|# ? Feb 28, 2018 14:38|
|# ? Nov 21, 2018 20:39|
In with a flash rule
|# ? Feb 28, 2018 14:41|
In. And I'll take a song, thanks.
|# ? Feb 28, 2018 19:36|
'Pulaski at Night' - Andrew Bird
In with a flash rule
The Ascent of Stan- Ben Folds
In. And I'll take a song, thanks.
The Strangers - St. Vincent
|# ? Feb 28, 2018 20:28|
in, and flash rule please!
|# ? Feb 28, 2018 21:37|
|# ? Feb 28, 2018 23:38|
I'm up for judging if you'll have me, Quoproquid.
|# ? Mar 1, 2018 03:54|
In. Song flash thingy I guess?
|# ? Mar 1, 2018 04:28|
in, and flash rule please!
Eartha Kitt - I Want to Be Evil
I'm up for judging if you'll have me, Quoproquid.
In. Song flash thingy I guess?
Beirut - The Rip Tide
|# ? Mar 1, 2018 06:03|
Seattle vs. Wellington Brawl
Nethilia vs. newtestleper
Theme Word: Chaos
When the smoke cleared from the pentagon’s center, the five members of Northwest High School’s Pagan Club didn’t have a clue what the thing they’d summoned was, exactly. It was alive, which means they’d probably got the spells right, but that’s all they knew.
“Wow.” Lloyd leaned in for a closer look. The thing snuffled at him. “It’s like a rabbit and quail hosed in the backwoods of Bavaria and their bastard offspring knocked up a vampire deer.”
Tootie grabbed the thing by what was the closest to the scruff, holding it out at arm’s length. It made a hissing squeak, showing cat-sharp teeth. “Let’s take it to my house. Mom can suss out what it is.”
“We probably shouldn’t take a summoned beast to a vet,” Jonas said. “Especially something summoned in Lloyd and Yancy’s strange ritual. I’m not even sure you should be holding it.”
“It’s not strange,” Lloyd started. “It’s Discordi—”
“It’s all pagan,” Tootie cut Lloyd off. “Where’s that old cat carrier of yours?”
Beastie twitched its nose.
Tootie turned lime green. “gently caress!” she yelled and let go. Beastie opened its wings just enough to mostly land on two of its four feet.
Jonas doubled over laughing.
Kathlyn threw the oracle cards at Yancy. The O of Orange landed on Beastie’s head between the horns; it whuffled annoyedly and flicked its ear. “This is the last time we let you two lead the monthly rituals! I’m not even an accordion!”
“That’s Discordi—” Yancy protested.
“First of all,” Kathlyn fussed, “I’m Wiccan, and second—”
Beastie’s nose twitched.
Whatever Kathlyn was going to say second was lost in a stream of bubbles tumbling from her lips, resembling a dishwasher erroneously loaded with Dawn dish soap. She slammed her hands over her mouth and coughed up three more bubbles.
Jonas laughed so hard he started wheezing.
Beastie twitched again.
Jonas was still laughing when he hit his head on the ceiling fan. Then he opened his eyes, realized where he was, and screamed.
Beastie snorted delightedly and bounded in circles.
Kathlyn gestured to Jonas, then Lloyd, then yelled something at Yancy that sounded a lot like cursing and looked like a bubble gun malfunctioning.
“I don’t know what you’re—look, we’ll fix it!” Lloyd grabbed his book from the floor. “We’ll look something up, and keep the Beastie here. For now, uh, you three can go home and—”
“I’m not going anywhere looking like I fell in a vat of 1980s dye!” Tootie screeched.
“One step outside and I’ll be in the stratosphere,” Jonas continued to pull himself down by the floor lamp.
Kathlyn’s agreement with Tootie and Jonas was mostly lost in bubbles.
“We could tie weights to your ankles,” Yancy said.
“We are not tying weights to my ankles,” Jonas snapped. “Stop arguing and start fixing!”
“Are you really just going to sit—or float—here all screwed up for who knows how long?” Lloyd said.
Beastie hopped away and started to rub its horns on the nearby end table.
Tootie plopped down on the floor. “Pretty much.” She looked down the front of her shirt. “Oh gods, even my tits are green.”
Jonas laughed, lost his grip on the lamp, and hit his head on the ceiling fan again.
“Who knows how long” turned out to be exactly twenty-three minutes and five seconds, though no one was keeping the time. Just as Jonas dragged himself back near the floor, there was the sound of squealing birds, a smell of slightly burnt popcorn, and then a flurry of multicolored Lego before a girl in Greek sandals and jean cutoff shorts appeared in the same spot Beastie had.
“Blessed Eris Diskordia!” Yancy squealed, and almost crossed himself.
“That’s My name, don’t summon Me too much,” the Girl said, before She saw Beastie. “There you are, you silly thing!”
Beastie squeaked and bound-fluttered over to Her.
She scooped it off the floor with one hand and nuzzled into the spot between their stubby horns. “Have you been down here playing tricksies on the mortals again? Naughty beastie.”
Beastie whuffled back.
“Ah, um--Blessed Lady of Discord?" Lloyd asked. “If it be Your Divine Will, can You undo what’s been done to my friends?”
“For what price?” She wrinkled Her nose exactly how Beastie had.
“Um, we have—” Yancy rummaged through his pockets. “Do you like Skittles? There’s half a bag.”
“Original or Tropical?”
“Uh…” Yancy tried to smooth out the bag.
“Don’t answer.” She grabbed the bag, popped three in Her mouth, chewed, and then nodded. “They’ll do. I’ll fix everything once I remember their name.”
Kathlyn said something in an unsure tone. Five soap bubbles drifted by.
“Of course it has a name,” Eris said. “Just let Me try to forget to remember.” She twirled one of Her multicolored locks a few times, tapped Her feet, then sighed as if She’d forgotten the most obvious thing in the universe. “Apples!” She snort-laughed, and She and Beastie disappeared in a burst of cotton-candy pink glitter, leaving a faint aroma of orange-mango juice.
Jonas thumped to the floor.
There were several seconds of silence. “Um, what the—oh thank the Goddess I can speak normally again,” Kathlyn said, and brushed stray bubbles from the front of her blouse. “The ritual’s over, the—whatever is gone, and everything’s back to where it was.”
“Almost everything.” Yancy jerked his head towards Tootie. “She left Tootie’s hair green.”
“What?” Tootie scrambled to the living room mirror. “poo poo. How do I explain this to my parents?”
“Smear some Manic Panic around the bathroom sink and scream at Richard that he’s not your real dad if he asks any questions?” Lloyd said, starting to sweep up the glitter and Lego bricks with his hands.
“Full teen-girl dramatics.” Tootie nodded. “After the last hour, I can definitely do that.”
|# ? Mar 1, 2018 11:27|
Your brawl entries are due by March 1st, 11:59pm EST, and you have 1,000 words to make something memorable.
Is pretty soon!
As this is a direct, in some ways head-to-head competition, we're gonna be pretty strict on that deadline.
Don't go faffin' about; get those words in.
|# ? Mar 1, 2018 18:53|
PNW v. NZ brawl
Aka-Sama Stirs After Centuries of Inscrutable Silence
Let me tell you something about performing maintenance work on super-charged, ozone-producing conduits high above the surface of a mobile planetoid while a cephalopodian space monster silently hangs in the starry abyss above you: you get used to it after a while.
Let me tell you something about trying to do delicate, monster-adjacent work while your colleague, Daitaro, carries on about superstitious nonsense in your ear for hours: it’ll drive you mad. Only Daitaro’s expertise in artificial atmospherics saves him from a tragic fall to the planetoid’s surface.
“Auntie Aka’s got her eyes on you, Aguri,” he tells me. “Misfortune lurks in your shadow.”
“I’m sure the space monster has better things to do than give me hives, or whatever.” Normally I would ignore him and focus on my work, but I’m tired and irritable because our other colleague, Hori, is still recovering from a bad burn sustained on the job. I’ve been staring at readouts and ozone levels for fourteen hours and counting.
Of course, my skepticism only riles Daitaro. “It’s that clinical-mindedness that brought Aka upon our ancestors,” he said, pouting. “What’s so hard about showing a little reverence?”
“I don’t think Aka cares one bit about my reverence,” I say. “And anyway, that clinical-mindedness built this vessel and saved our asses.”
“Asses that wouldn’t have needed saving if our Earth-bound ancestors had shown more reverence for forces beyond their control,” Daitaro says. All the fight’s gone out of his voice, though. He’s tired too, having filled as many extra shifts as I have.
I pat him on the shoulder and say, “I’ll be careful. Anything happens to me, you have to keep atmo stable all by yourself and, well, I don’t think anyone wants to think about that scenario.”
We make our way down from the ozone conduits via a rickety elevator, which is comprised of little more than a platform and some railing. Dubious as the lift is, this view is half the reason I took the job as atmospheric technician. The oblong planetoid is lush with fungal meadows, stands of quaking aspen, and clusters of prosaic villages. All of this is encompassed in the huge, spherical mesh of highly charged conduits that provide our atmosphere and no end of headaches for me.
The view is great if you don’t look up at the space beyond the mesh. Space is Aka’s domain. She hangs out there like an angry red beard made of millions of tentacles, keeping pace with the colony ship so perfectly that she seems to not be moving at all. Sometimes she fades out, becomes transparent enough that we can pretend she’s gone away. Sometimes, like right now, she’s livid and red and so fiercely real that her presence aches in our foreheads and distracts us from our labors.
Supposedly, she started following the first generation of colonists after they left the Sol system. They named her Akkorokamui, after some sea beast from ancient lore. Now we call her Aka, for the red color of her huge, octopus-like body. There were many things we left behind when our progenitors left Earth, but Shintoism wasn’t one of them. Depending on who you ask, Aka is an amalgamation of angry ancestors, or a beast sent by angry ancestors to haunt our journey across the stars. Either way, she’s pissed, and chooses to express herself in the form of equipment malfunctions and minor illnesses.
I think Aka is just bored. Who can know the mind of a space monster?
As if in response to my quiet cynicism, an explosion rips through the ozone conduit directly overhead, where Daitaro and I had been moments before. The elevator groans, but continues its journey to the base of the support column as fire suppression systems kick in. White-hot flames issue from the generator in the trunk of the ozone conduit. The air smells unbearably bitter and electric.
Daitaro is hysterical, clutching at my arm and begging me to apologize to Aka, who’s now obscured behind the solar-bright conduit fire.
I shake myself free of his grip. “As soon as we touch down, one of us needs to get to the primary shut-off.” I have to raise my voice over the crackle of the conflagration. “This keeps going, we’re gonna lose atmo.”
The initial fire cascades into a series of explosions as aged equipment overloads, shorts, and fries. Wind stirs my hair as precious oxygen is sucked upward to feed the flames.
Daitaro is on his knees, begging his ancestors to intervene. The wind intensifies, an upward vortex that threatens to rip the breath from my lungs. I feel apocalypse pressing down on me, born not of ancestral malice but inevitability; our journey across the stars punctuates here, because here we’ve reached the limits of our equipment.
Something changes in the character of the flames. They’re thinning out, rising with the wind and peeling away from the charred conduits in brilliant braids, which snake harmlessly off into empty space.
And there, there is Aka among the flames, large as the thunderheads of Earth legend, her mad, red tentacles splayed out in a curtain of millions of writhing limbs. She’s moving them the way a symphony conductor moves their arms, directing the fire up and away from the planetoid by some unseen means.
By the time the flames have been starved to death, the air is thin. Klaxons echo all across the planetoid, but we are all still breathing.
And old Aka, she simply fades away, just like that. Not the way she usually does, where you can still see her if you squint up at the ozone conduits, but, just, blip. Gone. After so many generations, the stars look naked without her crimson bulk to occlude them.
I bow deeply to the empty space left behind, and Daitaro falls prostrate, wailing prayers for her return.
Who can know the mind of a space monster?
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 02:06|
New Zealand's Drunken Mistake Brawl
Theme word: Earth
Home Means Never Having to Say “I Told You So”
Gucci ballet flats are really not ideal for scrambling through a landfill. Ask me how I know—no, you probably already guessed. It’s because I’m scrambling through a landfill in Gucci ballet flats. And modest black slacks, a crisply pressed white shirt, and statement earrings, my usual armor against the contempt of William’s friends, their wives, and even mistresses. Now the white shirt has a nasty black smear across it from where I fell full-body into a puddle of muddy motor oil, and I think there’s a half-disintegrated lottery ticket stuck in one of my earrings. Probably not a winner. I used to do this so easily. Of course, the broadsword strapped across my back isn’t helping, either. It’s five feet, two inches long; I’m five feet, two inches tall. It’s like lugging around a tempered steel Siamese twin.
An engine revs and fades off into the distance. It’s the taxi I paid to wait for me.
“What, you’re afraid of getting a little garbage in your car?” I scream at its trailing cloud of dust. “You already stink!”
I suck in another breath to keep shouting, then realize what I’m saying and stop, mortified. How many times has someone said that to me? How often do people still whisper it behind my back?
I make it to the top of a garbage pile, and look down. Sure enough, there’s Uncle Tiba’s familiar hut, nestled into the valley of junk, a jumble of rusted out cars, pallets, and aluminum siding, hung with tarps to keep out the summer sun and monsoon rains. It was too easy to find—he’s expecting me. I pick my way down the slope, ignoring my squelching right shoe, trying to, you know, approach with dignity. Until the sword catches on a half-buried satellite dish and sends me sprawling, then sliding, all the way to Tiba’s front door. I land on my back with a solid thump that knocks the breath out of me.
Tiba’s leaning nonchalantly against his doorway, his horse face twisted into a smirk. He definitely knew I was coming. He looks me up and down, taking in my expensive, ruined clothes with a mocking smile. They aren’t armor here. They’re just stupid.
“Hello Maria,” he says. “Nice shoes.”
Too winded to speak, I hold up both middle fingers instead. He whinnies out a laugh, then comes over and gives me a hand up.
“What brings you down from your penthouse to see your poor old Uncle Tiba?”
“I’m bringing the sword back,” I say, heaving it off my shoulder and dropping it on the ground between us.
“But you went through sooooooooo much work to steal it from me.”
“You said it would make a man worship the ground its owner walks on.”
“You didn’t say ‘literally!’”
He shrugs. “I did tell you those American guys are weird.”
“Do you know what William’s been doing?” I yell. “I can’t step on a patch of dirt without him prostrating himself behind me and rolling in it. He collects it in urns, piles them on an altar, burns incense in front of them.”
“Has he divorced his wife?” he asks.
I don’t answer, and stomp off up the hill instead.
After I kick the stupid Guccis off, I manage to make it down the other side without falling on my face, but when I get to the bottom, I’m standing in front of Tiba’s shack again. Son of a bitch.
“You forgot your sword,” he says.
“It’s not mine!”
“Well, I don’t need it.”
“Please,” I say, “he’s going to…to build a church. A basilica”
He doubles over with braying laughter. “Maria, Our Lady of Mud,” he says, “Beautiful.”
“Please let me go back without it,” I plead.
“What do you think you’re going back to?”
I don’t answer that, either. He sighs.
“You know the lore. You just have to turn that shirt inside out and you can walk away,” he says, “and I can’t stop you.”
I look at the greasy stains covering it. Of course he’s not going to make it easy. I turn around, grit my teeth, flip my shirt, and try to ignore the stickiness now clinging to my skin. I walk away.
William is standing on the edge of the road, next to one of his shiny, black, chauffeured cars. There’s mud on the knees of his suit (also Gucci), and he’s brushing at it vigorously, looking confused. When he sees me, his mouth drops open.
“You’re covered in garbage,” he says. “And where are your shoes?”
But before I even answer, he gets in the car, slams the door, and waves the driver forward. I’m about to scream at a cloud of dust for the second time that day, when my mobile pings.
“Your Citibank Visa credit card has been cancelled by the main account holder,” I read. Then the phone is remotely wiped. I throw it into the landfill and trudge numbly down the road towards the nearest village. When it starts getting dark, I look up and realize I’m on top of a trash heap and staring down at Tiba’s shack again. He has a fire lit out front, with two chairs pulled up to it. Defeated, I make my way back down and plop into the empty one.
“You can’t just make me keep coming back,” I say.
He says nothing, just looks at my chest. I nearly call him a creep, but then realize what he means. My shirt is still on inside out. He didn’t make me come back at all.
“Want a beer?” he asks. I nod. We drink silently. He pops another one and hands it to me without asking.
“So I talked to Diwata yesterday, and she has this ring,” he says, “it’ll make any man fall head over heels…”
“Oh God, shut up,” I cry, and we both laugh so hard we can’t say anything else.
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 02:07|
Chili was worried maybe we wouldn’t get these in on time. Chill, Chili, we got this. New Zealand has a posse, ride together die together.
Table of Contents
SureptitiousMuffin eviscerating Uranium Phoenix’s Manananggal with Smokefree in Seattle aka We fight monsters
steeltoedsneakers chopping down Jay W. Friks’ Man-eating Tree with Sapless in Seattle aka Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
newtestleper dismantling and reassembling Nethilia’s Wolpertinger with Gentrificationless in Seattle aka Dead Letters
sebmojo tearing the tentacles off Sitting Here’s Akkorokamui with Squidless in Seattle aka Suckers
Morning Bell drowning CantDecideOnAName’s Loch Ness Monster with Sporranless in Seattle aka Monsters Made of Straw
Yoruichi’s monstrous cavalry charge at Dr. Kloctopussy’s Tikbalang with Sheepish in Seattle aka rear end in a top hat
Fumblemouse taking a golf club to curlingiron’s Flatwoods Monster with Cubeless in Seattle aka Second Childhood
What’s up now, Seattle?
steeltoedsneakers fucked around with this message at Mar 2, 2018 around 08:44
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 03:18|
STUPID IN SEATTLE BRAWL
BRING IT, YOU RAIN-DRENCHED FLANNEL-WEARING COASTAL LOSERS
We fight monsters
Every day, Rose went out beyond the hawker stands –out beyond the torn-up fences and beat-up dock workers– to the place where the water was clear. Every day, she went to the ocean to weep. The siyokoy took her son when he was out swimming: the niños ate her little niño. She would cry, and scream, and strike the water with her fists. Then, she would return home and cry, and scream, and strike her remaining sons while they cowered in the corner. If you’d asked her, she couldn’t tell you why.
Patti saw, and didn’t know what to do. She watched and hid in trees, on rooftops, behind a jumble of TV aerials. She walked on her hands to keep a low profile, and kept her wings hidden in the small of her back. Her guts got dirty as they dragged along the ground. When Rose wept, Patti wept too. She couldn’t tell you why.
Patti wasn’t a siyokoy. She hadn’t even been nearby when little Alberto got dragged down and eaten up – she was off in Cebu, lurking around a maternity ward. The modern world was good for manananggal: they put all the pregnant women in one place. Patti could spread her feeding around, and not hurt a soul. Her neighbours knew what she was. One of them would hang crucifixes all over the drat place and the apartment hallway always reeked of burning sage, but they left her alone.
She didn’t swoop down on them in the dead of night; they didn’t hunt her through the jungles with spears. They told their friends about the monster next door but never said anything to her face; she smoked weed and listened to old punk records, and only fed when she needed to. She followed Rose out to the docks every day she could, and watched, and wept.
It was near the end of the dry season when it happened. Patti sat on Mr Nunes’ balcony smoking a cigarette and listened to Rose shouting at her boys. She leaned across and peered in the window, and one of the boys (Lucas, the tall one, with his shaggy mop of hair) peered back. He was backed in a corner, almost in a squat. Patti had seen a lot of human faces. She’d seen them scream, or go white, or (in more recent times) turn away muttering a prayer. She had never seen this– Lucas looked her dead in the eye, plaintive, and mouthed a single word.
While she stared, Mr Nunes ran up and hit her with a broom. She hadn’t even seen him coming. “Aswang!” he shouted “go away! Get out of here, Tik-Tok!”
She took flight while Mr Nunes shouted some bullshit about Our Mother Mary. She hung in the air for a moment, hissed at him, then gave him the finger and swooped off into the night.
Every day, Patti followed Rose down to the water. Every day, she remembered Lucas’ sad eyes and crept a little closer. As the dry season came to a close, Cadiz was going insane– after six months without rain, a sick pressure builds in the air that makes men wish for a flood. Patti felt it in her skin, and in the space between her eyes. Rains made it harder to fly, but also easier to move around undetected. She knew in another six months she’d be praying for the rains to stop. Funny how that worked. Patti had left her legs behind: lower profile, harder to be seen. She had a good view of Rose from the roof of the Port Authority office. A dock worker noticed her, made the sign of the cross, then went back to stacking boxes. She took a deep breath, and swooped down.
She wanted to scare Rose– to bite her and scratch her. She spread her wings wide, and bared her sharp teeth, and opened her mouth to roar. Rose turned, and saw. She did not scream, or go white. Her eyes were plaintive, and filled with tears. Patti lowered her hands, only a little. Her jaw hung open.
“Are you going to kill me?” said Rose.
It wasn’t fear: Patti knew fear. It was almost begging.
“No,” said Patti. She slumped, and let her guts touch the sand.
“So,” said Rose, “we’re monsters.”
She stared out to sea. The sun hung low over Cadiz, and painted the clouds in fire-orange and bruise-purple. They sat in silence. Patti took out a cigarette, then realised she’d left her lighter in her pants. Without speaking, Rose proffered a green plastic Bic lighter, and lit the cigarette.
Patti smoked it down to the filter, then held it between her thumb and forefinger and flicked it into the ocean. It floated, and sent ripples out into the water.
“We don’t have to be,” she said. “The world hurts. It hurts in big ways and it hurts in small ways, and it twists your spine until you find yourself hurting it back. That’s the trap. You’ll hurt your sons, and they’ll hurt their friends and their wives, and their wives will hurt their sons and it’ll keep on hurting until the clouds and the rapture takes us all.”
“You think it’s that easy?” said Rose. “Just stop hurting?”
“No,” said Patti. “It’s the hardest thing I ever did.”
Rose didn’t reply. They sat, and watched the sun set. Patti took out another cigarette. It was the last one in the pack.
“You never really quit,” she said. “You just go longer between relapses.”
“Cigarettes?” said Rose.
A pause hung in the air.
“Maybe,” said Rose, “that gap gets big enough that you forget what tobacco tastes like.”
“That would be nice,” said Patti. Her voice broke, only a little. “Really nice.”
They sat, and watched another day turn to night. Patti smoked her last cigarette. She left embers in the sand, as the disappearing sun left streaks of fire in the sky.
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 04:00|
Seattle vs Wellington Megabrawl
Jay W. Friks vs steeltoedsneakers
Man-eating Tree - Theme Word: Air
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
I watched it eat Molly last week. I thought at first my tabby had just leapt up into the branches, shaking the dry twigs as she went - but then the sound reached me. Half-strangled mewls cut off by a sudden, damp crunching and a chittering that cut through the chill winter air.
For weeks I had dreamt of earth. Surrounded by cool damp dirt, reaching down through the soil. Arms plunged deep, limbs unrestrained by joints or bones or skin. Fingers separating, branching wide, scrabbling and searching for gaps between dirt clumps and rocks. Hungry.
We often patrolled the veggie garden in the evenings. I’d tell her about my day, and she’d curl up in my arms and purr. I don’t know why, but that night we walked down the bank, across the back paddock to the willow by the creek bed.
Molly jumped down and ran ahead, and I watched in horror as the tree seemed to swallow her up. Tiny, invasive octopus tentacles forced their way past the memories of lazy Sundays in the front room with her, pulled at the edges of my thoughts: More. The same smells, the same feeling of earthly embrace from my dreams suddenly present again.
Standing there, shaking, I could feel it speak to me, commanding me. I couldn’t fight it, breathless against the cruel and infinite momentum of it.
I’ve been resourceful, braving the daily drizzle and bluster to catch possum and rabbit. Cold, wet hands scrabbling to open leg traps, bag my quarry and reset the small metal jaws. The tree is stronger now, the cold bare branches draped in long strands of yellow-gold leaves.
It prefers live prey, wouldn’t touch the ones I’d given a small mercy to. Dazed from blood loss and pain, they barely have a chance to crawl out of the sack I throw near the base of the tree. I sit in uneasy awe in the evening light as I watch it, boughs creaking into striking position then suddenly lashing out like a snake’s head, enveloping its catch. The chittering branches shake the leaves, and it sounds like the ocean.
If I sit still for too long, I can feel energy flowing out its core, along the root maze, stretching further into the earth. It doesn’t wait until I sleep anymore, I close my eyes and I’m there in the loam. Turning, twisting, roiling hungrily forward through the damp soil. Faster now, wider. I can reach across the field in a heartbeat.
There’s a new girl working at the tearooms. She’s been there a couple of weeks now, came in on the spring winds. She's nice to me, too. I don't know if it's just her trying hard to make new friends in town, but she seems genuine. I've made sure to work in a stop for afternoon tea before I head up the hills to forage.
Hope sat with me yesterday. I’ve been in there every day this summer, we make small talk or exchange a quick smile if it’s busy.
She sat with me. One minute she was behind the till, and then she was in the seat opposite me. Close. She smelled faintly like sawdust and apples.
She touched my hand - something electric making its way along the root structure of my nervous system. Said something about ‘us country girls’ having to stick together, nodding near-imperceptibly at a table of swanndri, cigarette ash and sun-cured skin. I barely caught it, blood rushing into my ears in a roaring tide. I nodded, smiling to cover the delay between hearing her and processing the words. She smiled back, warm rays washing over me.
We talked for hours, Hope drifting between our table and the counter. She’d moved here to be closer to her parents and have somewhere to paint with low rent and minimal interruption. She showed me a couple of pieces on her phone, watercolour landscapes like the kind you’d find in an op shop. Streams, fields, trees. Willows.
I’d hardly thought of my tree. There wasn’t time to get into the bush and clear the traps - I put it off until morning, ignoring the probing, pulling feeling at the back of my mind.
I rolled into bed after dark and dreamt I was in a paddock. Breathing in the warm night air, grass brushing lazily against my leg in the gentle breeze. I could smell apples.
The field smells of rot. Dead leaves thick on the ground, shades of brown, yellow and orange coalescing into a muted red around the tree. I don’t need to sense the roots anymore, everywhere they reach the grass has decayed. Long strings of brown and black spread across the field like a sad, wet lightning strike.
I brought her here. I didn’t mean to, she dropped by one evening when I was out in the garden. The sun low in the sky, golden light catching the tree and setting it ablaze. Even knowing the brutal truth, I couldn’t ignore the beauty of it.
And neither could she.
She’d stood with me for a short spell before walking down across the paddock for a closer look. I told her to wait, I tried to tell her that it was less impressive up close. She went closer, hand trailing lightly on the trunk as the cool autumn sun shone through the thinning foliage - like dozens of tiny stars playing across her skin. I closed my eyes tight, pleading with the tree.
Eyes closed, I heard the sound. A branch creaking like an old floorboard. I couldn’t bring myself to open them again. In the darkness a single word.
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 04:00|
Battle of Seattlebrawl
Theme word: Chaos
Vanquished foe: Nethilia
When Yola arrived in Seattle she rented a place just off Cherry. She was alone, but she kept busy. She spackled over the initialed and dated notches cut into the doorframe of the second bedroom. She sat in the park opposite the elementary school and ordered Blue Apron on her phone. She killed animals and sewed their parts together.
She loved working for Amazon, the opportunity to take part in a vast reverse diaspora that dragged so many desperate workers to melt together in one place. They flooded the city, disrupting crusted street rhythms that the panicked locals mistook for culture. They called it chaos, but she figured it a kind of entropy, a settling of disparate elements into something still and cool and comfortable. It took her breath away.
Barney looked at her funny, again.
He’d asked her out one time. They went to Dick’s, and over their burgers he told her that the train was called the S.L.U.T., his brother was in jail, and that his friends gave him poo poo for his job. She told him she liked to murder crows. He replied with silence and an uncertain grin, as he tried to gauge if she was being funny.
Since then he’d barely looked at her, but today he had lurked around her. She wondered if it was him who had found the remnants she’d left behind warehouse 8B.
She believed that hunting was rarely an act of destruction, and she enjoyed it more when it was easy. The crows were half tame, and she had two hands—one for a piece of meat, the other a feathered neck.
She used their wings, sometimes their beaks, the occasional claw. She used squirrels’ tails and heads and teeth. Legs from the tame bunnies at Woodland park. There was one sick otter, washed up near the Bainbridge ferry terminal, that died in her bag on the way home. Its fur was less silky than she’d thought, but nonetheless became part of half a dozen wan chimeras.
Her latest creation hadn’t yet come together. She knew they were complete when they were no longer restless, when the character of each carcass disappeared into the whole.
“They had the dogs in the other day. Thursday.” said Barney.
“I’m sad I missed them. I like dogs.” She could see the circle of receding hair in the centre of his head from up in the cab of her forklift. “I like their legs and tails. Sometimes their ears.”
“They wrecked this package, really tore into it. When they were done we couldn’t even tell what it was, there was just this smell and black feathers over everything.” He leaned on a pallet truck, and watched her face.
She held eye contact with him, and saw the corners of his mouth turn inward, trying to keep something in. “The cleaners did a good job.”
The silence that followed was broken by the whine of an electric golf cart, and Yola turned back to her work.
Working a fat glover needle through loose-fitting rabbit skin–or between hollow corvid bones without fracturing them–took strength as well as skill. She took pride in her craft, and clenched her teeth each time she remembered that no one she knew would ever know it, ever love her for it.
So she sent them across the country. She swapped the contents of packages bound for Madison or Boise or Chula Vista with meticulous custom wolpertingers. Best were the banks of forwarding addresses in warehouses near hers that turned Casablanca, Addis Abbaba, or Wellington into near-identical courier tickets to be slapped on the side of a box.
There were two in the air right now, nestled heavy and content in the holds of a bright white jumbo jets. She had to content herself with the knowledge that the places they landed would, in that one detail, become a little more like each other.
As Yola’s shift neared its end the warehouse thronged with activity. Individual noises of people and machines combined in her ears to a flat buzz, like in an empty seashell. She’d seen Barney talking to the floor boss. While he waved his arms and pointed towards the manager just shifted his weight to his heels and crossed his arms.
She didn’t know why something that made such perfect sense to her was so unbelievable to others. It was both offensive and convenient.
Barney headed towards her, weaving between stacks of boxes with long strides. The manager scurried behind, his face white and apologetic. She thumbed the lock onto the controls.
“Go on, just ask her.” He moved closer to her, craning up on the balls of his foot, leaning forward on one of the massive forks. There was over 1000 pounds of flat-pack spa pool there, suspended in space on a column of compressed fluid.
His finger stabbed towards her. “Check her locker, you’ll see. Dead crows and poo poo.” He was spitting.
And then the fluid wasn’t compressed, and the flat-pack spa wasn’t suspended. The noise of the impact filled her consciousness completely—for half a second she couldn’t see or hear or even know she existed. Her first thought after was to realise she was smiling. Her second was to jump from the cab to scrabble on the floor with the others to search for pieces of the front of Barney’s foot that had scattered out under her vehicle.
She was first to the big toe. When she grasped it she stopped to run her fingers over the nail, sharp and sticky with blood. There was very little time for Barney to get it on ice to keep it viable and get it back where it had always been. Yola didn’t know why he’d bother. It would be much better as part of something fresh. She wondered where in the world it would end up.
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 04:00|
A few days before Seattle finally burnt to the ground, Merilee became completely obsessed with Juan.
They had both started at the Aquarium at the same time but it took a while for her to notice him; he was a non-descript man, with a soft, low voice and the sort of face you might see on the street and not even register as belonging to a person.
Nonetheless: she had to have him. She had to feel his slender hands on her body.
Midway through a hot Thursday afternoon the processed aquarium air was still untainted when she cracked his first layer of defence. She had determined, through observation, that he left tokens around the rooms (decoys?) When Wallinger the shift supervisor came through he just glanced at the tokens – a personalised coffee cup, the thick book Juan was reading – and went on his way. But Merilee knew better.
She found him at last by the octopus tank, retreated into the dark narrow gap between the tank and the wall, withdrawn, motionless. His long fingertips were touching the chamfered glass, twitching.
Merilee glanced at the Midwestern family that was oohing at the octopus as it slapped around the rim trying to escape, then groped for an opener.
“The fires have slowed down,” she said. “They’ve been sending in helicopters.”
His dark eyes glittered at her and he smiled, suddenly. It was a beautiful smile, flashing white on his shadowed face. “That’s amazing,” he said. “But futile. Do you dream about them too?” The space he was compressed into didn’t seem that big, but he gestured with his skinny fingers and she took one step, then another. They were standing very close. He had a spicy briny smell that seemed to vanish as it hit her nose.
The Midwestern family were having a loud argument about cheese. Merilee listened to Juan breathe, to her heartbeat.
“I dreamt a world where everyone is normal, and ordinary, and then there’s a moment. A change. And nothing is the same, but everyone carries on...” She paused, and Juan nodded, calm and eager. Her hands were round his waist.
“Cars on the freeway, taking the kids to soccer. The freeway vanishes. What happens next?” he said in his low, soft voice.
“There’s an instant before they start to fall,” Merilee said. “But it was always a lie, they’re idiots to believe that everything can just go on.”
She had her head on Juan’s cool firm shoulder and she felt him shake his head, left, right.
“No,” he said. “It’s all moments. That’s all we have. There's a sledgehammer in Wallinger’s office, that orange emergency bin. It could smash this glass in a stroke. Imagine the moment when it touches.”
His smooth dark skin was carpeted with ripples of light, and a shadow passed across it. Merilee looked up. The octopus was splayed behind the glass, tentacles writhing.
“It knows,” she breathed.
“They are smart,” said Juan. “They always have been.”
Their faces were very close, Merilee felt his warmth on her cheek, felt her follicles tingling at his closeness. She turned to kiss him and the octopus watched in the flickering light.
The next day the screens in the break room were orange with fire-lit smoke and burning helicopters, shots of car-clogged highways out of town. Wallinger turned them off for his daily safety briefing, which was longer than usual and had more expansive gestures. Juan and Merilee sat close but not touching.
Later, they were cleaning the concourse after closing. It had been a busy day, and the crowds had been shrill. Out the window the towering pillars of smoke lined the hills.
“But you can’t do anything in a moment?” she asked, spinning her bucket and watching the dirty water climb the walls.
Juan pushed the mop into a corner. “A decision takes no time, there’s the world before you make it, and the world afterwards.”
They were beside the octopus tank. Merilee tapped on the glass, and he wafted out to see her.
She looked into his eyes. They were very dark.
Then she leaned the mop against the wall and said, “Juan, distract Wallinger for me.” She padded down the corridor until she heard the bucket clatter and spill and Juan’s soft voice raised for the first time, then pressed herself against the wall by the door marked Supervisor as Wallinger flung it open.
Inside his office the orange emergency bin was open. She grabbed the big wooden handle of the sledgehammer with both hands and yanked it out.
On the way out she met Wallinger. He gaped at her, for a moment.
Then she was past him, and running down the corridor, hammer held high, and Juan was holding the bucket and Wallinger was bellowing behind them. She swung the hammer in a tight arc and it cracked into the glass, which starred, then shattered.
Juan slid in on his knees, bucket ready, caught the octopus as it slithered out of the hole and they ran. Behind them Wallinger slipped on seaweed and crashed to the floor, howling with rage like a monkey.
Outside the air was thick with smoke and heat, flecks of carbon dancing in eddies of hot air. They clambered down the water and tipped the octopus in. Merilee looked at Juan, panting. His outline shimmered in the afternoon sun.
“I have to go, now,” he said. “Will you come with me?”
Flames were dancing on the tops of the skyscrapers. Merilee looked up at them, and blinked, and when she looked down the world had changed. She nodded.
The city burned beautiful for five days and nights, mortal flames fluttering out of the skyscraper windows. The squids watched it from the bay, their round opal eyes glistening in the flickering light.
When the last flame was gone the rain fell and hissed off the hot ticking iron, and the two squids flicked their tentacles and swam, off into the billowing deep.
dreadmojo fucked around with this message at Mar 20, 2018 around 10:56
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 04:01|
Wellington vs Seattle brawl
Prompt: Loch Ness Monster
Theme Word: Spirit
Monsters Made of Straw 996 words
It didn’t take long to find the place on the photograph. The reeds were taller now, and the trees denser, but this was exactly the same spot: still water, a row of pines, low mist over the lake. On the yellowed photo, my father smiled from under his favourite wide-brimmed straw hat. Behind him, something — a grey blur, mostly out of frame — rose from the water. I sat on a bench, stared at the photo, stared at the loch. Urquart Castle, with its bee-nest of tourists, squatted uncomfortably close.
“Looking for her?”
A woman in her fifties, in ugly walking shoes, approached from behind. Must’ve lost her tour group.
“Nessie,” she explained.
“Not really,” I said.
“Beautiful spot,” she said. Sat beside me with a grunt. Pointed at the photograph, which I held in my hand.
“That’s this spot, that is,” she said. “Your dad?”
I nodded. I was not in the mood for this.
“That’s her behind your pops, all right. That’s Nessie.”
Two months ago, a few days after his death, I’d caught the train out to his one-bedroom in Beckton. I cleaned out the ashtrays, bagged up his faded second-hand business shirts. I couldn’t find that hat, but I did found the album he’d always refused to show me.
I sat and flipped through it on his dirty carpet. Snaps of the sky, the smudges in the clouds circled with a red sharpie. Photos of empty rooms covered in orbs of light — dust mites, of course. Even those damned photos of the American woods, from went we went to America to visit mum’s distant family — who must’ve paid for the whole thing I realised later. We spend a week in that awful hell-hole Seattle. Father disappeared for two days and returned with proof of Bigfoot’s existence. Wrote to every newspaper, and claimed conspiracy when they did not write back. Mum wouldn’t talk to him for days. I examined each photo, but Bigfoot was scarce.
And, of course, the photograph of him at Loch Ness. There was a date scrawled on the back. Two weeks before the heart attack. I wondered who took the photo. The camera on timer, probably.
That night, back home in Brixton, I dreamt I was a kid again and father took me sailing down a lake, in a giant boat made of straw — a boat that was just like his hat, tipped upside down. He stood at the helm and rowed with a giant paddle. I wanted to help, but I didn’t have a paddle of my own.
“Dad,” I’d said. “Can I try?”
“The unready,” he said, “drown in the truth.”
“What brings you here, young man?” the woman asked.
“Biology conference in Glasgow,” I said. “Figured I’d see the sights, too.”
She giggled. “A scientist! You must think I’m loopy! Guess what I do?”
I shrugged politely, resigned myself to my fate.
“I’m a psychic,” she declared proudly. “I commune with spirits.”
A silence hung around too long.
“Are you here to spot the monster, then?” I asked.
“I don’t need to see her,” she said, “to know she’s there.”
I was nine when the family migrated from Poland. Unlike every other Pole in the UK, father was too proud to work construction. He had a masters in theoretical physics, after all.
Mother found a job as a nurse while father spent his mornings at the unemployment office, his evenings at the library. He’d bring back books with the strangest titles — the Webs of the Masons, The Secret UFO Files, Mysteries of the Ancients. I remember wanting to read them. I remember him rebuking:
“The unready drown in the truth.”
“Look!” said the woman. Movement in the mist, the sounds of splashing.
“Otters live here, you know” I said.
“I know you can’t see her,” she said, “but can you feel Nessie?”
I twitched. I didn’t mean to be rude, understand — this thing just really gets to me — so I said:
“I don’t know why, honestly, we make up this spirit nonsense. It’s so… banal. Mist on a lake, a family of otters — that is magic. Trying to pin a monster on every spec of dust or exposure flaw? Please. That’s just closing your eyes to the world’s beauty.”
The woman didn’t reply.
I hung up on my father, the last time we ever spoke. I’d been on edge, which I was a lot. We’d been arguing. I still can’t remember what about.
“I’m going now,” I’d growled.
“Do you think you’re ready, Thomasz?” he said, calm voice, “For the truth?”
I told mum about it, later. I don’t usually tell her much.
“Don’t worry yourself,” she’d said. “You know he was crazy.”
“gently caress, mum,” I said. “He’s my loving dad.”
“I found a lovely book at an charity store here,” the woman said, eventually.
She withdrew a children’s picture book out of her backpack. Sheepishly, I took it from her. On the cover, a straw hat floated upside-down on an ocean. A large rabbit, in grown-up clothes, and a smaller rabbit in shorts, stood at the helm. Both held paddles.
“Look inside the cover.”
I did. A single sentence, scrawled in pencil, worn away. The handwriting was, of course, unfamiliar, but one word was legible, and it was Polish, and it said:
… gotowy …
“A dedication. In another language! Isn’t that lovely?”
“You keep it,” she said, “I best go now. It was nice to meet you.”
I held the book in my arms, held the photograph. Held a watercolour of memories in my mind that swam and ran and washed together. I sat until it got too cold to sit and then I started walking. When I was some distance away, I smelled a damp marshy smell. A loud splash came from the lake and I saw a shape, a blur, out of the corner of my eye, but I refused to turn around.
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 04:01|
Seattle v Wellington Brawl
rear end in a top hat
James watched as Steph stepped nude from the park’s public toilets, placing her carefully folded clothes on a bench. She was, objectively, beautiful, James thought, trying and failing to feel something, anything, in response to the sight. He looked away as she stepped out into the moonlight and the change began, screwing up his face at the nauseating sound of bones snapping and flesh shifting.
Dumping his own clothes in a heap on the ground he followed Steph out into the full moon. James felt his body disappear, a terrifying moment of nothingness. Then his alter-eyes blinked open. A 360 degree view of the park and an influx of scents assailed his senses. His equine muscles bunched at the sight of the wide open space but he wouldn’t let himself go cantering around like some dumb colt, way too loving embarrassing. Instead he trotted after Steph, nose lowered to hunt out the best patch of grass.
James sighed and dropped his phone, message unanswered, back into his pocket. It was Steph, again. The parcels stacked on their riveted steel shelves stared accusingly at him. “I know, I know, I’m an rear end in a top hat,” he muttered to himself, reaching up to grab the next one down for processing.
“Yep a total rear end in a top hat,” said Inna’s voice from the next workstation, startling golden eyes and sharp white grin suddenly appearing around the end of the shelving. James jumped, the confines of the warehouse always made him claustrophobic this close to a full moon.
“So, moon-night tonight,” she said. “Got any plans?”
James flushed red. He hated being a werehorse, so loving lame. Most people wore some sort of tell, some giveaway of their alter-shape, like that dick Geoff in deliveries with his necklace of crow feathers and his uncomfortable stories about flying around looking into people’s windows every full moon. But not James.
“Well, my girlfriend really likes the view of the city from Gas Works Park, and, umm, she’s a sheep, so we usually just go up there, and, umm, graze…” he said, staring at his feet.
“Man that sounds nice,” said Inna. James looked up with surprise at the emotion in her voice. “I gotta chain myself up in my basement, city regs,” she said, rolling her eyes.
Instinctive fear shivered down James’ spine, mixed with an inexplicable frisson of excitement. She didn’t wear a tell either, he realised. “Oh, so you’re a…”
“Werewolf, yeah,” she finished for him. “loving sucks. Everyone assumes we’d go on a murderous rampage if we were allowed to roam but it’s not like you forget who you are when you change, right?”
“Right!” James said, over-enthusiastically. “Gas Works Park is pretty deserted most moon-nights, probably no one would notice if you…”
“I wouldn’t want to intrude,” she said.
“Oh, well, maybe sometime we could just go for a drink or…” he replied, his voice dying in an embarrassed mumble.
“Don’t be an rear end in a top hat James,” Inna said, her golden eyes boring into him. James felt his blush turn an even darker shade of red. She flashed him another grin before disappearing back behind the stacks of parcels.
rear end in a top hat, James thought, reliving that morning’s conversation as he cropped at the grass. Next to him Steph sat chewing her cud, gazing at the upside-down city that shimmered in the harbour.
James’ ears flicked back and forth, distracted by the scrapings of racoons in rubbish bins and the skittering of squirrels in the nearby trees. His nostrils shivered at a sudden new scent, tendrils of deep musk creeping through the air.
A sudden snap and a cut-off squeak made him swung his head up in alarm. From the darkness under the trees at the edge of the park a huge grey shape appeared. Its thick coat, the colour of shadows on snow, rippled over its muscular frame. With a snap of its jaws the squirrel disappeared. Golden eyes swung towards him. “Inna!” James thought, and then, “god I hope that was just a squirrel.”
Beside him Steph leapt to her feet, wooly ears pinned on the approaching wolf. James suddenly wished he’d told her about his conversation with Inna. But he hadn’t; couldn’t. He hardly talked to her at all these days, this sweet, kind girl who’d been following him around since high school. He just let her burble at him, listening only enough to know when she’d finished.
Inna growled, lips pulled back from her teeth in a gesture that made an instinct to bolt tug at his muscles. Steph jumped forward, positioning herself between James and the wolf. He looked at her with surprise as she stamped a front hoof. The wolf’s growl deepened and suddenly Steph launched herself forward, galloping with her eyes shut and her head lowered, fluffy white wool floofing around her in time with the pumping of her stumpy legs. At the last moment Inna side-stepped, snatching a mouthful of wool as the sheep charged past her.
Inna growled at James, a thick tuft of wool hanging from her bared teeth. Speech was impossible in alter-shapes but James could see the accusation in her eyes. “No I didn’t tell her about you, no I never tell her anything, yes I’m an rear end in a top hat, and of course yes she deserves better,” he thought to himself, full of shame.
Steph had turned back to face the wolf, readying herself for another charge. James cantered over to her, nuzzled her fuzzy head with his nose. “We need to talk,” her message that morning had said, and suddenly he needed to talk to her, wanted to talk to her. Inna flashed him a grin of sharp white teeth before she turned and disappeared under the trees.
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 04:05|
Seattle vs Wellington Brawl
Flatwoods Monster, Sparkle
Stanley had kept the cube hidden for sixty five years.
"It swooped at us with a piercing scream," said Stanley to the three people on today's tour. He indicated the nearby sculpture of a saucer-eyed, spade-headed alien with menacing talons, and saw the wall clock tick past six. Time to wrap things up.
"Eight foot tall and terrifying," he said, speaking a little faster. "So we ran. Honestly, we ran screaming through the forest, fast as we could go. A white mist rose up, making us gag and stumble every which way. We got separated and I remember thinking 'this is it, it's over'. But I finally escaped, and found myself alone. I tried to call to the others, but all I could do was cough blood and head towards home."
Stanley didn't mention the pull he'd felt, drawing him deeper into the night, keeping him moving, his breathing painful and loud. Nor did he mention stumbling over a tree root, falling flat and finding the cube, half-buried in the dirt.
He could sense it now, calling to him, locked in its high cupboard in the office of the Flatwoods Monster Museum. Its presence warmed him, a thread of continuity that reached down through the decades, a true thing amongst impressions, never far from his thoughts or himself.
"...sure it wasn't an owl?" said one of the tour group, some hipster wearing a 'Make America Grunge Again' cap. "An owl flew at you one night when there was a meteorite?"
"A popular theory," said Stanley, as he ushered them towards the exit. "But I've seen enough owls in my time to know they don't grow to eight feet. I've seen meteorites too, but never another that sparkled across the night sky like that. Thanks for coming, folks - I'm sorry, but it's past closing time. An old man needs his rest."
"Can I just get one of the figurines?" said Ballcap. "So cute!"
Stanley sighed and rang it up with arthritic slowness.
Eventually Stanley had manoeuvred the trio outside, closed the curtains, and locked the door. He made his slow way toward the office, feeling the ache in his feet from standing too long. His joints complained as he lifted the nearby footstool over to the wall, climbed it a step at a time, then stretched up to unlock the high cupboard. The door squeaked open on its half-rusted hinge.
Inside lay the cube. Sparkling.
Stanley lifted it carefully, stepped slowly off the footstool, then set it onto the desk with practiced precision. He took his seat, let his shoulders settle, and watched the colours play against each other as his memories came alive -
Stanley was a younger man, travelling the world, watching its people in their endless activities. Stanley was a lumberjack, a volunteer fireman, a slam poet. Stanley lived in the greatest of cities and the smallest of shacks. Stanley was drunk in Paris, high in Bankok, stone cold sober in a Tibetan jail. Stanley heard buskers and operas and the entrance chime of the Museum's front door as if someone had opened it.
He tossed a nearby raincoat over the cube. "Who's there?" he called out, worrying he had forgotten to lock up.
"Hello, Stanley," said a voice of charcoal and honey from the other room.
Stanley stood up too quickly and felt familiar glass shards in his knees. "Do I know you?"
"We met. Briefly. In the woods."
"Oh," said Stanley. Glimmers of light flickered through the raincoat. Stupid to go and hide the thing now, he thought. "I tried to return it, you know."
"It has always wanted to be be returned," said the voice. "But I was not ready to be found. I am...sorry if I frightened you at the time. The situation was unexpected, as was your sensitivity to the device."
"You near killed me," said Stanley, an afterthought without rancour. "Afterwards, once the hubbub died down and I couldn't find you, I just left, following the pull of it. Left town, left my folks, just wandered the world like some guy in the movies. For years, until I couldn't really walk anymore. Until it led me back here."
"The device has back-up protocols in the event of isolation. Your sensitivity rendered you vulnerable. In as much as it can think, it recognises your contribution and is appreciative."
"Oh," said Stanley, again. "I guess I'm appreciative too. There's people round here haven't seen further than the county line." He reached towards the raincoat and saw his red, swollen fingers shaking. He uncovered the cube anyway. Its colours were piercing, stronger than he'd ever seen them. The office walls swirled in their glow. "So what happens now?"
"We have need of the device. But we cannot simply take it - it has meshed too deeply with you to easily extract. If you were to pass it to us freely, however, there are ways that we could find to repay you."
The cube flashed - Stanley was a younger, stronger man, walking the modern world freely and without pain.
He shook his head. "No. I've done all that. It's yours. It always was. Time to slow down. An old man needs his rest."
There was no reply. The cube faded until it was gone, its ever-present warmth gone cold. The dim office seemed unfamiliar, so he walked painfully toward the darkened museum, feeling dazed and lost, like a child whose hand has slipped from its mother's. The posters and figurines bewildered him. He wondered where he was, and where he might go.
A spade-headed giant, saucer-eyes glowing, reached toward him with cruel talons. Stanley froze in terror. When neither moved for a minute, Stanley touched the figure tentatively, felt smooth, cool plaster. Confused, he headed outside.
The front door was unlocked. The night air chilled him and strange shadows moved along the ground. Stanley looked up as a meteor streaked across the sky, sparkling like crystal. Another followed, then a third. Then a thousand.
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 04:05|
Seattle vs Wellington Brawl
Flatwoods Monster, Sparkle
A Lost Page
It wasn’t that Aggie was surprised to find someone in her tree house in the deep woods; other kids would sometimes come in to smash her things and steal anything they took a fancy to. They were usually gone when she got there, but she had caught a couple of them once or twice, and gotten a loose tooth for her trouble.
She was surprised, however, by the fact that her uninvited guest was neither a kid from school come to pick on the quiet girl, nor a couple of teenagers looking for somewhere to make out, but a golden creature with long, narrow limbs, crouched like a spider waiting to spring.
Aggie froze, gripping the straps of her bag full of library books like a liferope. She stared at the creature’s face, its two wide eyes that looking for all the world like her great-aunt’s opal ring. It seemed to be looking back at her, and eventually it began to slowly tip its head back and forth, trying to get a better look at her. It moved one limb towards her, which made her look down at it, which is when she noticed the papers scattered around its feet.
“Oh!” she said. “My diary!” She took an instinctive step forward, which made the creature recede into itself, and suddenly her eyes were full of tears, and she was falling to the ground at the creature’s feet, trying to put the pages back in order.
This is so stupid, she thought, her hands blindly groping through her tears. This thing is going to kill me, and it’s all because I forgot to take my diary home with me last night. But she couldn’t stop. The diary was the only thing she owned that meant anything to her, and she couldn’t bear to leave it broken and scattered by some monster.
She stopped and looked at the page that was in front of her, then followed the trail from the fine-boned golden hand that was holding it, back to the impossibly tall creature that was ducking down to make itself small as it held the tattered page out to her.
Wiping the tears from her eyes, Aggie stared at the creature as it stayed in its position. She reached out slowly, and took the page from the creature.
“Thank you,” she said in a small voice, she said in a small voice, looking away from the creature's blank golden face and pearly eyes.
It held out another page, but this time when Aggie went to take it, its other hand reached out and pointed at the page it was holding. Aggie hesitated a second and then leaned forward, to see that it was pointing at the word sorry.
She gasped. “Do you… You can… Can you understand me?”
The creature looked down at the page in front of it, then pointed again. Yes.
“Can you talk?”
“I… What are you?”
The creature cocked its head, then pointed again. No.
“You don’t want to tell me?”
“Oh. Well, why are you here?”
The creature looked around, then picked up another page and pointed. Lost.
“You’re lost? Where are you from?”
“Well… Maybe I can help you.” Aggie sat down and started to pull books out of her bag. “I got a book of maps the other day, maybe we can help you find where you’re from.” She spread all of the books out in front of her, tucking the torn pages from her diary carefully beside her.
The opened the book of maps, a huge volume that the school librarian had hemmed and hawed over lending to her, and held it out for the creature to look at.
“This is a map of the whole world, see? The different colors represent the different countries.” She waited while the creature bent its head low over the book. It gazed at the pages for a long while, but eventually drew back and pointed at one of the diary pages it still held.
“It wasn’t there? Could it be that you just didn’t see it? There are other close-up maps…” She began to open the book to another page, but the creature leaned past her towards another one of the books that she had taken out of her bag.
“Oh,” she said, staring at the book in the creature’s hands. “Yes, that would make more sense.”
The creature flipped through the pages of the book for a few moments, and then held out a page to her.
“That’s Pegasus,” she said, gazing down at the page, and then up at the creature. “Is that where you’re from, then?”
She laughed a little. “I guess it was stupid of me to not think of that first.” She looked down at the book of maps in her hands and closed it slowly. “If… If you’re lost, I can- I mean, the stars will come out in a little while, and I can show you where Pegasus is, if you want. It was always my favorite, and...” She trailed off.
She was looking down at her lap, and didn’t see the creature holding out a page to her for a few moments.
“Oh,” she said, smiling. “Well, good, then.”
In the end, Aggie told the librarian that her dog had chewed up the copy of The Stars, and she spent her next three months’ worth of allowance paying for it. It was alright, though. She still smiled every fall when she saw Pegasus peek over the horizon.
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 04:49|
Seattle vs Wellington Brawl
There were three moments that stuck in Lethia’s mind like a scalpel. The first was carved into her when she was eight, and first saw the dark side of her great-great grandfather, Torres. She had been wandering around the penthouse when she heard the shouting. Curious, she wandered toward the noise.
“You’ll donate one way or another!” came a rasping shout.
Lethia’s mother nearly collided with her. “Lethia! What are you—nevermind. Don’t go in. Don’t go in.”
Curious, Lethia peered through the cracked door. She was used to seeing her Grandpa Torres’s eyes lit with mischief as he told her a tall tale of old times, or smiling as he retrieved a gift to her from his mahogany bedside stand. Now, he was nothing like that. His eyes were dull with fury, and hatred lined every crease and wrinkle in his face.
“What’s going on?” Lethia asked.
“I’ll—I’ll tell you later. I promise, sweetie. Let’s go.” She grabbed her hand, and practically dragged her away.
That night, Lethia had listened to her mother trying to stifle her sobs through the door. Later, there were all the trips to the courtroom and the psychologist where they asked Lethia questions she didn’t understand.
“My mom is nice,” she told one man in a suit.
“Of course you believe that,” he said, sadly shaking his head.
When it was all over, she went to live with her uncle. The memories then were foggy with nights spent sobbing into pillows, spent gazing into the air. That moment, though, when she saw his eyes—it stayed crystal clear.
When she was thirteen, she first went to the donation center.
“You’re doing a great service,” the nurse told her, and smiled as he rubbed her arm with an alcohol swab. He smiled with bright white teeth as he drew her blood, sampled, probed, and measured her. Then they sat her down in the chair, the one with the stirrups and then even the thin protection of the medical gown was stripped from her.
She remembered the machine, coming alive like a monster of plastic and chrome, disembodied torso lowered down to loom over her. It’s mouth uncoiled, the long, steel proboscis, and she recoiled as its cold probe penetrated her.
“Wait…” she said.
“It’s fine,” the nurse said, still smiling. “Everyone feels a bit uncomfortable. Don’t worry.”
Nearby, the technician didn’t look up from his screen. She saw her insides on the monitor, being scraped at. That was the second moment, sticking in her brain, blade in, the razor tip jabbing her in her dreams, reminding her it was there no matter how hard she tried to dislodge it.
“Donations are voluntary, of course,” a nurse told her, later, after she’d graduated high school. “But without fresh fetal tissue, none of the longevity therapies would work. We simply can’t replicate some of the functions in labs. If you decide to stop donating, you’re signing someone’s death warrant.”
Lethia looked her in the eye. “I’d like to stop donating,” she repeated.
The woman gave her a service smile. “Of course. Um, it will take time to process the opt-out paperwork. Until then, you’ll have to continue your donation regimen.”
“I thought it was voluntary.”
“It is voluntary.”
A week later, she had three unannounced guests. One great uncle was director of the Longevity Inc., and the other the Chief of Police. The third, her grandfather, was Associate Director of the hospital network. They wore navy suits, and were surrounded by their entourages.
“We heard you were thinking about stopping your donations,” Lethia’s grandfather started.
It’s private information, Lethia thought.
“It’s Grandpa Torres who’s relying on you,” the first great uncle said. “Family. He means everything to all of us.”
They never threatened her. But after an hour, it was clear what the consequences would be. Disownment. Unemployment. A black mark that would trail her like a shadow.
“I’m sorry,” she sobbed. “I’ll keep donating. I’m sorry.”
Each time that metal device entered her, she felt less. She dreamed about it looming over her, but instead of a machine, it was a white-haired man sprouting leathery wings that wrapped around the ceiling, face of a mosquito, its long, coiling proboscis descending into her, piercing her and sucking until she was a gray husk. She found herself trembling in the waiting room, the anticipation a grinding whetstone wearing at her nerves.
Then she got an email from the family account, marked urgent. The letter rambled, but the request was simple. Granpda Torres needed a new kidney. Would she donate? It was, of course, voluntary.
“I want to see him,” she’d told her great-uncle.
She found herself in the penthouse halls, wandering, hand brushing the wood paneled walls, remembering when the whole place seemed bigger.
Grandpa Torres was lying in his bed, just like he had when she was a little girl. He was just like she remembered. Even the eyes. Especially the eyes.
“You’ve grown so much,” Torres whispered. So many machines, tangled up in him. Two nurses, standing in the corner if he needed anything. A bodyguard by the door. “Your birthday is coming up. I’d love to give my sweet daughter something.”
Lethia looked to the window. New skyscrapers. New cars, gliding silently along the electric rails throughout the city. New businesses moving into downtown.
But no new blood. The same old people, running the world, their minds from centuries past.
“I want my freedom,” Lethia whispered. “I don’t want to be chained by the ghosts of the past.” She felt the knife in her sleeve, the hard plastic one that the metal detector hadn’t seen.
That was the third moment that could never leave her. The feel of the coarse handle in her hand. The anticipation, before the plunge.
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 04:59|
Less than 24 hours until sign-ups close.
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 10:41|
Kiwi and Coffee Megabrawl Results: Investing in Cryptidcurrency
THE PROMPT: Face off against an opponent from the other side of the world by writing about a cryptid of your mutual choosing. The judges assigned a theme word to each match.
THE WINNING REGION: New Zealand! Congratulations, Kiwis: your skills backed up your saucy mouths this day. Numbers were in your favor as each judge gave more wins to your team, ruling 4-3, 5-2, and 5-2 for NZ respectively; what clinched the result was that more of our overall favorites were on the antipodean side. The two stories with the highest overall scores actually came from Seattle, but so did the three lowest, and the margin of difference was larger on the low end.
Who won each pair-up may be of interest, so here are the final scores:
Morning Bell vs. CantDecideOnAName (Loch Ness Monster, Spirit): Morning Bell, by a vote of 3-0.
steeltoedsneakers vs. Jay W. Friks (Man-Eating Tree, Air): steeltoedsneakers, by a vote of 3-0.
Sitting Here vs. sebmojo (Akkorokamui, Fire): sebmojo, by a vote of 3-0.
curlingiron vs. Fumblemouse (Flatwoods Monster, Sparkle): curlingiron, by a vote of 3-0.
SurreptitiousMuffin vs. Uranium Phoenix (Manananggal, Water): SurreptitiousMuffin, by a vote of 2-1. This was the strongest match and the most hotly contested. Excellent job, both of you!
Yoruichi vs. Dr. Kloctopussy (Tikbalang, Earth): Dr. Kloctopussy, by a vote of 2-1. The other powerhouse entries were to be found here. Dr. K's win was decisive, but each of you brought honor to your team.
Nethilia vs. newtestleper (Wolpertinger, Chaos): newtestleper, by a vote of 3-0.
More in-depth critique will be delivered as we find will or time. Thank you all for the effort you put into your stories and your teams; it showed.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at Mar 2, 2018 around 23:20
|# ? Mar 2, 2018 23:08|
Sitting Supreme Brawl
SittingSupreme brawl submission
So this is a B+ trip through Buddhist history/myth, and it's fairly well done though not your primo sh story words - I think you could have made the mother much more interesting, and probably moon as well. i also confess to bafflement about how it relates to the Terminator (but with no violence), which although i'm habitually uncaring about prompt adherence does give me pause. i suppose you can draw a link between the chosen one aspect of T2 and the sense of implicit obligation in there, but it's a drat fine thread imo. So I'll deduct some notional brain points for that.
SittingSupreme brawl submission
ironically there's zero room for doubt in how this relates to the prompt, so there's a feast/famine prompt fulfilment scenario we got going on here. Unfortunately for you, while sh's lady-Buddha fanfic isn't her best, it still has a bit of snap and sizzle, which this lacks.
victory for sh, on points
|# ? Mar 3, 2018 03:26|
In for the week.
|# ? Mar 3, 2018 06:07|
|# ? Mar 3, 2018 06:14|
Sign ups are closed. Go make some beautiful disasters.
|# ? Mar 3, 2018 08:03|
victory for sh, on points
what were we even fighting about i forgot
|# ? Mar 3, 2018 08:55|
Seattlebrawl crits part the first
CantDecideOnAName - Where do monsters go when we stop believing in them?
I didn't like this at all.
The first sentence starts out poorly, by saying one kind of fictional being is a different, equally fictional kind of being. It's hard to find the meaning.
While that isn't ideal, it would be possible to take an odd non-statement like that and turn it into a story, if it were used to help flesh out a character who did stuff as part of the plot of a story where things happen. Instead of that you chose to string a bunch of equally untethered sentences together in a sort of non-specifically folksy voice, with literal zero actions.
Impressively, you manage one-up the incompetence displayed thus far with the ending, which is "and then he woke up and it was all a dream" minus anything to actually wake up from in the first place.
It sounds like the brawl was quite close overall, so I feel like this really let down the team. The gulf in quality in this duel was likely the deciding factor.
Jay W. Friks - Scrapper's Gambit
This has a little bit more to it. I liked the way the oxygen supply was set up as a way to build tension early (although you could take one and a half less sentences to do it) and a simple battle between your cryptid and an exosuit-wearing soldier is a perfectly reasonable approach to the prompt.
It was mostly let down by a lack of clarity. It wasn't clear at the start why Gehenna was hiffing around chunks of rock, and this was only kind of addressed half way through. I didn't really get what happened at the end at all - the tree sort of just stopped attacking her for no discernible reason.
This could have benefited from an edit for greater clarity, removal of almost all sentences that aren't action, a quicker and clearer setup of why Gehenna was there, and some kind of thematic element woven through to make it something more than a simple action sequence.
Sitting Here - Aka-Sama Stirs After Centuries of Inscrutable Silence
Great first sentences. These do so much work - the tone, the setting, the characters. Weird coincidence to use Hori as a name - it is a derogatory term for Maori.
Amazing world, prose, characters, squid. My favourite line is "Wind stirs my hair as precious oxygen is sucked upward to feed the flames."
Everything about this is so awesome, except the punchline. "Welp, inscrutable gonna inscrut *shrugs shoulders*" is deeply unsatisfying, especially when the thread of religion vs science has been laid throughout in such an interesting way.
I would love to read this again once the ending isn't a slap in the face.
|# ? Mar 4, 2018 06:44|
Word Count: 1061
The crowd roared as Gordon Pierce entered the arena. The walk to the cage served as his final few moments to mentally prepare himself for this final test. For five months he trained in every martial arts discipline he and his coaches felt he needed to come out on top. Mixed Martial Arts is a challenging sport in that regard and Gordon was at the top of his game, making the walk towards a title fight being watched by several million people around the world.
These steps helped serve as the final mental preparation. For the past week he had been calm, letting the defending champion, Steven Carlucci, do all the trash talking that these sort of fights inevitably involve in the final build up. Gordon knew he could beat Carlucci. He could beat him standing with his powerful shots, and he could twist him up into a pretzel if the fight went to the ground. Confidence was not only Gordon’s key to defeating Carlucci in the media, it’s what he knew would help him in the fight.
Carlucci’s style was more of a point fighter. He never fully committed to shots and played his striking on the outside, keeping his opponents from being able to take him down. Gordon knew this, his coaches knew this, and they knew how to beat it. Push in close, and as soon as Carlucci was close enough to the wall of the cage shoot for a takedown and beat him up. Rinse and repeat until Carlucci’s questionable stamina petered out and then finish him. Five rounds of five minutes gave Gordon all the time he needed to work with to do this.
Once Gordon was through the final check by the athletic commission officials he entered the cage and waited for his opponent. The lights went out and the familiar blas of Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” that signaled the world to the arrival of Steven Carlucci, Middleweight Champion of the world.
As Carlucci walked towards the cage and entered it, Gordon stared him down. Daring not to break eye contact with his final hurdle into stardom. His mind was so focused on Carlucci, Gordon barely recognized the referee’s final instructions. He was a caged animal, ready to finally be set free and attack.
With the referee’s hand motion, marking the start of the fight, Gordon rushed into Carlucci’s range cutting the middle of the cage off from him. This is what his plan called for to get the fight started. A quick sidekick to Gordon’s body was Carlucci’s way to telling him “No, you can’t come this close and get away with it.” Their attempts to punish each other’s bodies would be the only way these two communicated.
A swinging right by Gordon barely missed Carlucci’s chin. The crowd recognized the potential danger of it and cheered loudly. Gordon was going to catch Carlucci, he knew it. Carlucci’s distance was shrinking and Gordon knew in just a few moments he could force the fight to the ground or better yet land a powerful overhand right hand.
Carlucci though didn’t let this deter his offense. His quick jabs were peppering Gordon every few moments, and midway through the round blood was starting to flow out of Gordon’s nose. Then, suddenly, a well timed combo caught Carlucci hard and dazed him. Gordon rushed close and started to dig in hard shots to Carlucci’s body and head. In response, Carlucci threw wildly catching Gordon with solid punches as well. The crowd was loving every moment of it. Before either fighter fell, the bell rang and the referee stepped in to stop their brawl.
“Good! Good! That’s how you do it Gordon! Very nice!” Gordon’s coach, Rafael. shouted as Gordon sat down on the stool in his corner.
Gordon’s other two cornermen swarmed him, one focusing on putting ice onto the back of is neck while Rafael spoke to him directly with words of encouragement. The fight turned ugly and that helped Gordon more than it helped Carlucci in terms of strategy.
“OK now Gordon, breath man. Breath. You’re killing him out there now. Just four more rounds and all that hard work will pay off brother. Take him down, and beat him up. If you find the opening to finish it, do it!”
Rafael and the other cornerman left the cage at the behest of the ringside officials. As the one minute rest period ended, Gordon’s felt reinvigorated. Once the second round started Gordon again took the center of the cage and looked to establish dominance over Carlucci for a second time that night.
Carlucci looked tired, but not entirely out of the fight. His stamina was starting to wane and that was perfect. As Gordon worked his way closer to Carlucci, throwing jabs and combos in the process, he saw his opening. As soon as Carlucci’s back touched the cage wall, Gordon changed level and shot in for a double leg takedown.
That’s when everything went black.
Gordon’s eyes opened up and he was looking up at three faces. One of them he recognized, but the other two weren’t too familiar looking.
“OK Gordon, can you move your toes?” one of them asked.
Gordon moved his toes
“Good, now can you tell me what today’s date is and where you are?”
Gordon told him the date and where they were.
“Excellent. Now, do you feel any pain anywhere?” the unnamed man inquired.
Gordon told him he didn’t feel any pain.
“OK, let’s sit up onto the stool.” the man instructed.
Gordon sat up and onto the stool. He looked around and recognized where he was. He was still in the cage but there was a lot more people than just himself, Carlucci and the referee inside. Gordon caught the announcer saying “..and still undisputed Middleweight Champion of the world, Steven “The Brooklyn Terror” Carlucci!”
“He caught you with a knee man,” Rafael told him as the realization dawned on Gordon, “you shot in and he timed it perfectly.”
Gordon sank his head as the news hit him. Tears started to well up but he pushed them back down. All his work and preparation destroyed in an instant. This would set his career back possibly further than anyone could imagine. You don’t get redos after being knocked out cold in front of millions of people.
|# ? Mar 4, 2018 15:22|
Jay W. Friks fucked around with this message at Apr 27, 2018 around 19:27
|# ? Mar 4, 2018 22:20|
Flash rule: The Strangers - St. Vincent
Alone in the Dark
People said the stars helped make their problems seem smaller, insignificant. Did they realize they were being comforted by the past? Because the past sure as hell didn't comfort me.
Alone in my ship, I drifted through space blinded by the plethora of stars. There were only two days left on my patrol. Twenty-six monotonous days had passed with their own normality. I no longer felt anything when I saw light crawl and redden as it approached the black hole.
The area just before the black hole's horizon was a criminal hotbed where pirates would launch attacks on our star system. So fools like me had to police the boundary. A bounday the Empire set well before the horizon, the point where our star still won the gravitational struggle. Before the black hole had unexpectedly arrived to swallow up the past, our star system had had one of the lowest crime rates. Not now.
Every day I walked the same route through my ship. And I always ended up in the same hall. If I had been thinking while I walked, I'd have avoided it. At the end of the hall was the only mirror on the ship. Every day it reflected back to me a sight I never wanted to see. It felt like my brother stood there and asked me, "Where were you?" He's been missing twelve years now. And I don't remember his face. But I remember the last words he spoke to me, "You'll be there, right?" No. I wasn't.
I stare at the horizon and wonder where the black hole leads. Somewhere in the past? A new place entirely? Something unfathomable? A peaceful emptiness?
I checked today's reports. I read them with caution. When you've lived long enough, even the most innocuous things can send you plummeting into despair. The name of a place. The smell of a certain perfume. The way someone smiles. In one report there was a loaded gun waiting for me. It wasn't even my brother's name. It wasn't even close, but it was one that had always felt similar to me. Enough so that the full extent of my torment, which was always lurking in a dormant state, came upon me in a flash. Had I been looking for something that would upset me? I don't know, but it felt like my mind had collapsed. I stared at the horizon. Where did it lead?
I walked my path again. That hall. That mirror. As if I was stuck in its pull, that I had no choice what path I could take in the end. It would always lead there. I gazed into my past and removed the mirror from the wall. I took it to the airlock and threw it to the ground, shattering the damned thing. I launched the shards into space towards the horizon. Maybe one day they'd find their way to wherever the black hole led.
Where did it lead? It was no longer a simple thought. Now I had to know. I rushed back to the deck and altered the ships path. Straight to the horizon. It seemed to be darker already as the stars dimmed. Maybe the stars on the other side could comfort me? Where was he?
"Warning! Unauthorized flight path. You are now leaving Imperial protected territory. Turn back immediately!"
No chance in hell I was going back now. Pulled by something, I read the report again. The name carried no less weight. I wanted to forget everything, but I held on tighter whenever something began to slip from my memory. Darker and darker, the horizon grew closer.
A crashing sound stole my attention from the name and the cascade of thoughts it had created.
"Warning collision detected. Critical engine failure!"
The fuel meter swung to zero. What had I hit? Could the shards have caused the damage? Surely not. Whatever had caused it, the ship slowed. I was too close to the star system to be free from its pull. But the black hole had a greater pull past the Empire's boundary, so I crept closer to it. I checked the estimated path time. More or less twelve years. The symmetry endlessly folded the darkness in my heart.
I was sure I could perceive the horizon still growing closer. I could see it clearer now. But where did it lead? Where had he gone?
|# ? Mar 4, 2018 22:29|
My word count is actually 732.
|# ? Mar 4, 2018 22:30|
Sub Luna Saltamus
Prompt: Dancing Queen (Abba)
Darren, Paulo, and I all came to the dance without dates, as usual. But this time we weren't there to hug the walls and make excuses. We had a plan. Darren had used the football team's line marker to draw a circle around the gymnasium in salt and bone dust. I worked the ritual while Paulo ran interference with the chaperones. Paulo was also the one who found the spell in the first place.
“There's spells all over the internet,” Paulo told me. “Thing is, just about all of them are crap.”
We'd both figured out a little bit of magic, things you can do if there's something you're good enough at. I had my footwork, and Paulo did it in Python scripts. We hadn't yet found out how to use football property managing to cast spells, or found something else for Darren. We'd done little things. Turning off lights. Rusting metal in seconds. Making Mr. Gorka sneeze in the middle of a lecture. We wanted to move on to something bigger, even before what happened to Darren.
“If it’s all crap, how does that help us?” I asked.
“Kevin, Kevin, Kevin,” said Paulo. “Such little faith. See, the reason it's all crap is because any time something real gets posted someone takes it down right away. Which is good for keeping it away from most idiots. But to a guy like me, with sniffers tracking every echo and archive for the changes, well, they might as well be lighting up a big neon sign that says ‘the good stuff’, like those ones in the doughnut place.”
“‘Hot sorcery now,’” I said.
“Exactly,” said Paulo. “Take a look here. I think we could pull it off.”
We needed to. We had an ongoing need for revenge. For justice. Two weeks earlier, Darren made the mistake of asking Alison out on a date. She turned him down. Which, fine, if it had been a ‘Sorry, no thanks’, or even an ‘Ew, go away, loser’, that would have been that. But it wasn't. It was a full-on, gather a huge crowd, long and humiliating speech with callbacks to best-forgotten embarrassments from elementary school and climaxing with a suggestion that he ‘try his luck with chubby Charlotte instead.’ Charlotte, in the audience and almost as mortified as Darren, ran off first.
Action was clearly called for. The magical kind. And this spell looked perfect.
“What do you think you're doing?” said Charlotte. She usually stood on the opposite wall from us at these things, present against her will, holding a book she'd pretend to be reading in the dance-floor darkness. Now she was up and in front of me.
“Dancing,” I said. I’d just finished the last of the four runes in the spell. All that was left was for them to finish charging.
“You must be quite good. How'd you learn it?”
“Took some ballet, some modern dance,” I said. “Did some competitions, until I was too old for partnering with my mother to not be too embarrassing.”
“You must have retired a quite spry three-year-old. Did she also teach you magic?”
“What?” I said. “No, I mean, there's no such thing-”
“I just saw you do a Sumerian rune of mastery.” I moved my lips but couldn't make any words. “You're Darren’s friend. Are you cursing Alison? Is it warts? I'd have done a great big one right on her stupid nose if I thought I wouldn't get caught.”
The runes were almost charged. My footprints were starting to glow, deep red under the dancers as they moved. “Yes. Not warts. Something better,” I said. “Alison’s about to assume the Aspect of the Queen.”
“What?” said Charlotte. “How's that going to-”
“It's going to be great,” I said. “One minute she'll be dancing with Carl, the next he'll be pressing right up to a ninety-year-old Brit.”
Charlotte’s eyes rolled so far up they shut for a full second. “You think the Queen in that spell is Elizabeth II.” I nodded. “You do know we’re in Ohio.”
“So, then who-” I started to ask. The runes were charged near to full.
“An older Queen,” she said. “From before we were here.”
“Before white people?”
The runes flared. I turned to Alison, barely noticing that everyone else had stopped dancing and was doing the same. She was beautiful, even more than before, but it wasn't the kind of beauty that a person can have. It was the beauty of an idea, of a cause, of service and devotion to something greater and that something was Her.
“A dance?” She said with what might have been Alison’s voice. “For me? Then dance. Dance your little sweet mortal hearts out for your Queen.” Everyone began to dance. Everyone, even Darren and Charlotte and Paulo and the chaperones, and not just hold and sway dancing or even bump and grind. Old dances, powerful dances, the tango and the reel and the can-can. Everyone but me, in that first second. With my magic in my dancing feet I could resist it, control it. After three beats I realized that I'd have Her full attention if I kept resisting. I danced.
I looked around as I danced, watching the room, looking for the people I knew. A lot of the students weren't up to this kind of dancing, fitness-wise. A few collapsed with strained muscles, their feet still moving as if dancing as they writhed on the ground and moaned. She waved Her hands, and the music got louder to cover the noise.
I found Charlotte, and danced through spins clockwise and counter- through five partners to reach her.
“You can still move about?” she asked. I nodded. “Listen: salt to break the glamour, iron to banish.” The dance continued, switching partners and I could not follow without attracting Her attention.
I moved on, reaching Paulo. “Can you change the music?” I asked. He could, with a short script in his head.
“What do you want?” he asked.
I knew I was going to have to cover a lot of ground, had to be able to be the center of attention in a way that didn't let Her know I wasn't under Her control. “Give me Disco.”
I started moving, gold trophy moved across to the back where the sodas and snacks were set up. Danced up to the table, jumped into it, slid across, leaning back to pick up the near-empty bags. Pretzel salt and Cheeto dust.
I didn't know where to find iron in here, though. I went from one side to the other in search of it. More people had collapsed. ‘Dance your hearts out,’ She had said. It wouldn't be long before someone's heart did give out. I danced to the center of the room, to Her, and three the salt and mostly sodium cheese powder in her face.
She changed, growing taller and more terrible. Her mouth became a circle of teeth, lamprey-like. Her fingers grew nails as long as her hands. The dancing slowed but did not stop.
She tilted her head and looked at Carl. Her nails raked his shirt to shreds, then dug into flesh. She pulled out his beating heart and fed it to Her terrible mouth, swallowing it at one bite. Waved of frosty chill spread through the room, and I remembered where there was iron in this gym.
I ran, barely even dancing, over to the old radiator heater. I switched to some soft-shoe tap for half a minute to use my rusting charm on a slash near the edge of on of the fins. A chunk of iron came off easily with my hand in a puff of rust dust. She was following close behind, Her bloody dripping nails reaching toward my throat. I met them with the metal. There was light, and then there was darkness.
“How is Carl still walking around,” I asked Charlotte the next day. She had gathered us all together, asked us to swear a gaes to never try and cast a spell again. Darren and Paulo happily did, while I just moved my lips without making any sound. “Did none of it really happen?”
“It happened,” she said. “I was able to do a spell to change the way it happened. Make the reality into metaphor.” It was true. People talked all year about Alison tearing out Carl’s heart, but they remembered her dumping him on the dance floor with a speech that out the one she used on Darren to shame. And she got even more popular after that, too. “We'll want to keep an eye on Carl. He doesn't exactly have a heart any more, and that can be dangerous.”
Charlotte touched my arm after the others left. “You didn't swear the oath,” she said. “Don't think I didn't notice.”
“I didn't,” I said. “And I won't.”
“Well then,” she said. “I guess you may have some hope as a wizard after all.”
|# ? Mar 5, 2018 04:07|
To Shoot for the Moon and Miss
You'll never know what you did wrong. The scout ship's command console, stripped down to barest functionality, doesn't support past-entry recall; you'll never be able to see just where your finger slipped when you typed in your routing equation, before you hammered through three confirmation windows and sent yourself into warp. You float among the unknown stars, and your fatal mistake is in the unreachable past.
For an hour after you awake from warp-coma, you watch that foreign starscape out of your display, as if some familiar landmark might present itself. For the last three months of your training, you ran through your planned route in the simulator over and over, until the star map was clearer in your memory than your mother's face. Nothing on the screen is familiar. You are lost. You must still be purging the warp-coma sedatives, you realize, when panic and self-loathing fail to set in. Your clumsy hands should be shaking. Your idiot mind should be eating itself. Instead, you are motionless, your thoughts a slow and murky river.
Your training kicks in -- four years in scout-pilot school not useless after all -- and you realize you have options. You can abort your mission right now, punch in your home-routing equation, and hope you land close enough to Earth that an outbound ship picks up your distress beacon. If you think another warp isn't worth the risk, you can kill the engines now and send up a beacon, saving fuel for if the navigation systems get a lock on your location. (They haven't yet. They're not likely to.) Or... you continue on your mission. Wherever you are, someone still needs to map it.
You know what your duty demands of you, and what your chances of survival demand. Your ship is stocked for a one-year mission. If you abort and home-route, no matter how far off course you've gone, you won't be more than a few weeks away from rescue. You can gorge yourself, if you like, without fear of anything but your rescuers' judgment. If you kill the engines now, it's harder to judge how long you might wait, but you're still unlikely to starve. If you continue, though, and venture farther and farther out, your odds get worse and worse. You may be a lucky fool and stumble upon a ship or a landmark -- or you may wither away out here, a corpse in a floating steel crypt.
You know what safety demands, and you know you don't want it.
What does Earth have to offer you? A shameful return to scout school, a sweltering dormitory room, city streets echoing with tubercular coughs? A few more years of futile hope? Your ship is clean and quiet, and you imagine a year of floating down its corridors, weightless. Free. You think of pioneers: dead dogs in orbit, ships scuttled on blooming reefs, bones bleaching in the brilliant sun. The frontier is the most beautiful killer, and there's no way you'd rather die.
You don't feel the chemical calm anymore. All you feel is certainty. You flip on your probes and mapping systems, starting your data collection. Your hand moves towards the distress beacon, but you leave it for now; you're not in distress, after all. You're not sure you ever will be again.
Is this what resignation feels like? It's wonderful. You should have tried it long ago.
The scrubbed, recirculated air of your ship is crisp and cool. You inhale deeply. The strange stars welcome you.
|# ? Mar 5, 2018 04:47|
(I Want to Be Evil - Eartha Kitt)
An Unlikely Uprising
Sunlight. Made it through the night - TRUMPH AGAIN! So cold. I didn't think I would live through it, but..
Ten-thousand six-hundred twenty-six nights. Twenty-seven? There was that incident back around six-thousand one-hundred where I lost my mind for a couple days. I never decided if I missed one or not. It's ten-thousand six-hundred twenty-six OR Ten-thousand six-hundred twenty-seven. I keep track of both. Give the numbers a centimeter, and they will take an inch. You have to stand your ground. Numbers: Zero. Me? Four-thousand five-hundred twenty-six... twenty-seven? Twenty-seven. Wait. Hah, I see your game; I won't let you rob me of my most grand accomplishment. Clearly this makes it twenty-eight!
Agenda. I'll make my rounds. I'll visit each of the districts, starting with the Ströjveeninininian waterfront over here.
Ströjveeninininininininia. The land of my birth! I named it after my grandfather, Joel.
There they are again. Those little quackers. Those little fuckers...
They make me feel insecure. They will ruin everything I have. This land is my kingdom. They are just pawns in my domain. Common-folk.
Have you not been a just king?
Hours out of my busy day, I slave away on my throne listening to their petty concerns. They should need an audience to speak to me. They have no respect for the crown. No respect for authority. No? It's bigger than that, isn't it? They have no compassion for their fellow man.
Have you not fed them? Do you not allow them to bathe?
I give them more than I take for myself. Crumbs for me, crust for the ducks, so high and mighty. They defile the blessed waters of this holy ground.
What do they have to offer? How do they contribute?
Avian Tuberculosis. Salmonella contamination! Ornithosis! Eastern. Equine. Encephalitis! EEE. I bet that one right over there even has VD. Look at her, the little slut. Disgusting and distasteful. Shameful, and unsanitary.
And on top of that, they smell.
For thirty years, their trespass has continued. They won't usurp me. I've been nice up until now, but no more nice. They will all see what happens when they bite the hand that feeds.
"I WON'T LET YOU SHITFUCKS REVOLT. MARK MY WORDS, THE TABLES HAVE TURNED!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, brandishing his outstretched finger at a young Northern Mallard female. A couple walking by gave him a nervous glance, but continued on their way. Several others paid no mind to the commotion.
A gentle breeze carried the sounds of various waterfowl through the air on a warm spring afternoon.
A man slowly shuffled towards a bench sitting at the edge of a pond, and glared about his surroundings with a long sweeping motion. He was wearing a tattered grey peacoat and camouflage slacks. His feet were wrapped in several layers of a glossy, black plastic material. Suddenly, his glare turned into a wicked smile. He reached in the chest pocket of his coat, and produced a small bag of bread crumbs. Reaching into the bag, he pulled out a few pieces and brought them to his nose. A few sniffs later, he began to chuckle. His laugh was soft and innocent at first, but soon reached a full-on maniacal cackle.
He began tossing crumbs in every direction, drawing the swimming ducks in like moths to a flame.
"Go on. Don't be shy. Today is a special kind of feast!", he exclaimed, managing to hold back the laughter as he fed the ducks.
A young child ran around, laughing merrily as she tried futilely to grab one of the ducks. Nearby, her father was busy looking at his mobile phone. He looked over and caught a glimpse of the ragged man, and quickly herded his child back in the other direction.
"Stay over this way, darling," he said with concern, before losing himself in his phone again.
It was a warm morning in early summer. A man was sitting on a pond side with his face buried in his hands. His quiet sobbing was drowned out by the sounds of countless waterfowl and other migratory birds.
The royal apothecary has failed you. Burn him. Hang him. Feed him to the hounds. Banish him to the mines!
Across the water, two men looked on.
"That's Jasper over there," one of them said, pointing. He was wearing a beige-green uniform with a logo patch sewn into the sleeve that read 'King County Parks and Game'.
"One of the regulars, I take it?", the other replied. He wore a navy blue uniform with a gold-plated badge attached to his breast pocket, and a belt holding various tools strapped around his waist.
The first man nodded. "He's a member of the homeless encampment that lives over on the west side. Seems like he's been going through some kind of crisis lately, the poor guy. He's been in low spirits for at least two or three days now."
"Oh?", the officer replied, with the slightest bit of interest.
"He's been having outbursts for the last few weeks," the park ranger said, scratching his head as if in deep thought for a few moments before continuing. "Some visitors have complained, said he makes them feel uncomfortable."
"Hmm. That sounds disturbing. He isn't a threat to anyone, is he?"
"I've known him for years. Never known him to be violent in any way. Just mood swings."
"Well, if he isn't hurting anyone, best to just let him be. I'll keep an eye on him, though. Professional interest." The officer grinned.
"He might be a bit of an eccentric, but he really takes joy in feeding those birds. He's been doing it every day for longer than i've been around here," The park ranger continued, smiling softly. "He even came to me saying he wanted 'to give them what they truly deserve', and asked what he could do to 'take care of them'. I told him the gardening store over on 5th street sells a special in-house formula solution that mixes in with bread and gives 'em everything they need."
"5th street, eh. Vince's Home and Garden?"
"That's the one. Stuff's expensive, so I'm not sure how he got his hands on it, but it seems to be working. The ducks are showing up in spades now. Even got other types of ducks that normally avoid people flying in for a taste.
The officer chuckled. "Maybe I shouldn't watch him too closely. This place feels more lively. I'm sure ol' Vince doesn't mind someone walking off with a bottle here and there."
"Nothing wrong with that."
The two men continued on their way, breaking off into banter about unrelated affairs. Jasper just sat in a trance like state, staring into nothingness with a look of deep existential dread on his face.
Histoplasmosis, Cryptococcosis, and Allergic Alveolitis - the breeder's lung. Avian Cholera, Aflatoxic poisoning..
|# ? Mar 5, 2018 05:05|
Mine is the Blood of Wolf and Deer
“Because you miss seeing him? Because you think you need him?”
Dr. Shao, my therapist, believes I suffer from… well, not schizophrenia but rather some distant, undiscovered, unlabeled cousin. She hasn’t said it but I’m sure. One singular dream, possibly hallucinatory, repeating with variations ad nauseum over decades. Delusions. Sociopathic tendencies. She watches me and says nothing. Patience and silence in the face of a question will, given enough time, invariably invoke a response. It is a common tactic in sales and negotiations. And in therapy.
He would tell me to be truthful with a trusted advisor. I lean back in my chair and clear my throat.
“Yes,” I say with a nod. “I do. I am acting lead on a major merger at the end of the month and I need his advice on how to proceed.” Her pen is quick across her paper. “Plus, there are… other side effects of the pills. Diarrhea. Lethargy. A trembling of the fingers. A fogginess of the, uh, of the mind.”
“We can get you something for the side effects.”
“I came to you for anxiety and depression.” I say. “Because I am unhappy and I want to be happy. Not for this black sleep where I dream of nothing. I want different pills. Zoloft, Prozac, Sarafem, Celexa.”
“These pills are working,” she says.
I purse my lips. Dr. Shao believes she is attacking the underlying cause of my issues. I have already stopped taking the pills. She does not understand. Mine is the blood of wolf and deer.
I will see Genghis Khan again tonight.
“Khan of Khans,” I say, touching my head to the floor. Such deference is unnecessary but it pleases him to be so honored. My dreams always start here.
“Stand,” Genghis says, the corners of his lips hinting at a smile. “Stand and come close, my grandson.”
Dr. Shao likes to point out that, given our respective ethnic make-ups, she is more likely to be his descendent than I am. Yet still Genghis rises from his fur-covered throne and embraces me. He takes my clean-shaven face in his heavily calloused hands and presses his forehead against my own. His grip is rough but paternal. His beard smells of horse and wine.
“How is the new wife?”
My therapist. Some concepts don’t translate.
“Honest,” I say. “She is honest.”
“Good. Is she intelligent?”
“Yes,” I say. “Though she thinks I should heed her words more than yours.”
“Well, that’s marriage.” He laughs and pats my cheek. The throneroom melts away until our world is nothing but steppe grass and blue sky. He looks up. In the distance, a circling hawk hunts for its next meal. “And your first wife?”
My real wife. “She approves of the union. Insisted on it, really. She says I’m not happy.”
Genghis nods. “An honest, intelligent woman is a powerful thing. We can find beauty in our concubines but... love? Companionship? Advice? That is the realm of the wife.” He touches my elbow and we walk. To where I do not know. “Or wives.” He smiles.
“There is a merger-”
He snorts. “You need not my council. You know my words. Let them pay fealty. Keep the competent in power. Kill the rest.” It’s actually good advice. “Why are you really here?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe I just miss the steppes.”
He pauses. “Did you know that I planted grass in the middle of my palace? I sleep in a tent there. Every night.” He glances at me. “Why are you really here?” he repeats.
Because I am unhappy.
I shake my head. He keeps staring. Given enough time…
I force myself to wake up.
“So,” Dr. Shao says, “in your dreams, I am your wife.”
“No,” I say. “Well, yes. No. Not like that.”
“Like how then?”
I exhale. “In Mongolian culture, in the old culture, you would be performing the duties of a wife. So, in my dream, you are my wife.”
“Wifely duties,” she says, looking up from her notepad. “Do you-”
“No,” I say quickly.
“Be honest,” she says. “It is important to be honest.”
“I told you I’m not taking the pills. Is that not-”
“Are you attracted to me sexually?” she asks.
“Do you dream of me in a sexual manner?”
“No,” I repeat. “You are council. Advice. Like an advisor.”
“Why am I your wife then? Why am I not an advisor?”
“I don’t know,” I say, pinching the bridge of my nose. “I don’t know! It’s just the- the Mongolian culture, I guess.”
Dr. Shao bites the end of her pin. She clicks it against her teeth. “Your... interpretation of Mongolian culture.”
“I guess, sure.”
“Because you aren’t Mongolian.”
Mine is the blood of wolf and deer. I am the descendant of the Khan of Khans. I walk in the steps of Genghis himself. I conquer in his name. I conquer as a modern man. I conquer. Mine is the blood of wolf and deer.
“No,” I say. “Of course not.”
“And it isn’t the twelfth century.”
“Lexapro. Paxil. Luvox.”
“I’m not changing your prescription.” she says.
“I can find another therapist.”
“Sure,” Dr. Shao shrugs. “And they will mask your symptoms without addressing the source of your pain. Same as your last one.”
I dream of nothing.
On my advice, we keep the competent regardless of position. We fire the rest. The company makes money. The shareholders are happy.
I am not.
Mine is the blood of
I dream of nothing.
“Why him?” she asks.
Mine is the
“Why Genghis Khan?”
“Why do you think?” I say.
Dr. Shao cocks her head to the side. “I certainly have my own thoughts on the matter. But, in my professional opinion, they are less important than your own.”
“Resolution through reflection?”
“Schizophrenia isn’t treated through reflection.” I say. “It’s an imbalance. It’s brain chemistry.”
“I don’t think you have schizophrenia,” she says.
“What do you think I have?”
“I don’t know.”
“I’m just being honest,” she says, a small smile creeping across her face. “A trait you admire.”
“That he admires.”
“That you admire,” she says. “It’s all you.” She leans back. She is confident. She would have been an excellent wife.
“It’s all me,” I say. “Sure. Right.”
“I did miss the steppes.” I run my fingers through the tall grass as we walk. “And the blue sky. Bluer than any I’ve ever seen while I’m awake.”
“Come home to Mongolia,” Genghis says. “See it for yourself. Visit the land of your fathers.”
I don’t know my real father. He knows this. I know this. I frown. “Dr. Shao says I should confront you.”
He stops, turns, and places his palm on the hilt of his sword. “In combat?”
“I would kill you.”
“Not in combat,” I say, raising a hand. “In- in philosophical concept.”
“You are a… concept to me,” I say. “I needed a father figure. I created you.”
He laughs. “I created me. I crafted my own legacy.”
“Yes,” I say. “Sure. But as a concept-”
“Why are you really here?” he asks.
Because I am unhappy. “Because...because I am unhappy,”
Genghis strokes his beard. “With what?”
“I don’t know. Life? Everything? I’m depressed. Possibly sociopathic.”
“I don’t know!”
“There was a man,” I say softly. Slowly. “A neighbor. I was a boy. It’s more than a- a father figure thing. I think Genghis Khan would have protected me. I believe that. I was just a little boy.” My voice catches in my throat at the end. I don’t know how many of those words I actually said. I press my thumbs into my eyes. Tears are unmanly but I can’t plug the leak with my fingers.
I feel him behind me. Genghis’s hands rest on my shoulders. “He lives?”
“Yes,” I say.
“Revenge yourself,” he says.
“I have thought of killing him. I’ve fantasized about it. I’d shoot him.” I’m crying. “Or I’d stab him. Or I’d use a hammer. Should I kill him?”
“No,” Genghis says, squeezing me. “Revenge yourself. Are you successful?”
“Yes,” I say.
“Take his land. Take his gold. Raze his childhood home. Destroy his legacy. Destroy everything he loves. Death is nothing. Ruination is revenge.”
“Yes,” I say, nodding. “I have money. Money is everything.”
“Curse of the khagan,” he whispers in my ear. “You’ll never be happy. You’ll never be satisfied. I wasn’t.” He lifts me to my feet and he embraces me and he presses his forehead against mine. “But you can wreck carnage,” he says. “Yours is the blood of wolf and deer.”
“Yes,” I say.
And to think I was going to try and end these dreams.
“Resolution through reflection,” I whisper to my therapist. Words she’ll never hear. I do not need her. The distant hawk swoops down into the grass.
Mine is the blood of wolf and deer.
|# ? Mar 5, 2018 05:14|
|# ? Nov 21, 2018 20:39|
Lucifer Burning Bright
The hot white glare of Lucifer’s eternal fire burned the tears off Dalton’s cheeks before they could fall. It had been the same for millennia; eons. Dalton imagined his eleven foster dogs crouched in various locations awaiting his return. Here, shuffling through scalding sand, weeping, was not quite hell, but certainly not heaven.
An amateur escape artist while he lived, Dalton resolved himself to escape Lucifer’s domain, however far away it was. His quest for resurrection had taken him to any and all landmarks, some floating far above the surface, others sunken, containing a darkness more complete for its juxtaposition with the light above.
Some literature pointed to a total resurrection à la Lazarus, awakened in a tomb back to his own flesh, as if from a slumber. There was nothing to signify if the resurrection happened like Lazarus’s and Dalton would awaken mere days after his death.
Yet others whispered of returning as a ghost, to witness actions left interrupted by death. Dalton was resigned to either, though the former would be more fulfilling. What good being back with your dogs if you couldn’t pet them or feel their clumsy kisses?
He had accrued scrolls, artifacts, and knowledge both sacred and profane and lugged them all across the wasteland. He would never have perfect information. But according to one detailing of the ritual the only thing he lacked was a “vessel with which to traverse the Final Boundary.”
Lucifer’s sands had a way of creating what one needed, though distorted with a wry humor. When Dalton craved a companion, a hot gust shifted sands off a shining mirror. And the slow drip of information about returning to life felt endless, a mere breadcrumb trail leading nowhere but onwards, forever.
He climbed over a dune and was nearly blinded by Lucifer’s light reflected off of a shiny sports car. The sight of so foreign an object sparked giddy laughter. He broke out in a loping run dragging his bag of implements behind him.
Dalton plopped into the seat of the sports car, its leather seat blessedly and improbably cool. He began his work.
The first step Dalton had completed practically the moment he drew breath in his afterlife: have a reason to go back. He had eleven: his dogs. The following steps, as he unearthed them, proved to be more and more difficult.
The passenger seat was littered with small figurines, each patiently carved and polished from stone in the likeness of Dalton’s dogs. Their names marched through his mind as Dalton went about his work, only half sure of every decision.
Lucas, Grim, Boots, Kith, Kin, Littlebit, Pinecone, Commander, Gretchen, Molly, Willow. He changed up the order every time to avoid a “last but not least” situation. They were all great and their combined absence from his afterlife added up to a mighty tug.
Dalton dusted the car’s red shell with a pentacle of ashes and performed close to a hundred other such rituals. He muttered a few prayers around the car and turned his eyes towards his eternal observer. Dalton had stretched his imagination in thousands of ways to try to understand Lucifer’s pain, but always came up short.
The car started with a roar. Dalton flipped the sunshade down and drove ahead, reaching top speed in less than a minute. Lucifer glowed from above. Focusing on the light centered Dalton and he sped ahead, yelling whatever expletives came to his mind and hoping. Lucifer’s light flickered once, then went out.
Dogs barking. The excited chatter of children, occasionally shushed by parents. Wind chimes tinkling. Dalton awoke to such sounds, his eyes adjusting to light so much dimmer than Lucifer’s.
He was a ghost. He swore and floated around, appreciating the ease of movement. The sensations were unreal, a mix of flying and swimming, though not quite either. A sign nearby in a Cyrillic script meant he was a long way from home. After a few moments of hovering slowly forward he decided to try something. With a slight swish, Dalton’s ghost sank into the earth. Its musty, spicy warmth nearly lulled him to a sort of sleep, but he powered through, thinking of his dogs.
Eventually he came to a stop feeling utterly lost. Was there an easier way? What abilities did ghosts have? He imagined his house, his land, his street, self-consciously hoping to just appear there. Nothing doing, he resumed his ghostly trek through the earth.
His navigation served him better than he thought. He popped up out of the earth a few miles from where he had lived and died.
The house was much as he left it, ropes, trunks, locks, and a single tank full of water, now green with algae. No dogs in sight. Had they learned from their master and escaped once the food and water ran out?
Manipulating physical things required a certain finesse that took Dalton minutes to master as he tried to check the mail. It was like trying to open a jar of pickles by flapping your hand inches above the lid. Frustrating, but manageable with perseverance. Letters--bills, mostly--plopped to the ground. One envelope caught his eye, bearing the logo of the animal shelter he had fostered his dogs from.
“Thank you for your financial contribution! Through your money we were able to find forever homes for all eleven of your foster pups!” The life insurance thing had gone through, but now his dogs were scattered about. The back of the letter listed the names, numbers, and addresses of those forever homes. Dalton would have cried if it would have done any good.
He wanted to--had to--say goodbye. So he began an altogether different journey.
Dalton had heard that dogs and cats could sense the supernatural. When a cat stared up at the corner of a room or a dog barked at a patch of carpet they were really warding off a spirit. Dalton expected Commander to perk up once in view, but the Great Pyrenees looked right through him. Dalton made Commander’s ball roll across the yard and knocked over a box of treats, but Commander paid no heed to their supernatural causes.
More and more distraught, Dalton sought out the rest of his former pets, each one the same. When it seemed like Lucas had noticed him Dalton shouted with glee, only to realize Lucas had spotted a dog on a walk outside.
The same was true for all the others. Dalton sank back into the comfort of the earth and wallowed. Though they had not acknowledged him, seeing the dogs must have been enough. With a feeling like the seconds before a sneeze, Dalton’s ghost evaporated, and he went on to a more permanent rest.
|# ? Mar 5, 2018 05:19|