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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Senior Member Contributor

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    Short Story Contest 112: Attic Treasure

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Mar 19, 2012.

    Short Story Contest 112
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Attic Treasure"

    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. Unfortunately, there is no prize but pride on offer for this contest. As always, the winner may also PM/VM me to request the theme of a subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Theme: "Attic Treasure" (courtesy of member Tessie). Any interpretation is valid. 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: Monday 2nd April 2012 10.00 am (UK local)

    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 "Insanity" (courtesy of member Bran). Be free to prepare an entry for this contest in advance, but do not submit your entry until instructed to do so. Please note that sadly no prize other than pride is offered for this contest too.

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    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.
  2. Skykitty
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    Skykitty New Member

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    Solace and Solitude – 834 Words​

    Anna pulled herself up through the hole into the attic, to find dust whirling round her head and memories whirling through it. A hot summer day nearly ten years ago, the sun beating down on their sweaty, laughing bodies. Building a snowman in front of the house with potatoes for eyes and Daniel's favourite tie round its neck. Watching a bonfire in the back garden, fingers all sticky from toffee apples and holding packets of sparklers in anticipation.
    She could feel and touch these memories if she wanted to. With a steady hand she reached out and uncovered them one by one. She lifted the old, patterned sheets which had been draped over the frames, neatly folded them and placed them in a corner. They were all just as she had last seen them of course. In real life, paintings in an attic stay exactly the same over the years, the people looking back at them are the ones who change. Anna settled herself down onto the floor in front of them. She didn't come up here often, although many times she had pulled the ladder down before finding some small reason not to take those few steps, and put it away instead.
    “Mum?” Anna didn't turn towards the voice. “Where are you?” She should move, stand up and head back down the stairs. She shouldn't let Caitlin find her up here.
    “I'm up here!” She called back.
    She shifted to lean back against the wall and watched the opening, looking for strawberry blonde curls making their way up. Instead she heard clattering in the kitchen. After a few minutes Caitlin did come up the ladder, shaking those curls out of her eyes and holding two brimming cups of tea. Anna thought as she always did, how impossible it was that any child of hers had such grace and balance. She must get that from her father.
    “Two sugars.” Caitlin held her gaze as Anna almost sighed but managed to stop herself. Her usual three sugars really was too much, although it was difficult to take this mother hen behaviour from the young woman she still thought of as her baby girl.
    “Thanks. How was work?”
    “The usual. Exhausting.” Caitlin's eyes dropped to her own mug and Anna shuffled over slightly to put her hand on her daughter's arm and squeeze softly.
    “What about you?” She heard in reply. “Why are you up here? What are you hiding from?”
    “I'm not hiding!” The words came out louder than Anna had intended and she half expected an echo from the cobwebbed corners, but there was only silence. She stared into her mug as if the right words were all swirling around in there.
    “I haven't been up here long.” Well that was the truth at least. “I just wanted a moment to look at these.” She made a complicated gesture with her hand towards the paintings which she knew Caitlin would understand. “It's been two months now.”
    “Since you were last up here?” Now it was Caitlin's turn to examine her tea. “For me it's only been a couple of weeks.”
    “Three.”
    “You knew?”
    “I don't always know but this time, yeah. I was awake in the middle of night and I noticed your door was open and the light was shining down from up here.” There was a long moment while Anna drained the last of her tea and sat the mug down on the floorboard next to her, louder than she had expected it to sound.
    “Sometimes I need to see them.” Caitlin almost whispered. “I'm scared I'm starting to forget him. Us.”
    “It's never going to happen sweetheart. You won't forget him, and neither will I.” Anna thought maybe that was the real concern for both of them. How could they honour Daniel's memory when she had been married to Stephen for three years now? It wasn't that Stephen was a bad man. He wasn't controlling or insensitive, and he was open and so honest that Anna felt like a fraud. Why hadn't she told him about these paintings tucked away? Did it make them into a furtive, guilty secret instead of the treasured memories they should be?
    “Do you think we should...?” Anna stopped, not quite able to finish the question. Caitlin didn't say anything. She just gazed at her younger self on that Guy Fawke's night too many years ago, face lit up in the flames, eyes shining. Daniel had perfectly captured the joy on his daughter's face.
    “Maybe we should put them up somewhere? Downstairs?”
    “No. I...I don't want to share them with anyone else.”
    It was a question that had needed to be asked, if only to confirm the answer. Daniel's paintings of them as a family were too precious to be exposed to real life. They were up here away from the day to day grind, and it gave Anna and Caitlin solace to sit for a few moments and remember him.
  3. My writer side
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    My writer side New Member

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    A decadent free haven?

    (1264)

    A decadent free haven?​

    “Jesus, Debs. We are actually going to enter the Holy Monastery of Saint John.”

    “Roy!” Debbie replied viciously. “Don't use the saviour's name in vain; your a Christian.”

    “Sorry, Debs, you know I forget.”

    Debbie's sour face, stricken with embarrassment and rage, remained plaster to her frail head all the way to the top of the stone stairs. Upon reaching the top they rested themselves on a beautiful oak bench.

    “Jesus, that was a lot of steps.”

    “Roy!” She snapped at him again. “If you embarrass me like this in front of the sisters, I'll knock that stupid senile head of yours off your shoulders.”

    “Sorry, Debs.”

    Whilst letting out a long sigh, she shook her head in disappointment. Roy remained silent like a sulking child. After a few minutes of silence Debbie arose and began to walk towards the great stone arch that was the entrance to the monastery. Roy followed quietly.

    “Holy Monastery of Saint John.” said Roy as he read the writing etched into the arch.

    His quiet demenor had suddenly changed to an excited one. He quickened his pace with a number of short steps to catch up with Debbie who hadn't stopped to read the arch.

    -​

    An elderly woman, younger than Roy and Debbie, approached them with a smile on her face and her hands cupped in front of her waist. She was dressed in a long grey frock with a matching head piece that was coloured white on the inside.

    “Hey, look Debs; a nun.” said Roy pointing ignorantly.

    “Actually, sir, I'm a sister. A sister of the Holy Monastery of Saint John.” she said with the same smile and her hands in the same place. A near immortal pose that clearly couldn't be broken by blatant ignorance.

    “Hello, sister.” said Debbie rushing forwards with an extended hand to kill the situation.

    “Hello, I'm Sister Wendy Gulley.” she said accepting Debbie's desperate hand shake and understanding it completely.

    With Roy's hand leading the way he walked towards the Sister. “I'm Roy and this is my wife, Debbie.” he said.

    “We're here for the tour.” Debbie said in a much more calmed voice as the Sister shook Roy's hand.

    “Oh, great. If your happy to start I can take you on it now?”

    Both Debbie and Roy answered simultaneously but both answers were very different.

    “Oh, yes please, that'd be great.” said Debbie.

    Roy however slowly out thrust his arm in the direction of the buildings across the courtyard with an open palm and two raised eye brows. His other hand remained in his pocket, where it had been the whole time.

    “Err, ok.” stammered the sister, stunned by Roy's gesture.

    -​

    “One of our key moral practices here at the monastery is to maintain a haven free of all decadent activities.” said the sister as she opened a large wooden door leading from the courtyard into an old stone building. “We do this by following the ten commandments written by The Lord himself. It is the perfect code made for a perfect society.”

    Roy was hardly listening. He was busy gazing at the room around him and the sister had noticed.

    “I see our beautiful worship chamber has caught your full attention, Roy.” said the sister laughing.

    “Oh, yes. It's really quite amazing.” he said still barely listening.

    The sister and Debbie walked forward towards the alter with Roy trailing behind, staring up at the domed ceiling. It was a golden coloured sandstone with exquisite patterns carved into it. The stained glass windows caught his attention next. Saint John standing there in a vivid red robe holding a open book, pages cream white and a golden halo above his head.

    “Wow.” said Roy, the words barely able to escape his mouth despite how wide open it was. “This truly is a wonderful place.”

    Peace had completely washed over him. Debbie and Sister Wendy Gulley stood at the alter patiently waiting for him.

    “He's completely awestruck.” said the sister smiling.

    “I've never seen him like this.”

    “It's the Lord, Debbie. This is his house and he wants everyone to be at peace when in it.”

    Roy, wide eyed, finally reached the alter a few minutes later.

    “Are you ok, Roy?” asked the sister.

    “I've never felt better.” he replied with a big smile on his face.

    “Would you like to pray, Roy?” asked the sister with a gentle gesture of her hand towards the foot of the alter.

    With a small nod of his head, Roy knelt down before the alter and put his hands together. “Thank you, Lord, for this place you have provided for me. Thank you, Lord, for providing me with a place free of all wrong doings. A peaceful place, a paradise, a haven.”

    “A decadent free haven.” said the sister.

    “Amen.” said the three of them together.

    -​

    “When Saint John visited...” began Sister Wendy Gulley while pointing at a painting the monastery's library.

    She had been interrupted by banging on the ceiling above.

    “What was that?” said Debbie looking above.

    “I'm not sure.” replied the sister, her face screwed up with confusion. “Oh.” she said with a sudden realisation. “Friar Wilson is the head of this monastery. Sometimes he goes up into the room that was built above this room and preys in private. He can be a very private and personal person. He's been known to spend lots of time in that room. I actually don't think anyone, apart from him, has been up there in a long time.”

    “It's sounds like he takes his worship very seriously.” said Debbie.

    The sister nodded. Suddenly a short burst of load base music boomed down from above. The sister's face screwed in confusion and disgust.

    “Sorry, excuse me please.” she said while quickly exiting the room without waiting for a response from Roy or Debbie.

    Running down the corridor she searched for the door that led to the room. She found it but didn't open it. Standing before it her mind raced with worry. She hadn't heard electrically produced music in a long time and never before in the monastery. With her hand shaking she opened the door and ascended the stairs. At the top she met another door and then suddenly the music started up again. Pumping through the door it pierced her ear drums with every beat. She closed her eyes, turned the door knob and pushed open the door.

    Inside the room lay so many things that shocked and disgusted the sister. On the left side of the room was a table with half naked women dancing upon it. The right side held another table with dozens of bottles of alcohol on it. Flickering lights covered the ceiling and speakers on the wall. And in the middle of the room sat Friar Wilson on a sofa surrounded by women.

    “Oh, shit.” he said in a drunken voice noticing the sister standing horrified in the door. “Must of had the music too loud.” he said with a drunken laugh. He struggled to his feet and stumbled across the room towards the sister. “Welcome to my domain, sister! I call it the attic of decadence!” he shouted.

    “Jesus Christ! Debs, come see this!” shouted Roy as stood behind the sister looking over her shoulder.
  4. mootz
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    mootz New Member

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    What Belongs to Black and White? (937)

    My body shakes with the freezing draft that washes in from the kitchen from up the stair case. I run down the stairs and turn the corner of the hallway to enter the tiny cooking room. The window is placed just above the sink where seven or eight weeks worth of dirty dishes and pizza crusts have collected to dominate the room's sight and smell. It's stale, forgotten, dirty, tampered, unwanted, unsightly and horribly immature—it is me. She would have washed dishes and made sure the windows were closed, I haven't grown accustomed to doing her chores on a regular basis yet.

    I don't know why she is gone. All I know is she took with her the last days of spring, summer months, and most of fall. The rest of my life fell apart without her here. My daze ended sometime around the fall of the first foot of snow—white poison!—it wasn't until just a few weeks ago that I was able to notice the things around me.

    For instance, how white is pain. It's the wedding dress that she ran off in—me at the alter, the priest mid-sentence. White is the burying snow that traps me in the house that was ours, leaving me with the memories that are now precious to me alone. It's the color of the lies of my friends who tell me I will find another, back when I still had friends. White shines and exposes your flaws!

    Black really shouldn't be the color of funerals. What is black? It's the color that absorbs things—like love and affection thrown your way. Five years of your life given with earnest intentions, caring and fidelity. There is a reason certain people only make love in the dark, it's so they can look each other in the eye when it is over and still say that they love each other.

    I climb the stairs of our—my, yeah, it's mine now—place. I go back to the guest room, where I've slept for all this time, dreadfully scared of our old room. My Tux is in that room, lying on the bed, innocent in it's blackness, absorbing what little light enters the room, soaking up the last bastions of love we left each other behind. Is it dim? Am I? I can't really know unless I look.

    I haven't looked at myself in months, let alone that room—our old room, Jesus Christ! What would I see? Would I like the person staring back at me? Oh God, I hope I don't see the person that she left behind. I want to understand her, but I can't honestly face it.

    Why say yes, when you mean no? Why get engaged?

    I sit down on the bed. My arms wrapped around me, hugging my shivering body.

    “Kat,” I hear myself say. I sound pathetic and weak. I am not man enough. I don't even have a full, fucking head of hair. What's to love about a mid-manager whose only good to go in the sack two times a week?

    My thoughts continue to circle the drain, tumbling down into an abyss that leads to self destruction and more pathetic behavior. The only thing I can praise myself for is the fact that I haven't yet crumbled. Of course, I did so suspecting it to get easier every day—or at least every month—but it hasn't, has it? It's more like attrition, and I'm going to lose sooner than later.

    I am still cold. The day after, when I took off my tux in our old room, I opened up the window to shout out 'fuck the world.' It could still be open, I don't remember closing it. I can go in there and see what it's like. See if closing it for good would warm me up, even make me feel better.

    It could be like, “okay world, I am sorry for leaving you and I'm ready to come back.”

    I get up from the bed and walk into the hallway. The door to our old room sits in front of me, but a creaking sound holds me still. I look up to see the source; the floppy door to our, my, attic.

    The window in the room is open. It's bright and the world would be able to see me, just as I'd have to see it. My old tux, our pictures of each other, clothing dangling from a dresser that she left behind. It's exposed—it is white. The attic isn't. There I can sit in darkness, away from myself and the man she left. Gone from inadequacies real and imagined. In a world that absorbs what I give it, however little I have left.

    Hot air rises, doesn't it?

    I make the weak choice. As I climb up I mutter to myself about how I could still close the window after, like a drunkard arguing over his ability to quit at any time.

    Inside, I can't see anything. The air is stale and the overabundance of cob webs, dust and boxes of useless crap remind me of downstairs. It reminds me of the state of the kitchen, of sleeping on a uncovered mattress in a guest room—it is forgotten, dirty, tampered, unwanted, unsightly—it reminds me of me.

    I suppose I do know why Katherine left. I'll just never face it, because I live in the black—the official color of funerals and death...

    I sit Indian style, in my attic, contemplating what I have talked myself into, solace or destruction? Because, if I live in the black, am I alive?
  5. Tre676
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    Tre676 New Member

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    Friendship...Treasure (1,293 words)

    It seems as though the memories held will never fade. Like a picture forged in steel, the vivid images are still bolted to the corners of my mind, and I begin to break down with certainty, knowing that revisiting the place my childhood was spent with my friend of twenty years will open wounds that had never truly healed.
    People claim that to beat the pangs of death that tear at the soul with a remarkably insidious disposition one must come to face the demons of their pasts. Sometimes I think that no one has been in my shoes, for they would never claim such things.
    I stand alone in the vacant living room that once catered to my childhood days. Long gone is the scent of oranges that used to fill the tranquil rooms ripe with mahogany furniture. The scent has been replaced with a musty and damp smell, one that tingles the nose like a feather. I step through the room, allowing the old floorboards to flex and moan under my weight just like they had when I was eleven, only then I would have feared waking someone in the house. I study the dust prints left from my boot and wonder if one day someone will see them and wonder who stood where I stand.
    I feel a strong pull from the living room, and I am directed toward the hallway before the pantry where a long string twirls in the air from the ceiling. Like a worm the string hangs down, spiraling in the air as if being played by a ghostly cat. I reach a shaken hand to the string and massage its coarse fibers that fray from the ends like the threads of a broom. I pull hard, remembering the strength required to budge it from my youth. The ceiling opens, releasing a staircase that slides gently to the floor, allowing me to climb the thin wood acting as stairs to the top, however I am hesitant. No one had stepped foot into the attic since the accident in which my best friend, Aaron, had been the lone casualty. I look around, hoping someone will suddenly apparate before me and halt my movement, but no one appears. I take the slow droning steps up the thin ladder into the dark and lonely attic.
    I shut my eyes as the memories of our days fire off in unison through my head like fireworks in July. A numb vibration courses through my veins like the venom of a snake. It targets every memory I had pushed away and buried, every memory I never wished to relive, but my antidote is useless. The tears fall from my eyes as I walk around the room in a dilapidated state, and I curse the piles of books and closed trunks that litter the dusted floor. My eyes flip around the room, darting in and out of each crevice that presents itself, and at once I begin to make the connection I feared would arise. My vision radiates as it settles upon the old broken window in the far corner, shielded from the suns penetrating light. I fall into a hypnotic zone as the voices slither through my mind, denying my ears the pleasure of interaction. The glass of the window seems to open like a gateway, allowing particles of dust to float toward me. I collapse backward and am caught by an old leather ottoman. From the dust transpires the figure of a boy, bloodied at age twelve. His hair is combed neat, his clothes properly worn however his skin is ragged and torn. He walks toward me with his hand stretched forward as if he wishes me to take it. The cold feeling I always feel with clients in mourning skitters through my bones with an even greater intensity. The tears from my eyes blur my vision, forcing me to only see the outline of my dead friend.
    “Andrew…” he coos softly in the least threatening way.
    “No, Aaron,” I say while trying to shake away the image. I desperately wish to break this connection, but I cannot do so.
    “Remember,” he says stopping before me.
    He touches my arm and the blast of frozen air sends a volley of memories surging through my conscious thought, and I slip off.




    “Aaron, get up here!” my eleven-year-old voice called out.
    In a flash, he darted up the steps of the ladder to the attic where we began to hunt for the hidden treasures untold. Turning over trunk after trunk, we trashed what useless articles we found to the floor.
    “Andrew, check this out!” Aaron cried.
    I turned to see him holding up a large trophy that glistened gold in the beams of sunlight that guided my eyes. I rushed to him and gripped the metal award in my hands. The inscription was chiseled finely into the base of the round cup. The words were too deformed to read, but I was able to make out the two words friendship and treasure.





    “Stop!” I scream, departing from the memory. Aaron’s ghost shakes his head as he reaches for my arm once more. I stand up and walk to the round window unbroken, and look down outside to see my family waiting for me in the yard. I wipe the remorse from my mouth to rid my tongue of its taste. I turn to see Aaron watching me with eyes of hurt and memory. “This is it.” I say.
    He walks to me and presses his hand around my wrist, and at once I flash back to the day he died.




    “Whose do you think it is?” Aaron asked marveling at the design’s simplicity and eccentric qualities.
    “No idea…” I said truthfully.
    Aaron walked to the window and stood looking down at the ground below where the empty streets promised the ensuing rain. “You think we will get caught up here?” he asked.
    I felt a sting of realization as I remembered my grandmother’s warning to keep out of the attic. “We should probably get going…” I said.
    Before I was able to set the trophy down, Aaron took a step forward to peak at the car pulling into the drive below. His foot lost grip on the old floor coated in dust, and he fell forward. My body froze as the glass shattered, crashing to the floor. I did not hear him hit the ground, only the scream in my mind as the image of the bloodied glass gave the sunlight an unchecked pass into the room.




    “I am sorry!” I begin to weep as his ghost withdraws from me.
    Aaron shakes his head and points to a small trunk in the opposite corner of the attic. I look to him, and then back to the trunk. I calibrate my steps to ease myself over to the wooden trunk, and open it carefully. Inside, the resilient glow of the trophy casts a sheen that blinded me momentarily.
    “Friendship…treasure.” Aaron says.
    My hands fumble over the smooth metal that is the trophy. I look up to Aaron’s ghost and catch the dull shifting across his lips that seemed to give way to a smile.
    “This is my last job, Aaron. I won’t be back again.” I say.
    He nods without the slightest bit of emotion. As he starts to fizzle away, he points to the trophy and mutters, “Friendship.”
    In a flash he is gone, and I am alone in the dreary attic once more.
    “Andrew?” calls the voice of my wife in the living room downstairs.
    I examine the trophy carefully, and set it on a table beside the trunk where a single beam of sunlight forces it to glisten. “Treasure.” I mutter.
  6. Erato
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    Erato New Member

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    The Ring [1993 incl. title] <pardon the length>

    Sara knocked on her grandmother's door and was immediately engulfed in folds of relatives, hugging, laughing, kissing, exclaiming, all with the enthusiasm of the ignorant. Oh, Sara smiled too, of course, and hugged back, and looked as tall and pleasant as possible, but she knew it was a mask.
    Behind her came her younger brother, Martin, and her father and his girlfriend. Martin was hugged and petted and given huge smiling kisses; the difference was everyone had to bend down to do that. There were ebullient shrieks of excitement over Martin's tooth and Sara's hair. Three cousins stepped forward a little shyly, all younger than Sara, and sort of grinned at Martin. They didn't pay any attention to the girl who towered over them. Nor did the adults pay much attention anymore the girl who didn't belong in any group.
    Too true, thought Sara grimly as she slipped upstairs. I don't belong in any of those groups. Not Dad's. Not the Aunts'. Not even Martin's.
    It used to be bearable, even after Mom died, it was bearable, but not when Dad started dating her. It's even bearable at home compared to being surrounded by so many groups of people who like each other and get along just fine. School is like this. Everyone's in a group. But in school I'm not related to everyone.
    Two cats ran to the top of the stairs to greet her. Uncle Steve would be asleep in that room, like always in the late afternoon. She passed the door and went on up the attic stairs, leaving behind the commotion downstairs. The cats meowed below but didn't follow her.
    It was quiet in the attic. Quiet and full of junk and dust and probably a lot of spiders, judging from the cobwebs, but Sara chose not to think about that. The ceiling was slanted, the floor unfinished. In a corner there was an old bench where she had put it two years ago. Under it were boxes of old pictures, remembrances of the past... Sara usually pounced on them like they were gold and spent an hour or so staring at them until someone called her downstairs. But not this time. She knew them all too well. Could she really bear to see them again?
    Instead she went half-heartedly through a box of old junk, not particularly caring what she saw. It was from fifty years ago, maybe sixty, old college memorabilia - a moth-eaten robe and cap, some pictures, an article in the paper. At the bottom was the ring.
    It was silver, Sara guessed, from the blackish tarnishing, with some sort of precious stone in the middle. A college ring. Intricately crafted with twining metal that parted to reveal a faint bluish glimmer. It intrigued her, on some low level of emotion where she could be intrigued. She put it on the third finger of her right hand. Sara didn't usually go in for rings, but this one was nice.
    Nice! What was she thinking? Two years ago her world had started crumbling and here she was thinking about a nice ring? How was this loyal to her mother's memory? Her mother, who had grown up in this very house. She walked to the window. Remember. Remember the hair. The laugh. The eyes. What color were they? Stupid question. Of course they were brown like Sara's. Not blue like... Kris's. How did Dad think Kris could ever replace Mom?
    But what did Sara know about love? She'd never had a boyfriend. And beneath that was the unspoken, hardly formed wish: I wish I had a boyfriend. It was an idle, passing thought and Sara hardly noticed it.
    "What's wrong?" said a voice behind her.
    She turned around and saw him. Tall, not very skinny, dressed like one of the geeks from school. Glasses. A slightly boyish face, but not very; readable. It showed genuine concern. With this glance came the absolute certainty that this was Sara's boyfriend, and that they had met a year or so ago, and Sara had some vague doubts about him, and that his name was Al.
    "Are you all right?" he said. "You were going to show me those pictures and then you turned around and went to the window..."
    "I'm fine," she said, shaking her head. "Sorry." She pulled out a box and opened it, took out the first envelope of pictures. "These are from... ten years ago or so. It must have been around this time of year judging from the tree over there."
    Al nodded and started shuffling the pictures, one after the other. Sara glanced quickly, a fleeting glance, over her shoulder. She was vaguely aware that a minute ago she had been in a very different reality, where Al didn't exist. This one was very different. Everything else seemed the same; even the box of old college stuff was back where it had been, dusty and untouched. Sara glanced at her finger.
    The ring glimmered.
    That was odd. Only daylight came through the window, no sun. All clouds. How could it glimmer? Sara pushed the thought out of her mind. This reality had more important things.
    She sat next to Al, showing him the pictures, for about half an hour. It surprised her what she knew about him. He was a year older than she was, had only a mother, who had decided after many arguments to let him spend Christmas with his girlfriend. Girlfriend? How far had their relationship gone? Sara had only to wonder about a thing in this reality before the information was there in her mind.
    "Do you suppose it's blown over downstairs yet?" said Al when they'd finished most of a box.
    Sara understood immediately what it was. It was an argument. Al had had the misfortune to ask if Aunt Zuzu was married, since she wore a ring, and immediately Cousin Ivy had started screaming hysterically and had to be doctored by her younger brother, Uncle Don had stumped into an adjacent room and slammed the door, and Aunt Zuzu had just sort of turned aside and lowered her head. Uncle Walter, on the other hand, had gotten pinkish purple and murder in his eyes. So Sara had rescued Al upstairs from the family's wrath. They could hear loud voices as they went up the stairs...
    "Maybe," said Sara. "I'm not sure. Either they're sitting around discussing what really happened to Aunt Zuzu or everyone's killed each other."
    "What did happen to Aunt Zuzu?" asked Al.
    Sara looked away. She knew now that this was why she had doubts about Al. He was a little too nosy. She was a little miffed at him already.
    There was a slight shift in her peripheral vision. She turned. Al was gone. Her eyes widened. She put out a hand to the place where he had been a minute ago, withdrew it; Al wasn't there.
    Just for a second, she wished him back, and there he was, with the box, watching her as if nothing had happened; then she wished him away again, and it was back to her first reality.
    Was it a dream? Like, maybe there was some narcotic in the dust up here that made her hallucinate. Sara shook her head. Of course not, idiot.
    The idea entered her mind that it was the ring, but she pushed it aside. Then she looked for the box of college stuff, and there it was, opened and rooted through.
    So what, the ring is magic? Right. Well, even if the dust is narcotic, I can at least have some fun before dinner. I hate this reality. I wish I was in a reality where Dad wasn't dating Kris.
    The box of college stuff was gone, and next to her was an open box of pictures.
    Sara stood up and walked to the stairs. What's it like then downstairs? No fighting relatives, like in Al's reality. No Kris, like in mine.
    The living room was loud with the chatter of aunts, uncles, Martin and his cousins. Sara seated herself inconspicuously on the sofa. Dad had his back to her; the adults were mostly caught up in what they were saying and eating to notice her; and Martin and his friends didn't even look up. She might as well have not been there. That suited Sara fine; so she watched for a while and made her own observations.
    It was a lot like her reality that she came from. The difference was Dad. He was completely quiet, saying absolutely nothing, sipping slowly. And in this reality, Sara suddenly knew, he was lonely.
    It was too much. She fled the room. What have I caused?
    Halfway to the attic she stopped and laughed at herself. She hadn't caused it. It already had existed. All she had done was seen it.
    I don't like this reality either. I want to be in a reality where Mom hadn't died.
    And although there was no physical shift to tell her the reality changed, she immediately understood that Mom was downstairs at this moment. She walked slowly down the stairs. She must be very careful. Mom didn't know she was dead. The strangeness of the thought would usually have put her off, but she was half giddy from knowing that Mom was about fifteen feet away.
    No - fifteen inches.
    "You are in trouble."
    Sara instantly knew why. Martin had quarrelled with a cousin and Sara had separated them. It had been Martin's fault, she knew, and she had spoken to him sharply about it in front of the others.
    "We do not share our problems with other people!" Mom had Sara by the wrist and was taking her to a bedroom. "Even if Martin was wrong that is no cause for you to allude to the way he acts toward Daddy!"
    "Let go of me!" said Sara, struggling to break her mother's grasp. A wish began to form in her mind.
    And the bedroom was empty. Mom was gone.
    Sara stared. Tears welled in her eyes. She ran to the attic.
    I wish I had a friend, she said silently as she cried. A friend who I could tell all this, and who could comfort me.
    There was a person next to her. Sara wiped the tears out of her eyes, wiped again.
    It was a girl with brown skin and straight dark hair - hard to tell if it was really black in this light - who reached out to touch Sara's shoulder. Her name came to Sara's mind - she was Priya.
    "It wasn't your fault," she said. "Your mother died. It was an accident. Of course sometimes you thought you wanted your mother to die. You don't want that anymore. The Mom that you remember is a portrait. You've... idealized her, made her different... maybe that's even... better. It's how we remember people who have died."
    Sara's crying had stopped. She stared at Priya.
    "Wishing doesn't always make things better. It only makes them different. Most people don't get to see what would have happened if something had been different. They live their own life the way Fate hands it to them. They don't forget. They just... move on."
    "You're right," said Sara. She dried her tears. "Thank you."
    She wished.
    Priya was gone; the box of college memorabilia was moved and opened; everything was back to the way Sara had known it an hour ago. She looked at her finger, where the ring glimmered.
    Any time she wanted to, if she had the ring, she could be somewhere else. Somewhere... different. Somewhere real? Couldn't have been real.
    Yet with this thought came the absolute certainty that it had been.
    Sara put the ring back in the box and went downstairs, where Dad and Kris and the rest of the family were talking, and watched. And yes, in the end, this was good.
  7. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Member

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    Lost Pages (1,009 Words)

    Jim dropped the box on the living room floor. It was the last one from the attic, except for the broken toy and a decommissioned lamp left up there.

    The floor was littered with dusty boxes. Most of them were brittle from age, and some remained sturdy. Jim looked to the kitchen, imagining the smell of those waffles mom used to make. He looked through the window, remembering the screams, yells, giggles and the solid thwack of a baseball bat.

    Jim dropped to the floor and crossed his legs. He reached for the box next to him, the box he recently brought down. There was a moleskin journal, a pile of documents and a stack of black-and-white photos held together with a rubber band.

    The first photo was his grandfather, Andrew Krueger: light-skinned, a solid smile, enchanting eyes and a slick, shiny hairdo combed to the side. Grandpa looked exactly like Jim, even further as to claim he’s a reincarnation of him. Jim snickered.

    Jim placed the stack of photos down. He looked inside the box and took a journal out. Jim patted the leather cover, sending waves of dust flitting about in the air. He opened a page and began to read.

    “Hey!” said a voice.

    Jim looked up. A girl with dark skin and green eyes stared at him from the main door. Her curly hair glowed behind the morning sun.

    “What are you doing on the floor baby?” said Amanda, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow.

    “Just reading my grandpa’s journal,” said Jim. He turned to the pile of photos and grabbed it.

    “Hey, check this out,” said Jim, inviting Amanda to him.

    Amanda entered the living room and walked around the boxes.

    “We have to finish soon,” said Amanda, hopping over some boxes, “or your sisters will give you hell for being late again.”

    Amanda knelt down next to Jim and looked at the photo of Andrew Krueger. Her lips arched upwards and stretched wide open. She clapped her mouth and reached for the stack of photos.

    “Oh my god!” she said, “he looks just like you!”

    Amanda forgot about the pressing time. She sat down and flipped through the photos. She was amazed at how Andrew Krueger closely resembled Jim, but she could tell that Mr. Krueger-senior-senior was more buff and more dashing.

    “She was my first and my only true love,” said Jim, reading from the journal, “She is gone. Rosetta is gone. Yet the flame of what we had, the pyre of what we shared, remains burning at the hilltop.”

    “Wow,” said Jim, “I didn’t know my grandpa was a poet.”

    “Rosetta,” said Amanda, still flipping through the photos, “like my grama’s name.”

    Jim continued on, occasionally dictating the best lines like a beatnik in a coffee shop. While Jim bantered at the somber and antiquated words, Amanda interrupted him with a shrill gasp.

    “What?” asked Jim, turning to Amanda. She had her palm against her slack-jawed mouth. Her eyes were wide, begging for more light, hoping to gather some sense on what she was holding.

    “Amanda? What?” Jim shimmied towards Amanda, kicking a bit of dust in the air. He looked at the photo. Jim inadvertently dropped the journal from his fingertips. The dust swirled in the air like a tempest.

    It was a photo of Rosetta. Rosetta Greene. Amanda Greene’s grandmother. And she had curly hair, dark skin, an oval head and a slim physique. Just like Amanda Greene.

    Amanda turned the photo around. There was a writing on the back – Rosetta Greene with Love. Amanda looked at Jim and then turned to the journal.

    “In there! Look if there’s more about grama.”

    Jim swam in an existential and spiritual haze. He hoped that a distant memory from the time before his conception would swell inside his head, that a sign would affirm his existence was made possible by reincarnation, that a deluge of revelation would transform him into his grandfather, the Alpha of the Krueger bloodline.

    There was none.

    “Jim!”

    Jim snapped out of his haze. He grabbed the journal and flipped through the pages. There was only one entry of Rosetta Greene, and it was the entry he had read earlier. He skipped through some pages that told of Andrew’s love for fishing, fine cars and time with the kids. Jim reached the last entry which mentioned the altercation Andrew had with a gas attendant.

    Jim went back to the first page and flipped through the journal again, making sure he didn’t miss any entries. Upon reaching the Rosetta Greene entry, Jim noticed that some pages were torn out. Amanda saw the tear marks. There was nothing else that mentioned Rosetta. Nothing more.

    Dust loomed in the air like an audience at a theater balcony. The birds sang an encore of their morning song. Cars coasted on the street, passing by a scene that bore an important, yet puzzling moment.

    Amanda looked up to Jim and said, “What now?”

    #

    Jim reached for the rear door handle and pulled it down. He turned a latch and secured it with a lock.
    Jim looked at the house, and then turned to the “For Sale” sign that had a “SOLD” sticker on it. He took a deep breath, easing an undeniable feeling that this was the last time he’ll see this house.

    Jim got in the driver seat. Amanda had the journal open, caressing the jagged edges of destroyed memories. She thought that by stroking them, a memory that didn’t belong to her would introduce itself to her memories. Jim could feel her desperation. Jim reached for the journal and closed it. Amanda looked up and a tear escaped.

    “You know, back in those days, your grampa and my gramma would have been killed for being together,” said Amanda.

    Jim turned the engine on. Before he placed the truck on drive, Jim smiled and reached for Amanda’s hand.

    “A new chapter Ms. Greene?” said Jim softly.

    Amanda squeezed his hand and returned his smile.

    “A new chapter Mr. Krueger.”
  8. Force
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    Force New Member

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    Mind Slip - 1498

    Lilith tucked in her wings and dived, ignoring the bite of the chilling wind in her face. Sarek had travelled fast and far. It had taken her the better part of an hour to track him down. They were almost a mile outside the walls of the citadel. He was sitting on the rotten stump of what must have been a magnificent Deadwood. Her powerful wings flared outwards about ten feet above the ground, stopping her descent almost immediately as she landed with a thud in front of him.

    She studied him closely. There was absolutely nothing significant about him – except his youth. As a human, he looked no older than one of sixteen summers. But she had learned long ago that looks were generally deceiving. The truth was, even after her probing earlier, she knew almost nothing about him. She wasn’t even sure if he was human. Unlike the others, he had displayed no special skills or talents. His appointment as the team leader was as surprising and ridiculous as his claim to having personally picked the team. He had made no name for himself amongst the ranks of the Order. No one knew him. It was almost a guarantee that every other member had more experience as an Enforcer.

    He didn’t react to her arrival. Didn’t twitch or show any surprise to her suddenly dropping out of the sky. It was almost as if he wasn’t even aware she was there. His dark eyes were unfocused, as if he was somewhere else. She resisted the urge to slip into his mind again. That was what had caused this mess in the first place.

    “Hey,” she said quietly, waving her hand slowly in front of his face.

    Sarek blinked. “Hey,” he replied. His tone was neutral, pleasant even. Not the reaction she was expecting. It caught her off guard.

    “Listen,” she began, “about earlier—”

    “What about it?”

    “I’m sorry.”

    “Don’t be. What’s it like from your end anyway?”
    “What?”

    She watched as his eyes focused seemed to study her briefly.

    “Ah,” he said calmly. “So it’s like that.”

    “What?” she repeated.

    “To screw with someone’s head,” he snapped as his face contorted. “To dig up those buried memories: To show them that pain again and again without mercy or end.” Fury danced in his eyes. There it was – the rage. Like everyone else. Seeing it on his face was strangely soothing. It was normal. And normal she could deal with.

    She opened her mouth to apologize again. But the words would not come.

    A small whispering tell-tale wind brushed her face and only the years of training allowed her to avoid the first blow aimed at her face - but not the second. There was a sudden sharp pain in her abdomen as he appeared in front of her. She didn’t even see him move. Her mind registered her feet leaving the ground and instinctively she took to the skies. She felt a hand grasp her ankle and the world suddenly tilted. A Deadwood trunk appeared in front of her and she swerved desperately, avoiding it by inches.

    Landing, she looked back to see Sarek standing on the other side of the clearing at least thirty feet away. Impossible, she thought. His face was an expressionless mask. She paused for a breath and was awarded by a sharp blow to the back of her knees. Her legs crumpled. But her knees never touched the ground. Airborne and ascending quickly, she aimed to clear the tree lines as she searched downwards for Sarek. He wasn’t anywhere to be found.

    The skies darkened and she glanced up to see the shadowy form of Sarek dropping down on her, knocking her to the ground. She saw the blur of a fist then darkness and stars.


    Her hands went to her face, healing spell ready. But she stopped herself.

    There was a moment of silence before he spoke. “Really made me work for that hit didn’t you. But it was what you expected right?”

    She opened her eyes to see an extended hand. Sarek was smiling. The anger was gone from his eyes.

    “Look,” he said earnestly. “If I held a grudge for every slight, I would be leaving behind a trail of corpses. Let the past sit where it belongs. I would rather we be friends than just mere allies.” Lilith stared at him in disbelief.

    “Besides,” he continued, “I have nothing to hide from you. If we’re going to work together, I need you to trust me.”

    Slowly, her hands left her bruised face unhealed and grasped his. She would let time heal it. It would be her way of apology. She replayed their rather one sided fight in her head. Then it hit her.

    “How did you do that?”

    “Do what?” he said innocently.

    “I know you can’t fly.”

    “Is that so?”

    “Well?”

    “Maybe I can climb.”

    “With one arm? Not even a ghoul could climb that fast.”

    His eyes narrowed. “When did you notice?”

    “I suspected it when I probed you. That first blow confirmed it. If you could use your left hand, you wouldn’t have missed.”

    “Maybe you’re faster than you give yourself credit for.”

    “No. And I don’t think you’re fast at all.”

    “Worked it out have you?” he asked quietly.

    “You can’t teleport,” she stated, crossing off the remaining options.

    He smiled grimly. “That’s right.”

    Her eyes widened. There was only one explanation left. “So you’re one of them?”

    “Close enough,” he shrugged. “Mind keeping it quiet from the others for a bit?”

    “Why? I thought you wanted to build a team that trusted each other.”

    “I don’t want them to follow me because of what I am, but because of who I am.”

    She thought for a moment before agreeing. It made strange sense. But Sarek had clearly thought it through. Her mind reeled at the implications of this revelation.

    “So can you answer my question now?”

    “Huh?”

    “What’s it like from your end?”

    “Everyone is different,” she said, “For you; it is a small cottage in the mountains. After I slip in, I can open the doors. I need only to look inside.”

    “How long do you have?” She knew what he was really asking. How long had she been there till he noticed.

    “I have until the mind turns against the intrusion, it done subconsciously at first. Even the weakest mind can detect an intrusion almost immediately. If I can escape shortly after, they will probably never know I was there. The only exception is when one is asleep.”

    “Turns?”

    “The reality wavers. Impossible creatures attack from thin air. Walls appear from nowhere and traps are set in areas you have been before. The stronger the mind, the harder it is to escape. One could become trapped forever.”

    “When do they know?”

    “The mind will search, and eventually our eyes will meet,” she answered, “Then they know.” Her voice was a whisper, “They know that you know: Their most fervent desires; their darkest secrets. And they are forced to confront the ugliness buried deep within.”

    “Always?”

    “Sometimes consciously, usually not. Not everyone is fully aware of what their mind does or can do.”

    “Then what?”

    “Then comes the fear. It lights up their face. It shows in their eyes – if only for a second.”

    “Always?”

    “Yes.”

    “Even me?” The tone was challenging, but uncertain.

    She met his gaze. “Even you,” she said firmly.

    “And you?”

    She looked away. “So I am told.”

    “Tell me more about the cottage,” he said.

    “Like I said, everybody is different,” she replied. “Your cottage sits on the side of the mountains. When I walked in the front door, there was only one room, and it was empty.”

    He raised an eyebrow.

    “There were two sets of stairs, one heading up into the floor above, and one down below.”

    “What does that mean?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “You don’t?” He sounded amused.

    “Everyone is different,” she ignored his tone. “But In the case of a building, usually the secrets or darker memories are found buried below.”

    “I assume you went straight for the good stuff.”

    “I did,” she smiled weakly. “The stairs ended at the entrance of a catacomb.”

    “Oh? Did you get lost?”

    “No. But you flooded it. That was as far as I got. You were with me at the end.”

    “So I was,” he murmured. “What about the attic?”

    “Attic?”

    “If what you said was true, then the cottage you described would be a safehouse I spent many years in. The upstairs was an attic used to store…relics.”

    “I don’t know, but as the darker secrets are buried, treasured memories are stored above.”

    “Treasured memories?”

    “Things from your childhood you only think you have forgotten perhaps? The mind forgets nothing.”

    “Is that so?”

    “Yes.”

    “I see. Can you show me?”

    “The attic?”

    “Yes.”

    “Of course I can,” she smiled, “I’m the best at what I do. But you already knew that didn’t you?”
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