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Carrot

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Typhus
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#1

Posted 09 April 2012 - 05:55 PM

NOTE:This is a short story, it doesn't have chapters, but I'm going to post it in different parts, to avoid it being too long for your poor, virgin eyes. This is an idea I've wanted to do for a long time and over the long, four-day weekend, inspiration took hold and I've been writing like a mad man. So, enjoy, and look for the next part of the story in the near future (Which may be the finale, depending on how it goes).

CARROT



Farmer Smithen was a strange man with strange secrets. His land, inherited from his father, was known as the most barren and ill kept in all of Rochford, the ground was a fetid swamp of faecal brown and cadaver grey. A cluster or stalks hung here and there, but they were flaky, diseased things and hummed with the chattering of a million insects.
He lived in the same humble cottage he grew up in, and sometimes still heard his fathers voice explaining how they came into such prosperity.

"I built this with me own two hands twenty years ago, brought it from the old gaffer for a song. Silly old sod, told me nothing would grow here. Well, the first summer, I set down the bricks, tiled the roof, and built us a home. I wish I could see his face now, son. I wish I could tell him what I did, what I grew."

But his father grew nothing, the farm never made an income and his precious cottage, which he loved so much, was crumbling, the bricks slowly turning to dust, the decades of rain and gloom transforming the wooden beams into nothing more sturdy than rotten teeth in blackened gums.
His father had tried tending the land and every day could be seen marching up and down, sowing seeds, uprooting weeds and doing anything he could to make his fortune. When he died, he was a shrivelled nub of a man, lying in bed, still bleating about crops and harvests that would never come.

"It'll be a nice day tomorrow, son, won't it? Sun'll be out, you ought to plant something, I'd do it meself, but I ain't feeling very well, when I'm better we can go out together, grow something, grow something, grow -"

Farmer Smithen remembered the old mans delirious grin, his pathetic optimism, and resolved never to turn out like that. He had never wanted to be a farmer anyway, it wasn't his calling, it was his fathers. So he ventured out of the farm, he gambled, he drank and every night he stumbled back into the cottage, his singing and flatulence waking his wife and son.
When he had died, his father had left behind a sensible nest egg for his only child. Farmer Smithen had squandered it in a few months, on all manner of self-indulgent vices, it wasn't long before the letters started turning up, and when the letters didn't work, the bailiffs generally did.

His wife suffered this with quiet bitterness. She was a rosy-cheeked, overfed creature, fond of pink floral dresses that made her look like a walking jelly. But neither her pink dresses nor her collection of Royal commemorative plates could disguise the sneer that always played on her lips or the dark glint of cruelty in her eyes. She had married beneath herself, and never forgave the stranger Farmer for it.
But that was only one of her grievances, what she really hated was her child. The one thing that bound her to the farm and her lazy wastrel husband. She had wanted a girl, something small and blonde to dress up like a princess and trot out to her parents. What she got was Ben Smithen.

Ben Smithen was not a girl, he was not small or blonde and he was not a princess. He was nearly thirty years old and still living at home. He still slept in his little boys room and still covered himself with the Return of The Jedi quilt they bought for him when he was five. His hair was a black haystack of spikes and tufts, his eyes were two blue marbles goggling out from pallid, slack skin and his voice was deep and booming, the voice of the man he would never be.
Farmer Smithen cared for his son as best he could, he got him a computer and games, he kept watch as Ben ran through the farm, long legs pumping, big hams of hands punching and clutching for any unlucky birds. He even took him down the football stadium, to enjoy the games, at every goal Ben would jump and hoot, drool sloshing from his loose jaw. The other spectators would look at the father and son from the corner of their eyes, whispering and smirking, but Farmer Smithen only clutched Ben all the tighter.
It was a birth defect, that's what the doctor had said. Birth defect, it can't be cured, it's who he is. The Farmers wife wept often at this memory, but always for herself, always for the life Ben had stolen from her.

Ben Smithen's last day of normality began as his days usually did, he woke up at around ten in the morning and lumbered down the stairs in clumsy, noisy strides. Still dressed in his pyjamas.
His mother was sitting on the sofa, The Daily Mail on her lap and a cup of coffee in her hand. Ben ambled up behind her, wrapped his arms around her neck and kissed her on the cheek.

"Morning, Mum. Love you." He bellowed.

"Good morning." She sighed quietly, resisting the urge to shudder.

He cluttered around the small kitchen and made himself a bowl of cereal, the milk splashing out onto the table cloth and leaving dozens of dark little stains.

"Ah, there's my boy!" Farmer Smithen laughed, he'd been in the bath and was washing his thinning black hair with a towel, he rubbed it over his face and dried off his stringy, greying beard. Suddenly he froze and his eyes glared at the stains on the table.

"I see you made yourself breakfast." He murmured uneasily.

"Yep, did it myself!" Ben beamed, gulping down a mouthful of cornflakes.

The Farmer laid a damp hand on his sons shoulder and bent down to whisper in his ear.

"Better not tell Mum, eh? You know how she gets about stains and mess."

Ben nodded, his jaw going in a slow circular motion. Spraying the table with tiny bits of chewed up cereal.

"Awight Dad, I won't tell Mum."

"Looking forward to the football today?"

Ben looked up suddenly and grinned, his teeth and mouth dripping with milk.

"Smouthenn Oonighted!" He gurgled, giving the thumbs-up.

"Don't talk with your mouth full." The Farmer replied, ruffling his sons hair.

After breakfast, Ben had planned to get dressed for the trip to Roots Hall Stadium. He had his prized blue football shirt hanging in the wardrobe and the trainers his Dad had bought him for Christmas laid out beside his bed.
Unfortunately, when he was putting his bowl in the sink, he saw something out of the window and all thoughts of football left his mind.
In the distance was a gnarled old tree, it had been there before the Smithen family ever arrived and bore the nicks and gashes of all the lazy attempts to cut it down. The bark was a dark black and on a cloudy night, the leafless branches looked like a giant claw reaching out from the ground. Sometimes it scared Ben to look at it, but when the sun was shining, it was just a tree again and he forgot he was ever afraid at all.
Today the sun was indeed shining, the sky clear and blue, the air boiling and heavy. But what was that behind the tree? Or rather, who was that? Ben saw a black, cloaked figure hiding behind the tree, bobbing up and down in a frantic spasm.
For Ben Smithen, there was no seperation between curiosity and caution. If he saw something funny in the middle of the road, he'd run up to it, traffic be damned. It was why the Farmer usually watched him so attentively. But as Ben wandered out of the cottage and went happily sprinting to the tree, his father was in the toilet and his mother simply pretended not to hear the door opening and Ben's low, rumbling chuckle.
The sun beat down on his brow and he galloped towards the stranger, shouting and waving his hands.

"Hey!" He cried. "Hey! Whoareya?"

He slowed down slightly as he approached the tree, suddenly aware of a pungent odour. What was that? It smelt like the blue recycling bin his parents kept outside, like something perpetually rotting, something sweetly foul.

"You smell." He grimaced, pointing accusingly at the cloaked figure.

"I'm just old, dearie." Came a fractured, crackling voice, the voice of something that had lived too long. "Surely your Mother taught you to be polite to your elders?"

Ben squinted at the figure, he wanted to get closer, but it kept moving behind the tree and then popping back out, shuffling and weaving like a crab.

"My Dad says old people are scroungers." He smiled, looking quietly proud as he always did when quoting his father.

The figure tilted its entire body to the side, almost in a quizzical gesture, from under the hood, Ben thought he saw a flash of pus-coloured, wrinkled flesh.

"Oh, but I'm so weak, I walked to the shops but got lost, my mind's not what it was, you know. Surely you won't leave a poor old woman out here in the heat? I could faint."

Ben scratched his head and for the first time he could remember felt uneasy, a nervous brew began to bubble and pop in his belly. He wanted to go back to the cottage, something was wrong, the smelly old woman, perhaps. The way she kept moving to avoid being seen, and the stench that hung around her, so heady his legs no longer felt like they could go on running forever. He didn't like that feeling and he didn't like this woman.

"I'm going, I want to go."

From somewhere deep inside her body, there came a sickening crack and the old woman stood up straight. She was tall, taller than anyone Ben had ever seen. From underneath the hood poked out wispy strands of hair, but they were of a peculiar colour, in the light, they almost looked green.

"Don't go, dear." She said in a low, alien voice. "I'm sick, so sick, I just need some water. Take me to that cottage over there, get me some water, don't leave me to die out here in the mud and the heat." Her voice was growing lower and more sibilant with every word, she no longer sounded like a woman at all, more like a beast, a dog with a mouthful of mud and rocks. "Give me your hand, don't let me die."

Ben's skin felt cold, before he knew it, he was walking backwards.

"Want to go home now," he murmured, "going to watch the football with Dad."

But the hooded thing was moving quickly, zigging and zagging like a snake, stretching out a seeping, yellowed hand with three wispy fingers.
From inside the creature came a gurgled, choking rustle and it stopped in its tracks.

"I'm dying, dying." It screeched.

The top half of its body began to shake and the fingers that only a moment before had been reaching for Ben's neck dropped off, turning into mere pulp on the hard mud.

"Are you okay?" Ben asked, smiling nervously.

The only response was an agonised scream, one that sounded far, far too human. It gave one last convulsive judder and Ben heard a snap. The creatures body was collapsing on itself, falling from the bottom like a demolished building. From underneath the black cloak poured out a rancid, mushy soup.
Ben stood there with his jaw hanging open and his hands dug so deep in his pockets his fingers poked through to the skin.

"Dad," he whimpered, looking around helplessly, "Daaaad."

But it was too late to help, the creature had now melted into a small mountain of gloop, the cloak ruffling as the body beneath it began to liquefy.
Ben Smithen stayed for a moment longer, looking down at the black robe and the hideous monstrosity rotting beneath it.
If he had gotten dressed and put on his trainers, this would have been nothing but an incredibly bizarre encounter he would eventually forget. But in his curiosity, he had raced to the tree and the strange beast in his socks.
In the heat, he barely registered that his feet were wet, that the waters and fluids of the creature were spreading out in a giant puddle, moving through the fabric of his socks and deep into the pores of his skin.
By the time of the football game, he had almost forgotten the entire incident, or at least forget enough to enjoy himself. But as he watched his team score a goal and cheered as he usually did, he noticed a tinge of pain in his arm.
When they arrived back at the cottage, Farmer Smithen simply gave his son a few paracetamol tablets and sent him to bed.

"Just a little pain in his arm, probably from all that running he does." He absently told his wife. "A few hours sleep and he'll be fine."

Failure
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#2

Posted 15 April 2012 - 03:13 PM

I enjoyed this. The writing was generally solid and the bleak, unassuming atmosphere created a good deal of suspense for the end. If anything, I found it quite difficult to visualise the creature you described; not knocking your descriptive ability, just found it hard to get a clear picture in my mind.


Mokrie Dela
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#3

Posted 16 April 2012 - 09:56 AM

This is so creepy and Bizzare. I don't usually like this genre of writing, but this is pretty good.
I think the description of the beast is ok. I could imagine it, but perhaps a little refining wouldn't go amis.

I've got nothing real to say against it though, nice work.

Typhus
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#4

Posted 30 September 2012 - 08:36 PM

The huddled crowd was silent as they waited on the dry, dead mud. Whilst it was a sunny Saturday afternoon, no one was smiling, each face was masked with either disgust, curiosity or fear. The children, who under usual circumstances would be running and screaming their innocent childish gibberish, clung on to their parents legs in case they had to hide quickly when the monster showed himself.
Before them stood a wooden podium, a thick red curtain running along the back and a huge plywood arch rising above the whole structure.
It invited the audience to see The Eighth Wonder of The World - The Amazing Plant-Boy in sloppy black writing. Once the doctors had given up and all the media vultures had been alienated, Mrs. Smithen had insisted on putting their son on display.

"What?" Farmer Smithen had gasped. "Put him on a stage? Charge people to gawk at him? Like a freak show?"

She had simply pursed her lips, crossed her arms and sighed.

"We need the money. And it's not as if Ben would understand what was going on, anyway."

In that moment, he had hated her, hated her more than he had hated anyone in his whole life. So why did he go along with it? Why was he now standing behind the curtain, laying a hand on his sons shoulder and whispering encouragement in his one good ear?
Since Ben's affliction began, and the photographers and journalists started waving their wallets in the air, the Farmers addictions had grown and grown. The money they had accepted so willingly was mostly gone now, filling the pockets of publicans and bookies around the whole town. As Ben transformed, so had his father, he had taken to wearing sharp suits and tying his filthy hair in a ponytail, thinking it made him look more sophisticated and cultured. But nothing could enliven his bloodshot eyes or colourise his pallid complexion.
Behind the curtain, his son was looking at him keenly.

"Are you all right Dad? You look tired."

Farmer Smithen clapped his boy on the shoulder and faked a smile, outside his wife was bleating and jabbering on the microphone.

"Me?" He chuckled, "don't worry about me, son. Just enjoy yourself out there, lots of people want to see you."

Ben said nothing for a moment, he straightened his back and looked down at his father with an almost imperceptible curl of his lip. For a second there was something behind those dull eyes that was different, something which fully understood what was going on, but then it vanished in the familiar haze.
He nodded in three laborious jerks of his head and stumbled through the curtain.
The crowd collectively gasped when he emerged, they were perhaps expecting him to look more freakish. But this was before it all went wrong, this was when Ben could still go unnoticed if he wore a coat or a thick shirt.
He stood before the sea of wide eyes and open mouths and looked at his Mother. Before, she had been quite happy to ignore her son and respond to his every word and deed with quiet, patronising scorn. But now he was special, he was her meal ticket.
She had grown even fatter in the previous few months, using the money she stashed away to gorge herself on rich chocolates and fine wines. But mostly she loved her jewellery, she adored the flimsy gold bracelets she crammed onto her wrists and positively glowed whenever she wore her special ear-rings.
She had purchased them for over a thousand pounds when the dealer quietly explained how special they were, how they belonged to the glamorous, immortal Tsarina Alexandra. She put them on and the dealer, a squatting ugly little man had rubbed his sweaty palms together and grinned.

"Bewtefool, luv, bewtefool! You look just like a right proper princess, you do."

Upon hearing this she handed over the money and imperiously strutted away, clanging and jangling like a box of screws, never suspecting she had paid over a thousand pounds for something originally sold for five.
Now she nodded at her son, the fake rubies and fools gold twinkling with every movement of her meaty head.
Ben smiled back at her, hoping they could all sit down that night and just eat dinner or watch television, something normal. He didn't understand why he was out here or why so many people wanted to see him. His father explained that it was because he was special, because people wanted to be his friend.
But he could see them. He could see their eyes and the feelings buried behind them. It was the same look he had seen his whole life, the look they gave him because they thought he was too slow to ever catch on.
But it makes Mum and Dad happy, he told himself, doing this makes them both happy.

He grunted and slowly unbuttoned the thick brown coat he had been wearing, He dropped it on the stage and raised his left arm so everyone could get a good long look. Inside the swarming mob, someone screamed, another covered their little girls eyes and began to usher their child away, most were silent, they just stared and stared.
The reason they were so horrified by the sight of his arm was simple: He had no arm. The thing protruding from his torso was not a human arm at all, instead of flesh and bone, it was a mass of twisting green vines. To them it looked alien, as if it was moving independently from the body of its host, a disgusting medical curio, nothing more.
This was not true, of course, despite experiencing crippling pain as his flesh began to transform all that time ago, Ben was in full control of the limb. He didn't know how, but he could still bend it as he would do his elbow, and instead of the five digits he used to have, he now had a dozen protruding roots to grab things with. Nowadays it didn't hurt, in fact, his new arm felt stronger and better than his old one ever did. When he concentrated, he could even lift up the old tractor engine that lay behind the cottage, flipping the rusty metal lump in spirals and catching it like a ball of paper.
Why had the doctors seemed so worried? He had never felt better.
He used the new arm to wave at the crowd and gave them a friendly smile.

"Hello." He beamed, speaking in his usual rumbling way. "Thank you all for coming. My name's Ben, you don't need to be afraid, I'm just like you."

The crowd mumbled amongst themselves, but something strange had begun to happen. Whilst they had been afraid only a few moments before, now they had seen the monster in the flesh, he didn't seem so scary at all. He was just a freak, just a clumsy, gangly freak. Some of them began to chuckle behind their hands.

"The doctors did loads of tests on me, they say I'm perfectly healthy. Right, Mum?"

She rolled her eyes and went behind the curtain, leaving her son alone except for the one lone security guard who stood against the stage smoking a hand-made cigarette.

"Mum?" Ben called, frowning a little, though he didn't know why.

As he was turned away, he felt a quick tug on the leg of his trousers. He swirled around and saw a group of young boys looking up at him, smiling innocently.

"Who was that?" He asked, smiling himself, happy to be part of the joke. "Who did that?"

One of the boys, a small, blonde haired lad, pointed at Ben with a tobacco stained finger.

"You're Ben Smithen, innit? My Dad knows your Dad."

"Are they friends?"

"He told me that your Dad was the biggest pisshead in Southend." The rest of his gang snickered, their laughter rippled through the rest of the mob in quiet little waves.

"That's a lie." Ben snorted, shaking his head angrily. "You're a liar, my Dad doesn't drink, he told me so. He's the best farmer there is, he doesn't drink."

For some reason, the sight of his anger only inflamed the rabble all the more. The way he shouted when he spoke, how his jaw hung open even when he wasn't talking, his black hair sticking up like the leaves on a pineapple. He looked like the most ludicrous, sorry creature on the face of the Earth.
If Farmer Smithen had been out there with his son, he could have ended the sad spectacle that played out that day. He, despite all his failings, was possessed of a survival instinct. He could have gauged the mood of the crowd, looked into their faces and discerned the slow spread of malice and hate that appeared in every eye when he walked out there.

"I was on the phone." He would later tell the uninterested drunks and gamblers who he congregated with. "I was on the phone to my second wife, girlfriend at the time, you know. I had no way of hearing what was happening. There was nothing I could do."

Yet even with their dulled senses, they would always notice the quiver in his voice and the nervous twitching of his eyes.
He had heard, all right. But with a pretty young girl on the other end of his mobile, slowly describing what she was wearing, he simply covered his one free ear and recommenced his lip-licking.
No one was ever sure what started it, the parents of the teenagers were always keen to stress that Ben had jumped off the stage and run through the crowd with no provocation. Of course, he wasn't quite...normal, was he? Not right in the head? Why else would he attack such innocent, angelic little boys?
This was generally what the papers said afterwards, none of them caring much for the beer cans which had been lobbed at the poor boy or the crude slurs shouted against him or the spittle he had to wipe from his eyes. Monsters were good for business, after all.

Farmer Smithen neither knew nor cared what caused his son to flee the stage. All he felt was a throbbing prang of fear as he walked through the curtain and saw them. Dozens lay in the dirt, a few wandered around clutching their heads, the sounds of screams and sobs rang out like the chattering of some strutting pigeon.
His son was gone, gone from the farm and gone from the world. In the Farmers mind, Ben Smithen died on that day.
Whatever that thing claimed, when it came stumbling back to the farm months later, it was not his son, it was barely even human at all.

Kippers
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#5

Posted 07 April 2013 - 05:39 PM

Pardon the bump. Been going through a lot of topics in a crazed reading mood.

This is easily a greatly realised piece of writing. There are some longer serialised stories which are good and have what they need, but this feels tighter than all of those. You know what you need to say, you know what needs to exist. There's no extra flab. You've got a uniquely creative mind Typhus, and a great way with words - from expressing your opinions to describing your imagination. I wish there was more to this.




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