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Jul 26, 2012

In! Seeking words of the prophet and :toxx: for my previous failures.


Jul 26, 2012


a friendly penguin posted:

"He should write the story of koala going surfing on a hot day at the house."

Big Koalhuna
Word Count: 1179

It was Little Tajji’s favorite time of the day. First tour group this week poured into the Blueberry Ash Animal Sanctuary gates . The first crowd of wide eyed school children, there on a field trip from somewhere around Brisbane, gathered around the pond near the eucalyptus trees. Caretaker Rick broke from the audience, looking for Tajji’s red collar among the other koalas. Not that the little marsupial made it a challenge. He would dash as quickly as his little legs could carry him, unsteady and plodding though it may be. Tajji bounced his way down from his branch towards Caretaker Rick, hopping onto the children’s sized surfboard the human set by the pond.

Caretaker Rick nudged the board into the water, but the koala’s tiny paws did most of the work. He waded his way towards the artificial waterfall at the edge, riding the bubbles from the submerged jets like a tiny wave. It was easy for him, but he could tell how much it impressed his young audience. Their laughs and cheers didn’t quite make sense to him, but he could still feel the happiness radiating off the children every time he did his trick. But on that day, the joy was short-lived.

Tajji smelled the smoke first. The children’s laughter ended almost immediately, replaced by the approaching cries for help in the distance. The black clouds tore their way through the air as merigold flames consumed the visitor center. Those flames would soon spread to the nearest trees. Caretaker Rick gathered the children around him before putting his hand out to Tajji, only for a falling branch separated them. The pond water splashes with impact, flinging the marsupial’s board in the opposite direction. Tajji clung to the board, keeping his composure after it hit ground, only leaping off voluntarily as the heat grew closer.

He dashed blindly forward into whatever was away from the flames, managing to scale the fence at the edge of the property. The little bear ran until the grass became squares of concrete and the trees became towers of brick. He ran until nothing he saw looked familiar at all.


The city of Brisbane terrified Tajji. He made his way through the alleyways, sleeping in dumpsters, with their putrid odor being the price of safety. The ground was either solid rock that hurt his pawns or oily puddles that muddled his fur. Anything outside was loud and chaotic, with humans and vehicles moving too fast for a small koala to feel safe. The trucks honk their horns and the humans yell into their phones. The stench of the dumpsters only replaced by motor exhaust the further Tajji stepped into downtown. He could still walk, though his fur was singed from the flames around where the vets put their microchip. But knowing where to go was difficult.

He plodded through the city until the slightest breeze of fresh air pierced the urban musk. Tajji followed this breeze the best he could. The humans still stopped down the sidewalks with little regard. The cars and trucks still tore down the streets at their brisk pace. But little Tajji had direction now. He had reason to scurry past the humans’ legs as they fumbled to avoid the random marsupial. He had reason to dodge the speeding cars, his timing more precise than he knew possible. He ran from block to block until he found the line of palm trees just past the next sidewalk. He darted past the road, following the fresh fragrance that he soon came to realize was the ocean.

The concrete turns to fresh grass before dipping into white sand. Humans laid on blankets and threw plastic balls in the air. But then Tajji saw the water. The rolling waves of the Pacific dwarfed the bubble jet of his home. As the waves crashed into the shore, he saw them: The humans riding their long, fiberglass covered boards. One of the ridden by a small boy with his parents helping navigate. The boy rode the board back onto the beach, leaving it alone while his parents helped him dry off the salt water. That was all the time Tajji needed to run onto the beach and push the surfboard into the water, nudging it with his furry snout.

Before anyone could notice, the koala had already crawled on top of the board as it turned itself forward in the waning tide. A strong ripple lifted the surfing marsupial up before setting him back down. But Tajji kept his balance. This water was more powerful than the sanctuary pond, but it was still just water. He paddled with his paw when he wanted to change direction. He shifted his weight when he needed to rebalance. Another powerful ripple. Tajji rode it back down before paddling further into the azure sea. He popped his head up to see if a crowd had formed like back at the sanctuary. He couldn’t hear their laughter. But he saw the bodies standing at the shoreline, watching the tiny animal drift along the waves. As the waters pick up again, he saw the lifeguards paddling towards him on their foam boards.

They reached out towards him as the tide began to pick up. Tajji rode the wave, slipping past the red and white clad protectors as it crashed down. They turned to follow him as a second lifts their boards, and giving Tajji the edge to drift just out of reach. The current seemed to shift, pulling the guard close as paddle back around. The boy’s parents were approaching now. Other swimmers began to join in the attempts to catch the wayward koala. But Tajji could see the crowd starting to form. He didn’t understand what the smartphones they were holding meant, but he knew he had seen them before during his shows. The current shifted into the largest wave yet. Tajji scurried to keep his balance as the ocean lifted his pursuers. When the wave crashed onto the coastline, he rode the force, cutting past his would-be captors.

As the boy watched his parents chase after the pilfered board, he catches a small glimpse of the red collar around the bear’s neck. The koala drifted back onto the shore, as lifeguards followed and animal control arrived. But the boy ran towards his beleaguered parents shouting “It’s Tajji!”


When Caretaker Rick arrived, animal control was still there. Someone had clearly asked them to stay. Crowds surrounded the Jeeps, trying to get photos of Tajji like he was a pop star or celebrity footballer. When Tajji saw his former human, he lept in his cage, pawing at the bars in a rudimentary attempt to say something close to hello.

“You must be Rick,” a man wearing a suit asks. “I’m from the Australian Tourism Agency. I understand you’ve some troubles lately.”

“Uh, yeah,” Rick nervously utters. “Some bad wiring or something.”

“Well whatever your insurance doesn’t cover, I’m sure we can help with. If you don’t mind letting us take a friend of yours to the beach every so often.”

Jul 26, 2012


Jul 26, 2012

The Kenning House
Words: 1429

Back in the mines, the old folks used to tell me all these stories just to scare us. “Don’t go too deep by yourself, Teddy,” they’d always say. “The devil’s gonna snatch you and put a Changeling in your place.” But he never showed up. I started hopping rails when I was twelve in 1912. It’s 1913 now. Still nothing. But this kid might be the closest thing.

That steam whistle comes blowing down the rail. We both haul it right to that bright yellow dot. The old bum I hit with the rock ain’t quit chasing us since we got out of the hobo camp. But him and his goony friends are still screaming at us. And the stuff they’re saying about the kid running with me. Yeah, this kid might have skin like spinach and ears like knives. But he’s still only gotta be like eight years old. And these palookas got faces like the side of a cliff. Who are they gonna call ugly? The old dummies throw the few cans of beans they got left at us but I hop on the first open boxcar. I put my hand out for the kid, who climbs up like a champ, only stumbling when he burns his hand on something.

We tear past our pursuers in the wooden. When the coast is clear, I get up to look, but it just seems like the frame of the car. It ain’t even hot when I touch it. But I heard the hiss and his hand’s still steaming. There was a burn. “You okay, kid?” I ask.

“It’s the iron,” the kids says. “I can’t touch the iron.”

I use one of the couple old rags lying around to wrap up the kid’s hand. “What’s your name?”

“Albert,” he tells me. “Albert Kenning.”

“Teddy Lawson. At your service.”

“You saved me.”

Don’t know why that felt weird to hear, but it did. “It’s just what you do, you know? Life on the road ain’t easy. Ain’t too many people helping each other out. Speaking of which, you hungry? I didn’t grab any of those cans they were throwing at us. But I still got some bread left over–” Barely even got the loaf out of my coat before this little gremlin grabs it and starts gnawing like some sorta demonic hamster. He slows down when he catches me staring. I think he’s embarrassed. “How long since you ate last?”

“I don’t know. A while. I didn’t get hungry back there.”

“Never get hungry? I gotta know where that is.”

“They called it the Feywild. The fairies took me to live there from my mommy and daddy’s farm. But I don’t wanna live in the Feywild. I wanna go home.” That’s when little Albert starts getting real weepy. “They told me I couldn’t go home. They said I was Feytouched now. That I was weird now. And that people would be afraid of me.”

I ain’t no good with tears. But I think I see where this kid’s coming from. “I ain’t scared of you. And if your folks got any sense, they ain’t gonna be scared of you neither. So how about you tell me where we can find your mommy and daddy.”

“Wappinger Falls. Can this train take us there?”

“Nope! But we can catch the next line once we hit Valdosta.”

“Thank you.” Albert gets quiet for a minute. But then he hits me with it. “Do you have a family?”

Aw geez. This kid’s been through enough, right? He doesn’t want my whole sad spiel. “Naw kid. I didn’t get one of those. I just got hungry.”

We switch trains right before the station, so we don’t get no trouble from the bulls. When we get to our destination, we find out that station ain’t too far from the market. The same market Albert’s mommy and daddy would sell their veggies every couple of days in the spring. Kid remembers the exact way back from there. Most of the trip is country, but I see the chalk markers. Vagabond roads here. No idea how long this kid’s family been living here, but if they still up around, they ain’t got neighbors, Maybe you can call the dried husks around here crops, you probably gotta have farmers to have a farm. And these old houses ain’t been lived in a good while. When we get to the kid’s old place and he can’t make sense of.

“This isn’t it,” Albert tells me, that little quake in his voice. “This can’t be it!”

“It’s gotta be,” I tell him. “It’s the same address!”

“It can’t be. It just can’t.”

Boarded up windows. Dry soil. Wood that’d look more at home in a shipwreck than your living room. There ain’t nobody been in so long. I see the look on the kid’s face. Seeing that garden color demon maw droop all heartbroken like got in my head. My head says I should just tell him thems the breaks kid, deal with it. Because that’s what I gotta tell myself on the rail. But I don’t wanna kick this kid. Helps I don’t have to.

“Old Kennings used to live here,” says a voice from the dried grass. Another bum. He probably could have pulled the boards off the doors or windows. But it doesn’t look like he's been keeping his strength up to do that. “They moved. Moved all the way into the city.”

“You know where?” I ask him.

“Uptown! Up up town! You can’t miss it.”

The kid and I hop on a wagon heading to the city, and it don’t take much to find the way. “Trust me, kid. Town this rich, no one wants to look at us anyway,” I tell Albert as we slip through the alley and I do the talking. These large brick buildings are all pristine. Bunch of them got gold plaques saying exactly which old money bigwigs run the joint. But the whole city seems to circle around the biggest house, with the biggest fence, and the goldest plaque. Kenning Manor sticks out like a sore thumb, even around the other bozos with way too much in their pocketbook. Like it ain’t even seem like it was built. Seemed more like Wall Street planted it and grew it right in the middle of town. Just through the gate, we see two hoity toity types walking from their carriage into the front door. I look at the kid, and ol’ Albert shakes eagerly.

“Mommy! Daddy!” Albert shouts before running up the gates. I follow the best I can, but he can move. He manages to push through the door. I crawl up to a window just to look in. Hoping I could have see a happier reunion, but Albert just stares. His evening dressed mommy and daddy look at him with anger as a human child looks on in confusion. A human child who looks like Albert with pinker skin and more sensible ears. Then he gets mad. His mouth opens like a shark and his teeth sharpen into needles. And the noise he makes! The horrible, nasty squeal like a pig choking on a parrot in the loudest way possible.

I pound on the window, but I still hear the commotion inside. “You little brat!” The old man yells at Albert. “You won’t take this from us!” I bust out the window with a rock. Pop open the window. And dive in, running straight for their fancy cream colored fire place. Specifically the iron pokers next to it. Needle mouth kid stays back, even as he screeches at me. It don’t matter. It’s long enough for Albert to get out. And for me to follow. They stay back, but I still see that look in his parents’ eyes. I hope it’s shame. But it might be the look of a couple get-rich-quick patsies whose big deal got complicated.

We hop the fence. I want to run back to the tracks, but then I see the kid plop down on the grown. “They didn’t want me,” he says. “I came back from the hidden place and they didn’t want me.”

He ain’t even sad. I don’t think his brain has made sense of everything enough for him to get sad. I try to come up with something to smart to say right now, but everything’s coming up blank. Although, I do remember something. “Kid, you said you didn’t need to eat in that feywild?”


“You wanna show me?”

Jul 26, 2012

Checking in.

Requesting a flash rule from room service.


Jul 26, 2012

The Crystal Cove
Word Count: 1464

Bad Seafood posted:

A luggage mix-up has catastrophic consequences.

I thought I saw a dead pirate in the lobby. This is the third time I’ve seen an apparition like this since I’ve been here. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep. The podcast does take time to edit. Maybe it’s the rubes I’ve been interviewing for this episode, either complete engrossed with their own superstition or vulnerable enough to scare into anything. Or maybe it’s the Key West tourist trap I decided to record in. But I think I’m starting to see the ghosts too.

“Thank you for staying at The Crystal Cove Hotel and Casino, Mr. Jones,” the girl at the counter says, the hollow dead eyed smile of customer service laying just a little too easily. Behind a brass of relief of overly excited pirates. The scenes depict the massacre of The Crystal Cove, showing dreaded pirate Captain Dirge’s campaign of slaughter after his treasure disappeared from under him. A campaign that according to legend extends from the grave. “Come back soon.”

“Yeah, sure thing,” I mutter, not particularly trying to hide my disinterest.

I wheel my luggage to the tiny kitchenette, over the nautical themed carpet and past the anchor patterned wallpaper. Concertina music and sea shanties play on a loop as I fill my cup with complimentary coffee. It’s hard not to feel as if multiple portraits and statues of Dirge’s crew are actively interested in me. Each piece of pirate art is a lovingly detailed rendering of a historic figure, based upon what little record there was of the brutality. But just a little too friendly about it. Whatever atrocity was committed on this beach, the marketing department here filtered it through Chuck E. Cheese sensibilities. After all, we wouldn’t want mass murder to be uninviting.

“Captain Dirge lost his treasure trove,” sings the jaunty voice over the lobby sound system. “Woe to the thieves of the Crystal Cove.”

I grab my dark roast before pulling the handle on my luggage before realizing the red tag with the podcast logo was missing. Only a few feet away walks a woman carrying an identical suitcase with the Skeptic Call with Kevin Jones tag immediately visible. “Hey!” I shout at the woman. “Wait! There’s been a mistake.” The woman snaps around as I struggle to drag her case. Whatever she’s carrying in here might as well be a boulder.

She nervously turns around, offering an embarrassed “Oh! Oh sorry,” before noticing my face on the red tag. “Wait. Is this you?”

That gets a chuckle. “Yeah, I’m the podcast guy.”

A smile crosses her face at the realization. I can’t gauge if she’s impressed. “Now I am embarrassed. Here I am stealing a celebrity’s bag. You doing an episode about the ghosts around here?”

“You won’t be mad if I’m debunking them, will you?”

She pauses before smiling slightly. “You know, I don’t know if you ever have guests on your show. But if you’re looking for local experts—“

“You’re an expert, I take it?”

“I’m actually a consultant at a jewelry store downtown. And I’ve had more than a few people try to pass off their grandma’s old cocktail rings as the lost treasure of Captain Dirge. You pick up a few things when you have tourists try to bullshit you every few weeks or so.”

“Oh really? Well if I were, what name would I put in the show notes.”

“Nettle. Emily Nettle.”

Her offer tempts me. No one I spoke to during my time here was particularly willing to call out the grifters directly. Emily might have a valuable insight to add. And I must confess, I find her charming.


My eyes jerk drifting towards the horizon, blotted out and overcast as it is. I can smell the oncoming rain in the damp breeze that seems to linger more than blow. Fog seems to linger just above the water. I find myself expecting to see ships and have trouble snapping myself back to reality.

“Any more questions?” Emily asks. This jars me back to my senses.

“Sorry! I’ll have to edit that out.” I note the time code on the record software on my laptop, adding to the google doc open in the browser window. After reorienting myself, I lean back towards the USB microphone. I consider ordering another drink, since we’re both checked out, and I’d rather not get the patio bartender too angry at us. “So do these weirdos actually expect you to believe they have pirate treasure? And they’re just willing to dump it at a strip mall downtown?”

She laughs. “Well here’s the thing. Suppose you did have a cursed artifact. You would want to get rid of it as fast as possible, right?”

“I guess. But how would you even know it’s really cursed? After all, don’t all sailors embellish. Especially the mangy scoundrel types. Why not hold on and wait for something weird to happen?”

Emily's face grows sullen and I can tell she’s trying to fight it. Apparently I touched more of a nerve that I expected. “Maybe something did.”

“But how do you know it’s pirate ghosts and not just life sucking. Because it does that periodically.”

“Maybe when your life starts to suck, it starts sucking in a way that’s hard to ignore and the timing is suspect. And maybe it begins to suck in a way that you can’t quite explain.”

There’s something she isn’t telling me. I wonder for a moment if she believes more than she’s letting on. I wonder for a moment if she believes in the ghosts of the Crystal Cove. This could have been a mental health crisis. Poor girl. I don’t want to exacerbate any potential issues, but I do have to push further. “You haven’t actually seen ghosts have you?”

She pauses before letting a slight smirk crack. “That would be a silly thing to say here, wouldn’t it?”

I turn the recording off. “Just so you know. If you need to discuss anything serious, we can take a break. I don’t air anything without your approval.”

“Can I ask you something?”


“What if it was ghosts?”

“Excuse me?”

“What if the legend was true and Captain Dirge would drag you to the world of the dead if you had his treasure?”

I mull the question over. Maybe this place, with its dedication to Disney-fied pirate murder to an almost H. H. Holmesian degree is getting to her too. She seemed on the level so far. I try to laugh it off. “Well, it’s not. So why worry?”

“But what if it was? What if you laughed at the stories then it found you. And what if you narrowly escaped?”

I look at the table to see Emily lifting her sleeve. A large, jagged scar tears it’s way up her arm. It’s not fresh, but it’s still pink, having only recently healed. “Who did that to you?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“No seriously! Do we need to get the police involved? I know lawyers. I can get them on the phone now.”

“You probably wouldn’t believe me if I said ghost pirates, would you?”

Her answer takes me back. I pause to wonder if this is some kind of joke to break the tension. “That isn’t funny.”

“No. No it’s not. I’m sorry. But I need to go.”

“Wait!” I stand up, trying to stop her. But she’s already grabbed her bag and began walking. Not wasting any time, she was already past the back doors. I sink back in my seat, before admitting defeat and packing up my laptop. I try to roll my suitcase, but it’s heavier than I remember. Almost like there was a bolder inside. I anxiously look for the red tag and find none, immediately chasing after Emily upon realization. I momentarily glance back to the horizon. That’s when I see them.

The decrepit ships manned by decaying crew drift just slowly out of distance. It’s difficult to make them out past the rotting palm trees and abandoned shanties that gradually replace the beach goers. The fog doesn’t help either. That thick, oppressive mist fills the air, as if the gray skies above are consuming the land. But I still walk forward. My body seemingly moves under its own power. My mind accepts this all the same. I break the spell for only a moment to open Emily’s briefcase. The glistening of gold and jewel mired by time greet me.

The breeze lingers in the air like a corpse floating in the tide, carrying the same odor of rot, and a song. An ancient, jaunty melody whispers through the air, each lyric sung by what sounds like a scoundrel's final breath.

“Captain Dirge lost his treasure trove. Woe to thieves of the Crystal Cove.”

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