondered what would happen when the enemy reached it again. They were bound to. Would the team evacuate the stars, save the show? Would Herr Schmidt keep the cameras rolling for as long as possible, stay true to the network’s slogan, “The Realest Reality TV?”. Hans imagined Pablo Fernando lying lifeless in a pile of rubble. Hans smiled, leaned back in his chair, took a long drag of his vaporiser. A mix of nicotine and weed swam into his lungs and took the edge off. There was always an edge to take off.

The bare-walled room where the three writers sat stank of stale sweat. Hans was doing everybody a favour with his tangy strawberry blend.

“I hate it when you do that,” Kate said. Oh, that’s why Hans did it. It gave Kate something to say to him, kept Hans on her mind, made him part of her world. And he needed to be part of her world, because Hans loved Kate, while Kate loved that loving imbecile, that straight-toothed rear end in a top hat, that Pablo Fernando.

Yes, Hans decided. Pablo Fernando needed to die.

“We fly out in two days,” Herr Schmidt said. “to the set of Life of the Party in Dead Berlin. We will be the hottest show of 2035. We shall make the season finale the best one yet! Who knows if we have a chance to make another one?”


“What are you thinking about, Pablo?” the gorgeous actress asked, pouting big red lips.

Pablo Fernando perched on a ruined wall, stared into the night sky, and lit a Gaulois. What do you see there, Pablo Fernando? Is it your perfect hair, reflected in the sky’s smooth mirror? Is it the folly and meaninglessness of the never-ending party on the set of Free Germany’s highest rated reality television show, Life of the Party in Dead Berlin? The sounds of the party was a distant murmur, the bass-drum of a minimalist techno track echoing through the darkness in four-four time. All around, the ruins of Alexanderplatz were vine-covered echoes of a long-ago glory. Just think, Pablo: these cobblestones once bustles with people, cars, bicycles. Life. Now there are TV cameras, a dead city, and a techno party that does not ever end. Season Fifteen’s almost over, Pablo. Perhaps it is time to move on. Yes, Europe was on fire, and here he was, shirt-collar stained with fake tan, left nostril dusted with fine Columbian cocaine.

“Pablo, I get so scared when there are such a many stars in the sky.” the gorgeous actress said, batting big eyebrows. “Will you hold me, Pablo?”

Pablo held her.


“We will pretend,” Herr Schmidt said, “that the Sino-Soviets have invaded Berlin. Pablo Fernando will have to make a choice that will haunt him forever! Will he save lovely Hilde or sultry Federica from what he believes to be certain death? Oh, the viewers will tremble in their seats. I have already put out the call for extras, and the Props department have shown their wonderful plasma-bomb replicas to be as fearsome as the read thing.”

“We won’t actually kill anyone, will we?” Kate asked.

“Oh, no,” Herr Schmidt said.

Oh, yes, Hans thought.

The antigrav-train sped through the Bavarian countryside. Hans vaped out the window, after had Kate had chided him for the fourth time. Her tiny glasses fell askew on her nose when she was angry. The way she flicked her cropped blonde hair when she turned to rebuke him made his heart clench. He pictured the cloud of strawberry-scented vapour morphing into letters: Hans Loves Kate.

“I don’t know, boss. Pablo is very emotionally sensitive,” Kate said. “Our psychological analysis show that…”

Kate Loves Pablo, the vapour seemed to say.

“Fräulein,” Herr Schmidt said, “do now worry. Adopt the demeanor of your worstwhile colleague, old Hans, here. It was his brilliant mind that came up with the idea to stage a fake bombing raid!”

Yes, Hans thought. Stage a bombing raid.


The sun set before Pablo Fernando, as if it was taking a bow, exiting the world bent at the waist with eyes downcast. His perfect green eyes squinted at the horizon and the world did not know what he was thinking.

“Pablo?” the beautiful singer said, pressing herself to his chest. “What will we do next season?”

“You mean,” Palbo said, after several heartbeats had passed, “what will you do?”

“Pablo?” the gorgeous actress asked, wrapping herself over his bicep. “Is something wrong?”

A gust of wind blew his hair back like a pennant. Somewhere in the distance, an 808 hi-hat sizzled into life.

“They are coming,” Pablo whispered, so quiet that the women could not hear.

Did you know, Pablo? Did you see the outlines of the Suvorov-class bombers on the horizon? Did you hear the bumblebee-buzz of their engines, the low drones of a plasma bombs being loaded? What did your green eyes see?


When they pulled Pablo Fernando’s body from the rubble, live on television, the camera zoomed in on his youthful face, and he seemed a sleeping prince, innocent and pure. When his eyelids fluttered open and he took in a sharp breath, the entire nation breathed with him, a collective sigh of release. There was not a dry eye in Free Germany.


“Everybody except for Pablo is dead. This will be difficult to explain to the network president.”

The writers, in their antigrav-copter, circled what was left of the film set. Alexanderplatz. A twice-ruined scar. Below, Hans could see the wreckage of a set of turntables, a single charred crater where the bomb struck. Beside him, Kate stared out her window, motionless. She wore black lipstick, in mourning, and large black sunglasses that she had not taken off since the news came through that, against all odds, a real plasma-bomb was mistakenly used instead of a prop.

“Pass me that vape, Hans,” Herr Schmidt said. “I would try some.”

“It’s empty, sir.” He waited for Kate to say something, but she didn’t. God, she looked even lovelier than usual.

“My friends,” Herr Schmidt said, “I will not lie. We are in trouble. I have sent out a call for actresses for the next season of Life of the Party, but no-one is willing to step up and take the role. And Pablo Fernando! Oh my — he is insisting to retire from the show and go out into the world. What we need is to find a beautiful woman—who knows him like no other—so she may seduce him, make him fall in love with her, and keep him onboard for more and more seasons!”

The copter made another pass over the ruined square.

“But where can I find such a woman?” Herr Schmidt said. “Where?”

Kate took her sunglasses off and turned to face her boss. Herr Schmidt’s mouth spread into a buttery smile. Hans went for a hit of his vape — forgetting it was empty — but even so, as he placed his lips over the mouth, Kate seized it, cracked the copter window, and hurled it — and he watched it tumble down, into the crater, and wished that he was tumbling down along with it.

Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006

Illegal Hen

In with Skypunk

Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006

Illegal Hen

In as an investigator


Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006

Illegal Hen

Prompt: There's a terrifying new drug on the rise, and your character believes it's being synthesized from ingredients specific to Voidmart's line of generic medications. One way or another, they want to blow the whistle on Voidmart's poorly-regulated manufacturing process.

Cut Pills, Bargain Thrills 1973 words (due to :toxx:)

Grace Heartly, queen of the techno scene, sex on legs, and supplier of the finest MDMA the scene had ever known, was furious. First, her profits had taken a nosedive this month. Second, half her regular customers had vanished,. Third, she’d been having such a great time a this warehouse rave — and now it lousy with cops and paramedics while three punters lay dead on the dance-floor. Sirens wailed outside and policemen struggled to control the crowd.

She watched the paramedics cluster around a lifeless young man. Oh, his pupils would never dilate again, that mouth will never chew three packets of gum in a night, and, most importantly — he’d never buy from her again. In fact, he’d not bought from Grace for a month — so where did he score tonight?

Someone was selling dodgy poo poo on her turf, getting her customers killed. This would not stand.

She lifted a carefully-manicure fingers to her Nokia 3310 and dialled her right-hand man and boyfriend, Lance Strongwood. Lance had a six-pack, a day-job working for the FDA, and flexible morals.

Lance caught the rival dealer out in the back alley. The dealer’s face was a study in red and purple. His rucksack lay open on the ground, sandwich bags full of pressed pills littering the asphalt like vomit.

Grace began her interrogations.

“I just sell the poo poo!” the dealer pleaded. “I don’t know what’s in it!”

Grace intensified her interrogations.

“When I was at the safehouse,” the dealer stuttered though missing teeth, “I saw the boys were using a new mixer for the pills. Gives a hell of a kick. Cheap as gently caress. Only one source for it, too, and it’s legal.”

Grace furrowed her long black brows. The dealer motioned to his bag. Lance turned it inside-out and out they tumbled: packets of Voidmart™ Generic Multivitamin / Cold-and-Flu / Perk-U-Up / Sleepytime All-Puprose pills.


“Now, Gracie, you know that even though I work for the FDA, it will take some time to build a case, here. We’re gathering evidence at a supermarket, not storming a safe-house. Think The Wire, not Lethal Weapon.”

Who did Lance think Grace was? Her plan was very sensible, thank you: break in to Voidmart’s pharmacy department and blow the whistle on their manufacturing process, before their drugs killed the techno scene, and all of her customers to boot. They sat behind a cheap plastic table inside the Golden Bean, Voidmart’s in-house coffee shop. Lance, into his second piece of cake, had already managed to stain his nice white shirt with chocolate. Grace took one sip of her coffee, stood up, slowly walked over to a trashcan, and emptied the contents inside. The poor teenage girl working behind the counter watched, horrified.

“Ma’am,” she said, “if you are dissatisfied with our product…”

Grace lay a finger on her mouth and the girl fell silent. She turned to walk back to her seat, but the girl grabbed at the sleeve of Grace’s garish leopard-print coat.

“Ma’am, please!” she hissed. Her name-badge was covered in smiley-faces and she didn't look a day older than eighteen. “If my supervisor finds out that I let a customer have a bad experience…”

Grace gave her a death-stare and the poor girl gulped and let go. She dragged Lance out of the chair by his tie, and he staggered after her into the store.


It felt like they’d been in Voidmart for hours. Grace’s handgun, tucked into her long flare jeans, chafed uncomfortably against her hip. The isles stretched on endlessly, buttered beige by fluorescent lights. Occasionally, a voice would sound over the intercom, sweet like honey, comfortable like a grandfather reading a storybook:

“Tired of washing lipstick stains from your collar before girlfriend spots them? Try our new Voidmart™ Dirty-Little-Secret washing powder!”

Lance sheepishly tugged at his collar.

The pharmacy must be this way, surely. These isles were so long! Bored, Grace whipped out her phone as they walked, bringing up her favourite game.

“That is a lovely phone, ma’am. The 3310 is one of Nokia’s finest models,” a Voidmart employee said, appearing from nowhere. Grace almost ran into the girl, stopped herself with a yelp. She turned to ask Lance for help, but he was busy examining a fluffy pillow.

“This one’s got a minion on it, Gracie! Isn’t it cute?”

Lance’s hand-basket was full of things nobody could possibly need.

“Did you know we have a 3315 model? We can even pre-load your snake high score, for the low price of one dollar per one hundred points!”

Wait, this Voidmart girl looked familiar! Oh, no.

“Please, ma’am, I’ll give you a discount” the girl hissed, grabbing her sleeve again. “If I don’t satisfy you as a customer, they’re going to…”

“Gracie!” Lance called. “They’ve got tea cosies with Moomintrolls on them!”


They finally found the pharmacy, but not before Grace threw a tantrums and emptied Lance’s shopping basket into the mixed lettuce in the vegetable isle.

“OK. So, they ought to manufacture the medicines on-site.” Grace hissed. “Ready to gather some evidence?”

“Gracie. There’s a hidden camera in my tie. There’s a microphone in each shoe so I can record everything in stereo. I am gathering evidence by virtue of my existance by your heavenly side. I’ve got you, baby.”

Grace rolled her eyes dramatically. Inwardly, she blushed.

The pharmacy counter was unattended. A sign announced that pharmacy opening hours where eight am to midnight. Grace’s Mickey Mouse watch informed her it was ten pm.

“We wait until midnight. Then we go in.”

“Two more hours of shopping? Hey, do you think they sell…”

Grace cut him off. “We conceal ourselves. We wait. Then we strike.”

Nearby, a pile of printers in large cardboard boxes stood like a tower at the end of an isle. They fashioned a hollow space inside the stack of boxes, crawled inside, curled up in the darkness.

Lance read a Harlequin romance novel. Grace played Snake on her phone as time passed. New high score: 2239.

The honeyed voice came over the intercom again. “Getting tired on a stake-out? Our Voidmart™ travel pillows are a steal for only eight dollars!” A chill ran down Grace’s spine. She looked over at Lance, but he was too engrossed in his book to notice. Sighing, she drew out a pair of headphones, queued up the latest Solomun mix, lay her head on his lap and closed her eyes.


When midnight struck, they climbed out to a deserted store. Behind the pharmacy counter, there was a half-open door that proclaimed STAFF ONLY. Carefully, on tip-topes, they crept inside.

Perhaps they did. The door opened to a long corridor, bathed in eerie half-light. There we more doors, all had keyholes but no doorknobs, except for one at the very end. MANUFACTURING, a neat plaque proclaimed.

That sweet grandfather voice came over the intercom. “Looking to blow the whistle on dark corporate secrets?”

Lance and Grace shared a nervous look. “Are you getting all this?” she whispered. Lance nodded, tapped his tie. They opened the door, and gasped.

A gigantic steel pit lay at the bottom of a shaft, surrounded by spikes, looking like a gaping mouth of some mechanical beast. A steel walkway jutted out from the door, above the pit, leading to a platform situated directly over the gaping mouth . In the middle of the platform there was a strange control panel, some metal chairs, and a table with a pile of generic Voidmart medicines. Payload.

They crept closer to the control panel, trying not to look down at the gaping mouth below.

“Getting caught breaking into a store?” that sweet Voidmart voice said, and it didn’t come over an intercom. “Voidmart™ recommends you put your hands up before you get shot!”

A chubby man in a well-tailored suit appeared at the door behind them, smiling an alligator smile, blocking their way out. Two burly men, the size of refrigerators, with VoidMart Security name-badges, stood by his side, guns at the ready.


“You’ve done us a wonderful favour, Miss Heartly,” the voice said. “One of the vital ingeridents of Voidmart™’s medicine is broken dreams. We will feed the Mouth of Sorrow with your pain. Voidmart™ thanks you for you your contribution. Your next-of-kin will receive store credit.”

Lance and Grace struggled, gagged and tied to the metal chairs.

“Let’s start with young Lance’s hair. Lance spends a lot of money to keep his hair so beautiful. We will break his dreams, and his anguish will make a delightful appetiser for the Mouth.”

A goon produced a hair clipper machine from his jacket. Lance screamed and thrashed, while the other goon held him down. The machine buzzed. Clumps of hair fell through the grating and into the mouth of the machine below.

Grace turned away, closed her eyes, fought against oncoming tears.

She felt a tug on her sleeve.

“Ma’am,” a teenage girl’s voice whispered in her ear. “I’m sorry to bother you but the Golden Bean takes customer satisfaction very seriously and I was wondering if there was something I could do to make up for your experience.”

The teenage girl from the Golden Bean was kneeling by her chair. The sweet-voiced man was busy pressing some dials on a panel, the goons were busy shaving Lance’s hair, and nobody had noticed the intruder. Grace nodded empathically.

“Oh, thank god!” the girl said. “Mister Walters was going to have my head.”

Grace moaned through her gag. The girl removed it.

“Untie me,” she whispered. “And I’ll fill in a loving employee feedback form with so many stars and smiley faces I’ll go through three Voidmart pens.”

“Really?” The girl whispered back. “You will?”

The goons didn’t see her coming. She drew her gun and fired twice. One of the goons fell dead, and the other staggered and toppled over the railing with a scream. The mechanical mouth below closed with a sickening screech, and opened again.

And then the sweet-voiced man tackled Grace onto the ground. Her gun went flying, out of each. Grace flailed with all her might, he was bigger and stronger. She was beneath him, she was pinned, she desperately clawed at his face while his hands constructed around her throat. She felt the air go out of her, felt herself going faint.

He fell to the side with a thud. Lance’s hands were still tied to a chair, attached to his back, but he could stand just fine. His alligator-skin shoes struck the man in the head, again and again. He tried to crawl away, but Grace staggered up, Grace pulled the sweet-voiced man to his feet, and pressed him to the edge of the railing.

“Dunno what your dreams are,” Grace said, “but consider them broken.”

Even the man’s scream sounded sweet and honeyed as he plunged into the mouth. Lance sat back down on the chair, to which he was still tied to. They looked at each other for a long time and did not move or say anything.

“Lance,” Grace eventually said. “Can you edit the murder bits out of the footage?”

“Theres’ a sale on video-editing software in isle 18." His head was almost completely shaved, with only a solitary tuft of hair remaining at the very top.


At the coffee bean, Grace filled out the most glowing employee feedback form she’d ever written, and added both hearts and stars. Lance stood at the edge of the store, grasping a newly-purchased minion pillow, watching her with a far-away look in his eyes.

A sweet, grandmotherly woman’s voice came over the intercom.

“Thinking of proposing to your sweetheart? Voidmart™ engagement rings are sure to dazzle even the most discerning woman!”

Lance grabbed Grace’s hand and they hurried out the Voidmart door and into the night.

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