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Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



It's October! Let's write some scary, spooky, creepy, and otherwise seasonally-appropriate short stories and win FABULOUS PRIZES!



Horror stories are great, but not everyone can get into a horror-writing vibe. Feel free to go broader on the prompt, just give us something that feels "right" for Halloween--a down-on-his-luck wizard who works at a haunted house, or teen angst at a costume party. (Disclaimer: judges may dislike teen angst)

If you’re feeling uninspired, request a SPOOKY FLASH RULE and we will give you something you must incorporate into your piece. Maybe a picture, maybe a one-sentence idea, maybe a song if we can’t come up with anything else.

The rules
6,666 words or less
No fanfiction (it's ok to write in a public-domain milieu like the Cthulhu Mythos, or to draw from folklore, just don't make it straight-up Harry Potter And The Sexy Ghosts)
No erotica
Post the story in the thread (no Google Docs) and don't edit it after you post.

Just because the word limit is high doesn't mean you have to write a ton of words. Have pity on the judges. A 1000 word story has as much chance of winning as one that hits the word limit.



The DEADline
Friday October 26 2018, 11:59PM PST. Winners announced on Halloween.

The Prizes
The prizes will be Something Awful upgrades, in the interest of buying Lowtax a new spine. If you already have every upgrade you want, you can designate somebody else to receive your prize.

  • First place: Choice of platinum upgrade, archives upgrade, name change, or a new registration so you can sockpuppet in Thunderdome
  • Second place: Choice of no-ads upgrade or avatar
  • Third place: New avatar of our choice (you can decline if you're a wuss)

The Judges
Pham Nuwen
Thranguy
Antivehicular



Signups/Flash Rules
You don't have to sign up to compete, but it's good motivation to actually finish your story. Flash rules will also be recorded here.

  • Elephant Parade
  • Screaming Idiot
  • Capfalcon, flash rule: Your story is set in/around that creepy old house
  • slughead42
  • incredible flesh, flash rule: sexy ghosts (still no erotica allowed)
  • Chili, flash rule: Something or someone comes back after being left for dead.
  • SolusLunes, flash rule: https://i.imgur.com/cBju2Khm.gif
  • Aleph Null, flash rule: Your story takes place in the desert
  • Ravioli Khameni
  • Despera
  • Railing Kill, flash rule: Your story must feature a non-evil clown.
  • Sitting Here, flash rules: https://i.imgur.com/NinqEeBl.jpg and all your characters must be animals
  • Rad-daddio, flash rule: Tell me a scary story about old people
  • SENTIENT HOUSEMEAT, flash rule: Your story must feature a sentient part of a house. Said part being the "meat" is optional.
  • Weltlich, flash rule: an eerie radio broadcast

Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at Oct 16, 2018 around 21:20

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Elephant Parade
Jan 20, 2018



I think I'll sign up; really need to get an avatar already. But no SPOOKY FLASH RULE, thanks.

Screaming Idiot
Nov 26, 2007

The turtle moves.


Fun Shoe

I'm trying my damnedest to get back into writing because people have been bugging me to. So gently caress it, I'mma get IN UP IN THIS WITCH.

Capfalcon
Apr 6, 2012

No Boots on the Ground,
Puny Mortals!



Signing up. Give me a SPOOKY FLASH RULE too! I'd prefer not a song, if it's all the same.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Capfalcon posted:

Signing up. Give me a SPOOKY FLASH RULE too! I'd prefer not a song, if it's all the same.

Your story is set in/around that creepy old house

slughead42
Feb 21, 2011


I'm in, please.

incredible flesh
Oct 6, 2018

by Nyc_Tattoo


i'm in and i'm up for a flash rule, given you shot my harry potter and the sexy ghosts idea out of the water like a bunch of fascists

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



incredible flesh posted:

i'm in and i'm up for a flash rule, given you shot my harry potter and the sexy ghosts idea out of the water like a bunch of fascists

Your flashrule is sexy ghosts (still no erotica allowed)

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Screw it. I'm in and a flash request, please.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Ultra Carp

Chili posted:

Screw it. I'm in and a flash request, please.

Something or someone comes back after being left for dead.

incredible flesh
Oct 6, 2018

by Nyc_Tattoo


Pham Nuwen posted:

Your flashrule is sexy ghosts (still no erotica allowed)
challenge accepted

SolusLunes
Oct 10, 2011

I am here. I am here. I am here. We will be victorious in the end.

nut toucher extraordinaire


Flashrule me, I need to write more and suck less

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



SolusLunes posted:

Flashrule me, I need to write more and suck less

Your flashrule:

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Here's another cool image if anybody wants to use it as inspiration:



No ring, 7/10

Aleph Null
Jun 10, 2008

You look very stressed


Tortured By Flan

I would like to participate in your contest.

Also, please provide a flash rule thingy so I can get inspired.

Ravioli Khameni
Apr 4, 2009


I have never written a horror spooky sexy ghost story, but I do need an avatar. I'll give it a shot. No flash rule please.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Aleph Null posted:

I would like to participate in your contest.

Also, please provide a flash rule thingy so I can get inspired.

Your story takes place in the desert

Despera
Jun 6, 2011


ill do eet but i play by my own rules.

Railing Kill
Nov 14, 2008

Computer:
Erase this entire post.

It's been a while since I've written horror, but I'll give it a shot. Hit me with one of those flash rules.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Ultra Carp

Railing Kill posted:

It's been a while since I've written horror, but I'll give it a shot. Hit me with one of those flash rules.

Your story must feature a non-evil clown.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

Pham Nuwen posted:

Here's another cool image if anybody wants to use it as inspiration:



No ring, 7/10

hmmm i want to try to write about this

a flash rule if you please, too

Rad-daddio
Apr 25, 2017

white needles buried in the red


yo hit me with a flash rule!

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Sitting Here posted:

hmmm i want to try to write about this

a flash rule if you please, too

Ok, use the picture AND All your characters must be animals.

Rad-daddio posted:

yo hit me with a flash rule!

Forget creepy kids, I want you to tell me a scary story about old people

Pham Nuwen fucked around with this message at Oct 15, 2018 around 02:52

SENTIENT HOUSEMEAT
Oct 14, 2016

A thinking, breathing house? You're mad!


I've been in the mood to write a scary story but been a bit lacking for inspiration. Maybe this will be the push I need. I'll need one of those SPOOKY FLASH RULES though.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Ultra Carp

SENTIENT HOUSEMEAT posted:

I've been in the mood to write a scary story but been a bit lacking for inspiration. Maybe this will be the push I need. I'll need one of those SPOOKY FLASH RULES though.

Your story must feature a sentient part of a house. Said part being the "meat" is optional.

Weltlich
Feb 13, 2006

I won the 2018 Spooktober Story Contest and all I got was this lousy avatar.


Grimey Drawer

Signing up, and go ahead and give me a flash rule too.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Weltlich posted:

Signing up, and go ahead and give me a flash rule too.

An eerie radio broadcast

Rad-daddio
Apr 25, 2017

white needles buried in the red


The Watchers of Santa Lucia

4,997 words


Aaron got out of his car and checked his phone. ‘no signal’. He sighed, and grabbed his backpack from the passenger seat of his aging Honda Civic. He hoped that this would be another no show, or perhaps that he could suss out the grift before he had to walk two miles up into the mountains just south of Big Sur. While he waited for his contact, gulls swished about and cawed in the encroaching twilight and waves crashed against distant rocks. At age 25, he was lucky to land a job as the sole journalist of a local tourist magazine. No easy feat, but the job was rewarding and kept him away from his desk more often than not.

The day to day operations of a small local tourism magazine are fairly straightforward. You go into the office, you arrange photo shoots or interviews at opulent vineyards and quaint Victorian style bed and breakfast houses. It was easy, and Aaron didn’t mind that he was paying down his student loans. But, there was an undercurrent, a calling that drove him to seek out the more bizarre and dark locations and situations that this golden locale had to offer. Be it abandoned hospitals, remote hillside plane crashes or forgotten cemeteries he was drawn to them like a moth to a flame. He ran an online forum for the supernatural and “weird” things that occur in California. It had decent traffic, and he got to talk with a colorful selection of local weirdos and conspiracy theorists.

Every so often, he’d get cold called by a person with some kind of story to tell. It was always the same. A random person would email him about a local haunting or some kind of monster that lived in the hills. They would meet, he’d go out there with his camera gear and the whole thing would be a wild goose chase. That, or he’d discover that the person he’d been talking to online was way more unstable in real life. He still entertained these types of inquiries at least a few times a year, if anything just to have an excuse to get out of his routine and go for a hike.

Now, that same series of events had led him to this trail head. He was waiting on an elderly man named Jeremiah, who was now ten minutes late. He reflexively looked at his phone, forgot about the lack of signal and shoved it back into his back pocket. While he looked over his camera gear, a new Mercedes SUV pulled into the turnout and came to a stop right next to his car. Jeremiah, an octogenarian with shoulder length white hair, hawkish features and a short beard, got out and walked over to Aaron. He was wearing a white dress shirt and gray slacks, and seemed more like he was going to a church service than going on a night time hike to show him “something” up in the Big Sur range.

Jeremiah stuck out his hand and smiled warmly. “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long. I had a few things to finish up at the office before I made the drive out here.” He said apologetically.

Aaron smiled and said, “No! I wasn’t waiting too long. Are...you okay to go hiking up here?”

The old man waved his hand dismissively and said, “Yeah, I’ve been coming up in these hills for decades.” He punctuated his reply by heaving his antiquated leather knapsack up on to his shoulder. “Let’s get going!”

Aaron and the man walked in silence for a bit. The sun had set, and there was just a faint amount of light that was coming through the trees. He pulled out his flashlight and turned it on.

“No lights!” The old man said gruffly, motioning for Aaron to put his flashlight away.

“Okay...” Aaron complied, but he had a growing feeling of apprehension about this whole thing.


“We’ll be in the clearing soon, so there will be light there.” The old man offered as an explanation.

“So, what is it that you wanted to show me? You didn’t want to talk about it over the phone because you thought someone might hear you. Can you tell me now?” Aaron asked.

The old man shrugged and said, “Well, I can show you soon enough, but to answer your question, I’m one of the Watchers of Santa Lucia. It’s a small cabal of men who oversee the coastal mountains of this area.”

Aaron walked in silence while he processed what the man had said. According to local legend, the “Dark Watchers” of the Santa Lucia were a spectral group of omnipresent figures that could be seen at dusk or dawn throughout the coastal ranges of central California. For hundreds of years, the watchers would gather at random and observe travelers, farmers, natives and other passersby that might find themselves in the area at first light or sunset. The Watchers would appear, and never seemed to do anything besides...watch. They had also been reported to be very tall, and when you approached them, they would all fade away like fog. Aaron had always considered the legend fascinating, and now here was this old man saying that it’s a legitimate pastime like Shriner’s or Rotary Club?! “How long have you been doing it?”

The old man smiled, looked at the ground and said, “about two hundred years, give or take.”

Aaron was ready to call bullshit when the man held out his hand to halt their footsteps. “I forgot to tell you about the rest of the Watchers. You’ll be meeting the other three tonight as well. I told them that you’d be coming, but please be quiet and respectful. Don’t look anyone in the eye, and maintain a quiet voice when spoken to. But never, ever speak first. Only speak to answer questions. I cannot stress this enough.” He said in a hurried whisper.

In the clearing, the remaining light was enough to illuminate Aaron and his odd companion. While they stood there, the other three men, elderly but seemingly in good health, appeared from the tree lined edge of the clearing. They made no sound, and there was no rustling of branches or crunching of leaves underfoot as the men all conglomerated on the little grassy hill.

Jeremiah held his finger to his lips, and Arron nodded and gestured at his camera. The old man shook his head and gestured at the remaining three men and gave Aaron a nod that he understood. The men all began to open their identical leather knapsacks, revealing clothing that consisted of long black overcoats and broad brimmed hats, similar to what a Jesuit priest would wear. Jeremiah joined the others and donned his coat and hat as well.

The strange old men all made small talk, and to Aaron it sounded just like a bunch of retired guys shooting the poo poo at the gym locker room. They talked about real estate, investments and hobbies like fishing and hunting. Aaron was back to feeling like he was being punked, but this time by a group of old rich guys who had nothing better to do than mess with some guy on the internet.

“So, you guys aren’t really supernatural or anything. Right?” Arron asked with a smirk.

All four men slowly turned to him in synchronized unison, opened their mouths and emitted a loud and guttural holler that seemed to resonate in his skeleton. The sound was deafening, and as Arron clasped his hands over his ears, he could swear he saw a faint trace of red in the eyes of the old men, like red eye in an old photograph. After a minute of this, the men closed their mouths and again turned in unison to stare out at the horizon. After a few minutes, Jeremiah broke rank to come and talk with him.

“I told you not to ask questions! That was the most important rule and you broke it!” The man’s fatherly admonishment made Aaron a little defensive.

“Look, I don’t know what’s going on here but I get the feeling that I’m being hosed with. I don’t know how you all made that fog horn sound just now, but this is getting old.” He said in annoyance.

Jeremiah shook his head and said, “We’ll talk with you in a couple of minutes, but for now we have an important ceremony that we have to complete before our work begins. I promise we’ll answer all your questions.”

Aaron shrugged and sat on a boulder off to the side of the clearing. He was still a little in shock by what he was watching. The men’s eyes still glowed a light red color, and they were just standing shoulder to shoulder watching the remaining light on the far hillside that was being eclipsed by the inky black of night. After a bit of time, they broke their formation and seemed to go back to normal.

One of the other men moved to approach Aaron. The man held out his hand and smiled. Aaron took the proffered hand and shook it, returning his own smile as forced as it was.

“All of my friends call me Zeke.” He said.

“Good to meet you. I’m Aaron.” He replied. Aaron wanted to ask a few hundred questions, but according to Jeremiah’s rules he’d only be able to answer theirs.

Zeke cleared his throat. “I’m sure you know about our rules now, given what you’ve just witnessed. I’m sure you have some questions, and I’ll try and give you enough information to fill in any blanks.” He paused to gesture out across the valley and opposite hillside that they could see from the clearing. “This is the locus point of the Santa Lucia range. Ever since the 1700’s, there have been a contingent of men that overlook and oversee this area. It’s our duty and privilege to watch over this area, and protect it from evil and ungodly forces. The men you see here have been doing this job for over 200 years. We took the place of the last group. They were Franciscan friars from the nearby Mission San Antonio. In the early 1800’s a Typhoid outbreak killed off most of the mission’s inhabitants, and we were sent by the Arch Diocese to take their place-”

“But why have you lived for so lon-” Aaron was cut off by Zeke’s eyes as the glowed a burning red color, like flickering embers in a fire pit. Zeke made motions like he was trying to hold something back, and a slight smile crossed his contorted face as he got a hold of himself.

His lip was still slightly curled when he slowly said, “You need to stop breaking our rules, son.”

Aaron, his body sloshed in adrenaline, held up his hands and shook his head in quiet apology. The other two men looked on at him and Zeke and Jeremiah, but there was no sound. In the silence, Aaron’s heartbeat sounded like a fist banging on an empty 50-gallon drum.

“As I was saying, we were all sent out here to watch over the land. It’s our job to protect it from evil, and from otherwise savage influences. In a few minutes, you’ll get to watch us battle these forces of evil.” Zeke finished, his eyes still glowing iridescent in the little remaining light.

Aaron narrowed his eyes in concentration, or perhaps just general disbelief. After hearing this speech about battling evil, he didn’t know what to think. His own eyes were betraying him. Forever the skeptic, he now had to come to grips with the fact that these old men were not human. Maybe at one point in their long lives, but now they were...something else. He could sense an undercurrent even below their supernatural origins. Down deep past the immortality and the strange glowing eyes, Aaron could sense darkness. Not just run-of-the-mill evil, but a dark and resolute force that entertained such arcane fancies as to stand on a remote hillside and do battle against hitherto unforeseen forces.

“Now, you asked about our age. We take this job as a calling and as a career path as well. Being alive for over two hundred years can give you some perspective with regard to money and investments. We knew our calling would keep us on this earth for many more years. We bought property right after California became a state, for mere pennies an acre. Imagine if you could do the same! Think of the technologies that you could invest in, or the ideas that you could foresee given your immense perspective! You could be godlike among men! What do you say, young man?!” Zeke said with bare enthusiasm, foamy spittle on his chin as he smiled with maniacal glee.

Aaron hesitantly offered a reply, unwilling to see the other side of Zeke again. “Er- wha...Do you mean that you brought me up here to offer me a job?”

It was then the Zeke seemed to change shape. He grew taller and his features seemed to thin out. Zeke’s body convulsed and there was a slight crackling in the weeds and bush that surrounded them. It felt as If the entire field was charged with static electricity. Sparks and embers danced from underneath Zeke’s overcoat, and Aaron watched as they would fall to the ground, but not set the brush ablaze. The apparition that stood above him was a frightening and ghoulish mutation of the former elderly man.

“NO! WE BROUGHT YOU HERE TO REPLACE THE WEAKEST LINK!” Zeke held out his hand, now a twisted and black appendage with sharp claws like raptor’s talons. He flexed and articulated his grotesque limb right before jamming it into the chest of Jeremiah.

The old man made a high and animalistic shrieking sound while Zeke rooted around in his chest cavity. With a violent yank, he pulled the old man’s heart from his body, splashing hot arterial blood across Aaron’s face and neck. Zeke held the old man’s heart high in the night sky and cackled in a shrill and inhuman way.

Aaron fell to the ground on his hands and knees and vomited. Jeremiah’s lifeless body fell next to him, his chest wound darkening the amber straw around them.

Aaron jumped to his feet, and frantically tried to wipe the old man’s blood from his hand’s, face and neck while Zeke stood over him. Aaron looked up, and the crazed monster bent down close to him and lapped blood from his face. He held Jeremiah’s heart close to Aaron’s face and tried to force it into his mouth. Aaron suppressed another bout of vomiting and tried to bat away the bulbous lump of tissue. He could feel Zeke’s claws on his shoulder, holding him in place while he force-fed him the heart.

“EAT, CHILD! EAT FROM THE WEAK, SO THAT YOU MAY BE STRONG LIKE US!”

Aaron managed to tear off one small bite and began chewing. His fear of Zeke suppressed every human instinct to spit or vomit.


All at once, Zeke stopped his actions and dropped the heart to the ground with a wet ‘plop’. He and the others went to the highest point on the clearing and looked out at the opposite hillside. There, in the inky night, Aaron could make out a contingent of animals standing shoulder to shoulder as the old men had done before. Deer, two mountain lions and a brown bear stood there glowing as if illuminated by an internal light.

He turned to Aaron and yelled, “CHILD! THIS IS WHY WE ARE HERE! COME AND WITNESS THE BATTLE FOR GOOD!

Aaron watched as the men, all now transformed just as Zeke had, stood shoulder to shoulder to watch the animals on the other hillside. They held up their clawed hands and Aaron could see light and sparks emitted from them. With an orchestral flourish, the old men seemed to throw raw energy at the animals. He watched as the deer fell dead, and the mountain lions ran off into the woods wounded. The brown bear stood unflinching, and this seemed to confuse and infuriate the old men.

“WHY DO YOU NOT LEAVE, SAVAGE?! WE ARE LOW IN RANK TONIGHT, BUT WE CAN STILL DEFEAT YOU!” Zeke cried out at the bear.

“Why are you killing random wildlife?” Aaron blurted out. Oh poo poo...

The three men turned to him and opened their mouths. The low howl of before returned, but this time they waved their hands in a way that seemed to make Aaron’s limbs move against his will. Like a marionette, they seemed to be forcing him to come and joint their stance at the hillside edge. He fought against their power, but they were too strong.

Before he knew what was happening, he was standing at the edge looking out at the one singular animal that was left. The glowing bear looked at him directly, and even over the distance and through the night he could feel the bear looking directly at him, and even inside of him.

Zeke raised his hand and shot another bolt of energy at the bear. The animal seemed to fall to one side, falter and then rolled into a strand of thick brush at the bottom of the opposing hill.

Zeke and the other men seemed to change shape again. Their eyes still glowed, but their outward shape began to return to normal. The old men all regarded Aaron while he stood there trembling. "So, this is what we do. Every so often we answer the call to come and abolish evil from the sacred Santa Lucia range.”


“Why did you kill those animals, though. They weren’t doing anything wrong.”

Zeke smiled, his face still partially contorted from his reversing metamorphosis. “Those animals are the incarnations of the savages who used to inhabit this land. They resisted change and conformity, and so they succeeded into the hills to live their own way. We see to it that they stay there and suffer for their sullen and insubordinate ways. They will learn their place eventually, even if it takes an eternity!” he finished with an arrogant chuckle.

Aaron felt a cold chill wash over him as he said, "Wait. Why was I able to ask you a question just now?”

Zeke smiled and quietly chuckled again. It started as a chuckle, and then slowly became a series of shrill laughs. The other three joined in as well, shaking the hillside with their ghoulish laughter that resonated throughout the valley.

“That means that the transformation is beginning. Our brother Jeremiah's former strength resides within you now. Soon, you’ll be as strong as us, and you will take his place as the fourth Watcher.”

Before Aaron knew what was happening, he was running down the hillside. He knew the old men would give chase, and he expected to be eviscerated at any minute by the horrible figures that he was now trying to elude. Branches and thorns tore at his skin and shirt while he stumbled through the night.

At the bottom of the hill, there was a small creek bubbling about rounded granite stones. He knelt to wash his face and hands, and vomited again and began sobbing. His mind was trying to make sense of what he’d just seen. Aaron watched his trembling hands scoop water from the creek. As he brought it up to his lips to drink, he heard a crashing sound across the way. Aaron grabbed a rock and threw it in the direction of the sound. Surely, he’d hit one of them.

Out of the woods came a large golden bear. He recognized that it was the animal from across the hill. However, it no longer had its iridescent illumination and there was a scorch mark on its side. The animal raised up on its rear legs briefly, but then hunkered back down and limped towards Aaron.

He saw something in the animal’s eyes, and recalled how the bear looked at him before. Suddenly, it began to change shape. The metamorphosis was like watching a couch unravel and deflate. In mere seconds, a man, seemingly an early native of the area, lay on the ground wounded. The man, about Aaron’s age, was dressed in fringed pants and moccasins and had short cropped black hair.

Aaron didn’t know what to do. Between the events of before, and now watching this bear transform into a person, his was having a hard time processing it all. Aside from all that, he was feeling strange. He still had the taste of Jeremiah’s heart in his mouth, and the thought caused him to kneel down to wash his mouth out.

The native stood up and limped toward him holding his side. “You’re...not like the others.” he said, his teeth clenched to deal with the pain.

“I- I’m not with them! I’m just a normal guy. I don’t even know what’s going on. Two hours ago, I didn’t even know this stuff existed!” Aaron blurted out. “What is all this?” He finished, gesturing at his general surroundings.

The native stopped holding his side and stood upright. He walked across the small creek and stood right in front of Aaron. So close, that Aaron could see his blazing golden eyes. He stuck out his hand and said, “I am Ashi Ohlone, one of the tribal elders of the Esselen people.”

Aaron took his hand and shook it, being careful not to hurt the man any further. “My name is Aaron. Those other animals on the hill, are they like you?”

Ashi nodded, “Yes. We have been protecting these woods and hills for the last three hundred years. When the Spaniards arrived, we watched as other tribes began to fall ill or be enslaved. Instead of suffering a similar fate, my gentle people retreated to the remote and plentiful mountains of the coastline. We lived there in peace, until sickness fell upon all of us. Something happened when we crossed over to the spirit world. We were sent back, not as punishment, but to help protect the land, skies and waters of this sacred place.” Ashi paused as a fit of coughing and wheezing wracked his body, then continued, “The others that you saw were like me. We were set back upon the earth to fight against the dark forces who came to take our land and enslave and murder us. We live as the wind and rain in the hills and valleys of this land. We take form as the sacred creatures that nourish and strengthen us. It is then that we do battle against the men who brought you here.”

“All you did was stand there.” Aaron said.

Ashi nodded, “Yes, we found that the Watchers are too strong for us. We are not a warrior tribe. We can only stand together and let them know that this is our land and that we’ll stand guard over it for an eternity.”

“The others animals, er spirits that were with you. Are they dead?”

“No, we die and live again every night. We take our scared forms, but then change back once daybreak falls. I don’t understand why the Watches taunt us. We just come back every day. Perhaps that is our strength.” Ashi said.

“It has something to do with some kind of covenant for them. It’s similar to what your tribe does, but they claim that you’re the force of evil, and they are the force of good.” Aaron said.

Ashi shook his head, and gave a pained smile. “You cannot call yourself good or bad. You can only do good or bad things, and be judged accordingly.”

“What am I supposed to do? They made me become one of them. I don’t know what to do. I didn’t want any of this!” Aaron said as tears welled in his eyes.

Ashi put his hand on Aaron’s shoulder, “You are not one of them. You have not transformed yet. I can sense that you are becoming powerful like them, however.”

“Can I stop it?! I just wanna be normal again! I just want to get back in my car and pretend this never happened.” Aaron said through ragged sobs.

“I might be able to help you. I don’t know if you’ll stay as you were before, but I may be able to arrest the darkness that is infiltrating you.” Ashi offered.

Aaron nodded and wiped his face on his torn and bloody shirt. “Please! Anything you can do I would be grateful for.”

He watched as Ashi fished a powdery white rock from the creek.

“Please remove your shirt.” He asked.

Aaron complied, and stood there growing cold in the night air. Ashi took a bite from the chalky stone as if it were a piece of candy. He chewed deliberately, while Aaron watched with confused fascination. Then he placed his warm hand upon Aaron’s chest and spit the contents of his mouth over it. Aaron cringed, and looked down to see an outline of Ashi’s hand print on his chest.

“Don’t wipe that off. Let it dry, and the transformation will hopefully be halted.” Ashi said. Afterwards he knelt down to rinse his mouth out in the in the water from the creek.

In minute’s time, Aaron touched the chalky stain on his chest. It was already dry to the touch. “What do I do now?”

“You are already strong like they are. Your transformation was already on its way before we met. This will stop the evil that possesses the Watchers. This isn’t your battle, but I want you to know that you have within you a strength and light that they do not have. You can perhaps help our people to live in peace, and not have to do battle in this middle world anymore. Do what you will.” Ashi said.

Aaron watched as the man walked backwards into the thick underbrush. After a time, the only thing he could see were Ashi’s glowing golden eyes staring out from the black, and then they too disappeared.

Upon the other hillside, the Watchers were back to making small talk. Their idle chatter consisted of golf club recommendations, and where to buy a good used Lexus. This transpired mere feet from where Jeremiah’s corpse continued to drain into the dry grass. Aaron had already known the evil that lurked within them. Before, it was frightening. Now, their callousness enraged him. He could feel his own dark energy-

“Come on out, boy. We can hear your breathing for God’s sake!” Zeke said into the dark sky.

Aaron slowly emerged from the dense trees and brush. His shirt was torn and he was still covered in blood but unsure of who it even belonged to. He felt a calm come over him, an indescribable sense of inevitability seemed to fill and solidify within him.

Zeke approached Aaron, all the while changing into his ghastly form, and stood looking down at him. His blazing red eyes tried to pierce into Aaron's soul, but were unable to. He leaned close to sniff Aaron’s hair and face. Zeke then turned to the other old men and said, “It looks like the transformation didn’t take.” He shrugged, produced his black, clawed hand and thrust it towards Aaron’s chest.

Aaron winced, bracing for his own demise, but Zeke halted his attack and looked down with fear and confusion.

It was then that Aaron noticed that the hand print on his chest was glowing white! Something inside him took over. It was as if he were inside a giant malfunctioning battle tank. He grabbed Zeke’s hand with his, now cognizant of the fact that he too had razor sharp talons at the tips of his black fingers. He grew to match the ghoul's height, and peered at him with the same piercing red eyes.

With a quick twist, he crushed Zeke’s hand like a bundle of twigs. He retreated back behind the other two men, who were now circling Aaron trying to find a weak spot to attack. Energy crackled and danced from Aaron’s hands, but he was unsure how to use it. He reached out and grabbed both of the circling men and dug into their black flesh with his claws. Raw energy tore at the men in his grasp, and they shrieked and convulsed in agony while Aaron shook them violently. In unison, the two became engulfed in flames and went still. Aaron dropped their charred and tattered carcasses to the ground.

He swiveled his head to try and find Zeke, but the man was nowhere to be found. A brief stillness overtook the clearing, and Aaron took the time to look at his transformed hands and body.

Zeke leaped onto his back and pinned him to the ground face down. Aaron flailed about with his clawed hands, but Zeke was too quick and dodged his every attempt to get free.

“We all had such high hopes for you, son. Even as we sent our weakest member to find you and lure you here, we knew you were the one to join us. Now, you’re here and stronger than all of us! We can rebuild the Watchers to be even stronger than before! What do you say?” Zeke spoke into Aaron’s ear. His voice was low and confidential.

Aaron flipped the man over, and pinned him underneath his body. “I say, I’ll see you in hell!” He dug his hand into Zekes’s chest and tore his still beating heart out. The creature reverted back to his mortal elderly state, and his fading eyes watched as Aaron tore ragged bites out of the heart like a starving orphan that had found a loaf of bread. Zeke’s last vision was of Aaron tearing his clothing off and smearing blood over his naked body.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Everyone remember that it's only 1 week until the submission deadline! Write fast, write well.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Blood Empress of Thunderdome

Tap to emit spores


Clapping Larry

Pham Nuwen posted:

Write fast, write well.

aye aye

Aleph Null
Jun 10, 2008

You look very stressed


Tortured By Flan

Pham Nuwen posted:

Your story takes place in the desert

I thought you said dessert... just kidding.

I don't have a real name for this, so I'll just call it:

---

Ghost Tour

The gravel crunched and popped underneath as Doug pointed, "There, there it is."
A brown film hung over the whole place and not just from the cloud of dust we'd brought with us. Crooked wood, cracked brick, defined the small house with shadowed windows.

The breaks squealed as Doug pulled over, "What do you see?"
I pointed to the smoke rising out of the chimney, "Someone's home."
"Bullshit," Doug said, exiting the car, coughing slightly from the sand in the air. "I checked."
"You sure about that?" I asked.
"I said I checked," he said while slipping his camera around his neck.

He was already snapping pictures and checking the screen after each one.
No grass in the yard, just dirt and rocks, and a few trees barely more than skeletons.
But the windows. "Which one," I asked, stepping out into the blistering heat.
"Don’t know," Doug said before turning to me. "I mean, none of the reports say. Just that Daniel's ghost appears in the windows and watched them. Some feel sad, some scared, but he disappears before they can get closer."

I'd seen the other photos, grainy and indistinct. Doug was determined to catch something memorable. His $5,000 camera was "incapable" of taking a bad photo, he said.
If this road trip had taught me anything, it's that the better your equipment, the less likely you are to catch something unexplainable. Funny, that.

"Can I help you boys?"

We jumped at the husky voice. She was standing in the doorway, tanned skin, framing a tight smile, draped in a shapeless robe, hints of well-toned muscle peaked from underneath.
My heart was pounding, but Doug walked right up and offered his hand, "Doug Carlisle, photographer."
She shook his hand slowly and with effort.
"Perhaps you've seen some of my work online?"
"No," she replied, adding, "I suppose you're hear about that boy, then."
Doug nodded, "Very astute."
She stared at him still shaking his hand, for a long moment.
She blinked and asked, "why don't you boys come in. We can talk about what I know, what I've told the others. Only reason we get company."

My stomach knotted and bile rose up into the back of my throat, but Doug was already over the threshold. I followed along. I was immediately overcome by smells of water and dirt, body odor, yeast, and heat, thick and oppressive. Where the heat outside had been like a kiln, this was like boiling alive.

She led us to a kitchen whose enormous oven was clearly the source of the heat.
"I'm baking. Sorry about it being so hot."
"It's fine," I said, surreptitiously studying her face. The eyes, the cheekbones, edged toward familiarity, but I couldn't place them.
She must have noticed, because she blushed and smiled.

"Now let me tell you about Daniel Tinley, what you probably don't know."
"Actually," Doug interrupted, "I've done my research. I know Tinley was his adopted name. His birth name was Abram. He was adopted by the Tinley's in 1937, after both birth parents died of prolonged illness, probably cholera. He was only six years old, but fortunate enough to be healthy and well-proportioned. Enough that George and Melinda, friends of the family, took him in as their own. They worked that boy day and night. More a slave than a son. The town was still booming back then. He'd often stare out of the window at the world he'd lost. Until one day he didn't. Nobody saw him. George and Melinda made no report of illness or injury. After a few months, they were questioned about it. Said he'd run off one night and that was that. The window sightings started shortly after that. George and Melinda go so fed up with the attention that they left, just abandoned the place. Apparently, they could afford it. Town started dying out in the 60s but Daniel's been seen the whole time."
Our host was beaming, "Nice. They found his body, though. In the crawl space, in 1953. Didn't know what, did you?"
Doug nodded, "I did not. Why wasn't it reported? Was it in the paper at the time?"
She leaned in, but a cry from another room pulled her back, "Sorry, that's my daughter. I'll be right back."

She left us alone in the stifling kitchen.
"All right, dude. I'ma get some pics."
"Whoa, wait. She lives her man," I said.
"No she doesn't."
"What?"
"I told you, man, I checked."
"What does that even mean?"
He whispered, "Nobody's paid property taxes on this place for more than 30 years. Also, no electricity; that stove is propane. It'd be pitch dark in here without the windows. Probably no running water, either. Maybe a well? My point, she's a squatter."
"So what?" I said. "She lives here and she has a kid."
"I'm still getting pictures."
"Dude, seriously."
"I am serious. I shot all the other places and I didn't come this far just to have a nice chat."
"Nobody lived at the other places, Doug."
"Fine," he said, snapping a photo of the corner, "I'll go ask her."
He squinted, "Check it out, though. That's nasty."

I traced where he'd taken the photo. The floor was black and fuzzy with mold, shiny with who knows what."
I followed the trim around the bottom of the room. It was black and brown all the way, like aggressively filthy, unrepentantly gross.

And a new smell. An acrid one.
Burning.
"Oh poo poo. Her baking."
"Doug!" I yelled.
I started to call for the lady but realized she never told us her name.
"poo poo. Doug!"
Definitely burning.
"poo poo. poo poo."

I rummaged a drawer and found some hot pads. Opening the oven bathed me in heat and steam but I grabbed the frankly gigantic cookie sheet, spun around, admiring the unexpectedly sweet smelling rolls and, hands starting to burn, plopped it on the counter.
I heard them sizzling.

The first bug crawled up. Segmented, a dozen legs, then another, hopping with long back legs, then ten, then twenty, then even more.
"What in the gently caress?"
Pressed back against a far wall, I saw the black crap on the floor had been insects, dormant, waiting for this apparently. They swarmed the tray, regardless of its heat, overtaking it and what it contained. Hundreds now, maybe thousands.

Doug pulled me to the side, "We have to go."
"Did you see that, do you see?" I asked.
"We have to go." was all he said.
His pupils were blown wide and his teeth were chattering, "we have to go."
"What? Look--"
"We have to go," he shoved me toward the door.

Once out he ran to the car, barely waited for me to get in, then peeled out in a veil of dust.
"Dude, what the gently caress?" I asked.
He didn't respond, just did 60 on the dirt road and 90 once we made blacktop. He wouldn't take his eyes off the road.
I took his camera and scrolled through the pictures he'd taken. The last two photos were perplexing. I saw lines, and reflections, and colors, and in the last photo a flash of something like stars.

It wasn't until an hour later, safely locked in our motel that I brought them upon the laptop and got a better look. Doug sat on the couch chewing on his nails and rocking back and forth.
Not stars. It was the shine of an animal caught in headlights. Two sets, flash frozen forever, insects mocking the shapes of humans, mother and daughter.
Surprised by the first flash, their legs and carapaces lit up. But looking right at Doug in the final picture with their dinner plate sized eyes.

Elephant Parade
Jan 20, 2018



that is not, in fact, how paragraphs work

Aleph Null
Jun 10, 2008

You look very stressed


Tortured By Flan

Elephant Parade posted:

that is not, in fact, how paragraphs work

I don't know how to paragraph. I wrote that long hand first and then transcribed it. I've always been bad at paragraphing. My favorite writer growing up was James Joyce.

Rad-daddio
Apr 25, 2017

white needles buried in the red


Aleph Null posted:

I don't know how to paragraph. I wrote that long hand first and then transcribed it. I've always been bad at paragraphing. My favorite writer growing up was James Joyce.

Too be fair, I winged it too. Publishing stuff on Smashwords made me forget how to format stuff correctly.

"Cool! Your 350 page epic story is great! We'd love for you to upload it, but you added an extra space at the end of a paragraph about half way through. Please gently caress off and die."

~smashwords

Despera
Jun 6, 2011


Paragraphs in fiction are in the eye of the beholder. Even if you follow some hard rule the formatting on this site makes it impossible to look good.

Elephant Parade
Jan 20, 2018



Aleph Null posted:

I don't know how to paragraph. I wrote that long hand first and then transcribed it. I've always been bad at paragraphing. My favorite writer growing up was James Joyce.
Good on you for getting into writing, then.

Despera posted:

Paragraphs in fiction are in the eye of the beholder. Even if you follow some hard rule the formatting on this site makes it impossible to look good.
this is not even slightly true. if you're writing prose, your paragraphs should always* look like this:

quote:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.
and not like this:

quote:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.
Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.
Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur.
Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

* Yeah, yeah, no absolutes in art. Still, I challenge you to find a book that formats paragraphs like my second example.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Elephant Parade posted:

Good on you for getting into writing, then.

this is not even slightly true. if you're writing prose, your paragraphs should always* look like this:

and not like this:


* Yeah, yeah, no absolutes in art. Still, I challenge you to find a book that formats paragraphs like my second example.

Let the judges decide about the paragraphs (they certainly seem to have made you poo poo your pants). Take it to the fiction advice thread if you want.

Aleph Null
Jun 10, 2008

You look very stressed


Tortured By Flan

My first stories were entirely dialogue with no indicators of who was speaking. Although it worked for the one about the schizophrenic whose best friend was a tree named Krysta.

Antivehicular
Dec 30, 2011

I wanna sing one for the cars
That are right now headed silent down the highway
And it's dark and there is nobody driving
And something has got to give


Ultra Carp

Pham Nuwen posted:

Let the judges decide about the paragraphs (they certainly seem to have made you poo poo your pants). Take it to the fiction advice thread if you want.

To follow up on this: if you want to critique other people's entries, that's great, but wait until after the contest is over and don't be a dick about it. I'll leave it up to Pham as to whether those critiques should be posted here or elsewhere.

If you really need to get outraged at people's text formatting, Thunderdome will gladly accept your blood and vitriol. Walk the walk, talk the talk.

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Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010



Antivehicular posted:

To follow up on this: if you want to critique other people's entries, that's great, but wait until after the contest is over and don't be a dick about it. I'll leave it up to Pham as to whether those critiques should be posted here or elsewhere.

If you really need to get outraged at people's text formatting, Thunderdome will gladly accept your blood and vitriol. Walk the walk, talk the talk.

Crits are welcome in this thread AFTER the contest is over.

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