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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England

    Short Story Contest (61): Theme - Predetermined Intro - Submission & Details Thread

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Jan 26, 2010.

    Short Story Contest 61
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: Predetermined Intro (see below)​

    Open to all, newbies and established members 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 seperate thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. Sadly, there is no prize on offer except pride.

    Theme: 'Predetermined Intro' (courtesy of member daemon). Use the following bolded and coloured paragraph as your inspiration. You do not have to follow it verbatim, but may do so if you wish.

    It was the way in which the light caught her that day which intrigued me most. I followed her a little further, outlines and shadows playing tricks with my eyes. At a distance she melted into the drizzle. Closer, she fused with the rigid angles of the city. Then, I lost her altogether

    Suggested Wordlimit: 500 - 3000 words.
    Deadline for entries: February 8th 2010 10.00 am (UK local)

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

    The next contests will be themed "Being A Nazi Officer" (Davylove21), "Voyeurs" (Twisted Inversly) and "Fictional (Auto)Biography" (LordKyleofEarth) respectively. If you would like to prepare an entry in advance for these contest you may, but do not submit an entry for these contests until instructed to do so.

    There is a maximum of 20 entries to any contest. If there are more than 20 entries to any one contest I will decide which are entered into voting based on adherence to the suggested word limit and relevance to the theme, not on a first-come-first served basis.

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

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

    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.

    Thanks and good luck.
  2. ronmatt

    ronmatt Member

    Jan 24, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Paradise, CA
    the stalker

    It was the way in which the light caught her that day which intrigued me most. I followed her a little further, outlines and shadows playing tricks with my eyes. At a distance she melted into the drizzle. Closer, she fused with the rigid angles of the city. Then, I lost her altogether.

    Being new at stalking, I hadn't yet learned the art of tracking. I knew that I had to refine my technique and hone my instincts. I would have to find a way to never be so out of range that when the opportunity to strike was at hand, I would miss it due to my ineptness.

    Each day that I practiced, I improved. I could sense that I was developing an ability to be at arms length, yet remain unnoticed. I could initiate conversation and recieve positive responses. Sometimes, even smiles and the coy batting of eyes. Yes, even subtle invitation.

    It got to the point when stalking dominated my life. I had fantasy pursuits in day dreams and sleeping dreams. They took place in parks, on city streets, in restaurants. Anywhere I was, was my stalking ground. Any woman was my prey. I imagined in vivid detail, the approach, the attack and the conquest. I had become a master..I had become ready.

    It was the way in which the light caught her that day which intrigued me most. I followed her a little further, outlines and shadows playing tricks with my eyes. At a didtance she melted into the drizzle. Closer,she fused with the rigid angles of the city.

    I was close enough to her to savour the fragrance of her perfume. To distinguish the pattern on her coat. To hear the click of her heals on the walkway. Then, once under the river rock underpass, I made my move. It was an action that had all the stealth of a panther. The swiftness of a cheetah. The strength of a tiger. The prey was mine.

    As the fingertip of my right hand touched the fringe of her scarf...she abruptly turned..and fired. I fell to the ground, I knew that I was mortally wounded. Lying on the wet ground, in pain and in shocked disbelief, feeling the life drain from me, I was aware of her kneeling next to me. I looked into her eyes as she said to me; "gotcha, you son of a bitch". "You're
    number three".
  3. InkDream

    InkDream Senior Member

    Oct 26, 2009
    Likes Received:
    the Evergreen State
    the Girl in Red (479)

    It was the way the light caught her that day that intrigued me most. It caressed her, making her hair shine like golden ribbons and her eyes glow like some undiscovered celestial body. She was luminous, a candle against the blackness of the city. She seemed hauntingly familiar as she sauntered through the market, politely browsing but not really seeing anything. I felt as if I knew each breath before she took it, each movement before she made them, as surely as I knew my own name. But it couldn’t be her. It just couldn’t.

    I followed her a little further into the depths of the market, half mad, outlines and shadows of the stands playing tricks with my eyes. At a distance she melted into the drizzle of a fine Seattle day. Closer, she fused with the rigid angles of the city. Then, I lost her altogether.

    Feeling vaguely panicked my pace quickened, my eyes darted wildly looking for her scarlet wool coat and finding none. The world had gone black and white again, the candle snuffed out. I was lost in the dark once again. On the long walk home I wondered what they called her, how they treated her. Was she an angel? Or the Devil’s own sent to torment me? She looked well, at least.

    I closed my eyes and conjured up her image, sure of the lines and textures I saw on the backs of my eyelids. It had been years since she went missing. All I had left were old photos of her pink little face —a face that would look very different now—and a red ribbon the police had found that she’d had in her hair. Sometimes I worried that I’d forgotten things—her scent, where her cheeks dimpled, the sound of her laugh as it bubbled up from her toes.

    I’d imagined so many times what she might look like these days—she would be sixteen now—a trail of thought that always ended in soul devouring sadness. Her name was both a prayer and a curse. It seemed I couldn't go anywhere without hearing it, even now. There are far too many Elizabeths in this world.

    The following week I waited along the sidelines of the market for her, hoping that this time she would see me, that she would feel me the way I had felt her. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be when someone that’s a part of you is so near? Blood calling blood?

    She was everywhere I looked. I saw her in every pair of blue eyes, every head of blonde hair, every smiling face. Feeling defeated, I was just turning to leave when I caught a glimpse of her. We were facing each other, mere footsteps between us. Her eyes caught mine and her brow creased intensely, her face darkening a moment.

  4. Ree

    Ree Member

    Jan 14, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Western New York
    Cracks in the Sidewalk (502)

    It was the way in which the light caught her that day which intrigued me most. I followed her a little further, outlines and shadows playing tricks with my eyes. At a distance she melted into the drizzle. Closer, she fused with the rigid angles of the city. Then, I lost her altogether.

    I sat down on the cold park bench, kicking the empty bag of bird seed aside. She didn’t know I was there today, just like the other days this week. I knew she shouldn’t see me. Doing so would only bring back the past she ran from so many years ago.

    But I needed to see her. Needed her in my life. Who wouldn’t? Every child needs a mother.

    I closed my eyes hearing our song as I absorbed the aftermath of her image. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray.” Our song. The song that lived in me. The song that carried me through puberty and most of my high school life.

    I spent the past several days watching her from a distance, willing her to come home to me. “I promise I’ll protect you. I’ll be good. I’ll keep you safe.”

    But in all honesty, I didn’t know how to protect her from herself. The psychologist spent multiple sessions trying to explain it to me. Bipolar with a hint of Schizophrenia. Whatever. The diagnosis meant nothing to me. She was still my mother. My absent mother. How does a mother leave her son? How could leaving your child be “a gift”? Her words, not mine.

    A cool breeze rustled the fall leaves and I felt a familiar grip on my shoulder. I stood, turning around to face him and the tears fell again, just like every day that week. After years of denying me, my father finally gave in to my demands, but on his terms. He shadowed me every day.

    “This is the life she wanted, the life she needed,” he said.

    “I know.”

    “You might never understand it, but you need to accept it.”

    “I know.”

    I’ll never understand, that I knew. And acceptance was impossible. I wanted to care for her, to protect her.

    Reading my thoughts, my father wrapped his arm around me and pulled me in. “Today is the day we agreed to head home. It’s time.”

    I sighed, knowing it was time. I could accept leaving, especially with the request of my father, my rock. At least now I knew where to find her, just a days drive away. I would be back again. Someday.

    We turned our backs on my mother’s life and walked through the park. His steps carefully paced with mine. I blinked away the tears, trying desperately to focus on my footing. I could feel his eyes on my feet as well, the way we always walked together over the past seven years. Carefully, I protected my mother the only way I knew how - avoiding every crack in the sidewalk.
  5. LordKyleOfEarth

    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

    Feb 21, 2009
    Likes Received:
    San Antonio, TX. USA
    Lost and Found (2,650 words)

    Lost and found
    By: Kyle Baker

    It was the way in which the light caught her that day which intrigued me most; she hadn't bothered to take my shirt off before she left. I followed her a little further, outlines and shadows playing tricks with my eyes. Up close, she fused with the rigid angles of the city. Once at a distance, she melted into the drizzle. Then, I lost her altogether. And I knew she wasn't coming back.

    I walked back into our--- MY apartment and surveyed the damage. All her stuff was gone. The couch, the chairs, the bed. Even the major things like the 360, DVR, and the bong. All gone. It's in times of great loss that we appreciate the things that we have. Or, in this case, the things we HAD. I didn't bother looking in the fridge, it was empty last night, and I doubted she stocked it before she moved out.

    On the barren floor was a single note card amid the potato chip and pretzel debris. Most of the card was ad hominem attacks, but a single line stood out: “You are such a little boy. Grow the **** up.” I don't know why it resounded the way it did, but those words stuck in my consciousness. Grow up.

    I picked up my phone and checked the minute balance. 27 minutes left, good enough. I called Scott, who was my most reliable drinking companion. It rang six times before a groggy voice mumbled something on his end. It was only 1:45 in the afternoon, I had probably woken him up. No matter, this was important.

    “Am I a 27 year old child?” By 'I' I meant 'we'. We were inseparable, Scott and I, so if maturity had missed one of us it had skipped the other as well. I could hear him breathing as his mind attempted to decipher my message though a haze of Redbull and vodka.

    “Am I a 27 year old child?” I tossed the card away and lay down on the floor. “Sasha left. She called me a little boy and said to grow the **** up.”

    He coughed. “Told you she was gunna.”

    “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Am I a 27 year old little boy?”

    Scott seemed to think it over. “Are you in the same clothes you slept in?”


    “Is there anything edible in the kitchen that doesn't contain pot or alcohol?”

    That question wasn't fair. It was the last Friday of the month and my Mom didn't worry that I was 'starving to death' until the first Wednesday. She'd drop food off next week. He knew that. “There may be some ketchup behind the sixer of Pabst...”

    “Have you spent more time online surfing porn, or working at a job this week?”

    “Okay Scott, I get your point.” I thought for a moment, “Let me call you back.”

    I WAS a 27 year old child. I thought back to the world lit class at Central Oregon community college; the one I had been too high or hungover to pay attention in. There had been something about Greeks or Spartans earning their manhood during rites of passage. I wasn't sure, so I decided to ask Google. I booted up my laptop and connected to the neighbor's wireless.

    According to Google, a rite of passage had three phases: separation, liminality, and incorporation. In separation you leave society as a child. During incorporation you return to society as a man. Liminality was the part where you became a man. Somehow.

    Scott came by around five with a pizza. We smoked a bowl and started to make a plan. We were going to have to leave civilization behind, maybe the national park. Oregon has plenty of them. Google said Crater Lake is nice this time of year.

    Wilderness meant no apartment, we'd live in a tent. No delivery or fast food, a man catches his own. Scott said that if we were near water we could even grow our own pot. And no women. Sasha got us into this mess, after all, and that guy in 'Fight Club' said something about women being the last thing we needed.


    We borrowed a tent, sleeping bags, and other gear from Scott's little brother's scout troop. Loaded up some fishing gear, rolling papers, and beef jerky then hitchhiked a ride to Crater Lake. The rangers charge ten bucks a week to visit, so we decided to sneak in and camp in the woods. It was manlier that way, Scott pointed out.

    We stopped for a beer and jerky break, and I spotted a patch of wild shrooms. Scott said it was a good sign and that we should make camp. We made camp there, about a mile in from the road. After the tent was up, we killed another couple of beers, smoked a bowl or two, and then decided to wander down to the lake to fish for dinner.

    I sat on the shore of Crater lake for a good three hours. My line floated along, pushed by the wind, but the fish weren't biting. While there, my mind drifted to thoughts of Sasha. I missed her, but somehow this adventure, whatever it was, felt right.

    Scott was zonked out near by. He wasn't having much luck with the fish either, but he seemed to have lucked out with the shrooms. He wasn't much good for conversation, so I decided to take a walk. I stuck my rod in the shore near Scott and set out down the shore.

    I strolled along until I found my way to the park trading post. My stomach was rumbling, so I figured I'd swing in and buy something. I still had $14.37 left from selling plasma, so it wouldn't be cheating. I had earned that money; men go shopping, right?

    I thought I saw Sasha there too. She was mixed in to the crowd; hidden among the angles of the log cabin's architecture. I ran to the cabin, tears welling up in my eyes, before I realized it wasn't her. The disappointment killed my appetite, so I walked back to camp.

    The next couple of days passed uneventfully. We realized that neither of us were any good at fishing. As a result, we started to get pretty hungry. As I slept that night, I had an odd dream.

    Scott and I were on a raft floating down the river. It was a warm night and mosquitoes kept buzzing our ears. We came across a wrecked paddle boat and Scott wanted to stop and see what we could find inside.

    When we climbed aboard, all we found was a run away slave named Jim. He looked at the sky and pointed to a ring around the moon. “Troubles a commin boys. Jes you waitn see. Troubles a commin.” He started to laugh hysterically. I tried to run away but tripped and fell overboard. The river waters flowed over me and I began to drown.

    I awoke suddenly to the sound of drums and singing. I looked over and saw that Scott was gone from the tent. I pulled on a shirt and climbed out. There, in the middle of my wilderness, were four dancing women. Scott was in the middle of the circle and grinning ear to ear.

    “Come on man! These chicks are cool as hell.” He yelled. They all let out excited cries. Confused about who they were and where they came from, I motioned for Scott to come over.

    “Who the Hell are they?” I asked point blank.

    “Molly, Kristal, Beth, and Arlis.”

    I let my facial expression convey my disappointment at his answer.

    “Alright. I got up this morning and I was crazy hungry. I went down to the trading post to grab a bite and--”

    “You were buying food” I interrupted.

    “Well yeah, but just a burrito, you know. Since the fishing wasn't going so well.”

    “Dude. I thought were were being men. Not relying on civilization. NOT buying food from the rangers.” I realized at that moment that I had tried to do the same thing a few days ago, but shrugged it off. I was feeling big time betrayed.

    “Well you know man. I had rowdy munchies. Anyway, I ran into these chicks in an old VW bus. They're with Greenpeace and are here to save some trees and ****.” He waved to Kristal and she blew him a kiss.

    “Scott, what happened to no civilization, no buying food, and no goddamn women!” My empty stomach was giving me a pretty short fuse these days, but he totally brought this on himself. Did he ask if I wanted a bunch of hippies in my campsite? No. Did he bring me a burrito from the trading post? Hell no.

    “Calm down man.” He gave me the 'look'. “You're getting all crazy over nothing.”

    “**** you Scott. They need to leave. Now.”


    “Yes! This is my campsite. My journey into manhood. Not theirs. Mine!” in hind site, I probably shouldn't have given him that light shove when I said 'Mine'.

    “Well man, good luck to you then. Good luck because you're doing it alone.” He threw his hands into the air, “I'm out.” And with that, he and the girls were gone. He took the tent and sleeping bags too. It was Sasha all over again.

    “Whatever,” I yelled as they walked off, “a real man doesn't need any of that ****. A real man can survive anywhere -By himself- with only his bare hands!” In the distance a storm cloud rumbled.

    “Grow up man.” was all Scott said as he walked off, flipping me the bird.

    It was the way the early morning light caught him that intrigued me most. He hadn't bothered to put pants on before he left. I followed him a little further, shadows and glares playing tricks with my eyes. When he was finally at a distance, he melted into the forest. And I knew he wasn't coming back.


    I walked back into the former campsite to survey the damage. All his stuff was gone. The tent, the sleeping bags, even the weed. Gone. In times of great loss, we appreciate what we really had. In this case, a tent, sleeping bag, and best friend.

    The wind began to pickup and the sky darkened. It was going to rain soon, and I needed to find shelter. We had found a small cave near by, and I figured that it was as good a place as any to ride out the storm. I got to the cave just as the sky opened up.

    It was cold and damp inside the cave, but I found some dry leaves that I piled up and sat on. After an hour or so of sitting there, I got bored and decided to explore the cave a bit. It was shallow and rocky, certainly no Mammoth. I did however, find some more mushrooms growing deep in the back of the cave.

    It was starting to get dark outside, and I was bored, so I ate a few of the shrooms and kicked back on my bed of leaves. The trip was unlike any I'd ever had. A vivid, dream like, hallucination. And it changed my life.

    I stood up in a cave of ice. I was alone except for a bunch of sixth graders and Sister Mary, who was my sixth grade social studies teacher at St. Anthony's. She motioned toward a frozen ice flow and said “Slide”.

    I jumped and slid down it until I eventually shot out of the ice tunnel and into my living room. Scott was there, and so was a large wild dog. The dog was pissed off and preparing to attack Scott. I wanted to help him but I didn't have anything. Suddenly, I realized that I owned NOTHING. What good was I to my friend?

    The dog stepped toward Scott and I panicked. “Hey dog! Why don't you pick on someone your own size?” Why I yelled that I'll never understand. It was a dream I guess, and they don't always make sense. Anyhow, the dog turned and came after me.

    I tired to run down the hallway, but the further I got the more tired and old I became. The dog jumped on my back, knocking me to the ground. It was all over. I knew I was dead. As I prepared for death's cold embrace, Sasha burst in the front door.

    She was holding a business suit and handed Scott a newspaper. The two of them ran over and attacked the dog. Sasha threw the suit over its head while Scott beat it with the rolled up paper. The dog growled angrily and then whimpered and rolled over.

    The dog stood up and sat obediently at her feet. “Fight the dog.” Sasha told me, “Fight until it's yours.” Then she handed me the suit.

    “Know yourself.” Scott told me, “You're a jack ass.” He smiled and bopped me on the head with the paper. I took it from him and it opened to the want ads. One listing was circled for 'Friend' another for 'Husband'.

    I looked at Scott in disbelief. “You want me to marry you?” Sasha rolled her eyes and kicked me in the shin. Then I woke up. The storm had passed and the early morning sun was rising. I was no longer in the cave. I was lying on the floor of the forest, naked and alone, about one hundred feet away from the entrance.

    I gathered my clothes and began the long walk back to the ranger station. I spent my last few dollars buying food and some water. Apparently, not eating for a week will make you pretty hungry. After I ate I walked up to the road and I hitchhiked back home.


    Two weeks went by before I called Scott. I had been pretty busy with work, I had gotten a job as a mail clerk, and trying to get re-enrolled in school. To be honest, I just hadn't thought about him. Since that day in the woods.

    “Hey man.” I told him, “I'm sorry about yelling at you.”

    “It's nothing man.” he told me. “Lets grab a beer some time.” He and Kristal were in Portland at a protest, but he said he would be back in town by the end of the month. We agreed to meet then and get caught up.

    I started to dial Sasha but stopped. I wasn't ready to talk to her, not yet. Next week was her birthday. I figured I would call her then to wish her well and make sure she was doing okay.

    That night, I had another dream. In it, I was sitting in my living room dressed in a suit and ready to leave for work. A child rode in on a tricycle and smiled at me. I recognized him as a young version of myself.

    “Goodbye,” he told me, “its been fun.” Then he shot me with a nerf gun and rode out the front door.

    It was the way in which the light caught him in that dream which intrigued me most; he had my old pajamas on, the ones with the feet built in. I followed him a little further, outlines and shadows playing tricks with my eyes. Up close, he fused with the rigid angles of the walls. Once at a distance, he melted into the hallway. Then, he disappeared altogether. And I knew he wasn't coming back.
    1 person likes this.
  6. becca

    becca New Member Contributor

    Feb 26, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Returned To Me 2911 words

    Removed by becca.

    Have a nice day!
  7. Robyn

    Robyn Member

    Feb 1, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Jersey, the new one.
    Gone (639)

    It was the way in which the light caught her that day which intrigued me the most. It was as if she was an angel. She was standing right in front of me. Time seemed to slow down, the ticking from the clock now at one minute intervals. Then, in the blink of an eye, she was gone.

    The last time I had seen Kaili we were seven- two, blonde girls with pigtails, arguing over who went higher on the swing set at the local playground. She had shouted at me that day, saying that I was a liar and that she swung higher. I tried to calm her down, but she had stomped home, uninterested in a rematch. It had seemed a small thing at the time, so I too stomped home, ready to apologize at school tomorrow. I had always been the quiet, peaceful one in our friendship. Kaili was the leader. Without her, I was like a duckling looking for it's mother, and without me, she would rip all the heads off of her dolls. We were complete opposites, but our friendship was nearly perfect, apart from the occasional pointless fights we had.

    I was upstairs in my bedroom, getting ready to go to sleep, when my mom had called me downstairs. She asked if I knew where Kaili went, so I told her I thought she went home. That was when I had learned she went missing.

    Now, at thirteen, I thought I had seen her. No, I knew I had seen her. Her messy, blonde hair was down to her waist now, and her green eyes still had the brown specks, which she had always hated. But she was only there for a second or two. When she recognized me, her eyes went wide with realization, and she ran. Why she had run, I had no idea. But I knew I was going to find out.

    I followed her, occasionally catching glimpses of her hair, but this was enough to keep me on track. She ran down an alley, and I followed suit.
    "Kaili!" I called. She stopped in her tracks.
    "Go! Now! He doesn't want anybody else!" Her eyes were frantically looking down the alley, as if she was waiting for somebody to show up.
    "Where were you! Wait... who...?" I suddenly realized what the last part of what she said meant. "You were kidnapped, weren't you?"
    "Yes, but that won't help me any now! You have to go, run! He'll be here any second!" Her eyes were wider than ever, and she continued glancing down the alley.
    "Not without you. Come on!" I grabbed her arm, but she pulled away.
    "He'll find me!"
    "No he won't!" I reached for her arm again, and this time she obliged. We ran until we came to the playground where I had last seen her. We stood there, panting, until Kaili straightened, her eyes wide once more. Then I knew why. A man was calling her name.
    "Run now. He won't hurt me; he thinks I'm his missing daughter. But he'll kill you. I-I've seen him do it before." Kaili nudged me forward, but I wouldn't move. I've never been good in stressful situations, and this definitely counted as one of those. Now footsteps could be heard behind us- hard, long strides. A deep voice, saying Kaili's name. Then a yelp of surprise.
    "Turn around, girls. I'd like to see your faces." Kaili and I turned slowly, grabbing onto each other's arm. "Who's your little friend, Kaili? Tsk, tsk, you know I told you friends are not allowed. You're grounded for running away, don't you remember? Oh, but don't worry, I know exactly what to do."

    The man reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a gun. Kaili tightened her grip on my arm, but it was useless. The barrel was pointed right towards me. I whispered one, single word: "Goodbye". Then, a sound like thunder, and all went black.
  8. manquaman

    manquaman Member

    Feb 3, 2010
    Likes Received:
    In the high desert of New Mexico
    They called her "Jewels" {2738}

    It was the way in which the light caught her that day which intrigued me most. Of course it had to be an illusion, otherwise it would mean that either there was a skylight cut above her head, through twenty stories of hotel, or God was shining a light on her to announce an angel come to save me. Personally, and after looking back on it, it was probably the fact that she was the only woman dealer in the baccarat pit among the other penguins in shiny tuxedoes. It was the culmination of a series of surreal events in the past six weeks – three months really, if you don’t count leaving five years of college behind to become a bartender in Vegas.

    There I was standing in line at Caesars Palace, résumé in hand, sporting my best 80s clothes, clean and pressed. I had been working as a bartender in a large hotel in Albuquerque for a couple of years before I summoned my courage to try the big time. My scholarship for engineering disappeared in the first semester almost as fast as the beers and the names of the girls I had already forgotten. Architectural school had thrown me when I found out that my first four years served only to teach me how to draw and make a deadline. That was when I thought to try Vegas.

    Vegas had always been Nirvana for all of us who lived in our huge small town. Colorado was prime for skiing and the ocean of California was great, but no city in the Southwest or on the coast spoke to us here like Vegas. This time was not too long after the Rat Pack had made the place famous and before the city became a parody of itself. There were still plenty of people working on the strip who could tell stories about being whisked away to Alaska for a couple of weeks of drunken hunting and fishing with a select group of employees to cook, serve and entertain the stars. I was a gnat to the liquid lights.

    As I got closer to the window, my résumé getting a little damp from the sweat of my palm, I began to hear foreign words like Tam card, Sherriff’s card, and union. Didn’t unions go out in the thirties with Cagney and Brando? What in the world is a health card? Look at me, I’m twenty-three years old and looking good. I can do the job. I have the résumé.

    It didn’t matter. I couldn’t even leave my list of accomplishments because I needed a referral. Damn, maybe this was a mistake. I had come to this town to work at the best casino on the strip, and only at the best casino on the strip. I had thrown it all down on black and white. I could either go back home with my tail between my legs, or figure something out.

    Forty-five minutes later I had a job at a downtown casino that did business without the stranglehold of a union. “No one gets to start as a bartender in this town,” Nick said, a cigarette bouncing up and down as he schooled me with a smirk on his face. “It wouldn’t matter if you owned a bar in Albuquerque. You’d still have to start as a bar back. It’s even worse in the union houses. You’ll wait a year on the extra board before you even get a full time slot. Two years after that, before you go back on the board as a relief bartender, after you do the hundred hours of training and pay your dues month in and month out, then you might get a shot at being a Vegas bartender.”

    Nick was a drunk who worked the pine so he could get women and be close to his favorite past time, the juice. He could also play a mean game of pool. He owned a Balabushka and taught me how to drink bourbon at ten in the morning after we got off the graveyard shift. We’d walk across the street to Binion’s, park it at the bar across from the craps pit and order up a couple rounds. It was the first time that I ever felt like a star. Nick and Mike were friends. We would pound five rounds of shots with beer chasers before Nick would get a chit to sign. That was it, all of that drink for a signature and a fat tip. Then we’d go shoot some stick at a local dive before I’d cycle home and crash until it was time to ride back down to the Four Queens and the French Quarter bar – my bar.

    I learned a lot in a little bit of time and Nick would let me serve the guests whenever he thought he could make time with a woman. Steaming mats and watching the horrors of people as they chased their dollars down the throats of one armed bandits wasn’t all that bad because I was part of something that had a history, a history with a Tom Jones look alike and a fake package singing to old ladies from Duluth. After a while it got to the point that I could walk over to Binion’s and sit down in front of Mike and sign my own tab.

    I was sitting with my back to him one morning when Mike said the words that almost stopped my heart. I could see the propositions in the angled mirrors mounted on the ceiling and I was learning how to play craps from the shouts and the barks of the croupiers. “Didn’t you say that you wanted to work at Caesar’s,” I heard Mike remark from behind me. I swallowed hard and turned around.

    “Yeah, I did.”

    “Well, maybe today would be a good day to go down to the union house and get registered. Talk to Cliff and tell him that Mike sent you.”

    I felt like Scorsese was going to walk around from the pit and say, “Cut. Print it!”

    Was this really happening? Mike didn’t need to tell me twice. Three hours later I was standing in front of Ken Prizzi, the F&B Director at Caesars. I was told to report directly to him from Human Resources. I remember walking through the pool area that was an exact replica of Randolph Hearst’s pool. I had been there as a kid with my parents on a summer vacation, and now I was walking in the scorching heat surrounded by Goddesses – that’s what the half-dressed cocktail waitresses were called – on my way to see the big boss.

    I had no idea how impossible it was that this was even happening, but that’s what comes from being naïve and green. You’re too young to believe it couldn’t happen, and maybe too stupid to realize that it shouldn’t be happening. And it only got better when I had finally found my way through the catacombs of velvet carpet hallways and dark filigreed wood to Ken’s office. I stood there at the open door, waiting for him to acknowledge me. He sat behind a big desk with paperwork everywhere, pictures of famous people he had posed with, and bottles of wine and crystal glasses.

    “Get in here, kid.” He was totally grey but he didn’t look as feeble as his apparent age would afford him. His voice was gruff, probably from too many years of highballs and menthols. Finally he looked up at me. Up and down his eyeballs went without uttering a word. I was wearing baggy, heavy cotton dress pants with pockets on the thighs and a pencil-thin leather belt. Luckily, my shirt was starched and shining white, otherwise his grin might have exploded into cardiac arrest.

    “I don’t know how you did it, kid, but you’re working at the Palace Court. No extra board. Full time. Report to Jacques, the Maitre d’. He’ll tell you what to do.” Then he looked down and went back to work.

    “Um, where is the Palace Court?” I ventured.

    “Find it!” he shouted, not looking up from his desk.

    It was the last time I felt like a tourist in Vegas, looking around with big eyes trying to find the exit, a clock, a drinking fountain, sanity. I took a golden elevator to its limit of one flight, a red velvet circular stair case wrapping around it like a call girls skirt almost covering her treasure. At the top I walked out into a peach colored lounge, thirty-foot ceilings with white wooden lattice work overlooking the pools. There was a semi-circular bar made of peach brass and a white baby grand piano behind it. Home. And beyond it was an even larger circular room with a glass rotunda, more lattice work, and a full size tree in the middle of it. Three rows of tables wrapped around the tree, literally gold flatware on the table with gold rimmed crystal ware on the tables. The bank.

    Jacques was the quintessential French Maitre d’ in the transcendent French restaurant. It was either, “’El-ooh mah-budee,” for the men, or “’El-ooh mah-luv” for the ladies. “Welcome to the Palace Court.”

    No damn slot machines up here. No video poker cut into the flat of the bar. You needed a two million dollar credit line just to open the private casino that waited patiently next to where I would work. Nothing but table games in there nestled behind the peach chiffon and golden metal lattice, a cage where only a few rare animals ever wanted to get into. No more than a few whales ever played in there. Some kind of lascivious echolocation announced to the select houses when they were in town. Even if they didn’t stay with us, a full crew of dealers and Goddesses would be called in, made to wait at attention, coolly ignoring the buffet table that was restocked every two hours whether anyone took the bait or not. What’s a few thousand dollars of lobster and caviar when a big fish could stand to lose millions on a weekend of forty hours of straight gambling?

    It was explained to me later, by her, that these men made of money played the way they did because it was the only thing in their world that they couldn’t control. And even here they were allowed to break some rules. Touch a card downstairs and out you go. Up here they could bend the cards’ corners up and up and up. What did a hand here and there mean? Sometimes it was one man playing all six positions, fifty thousand a slot. Sure, throw him a bone every once in a while to keep him satisfied. The house is going to get its man.

    I learned wine from a Master, ate the food of a Michelin man, and watched action figure lookalikes on fight nights with license plates hanging around their necks, their names spelled out in diamonds with race horse women on their arms. My meals were lobsters hanging off the plate and a bottle of wine from the rack, “…just as long as it’s less than forty dollars a bottle on the list.” Not too many of those on a given page, though. The list was a book of nine hundred wines, the best in the world. I drank Louis-trey when the Arab prince wanted a new bottle, throwing the open one into the garbage and demanding it to be untouched.

    Nobody paid up here, they lost. Well, there was the fifteen percent riff-raff who actually had to buy their way up here. It’s amazing how quickly one can get used to the unreal. It got to where I craved grilled cheese in the horrible employee cafeteria where all the regular people ate. I knew I was still me, but I had the golden keys. What could I possibly do after this? Everything had to be downhill, right?

    So there I stayed, dressed like a ships mate in an outfit even more ridiculous than my puffy pants and Don Johnson belt. I worked there three years and never knew more than ten people I worked with out of the hundreds and hundreds who came and went every day. Vegas is a gold veneered garbage disposal, eating humans as waste and growing larger with every hopper full.

    “Step right up, folks,” the carnies used to say at the state fair when I was a kid hoping to win a kewpie doll, a pop bottle stretched out, or a gold fish with a toss of a ping pong ball. Vegas was a long way from the state fair, but the carnies somehow worked there too. No one asked you to step up though. People flocked from all over this great country and pale blue marble to throw their money down, and they actually thanked you for the chance to lose.

    I walked from bar to bar in that place, Cleopatra’s bosoms hanging down over my head, the Discus a circular buzz saw tearing the tourists to bits. But it was the Olympic bar next to the baccarat pit where we had to go to pick up the keys to start work. It was the hub, the center of attention, the place Jimmy Nine used to work when you needed a reservation and the real power called juice to get you in. Imagine, a maitre d’ for a bar. That was when Shecky, Frank, or Sammy could be found in person any night of the week, wasted.

    This is where I found myself, able to walk behind the bar, without permission, to pick up the keys to my life. I’d linger and imagine what it was like. There was still a house phone with a cord that could reach to any Lilliputian table. I’d strike up an absent conversation with someone behind the bar so I could stand there and imagine what it would be like to be here when the sequins and smoke could blind you inside of ten minutes. And if it wasn’t the starlight to cross your eyes it was the river of money that flowed like metallic white water, assaulting your senses to the point of distraction.

    The baccarat pit stood next to the Olympic, the cool ease of the tuxedoes waiting to welcome you at only a thousand a hand, a hundred during the off hours. There was no metal here, only the gliding clicking of rakes and markers, soft voices telling stories that could only be heard with a year’s salary on the line. And then there she was, bigger than the game, larger than all of this. The black ceilings, the million lights, the bells and the whistles of losers winning, nothing could distract me anymore.

    Her blonde hair kinked and showered down onto her black tux, illuminating the pit like her ruby lips and dazzling smile lit up the game. No longer did any of the false glamour impress me. No longer did Caesar and Cleopatra with their entourage engage me as they passed, all eyes smiling at them. Only she existed for me. Each day I would come early to pick up the keys and watch her, watch her command the game, command my attention.

    I thought she never looked up from her work, working the table and working the whales. How could a titan like this ever notice a minnow like me staring at her from the shadows? Six weeks I watched. I had no illusions. I was just captivated. And then she looked up for what I thought was the first time. She looked right at me and smiled. That was it. I was ready now. Nothing I could ever experience would get any better than that. She was a woman seventeen years my senior and I was a boy, now ready to die, swearing sacred oaths as he went that his life was now full.

    At Caesars Palace in the Palace Court I thought I had made it, had become something more than I was. In a way I had. It just turned out that it didn’t amount to much because here I was again, silly outfit and sweaty palms, a black cup of coffee in a cracked porcelain mug, fluorescent lights of the employee cafeteria humming above, the smile that would change my life sitting across from me.
  9. somacore

    somacore New Member

    Jan 25, 2010
    Likes Received:
    el Camino (1,100)

    The blanked out words are both 'the s word.' fyi.


    It was the way in which the light caught her that day which intrigued him most. A storm was approaching, and even though it was, until now, a miserably hot day, John had little time to shop. He’d leave tonight.

    The sunlight glinted off her pretty chrome bumper, bounced up in her rear view, aimed, and fired right into his eyes that day. Boy, she was a beaut’.

    A ’68 el Camino with pristine interior and even a pair of funky green fuzzy dice was his every dream come true. He’d been wanting one of these bad boys for a while now; every so often he’d dream about flooring it down route 66 with his aviator shades on, feeling the wind howl all around him as he sped away from this **** hole.

    “Welcome son, what can I do ya’ fer?” asked a fat man in a rather large hat.

    “Oh, I’m just lookin’ around for now” John replied.

    “Lookin'? Hell I had to come out here to make sure you wouldn’t start humpin’ this car right here!”

    Both men laughed; the fat man drowned out John’s nervous chuckle with his full bellied guffaws.

    “Alright, alright, you caught me.” John admitted, “Too rich for my blood though.”

    The fat man looked around to give an air of secrecy, wrapped a fat heavy arm around John’s shoulder, leaned in real close – a little too close, and said “Son, I know exactly who the hell you are. You buy this here car right now for two hundr’d more than sticker and I won’t call the cops right now on your dumb ass.”

    John was shocked. The fat man knew it, too. John hung his head a little and the fat man relinquished his grip and stood back up straight.

    “Hell of a deal, son!” The fat man said, a little too loudly.

    John was a careful sort, but by the looks of it had gotten himself in a bit too deep this time. It was one thing to take sodas from the corner shop or lift a wallet now and then from a dumb tourist at the marina, but this? This was a whole new ball game, hell, a whole new sport. Knocking over the Check Barn wasn’t his idea though. Ed, the idiot, had come up with this one a few weeks ago while they were smoking pot in his basement.

    “You know what we should do?”

    “What’s that?” John was only halfway listening.

    “We should rob like, a bank or some ****, you know? They keep tons o’ money in them things!”

    “Go to hell, you’d never get away with that.”

    “Whatever, man.”

    Next thing he knew, John was jumping over a rusty fence and taking an axe to the padlock on the back door of the place while Ed kept lookout by bobbing his head back and forth around the corner of the building. It was a brilliant plan.

    The second John broke the padlock, Ed ran into Check Barn like a rabid dog chasing a cat. Problem was, he didn’t know what to do with the cat once he caught it. Ed had brought his master collection of fine lock-picking tools, also known as the cheapest hammer money could buy from Home Depot, and stood like a statue above the safe, trying to think of the best place to strike so it would reveal its monetary secrets. John cursed under his breath.

    At some point directly after Ed struck the side of the safe with the hammer, but before John turned his face away from the shards of Quality Hickory handle flying his way from the cheap hammer, a police officer appeared in the back doorway, silhouetted by the glowing streetlight outside.

    “Freeze!” The officer yelled, pointing his gun like a pendulum between a bewildered Ed and John.

    Ed, always the actor, and probably high, spoke first. “We ain’t done nuthin’!”

    John immediately fell to his knees and put his hands behind his back, figuring correctly that the cop would gravitate towards the uncooperative suspect first.

    “On the ground!” shouted the cop, carefully inching toward Ed with his gun now trained.

    John continued to kneel motionless as the cop inched closer and closer to Ed.

    Ed, meanwhile, was still absorbing the painful shock from a reverberating broken hammer and couldn’t quite grasp the gravity of the situation. “Man, hey…this ain’t right!”

    “On your knees son!” shouted the cop again.

    Ed began slowly lowering himself to the ground, but then did something so stupid that even John couldn’t believe it.

    “TAKE THIS, PIG!” Ed yelled at the top of his lungs, and leapt, Woo style, behind a nearby counter while clumsily wrangling a stolen .45 revolver from behind his jeans. This new plan didn’t work out so well. Ed landed on his elbow a little too hard, forcing his hand (which contained his trigger finger) down the back of his pants with such force that a shot was fired. The cop immediately ducked around a corner while Ed let out a terrifying scream as the bullet bounced off the floor and into his calf muscle.

    John, figuring this couldn’t end well, decided to make a run for it. The cop was yelling something about shots fired into his radio when John took off like a jackrabbit out the back door, running past the cop car and scurrying up the hill and over the rusty fence to freedom. John looked back once, heard another gunshot, and kept running.

    “Son? How ‘bout it?” said the fat man in the hat.

    John looked up at the fat man, weighed his options, and pulled a fat wad of saved cash from his pants pocket.

    “It’s all here” he said, and tossed the money casually into the fat man’s greasy palms. “Count it if you want.”

    Satisfied, the fat man tossed John the keys. “Have yerself a nice trip, son.”

    John hopped in the Camino, feeling free, a little more broke, and started the engine. She purred roughly; she was rearing to go.

    Later that night on his way out of town, John stopped at a 7-11. He deftly pocketed a Pepsi in his cargo pants, but paid for Ed’s favorite drink, a 16 ounce can of the Beast.

    “So long, buddy. I’ll miss you.”

    John, now up to speed on the dark desert highway, slowly poured the beer out the window of his el Camino, coating the pavement with memories aching to be forgotten. A slight rain was picking up. John rolled up the window.

    At a distance, John and his el Camino melted into the drizzle.
  10. NaCl

    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

    Apr 30, 2008
    Likes Received:
    Return of the Death Witch (2989 words)

    It was the way in which the light caught her that day which intrigued me most. I followed her a little further, outlines and shadows playing tricks with my eyes. At a distance she melted into the drizzle. Closer, she fused with the rigid angles of the city. Then, I lost her altogether.

    “Lord Conner, stay awake! I pray you fight the beast, lest she devour that which grants your soul.”

    “Worry not, young Arno. False sighted, though I may be, no She-spirit shall draw between my being and my holy soul. Help me, young knave, for I must breech the walls of Adin before nightfall and my wound defies our pace.”

    Arno renewed his grip on the thick wooden shaft protruding from my side and slipped his strong fingers beneath the breastplate of my armor. He groaned as he hoisted me to my feet. Blood trickled down the spear until it dripped from my apprentice’s fingers. With each step, the vision returned, calling to me, beckoning relentlessly, that I might succumb to her embrace. I knew better. Behind her siren beauty lurked the cold breath of the Lady of Death.

    “My Lord, we must remove the spear. I fear you cannot endure the rest of our journey.”

    The vision returned, dancing among ghostlike shadows in nearby trees. She called me again, promising to end pain.

    “Be off with you, death-witch. I know you, not as you wish me to see, but as you are.” I waved my good arm in defiance at the tempting apparition.

    My faithful servant tried again.

    “Master, we must stop the bleeding. Let us take respite at the turn, that I may remove the shaft and close your wound.”

    “Nay. The turn gives sight of Adin. We must continue. Besides, a mere mortal holds no sway over the dark magic within this accursed length of oak.”

    “As you wish, sire. I only wanted to--“

    She lunged at me, angered by rejection, and unseen by my servant.

    “Be gone, evil one! You cannot defeat me. Take what form you may, your deception fails. I reject your embrace. I curse you.”

    Again, I flailed at the blurred vision before me.

    We limped from concealment of the forest onto a gently sloping field, a single cart path traversing its length. Across the sea of tall grass, loomed immense granite stones, forming the impenetrable walls of home, Adin Keep.

    “Sire, I see the castle. Surely, evil that stalks must now depart. Lady Kara’s magic is strongest in all the land.”

    Despite my pain and ever-growing visions, I smiled at my knave’s optimism.

    “Arno, do you know why I am a knight and you, a simple page?”

    “Yes, master. I am not of royal blood.”

    “No, my young friend. Any peasant, who honors the shield of Adin, and swears loyalty to my father, may earn stature as a knight. You demonstrated strength and faith in combat at my side, fearing not, an army of demons. After battle, when you could rightfully leave, you stayed by my side, at great personal peril. You will lead armies as a knight someday.”

    I pointed across the field toward the castle entrance, the simple gesture causing a sharp pain through my chest.

    “Before us lies rich pasture. Do not let placid scenes numb your senses. Perfect ambush rises when least expected, and the sorceress of death employs such treachery. Our greatest challenge may lie yet ahead. Be on high guard.”

    I tripped on the root of a tree, landing face down in the dirt road. Pain shot through my abdomen as I struggled to my knees.

    “Quick, Arno, help me to my feet. We’ve little time. After the last light of sun, the Lady of Death owns the darkness. She will strike.”

    Over the past two days, I lost track of how many times this young man struggled to lift me from certain death of fatigue and immobility. Time after time, his fingers pressed my ribs, lifting my iron chest-plate and I saw veins bulge in his neck as he summoned strength to lift me with full armor. My last recall was him dragging me, my legs having failed, until he reached the base of the drawbridge landing. For me, all went black outside Adin.

    . . .

    “Hail gatekeeper! Lord Conner needs care. Hail keeper!” Arno called out several times before the gate-tender replied and put the heavy wooden planks of the drawbridge into motion.

    A spotter from a high tower within the castle called across the moat.

    “Behind you, demons! You must defend the prince until we can come to his aid.”

    Arno looked over his shoulder expecting to see the field of grass through which he guided Lord Conner. Instead, sounds of thundering hoofs carried through the still air and riders appeared out of the forest, galloping straight toward them.

    “So jackals of death, you’ve come to finish my master. I think not!”

    Arno pulled the jewel crested sword from the prince’s sheath and walked slowly toward the approaching threat. Behind him, the drawbridge creaked faster and horses of the knights waiting inside stomped their feet and snorted impatiently. Then, a woman’s voice filled the air around Arno.

    “Man who would protect my son, stand fast. You fight not alone.”

    Behind Arno, a woman of exquisite beauty stood in a wide crenel above the drawbridge. Layers of glowing silk swirled around her, despite calm everywhere else.

    Horses of the attackers formed a wedge, three abreast, as the riders set their spears to impale any who would offer challenge. Arno stood his ground. A bead of sweat formed across his forehead. As the enemy closed distance, he could see the familiar empty eyes of the attackers, their souls long ago drained by the Death Witch whom they serve. Even dead horses blew cold vapor from their nostrils.

    As the first cavalryman lowered his spear and thrust for Arno’s midsection, a brilliant ball of churning flame leaped from the fingers of Lady Kara on the battlement to engulf rider and horse. The spear tip bounced harmlessly at Arno’s feet.

    Two more attackers leaped through the ashes of the first, one throwing his spear at the prince’s page, while the other cast his at the unconscious knight. With no concern for his life, Arno hacked the spear destined for his master to one side, but the weapon, intended for the servant, found its mark. At that moment, more fireballs rained down by Lady Kara’s hand onto enemy soldiers. Arno grabbed the shaft in his thigh and used all his might to break it in two. He picked up his master’s sword and leaned on his good leg, preparing for the next wave of attackers.

    The sword began to vibrate and swayed from side to side, despite Arno’s attempt to control it. Pain in his leg vanished at the same time as the blade began to glow deep blue. Arno felt a strange power surge through his body. He ran toward his attackers and the sword grew brighter, just as it had, when his master carried it into battle two days before.

    Slash! Thrust! Parry! The sword controlled the man. Horses fell. Soldiers went to their deaths, a the final rest, long denied them by the evil sorceress.

    When only a single soldier remained, Arno obeyed the impulses of the sword and pressed his attack. Sidestepping a spear thrust, he plunged the prince’s weapon deep into the chest of the horse. Nothing happened!

    The death-horse reared up, hooves gouging at the air and teeth snapping. Its rider made a second thrust with his enchanted spear, driving it completely through Arno’s lower abdomen, impaling him to the ground. Only then, did Arno see her. The Lady of Death, the invisible force who tormented his prince for the past two days, smiled from a fog hovering above his chest. She motioned for him to reach out to her. He knew better and closed his eyes, but she was still there, inside his mind.

    Knights and armored horses surged from the castle, leaping over the last few feet of open air between the dropping drawbridge and its landing. The first wave of Adin’s knights made quick work of the remaining enemy.

    “Get them inside!” Arno heard commands ordered around him and felt strong hands lifting him.

    When he next opened his eyes, the castle’s surgeon looked down. “You’ll be alright.”

    Arno recognized good intentions of a surgeon’s lie. The spear was gone but his gut burned an undeniable truth. He reached under the cloth bandages and felt a wet hole where none should be.

    “The prince?” He managed a feeble question.

    “We don’t know yet. The curse on the spear might be stronger than Lady Kara’s magic. We’ll see. Get some sleep.”

    Was it hours or minutes? He did not know. Random shapes on the ceiling above danced with each breeze across nearby candles. As he watched, the shadows became living forms. One moment, they painted a demonic profile, the next, gentle lines of an angel. The amorphous shapes merged into a single, out of focus face covering much of the ceiling. Color bled into their blackness until the sweet face of a woman looked down at him. It was her. Beautiful, yet sinister.

    “Come to me,” she said. “Touch my finger and I will take your pain.”

    A dimly focused hand extended from the woman down to Arno. He felt compelled and lifted his arm to touch it. The old surgeon jumped to action.

    “Don’t do it, boy.” He trapped Arno’s arm and held it fast to the bed. “She’s evil, pure evil. Don’t let her take your soul. John, get Lady Kara, be quick!”

    The surgeon’s assistant ran from the room.

    “She’s beautiful. Don’t you see?” Arno asked the surgeon. “She can’t be evil.”

    “Sorry son, I can’t see her, but I been ‘round long enough to know’er tricks. You stay with me, ya hear?”

    For several tense minutes, the vision above Arno persuaded him, while the old medicine man fought the boy’s weak attempts.

    The door to the operating room flew open, slamming against rock wall. Lady Kara entered with a clear globe held between her hands. Fleeting images churned inside the crystal. As she approached, the image above Arno shrank to human size and suspended below the ceiling, becoming three dimensional and visible to all in the room.

    “Kara, I see your powers have grown.” The evil one’s voice echoed as she spoke. “Does the child think she can best the teacher? We’ll see.”

    “You attacked my son. We had an agreement. Your kingdom would remain behind the mountains.”

    “Ah, but my dear, your son ventured over those mountains, violating the accord. A price must be paid . . . by this puny serf, too, for keeping your son alive. I would have possessed your son’s soul two days ago without this troublesome meddler.”

    A shimmering arm plunged from the evil one into the face of Arno. His features distorted as his soul fought the unholy siphon.

    Kara raised her globe. “By my ancestors blood, take from her, that which steals from the boy.”

    Fingers of light arched across the room from the crystal. One impacted the image above Arno sending a cascade of sparks across the room. Two more beams intercepted the soul stealing arm between Arno and his attacker. For a moment, Lady Kara’s power was in doubt, but the battle of magic vanished in a bright flash, leaving only the image of the evil sorceress suspended near the ceiling.

    “Damn you, Kara. Give me back that soul. It’s mine!”

    “Not anymore. My power is now your equal. Go back to your realm of death.”

    “Keep the fool peasant, then. I came for my rightful trophy, your son.”

    The Lady of Death’s image vanished into the ceiling above. Outside the castle, winds suddenly howled and bolts of lightning slammed into the tallest towers of Adin Keep. Shutters in the operating room windows banged open and closed until the surgeon fastened them to anchoring ties.

    “Doctor, we lost him.” The surgeon’s assistant leaned over Arno’s body, his head pressed above the dead man’s heart.

    Lady Kara left the surgeon’s room in haste. She climbed the main tower stairs, scaling steps two at a time, until she burst into Prince Conner’s bedroom. Several of her Ladies in Waiting lay prostrate over her son, protecting him, as best they could, from twisting fingers of black magic that extended from a clouded image of the evil one above them.

    “You are too late, Kara. Watch, as I take possession of your son’s soul!”

    “I call on the ancestral power of those before me,” Lady Kara said, as she raised the globe above her head. “Stop the Lady of Death from taking my son. I offer my magic to the void for eternity, in exchange.”

    The sphere grew bright and lifted from Lady Kara’s hands into the air. Twisting beams of light came out of the crystal, each one intercepting a finger of evil. Soon, a great battle of powers grew, one far beyond human conception. Good and evil dueled for supremacy. Wall hangings tore from their mounts. Small fires erupted wherever the battling forces touched cloth or wood. Lady Kara sank to her knees, writhing in pain as the globe drew away her magic. Candles in the room flared simultaneously. Then, there was only silence.

    The prince gasped deeply and sat upright. A thin wisp of smoke rose from the side of his naked chest where, before, black magic made his wound refuse to heal. Only a red scar remained. His mother lay, curled in a fetal ball, on the animal skin rug beside his bed. Her breath rattled with the sound of imminent death.

    . . .

    I awoke to smells of smoke, and my mother’s servants wailing at her side.

    “Mother, mother! What happened?”

    I picked up the queen, my mother, and placed her on my bed.

    “Sire, Lady Kara gave up her magic to save your life.”

    I stayed at my mother’s side until her last breath.

    “Prepare my mother for burial. I will return, after I see unto my friend.”

    The surgeon had left his door open and no one was attending the body of my valiant page. He looked so peaceful. I ran my fingers along his cold arm.

    “If only, I heeded my mother’s caution about the barrier of the mountains,” I said to the corpse. “You, and she, would live still. I’m so sorry, Arno.”

    My sword lay on the floor at the base of my friend’s deathbed. I placed it across his chest, in the manner reserved for knights who fell as heroes in battle.

    “Sir Arno. It shall be written on your tombstone, for all to see.”

    When I bowed my head and wept, a single tear rolled down my cheek, falling onto the blade of the ancient sword that had passed down to me from my father’s father. It began to vibrate, sending out a hum that filled the room. It rose above his body and turned until pointing straight up, it’s hilt directly above my friend’s head. The blade began to glow blue, as in battle, but far brighter than I had ever known. As I watched, this sword that served many generations of kings drifted down until it touched my brave page’s forehead.

    Arno inhaled deeply, as if breaking the surface after diving to the bottom of the moat. He coughed several times and the bandage on his belly fell away. Right before my eyes, the gaping wound on his stomach healed.

    My friend began asking questions, but I followed my sword into the hallway and up the stairwell to my mother’s bedroom. Servants ran in fear at the spectacle. Inside her room, the queen’s body was cleaned and dressed for burial. She lay amidst color and fragrance of countless flowers placed by her loyal attendants. My sword approached her bed and poised above her body as if showing its own respect for the deceased. It leaned forward until it hovered parallel to her body. Then, it descended, as it did over Arno, but it vanished inside her, as if passing into a heavy fog.

    Mother inhaled. Her body stiffened, then relaxed. Her eyes opened and a gentle smile came across her face. She spoke with a hoarse voice.

    “Your ancestors granted you that which is in your heart,” she said. “It is by your will, that I live. Spirits of long dead kings know your heart and tell me your time to join them waits far in the future. The one who saved you shall be rewarded with his life, too. They decree that, henceforth, he shall be known as Sir Arno. There is a price for your life, and these concessions from the afterworld. You shall forfeit the Sword of Adin, and I surrendered my powers.”

    . . .

    Three small children giggled, one a redheaded boy and the others brown-haired, twin girls dressed in full-length nightgowns.

    “Tell us another story, Lord Conner. Please!”

    “Maybe tomorrow. It’s time for you kids to go to sleep, and I have matters to discuss with your father.”

    Lord Arno entered his children’s room.

    “Now Conner, don’t spoil my kids with tales of adventure and conquest. They might grow up to be impetuous, like you.”

    The men blew out candles, all but one, and closed the door to the children’s room. After walking out of earshot, they talked.

    “Conner, she’s back. Settlers in my western region built a village near the forbidden frontier. Soulless horsemen killed them and took their bodies. My knights ride at first light to defend my people. Will the House of Adin join us?”

    “Arno, I owe you my life. We’ll be ready before the first cock’s call.”
  11. Billiam

    Billiam New Member

    Jan 8, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Meeting Oscar (991) WARNING - STRONG LANGUAGE

    It must have been the way in which the light caught her, that intrigued me most. She was a great distraction, better than what was really happening. I followed her a little further, with my eyes-- the outlines and shadows playing tricks with my vision. At a distance she melted into the drizzle, along with any hope I had left. F***ing Greenwood. My attention diverted and she fused with the rigid angles of the city. I lost her altogether. Greenwood clapped his hand on my shoulder, almost consolingly. Reality set in, and my fantasy with her ended.

    Here we are. Palm Lake Apartments. Embedded into the very heart of Philadelphia, the apartments looked retched. They were run down, and the building was, like, twenty stories tall.

    “Here it is.”

    Greenwood clarified what I already knew. I don’t like this one bit at all, but I don’t really have a say in it anymore though… because I haven’t liked a lot of things, and I still had to do them. Moving? I can’t honestly believe that we’re moving to Philadelphia, let alone share a sh**ty apartment with my PSYCHIATRIST! But for the sake of treatment, I suppose...

    “This is where he lives?” I asked.

    “Yeah,” he replied. “This is where my buddy Oscar lives.”

    “How do you know Oscar again?”

    “He was one of my former patients. I worked on him, early in my career. He’s one of those underpaid television stars.”

    “Television star?” I said. “He’s been on TV?”

    “Oh yeah,” Greens said. “A whole bunch of his friends too.”

    “No kidding? What was the show called?”

    Greensie furrowed his brow, and thought about it for a second.

    Memory Lane.”

    Memory Lane?”

    “Isn't that what I said?”

    “I never heard of Memory Lane.”

    “Well that’s what the show was called. It was really popular. I can’t believe you never heard of Memory Lane. EVERYBODY knows Memory Lane, there’s even a catchy song that everyone sings. And they have toys and sh*t. Ever been to Toys R Us, Baxter?”

    “I think so.”

    “Well then you’ve seen Memory Lane. It’s been on for, like, twenty years Baxter, where the hell have you been?”

    His outburst had caught me off-guard and I was a little shocked to say the least. I mean, maybe I’m a little sheltered, but how could I have ever NEVER heard of this show? Maybe I really am crazy. Maybe I really HAVE lost my mind.

    The closer we got to the building, the more I realized how tall it really was. Twenty stories is pretty damn tall. So my severe acrophobia decided to settle in.

    “Wait, Doc… What floor are we on?”

    “Oscar lives on the 19th floor.”

    My heart sank to my balls, and my balls sure as hell weren't comfortable with that. 19th Floor? Christ.

    “Don't expect me to ever go out on the porch," or look out of any windows. Green chuckled-- the jerk's getting a kick out of my phobia.

    A few minutes, and one seriously nervous elevator ride later, we were standing in front of his door. Well, OUR door I guess… since we were going to live with this guy. Green held his hand up and rapped on the door, and it slowly moved open. It was already unlocked and off the latch.

    “Come in!” a voice yelled from inside. So what did we do? We trudged in there, suitcases in hand. The first thing that hit me was that godawful stench, but before I could vomit, Greenwood preemptively covered my mouth. He shushed me and spoke in whispered tones.

    “You also can NEVER refer to me as “Doc” or “Doctor” anymore. You can never mention that I’m a psychiatrist.”

    I was a little baffled, “Why?”

    “Oscar has some deep psychological issues.”

    “What type of psychological issues?”

    “He’s f***ing crazy.”

    “Oh.” …. Wait a minute… “Aren’t we MOVING IN with this guy?”


    “Isn’t that a little dangerous?”

    “Not if you don’t mention me being a psychiatrist.”

    “This is nuts, this is crazy. If he's a former patient doesn't he know that you're a psychiatrist?”

    “That's how crazy he is, Baxter. But maybe if you befriend him he can give you some tips for life or something.”

    He proceeded as I held a confused expression on my face, and I stifled the urge to vomit. We took a turn down the hall, garbage was piled everywhere. It was rancid. It was awful. Then I saw him. He was lying on the couch. Dr. Greenwood walked up to him, as if he were… as if he were NORMAL. But he was a monster. A little green monster. A little green monster sitting in a garbage can with a trashcan lid as a hat. He had over-ripe banana peels and stinkweed around him.

    “Baxter, I’d like you to meet Oscar…. The Grouch!”

    OH MY GOD! It’s Oscar the f***ing Grouch!

    “Oh My GOD! Oscar the 'f***ing Grouch!?'”

    He blew me off, and continued to sip from an old rusty can as he sat in front of a television that was probably pulled out of the dump.

    “Wait, Memory Lane, Greenwood?”

    “Yeah. What?”

    I looked at him in shock.

    “It's called Sesame Street you--. I can’t believe this.”

    “Whoa, whoa, whoa… Baxter….. relax.”

    I turned to Oscar "the Grouch."

    “Wow, Oscar. Hey. It’s great to meet you. I used to watch you when I was a kid. damn, you've got to be like, fifty now, right?” I said. He answered with a very deep, gruff voice. It was almost in annoyance.

    “Don’t push my buttons kid, and you’ll do fine. Just never, EVER touch my anchovies.”

    “I don’t like anchovies.”

    “Then we’re already off to a good start,” Oscar the Grouch said and farted.
  12. irishgirl1616

    irishgirl1616 New Member

    Dec 19, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Over the rainbow...

    It was the way in which the light caught Her which intrigued me most. It played across Her face, twinkled around Her eyes. It made my mind tingle with remembrance, with a feeling of many memories long past. At first the light was a luminescent glow, warm with the color of the sun, but as we walked down the abandoned road lined with impossibly tall glass buildings, the light changed to harsh florescent.

    It began to rain.

    I followed Her a little further, outlines and shadows playing tricks with my eyes. Floating bits and flashing pieces of what must of been Her life flickered on the windows of each heaven-high skyscraper. I craned my neck to try and glimpse all of them, some scenes making something tug deep down in my stomach. I turned back to Her but She was only a flash up ahead. At a distance She melted into the drizzle. Closer, She fused with the rigid angles of the city. Then, I lost Her altogether.

    I panicked, feeling a deep sense of loneliness that I couldn't explain. I glanced over my shoulder to see nothing but darkness swallow up the path behind me. I couldn't help the small yelp that pried open my lips. I began to run where She had disappeared, to where the only light still lay, florescent or not. I could feel the opressing dark creep up the road, feel it in the still air, in the goosebumps crawling down my back again and again...

    An alley lit like the rising sun and I nearly fell as I skidded into a turn and instinctivly ran towards the warmth. I quickly glanced back to see the dark hesitate at the entrance of the alley but then slither forward. Before I could turn my head around I barreled into strong arms.

    Instead of landing in a heap on the ground, those arms held me steady. I noticed the inviting light was back. It caressed every angle of my body, welcoming me. I took a step backwards to asses my savior and was immediatly confused at what I saw.

    She was wearing an off-white robe and sash, and arching above her upper body were...were...

    I had to close my eyes, take a deep breath of the refreshingly sweet air, then look at those magnificent wings again. They were as wide as she was tall and covered with an impossible amount of downy feathers. I wanted to reach out and touch them, feel them in between my fingers, against my cheeks, along my back.

    With a semi-aware concious I realized we were not surronded by tall glass skyscrapers any longer. Instead the light rolled lazily past us in puffs of clouds and spurts of gentle wind.

    The rays of the warm light were almost blinding as I glanced up to meet Her eyes.

    Hazel eyes met hazel eyes and I gasped as I realized why everything had seemed so familiar, why everything sent my body into a stutter of recognition.

    I gazed back at me, watching as She took my hand.

    Mesmerized by Her eyes, my eyes, I did not see the door open up behind Her but I felt the presence. I felt it with the force of a sturdy gust and I couldn't help the smile that easily spread on my face.

    "Welcome home," I said to myself and I led myself into the pearly gates of my peace.
  13. Normal

    Normal Member

    Feb 2, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Niverville, MB
    Unavailable (1088)

    It was the way in which the light caught her that day which intrigued me most. I followed her a little further, outlines and shadows playing tricks with my eyes. At a distance she melted into the drizzle. Closer, she fused with the rigid angles of the city. Then, I lost her altogether as she passed through the wooden pillars that supported the boardwalk. My face is pressed against the glass of the van, my nose firmly against the window. Hot breath begins to obscure the view, my view of her.

    Firmly pressed against the window of the van, distorting my features to the outside I think I must look like some squished pervert, gawking at all the passer’s by. The moment is lost when someone finally breaks the silence.
    “What’d ya staring Kal?”
    I am indifferent as I glance back to answer.
    “Nothing” Simply stated, I don’t wish to share this moment, don’t want their perversions poking and prodding my newly discovered treasure. My closed answer finishes the inquiry. I press my face against the glass again, trying to discover her, searching for anything that can tell me about her, about her life.

    Is she married?
    Does she have a tattoo?
    I bet she listens to…

    My thoughts are interrupted by something, the stink of myself, I realize my hand is on the glass, people will tell you that glass doesn’t smell but I know it does. A mixture of dead bugs, carcinogens and window cleaner. When I was little I would do this exact same thing. Looking at the word from behind glass. Observing all but to afraid to touch it. Even the smell of dead bugs and glass cleaner doesn’t obscure my own stench. I suddenly realize my hand is next to my face. It disgusts me what it smells like.

    In my world, my new world terms like “catheter” and “digital stimulation” are common. I would have 2 hour long conversations about bowel routines, stool softeners and leg bags. I guess it’s not so bad, I can still move my arms even though they smell like feces. I guess maybe not so lucky in that case.

    Its no use, I’ve lost her, somewhere in the crowd, the reality of the situation sets in, strapped in and crowded with all the other cripples we wait for Marcus to fill up. Fill up and go. I can’t remember the outing now we are supposed to be attending. These activities are mandatory, we awkwardly roll, hobble, shuffle, stumble and stagger our way into sporting events, concerts and rockfests. I can only describe mandatory attendance at these events as soul-crushing.

    I think back to before my deployment, before the IED, back at that bass thumping bar. Picking up girls using
    “Hey I’m going away for some time”, heck I don’t even remember her name I think it was Sally. I bet I don’t look like much of a one night stand right now. I can almost see what it would be like to meet my one night affair. I can see the look of horror as she pauses and looks at each little piece attached to me, the leg bag maybe? Did I hide it? Her face says it all as she looks down at the mix of machine and man.

    My one last sexual experience was a bar fling, that I cant even remember her name. No chance for a real girlfriend now, but some of the guys were talking about some “”Devotee’s” into people in our situation. Girls into quadriplegic, paraplegic and all sorts I suppose. I was always told that life for me would change. Giving it some though makes me feel uneasy though.

    I scan for her, and as I press my face against the glass someone blurts out.
    “2 o’clock boys! White sundress walking north”
    “That the girl Kal was eying?“

    My heart sinks a little, if I respond, I get ragged on and teased for the rest of the trip. Guess you can never hide that **** from Army guys. It feels like even any sort of sick fantasy I had was now ruined.

    They banter and “conversation” becomes background noise as I try to draw her back to me, where I was just watching her like a fawn lightly stepping through the forest. Delicately plodding along the boardwalk, free and careless. Tousled brunette hair tied with a bright red ribbon. Free and fun, young and vibrant I cant imagine a more perfect wife, partner, or mate. Someone to read with and play checkers with…

    ‘Surly she would never want to take part in a bowel movement schedule. ‘
    Everywhere she goes would have to handicap access. Instead of the pretty fawn she would be known as the girl with the crippled husband, the crippled boyfriend. No one deserves that type of treatment.

    I hardly notice the frenzy perverse of conversations going on the background. I’m focused, trying to recreate clean and wonderful imagines, of her and me. Together. Finding each other and spending hours in a bed of warmth discovering each others bodies.

    I hardly notice Marcus gets back in, the residual smell of his fueling duties slowing fill the van. I don’t care, I NEED to see her one last time.

    I do everything to remember the details, the fall of her hair, the curvature of her calves, her stride, the way she pulls on her left bra strap.

    As the van slowly pulls away from the Husky she pops through again, smiling a radiant smile. Its like she knew what I needed, for one moment she manages to showcase all of her features I truly love. One dimple showing, She isn’t looking at me, or us even. Her glossy red lips part and I can see those white teeth just if I stare hard enough. My heart burrows further into my chest as I realize she is looking at what must be her boyfriend. A perfect match. They look complete. I slowly slide my eyes off the glass and look down at my thin, dead legs.

    I still new at self cathing and its not done right this time, as almost on queue, I start to leak urine a bit or. Humiliation sets in. I wonder if she ever thinks about people like us.
    Maybe it doesn’t have to be this way, I have to have hope.
    Hope I get better. Hope for a cure. Hope for good conversation.
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