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MWC19 - January- New Beginnings

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++ ENTRY THREAD ++


DO NOT DISCUSS THE CONTEST IN THIS THREAD. ALL QUESTIONS, CONCERNS AND COMMENTS GO IN THE DISCUSSION THREAD.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Welcome to January's 2019's Monthly Writing Contest: - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - MWC19 - January- New Beginnings - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


This year I want to challenge the Newgrounds writing community in monthly competitions. Please write original works. Don't pull up something you wrote years ago that may fit this theme, the point is to write something new and to challenge yourself. At the end of each month a winner will be picked and a new prompt will be posted for writers to get started on.


  • THEME:


To celebrate the new year I want to challenge everyone to write a piece focusing on new beginnings. You have the creative liberty to write about any subject that you want as long as it contains the essence of this theme.


Think about a big change in someones life, extraordinary events, or amazing opportunities. Make us cry, laugh, elate, or fear. Make us feel!


  • RESTRICTIONS:


  1. Word Count Maximum: 4000 words
  2. Story must have a strong presence of the monthly theme
  3. Story must be submitted by the deadline below


  • DEADLINE:


Feb. 2nd 2019: Midnight EST (ie midnight between Feb. 2nd and Feb. 3rd)


  • PRIZES:


(Prizes may change in future competitions. We are testing the water with this one to see what the interest level is at)


1st Place: Supporter Status

2nd Place: Honorable Mention

3rd Place: Honorable Mention


  • SUBMITTING


  1. Post your stories in this thread. Don't post to a website or userpage. We want the version you submit to be the final version. We don't want people to edit submissions after they've submitted them other than the original time period that Newgrounds gives to edit posts.
  2. Do not post revisions in this thread.
  3. You may submit one story only, one time.


  • Judges:


  1. Fro
  2. (TBD)
  3. (TBD)

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2018-12-22 17:17:59


The Winter Journals

ChronoNomad


December 17, 2018


You never really know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  Sure, that might seem like little more than a trite cliché, but there is a reason that they exist, after all.  It’s because they’re based on very real and often poignant moments in a person’s life. Just because something is clichéd, that doesn’t make it any less important.  At least to that person, anyway. We’ve all been there.


In my case, what I’m referring to is yet another cliché: love.  Within the past year alone, I’ve lost my girlfriend of four years, who - incidentally - had just agreed to marry me next Spring, and my mom.  Two of the most influential women in my life, gone. Just like that.

If the first death caught me off guard, the second left me utterly reeling, feeling a deeper sense of loss than I ever have in waking life.  At times, I feel as though I’m losing my sanity, or even that it’s already vacated the building. If I’m being honest, I don’t even know how I can write about it now.  But that’s what I’ve been tasked to do. My therapist says that it will “give me closure,” or at least help me to “deal with my pain.” Supposedly, putting words down on paper magically grants a sense of catharsis.

I don’t know, maybe he’s right, but that might even be part of the problem.  Not his being right, but that he’s, well...a he. What I need right now in my life is a good female influence to help keep me grounded, because I feel like I’m about to lose myself completely.  Granted, I’m having kind of a bad day. But like the good doctor says, I’m entitled to a few of those.

Hey, I can’t really fault Dr. Hayashi for his bedside manner.  He’s got to be one of the most caring, thoughtful guys I’ve ever met.  There’s always a good-natured smile plastered firmly on his face, and while my more cynical nature tells me it’s because I help to pay his bills, that smile rarely seems disingenuous.  The way it crinkles the skin around his eyes and seems to soften his gaze, especially when he’s amused or talks about his kids, that’s just not something one can easily fake. Might as well give him the benefit of the doubt.


December 18, 2018


At first, I wasn’t going to talk about death.  At all. I know, that seems pretty lame when it’s basically what I was told to write about, but it’s not really the kind of thing I enjoy delving into.  Especially not the deaths that are still so near; the ones that still break my heart every single time I see their faces in my mind’s eye. But ultimately, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about what happened.  About how and why my two favorite ladies were taken from me. I mean, after all, that’s why I’m sitting here.

In classic defense mechanism avoidance, I want to keep on just typing about silly, meaningless stuff.  But again, that’s not why I’m here. So why is it so hard to begin?


December 20, 2018


Okay, no more waffling.  I’m here to scrape this oily blackness out of my soul, so here goes nothing…


My girlfriend, Val (short for Valerie), was hit by a car.  No, she wasn’t in a car accident. She wasn’t even in a car.  All she was trying to do was cross the street. The sign flashed WALK, and she did.  I happened to be on the other side of the street, still almost halfway down the block, when I saw the shiny red sports car break free of traffic.  I was just about to wave back to her after she’d spotted me and waved in my direction. She wasn’t hurrying, though I could instinctively tell that she was as happy to see me as I was to see her.  We always met up after classes, and our high schools were only a couple miles apart.

The first thing I heard was the sound of an engine roaring to life.  I remember how the sun flashed off the vehicle’s metallic paint job. It nearly blinded me for a moment, and for some reason, at that same instant, the driver gunned the engine.

My mind went blank.  For maybe a second or two, I convinced myself that there was no way he’d hit Val.  She’s be safe, and I’d be there at the corner to greet her. We’d talk and laugh about the crazy driver in the red sports car, and what a close call it had been.

Then I heard the thump.  It was so soft, felt so far away, and my mind seemed to take flight.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Val went up and over the car as it sped down the road, never even slowing down when her body hit the ground a few moments later.


December 21, 2018


You know how people talk about things like that playing out in slow motion?  I think that’s just how they remember it afterwards. Because that’s how it is for me.  Every time I think about Val, the accident plays over and over in my head, like some kind of profane home movie, and it’s almost always in slow-motion.  Weirdly enough, I often imagine that I was much closer when it all went down. My own memories taunt me into believing that I could have just reached out and taken her hand, somehow saving her from such a horrible fate.  Of course, that’s nothing but a cruel fabrication of my subconscious mind.

After the sickening crunch of her body slamming into the pavement, I needed to run to her.  I wanted to scream. The reality is that I couldn’t even move. I felt sick, dizzy, like the ground itself was swaying beneath me.  To this day, I have no idea how I didn’t throw up on the spot, but I managed to force my rising gorge back down.


Then I was running.  I sprinted like a madman lost in a dream until I was standing at the intersection.  The traffic was moving around her, and I quite frankly didn’t know what the hell to do.  I guess that I must have been shouting her name, because a lady with a bag of groceries under her arm sidled over to try and comfort me.  After I’d calmed down a little, she carefully set her bag on the sidewalk, pulled out her phone, and dialed 9-1-1. Why didn’t I have the common sense to make that call?  I thanked her, and she responded with a thin, concerned smile. As the wail of sirens began to approach, I sank to my knees and finally broke down.


December 22, 2018


When the ambulance arrived, Valerie was pronounced dead at the scene.  Apparently, no one had managed to get the driver’s license plate number, but there were several people in the area who were able to give a vehicle description, including my own.  I guess they still haven’t caught the guy, though. If they had, I’d be called in to testify in court.

Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about that until just now.  Damn! That’s just how trapped in my own head I’ve become lately.  Maybe there really is something to this whole catharsis idea.


December 23, 2018


As for my mom, she was taken by one of the most clichéd diseases of all time.  You know, the one that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year. That’s right.  Good old cancer.

My dad and I had no other choice than to simply stand by and watch helplessly as mom’s health deteriorated.  Oh, I guess I haven’t really mentioned my old man yet. The thing is, I almost feel as though he’s even worse off than I am most days.  He gets up, goes to work, comes home, and just sits there until he goes to bed. Sometimes he watches TV or reads the paper, but he seems to have lost his zest for life.

We hardly talk at all, and when we do it’s just a polite nothing.  What is there to say, really? I guess I can actually kind of understand how he feels, even if I didn’t know Val as long as he was together with mom.  I’ll be turning nineteen in a few months, but they’ve been married for over twenty-five years. At this point, I can’t even relate to being alive for a quarter of a century.  Man...

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2018-12-22 17:19:06


December 24, 2018


Back to the topic at hand, my mom was actually diagnosed with lung cancer just over three years ago, at the end of October in 2015. Two years into her treatment, the doctors had said that she was in remission. They’d attacked her cancer cells aggressively with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, and she had ultimately decided to shave her head when the first hairs started falling out. I remember how she said that if they didn’t want to stick around, they could all just pack up and get out of town. She was awesome like that; always so upbeat, even in the direst of situations. We all laughed at the time, right in the face of Death.

Back in early August of this year, when one of her routine hospital visits revealed that the cancer had metastasized, not only in her lungs again, but also in her liver, the horror had come back to roost. “That’ll teach us to laugh at Death,” I thought, bitterly. Just three and a half months later, He had collected his pound of flesh.


I really need to take a break from this writing. Since starting one week ago, I think I’ve gone through two whole boxes of Kleenex. This shit is painful, that’s for sure. Not that Doc Hayashi didn’t warn me that it would be, but man. I seriously had no idea.


Holy crap, I just realized that tomorrow is actually Christmas! Mom and Val both really loved Christmas, but there’s not one single trace of it in this house or in our hearts this year. I can’t stand to see all the traditions fall by the wayside. I’m going to see if I can talk to dad about at least getting a tree. I’ll even decorate it by myself, if I have to...not that I’m looking forward to untying the gigantic knot of Christmas lights. Nothing feels right about this.


Okay, journal. Just writing about my feelings isn’t good enough right now. I’ll be back, but probably not until after Christmas. If it’s going to be the two of us from here on out, we need to make sure that we can survive on our own. No, no just survive. We’ve lost too much. Now I’m just writing my thoughts as they come, but I guess that’s okay. I’ll be back. I promise.


December 27, 2018


   The last few days have been an absolute freaking whirlwind of activity! It seems like dad was waiting for me to be ready to talk. Ironically, I was waiting for him. Clearly, since we’re a couple of totally dysfunctional dudes, we just kept right on waiting, each giving the other one his space. How stupid! It’s actually kind of hilarious. Thankfully, the silence has finally been broken.

   

Suffice to say, after my abrupt exit on Christmas Eve, things just started happening. It’s like our time was frozen or something. But now the clock has started ticking away again, and boy am I relieved.

After we talked about Val and mom, how much we miss and love them, and how incredibly lost we feel, we hugged it out. I’m not too man enough to admit that there were tears. On both sides. Yet another box of tissues took a critical hit, but we were both back in our standard orbits. That is to say, we felt connected again. And I never even realized how much I missed feeling connected to someone until we were smiling, laughing, our eyes still leaking, and sharing all of our crazy, painfully nostalgic, and thoroughly wonderful memories of the women we loved.


Correction: love.


Although it was already pretty late in the evening, and we both felt more or less husked out, dad vehemently agreed that we should go out and pick up a tree. It had to be done. And so it was, and when we got back we were thoroughly chilled, feeling more awake and alive than either of us had in weeks. After we got the tree propped up in its usual spot in the middle of the family room, we just stood there and admired it for a while, sipping hot cocoa. I was really happy that I’d taken the time to learn mom’s recipe, and dad wiped away a tear as he told me that it tasted like home. The fresh scent of pine gently wafted from the tree, and I breathed it in, grateful to smell something other than the same stale, stagnant air.


After that, we were pretty much beat, but we decorated the tree anyway. Each decoration came with its own memory, and we reminisced quietly as the night wore on. Finally, well after Midnight, we bid each other goodnight and, since it was already the next day, a Merry Christmas into the bargain. More hugs were had. I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, and it was one of the deepest, most peaceful states of oblivion I can ever remember having in my life.

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2018-12-22 17:19:27


December 28, 2018


   I awoke on Christmas morning, feeling thoroughly refreshed, to the delectable scent of cinnamon rolls. After endless days of barely being able to drag myself away from the comfortable solitude of my bed, I fairly jumped out from under the covers, pausing only to throw on a pair of soft flannel pajamas and pop my feet into my slippers, before all but sprinting out into the kitchen. Despite everything that had happened the night before, what awaited me was even more incredible.


There in the kitchen sat my dad, happily munching on a positively humongous cinnamon roll. But that wasn’t even the most surprising thing. He wasn’t alone in the kitchen. Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez, Val’s parents, had decided to come by and see how we were doing.

How we were doing? I couldn’t even believe this. I’d been agonizing over how they must be feeling, having lost their daughter. I wanted to talk to them, to tell them how sorry I was that she was gone, but it ultimately just sounded so flat and useless in my head. And here they were, bearing a platter of steaming cinnamon rolls, somehow seeming more or less okay.

Suddenly the idea of a bona fide Christmas miracle didn’t seem quite so silly or clichéd. And yet, we had hoped and prayed for a miracle as mom was slowly wasting away during her most recent array of cancer treatments. To no avail. I had begged and pleaded with God to bring Val back to me, or to at least let me wake up; for it to fade like some kind of nightmarish dream. But that’s not how it works, and I know that. Not that knowing makes it any easier to accept, but there it is.


As I stood there at the entrance to the kitchen, obviously staring and almost certainly drooling, dad wiped the crumbs from his mouth and waved me over with a wink and a smile. I tentatively hugged everyone, sniffling as the threat of tears stung my eyes and my throat tightened up. Mrs. Ramirez offered me a cinnamon roll, which I accepted eagerly. As I shoved the warm, sticky sweetness into my mouth, it was just all too much to bear. I straight up bawled like a little lost child.

We all cried, then. It was like I’d kicked down the dam, or the clouds had burst, and we all just had a good cry. Oddly enough, none of it felt wrong or awkward. It just felt, I don’t know...cathartic. Curse you, Doctor Hayashi! I really need to thank him when I see him next week.


After we were all cried out, and we had more clung to each other desperately than simply hugged one another, the box of Kleenex made the rounds again. Then we simply sat together and talked.

I made a nice, strong pot of coffee for anyone who was interested. Then I asked if anyone preferred tea, and Mrs. Ramirez asked what kind we had on offer. She opted for chai, and after the kettle whistled to get our attention, I set to steeping it in two large mugs. After a spoonful of sugar and a generous splash of milk, they were ready to go. Mrs. Ramirez smiled, thanked me for what felt like more than just the tea, and put her other hand on my cheek for a moment as she accepted her cup. It was like, despite our best attempts at being festive, we could still feel the grief that lie hidden just beneath the surface.

Quiet sipping punctuated our easy-going and meandering conversation, and everyone opted for a second cinnamon roll. I think dad may have actually eaten three. I also learned that Mr. Ramirez is equally as fond of a good cup of coffee, and he thanked me for my diligence as I put on a second pot.


About an hour later, our special guests had to leave. They had two other children, both of whom were in college, and Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez needed to be back home when they arrived for Christmas dinner. The stack of cinnamon rolls, though greatly diminished, was left in our care.

After her husband helped her with her coat, Mrs. Ramirez came back for another nice, long hug. Then she planted a quick kiss on my cheek. I must have looked surprised again, because dad gave me a knowing grin as he leaned against the counter. After she stepped aside, Mr. Ramirez came over and pumped our fists vigorously. He seems like a guy who doesn’t give out hugs all that often, so I felt even more honored by the previous show of affection. I made sure to return his handshake with the same level of gusto. He smiled widely and nodded, obviously pleased.

Then they were out the door, wind and snow blowing around them as they forged their way down the sidewalk and bustled into their car. As I heard the engine turn over, I thought briefly about the maniac who had killed Val, and I felt the smile vanish for a moment. But then I thought about how Mrs. Ramirez had promised that they’d come see us again soon, and I couldn’t help but feel a new smile beginning.


December 30, 2018


   The remainder of our Christmas turned out to be just as magical. My grandparents all made an appearance, both on my mom and dad’s sides. Even my mom’s sister showed up, whom we hadn’t seen in ages. She looked just enough like my mother to catch me by surprise, but I swallowed the lump rising in my throat and greeted her at the door. Then my aunts and uncles who lived nearby arrived, along with their three kids in tow.

The growing throng brought all kinds of delicious goodies, and we ended up having two turkeys, one ham, and a grand total of three steaming bowls of mashed potatoes. There were tons of other things on offer, and we all had more than enough to eat, even when my bottomless pit of a best friend, Warren, showed up completely unannounced.

Anecdotes and witty repartee passed across the sprawling dining room table, jokes both new and old elicited at least polite laughter, and the warmth that I felt came from far more than just the hot food we were all stuffing into our bellies. Our house had become a home again.

The day passed by both slowly and far too quickly. Leftovers were put away, wrapping paper was shredded to tiny bits, and presents were oohed and aahed over. I’d been bugging my dad for a car before life had basically gone sideways, so I was thoroughly relieved when he presented me with a brand new 21-speed mountain bike. Once upon a time, I would have complained about how aesthetically lame it was to wear a helmet, but when he brought one out from behind his back with a big red bow slapped on top, I couldn’t help but smile and hug him right there on the spot. It’s kind of funny how much your perspective can change with time, isn’t it?


January 1, 2019


I know it’s been a few days since I’ve written in this journal, but I wanted to put all of these thoughts down before they faded too much. After this, I don’t think I’ll be journaling much any more, if at all. Things are too good right now, and I’d rather live life than spend too much time writing about it.

Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez invited us to their place for New Year’s Eve, and while it was just a small, intimate gathering, it felt perfect. Nothing was expected of anybody, and we simply enjoyed our time together. Their kids were still home from college, so I got to hang out with Val’s older brother and sister a little. They each took me aside in turn, wanting to talk about their little sister and hear about some of my own experiences with her.

Her brother is the resident tough guy, and we both managed to remain moderately stoic during our conversation. Conversely, Val’s sister really needed a sympathetic ear, as well as a shoulder to cry on. Although I hadn’t seen either of them in almost a year, they still felt like family, and it felt like I was a part of theirs.


No resolutions are needed this year. I’ve already found my resolve. Dad and I will keep right on living in the now, never forgetting who and what we’ve lost, but preferring not to dwell on our grief too much, whenever possible. I’m sure it sounds like a cliché, but we’re both going to be just fine.


Ladies and gentlemen, you have likely read other stories on this thread by now that go through the topic of “New Beginnings”. What pops in your head when “new” is said. Shiny? Presentable?Nice? Well, my story lives on the south side of town.You’ve maybe read the others and seen tragedy overcome by triumph. A good new beginning. However, my abundance of words in a box are drugged with tragedy. So, with that, I present to you a story that involves a child who’s past few days have been, shall I say,-


Not So Triumphant

By HomeOfTheBray


December 26th, 2008. Willard, Missouri.


The roaring noise gets louder and louder as the seconds roll by. 


As any Missourian will tell you, tornados absolutely suck. They also happen all the damn time. But, in all fairness, it’s a bit late for one at this time in the year, isn’t it? As I recollect, there were four in the six months prior to this one. The last one being in September, and the closest one to our house was seven miles away in Springfield.


Now this one’s practically touching me and my family.


Mom is making last minute efforts to stack up all the food because, as I recall her saying in the last ten minutes she was seen alive, “HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT A TORNADO WOULD HAPPEN IN FUCKING DECEMBER???”


I’m currently hiding under a mattress in the bathtub. It’s a small space, but it’s the only reason I’m still alive. There’s only room for me, but my mother and brother both have their own spot to hide from destruction. But because a couple shitty cans of Campbell’s soup and stale chips are more important than living, they have yet to reach those spots.


And Dad? Well, he’s far away, in the same place he’s been for the past six years. Where? Up north. Where up north? No idea. I only ever asked my Mom twice, and she just told me he’s coasting off of welfare checks up North. Whether that means he’s just a few miles up north in Kansas City, or way up north at the tippy top of Canada freezing his balls off I have no idea.


I hear a cascade of loud crashes that sound like they’re just inches away. I peak from my measly mattress. The deafening sound of a hellish tornado ripping apart a house get louder. Or closer. Or both. I hear the unmistakable thumping of somebody running.


The door opens. Nobody is there. Nothing is there, including the wall that usually was in front of the bathroom. Debris is flying everywhere. I see mother running. She sees me and starts running towards the bathroom. I hear something coming towards me. I see mom reach her hand out to me, even though she’s at least ten feet away.


And then, with the sound of wood hitting bone, and a bright light overtaking my vision, she was gone.


21 hours later...


Turns out the sound of wood hitting bone was a large chunk of a tree slamming into my face at 90 miles per hour. I woke up the next day with blood running down half my face.


The Willard Post would eventually write something about me. A week later, residents in the town would wake up, collect the soon to be extinct newspaper, read the headline “Tornado Death Toll Rises To Seven”, and after reading the editorial about the girl who lost her brother and the family that lost their dog, readers would see a picture of me. Below the photo, a caption reads, “Local 14 year old Ian Halas wanders through Northway Pines - the small community south of City Hall that was hit the hardest - searching for his brother and mother.”


Why the numbfuck editor of the Post said that I was “searching” for my family, I have no idea.


That sea of rubble that sat in front of me was my family. I had stopped ”searching” for them three hours prior to when the photo was taken when I saw them both flattened below an infinite pileup of bricks and wood.


“Ian!” A far away voice shouted. Skipping down the street is a girl I (used to) go to school with, Jenna. Or was it Jaine? Look, I just had a piece of a tree fly right into my face at full speed. If you were me, you’d lose some brain cels too.


She seems awfully euphoric for somebody walking through a neighborhood of destroyed houses, but I suppose that’s what happens when your family has just moved to AllTheMoneyInTheWorld, USA, where tornados don’t happen on Christmas fucking weekend. I never liked Jean (Jenna, Jaine, whatshername). She never shut the hell up and always came off as an entitled piece of shi-


“Which house is yours, if you don’t mind me asking?” She asks.


I do mind, actually, and I would prefer it if she were to take a few thousand steps back to her three story mansion up in Golden Toilet Seatland so that I can privately mourn the loss of the only two people in life I ever became attached to, but instead of telling her to piss off, I decide to give her an answer.


I point to a house that isn’t mine, a house untouched by the disaster that has just occurred. I do this to spare myself of having to hear her probably long and awkward as hell sympathies (Everything happens for a reason, bullshit, bullshit, etc.)


“Wow, you are so lucky. Anyway, I came to tell you that my brother got into Duke. Do you know hard it is to get into Duke. Their acceptance rate is something like-“


As she goes on and on about how her smartass brother bribed his way into Duke University, I let my mind dwell on my own brother.


Interestingly enough, Nicholas wanted to go to Duke’s polar opposite: North Carolina. Although Duke’s acceptance rate is lower, it requires a higher GPA to get into NC.


Nicholas was within pissing distance of getting in. He was interested in a career in writing, and a degree in literature was not far away with the GPA he had.


Now he doesn’t have a GPA. Or a pulse.


I have my sights focused on a patch of splattered blood sitting on top of the rubble that used to be my home. It’s not exactly a sight any sane person would invest there time into, and it’s really unsettling, as you can imagine. But as I’m staring at this unpleasant splat of human blood, a question lingers in my head: Who’s is it?


My mom or my brother would most likely be the answer, but then again, I was pretty banged up too. I woke up and the left side of my face was bathed in blood. Although I was no happy camper with my injury, there was a larger problem at hand.


After browsing through the destruction, I discovered my mother and my brother. From my view, I had concluded that the entire house had collapsed, crushing them. Brick, wood slabs, pipes, you name it, it had ripped through their skin. It didn’t look like a pleasant way to go at all-


“Ian!” Another far away voice called out. I was looking at Ms. My Brother’s In Duke, but I had recognized the voice enough to know it wasn’t hers. Sure as shit, I look a few feet behind Jenna Last Name to see my Aunt Sarah


I didn’t want to see her, but, by law, I needed to...


LITERALLY ALL THE FORUM THREADS I'VE MADE!!!(last updated December 10th 2017)

Have you ever fallen asleep watching a documentary about insomnia?

BBS Signature

Long story short, my mother went into surgery for heart disease eleven months prior to the tornado. She was superstitious about something happening during the procedure that may end up killing her, so she wrote her will and testament.


In her will, she declared that me and Nicholas should be in custody of Aunt Sarah, which was - at the time - reasonable. Sarah was developing a hefty portfolio in the stock market. 


Mom survived the surgery, which was good because the stock market crashed, Sarah’s money dried to shit, and she went from living in a high-end studio apartment in New York as an investor, to living in a small, smelly room that barely qualifies as an apartment. She now paid the bills as a guidance councilor at a high school in Maine. A gangsta high school where the students are more concerned about shooting up their friends house than learning how to read.


In short, we got lucky...and then our luck ran out. And Sarah’s luck got worse.


Six days after the tornado, she took me on a car ride to...where? Why, the place every child dreams of ending up.


A job fair.


How she lost her job is beyond me, but as I’m standing in line, reminiscing about how we went from celebrating Christmas to standing in a damn job fair line all within less than a week, I look at the sign hanging over the building.


“WEST MAINE JOB FAIR”


Below it.


“New Year. New Job. Better Beginning”


My ass.


LITERALLY ALL THE FORUM THREADS I'VE MADE!!!(last updated December 10th 2017)

Have you ever fallen asleep watching a documentary about insomnia?

BBS Signature

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2018-12-31 18:21:10


The Winstons


When I was a child I used to live next to a very kind young couple. They’d often bring me sweets every time they came to visit my parents and even Christmas gifts during the holidays. I used to think it very odd that they never brought their children with them during these visits. But now I know why.

 

It started the summer we moved in. While my parents, aunts, and uncles collectively brought boxes and furniture in our new home I was left to my own devices. It was hard to be an only child playing with no companion. One’s imagination usually had to take over, which proved to be both a blessing and a curse. It would keep me entertained but whenever I told my parents about my adventures they would never believe me. So when I heard some children playing in the front yard of the neighboring house I was thrilled beyond my wildest dreams.

 

There were four of them, at first; three girls and one boy. The boy was the smallest of the four and the girls were quite motherly towards him. They continued to play what appeared to be tag as if they didn’t see me coming. When I came too close they turned their heads simultaneously with the same expression on their face. Shock. It held as I told them my name and that I was moving in next door. I was speaking so fast because of how nervous I was to be the new kid. But they welcomed me with open arms as the confusion wore off.

 

Their parents, the Winstons, were quick to introduce themselves to my parents and make quick friends of them as well. Their visits started soon after we moved in, which usually left me both happy and perplexed. I loved them very much, but the question about the absence of their children was always in my mind.

 

The five of us were inseparable, playing in my backyard every day. Lots of hide and seek, red rover, and hopscotch. I couldn’t have been happier because I made the transition from my hometown to a new one so seamlessly. No awkwardly waiting for someone to approach me at school. No lonely days on my own inventing ways to entertain myself. No eating alone at lunch time when school started in the fall.

 

Just before the first day of school the neighbor kids met me in the backyard. With them was another boy who was much smaller than the other. They all seemed a bit on edge and the discomfort on their faces, somewhat sad, only intensified as I asked who our new guest was. They told me that he was their youngest brother. Their eyes seemed to never meet mine until I excitedly welcomed the little guy, not even questioning where he’d been until now. All I knew was that I had another new friend and the details did not matter. The entire group cheered up with my acceptance and we went about our usual everyday amusements.

 

That night Mr and Mrs Winston visited. The father looked a bit distant and worn while his wife couldn’t stop sobbing. They did not bring sweets with them for me this time. My parents urged me to go to bed, looking extremely concerned for their own new acquaintances. Not being the kind of child that would disobey, no matter how much I hated bed time, I hurried up the stairs to my bedroom. The weeping continued for a long time, the whispers hard to decipher from my room. Despite my worries for them, I fell asleep before they even when back home.

 

The next day I woke to find that I couldn’t find the neighbor kids anywhere. I concluded that whatever happened must have been serious and in my young mind there was only one thing I could think of. They were moving. In a panic I ran next door hoping they were still there. I was relieved when Mrs. Winston answered the door, still looking puffy eyed from crying.

 

“Can your kids come out and play?” I asked.

 

She held her hand to her mouth and gasped with tears in her eyes. Without a word she simply shut the door in my face. Later on my parents sat me down and asked me why I would play such a cruel prank. I insisted it wasn’t and told them about my friends. This only made them more upset with me.

 

“While we are quite proud of how strong your imagination is, there is a line. The Winstons do not have any children. Mrs. Winston has had 5 miscarriages. She lost her recent pregnancy a few days ago. That means all of her babies died before they were born, sweetie. Please do not mention your imaginary friends to them again.”

 

I never brought them up again, but I continued to play with my friends. As the years went by there were three more to provide me company. At first I didn’t understand what was happening, but as I became a preteen it began to make sense to me. It didn’t stop me from talking to them, it didn’t even frighten me. They hid nothing from me and I shared my own intimate secrets with them. Even under the circumstances I still enjoyed their company.

 

The Winstons finally had a viable pregnancy when I turned fifteen. We were all very happy for them, even her previous children rejoiced. As the day approached we all anticipated their parents finally being happy for a change. Finally, one of their siblings would be able to be born into the world. Sadly, I found Mrs. Winston sitting with her eight children in the garden of their home after school in the spring. It was clear that she could see and talk to them. There was sadness but also a sense of peace among them. Strong cries of a hungry newborn filtered through an open window and all of them smiled. Everything was as it should be. No one was alone anymore.

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-01-04 18:24:57


Tittle:the future become the present when you start again.

 

Some days i wonder where you are. Like the blackness of my soul you stole away from me the minute you left my world. I can’t explain it anymore but your gone. I don’t know what it is what drove you to stand next to me but you where there. Like an oil stain on paper I couldn’t remove you from my life and then suddenly you disappeared. Nobody knows where you are and I never heard of you again but this time I have to start over again.

 

Like the past the present is just as important and you where a part of my past. A painting that is hanging on my wall reminds me every day of you and all that I am missing but you’re not there anymore.

 

The present is a gift. A gift that by some has been given by a god or some other creature with magical powers but for me it is just another day. Now it is another day without you. It might be a day that could be special, and everything could be changed in a second with out knowing what has been going on and I know that.

 

Like a waterfall it falls every day. Let’s say this waterfall will never dry and it will keep on going and it will always fall as far as it can. never ending in a splash on the ground but continuing like the place it fell from was a floating island you will never be able to see again.

 

You will remember the grass you once pasted, you will remember all the trees you saw, the night skies where you could admire the stars and where you saw a falling star once and where one time you floated past a village and you stayed for a while but then had to move on again. These are the memories of your past. But again, there was a ledge and you fell from the edge of the world moving on from that one to the next.

 

You will fall, you will always fall again and again and fall harder than another time but in between you still can look up at that island where you had those memories and wonder how it could have ended if you stayed but you didn’t and your heading towards your new world. Instead of looking back you will look forward and there will be a new world waiting for you. Like the world you left behind was doing before.

 

One with new rivers, people, trees, smells and more. Where you can have new experiences and your future will be laying there waiting for you to arrive and instead of being your future then the future will change in to your present and will show you new wonders of his world.

 

And one day that present will pass on to be your past like all your futures will. They always will be waiting for you to arrive in there moment and they will all have there moments to shine. I wouldn’t call it just a day anymore. Maybe it could be a present of your future. Maybe that’s why the present is named after a gift. It’s a present specially made for you.

 

But not all futures are wonderful, and neither can be your presents. Not all beginnings are one to look forward to. Some futures are grim and sad. Ones you will never expect but shape you to the person you are today and even those futures are a new beginning of your personality.

 

The heartbreaks, the betrayals of friends and family, the loss of people and more are also new beginnings. Some of those beginnings are now the past for some people and they never got the chance to say goodbye. They started scared and crumbled. Dead in the eyes with just one little bit of hope where they hoped other futures would be better.

 

Not every beginning is a good one, but every beginning will end eventually. People would call them sections or chapters like from life. When someone dies it is a new beginning in the life of someone else. They will have to life forever without that person and that might hurt but it will give their wings strength or let them become a fallen angel broken and lost.

Nobody knows what they will become in the future. Only the future will know that story and the time master will know as well. They may sit in a chair. The past, present and the future writing their books and then passing them onto another.

 

The future writes the books. She writes all the things that happen for everyone or just one person. With a stroke of her pen she will write a full book for every person’s life. One shorter than the other. It might make her sad that a daughter just born passed away from a disease, but she goes on every single day writing a new beginning and a new chapter for a boy, a girl or someone in between.

 

Then there is the present. He gets all the books that the future writes and makes sure every single action gets carried out. Like a movie director he sees all the actions people have done and makes sure they get all carried out as the future has written for them. He sometimes gets sad as well because not everyone has a happy beginning or ending.

 

Then there is the past. Sitting in the last chair. Like the other two he knows what has been going on, but he is special. He stores the present into the past. Thousands of book cases where he stores everything every day and he knows what goes on. Every sad memory left behind by people who have to start over again but also the happy new couples and parents and more people who are so happy about the beginning. He knows these memories are lessons for a better future even though some lessons are hard and cruel, And then there is the time master who manages time, so time is not stuck in one place.

 

It’s a nice idea right? Everything even the past is already written in the future. All your chapters stored into the hands of the future until the present gets their hand on it. Or isn’t it more beautiful that every new beginning has been a future and became your present and later your past.

 

Maybe we will never know or maybe when your chapters end another book gets opened and we start over again fresh with a clean slate. Or we get to a door where you get a choice. Live again with no memories of your past or pass on with every memory preserved as the person you where and always will be.

 

You will never know until then we will only know that there will always be new beginnings until we end our books forever.

 

Until then we will always have to look towards the future with a smile, have to live with the present and learn from our past and even though the past will sometimes let us hate the present and the future we will have to remember that we will always have a choice if we want to start a new chapter again and begin a fresh start.

 

We will never be alone in our steps into a new beginning and there will always be our guardians that will protect us and support our choices and that’s why I will let you go and start fresh again.

 

I will turn the page over and there will not be the oil stain you left and I might turn back the page to look at what happened then and I will not always be happy with the choices I made but I will not dwell on keeping myself on that page and I will turn over a new one.

 

Even if the new page is fresh, I will stain it with my new words of my new beginning where I will meet new people, make new friends, and become the person that I wanted to be even though I am scared of what might come towards me.

 

I will chase the life goals I always wanted to for fill, and I will learn from my mistakes to see what will make my future even more beautiful than it could already be. I will never regret the people I have met without a doubt and I will never regret meeting the new people in the future because they make the person I am today and I am proud of that.

 

The fresh page will make my new life longer than it was before and even though it will scare me to death it will make me stronger and I will never forget that. A new page isn’t always beautiful, but it will give new meaning to life, make you stronger as well as let’s you see the other beautiful things in life. I hope my chapter will go on for a long time still.  

 

My name is the future and right now I am looking towards the present who I will become. I will have to start a new page again and say goodbye to my future. I finally will see my and your stories played out and even if you stain the page like I sometimes had to do before. Let’s make something beautiful toghter. 

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-01-13 20:59:35


So I am allowed to post about new beginnings on this writing contest, I thought I should write about turning my life around after finally having my misdemeanor expunged after working for the city where I live for four month's. This has been one crazy experience I can't get over the feeling that I am not punctuating my word's properly or even uses sentences correctly without being redundant. The new year has brought a lot of joy into my life, met these two good looking women that are republican's and were campaigning for their dad to win the seat of state representative. Let me tell you these women are the best looking women I have seen in a while, they both are completely flawless and embody everything that I am looking for in woman. Needless to say I did not even try to ask for their number or social media I just told them if they ever wanted good luck they could let their friends know that me Embolio voted for their dad. Considering the fact that I just drove home in my sisters' car after living in a city for a new year and not being able to really purchase what my heart desire's, I am really impressed by the fact that these women have generated so much good luck in my life as of lately. Planning on getting a broom and dust pan with a plastic garbage can and sweeping up this part of the city were I live that is littered with cigarettes and then getting rid of the trash can or returning it in order to get my money back. Also thinking about getting a weed eater and dressing up as a city worker and weed eating the part of the city littered with cigarettes. As you can tell I am really enamored with these women, I want them to be mine even though I do not know anything about them other then the fact that they are good looking and their Dads' last name. On a different matter at hand, I am trying to get more into underground Death Metal, Black Metal and Industrial, have been purchasing a lot of Heavy Metal, Death Metal and Black Metal. Finally obtained a copy of the highly sought after Haemoth Nemeton split and I am really blown away by the split tape. This tape is the rawest Black Metal split I have ever heard in my life. Nemeton uses the craziest drum machine double pedal work I have ever heard in my life combining the sickest Black Metal croaks I have ever heard with the most hypnotic Black Metal guitar riffs. Haemoth is even crazier, considering that all other Haemoth releases are more played out I can listen to their side of the split for the rest of my life and never get tired of listening to Haemoth. This year 2019 is also the first time I will be able to go to college after spending a whole year re using all my old change to purchase tooth brushes, clothing food and CD's. Really grateful to be in college and pursuing a career in criminal justice their is a certain pride in feeling your skin peel from working hard and using every single old penny to buy food and munchies. Love having my mouth feel numb with the feeling of recycling all my other band merchandise and walking to the local dds by where I live in order to obtain my drivers permit. Planning on purchasing a BMX bike with helmet in order to ride to the Harley Davidson store by where my Dad work's in order to purchase some good quality biker clothing. Getting acquainted with the way the city work's and I do not want to be at the mercy of the local food workers who smoke cigarettes especially after learning how to ride a street 500 Harley Davidson motorcycle. I know that my grammar may not be the best although I wanted to take the time to point out that more people should embrace new beginning's. As I am writing this I am going insane from all the tension in my left arm from the scars of self harming years ago and I must say that I do not even have the will to finish the required four thousand word's.

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-01-18 16:41:48


There was a time where I would do nothing but create mind blowing games with all the bells and whistles that could be played on the go. There was never a dull moment, and never a lack of compliments encouraging new installments. Things were, to say the least, blissful.


Everything was grand until one day everything came to a crashing halt. It was completely out of the blue and I was pretty much caught off guard as Plan B was non-existent. My brain was wracked for months on end trying to figure out where the problems laid along with potential solutions.


Session after agonizing session turned up nothing but random chatter. Seeing no light at the end of the tunnel I gave up and stepped away from the scene. The fans weren’t too thrilled about the departure but they understood and offered words of comfort.


Weeks turned to months, months turned into years. My backup plan of writing and illustration held up but I started to miss the days of creating stories you could interact with and possibly change the course of events with some well-placed decisions. Then one day while on vacation, I decided to pay a visit to my first ever cyber café.


The atmosphere was nice, warm and filled with a never ending list of pastries and hot drinks to choose from. After picking up my order I sit at a nearby booth and proceed to use the computer. While browsing for go to spots, I stumbled upon what I thought was the site of a venue.


After closer inspection it was discovered to be a discussion group. One of the latest topics focused on the games I used to create in the past. Not only that but, there was a vodcast on them so I tuned in.


Two hours, 5 cups of mocha latté and 2 pastry platters later I’m left in awe. In a nutshell, the speakers summarized the games’ rise and fall despite popularity rankings. One of the key things they mentioned, which never occurred to me, was the fact that the games were rather large.


Not large in terms of being a fan favorite but large in terms of accessibility. With the calculations that were compiled, only a fraction of the players actual continued to play after the first month. For some strange reason the game would increase in size after the first 1 to 2 months.


It was something simple that was always overlooked. After my first game, I started doing monthly updates where new stuff was added to enhance gaming sessions. No complaints were filed so I continued with the practice on through to the last game that was released.


I made a note of the site and paid the tab. When my vacation was over I headed home and set out to work. I poured over the old paper work and took some notes along the way.


When that was done, I began work on a new game. The main thing I wanted to keep intact was the immersive interactive story. That said, all the other things had to be redone from scratch.


Instead of the realistic graphics approach that was taken with the previous installments, a simple pixel art and traditional illustrations approach was utilized. It’s been a while since I’ve done anything in the arena of game design but after a refresher the ball got rolling. It took months to compile the illustrations and game assets.


Some extra weeks were taken because I completely forgot about the music. Once everything was together, I felt it best to run a beta test of sorts before releasing it to the public. Got a lot of input, feedback plus some valuable suggestions one of which was to create a forum where players can go to get the help they need.


After the adjustments were made, the game went live a week and half later. Three weeks passed and the game began to gain some traction from old and new players alike. The game wasn’t anything like I’ve done prior but they seemed to enjoy the new look and feel.


Comments started pouring in about the new game being a breath of fresh air. Many have stated that they were relieved to see an established forum, a dedicated Tech Support system along with a game that catered to the majority and not a select few. Maintenance Days were solely for maintenance and not for adding extra stuff.


A new page was added to the forums as a new game was in the works but this time I wasn’t going to be compiling it alone. My beta testers signed on to assist with current and future projects so the load won’t all be on a single person As a trial phase they managed to talk me in to participating in a jam session during an upcoming weekend.


Regardless of the outcome, we’re in it for the long haul.


New Beginnings?


New beginning here on Callisto? Goddamit! Everybody else is having a damn “new beginning”, but not me; not here. The latest pair of big quakes and aftershocks have made half the fracking town leave and find somewhere a whole lot safer to be. Just about everyone I know has run away and left me behind. There has been a trickle, well, let’s say more people leaving than arriving, for the last year. But now dozens and dozens of people in the last few weeks have left their homes, their jobs, their whole lives and scrambled onto the first ship out of here. Folks who have been talking about it ever since the first rumble last year have finally jumped ship and most have left Callisto altogether.  Fat Frank has run away to work on the big gas conversion plant on Europa. He’s just fine; I saw a vid from him today and it’s all just rosy. Lorraine has gone down to the Jupiter IV base, to work on their failing gyro-stabilisers. I’m not so sure I would go to a Jupiter station myself until after the stabilisers are sorted; being that close to the biggest lump of gravity outside of the Sun is not my cup of tea at the best of times. I saw pictures of the view from IV yesterday and I don’t know why it doesn’t just Roche to bits- Jupiter fills the whole sky. Anyhow, the money is great and if the team sort the problem out before it gets terminally unstable, they’re MADE.


 Sagrin Shah, you know, the tall one who lived above us back home, from your year at college; he has moved round to the Out-side of the world, where they hardly feel the quakes and apparently he has met some lovely woman there and it’s all goddamn jolly. He just phoned up some friends and somehow there was a job waiting and an apartment and everything in that stupid, little communications place. It’s all wrong you know, I’m telling you, he was just gone in ten days after the 5.4 last month. How come? Old Kiri from the shop is retiring to Europa. Retiring? He only worked when he felt like it anyway! He’s going to live with his nieces on the Trailing Face. Well, how is that happening, when there is only supposed to be scientists there? Don’t they care about Europa Life any more? I tell you there is some very fishy stuff going on. Like Auntie Tray used to say when we were young, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.


   Anyhow, we got my twins moved up to the big school on Ganymede early because of the worry here. They weren’t supposed to go until next term, but Mike had a word with his university pal, Cristabel Singh; she’s the senior residential advisor, so they made an exception for the boys. It’s a boarding school and they seem quite happy there. Mason was unhappy before they left here when he heard I wasn’t living with them. You know what he is like, always shy and clinging to me, not like Micky Jnr, but when I told them Willy’s children would be there, they were just fine and Mason just forgot about me. I never hear from them if I don’t contact them. I saw a video of them in the fancy aqua-grav that all the kids are going on about and they were having a whale of a time. I should be happy, but it somehow, you know, well, it sucks to be honest. I suppose I should just be glad that they are safe and happy and learning and happy and safe and, oh God, I’m repeating myself.  But- no, they are my flesh and blood and I look at the vid and I just want to hug them and make sure for myself that they are really all right; you just do. At least once a day I have to stop myself from contacting the school welfare to make sure they are getting their Taynofil medicine, when in reality, I used to forget half the time when they were here- Junior remembers for himself and Mason as regular as the Martian Skytrain. To be honest, I suppose what’s inside my head is that at ten years old they already don’t seem to really need me and it stings. Am I that short of a purpose in life? Was I this insecure and grumpy in the old days? Don’t answer that. 

 

   Now my dear husband has gone swanning off to the Patrice Settlement on the Leading Face of Io.   He will be setting up sulphur processors for the next two years, now that the Settlement has been declared stable, if you can call anything on Io “stable”. Io always sounds frightening- you know, volcanoes and radiation, but his company knows what they are doing. Mike will be all right, he just goes back to what he calls the ‘Goonies’- Lenny and Rick, Martin from the Tower, Rocky Chivino (that clown you met at Rubio’s wedding) and maybe that gay woman, Ugly Martha, or I think she left after the last tour of duty, I’m not sure. Anyhow, it’s more or less the same team who have now done Loretta Canyon, Novaya Zem and Parzival and it’s all just perfect for them. Bloody perfect. Wait a minute. What if they replace Ugly Martha with a woman that isn’t ugly and gay? Come to think of it, how did I ever know that she was ugly and gay- only from Mike and the boys, I never saw any pictures. Hmmm. HOW COME I never saw any pictures? Stop. Thinking my way down that pathway will lead to madness. As I was saying, a new beginning for Mike and I am sure he will be fine. And celibate. Probably. Definitely, or I will kill him. New beginnings for everyone, even Lun Chen from the nursery has escaped to Europa and she’s an idiot if ever I knew one.

They are all running away and I am still here in what is rapidly becoming a ghost town. I kid you not, at least a third of the residents have moved out already, while the Government tries to tell the rest of us here- and y’all out there - that with the money from the Jupiter government and from the Union of Planets, they are going to, as you say, give us a wonderful “New Beginning” here in Terre Lourde. Well no, Rufus, it’s NOT going to be anything wonderful for us lot left behind any time soon.

     You can’t imagine how frightening it is when the sirens go off and you know yet another quake is going to shake the whole town and far beyond any second and things are going to crack and fall and break- oh, and shake you ‘til you’re sick. It goes on and on for ever once it has started; they say the liquid ocean far beneath resonates with the stilts and that means the aftershock comes in waves for hours… well, all right, maybe half an hour; well, at least twenty minutes. That and the screaming and shouting at first, then the moaning and crying afterwards is just a nightmare.  I have seen what you see in the Intervid. “Nobody has died”, they say, like that means it’s all fine, but nobody can go into the Red Ridge area and I heard a rumour that that is because some of the stilts cracked and we are not supposed to know it. That and there’s a rumour that people HAVE died outside the Dome in the actual mine complex. I realise that in a Solar System of eleven billion people it’s not big news out there, but Cousin Richard lost his hand; trapped under falling pipes until they had to cut it off. Apparently it might have been repairable if the hospital wasn’t in such a state, with “recompression trauma therapy” whatever that means. He is putting on a brave face with the new one they gave him, but who wants a metal hand, really? There’s cracks in the ground everywhere and I fell in one yesterday and twisted my ankle; the Crystal Ballroom has been closed for a month and the worst thing, p’raps, is the hospital; T.L. General has proved to be the weakest building on the whole world! Imagine that? Someone should be shot and the way things are going, with the people just about boiling over, I’m telling you they just might. Anyhow, over a hundred cases were admitted after the first 6.1 last week and when the place was so overfull they had people lying on tables in the canteen, the second one came and the cracks and bits falling meant they had to evacuate.


We are the Dragons & Spirits. We are friendly people. Best Wishes, Ice!

BBS Signature

     They say the Dome is safe to at least 7.8 and the biggest quake so far has only been the second 6.1, which is much less, but who wants to take that chance, when there is plenty of other work to be had all around Jupiter? I’m OK at home because we have always lived “underground”- that is, under the main platform, where the quakes are not as amplified as above- Mike’s parents got us a mortgage on a decent, safe place when we first came out here. Our home even has dampers fitted to the outer shell so we don’t feel the quakes so badly inside and a sealed air supply that kicks in automatically with a pressure drop. The Government has never admitted that the ferax mining is the cause, but all the good quality developers predicted it would be a problem and it is. Honestly, Rufus, what a bunch of sharks they are! Nobody else builds their biggest town right where they are mining on any of the smaller worlds. The gravity and the mass and the…oh, I don’t know, you just DON’T. We were told that Callisto had the oldest, most stable and boring surface anywhere, where basically nothing happens. That and the low radiation is why we chose to settle here. I don’t know if you understand how we build out here- I’ve told you, but you never listen to me. These aren’t rocky planets, apart from Io, they are humungous ice and rock balls, like a snowball scraped together in a gravel-covered car park, with a liquid water ocean far beneath. In the case of Callisto the whole world is mostly a mix of both throughout. Every settlement is kind of like a Venice, built up on low-conduct stilts to stop the heat just melting the ices. The trouble with Terre Lourde is that it is the “Heavy Land” – a low plain here on the Jupiter-facing side that has a concentration of more rocky material on the surface than the ice-cover on most of Callisto. That means it was the best place to put the settlement, but of course it’s where all sorts of minerals are, so it was going to happen, presumably as soon as enough money changed hands and as the Terre Lourde plain is only about 60km across, it was going to be nearby, so they drilled their shafts regardless. It’s just not like Earth or Mars; there is no real geological activity on Callisto, but these quakes make, you know, cracks in the roads and a lot of buildings have been, well, not collapsed, but you can’t go in them, it’s SERIOUS, I tell you.

 

      You know the Vice-President resigned, don’t you? That stupid, plastic-faced Crista Humpty-Facepalm or whatever her name is. Despite asserting that it was not their fault in any way and the Government is doing “everything they can”, she resigned two days ago and jumped ship like everybody else with any sense. How did she even get off Callisto is what I want to know? They say there is no transport available for anybody. The military and the government have commandeered most of the ships and every docking bay time-slot for “essential work”, even though they tell us that everything is safe anyway and there is no cause for alarm. You can’t have it both ways, Rufus. You can’t say everything is safe and then say that anything we want, we can’t have because the government needs it for “essential work.” Baking foil, Rufus, you can’t get any anywhere. I wanted to bake some cupcakes, I’m that bored without the boys here and, seriously, it’s “unavailable”! 

               I never realised that the Government was such a monster. I think most of us thought when we voted in Santos, the Jupiter Union was going to be the place to be, but listen to this, Rufus:

They sent me this letter last week telling me, just like you said, that everything here was about to be an “exciting new beginning”. They were going to move the teachers from all four primary schools together to look after the remaining children in one school and us admin could all go with them and as we would be right near the hospital and the fire station on the most stable land in the centre of the Dome, we had nothing to fear. Then the whole town would be fixed and a stabilised. What does that mean? I mean, think about it. If the Dome is safe, then why do we need to move? If the Dome and the rest of Terre Lourde is not safe, then why are children, not to mention school office admin, still here?

   I wasn’t having any of that.  The last straw came when Prickly, my African pygmy hedgehog, died. He was clearly stressed, but there was nothing I could do- apparently they don’t like earthquakes and I couldn’t take him to a vet because there aren’t any on Callisto. We aren’t supposed to have any animals here, but I refused to come unless I could bring Prickly and Mike knows a man in Transport Control. So, yeah, it’s not true that nobody died- My lovely Prickly died and I don’t know why I’m telling you because you will only laugh at me, meanie that you are, but suddenly there was nobody to come home to at all.


  Anyhow, I asked my boss, Kimberley, who would be able to get off Callisto, because she knows everything. She said very rich people; construction workers and engineers come and go OK; politicians and of course, the military. SO, I decided to join up for a short-term stint in the Guard Corps. No kidding, I just walked into the office in the Centrum and said “where to I sign up?” more or less. I will spend the next nine weeks doing basic training here on Callisto, at the Maryam base near Valhalla Crater and then I will be on guard duty and whatever at the Capitol on Ganymede for the next two years after that. One of the reasons for doing it is because the training will include all kinds of practical training, including depressurisation drills and first aid, vehicle driving and machinery, which will be an asset for any future employer anywhere in the Jupiter Union, but especially here if things are still bad when I get out. You can now picture your little sister in a blue-grey uniform with a UM 54 or whatever they are in her hands, shooting targets- yes and I’ve never even handled a weapon of any sort in my life!

     Some people say that it might be dangerous. Guards could be a target for Europa Separatists and we might even have to patrol with the Rocket Corps, but I don’t think it will be that serious. I honestly think it might be more dangerous here- if more people leave and there is enough unrest, they might end up with looting and martial law, so Officer Grundy was saying yesterday at school. I am preparing for a future when Mike has finished what will be his final tour of duty and we can retire back here to Terre Lourde, when hopefully the government will have stabilised the colony better and people will come back again. So, Rufus, you are actually right, as from Thursday this week I WILL be having a New Beginning, just not here.     Oh, and I’m sorry what I said about Mike. He is a brick, really. He actually offered to stay with me and I told him to go and get his final tour of duty done. It’s just that the first time I really need a solid, dependable, practical, capable person with me and I more or less told him to go away; just never tell him I said that or I will kick you when I see you and you KNOW I will.  


Martha Kitcz - Callisto. Quad4-24610


We are the Dragons & Spirits. We are friendly people. Best Wishes, Ice!

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Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-01-23 18:04:02


Fingers trembling, breaths heavy, heartbeat racing, mind racing. A hand reaches across to me, the gentle touch of your skin on mine. Your touch leads to an electric spark, I’ve found some stability in chaos, in an unsettled world.


Though you are on top of me, your weight is not discomforting. You are a warm blanket on the coldest of days. This will become my getaway. Skin to skin, sin to sin. I know you’ll be gently, the softest of my days, my only wish is that your suffering heart forgive me for my ways.


Writing this for you, we will be set free. I only hope you will continue to trace lines down my back and circles around my thighs.


A window that’s started to be fixed. Shards upon shards upon shards upon shards. I am living in your scent. I am soaking in your skin. I am quivering away at the thought of a new beginning with you, at the thought of you knowing that our first beginning was never true. How corrupted I was to you. You are a fireplace, and I the lost ashes and embers of my ways.


I hear that everyone needs secrets, they are the error of our ways. Something to focus on, to steal away our free time. Something to pick at it. To focus on. Something to try and burrow, deep deep away.


How could you ever forgive; your compassion I’ll never understand. Forever indebted, the ashes will float away, forgiven for my sins.


A new beginning, a take on life. The catholic baptism of our love life.


Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-02-01 15:40:46


Time travel is nothing like how it’s portrayed in the books or movies released prior to its inception as a technology. For starters, there is only going back, no forwards, and once you’ve made the jump back there is no return journey, you’re stuck there. Once this was discovered, early in the 23rd century, the idea of time travel lost most of its romance in popular culture. What would be the point of journeying back to a different and forgotten time if you would be isolated there forever, unable to bring home knowledge and history from an era lost to the modern world? If time travel did occur in a story it would act as a way to punish the villain by exiling him permanently to another time, or, more rarely, the tragic hero who fails valiantly and is expelled from his secure and comfortable present, where his adventures would (occasionally) continue in the remote past. But in real life the secrets of time travel as a technology were closely guarded. No ordinary citizen knew of their existence, and even more elevated ones were unaware as to whether time machines actually existed, or if the science was just theoretical.


This is a story set in a time when a despotic government saw fit to ban history and suppress all teaching of it. Their logic was that ordinary citizens, perhaps those who wanted to rebel against them, might take inspiration from the great revolutions of the past and foment their own revolutions. Those in power would have their citizens believe that their dominion had always existed, and always would. They knew that whoever controls the past controls the future. But one person saw through their governments falsehoods and deceptive ideology and understood that the world needed a new beginning.


◆ ◆ ◆


Hugh Capet had no passion for his work. He was employed in a mundane and unnoted government job near the centre of Dublin. Because he was the son of the First Citizen of the European Federation (formerly the EU before all of its member states merged into one pseudo-fascist government), if you had asked him about his family he would undoubtedly have made something up. He had come to Ireland because he wanted to leave his father behind, who governed his immediate family with the same iron fist with which he governed those who worked for him.


In escaping from Belgium to Ireland, he thought he would be leaving behind all the lies, the irritatingly facile propaganda, and the empty and irritatingly positive media which held the attitude that those in power could do no wrong. Ireland was only a marginal improvement at first, but a few months in he was assigned to a management position which gave him access to some of the warehouses where many books were sent before being sorted into the acceptable ‘mathematics, sciences, and fiction category’, or the unacceptable ‘fabricated history and related historical documents’ (which would be moved and eventually destroyed). As the state of Ireland was the most recent country to have the EF’s restrictions regarding written matter imposed upon it, there were still many books which needed sorting. Although these books were meant to be quickly sorted and not perused, Hugh sometimes couldn’t help his curiosity. It was a commonly known fact to any citizen of the EF that unacceptable written material invariably contained lies dreamed up by the enemies of the government and its citizens, and anyone caught with such material in their possession without good reason would be firmly punished, but Hugh had the complacent thought that, being the eldest son of the First Citizen of the EF, he could never be subject to such punishment. Besides, he was a very cautious man, and made sure he was seen by no one when reading these books. Since he was new to the job the literature designated to him was never something extremely classified, and were almost always the typical ‘acceptable’ class of written material.


However, just a few days into his new post one of his employees called his attention to a book whose proper classification eluded him. Its pages were yellowed and its cover bore the picture of a strange beast, something like a lion with a goat’s head protruding from its shoulders, and a large green curling serpent instead of a tail. Its title was ‘Greek Mythology’. What on earth was mythology? Should it be classified under fiction with the rest of the simplistic fairy stories which pandered to the ideology of the ruling party? Or was it something more sinister: a fabrication of their enemies which gave alternate and deceptive accounts about the origins of society? A dangerous genre they called ‘history’, but which the EF simply called ‘calumny’. Such material was destined for destruction.


As Hugh flipped through the volume he found some of it was similar to fairy tales: it was certainly larger than life, involved monstrous creatures, and featured dashing heroes. But he found it puzzling that none of it seemed to take place in a modern setting as in the EF approved comic books, fiction and movies, which often featured duty-bound superheroes defending the homeland with advanced weaponry and extraordinary powers. The heroes in this book also occasionally had superpowers, but, oddly, the only weapons they ever used were crude clubs, swords and spears. To Hugh’s mind the concept of an ‘ancient past’ was completely foreign. As far as he knew, the modern EF dominated era was the only era that had ever existed, stretching back from his own time to infinity. He was familiar with the setting (Greece had always been a province of the Federation) but what could explain all the primitive weapons, clothing, architecture, and other assorted things seen in the book’s illustrations and descriptions? Was it just a peculiar quirk of some contrived fairy tale? Still wondering whether the book should be filed as acceptable or unacceptable, whether it was illegal history or harmless fiction, he resolved to find out more. The only way he could do that, however, was to explore the restricted history section of the book depository to examine some of the ‘Greece’ related written material before they were taken elsewhere to be destroyed. Perhaps because of his high status he didn’t seem to fear getting caught. Who could have the authority to punish the son of the First Citizen of the EF?


The same day as he had discovered the book of Greek myths he waited until everybody else in his office had gone home, giving some excuse as to why he need to remain at work a little longer. Then he quietly made his way down to search for some answers. The restricted warehouse was not as orderly as he had expected. There were no neat and clearly labelled wooden boxes on tidy shelves—but then again, who would bother to organise worthless banned material destined for the incinerator?


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Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-02-01 15:42:31


Because of this general lack of organisation it took Hugh more than one evening to find what he was searching for, so he continued to visit the warehouse each evening his employees left, and even when he found some other literature on Greek myths it wasn’t enough to sate his curiosity. He began to peruse (with a guilty feeling) some of the history books. The word ‘history’ had a sinister connotation for anyone living in the Federation. Everybody knew they were nothing but lies, slander and propaganda spread by the file barbarians who lived outside of European borders. But the seeds of doubt were already planted in Hugh’s mind, and he started to entertain the possibly that maybe, just maybe, the words in the history books he had began to read might in fact be true. These books he had found in the warehouse didn't directly slander the EF, and the descriptions in them seemed oddly specific, almost like they could be based on facts. Hugh began to imagine that there could have been a time before the dominion of the EF, where people were more primitive, acted and spoke differently, weren’t subject to harsh laws and were permitted to think freely. Hugh had reached the end of the first chapter of a book on Ancient Greek history and had lost track of time, completely forgetting that this evening was the evening when many of the banned books would be packed up late into the night and destroyed in the incinerator. One of his own employees had walked in the restricted section and discovered him.


Thanks to his high status Hugh wasn’t dealt with in the same way as an ordinary citizen would have been. His ‘treason’ was hushed up and only reported to a select few of his superiors, one of whom, of course, was his father, who was furious. Hugh was sent back to Belgium forthwith and was made to endure several of his father’s apoplectic outbursts about how stupid he was to break one of society’s most fundamental rules and put him in such an awkward position. These tirades went on and on and on, but no matter how often Hugh’s father bellowed about the sanctity of the regulations of the EF, or about how dangerous those false ‘history’ books really were, Hugh had lost all confidence in his father’s words, and his father could see it. After 3 days of silence between the two, the First Citizen called for his son and said there was something he had to show him.


Arriving at his father’s opulent manor just outside of Brussels (the place where he grew up) he was shown in by a servant and told his father was waiting for him in his private library. This surprised Hugh. In all the years he had lived in the building he had never been allowed into his father’s library. This area of the house was less like a room and more like a basement, and as he descended the steps that lead to it and opened the usually locked door he caught his breath upon viewing the interior of the library for the first time. It was huge; crammed with books and large wooden boxes. What was his father hiding down here? The First Citizen was sitting on an armchair next to a roaring fire in an alcove further into the room. He stood up and beckoned his son over to him.


Over the next few hours, and probably for the first time in his life, Hugh’s father was honest with him. The library they were standing in, he explained, was the only place in the European Federation which contained history books not destined for destruction. The books here were there to remind the First Citizen why history, the past which came before the EF, needed to be forgotten. This sounded somewhat paradoxical to Hugh but he listened to what his father had to say. The First Citizen explained at great length how the knowledge of history could only lead to violence and pain, and how history kept alive grudges between nations and communities that would never be forgotten. His father told him of pasts feuds he had never heard of before, those between Palestine and Israel, Ireland and Northern Ireland, South and North Korea, and countless others. Such discords, his father said, are put to rest when when the past is forgotten.


While all this was being explained both of them wandered slowly through the subterranean library, and when the First Citizen finished they found themselves at a distant end of it. Next to a shelf of wooden boxes containing God-knows-what was a tarpaulin covering some sort of bulky and ancient machine. When Hugh asked his father what it was, his father laughed, removed the covering, and explained that it was a ridiculous contraption from a time long past. It really was a ridiculous looking contraption. If Hugh had any knowledge of the 19th century he would have said it looked Victorian. It resembled an armchair on some sort of platform with a huge disk attached to its back and a cylinder and a switch on its front. His father said it was a time machine. Hugh had heard of such a thing from fiction and popular comic books. In such stories heroes would travel from the present to some other time in the European Federation’s history. However, since Hugh was aware of a history that stretched long into the EF’s past, the capability of such a machine was far more meaningful.


That night Hugh stayed in his family’s house, in his old bedroom, but he couldn’t manage to fall asleep—there was far too much to think about. Everything he had learned over the past few days raced through his mind: that there was a time before the despotic government of the Federation was even a thought, that, and his father’s words about the inviolability of the government’s laws. He had know idea how he could continue living in such a society when he was aware of all the lies at its core. Maybe there was less conflict in the modern European Federation, but it was based on deceit, and the ordinary life of a citizen was monotonous and bounded by the rule of a harsh and unforgiving system. After ruminating on this for several hours a solution to his problems presented itself. It involved the use of the time machine. If he understood the concept of time travel correctly, and he was by no means an expert, in going back to an ancient time he would be leaving his own timeline for another. In accordance with the butterfly effect, the timeline he arrived in could be changed by his mere presence. He could create a future where the oppressive Federation would no longer exist.


Careful not to make a sound, Hugh made his way from the top floor of the house to the bottom. The door at the bottom of the steps was left open from earlier when he had left the basement with his father. He flicked the switch on the wall and one after another the lights began to illuminate the shelves of the library. Hugh quietly made his way to the very back and uncovered the tarpaulin over time machine. Time to see if this ‘ridiculous machine’ still worked. He stepped over its gold railing and seated himself on the red cushion of the armchair. The panel in front of him displayed the date, month, year and location. Where should he go? After casting his mind back for a moment to the all the history books he had read back in Dublin, he left the first parts as ‘1st’ and ‘January’ but changed the final two to ‘480 BC’ and ‘Athens’. He pushed the switch in front of him slowly forward, the machine began to whirr, and his surroundings began to grow dim.


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Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-02-01 15:43:05


After a few moments the buzzing and humming of the machine began to soften and his surroundings began to take form. He was in a secluded grove. There were olive trees around him and he could hear the chirping of cicadas. It was morning. He did what he could to hide the time machine beneath some leafy branches and set off towards the rising smoke he could see in the distance—undoubtedly coming from the city state of Athens. As he drew nearer he could hear lyre music and the sound of reed pipes. The smell of roasted flesh was in the air—sacrifices. The houses grew more clustered as he came closer to the music and shouting. He noticed that he stood out in his modern garb: he was drawing strange gazes from those around him. At the centre of the hubbub a very strange ritual was going on, something he had read about. Several young boys were dancing in what appear to be women’s clothing. After a while they tore off their dresses which resulted in raucous cheers from the crowd. Hugh knew what this was. This represented their passing the the world of manhood, from boys to men. It was a new beginning for them too.


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Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-02-02 19:21:55


Sneaking this one in just under the deadline. I had a comment that the last story I posted to the forum could have been a prologue, so I let this story explore a truly ridiculous outcome that followed in its footsteps. Enjoy.


The Gatecrasher (1/3)


Inviting lights and the sounds of revelry streamed through the large windows, spilling into the night. Where the light fell it revealed a well-manicured lawn and neatly trimmed hedges. Music and laughter wafted over a tastefully abstract sculpture before continuing down the paved drive towards an open gate. The sounds softly greeted the figure who hesitated in the shadows just beyond. His hand opened and closed, grasping for a missing object, before the soft clip of the figure’s footsteps on the pavement produced their own accompaniment.


The stars shone fiercely above the grounds, seeming all the brighter for the lack of moonlight. As a playful breeze danced around the figure, it brought the sound of softer voices from somewhere nearby. Whispered words, the voice deep but rendered unintelligible by the time it reached the figure, drifted from behind the hedges. They were followed by a higher pitched gasp and restrained giggling. A third voice broke in, and this time the giggles were even louder. The figure’s hand opened and closed again, but his footsteps continued unabated.


Below the sculpture another group of revelers sought refreshment in the night’s chill air. They sat on the marble base, without regard for the effect such accommodations would have on their expensive clothes. Though dressed for a black tie affair, the guests’ attire was in disarray. Expensive heels littered the ground around the base, jackets had been draped over the sculpture’s lower arms, ties dangled loosely, and, in some cases, shirt sleeves were unbuttoned and rolled to the elbow. The women in attendance leaned against their partners, exhausted by dance and drink.


Their attention drawn by the unexpected motion, heads drowsily turned towards the figure. The party goers noted the existence of the ragged interloper, but offered little reaction. Their eyes instead stared through him, as if this stranger had simply alerted them to something far more interesting in the distance behind him.  One of the men, alone for the moment, took a nearby champagne flute in hand and lifted himself from the shelter of the sculpture. He ambled amiably in the direction of the figure, but turned back to his cohorts after just a few steps. As if on a predetermined signal, the heads of the still seated guests turned towards their standing counterpart. The man attempted to engage his fellows in a toast, but had trouble rousing any interest. Draining his own glass instead, he broke into a story of another party he’d attended to woo a potential client. The figure walked on, completely forgotten.


Partly up the stairway to the entrance, the figure stopped to stare at the group he’d just passed. The story teller was losing momentum almost as quickly as his listeners had lost interest, seeming out of place and alone until a barefoot woman appeared from the hedges and guided him back to his seat on the marble base. From the front, the figure thought, the sculpture had appeared to shelter the group reclining beneath it, like a weeping willow on the shore of a lazy stream. But now it loomed over them, a wicked presence with tattered wings ready to engulf the unsuspecting in permanent darkness. His hand opened and closed again as he turned back up the stairs and approached the doorway.


A man in a servant’s uniform stood beside the open doors, illuminated by flickering gas lamps. He took in the figure’s appearance with a look of obvious disapproval and placed a white gloved hand firmly on his shoulder.


“I’m sorry, sir, but this is a private function. And, with all due respect, your manner of dress is most unsuitable.”


The figure stood in the doorway, perplexed. The light streaming through the doorway seemed excessively bright, hurting his eyes. The music and general commotion of the party inside were much louder here than they had been outside, and the figure’s head was pounding. He looked over the man’s shoulder, then to his own right and left as if expecting help to appear. Instead, he felt the serving man’s grip on his shoulder tighten. When the figure turned to face him again, the serving man raised his eyebrows slightly.


“Sir, I’m afraid that if you do not immediately remove yourself from the premises, I will be forced to call someone to escort you.”


“That won’t be necessary, Eliott,” a new voice called from inside. “Mr. Yates has been expecting visitors who preferred to arrive unannounced. I have instructions to bring Mr. Nichols to the upstairs study.”


A tall man dressed in an elegant tuxedo that miserably failed to hide his impressive physique had entered the entrance hallway from a side corridor. His haircut betrayed a military past, and, though he spoke politely, his tone still carried an expectation of obedience. The man he had addressed as Eliott continued to stare at the uninvited guest, seething, before regaining his composure and turning to address the bodyguard.


“Did he? Perhaps Mr. Yates should reiterate to such visitors that they were expected to enter through the side yard and not in full view of the regular guests.” Eliott finally released his grip on the figure, ushering him inside. “Do be respectful of the other guests’ proclivities. They are here to celebrate the New Year, not be gawked at or interrupted by an unkempt ruffian.”


“Thank you, Eliott, but I’m certain your warning is unnecessary. Mr. Nichols doesn’t appear to be a troublemaker,” the bodyguard replied. “At this point, it doesn’t make much difference, anyway.” Though he delivered the words with a smile, the manner in which the bodyguard gripped the figure’s arm and led him inside made it all too clear that there would be no opportunity for trouble to occur. As the bodyguard led the figure to the side corridor opposite from where he’d emerged, the figure turned back to glance at Eliott. Eliott still stood in the doorway, staring at the pair with poorly concealed contempt. The flames from the gas lamps distorted his features, reminding the figure of a hideous caricature his son had once formed from clay.


“I don’t understand,” the figure addressed the bodyguard, “Mason never told me about a party. He didn’t even ask me to meet tonight.”


“Yet you’re here, anyway. Like I told Eliott, Mr. Yates is expecting you and others like you. Eliott drew his own conclusions about the manner of your visit, and I felt no need to disabuse him. You can discuss things further with Mr. Yates, but until then all you need to worry about is walking quietly and calmly to the upstairs study.”


The bodyguard’s voice brooked no argument. With no other option, the figure meekly followed his new guide. Passing through the doorway, the figure found himself in a short, softly lit hallway. Relief washed over him as he left the brightness of the entryway. The hallway was sparsely decorated, a landscape of the mansion in its first incarnation dominating the right wall. A trail of intricate vines carved into the crown molding caught the figure’s eyes, but the bodyguard’s brisk pace prevented him from inspecting them in detail. The two passed an open doorway revealing a group of relaxing men in outfits identical to the bodyguard’s. The bodyguard glanced inside but never slowed his pace, continuing to guide the figure down the hallway.

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-02-02 19:22:47


The Gatecrasher (2/3)


As the two rounded a corner, they were forced to an abrupt halt. A group of elegantly dressed men and women had formed an uneven circle, blocking the entire corridor. Unlike their exhausted compatriots outside, this group’s attire had not fallen into disarray. They stood perfectly still, some paired and displaying a perfunctory affection, but all gazing downward at a lone red candle placed directly on the wooden floor. The candle flame flickered just above a depression filled with liquid wax, jagged openings in the sides allowing the wax to run down the sides of the candle before drowning the fire. The wax ran out along the floor in tendrils, touching the feet of some of the surrounding guests, bending away from those of others. None appeared to respond to the wax spreading across the floor.


The figure scanned the group, worried that their unexpected intrusion might provoke some hostility. He opened his mouth, intending to ask the bodyguard what to do, when an older woman who stood closest to the candle raised her eyes to meet his. Icy cold gripped the figure’s chest, his free hand clenching by his side. More eyes rose to meet the figure’s, the motion creating a slow ripple as it emanated outward to the group’s outer members. The previously placid expressions began to twist. Their brows drew together, noses wrinkled and nostrils flared, and mouths pursed in sour distaste. The figure closed his eyes, trying to block out their stares, but could still feel their collective gaze crawling over him, somehow probing at this poorly dressed intruder. Bright spots flashed in the darkness behind his eyelids, and pressure began to build in his temples. He felt the bodyguard’s grip on his arm loosen, then he was enfolded from behind and being dragged backwards.


The figure’s eyes opened, revealing the group of suited guards rising from their seats. At some signal from the bodyguard behind him, the other guards visibly relaxed, a pair approaching to lead the figure to a small couch.


“Has that group been in the hallway long?” the bodyguard asked.


“They’ve been at it for nearly an hour and a half,” one of the guards helping the figure to the couch quietly replied. “Mr. Yates asked us not to disturb the guests unless absolutely necessary, and the door on the other side of the room is clear, so we didn’t think it’d be a problem getting around them. We tried to wave you over as you passed.”


“I see.” The bodyguard sighed, clearly annoyed at the turn of events. “Mr. Nichols will need a moment to recover. Maybe something to drink, too, before his meeting with Mr. Yates.”


The other guard looked up, confused. “Sir,” he said, “Mr. Yates sent word that he isn’t to be disturbed until morning. Something about wanting to enjoy the fireworks in privacy.”


At those words, the figure looked up, still groggy from his experience in the hallway. “I have to see Mason,” he said. “I came all of this way to see him, he owes me…”


As the figure’s voice trailed off, the bodyguard shrugged. “Mr. Nichols is expected. I doubt Mr. Yates would want him kept waiting. If it makes you feel better, I’ll take full responsibility for the interruption.” Turning to the figure, the bodyguard’s tone softened. “Have some water, Mr. Nichols, it will help with your head. We’ll head upstairs to meet Mr. Yates in a minute, but I can’t very well carry you all the way.”


The figure stared blankly at the bodyguard. Despite the additional padding years had weighted him with, he was certain the bodyguard could do just that if he decided it was necessary. He sipped at the glass, grateful that it did seem to relieve the pain. The bodyguard crossed the room to the opposite door, where he conversed quietly with a woman in similar dress.


Left alone for the moment, the figure contemplated the events that had brought him here. How Mason had seemed to appear in his life out of nowhere after he’d lost everything else, bringing with him answers that brought no clarity, but gave him purpose. How that purpose had at first filled what felt like an empty shell of a life, then consumed it. And now, with all of his tasks completed, that he had come to realize he was just as empty and alone as before. But Mason owed him. Mason had promised compensation, had assured him that everything would make sense in time. The figure had decided that time was now.


On unsteady legs the figure rose. He shuffled across the room, earning a quickly hidden look of surprise from the bodyguard. The bodyguard once again took the figure by the arm and began leading him towards the rear of the manor. The figure felt a twinge between his shoulder blades as they entered the hallway, this time on the other side of the candle watchers, but it diminished to an uneasy memory as the bodyguard guided him away.


The two men passed haggard servants, similar to Eliott, rushing to provide refreshments for the guests. They saw dancers in elaborate masks sweep through colorful rooms, accompanied by strings and woodwinds. Another group of guards, these at attention, quietly diverted guests from corridors leading to other wings of the mansion. They nodded to the bodyguard as he and the figure passed, following the hallway ever deeper.


The two reached a staircase, and the bodyguard led the figure upstairs. Hushed voices arguing frantically reached their ears as they climbed the steps, three guests coming into view as they approached the second floor. The figure felt the bodyguard tense at the sight of guests on the second floor.


“Oh good, I think that’s Mason’s man,” one of the guests addressed the others. “He’ll be able to take care of this.”


“Finally. You’d think Mason would show the slightest concern at his staff’s incompetence, but apparently he’s resolved to become a complete boor. Hello! Yes, you in the unfashionable tuxedo. There’s a small matter that requires your attention.”


The bodyguard turned to the figure as the group approached. “Mr. Yates is in his study. Walk straight down this hallway until another branches off to the right. Follow that branch, then enter the first door on your right. Mr. Yates is expecting you.”


“Excuse me, we’re speaking to you. One of your oafish hired men interrupted a flickering ceremony, and a whole host of nuisances has sprung up as a result. The worst of the mess is in the game room, but I expect it will spill out into the entranceway if you don’t contain it.”


“Madame, if you’ll excuse me, is there a reason you chose to seek out Mr. Yates rather than taking the matter directly to Eliott?”


“Eliott? Do you mean that cretin Mason forced us to walk past in the doorway? That unreliable derelict was nowhere to be found, of course.”


The figure slipped past the group unnoticed. He briefly wondered what ghastly fate had befallen Eliott, but decided he’d rather not know. Apart from the group he’d just passed, the upstairs seemed devoid of guests. His footsteps seemed overly loud on the wooden floors, and echoed disconcertingly in the emptiness. Following the bodyguard’s directions, he soon found himself in front of a large oak door. The figure stared for a moment, nervous. He was certain that closure lay in the room beyond, a finality that he was afraid to face. He just had to reach out and turn the well-worn brass doorknob.

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-02-02 19:23:30


The Gatecrasher (3/3)


The door opened inwards to reveal sizable reading room. Two walls were lined with bookshelves, the third a set of French doors opening onto a large balcony that extended along the back of the mansion. Two large, leather chairs with wooden legs ending in carved claws were positioned facing each other, an intricately decorated rug protecting the floor. An open book was draped over one of the arms, as if recently set aside. The butt of a cigar sat tamped into a nearby ashtray, but the neighboring coaster was empty, despite a ring of condensation. The doors were open, filling the room with cold air. The figure shivered and stepped inside, his hand closing in his pocket.


A man wearing only dress pants and a smoking jacket walked into the room from the balcony. “Eric?” he said, upon seeing the figure in the doorway. He looked over the figure for a moment, before continuing. “Well, you certainly don’t know how to dress for a black tie affair. But please, close the door behind you and take a seat. I’m glad you could make it.”


The figure took a hesitant step into the room, pulling the door shut behind him. “Thank you, Mason, but I think I’d rather stand if it’s all the same to you.”


“Of course, Eric, of course. Sit, stand, hell, you can lie down on the rug if you’d like. But there’s no reason to be so formal.” Mason walked past the figure to a small liquor cabinet and began to pour a fresh drink for himself, as well as a second glass. “It’s a party, Eric, you really should loosen up. Here. It’s close to midnight, you should be ready in case I decide a toast is necessary.”


The figure awkwardly took the glass in his left hand, but held it in front of him, slowly swirling the liquid. Mason smiled wolfishly, returning to the chair with the book on its arm. “You still look a bit stiff, but it’s a start. Now, if you’re not here for the party, and you’re not here to get absolutely smashed with me, I can only assume there’s something you want.”


“It’s done, Mason. And now I just want what you promised me. Just give me what you promised, and I’ll go.”


“I make lots of promises,” Mason replied, still smiling. “And I have lots of little tasks for my associates. You’ll have to remind me what it was I told you.” Prodding, Mason was always prodding, trying to draw out as much pain as possible. It was too much.


The figure took his hand out of his jacket pocket, where it had formed a clumsy fist around the knife’s hilt. The bone was smooth under his skin, polished by years of use, the carved symbols barely tangible. “They’re all dead, Mason. I took care of them all, with this knife, just like you wanted.” The figure could feel his eyes burning and tried to blink away the oncoming tears.


Mason set his glass down on the coaster, softly, so it didn’t make a noise. He stood, his bare feet sinking slightly into the rug as he approached the figure. Mason brought his outstretched palm under the figure’s hand, deftly catching the knife as the figure released his grip. Mason held the knife up, admiring the way the light made the edge shine and the glow of the carvings on the hilt. “Thank you, Eric,” he said. “You’ve done a very great thing for me. A very great thing for a great many people.”


The figure could feel the tears leaking from his eyes. He reached up to wipe them away, but Mason already had an arm around him, leading him to the balcony.


“I just want the truth,” the figure blubbered. “I just want to know who killed him.”


“And you will,” Mason answered. “But first come the fireworks, then you’ll get your answer.”


“Mason, I don’t want to watch fireworks. I want it to be over. Everything. I want everything to be over.”


“Look at the sky, Eric.”


“Mason, I don’t-”


“Look at the sky!”


Mason took the figure roughly by the shoulders and forced him to look out over the balustrade. His fingers wormed into the figure’s hair, forcing his head back, giving him no choice but to look up.


“Mason, I don’t understand. It’s just the stars.”


“Keep watching, Eric. The show is about to start!”


The figure stared into the starlit sky, unable to look away. Uncountable points of light flooded his vision, filling his head with pain. Incredibly, the longer he stared, the brighter the lights seemed to shine. The points grew and grew, until the figure could no longer distinguish individual stars. They condensed and coagulated, large globs of light stretching across the infinite. Then they began to flicker. The sky seethed and roiled as the lights flickered asynchronously, as if something solid was pressing against a thinning membrane, trying to force its way through.


“Mason, I don’t understand.”


“It’s fine, Eric. Everything is fine. One year ends, a new one begins. One universe ends, another begins. All an improvement on the past. This is our doing, Eric. You played your part beautifully, and for that we will all be rewarded.”


“I…I didn’t know. You said you knew what happened, whose fault it was that he was gone. I just wanted to know what really happened to Jeremy.”


Mason released his grip on the figure, a look of disbelief on his face. “Is that all you care about? The entire universe is being remade before your eyes and all you can think about is your dead son?” The figure turned a baleful stare to Mason. “Fine,” Mason said, “The truth, since what you’ve wanted all along. The truth is that it’s your fault. All of it. You killed him, because you weren’t there to catch him. But you couldn’t admit it to yourself, so you drove everyone in your life away. When I found you, you were a broken shell begging for a reason to live or an excuse to die. Now you have both. Try not to fuck it up next time.”


Disgusted, Mason moved to the other end of the balcony, leaving the figure alone. The figure turned his head back to the sky, despite the sense of vertigo it induced. He thought of the day he’d found his son’s broken body at the base of a decrepit staircase; of the weeks that had followed as he withdrew further and further, isolating himself in grief, until it was all he had left. He remembered when he stopped thinking of himself as Eric Nichols, of the years he’d spent trying to forget. And, when Mason had appeared, of finally feeling he was running towards something.


The figure continued to stare at the horrible, pulsating lights, even as his eyes screamed in agony. He wanted the light to burn out his memories, he wanted whatever was behind the sky to tear through and pull him away. In this universe he would never have a second chance, could never atone for his failures. Maybe he’d do better next time.

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-02-02 23:39:24


Ash was nothing new. It fell all day, everyday, as if life snow. The smoldering skeletons of homes burnt to a crisp was also nothing new In fact, you couldn’t go more than two blocks without seeing at least one. Hugging herself through layers of clothing, Devon peered into the busted window of one such house. The gnawing, sickening unease in her stomach was nothing new either.


Devon lingered in front of the old crone’s house for nearly five minutes. Strings of bird skulls rattling like wind chimes from beside shuttered windows. It wasn't the ghastly bits of decorations that made her hesitate, however. These pretties had stopped scaring Devon years ago.


No, it was her backpack. It bulged obscenely on her back, weighted down with the most important cargo of her life. Devon feared that harsh jostle might split a seam.


Devon saw the front curtains twitch, and instantly knew she had been seen. There came a click of a latch and then the squeal of rusted hinges. As the door cracked opened, a twinkling eye peered through at Devon.


“You just gonna stand out there, collectin’ ash?” The voice rasped like sandpaper.


Devon swallowed her apprehension. The door swung inward as she climbed the steps into the murky house.


The young woman’s ears were assaulted immediately upon entry. Clocks hung from one corner of the room to another, nearly two dozen in all. Devon’s head rattled with every tick, tock, and chime.


Now inside, Devon began stripping off her ash sodden overclothes. With her muffler and goggles removed, the first breath she took was heavy with the scents of strong tea and burnt sage.


The hobbled figure watched Devon, her eyes flickering periodically. They always traveled to Devon’s right wrist. There a bracelet of scar tissue with red stiches interwoven stood out like a brand.


Rena, the wise woman of High Harbor, grinned. On her craggy, pox scared face, this looked more like a snarl.


“Somethin’ catch your fancy out there, huh?”


Devon gave a sigh of relief as she hung up her trench coat on nearby coat rack. She felt a fifty pounds lighter without it.


“Guess you could say. There’s just something haunting about the Purged, you know?”


Rena grunted and started towards the far hallway. “If ya say so. Take your boots off and don’t track in any ash.”


Boots off, Devon now wore only her shirt and trousers. Picking up her bag, Devon went after Rena. She took care to tiptoe around the stray gears and bolts littering the place. Clock parts she suspected.


Halfway down the hall, the churning chorus of ticking suspended, but remained all the same. Occasional, a resounding chime would jump the gap like a hungry predator.


My ears aren’t bleeding anymore, so I’ll count that as a blessing, Devon thought.


When Devon stepped into the squat kitchen, Rena was hunched over a wide iron stove. Rena was handling a dinged teakettle. Carefully she poured tea into two large mugs. Next to Rena was a counter cluttered with filthy pots.


“Sit,” she said, gesturing to a table and a pair of chairs across the kitchen. The single word carried the weight of a blunt axe.


Devon sat. The chair, battered and shoddily repayered, groaned beneath her weight. It didn’t help that Devon rested her bag in her lap.


As Rena limped over, handing her a mug, Devon resisted the urge to shield the bag. There was another squeal of wood as Rena sat across from Devon.


Easy now. You’re just gonna trade with yond weird bitch like nothing is wrong. Just another day, right?


The table separating the women was marred with stains and niks of all shapes and sizes. A half spent candle lay in the center. Rena reached for it, pinching the charred wick.


Rena’s lips began to move, silently, mouthing something. Devon felt an icy breeze brush the nape of her neck, chilling her blood and plucking at her nerve endings. Thankfully, the sensation passed quickly.


There was a whiff of sulfur and then a sputter of light. When Rena withdrew her hand, a small tongue of flame clung to the wick.


The light deepened Rena’s wrinkles, turning her face into a shriveled jack o'lantern.


“Now, I believe we have some business?”


****


Devon was careful, always keeping the mouth of the bag angled towards her. Thankfully, scavengers of the fringes of High Harbor tended to be paranoid lot, especially when it came to their loot. Precaution was the norm, even with regulars. If Rena was suspicious of Devon’s precautions, she didn’t show.


Rena spent most of her time inspecting a silver music box Devon found the day prior. She never said anything, instead only a grunting every now and then as she fiddled with the box’s innards. The spent less time with the wind-up soldier and water filter Devon produced, yet Rena was still curious.


“Interesting things,” Rena said. “Nice things too. The box and the soldier I’ll take. That filter, though, is rat trash.”


Devon, who’d been a scavenger since she could tie her boots, knew the filter was fine. This wasn’t the day to get hung up on such scruples, however.


Negotiations were short. Devon only made an effort to haggle because it would be expected of her. When their business had concluded and Devon stowed the wise woman’s coin away, she stared at the wise woman with an eyebrow arched.


“Ya look like you want ask something,” Rena growled. Her fingers drummed slowly across the tabletop, making Devon think of a dancing spider.


“Yeah… I was actually hoping to see Opal.”


“Were ya know?” Rena sounded amused. “Don't ya have more stops to make? Your bag looks like ya gettin’ ready for a trip to Market Street.”


Devon shook her head. Beads of nervous sweat were rolling down her back. “Stopped by Market Street earlier this morning. This-” she patted her bag. “-is just trade from another job.”


Rena took a sip of her tea, then promptly rolled her eyes. “Fine, I suppose you can see ‘em. Opal wouldn’t give me a winks worth of sleep if he knew you'd been by and I didn't tell him. He's upstairs. I assume you remember the way?”


“I do. Thank you, Rena.”


Rena waved her off. Wood screeched upon wood as Devon stood. As she shouldered her bag, Rena sneered.


“Don't trust old Rena enough to leave your gunna, huh? I'm hurt.”


“I wouldn't trust you anymore than anyone else in High Harbor, Rena.”


“Aye, a smart girl you are. Be on with ya then.”


****

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-02-02 23:51:18


Devon stood outside the bedroom door, fist posed to knock. It felt as if she had been here for hours. The hallway on the second floor of Rena’s house was sparse of clocks. The only bastard to mark the creeping passage of time was a peculiar grandfather clock standing atop a pair of stilt-like chicken legs.


Devon glanced towards it. Five minutes. She sighed. The hard part was over, so why was this so difficult?


Finally, Devon forced herself to knock. Silence for moment, than a warm, musical voice called from the other side of the door.


“Just a second, ma’am, I’ll be right there!”


Devon held her breath, trying to calm her racing heart. Floorboards creaked as feet patterned in her direction. Devon’s heart leapt as the door creaked opened.


Devon was struck by an odd case of deja vu. A face appeared in the doorway. A dim corona of light outlined the head of a young man, framing his pale complection and turning platinum hair into glittering strands of stardust.


Faded pink eyes regarded Devon dumbfoundedly. She about to say something a smile as sunny as daybreak dawned. Devon couldn’t remember anyone who looked at her with such frank joy.


“H-hey, Opal,” Devon said sheepishly. “Dropped by to trade with the old lady. Thought maybe I’d say hi and-”


A hand, as smooth as porcelain yet as strong as steel, clamped around Devon’s wrist. Before she knew it, she was yanked off her feet and into the bedroom.


****


The landscape of Rena’s house changed completely once inside of Opal’s room. The clutter which dominated kitchen and den stopped were nowhere to be seen here.


From her place on Opal’s bed, Devon was surrounded by four steril walls the color of soot. The only pieces of furniture here was an old dresser and a small sewing station in the corner of the room.


Time and time again, Devon found her gaze wandered to the ancient sewing machine. The spools of thread stacked there were the only real splashes of color in the room.


The biggest difference of all was the quiet. Not even the faintest tik or tok heard up here.


Opal stood before Devon, a flowing evening gown pressed tightly to his lanky frame. The crimson garnet seemed to bleed against the milky flesh of his arms.


“You couldn’t have come at a better time,” Opal said merrily. “I've had this beauty tucked away in the closet for a week now, and I still don’t know how it looks on anyone. I don’t have a mirror, and Rena... well...”


An image of the hunched crone in the vibrant gown, with its long hem pooling around her bony ankles, made Devon giggle.


“Trust me, you don't even need to explain. Picturing it says enough.”


Opal threw his head back and laughed. The sound was melodic, like the twittering of a bird.


He did another half-turn and the gown rippled as made of sequins. To see such a rich color after weeks of rooting around through ash and soot. Devon touched the ring of scar and stitch around her wrist, her smiling face slowly growing somber.


“You’re far too talented for this world, Snowflake. Far too talented.”


Something in Devon’s tone made Opel pause. He studied her, brow furrowed.


“Something’s troubling you.” A statement, not a question.


Opal took a step towards Devon, the gown now draped over one arm. Vipers of anxiety wrestled in the pit of Devon’s stomach. She forced herself to remain composed as she laid a hand on the bag beside her.


“I want to show something, but... I have to know that you can keep it secrete first.”


Opal’s spirit dwindled at the word ‘secrete’. He bit the corner of his lower lip. When he spoke again, it was in a hushed whisper.


“Maybe you shouldn’t. Secrets aren’t nice… not in this house…” Opal couldn’t help a quick glance over his shoulder.


Devon forced herself to smile. “I know, Snowflake, secrets are scary… but it’s something I need to show you. In fact, It’s something I want you to sow. Sounds fun, no?”


Though still sceptical, Devon saw Opal’s eyes light up.


“Sow what?”


“Promise me first. You don’t have to help, but you have to promise me you’ll keep this secret.”


It only took Opal a second to make up his mind. The thought of an actual commision was all too enticing for him. There was no disguising his enthusiasm now, for Opal’s face was glowing like a night light.


“Not word, I promise. Now show me.”


Devon sighed. She hadn’t realized that she had been holding her breath. Carely, Devon undid the bag’s drawstring. She rummaged around for a second before pulled out a flap of what would the strangest material Opal would ever see in his life.


Opal’s gaze widened. “That… no. Is that what I think it is?”


“Come and feel it for yourself. Just a touch and you’ll know for sure.”


Drawing closer, Opal reached for the material. His fingers twitched with curiosity. The swatch of feathers was soft, finer than any silk, yet as yielding as leather. Devon was right, just a touch and Opal knew that this was a wingtip.


Opal stared at Devon, mouth slack. “A Guardian’s wing? Where? How!”


“Not so loud,” Devon hissed. “I didn’t kill a Guardian if that’s what your thinking, as if I actually could.”


“So what, you just-” Opal shuddered. “-found a...”


“Yeah, I found a dead Guardian.”


Devon’s expression grew grave as she recanted the story. “Two days ago I was out doing my rounds in the Fringes. Some asshole had found my sweet spot to the north. It was pretty picked over when I got there. Well.. I didn’t want to just lose a day of scavenging, so I decided to push farther out some.”


Opal plucked at the collar of his shirt unconsciously, a nervous tick Devon saw rarely.


“But isn’t that dangerous? Rena’s told me some nasty things about the Fringes.”


Devon laughed horsley. “You bet your ass it’s dangerous. What you touched should be proof enough of that. Anyways, it was about an hour and a half later when I found him… just lying face down in the rubbage. He was stone cold, but not… you know, too corpsy. Couldn’t see what killed him either. I think he just feel dead out of the air.”


Opal shivered. “And he was just laying there?”


“Just laying there.” Devon looking down at the bundle in her lap.


The wing tip hanging out of the bag’s mouth was softer than anything Devon knew of, yet, she couldn’t help but feel repulsed by it. Soft or not, it was still a bag of mutilated flesh.


“I spent the better half of an hour sawing these damn things off. Did you know their blood is gold? I do...”


A lumbering minute of silence passed between the friends. Opal was horror stricken. His throat worked to regurgitate the words lodged there, until at last he coughed out a whisper.


“Why did you bring this here? Why’d you bring it to me? This… this bad, Decon. This is a death warrant at best.”


When Devon lifted her head, Opal was chilled further by the hard severity in her gaze. Devon’s only response was to raise her right arm. Opal saw the crimson stitching interwoven into a bracelet of scar tissue and understood. How could he not understand? That clean bit of stitchwork was his own.


Opal swayed on his feet. “You… you can’t be serious…”


“I’m dead serious. Life here in High Harbor is just as much of a death warrant. I know you can’t fully understand that, Snowflake, but I also know that’s not your fault. Rena keeps you locked up here, away from the Proctor and the Guardians. You can see a few of the crispy remains of their raids, but you don’t see how their not just burning one house every now and then. No, they’re taking out blocks at a time.”


Devon paused, struggling with a cumbersome boulder of emotion.


“They torched the neighborhood right next to my house yesterday. My place is covered in the ashes of people I’ve known my whole life. I can’t be certain my block won’t be joining them soon, Snowflake, but I can assure you I don’t intend on going up like a tinderbox.

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-02-02 23:54:43


Devon stuffed the wingtip back into the bag, set it aside, and stood up. Opal shrunk back as she approached him, but his room was too small to flee. Two steps and his ass was planted against his dresser.


Devon clasped either side of Opal’s neck, squeezing ever so gently. Turning away wasn’t an option. Even so, Opal was captivated by Devon’s grey eyes, and the determination they carried.


Grey, he thought. As grey as ash.


An electricity current circulated through Devon, passing into Opal as if he were a conduit. He couldn’t help but shake at the feeling of such a raw emotion.


When Devon smiled, Opal felt his jittering nervous begin to calm. “I know it’s wrong of me to ask this you, especially after what you’ve already done for me. There isn’t anything in all of High Harbor or the Fringes that could equal what you gave back to me. That’s why I wouldn’t ask for your help if it wasn’t necessary. Plese… help me get out of High Harbor, Opal.”


Opal sagged at her touch. With his baggy clothes and lithe from, it felt to Devon as if she were holding up a tattered scarecrow. He could’ve been something that she had scrounged out from the Fringes.


Minutes passed, and Devon was starting to grow worried. How long before Rena would came knocking? Opal’s resolve was weak as it was. Seeing his mistress now would likely shatter it completely.


Eventually, strength slowly flowed back into Opal. He brought one pale hand up and rested it on her’s. The contrast of milky flesh on chocolate was decadent.


In a tone as hushed as rainfall, Opal asked, “Can… can you come back tonight?”


Devon grinned. Pulling Opal close, she brought her brow to his. The scent of him was that of burnt sage and fresh lenin. Joy beyond any that Devon had ever known welled up in her chest. It felt as if she might burst with it.


“Thank you,” she breathed. “Opal… thank you.”


At last Opal smiled. He wasn’t sure it was the warmth of gratitude in Devon’s voice, or the tenderness in her touch that reassured him. He decided it didn’t matter.


When they parted, Opal stumbled weakly to his bed. He sat flopped down on the edge. His hands fidgeted with the hem of his faded shirt.


Devon studied him, worried. “Is there anyway I can help with?”


A shake of the head. “Best you not. I think I know what to do. I don’t like it, but it has to be done.”


Such sadness in his tone. Devon embraced him one last time, holding him as long as she dared, before collecting her bag.


“I should probably get going before Rena starts snooping.”


“That’s a good idea.”


Devon lingered by the door, almost reluctantly. A one sided deal like this made her feel dirty, but she knew there was nothing for it. Eventually she turned and left.


Alone, Opal would continue sit and ponder. His head swam with horrid horseflies of thought. It wasn’t just the task of getting what he needed to help Devon that bothered him, but something else as well. Devon’s touch had awakened a longing Opal thought he had buried years prior.


Looking out his window, Opal day dreamed of what might lay beyond the beyond.


****


Night fell like a lead blanket on High Harbor. Devon moved deftly beneath its cover, avoiding the bow legged Sweepers as they went about their rounds, sweeping up the day’s ash fall. Fires burned in the distance. Devon did her best to ignore their ominous glow. She made her way through the streets without incident.


Standing in front of Rena’s house, Devone debated how she’d get Opal’s attention. It seemed he was looking out for her, however, for door creaked open when she reached the frontsteps. Opal materialized like a spector in the doorway, bidding Devon onward.


“Come on, quickly.”


Devon followed Opal inside. Minutes later they were tucked safely in his bedroom.


“We don't need to worry about Rena, do we?” Devon asked.


She unslung her bags and set them by the bed. There were two now: the wings in one, scrounged provisions in the other.


Opal was by his sewing station, unspooling a fine, crimson thread. When Devon saw what he was holding, the scar around her wrist began to tingle.


The Life Line.


Opal shook his head. “No. I fixed her afternoon tea today. It’s… possible I slipped some poppy extract into her cup.”


“Good thinking,” Devon said, impressed with her meek friend.


Opal continued prepping for another minute or so before pausing. Devon started to grow suspicious.


“Why’d you stop?”


Opal cleared his throat. “If… if we do this, Devon, I want one something in return.”


The young woman dropped onto his bed. “I’d figured you might. I’m not sure what I could give, though.”


Opal turned towards her. Tears stood in his eyes like cut diamonds. In that instant, Devon knew what his request would be.


“Take me with you.”


Devon stared at her friend. “Do you really, Snowflake? If this operation work, but we still get caught-”


“I know very well what it means,” Opal interjected. “Death if a Guardian catches us. If they don’t… we don’t come back. That’s what it mean.”


“And you’re fine with that? Fine with leaving one of the only safe places in High Harbor? Fine with leaving Rena?”


Opal swallowed. Buds of rose blossomed on his cheeks.


“Devon, I’m nothing but a plaything to Rena. I’m just something that’s caught her fancy. And you know what? That scares me. I’ve seen what happens when her fancy passes. No! I want my life to be more than passing the time till she gets bored of me.”


Devon studied Opal, weighing him almost.


“Well, I hope you plan on bringing more than just the clothes your wearing. I brought previsions, but only what could fit in my bag. Not sure how long it’ll last between the two of us.”


Opal swayed, swooning with religh. There had been a nagging fear that Devon might refuse him. Sure, Opal could axe the procedure, but where would that leave him? Devon was resourceful enough to strike out on her own and survive, but Opal?


The boy turned and pointed towards his dresser. A bulging duffle bag lay beside it.


“I started packing as soon as Rena went to sleep. Think I might’ve cleaned out her pantry.”


Devon blinked, shocked at its size, then grinned. “Boy, sure looks like you did. We’ll have to think of a way to take it with us, but I’m not too worried about that.”


Opal flashed a smile, but quickly grew somber. “I’m ready… are you?”


Devon closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. A second later she nodded.


“Yeah, Snowflake, I’m ready. Let’s get this over with.”


****


Opal loomed over Devon. She lay face down on his bed, her back bare. His eyes danced over her flesh, both amazed and embarrassed. Then he looked to the wings. The lay, nearly three feet in length, on either side of Devon.


Opal raised his hands. His right wore the thin thread like crimson glove, while the other griped a crystal sewing needle. Carefully, Opal pricked his right palm.


The response was immediate. An iridescent light filled the room, turning everything red. As Opal’s blood trickled onto the Life Line, thrummed with power. After taking a steadying breath, Opal took the stump end of one wing in his threaded.


It was time to get to work.


Hearing wingbeats over High Harbor was nothing new. Most would hear them and cower in their homes, praying that they aren’t in the scheduled Purging. It was this fear that kept any prying eyes from seeing the speeding shape crossing the night sky.


Devon had spent the entirety of life, scuttling from one trash heap to another. She would avoid one Purging, then scuttle on. Nothing more than cockroach. But now?


The curtain of ash laden clouds opened before up before her, revealing something she couldn’t have ever conceived. The skyline stretching out in front of her was artist’s easel of colors. There were blues, purples, golds, and… pinks…


With her face buried in the wind, Devon threw her head back and screamed in triumphant. Her heart and body soared with her voice.


Opal looked out at the world with the eyes of a newborn. There was space, and more of it than he could have dreamed of. He should’ve been drowning in all of it. Perhaps he was.


He touched the arms linked around his chest as if it were a life preserver. For him, it probably was. He ran a finger over the line of scartissure and stitches on Devon’s wrist. Feeling this, he felt neither the weight of space pressing all around him, nor the weight of the bags tethered to his legs.


The friends rode the winds up and up, to a new life.

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-02-03 00:10:36


(I don't consider this story really finished and it's not checked for grammar, but whatever.)

Neon Gaia


PrimalSpark, a tall, gaunt man with dark hair, stood in his bedroom. It wasn’t a big room, the walls were gray, and there were various electronic devices such as consoles, computers, monitors, spread on one side and a medium sized bed with sheets that had animal designs on top. He walked to his bed, then sat on it and closed eyes.


PrimalSpark felt like he was suspended in mid-air and saw nothing but pure darkness. He instantly heard trillions of words speaking softly, saw billions of various tiny images zip past him, and saw a beam of light directly in front that enveloped his entire body. Next thing he knew he saw an entire place made of green vector lines shaped like buildings against yet another layer of darkness, and then he slowly drifted down towards it. As soon as his feet touched the ground, color slowly began to spread around the area around him before quickly tinting the entirety of the environment.


Afterward, he could make out what the gridlines represented: a large city that could humble any man. The sky was orange and the tall buildings were colored dark but were illuminated with various differently colored lights to guide and excite anybody there.  A city with a wide arrange of culture that managed to act as one strong and strange community. There are many interesting and weird cities, but this one was an innovative one simply from the mere fact that it managed to be one of the first to exist in a separate plane of existence from the physical world. This separate plane of existence was amazing because it was the amalgamation of sapient minds and technology coming together in place you can go to in out of body experience.


PrimalSpark started visiting the city the month prior, but quickly adjusted and liked what it had to offer him. His community in a separate city was a once proud place itself, but the corruption and the politics slowly irritated him until he had enough and left to Neon Gaia when it became the more attractive option. Neon Gaia lacked the same amount of corruption, its government listened to the community’s words more than the speech of money and was a place that valued “alchemy” --- a para-physiological ability that can create or mold objects and effects among other purposes.


One day, Primal Spark was bored and decided to take a stroll across the city so he could he see all the beauties and perhaps horrors that it had to offer him. He saw tall buildings, many roads, but most importantly, various odd fellows and the eye-catching work they had produced with the use of their alchemy. Some used their abilities to create statues that were almost literally alive, holograms that were life-like but essentially puppets, or created weapons seemingly out of nothing where they then fought in friendly duels.


He went to the park where he saw various people conversing, relaxing, or exploring. He felt like relaxing there, so he went to a nearby bench next to a pond before a billboard with various posts caught his eye. He waltzed over to the billboard and suddenly the posts on it all glowed different colors with their respective pictures and icons suddenly displaying simple animations. The one that intrigued him was a storytelling contest. However, the organizer of the contest, “Hence”, wants to see the story done in front of him in person with the alchemy abilities to help with the storytelling, perhaps adding a visual element that could spice things up.


An icon resembling an envelope appeared on that post, PrimalSpark placed his hand over it, and his mind relayed the data necessary to schedule an appointment. After the icon disappeared, PrimalSpark then went to the bench, sat down, and then contemplated what sort of story he wanted to tell. He knew from the beginning he wanted to tell a doozy.


Later that day, PrimalSpark showed up at the city’s extensive local library and then walked over to the room that he would meet Hence at. The door was shut, so he knocked on the door and waited for someone to open the door. In a few seconds, the door opened, and a bearded, muscular man greeted him.


“Hello, are you PrimalSpark?” the man said in a friendly tone.


“Yes, that’s me. Hence?” PrimalSpark reached out to shake his hand and the man shook it firmly.


“It’s Hence,” the man replied. “Go ahead and take a seat over there if you’d like. Just get comfy and you can show me what you have prepared when you’re ready.”


PrimalSpark took a deep swig of water from his bottle and cleared his throat. He sat motionless so he could gather his thoughts before speaking or doing anything. He then took out multiple small pieces of paper from his pocket. Those pieces of paper then folded themselves to resemble birds and they then flew to the center of the room where they then unfolded themselves flat against one another. Those pieces of paper together resembled one television sized piece of paper with crayon scribbles on them.


PrimalSpark began speaking in a slow, but gentle tone. “There was this place called Light Haven. All right, well Light Haven was a good place, just like this one. I was from there, I’d know. Just like this place, it had a very community, alchemy skewed very much so towards the gallant class, but it was nice. The mayor held events and festivals often so it could be fun. Anybody that was out and about was usually down to mingle.” The scribbles on the paper scrambled around and then resembled a group of stick figures dancing around.


Hence started scratching his chin. “Ah, I’ve heard of Light Haven before, but not in a long time. You’re from there?”


PrimalSpark shook his head. “To be honest, I’m not from there myself, but I began frequenting that place when I was a teenage baby boy. Very young. I was too shy to say anything, but I went around during these events and used my verbal alchemy skills to get off myself off the ground, and I started to make friends and feel important. “

“That sounds great, makes me wonder why you left.” Hence said to that.


“Oh it just went to complete crap.” PrimalSpark’s tone started sounding more bitter. “I made lotsa good friends there in Light Haven, especially my friend Bill who I’ll love forever. I went to many a party there and I’ll cherish some of those real good times where me and my chums would joke about the dirtiest stuff. But I’ll cut to the skinny, the real juicy part.

A combination of messy things happened, but first I’ll say the creator and owner of that domain became a total party pooper who became somewhat inconsiderate. Whenever infrastructure needed repair, he’d tell us change was coming, but all that ever happened was that he’d just sit on his ass somewhere else making deals with corporations instead of listening to our needs. He seemed like a chill and fun guy at first, but he became a sellout.”


Hence raised an eyebrow and then spoke. “Our guy Jim Crush running this place would never sell us out. He always listens, he makes fixes and adjustments asap. He’s the man of our people in my opinion.

PrimalSpark chuckled. “Huh, is that so? I heard many good things about him, which is one of the reasons I came here. So, in Light haven back in the day, as things got worse and the law enforcement got worse at doing their job. People were doing annoying or hateful things all over the place they did nothing, and they certainly didn’t punish those that payed ‘em off or were in the right position. It all became a giant joke.” The scribbles on the page began to resemble violent flames that gave rise to smoke. “To make matters worse, a controversy basically unrelated to the community made it all worse. The event that shook the entire realm was ‘Gallant Stigma’.”

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-02-03 00:13:57


Hence had a puzzled look on his face. “I remember this. It was a giant, annoying mess. It was basically a movement, a war, and a bunch of nonsense rolled up into one. So how did that start? What was your real involvement with that?”


“Um, I will say that it’s kind of hard to explain how it all started, and maybe some will disagree with me, but it all began when a woman in a position of power named Chelsea Davidson.” The scribbles formed the image of a spectacled woman. “She was an alchemist. However, I don’t think Davidson was a very talented one, but she was part of a very influential group of alchemists with many followers. One day, her brother got extremely mad at her, claimed she was abusive, that she cheated on her many ex-boyfriends, and slept with multiple people to get into positions of power and spread her influence among more people.”


“Haha, wow. She sounds crazy.” A high-pitched whistling could be heard and then Hence got up. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’m gonna pour some tea right now, want some?”


Primal thought about it. “No thanks. I got myself some water here. I’m good to go in terms of thirst and bladder levels but thank you.”


“You don’t want any cookies, though? My friend Eighting made these. Or at least I think she did. She brought them and they’re good. I can tell you that much.”


“Oh, I’ll take one.” PrimalSpark walked over to the plate of cookies, took one, and then took a bite out of said cookie. “Mmm, they’re not bad. Anyway, these allegations of Davidson being a manipulative, con artist caused a rift with some people. Some people believing these allegations and others thinking they were harassment and slander. Davidson primarily blamed Gallant type alchemists for further spreading what she considered to be defamatory statements. Davidson felt that their culture in specific was perhaps the most malicious of the alchemist classes.”


Hence’s face nearly gave a scowl. “Many of my friends are gallant type alchemists. A lot of them are very rowdy, but they’re not all the same.”


“Yeah, I used to mostly hang around a bunch of them. Very fun people I will say. But, moving on, this was during the time I noticed everyone around me was acting weird. Before I was completely aware of all the GallantStigma stuff, a friend of mine was just acting very odd. She was constantly going on rambles about the event and I didn’t know what was going on. I had to investigate it, and I was shocked with everything that was going on…But it was also kind off funny or interesting to see this develop. Like it was a big train wreck… An absolute disaster, but I couldn’t help but look.”


“It was funny?” Hence gave a slight smirk. “You made it seem like a tragedy at first, but you’re talking about a woman using sex for power and I’m sort of confused. I know this event happened, but there’s so much of it I’m not familiar with.” Hence was so far amused at the story.


PrimalSpark started speaking again. “I mean, there was funny stuff about it, but it became such a dreadful thing. You wouldn’t be able to escape it. So, I investigated the event, I found stuff about Davidson and a bunch of other alchemists. And my opinion was that Davidson and her kin were con-artists and liars. They claim to be great alchemists, but they don’t make anything of note. They take people’s money for projects they either never finish or half-ass and I feel like they play victim for sympathy and attention. That’s my opinion. And that opinion caused some of the most frustrating moments of my life.” He paused.


Hence just stared into his cup of tea, wondering when something funny or juicy will be brought up again. He then took another sip of it.


Primal started again. “One day some friends of mine were spouting stuff about Davidson’s innocence, and while I gave them the benefit of the doubt at first, I felt there was a load of evidence against them. This didn’t sit well with my friends Joan and Skunky, who felt they were innocent. They tried convincing me they were innocent, but I would not budge because I had read and seen too much incriminating evidence. We got into huge arguments on a regular basis about it. But it was normal. People everywhere were arguing about it. It was about ethics and identity politics, so it was bound to get crazy.”


Hence decided to give his two cents. “Politics, religion and stuff like that can be quite annoying. They say if you want to keep your friends, you never talk about politics or religion. You should be careful with any hot button topic.”


Primal sighed. “Well you know, I made that mistake before, but I’m very opinionated. I’ll be honest, even though I thought their opinions were stupid, I acted like a dick myself. I regularly made Skunky’s statements seem like jokes and even talked to some of my closer friends about how dumb he seemed to me. My so-called “debates” with Skunky became infamous around our social circle.” The picture on the paper began to resemble two stick figures pointing swords at one another.


“Ah, well….” Hence took another sip of his tea. “That was a while back. Maybe you guys patched it up.”


“Believe me,” Primal shook his head. “We tried, but both of us had trouble putting it all behind us. Yet, I think he had more trouble. He began to take every other statement or opinion I had as a jab at him. I’d make a joke, and he’d think it could be some vague attempt at mocking him.” Primal sighed. “One day, Skunky messaged me about meeting up with him on the outskirts of town in private.” The picture on the paper resembled a meadow at sunset.


“Just where is this going?” Hence seemed uneasy with the developments in the story.


“Skunky was just pissed at me. We had a chat and…” Primal turned and looked at the wall for a second. “Negotiations broke down. He got really, really angry and he used his power to create this giant otter looking thing made from green ones and zeroes.” A giant pissed off otter pouncing at a stick figure showed up on the page. “It leapt at me but I summoned a big wall in front of me that it slammed into. In anger, Skunky made the otter smash the wall into bits, but the next thing he knew, I wasn’t there behind the rubble. I was behind Skunky and I literally kicked his ass, sending him flying into his weird, digital otter creature, where it broke apart into a giant green ones and zeroes mess. “ And a giant green ones and zeroes mess appeared on the page.


Hence just sat there in silence. His interest was piqued.


“Undaunted, he reformed the otter’s supposed corpse into a giant voxel-looking suit of armor and then he formed an axe, almost out thing air and then he pointed it at me.” A large pixel-style armored man with axe appeared on the page. “Skunky was like, ‘Listen, you’ve been nothing been ignorant, and I refuse to accept your behavior. Several others have been concerned your behavior and it’s about time you learned. I do not want to see you ever again. I will warn you right now that I’m not the weakling you think I am.’ I says to him: ‘you think I’ve been an unreasonable jerk, but you’re literally pointing an axe at me for God knows what reason.’”


“What happened next?” Asked Hence. “I’m going to guess neither of you felt like kissing and making up.”


PrimalSpark answered by continuing with the story. “Skunky swung the axe at me. I dodged out of the way and formed a metallic boxing gloves and gave a strong uppercut to his face. He then grabbed me and tossed me down onto the ground with great force. He tried to choke me but I created a large stone hand that picked him up and tossed him away to a lake. We never spoke again.” The paper became black.

Response to MWC19 - January- New Beginnings 2019-02-03 00:15:50


Hence frowned and then spoke. “Did this story have a happy ending?”


“Over time it manages to have something of a happy ending. But that took time. Eventually I became estranged from most of the people I was friends because of my fights with Skunky and because I was so insensitive during that time. The city was eventually sold out quite literally by the mayor-slash-creator because he felt he was getting too old and tired to the run the thing. I left LightHaven never to return again a year later because the place seemed depressing and it became a terrible place to show off the artistic stuff I liked doing with my alchemy.”


“There, there,” Hence said in a reassuring tone. “That doesn’t matter now, we’ve got cookies”


“That’s true.” Primal remarked. The paper began to resemble a city with firework bursting above. “And now, I’ve got this city. A year later I moved here to Neon Gaia. I never regretted that. Great community, excellent place to share alchemy-based artwork and practice my technique I feel very much at home. The tall buildings, the festivals held here… It’s all so beautiful. And I’ve met some decent people. I honestly feel like I haven’t made too many friends here yet, but that’ll change soon. And I still got my best mates I keep in touch with anyway.”


Hence smiled and laughed. “I’m glad you found peace and you like it here.”


“Oh, I love it here. I wished I had moved sooner. I heard both good things and bad things about this place, but nobody or nothing is perfect, and there isn’t a better place for me to be.”


Hence replied to that. “I heard similar things at first back in the day, but it’s been 15 years since I came here to Neon Gaia. It’s a beautiful place and there’s always something new and interesting going on. The guy we got running this place has done a good job, and I don’t intend to leave for the foreseeable future.”


“Sounds cool to me.” Primal remarked. “I messed up really bad in the past, but right now, I feel like there’s no better time than tomorrow. I hope I can help make this place better. It’s pretty good as is, but maybe I can do something for it.”


Hence took his last sips of tea. “All contributors are valued. Not everything made is good, but it’s nice to see some people grow and become masters of their craft.”


“That sounds great. Anyway, I’m off now.” The paper formed back into multiple paper birds that flew into Primal’s pocket. “Give me like two cookies please because I’m off. I’m off to create a giant, living breathing sculpture.”


Hence set down his empty tea mug on the desk next to him. “All right, see ya. You better send some pictures or bring it over here.”


Primal nodded and then left. He wasn’t sure whether the story had satisfied Hence, but he was happy at least getting it out there to somebody and giving a piece of history for Hence to consider. PrimalSpark was not in the best place in life, and he was very unsure of his abilities and his place in the universe, but just arriving to Neon Gaia, seeing it’s wonders and its inhabitants made him feel like there was something grand awaiting for him to either conquer or claim.