1. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Short Story Contest 132: an item of great power- Submissions and Details Thread

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Lemex, Mar 31, 2013.

    Short Story Contest 132
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "an item of great power"


    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.

    Themes: "an item of great power" (courtesy of creative_nothings). 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: Sunday 14th of April 2013 10:00 am (us pacific time)

    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.

    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.

    A story entered into the contest may not be one that has been posted anywhere on the internet, not just anywhere on this site. A story be posted for review until voting has closed. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permissable. Members may also not repost a story anywhere, or bring attention to the contest in any way, until the voting has closed

    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. Dagolas
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    Dagolas Banned

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    The Box
    [778 words]​

    Henry circled around the large pedestal in the middle of the room. He was still unsure to open the box or leave the room. He kept nervously glancing at the little box on the pedestal, with the note written next to it. "Open the box, or leave, the question of what it contains forever haunting you.". George seized Henry's shoulder, bringing him to a halt. "Listen, Henry. Don't be an idiot, this is obviously a trap."
    Henry pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his sweaty brow. "I know... I know George. But, what if it did drive us insane? I'll open the box."
    "Fine, fine! Be a twerp! I'm out of here." George leaved the room, leaving Henry on his own. The latter contemplated the box for a long time. It was more of a small chest, of a dark wood and lined with rusty silver. It had a keyhole, but it had obviously been destroyed. he took a deep breath and opened the box with a slow, shaking hand. Nothing. There was nothing. He started laughing of relief, but also crying of fear at what might have been in the box. He turned around and left the pyramid which he and his colleague had been exploring.
    A few months later, Henry was hunting in the woods on his own, as he liked to do in spring. He lay down in the grass, the fresh smell of wet grass tingling his nostrils. He inserted the bullets into his sniping rifle and pointed it at the stag he had been following. He steadied his grip and stopped breathing. A loud bang echoed through the woods as the stag fell to the ground. He ran to the animal. It was shivering, as the blood gushed out of it's wound. He reloaded his gun and put it out of it's misery. He smiled, he hadn't had much fun since he had opened the box. He started coughing, as he did every few minutes. He had developed a very bad cough in the past few weeks. He started wiping the blood off his hands. Suddenly, he let out a gasp of horror as he did this. Blood? "I haven't even touched the damn thing!" he muttered to himself. As he said this, blood splattered out of his mouth onto his shirt. An intense pain seared through his lungs, as he staggered in the direction of his car, a few miles away. His knees buckled over as he collapsed to the floor. He desperately reached for his phone in his pocket, to find that his arm was paralysed. Tears rolled down his face as he reached for the pocket with his other hand, causing him immense pain. He seized the phone and dialled 999, in a horse whisper muttering "save me" and fainted.
    They shrugged this off as a prank call, but soon after another hunter found him and rushed him to the nearest hospital.
    George stood by Henry's deathbed as the heart beat monitor started to slow. Henry held George's hand and brought him to his face, and croaked "I'm sorry". His grip faltered and his arm fell, dangling next to the bed. He had died.
    George never really got over his death. and pondered the meaning of his last words. What was he sorry about? Opening the box? Nothing really came of it.
    One day, as he sat by the fireplace reading a book, the doorbell rang and rose to open it. A short, fat man was at the door. The only intriguing thing about the man was the black marks on his face, and the small box in his hand. The wooden box. The man collapsed on the doorway, and George stooped down and felt his pulse. Dead. George panicked, he couldn't explain this to any police officers. He grabbed the box. "Henry died because of this box, and this guy too." he thought. He ran to the fireplace and opened the box. There was nothing. Absolutely nothing. Thinking he had been tricked, he threw it into the flames. He smirked and disposed of the body in a bin. He picked up his book and continued, deciding to forget this incident. He let out a yell as he saw the hands holding the book. Large black spots had formed on his hands, and blood was pouring out of his nose. He realised that there was something in the box. The room swirled around him as indistinct voices echoed in his head. His knees buckled and fell to the floor, as he heard the words he had seen in the box. "There is no greater power, evil, or darker virtue than curiosity."
     
  3. Reed R Gale
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    Reed R Gale Member

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    More of an exercise than a story. But I suppose if I made it for this purpose, I should post it. Oh yes, and I will not be disappointed if copy-pasted without formatting. It's just a habit I have with forums.

    Headphones
    By Reed R Gale
    [Word count: 670]

    I live in a small town. Always have. Probably always will. But you know, lately things have started to feel a bit off. It’s not a huge thing, but lately I’ve been seeing it more and more.

    “Hey, Tom!”

    No response. Ah, his hair was concealing it. Headphones. I feel like they’re what are making my walks so much more...hollow.

    I’ve been walking around this town for ten years--been at it since I was eight--and it’s only recently I’ve been seeing this trend. It’s not something wrong, but somehow it’s making everything so much more...more...off.

    Sorry, I’m kind of bad with explanations. How about I explain with an example?

    “Hey, Tom!”

    The next day, the same words. Tom walked with me sometimes, and I could recognize the back of his shaggy head any day. But no matter how I screamed, he didn’t respond. So I moved on. He was going a separate direction than I intended, and I wasn’t changing this path for anything.

    I went to the left, following the hill down and walking to the nearby farm. I’m used to seeing Elizabeth working at menial tasks and usually I distract her from their tedium. Usually, she was happy for the reprise. Usually, she’d stop milking the cow or feeding the chickens and come running to me screaming “Jack, Jack!” with that happy look on her face which might have been partly from attraction, partly from distraction.

    But as I shouted to her today, “Heeeey, Lizzie!” there was no response. I squinted hard to see it again. I couldn't see them from this distance, but I could guess. Headphones. With a scowl, I stormed off in another direction.

    I went to the right, following my path into the market. "Sam!"

    "Terry!"

    "Eris!" I ran into three of my friends on separate occasions, and each time, they shrugged me off, oblivious to my words. They were in their own world. I'll admit, I panicked--why was this happening! I’m losing touch with everyone!--and ran a bit faster.

    And then I saw it. I’d seen someone moving into the vacant store a while ago, but it’s not often that my walks make it all the way to the market. Eletronix. I decided that going into the shop would be the best way to give someone a piece of my mind.

    The store was empty. Perfect. I walked in and slammed my hand down on the counter.

    “I’ve got a bone to pick with you!”

    “Huh? What’s up with you, dude?”

    “Don’t you see what you’re doing!” I was pissed. No one was here anymore. I was alone because of this man. Everything was becoming hollow and I needed to nip this problem in the bud.

    “Um...” he looked high. Dazed at least. He looked around. “Can I help you, dude?”

    “Yes, close this place down!”

    “Um...boss-man would be kind of--”

    “I demand to see your manager!” I didn’t know what I was going to do. I just sort of...I acted. That’s when Elizabeth came in. Still, the headphones were in her ears, but once she saw me there, my body language tense, she took the headphones out and spoke up.

    “Jack, what’s wrong?”

    It was probably best she came by at that moment, now that I think about it. “That! That’s wrong!” I pointed at her headphones, which were now dangling from her hand. “I, I...” I calmed down a bit. It was stupid. It was just a piece of technology. Just a little thing. A trinket. A token. “I just need some rest. I’m sorry, sir.”

    “No prob, dude,” he said.

    I went home. What was I doing? I was overreacting. I just...I don’t know. I could have just tapped them on the shoulder...I guess it never really occured to me. I laughed a bit at my narrowmindedness.

    The next day, I went out and bought some headphones and an mp3 player. Grudgingly, I put them on, and go for my next walk.
     
  4. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    The Orb [769 Words]

    "The Orb"
    [769 Words]​


    “I’ll give you twenty bucks for it,” I said as I pulled out my wallet. My wife had been dragging me to these stupid yard sales the entire afternoon. It wasn’t until we stopped at this small, unobtrusive house that something caught my eye.

    Among all the golf clubs and dusty records I had seen a glass orb about the size of a grapefruit. It looked heavy and was held aloft by three bronze dragons. The blue-green orb played with the sunlight. When I was inspecting it, an old man exited the house. He walked very slowly, his wooden cane tapping the pavement. He stopped and stared at me through his thick glasses.

    “You are interested in the orb?” the man said.

    “Like I said, I’ll give you twenty bucks for it.”

    The man ignored the bill in my hand. “My name,” he began, “is Horatio Clemens. I’ve been through three wars, two wives and one very relaxing, um, what do they call it?”

    “Retirement?”

    “Funny farm!” he blurted out, pointing his cane at me. “They said I was crazy. They told me they didn’t exist, that they were a figment of my imagination.”

    I looked around for my wife. She seemed to be busy arguing with someone over a flowery vase. “So…” I said. “I’ll tell ya what, Mr., um…”

    “Clemens.”

    “Yes, Mr. Clemens, right. I’ll give you thirty bucks, and that's my final offer.” He leaned forward on his cane and squinted his eyes, like he was trying to figure out if I was wearing contact lenses.

    “Do you know, this orb is what I used to communicate with them?”

    “I'm sorry, them? Them who?”

    “The Plonians, of course. They used to wake me up in the middle of the night wanting to speak with me.”

    “Listen, I—“

    “Questions. Always with the questions. They asked me about cities, people, history and war. Most especially about war. I would sit and answer their questions for hours.”

    “This thing talks to you?”

    “Oh yes, every night. I couldn’t see them but I could hear them. That is, until about twenty years ago.” His eyes drifted beyond me for a moment.

    “What happened?”

    “Eh?”

    “What happened to them, why did they stop talking?”

    “Oh, I don’t know. They said they were preparing for a long trip, but before they could tell me I was taken to the hospital. When I told them I needed to speak with Plonians again, they sent me to the institution.”

    My wife yelled from the car. “Honey, I’m all set, you ready to go?” Her arms were loaded with various lamps and teapots.

    “Just a minute!” I said. I turned back to Horatio. “So you never heard from them again?”

    “When I finally got home, the orb was dark. They never contacted me again. I figure this thing doesn’t work anymore.”

    I started to get the picture. “Ah I see, did they give you medicine at this institution?”

    “Oh yes, so many pills. My wife, Martha makes sure I still take them every day." He waved at the elderly woman collecting money on the other side of the yard. She ignored him. "Say, do you want the orb? Perhaps they will call again someday.” Horatio picked up the orb and stared at it longingly. He held it up to his ear and shook it one last time before handing it to me. “Here,” he said. "It's yours."

    “Thank you very—“

    “Paul!” My wife screamed at me from the car and beeped the horn. “Let’s go!”

    “Be right there!” I yelled, turning back to Horatio. He was gone. I walked up to woman Horatio had waved at. “Excuse me, ma’am?”

    “Yes?”

    "Are you Martha?"

    "Yes. Can I help you?"

    “Yeah, I was just talking with your husband about this orb and he said I could have it for thirty bucks, but I don’t know where he went so here’s the money.” I held out the bills. She didn’t take them, a puzzled look on her face.

    “I'm afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about. My husband passed away almost twenty years ago and I’ve never seen that orb before, I’m sorry.” She walked away.

    I headed back to the car with the orb in my hands and sat down in the driver’s seat in silence. My wife stared at me.

    “Well,” she said. “I see you finally bought something. Did you get a good deal?”

    I stared at the orb and the mesmerizing swirl of colors. For a moment, I thought I heard the faint sound of static. “Yes, I think I did.”
     
  5. CanadianBoson
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    CanadianBoson Member

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    "A Hose By Any Other Name"
    (1963 words)

    “No, baby, no, you may not go,
    For the dogs are fierce and wild,
    And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
    Aren’t good for a little child.”
    - Dudley Randall, Ballad of Birmingham

    ###

    The garden never seemed real. It felt like it grew out of an Earth held at gunpoint; the trigger would be pulled unless a gentle, curving stream embraced a red-roofed pagoda near the edge of the lawn. Holding bloody Anthuriums hostage if they dared mix with sun-stained Chrysanthemums. Telling which flowers to grow where, how high they could grow and only if you were the right kind of flower. It wasn't how gardens were supposed to be.

    I pushed some knuckles into the rim of my straw hat, then dragged my right hand over my forehead, making sure all the sweat had been taken away. I preferred this over the cowboy hat Bill liked to wear in the late June heat. It had more breathing room, and it felt more natural for a gardener. I took great pride in how I dressed for this duty, and the hat was just the tip of the iceberg. Tight overalls looped over my shoulders, and gave my left hand a hanging place to idly latch onto, while I squeezed the trigger in my right palm. The red gloves I wore were mottled with patches of soil near the end of a long day, turning my hands into big, sweating strawberries. Lastly I wore special flat shoes, keeping the illusion of a garden with its crumbly soil, free of the human toil of Sundays deep in the ground segregating Irises and Peonies.

    The trigger I held in my hand wasn't like the guns you see on TV. It coiled its green, leathery body through the soil, sucking the water from the steel spigot. It hugged the whitewashed shed before coming back to visit me. The sprayer at its other end could be rotated with a gentle wrist turn, manipulating the settings, unlike the hoses we knew as kids. I shivered. Stream, spray, shower, sprinkle and jet. I shivered whenever I thought of 'Jet'.

    The hose isn't the only tool used to hold the garden hostage, just like how the gardener isn't the only person who plants this abomination in the ground. But it is the tool I held in my hand, and it controlled the fate of all the weeds gaining ground on the sprouting Anemones. It didn't rain much around these parts, and everyone with the time and money would have to maintain these gardens without help from Nature. Or hire a gardener to do it for them. Regardless, I sprayed my hose toward the thirsty Snapdragons, narrowly avoiding some weeds nearby that will have to be dug up later.

    A hose is a tool of power, unjustly deciding which flowers bloom and which flowers wither.

    ###

    It was hard to forget the sweltering May heat. The humidity in Alabama approached the unbearable. Even inside the school a lot of us found ways to cool down with our straw hats and fans made of old newspaper. Even the man trying to recruit us was breaking into a wet and wild sweat, gasping about the need for action, our participation in D Day. I was 11.

    My parents were uneasy about King Jr. coming into our town. Pop liked to remind me about why this town was nicknamed Bombingham, then he'd direct my gaze to his shrapnel-laden elbow. He wasn't convinced that the injustice in this city could be resolved with a few nonviolent demonstrations. The man screaming at us thought otherwise, saying that our crusade was a God-given opportunity to make change happen. "Fight for freedom first, then go to school". Blood filled his face. Hands raised up, fueled by his speech, ignited by years of prejudice. I followed along, not entirely sure what it meant to protest at the time. Whether I'd have to make a speech like the kinds King Jr. gave, proclaiming equality and the Emancipation and our delayed justice. My hand signed me up for a downtown crusade.

    The man gave a determined grin and reached over my desk to nudge Jeb to crank the projector. He briefly stood in front of the light, casting a giant shadow on the blackboard behind him. "King says we shall overcome!" he shouted, and the shadow agreed. He gave a quick glance toward the projector screen, stood tall and mighty and moved out of the light. "These are the sit-ins they did in Nashville. Look through the video. Nonviolence. Violence is the tool of oppression. We have to be nonviolent. We have to be brave."

    The video finished, and the stout man at the front moved closer to the front row, passion this time filling his face. "Go downstairs when this class ends. We're gonna teach you all how to be brave. That's what the police are really scared of. Our courage." He glanced at the clock then back at us, making sure all our eyes transfixed on his rouged face and bold statements. "Bring a toothbrush for jail" and he walked out the door in a hurry, possibly to ignite passion in another school. His hand made a peace sign as his body stormed out.

    Shoulders bumped and rubbed against mine as we huddled in the basement. A different man with slightly nicer clothes spoke loudly from the front of the room. He was a leader in our community and knew many of us personally. He pointed his finger at a girl near the front. "Rosie, your Pop's been looking for work for 3 months now, right?" She nodded humbly and looked down, defeated. He changed his timbre as he moved his head up. "A man educated at Miles College, one of the smartest men I know. Could fix any single little gizmo you give him. Out of work. Why? Injustice." He bent down to lean a reassuring hand on her shoulder, then stood back up. His finger pointed in my direction. "James, stand up". I pushed my feet into the ground and did as commanded. "Your Dad almost broke an arm from one of the bombs a couple of years ago. What did they do? Almost fired him from the steel mill." He cleared his throat. "A job he doesn't even get full wages for. You can sit back down, James."

    "Is this gonna help my Pop? The protests, I mean," I asked as the room turned its collective gaze at me like a spotlight. My knees started to buckle. The man at the front took a heavy sigh. "We're gonna try, James. That's why you're here. To protest injustice. The police in this town will try everything to stop us. We want you, everyone here, to learn not to be scared of the dogs, or of the jails." The room looked a little worried. "Don't look terrified. We'll teach you how to be brave", he said. He never mentioned the hoses. I was 11.

    I didn't tell Mum and Pop when I got home I'd be in the protests. I didn't want them to worry or keep me from school. I felt convinced that I needed to stand up against the injustice even if we weren't sure it was gonna work.

    The next day was hotter than before, and my throat was parched as I walked toward Sixteenth Street. The police were already setting up outside the nearby park. We were told to gather here the day before, and we'd later disperse in groups toward the downtown area. Jeb and I were late coming in, so we were located near the front doors. The church boomed with a collection of voices, oscillating up and down in various chants. After a minute one particular chant gained momentum and was sung by every voice in the room: "We're going to walk, walk, walk. Freedom ... freedom ... freedom." The crowd in one fell swoop turned toward the doors and motioned us to reopen them, as the beaming sun lit the church and started our freedom journey. The police were just ahead of us and I wasn't sure how we'd make it to the downtown. They all dressed in blue uniforms, and some held giant black snakes in their hands, others vicious, violent German Shepherds. With the crowd pushing us forward and the cops feeling closer, it was like the walls closed in on us. I didn't want to protest any more, but there was no turning back.

    A reverberating voice like malice incarnate filled the air. "Turn back, or you'll get wet."

    There was no turning back. I was told later the pressure was enough to tear brick from its mortar, but I remember it hurting more than that. The fabric on my shirt became tattered, disintegrated. The hose pushed me back as I fell on the ground, and other protesters fell near me. My skin became purple and scaly like snakeskin, as bruises covered me head to toe. This was injustice, I remember thinking. I'll never forget the face of the cop as he did that to me - cold as the rushing water he hit me with. I was told later that day this was the wave in the movement that would finally release us from oppression. I didn't want to think about water ever again. I was 11.

    A hose is a tool of power, unjustly deciding which people bloom and which people wither.

    ###

    I released my hand from my overalls when I heard voices from the portico. A couple holding hands stared at me from the deck. They were giggling and whispering. They looked like the kind of people that can afford nice cars. I took the bus here. Bill came running toward me, wearing his trademark cowboy hat and holding a large cup in his right hand.

    "What are you doing here James?" He said, catching breath like butterflies. "I asked you to come in early this morning. It's nearly two."

    "The bus doesn't run that early on Sunday. The earliest I could come is 10. Also I needed to reattach the hose - the water was weak. It's much stronger now."

    He took a step closer so the rim of his overly large hat brushed the straw on the border of mine. "Look, James. I'm trying to impress the people over there. They mean big money. I can't have you around here."

    "Why?" I knew why, but I liked hearing it from his lips.

    His cheeks blushed and he turned back to look at the couple, still laughing. His hat brushed mine again as I stared into the wrinkles developing on his forehead. It was a face I'd seen before. "It's because you're black, James. A negro. Some people, a lot of people look down at that." He could have stopped there, but felt the need to continue, and made me angry.

    "You're not the only one suffering from injustice." His mouth crinkled into an uncomfortable smile. "Those people over there are looking down at me just as they are you. It's just society's rules. You have to play by them." A pause filled the air between our locked eyes. "Could you just make yourself scarce, please?"

    "Injustice? No one forced you to hose me down in Birmingham." I felt the grip on my hose tighten. He saw my hand, and Bill's cold look melted and evaporated. He was scared, pleading with his eyes not to drench him. He wasn't brave.

    I dropped the trigger on his feet and walked toward the gate. I left behind the segregated garden, the kind we were banned from as kids. I could never spray Bill - jet him. The hose was a symbol of injustice, and we were taught to be better. We were taught to be brave. I was 11.

    A hose is a tool of power, but injustice is an item of great power.
     
  6. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    Oculus In Infernum
    [966 words]

    “Saisrian, you haven’t seen my Hellglass have you?” I yelled into the basement, where my sister was standing, amongst a load of boxes stacked high.

    “What is a Hellglass Zai” Saisrian responded looking around frantically at the boxes.

    “It looks like a spyglass sis, I really need it” I sighed as she fumbled around then stood up straight to look at me

    “Ooooh, I think dad took it to the antiques place bro, I reckon he thought it was something that was left here” Saisrian responded.

    “You have to be kidding me” I exclaimed, pulling my cell phone out of my pocket and calling dad. “Hey Dad, it’s Zai, you know that spyglass you took, you do realise that’s mine right?” I told him

    “oh Jeeze, sorry son, I didn’t realise, I’ll take it out of the stuff in the box and bring it back home, ok?” dad replied, obviously shocked at what he had done. I sighed and shut off the call and impatiently waited. Realising I hadn’t finished my setup due to the realising my Hellglass had gone missing, I went back to the attic, where I was setting up and placed all but one of the spheres in place. If I placed the last sphere, the hole would open up, and because I didn’t have my Hellglass, it could go horribly wrong for me.
    Some time later my dad arrived home, my Hellglass boxed up in hand, I went and greeted him, at which point he gave me it back, apologising profusely that he had taken it. I didn’t mind, just because I was able to get it back in one piece. I headed back up to the attic, and put the last sphere into place. Opening the hole into hell, I extended the Hellglass and looked down upon the carnage below me. A fiery heat rose up, cloaking me in a black shadow, the Hellglass giving me a change in appearance, similar to the devil himself.
    I laughed as I watched a bunch of new souls to the area got chased round by a Cerberus and a couple of Rottweiler skeletons. I wondered if they were meant to be there or if they had got lost into the area. Knocking an orb and shutting the Hellglass I shut the hole. Unfortunately someone knocked on the door and I jumped, causing my foot to slip into the hole and pulling me in. keeping hold of the Hellglass I went through, wondering where I would end up.

    “Zai, it has been a while since you have been here, why?” the Devil himself asked. I realised I was back at his right hand side, Hellglass on the table in front of me.

    “I do not know boss, I have had other things on my mind, and I've had to maintain my human relations too.” He nodded, understanding my position, I pulled back my hood, a smaller pair of horns grew from my head, my dreaded blond hair hanging round my waist. Sitting back on the chair I pulled up my sleeve and summoned the other Duos to the table. Within minutes everyone sitting up. I adjusted my position and looked at the head.

    “Chief, any change of plan seeing as all us Duos are here” I asked

    “Yes, for a start, please, call me Satan, not chief or boss, remember I was one of you once, and secondly, I decree that all Hellglasses are kept hidden after your near mishap earlier today Zai, I do not want to have to drag you down here personally, and we need to find a new way of getting down here rather than those orbs, they are too dangerous” I nodded in agreement, seeing that everyone else was too.

    “Chief, err, Satan, what about more regular set meetings and more updates from around the world, we can’t contact each other, but if there was a time and place we could meet then we could keep everyone up to date.” I looked towards my right, an Argentinian girl piped up, I nodded.

    “That does sound fair Satan I mean, Penelope and I are the only two who cover the Americas, and we need to keep in contact, and I need to get more lower ranked Duos too, my only junior is up in Canada and that’s impossible, the US is such a huge expanse.” I spoke, Penelope nodded at what I said and a few others muttered saying they needed more junior Duos.

    “fine, get as many junior Duos as you need to cover yourselves, send them here for training, ill arrange everything to get you all moving, oh and Zai, I want to talk to you in private.” Satan spoke and I sat back, watching the other Duos disappear.

    “What is it Satan, why the private chat?” I asked looking at him.

    “you still with that family in the states Zai? You're 21, I think you should fly the nest, you can work freely then, anyway, I need a second, I'm putting your Canadian junior in your position and bumping you up to my junior, new rules state I can choose a junior to take over when I need them too” my jaw dropped and I looked at my spyglass that had darkened in colour.

    “Thank you Satan, I shall go back and get myself out of that house, you have anywhere in mind I should head?” He nodded and conjured up an image of Las Vegas and one of his many houses “right, I shall go there then” I set my spyglass up to take me back, and stepped out of the hole in the attic. Shutting the Hellglass I smile, ear to ear, at the prospect of what was about to happen and knocked out the orbs.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    The Pencil
    ( 991 words )

    Jake grabbed the pencil teetering on his ear and pressed it to a slip of paper torn from his notebook. He glanced up
    to make sure Mz. Big-Butt McGivens wasn’t looking his way but she was too busy marking up the chalk board with algebra.
    Under his pencil a gun took shape. He shaded it. Then in range of the gun barrel, he drew a head with frizzy hair. He whirled
    the pencil point round and round. Lots of frizz. Ha-ha!

    He looked over at Zoe. Chewing his pencil as he studied her. Ugly. Hell, what a dog. His feet stomped repositioning
    and he let his tongue hang out making an I-could-barf-face. Turn and see, bitch. She didn’t, too busy soaking up letters and numbers. Ri-vet-ing! Everything made sense to that whale. Another A in the making for Zoe.

    He added zits to the fat face and crossed the eyes, even though Zoe wasn’t cross-eyed.

    He almost got the hair right, wiry as a leafless bush - only he couldn’t quite figure how to sketch in dandruff the size
    of giant snowflakes. Had she never heard of Head and Shoulders? How about Pantene? He made little squares in the hair-bush. Good enough.

    Zoe was bent over her work, pencil scritching.

    He added a hole to the forehead.

    Zoe's moon-faced, Hello Kitty eraser bobbed and smiled at Jake.

    Graphite blood dripped from the hole with shiny highlights. He even made little slashes at the back for blood spray. Gruesome! For the finishing touch, he drew her mouth as a wobbly o, like a scream. Friggin masterpiece! He could kiss it
    instead he wrote in block letters -
    You never looked better, Fatso.

    Folding it into a small wedge, he leaned into the aisle and tossed it onto Zoe’s desk.

    Ha! Here goes.

    He waited, feeling a mean grin burning his cheek muscles.


    * * *

    Zoe jerked in surprise when the note tumbled across her arm.

    Oh, damn. She recognized the wedge shape. Jake, again. What was his problem? She blew a curl out of her eye,
    set down her pencil, and unfolded the note.

    Her face froze, she could feel the features lock into position, no smile, no frown. Her heart beat thudded faint and distant where it fell inside, like a bird from its nest.

    She wanted to crumple the note and her fingers bent anticipating the order. Tears flooded her view. Oh, damn.
    Damn him! She wasn’t that fat, and her hair frizzed because of the morning rain. What were the squares caught in it, her barrettes? No, dandruff. She didn’t have dandruff! Zits? Oh ha ha. There was one tiny zit sprouting on her chin. Even less
    than Jessica Jiggles whose foundation couldn’t hide the fact that she was a perfect 3-d topography of the rocky mountains.
    Zoe turned.

    His poison grin twitched wider.

    She wondered how much trouble she’d get into for whipping a pencil case at him.

    He pretended to boo-hoo, raising his fist and wiping away a mock tear. His knuckle brushed his black eye and Zoe wondered if it still hurt. Even after a couple of days it hadn’t changed color. Last month, he had bruises blooming on his
    arms and thighs that went from plum to lime to puke yellow. Alyssa bet he was getting his ass kicked from some high
    schoolers. After all he had a big mouth. But it wasn’t so much a bet as a hope. Vicki claimed to have overheard that
    it was his father, that he planted those ‘beauties’. Zoe had heard that too. She even heard his father had held him down
    and buzzed off his hair. Now his head looked like a knobby kiwi.

    Zoe carefully ripped a piece of paper loose from her notebook and considered her comeback. Her drawing skills weren’t
    up to par with Jake, and as unflattering as her own death scene, she had to admit the gun was pretty life-like. Maybe, she
    should just stick with a w shaped ass with a caption reading - Portrait of Jake. Or, Hey Ass, do the world a favor try taking a bath! That was hitting a little low but he asked for it. She tapped the Hello Kitty eraser to her lips and for a moment the scent
    of strawberries lifted her anger.

    No, don’t get nice. Get even. She pressed the pencil point down on her strip of paper, determined to draw the ass -
    no, a pimply ass - but then the pencil point snapped. Dammit. She reached for her pencil case, to rummage for a replacement when an idea hit.

    She turned. “Can I borrow your pencil?”

    Unprepared, Jake shifted, his huge feet clumping like a cornered horse. His eyes narrowed, suspicious. Nobody talked
    to Jake except to call him Skid Mark or play a trick on him. His mouth chewed on swears he didn’t send. But his grin flexed into being, and he tossed the pencil to Zoe.

    Of course he offered it up. He feeds off this crap. He’s drying to know what I’ll come up with. Zoe’s shoulder’s slumped. Poison for poison. Shot for shot. She ran her silver ringed finger over the bite marks. It was pretty shoddy next to her own glitter pencil. She wondered if objects could be cursed. Jake can’t do much of anything with this pencil except rack up the D’s. Oh, he can doodle, and pour out his poison, he can hurt, and dig himself a hole he isn’t ever gonna get out of. He can chew it, batter it, throw it, grind it - till it even looks like him. And one day it’ll wind up broken and someone will toss him-it out.

    She picked up the pencil stub and stuck her Hello Kitty eraser on the end. Then she took a breath and wrote -
    Jake, I think you’re handsome. I don’t mind your haircut. It looks kind of nice. You draw well. That picture was funny.

    Your friend Zoe.
     
  8. Michael O
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    Michael O Contributing Member

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    The Finest Redneck God Ever Made (1900 words)

    Lower Alabama grows rednecks like a lawn grows weeds. And growing up in LA I quickly learned there was diversity among them. Some were mean and dangerous while others were simply good-natured, salt-of-the-earth people. But one trait many rednecks seemed to share, they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed.

    I was 18 years old when I met Mr. Tolliver in 1973. He managed the gas station where I worked. That is to say he worked days, Monday thru Friday while I worked evenings after school and weekends. Mr. Tolliver was the truest of rednecks. He earned his red neck as a peanut farmer. And once I got to know him, I was convinced, the man had absolutely no redeeming qualities and was the most disgusting slime-ball redneck I had ever met. Now, almost 16 years later, I realized that Mr. Tolliver might just be the finest redneck God ever made.

    The gas station where Mr. Tolliver and I worked was ahead of the times. It was in the parking lot of a Gaylords department store. Although it’s a bit of a stretch, Gaylords was the Wal-Mart of the day in the South. The pumps were self-service and rumors of “bad gas” at stations such as this one were common. Plus it was the South where no self-respecting woman ever pumped her own gas.

    Gas stations had yet to evolve from full service stations. They had a bay or two and bells that dinged so an attendant could run out, pump gas, check fluids, tire pressure and clean windshields.

    Needless to say, business was slow. And to make it even easier, two of the four pumps were always closed and the other two were self-service. There was plenty of time to study and the pay was great.

    Mr. Tolliver looked about fifty-ish with leathery skin from a lifetime of farming. And of course, the leather on the back of his neck was as red as a stop sign. He wore overalls every day, often the same pair for a week. They enhanced his grotesquely huge beer gut and his eyes were the dull color of stupid. He was in many ways a very ugly man and I thought he was about as dumb as the dirt he plowed. But what stuck out the most about Mr. Tolliver was his left hand. It was missing.

    He kept his left arm tucked inside of his overalls and removed it only out of necessity. I couldn’t help but notice the look on customers’ faces when the stump came out. Now with all our differences and minimal interaction, we got along quite well since I showed respect to bosses and elders. And after a short period of time getting to know one another, I built up the nerve. “Mr. Tolliver, how did you lose your hand?”
    Mr. Tolliver gave a big grin and said, “You ain’t gonna believe this one!”
    Now when a one-handed redneck in LA says that, chances are you’re going to hear a good one.

    “Me and my brother Earl was out quail huning one day when we come to this here fence.”
    He blabbed on for another minute about trying to get through the strands of barbed wire with the shotgun and then, “BOOM! I shot my gall-dern hand clean off!”
    He paused to watch a passing car and I was thinking, “Yep, completely et-up with the dumb-ass.”

    “But that’s just the half of it,” he said, “Wern’t but a year or so later me and Earl was again out huning quail and came to that same gall-dern fence and, BOOM! He shot his right hand clean off!”
    “Damn!” It was all I could say and I had no doubt. Stupid ran pretty deep in his family.

    Mr. Tolliver paused again. Cars passed by slowly and distracted him. Drivers and passengers often stared at him and he always commented if they stared. The men wanted an ass-wuppin while the women wanted him. Truth be known, one look at Mr. Tolliver and the only thing that came to mind was a carnival side-show.

    The car passed and he continued, “Guess it could have been worse.”
    “How so?”
    “Well lookie here, I’m right-handed and my brother Earl is left-handed so we still get things done. We are a team when it comes to farming, fixin tractors, trucks and what not. Hell! I got a right and Earl’s got a left. Can’t nobody wup us!

    A visual moment came. Redneck brothers at a honky-tonk and totally fisnookered. Standing side-by-side like Siamese twins and doing like he often boasted, “Open-up a can of wup-ass on them dumb-asses!” Mr. Tolliver’s was as strong as a mule and his right hand was a vise-grip. If brother Earl was anything like him, I understood what he meant.

    But over time I learned otherwise. Mr. Tolliver wasn’t really the fighting-type of redneck nor did he drink. He was dirt-poor country folk. I learned his sense of humor was something he used to cope with all the hardships of life, self-inflicted or simply being born with the short-end of the stick that didn’t have a pleasant aroma. And beer didn’t make his gut, it was pork. The man ate the pigs he raised like they were going out of style. Such was the country-life for Mr. Tolliver.

    There were the occasional days I ran late from school. Usually just a few minutes but that was daylight-wasting. Daylight was farming time for Mr. Tolliver and especially so during the peanut harvest. And on one particular day during harvest season, I was fifteen minutes late. There were trains tracks to cross and a long-one caught me.

    But Mr. Tolliver had no patience or understanding, especially during harvest. He was fuming-mad. When he went into fuming-mode, his eyes would narrow, he hunched over like a boxer in a ring, swayed back and forth and cussed like a fuming-redneck. As I got out of my car, Mr. Tolliver was hunched over recording the meters on the pumps. Full-steam fuming-mode had set in and kept my distance.

    Now Mr. Tolliver always seemed to have a sinus infection and how he blew his nose was as gross as it was funny. Funny like an 18 year-old kid had never seen. He would plug a nostril with his stump and blow. The man had lungs that could inflate a flat tire and he could launch a yellow snot bolo at least 30 feet.

    On that particular day, he rose out of his hunch, swaying and cussing, pulls out his stump, plugs a nostril and blows a field goal distance yellow snot bolo. It must have gone 40 feet just like a football spinning end over end. He was pissed and never saw the El Camino station wagon headed our way.

    The woman driver watched Mr. Tolliver as she approached. Always animated and comical in appearance during his tirades. And when she was close enough to hear, her mouth opened in disbelief. But the look on her face was priceless when he pulled his stump out, plugged a nostril and launched the yellow snot bolo. She can’t believe what she has seen and has lost all thought about driving. BAM! She hits the concrete base of a light pole in the parking lot.

    Mr. Tolliver’s fuming-mode ended with the sound of the crash and he’s oblivious to the distraction he has caused. The El Camino’s hood is crumpled. Steam is hissing out of the radiator and the fan makes a loud clanking noise for a few seconds then all is quiet.
    He sizes up the situation, turns to me and says, “Gall-dern woman driver! Can’t even miss a friggin light pole in a friggin parkin lot!” Of course he never used the words gall-dern or friggin.

    The woman unloaded four young children from the car and they were walking back to Gaylord’s. As they approached, he spoke, “Mam, you can use the phone,” but stopped in mid sentence. Her look of anger focused like a laser beam on him and he felt it. After they passed, he grinned and said, “Woman’s got four kids and looks at me like she’s not gettin enough at home.” Then makes an obscene gesture with his stump. There was no way would I ever attempt to explain this one to a worthless, disgusting slime-ball like Mr. Tolliver.

    Fast forward to 1988, I’m attending a forty-hour insurance training class for the insurance agent’s exam. It will be a job I can do and go to school again. On the final day of class, during the last hour, the instructor wanted to touch briefly on insurance fraud and one particular case in history.

    “Before the time of computers, insurance companies had few means of communicating with each other and insurance fraud was quite easily done. One particular case in 1968, down in Lower Alabama involved a couple of brothers who were farmers.”

    The instructor had my full attention and continued, “It’s common for farmers to buy life insurance policies with riders for loss-of-limbs. And it’s common when a farmer maxes out the rider for loss-of-limb on the insurance policy. But on one particular policy of this type, shortly after the policy went into effect, the farmer had a hunting accident and shot his hand off.”

    “Holy crap!” I thought, “He’s talking about Mr. Tolliver!”

    “Accidents happen every day,” said the instructor, “But without computers, when his brother took out the same policy with another insurance company, they approved it. And when the brother’s policy went into effect, he also shot his hand off in a hunting accident.”

    The instructor paused and I raised my hand. “No pun intended but I have first-hand knowledge of this story. Before I tell this one, have you ever heard of a snot bolo?”
    After telling the story and cleaning it up as best I could, the class was skeptical and all the women were still grossed out. But it happened in LA back in 1973.

    As time passed, I had to give a second thought about Mr. Tolliver being worthless. I thought back on the times he spoke about how close they came to losing their land. Land that had been in their family for generations. Life was tough for them. While Mr. Tolliver was disgusting beyond belief and no doubt a few bricks short of a full-load, he farmed, worked at a gas station and shot his hand off to provide for his family.

    Another visual moment came and I thought back to the Saturday morning he stopped by with his family in an old beat up junker. He and his wife had a slew of kids and one daughter who looked to be about ten-years old. She was at that age of first awareness and there was nothing but sadness in her eyes. No doubt kids at school ridiculed her station in life. She knew they were poor. There was no joy in this child's life, only hardship.

    Now, with great certainty, I realized this little girl was destined to grow up in a world of poverty with little education and that look of sadness I saw would always be in her soul. And in a most pathetic sort of way, she probably never learned of the sacrifices her father made to provide what little they had. Yes sir, the finest redneck God ever made.
     
  9. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    Location:
    Oslo, Norway
    Immortal
    (2032 words)


    “We are rich,” said Snatch cheerfully as he sat his end of the thick oaken chest down on the floor with a loud thump and closed the door behind him. Grabber did the same thing with his end, and replied. “Now that we are, will you buy me a new back?”.
    Snatch opened the chest, slowly, and watched as the reflection from the the whale oil lamp on the table seemed the give the room a dim orange glow. Grabber dug his hand into the chest and retrieved a fistful of gold coins, before letting them slide between his fingers back into the chest.

    “It was easier then expected,” said Snatch. “Now if only more bankers would be kind enough to build their vaults so accessible from the sewers, poor thieves like ourselves might get to eat more often.”
    Grabber picked up a small chalice from the chest and began to examine it closely in the light, stroking his black beard as he did so. “It would be a kindness if you ask me. Having that much gold must be such a burden.” He turned the chalice around in his hand, and sighed when he saw the initials of Duke Valesandro carved onto the bottom.
    “Some of this stuff might be hard to sell brother.”

    Snatch filled a wooden bowl full of treasures from the chest, like you would fill a bowl of water; then took a seat by the window where he looked out on the empty streets below.
    “I wouldn't worry too much about that. We can always melt it down and just sell the gold. Might even get more for it that way.”
    He began to dig through the bowl to see if there were anything of particular interest within when he spotted the necklace; a matte thing made out of bronze, with a blood red gemstone of some kind inlaid into the center. In the darkness, it almost seemed to give off a faint glow.

    “What do you suppose this is?” he asked, and held it up for Grabber to see.
    “I don't know,” his brother replied. “A ruby of some kind perhaps?”
    “Maybe. Think it might look good on me?”
    He slid the chain around his neck and tucked the medallion down under his tunic, and saw Grabber smile the kind of smile you have when you think of something very funny.

    “Anything you want to share?”
    “Heh, nothing of importance,” said Grabber. “Only this constable who ran into me while you were crawling through shit on all four.”
    Snatch froze. “A constable ran into you? Grabber, what did you do”? The break-in had left him with a feeling of euphoria, but what he felt now was a kind of creeping fear slowly approaching.
    “Oh he did not alert anyone,” his brother said casually. “Came right at me and asked me what I was doing. Told him I was just taking a rest on my way home from the inn. He would have left, but then he noticed the sewer grate was open, and he started to ask questions. Had to act.”

    Snatch raised his voice. “Did you murder a constable?”
    “I suppose I did. No one will know it was us though. Got him clean through the neck with my hatchet and dumped the body in the canals.”

    “Oh you stupid bloody idiot. Do you realize what you have done? Duke Valesandro checks his vault once every month. That means we would have had three weeks to sell the goods before he realized anything was missing. The perfect plan. Of course, once a dead constable comes floating through the fish market tomorrow morning, we might as well have shouted our names from the city gates.”
    Grabber looked stunned. “I, uh, I did not realize that.” He let his hands go from the gold and stood up. “But what does that have to do with us? A dead constable is hardly anything new in this city?”
    “It is a concern to us if he come floating down from the bank district.”

    If a man could be murdered with a stare, Grabber would have been a corpse on the floor by now. He wanted to say something, but Snatch continued before he could interrupt.
    “You realize they will check every vault right? And when they realize the Duke has been robbed, they wont rest until his goods are found. They will check every inn and tavern in the city, and if anyone who isn't a noble is so much as seen with more than a few silvers on them, they will be brought in for questioning. No we only have one choice here Grabber. We need to leave the city. And it must happen tonight.”

    The streets of Dustansa were filled with the thick gray fog that its inhabitants called the night-blanket. They led their mule cart through a narrow alley, dressed in hooded robes and cloaks. The few people outside did not pay much attention to two grain merchants, and getting away from the inn was easy. As they came upon the canals and crossed over one of the small stone bridges that led into the richer districts of the city, the street forked in two. To get to the city gates, they would have to pass near the Dukes castle on either side, using one of the two roads. They could have gone south to the docks of course, but if the ship masters decided on a random inspection it would mean their heads.

    “I suggest we go through the markets,” said Grabber.
    “Lot's o thieves in the markets at this time of the night,” said Snatch. “But I agree. The marble-road will take us too near the barracks. A few thieves we can handle, the city constables, not so much.”
    A cold breeze swept through the markets as they entered, and Snatch pulled his cloak closer around his shoulders. It had started to rain, and the mule shuddered slightly as they walked. The fog filled the streets like thick smoke, and a few whale oil lamps hanging from wooden poles cast queer shadows across the brick houses and empty merchant stalls.

    “Once this is all done, I will get my own little castle up north somewhere,” said Grabber cheerfully.
    “Knowing you, you will have spent it all on wine and girls before the moon turns. That belly of yours will be your doom.”
    “No I wont. Anyways, what do you care what I spend it on. It's my half. I can do with it as I please.”

    As they rounded a corner, Snatch made the mule come to a halt.
    “Shhh,” he whsipered. “I think someone is coming.”
    Indeed someone was. Five or six people, judging by the sound.
    “Should we hide?” Grabber asked, and gave Snatch a sideways glance.
    “You are too fat to hide. We will see who they are. I'm sure it's nothing.”
    Through the fog ahead, they could see two lights approaching, and then the men carrying them came into view. The two with the lamps were city constables. Dressed in brushed steel breastplates covered by a crimson tabard, and with a sable hanging from a leather scabbard in their belts, they were quite distinct. Behind them came two men and a woman, all dressed in black hooded robes.
    “Noblemen,” Snatch whispered. “Just stick to the plan and we will be fine.”
    One of the city constables called out when he spotted the two men and their mule.

    “Who goes there?” With a hand on the hilt of his sword and his lamp held high, the constable came closer.
    “We are traders,” Snatch said, feigning a smile. “On our way to Ulstergrove with sacks of grain. Markets open early so we decided to leave before dawn.”
    In the light from the constables lamp, Snatch could see he was an old man, some sixty years of age. Years of experience would have taught him to be wary of any wanderers in the night.
    “Mind if I have a look at your goods?” he asked.
    Snatch kept on smiling. “No, not at all.” He blinked twice to let Grabber know to get ready should they have to fight. The constables followed him to the back of the mule cart, and peaked beneath the haystack.
    “See? Just sacks of oats and barley for the markets at Ulstergrove, like we said.”
    The constable nodded. “Alright then. Everything seems to be in order. I wish you a safe travel to Ulstergrove.”
    Snatch made a silent sigh of relief. As the constable turned around, light from his lamp washed over the two brothers faces.

    “Wait!” yelled the woman in the company and pointed a long bony finger at Grabber. “I know that scar, that man, he is the one who robbed my husband last month.”
    Grabber panicked, and backed away a few steps. “Was not me I swear he said,” and Snatch laid a hand on his flint lock pistol hidden within his coat.
    “Is this true”? Asked the constable and turned to Grabber. I wonder if grain is all that you gentlemen are carrying back there.”
    He turned back to the carriage and lifted one of the sacks of oats within, revealing the oaken chest.
    “This, this is the signet of the Duke,” he said surprised. “You two stole from the Duke! Seize them.”

    The two robed men flung their cloaks aside, and Snatch saw they too were constables. He pulled the trigger of his pistol, and hit the nearest guard in the chest. As he sank down on the ground next to the cart, Grabber pulled out his hatchet from under the hay stack. Snatch drew both his stilettos and stood ready, one foot before the other. The second guard came at him with his sword held high. He blocked the first downward slash with both his weapons, and gave the guard a kick in the chest. As the guard stumbled backwards, another constable descended upon him, slashing with a sable. It took all his effort to avoid the initial attacks.
    He tried to strike back with his left stiletto, but missed. As he went for a second jab with his right, he were met with a furious uppercut that opened his sleeves from elbow to wrist, and left a deep gash in his forearm. Blood soaked through his clothing, and the pain made him drop his weapons. He backed away towards Grabber who was fighting the two other constables on the other side of the cart, but stumbled backwards. One of the constables sent his sword in a downward arc towards him, but Snatch rolled around sideways, and picked up the dead constables sword as he did, but before he could regain his feet, a sable took him in the shoulder, and he ended up on his knees. Moments later his brother fell down besides him.

    “Brother,” he said. “We died rich men. Who would have believed that of two orphans like us?” Grabber smiled at him, then rolled over on the ground, dead.
    Snatch never saw the sable coming, but he felt the cold steel cut through his torso like a burning poker. Then he fell and landed on his brothers back.

    When he woke up, it was morning. The fog had cleared over the city, and birds were chirping. His head was pounding, and his arm and back felt like torrents of pain. When he opened his eyes, he saw he laid on top of a large pile of corpses with the city walls in the distance. The gash on his forearm was closing even as he watched, leaving a thin strip of fresh pink flesh where the wound had been. He raised a hand to touch the wound on his chest, but found the necklace there instead. It was burning red hot like molten metal, but there was no pain. “The necklace of everlasting life,” he thought. “It has been in the Duke's possession all these years.” He planted both hands on the corpse below him and raised himself into a sitting position. As he spotted his brothers body at the bottom of the pile, he uttered only one word.
    “Revenge.”
     
  10. My writer side
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    My writer side Member

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    Location:
    North Yorkshire, England
    (1293)
    Red light emotion

    The bright light shone gently in the dark room, in a room of bleak accessories and mind slave ornaments. The wonderfully white bed sheets stood out effortlessly as I walked up to her slowly. I was mesmerized by a feeling I didn't understand, yet I sought after and had latched on to it. The light, a sublime blue shade, rested in my mind like settling dust. I had seen it from my bed room across the courtyard, someone had forgot to draw the blinds. Or they wanted to invite a guest over. It didn't really matter to me now, I was here, in a state of uncontrollable awe.

    I reached out and began to move my fingers though her hair. It's dark colour stood ignorantly placed in my mind, but the feel of it was so soft, so contradicting to its colour and, in my state, it's character. Moving down from her hair, I put my finger against her cheek.

    The blue light quickly turned red, the colour the blue light helped me to forget I hated so much. Her body sprung into motion as she sat up throwing the resting bed sheets flying through the air in a fury of ruggedness and sharp edged resolution.

    I scrambled backward hitting the bedside table with my elbow. Pulsating pain and tremendous feeling shot through my arm like it was on fire. I waved it around the room like I was possessed as the android's alarm system blared relentlessly. I ran for the door but didn't open it; I just ran straight into it. It's terrifying poised presence knocked me to the floor and increased the pain, the throbbing and the sensation of being on fire.

    As I lay on the floor all I could see in front of me was the red light shining on the ceiling above me. It was coming down on me, the ceiling was moving terrifyingly slowly towards me. Impatience burned in my mind with every second. I just wanted the end to come quickly. Even when faced with the unbearable feeling of red light emotion, and I mean as red as it gets; crimson red, I was impatient. I wanted it right now, no, not right now, I wanted it moments ago.

    I could feel my self being squashed into the floor, becoming as meaningless as the foreground, as expected as a background. And then it went away, so quickly, as I heard the door to the room open. Reality had set back in and my mind, with it to, had strapped it's self back into the almost unconscious ride. My natural reaction was to try to escape. I quickly got to my feet and turned towards the door where there stood an elderly man.

    “Blue light, Michelle.” he snapped looking at the android sitting on the bed.

    The sublime blue light filled the room with it's soft glow as I rushed into a forward pace. It stopped me dead as a wave of clarity hit me. I was awake, more awake then anyone else in the world. I could see and hear them as well, bustling and rushing though their lives. Their misplaced concentration and decadent intentions, their ill guiding peers and worrying thoughts. And I could see what they were, androids with crimson red lights coming from their eyes.

    I looked forwards at the man, he had his forearm over his eyes and his other hand was moving around in the pocket of his dressing gown. All I could see was a world full of red eyed androids. The room wasn't there any more, the bed with the android on it, the man in the dressing gown and all the mind slave ornaments were gone.

    The ground was hard, as solid as I felt. As solid as everything was around me and thus me. Or was I solid? I was beginning to feel as though I wasn't solid. That was the feeling, very rendering, almost unbeatably so, even though the blinding red lights was setting in from all sides. What had happened? When did this happen? How, why and who? This was reality and it pained me so much to realise it. This was me though. Where was everyone else, or were they the red lights surrounding me. They weren't the wrong and I knew that. They were the innocent taken advantage of. And as soon as I realised this, I then realised that the red did not reflect their state of mind and I knew the lights would not affect me if I didn't allow them to.

    Reality set back in. My mind was back, I had shaken loose the shackles of blue light emotion even though the blue light shone. I couldn't believe it. But I was still faced with the man in the dressing gown who was now holding a FLEE 22 hand cannon and was pointing it in my direction. I dashed forward tackling the man to the ground. The FLEE 22 flew from his hand and landed on the floor across the room.

    “Disable light emotion, Michelle!” the man shout desperately. “Please, please don't hurt me!”

    Mentally exhausted, I decided to let the man be and got up off him. I took a few steps backwards and sat down on the bedroom floor keeping my eye on the FLEE 22.

    “How did you break blue light emotion?” asked the man, I could tell he was still in deep fear but he looked guilty, fuck, I knew he was guilty of something.

    “You know it's illegal to subject another individual to light emotion?” I said eyeing the man angrily.

    “I didn't know her light was on.” he snapped defencelessly.

    “Bull shit” I said calmly. “I know what this is, I've heard of people like you before. You leave your android's light on to attract over victims.”
    The man store at me blankly, he didn't look as though he was going to defend himself. It didn't matter, I knew I had it figured out.

    “And then you kill them.”

    He slowly got to his feet, struggling, probably from being tackled to the floor. I followed. He was looking at the FLEE 22, really obviously, I bent down and picked it up.

    “Are you going to report me to the police?” he asked, his worried look had disappeared.

    “Yes” I replied timidly, curious as to what game he was playing. And then he played the card I didn't expect him to play, even though I really should have.

    “Red light, Michelle!” he snapped.

    “No!” I shouted turning round to shoot the android.

    The man leapt into an attacking furious frenzy, his wild flailing arms was accompanied by a wailing scream. I quickly turned around and fired the FLEE 22 into his belly. Blood exploded from his body as he crashed into me knocking me to the floor. Again I was on the floor of this bedroom and again it was ablaze with a crimson red glow. The man was on top of me flailing wildly, he was spitting blood all over my face, I could fell it melting my skin as though is was acid.

    The blood from his belly was accumulating on my body and it was melting through me. So much so that it cut me in half. The pain, oh god, it was horrific. My legs were kicking even though they weren't part of me any more. And that is about the time the police came in, with light emotion protecting goggles, to find two men, one had been shot, covered in blood, rolling round of the floor and screaming at the top of their voices.
     
  11. BorgholRantipole
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    BorgholRantipole New Member

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    The 100% Guaranteed Fail-Safe Secret To Complete Success (1696 words)

    Its value as a possession is in its inability to be possessed. Its rarity is the exactitude of its placement, on the finest line between attainability and impossibility. It must be infinitely, but only, improbable. It can't be manufactured or manifest and quite possibly it can't be searched for, only stumbled upon. It must be approached at an angle, it needs to catch you unaware and its aura and influence need to wrap themselves around you clandestine and seemingly ephemeral until...

    It has to be something you can't control. Maybe a dream, maybe a hope, something untamed. Something that can turn on you in an instant, something wild. Something that can hurt you, especially something that can hurt you, something that can worm through flesh and bone to spirit and lacerate the core of you, ignoring the individual experience of happiness to attack the timeless idea of it. Something dangerous. It needs to be all these things and if you still find yourself moving towards it, you've probably found one. Maybe a hope or a dream and yes, absolutely maybe a person. A person who will be totally unaware of their own ability to speak a word or tilt their head or smile and flash flood you with desperate analysis and buffeting emotion and more than anything that one feeling; infinite improbability, but not impossibility.

    This is ideal. This is, surprisingly, the position you want to be in. This is, unsurprisingly, the position you may be unable to avoid. This is where it starts. The vast gulf of inequality is unfair and unkind and perfect because potential energy becomes kinetic on a slope and the steeper a slope, the faster the motion.

    You begin to notice things you hadn't noticed before. You reassess things which had previously been set in stone. Things occur to you that had never even flitted across your mind. You need a haircut. You should be flossing more often. You bite your nails too much. A person your age should get out more, have more friends, more confidants. Maybe at first you're not even sure where these thoughts are coming from but you have them impulsively and inescapably.

    So you cut your hair. You floss twice a day. Every time you catch yourself biting your nails you slap your hand away like it was an intruder and you place it palm down in front of you and take a breath. You call people you haven't seen in years and suggest coffee. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. At some point early on you make the connection between this sudden drive and the hope, the dream, the what – or who – ever. But it hardly matters. These are objective self-improvements. Yes, the impetus for initiation was something vague and maybe foolish but the ends justify the means. And, so far off in the hazy distance the hope, the dream, could be imagined to be a little closer.

    You reconnect with old friends and they all ask why you didn't do this sooner and you don't tell them, really. You just agree. Every morning what was once a quick glance in the mirror becomes forensic. You click your thumb on your electric razor neurotically between the dial settings '5' and '6' endlessly and it works. Because you look better and people say things and you're a man about town now and your clothes at least fit and look like they were meant for you. You don't look at the ground when you walk anymore, you catch people's eyes and what's more you start to smile on reflex, really smile at them and you don't care if they smile back.

    The hope, the dream, starts to oscillate. Just near enough to keep your hand straining toward it in the false belief that one of these times your fingers might brush it and then catch fast. Just far enough to hyperextend your soul through metaphysical gravitation and fire off a thousand emotive nerve endings screaming for mercy. This, shockingly, is exactly where you want to be.

    You expand your horizons. Your immediacy is accounted for but now, since the addressing of your immediacy has made no discernible difference to the hope, the dream, it's time to analyze your environs. You should be in a bigger apartment, for example. You should be making more money, as a suggestion. People you've never met should know your name, ideally. When these factors have all been accounted for there will be nothing to stop you. So you chip away at it, one thing at a time. You'll push a little harder for the next raise and you'll use the extra money to get someplace nice, someplace you can be proud of. When people come in for the first time the astonished gasp isn't led by etiquette, it's genuine surprise. You don't cook, but your kitchen has an island. Then it occurs to you that maybe you should cook and so you use the island to fabricate complex meals and chop vegetables as fast as they do on TV. Because the you in the hope, the dream, he's absolutely someone who cooks. He has a repertoire of recipes that get requested from black tie business engagements to superbowl sunday, and both are packed with faces ranging from supportive to idolatrous, all eyes on him.

    Frustration leaks in. Sacrificing to a silent and indiscernible god nonetheless has an expectation, whether positive or negative, of return. When nothing comes you start to demand answers and explanations but all the while that outstretched hand strains further. As you lash out with impotent questions (haven't I done enough, why do I still feel this way, what will it take, when will I get there) your fingertips betray you by quaking with the effort of the reach. Infuriated by your own weakness and panicked at the thought of it (the hope, the dream) slipping away and nullifying all effort thus far by extension, you enter a reciprocal circuit of self-loathing and renewed commitment. They thrash against you and hurl you like a rag doll against cold and unyielding surfaces but always down the slope of inequality, always forward.

    No more excuses, you whisper to yourself as you stare down the crumbling edifice in the mirror and instantly identify a thousand structural inadequacies to be mended. You gather friends around you like a vast safety net or veil and pour money into every polished corner of your apartment your condo your house your mansion until the money dries up but now that doesn't even matter because you just decide to make more and the really shocking thing is how easy it is. You stride in and demand and they acquiesce. You say jump and they don't ask how high because the answer is always 'as high as you can' and they jump until their knees give but your empathy is absent, poor you, poor you, so close and so far. Let them jump if it nudges you closer.

    All of a sudden you have everything. You can go anywhere to do anything. When you walk, crowds part like the red sea. You sit at the center of a circle of friends so wide you're a thousand miles from any one of them but it was always a numbers game, wasn't it? You've left confidence behind as a concept because other people will fill in those blanks for you. All you need to do is exist and the world will shape itself around you, make whatever you do OK. You are the point of reference, standing with casual grace, thumbs slung in the pockets of blue jeans that fit you perfectly, one knee a little bent, eyelids a hair's breadth closed, smile or smirk tugging almost invisibly at a corner of your mouth. It's a pose with a thousand hours of practice behind it. It's been honed to completely hide any lingering trace of that invisible third arm stretching out more desperately than ever, tendons throbbing with effort, muscle fibres shredded by hyperextension.

    Everyone wants to be you. They'd trade their lives for yours in a moment, sacrifice ideology and morality at whatever cost to walk a mile in your shoes. This is how you know it's all working. If people can honestly believe they want to be where you are, then you are successfully hiding what needs to be hidden.

    You've made it. There's nothing left but the hope or dream, the what – or who – ever, still (of course) out of reach. History will remember you. People will use you as a role model. Years from now when you're dead and gone and their alarm goes off at 5 in the morning to get them to the gym before work and they reach to hit the snooze your memory will stop them. You're the one who made it. You'll never admit how easy it was, once you found it. You'll lay on your death bed, images flitting through your head of the inevitably massive crowd around your casket and you'll brush the images away because they're just in the way. The focus of your mind's eye is, as ever, in the hazy distance where it (the hope, the dream) waits. Your crippled hand is still reaching. It brought you from complete obscurity to master of your life. All it asked in return was any hope of happiness. In its place it offered the every appearance of happiness, every milestone and landmark of success, the will to absolute dominion. All it asked was that you never really be happy. And if you'd caught it off the bat none of it would have been possible. You understand that. It had to remain infinitely, but only, improbable. Motion is a function of inequality. Happiness breeds stagnation. Contentment is poisonous.

    It can't be manufactured or manifest and quite possibly it can't be searched for, only stumbled upon. Now that you know, you might recognize it but this will change nothing. You will be drawn in. You will react. You will change. You will reach. And reach. And reach. And reach.
     
  12. SidChewsBarbies
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    SidChewsBarbies New Member

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    Location:
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    Source (1295)

    Steam hissed and rose up into the ventilation as the rod slid into its housing in the cooling pond. The gamma alarms that had been blaring for hours suddenly went silent. The water was doing a good job of shielding the radiation. Curtis checked the air monitors before removing his respirator and wiped the sweat from his face.

    Every precaution had been taken. The physicists had given him a blank stare when he had asked about potential hazards with the rod. Their excitement about the discovery was overwhelming their sense of safety. It was his job to enforce practical measures to make sure their discovery didn't kill them all before they had a chance to study it.

    "It's off the scale in terms of energy, it looks like a new element."

    The physicists were rushing into containment now that the rod was stored safely. Dr Watson had moved up next to him and was talking into his phone.

    "Yes sir, the crew that found it is now in isolation, they had it on board for five days before returning."

    Curtis decided to get out of everyone's way. He punched in his six digit code and the first containment door hissed open. Six days ago RC crew 1 had reported unusual readings in zone 3 on the martian surface. Some minor digging had revealed a rod with what looked to be writing on it. It wasn't in any recognizable language. Scientists on the base had become optimistic about the idea that it might be evidence of intelligent life. The strange artifact was stored on the long range recon vehicle until they could make the journey back. It wasn't until three days ago that one of the crew had decided to check if it was radioactive. The decision had been made to return to base immediately.

    Curtis tapped on the side of his ear. His equilibrium seemed off. There was something...

    "Curtis!"

    He stopped when he heard Dr Meyers calling him. She was rushing down the hallway trying to avoid running into some maintenance workers on her way.

    "Curtis your brother, have you had a chance to speak to him yet?"

    "No, I heard they were in isolation, I don't have clearance." Dr Meyers was looking pale.

    "We'd like you to try and speak with him, we're having trouble..." She didn't finish, she simply grabbed his arm and led him through a security door manned by two hard faced officers.

    "Having trouble with what? Dr Meyers?"

    "The MRIs show nothing, brain function appears normal, still there are some more tests to run. They seemed to operate fine whilst out there on the surface, perhaps it's got something to do with being around other people."

    "What the hell are you talking about?" MRIs? Why was she worried about brain functions?

    Before he had time to ask more he was led into a large aircraft hanger where several medical staff were standing around with clipboards. In the middle was a glass chamber where the recon crew were being kept in isolation. Unknown bacteria as well as martian fungi were a potential problem. The hermetically sealed chamber was considered a necessity.

    Curtis pressed his ear with his hand in discomfort. A slight ringing had started when he was setting up in containment. It had gotten worse as he walked with Dr Meyers. It felt like he had been at a loud concert the night before.

    As he and Dr Meyers approached the glass Curtis could already see that something was wrong. One would expect that a crew who had been out for six days might be sitting on the beds and talking, perhaps eating something more substantial than the rations they ate on the move. They might even be sleeping in the more comfortable beds. Instead each of the men were standing and staring. Standing and staring at strange angles. Jordan Sheppard, a mechanical engineer, was staring at the electric light in the chamber with his mouth wide open; seemingly amazed that such a thing could exist. Peter Cussle, the team leader who had reported the rod's existence to control over the radio six days ago, looked as though he was listening to something no one else could hear. His head was cocked at an angle as he gaped at one of the corners of the cell where the glass pieces met. He wasn't even blinking.

    The ringing in Curtis' ears was growing louder to the point where it was becoming almost painful. He may have to go and see a doctor himself.

    "It's possible that some exposure might have occurred out there however it might be adverse effects of the radiation, I've never seen anything like it before, perhaps an allergic reaction, but why would it happen to all of them at the same time? These symptoms only began about an hour ago, in which case what prompted it? Could it be a direct effect of the Rod? I'm not even sure that..." Dr Meyers was speaking very quickly and didn't seem to want to stop and take a breath.

    Curtis wasn't really interested though. He was looking for just one man out of the six. For some reason it took him longer than it normally would to spot him. They all looked the same in those blue jumpsuits and his vision seemed more blurry than usual. He finally identified who he was looking for and walked over to where he was standing. Dr Meyers didn't follow him, she simply continued to stand in place and ramble on.

    "and besides I'm not sure control would allow that sort of thing. Study's indicate maternal feelings in adult Spriggons from dedicated impulses derived from..."

    "John. John it's me Curtis." His brother was standing with his back to the glass. His hips were bent at a 45 degree angle, he seemed to be staring at the ground in front of him.

    "John, can you hear me brother?"

    Curtis stuck a finger in his ear. The ringing had become a piercing, he could only faintly hear Dr Meyers talking now.

    "I not even sure about yeast on television. Predetermined psychosis in mammalian species about which reports are derived in MATTERS...SEQUENCING...SKIN BURNING!" She was talking louder and louder and staring to become hysterical. She was babbling incoherently.

    "JOHN!"

    The headache was sudden and completely blinding. The ringing in his ears drowned everything else out. Curtis was forced to his knees. He clapped his hands over his ears. Nothing else existed except for the pain in his head and the unyielding sound blasting through his brain. Waves of nausea were striking his body causing him to retch uncontrollably. Curtis had never felt anything like it. He thought he might be dying. It was overwhelming.

    Curtis' blood shot eyes managed to lift up to the glass cage. His brother had turned around now and was standing as though looking at Curtis. His eyes were rolled back into his skull and his hand was raised and sat flat against the glass.

    "IT'S OVER! IT'S OVER! IT'S OVER! IT'S OVER!" Curtis turned to look. Dr Meyers was pulling clumps of her own hair out as she screamed on her knees.

    Silence. Sudden, out of nowhere. Curtis had no idea how long the ordeal had gone on for. He surveyed his surroundings.

    Everything was quiet.

    Dr Meyers had stopped screaming and was now lying on her side sobbing and mumbling to herself.

    The headache had ended as suddenly as it had begun leaving no traces of pain. Curtis' ears seemed to pop and the ringing faded away.

    Curtis looked up to where his brother was beaming down at him. A glorious, blissful expression was written on his face.

    "One of us." Whispered his brother.

    "One of us." Repeated Curtis.
     
  13. mail3diplo
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    mail3diplo Member

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    The Briefcase.
    [853 words]


    Tom glanced at the calendar, June 20, 1948.

    “We appreciate you taking the time to meet with us Tom.” A man's voice said.

    Tom shifted his focus on the two men across the table from him. They both wore black suits, and their black fedoras stood on the table.

    Another man stood at the back door, never averting his gaze from Tom. The man's stomach sagged from the colossal weight, and his enormous shoulders bulged from his suit, which were complimented by the thundering biceps that stretched his sleeves.

    “It isn't like I had much choice,” Tom said, glancing at the man by the door.

    One of the men turned around, “Could you wait outside please?”

    Tom's “meeting” took place in an empty cellar, with a single table standing in the middle. Tom was on one side of the table, his ass firmly planted in a chair, and two men sat across from him, staring with forced smiles.

    “Yes boss,” The man said, leaving without question.

    “Tom, my name is Franco.” The man said.

    Franco had puffy cheeks that sagged under his rather large nose, and his dark curly hair was complimented well by his olive colored skin.

    Tom glanced at the cigar in Franco's mouth, as it shifted from one corner of his mouth to the other.

    “This is my buddy Carlo,” Franco said, gesturing to Carlo.

    Carlo, who was much younger than Franco, had dark colored eyes that sat under his arch shaped eyebrows.

    “We wish for you to cooperate with us Tom. You're safe from the government here. No doubt they want what's in the briefcase as well,” Franco said, his hands seeming to move synonymously with his words.

    Tom's eyes darted down at the briefcase by his feet.

    “It is in your best interest.” Franco said.

    Tom couldn't pull his eyes away from briefcase, as it called to him. It was his, and he wanted to reach out and unlatch the clips, letting out its power and allowing himself to feel the naked glow of the purity that lie within, basking in it and allowing it to envelop him.

    “Tom?” Franco said.

    Tom jumped, and his eyes shot up to meet Franco's. “Go to hell. It's mine,” he said.

    Franco's smile melted, giving way to the true, cold expression that lie beneath. “We'll be back, and we'll be more... persuasive... next time,” Franco said, standing up. Carlo followed his example. The men picked up their Fedoras and left the room.

    Tom heard the lock latch on the door. He tried to avert his gaze from the briefcase, “Unlatch me” it called. Shutters shook through his whole body.

    Tom was bound to the briefcase, making him the only one capable of letting out whatever monster lie inside.

    Time seemed to melt, giving way to the omniscient constant called insanity. Don't look. Don't look.

    Tom knew that if he looked, then all would be lost. When he looked, he was servant, and the briefcase was master.

    Tom's gaze was slowly working its way toward the briefcase, when the lock on the door suddenly unlatched.

    Tom was surprised when a beautiful blond, in a red dress, stepped through the door. Her lips were covered in a dark, red lipstick, and her blue eyes glistened in the light. As she approached Tom, her wide, inviting hips swung back and forth, high heels clicking along the floor.

    “Hello Tom,” the blond said. Tom, for the first time in weeks, completely forgot the briefcase. His eyes followed her lush, succulent lips as they formed words. “My name is Elizabeth, but you can call me Liz.”

    Tom's hands were sweaty, and his heart pumped all kinds of fucked up hormones through his body.

    Her gaze carried an eerie familiarity, as if he was staring at himself.

    “Let go Tom,” Elizabeth said. “You won't make it, and you know it.” She gestured towards a sharp piece of metal that lie on the floor. “You can't trust yourself.”

    The familiarity that her words carried, caressed him, and he felt as if they came from his own soul.

    “Let go tom,” she said, and Tom looked deep into her eyes, letting her gaze take him. “Let go.”

    Tom stood up.

    “That's good,” Elizabeth said.

    Tom walked over to the sharp piece of metal.

    “Good,” she repeated.

    Tom bent down, picking up the metal.

    “Let go,” she echoed his own thoughts.

    Tom looked the metal up and down. The light glistened against its surface. The sharp metal was freedom. It was life, and it was death. It gave, and it took away, at the same time.

    “Let go,” Tom said.

    Tom looked at Elizabeth, “It's okay Tom,” she whispered.

    Tom looked at the knife one more time before plunging it deep into his own throat.

    Tom fell to the floor, and the blond woman vaporized into thin air. A Mirage.

    Warm blood gushed out of Tom's throat, forming crimson puddles along the floor. The briefcase was gone, and Tom was free.

    He let go.
     
  14. thedarkknight
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    thedarkknight Member

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    Pursuasion
    588 words


    “I can sell anything to anyone.”

    “Yeah, right.” The man spun on the bar stool. “Hey miss, can you get me another rum an’ coke.”

    “Smarts. Gotta read people,” Nick continued.

    “Uh huh. How come the Sox game ain’t on? What’s with the golf? Hey, any idiot can peddle cell phones. Freakin’ five-year-olds walking around with ‘em. Texting. Five. Got blisters on their thumbs. Oughta be a law.”

    “Pursuasion is the most powerful tool in the world. I’m telling you, if you can sell, you’ll never want.”

    “If you can shingle a roof, you’ll nev – hey miss! Rum and coke. Remember?” He rattled the surviving ice cubes in his glass tumbler.

    “But the diff– “

    “Hey no offense, but ya gotta sell your soul first. Know what I mean. Them buzzards at Appliance Center sold me a dishwasher piece a – ”

    “Yeah, yeah. That’s what they all think. Problem is, people want to screw over the salesman because they think they’re getting screwed. You went on the cheap, right?”

    “Still, it should last at least – “

    “Not the point.”

    “OK then. Buy it back!”

    “Why should I buy your dishwasher?”

    “Naw. Not the piece-a-shit dishwasher. Your piece-a-shit soul.”

    “Huh?”

    He jabbed a finger at Nick. “You can’t sell nothing without selling your integrity.”

    “What’s the big deal? Like what say?”

    “OK, the blonde chick over there. Sell me to her. That’s right Mr. Quarterly Sales Champion. Get her to pay money for me and do it without anything unethical, dishonest, or underhanded.”

    “I’m pretty sure that breaks some law all by itself.”

    “OK then. Here.” He held out a bag of white powder. “Sell this bag of Stevia to – “ He glanced around the bar, then pointed out the window. “- that crabby looking hag sitting out on the patio.”

    Nick raised an eyebrow.

    “I got diabetes, OK? Sugar spikes my numbers,” the man explained.

    “Commission?”

    “Twenty five percent.”

    “Fifty.”

    “Nuts.”

    “Forty.”

    “Deal. Show me what you got, big shot.”

    Nick pushed open the patio door and squinted from the afternoon sun.

    The patio was on the opposite side of the bar from the parking lot. Like guards at Buckingham Palace, six old maple trees protected the red brick patio. A dozen people maneuvered the small tables to take maximum advantage of the shade. Most looked like staff from the local office buildings, probably telling their bosses they were at an off-site meeting.

    Nick studied the woman. She sat alone and nursed a Tom Collins. She had large round sunglasses. He wondered what he had gotten himself into.

    “Mind if I take this chair?”

    She slid the sunglasses to the top of her head and shook her head.

    ‘Simple honesty’ thought Nick.

    “I have a bet with a guy in the bar that you would buy this bag of artificial sweetener from me. Do you think you could help me out?”

    “How much?”

    “Five.”

    Suddenly two men grabbed Nick roughly from behind and shoved him against the thick dark bar window.

    “You have the right to remain silent. You have – “

    Brilliant. He had been masterfully pursuaded to offer a small bag of white powder to an undercover cop. The man in the bar must have gotten suspicious and then along came Nick, practically volunteering himself as a handy judas goat.

    With his face mashed against the thick dark window, Nick surveyed the bar. The bar stool was empty.

    He hoped to hell that really was Stevia in that bag. Or this story would be a hard sell.
     
  15. quiltpen
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    quiltpen New Member

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    With Each Step

    With Each Step
    (660 words)

    He walked up the staircase, his heart thumping against his chest faster then the soles of his feet hit each step. ‘Thump thump thump’ went the powerful drum within him that vibrated throughout his body. His fear had never been as real or as overwhelming as it had been at that exact moment, he had always feared speaking in front of others but now it seemed to almost consume him, and this was why his teacher had given him the toy soldier. For this object; this toy, was no ordinary play-thing but an ancient talisman that could give great strength to those in need if they wore it around their neck; as he now did. Robert or ‘Bobby’ as he was known amongst his friends wore this toy soldier as he approached the top of the stairwell, only a few steps away from the podium where he would read the morning address to the entire school. Ever since he was young the judgement of others as they observed his presentations had always been to much, he knew they laughed at him in secret due to his shaky hands, sweaty forehead and the occasional stutter. Now however he wore the special talisman and he would be protected from the stressful thoughts of his shyness, he wouldn’t sweat nor shake or stammer, and he wouldn’t even care if he did as the talisman would free him from his fears. He remembered back to when Harrison and Rose had laughed at him, and called him “coward” for running in fear from reading the days announcements upon the bulletin, much like a whimpering puppy. This memory, one in a group of hundreds of others that haughted him, caused him to cringe; momentarily quickening his heat-rate. He remembered the toy-soldier nevertheless and the magical power it was granting him. He felt reassured and the ‘thump thump thump’ within his chest slowed.

    Mrs. Cherita had spoken to him as he sat terrified in the classroom hitherto unaware of his role in todays whole-school assembly. She had presented this ancient talisman to him informing him that “it has ancient powers of sorcery long forgotten, whoever wears it will never want for strength or confidence”. At first Bobby had felt skeptical of its power but Mrs. Cherita had recalled a time when she had been terrified of speaking publicly, and this awe-inspiring talisman and given her the strength to go on. “I was scared like a dog during a storm, my legs were shaking so much, I could hardly stop people from noticing. But this magical object once worn around my neck washed my worries away like they were just grains of sand in the wind!”.
    “Where were you speaking Miss? Bobby asked inquisitively.
    “Thats a tale for another time I’m afraid” She smiled back warmly.
    He walked the final steps unto the podium, feeling the talisman once more before tucking it away under his shirt so no one would see it. He silently prayed that its grand power would strengthen him enough to make this speech without appearing as a fool in front of everyone he knew. As he stood before the microphone, he stared upon the gargantuan crowd that like the ocean appeared to never end, as this image was swallowed up by his eyes he opened his mouth and began to speak.

    Standing here now, years later preparing for the public speaking competition he had entered for the third year in a row. Rob recalled that moment where he had greatly overcome much of his consternation whilst still at Primary School when Mrs. Cherita had given him her ‘magic’ talisman. Rob now knew that the toy-soldier was not truly supernatural, and what he had used to overcome his fear was something far more powerful. In fact it was the most potent item of power in the entirety of the universe itself... it was the power of the human mind.
     
  16. MHJr92
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    MHJr92 New Member

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    "My Rifle"
    [583]

    Sean Murphy dropped and gave Drill Sergeant 1st Class Nathan Heilman twenty push-ups.

    "Do you not know how to assemble your rifle, boy!" Sgt. Heilman yells

    Sean had been drafted at the age of 18, a war he knew very little about was happening overseas and now he is known as a deployed soldier. Words he's heard used yet never understood.

    Sean finishes with his push-ups, and assembles his rifle correctly.

    "Murphy, tell me about your rifle!." Sgt. Heilman yells

    "As a member of the United States Marine Corps my rifle is my tool.
    It is an item of great power that aids me in my duties as a Marine."

    OohRah! The class chants.

    Today Sean's Company B, 2nd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment was being deployed to Kandahar, a violent city in Afghanistan. The people there were mad, the innocent are still being murdered, they feel the United States military hasn't done anything for them. Some feel it's worse now. Sean's group is going out to restore peace in the village and to document their complaints.

    As they arrive you can sense the uneasy feeling in the air. War was around them, and at any moment evil could break loose. The two Humvee's they were traveling in unload, Sean immediately begins to talk with a member of the village. The language barrier is still a problem, but the quicker the group gets to speak with everyone, the quicker they can head back to base.

    Suddenly, Sean hears "Get down!"

    A whistle noise is heard, Sean looks up in time to see an RPG shoot over his head and pierce into a building. The explosion knocks everyone off their feet. The Marine's arrival was expected, an ambush was planned.

    As the Marine's scatter for cover, Sean follows two men out of the road and in between buildings for cover. Sean sees everyone pull their rifles, so he does the same. He had been in live training sessions, but nothing compares to real war. He slows himself down, making sure he doesn't miss a step.

    "Loaded, safety off." Sean says out loud as he looks at the men with him. His instincts kick in.

    Sean peeks around the corner in time to see an enemy coming up the road. The enemy stops, and points his weapon. Without thinking, Sean opens fire. The gunfire causes the enemy to retreat behind a wall. Unknowingly, Sean provided cover for United States Marine Corps Scout Sniper William A. Scott who was crossing the road to get to a higher building.

    Gunfire picks up, the intensity level rises. "They're all coming up the road!" He hears a Marine shout. "Too far for our rifles" a man in the group says.

    Suddenly, you can hear a sniper rifle fire.

    One, two, three.

    Sean is counting sniper shots.

    Four, five....

    Six.

    Quickly it was silent. Sean peeked out around the corner, not knowing what to expect.

    "They're retreating!" Sean yelled happily.

    Scout Sniper William A. Scott was able to take enough of them down and scare them into retreating. The Marines slowly appeared from their cover, air support called in to monitor the enemy group and collect intelligence of where they're heading.

    The 31st Infantry Regiment is in relief, not a single soldier injured. They quickly load up the Humvee's and head back to base.

    Though Pvt. Sean Murphy was not labeled the hero that day, he now understands that his rifle is his tool, it is an item of great power that aids him in his duties as a member of the United States Marine Corps.
     

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