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    1. And They Wished to Never Wake Up

      — Are we dreaming? — She asked. — I don't know, my dear. I really don’t know. — He answered. — It feels real. — Yeah, it does. — Look how old we are! Isn't that crazy? — Not really. — He says...

      — Are we dreaming? — She asked.

      — I don't know, my dear. I really don’t know. — He answered.

      — It feels real.

      — Yeah, it does.

      — Look how old we are! Isn't that crazy?

      — Not really. — He says while putting his arm on her shoulder. She calms down for a moment.

      — Yeah, but I thought... Well, I thought something, but everyone probably thinks the same. It’s silly.

      — What did you think?

      — I thought we’d be different. Old, sure, but perky, wise, matured from adventure. Something noble like that. But no. We’re the same, but older. — She shakes her flaccid arms and looks both marveled and terrified by the loose skin wiggling back and forth.

      He adjusts his glasses.

      — Sometimes, when I remain silent to appear profound, I’m surprised by the indigence of my thoughts. I may look like Aristotle himself while I try to remember what I ate for lunch. It’s hard to make inwards the theater we make for others.

      — But, after all, when have you become so old?

      — To tell you the truth, I don’t even know how we got here.

      — It’s weird: despite the complete darkness, we can see everything clearly. And there’s no place to rest my legs.

      — Sit here on the ground. Beside me. Put your head on my lap. — He gently caresses her head, trying to ignore his surprise with her white hairs.

      — I’d be nothing without you. But I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember your name.

      — I might be offended, but I don’t remember yours either. — He smiles.

      — Are we close to wake up? This old body is getting on my nerves.

      — Of course, my love. This is a dream, but no more than everything else. Time is a nightmare from which we never wake up, and old age is punishment for those that refuse to die.

      — Don’t talk nonsense. This will go away in a minute. We’ll wake up young and beautiful, as always. As I remember you, and as you remember me. Everything will be fine. — She says that with forced certainty as if trying to convince herself.

      — You’re right. The nightmare will end soon, and we’ll be back to our bodies.

      — ... This conversation tired me. Good night, my love. — She pushes her head against his thigh.

      — Good night, my angel.

      And they wished to never wake up.

      9 votes
    2. The Horde

      Every day I wake up thinking that The Horde is not there anymore. The dreams are good but few, and only make everything worse. I usually dream about The Horde. During sleep, my breathing is...

      Every day I wake up thinking that The Horde is not there anymore. The dreams are good but few, and only make everything worse. I usually dream about The Horde. During sleep, my breathing is improved and more relaxed. I dream of a calendar without symbols.

      When there's an inspiration, so I write. Delete everything afterward. A professional told me that's is a compulsion. The compulsion for the perfect word removes me from language itself. The enjoyment comes from excising something from myself, which makes me feel a bit closer to perfection.

      Every once in awhile I forget The Horde is there. The writing becomes looser, I sip my coffee and take the lunch out of the freezer. The Horde is still there. The whistle makes my blood run cold.

      I forgot when The Horde arrived, but since then my days are covered of night and dust. To me, The Horde has no color, they're covered in filth and dark cloth. They get a bit closer by dawn. But The Horde never comes.

      They seem to enjoy tormenting me. Twice a crow's carcass hit my window. At least we were communicating. I had to open the window to clean the blood. The Horde did nothing. There's courtesy between me and The Horde. I never complain of their tiny advances, they never impale me alive and eat my viscera.

      The worst consequence of The Horde was to remove my visitors. I had friends and a girlfriend, before The Horde. They came here regularly. On the other hand, there's something cozy about being surrounded by The Horde. I'm never alone.

      I talked to them on a few occasions but never got an answer. I invited them to lunch and asked what they like The Walking Dead (seems like a relevant question for The Horde). Because, you see, The Horde may be savage, but they did not cut my internet. I keep telling everyone about The Horde, but no one believes me. They think I'm some internet phenomenon, an internal joke from a group they don't know about. They don't believe The Horde can come for them too, knocking on their armor of bronze and recycled aluminum.

      Sometimes The Horde's shrieks seem to gain shape and order as if they obeyed a hidden commander. But this doesn't last, and they soon resume their lurid racket.

      I don't know for how long I've lived with The Horde, nor for how long they'll stay. I'm afraid of waking up someday to find them gone. Because, in a certain way, I learned to love The Horde. I feel safe in their post-apocalyptic embrace.

      This morning they got closer than normal. I can see it better now. They all have the same face, they're both one and The Horde. Their mouths are frozen in a permanent smile, salivating like rabid animals. One more step. They look like neanderthals. The Horde approaches slowly, with steady paces, and arrive with the furor of the sound of metal and drums. The house is hit by numerous rocks — the roof is about to give in. My crumbled body will soon become an ensign for their future marches. Or maybe become mush after being punctured by one thousand spears.

      I'm only sure that this is going to end soon. Their petite steps, the threats, crows in the window. Everything is ending — finally, everything is ending. I'll never be again and so will The Horde. Nevermore.

      3 votes
    3. Androcles and the Lion

      In a time of ancient legends, Androcles was a runaway slave. He took shelter in a cave where a wounded Lion lived. By removing a thorn from his paw Androcles cured the beast; The Lion was very...

      In a time of ancient legends, Androcles was a runaway slave.

      He took shelter in a cave where a wounded Lion lived.

      By removing a thorn from his paw Androcles cured the beast; The Lion was very pleased.

      And then The Lion ate Androcles because he was a fucking lion.

      5 votes
    4. The Egg

      Her eyes are fixed on the cooker. — Look. Points at the egg. — What? — Can’t you see? — Has it gone bad? She takes a deep breath. — I noticed the way you broke the shell, but I needed to confirm....

      Her eyes are fixed on the cooker.

      — Look.

      Points at the egg.

      — What?

      — Can’t you see?

      — Has it gone bad?

      She takes a deep breath.

      — I noticed the way you broke the shell, but I needed to confirm. Can you see how the yolk is soft yet whole, with a small cut in the lower portion slowly leaking a yellow thread at a regular pace?

      — Yes...

      — Don’t you get it?

      — No.

      — When the yolk leaks like that, it can only mean two things.

      She hesitates.

      — You’re either going to murder me...

      — What you’re talking about?

      — Or you’ll get a Ph.D. in Physics in 2035.

      — You’re kidding, right?

      — Nope.

      — You saw all that? On a fucking egg?

      — I knew you wouldn’t understand...

      — You were right.

      A second goes by. He cleans his throat, kinda embarrassed.

      — Honey?

      — Yeah, babe.

      — I’m terrible at physics.

      He holds a knife with a confused expression on his face.

      13 votes
    5. The Tower Card

      Please note, I am no writer of any kind. For some inexplicable reason I just had the desire to give it a go today. I hope someone out there finds some enjoyment in it. After David left I decided...

      Please note, I am no writer of any kind. For some inexplicable reason I just had the desire to give it a go today. I hope someone out there finds some enjoyment in it.

      After David left I decided I'd better make good on my promise and find a new place to live. The woman from the council said there might be a temporary property available. That someone had recently died at the retirement village outside of Holyhead.

      When I finished at school on Friday, I went to David's and gathered up what I thought was mine. As it turns out, almost everything was his. It wasn't long after we'd met that I moved in. It was gradual though. Bits and pieces brought over from mom's in bin bags tucked under the bus seats they save for people and their buggies. As the months rolled on there was less and less at mom's. I'd still visit on a Sunday for lunch but that was about it.

      I had this porcelain clock on the mantle at David's, two corgis sat either side of the clock face. David hated it. He had a thing for minimalist art and would order fake prints online. He liked Robert Ryman a lot. He thought my clock threw everything off. He'd often tell me how important it was to appreciate art but what he liked left me cold. I wrapped the clock in newspaper and tossed it into my backpack. I took a last look at the living room. It was something new now.

      When I got to the village it was raining. Cold droplets cascading down my jacket. I alternated hands, dropping each bin bag to the ground to rub the speckles from my glasses. In front of the bus stop there was a pathway that led to the complex, flanked on either side by imitation grass astro turf. Beyond that, two identical adjacent blocks. Rows stacked on top of one another like lego bricks.

      The woman at the council told me it was flat 2b, "the last flat on the ground floor". I searched for the receipt I'd scribbled the details on to check if I'd remembered it right. I hauled my bags over my shoulder and ran underneath the closest awning. I stared up at the sign fixed to the brick. 1a. I can wait here until the rain dies down, I thought.

      From across the yard a woman was sitting in a wheel chair, a mask attached to her face. An enormous tube jutting out from her mouth connected to a canister strapped to the side of her chair. She stared in my direction and didn't move. She's sitting next to 2b, she might be my neighbour, I thought. As the rain died down I walked over towards her. As I approached, I wasn't sure if she was going to take the mask off or not. What's wrong with her, I thought? "Hi, I'm Kate". I extended my hand and wondered if she could move her arms. She didn't reach back. "Mad weather isn't it?". She continued to stare. "I'm only staying for a month or so, I need my own place for a minute and it's all I could get you know? Not that I'm not grateful or anything". She continued to stare. "Ok, well, it was nice meeting you". I took out my key, opened the door and stood alone in the hallway.

      David and I usually ate together on Saturday mornings. He'd wake up later than I did and wander about the place yawning. He'd often glorify his exhaustion to me. Some invisible accomplishment he'd been gaining interest on since leaving uni.

      There wasn't a kettle in the new kitchen, but there was an electric hob. I poured water over the tea bag, into my cup and peered through the net curtains. The rain had settled and I could see the opposite house and the whole complex in the daylight now, some strange vortex, wholly enclosed. A village of it's own making.

      I put on my old slippers, took my cup and stepped out onto the concrete walkway. The woman from yesterday wasn't around now. I thought about knocking but decided against it. Either she couldn't talk or has seen so many people come and go, she doesn't go in for platitudes anymore. Pacing, I caught a glimpse of her kitchen. Pink lino on the floor, almost nothing out on the worktops. It looked unoccupied. I moved back to my half of the walkway and perched on the step to finish my tea. I should get started sorting what I have before Sunday rolls around, I thought. As I got up, I heard my neighbour careen around the corner, up over the astro turf and onto the walkway. She stopped before her door, I nodded and smiled. This time she nodded back in my direction. She then raised her hand and jostled the toggle on the arm rest. Her chair moved closer towards me. She raised her eyes to meet mine and looked back at my hands. She did this a second time. "I'm sorry, I don't understand". She repeated this a third time. I mumbled something and she reached out and opened up my right hand. She surveyed my palm, in all of its detail, looked back up at me and nodded again. "Sorry, can I help with something?". She shook her head, reversed and rolled up the ramp back into her flat.

      On Sunday morning I started sorting through the rest of the papers I threw into my bag at David's. Bank statements, a few receipts, junk mail. In amongst them I found a cinema ticket I'd kept from when we started dating. He asked me to go to see the first Terminator, "on the original reel", he said. I didn't much want to go and don't like violent films but thought it'd be a good excuse to get to know one another. We got pretty swept away with each other after that.

      I sorted through the rest hoping I'd find something else, but there was nothing. I stacked the ordered papers on the ground and went outside for a break. There wasn't anybody out, like the day before. After some time my neighbour's door opened. I stood up and checked to see if she needed any help. I found her raising her eyes to her forehead, motioning backwards. "Do you need some help?", she shook her head and motioned backwards with her eyes for a second time. She reversed the chair and gestured for me to come in. I stepped inside. She manoeuvred her wheelchair into the kitchen and positioned herself next to the dining room table. There was a chair opposite to her, so I sat too. "Is everything ok?", I asked. She nodded. "I hope you don't mind me asking, are you able to speak?". She stared at me and shook her head. After a few seconds passed she pointed to a badge on her cardigan. On a yellow background, in all black caps it read, "JANE". "I'm Kate, nice to meet you Jane". This time she extended her arm and we shook hands. "How long have you been here Jane?". She nodded 5 times. "Ah ok, and how do you like it? Do you have family that visit?". She shook her head. "Do you mind me asking, what's wrong with you? Shit sorry, umm, not like that, I mean, umm, are you sick?". She paused for a moment and nodded. She then reached into the pocket of her cardigan and pulled out a deck of cards.

      I don't know anything about Tarot, other than what you see on T.V but I'm not a superstitious like that. She laid the cards on the table in front of me, either nodding or shaking her head as she passed each of them one by one. The last card in the row showed a stone tower. She looked down, paused, raised her head, but this time, looked right past me. Dust cascaded through the shards of light piercing through the window. Jane starred into it for what felt like a whole minute. Watching the particles dance before her I asked, "Are you ok Jane?", she shook her head. "Is there something I can do?", she shook her ahead again. "I had better be going Jane, I meet my mom on a Sunday for lunch, please let me know if there's anything I can help with, OK? As I said yesterday, I won't be staying too long, but while I'm here, feel free to knock on". She nodded her head. I let myself out and left, the cards still strewn about the table.

      I didn't see Jane much after that afternoon and things went on as normal. David called and we hashed things out over the phone but we'd petered out long before that. The council explained I couldn't stay on at the village for another month so I moved back with mom. After a few weeks passed, one evening after work, I opened up my laptop and searched online for "Jane Tarot". Tons of results came up but only one from Holyhead. A local newspaper article with a headline that read, "LOCAL LADY FORESAW DIAGNOSIS". "I knew what was going to happen to me, the fibrosis I mean. The cards speak and I accept, I give myself up to that". I closed my laptop and looked outside into mom's garden. I thought about the tower card and how people do all sorts of things to justify their own lives, to deal with their own grief and make sense of things.

      Mom plants Floribunda's every year and they're starting to bloom now. My phone rings. I offer to cover a shift for a new temp at work. I put on my jacket, walk outside and think about Jane.

      13 votes
    6. Eclipse 2

      Logline During the 2017 Solar Eclipse, a thick-skinned female police officer must prevent millennial Shadows from returning from the depths of the Earth to dominate humanity. Notes Post 1 You can...

      Logline

      During the 2017 Solar Eclipse, a thick-skinned female police officer must prevent millennial Shadows from returning from the depths of the Earth to dominate humanity.

      Notes

      Post 1

      You can also read it in my blog (no advertising, no annoyances, no bullshit).

      - As before, this is not my first language. All criticism is extra welcomed
      - I included the previous content - the prelude - just because it's so small

      @cfabbro, here's the ping you requested! Love to know what you think of it!

      Prelude

      Before time was time, nights were dreamless. No one narrated the hunts, and death was just a cessation of the body. Births were joyful but meaningless. Statements were nothing more than intentions among roaring, shouts, and racket. Sometimes two sounds came together in funny ways, but meaning was still far away from our primitive cogitations.

      In these times of monotony, the Shadows entertained the primitive men. With no timbre or elocution, they came from the deepest layers of Earth’s mantle to tell stories under the moonlight. They lived in harmony, feeding on each other. The Shadows came to life with the laughter and the souls of the Men, and the Men lost the fear of the night with the histories told by the Shadows in a primitive symbiosis.

      One day, a man died after eating a tasty looking fruit. Hunting was a gamble, and eventually, men needed to eat potentially dangerous elements. Another, more intelligent man, noted that the juice from his mouth indelibly marked the rock with a pattern that was pleasant to the eyes. He collected more of that fruit, avoiding to put it in contact with sensible areas. This man did not have a proper name. None of them did. They just knew that there was “The Boss”, “The Hunter”, “The Large” and “The Delicate”.

      Some men had soft lumps in their chests and above the thighs. Eventually, their bellies got big and other men came out from them. “The Delicate”, who discovered painting, was of this kind. In secret, he drew their hunts in the cave. He made everything bigger and more menacing than it was: the spears, the beast, the joy, the moon, and the flames, that reached the sky.

      It took some gestures and vocalizations for The Delicate to make The Hunter understand that that set of traces was him and that the thick line with a pointing end penetrating The Beast was his spear. But soon they understood and had great silence. Followed by a great laugh.

      The Hunter imitated the muffled sound of the Beast’s steps and learned to use this sound to talk about the Beast even when it wasn't there. War shouts, death songs, the cutting of the meat, the crackle of the fire, the crickets, the frogs and all animals soon had their sounds, their own “words”.

      Men stories gained life by their own making.

      The Shadows never came back.

      Weakened, they returned to the depths. And, in the emptiness of their soulless existence, felt profound pain.

      Chapter 1

      Worn books on the balcony: The Physics of the Light, Introduction to Modern Physics and Modern Optics, paid with greasy notes. Stumbles on a rock, knock the books on the sidewalk. On a dark tunnel, fluorescent light flicker irregularly. Hands in his knees, catch his breath and run with the rest of his lungs.

      The front is completely black of smut. Turns the key with difficulty. The stairway creaks under his feet. A stack of old newspapers behind the door. Turns on a weak desk lamp. A crack of light comes from the sheets. Closes it with tremble hands and throws himself in the armchair. A thick cloud of smoke leaves Ernesto's relieved self.

      The curtain drops with a thud. Behind him, a dark silhouette smiles.


      The badge for the "Civilian Police of the State of São Paulo" swing above the toilet. In the ground, two pregnancy tests. Two lines in each. In the holster, a Taurus 38. Impeccable blue jeans. Mariana pees in the third test and waits. Two lines. She's fucking pregnant.


      Ernesto's suit seems expensive twenty-year ago. He looks like a bum that made an effort. He holds a thick notebook with paper falling from the edges and a paper folder that seems to be about to explode. Dries his eyes constantly, and there are black spots bellow his armpits. In the edge of the table, it reads: "Mariana Diniz – Commissioner of Police" Ernesto gives her his card: "Eye of Horus - Paranormal Investigations". Below, a stylized eye with Egyptian inspirations. And a landline.

      — I don't trust cellphones.

      Smiles uncomfortably, trying to hide the nervous tic that makes his head swing like a salamander.

      – It may not look, but I'm a busy woman.

      Gives her two 15x20 pictures. The first is completely out of focus. The second shows an oddly slim, dark silhouette on a sewer canal. Ernesto sweats like an amphibian having a panic attack.

      — For millennia, these creatures have been confined in the interior of the earth. Suffering the monotony of an incomplete existence. Waiting for a chance to come back.

      — Yes.

      – You don't believe.

      Puts the card in her wallet.

      – You got my number.


      The long hills do not affect Mariana. Sumptuous homes, beautiful landscaping, mutilation, and infanticide. They're all part of the same world.


      In a deserted square, eight hood teenagers assemble in a circle. Metal-heads and RPG players never caused her any trouble, but, as commissioner of that town, she has the duty of investigating anything out of the normal. She takes care to not flaunt the weapon.

      They ignore her. The kids emit no sound, make no gesture. They're not injured, and their dark eyes are probably contact lenses. They have an ironic smile in their faces. No drug would generate such severe catatonia on a group that size, and there was no law against looking spooky on public premises. Sent two patrol cars to watch the group and went home.


      The basic Chevrolet goes through the carefully constructed path, with exotic plants on both sides. Between two neoclassic towers, a slightly lower white house. In the living room, Eliza, short-exquisite-hair, beautiful and androgynous, stare at the TV with thick frame glasses. Notices Mariana's gun.

      — Comes with the job.

      In slow motion, a voluptuous Marilyn Monroe impersonator pours milk on a bowl of cereal.

      – Bruno?

      – Upstairs.

      A plate brakes in the kitchen. To the left of the sink, dozens of cups organized by color, size, and format. To the other, plastic utensils organized by function and material. Scapular in the neck, Sofia é very white. She wraps the glass in paper, writes "GLASS" in wide letters and ties everything in a thick, transparent plastic bag.

      – Your kitchen was too… Illogical.

      – Of course.

      Mariana notices a red spot below Sofia's long sleeve. She holds the arm of her friend: bruises.

      — They're old, diz Sofia.

      — Doesn't look like.

      Takes the car keys. The pregnancy tests are in the same pocket. Mariana takes a deep breath and looks at the stairways.


      Law books on the shelf, almost all sealed. Bruno is on the computer. It's hard to get why they're still married. Mariana has always been stubborn. He's on the computer most of the time. At 40, Mariana has silky black, perfumed hair. Tells good stories in a welcoming way. Mariana loves what the does. She's hit on constantly, by both sexes. And has a way to politely decline that doesn't make anyone uncomfortable.

      There's a month since they had sex.

      — I'm pregnant.

      — Are you sure?

      The tests in the keyboard.

      — They're from a pharmacy.

      — Yep. Three.

      She pulls the plug from the computer. Bruno looks at her. His eyes are black.

      6 votes
    7. Man of the Train

      Another story. The narrator is not well and slips into periods of "extended daydreaming" where they image they're someone else or that the context of their life is otherwise different. I thought...

      Another story. The narrator is not well and slips into periods of "extended daydreaming" where they image they're someone else or that the context of their life is otherwise different. I thought about coloring the text differently for those moments but couldn't figure out a way to do it well.


      No one walks out to this place. Why would they? It’s too far for children to be playing or for teenagers to sneak away to, there’s no beauty or interesting landscapes or scenery for hikers, and God knows it’s worthless for development. I walked out here because I knew I couldn’t stay at home and I kept walking because I knew I had nothing to go back to. Then, brooding, thinking that I would just continue walking until I died of exposure (which would have taken a while in that day’s mild weather), I stumbled across this place. I stopped to explore it of course, how often does one’s life yield such a whimsical sight?

      I started daydreaming as I walked through the trains. They looked ancient, the cars were buried up to their wheels in the dirt and huge patches had lost their paint and rusted over. The interiors were stripped, but I spotted some kind of hatch in the roof (by the pile of leaves and other debris below it) and clambered up. Then I was standing astride the car looking down at the whole scene. Two neat little rows, five cars in one and four in the other, with the only sign tracks used to run here being a small corridor where the trees were shorter.

      I loved it. It was a sort of post-industrial twist on the railway bum, you know? They would hitch rides on trains and travel all over the country, seeing everything it had to offer and adventuring everywhere they went. I had, in the past, been disappointed I didn’t live in a time where the vagabond could thrive, and was delighted to imagine the 21st century equivalent. Sitting in a rusted old abandoned train car, the Seeker (I always name my characters like that) sat by his gas fire watching the rain pour down and spatter across the corrugated walls. It was lovely. I felt much better and after playing around a bit more headed back home with a smile, all the while dreaming of the Seeker. The evening passed comfortably and I slid into sleep imagining I was the man sleeping out by the trains.

      I pulled my blanket closer, clutching it around myself. I had found something, and tonight II was able to rest peacefully because of it. The night breeze flowed over me in soft, regular breaths. It was sweet and pleasantly cool, and carried memories of cheery days. All else faded always as I walked into them, leaving behind the blanket and the breeze and the night itself.

      When I got up the next morning though the levity had vanished. I dragged myself through the morning and lacking anything real to do and completely out of distractions for the afternoon I headed out for another wander in the woods. Alone with just the half-leafless trees to speak to I very quickly fell into my thoughts and my world of pasts, real or imagined. I don’t know how long I walked, just that after a while my breath was coming out in ragged bursts and that I was approaching the top of a hill. Attaining it I realized with gloomy resignation that I was somewhat lost, and that the cup of tea I was desiring now more than most anything would be a while yet. As I started back in the direction I more or less thought town was I imagined how the Seeker had trudged through the same damp leaves and browning grass. Autumn would quickly change from the mild early days to the coldness that marked the start of winter, and this landscape would be unrecognizable. Even this escape would not last. Just like them. More gloominess. Pushing through a thicket of young trees I was surprised to be face to face with the train wrecks from yesterday, and, after briefly marveling at the occurrence started back home. I was throwing off my shoes and starting the kettle in just over an hour.

      At home I picked, for some foolish reason, the blue teapot (of memories) and was soon sitting at the table and warming my hands on a steaming cup. I was shivering. Sometimes I don’t realize how cold I am until I’m back inside. I need to dress warmer. For a while I could pretend to be content sipping at my tea and feeling myself thaw out a little, but after a few cups I started thinking about what I would do for the rest of the day. That’s why I had gone out in the first place wasn’t it, that I had nothing here? I didn’t feel warm anymore. And since I had picked this pot (it was three years ago, why should I care?) my thoughts slid further and further back until I was recalling the conversation we had over it. And how I had laughed and taken your picture holding it and you had smiled as the wind whipped your hair back and I couldn’t stand sitting there and looking at it anymore. I fled to the couch and fell face first down into it.

      What was I doing? I couldn’t sit here for another eight hours waiting to go to bed and dream, I was gripped with sinking panic just at the thought. No, I couldn’t stay. And I didn’t have to. If I could tell myself a story about it, I could do it myself, right? I could just leave. I could make it real. Go to another town, or sleep in a car, or, go camping. Yes, I could camp for the night. I did tell people I was an outdoorsman after all, even if for the past few years I hadn’t done anything more than day hikes to run from my reality. I had all the gear, I knew what I was doing.

      Twenty minutes later I was out the door, heading back the woods for the second time today, this time with my pack slung across my shoulders. As I walked I thought about how unpleasant this would probably be and I was pleased. At least it would be because of something else. Something immediate. I went to the trains because where else would I go and also because I knew they were isolated and I wanted to be sure no one would be out harassing me over lighting a fire or being a vagrant. It was perfect.

      And as evening fell the fire was lit. I had set camp in between the two rows of derelict cars to provide some shelter from the wind.

      The heat from the flames sank into the metal siding of the cars and soon they were radiating back a friendly warmth. Touching it felt almost like being warmed by the sun. I leaned back against one now and stared at the fire. It was a comfortable scene, even if the ground was cold and hard and all I had to do was sit and think and brood. It was basically what I would have done at home anyway, but now I was not drawn into despair. No, out here all these feelings were beautiful, and if it was beautiful I could enjoy it. Some time and drinks passed and I became outright elated. Considering the whole absurdity of where I was right now I had to laugh. I might curse my life every day, but it was, if nothing else, interesting. Even if I was the only one who would ever know. Just look at where I am! I grinned and kept laughing and drinking and soaking up the intoxicating woodsmoke and tender light that flowed from the fire. I loved that this was something I did. And later as the flames hid back in their coals I climbed into my tent and floated right away on a dreamless, happy sleep. Lord of my little realm of heat and smoke. Good times for all. All for good times.

      I sat at the edge of fire’s light clutching my cup closely. It was a bitter tea, what one could brew with just a cup over a camp fire, but I sipped at it greedily anyway, burning my lips on the rim. It would hold the blaze’s heat for a while yet, the cup was almost painful to handle even through my gloves, now streaked with ash. It had been a long, cold day. I had almost lost myself, but now, resting in the half-light at the edge of reality, it was alright. I smiled and, tipping my head ever so slightly up, whistled out a few bars of some song or another. Yes, here it was alright. There was a lot I didn’t know, but that was fine, I knew I was, as was the fire and the smoke and the warmth and the tea.

      I refocused on the fire, source of the little world I had found myself in. It was as if I were gazing through into my own light. A welcome feeling, as I had felt a dull cold more than anything recently. I looked more intently, allowing the firelight to wash out the surroundings until I and it were all that existed. Like this I could see hints, now and then, of what had been. Perhaps if I looked too greedily the flames would even take me then, shattering the gracious illusion of the light in the process. No, echos would have to do. They were all that was real anyway. I stared for a long while, lost in burning contemplation.

      That was a... number of days ago. I haven’t counted exactly. For the first few I was at home most of the day, only heading out for the trains in the evening. The first morning I didn’t plan to come back at all and tore my whole camp down. But around mid afternoon my listlessness would become unbearable and I’d flee from the prospect of another night in. So I started leaving my tent pitched, figuring I’d do this as some kind of therapy until I got better and figured out what I was going to do with myself. And I did get better! Or at least the more time I spent in the woods the less time I was sinking in the mire of my thoughts and the more I marveled at them. Maybe they were still dragging me down, but I didn’t notice anymore. Soon I was spending the afternoons out as well, and then I was only going back home in the morning to grab food and water.

      I’ll probably be forced out by the weather soon. It’s been getting much colder these past days, but I don’t want to leave yet, I like this routine. I like the work of building the little stone wall, or clearing the ground around the fire pit I’m slowly carving out of the stiff ground, or sketching my map of the area around the camp. It was more than I had back there.

      As the last of the purple in the sky was swept away by the darkening blue I stretched out alongside the newly rekindled fire. I had known for days that I was not going to find it here. I would have to go back and see what was next for me. But it was comfortable here, and for that I could pretend I had a reason to stay, at least for a little while longer. Yes, I’ll have to leave soon, but for now I can just enjoy the fire. I can walk in dream a little while longer.

      9 votes
    8. Scourge (a Codex short story)

      I've seen the occasional poetry thread, but I thought I would post some more traditional writing. This short story is background lore for my ongoing web serial, Codex, which takes place a thousand...

      I've seen the occasional poetry thread, but I thought I would post some more traditional writing. This short story is background lore for my ongoing web serial, Codex, which takes place a thousand years after these events.


      The research team looked like ants in the scry-screen, crawling around the laboratory as they completed the ritual’s final steps. When the spell was powered on, it let out a brief flash of brilliant orange light that made Tarrel wince and shade his eyes. The ants milled about as if their hill had just been kicked over, swarming this way and that, huddling over the piece of enchanted metal.

      Tarrel stood up and left the viewing room. Renna looked up as he entered the laboratory and waved him over, a broad smile on her face. She held out her hand, offering him a bracelet made from some shiny metal; it looked like two flat chains had been woven together into a thin, knotted band. “Is that the eternium?” Tarrel asked. “Why a bracelet, and not a sword or spear?”

      Renna stepped away from the five other people as an argument developed over one of the experimental readings. “It’s a gift.” She gave him an impish grin. “You’re allowed to enjoy the fruits of your labor, you know.”

      The eternium was slick against his skin, as if it had been greased, and it had a mirror-perfect reflective surface that threw the bright overhead lights back into his eyes. He angled it away from him and stared at the gleaming metal, trying to dredge up the appropriate emotion, as if he could summon it into being by sheer willpower.

      Logically, it should have been easy -- he had all the pieces: a beautiful girlfriend (if occasionally annoying), a prestigious research position, and a talent for magic that made most other wizards look like fumbling idiots. And of course, he was a Raal, entitled to all the benefits that came with higher civilization: immortality (or a very long life anyway), near-absolute freedom to do as he pleased (as long as that didn’t impinge on others’ freedoms), safety (from physical harm). Any non-Raal would kill to be where he was, and it was a safe bet that most Raal who knew him were at least a little envious of his status. But happiness, like an improperly drawn ritual, refused to manifest… and all Tarrel could feel was a bleak sense of anticlimactic fatigue as he looked into the shiny mirrored surface.

      Renna moved closer and touched his arm. “Hey. What is it?”

      He forced a smile onto his face and slid the bracelet onto his wrist. “Nothing.” The rest of the team was gathered around an Aether screen. Part of Tarrel wanted to join them, plunge back into the soothing distraction of work, but all at once he couldn’t stand the thought of doing so. He turned back to Renna, forcing the words through numb lips. “Let’s go out together.”

      They could have taken a teleportation circle or a flier, but Tarrel wanted to walk so they strolled the floating streets of Ur-Dormoth together. It was nighttime, but the walkways were all lit with bright white mage-bulbs. Aircraft hummed overhead, like gigantic wingless insects, disappearing into the night as they left the city.

      “Ever been to a mite city?” Tarrel asked as they walked.

      “No.”

      “I have,” Tarrel said. He brooded for a moment, staring out at Ur-Dormoth, sprawled across the clouds like a tangled pile of glittering lace. “They’re cramped, and squalid, and they stink of death. It’s like being in a corpse.”

      Renna shrugged, seemingly unconcerned by the fate of however many millions of less fortunate people lived on the land below them. “Why do you bring it up?”

      “I don’t know,” Tarrel said. “Have you ever wanted something and really worked for it, only to find that once you had it, you didn’t want it anymore?”

      “I’m not sure I understand,” Renna said. “Why would you work for something you don’t want?”

      Tarrel sighed. “Never mind.”

      They went to the Eyrie, where Tarrel tried to look interested in the menu before giving up and ordering at random. The food arrived a few minutes later, looking decadent and delicious: creamy soup, flower-shaped pastries, a platter of fried onions. Tarrel ate mechanically, doing his best to appear as if he was enjoying it, but all he could think about was the emptiness he felt inside.

      “How’s the food?” Renna asked.

      Tarrel glanced at the pale white soup he was eating and tried to decide what to say. “It’s good.”

      Renna leaned back in her chair. “I knew you would like it.”

      “How long do you think it’ll be before we can start mass-producing the eternium?”

      Renna blinked, caught off guard by the sudden change in topic. “A few more weeks? Once we do, the applications are immense.” Her eyes were practically glowing with excitement. “What would it be like to live in a tower taller than the highest mountain?”

      Tarrel stirred his soup, wishing he could share her energetic happiness. “That’s a long way to fall.”

      Renna chuckled, a delicate sound like tinkling crystal chimes, and tossed her sleek white hair over her shoulder. “I’m sure they’ll have protective enchantments. It would be quite the scandal, to be the architect responsible for the first death in centuries.”

      “They don’t let you Merge,” Tarrel said, only half paying attention to the conversation.

      “What?”

      “Murder. If it’s deliberate, your thread is cut. No children.” Tarrel made a snipping motion with his free hand. “But if they think you meant to kill, then it’s a life for a life.”

      Renna stared at him. “How do you even know that?”

      Tarrel shrugged, already losing interest in the topic. “Memory spell.”

      “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

      “It’s too difficult to cast for most people,” Tarrel said. Though that would change, if he ever got the framework functioning.

      “What’s the framework?” Renna asked.

      Tarrel realized he had spoken out loud. “Just a project I’ve been working on. You speak a command, and the framework casts the appropriate spell for you. All the power of a ritual, none of the difficulty.”

      “That seems pretty useful. How’s it going?”

      Tarrel blinked, not sure if he had heard her correctly. “Useful?” His lips twisted. “Nobody else seems to think it would be.”

      “Are you serious? The applications for research alone would be immense. Imagine never having to cast another scrying spell.”

      “They said it would be too inconvenient, or that the magic would lack power, or any of a hundred other excuses.”

      Renna reached across the table and put her hand on his. “It sounds amazing to me.” Tarrel met her eyes, searching for any hint of insincerity, but all he found was honest admiration. “Can I see it?”

      Tarrel shifted in his seat and looked away. “I, uh, sort of abandoned it. Nobody seemed to want it and I ran into some thorny problems, so it seemed like I was just wasting my time.”

      “Well take it out of storage! Don’t worry about them, once they see what it can do they’ll all change their mind. Your legacy would be etched in the stone of history, right up there with Elmar the Great and the Risen Kings.”

      Renna frowned and held up a hand to forestall his reply. “One moment. Someone’s trying to talk to me on the Way.”

      Tarrel watched, but Renna’s expression gave away little. Half a minute passed before she finished. “What was it?” Tarrel asked.

      “The research lab.” Renna’s face twisted in disgust. “Apparently they decided to run another batch of eternium, but someone messed up one of the protective spells.”

      “Oh,” Tarrel said. He knew he ought to say something more, but somehow he couldn’t bring himself to care about the fate of the researchers. If they couldn’t even cast a simple set of wards, they deserved what they got.

      “They’ll be fine,” Renna said, apparently mistaking his silence for concern. “At least as long as nobody screws up their healing magic too.” She hesitated, then stood up. “I’m sorry to cut this short, but I really ought to be there.”

      “It’s fine,” Tarrel said. “I’ll head back to my house. Maybe work on the framework some.”

      Renna smiled. “I still want to see it.”

      She walked over to the teleportation circle in the corner and activated it, vanishing with a soft pop. Tarrel was left in the deserted restaurant -- or not quite deserted. There was a man, washing the tables with a cloth. Tarrel watched him as he worked his way across the room, until he was near enough to talk to.

      “Why do you do that?” Tarrel asked.

      The man looked up. He had a rough, honest face. “Why not?”

      “You could let the golems do it. Or, if you wanted to make sure it was done properly, you could use magic. Why do it by hand?”

      “Sure. The golems would probably do it better than me, and a spell could do it faster and better. But that’s not the point. Haven’t you ever found pleasure in work?”

      Tarrel was on the point of saying no when he reconsidered, remembering all the times he had thrown himself head-on into inventing a new ritual or improving an old. “I suppose so. But my work isn’t something a golem can do and, when I’m done, I have something at the end.”

      The man chuckled. “And when I’m done wiping a table, I have a clean table.”

      “Only until someone comes in here and dirties it again,” Tarrel pointed out. He paused, struck by a sudden thought. Was that the problem, the reason for the hollowness all his achievements seemed to have? Even as one of the brightest researchers of the century, his name would inevitably be forgotten, in a hundred years, or a thousand, or ten thousand. But if he was able to create a new paradigm for magic… then he would be remembered.

      “If I’m still around, I’ll get to enjoy cleaning it again. If I’m not, well, like you said: the golems can do it better anyways.”

      Tarrel blinked, startled by the man’s voice. “Uh, right,” he said. He stood up. “I need to go.”

      He took the teleporter back to his house and went down to his private laboratory. White mage-bulbs flared on as he entered the spacious room, illuminating the Aether screen set into one wall and the stone floor, still etched with an old circle. He cleared it, resetting the solid granite slab to its original, perfectly smooth, state.

      Tarrel spent the rest of the night hunched over the Aether’s display, tweaking and changing the framework. Every so often, he would stand up and etch it into the granite floor with an eye-searing burst of brilliant orange light. Each time, the spell failed in a new, unexpected way, and Tarrel was sent back to the Aether to try to find the source of the problem.

      The days merged into weeks, which flowed into months. Tarrel enchanted himself with restorative spells so he didn’t have to eat or sleep. Such behavior was considered unhealthy by most people, but it wasn’t the first time Tarrel had lost himself to the grip of work, and he no longer cared if his friends whispered behind his back or shook his head when he wasn’t looking. Like Renna had said, they would change their mind soon enough.

      Renna knew enough to recognize the signs of Tarrel’s obsession, but she didn’t stop coming over to visit him. The door chimed regularly at noon every third day. They sat on one of Tarrel’s couches for ten or twenty minutes, talking until Tarrel could no longer keep himself away from the laboratory and made his excuses. For him, the time seemed one long hazy blur, interspersed only by slight, inching progress as obstacle after obstacle rose up to meet him and was defeated.

      Eight months later, Tarrel stood before the granite slab and powered up the latest spell. “Fire,” he said, envisioning the unlit torch in the corner igniting. He didn’t really expect anything to happen and was thus shocked when it erupted into orange flame. His hands trembled with excitement as he stood up and approached the crackling brand. Magic! By talking! At last, it was working.

      “Freeze,” Tarrel said. A chill swept over him as the torch’s flames guttered out. Water condensed on the blackened stump, then froze solid into a glittering sheen. A smile spread across his face and something warm and… happy rose inside him, like winter ice cracking and melting as summer approached. Renna’s words came back to him: Your legacy would be etched in the stone of history and he threw his head back, laughing.

      Further experimentation revealed that the framework had exceeded his wildest expectations. He refined the spell, reducing the energy it consumed and increasing its potency until at last, it was fit for use in a globalization ritual. Everyone in the world, if they had the basic training necessary to use magic at all, could now access the framework.

      Tarrel reached into the Way, calling for Renna. She responded at once, as if she had been waiting for him. What is it?

      Come to my house, Tarrel sent back. I have something to show you.

      He severed the telepathic link and stood up, unable to stop grinning. The eternium bracelet gleamed in the corner of the laboratory where he had tossed it and he went over and picked it up, turning it over in his hands. General Yenja had been excited about the eternium project. What would she think of the framework? But that was a matter for another time -- right now, he wanted to see Renna’s face when she saw what he had built. Tarrel slipped the bracelet onto his wrist and hurried up the stairs. Behind him, the mage-bulbs blinked out and the laboratory plunged into darkness.

      Renna knocked on the door several minutes later. Tarrel glanced at it. “Open the door,” he said.

      It swung aside, revealing a harried-looking Renna. “What is it?” she asked as she came inside.

      Tarrel grinned and pointed at a glass of water sitting on the table. “Watch this,” he said. “Freeze the water in that cup.”

      The surface of the water turned frosty and opaque, spreading downwards with a deep cracking sound. All at once, the glass shattered, spraying shards and chips everywhere. Tarrel jerked, surprised, then broke out into a laugh. “Sorry,” he said. “I should have been more specific in my wording.”

      Renna touched the solid cylinder of ice, setting it off into a lazy spin. It twirled across the table until Tarrel caught it with one hand. “How do you like it?” he said.

      “Impressive. Can I try?”

      “Sure. I put it in the Way, so you should be able to access it just by thinking about it.”

      Renna gestured at the ice in Tarrel’s hand. “Melt.”

      Nothing happened and Tarrel chuckled. “It takes some getting used to. Try starting to cast the spell normally, then use the framework.”

      “Melt.”

      This time, the frozen water turned warm and started to dissolve, gushing all over Tarrel’s hands. He tossed it back onto the table before it could soak his clothes. “Freeze.”

      Nothing happened and he gave Renna a rueful smile. “My mana cache is empty. I didn't even notice but I've been using the same one for all my research.”

      “Here.” Renna withdrew a fat diamond pendant from beneath her shirt and held it out to him. “Take mine.”

      “No,” Tarrel said. “I have a better idea.”

      He reached out with his mind, drawing on the inert mana present all around and concentrating a small amount of it, refining it into the potent stuff that was normally used for spells. Only a drop, just enough to kickstart the spell he had in mind. “Refine one nex’s worth of mana. Put it into my cache, then cast two copies of this spell, using mana from the cache.”

      It was the longest framework-boosted spell he had cast, but it went off without so much as a tug of mental effort. A thin trickle of mana pulsed through him, then died off as the spell became self-sustaining.

      “Did you just -- ”

      “That’s right,” Tarrel said. “I just revolutionized the mana collection industry.”

      Renna frowned. “Maybe you ought to slow down.”

      “Slow down? Why? I feel great.”

      “That’s because you’re using those invigoration spells.” Renna looked around. “Do you feel that?”

      It was an tingle, like an electric wind brushing over Tarrel’s skin. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the diamond cache, shielding his eyes as it began to glow an intense white. “Behold,” he said. “The future of the Raal.”

      Renna stared at the diamond. “That doesn’t look right. Your new spell -- ”

      “Not a new spell -- a new paradigm. For centuries, we have cast magic in essentially the same way. Spells have gotten better, thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of researchers like you, but it’s time for something different. Instead of engaging in a mental wrestling match, we shall simply give an order as if the magic is a servant.”

      “Your refinement spell has a -- ”

      Tarrel slammed his fist on the table. “Shut up!” The framework turned his order from wish into reality and he felt a sudden spike of shame. Using magic on a fellow Raal? What was he doing? But she wouldn’t see. He continued in a calmer voice. “It’s people like you who delayed this project by almost fifteen years. All that time, wasted.”

      He felt the pulse of magic as Renna broke through the framework’s silencing spell. “Listen to me,” she said. The urgency in her tone gave Tarrel pause. “That diamond is about to overload. It’s the same mistake you made with the ice.”

      Tarrel glanced at the incandescent diamond cube, mentally going over the wording he had used with the super-refinement spell. The same mistake he had made with the ice? The air around him felt… thin and weak, while the space around the cube seemed to shimmer and warp. What was going on? And then he got it.

      He stared at Renna, horrified. “Quick. Give me your cache.”

      He began the transfer spell, reverting to the more familiar mental casting in the moment of crisis. It was still incomplete when the cube exploded with a chiming sound that reverberated through his bones. Pain stabbed up Tarrel’s hand and he screamed, flailing around and spraying blood from his two missing fingers. Threads of orange refined mana flickered all around him like a hazy fog and the room dissolved into panic as the magic ran wild.

      Renna’s hair stood straight up. She had time for a single terrified scream before lightning discharged from her body. Bolts radiated out in every direction, crackling and splitting the air apart, disintegrating her body into hot black flakes. Some of them landed on Tarrel’s face and he stumbled back, staring at the black scorch marks on the floor.

      Tarrel’s weight vanished all at once and he floated off the ground, crashing into the ceiling before gravity reasserted itself and threw him back to the floor. The awful ringing of the broken cube continued to echo through the room, growing in strength instead of fading. It tore through his head as he wrapped his ruined hand in his shirt and sprinted for the door -- only to have the space in front of him warp and elongate. The door receded away, until it was like he was looking down a long corridor.

      The first rips began to appear, fuelled by the still-continuing refinement spell as it pumped refined mana into the shards of the diamond cube. It was as if reality was a sheet of glass, fracturing and splitting. Black cracks shot through the room as the chiming hammered through Tarrel’s body. They began to glow, dim white at first, then growing in strength. They pulsed. Flickered. And as Tarrel’s hand reached for the door handle, they exploded.

      Pure, white light surged out into the city, spilling from the research laboratory where Tarrel had conducted his fatal experiments. People screamed and fled. Some tried to cast spells, only to have their magic go awry in a wash of strange effects. Teleportation spells transported heads without their bodies. Flight enchantments sent their users hurtling into buildings. Wards imploded, crushing that which they were meant to protect.

      Ur-Dormoth was just one city out of hundreds, but the Way, a global telepathic link which united all Raal, was irreversibly tainted. Less than a year passed before Tarrel’s name was forgotten, but in the end he got his wish: an eternal, undying legacy -- in the form of a vast, magical wasteland sprawling across a quarter of the continent.

      7 votes
    9. Pretty Terrible Story About Death or Something

      I don’t know about you, but I’d always been taught one of 2 things about death. Either You die and that’s that, nothing else happens and you slowly turn to unthinking dust or You die and get...

      I don’t know about you, but I’d always been taught one of 2 things about death. Either
      You die and that’s that, nothing else happens and you slowly turn to unthinking dust or
      You die and get transported to some mystical outside realm, either a heaven, hell, or purgatory where your immortal soul spends an infinite amount of time

      Now, these aren’t nearly the only interpretations in this wide world, but if you grew up as a middle class white kid in suburban America, this is likely all you heard.

      It took until my 30th year for one of these to be the official accepted scientific theory on the afterlife. Finally, after all these years, science had an answer for what happened after death, and it was-

      Well

      Actually, it’s not really what happens after, per se. No, this perception could not occur after death. There simply was no way any living thing could continue to perceive after death, either any way of defining life we have would be thrown out the window. Instead, this was an explanation for those pernicious near-death experiences that pop up every now and again. Rather than being dead and having moved on, these were all visions people have in the moments prior to death.

      Essentially, the afterlife was all a dream put on by the brain in a vain attempt to keep itself happy and alive.

      This led to a thought. What was the limits of these dreams? Would they continue forever? Would the occupant of the dream believe they could still die in the dream, or would they be an immortal thought, a ghost of firing neurons? Is the brain capable of nesting time ad infinitum, or is the clock speed of the brain too slow for that?

      All signs seemed to point towards the brain giving the occupant infinite joy. Citing coma patients who believed they lived millenia in only a few weeks, the majour scientists of the day claimed a way to cheat death. After all, the only limiting factor here was how fast a bolt of electricity could move across, and since that was basically light speed, time didn’t really matter.

      It didn’t really matter.

      This of course led to a massive increase in suicides throughout the globe. It seemed the main limiting factor for many was whether suicide may lead to a unpleasant scenario. Even those who hadn’t, prior to the discovery, had a single suicidal thought cross their mind jumped at the chance of eternal joy. It wasn’t until much later any sense came into people.

      See, it seems most people are born without a fear of the infinite. I won’t assume, of course, but would you truly find an infinite heaven scary? I would. Infinite time leads to infinite scenarios leads to infinite amounts of both joy and pain. Any amount of fun, after a sufficiently long time, gets boring.

      So, the world was whipped into a global frenzy of life. Wars ended as neither side could really justify it anymore. People finally began to help each other.

      And then, just as quickly as this afterlife frenzy started, it was announced the initial findings were incorrect. Perhaps a decimal slipped, so the official story was death was finite and there was no afterlife.

      That was the official story, of course. The unofficial story…

      Well,

      Imagine you’re trying to do infinite things in two seconds. If you could split your time infinitely, you could complete all infinite things in two seconds. But all the same, everything would be done in two seconds.

      Imagine now you’re trying to do those infinite things in two seconds again, but you have to work against your hands slowly disappearing. Much more difficult, and now you’re less likely to complete those infinite things, but a more finite set. If you think this whole scenario is ridiculous, it’s all based off an account by a Survivor.

      The Survivors were a test group who were used to poke and prod at their afterlives until it could be fully explored. They’re who first discovered the effects of cell death on the afterlife.

      As a body dies, the cells begin to die at a rate of 10 millimeters every second. The initial researchers thought this irrelevant, as the speed of the brain was too fast for it too matter. What they didn’t factor in was that he brain is one of the first parts of the body to die. Sure, electricity moving across perfectly kempt brain cells moved near light speed, but add in broken highways of neurons and suddenly it grew much, much slower.

      The first Survivor to discover this recounted the sky slowly darkening and a void suddenly appearing on the horizon. They were lucky, as the test was ended prior to any majour brain damage. One less so had their memories scanned to reveal their perfect paradise being reduced to a one by one meter square and their representation writhing on the floor in apparent pain. They were not recovered.

      Of course, the researchers were horrified. Only weeks prior had they stressed how painless death should now be, and here was a gauntlet thrown at their feet. So they did the only sensible thing: Lie to prevent a mass hysteria ending in the death of all humans.

      And so it’s seemed to work. Just remember, if you see an empty horizon, this is the explanation:
      Death has always been with us.
      Nobody cheats Death.
      Death will always win in a cosmic tug of war.
      And, most importantly, It’s already too late It's already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late
      It’s already too late

      6 votes
    10. Alone

      There's no more sound, not anymore. Just the thudding of my own heart, deafening in the silence. Erratic, the bassline pounds out, slowing. Stopping. Just like everything else. Behind the visor, I...

      There's no more sound, not anymore.

      Just the thudding of my own heart, deafening in the silence.

      Erratic, the bassline pounds out, slowing. Stopping.

      Just like everything else.

      Behind the visor, I raise my eyes, and see the warships, the victors.

      Alone in this dark space, as fragments of what had been my planet race past, I breathe my last.

      I close my eyes, conceding defeat.

      They had dropped out the sky, and killed and maimed.

      They destroyed our way of life, our beliefs, and all the knowledge we had in a day.

      Then the raped our planet, stealing her life and resources.

      Every crop failed, or was stolen.

      The water was siphoned up and into the sky.

      They drained our oceans, leaving nothing but rotting carcasses and a new desert.

      Our forests were pulped and taken away.

      The barren roads of our world were lined with the dead, dying and confused creatures. Some predators survived for a time, hunting... But then they took them as well.

      Everything was taken, leaving nothing but sand and us.

      I was sent, a final desperate weapon, against our enemies...

      Sabateur.

      Desperate plans rarely work.

      Instead, I found myself suspended in the vaccuum of the world... As the world was ripped apart for her final resources.

      They harvested, as I lay in this lonely space, my air running out, unable to do anything.

      There was no one left to save.

      Tears fell from my closed eyes, as I waited for the last moment.


      I know the story is a bit cliche, but it came when I was exploring Elegy for a Dead World, looking to get my creative side going a bit.

      I find tiny stories like this helpful to set a mood, or get out of one, especially when my writing is blocked.

      I'm hoping to see some inspired short stories, so you guys can serve as my selfish want of inspiration, or some critique of how terribly I've used this meme.

      8 votes
    11. Out Here

      Space. Mankind’s last great mystery. Our modern day ‘Wild West’. What a privilege to be born during this golden age of space exploration, to have the chance to strike out and see a universe so...

      Space. Mankind’s last great mystery. Our modern day ‘Wild West’. What a privilege to be born during this golden age of space exploration, to have the chance to strike out and see a universe so full of absolutely nothing.

      There is nothing out here, there’s a reason it’s often referred to as a void. Okay, yes, the more astute members of you will point out space isn’t truly empty, planets and nebulas, and even us, the humans and our crafts. But for the sake of the scale upon which we view it, its empty.

      Just look at me, stuck out here, stranded, in dark space. For those of you still catching up on your terminology, that’s what we call the space in between galaxies. Yes, those galaxies, the big ones that contain untold numbers of stars. No, I don’t know how I got out here. If I did, I would have done something to reverse it.

      All I can tell you is that I’m out here with a busted ship that only has enough power for life support and basic functions. Ugh, I bet you the caravan has already made it to Port Dalle, and Swiv’s drinking that blasted sludge he wouldn’t shut up about. They’re probably raising a ruckus at the bar, starting brawls and revelries alike.

      And here I am, alone. Well, I have Ping. That’s what I call that eternal pinging. If you listen closely, you can hear it, every few seconds ever so faintly. Ping, ping. I can’t tell if the universe has given me company or is taunting me. My headache leans towards taunting.

      Ping.

      I tried turning it off, I really did. But I can’t figure out where it’s coming from. It’s almost as if the entire ship resonates with the noise. It’s not a big ship, kinda, cozy. I think that’s the word. I have to duck down to pass through the doors. The bed’s a few inches too short. But I make do, plenty of room in the storage closet if I push the tools to the side. Well, I might have jettisoned them. But, hear me out! It’s not like I’d be able to use them anyway.

      ‘What are you doing on that blasted ship if you can’t fix it?’ You may ask. Well, I’ll tell you. It wasn’t supposed to break. I was only supposed to be here to press the on and off buttons.

      Ping.

      They just didn’t include any for that blasted noise. Maybe it’s coming from behind this service panel here, it seems to be louder in the bridge, if you could call this glassed in closet a bridge.

      Bang. Ow.

      Note to self: pulling on random panels is a bad idea.

      Ping.

      Yeah yeah, keep on pinging, you stupid pinging, thing, a-lator.

      Ping.

      That was not a request for you to ping more frequently!

      Ping.

      ...

      What did I do to deserve this? All I ever did was try to lead a semi-normal life. As normal a life being some intergalactic space trucker, shipper, can be. I payed taxes, obeyed the law mostly, didn’t cheat. I mean, I’m not a bad person. I didn’t do anything wrong! Or did I?

      I mean, there are several possibilities. Maybe one of the times a delivery was late it costed someone more then a few extra minutes of paperwork. Maybe I inadvertently stood in the wrong spot, ruining some poor tourists prized photo. Maybe I-

      Ping.

      Maybe I’m dead, and this is my eternal torture.

      Maybe, just maybe, there isn’t such a thing as fate or karma or metaphysical legacies. Maybe, this is just some freak thing that occurred because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time? How’s that sound? Must be hard imagining not having someone to blame for all the things that go wrong, huh? Well, I’ve been stuck here for who knows how long. No one’s coming. And there’s nothing wrong with the ship except some inexplicable power loss.

      Ping.

      Maybe whatever’s making that noise is the cause?

      Ping.

      Pong.

      How do you like dem apples, huh?... Well, I guess you like them. Seeing as you haven’t immediately thrown them back at me. Maybe this’ll keep me entertained for awhile, huh?

      Out here, you take whatever you can get to pass the time. There is literally nothing.

      I even look out at nothing. I mean, sure, I see some of the Milky Way nearby, as well as light clusters that are the other galaxies. But I’m so far off the beaten path that the ship’s computers don’t even register any gravitational pull, and they’re tuned for the center of the Milky Way to set a universal constant for direction. Uh, simple speak, the big thing at the center of our galaxy? That’s down.

      There’s some velocity. So the ship will drift for millions of years, preserved in the inky cold of this wonderful frontier, until it get’s close enough to, something, so it's pulled in and crashes or burns. What? It’s not like anyone will find it anytime soon.

      I suppose you can’t really see the futility of existence yet. Me? My days are numbered, and I’ve already run out of gum.

      Ping.

      Pong.

      Where was I? Right, existence. It’s a funny thing really. Out here, with nothing to do or see, you start to question if anything was really real. Everything turns into this far off dream, the distant past of another person. Here and now, its just you, and the void. Well, that, and the flimsy metal contraption keeping you safe from said void, but even that’s debatable.

      Isolation was the worst punishment we were able to come up with for criminals, after all.

      Eh. I’m waiting my time. You don’t want to hear a condemned man ramble on, or maybe you do, you sicko, you. You want stories, you want to hear the high flying adventures of traveling this wasteland. Tales of explorations and intrigue. Maybe even a little romance mixed in.

      There really aren’t any. Space is, well, space. Big, and-

      Ping.

      -empty, and boring. As for the people, well, the Captain Buck and his intrepid crew all work for the military. The only civilians that do this are either, criminals, insane, or desperate. And any combination of those.

      So there it is. The reality of this grand fantasy you’ve always held in your head-

      Ping.

      -laid bare at your very feet. Not very palatable, huh? Makes me think of that paste you get fed out here. Chemically infused with all the calories and nutrients you need to live. Tastes like they blended cardboard and water into sludge and called it food.

      That’s not even the worst example. There was this one time... one time that...

      Ping.

      Ah, thank you Ping. There was this one time a station had a rodent infestation. Nasty stuff. You know what they did with the buggers? (Not the Editor, Editor’s Note: Not actual bugs.) Used them for meat! You had rodent steaks, and ground rodent. Didn’t stay at that station for long.

      Oh, look. A red light is blinking. Must be time to party.

      Ping.

      Ping agrees it’s time to party. Where’d I put the people to party with? Oh yeah. They’re all back in inhabited space. C’est la vie.

      Vie la c’est? Why are you asking me?

      You know? I’ve done all the talking up until now. I think it’s your turn to tell me a little abut yourselves.

      Yeah?

      Really?

      No.

      Ping.

      Ping doesn’t believe it either. He’s even making this slight hissing noise. Just like a cat. Maybe Ping’s a cat that goes ping? Or a ping that cats?

      Having trouble understanding that one? Do what I do. Don’t.

      Stuff doesn’t have to make sense. I mean, does it make sense for some random guy to be stuck literally nowhere? No, it doesn’t. He should be back home wondering what dinner will consist of. Well, truthfully, I’d probably be stuck with the nutrient paste still.

      Ping.

      I agree Ping, that paste is a travesty and insult to the human palate. At least include something that gives it some flavor. Maybe lemon juice? And some water, and sugar. You know what? Take the nutrient paste out all together and give us lemon, water, and sugar. We had a name for that back home.... I can’t seem to...

      Ping.

      Oh, right! Lemonade. Life’s gift you didn’t ask for. Well, would you look at that? There some ice dust outside. Almost like some rock had a gas bubble inside and it leaked. There you have it folks, the lemonade for today; ice dust!

      You know, I’m getting kinda sleepy and light headed. I have been up for quite some time now. Why? Well, you and Ping are such good listeners, I couldn’t just walk away. No, it was my responsibility to entertain at the expense of my own health. I hope I did a good job, I don’t like to disappoint people. Only peaches disappoint, you expect them to be all flavorful, and they tase like the fruit has been soaking in water.

      Well, guess this is it for now. Nature calls, and I don’t think I’ll be awake for much longer without really going off my rocker.

      Ping.

      Yeah, good night Ping.

      Ping.

      ...

      Ping.

      7 votes
    12. I just finished writing a story for the first time in years.

      I just finished writing the first draft of a short story called "Thirteen Cuts", weighing in at 4,493 words. Dr. Gilbert Porter is a psychiatrist who must weigh his own conscience after a patient...

      I just finished writing the first draft of a short story called "Thirteen Cuts", weighing in at 4,493 words.

      Dr. Gilbert Porter is a psychiatrist who must weigh his own conscience after a patient has hasn't seen in months admits to having participated in the judicial murder of an person who was not guilty of the charges against him. Does Dr. Porter have what it takes to help see justice done?

      It's going to take some revision before it's ready for publication, though. I know shouldn't be this stoked about finishing a first draft, but it's the first time I've finished any sort of written fiction since I finished Silent Clarion in 2016. I just wanted to celebrate a little, and my wife's out of town.

      18 votes
    13. Orkenfall [Short Story]

      This is just a fun little part of a story I put together a little while ago. Might go somewhere later, but probably not. The symbols looking like: [^1] are footnote links. (Pandoc's format, a kind...

      This is just a fun little part of a story I put together a little while ago. Might go somewhere later, but probably not.

      The symbols looking like: [^1] are footnote links. (Pandoc's format, a kind of extended Markdown).

      Edit: It may be easy to read as rendered html


      A leaf was slowly falling towards their face.

      It was golden, three-tongued, and burning with fire.

      Last one wasn't hyperbole.

      Unfortunately.

      It was all sort of their fault.

      But then, everything always was.

      That's why everyone called them Slag.

      The trees hadn't always been on fire, but they had been on fire before.

      That had been their fault too.

      Being the smallest Ork in a tiny Orkin village, reporting to a tiny Orkin warlord who somehow believed he had the brass balls of a god, Slag wasn't exactly well cared for.

      Their name was their job. They were an Ork, after all.

      The blacksmith beat the metal, made the weapons. Tossed the slag in a pile.

      Molten metal twisted and smouldered, and Slag would grab it by the handful, and toss it into a cauldron of water, and when that was full, kick it down the hill into the dumpsite.

      When the dumpsite was full, Slag would summon the demon, who would demand some strange price, then vanish with the lot.

      The demon's prices weren't helping their standing with the rest of the tribe.

      Like today.

      Slag craned their neck, looking up at the red fiery, and rather horned creature, "Say again?"

      The deep earth-rumbling voice laughed, "I want you to sing! Sing like a girl! Like a tiny little human girl!"

      Slag winced, "I am a girl, demon." [^1]

      The creature blinked in surprise, "You? Little squelchling?"

      Slag shrugged, "I'm a girl. I don't got tits... I ain't pretty. But I am."

      The demon winced, "Figure out which god cursed you little girl... After you sing."

      Singing? An Ork?

      Orkcakes.

      The demon would go, and she'd be blamed there was no room in the dump, and then the Orklord would be in her face. Again.

      Then threaten to marry her to his son. Again.

      She blanched.

      The demon laughed, "Last chance, little orkling."

      She coughed nervously, and then a squeaking voice emerged, singing a quiet rhyme she'd overheard one day.

      Something about stars and diamonds. Humans were weird. [^2]

      Unfortunately, her voice was less like a starlet, and more like diamonds scraping across sandglass.

      The demon shreiked and disappeared back into their realm.

      Without the slag.

      She winced, glancing towards the village, "Orkcakes."


      A hand like iron clasped her head, "Slag."

      She smiled weakly up at her father, and at his one eyes staring out from a bushy grey beard. [^3]

      The warrior released her and spoke gruffly, "Was that you singing, again?" [^4]

      She blushed, looking down in shame, "The demon's price."

      The old man groaned and reached for a whip on the wall, "Please tell me he took the slag."

      "I don't lie, father." She answered. [^5]

      He winced and glared at the doorway, unravelling the whip, preparing to hit the next person who came in. "Go to you room, Slag."

      "It's my honour." She crossed her arms, pretending not to notice that her chest didn't show any bigger, "I want to defend it."

      "Now, Slag." He growled through his tusks.

      She turned and moped away into her bedroom.

      She couldn't fight, all she could do was listen to the glorious blood-curling screams as the emissaries dies. [^6]

      Slag picked some metal from beneath her fingernails and flung it into the wall, pinning a fly by one wing. [^7]

      It wasn't fair.

      She wanted a real fight.

      Why did boys get all the fun?

      The guts and the murder?

      All she got was... Slag.

      An axe blade broke through her wall briefly, before being pulled back quickly, followed by a strangled sound.

      She rolled her eyes and flopped onto her straw bed, staring at the ceiling tiredly.

      Humans made life look so simple.

      Find a man, get pregnant, take care of the litter until you died.

      Just cooking, singing and cleaning.

      She licked the edge of her tusk, yawning. This was going to be another, she must get married because she's useless argument with the Orklord. Which would inevitable lead to my son is too stupid, fat and ugly to possibly get married, and then... Ew.

      She didn't want the bastard.

      He certainly wanted her though, all drooling and slurping.

      She wanted to be a Knight. [^8]

      That was it. All of it. Her only dream.

      A glorious warrior, protecting the weak, hunting the monsters that pray on people in the dark. [^9]

      Her sword would have a name, and glow with power when evil was near. [^10]

      She would yell out it's name, and light up the dark.

      Then she'd kill the bad guy, cut off his head, and ride home with it, and stake it to her wall. [^11]


      [^1]: Really? Wow. Never would have guessed... But orks are always hard to apply gender to.

      [^2]: Understatement. What other species looks around themselves in wonder and decides blowing stuff up is the best way to get something out of the ground?

      [^3]: Stories on exactly how he lost his eye vary. Most involve a dragon, a bet, and a gallon ale. And perhaps a wet, old sock.

      [^4]: Oh gods. She'd tried to sing before? Had birds died?

      [^5]: Not strictly true. She did lie, but only about unimportant stuff. Like what she wanted for dinner. Or what job she wished she had. Or who she wanted to marry. Nothing big.

      [^6]: It's an Orkin thing. Send some messenger to die when your upset with your opponent, and then turn up when their bloodlust was sated. Good way to not die.

      [^7]: She was a practiced hand at this now. Sociopath, or bored teenager? Let the public decide! Blast her in this week's Orks magazine!

      [^8]: ... Should someone tell her human knights usually hunt down orks?

      [^9]: So... Hungry orks. Seriously. Someone should tell her.

      [^10]: So, it would always be lit up. Because you're on Ork, girl.

      [^11]: Oh geeze. Are you the hero, or the villain, Slag?

      4 votes