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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    !Prize! Short Story Contest 110: The Catalyst - Submission & Details Thread !Prize!

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Jan 16, 2012.

    Short Story Contest 110
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "The Catalyst"​


    This contest is open to all wf.org members, newbies and the established alike. Please post your entries as replies to this post. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a separate thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. As a special one-off, there will be a prize for this contest. Wf.org member TheSpiderJoe has kindly volunteered a copy of his latest novel direct to the winner, either in electronic Kindle format, or on physical paperback. See below for more details. As always, the winner may also PM/VM me to request the theme of a subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Theme: "The Catalyst" (courtesy of member TheSpiderJoe). Any interpretation is valid, though the intent is to create or generate an Armageddon-type event. Entries do not have to follow the theme explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.
    Wordlimit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Contest will open when the current sci-fo contest closes Feb 20th. The deadline will then be Monday 5th March 2012 10.00 am (UK local)

    Sci-fi contest: http://www.writingforums.org/forumdisplay.php?f=88

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. As below, any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    There is a maximum of 25 entries to any contest. If there are more than 25 entries to any one contest I will decide which are entered into voting based on adherence to the suggested word limit and relevance to the theme, not on a first-come-first served basis.

    The next contest will be themed "Alias" (suggested by SSC107 winner mootz), the one after that "Attic Treasure" (Tessie), and the one after that "Insanity" (Bran). Be free to prepare an entry for any or all of these contests in advance, but do not submit an entry to any of these contests until instructed to do so. Please note that sadly no prize other than pride is offered for these contests.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece manner to decide its legitamacy for the contest.

    Submissions may not have been previously posted on this site, nor may they be posted for review until voting has closed. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permissable.

    Please try to refrain from itallicising, bolding, colouring or indenting any text to help avoid disappointment. These stylistics do not reproduce when I copy-paste them into the voting thread. You may use visible noparse BB code to preserve style if you wish by placing [ noparse ] and [ /noparse ] (without the spaces) around the entire text.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets at the top of your story.


    If there are any questions, please leave me a visitor message or PM me. Please do not clog up this, or any other thread, with your questions.

    Please note that only current members are eligible to win.

    Thanks and good luck.

    Prize offered:

     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    This contest is now open. Please post your entries as replies to this thread.
     
  3. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    I cannot seem to submit my story. Please help!
     
  4. quincarroll
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    quincarroll Member

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    Sun Spot (2847 Words)

    “What was that?” I shouted as I woke up with a start. Samantha, Sam for short, was already sitting up in bed next to me, fumbling on her bed side table, looking for the light switch. When she finally found it, the tell tale click did nothing.

    “You ok?” she asked with concern in her voice.

    “Hmmm... Yeah, I think so”

    “The light’s broken”, she said, getting out of bed and trying the wall switch. Again, there was nothing.

    “The power must be out”, I told her. “I’ll get my torch”. I fumbled in my bed side table’s drawer and found it. We both heard the click, but nothing happened.

    Just then, Jenny screamed from her bedroom. She was only six years old, and still didn’t like the dark. She tended to panic when the power went out and she didn’t have her night light to see that the monsters weren’t there with her in her room.

    Sam was out of our room in a flash. She was, and still is, an amazing mother, and nothing, not even the Lego block on the floor was going to stop her getting to Jen to help calm her.

    “What’s the time?” I thought to myself as I pushed the little button on my watch to try and illuminate the face of my cheap but reliable watch. Nothing happened, so I tried again with the same result.

    We had been up watching the unscheduled meteor shower that lit the night sky up with its natural fireworks show. I was tired so I yawned, stretched and rubbed my eyes, and then looked over at where my mobile phone was. I couldn’t see it in the dark. “Where is it?” I thought to myself. I felt for it, and sure enough, there it was, exactly where I had left it when we had come to bed. It didn’t turn on when I found and pushed the on/off switch.

    The feeling that something wasn’t quite right had slowly been getting stronger as the minutes had moved on. I was trying to shrug it off, but panic was setting in.

    My hands were shaking a little as I got up to go and join Sam and Jen, swearing as I stepped on what I assumed was the same piece of Lego that Sam had stepped on, and limped into Jen’s room, wishing, like parents all over the world, that all Lego would pick itself up when children stopped playing with it.

    I could see a little light through the thin curtains in Jen’s bedroom. “Phew.” I thought to myself when I realised that the sun would soon begin to creep above the horizon, casting what would at first be a red glow over the world that we knew. Sam turned to look at me as I hobbled into the room.

    “I don’t get it.” I told her in a confused way. “There’s no electricity.”

    “I can see that!” she said, a little annoyed with me for swearing within earshot of Jen and, stating what she thought was the obvious.

    “No – There is no electricity in anything. Everything electronic is dead!” I paused for a split second, and then added, “Everything!”

    She turned, to look at me, but couldn’t see me clearly in the gloom. “What do you mean? Everything?” she asked. I could tell that she didn’t believe me.

    “My watch is dead, and so is my torch. Even my cell phone isn’t working.” I answered.

    “Did you remember to charge it?” Her tone this time was condescending. She only gets this way when she is stressed and needs an outlet, so I walked over and created a three way hug.

    “It was fully charged when we went to bed”, I told her as calmly as I could.

    “Put new batteries in it daddy”, Jen innocently added with a little sob between words. Being six years old made her an expert in everything, and she knew that was the solution to our problem. Boy did I wish it was that simple.

    The first time I became aware of the rumbling, was while the three of us were holding on to each other, getting what little comfort we could in the strange circumstances. The room was getting a little lighter, but at the same time, the rumbling sound was getting a little louder.

    We could feel the vibrations through our feet on the floor, and Jen’s little picture of pooh bear hanging on her cupboard began a gentle rattle. Things were getting stranger by the minute.

    “Daddy, I’m scared” Jen said in her small quiet voice. She seemed so small and dainty, huddled up in our arms.

    “I know my love. I know.” I told her, while I stroked her head and hoped that everything was going to be ok.

    The sun seemed to me, to be getting higher in the sky a lot faster than usual. I was convinced that it was my imagination, but I wanted to make sure.

    “I’ll be right back.” I said to my small, loving family, as I stood up, walked out of the room and got the key to the front gate of our home.

    After opening the front door, I unlocked the security gate, stepped out and looked around the corner of the house, in the direction of the rising sun.

    What I saw made me want to empty my bladder in my pyjama pants.

    The sun had just broken above the horizon, but instead of it being a little pin prick of a sliver, the sliver filled about half of the horizon. If that little tiny piece of the top of the sun filled so much of the horizon, then how big or close was the sun to the earth right now?

    My mind was reeling. I couldn’t think straight and a feeling of doom overcame me. “Were we all going to die?”

    I looked back over my shoulder and saw Sam standing behind me with a worried look on her face. Jen was holding onto her left leg, as if her life depended on it, tears of fear streaming down her cute cheeks and dripping on to her pyjama top.

    “Look”, Sam said, pointing at the huge English oak tree in our front garden. The leaves were wilting and turning a grey/brown colour as we watched.

    Birds were dropping from the sky and the air seemed almost like it could catch fire any second as the sun rose not slowly enough.

    The next thing we knew, the air did something unusual, even for that day. It looked and felt almost like it wobbled, but not really. We all screamed, and then everything was dark and quiet. All we could hear was our own breathing, and that was heavy and fast, from fear.

    I could still feel Sam’s hand on my shoulder, so I quietly and as calmly as I could, said “Sam?” I could hear the tremble in my voice echo quietly.

    “Here” Came her response.

    “Mommy… What’s happening?” came from down below and next to Sam. It was Jen, and we could hear the fear in her voice as well. She was in tears, and her quiet sobs, gave us another clue as to just how scared she was. Sam and I both knew how much the dark scared Jen. I could only imagine what was going through her young mind. Terror was all I could think about, and it sickened me to think that she was as scared as she was.

    “I don’t know my love” Sam answered her as she let go of my shoulder, bent down and picked Jen up. I turned around and embraced them both. I needed the contact and the reassurance that the contact with the two ladies in my life gave me.

    We were alive, but for how long?

    I could still feel what felt like a solid surface below my feet, and assumed that we were in the same spot as before the darkness enveloped us, but I just couldn’t be sure. As I extended my arm out to feel for the wall and entrance to our house, I felt nothing. The house was no longer where I thought it was.

    The feel of my wife and child holding on to me as I held on to them, was nice, but I was more worried and scared for our safety that at any time ever before in my life. I like to know what is going on, and at that point, I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t have any idea what had happened to us, and what was worse, I didn’t know what was going to happen either.

    I could hear a small whimper coming from Jen as I tried to figure out what was happening to us, but nothing came to mind. Sam broke the silence, by asking what I was beginning to wonder. It was an amazing ability that we had. We could think almost exactly the same thing, sometimes, with one of us verbalizing it to the other’s surprise.

    “Are we dead?” she asked.

    “I don’t know… Maybe?” I replied.

    Taking a deep breath confirmed to me that the air was no longer scorching. It felt cool and refreshing, not stiflingly hot. We couldn’t have asked for it to be any more comfortable.

    “The air seems nice. Almost perfect if you ask me.” I said to no one in particular.

    “Me too” came Sam’s reply. “It’s almost like the air-con is set to a perfect temperature.“

    “Where are we?” Jen enquired. She seemed to be getting more used to our surroundings, and the fact that Sam and I were calm seemed to be helping her.

    “I’m not sure my love.” Sam said.

    My confusion was leading a little to frustration. “It would be nice if we could see where we were.” As I said that, there was a little whooshing sound in front of us, and I instinctively ducked a little. The butterflies in my belly became more noticeable and the small hairs on the back of my neck stood out on end.

    We could suddenly see and what we saw made me wonder about my sanity.

    The view was spectacular. A planet that looked like the earth, far in the inky black distance, was in the process of being devoured by the sun. “Is that...” I couldn’t finish my question.

    The surface of what we were looking through must have been tinted, because our eyes weren’t being burned out of our heads. All I could think about was that our home on that wonderfully quiet patch of land was going up in flames. The lives of over seven billion people were being ended just like that. No questions asked, just horrific death and destruction.

    I looked at Sam only to see her staring, with a shocked look and tears streaming down her face, at our home being vaporized. Words didn’t feel like they would be enough. Nothing did, but I held on to my small family anyway.

    The sun was slowly being pulled towards the earth. It could have been the earth being attracted to the sun, but I couldn’t tell. “What about my Lego?” Jen asked. She didn’t know what was going on, and I was pretty glad for that. “I wish it was here.” In a split second it was at her feet. She shrieked with joy, sat down and began playing with it, giggling with happiness. Perhaps it was better that she had something to occupy her mind so she didn’t have to see the destruction that was before us?

    Sam looked at me, then down at Jen playing with the Lego, and then back up at me. Her jaw was slack, and she had a look of total disbelief on her face. That look was mirrored on my face. The look on her face told me everything I could need to know about what she was thinking.

    “I could do with a Snickers bar right now” she said. Poof, there it was at her feet.

    “I would love a Coke” I joined in, and was rewarded with a 300ml glass bottle of the dark fizzy liquid at my feet. When I noticed that it wasn’t open, I said sarcastically, “It would help if it was open!” The bottle cap disappeared with a little pop and fizz.

    Sam and I bent down to pick our little prizes up at the same time. She held the candy bar, in its wrapper out and looked at is while I watched her. She held it up and examined it.

    “Looks like the real thing. Should I open it?”

    “What have you got to lose?” I asked, pointing at what was once our home.

    She carefully opened the wrapper, slid the chocolate bar out a little and took a small experimental bite.

    “What’s it like?” I asked, dying to know the answer.

    “Exactly like the real thing.” The amazement was written on her face as chewed and held it out for me to have a taste for myself. I took a bite and was shocked to taste exactly what I expected to taste. Not only did it taste like a Snickers bar, but it was a Snickers bar.

    “How’s that possible?” I wondered aloud.

    “Mommy, can I have some?” Jen asked.

    “How do you ask?” Sam answered. The mom in her coming out even is this situation.

    “Please can I have some?” She tried again.

    Sam looked at me with a “Should I?” look on her face.

    “It tastes normal. Go for it.” I answered.

    Sam held the bar out to Jen, who took it and sat down to happily eat and play with her Lego.

    I looked down at the bottle in my hand. It was cool to the touch, and a little condensation was running down the bottle, over my fingers and dripping on the surface that we were standing on. Holding it up so that I could look at the contents of the bottle, I could see the bubbles wobbling this way and that on their journey to the surface of the dark liquid.

    It looked like Coke, and as I brought the bottle to my lips and took a little sip, I could taste the refreshing flavor of Coke. To say the least; I was amazed. First the Lego, then the Snickers bar, and now a perfectly cooled Coke. “What next?” I thought to myself.

    Sam had a taste and agreed with me that it was delicious.

    The flash of the explosion drew my attention away from the contents of the bottle that Sam was holding. There was a sphere of flame, rock and gas expanding away from where the earth was. It was blowing outward from the side of the sun that had devoured our home world. A feeling of dread overcame me.

    “What are we going to do?” I asked in a hushed voice. My heart had broken into a billion pieces, just like the core of our world was now spreading itself outward through the solar system. I sat down. Sam followed me, and we began to weep.

    After what seemed like hours, but could only have been a few seconds, my thoughts began to clear. Jen was still sitting playing with her Lego, and Sam was resting her head on my shoulder. We had all gotten what we wanted when we said it out aloud. Jen had gotten her Lego, Sam, her Snickers bar, and I had received a Coke.

    My stomach gurgled. We had not had anything to eat since we had been woken up.

    “I could really do with a nice hot pizza.”

    I appeared without any fanfare or sound. One second it wasn’t there, and the next it was. Steam was rising from its cheese and tomato covered surface.

    “It could do with some mushrooms, garlic and pepperoni as well.” I stated, as if I had done it a million times and I just expected my request to be carried out. The toppings appeared just as quickly and as uneventfully as the pizza had appeared a few seconds prior.

    “You forgot the plates and silverware.” Sam said. “We need three plates and knives and forks.”

    We had everything we would need to eat as well, so we all tucked in and ate pizza. It was the best pizza we could have hoped for.

    A thought had begun to form in my mind that I couldn’t really grasp fully until I had eaten 3 slices. “What if we were to ask to be taken back home to a point in time before the planet was destroyed?” I had said it more to myself, but it was loud enough for Sam to hear, and she just looked at me as if I was the most amazing person she had ever known.

    “I would like to be back on earth, in our home, with Sam and Jen, at 8pm the night before the earth was destroyed.”

    Again! No poof or bang. We were home!
     
  5. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    Dropping Eve (2998)

    Senility had embraced my mother with great fervor, and her latest pastime had become sending me odd gadgets she saw on television. Every week or two, I could expect another package waiting in my mailbox. There was the special dog collar that controlled excessive barking. What a clever and useful item, if only I had a dog. Then, the all-useful pickle picker-upper, which prevented getting one’s hand stuck in a pickle jar. That was certainly a common problem requiring a remedy costing $9.95 plus shipping and handling. My favorite was the bra extender, which would have been perfect if my size A breasts ever magically bloomed into a size B. Then, such a thing would likely come in quite handy. If Mom hadn’t sent me the latest must-have gizmo, I may have never killed the girl with the pink beret.

    My life had become total chaos, compliments of the most important client I’d ever landed, and I’d escaped momentarily to enjoy a cigarette in the courtyard across from my office. I hadn’t smoked in years, but as my dealings with Celia Darby became increasingly frenzied with arbitrary demands requiring significant redesigns of her summer home practically overnight, I had started again. At first, I was ducking in shadows to sneak a drag, using body spray and mints to cover the odor, but after awhile, that necessitated too much effort. My husband wasn’t too thrilled about it, but then again, nothing I did lately seemed to please him. The hours I spent trying to appease Celia had strained our deteriorating relationship until it just teetered on the edge an inescapable abyss. Now, I was smoking out in the open, relishing the rare January sunshine, hoping for a modicum of peace before I had to get back inside.

    My phone chirped, but I already knew who was calling.

    “It’s Celia, my dear. I just had a fantastic thought.” She’d already phoned six times with other such thoughts, and it was only noon.

    I pictured my hands wrapping around her slender throat.

    “I think we should put the master bath on the other side of the library’s closet, and then move the kitchen to the right side of the terrace so we could take advantage of the lake view from the breakfast nook.”

    I gave her my perfunctory speech about how the changes would increase costs. I saved the part about how these allegedly minor modifications would completely eradicate my structural, lighting and landscaping schemes, not to mention what was left of my marriage. She had no qualms about any of that, so I reserved my breath and instead enjoyed my cigarette, tuning her out until she finally paused.

    “So, what do you think?”

    I’d like to cut the brake lines under your Mercedes. “Sounds like it may work,” I said instead.
    “Fabulous! I’ll expect the changes by Thursday then.” This was not a question. I massaged my pulsating temple. It was already Tuesday.

    I clicked off and stomped my cigarette, rummaging through my purse for a mint. Instead, my hand landed on a small, puffy envelope. I pulled it out, remembering I had shoved it in there yesterday while emptying my mailbox. Another of my mother’s delightful gifts. I could hardly wait to see what she’d sent this time.

    Opening the package, I noticed the courtyard where I sat had become much busier in the last few minutes. Students from the university across from my office had spilled out of classes and were milling about. I pulled out a small black box with ear buds and at first thought it was an iPod. Finally, something I could actually use! But, no such luck. Reading the label, I saw it was an eavesdropping device that would allow me to hear anything up to fifty feet away.

    Dubious to this possibility, I slipped a bud into my ear and turned up the volume. A flood of conversation nearly knocked me off my bench.

    “Are you going to Blake’s party tonight?” someone asked. I tried to see who said it, but there were too many people around to distinguish the speaker.

    “What was the answer to number three? I got two minus the square root of five.”

    “OMG, loser! You look way freaky in those ginormous pants!”

    Hey, this was fun! I continued listening, preferring any activity to starting yet another redesign. After awhile, the students wandered off and the courtyard was practically empty. My phone buzzed again, and I hoped it was Celia calling to say she’d been hallucinating from the myriad of prescriptions she was likely taking and had been joking about the new changes.

    Instead, it was my husband Mitch.

    “Just called to remind you we have to be at Rigby Hall at five sharp.”

    “For what?” I asked, but before he could answer, I remembered. Marianne’s play. I’d completely forgotten.

    Dead air was punctuated by his exasperated sigh. “It’s opening night. She’s only been talking about it for months.”

    Whining was more like it. Our daughter had tried out for the female lead in college’s springtime production, but instead, she was cast as the understudy to a local beauty queen named Eve Marsette. She’d complained bitterly ever since. Instead, she was to play the girl’s matronly sister, but she faithfully practiced Eve’s lines as well, just in case.

    My mind and stomach churned in unison. How could I possibly attend the play and do the work necessary to satisfy Celia? Then again, how could I not?

    “Look, personally I’d rather have a root canal. But we can’t exactly miss this,” Mitch said. I could tell his patience was wearing thinner than my remaining sanity.

    “I’ll be there,” I snapped. Shortly after, we hung up. Our conversations were becoming alarmingly abrupt, but I just couldn’t worry about that right now.

    I knew I should get back to work, but instead, I replaced the bud in my ear. I heard rustling behind me, and I turned to see a slim figure perched on a low wall behind a short hedge talking into a cell phone.

    “You know very well we have to do it tonight. We have no other choice.” The girl’s attempts at whispering were no match for my supersonic listening device.

    She paused, and I heard snippets of other conversations from lingering students. I leaned in closer, trying to diminish the extraneous noise.

    “There’s no way around it. We have to kill Tom before he finds out what we’ve done.” She twisted a strand of blonde hair, her crossed leg bobbing in a staccato rhythm.

    “No!” The girl’s voice raised several octaves. “We can’t wait until tomorrow! Suppose someone finds out? Then, we’re totally screwed and should just turn ourselves in right now.”

    I couldn’t believe my ears. I practically fell through the hedge.

    “Look, I have an errand to run, and then I’ll be over.” She jumped up and grabbed her backpack, taking off down the street. In a split second, I decided to go after her.
     
  6. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    This is the rest of Dropping Eve - I couldn't seem to post it all...


    “What the hell am I doing?” I asked, but then I recognized that talking to myself was a new symptom of my looming breakdown. I had abandoned ship to go chase some girl while she plotted to kill someone named Tom.

    As the wind picked up and soared through the trees, I could only make out bits of her conversation. She walked at a brisk pace through the downtown area, but I kept track of her by focusing on her pink beret. Suddenly, she turned into a store. I lingered on the street, wondering if I should go in.

    I didn’t think she’d seen me. What was the harm? I pushed through the door, realizing I’d entered a hardware store. I studied the orbital sanders while keeping an eye on her bobbing beret as she wandered down a nearby aisle. I heard a metallic clattering and wondered what she’d found. She summoned a clerk over and asked if he could cut it for her. I realized it must be a chain of some sort. The compound miter saws on display obscured my view.

    “I’ll also need five yards of rope, but not so thick you can’t knot it.”

    As the clerk went to fetch the rope, she reached above and selected a large hammer. I inched closer, peeking around a rack of wrenches, just in time to see her practicing her swing. The look on her face terrified me; the intensity with which she connected to an imaginary target was downright vicious. I backed away, my head spinning, wondering if I should call the police.

    But what could I say? And if I lost her, how could I find her again? I was sure they’d laugh me right off the phone, and then I would be left there standing in front of a bunch of wrenches while this girl went on her merry way to kill Tom.
     
  7. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    This is the rest of Dropping Eve - I still cannot post it all... Sorry...


    The girl grabbed several rolls of duct tape at the register and quickly paid, shoving the items in her backpack. She exited the store, turning left. I waited five hippopotamuses and then resumed my pursuit.

    The street teemed with pedestrians weaving around cars to grab quick sandwiches on limited lunch times, and for a moment, I thought I’d lost her. I scanned the crowd, my heart thudding to the beat of traffic, wondering if I should let Tom’s fate rest in someone else’s hands, when I spotted the pink beret turning past a coffee house. I sprinted in that direction, my heels clinking on the jagged pavement as the wind hiked up my skirt.

    I spotted her trudging up the stairs of an apartment building and disappearing inside. I paced around like a crazy person for awhile, wondering what to do.

    I was ready to turn back when I saw the pink beret through an upper window. I casually walked to the side of the building to witness the girl arguing with a tall man in an army jacket. I looked into the alley and noticed a ladder dangling from a fire escape. I was about to pull it down when the girl suddenly burst through the front door. I ducked behind a Dumpster as the man came out after her.

    “You forgot this,” he said, handing her a shiny black gun. She quickly tucked it into her knapsack, her eyes darting about.

    She continued on, but I raced past her and into another alley to collect my thoughts.

    When she walked by me, I was ready. I pounced on her, pulling her into the alley with me.

    “What the hell!” she screamed. Fighting against me, her nails dug into my arm.

    I had nothing reasonable to say, so I blurted what came to mind. “I know what you’re doing! I’m onto you.”

    She straightened up, her face awash with confusion. “What? Who the hell are you?”

    “I know all about Tom, and the gun, and the chains.”

    She still looked puzzled. I reached for her bag, ripping it from her shoulder.

    “Are you crazy?” she yelled, yanking the bag toward her. We engaged in a tug-of-war until we were both on the ground. Out of nowhere, my phone chirped loudly, and I released without thinking. The girl with the pink beret went flying into a brick wall, hitting it hard and slumping to the pavement.

    Her body convulsed as blood gushed from her head. My phone rang incessantly while I gawked at her.

    I knelt down, ready to cover her gaping wound with my scarf, when a shadow approached. Before I knew it, I was running away, my heart thudding as sickly cold sweat oozed from my pores.

    Stopping in front of a drugstore, I clutched a light pole, my head spinning. My phone continued ringing wildly.

    Finally, I caught my breath enough to answer.

    “Mom! Where are you?” Marianne’s voice was hysterically shrill. “You’ll never believe what’s happened!”

    “What’s that, honey?” I could barely form words.

    “They can’t find Eve.”

    “Who?”

    “Eve Marsette. The bitch who stole the lead from me. Don’t you ever listen to me?”

    I sighed deeply. It was all too much. “I’m sorry,” I said, my voice coming out a wretched squeak. “I do listen. It’s been a trying day. Where is she?”

    “If they knew that, she wouldn’t be missing, now would she?” I pictured her eyes rolling.

    “No, guess not.”

    “Well, they just called to say I’m playing the lead tonight! I’m totally freaking!”

    Me too, but hardly for the same reason. “Is that good?”

    “It’s great. I mean, I hope she’s okay and all, but I get to play the lead on opening night! Maybe I’ll be so great they won’t even need her anymore!”

    “I’m sure you’ll be amazing,” I said.

    “When can you get home? I need you.”

    “Soon as I can,” I said.

    “Be here sooner!”

    ***

    I got to the house just as Marianne was emerging from her bedroom in full costume. My husband was already there and shot me an annoyed look.

    “You look beautiful!” we said together, and I realized it was the first time we’d agreed on anything in awhile.

    As we drove to the theater, Marianne obsessed about forgetting her lines. No matter what reassurance was offered, she kept predicting what could go awry. I was ready to strangle her, but I’d already done enough damage for one day.

    “What’s with you?” Mitch hissed. My hands were clenched so tightly, they rivaled the color of the drifting snow outside. My leg shook uncontrollably, and sweat beaded on my forehead. I still couldn’t believe what I’d done.

    “I’m just excited,” I managed. “Nervous excitement, that’s all.”

    “I see,” he said, but his brow furrowed with doubt.

    I couldn’t worry about him just now. I had to find a way to get out of there and go back to see if I could help. I didn’t know how, but I couldn’t just sit through some play when the girl with the pink beret was likely dying or already dead.

    We arrived at the theater, and Marianne rushed backstage while an usher led us to our seats, handing us each a playbill.

    A hefty woman beside me whispered to someone in front of me. “Hey, Pam. Did you hear about Eve?”

    “Betty just told me. Someone mugged her, the poor thing. She’s in the hospital with a pretty bad concussion.”

    The hefty woman leaned forward. “Robert said her understudy is taking Eve’s place tonight. Wonder if she had anything to do with it?”

    Pam shook her head. “I don’t know, but my daughter says that girl can’t act her way out of a box. No one knows how she was even cast as Eve’s understudy.”

    “I guess she got friendly with the director?” The women giggled in a way that encouraged violence. I opened my mouth to say something, but suddenly loud music boomed and the lights went down.

    When Marianne appeared, her cheeks were scarlet. Although she’d been practicing, her words came out a jumble. My heart went out to her.

    After awhile, my mind wandered to the day’s horrific events until loud snickering snapped me back to the present. Marianne was on the ground, her legs awkwardly splayed apart.

    “Oh geez,” Mitch mumbled, sinking down in his seat. “This isn’t good.”

    Marianne stumbled into a nearby chair.

    A tall man in a khaki jacket strode by, and Marianne grasped for him. “Pete, you know very well we have to do it tonight. We have no other choice.”

    “We can’t. It’s too dangerous.” He disentangled himself and continued downstage.

    Marianne’s voice turned shrill. “There’s no way around it. We have to kill Tom before he finds out what we’ve done!”

    I must be hallucinating. This conversation was eerily familiar. My breath caught in my throat.

    “Let’s do it tomorrow. It’s too soon,” Pete said.

    “No! We can’t wait until tomorrow! Suppose someone finds out? Then, we’re totally screwed and should just turn ourselves in right now.”

    I couldn’t believe my ears. It was the exact conversation I’d overheard when I listened in on the girl with the pink beret.

    It took a few minutes for my befuddled mind to process things. I looked down and noticed the playbill in my hands. I flipped the pages frantically until I reached the section featuring the cast. I scanned the text until I located the biography for Eve Marsette. I stared at her picture for a long while.

    It was the girl I’d stalked and likely killed just an hour ago.

    She’d been rehearsing lines for the play. Sadly, as it all came together in my seriously compromised brain, I realized she was a much better actress than my daughter.

    But what about the items she’d bought at the store? And the gun in her backpack? After a few more moments, I surmised they were props for the play. Sure enough, the leading man handed Marianne a shiny black gun.

    What an idiot I was! All this over a silly misunderstanding? Then I remembered the ladies around me said Eve was in the hospital with a concussion. That meant she was still alive!

    I could barely contain my relief. I squeezed Mitch’s arm and whispered I had to use the restroom. I shimmied out of the aisle and bolted for the lobby.

    Pulling my phone from my pocket, I saw four new messages from Celia. I didn’t bother listening. Instead, I searched online for an airline and dialed. On a whim, I booked two tickets for Jamaica. A perfect end to a crazy day.

    I returned to my seat a short while later. Mitch looked at me with raised eyebrows.

    “Must’ve eaten something funny. Listen, there’s something I should tell you.” Leaning in, I kissed his ear. “I’m taking you on a second honeymoon. We leave first thing tomorrow morning.”

    Mitch frowned, but I kissed him again and his face lit up. “What about Celia?”

    I squeezed his hand. “Who’s Celia?”
     
  8. OptimusPrimerib
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    OptimusPrimerib New Member

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    The Catalyst: (762 Words)

    A rather large spaceship floated aimlessly in the Protarian Galaxy. The spaceship was bland grey, oval shaped and contained an antenna sticking straight out of it's top.

    This ship in question was a common massed produced brand of spaceship called "The Egg," and it was regularly considered by many in the universe to be "quite the piece of Gorgarian feces."

    Inside of The Egg was Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk, or as his friends lovingly call him, "akgbgbgbgbkk."

    Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk was a rather humanoid looking figure, save for three facts; The first was that he had a head shaped like a perfect square; The second was that his skin color was red and the third was that his mouth contained no teeth.

    Over an hour ago (relatively speaking to Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk) he had called for the nearest Catalyst, received a notification that a Catalyst would arrive in an hour (relatively speaking to the Catalyst) and had then gone to sleep in his chambers to wait for the Catalyst to arrive.

    While sleeping, Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk dreamt of Huthuto, a popular party planet that was well loved by tourists because of the gravitational pull of Huthuto's giant moons which demanded such pull on the planet that it caused inhabitants of Huthuto to be in a constant state of hovering during the night.

    In his dream Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk was on Huthuto, sensually hovering and making love to his lover Golton Morkaisijfisjfjif before she suddenly morphed into a giant Antarian monster and snapped his body into two pieces with her mighty pincers. The Antarian monster then phoned his mother and called her a "stupid duck."

    It was at this point that Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk woke up quite disturbed and soon noticed that someone was messaging The Egg. Karkon then rose from his chambers and went to The Egg's command living room and checked the incoming message by pressing a yellow button located on a wall.

    There were a dozen other color coordinated buttons on the very same wall as the yellow button and Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk looked at them lazily until a voice spoke throughout the ship extremely loudly.

    "My ship's outside. My teleporter's on. Beam me on board. I'm the Catalyst."

    Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk listened to the message and then pressed the blue button on the wall and then spoke aloud.

    "I turned my teleporter on. You can come in."

    There was no response to this until half a moment later when Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk heard footsteps walking towards the command living room.

    "In here!" called Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk.

    The footsteps drew louder until the Catalyst came into sight. The Catalyst was also humanoid, in fact he looked almost completely human except for the fact that his eyes were red. He wore grey cloth clothing, carried a medium sized black bag and had a name-tag on his that read "Juan."

    "Your ship's dead huh?" asked the Catalyst in a way that meant he already knew the answer.

    "Yeah... it's dead. Ion battery is out of juice," responded Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk.

    "No problem," said the Catalyst, "Pop your hood and let's get to it."

    In the corner of the command living room there was a drawer-like object that had a hood on the top of it. The Catalyst eyed it and started walking towards it.

    Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk pressed the green button on the wall and the hood of the drawer popped open. The Catalyst walked over to the hood, lifted it up and put the placeholder thingy up so the hood wouldn't fall down. Inside of the hood were various metal equipment, tubing and an ion battery.

    The ion battery was of standard size. It was about the length of one Kugit long and 5 Barbos in weight. The ion battery also contained one positive and one negative charging terminal. The positive terminal was marked red and the negative terminal was marked black.

    The Catalyst eyed the ion battery, placed his black bag on the ground and took out another standard ion battery, a small motor and some charging wires.

    "Red on black, black on red..." the Catalyst whispered as he properly placed the charging wires onto his ion battery and Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk's.

    "Now to start my motor to charge it up..." said the Catalyst as he turned on his tiny small motor, "This will just take a minute. Motor's on now. Top of the line. Charges very fast and very quietly."

    "Awesome," replied Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk.

    One minute later (relatively speaking) the Catalyst told Karkon Isbuthaakgbgbgbgbkk to start The Egg's engine and Karkon pressed the white button on the wall and the ship blew up.
     
  9. Silque
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    Silque Member

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    Chillblains.

    Chillblains
    (1,199 words)

    The first thing that hit me when I rolled over in bed on that July morning was the heat. The ferocious, mind bending heat. I kicked the covers off me, onto the floor and tried desperately to allow my body to cool down – it was sweltering. I literally had to peel myself from the bed sheets, which were now absolutely drenched in sweat. I sat at the side of my bed, and bringing my feet to rest next to my slippers, I reached over to my bedside cabinet for my glass of water, but my hand came back with nothing.

    I walked across my creaking apartment, rubbing my eyes and trying to adjust to the light that now bled in through the musty windows. It was so damn not – I needed a cold shower and a drink, fast. The kitchen wasn’t much cooler – once again, I had to squint into the brightness, this time not from the relentless sunlight, but from the refrigerators light, exploding as I reached in for the carton of orange juice.

    I pulled a chair out from my little kitchen table, and after sitting down, gulped greedily from the carton of juice. I was too hot and lethargic to even contemplate walking the small distance to my cupboard for a glass. I put the carton down on the table, wiped my chin free of a few excess dribbles, and made my way to the bathroom, sweat continually pouring from me. My hair was matted wet to my head.

    I entered the bathroom and caught sight of myself in the partly cracked mirror. I looked terrible – my face dripping wet; my hair stuck down flat and wet and my eyes bloodshot and stinging from the saltiness of the sweat. I turned on the tap at the sink and looked forward to splashing my face with the cold water that was about to run freely, but when I placed my hands under the water it was scorching hot and I had to pull them away quickly, before I burnt myself.

    “What the hell is going on here?”

    I grabbed for one of my towels and dried my hands, and used it to dry the sweat off of my face and body also. I checked the shower to see if the water was any cooler through that, but no such joy, it hissed and sizzled as it shot from the shower head.

    I walked slowly out of the bathroom, struggling to catch my breath due to the thinness of the air and struggling to comprehend this early morning heat. I imagined it was like being in an oven – baking red hot.

    After pulling on some shorts and a plain white t-shirt, I headed towards the door of my apartment. Not knowing where I was going, I ran to the first apartment I could see, that being 12b, Aaron Stokes. I got to his door and started pumping my fist against the wood. A few seconds past before I heard the lock unbolt, and the door opened slowly – there stood Aaron, looking as terrible as I felt, and sweating profusely.

    “What’s going on Aaron?”

    “What do you mean man? Haven’t you seen the news? Where have you been for the last 48 hours?”

    I looked at him bemused.

    “What? What are you talking about?” I exclaimed.

    Aaron looked at me as if I was a ghost.

    “You’re kidding me right?” He muttered, as he wiped sweat from his brow. “You’re totally kidding me aren’t you?”

    I shook my head.

    He motioned for me to come in, and walked wearily across his apartment towards the television set that was blaring out from the far corner of the room. His apartment was similar to mine, only his was spotless and well kept. Usually – today it looked like mine looked on a normal day, messy and dishevelled.

    He pointed towards the television.

    “I thought you were joking – I just couldn’t believe that you can’t have heard what’s going on!” Aaron croaked out.

    I glanced at the television set. A woman newsreader with short brown hair and a cute little face I could’ve just kissed was reading out a story, showing pictures of the sun and the earth and fire.

    “What the hell?” I uttered. “What is this?”

    Aaron glanced at me, and then at the television and we both watched in amazement at the sheer devastation that was unfolding before our eyes. New York; Florida; Paris; London; Sydney; Tokyo – all in melt down.

    I wiped the sweat from my eyes and sat down on Aaron’s couch. I couldn’t take my eyes from the television.

    “Scientists believe it will come to an end in the next 18 hours”…


    I was shocked.

    The Earth was being pulled closer and closer to the sun. It was only a matter of time before we all burnt up like firewood…
    Aaron and I sat on the couch of his little apartment, barely talking – only thinking about the past, about what the future may have held, family, friends. We sat there in silence, allowing the hours to pass and the temperature to rise until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore – not through tiredness, but through sheer heat exhaustion. Fighting to keep them open – knowing that when I did allow them to close, it may well be for the final time, offered little fighting spirit and a little while later, after wiping my face, I passed out. Fire and brimstone burning at the back of my eyelids…

    “Wake up man! Wake up” someone shouted and shook me violently.

    “What? What’s happening?” I moaned wearily.

    “Dude, wake the hell up – how can you sleep at a time like this?” It was Aaron.

    “Jesus man, I had the most horrible nightmare. I was burning up dude – we were burning up! Earth was getting pulled closer and closer to the sun and we were all on the verge of frying – it was terrible, but so tangible!” I poked around in my mind trying to pull back bits of the nightmare.

    Aaron looked at me, startled, maybe puzzled.

    “What is it?” I queried.

    “Dude – I only wish…” He began.

    “Wish what?” I asked.

    “I only wish, I could’ve seen my family before all this”.

    It was my turn to look baffled as I caught his glare looking towards the window of the apartment.
    I slowly pulled myself up from the couch and walked slowly towards the window of which he was staring. As I got closer, I could see what he was staring at. Frost.

    Outside, the streets were white and iced with snow and frost and my head began to spin.

    “Am I still dreaming man?”

    I turned and looked at Aaron, who was now looking at the television.

    “No”.

    I looked at the television – it was the same newsreader from my nightmare. Only this time, the pictures weren’t of fire – but ice.

    “Scientists believe it will come to an end in the next 18 hours, as the Earth is pulled farther and farther away from the sun, temperatures of -120 will soon be experienced, and we advise that everyone stay indoors and try to keep as warm as possible…”
     
  10. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    It’s All Fun and Games
    Word Count: 1368



    Zeus stared suspiciously at Aphrodite, attempting to catch a hint of emotion on her face. Curse you woman, he thought looking down at the cards in his hand. A straight flush; there was no way she could have a royal straight flush. If she did then she didn’t show it. This is the problem when playing poker with the Olympians; they never betrayed their emotions. Living for a few thousand years really does wonders. Oh well, this was between him and Aphrodite; the others had already shown their cards. He would be damned if he lost his favourite mosaic vase to Aphrodite. He could already tell what she would do with it, and that was to put a few roses in it and set it in her already over-the-top rose petal decorated room.

    “Zeus!” exclaimed Artemis. “Will you show your cards already?”

    “I’ll be damned if she has a royal straight flush,” Zeus said, attempting to raise a hint of emotion out of her. Yet still she didn’t falter.

    All eyes were on Zeus.

    Zeus fiddled with his beard. “Blast it!” he said throwing his cards down onto the golden table.

    “Aphrodite smiled wickedly. “I’ve always wanted that vase,” she said. “Where did you say you got it again? During a raid on the West Germanic tribes; in the time of the Roman Empire right? No matter...”

    Winking at a now fuming Zeus, she placed the cards down on the table.

    Everyone pitched forward on their chairs and stared at her cards. To Zeus’ horror, it was a royal straight flush.

    “Right,” Zeus yelled springing up from his chair. “This is why poker with a bunch of gods is a bad idea!”

    “Oh come on Zeus,” Ares said. “You’re such a sore loser. I think throwing around that Bolt of yours has gotten to your head.”

    “I’m so angry I think I’ll go to my room and have a nap, before I start throwing my Bolt at one of you!”

    “I rest my case...”

    Zeus grabbed his Bolt, which had been propped up against his chair, and stalked off toward his room muttering to himself.

    *

    “Zeus!”

    Zeus, startled by the sudden calling of his name, whirled around and came face to face with Poseidon. He had been half way to his room, deep in thought and still trying to figure out how he had lost a game of poker to Aphrodite to notice Poseidon’s presence.

    “Must you stalk around like that Poseidon?” Zeus asked.

    “So sorry, but we need to discuss that thing,” Poseidon said.

    Zeus groaned loudly.

    “You’re always so grumpy nowadays.”

    “Whatever,” Zeus replied pushing past Poseidon. “I need a drink of wine before I snap. Let’s go to the kitchen and talk.”

    Upon arriving in the kitchen, Zeus pulled out a chair and proceeded in climbing onto the chair, in an attempt to reach a barrel of wine on the shelf. Grabbing the barrel, he stepped off the chair and looked up at Poseidon who was leaning against the archway to the kitchen.

    “So is this about the plans for the apocalypse?” Zeus said, pouring himself a flagon of wine.

    “Yeah,” Poseidon replied folding his arms. “Hades and Demeter are in. They agreed that it was time the humans were eradicated. We’ve left them alone for too long. They’ve grown reckless and to powerful. Plus this population boom sickens me; I mean do they enjoy living on top of each other? Breathing the same air day and night? Drinking each other’s piss and living in their own filth? If we left them for a couple more years, they would probably kill each other off anyway. Their resources dwindle and their wars destroy everything. The Earth is too weak to fight back. We can’t leave her to suffer under them much longer; if we do, then she will die and the planet will go to the shits. So yes-we take action and that action needs to be within the next few days. So I ask you Zeus...are you in or not?”

    “Yes, yes,” Zeus replied sipping on his wine. “Although I still think it’s too soon to be doing this again. They are, in a sense, still a young race.”

    “We’ve given them multiple chances. Don’t you push the Great Flood crap on me again!”

    “Well, it was what...7000 years ago when you flooded the earth? This will be the third time we’re ridding the earth of an entire race.”

    Poseidon shifted uncomfortably. “It needs to be done and you know it,” he said. “The Great Flood was needed, humanity was in ruins; it was an evil race at the time.

    “Yes, yes I know. So I guess I’m brewing up the usual storms? Or am I to throw another bolt into the earth?” Zeus asked.

    “Create some storms, we don’t want to crack the planet in half like you almost did the last time,” Poseidon replied. “Hades will shake the earth and I will flood other parts of it. This time we need to completely rid the earth of all of its population. Noah’s Ark was a mistake. That’s the last time we strike a deal with a human.”

    Zeus chuckled, already slightly tipsy from his wine. “Humans really are a ridiculous race,” he joked. “Creating them in our images was such a mistake! I mean they still believe the dinosaurs were brought to extinction through a giant asteroid. What a joke! Oh well, it’s probably a good thing, them not knowing that I threw a bolt of lightning into the earth to destroy the dinosaurs. We needed to make room for a more intelligent race...although I’m not sure we succeeded in doing that by creating humans.”

    Poseidon sighed and walked over to where Zeus was sitting and poured himself a flagon of wine. “You take these things to lightly,” he said. “I still wonder at times how you became the leader of the Olympians.”

    “It’s the beard I bet.”

    “That must be it...”

    “Let us finish this wine and talk of old times! The Earth can wait a few more hours. Besides, Hades has yet to join us.”

    *

    Hours later, a very drunk Zeus and Poseidon found themselves standing on the edge of Olympus with Hades and Demeter beside them. All four looked down onto the earth.

    “Disgusting!” Hades observed. “The Underworld looks better than that shithole. Are they incapable of anything?”

    “Clearly not...” Demeter replied.

    Swaying from side to side, Zeus grinned wickedly drawing the Bolt from his pocket. “You know this could be quite fun! They’re going to die anyway...we may as well get something out of it.”
    Really?” Demeter sighed. “I wonder at times why you’re leading us. You’re about as mature as Achilles was when he plundered towns for the sport of it.”

    “You know Poseidon said the same thing before.”

    “I wander why...”

    “What exactly are you doing here Demeter? It’s not like we need your expertise in crops to destroy a race. Go away and annoy someone else! Besides, I just want to throw a couple of bolts around.”

    “Oh you know, I’m here for the ride.”

    “By the way Zeus, you owe me big-time after this,” Hades said. “The amount of souls I’m going to have to deal with in the Underworld...it’s going to be a mess. Try sitting in that heat twenty-four hours a day while sorting through every helpless soul.”

    “I told you, I’ll give you a third of Olympus.”

    “You better not screw me this time Zeus!”

    “Can we start in the next century?” Poseidon asked, also swaying from side to side. With the aid of wine, he too had loosened up and was looking forward to playing with his powers again.
    “Yes, let’s play...”

    *

    Down on Earth, a shocked population looked up toward the sky to see torrential storms forming before their eyes, the very earth itself seemed to shake, massive tsunamis seemed to appear out of nowhere and all across the planet volcanoes erupted as the earth felt the power of the gods unfold. Those who did have the luck to linger on it for longer than a few moments could’ve sworn they heard faint laughter coming from the skies above.
     
  11. mootz
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    mootz Member

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    Sigh More (1152)

    Things are going rather slowly, but we both see that, don't we. Listen, I know you'd love to speed things up, and I don't blame you.

    At least the vanilla candles were a nice touch. A gentle wafting that fills the room without choking it. It's subtle, yet recognizable. There is a strength in the familiar and known, like an old sweater that fits gentle over the skin. Sure, the neck is slightly worn and the colors faded, but it feels perfect on you. You could hug it, lay on it, with it, inside it—it's an extension of you. Comforting and not controlling, vanilla is never a bad thing for inviting strangers into your home.

    The thing you need to do, and I don't mean to be judgmental, is to stop the inane chatter. Remember, people always need to speak for roughly sixty percent of the conversation to feel like they are getting equal time. You could see the smile falling from full to half, like a waning moon on a clear night. You don't want a new moon. And, truthfully, your childhood pets don't inspire the right mood, especially when you get to the part when you mention they were run over... oh, you mentioned they were ran over.

    Okay, okay, just mirror that posture. Yeah, lean back like they are into the back pillows of your living room furniture. Slow your breathing to match theirs. Remember, you're comforting. That raised, single eyebrow you see needs to be lowered as quickly as possible.

    Smile. Ask about them. Yes, that wasn't funny, but laughing was the correct response. Inquire about fun times. Hell, bring up how you first met.

    Being on the couch now, it is kind of like then, isn't it? Nervous and twitchy, after a few moments you were sweaty—and, yes, you hope to get sweatier later, har har. The eyes stood out like emeralds then, they were green, glass globes that displayed soul and character while betraying hunger and hidden lust. You wanted those eyes more than a fish wanted water. You needed them more, for that matter.

    You should make the move now, yeah. You did then. And we both know you never do, not usually. Look at you, why would you? But, when that green-eyed beauty stood staring at you—with a height equal to yours, as if the two of you were built for each others bodies—you knew you had to say something. You got the number, your hands trembled with the small loose paper between your fingers, and shared yours, and now you're on your couch.

    The flickering of the candle light illuminates the room with a strobe like effect. Lighting just one candle, no matter the size of it, was risky. The varying light source, with its ability to hide and reveal the secret details of your room—items the opposite gender wouldn't be interested in seeing, but let's not worry about those little mistakes—is a welcome addition, so long as it does more hiding than lighting. The problem is that you can't see that face in full detail.

    It's not just those eyes—the ones you desire and envy, as their color would symbolically suggest—but the lips as well. They're pursed together tightly for a moment, having just thanked you for the cup of coffee you innocently suggested before coming up to your apartment. Then, the lips release when they realize how tightly wound they are and spring out into their normal place. It's only millimeters of movement, if even that—but this close, it's amazingly tempting. Soft and firm, the lips begged to be kissed.

    You sigh... it's okay, really. You weren't as loud as you thought you were. Remember, smile. It didn't sound desperate, nor like a yawn. You must have saw the reaction it caused as well. The quivering of your soon-to-be partner's lower lip as the breath from your mouth reached theirs.

    You didn't see the nostrils flair? Don't say that. That brief moment of excitement when the Altoid-aided breath of yours peaked the interest of the green-eyed beauty. Really, it happened. The effects are still there!

    There is the faintest flash of the porcelain white teeth because of the slightly parted lips that your eyes now can't escape. You look up, not even for half a second, to notice where those emerald globes are peering—at your own mouth. Your tongue darts out innocently to wet your lips, gliding across them with a mind of their own. You smile when you realize what your body is doing to entice the body across from you. You're running on instinct now, it's scary but exciting.

    You have to take the first move. It's bold, but it's now or never. For most, there is just one door in every relationship, one chance to open up something new. One moment where someone like us can land someone like them. A second in time when a tiny spark, like that of a flickering vanilla candle in a dark room, can ignite a long, powerful fire. Of course, it could just be a short endeavor. Something that lasts a night or two, like the candle itself, but you'd be happy for that as well. Wouldn't you?

    No, you can't worry about whether or not this is for now, or forever. You could... but you can't. Not when this moment is perfect. Not when your face is within inches of theirs. Not when the chemicals in your bodies are firing off like the fourth of July and you're both ready to explode.

    Your lips press firmly against theirs, firmly but gently. Your breaths are the same, heavy and intertwined—layered like warm, tumbling sheets in a clothing dryer. The hand pressed against you, fondling your chest, doesn't stop you from using both hands to nudge them onto their back. Your aggression may be early, setting a blazing pace, but it isn't resisted.

    Your mind shuts off when the first shirt hits the floor. It was reddish, not quite pink, it made those green eyes pop.

    I could tell you whether or not you kissed first, as I'm sure you can't recall at the moment. Hell, if you pressed it, I could tell you whether or not it's going to last, the season you may marry in, the children you could have, or even, more pressing at this moment, the quality of this first time.

    But, you don't want that, do you?

    We both know that you can't call it a present if you can already tell what's in the box. It's funny, the beauty of each day is the surprise it hides. Because, it's not experimenting, if you know the results, and it's not real love if there isn't a chance at failure.

    You understand that if you reflect on tonight tomorrow, or fifty years from now, it all started with a desperate sigh. That's enough information, isn't it?
     
  12. Force
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    Force New Member

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    Bottom of the world
    Ruby Catalyst

    Title: Ruby Catalyst

    Word Count: 3300 [MS Word 2010] (300 overhead is what was meant by 10% right?)

    Dockmaster Fensworth poked tentatively at the lightscreen keyboard that now illuminated a small portion of his desk. He hadn’t used one in over three decades, the development of smart voice recognition software having rendered such peripherals unnecessary - until now. His parched throat burned as he swallowed uneasily while he slowly tapped out another message to his neighboring outpost on the planet Lifar. This really was the last straw. It was one thing to be left in charge of an outpost in the middle of nowhere; it was entirely another thing for the entire command to be all but ignored or forgotten.

    Usually Fensworth wouldn’t have minded being forgotten. This position had been a nice quiet escape from the war torn Defia that had been his previous post. Here, on the outskirts of humanity all he had to do was make sure the expedition groups ran smoothly as well as those monthly supply runs. The scientists kept to themselves and supplies ships had run like clockwork. All in all, it had been like an eight year paid vacation.

    Only one problem: And as far as Fensworth could work out, it all stemmed from some idiot higher up in command that had thought it was a good idea to plant Brizo outpost right on a planet that was probably eighty percent sand and twenty percent rock. If there was water anywhere, it would have been deep underground, out of his reach. This lack of local water would have been nothing but a minor annoyance if his regular supply ship was not overdue by over a fortnight. As a result, water was now strictly rationed and each person was given barely enough to drink each day. Which really wasn’t enough; given the dry climate and heat. The showers had long since been turned off and the base stank of unclean recycled air. Fensworth was silently thankful that no flies or other pests existed on his base. Though to be fair, none would have survived. No other life had been found on this planet.

    A flicker of light in the corner of his eye caught his attention as his personal aid, Bart, chose to project himself upon the holopad on his desk. Originally christened Bartholomew when assigned to Brizo base, its inhabitants had quickly found the name a distasteful mouthful and simply called him Bart. Fensworth watched from the corner of his eye as the Avatar of a smartly dressed man in a business suit pretended to peer over at his screen. He didn’t have to of course. It was all for show, nothing happened on this base without Bart knowing about it. He certainly didn't have to look at the screen. The AI seemed genuinely amused by the predicament they were in, but while Bart never voiced such sentiments, these small subtle hints were really starting to piss him off. Whoever had programmed his personality was a dick.

    His screen darkened, leaving only four words illuminated: A message from Lifar.

    Fensworth turned and glared at the avatar. Bart smirked. “Well no one talks to me these days, so I thought I’d give this a try.”

    “What does it say?” croaked Fensworth.

    “Well,” Bart cocked his head for a second as if considering something. “It’s more of a distress signal than a message really,” another pause, "seems like they were attacked.”

    “What?”

    “Yes,” Bart muttered. “Amazing this got through to us actually. Seems like they got jammed during transmit. There’s no checksum or confirmation. I suspect we didn’t receive the full message.”

    “Why? By who?” Fensworth asked. Who would attack a border post that barely qualified for attention from its own command chain?

    “I don’t know.”

    “Did you request a correction?”

    Bart sniffed.

    That was a yes then. And no response either. “What about Fort Eilya?”

    Bart snorted again. “They didn’t respond when you started to run out of water. What makes you think they’ll…hold on.”

    A small pinging sound emitted from his monitor and Fensworth turned back to his screen just in time to see Bart’s message disappear to be replaced by his long range scanners. A small blip had appeared on the edge of his screen.

    “The supply ship?” he asked hopefully.

    Bart shook his head. “Too small to be a freighter. Too fast as well. Doesn’t look like a fighter though. Might be one of the expeditions returning. Maybe they’ll have water.”

    Fensworth doubted that. Sometimes he honestly thought the only reason scientists bothered to return was for food and fuel. He followed the small blip on the map with a mix of disappointment and despair as it slowly travelled towards Brizo base. If it was an expedition return, there would be more mouths to feed and he was running out of food too.

    “Maybe it won’t be too bad. I hear cannibalism is only frowned upon by humans now,” Bart said as if reading his thoughts. “You know I could always-” The AI paused as the scanner started to ping again, several times in quick succession. On the screen, half a dozen more blips joined the first. Most were smaller than the original. But one was extremely large. Based on his experience, it was around about the size of a capital ship.

    “Woah,” said Bart.

    ‘Woah’ was right, thought Fensworth as sirens started going off all over the base.

    **

    Isley cursed silently as the ship entered another spin. The small room he shared with the other scientists turned upside down again. He closed his eyes as something wet warm and sticky smacked him in the face. Vomit.

    Great, he thought. At least it wasn’t some of the acid these whack jobs had locked away in the same damn room. He felt like throwing up too; the fact that he hadn’t eaten anything since becoming a Shade be damned. He knew he should have had his boots fixed before departing. He was screwed the moment the small lab ship lost its artificial gravity. His free hand grasped the small pendant like loom that hung around his neck. For the briefest moment he had the urge to unweave himself from the instance, if only temporarily. The impulse passed quickly though. He was a trained Order Enforcer after all, and he knew only too well how unreliable reweaving was. Anything could happen in between. He might not be able to return at all. Besides, he was holding the fragment.

    He regarded the small ruby shard in his left fist. Such a small inconspicuous crystal, some would even call it dull. Yet when pieced together and put in the wrong hands, it would cost the lives of worlds.

    “We can make it,” shouted Trent from the cockpit. “Someone get to the turret.”

    “I thought you said they have no power,” Isley yelled back. He kicked off the wall he was plastered against and started floating towards the rear anyway. It was good to do something. In this situation he just felt helpless.

    “The engines are about to fry,” Trent explained. “They weren’t made to fly this fast for this long. Once we enter free fall I’ll reroute power to the gun and guide with thrusters. Maybe we can get one of these bastards on the way down.”

    Shooting things: Finally, something he was good at. Isley grinned inwardly at the thought as he reached the controls. He couldn’t wait to get started.

    **

    Fensworth watched, slack jawed, as Bart tracked the lab ship’s progress towards his base. In his career, he had seen some amazing feats displayed by pilots doing flybys or some lucky ones who managed to land crippled ships without burning up on re-entry. But never in his life had he seen an aircraft enter free fall tail first. Not while being chased by two others.

    “The hell is he doing?”

    “Looks like the Reichmann maneuver,” Bart said, “But that is only possible on a Sabre class fighter. A civilian craft would not have the engines to stall the fall.”

    “I don’t think he’s trying to. Either his engines are dead, or he’s insane. He’s routed his power to the -”

    “Hmmm, this is interesting,” Bart interrupted. “Are you aware that the Civilian XTE-400 is a rather old excavation craft?”

    “What’s that got to do with anything?”

    “It doesn’t have a drill like the newer ships. It has a spear-hook.”

    “Oh you cannot be serious.”

    But even as the words left his mouth he saw the harpoon lance out towards one of the pursuing ships. Shields weakened by the re-entry burn, the missile sliced straight into its hull, where it remained attached.

    The pinned craft immediately began to pull up in an attempt to get away, inadvertently slowing both their descents. Probably not the best decision, Fensworth thought, as the line pulled tight, effectively restricting its movement.

    “Not this either,” mumbled Bart. “My database must be out of date.”

    “Hmmm?” asked Fensworth offhandedly, his attention glued to the screen.

    “I can’t find the models of the other ships in my database,” Bart explained. His avatar jabbed at the screen as it changed to show another ship following behind the others. It was much larger than the first, though not big enough to match the size of the capital ship he saw earlier. “I’m sure that would show up somewhere. But I can’t find a match.”

    Bart was right. Upon closer inspection, Fensworth realized he had never seen anything like it. The design didn’t even look human.

    “You think its alien too?” Sometimes he wondered if Bart could read his mind.

    “Time to find out,” Fensworth said, “Get me a lift.”

    Bart gave him a look as the door behind him slid open. His avatar did a flip. In his suit, it looked utterly ridiculous.

    “Sir,” the man saluted. “Your ride is waiting.”

    Bart did another flip. “Do I look slow to you?” he asked before disappearing from his desk.

    **

    Bruli watched as both Isley’s ship and the Voz fighter smashed into the ground despite the efforts of the latter. The pilot was an idiot he thought. Even he would have flown parallel with the falling ship until it smashed into the ground. Then again, he didn’t know how to fly one of those things, so what did he know. Maybe it wasn’t possible. Technology really wasn’t his forte.

    He felt awkward disguised as one of the Voz. To him, they were hideous creatures. Eight limbs and a hardened exoskeleton really wasn’t his thing. He’d done some disgusting morphs before, and this was right down with giant slugs or mutated sea turtles. From what he could gather, the Interceptor he had infiltrated held about thirty Voz. The good news was, only about a dozen of them were soldiers, and he was apparently one of them.

    “I want that shard,” barked the leader to the group as a small hole slowly opened up in the center of the chamber where they were gathered. “Kill anything else.”

    Bruli peered down and saw that they were hovering directly over Isley’s burning wreck. There would have been no survivors from that crash. Except for Isley, he would be okay. Shades were tough. And if Bruli had respect for anything, it would be the luck of the undead.

    One by one, the Voz abseiled down, attached to silken ropes they spun themselves. Bruli remained where he was and observed as the first ones to land began to tear through the wreckage without regard for the flames.

    There was a screech of triumph as one of them started dragging Isley’s limp body out of the ship. The fragment was clutched in his left fist.

    “Well?” clucked the leader, skittering towards him, “You going to jump?”

    Bruli looked around. They were the only two left in the room.

    “No,” he said. In one swift motion he brought up one of his many arms, morphed it into the hand he was used to, grasped the Voz by his throat and threw him off the ship.

    Without looking back, he turned and headed deeper into the Interceptor, shifting back to his true form as he ran. He trusted Isley to take care of himself. Besides, he had his own part of the mission to do.

    **

    Isley cracked his eyes open but kept still as he felt himself being dragged out of the ship. One of the soldiers had entangled him with those silky strands they seemed to be able to produce on demand. He wasn’t heavy for a Shade. Unlike the others, his armor was designed by the Order and built to be weightless. Each piece was attached separately, functioned separately, but could work together to project illusions, holograms, or even camouflage. Created more for espionage than actual combat, only the chest piece offered substantial protection. The rest was in place mostly to encase a viral gel. The gel was a regenerative substance that could repair any minor damage to the suit. Not that the suit mattered. After all, his un-beating heart, home to millions of Nano parasites, was his only true weakness. Armor did not Shades powerful. The parasites did.

    Still, he wasn’t light. The fact that just one of them could shift him meant that these Voz were strong. Slowly, the fingers in his right hand bunched into a fist to match his left then relaxed. It was a small movement, but it told him several things.

    First, his cloaking and illusion projectors were broken beyond repair from the crash. Secondly, that by some miracle, his hologram generator wasn’t. And lastly, these Voz weren’t very attentive, for none of them noticed his movements. Isley closed his eyes and waited. Ten of these would be tough odds, even for a Shade. Not for the first time since the mission started, he wished the rest of his team were here.

    There was a small thump, as if something had fallen off the ship, followed by yells and exclamations. A distraction! Whatever it was, it was his chance!

    Without hesitation, he grabbed the silky strands binding him and pulled. Caught off guard, his captor was yanked off his feet and toppled over backwards. Catching the spider as he fell, he reached for what he thought was the head and twisted. There was a distinct crack and the Voz crumpled.

    His shoulder piece whirred and a small round section popped out slightly. He grabbed the small energy pistol concealed within, and shot two more Voz in the back before they realized what was happening. Three were dead before the first had even hit the ground. There was a cry of alarm as he fired at the fourth. He missed. Shit, they were faster than he expected.

    He dropped to the ground and felt plasma burn his cheek as one shot barely missed. There was a tingling sensation as the Nano-parasites began healing the burn immediately.

    Without camouflage, he used the next best thing: His hologram projector. Activating it, a copy of him appeared next to him as he charged the nearest Voz. His projector was damaged though, and the hologram was grainy, unrealistic. But it bought him the seconds he needed to decapitate another.

    That was as far as he got though. His mind registered a loud roar from above, then nothing.

    **

    Fensworth watched through his binoculars as the darkly armored man took out four aliens by himself before being shot by one of the turrets above. He was tall, at least six feet. Definitely a human, he wore no helmet.

    They were about seven hundred yards out, the hovercrafts closing the distance quickly. Looking around, he noticed that every man with a gun had it trained on one of the six remaining aliens. None had opened fire, these were trained veterans, and for that he was glad.

    One of the aliens turned towards them then looked at another. He pointed towards them with one of his arms. The other nodded and raised the weapon he was holding. It looked like a rocket launcher.

    “Oh shit,” breathed Fensworth. He screamed into his headset, “Scatter!”

    Red bolts of plasma rained down on his platoon, it was like the launcher could fire non-stop. There was an explosion as the bolts connected with one of the vehicles.

    His men opened fire in retaliation. With no cover, the six aliens were felled rather quickly. Truth be told, Fensworth was rather surprised at the result. He had expected more resistance. Then again, it was six against a platoon.

    A loud rumble from above, followed by another explosion behind him. The turret! But he didn’t look behind him. He didn’t, because he couldn’t believe what he was seeing ahead.

    The soldier was back on his feet and looking up at the alien craft hovering overhead, when less than a minute ago; Fensworth would have sworn he had a hole blown in his head. The soldier held what looked like a small pistol in his hand, and he had it pointed at the alien craft. It looked almost comical. If it had been anyone else, Fensworth would have laughed.

    A small red flare streaked up towards the hole in the middle of the hovercraft. At the same time another man leapt out, grabbing one of the silken strands as he slid down. He hit the ground running, and the pair started running towards Fensworth.

    Two seconds later, the alien ship… imploded. It was as if something had sucked out a portion of the ship and the hull crumpled inwards like paper. It stayed in the air for about another second before crashing down to earth.

    **

    “So let me get this straight,” Fensworth said. The ruby fragment lay on the table between him and the two strangers. “These Voz are after that ruby my scientists found buried in an asteroid in uncharted space?”

    The pair looked at one another then nodded.

    “What is it exactly?”

    “It’s a power chip, integral to an extremely powerful weapon the Voz control.”

    “You two expect me to believe this? And you,” he pointed at Isley. “I saw you die. Care to explain that?”

    The other man cleared his throat. “That isn’t important. What is important is: Are you willing to die for your people?”

    He spluttered. “Am I what?”

    “The Voz will stop at nothing to get their hands on this. They will wipe you out to find it. You and every other living thing they encounter.”

    “But you can kill them.”

    “I destroyed an Interceptor,” Isley said, “The rest of the Armada cannot far behind.”

    Silence.

    “You mentioned dying?” Bart asked.

    “The thing is, these Voz,” Isley continued, ignoring Bart. “They don’t belong in your instance.”

    “Instance?”

    “World,” the other man explained. “There are uncharted…no. Not important. What’s important is how we stop them.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Usually the Order sends an army for this.”

    “Anyway, we want to give them back their shard.”

    “What?”

    “Not that one though,” his hand went into his robes and came up with another identical fragment, “this one.”

    “What’s the difference?”

    “This is a virus.”

    “I see. You want to make it realistic right?”

    “So you understand.”

    “Consider it done.”

    “Make no mistake,” said Isley as he rolled the small shard between his fingers. “If our gambit fails, your people will die. Hell, they might be wiped out regardless. Are you still sure you want to do this?”

    “We are already dead men walking,” Fensworth said. “Without water, and if what you say is true, there won’t be any. We wouldn’t last another fortnight. Better to go out fighting than wither away.”

    The pair stood in unison and saluted him silently: Fists to chest.

    The pendants they both wore glowed and the world shimmered around them. Fensworth blinked and they were gone. No trace remained save a ruby shard.
     
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