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Captain_Person
Apr 7, 2013

WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

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Captain_Person
Apr 7, 2013

WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

Christmas Spirits
A Quirky Spiritual Period Piece
1,578 words


It was snowing in London and the ghosts of Octavius Antonius and Isabella Barrington were arguing on a street corner.

“What the blazes are they up to now?” Octavius asked. His armour clanked as he floated back and forth along the small patch of earth he was bound to.

“I think it will be rather pleasant,” Isabella said. She was sitting—or as near as you could when you couldn’t touch anything—on the ground, knees and feet pulled under a tattered frock. Beside her was a child—a living one—shivering in the cold and oblivious to both ghosts. All three were watching as across the road a gentleman in a fine frock coat and top hat carefully tipped a tree off the top of his carriage.

“It’s just a bloody tree! A dead one, and it’s only going to get worse if they keep it inside.”

“Oh, but it’s not ready yet! The children will decorate it, and it will be lit up with candles and—”

“And it will catch on fire, the house will go up and we’ll have a dandy and his bratty family for neighbours.”

Isabella frowned at the dead legionnaire. They had shared this streetcorner for nearly a century and, while she felt that they had developed at least a cordial relationship, she too easily forgot that Octavius could sulk and moan for months at a time when he was upset.

That didn’t mean she had to be miserable too.

“Well I am excited,” she said as she picked herself up. “It will look beautiful, and the children will soon get those lovely wooden toys we saw their father bring home just last week.”

Octavius snorted and nodded towards the figure on the ground between them.

“What about that one then?”

They both looked down at the freezing child. Face hidden beneath clumps of sooty hair, they were half-heartedly rubbing their hands together but their fingertips were already turning blue, and the dirty snow churned up by passing horses was freezing onto their rags. As if they knew they had an audience, they coughed, a pitiful, rattling sound. Even the two ghosts shivered.

“That one’ll be lucky to make it to the workhouse before they freeze to death,” Octavius continued. “They won’t get the chance to die there like you. There won’t be any wooden horses or hot food for them.”

Isabella stopped dead, trying to stammer out a reply. Satisfied, Octavius floated away to find something new to complain about, leaving her stunned into silence.

❄ ❄ ❄

Night had fallen in London and the ghost of Isabella Barrington was lost for words.

Snow was falling thick and quick, turning the new gas lamps into pale orbs of light floating in the dark. From across the road she could hear laughter, and the smell of a roast dinner was almost tangible.

Isabella felt the spectre of her stomach rumbling. Her last meal had been a morsel of bread that was mostly burnt crust, and that had been 97 years ago.

She had argued with Octavius many times over the years. The problem with being a ghost was that you couldn’t choose where you were bound to, or who was stuck waiting on the other side. He’d barely offered a greeting, let alone his condolences, when she’d shuffled off the mortal coil, and it was a decade before they had a conversation. But this time she knew she couldn’t leave it be. He had been so smug, had always been so smug, and he had no right to scold her like a child.

Determined, she turned to face him.

“Okay, I admit you may have a point. But don’t you dare accuse me of not caring. It pains me greatly to see somebody so young suffering, and I wish I could do something. I truly do. But just because a child is in pain, it doesn’t mean we can’t still find some joy in the world. Otherwise we would all be just as miserable as you are Octavius.”

“So you’d rather ignore pain just to make yourself feel better?” His reply was clipped.

She groaned in frustration.

“That’s not what I meant and you know it!”

“That’s the world of the living,” he continued, ignoring her, “as soon as one person gets ahead, they forget about everybody else.” He gestured across the street as the sound of glasses clinking together echoed through the windows.

“You think he’s going to suddenly feel charitable? Will he wake up tomorrow a changed man? No. He’s still going to be a bastard tomorrow.”

“So why do you fixate on that so much?” Isabella said. “You only make misery for yourself.”

“If I still could, I would curse that man.” His voice was steady. “I would curse him to be kept awake by maggots for the rest of his life, and I would curse anyone who permitted or tolerated his callousness the same.”

Isabella stared. “That’s nonsense. You don’t have to react to cruelty with more cruelty. You only make more misery for yourself.”

She floated over to where the child was slumped against the wall, their chest barely moving.

“Instead of cruelty,” she said, “why not try to be more kind, and make some joy?”

Octavius chewed this over for a moment.

“Sure,” he said, “you could. But being kind to those that need it doesn’t do anything about those with no charity themselves.”

“So you would rather curse them than try and make something positive?” Isabella asked.

“Sure would,” he replied. “Besides, we’re dead. What am I going to do, scare the bastard into turning his life around?”

“Well then, you are just as cruel as they are Octavius. You have just as much malice in your heart.”

“That is not—”

“You are as much a bastard as the living are and you will only make yourself suffer for it.”

Isabella snapped around and floated as far from Octavius as her she could, leaving the stunned legionnaire to stand alone in the cold.

❄ ❄ ❄

The wind was blowing in London and the ghost of Octavius Antonius was pacing through the streetlamps.

The wind was cold and kicking up flurries of snow but Octavius didn’t notice either. Nor did he pay any attention to Isabella, who was crouched against the wall and pointedly not watching him. He was growling curses under his breath, too low to make out.

A line of light broke out across the street as the door opposite opened and the gentleman with the fine frock coat, and the expensive top hat, and the happy, warm family stepped out. He staggered as he reached the icy steps, but caught himself and carried cheerfully on and—as if to show the world how carefree he was—pulled out his money purse and began weighing it in one hand contentedly.

Octavius stopped. Fists clenched tightly. Staring resolutely at the man walking so smugly towards him. Not moving, not even drifting in the wind, as if he were a statue carved of air. As the gentleman from across the road drew up to him Octavius paused to consider for only second, before he lurched at him with a grunt, pulling the snow and cold out of the air to make himself visible, just for a second. A ruined soldier, his chest caved in, burned and twisted fingers reaching out. He opened his mouth as if to speak and—

No words came out. Only a roar—a deep, primal bellow, one that was born centuries before, that had grown every year from pain and isolation, watching helplessly as the living hurt or neglected each other, an anger beaten into submission and locked away time and time again until it couldn’t be contained, all let loose in a single cry.

The gentleman froze, his face as white as Octavius’. He stammered, wordless mumbling that began to build towards a scream. His whole body was twitching, his fingers letting the money purse drop to the ground with a thud. Isabella and the child stared at it, eyes wide. Something in the gentleman’s brain took over, and with a scream he tripped over backwards, scrambling and slipping through the snow, trying desperately to stay upright as he ran off into the night.

The child raised an arm towards the money purse, not certain if it was real or not.

“Go,” Isabella whispered.

The child scrambled forward, faster than she had hoped, and snatched the money purse up. They almost seemed to struggle with it for a moment, whether because they were so weak with hunger, or it was so full, but Isabella blinked and they were both gone, the child running off into the night to find somewhere warmer.

She floated up and over to Octavius, once again in his familiar, spectral form. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but he stopped her with a tired wave of his arm.

“What? You think I want them to die here and be stuck with their coughing for the rest of eternity?” Octavius said as he turned his face away from Jane.

“Of course.” Jane smiled and floated over to stand beside him. The sky had cleared enough to see the stars blazing overhead, with only a few wisps of cloud scattered between them. The wind had died down, and gradually at first, then all at once, the bells of London began to ring out, joyously announcing to all that it was Christmas Day.

Captain_Person
Apr 7, 2013

WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

In!

Captain_Person
Apr 7, 2013

WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

Heirlooms
962 words



The parcel arrived on an overcast day, shoddily wrapped and covered in stamps affixed with sellotape. Sarah opened the letter stuffed inside the lid first.


Hey sis,

We found this put aside for you when we were clearing out Poppa’s house. Looks like some junk from when we were kids. I’ll let you know what else you get once the house is sold and everything is settled.

Brian

P.S. You owe me £20, airmail is expensive!



Sarah smiled as she read. Typical of her brother, hoping to weasel some money out of her for doing something kind. Their grandfather had passed away nearly seven months ago, and Brian had only now found the time to send her this?

Five quid, she thought, that’s the most he deserves.

She thought about their Poppa as she brought the parcel inside. About his laugh, mostly. A framed photo on her bookshelf would remind her what he looked like, but his laugh was something she could never forget. It had been expansive, filling the room even when it was too late and they were both trying to be quiet. Next to it her giggles were like tiny bubbles popping in the dark.

She’d missed the funeral. She hated that she did, but flights would have pushed her credit cards too far, and with the scant leave she had saved up she would have spent more time in the air than back home. Instead she’d written a eulogy for Brian to read out. It was all she felt she could do.

Her eyes blurring, she felt whatever was inside shift as she placed the parcel on her kitchen bench. A quick glance inside revealed half a dozen objects loosely wrapped in newspaper. A couple of books, judging by the flat surfaces, maybe a stuffed toy, and some other knick-knacks. She left it half-opened on the bench and headed back out the door. She’d have enough time to investigate after work.

* * *

The parcel remained untouched for a week. Sarah shifted it around the house, always meaning to find the time to look through it. It went from her kitchen to the coffee table, and from there to her bedroom where it did laps between her bed and desk, getting passed from one to the other like a baton whenever it was in her way.

It was after a night out that Sarah realised it was just like the phone calls. Every week she had meant to call her Poppa, just to catch up, just for five minutes to let him know she was well, and every week it got postponed as she let her life get in the way. She would prioritise the real people she could spend time with over the man that had become just a voice at the end of thousands of miles of cables. She always called, eventually, but she hated how long it took her to remember. Just like she hated missing his funeral.

She was just like her brother, she had often been told, and only sometimes did she admit that it included the bad comparisons.

That night she made herself sit down and unwrap everything inside the box, carefully placing them on her bed one by one.

There were several books, faded and softened with age, one held together with an old hair tie. Sarah’s fingers traced the embossed titles slowly as she remembered the stories inside.

A toy duck, all the stuffing pushed from its neck from years of hugging it too tightly.

A roll of black fabric covered in pins and badges from all the museums they had visited together.

A wooden tiger her Poppa promised he had carved himself, its stripes and claws gouged from the wood.

And rattling at the bottom some coins, a metal knucklebone, and the tiny figurine of a farmer, the tines of his pitchfork snapped off.

There was no note—she wouldn’t be surprised if there had been one and Brian had lost it—but she didn't need it. She knew why her Poppa had made sure these had been put aside for her. She remembered…

Sarah remembered her Poppa bringing the books to life with a sweep of his arms—wizards sailing across her bedroom, the sharp bite of a dragon’s claws as it crawled across her shoulder, roaring at the armies amassed on her bedsheets. Sarah remembered the duck—Benji, she called it Benji—cuddling close to her, as all her other toys and dolls and figurines put on elaborate shows, each laughing that same, all-encompassing laugh. Sarah remembered countless hot chocolates in dozens of museum cafes, each one the same but each day completely distinct.

Sarah remembered all the other gifts her Poppa had given her just for being her, and for being there with him, and how much she had cried when she broke them, and she remembered each hug she had received, that warm laugh fading to a whisper instead, it’s fine darling, don’t you worry about a thing…

Sarah sat lost in the dim light of her bedroom for what could have been hours. Each memory led into another, marked out like knots on a thread. By the time she reached for a box of tissues the red glare of her alarm clock had ticked over to the next day.

There were only a few hours left until it rang. She should be asleep—she shouldn’t have gone out earlier—but looking at everything laid out on her bed Sarah knew she wouldn’t be sleeping anytime soon. She fired off a message to her boss—ate something dodgy, don’t think I’ll be in tomorrow. She could take the time off. She should take the time off.

She picked up the first book, opened it slowly to the first page, and began to read aloud.

Captain_Person
Apr 7, 2013

WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

I'm in

Captain_Person
Apr 7, 2013

WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

In plus a :toxx: for my crimes

(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)

Captain_Person
Apr 7, 2013

WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

cptn_dr posted:

You're better than this! There's only room for one inveterate Failure Captain in this dome, and that's me.

Brawl me.

Lowtax has his spine money. I'll have your blood.

You're on.

Captain_Person
Apr 7, 2013

WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

ThirdEmperor posted:

Oh captain, my captain, I'm afraid this prompt is gonna be rough sailing.
Before the end of the month, PST, you two will have to deliver
A steampunk story, but not, and let me stress this, not garbage.
Gimme a tale about the people the industrial revolution swept aside, the anxiety of men forced to compete with machine, the runaway ambition of a capitalist clockwork.

Jokes on you, I can't not write garbage.

Still gonna write better words than you cptn_dr!

:toxx:

Captain_Person
Apr 7, 2013

WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

sebmojo posted:

Cptns dr and person, after discussion you have until nz 9pm tomorrow on the dot to post your brawls or the :toxx: shaft will fly, steeltoedsneaks has picked up the judge hat

OhCaptainMyCaptain SteamFart Brawl Entry

The Path of Progress
636 words

Foolish men from across the world had called him mad, but Doctor Dieter Niklas von Kinzig knew that this day would prove them wrong.

“Attention!” he barked at the crew of lackeys assembled below the control module of his roving steam fortress. Countless so-called ‘heroes’, who had dared to challenge his cunning, slaved day and night to fuel the aetheric furnaces needed to power the gargantuan mechanical monstrosity of Kinzburg as it churned through the mud of Europe.

“Today is finally the day that the powers of the world bow down before my might! No more shall the mewling citizens of the world dare to deny the progress of science!!”

“Doctor, sir!” a lackey cried out as they stepped forward into a deep bow. “The Britannian colony has been sighted. We will be within range of the international peace conference in sixty seconds.”

“Hah!” the doctor spat with glee. “Excellent!! My foes, all gathered together in one place. Prepare the Stormfall Cannon!!”

As the foul crew ran about their tasks the many-legged fortress of Kinzburg shuddered, aetheric energy coursing through its arteries of brass and cogs. Von Kinzig turned to address the figure bound to the base of the Aetheric Savagery Sower.

“You see, my darling Countess Deskford, nothing can stop me now.” He advanced slowly on the helpless heroine, continuing his speech with a horrid grin. “Not the meddling of your so-called heroes, not the armies of the great powers of this nation, not even you or your interfering husband can deny me. It’s too late!!”

Countess Joanna Deskford, last hope of the nations of the earth, fighter of the tyranny of scientific facism, glared back at von Kinzig. “Too late for them, perhaps,” she said, “but not too late for me!”

In a flash she stood up, dropping the intricate handcuffs that had bound her to the ground. In one hand she held an ornately carved wristband adorned with jewels, opened to reveal a fully automated lockpick powered by coal dust hidden inside.

“You are a blind fool, von Kinzig,” the Countess continued, dropping into the stance of a seasoned brawler. “You have always ignored that beauty, and art, obsessing only over your science. But no more. Today, this finally ends.”

Doctor von Kinzig blinked and in that moment she was upon him, unleashing a flurry of blows that staggered him. He brought his cane up to block one punch, and another was already connecting with his face. Step by step, he was forced back by her righteous onslaught, right to the edge of the control module where he was swept to the floor by the countess.

The countess stood triumphantly over von Kinzig. On the ground he writhed and panted as he glared up at her.

“Your tricks… are no match for my hatred… or for LIGHTNING!!”

With a flourish he thrust his cane up at her, sending a bolt of lightning surging from within its brass spike to skewer her heart. Her screech rattled the windows around the command module as all of von Kinzig’s hatred, stored and transformed into lightning by the Aetheric Savagery Sower, overloaded her heart and set her blood ablaze, all in her final heartbeat. Her body beginning to smoke, she toppled back as the evil Doctor sprung to his feet.

“AT LAST!!” screamed von Kinzig as he stood over her smouldering corpse. “AT LAST THE DESKFORD’S ARE NO MORE, AND WITH IT YOUR HOPE DIES!!”

He spun to stare down the Britannian colony that seemed to cower before him, firing a few frantic bursts of lightning from his cane for good measure.

“DEATH TO COWARDICE! DEATH TO REASON! DEATH TO BEAUTY, AND ART, AND WEAK-MINDED FOOLS!!”

He thrust his cane towards his enemies, and proclaimed their doom.

“FIRE THE STORMFALL CANON AND DESTROY EVERYTHING YOU SEE!! AAHAHAHAHA!!!”

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Captain_Person
Apr 7, 2013

WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

IN

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