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El Zilcho

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slimeball supreme

The Wish: A Love Story

 

The rain patters down on the roof of the house in which I live; my room, the room of my farm. I look out the window, out into what would usually be bright greens, a sea of grass, bright blue skies. Children playing. The animals enjoying themselves. Much like the weather, however, the world has become dark.

 

The dirt in the pig pen has become mud. The grass awash in a sea of literal water. The skies grey, water streaming from the clouds much like tears stream from my eyes. My life? It isn’t easy to explain. Tears fall, they wet the bed on which I sit on, of which is positioned by my window in the house of which I live. Today, I am lost. I cough, and through squinted eyes I check my watch. I realize it is time to go. I stand from my seat by the window and shuffle across the room, to my desk.

 

On my desk, is my diary. In my diary, I write of my life. Of what happens in it. Another tear streams down as I open the book, as I finger through it to the last page. It drops onto the inky letters of which I have written into the book of which I write my life's stories.

 

"D*mn!" I cry. It smudged a word. Hope. It has become blotchy, wet. Ironic, I think. My thoughts exactly.

 

I turn to the last page, the final page of my book. It is the only blank one left, soft, cream paper with lines drawn through it of which to guide my handwriting so it is properly formatted. Another tear streams down.

 

It has been a month since I had seen Kyle. Oh, Kyle! The man of my dreams, with his soft eyes, his hard cheeks, the stares of which he used to stare into my soul. He had gone off, to war. The greatest war, guns toted, on the shores of Gallipoli. God, how I missed him! God, how I hoped he would return! It was forbidden love, the purest of them all. Our parents had forbade, but on the night before he left; we had met upon the hill overlooking our farms. Oh, those crisp West Virginia mornings! Oh, how I wish I knew!

 

I grab my pen, and write on the page. In bold letters, in bold words: I wish Kyle would come home. Oh how I wish! How I hope he lives! Another tear streams down from my eye, of which lands on the paper in front of me. It does not smudge the words, but it smudges my heart. How I weep.

 

Suddenly, I hear calling. A voice from afar beckons, that of my father. "Supper is ready!" he cries. I am not hungry, but I do not wish to be beaten. I do not wish to upset father. In the dining room, I sit down. I sigh. It is dirt stew again. It is brown, and mucky, and incredibly poor-tasting - horrendous to the tongue.

 

"Why do you sigh?" my father asks. "Do you not like supper?"

 

"No, sir. It is good."

 

"Good. You do realize, as your mother has contracted polio, I will now be solely cooking the meals?"

 

"Yes, sir."

 

"Good." We continue to eat. Oh, how I hate this man with a passion! After he forbade me from seeing my one true love! How can I stomach it? I stare. My father stares back.

 

"What is it, woman?" he snarls. "Do you want me to get the belt out?! I am not afraid to do so if you shall stop with these withering eyes of which you use to look upon me with!"

 

"D*mn it, father!"

 

"Alice! Do not swear at the dinner table again, young lady!"

 

"D*mn you to H*ll! You have forced my hand, father! If you had not sent Kyle away, we would not be in this place!"

 

Thunder roars outside. The rain screams onto our house. "How dare you speak of this man again! He is but lower class, working at his sickening turnip farm across the river. We are of noble blood! Young lady I--"

 

"No, father! I loved him! With all my heart and soul, he was the love of my life! And you took him from me, father, you struck him aside; and thus, you struck me aside!"

 

"That's enough!" He is redfaced, steaming hot. I have angered him. "You will go outside right now and clean up after the pigs, young lady."

 

"But there's a hurricane, father!"

 

"That's enough, Alice! Another emotional outburst like this and you shall be cast away to the nunnery!"

 

"Misery me and murderation!" I cry, and in a huff, I leave. The rain drenches me to the core, but I do not care. I would rather drown than deal with that putrid man again! And I must follow his orders, anyhow. The rain may have cleaned a large portion of the pig's filth, but my job must be done. Some things can only be cleaned with a human touch. I sit down on the stairs leading down into the farm from our ranchhouse, tears streaming down my face, of which land on the floor. They cannot be told from the rain streaking all over our property, washing away our cattle, washing away my misery. I sigh, and look up.

 

And in the distance, I see a man. He is broad shouldered, square jawed, standing in the distance. He does not speak, he is but a silhouette. His shoulder-length hair drifts in the wind, his arms by his side. I know who this man is.

 

It is Kyle.

 

In an instant, I run. Sprint, as fast as I can, through muddied gravel, through tall grass. His strong features ever-present as I come closer, emotions swelling to sheer boiling point, hot despite the cold water against our faces. His arms are now outstretched, a truly messianic figure -  a man set amongst the disaster behind him. My tears are ones of happiness, bliss. My wish had come true.

 

I pounce into his arms, yet he whisks me away. He is strong, powerful - arms like barrels, of which are used to hoist objects of which are really powerful. He's very strong. We spin, embrace. He is home.

 

"Oh, Kyle!" I cry.

 

"Oh, Alice!" He whispers.

 

"I have missed you much, Kyle!"

 

"I too. The beaches were rough, the weather hot and heavy. The artillery risked many a man and took the lives of many others. On the battlefield, I risked my life, and in the heat of the moment, I left before all else. My love for you was just that strong."

 

"Oh, Kyle!" Our embrace, in that instant, turned into a passionate kiss. Like heaven and hell colliding, like hot and cold, our lust knew no bounds. The pure strength of our passion pushed us onto the ground, but we continued; not mud and rain, not hell and earth, not all the armies and nations and international criminal court tribunals in the world could stop us in that instant. It was meant to be.

 

Oh, that year! In all it's boisterous verisimilitude! O, how I look on it fondly. The sunset creeps behind the mountaintops ahead of me, on this lovely evening. I knit, as I am an elderly woman now. As we are an elderly couple.

 

My son, Chadwick, and my daughter, Stephanika, blissfully play in the fields. It has been decades since that year, since my parents passed, since we met. Our love bounds us together, like the plumbing of a house binds a home to a sewage system. We are but a humble couple, our love everlasting. As I ponder, Kyle approaches me. He is in his seventies, but he has the spring of a man decades his junior.

 

"Hello, love," he says.

 

I smile. "Oh, Kyle."

 

"I made you this," he says. From within his sweater pocket, he pulls out a card. 'Happy Anniversary' is written upon it, in glittering letters: the whole card drenched in glitter, like our marriage is drenched in love. "To celebrate."

 

"Oh, Kyle... it's beautiful!"

 

And in that moment, we embraced, as we did in our youth. The flame had not been extinguished. O, how I loved this man!

 

Next theme: coming out

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  • 3 weeks later...

That was a simple, neatly written one shot, Slime. I liked the way it was written, as if translated, but something about it felt very obtuse in a good way. The happy ending was nice too.

 

BACKTRACK BI

 

 

Jess was sat outside in the smoking area, puffing away as she looked across the way; the street was shimmering from fresh rain, with the lights above illuminating the guy she’d seen across the street. He look familiar, sporting a black jumper she’d seen him wear before. It couldn’t be him, could it? He was sat on a bench, his features cast out from the bright lights of the restaurant that had an abundance of lights shimmering inside. He’d walked out of his group of friends who were still inside laughing—two couples and a girl he’d come with. She felt her grip tighten on her cigarette. Was he with her? Was this what jealousy felt like, what the f*ck was she thinking?

 

“Jess!” a familiar voice called out.

 

Summer came bouncing over with a smile. She was short, much shorter than her with bright blonde hair and the bubbly personality to fit it. She pulled Jess in, smelling like tequila and put her mouth on her. Jess pulled away after a second and wiped her mouth with a smile.

 

“I’m getting bored. Why don’t we get out of here?” she said with her droopy eyes, wanting a little action of her own.

 

“I want to stay a little longer,” she replied, still staring out towards the guy in the black jumper who was looking up towards the overhanging lights connecting to the two buildings.

 

“But I want to go,” replied Summer, pouting, gearing up for the argument over this petty stuff.

 

“Let’s stay.”

 

“Fine, stay out here then—who are you looking at?” she asked Jess, trying to make out somebody across the road.

 

“Nobody,” replied Jess as she looked away.

 

“It’s that guy from before over there isn’t it? What? You suddenly don’t want this?”

 

“No,” Jess said with a groan. “I was just looking out onto the road!”

 

“You’re so pathetic. I’m not going to be second best,” she yelled to Jess with slur before storming off.

 

She’d been dating Summer since she came out to her parents when she was nineteen. Two years ago—and it felt so simple. There was no colossal repression in her, she felt. She just never liked guys, and her parents never cared about who she was dating. But the last year had been a tiresome one with Summer—angry Summer, jealous Summer who always went through her phone and hated seeing her talking to anybody else.

 

She dropped her cigarette and leaned her head on the fencing. She decided she wasn’t sticking around to have another full blown argument episode in front of everybody. As she stepped past the front security, she heard one of Summer’s friends screaming at her, doing the drunken bullsh*t she’d heard a thousand times before. “She’s not cheating on you, Sum. You gotta calm down, she loves you!”

 

She walked down the road, still staring at the guy who was leaning back with his eyes closed and she realized that for the first time ever, she felt something. She liked him, and wanted to go and talk to him. Butterflies flew around her as if she was nervous, something she’d never felt before when she spoke to girls she liked—it was always just so simple with them.

 

With a deep breath, she crossed the road as another patch of rain began. She walked towards him as he flicked his cigarette away and as he noticed he, he smiled.

 

“Hi, Jess,” she said with a smile that creased his eyes. She felt an elastic band go around her head and bit the inside of her cheek.

 

“I just wanted to thank you again for the other night. It could have been a lot worse with Summer. She gets like that sometimes.”

 

He pulled out another cigarette and then handed it to her. She took it slowly. He got another for himself and lit both of them while he spoke. “She shouldn’t have been driving. You were lucky I was taking a shortcut. It could have been a lot worse than you two crashing into a ditch.”

 

“I know. We were arguing,” replied Jess as she sat down next to him. “She got angry and accused me of cheating and she swerved the car. Luckily you got there and pulled her out. She was crazy...”

 

“I didn’t mean to yell at her but I felt she needed it.”

 

“She did.”

 

“I’m assuming she doesn’t like me very much now anyway.”

 

“No...she thinks you’re my new lover.”

 

“She thinks that of every person you talk to?”

 

“Most,” she replied.

 

“I thought you were gay?”

 

“I am but she assumes the worst of everything. It’s exhausting—I never got your name. Everything happened so fast when you drove her to the hospital.”

 

“Winter. But everybody just calls me Win’.”

 

“Odd name,” she said with half a smile.

 

“I thought so too...do you wanna come in and get some food? I’m here with some of my family.”

 

“I don’t know—Summer’s probably worried about me and I should get going anyway.”

 

She felt like it was with Summer. A tinge of something like worry went through her and she regretted not taking the offer. Any second now he was going to tell her “Fine” and stomp off. She waited for it.

 

“Well, whatever you want to do it’s fine with me. We’ll be at the bar inside in a few, you’re choice. The female bartender is cute. You might hit it off.”

 

That didn’t make her laugh. Right now, she didn’t want to talk to anybody else or flirt with anybody but Winter—and she hated herself for that, for not knowing how to deal with this sudden rush of newfound attraction. She smiled and told him goodnight and walked down the road, trying to not cry, trying to not let anything in. He yelled goodnight to her and that just made it worse.

 

What if she wasn’t gay? What if all her friends stopped being her friend because she finally found somebody that made her click into place. She walked down the road and thought about what would happen if she’d have to come out to her family and friends again—what would they say to her? Would she be vilified? The rain went harder now and she could only imagine the argument ahead of her with Summer. And yet none of it mattered when she looked back to see Winter still watching her go. She walked away from the street and felt the butterflies go harder. God, she felt so stupid.

 

Next theme: Toto - Africa

Edited by Ziggy455
Next theme: Toto - Africa

"I don't know about angels, but it's fear that gives men wings."

 

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  • 1 year later...

Toto - Africa

A burgundy faded wagon and it's head lights pierced through the pine needle forest, trailing down a windy road through a thick layer of fog. The third day of travel was finally coming to an end, as inside the wagon - behind the steering wheel, sat a man in his early twenties with thick glasses, slightly resembling Buddy Holly. Next to him in the passenger seat sat his brother, who was considerably older with a wiry, large ginger beard and he stirred from a deep sleep when his brother, Jack, had ran over a pothole that jolted the wagon. They'd started off in Montana, and were now travelling through the depths of Oregon, with it's dense forest and small hollowed towns. Talk back radio played quietly, as Roger leaned forward and switched it off with a snarky look; rolling to his side and nuzzling in the red flannel blanket draped around his body. 

 

"I was listening to that," Jack leaned forward and switched back on the radio.

 

His brother let out a sigh of annoyance, and quickly tossed the blanket off him - yawning, stretching and sitting upright in his seat, "When are we gunna stop?" he asked, scratching his beard and staring out into the foggy abyss ahead. Their vision was quite low, "It's dangerous driving in this."

"The next town over is only three miles off," Jack watched as a semi-trailer rattled past them with a loud whisk of wind, heading in the other direction, "It shouldn't be any longer than forty minutes.." he mumbled, glancing down at his silver wrist watch.

 

There was a pause. "You think she'll find out?" Roger asked.

 

His brother kept his eyes focused ahead of him, and he shook his head, "Nah. It doesn't matter, like I said - it's what Dad would have wanted.." Jack looked over his shoulder into the back seat, "Is it still there?" a sharp bend approached, and he quickly took a sharp right left turn.

 

"sh*t! Just keep your eyes on the road - and yes, it's back there.." he reached over and grabbed a ceramic, white vase with a golden platter attached to the front of it. "He'd be happy, knowing we actually followed through with this.." he unscrewed the lid, looking inside at the ash - ancestral essence in a vase and he closed it again tightly, slowly placing it back down in a bunch of blankets in the back seat. 

 

Jack turned to his brother briefly, "You got that Toto CD back there?" he asked, flicking off the radio. 

 

"I'm not sure.." his brother mumbled, looking through a plastic crate of CD's on the floor in the back seat. "I can't seem to find it.." 

 

"I put it on the top.." Jack took another bend around the side of the mountain, the fog beginning to clear a little.

 

"It's not here.."

 

"Yes it is - look," Jack turned in his seat, "It's right.."

 

"Jack! Watch - "

 

The bright lights of an oncoming truck flashed before their eyes, and their ears rang out static. Everything faded. 

 

Next theme: The Bar on Totem Drive

Edited by waxman.
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"the bar on totem drive. hipster looking guy by the dartboard. it's already been paid for. Don't call me until it's done."

 

The raindrops pelt against your car as you re-read the text that your contact sent you. You're in the parking lot of the Abernathy's Convenience Store where Totem Drive ends in a three way junction. You've pulled into this same parking lot two times already, because you've been spending the last hour driving up and down Totem Drive, trying to figure out exactly which dark building is the bar you're supposed to go to. You try searching it up, but none of the results seem to match up with the town you're in. You let out a groan and let your head fall against the top of the steering wheel. This is hopeless! Why couldn't your contact have given you an address like a normal person? Is the guy you're supposed to meet even still going to be there? What if there's more than one bar on this street and you've been missing out on all of them, and if there are how are you supposed to know which one it is?

 

Thunder rumbles somewhere in the distance, and the wind whips against your car. Crawling down the street again probably isn't going to work, so you get out of your car and go into the convenience store.

 

It's a excruciating walk from the car to the store, with the wind and the rain threatening to knock you over and blow you away. The store is an improvement, but you get the feeling that the inside of your car is nicer than this place. It's drafty, and you wander around the store, looking for something to buy. You only have a five dollar bill, and you want to buy something you'll actually eat, and so you eventually settle on a Supernova Chocolate Bar, which is a surprise, considering you were under the strict impression that they only sold energy drinks. It's advertised as having the same electrolytes or whatever that the drink has, and you figure that they might come in handy.

 

There's only one cashier, and she's bundled up in a coat. You can see her employee outfit underneath, but you can't see her nametag, and she's reading a book. You place your single item down on the counter, and as she scans it, you try to make conversation.

 

"Pretty crazy weather we're having, huh?"
 

"Mm-hmm."

 

"I've been driving for hours, but I've got one small problem. You wouldn't be able to help me out with it, would you?"

 

You put on a airy tone as you ask for her help, but she doesn't say anything. She doesn't do anything except stare at you, daring you to go on, to ask whatever dumb thing she thinks you're going to say. You can tell she's on high alert.

 

"I-I just need directions to a place!" You stammer out, hoping to course correct from whatever you did wrong, "A bar on Totem Drive. Do you...know where that is?"

 

"Oh." She says, relaxing a little. "The bar burned down years ago. That'll be $3.75, by the way."

 

You don't process what she said until after you hand over your money. "Wait, what? That can't be right, a guy I know...was, uh...he said..." The cashier just stares at you, not nearly as tense as before, this time waiting for you to figure out an excuse.

 

"The guy I talked to seemed pretty confident that it was open!"

 

"It's not." She says, sliding your change across the counter, along with your snack.

 

No. That can't be the answer. You sweat. You need some kind of concrete info before you leave, and you're just about done caring how suspicious it'd look. So you go for it.

 

"Do you at least know the address?"

 

She looks baffled, but she humors you. "Uh, I think it's next door to 316. And it's pretty close to where the road transitions into O'Malley Avenue."

 

Finally! Real information! An actual lead about where you're supposed to go! You collect your change and your chocolate bar and head out of the door, excited to actually be closer to getting your job done.

 

"You're welcome!" The cashier calls out right before the door swings shut.

 

You get back into your car and you punch the address into your phone as you eat the bar. 316 Totem Drive, and then either a bit to the left or a bit to the right. That's workable. You feel a surge of energy, and it's hard to tell if it's from the bar or if its from the chemical rush of making real progress. Either way, you almost speed to your destination, parking on the curb and getting out to look for the bar. It's still raining just as hard as before, but you refuse to let that stop you. 316 is some kind of power tool store, and 318 seems to be an old house converted into an antiques shop. 314 Totem Drive, though, is a dilapidated brick building, one that's obviously been on fire, with the windows boarded up and stained by scorch marks, You couldn't really make it out when you were driving, but there's a name painted into the brickwork above the door, hidden by the dark and the rain and of course, the fire damage.

 

"THE BAR," it says. You don't have the energy in you to think about how ridiculous that is.

 

All of the boards across the front of the building are on tight, but there's a side entrance, with a solid metal door. You think that it can't possibly be this easy as you push on it, but it opens with nothing more than an extremely loud scraping noise. Inside, the ceiling really doesn't do any kind of a job at keeping the water out anymore, and it's coming down as hard as ever through the many holes in the roof. Everything in here has been burned or stolen, replaced with graffiti and garbage. You turn on the flashlight on your phone, and it illuminates the room. And the guy sitting in the back near by the dartboard.

 

He's wearing a suit vest and dress shirt, and he's got a mustache that you figure would probably be curled at the ends if he wasn't so absolutely soaked by the rain. He's sitting in what's left of one of the booths, arms crossed, and before you can process it, he stands up, walks across the room in four or five big strides, and deposits a paper bag into your hands, before walking out the that door you just walked in through.

 

You make your way back outside in a daze, and you catch a glimpse of the guy powerwalking away before another gust of rain and wind obscures him completely. You get back into your car and start it up, turning the fans up to high heat before dialing your contact to tell him that you're finally done.

 

Next theme: Witchcraft and Gadgetry

 

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WitchySpy

 

“Agent Salem—welcome back. I hope that Burkittesville was eventful enough for you?” asked Charles as he walked side-by-side with Salem.

 

“It was eventful enough—but things were handled.”

 

“That’s all well and good but we’ve had the team working on something new for your next project.”

 

“I didn’t know the Central Magic Agency was hiring witches.”

 

“None of your items run on electricity, agent.”

 

Charles led Salem into a large room. There was an observation deck overlooking an empty space with a dummy, and several large cubicles with several portly girls in pointy hats. Charles walked over to the dummy and grabbed the arm that was filled with straw. Wrapped around its wrist was a shimmering, multi-coloured watch. Charles grabbed it and held it up to Salem.

 

“This is the Mark Six BroomHandle.”

 

“What does it do?”

 

“It teleports a broom for you to fly but only if you press this button,” said Charles as he pointed towards the small button on the left of the watch. As he pressed it a static-filled cackle escaped the watch and a huge gust of black smoke flew out from it, its cackling grew clearer.

 

“Oh wait, no this was the Mark One Demon Prison,” said Charles as he watched the black smoke disappear into a vent. “Well we’ve had the witches working on this little number too.”

 

Charles walked over towards a regular Smith & Wesson, silver and shining in the fluorescent light. Salem watched as Charles picked it up.

 

“What does this thing do?”

 

“Oh this is just a f*cking gun, Agent Salem.”

 

Charles fired towards the dummy from before and it exploded into a pile of pumpkins.

 

“Wait—I’m not very good at this. It’s the Pumpkifier.”

 

One of the portly witches stepped out of the cubicle with a black cat on her shoulder and approached the agent with a brown paper bag.

 

“Gots ya upgrade for when you need to head back outs on the job, Salem. It’s an improvement on the previous one,” she said as she slid out a tiny cauldron that bubbled with a smokey green skull above it. “Go ahead and give it a whirl.”

 

Salem took the cauldron and gave it a whiff. After a few moments he gripped it tightly and then swallowed the contents whole. Charles lurched forward.

 

“Wait—Salem!”

 

It tasted bitter going down, and then after a moment his body had begun to shift and change as if it was slowly bubbling, and then a second later the suited man had turned into a familiar looking witch. She let out a burp and then gave the other one a nod.

 

“That’s one strong potion,” said Salem. “I need a nice hot bath.”

 

“I believed water made you melt?” asked Charles with an eyebrow raised.

 

“That’s a very racist remark—next time you make one of those I’ll take you to my candy house and cook you in my oven, Charles.”

 

Next theme: Cowboy Showdown Turns Weird.

"I don't know about angels, but it's fear that gives men wings."

 

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Alice hides behind a stack of crates on the porch of the general store, watching the scene on the main street unfold. On one side, in front of the big hole where city hall is going to be built, is her brother Jack. He's been the town troublemaker for his whole life, and as he matured into a man, the kind of trouble he's been getting into evolved into criminal activities. Activities bad enough to get a guy who's infamous for being mysterious and efficient to want to shoot him dead in broad daylight.

 

On the other end of the street, the end that leads out of town, just in front of all of the building materials for the city hall, is Tim "The Raven" McMillen. Or maybe it's Jim "The Haven" McMillen? There's a lot of stories floating around about the guy, and Alice supposes it's about a half and half split on whether whoever's telling the story says he's named Jim or Tim. Either way, a guy doesn't get that many stories about him from doing nothing, and right now he's a minute away from murdering her brother.

 

McMillen's the first one to draw, but what he doesn't count on happening is the pistol slipping out of his hand and clattering to the ground a few feet away.

 

Alice is a year or two younger than Jack, and she's had to deal with Jack's stupid tricks her whole life. She's learned to be sneakier than him, and she also does have the great fortune of not being a complete fool. So when she heard about the showdown, she snuck out to Tim and/or Jim McMillen's campsite in the dead of night and greased up all the guns and knives on his person with oil.

 

McMillen recovers from the shock of his gun slipping out of his hand and draws his other gun. It slips out of his hand and lands behind him, and it's about at this time that Jack finally gets his wits together and remembers to pull out his gun. So he does, but he drops it. Because it's covered in oil.

 

It'd probably be objectively good if Jack did manage to kill McMillen, considering most of the stories paint him as a complete scumbag, and the ones that don't still portray him as kind of a jerk. Still, Alice couldn't pass up the opportunity to prank her brother, and since she was already up in the middle of the night with a big jar of oil...

 

Maybe it was watching his opponent make the same fumble twice, but Jack actually cooks up a sensible backup plan on the spot, and he starts to close the distance between him and McMillen, hands balled into fists. He doesn't take out his prized pair of brass knuckles, Alice notes, which is probably the smart thing to do considering they're just as slippery as everything else. McMillen steps back, pulling an intimidating knife out of his vest.

 

To his surprise and absolutely no one else's, it slips right out of his hands, barely missing his feet. Jack's almost upon him, and he pulls out a second knife that Alice managed to miss. It doesn't matter at this point. Enough oil has rubbed off from his other weapons that it just slides out of his grip. Jack pulls an arm back for his first punch, and McMillen is too shocked to ready his fists to fight back, and he instinctively takes a few steps back to get out of Jack's range. Jack swings, and misses by a long shot. Everyone watches him very obviously not punch McMillen.

 

They do, however, watch McMillen back up and step on his second dropped gun. They watch him slip and fall as Jack takes another swing at him from a mile away, and they watch him knock his head against a big pile of bricks that's meant for city hall. And they watch him not get up, or really do anything at all. Jack, as much of an idiot as he is, is probably smart enough to put the pieces together, and so he doesn't kick or punch McMillen like he most definitely was trying to a minute ago.

 

Doc O'Malley comes out of where he was hiding and carefully approaches McMillen, and cautiously inspects him, as if he's worried that he'll jolt awake and do whatever gruesome nonsense that the stories say he does for fun. As if he's just pretending as some kind of con, so that he can get the drop on Jack and murder him with his bare, slippery hands.

 

After a few minutes, Doc stands up and announces that McMillen is definitely dead, and a few of the men from the saloon cheer loudly, and the rest of the townspeople cheer halfheartedly. Alice goes to stand beside Jack, and he gives her a look. He knows that she's behind at least the oil, and she knows that he knows, and they both know that neither of them can talk about her part in the showdown.

 

It's not like anyone would believe it.

 

Next theme: slept through the end of the world

Edited by Lotte
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@Lotte

 

I loved it. 

Late sleeping, death comes

 

 

 

He stepped out of his apartment building; the front door hung off its hinges. Outside in the street there was an abundance of crashed cars all piled up but nobody was in sight. His hair was all scruffy since he’d just woken up from a three-day bender, and he assumed he missed all the action. There was an unnatural silence in the streets. Whatever had happened, the Sleeper figured that maybe there’d still be some kind of action, maybe.

 

Up ahead on the curb was a single corpse, it was sprawled out with a cut-throat razor in its now pale hand. As the Sleeper walked over to examine it, he spied the words written in blood on the pavement:

 

WE ARE DONE.

 

This guy certainly was but why? As the Sleeper moved on, passing by more and more self-inflicted displays of suicide, he didn’t exactly feel scared as much as he was curious. Down the street was the TV-Shack. It was an old electronics store that could probably give him some answers.

 

The store was torn apart. Its shutters had been ripped open by something, and more corpses seemed to be piled inside. Hanging in the display window was a single TV, a 48-inch flat one which seemed to show a single image of a news-anchor, slumped forward with glassy, dead eyes that were looking off camera. On the screen were weird symbols:

 

ḩ̵͇̟͎̤̱̭̩͖́̅̕e̴̖̙̮̜̻̱̾̀̊̓͊̎̾͒̈́l̴̡̛̹̩̼͇̻͍̹͍͖͇͗͌̈́̽̔̓́̇ļ̶̛̬̗̺͖͍̟͚̞̠̮͓̞̩͂͗̋̈́͒͋͐̒͂͛͑̑̕ ̴̟͌̃̃̈́͘i̶̢̮̯̰̝͔̹͙̼̣̫̜͐̍̐̃͗̊̈͘̚ş̷̞̗̗͉̯͔̘̗̒ ̷̢̼͓͚͇̯̖͕͓̣̯̼̀̌͘͜b̸̠̱̤̼̩̅̀̄́͂͌̈́͜a̴̯̙͌̎̊̀̋͊c̷͈͉̏̎̽̽͂̊͒̃̕k̶̢̫̪͎̟̖͛̇̒̎̀͝

̸͙͙̉t̵̡̡͉̺̮͍͈͚̓͒́͝h̴̢̢̨̗͕͇̠͖̹̯̪̰̀̑̀̑ȩ̶̡̻̳̮̪̍̎͊̈͠y̴̙͔͆̇̐̄͆̑̂̎ ̵̡̛͙͓͚̬̺̱̺̬̀̓̑͛̌͂͗̾̇̈́̈̓̏ͅo̵̢̨̪̞̭̬̖͈͙͌͛̐͊́͌̕͜ẁ̵̡̨͔̩̰͍̖̥̻͔̹̜̤̼̭̈́͐͛̐̽͑͋͂̈́̓̾̽͝͝n̴̡̧̥̰̣̲̤̝͎̮̭̻̤̾͐̾̉ ̴̙͇̹̮͔̲͒̋̐͛̚͜ṫ̵̟̟͇̠̙̘̮̣̃̑̍̓̚h̶̛̟̪̣̫̝̟̖̭̩̮͈̤̮̉͋́̽̂̆̈ę̷̧̳̭̻̹̩̹̘̺̯͛́̾͑͜͜ ̵͔͍̘̣̻̲̮̭͎̘̱͕̣̒̇̅̐͌͂͌͋̉̏́̔͝͝ͅw̶̩͙̼̙̭̖̅͋͌͜͜ͅo̸͚̳͈̔ŗ̴͚͎͑͗͆̌͒̽̀̌̃̉̋̊̚͘͠l̷̻͈͎̙̘̲̀̑̄̈̐̈͒̕ḏ̷̛̞͇̒͒͑͜

 

 

It didn’t make sense to him. Nothing did. A static blare filled the screen and then finally between the static were words that came in quick succession against the sudden droning beep of something like a nuclear warning.

 

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY BROADCAST.

DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOME.

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY BROADCAST.

DO NOT LOOK UP AT YOUR CEILING.

DO NOT INVESTIGATE ANY CRIES OR NOISES OUTSIDE YOUR HOME.

THE SUN WILL MOMENTARILY DISAPPEAR.

THIS IS THEIR WORLD NOW.

IF YOU SEE ANY UNIDENTIFIED FIGURES IN YOUR HOME, PLEASE DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THEM.

 

Like a light-switch had been turned off, day shifted to night within two seconds. There were wailing moans throughout the static as if something was crying within the TV itself. The Sleeper jumped as darkness enveloped the streets, and there was a final wail until the TV returned to its static droning.

 

There was a sudden rush of deep-voiced screeches throughout the night, echoing all around the Sleeper like an army.

 

The Sleeper realized as quick as that sun went off that he’d only gone and slept through what was possibly the end of the world. He imagined that it was like white blood cells coming for an infection. Only he was the foreign body and whatever was coming towards him was going to swallow him whole. He ducked into the TV store and knelt down behind the counter. He remembered old man Maurice who owned the store. He imagined he was long gone now, and he’d soon be joining him. The screaming demonic sounds were closer now.

 

How ironic it felt to sleep through the end of the world. Was this really how it was all going to end? Maybe he’d lie down a little and close his eyes. Hopefully it was all a dream and he’d be able to wake up back in bed.

 

Not in this TV store as screeches moved closer and closer. A single lazy life snuffed out by the monsters in the dark. He hated how it was going to end.

 

Next theme: Free for all on the theme.

Edited by Ziggy455
I'm a fool.

"I don't know about angels, but it's fear that gives men wings."

 

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You're work soggy always has a hint of f*cked-up to it, I love it. I love the subtle darkness that people can put in, slight but enough you feel it almost without knowing what it is.

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The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.


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It's simple really...

 

Image result for randow i'm just pretty fucked up#"

"I don't know about angels, but it's fear that gives men wings."

 

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Well don't change mate! 

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The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.


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You remember that you left your good shoes in your locker, so you tell your friends to go ahead without you to the bowling alley. When you get there, you see that someone has haphazardly stuffed a letter inside. You open the locker and the letter falls out, and you see that it's really just a piece of cardstock with something printed on the other side of it. You bend down and flip it over.

 

"FREE FOR ALL"

 

You barely have a minute to turn the phrase over in your head before you hear something clambering in the ceiling above you, and barely any time at all to get out of the way of the cheap band class chair that smashes through, slamming against your open locker. Bits of ceiling styrofoam litter the ground, and a guy jumps though the hole. You...don't really recognize him, but mentally cross referencing this dude against all the dudes who you've seen around isn't at the top of your priority list. Not when he does a kicks the chair into the air, catches it, and swings it around in a way that you'd describe as extremely cool if it were not the fact that the pose that he takes looks like he's getting ready to beat you to death with it.

 

And he sure tries to do that! Luckily for you, you'd be faster than him even if he wasn't encumbered with a chair, and you manage to duck under his swing and knock his feet out from under him in the same motion, and he falls to the ground facefirst, his chair clattering across the hallway. You don't really have time to unpack what just happened, or even check if the guy is fine (probably not,) and so you do something much easier.

 

You run in the opposite direction. You stumble down a flight of stairs and into the walkway that connects the two main school buildings, the one that goes right over the outdoor track. A few of the track boys are beating each other up with their bare hands in the middle of the field. It doesn't seem like there's any obvious winners. In a different corner, a guy is trying to hit a girl with a tennis racket, but he drops it and she delivers a pretty sweet kick to his face. Nice, you think to yourself, but then you realize that you need to find a weapon. Or at least some kind of defense? The walkway ends and you're back in the school building proper, and there's two guys having a fight at the far end of it. That's not good, so you duck into the first classroom you can find.

 

It's one of the home economics classes. The place has been torn apart, and it seems like people have grabbed most of the knives in here. Not that you were planning to take one, really, but it's also probably worth taking into inventory what everyone else might have.

 

There is a novelty frying pan in the shape of the district, though.

 

The district that that the school is in an awkwardly shaped thing, being a long rectangle, more or less with a bulge at the end where it meets the lake. The pan is cast iron with a long handle, and it's not long before you manage to figure out a baseball-esque stance to hold it in. You smile to yourself.

 

Now you're cooking with fire.

 

Next theme: Pasta Disaster

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Le Bouc and why Henri Therriault failed. 

 

Henri Therriault was ready. Tonight was the main event, le épreuve de force. He wasn’t coming down from his thirty-second Michelin star win and he was pretty sure he could best Louis Fern; the world’s most cut-throat critic. Louis Fern, ha! He was the world’s greatest chef and he knew it, the world knew it, and his workers would know it if they didn’t pick up the f*cking pace. Pronto.

 

Louis Fern had gotten his receptionist to phone ahead. It was a gravelly-voiced woman who sounded like she was from Boston. “Mista Fern wants you to know he’s comin’ in on the fourt—wants the French Onion Pasta exactly like it should be made, okay?”

 

Henri explained it would be perfection. The line went dead. That was three days ago and while he did feel a flutter of nervousness, he was Henri Therriault. Nobody would best him. Nobody.

 

He was screaming at his kitchen-staff when Louis Fern stepped in. They were a useless bunch. The most useless in France. How had they made it to his own restaurant was beyond him. Lé Bouc was the best restaurant in the city but somehow he was working with subpar chefs. His Sous Chef; Rose Raison had recently suffered a miscarriage but that didn’t cut it for Henri. He told her she could either stop feeling sorry for herself, get back to work or he’d fire her on the spot. He didn’t feel proud of that as he walked out of the hospital but he had no time for riffraff running his dream establishment. He worked hard so others should have too, right?

 

When Louis Fern stepped in Henri expected a much scarier figure. He was by all means an exotic type, sporting a custom-tailored Italian suit, black and his hair was black, slicked-back. His skin was pale in comparison to anybody else and he walked in with two very small dwarfs who wore the same clothes only smaller. He politely said “Table for Mister Fern.” And was led to the best table overlooking the river Seine which shimmered against the night-lights of Southern Paris.

 

He sat and adjusted himself, called over Phillipe, the maître d'. He whispered to Philippe who turned and looked at Henri who suddenly pretended to be busy, looking at the orders. The restaurant was packed but his team would have to handle it. His eyes were on Fern. He’d spent days practising and preparing different variations of French onion pasta including caramelized onions, sauté onions, and different types of pasta. But in the end he decided to stick with diced, sauté and that’d be the best option—nothing but the best.

 

Fern raised his fingers, beckoning Henri to him. He stepped out and headed towards the table. The two dwarfs stood silently, watching him as he approached.

 

“Monsieur Fern, what a pleasure it is to be able to serve you—“

 

Fern raised a hand slowly to stop him. “I believe this is the best place to enjoy French onion pasta, no?”

 

“My Michelin stars do not lie, monsieur.”  

 

“Then I would like it set out in the most professional standard. I believe your reputation as Paris’ greatest chef is on the line, eh?”

 

It didn’t scare him. “After this meal you will call me that as much as the rest of Paris does.”

 

Fern let out a grim smile, sporting a row of sharp, pointy teeth. “For your sake, I do hope so, monsieur Therriault.”

 

He was geared up and ready to go. The food was prepped like he’d practiced, and now it was all a matter of time. Fern ordered the oldest bottle of red the Screaming Eagle Cabernet which was 500,000 euros. He bought it like it was a bottle of water. And then his food was bought out—a simple starter of no relevance. Henri knew this man only based his criticism on the main meal alone. When it came out it was steaming—as fresh as it could ever be.

 

Fern dipped into it and ate it immediately, scooping spoonfuls into his mouth while steam poured out of it. He ate like a man possessed, making noises of satisfaction much to the chagrin of the other customers who looked on in disgust as he continued to scoop the remaining pasta up. His two dwarfs looked around silently. Henri was stood in the kitchen, asking Rose Raison to watch Fern’s every move.

 

“He’s finished,” she said and then returned back to her own prep-station.

 

Henri waited in anticipation until finally Philippe told him Fern wanted him to come over again. He approached Fern who was wiping the corner of his mouth.

 

“Everything to your liking, monsieur?” asked Henri, his voice dipping ever so slightly.

 

“Exquisite—I could not ask for better food in any land. You are truly a master of the craft,” replied Fern with that thin smile.

 

“I appreciate—“

 

“But there is one thing.”

 

He felt a sudden flush of sweat under his uniform. “One thing?”

 

“I asked for the most professional meal—and by my standards,” he snapped his fingers and one of the dwarfs handed him a menu. While he didn’t remove his gaze from Henri, his fingers opened the small book. “It says here you cook the pasta with caramelized onion, and my meal had simple sauté. I’m afraid that won’t do, monsieur Therriault. Won’t do at all.”

 

“But it was to your liking?” Henri blurted out, suddenly feeling that sweat creep all over his body.

 

Fern shook his head and then began picking at his teeth with his long fingernails. “I’m afraid you’ve failed to make an impression on me. I’m sorry to have to do this.”

 

The earth rumbled beneath them. Plates fell from tables, shattering and mixing with the sudden panicking screams of the customers. A sudden rushing stench of burning filled Henri’s nostrils as the very floor beneath him began to crack. Where the two dwarfs once stood there were two naked, scaly beasts. The one of the left was stabbing a woman in the throat repeatedly, and the right one was screaming and chasing a small child.

 

The floor cracked and Henri ran from it as it gave way to huge, gaping hole that filled with flames. All manner of horrors crawled out, flew out. Skinless demons screeching wildly attacked the attempting-to-escape customers. Rotting corpses gnawed and pulled screaming patrons apart limb from limb as a huge flying beast crashed through the kitchen, engulfing the entire team with flames. The floor around Henri cracked until only he was left standing, isolated from the chaos around him as his once beautiful restaurant had become an ode to torture. Louis Fern let out a bellowing laugh as tentacles rose up from the flames of the fresh hole, pulling in as many people as it could reach.

 

Suddenly, Fern floated over to the Henri and grabbed him by the throat. “What a disaster, eh?”

 

And so Henri felt the sudden rush as Le Bouc was enveloped and swallowed whole. The last thing he remembered was the echoing screams and the horrific closeness of a fire all around. He was right, nobody would best him. But he wasn’t against a person; not one with a soul anyway.

 

THEME: Online romance.

Edited by Ziggy455
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"I don't know about angels, but it's fear that gives men wings."

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Two girls watch the sunset, crouching on the top of a mountain. As usual, the sun goes down much to fast for either of them to soak it in, and soon they're left with the extremely artificial glow of the nearby city.

 

[C4L0E: lets walk down. the cars too beat up anyway]

 

[Victoria_13995: Good idea.]

 

They both slowly start to descend, in the direction of the city. The side of the mountain that they're jumping down is a lot steeper than the one that they came up, but it's not enough of a drop for them to die. Whenever either of them needs to say something, they pause on a level bit of ground and say it.

 

[Victoria_13995: I don't think I've ever been down this way.]

 

[C4L0E: i have. used to throw cars down it for the goof as a kid]

 

[Victoria_13995: Well, that's not fair! I only got into this because I live here in real life.]

 

[C4L0E: dont you live by the abandoned power plant? its on the other side of the map]

 

[Victoria_13995: They shuffled a lot of things around to make it fit in the world. It's actually a lot closer to this city]

 

[C4L0E: huh]

 

It's still the dead of night by the time that they get to the outskirts of the city, and they steal a work truck from a suburban development that's perpetually under construction. Victoria always drives, because she's told Caloe that she probably won't get the change to ever do it for real. Caloe spends almost all of her time driving, so she's fine with it. They head through the empty downtown area, merging onto the highway, and by the time that they're out of the city, it's morning again. Caloe drops in commentary as the make their way around.

 

[C4L0E: i think the chief used to live somewhere around here]

 

[C4L0E: assuming that the east end of this place is the same east end as in real]

 

[C4L0E: she showed me some pics of how it used to be. it looks a lot worse than it does here]

 

The car slows to a crawl whenever Victoria decides to chip in, and as soon as she's done talking, it gets back up to speed.

 

[Victoria_13995: But it looks terrible here?]

 

[C4L0E: haha thats true. but its absolutely barren these days]

 

[C4L0E: no ones lived here in ages]

 

Victoria makes her way across the bottom edge of the map, heading for the southeastern corner. Caloe doesn't go there when Victoria is online, and Victoria is almost always online. They're heading to the power plant.

 

[C4L0E: are...we going to the power plant?]

 

[C4L0E: i know you live there and i know that you dont like to talk about it]

 

Victoria pulls over onto the side of the highway, stopping the car completely before responding. It's about noon, and a sedan or a semi whizzes by every few seconds, honking at them occasionally.

 

[Victoria_13995: Caloe, I'm going to be frank with you. I'm sick of this game and I'm sick of being stuck in this bunker. I...know it's a long shot, but the next time you're in the area]

 

[Victoria_13995: for real,]

 

[Victoria_13995: I want you to stop by and get me out of here.]

 

Caloe doesn't respond for a minute. She had always assumed that Victoria was having much more fun with the game itself than she was, and the only reason that she put up with the game's often janky problems was that Victoria was so fun to be around. She had also assumed that Victoria was perfectly happy being immortal or whatever in her mysterious underground bunker.

 

[C4L0E: i can do that, i think]

 

[Victoria_13995: I know you can! You're the cool and beautiful Caloe, after all!]

 

[C4L0E: aahhaha stop that]

 

[C4L0E: okay you're going to have to forward me some facility plans and like, life support schematics. there's no way that stuff is coming out without any trouble]

 

[Victoria_13995: I'll get them to you as soon as I can.]

 

[Victoria_13995: Speaking of which, I think I need to rest.]

 

[C4L0E: oh alright]

 

[C4L0E: see you later vicky]

 

[C4L0E: love you a lot! kisses]

 

[Victoria_13995: Love you too! Mwah!]

 

[C4L0E: <3]

 

[C4L0E has disconnected.]

 

[Victoria_13995 has disconnected.]

 

Somewhere, deep under the crumbling ruins of an ancient power plant, a sickly girl boots a millennia old game back to it's title screen before readjusting the bed she's in to a resting position. She's excited, but at the moment she's too tired to do anything except fall into a deep slumber. Thousands of miles away, a different girl puts away a handheld gaming system and boots up her cockpit. In an instant, the cockpit is filled with the light of the early morning sunrise. She gets to looking over satellite maps for the remains of a familiar power station.

 

Next theme: "You need me more than I need you"

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  • 3 weeks later...

Somewhere in the distance, the plane's engines hum as the cabin gently rocks back and forth, and you sit staring at your blank sketchbook.

 

Everyone else in the cabin seems to be asleep, and the the glow of the screen from the inflight entertainment illuminates what's on the page in front of you. It's nothing, You had promised yourself when you started this vacation that you would throw down some concepts, or ideas, or even some fun doodles, and now you're about ten or so hours away from getting back home and the amount of work you've finished (it's none) is kind of embarrassing. You'd really like to keep this very, very simple promise that you made to yourself.

 

So, what to draw? You're kind of blanking, as far as inspiration goes.

 

You look around the cabin, desperately. There are people, but it's dark in here, and there aren't a lot of people on this flight, at least not particularly close to you. They also all seem to be the plainest people imaginable. You look past them. The architecture of the plane has got to have something interesting to it, right? There are cool seat designs, and neat wall panels, and...those same things, repeated over and over again as far as the eye can see both in front of and behind you.

 

You look back up at the inflight entertainment unit. You haven't touched it for long enough that it's gone back to showing the most popular bunch of shows available. There's Honest Hearts Hellfire, the show you were just watching. Not really anything you want to draw in that one, to be honest. As good of a show as it is, cowboys or whatever haven't ever really gripped you. The show next to it is Miss Caloe, which a show about a cat in a mecha, or something. You haven't really watched it, and you aren't even sure if it's a children's show or not.

 

But wait! That's simple enough, right? You draw a circle. You draw two triangles on top of it, and you give her some girly eyes and a dot for a nose, and a small line for a mouth. A jagged line to suggest bangs, and a bomber jacket, since you do know she is a pilot. Two paws just sticking out of the sleeves, and two more jutting out of the bottom. And a curly little tail to finish her off!

 

She is about the size of two quarters, right in the middle of the otherwise blank page.

 

Still, you did it! You drew while technically on vacation! You close the sketchbook and tuck it back into your carry-on, and load up the next episode of Honest Hearts Hellfire on the inflight entertainment.

 

Next theme: The weirdest thing this cowboy has seen 

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Willy A. Jeep

The weirdest thing I've seen? Hah, you don't get to be my age without having seen some strange things, but the oddest of them all... Well, I suppose I never did really figure it out, but sure as lack of rain did I see it.

 

Some years before the war, even before the big rush out to California, I worked out east along the Ohio - from up near Pittsburgh all the way to Saint Louis - loading steamers, stocking packhouses, digging ditches, anything a body could do for a day and not get bored. Find good work on a river like that back then, long as you weren't Irish or a negro, and I've never been either, but the railroads were getting laid faster than the river would flow, so I followed the work down to this town with the damnedest name, Cincinnati. Had a canal there that ran all the way to the Great Lakes up north, and they didn't work slaves, so I figured there'd be plenty opportunity for a working white.

 

Only later did I learn that the place was also known as Porkopolis. Entire city smelled like a sty, I had never and have never again seen so many hogs in my life. All any bosses there wanted from a new laborer was to slaughter hogs, or wrangle hogs, or shovel hog sh*t. Never have regretted not taking those galoshes. But it meant I was a white without work, a sorrier sight than Christ on the Cross. Free negroes took most of the jobs I knew I could do and, being young and stupid, I didn't try to sell myself to any workhouse that'd turned me away. Worked maybe two, three weeks laying stones for the river landing when not even the paddlewheelers would take me on.

 

But damn me for being slackwitted. I had been in that hog-mad city for nearly a month when I caught on to it. See, there were these shops that I haunted when I could scrabble enough together to buy a meal, and others that I knew wouldn't be worth the time, like in all the other towns I'd come through. But then there were these others where I'd seen those even more on the skids than me enter with nothing, and leave with clothes, bedding, and food. I figured it was a charity, something for folks unable to work, and I wasn't going to lie to myself just to get a jar of beans. Still, I admit I'm not above worldly needs, and the good Earth is rich, so I made my way into what I thought must've been a homeless cantina.

 

Can't say I really knew what I'd walked into. It was a grocer firstly, but there also sat stacks of shirts and pants, and racks of new iron tools hung on a wall. It was cleaner than any shop I'd seen in all my time on the river. I asked the shopkeeper how much for a loaf of bread, and he asked, I remember, 'how many hours do you have?' I thought the fellow must've been cracked, but he wasn't, not at all. He explained that the shop, and a few others in the city, exchanged time like money. For three hours' work forming handles for hammers, you could take home a dozen ears of corn, or for ten hours' heavy lifting, you might earn a set of pots and kettles. They even traded time between individual people, so one man would owe another a day for having bought a new plowshare from him, never exchanging anything but what they agreed to. I had never and have never again seen anything like it.

 

I worked for that shop for nearly two years, best of my life. Made more tables and cabinets and chairs than I can remember, quilted blankets with scraps I found, and even went to normal workplaces for locals in exchange for their time. Traded every second for whatever food and clothing was available. Probably some two thousand people came in and out and did the same as I did. Seemed like it was an even better plan than whatever they were doing in the capital. Never did make sense to me how the exchange was figured to be equal, but it wasn't nearly as bad a way to live as wading through hog sh*t every day. Not something I planned on complaining about.

 

But that shop and the others closed, like all businesses do, and if I had any time left, it wasn't worth anything to anybody anymore. The fellows what owned them wanted to settle a town with the same ideals, somewhere far from big cities, as I recall, though I don't think I ever heard of it happening. I had managed to save up some federal notes during my time there, of course, so I headed west as soon as word about gold in the Sierra Nevadas made it east, just like some of you. Never did find much fortune out in Hornitas, but the cattle have been kind enough out on the range, and I'm happy to still be working with my hands. Can't think it'll last forever, but I won't either, so no reason to be worried about it.

 

Suppose when you ask a cowboy what the weirdest thing he's ever seen is, you're hoping for some kind of tall tale of the west, eh? Not some old ditch-digger's whole story. Well then, here's you one better, some advice I learned long ago: Spend your time wisely!

 

- - -

 

Prompt: On The Road

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Phillip Goes West

 

Phillip Crowe had sat down at the bench that looked out towards the highway. The dirt of the wild crawled and clawed against each edge, trying to reclaim it back. The small deadbeat town could have all been made of tin cans from old world war rations. The man next to him was haggard, sporting a grey peppered beard, and was eating a can of peaches with a small spoon.

 

“You been waiting long?” asked the man, slurping some syrup up.

 

“Not too long.”

 

“Where’d you hail from, stranger?”

 

“I was down in Fort Sianco.”

 

“Ah, that’s a duffy place, bucko. What were you doin’ down a ways?”

 

“I’m a private investigator.”

 

The man’s eyes widened and he stopped a peach from entering his mouth. With a clear of his throat he forked it into his mouth.

 

“What were ya doin’ down there?”

 

“I was on a missing persons case first but then it kind of evolved into something else.”

 

“Don’t say? Murder!”

 

“No, conspiracy mostly.”

 

“What happened?”

 

“Well I thought it was a murder but there seemed to only be blood down in this little trailer on the outskirts. Old dingy joint looked like it was burnt out but you could see all the blood.”

 

“No foolin’,” said the man.

 

“Yeah. So I decided to call in a favor and it turns out that the blood was just a gallon of pig stuff. So I took a witness statement and the guy had left his wife and disappeared off the grid. I followed him down to Fort Sianco and then drove along the way down to a little town called Wolfbury. I almost caught him there but I didn’t know how desperately he wanted to be hidden.”

 

The man gulped another peach. “Oh yeah?”

 

“He burnt down the motel he was in just to get away.”

 

“Luckily nobody was hurt.”

 

“Luckily.”

 

“And so I followed him down Route 45 for a very long time until finally I managed to get him cornered in this little hick town.”

 

“And what’s the plan now?”

 

Phillip slid the black beretta out of his underarm holster and held onto its grip tightly. It glinted in the dim light above them. “I guess I was going to take him in. I’ve been on a Hell of a journey, and I think I realize why he wanted to run. I’m looking for a change of pace.”

 

The man dropped the can onto the dirt at his feet, watching the syrup spill out into the mud. “So—“

 

The gunshot rang out but in a little hick town like this it could be anything. Crowe watched his frame slump forward, his head slamming into the dirt. He watched the blood mix with the syrup as the man’s body twitched. In the silence he could hear a distant howling of wolves and could smell the strong gunpowder stench of the gun. They were getting good.

 

For a private investigator he’d blended in well like a hobo, and he’d called his bluff by telling him his own story. Now it was time to head back out onto the road and not look back—it wasn’t his scene. Maybe he’d go to Alaska or Oregon—somewhere off the map, maybe. He looked back down to the road and let out a sigh.

 

He waited a few moments and then stepped over the corpse and walked down the road.

 

THEME: Generic Hallmark Movies.

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"I don't know about angels, but it's fear that gives men wings."

 

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Bryan is holding a combination highschool reunion and Christmas party. You don't really like him, and you think the party is probably going to be boring, but you're too curious about how your former classmates are doing to not go.

 

So you head up to Bryan's picturesque mansion, which looks especially fancy decked out in full Christmas decorations. It's a lot, and after a a few years of working in retail before getting your pilot's license, you're not particularly into Christmas as a whole. When you get there, Jesse, a girl who your parents might call a friend of yours is there. She loves Christmas, and she's really excited for the party. She's in a sparkly green dress with white heels, which you aren't thrilled about considering that she's already taller than you, and the heels you're wearing aren't even that high. Still, she's nice, and it turns out that she doesn't know the way in. Bryan has done a pretty lousy job at making the entrance to the party obvious, so you help her investigate. While you're looking around, you run into the man of the hour himself. Bryan is wearing an impossibly black three piece suit, and he looks about the same as you remember him being, just a bit bigger and greasier, which is usually what happens when dudes age a bit.

 

Bryan gives you the grand tour, but he's really talking to Jesse for the most part. It feels completely incidental that you're here at all, so you break away from them as soon as you figure out where the ballroom, and by extension everyone else, is. Jesse seems pretty into the stuff Bryan is laying down, and you think that that is a good sign, somehow. At the party proper, it seems like the people you actually like, other than Jesse, have decided not to show up at all. It's kind of a bummer, but you're not that bad socially, and you mingle with your old classmates. It seems like everyone has gotten fairly standard jobs, and they congratulate you on becoming a pilot, though you have to do a lot of clarifying about what kind of pilot you actually are.

 

And then Brian shows up.

 

Brian was always the annoying class clown, and the vibe you get from him is that he hasn't really stopped being like that, except now he's ripped, which is probably why he's wearing the tacky red three piece suit that he is, instead of the normal fitted one you know for a fact he has from your graduation. You decide to be the bigger person and not comment on this. He seems kind of nervous about something, and after unsuccessfully trying to get a conversation going about college, or his job, or whatever, he asks you if you've seen Jesse around. You absolutely don't trust him, so you lie and say no. He then ends the conversation as fast as possible and runs off to talk to someone else.

 

And then nothing interesting happens until dinner, when three interesting things happen. The first thing that happens is that you eat a very mediocre steak, which is kind of funny considering how much effort Bryan has went to for this party.

 

The second interesting thing that happens is Bryan proposes to Jesse which seems...weird. You take another bite of your subpar steak as you crunch the numbers. Jesse ran into Bryan for the first time since high school earlier today, right? This seems like an alarmingly fast escalation of whatever was going on earlier, and you can hear murmurs around the room that echo both of the things that you're thinking.

 

And then Brian objects, angrily, throwing his plate of food to the floor and throwing a few choice insults to Bryan's face. You pull out your phone to text your real friends, the ones who didn't show up, about how insane the night is getting. And that's about when it gets even crazier, and Brian also proposes to Jesse. You really want to go home, but you're also not an idiot, and you get the feeling that Jesse kind of is. After dinner, you try to get a moment alone with Jesse to talk to her, but Brian and Bryan keep on interrupting with grand, festive displays of their love. Bryan is rich enough to bankroll whatever he wants, and Brian has the help of 'the guys' from 'the garage' to help him pull several of his stunts. It would probably be cute if the situation wasn't insane and also just the worst.

 

Jesse seems to be completely enamored by each extravagant display, and you desperately want to shake her by the shoulders and explain everything wrong about the situation to her. You're too short to reach her shoulders and really shake her, so you suppose you'll have to settle for just the latter. After five or six grand gestures each, you finally get a moment alone with her, and so you ask her what's on her mind, or what she's thinking. She sighs dramatically and explains about how she's so conflicted about the choice, how Brian works with her at 'the garage' and how Bryan is a frequent customer at 'the garage', and how both proposals make complete sense, and that she wishes it were easier to decide between them.

 

There's something about the inflection with which she says 'the garage', and the way Brian says it too, that makes you absolutely sure that the quotation marks around the phrase belong there, but you decide that's not as important as telling Jesse that she doesn't actually have to choose either of these dudes. She accuses you of being jealous, and long story short, she runs off into the woods, in the general direction that you parked Ambrose IV.

 

You try to follow her into the woods, but since you're not used to running in the wilderness, in the dark, in heels, you slip and fall, and you're knocked unconscious.

 

You wake up about three hours later, and make your way back to the mansion to cut your losses and...well, you figure you should at least say goodbye to everyone before you go home. It starts snowing at some point, and the scene you come to is even more baffling than the one you left.

 

It's a wedding. Brian and Jesse are getting married. You feel like you're going to have a stroke.

 

Everyone has had an outfit change, to white sparkly dresses and suits, while Jesse and Brian are wearing a bride and groom outfit, respectively. Jesse's outfit is still green and Brian's is still red, and despite being completely different suit, it's still really tacky. You realize you're the only one who's still wearing black, along with...you search the crowd of people for Bryan, and you find him doing the first relatable thing he's done all night, which is not only wearing a black outfit but also being passed out.

 

You sneak into one of the mansions dozens of spare bedrooms and go to sleep. You decide that this isn't worth worrying about.

 

Next theme: oops! all snitches

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's the board game sweeping the freshly incarcerated like nothing before!

 

Oops! All Snitches!

 

Choose from eight colourful convicts! Traverse the halls, dodge the guards, make friends!

 

Oops! All Snitches!

 

Have you got what it takes to navigate the prison, rise through the ranks, shank your way to victory and swap ramen like your life depends on it... because it does! Miss three turns and it's straight to the electric chair! Don't touch the sides, and mind that wet sponge! Collect all eight flavours for special slammer bonuses! +1 buff to your soap gripping skills, -2 in charisma, looks like you'll be seeing the business end of Paulie's pipe come lights out! Watch out, Paulie's accuracy hasn't suffered a buff, and soon he'll be using your untainted anus like a snooker rest.

 

The truth is, the game was against you from the start. If only you'd have taken your hands off the back of her heard a few seconds earlier, you might have shaved a few years from your sentence. Maybe your naturally manipulative personality could have talked your way out of it, convince her to stay. It won't happen again! If only she'd have been of legal age, you'd have been able to spend time with the general population. If you were lucky, you could have kept your head down for the best part of a decade, avoid entanglements with gangs who fought amongst themselves because they didn't want to protect you. Who'd want to? Every night for 18 months you sobbed yourself to sleep, praying that the sun would rise and cast light on the convicts who hate what you are almost as much as what you did.

 

Oops. All snitches.

 

Your deal with the warden failed. In exchange for information, he guaranteed you immunity. Nobody would be able to touch you. You didn't even care about getting out, you just wanted to feel safe. Who wouldn't? If only you'd have let her head bob to the surface and drink the air, she'd feel safe too. Just think of what she'll miss, the things you've already let come and go, taken for granted. Her first consensual kiss. Her first sexual experience that wasn't seen through hot tears. As it turns out, the warden wasn't your biggest fan. Everybody else already had the dirt on you. He wasn't trying to keep you safe for your own sake. If you'd have died, the world would have been better off but his job would suffer. It's hard enough. Every time he goes home to bath his daughter, he sees your greatest mistake reflected in her face. You thought you'd be shielded, but nobody can touch her now.

 

Oops. All snitches.

 

Roll the dice. Maybe tonight will be your lucky night! Spin the wheel, flick the switch. Do you still see her when you wash your face?

 

---

 

NEXT THEME: WHEN BIRDWATCHING GOES WRONG

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  • 1 month later...

WHEN BIRDWATCHING GOES WRONG

 

The Malibu stalls near the bank of the delta, and out walks a young man, foot first in the mud, no older than 25, with a pair of binoculars in hand, and spanked up in the bland office turnout; a cheap, lined white shirt with an unbuttoned collar and rolled sleeves, grey dress pants and pair of unpolished black loafers from the Sears catalog. He had punched out of work almost an hour ago, and what the young man did for a pastime was considered more or less an ancient hobby, with most folks his age hitting the discotheque for the weekend or heading home to crank up a beer and TV dinner and watch Reagan mumble on the television.

 

The economy was booming, money was flowing in during this newfound period of peace and America was finally getting its act back together, along with its pride, after ten long years of embarrassing losses and recessions. Life was good, people were becoming millionaires overnight and the world was more connected than ever before.

 

But as technology marches forward, people don't, as the kid was already familiar with.

 

Pops was a birdwatcher himself, and could name every avian he saw that was written in the book, even doing sketches of them in his black pad, which the young man keeps to this day. 

 

"Helps me forget about what's happened."  He recalls his old man saying.

 

The bayou was vast and picturesque, with pockets of light shining and permeating through layers of forest and vines, with the distant backdrop of the city, with its sprawling skyscrapers and towers, fading in and out of existence behind it. The kid raises his binoculars, and begins watching. 

 

Brown pelicans, ospreys, herons and egrets, whatever you could name, he could recognize it from afar, with as much as a glimpse of their plumages. He takes a pen from shirt collar and begins sketching it on his book, continuing where his pops left off. This continued for a good twenty or so minutes, until another vehicle, this time a C/K, second generation from the looks of it, pulls up nearby.

 

A middle-aged white dude, possibly in his early 50s, walks out, sporting a large beard, an old flight jacket and movement impaired by a limp on the left leg, likewise carrying a pair of binoculars on him, and stops a few feet away from the man.

 

"Howdy." He says. "Beautiful afternoon today, huh?"

 

The kid returns the gesture, and smiles.

 

"Ain't seen you around here before, sir." The kid shoots. "You here to look at birds too?"

 

"Thought I might just give it a try." Laughs the old timer. "Better than all the disco sh*t that's going on right now."

 

The old timer analyzes the area with his binoculars, and soon comes to a stop at a particular location facing the marshes.

 

"Found one." He says, lowering his binoculars. "White-eared night heron, six o' clock."

 

The kid laughs it off.

 

"Pretty sure you can only find those in 'nam, old timer."

 

"I was in 'nam, kid. Laos and Cambodia too." Says the old man. "Captain in 1st Infantry, did some time in Hanoi Hilton, got me a Purple Heart and 2 POW medals. The Mekong Delta looks a lil' like what you see today."

 

The man passes the binoculars, and the kid looks in the same direction.

 

"Well I'd be damned."

 

Chestnut plumage, with black and white streaks going up the bird's head, it was the first time the kid had seen a bird this exotic. He begins sketching out the birds on his pad.

 

"Must have flown the wrong direction during the migration."

 

The old timer pauses, and points.

 

"Edward's pheasant, crawling out of that bush over there. 3 o' clock."

 

The kid turns and adjusts his binoculars, and like the man said, a beautiful bird, with its striking azure blue feathers, pops out into the open.

 

"Used to eat those fellers out in the rainforest after clearing out the foxholes."

 

The old timer eyes in the trees, and makes yet another harrowing observation.

 

"There it is, kid. Up in them trees. A few collared laughingthrushes on the branches."

 

The young man turns, and watches as the songbirds go at it, making a strange call, almost similar to a broken flute, that he has never heard before in his life.

 

The kid lowers his binoculars in amazement, and turns to the man.

 

"We gotta call the local news, man." He says, excitedly. "We got the whole of Southeast Asia down in Louisiana with us."

 

"Now I don't think we should."

 

"Nah, man. This is like a whole new phenomenon.  It's something those wildlife experts should come see. It'll be the biggest story since Nixo-"

 

A loud shriek is heard, and the kid's rousing speech is interrupted.

 

"White-eyed river martin. You can't mistake the call. We call it the Cry of Death back in Cambodia, because we would know, Charlie's nearby when it goes."

 

Soon, fast air whizzes past the kid, making a sound similar to that of cracking whips, or passing bullets, and he quickly ducks and lies in the mud.

 

"What the hell was that?"

 

He looks back, and his Malibu nowhere to be found. The kid then turns his head over to the old man, who now looks younger than before, and now bloodied, and dressed in an old army vest and combat pants, AK slung over his shoulder. There was a bad wound on his left leg, possibly caused by shrapnel. He gestures, and puts his finger to his lips.

 

"See those eagles in the distance? Means the river is nearby. Follow my lead, and we'll be alright."

 

The kid, now huffing and scared out of his wits, decides to take the man's word. They trek through the jungle, and soon encounter a few guerillas, screaming in an unknown Asian language. The man fires his rifle, methodically taking out a few snipers in the trees, and a soldier, out of bullets, charges at him. He lunges at the man, pinning him down and trying to choke him to death, and the man gives the kid an order.

 

"The knife in his back sling! Use it!"

 

The kid pulls the knife out like butter without the soldier's knowledge, and with hesitation, he stabs the Asian in the neck, leaving the knife in him and the man pushes him off. He crawls backwards, shocked at what he did, and looks at the man, who raises his hand out at him.

 

"I-I think I killed him, sir." Stutters the kid. "Ain't killed anyone in my life before."

 

"No time to think about it." He responds, bringing the kid up. "The Hueys are a' comin' and they're gonna rain all manners of hell in this abode."

 

The kid looks at himself, still donning the same office attire from earlier this morning, now covered in a sick mixture of blood and mud, and still thinking about the murder which happened just not a few seconds ago. The man hobbles and runs, and the kid follows suit, and they continue their escape across the jungle as men fire from behind, screaming expletives in their native languages. The pair soon sees the eagles, flying majestically in the sky amidst the backdrop of green, as the bright, vivid orange sunset creeps in, mixed with the blues of the night sky.

 

They soon stop at a cliffside, and the kid almost falls over.

 

"I hear the rotors, you have to make the jump!"

 

The kid looks down. The cenote was at least fifty feet deep, and the river was running like a factory gear.

 

"It's too high! We're not gonna make it!"

 

"Oh the hell you won't!"

 

The man pushes the kid, and he flies momentarily in the air, before falling straight into the clear blue waters below as explosions are heard on the side. He briefly sees the man, hands spread open and making the jump, before he finally lands, and a loud splash is heard. Silence creeps in, as the kid, now opening his eyes and underwater in the Mekong River. He looks up, watching a few water birds pass by as he hears the man's voice, one last time.

 

"The giant ibis." The man laughs. "That's when you know, freedom's around the corner."

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

The kid wakes up, exhaling a large breath. He looks around, and the old man is nowhere to be seen. It was now nighttime in the bayou, and he was covered in mud. He panics momentarily, before composing himself and picking up his black pad and pen. Turning his head at the swampland ahead of him, he sees an old wreck of a pickup truck from the 60s, stuck in the mud and not going anywhere. A helmet, like the ones he saw on the TV about the Vietnam War, was slung around a branch, not too far from where the wreck is.

 

He watches silently for a few seconds, before getting back inside the Malibu, where he revs the engine, hauls out of the swampland, and drives out of the exit.

 

The car passes a large yellow sign on the way out, where a few words are written.

 

"See you again in Bayou Revere! Where everything you see is real!"

 

Prompt: A mafia princess gifted with newfound telekinetic/psychic powers takes over the throne of the organization after her father is assassinated, and struggles with The Commission.

Edited by DownInTheHole
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  • 1 month later...

Rubard Was Old Anyway

 

She was sat silently at the head of the table; a mile-long mahogany beast which only housed five other people. The only difference being that while she, Cassandra Nicoletti, was the only woman. Behind her was Lance Bardone—her father’s right hand man—and in front of her to her right was Joe Carmine, family one of the Commission.

 

“And how goes things, Joe?” asked Cassandra.

 

“Good,” he said with a grunt and a roll of his eyes.

 

“Do we have a problem?”

 

“No disrespect, Cass, honey, but we’re not exactly used to dealin’ with a—well, you know…” It was Gambetti’s representative, a younger man who much like Cassie, had slipped in following the death of his father. He padded his hair, thick with gel and combed back. “I just think we ain’t here to discuss anythin’ important. Nothing.

 

“Do you think that?” asked Cassie, her eyes sliding over to Frederick DeMarco of the DeMarco Syndicate. “Are you uncomfortable with a woman at the head of the table?”

 

“Well,” said the old man as he clasped his hands together. “I just think that it’d be rash to just hop in where your father was without lettin’ us all discuss it.”

 

“I see,” she said with a nod as she stared down at the other end of the table where Anthonio Rubard of the Bruscetti family was sat staring away at his fingernails. “What say you, consligiere?”

 

He spoke in Italian. “The fact you are a woman is of no consequence. Unless you begin to let your emotions affect our business. It’s understandable. You women…how do you say? You are passionate but lack direction.”

 

“Well, as far as the Luchasians go, we’re happy to continue working with the Nicoletti’s,” said Edward Lucha. A scrawny, young man who—despite appearances—had an entire family under his belt and handled them like a professional. Cassie did not expect him to react when the time would come.

 

She gave a small smirk. “Gambetti. DeMarco. Nicoletti. Bruscetti. Luchasian. I have called you all forth today in the absence of my father—a man who has sat rightly at this table for over thirty years. And yet in all of that time I’ve come to understand that the very men in this room were responsible for his death. Am I wrong?”

 

You disgrace us with these accusations,” spat Anthony. “False Do—“ His head caved in on itself, erupting and exploding into a fountain of crimson. Blood and bone sprayed out across the table and where the old man’s head once was now only remained a red stump of muscle and bone fragments. His body fell forward onto the table.

 

Cassie had both her hands on the table and was on her feet. “Does anybody else agree with Mister Rubard?”

 

The silence between them was all she needed to hear.

 

Next theme: Police Station Romance. 

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"I don't know about angels, but it's fear that gives men wings."

 

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Officer Roland drained his cup, his eyes barely making contact with the TV screen in front of him. Night shifts were considered lonely, but Roland felt he was the luckiest officer on duty. He had drawn the short straw when it came to covering sickness, but he didn't mind - whatever took him away from a bed that was too small and a wife that spent too much.

Leaning back on his chair slowly, Roland took another biscuit from the packet without even looking. Practice made perfect. He couldn't have it too loud, but he didn't need to hear her voice. As he thought about it, he wasn't sure if he'd ever heard it. He didn't need to. At home, he didn't get to watch much television, but at work he had freedom to do so in the break lounge. An hour a day was enough.

Roland looked at his watch and bristled with excitement. It was nearly time. Like clockwork, the station's regular programming ceased and up popped the image of a pixelated women, grinning squarely from ear to ear. At least, Roland thought they were ears. They looked beautiful, regardless. He wished he could tell her.

 

She gestured clumsily in a motion that mirrored a cheap neon sign advertising a no-tell motel. Once the scheduled shows had finished, a text-to-screen service was available through the night that displayed news, weather and even games. Roland didn't care about any of that. With a smile matching hers, he watched intently as she keenly displayed the weather for the night. Gentle jazz music hummed lazily in the background, providing the perfect soundtrack.

 

Almost like a date he thought, and his grin widened at the immaturity of it all.

 

Roland felt like they were catching up. He hadn't seen her in weeks but he was pleased to see she was still wearing that stocky red dress he first saw her in. He took a sip from his mug, forgetting in lust that he had finished his drink minutes ago. Hoping she hadn't noticed this clumsy mistake, Roland fiddled with a fresh packet of biscuits. As he posted another one into his mouth, Roland's heart sank as the woman disappeared from view, replaced by a regional map of the area and small icons representing the weather and the pressures to be expected.

 

Never mind he mused, she'll be back in about ten cycles.

 

He was almost exactly right. A few minutes rolled by and she was back, this time on the other side of the screen... and she was wearing a different dress! A blue one. Roland had never seen this before, and he sat bolt upright nearly choking on the crumbs of his chocolate digestive biscuit in awe. This time, the woman was showing local items for sale that people had sent in, almost like a cross between a lost and found and a dating service. She gestured in much the same way, but this time after each page of items she turned to the screen instantly and blew the viewer a kiss with a wink.

 

Roland's pulse quickened. He couldn't believe it. As quickly as she had displayed affection however, she was back advertising goods. Roland sagged in his chair slightly as she once again vanished, replaced with a pixel representation of a bee, eager to show predicted pollen levels for the next day. He stifled a yawn and remembered he had slept terribly in the run up to his night shift. Shifting his weight, Roland got comfortable and felt his eyes growing heavy with each pulse of the TV screen. The white text on black screen and gentle-natured colours made for easy viewing. He fought another yawn, but couldn't help but smile as he drifted off into light slumber just as soon as his woman appeared again, wearing the same red dress as before. Roland's grip relaxed on the packet of biscuits, sending it falling to the floor with a light thump.

 

sghopAb.png

 

He awoke with a start and a bitter taste in his mouth, and it wasn't for a few seconds until he realised it was sirens that woke him. In a state of panic, Roland checked the clock from across the office. With a mixture of relief and fatigue, he swallowed hard and took comfort in the knowledge he had only been asleep for twenty minutes. It was a blink of an eye for a night shift.

He had been dreaming, for certain, but not what about. The woman was there, he knew that much, but couldn't pinpoint what she was doing. Rubbing his eyes, Roland knew he needed coffee and stimulation if he was to make it the rest of the shift. With a wheeze, he rose to his feet and staggered to the pot he had brewed an hour or so ago. As he poured, he fought hard to remember the dream but it was evaporating the more he tried.

 

Roland blinked hard and sat down once again with a fresh mug. His woman was back, once again. She kept him company as the jazz slowly changed in tempo and mood. It would soon be morning, and it would be back to normal. It could be weeks before he saw her again, maybe months, but she was never really gone. Every so often, Roland would creep downstairs long after his wife and children had fallen asleep and turn on channel 17. He would touch the screen, smile and return to bed with a glass of water. All it took was a glance and he was asleep in moments.

 

---

 

NEXT THEME: Your parcel has arrived! You're excited, until you hear it...

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  • 3 months later...
LowTierDude

THE PARCEL

 

"Just gimme a sec, will you? I think I heard something outside the door."

 

Paul holds the line and places the phone on the couch and walks towards the entrance. He watches a white FedEx van drive off into the distance, a brown paper parcel resting on the foot of his doorstep. The man walks back inside, peeping outside momentarily, before cautiously closing the door behind him.

 

He places the box on the table and picks up the phone, resting it against his shoulder, supported by his cheek as he heads to the living room to find a box cutter.

 

"Sorry, honey, had to go get my delivery. So where were we?"

 

The woman over the line heaves a heavy sigh.

 

"It ain't your fault, Paul. Dave knew what he was getting into, and he paid the price for it."

 

"Now that's real easy for you to say, Julia." The man says, his tone growing harsher by the second. "I know the man like he was my brother. Anything he did, had a purpose and consequence, and he was always ready to accept both. Can't say the same about our relationship, unfortunately."

 

"And look at the state of you right now! All heaving up and hysterical all because you and him decided to get tangled up with the gangsters in town! Calling me irresponsible for my actions for simply seeing things for what they are, this ain't you, Paul."

 

"I think I've heard enough." Cuts in Paul, using his thumb to shift the blade forward. "There's just some things you'd never understand, Julia. Dave was a better person than you'll ever be, and you'll see why soon."

 

"For the love of god, Paul, please don't do anything stupid!"

 

"Tune in to Channel 8 tonight, babe. I'll see you in the next life."

 

Paul hangs up and throws the phone back at the couch, before carefully contouring the blade around the parcel, slicing the paper almost perfectly along the perimeters. He lifts the paper off slowly, revealing a small locked box with a rusted key, wrapped in dirty plastic. A strange, ominous sound emitted from the box, sounding almost like the wails of a dying oryx.

 

Unwrapping the plastic, Paul pushes the key inside the lock and turns it, opening the box, revealing a Sig, handle stained with dried blood, with two magazines on the side, as well as a pair of rusted dogtags, a familiar sight from his days in the UAE War. The words on the tags simply read: "Lancaster, David. Oxnard, CA. Death shall befall those who dare oppose my hand of vengeance."

 

Putting on the tags, the man takes a box of 9mm rounds and begins loading the magazines up, and he slots one inside the bloodied pistol before pulling the hammer back, chambering the round.

 

At this point, the apparition appears, and the space around Paul turns dark. The ex-soldier sees his brother-in-arms on the other end of the table, eyes pitch black and in a relaxed pose, his right leg crossed over his left. He was dressed in a loose bloodied shirt and shorts with two bullet holes across his chest. It was clear that he was no longer the mortal he once was, but it was familiar enough for the man to hold up a conversation with.

 

Dave's voice was lower-pitched and garbled, but Paul understood every word he said.

 

"Good to see you again, brother." Dave laughs. "I'm surprised you're still staying in this sh*thole."

 

"Nowhere else I'd move to, Dave. You know me, I'm always up for that bonafide SoCal suntan."

 

"That's what they all say, dude." Says the apparition, taking a sip of coffee on the table.

 

"Soon enough, the sun will burn your eyes and soul out, and you'd just be another asshole living in a mansion in this city. If it were up to me, I'd haul ass with Julia to Reno pronto, and leave all this sh*t behind. It ain't much, but it's better than losing your goddamned mind."

 

Paul checks the gun, and takes aim, before laughing.

 

"You're just describing Dubai back in '24 right now, Dave." He says. "Looks like that won't happen now though, won't it?"

 

"I don't think so." Says Dave, finishing up the coffee. "So you really gonna do this?"

 

"Got your tags now, don't I?" Says Paul, putting on kevlar before buttoning up his shirt and putting on his suit. "I wouldn't go through The Undertaker to get this piece if I didn't wanna run with it."

 

"Alright, suit yourself, brother." Responds Dave.

 

"Them Armenians hang out at this Eastern joint called Tito's between Romaine and Crescent Heights in West Hollywood. That's where they and the Russians tend to talk business. Ask for The Chef. We'll meet at the entrance again if you find it."

 

Holstering the gun, Paul pushes the chair in, and bids the man farewell.

 

"See you around whenever, Dave."

 

The apparition smiles, and does a two-finger salute back at the man.

 

"Anytime, man. Stay frosty out there."

 

Dave disappears, and light returns to the room. Grabbing his car keys, the man walks out and unlocks the doors of the Thunderbird, before entering and revving up the engine.

 

It was almost lunch hour, and Paul had a craving for some kebab.

 

---

 

PROMPT: A street racer gets kidnapped and beaten after unexpectedly winning a rigged race, and is held captive inside an old garage owned by gangsters. S/he uses his/her familiarity with the setting, his/her street smarts and driving skills to escape the garage and his/her pursuers.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by DownInTheHole
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  • 1 year later...
VenusianDream

Claude awoke to the smell of old tires and diesel fuel in a cold, pitch-black room. His feet were bound together in rope and his hands were tied behind his back. 

 

'What the hell? Where am I?'

 

He took a moment to recollect his memory. The last thing he remembered was sharing a drink with some whore at the club in Chinatown, in celebration of his recent victory at coming first place in what was apparently a rigged street race. Claude had won almost every race he'd been in since he entered into San Fierro's underground racing scene, and he had begun to gain a lot of traction from doing so. It was only a matter of time before the wrong people started to take notice. To get jealous. People like Chen 'No Chin' Fu, the spoiled nephew of the local Triad's Dragon Head. No Chin had liked to race from time to time, whenever he wasn't carrying out hits or wiping his uncle's ass. He put down a lot of money on that last race, and knowing first hand of Claude's skill behind the wheel, had been so determined to beat him that he got one of his guys to sabotage the engine of Claude's car in hopes of getting him to lose. Except he didn't lose. Claude finished in first place and left No Chin and everyone else in the dust behind him, all while having a busted up engine. He had earned that $200,000, and he had planned on spending it joyously. He was hoping to get laid tonight. Not drugged, kidnapped and robbed.

 

Claude was struggling to get the ropes off his wrists when he heard footsteps and muffled voices approaching. A door opened in front of him as two men entered the room and turned on the lights. Claude squinted his eyes for a moment to adjust to the sudden brightness, and found himself confined to an old wooden chair in the center of an abandoned ran down garage. One of the guys, a heavily built brute with a lazy eye and a seemingly permanent scowl, spoke first.

 

"Wakey wakey, asshole. You got any idea why you've been sitting here in our garage all tied up like a worthless dog?"

His voice was raspy and his English sounded broken, it was clear that it wasn't his first language.

 

No Chin's goons. Of course that spineless bastard was the one behind this. Claude had already expected as much, but he was pissed off by the fact that No Chin didn't even have the balls to go and confront him himself. Instead he sent these two morons.

 

"Yeah, your boss is a sore loser. But that's not my problem. It ain't my fault he drives that piece of sh*t Mamba around! Only posers and bitch ass wannabe street racers drive those."

 

Claude laughed.

 

"Guess that explains why he lost, even after trashing my car."

 

The large man walked up to him and responded to his quip with a hard punch to the face. 

 

"Shut the f*ck up. You think you some kind of tough guy, hm? Mister big, funny man! We been watching you for some time now. Just cause you won a few street races, doesn't mean you're welcome here in this city. This is our city, we've ran these streets since long before you popped out of your father's ballsack. You think you can come here and talk like that and show disrespect to whoever you want without consequence?"

 

He punched Claude a few more times, each blow was harder than the last.

 

"You have insulted No Chin Fu, cheated him out of his money and made him look incompetent in front of our associates. He is not one who takes kindly to such disrespect."

 

"Bullsh*t!"

 

Claude spat out blood onto the triad member's shirt.

 

"I won that race fair and square. Maybe if that ugly chinless f*ck wasn't so insecure about himself he'd have gotten a better ride instead of trying to screw with mine. Then again, maybe not. He's a sh*tty driver, I doubt he'd have won even if he had brought the fastest car in the world with him."

 

He opened his mouth to say something else, but before another insult could be made the triad punched him again a few more times in the face. His left eye was now swollen, his nose was bloody, and his lip was busted up bad. But Claude kept his smug expression intact nonetheless. The triad had proceeded to raise his fist again, then sighed and turned to his friend and spoke to him in Chinese.

 

"Enough of this. Chu, you know what to do. No Chin wants this chatty piece of sh*t to die pitifully and helplessly for winning that race and besmirching his reputation. He will regret that he ever crossed paths with the Triad. We're going to make sure of it."

 

"Of course, I'll go and bring the ride in."

 

The second triad, shorter and thinner than his meatheaded friend, opened up the garage door and drove in a black Porka that was parked just outside the front. He then got out the car with the engine still on and closed the garage door.

 

"Well, tough guy, looks like this is where your life ends. Got any more funny things to say? I advise you to save your breath and keep them in your head. In a few minutes from now you'll be dead, and No Chin, my buddy Chu, and I will all be laughing at your pathetic demise. Enjoy your last moments."

 

The triads left the garage.

 

Claude quickly surveyed around the room for something to cut the ropes off with. This wasn't the first time he'd been in a situation like this. He'd pissed off so many people lately that this was starting to become daily routine for him. To his left he spotted a small piece of sharp glass laying on the ground. He needed to act fast, it wouldn't be long before the room would be smogged in car fumes and he was already lightheaded from the beating he just took not long ago. 

 

Claude pushed himself to the ground hard enough that the chair broke apart, no longer hampering his movement. Using the momentum of the fall, he rolled himself over towards the glass shard and picked it up from behind. He cut off the ropes on his wrists and then proceeded to do the same for his ankles. Finally free of bondage, Claude stood up and ran over to the garage door and opened it before hopping into the Porka. As he drove out of the garage and onto the street he noticed No Chin's goons were following behind in a dark purple Vulture.

 

'Damn, should've known they'd wait around til I was dead. Sadistic assholes. These dumb pricks really think they can keep up with me? Claude motherf*ckin' Speed!?'

 

The ladies didn't call him Speed just because it was his last name. Claude was a natural-born driver. He only rode the fastest cars, and no one else in the city knew the streets better than he did. Not even the Triads. 

 

Claude Speed had both hands on the wheel and his foot floored on the accelerator. He sped up Fierro's steep sloped hills, gaining more air with each one, and continued driving straight ahead. He swiftly maneuvered around the other passing vehicles in front of him and quickly veered left. He didn't stop. He never did. Claude checked his rearview mirror and saw that the Triads were still hot on his ass. Chu, the skinny one, was driving while the big dumb bastard that had pummeled him was sitting in the passenger seat. He stuck a nine millimeter pistol out from the window and started shooting.

 

Boom! Blam! Pop!

 

A bullet had managed to hit one of the rear tires. Claude sucked his teeth and skidded over to the sidewalk. He ran over two teenagers and an old lady. He didn't care. He intended on staying alive tonight no matter what the cost. He made a fast right and swerved around a lamppost and back onto the street. He drove recklessly from side to side switching between lanes, pushing aside any car that dared got in his way. It was a successful attempt at keeping himself from getting shot at. The Triads were losing him. Claude took the opportunity and turned left into a narrow alleyway. 

 

Back onto the street, Claude checked the rearview and was relieved to see that they were no longer behind him. He made a couple more turns to keep the distance from his pursuers, and then proceeded to drive to his apartment up at Atlantic Heights.

 

The sun began to rise as morning slowly approached. Finally able to think, it was then that the realization had hit him. No Chin had his money, the hard earned cash that he had won from kicking his ass in that race. The blood in Claude's veins began to boil again.

 

'Those dog-eating bastards! This isn't over. I'm getting that money back, one way or another.'

 

He contemplated on what he was gonna do next as he drove home.

 

---

 

Next Theme Small town bank job gone wrong.

Edited by VenusianDream
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Mr. Bogey

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  • 4 months later...
One of Wisemen

Well, this sounds fun, mind if I join? :D

 

TERRIBLE COINCIDENCE

“I SAY NOBODY MOVES!”

 

Terrence’s scream is heard across the entire building, making the bank’s staff and customers more frightened on their knees.

 

This is Terrence's second robbery in 1998, fourth overall since he decides to pursue a new hobby in crime with a best friend: Liam. Beforehand, they had ransacked a grocery store, a pawn shop, and a gas station across the midwest’s countryside. With high confidence, it’s time to hit a serious target: a small bank in Frankfurt, Bluesky

 

Things unexpectedly go as planned, way easier than Terrence initially thought. 

 

Liam is first to enter the bank and talk to the cashier, dressed in brown trench coat, tangled suit underneath, duffle bag in shoulder, and a black glasses. In the parking lot outside, Terrence waits in a red Capra in jacket, balaclava, and one pump shotgun in hand. Two minutes passed, he burst through the gate, shooting down the only three security officers. While everyone’s panicking, Liam adds a little more by threatening the cashier with his revolver, a beloved firearm he has used all the time.

 

After taking down the only five security officers, poorly armed with handguns and batons, the alarm goes off, but no problem: they have enough minutes before the police department arrives.

 

“Are you done there, Liam?!” Terrence calls his friend from the main hall. He’s doing crowd control while Liam is inside the vault.

 

“Can’t wait already?! I’ve never seen this many stacks in life!” Liam replies as he hurriedly puts as much cash as he can into the duffle bag.

 

Suddenly, Terrence sees a black Bison Classic crash into their getaway car. Two familiar passengers coming out quickly: both in jackets and assault rifles. Terrence knows who they are, even when their faces are covered in balaclavas and ski masks.

 

“F*ck you M! Told you we’re late! Late! Late!”

 

“Stop complaining, let’s go!”

 

“Sh*t!” As the two uninvited guests rush into the bank, Terrence abandons his position, now hiding behind the bank counter’s table. 

 

“What happened, pal?” Liam asks. The bag is full and he’s about to exit the vault room, but is everything alright?

 

“It’s Michael f*cking Townley and his crazy buddy, Don’t know he’s about to pay a visit too!” Terrence replies.

 

“Get out you coward!” one of the guests fires rapidly into Terrence's hiding spot.

 

“Calm down, T!”

 

“I know he’s hiding there, they think they can steal the party from us, huh?!” While the two guests are arguing,  Terrence takes the chance, gets up from his cover and shoots. Bad decision: his only shot misses to the wall, and the two guests quickly fire back at him.

 

“Terrence?!” Liam still stucks in the vault, he gets more worried now knowing his friend is most likely done, “Sh*t!”

 

Unfortunately the only escape route will be the front door, blocked by these fellow bank robbers duo. No other choice, Liam hides behind the wall next to the vault door, he can ambush them from this position. One guy walks in and Liam grabs him roughly, trying to disarm his rifle. However, the guy manages to overpower Liam, knocking him out.

 

“What a payday, we let these little boys do the work.”

 

Next Prompt:

A couple and a bottle of wine

Edited by wise_man
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A circle was drawn between the border of the two states on the dark blue, rugged soil; One callused hand, toiled from years of overwork carrying the scars of countless instances of forced brute labor, the other a delicate, frail hand, which, while typical of any other denizen west of the DMZ, tells a much more sinister story. They trailed a circle from on corner of the wall to the other, and initialed their names on their respective grounds.

 

They had been there since the very beginning, when the wall was first constructed. Children of the Gate, as the border guards used to call people like them. From juvenile instances of paddy cake at 9 to silent rounds of chess at 6, this area of the DMZ had always been sort of a second home for the two lost souls. Today, however, was going to be radically different, moreso than any of their previous encounters as a matter of fact. The man smuggled in a bottle of wine for a special occasion. Pulling it out of a fake arm sling, the label on the bottle simply read "Bottled 1948, at Chateau Dymleviya, the Democratic Republic of the Eastern Abidyssian Steppes". 

 

The woman nodded in silence. It was time.

 

News of revolutions raged across the continent like prairie fire, footage of statues of the old, pulled down en masse by fleets of tractors and trucks. Men of greed and dishonor dragged by their heels out of their palaces of dillusioned grandeur and summarily executed, waves of repressed men and women taking it to the streets, celebrating the end of a bygone era. It was the beginning of the end if the tale of Ozymandias brought back to life in this time and place, and there was nothing the leaders of the two bordering states could do to slow change down.

 

Perhaps in another world, that bottle of '48 Sauvignon would have been poured on the top glass of a wedding tower.

 

Silent smiles were exchanged, the woman pushes a dirty dry rag through the electric fence, and the man retrieves it. The man pops the wine bottle with a makeshift cork and stuffs the rag in. He pulls out a metal lighter, chamfered around the edges with paint chipping out, rusted from overuse, and strikes it a few times.

 

The lighter sparks bright in a landscape of grey overcast clouds hanging overhead, and lights the top end of the rag. The man smiles one last time, glimpsing a tear rolling down the woman's face, and prepares to bolt to the nearest watchtower in the distance. May the first sinner cast the first stone, as their fathers used to say.

 

Minutes later, gunfire was heard, and even within the chaos of the revolution of 1979, never once was the circle ever broken up.

 

Prompt: A Mafia enforcer discovers the ability to summon fire from his hands a day after a tense sitdown with the don, and prepares to be walked into an empty room by his closest friends.

Edited by sabitsuki
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  • 2 weeks later...
Uncle Sikee Atric

I've reached a significant milestone, so I'm going to celebrate by donating a One Shot made from a Chapter of my Darkfic, a slice of of life story of a Rimworld colony, and the time the Timeless Lamb joined the group.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Chapter 5 : The Timeless Lamb

 

Mau spent the rest of the day in the kitchens and was shocked at the amount of meat the two bear carcasses produced, but since they mainly ate fish, it would take to time to get rid of. Regardless, Keemer was thrilled with the hides. The men had brought in the broken remains of the wreckage too, adding some stock to the steel supplies.

 

Breixo carried on with his nice guy routine and kept a respectful distance, which helped her relax a little around him. She even started to have a few, quiet feelings about him, but she kept them private, a little worried he would start getting forceful again if she hinted about them. It was also because Mau was starting to suspect another Sharing could be close, and she knew what was going to happen there.

 

Even Shae kept her at arm’s length, though Mau wanted to hug and kiss her at every fleeting moment, but Shae had warned her to keep things professional while others could be around. She was purposely restraining herself, for fear of giving the game away and giving the others the wrong idea. They would get pushy and insist on interfering, which is something neither wanted, they enjoyed their privacy.

 

The next morning, she awoke to the noise of thunder again and she quickly arose to stand out in the rain for a little while revelling in the natural show it offered, but then she noticed Shae, running back toward the sleeping block, clearly with some intent.

 

For a moment, all was silent, and then Cella appeared with at the entrance with Shae in tow. They looked serious and Cella was indicating that they had to summon Kather. Mau was curious and decided to head over to them, asking Cella, “what’s up,” as she approached?

 

“Shae has something to show us, something that could be bad….”

 

“Bad?”

 

“Hm, as in potentially, really bad!”

 

Kather and her husbands were clearly rising themselves, because they were already coming out of the common room with Shae, weapons ready. Kather came over to Cella and asked, “what do you think?”

 

“We have to check it out, now!”

 

Mau managed to sidle over to Shae, “what’s wrong?”

 

Shae quietly replied, “I found something in the caves, hopefully good, but could be a disaster….”

 

Cella pointed at Shae, “show us!”

 

Shae nodded and started heading for the caves that she and Mau had enjoyed themselves in only a few days earlier, and now Shae was heading for the exact same spot. Mau almost felt nervous, like Shae was going to make fun of her and embarrass her, having a laugh at her expense, but instead, she turned away and headed for another section, deeper into the caves.

 

She kept going through another few small caverns, and eventually stopped, “we’re here.”

 

“What have you found Shae?”

 

She pointed at a section of wall along a narrow passage, where loose rock had tumbled away. “I was sampling as you suggested, and I found it.”

 

“Found what,” Cella asked? Shae moved over to the loose rock and dragged some of it clear, revealing something behind it, and Cella’s face sank, “f*ck!”

 

“What have we found,” Kather asked genuinely curious?

 

Cella walked up to join Shae, and carefully laid her hand on the revealed section. “It’s a wall, sandstone….”

 

“Sandstone,” Kather asked confused, “I thought there were only granite and slate in these hills?”

 

“It’s not that, it’s a wall! That means it’s been built,” Cella carefully ran her hand along the wall and stopped at a few locations, “it’s warmer than the surrounding rock too. That means there is machinery behind it.”

 

Kather drew her pistol and gripped it, “who would do that?”

 

Cella carefully gave the wall a visual inspection, “relax…. This is not a recent thing; it’s been here centuries…. The question now is what’s in there?”

 

“How did it get here,” Mau asked, genuinely interested?

 

Cella looked around, “it was buried in the mountain and no one knows why? Historians argue over them today, but they’re just lost, ancient sites, forgotten by the passage of time.”

 

Shae asked her, “what do you want me to do?”

 

Cella looked at the assembled group and made a quick decision, calling out to them all, “spread out and cover the entrance. Aardvark, Breixo, take the front and weapons ready. Shae, break through and as soon as a wall section is down, back out. If there’s anything coming, it’ll likely be fast, let us handle it.”

 

Shae nodded nervously and took a deep breath, flashing a quick glance at Mau to tell her, ‘I’ll be fine,’ before walking forward to setting herself up to bust through. Cella took position with the others and instructed them to draw weapons, which they did.

 

With Aardvark and Huntsman stood next to her, Shae took one last look at them all, them swung her pick into the sandstone wall. It was clearly much softer than the materials she was used to digging through as several visible cracks appeared on the first swing. She swung again and a few blocks of the wall shifted slightly. They all raised their weapons ready and the third swing almost went straight through, the wall barely holding now.

 

The fourth swing was enough and Shae backed off instantly as several blocks fell away, revealing a narrow crawlspace through which they could enter. Shae hid behind Aardvark momentarily, but nothing came charging towards them or smashing through the breach and Breixo carefully began to advance on the hole.

 

There was a moment of silence and he shouted back, “ya gotta see this!”

 

Cella lowered her weapon and advanced on Breixo, keeping her guard up just in case, but she entered the crawlspace and all they heard back was, “holy sh*t….”

 

The others followed, Kather leading as they all hustled into the room behind. The room opened out into a chamber lit by the dull glow of ancient electrical lanterns, but the chamber sported several long, metallic tubes. Breixo grinned at them all, “sleep pods, four of ‘em in total”

 

Cella approached one and tried to inspect it, “any clue what’s in ‘em?”

 

“No idea ‘till we open ‘em. No way to tell either, could be anything from a kings’ ransom to angry Mechanoids….”

 

Mau shivered; she had heard the tales of Mechanoids told to her as bedtime stories in her childhood. Like the myth of monsters under the bed, but these monsters were real, some leftover technology from ancient wars, long lost to history, that had gone haywire and continued to haunt Rimworlds like this. The thought of facing one down didn’t appeal to her in the slightest.

 

Kather asked, “should we open them?”

 

Breixo had been walking around the room and looked down at something, “if ya gonna do tha’, best be careful….”

 

Cella had to ask “What have you found now?” He kicked it with his foot and the desiccated shell of some giant bug rolled out into view, making Cella groan, “great, now we got Insectoids as well, I f*cking hate bugs!”

 

Mau hadn’t heard about Insectoids, “what are they?”

 

Cella summarised, “think big, angry bugs that’ll eat you if they’re hungry!  F*cking nasty things and they burrow deep into the ground, making colonies below your feet. They can wipe settlements out easily if they catch you sleeping.”

 

She kept her grip on her pistol, just in case the bug shell started moving, but Cella had assessed the situation and turned to Kather, “we can’t leave this here for someone else to open and we’re not ready….”

 

Kather agreed, “will they all unlock together?”

 

Cella nodded and started positioning them around the room to create covering fields of fire. Before telling the men to take point. If something was angry in there, they would charge in first and keep them busy.

 

With a single nod, Cella told Aardvark to begin the wake-up sequence and he hit the button to do so. There was an audible sigh from the pods and after a moment, the lids of all four opened.

 

In seconds there was a piercing scream and Breixo looked into the pod with absolute disgust and horror! “sh*t, Mau, yer closest. Bring yer pistol o’er quick, this one has to be put outta their misery!”

 

Mau came forward and could see the horrible sight. Inside the pod was a naked male, but his chest was cut open and the organs were visible, still beating and working. The sternum had been cut away too, meaning there was no hope of survival for this poor wretch, the noise he was making suggested he wasn’t sedated either. Mau knew what she had to do and simply told him, “sorry,” as she put the barrel of her machine pistol to his forehead and pulled the trigger, silencing his screams instantly. She consoled herself with the knowledge he was no longer in any pain.

 

“Who did that to him,” Kather asked, clearly shaken by the sight.

 

“We’ll never know,” Cella confirmed, “looking at the walls this place has been abandoned for centuries!”

 

Aardvark looked into his nearest pods, “first one is a woman, cut open like he was, but clearly didn’t survive, the other one has some salvage in it, mostly steel and a few items to scrap for components, but there’s a bit of gold and plasteel too. Not too shabby!”

 

“What about the last pod,” Kather asked?

 

Breixo and Mau approached it and found another female dressed in light, tattered fabrics, but this one was still, silent and although she had numerous cuts and scratches on her body, the injuries looked treatable, or so it seemed. She lay still, silent and immobile, suggesting she was dead too.

 

Breixo looked at her, “I don’ understand…. Lookin’ at ‘er ‘ere, she should be livin’?”

 

Mau got a little closer and paid the price. In a heartbeat, she heaved and vomited violently, all over Mau’s clothes!

 

“Woah, scratch tha’, we gotta live one,” Breixo laughed!

 

“f*cking dammit, look at the state of me,” Mau shouted in disgust.

 

Cella grinned at her, “that’s cryptosleep for you, long periods of it and you feel like sh*t!”

 

Kather studied the figure, now covered in her own vomit, “another one in need of our aid.”

 

Cella moaned at her, “I knew you were going to say that,” before she sighed and huffed, “Shae, take her to the cells…. We can use one as a makeshift infirmary for her.”

 

Kather smiled at her, “I’ll help you Shae, I’ll give medical aid and wash her down.”

 

Mau grumbled, “I need to get changed too….”

 

“Aye, ya do,” Breixo laughed, he hadn’t stopped laughing since the woman had projectile vomited all over her. “We’ll sor’ out ‘ere, go an’ freshen up, befor’ the stink makes us all do the same!”

 

Mau didn’t need telling twice and set out for the washrooms and clean clothing.

 

----------

 

The woman they had found in the chamber slept for two days straight as she recovered from the cryptosleep. It was only on the third morning that Mau entered the cells, carrying a food tray and found her groggily sat up in her bed, staring around with a clear face of confusion. Kather had made sure she was wearing tee-shirt and knickers; giving the indication she was not being held as a prisoner.

 

Mau entered, “hello. Are you okay?”

 

“The woman looked up at her with a dazed expression, “where am I?”

 

“You’re in our colony, we found you in a sleep casket….”

 

“You did, I don’t remember?”

 

Mau asked, “are you okay if I place your meal on the table?”

 

“Meal…. Am I hungry, I don’t know, why don’t I know?” She was becoming visibly distressed at the clear signs of her memory issues.

 

Mau gently raised her hand, “it’s okay, don’t try to think.”

 

She quickly stood up and shouted, “I must know, I have to know!” Then her senses failed and she stumbled, flopping back onto the bed and holding her head, “my head, what’s wrong with me?”

 

“You’ve been in cryptosleep, we think for a very, very long time.”

 

The confused woman looked at her, “I have, how long?”

 

Mau carefully moved forward, showing she wasn’t a threat, and placed the meal on the table, “it’s been several centuries, at least,” she commented calmly.

 

The woman replied weakly, the fear wavering in their voice, “have I?”

 

Mau calmed and soothed her as best as she could, “do you know who you are, at all?”

 

The woman shook her head, “no…. I have no idea.”

 

Mau took a seat and asked, “is there anything you do remember?”

 

The woman tried to think, “no, nothing…. It’s all gone, I cannot remember!”

 

Mau studied her and noted her fair skin and brown locks, but the lack of memory was worrying. “Do you want me to go, let you rest and try to recover some memories?”

 

At first, she didn’t reply. But she did move over to sample the meal, before deciding, “I am hungry, I need to eat,” before tucking into her meal and eating with some refinement as she did so. Mau waited patiently and made no intention to appear threatening or dangerous.  Eventually the woman finished and she held her hand to her mouth to quietly burp, she was satisfied.

 

Mau asked, “was that good?”

 

She looked up, a little bit of clarity returning to her eyes. Her hunger had clearly clouded her thoughts and now that restriction was in the process of being removed, she looked a little happier and nodded, “thank you.”

 

Mau shuffled a little, “do you feel better?”

 

The woman paused and thought, “yes, my head feels stronger, like I will remember, in time.”

 

Mau let her return to the cot and carefully gathered up the dishes, “I’ll come back with another meal later, okay?”

 

The woman just nodded and appeared to settle, falling asleep almost instantly. Mau closed the door behind her and left her to sleep.

 

She returned to the kitchen and was placing the empty plates in the sink to wash them when Keemer stuck her head into the room, “you better come outside, we have a problem….”

 

Mau left things and made sure everything was switched off, before she followed Keemer as she led her outside onto the area they tended for their crops. The others were all chatting nervously between themselves and it seemed a little darker than usual as Mau joined them. “What’s wrong,” she asked?

 

Keemer simply replied, “look up….”

 

Mau did as Keemer suggested and gazed into the sky, which was covered in a thick, heavy bank of dark, imposing cloud, which blanketed everything in every direction, “what the hell?”

 

Keemer looked around her, “it’s getting thicker too. Looks like it’s gonna be up there for some time….”

 

Kather asked, “do you have any idea how long?”

 

Keemer thought, “a week or two, a quadrum? It’s hard to tell….”

 

“Wha’ tha hell causin’ it,” Breixo wondered?

 

“It’s being dragged on the wind,” Kather commented, “the last trader through reported that there was a volcanic event and it not only released massive amounts of blasted rock into the atmosphere, it was in a rainforest region, and the forest itself is burning! It looks like we’ve been trapped under the cloud that has been released.”

 

Keemer cautioned, “the big problem is our crops. We shouldn’t be in too much danger here, but it’s going to get darker, and cooler. The crops are going to struggle with the light levels reduced, and growing in a lower temperature.”

 

Cella moaned, “how bad?”

 

Keemer looked at the crops by her feet and made a few checks, “their growth is going to be halved, if not more. We’ll have to ration now as I don’t know how long this smog is going to last? We’ll probably find it smoky and foggy at ground level on more than a few occasions.”

 

Kather looked towards the beach, “what about the ocean, can we increase the food sourced from there?”

 

Enbai commented, “nets are good, should still yield well. Maybe a few should set to fishing directly when not busy elsewhere, or foraging in jungle? We had thing like this before when back in tribe, it hard, but cloud lift after ten days or so, just waited it out and found extra food in wild.”

 

Kather smiled, “both are great suggestions….”

 

Breixo looked at Huntsman, “we can ‘andle the jungle scavvin’, right?”

 

Huntsman nodded, “there’s a herd of elephants a few hours walk inland, maybe we should harvest a few, now I have a decent rifle for the job?”

 

Breixo nodded, “’ardest bit will be draggin’ ‘em back for the butcherin’, so lon’ as we careful….”

 

Keemer grinned, “the hides will be useful too, nothing wasted after all, my duster is wearing a bit thin in spots.”

 

Cella noted, “seems like we can handle this setback then….”

 

The others nodded while Shae joked, “it’ll be nice to have a break and fish for once….”

 

Kather chided her, “since you’ve slowed down laying the floor, we’re going to move on to the final building project for a little while and get a dedicated workshop built, in the last part of the cliff space, next to the new chapel….”

 

Shae sarcastically grumbled, “aw damn,” laughing as she did so.

 

Keemer noted, “it’ll be nice to have somewhere quieter to work, away from the common room.”

 

Mau noted, “I’ve finished doing the research into the forge and smelter too, I’ve passed the designs to Cella and I even made plans for them to run on the gas directly.”

 

“It’s a great idea,” she confirmed, “we should have the resources to build them, and then we can start thinking about upgrading all our weapons and equipment. The sooner we get them running, the better our defences, so having a dedicated workshop should be a priority, we can finish decorating the chapel as we construct it too.”

 

They all looked at the sky for another moment, before Keemer noted, “it’s definitely getting darker. If it carries on like this, it will be almost like twilight….”

 

Enbai commented, “was like this with tribe. Dark scary, made some in tribe nervous, thought world ending.”

 

Cella considered, “were they more aggressive?”

 

Enbai nodded, “they wanted to pillage and raid, thought would appease cloud. Need to be careful, watch out for trouble.”

 

Cella welcomed the warning, “So we have to be aware that tribals might be aggressive if they find their way to our island?”

 

“Trouble likely, desperate actions.”

 

Cella looked around, “I’ll make sure to patrol every day then and check the alarm system.”

 

“Aye, yer an’ me both. I’ll join yer’ since forage will need gatherin’ too.”

 

Cella nodded as Kather looked around and asked, “if that’s the case, is there anything else to discuss, before we get back to work?”

 

They were all silent and then the woman they had rescued wandered out of the cell building, gazing around in a state of complete delirium. Mau set off quickly to watch over her as Cella asked, “who the f*ck left the cell door unlocked?”

 

“Cella, please,” Kather reminded her, “she is not a prisoner, she needs our help….”

 

Mau brought the dazed woman over to the others, still dressed in just her tee-shirt and knickers, and carefully sat her down, by the crops, asking her, “do you feel any better?”

 

The woman looked up at her, “I came to thank you for the meal….”

 

Mau smiled, “it’s okay, you don’t need to thank me, it was my pleasure.”

 

The woman looked back at her, “it didn’t feel right not to….”

 

Kather and Cella had joined her as Mau squatted next to the unsure woman, “do you have any clearer memories now?”

 

She shook her head, “only one, my name is Onèsan….”

 

“Onèsan, that’s a lovely name,” Kather comforted her.

 

“It’s all I can think of though….”

 

Cella carefully asked, “do you have any other memories, anything to draw on from before we found you?”

 

The woman shook her head and thought hard, before admitting, “it’s totally blank, why can’t I remember?”

 

Kather soothed her by telling her, “you were asleep for a very long time. We think that has affected your memory.”

 

She was still a little distressed, but now she was calmer since she knew she was outside. “Dark sky…. It was dark when…. When what, what happened?”

 

Kather asked, “it was night?”

 

Onèsan carefully laid her head in her hands, “I don’t, remember!”

 

Kather carefully got her to stand, “come on, let’s get you back to bed….”

 

Onèsan looked aggressive all at once, “no! Not in there, please, not in there!”

 

Kather was confused, “why?”

 

“Back to sleep, in the casket, centuries lost, never found again!”

 

“No, no,” Kather tried to calm her, “we just want you to rest, the caskets have been destroyed.”

 

Onèsan pushed Kather away and tried to break free from Cella, but Cella was having none of it. She decided, “f*ck this,” and in one fluid motion, caught Onèsan with a swift, brutal left hook. Onèsan yelped and fell unconscious again, the disorientation taking her and making Cella say, “f*cking hell, I hardly touched her!”

 

Kather checked the limp form of Onèsan over, “she’s so unsteady, I doubt she would have even got far if she did break away from you….”

 

“The question I have is, how long will she be like this,” Cella checked?

 

Kather asked Mau, “can you help pick her up with me please?” Before replying to Cella, “hopefully a few more days and her memory should start coming back, maybe then we’ll get some answers?”

 

Mau and Kather picked up Onèsan’s limp form, draping her between them, and Mau asked, “what about if we placed her in one of the beds in our sleeping quarters this time, we could restrict her limbs like you did with me, but she won’t be alone?”

 

Cella groaned, “fine, but if she kicks off in the night, I’m dropping the bitch in the cells and locking the door this time!”

 

Kather smiled, “I’ll stay at her side and make sure she’s kept calm Cella, you get to work and checking those alarms seems like a good idea, correct?”

 

Cella grunted and set off to perform the work that Kather suggested, while Mau and Kather helped Onèsan to bed in the sleeping quarters, making sure they restrained her while she was still out cold. When it was done, Kather took a seat on the neighbouring bed and Mau stood at the end, looking over Onèsan and asking, “what are we going to do?”

 

Kather sighed, “she’s another lost lamb, and we have space for her.”

 

“Do you think she’ll stay?”

 

“I don’t know…. But it’s not like any trace of her past is still here, whatever structure she was in when the chamber was sealed has been lost, and where else is she going to go?”

 

“I feel sorry for her….”

 

Kather looked up at Mau, “so do I. She’s gone through a massive emotional shock, I just wish Cella wasn’t so intolerant at times.”

 

Onèsan groaned and shuffled on the bed, but stayed asleep while Mau asked, “are you okay Kather?”

 

“Why do you ask about my own wellbeing Mau?”

 

“I know you are the Priestess, but you are still human.”

 

Kather smiled and asked, “come and sit with me Mau, please?” Mau did as Kather requested, sitting with her facing Onèsan and Kather comforted her, “thank you for asking about me, the others forget to do so sometimes….”

 

“Do they really?”

 

Kather laughed lightly, “even my dimwit husbands do it, but I love them all the same….”

 

Mau smiled before admitting, “I’ve had my first thoughts about Breixo….”

 

“You mean, lustful thoughts?” Mau nodded and stayed silent while Kather gently probed, “why are you so uneasy around men, Mau?”

 

Mau thought carefully, before admitting, “I was running from a man like him….”

 

“Like him?”

 

“My ex-boyfriend. He did something he shouldn’t, then I did something I shouldn’t, then it all got out of hand and I was forced to flee…. My sh*tty life went to hell and I ended up here!”

 

Kather pulled Mau in and hugged her, offering her some personal comfort, “do you want to talk about it some more and offer some additional details?”

 

Mau accepted the hug, but replied, “not now, I’d rather forget about it all, I’ll never go back to that life again.”

 

Kather took Mau’s hand and placed them on her beads, “will you tell me some day?”

 

Mau nodded, “I will, I promise. When I can come to terms with my past myself.”

 

Kather let Mau separate from the hug and kissed her on the forehead, “maybe someday you’d like to have some private time with me as well, I want to explore more desires with you, away from the Sharings Mau?”

 

Mau leaned in and returned the kiss onto Kather’s forehead, “I’d like that too Priestess.” Then she stood up and asked, “I know you have not eaten so far today; do you want me to bring you a meal Kather?”

 

Kather nodded and smiled, “thank you Mau, I’ll really appreciate that.”

 

Onèsan groaned and shuffled uneasily in her sleep, showing signs she was entering a phase of dreaming, while Mau replied, “I’ll bring you a meal Kather, then I better get to cooking for the others too.”

 

Kather nodded, “I’ll gather some water and a cloth for Onèsan while you do that Mau, if I keep her brow cool, it might help her rest better….”

 

Mau nodded and left Kather to care for her latest patient.

----------

 

Onèsan slept the rest of the day, meaning Kather decided to spend the night in the bed next to her, in case she woke while the others slept, but the dim morning came and as the others stirred, something seemed to wake Onèsan too. She opened her eyes with something of a start and the first thing she said was, “where the hell am I?”

 

Mau got ready and joined Kather as she looked happily at her, “good morning Onèsan…. Do you feel better?” Onèsan tried to raise her hand and found it tied, making her start to struggle. “Hush, it was just to make sure you didn’t hurt yourself. I’ll release your hands.”

 

Onèsan relaxed and fell limp, “so long as I can rub my head, I feel like it’s the morning after a week-long binge!”

 

As Kather untied her arms, she asked, “do you feel any better?”

 

“My head feels clearer…. Is that what you mean?”

 

Kather finished releasing Onèsan and she brought her hands up, groaning and rubbing her forehead while Kather asked, “do you remember anything about the past now?”

 

“A little, but at least my brain isn’t totally frazzled now…. Do you have any water, I need to drink, I’m so thirsty?” Kather passed her a drink and Onèsan swilled it down in seconds, before offering the glass and asking, “do you have any more?”

 

Shae volunteered to run for the water while Kather untied Onèsan’s legs and she sat up to look around the sleeping quarters. Kather asking her, “what do you recall,” as she did so?

 

Onèsan looked at Kather with a confused expression, but she clearly was thinking much straighter now, “I was taken, to some sort of facility…. What it was all about I have no idea, but they dumped me in that pod and left me. How long for I couldn’t say, they just told me they’d release me when they were ready?”

 

Mau carefully asked, “were there any others around you when you were sealed in?”

 

Onèsan thought hard, before replying, “there were others, where are they?”

 

Mau groaned, “I’m sorry, there were three of you, but the other two didn’t make it,” making sure to not reveal the condition they found her compatriots in.

 

“They didn’t? I don’t think there were any others with me….” Shae returned with a pitcher of water from the well and Onèsan drank deeply, directly from it, before lowering it and smiling at them all, “it’s feels better now, the headache is settling.”

 

Kather grinned, “it seems the effects of the Cryptosleep are finally wearing off.”

 

Onèsan considered her situation, “I don’t understand anything about the past, I must have been in there and forgotten, for who knows how long?”

 

“Centuries, if not millennia,” Kather decided. “You said there was some kind of facility here before?” When Onèsan nodded to confirm this, she continued, “there’s nothing here now, it’s all erased. We found nothing here when I settled, bar a half-destroyed room and a few ancient scraps that were rusted beyond anything useful.”

 

Onèsan thought and nodded, “that means everything from my past is gone…. Rusted into nothing.”

 

Kather asked, “what do you want to do?”

 

Onèsan looked around, “I have no home, no safety, my family is gone too….”

 

Kather soothed her, “you could stay here, with us, we have room, and you can maybe try to remember more of the past?”

 

Onèsan looked around the room, at the others getting ready and decided, “where else have I got to go?”

 

Kather smiled, “we’ll adopt you into our colony then Onèsan, you’re more than welcome.”

 

Mau waited for Cella to complain, but she didn’t seem to bother as she finished getting dressed and headed out of the door, following the others and leaving Kather alone with her and Onèsan. She felt rather exposed all of a sudden and decided, “I better get to work….”

 

Kather giggled, “the colony won’t feed itself. I’ll stay to talk to our new friend for a little while, but we’ll come through to the common room soon. No doubt she’s hungry too?”

 

Onèsan nodded, “I’m famished….”

 

“In that case, I’ll give her a tour of her new home, and we’ll come for a meal soon Mau. See you then.”

 

Mau hurried out and discovered the cloud hanging over the colony was thick and dark, making it seem almost like dusk, even though it was early morning and much cooler than it should be. The sky was oppressive and gloomy, Mau could feel it in the colony too, the atmosphere felt heavy, nervous and low, while the others were busily performing their tasks with a much more direct sense of purpose. Breixo and Cella heading out to check the defences, Aardvark and Huntsman heading off further into the jungle, probably looking for the elephants they had spotted a few days earlier. Even Enbai was heading off for the beach to pull the nets in, wary for any alarm call or potential threat.

 

Mau headed for the kitchen, knowing she was going to be alone for most of the day, since Breixo would be distracted with the defences and foraging and it would probably fall on her for much of the morale boosting in the next few days, offering good quality meals to keep them all going. She quickly got to the task and made as many meals as they thought they would need, placing them into storage, and roping Enbai into helping her sort and store the catches she helped bring in, as well as fixing a few other jobs and making things a little better in the kitchen.

 

Presently, Kather bought Onèsan into the common room. Onèsan was looking around at everything with a look of surprise and she was saying, “you’ve done so well when there was nothing here originally,” as they took their seats.

 

Mau brought them both a hot meal and took a seat at the table herself. Kather quickly started eating, and that prompted Onèsan the food was genuine. She tucked in herself and after a few bites, she decided, “this is good.”

 

“Thank you,” Mau replied, “I cooked it and all the ingredients come from the area around us.”

 

Onèsan stopped and looked at her food, “are you sure?”

 

“Yes, why?”

 

“I thought this area was nuked, to remove the facility?”

 

“Wait,” Kather checked, “it was?”

 

Onèsan nodded, “I thought that was why they sealed us in there, to wait it out and continue the research later?”

 

“How long ago do you think that was,” Mau asked?

 

Onèsan looked up and thought hard, “I don’t know…. It must have been centuries ago….”

 

“So, more than long enough for anything harmful from that to have faded into nothing,” Kather noted?

 

“Oh…. I suppose so,” Onèsan decided as she returned to her meal. “I didn’t think about it that way?”

 

Mau looked at Kather though and asked, “why would they have nuked this location just to eliminate a facility, what was it doing?”

 

“I’m not sure….” Onèsan tried to recall, “it was, something wrong…. That’s all I know….”

 

Kather gave Mau something of a worried look, while Onèsan continued her meal. It took a moment, but Kather managed to ask, “do you think some other sections of this facility still exist?”

 

Onèsan looked at them both and then admitted, “I don’t know, sorry…. I suppose it’s possible, but I cannot be sure?”

 

Kather nodded, “don’t try to think about it, we can investigate later since there’s no sign of anything in the open. If there is anything else left, it must be in the cliffs.”

 

Onèsan nodded and took another bite of her meal, “It’s ancient history now, there’s no point mulling over it.”

 

Kather asked, “are you sure you want to stay with us?”

 

Onèsan confirmed, “I’m sure…. I’ll find somewhere to help out.”

 

“No doubt you will,” Kather agreed.... “Given the situation, we need all the help we can get….”

 

Onèsan noted, “for the day it is very dark, what’s happening?”

 

“There’s some thick layer of cloud and smog blocking out direct sunlight at the moment.” Mau commented, “it should pass soon though.”

 

At that point Aardvark came in, bloodied and soaking wet, suggesting that although the smog was there, it didn't stop the rainforest getting drenched. “We’ve got a present for you Mau,” he declared, “we brought down one of the bull elephants and I left Huntsman cutting up the corpse to carry back. You've got some butchering to do….”

 

Mau stood and headed for the small side room where the butchering was performed while Kather and Onèsan continued to talk. No doubt Keemer would be thrilled that such useful hide had been cut up to move the carcass, but she’d find a use for it nonetheless….

 

She entered the cold store to find Breixo storing some foraged fruits into one of the baskets, and he nodded at her as she passed, “Mau….”

 

She nodded back and didn’t say anymore.

 

Mau stopped at the hanging hooks and was shocked at the size of the piece of meat Aardvark had dragged back, it was the entire foreleg and shoulder of the elephant and she started to struggle to move it to the butchering slab, but Breixo came over and took the weight, “monster ain’ it?”

 

Mau nodded, “thanks.”

 

“Anytime….” He lifted the joint to the slab and placed it down, before stepping back to let Mau reach it, “anythin’ else?”

 

“Are you hanging around for a bit?”

 

He shook his head, “I gotta go an’ help pull this monster in….”

 

She smiled back at him, “well, I’ll be around for a while, see you later?”

 

“Aye, I’ll come an’ cook a few rounds after I haul ma share in. Yer finish this beast off Mau and I’ll chat later.”

 

He left her to the butchering and Mau turned around as the door shut behind him. She hated to admit it, but she was starting to have a few, more desirable thoughts about him. He didn’t seem so bad after all….

Edited by Uncle Sikee Atric
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