Please vote for the piece you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Aug 13, 2008.
  1. yellowm&M - Patient Chaos

    1 vote(s)
  2. Silque - The Human Cull

    5 vote(s)
  3. Chef Dave - An Event on the Neihuang County Road

    1 vote(s)
  4. Talako - The Adversary

    1 vote(s)
  5. DontThinkJustWRITE - Wrapped Around My Pinky Finger

    4 vote(s)
  6. Last1Left - Not Again

    0 vote(s)
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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
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    Manchester, England

    Voting Short Story Contest 26 - Theme: Antagonist's POV

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Aug 6, 2008.

    Short Story Contest (26) Voting Theme: Antagonist's POV

    Thank you for all your entries. The winner will be stickied until the next contest's winner is crowned.

    Voting will end 17th August 2008 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 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 strictly 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. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    yellowm&M - Patient Chaos

    Patient Chaos[845]
    The ticking of the clock was the only noise in the room apart from my quiet breathing. A single bare light bulb hung in the middle of the ceiling, casting a pool of light in the center of the room. The chair I sat in was at the edge of the pool so that I was hidden in the shadows. As I sat I stared at the door across from me, one of my fingers gently caressing the blade of my small silver knife under my cloak.

    The hands on the clock moved slowly as I waited, but I didn’t notice. I had waited for years to make my mark in this city and in history, a few hours were nothing compared to that. Besides, I had the patience that the rest of the world lacked. While everyone else was busy trying to bring their time to them I was content to let my time come to me. Now all I waited for was him. I knew he would be here, he would hunt me down and follow the clues I had planted. I was not like him; I did not chase anything down. He on the other hand did not no how to do anything but chase down the “villains of the city” as he so imaginatively called us.

    My eyes did not waver from the door as I waited, and I keep my mind alert and focused aware for any sign of his arrival. He was quiet and stealthy and he knew how to sneak up on people. However he was nothing at all compared to me. My years of patience had taught me how to use the dark and befriend the silence. How to wait for what I wanted and how to follow what wouldn’t come to me. This time, however, I needed only wait, he was coming.

    Quiet footsteps on the stairs told me he was here seconds before the door moved. A tall figure crept into the room; he too was cloaked in shadows, but I could make out the mask and cape he wore. He stepped forward slightly and stared hard into the darkness trying to discern my figure in the gloom; however I was still safe from his penetrating gaze. I was a master at hiding.

    “Where are you, Shadow?!”

    “Amazing how easily I blend into the dark isn’t it?” My voice was barely above a whisper.

    “I don’t want to play your games, Shadow!”

    “What games do you speak of?” I slowly stood up from the chair and reached a hand into my cloak, pulling out my small silver knife and a vial that appeared to be empty.

    “Your continual game of torture for the city, killing, and destroying, and forcing the people against each other to protect their families,” He paused for a moment then continued, “it’s time to end it, Shadow. I’m going to make you end it.”

    “Oh? And just how are you going to do that? After all you don’t even know why I sat here waiting for you instead of chasing you myself. You don’t know what I want.”

    “What do you want?” I smiled, then without warning I smashed the vial on the floor and threw the knife. The knife whistled through the air and sunk in to the wall behind him, pinning him there by his cape. He struggled valiantly for a few minutes then the gases from the vial overcame him and he became limp and motionless. I held the fabric from my black cloak over my mouth and nose for a few minutes until the gas was no longer concentrated in a single area. Then I walked forward and bound his hands together with a length of rope.

    I waited for him to come around; finally he began to blink his eyes open.
    “What do you want?” He asked again.

    “Who says I want anything?” I then reached a hand into my cloak and pulled out a small remote. He glanced at it warily then began to struggle against the knife pinning him securely to the wall. “You know what this will do? You have 40 seconds.” He struggled a little harder and I could see the knife loosening its hold. “I’m giving you ample time. What good is a game of cat and mouse if there is no mouse?” I whispered in his ear.

    Then I swept from the room down the stairs and outside. Once I was outside I pressed the button on the remote, then I walked slowly away. Seconds later an explosion rent the air behind me, and I slowly drew the overlarge hood of my cloak over my face. Out of the corner of my eye I saw fire and a dark shape run out of it. However, I did not chase after shape: I am patient, I do not chase. Screams began to break out as the fire spread and another explosion went off behind me. I smiled to myself as I walked. The only thing I love more than patience … is chaos.
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Silque - The Human Cull

    The Human Cull (1,155)

    You probably have some kind of idea about me; a kind of reverie. But you will never really see me, not really. I am substantive, yet illusory. I sense you view me as an evil spector, gnawing persistently at the flesh of life that presents itself to me, down to the very marrow of the bone; through ignorance, through neglect and through sheer bad luck.

    You try to defeat me; yet you cannot. I am the thorn in the side of the lives of many. The scratch in the roof of the mouth, that just won't heal. A plague in the cities of middle England, dark, forboding, invisible.

    I'm talked about often, yet the tone is bleak. I am a conundrum; I am the grand sudoku of the world that even the finest minds have yet to solve. Some say they already have, those people are kept quiet by your governments, for money prevails, in this stinking, ghastly, putrid, malodorous, greed filled land. You people repulse me; am I really the bad one? Am I really the villain? Am I really the one you should be focussing your anger on?


    Let me take you back to the year of 1968; a laboratory in Northern Virginia. A laboratory that you will not have heard of, and nor will you ever. His name was Malcolm Rogers, a man with very little in the way of social skills, a man confined to the white walls of an institute, hidden deep in the woods of a place far from prying eyes, and a man sentenced by compassion and love, not by money, or greed, or governments, to find out the why's, the what's and the how's of a sinister mystery. Namely, me.

    Malcolm had worked for the institute for nigh on 26 years. He had devoted his life, to the research. A research that would mean a life without love, without solid friendship and without compassion. Those three things would need to be invested, deeply, into his work.

    Now, what I'm telling you, is a revelation. Only a select few people know about the institute, and what goes on in there - and up until 1972, the government didn't have a clue it existed. I suppose this is why I'm enlightening you, because the sheer macabre of your gluttonous government excites me to my inner core. To be blunt, it arouses me.

    Malcolm worked hard. Harder than anyone else at the institute would even think about, but his peers constantly overlooked his work and his dedication. This frustrated him, but he didn't let it show; he simply took his anger out on the test subjects that he called his companions.

    It took time, it took sweat, it took tears; but eventually, Malcolm got what he was looking for. The serum he needed, the serum he craved, the serum that would make him a hero, a legend, a saviour.

    Malcolm was a man of good heart, but in this world, in your world - a good heart is often crushed into the ground without thought. It is not deemed satisfactory, by the hard nosed world, run by the cantankerous, greed mad fat cats that sit behind the scenes, handling each and everyone of you like oblivious marionettes.

    He had done it. In the Spring of 1972, Malcolm Rogers had done it.

    After days, weeks, months and years of trials and tribulations. After research, testing, cogitation, mind numbing dissertations presented to pug faced representatives, from institutes much higher than his and the determination of a fire ant. Malcolm, had done it.

    He had cured cancer.


    Now, I think you probably know who I am. Don't you? Although you will never see me, not really - I exist, here, now in the year 2008. Thanks to your planet, and the greed that encapsulates it.

    You see, Malcolm had found the cure. He had found the excalibur in which to destroy me. To rid me from existence. But there was a problem. A stumbling block, not seen by him, and never thought of by any...

    You didn't want a cure.

    Your government wanted me to stick around.

    You see, there are approximately 6,602,224,175 people in this world today. In 2005, approximately seven point six million people died of cancer, and approximately eighty four million more will die by 2015.

    Where would you people be without me? You need me. You hate me, you despise me, you focus all evil intentions and attention upon me, but deep, deep down - you need me around. To keep things in check.

    Your government. The greedy, choleric pigs that you pay your hard earned money to each and every year, call it 'The Human Cull'. Your planet is in a terrible way as it is, I mean, please - take a look around, there are people starving to death, all over the world. Do you really think, that nothing can be done about that? Get real. Your government is sitting on billions upon billions of your hard earned cash. Did you really think they were telling the truth?

    You idiots, spend millions each year on tobacco. Even with the 'SMOKING KILLS' slogan, splattered across the box, you still throw your cash over the counters. And yet, you turn around and pour scorn all over me? Is that not the everest of hypocrisy?

    Malcolm Rogers cured cancer in 1972, yet, he was told to forget he'd ever done it. The governments all over the world, couldn't afford to take the risk, that millions upon millions of people would be cured, thus further overpopulating this already mediocre blob of a planet. Their greed prevailed. They stomped the idea, the heart and the cure of Dr Malcolm Rogers into the ground, and let the suffering continue.

    Do you still hate me for what I am? I'm sure you do. But who am I to complain. I am thriving here amongst you imbeciles, you moronic tribe of pond worms - this is heaven for me. An all you can eat buffet amongst the gods.

    I'll leave it at that, I'm sure you wish to ponder my mutterings. I don't blame you.

    You probably have some kind of idea about me now; a different kind of reverie. But you will never really see me, not really. I am substantive, yet illusory. I sense you view me as an evil spector, gnawing persistently at the flesh of life that presents itself to me, down to the very marrow of the bone; through ignorance, through neglect and through sheer bad luck.

    I hope you view the people around you in the same vain. At least, most of them.

    Everyone starts dying from the moment they are born, they just go about it in different ways and they never really think about it until it's sitting at their bedside, cackling in their faces.

    I am just another way. I am the Human Cull.
  4. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Chef Dave - An Event on the Neihuang County Road

    An Event on the Neihuang County Road
    Henan Province, Empire of the Northern Song, 1123 AD

    [3002 words]

    Pssssstttt!” The lookout in the tree hissed at the waiting bandits. “Four riders coming from the north!”

    The hidden men chattered with excitement. Niu Gao drained his wineskin and tossed the empty bag over his shoulder. “Idiots! Shut your faces and keep still!”

    The bandit chief put his fingers to his mouth and gave the warbling call of a spotted wren. An answering call came from around a bend in the road where Cut-Purse Fang was hidden with seven archers.

    Assured that all was in readiness, Niu Gao hefted his war hammer and peered through the bushes. Long before he could see the riders, he heard the sound of voices over jingling harnesses and plodding hoof beats. Before long, four men rode into sight.

    The bandit chieftain was impressed. Judging from the quality of their robes, three of these men were either the scions of noble families or the sons of landed gentry. The last rider wore a coarse robe of plain cotton. Niu Gao reckoned this man to be naught but a servant.

    As the horsemen rode closer, the chief could see that the riders were young and fit. They were also armed. Each man wore a sword belted around his waist. Niu Gao frowned. The combination of youthful energy and lethal weaponry could be fatal to would-be heroes. The bandit leader could only hope that the young men would see reason since there were only four of them whilst the men of the green path numbered four and twenty.

    As the riders rode past his position, the chieftain gave a piercing whistle. Shouting bandits in mismatched pieces of armor erupted from the bushes on either side of the road. Cut-Purse Fang and his archers charged from around the bend in the road and leveled their bows at the horsemen. Men armed with rusty spears and halberds surged behind the riders, cutting off their retreat.

    Confident of victory, Niu Gao swaggered into sight. “Hai-yah!” he chortled, “What have we here? Four travelers coming through our forest what ain’t paid their toll?” He shook his head in mock despair.

    “Your forest?” One of the elegant young men raised an eyebrow. “My dear sir, this isn’t ‘your’ forest. This forest belongs to the great Song Empire. It belongs to Xiangzhou Province. It belongs to Neihuang County. Since my father has the honor to be the county magistrate, this forest belongs to my father. In other words, this is my forest.

    The bandits growled at the mention of the judicial magistrate whose civil authority gave him the power of arrest, trial, and execution.

    A second gentleman looked in askance at his fellows. “How truly wonderful,” he complained. “Here we are, surrounded by uncouth bandits and Zhang Xian has decided to antagonize them.”

    “At least I am doing something and not cowering in terror,” snapped the first man.

    “And what, pray tell, do you intend?” asked the third gentleman. “Will you flay these vermin with your tongue?”

    “Vermin!” Niu Gao glared at the horsemen

    “I was only trying to reason with them,” sniffed Zhang Xian.

    “Reason with them!” hooted the second man. “You are like the schoolmaster who ‘reasons’ with his students through the use of a switch. All you’re doing is bedeviling them. As for you Wang Gui,” he said addressing the third man, “What do you mean by calling these men ‘vermin?’ Surely this appellation was less than tactful. Scoundrels and rogues they surely are and murderous thieves as well, but the term ‘vermin’ seems unduly harsh given the circumstances. One might as well call them rabid dogs or pestilent scum whose lives are a boil on the buttocks of polite society.”

    The bandits gasped. “Now see here!” shouted Niu Gao.

    “A moment please,” growled Wang Gui. The gentleman shook a fist at his companion. “Why do you seek to anger me, Tang Huai? Ever since we were boys, you have been criticizing me. What does it matter whether I call these dogs vermin or the lice ridden get of a diseased whore? Since you insulted them, I should be able to insult them as well.”

    “I say!” spluttered the bandit chieftain.

    “Excuse us,” replied Tang Huai. “But my friend and I are having a private discussion.” He frowned at Wang Gui. “To answer your question, no, I did not insult anyone. I merely used a colorful metaphor. If these scoundrels choose to take exception to a metaphor, they are ignorant bumpkins and that is their problem.”

    “By the rotted Gods, no!” roared Niu Gao. “It is your problem! Now get off your horses, surrender your possessions, and mayhap we’ll let you live with only a heavy beating!” The bandit horde roared their approval.

    “Now you’ve done it!” howled Zhang Xian. “You’ve gone and provoked them!”

    “I provoked them?” Tang Huai stared at his friend. “Need I remind you that they outnumber us? It is also we who are being ambushed and robbed!”

    The magistrate’s son stared at the surround villains. “Point taken,” he admitted. “Well I suppose we have no choice but to extricate ourselves from this predicament.” He turned in his saddle. “Younger brother? Would you be so kind as to do the honors?”

    The plain clothed man whom Niu Gao had taken for a servant, leaned forward and pulled a scroll from his boot. The crisp parchment was bound with an over sized ribbon and a scarlet seal. Niu Gao blinked at the sight of a magic scroll. Before he could shout a warning, the stranger closed his eyes and popped the wax seal.

    Thunder crashed in the forest, followed by a flash of light so brilliant that the bandits were blinded. The archers flinched from their targets and loosed their arrows. Half of the shafts flew into the sky but the other half hissed between the riders, punching four of the brigands from their feet.

    Chaos erupted. Bucking mounts scattered the rouges, trampling them underfoot or flinging them aside. The bandits panicked. One highwayman fled in terror and was knocked senseless when he ran headlong into a tree. A pair of brigands who collided began pummeling each other with their fists. Most of the surviving bandits simply threw themselves onto the ground and cowered in terror.

    Having closed his eyes just before the spell was unleashed, Niu Gao flinched at the crash of rolling thunder. He opened his eyes to find the bandit horde dead, fled, or helpless.

    “Will you surrender, lout?” grinned Tang Huai.

    Niu Gao shook his war hammer. “Me, surrender? Pu-shih! I won’t surrender to cowards who hide behind magic instead of honest steel!”

    “Honest steel?” Tang Huai laughed. “You are a fine one to talk. How can a brigand speak of honesty?”

    “We are all honest men who were forced into banditry,” growled the chief. “You will find no murderers, rapists, or demon worshippers in this band. Given a choice we would have been happy to stay on our farms, but what can the xiangxia ren do when the harvest is bad and tax collectors take our homes and our land? How are we supposed to feed our families?

    The young men exchanged a look. Following the elevation of Wang Bangchang to the position of Chief Minister of the Imperial Government, taxes had been raised throughout the Empire. Seizures of land for tax delinquency had become all too common. Rumor had it that friends and cronies of the chief minister were now building or expanding their estates by purchasing farms and entire villages.

    “Your guilt or innocence will have to be determined by my father, the magistrate,” declared Zhang Xian. “So we ask you again, will you surrender?”

    “Shénme! What and face a trial followed by a thousand blows with a cane and life-long service in a penal regiment?” Niu Gao grimaced. “Better to die a free man than to suffer such a fate.” He raised his weapon and glared defiance at the horsemen. “Come then and taste my hammer. Dance with Niu Gao. I will face you all at once or one at a time.”

    Tang Huai grinned. “It is a pity we have to kill this one. I begin to like him.” He glanced at his fellows. “Who among us will do the honors?”

    The man in the plain robe dismounted and tossed his reins to Zhang Xian. His jian blade hissed from his sheath. Niu Gao eyed him warily. The young man was tall and muscular with broad shoulders and a lantern jaw.

    The bandit chieftain spat on the ground. “If you tell me your name, servant, I will inscribe it on the marker I place over your grave.”

    “My family name is Yue and my personal name is Fei,” replied the stranger, “But I am no man’s servant. Come then and do your worst.”

    Niu Gao smiled and leapt to the attack. His heavy war hammer flashed towards Yue Fei’s head. His opponent spun aside and swept his jian blade towards the bandit’s side. Niu Gao had to use brute force to curve his hammer around in a downward arc. Sparks flew as the hammer blocked the sword.

    The men disengaged and stepped away from each other.

    “Hei, do you need assistance younger brother?” called Wang Gui. “If you are too feeble to defeat this lone bandit, perhaps Tang Huai and Zhang Xian could help by holding him down?” The horsemen laughed.

    Fei smiled but did not reply. Turning his left side towards his opponent, he raised his sword overhead and beckoned an invitation with his empty hand.
    Disdaining any subtlety, the bandit chieftain began spinning his war hammer. It was an impressive feat insofar as the weapon had a heavy iron shaft with an old fashioned bulbous head made of solid copper. The hammer spun faster and faster, creating a wall of impenetrable metal.

    Niu Gao leaned into his war hammer and began advancing towards Yue Fei. Through the whirling blur of the hammer, he watched the swordsman. Would his opponent retreat or would he try to dodge and weave? The outlaw smiled. Whatever the swordsman did would be of no use, for in the hands of Niu Gao, the hammer was infallible.

    As the spinning weapon drew closer and closer, Yue Fei stood his ground. At the last possible moment, he shoved his sword point first into the ground and leapt forward. His outstretched hands reached for the twirling hammer. Expecting to feel the thud of his weapon against the swordman’s hand, Niu Gao was shocked when a jarring impact threw him off balance and ripped the weapon from his hands.

    Not only had the swordman seized the hammer, but he had also blocked the spin. Niu Gao thudded to the ground. A boot was placed upon his neck. “Now then,” said a voice, “Will you finally yield?” The boot began to apply pressure.
    Unable to speak, Niu Gao slapped a hand upon the ground. The boot was immediately withdrawn. The bandit chieftain clutched his throat and gasped for air. “Shih,” he croaked. “I yield.”

    An open hand appeared before his face. It was not the hand of a gentleman or a scholar for it was covered with the calluses of one who has known hard work.

    As Niu Gao took the hand, he saw the three gentlemen watching him with interest. Beyond the horsemen, most of his surviving companions sat rubbing their eyes. Only one man moved to any purpose. The chief watched as Cut-Purse Fang reached for a discarded bow and arrow.

    The bandit nocked and drew the arrow in one easy motion. There was no time to think. Niu Gao hooked one leg around Yue Fei’s right foot and yanked on the outstretched hand. As the swordsman tripped and fell on top of the bandit chieftain, an arrow hissed through the spot where he had been standing.

    The horsemen drew their swords and spun about. Before Cut-Purse Fang could draw another arrow, Tang Huai shouted and spurred his horse towards the lone archer. As the criminal leapt to one side, the gentleman’s jian blade rose and fell. The bandit screamed and died in a spray of blood. With the exception of Niu Gao, the remaining outlaws fled into the woods.

    Yue Fei regarded Niu Gao with surprise. “Well,” he said as he retrieved his sword, “This puts an entirely different complexion on things. Having saved my life, I cannot turn you in to the authorities. On the other hand, we cannot allow you to remain in this forest where you may again be tempted to waylay travelers.”

    “So,” concluded Wang Gui, “You will have to come with us.”

    “But where are you bound?” wondered Niu Gao.

    “Why to the Imperial capitol of course,” replied Tang Huai. “The four of us are sworn blood brothers who are on our way to Bianliang to take the national military examination. If we do well, we will be inducted into the army as junior officers. If we do very well, we will begin our military careers as captains.”
    “Having seen your work with a hammer, we have no doubt that you could at least earn a lieutenant’s rank,” observed Zhang Xian.

    The former bandit stared at his new companions. “How’s this? You want me to join the army?”

    “The alternative would be for you to join a penal regiment as a convicted criminal,” murmured Yue Fei.

    Niu Gao forced a smile. “Ah!” he exclaimed, “The army! Fine uniforms, regular pay, a warm bed, and steady eats sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime! Aye then, I’ll go with you to Bianliang, I’ll take this examination, and I’ll become a Captain – just see if I don’t.”

    ************************************************** ******************
    County Magistrate’s Office, Neihuang, Henan Province

    “An outlaw?” Magistrate Zhang stared at his son. His bushy white eyebrows furrowed in dismay. “You want me to endorse an outlaw as an officer candidate? By rights, this man should be brought to trial and put to the question for a full confession of his nefarious crimes.”

    Niu Gao moaned in dismay. The judge regarded the prostrate figure lying in the center of his office with distaste.

    “Honored father,” observed Zhang Xian with a bow, “This man has already received our promise of assistance.”

    “Wah,” sighed the magistrate. “When will you think before you act? Always you are impetuous. Think you, there are no consequences? How could you possibly tie our family’s good name to that of a common criminal?”

    “Honored sir,” said Wang Gui with a bow, “Niu Gao has made a full confession of his crimes. No lives were ever taken by his band and this person pledges the use of his family estate to make full restitution to his victims.”

    “Honored sir,” added Yue Fei with a bow, “Niu Gao is a gifted warrior. Left to his own, he may revert to banditry. Convicted as a criminal, his life will be wasted; but enlisted in the army, he will have the opportunity to serve and protect the very society that he preyed upon as an outlaw.”

    “Honored sir,” intoned Tang Huai with a bow, “Niu Gao is undoubtedly a scoundrel and a rogue whose very existence offends the gentle sensibilities of civilized people everywhere.”

    “Hei,” muttered the prone figure of Niu Gao, “Enough! If you help me anymore, the honored magistrate will have my head on a pike!”

    “With this being said,” continued Tang Huai, “Niu Gao behaved in an honorable manner when he saved Yue Fei from certain death. It is this person’s considered opinion, that the life of this rogue may yet be redeemed to the betterment of society.”

    The magistrate frowned. “You must understand that as the county judge, I cannot countenance a fraud. It is not enough for this man to simply aspire to a military career. He must be qualified. Does he ride? Can he use a bow? Is he proficient in the use of a dragon sword? Even if he has these skills, he must be literate and well versed in the military classics. Assuming he has the basic knowledge and skills to attend the national examinations, there is no guarantee he will do well. What if he fails? What if he deliberately fails to avoid military service? What will become of him if he is unable or unwilling to enter the army?”

    The four companions exchanged a look.

    “Honored sir? Does this one have permission to speak?”

    The magistrate could barely hear the voice of Niu Gao. “Shénme? What is it?”

    “This one has had military training. As a young man, this one served in a village militia. During the border skirmishes fourteen years ago, this one was drilled for two summers by the great warrior, Zhou Dong.”

    “Zhou Dong!” The officer candidates were astounded. “But Master Zhou Dong was our tutor!”

    The former bandit rose to his knees and stared at the young men. “If you have the occasion to see Master Zhou, please convey the respects of Niu Gao, a former sergeant of the Blue Mountain Valley militia.”

    "Wô hên hòuhuî," replied Yue Fei. “With regret, this will not be possible. I am sorry to tell you that Master Zhou passed away last winter.”

    Niu Gao lowered his head. After a moment he kow-towed to the magistrate, thumping his head on the floor three times. “If your honor will only endorse this one as an officer candidate, he will submit to your honor’s justice if he fails to win a commission in the Imperial Army.”

    “Well then, there you have it!” exclaimed Tang Huai. “What could be fairer than that? Wang Gui has promised restitution. Niu Gao has promised his best effort at the national examination and if he fails his officer candidacy because his heart is secretly twisted and full of villainy, then your honor may punish him as he so justly deserves.”

    The young man beamed at the magistrate while Niu Gao glowered at the floor.
  5. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Talako - The Adversary

    The Adversary [917]

    The pilot awoke suddenly on his cot covered in a cold sweat. Remnants of his dream invaded and overtook his consciousness. In his mind, smoke, wind, engine noise, machine-gun fire, and the physical sensation of flying were still vivid and alive. The images and sensations of his dream once again shook him to his core. They always did.

    For the third time this week, a dream, or as he thinks of it, a never-ending nightmare, had rousted him from his sleep right at daybreak. He did not know why he must fight, or why it inevitably ended with him being the ultimate victor. For a year now, this was the way it was, and he had been unable to stop or change it.

    It was always the same unknown aviator that stalked and relentlessly pursued him. The pilot admired the tenacity of his foe, but the aviator’s skills were not as war sharpened as his own. After a brief and intense aerial battle, the result was always the same. The aviator was shot down but was never killed. The pilot would get a glimpse of the hatred in the black eyes of his opponent as he sunk into the murky oblivion below.

    Sounds filtered in from outside the tent to break the lingering spell of his dream. He heard others waking and preparing for the hard day to come. In the distance, he heard the metallic clatter of meal trays from the mess hall as the attendants prepared breakfast for airmen and their crew. The wind came from the west, and with it came the pungent, unhealthy smell of the latrines. Surrounded by the sounds and smells of the routine of war, he swung his legs off the cot and placed his bare feet onto the cold wooden floor and stood up to start his day.

    He looked down at the table next to his bed. The box the Pour le Mérite came in sat there as a reminder of who he was and what was expected of him. The medal was still in the container untouched. He was bestowed the honor after receiving his sixteenth confirmed kill. At least sixty-four more airmen have perished by his guns since then. The medal brought him troubled thoughts. He had the knowledge, skill, and drive to best any aviator, the medal serving as a reminder of that fact, so why must he have this almost nightly fight with this demon of an aviator in the battlefield of his dreams? What had made this particular aviator so driven that he must fight?

    The pilot shook his head to clear his thoughts and moved his eyes from the table to the mirror that hung from the center tent post. He got a clear view of his haggard, unshaven face. His eyes looked both troubled and exhausted from the effects of a restless night of sleep. As Commander of Jasta 11, he was expected to set the example in terms of appearance, discipline, and military bearing. Example and force of will were the tools he used to lead. He did not want his eyes to betray him.

    Whenever he looked at himself in the mirror, he could never control the temptation to look to the scar hovering near his left temple. With no power to stop them, his eyes moved up and to the right. It was an ugly reminder of what failure can bring. The scar, while healed, was the result of both bad luck and poor judgment in an encounter the prior year. The doctors told him that his headaches and post-flight nausea were an unpleasant aftereffect of the injury. While he didn’t notice a change in his temperament, others had. He suspected his injury also saddled him with his nighttime foe. Glancing away from the mirror and its damning reflection, he went about getting ready for his flight.

    The pilot’s driver picked him up after he’d finished his morning routine and drove him to the aerodrome. As he stepped down from the jeep, he surveyed the field, the planes, and his men. He commanded them all. Planes with various red coloration were lined up in rows. At the end of the farthest row he saw his plane, a solid red Fokker Dr.I triplane. It shone brightly in the morning sun. Plane crews were seen loading and servicing planes for his squadron’s morning mission. In the distance, he heard men grunting as they manually pumped aviation fuel. The familiar clink of metal on metal as ammunition belts were loaded added to the background noise. These were the sounds of a working aerodrome.

    He walked to his plane, and he immediately performed his preflight check. He started and warmed the engine. He taxied to the runway, and, with engines at full throttle, he lifted off the aerodrome and pointed his plane to a patrol area near Morlancourt Ridge in Northern France.

    One hour later a single .303 bullet entered his right armpit and exited his left chest. The damage was physically devastating. The pilot in his injured condition managed to land his plane without crashing.

    He sat in the cockpit of his triplane mortally wounded waiting for the end that he knew would come too quickly. One terrifying thought ran through his mind as he slowly faded. Would he, in death, be forever stuck in eternity replaying this perpetual air battle? Whatever may await him, the pilot knew the beagle and his flying doghouse would never be victorious.
  6. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    DontThinkJustWRITE - Wrapped Around My Pinky Finger

    Wrapped Around My Pinky Finger (2142)

    Her face, the color of fresh cream, stared passionately up at his exhausted, rugged looks. Red curls draped the nape of her neck while her fingers searched a body that she wanted to know more about; not a body that she was tired of teasing, tired of caressing, even tired of emotionally caring for after years of being together. That’s why I’m here, in this bed, with this woman, about to sacrifice my marriage for her.

    * * *

    Drenched in rain, sweat, alcohol, and lust, Alex approached his respectable two story colonial home in a state of complete and utter disbelief of what he just did-something he’s never done before that night. He met her when she joined his collegiate research team and it was hard to believe after all of this time that their subtle friendship would turn into such a passionate love affair that he was about to sacrifice his beautiful, but not perfect, family for. As he was about to open the doorknob, he remembered how him and Ava painted the front door last summer; the door that led to a thousand wonderful memories, yet even more horrible fights and arguments. Somehow, this same door was going to lead him to the inevitable-losing the family he’s always wanted and the child he adored.

    Alex slowly made his way through the foyer of the “the cinnamon house,” which acquired its name from all of Elyse’s candles, but also from the fact that people felt invited every time they entered the threshold-except Alex. “I’ve always hated those damn candles,” he thought as he set his wet leather briefcase down in the hallway, glancing around for his wife. As he quietly walked the hall, he, unlike so many others, didn’t smell the usual bright scent of his household, just the lingering smells of sex and alcohol, scents he that hoped his wife wouldn’t notice right away.

    Elyse was an avid reader, always carrying a book in her purse or setting one on her chair, so when it came down to the time to find her, he knew exactly where she’d be: in the office, sitting in her designated reading chair next to the fire with a cup of tea and a different book from yesterday. He knew her all too well. There was no use stopping in the kitchen, for she knew he’d be late, just like always, so she would have started dinner long ago. The kitchen and family room are connected, and since Elyse doesn’t even know how to turn the 60 inch television on, there’d be no point for her to be in there as well. As for Ava… when he used to be home, he’d be her caretaker, her rock, and she was his sole purpose in life, so when Elyse knew something was falling apart between them, the only way she knew how to hurt him was to pay little to no extra attention to Ava than was needed. Suddenly, a tinge of sorrow and regret hit close to his heart, and he knew who he had to see before searching for Elyse.

    Ava’s room was the picture perfect example to any three year-old girls’ dream bedroom. Covered in different shades of pink, her bed, canopy, and comforter were enough to make any little girl cry and whine enough until their parents purchased the assembly, and that is exactly what Ava begged Alex and Elyse into doing. Now, as he watched his precious daughter sleep in her cherished bed set, he knew he would have bought her a set with an even pinker shade, larger canopy, and at a far more expensive cost, just to see her look as peaceful as she did at that moment. “Ava, my angel,” he thought as he crept ever so silently into her bedroom and over to her bed. He was afraid that his weight would disturb her, but to his surprise, Alex’s bottom sank gently in, allowing the rest of himself to snuggle up next to her. “Oh, how I’m going to miss being able to do this every night with you, Avie, baby.” As these thoughts rolled around in Alex’s mind, Ava began to stir, first wriggling around under her covers, then, after realizing another person was in her bed, curled up closer to her father than she was before. Tears rolled down Alex’s face and onto her head of blonde curls at this simple gesture of pure trust and loyalty.

    “How can you trust me so much when I’ve deceived you and Mommy so badly?” Alex whispered into the softness of his child’s face. Suddenly, as if day turned to night in a single moment, light illuminated the room to the different hues of pink, but there was only one type of emotion in that room radiating off of Elyse-pure anger. Trying to alleviate Elyse’s rage while exiting the room quietly enough for Ava to continue sleeping was beginning to pose as a problem for Alex, especially when Elyse took no consideration of their daughter’s sleep and started arguing loudly right as he hit the hallway.

    “So,” she began once Alex gently shut Ava’s bedroom door, “the truth finally comes out. You’re leaving us, or shall I say me, for another woman. I should have known, but I figured I’d give you the benefit of the doubt because the Alex I married never would have done such a thing.” Elyse made sure to emphasize how he used to be: wimpy, obedient, subservient; as the real world chewed him up and spit him out, turning him into a real man, Elyse no longer knew the young man she married, the one she dominated over, which is why their marriage came to this.

    “Is this really such a surprise to you, Elyse? I’m not the only one at fault here,” he said as he walked toward their bedroom so as not to bother Ava.

    Shocked that he’d even consider blaming her for their dysfunctional marriage, Elyse’s face reddened as she silently shrieked, turned her husband around, and slapped him hard across the face.

    “How dare you even blame me for your mess! I bet it was with one of your colleagues, am I right? I’ve done nothing but support you in your work, be here to raise our daughter, take care of our home and family, give up my dreams , and this is how I am repaid? I thought we had a good marriage Alex, I really did. A little loveless at times, but still a comfortable one.”

    Alex could not believe the act that just took place before their bedroom, both the verbal and nonverbal. He knew Elyse was feisty, but he never thought that she’d resort to violence. As for her words… he thought they were completely ludicrous! He thought, “Since when was our marriage comfortable? Sure, maybe the first year when we had a routine and were still in love, but after that…” He wasn’t sure if it was a ploy to keep him around or if that is what she truly believed, but he had to make it clear to her that he needed to leave, for all of their sakes’.

    “Elyse," he gently stated her name as he led her to the bed to talk the matter over further. “I know this must come as a shock to you, and I’m sorry for that, but our marriage has been over for a long time, even before Ava was born. She was a blessing to have for us both, but not as a way to keep us alive. Surely you don’t think that a healthy marriage is based on having children, taking care of a home, and giving up your own dreams just to make the husband happy, do you?”

    She seemed to ponder this question for a moment, her eyes still as if she weighing the value of her answers, then said, “Well, yes, I do. You provide so much for our family, so why shouldn’t I give some back to us?”

    Alex couldn’t take the back and forth repetition of this argument any longer.

    “Elyse!” He yelled furiously; face red as the veins in his neck popped out, while his wife watched in total shock, “We don’t even know each other anymore. You don’t even know your own child. I’m the one who actually takes the time to play with her. You may actually physically care for her because you are her mother, but I’m the one providing the nurturing. Don’t you see that you’ve even used your own daughter as a way to wheel me back in? This has got to end. I’m sorry.”

    Flustered, and finally alive with the promise of the end, he looked at Elyse with a new set of eyes. She was petite, but brittle; beautiful, yet now calloused: and it was all because of him. She had given up everything, everything, in her life just to satisfy him, but what had he ever done for her? Nothing. “There’s nothing I can do now,” he thought. “The damage is already done.”

    Alex’s thoughts were broken by the sounds of soft sniffling, then of Elyse blowing her nose. When she saw him looking over at her, she stated, “You should go. I guess you don’t necessarily belong here anymore.”

    Her statement startled Alex; she was never so blunt before, but he took the comment and ran with it. He started packing an overnight bag and some suits when Elyse spoke once more, this time with more hostility in her voice.

    “I assume you will be taking Ava with you then, right?”

    “What?! I figured you’d continue taking care of her as you have been.”

    She repositioned herself on the bed, as if trying to add more emphasis to her point. “Well, Alex, you did say that Ava was the one keeping our marriage alive, and if we don’t have a marriage, then I don’t need her, now do I?”

    He turned away from his pile of clothes with a face of pure anger that caused Elyse to jump slightly on the bed. “You bitch! Don’t you even consider our daughter as anything more than a part of your pathetic plan to keep me with you? I wouldn’t have stayed even if there wasn’t a child!”

    “Get out!” cried Elyse ferociously. “Get out! Take the girl with you! I don’t want either of you in this house! Get out!”

    Alex couldn’t fathom such words coming out of Elyse’s mouth. “How could the woman who gave birth to Ava feel such hatred toward her now, just because…” His thought process was quickly ended when Elyse jumped off their bed and threw their wedding photo at him, scraping the left side of his cheek.

    “I said, ‘Get out!’” She bawled as tears streamed down her face. Alex had no choice; he grabbed whatever clothes he’d packed, then hurriedly made his way to Ava’s room to retrieve his child and her belongings.

    * * *
    Her pink face displayed the laziness of just waking up from a pleasant dream. Her eyes gently moved as dreams rolled around in her head that only a three year-old could create. Her head bobs up and down in her car seat on the way to the hotel that will be our home tonight. “I’ll have to explain to Jen tomorrow at work what happened tonight,” He reminded himself. Ava just wasn’t safe with Elyse. He couldn’t believe he considered leaving without her. Suddenly, Alex found himself swerving out of the away of oncoming traffic, rattling him up so much that he pulled over on the side of the road to settle himself and check on Ava. When he turned around, he found Ava awake and just as shaken as him.

    “Daddy, what happened in the car just now? Where’s mommy? Where are we going?” she asked tiredly as she rubbed her eyes with her hands.

    “A hotel for the night, honey. You and I aren’t going to be living with mommy anymore. Don’t worry yourself with the details now, Avie baby, just close your eyes and have sweet dreams.”

    She seemed to consider this, then said, “Okay, daddy, I go anywhere with you and feel safe. Mommy not make me feel safe. You do.” She gently rested her head on the back of her car seat and fell right to sleep again.

    “I feel like such a horrible father for not seeing how poorly Elyse treated her.”

    He smiled and laughed quietly before thinking, “She feels safe with her daddy.” He pulled into the hotel parking lot, looked at their new home for the night, then at his child.

    “You’re wrapped around my pinky finger, kid, so with me, you’re always safe.” He took her out of her car seat and headed into the hotel lobby.
  7. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Last1Left - Not Again

    Ah, not again... That wasn't supposed to happen this time. Great, great, great. Killed another one. Great. I suppose Captain Hero will just let that one slide. Like he let all fifteen before it slide. He's probably coming here right now; I didn't even want to shoot at the idiot for Christ's sake. He was like, "Oh, I'm a total jerk and the fact that I'm overweight means you can miss!". Well, you know what, SCREW YOU! God, seriously... I hope your fat bum is burning in Heck right now.

    A knock on the heavy metal door interrupted Captain Villain's reverie. He hesitated to open it. Why didn't he install a peephole anyways? He could have avoided at least five imprisonments if he had one. After all, arrest warrant or not, police can't just bust down a twelve-inch plated metal door. No, they have to be invited in.

    Great, that's all I need. Well, actually... It might not be Captain Hero. It is half past twelve. Could be the mail. Frank usually does make his route around this time. Unless it's Sunday. Is it Sunday? No, no, it's the day after yesterday, and yesterday night I held up a bank. Bank, bank, bank... I usually don't hold up banks on Saturdays, which means it's probably not Sunday... which means it's probably Frank.

    That's actually some good news right there. Sport's Illustrated is running the swimsuit issue this week. And I might even get lucky! I did send the my bank number to that man on the internet. Who knows, my kingdom in Africa might already be liquidating its funds to me this instant!

    Hardly able to contain his excitement, Captain Villain skipped to the door. He could feel the energy crackling inside of him, just like the bag of potato chips he just stepped on. Trying to collect himself in front of the metal door, but failing, Captain Villain proceeded.

    "Who is it," he asked, his voice unusually high. Self-conscious, he made a mental note to sound more manly next time. What if it's Captain Hero behind it? Then what? What if he thought he was gay? Not that Captain Villain was against that kind of thing.

    "Who's this?" a man responded.

    "Captain Villain, and who is this?" Captain Villain asked in return.

    "Captain Hero."

    No, no, no, no. How'd he find me? I delisted myself of Yellowpages. No, STUPID! Of course, he's been here a hundred times. It's not like he can't remember where your apartment is. I'll have to trick him.

    "Oh, Captain Hero," Captain Villain replied, making his voice even higher.

    I have no shame. I have no shame. I have no shame.

    "What brings you to this part of town? Don't tell me you came here for little me?" Captain Villain giggled with such a high pitch that he was sure he had more estrogen than kinky school girl right now.

    "You're not a girl," Captain Hero replied dryly from the other side of the door.

    I have no shame. I have no shame. I have no shame.

    "Oh, role playing! I love this. You can be the cop, and I can be --"

    "You're not a girl, you're Captain Villain," Captain hero flatly interjected.

    We'll see about that. I took improv in high school!

    "Oh, Captain Villain? And you're Captain Hero! You can come chase me around, because I've been a naughty little --"

    "Open the door before I break it down," Captain Hero demanded.

    Okay, okay, okay. This isn't a problem. There's a door between us. I have two boxes of Poptarts, and one thing of Mountain Dew. If I can ration my supplies, and that door holds out, then I can have up to two weeks in here. It might be stretch, but I'm Captain Villain for Christ's sake!

    "Just a minute!" Captain Villain hollered, still retaining his feminine voice.

    "Too late, I'm breaking it down!"

    Run for the hills! Go! Go! Go!

    Captain Villain jumped over his sofa, knocking over a lamp in the process. Scattered potato chips and assorted junk cracked under his feet, as he bounded towards the kitchen.

    The Poptarts! Get the Poptarts!

    Captain Villain scurried over to the pantry. His hands were cramping as he tossed countless cans and bottles. From behind, the scraping sound of metal washed over him.

    Where are they!?! Where are they!?! Yes!

    His hands clutched madly around the boxes. There was original and blueberry. Perfect. He desperately tried to pocket them, but they wouldn't fit in his cackys.

    "I'm coming in now!" announced Captain Hero from the doorway.

    No time! Captain Villain unbuckled his belt and crammed the Poptarts down his pants. The corners dug into his man-parts, but he'd survive. He was a survivor! He was a fighter! He was Captain Villain!

    "Sweet, baby Jesus," he heard Captain Hero mutter. He was already by the couch.

    Sprinting, Captain Villain collided into his fridge. Frantically, he pried it open.

    Where's the Dew? Where's the Dew? Where's the Dew?

    "Do you live like this all the time?" Captain Hero asked, walking calmly over.

    "AHA!" hands grasping a bottle of Mountain Dew!

    Now I need an escape route... The Window!

    "What are you doing?" Captain Hero asked, inches behind him and unamused.

    Captain Villain put on his most calm face, and turned to face his adversary. "Whatever do you mean?"

    "Were you planning to jump out that window, with two boxes down your pants and a bottle of soda?"

    Spoot! He's on to me. Plan B, Plan B!

    Captain Villain took a few steps back until he stumbled into the countertop. His hands were blindly searching. If only Captain Hero hadn’t taken away his DeathRay last week.

    "Captain Villain, Captain Villain, Captain Villain..." Captain Hero said with a sigh. "Why do you keep doing this? You've kidnapped my girlfriend, threatened to assassinate the guy on the Oxi-Clean commercials, held up countless White Castles, and, according to your medical records, you tried to imitate Ozzy Osbourne by biting off the head of a chipmunk. It bit you, of course, and you had to receive thirteen shots in the belly for Rabbies. The only question a sane man could ask, is why? In all your hundred-plus failed schemes, you've killed sixteen people, caused twenty million dollars in damages, and all you have to show for it, again to police records, is $1.50 and a Happy Meal toy."

    "HAHAHA!" Captain Villain cackled.

    Was that too much? I just need to distract him!

    "Why?" Captain Villain said, his tone venomous. "I'll tell you why. I was born evil. When I was kid, people used to run away, laughing in fear! Super-Nerd, they'd call me! They feared me! I became a villain because that was what I was born to do. I make your life heck, because that's what I was born to do."

    Oh man, I'm good -- I mean bad! Just a little more, just a little more time.

    Captain Villain's hands finally found it: his salvation.

    "I'm going to take you to a prison now, where you will then be escorted to a bigger prison -- a high security prison. Will you not make a big stink this time, so I don't have to beat the snot out of you again?"

    Captain Villain regarded his mortal enemy for one last time. His tight fitting outfit, his massive pecks, his disgustingly perfect bone structure, and his wavy locks.

    He makes sick, but not more!

    "Step back!" warned Captain villain. In his one he had a bottle of pills, in the other, the Dew. "Step back or I leave this world forever! Let's see what twenty pills and a bottle of Dew can do to the human body!"

    "You can't --" Captain Hero urged.

    "I can do whatever I want!"

    Goodbye beautiful world. I hope I left you a slight bit uglier... like Britney Spears now compared to twelve years ago. Yeah... I think I made that kind of difference.

    Captain Villain's eyes stung. The Mountain Dew burned his eyes as it splashed from his mouth. The pills went down easy like candy. The world slowly slipped away, and it became a much darker place. Captain Villain's last sight was of Captain Hero's aloof, superior face. But Captain Captain Villain had finally won.


    "How'd they get you?" Charlie, Captain Villain's cell mate, asked. One eye was fixated on Captain Villain, the other eye roamed the room as if searching for the very answer.

    "I attempted suicide," answered Captain Villain in his most dignified voice. "Except, the pills were, you know... Tic-Tacs. The paramedics said fainted from all the caffeine."

    "Sending ya ta the chair?" he followed up, before quickly imitating a frog, which he did increasingly often.

    "No," Captain Villain replied thoughtfully. "The doctors pleaded that I was mentally unstable... the usual. In here for life though."

    "Hehehe, ribbit," Charlie laughed. "Me too! Were gonna be bes' of pals!"


    I hate you, Captain Hero. You knew they were Tic-Tacs!
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