1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Past Contest Submissions are closed, contest #177, theme: "afterlife"

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Jul 1, 2015.

    Short Story Contest # 177
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Afterlife" courtesy of @Spencer Rose

    Submissions will be open for ~3 weeks.

    IMPORTANT: PLEASE READ, Thanks

    To enter the contest, post the story here in this thread. It will show up as an anonymous author.

    The contest is open to all writingforums.org members, newbies and the established alike. At the deadline I will link to this thread from the voting thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. As always, the winner may PM me to request the theme of the subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Entries do not have to follow the themes explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.

    Word limit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Sunday the 19th of July, 2015 1600 (4:00 pm) US Pacific time.

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

    If we reach 20 entries, the maximum number of stories for any one contest, I will consider splitting the contest into two. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permitted.

    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 basis to decide its legitimacy for the contest.

    A story entered into the contest may not be one that has been posted anywhere** on the internet, not just anywhere on this site. A story may not be posted for review until the contest ends, but authors may seek critiques after voting closes for the contest. Members may also not repost a story anywhere, or bring attention to the contest in any way, until the voting has closed.
    (**We tried one that had been posted for critique before entering but it defeated the anonymity so I've gone back to no stories perviously posted here in the forum.)

    PLEASE use this title format for all stories: Title (bolded) [word count]

    If there are any questions, please send me a PM (Conversation).

    After the voting ends, posting in the thread will re-open for comments.

    ***And thanks to even more long hours put in by our very special mod/member @Wreybies, winners are now awarded with olympic style medals displayed under their avatars.

    Be sure to preview your entry before you hit 'reply'.
    Check italics and bolding as sometimes the end code for bold or italics doesn't copy/paste affecting large stretches of text.
    If you need to fix the formatting, hit 'control a' to 'select all' and clear all bold and italics code. Then re-add it back in using the board's font controls before you hit 'post reply'. Watch those extra line spaces. Delete them directly from the post before hitting 'post reply'.

    The point of consistent titles and line spacing is to avoid having those things influence votes, sometimes for worse.

    Thanks, and good luck!
     
  2. dearowl
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    dearowl New Member

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    Worms [840 Words]


    She could feel her hands ripping and tearing through the roots in the dirt. It had been two years since she last visited his grave and the weeping willow that watched over it. The grave, once fresh and clean, now concealed by plant life only revealed the words, ‘Jim’ and ‘Loving Son’. Her breathing, heavy with emotion came out in large poufs of white smoke in the cold autumn air. Her heavy clothes clung uncomfortably to her in the damp night air. She dug relentlessly only to stop and wail into the air a scream of pain and anguish.

    The wind tossed and churned, throwing her long unbridled hair back and forth, loose tendrils smacking her face mockingly.

    “What!” She cried at the sky, “What more can you take from me.” She began to heave as an abundance of tears ran down her face. Her digging halted as she used her hands to try to stop the tears.

    Yet, as soon as she yielded her hands the ground began to shake and something began to emerge from the now loose dirt.

    “Wha-?” She breathed in trying to regain vision through the blur of tears.

    At first it looked like worms but before it was too late she realized they were not worms but fingers. No sooner than she realized this the hand shot out of the ground and gripped her wrist. The flesh had pealed away and revealed loose muscle and bone beneath. The arm tensed as it gripped hers causing the frightened woman to scream out in fear! But no sound escaped her lips. She screamed and screamed till finally she awoke.

    Jutting up in bed she looked around the quiet room. Beads of perspiration and sweat trickled down her face as she tried to catch her breath.

    “A dream!” She exclaimed, “It was just a dream” a sigh of relief escaped her until she looked out her window and remembered the dream.

    The next day she retold the dream to her friend Helena in frightening detail.

    “You need to move on already, I’m sure he has” Helena said coldly. She had heard the story of Jim’s passing way too many times and was beginning to grow tired of her friend’s obsession with his passing.

    “I mean, you two only dated, like, what” Helena said in-between bites of her café salad, “two maybe three months?”

    “Five months and his spirit still haunts me.” The woman rubbed her arms anxiously and looked around herself delirious, “I mean, it’s been two years! And I can’t” She gulped and looked deeply into her coffee at the ghost of a woman she once was.

    Helena squinched her eyes in concern for her friend and took a few more bites from her lunch before saying, “I think you should try living again, I’m sure he would have by now.”

    “Helena, how could you say such a thing!”

    Helena swallowed hard before retorting, “What? I bet he would have, you don’t know!” She finished crunching and then stared fiercely into her friend’s eyes for emphasis.

    “I think I should visit his grave.” The woman said not daring to look up at Helena’s reaction.

    “What! Why on earth would you do that?” Helena exclaimed, turning a few heads in the café in the direction of their table.

    “Well I keep dreaming about his grave. Maybe if I go to it I will get some closure.”

    “I know what else you’ll get,” Helena said sarcastically with no real plan on how to end the sentiment.

    Even though Helena had warned her not to go, the woman could not forget the memory of Jim. His strong will, his passionate eyes, the warm strength of his arms. She had to ‘visit’ him. If not for closure then out of respect for his memory. Though once she left her place she realized what a terrible idea this was. Visions of her dream came back to her; her clothes felt heavy, the wind loosened and whipped her hair about her face, and the grave was as it looked in the dream. Was she psychic, had she foreseen this moment in her dreams?

    Her knees began to buckle as she knelt above his grave. She ran her fingers over the cool surface of his headstone. Reading aloud in her mind the words following his name, ‘Gone, but not forgotten.” Soon, the tears began to flow, just like in her dream. And soon she began to wail aloud, just like in her dream. Then her blood ran cold as she remembered what happened next, in the dream.

    But a heavy sigh of relief came when nothing happened. Just a cool breeze flowing over her and filling her nose with the sweet smell of orchids from neighboring graves. She began to laugh an alleviated laugh and cover her eyes with her hands, she smiled to the sky, and finally she could let it all go. Till something poked her leg. She gasped and looked down through bleary eyes at something that looked like worms.
     
  3. BookLover
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    BookLover Contributing Member

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    Dead House [1513]

    “Close your eyes, and follow my lead,” he said while holding my hand high. I danced. I closed my eyes and followed his movements, padding barefoot all around the cold tile of the basement floor. Around and around, a mess of music sheets fluttering beneath our feet. Faster and faster, until the record stopped. He slowed, and I opened my eyes just in time to see his lips coming toward me.

    I pulled away and turned my back on him, pretending I hadn’t seen what he was about to do. I busied myself with putting the record away, in it’s home, behind the piano. “Thanks Loy. I think I have the hang of it now. I just hope Jim can dance as well as you.”

    That’s all I remember about our last interaction. I’m sure I walked him out of my house. Said goodbye, but I can’t remember any of our exact words. “Close your eyes, and follow my lead.” That’s the last thing I remember him saying to me.

    Loy, my best friend since grade school, was hit by a drunk driver, some random teenage drunk coming back from an after party. Stupid prom. Loy didn’t even attend. He was just out driving, by himself.

    My mom had died from alcohol poisoning when I was little, and my dad was already in the hospital with liver cancer during my last year of high school. Then Loy’s accident happened, and I vowed never to drink. Losing everything you love to a beverage can be a very sobering experience.

    I inherited the house when my dad passed and took a job as a secretary at an office downtown. I’ve worked there for three years. I never go out. I follow a strict series of routines that move me through my day. Wake up routine. Work routine. Bedtime routine. Going through the motions is my religion.

    I spend most of my time upstairs, still sleeping in my old bedroom. Living room, kitchen, bathroom - those are my rooms. I don’t even clean the other rooms. Instead I let the dust settle over everything. It’s a big, dead house.

    That fact proved itself one night while I was eating dinner, alone, at my little table near the window. I like to look out at the stars at night when I eat, so I can dream about other planets and galaxies. My daydreams don’t usually come complete with background music, but that night a haunting song came floating through my thoughts. I shook my head, trying to knock the sound away, but the music continued. It wasn’t floating up from my subconscious. It was floating up the stairs.

    I followed it down into the basement and to the music room, a room I hadn’t stepped foot in since my dance with Loy. Everything looked the same except covered in dust. In the corner sat the shelf of records, in front of that, the piano. The record player was stationed along the far wall, and, of course, music sheets were spread out everywhere, on top of the piano bench, over the tiled floor. Dusty, crumpled music. I glanced around and thought, “This is where music comes to die.”

    Except it wasn’t dead. A record was spinning on the player filling the room with melody. I stood there and stared at the rotating disk for… I don’t know how long. The thing about isolation is that you either become someone who talks to yourself incessantly, always reacting to everything as if there were people there to listen to you argue with your toaster, or you become someone who doesn’t react to anything. Your house could catch fire and you’d quietly grab your wallet and walk out the door, expressionless. I’m the latter.

    After a few minutes of stoic staring, I lifted the arm of the record player, placed the record in it’s sleeve, and shelved it. Then I walked upstairs and started my bedtime routine.

    The next night it happened again. I stayed upstairs and let the record play out. I pretended it wasn’t happening.

    By the third night I was forced to address the issue. I made a mental list of possibilities and checked them off one at a time.

    1. Someone was messing with me. No. I have no friends or enemies.

    2. A burglar was in my home. No. What thief breaks in and plays records every night?

    3. My house is haunted.

    I tried to remember what record Loy played during our last basement dance together, but my memory failed me. “Close your eyes and follow my lead.” That’s all I could remember.

    I cautiously walked downstairs. The song sang louder with my every step. I pushed the music room door open and looked around in the dim light. The yellowed music papers were still dusting the floor. The piano was still cloaked in filth, but a new record was spinning. I stood, unmoved, in the middle of it all, expressionless, for what seemed like hours.

    I reached an arm out to the record player, but saw my own hand shaking and pulled it back. It was strange to see emotion revealing itself through my body. I hadn’t felt anything for so long, but to see my emotion trembling my very skeleton was morbidly fascinating. I reached my arm out again and watched my fingers shake, lifting them closer to my face. I inspected my hand like an objective outsider, as though it was happening to the body of someone else. Surely this hand ripe with emotion couldn’t be my own.

    I let the record play and marched back upstairs. I grabbed my keys and slammed the door. My hands were shaking even more on the drive home from the liquor store. My fingers vibrated on the steering wheel. I could barely keep a grip on the brown bagged bottles as I pushed my front door open and was welcomed by the sound of more music. It sounded like a piano this time. A piano in need of tuning. I played, and so did Loy. We had the same piano teacher as kids, but I was never as good as him. Our piano teacher said some people simply have more passion than others.

    Sitting in my living room, I popped open the first lid and drank straight from the bottle. I was halfway through the second when the tears started flowing, tears I hadn’t tasted in years. I drowned the taste with more liquor until I couldn’t see straight and fell asleep on the couch.

    The next morning brought on horrible nausea, and I called into work. After sleeping the morning away, I put on my blank face and started back down the now quiet stairs. I opened the music room door, and heard a gasp, my own gasp, which was even more surprising to me than what I saw.

    Papers were shuffled. The piano was open and the bench pushed out. Dust was smeared, showing patches of clean space along the wood of the piano and on the edges of sheet music.

    I picked up a smudged piano book off the floor and music poured from the record player behind me, filling the previously silent room. I swallowed, waited, and then spun around on my bare toes.

    No one.

    I stared at the record player, expressionless. I stared, impassive. I stared, detached.

    I fell hard onto the cold tiles, bursting with tears and sobs. I pressed my hands into my eyes and curled up into a ball on the dirty floor. My whole body pulsed with feeling. Every muscle inside me contracted. I felt a heavy, tight pressure deep within my chest. “Mom. Dad. Loy! Why did you leave me?”

    My eyes burned, and my face hurt. It felt like my mind was melting out of my skull and into my hands. The names of everyone I had loved and lost passed through my lips over and over, until my voice went hoarse.

    Through my tears and wails, the pain untangled itself from my core. My misery and grief was released into the room, leaving my mind free and calm. I felt the pressure lift from inside me. The cold tile against my wet cheek felt soothing.

    My breathing stilled, and the music stopped. I uncurled myself and sat up. Silence.

    I stood and walked over to the record player, busying myself with putting the record away, in it’s home, behind the piano. Then I froze, my fingers still on the record sleeve.

    “I’m sorry, Loy. I should not have ignored what was in front of me. No one can dance like you.”

    I pulled the disk back out. I wanted to start the music again. As I put the record player arm into place, I heard a voice behind me say, “Close your eyes and follow my lead.”

    I danced. Padding barefoot all around the cold tile of the basement floor. Around and around, a mess of music sheets fluttering beneath my feet. Faster and faster. I danced.
     
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  4. Omni Presence
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    Omni Presence New Member

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    Afterlife [2550]

    Navigating a sprawling international airport on a summer day was not what any sane person would consider a good expenditure of time. It was as if the entire operation from the moment you drove unto the premises until you boarded plane was all purposefully designed to dissuade the masses from engaging in rapid transit about the world. So Mr. Shane Johansson, multi-billionaire, mogul of industry, venture capitalist, renowned philanthropist, and recent cover boy for Forbes, was reminded how the lesser half of the populous traveled as he stood in line at the appointed gate with all the other wretched passengers slugging along through the glacial boarding process.

    In ordinary times Mr. Johansson would have used his private jet. He had not flown a domestic carrier in ages, decades even. Unfortunately ordinary days that catered to his preferences had sadly become a scarcity in his tremulous life. The private jet he originally arrived in had only that morning been repossessed leaving him temporarily stranded in Atlanta. Not to worry, his team of assistants had jumped into action and presented a number of options almost immediately with full promises to get the mishap with the banks taken care of. Mr. Johansson was given the option of a private charter plane if he deigned to depart only later in the day. However if he wished to return immediately to New York he could do so by way of common domestic flight which would get him home a whole six hours sooner. Mr. Johansson pillar of the world that he was did not want it said that he of all people was too good to rough it in the friendly skies and as time was ever as valuable as always he opted for the domestic flight. First Class of course.

    After getting himself to the airport… his personal secretary having stayed behind in New York with a last minute cold, Mr. Johansson picked up his First Class ticket, ran the gauntlet of security with the other schmucks and checked in at his gate only to be told that First Class was full and he’d have to take a seat in coach. Once again the magnanimous Mr. Johansson was willing to concede so long as it all got him back home sooner than later.

    As he stood in the line surrounded by people who were more dressed for a day at the beach than for the overpriced miracle of flight and dodgy service, Johansson brooded over his own troubles. He worried about what sort of questions were going to be asked regarding his private jet. Technically there was no error in what occurred, technically it had not been repossessed so much as sold… but then again he couldn’t be a hundred percent sure himself, there were a lot of papers signed at that meeting a few weeks back… truth be told he did not get a chance to securitize every line of the contracts, that’s what he had a team of legal experts for… not that they were allowed in on this deal. Only the biggest gamble of his life. The jet was just the tip of the ice berg, his massively huge and deep financial iceberg that was in the first stages of melting if his suspicions were correct. It would only be a matter of time before a lot more questions were put to him. He could handle all that. Once he was back at home base.

    Boarding a plane was perhaps more difficult and time consuming than getting off. One would think airlines that had been in operation for nearly a hundred years could figure out a more efficient means of getting people on and off a cylindrical tube that remained little changed in all that time. This was a mid-sized plane with a seats arranged in rows of six. Inch by inch he shuffled down the aisle, with an introspective pause at what constituted First Class, waited patiently while elder folks pondered the meaning of the seating codes and if that was really their seat, while men and women who knew not the meaning of the term travel lightly stuffed numerous carry-ons into the overhead compartments, while a gaggle of college kids went through their belongings and set everything up they in their wedge of seats as though they planned to be there for years. He passed by a mother entertaining her baby on her lap with a musical app on her phone, the child bashing the screen with delight to simulate a variety of instruments that all seemed to sound like a broken harp.

    At last, at long last, Mr. Johansson found seat B23 and after securing his brief case in the compartment began the arduous task of securing himself in the most uncomfortable seat imaginable. He glanced around at the other passengers settling in who all seemed to be taking the miscomfort, the stuffy plane, the drone of the useless air conditioning as a matter of course. Johansson’s biggest worry now was having to get up again when inevitably his seat companion who would take the window post arrived. As the throng of people shuffled past and his seat was jostled as others before and behind settled in, Johansson reminded himself it was only two hours, only two hours to New York… if the plane was not delayed on the tarmac, if the plane was not put into holding on arrival or delayed after touchdown, if the plane was not diverted to some other city for yet another damned disruption of his agenda.

    At least there was some minor solace in that none of this rabble was likely to recognize him from his Forbes appearance. None in the entire international airport had in fact. Oddly enough…

    “Mr. Johansson!” came the cry of extreme delight as a man in a fine gray suit stood in the isle looking down at the elderly business guru.

    Johansson grimaced as he took a good look up at the stranger, noted the suit was better than one of his own and how the man’s oddly mirrored glasses seemed to match the silvery suit pinstripes. This person was as out of place on this aircraft as he was. Racking his brain trying to recall if he should know the gentleman he nodded and smiled politely hoping to feign recognition.

    “I must say it is a pleasure to finally meet you after all this time. I have read your background information of course. There are so many things I hope we’ll be able to speak of.”

    “I’m sorry, have we met?” Johansson asked as the gentleman took the liberty of elegantly occupying the vacant aisle seat beside him.

    That pale face of the gentleman split into an amused grin, but all Mr. Johansson could focus on was his own reflection in those weird round glasses. “Certainly not. Your case file was accepted only this morning and let me tell you it was not easy making the necessary arrangements so quickly. You do like to stay on the move Mr. Johansson!”

    Johansson gave an exasperated sigh. He was starting to suspect he had been recognized after all and was engaged with a con artist. Probably the strange man had been following him the moment he stepped foot in the terminal. If only the plane would hurry up and depart, but from the never ending line of people still crowding the isle it was going to be some time yet.

    “Who are you?” Johansson demanded of the man as the other started to prattle on about a legendary stock trade that cemented Johansson’s reputation for luck on Wall Street in the early days of his career.

    The gentleman shut up immediately and retuned Johansson an indigent stare that suggested he was not used to be questioned in such a manner. “We do not use names in the Company. You will call me Mister for the time being.”

    “Cute. What do you want with me, Mister?”

    The gentleman called Mister flashed a toothy smile and in his hand appeared a golden coin that he danced through his fingers. “I have brought what you purchased, Mr. Johansson.”

    He flicked the coin upward and Mr. Johansson instinctively caught it up before it collided with his head. It felt like a solid gold coin, the size of a silver dollar but twice as thick, on either side was a large letter A the only decoration. Mr. Johansson had handled enough gold in his time to know it on sight and though he was no coin collector he had a feeling the coin was extra rare too. What was this man playing at?

    “Afterlife, Mr. Johansson. What you purchased.” Said Mister seeing the question in the other’s eyes.

    Mr. Johansson’s eyes opened wide at that and he darted furtive glances at the people around them. Luckily no one was paying them any mind. Still they had to be careful. Mister should know that if he was speaking the truth.

    “I don’t understand!” He whispered fiercely to Mister. “I was expecting… something else!”

    That was an understatement. Billions of dollars of net worth were promised to bring him a lot more than a silly token gold coin. Those contracts… all that legal jargon… what had he signed?

    “My dear Mr. Johansson you must have read the contracts. All those meetings you had with my associates should have made everything crystal clear.”

    “No sir. I tell you the whole process was not at all clear. I was promised…” Again Johansson took a look around to see they were still in relative private. “I was promised a fresh start in accordance with my desires. What do you mean by coming here like this and tossing about a coin… and mentioning that name?”

    Mister adapted a look as though none of this really mattered, though it was hard to tell what the man was really thinking behind those mirrored glasses.

    “This is how it is done, Mr. Johansson. I am here to officially welcome you. Your case has been approved. Your resources are being absorbed as we speak. The day has come for you to join those elite few who have chosen to join Afterlife.”

    Mister grinned at him as though it were all perfectly plain and reasonable. Mr. Johansson sat blinking at that. The day was now? He was going now? But that was not what they told him, they promised him time to prepare to pack, to make preparations. All this he told to Mister in a flood of stern forbearance and sycophantic panic. All Mister did was to sit there nodding as though it were all an intriguing conundrum.

    “This cleaning lady… Mrs. Japers, I will see that she gets a generous severance. Yes, your dogs will be well provided for. Really Mr. Johansson there is nothing to dread. I have done this before. It would not do for us to handle your business affairs and neglect your personal trifles, yes? This is what you have purchased. It’s all part of the package.”

    Mr. Johansson let that sink in for a minute before nodding to himself.

    “And what exactly is in this package for me? I want the details, Mister!”

    Mister spread his hands apologetically. “Alas, I cannot speak to the details.”

    “Bull. Now you see here… For what I’ve paid, for what this is going to do to my company and all those people that work for me, you’d better tell me something or I’m calling the whole thing off!”

    Mister sighed and began to speak as though he were talking to a child. “Afterlife is not unlike your witness protection program, yes? We provide the means for influential people to leave their troubles behind and start anew on a level in accordance with their station.”

    “This ah… is a faraway place?”

    “Oh my yes. Another world you might say.”

    “But I was told I’d have time to prepare and pack some things.”

    “That is impossible. The hour waits for no man or woman. Besides your material possessions would do you no good there.”

    “I’m not sure… Perhaps I’ve made the wrong decision. What if I decide to back out?”

    Mister was no longer smiling. “I’m afraid your journey is already in progress, Mr. Johansson. It began the moment your file was accepted.”

    “Are you taking me there?” Johansson asked sizing the gentleman up anew, if it came to a fight he was reasonably sure he could get away. He’d not be forced to go anywhere.

    What might have been a snicker escaped from the gentleman. “I cannot go there. My place is with the Company. Perhaps if I am as successful as you, one day I might be able to purchase an Afterlife for myself.”

    Mr. Johansson felt a wave of acceptance flow through him. Somehow he knew when he left New York a few days ago he’d not be returning. The only thing the Company had made clear to him was that there was no coming back from Afterlife. Not that it bothered him. That was part of the allure. No one had ever come back or communicated from there. The only way he even knew of its existence was an old colleague who had gone there some years back, a cryptic note left Johansson introduced him to the Company.

    “Tell me, Mister…” said Johansson starting to feel at peace with himself and the world. “I would very much like to see my old friend who went to Afterlife. Will I see him there?”

    Mister returned a blank stare. “Such a thing is possible. Afterlife is a big place, Mr. Johansson and although you will both be there, there is no guarantee your paths will cross.”

    Mr. Johansson frowned. It was the same sort of cryptic answers the Company had given him from the start.

    “How do I get there? Am I to take a flight?”

    Mister was grinning again. “This is your flight Mr. Johansson.”

    “But what about the other people? Surely they are not all going…” A grim thought raced through his head that he was about to share the rest of his life with these mundane people.

    “What people?”

    Johansson stood up as much as he could in the crapped seat. No one else was on the plane. It was completely empty except for him and Mister. And it was moving!

    “Where are we going?” Johansson demanded pressing his nose to the window and seeing the plane taxing along the tarmac as if nothing at all was amiss. The rest of airport was functioning as it should, people and planes doing their ordinary things. But when he looked back around for Mister to answer the gentleman was gone. He was truly alone on the flight. Somehow he had the feeling that if went forward there would be no flight attendants, no pilots either. The only thing he had to show the whole thing was not a hallucination was the gold coin. He held it up in a daze. The large singular A had transformed into the word Afterlife.

    Well the Company had promised him excitement such as could not be defined. Mr. Johansson settled back into his seat to await what his venture into Afterlife would bring him. So far he was feeling satisfied with the deal.
     
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  5. Spencer Rose
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    Spencer Rose Member

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    Sweet Knight (1084 words)


    She's three years old when I meet her. Melody. Like her name, her laughter is a song to my ears. Whatever my life was before this moment is a blurry haze; she's my whole world.

    Her mother hands me off to her and I'm wrapped in the warm embrace of a child, overwhelmed with feelings of love.

    I am hers.

    We go on hundreds of adventures together. In her bedroom she is my queen, and I but a humble knight. I defend her from legions of Barbie dolls and stuffed creatures while she rules atop her frilly bed. The reward for my bravery and loyalty? Her arms around me while she slips away into dreamland. I cannot follow her on those adventures, but I defend her while she sleeps. When the night terrors shake her and she awakes crying, I am there to dry her tears. My Melody.





    When she is six years old her mother comes home with a puppy. A yappy, furry little creature with wicked teeth. In a moment his jaws are around me, and with brutish force he rips my arm clean off, running off to savor his victory.

    Yet there is Melody. Like a goddess of rage and retribution she seizes up the hellish beast and retrieves my limb, scolding the little creature all the while. The monster retreats, defeated.

    "My poor, sweet knight." She takes me in her arms, holding me close. I cringe as she brings out a needle and thread, but I trust her entirely. "This might hurt, but I promise it'll make you better." Her word is true. The pain is nigh unbearable, but she attaches my arm quickly--as best she can--and lays me in her bed. "You rest up now." She calls, closing the door, "We'll play tomorrow." And we do.

    She makes a sling for my arm while it "heals". She disassembles the couch and builds us an elaborate fortress with cushions and sheets. Though it's early afternoon, we close the curtains and watch cartoons all day long at our own private theatre. Melody feeds me popcorn the whole time and the butter stains my fur yellow. I've never been so happy.





    She is twelve. I can hear her arguing with her mother from the dark of her bedroom. She storms in the room, slamming the door behind her. "I am NOT TOO OLD!" she cries. I can hear the tears in her eyes before she collapses on the bed. "Oh sweet knight." We hold one another on the dark for a long time, our mutual silence a language of love and understanding.

    "I'm not too old for you. I'm not." She whispers, "I'm not." I can only hope she's right.





    She's eighteen. For years now I've sat on a shelf, watching her. I've seen her laugh with her friends, cry over boys, stay up too late watching television and eating ice cream. My little Melody. Only she's not so little anymore.

    Every now and again she comes to me. My heart races when I see her eyes light up, her mouth twitching into a smile. "Hey you." Her voice is music to my ears. "How's my sweet knight?"

    Then one day she leaves. Her room remains, but she is no longer a part of it. Her mother come in from time to time, dusts the shelves and washes the comforter for habits sake.

    The dog comes in and sleeps on the floor at night, the vigor of youth long past him. He bothers no one now. He's too old, too tired for mischief. He probably doesn't remember disfiguring me, and that's fine. I forgave him long ago.

    I'm old, too. The shine is gone from my eyes, my fur is matted and coarse. My nose is dented and scratched. Yet every smear and stain is a badge of honor, my personal memories painted across my being so I might never forget all those wonderful adventures.

    Time becomes immeasurable. I spend my days in the sun, collecting dust on a high shelf, out of sight out of mind. At night I am alone with my thoughts and the stars. I am a forgotten relic. Content, I let my mind drift into darkness and feel myself fade away.

    I'm not scared. Nervous, perhaps. But I am brave, and my life was a good one. I'm ready for whatever awaits me. Ready for the Quiet.







    "Hello there sweet knight."

    I come back all at once, ripped away from something beyond my comprehension. The void that filed my mind is immediately replaced by warmth and love and happy memories.

    She came back for me.

    "Is that your old teddy bear?" A deep, male voice asks. "Are you sure you want to give her that? It's filthy."

    "You be quiet." Melody retorts, her hands wrapping around me. "He is -not- filthy, he's well loved." I am tiny in her hands. It is a peculiar feeling, a strange sort of déjà vu. "It's been a long time old friend. I've missed you." She holds me close and I am whole again, the long periods of isolation forgotten. "I'm a bit too big to go on adventures with you anymore, but I've got someone I want you to meet."

    At her feet a little girl is staring up at me with wide, curious eyes. Melody's eyes. Our eyes meet and she smiles, a gap toothed grin. She holds her arms out for me, squealing.

    "Summer, this is Mommy's bear. He's very strong and very brave, and he wants to be your bear now, don't you?" I feel myself nod. "Would you like that, Summer?"

    "Bear!" Summer squeals, dancing from one foot to the other. "Bear bear bear!"

    I am lowered into her arms to hold her, she squeezes me so tight my fur whines beneath her embrace. She rubs her cheek against mine. "Bear." She grins.

    "Gentle, Summer, gentle." Melody chides.

    Her words are far away.

    Hand in hand Summer and I set off for the yard, for the green grass and fresh air and warm sunlight. We'll play in the dirt and clamber through low bushes and up treacherous trees. We'll build fortresses and I'll defend them, like I once did for her mother. I'll watch her grow up, watch over her, because even though she's not Melody I love her already.

    And someday I'll have to face the Quiet, the long sleep from which I will not wake. But not today. Today...I'm ready for an adventure.
     
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  6. D'hai
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    Death's Pencil [3294 words]

    Tom always knew this would come, one day… A tall man, muscular yet lean, more of a sweet talker than a bodybuilder and kept himself fit and shaved, he never liked beards, felt like they were something to hide behind and detested people with long, carefully trimmed mustaches.

    It was a long hall they were in, he could see there were several hundred desks and chairs filled with other people in front of him and behind him, but he couldn’t quite see the end of it, or the beginning. “It must take a long time to clean in here”. His seat was on the edge of being uncomfortable but if he didn’t move much or think about it, it didn’t really bother him. He leaned over his slightly too small desk to check the black pencil with the very sharp point. His right hand started shaking.

    “Hey… calm down, it’s going to be… well, all right” his friend Jenny said. Still in that dress. She sat next to him in most classes during middle-school and somehow both of them got in the same college. One night they had their first kiss together, but it never got past that. Jenny was one of those nice girls that could be beautiful if she tried but she didn’t, so she was “always nice Jenny”. Tom was in the football team and was pretty popular among the girls in college, he had it in his head to live his life to the fullest and choosing one when he could have many was not an attractive option to his mind.

    “Yeah, you’re right. Are you… still mad at me?”

    “No… I guess I can’t really complain, I shouldn’t have let you drive. At least the chairs are comfy.”

    Suddenly the empty chair to his left, was now filled with the massive bulk of of a middle aged man dressed poorly in a stained T-shirt with a Tyrannosaurus Rex on it, that was using a long backscratcher to reach a spot that bothered him above his tail. The man had ruffled red hair and a flabby body with orange Cheetos stains on his white shorts.

    “How did you get here?”asked Tom in a not-really-surprised-tone.

    “Ahh… It’s you! Tom, good too see you! Ahh… well, actually thinking about it, sorry to see you here. Me? Well, I guess I ate one too many chicken wings with a bit too much snow, so before I knew it my heart decided to give up on me.” the man known as Jerry said with a big grin on his face; the same grin he used after everything he said.

    Jerry was a slob, living off his parents’ money and doing little else than playing games on his giant TV screen, hiring girls off Craigslist and doing drugs with them, mainly snow.

    “So how did you get here, hotshot?” asked Jerry

    “Too much scotch and a stupid friend let him drive.” said Jenny coldly.

    “I knew she was still mad, well, at least she has a good reason to be. I wonder how whatever her name is reacting to this.” Tom thought to himself.

    Before they got in the car they were at the 20th anniversary of their college class. Tom came with a stunning blonde, full bosom and a tight dress, who walked in that certain way girls like her walked, all full of confidence and inviting looks from everybody. Her name was either Amber or Claire, Tom could not recall. He flaunted her around his ex-colleagues, now most of them married and a lot of them balding, until he reached the dancing floor where he saw Jenny.

    All dressed up in a red velvet dress arching around her body like waves of the night ocean, her eyes cerulean blue and her perfectly golden hair put the washed up blonde Amber or Claire had to shame. That was “always nice Jenny” all dressed up. after almost 5 years of sending occasional texts to each other, he never expected her to change, but now... she was gorgeous.

    Amber or Claire started talking to John, his former desk mate who was now a world famous lawyer and recently divorced, Tom rose up and went to Jenny. They spent the whole night dancing and talking: she was now recently married and had a wife and a little boy.

    Later that night when they were the only ones left in the re-purposed sports hall, Tom offered to show Jenny his new convertible Jaguar. She was tipsy herself but Tom was drunk, after washing down close to a full bottle of Glenfiddich single malt.

    ---

    “Would it kill them to at least have some comfy chairs?” Jerry said while scratching his lower-back.

    Suddenly it grew very silent in the room when in the far end a brunette in high heels entered. She looked familiar. Ripples of surprised and terrified awes echoed in the infinite Hall. Tom couldn’t quite place her until she turned around to show a burn mark on her left cheek, that seemed to still be sizzling.

    “ What the… What is he doing here?!” Asked Jerry while cold sweat was pouring down his face.

    “ He? My stepmother?” said Tom while he felt his hand starting to shake again.

    “ No, you idiot, my uncle!”

    “ I don’t think we all see the same thing.” said Jenny kind of dejectedly.

    “ Who do you see Jen?”

    “ Jeremiah…”

    Everyone in the room fell into a dead silence within a couple of minutes, as they tried to comprehend the cruel joke currently being played on them. Jerry was now white-faced and his T-shirt sweat stains were growing at an alarming rate. He knew the man he saw, short but bulky with a bald head and a crooked nose, that was his uncle, Braccus. One summer after his father’s death, he came into the mansion screaming about his share of the money. Supposedly his mother had altered the will to exclude Braccus from it, and the money his father promised him a couple of weeks prior to his death. The whole conflagration lasted several weeks, after a point where Braccus brought enough evidence to contest the will and his mother was afraid they would lose everything. Until then Jerry didn’t really care but when he heard his lifestyle of careless debauchery was threatened, he started showing interest. After that, it all ended in a week when suddenly Braccus dropped all charges and Estella, his mother, gave Jerry enough money to keep him happy the rest of his lazy days.

    When Jerry had hacked into his uncle’s laptop searching to find some weakness he could exploit, he found a lot more that he expected; he figured out that Estella and Braccus had had an affair a couple of years back and from the very brief but explicit emails, it was clear they had spent their time in the guest room. He scavenged pictures of Braccus and Estella, from an old but still intact nanny cam that his father had placed there in order to spy on his guests; but as his illness got worse he had forgotten about it. There were several images and in some positions that he still could not wrap his head around. Enough to have Braccus back off so his wife would not find out and enough so Estella would stand in a great fear of the pre-nuptial she had signed. If the affair was ever made public, she would lose all her ill-gotten wealth and social position , even though the money would go to Jerry, he was reluctant to throw her to the dogs as she was the only one who had ever indulged his lifestyle. The horrible part was not this, but the fact that after Jerry got the money, he released a few of the photos on a porn forum in an attempt to find out how some of those moves were possible. Easily, they had made their way into the news; fortunately for Estella, her back had been to the camera and her entire body was all arched in seemingly impossible angles so nobody did identify her. Braccus's wife, however, found out about them in the newspaper with the headline “ Incredible positions that would break a regular’s man back!”. She left him, took the children and the house, leaving Braccus penniless and homeless. He tried contacting Estella, but she had already set herself in a snug, little mansion oversea, all the money in offshore accounts.He hung himself a week after in the bathroom of a fast food restaurant. Jerry could see the mark left on his neck by the rugged rope he had used, a pink-skinned fleshy scar around his neck, arched upwards with a circular knot-sized mark on the right side.

    “ This isn’t real… Tell me this isn’t real.” Jerry said with a whimper.

    Jenny’s face was red, salty tears streamed down her cheeks. She saw a tall, white haired man with a long nose and yellow teeth, muscular body and cold eyes. Her grandfather, Jeremiah, a man whose farm they used to visit on the holidays. She loved to scamper around all day playing with the pigs and running with the dogs until one Christmas when they would stay there all the winter holiday. Jeremiah’s wife, Emilia, had recently passed away so his father promised the old man they would stay longer to see more helping hands hired for the farm and everything else taken care of. On Christmas Eve, Jenny’s parents left for the city to get Jenny’s uncle from the airport; it was pretty late in the night so they asked Jeremiah if he could tuck Jenny in. She was 8 at that time and pretty tall for her age with blonde curls streaming down her face and discreet pimples. Jeremiah nodded and waved her parents goodbye before raising her up in his arms and putting her into bed. Jeremiah was drunk, Jenny could remember smelling the foul-tasting home-brew alcohol he excessively drank that night. When he dropped her in bed he sat on the side of her bed stroking her blonde hair and told her to be quiet. She could feel him touching her and lifting up her skirt, then she heard a zipper and short afterwards a sharp, overwhelming pain made her scream, but it was of no help as a big, dirt-smelling hand covered her mouth. He rose after a couple of minutes, zipped up his pants and put the cover on Jenny, who was still shaking wildly. He told her “Let’s keep this our little secret. Okay, sweet cheeks?”. This happened two more times when her parents and uncle where gone from home until Jenny was waiting for him to come up to her bed one night with a sickle she stole from the shed. She waited until the heavy wooden door opened, she felt the cover being taken down and her skirt lifted then when she heard the zipper she turned around and slashed wildly with the sickle. Later that night her family found Jenny crying and shaking in a corner and Jeremiah with a sickle in his belly and his pants down. The farm burned that night and Jenny’s father sold the land to the first offer he had.

    Jeremiah was smiling at her from the front of the Infinite Hall and he was still bleeding from just underneath his belly.

    Tom knew the story and could see Jenny’s tears and her knuckles going so white it made her arms tremble but he couldn’t think about her now. Angela, his stepmother, was looking at him with a warm smile like a summer breeze but eyes cold as the darkest winter night. She could do that, make you feel warm and good at the same time as making you uncomfortable and guilty about something you did not do. His real mother, Leanne, had died when he was 6 and his father had been devastated, started drinking and gambling away the family fortune until Angela appeared at his poker table. She easily clawed her way into his life and took him away from the gambling and the booze and soon after they married. Angela was just a replacement in Tom's eyes, and a poor one at that. It was obvious for anyone that spent more than a couple of days at their house that she was a trophy and a jewel to be entertained, gorgeous with her hazel eyes and long flowing dark hair, ample bosom and legs that made you unwillingly stare at her whenever she decided to waltz out of the room. Tom remembered how his father was head over heels for her and couldn’t let her go for minutes, not even for his son. He tried everything to get his attention: got the best grades in school, then the worst, got arrested a dozen times and one time even brought home a very expensive and beautiful redhead to take his father’s mind off Angela. When his father was in the room with the expensive redhead, Angela came into the house and heard the noise. Seeing the smirk on Tom’s face, there was no mistaking what was going on but she was unphased, not even slightly shaken, giving Tom a smile that said “You are out of your depth, kid.” Then she undressed right there and easily swayed towards him.

    Angela moved with confidence, a look into her eyes that said “If you please me, I will make you the happiest man in the world. And trust me, I know how.” You just wanted to be in her presence and having her was just a distant dream that you replayed in your mind at night so you could sleep thinking of her above you smiling pleasantly and promising another visit the next night. Tom resisted at first but he relented in the end, letting her take him there on the couch. Angela made him forget about everything and only pay attention to her soft skin, her brown eyes fixed into his and the way her body swayed.

    His father caught them in the act and Tom was speechless. She spun the story around so that, in the end, his father was feeling so guilty about letting her drift away from him that he took her on several trips to the most exotic places to make up for it. The first one in Haiti, where they stayed at a 5 star hotel. She returned tanned and more beautiful than ever.Every time they would be at home, Angela would crawl into Tom’s bed and make it creak so loudly it was a miracle his dad did not wake up. This happened until Tom’s father was heavily in debt, his firm was bankrupt and he had no penny left and Angela drifted away. She started getting home later and later. One night, when Tom arrived, he knew his father was away trying to find work, he heard noises from the bedroom and soon after a dark skinned middle-age man came out half-dressed and, with an awkward look at Tom, hastily went to his car and drove off.
    After a couple of minutes she came out of the room mostly naked and saw Tom in front of the fireplace playing at the logs with the poker. She moved easily towards him and softly traced a finger down his back. He did not even flinch. But the words he said simmered like poison: “Damn you! You destroyed our life!” He turned around with the poker, hitting her across the face with the hot-red piece of iron. She screamed as her skin sizzled and that was it for Angela. Her face and confidence after that night were broken and no amount of plastic surgery ever fixed what Tom had done to her. His father did find work soon and sent him away to university, the only contact between the two being occasional Christmas cards.

    His right hand continued shaking until he felt it warming up as Jenny held it tighter.

    The creature that was making everyone in the room go pale was moving towards him… Why me? He answered his own question: people around him had the same face as his and people in the front where staring up at something unknown, invisible, but definitely there, and they were terrified. She was close now, he could feel his heart beating in his throat, blood boiling with anger at seeing her face, but his arms and legs felt as if they were made out of ice. She was just a couple of benches away… a sudden feeling of something ending started to tug at him and surround him He knew it for what it was: the creature in front of him, whatever skin it chose, was Death.

    The ante diluvian angel of damnation was now in front of him, staring down at him as she took out a white sheet of paper and put it in front of him. From the corner of his eye, he saw Jenny and Jerry getting one as well and instinctively he went for the pencil. He didn’t know what he was supposed to write but he knew what he would write. Each of them took their time and Tom wrote about half a page while unconsciously doodling on the bottom of the page the letter J. Jerry was crying, his T-shirt completely soaked in his bodily fluids and Jenny was easily writing up close to a full page. Suddenly, they all stopped and it was over. The creature was in front of them again, now not in the forms they had seen before, but a cloaked one with skinny arms, sunken cheeks and beady, obsidian eyes.

    As it closed to touch Jerry he screamed and begged for another chance. His paper was empty. He pleaded while continual streams of desperate tears dripped down his face and as suddenly as he had first appeared, he disappeared. The creature then turned it’s attention to Tom, his right hand squeezing Jenny’s. He tried to look it in the eyes but he could not. It reached out to touch him and he turned around to face Jenny and wanted to utter words that should have been said a long time ago, but she already knew, nodding warmly and forcing a smile, while letting go of his hand. Tom’s face was wet, he was crying as well, not for not living his life as Jerry, but for living it so fast that he had not stopped to enjoy it. Even if in the end he had a lot of fun memories, he had few good ones and a lot of regrets, biggest of all being not doing right by the person whose initial he had doodled in a corner of the page. He reached out for her but it was too late, his chances had come and gone. He saw her disappear and for a second a big hole opened in his gut and cold covered his body. The creature had stopped for one moment and another apparition of it had taken Jenny before this one would be taking him. Why?... He already knew, whatever this was, either a test to get into heaven, a cruel joke or just a feedback report to how he used his gift of life…. He knew he had done better than most but he also knew he had failed, the only thing that he wanted to be his and that was free of charge and which brought with it all the ecstasy and sorrow of life in one small package, he had kicked away.

    In the end, the only thing he really would have wanted from life was love. But now it was time, he disappeared.
     
  7. Wordhacker
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    Wordhacker Contributing Member

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    Yanked (1900 words)


    “Don’t look him straight in the face,” said a woman next to him.

    “Who?” he replied.

    “Him,” she responded.

    Who was she? For that matter, who were the people around him? He was amongst countless people crammed together in a small room. But it wasn’t small in a rational sense. It was a lake of people as far as the eye could see, yet he felt they were boxed in a confined space with no defining walls. It could only be described as a dense infinite whiteness. And that awful elevator music wafting through the void. Where was it coming from?

    “I’m sorry, do I know you?” he whispered.

    “Perhaps,” she said.

    She was staring upward. So was everyone else. A digital screen hung in the air, with no wires or brackets securing it to anything in particular. The screen read, “Now serving 01.”

    “What is all this?” he asked the woman.

    “Ah, your first time. Can’t say I envy you. My first time I was stuck in this place for…” She turned to him with a blank stare, then she finally said, “I’m not quite sure how long it was. Perhaps…well I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.”

    He was dreaming and when he woke, he would get ready for work and…who was he? He didn’t even know his own name. Then he noticed he was holding a piece of paper. So was everyone else. His had a number. The number one with an infinite number of zeros after it. As she saw his paper, her sympathetic face told him he was screwed, he’d be here for a long time. Her piece of paper had the number two printed on it. She was next. Next for what?

    A murmur suddenly swept through the crowd, growing louder and louder till it became one enormous shrill racket. The number on the digital screen started rolling in slow motion. It seemed to be going backward. Everyone appeared confused and when it eventually stopped, an ear piercing ding rang through the air. The number was now a one with an impossible number of zeros after it. The woman next to him groaned and tore her paper to pieces and tossed it in the air. Everyone else followed suit. It was as if they were in a ticker tape parade, the confetti raining down upon their heads. He had the prized number. But what had he won?

    The next moment he was sitting in a chair in front of an enormous desk. Everyone else had disappeared into the white void. Had they ever been there? Had he imagined the throng of people in a waiting room of sorts? The digital screen was gone as well. Behind him he heard a door open and shut, but when he looked it was only whiteness with a single person headed in his direction. “Don’t look him straight in the face.”

    Who had spoken these words to him? How did he get here? Where did he come from? He knew the words were important advice, so he turned back to the desk where an apple appeared. So red. So perfectly shaped as if it were made of wax. Don’t look him straight in the face. He concentrated on the apple when the person sat across from him, on a chair—or throne?

    He was shuddering. This had to be Purgatory and all the atrocities he committed were now going to be set before him. What had he done? Was he a bad person? Had he killed anyone? Then it occurred to him he had been born Catholic. He was doomed.

    “Look at me,” a man’s voice commanded.

    Don’t look him straight in the face. It seemed to be the safest action at the moment. Don’t look him straight in the face, but he did.

    “Relax,” said the man.

    “I was told not to look you straight in the face.”

    “I love the rumors that travel through this place. A woman recently sat in that chair, convinced she was supposed to present a sacrifice to me, preferably a lamb or goat. I had a good laugh on that one. People’s ignorance never ceases to amaze me.”

    “Are you God?”

    “I’m whatever you want me to be. So, God it is.” He smiled

    God had a long beard and hair down to the middle of his back. His robe hung loosely on his thin frame, what he would expect to find straight out of the bible, everything except an Ipad he was scrutinizing at the moment. God used an Ipad? God was referring to it as he spoke to him, not giving away anything that might be concealed on the gadget. “So this is god,” he thought. Where was St Peter, the Pearly Gates?

    With that thought, he and God were taken to the pearly gates, just as he’d envisioned as a boy. A fleeting image of himself learning about religion in Sunday class quickly faded. Peter had on a flowing robe as well, with a long beard and wrinkled face like God’s.

    “Name, please,” asked St Peter.

    This question stumped him. Who was he? God still hadn’t referred to him by name. “I’m not sure.” He turned to God for an answer.

    God only shrugged. He was enjoying this little escapade and Peter seemed to be in on this comic joke. Both Peter and God exchanged a crooked smile, then laughed.

    “Driver’s license?” Peter asked, holding out his hand.

    “Driver’s license?” he replied. He reached into his back pocket for his wallet.

    He did so out of instinct. It seemed he had done this same thing in a past life many a time for the authorities. To his surprise he pulled one out. He opened the wallet and fished out the ID card without looking at it, then handed it to Peter.

    Peter held the license to his face in comparison. Finally satisfied, he handed the card back to him and said, “Never can be too careful nowadays. Not long ago I had Bruce Jenner come through here. Tried to pass himself off as a woman. Called himself Kaytlin. Horrible job on the plastic surgery and his boobs were way too big.”

    “Ya, never can be too careful, I guess.” He said.

    Before he slipped the license back into the wallet, he glimpsed the name: Adolf Hitler. A large lump got caught in his throat. He could hardly breathe. All the Jews he had sent to concentration camps. The mass killings? What was the penalty?

    God and Peter had their arms crossed over their chests. They didn’t look happy. The only thing missing was Lucifer. Where was he? The air temperature seemed to have risen fifty degrees and surely that was brimstone and sulfur growing stronger by the moment.

    God burst out in laughter. So did Peter. They were laughing so hard, he thought they would fall to the ground kicking and screaming.

    “Jesus Christ, John,” God blurted out. “Learn to take a joke.”

    But God was no longer God. In a flash he was Lucifer in the flesh, with horns, hooves, and long spiked tail, his voice so thunderous all of hell shook. Lucifer was also carrying the fabled flaming trident which he raised above his head, then slammed down into molting rocks at his feet. Peter had transformed to a hell hound chained to a dead oak tree. Its smoldering branches stank of death and decay. The chain was fully extended and looked like the links were ready to snap, as the hell dog snarled and pulled toward him.

    Hitler supposed he had it coming, but it still didn’t stop him from falling at Lucifer’s feet, begging for mercy. He thought back to the white void, with the sea of people waiting for their punishment. He would have given anything to be waiting for eternity, listening to that horrible elevator music. Anything was better than this moment.

    Then nothing. He was balled on the ground in darkness, whimpering. Alone. No Lucifer, God, or St Peter. No elevator music. Was this a nightmare? What next? He was going out of his mind. They had locked him up in a nut house and his family was at his bed side taking pity on his delusions. He relaxed at the thought of being locked away, though. Anything was better than spending eternity in hell, with Lucifer’s booming voice and the smell of burning flesh. Yes. This was much better.

    As he began to relax, he noticed a light in the distance. It beckoned to him, but he was hesitant to move toward it. He didn’t appreciate door number one and door number two was out of the question. What did this door number three hold for him? He couldn’t help himself. Curiosity got the best of him, as he tried to get to his feet. He had none. Then he noticed he had no body or limbs either. He was hanging disembodied in a void, like the digital display had when he first got here.

    The light appeared to be moving toward him, or was he moving toward it? Voices were emanating from it, whispers at first, then growing to a normal speaking voices. Suddenly he had feet and legs, walking into the light. Darkness dissolved around him as he found himself in an operating room, with table, tools and two people in scrubs. They were conferring to an audience seated behind a glass observation window near the ceiling.

    He assumed they were doctors. One was wearing black, the other white. The one in black had a scalpel, waving it around like sword, and each time he made slashing gestures in front of him, the audience above clapped and cheered. As he surveyed the room, he noticed no door or window through which to escape.

    They hadn’t noticed him yet. They were too busy entertaining their audience. But when he moved back a step, he tripped over a cart. The racket was earsplitting as metal tools and glasses smashed to a marble floor. Mr. black and Mr. white whipped around. They had no faces. It reminded him of the mesh masks people wore in fencing competitions, except their masks were made of flesh. It was horrifying. For some reason this site was more disturbing than Lucifer standing over him.

    “Ah, just in time,” Mr. Black said.

    “In time for what?” he responded. Was he Hitler? Who was he now?

    Both men stepped aside, gesturing for him to get on the table.

    Mr. White said, “We’ll get it right this time.”

    They were on him in the blink of an eye, dragging him toward the table. Before he gave the first struggle, they had already strapped him down on the cold vinyl material. He was looking straight up into the operation lights. He had a mask over his face now. Everything was happening so quickly. The air seemed to vibrate. The doctors disappeared and darkness started to engulf him once again. But he was still strapped to the table. It began to shake and rock. Other voices came from the darkness, concerned, panicked. He felt a sense of urgency in their conversation.

    “One…two…three…clear.” A voice shouted.

    Then: “We got him.”

    The welcome sound of an ambulance siren brought a smile to his face. He looked up to a couple paramedics and said, “There is an afterlife…but not today.”
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2015
  8. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    Half Life (2,821)

    In a way, it was all bigger, too.

    There were more colors, for one. Impossible to describe tones that, once seen, were impossible to forget. Impossible to imagine going an entire existence without them by one's side, filling in the details with unspeakable shades. It was like walking into a rainbow, to find it did have some heft, as, when children, we'd always wanted to believe it did, as we'd wanted the clouds to be cotton one could have a good nap on. But flat—always flat, that rainbow. Watery in a Scotland-like mist.

    Electric shadows, that's what the Chinese called film. And how did he know that?

    “It isn't for you to say,” the girl was saying. “Not for you to decide.”

    She wasn't a girl. Maybe she wasn't a she. But he had decided to assign this aspect to the thing in front of him, just as he had decided that he was a he.

    “Then what? Or, should I say, who?”

    “Not for me to decide who decides.”

    He would have said more, would have inquired further, but the electric shadow girl gave off an energy, like a gasp or a spasm of muscle, urgent and scared. He felt it pass through him and move on, like a ripple in a piece of fabric.

    #

    He had, in the last moment, been facing a perfectly blue sky. That self-same blue that he had known his length of forever. He was desperately aware of every blink and the swallowing blackness behind it. That blackness was urging him on, singing its siren's song of sleep, and comfort, and peace. All lies, of course. He kept his eyes open to the blue, blue sky.

    His ears were ringing. Outside of that, something like a jet engine was wailing, and outside of that, muffled low punctures of speech.

    In this moment before death, he stopped being anything that he had once been. He was a momentary splinter of life, pulse pumping, eyes seeing—a sensory input machine. And in that moment before death, he forgot to be afraid.

    A great percussive expansion of breath, and then, a final contraction.

    #

    Not so final, it seemed.

    As the rippled passed through him, he felt with new awareness what he was supposed to do. The girl didn't speak—didn't have to. Together they lifted, and fled.

    “What was that about?” he asked when they were once again still, settled in a dark, cool place. They weren't, however, still at all, but still in the way of trees, which only look still on first glance. As he watched her, the girl's mass waved like a flag in the wind. “And where are we?”

    “Where?” she repeated. It seemed as if she didn't understand the question.

    “This is all very new.”

    The girl sent out a new ripple towards him, but this one did not make him panic and run. It felt instead like a rush of pleasant warm air or a stroking finger down one's spine. It was something like a laugh.

    “Am I funny?”

    “No, not funny. New. New is the right word.”

    “Hm.”

    He pushed up to explore the dark cavern. There were walls of sort, and each teemed with vibrant, diluted life. Like sun spots. He got to the top of the cavern and found that nothing was solid, nothing had any permanence at all. He could reach through it into another unseen space.

    “Do you remember Robert?”

    The girl was suddenly very close. Her white, electric glow shocking in its brilliance as he turned to face her.

    “Robert who?”

    That hot wind again, but gentler, somehow sad. “So new,” she cooed. A piece of her united with him. It was meant to comfort, but his reaction was something else entirely. “It will come back. Only slowly,” she said.

    He held on to the piece of her, caught it inside himself.

    “Who,” he demanded, “or what, are we hiding from?”

    Her ripple was like a shudder. With unexpected force, she pushed against him and escaped.

    “No,” she said, but it was too late. The information was there, inside him as if it had always been there. He tripped over it in his mind, stumbled over it, like a stone on the road.

    Candleman.

    He must have stolen it from her, this name, and with came the cold dread she felt at it.

    “What does he want?”

    She swooped closer. He saw for the first time the same bright patches of life crawling over her skin as were on the walls, only more muted. She was so close. He thought—he hoped—she would touch him again and transfer some of her light to him. But she did not do that. She whispered.

    “To burn.”

    #

    He had been killed by a spider, one not even half a centimeter long.

    It was lunch hour, and the city streets were full. Summer had arrived, maybe too strongly, because the people on the street had a miserable group countenance. Sweaty armpits and sloped, desperate shoulders reigned supreme. Business suits were too confining, picked at by smoking office workers. Men loosened their ties.

    Unlike them, he did not work in an office, that was made clear by his casual attire: a ratty T-shirt and unpressed trousers. He was preoccupied as he waded through the crowds. He was off to meet someone important, this much he remembered. He was supposed to tell this person something, but that something hadn't revealed itself, and now he had nothing to tell. It was a predicament.

    His life was not over; it was in full swing. He was in the middle of things. Life was still a step not taken. He hadn't yet gone grocery shopping. He had never called back his mother about his great aunt's birthday party. There were things he wanted to do, that day and also years on. He wanted to see Japan and make a pilgrimage walk—carry a little book of karma and get it stamped along the way by happy bald men, then burn it in an offering to the gods...here you go, guys, don't be a stranger. But his book was not filled. There was still so much to do.

    He was ruminating about his unfulfilled task, not imaging that the seconds ticking by were last moments meant to be savored, when something tickly dropped on his neck. He reached back and swiped at it, brought it in front of his face for inspection. In his hand was a tiny black spider. He liked spiders, those weird little aliens, creatures too strange to be believed. Arachnophobia, that old flick. Good and juicy horror.

    Looking at the spider, an idea formed. It started at the end, but he wound it backwards, whirling out the twine until he saw the tightly woven cord in its entirety. This was what he had been missing, this idea. He now knew what he would tell that important someone.

    And, lost in his musings, he forgot to look both ways.

    #

    Eventually he slept, and that he was able to sleep was a surprise in itself. It was sudden a somewhat violent, that first sleep, like sinking into quicksand.

    In his dream state, it started to occur to him that they, he and the girl, were also balls of light crawling over an unspecific wall, one they weren't even aware of. Like those critters that live on eyelashes or nestle into cuticle beds. Like those tiny, parasitic worms that are attracted to warmth and end up logged inside of penises as men pee in lagoons. It was was likely, he was beginning to understand, that this new and electric location could be, when it came right down to it, as mundane as thick glob of earwax. Or it might be heaven. There was just no way to know.

    “I feel guilty doing this,” he said later, in a new moment if not a new day.

    The girl didn't say a word, and her energy remained soft and disinterested as she touched the small balls of light and absorbed them into herself.

    “Isn't it a bit..cannibalistic?” She was making quick work of the wall, and soon nothing would be left for him. This idea didn't seem to concern her. “Doesn't it upset you? Or, or worry you in some way? What's to stop something bigger from coming along and swallowing you up?”

    She glowed softly. The dark hiding space was becoming darker as one after another the balls of light were snuffed out by her moonlike form. She would eat her fill till the room was black and leave him starving. She didn't mind if he died, didn't mind if the harmless balls of light died. And, more infuriatingly still, she didn't speak.

    Without meaning to, his energy jumped away from him. He felt it go, and it fizzed out in an angry spike toward the girl, hitting her, damaging her almost, and moving on to harass more unsuspecting creatures.

    Finally the girl moved away from the wall. She moved into him, perhaps a quarter of her body pushing against his, forcing him towards the balls of light. As she entered him, he saw bits of her. They were hazy images. He tried to focus on them as best he could, to call them forth and sharpen their edges, but then he was at the wall, and the balls of light were soaking into him, and he felt better—calmer, but also like a battery that's been recharged.

    “Eat,” she commanded. “Eat because we move on. Eat because nothing is stopping something bigger from swallowing us.”

    #

    So he ate, and when he had finished and the wall was black and lifeless, they left the dark cavern.

    “There are always more,” she said as if to soothe him.

    “Not the same ones.”

    “No, not exactly the same. But not exactly different, either.”

    She sent him a wave of playful energy, and it, in combination with the new food sustaining him, made him feel something like happiness.

    They traveled out into the light again, in and out of varying colors that looked like tinted mists, veils of gauzy silk that like the filmy top of a pool seemed impossible to pass through at first glance. At times they moved forwards, and other times they moved up or to the side, never on any sort of memorable path. Sometimes they seemed to go back a way they had already been.

    They were not the only ones of their kind; other beings moving in the rainbow world. Their bright white bodies were visible from even great distances. He felt pulses of energy from some of them, and occasionally the girl would pulse out to them, also. He was becoming more perceptive, and the communication was not entirely lost on him, always the same simple message: No.

    It happened very quickly. Before he could much think of where they were going, a curtain, it seemed, had been pulled back, and they were in what looked like a kaleidoscopic meadow. Glittering multicolored lights danced over gently rolling slopes. The colors moved in waves, as if slow sunrises and sunset were in constant motion over the space. It was the most beautiful place he had ever seen, perhaps made more beautiful by that fact that he understood it not all, that the science behind it was mysterious and irrelevant.

    The girl spun away from him and glided over the slopes. Her formed turned towards him, at the place where he was stunned into motionlessness, and beckoned to him.

    A great burst of energy sang suddenly in his being, and he raced towards her, spun round her, and delighted in the spark his spinning threw up from the ground.

    They chased each other like schoolchildren, and when they became tired, they nestled into the electric meadow and let the colored sparks climb across their bodies.

    It was absolute joy. But it wasn't enough to feel joy, he wanted to share it, wanted to see if it belonged only to him, or if they were dreaming the same dream. So he moved his body into hers slightly, to ask, to share. He felt her. When they joined he felt his own wanting and her pull. He slipped further inside her, and she in him, and seemed to explode with pleasure and awareness. And as their bodies became one single being, in a spasm of near painful perfection, he remembered everything.

    Perhaps he could have floated their forever, but at that moment pulses, powerful in number, slammed into him from all directions, screamed and hollered: Yes, yes, yes!

    Because there in the meadow was the Candleman.

    #

    His name had been Robert.

    He had liked spiders and a great many other things that were both beautiful and deadly. He had not been very good at life, but he had, nonetheless, been successful in his own way. Occasionally he would be stopped and asked for an autograph, usually when he was in a book store, suspiciously lingering in the section where his works could be found. He'd been in a few magazines. He'd had an agent.

    In those ways he had been a success, in other ways, not. There were a good many things he had missed out on. He'd never been truly in love, the kind of love that takes over a person until they feel like a kind of happy, hypnotized zombie. There were many people that would call him friend, but not so many that he would address with that title of distinction. He had always wanted to go to Asia, but never had. He really should have flossed his teeth more often.

    It came back in such a might rush that he saw how small it all was: his first girlfriend unclasping her bra; his brother, aged nine, snotty and crying as he proffered his freshly broken arm; the way he self-consciously plucked gray hairs out of his head with tweezers; and his hollow feeling, a friendly, familiar entity that lived alongside him and spoke in whispers about wealth and fame and grandeur. It was all so terribly simple. Compared to the landscape of his re-birth, it was all so terribly flat. He was able to laugh at it, to goof with himself. What an ass I was.In this existence, I'll be better. I've got a second chance, he thought.

    But then he didn't.

    #

    He was frightful only because he was so big and so bright. He was so white it almost went to black again, as if his brightness scorched whatever it touched. But he wasn't malignant, and he wasn't brutal. No, it was not like that at all. The Candleman was gentle.

    Robert understood why his first reaction had been to assume horror. He'd been, after all, in love with the stuff. But here he was facing happiness itself—a billowing body with a head like an exploded star, gaseous and powerful, and holding all the magic of a chaotic universe.

    The beings closest to him were propelled as if by a strong wing. Transmitting each emotion as they went, they experienced fear, then wonder, then bliss. Their bodies spilled into the Candleman to pop like bubbles, and all the while the Candleman hummed a happy energy as he slowly, slowly slipped forward on a deadly path.

    There was a moment when Robert wasn't sure what to do. It didn't seem so bad, after all, to burst with bliss. But he had just blinkered out of existence not too long ago, and it didn't need repeating.

    The Candleman was nearer, and Robert decided it was time to go. He reached to her, only to find her ahead of him, gliding away and into the light, closer every moment to oblivion.

    Robert would never see Asia, and he would never fill his little book with karma. But maybe karma was a place. Maybe this was the chance, and maybe he was the book.

    Without giving it time for a second thought, Robert flew in front of the girl. He concentrated all his new energy, and he pushed as hard as could. He watched her disappear. She fell down through the sparks, as if drowning in a starlit pool. But she would not drown; she would survive.

    In the next moment, he felt bright sunshine and peaceful warmth on his back. His body began to float.

    #

    Robert opened his eyes to a world of green—only green. There was silence and liquid, dark and cool and nutritious. He could suck it in and expel it in one simple motion.

    He was not dead—why had he thought he would be? Why had he given existence so little credit?

    The green ocean moved him languidly towards new places, new creatures, and new life. And in a way, it was bigger than anything else before it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Test post, ignore, thanks. More testing.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2015
  10. Bwater
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    Bwater Member

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    Location:
    Bridgwater, somerset
    Loss. 850 words

    Awareness slowly returned to Sarah, low noises sounding simultaneously close by and far away, a dull grey glow seeping through her closed eyelids and a smell, not burning, but something previously burned seeped into her nostrils, reminding her of BBQs as a carefree young woman.
    Where was she?
    Where has she been?
    Her toes tingled, pins and needles preventing any comfortable movement, the same in her fingers now. Her eyelids gently opened, morphing the grey glow into a dirty beige glow directly ahead. Lying on her back, unable to move, memory evading her grasp.
    An itch on her thigh, fingers not reaching to relieve the discomfort.
    Where am I?
    How did I get here?
    A slight flash of memory there, bright lights, burning sun, dust.
    Dust.
    Yes, desert dust. She'd been on manoeuvres. That's right, manoeuvres through the desert with her squad.
    The pins and needles easing in her feet, she tries to shift, struggling to raise her body. Giving up, she lifted her head slightly to look around, the dirty beige was a constant on the ceiling and the walls, broken only by a nondescript brown door. In the corner sat a green chair, the cover torn, foam squeezing out like a fungus.
    More flashes of memory began to return as she lowered her head again, walking in the heat. Sharing a joke with a squadmate. A click.
    The door had opened and someone had entered, a tired looking suit matching tired eyes and drawn features, "Awake Miss Turner" he uttered, no emotion evident, "we've been waiting some time for you to regain consciousness."
    Her attempt to reply was cut off by her dry mouths unwillingness to utter anymore than a scratchy cough,
    "I would rest your voice Miss Turner, the damage coupled with the morphine will limit your conversations for a while yet"
    Damage? Morphine? What had happened?
    Memories again drifted just out of reach, agonisingly close but nothing.
    "Wha..." She attempted to scrape something out.
    "Do not concern yourself with the details Miss Turner, they aren't important just now." Again, the flat emotionless tone, but something in her pleading eyes must have prompted him to give her some information, "you were on an afternoon patrol when one of your colleagues triggered an explosive mine, you were amongst those caught in the blast."
    A mine? Blast?
    The door opened again, but Sarah was too busy reeling from the information she'd received to see who entered, hushed voices followed by the door closing again dragged her from her distraction.
    "So, Miss Turner, I will leave you to your rest and return later." The man exited the room leaving her alone, tears welling in her eyes as beige turned to grey before darkness closed in.

    It was several days since Sarah had first woken up in that dingy room to discover she'd been injured in an explosion. The days hadn't been easy, as she had discovered the blast had cost her both legs and an arm, with the second arm also severely damaged. She'd spent her time mostly in a daze, not able or willing to consider what this would mean for her future.
    The man who'd visited on the first day had not given her any information on her squadmates, or indeed on anything beyond her physical self. Nor had he ever enquired as to her wellbeing, physical or mental. In fact, come to think of it he'd exchanged very few words, all directed to her without emotion before disappearing. Two other men visited twice daily, once to carry her out of her room to a very similar room, and again later to put her back.
    Some time later, it could have been days, weeks or months a new visitor appeared.
    "Well Miss Turner," his voice carrying enough emotion to bring tears to her eyes, "how are you fitting in?"
    That stopped the tears. Fitting in?
    "Is that a joke?" She snapped back, "fitting in? How can I be fitting in, I'm dragged between two rooms with no news and no company. How do you think I'm 'fitting in?'"
    Tears returned to her eyes as the frustration of not being able to raise her arms to form inverted commas making sure of that.
    "Now, Miss Turner, there's no need for that, I simply meant to the current location," his soft tone caught her attention, "in fact, we feel it's time to move you on."
    "Home? I can go home?" Hope kindled
    "Oh, Miss Turner, I must apologise. Mr Brown can be a little uncommunicative of the details. I'm afraid you aren't returning home. Or rather." He paused, long enough for hope to turn to despair, "you are home. You'll be joining us now."
    Sarah launched herself out of her chair, he legs powering her across the room at this man, fists raised to strike him when her brain caught up with her body.
    Legs?
    Arms?
    "Wh..where am I?"
    "Come with me Miss Turner, you're ready for the next stage..."
    The open hand reached for Sarah's, it's touch tingling through her new limb and darkness fell once more.
     
  11. bumble bee
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    bumble bee Member

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    The Sistine Chapel [3081]

    It sounds corny but my favourite memory of Emma is from our wedding day. We weren’t huge fans of the whole wedding thing. Obviously we wanted to be married but it seemed like there was a whole industry dedicated to taking your money by convincing you that it would be the best day ever, if you only bought the right shade of ribbon. Being a woman, she got the worst of it. Everyone assumed that she’d spent her whole life planning this moment and she would be their ally in convincing me.

    Sometimes she would play along, saying, quite seriously, “Well if we don’t get the Spanish roses, I’m not marrying you.”

    And I would reply, “Thank God for that, I’ve been wondering how to break it to you, our relationship isn’t strong enough to accommodate different taste in bouquets”

    The vendors would edge away, embarrassed and we would go off giggling.

    Still, after all my cynicism, I loved our wedding day. It was relaxed and sunny. We had guests bring their own picnics and ended up with a bonfire when it got dark. I remember catching sight of her through the flames, laughing as she toasted marshmallows and I knew I’d made the best decision of my life.

    We had all these plans: work hard, save up, go travelling, come back, buy a house, start a family, get a dog, take it for walks; the whole nine yards. We were going to be happy. What’s the old saying? 'When man plans, God laughs.' We had no idea what was coming. No-one did.

    At first it was known as the Cuddling Disease. Victims would try and nuzzle up to people, grabbing at passers by and holding onto them, infecting them with their germs. It was an odd symptom. Partly the Disease seemed to affect the body’s ability to accurately monitor temperature so the Infected were always cold. They were drawn to your warmth. The other part was it ate away at your brain functions until the victims seemed lost and childlike. They would rock side to side, crying and reaching out for help. They were desperate. If you allowed them to, they would nestle in your arms for comfort and breathe deeply onto your skin. The Disease was highly contagious and it progressed fast. About 2 weeks after The Disease reached the UK, the TV showed nothing but emergency news. I saw an epidemiologist explaining, “The disease is incredibly efficient in that the behaviour it promotes fast transmission among a population at risk.” Four weeks into the infection, TV stations were only broadcasting an image recommending people stay in their homes and barricade the doors. Then they stopped broadcasting altogether.

    Emma was a teacher and the schools closed early on to try and contain the Infection. She spent her time stockpiling food and reading literature on how to stay safe. I'm sure she saved our lives more than once in the early days. My boss was a bit of a zealot and the business was one of the last in our area to close. I received an irate phone call on the day I looked out the window and decided I couldn’t face the trek through the Infected to get the office. His anger was already irrelevant. I was happier at home. I closed the shutters and tried to forget what was happening outside. We’d never spent so much time together and we mostly managed to enjoy it. We were newly-weds after all and there were a lot of games and laughter and cuddling up on the sofa, watching old dvds with a bottle of wine.

    We were lucky in that we lived in the top floor flat of an old Georgian building. The three flats below emptied out in the first few weeks, when people were hoping they could outrun a plague, not realising how quickly it would spread, how vulnerable you were on open ground. As the numbers of the Infected increased, they became impossible to avoid. Out in the street, you would step away from one and bump into a pair of them, shuffling along in an awkward three legged race, not willing to leave each others’ sides and wanting you to join the party. Trip over and three or four would pile on top of you, breathing their sick air into your face. Corpses started mounting up on the side of the road, with no-one to clear them away. The stench pervaded the city. We were safer staying up high, with the windows closed.

    We were living in a black hole of information. The electricity went down and we didn’t know why or how long for. Maybe there were engineers working at the power stations, trying to fix the problem; maybe it was just our street and we should make a run for it and find a new place to stay; maybe this was the beginning of the end and the water supply would be next. I missed the internet. The ability to find out almost anything at the touch of a button had become the basis of my life without me even noticing. I wanted to ask Google so many things. How do power stations work? What’s the best way to cook on an open fire? What happens if you use insulin past its sell by date? How quickly does it degrade when it’s stored over 25°? What’s the temperature today? What's worse, hyperglycemia or the Disease? How do you tell your wife your medication is only going to last another month?

    One night there was a knock at the door that made us both jump. We opened it to three strangers, plus a toddler. They introduced themselves: Jorge and his wife Aletea were parents to Rafael, and the other woman was Aletea’s sister Michaela. It was a while since we’d heard other people’s voices. They promised us they were clean, they had come here, hoping it would be better than the neighbouring city. They had a friends’ key but it was for the ground floor flat and the Infected were rubbing up against the windows, scaring Rafael. They had some food to share and we could all look out for each other. I saw Emma pulling faces at the little boy to make him smile. We let them in.

    It was good to have other people around. We made up silly games to keep Rafael entertained and Michaela practised her English; she hadn’t been in the country long. We took turns cooking, making the best meals we could out of tins and packets. There was a feel of a holiday camp, with a slightly manic edge as we all pretended this was a life we could keep living. At night the conversations turned to what we remembered hearing about the outside world and it was all bad. No country unaffected, no workable solutions. Jorge told us about a man, back in Brazil who claimed to have found a cure and found himself inundated with the Infected. He was dead within days. The jokes were dark- warped humour got us through.

    We banded together but there was no question we each put our own family first. I stumbled one night, disoriented and our guests leapt up, on high alert.

    “It’s his blood sugar,” snapped Emma sharply.
    She pulled me into the bedroom, grabbing a bar of chocolate on the way.

    “Are you sure?” I whispered. That was how the Disease started, confusion and disorientation as the brain began to falter. “What will you do if I’m infected?”

    “You’re a lot bigger than me,” she paused, “I don’t think I could fight you off.”
    I knew she was right, but nothing she’d said had ever hurt me like that.

    It was only a matter of time before we needed to go out for both insulin and food and it seemed sensible to do it while we were both feeling reasonably strong and well nourished. We patched together our memory of where the shops and pharmacies were.

    “Not the hospital,” said Emma, “It will be full of the Infected and it’s like a warren.”

    It was a crazy guessing game, with too much left to chance and the stakes too high if we made the wrong decision. Should we head into town or to the smaller shops in the suburbs? East or West? Would weapons slow us down? We didn’t know.

    “We should go to the Sistine Chapel” said Emma. I looked at her, confused.
    “Didn’t you know? Michelangelo was diabetic and to honour his masterpiece they store the finest quality longest lasting insulin in an emerald encrusted fridge behind the altar. I’ve got just about enough petrol to drive to London, but if not then we can siphon it out of cars on the way.” She was looking at me, her expression serious, “Then, what do you think? The Eurostar or a Ferry?”

    I grinned, “Definitely the train. It’s just stop and start. You have to steer a ferry, which makes it tricky. Anyway little boys all grow up wanting to be train drivers.”

    “Two birds with one stone then! We’ll be helping you achieve your dream and getting insulin that’s actually been blessed by his Holiness. We’ll pick up another car in France and maybe stop at the vineyards on the way to Italy. Hmmm, well you are running quite low. Maybe we’ll get the insulin first and then go to the vineyards on the way back. We can take a detour round Lake Como, it’s meant to be beautiful”

    “Only one problem I can see.” I was properly in the spirit of it now, “I think the emerald fridge is locked, how will we get it open?”

    “Oh, the pope always has the key. They give it to him when he’s ordained and he keeps it tucked in his left shoe- it’s tradition.”

    “And how do we know which one’s the pope?”

    “Ben, you’re so ignorant- he’ll be easy to spot- he's the one with the biggest hat.”
    It was a while since we’d joked around. It felt good.

    We left our visitors in the flat and they wished us luck. Michaela came downstairs with us to practise her new English phrase “See you later alligator!” but I couldn’t raise a smile. Wrapped up in thick clothes, boots and gloves, with scarves over our faces, we made it to the car without getting grabbed by the Infected. There were fewer of them now, and more corpses. Those that were still moving were slow and emaciated. Some of them were injured- I guess they’d wandered aimlessly into danger - and now dragged themselves along, moaning and weeping, easy to avoid.

    We found a shop that looked viable and pushed our way in. As well as insulin, we stocked up on general painkillers and antibiotics just in case. Emma tapped me on the shoulder. She was holding a pack of condoms. “My contraceptive pills ran out, but I thought…” She tailed off, looking unsure. We hadn’t had sex in weeks. I pulled her close and we were suddenly, urgently horny, ripping each others’ layers off, holding on tight, kissing hard.

    Afterwards I looked up and saw one of the Infected shuffling towards us. I leaped up, grabbing the first thing that came to hand and batted him away, forcing him back out the door, slamming it shut. I looked back at Emma. She looked beautiful, with a post-orgasmic flush creeping over her chest as she breathed deep lungfuls of the contaminated air. I took a deep breath myself, without thinking. We dressed in silence and went to find food.

    “What do you think happens to them when they die?” she asked me on the drive home.

    “They get left to rot at the side of the road.” I replied.

    “But where do they go? The essence of the person, do you think it just stops?”

    “Yes, Em, that’s exactly what I think”

    “I think, your last memory, that’s what lingers. So if you’re happy with your life and you’re thinking back to all the good days, or imagining something wonderful that’s what you get forever. That’s what heaven is. If you’re guilty or bitter and angry, that’s what lasts. That would be like hell.”

    “I imagine hell would look a lot like this.” I said heavily. I was sick to the stomach of this city and what it had become. “But there’s nothing else when you die. Those people, they’re just dead. It’s biology.”

    When we got back to the flat, Jorge was sat with his son on his knee. There was something in his face.

    “Where is everyone?”

    “Aletea is in the kitchen.”

    “And Michaela?”

    No reply.
    I went through to the kitchen and found Aletea disinfecting the surfaces, tears streaming down her face. I didn’t ask for the details.

    The flat was very quiet that evening. I woke in the middle of the night to find Emma snuggling into my side. I thought she was upset- God knows there was enough to upset her. The next day I found her standing at the open door of the flat.

    “What the hell are you doing? Get away from there!”

    “I think I should go outside, Ben” I pulled at her arm but she wouldn’t turn round, “My spine itches and my brain keeps… skipping. I start something and I don’t know why or how to finish it.”

    “You’re just tired, or stressed. It was a rough trip out. We shouldn’t have gone. You’ll feel better tomorrow.”

    She didn’t bother to argue with me. “It’s a nice day, maybe I’ll walk down to the café on Broad Street. They do good coffee”

    “You’re not going anywhere. Come back to bed. Get some rest.”

    She started to walk away but I grabbed her. I was bigger and she couldn’t fight me off. I bundled her back into the bedroom and held her close, stroking her hair and soothing her as she sobbed.

    It became easier to make her stay. The Disease progresses quickly and she’d lose the thread of her argument or get lost on her way to the front door. I kept her in bed, spooning soup into her lax mouth and piling on the blankets when she shivered. I slid towels underneath her and changed and washed them when she soiled herself. It was a bizaare parody of parenting. Looking after her, like I would have looked after our babies in the life we’d planned. We would have strapped them on our backs when we walked the dogs. We would have been happy.

    Days passed. I was keeping her alive beyond her time. I realised this scenario must have played itself out in thousands of bedrooms, all across the world. The lucky ones died first and had the comfort and warmth they needed from the survivors. All the people we’d seen wandering outside or lying rotting in the gutter were the last ones in their family, or the ones whose loved ones had deserted them, or the ones who lived alone. I wanted to cry for them all.

    There was a knock at the bedroom door.

    "Sorry to disturb you,” said Jorge, “I just wanted you to know, we are going across country, to Whitefield research centre. About eighty miles. They say it was working on a cure.”
    It was nonsense- they would never make it all that way and the centre would be empty now, or full of corpses; any research would be stolen or destroyed by desperate people weeks ago. But there was no need to tell him. He knew already.

    “We have to do something. Rafael… He’s crying all the time, every day it gets worse. And Aletea, she can’t bear it. You can’t expect a mother to just stand by and do nothing.”
    I could see her in the hallway behind him, her little boy wrapped in a blanket in her arms. Her body language screamed at me to stay away. I gave them the keys to Emma’s car and the medicine we had taken from the pharmacy. I told them to take all the food they could carry. I felt as though ants were crawling up my spine and I couldn’t focus properly on his words. I guess he said goodbye.

    He was right. You have to do something. I broke up furniture, making sure some of the wood was split into tiny slithers of kindling. I piled it around our bed, wetting it with vodka, and some surgical spirit I found in the cupboard. I stuffed the gaps with paper. I placed the remainder of our candles strategically. It looked about right, in a couple of hours they would burn down and the flames would spread. I picked up the first vial of insulin. We’d stocked up well. By the time the fire caught I should be deep in a coma and unable to feel it. Emma was unconscious most of the time now anyway and when she awoke she only cuddled closer to me. She wasn’t aware enough to be scared any more. I felt a fleeting sense of guilt in case anyone else was in the building. They would be forced to leave or burned to death along with us. I don’t suppose they had much longer anyway. No-one could outmanoeuvre the Disease.

    I held her close and spoke to her as I pressed the needle into my thigh.

    “Do you know why the pope has the biggest hat? It’s all to do with Michelangelo. He was so dedicated to the painting of the chapel ceiling, he wouldn’t leave it, even to eat, and when his blood sugar dropped, the pope would take off his hat and bring out a tube of smarties. He ended up getting bigger and bigger hats so he could pack them full of sweets- the best Italian kind. There’s actually some of them painted into the pictures, the ones above the nave- but you have to know where to look. I’ll show you when we get there. Then we’ll head to Lake Como, it’s beautiful this time of year...”

    I can see the flames flickering beyond her head as I hold her tightly. I hope she heard me. They say hearing is the last sense to go. I hope her last thoughts are of a crazy roadtrip with the man who loves her and that it stays with her forever.
     
  12. Ex Leper
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    Ex Leper Member

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    Last edited: Sep 9, 2015
  13. everett
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    everett Member

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    THE DEATH OF A MAN
    (1955 words)​


    There was once a man. He lived on an immaculate estate, a both classic and contemporary place that was tucked into the hills of the aristocratic country-side. On a day of no particular significance, there came knocking at this man’s door a boy with a large book. And the man admitted the boy to his home, because the boy, though strange, was known to him.

    The boy, as he entered, radiated a compassion and concern that was unsettlingly deep and did not fit with his small stature. The man was unnerved, but never-the-less, for the sake of propriety and all of those other things which take over a man’s countenance when he is at a loss, he offered the boy some tea.

    The boy was as if he existed outside of those things. His very being pierced them, his expression uncolored by any need to observe the proper manner. “You must read this book,” he said, an odd, penetrating peace radiating through his voice.

    “Yes, yes, of course,” the man agreed, his upbringing still ruling over the irrational fear that bloomed in his mind. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like some tea first though, lad? I get the very best, you know. It comes all the way from-“

    “No.” the boy interrupted, calm. “Listen to me. You must read this book. This is very important. Understand! Now. We will sit down together, please.”

    Still yet the man resisted, even as the boy began fumbling through the pages. “At least just this one passage,” the boy went on, searching his manuscript. The pages were ragged, and many threatened to become dislodged as they were roughly leafed aside.

    The man, deciding proprieties must even yet be followed, had begun to retreat into his kitchen, only half aware that his guest indeed had not accepted refreshment. He was surprised then, when he glanced back, to see the boy, having apparently found his page, following close behind. Absently, the man plucked a fresh scone his maid had prepared that morning and began to hide behind the motions of its consumption.

    “Here!” the boy exclaimed definitively, thrusting the ragged volume to the fore. He indicated a place with his perfectly formed, boyish finger. “Here. Please, just read.” The boy promptly deposited the book in the man’s hand, leaving him no choice but to examine the passage indicated. The pages, upon casual inspection and to the surprise of the man, appeared all to be blank, excepting the one. On it was written one short paragraph. It read:


    ‘There was once a man whose importance resided in the minds of his fellows. His wealth was in their opinion, and his life in their regard. And so the day came, that though his heart yet beat, he died.’


    The word penetrated and sunk deep into this man’s heart, into his soul, they were arrows whose points now held captive his entire being. As the weakness spread like water that ran, paradoxically, up his legs, and as a wobble took to his knees, his propriety and manner fled him. Ghost white, his hand flashed forward in a whip-like motion and he struck, sending the book flying from the boys hand and scattering the pages in every direction. This costing the man his final reserve of energy, the man collapsed in a slow ooze to the ground as the boy cried out in astonishment and outrage.

    The boy should have warned me of this! He thought as a shiver of supernatural cold took hold of his ribs and shook them. Sweat, clammy and sour, beaded upon his brow. The boy was scrambling to reassemble the book in the after-math of his attack, but this man, once so at ease with the clothing of decorum behind which he hid, cared now not a wit.

    The book, as an entity, had ceased to exist. It was no longer a book, it was now yet nothing but a ragged, fat sheaf of weathered and torn pages. Still, the boy painstakingly assembled them, and his sense of intense, near-terrifying serenity returned as the manuscript he had been charged with was restored, if not to its form, then its function anyway.

    I am dead, the man thought only. As the book said. I am dead. The realization, at first a point which gouged at the rot in his heart, became a less a pain than a fear, and then less a fear than a numbing salve. At last, it became a need. What is in the book? he thought.

    Through this, the boy waited, a knowing patience enfolding him. He Knew. This became clear. When the time was appropriate, and in soothing tones, the boy coaxed the man back to him, luring him with the compassionate and loving tones one might use to convince a cat to come forth from its place of refuge.

    “It is a hard thing, I know.” The boy murmured. “But you must read. It is not my choice tha I must say the things I say, and change what I change, and it is not an easy thing for me to do, again and again. But you must read. All of it.”

    And so the man read.

    There was much more now, the pages had become full, and blossomed with color, with life. What began as a reading became a viewing as the words became pictures, blurred but and not clear in their meaning, but yet somehow still visceral in their importance.

    He saw first his wealth, and though no explanation accompanied its departure, he saw it gone. His house, his home, his regard, gone. And then there was a darkness. Om this darkness rose the dawn of a new life, and a new man. Joining his walk were the footsteps of another, smaller, more delicate, and yet fitting perfectly with his stride. A wife. Strong, beautiful, and caring.

    Into the scene there entered another home, and it was little more than a cottage really, but there were the hues of Life in this place, flowing like a multi-colored ocean, rolling and crashing like waves, in birthday decorations, in holidays, in angry tones of red and black, and in soothing shades of blue and green. His heart began to long for something that in his estate now, in the enfoldment of the decorum he had so recently abandoned, he could never have known. Something ancient, everlasting, and something accompanied by a love, a fear, and a yearning he was not yet sure his so freshly excised heart could bear. Family.

    But, to his dismay, he watched as the faces blurred and the features faded from the pictures. He was puzzled, but the boy, now at his side, a caring and on his shoulder, explained. “The wife, you see here,” he pointed, “she is gone. This twilight marks her passing. And the children, they are bigger now. They are grown. They fade because you do not know them as you once did. They are here far away.”

    The man saw, as the color drained from the image, that the boy was right. Cold shades of blue and shadows were all that gave contrast to the image now. The warmth of the cottage faded and its walls peeled. Stairs, once cobble together of stones found, each with a story, now crumbled. A few rats had taken up residence in the kitchen wall, and the man, now old, did not kill them. Was it because he lacked the energy and volition? This is what he told himself and the occasional visitor who had the gall to mention the matter. It was often that a bitter grimace split his face as he thought of those vermin. But beneath this bitterness, e wondered. Was it not the company of even such a pest that he could not part with? Or had life, in this well advanced state, after all the love and happiness and pain he had known, become too much for him to snuff out in even such a contemptible creature.

    This, he was finally able to admit to himself, was the true reason he tolerated the presence of his other residents. They too were created, and they too strove towards a cause. How could he, in this twilight of his days, condemn them for simply behaving in accordance with the mold they had been caste from? Perhaps, as rats go, they were very good ones, he mused. Perhaps they were even the best of their kind. It was not for him to pass judgment on these creatures.

    And stil he drew closer, day by day, to the stoop on the door of that last entrance. He could feel it, and in his soul, he even began to long for it. To see again those he had left behind in time, and who had left him as they entered into the Next Journey. To feel the arms of his wife around him again, and the soft kiss of her breath on his cheek.

    The man had come to understand, in this late year, what had been shown to him long ago, by an odd boy, who showed up one day with a book. In living I died, he thought, but I was granted a Mercy and was revived. Now I must die if I ever wish to be raised again. And still the moments were drug forth from him, until he became stretched and he felt as if nothing else of vigor or color could possibly remain.

    Then, on one cold and lonely winter night, came the Voice. Its tenor struck terror and awe to the core of the man’s being, and for a moment he recoiled. But he had expected this voice for many a year, and though his very soul shook, he still was glad.

    Neither compassion nor harshness tinted the tenor of that call, but rather authority reigned over it and flowed through it. “OH YOU!” The Voice resounded, humming through the very stone of the earth. The man was awed that every living thing within hearing did not scream and shake. “OH YOU! OH YOU FORGOTTEN ONE! OH YOU COMPANION TO RATS. THE EARTH HAS PULLED YOUR BODY BACK TO IT, AND SO YOU ARE STOOPED. SOON YOUR BODY WILL RETURN FROM WHENCE IT CAME.” The Voice paused and its words echoed. “THE SEA HAS CALLED YOUR WATER BACK TO IT, AND SO YOU ARE DRIED. SOON YOUR WATER WILL ALL RETURN FROM WHENCE IT CAME.” The Voice paused again, and an expectation, beyond love, beyond awe and fear, beyond anything he had ever felt gripped the last beats of his heart. “OH YOU SOUL!” the Voice bellowed, increasing, impossibly, in volume and Power. “SO TOO DOES YOUR LORD CALL TO YOU. RETURN FROM WHENCE YOU CAME! RETURN FROM WHENCE YOU CAME.”

    And with this, all of the years of the man’s life were shed from him like the husks of an old skin, and he died. A dream, seemingly short, too short, spread out before the eyes that now saw without the hindrance of the flesh that had so recently housed them. Now a new body, weightless, not of this world, and yet more real in its essence than anything he had ever known, rose with him and his once old flesh now shone with the radiance of the moon.


    From the ragged pages of the book, the man’s gaze rose and met the over-large and now brimming eyes of the boy. A ragged whisper escaped his lips. “I must go,” he said. “I…”

    “Yes,” the boy affirmed. “You must go.”

    As if propelled by these words, the man arose and left his house.

    He never returned.
     
  14. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Jacy's Turn
    2,415 words.

    Never in my life had I ever felt like this before. I felt heavy and my heart was on fire. Like I couldn't move but I also felt light; like I was made of marshmallow fluff. I opened my eyes. It was dark all around me. Little dots of light in the sky. Had I been out that long? Was it dark already? It didn't feel cold. In spite of the effort I rolled over and struggled to reach my hands and knees.


    “Hello Jacy,” a voice said calmly.


    I looked up looking for it. It didn't sound familiar. Strange I didn't see anything except a dove. The dove was strangely easy to see. It was so dark. The ground was hard to see. I couldn't see any shapes or patterns around me and yet, that dove was so clear.


    “It could be considered rude not to answer,” the dove said.


    What the fuck! I must be losing it. Bob spiked my water again. I rubbed my eyes. I had to be mistaken. Doves don't talk.


    “Have I done something to offend you?” it asked.


    “No. I mean. How…. What the fuck!” I reply.


    It laughed. It fucking laughed at me.


    “I suppose it is a strange sight. Took me awhile to get used to myself. Your comrades got used to it pretty quick though.”


    “My comrades? Where are-”


    “Don't worry. You will see them again. If you want too.”


    God damn it Bob. This better be a dream I thought. Doves are not only talking but talking cryptic.


    “Where am I?” I ask.


    “What an absurd question. You are no where,” it replied.


    “Can you freaking give me a straight answer? I need to find my queen.”


    “Oh don't worry. Your queen is safe. She is still alive.”


    Good at least- wait. Still alive. What did he mean by that. Pushing all my will power into my body I forced myself to stand. The effort didn't make my chest feel any better and the angle did me no good either. Looking around. I could still see nothing. Not even a shimmer beyond the stars in the sky.


    “You look puzzled,” the dove said. “Can I help you with something?”


    “Yeah. Can someone turn on the lights? And were is my queen I need to protect her.”


    “Everything is dark? How strange,” the dove said. “I am sorry but your queen is in a place to which you will never again reach her.”


    “What are you talking about. You just said she is still alive?”


    “Yes. She is still alive.”


    “Wait. You mean to tell me...”


    “Yes.”


    “How?” I asked.


    “Afraid. I don't know exactly. I am guessing something hurts. Right?”


    He was right. My chest. It was on fire. Wait. I remember. Flashes hit me. The red glow of the twilight. The sounds of screams as the men bashed there bodies against each other with the faint hope of survival. I remember it, the feel of metal entering my chest. I even remember his face. So innocent. At least given the circumstances.


    Oh well. I may be dead but what can you do. At least my queen made it on.


    “So what happens next? You send me to hell or something?”


    “You deserve to go to hell?” he said.


    “I thought you would tell me?”


    “What gives you that impression?”


    Ugh. Screw it. I begin to walk away. I have no idea where I am going but at least it is better than his nagging.


    Crunch! I feel my nose crush into a wall. God damn it that hurt!


    I turned back looking at that damn dove. “Am I like a prisoner or something?”


    “No.”


    “Then why can't I leave?”


    “You walked into a wall.”


    “Because I can't see anything!”


    “Would you like me to help you with that?”


    Was the dove serious? Was really hoping he was just stupid at this point.


    “Yes. I would like your help in seeing.”


    He began glowing and flapping his wings. The swirls of light dances around the air as if whipping away a gray tint that had previously been clouding my vision. The fucker knew a few tricks how to give him that. When it was over I was standing in a plain room. White in color. A door now clearly visible.


    Opening the door was a unique experience. Outside was a rush of sound and color that had been previously sealed out. I quickly shut the door and turned back to the dove.


    “What the fuck is going on out there?”


    “People are boarding trains.”


    “What the fuck is a train?”


    “It is a method of transportation. To take souls from town to town. This is a train station.”


    “Why am I here?”


    “Because you died,” the dove smiled. “Silly.”


    “I mean why in this room?”


    “Because you have been asleep for three weeks now. I was beginning to worry.”


    “So am I supposed to go out there?”


    The dove nodded.


    “But I don't want to.”


    “There are many things we don't want to do.”


    “Which train do I get on?”


    “I dunno.”


    Figures. Another cryptic answer. Oh well. Better to just get this over with. I placed my hand on the door. Then a thought occurred to me. I looked back at the dove.


    “Are you god?”


    It smiled. “Maybe.”


    Sigh. I guess I am not going to get anything more from him. I opened the door and like hammer against my chest the sound pushed on me. The light was bright too. Hard to see. I looked around for any sign or clue. Anything to work off of. Then I thought I saw a familiar face. I wasn't sure but it was enough. He was getting on a train, I think. So I raced over to him. Pushing a few people in the process. Not that I intended too. It was congested.


    The closer I got the harder it got to get close. There was a lot people cramming into this space. I couldn't even tell why. There was no walls or anything. They were simple standing quite close to each other on a platform.


    “Get ready!” I heard a voice say. Ready for what?


    I fell on my face and hit my nose, again. The platform began moving so incredible fast. I couldn't even think of something to compare it to. I couldn't peel myself up off the floor. Even trying to move my eyes was straining.


    I passed out a few seconds later.


    When I opened my eyes I was blinded by green. The sky was green! Where was I? Oh right. I am dead. I felt like I been trampled by horses. Sitting up and looking around I noticed I was more or less alone. Except for a horse. Well, go figure.


    “Good morning,” he said. “You had me worried for a moment.”


    Of course. Doves talk. Why wouldn't horses talk too. Was this hell? Was my personal hell just an assortment of mind fucks?


    “What happened?” I asked.


    “You have been unconscious for three days.”


    “Why?” I asked.


    “Heck if I know. Usually the force of my train only knocks people out for about an hour or so.”


    “Where am I?”


    “What a silly question.”


    Ugh. I had enough of that crap. I got up and walked away. I don't know where I am going but I obviously wasn't getting anything useful sticking around here.


    This felt like a nightmare. Surrounded by the bright colors of a lime green sky that had little contrast against the sea foam blue on the ground. Nothing around me to capture my attention. No forests. No castles or buildings and to top it all off I am separated from my queen. This was hell.


    After what felt like days of walking I stumbled across little change. The hue seemed to darken nothing much else until I came across a hawk sleeping. He woke up in response to what I assume was me.


    “Well, you are off the beaten track aren't you? Looking for me.”


    “No.”


    “If you go much further in this direction you could get lost,” the hawk said smiling.


    “I already am lost.”


    “I see. Would you like me to point you in the right direction?”


    I nodded. What else did I have to lose.


    “Where do you want to go?”


    “If I knew that I wouldn't be lost.”


    “Ah. You must be new. Most people usually seek the comfort of loved ones. Who did you love?”


    “My queen,” I say proudly. “But she isn't dead.”


    He looked up for a moment. He seemed to be thinking.


    “Would you be referring to Queen Gem?” he asked.


    “Yes!”


    “Many of Queen Gem's soldiers are in this area. The gathering is not that far from here,” he said as he pointed away.


    I thanked him and left. A familiar face at least. Someone that might share my sorrow for no longer being able to serve the queen. That might be refreshing.


    I began wondering what exactly that hawks definition of close was. It felt like a week before I finally even saw what he was referring too. A town of buildings, strange in design. They looked like they were made our of some form of wood instead of stone.


    It didn't take long to get a welcome. A few soldiers saw me. I didn't recognize them but they sure recognized me. They ran off and brought back soldiers I did recognize.


    “Jacy! Welcome,” Patrick said. He was a well built man. A bit gentle for his size though.


    I fell to my knees. I was exhausted.


    “Soldiers. Help her up,” he shouted.


    Finally some relief. They helped me walk to a building. Inside I saw a lot more faces I recognized. A man was at the front looking down on everyone else. His name was Spencer. A rat of a man but one that had always been on our side so not all bad.


    Spencer spoke. “Good to see you Jacy. We were just about to have a prayer for the queen.” He smiled.


    I smiled. Finally something I could get behind. I bowed my head and closed my eyes.


    “Dear Eternal Mother. Sorry for everything the evil we we have committed in the name of our queen and please let her find closure soon.”


    I jumped up. “What the fuck was that.”


    Soldiers grabbed me from all sides.


    “Calm yourselves men,” Spencer said. “I think maybe no one has informed Jacy yet.”


    Informed me of what? I wonder.


    “Jacy. Our queen worked for the devil. We were the bad guys.”


    I push the men off me. “That gives you no right to speak poorly about-”


    I was punched in the face. Not just in the face. In the freaking nose. God damn it. I fell to the ground. I don't care what happens I am not about to listen to this. Next thing I know I am outside and I think wood splinters are in my back.


    Looking up I see Patrick walking towards me.


    “Jacy. What is wrong with you?”


    “You bad mouth our queen and have the balls to ask me that?”


    I get up and through a punch. My reaction is slowed by my exhausting. He blocks me and punches me in the nose. I face first into the dirt. I swear to god. The next person that hits me in the nose.


    “Teach her respect,” Spencer said.


    Suddenly I felt something weird. Intense spiritual gravity and a voice I didn't recognize.


    “I would not consider beating an exhausted girl who disagrees with you respect.”


    Looking up. It is a fox. The men fall to there knees in front of him. They respect him? Or do they fear him? Wait. I can feel it. He is exerting his magical force on them and at the same time he is shielding me from it. That is unbelievable. He is strong enough to bring them to their knees? Even being shielded I can feel how heavy it is. I try to stand but I can't.


    He turned around and looked at me.


    “I have to say Jacy. I find your reaction interesting. Why do you not share their ideology?” he asked me.


    “Did my queen really work with the devil?” I ask while breathing heavy.


    He nodded his head.


    “Did she know he was the devil?”


    He nodded again.


    “Then that settles it. I followed my queen. I will always follow my queen. I will not as forgiveness for that. Destroy me if you have an issue with that.”


    The fox laughed.


    “Come with me Jacy. Please,” he said.


    The pressure lightened. And I got up. Looking back I could see the men were still on the ground. Probably in fear.


    “So are you god?” I asked him.


    “No.”


    Wow. Finally a straight answer.


    “So where are we going?”


    “Train station. You won't like this town.”


    “Where do I go?”


    “What is the meaning of the after life?”


    “How the fuck am I supposed to know that? I figured that is something I should ask you.”


    The fox laughed. “I am not sure if I know. I have a theory. Which is that it is a place for us to find peace before we fade. That is what your fellow soldiers are doing. Yet you won't find peace with them.”


    “How will I find peace?” I asked him,


    “Do you really expect me to know how you will find peace?”


    “I suppose not.” I look down feeling kind of stupid.


    I suddenly felt woozy. I collapsed. When I woke up I discovered the fox had carried me to the train station.


    There was a horse standing next to him.


    “So where do you want to go?” the horse asked.


    How was I supposed to know? This whole place has been nothing but a bad dream so far anyhow.


    “Jacy. What do you want to do?”


    Want to do? Simple. Serve my queen.


    “Wait for my queen so I may once again serve her.”


    “If you have no particular place to be. I invite you to my home. I would love to chat with you more,” the fox said.


    Chatting with a magical talking fox. Strangely that sounded nice; almost peaceful. I walked over to the platform or train as I supposed it is called. One thought crossed my mind.


    The church doesn't have a fucking clue what they are talking about.
     
  15. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    The Light (717 words)

    I awakened to see red. It wasn't your traditional red, like the paint on a fire truck, but more of a hue. After a few seconds of shock I was able to get my bearings and soon realized I was staring at the back of my eyelids in what must be a well-lit room. Frozen in place, it was as if I was strapped to a bed, but I couldn't feel any bindings. In fact, I couldn't feel anything. What happened and where am I? I could hear some rustling and voices in the distance, when finally some of the voices came closer and I was able to make out what two women were saying.

    "Have you checked out this guy's chart today?"

    "Not yet, is it his birthday or something?"

    I don't think it's my birthday.

    "No his family is coming in today to pull the plug. After six months of waiting to see if he would wake up, the doctor finally convinced them it was time to move on and donate his organs."

    You can't have my organs! I'm not dead. What kind of hack place am I in that they can't see I'm still alive?

    "Oh that's great, so is he a match to the little boy on the third floor that needs a kidney?"

    "I'm not sure, but I heard all his organs are accounted for already. The notes in his chart say to have him prepped for surgery, so as soon as the family pulls the plug he can be rushed off to have everything harvested."

    This has got to be a joke. My family would never just give up on me. Someone take the tape off my eyelids and send in Ashton Kutcher. I must be getting punk'd.

    I still can't remember what happened to get me here, but if I can get out of this mess I'm definitely getting a better health insurance policy. I'll have one last chance when my family gets here to show them I'm still alive.

    *******


    After what seemed days of inner reflection, but was more than likely only a few hours, I could hear some people enter the room. Two of the voices were very familiar to me.

    "Is this everyone you plan on coming today?" I heard a male voice say, that I presumed to be the doctor.

    "Yes, we wanted to keep it very informal and private. The funeral is a more appropriate place for others to pay their respects," chimed in a voice I believed was my wife.

    Well at least someone showed up. I've got to move something, a finger, anything...to show them I'm alive!

    "Would anyone like to say a little prayer or last words before we shut off the machines?" the doctor proceeded in mechanical like fashion.

    Yeah, I've got a shit load to get off my chest but I can't speak.

    After a moment of pause I heard the mumble of a voice that appeared to be my daughter, followed by a chorus of "amen."

    "Do you want to turn off the machine or would you like me to do it?" continued the doctor.

    "I think it would be best if you did it, thank you," replied my wife.

    A few seconds later I heard the constant beep from a machine that signaled someone was going into cardiac arrest. I...was going into cardiac arrest.

    Fuck! Someone stop this madness. Don't turn off the lights on me!

    Suddenly I no longer could see red, but I was able to see the room I was laying in, my wife, my daughter, and the asshole who had just pulled the plug on me.

    "Oh my God! His eyes just opened, is he alive?" I heard my daughter scream in horror.

    "No honey, look away. That is just the reaction of his nerves going into shock from being taken off life support. He's no longer with us."

    As quickly as the world was brought back to me, everything went dark once again. All I could see was pitch black except for a small shimmer of light in the far distance, and I heard... silence. I could once again feel my body, and I was floating. I was moving closer and closer towards a light that continued to grow.

    I'm going home.
     
  16. Quixote's Biographer
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    Quixote's Biographer Member

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    Transition
    (1611 words)

    It was an early Tuesday afternoon when the wall in Doris Finley’s living room disappeared. This was not a regular event in Doris Finley’s life, nor was it a regular event on Lansdowne Road where Doris Finley’s house stood. It was just one moment and then it was over.

    Doris had spent most of Tuesday morning considering whether or not she should bother getting out of bed. She had turned her head and seen that the other side of the bed was still empty. Not that she had expected anything else. Unlike anything else, Bob passing away all those years ago was still fresh in her mind. She sighed and closed her eyes again and it was only when she realized her stomach was as empty as Bob’s side of the bed that she finally decided to get up. Her tuna on toast tasted the same as any other day and after the meal she put the kettle on, only to forget the very next moment. It wasn’t until she heard a loud whistling noise from the kitchen that she remembered.

    Doris sat in her rocking chair underneath the old reading light that helped her see when she was knitting. She was listening to the grandfather clock behind her while sipping her cup of tea and looking at nothing in particular. In the background the old radio Bob had bought when they first moved in was playing, but she couldn’t remember turning it on and she didn’t pay it any attention. Beside her on the coffee table sat the knitting she was currently working on but she had forgotten what she was meant to be knitting and had mostly given up hope of remembering. The square she had so far could be the start of almost anything. As if asking for the knitted square to be the start of his new blanket, Arthur the cat pressed his head against Doris’ leg and made a soft meowing sound. Doris realized her cup was empty. She noticed the notebook on the dining table when turning to put her cup down.

    The old woman was rational enough to believe it had a purpose for lying on the dining table but her brain came up empty. Doris got to her feet – even though this took a while and caused her more pain in her back and feet than sitting down did – and went over to it. Once familiar, now strangers looked at her from the many wedding photos and family photos on the mint green wall that surrounded her, photos she saw every day but didn’t notice. The notebook didn’t have any words on the cover so she opened it. On the inside of the cover she could read

    «Dear grandma. In this notebook you can write down your memories so you’ll always keep them safe. Love, Laura.»

    Now she remembered, if only for a moment and even if the memory wasn’t a full picture. Bits and pieces came to her but never the full memory. It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without the crucial pieces. She did remember Laura, her granddaughter, but in her mind she couldn’t see her face, just the long red hair Doris always found so beautiful surrounding a blank face. It was how she remembered anyone she could remember, if only for a moment. Even her late husband Bob was faceless in her mind now.

    «Always keep them safe. Love, Laura.»

    Doris turned over the first page and no longer remembered who the book was from. The first page was blank. Doris’ hand was trembling as she turned over the next page and the next one until there were no more pages to turn. A tear formed and ran down her cheek.

    Always keep them safe

    The book made a loud noise when it hit the dining table and Arthur the cat looked up at Doris who was slowly making her way back to the rocking chair. It used to be Bob sitting in the chair, rocking back and forth as he chewed his tobacco and grunted behind the newspaper, the radio playing in the background but neither of them listening. It was only after Bob passed away that Doris sat in the rocking chair. It was not particularly comfortable and not very good for her back, but she couldn’t stand the silence in the living room without the creaking from the rocking chair. Doris went to the kitchen and made herself another cup of tea. It seemed to be all she did these days.

    The only thought she had as she sat in her rocking chair looking at the living room window but not seeing Lansdowne Road on the other side, was how she didn’t have any other thoughts. Doris felt like she had exhausted them all, like she had thought through everything she ever could in her life time. Like she was at the end of a road with nowhere to turn. No new thoughts, no new information to take in and if she did learn anything new, she was painfully aware it would be forgotten the very next moment. Her house now felt like a prison, the living room her cell with cool mint-colored walls surrounding her and her rocking chair which was increasingly difficult to get out of. A short walk to the kitchen took the wind out of her. A trip to the bathroom took the whole morning.

    «Who are you,» Doris said when she spotted Arthur the cat on his blanket at the end of the grey couch next to her rocking chair. Arthur didn’t react but kept on sleeping, his body curled up with his head resting on his back paw. Doris was too tired to get up again.

    Doris sighed and tried to picture Bob in her mind again, but her lover’s face escaped her and she was afraid she would never get to see his kind face again. The memories of Bob that used to keep her warm and put a smile on her face were all gone. The notebook was empty, filled with empty pages that would never be filled. She felt guilty, she felt like she had failed Bob even though he was long gone. These were supposed to be their days, together. But instead she was left alone, waiting for something she used to fear but now welcomed.

    «Oh, Bob» Doris said with a sigh. She felt tired but not from walking around her living room. She was tired of life. Tired of the illness that had robbed her of all her memories. The photo album had no meaning anymore, no value. It didn’t comfort her. The empty side of her bed and the empty chair at the kitchen table emitted a coldness she couldn’t get rid of. She missed the smell of strong coffee in the morning and the pickled herring that used to make her queazy but she endured because Bob loved it. And at the same time her mind wouldn’t let her remember what she was missing. It left her with a feeling of emptiness without giving her the reason why she felt that way. And behind her, the grandfather clock kept ticking, counting the seconds as it had always done but not knowing when to stop.

    And that’s when the wall in Doris Finley’s living room disappeared. With wide eyes Doris watched as her green wall covered in wedding photos suddenly vanished. Transparent but cloudy at first. Then it cleared up and she could look through it, like looking through a thin, fragile window. But she no longer saw Lansdowne Road on the other side. Instead she saw Bob.

    In a moment two worlds met.
    In a moment two lovers met.

    The empty woman, eyes fixated on a familiar face, rose to her feet. In that moment she could taste their first kiss, the smell of Bob’s aftershave joining in to create an effect so powerful it had stolen her heart all those years ago and it still made her dizzy. The first time they danced, in an old rundown nightclub that reeked of cigarettes and sweat, while the house band was performing an impeccable rendition of When I Fall in Love. Their honeymoon to Italy in the spring when they ignored all the tourist attractions and instead found a bright green meadow and made love underneath an old oak tree. Two lovers, completely lost in each other. Two halves becoming one full.

    Bob’s face, smiling back at her like he used to all those years ago. How could she have forgotten? In that moment everything seemed as clear as a bright sunny day. In that moment she felt safe again, whole again, like finding something you lost many years ago but couldn’t live without. The old woman’s living room now transforming in front of her very eyes. Red and orange and yellow colors washing over her living room walls, covering the cool mint green wallpaper that had imprisoned her all these years. Under her feet the brown carpet transforming into bright green grass, the smell of the old oak tree as she stepped forward, her hand in his, safe, secure and never alone again.

    And in a moment it was all over and all that remained in the empty house was an empty kingsize bed, two empty kitchen chairs at a kitchen table and an empty rocking chair underneath an old reading light in the living room.

    Arthur the cat looked around, as to check if anyone was watching him. The rocking chair was still warm and he snuggled up and fell asleep to the sound of the grandfather clock.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2015
  17. Wowzie
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    Wowzie Member

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    On A Train To Heaven [582]


    By the Ellsworth bridge a man came slow to the railing, as if weighed by a burden of great magnitude. He was dressed in a dark overcoat with boots that were worn down to the soles so that his great socks poked out. His fingers were curled with arthritis and his hair was patchy from scratching at lice. He stopped and put his hands on the railing and looked up at the half moon. It was cloudy and a great sense of unfinishedness took hold of the man. It seemed as if life was always to be unfinished even before him and long after him. It would never reach any conclusion, was what he concluded. The moon would always come back to being a half moon after being full and empty, and such he reflected, was his life; a life of half. He was half full and half empty and never happy.


    Down below in the concrete rift lay the freight tracks. The eastbound train was due to arrive any moment now and the man looked impatiently down westward for the lights to come around the bend. It was very quiet here, he thought. It must be soon. Silence always came before a great event. Surely the ending of his life was a great event. It marked the end of the chief perspective by which he judged his existence. That surely counted for something; everything really, if he believed he was alone as he imagined he was.


    But surely, he concluded in his internal monologue, all these thoughts are useless snuff thoughts, and as they couldn’t possibly influence the world, it wasn’t worth the discipline of effort to maintain thinking of them. Yet, try as he might to not think, he couldn’t help but think. He noticed how the air was cold; colder than it had been the day before. It wasn’t important, he thought at first, but perhaps, he then countered, it was. One could never be sure of the importance of anything. He snorted to himself. It was amusing, he considered, that my mind should, in these last moments, retort to all manor of pre-conceived thoughts and the sort of pithy phrases popular in culture. It was as if nothing new could come now, now that it was not useful.


    With a whistle, the lights of the train appeared around the distant bend. Finally, thought the man, much relieved. It was awful to have to wait on an external event once one had decided to do something. He had never been a patient man. With some difficulty on account of his pained hands, he swung his legs over the railing and sat huffing while the lights approached. He checked his pockets. He had burned all his important papers and there was nothing in his coat but a couple of pennies. He felt these with his fingers then took them out and threw them towards the street. It seemed like a generous action to the man. Bought my ticket to heaven, he thought with a wry smile. The train was almost upon him now and he flexed his muscles in preparation. When the lights were a few meters off, he had carefully timed the jump to not have to hit the ground before hitting the train, the man pushed off into the open air. The train hardly slowed but the wet thud was heard by the engineer and a mile down the line the train was pulled off and washed.
     
  18. Jòn Blazé
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    Jòn Blazé New Member

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    Hunter

    There were too many people. Too many people meant that he would have to be patient.
    Patience is a virtue.
    He hated virtues as much as he hated himself. And he hated others even more than he hated himself.
    Quite a circle, isn't it?
    The row at the ATM had five people. He could deal with five. Five was one of the pure numbers. The others were seven, nine and nineteen. Most of the people could feel these numbers for what they really were. They were once engravings on the cup that should have held the banished notes imprisoned. Of course they failed, which meant that they were banished as well.
    Banished to the earth where they would fit with the pure nothingness.
    Four people at the ATM.
    He cracked his neck and closed his hands tightly. His fists were the sole reason for his ability to calm himself down at will. He could strangle a lion with his hands from all the tightening and closing that they were forced to do.

    He could strangle a human efficiently as well, naturally.
    Three people at the ATM. He decided to pay with cash. One ticket and one large popcorn. But he wasn't interested in either of these things. Both disappeared into a bin.
    People were standing in tow for something next to the theater. He walked towards it without any confliction. Floating on the tides meant being invisibly in sight. Catching waves required all of his perception.
    The noises around him clashed and harmonized in a dying tune. Voices and more voices, all locked in blind-deaf lives.
    Lies?
    One woman looked in his direction. Anna Ryans, 36, psychologist, died on the first of June 2017 in a car accident. Many had died during that time. He lifted a finger at her and smiled. She gave a half smile in return.
    Psychologist ey? You like people, don't you?
    He felt her inside of his mind and flooded himself with her darkest memories. She put both hands on her stomach and vomited an invisible stream of darkness. He could sense her death. Driving in Sharpmill Avenue, car veers towards her, no driver inside, collision breaks her spine and neck. She lives for a few more hours.
    It was almost unbearably funny to him. So many of them had the same story. It was amazing how unique they thought they were. Even in death they were all the same. Emotions, desires, virtues, all of them the same. They couldn't be different if they tried. They weren't meant to exist here. All of it was wrong in every way. Their world was controlled by laws that they couldn't govern. Logic was one of these. He'd found it difficult to break logic but had eventually discovered its essential flaw: there was nothing to measure it to except itself. And it was a double edged sword. The deceiver enjoyed using it. He almost pitied them for believing so strongly in their own knowledge. They were limited to what they could see, and they were all blind. But on the first of June they would perceive a glimpse. Just a small one, but they would all feel it. He quivered with excitement at the idea.
    Two men turned towards him.
    Paul and Max, committed suicide on the first of June 2017. Well that's special.
    They would be joining about 1 billion others on that day. Reunion of the blind. The voices of a hundred people still echoed around him; the voices of a hundred short breaths that thought they were eternal. A steady beat always held the symphony of voices locked. Seven beats, nine, nineteen...
    He looked into the eyes of one of them and he stopped first the voices, then the movement and then the numbers. Without these the people were the last unnatural presence. They faded, as they all would, eventually. He walked and walked on through their world that had never belonged to them, and he felt his eyes burn. He was here for one reason, a simple task, to win the attention of the true masters of the earth. And to kill them.

    He met the first one where the clouds converged above a tree. It stood on a puddle of water. The water was undisturbed and clear enough for him to see through to the abyss inside. The master spoke,"You can't break the rules."
    "I think I can be excused this time."
    He took out his cigarette pack, flipped it open, put a cigarette in his mouth, lit it, flipped the pack closed, put it back in his pocket, took out his sunglasses, flipped them open, put them on, and spoke a single word before killing the demon that had been seeding hate amongst the people that he loved.
    "Serve."
     
  19. Thunderface
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    Undead, re-alive... whatever. [Probably some cursing] [530 words]

    "Fuck yeah, cheetos" I muttered to myself as I opened my third bag. My goal today was 22, a record, but I was experiencing self doubt. Time for a Jager.

    It had been about a week and a half since I had died, and things were just about back to normal. I had made a report to the police about what happened but, seeing as though I was talking to them myself, all that had done was earn me a breathalyzer and a bunch of weird looks.

    "Are we ever going to talk about what happened?" Sofia, my long-time girlfriend, demands with hand on hip. She was adorable as always, all of 5'5" 100lbs to my nearly towering 6'2" 300ish. A thin, well filled girl, she had no problem standing up to people much bigger than herself.

    "Lol yeah probably not." I explained. I really like saying the word lol. She said it was cute once and that meant I would probably never stop doing it. "Like I said, the guys and I were playing dnd at the Save Point, I walk to my car, some guy in a Hoodie sprays some funky gas in my face, kills me in his basement, and I wake up in the woods with some teen kid chanting over my now-not-dead body. It sucked." It was the truth, and the blood-soaked rags of what I had been wearing that night went along with it, as did my brand-new network of scars. They still itched when I thought about them. Which was always.

    Sofy didn't believe me at first, which was good. I wouldn't have, either. But a DNA test showed all the blood on the clothes was mine, and I even brought the weird magic kid home to confirm my story.

    "Hmm. So... you're not going to try to find the guy that did this to you?" She proded, eyebrow raised, settling in next to me.

    "Hell no! I already died once! Turns out it's not my thing. You probably won't like it, either. It reeeeaaaaallly sucks." I replied, throwing another fistful of orange calories at my face.

    "And the cops? They still don't believe you?"

    "Well its hard to report your own murder. And there's no way I could have survived what happened. I literally didn't have insides anymore. It's surreal as fuck."

    "What about Stan?" She continued. We found out later that was the name of the young man who saved me.

    "Said he wanted nothing to do with me anymore. Something about him breaking major rules to bring me back in the first place." I replied

    "I'm a little amazed he didn't turn you into his personal zombie or something. I would have"

    I barked out a quick laugh and almost choked on my last cheeto,
    "I'm very sure I would be a terrible zombie slave. I barely do anything as it is, can you imagine how slow I would be as a shambling brain-addict?"

    Our conversation continued for a while and faded into the same comfortabe silence we had always enjoyed. I played monster hunter, she watched Korean dramas, and my undeath/re-life wasn't so bad.
     

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