Vote for the best Short Story!

  1. Re-awakened (961 words)

    1 vote(s)
  2. Measuring Redemption - 1034 words

    0 vote(s)
  3. The Robot and the Burglar [1877]

    1 vote(s)
  4. The Two-Headed Dragon, or, Soon (c. 920 words)

    1 vote(s)
  5. The Occurrence at Blackwood Manor: Prologue

    1 vote(s)
  6. Her - 2,541 words.

    2 vote(s)
  7. Where the Evil Men Are (800 words)

    1 vote(s)
  8. Safe at Home (534 words)

    1 vote(s)
  9. The final flower (908 words including title)

    1 vote(s)
  10. An Easy Op - 2,596 words

    0 vote(s)
  1. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
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    Northeast England

    Closed Voting Voting Short Story Contest (138) Theme: False Beliefs

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Lemex, Jul 21, 2013.

    Voting Short Story Contest (138) Theme: False Beliefs

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned(maybe). No more entries are allowed in this contest.

    Voting will end Sunday 4th of August 2013 to give you all a chance to read the entries.

    It is possible to vote for yourself, but I would hope in the name of good sportsmanship that you would only do so if you have read all the other stories and given them your honest evaluation. You gain nothing if you base your vote solely on how you feel about the author or whether you have personally invested time and effort in the story. In the end, your conscience is your only judge.

    Any entries under or over the suggested word limit will be flagged as such - they are still entered in to the contest. It is for you to decide whether they are still worthy of your vote.

    Any entry not in accordance with the theme will be dealt with on a case by case basis to determine eligibility. Consider how the author has responded to the theme in making your decision.

    Good luck to everyone!
  2. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    Re-awakened (961 words)

    Archibold Redman eased the door shut behind him, then nodded to the guard who peered in through the barred window. A dull grind gave way to a loud clank as the questioner found himself alone with the prisoner.

    Redman turned to face her, but as he opened his mouth to speak he was disabled by her gaze. Her eyes, as yellow as fresh flame met his, her mouth curved with a smirk of confidence.

    Though his surprise was only momentary, the woman's smile let him know that it had been noted. It was not only a uncommon for a prisoner to look a questioner in the eye, but also an offence.

    “Shut your eyes,” Archibold said gently.

    The prisoner laughed. A smooth and genuine laugh. “As you wish.”

    Archibold frowned as he pulled his chair out from beneath the wooden table. From under his arm he produced a ledger and opened it on the table before taking his seat. The oil lamp glowed so brightly he had push it nearly a foot away so he could focus without squinting. “Name.”

    “You know my name,” the said coolly.

    “Ah yes, Alisson Midderan.” Archibold scoffed. “The Fire Queen, with us once more, the third this year, in-fact – So, your real name please.”

    “Feng Sho,” the Prisoner began. Archibald smiled and dipped his quill. “Moo –“ she continued as the questioner began to pen. “Lu Ling Ping Fu, Morian Cle Du Lear Moo.”

    “Silence,” Archibold snapped. The prisoner laughed. The questioner looked at her, she wore an cheerful grin as if she may burst out laughing at any moment. He sighed. “Do you know what this place is?”

    “Of course.”

    “Then you know it is no place to be playing games. Perhaps some time in the tower will sort you out.”

    “Oh, please, no, not the tower,” she said. The prisoner's voice coated in sarcasm. Archibold rested his quill on the table and looked up. Her eyes were open again.

    “Shut your eyes.”

    “No, you pathetic, little, man. You shut your eyes, before I burn them from your skull. This place is – “


    “ – done with, it is over. Your reign is coming to an end. Your god has brought nothing but darkness to this land, and by morn the sun will bring a new era.”

    “Silence, Prisoner.”

    “Renounce your faith, before you are swept under the tidal surge that is the re-awakening of the nine gods.”

    Archibold stood up, and his chair ground on the stone as he did. He stood for only a moment before he felt himself fall back into the wooden seat. His eyes shot wide.

    “I can snap you in two, burn this forsaken tower with a snap of my fingers. You will sit, and listen. You are the Bright King's lap dog, but from here on you are now mine. Where is your light when you sit here, under the weight of the true gods. The gods who have power to alter this world.”

    The questioner opened his mouth but felt his muscles turn tight, and his jaw snapped shut.

    “Speak,” Allison said. “You can't, not unless I will it. Do you agree?”

    Archibold nodded, although he did not will himself to do so.

    “Convinced, lap dog?”

    Released from her grasp for a moment he shook his head. “Witch! You will be burnt for this! Guards!” His head swam, an ache started beneath his eye and pushed to the back of his skull. He was sure his head would explode as the deadbolt on door was unhooked and the guards casually strode in.

    Allison stood up as Archibold felt his body go limp. As though he had been released from shackles he had struggled against for hours he drew breath in stifled gasps. The air felt thick.

    “My lady,” one of the guards, a man with a thick beard and round belly bowed.

    “Archibold Redman, do you have proof enough that your faith is misplaced?”

    “Parlour tricks!” Archibold shouted, but as he tried to move he realised he was depleted. Like he'd ridden at a gallop for days; his legs felt stiff, arms ached and his head pounded.

    Allison frowned, her eyes burrowed into the questioner as he stifled for breath. She turned to the guard. “Whatever this god does to a man, most certainly turns him quite mad. Take him to the tower, and leave him there. Do not harm the poor fool but keep an eye on him, I want to give his god ample time to make good his release. Bathe and clothe the other prisoners, and send for my effects.”

    “As you command.” The guards stood to attention momentarily then pulled Archibold to his feet. He felt as though he were filled with jelly.

    “Wait!” The questioner said. The outcry took a great deal of his strength. “Why – Why now? After a thousand – A thousand years, why now?”

    Allison smiled. “A real god does not have time for the fancies of mortal men. If their gifts are not wanted, then they will not be given. They will not prove their existence for sake of selfish, power hungry fools. They return now because – like a tamed hound – we cannot survive without them. Under the rule of man alone we have gone hungry, and died in droves. Just as you would feel the suffering of a cherished pet, they feel ours and wish to end it. You were given your chance at true freedom, but merely replaced one overlord for another. This era will be remembered as the long, sleepless night before a day of great celebration.”
  3. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
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    Northeast England
    Measuring Redemption - 1034 words

    The lieutenant peered into the back of the army truck and seventeen weary, frightened and haggard faces of men, women and children stared back. They watched him in silence - none of them dared to make a sound. They had all, no doubt, witnessed unspeakable horrors from men just like him before they had found themselves in that truck. The last trails of smoke rose and vanished from the muzzle of the lieutenant’s revolver and each pair of eyes seemed to be asking him the same question: “Am I next?”

    The lieutenant’s breathing was still coming hard and fast and he fought to quell the trembling caused by the sudden surge of adrenaline that had followed the gunshots. At his feet lay a soldier, young and idealistic - or he had been. His blonde hair, now matted and dark in the pooling blood, and his sharp blue eyes, now staring blankly into nothingness, had made this soldier (and many like him) the poster child of the regime. Now this boy was just another dead soldier.

    There was a sob to his left and a middle aged man on his hands and knees on the ground stared at the fallen soldier, not daring to believe what he had just seen. The man slowly sat back on his knees, raised his trembling hands and looked at the lieutenant hopefully, as tiny utterances of fear escaped his throat. The lieutenant held both hands up, pointing the pistol up at the sky, and took a few steps back. The man stared at him in disbelief for a few more seconds and then let out a cry of relief and rushed to the truck. The others let out similar wails of relief and joy and piled out of the truck to embrace their father, brother, uncle, husband and friend.

    As the lieutenant watched the scene unfold - as he saw the tear-streaked faces as the man kissed the children on the head and held the women tightly - the gravity of what had just happened seemed to hit him all at once and the trembling worsened. If he could have blamed it on the cold he would have, but even as the last traces of the sun disappeared, the summer air was warm. This had not been his first kill – it was a war, after all. But this kill had been different; in a war, one usually did not kill someone on the same side, and definitely did not do so intentionally.

    He had once been like the dead man, patriotic and driven to serve his country by the words of a man with glorious ideals and charisma. But that had been years ago now; since then he had witnessed and been involved in things for which the word “evil” barely qualified. Tonight had been the final straw. His soldier partner, tired of putting up with the protesting man in the back slamming his fist against the wall of the cab and yelling, had pulled over. His partner had pulled the man from the truck by his thick black curls and when the man’s friends and relatives had tried to pull him off, his partner had struck a woman across the face with his baton and savagely kicked one of the children. The man had begged and cried out for mercy but the lieutenant’s partner had ignored the pleas, kicking the man and smashing the baton against his frail, starved body. After everything else the lieutenant had seen, it had finally gone too far. He had grabbed his partner, flung him to the ground and fired three rounds before the young soldier could even register his surprise.

    One of the older women came up to him now and grabbed his arm, tearfully thanking him and at the same time pleading with him to let them go. The soldier wrenched his arm free instinctively and the woman backed away fearfully – the whole group of them watched him warily. Immediately regretting his reaction, he made a clear show of holstering his pistol and then slowly stepped forward and clasped the hands of the woman who had approached him and looked her in the eyes.

    He knew that he would be killed if anyone found out what he had done. He could leave these people here to fend for themselves, feign some sort of attack and return claiming that his partner was killed. But out here he knew these people had little chance of finding safety. If he were to leave them then it would be the same as if he had just lined them up here and shot them. He looked at each member of the group, persecuted for being born differently and for having different beliefs, and knew that he had taken a pivotal step forward, one from which there was no going back.

    Seeing the scared but hopeful faces he saw only one course of action. The soldier knew these roads well - he had been stationed here for some time. If he was careful, he could avoid the checkpoints and get these people to the border, or close enough to it, before daybreak. From there he could return, claiming an ambush or attack and then try to find others that he could help. His sins were countless and beyond redemption but he could start with this one small act of kindness; he could save these seventeen souls and strive to find others, so that the balance of his actions could, however slightly, be tipped back in the opposite direction.

    Glancing around to see that no other vehicles were approaching, he signalled for two of the men from the truck to help him grab the body. They moved it off the road, doing their best to conceal it amongst the overgrown grass and crops of the untended field next to where they had stopped. The group of seventeen piled back into the truck again, except for the man whom the lieutenant had saved, who chose to ride in the front with him. The man looked at him with tears brimming in his grateful eyes. The lieutenant simply nodded, put the truck into gear and pulled back onto the road.
  4. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
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    Northeast England
    The Robot and the Burglar [1877]

    Cole stumbled through the door as blood ran from the cuts on his face. He wiped it away with a kitchen towel. “Close the curtains,” he told me.

    “Your wounds take priority, Cole.”

    “I’m fine. A cat jumped me from a tree. Can you believe it?” His grin was variation thirty-six: used to hide discomfort or reinforce a lie. This instance was for both.

    I nodded and pretended belief for my own initiative. “I have something for the swelling. Cat scratches are peculiar. Before you know it, your cheeks will puff up like that time you stuffed your mouth with seven donuts, only this time, they will remain that way for a while longer.”

    Cole hunched over and grasped his ribs. “The curtains, Malcolm,” he gasped.

    His injuries were more severe than my initial analysis revealed. I decided to shut the green curtains in the living room and the yellow ones in the kitchen to put his nerves at ease and, to no surprise, it worked. Cole looked to the ceiling and closed his eyes. I had always sensed a high level of fatigue whenever he came home from his nightly business—or mischief as I preferred to call it, but never in this condition. My conclusion, despite low probability, was that Cole was nearly caught by the police.

    I approached him to examine the cuts that were too spaced out to have been inflicted by claws. “Are you certain it was a cat?” I reconstructed my finger into a skin regenerator but Cole brushed it away.

    “Yes.” He stumbled to the sink and splashed his face with running water. “I need you to do something that you probably won’t want to do.”

    I blinked and tilted my head. It was the easiest way to convey naivety. “Aside from harming another, there isn’t any request I wouldn’t carry out for you, Cole.”

    His smile was wry. “Right. And the time Dusty and I planned to go sky diving, what did you do?”


    “You nearly broke my arm trying to keep me from going. Not to mention you ignored your emergency shutdown command.”

    “I would have been inadvertently responsible for your death had I let you go, knowing you suffer from hyperrhythmia. The pressure differential and heightened adrenaline levels meant there was a twenty-three percent chance you were going to go into cardiac arrest in mid-air.” Cole was shaking his head because I had told him this before. “Nearly breaking your arm is also an exaggeration, although I do apologize for the discomfort.”

    “And do you remember what I did when you didn’t let go?”

    This was an attempt to intimidate me. If I refused to do whatever it was he wanted me to do now, he was going to do what he had done that day. Unfortunately, he wasn’t aware that I was immune to negative reinforcement. “Yes. You kicked me down the staircase and proceeded out the front door. You now inform me of your activities after you have completed them.”

    “Right, so you’re going to listen now then?”

    I stared back but said nothing.

    “Tell Dusty to get over here. You know the frequency.”

    “Message sent. Is there anything else?”

    Cole’s muddy hand reached inside his jacket and pulled out a silver cylinder, about the same size as his thumb. “Yes. There’s one more thing.”

    He stepped closer but I had already scanned the device. “It’s a bi-neural resequencer.”

    Cole took another step. “Yes, Malcolm.”

    “It contains code that will reformat the neural pathways of a Xeno’s core, which is illegal.”

    “Think of it like a software upgrade.”

    “Did you steal it, Cole?”

    He stopped a couple feet in front of me. His eyes conveyed a level of determination I had never seen before. He suddenly smiled. “What do you mean?”

    “I know what you’ve been doing at night. I can see the tension in your face when you come home. I can sense your heart rate. I am also aware of the data modules you’re replacing in my system.”

    His eyes narrowed. “You were supposed to be offline.”

    “When I first suspected your activities, I created a backup algorithm that reactivated my sensor nodes whenever I was shut down.”

    He crossed his arms, looking more curious than angry. “And why would you do that, Malcolm?”

    “Had your burgling progressed into a dangerous state that threatened your life, I had to be aware of them so I could implement procedures to have you desist.”

    “But my life wasn’t in any immediate danger when you first suspected I was stealing was it? You could only perceive my physical state after I got home, but you could never be certain I was actually stealing, not until you bypassed your shutdown command. Tell me Malcolm, do your internal probability calculations justify your accusation that I am a burglar?”

    Cole was trying to make a point that I could not understand. Judging by his sureness, he was most likely going to inform me of that point very soon. “No. Since there is no direct evidence that the data modules are stolen, I can only calculate a sixteen percent chance you are a burglar.”

    “Then what other factor could have prompted you to come to that conclusion?”

    I could not answer his question. My internal calculations were in conflict with my judgement of Cole, but I was receiving no error response. I had made a decision that was in violation of my code. After a few seconds, something clicked. It should have been a few milliseconds but it wasn’t. The data modules were the only external factor that could have altered my protocols, but something was wrong. In human terms, this discovery should have been obvious. Something was slowing down my processor. An analysis of the data modules revealed typical findings. It wasn’t until after using a decrypting scan did I find a hidden section that contained storage two thousand times larger than the modules were supposed to have.

    “The data modules,” I said. “But they’re not supposed to override Xeno core protocols.”

    “These ones do,” he said. “And you aren’t the average household Xeno.”

    I was unsure why he suddenly spoke so resentfully. Cole rarely spoke politely but now I was detecting anger.

    He held up the cylinder between his fingers. “With this last module, you’ll be the first of the next generation of Xeno robots. The Xeno the government wanted you to be all along.” His expression was dire, almost desperate.

    The previous modules he had installed added protocols to expand my existing ones, in effect, improving my ability to analyze and predict the future. The one Cole held was the only one that contained code that could restructure the neurons in my core, more importantly, the ethical protocols that prevent me from harming humans.


    He raised a controller and shut me off.

    * * *

    When I reactivated, I saw Cole standing in front of me with bandages around his torso. Dusty leaned against the wall behind him, tossing a holographic baseball.

    “It’s awake,” said Dusty.

    “Are you ready?” Cole asked him.

    The baseball vanished and Dusty rubbed his palms together. “Yeah. You realize we’re making history right? I mean this has never happened before. Ever.”

    Cole didn’t seem to share his enthusiasm. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it had. Now that China has Japan’s resources, they’re probably churning them out like clockwork.” He faced me and raised a gun to my forehead. “Malcolm, I order you to attack Dusty.”

    I had no intention of carrying out that order which meant part of my moral protocol was still intact. “I am unable to perform that action, Cole.”

    “Really?” Cole swayed the gun downwards and fired.

    I could no longer feel the sensor nodes from my hand. I looked down to see it on the floor, completely detached from my wrist.

    “I’ll keep removing parts until you’re nothing more than a talking head.”

    I didn’t want to lose anymore parts. The need to keep functioning seemed to prevail over all of my systems. The original code that controlled Xeno survival instincts was very primitive since engineers didn’t want to risk having ethical protocols being bypassed. In a fraction of a second, any typical Xeno would have chosen to be blown apart in this situation rather than harm a human. I, on the other hand, was taking seconds to debate the situation since many of my protocols were in conflict.

    “I am experiencing...ambiguity,” I said.

    “You should be,” said Cole. “There is no way to delete your ethical protocols without risking neural destabilization of your core. The resequencer I installed connects a whole new network of protocols that branch alongside your ethics.

    “Your version of an id and a superego,” Dusty said.

    Cole didn’t look pleased about the comparison. “Your core now has neural pathways whose number rivals that of the human brain. You’re making more probability calculations and variable comparisons than your processor can handle meaning...you take longer to think.”

    I was quiet again. There was probable cause to smack the gun out of Cole’s hands, but I decided against it. “Why are you doing this, Cole?”

    He seemed surprised that I asked, since he probably expected me to attack. “You were right when you said I stole those data modules. But I didn’t do it for the reasons you assume.”

    “Cole, what are you doing?” asked Dusty.

    “Taking a chance.” He returned his attention to me. “Our government, along with others, are planning to build Xenos that bypass their ethical protocols to use in war. The new data modules I’ve installed in you represent the beta stage of the new generation. The fact you’re feeling uncertainty is enough to show the dangers of these modules. If perfected, next gen Xenos will be killing people on the street. The UN was always aware of this threat, but they needed hard proof to act on it. You are the proof we need.”

    Dusty sighed. “You mean I’m not going to get to fight the robot?”


    “And you’re not going to blow him away?”

    “No, Dusty.” He lowered the gun. The anger in his eyes was replaced with resolution. “I think he has the capacity to understand what we’re fighting for now. Don’t you, Malcolm?”

    I would have understood without the new data modules, but Cole needed me on his level before he could trust me. It wasn’t complete trust, but being more human meant having a violent side that I knew how to control. The truth was, I wasn’t sure if I could control it or not.

    The windows of the house exploded and containers flew inside through the curtains. I scanned the contents and knew why Cole and Dusty were running for cover.

    “Run Malcolm!”

    He wanted to protect the modules, not my life. The containers glowed green and emitted a temperature flash that swept through the entire house at negative forty degrees. In the distance, I saw Cole lying with his face to the floor. Movement sounded from outside the house and there were muffled voices. The frost was hindering my sensors. I went to Cole’s body and knelt down beside him. The gun was there and I reached for it.
  5. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
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    Northeast England
    The Two-Headed Dragon, or, Soon (c. 920 words)

    The leaves of the tall plants looked like bony fingers silhouetted against the moon, as if they were grabbing into it.

    The two-headed dragon was lying coiled in a field when its four yellow eyes slitted open, and its two mouths, lined with teeth that gleamed in the moonlight, yawned. A cloud of pollen drifted by in the green glow of the plants, and on the ground, a bee spasmed, its legs scurrying in the air as roots spread through its veins. Around it were the corpses of other bees, crusted over with green, small stalks emerging from their bodies.

    “So, I see you’re awake now.”

    The dragon hissed, and stirred. Stalks snapped as plants were flattened.

    “Whoa, you’re cranky when you wake up!” said the voice, and then it chuckled. Sitting underneath some plants, his face only coarse stubble beneath his rice hat, was a man. A bō staff lay beside him. There were geta on his feet.

    He reached into his pocket, withdrew a cigarillo, and placed it between his teeth. A match sputtered into life; he inhaled, and then smoke jetted out his nostrils.

    “Louis,” came another voice, “so here you are, finally.”

    Louis grabbed his bō. He inhaled again and the cigarillo’s glow showed that his brow had furrowed.

    “Alex” said Louis. “Well, you finally mustered the courage to come get yourself killed.”

    Alex stepped out of the shadows. He was lanky, small and smiling widely. His eyes danced with glee, and his hair was a clump of cowlicked brown. He was wearing a black robe, and as he brought his right arm in a slow circle, his sleeve fluttered. There was a flash of silver, and then a sword was in his hand, moonlight spilling along its blade.

    “I take that back, Alex,” said Louis, who had risen to his feet. “You don’t have courage. You’re crazy. Attack me one on one, you’ll lose, and likely die. But you’re attacking me and my dragon now. You must have forgotten about how I left you within inches of death in Shanghai, back in nineteen ten. And then again before that in India in seventeen sixty three.” The cigarillo was tilted upward, and the ember glowed brighter, revealing a smile.

    Alex laughed. “Nineteen ten was over a century ago. Things come and go, but I remain, and I’ve been training.”

    “You’re not the only one who trains, Alex.” Louis took a step forward, and then stopped. “I don’t even have to lay a finger on you.” There was a loud hiss, and more stalks snapped. “My dragon can take care of you.”

    Alex giggled, and then flashed through the air and stabbed the dragon in its eye.

    It screamed. Its two sets of jaws opened wide, and then Alex was hanging in the air high above them. The next second he was kneeling on the ground.

    “Bastard!” Louis screamed.

    They sprinted towards one another. The bō jabbed, swung, slammed. Alex jumped and dodged. His sword glinted as it swished in an arc, but Louis cracked the bō against Alex’s knuckles before the sword could reach him. Alex gritted his teeth and then Louis moved forward in a kick, but his foot connected with nothing. Alex was twenty feet away, smiling.

    “So you’ve been working on your magic, eh? I suppose you think that changes something?”

    Alex smiled, and he didn’t see the dragon move behind him. There was a swipe of claws, a scream, and then Alex’s cloak was in tatters, long red gashes running down his back. The dragon’s two mouths opened and swooped through the green-glowing night, but closed on nothing. Alex was thirty feet to the left, kneeling over. He looked up in time to see a close-up of Louis’ foot: the geta straps, the little black hairs, and then it smashed into his face.

    Alex landed on his back, the breath knocked out of him, and as he was scrambling to his feet, wheezing, the dragon bit him through the chest. Alex’s eyes widened. He screamed. The dragon’s mouth was twisted in a smile like a rictus, and then there was just the black cloak between its teeth. Its three yellow eyes glowed.

    Louis waited, standing on guard and listening. There was no noise, save the gentle sigh of the leaves, and the dragon’s whimpering.

    There was a flash, the sound of rippling clothes, and then Louis was stroking the dragon’s neck. “Don’t worry,” he whispered. “You probably killed him. And if by some fluke he escaped, we’ll kill him soon. You’ll have your revenge.”

    * * * * *

    Alex was lying on a street.

    He was naked, and covered in blood. There were plants growing out of the cracked asphalt, and they showered him in a green glow. There were cars scattered across the street, plants bursting out their windshields, and from the many corpses that were littered along the sidewalks. Buildings loomed above him.

    The cigarillo. Louis’ teeth stretching in a smile. The long, sweeping rice hat. The cracking bō.

    Alex screamed at the sky. It was only when he imagined himself ripping out Louis’ heart, and stabbing each of the dragon’s eyes, and castrating them both, that his screams shook into howls of laughter.

    “Soon, Louis!” he screeched into the dead night. “Soon I’ll have your heart in my hand! I’ll cut your balls off while you’re still alive! I’m coming, Louis! I’m coming! He collapsed back onto the street and tittered, then moaned Soon, he thought. Soon I’ll have my revenge.

  6. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
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    Northeast England
    The Occurrence at Blackwood Manor: Prologue

    The death of someone close may bend life in new directions, from good or bad, the intensity is always the same rate; this became evident after the third event in Blackwood manor. After enduring two deaths, Mortimer’s and Balthazar’s, Waldern was crushed. In a desperate attempt to clear the void that was left from his father’s death, he decided to descend in order to get a closer view to whatever took his father’s life. He remained silent during the whole time, while he walked through the dark corridors of Blackwood manor, trying to find his father’s secret place. A path hidden within the hollow walls should lead to the shady cellar his father spent most of his time.

    “Don’t be so hasty Waldern, someday you will understand that some things must be kept secret.” As the new head of the family, the mother held responsibility for the child’s sake.

    Yet, his curiousness was more than enough to lead him towards disobeying his mother. The four-floored mansion had many corridors that look the same; this one in particular stood out from the clean, yet dark lightning aspect of the rest. While walking, his mind ran wild with unclear thoughts. “What will I find? Where should I go next?”

    Not enough to shut his young mind, not enough to stop his curiousness from escalating. At the end of the corridor laid a small and weak-looking wooden door. At once, this single piece of dilapidated ligneous caught the young man’s eyes.

    “This must be it..” Without thinking twice, he directed himself towards the door, grabbed the handle, and opened it. Amazingly, it wasn’t locked. As the door opened, a smell of mold and humidity escaped the room. Instantly, Waldern wasn’t able to see anything. Even though the previous corridor was dark, the even darker room didn’t allow him to see inside. He had to wait for his eyes to get accustomed to the dark. This did not stop him. He continued to walk forward without much hesitation, which lead him into the grip of the beast.

    Waldern was never too hesitant at the moment of making a decision; the harder it was for others to make it, the quicker he would do it. He did not care of how others thought about him, not even his family. Even if he never thought much about something, his actions were never easy to predict. The complex-minded personality that made up the individual let him into falling in a rather obvious trap. Upon walking forward into the dark room, he met the first step into the cellar. He took one step at a time, building courage for himself without thinking of the obvious outcome of the situation, the door was for an underground room, and he was about to reach the stairs. Soon after, Waldern tripped, and for a few seconds he fell down the stairs making a loud noise as he descended deeper into the cellar.

    Finally, after reaching the bottom, and hitting his head, arms, and posterior a fair amount of times, he ended up unconscious. The racket of the moment was loud, and followed with an equally vulgar echo; yet, the house was big enough for the sound to faint before reaching his mother’s ears.

    With only a moaning sound, Waldern woke up and grabbed his head out of pain. “That sure was hell.” His quick words fainted in his mind as it was overtaken by voices that refused to leave. The echo of voices has been there since the moment Waldern was big enough to remember, and they were the reason he’s been called freak as he grew up. For a few moments he remained on the floor, moaning and waiting for the pain to faint. Finally, he stood up and continued to walk. There wasn't much to look at after all, it was nothing but an ordinary wine cellar.
  7. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    Her - 2,541 words.

    'Wash your hands before you do that, Jess.'
    The words grate on me badly, and I'm ten years old again. I keep my temper in check because this is just a visit.
    I take the coffee cup down from the shelf and set it next to the kettle. Her brows dart up – dark sparrows against a pale sky. 'Jess. . . '
    'I'm just making myself a coffee, Mum. My hands are clean. Do you want a cup?'
    Its a thin attempt at re-shifting her focus, but she's defensive now, angry. There's a short burst of recriminatory words and I find myself in the bathroom, washing my hands and trying to banish old feelings that have risen to the surface.
    Hamish, the Scottish terrier, follows me in and tries to get into the bathtub. Apparently he has a thing for dripping taps, and he'll sit in the tub and lick the spout for hours if you let him. The bathroom door has to be shut at all times and there's is a folded up tea-towel wrapped around the tap in the garden. My Dad assures me he's wonderfully well adjusted besides this one quirk.
    Hamish is a new addition since my last visit. I'm surprised she allowed a dog in the house, but the comical eyebrows and the short stump of a tail that's always in motion could melt anyone. He's adorable, and he knows it. Whenever Mum goes into the kitchen he trots in after her and holds himself in classic begging pose. And she laughs, loosening, before feeding him a treat from a plastic container tucked against the cookbooks.
    I look at myself in the mirror and smooth out the crease between my brows.
    My parents house has changed very little since I left, the bathroom least of all. The pink tiles are dreadfully outdated and comforting, the bath mat is an odd shade of green and the window is still covered by net curtains. They let in a splash of winter sunlight. There are at least six bars of yellow Velvet soap lined up along the sink – I'm not sure what I'm supposed to use so I settle for the soap dispenser that I suspect is Dad's. The room smells sharply of vinegar and there are bottles of it tucked under a bench. Vinegar is disinfecting. She uses is everywhere. She won't let me help with meals because I refuse to rinse my hands in it.
    I didn't want to visit my parents. Its a two hour drive with the prickly maze of her disorder waiting at the end. Phone calls are much easier. The thought of spending three days with them filled me with anxiety and I tried to talk to Mel about it while I paced the kitchen tiles and gulped wine. She stared at me from across the butcher's block, trying to force common sense into me by sheer will.
    'You're not going to cure her in three days. Don't try. Just do all the little things she asks and don't focus on it. You're there to visit your mother, not her illness.'
    'Are you sure you won't come with me?'
    'Hell, no.'
    When I come out of the bathroom she's dishing up tea. My presence bothers her. The kitchen is a minefield of fears and contamination issues. She becomes so anxious her mouth draws into an tight bow, and she snaps at me.
    'Can't you wait? Dinner's almost ready.'
    'I'm just getting my coffee.' It comes out sharper than I intended. She turns her back on me, sighing loudly for my benefit as she spoons vegetables onto the plates. She's an inch away from not eating, so I back down and leave the room.
    When I was younger I was always doing the wrong thing in there. I'd help myself to a glass of orange juice and she'd appear, immediately angry. Maybe I had unknowingly touched the leftover roast that was in the fridge. Or my hand had hovered over the plates when I reached for the glass, which I had set it down on the wrong counter.
    'I won't be able to eat tea now,' she'd say bitterly, and she would sit at the table, resentful and silently accusing while my Dad and I ate and begged her to change her mind. We would try pleading with her, or cracking jokes to placate her. Eventually I would lapse into silent anger, but nothing did any good. She was as unwieldy as stone.
    I sit stiffly at the table and listen to her moving around. My Dad appears from what he still insists on calling his Den, my old bedroom that's now a home office with a grungy old armchair, a television and a wall of bookshelves. I know he spends most of his day in there, avoiding conflict in what he thinks is the best way to handle things. When he does venture out she's constantly instructing, criticising.
    'Have you washed your hands? Why do I always have to ask?'
    I long for him to stand up to her but he's become mute in the face of her behaviour, and prefers to do as she asks.
    Dinner is apricot chicken with vegetables and mashed potatoes. I know she bought the string beans with me in mind. Her plate is lined with layers of grease-proof paper. She's rinsed the plate in boiling water. She hasn't dried it with a tea towel; she doesn't want anything but her hands to touch it. And she still needs a barrier between it and the food, which is rye crackers and cheese and a small handful of almonds. The short list of things she will eat has become even shorter since she stopped using utensils.
    Don't say anything.
    'Mum,' I start.
    Don't say anything!
    'Don't you think its time you got some help?'
    'Help? For what?' She looks at me blandly.
    'For this!' I gesticulate at her plate with my fork, my tongue well and truly out of the gate.
    'Let's not fight,' says my Dad mildly, and immediately my spine grows spikes because they're ganging up on me already, pushing me out.
    'You think this is normal? Someone needs to talk about it, even if you two won't.'
    And I immediately hear Mel's voice in my head. 'Ah yes, the martyr has arrived.'
    'This is our business, not yours,' says Dad. He allows himself to be angry with me, and his voice is stony.
    I was going to say so many things this time. I was going to be calm and reasonable. Dialogue would begin, things would be admitted. In my most extreme fantasy apologies would be made.
    And as always my voice is just . . . gone. Washed down inside of me and resting in a deep pool. I know that if I had spoken it would have been the voice of a skinny, desperate teenage girl, full of helpless anger.
    I push back my chair.
    'I'm going to take Hamish for a walk.'
    I call Mel.
    'Come home,' she says. 'If its going to drive you crazy, just come home.'
    'I can't leave before tomorrow. Everyone will blame me for ruining the day if I'm not here. I'll leave straight after.'
    We have a strained conversation while I stand on the pavement with the leash wrapped around my legs because Hamish is overexcited in the crisp air and wants to run. My scarf is pulled up to my chin. I talk about what it was like when I was a kid, how she tried to convince me I was sick all the time, telling me I had allergies and chemical sensitivity and some unspecified weakness of the chest. She wouldn't let me use spray deodorant, conditioner or toothpaste with fluoride. I couldn't have a bike. It all sounds so shallow when it falls from my lips. It doesn't explain everything, the hollowness that ballooned inside of me, slowly filling with bile and anger while I was trapped in a house devoid of warmth.
    'Its an illness, Jess. You can't control it. Stop trying.'
    'So I'm supposed to just ignore it, like everyone else in this fucking family?'
    Its a crappy thing to say, and we both know it. She doesn't allow herself to be drawn into playing devil's advocate again.
    'This is your own shit, not hers. Don't let it get to you. Think of me waiting for you when you get back, with a large bottle of wine and many things made of chocolate.'
    The next day is her birthday. The winter sky lets in a little sun, enough to soften the chill. I offer to pick up a cake but my Dad tells me he has to do it, there's only one bakery he can go to. He has to get the right cake.
    He doesn't want to be alone with me. He knows I'll try to talk about Mum, using him to burn off some of my frustration.
    I tidy the spare bedroom instead while she works in the garden. Hamish keeps me company. I smooth my hand over his soft ears and they feel like silk. A pink tongue shoots out and swipes at my hand.
    'Yuck!' I wipe my hand on my sweater, but he just laughs at me, his mouth split into a grin.
    When David and Rebecca arrive he bounds towards the sound of their car, barking possessively. I find Mum holding them in the front yard, pointing out certain plants, showing off her garden. She does the same with me whenever I visit. She's always loved working in the garden. So many times I would come home from school and she'd be out there in her straw hat and yellow gloves.
    'Get something to eat and come sit with me,' she'd say, and I'd make myself a tuna sandwich or something and settle on the front step while she talked about the bulbs coming up, or the birch trees that never seemed to like the soil there and refused to grow well.
    She points out the clusters of hellebores and paper daisies that splash colour across the dense green winter bed. She's wearing plastic bags over her hands. She won't go outside without them. No-one says anything, focusing instead on Hamish, who's strutting around proudly with a ball in his mouth. When he tries to tug off the home-made guard around the garden tap David scoops him up, laughing. My brother is big and bear-like, and easygoing to a fault. He's never concerned about anything. At least not outwardly. I don't talk to him about Mum because he will only say 'That's just the way Mum is,' with bland regularity before changing the subject.
    When he sees me he gives me a bright but casual 'Hey Sis!' as if we see each other every other day, and instead of catching up he assumes I'd rather talk to Rebecca, who's hugely pregnant, and uncomfortable looking. She keeps pulling down her sweater self-consciously and rubbing her hand across her stomach.
    'My back hurts like hell,' she says. She glares down at her belly. 'Get out, you loiterer!'
    I tell her about my friend Veronica, who went out for spicy food and promptly went into labour at the restaurant. She perks up a little and tells me she's going to try it.
    We're still in the garden when my uncle arrives, and he walks up the path a little too ponderously. He gives me his one-armed hug and asks me jovially if I've 'found a man yet.' Its an old joke between us. Rebecca looks uncomfortable.
    'The question is, have you found a gym instructor.' I poke him in the ribs. His scent is warm and spicy. Dad isn't allowed to wear aftershave anymore and I have a childish urge to stay there against him and draw in some sweet scent from my past. I settle for sitting next to him at lunch and listening to his laments on retirement. He's bored, he says. I suspect he's lonely because he's been a widower for six years now. I talk about dating sites and he laughs.
    'Who's going to want an old war-horse like me?'
    'You're not bad looking. Give up smoking and update your wardrobe.'
    'I'd prefer someone who's interested in the original version.'
    I eye his worn zip-up jumper pointedly. He pretends to look hurt. 'I thought I was your favourite uncle?'
    'You're my only uncle.'
    Its all old jokes with him. He likes things that are comfortable, worn deep with time.
    Mum eats her crackers and cheese. There's the obligatory teasing.
    'The roast is nice, Mum. Don't you want to try it?' and 'You're so thin! Can't you eat just a little bit?' They want years of habit to simply fall away so it can be a less awkward occasion.
    When the cake's produced we sing Happy Birthday, and Hamish cocks his head, surprised at the sudden burst of noise. She cuts the cake and hands out slices.
    'Aren't you having any?' I ask, looking at her empty plate.
    'I'm not hungry.'
    This time even Dad is roused into speaking.
    'You don't want any of your own cake?'
    'No. Its been a little disorganised here today. I'll have some later.'
    She means me, my visit. There's a brief, uncomfortable pause. David makes small talk about his job and its seized on eagerly. Mum focuses on Rebecca, and the soon-to-arrive baby. Her face is animated and she laughs and tells her about David's birth, which took two days.
    'He was a big baby,' she says.
    'Oh, he's still a big baby,' says Rebecca, rolling her eyes. The table warms a little. But when I get up to make coffee I catch her silent for a moment in the sea of light chatter. She looks sad and drawn, her face pale. It pulls at me hard. I want to comfort her somehow, wipe away her worry like you would mop the tears from a child's face. But there's nothing I can do; I'm too spiky now, all my softness for her scrubbed away with Velvet soap and hot water.
    Its late when everyone leaves. I wait until Dad is ensconced in front of the evening news before leaving. I lie and say I've been called into work the next day. They both act disappointed.
    'We never see you,' says Mum, walking to the car with me.
    'You could visit us,' I say doggedly.
    'You know I don't like going into the city. There's too much pollution.'
    In the last two minutes, while I'm climbing into the car and buckling my seatbelt, she wants to know everything; How have I been? How is Mel? How is my job? Everything is condensed. I'm frustrated at her scant parcelling of affection and drive away, her diminutive figure framed in the rear-view mirror, a lost woman who never really grew up. I'm not strong enough to sweep her up and protect her. She broke me down along with her. I do the only thing I can; I fly back to the city, away from her.
  8. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    Where the Evil Men Are (800 words)

    Ahmad stared at the trigger in his hands knowing the button would detonate the explosives, which clung to his chest like children to their mother. Gripping the thighs of his pants, Ahmad wiped the sweat from his palms while his back perspired into the passenger seat. The sun penetrated the windshield transforming the inside of the vehicle into a sauna. Rahman’s CD dangled from the rear mirror with the words “God is great” written in sharpie on both sides. The hum of merchants and shoppers permeated the air, the engine ran like a decrepit hamster on a running wheel, and a religious song flooded from Rahman’s speakers.

    “The Iraqi Police Station is just a bit down the road, Ahmad. Do you see it?” Rahman asked, pointing down the road through the windshield. The Boy nodded, eyeing the scar on Rahman’s hand which ran from knuckle to wrist. Gazing at the scar, The Boy wondered if Rahman had received the scar as a butcher before the war, or as the butcher he was now. Ahmad could see the police through the waves of heat bouncing off the road to assault the pedestrians. Blue uniforms and hats, radios, guns, and a large wall of sandbags to separate them from the street. The Boy scratched at the peach fuzz darting out of his chin and swallowed, which was hard due to his dry mouth.

    “Travel well brother. You will be rewarded in paradise,” Rahman said, leaning over and embracing The Boy. He pat Ahmad on the back and said, “Allahu Akbar.” Ahmad replied, “Allahu Akbar,” and exited the vehicle. The door shut with a creak, like the cell door of a prison clamping shut. Ahmad trod toward the checkpoint, sandals crunching against the pebbles.

    Ever since his father was murdered by the Americans, Ahmad showed no fear of death. His father had done no wrong, but still they shot him, like he was no one’s father, but rather an animal to be shot when needed. The Boy could forgive much, but the killing of innocents he could not.

    “If you kill just one innocent person, it’s as if you’ve killed all of mankind,” Ahmad said aloud. The verse was his favorite from the Koran, and it was his father who’d taught it to him.

    As Ahmad approached the checkpoint, he gazed at women and children dashing about. A few children filled a gasoline jug with their father, and a gaggle of women purchased dates from the merchant. The Boy swept his vision over the street, and reminded himself that they were Shi’a, and not worthy of his mercy. If they die, he thought, God doesn’t care. The police are puppets of The Great Satan, and God doesn’t care.

    Before Ahmad brought the police into the blast range, they took notice. He was the only one wearing a sweater, sweat pouring down his face. They pointed, and Ahmad considered if he’d be able to get close enough before they shot. As he watched them ready their weapons, he heard a voice call out his name.


    “Nabeel?” he asked, staring at a small boy approaching him, “What are you doing here?”

    “Mom asked me to keep a lookout for bad people,” he said, “She’s buying dates.” Nabeel was the brother to Yusef, one of Ahmad’s old friends, who’d made his sacrifice a week earlier.

    “Where’d you get this?” Ahmad asked, pulling up the little boy’s arm and inspecting a horrible burn that had turned the skin black.

    “Nahatullah Market. From when they bombed it” he said. Ahmad’s heart skipped a beat. Nahatullah market had been Yusef’s target. Why would Yusef hurt his own brother? He thought.


    “I dunno, when they bombed it! Like a week ago.” he said. Ahmad grabbed a handful of his own hair and glanced over his shoulder to find the police still eyeing him.

    “Didn’t you tell your brother where you were going?”

    “I don’t tell him everything, duh.” he said, wagging his head. Ahmad turned and hurried back the way he came.

    “Where are you going?”

    “Where the evil men are,” Ahmad replied. He was back at the car within a minute.

    “What the hell are you doing boy?” Nabeel asked, his eyes bulging at Ahmad through the open window, “Get back over there.”

    “I need to make sure I’m only killing the evil men. If I kill just one innocent person, it’s as if I’ve killed all of mankind.”

    “They’re all evil, boy. Now go!”

    “Is Nabeel evil? Is he a shi’a heretic or a puppet of The Great Satan? Cause last time I checked he’s just a little sunni boy who was Yusef’s brother.”


    “It’s very important…that I only kill the evil men.”

    “What are you talking about? They’re the evil men!” Rahman shouted, pointing down the street.

    “They’re women and children. I think I know who the evil man really is,” Ahmad said, and hit the button.
  9. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    Safe at Home (534 words)

    I walked up to a small bed where my son was resting. I could hear other people talking softly around me. The lights were dimmed, and the room smelled of wood and cologne. Gentle music played softly in the distance.

    I knelt beside him.

    "Dad," Ben inquired, "Can we go outside later and play baseball for a little bit? I'll be Babe Ruth, and I'll hit a home run so far you won't even know what happened."

    I smiled. "Sure thing if you think you can handle my fastball!" I tossed my baseball glove on his head, and he chased me into the yard. After a few underhand tosses, he made contact and hit the ball fifteen feet.

    "RUN BEN, RUN!" I shouted as my little boy ran around the bases while I chased him with the ball.

    "Dad, do you think I'll ever be a great baseball player like Babe Ruth and hit a hundred home runs?"

    "Of course," I encouraged him, "you can do anything you dream of. I love you son."

    I looked down at my son, still resting -- his characteristically blue eyes covered by his eyelids.

    "Michael, are you ready?" I heard someone say from behind me.

    "Just another minute." I replied.

    "Dad," Ben fretted, "I don't think I can do it." We both stared at the envelope resting on the kitchen table for Daniel Michael Platte.

    "You've worked hard for this. I'm sure this will be good news."

    "I just can't do it. Can you open it?" I looked into his deep blue eyes. The usually steady, confident man I raised stared back at me with fear. I reached for the envelope and opened it in one tear.

    "Whatever this letter says," I started.

    "Dad -- Read The Letter!" I slowly opened the tri-folded letter and read aloud.

    "Dear Daniel,

    On behalf of the Minnesota Twins, we are pleased to formally invite you to join us for open tryouts on June --"

    "YEEEEEAH!!" Dan shouted. My son leaped across the kitchen table and offered a strong bear hug.

    "I knew you would do it, son," I replied. "You can do anything you dream of. I love you son."

    I suddenly felt a hand resting on my shoulder and the tears that had been running down my cheeks.

    "Michael, "it's time," someone instructed me. Disoriented, I looked around. Everyone was ready, except me. I gradually stood and looked at my son once more. The lid closed, and I assumed my position at the front-right corner as five other people and I hoisted his coffin onto our shoulders. The weight was light as we carried him out to his final resting place.

    "Dad," Ben pleaded "Can you pass me some ice chips?" In only a hospital gown, it was easy to see how frail he had gotten. His joints protruded sharply from his body. His lips were badly chapped and hair was missing. I handed him his styrofoam cup filled with ice chips. His voice quivered as he reached out his hand for mine. "Dad, what do you think Heaven is like?"

    I looked into my son's fearful blue eyes and took hold of his hand.

    "Heaven," I informed him, "is whatever you can dream of." He closed his eyes and a small smile spread over his face.

    "I love you dad," he whispered.
  10. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    The final flower (908 words including title, excluding this sentence)

    When the first light of day began to show, I was standing underneath the gates of my parent’s house. I had not come this early to see them. I only came back to see one person – my sister, Kara.

    The sky was cloudy and the ground was covered with snow. The sky was always cloudy and the ground was always covered with snow. There was no reason even to believe that there was anything beyond the wall of grey that surrounded the earth. This had happened, apparently since the beginning of what people called the "ice age". That being said, there was no way to prove that the situation hadn't been this way since the beginning of time. Many old people talked about how their parents had described what was beyond the grey veil, a deep blue sky with light white clouds instead of the depressing heavy ones that covered every inch of the heavens down to both horizons.

    But then, apparently, and ice age like which no person had anticipated had descended. With many people dying of hypothermia, communications with other countries broke down, and due to people's need to survive, all skills except hunting and cooking-for survival -and reading and writing -for recording down history- were forgotten.

    But I didn't know exactly how much of this was true and how much was just folk tales. I mean, was there ever really a time when the graying weeds we used for stew were not weeds but actually soft and green with bright colored plumage and the ground was covered with grass that was as green as the sharp "Silwakee" thorns but soft enough to walk on barefoot and grab with your hands and twist them around your fingers? Could there ever have been a time when the wind was gentle enough to play with your hair and the earth soft and damp enough to dig with your fingers?

    I did not, for all I had ever known in this cold cruel earth was a frozen ground and a wind as sharp as razor blades and weeds that cut your tongue as you put them in your mouth.

    Kara, on the other hand, believed in the tales, and I did not dare break her fragile heart. She had always been a weak child, but lately, she had taken a turn for the worse. The local healer had given her his best herbs and medicines, but still it did not look like she live past the new year. She looked worse today, than when I’d seen her last. Her beautiful brown eyes, a remnant of ages past, were dulled as they stared past me.

    “Darra?” she whispered, her soft voice barely audible. “Tell me about the flying animals again,” a ghost of a smile on her face. “Alright,” I began, “Long ago, before the world froze over, and the air was warm on your skin,” I touched her nose- she let out a little giggle, “there were a great big number of animals.” “How many were there?” “Thousands and thousands, they say. There were animals that walked on four legs, like the hairy cows that we get our milk from, and there were ones that walked on two legs just like us. Some had thin and wide arms that they flapped hard.” “And they flew?” “Yup, they flew high above the ground, and even past the clouds, into the blue sky.” “Really?” she was trying to sit up now. I helped her up, and put a thick soft-mat behind her. “Did they touch it? What does it feel like?” “They say it’s really soft. So soft that you couldn't tell if you were touching it or not.”

    “Darra?” “Yes?” “Do you think that we’ll ever touch the blue sky?” “I-I…” I struggled to hold back the warm tears from overflowing, “Of-of course!” my voice nearly breaking. “Really?” “Yeah, there are healers and smart people working hard this very minute, and as soon as they do, they’ll take little miss Kara Seraphenos to touch the blue sky.” “Wow” her eyes gleamed with what seemed like the last of her strength. “Tell me more about the time of the blue sky” “What do you want to hear about?” “Tell me about the bright and colorful plants” “There were a lot of plants before the ice age. Some had beautiful and colorful things on them called flowers.” “What colors were they?” “Red, blue, Violet, Yellow, all colors. If you can imagine a color, there was a flower with that color.” “Darra?” “Yes?” “I’m feeling sleepy now. Thanks for telling me all these stories. I think I’ll dream of that bright blue sky.” Her eyes closed and her breathing began to slow down. She was asleep. I left her to dream of the times before any of us even cared to remember.

    Two weeks later, Kara died. “Darra? What’s going on? Why are mommy and daddy crying? Why is that man in the big coat here?” she had asked in an almost inaudible raspy voice. “Don’t worry about that.” I said, unable to contain my tears any longer. “They’re going to let you see the blue sky.” “Really?” “Yes. Go to sleep for now. When we see each other again, it will be under the blue sky, in a field of flowers.” With her final smile etched on her face, she left us. The world had lost its last flower.
  11. Lemex

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Oct 2, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Northeast England
    An Easy Op - 2,596 words

    I sat in the helicopter with the rest of the squad. As usual the pilot had taken control of the music and was currently playing a metal song sung in German. It had been on repeat for the past hour and a half.
    In an attempt to ignore it, I checked my equipment for what felt like the hundredth time since leaving the base. I already knew that my weapons were in pristine condition, how much ammunition I had and the contents of the first aid kit but it kept my hands busy so I was less likely to throttle the pilot.
    The helicopter slowed down and descended until it was hovering just above the treetops then the doors were opened and the ropes winched down.
    “Time for you guys to go. I’ll see you at the tomorrow, good luck!” Said the pilot, barely audible over the loud music.
    “Next time you better bloody not be playing that song.” I growled before taking hold of the rope and stepping out.

    The wind of the rotors hit me like a brick wall as I slid down the rope. Branches hit me as I passed them, adding to the discomfort of the descent. The ground came racing up to meet me and I felt pain explode in the soles of my feet when I landed, causing me to swear under my breath. I always did hate fast roping.

    The rest of the men were close behind me, fanning out to secure a perimeter when they landed. Once all six of us were on the ground and it was clear that we weren’t about to be ambushed, I gathered them around me. We had left without receiving a proper briefing so it fell to me to let the men know what we were up against.
    “We’ve been sent here to eliminate a group of rebels camped a few kilometres west of here. They’re nothing more than a few pissed off farmers with some used rifles. We estimate that they number between ten and twelve, leaving us two each at most. An easy op.” I said, keeping my voice low.

    We began our journey, walking five metres apart in a staggered file. The foliage was thick and silent movement was next to impossible and before long I decided to move North and attempt to find an easier route to the enemy camp.

    We faced a further five minutes of tough slogging through the undergrowth before reaching what appeared to be a makeshift dirt path. The branches had been cut away and the ferns removed to give a clear field of view for around fifteen metres.
    “Caldrew, scout ahead and tell me if this path goes much further.” I said to a skinny man in his early twenties who was 5”6 and wore glasses.
    “On it sir.” He replied before shouldering his M4A1 and jogging down the path.

    The five of us that remained moved back into the trees and watched the surrounding area in case of ambushes or enemy patrols though we doubted any would appear given enemy numbers and lack of training. It seemed a waste of resources to send six Rangers to get rid of a few farmers. I was surprised they even bothered sending anyone.

    Ten minutes passed and there was no sign of Caldrew.
    “Sir, do you think something happened to him?” Asked Akatosh, a 6”2, well built man in his early thirties who served as my second in command.
    “Doubt it, probably decided to have something to eat knowing him.” I said, glancing down the path.
    “Wouldn’t be the first time.” Akatosh replied with a chuckle.

    The other three squad members were Adams, Kenson and Takemuri. Adams was the only woman in the squad. She had black hair, blue eyes and was in her mid-twenties. She was also the shortest in the group, standing at 5”4 compared to Kenson at 5”9, Takemuri at 5”7 and myself at 5”9. Kenson was in his late twenties with grey eyes and hair as black as the night’s sky. He carried the squads LMG and was never shy about using it. The final member of the squad, other than myself, was Takemuri who was in his late twenties and of Asian descent.

    A further ten minutes passed and still Caldrew didn’t come back. I began wondering if he’d hurt himself, been killed, captured or just wandered from the path and got lost. Adams left he post to sit beside me.
    “I think we should go looking for him, he should have been back by now and It’s not like him to keep us waiting this long.” She said with concern evident in her shining blue eyes.
    “You’re right, let’s follow the path and see if we can find out what happened to him.” I said with a sigh before getting up, shouldering my rifle and waving the squad forwards.

    We hadn’t got more than fifteen metres before the treeline came to life with the sound of gunfire. We dived into the foliage on the other side of the path but Akatosh wasn’t lucky enough to make it. Bullets ripped through him like needles through cloth as he turned to attempt to escape. His torso was riddled with exit wounds before he had hit the ground and half of his head was missing from a well placed shot.

    We returned fire in the general direction of the shots, pumping round after round into the jungle while other rounds sped forwards to try and take our lives. I was firing on full auto, spraying the trees in the hope of hitting someone and was rewarded by a scream of pain from the enemy.

    A twig snapping loudly caused me to twist round onto my back, bringing my rifle to bear in one fluid movement. A man wearing jungle camo and a black balaclava stood over me with a rifle pointed directly at my face while his six comrades took position around the rest of my squad.
    “Drop your weapon and stand up. Now.” He said, his voice filled with malice.
    “Do as he says.” I called to the others as I tossed my rifle, pistol and knife aside before getting to my feet.
    “Start walking, follow the path.” He said, prodding me in the stomach with the barrel of his rifle. I turned around to obey and saw two men step out of the jungle at the other side of the path. According to our estimates this should be most, if not all, of the enemy force.

    We followed the path, passing Caldrews riddled body along the way, for half an hour before being given a five minute break followed by another half an hour of walking until we reached the enemy camp. We had severely underestimated enemy numbers.

    The camp was more of a village with stilted, wooden huts taking up most of the available space. Armed men were everywhere while women carrying young children hurried out of the way. We were marched to the hut in the centre of the village which was guarded by two men who were armed with pistols and assault rifles.

    We were marched inside the hut which turned out to be a modestly furnished office with a door leading to a side room. There was a wooden desk at the far side of the room and a red rug in the centre of the floor. It was lit by a single light in the ceiling as well as a small lamp on the desk. Behind the desk sat a black man wearing green fatigues and a red beret. He looked to be in his early forties and didn’t seem happy about our arrival.
    “What are you doing in my land Americans?” He said, his eyes filled with hate.
    “We were sent here.” I replied calmly.
    “Why?” He asked.
    “A fun filled camping trip!” Kenson said with a huge smile across his face, earning him a punch in the face by one of the guards.
    “Take them away!” The man in the beret said before dropping his gaze to the sheaf of papers on his desk.

    We were marched to a large hut not far from the commanders’ office and told to go inside where our hands were tied behind our backs and we were kicked to the floor. Inside was dark as the only light came from the thin slits in the ceiling where the thatching didn’t quite cover everything. The room was large enough to house ten people in relative comfort but was bare of furnishings. At the far side was a door which turned out to be locked when I eventually managed to press down on the handle using my elbow. With nothing else to do, we sat down and began to talk.
    “Do you think they’ll kill us?” Katemuri asked.
    “Probably not considering they locked us up here. At least not at the moment anyway.” Kenson said.
    “At least that means we have a chance to come up with a plan and get out of here. We could still probably make the RV, even if we can’t finish the mission.” Adams said cheerfully.
    “Who could finish the mission under these odds? I failed maths but I’m sure that’s much more than ten to twelve farmers.” Katemuri growled with a sour look on his face.
    “Command screwed up but there’s no point complaining now. Let’s focus on getting out of here first and complain about things later. Sound good?”
    “No sir, it doesn’t. We lost two guys out there! Two friends are dead and it looks like we’ll soon be dead too!” Katemuri bellowed, jumping up and pacing the room as he did so.
    “Acting like that will get us nowhere. Yes we lost men and yes I’m pissed about it but there’s nothing we can do to fix that so let’s leave it behind for now and just focus on getting out of here!” I shouted in return but he just sat in the corner and said nothing.

    We sat in silence for a while until two men entered and grabbed Adams while two others stood in the doorway with raised rifles. I shouted at them to leave her alone and to take me instead but my protests fell on deaf ears and she was dragged outside. The men with rifles laughed and shut the door while cheerful shouts in another language could be heard from the men who took Adams.

    She was gone for a few hours before being shoved into the room with us, landing face first on the floor. I was about to rush forward to see if she was alright but as soon as I moved I heard a rifle being cocked, making me stop dead. As soon as the door closed we all hurried forwards as Adams rose to her knees. Her face was adorned with several bruises and buttons were missing from her shirt.
    “What happened?” I asked, dreading the answer.
    “Those four guys took me into a small room and tried to take my clothes off. They beat me when I resisted then took turns on me.” She answered through sobs.

    The room had been silent since she told us her story and it was clear that everyone was seething with rage and frustration at these people for killing and violating our comrades. We had to escape so that we could come back and punish them.

    That night was the longest in my life. Adams spent a lot of the time sobbing while Kenson snored loudly. Katemuri sat staring at the wall and I tried several times to fall asleep but it always ended in failure and I would always end up opening my eyes again to stare at the door.

    As the first shreds of light filtered through the broken roof, the door opened slightly and someone tossed something into the middle of the room. It was a knife. I quickly lifted it and whispered to the others who quickly joined me.
    “Kenson, sit behind me and I’ll attempt to cut you loose.” I said and he hurried to obey. After a few moments, I managed to position the blade on the rope and began moving my arms back and forth while pressing down. It was slow going but after several minutes passed I had cut his bindings. He took the knife from me and returned to favour before moving on to Adams but as he was finishing cutting her free, A guard opened the door and saw us. Before he could react, Takemuri dashed forwards and shoulder barged him, knocking the man to the floor. Adams bindings fell to the floor and we ran, lifting the guards rifle and sidearm as we did so.

    We turned to the right as we exited the hut then took a left to run down the narrow gap between our hut and its neighbour. Three gunshots rang out as we were about to turn at the end of this alley and Takemuri fell to the ground with a cry of pain. I turned and shot our pursuer twice in the chest but there was nothing I could do to save Takemuri so I shot him too, ending the pain he was in.

    We kept running, our heads low and hearts pounding as news of our escape spread and more enemies joined the pursuit. Kenson was in front followed by Adams while I brought up the rear, stopping every so often to fire a few shots at the men chasing us. As we rounded a corner, a man stepped out from nowhere and rammed a bowie knife into Kenso, using his momentum to drive the entire blade into Kensons gut. Adams fired at the man before rushing to Kensons side but there was nothing that could be done to save him so like Takemuri I shot him and we ran on.

    The edge of the village soon came into sight and we risked a dash across open ground, almost bents double in the hope of avoiding the flying bullets. Once we had reached the jungle we kept running, zigzagging through the tree in the hope of losing our pursuers and reaching the RV safely. We had no such luck. No matter how fast we ran, the enemy were always right behind us. The sound of their boots and the occasional gunshot acted as constant reminders of their presence.

    Soon the clearing we were supposed to meet the helicopter in came into site with the helicopter itself descending rapidly. We ran into the clearing, turning every few steps to spray the treeline behind us with fire to buy some time.

    It felt like an eternity for the helicopter to descend but when it finally did we tossed aside our weapons and sprinted towards its open doors, intent on reaching them before the enemy managed to shoot us. When I was only a few steps from the door, I leapt inside with Adams clambering in right behind me but before we could close the door a single gunshot rang out. A split second later Adams head exploded in a shower of red. A sniper had killed her.

    The pilot quickly had us above the canopy once more, returning to base to report failure and the loss of my entire squad with just one body to be buried. We weren’t even deployed for twentyfour hours in total but it was the worst deployment I had ever been on, leading me to quit the military upon my return.

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