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Okua
Oct 30, 2016


IN.

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Okua
Oct 30, 2016


An Attempt at Understanding (1544)

Hailey walked behind her three assistants as they headed down to the valley and into the emerald grass. She disliked all of them. They were just students, really. The kind of people you could spare for a dubious dig site, for an archaeologist who had been wrong before and still annoyingly insisted that she’d find her bronze-age settlement any day now.

Hailey sniffled.

Leon, the youngest of the bunch, was falling behind on purpose, seeking her out.

"I'm so excited to be here," he said. "Is it true it was your grandparents who told you 'bout this place?"

"Um," Hailey said. "Yeah. Back in their day there were coins and bits of metal and such washing up all the time around here. So they said."

"Well, I grew up just over that hill, and I had grandparents here, too, and I 'eard from them that there's so much in these hills. They told me sometimes, it’s like the land speaks to you. If you listen. That this is that kind of place. And I think that kind of thing’s cool."

"Cool," Hailey said, and then she kept quiet until they set up camp.

There, she took stock: Two guys with shovels, one girl with a brush. A deep breath for confidence. Leon went to work unprompted, too eager – God, Hailey thought, if we find something, he’s gonna crush it. The others, Jesper and Daisy, were still standing off to the side.

###

They swept away the earth and reached the rock beneath. The stone was red, marred with veins of granite, and it could’ve come from miles away. Hailey looked up, strands of hair falling into her face, but instead of majestic hills she saw Leon again. He smelled sweetly of the energy-drink he'd sipped all morning.

“I… Um, I don’t know how to say this, but I’ve found something.”

“Okay? What kind of something?”

“Bones,” he said, smiling ear to ear as he showed her.

Poking out of the ground in the afternoon sun lay two sets of bones far too pristine. "People," she said, triumphant before sense crept into her. “People,” she repeated. Not yet artefacts or exhibits. They were too recent, complete bodies still. She could tell these people had been lying on their stomachs, facing down.

Jesper came up behind her, his broad-shouldered shadow covering the discovery.

"They're not supposed to be in this layer," he said. “I’ll tell the authorities.”

Hailey was left staring at the dead. Their hands were curled up, like they had been digging, too.

###

It was a whole week before Hailey and her assistants made the trip again. Fall had come, wind whispering in the grass, and maybe that was what it sounded like when the land spoke to you. Hailey didn't know or care - she was just glad her site was clear of police tape once more.

They worked for days, but slower, and Hailey didn't get her hopes up when she discovered more remains that lay deeper down, covered by rotting wood. She stood by the edge of the now several meters large dig site, watching as the bones were uncovered and the body took shape. The person had been lying face down, arms wrapped around themselves.

This time Hailey dutifully marked the bones and laid them on a tarp in a tent. Jesper was in charge of excavating in the meantime, but whenever Hailey checked, he was taking smoke breaks leaning on his shovel.

“Something the matter?” she asked him, unable to find his eyes behind his sunglasses. “You’re just staring at the hills.”

“They’re pretty. I just feel like I’m kind of ruining the place when I’m digging it up like this.”

“Archaeology is an inherently destructive act." Hailey surprised herself by how harshly she delivered the line form her theory book, but it was necessary. “It comes with the territory, is what I’m saying. I want to get back to work, now.”

Jesper shrugged. “Right, boss. Anyway, I caught the weather on the radio this morning. There's a storm coming soon. That’s a good reason to be looking around.”

“That’s a good reason to keep going.”

###

Hailey saw the sky get darker, always adding hues of grey, and the ground was black in the weak light the following morning. An ornate fibula poked out of the ground like the finger of a buried child reaching for her, a bright, wonderous bronze that Hailey seized.

They dug deep that day, and by the end of it, their excavation had carved a hole several meters deep even as the wind picked up and blew loose earth back in. Hailey saw her assistants work beyond when she'd expected them to grow tired. She felt it in herself, too, the urge to keep going. It was almost hard to pull oneself away and into the tent when they decided to celebrate. They drank local cider, sweetly tart apple-flavour filling Hailey's mouth, and Jesper kept talking about how good it'd be to get back home again.

"It's getting colder," he said, zipping up his hoodie. "And we've found what we came for."

The bronze-age bones and brooches had been loaded into their car, but Hailey looked beyond that and back out into the field.

"Dig deeper," she said.

Jesper and Leah all looked at her, and she saw the way their grips on their plastic cups tightened, the way a stray drop of cider ran down Leon's chin when he looked at her with open-mouthed surprise.

"Are you serious?" he asked. "I'm sorry, but do you really think there's more?"

Hailey leant forward across the table.

"I can feel it."

“The storm!” Jesper insisted. “It’s over us tomorrow!”

But Hailey’s stomach was a tight knot that told her to light the floodlights and bathe the valley in a glow the bronze-age people couldn’t have imagined. She didn’t know if the feeling came from cider or nervousness or the electricity in the air. She led them out of the tent and down into the dig.

Jesper threw his shovel down to her, and it clanged against the rocks. He didn’t say a word as he turned and left. Hailey ignored him, crouched down between piles and dirt and felt for a hard edge she thought she had glanced before, or seen before, or imagined, and Leon sat opposite from her and Daisy might as well not exist. There was just the earth around her. Beneath her. Dark dots appeared on the sand. Jesper's voice sounded somewhere behind her as the sound of rain hitting the tarps grew louder.

She found a gently curved stone. A man-shaped stone. Hailey raked her nails across the rough surface. It wasn't just one - as the rain washed the dirt away, she could see a whole ring of them, and in the middle was only soft black soil that she could easily dislodge to reveal a hole. One large enough to pass through.

The thunder rang out and that might be sky talking, but it couldn't cover the sound coming from the tunnel.

She pushed in one foot, and then the other. It was easier when everything was rain-slick. Leon watched, and she watched him, trying to guess whether he'd leave, too. He knelt in the mud beside her, saying nothing but watching intently as she slid down the hole. One of the stones tumbled down with her. Inherently destructive, she felt nothing, a fall, and then a floor.

The smell of damp earth surrounded her, mixing with that of rot and old water. Her ankles throbbed as she took in a hollow cavern room with walls of stone. The roof was made of flat rocks overlapping, a spiral barely an inch above her head. Staggering back, Hailey pressed her shoulders up against a wall. Something crunched beneath her boots. Splinters of people.

Leon climbed down and had to hunch forward, and he breathed a sigh of wonder at the sight of the chamber. Hailey grabbed his arm and pulled him towards her. His skin was very warm and she was heavy and tired, and together they slid down to the floor.

“I found it,” Hailey sighed.

She could see the raindrops shimmering on their way from the sky to this deep and previously untouched pit.

Leon extended one of his legs, crushing something in the process and making Hailey wince.

"What is it?” he asked.

And Hailey looked at the fragments before her, completely without a theory. All she could see was the remains of bodies that had been like hers, able to feel the cold and the rain, able to fear the coming storm and perhaps sense the call of this place. Whatever it was. The land here wasn't always a valley, and this place could've been anything.

"They're laying there," she said. She couldn’t make out how, on stomachs or on backs, entwined or lonely. Just that they were there.

She laid down in the pit where the rainwater pearled on her forehead and her arms and legs were flush with the lines of bone-fragments. She lay between and inside long-dead people, and she looked through the carefully crafted hole in the ceiling and saw the sky and the storm.

Okua
Oct 30, 2016


Unfunny Poster posted:

Should mention that any critique on my entry is welcomed.

Thanks!

hey I read your text very fast and wrote stuff.
take from it what you will. and I hope the google docs format works out.
(NB: English is my second language).

Okua fucked around with this message at Jan 22, 2018 around 21:33

Okua
Oct 30, 2016


In, and I'll take door number 2

Okua
Oct 30, 2016


New Employees and Other Troubles 1200 words
Flashrule from door 2: "I just wanted to see how much of you is still in there."


Jimmy and I were squatting together in the baking supplies department next to a showcase filled with banana slicers and bellpepper preppers and broken lights. I had traced the problem to a red wire. This wire went along the concrete and into a hatch that had opened far too easily.

We stared into the dark below Voidmart’s floor.

"Are we goin’ in or what, boss?" asked Jimmy. There had been no passion in his voice the entire day. He always sounded like he was laying on a beach in Miami. And I was stuck with this Floridan loving newbie who hadn’t even filled in his nametag yet. It still just read assistant.

Scowling, I went down the ladder first. It was too short to make time for second thoughts, and it wasn’t like I could go against management anyway. My feet soon hit solid ground, and I found myself in a tunnel of sorts. Low ceiling. Wide as a man, but not an inch more. The walls were covered in cables as thick as my arms, our little red wire running along.

While we walked, the ceiling shook from time to time, troubled by the weight of shoppers hauling fridges or ovens or their own fat around. Then the sound of heavy footfalls grew fainter, replaced by shrill cries. A rank smell rose around us.

"I think we're under the kiddy section." Jimmy shifted his Voidmart-brand flashlight from hand to hand, revealing a sheen of water on the floor.

"I think you're right," I said, and in the light of my chosen surperior, practical clip-on version of that flashlight, I saw it first.

The wire disappeared into a huge mound of matted hair and fur that filled the cramped space floor to ceiling. There were limbs sticking out. Mouths. Tiny black eyes. At least it didn’t move – and neither did Jimmy, for that matter.

Only I dared touching it, closing my hand around damp stuffing. Aha. These were stuffed animals, somehow mashed into one dreadfully moist pile.

"This must be from the flood back in '12," I said.

"What, uh, what kinda flood?"

"Some rear end in a top hat rode a kid’s scooter into the aquarium department.” I threw aside more toys, the thick fake fur sloughing off of pigs and dogs and bear cubs. ”Water rushed into the toy section. Lots of merchandise lost. Some of it seeped away into all the stores’s nooks and crannies. And into this... tunnel-place-thing. All that junk left to rot away."

Jimmy casually pulled out a teddy bear, gazing at it. ”And now we see how much of it is still in here,” he muttered. ”But why does it smell like booze?”

"Animals from the aquariums got out with the water. Some of ’em – big ones - flopped into the shelves with all the alcohol - ”

”Which was close enough to the kid’s stuff, for some reason, and then the booze got into the water? And the water got into the toys and carried 'em down here?"

"You're thinking faster than I thought you could.”

I hauled myself over the wall of soaked cotton, pink blotches of watery red wine emerging on my pants. Jimmy grunted as he followed me, and the stench came along, too.

”You’re really dragging that with you?” I asked, gesturing towards the dripping teddy bear in Jimmy’s arms.

"Well, I thought it might be good to have some proof of what's down here to show to management."

The tunnel widened just enough to be unsettling.

A barely audible announcement from above echoed around us. Sale in aisle 514. Something growled just beyond the range of the flashlights. I saw only concrete and the red wire that now had a huge gash in it, leaving all the copper exposed like someone - or something - had chewed on it.

Something dragged against the tunnel floor a little up ahead.

"Hey," Jimmy said. "What exactly did you, uh, keep in the aquariums?"

"It's Voidmart,” I replied. ”We keep everything."

"Okay." Jimmy squinted. ”'Cause I smell an alligator."

As if on cue, the beast came charging at us, sending a cascade of bones and employee badges scattering throughout the tunnel. So many name tags reading only assistant. So many teeth in the wide-open mouth.

Jimmy went pale as paper – and then he was grabbed by that special madness that one must possess to become a true Voidmart employee. I witnessed the sheer force of will that lets you survive a black friday rush: He charged right back at the alligator with a teddy bear in one hand and his flashlight in the other.

The alligator moved fast on the slick floor, but even so, it could not avoid the flashlight that came down square on its nose. It opened its mouth and got the teddy bear shoved inside for its troubles. With a grunt of effort, Jimmy hit the alligator once more to make its jaws close.

I could hear it choking. Fumes of cheap vodka and expensive wine mixed together. The teddy itself was probably poisonous as well, sourced from the most mercury-ridden parts of China. Jimmy breathed fast, giving the alligator one last kick in the side before running down the tunnel with me.

We escaped across the now-dismantled mound of toys. We clambered up the ladder, left stains on the floor around the hatch.

We caught our breath there, side by side, lit by the flourescent ceiling lights. Then we kept laying on the floor, even after we had calmed down.

"I thought you weren't worth the plastic in your badge," I told Jimmy. ”Thanks for… that.”

"Tell it to management."

"Yeah. We've got to tell them all about -"

"Hello," said a third voice, and for a far-too-long second, a bald man filled my entire field of view with his grin. "Management has heard you."

"There's a goddamn alligator!" exclaimed Jimmy from the floor.

I got to my feet, eye to eye with the representative. "So… We should do something about that."

"I know. You were sent to deal with the display, though,” the man said. ”Our customers can't buy anything if they can’t see the wares. That’s almost as bad, in the management's eyes… Though if you've cleared the way for it, we certainly can't ignore this crocodillian concern. It might eat a customer!"

Jimmy and I exchanged a glance. I was proud to see that he had already gained a sixth sense for incoming bad news from the management.

"So," said the man, "would one of you go down to fix the problem?"

"Which one?" I asked. "The display or the alligator?"

"Whichever is solved first." He shrugged. " A temporary solution, or satiation, will do until we can get a professional. You can send our new hire."

Jimmy, who had just gotten the color back in his freckled face, promptly lost it again.

”Nah. Get Jimmy a cup of coffee,” I said. ”My responsibility.”

Jimmy's looked at me as if asking, "What's your responsibility? Me or the flood or the alligator?"

I laid a hand on his shoulder and clipped my flashlight onto his jacket. He, in turn, handed me his new weapon.

Okua
Oct 30, 2016


I'm in.
Team vampire, please.

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Okua
Oct 30, 2016


Symbiont
959 words

Strength: Your vampire can read the minds of their victims.
Weakness: The only victims whose minds your vampire can read are those with the AB- blood type

For six months, hospital bedsheets have been disappearing on the way to the laundry, and strange noises have come from the last storage room on the left. Here, behind sheets of plastic, lies a hidden nest with empty blood bags scattered on stained pillows and a solitary vampire waking from her sleep. Her claws are clenched around a bag of barely-thawed blood: The last of her stash. If she were anywhere else, that would be cause for panic, but the hum of the freezer comes through the wall and makes her docile.

Sam – that was her name once upon a time, or at least part of it – drags herself forward, leaning on a broken office chair to stand upright. She drinks the blood bag in one gulp. A stranger's mind cracks open, and she can read it clear as day, though the day the blood ran fresh is a long time gone.

Footsteps from the other side of a mint-green door. Kirsten brushes rust-red hair away. Breathes deeply and leans into her husband’s arm. He kisses her on the forehead before she goes inside the room and folds her sleeve up. Her skin is the color of peaches.

The hallway is cold like the earth around a coffin. Sam walks openly through it. She is too dizzy to sneak through the shadows. She has no reason to, besides. The few night-shift nurses who come this far down can be heard three floors away. Sam has seen their faces through transparent screens. They do not matter. Behind this blue door is all the blood she needs. She presses her bloated weight against it and finds herself unable to remember if it was always this dammed heavy.

There is a voice inside her that first arrived with the fangs and grave-cold feeling, and it is trying to tell her something, but remains all muffled and strange. Other voices from the blood-bag’s memory down it out.

Something makes a real noise further down the hallway. She listens. That was definitely the maintenance door in the back. Why?

The nurse’s hand is warm when she holds Kirsten’s wrist and says something about how her blood type is rare, that her plasma can save so many lives, and that it is good of her to give it. Kirsten does not remember all the words. Only the smile and the warmth are sharp and bright.

Goosebumps spread along Sam’s arms when the door opens at last. A beam of moonlight lies on the storage room floor, as if placed there just for her. It leads to the freezer. She can pick out just the type she needs to dream. The only thing not conveniently labelled is the kind of dream contained within. She hopes to get a happy one again.

Footsteps in the hall. Through a crack in the door she glimpses a flashlight. An intruder. A strong scent of craving emanating from him, mixing with Sam’s own. The sight is blurred by the last fading pieces of the memory:

The nurse gets a phone call. Kirsten is glad to be left alone. She thinks about what she will say to her husband afterwards. They had a playful argument in the car about how he insists on having two separate first-aid kits plus blankets and liters of water in the trunk. She thinks it is too much. He only wants to keep them safe.

This is the kind of memory Sam feels most drunk on. Love, safety – she is distracted only when she hears the footsteps stop and start and stop again, as if the thief is considering where to go. She opens the door a bit more to see the hunched-over shape. The voice that she thought buried beneath layers of plastic and other people’s minds all scream to her that he is on her territory.

Kirsten’s home – close, soon. She closes her eyes thinking about it. The couch. A movie. Last time she donated, Alan had insisted on covering her with a blanket to keep her warm in his arms. He had heard it made people feel cold. Some days her life feels like an ever-growing number of blankets and throw pillows forming a nest around her.

Sam feels too heavy to move. Satiated, slow. She cannot see in the dark when bright images from Kirsten’s memory cloud her vision. Her dry lips pull into a smile, baring her fangs. She does not know what she is when she steps out in front of the intruder. Barely a monster. Too sloppy and wobbly for that. All that is left of her previous monstrosity, from before she became the sad thing she finally sees reflected in a pane of glass and his eyes, is the anger.

It is directed towards herself, a parasite feeding on old blood. Claws rake through her matted hair. It is directed towards the shape in the hallway that darts from one room to another, searching until he is standing by the door to her bed of gauze and empty AB-blood bags. A pile of past experiences. People coming to blood drives and getting juice boxes and fresh fruit. People being cared for. As close as she can get to sitting in sunlight. He broke into the wrong hospital.

Everything aches as she sprints to meet the sunburned man with her fangs bared and claws out. Fifty meters down the hallway she realizes that she can’t keep up the pace, can’t sink her teeth into the intruder. She can only shock him with her blood-soaked face. Let him flee, scared, having seen himself in Hell’s mirror.

After this, she withdraws. A memory comes, but this time, it is her own: Six months ago, she was outside in the night air.

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