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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England

    Short Story Contest 115: Underground - Submission & Details Thread

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, May 14, 2012.

    Short Story Contest 115
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Underground"

    This contest is open to all 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.

    Themes: "Underground" (courtesy of member TheFictionalMan). Any interpretation is valid. Entries do not have to follow the themes explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.
    Wordlimit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Monday 28th May 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.

    The next contest will be themed "Happy Ending" (courtesy of Gannon). Be free to prepare an entry in advance for this contest, but do not submit your entry until instructed to do so.

    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.

    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. Agatha Christie

    Agatha Christie Contributing Member

    Jan 19, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Alice's spoilt shopping day

    Short story challenge: Underground

    ALICE'S SPOILT SHOPPING DAY (1,283 words. UK spellings/speech marks)

    As the London underground train entered the black tunnel, Chris caught sight of his reflection in the glass opposite. A quick glimpse, between the moving heads, confirmed that he looked as weary as he felt.

    After hours of turmoil, the strain showed. He held his palms over his eyes, wanting respite from the irritating white light overhead; but then released them to cover his mouth, as a gaping yawn emerged. He could just feel the stubble on his chin. It reminded him that many hours had elapsed since he was last home. His mouth felt parched, too, after hitting the bottle just hours before.

    Conscious of stares from the other passengers, he avoided their gaze. They were discreet stares: sometimes occasional glances, other times just raised eyes. But they told him that people noticed his dishevelled appearance. He wondered whether they also noticed the blood stains on his grey shirt? He pulled his cloth jacket together, grabbing at the lapels, and kept his eyes down.

    He must have nodded off for a minute or two as, suddenly, he was shaken awake. The train pulled up abruptly at the station. The starers pushed and shoved to get out of the carriage. Then a new quota piled in and the doors shut. They were off again.

    Chris sized up the new intake: smartly suited city types; women in high heels; guys in jeans and leather jackets. Some managed to find a seat. Others stood up, hanging on to the straps dangling from the roof of the carriage. The train gave a strange whining noise and a shudder as it started on the next leg of its journey. Apart from this, there was little else to hear: occasional muffled conversation from further along the row of silent, swaying bodies, but nothing that could be understood.

    Then something dropped by his right foot.

    'Ooh, sorry.' A young woman, who sat next to him, bent down and picked up a magazine that had escaped from her capacious handbag.

    'No problem.' answered Chris.

    Utilising his peripheral vision he could see her shapely calves and black high heeled shoes. As she crossed her legs, he glimpsed her silky stockinged thigh. He gave a stealthy glance to his right to get a better look at her face but she was reading her magazine, and her mid brown hair hung loosely over her face as she looked down.

    Without any warning she turned to him:

    'D'you know what the next station is?'

    Chris could see now that she was in her thirties, blue eyes, fair complexion. Her dark red lipstick caught his eye. It reminded him of the red blood that stained his shirt.

    ' forgot to look when we stopped before.' He was in no mood to indulge in idle chatter.

    'Oh, goodness! I've got to get off at Chester Road. Hope I haven't missed it.'

    'Chester Road? I'm getting off there,' said Chris. 'At least, I think I am.' he added meekly.

    'Don't you know where you're getting off?' the woman asked.

    Chris felt himself getting drawn into a conversation he did not want.

    'Well that's where I normally get off. But I may go on and get off further down the line today.'

    'I have to get off at Chester Road,' said the woman. 'I've arranged to visit someone I haven't seen for ages.'

    'Oh, right.'

    '..A girl friend from university. We're supposed to spend the day shopping.'

    There was silence again. The woman returned to her magazine. Chris just looked blankly ahead. Then:

    'D'you know, it must be about ten years since I saw her. She got married but I couldn't get to the wedding. It was only a small affair. But we live a long way from each other.' Then she hesitated and looked thoughtful. 'Uhm..hope you don't mind me saying, but you look as though you haven't slept for days.'

    Chris bit his lips nervously and tightened his grip on the jacket lapels.

    'Well,you're right actually. I've been out on the tiles.'

    He ran his right hand through his dark brown hair, wondering whether he should have said anything.

    'By the way, my name's Alice, what's yours?'


    The tube lurched first this way, and then that, as it negotiated the bends. Passengers held on to their seats and strap-hangers braced themselves as the carriage swayed. Without warning, there was a jolt and Alice was pushed hard against Chris's shoulder.

    'Sorry,' she said.

    Chris's jacket fell open revealing his stained grey shirt.

    Looks like you've done something nasty there,' said Alice, screwing up her eyes to get a better look.

    'Err....yes...uhm.. shaving.'

    The underground train screeched to a halt at the next station. Once again there was a mass exodus followed by a mass influx. Alice and Chris remained seated.

    'I've come down from Manchester. I went into London yesterday to have a look around and stayed at the Albert hotel. That way I could get an early morning start. Have you ever been to Manchester?' asked Alice.

    'No, never.'

    Chris rubbed his eyes again. Then he let his head drop onto his chest. He was overcome by tiredness and desperately needed sleep. He decided he would have to get out at Chester Road, return home and face the music. There was no other way.

    'I've decided to get out at Chester Road.' he said. 'I think it's the next one.'

    As the train came to a halt, they both got up and walked out the carriage, away from the bright white lights and into the bright sunlight. Chris shielded his eyes as they left the station.

    'Which way are you going?' asked Alice.

    'Just up there.' He pointed towards the high street. 'What road are you looking for?'

    Alice fumbled in her bag and brought out a scrappy piece of paper.

    'Uhm....Victoria Street.'

    'That's where I'm going.' he said.

    They walked together past a string of shops, down side roads until they found themselves in Victoria Street.

    'Well, I suppose it's cheerio now. Hope you enjoy your day,' said Chris.

    'Yes, thanks,' replied Alice. 'Hope you get some sleep.' They walked on a few yards until Chris
    turned again to Alice.

    'Well, this is where I disappear now.'

    Alice looked at her scrappy piece of paper. 'Where's number fifty-three?'

    'Number fifty-three?' Chris was puzzled. 'This is number fifty-three!'

    'Really! Does Lisa....Lisa Crabtree live here?'

    'Yes,' he said thoughtlessly. I'm Chris Crabtree.'

    The astonishment on their faces was clear, but there was little time to say much more.

    Within seconds, two burly men waving ID cards approached Chris. Then, out of nowhere, a cavalcade of police cars, with sirens whining, screeched round the corner and stopped abruptly outside number fifty-three.

    'Christopher Crabtree?' asked one of the burly men.

    'Yes.' said Chris, resigned to his fate.

    'We would like you to accompany us to the station for questioning in connection with the murder of your wife, Lisa Crabtree.'

    Chris was silent. He didn't bat an eyelid or move a muscle.

    'It was a neighbour, Mr. Crabtree, who raised the alarm,' explained the plain clothes officer. 'She heard you two rowing last night. Terrible it was, she said. So she went round. Luckily the back door was open. When she went in she found Mrs. Crabtree on the floor, dead from a blow to the head. Nasty business, Mr. Crabtree, nasty business.'

    One of the men took Chris's arm and led him to the police car. As they walked away, he turned to dumbstruck Alice.

    'I've spoilt your shopping day, haven't I? Sorry Alice. You'd probably best make your way back to the underground.'
  3. Skodt

    Skodt Member

    Jul 29, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Underground Circus(850 words)

    The city was always fun for Mitchel. He loved the large skyscrapers, loved the smell of corner hot dogs, and mostly he loved the entertainment. Not the run of the mill boat rides on the river. Not the plays and the stage actors. No what Mitchel loved was the underground part of the city. A place where not many knew the entrance, but once you found it you were family for life.

    The first time Mitchel was introduced to the back harbor hole in the ground he was thirteen years old. That was twelve, maybe thirteen hundred years ago. It’s hard to remember when your life becomes so meshed together. Mitchel’s best friend was Carmen Douglas. Carmen was just over two thousand years old. He was the runner of the underground circus. The circus some called life, like Mitchel. Carmen told Mitchel the first day he met him that if he wanted to live forever then he had to perform. Mitchel thought at first of the lights of Hollywood, but Carmen wasn’t talking about a figment of Mitchel living forever. He meant the whole entire body and soul living forever. He also wasn’t talking about the stage and movies. Carmen meant the circus and Mitchel to him meant another act in his life.

    At first Mitchel wasn’t very good at any of the tricks and plays that went into performing in a circus. Then he realized that it wasn’t about what you knew, but about what the people thought you knew. Mitchel quickly learned that hundreds of people were used to put on the circus, yet only the ones who performed attained immortality. Mitchel was given his first job as a tent set up man. This didn’t gain him life, but gained him a spot on the staff. He quickly made friends with the main acts. A man named Horgea, or half man. Horgea had been working in the circus for seven hundred years and he wasn’t all human anymore. Horgea was half man half circus lion. He had started out as just a regular lion tamer, but he quickly tired of the act and thought to spruce it up. Since Horgea couldn’t die he underwent a risky operation to put his top half on the body of a lion. His act boomed in popularity and when Horgea jumps through a flaming hoop the crowd goes wild.

    The second main act was an elephant trainer whom lengthened his arms making them effectively as long as an elephant’s trunk. His act consisted of a fight as if the trunks of elephants and his arms were swords. Mitchel longed to be out there with all of his friends. Yet it was over twenty years before he got his first act in the circus. An act Carmen told him would be his big shot. If he failed he would be a set-up man forever. Forever wasn’t very long in average human years, not compared to everlasting life of the performers.

    Mitchel stepped out from the curtains he honked his nose and cartwheeled across the circus circle. The crowd didn’t laugh, they didn’t clap, and they didn’t care. Mitchel danced, he made balloon animals, and he tried to tell a funny joke.

    “What is black, and white, and red all over? A newspaper!”

    No one laughed. His chance at everlasting life was running short. Mitchel did something crazy. He ran to the side of the stage. He knew his idea was a long shot. It hadn’t been done in hundreds of years. He wasn’t immortal like the others. He hoped the crowd would appreciate this. He grabbed the cannon and pulled it into the middle of the circle. He lit the wick and jumped in. He waited for the boom. And waited. And waited! Nothing not a sound. Mitchel got out and looked the fuse stopped burning he was confused he scratched his head. He went to the front of the cannon and lit the fuse again. Then again scurried inside. The crowd started clapping, but he didn’t know why. He readied himself for the boom again. He waited! And waited! Nothing again. Mitchel got out and the crowd went wild. Mitchel knew his time was up. He took his bow and walked to the back of the stage. He was ready to be told to get ready to put up the tents after the show. He knew life was out of his grasp. That was twelve or thirteen hundred years ago. From that day till now Mitchel was known as the human cannon ball. Mitchel didn’t realize that the cannon had a magic. A kind of Magic that was only activated once in a thousand years, and Mitchel just happened to the lucky man. Every time Mitchel lit the wick of the cannon it shot little golden bars into the crowd’s hands. Mitchel never noticed the first night because of how nervous he had been. But now Mitchel realized every night. That is how he had that night taken the circus from the circus of life, to the circus of life a wealth.
  4. indy5live

    indy5live Active Member

    May 15, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Title: Impassable Barrier (1,613 Words)

    "What is this place?" Chris questions in his own mind.

    "It's been called many names, I refer to it as the tunnel," a voice echoes throughout the vast space of whiteness, sending Chris's head spinning in all directions in search of the person it came from. "A wormhole if you will, between your world and mine."

    "What...where..." Chris thinks to himself as he stands to his feet and tries to collect his thoughts. "Who said that?" He finally decides to ask aloud.

    Speckles of spectral light begin to collaborate in front of Chris's eyes, materializing together into a transparent figure that resembles himself. "I heard your thoughts didn't I? I am your unconscious," answers the fragmented figure that is now transforming into the appearance of Chris's mother.

    Chris walks towards the figure that is just a few feet in front of him, extending his hand out and attempting to touch it. His hand streaks through the figure like fingers raking through fine sand on an exotic beach, feeling the texture of a tingle as he tries to clamp his hand around the mysterious material. "This has to be a dream," Chris thinks to himself.

    The figure laughs in his mother's voice then dissolves like dust in the wind, blowing all around Chris's body. Chris closes his eyes impulsively as a reaction to the spectral light flying at his face. When he opens his eyes, he's standing on the ledge of a mile high cliff. Chris lungs backwards away from the edge, falling down on the red dirt of the canyon. The figure rematerializes as an eagle, flying around Chris's head, laughing even harder now, before asking, "Figured it out yet?"

    Getting up on his knees, Chris crawls over to the ledge and leans his head over it, seeing an ocean of mercury crashing waves against the cliff, disrupting its reflective nature but creating drops of liquid that appear like a rainbow of oil on water. Chris answers the eagle aloud, "This is a dream?"

    A huge wave barrels over Chris and he's knocked back into a violent tumble. When he finally stops flipping, he finds himself floating in space. His drifting body eventually lands into a theater chair, leaning back and looking at the universe inside of a planetarium. The dome's roof begins to project Chris's memories, like random television screens hovering in space; he sees himself burning his finger on a liter and dropping it on his sister, he sees his father dragging him out of the movie theater, he sees himself at the zoo with his mother in the amphibian exhibit, he see himself sitting on the couch in the doctor's office telling his story. As the images continue the voice begins to speak again, "The unreachable heavens in space verses the tangible reality of earth. A human's creativity and imagination verses the physical world bound by rules and science. A sporadic dream verses the awareness of a conscious person. Our world's have co-existed sense the beginning of the world itself, just divided by an impassable barrier."

    "Impassable barrier?" Chris thinks to himself as his mind recalls hitting an invisible wall when tried to return to his body. "So I'm trapped here, in my unconscious?" Chris eventually says to the spectral figure that is now sitting next to him in the planetarium in the appearance of a college student that Chris only recognizes as the body he possessed for nine months.

    "Not just your unconsciousness but the entire unconsciousness of mankind. When you wake up in the morning you don't wake up to a world that's solely yours do you?" The figure ask. "No, you wake up into a world you're just a part of; sharing it with many other humans, animals and plants. This world is pretty much the same in that regard. Everyone's unconscious spirit passes through this tunnel as they connect to the dream world or as they are returning to wakefulness."

    At that moment all the stars projected on the dome of the planetarium begin shooting in left and right directions, like a freeway at night with cars speeding in opposite directions. As the white dots jet across the darkness, Chris begins to walk through the space, physically come in contact with people's unconsciousness as they enter or exit the tunnel; a teenage girl is racing off to meet with a boy in her class that she has a crush on, a college guy is rushing by to fight off zombies, an elderly man hears an alarm clock and is on the verge of waking up. The more Chris walks the more the space around him starts sounding like a large cafeteria with hundreds of people trying to talk at once; laugher, crying, screaming, yelling, singing, pouting. Gradually the noise gets louder and louder until it's one constant ringing noise. Chris takes his hands and covers his ears and shuts his eyes tightly, returning him back to the endless white space. Chris opens his eyes and drops his hands to his side, seeing the spectral form of himself standing in front of him. "Why am I here?" Chris finally ask.

    The spectral image of Chris glides towards him and unites the two of them together, speaking in Chris's head, "We've trapped ourselves here. When someone dreams they bring with them part of their conscious self, that's why dreams relate so much to the things going on around them, but when you dreamed, you consciously desired nothing more than to live a normal life. So instead of me passing into the dream world I would connect myself to an awakening spirit. You saw what they saw. You moved as they moved."

    Replying to himself in his own head, "So the college student I've possessed for nine months, you connected me to his unconscious when waking up? I felt like I was controlling him, that I was him, but it was all a dream?"

    Switching minds he answers his own question, "No, it wasn't a dream, at least not for him. When we connected to him in the tunnel we invaded on his personal life. Like I said, we saw what he saw, felt what he felt, moved as he moved. But we were like a virus in his mind. The pull you felt before waking up here was coming from his unconsciousness trying to disconnect us from his mind. Black hole. Vacuum. Void. We eventually lost the fight and got knocked back into this tunnel."

    "How is that even possible?" conscious Chris asks his unconscious, wondering how any of this is possible and when it is he's going to wake up.

    In the all white area, solid white animated figures start appearing and moving about as Chris's unconsciousness explains, "In your world people cross paths all the time, if you realize it or not. Even going through your normal day you probably come in direct contact with hundreds of people; co-workers, family, people in traffic, at the store, just passing by. And then there are the people you come in contact indirectly. You might not know who the cafeteria person responsible for filling the buffet, you might not have even seen this person, but you know they exist. Likewise, the food in the cafeteria, you might not know everyone responsible for getting it there but you know someone had to farm the vegetables, process the meat, package it in a warehouse somewhere and deliver it to the cafeteria. In this way everyone in your world is connected."

    The animated figures that were demonstrating his unconscious's explanation began to sink into the floor and spectral figures take their place as Chris's unconsciousness continues to explain, "In the unconscious world, everyone is also connected, either directly or indirectly. Directly is pretty self-explanatory, these are the people you consciously know or knew or meet in your world and they make an appearance in the dream world. Family, friends, teachers, doctors; people you've shared a personal relationship with at some point in your life, either dead or alive. But indirectly, people unconsciously share similar dreams, passions, fears, ambitions, beliefs, as well as past and future experiences. You can very well share an intimate dream with a complete stranger that really exist in your world."

    Chris thinks about this for only a second before demanding, "And how am I suppose to get back to my world? This world, this place, this tunnel as you called it, it's not my reality, it's yours. I need to wake up!"

    "We can't." Chris's unconscious replies as he once again reconnects with Chris's body.

    "What do mean, 'We can't'?" Chris ask, looking around at his environment, but he no longer needed an answer. At that moment, the vastness of whiteness collided with the void of blackness and he was standing between two distinct destinations; heaven and hell. This tunnel might be the in-between world for sleeping humans' unconscious to go play, but I'm not unconscious, now am I?

    "Nope, you sure aren't. I'll see you later, these place's are one place I don't get to go, but I'll say hello to your family for you when they go to bed at night!" And like that, Chris's conscious is left alone, in this tunnel, between the pearly gates of heaven and the burning depths of hell. What remains of himself will be judge by each authority and only then will his fate be decides. Good or bad? Honest or deceit? Nobel or selfish?

    Darkness overcomes Chris one last time and a second later he wakes up in a hospital bed.

    "Doctors quick, I think Chris is waking up from his coma!" exclaims Chris's mom. "Welcome back son!"
  5. Pens

    Pens Member

    Apr 27, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Warning: Some adult language and slight horror.

    (1726 words)

    “He knows about us, Wray. He knows what we’ve been doin’,” said Marlene.

    “Who does? Earl? How? How do you know? How can you be so sure?” Wray stuttered.

    “Last night when I came home I heard him from outside, hollerin’ things like, ‘that no-good son-of-a’ and ‘that two-timin’ such-and-such. When he started quietin’ down, I put my ear to the door, and I heard him say he was gonna get you, Wray. He said your name, for cryin’ out loud! I waited until I didn’t hear him no more before I went inside. He wouldn’t hardly look at me,” said Marlene.

    “Well, you’ve got to say somethin’ to ‘im, Marlene. The man’ll kill me!” Wray shrieked.

    “Look, since we know what he’s up to. We just gotta get him first is all. Then me and you can be together, and we’ll be rid of that crazy bastard, too,” said Marlene.

    “But I don’t wanna get rid of Earl,” said Wray.

    “Well he’s gonna get rid of you, dummy. You wanna die, Wray? He’ll prob’ly kill me after, too. You want him to kill me, Wray?”

    “No, course not,” Wray said, shaking his head. “…Course not.”

    “Tomorrow, if he asks you to come on over to the house, you just do it,” said Marlene.

    “Tomorrow? How do you know if he’ll…” Wray started to ask.

    “Just listen, would ya?!” Marlene interrupted, “If he asks you to come by the house after work, you just come on over. Preten’ ain’t nothin’ the matter, and ya’ll just best friends as ya’ll ever been. He said he was gonna take you out to the woods and shoot ya…” said Marlene.

    “You heard ‘im say that?! You heard ‘im say he was gonna do that to me? ” asked Wray, unbelieving.

    “Yes, now will you stop interruptin’? I swear you can be such a damn pain in the ass... Look, I’mma follow you boys out there, real quiet like - ya’ll ain’t even gonna know I’m there. I’mma shoot that son-of-a-bitch and bury him out there before he can lay a finger on you, Wray,” said Marlene.

    “Oh, I don’t know, Marlene… I don’t like this at all.”

    “Quit bein’ so yella’! What’re you a coward, Wray?” asked Marlene. She paused, took a breath, and softened her tone, “Just think how happy we’re gonna be when it’s all done and over with. Just me and you, Wray.”

    Wray was neither a brave nor a bright man, but he mustered the courage to nod in agreement. Inside, though, he was very afraid.

    The following afternoon as the day’s work drew to a close, the two men cleaned up the job-site, stowing all their equipment in tool boxes and packing up for the day. Wray hadn’t been able to speak much all day.

    “Wray, you busy tonight?" asked Earl. "Whuddya’ say to a few beers on me, my place?”

    “Um…” Wray’s stomach knotted. He considered saying he had plans, but with the plan in mind he said reluctantly, “No, I'm not busy.”

    “Then hop in,” said Earl coldly as he climbed into the driver's seat and slammed his door.

    Wray breathed and nodded to the sky. The men loaded into Earl’s creaky pickup truck and rode together down the bumpy dirt road that led to his house deep in the country, uncomfortably deep for Wray.

    Sitting in silence on the couch in the living room, the two men drank with unquenchable thirst, each man for his own reason. No murderer under normal circumstances, Earl drank to become one. Wray drank, unsuccessfully, to calm his nerves, having no faith in Marlene’s plan. Earl left the couch to use the restroom and returned with two more beers and a full bottle of whiskey.

    “Wray, I gotta talk to you ‘bout somethin’,” said Earl, finally breaking the silence. He handed a beer to Wray, kept a beer for himself, and placed the bottle of whiskey on the floor.

    Wray tried to steady his voice. “Sure, what’s up?”

    When Earl turned to speak, his eyes stared through Wray's, miles beyond.

    “Look, I don’t want you sayin’ nothin’ to nobody, though,” said Earl, his voice eerily monotonous. “It’s embarrassin’, and I’m not even real sure ‘bout it anyhow.”

    “Alright, Earl,” said Wray, “You know me, man. I ain’t got nobody to tell, even!” He was trying to joke, but in truth he really didn’t have anyone he could tell.

    Earl didn’t laugh. He picked up the bottle of whiskey and threw back several long gulps, and then handed the bottle to Wray.

    “I think Marlene’s sleepin’ aroun’ on me,” Earl said, bluntly.

    Wray took several long pulls of liquor then set it on the floor. As he set the bottle down Earl grabbed it and took a couple more huge swigs. Wray could barely keep from shaking. Despite the cool night air circulating from the open windows into the room, he was beginning to sweat profusely.

    “No way, Earl. No way, man. What’s even got you thinkin’ somethin’ like that?” asked Wray. He saw Earl's face twitch.

    “I think it’s somebody from work,” Earl said, ignoring the question.
    “From work?” said Wray who was fighting back tears. His heart felt ready to pop.

    “Yeah. I’m tellin’ you, this guy knows my schedule too good. It’s gotta be somebody from the site,” said Earl. “It’s gotta be.”

    “Awe, come on, Earl. That don’t mean nothin’. What’s even got you thinkin’ this mess to start with?” Wray asked again. He drank once more from the bottle which was now nearly empty.

    “I’mma find out who it is, Wray,” said Earl, “Will you help me?”

    “If you’re sure…” Wray started to say.

    “I’mma kill that motherfucker, Wray.”

    Earl’s eyes were unfocused and Wray could see that his friend had transformed into something new, something guiltless and detached. He wanted to convince Earl that his concerns were misplaced, but as he started to speak Earl heaved himself from the couch and stumbled out of the room. He bumped around in the hallway like a pinball, and a picture hanging in the hall crashed to the floor.

    In his moment alone, Wray panicked. He decided if he waited any longer, he was going to die. He had to get the hell out of the house then leave town forever. He didn't care about Marlene anymore, or her terrible plan.

    He made his move. He rose to his feet slowly, struggling against gravity and too many drinks. He took one step when his cheek met flush with the double-barrel of a shotgun. A barely recognizable wild-man stood at the other end of the weapon.
    “You’re the kinda’ man… the world… can do without,” Earl managed.

    Wray almost fainted as his fear became reality. “The hell you doin’, Earl? What’re you talkin’ ‘bout brother?”

    “You know goddamn well what I’m talkin’ about,” Earl slurred, “and you sure as hell ain’t my brother! Turn your ass aroun’ and walk.”

    “Earl, please, why you doin’ this?” asked Wray.

    Earl struck Wray in the face with the butt of his weapon, shattering his nose. “Outside! Now!” Earl screamed.

    The two men exiting the house walked one behind the other down the steps of the back porch and out into the yard. Wray hesitated.

    Go!” said Earl. He belched beer and whiskey into his mouth and spit it on the ground. “I don’t like surprises. Any surprises, an’ you die like a dog.”

    Please, Earl!”

    Go!” he screamed again, slamming the butt of the shotgun into the back of Wray’s head, splitting open his scalp. Earl was shaking in a drunken rage.

    Wray complied. He stumbled aimlessly, knowing only which direction he was not allowed to go. The pair crossed the backyard and entered the woods at the edge of the property. They continued for several minutes before Earl commanded Wray to stop. They arrived at a clearing in the trees where speared into the earth was a shovel.

    “Start diggin’,” Earl said, shoving Wray between the shoulder blades with the shotgun. “Say one word, Wray… Say one word, and you’ll rot grave-less like an animal.”

    Losing control, Wray vomited. His terror was becoming overwhelming, having seen no signs of Marlene. He prayed she had been following unnoticed. Silently, he began to dig.

    Earl sat perched above his former friend, keeping the barrel trained on him the entire time, motionless. Hours passed and the sun began to rise before a hole of sufficient size had been dug, the depth of which Wray could no longer escape unassisted.
    “Lay your ass down, home-wrecker,” ordered Earl at last.

    Wray urinated on himself. He lay down in his grave, speechless and exhausted. Wray waited for his savior in vain as Earl began scooping and replacing the soil. Wray’s body had been covered considerably he began to confess.

    “Earl, I’m sorry! I’m sorry damn it! Listen to me, please! Marlene's gonna kill you! Please, Earl, don’t do this, brother! Marlene's gonna kill you! I don’t want nothin’ to do with that harlot! She’s an evil woman, Earl! This is all her doin’!” said Wray.

    “Shut your goddamn mouth, coward! She told me all abou…”

    There was a loud crack as Earl’s stomach exploded. His bowels sprayed into the hole and covered Wray. He toppled into the grave and crushed Wray, breaking one of his ribs. His already troubled breathing became desperate.

    “Marlene?” Wray tried to yell, but he could hardly make a sound.

    “’I don’t want nothin’ to do with that harlot!’ huh, Wray? You think I’m an ‘evil woman’, do ya?” came Marlene’s voice, sounding wicked and harsh. “You got no idea, baby.”

    Marlene stepped into Wray’s vision and leaned on the hunting-rifle like a cane.

    “Woo-hoo!” she cheered, “Some fine huntin’ this mornin'!”

    Wray cursed the woman, whispering and suffocating now, “You… bit…”

    Marlene threw her head back and laughed until she was breathless. Setting the rifle down, she inhaled the crisp morning air through her nose and then exhaled from her mouth with a loud, “Ahh…” She popped her neck to each side, stretched her limbs, and then grabbed the shovel.

    She sang as she labored, “Two birds, one stone, both deep undergroun’ now! Got each other, won’t be alone, ‘cause they’re both deep undergroun’ now!”

    Wray heard her laugh, and then his face vanished beneath the earth.
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