1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Past Contest Submissions CLOSED for contest #189 "Ashes"

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Apr 4, 2016.

    Short Story Contest # 189
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Ashes" courtesy of @Blighters

    Submissions will be open for 2 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 17th of April, 2016 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 in brackets]

    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. PLEASE 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. dbesim
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    dbesim Contributing Member

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    Caroline's Witness (1, 230 words)

    I lay across my master's feet with my head over my paws and sigh. It's moments like this that makes the whole day worthwhile. Just enjoying a quiet moment of solitude with my master, the Old Farmer. The clock ticks away from across us and is the only sound that breaks the silence. Below the clock there is a fireplace and on the mantelpiece stands a blue urn. With her ashes.

    'I still miss her, old boy,' says the farmer. I look up at him and walk over to the fireplace. I face the urn, paw at the mantelpiece and whine. I know he's talking about her.

    'You understand everything, don't you? Clever boy.' I continue whining. I know my master is sad.

    He gets up and goes to the kitchen. I perk up right away and follow him, with my tail wagging. 'Here boy,' he says and throws me a fine chunk of meat with a bone too! I see him making a sandwich as he butters the bread and lays very fine slices of cucumber over it. He also takes a tin of sardines from the larder and a jar of pickles. He puts the snacks on the table and begins eating. I continue munching on my bone as he also pours himself a glass of lemonade. The lady who lives in the next nearest cottage from here gives the Old Farmer lots of food to make sure he is not hungry. Ever since the death of Caroline the Old Farmer does not have a lady at home to cook his breakfast, lunch, tea or dinner for him. He is a big, tall man and he needs his meals. Jan, the nearest neighbour, takes pleasure to make sure that the Old Farmer is fed now.

    'I've still got a great big pie in the fridge to have for lunch tomorrow. Good old Jan,' says the farmer.

    'Woof!' I reply.

    Suddenly I hear sounds of the key in the lock and I start growling. I've already smelt who it is. It's Rob, the Old Farmer's son. As he comes in he says, 'You said you'd do something about that damned dog of yours, I can't come anywhere near you without him going off on me.' If only the Old Farmer would give me the chance to nip this idiot really good!

    'Well he's got pretty good intuition. You come to try to take the urn from me again?' says the Old Farmer.

    'She's damn well family to me too!' He says raising his voice. I notice a maddening look on his face. The farmer says nothing but he gives his sandwich a very hard stare before he picks it up and munches. 'I need that urn!' Shouts Rob. The Old Farmer shakes his head.

    'Not in a million years will I give you that urn. You don't deserve the dirt she walked on. You treated her like sh*t when she was alive. What makes you want her ashes now?' I growl at Rob even more fiercely and start barking.

    'You better get that dog away from me. Right away, I say!' says Rob. Seeing he's losing the argument, Rob leaves, slamming the door behind him. I make my way to the farmer and consolingly put my paws on his knee.

    'Here boy,' he says. 'Good boy.' He goes into the cupboard, takes out some biscuits and throws me over one. I munch it happily.


    A few years ago:

    I'm in the kitchen. Caroline is making a very big dinner and she's very busy. I follow her everywhere she goes with my tongue hanging out and my tail wagging. She brushes my head with her hand and smiles at me.

    I notice she's made a great deal of food and she's still cooking! She's made a wonderful leg of ham, a fine chocolate cake, a whole lot of vegetables including carrots, broccoli and sprouts and is currently making pastries. She also has an orange juice on the table which she slowly sips as she cooks.

    Suddenly Rob comes in and his demeanour is menacing. Although I don't like this man I know he's related to the family so I neither greet him nor hate on him. He gets into an argument with his mum. As I stare at him, I'm used to seeing him treat her with disrespect. I hear her say,

    'You've gotten into some bad company the past few years. I don't even recognise my own Rob anymore.'

    'What's it to you and what do you know about them anyway?' They argue and I begin to whine.

    'I know more than you think, son!' She says, then she puts a hand over her mouth. 'I know enough to realise you've lost the plot.'

    'Lost the plot?' he says disgustedly.

    Caroline sits on a chair near the table. She puts her arms on the table, rests her head on them and sobs.

    'You're not my son anymore. You're not my son anymore...'

    Then I see Rob doing something suspicious. He takes a bottle out of his pocket and pours out a liquid into the Farmer's Wife orange juice. Then he says, 'Ma, have this, it'll refresh you.' She takes her head off from her arms and gladly accepts the orange juice as she tries to console her sobbing. She drinks it. Rob looks around with a smirk on his face and then he sees me.

    'Woof!' I bark.

    'Oh, what would a dog know anyway?' He says. He takes a can of food and puts it on a plate. He then puts some of that stuff he put into the Farmer's Wife juice into the plate. He hands me the plate with the food in it and he leaves the cottage. I approach the plate cautiously and sniff it well. I instantly recognise the smell of poison! I retreat from the plate and run to the Farmer's Wife who I notice consumed the drink with the poison in it. I find her unconscious. I wince, trying to wake her up and then I begin to bark as loud as I can so that I can call some attention. I don't stop barking.

    The Old Farmer hears me some time later. He runs into the cottage and sees his unconscious wife. Unfortunately it's too late for she's dead.


    The present:

    I growl while I watch Rob's figure from the window as he walks away from the cottage, getting smaller and smaller, disappearing into the distance.

    I know Caroline is now the urn over the fireplace and that the Old Farmer loves her. I know who killed her. This is the hundredth time he walks away and he wants the urn. There are still traces of the poison on her ashes that I can smell through it.

    The Old Farmer walks out of the cottage and although it is wet and raining outside, I follow him. I have a bone in my mouth and contently chew at the little pieces of meat stuck on it. He picks up the mud and lets it slip through his fingers.

    From ashes to ashes
    Dust to dust


    'Carrrrooollllllllllllliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnne!' He screams his distress so loud it can be heard for miles away over the hills.




    I know what's happened to her. I am the only one who knows.

    _
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
  3. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Betty Baxter, and the Close Encounter with the Burned Kind [2,976]


    Dingy florescent lights and cracked warning alarms barely illuminate thirty people in synthetic denim jumpsuits sitting in metal chairs behind metal desks with metal expressions. Wispy cigarette smoke and small pieces of trash mingle in the weightless, artificial atmosphere. There are three main piles of people lounging in the smoke together, each wearing a different shade of grey, baggy, jumpsuit coveralls. At the head of the room a portly man with burly forearms and a wrinkled white shirt pouts over two tablets, a pile of plastic papers, and a 'pager'. His brow is sweaty and creased, his eyes squinted and weary. The boss needs help. I am ready.

    Buried in the drab mass of bodies, coiled like a spring I lean forward in my chair, the metal legs creaking as I shift. "Section two. Fuselage inspection." The boss drones. He 'floats' a paper out to a group of grey jumpsuits slouching over a table. The work order bounces off a tired looking guy's face. The guy does not even flinch, pinning the paper between a thumb and forefinger. "Please sound off when call your section." The guy with the paper in his fingers looks tired and downtrodden, blinking in response. "Section three..." the boss floats a second work order out to a woman in a darker-grey jumpsuit. "...We need two people to respond to a service request from-" My heart leaps for joy as the woman snatches the paper angrily, crumpling it up with both hands. Here it comes.

    "No!" She tosses the paper towards the boss. "This is unacceptable!" Her sudden flurry of activity has sent her floating up from her table. "All my people are still recovering from that reactor meltdown, slash fire, slash explosion!" She grabs the table edge, thumps herself back down into her seat, and points at the boss. As she ascended I caught a glimpse of her tool belt. It was bright red. "We need a break!" I look at the boss. His demeanor has not changed as he stares at the woman. "What about section one?" She gestures at the pile of snoring people in the corner, their bright, awesome, orange jumpsuits obscured by drab blankets, grey eyemasks, and black earmuffs. "What are they doing?"

    "Section one is on their rest cycle today." The boss explains in a calm voice. "They'll only be disturbed if there's an emergency." The boss has just said one of my favorite words.

    "We're spent!" The woman motions to one of the men in her section, his eyes dilated, his body swaying gently back and forth. "I think Bernard is delusional." She pushes a second man off of her face, his eyes rolling back and his mouth open. "We're all falling asleep on our feet." The woman looks hopefully at the lighter grey jumpsuits, their leader still holding the paper betwixt thumb and forefinger. "Can section two-"

    "Not on your life, buddy." The tired guy's answer is mingled with smoke as he exhales. He does not even bother to move his head as be brings a mobile device up to his face. "That reactor explosion blew every circuit in the Marine barracks. Everything electrical in that insane place surged bright, before simply dying altogether. Section two has been inspecting, repairing, fighting, and drinking for forty hours straight..." The guy glares at his mobile device, blinking lazily. "... I keep getting texts from a marine calling himself Tiberius 'Razor' Throatcrusher. Apparently we're 'contract' married now, for the 'bennies'."

    I focus my attention on the boss. He has listened patiently to all the awesome stuff going on in our ship. He looks down at the pile of kindling on his desk. "We need to get through this day..." Sweet birthday cakes, here it comes. "... But I understand that everyone is burnt out." He looks up from his desk, his narrow eyes scanning out over the masses, prodding. "Is anyone willing to volunteer for-"

    "Wo-o-o-o-" I leap from the ashes in the back of the room, rising from the dark mass of smoldering humanity. I flip around to land in a crouch on the ceiling, a bright orange mote of motion, burning with dedication. "-Ho-o-o-o!" I surge across the room at an angle, smoke and trash parting as I zip towards the boss, a bright, glowing streak. My flight frightens the other sections. Many are jarred alert by my sudden movement, others hiding their faces or recoiling as I fly past them.

    "Miss Baxter." The boss greets me calmly as I careen towards him. I flip around and land with a loud clang. Magnetic boot heels together, knees bent, crouching on the wall behind him, my glowing form next to his head. "Miss Baxter." I straighten my legs and stick out my chest, extending my hands towards the opposite wall, my vibrant color brightening the dull room.

    "Spacegineer Betty Baxter, section one, ready to repair and raving for rad-venture!"

    "Betty!" The boss screams at me. I smile toothily at him, hands held high heroically above my head. He has a mass of papers crumpled in one fist, his other hand extended out towards me like a claw. One of the tablets is floating away, and a cloud of papers is rising from his desk. The oddest expression is stamped on his face; An even mixture of irritation and rage, wrinkly, and tight. "Why the hell aren't you asleep?"

    "Pft." I kink my hip, cross my arms, and tilt my head to look at him right side up. My answer is so obvious it makes me laugh as I speak. "I rested enough in medical yesterday, dying of boredom." I snap my fingers snappily. "But now I've hit the air, and I'm hot'n ready to meet new bolts and screw in some aliens."

    "... Don't you mean... screw in some..." The grey speaker stops as I wink at him. Normally, I am not so over-the-top in my simple appreciation for an honest day's work. But, my pride for my section is second only to my can-do attitude. And today I am the only representation of the fire and fervor of my team: Section one, we'll reboot the sun. First-to-fix, gettin' kicks.

    "Didn't you fall into a fan centrifuge while sharpening the blades?" A tired, hungover jumpsuit asks with a hiccup.

    "Heh heh hehehe." My silly giggling draws quite a few wide-eyed double takes and heavy-breathed gaping mouths. "Yeah, that was weird." Okay, maybe I am simply over-the-top.

    "Crazy-ass section one..." I smile at the compliment from the funny, lighter-grey jumpsuit. I'll fix whatever is broken, but my primary work is already done. Our reputation is preserved.

    "No, we- what? Fine!" The boss ruffles through the cloud of paperwork, retrieving the crumpled paper and throwing it to me. I snatch it up lightning fast, consuming the words on it's page like a space fire. Damaged intergalactic space-superiority fighter stuck in a docking bay. Awesome. "If you want it, and no one else is willing, then go. Knock yourself out." Space adventure, here I come.

    "I won't let you down, boss!" I yell loudly.

    "Just pick your partner and go." As the boss begins to gather the mess of papers back to his desk, I realize that there is a giant space wrench in the gears of my plan. I look at the rest of my section, wrapped in dark blankets and slumbering peacefully. I know they would jump at the chance to shine more today, like me. But right now they all look so happy, resting calmly after that reactor fire-splosion meltdown.

    "I'll do it." My heart skips a beat, but I'll make up the reps later. I look at the leader of section three as she floats up out of her chair towards me. The woman who fought for her friends, rising out of the grey slowly but deliberately. From the front, I see that she is wearing a red shirt under her drab uniform, the dim light catching the bright color as she rises. "That job is my section's responsibility. I can't let it just fall on someone else's shoulders."

    "All right, section three up and at'em!" I shoot my hand up towards her, standing on my tiptoes in preparation for an awesome, high-frickin' space five. The woman, eyeing me wearily, slaps my hand. Many members of her section woop half-heartedly, while other grey forms manage a slow, lazy clap. I see a few smiles. There is some fire left. "What's your name, partner!?"

    "Vickie Vickerson."

    "Cool name!" I point at the ceilin-... opposite wall. "Today is going to be awesome!"

    -----------------

    "Aw man." In space, no one can hear your disappointment. We are standing on the side of a metal wall, Vickie on belay of course, and me hooked up for space walking. Sitting motionless in front of us, deep within the docking corridor, not close to the shining magic of space, is our job. A big, charred, burnt up, stupid, blackish-grey, booger-shaped spaceship thing. Or escape pod, I don't frickin' know. It's true that it is lodged in the docking bay. But it's not in the door, with space spreading out wonderfully behind it. Somehow, the obstruction has made it pretty far into the ship. A big, blackened, grey waste of time and oxygen deep inside our home.

    "Good thing these fighters are remote controlled." Vickie tugs on her harness. "No pilot to rescue." She looks at me with droopy, tired eyes. "You ready?"

    "What are we, space plumbers?" I mumble. I can barely see in the dark of the corridor, the lights all busted and walls scraped away by this big stupid thing.

    "You've never cleared wreckage?" Vicki's voice is so dreary.

    "I don't think so." I've done a lot of stuff while on ths ship, and none of it seemed to involve anything less than a fission reactor and the risk of painful, excruciating failure. "I took out the space-wastebasket in my room once."

    "Well, the thing about wreckage is that it doesn't move itself." Victor's tone is a little mean now. I sigh, hopping gently towards the mass of black wreckage, intent on at least finishing this job in record time. One interesting thing about the object, at least, is it's size. It is almost larger than the fighter it supposedly was; A hundred meters of floating, crumbly mess. I float towards the giant object, landing on a smoother looking section. As I settle on my hands and knees gently a large eyelid, larger than me, pops open.

    "Ooh" The eye closes quickly. I take all my pouting back; this just got interesting. I look back at Vixie, smiling and pointing. She has one hand on my belay chord, and a small mobile device in her other hand. "Hey!" I yell into my helmet mic, but she must have me muted. She does not look up, thumbing away at something on her device. Oh well. I reach into my belt for a nice large wrench. No! Screwdriver. Ye-e-e-ah.

    "What I don't understand..." I am only sort of listening to Vectorson as I close one eye and poise the screwdriver high above my head. I aim for the large eyelid slit. "... Is how a metal space ship can burn so hot it turns to ash- what are you doing?"

    "Finishing this job in record time." I stab the screwdriver through the alien's cornea. There is a dusty explosion of activity, and I am sent spinning.

    "Betty!"

    "Woo-"

    "Humans!"

    "Hoo-What?!" My breath is knocked away as I am slammed in the chest by a cloud of dark, powerful wind. I am pinned into the hull, I think, as the cloud of ash pins Valerian to the spot on the hull she is bolted to. As the dust settles, I look at the creature holding us against the ship. It's sort of like an octopus, but all black, ashy, and crunchy. Our belay wire 'twangs' loudly, pulled taunt by the distance of our separation.

    "Humans of the metal sla-a-ab!" How is it aliens always speak English? "I have smoldered in the intestines of your beast for many a cycle, soaking in your knowledge and emotions." Oh, that makes sense. "And woe is me! Wo-o-e-e to my race!" Of course, it can still be confusing if they have a grandiose, melodramatic way of talking.

    "Betty... what did you do?" Vendi shifts a little, trying to get a better look at the thing holding her to the hull.

    "Sorry, I planned this different." I feel bad lying to her. I didn't have a plan.

    "I am the last of my naturally space-faring kind!" Oh jeez, it's yelling. "A lone wanderer in the endless void! The light of my people has burned bright in the cosmos since our evolution, only to crumble and flicker out like a dying star in our twilight era!"

    "That's... too bad, bro." I try to piece together my training on first-contact situations, but it's hard to think with this whiny thing blathering on. "You just gotta keep the ol' tentacle to the grindstone, get off welfare, and-

    "Like brightly burning-" He interrupts me. "-Luminescent gods, the oligarchy of our civilization transcended time and matter, only to sputter out and spiral downward into a seemly bottomless pit of ineptitude and loneline-e-s-s!" I look at the giant eyeball as it stares off into space, figuratively not literally, consumed by it's own sense of self-pity and fatalism.

    "Betty Baxter." Dang it. It's the boss on the comm channel. "What's taking so long with that blockage?" I shift and wriggle my arm, finally freeing my hand to toggle the channel on my suit's chest controls.

    "Sup, bub. This object is giving us a little more trouble than we anticipated. " I glance down at Vivian as I speak. She has managed to rotate to her stomach despite the thing's grasp. "We'll get it out. Just a few more minutes."

    "Hurry up." The boss growls. As I change the channel, the big whiner whips me next to Vicky, my breath stolen as I slam into the ship.

    "Jeez, careful!" I am getting angry now.

    "Betty... Why didn't..." Vidoska is grunting as she tries to push away from the hull. "... You ask for help?"

    "Oh please." I glare at the eyeball. "For this big baby?"

    "I must now devour you both! Not to feed my body, but to nourish my damaged, burnt-out soul-

    "Oh, give it a rest!" I am fed up, yelling at the alien as I shake against his grasp. "You big jerkoff!" Vickie is staring at me wide-eyed, the eyeball staring at me super wide-eyed.

    "Jerk... off?" The thing repeats the insult, loosening it's grip in the confusion.

    "You people are always so depressed!" I glare at Vickie, who is looking at me like I am crazy. "Yeah, you too!" I struggle away from the cloud of irritating, depressing ash. "Whine whine whine." I float up a little, turn my legs inward, cross my eyes, and limpen my hands, a perfect impression of the alien. "Ooh, my fire has burned out so now I'm going to float around and cry about it." I rotate to face Vickie. "Wha, the ship's on fire. Myah, there's a booger in the docking bay."

    "Please stop before it kills us." Vickie's voice is so annoying, but I am on fire now. I straighten up, glaring at the eyeball.

    "My daddy told me two things before he went off and died like a man out in deep space, repairing the quantum reactor of the nuclear missile that annihilated the energy core for the primary shield on the flagship leading the deadliest Zenda'rock fleet in the galaxy!" I inhale after the long sentence. "In mid!Flight!" I inhale again after screaming. All three eyes are on me, wide with awe. I stick out a jagged, orange finger. "One: Never sell your body!'" I stick out a second deadly, orange finger. "And two: Always be positive!" I point both fingers at the giant, stupid eyeball. "You said you're a naturally occurring space species?"

    "Correct!" He's so frickin' loud and pathetic.

    "Well then, did you ever stop and think that you're not ash, but charcoal..." The giant eye blinks slowly at my words. "...Ready to burn even hotter?!

    "Charcoal?"

    "That's right, you stupid waste of pyrolysis !" I wave my arms around spastically in the vacuum, rising away from the ship as I gyrate and scream. "How can you achieve one hundred percent combustion when there's no frickin' oxygen in space!" There is a moment of silence as everyone and everything watches me float slowly away from the wall, spinning oddly on every axis.

    "By the dark matter, you are right!" The cloud coalesces into a tight orb around the eye, releasing Vickerson. She gets her footing quickly and pulls me in fast, both of us staring at the alien from our perch on the wall. The tighter orb of dark grey blackness just stares back at us. "Human!" The orb is smiling. I hope. "Your revelation has invigorated me!" I am not sure, given it's odd form, but I think the whiny orb is saluting me. "The compulsion to sputter out and die is go-o-one."

    "Whoopy." Sarcasm may be the product of a weak mind, but I am pretty tired of all this alien's yelling and ironically emotional space drama. "I'm glad. Now, can you move out of the docking bay? Our boss is going to lock the door if we don't hurry up."

    -----------

    The whiny creature floats far down the corridor, it's black form disappearing into space as it leaves. "Well..." Whats-her-name says with a depressing sigh. "I guess that's a job well done?"

    "Yeah, maybe." I look at my arms. They are grey and blackened from the close encounter with the burned kind.

    The End
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2016
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  4. Raven484
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    Raven484 Contributing Member

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    Ashes of Salvation (653 words)


    Jesus felt a cold chill as he placed Jacob’s dead body upon the makeshift funeral pyre. Tears began to stream down his face as he placed the body as gentle as he could on the cold stone. He stepped back in silence as Luke began to douse the body with oil. Jesus sighed as John began placing wood around the pyre after Luke had finished.

    John joined Jesus at his right side as Luke moved forward with a torch to light the pyre.

    “Give me the torch Luke,” Jesus said. “This is my burden to carry.”

    Luke walked to him in silence and handed the torch over. Jesus slowly stepped forward and set the wood ablaze. Fire erupted on the pyre. Jesus stood in silence as he watched his twin brother’s body start to burn.

    After several minutes of silence, Jesus returned to his friends. Jesus lowered his head in shame as he faced John.

    “His sacrifice was necessary for our plan to work, he was dying anyway, at least now his death will mean something.” John said as he placed his hand on the shoulder of Jesus.

    “He was still my brother John.”

    Moments passed as they watched the fire burn.

    “How are your wounds healing?” John asked.

    Weeks before Jesus had Peter pound crucifixion nails through his hands and feet. Knowing that’s what the Romans would do, he needed to look the part of the risen Messiah. He thought at the time that the pain would be the most he would ever have to endure. Watching his brother’s body burn told him he was wrong.

    “They are fine and will serve their purpose.” Jesus replied. He turned again to John and looked at him questionably. “Was all this worth it John?”

    John looked at him sternly. “You know deep inside that if we don’t change the way people think, we will just be enslaved again. The Pharisees and Saducees are destroying us as a people. Our new way will unite the people to live in peace and prosper throughout the world. Your brother believed in the new world. He offered to die for it. Find some comfort in that.”

    Jesus nodded to John and turned back towards the pyre. John could see the sorrow in his face as he watched the reflection from the flame dance in his eyes.

    “I must be going,” Luke interrupted. “Preparations must be made in Damascus for your coming.” Luke then embraced Jesus and said, “I await your arrival, you have to tell me the look on those Roman dogs faces when you emerge from the tomb.”

    Jesus half smiled at him. “Be safe my friend.”

    Luke left them as they stared at the dying fire.

    An hour passed as John and Jesus watched the fire dwindle down. John could feel the sadness in Jesus as the last of the embers burned out.

    “It is time for us to go my friend. We have about three hours until sunrise. Peter will meet you in the tunnel by the crypt. Just remember we will open the crypt about fifteen minutes after Peter seals the tunnel. Are you ready my friend?” John said.

    Jesus stepped up to the pyre and removed a small pouch from his pocket. He slowly began to fill the pouch with the ashes of his brother. Jesus sighed as he tied the pouch shut and placed it in his pocket.

    “Why are you taking his ashes my friend?” John asked.

    “So I never forget.” Jesus replied.

    He turned to John and stared at him with purpose. “If I waiver, this will remind me that what all we have done is really for.”

    Jesus paused then grabbed John by the shoulder leading him away. John noticed renewed strength in Jesus’ eyes. They walk with more purpose as each step was taken.

    “Come John,” Jesus ordered, “It is time to change our world!”
     
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  5. Kata_Misashi
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    Kata_Misashi Active Member

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    Amongst The Ashes (885 words)

    "I don't think we'll find it, Kyokyu." Yasmin uttered; flicking her reptilian tongue out as the setting sun shone over her shaded scales.

    "Well we definitely won't find it with an attitude like that." Kyokyu groaned as he lifted pieces of rubble from a decrypted house; holding it up with his thick tail to get a better look.

    The sounds of waves from the ever shifting ocean filled the air of the forsaken village. Apart from the two, no other being resided with the wasteland they formerly called their home.

    "I... want to leave." Yasmin said as she gazed at giant blue depths of the water. "Why did we even come back here? It's been years."

    "Cause I know it still has to be here. Don't you want to find it, too?"

    "No. I don't. I want to forget what happened here and just head back to the hideout." Yasmin muttered; curling her tail around her.

    "Hey. Just believe in your big brother, alright? Just like how you used to." Moving towards an old dresser.

    A small laugh escaped Yasmin. "How I used to? I think the sounds of the ocean is getting to you. I never did no such thing!"

    "What!? Quit lying!" Kyokyu chuckled. "Don't you remember when I came up with that 'ingenious' plan to plan to prank the neighbor's kid? What's his name, uhh... 'Bast' or something like that?"

    "You mean the iguana? Yeah, I remember. I told you not to do it cause I told you he was going to kick your ass for it." Yasmin rolled her eye's.

    Opening the dresser, Kyokyu smiled. "Yeah... But it was funny. His scales were pink for about a month!"

    "Yeah. About as long as your eye was black." Yasmin chuckled.

    "No way..."

    Yasmin perked her head. "Di-Did you find it?"

    "No. But check this out." Pulling out a small book.

    Yasmin cheeks turned red. "Th-That's..."

    "Dear Dairy: "Cole from school let me borrow his notes today. I felt like my heart would explo-GAHH!"

    "Give It Back, You Bastard!" Yasmin said; Kyokyu holding a arm out to keep her at bay while struggling not to laugh.

    "I polished my scales extra nice today. Hopefully he'll take a liking to how I shimmer in the morning su-" trailing off as he laughed loudly; Yasmin overpowering to snatch the book away.

    "I'm So Going To Kill You!"

    "Wh-What? It's cut-"

    "Stow It, Kyo!"

    "Okay, okay." The monitor shaking his head to regain his composure. "Got admit though. It was a good find."

    Calming herself, Yasmin looked to the book. "Yeah. I... honestly forgot about it."

    "You're welcome." Kyokyu smirked as he climbed a pile.

    Minutes pasted as the night began to take hold.

    "Still can't find it." Kyokyu sighed.

    "Maybe it got destroyed."

    "Maybe." He sighed.

    Leaning up against a pillared, Yasmin gasped as it fell; striking a pile of rubble.

    "Hey. Be careful." Kyokyu said as he walked over.

    "Sorry. I didn't... Whoa..." Yasmin trailed off as she kneeled.

    "What?"

    Coming back to a stand, she turned to reveal a baseball; much to Kyokyu's surprise.

    "Remember this?"

    "No, frickin' way. I... I thought I lost it..." Grabbing the ball.

    "That use to be your room, right? Heck, you use to lose everything in there... 'just like how you do at the hideout'."

    "I remember when dad brought back that radio, along with the bat and... 'this'."

    "Baseball, right?" Yasmin tilted her head.

    "Yep. The human sport." Tossing the ball up and down. "Heck yeah. We can probably now play a game or two back at the hideout."

    "Yeah, I don't think baseball can be played in the caves or in a rainforest, Kyo." Yasmin smirked.

    "I know that. I just... 'thought'... I don't know!"

    A brief moment of silence pasted between him as Kyokyu frowned. "I miss mom and dad."

    Yasmin looked to her feet. "...I do, too..."

    "It... didn't have to be that way. They didn't have to... 'destroy everything'." Looking back towards the ruined village.

    "I still don't understand... why they-" Yasmin muttered.

    "Because we're lizards." Kyokyu said; Yasmin looking up to him. "We're lizards who chose to live within a avian region. To them... we don't belong."

    "But destroy our village? To hurt... 'kill'... everyone we ever-"

    "There's no use in trying to understand it, sis. It all just boils down to ignorance. But we shouldn't dwell on it. All we know is, from the fire that fueled their rage and hatred against our kind.... we rose from the ashes. Our purpose: To lead and protect our kind from getting wiped out of ignorance. As they say... 'things happen for a reason.'"

    Taking in her brothers words, Yasmin dipped her head. "Ye-yeah."

    "It's getting late. We should head back." Kyokyu said as he looked up to the bright crescent moon.

    "Yeah. Let's go."

    Making their way from the fallen home, Kyokyu blinked as he stepped on broken glass.

    "Hey. You okay?" Yasmin turned.

    Reaching down, Kyokyu swept the glass away and smiled. "And from amongst the ashes..."

    Walking over, Yasmin eyes went wide as Kyokyu held a picture of they're late family; hatchlings of Kyokyu, Yasmin, and their younger brother posing with their mom and dad.

    "...we rise to follow our one true purpose; but never forgetting from whist we came."
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2016
  6. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Fresh Start - [2210]

    As I laid there dying I had to ask myself what had brought me to this moment. I might tell myself that it started three days ago when I left her but that wouldn’t be the truth. It started much longer ago.

    I never went to first grade, I started school in the second grade. As far as I know it was a normal four years between second and fifth grade, I don’t remember much. Except I caused some trouble in fifth grade so they held me back. If I had grown up these days I would have been labeled with ADHD or ADD or with some other bullshit name attached to my misbehavior. Back then I was just a “hyperactive little shit that better settle down and fly right.”

    I met Teddy in fifth grade, my second round of fifth grade. Later we needed to start calling him Ted, Teddy was for little kids. There was a new school built when the Taunton Trace neighborhood was built nearby, so when they held me back a year they moved me over so I would get a fresh start.

    A fresh start. That would begin my cycle of four-year fresh starts. I can’t remember losing any close friends when I left that first school but I certainly made some new ones. Teddy and I spent our years between fifth and eighth grade doing what most suburban American kids did in the late seventies and the early eighties. Teddy was the first kid I had ever met who didn’t have two parents. He lived with his younger brother, Mike, a sister I rarely saw and his mother. His mom worked. This meant that the Allen house was the kids party house after school and on weekends. They were also the first people I met to have cable TV, I was so jealous. We played lots of Atari, watched MTV, and we drank.

    I don’t know who it was exactly that bought us alcohol. I can just remember that we had a deal with someone in the neighborhood. We would pay for a case of beer and he would keep a six pack out of it. Pabst blue ribbon cans that we drank warm. I wasn’t a big fan of the beer. I spent a lot of time holding my can while the other kids drank, insisting that the stuff was the best thing in the world.

    The summer after seventh grade we met Scott, who introduced us to MaryJane. We spent the summer smoking a lot of weed and I fell in love for the first time. By the end of the summer, MaryJane and I were spending every day together. She let me fit in with the other kids. She held my hand and kept me calm when my brain was running at light-speed. She helped me sleep. She helped me wake up.

    In the December of 1981 I was in the eighth grade when Ted’s little brother died. I think it was my fault. We were on our winter break… fuck that. Back then it was Christmas break. We usually had plenty of snow that time of year and 1981 was no different. The neighborhood kids all had a fun little game that we always played in the winter. I’m sure we learned it from older kids, who learned it from the ones before them. On the little residential streets our homes were on we would have a few kids cross the street when the occasional car would be seen coming. That would force the driver to slow down to a crawl on the slick snow covered road. As the car slowly moved past where the other kids were hiding we all ran out and grabbed onto the car’s rear bumper, crouched down low so the driver couldn’t see us. Then as the kids in front got out of the way, the driver would speed back up and we would go sliding along the street for a little while. It was a lot of fun. Until that last time.

    I can’t explain what happened. I remember running alongside Mike, and I can remember slipping and falling. MaryJane was with me so she held most of my attention. The next thing I knew Mike was screaming in pain and there was a lot of blood splashed against the new snow. After that, there was a lot of police and ambulances and questions. It was ruled an accident. I spent even more time with MaryJane when the dust settled and no more time with Ted. By the end of eighth grade I was a loner. Another four-year cycle ended. Ended in the destroyed ashes of a childhood friend that loved Journey, The Police, and Styx.

    In the fall of 1982 I started high school. Everyone I knew at my old school went to a high school in another school zone. The boundary lines between the three public high schools in my district ran right past our house. So now I was back with the kids that I had left in fifth grade along with a whole lot more. There was some that knew me, but few I cared to know.

    My mother had gotten involved with costume design for the local community theater that year and somehow got me to help with props. Some of the other kids participating in the show were active in the high school musical productions. They were all a couple of years older than me which for a freshman was a type of status symbol to have upperclassmen as friends. I quickly gained a new group to hang out with that year.

    I hate to be a cliche’ but when I was in high school I hated it. The little groups everyone formed into always gave me the feeling of us versus them. My group of friends was smaller than others, my group wasn’t the cool group, I wasn’t with the popular kids. Oh.. the horror of it. Thinking back, I would prefer to go back to those days. I can’t really see what was so terrible about any of it. I had my group of close friends which is more than I can say for my life now.

    We did all the usual high school things. We talked about the people we liked, we bitched about the ones we didn’t, we complained about the schoolwork, and we did all the things that needed to be done to run anything involving the stage. After school we played D&D in Stephen’s basement, we drank, we all got acquainted with MaryJane, and most of our group switched dating partners like we were doing a line dance. My mother used to laugh when some boyfriend or girlfriend turned into someone else’s in the group after a month of dating. First, Stephen would date Laura then he would date Melissa while Laura went off to date William who had dated Melissa four months before that. If any of them had an STD they all would have been in trouble. Except me, I only dated MaryJane my first two years of high-school. I loved her.

    I didn’t have a real relationship until my junior year. I have no idea how I did it but I broke a high-school rule. I dated a girl outside of my clique. She could have been the most beautiful cheerleader that ever was but she wasn’t someone willing to stand on the sidelines. She played lacrosse instead. Going to her games was the only time I went to any sporting event for my school. I couldn’t have cared less about the team winning or losing. I just loved to watch her move.

    Kim was a few years younger than me so she was a freshman when we first started dating. I think we were only dating a few days when she told me she would never have sex with me. She was too scared to do anything more than kiss. A month later we had done everything two people can do with each other’s bodies. When I was with Kim I really felt like I understood life and love. The way only a teenager can believe these things.

    When I graduated high-school in the spring of... No… Only truth here. I actually graduated high school in late June of 1986, long after everyone else graduated. I was handed my diploma by a school secretary after the last day of summer school. I wasn’t a bad student, I was mostly just a perpetually stoned one.

    After a few days of post-graduation celebration, Kim and I were coming back from a day at the beach when we were hit by a truck. Kim died and I think a piece of me died with her. Of course, I was high at the time but back then they only gave breathalyzer tests. Since the truck was the one who caused the accident nobody ever bothered to check into my state of mind. Maybe nothing would have been different if I hadn’t been high but I still think about that day. After she died her parents had her cremated and they invited me to scatter some of her ashes when they went to their summer house at the beach. I couldn’t face them so I didn’t go.

    That was the end of another four-year stint in my life. It was more than just Kim and leaving the school, it was leaving all those other people behind. Back in the eighties, there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no internet. We didn’t keep in contact with high school friends the way a lot of people do these days. Most of my friends split off in different directions; to colleges; to new jobs; to new cities. I was among those that left in the fall.

    I had wanted to go to a theater school in NY city but my delayed graduation caused problems with getting housing so I ended up going to Glassboro State. MaryJane went with me. But college isn’t like high-school, you don’t usually gather lots of life long friends there. Too many people coming and going every semester, and like I said there still was no internet at the time.

    The summer after my first year of college I met Sara at a party back in my hometown. She had become friends with one of my high-school pals and we quickly became inseparable. She was sleek and blonde and smart and sexy and wonderful and best of all she loved me. She was going to college about seventy miles away from my school but we made it work. My second year at college I was able to schedule no classes on Fridays so I spent every Thursday night to Sunday evening at her school. We listened to the same music, we both loved Mexican food, we both loved MaryJane. We went to concerts, we played backgammon, we shot pool, we got high, we made love.

    When my four years of school was done we got married. That was the only time one of my four-year cycles didn’t end in pain and misery. I still lost the friends I had at school after I left and started a real job but it wasn’t the same.

    Our first few years were wonderful. We moved to a small town outside Charleston, SC and started our lives together. We bought a house on several acres of land and enjoyed each other in our seclusion. We both worked in the city so we each had opportunities to meet new friends but only Sara was able to. I didn’t really care about other people, I was happy to be alone with my wife, our dogs, and my sweet MaryJane.

    Sara and I spent those early years remodeling our house, shooting pool, and we started showing dogs as a hobby. On weekends, we frequently left town with a truck full of dogs to primp and fawn over before we danced them around the ring. It was a wonderfully wholesome thing to be doing as a young couple and we enjoyed it immensely

    A few years later a new heroine entered my life. At first, I only played with her occasionally. We would meet every month or so in a bar or a restaurant bathroom. For the first time since my youth I stopped loving MaryJane. MaryJane didn’t get along with my new friend so I left her behind. After that, my new love and I found ourselves meeting every day. I wasn’t much fun to be around after that and Sara withdrew into her own little world. I was in pretty bad shape when Sara finally told me that she was pregnant.

    In our fourth year of marriage, Sara and I had a child. This time, it was my own childhood that died. Sara told me that if I didn’t stop seeing my other friend that she would take our child and go.

    Being a parent changes you even when you don’t want to change. So here I am among the ashes of my life trying to save it. It’s been three days since I let my heroine go and if I’m not dying, I wish I would.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2016
  7. ranjit23das
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    ranjit23das Member

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    Century Sam (590 words)

    Sam had felt the rush of wind and the whizzing sound many times before. A second later he heard the crack of the cricket ball against the stump. There was a huge gasp from the crowd and then a loud roar from the Australian supporters. Their flags and banners waving wildly, they began to chant ‘Century Sam’ in mock admiration.

    Sam did not need to look at the umpire to know he was out. Head down, he tucked his bat under his arm and began to take his gloves off and make the long walk back to the pavilion. Shaking his head, he smiled to himself. The England fans thought it was a smile of disbelief at what had just happened.

    “You saw it first on Sky Sports ladies and gentlemen. Wow Peter, that was a shock,” said the first commentator to the other speaker, as the television showed a dejected looking figure trudge off the cricket field.

    “Yes Simon, it beggars belief. Sam Cooper, the England captain out for a duck. I was expecting him to hit another century for England but now he’s out that really puts Australia in the driving seat.”

    “Absolutely Peter. England unlikely to retain the Ashes now with Australia having amassed such a huge score in their first innings. I can’t understand it. The man nicknamed ‘Century Sam’ out for nought. He seemed to lift up his bat at the last minute and almost allow the ball to hit the wicket. It’s a school-boy error,” commented Simon.

    “I simply can’t believe it either. What was he thinking?” rhetorically asked Peter.

    “Yes, and the techies tell me that Australia’s fast bowler, Kim O’Toole, only bowled at a lowly speed of 83 kilometres an hour. Well below the high 90’s he normally bowls at,” informed Simon.

    “It’s been a few years since I retired but maybe I should don my whites again Simon because that was a ball Cooper should have knocked out of the park,” chortled Peter.

    “Seriously though Sam Cooper, the player, has been below par this tournament and as England captain some of his decisions have raised eyebrows,” remarked Simon.

    “I agree Simon. That howler of a dropped catch from Sam was poor but his selection of spin bowlers over pace bowlers practically handed the first innings to Australia on a plate.”

    “Well folks, the tweets are coming in thick and fast and most are not singing Sam Cooper’s praises. I’ll read out a few of them right after this break. Stay tuned to Sky Sports for all the Ashes action. More from Peter Brown and myself, Simon Wall, in just a few minutes.”

    As the commercials began Pak Dong put the television on mute and reached for his phone. He texted the password to his banker. Within a few minutes the banker would transfer one million US dollars to Sam Cooper’s very secret, offshore bank account in the British Virgin Islands. A small price to pay given that Sam’s dismissal had earned the betting syndicate a handsome sum in bets. If Sam could ensure Australia won the Ashes he would be rewarded with another five million.

    It was three in the morning in Kuala Lumpur and it would be a long night for Pak Dong but with over a hundred million riding on England losing he could not afford to sleep. It was unlikely that Sam Cooper would retain the England captaincy after this debacle but it had been worthwhile grooming him over these last few months; very lucrative indeed.
     
  8. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ashes 584 words

    I don’t go down the pound shops, not on principle or anything so principled. Simply, we had no money, no real money, had no toothpaste in the house. I volunteered this one time, discovered there on the shelf, a box of toothpastes, selection box, twelve tubes for a pound of my money.

    ‘Twelve tubes for a pound,’ I whistled in the wow, was this better than the chocolate penguins? I stood straight up, clutched the base of my spine, not really pain, merely demonstrated senior authority, enjoyed the moment in a public environment. I judged the weight of the box in my palm under bright lighting. Pop music jingled through tin speakers. I found their scene entertaining. What with the conversations among four walls indoors, here out - on the streets, anything might happen, this was the contrast to my television.

    He wavered aside of me, wore a strange coat, stared at the adjoining shelf, transfixed, wide smile born on that face:

    ‘Portuguese Water,’ he said, ‘love the stuff, splash it over my jaw. Do you have a pound, son?’

    I lost my legs at this point, in this shop, dropped to knees, hugged him around the waist. I inhaled, and puddle spread, a cheek puddle, or dripping shower is my style. Reasonably I turned Jehosefa, observed by folks and trolleys. But given context, most people I feel might understand.

    The musk smelled deep to me, and I caressed dry hands, rolled fingers around big fingers, in rising truly swam in those eyes.

    ‘Oh daddy, oh dad,’ I said again, again since goodness knows when was every day? ‘What the bloody hell are you doing in the pound shop?’

    ‘I come here during daylight hours, products intrigue, the company is fine to my choosing. A little warmer then the director’s chair, you, my silly bugger,’ and he ruffled this hair.

    The eye wandered away, a woman of 72 or 3 or 4 wiggled wide hips, waved her walking stick.

    ‘I’ll see you later,’ said my daddy to the lady, he twinkled..

    ‘You - are an embarrassment,’ I said.

    ‘I can smell them,’ he said.

    ‘Oh father, please not now, and not appropriate,’ I replied.

    ‘Come get me then. Four years on that shelf, bagged aside a tortoise, some people are strange, y’know folk are…’

    ‘You always said so….’

    ‘I am across the road, behind that window, Wake & Paine, shall be waiting.’

    ‘And then I will toss you in the sea.’

    ‘Finally, and read those, those daft poems.’

    ‘What poems are they?’

    ‘Your blog, apeth. I see everything... must be going, time waits – you understand.

    ‘Don’t go, my Daddy.’

    ‘I did go, so shall you.’

    ‘I love you Dad,’

    ‘I loved you.’

    He drifted away toward a cashier. Myself, in two minds over toothpastes – if you recall, was this really quite the bargain purchase?

    ‘Look after the boy,’ he said from the distant haze, and faded, ‘that daughter works hard, kiss your mother if you can. Girl of yours is all right. I know, crazy, but…so are you.’

    He disappeared. ‘Oh,’ I said, my mind a mess, a confusion, and ran my tongue over dirty teeth, they tasted not so bad, Arabs use a towel.

    The way I see it chap can stay there another week, we do have lives to live, most of us. Talk is beach was the old ways and dreary. Mother says to wait till November, we shall buy a rocket.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2016
  9. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chester's Steak House

    Above the green letters on the window that read "Chester's Steak House", hung a small sign with the text: "WAITERS WANTED!"

    It was an old butcher shop turned into a restaurant. The new owners had bought it after the previous owners were forced to leave town. The floor was black and white, the walls beige and it had only nine tables. The restaurant's menu consisted mostly of red meat coupled with various side dishes.

    One day, a man in a long black coat entered the door.

    "A table for one," he told the red haired waitress who had greeted him.
    "Do you have a reservation?"

    "For nine o' lock, I believe?" He looked at her with a confident expression. She looked through the reservation list.

    "Charles Winslow?"
    "That would be me."
    "Alright, come right with me."

    She followed him to his table.

    "Here you go, sir." She said and smiled. The menu card was bound in real leather.
    The waitress wandered off and Charles spend a while browsing the menu card. Its calligraphy was magnificent, he thought, and wrote it down in his notebook. He had only heard good things about the place. Oddly, he had never read a proper review. The fragrant fumes from the kitchen spread throughout the room. The other guests had dressed for it. Charlies thought that he had perhaps underestimated the reputation of the place. For a town this far out, it sure had class.

    He waved the waitress over.

    "Yes, I will have the charcoal grilled steak with the red wine sauce. Medium rare."
    "Excellent choice, sir," she said. "Would you like to talk to our wine connoisseur?"
    A wine connoisseur, he thought, what kind of place is this?
    "Yes, please."

    The waitress called over a man standing near the kitchen door. A man with big bushy eyebrows came over, and the waitress went out into the kitchen.

    "What can I help you with?" His accent was foreign. Charles couldn't exactly set his finger on where the man was from.
    "What kind of wine do you reckon would go well with medium rare steak and red wine sauce?" Charles asked.
    "Where I come from, there is an old rule in cooking: Always drink the same wine you use in your food."
    "Which wine is that?"
    "A dated Pinot Noir imported all the way from France." He smacked his lips. "It has a strong grape flavor and undertones of berry."
    "Aren't those just the same thing?" Charles asked.
    "Sir?" The connoisseur raised an eyebrow.
    "Never mind, just get me what you said."
    "Of course, sir." He nodded and walked off. A couple of minutes later, he came back with a bottle of wine. It was perfectly synced with the arrival of the food.

    The dish was perfectly crafted, he thought. There was the steak, which looked perfectly cooked as he cut into it. The connoisseur poured up wine elegantly. A strip of crimson red sauce circled the potato puree. He noted it in his book.

    The first bite reminded him of tobacco. Sweet, herby and smokey. The second reminded him of warmth and color. The rest and the last reminded him the kisses of a mistress. It was sexual.

    He waved for the bill. "Did you enjoy the meal?" The waitress asked.
    "It was excellent. I must say, the quality of food in this place is out of this world." He stood up. "My real name is Martin Hereford. You see, I am a food critic for the Blance..."

    Terror filled her face.

    "What," he said and looked at her worryingly, "what's wrong?"

    "Sorry, sir. I thought I saw something behind you." He briefly looked over his shoulder and then back to her. "Would you mind meeting the chefs?"

    "It be an honor, actually." He said and tucked in the chair. They walked towards the kitchen. It lead to a small hallway that was only lit by a blinking fluorescent light. It looked almost clinical, like something in a hospital.

    "SQUEAL PIGGY!" shouted a man at a naked crying woman hogtied on the floor as he jammed the carrot further up her ass. She tried to spit the apple out of her mouth. "SQUEAL!" The room was full of cadavers missing limbs, some still alive, hopelessly trying to break their ties. One fighting to get out of a huge pot of boiling grease.

    "Melissa?" the man said. "Who is that?" He grabbed a chef's knife.

    Martin could not move a muscle.

    Melissa sobbed. "It's," she began crying violently. "it's the food critic!"

    The man fired towards him, and Martin attempted to run, but slipped on some blood the floor. A lightning of pain struck through his body. The man's hand got wet and the knife wetter.

    He felt paralyzed. The man dragged him to a big oven, and placed him inside, next to a burnt skeleton covered in soot. He shut the door.

    In the restaurant, fragrant fumes filled the room. The guests sighed and inhaled the air. "This place is wonderful," an elderly woman said to her grandson.

    Outside, the chimney smoke changed color.

    -----

    I'll see myself out.
     
  10. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Cigarette Bet [1620 words — strong language]

    I flicked open the Zippo, span the wheel with practised flair, listened to the crackle as the cigarette caught, inhaled without taking my eyes off Darren.

    ‘Oi, oi,’ Darren said, ‘don’t fuck about. Inhaling is cheating. You got to let it burn all the way down on its own, matey, if you want to win.’ He sat back and grinned.

    I grinned too. Darren was infectious. And he wasn’t wrong. It was his bet, his rules. I had to let the cigarette burn all the way down on its own without spilling the ashes. He reckoned I couldn’t. I reckoned I could. We had a tenner on it. You couldn’t fault the certainty of a bet like that: true-false, win-lose, a binary equation.

    ‘No inhaling,’ I said and grinned a bit wider.

    My elbow was on the bar, hoodie sleeve wicking stale beer, arm straight up, hand relaxed, cigarette burning freely. I left it there, let my body sink away, left my arm where it was, carried on grinning. Darren was good for a laugh. At least, he had been before tonight.

    Stacy sat between us, me and Darren against the oak, Stacy an arm’s length back, a triangle of barstools in an empty pub. We had second-year finals coming up, should have been studying like everyone else.

    ‘You pricks would bet on anything,’ Stacy said, grinning widest of all.

    She was right, I would, though I hadn’t come here tonight to bet with Darren, and Stacy knew it. She’d made a bet of her own with me earlier, a bet I’d taken because I was spit-slingingly angry. I wasn’t angry now. I could have been. But there was always time for a bet.

    I held my arm steady, kept grinning at Darren, took comfort in the reduction of my problem to this binary waste of everyone’s time.

    The cigarette was a quarter gone, ashes standing proud.

    I hadn’t come here to bet with Darren. I’d come to have it out with him because he’d fucked Harriet. I’d only dumped her a week before. Our relationship had burned down, filter and all; we’d sucked and dragged at it until there was nothing left but ashes. Darren had stepped in, done his Don Juan as if my two years with Harriet had never happened. Harriet could do what she wanted. It made me feel sick, but she could. From Darren it felt like betrayal.

    Boxer, the landlord, grumbled past. I could never tell if he was following his beard or being towed by it.

    ‘Gamblin’s illegal boys. You bringin’ my place into ill repute?’

    ‘Loser’ll buy you a beer,’ Darren said.

    Stacy giggled as she often did, belying her depth.

    Boxer watched us, watched the line of fire spiral down and round the paper, growled at the ashes laid bare. His beard pulled him away, or maybe he pushed it. Boxer didn’t mind our games. The pub up the road was a townie bar called The Honest Lawyer. Boxer’s pub was called The Bent Brief, was full of students like us. On Friday nights there’d be a fight outside the kebab shop halfway between the two. I avoided the fights. Fights weren’t my thing.

    Cigarette a third gone. Ashes proud.

    What I wanted was to get Darren to see he’d hurt me, to apologize, to say he’d done wrong. He was a mate, a good mate, the fucker. And sure, I’d dumped Harriet, which hadn’t made me happy, not yet. But Christ on a bike, you wait more than a week before screwing your mate’s ex, don’t you?

    Don’t you?

    Not if you’re Darren, you don’t. That was the thing. He was a good mate, but life to him was binary all the time, not just when making bets. Harriet was single. Harriet was game. I didn’t want her. That’s how he thought.

    I’d come here hoping that he’d listen, that he’d say the things I wanted to hear, that he’d understand, if I explained it all friendly like, without getting angry. Getting angry wasn’t my thing either.

    Tell that to Stacy.

    ‘He’s going to do it,’ she said, patting Darren’s thigh. ‘Don’t bet against the master, Darreny-boy. He won’t let you win.’ She fluttered her eyelashes at me as she said it, not a common occurrence, but she’d made that bet of her own, had a vested interest in tonight’s proceedings.

    Cigarette half gone. This was easy. In the movies they stick a pin in the ash to keep it from falling, but I didn’t need smoke and mirrors. I could do this for real. And Darren would listen, once I got going. He’d tell me he was sorry, just as soon as I’d won this bet. Ashes proud, my friends, ashes fucking proud.

    Problem with that of course – with talking it out, with getting Darren’s sorry, with man hugs and beers – was that Stacy would win her bet. And I didn’t do losing. Fuck it, I’d already lost to her once. She’d bet me I’d leave Harriet before we graduated. We were still a year from graduation, and Stacy had already won. Ouch. Big fucking ouch with roses and champagne. Losing Harriet – even if I’d done the leaving – had been a tearfest of epic proportions. Stacy had picked up the pieces, said ‘I told you so’ and held out her hand for her winnings. It was a rum fuck on a rainy Wednesday that Stacy knew me so well.

    Stacy clapped her hands. ‘He’s got you, Darreny-dan, he’s got you!’

    I almost dropped the cigarette. Stacy had made me jump. I’d almost dropped the fucking lot and fallen off the barstool.

    Darren’s grin had been slipping. It was plastered right back up there now, threatening to tickle his ears.

    I eased my arm back under the ash pile, marshalled my fingers, pivoted on the stool to get the angles right, steadied the burning fag.

    Darren was never going to apologize.

    ‘You left her,’ he’d say. ‘She was single and willing.’ He’d show me his palms and stick out his tongue.

    ‘Come on, man. Can’t you see I’m still in mourning? You don’t dance at a funeral. You wait till the ashes are cold, man. You hurt me, D.’

    He’d say it again, ‘You left her,’ and his brow would crease in genuine puzzlement.

    No. Darren was never going to apologize.

    I wedged my boot under the bar’s foot rail, inched myself comfortable, arm up straight. The ashes were like the leaning tower of Pisa or a stack of pitta breads at three in the morning in the kebab shop up the road. But they weren’t going to fall.

    Three quarters gone. Ashes steady.

    I was going to win Darren’s bet, was beginning to think I might win Stacy’s as well.

    ‘You’re quiet,’ she said, looking at me. ‘Concentrating hard?’

    ‘Thinking about your bet.’

    She looked away, eyes gleaming mischief. Stacy was a funny girl, unorthodox, watched cage fighting religiously, screamed for the loser’s blood, never missed her mother’s phone calls, went to choir practice on Sundays. She tolerated Darren because Darren was my friend, but she thought he was shallow and cocksure and never likely to change. I’d been angry about Harriet when Stacy had made her bet with me. She’d been trying to help, to calm me down with sensible words, but I hadn’t listened, so she’d offered me a bet. She knew I’d take it, thought she’d win but hoped she’d lose. That was her brand of mischief.

    ‘What bet?’ Darren asked, glancing between us.

    Stacy's words came back to me. She’d been right all along. I was done with Harriet, and I should be done with Darren, or at least spell out his crime in a language he might understand.

    The cigarette had burned to the filter. The three of us watched as the thin ring of flame collapsed to a smoulder, vanished in a pin-whiff of smoke.

    The tobacco and paper were gone. Ashes were all that remained, curled over like a gnarly cock that’d seen better days. But still all there. All fucking there.

    I twisted on the stool, bringing my other arm round, keeping the ash where it was, holding out a palm for my winnings.

    Darren scoffed, pulled out his wallet, laid a tenner on my sticky palm.

    Stacy was going to lose her bet.

    I made a fist round the money, twisted some more, cracked Darren right on the nose.

    The cremated cigarette dropped to the bar in a shower of grey.

    ‘Harriet!’ I screamed. ‘Fucking Harriet, man. Fucking Harriet!’

    Darren’s nose dripped blood on the ashes.

    Ashes of friendship?

    Fucked if I know.

    Stacy stuck out her bottom lip and made puppy-dog eyes. ‘Beers are on me, betting-boy.’ She sashayed away, hips swaying like taunts to a jilted lover.

    Darren just sat there, bleeding in wide-eyed incomprehension, staring at the fist that had hit him. He hadn’t understood that language either.

    ‘Fuck it, D,’ I said. ‘We’ll talk tomorrow. Get Boxer to give you a tissue.’

    I must have dragged my hand over the bar as I left. I was still rubbing ashes and blood between my fingers when I caught the night bus home. I hadn’t enjoyed beating Darren. It wasn’t a binary case that could be solved with a fag and a chat, or even a fist.

    And then there was Stacy. Binary shminary, special case Stacy. Best friends forever. I couldn’t stop thinking about her hips as she’d prowled away, like I’d never seen them before, like they were calling me, egging me on. She and I were one apiece. Who knew what the next bet would be? I wasn’t sure if I had the balls to play her again.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2016
  11. BruceA
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    BruceA Senior Member Supporter

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    Respect Is Not Given, It’s Urned (1280 words)
    (Warning: very bad language, violence)​


    The old man’s flat already smells like someone has died there. The stench of rotting flesh comes mostly from the overflowing kitchen waste bin, Mylo can see from the doorway, although he thinks the white pus oozing from the ulcers on the old codgers skinny white legs play their part.

    “Not seen you before,” the old bastard says, wearing nothing but a knee high dressing pink gown. “Where’s Jeanette? I thought it was Jeanette’s day. I like Jeanette,” he peers into Mylo's face. “You’re not foriegn are you?”

    Mylo smiles his best reassuring I’m-not-here-to-rob-and-murder-you smile. “No mate, British, through and through, me.”

    “You speak funny,” the old man says, clearly unconvinced.

    “I’m from the Midlands,” Mylo says, pushing past the old twat, with his leather bag and his smile still fixed to his face.

    “That’ll be it.”

    Mylo had canceled the real nurse, of course. He had phoned up and pretended to be the old git’s nephew: his only living relative, or at least the only one that gave half a crap about the old sack of bones. Research and planning is key to not getting caught - that and moving about, changing your MO and not leaving DNA lying about (Mylo watches a lot of crime fiction). After the early afternoon nurse visit, there are no other visits planned for the day, not until teatime when his nephew will pop around for half an hour. Plenty of time to kick the crap out of this duffer, rob the place and leave.

    Mylo doesn’t always resort to violence, and has only killed a handful of his previous victims, although he admits that the urge to finish the job is stronger, each time. He never hurts women, of course. That’s wrong. It is against Mylo’s Code. Apart from that one time, but that wasn’t his fault. That dirty old bastard in Crewe had a bird, from the care home round the corner, in bed upstairs, he didn’t know about. It was unforeseen. It wasn’t Mylo’s fault. After he’d finished with the old boy he’d found her in bed, clutching her duvet to her neck, like it was some kind of fucking magic shield. He could smell that she had shat herself - a common enough occurrence in Mylo’s line of work. He’d had to smother her with a pillow when she started screaming.

    No, Mylo doesn’t alway hurt them, the old fellas. Sometimes he just scared them witless. But this one has it coming. He reminds Mylo of his grandad. Has the same sneer-for-a-smile. The same mean glint in his eye.

    Mylo waits in the hallway, by the kitchenette with it’s vile stinking bin, for the old man to lock the front door. He notes the keys are left in the lock. He lets the old man lead him into what might be called the living room. Dying room, more like. Mylo stifles a giggle. It’s like any one of the fifty or more other places he’s robbed, up and down the country. A TV stands pride of place, next to the heavily curtained window. Even though it’s lunchtime, and the sun is shining brightly outside, the curtains are drawn. The room is brightly lit from a single bulb suspended from a cord in the ceiling. Facing the telly is one brown chair abused with the stains of TV dinners, and next to it a sofa, that might once have been cream-coloured. On the mantlepiece are three photos: one, Mylo recognises from his research, is of his nephew with a girl, not bad looking, but not a stunner, neither; another is an old picture of some woman, presumably his dead wife, and the third is of the old geezer, younger though, much younger, with some other bloke. They look like old time East End gangsters. Next to the photos are three urns. So, there are at least three dead people in the room. Well, let’s make it four.

    Mylo is wearing gloves - part of the uniform of a community nurse - so he doesn't have to worry about leaving prints anywhere. Not that he has any desire to touch the filthy surfaces. Mylo can’t believe how some people live. Dirty fucking pigs.

    Mylo lets the old fucker sit down, as he’ll be more vulnerable (most of these old twats take five minutes to get out of their chairs at the best times) before opening his bag. Inside are the tools of his trade. Not the usual tools you’d expect to see in a nurses bag, of course. Obviously, there’s Nelly - his favourite knuckle duster - sitting on top of an old sock with a pool ball in it (his lucky number eight). There is also a crow bar and bolt cutters. He lets his fingers walk over the various objects - eeny meeny miny moe - and then settles on the sock eightball combo, which he swings out of the bag and smacks the old bastard in the side of the mouth. Blood sprays over the already filthy furniture and something falls out of the old man’s head. Dentures. They glisten with red-tinged saliva.

    “Right you old cunt,” Mylo says, pushing his face as close as he can get to the old bastard’s without actually touching the fucker. He tries not to breath in the old man’s stench. His voice is soft and clear. “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.” It’s a cliché, but Mylo likes it. It gives them the illusion that there will be an easy way.

    “What?” the old man says, through his damaged lips. “Speak up, young man, speak up.” His hearing aid has popped out of his ear, probably with the force of the blow.

    Mylo tries again. “Tell me where you hide your fucking money!” he yells into the wax encrusted earhole. He stands back and looks at the old man as he pulls Nelly out of his bag of tricks and on to his fist, ripping the glove as he does so. Bollocks. The old git doesn’t seem to be as scared as he should be so Mylo gives him a clout. Nelly makes contact with his nose. There is the satisfying sound of the crunch of cartilage. More blood.

    Mylo has to hit the old bastard three more times before he whispers, “Ashes,”. His eyes, surrounded by blue swollen flesh are looking in the direction of the mantelpiece. Mylo stands up and looks at the urns. One of them, the big one in the centre does look a bit different, now he looks at it more closely. Bigger than the other two. Christ, they hide their money in all sorts of places these days. Mylo remembers that old boy, in Margate, who had a roll of fifties stuffed inside a hollowed out dildo). Mylo smiles and peers at the urn. It has a small round hole near the top, something glints within. Mylo turns around when he hears the old man laughing.

    “Smile,” the old cunt says, his mouth a smear of red on his wrinkled face. “You’re on Candid Camera.” He chuckles. “You’ve been framed, arsehole.”

    Mylo turns back to the urn and pulls off the top. Sure enough there is a camera and what looks like bits of a phone, including a SIM. An LED flashes until Mileo pulls the cable from the battery. The bottom half is full of ashes. The old bastard has a fucking Granny Cam.

    “While you stand there gawping like an arsehole on poppers, my nephew’ll be sending pictures of your ugly face to the coppers, you young twat,” the old man says, from the chair. “So why don’t you just fuck off out of my house?”
     
  12. Anna100
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    Anna100 Member

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    Trek [2291]

    In front of the main entrance of the old, wooden house was the campfire again. This time glowing red. Whatever was ahead of him grilled frequently. No remains of food, though. He looked up at the house, one window where the yellowed curtains were closed, the other window with no curtains. The house sat there with dark, empty eyes and it's white façade crumbling. Was he hiding in there? No, of course not. Just constantly walking, making a fire, moving on. Probably sleeping at night or in the afternoon. But constantly on the move.

    There was nothing interesting as he walked along the riverbank, just dry waist-high grass and thin, black trees with knotted branches. He walked on because he didn't want to stay, and he couldn't stay because he had a schedule and someone to meet in the next town. The weather was heavy and grey. There was no other behind or in front of him, except the mysterious fire-person. This was probably not the time for hikers, well they were not on this trail, anyhow. He walked past a big rock, reversed and sat down resting while he listened to the quiet murmur of the dull brown river. He barely noticed the light rain and took an energy bar out of his pocket.
    It was murky outside, so the night arrived earlier. He put up his small, green tent under a big pine tree. He found some dry wood and made a fire. The pitch black surroundings made him blind for anything out there. But the fire was always a comfort, warm and bright. A beacon to the lost, to make them feel safe, to make him feel safe. Whenever he had a fire going, he was never scared. The red and yellow flames flickered and the embers soared only to disappear in the night.

    He awoke by the sound of chirping birds. It was hard for him to move his body in the morning, it ached, and felt heavy. But this usually passed after he started walking. Looking out of the opening of the tent, the woolly mist hung low over the river. The air fresh and moist and he could smell earth and pine. The sky cleared when he was eating breakfast from a tin can. Light blue day, as he expected. His hands felt sore, but he didn't know why, and his fingers were grey.
    He packed all his things and moved on. Over rocks, creeks and meadows and through forests so dense that it felt like evening. Out of the dark and through more open woods, the sun patched the ground. He stopped and paused. A few metres ahead of him was a campfire, in a clearing.
    He walked towards it and looked around. Only coal and ashes left. He bent down and sniffed and put a hand over it. Slightly warm. He examined the tall trees surrounding him, looked through the shrubs and listened very carefully. Nothing. There was never anything.
    He came to a stream, sat down where the sun could scorch him and closed his eyes. Shouldn't he be more worried? Someone was constantly ahead of him, even though he didn't necessarily follow a trail. He blinked and looked at the shimmering clear water that trickled through the rocky terrain. Down, where he was going. At least according to the compass. He had to take off his jacket, it was too warm. The wristwatch showed a quarter past two.

    He had come down to the main road and decided to follow it. Few cars passed him while walking. One of the cars had actually stopped and asked if he needed a lift. Probably because of his backpack and his wavered walk. Maybe he looked tired. He kindly declined and the pickup drove on. It only took a couple of hours before the first few houses started popping up. Here and there along the road. Walking further into the small town he saw the familiar sign hanging outside a big, yellow house.
    He found his sister, an old friend and his uncle sitting by the table right next to the window in an old-fashioned restaurant, chatting quietly. It took a moment before they noticed him walking towards them.

    «Oh, Benjamin!» his uncle said, stood up and hugged him.

    «God, you smell.»

    His sister grimaced but hugged him long.

    «Been a few weeks since the last wash?»

    His friend gave him a short, but heartfelt, hug.

    «Your face is an unkempt garden.» His sister said and sat down.

    «You must be starving? Eating bark?»

    «Canned food isn't the best.»

    «So, you're eating bark instead. I thought so, it's the kind of thing you would do.»

    «All well?» his friend intervened and looked at him closely.

    «Alright, no troubles.»

    «Good to hear,» said the uncle

    «now let's order some food for the hungry.»

    He ordered steak and potatoes and a can of beer. He only now realised how incredibly tired he was. His legs ached, his shoulders were sore. All he wanted was to go to sleep, but he felt he had to share his story of the recurring campfires.

    «You know, I can't be the only one walking this route.»

    The others tuned in on him.

    «Always ahead of me, almost the whole way since I started, someone's been making a fire. But ... I've never seen or heard the person.»

    «Well, you're not the fastest walker, are you?» said the uncle.

    «I'm not slow. Besides,» he hesitated because this disturbed him the most.

    «it seems to know where I'm going before I even do. Even off trail, when I choose a random path, there will be a campfire there. No flames, but still warm.»

    His sister looked worried. His uncle leaned over and eyed him with a curious look. His friend just stared at him.

    «It?» the uncle repeated.

    «Well, I just don't know if it's a he or she, that's why I said it.»

    «OK, that's a concern.» said the sister eventually.

    «Might be a psycho on the loose. You need to stop here. Or at least, don't trek alone anymore.» added the uncle.

    There was a silence when the waitress came and took their plates.

    «What do you think?» he asked his friend.

    He looked down, as if he was thinking about something.

    «I think you should bring someone along with you.»

    «Is that going to be any safer?» said the sister.

    The uncle leaned closer in on him, his round face and round eyes peering at him.

    «Have you ever felt threatened, or something of the sorts?»

    He shook his head.

    «No, not at all.»

    «I'll come with you.» said the friend. He stared at him, as if he was searching for something.

    It was a while since he had slept in such a comfy nest. Silky duvets and sheets. There was a faint flowery smell, and of pure cotton. He was clean and had eaten a big breakfast. And he was ready to move on, finish his trek, even though that would take a couple more weeks. His friend was also ready. He came out of his room with a backpack, earthly-coloured sportswear and sunglasses on.

    «Now, if you help me out there, I will return it to you.»

    He thought it was a strange thing to say, but very typical of his friend.
    His friend was not an outdoors man. He wasn't sure if he'd ever been sleeping in a tent before, made a fire, or even crossed rivers. But he wasn't a city man either. And he didn't hate nature, he made that clear many years ago. Either way, he must have been desperate to make this decision. It was unexpected. They said their goodbye's to the sister and the uncle, reassuring them that it would be alright, and then set off along the main road again. Heading west.
    They walked the road for a while, not saying much to each other. His friend seemed to be in thoughts, but occasionally looking up when a bird sang or a tree creaked.

    «Ben, you been feeling okay lately?»

    Ben turned around and looked at his friend who seemed to slow down.

    «Yeah ...»

    «I'm asking because I'm genuinely concerned.»

    Ben looked away and walked on without saying anything for a long time. When they came to a small parking lot, and stopped by a map of the area, he answered.

    «You think I'm going crazy again?»

    «Can you show me your hands?»

    Ben showed his hands. His friend nodded and asked:

    «Are you afraid of this, when you're out there, all alone?»

    «Not as much as I should be, probably. I don't think too much about it, only when I encounter it, then I seem to forget.»

    The friend nodded again and said:

    «Ok, let's continue.»

    They followed the blue trail that lead upwards and into a quiet, grey forest.

    They walked up a long, steep slope. It was not really a problem for Ben, but he had to wait for his friend who constantly had to stop and take breaks. His face was glistening with sweat. He could hear him curse from time to time and that amused him. To be honest, he was happy to have a companion. Even an unfit one. He could hear a stream not so far away. He thought it would be a good place to have their lunch.
    They found a nice spot in the cool shade and ate their sandwiches. The twinkling water was calming and it was eerily quiet, except for a few birds. They were far up and had a good view over the nearby valley. Some of the canopy already turning orange and yellow.

    «When is that fireplace going to show up, you think?» asked the friend casually from underneath the branches of a tree. A light breeze sweeping over them.

    «Very soon ... I bet.»

    «Really?»

    «Yeah, sometime soon. I encounter a fireplace almost every day. It would be strange if it didn't happen today.»

    His friend repositioned and looked at him.

    «Are you serious? Then you've overdone yourself.»

    «What?» Ben looked up at him. His friend looked back at him with a serious face.

    «Why are you doing this, Ben?»

    Ben was hollow for a moment. Then he felt extremely heavy and couldn't move his feet or even his hands. It lasted longer than usual. His friend came down and patted him on his back. He sat down next to him, but didn't say anything.
    They found a grassy, idyllic spot right next to a couple of cedar trees. His friend was trying to figure out the tent. In the process he poked Ben in the stomach with one of the poles and apologised. After some struggles, it was set up. He showed him how to make a fire. And then they sat there on a dry log, the darkness descending, the stars appearing one by one. The air was so crisp and clear it was complete bliss to Ben. But he didn't know about his friend. He always looked over his shoulder and beyond the fire and into the woods.
    They sat staring into the flames, mesmerised.

    «We didn't see one of your notorious fireplaces today. Though we have this one.»

    «Oh, you're right. Maybe tomorrow.» Ben had almost forgot.

    They ate their soup. His friend looked up.

    «You're not making this up?»

    «No, I swear.»

    «I believe you. Anyhow, the night sky is not so bad, after all.»

    Ben was asleep in his blue sleeping bag, looking like a larvae. Rustling. Something creeping, crawling, or watching. He couldn't fall asleep for the life of him.Turning from side to side trying not to wake up Ben. Even though the tent cloaked him, he was scared, and he wasn't often scared. He sweated even though it was cold. How many hours had passed? He didn't know.
    Was he asleep? He could hear the zipper being slowly opened. He froze in his sideways position, discreetly moved his head only to see that Ben was crawling out of the tent. It was early morning. Cold, humid and light grey. It might have been that he just needed to pee, but no. There was something else and this scared him more than the bears and wolves. He heard Ben run away.
    He didn't know how long he sat, waiting for him to come back. The sun appeared like a faint glowing orb outside the canvas, warming the inside of the tent. It felt so stuffed he had to get out.
    The forest was lively and not at all menacing in daytime. He went and poked in yesterday's fireplace, black and cold. He sat down on the log, the sun streaming through the opening of the trees, warming his face. How far away was Ben, or how close?

    He emerged from the light shadows of the nearby forest around breakfast time. Pale and bearded and with hollowed cheeks. Seemingly unaware of him sitting there, he crawled into the tent and remained there for an hour or so.

    «Camping is not very idyllic, and it doesn't help that you're running away like that.» His friend looked at him.

    Ben didn't know what to say. It was all a blur, and he felt more exhausted than ever.

    «I knew it wasn't your spirit animal walking ahead of you.»

    Ben looked at him.

    «I had a feeling, but ... I really can't remember.»

    «No, you never do. You're going to be completely worn if you don't quit now.»

    Ben lowered his head, his spine trickled.

    «I'm sorry.»

    «No need to apologise. But, we're heading home today.»

    They sat silent for a while, feeling the warmth of the rising sun in the late, late summer.
     
  13. GeoffreySmith
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    GeoffreySmith Member

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    An Empty Parking Lot [1704]

    Phoebe extinguished her cigarette on the ground, leaving the small, crumbling ashes on the cracking asphalt. She stood and walked toward a tall man who was hustling to his car.

    “Hi can I talk to you?” She asked, trying to keep her voice level. She wiped her forehead of sweat.

    The man turned, astonished, and, disappointedly, he nodded.

    “I uh hitchhiked into town from, from out in Deyton and I don’t have no way to get outta here and I… can you help me?” Phoebe asked carefully.

    The man smiled and put the car key in the door of his sleek black car. “All the way from Deyton, huh?”

    Phoebe nodded.

    “Live out there?”

    “I uh, it’s a long sto-” Phoebe fumbled,

    “Mmhhm,” the man interrupted. He brushed his hand through his hair.

    Phoebe rubbed the end of her blouse. “I had to, uh… come down here..” Phoebe said, her voice wavering.

    He smiled, slid into his car, and shut the door.

    Phoebe exhaled and searched her pockets for the small, red lighter she carried with her. In an instant, she’d drawn a cigarette, lit it, and stuck it between her lips. She inhaled a breath of smoke, and closed her eyes, feeling the red sun pulse through her eyelids.

    Phoebe felt cold sweat darkening her thin, red blouse. Her cigarette was cool and stiff in her mouth. It felt good between her dry lips. She wandered through the parking lot, keeping her eyes peeled for people and dodging cars.

    Phoebe had been there for 4 hours now. The late morning had drifted to the afternoon, and it was only getting hotter. She’d snagged two cartons of cigarettes before leaving her house and had smoked a pack already. The soles of her grey slip-on shoes burned against the simmering asphalt.

    Rubbing her eyes, Phoebe listened to the hum of cars driving down the road that wrapped around the parking lot. The car’s zooms were like a muffled song echoing through the sky.

    Frustrated people trickled out of the craft store, and the store’s music from the buzzed quietly when the sliding glass door zoomed open. A woman in a long blue dotted skirt walked out. Phoebe extinguished her cigarette and stood, wiping her brow of sweat and wringing her nervous fingers together.

    The woman kept her head on the ground and hustled to her car, her short, thick legs moving quickly beneath the thin fabric of her skirt.

    “Hello, ma’am,” Phoebe said.

    The woman, caught off guard, stumbled backward, looked at Phoebe, then wrinkled her forehead and glared.

    “Can I talk to you for a moment?” Phoebe asked.

    The woman suspiciously glanced around the parking lot and turned from Phoebe. “No,” the lady said, her heels clicking on the asphalt as she walked away.

    “Ma’am I don’t have a ride or nothing, and I’m so hot. Do you have some water at all? Ma’am… I…” Phoebe stopped when the woman turned and glared at her.

    Before Phoebe could say anything else, she’d climbed into her car.

    Phoebe sighed and rubbed her eyes, trying to take her mind off her parched lips. She grabbed another cigarette, snatched out her lighter, and set the smoke between her lips. Resolute, she walked to the store exit, hoping to get help.

    A man, wearing a blue shirt that hung loosely off his stomach, walked out of the store.

    “Sir, please, can I talk with you?” Phoebe asked.

    The man glanced at Phoebe, shook his head, and continued walking.

    Another person hustled out of the store. Before Phoebe was ten feet away, she shook her head, and beeped her car unlocked.

    “Sir,” Phoebe asked another man as he walked to her, “can I please have some money? I have nowhere to stay or eat or drink and I,” the man looked down and quickly shook his head, keeping his brisk pace toward his car.

    “I don’t have any cash on me. I’m sorry.” The man said.

    Phoebe wiped her eye of sweat. “Please!” Phoebe shouted at the fat man, “Do you have anything? Water? Food? I’m so thirsty.”

    The man continued walking to his car and kept his eyes away from Phoebe.

    More people strolled out of the store, carrying half full bags between their fingers. Each person-- the man in the suit, the family of three, the woman with her dog-- shook their head after Phoebe asked. .

    The hours melted into each other and the afternoon hung in the air. Phoebe stumbled across the deathly hot parking lot, the glare from the cars blinding in the mid-afternoon sun. Her head throbbed with needle-like bursts of pain, pulsing like a metronome behind the eye. Water and shade, that’s all Phoebe wanted or thought about as she wandered the barren parking lot. She wiped her face with the sleeve of her blouse.

    “What a pretty blouse I’m ruining,” Phoebe murmured aloud. Her head was locked on the ground, and her eyes were pinned up in a perpetual squint. “What a pretty little blouse. Pop would not be happy if he saw how sweaty it is,” she shook her head incessantly, like a tick. “‘No no no’ he say. ‘No no no!’” Phoebe shouted, blinking sweat from her eyes.

    A woman, briskly walking to her car, surprised Phoebe.

    She blinked at the woman and, trying to regain her composure, wiped her head of sweat.

    “Do you have some money for me?” Phoebe asked innocently.

    The woman jerked her head up and saw Phoebe’s red face. Phoebe’s hair was damp, and her shirt, dark with sweat, clung to her thin figure. An unlit cigarette hung between Phoebe’s fingers and she stared at the woman.

    Phoebe, frustrated, asked again. “Huh?! You got something?” She stumbled toward the woman.

    Nervously, the woman set her bag on the ground and rustled through her purse. She had three bills, a 20, a 10, and a 1. She looked up at Phoebe, who stood in front of her, staring with confused, squinting eyes, and grabbed the $1 bill.

    “Here. Here you go. Go get something,” the lady mumbled. Phoebe, receiving the dollar, lurched forward to grab it and examined it carefully.

    “This a fake?” She asked suspiciously. “This a fake?!” She raised her voice.

    The lady turned away, afraid of Phoebe. She slung her purse back on her shoulder and picked up her bag.

    Phoebe held the bill up to the sun. “There’s no water mark!” Phoebe shouted, facing the sky.

    The woman glanced nervously at Phoebe and quickly slammed her car door shut.

    “She gave me a fake! You gave me a fake!” Phoebe shouted, marching toward the woman’s window. “Ahhh! Damnit!” She yelled, tearing the bill. She shredded it apart and threw the torn green paper into the air.

    “Did you hear?!” Phoebe shouted, her face inches from the woman’s car window, “you gave me a fake! Huh? Did you hear?”

    Phoebe tapped on the window. The woman jumped and stared at Phoebe, terrified. She motioned her to get away, put the car in gear, and quickly pulled out.

    “Ahhhh!” She yelled, tearing at the roots of her thin blonde hair. “Where’s everybody?!”

    No one responded. A man, entering his car, lowered his eyes from Phoebe.

    “C’mon, boys,” a nervous mother commanded of her two small children. “What has happened to this town?” She asked as she scurried away.

    An elderly woman shuffled past Phoebe who sat on a cement stopper exhaustively wringing her hands through her hair. The woman scoffed. “Look at that cigarette. Lazy, lazy,” she murmured, hoping Phoebe would hear.

    Phoebe didn’t hear. She heard nothing, saw nothing, and felt nothing but the hot cement on her butt. She dug at her itchy eyes with thin shaking fingers

    “Ma told me, huh? Ma told me just right. The big city ain’t no better than dirt and grime just like out there,” Phoebe said, quietly. “All these cars and people and things but nothing different t’all, huh?”

    Phoebe stood. “Why it gotta be so hot?!” She shouted. She wrestled her blouse off her chest. She had a pale bra on. Her skin was clammy, red, and dry like the underbelly of a dog. Suddenly, a violent nausea overcame Phoebe

    Seeing the outline of a woman, Phoebe began shouting again. “You got some money I can have?” She stumbled down, back to the cement stopper. From the ground, she continued shouting at the outline of a woman.

    “I’m from Deyton. I had to leave this mornin’ because ma saw me vomiting and knew right ‘tway that I was pregnant. And I am. I hardly knew it myself but I am. And so I came all the way down here for some help and some family. I haven’t find any family yet but some lady gave me some money. It didn’t help much. I guess. ‘No no no’ that’s what pop would say.” Phoebe said to the still sky that rested above her.

    “My head hurts so much. Can you hear my head? Why does it hurt so much!” She tore at her hair. “I’ll lay down and maybe then I’ll get to sleep. I don’t even feel him. It’s a boy. I think I’m going to name him Jay. Think that’s a good name for a boy? Pop would say ‘no no no’ but that’s alright. The sky is pretty. Look at all that going on in the sky there. Blue and black and some red. Little lines racing around in the sky. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a sky so pretty. Wow. First time in a lifetime. Have you?” Phoebe sat up, raised her head to check for the woman.

    She wasn’t there.

    Vomit suddenly spilled out of Phoebe’s mouth in big chunks that rolled onto the ground. Then, with shaking hands, she reached for her lighter. After a few strikes Phoebe got the smoke to ignite. She breathed the cigarette in slowly, rolled on her side, and closed her eyes.

    She drifted away, finally escaping the blistering heat.

    It didn’t take long for the cigarette to burn down to Phoebe’s fingers, a small trail of ashes settling on the asphalt beneath her limp hand.
     
  14. srlekhak
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    srlekhak Member

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    Location:
    Coimbatore,India
    Blunt Force [611 words]


    He walked towards the cliff, the urn in his hand. His sister, Amrita offered to come with him.

    "I want to do this alone" he said, his voice breaking.


    The cliff by itself was a small one, but he was older now and climbing with the urn in his hands was difficult. They had come here on their first anniversary, the same year he had opened his own clinic and she decided to quit nursing and stay home.

    "This place is so beautiful, I could die here" she had said then. There they were now, Varkala beach.

    Few more steps, he thought. A few more steps, to total freedom. A feeling of relief had already started descending on him.


    Last week he bought a large decorative flowerpot and suggested that they keep it at the landing of the stairs. She had loved it. That was the problem with her, love. She loved him in such a submissive yet overpowering manner that he had started to hate her. First little by little, her smile, her walk, the way she talked, dressed, even slept, he hated her very existence. Fifteen years of marriage, twelve years of hate.

    How could she who loved him not see that he hated her? What kind of love was that?


    The cremation urn was a ceramic pot; a white cloth was tied on top to prevent the ashes from spilling out.

    He folded the sleeves of his white kurta upto his elbows before untying the yarn. She was dead and gone.

    He smiled at her ashes. The same way that she smiled when ever he insulted her. Nothing drove her away from him.

    He had tried a couple of times before. Altering her medication was impossible because of their professions. He had tried pouring oil in the bathroom. Nothing happened. He had tampered with the kitchen wiring once but corrected it, too obvious he felt. It has to be a blunt injury, he knew. She went downstairs to make coffee as soon as she got up. Stairs, of course! His eyes lit up. It was so clear to him in an instant. He found four plastic transparent bags and placed them in the edge of four different steps. If she falls on her stomach, she will hit the flowerpot, he calculated.


    He was awake the whole night. At about six in the morning he heard her get up. His hands were sweating. He heard a thud, and then two and then he stopped counting. He waited till she screamed. It was just as he had thought. Twelve stairs, granite, her choice. Her eyes widened with hope when she saw him, he would lift her up. He picked up the plastic bags and went back into the bedroom. The flowerpot hadn't been necessary, after all. Police came and went. He didn't hear anything he said and blamed it on his cough syrup.

    Accidental death, it was ruled.

    He put the yarn and the white cloth in his pocket. It was customary to immerse the ashes in the river, but he wanted to make it special. A place so beautiful she could die. He titled the urn and the ashes started falling. A strong wind blew some of the ashes into his eyes. He placed the urn near his feet and started rubbing them. Suddenly the ashes rose and formed a small whirlwind. Scared he moved behind, a small rock fell off the cliff first and then a huge thud and then another.

    "Blunt force” her voice echoed in his ears as he screamed, his sister froze as she saw him bump several rocks before falling into the sea below.
     

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