?

Vote for the best short story:

Poll closed Jun 9, 2014.
  1. Old Faithful

    3 vote(s)
    15.8%
  2. Borrowed Things

    5 vote(s)
    26.3%
  3. The Greatest

    2 vote(s)
    10.5%
  4. Yellowstone Fairy Tale

    2 vote(s)
    10.5%
  5. The World Below

    4 vote(s)
    21.1%
  6. A Great Mountain Burning With Fire

    3 vote(s)
    15.8%
  1. GingerCoffee
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    Closed Voting Short Story Contest (155) - Theme: "Yellowstone"

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, May 26, 2014.

    Voting for Short Story Contest (155) is OPEN
    Theme: "Yellowstone" courtesy of @Fronzizzle

    We have six excellent entries in this contest. The winner will be revealed in two weeks and the winner thread will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned. No more entries are allowed in this contest.

    Entries are listed in the poll in the order I received them.

    Voting will end Sunday the 8th of June 2014 ~20:30 (8:30 pm) Pacific Time to give everyone a chance to read the stories.

    I encourage authors to vote. While it is controversial, it remains acceptable in the short story contest to vote for yourself. I encourage you to vote honestly. In the name of good sportsmanship only vote for yourself if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation.

    Consider how the author has responded to the theme, as well as the quality of the writing and overall impression of the story in making your decision.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    Old Faithful [1,009]
    4/7/14

    Today Daddy said that the volcano went off. I don't know what he meant. In school they never said anything about a volcano under Old Faithful. I'm scared. Mommy and Daddy and even Timmy are panicking around me. I don't know what to do. All I can do is cry.

    4/22/14

    Today was the last day of fifth grade. I don't know why it ended so early. School usually goes until June. Timmy told me it had something to do with Old Faithful. I still don't know what's going on. Mommy and Daddy have stopped yelling at each other, which is nice. Mommy has started pulling hair out. She doesn't look as good like that.

    4/30/14

    I woke up and the sky was dark. There were thick black clouds over our house. Mommy keeps mentioning Old Faithful.

    5/7/14

    Daddy says I'm not allowed to leave the house. Mommy is missing. Timmy is in his room crying. I don't know what's going on. I turned on the TV to some news channel. They kept saying something like "Yellowstone Supervolcano". I asked Daddy what that is and he told me it was Old Faithful. I'm really confused.

    5/10/14

    There's a thick layer of some black powder on the ground. It is like snow but not white and not cold. Daddy says its more dangerous than snow. I snuck outside to look at it this morning. It's fun to play in. It's so soft and is kind of warm.

    5/15/14

    I tried to turn on the TV but it wouldn't work. Lights don't work either. Daddy says it probably won't come back. Mommy is still missing. Tommy has stopped crying over it.

    6/7/14

    It's summer. It's hot out. Timmy opened a window since the AC isn't working and he inhaled the powder in the air. He got some in his lungs. Timmy is dead. I can't stop crying.

    7/14/14

    Water isn't coming out of the sink anymore. Well it does, but it's not water. There's the powder that killed Timmy in it. Daddy says it isn't safe to drink, so I don't drink it. Daddy was smart and filled up the bathtubs with water when this all started.

    8/1/14

    It's August. It's cold. I don't know why. Daddy says we need heat now and we need to keep the windows closed. It's dark outside all day now. I don't like this. I miss school and Mommy and Timmy and my friends and a normal life. I want to go back to how it was.

    8/5/14

    It snowed last night. Daddy says I'm not allowed to play outside. The neighbor's kid was playing earlier. I wanted to join him. The bad powder mixed with the snow and it looks pretty.

    9/13/14

    Our neighbors moved into our house. Daddy says it's more efficient if we all huddled around one fireplace instead of two. They have food with them and we don't. I'm okay with it.

    10/15/14

    It's too cold. I don't like it. I miss summer. My fingers are too cold. Today Daddy pulled out the old radio and listened. The army is sending troops with help. The nearest army base is in Kansas City, it may be a while until they get here. I hope they come fast.

    11/1/14

    The neighbor's boy died. He was my friend and I miss him. The house is quiet now. Daddy is silent and the boy's parents cry for him every night. I only cried a little. With Mommy and Timmy dead, I don't fear death anymore. I feel bad about that. Life is so delicate.

    12/2/14

    I can't open the door. It's frozen shut. That can't be good. Daddy managed to escape through a window and went to our neighbor's house for firewood but it was raided. There are so many bad people out there. I can hear them at night prowling for people or supplies. Well I used to. Now if there are people out there, they die when the sun goes down. The sun barely breaks through the dark clouds.

    12/4/14

    I can't stop crying. Last night mean people broke into our house somehow. Daddy and the neighbors stopped them but Daddy and the man died. Daddy bled out right next to me. It's only the woman and me. I don't like her. I miss Daddy.

    12/10/14

    I accidentally called the woman Mommy. I don't know why I did that since Mommy's been dead for months now. I felt really bad and she isn't talking to me anymore. I don't know what to do. I want to die.

    12/25/14

    Christmas. There's no presents this time. There's no Mommy or Daddy or Timmy either. I don't like it. The woman got some cranberry sauce so that was nice. It's like a mini Christmas. The cranberry sauce was always my favorite part other than the presents.

    1/2/15

    I turned on the radio for the first time since Daddy died. The army reached our town. I hope they can get to us. Our house is farther away from the town. I'm scared that they'll miss us.

    1/5/15

    They missed us. They drove right by on their big tanks plowing through the snow and bad powder. I was banging on the door but they didn't hear me. I tried to open the door but it's still frozen shut.

    1/6/15

    We were rescued! I banged some more and they got us! They opened up the door with a big metal claw thing and pulled me and the woman out. They said we were lucky. The woman looks like she's going to die. I'm okay though.

    1/7/15

    Mommy! She says she went to go get rescue but Daddy didn't want to come with her. She walked all the way to Kansas City and got the army to come get us to take us away. We're going east. Maryland probably. It's better there they say. The sky is blue there. The seasons are still there. People aren't killing each other there. They say it's normal. I'm really excited.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    BORROWED THINGS [3,275 WORDS]
    Dedicated to the memory of Chris McCarthy.

    The glow from the moon was completely unnatural. Sitting beneath the stars, I couldn’t help but feel as though some kind of heavenly glow was bestowed upon me. Some divine providence; a sign that things were going to get better.

    It had been two months since my wife left. Following a bitter exchange of obscenities, she packed a handful of clothes into a small suitcase, stormed out the door and drove away. This was not one of those dead of the night runaway jobs, mind you. This was in the middle of the day, with the other neighbours looking on.

    Vultures. Waiting for any tidbit of gossip to devour and regurgitate to anyone who’d care to listen. They just passively observed, with an excitement glowing behind their eyes. At the time I was filled with an adrenaline rush from the fight and the reality (and finality) of the situation had not yet hit me. I slammed the door and paced the house for hours, ranting at the air and spitting out swear words into nothingness.

    It wasn’t until two weeks had passed that it finally sunk in. This time it was for real. This time she was gone. It hurt me, right at the core of my being, but at the same time there was a release. A moment of pure clarity that told my brain; you’re free now. I had only worked in that dismal 9 to 5 brain drain for her and now that she was gone it was time to live my own life. Time to get selfish.

    We had no kids, having only been married a few years. I often wondered if the hostility in our relationship made it impossible for us to conceive, but when the separation finally happened I was glad for it. I wasn’t very good at being a well-rounded adult, let alone a competent parent.

    After the divorce proceedings began, I threw in the towel on the whole “acting responsibly” thing. I quit that soul sucking, number crunching job and sold the house – splitting the profit with that harpy obviously, even though I was the one who paid the mortgage.

    I wanted something fresh. A new start. I wanted to drop off the grid and escape the trappings of modern living. So I bought the tent. A nice tent, of course, almost bordering on a fully fledged house. It had plenty of modern conveniences that made camping rough all the easier. I had been travelling around Wyoming for around two weeks, before that night.

    I enjoyed the momentary exchanges. Brief conversations with others, that served as exposition for my own personal journey. I remember the couple I met at the truck stop in their big RV, who told me they hadn’t stayed in one state for more than a month in over a decade. They had kids, but they were grown and were in college down in Florida.

    This couple asked for my backstory. I told them the story of a man subjugated by his wife, desperately fighting for air and his escape to freedom. They rallied around me saying things like “Good job” and “You’re still young. The whole world’s ahead of you”. Made me feel ten feet tall. We parted ways after breakfast and they congratulated me once again as their RV peeled away.

    There was the old redneck guy camped out back in Henry’s Lake State Park in Idaho. He was a scruffy old guy, missing three fingers who still had more digits than teeth. His grin was a gummy affair that brought “Duelling Banjo’s” to mind. He was a nice enough old guy, although bigoted as hell. He moved up north to escape his several ex-wives and various alimony payments.

    We sat on a bench and talked about action movies, women and Yellowstone itself. He spat a thick black tar like substances every few minutes and chewed on Tobacco incessantly. He told me that Yellowstone was everything he ever dreamed of, that it served as the perfect escape for someone like him, with so much to run from.

    He told me my wife was “a bitch” and that I was better off without her. I nodded in agreement and said very little, taking in his wisdom while all the time reminding myself that this sage had no understanding of personal hygiene or the human rights movements of the past 40 years. He was for the most part a nice guy and even though I disagreed with many of his views, I still felt a deep respect for the man.

    After all, he was everything I longed to be... Well, barring the bigotry and alimony ducking. He was free. He could, and probably would, live until the end of his days free from the judgemental eyes of others, only having the occasional tourist (like me) to occupy his days. Would this be me in thirty years? An angry, dirty old man embittered by a lifetime of mistakes but filled with the freedom of anonymity.

    My last day at Henry’s Park came and I began loading my gear into the Hyundai. The man spied my efforts and walked over to help. When it came to loading in the enormous tent, I appreciated it. We chatted briefly and I sensed he was actually sad to see me go.

    “Boy, I see a lot of mahself in you. You’re young and free and out here in the wilds not depending on no one.”

    He leaned against the rear of the Hyundai and opened his little snuff box, taking out a large lump of Tobacco before thrusting it into that gummy maw where a mouth should be.

    “One thing though. Yellowstone is an ol’ place. An ancient place… and ancient places, carry a lotta history… and you, if anyone, know’s what comes with history… Baggage. Stick to the trails. Stay at the camps, but don’t test the land. Don’t go out where you’re not welcome. Most folks that do that, well… most folks that do that… don’t come back.”

    His voice wavered slightly in that last sentence and he spat another blast of black goo to the ground. I recalled that in my time here, I never asked how he lost his fingers. I felt like it might be a sore subject, but considering I’d probably never see him again, it was worth filling in that particular mystery.

    When I asked, he just shrugged and continued chewing his tobacco. I wasn’t sure whether he simply hadn’t heard me or he was tastefully ignoring the question. Either way, I didn’t feel like pressing the matter further. I took another glimpse at his matted greying hair tied back in a ponytail, his dirty white t-shirt bearing the “Coca-Cola” symbol and his shit encrusted brown combats and thought; please let me avoid this future.

    I opened the driver door of the Hyundai and rolled down the window. It was just after noon and the interior was stuffy and humid. As I put the car in reverse and began to depress the pedal, suddenly a mangled hand flew through my open window.

    “My fingers. I … lost them… On a fishin’ trip with a buddy o’ mine. Not far from here. There… are … things in that park… things people might never see. I was one’a the lucky ones. My buddy… not so much… please, look out for yerself out there. You seem like a nice fella and I’d hate to think’a you windin’ up… like… him”

    My heart was beating out of my chest. This guy was nuts. I mean, I had obviously thought that a few times but now with him telling me about ancient evils in Yellowstone National Park and unseen things lurking in the dark, he had confirmed my speculation. I nodded and smiled, assuring him that I’d stay at campsites and away from the expanse of the park itself.

    Driving away I focused on the look in his eyes. There was a sadness there, like he knew something I didn’t. I couldn’t help but feel unnerved, more by his sudden outburst than what he had actually said.

    Now sitting in a clearing, deep within the park itself, well off the beaten track, I knew he was absolutely crazy. This place was beautiful. Sure there was always a possibility of bears, or wolves, stopping by, but that could happen in any rural part America. I’d travelled around most of the outskirts of the park over the last few weeks and observed most of the mainstream wonders, such as Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon.

    However, it was the stuff found far away from humans and their meddling that was the most awe inspiring. Old Indian structures ravaged by time stood alone by a massive river – probably a sublet of Lake Wyoming herself. I stared up into infinity at giant redwoods whose summits could not be seen from the forest floor. Yellowstone was an ancient place, that was evident all around.

    Every so often I would happen across a ranger station, or a care home and grit my teeth. It was so ugly to see these monstrous, alien structures embedded into the environment. It furthered my belief that getting away from reality, all those horrible alien concepts like a shared homespace and a “slave to the wage” job structure was the right choice.

    I took some time to explore the Indian structures at length. They were clearly from the last century, if not earlier and were mostly rotted to high hell. I pressed my finger into bullet holes and touched lead still embedded deep within the wood. If these walls could talk… they would probably scream out in pain. A totem pole, disfigured by the ravages of time had collapsed in the courtyard of one fort.

    Most of the icons were unrecognisable, bar the top figure which seemed to be a black jaguar. Its eyes had once been a deep red, but years of exposure had turned them rust coloured. The deep obsidian paint used for its coat had turned a pale grey, looking more like slate than charcoal. I wondered what tribe might have lived here. Imagined the children playing, the men hunting. The day the white men came… It must have been lambs to the slaughter.

    Examining the downed relic, I came across an arrowhead embedded deep into the wood. These things are worth a fortune, I thought. Better I take it now, than leave it here to be lost to history or worse, grabbed by someone with zero understanding of it’s worth. I made my way back to camp and readied myself for dinner. I was preparing some beans and spam; a real roughneck delicacy.

    The moon was still glowing, like some kind of floating irradiated rock. It looked huge in the sky, through the clearing in the trees and it basked the trees in a green tinted light almost as bright as day. Must be some kind of solar event, I mused, continuing to focus on my cooking. Boiling the kettle was paramount. For all the vices I left behind in my previous life, addiction to caffeine was not one of them.

    Kneeling by the stove and stirring the beans, I felt the hairs stand on the back of my neck and all up along my forearms. You know that feeling you get when you feel someone watching you. Well, that was it. I looked around the treeline, searching for some kind of woodland critter or maybe a fellow traveller. All I saw was trees, glowing a pale green, darkness punctuating the spaces between each trunk.

    That was when I spotted him. Standing atop a rock near a clearing in the trees, towards the top of a hill. He was tall, maybe 6”5, but more worryingly he was mostly naked. Barring a small pouch that covered his manhood, the figure stood basked in the glow from the moonlight, completely motionless. In his hand, he held what looked like an old tomahawk. Re-enactors? Out this late? Or was it a local Native American tribe who liked to scare tourists.

    I shouted up to him but he remained completely still. I became uneasy at witnessing the figure on the hillside, especially considering the events of the day. I turned towards the tent, rubbing my shirt pocket where I felt a sudden itch forming. That was when I saw the others.

    Scattered along the treeline behind the tent were maybe thirty more figures, all wearing the same minimal clothing as the figure on the hilltop. They were all shapes and sizes. Men, Women and children, all stood motionless emanating that same green tint from the moonlight. Except, the moonlight wasn’t piercing that section of treeline… meaning… they were glowing. Some kind of ethereal light, reflected from their skin and reverberated off the surrounding tree trunks.

    I felt a very real fear drop into the pit of my stomach. Suddenly all the massive life changing events of the past few months; the split, the divorce, the resignation – felt decidedly trivial next to this very strange, and all too real scenario. I took some small steps towards the tent entrance. As I moved, I noticed that the figures in the trees began to crouch and silently leave the treeline. I fought red hot panic, filling me with a desire to turn and flee into the darkened woods.

    There were things I needed from the tent. My car keys for one, as well as a cellphone. As I crept towards the entrance to the tent, I glanced back up towards the hillcrest where the large figure stood only moments before. Gone. I picked up the pace and pushed through the semi-open door of the tent. Once again I battled with panic as I searched for my car keys. The tent suddenly felt darker than ever before.

    Through the canvas walls of the tent, I saw the green light closing in. I desperately pushed aside some clothing, my hands shaking and found the Hyundai keys protruding from a shirt pocket. Grabbing the keys, I decided to abandon the search for the cellphone. Self-preservation was key here and I’d rather get the jump on… whatever was outside, than spend more time looking for my phone.

    I grabbed the tent pole holding up the outdoor porch as I moved through the entrance and my whole body shook with an alien feeling. I could feel my bones shudder and my vision became spotty. Looking down at where my hand gripped the pole, I saw a glowing green Tomahawk dug into the pole. Above it was my hand. Below it, dropping to the grass were my index finger and thumb.

    I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t even necessarily feel the intense pain; although I would later. All I felt was the vibration of my own heart and my body juddering as shock set in. I looked up from my maimed hand and into the face of my attacker. It was the man from the hill. He was an older Native American man, with the markings of a cat painted on his face.

    His mouth was contorted into a grimace and in the light of the moon, I could see that although he was an ethereal being, his translucent visage was barely held together. Chunks of the spirit’s flesh hung in thick clumps from his face, and one eye was no longer in its socket. He spoke in a tongue unknown to my ear, his voice ragged and lifeless.

    “Uthchaka, Uthchaka fera”

    The effects of my shock were starting to wear off and I felt the pain throbbing in my hand. Two little knubs now sat where digits used to be. I pushed past the man and saw them lining the sides of my camp. The tribe was furious, chattering and leaping. Screaming and hollering. The children had climbed atop the tent and were pushing it down towards the forest floor.

    Several of the Indian spirits saw me break into a sprint and I heard the whistle of their arrows sail by, far too close to my head for comfort. I heard the tall man, clearly their leader, let out a guttural cry and break into a gallop behind me. I pushed my way into the relative safety of the tree cover. I felt a searing pain in my leg as an arrow plunged through the flesh, meeting bone before simply disappearing. Although the arrow vanished, the wound was all too real.

    I continued on, not sure where I was running to. Simply obsessed with making it through this, I suddenly missed my other life. My boring job. My angry wife. Those things were minor inconveniences. Being chased my Native American ghosts through a gigantic forest in the dead of night, now that was a real problem. I limped onwards and spotted a huge redwood, with more than a few climbable branches.

    I could hear them now, bursting through the woods behind me. Searching. Hunting. I climbed the tree as best I could, considering the condition of my left hand. There they were again below me, shouting in that bizarre ancient dialect. I felt the itch in my shirt pocket again. The arrowhead?! Is that what they were searching for? Taking the small stone relic from my pocket, I casually dropped it from the tree and heard it whish through the air before thumping softly to the surface far below.

    As I sat there, leaning against the tree trunk, holding what was left of my hand against my side, I heard them below. They had gotten quiet. I could hear the leader, occasionally shouting what I presumed to be orders. Glancing down through the branches, I could see the leader searching in the brush. It was the arrowhead. That was what they sought.

    He looked up into the tree and I struggled to regain my composure. After some searching, he must have found the arrowhead, because they began to move silently away from the tree, disappearing like smoke into the moonlight. The leader looked up into the canopy, clearly aware of my presence and shouted something. A warning maybe. With this he too wandered off towards the treeline and into the moonlight.

    Although the tribe was gone, I was in no state to go anywhere. I felt my vision began to falter and my balance shifted to my left side, pulling me unceremoniously from the branch on which I lay. As I plummeted towards the forest floor, I stared up into that big glowing irradiated rock in the sky and cursed my own selfishness. If you had just stayed where you were, this never would have happened I thought. I heard the air whoosh by for what felt like forever and then I crunched to the floor, a mangled mass of flesh and bone.

    A hunter found me the next day, my wounds were infected and he was sure I wouldn’t make it to Yellowstone Memorial Hospital. I surprised them all by pulling through. I surprised them even more when I recounted my tale. The next year I took a trip back up to Henry’s Lake State Park to visit the old redneck. The camp owner told me he moved on a few months back. Maybe those alimony payments caught up with him, I thought with a smile.

    I stood by the lake looking on into the distance and my mind raced. What happened out there?

    Picking up rocks to skim across the surface, I moved some debris to get at the larger stones beneath. My breath caught in my chest when I saw it there. The arrowhead.

    END.FIN
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    The Greatest [1,339]

    I'm a little cramped, sitting in the corner of the closet. My breathing has returned to normal, and the sweat that once dotted my brow has evaporated, leaving small salt deposits behind; I'm now at ease, waiting for my prey.

    Tonight's victim is like many – but not all – of the others. Female. Young. Pretty.

    She should be home within minutes, meaning I don't have to wait in this uncomfortable position for too long. That's good. My body is too old, my knees too used up to stay crouched for an extended period.

    As I wait, I take the pen I found on the kitchen table out of my pocket. After contemplating for a few seconds, I mark the word “Yellowstone” onto the drywall next to me. In the back corner, covered by clothes, I wonder if anyone will ever see it. No matter; whether it’s found or not really doesn't make any difference to me.

    Why? Because it means nothing. It's just another link in a chain of useless information I've left at the scenes of some of my crimes. A word scribbled on a piece of paper, or carved into a victim's chest. A weird symbol carefully crafted on construction paper, or stuffed animals arranged in a pentagram. Just a bunch of randomness to confuse the authorities.


    Not that I'm worried about being caught. I've been at this for too long, have gotten too good to leave any sort of clue behind. Over twenty-five years of breaking and entering, kidnapping, torture and murder and I haven't so much as been brought in for questioning.

    I hear the door open and then close...and then talking. My body is tense; my mark is supposed to be alone.

    I quickly realize that the only voice I hear is hers. Stephanie, the girl from Starbucks; she's on her cell phone, laughing and joking. I hear the refrigerator open and close, the microwave run, glasses clink. She's making her dinner and, from what I can tell, having a glass of wine with it. That's both good and bad; good because of the effect wine will have on her reflexes, bad because of the extra time I'm going to have to sit here.

    I think back to similar situations; there have been plenty. I've lost count of how many times I've hidden in closets, in bathrooms, in laundry rooms. As long as I control my breathing and relax, I'll be fine.

    What's my number, how many people have I killed? I don't know, exactly. There were a few mass murders along the way – I derailed a train once, as well as blew up a small Knights of Columbus where they were holding an AA meeting – and a few times I had to run so I'm not sure if I finished the job or not. I do know that it's somewhere north of six hundred.

    The most prolific serial killer in history is thought to be Luis Garavito with one hundred and thirty-eight confirmed victims; I had that before I was thirty. In all, he's suspected of killing over four hundred people; I remember the names of over five hundred of my victims.

    I come from an upper middle class family and had a wonderful upbringing. My mother and father raised me well, I was never abused, neglected or tormented. I don’t have it out for prostitutes or the homeless, I’m not afraid of women or trying to make a statement about race, politics or religion. I don’t long for attention, or have any desire to become famous for my deeds.

    I kill for one reason and one reason only: enjoyment.

    Taking the life of another is exhilarating, exciting and invigorating – but never sexual. I don’t get off on killing, and I have never molested, raped or otherwise inappropriately touched any of my victims. It’s about killing, and killing only. Even if it wasn’t, even if a part of me found it arousing I couldn’t act on it – I love my wife Jeanne too much to cheat on her.

    Just like my background, there is nothing in how I carry out my kills that says “serial killer”. I vary my method and style constantly. I’ve used guns and knives, garrotes and poison, my own hands and large rocks I found on the street. Sometimes I tie up and torture my victims, other times I do drive-bys. I’ve killed in my neighborhood, across the country and in foreign nations. Bodies have been left out in the open, and others were hidden and still haven’t been found. I go on rampages where I kill every night for two or three weeks, and then I don’t kill again for a month.

    And, of course, the fake clues like “Yellowstone.” I’m not sure when or why I started that, I’ve never really thought about it. Just part of the fun, I guess.

    I can hear my mark coming up the steps. I usually choose my victims at random, but sometimes its better to kill someone you know, or that knows you. Once, I killed an acquaintance from high school, a man I knew for more than twenty years. I didn’t seek him out, it was a just a case of right place at the right time. Or wrong place at the wrong time, depending on your perspective.

    The girl whose closet I’m currently in is a young professional that I’ve been watching at the local coffee shop. My job keeps me out of town in excess of eighty percent of the time, but when I’m in the office I like to sit at lunch and people watch. I struck up a conversation with Stephanie over a venti latte one day a few weeks ago, and knew from the beginning I’d have to kill her. She’s pretty – not beautiful, but someone you’d notice – with exceptionally long, blonde hair. Flowing down her back, reaching her waist…I can’t wait to use it to strangle her.

    This will be a new one for me; I’ve never used a victim’s own hair to end their life before. Sure, I’ve manipulated junkies into overdosing and once talked a distraught father – after showing him the body of his beloved daughter – into putting a bullet into his own brain, but this is different. It feels different.

    As she enters the room, I peer through the slats in the door. She’s wearing – or, was wearing, as she’s already begun to undress – a business skirt and blouse, both probably a little too tight to be appropriate for her office job. Before I can look away, she’s naked and on the way to the bathroom. The door closes, and I hear the shower turn on.

    I can’t help but laugh; could she possibly make it easier for me?

    Now, the indecision is setting in. Attacking her in the bathroom would be easy and quick. In and out. But in my mind…her hair was going to be soft and smell of strawberry or some other fruity shampoo, not be dripping wet and full of conditioner. Do I wait until she emerges? Will she even dry her hair, or just wrap it in a towel?

    My aching knees make the decision for me; it’s time to exit the closet. I silently open the door and step out, ready to do what I came here for. Before proceeding, though, I turn back around and look into the closet. I open both doors as wide as they go and slide all of the clothes to the far left, leaving the black “Yellowstone” wide out in the open. Penned against the aging yellow wall, the police should have no trouble seeing it. I feel an evil grin playing around the corners of my mouth, thinking about what the detectives and profilers will think of my little clue and my victim strangled with her own hair.

    Satisfied, I make my way toward the bathroom – to prove once again that I am the greatest.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    Yellowstone Fairy Tale [Words: 1860]

    John and his 7 year old daughter, Emi, were out tenting in Yellowstone National Park. It was late and the sun had long gone down below the horizon. The moon were nowhere to be seen, but instead they had a black sky filled with stars twinkling in all the rainbow's colors.

    John was finishing setting up the tent, when his daughter called out to him.

    "Dad! I think I've caught something!"

    John looked out of the tent, his daughter wasn't sitting at the fireplace where he last saw her.

    "Where are you?" he called out into the darkness.

    "Over here!"

    John found her by the foot of a large rock. A tall pine tree next to it had grown in a curve around it. Emi was hunkered down, looking at something infront of her.

    "Look!" she said.

    John looked over her shoulder. Infront of her was a large glass jar. At first, John couldn't see anything inside the jar, but then, something glowed.

    "Do you think it's a firefly?" his daughter asked.

    "I don't know, I've never heard of fireflies around here."

    "Maybe it is a fairy!"

    John chuckled, "Maybe...." He crouched down beside her and looked closer at the jar that was sitting upside down on a smooth rock. Whatever was inside it, it glowed brightly yellow.

    "If it's a fairy, we should probably let it go, right?" his daughter said.

    "Yeah, probably."

    Emi removed the glass jar from the smooth rock. John expected whatever it was to fly away and disappear into the night, but instead it remained, floating a few inches above the rock. John couldn't help feeling it was just as curious of them as they were of it.

    John reached out his finger to poke at the glowing thing, maybe to make sure he wasn't just seeing things. As his finger was just about to touch it, it bit him, and then flew off into the darkness.

    "Ouch!"

    "Did it bite you?"

    "Yeah, but it didn't hurt that much." John said and looked at his finger. There were two small puncture wounds on it. Strange, he thought.

    "It probably didn't want you to touch it."

    "You're probably right. Come on now, it's really late, and we have a long walk ahead of us tomorrow."

    The two of them went back to the tent and went to sleep.

    The next morning when John woke up, he felt something lying on top of his chest. Looking down with his tired eyes, he thought at first his daughter had laid one of her barbie dolls on him, but then it began to glow so brightly he had to shut his eyes. When he opened them again, it was gone.

    Figuring he was having lucid dreams while waking up, he moved on to his usual morning procedure. He had filled a bowl with water from a nearby spring, and as he was shaving, he noticed several red marks on the side of his neck. Damn bugs, he thought at first, but then he remembered last night. The marks were all in pairs, and looked exactly as the marks he had got on his finger.

    He shook the razor clean in the bowl of water.

    "Emi, time to get up!" he called, but his daughter didn't move. "Hey, Emi!" He shook her small body with his hand.

    "Uhhh... I'm... a... awake... I... think..."

    "Are you okay?" He asked and put his hand on her forehead. "You're a little hot, maybe we should cancel today's hike."

    Suddenly she was wide awake. "No, we have to go!"

    "Are you sure you're up for it? It is quite a long walk."

    "I don't care, mom is waiting for us there, we have to go! "

    "Okay then. Then get up and get yourself dressed."

    ***

    Small pebbles and rocks rolled away beneath their feet as they walked along the trail up the side of the mountain. As they reached a hilltop, the view of grassy plains and small rivers and forests laid beneath them.

    "Wow! This view is really beautiful. Hurry, come over here and look!" John called to his daughter who had fallen behind. She stappled slowly forward.

    "Are you feeling okay?" John asked.

    "Y... yes, but let's keep going." she replied.

    John looked at his daughter, he wanted to take her back to the camp site, but he knew how important this trip was for her. She probably just has a cold, he thought. As he lifted his eyes from his daughter, he saw some dark clouds forming in the skies behind them.

    "Hey, get up here. We'll hurry." he said and crouched down, wanting her to ride his back.

    "What about the rucksack?" his daughter asked, looking at the rucksack he had taken off and laid down beside the trail.

    "Don't worry about it, we'll get it on the way back."

    His daughter climbed up on his back and held her arms around his neck. The bite marks burned slightly at the friction of her arms.

    "Let's go!" John said, and took off. But instead of going by the main trail, he took a smaller trail that had been closed off 3 years ago due to an accident.

    About 15 minutes later they finally arrived. They were standing on a small plateau infront of a steep drop, where the narrow trail continued up along a cliff side.

    "We're here." John said and crouched down, letting his daughter get off his back.

    She rubbed her eyes, as if she might've slept for a minute or two. She walked over to a small pile of rocks and sat down on her knees.

    "Hi mom." she said and started talking to her mother.

    John stood behind her and watched her. Unlike his daughter, he hated this place, he hated it so much he wish it didn't exist. But even so, he had returned here every year with his daughter.

    A strong wind blew by, and thunder could be heard in the distance.

    The dark clouds were already over their heads, and drops of rain began falling down.

    "D... dad... I'm not feeling so well..." his daughter said. She tried to stand up but she lost her balance. John was however quick and grabbed her before she fell onto the ground.

    "Emi!? Are you okay?"

    She didn't answer. She was barely able keep her eyes open.

    "Oh, god. You're burning up." he said as he felt her hot forehead.

    ***

    The rain and the wind quickly picked up, and soon he couldn't see more than a few feet ahead of him. He carried his daughter in his arms as he hurried down the trail, which had turned muddy and slippery. Suddenly his foot slipped and he fell backwards and landed on his back and hit his head. The heavy rain, was turning the trail into a small river. He got back up and looked if he could walk beside the trail, but there were either to many trees and bushes, or to many exposed and slippery rock surfaces. His best bet was to continue along the trail, but either way, it would be to dangerous to continue. He saw a cave opening up the slope, behind some light vegitation, and decided to take shelter and wait out the storm.

    He laid his daughter down on the rocky floor inside the cave. He picked up his cellphone, "No reception." He looked out the cave, the rain was hammering down relentlessly, forming new small streams everywhere.

    He found several dry twigs lying between the rocks on the floor, which he grabbed and made a small fire. He sat down by his daughter and put her head in his lap. Her eyes were closed and she was panting. Normally, in emotionally heavy situations like this, he would do everything to withold the tears, but seeing how he was already soaked from the rain, he let them fall, masked by the water that run down from his wet hair.

    Suddenly he felt something moving in his pocket, at first he thought it was his cellphone vibrating, but as a 2 inches tall girl crawled out of his pocket and onto his thigh, he couldn't believe his eyes. She stretched her arms over her head and yawned. As their eyes met, her translucent wings began to flutter, faster and faster, until they caught fire and hid her human shape. She quickly flew up into the air and was about to escape out the cave opening, but as it met the wall of rain outside, it changed trajectory and disappeared inbetween the rocks lying on the floor.

    "Wait!" John called out to her, he couldn't believe what he was just about to say. "My daughter is sick. Please, if you can help her, I'll do anything in return."

    There was no response. Then he realized one of his hands were rubbing the tiny bite marks on his neck.

    "I... if you help her, I'll let you suck my blood for as long as I live!"

    What am I saying? This is ridiculous, he thought. But then, to his suprise, the yellow glowing fairy flew out of the rocks, and flew excitedly back and forth infront of his face, as if to say it accepts his conditions. The fairy flew up to his neck and sank its tiny teeth into his skin and began sucking. Unlike the previous time where it had felt like a small sting, this time it burned, like being poked with a fiery stick. He was on the verge of beginning to scream when the fairy stopped, and brighter than ever before, flew back into his view.

    She made a loop before she flew straight into his daughter's chest and disappeared. Where did she go, he wondered. For a moment, nothing happened, when suddenly his daughter's chest began glowing. The same bright yellow as the fairy. It only lasted for a short while, and then the fairy flew back out of her chest. The fairy's glow was erratic and its movements wasn't nearly as smooth as before, it flew towards him and collapsed on his thigh.

    "Dad?"

    His daughter slowly opened her eyes.

    "Emi! You're fine!" he shouted and pulled her up to him and embraced her.

    As he held his daughter close to him, he looked down at the fairy, who laid lifelessly on his thigh.

    He stopped hugging his daughter and instead began searching the floor.

    "What are you looking for?" his daughter asked.

    He grabbed one of the small sticks on the ground and used the sharp end to punctured the skin of his finger, letting a small drop of blood come out of the hole. He put his finger infront of the fairy's face. "Come on drink."

    The fairy's nostrils started moving and brought its sleeping face to the finger and began sucking.

    ***

    Music was blaring out of the car's stereo, and his daughter was singing along. The fairy laid half-asleep on his shoulder, and ever now and then nibbled on the skin of his neck as they drove off into the sunset, and back towards their home.

    The End.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    The World Below [1427 words]

    Yellowstone Bridge was dark against the evening sky. He nursed his third beer and peered through the bar window. It looked deceptively close. But it was a far walk—at least an hour and a half—and by then the beauty of evening would be gone. He glanced at his watch and shook his head.

    “Doesn’t look like she’s coming,” said the barmaid.

    He turned to her. “No, doesn’t look like it.”

    “Sorry, Jim. Tough luck.”

    Empty words, of course. “It’s not luck,” he replied. “She’s the fifth one in two months. It’s me, Janice.”

    The barmaid said nothing. Instead she wandered off to serve a new customer.

    He sighed and looked back out at the bridge. A true work of art, not just something practical. The tiny silhouettes of cars flashed by, and the silhouettes of the flags at the top of each tower fluttered in the wind. There was something profoundly calming about the whole thing. He couldn’t quite place it.

    He finished his beer in two swallows. No reason to nurse it if she wasn’t going to show up. Janice shot him a few looks from the other end of the bar. He averted her gaze—he didn’t need the pity party. That wouldn’t get him anywhere. No amount of wallowing would remedy the situation. No, it was too late for that.

    The front door opened and a frosty breeze blew in. He drew a sharp breath and turned to see, half-expecting and half-dreading. It wasn’t her. It was two businessmen in suits, quickly followed by two kids in hoodies. After-work happy hour was beginning to fade into young people’s night out. Well, maybe not quite yet. But soon he’d be the oldest one in the bar, and that wouldn’t do him any good. Maybe it was time to head out.

    He left the tip on the counter and walked to the door without saying goodbye to Janice. Her words would only fall on deaf ears. No need for her to waste her breath.

    A couple walked by him as he stepped outside. Their fingers interlocked, footsteps synchronized. He sighed, the breath spraying out in a thick puff. The bridge stood tall and majestic over the icecold water. Just too far away.

    He started off down the sidewalk. The east side was quiet for a change. It was nice. Sunlight glared off the windows of the monoliths around him, bouncing in stark angles all the way from sky to street. It faded as the time inched by. The kids were out now—they owned the city after business stopped for the day. Kids who didn’t know heartbreak. Kids who thought they knew sadness, who thought those singer-songwriters were speaking to them. But a time would come when they’d see it for real. When they’d wake up. Then they’d know.

    He continued on and stopped at the corner. A man sat by a stoop halfway down the side street. Ragged clothes, ratty hair. A brown paper bag by his side, clutched tight in a hand covered by a fingerless glove. The man turned and caught his eye but remained emotionless. Jim reached into his pocket but found nothing—his larger than normal tip had been the very last of his money. He turned away and crossed the street.

    It was staying light out into the evening now. Still too cold to pass for spring, though the warmth would come in time. But not soon enough.

    He walked by a park. A few more homeless people lay on the benches and some couples walked the paths by the trees. The rest was deserted. Too late in the day for children. Too cold for anyone but the romantic and the desperate. He turned back just in time to stop himself from running into a young woman out walking her dog.

    “Sorry,” she said, pulling on the leash. “Looks like Cody got away from me.”

    “No,” he replied. “I should have been paying more attention. I think I just got...distracted.”

    She smiled and continued on, the dog pulling her along its own path. He watched her until she disappeared around the bend, out of reach. Then he watched the empty corner.

    The sky above darkened as the sun slipped behind the buildings. The glare disappeared. It would be dusk soon, and then the night sky would take over. No stars, either. Only the lights from the city. All those lights, like a galaxy of their own. Entire worlds revolved around those lights. Worlds with all different kinds of life forms—some he understood and some he didn’t. But none understood him. None knew him. And none would miss him.

    But it wasn’t nighttime quite yet. The sun still hung on the horizon somewhere behind the buildings. Soon enough he’d be able to see it. One bright spot in an otherwise dark, ugly world. The cold wind blew by, cutting his flesh with its blade. Nameless faces passed him on their way into the fray, some paired off and others in groups. None were alone. He walked on to the end of the street and entered his apartment building.

    The windows still caught the remaining glare of sunlight. The lobby glowed orange like the stock video footage of Miami on TV. He took the elevator up past his floor, past the apartment he couldn’t afford, all the way to the top. It let him off by the staircase to the roof, which he climbed slowly until he reached the door. He met the sunset full-on, the burning disc searing his eyes out.

    The bridge nearly disappeared against it. But there it was, in all its glory, stark and defiant. Almost waiting for him on the other side of the world. Only a galaxy sat between them.

    He smiled at the sight and made his way to the ledge. For some reason it was colder up here than in the wind tunnels of the city streets. Maybe he was just imagining things. It didn’t matter—he wouldn’t care about the cold for much longer. A pink cloud swept across the sky just above the dying sun, the curtain call he’d been waiting for. He closed his eyes a moment as the breeze stroked his cheek. His eyelids burned red.

    The gears kept turning and the pistons pumped on. The whirr of activity from below reached his ears even at his height above the world. He looked down—the ants marched along, inward toward their hill from all directions. He’d been one of them moments before. Just another ant in the colony. Waiting to be stepped on. He took a deep breath.

    Someone somewhere started to strum a guitar. He froze for a moment. It was a familiar song, but he couldn’t place it. Something from the nineties. The Goo Goo Dolls. Then the vocals kicked in. Female. It was coming from behind him but not from below. She was somewhere on the roof. He turned his back on the bridge.

    She sat on a foldout chair behind the staircase. Her eyes were glued to the sunset and her fingers to the neck of her guitar. She belted out pitch-perfect lyrics to “Iris”—that was it—without a care in the world. He stood still and listened, letting the words flow through him and tug at something deep within. Halfway through she caught his eye.

    When the song ended she tossed back her hair and grinned at him. “Beautiful night, isn’t it?”

    “Very,” he replied. “That was excellent.”

    “Thanks. I’ve been playing it for years.” She looked him up and down. “Do you live here, too? I haven’t seen you around.”

    He nodded. “I don’t get out much, though. I’m a bit of a homebody.”

    “One of those quiet, pensive types, huh?”

    “Maybe.” He shrugged. “What does that make you?”

    “The type of girl who likes quiet, pensive types,” she replied with a wink. “I’m Taylor.”

    “Jim.”

    She looked back out at the sunset, absently plucking the strings of her instrument. “So what brings you up to the roof, Jim?”

    The breeze picked up again. He stared at Yellowstone Bridge, now illuminated by streetlights. Their reflections shimmered on the water. A tear slipped out from the corner of his eye.

    “Just admiring the view,” he said. “I really love that bridge.”

    She began the chord progression to another song. “Me too,” she replied. “The world is such a beautiful place.”

    The scent of her hair reached him. He smiled. Yes. It was easy to forget that sometimes.

    She kept on strumming.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    A Great Mountain Burning With Fire [3,300 words]

    It was a recurring dream, one that he had experienced periodically since adolescence. From myriad sidelong glances and glimpses, slowly over time he had pieced together a jigsaw-puzzle picture of his tormentor and temptress: The woman had skin as black as a panther's pelt at midnight, and her luminous, diamond-shaped eyes danced like candles in the wind. She was bald and naked, always naked, except for a necklace made of what appeared to be gold nuggets of various shapes and sizes that dangled from a string around her neck. The brightest stone, at the bottom of the necklace, nestled in the cleavage of her breasts, which, ever drowsy with milk, were surmounted by rose-petal nipples. Always pregnant, her cannon-ball belly protruded outward over the bold furrow of her sex, which was flanked by broad hips and statuesque legs that terminated in small, pattering feet. She had pointed cat ears, whiskers, a long, whip-like tail and curved claws on her eel-like fingers. Her face was an expressionless pagan mask, but her carefree laughter rang out as she gamboled among the ruins of (his?) broken dreams.

    She chased him in unfamiliar badlands. He clambered up a cliff, grasping for handholds as she pursued him with the agility of ink spilled from a bottle and endowed with the ability to slither upward. There was a rim at the top and he reasoned that if he could surmount it, he would both escape her and discover something revelatory on the other side of it. But he never managed even to peer over the edge of it, though from time to time he laid a hand on it. She always was able to wind a tentacle-like hand and arm around his ankle, pulling him downward as his grip slipped and a spray of pebbles and rocks fell around him. From such dreams that had turned into nightmares, he'd wake with a start.

    Over the years as he grew to manhood, the dream waxed and waned in frequency and intensity. For a few years in his late twenties, he hardly dreamed at all. Then, as he neared thirty, got married and founded a family and began a career, the dream crept back, intermittently at first, and later with tenacity.

    "You've hardly touched your cake."

    He was staring down at the slice: chocolate. The rest of the cake was on the kitchen counter, thirty candles that he had just blown out. His children, Charles Jr. and Melissa, peered up above the edge of the table with big, inquiring eyes and goofy grins. They had spiky, unruly hair that jetted out above their plastic faces, and in that moment (all moments?) they reminded him of the troll dolls that had terrified him when he was a child.

    He regarded his wife, Marjorie. She was an editor on the local suburban rag, which meant that she was complicit in disseminating lies and distortions to the public. She was pretty in a homely way, tidy, efficient and practical. In a word, she was average. He recalled reading somewhere that the average couple had 2.5 kids. But they only had two. Where, he wondered, was the half child that would make their life together statistically whole?

    Looking at her, he noticed, for the first time, that the lines running down from the wings of her nose to the corners of her mouth had deepened since he first met her in college.

    Forcing a smile, he said, "It's just, well -- turning thirty. The big three-oh. It feels odd. I think that from now on, we shouldn't celebrate our birthdays. We should mourn them."

    She smiled, patted his hand and said, "Grow old with me. The best is yet to be."

    The bromide nauseated him. He thought of his job as a middle manager in a box factory, a place where -- appropriately -- the sales office consisted of boxes, cubicle warrens occupied by cubicle monkeys posing as humans. He and his family lived in a faux-colonial house in an anonymous, leafy suburb of a bustling eastern metropolis. His future was as fixed as the lifeline in the palm of his hand, which, a palm reader had once warned him, guaranteed him a ripe old age.

    She again patted his hand, which involuntarily closed into a fist. Tilting her head forward and downward, she tried to intercept his gaze, but he averted his eyes.

    "Honey," she said, concern in her voice. "You don't seem to be sleeping well lately. You toss and turn. Wake up in the middle of the night."

    "Stress at work. Let's just say that sometimes, I feel -- boxed in."

    She then tentatively broached that topic.

    "Honey, we don't…"

    "No, we don't," he cut her off brusquely. But then, softening his tone, he assured her: "I'll get a checkup. Really, I will."

    After an awkward silence she said, "I got you babe," a familiar riff on their once and now inexplicable devotion to Sonny and Cher. She patted his hand again, and his fist tightened more.

    "I got you too, babe."

    That night, lying in bed next to his wife, he again dreamed. The chase was on. He scrambled up the side of the slope, the barren floor below washed in red from the setting sun. As he clambered upward, reaching for the rim, the tentacle-like hand and arm again slithered around his ankle, and she yanked him downward. Suddenly he was falling, falling. The floor of the wasteland approached him at an accelerating and terrifying rate of speed. He prepared to wake up, as he always did at such traumatic climaxes, but this time he fell into the woman's arms, and they lay on the land below the promontory as the sun flashed and died, momentarily plunging the barren pan into blackness. Then the stars came out, thousands of them, bright and hard, scintillating. Distant pine trees on a ridge line resembled petrified black torches caught in contortions of agony.

    His eyes adjusted to the starlight but especially to the golden light of her candle-like eyes and the gleam of the gold nuggets around her neck. They were face to face, their arms and legs entwined. He was clothed, but she was naked as always, her black skin slicked with sweat and her breath thrumming like a low growl. To his chagrin, he felt himself aroused. But propriety prevailed, and he disentangled himself from her and pushed her away. He stood up. She regarded him levelly with her and then laughed. She reclined in the gravel, arm bent at the elbow and hand cupping the side of her head, her elegant legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. "Who are you?" he blurted out, praying that he would wake before she spoke for the first time.

    "You're afraid," she purred, in the voice of a cat that had gained the power of speech. She unclasped the largest gold nugget from her necklace, the one that dangled in the crevice between her breasts. With a delicate hand, she reached for him and he plucked the nugget from her clawed grasp. Her eel-like fingers then withdrew.

    He turned the nugget in his hands. To his shame, he began calculating its potential value. She said, "It's a bond between us. You will have it in the daylight world. It is where the sun goes after dusk, making the sky dark at night. It is the sun in the form of stone and it dwells here in the darkness. Keep it with you always. It will remind you that the world of your dreams is as real, and even more so, then the world of waking life."

    "What do you see in me?" he demanded, terrified of the answer. Stuffing the nugget into his pocket, he spread out his hands and said, "I'm getting fat." He was, too. He was a big boy, and had been so even in high school, when a growth spurt propelled him past the six-foot milestone. His teammates had nicknamed him Great Mountain, and this nickname had evolved over time into the derisive "Biggy," a sobriquet that paradoxically cut him down to size. He had tried playing football in college, not because had had wanted to but because it had been expected of him. But although he had the size he lacked speed and agility and he was a washout. In college he was drawn to books and had vague notions of majoring in something like philosophy or literature or art, the life of the mind, but his father, a worker of wood, had vetoed this idea, dismissing his son's dreams as "impractical." Instead he had majored in business administration, compelled to do so by his father's threat to cut off his tuition payments unless he did as he was told.

    "It's not what I see in you," she purred. "It's what you see in yourself."

    He was staring transfixed at her belly.

    "Whose child?"

    She smiled coquettishly and said, "I have many lovers. I am the vessels for their creations, for good or ill."

    Then she was gone.

    He shot upright in bed next to his wife who, in response to his sudden motion, groaned and rolled over. She did not wake, however, and he cupped his hands and peered down at his palms. There was nothing in them, no gold nugget. He patted the pockets of his pajamas, but there was nothing in them, either.

    A few days later he was loading laundry from the hamper into the washing machine downstairs and, as he turned out the pockets of a pair of jeans, he heard something hit the floor with achunk noise.

    He did not show it to Marjorie, but decided to have it appraised.

    "Fool's gold," the appraiser scoffed. "Iron pyrite. It's not even worth as much as a yellow gemstone, which can be lucrative for their beauty. But this --" he shook his head. "Someone has taken you for a ride, son. Pretty yellow stone, but worthless."

    "Pretty but worthless, like a dream," he said hollowly, while the appraiser appraised him.

    On the way home, he stopped on a bridge and threw the stone over the side. He heard a plunksound, and watched, mesmerized, as concentric circles of water spread out from where the stone had penetrated the water. Oddly, bubbles rose up from those chthonic depths, like the waterlogged breath of someone drowning. He then heard from nearby a moan, like that of a cat in heat, and, startled, he whirled around and caught sight of a retreating high-backed black cat that raced around a pylon and vanished into the night.

    After that he resigned himself to frightful domestic bliss. Charles Jr. and Melissa were six and five respectively, now, getting bigger and taller. They still reminded him of the terrifying troll dolls of his youth, but he had come to terms with them just as he had come to terms with everything else. Dreamers dream, but doers do. His father had said that.

    At age 30, what was left of his childhood? Just stacks of old comic books tied up in string, moldering in his company's corrugated cardboard boxes in the damp basement of their house.

    He was in the basement inspecting the comics one evening -- he had not done so in many years -- and suddenly, there she was. It was so absurd he had to laugh. There was the gal of his dreams, his first crush: WHEN SHE'S BAD, SHE'S VERY, VERY BAD, the overline stated. DC Comics No.1, dated August 1993.

    CATWOMAN

    The whip, the ears, the black skin -- no, not skin, a full-body black vinyl or rubber suit. Claws. Pendulous breasts. A necklace of golden suns (fool's gold). Only, she wasn't pregnant, yet.

    He was thirteen years old again. Rain pattered on the small rectangular windows of the basement. He unzipped his pants and slipped his hand inside. There was a flash of lightning, followed by a peal of thunder.

    They fired him during a meeting of managers. He sat before them and heard the sounds of their voices, but could scarcely make out the content of their words. A high ringing in his ears blotted out their judgments, and his earlobes burned like hot coals as their lips flapped. Minutes later he found himself with all his office possessions crammed into two of the company's boxes, one box under each arm. A security guard was escorting him to the front door and the parking lot beyond.

    He hid his firing from Marjorie, getting up for work every day as he always did but then driving to a park downtown where he fed the pigeons and dozed He knew that he could not keep this secret from her for long, though; she would soon notice that their joint bank account was not filling up with his checks. Things are coming to a head, he thought.

    He went to the travel agency. He was still owed two weeks paid vacation, after all, and Marjorie had been pestering him about getting away.

    He was thumbing through some photographs and then he saw it. His mouth fell open, and he ran a hand over that familiar rocky slope depicted on the glossy photo. It was not like in his dreams – it was vaster, and not as steep -- but he knew what it was. He decided on the spot that this is where they were going on vacation. Only, his wife and kids wouldn't be going with him.

    The travel agent solicitously leaned toward him as he kept running a hand over the photo. The agent wore a bow tie that pointed up and down rather than from side to side, and his hair was askew. His eyes were dark and muddy behind horn-rimmed glasses that rested askance on the bridge of his nose.

    "Pure magma," the agent said, a wild grin cracking his face. He was jabbing a finger at the photo that his client was fondling. "Pressure. So much pressure! It builds and builds and builds … and then … KABOOM!"

    The agent sprang from his chair and threw up his hands at the ceiling, unleashing a cackle of delight. "Travel for one," he told the agent, after the latter had calmed down. "One way."

    Leaving the travel agency, he turned the corner and came to a dead stop. A disheveled street preacher stood on a soapbox, as still and silent as a mime. Slung around his shoulders was a sandwich board sign. The front of it was covered from top to bottom and from side to side with crabbed, stilted cursive writing, like the obsessive-compulsive scrawling of a lunatic. He had no doubt that this mute, blank-eyed preacher, who wore a halo of flies circulating around his scraggly hair, had wielded the pen that had made these words. It quickly became apparent that these were passages from the Book of Revelation. Despite himself he bent forward, parsing with a squint the crabbed writing. He felt the hairs stand up on the nape of his neck as he read at random:

    … a great mountain burning with fire …

    A few weeks later it was evening, and time to bathe the kids. He had installed in the basement next to his comic books the sticks of dynamite that he had illicitly obtained.

    Charles Jr. came into the bathroom, and he gently removed his child's clothes after preparing the bathwater. He cradled his boy in his arms and carefully set him down in the tub. The boy began to splash and giggle as his father ran a soapy washcloth over that plastic doll-like flesh. The boy's blue eyes were like buttons sewn into his skull. "My baby," he murmured, as the boy giggled. He ran the washcloth over the youngster's face and the boy grimaced. "I got soap in your eyes," his father observed aloud in a tender voice, and with a dry cloth he gently wiped the suds away and then he pushed the boy's head underwater.

    Four little limbs thrashed and flailed with surprising strength, turmoiling the suds. But he held the head under with fatherly firmness until a stream of bubbles broke the waterline. When Melissa entered the bathroom, she seemed uncomprehending and did not put up a fight.

    When Marjorie arrived home with sacks of groceries under both arms, he was ready for her as soon as she kicked the backdoor shut behind her with the heel of her shoe. "Honey! I'm home!" Afterward, a can of Heinz tomato paste rolled along the linoleum floor, clattering faintly before coming to a rest in a corner under the kitchen table. "I got you, babe," he said.

    He had booked a flight with the agent, but decided to drive instead, fearing that the police might intercept him at the airport. Past the city limits, he heard the explosion. It sounded like a clap of thunder, followed by a roll of drums.

    He drove day and night, not stopping until he reached it.

    "The caldera," she told him. "The Yellowstone Caldera. When it blows, it will really blow. Just like you. Only much, much worse.”

    He broke into sprint. She did not chase her prey, but watched with bemusement as he clambered up the incline. It took him the better part of the evening to scale the summit. When he clapped both hands on the rim and hauled himself up to look down, she set out after him, moving swiftly up a ravine. As he gazed down stupidly into the ravenous golden silence below, she was at his side, saying: "It hasn't awakened in half a million years." She seized him.

    They wrestled.

    They rolled down the side of the incline and then out onto the flat desert-like pan. She flung him onto his back. He hit his head on a rock, and it dazed him. He lay there, arms and legs stretched out, and she tore at his clothes and then straddled him. An eagle swooped overhead.

    Later, cradling her ever tumescent belly, she told him, "This child is yours, now." She then bitterly reproached him, eyes flashing with the heat of a dream woman scorned: "Ye of little faith! I gave you my bond, a yellow stone worth more than all the gold in the world, the sun imprisoned within a stone, and you tried to sell it and failing that, you drowned it. You extinguished the sun! Understand that you never betrayed me. From the first, you betrayed only yourself."

    He protested, but she cut him off.

    "Sacrificial lambs mean nothing to me. It’s too late."

    He did not leave her side for nine months until she gave birth. What a hideous monstrosity, what rough beast, did spring from her fecund belly inseminated by his corrupted loins! Child of darkness: The half kid that he and his wife had never had. His screams sawed out. Then an aurora appeared above the rim of the caldera, a gold crown of light that briefly turned night into day. Tremors raced along the ground, and a spasm of lava and smoke shot up thousands of feet into the sky, propelled by a tongue of flame. The acrid odor of ash filled the air, and the stars were blotted out. A thunderclap split the world, dividing night from day, followed by a concussive and slowly fading series of echoing booms that ran off to the distant horizon before falling silent. A great mountain burning with fire.


    He did not again wake back to daylight, for a black chador of ash had demurely veiled the feminine face and form of mother earth.
     
  8. BeckyJean
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    BeckyJean Member

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    Shoot... I just tried to vote, but am 5 minutes too late. Didn't have a chance to read them all until tonight.
     
  9. BeckyJean
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    BeckyJean Member

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    Never mind... it looks like it took! Great!
     
  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Authors revealed:
    1. Old Faithful > @Ulramar
    2. Borrowed Things > @Paddybass - *!*!*The Winner*!*!*
    3. The Greatest > @Fronzizzle
    4. Yellowstone Fairy Tale > @qp83
    5. The World Below > @xanadu
    6. A Great Mountain Burning With Fire > @davidm
     
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  11. qp83
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    qp83 Member

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    Woaa! I actually got two votes! I wasn't even expecting one, so this is a total win for me, yay! Thank you voters :)

    And CONGRATS to Paddybass!
     
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  12. Paddybass
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    Paddybass New Member

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    Clare, Ireland
    Thanks so much qp83, amazed at the result as there were some incredible entries in this contest. So happy about this, but still reeling as I fully expected one of the other amazing entries to emerge victorious. Thanks to everyone (admins, fellow entrants, voters etc.)
     
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  13. LordWotsit
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    LordWotsit New Member

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    To late to vote I know but some amazing stories there. Paddybass what an incredible story I would love to put something like that together.
     
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