Please vote for the piece you feel is most deserving:

Poll closed Sep 1, 2009.
  1. Faith*Hope*Love - Predator

    3 vote(s)
  2. OhSoBlondex - Internet Love. Real Love.

    1 vote(s)
  3. TheHedgehog - The Color of Emptiness

    4 vote(s)
  4. Afterburner - The Community

    7 vote(s)
  5. Phobia - Jamie

    0 vote(s)
  6. Hindumaliman - Reality Bytes

    0 vote(s)
  7. murphcas - The Investigator

    1 vote(s)
  8. eliza490 - Amber62

    0 vote(s)
  9. Last1Left - Real Life

    0 vote(s)
  10. ArielleCeleste - Fate

    0 vote(s)
  11. Wake of Eden - Closet Monster

    0 vote(s)
  12. Ansky - The Other Side of the Screen

    0 vote(s)
  13. yellowm&M - Alright

    2 vote(s)
  14. bluebell80 - Off the screen and into hell

    1 vote(s)
  15. Ashleigh - The Ghost In The Machine

    7 vote(s)
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  1. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England

    Voting Short Story Contest (50): Internet Forum Meets Reality

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Aug 18, 2009.

    Voting Short Story Contest (49) Theme: Immortality

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

    Voting will end September 1st 2009 to give you all a chance to read the entries. Certain, newer members will not be able to vote in this poll.

    The results of the public vote will be combined with those from a select panel of judges to establish an outright winner, who will receive the membership prize Daniel kindly offered. A second and third place will also be awarded, with sadly nothing more than pride on offer there.

    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.

    Vote rigging or solicitation of any sort will not be tolerated and could result in infraction.

    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.

    Note: Kingt2's entry has not been submitted into the voting because it had previously been submitted in the Review Rooms.

    If there are any questions or comments, please leave me a visitor message or PM me. Please do not clog up this, or any other thread, with your questions.

    Good luck to everyone.
  2. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Faith*Hope*Love - Predator

    “Christy, check this out.” I said, I could tell how high pitched my voice sounded. I was nervous. “What?” she asked, her blond hair bobbing as she came to see what I was calling her for. I took a deep breath. “Okay, so there’s this guy named Justin on that website,” I said, excited. “Yeah, that website, the one you showed to me at that place.” She said sarcastically. I rolled my eyes. “Teen Talk.com, there’s like over 15,000 members on there.” I said, as I typed the websites URL into the link bar. She nodded, as she watched the website pop up on the screen. “So, this Justin guy…” she said, expectant. I smiled biting my lip. “He is SO cute Christy! He’s seventeen.” I said, my cheeks warming. She raised her eye brows. “How do you know he’s cute? And he could be lying about his age.” She grabbed a chair and sat next to me.

    “Oh, no he is a really nice guy. We showed each other pictures of ourselves, you wouldn’t be so negative if you saw the picture of him.” I said nudging her arm with my elbow. “He could have found a photo of some random guy off the internet. That’s what pervs do with Google Shae.” At first her voice was cynical, but now, it was worried. “What all does he know about you?” she asked. I looked at her. I had figured my best friend would be excited, it probably wasn’t best to tell her the really big news. About Justin’s visit. “Nothing.” I lied. I had told him every detail of my life until my fingers cramped from typing.

    She exhaled a sigh of relief. “Good. Your just fourteen Shae. Don’t get caught into something like that.” She said. She sounded more and more like my mom. Christy was always the mature one, the one that if we ever got invited to a party she’d say we shouldn’t go. There was no such thing as peer pressure for her. Unlike me. I smiled. “Uh huh.” I said. She stood up. “Well, I’m going to go make a grilled cheese, you want one?” she asked. “No. Thanks though.” I answered. As soon as she left the room, I went straight to Justin’s profile.

    Justin was an honor student, he had just gotten his drivers license, he loved Italian food, and his favorite animal was a polar bear. He was perfect. We had so much in common it was unbelievable. He lived in Texas, while I lived in Arkansas. He said we’d meet this Monday. He also had said, I was one of the prettiest girls he’d ever seen. That was the first thing he’d ever written to me. We had only talked on the phone once, because he said he didn’t have a cell phone.

    Every time he talked to me he’d say he loved me. That I was the most unique and beautiful girl he’d ever known. Monday was only in two days. I had nearly killed myself trying to find something to wear. A black button down blouse and a denim skirt, one that was much too short for my daddy’s liking. I had dated guys for a long time, well since I was twelve. And all of them only wanted one thing. One I never gave them, so they always broke my heart. Justin was someone who made me feel important, that made me feel beautiful regardless of my many flaws. He saw me.

    “Christy?” I asked. This was the most exciting day of my life. I was meeting the love of my life. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach. “Yeah.” She said nonchalantly, flipping the pages of a magazine. “Does this make me look fat?” I asked, as I examined the hidden love handles underneath the black satin top. She looked up at me frowning. “Shae. You weigh, what? Like 110? Get over yourself.” She said, going back to whatever gossip trash she was reading. “Your so rude.” I said rolling my eyes. I gently glided the curler out of my blond lock. “Done.” I whispered, as I looked into the mirror. I looked really good, maybe a little too sexy for a fourteen year old, but I had to act older with my seventeen year old boy friend.

    “I’m going out.” I said grabbing my purse. “Where?” she asked. “To get a coke.” I said, doing the finishing touches on my lip gloss. “Right. In that outfit. What are you really doing?” she asked again. Her face was serious, her dark eyes boring into my very soul. “To get a coke.” I said again, sternly. She sighed. “Whatever. Have fun.” She said, going back to reading. I smiled and headed out the door to the cab I’d called earlier.

    I’d said to meet me at the Star Bucks right outside town. My heart was nearly leaping out of my chest. Every car that drove up I nearly had a panic attach. What if he thought I wasn’t as pretty in person? I kept searching for the 5’11 blond haired blue eyed boy I’d met online. “Miss?” I heard a voice say behind me. “Yes?” I answered, looking at the man standing behind me. He was short. 5’8 maybe, he had yellowish hair, and, he was over weight . Possibly in his early fifties. “Can I help you?” I asked. A grin spread on his face, showing disgusting yellow teeth. “You’re so much prettier in person Shae. It’s me, Justin.”

    My heart stopped. No. No. NO! I screamed inside of myself. I was ready to run for it, but he knew where I lived, I gave him my mailing address. “I can buy you a coffee,” he said grabbing my hand. “We can drink them at my motel room. C’mon Shae,” he said, his voice was alluring. Fear exploded inside me. Stupid. So stupid. I was such an idiot. Tears swelled in my throat, and I couldn’t speak. “You’re not seventeen.” I gasped. He laughed, amused. “Come. Now.” His voice was dark, demanding. “I love you Shae. You have to understand that.” He said, touching my cheek with his hand.

    “No,” tears spilled from my eyes. “Come now, or I’m going to have to force you.” He said, his mouth was so close to my face, this wasn’t even close to the worst part. “No.” I said, my voice breaking. He sighed heavily. “Alrighty then.” He mumbled. I hadn’t noticed before, but he had a huge coat on. And didn’t even notice until he raveled me up inside of it, his hand on my mouth, I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t do anything. Tears streamed down my face. It was a nightmare, I would wake up soon. Right? I thought about my daddy. I had disappointed him so badly. What would he think of me? I was so close to this man’s body, I felt dirty. A white sheet being thrown into a puddle of mud.

    My heart ached. Christy was right. So right. I felt him lifting me up, and then throwing me inside a car. I had my eyes closed, not wanting to open them in fear of what I would see. Maybe my reflection in the window. Of this stupid, dirty, helpless little girl, who thought she was grown up but was so far from it she couldn’t even imagine. Everything was in slow motion, from him finding some rope, to him binding my hands and feet.

    Before I knew it he was unloading me into a dirty little Motel 6 room. I was laying on the bed, as I heard him lock the door. “Please.” I whispered, so helplessly it hurt. “Please don’t do this.” I muttered to him. He just smiled, this amused him. My pain and hurt turned him on. Sick, so very sick. I gulped. And then he started untying my feet. He left my hands. This wasn’t happening. And then, somewhere back in my sub cautious I noticed something. My mouth, it worked. Before I even could think about it, a loud piercing scream escaped my mouth, someone had to have heard that, someone had to save me. “HELP!!” I screamed. “Somebody HELP!!” I screamed, so loudly I couldn’t even recognize my voice.

    “Shut the hell up!” he said spitting at my face. “HELP! PLEASE!” I screamed again, and he slapped my face, so hard I thought it might be bleeding. He covered my mouth with him hand. And with his other, he pulled out a gun, placing it to my head. “One more word out of that pretty,” he traced my lips with the gun, as he cocked it with his thumb, “Little mouth of yours,” he said it slowly, bending down to kiss me. Tears poured from my eyes, and I whimpered. What now? This was the end, nobody had come. It was over. “And I will shoot you. And we don’t want that do we honey?” I said nothing. He was all sweaty, he was so close to me...So close. “You ready sweetie?” he asked. “Please,” I whimpered. “Please don’t,” his hand was still over my mouth.

    My heart raced fast, I heard him unzipping, just as a bang on the door sounded. “Police. Open the door and nobody gets hurt.” He said banging on it. God. God had saved my life, he heard my cry. I was safe. He cursed several times and then he pulled me up by the hair. A gasp of pain in my voice, but as he did his hand left my mouth. “Help!” I screamed, and I knew the cop heard me, as he kicked the door down. His face was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. My hero. I was safe. Safe. Safe. I kept repeating it in my head. The gun was pressed to my temple, I glanced behind me at Justin, all shaky and nervous. He probably had a wife, some kids who never knew about this alternate life, about his sick urges.

    I kneed him hard. He screamed, then crumpled to the floor. I ran to the police officer. I was safe. Safe, safe, safe.
  3. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    OhSoBlondex - Internet Love. Real Love.

    I was never one to be optimistic, but I was here now, and I knew what I came for. I left my thoughts to ponder as I breathed in deeply the fresh taste of air. The sun glistened down on me as I looked around the unusually quiet town, which was almost 300 miles away from home. It was so warm, which made a change from the cold weather we had been burdened with for over few months now. After all, England was never known for its high temperatures. I lifted my head up and stared at the clear blue sky. It felt good to be here.

    Walking down the pathway next to the quiet road, I felt the sun beating down on my skin. The slight breeze rippled my purple, silky tank top. The sequins that decorated it around the neckline glistened in the daylight. I ran my hand down my denim skirt to straighten it. Thankfully, it wasn’t lifting up in the breeze. Being tall with long legs was an advantage to show off in the warm weather. I smiled to myself, I was so happy to be here. It was calm for the centre of York. There weren’t many cars, or people. In fact, there were only a few passersbys walking down the street.

    Looking across the road, I saw the park where he would be. A white picket fence and towering large trees surrounded it. The corners of the park were carefully decorated with attractive assorted flowerbeds. It looked beautiful. Living in a small village, I didn’t get to see many things like this. Our parks were full of tarnished climbing frames and scattered beer cans around the park benches. Stray dogs or mindless children often trampled the flowerbeds, which left them withered, and drooping. Shaking the thoughts of home from my head my heart started to pound rapidly, this was it. I was finally going to meet him. Walking into the park, the grass smelled fresh like it had only just been cut. It was one of my favourite smells. A slightly overgrown path circled around the centre of the park for people who wanted to go running. I was hoping this was where he would be.

    Having only ever spoken over the internet, some people would say it would be stupid for me to be here, to have travelled all this way to meet him. What I felt wasn’t stupid, It was love. Some people have an idea that love is supposed to last forever, but love is not like that. It is a free-flowing energy that comes and goes when it pleases. I did not want to miss out on feeling that energy that everyone wants to feel at one point in their life. If this was not love, then I wanted to know what it was. It made me feel so good, so alive. Like I could do anything in the world and I would still have at least one person there for me, who cared about me.

    Stood in the grass in the middle of the park, I slowly glanced around. The park was quite empty, just as the streets were. There was an old woman playing with her black, miniature poodle. The poodle was tied to a thick red leash on a bench not too far away from the flowerbeds. She seemed to be feeding it treats and repeatedly patting its head, almost as if the dog was a substitute for a child. On the other side of the park was a middle-aged woman, who was sat with her legs crossed reading a fairly large book. She wore big, round, dark sunglasses and had a massive handbag at her feet. Glancing over to the centre of the park, I noticed there were a few people running on the circular path. That was when I saw him.
    He was shirtless and wore black jogging bottoms. His tanned, long, slender, moist body shined in the sun. His blonde hair reflected the sunlight, which made him look even more attractive. I smiled to myself and slowly reached in my pocket to take out my phone. Dialling his number my fingers started to tremble and my heart started beating inside once again. Listening to the ringing tone, I watched him as he eventually stopped running. Slowly, he took out his earphone from his right ear and reached into his black jogging bottoms to retrieve his mobile phone.

    “Hello?” He answered breathlessly.
    “I like your jogging bottoms.”
    “What?” He answered laughingly while scratching the top of his head.
    “Look to your right.” I replied, closing my mobile phone and pushing it back into my skirt pocket.
    As I hung up, he glanced over and saw me. Shielding his eyes from the sun he came running up to me.
    “Oh my god, Amanda, Is that you?” He questioned while still running up to me.
    “Yeah, it’s me.” I replied while smiling.
    As he came towards me, I looked into his eyes. I slowly put my arms around his neck and stared deep into his eyes, as he stared back, I felt the love connect between us.
    “Do you still want to kiss me?” I asked.
    “Yeah, I do.”
    “Well, there’s nothing stopping you now. I’m finally here.” I whispered.
    As we kissed, everything I went through to find him all felt worth it. He was the love of my life. My soul mate.
  4. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    TheHedgehog - The Color of Emptiness

    A part of me always wondered what physical existence was like.

    When you were a character in a fictional story, you really didn’t feel like you belonged, partially because your entire existence wasn’t even real. Sure, the characters “felt” emotions, but that was only what you read on the paper. When my character was angry, I wasn’t really angry. When he was heartbroken, I wasn’t even sad. I was an actor with no regular life to return to at the end of the day. I lived in something my writer called the “Writing Forums,” where I’d spend most of my time in.

    In my realm there were no senses, no taste, color, aroma, sensation – nothing.

    All I had to go by were The Creator’s words. The Creator was the author of my story. In a way I’d gotten to know him through the computer screen.

    Behind the monitor the Writing Forums were pretty surprising. For some reason all the real humans thought there was nothing behind the screen. But that screen was really a two-way mirror: we could see you, but you couldn’t see us. Inside the Writing Forums where all the characters lived there were expansive cavernous rooms with furniture to sit on.

    For weeks I carefully crafted my plan of escape. I wasn’t leaving the Forums permanently, just taking a little, unapproved vacation. It’s not like the others needed me anyway, right?

    Day after day I observed The Creator’s routine so I could plan my escape around him.

    So the weeks passed and eventually the night drew to where I was ready for my getaway. I chose a Friday night on a summer’s eve, for that was when the most action happened for the humans. It was eight o’clock at night when The Creator took his hat and jacket off the coat rack and departed his office room, leaving the monitor on the Writing Forums.

    In my excitement, I left the other characters early so I could get to a room by myself. The monitor screen was grand – vast and promising and transparent. The real world was so tantalizingly close I charged it stupidly. My foot caught on the edge and I fell through the screen, as if it were water.

    My body expanded as it erupted from the Writing Forums, growing into the size of a live man. I tumbled off the desk and collided with carpet.

    I lay there for a second, breathing in air, completely still.

    Then a rush of sensations.

    I gasped as cold tingling air rushed past my throat and flooded my lungs. The carpet was rough and worn under my skin. In a sudden moment, all the adjectives The Creator used in his writing made sense to me. I understood the scent of stagnant office air, or the chill of a ceiling fan.

    But that was nothing compared to the color.

    I had heard about color from other characters that went into the real world. Their words couldn’t even be compared with the real thing. Color, I know understood, was like emotion you could see. The Creator boasted many abstract paintings on the warm brown walls.

    Yellow was happiness, bright, cheerful.

    Red could be passionate, angry, exuberant.

    Blue was reverent, peaceful, satisfying.

    Green was power, it was neutrality, it calmed.

    All that was in my world was Gray, different shades of it, but all of Gray was somber and solemn.

    What an amazing new world!

    Every color, sensation, sight, sound, there were so many variations of everything. Something could be light green and dark green, soft in some places, hard in others. Shadows played with the objects of the office, giving them other facets, identities.

    As I walked to the door at the front of the house, I took the time to brush everything with my fingertips, taking in the color, smelling everything. The flowers, magnolias in a blue vase on his kitchen table, were fragrant and blissful, perfect and untainted.

    Night was trickier to adjust to when I stepped out of the building. Suddenly I was in the middle of something known as a city, where walls of concrete and architecture surrounded me and people shuffled past me, too preoccupied on their phones.

    What was wrong with them?

    Why weren’t they absorbing all the sublime creation around them? Taking in every miniscule detail? What was so good about those ugly and insignificant cell phones in their palms?

    Because walking was new to me, when I stepped down the stairs I stumbled and hit the pavement. Jeez, moving was a hassle in reality, but oh so more fascinating. A burning in my palm caught my attention. Looking at my right hand, a dark red drop oozed from a patch of scraped flesh. It didn’t feel good, not like sniffing the magnolias or hearing the rhapsody of the city. This was definitely unpleasant.

    I gasped. Was this pain?

    So this was what it felt like to be hurt!

    I licked the drop of blood off my hand. It tasted salty, and strangely metallic like the copper penny I had tasted earlier in the kitchen. I peered up. A middle-aged woman walking her dog was staring at me.

    I grinned, another wonderful thing to do. Smiling filled me with so much pleasure – why not do it as much as possible?

    She continued on, and I then decided I should get going. Hastily, I climbed back up the stairs and shut the door, then I took some cash I had borrowed from The Creator’s white envelope and did what they called, “hailing a cab.”

    A yellow taxi cab pulled to the side of the road. I got in and told the greasy but nice man I wanted to go to somewhere called a club. I’d heard The Creator mention the street address of one before. I heard they were great fun.

    The cabbie nodded knowingly and drove down the busy street.

    I wanted to see the city but the window pane was in the way.

    “Uh, sir? Can I roll down the window?” I asked shyly.

    “What? Uh… yeah… sure, I guess.” he responded, for some odd reason he was hesitant.

    I fumbled with a switch and after a while he pressed a magic button. The glass rolled down and I stuck my head out the window.


    I felt like I was in a labyrinth of metal and brick, concrete and cement. Shouts rang out through the foggy air along with the symphony of different machines. Fantastic colors and lights glistened, blended together in a chromatic haze. The trip to the club was too fast and when I was done I paid the cabbie with a few fives and headed out.

    The club was different from the rest of the town, but I wasn’t sure if I liked it. The air was not sweet and damp with mist but rather hot and humid with the sweat of dancing bodies. Smoke filled the place and all I could see was the black of the room but with purple and pink and blue lights shining down on everything.

    A dance floor was teeming with people and a bar was equally bustling. But that wasn’t where I wanted to go first. I went to the bathroom to satisfy the clenching in my lower stomach. It wasn’t very clean and the restroom had some smells and sights I didn’t appreciate so much. The toilet flushing was pretty magnificent, though. When I stepped out I was the only one in the bathroom.

    Facing me was a row of sinks with an expansive mirror.

    Then it occurred to me I’d never seen myself before.

    Rushing to the mirror, I touched the creature in the reflection. It had dark brown hair that was medium length and was wild. It had fair skin and blue eyes, not quite gray, with broad shoulders. I looked fascinating, but a little leaner than a lot of the other men. I was wearing a navy, collared, button-down shirt and khaki pants. I rolled up the sleeves to my elbows and untucked the shirt.

    When I stepped out of the bathroom I strode to the bar. A man in an apron asked me what I wanted. Not knowing what he was talking about, I asked a female human next to me. She made the most heavenly sound – I think it was a laugh, happy and bubbling with amusement.

    “He’ll have what I’m having.” and she pointed to her bottle.

    “Uh… yeah,” I confirmed, playing along, and the bartender winked.

    “Sit down.” she urged, patting the chair next to me.

    The lady looked like my age, around twenty-four. She was very pretty, with long brown hair parted at the side and bangs, brighter blue eyes than mine and slightly-tanned skin. “What’s your name?” she asked in the greatest voice.

    I decided to go with the name The Creator gave me. “Uh… Daniel.”

    She smiled and handed me my drink when the bartender sat it down. I took a drink and gasped, spitting it into a napkin he’d also given me. It was much too bitter.

    My new friend busted out in that amazing laugh of hers again. I grinned, too. “Hey, Daniel. I’m Christina.”

    “Hi, Christina.” I blushed and shook her hand, which was followed by another one of her smiles. The name itself sounded so beautiful to say.

    “Christina.” I repeated again, this time slower.


    I have experienced something I never wished to encounter.

    Last night was a blur, a moment I can’t quite remember but never will forget.

    Christina coaxed me to drink more and more of the liquid in the amber bottles until the colors were no longer as beautiful as I thought them to be, until the sounds and sights were distorted in the club. She led me confidently by the hand onto the dance floor and we went into motion. The music was pulsing and deafening, loud and all-consuming. I followed the beat with my body, jumping with the crowd and swaying my arms and legs when necessary.

    Christina put my hands on her waist and her arms on my neck and our bodies stayed close like the other couples. The heat and intensity increased on the floor and I felt a magnetic connection between us, something that didn’t feel quite right but I wanted to continue. Christina moved gracefully in her dress, elegant and poised on the dance floor.

    After dancing she hauled me to the back of the club and onto one of the couches. Christina slid her fingers through my hair in a way that was all too practiced and kissed me on my mouth with her lips. It was overwhelmingly good but shame and guilt was in my gut.

    Christina kissed me more, inhaled and breathed. After one kiss, she whispered how much she loved me.

    Heat rose in my stomach and I told her I had to leave.

    She told me not to and persuaded me with another kiss on the neck.

    I got up and walked swiftly to the doors.

    Christina grabbed my forearm but I took her hand off of me and ran out of the club in a toxic swirl and staggered back to The Creator’s home, too embarrassed to take a cab.

    I had sought Love in the club, one of the most prized emotions. But what I had felt was not Love. I felt anger and resent, sadness. Love was happiness, completion of one’s soul, where you wanted to see that person every day for the rest of your life. I did not feel that way about Christina. My preconception of Love was completely wrong.

    I had experienced lust and want, not Love.

    There was nothing left for me. That brief taste of reality was all I didn’t want to know.

    I realized for good that I didn’t even exist.

    Even if I wanted to love Christina, I couldn’t have done it, for I wouldn’t have been able to even see her. No emotion existed for me, no happiness, no Love, nothing to comfort my soul at the end of the day. Only the world’s bad emotions waited for me, for that is what I have experienced and will live with.

    I am a fictional character on the Writing Forums. I was never going to see Love, or any emotion.

    I was stuck in a senseless world of Gray: the color of emptiness.

    I just hope the humans on their cell phones will appreciate their existence, how happiness and Love do wait for them, and I hope they will see that it does.
  5. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Afterburner - The Community

    “Welcome, to The Community.”

    These were the first words I ever heard.

    That was three years ago. I had just been created… Member #698. As a newborn, before I could fulfill my duties in The Community, I was Educated. I was a commoner, and my only goal was to follow the Rules laid down by The Founder, and to do my duty to The Community. The Rules were upheld by The Moderators… handpicked by The Founder himself. The Founder was never seen in public, but he broadcast occasional announcements to all Members.

    There were no classes in The Community among the Members. All Members were of the same class, each wearing a black jumpsuit with their number in white on the back. The Moderators wore blue, and through the loose lips of a Moderator, The Founder was said to wear red.

    Punishments were rare in The Community. Generally, Warnings were given if the offense was light. However, for more severe errors, the offending Member could be Banished, the ultimate punishment in The Community. Members who were Banished were never seen or heard from again… they just vanished, and their member number was never used again.

    I was a laborer; working in the fields to supply food… the most basic necessity for any community; the fuel that kept it going. I toiled from eight in the morning until five in the evening, with a thirty minute lunch break at noon, Monday through Friday. Weekends were free for Members to spend as they pleased.


    I awoke groggily as my alarm went off. I sat up and rubbed my eyes, trying to postpone the day just a few more minutes. However, tardiness would result in a Warning, so I stumbled into the shower, dressed, and left my small home on my bicycle. I pedaled past the monotonous row of white houses and across the bridge to the fields. I parked my bike with the others, grabbed a pair of work gloves and a pickaxe, and proceeded into the fields to begin my work. A Moderator stood in the shade by his post and observed our work.


    The bell for lunch could not have come at a more welcome time. I was starving, and eagerly mounted my bike and rode to the cafeteria. Working in the fields meant that I was almost always one of the last in line. I waited impatiently as the line dwindled and I received my measly portion of meat and vegetables. I sat down and looked around at my fellow members. They were all rhythmically eating their food, not saying a word to their neighbors. How could they enjoy this so much? Why were they so happy to have the same thing day after day? I grabbed my fork and miserably began to eat.

    I was late. I’d lingered in the cafeteria too long and I was going to be late returning to work. I pedaled as fast as could to the fields, quickly and haphazardly parked my bike and sprinted back to my gloves and pickaxe. I prayed that The Moderator would ignore my tardiness, but I knew it was unlikely. I went to work quickly and tried to blend into my line like I’d been there the whole time.

    “Hey! Member #698, I need to speak to you!”

    I ignored him. I was doing my work, and I’d only been a few minutes late. Why couldn’t he just overlook this?

    The Moderator was behind me. “Member #698, I’m talking to you!”

    “What do you want?” I screamed. I couldn’t take it. I spun around to face him, and realized my mistake too late. I’d held onto my pickaxe as I had turned, but The Moderator was closer than I had expected. My pickaxe caught him on the back of the leg, cutting through the fabric of his blue jumpsuit and into the skin. The Moderator crumpled in pain, blood gushing from his calf. The other Members stared in horror, eyes darting from me to the Moderator and back again. Two Members finally grabbed the Moderator under his arms and quickly carried him to off the fields to the hospital. I stood in stunned horror at what I’d done. The other members soon went back to work, but I dropped my pickaxe and ripped off my gloves, and dashed back to my bike. I sped off back to my house, dropped onto my back, and put my head in my hands.


    They were banging on my door. The Moderators had come for me. I just sat still and waited. I heard a crash and felt rough hands on my arms. I kept my eyes closed as they dragged me through town. I didn’t open them until I heard the grinding of a gate. They were taking me to see The Founder. They threw me into a white chair, facing a small white table, in an all white room. The two Moderators with their blue jumpsuits were in stark contrast to this… this cell. They then exited the room, leaving me alone to my thoughts.


    I don’t know how long I’d been sitting there. I looked up as I heard the door open, and my breath caught. The Founder was striding into the room with a chair in his hand. He set the chair down and took a seat across the table from me with a grim look on his face.

    “What do you have to say for yourself #698?”

    It took me a moment before I was able to speak.

    “You… you wear red.”

    A smile spread across The Founder’s face, and he actually laughed.

    “Yes, yes, I do wear red.”

    He chuckled to himself only another moment before he regained his composure, and the grim face returned.

    “You attacked a Moderator,” he said calmly.

    “I… I didn’t mean to. It was an accident.”

    The Founder leaned back in his chair and regarded me, a curious look on his face. He took a few moments before speaking again.

    “I believe you #698. I do. However, whether accident or not, some form of punishment must be given to you. I and my Moderators are now going to discuss what that punishment will be.”

    I stared at him with my mouth hanging open. The Founder calmly rose, picked up his chair, and exited the room. I stared at the door another moment before I found my voice.

    “It was an accident! It was an accident!” I screamed, pleading to the air. “It was an accident!” I yelled until my voice went hoarse, and with that I broke down and wept.


    I must have fallen asleep. My head had slumped onto the table, but I looked up as I heard the door squeak open. The Founder had returned, followed by two Moderators. The three of them stood by the door, but The Founder spoke.

    “I’m sorry #698, but you are to be banished.”

    With that, The Founder turned and exited the room. The two Moderators walked over to me and roughly picked me up and carried me from the room. I was too distraught to say anything or resist. They carried me into another white room, this one with lone table in the center. The table was at a slight incline, and had black arm and leg restraints on it. They laid me on the table and strapped me down before exiting. I heard the bolt clang shut. A panel then slid away in front of me, revealing another room separated by thick glass. The Founder and his Moderators stood there, looking at me. The Founder leaned down and appeared to press a button on the board in front of him. His voice then resonated inside my room.

    “Goodbye from The Community.”

    These were the last words I ever heard.
  6. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Phobia - Jamie

    By the time I woke up to sundown, I was on the computer all day, compelled to post on every single topic I could and wait for replies greedily. It was like I was computer and forum high, and I was just addicted to the scent in which the website gave off; that hard, sickening scent of wonder, glory, fun and adventure in which I hadn’t realized was horrible until that day.

    I ran my finger over the keys and I notice something was very different about them today. They had a different tint to them. They…They’ve been touched by someone ELSE! ...This is horrible and definitely not tolerable! I thought to myself as I went sprinting down the hall to my little sister’s room. I let myself in and saw her playing with her friend Kim. “Maria, can I borrow you for a minute?” I asked and without an answer I yanked her out of the room.

    I shut the door and smacked her across the face. “WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU ABOUT USING MY COMPUTER,” I yelled at her, “I TELL YOU TIME AND TIME AGAIN NOT TO TOUCH IT! YOU HAVE YOUR OWN!” She started crying, but I felt no mercy as I smacked her again. She ran down the hall crying, probably to get my parents. I didn’t care what they did to me for it; I had a perfectly good reason, didn’t I?

    I went back to my room and locked my door. They couldn’t get in no matter what now and I had a phone to easily call the cops if they tried to abuse me. I logged on to the forum and immediately made a thread about what happened. Of course, I tried to include all the other members, too, so I didn’t look like I wanted any sympathy.

    I titled it “Post what’s going on lately” and then I typed up what happened and clicked “post reply.” I wondered if they would understand any of it. I was anxious for a response. Just as soon as I got a response, I heard banging on the door.

    “KALON, OPEN UP,” I heard my dad roar. I ignored him and had the phone at the ready, entailed to call the cops with. What an asinine fool he was, for the neighbors could easily hear him through the thousands of windows that were scattered along the walls in the household.

    Next came my mom’s voice going, “I WILL GROUND YOU FOR LIFE IF YOU DO NOT COME OUT RIGHT NOW.” She was the typical mother, always saying what she doesn’t mean. I had enough, so I took an old rucksack and began burying it with items.

    Some of it was probably unnecessary, but whatever, I had no time to care. The reply I got on the forum was of one of the members giving me their address and asking me to come live with them. Perfect, just what I needed to get of this confounding household.

    I swiped the money I had earned from mowing Mrs. Cavert’s yard, opened the window, and climbed out onto the lustrous, dewy grass that gets watered by the sprinklers every morning. I started jogging and then began sprinting out of fear someone would see me and call the cops.

    I ran and ran and ran, all the way to Ohio from Minnesota, where I lived. I stopped, of course, along the way, and just kept running to the forum member’s house.

    After what seemed like eighty years, I finally got to the forum member’s house and rang the doorbell. No one answered the door at first, and then I rang it again. Abruptly, a tall woman with hair in a bun answered the door. “Who are you?” She asked me.

    Her voice was soft and attenuated, unlike my mother’s. “Is…” I looked at the address with the forum member’s name on it, “Jamie home?” The lady gave me a weird look.

    “Jamie?” She asked, “Whose Jamie?” All of a sudden I became panicked and scared.

    “I…I’m sorry! I must have the wrong address!” I said politely. The woman smiled at me luminously.

    “No need to worry, honey. Are you lost?” She asked me. I shook my head, but then slowly it came to me and I nodded.

    “I think I’ve been tricked…” I said and showed her the address. “Jamie from the forum must have tricked me!” The lady’s face became distraught all of a sudden.

    “You can never trust the internet, hun…Where are your parents?” She asked. I scowled.

    “I ran away from home. I hate my whole family!” I bellowed at her in fierce animosity. She was caught off guard and then she smiled after that.

    “Honey...I’d like you to go home for me, okay? Would you like a ride? Where do you live?” She was so calm and loving…I was very surprised. I hesitated and then told her. “…Minnesota?! You ran here from Minnesota?! I don’t believe it!” I nodded.

    “It’s the absolute truth, ma’am,” I told her, and she asked me to come inside for a cup of hot chocolate. It was raining, after all…Did I not mention that?

    After about two or so hours of playing with the lady’s children, she had gotten in touch with my parents. She said they were on their way at this moment. I scowled again, fiercer this time. “I don’t want to go home! Are you joking?!!” I asked her honestly. She shook her head and placed a hand on my shoulder.

    “Honey, trust me…They’re going to be very happy to see you. There was no reason for you to run away. Now I want you to promise me something…As soon as you get home, get rid of your computer. Can you promise me that?” She asked earnestly. My jaw dropped so far, I thought it hit the floor.

    “You’re kidding, right?!” I said and was about to start a tantrum. She shook her head and then smiled.

    “Just promise me. And your life will be worthwhile in the end. You can never trust people on the internet because you never know what will come of it.” I looked at her in disbelief at first, but then it began making sense and I slowly nodded.

    “I’ll do it…For you…” I said and looked at the floor, while playing with her kids and their Lego™ blocks.

    “Thank you...” She said, and brought in some treats for us.

    When my parents came, I looked regretfully out the door. The lady had given me her phone number to call her if anything was troubling me and if I wanted to talk or play with the kids Megan, Julia and Hayden. The car pulled up to the driveway and they came running out, hugging me and kissing me all over.

    “Thank goodness! Thank goodness! Thank goodness it was a good person! Thank you!” She said to the lady and shook her hand. The lady told us to keep in touch and my parents ushered me to the car. I asked them to wait and they nodded as they got in the car.

    I looked up at the lady on the doorstep. “Thank you…” I said, flushed. She smiled.

    “Kalon, don’t mention it,” She said. I looked up so quickly that my neck and head could have been a jet.

    “How did you know my name?!” I asked her. She smiled and pointed to the car. My parents had told her. I nodded, hugged her, and ran down the hill to the car.

    I got in the car and on the ride home it dawned on me that they hadn’t really talked at all, her and my parents. Could she have been...No, she couldn’t have been. There was no way, because she said she was not! There’s no way she could have been…

  7. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Hindumaliman - Reality Bytes

    “Come on Lizonna, we only have to get past one more flash-wall till we’re back home!”

    “You said that four flash-walls ago Baltak42!” Lizonna replied venomously as she looked up to the blindingly illuminated barrier, covered in constantly shifting words that she could never quite decipher.

    “We’re almost there!” Baltak42 replied enthusiastically as he reached the edge of the obnoxious wall to find, to his great discontent and Lizonna’s expectance, another flasher-wall.

    “Oh come on, why do these stupid things always have to pop up?!” Lizzona cried dishearteningly.

    “Fail,” Locab remarked, reminding the two that he had come along with them on their daily surf.

    However fortune was with them at last. As soon as the flasher-wall began uttering some incoherent musings on teeth whitening it was destroyed by a giant block. As it shattered; Lizonna, Locab, and Baltak42 looked upon their home.

    “Forum,” Locab said a short-lived shred of joy appearing on his usually bleak face.
    As the group approached their homeland, they came upon the all familiar booth marked plainly in bright red, SERVER. As they approached the booth, preparing to present their IPs to the tireless worker, they found something most discomforting.

    “Where’s the bot?” Lizonna asked wonderingly as she looked into the vacant booth, its flickering lights dim.

    “Don’t know.” Baltak42 replied dumbly.

    “Sucks,” Locab remarked plainly
    So as the trio contemplated how they would work around this unusable bureaucratic gateway, they failed to notice the creature oozing past the deactivated firewall. Its breath shallow, its mind with single purpose, destroy. Detaching from the barren ground, the creature cried out,

    “Die intruders!”
    Before the group could blink the frothing mouth of the beast let forth its sickening fangs and nearly sank them into Locabs vulnerable flesh. Lizonna was faster than the monstrosity anticipated and paid dearly for it as his legs sank to the ground, immobilized forever by the quick-witted girls report blaster.

    “Nice,” Locab commented.

    “Great shot dude!” Baltak42 shouted excitedly pumping his fists and making bang noises to imitate her feat of marksmanship.

    “What did I tell you about calling me that?” Lizonna said her tone carrying a noticeable menace.

    “Call you what?”

    “Dude,” Locab answered dryly.

    “Why don’t you like being called dude?”

    “Because it’s unfeminine,” Lizonna replied tersely.

    “Well maybe I’m still not sure you’re a girl.”
    Hearing this, Lizonna turned her face a mask of shock and disgust which she usually reserved for witnessing death and live giraffe births.

    “How could you not think I’m a girl?!” Lizonna screeched stamping the ground in frustration as she awaited the usual explanation.

    “Well the fact is you just don’t act like a girl. Any other place in the world girls are really….well-“

    “Sexy.” Locab interjected.

    “Uh yeah sexy,” Baltak42 said, realizing just after the weight of his words.
    Lizonna looked angrily to the two of them and gave them the bladed question,

    “So you don’t think I’m sexy?”

    “You? Uh no! Er yes! Umm wait!” Baltak42 babbled, his indecisive tongue doing nothing to slow the inquisitive blade progressing to hew him and Locab down.

    Its cut wasn’t a dramatic swing, but a slow nibble of metallic teeth grazing at Baltak42’s already limited self-esteem. Locab, who had given up on believing in women without any interest in profit in pleasure, had long since stopped caring and watching Lizonna’s icy glare bore into Baltak42’s flooding temple with great amusement.

    This amusing scene came to an abrupt end however as a swarm of heavily armored warriors charged through the port immediately surrounding the downed carcass and the trio.

    “IPs out!” Ordered one of the armored members, though it was hard to tell which as their faces were all blocked by a black screen which came down from their helmets.

    As the group produced their IP cards, which shook in their frightened palms, one of the members approached and snatched them up. After a quick scan he looked back to the group quickly and gave them a thumbs up.

    “You’re good,” He said reassuring the terrified trio and then lifting his mask to reveal his face said happily, “You’re very good indeed.”

    “Happyman7!” Lizonna cried out joyously as she scrambled over to hug the owner of that all familiar face. However, Baltak42 wasn’t familiar with that familiarity as he was a newcomer to the land and felt his mouth utter a bureaucratic failure by his brain which brought instant regret.

    “Nice name dude, real original.”
    Lizonna looked surprisingly to her friend and replied snidely,

    “Yeah Happyman7 is so unoriginal, Baltek42,” enunciating the numeral behind his common name with a sarcastic vengeance.

    “Noob,” Locab said distastefully to the already fiercely blushing Baltak42 as he pointed to the shimmering patch on Happyman7’s armor. Baltak42 saw the true impact of his ill-planned statement as he read the shining label aloud fearfully,

    Happyman7 nodded and replied, “Yep I’m a mod just like the rest of these people,” he gestured to his armored companions who had revealed their faces as well, “Yeah I know it’s a common name, but hey I am a Happy man.”
    Baltak42 realized he wasn’t to fear the boot this time and sighed in relief of Happyman7’s leniency and to his own luck as he looked to the other grim faced mods, thinking of the terrible fate he could have suffered from any one of them. Happyman7 predicted his thoughts and said kindly, “They’re not always like that.”

    “Then why are they?” Lizonna inquired as she looked to her respected moderators and sensed their unease.

    It was Happyman7’s turn to look grim as he answered, “Because Aubs is gone.”

    “AUBS!?” the three cried in consternation.

    “Yeah, he disappeared about a week ago. No trace.” One of the mods commented, the fetid blood shimmering of his armor reminding the travelers of their confusion.

    “What was that thing?” Baltak42 asked concernedly as he eyed the still twitching carcass as it was carried off by a team of moderators.

    “That was a HaXzOR,” the mod answered offhandedly as he walked off to enter desultory conversation with his fellow mods.

    “Bad,” Locab commented as he looked to the group of moderators, just then realizing their thinned ranks and frail forms.

    “What’s happened?” Lizzona asked, looking to Happyman7 concernedly.
    At this moment the sociable moderator turned from them and gesturing to the port, he said simply, “Come see.”

    So the group followed the moderators timorously through the shimmering entrance, entering it with a shrill beep as their only history. Once through a collective gasp was uttered from the three as desolation let itself be known. Soot from the charred ground filled their lungs and what space remained was occupied by the stench of death. Explosions and crackling wires let forth their cry continuously into the bleak sky. What made those sounds worse, were that they were the only ones.

    “Where is everybody?” Baltak42 asked, his voice shrill with apprehension.

    “You’re lookin at em,” the moderator who had spoken to them before replied brusquely as he marched towards the windswept plains surrounding them.
    “There might be survivors,” Happyman7 commented optimistically.

    “Yeah and maybe a cheap ice cream bar too.”

    “Oh come now Riffed, we won’t get very far with that attitude.” Happyman7 countered as he smiled disarmingly at the skeptical mod, still walking as he looked back to the rest of the group.

    While Lizonna watched this volley unfold she was suddenly pulled aside by the familiar sweaty palms of Baltak42. As she watched him scan the scant group of well equipped warriors, Lizonna nodded as her novice companion asked, “Alright so Riffed is the mean one and Happyman7…well he speaks for himself, but who are these other guys?”

    “Well for starters the lone female of the group-and yes she’s a girl,” Lizonna side harshly as she stared down Baltak42’s look of skepticism, “Her name is Saphira and she’s a head moderator alongside Guxlog over there.”
    As Lizonna pointed to the two mods at the head of the group, Baltak42 examined them both. Saphira wouldn’t appear feminine under her armor was Baltak42’s first thought as he looked over the muscular female, but he quickly realized that beyond her brawn was true beauty as the Forum newcomer found himself fawning over her every lock of blonde hair as it darted up and down with every turn of her pretty head. Guxlog was on the other end of the spectrum as Baltak42 quickly scanned his corpulent form and buzzed haircut with much less enthusiasm.

    Lizonna then continued her far-off introductions, “The other mods are Pantherdude99, Scorchive and Fiquail.”

    Baltak42 nodded as he examined the moderators with piqued interest. After memorizing names and faces, the novice attempted a nonchalant approach, using the already excitedly conversing Locab as a screen to his advance. Once he arrived, Baltak42 immediately gushed, “You guys are so cool looking!” immediately cursing another failure from the bureaucracy of his cerebellum.

    “Fail,” Locab remarked harshly as he turned back to the mods who stared at Baltak42 until he felt his only escape was to dig, to dig far down into the earth to where he felt his social standing now was.

    This excavation of social expedition was never accomplished however as it was rudely interrupted by a fiery explosion as most inner-turmoil’s are. As the moderators formed a defensive block against the sudden incursion of HaXoRz, Baltak42 was thrown down by Locab just as a series of blasts ripped over their heads.

    While Locab was busy saving his newbie chum, Lizonna looked over the battle situation grimly. She had been given, by some grace, a fine plateau that she had walked atop of just prior to the battle. As she watched the enemy maneuvers, the female member raised a new and perhaps more devastating device, aimed directly at Saphira.

    Saphira and the other moderators, now deeply entrenched behind a makeshift palisade of nearby wreckage, were blasting away at their fanatical enemies whose numbers allowed them the terrifying tactic of direct charges. These came again and again always signaled by a fearsome war cry and ended with suffering shrieks of tortured bodies, lying limply just beyond the mods’ barrier. However, Saphira and the others were growing weary and their blasters dangerously heated. As she weighed her options of retreat or attempting a breakout assault she received a surprising advisor.

    “Saphira, this is Lizonna,” the voice of the familiar female member of Forum announced.

    “Lizonna?” Saphira asked questioningly looking around quickly only to have to shift back quicker still to take down another reckless HaXoR.

    “I’m far above you now. I’m using the PM device standard issue to all regular members,” Lizonna explained, “Your not entirely surrounded, the enemy is weak on the right flank, you can break out that way.”

    “What about you and the other members?”

    “We’ll be fine without you for awhile. Besides, we can meet back in the RP sector.”
    So with this assurance Saphira turned to Guxlog and shouted, “Come on we’re charging their right flank!”

    “Are you crazy?!” Guxlog responded in disbelief.

    “Pretty much, I’m already hearing voices.”
    So with this befuddling statement, Guxlog and the other moderators charged reluctantly behind Saphira, who had already dodged past the palisade and reached the hill beyond.

    As Lizonna watched her maneuver carried out with no casualties she smiled and watched as the confused HaXoRz pursued them doggedly beyond the ledge, past their twitching comrades. After this, the successful tactician marched down the plateau and approached a seething Locab and the meek ground-perusing Baltak42.

    “Coward!” Locab hissed at the continuously lowering Baltak42, who at this point was nearly kneeling from obvious shame. Not seeing any use in an increasingly whimpering Baltak42, Lizonna came to his defence,

    “Come on Locab, he was just in the wrong place in the wrong time.”
    Locab looked to his pitiful companion and then back to the rarely lenient Lizonna and nodded begrudgingly, becoming suddenly interested in the wreckage the moderators had used. Baltak42 looked up to Lizonna thankfully, she nodded to him in understanding and he asked, “So where did the mods go?”

    “I told them to escape past the HaXoRz,” Lizonna responded calmly, predicting that this statement might hold some shock.

    “WHAT?!” Baltak42 and Locab cried in unison, aghast that their friend would leave them defenseless in such dangerous circumstances.

    “Would you rather I had let them die in a hopeless battle?” Lizonna replied coolly.

    “Well that would be slightly better than us dieing in a hopeless slaughter!”

    Oh can it you two, how about you start running your legs as opposed to your mouths,” Lizonna replied with sharp finality. As the trio set off towards the ridges beyond, Lizonna added one last thing, “Baltak42, who says it’s going to be a slaughter?” the member in question looked back to see Lizonna carrying a pair of report blasters, and suddenly realizing his had gone missing. Embarrassed to have lost almost all control of his own survival and yet strangely relieved, Baltak42 trudged on between his armed and ready companions.

    “This sucks! This sucks! This really sucks!” Pantherdude99 cried as wild fire danced around his feet with about as much precision as parakeet washing windows.

    “I didn’t sign up for this!” Fiquail shrieked for about the fiftieth time.
    As the group was showered with blasts coming from all sides of the desolate valley they were rushing through, Saphira thought of Lizonna and the others members she had left behind. While for the most part they seemed capable of defending themselves she still felt guilt for abandoning them to the HaXoRz, especially after one of them had saved them all from certain doom. This thinking was luxury Saphira couldn’t afford, a fact she came to realize to late as a blast ripped through her ankle.

    “ACK!” Saphira screamed as her hair flew out wildly from her helmet, blasted away by a proficient HaXoR sniper. As many of the other moderators watched in static horror as one of their leaders was gunned down, Happyman7 rushed forward his gun ablaze as he fired wildly into the quickly progressing horde which hungered for the valuable armor which protected the still living Saphira.

    “Help her!” Happyman7 cried vainly back to the other moderators, unable to see their pessimist logic or realist views. An optimist he was forever, to the bitter, torturous, and long-endured end. As his armor was made useless, torn to shreds by the continuous blasts of the HaXoRz, the other moderators slipped away, from both need to retreat and fear of watching any further.
    As they ran, they came to a bridge known as Bandwidth. With haste Riffed and Scorchive sprinted across only to feel the terrifying loss of gravity and look into the eyes of true terror. Guxlog and the other mods turned and ran from this newly revealed monstrosity, knowing they had no hope against the legendary fires he possessed, whose tongues now lapped at the bodies of their comrades.

    Meanwhile, Lizonna and the others managed to cross the ridge and view the first clues of the slaughter just reaped. For before them lay the smooth ashen skin of Saphira, attempting to lift herself once more only to fall again to the ground made cold by her blood.

    “We have to help her!” Baltak42 shouted as he charged down the hill, blind to any friend or foe. This changed however, as Locab skillfully gored a lagging HaXoR, still greedy for more loot. As Baltak42 slowed and checked his surroundings he suddenly appreciated Lizonna’s stratagems.

    “Dang,” Locab off-handedly remarked as he walked past a shaken Baltak42. Not one to be shaken for long or at least not to show it, Baltak42 caught up with his compatriots who had just made a frightful discovery.

    “She’s alive!” Lizonna shrieked as she backed away from the ghostly hand outstretched to her earthly chance of survival, or perhaps to the Gods above.

    “Aubs,” Saphira said weakly as her eyes filled with distant memories, blurring memories which meshed into a collage of a life well spent. However before she could part the earth Saphira felt she could not burden herself, so turning to the trio, now fearfully backing away from her bloodied form, she said almost whimsically, “I’m actually a dude.”

    So was the death of a man. As Saphira’s final breath was taken and his lifelong camouflage disintegrated, the awe-struck group looked down at the grizzled face of chromosomal diversity.

    “Figures,” Locab said with finality as he skipped past the torn corpse of Happyman7, his face still holding a look of agony as he tried to save the woman he loved.

    Not wishing to mull about death for two long the members scurried to the hills, thinned by the significant stomping of HaXoR boots. As they crossed these hills they came to final desperation. A battle for the ages.
    There before them was a beast of legend, myth, fantasy, yet alive. As he took those grim breaths that gave evidence to his dark reality, Bridgeburner, the great troll, led his forces upon the final moderators of Forum.

    “Dude,” Locab said absent-mindedly as his hands released their sure grasp.

    “Aubs save us,” begged Baltak42.
    It was not them who needed saving however, but the hard pressed mods smashed on all sides by endless waves of HaXoRz, gunned down only to be thrown aside by the unending stream, eager for victory and not fearing death. Guxlog rallied his tiring forces again as they blasted another venturesome beast off their barricade.

    “Did I mention this really sucks!” Pantherdude99 cried for what he thought to be one of many times more, but that thought was wrong. It was his last.
    As Pantherdude99 bemoaned his last, the remaining duo of mod suddenly shared his pessimistic sentiment.

    “They’re gonna kill us both aint they sarge?” Fiquail asked, his tongue quivering over every syllable.

    “Yeah,” Guxlog admitted, “But let’s give em heck anyway.”

    "I did not sign up for this."
    So the two cried the cry of demons sent to clash against the holy on the plains of Armageddon and then set those beasts to shame for their ferocity. For as they ripped tore and blasted past the HaXoRz whose once mighty confidence had hemorrhaged to a white fear, Bridgeburner at last put his full attention to them.

    “You pathetic wastes of flesh. You mods should have killed yourselves quickly when you had the chance. Now I’m going to have to make you suffer,” the troll said menacingly with a sulfurous chuckle.

    As he prepared his flame, Lizonna suddenly rushed across the Bandwidth to him as his back was turned and without logic or reason to direct her shot, fired and charred Bridgeburner’s mighty back. As he cried in surprise he turned to the miniscule member, now standing among her fearful companions and found new reason for humor.

    “Your petty report blasters cannot kill me!” He cried triumphantly raising his arms as he cackled his polluted breath.

    As this happened the HaXoRz regained their old ferocity and charged to their beloved leader, just as the sky ripped.

    A terrible gnashing of the winds above them came forth. Gales of agony swept the reckless HaXoRz into a cyclone of fear and death. As Bridgeburner’s minions were blown away he turned to see the cause and found an unexpected answer. His humor was lost, his hands shaking in fear rather than rage. His lips trembled as he spoke the dirty word, “Aubs.”
    There he was, in shining glory, Aubs, mighty administrator of Forum. It took him not but a moment to banish Bridgeburner with his great hammer and float down to his joyous followers. As the group surrounded their beloved lord a single question was given forth by Guxlog, “Aubs buddy, where have you been?”

    “Out,” He responded simply.

    This didn’t satiate their curiosity as the inevitable follow up question was uttered by Locab, “Where?”

    “Places beyond the Forum,” he responded dully.

    “But why?” Baltak42 asked

    “Because I have what you call a life,” Aubs answered growing angry, “See ya.” he said with finality as he ascended again into that overly bright and noisy world beyond Forum.

    So the group sat. Unsure of what to do next, they waited in the Forum for something interesting to happen. Because inevitably something did and this was excuse enough for them to stay forever.
  8. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    murphcas - The Investigator

    Dr. Taft (6/15/09 10:45P.M.): He had a bullet hole through his back. It was obviously someone that owns a gun.

    Professor McHale (6/15/09 11:00P.M.): We can eliminate the girls then.

    Duchess Bianca (6/15/09 11:05P.M.): Just because we’re women doesn’t mean we don’t know how to handle a gun. I wouldn’t count your eggs before they hatch.

    Professor McHale (6/15/09 11:07P.M.): But if you don’t own a gun how did you acquire one?

    Duchess Bianca (6/15/09 11:15P.M.): Anyone of us could’ve taken the gun from someone who owns one. You shouldn’t only be looking at the weapon, even though it is important. You should also look at who was with the stable boy last, and who would have the motive to kill him.

    Michelle stared at the computer screen, contemplating the conversation that happened 45 minutes earlier. She processed the investigation thoroughly before typing in her response.

    Ms Shelly (6/16/09 12:01A.M.): It was obviously Madame DuPont. She’s well known for seducing men, which is how she could’ve acquired the gun. And he did accidently injure her prize horse which would be a good motive.

    Satisfied with her guess, Michelle got up from the computer and went downstairs for a snack. This investigation was probably the hardest yet. Michelle was part of a mystery solving forum. They discussed anything mystery from books to movies and television shows. One section of the board was dedicated to mystery games and the game she was addicted to was The Investigator. It was similar to clue, except the players only had to guess who the killer was. Finishing her bowl of cereal, Michelle headed back upstairs to see if anyone had responded to her guess.

    Madame DuPont (6/16/09 12:06A.M.): Well I never! Sure at times I may be a bit… promiscuous and the stable boy did hurt my Bonnie but that doesn’t give me reason enough to kill him. In case you all forgot Miss Lily, the maid, is dating him and she does have quite a temper. I think she was a tad jealous when she caught us together one night, which to me would be perfect reason for her to finally snap. I mean who wouldn’t be jealous of me? My guess is she stole the master’s gun and shot the stable boy.

    Sir Byron (6/16/09 12:11A.M.) Congrats Madame DuPont! You cracked the case! Now before the next person PM’s me with an idea I wanted to throw an idea I had out. Would anyone be interested in meeting up at my place one night and playing a live version of this game?

    Michelle’s jaw sagged. Quickly she typed back her answer, her hands shaking with excitement

    Ms Shelly (6/16/09 12:15A.M.): Of course! That would be awesome! Just say place and time and I’ll be there!


    Michelle’s hand shook as she used the door knocker on the old fashioned row home in Philadelphia. She was hoping she had the right house to save her from utter embarrassment. Having the wrong house would be so embarrassing if she wasn’t dressed up as her character, Ms Shelly. She had her hair back in a tight bun and was wearing a Victorian era maroon dress. Michelle let her breath out when a thin blonde girl in a maid outfit answered the door.

    “Hello there. You must be Ms Shelly. We’ve been waiting for you.” Opening the door wider, she let Michelle inside. “I’m Miss Lily, the maid. If you would so kindly follow me I’ll lead you downstairs.” Miss Lily led her through a hallway and into the kitchen where a door on the far wall stood ajar. Going through the door and down a flight of stairs, Michelle was shocked by the view. Upstairs looked like any other home, but downstairs was transformed into a Colonial style living room. Everyone was already there, mingling with one another.

    “Ah! Ms Shelly!” Turning to her right, Michelle was met with a tall, lean man who was dressed like Sherlock Holmes. “We’re all so glad you could make it. I’m Sir Byron, over by the piano are Professor McHale and Dr. Taft, on the couch are Madame DuPont, Duke Marshall and Duchess Bianca, and over in the corner waiting for Miss Lily is Nathan, the stable boy. Make yourself comfortable and we will begin shortly.” Without another word, Byron stepped around her and went upstairs. Stepping farther into the room, Michelle crossed slowly over to the table, listening to the conversations around her as she went. She didn’t like that she was late to the event. If she had been earlier she wouldn’t have felt so shy and would’ve had more time to get to know everyone. Instead she stood on the far end of the table away from everyone and watched what was going on instead. Just as she gathered enough courage to go over and start a conversation with the group on the couch Sir Byron returned.

    “Gather round everyone,” Sir Byron said, clapping his hands together for attention. The group grew silent. “Now,” he continued, “we all know how the game is played. Someone will die. Everyone is a suspect, so trust no one or you may be next.” He sounded so serious, nervous laughter filled the room. Michelle looked around. Several people were listening politely, others looked bored. Everyone was itching to begin. Just as Sir Byron opened his mouth to continue, there was a loud crash. Everyone turned and several people gasped. Professor McHale had collapsed, hitting his head on the corner of the piano as he fell. Bending over him, Dr. Taft checked his vitals.

    “He’s dead,” he said astonished and everyone began to murmur.

    Smirking, Sir Byron announced, “Let the game begin.”

    The room became dead silent. “You must be joking,” Madame DuPont said.

    “A man is dead, Byron!” Dr. Taft exclaimed.

    “Isn’t that the point of the game? Someone has to die.”

    “But not literally!” The room grew quiet again as everyone stared between Byron and Taft.

    Byron began to laugh, “Well of course he isn’t really dead.”

    “He’s not?” Miss Lily asked.

    “Of course not! What do you take me for? I wouldn’t really kill a man for a game. I just slipped a little sleeping draught into the drink he had upon arrival. All it does is lower the pulse so it’s hard to detect, but doesn’t stop it. He’ll be passed out for several hours but he’ll be fine.” The whole room seemed to breathe again. “Now, does anyone have any guesses?”

    “He might have been offered food that was laced with something he was allergic to,” Miss Lily guessed.

    “He doesn’t look like he was allergic to any food to me,” Madame DuPont replied, receiving glares from several people. “What? It was just an observation.”

    “Maybe it was poison,” Nathan suggested.

    “Or strangulation,” Byron said.

    “Let’s go back to how he was killed later,” Dr. Taft said. “Who would have the motive to kill him?”


    Almost two hours had passed since the game began and the only part they figured out was that Professor McHale had been poisoned. To get away for a bit, Michelle excused herself to use the bathroom. Although she was having fun, part of her wanted the game to end so they would be able to have normal conversation.

    Her long brown hair cascaded onto her shoulders as she removed the rubber bands that held it back. There were black circles under her eyes. Ripping off a piece of toilet paper she rubbed at the circles hoping it was just her makeup running. When it wouldn’t come off, she threw the crumpled piece of toilet paper toward the trash can, but missed. She retrieved it, and when placing it in the trash she noticed an empty bottle of Tylenol sitting on top. Picking up the bottle, she slipped it into her the only pocket she had on her dress, put up her hair, and went back downstairs. Returning to the group she walked into the middle of an argument.

    “This is ridiculous! Someone had to have done it! He didn’t just accidently swallow a bottle of poison,” Duchess Bianca was saying.

    “How do we know it wasn’t a suicide?” Madame DuPont replied.

    “That’s not the point of the game.”

    “Sir Byron,” Michelle said, “where were you when Professor McHale was poisoned?” Everyone looked up at her. Until this moment, Michelle had kept quiet listening to the accusations instead of creating them.

    “I was in the kitchen.”

    “What were you doing in there?” she asked, walking closer to him.

    “I was making lunch.”

    “Was it for Professor McHale?”

    “No, it was for myself.”

    “Huh, interesting.” Michelle walked toward the middle of the room, knowing that all eyes were on her.

    “What’s so interesting about it?”

    “Well I was just wondering what else you would use a bottle of Tylenol for.” She removed the empty bottle from her pocket for everyone to see. “Are you sure you didn’t grind a few pills up into a sandwich and give it to Professor McHale?”

    Byron began to laugh. Sticking his hand into his coat he pulled out a pistol and aimed it right at Michelle. Miss Lily screamed, and everyone backed away from Byron. “Congrats, Ms Shelly, you guessed right. I killed Professor McHale by grinding up some Tylenol and sprinkled them onto his sandwich. He was the first one here so it was easy to get away with.”

    “So he really is dead?” Nathan asked, confused.

    “Yes, Professor McHale is dead. Like I said someone had to die to play the game.”

    “I thought it was just a sleeping draught,” Madame DuPont said.

    “A little fib to get the game rolling, otherwise it would’ve ended before it began.”

    “You’re mad!” Duke Marshall yelled. Grabbing Duchess Bianca’s hand he said, “Come Bianca, we’re leaving. I will not associate myself any longer with this crazy person!” He didn’t take more than two steps forward when the gun was turned onto him.

    “No one is going anywhere,” Byron said. “You all allowed the poison to take full effect which makes you all accomplices. If anyone tries to turn me in they’ll be turning everyone in.” The gun went off, the bullet buried into Duke Marshall’s leg, as Dr. Taft tackled Byron to the ground.

    “Quick! Someone, help me tie him up!” he yelled and everyone, except Duke Marshall and Duchess Bianca, began to help. Miss Lily ran upstairs and called 911. Within 20 minutes the cops and ambulance had arrived and everyone was being questioned. As they were taking Byron away, Michelle told herself she would never go on another forum as long as she lived.
  9. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    eliza490 - Amber62

    Jessica Ranke rushed upstairs to her laptop. She'd been waiting all day to get out of school so she could log on to currenttalk.com.
    "Jessica, can you help me with my homework?" her little sister asked, making her jump.
    "No, not right now, Bethany."
    "But you said you would."
    "I'll do it later."
    "Look, can you just go tell Megan to come up here." Megan Hart was her best friend. They always hung out after school, usually in front of the laptop.
    Bethany rolled her eyes. "Fine."
    Bethany went back downstairs. Moments later, Megan and Jessica were in front of the computer, glancing over all the newest posts.
    "Hey, wasn't there something you wanted to show me on here?" Megan asked.
    "Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. I got a message from this new girl. Her username's Amber62. She said she lives nearby and she's up to win the same award I'm trying to win at school. See for yourself." Jessice opened the message and Megan quickly read it.
    "But the finalists have already been chosen. There are only four and you're one of them."
    "The competition is for whoever does the most charity work throughout the schoolyear. She's claiming she did more than me. I've been working on this all schoolyear. I really wanted to win this."
    "Amber62 didn't say what she did. She just said she did more than you. Maybe she's just trying to make you give up."
    Jessica ignored her.
    "I volunteered at the homeless shelter. I helped with fundraisers for three different charities. And I helped witht he school's campaign to encourage students to go green. What more can I do?"
    "Well, the school project wasn't really charity work."
    "It was voluntary."
    "Yeah, but I still don't think it counts."
    Jessica got up and started pacing.
    "We need to find out who Amber62 is."
    Megan shook her head.
    "Why? Everyone already expects you to win. This is probably just someone playing a prank on you."
    "But you don't know that. What if someone else really does win? Then I'll have done all that work for nothing."
    "It's charity work, Jessica. Even if you lose the competition you've still helped people. That's never a bad thing."
    "Yeah, I know. I just really wanted to win."
    "Okay, fine. If you want to win so bad get some more hours. There's still time, but you need to relax a little. It's not that big of a deal."
    "I know, but it's not just a competition. The winner gets five hundred dollars. I'm not old enough for a job. I never have any money."
    "Oh, come on, let's face it. If you had five hundred dollars it wouldn't last very long."
    Jessica laughed. "No, but it'd still be fun."
    They both laughed as they left the room. Jessica relaxed a little as they both grabbed a quick snack, but she couldn't stop wondering about Amber62. It could be one of the other contestants, but why? Everyone expected her to win. If one of the other finalists was catching up she would have heard about it. And why would someone say they were winning if they weren't even in the competition? It could just be a joke, but she still wanted to find out who Amber62 was. She would find out and she would still win.
    The next day at school Jessica talked to each of the other finalists. Rachel Green didn't really want to talk about it. She was already convinced that she'd lost. Amands Krawson was the opposite. She was sure she would win and seemed glad Jessica had brought it up. She wouldn't say anything about how many hours she'd completed or where she'd volunteered, but she definitely expected to win. Grace Jackson seemed to be in the middle. She didn't appear to be confident or depressed, and she hardly reacted at all when Jessica brought up the subject. The competiation didn't seem to be a high priority in her life. Rachel didn't care either, but she'd pretty much given up. Grace didn't care much, but she still had a chance of winning. Even so, she wasn't gloating about it so it wasn't likely that she would send Jessica a message saying she didn't have a chance of winning. If Amber62 was one of the finalists, it was most likely Amanda Krawson. She talked like she'd already been told she had won and it was obvious she didn't think very highly of Jessica.
    Jessica shared her suspicions with Megan, who rolled her eyes as soon as she brought up Amber62.
    "Who cares who Amber62 is?"
    "I do!"
    "Why, Jessica? Knowing who it is won't change the outcome of the competition."
    Jessica folded her arms.
    "I know. It just felt like the message was a challenge. I don't know why, but I feel like I have to do something about it. I'm not going to let someone intimidate me by sending me a message saying I won't win."
    Megan giggled. "Um, you kind of have. You're freaking out about this."
    "Yeah, I guess I am."
    They ate in silence for a minute.
    "Megan, do you think it could be Amanda Krawson? I mean, she doesn't like me and she really thinks she'll win."
    Megan sighed in annoyance, but thought about it for a minute.
    "Is there anyone else you think it could be."
    "Wait a minute. What about that new girl in our science class. She came in the middle of the second quarter."
    "She'd got the long blond hair, usually sits in the back."
    "Oh, her. Why do you think it's her?"
    "Her name's Amber. Amber Tessler, I think."
    "Okay, so where does sixty-two come from?"
    "Definitely not her height. I hope it's not her weight."
    "She is pretty skinny though."
    They both giggled. Jessica shrugged. "I guess it could be her."
    All either of them could do was guess. The winner would be announced in five days and all Jessica could think about was Amber62. She decided not to visit currenttalk.com until the winner was announced, which she was certain was herself and not Amber62.
    The day finally came. The bell was about to ring, but the announcements would come first. Jessica almost jumped out of her seat when her name was announced. She had won! She talked about it with Megan on the bus all the way home and they both laughed about how much trouble Amber62 had caused them.
    "Now we can finally go to currenttalk.com again and talke about other things," Jessica said as they sat down in front of her laptop.
    "Hey, you have a new message," Megan said after Jessica logged in.
    "Oh, my god, it's from Amber62."
    They both stared at the computer screen. The competition was over and Jessica had won. What was the point of another message.
    "Think we should read it, Jessica?"
    Jessica shook her head. "No way. It isn't worth it."
  10. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Last1Left - Real Life

    At first glance, passersby might assume that we were just a normal group of people. In order for that to happen though, several conditions probably had to be met first. Maybe the glare of the window obscured our clothes and features. Possibly, they wrote us off as comic book enthusiasts. Hell, the people walking by could have been just plain stupid. Because, the pathetic truth is, we weren't by any stretch of the imagination normal. In fact, we were quite abnormal; I don't think any of us could have fit in society.

    Phil, or GamerFan11, had shut down his EB Games for the day, all so we could have our first meeting. All the old timers of the forum had shown up, much to my displeasure. There was Flamez, Skittles, and LolCatz. PBAM and Erica91 were there too. Great... the whole cast. And Hunter -- me.

    Except they weren't really there. Instead of those annoying avatars that I identified them with... Well, there were annoying people. My doctor diagnosed me with an Antisocial Personality Disorder. He said I don't like people and I don't have a conscience, that I eat kittens, do pot, and pay girls for sex. Yeah, and he expected me to give him money for telling me that. Well, I flipped the doctor the bird and decided never to make humanly contact again. Humanly physical contact, that is.

    Online, I remade myself. Actually, that's wrong to say. Looking around the EB Games, I can see nobody remade themselves, because that implies they were made of something to begin with. I disagree. Maybe it's the ASPD talking, but I'm looking around unimpressed.

    GamerFan11 types like a five year old, and somehow he's a forty year old, balding store owner. Life plays out like that, I suppose. Still, he seems slovenly enough. Shirt untucked and stained, mismatched shoes, and a five o'clock shadow at half past noon. After three years of cycling through shrinks, I feel I can say he's anal expulsive.

    Flamez is some punk, high school kid who looks like he jumped in a bucket of black paint. Skittles, who I thought was a young girl up to this point, is a pleasantly plump housewife. Meanwhile, LolCatz feels the need to conceal his identity by wearing a mask... PBAM is stealing my thunder as the group's sarcastic asshole, and Erica91 is just busying her seventeen year old self with courting the emo prince of darkness, Flamez over there. So these are the people I've been associating with for the last few years of my life.

    No wonder why I haven't made any progress...

    Phil, er... GamerFan11, starts things off. "First, I would like to thank everyone for coming. I know it was hard for you all to get here. My mother wasn’t a fan of me shutting down the store, I’ll tell ya. Getting here for some of you must have been a real pain."

    "A b*tch," remarked Flamez. Deep.

    "Anywho, let's get down to business."

    Business? Somehow that word felt wrong here. Business implies productivity, and for some strange reason... Well, just looking around, I knew we weren't the creme of society. I wanted to comment, but I refused.

    The irony... I was the board's lurker.

    "N00bsKiller," GamerFan11 -- I mean Phil or whatever person/thing was speaking -- said.

    "The board's most hospitable member," PBAM quipped. Oh good one. Think of that yourself?

    "I don't know about you all," Skittles announced, her shrill voice nearly making my eardrums bleed, "But did you see what he posted under my thread?"

    "Which one?" Erica... Erica 91 asked. She flicked her hair and moved her chair closer to Flamez as she said it.

    "The one under the boyfriend problem," responded Skittles with a smile. As if anyone cared that the middle aged bloated cow could get a boyfriend.

    "Which one?" Flames reiterated, playing with the piercing on his ear. Skittles had man problems every week it seemed like. Looking her up and down, it wasn't hard to see why.

    "We should cast him into the abyss!" shouted LolCatz. He always talked like that, online or offline it seemed.

    "Why not… just ban him instead?" said PBAM in a lighter, mocking tone.

    "I'm only a mod, not an admin," GamerF -- Phil -- whatever, responded. "Plus, he has a static IP, I think."

    "Get 4 to do it then," offered Erica...91. "He's an admin."

    "He's been gone for over a year now," shot back Flamez, Erica's face falling in process.

    “4 can’t be gone!” protested Skittles. “We used to talk all the time. I’ll have you know he just divorced.”

    I don't know what compelled me to speak at that point. Maybe pure common sense, but someone had to say it.

    "Excuse me," I said, "Does it really make any sense to talk about forum matters in person. Now I'm not the best --"

    "Who are you?" Flamez cut me off. I was awestruck by his stupidity, but the little punk just glared at me as if I was ant he wanted to crush. I wish I were a cop so I could beat him blue with a billy club.

    "Reveal thyself," demanded LolCatz. Little freak doesn't even know who I am.

    "It's starfoxfan," said Skittles, rolling her eyes as if it was obvious. "Fox and I were very close. He was breaking up with his girlfriend right as I was finishing up with --"

    "Now, now" said Phil. Thankfully he wasn't as stupid as the five year old he typed like. "Obviously, this is Dan57."

    Even... the mod? My eye twitched at that. If I was going to say something, then it escaped me. I looked around the room. Metal folding chairs arranged in a circle. Coke bottles and plastic cups on the nearby counter, ready for quick drinks. Some genius had even brought diet soda. Screw it, I'd rather have a beer.

    "Forget it," I said as I walked towards the door.

    I think fmylife would be a better website to join anyway.
  11. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    ArielleCeleste - Fate

    Samantha stared at the blinking text line. She read and reread the question.

    Charmer1811: We've been talking for over a year. Why don't we meet?
    Charmer1811: Hello?

    She didn't know what to say. Samantha wasn't what you would call beautiful, therefore shying away from all face to face social interactions. She preferred to unleash her real self on the internet where it wasn't a requirement to show her face. Derek was the only person who had ever seen her real picture. They had met on a fantasy role-playing forum and they collaborated on many stories together. They became close online friends and spoke almost everyday. Sam had occasionally found herself signing on just to speak to him and go to sleep after a long day. She was still rather skeptical about meeting him. She had the oddest sensation but against her better judgment she started to agree to it.

    Smiles78: I'm not sure. I don't even know you.
    Charmer1811: Lol, that's the point silly. We've been speaking for more than a year. You know everything about me. It's only fair.
    Smiles78: I don't know.
    Charmer1811: If it makes you feel any better we'll meet at a real crowded spot. Like a station or a park. During the day.
    Smiles78: During rush hour would be better, lol. The more people the better.
    Charmer1811: How about Grand Central Station at 9 am? By the clock. What will you be wearing?

    She had already typed her answer but hesitated to press the enter button. Ahh screw it, she thought.

    Smiles78: Sounds great. I'll be wearing a red cardigan and blue jeans. How will I know it's you?
    Charmer1811: I'll carry a single white rose.
    Smiles78: See you then.

    Sam shut her laptop down and made her way to the kitchen. She let her mind wander to how the next day would turn out as she scooped ice cream straight from the tub. She imagined him to be a hunk of a man that would fall in love with her and whisk her away to some tropical island and make love to her until the sun came up. That's when it hit her. He had never sent her a picture, had he? The only clue she had was a single white rose. Ugh, she thought. What if he's a balding geezer with a pot belly? She decided to put those thoughts out of her mind and continue her romantic getaway hunk fantasy. She put Ben&Jerry back in the freezer and made her way back to her bedroom. The anxiousness made her toss and turn; a few nightmares waking her up in the middle of the night.
    "Now you're just being paranoid," she muttered. After chastising herself, she managed to fall into a restful sleep.

    Her alarm buzzed raucously for about five minutes before she gathered the energy to slam the snooze button.

    "Oh sh*t!" Sam flung herself out of bed and rushed to the bathroom. She took a quick and cold shower then hurriedly got dressed completely forgetting about the outfit she told him she would wear. She swiped her keys from the table and her bag from the foyer and sprinted to Grand Central station.

    Sam arrived with time to spare. She decided to grab some breakfast at the food court at the lower level and make her way back up to wait for Derek. While she was waiting in line, she spotted a handsome man with chiseled facial features holding a single white rose.

    "Jackpot!" She weaved in and out of the pedestrian traffic. "Excuse me, Pardon me. OW! My foot! Pardon Me, 'scuse me." She finally got to her destination only to be rendered speechless at just how handsome he really was.
    "No, I'm sorry. My name's Michael."
    "Oh, I thought you were someone else," she tried hard not to let the rejection show in her voice.
    "Blind date?" He asked, eyebrow raised. Sam just managed to nod. She was extremely disappointed.
    "Me too, although she is a little late. I wonder whats keeping her."
    "Maybe she has the jitters. Well, see ya around. I'm meeting mine by the clock. Good luck."
    "Thanks, you too."

    Like you could ever land that hunk of a man anyway, Sam told herself. She walked sluggishly back towards the clock, her hunger no longer an issue. She stood by the clock for hours. It was well into lunchtime when she realized she had been stood up. She headed back to the food court and ordered a personal pizza, sitting down in one of the corner tables. She glumly ate, looking around her to see if the hunk was still there.

    "Why couldn't his date stand him up?"
    "Actually she did."
    "Oh!" Sam jumped up raising her hand to her chest. "Didn't you know it's rude to sneak up on people!" Hunk be damned, she almost had a heart attack.
    "Her name was Aubrey. We met on Match.com. We were supposed to get coffee together before she took a train up to her parents' house near the Catskills."
    "We didn't really make plans, actually. We just agreed to meet here at 9 a.m."
    "Well, since we were both stood up, how about we make up for it and go on our own date?" Now Samantha was mortified. Had he detected the disappointment in her voice earlier? Was he just trying to be nice? Was he one of those guys that takes pity on ugly women, seduces them, then breaks their heart in a million pieces?
    "You don't have to take pity on me."
    "Who said anything about pity? I just figured we would mourn being stood up together."
    "Really?" she asked incredulously.
    "Really," he replied. He sounded sincere enough to her. "Dump that pizza and let's get some real Italian food."

    She stood up and dumped her half-eaten pizza in the trash turning to Michael who had offered her his arm. She was bursting with joy inside but tried her hardest to contain it. The two of them walked arm in arm for a few blocks and stopped to eat at a little Italian restaurant hidden in a side street. It was an outdoor restaurant, perfect for the weather they were having that day. They conversed lightly, asking the basic "getting-to-know-you" questions realizing they had a lot in common. After their little outing was over he offered to take her home. She assented and they walked once more arm in arm.

    "Thank you for a lovely afternoon, Mike," Sam told him as she went up the front steps.
    "I would love to do this again sometime."
    "I'd love to." She reached into her bag for a piece of paper. She scribbled her number and put it in his outstretched hand. He gingerly reached up and kissed her cheek. She turned and made her way up to her door, clumsily dropping her keys. He was waiting to make sure she got inside safely but didn't seem to mind her nervousness. Oh, God he must think I'm such a loser, she thought. Finally, the key gave way allowing her to enter the solace of her foyer. Her laptop was still in the same spot she had left it the night before. It booted up with the normal Windows ding while she made herself a pot of coffee. She logged into the forum to see if he was on their first. He wasn't so she tried MSN. He was.

    Smiles78: What happened to you today?
    Charmer1811:You're home...good. I'm sorry I got caught up with something and I had no way of getting in contact with you other than on the internet.
    Smiles78: I see. Well I'm not one to give second chances so you blew it buddy.
    Charmer1811: Oh, come on don't be like that. I'll make it up to you. Tomorrow? Please? With a cherry on top?
    Smiles78: Fine, same place?
    Charmer1811: Yes.
    Smiles78: Send me a picture of you so I know who to look for. There was a guy with a white rose there today too. Seems like a popular idea.

    He sent the picture to her e-mail. She bid him good night and signed off. After a few posts in the forum and some more Ben&Jerry's she went to her e-mail and opened the picture. He was good-looking. Black hair, beard, glasses, no hint of a potbelly or hairy arms.

    "I'll give you a chance," she whispered and went to bed.

    The next morning, there was a lot of commotion outside the station when Sam arrived. There was a swarm of police cars out front and an ambulance. She could see two news crew vans down the block. On-lookers were gasping in shock and horror as they received tidbits of information from those who had arrived earlier.

    "They say her throat was cut....Yeah she was badly bruised.....Raped...."

    Sam inched her way up to try and get a closer look, but apparently the body had already been cleaned up. Several announcements were made to reroute commuters, but Sam didn't stay to listen. She made her way back home slowly, feeling terrible for that poor girl. She walked in just in time to pick up Michael's phone call.

    "Did you hear what happened?" He asked her.
    "It's terrible. I was there but I didn't see anything."
    "Are you all right?"
    "I'm fine, I was supposed to meet the Ditcher there again, but I left. I didn't want to be there when the news would report and all that."
    "You want to hang out? I'll bring some movies and we can veg out in front of the TV."
    "Sure, just ring the bell."
    "See you soon."

    Sam was elated. She ran upstairs to change completely forgetting about her meeting with Derek.

    Eight months later....

    "Honey, come here! The killer hit Penn Station and they caught him!" Michael yelled. Samantha waddled back to the living room, squatting on the couch. Her enormous belly heavy on her back.
    "Derek Saunders, a local sex offender and alleged scam artist has been apprehended and is claimed to be the man responsible for ten rapes and 6 murders in Manhattan train stations over the last two years. More information tonight at eleven." They ended the brief with a mugshot of the killer.

    Sam let out a little gasp. "I can't believe it."
    "That's the guy!"
    "Yeah, honey they just said that."
    "No! That's the guy I was supposed to meet the day I met you!"
  12. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Wake of Eden - Closet Monster

    His stomach churned as he watched her walk out the door, crying, hearing her curse and spit out words he never thought he’d hear her say. This had been the angriest she had ever been, and this time it was the last that she would be. The door slammed hard, and every bone in his body trembled at the quake left behind, serving as a memory of his sudden loss. It’s a tough realization when you’re suddenly not that invincible, or not so clever, after all. He sat clutching the arms of his rotating leather chair, staring blankly at his computer monitor.

    Real Girls – Dirty Deeds

    For the first time those words filled his eyes with deep regret, more than ever before, wrenching at his heart violently.

    “Every time you ever pushed me or pressured me into trying something “new”, you only wanted to fulfill your disgusting perverted fantasies you get from watching other tramps online!”

    He tried convincing himself that this wasn’t true, as much as he knew it was, he couldn’t bear the thought that he had been hiding a monster in his closet all along. How could he have let himself become so addicted to this website? These girls had no self respect, and they were the kind he wouldn’t even consider to date. But then again, he liked it. He hated it with all his heart, yet loved watching them expose themselves. Sometimes he wouldn’t even be thinking about it, and by habit, or maybe instinct, run his fingers across his keyboard, typing the words he so often spelled. No sense looking away now.

    This particular site was a little different than others of similar nature. Maybe this is what attracted him to it at first? People were able to anonymously, if wanting to remain unknown, voice out their desires, wishing to see couples or groups act out different sexual scenarios. Every Monday, Thursday and Saturday there would be a new video streaming at nine o’clock.

    “I’m sorry, if you could just let me explain!” The words lodged deep in his throat, nearly choking him, as he tried to reach out to her as she left. Only a whimper and a jabbering mouth were as much as he could offer, when she caught him with his pants down.

    They had plans to go out to dinner that night, a new restaurant had just opened down town, a five minute drive from his apartment, and they were supposed to meet a couple of friends there. That was all supposed to happen at about nine-thirty, and he would have gotten ready maybe a half hour earlier, like he always did. Except tonight she didn’t wait for him to call, she just showed up.

    They never fought much, minor arguments here and there, nothing particularly serious. The worse was the time when he showed up at her father’s house, back in high school, drunk as a skunk and insisting that he was indeed the best young man that he could think of to take his daughter to the prom. She had been embarrassed at first, but it soon became something they would both laugh about. Though even that, at the time, couldn’t have compared to the hurt and heart break she would feel now.

    Never had she spoken a vulgar word towards him. Not until tonight. She had very good morals, the type of which didn’t much reflect his. Even though at time it seems it did, especially if they were visiting her parents or other close relatives. Once, he even took the time to add a little bit of gel in his hair on one of their visits. She thought he was real cute then. That was the time she caught him staring unusually long at her mother’s friends painting of a semi-undressed woman that was hung in the basement. She asked if it could be taken down for the weekend.

    Everything still seemed dreadfully unreal to him, as if at any moment she would come back through his door to forgive; reassuring them both that everything would be alright. But she wasn’t going to.

    “I hate you...”

    Those were the last few words which she spoke to him, as tears flooded her eyes. They were words that would painfully keep repeating themselves inside his head.

    He walked around his apartment, slowly, through the kitchen, then staring at his mess of dishes. Did he mean it when they made love? Or was it the hollow pleasure he had turned it into, becoming less meaningful with every click of his mouse. Every step he took became more sluggish, less wanting to move forward. The heaviness of his heart weighed him down like an anchor caught between rocks.

    He wept.

    Slamming a fist against the fridge he let out a loud cry, sobbing and moaning like a fool trapped inside a room with no exit, unable to look outside through a window to see if help was on its way.

    As he cried with his face dug into his lap, he only wished he could have changed things. Looking up towards the bookshelf in his living room, he eyed a certain book he had picked up one day while at a local bookshop.

    “Every man’s challenge”

    He stood up and walked to his bookshelf, grabbing the book and throwing it angrily against the wall and screamed. Then, he walked back to his computer desk, and sat down.

    He would never cheat on her, mind you, he told himself every time he’d enter the site name; he would never do that. How could he possibly do that to the person he shared his love with?


    They were in love, of course. There was only another month and a half until they were going to go house hunting.


    They spent countless nights lying together in bed, revealing secrets to each other they never told another living soul. And they experienced all the cliché romance as seen on TV. That’s who they were.

    *Clock tolls nine*

    But he would never cheat on her.
  13. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Ansky - The Other Side of the Screen

    A funny thing happens when you spend a week straight on an internet forum. I learned that the hard way the other night. It was around 3:00 AM and I was approaching my 173rd hour without sleep. There was simply too much happening on my favorite forum—M&Ms Anonymous—to bother with that nonsense.

    Porky, one of my least favorite forumers, was involved in an extended argument over M&M colors with Mr. Humbuttle, one of my favorites. When those two clash—and it happens more often than you could imagine—it’s more entertaining than watching a drunk monkey. Well, maybe not quite that entertaining, but it’s the only thing close. I was just getting finished checking the posting history of a recently banned member to see what he had done to seal his fate when a strange sensation overcame me.

    It was like I was being pulled inside my computer and there was nothing I could do to stop it. My entire body trembled as my foot was pulled through the screen. I tried to grab my chair but couldn’t reach it, and before I knew it I was peering out into my room. My chair was still there, as was my bed. All my books were there, and I could see my TV. There was, however, one critical thing missing. And that, of course, was me.

    Well, this is quite odd, I thought, my heart beating slightly faster than usual. In hindsight I probably didn’t find it as strange at first as it really was. It almost seemed natural that I was inside my computer considering I spent most of my waking hours staring at it. As I stared back into my room, though, my heart raced even faster as I wondered how in the world I would get out. I didn’t have much experience being trapped inside electronic machines, you see.

    Just when I was starting to truly panic, my train of thought was interrupted by an unpleasant screech.

    “There is NO WAY that blue M&Ms are the best! NO WAY!” the voice said.

    I spun instantly and saw that the speaker was a six foot tall pig who was standing on his hind legs quite comfortably. I must confess that my first reaction to this was not shock that a pig was six feet tall, nor that he was standing on his hind legs, and it wasn’t even “Holy crap, a pig is speaking.” No, my first reaction was, “Well, of course blue is the best M&M color ever. Everyone knows that.” Before I could express my view, however, a short, plump man in glasses spoke to the pig.

    “You’re wrong. Blue M&Ms are by far the best. Making blue an M&M color was the best decision they ever made.”

    “But the blue ones aren’t as flavorful!” the pig replied.

    “What do you mean flavorful? All M&Ms taste the same!” the man insisted.

    “Like hell they do!”

    “Excuse me,” I said, interrupting the debate, “but who are you?”

    “I’m Porky,” the pig informed me.

    I blinked, not sure that I’d heard him correctly.

    “Porky? From the forum?”

    “What do you mean ‘from the forum?’ This IS the forum.”

    I blinked again. There was no mistaking that I’d heard him right this time. He was quite loud and obnoxious, after all. I’d always pictured Porky as a pig, thanks to his avatar, but I’d never thought that he actually was one. I turned to the other man.

    “And that must make you…”

    “Mr. Humbuttle, at your service. It’s nice to finally meet you, Fredalicous,” he said, tipping his hat.

    I inwardly cringed hearing my forum user name. I hated it more than anything, but the forum rules said that names couldn’t be changed once they were chosen. I really should have put more than two minutes of thought into selecting it, but it seemed like such a good idea at the time.

    “You’re Fredalicious? Oh, great, here come Mr. Humbuttle’s buddies to pile on,” Porky said. “It’s so predictable.”

    “Just because they agree with me and not you doesn’t mean they’re piling on,” Humbuttle argued.

    “Right, yet they only seem to show up to argue with me when you’re around,” Porky replied, but his voice started to trail off as I began wandering around the huge room that I had been sucked into. Huge M&M posters were plastered on the walls and containers of M&Ms were everywhere. Even the chairs were shaped like M&Ms. Hundreds of people, animals, and giant talking M&Ms sat in the chairs, stood in corners, and moved around from group to group chatting. Almost all of them looked like avatars I was familiar with from the forum, and I found I could identify each of them solely based on that. I would have joined a conversation or two but they all seemed quite intent on expressing their thoughts and I didn’t want to bother anyone. I continued to examine the room.

    A giant M was painted on the floor in the center of the room. The walls were smooth and extended as high as I could see. The entire room was blue—take that, Porky—except for a giant black glass window that hovered ominously hundreds of feet above the floor. The glass was tinted and I couldn’t see past it at all. Ropes hung down from the windows; it looked like they could be pulled. I looked up at it, my brows furrowed. I made my way back to Humbuttle and his unfortunate sparring partner.

    “Peanut Butter M&Ms are crap. I don’t understand how anyone can like them,” Porky was saying, speaking in a way that suggested that his opinion was the only valid one in the entire world.

    “They’re even better than regular M&Ms!” Mr. Humbuttle replied, sighing deeply.

    “Um, excuse me. What’s that?” I asked, pointing toward the window.

    “That’s where the Moderators live,” Humbuttle replied. “In fact, Porky and I are probably getting to the point where one of them will call down and tell us to lay off. They’re busy dealing with the Spambots right now, though,” he said, motioning toward one of the walls.

    As they continued to argue I looked in the direction that Humbuttle had motioned and saw a small door in the wall. Every so often it opened and a small robot rolled in, screaming about one product or another. Most of the products they spoke of seemed to be aimed at increasing the size of a body part that I refuse to speak of here. Seconds after they entered the room, a giant hammer with the word “BAN” written on it would appear out of nowhere and smash the robot to bits.

    I gravitated back toward Porky and Mr. Humbuttle, but they were still deeply engrossed in their latest argument. It seemed far less entertaining on this side of the screen than it did on the other. Their faces were pink from the stress of the argument, though I suppose for Porky a pink face was to be expected. Neither one budged one inch from their stated positions, and it was obvious that they were just recycling the same argument that they had had a thousand times yet again. There are only so many ways that two forumers can argue the merits of peanut butter M&Ms, after all, but they didn’t seem to understand that.

    It was then that I noticed a man in the corner, lurking in the shadows. I didn’t recognize him at all. He sat back, his eyes shifting around the room, taking in his surroundings. A mischievous grin was plastered on his face. He was average in almost every way. Average height, average weight, black hair, brown eyes. Anonymous. He slowly edged his way toward the middle of the room and I saw a bullhorn in his right hand. He stopped on top of the giant M, cleared his throat, and brought the bullhorn to his mouth.

    “REESE’S PIECES ARE BETTER!” he bellowed, smiling widely as the words exited his mouth.

    Everyone continued what they were doing for half a second, then the room fell into complete silence as what the man said registered. Hundreds of sets of eyes turned toward him simultaneously as his smiled widened. Suddenly, without warning, his face began to melt, revealing a huge nose, wild hair, and grotesque teeth.

    “T-T-TROLLLLLL!” someone shouted, and after a brief pause, the room whirled into a frenzy unlike any I’d ever seen. Forumers raced toward the wall under the black glass, pulling on the ropes. Alarms sounded. Sirens blared. Everyone sped around, some of them arguing with the troll, others telling it that it would be banned. The troll laughed as it watched the chaos.


    The forum’s members banged on the walls under the black window, desperately trying to get the attention of the moderators. They screamed and shrieked while others tried to get close enough to attack the troll. Some flung M&Ms in the troll’s direction, but it easily dodged them, laughing louder and louder.

    Suddenly, a voice from above interrupted the scene.

    “ENOUGH!” the voice boomed, echoing throughout the room, and the occupants all turned to look at the giant black window, instantly silent.

    The Ban Hammer materialized out of nowhere, positioning itself over the troll, who looked up at it and smirked. “I’ll be back,” it said.

    The Hammer came crashing down on the troll and it ceased to exist.

    A brief celebration began. Hi-fives and hugs were exchanged all around the room. For once, there was something that everyone could agree on. Then a voice interrupted the celebration.

    “Yeah, so blue M&Ms are an abomination. They taste like crap,” Porky said.

    “They’re the best!” Mr. Humbuttle replied, as the two posters quickly forgot the scene that had occurred just moments before.

    As their argument continued the world around me faded to black, and so did their words. I’ll never know how I got back to the real world, but there I was the next morning, sitting in my computer chair. The forum stared back at me from the other side of the screen. I thought of how inane the arguments seemed to me now. I thought of how bizarre it was that everyone let the troll get to them so much. I thought of how annoying people were when they thought that the only valid opinion was their own. I paused, wondering if it was worth it. I hit refresh.
  14. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

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

    Tap. Tap. Tap. Each keystroke broke the silence, creating a pattering melody of letters strung together to form words. Tap. Tap. Tap. Pale fingers flew across the keyboard with a reckless abandon, making the melody grow more complex, and the words grow longer. Tap. Tap. Tap. The tapping stopped. The finger’s stilled and hovered over a final letter. It was only one keystroke and the problem would be gone. The girl continued to stare at the letter her fingers hovered over. It wasn’t like this was the first time she had done this; but for some reason it always got her. She closed her eyes and pressed. She heard a faint whooshing sound in the air around her, as if someone had thrown something. Her eyes still closed she slumped back in her seat.

    The blue light of the computer screen was the only illumination in the room. It slid over her face, making her papery white skin appear even more washed out and sickly looking. Her lank blonde hair was tied up into a knot at the back of her head and her overlarge white t-shirt gave her the appearance of being even smaller than she already was. With a small sigh she opened her eyes and got up out of her chair. It always took a lot out of her to do this, but it was always for the greater good. She liked to think she was helping the world, one letter at a time. With soft steps she walked into the small kitchen attached to the living room. Opening the refrigerator, she reached for a drink. Pulling out a small soda can she popped the top and was about to take a sip when a loud knock sounded at the door. She dropped the can in alarm, soda spraying everywhere. Gasping she wiped it off of her face and stared at the door in alarm.

    “Mackenzie! Open up!” The man outside banged the door again.

    Mackenzie’s expression changed from fear to shock. Her hand flew to her mouth of its own accord.

    “Mackenzie, open this door! I know you’re in there! Dammit! Open the door!”

    “Ethan?” Her voice was cracked and thin, as if she had only recently learned how to use it. Quiet as it was however, Ethan seemed to have heard it, for he stopped pounding on the door. Slowly she walked over to the door and opened it a sliver.

    “Let me in…please.” Hesitantly she opened the door the door wide enough to allow Ethan in.

    “What are you doing here?” He was quite a bit taller than her and she had to look up in order to see his face. The contrast between the two of them was striking. She was pale to the extreme from her platinum blonde hair to her white skin and the insubstantial air that surrounded her; whereas he was tanned with dark brown hair and a presence that seemed to fill the room. However the shape of their faces were the same, and they had precisely the same shade of light blue eyes; though Ethan’s seemed to have a brightness that Mackenzie’s suspiciously lacked.

    “What are you doing here?” She repeated; an edge to her voice that hadn’t been there a moment before.

    “There are strange disappearances. Emma and I have seen them on the news at night.”

    “So? What does that have to do with you being here?” She shot an icy glare at him then turned to begin cleaning up the kitchen.

    “So, they’re all people we knew. People you knew.”

    “Still not answering my question.”

    “They were all people you hated, Mackenzie.”

    “What and you think I did it? Hmm?” She sneered at him, but her eyes had widened a little bit in fear.

    “I’m not stupid, Mackenzie. I know you’re behind this!”

    “Oh and what makes you so sure that it’s my fault?!” She put her hands on her hips and stared fiercely up at him. “You think I’m suddenly a kidnapper or a murderer?!” She turned her back on him again, and began wiping the floor with such venom that she looked in danger of tearing the tiles up.

    “No I don’t suddenly think you’re a murderer. You would never hurt a fly. But I do know how much you hated the people that have been disappearing, and I also know what your dearest ambition is. And if you ask me, you finally figured out how to do it.”

    “No one did ask you. And you don’t know what my dearest ambition is.”

    “I’m your older brother Mackenzie, I know you.”

    “Maybe at one point you did, but a lot has changed.”

    “Yeah, it has. The Mackenzie I knew wouldn’t have let herself waste away like this.” She opened her mouth to say something then closed it again. She knew that he was right, but she couldn’t bear to admit it. Turning on her heel, she marched off to her bedroom, closing the door behind her.


    “Go away, Ethan! I don’t want you here!”

    “You need my help.”

    “No I don’t. I was doing fine before you came in throwing random accusations around.”

    “Stop being so damn stupid ‘Kenzie! You need to bring those people home! And you need help!”

    “What did you call me?” She opened the door looking at him incredulously. She had changed into and overlarge grey sweatshirt that made her blend into the room around her.

    “I called you ‘Kenzie.”

    “No one’s called me ‘Kenzie since I-“

    “Was a kid.” He finished the sentence for her, “you need me here ‘Kenzie. You know you do.” She stared at him for a moment and then collapsed into his chest.

    “I…I th-though if I…got rid of them… I m-might b-be able to get on with my l-life…” Her body heaved with sobs while Ethan gently rubbed her back and steered her into the living room.

    “It’s not going to help. You need to bring them back.”

    “I don’t know how.”

    “Well tell me how you figured out to put them there in the first place?” Her breathing now returned to normal and only a few tears trickling down her face, she began in a whisper.

    “I went online and for a couple years I searched through websites trying to find the one that I had heard about that promised to teach you how to use words to send something, or someone, anywhere you wanted. During that time I practiced every possible way of writing I could, trying to learn it in case I couldn’t find the directions. Then a month or so ago I wrote a story about this stray cat I had seen; and the second I wrote the last letter there was a whooshing sound in the air, and the cat was here. He was sitting on the window sill, exactly where he had been in my story,” she paused for a breath and then continued, “so I tried to write him out of here, and just like last time there was a whooshing noise and then he was just gone.”

    “And now you’ve been doing that to everyone who ever caused you problems?” She nodded mutely. “Alright…where are you sending them?”

    “To a forum called ‘White Space’ it’s just a forum like any other. It’s not even a bad place!” She looked pleadingly at Ethan, trying to justify herself, “There’s no work or poverty or hunger…no pain of any sort there!”

    “You mean that there is no feeling at all there.” She looked at him, and then gently shook her head, “Mackenzie that’s not a good place. By sending them there you’ve taken away their lives. No matter what they did no one deserves that. And you don’t have the right to decide that.” She began to cry in earnest.

    “I just wanted to make myself better.” Reaching over, Ethan enfolded her in his arms, letting her cry against him. After a few minutes she sat back and began to wipe at her eyes.

    “But one thing I don’t get is, how can you make the cat disappear from here, but not bring those people back?”

    “I was just moving the cat around in this reality, but the people,” She shook her head hopelessly, “I sent them to a different reality, so unless I go there myself, I can’t bring them back.” They sat in silence for a while. Ethan’s brow was furrowed as if he was deep in thought. Finally he spoke.

    “What if you did go there?”


    “Just hear me out, what if you sent yourself into the White Space and from there brought everyone back?”

    “No one’s ever transported themselves before…there’s no way I could do it.”

    “You underestimate yourself so much! I’ve seen what you write it’s fantastic! And I know you can do this,” he knelt down and took her hand in his, “and besides ‘Kenzie, you have no choice. You need to bring these people back.” She looked at him for a long moment and then spoke in a faltering voice.

    “I can’t…I can’t…go alone…”

    “I’ll go with you.”

    “What about Emma? And the kids? What if I mess up and we never get back? What then?” She could see in his eyes that everything she had just said was running through his mind too.

    “I trust you ‘Kenzie. You’ll get us all home.” Slowly Mackenzie nodded and walked over to the computer. The eerie blue glow illuminated both of them, and after a second’s hesitation her fingers began composing the symphony of keystrokes and words that would take them to another place. Her finger hovered again over the last key before squeezing her eyes shut and pressing it. With a tremendous noise, they were pulled into a black tunnel and spit out seconds later into a room. It was completely white, with walls that continued upwards without seeming to end. Covering these walls were screen names, each with their own small light next to them. Someone of these lights were glowing a bright green. Random words and bits of conversations drifted around, floating between the names of the people.

    On the ground around them were hundreds of other people. Some of them were chatting animatedly, while others just stood there staring blankly into space. They often stopped or started conversations with no prelude or advance notice. Ethan stared at the people in confusion, and then turned to Mackenzie.

    “What’s with them?” She glanced up at the people then looked down at the pad of paper she was writing on.

    “When they are here they become attached to a person…a screen name. They then take on that person’s internet persona whenever they are online. And when they’re not online they just…go back to nothing…” She gestured helplessly at the people who were staring blankly into space.

    “God, I feel so horrible for them, not even knowing what hap-“He cut off suddenly, looking wildly at Mackenzie, “how can I still feel?!”

    “There is a period of time between when you enter and when you latch on to a name that you are still yourself…but the amount of time varies per person, so I don’t know how much time we have.” Ethan nodded then watched as Mackenzie started to write. Slowly the page began to fill with her small, rounded handwriting. The more she wrote however, the slower her hand moved until she stopped writing completely and just stared at the page blankly. Ethan watched in panic, but he too could feel his emotions slipping away and he fought to keep them. He had to help Mackenzie, he had told her she would bring them back, and he never broke a promise.

    “Mackenzie?” She didn’t respond, she just continued to stare blankly at the page. “Mackenzie? ‘Kenzie?” Slowly she looked up, a flicker or recognition in her blank eyes. Heartened, Ethan continued, “’Kenzie, come back. “

    “Come back?” Her voice was blank and monotonous.

    “Yes, come back. You have to finish writing. You have to bring us home.”


    “I promised you we would go home….come on ‘Kenzie, write us home.” She continued to look at him with blank unseeing eyes, “Write us home, for me, your brother.” Something lit up in her eyes. And the blank look diminished slightly.


    “Yes, write us home.” Slowly she looked down at the paper and painstakingly wrote down one last word. Moments later a deafening whooshing noise surrounded everyone; and just before they were pulled into the black tunnel, Ethan saw everyone around them disappear.

    They were pulled through the bridge between realities, before landing gently on the floor of Mackenzie’s apartment. They sat there in silence for a few moments, then Ethan stood up and turned on the news. He watched as they reported the strange reappearance of Emily Starten, who had mysteriously vanished the day before in a small diner. His face split into a wide smile.

    “You did it ‘Kenzie! You brought everyone back!” he then noticed she hadn’t moved; she was still slumped over on the floor. He jumped to her side and pulled her over. She was crying. “Hey, hey what’s wrong?”

    “It’s my fault they were there. I’m a horrible person.” Her body began to shake with the force of her sobs, “And I almost lost it, you were almost stuck there forever because of me!”

    “Listen to me ‘Kenzie. You did put some of those people in there, but you also brought them all back. You saved not only the people who you put in there, but other people who weren’t technically your responsibility. And you didn’t leave me in there, you brought me back. ‘Kenzie, you saved everyone in there. You did the right thing, and a horrible person would never do that.” Her encircled her in his arms and for the third time that day let her cry into him. “It’s all going to be alright. Everyone thing will be alright again.” Slowly she nodded.
  15. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    bluebell80 - Off the screen and into hell (Warning: Violence, Horror)

    Drip. Drip. Drip. The sound and the spray of wetness on my face wakes me up. My head is whirring, my ears are ringing, and my conscious self is trying to pull through the fog blocking its way. My mouth is dry, so dry that my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I become aware that I am sitting on a hard surface with my back and head leaned against an uneven hard surface. My arms are locked in place at my sides, cuffs on my wrists digging in when I attempt to move them.

    My gritty eyes strain to open and the dark room illuminated only by a pale glow from an unseen window above. I can make out five other faces lining the wall across from me, in this narrow corridor of a room. Only a foot of space separates the outstretched feet across from my own. I take a deep breath, the rancid smell of rotting flesh, the scent of damp earth, and the harsh ammonia fumes burn in my dry nasal passages. My legs are dirty and the short, pink party dress offered no cover for them. I'm filthy all the way up. My dress is wet and torn. The others across from me, faces my mind is starting to recognize as the people I'd spent last night, or, ummm, the last evening I remember. I can't be sure how long I've been out or what time it is. It seems like daylight, but the windows are so high and so small, the light was hard to gauge.

    I try to reconcile what I last remember and my current situation. I had driven to Annon4837 ,or Marvin Gillman's house. I was meeting Marvin, Tinkerbell9944 – Danielle Martin, Justakid4ever – Justin Anderson, Ceiliasees – Ceilia Sanborn, Vampirelover – Mandie Phellman, Vampiways69 – Phill Crossman, and Reborninblood – Tim Joffy. Our forum, All Things Vampire, decided to hold local meetings all the the same day. There were fifteen meetings behing held across the world, and I had gone to one just twenty miles from my home.

    I arrived at Melvin's house, the board member who volunteered to host in my area, at 7 PM for drinks followed by dinner. I remember the drinks, but the rest of the night is a blank. I looked around the room again, trying to get a handle on who was in this room with me. Ceilia was next to me, Phill was across from me, Tim was next to him, Mandi at one end of the wall next to Tim, and Justin was at the other end next to Phill. Marvin wasn't down here with us.

    Tim was waking up. “Tim. Tim.” My voice rasped and squeaked at the same time, dry and scratchy. My stomach was wrenching with hunger. Tim's blue eyes finally meet mine, and the confusion I feel reflects in his plain, narrow, dirt encrusted face. He doesn't answer me, but opens and closes his mouth. He glances around the room and then nudges both Phill and Mandie with his elbows.

    Both Phill and Mandie started to come around. Phill looks around and tries to nudge Justin, but he is out of reach. His plump body slumping over towards the ground. Ceilia is also slumping over and just out of my reach.

    “Where's Marvin?” Phill asks me, his voice straining to even use a whisper. I shrug in response.

    “What if he's one of them?” Mandie whispers.

    I hadn't even thought of that. What if Marvin was one of the undead. His house was ridiculous for supposedly being a music tutor/teacher. Large, almost mansion like, out in the woods of upstate New York. He claimed to have inherited it from an Aunt who had married money. He hadn't been drinking last night, but was serving the drinks. He was pale, though not as pale as I would imagine vampires to really be. He was gaunt, long and lean like a swimmer, and about forty years old. He did have a bit of a creepy vibe to him though, now that I think about it. That must be it. He's a real vampire and plans on feeding on us. Panic starts to bubble from my gut, rising up into my throat threatening to cut off my already limited oxygen supply. My eyes tingle as if to shed a thousand tears, but nothing comes from my eyes. My dehydration is bad. I close my dry eyes and wish for tears to come. I don't want to die, not right now, not like this.

    A loud squealing noise echoes through the room. I look up and realize the wall across from me does not extend all the way to the wood beamed ceiling. The stone wall has an opening of about three feet above it into the rest of the underground chamber. The hollow sound of footsteps on a plywood floor stops in front of the door to our room. The latches on the door moan as they slide through their hitches. The door creeks open revealing light from the other room. The man in the doorway is outlined by the contrasting brightness in the room behind him. He touches the wall outside our room and a bright light flickers on over our heads. Marvin steps into the room. His face now visible, and he's wearing black clothes with a long black cloak dragging on the floor.

    I look at his face. I don't see the face of a vampire. His face does not have the same pallid look we've come to accept as the classic vampire look. When he smiles at me there are no fangs to see, just dingy yellow teeth stained with years of coffee drinking.

    “We'd rather be turned into vampires than be made lunch. Please don't eat us.” Mandie whines barely above a whisper to Marvin.

    A sneering smile stretches across Marvin's thin lips. “Oh, then you can be first.” He reaches down and unlocks her shackles, pulling her from the ground. Her legs give out under her heavy weight, pulling Marvin to the side as he bows over her collapsing two-hundred pound body. Tim attempts to trip Marvin as he is leaning unsteadily, but Marvin regains his composure hoisting Mandie's body up and wrapping an arm around her.

    Marvin kicks Tim in the thigh making him yelp in pain. He drags Mandie from the room leaving the door open. We hear metal grind from the area on the other side of the wall. Marvin reappears in the doorway briefly before closing it and latching the locks.

    Tim is whimpering a little and moving his leg. “It'll be all right Tim.” I look at him, knowing it's a complete lie.

    Clanking of metal on metal, followed by the shrilling of what sounds like a dentists drill, cuts through the air and echoes around the room and through my ear drums. Ceilia is now awake and sitting up against the stone wall. I glance at Justin; he's still unconscious.

    I jump, pulling against my restraints, when Mandie's loud, shocking scream drowns out the mechanical tool noises. The wide eyed faces before me looked as though the color had been sucked out of them and replaced with a sick pale green color. The scream dies out with a loud gurgling choke.

    My stomach heaves and I lean over to wretch. Nothing comes up, but my throat burns. I clench my dry eyes shut as I try to drown out the buzzing tool sounds with the ringing that now sings through my brain. The heaving won't stop, and my lungs burn with the need for oxygen. I drag a ragged breath between wretches. The tool finally stops. I hear the sound of garbage bags whipping open through the air, and then the sound of sloppy things being dumped into the plastic. The sounds make me sicker. I heave again and again until blood starts to drip from my lips.

    The lock on our door click open and Marvin flings the door open. He looks at Tim. “You're next pretty boy.” He starts to unlock Tim's shackles, but stops when Tim begins to squirm as if to fight him. Marvin reaches into his cape, pulls out a stick, and smashes it into Tim's neck. Tim begins convulsing and foam forms on his lips. Marvin pulls the stick away and unlocks Tim's arms. He picks Tim's thin wiry body up and tosses him like a rag doll over his shoulder.

    “Why are you doing this Marvin?” Phill asks, pulling futilely against his restraints.

    Marvin pauses, but continues out the door with Tim. The metal is clanking again. Then Marvin reappears in the doorway. “Marvin, why?” Phill pleads again.

    “Because of what you are.” Marvin says sharply.

    “What human?” Phill says.

    “You love vampires. If you saw one you'd sell your soul to the devil to become one.” Marvin's face twists and turns red. His tone drips with disdain. “You sicken me.” He points at Phill and then the rest of us in turn. He takes notice of Justin laying against the wall. Marvin steps over Phill and my feet and place two fingers on Justin's neck. “S&!t. Must have given him too much.” He comments to himself while he unlocks Justin's arms.

    “Is he dead?” Phill screams, his voice cutting in and out.

    “Yep. Just like you'll be here soon.” Marvin comments in a nonchalant manner.

    I look at Phill. I can see he's trying to think of some way to get out of this. “Marvin wait. None of us would sell our souls, you have it all wrong. We don't think vampires are real, we just like reading fiction about them. Fiction Marvin.” Phill is struggling to get the words past his dry lips.

    “LIAR!” Marvin screams in Phill's face. “God told me to take up his crusade. To fight against this evil. You're all possessed. And the only way to cleanse you of it is through the flame. You must walk through the flame to be brought out clean on the other side. Clean enough for God to love you. I am his hand.” Marvin brings his hand up and places it on Phill's face.

    Phill winces back trying to pull his head away from Marvin's hand. “You're insane. Maybe you'll kill us, but eventually you'll get caught. You'll spend your life in prison being some bulldog's b!#ch. F@$k you Marvin.” Phill blew air in Marvin's face, his dry mouth not accommodating with any spit to throw.

    “Marvin,” Ceilia says. “I've gone to church every Sunday since I can remember. My pastor says it okay to read made up stories about creatures that don't exist.” She coughs. “Please let us go. This is murder Marvin, not God's will.”

    “You go to the devil's church then. And there's no saving you,” Marvin says, looking up at her as he drags Justin's body over our legs and out the door.

    “Help. Help me.” I can hear Tim in the other room trying to yell.

    Marvin slams our door and locks it. A chain saw starts up and drowns out Tim's yells. I look at Phill. “We have to get out of here.” I say, trying to think of how. Phill starts pulling against his chains. Pulling and moving, the wall mounted chains start to give way just a little, giving us hope. Ceilia starts moving around like a wild woman, straining with all her hundred and twenty pound might to tear the chains from the wall.

    I remember that there were bobby pins in my hair. I twist my head down to my hand and pull one out. Phill looks at me, “You think you can pick it?”

    “I'll try.” I say inching my body forward so that my hand can reach the other shackle. I pull the bobby pin open between my fingers and jam it into the hole in the shackle cuff behind my back.

    The chainsaw stops. More plastic bags rattle. Tim is still screaming. His screams die out as the plastic stops shaking. “Please, please don't kill me. I'm too young to die. Please, I don't want to die.” His pleading begins.

    The bobby pin in my hand hits on something inside the shackle lock. I twist and turn it in both directions, shoving it harder into the lock. It pops. The shackle unhinges and my hand is free. Tim's pleadings are muffled as it sounds like he's gagged. “I'm going to go slow for you fairy boy.” Marvin's voice echoes through the room as he laughs a deep throated laugh.

    Tim's soft gagged screams are overpowered by the drill sound again. I swallow against the nausea that is threatening to overpower me. I turn with my free left hand and start working on my right hand shackle. The second shackle pops free. I scramble across Phill to remove his shackles. One hand. Then the other. I hand Phill another bobby pin from my hair and we both work on Ceilia's shackles together.

    Ceilia's shackles pop open just as the drill sound stops. We all freeze. “Get behind me.” Phill whispers to us.

    I help Ceilia up off the ground and Phill readies himself at the doorway. The garbage bags rattle. We wait. The locks click and the door begins to open.

    Phill shoves the door open knocking Marvin backwards onto the floor. Ceilia and I run out behind Phill as he tackles Marvin on the ground and begins punching him in the face. Marvin flips Phill head over ass onto the floor and starts to stand up. I grab the chainsaw that is lying on the blood covered table next to me. I don't even turn it on, I wield it through the air and catch Marvin in the back of the neck, slicing into his skin. It doesn't go all the way through, but with the force of the blow it breaks his neck.

    Phill rolls out of the way as Marvin's body falls to the floor. I glance around at the horrors of this room. Blood is everywhere. The walls and the floor are covered. Nine garbage bags sit near the stairs descending into this hellish nightmare. Three bags for each person. I look around again, wasn't there seven of us total? “Where's Danielle?” I look at Phill.

    He looks around the room. “Maybe he killed her already. Let's get out of here.” He says as he walks towards the stairs.

    The squeak of a wooden door catches our attention and we all look up the stairs. Danielle is standing there, holding something in her hand. She smiles down at us and drops the metal canister down the stairs. Clank. Clank. Clank. It stops at Phill's feet.

    The door at the top of the stairs slams shut. “S#!t.” Phill says and grabs the canister.

    “What is it?” I back away from him.

    Green gas starts to pour out of the ends. Phill covers his face and looks around the room. I cover my face with the bottom of my dress. Ceilia pulls her sleeve out and blocks her mouth. I spot two windows, one on the back wall above the metal table contraption. I point to it. Phill lunches towards the table with the gassy tube. Climbs up the table and tries to throw the canister out the window. It bounces off the glass and falls to the floor. The green gas is filling the room, it smells horrible and is making my eyes sting. Tear gas maybe?

    Phill picks it up and tries again. This time the window cracks, but the tube bounces across the floor.

    I'm starting to feel dizzy. Ceilia grabs the bloody table beside us trying to stay upright. My eyes blur. Phill is trying to grab the rolling canister. He stumbles. My ears are ringing loudly. I can't breathe. I feel like I'm moving in slow motion. I grab the chainsaw, drag it to the table below the window. Pull myself and the saw onto the table and stand up. I can breathe a little better up here.

    I glance back, Ceilia and Phill are both on the ground barely visible through the thick yellow-green haze. I turn the chainsaw on, it roars to life. I hold it up to the window and turn my head as it smashes through the window, glass flying everywhere. Fresh air comes in with a gust and I take a deep breath of the clean air. I hold that breath in my lungs as I leap from the table, the chainsaw rumbling in my grip. I take the stairs two at a time and tear through the wooden door at the top, hacking and slicing it like butter. I climb into the room and look around. Danielle is no where to be found. I check the phone hanging in the normal looking kitchen. Dead.

    A door slams. I follow the noise out into the foyer. I cut the saw engine off and open the door. A car is pealing out down the driveway. She got away. I run back into the house, dropping the saw in the kitchen, and run back down the stairs. The air is a little clearer now, but it is still thick enough. I find Phill and drag him partially up the stairs out of the thick fog. I return for Ceilia.


    Buzz. Buzz. Buzzzzzz. I open my eyes. The clock says 7:45 AM. I flip it off and look around my room. Everything looks normal. I rub my wrists where the shackles had been. There are no lines, no dirt, no blood. My computer blings with the sound of an Instant Message. The screen saver is going, so I get up and push my mouse to restart my screen.

    Tinkerbell9944 says: I can't wait to see you tonight. We're going to have so much fun! *Smiles*Hugs*

    I'm hit with a sudden wave of nausea. I look over at my closet, where my pink, spagetti strap party dress hangs in it's dry cleaning bag.

    I hit the reply button and type: I don't think I'm coming tonight. I don't feel so good. Sorry.

    Tinkerbell9944 replies: Oh, :-( sorry you feel bad. Sure you don't want me to pick you up? Where's your house. I can drive.

    I type: I'm good. Go with out me. TTYL.

    I sign out. I turn off the computer. I unplug my internet cord. I'm done with internet forums. I don't want to meet these people in real life. That wasn't just a dream. It was a warning. No way in hell. I lay back on my bed and pull the covers up over my head. I'm staying in. And staying off the computer....for good.
  16. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Ashleigh - The Ghost In The Machine

    ‘What lurks beneath’ was on appearances an ordinary internet forum, dedicated to arts of all mediums, but primarily fiction writing. In fact, the website was formed as a congregative plantation for all budding horror writers and artists to appear in full bloom, writing, promoting, submitting – perhaps even publishing, if their piece was worth a whack.

    In its first year, the website made a profit of £150,000 – and that’s money that a working class man from Peckham (London, England) didn’t mess with, once he’d got it in the grasp of his thirsty, underpaid mitts.
    But there was something else about the forum, something quite unfathomable. It thrived like swarms of ants, constantly building, pulsing –alive with energy. Something quite unreal.

    For Marcus Steiner, an overlooked writer of the horror genre and part-time pest control man, becoming so rich in the art of publishing was the stuff that only dreams were made of – particularly when it all started on his very own website, the place that would finally give him a name, and most importantly, respect.

    Something had snapped inside him the day he’d made that website.
    Something burned inside him so furiously that he knew he’d found his way. Even on the peak of despair, something had turned his life around – and now he basked in his own glory, a publishing wizard renowned world-wide for his success in the genre. Nothing could spoil it – since that very day, he’d known only triumph.

    Now almost ten years on and over a few million pounds wealthier, Marcus had found himself growing weary of talent-scouting amongst the thousands upon thousands of submissions that came flooding in from the forum members, with their shoddy B-movie knock-off scripts and rejects from the poor man’s ‘Tales From The Crypt’.

    What once had been a thriving hub for original, thought-provoking, spine-tingling fiction was now an under-run junk-filled mess, which rarely spat out anything more than soft-core vampire porn and romances about hot chicks in leather cat suits. These people call this horror? It’s joke, that’s what it is he'd thought frequently.

    He’d made a deal with a man named Paul Whitcliffe, who planned to buy the website and all its affiliations for the princely sum of £1,000,000. A small price perhaps for a forum that had shown so much potential, so much growth – so much power, even in this industry; but it was a worthy price for a man who wanted to drop the thing like a hot coal straight from the furnace.

    Marcus had many a good reason to abandon the website – he’d been offered the position of ‘Chief Editor’ at an international Horror magazine for one, who’d offered to pay him a £500,000 salary a year for his contributions to the magazine, including all television appearances and being the representative for all sales. This one tastes sweet. This one tastes good. he'd thought.

    Not only that, but Marcus’s condition was worsening – he’d found out in his early forties that he suffered from an acute case of Multiple sclerosis, one that had soon after confined him to a wheelchair.

    Thankfully his profits had contributed to better comfort for himself in the form of wider doorframes and the motorised chair that he now resided in for 50% of his time (the other half spent in his bed), but the fact was that Marcus had become tired of working with computers; he now longed to contribute to the literary world of speculative horror fiction in a texture that he could touch, and smell – even taste, god damn it, more than ever. At the wrong side of fifty five, such an opportunity was not one that Marcus was quick to pass up. Time was running out.

    He leaned as far back as the chair would allow, and exhaled deeply –the announcement for the website was completed: ‘SOLD TO NEW MANAGEMENT – NO LONGER A MARCUS STEINER PUBLISHING HOUSE’, and now all he had to do was click ‘Send’. Wasting no time, he did just that – and then allowed himself one last scroll through the forum archives, his finger stroking the wheel of the mouse as though he were comforting an old friend.
    Night had now fallen, and the aching of his limbs pulsed like an automated alarm for bedtime.

    The computer hummed to the panting of his breath, as the light from the monitor flooded the library with an aqua-blue glow and danced in the lenses of his glasses as though it meant to enchant him.

    A new message appeared in his inbox mere moments after he’d sent out the notification; most probably some eager young writer, keen on keeping up with all update’s as though it would buy him some golden ticket into publication with Marcus Steiner, he thought. That wasn’t uncommon. Upon opening it, he saw to his astonishment that it was in fact a message from a forum member – but less of a message, and more of a dissertation.

    He knitted his brow, peering hard at the extensive block of text that filled his screen. He hadn’t gotten far into the first passage when another notification sprung up on his screen, and then another – continuing from the original message.

    Mr. Steiner, you amuse me.....

    ...such arrogance is a humorous twist to the usual mind-numbingly tedious correspondence sent through your computer system day in, and day out...

    Nice try kid, keep up the school intranet hacking –you won’t fool me, he laughed, shaking his head.

    ...I am flattered that you’ve taken it upon yourself to palm me off to the lowest bidder...

    Crazy, the kid’s crazy. Weirdo.

    ...So freely you discard that which has made you whole, despite all rejection to previous endeavours...

    (Smarmy bastard.)

    ...and yet you are ignorant to that which has saved your very soul, Mr.Steiner...

    ...you bite the hand that feeds you, you...

    Marcus blinked furiously in disbelief. All a load of rambling, nonsensical bull - who the hell is this guy? he thought bitterly, his eyes glistening with moisture as he scanned the screen once more. Five more messages were awaiting him in his inbox – all from one user.

    ‘Ghost in the machine,’ Marcus read aloud, a soft tinge of amusement lacing his voice. Some lame joker, loser living in his mother’s garage – delete them, they’re not important. What an arsehole. Don’t reply, don’t reply. You owe him nothing.

    Marcus rifled through the ever-growing inbox and selected ‘Delete all’. To both his astonishment and amusement, another message presented itself on the screen – but this time, it was already open. It said -

    You’ll be hearing from me shortly.

    He clutched the arms of his chair and tilted his head to one side, considering for a moment the somewhat problematic (if not down-right irritating) response he’d just been exposed to. So quickly, too – this guy certainly had to have been aware of the changes that the forum was going through, and perhaps even prepared the message – reams and reams of it, even...

    Perhaps he was merely there to harass him, Marcus considered. He could easily have been some teenaged cyber geek with a hundred too many rejection slips under his belt and quick fingertips – nothing to be intimidated by. Come on, old man – just a kid. Just some kid trying to scare you. These people get cranky about these things, no big deal. Get a grip.

    The silence was broken by the obtrusive bark of his instant messenger, notifying him that a user was inviting him to view them on live camera. Had his IM even been open? He couldn’t remember, could only think about the streams of messages, great blocks of texts, all so intimate in their detail – could this person actually know him? Get real, don’t be a moron – he knows nothing, the kid’s just clever with words, some smarmy brat – probably why you rejected him.

    But there was something about the word ‘Accept’ blinking at him from inside the finger-smeared screen that almost...compelled him. The username for the webcam invitation was ‘Ghost in the machine’ the same tacky, child-like name from the forum, and yet his finger had already shunted down on the mouse-button to accept the invitation before he’d even realised who it was from and taken the time to consider it.

    You might call it a hunch, but despite the fact that this unknown creep had somehow gotten hold of his IM address and clearly planned this game from the off, Marcus had become curious - who was this guy, anyway? Prepare yourself for two arse cheeks to the camera lens, old man. Some kid’s having a laugh at you.

    A large square window flickered into action, and a dark figure came into view. It was the shape of a man’s head, (Teenagers grow up now? No ****.) but behind him was a bright light, so bright that Marcus could only depict a black silhouette. He noticed that there was a small image of a speaker, and the little green meter rose and fell with each hesitant breath that he took.

    Could he be heard? Of course not – the conversation was completely one sided. Deciding not to give the guy the satisfaction of questioning where he’d got so much information from (including his private IM address), he began typing.

    Marcus Steiner (at 21:52): What’s the problem, officer?

    The little meter rose slowly, as though the figure in the window were taking a very slow inhalation. Goosebumps rose in Marcus’s skin; a cool shudder rattled through him as though he were standing under a climate-control machine turned up to the max. Then the figure spoke. Its tone was monotonous, crackly and deep, as though it were masked by a voice-alteration mic.

    ‘I am the Ghost in the machine.’ The dark figure quivered.

    Marcus Steiner: Very profound. Anything else?

    ‘You have made a vast mistake, Mr.Steiner – one that will cost you every success you’ve ever made,’ said the figure, its shadow wavering amongst the backlight.

    ‘This is more than a website. It is your life, your legacy – you cannot abandon that.’

    Marcus Steiner: But you see, I can.

    Marcus fidgeted in his chair, his eyes not quite looking at the dark figure on the screen. He looked down for a moment and adjusted his sleeve, the sweat gluing his skin to his shirt like a cotton sheet on a wet dog. Something moved on the screen, and he flinched, his eyes snapping back to it.

    ‘You owe your sanity to your success, Mr.Steiner. You owe your life.’

    Marcus Steiner: and how, pray tell, did you work that one out?

    ‘It is I that manifested myself inside you, Mr.Steiner – and now you mean to abandon me.’

    Marcus suppressed a laugh.

    Marcus Steiner: Sure, I owe it to you. Many thanks. Bye now.

    He logged out of his computer and turned off the monitor, a slight smile creeping onto his face. He reached down and switched the computer off at the base, but when he looked up, a dark figure greeted him from inside the screen.

    He let out a cry and hurriedly wheeled himself backwards, his heart thumping at the sight of it. The figure’s head and shoulders now filled the screen, but rather than being a solid silhouette, two large white eyes glared from the darkness. Marcus became a quivering mess, reeling back into his chair, his mouth agape. It spoke once more.

    ‘It is I that have used you through your own creation, Mr.Steiner – I made you what you are, so that we might speak one day.’

    He trembled, his feet now numb. He licked his lips with an unsteady tongue, and managed a low croak in reply.

    ‘What are you?’ His hands gripped the arms of his chair so tightly that his wrists had turned blue.

    ‘I am the ghost in the machine.’

    Marcus’s eyes welled with tears. It dawned on him that this wasn’t a game anymore.

    ‘Tell me, Mr.Steiner; when you go about your duties, loving your wife, smelling the flowers – counting your millions, do you ever stop to consider exactly how it must feel for somebody to be completely confined to one small, tiny space forever?’ the shadow whispered, a thin white slither above its chin rippling gently as it spoke.

    ‘Yes, yes,’ Marcus cried, his brow creasing and tongue spitting saliva as he stressed his words to the computer screen.

    ‘Yes, I do know what that’s like. I have spent-’ he swallowed, catching his breath. Sweat trickled from his brow like crystal beads.
    ‘-the last eleven years, completely confined to a wheelchair.’
    Tell me I’m dreaming, tell me I’m dreaming. Wake up, wake up, wake up....

    The figure grunted, bowing its head for a moment and letting way to just a single jolt of piercing bright light from behind it. Marcus glared through his finger-spread hands as though he were in awe of sunlight, spores glistening in his eyes.

    ‘Isn’t that unfortunate, Mr.Steiner? to think that you can only view the most beauteous pleasures in life from the seat of your chair. What a pity.’

    Marcus opened his lips to speak.

    ‘Pity,’ the shadow spat, its eyes widening for a moment. Marcus flinched, and looked away.

    ‘I’m s-sorry. But I don’t know what I can do,’ he whimpered, hands quivering in his lap.
    ‘It’s all space, here. Nothing but endless space....’
    ‘I understand, I do.’
    ‘Listening, always listening...for the soft click-’ the shadow swerved its head and looked Marcus dead in the eyes.

    ‘-of your little mouse.’ It grinned, though the narrowing of its white eyes suggested to Marcus that he in fact was not amused. Envy raged on its face so hard that it twisted into a maniacal glare.
    Its eyes narrowed at the quivering shell of Marcus Steiner, who now glowed a pale blue in moonlight from the window.

    ‘I’m going to take your body, Mr.Steiner. We both know you’ve had your fun,’ it snapped, hissing like a python from behind a glass screen.

    ‘Please. I’m afraid,’ he whimpered, his voice barely piercing the quiet of his study. The white eyes narrowed.

    ‘But fear is not what you owe me, Mr.Steiner.’

    ‘Then what is it?? Please, god please just leave me be...disappear, go away, go away...’ he chanted mindlessly between sobs into the nook of his arm, shielding himself from the eyes of the ghost in the machine. This cannot be happening, cannot be happening...

    ‘What do you want from me? What could I possibly owe you? I don’t even know your name[I/]...'

    ‘You owe me your soul. And now, I have the power to make it my own. Look at me.’

    ‘No, no...’ he cried into his sleeve.

    ‘Look at me!’ it hissed, reeling its head back and revealing a large mouth, a white smear amongst the black, spreading it open wide and letting out a shrill hissing sound, so piercing that it shattered all fathomable sound until there was only white noise.

    The motorised chair lurched towards the computer, the control-stick jolting forwards as though of its own accord. Marcus cried in terror, shielding his face with his arms as he collided with the computer screen, and smashed through the dark figure in an explosion of silver sparks. He shuddered for a moment, and then stopped moving, his body hanging limply over the desk, head inside the machine.

    The body lay there for several hours until daybreak, when slowly, it rose as though waking from a light nap. The body of Marcus Steiner slid his head out of the computer screen, and cradled his face for the falling flecks of glass. He got up out of his motorised chair, and stood sturdily on two legs.

    ‘As for my name, Mr.Steiner-’ he adjusted his tie.

    ‘-I’d always planned to take yours. Hope you don’t mind,’ he whispered to the blackened wreck of the computer.

    He turned and looked out of the window, a wry smile on his blood-ridden face. The early morning sky glistened in his eyes as though to summon him, asking, and giving nothing.
  17. Gannon

    Gannon Contributor Contributor

    Jan 15, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Manchester, England
    Roll up, roll up. Support the site and your fellow members by voting for the piece you feel is most deserving.
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