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Hall-19 Writing Contest

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Please only post stories in this thread. Any discussion can be held in the discussion thread found here.


Due date:


October 31st 2019


Prizes:


$100 to 1st place.


Rules/Info:


Submit multiple pieces or just a single piece. While I don't necessarily mind multiple pieces, it would be nice to see the effort and time put into a single work instead.


Please write original pieces. While I wouldn't really know that you pulled up an old piece of writing you made years ago it does kind of defeat the purpose of the competitions. (To write!) If I find it posted on the internet anywhere else I will assume that it is plagiarized and it won't be entered into the competition.


Short story format only please. The last couple of years I've also allowed poems, but we find out that no matter how well written a poem is it never places against a well written short story.


Other than that no word count or topic limitations. Just make it Halloween or Horror related.


Other:


It's a good idea to write in your preferred program and then copy/paste into notepad to get rid of some of the weird formatting between Word and newgrounds that can happen. Whenever I post I write in word, copy/paste into notepad, then copy/paste into an old newgrounds blog page to make sure the format look good before posting.


Try to keep your story posted together. It just makes for smoother reading. If you see someone else posting their story please wait until they've finished.


If your story will be multiple posts it's not a bad idea to write "continued on next post" or something similar to help judges and other people who are posting stories stay organized.


Don't comment in this thread unless you are posting your story. Please comment in the discussion thread posted here and on the top of the page.


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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-09-20 14:22:13 (edited 2019-09-20 14:23:08)


"Grey Days" by QAN


The insanity not spoken with lips and tongue,

makes noise in my mind for fun.

Often misunderstood and ignored,

comes to play when bored.


I was never much of a writer, but those words bring me pride as I stab this miserable sack of disease.

It’s eyes melt, with brain matter flowing out of the sockets.

The mess soaks into my clothing, changing my skin.

The itching is damn near indescribable, and the feeling in my boots doesn’t help my mood.


The clock is ticking on my life.

The enemy we face infects all.

They are typical in scope.

Predictable in purpose.

A pack of dreaded shambling forms bent on consumption, bending flesh to their destructive will.


Five shots left.

Due to the fight, my reload is out in the open.

Going for it will put me at risk.

That's something of a paradox, as my skin turns black.

My shiny backup is intact - a much better alternative than laying here.

It beeps at my touch, singing a final chorus of a prelude to a final push.


My comrades are gone.

The ones coming will know what to do.

Mere minutes to cause a distraction.

My mind wanders to the betrayal that scarred me...

Its appropriate to think of her twisting that emotional sword in my back, casting me out.

Abandoning me when her help was needed the most.

That pain is much more than what scratches at me now.

A reminded of what I can handle.

A cold shower preparing me for what must be done, snapping me back to a different pain that seems so small now.

It’s time to get on with it.


This tired body doesn’t want to respond, but I force the issue.

Being swarmed by the enemy puts an exclamation on this final moment.

Their crazed smiles give me a comfort of sorts.


They won’t know what hit them.


FIN

Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-09-22 01:52:08


The Maze of Words.


It a tradition of my fathers on halloween to put a scarecrow up in the front yard and then after the night comes takes his clothes and dress as him and go trick or treating. Sure dose beat silence of the lambs cept yet now they hunt lions orion style and with the double lio in my last name it makes me feel like I have to be some kind of royal guard to the lambs, so you see it's the beauty that protects the beast half the time. I'll be studying ty-che asap.


Many Moons ago in a korn feild in my city that is tampa, we (meaning me and a few of my family and friends) walked into a maze and it is perhaps we never came out. cept yet joined the circle of life. The thing about this maze is it is designed to scare you to all wits end but I have ever been afraid of it and maybe aliens saw us and visited us while we were invegresting the internet long after halloween had ended. If you haven't guessed it yet the riddle can be solved by anyone who wants to finishing the story it all just depends on who you are in Gods reality.


I end this here says Jaso and it ends this I tell you. That all corridor doors to the Maze of Words Lead to one Place.


The Thrown room.


Now give me the 100 dollars and I will continue to entertain to mr fro I find you a worthy master to be served.


Michael Jason Busciglio

11 4 W Emma St

Tampa FL 33606



In Case of Emergency Before 911 Pray 611 and after word Sing a Revolutionary 9611.

Genesis 9.Revelation 11....+.......

Mathew. 6. Luke 11.......Psalm 96.

Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-09-22 03:36:24


that is 33603 not o6 my bad


In Case of Emergency Before 911 Pray 611 and after word Sing a Revolutionary 9611.

Genesis 9.Revelation 11....+.......

Mathew. 6. Luke 11.......Psalm 96.

Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-01 21:15:01


THE BUTCHER


A fresh snowfall in late October muddied the streets of a quiet southern Alberta town, as a skinny young boy looked out the window of his quaint bungalow into the road. The sun was slowly making its way out of the darkness of the night, casting a blue tone over the sky through the ice crystals in the air, starkly contrasting the deep orange glow of the sodium lamps which lighted his street. The boy, no more than eight years old, stood with a slouch in his white pyjamas, with his hands on his hips and his shoulders hunched forward. Strands of his thin blonde hair fell forward, causing an itch upon his eyebrows and forehead, and with the back of one hand he pushed the hair from his face to the side. Peering through the slats of the open blinds, the boy watched the street as a dark pickup truck passed by his home, spraying mud and wet slush into the air in its wake.

The boy cried out “Mom, when will Dad be home?”

“I’m not sure, Daniel. He hasn’t called. Not to worry, I’m sure he’ll be back soon.” his mother answered from the kitchen. “He probably stayed out to avoid driving in this awful snow.”

Daniel turned around and looked back into the house. He saw his mother in the kitchen with her fair brown hair pinned in a bun. She was beating a bowl full of eggs with a fork, standing over an electric range with a shallow pan placed on the burner. A loaf of bread in a plastic bag lay next to her, open with several slices knocked over, spilling onto the counter top. A dish of warm butter sat next to the stove with a knife resting on it. Daniel’s mother lifted the knife, scooped some butter, knocked the knife against the hot pan flicking the butter down onto the hot cooking surface and the butter sizzled and spat briefly, then she dumped the bowl of eggs into the pan and began to scramble them with her fork. Toast popped, the pan scratched and banged, the crusty bread was scraped with a butter knife, and plates clanked. Daniel took his place at the breakfast table and his mother brought two plates over and sat in her seat. A pendant light above the table shone a warm yellow glow over the two of them as they scarfed down their breakfast together quietly. This was a ritual Daniel and his family performed most every Saturday, but without his father, Daniel was visibly upset and at unease, and his mother was particularly quiet.

“Are we still going to the Halloween store today?” Daniel asked.

“Oh, yes, I suppose we could.” his mother answered softly, but her voice creaked with hesitation.

“That’s great!” the boy exclaimed. “I’ll get dressed after breakfast!”

Daniel scooped down a few final forkfuls of eggs and shoved the crusty end of his toast into his mouth and took off down the hallway towards his room. His mother sat silently and looked out the window wondering to herself when her husband was going to return.

Daniel’s father was a hunter, and a drinker, and chronically failed to let his family know where he was going and what he was doing. He had made a habit of disappearing on weekends after work, sometimes for a few days at a time. When he’d arrive home he’d say his hellos to his son and exchange pleasantries. His wife, worried and upset and angry, would confront him when Daniel would leave the room. The man would promise to be a better man. He would promise to stop drinking. He would apologize profusely and swear to never leave without calling again. And sure as the sun rises, Daniel’s father would repeat the cycle over.

The sun had now risen, and Daniel and his mother bundled up in warm sweaters, with toques and mitts. His mother started the car and brushed the snow from the roof and windows while Daniel sat tightly in the back seat. The car was quite cool inside still, and Daniel held his two forefingers to his lips, inhaled deeply, and blew out slowly pretending his breath was smoke. His mother got into the car, pressed the cigarette lighter into its socket, pulled a Du Maurier cigarette from its red packaging with her lips and put the car in gear. She rolled down the window a crack with a half turn of the handle. With one hand on the steering wheel, she lit her smoke with the other and pulled out into the street.

It was a short drive along the back roads to the Halloween shop, which stood in a strip mall lot, where an out-of-business discount clothing store used to be. The two pulled into a parking space near the back of the busy lot, and walked through thick slush to the entrance. A big sign decorated the front door with the words ‘The Halloween Store’ in black text across a pumpkin. Posters in the window read ‘Spooky Savings’ and ‘Chilling Costumes!’. The bustling store spared no expense in decorating their shop that would do all its business in just one month of the year. Plastic bats hung from the ceiling. Phony spiders dangled from cotton cobwebs. Orange and black streamers filled the air and aisles above the busy multitude who had made it out this Saturday in spite of the snow. Row after row of the aisles were filled with costumes, makeup, and Halloween decorations. Several cardboard bins of pumpkins sat near the checkout lanes as passers by popped one or two of them into their carts.

Daniel’s eyes lit up at the site of the place, and he took off without his mother in search of the perfect costume to go trick-or-treating in. His mother walked casually through the aisles of decorations, pretending to look for a new decoration or knickknack.

“Linda?” a voice called out from behind her. “Hey, nice to see you here. How are things?” he asked.

“Hi, George. Good. Things are good. And you?” she answered.

“Can’t complain. Is Mike here with you?”

“I thought he would have been out with you, George. He hasn’t come home.”

“Oh no, that’s not good.” George answered. “Mike left my place around two – maybe two-thirty last night.” he said with serious concern. “Jeez, I’m sorry, Linda, I really hope he’s alright. I’m sure he’ll turn up.”

“He always does.” she answered. “Don’t worry too much about it.”

“Say, Linda, I just got all that venison packed up from our hunt a few weeks ago. It’s all labelled and wrapped up. I’ll swing it by your place later today.”

“Thanks, George. You know where the deep-freeze is in the shed, there should be some room in there.”

“I’ll let myself in.” he proclaimed and smiled. “Is Danny here with you?”

“Oh, yes, he’s around. Looking for a perfect Halloween costume I imagine.”

“I’ll be sure to say hi if I see him.” George said. “Have a lovely day, I’ve got to go find a pumpkin now.”

Linda continued with some more browsing, and absently picking up and putting down Halloween themed items before Daniel came running back to her. In his hands he held a white coat, apron, a large plastic knife, and a few bottles of fake blood.

“Mom, I’m gonna be a butcher” Daniel exclaimed.

“That’s nice, Sweety.” she said “I think that’s a great costume.”

“I’m going to cover it in blood. I’ll definitely scare old Ms. Jenkins down the road with this.”

“I’ll help you with the fake blood, dear. And you be nice to Ms. Jenkins this year. She’s getting frail in her old age.”


Continued on next post... 1 of 3


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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-01 21:16:10


Later on, back at their home, Daniel and his mother were watching the local news on their television. The weather was calling for more snow into the foreseeable future. Daniel’s mother turned the volume on the television down with the remote and all that could be heard was the faint static of the TV humming. Daniel and Linda were sitting together on the couch wearing knit sweaters, staring at the silent images on the screen when they heard a knock at the door. Linda got up from the couch, walked to the door, and slowly opened it a crack. Through the swinging screen door she could see George standing outside. He was wearing his hunting plaid, an ushanka with the ear-flaps pinned up, eight-inch black boots covered in snow, and thick beige work pants.

“Hey Linda!” George said with a smile on his face, and condensation freezing in his whiskers.

“Oh, hello George, good to see you again.” Linda said courteously, she opened the screen door to let George into the doorway.

“Hi, Daniel!” George said, waving to the boy.

Daniel, still on the couch, waved back timidly and his voice squeaked out a small “Hi.”

“So Linda, I dropped off some of that meat in your freezer just now.” he said. He was still holding a small package of meat wrapped in butchers paper and tied closed with twine.

“Thank you, George.”

“Any sign of Mike yet?”

“Unfortunately, no.”

“He’ll turn up, Linda.”

“I certainly hope so.” she said, but in her voice you could hear she didn’t believe it.

“Well, I saved you your favourite. Liver!” exclaimed George.

“Thank you so much again, George.” she took the package of offal from him.

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.” he said, and then he paused for a moment. “I know it’s getting tough to make ends meet for you and yours, what with Mike’s new job and all.”

“We’ll manage.” said Linda. “We always do. Take care George. And thanks again. Say goodbye, Daniel.”

“Bye, George.” Daniel said quietly, keeping his eyes glued to the silent television screen.

“Take care, guys.” George said before turning around and walking back to his idling truck in front of the house.

Linda closed the screen door, followed by the front door, and locked up before flicking the toggle switch by the door, powering down the glowing sconce outside. Linda walked to the window and watched George pull away in his truck. The snow was coming down in large wet flakes which glistened and meandered in the orange glow of the street lamps. Linda brought the package of liver to the kitchen and slapped it down on the counter with a wet thud. She pulled a cutting board from a cupboard down below, set it on the counter top, grabbed a ten-inch chef’s knife from a knife-block on the counter, and reached for an onion nearby. She placed a pan on the burner, turned the heat to high, and began to trim the ends of the onion, cut it in half, and peel back the skin. She chopped the onion julienne and placed the slices in a bowl. She untied the butcher’s twine and folded open the paper revealing a dark purple liver. The tough connective tissue normally covering the organ had already been removed, and she patted it dry with a paper towel. Placing the meat on the cutting board, she made several deliberate slices. She tapped a liberal knob of butter into the pan, then dumped the bowl of onions in and began to sweat them down until they were clear and just starting to brown in the hot fat. In went the chunks of liver and the smell of meat and iron filled the house.

“Sweety, can you set the table please.”

Daniel came into the kitchen to grab some plates, forks and knives, and placed them around the table. His mother grabbed the hot pan handle with a rag, and brought the liver and onions over to the table. With a wooden spoon, she dumped a portion of the meal onto each plate, brought the pan back to the sink, and then came and sat down at the dinner table with Daniel. Daniel poured himself a glass of milk and the two of them began to fill their bellies with the most succulent meat they had ever tasted. The liver was perfectly seasoned and buttery, and so moreish that they both put their utensils and table manners aside to lick their plates clean.

Linda put on her boots and a light jacket that hung by the back door, and went out to the shed to grab some more meat from the deep freeze. Cold and snow-covered, she came back in and placed the meat in the fridge to thaw for supper the next night.

Daniel was getting ready for bed, brushing his teeth first, then changing into his pyjamas. His mother came to the bedroom to tuck him in. She softly rubbed a small spot on his forehead between his eyes.

“Thanks for dinner, Mom.” he said with a soft tiredness in his voice. “It was delicious.”

“You’re very welcome, Daniel. Goodnight. I love you.” She replied.

“Love you too, Mom. Goodnight.”

Linda turned the lamp off next to his bed, and left the room shutting the door before getting into her empty bed herself.

The next morning, both Linda and Daniel woke up late. They had slept so deeply that they felt very refreshed upon waking, but they were both famished. Tummies rumbling, the two of them headed to the kitchen to grab what they could easily eat from the refrigerator. Daniel grabbed an apple and some bread from the counter. Linda began to slice some cheddar that she found in the back of the fridge and eat the thick slices as she cut each one from the block.

“Boy, I’m starved.” muttered Daniel with his mouth full of bread. Before finishing his mouthful, he grabbed a box of cereal from the counter and reached his hand in to grab the cereal with his hands and stuff it in his mouth. His mother reached into the box as well and they polished off the remainder together.

Linda, standing in the kitchen in her bathrobe, lit a cigarette that she pulled from the counter. She inhaled deeply and exhaled, and tapped the cigarette into a nearby ashtray. “I’m still hungry.” she said to Daniel.

“Me too, Mom.”

Linda put out her smoke, and pulled some eggs from the fridge and began to prepare her famous scrambled eggs and toast. This time she added extra eggs and butter. At the table, the two of them ate the eggs and toast, making only grunts and smacking their lips as they chomped and choked down the meal as quickly as they could.

Their bellies were full but they were not satisfied. Linda grabbed the meat from the fridge that she was saving for supper time because she could not stand aches and grumbles, nor could she stand the site of her baby boy going hungry as he had been. She untied the twine, folded open the paper, and blotted the blood with a paper towel. She began to sear two steaks in a hot pan with butter, and again the house filled with the mouthwatering scent of meat cooking. She grabbed one steak from the pan with her bare hands and handed it to Daniel. She took the other in hers and the two of them began to gnaw on the hot buttery meat that was sweating and steaming hot. 


Continued on next post... 2 of 3


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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-01 21:17:29


Finally the two were satiated and they sat together on the couch, curled up under a blanket in their Sunday clothes which consisted of a robe and the pyjamas they slept in. A warm wave of contentedness passed over the two satisfied ones, and they had forgotten for a moment that the man of the house was not at home with them.

The television was on again, and the weather and news were calling for more inclement weather, snowstorms, and a severe chill over the prairie town. Daniel’s mother rose from the couch to put her boots on at the back door once again, and headed to the shed to grab some more meat. She returned with her arms full of neatly-wrapped and tied bundles of the butchered animal from George. Daniel and his mother fell asleep together on the couch taking a gloriously restful nap. When they awoke they were hungry again still.

Over the coming days, the pattern continued with the snowed-in family. The weather prevented Daniel from going to school to see his classmates, and he and his mother would unwrap the meat, sear it with hot butter, and stuff their gullets with the delectable flesh. Where Linda was once blotting the blood with paper towel, she was now pouring it directly into her mouth before she began to cook. After eating they would always take a warm and comforting nap, waking after several hours only to feel their hunger and rumbling guts come to an unbearable climax once again and they would have no choice but to chow down on more of the animal’s meat.

Days passed with no sign of Daniel’s father. The passing of time was muddled by the erratic sleeping and eating patterns of Daniel and his mother, but it was now nearing Halloween night and the meat that they had hoped to last them the winter was nearly gone. The storm had let up and trick-or-treaters were expected to be by this evening. Daniel and his mother had barely exchanged words in this time, and neither had bathed since they first tasted the mouthwatering liver that Saturday evening. Neither party had suspected anything was awry or that their actions had been strange. The only thing either of them cared about was filling the voids left in their stomachs after eating and napping.

Evening was coming as the sun began to set over the town and the sky turned a dark blue and the street lamps came on. Daniel’s mother pulled three bundles of meat from the fridge to make another meal before kids began to show up at their door. Daniel put his butcher’s costume on, and sprayed fake blood on his white apron in preparation for Halloween. His mother opened the first package, a stringy sinewy cut with the bone in. She placed the meat on a board and sipped up the blood from the paper. The second package of meat contained two thin steaks which she also placed on her cutting board, and again slurped up the juicy blood that the steaks had been marinating in. As she untied the twine on the third package, her hands began to shake with excitement over the thought of what cut of meat could be hiding inside. She licked her lips in anticipation. Slowly she pulled the string, undoing the loop of the knot. She pulled the other side of the twine, and gently folded it to the sides. She unwrapped the paper folds and as the paper came open she sucked back a painful gasp from the air. A rancid smell filled the room, not the pleasantly meaty odour she was expecting. An insipid taste filled her mouth, and a wave of shock passed over her body. The sight and smell of what she beheld gripped her so tightly that she vomited directly into the sink. With the purge of her stomach’s contents came a wave of lucidity that she had not felt since eating the meat for the first time. Inside the brown wrapping of the butcher’s paper, what she saw was a cold and white human finger that she instantly recognized as her husband’s. Torn between her sickness and her hunger, Linda felt light headed and stumbled backwards. She stifled another purge, throwing her hands over her mouth and violently folding her body at the abdomen. She hacked, and coughed, and retched, and shook with nerves. Linda placed the cold hacked-off finger of her late husband on the counter top next to her, and let out a sob of grief. She picked up the round cut of meat that had been next to the finger and placed it on her cutting board. Tears began to roll down her face. Hesitantly she sat there staring at the food in front of her. Her eyes began to swell and she wiped her cheek with one hand. Linda was still experiencing the dire hunger she was all too used to. After a moments pause, she leaned forward, slowly at first, sniffled in an attempt to suck up her tears, then shoved her face directly into the pool of blood that had been festering inside the butcher paper, and sucked the blood up with her lips pursed. This made her weep the more a great deal. She buttered her skillet with the slap of her knife on the pan’s edge, and began to sear the meat for her and her son.

“Are you okay, Mom?” Daniel asked, noticing her red and teary eyes.

“I’m fine, darling. Everything is going to be fine, my love.” she answered, rubbing her face. Another sob escaped her quivering body.

The two of them began to eat of Daniel’s father, and felt the familiar wave of warmth and sleepiness start to come on.

A knock sounded at the door. Linda answered. Three children stood in Halloween costumes. A bundled up dragon, a boy in a wizard’s hat with a wand, and a football player simultaneously cried out “Halloween Apples!”

Linda had no candy to give to the children. Daniel came to the door to see what the fuss was about, holding a slice of cooked meat in one hand near his face, which was dripping hot butter down his blood-soaked apron. He pulled chunks off of the perfectly tender meat one by one, and handed them to the three kids. The kids each reached out to grab a piece and slowly began to chew on their meagre portions. Daniel’s mother closed the door, and the boy and his mom stared blankly at one another for a few moments.

The lethargy and flushing familiar of the feast of flesh overcame Daniel and his mother, and before any more trick-or-treating kids could come to the door, they had fallen once again into a comforting and restful slumber. 


3 of 3 - 3702 words.


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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-07 07:11:47


Paranormal Paranoia

Left, Right, Left, Right...

George walked along a lonely street, a road that had not experienced the sensation of human flesh ever since the race had left the western lands and secluded themselves in a country far away from where he stood. Why this happened, he cannot guess, for that happened a long time ago, and just like it is in our nature to think that it is normal that we divide ourselves into countries, people do not even bother to question that.

Left, Right, Left, Right...

His mind was focused on the soles of his feet, for the human race did not only left a world that was rotten to its core, but also left another breed of creatures along with a small group of sane humans that decided to stay with them. They called them ghosts, but since they never had a past life, they aren't the same spirits that we come to know in popular fiction. Instead, they are transparent beings that have certain quirks, like reading minds and turning objects into macabre things that are only understood by their own kind. Humans were able to live alongside them, but George had not.

Left, Right, Left, Right...

Something caressed his shoulder.

Or he hoped someone... something did.

Was it just his adolescent imagination? He thought that was only for children, so he guessed that it must be real. He looks around his environment. Buildings that bend at strange angles mocked his existence while lamposts that glowed black hues made it so that he is the center of attention to any predator in his surroundings.

He takes a sac of flour and a bottle of yellow liquid from his satchel. His mother said that the flour is for detecting any invisible ghosts that ever try to harrass him, while the yellow liquid is to paralyze them, long enough for him to run away. Why not use the red liquid? he asked during his first day at the west. The other kind of mixture was used to instantly kill a host.

Oh, we do not do that, sweetie. They have rules in this land.

George always found that ironic. If a law was supposed to uphold peace and order, why would it prevent him from doing that? Sure, he would not be living in the same west if not for the constitution, but why did they limit themselves into changing it every two or three decades? No matter, he thought. Whether we have laws or not, there will always be a loophole that causes disorder.

Back at the present, the lonely teenager clenched a hand full of white powder. If he can hear where his stalker was, he can throw the ingredient at him, exposing his very position...

He heard footsteps at his back. With the aid of his reflex, he tossed a few of it at his back. It must have dodged it, though, because George can now feel his presence at his side. He retreated and tossed bits of flour at the ground. This time, he could see the footprints of his attacker, and a sudden gust of wind grabbed hold of some of the baking ingredient and flew to the surface of its foot. From there, George could barely notice the presence of the ghost, and with a woosh from his satchel, he grabbed the yellow vile of liquid and...

“Stop!” the ghost said. George placed the substance back inside his bag. He recognized the voice.

“Mary?” he asked,

The ghost revealed itself to him. “I was just pranking you, George! Jeez, you are always so stiff and uncomfortable. You should learn to relax and live free like us ghosts!”

(continue to next post)


TheVanillaLog

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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-07 07:25:49


It turned out, the lonely boy was not as lonely as he thought he was. He kept forgetting that it was a custom for ghosts to not reveal themselves unless they wanted to, which made it so that he never noticed the crowd of spirits that drifted, making their way to queer yet normal jobs and strange yet cozy homes. It humanizes them a bit. thought George. He guessed that through time, he might learn to live with this race.

Mary, however, was a different sort of ghost to George.

He met her just a few days ago, during his first week at school. He was in a room called The Purifier, where ghosts nourished themselves by eating a strange fruit that grew at a purple tree planted at the center of the room. It was basically lunch for George, and while he sat at a red stump in one corner of the room, with his meal lying over a bizarre lump on the ground that may represent a table in this part of the world, he saw that there was a herd of the other kind that watched him from a distance.

They were talking with each other, or at the very least, reading their own minds. He can tell by the way their facial expressions indicate internal speech, but he could not directly understand what they are saying. Was something wrong with him?

Did he sat at the wrong table?

Did he made a wrong move that violated their customs?

Was he wrong in overthinking this situation?

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong....

His mind can only think that. It was a horrible state to be in, and he wished that he could disappear like the spirits that roam the halls.

Then, out of nowhere, a hand reached over his shoulder.

George screamed, his mind suddenly taken away by the loop of negative interpretation. He looked back, at his sides, and back again at his front. Then, in the space between him and the band of onlookers, a being of semi-transparency began to reveal itself. It was a girl, and she had a white dress similar to what the school rules state in regards to the clothes to be worn inside the institution. She also had black hair, which was the most outstanding feature to George. No one from the human race had dark hair; if there is, it must be a recessive trait. However, it is a dominant characteristic in this other kind, and he could not help but get intrigued by it every time.

“Hello?” he said hesitantly.

“Hi!” the other said. “Sorry, but we cannot help but notice that you are all alone in this slumper over here. Do you crave to sit along with the rest of my souls over there?”

George started processing that sentence. He remembered from his culture class that ghosts use words differently, like how they use crave instead of want, and souls instead of friends. He is not all bewildered by her choice of words, but he is, indeed, by what he should say next.

If he says no, he might hurt the feelings of this random encounter with the other kind.

If he says yes, however, then he would have to face rejection at some point during their friendship; something that he feared most.

It doesn't take a detective to see that George is a completely different person to the rest of the inhabitants in the west; who would want to hang out with him, anyways? He doesn't have supernatural abilities nor does he have clear knowledge of the west and its trends, so why bother with him? He could only hypothesize that the girl was only doing this out of pity, or that they were trying to bully him. In any of the two situations, he was nothing but prey in a complicated web of social order.

“Wow, your thoughts just ran through the underworld.”

“What?”

“I mean, look at you over here, coming up with a tactic in dealing with my fellow souls over at that slumper. I am just asking you to sit with us. What is so hard about that?”

“I am not thinking that...” George defended himself.

“Really?” she stared curiously at his eyes, giving him a hint in regards to the context of the situation. “You know that I am a ghost, right? You might as well be honest about it.”

He sighed. “Well... you do make me nervous because... you know... with me being a human and you being a ghosts and all...”

“You don't like us?”

“No! Of course not! It's just that we are different. All of you can read minds, turn objects into something else, and become transparent, while I just do nothing in the corner over here...”

A punch from somewhere within his insides was felt. There was this feeling in his stomach that made him think that he may have been too honest, even if he knew that the person beside him had never heard of such a thing. Or did they? George wondered. Analyzing a book can be done the same by anyone, but interpreting it is a different labyrinth that may have multiple paths in getting to the end. That was what his basis is for what it means to scan other's braincases, and she figured that her thoughts on his thoughts was different from his thoughts on his own thoughts; subjective yet complicated.

“So that's how you really think of the situation?”

“Yeah...”

“Well, since you've finally unlocked the gates of heaven, I might as well share a key with you.”

She pointed a finger at some of her souls. “We think of you as an interesting host. While we were having our little feast, we were having this debate on how humans act and live. I mean, you cannot read minds, turn transparent, or turn objects into something else, but you exist, and that really puzzled us. That lead us to questioning things like how do humans communicate or how do humans make stuff and other sorts that made our heads jumble.”

George gave out a chuckle. “You're joking, right?”

However, as he stared at her eyes, she noticed that her purpose was the opposite.

“Come now. Let's talk with the others.”


TheVanillaLog

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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-07 08:07:00


(Continued from last post)

...

His mind was once again at the macabre surroundings of a city that twisted and turned at obscure angles. They were standing at a sidewalk with no conceivable end on both sides, waiting for a flaming chariot to take them home. It was once the most distinguishable thing in George's mind, but ever since Mary came to his attention, his fear had somewhat disappeared in a single blink.

No, it wasn't the fear of realizing that Mary was the invisible ghost all along.

No, it wasn't the unknown fear of the grotesque lines and shapes that inhabit this grand city

No, it wasn't the offensive fear of being with things that are the closest thing to ghosts.

It was... something else.

“You know, Mary.” said George. “I have been having this weird feeling lately. It's as if I'm... scared of something.”

“Why are you telling me this?” asked Mary.

“Because it is in my mind right now, and you might have already read it before I had a chance to notice you doing it.”

She gave an angry look. “Reading minds is a choice, not something we do automatically. In other words, we are not spies.”

“Then why do you always keep reading my mind? As far as I can tell, I didn't give you a hall pass for that.”

She raises a shoulder. “Well, it's just a habit, you know? Don't we all crave to know what's going on in people's skulls? It's unearthly, I know, but think about it. We don't always know what others are thinking or feeling towards someone. Are they mad, sad, or just dead inside? You just can't help but read them, especially when you start thinking that they are thinking about you... you know?”

“You're not really defending yourself.” George shrugs. “But interestingly, I kind of like it that people are thinking about me.”

“What?” Mary asks.

Before George could speak, he looks left, then right. Nothing was moving, or at least that's what he saw. “I don't know why, but I keep on having this feeling of constant dread. It happens everytime I am alone, and I do not understand why I keep having it.”

“You're probably a target of a hooded one.”

“What?” asked George.

“It's an old legend in this part of our earthly realm. The hooded one is a creature that stalks humans that have no one but themselves. She distorts reality as we know it, and it leaves the person in a world so grotesque that explaining this dimension could not be fully encapsulated with words alone. Why she does this is unknown.”

“Are you telling me that I am living in some sort of lie?”

“No, but like any legend, it leaves people to interpretation. What do you think that means?”

“I don't know. Don't be lonely? We are talking about a story made long ago, so emphasizing the need to be with a group was needed since being alone in a wild forest can lead to dangerous stuff.”

“True, but people still say that this story applies in the present time.”

“What, that three heads are better than one? I've heard of that.”

“No, not that. Other ghosts say that when you're alone, your mind start to wander through places that you're not supposed to go to, and if you're not careful, you are going to spiral into some sort of madness that only people who've been to that state will understand.”

George laughed. “You're exaggerating. I've been alone for a couple of times now, and nothing like that ever happens.”

“Really? Maybe you haven't been like that for too long. Anyways, the point is that you should really start talking to us ghosts. You've been avoiding us lately, and while I've been forcing myself to stop reading your mind, the way you've been acting is really making me wander. Are you still shy?”

A gust of wind blew over there shoulders. “No, it's not that. Its just that...”

George paused, trying to think of what he should say next. “It's just that I have been finding it pretty hard to start conversations, you know.”

Mary raised an eyebrow. “Really? It doesn't really seem like that. I mean, we've been talking for quite some time now, and it doesn't seem to end anytime soon.”

In his mind, though, George had a different answer to that query.

Before he moved here, he once watched a play with his mother. The drama's plot was all about a man trying to rescue a princess from this dragon. It is not a very sophisticated plot, but what he did take note of was the four friends that accompanied the hero of the story.

He remembered their names to be Jim, Desmond, Fray, and Lock. Jim was the comic relief, Desmond was the wise wizard, Fray was the main character's best friend, and Lock was the strongest of the group. In his opinion, they were a million times more interesting than the main character that he could only wish that one of them would be the one to get the princess's kiss.

But that did not happen.

Instead, all of these characters were killed off one by one. Jim was first, followed by Desmond, Fray, and Lock. The main hero was heartbroken and so was George. In the end of it all, the friends did nothing but slow down the hero's progress by putting themselves in danger.

After the play, he asked his mother a question. “Do you think it would be better off to have no friends at all?”

“What do you mean? You should have friends, George.”

“Yes, but they only seem to slow down your progress more than help you, and when you finally lose them, you feel sad. Don't you want to not feel that?”

To him, while he thought that his friends are interesting companions, he did not want to feel too attached with them. To him, friends can limit your choices in life and make life much harder. It seems pessimistic of George, but he questioned sometimes on whether he should care for one person or not. To him, he thought that caring for one person can do more harm than good in the near future.

So it was better for him to let go of them before it is too late.


TheVanillaLog

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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-07 08:15:16


(Continued from last post)

...

The chariot arrived at his house before the clock strike six. His home was a little cottage on a hill, a few miles away from the metropolis populated with the other race of creatures. He thought that the two environments would be different from one another, but it is not so different as he had anticipated. He was alone again, or should it be said that he was always alone, and for a brief moment, he had encountered someone else. He can never be quite sure, for while he had companions back at school, they never felt like that. They are like shadows in the background, only being mentioned only once or twice, but never more than that.

For a moment, he heard a strange sound from the bushes planed around the little hillside. It was faint, but almost as if no one was there.

“Is someone there?” George shouted.

No one responded.

The wooden gate that served as the entrance to his front lawn opened. It was his mother, who wore a dress with a red hue. “George! You're back!”

He walked toward his mother and gave him a kiss on the cheek, as it is the tradition for most boys when they return from a long journey. The beautiful sunset was emitting an orange light across the hill, and for once, George forgot that they were in a foreign land that disobeys the laws of the gods. The moon was transparent in the kind oily sky, and it was like living in an artpiece stuck in time.

“Good evening, mum. What's for dinner?”

She was holding a basket filled with vegetables. “I am thinking of using a recipe given to me by a Carol. She had been giving me pages of her new cookbook in the mail!”

“Carol?” questioned George. “Do you mean the same neighbor we had before we left our country? You're still talking to her after our move?”

“Well, of course I am! It's not like I've ever abandoned her! She is just in the other side of the world.”

“Hm. I thought that you would have stopped talking to her by now.”

“What? Why would I do that? Our friendship is not going to be threatened by whether we are together in a single place or not. We are going to make sure that our friendship lasts forever, even if it means having to spend our savings on post cards!”

It seems like too much work. Wouldn't you want to save those money on sustaining our rent? was something that he wanted to say, but he thought that it would be too mean. He does understand what his mother is thinking, yet the more he thought about it, the more it doesn't make sense.

“Our frienship crosses boundaries, and if it doesn't do that, then what's the point of having friends that don't sacrifice a bit to help each other?”

You don't need to sacrifice all the time, so why do you still do so? was something that he wanted to say, but he thought that it would be too malicious. He does understand what his mother is thinking, yet the more he thought about it, the more it doesn't fit together.

Anyways, she is my friend, George. Making friends is easy, but breaking up with them is another story in itself.”

So why make friends? was something that he wanted to say, but he thought that it would be too malevolent. He does understand what his mother is thinking, yet the more he thought about it, the more that reality became less real.

After a little chat, the mother waved to her son goodbye. She was going to buy ingredients at the city's public market. The mother left him nothing but a burning question: What's the point of making friends?

He noticed the macabre hill once again. The beautiful sunset was emitting an orange light across the hill, and for once, George forgot that they were in a foreign land that disobeys the laws of the gods. The moon was transparent in the kind oily sky, and it was like living in an artpiece stuck in time.

Once again, he was in hell. He looked at his surrounding twice. Left, then right.


TheVanillaLog

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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-07 08:18:46


(Continued from last post)

...

 He entered the deserted house. He put his satchel at a corner near the doorstep. After taking a deep breath, he walked over to the kitchen. George wasn't really hungry, nor will it brighten his mood. He knows that very well, but it used to do so. So in this case, he was hoping that it will.

There was a woven basket filled with fruits on top of the room's wooden table. He took a bite out of a stale apple. It's juicy, but he still doesn't feel any more happy. He wanted to throw the red juicy clump into the trash, but he didn't want to waste the effort of a farmer that had a name unknown to the boy.

Silently, he sat down on a wooden stool in the kitchen counter and went on to finish the rotting produce. An orange light flowed through the window, touching the stove in one corner and the pots and pans hanging on a wooden rack on top of the metal sink, but as the circle on the sky fell down, the stream slowly faded to a dark void.

The color that once filled the fresco-looking home left as a macabre night consumed every dimension of this isolated environment. As for George, the color left an eerie silence that gave the faint sound of a distant yet constant ringing. The origin, nature and intention of this cacophony is unidentifiable to George's senses. All he knew was that it was there, mocking the logic of its presence in front of the lonely boy.

As soon as he finished the apple, he heard the sound of distant footsteps. It was quiet, and if another person were to hear it, he would dismiss it as something that never existed. However, George was different.

“Is somebody there?” George said.

No one answered. It is better to leave this matter alone.

Yet, George was curious. Was someone stalking him? He hoped no one was, but a part of him hoped that there was. Am I going insane?

He took off his shoes and walked towards a row of slippers near the door. He slipped a pair on his feet and went upstairs. No, he didn't want to know the identity of the stalker. He refused the notion. Something about acknowledging his existence disgusted George, as if it is giving him a flashback to a past he did not want to revisit.

“George!”

A voice that called his name echoed through the house. It sounded familiar, like it was an old friend from a distant past. Yet, the sound is giving him a negative suspicion from the depths of his soul. George thought that it originated from the upper floor of this two-storey house, so he did what a sane person would do in a time like this.

Walk away.

However, there was some depth of curiosity building inside of him as well. It is somewhat familiar, so it should be safe? George thought to himself. He doesn't understand why he felt that way amongst this situation. It should be easy to walk away from the parasite that lurked above. It could not be his mother since he saw her left not too long ago, and it could not be the voice of a welcomed guest because he wasn't given any news of such person coming. Yet, the motive to stroll up the staircase was burning inside of him. What should I do?

All of this was happening as George stood still at the interior of his house, lonely.

Oh so lonely...

George walked up his stairs, defying any logical reason in his head that told him to do the opposite. Screw the danger. Screw the unknown. Screw the loneliness that surrounds him. He wants to know if someone was up there, and if it was indeed a spirit like his friends....

Mary...

The sudden thought of his friends came to his head. He had been trying to avoid that thought for the longest time, and yet, it is coming back to him. Why now? he thought. Don't you see that I do not want to suffer the same pain as the hero in the play?

His footsteps became heavier now. The fear of this unknown entity was lost. Now, all that was left was anger. The one above may not be a monster, but somehow, George's mind had altered it into a beast that mocked his presence. What exactly made the beast so unlikable, George could not define, or at least, he did not want to admit to that reason he just identified.

Laughter then surrounded the atmosphere. It seems to come from a child. It was not sinister, but it was the same sound that one makes when someone had his pants unzipped, or when someone committed to a bad performance in a school play. Just like the sound he last heard, it felt real, yet made up in nature. It was messing with his head. He felt like hitting his skull against the wall, hoping that the laughter would go away if it did.

Instead, he keeps slapping his cheeks. The resonating silence is getting to him; harming him. He then starts to pinch himself. None of this is real.

None of this is real.

None of this is real.

None of this is real.

None of this is real.

None of this is real.

None of this is real.

He repeats this to himself until he finally reaches the top. The sound stopped, and the anger that he once had disappeared.

He walked through the doorframe of the guest bedroom, making sure that someone is there. He looks left, then right. None. When he was sure that the space was empty, he observed the other rooms at that floor; the living room, the recreational room, and lastly, his own.

All of which he concluded to be devoid of any sort of being.

He lied down at his own bed. It was folded nicely by his own mother, which put him at ease. At least his own parent cared for him. He only wished that more people can be like that to him, but he guessed that that would be impossible.

It was impossible when what you're doing is pushing them away in order to avoid an inevitable end.

He noticed a shadow at one wall of his room. It was still, and it looked at him as well. It was familiar to him. Too familiar. Was it a friend or a family member? He could not tell, but George wanted it to speak.

“Hello? Is somebody there?”

He gets up, and the shadow followed his movements. George stopped, assessing the situation. He lifts his arm up high, and the dark matter did as well. He turned his head, and so did the void. It turned out, the shadow was nothing more than his shadow that spawned from the streetlight that came entering from the bedroom window. It was an entity that did not speak, nor had the will to do so. It was a silent companion that exists until the bright light fades away, and when that happens, it leaves you.

Yet, George wanted to speak to it; force it to speak. He repeated his sentence one last time.

“Hello? Is somebody there?”

A tear started rolling down his cheeks.

“Anyone?”


TheVanillaLog

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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-07 08:22:42


(Continued from last post)

...

George went to school the following day. His friends were there as always, and as a good companion, he talked to them for a while. It was hard trying to keep the conversation going as long as everyone else is expected to do, but he figured that he will learn through time. Meanwhile, his mother was still sending cards and packages to her friend. He sometimes wonder how his mother does that; sending gifts to someone. For some reason, it seemed embarrassing for him to do such an act, and he did not understand why. Maybe someday, he could find the root of the problem and do it the way his mother does it.

He was still friends with Mary, and something that he figured about their friendship was that there would be these conversations wherein one would act like a psychiatrist. When one has a problem, the other will listen through a 30-minute monologue on the conflict that they had while commenting after or, rarely, during the said monologue. These comments would either be direct advice or philosophical quotes that one would only find in self-help tomes.

The more he listened to her, the more he sees her less as a spirit from the afterlife. The new world he lived in did not feel all that obscure anymore, and by the looks of it, it would soon feel like what it once was before he moved to this foreign land; simple and easy.

During one of his mental-appointment discussions with Mary, he mentioned again the old legend that Mary told, and how he felt like he had that experience during that night.

“What? You're lifting your soul too high.”

“I'm serious.” George reassured. “It was one hell of an experience.”

“What happened? Did you see the hooded one?”

“Nope.”

“Well, did the mortal world change? Did you see the sky fall? Did you see line and angles that bend in a nonexistent fashion? Did it feel like hell?”

“No...”

George thought of it for a second. “I would say yes on that last one.”

“Well, tell me something that would resurrect me from my deathly state.”

George laughed. He could never get enough of the hyperboles that came from his friends.

“Something that I realized when I was there was that I felt alone,” he said. “Oh so alone...”

(End - Total Word Count: 5409 words)


TheVanillaLog

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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-14 16:12:36


Personal Digital Logbook of American astronaut Jon Smith.


Jan 30th 20XX: Audiolog; It is my first day on the international space station. This is something that has been a long time coming. Super excited to be here. Still getting introduced to everyone here. The guy from Sweden or Denmark or something is nice but I can't remember his name. Milo the Russian is very standoffish. Keeps everyone at an arm's length. Most everyone else here is helping me settle in.


Feb 3rd 20XX: Audiolog; It has been a few days and we are running some more experiments on gardening in zero G. There are a lot of things that affect plants heavily and gravity is a major component. We have been using different types of wires to see if growing onto something helps further a more structured growth pattern. I have been stationed with the Russian. He isn’t much of a talker but I found out he has a military background and left for this project. He says he has a fondness of plants… He doesn’t seem to show it well.


Feb 6th 20XX: Audiolog; Experiments haven’t been yielding anything useful in the past couple of days. Sometimes I wish I picked something more exciting. Working with diseases in space would be so much cooler than a gardener that can’t grow plants because there is no gravity. Might try breathable molds for the plants to grow into. See if we can get some results out of that.


Feb 10th 20XX: Audiolog; There is a girl here. She does panel maintenance. She is from Japan. Sometimes I can see her working out on the panels through a portside window. The suits she has to wear don’t show a lot. But I still like to watch her work. Very thoughtful. Nothing she does is done irrationally. I wish her english was better so I could find out if we are making a connection or not. We usually talk about hobbies at home. Like my training and plant work. And her with her and her model buildings that she loves to do. Apparently her attention to detail is what got her picked out of the crowd. They taught her everything she needed to know a couple of weeks before sending her up. Kireina is beautiful.


Feb 14th 20XX: Audiolog; We shared our first kiss… She does like me.


Mar 15th 20XX: Audiolog; I haven’t been doing my logs like I should have. Between work and a relationship. Most of my time is taken up. We have to kind of keep what we have a secret from the rest. It might be easier for her to hide since she is always taking care of things outside and is suited up. But I am always staring at her through the windows when I can. Or when we eat together. Milo the Russian keeps eyeballing me. Burning this feeling he doesn’t like me for some reason.


Mar 17th 20XX: Audiolog; Milo pinned in a hallway that we were alone in between shifts. He told me to know my place. That I needed to keep things more professional in the workplace. Something petty but it eluded to something he may be hiding from everyone else. Like… I don’t know. Something big. He knows something big is going to happen and he is already trying to scare me. It is working. He is a big guy. All this on top of the face that Kireina said that in a week she is going back to Japan. It was nice to have her. I hope that when my term is up that we keep in touch. I will miss her.


Mar 19th 20XX: Audiolog; I miss her too much. I spent the day going through emails from the family back home. Sending love back to my parents from space. I included a happy selfie with stars behind me.


Mar 25th 20XX: Audiolog; Milo has had a smile on his face all day. I have never seen that man smile. It is definitely unsettling. Nothing interesting with the experiments has happened. Details are in my notes journal.


Mar 31st 20XX: Audiolog; We lost out maintenance crew. The best we could do was see them flying toward the Earth. I didn’t get to the window until they turned to little flickering specs hitting the atmosphere. Five of them. Snuffed like candles. There were good people. But at least I didn’t lose Kireina that way. They would have a new maintenance crew up within a couple of weeks.


Apr 1st 20XX: Audiolog; … it wasn’t a joke.


Apr 2nd 20XX: Message received. Sent from NASA. Son,... Content corrupt.


Apr 3rd 20XX: Audiolog; Russia and the US are firing nuclear weapons at each other. On the first nonetheless. I thought it was a joke at first. Looking down, I could see the clouds of death forming over all the major cities. The world was dying. Every second hundreds of thousands of people were dying. Environments were being ruined. The world was at its conclusion. And humanity was not far behind.


Apr 4th 20XX: Data entry; Corrupt files.


Apr 5th 20XX: Audiolog; I have been hiding on this satellite for a few days now. Milo has killed a few more of the crew. It is down to me and the friendly guy from Denmark. He doesn’t trust me either. I don’t blame him. We don’t know who started it. But we do know that Russia had the plan for it. Milo expressed that very well. I am sure it was him that cut the cords to the maintenance crew. I uploaded the evidence of that yesterday… (Corruption Detected)... that someone hears this. I hope that someone is out there.


Apr 6th 20XX: Message received. Sent from ISAS: Entire file corrupt.


Apr 7th 20XX: Audiolog; I set up a few distractions from audio plugs in a few of the rooms. I remotely trigger them to make him think that I am in another room to make sneaking around much easier. I have been feeding off of the plants that we were growing together. He is combing the station very well. I don’t know how much I have to…*background pounding noises* *close heavy breaths coming to a short breath*...


… He almost found me. Tomorrow I will try to get to my bunk to see if there is any news from home. If help is coming… if there is anything that I can do.


Apr 8th 20XX: Audiolog; *sobbing*


Apr 9th 20XX: Audiolog; No news from home. The lights have stopped working. The station is running on its reserves. Something I could see in the distance floating my way. It looks like another satellite. I should be able to get a better look at it within a few hours. I will check again when I wake. *door open* (different voice) Where are you little man? Milo, be needing to find you now.”


Apr 10th 20XX: Audiolog; The letters on the side of the station read mnp. It was Russian. It was the Mir. This help wasn’t for me. Help isn’t coming for me. I should just give up… There is no home. There is no hope… *sobbing*... why is this happening?


Apr 11th 20XX: Audiolog; The Russian satellite is doc… *crash*. Has docked. Soon there will be Russians everywhere trying to find me. Trying to kill me. Trying to finish this war. I will have to make sure I do what I can to make this not worth it for them. I will have to give them the American fighting spirit. To the last man. And as far as I know… *deep breath* that is me.


Apr 12th 20XX: Audiolog; I waiting in the wall that I have cleared out for almost two hours near the door. The ISS is almost out of power and the russians are now using their suits to travel around in it. Oxygen is low and the quality is lower. I will have to take my next chance to sneak onto their ship if I want to keep fighting. Food is impossible to come by. I haven’t eaten in two days. I hope I have enough fight in me to do this one last thing.


Apr 13th 20XX: Audiolog; I have made it onto their satellite. I can’t read russian but I can recognize what most of the parts look like. I am slowly following their piping down to the engine. Maybe I can dismantle it or set it to overload the in some way. *background noises*... (whispered tone) or maybe cut their oxygen.


Apr 14th 20XX: Audiolog; … *rushing air through the microphone*... *struggling* *one side of a fight*... *one minute of labored breathing*.


Apr 15th 20XX: Audiolog; This is my final entry. Milo cut his own theater during the fight. It took only a few hours until I saw him turn into a small flame. I am floating in space between the satellites. I am going to leave my log on the bridge of the ISS.


Humanity the disease has found its own vaccine. With weapons of mutually assured destruction.


Log discovered and retrieved by Boris Viktor: Cosmonaut.

Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-16 15:26:10


It had the power to make my body quiver. It had the power to send shivers up my spine. It had the power to make wetness seep down my thigh. It had the power to break me. It had the power to bend me. It had the power to control me. My mind, heart, and time belonged to it. It had possession and ownership, a one-sided relationship.

The ritual goes like this: unplug it from the nightstand, feel it in my hand. Stare into a cyber world, all while living in a lost land. Hours and hours will pass. I’d find solace in searching about your past.  Everything you forgot about, I could research and read about. Who did you use to be? Your opinions that have changed over years of growth. Your natural maturation over a span of time passage made widely available for anyone looking for your baggage.

I immersed myself every day deeper and deeper into a battery charged connection with a dimly lit screen, finding solace in… just being. Dim the bathroom lights. I get into the water and let my body sink. Phone in hand, it made sense that I would die this way. 


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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-23 18:36:34


 Midnight’s Monster BY CHIANNA BUG!!!!!!! :D

 

BOOM! CRASH!

 

 The force of the storm outside shook the entire house.

 Marion Outer sat on her bed watching the storm through her window intently. She figured that if she stared hard enough and long enough at it, she could tire her eyes and finally get some sleep through all the racket going on outside.

 

 Marion was so focused on being focused that she nearly missed the horse standing beside the Old Pine at the edge of their lawn just near the road.

 “What on earth?” Marion scrambled out of her covers and scrambled closer to the window. Perhaps it was one of Mr. Tunee’s horses.

 Mr. Tunee owned a ranch just down the road and every once in a great while they’d get a visit from an escaped horse.

 Squinting through the heavy lashing rain she tried to make out more of the shaggy creature.

 It looked ginormous! Marion didn’t think she’d ever seen a horse that big before.

 If you were going by hands she figured it could be an easy nineteen. She felt proud of herself for a moment of the calculation. She’d learned a lot about horses during the past year they’d been living here. Mr. Tunee was never stingy when it came to teaching people about horses.

 He’d so far taught her how to tell whether a horse was nervous or angry, how to tell if they needed exercised, and how to measure them by taking your hand and laying it sideways against the horse's body from the ground up to the top of the back, specifically to the spot between the shoulders. The withers. The width of Mr. Tunee’s palm was a “hand” and in this way you could say how big a horse was.

 Marion didn’t think she’d seen this horse before though, even though she couldn’t make out a lot about it she was sure she'd remember seeing a horse like that, just by it’s size!

  Perhaps Mr. Tunee had gotten a new one in?

Considering the horse again she wondered why it wasn’t completely freaking out because of the storm; it was probably the worst one they’d had all year and there was this massive beast just standing there as if it could be a beautiful day with the sun shining and all.

 A sudden movement from the horse in question drew her attention back from her thoughts. At first it just looked like it was going to rear, but then to Marion’s astonishment it looked more coordinated and balanced…she could swear it looked almost like it was standing on its hind legs.

  “Mary!” Came a loud whisper just over her shoulder startling her.

 “Benny! You startled me!” Marion exclaimed recognizing her little brother’s mop of dirty brown hair in a flash of lightning.

 “Mary I’m scared. There’s something outside my window and I think it’s trying to get in.” Benny clung on to her desperately.

 “Aww Benny, we’ve been over this.” Marion carded her fingers through the seven-year-olds hair. “There’s nothing there. Your head's just filled with Halloween stories from your friends at school and the fact that it’s the night before Halloween…come on. I'll check it out for you okay?”

 “Okay. But if it eats you I’m telling Mommy.” Benny insisted.

 “Sure.” Marion led the way out of the room and down the hallway.

 “Can I stay in the hallway while you check it out?” Benny asked.

 “Ok I’ll be out in a minute, Champ.” Marion had to wade through several carefully organized piles of building block toys before she made it to the bed, a quick peek unsurprisingly revealed nothing. The closet was the same and the only thing outside the window was the small cherry tree they had planted there that summer.

 “The only thing outside the window is the cherry tree that you named Apples, and there’s nothing in the closet either.” She reported.

 “That’s a relief.” Benny said coming into the room and walking back to his bed. Then he stopped.

 “There’s nothing under there except your dirty socks.” Marion reassured.

 “I knew that.” He quickly scrambled back into bed. “Goodnight.”

 “Goodnight, Benny.” Marion ruffled his hair and headed for the hallway.

 “Marion?”

 “Yeah?”

“Your the coolest sister. Even if you are a girl.”

 “Thanks Benny. You too, even if you are a boy." Marion headed back to her own room still trying not to laugh.

   When Marion first entered her room she was confused as she was rebuffed by wind. Scrambling across the room she found the source and hastily shoved her window shut cutting out the rain and wind.

 “How on earth did that happen?” She wondered aloud. “Did the latch is break? Uck! What a mess!” Looking down she saw puddles of water all over the floor.

 “I’m going to need towels." Marion groaned turning.

 

  What she saw made her blood run cold and her breath catch. A second passed and she found it again, letting out a piercing scream so loud it went through the whole house and carried down the road.

 

 Benny scrambled out of bed at the scream.

 “Marion! Marion?” He called crouching in his doorway. Staring at his sister’s still partly open door. No call answered. All he heard was the creaking of floorboards.

 Cautiously, he crept into the hallway. “Mary?" He whispered when he reached her door.

 BANG!

Benny bolted for his room at the noise that came from inside the room and quickly scrambled under his bed dragging his favorite stuffed elephant with him.

 A few seconds dragged by feeling more like hours then the room flooded with light from the hallway.

 “Marion? Benjamin?” A woman’s voice called.

 “You check on Mary, I’ll check Benny.” A deeper voice followed. There was a creak at Benjamin’s door and then he could see his father’s feet.

 “Benny?”

“Under here Daddy." Benny poked his head out slowly. “Is it gone?”

 “Is what gone, Champ?” Mr. Outer hoisted Benny into his arms and set him on the bed.

 “The monster.”

“Wh—“ Mr. Outer never finished.

 “Robert! Oh Robert! Come quickly! It’s Marion!” Mrs. Outer choked out down the hall.

 “Sally! What’s happened?” A few long strides and he was out the door and down the hallway.

 Quietly, Benny slipped back out of bed and crept to his door peering out.

 “She’s gone. She’s gone. She’s gone.” Mrs. Outer stood sobbing in Mr. Outer’s arms. Beyond them, now that the door was opened all the way, Benny could see the window shutters banging in the fierce face of the storm and rain lashing in through the open window. But no sign of Marion.


Continued on next post...

 

 

Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-23 18:40:03


Midnight's Monster by Chianna Bug continued...


*****

 

Days dragged into weeks, weeks dragged into months, months dragged into years. Police inquiries turning up Benny's story of monsters turned into children psychiatrists, and being bullied at school. So eventually Benny stopped talking about it, but he never forgot. His parents never talked about her and often worked as often and as long as they could to forget their loss and Ben stopped going out during October, especially Halloween. For five years Ben made a ritual about it, he’d lock up every part of his room on the night before Halloween and stay awake all night watching and waiting. The next morning when nothing happened in the early hours of the day he’d creep, real quiet, down the hallway and listen to Marion’s locked bedroom door. Then he’d spent the rest of Halloween day and night locked in his room waiting some more.

 During the fifth year when Ben was thirteen and carrying out his usual yearly ritual it occurred to him that Marion was the same age he was now when she vanished.

 As the day wore on it began to rain, by nine o'clock it was a heavy thrashing storm.

 Huddled in his blankets Ben stared dully out the windows for the remainder of the night, thinking about how it would soon be Halloween day. As the hall clock sounded midnight however his eye caught an unusual movement outside. Down by the Old Pine. Upon closer inspection it looked like one of Mr. Tunee’s horses might have gotten loose again. He really needed to make his fence higher. It was a great big shaggy beast. Very tall from what Ben could tell through the rain.

 Thoughtfully Ben chewed his bottom lip. Did he dare go out on Halloween? What if the monster came back? But could he really leave the poor horse to suffer through the remainder of the night lost? Sighing with a knot forming in his gut Ben shrugged on a coat and slipped into a pair of sneakers. Perhaps if he were very quick it wouldn’t matter if the monster prowled or not. When he first stepped out the back door it was like someone was dumping several buckets of water on him all at once. Feeling very disorientated he grudgingly began to march across the lawn to the pine tree. Squinting he thought he could see the horse was moving closer to him now.

 “Here Horsey, Horsey. Come on. That’s it. I'll take you home.” Ben called.

 “Grrrrrr-aaarrrr!” The horse replied. Panicked that the creature was hurt Ben sped up. Perhaps the horse had caught its leg on a wire fence?

When Ben looked at it next his breath caught. It was standing on its hind legs. Not rearing, but still walking towards him. As he stood with his mouth gaping open a flash of lightning revealed the creature in the stark contrast of light. What he had originally thought to be a horse was no horse at all, but a shaggy-haired monster with gaping jaws lined with hundreds of brown-stained teeth. Its small squinty eyes glowed a radioactive yellow as they locked on him. Nine-inch claws extended sharply off skeletal fingers. Tall, narrow rounded ears extended straight up.

 Benny’s body trembled, he knew without a doubt that this was what had made his sister scream that night she disappeared. This was what had eaten her. As he stared transfixed the creature took a long stride toward him with a hideous grin.

 Ben ran as fast as his trembling legs would allow. Slipping and sliding his way back to the house a sob built in his chest. Crying out would do no good! No one would ever hear him, not in this storm...

 BAM!

Ben slammed to the ground stunned by the weight pressing down on his back.

 “Benjamin Outer. I’ve come to take you away from here.” Came a gravely voice by his ear. Turning his head for better look Ben was stunned to see that it was the monster that spoke.

“Come along Benjamin. Your sister awaits.” With that the creature was gone loping back the way it had come.

 Scrambling up, Ben gaped.

 “What do you mean?" Ben shouted. "Hey! Come back!" Ben couldn’t believe the words coming from his mouth or what his legs were doing as he tore after it. But he did know that his family would never be the same happy one that he knew when Marion was still alive.

 Now here the monster returned just to say she was waiting for him? Nothing was adding up. If the monster was trying to lure him to the tree to eat him why didn’t he just drag him there? Those gnarly jaws could certainly get the job done.

 “Hey! Wait!” Ben rounded the tree to run smack into the creature and tumble to the ground. Stretching claws reached for him and Ben became certain he had made the biggest mistake of his life following the creature in the first place. However when all the creature did was gently lift him back to his feet Ben once again felt like he was completely out of his depth.

 “Through here.” The beast moved to a radiant soft, purple oval that stood alone about a foot off the ground, a light white-gray fog draped itself gently out the opening and onto the ground around it.

 “Wait!” Ben called as the creature stepped up to it, the creature turned back to him.

 “What is that? Who are you? What are you? Where’s Marion? Why are you here? Why’d you kidnap my sister? What do you want with me? Why aren’t you eating me right now?” Ben paused for a breath before opening his mouth to proceed, but was interrupted by the same sound the monster had made earlier.

 Grrrr-aaarrr-aaarrr-aaaaaarrrr! Much to Ben’s sense of pride he figured out that he was being laughed at and was just about to leap to his own defense when the monster began speaking.

 “I am called Rimonis. This is a portal. All other answers lie on the other side. Come Benjamin Outer. Your sister waits.” With that the creature stepped through the portal and vanished.

 “But what about Mom and Dad?” Ben asked the rain. Thunder and lightning flashed and rain poured, but no obvious answer was provided. Turning Ben looked back to the house. All remained dark.

 “I'll find my way back Mom and Dad. With Marion." Ben promised before stepping through the strange source of light. Into a land of unknown…

 

  THE END...

...FOR NOW...

 

 

 

Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-24 17:46:31 (edited 2019-10-24 17:47:09)


Party Town


It was a quiet night excluding the creaks from Don’s car as he was driving for his new job with Bluber, a ride-sharing company. As he idled his car in a gas station parking lot, contemplating on heading home, chilly air poured in from the cracked window he was blowing cigarette smoke through. Don kept the radio on but the volume low; He held a heavy weight on his mind. Should he go home to a lonely apartment full of nothing but framed photographs of a happier time? His phone beeped alerting him a new customer. He put the car in drive and decided to do one more drop off for the night. “Fuck it,” Don said to himself driving away towards the customer. 

Don pulled up to his next to a man in his early sixties wearing a jet black getup that entailed a long coat, well-groomed grey beard, and a black winter hat. Don unlocked the car; the man used a cane to assist entering before speaking up. 

“Hey brother, cold night huh? Shit! Only whiskey can cure the feeling this air brings!” The man said laughing. “I have a problem though.”

“Oh, really? I’m also recovering.” Don said. 

“Oh not a drinking problem! I have my flask full of whiskey right here. Ha ha! The damn Bluber App is putting in the wrong address, but that’s OK. I know exactly where I need to be. It’s only a few minutes down the road, and sir, here’s a little something for dealing with me!” The man let out a laugh while slipping him a fifty dollar bill. “Alright, so take the first left over here and you’ll stay on that road for about 10 minutes.” Don nodded as he turned left and was on the straight away. 

“What is the place called?” Don asked. “I’ll check for signs.” 

“Oh brother, there is no signs.” The man answered. “But let’s just say everything is good where we are heading.” Then laughter roared from the backseat. 

“Okay, man. Whatever you say. Just keep your eyes open and give directions.” Don said gripping the steering wheel suppressing his annoyance.  

“What’s with the serious mood sir? A girl break your heart?” The man questioned. 

“Or I broke a girl’s heart.” Don admitted.  

“Ah, I see, guilt can be a heavy burden, but nothing a sip of whiskey can’t lighten up!” The man held out his flask.

“I really shouldn’t, I don’t mess with that anymore.” Don replied.

“Well brother, what do you have to lose?” Don caved into his feelings of worthlessness. He reached for the flask and took in a gulp before returning it.

“There you go, sir. Now let the elixir warm your soul.” The car was silent for a few moments. 

“Um.. so we’re close?” Don asked regretting the shot trying to change the subject. “How much longer? We’ve been on the road for at least twenty minutes already. I need to get back home”


“Don, you must get over your bullshit.” The tone of the man deepened. “You always look for the easy way out, it’s pathetic.” 

Don was shook by the man’s words and furiously yelled back. “What? I’ve had enough of your bullshit. I will pull over and you can get the fuck out man-”  

“-so you can go to your vacant home and crawl into bed with a bottle all by little lonesome self?” He said cutting Don off. “Sounds lovely. While you’re weeping over all the relationships you’ve burnt to fucking ashes what lie will you live next? What lie will you tell your family, or whatever friends you have left? Don, you need a good fucking look in the mirror.” The man’s voice surged through Don’s body; He was sure his heart would burst. His vision grew blurry and his senses began fading.

“What the fuck was in that flask!? I’m going to kick your ass you old fuck!!!” Don screamed desperately swerving the car as he became panicky. 


“To late baby! Welcome to Party Town!” The man’s deep laugh echoed throughout the car. 

Confused and enraged, with poor vision, Don peered into the rear-view mirror only to find a flask in the backseat. There was no trace of the mysterious bearded man. That is precisely when Don made his final turn. The car went soaring off the edge of a beautiful cliff side into a polluted body of water. Don was unable to escape his vehicle as it sank to the bottom of the lake. While Don was unconscious from hitting his head on the windshield during the fall, the flask made it through the cracked window, and rose to the top of the water, being the only thing he left behind. – The End. 

Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-26 13:42:33


Disassembly


Burke was one of the few human beings alive and working in outer space. Ever since the industry of creating humanoid AI had skyrocketed, the amount of humans working in satellites and space stations had plunged in the opposite direction, since there was very little a human could do that a robot couldn’t. Still, as robotics was as yet a budding science, there were always small jobs, here and there, for your time-honoured Homo Sapiens to busy himself with.  


For the company Burke and his colleagues worked for, it was an expensive undertaking to transport objects to and from terrestrial orbit, let alone actual people, so for months at a time they had to stay put, hundreds of kilometres from their families. Besides, for those humans who were highly trained to work in outer space, it was far too late for a career change.


Because of the high cost of transportation to and from the earth, robotics companies began to manufacture androids in space stations designed for that purpose. It was on one such station that Chief Burke and his subordinates Scott and Malkovich were called into action. Its name was Empyrus Robotics Aerospace, or ERA, home only to a skeleton crew of human operators, no more than half a dozen (only there to intervene if something went seriously wrong with android production), as well as an advanced bodiless AI, the first of its kind, which served as ERA’s computer and oversaw the production of androids. It’s name was Aima: Artificial Intelligence and Mechanical hominid Assembler.


However, when contact was lost with the skeleton crew, ERA’s headquarters on Earth had no choice but to send in the company people from the nearest station to that of the ERA’s android factory, that is, Burke and his colleagues. Procedures in the earth’s orbit usually operated with the precision of a well oiled machine, but in the slim chance that machine failed the only alternative to automation was human beings.


◆ ◆ ◆


The trio of ERA employees found themselves passing through the dock between their own craft and their spacecraft destination and settling into the effect of the artificial gravity created by the centrifugal force of the rotating android manufactory. Because the power appeared to have been cut, their immediate surroundings were coated in inky blackness. All three of them opened their visors and turned on the flashlights just to the left of them. Even with the use of these, the immediate impression of the place, now bathed in the cold and sterile light, was bleak and forbidding. The team’s first move was to locate the crew, so the three of them started making their way to their control deck and living quarters.


The layout of this factory was almost identical to their home station, so their passage through it was eerily familiar.  They made their way through the dark chambers of the station, fully confident that they would quickly locate the crew and that the reason for the loss of contact was down to a problem with the station’s communication software. They trudged through the hushed space in silence until they neared their destination.


“This is it”, said Burke. “This is the control deck”.


Malkovich grunted in assent and Burke pressed his ERA card against the scanner which neither beeped nor lit up.


“There’s no power here”, Burke murmured. “We’ll have to open the doors manually.”


Within a few minutes the three had explored what little of the station was available to them, and in a cramped workshop discovered some discarded tools, among which were a couple of crowbars. They used these to wedge open a space in the sliding door and slipped through.


The light of their flashlights immediately dispelled the murky darkness, and Malkovich and Scott, who were the first into the room, caught their breath in alarm upon seeing a humanoid figure, inert, slumped against the far wall. The body was concealed by a mound of blue ERA staff uniforms, many of which had large rips. In fact, the whole room was bestrewn with ERA dress and equipment. Burke broke the silence.


“Scott, on my left please.”


The light of their visors was riveted to the far end of the room. Burke and Scott approached slowly. Burke drew a torn uniform away from the figure’s head and was greeted immediately with the glossy sight of smooth plastic. Each man let out a sigh.


“It’s a manikin,” murmured Burke.


“What the hell is a manikin?”, blurted Scott in panic, betraying both his own apprehension and inexperience for anything to do with android production.


Burke, having regained his composure, explained.


“Manikins are the core of an androids body”, he said. Minus the outward features and finishing touches. Just a plastic torso, limbs, and a head.”


Scott was still nervous. “Can they move by themselves, then? Like an actual android, I mean?”


“It’s possible”, Burke replied. “But androids are almost always finished first. You’d only see manikins in factories like this one. Besides, this one has no power; it’s dead.”


“So someone left it here as some stupid joke”, said Scott, his fear turning to indignation that he had become panicked over nothing.


While Burke and Scott spoke near the manikin, Malkovich repelled the darkness in the rest of the control deck with his light. Everything was in disarray, from uniforms to chairs and cabinets. It was as if a very violent game of hide and seek had taken place, and the seeker had definitely won. There was a row of lockers against one wall and each had been thrown wide. Every inch of the deck had been searched. One final detail perturbed Malkovich. Searching the room with his flashlight, he caught sight of ten long scratch marks on the control room floor, which ended just before the door which led to the android factory wing.


“No, this isn’t a joke”, said Malkovich, crouching down and examining the marks. “Whoever was in this room was attacked. These are nail marks. It looks like whoever was searching the deck found their quarry—another human, and dragged them away.”


“Don’t you think you’re jumping to conclusions?”, Burke asked. “All you have for evidence is a disordered room and some scratches on the floor which could’ve been caused by any number of things.”


However, Burke’s attempt at reassurance went ignored, because fear had already taken hold of Scott all over again.


“So, what?”, he whined. “You think one of the crew members killed another? Or maybe one of them reprogrammed one of the androids to do the job for them”. He eyed the slumped over manikin nervously.


“That’s impossible…”, Burke began.


“We should have brought weapons”, interrupted Scott. “We aren’t prepared for a situation like this—


“Will you listen”, barked Burke. “The darkness is getting to you. First of all, No Android can kill. They have a fail-safe. Any orders given to them by humans which result in violence are rejected. Second, you’re forgetting that there’s an AI on the ship’s computer, Aima, which has unrestricted access to every aspect of the factory: it’s designed to keep the androids in production and all crew members safe. And finally, there are no weapons here; nobody is armed. Not us, not the crew, so we should be relatively safe.”


“So what do you think happened here?”, inquired Malkovich.


“I don’t know”, admitted Burke. “But I think we should explore the rest of the factory and find out. You’re the tech specialist, you can make a start by logging into the ship’s computer and restoring power to this place.”


Malkovich did as he was told. The computer had an emergency backup generator for use in such situations as the three investigators now found themselves in. Malkovich scanned his hand, his fingerprints were recognised, and in a moment, the control deck was flooded with a bleak white light.  


“OK, we still don’t know what the problem is, so Malkovich will stay here in case we lose power again”, said Burke. “Scott and I will search the android assembly area for the crew, or at least clues pointing to where we might find them.”


[Continued on next post]


BBS Signature

Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-26 13:43:55


Scott tried to hide his dismay. He would rather have stayed on the control deck with Malkovich, but would never think of going against his superior’s orders.


Burke strode toward the door that the scratch marks led up to, and it slid aside automatically. Scott followed.


◆ ◆ ◆


As Burke and Scott drew nearer to the android assembly area the rhythmic reverberation of android building machines grew louder and louder. This part of the space station wasn’t meant for human habitation or comfort, so their surroundings were industrial, mechanical, and quite dismal. The skeleton crew would only inspect this area if something had gone seriously wrong with machinery, and since the control deck and living quarters were deserted, something evidently had. Despite the fact that humans were rarely expected to visit this part of the ship, there were viewing galleries where any visiting humans could watch androids being assembled if they felt like it. Burke and Scott approached a room which contained one such gallery. As they entered the door slid closed behind them and automatic lights, which were usually off in the android factory to conserve electricity, flickered on. The room was cramped, and the only thing of interest in it was the large pane of glass that separated it from android assembly machines beyond. The two watched the machines work for a few minutes in silence. The only sound was the measured din of the contraptions. The androids being created in front of them were still in a very early stage, a stage even earlier than what you would call a ‘finished manikin’. At the far end of the room, figures that looked something like human skeletons enveloped with wires and artificial muscle were being conveyed into the grasp of an enormous appliance which then seized them in its precise and rigorous metal arms. After this, smooth and ductile plastic molds were grafted onto the android skeletons in rapid succession, first the feet, then legs, torso, arms and head. At first these plastic molds made the figure seem somewhat like a white and smooth suit of armour, but momentarily each of the separate pieces fused together and the seams between each piece became all but invisible. This was a manikin. All that was left now would be the finalisation of the android’s outward appearance, that is to say, making it look more human.


The two investigators tarried for a few minutes, watching the process.


“Do you remember those old TV shows that showed the inside of factories; how things get made?”, mused Scott.


“Yeah.”


“I wonder if they ever made one about androids,” he said. “It’s engaging enough to watch”.


“I supposed they probably would have”, affirmed Burke. “Let’s get going, we’ve dawdled here long enough”.


Burke and Scott exited the small room and continued on. The clinking of the mechanical arms and gears faded as soon as the door slid shut.


At first, the following few chambers weren’t half so interesting, but several pipe-lined corridors and bleak and empty workshops later fortune finally smiled on them.


Since most of the rooms in the labyrinthine ship seemed to blend together, Burke and Scott started covering as much ground as possible, not even pausing to wait for the automatic lights to blink on. But halfway through another passage Burke felt something viscous under his boot. He held out his hand to hold back Scott, who was trailing him, and as soon as the lights flickered on, a lustrous fluid puddling the floor became visible. It was leaking in heavy, sluggish drops from a pipe running across the ceiling. But what was more interesting than the puddle were the series of bootprints stamped all over the ground, trailing the oil along it, through the remainder of the room and into the next. 


“This gives us an inkling of where the crew must’ve gone”, reflected Burke. “There must be five or six sets of footprints here. It seems like the skeleton crew moved as a group. Almost as if they were sticking together for safety. Strange…if there was a malfunction somewhere in the factory you’d think it would have been more prudent to spread out to cover more ground and find the problem faster.”


Now they had a lead. Burke and Scott carefully followed the trail which grew fainter and fainter as they advanced. The claustrophobic rooms they had just passed through had fooled Burke and Scott into thinking the station was much smaller than it was, but, just as it was becoming too faint to see, the trail of footsteps eventually lead them to a room that was quite a bit larger than the narrow corridors they had been traipsing through. This was the AI Communications Chamber, or briefly, the AI room. It consisted of a large central, cylindrical structure which was so large that it almost entirely filled the whole room. This was the Aima’s CPU. Other than that, there were several terminals with large monitors for communication, and in each corner of the ceiling were security cameras with their lenses trained on Burke and Scott. Because Aima represented a significant investment to ERA, even more than the lives of the skeleton crew working there, this was one of the few rooms on the station which was monitored by cameras, and videos of all who communed with Aima were observed and recorded.


Scott felt like he was emerging from the mouth of a cave into the outside world. Bright, cold light filled the room.


“So this is the AI”, he whispered.


“This is what it looks like in physical form, yes”, said Burke. “But on screen she takes the form of the face of a young woman. I suppose it’s to make her approachable and put you at ease while you talk with her. I’ll contact her right now and we’ll finally find out what happened here. The crew can’t be far.”


While Burke approached one of the terminals, Scott had been gazing up at the huge cylinder, circling around it. It seemed to him that this was by far the tallest room on the factory. As he neared the opposite side of the structure his right foot slipped and nearly caused him to fall. He regained his balance and examined the slippery substance on the floor. It was dark and viscous. More oil? Unlike before, however, it seemed less like a puddle and more like a large stain. As if something large, soaked in the liquid, and been dragged across the AI room’s floor.


Burke was having trouble making contact with Aima. He had no trouble using his ERA name and password to log in, but each attempt to run Aima’s video chat program was met with a ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE SYSTEM ERROR message.


Scott followed the indistinct stain, finding that it lead to another sliding door to the rear of the cylindrical CPU. The structure cast a long shadow. The stain smudge became harder to see.


“I can’t seem to make contact with Aima”, said Burke. “Maybe this problem is linked to the loss of power.”


A thought struck Burke.


“I’m going to look at this room’s security camera footage of the skeleton crew”, he resolved. “Maybe we can learn something from that.”


Scott wasn’t paying attention. Nearing the door, he found that it didn’t slide automatically like the other doors, and even more peculiar, it was slightly ajar. What lay beyond the door remained unlit by the automatic lights. All Scott could see from his side was an extended black strip. He curled his fingers around the opening and tried to use his weight to slide it open. The door didn’t open, but neither did it stick in place. It budged a bit as Scott pulled, as if there was something on the other side trying to hold it fast.


[Continued on next post]


BBS Signature

Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-26 13:45:56


Burke pulled up the video footage files onto the monitor. There were several of them, and the first few he viewed proved to be grainy, and since they recorded the communications centre in a state devoid of humans, they were shot in night vision. In order to find the videos with the crew all he had to do was find the videos shot in bright light.


Scott switched on the flashlight next to his open visor. Moving close to the narrow open space between the door and the jamb, the light penetrated in an oblong shape into the murky room, which was long and narrow, almost like a corridor, however, a the far end was a wall and what looked like a mound of massed bumpy objects, “like clothes”, Scott thought, “or maybe just a pile of manikins?” There were stains in there too, and they seemed to be darker and more spread out.


Burke was browsing the first few videos that weren’t in night vision. These were just routine check ups between the skeleton crew’s tech specialist and Aima. The grainy footage showed the specialist at a terminal and, much as Burke was trying to do, typing in his login information and then speaking to Aima directly. Burke backed out of the video and searched for one recorded closer to the present date.


This time Scott really put his back into the door, and little by little it began to inch open. As soon as it was at least two thirds open he pulled himself through the gap and almost slipped on the substance again. It was thicker now. He touched his gloves to it, and in the cold light of his flashlight he saw that it was nothing like the texture or colour of oil. It was leading to a drain on the floor.


While this was happening, Burke had found the video he was looking for. Seeing the blurry footage of several figures in ERA uniforms, he rewound a little and watched the video from the point at which the communications room lights switched on. It was nothing like what he had expected. Six members of the crew, their faces too unfocused to discern, scrambled in through the main door of the AI room. There were dark patches on some of their uniforms and a few of them were limping. Instead of approaching one of the terminals as the tech specialist had done in the previous videos, two of the crew members, bearing something that looked like bludgeons, perhaps pipes or crowbars, rushed at Aima’s CPU and began to batter it and prise open its outer covering. Before they could do too much damage, however, both those attacking the CPU and those standing by were swarmed on all sides by ill-defined white bodies which, to Burke, could only have been manikins. He could also hear some background noise, something like the rhythmic grating of machinery.


Burke then heard a strained and panicked shout from Scott. He was bellowing in a hysterical tone that he had found the crew, that the crew were dead, torn into little pieces. Just then, the three locked doors to the AI room flew open and hordes of manikins crowded in, just as they had in the video. But as they stepped into the light, Burke saw that they weren’t manikins. Manikins were faceless, hairless, and had no skin. These figures were finished androids, but finished in such a way that Burke could only imagine that they were designed by someone completely deranged.


Each android had little in common besides a humanoid body. Some had lank colourless hair, others were bald. Their skin appeared so clammy and slick it seemed to be made of acrylic. But in the few seconds Burke was able to take in everything that was happening, he noticed that the strangest thing about them were their faces: everything about their features just looked off. It was as if they had been drawn by a child who had never learned to sketch the proper anatomy of the human face. Most of their eyes were to high, some of their mouths were too low, several features were either too large or too small.


A hundred hands suddenly grabbed Burke all at once, and he could already hear the frenzied struggling and howling of Scott. The horde of androids moved as one. Burke heard Scott’s shouting becoming muffled, and at the same time rubbery hands and limbs were wrapping themselves around his nose and mouth, and his own frantic grappling began to slacken. The last thing he remembered hearing before losing consciousness was an indistinct metallic chattering being emitted from each android’s mouth as one, the grating sound he had heard in the video, the Aima’s laughter.


◆ ◆ ◆


The first thing Burke became aware of upon awakening was the feeling of the hard cold ground against the side of his face. The room he was in was dark, but it seemed like there was a large window on one wall from which glared the familiar, but bleak, cold light. His head was still swimming and his thoughts were muddled. A putrid smell assailed his nostrils. Casting his eyes blearily around, it seemed to him he was surrounded by manikins. Suddenly the fearful thought struck him that he might still be in danger of being attacked by the contorted-faced androids, but upon supporting himself with this arms and peering around the cramped room he saw that what was seeing weren't whole androids, or even manikins, but disconnected limbs. He reached out a hand and prodded what looked like a foot. Its milky white pallor gave the impression of being a manikin part, but its consistency was flesh-like. Recoiling in disgust, he pressed himself against a wall and his hand inadvertently brushed something moist and heavy which rolled away from him. Shooting a glance towards it, he was greeted by a sallow, gaping mouth, near hollow eye sockets, and thin hair plastered to a white pate.


Burke pushed himself against a corner of the room which was clear of limbs and, closing his eyes, tried to regain his composure. When he felt he was ready to take another look at his surroundings he opened his eyes. True enough, several of the limbs around him could only have been human limbs, with opaque skin, pale pink flesh no doubt drained of blood, and here and there were skulls like the one he had just seen (and was doing his best to avoid looking at). However, mixed in with these limbs were extremities that really did once belong to androids, and they looked like they had been ripped apart just as haphazardly as the human limbs had been. The piles of these limbs were illuminated by the light spilling out of the large window to his left. There were two sliding doors either side of the room, both firmly shut. Not far from were he had been lying was Scott, sprawled face down on the floor, out cold. He crawled over to his colleague and rolled him onto his back. He tried shaking him, but he wouldn't wake.


[Continued on next post]


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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-26 13:47:45


All at once, he found himself startled again, as there was movement from a mound of body parts against the opposite wall. What emerged from the mound, pushing several parts off of himself, was a dark-skinned man whose haggard appearance and spare frame was almost corpse-like.  


His bloodshot eyes seemed to look straight through Burke. He said nothing and didn’t seem in the least bit surprised at Burke and Scott’s appearance.


“Who are you?”, Burke exclaimed.


“I’m Nathan Wells” he drawled. “I’m all that’s left of the skeleton crew”. He cleared his throat. “I take it you and your friend came here to investigate the reason for our loss of contact?


“Yes. What is this place?”, Burke asked.


“It used to be a viewing gallery”, the man replied flatly. “But since all the other storerooms have been filled, it’s currently where Aima dumps her refuse and stores those androids destined for disassembly.”

“But what about us”, asked Burke. “What are we doing here? We’re not androids.”


“According to Aima that’s precisely what we are”, Wells intoned darkly. “The AI can no longer tell human from broken android, and since the AI regards any humanoid form that it cannot access and control directly as broken, that’s what we are, broken androids. All broken androids get torn apart.” Wells gestured to the scrapped limbs around them. “That’s what happened to all my friends.” Wells closed his eyes.


“But what about you? You haven’t been torn apart?”, blurted Burke.


“As Aima sees it, I already have been”, he said. Wells raised his left leg and Burke saw that it was a prosthetic. It seemed to blend in with the other blanched limbs. “We’ve all been examined by that…”. Wells pointed at a small camera in the top corner of the room which Burke hadn’t noticed. “…and anything that isn’t a full-bodied humanoid gets left here to rot, and anything that is gets disassembled—violently. My reward for being a cripple is that I get to die of starvation rather than being ripped apart. Since we’re in a viewing gallery, and assuming Aima chooses your friend for disassembly before you, you’ll get an excellent view of the process through that window.”


Burke looked through the gallery window for the first time, where several robotic arms were visible. There was a faint stain of black blood around a drain on the floor. Everything else was immaculately white.


“How did all this happen? How did Aima get this way?”, he asked.


“The AI always had a large degree of control over the factory. It oversaw the most critical aspects of android production and was even able to connect to manikins and androids and move them around. Some members of the crew decided to increase its selectivity; make it more choosy and only assemble androids of the highest degree of perfection. That meant all the androids that weren’t up to scratch had to be dismantled so their parts could be reused. Somewhere in this newly implemented program a glitch arose, and since the AI can’t connect to humans the way it can connect to androids, it assumed the crew were faulty androids. After that, it dragged away two of the crew from the control deck using her androids and killed them in disassembly rooms like the one on the other side of the window. The rest of the crew, me included, forced our way into the AI room and tried to destroy it, but I think we just made it worse, and just like both of you, we were caught.”


Scott began to stir on the floor.


“I haven’t spoken so much in quite a few days”, sighed Wells. “I’m very weak and I don’t have the strength to talk any more. Let me die in peace.” With that, Wells shut his eyes again.


The camera on the ceiling rotated and zoomed its lens in on Scott. A tile next to it slid aside and a large three pronged claw lowered itself down. Scott hadn’t even the chance to support himself and take in his surroundings when the claw shot down and grasped itself around his torso. He must have thought he was dreaming because he allowed himself to be raised into the ceiling without speaking or struggling. In a moment, Burke could see him being lowered down into the room on the other side of the glass. Only then did Scott seem to become conscious of what was going on. He began to thrash and squirm in the claw’s grip while the mechanical arms whirred around him and moved into place. Burke knew what would happen next but couldn’t tear his eyes away. Wells was paying no attention. With meticulous precision, the grippers of the arms wrapped themselves around Scott’s wrists and ankles, and only now did he begin to scream.


The four robot arms worked slowly, but moved with the precision of clockwork. They gradually began to shift from the centre of the room where Scott was dangling, splaying his limbs in different directions and making him resemble a Vitruvian Man. The claw still supported his torso. The fact that Scott was being spread out in all directions, and that the arms were holding him like a vice, meant that it became less and less possible for Scott to move, but his irrepressible howling could be heard through the glass. What Burke couldn’t hear was the sound of Scott’s joints popping as they dislocated. Now that he was as outstretched as was possible, the claw no longer needed to support his torso, and opened up. It moved and centred itself above Scott’s head, then its prongs wrapped themselves around his neck, silencing his shrieking. All at once, Scott’s arms, legs and head were torn from his torso, and blood erupted from the corpse, spraying the white tiles of the room a dark red. The arms and claw retreated from the room and several smaller robots appeared from openings in the walls. Their many appendages removed the ragged pieces of Scott’s clothes and his boots, sprayed water all around to remove the bloodstains, and sawed Scott’s limbs into more manageable pieces to be collected and drained of residual blood. Momentarily, the room behind the glass was exactly as it had been before Scott entered it.

 

Burke felt the urge to vomit, but restrained himself, while Wells lifted his head and gazed at Burke with indifference.


“I saw every one of my crew members die, and probably looked as sick then as you do now. But you won’t get the chance to become as inured as I am.”


Just then, another ceiling tile opened up, and instead of a claw being lowered, down tumbled all of Scott’s limbs and extremities, drained and milky white, and lastly his blanched head which crashed into a pile of android parts.


Burke turned his face to the wall, trembling all over. He waited five minutes, then ten, then twenty. The trembling didn’t stop. Eventually, as he was certain it would, he heard the sound of a tile sliding aside and the sound of a claw descending. He turned his head up sharply to look at it, then frantically darted to the other side of the room, wading through human and android limbs, trying to dodge it. The claw swivelled and followed him all over the viewing gallery, just as fast as he was moving, then shot down and locked itself around his torso. The last thing Burke did before he was lifted off the ground was grab the fingers of a large severed android arm. He tried to beat at the claw with it, but his efforts were completely futile.


[Continued on next post]


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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-26 13:48:44


Just as Burke was lifted through the ceiling the wires and electronics inside of the limb slid out of the other side of the arm and all that he was left with was an empty shell. Just as it had happened with Scott, Burke was borne across to the room with the mechanical arms, and like with Scott, Burke’s heart was beating like that of a frightened rabbit and his arms and legs were flailing wildly. He was still gripping the shell of the android’s arm and trying to use it as a weapon. Soon the robot arms were moving into position, and in a sudden frantic thought, and because he didn’t want the metal prongs to wrap around his wrist, Burke shoved his arm into the arm-shell. Precisely as that happened he felt the sensation of the metal prongs wrapping around his ankles and gripping them tightly. But just as the robot arms were about to clamp themselves around his wrists they paused. A security camera in a ceiling corner focused on the shell covering Burke’s arm and magnified its lens, and Aima, unable to detect his arm and sensing the disconnect between Burke’s body and the shell, took Burke to be a broken and inactive android, extended its claw and dropped Burke to the ground for the cleaner robots to deal with.


Burke hit the unblemished tiles with a thud, and instantly scrambled to his feet. There were more sealed sliding doors here. The cleaner robots rattled out of opened tiles in the walls on tiny wheels. Burke rounded the ineffectual things, and before he dived into one of the little hatches they had come from, he shot a final glance back the way he had come, and through the window pane he could see Wells’ bloodshot eyes coolly watching him escape. As Burke turned away, the tile slid closed behind him and he was left in the pitch black darkness, in a space behind the disassembly room. He was still wearing the shell of the android arm, and the hooked digits of its hand allowed him to clamber upwards. Feeling around with his free arm, he groped against a detached grate above him, moved it aside, and lifted himself into another confined space. Above him was nothing but hard pipes. He dragged himself on his belly to where he could discern a dull ruddy glow. He could now look down through another grate into a corridor. The bleak halls of the factory station were lit with a dim red light. This was the bare minimum the androids needed to see, and aided power conservation.


Burke continued to crawl along on his belly, searching for another detached grate so he could drop down into the room below him, but froze all at once when he thought he could hear something faint a little further off. The faint noise, which sounded something like whimpering, or maybe crying, grew louder, and at this point it became clear to him that it was coming from several figures, figures which emerged into the red light below him. Burke held his breath. They were undoubtably androids, the same warped kind that had assaulted him and Scott in the AI room. All of these androids, he knew, were directly connected to Aima, and the AI controlled their every action. Seeing and hearing these distorted creatures up much closer than he had before gave him an insight into the disturbed mind of the AI. Whatever Wells and his colleagues had done to the AI’s CPU, however defective it was before, had completely unhinged it. Four of these androids, lurching forward like zombies, were now almost directly below him.


The tone of their voices were similar to that of small children. At first he thought they were speaking in another language, until he recognised some English words in their speech. It would’ve seemed as if they were listing out random words if not for the lilting cadence the words were spoken in, as if they were singing some discordant, tuneless song. Burke listened to it for what what seemed an eternity as the figures shuffled along below him. When they reached the door at the end of the corridor it slid aside; it seemed the AI was keeping the power on in that part of the factory to allow her pawns to move around. Burke continued crawling forward in the space above the corridor until he found another loose grate, and lifted it and moved it quietly aside. He began to ease himself down using his left arm. His right was still in the interior of the arm-shell. Burke let himself fall as soon as he was dangling above the floor, and contact with the steel walkway let out a terrible clanging sound. He froze in place, certain that the androids would come running, but after several seconds he heard nothing else. In order to make as little noise as possible he slipped off his boots and left them discreetly in the corner of the corridor. He had only one goal now: get to the living quarters, find Malkovich, and escape on the craft they had arrived on.


Burke crept around the factory for what seemed like hours, keeping watch for androids and cautiously staying out of their way. Soon, the corridors began to look familiar, and he retraced his steps back to where he expected the control deck would be. At last he reached the door to it. His relief was palpable. Apparently, though, this door had no power, but fortunately it was open just a sliver. He wedged the rigid fingers of his android arm into the crack and used it like a crowbar, levering it and pulling it just wide enough for him to fit through. Like the room where Scott found the corpses of some of the skeleton crew, the control deck was concealed by inky blackness, and just as disordered as it was when they arrived. With some trepidation Burke switched on his flashlight. He was too anxious to spend any time searching the room for Malkovich with his meagre light. His only thought was to get to the terminal which Malkovich had apparently deserted and switch the power on. Without thinking, he removed his arm from its shell, discarded it on the ground and placed his hand on the scanner. This was a big mistake. As soon as power and light was restored to the room he found himself looking into the face of the AI on the monitor which was as warped and glitched as the freakish androids she had created. Her smile was crooked and her skin was deathly pale. Without the android’s arm she could identify him clearly as something she couldn’t connect to, something that needed dismantling.


From the monitor echoed cackling, metallic laughter, and he could hear fainter, childish laughter behind him. Turning around, he saw where once the space had been concealed in shadow, now stood the manikin the three investigators had found slumped against the wall when they had first arrived. Behind the manikin’s foot lay Malkovich, sprawled out on the ground. His throat was still indented from the manikin’s fingers, but Burke thought he spied his hand stirring.  Malkovich had no doubt been seized from behind while he was sitting at the terminal. The upright manikin’s laughter morphed fluently from discordant chirping into a deafening, raging, almost porcine squeal which filled the control deck. It darted at Burke, arms outstretched towards his neck. Burke fumbled toward the arm-shell which he had carelessly discarded on the floor, but in a moment the manikin had its cold hands around his throat, pressing him against the wall. Its strength was unnatural. Burke’s face turned red, then purple, and his vision began to blur. But just as he started to black out, the firm hands pulled away from his throat and he slumped down against the wall, drawing in haggard breaths. Malkovich was standing and had the crook of his arm locked around the manikins neck and the dummy was shaking and jerking as if it was being electrocuted. Without speaking, Burke rose and grasped the juddering torso of the robot and held it fast. With a quick jolt, Malkovich wrenched the manikin’s head to one side and parted it from its shoulders, wires snapping and sparking. 


The two had scarcely enough time to catch their breath.


“More will be coming”, said Malkovich. “Help me close off this door.”


[Continued on next post]


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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-26 13:50:31


They pushed a shelf full of boxes, some swivel chairs and metal desks in front of the doorway, and sure enough there were hoards of screaming, squalling androids and manikins trying to barge their barricade down. Aima’s warped face filled the screen at the terminal. She was holding the door to the rest of the factory open and the door to their craft closed. The two rushed over to the door to their spacecraft, Malkovich brandishing the crowbar, Burke his arm-shell. Both frantically attacked the door’s side with their utensils, causing its edge to dent and buckle, but just as the arm and crowbar began to wedge between the door and its casing, the shrieking androids burst in. Burke was certain there was no escape this time. He shielded his eyes and braced himself for dismemberment at the hands of the androids. He heard Malkovich’s struggling and yelling. He felt a hand clamp around his leg, surely one of the android’s. He sensed the commotion and the indiscriminate screeching of the manikins and androids around him, but in a moment his leg was released, and the clamour started to fade.  


This was the second time the shell of the android’s arm had saved him. Once all the noise had diminished, Aima switched off the light in the control deck and everywhere else in the factory. Burke shone his visor-flashlight at the door that led to his craft and quietly levered open a space to crawl through.


Burke felt sickness, fear, and shame at his own cowardice. There was a quiet voice inside him telling him he should go back to save Malkovich, even to save Wells, but a frenzied yearning to escape, to be back in his home satellite, overcame any impulse to bravery.


◆ ◆ ◆


Burke ultimately did escape, and returned alone to his space station. He told his story about what had happened no the ERA android factory to his friends and colleagues and they emphatically believed him. All of them got together to petition the ERA to send in special forces to deal with the unhinged Aima and her androids, but the ERA at first refused for a few reasons. First, many of ERA’s technicians who designed Aima didn’t believe that it was possible that she could harm humans, that she was to advanced for that to happen. Second, cargo shipments from the factory to the earth were automated, and by all appearances the AI was still producing androids and that month’s automated android shipment was still on schedule, if AIma was still working, it was thought, then the crew must also be fine. Finally, the officials at ERA decided that sending in the military would be far too expensive, especially on shaky evidence that anything had gone wrong at the factory at all, and so, they spread rumours that Burke was lying.


Disaster struck half a month later, when the automated shipment arrived on earth full of warped-faced androids. One baffled employee turned them on and like the shrieking manikins that attacked Burke and Malkovich, they tried to strangle them, but unlike in the case of Burke and Malkovich, they succeeded, and killed several employees working at the terminal. One employee managed to fight it off long enough for the police to be called. A firefight ensured whereupon the bodies and heads of the androids where ruptured by the firing of police bullets. After this everybody accepted that there was a serious problem in the ERA android factory and the company was put under immense pressure to do something about it.


Finally, ERA bit the bullet and sent an armed platoon into terrestrial orbit. They were met with aggression by the corrupted androids but were no match for the trained contingent. Combating their way to the AI room, they were of course ordered that no harm should come to Aima, and once all her pawns were dealt with she was all but powerless. Her CPU was uprooted form its room, but still held a connection to the factory’s power. The troop had to endure her screaming through the terminals and the flashing on and off of the station’s lights all the way back to their craft. She was transported down to earth where ERA’s technicians attempted to ascertain what had gone wrong with her. Not much more is known about her and her location is a closely guarded secret.


As for Burke, he returned to earth and lived in an isolated and impoverished, backwoods town where androids where nowhere to be seen. He never returned to work in outer space.


[The End] - 7315 words


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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-26 15:24:19


OLD FRIENDS


⠀⠀“So where’s the old lady at, Jack?” he inquired, passing his old friend a bottle of Bud before cracking his own. 

⠀⠀“She’s off in India for a few weeks. She always complained that she never got to go when we were younger. Couldn’t afford to take the time off work, myself.” Jack answered, twisting the cap off the bottle. 

⠀⠀“You really let her just take off like that?”

⠀⠀“I could use the time to myself, Charlie. I never get none of that no more.” he answered. “Gives me some time to do things I never really got to do neither.” 

⠀⠀“Sure, yeah, that sounds pretty nice. I can jive with that.” Charlie replied. 

⠀⠀Charlie shifted uncomfortably in his seat on the couch. He grabbed a handful of potato chips from a bowl on the coffee table in front of them. Jack gulped back a few large gulps of his beer. 

⠀⠀“Yup, just me an’ Coop here now. Get to spend some quality time with my boy, y’know.”

⠀⠀“I hear that! Well cheers, man! It’s been ages.”

⠀⠀The two men clanked their beers together and drank from their bottles. Jack polished his off without taking a breath. 

⠀⠀“Say, where is your boy? He home?”

⠀⠀“Yeah, Cooper’s around.” Jack answered. “Hey Coop!” he called out. “Bring Daddy a beer, would’ya?”

⠀⠀A soft patter of footsteps came from the hallway. The fridge door opened and a couple glass bottles rattled around. From the kitchen came out a frail boy. He had glasses and a sweater on. He handed his father another bottle, which he promptly cracked and took a sip from. Before the boy could turn back around his father chimed in “Hey Coop, this is my old friend Charlie from my college days. He’s my fraternity brother from the old Theta Zeta house. How ‘bout you give him a warm welcome, kiddo?”

⠀⠀“Hi, Charlie.” Cooper said nervously.

⠀⠀“Hey, Cooper. Nice to meet you. What are you doing in your room so quietly? I didn’t realize you were even here.”

⠀⠀“Playing Minecraft.” he answered softly. 

⠀⠀“Cool, little man. I’ll let you get back at’er while I catch up with your pops.”

⠀⠀Cooper turned back around, headed down the hallway and back into his room. The door shut quietly behind him. 

⠀⠀“All the kids these days seem to be playing the Minecrafts.” Charlie said. 

⠀⠀“Keeps ‘em busy.” Jack answered. “Kids gotta be doin’ something to keep ‘em busy. Not like when we were kids, Charlie. Too many creeps and weirdos around. Plus the moms around will call the cops if they see yer kid wanderin’ all alone in the neighborhood.” Jack took another sip “Can’t have social services showing up at my door, now can I? How would I asplain that to my wife, y’know?”

⠀⠀“Yeah man, riding my bike around town and comin’ home before the street lamps came on… those were the days.”

⠀⠀“Say, Charlie, why don’t we break out the whisky like ol’ times?” Jack asked. 

⠀⠀“Well sure, Jack. I could go for some whisky about now. I’m feelin’ pretty good after that beer there.”

⠀⠀Jack rose to his feet with a grunt and took a couple small steps to collect his balance. He walked to the kitchen, reached into a high-up cupboard, and grabbed a mostly full bottle of Old Grand-Dad bourbon. He moseyed on back to the couch to take a seat next to his friend. He twisted the cap off and took a swig from the bottle, before offering it up to Charlie. 

⠀⠀“Here, take a sip of this. It’ll put some hair on yer chest, Charlie.” he said smiling. 

⠀⠀Charlie grabbed the bottle from his reaching hand and took a shot, keeping a straight face, then took another. 

⠀⠀“Say, Charlie. ‘member how we always talked about getting into some real trouble back at the frat house?”

⠀⠀“Heh, yeah. We always wanted to be criminals. Remember our meth lab plan?”

⠀⠀Jack laughed. “Yeah that’s right. We were gonna do it like the bikers.” Jack took another blast from the bottle and handed it back to Charlie. 

⠀⠀“Or that time we was gonna kidnap that kid whose dad was an ambassador or sumthin’?” 

⠀⠀“How could I’s forgets that Charlie?” Jack slurred out. “We always had big plan, bud. Big plans to get rich an’ get outta where we was in’r lifes.” 

⠀⠀“You got darts, Jack?” Charlie inquired. 

⠀⠀“Yeah let’s ‘ave a quick one.” Jack said, fumbling through his jacket on the couch next to him. He pulled a pack of Pall Mall Reds from his coat pocket and a lighter. He opened the pack and threw one to Charlie, and placed the other in his mouth before lighting his and Charlie’s with the lighter. 

⠀⠀The two men smoked on the couch silently for a moment, passing the bottle of Old Grand-Dad back and forth, taking shots of the warm liquor. 

⠀⠀Jack put out his smoke in an ashtray. “Ya’ ever do anything bad, Charlie?”

⠀⠀“I’ve done bad things, y’know. I think we all do.”

⠀⠀“I mean real bad, like what we talked about bad. Like selling drugs or ransoming kids. Shit like that, Charlie. You ever done it?”

⠀⠀“Nah I never did nothin’ bad like that, Jack. I got a good thing goin now, no need to ruin it doin’ some dumb shit like that.”

⠀⠀“I gotta tells ya’, Charlie. I did sumthin’ bad like that.”

⠀⠀“What did ya’ do, Jack?”

⠀⠀“Well my wife’s outta town.”

⠀⠀“Yeah?”

⠀⠀“Well I never slept with a real looker when we was in college, Charlie. Not like the other guys. I was always involved with some broad or another, Charlie.”

⠀⠀“Yeah? So? What did you do, Jack?”

⠀⠀“I did sumthin’ bad, Charlie.”

⠀⠀“Did ya’ cheat on yer wife, Jack?”

⠀⠀“Hey, not so loud, bud. Coop’s still in the other room.”

⠀⠀“Sorry, man, I jus’ wanna know what ya’ did, Jack.”

⠀⠀“Well I did, Charlie. I went out to fourth street, the ol' hooker stroll, an’ I bought one an’ I took ‘er home with me.”

⠀⠀“Hah, Jack, you’re fucked man.”⠀⠀

⠀⠀“I know, man. I dunno why I did it I mean I was getting pretty sauced an’ it seemed like a good plan at the time, Charlie.”

⠀⠀“Well,” Charlie paused a moment. “how was it?”

⠀⠀“It was fine, man. Tha’s not the bad thing I done though.” Jack answered with a snap in his voice. 

⠀⠀“What’d ya’ do, Jack”

⠀⠀“Well I bring’d her ‘ere”

⠀⠀“Yeah? An’ then what?” Charlie inquired with more seriousness in his voice. 

⠀⠀“I done killed her, Charlie.” he answered with a shake in his voice. 

⠀⠀“You what?”

⠀⠀“Calm down, Charlie. I said I done killed ‘er, alright? I stabbed ‘er with my knife. You heard me jus’ fine now.”

⠀⠀“What the hell, man?”

⠀⠀“Yeah, it’s fucked man.”

⠀⠀“What’re ya’ gonna do now?”

⠀⠀“Well that’s the thing, Charlie. I panicked.”

⠀⠀“An’ what?”

⠀⠀“She’s still ‘ere Charlie. I put ‘er body in the deep freeze.” Jack confessed. 

⠀⠀Charlie looked around at the dingy house he found himself in and couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The smell of smoke and whisky filled the room and he wondered what to do now. Charlie took another shot of the nearly empty bottle and choked it back. His eyes watered from the burn of drink. He placed it down on the table. 

⠀⠀“Well,” Charlie said calmly “can I see ‘er?”


1 of 1 - 1226 words


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Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-27 00:31:15


a Jewish Halloween story


#relatable (based on a true story) ( NOT CLICKBAIT) *emotional


1 day. once a year there is a day that might be the best day of the year. A really special holiday once a year that is loved by everyone. A day that brings joy to boys and girls... and pedophiles.

every time you go to sleep, you lying in bed and waiting for that day to come and when it does, you feel truly alive. There are other holidays that are not as good as this one.

Easter, Christmas, New Year's,Thanksgiving, Chinese New Years, Valentine's Day.

F**K THOSE HOLIDAYS. There’s only one holiday that is good and that holiday is… drum roll please…


...


No drum roll? Fine, f**k you.


That holiday is... MADNESS DAY! And Halloween.


I’m so sorry Halloween! I still love you! Christmas can go suck a dick.


Anyways, I loved Halloween as a kid and I still do. It’s better than Christmas.

But… something happened.


When I was 16 years I was wondering what I was going to be for Halloween and I didn't want to dress up at the same thing from last year. I wanted to be something that really says me. Who I am in side. I want to come out and be who I am for Halloween.


You: “ what are you gay? ”


WHAT!? No… I’m not… only 10%.


You: “ 10%? That does that mean? ”


I like dick jokes and I think girls with dicks are sexy.

But 90% I’m still your average straight vagina guy… oh wait. maybe I said that wrong.


You: “ you didn’t have to tell me that. ”


Hay! you ask a question you get an answer.


Anyways, for Halloween I wanted to be… please give the drum roll...

https://youtu.be/SAdwKgLaDfM

A JEW!


Someone: “Gesundheit!”


You: “ … what?  ”


I know, it’s a great idea.


You: “ WHY!? Why would you dress up as a jew!? ”


Because why not.


You: “ because it's racist, you dumbass!  ”


my family are Christians and everybody knows that Christians and Jews are the same thing.

And I want to dress as a jew, not a nazi-

Oh shit, that’s too far with that


You: “ f**king cracker ”


Hay, I’m not a racist. I like my women how I like my chicken. BLACK.


You: “ oh my konami! I will f**king smash your brain with a mallet if I find you, you son of a b-!!!!!!!!! ”


BUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Before you try to kill me.


You: “ too late. I'm already on Google maps and got a mallet.  ”


It’s not racist to dress up as a jew because they don’t get affected by it.

I saw a video about a guy asking a jew if it’s racist and the jew said, quote  “ לא ” as in “no” in hebrew. I know this because I know how to spick hebrew.


You: “ you Google translate it.  ”


...yes

So it’s not insulting to them to dress as a Jewish person for Halloween.

So you can be mad at me.

but it's weird that some people get offended by it if there not Jewish.

And now who's racist.


You: “ still you, and I want to know… WHY THE F**K DO YOU WANT TO DRESS UP AS A JEW.  ”


the reason why I want to dress up as a Jew is because there FABULOUS. the way they dress up is incredibly good. They look like those Japanese delinquents and that complement because they both  have amazing Style.

They look kinda similar. 

iu_64728_6704480.jpgiu_64727_6704480.jpg


You: “ not really. And your you're comparing dangerous Teenage Dirtbag from another country to people in a religion? “


Someone: “ actually he's comparing Jews to jojo. So you can call it jew jew Jewish adventure. ”


You: “ that’s less offensive. ”


… yes? But not every Japanese Teenage Dirtbag is a jojo reference. Those types of people existed a long time ago. but the Japanese delinquents don't exist anymore, they only appear in manga, anime and video games.


And the Japanese delinquents are really badass, and so are the Jews.


You: “ but you still, you better not dress as one.  ”


I won’t, that’s the point of the story. Why I can’t dress as one.

BACK TO THE STORY.

I told my mom I want to be a jew for halloween and she said yes and she was going to take me to goodwill to get supplies for the Jewish costumes and I was really excited for it but on the day that we were supposed to go to goodwill, my mom told me i can’t dress as a jew because my uncle told her it’s racist. 

I was confused as to why I can’t dress as one. I show her the videos about it’s not racist, but she still says no. I wasn't upset but I still want to know why.

And she told me everything I need to know.

Nothing it more scary and f**ked up, then HISTORY.


You: “ I know all of this. Don’t tell me this crap. ”


Someone: “ I didn’t pay attention in history class. Because who dose!?  ”


You: “ good point, tell me the history crap. ”


Someone: “ wait… are we going to learn!? F**k this sh*t im out! ”


* someone leaves *


Anyways, my mom told me…

A long time ago The jews had it rough back then. People hated jews for stupid reasons.

It started when Jesus died and some of jesus followers split into two groups jewishs and Christians, and the Christians said lies about the jews being evil and said jews were responsible for Jesus' death. 

People called the jews greedy because they have a lot of money but they were really educated, so The jews were forced to live in crappy neighborhoods called ghettos.


but all of this is stupid because Jesus was jewish and he killed himself for nothing, and he's not real.


You: " hay, he’s  real. He’s as real as hitter “


Someone: “ *  popcorn chewing sound * if Jesus is real, *  popcorn chewing sound * I’m going to hell? * popcorn chewing sound * ”


You: I thought you leave? And is that popcorn? “


Someone: “ I got bored and hungry.  ”


You: “ can I have some popcorn? ”


Someone: “ *  popcorn chewing sound * f**k no. *  popcorn chewing sound * ”


You: “ dick. ”


Anyways, speaking of hitter, that’s the next part. In the end of ww2, Germany got f**ked and they lost a lot of money. So the so they blamed the jews and 6 MILLION jews die. 6 million innocent people are dead because of one man who brainwashed a whole country to hate people that are different. 


This is not a joke, this is really f**ked up.


Someone: “ why is this so fucking long!? what is this supposed to do with Halloween?!  ”


You: “ now I know why your going to hell. I know how bad the ww2 is and it’s depressing,  but… this is a Halloween story and all you have been doing is talking about you wanting to a jew for Halloween. And this was so stupid long to read. Like…

Mother dick! Why is this so long!? How the hell can anyone read this!? This  is long enough to be a book and the rules was it has to be a Short story. ”


I know, I know. but I don’t give a crap, jack. If I was able to make one person to read all of this, it would be worth it. And it was. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Suck it!


You: “ EAT, SH*T!  ”


LOOK, it’s not that long.


Anyways, another reason why my mom doesn't want me to dress up as a jew because it will be in my record so everyone will reminder and they’ll use that against me if i’m trying to get a job.

I really don't remember that much because I'm starting to forget a little and I don’t want to ask her again.  


this part of the story where it’s going to be serious. So…


I don’t hate jews and I never hated them but you probably know this. but some of you probably get offended even though you're not Jewish. And you probably pretending to be offended. I don't know why. I forgot why.

I'm just writing what I'm thinking.


it's a terrible time to be a comedian because everybody gets offended so easily. But people need to learn to laugh at them self again.


But At the end of the day, I'm not a jew. And I don't want to be one because I would be terrible at it.

I want to dress as one, but I can't and I won't.

I'm... sorry…


fin.


SO, did I scare you?


You: " NO "


Oh… but it was fun.

And there’s a Moral. 


Jewish soldier: “ and the Moral of the story is... don’t be a jew on Halloween. You f**king idiot. “


Everyone: “ and now we know! ”


Jewish soldier: “ and knowing is half the battle. “


* G.I Jew! real Jewsish hero *


THIS WAS A JOKE. THIS WAS A JOKE. THIS WAS A JOKE. THIS WAS A JOKE. THIS WAS A JOKE. THIS WAS A JOKE.  PLZ DON’T KILL ME!


Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-29 11:26:26 (edited 2019-10-29 11:28:29)


Faults of a master


“Do I have to do this?”


Gert chose not to answer. The boy had been sullen for days now, and his complaining during the preparations was setting his master on edge. He had made himself clear at the beginning of the training – the ritual of haunting marked the ending of the apprenticeship and the beginning of a binder’s vocation.


The boy was no longer assisting with the ritual preparation. Instead, he leaned against a nearby tree and watched the sun descend past the trees on the far end of the valley. Gert was on his knees, tying knots in the rope that he had carefully laid out around the run-down cottage.


Gert looked up, annoyed. “You should really be assisting me. When you have to prepare this for your own apprentice, you’ll be thankful for the practise”. He had intended to sound stern, but instead the only intonation that rang through was how tired he was. Gert had never been fond of kids, so the experience of taking on an apprentice had felt particularly draining.


Not to say that the apprenticeship hadn’t gone well. The boy was smart and carried himself with a lot more empathy than Gert had ever been able to. He’d been useful too. It’s unlikely that Gert would have been able to finish half of his recent commission without him.


Casting his gaze out into the valley, Gert scanned the perimeter of the forest. The spirit that stalked him couldn’t be far behind. Knowing this made completing this ritual even more pressing. Gert turned, setting his disapproving gaze on his apprentice.


In response, the boy reluctantly slunk over to the where the ritual notes had been left. After a few moments of leafing through the pages, the boy looked up and remarked “No one I know has ever died. I’ll just be sitting in this old shack for the night… What’s the point if no spirit visits me?”


Given the boy’s attitude the last few days, the question didn’t surprise Gert. “As binders, we go to places where the boundaries between life and death are thinnest. Not only can spirits manifest in these places – it’s where they’re strongest”. Gert paused here and locked eyes with the boy. He wanted to be sure he was listening.


“The last thing you want is a powerful spirit with a grudge coming after you. Regular spirits are one thing, but an angry spirit who knows your weaknesses? A different story. We conduct haunting rituals to cleanse these spirits. At the least, after tonight we can have the peace of mind that some poor girl you wronged won’t be coming for you”. The boy didn’t respond, but he looked content with the answer.


They worked on the preparations in silence until the sun had fully set, using a small fire the boy had lit earlier to illuminate their work. The movement of the fire made their shadow dance across the cottage walls in unnerving ways. At one point, Gert could have sworn he had seen three shadows moving across the grey stones. He had wanted to point it out but held his tongue. No point spooking the boy.


Once the initial preparations were completed, it was time for master and apprentice to agree on a binding for the ritual. The boy felt there was no need to waste time on long winded protections, suggesting a simple binding of earth and salt. His master, feeling uneasy, argued for a lengthier runic binding of steel and dead oak. In the end, an agreement was made on a chain binding of wrought iron.


Chain bindings involved using a symbolic metal chain and an anchor point to hold a ghost in place. In this instance, the spirits would be bound to the bedroom door. The length of chain held by the boy would determine how far into the room the spirit would be able to move. Not the most robust of bindings, but the chances of a visitation seemed slim.

Happy with their agreement, the pair entered the cottage, moving through the dilapidated living room to the only other room, a small bedroom. The boy set about measuring the room, while Gert prepared the iron flecked dye for the door. As he meticulously painted the runes, Gert couldn’t help noticing the dark stains where the door met ground. The thought of what had happened here was unsettling, even for him.


He had chosen the cottage due to the raw boundary that existed in the bedroom. Two weeks ago, they had released the spirit of a young women in this room. From what Gert could see, she had been murdered in her sleep. Dying young, without knowing why, seemed unusually cruel. It had been a difficult sending, the room almost alive with her spiritual force.


Even now, the air seemed to vibrate with the raw emotion.


The boy coughed, bringing Gert back to the present moment. He had finished his measurements for the chain and was waiting for further instructions. Hurriedly, Gert checked the runic forms he had carefully drawn onto the door. Satisfied, he motioned for the boy to come outside.


Returning to the fire, Gert instructed that the steps of the ritual be relayed to him. Reluctantly, the boy complied.


“Once inside the cottage, I enter the bedroom. Using this –“ the boy gestured to a small knife attached to the loop of his belt. “I make a cut on my left hand and spread the blood on the door and the chain as a means of connection. I take my place, recite the invitation for the visitation of spirits. Then I wait for all the spirits that won’t be visiting me”.


Gert did his best to ignore the cheek from his apprentice. He turned to face him directly. “And then?” he asked. Gert wanted to be certain nothing would go wrong tonight. The boy rolled his eyes “My apprenticeship will end, and you can stop calling me boy?”. Gert had to stifle a smile at this, but it only took him a moment to regain his composure. This was a serious occasion. Sighing, he continued “I will break the seal on the house and come in to get you. Clear?” The boy nodded his head slightly in response.


Gert reached inside his jacket and produced a small cotton pouch. Opening it, he took out two stone pendants. Each bore a small symbol, inlaid in a bright silver that reflected the moonlight clearly.


The naming stone played two fundamental roles in the ritual. Most spirits couldn’t navigate easily over long distance. Many of them were bound to where they died. But by invoking an invitation to spirits, a naming stone acted as a beacon to restless spirits. The other purpose related to keeping other spirits away from the ritual. The seal around the house ensured only a spirit with a connection to the true name on the stone could enter.


Gert was preparing to remind his apprentice of these fact when a shriek sent a chill running through his chest. He turned to look out across the valley, searching for its source. He squinted but it was useless, even with the high moon darkness clung to the forest below like fog.


Behind him the boy frowns, exasperated “It was probably a crow… will you give me my stone?”. Gert held out his hand, passing the pendant, his eyes still focussed on the darkened valley. As he turned, he returned the remaining pendant to his pouch and placed it inside his jacket.


Gert took up position by the cottage door. Silently, he stood guard as his apprentice disappeared into the darkened building. Closing the door, Gert mumbled the final words of sealing, ending his involvement in the ritual. All that was left now was to wait.

Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-29 11:27:18


Gert knew he should be overjoyed in that moment. Once the apprenticeship was over, the responsibility to conduct the sendings would be passed on, at least for a while. He could finally rest and stop looking over his shoulder for the spirit that stalked him. But he couldn’t shake that uneasy feeling. There had been too many unsettling omens in one night. Silently, Gert prayed that the night would pass without issue.


In truth, he had fast tracked the apprenticeship for selfish reasons. Gert had made some mistakes throughout his life, and he feared now that they were catching up with him now. The unusual happenings had become far too frequent recently and it was near impossible now to deny that some spirit tracked his every move. Every boundary Gert entered felt like a roll of the dice, with his life the wager. If that spirit caught up to him while he was in a boundary, there was no doubt in his mind that would be his end. So he had decided – he needed to train someone to go in for him.


Gert wasn’t proud of many of the things he had done in his career as a binder. There was the situation in Torentine with an old woman who’s deceased husband refused to pass on. Gert had left her with some incense and taken her money, after realising that her husband spirit wasn’t interested in moving on. Or the times he had taken hefty payments despite finding no sign of a spirit to send. However, most often he regretted abandoning his life in Trescoli – and more specifically, his wife Lara.


The situation had come about due to a series of bad choices on Gert’s part. Firstly, taking a wife had been a foolish decision. A binder’s life does not lend itself to settling down, and Lara had made it clear she had no interest in a life on the road. Against his better judgement, Gert gave up his career as a spirit binder to marry Lara.


It wasn’t as if Gert hadn’t had some amazing flings along his journeys, but none of them were like Lara. She was smart and sweet, and more than anyone else he knew, she was genuinely interested in Gert. From the moment they met, Lara had been enthralled by Gert’s stories of ghosts and his work. She would run her fingers through her golden hair, her eyes gazing into the distance as if his words conjured images only she could see.


If it hadn’t been for their dwindling savings, this life would have been enough for Gert. Lara made a modest income from dressmaking, but not enough to support them both. She had even made all the right introductions, lining up a list of jobs for him, but after months of short-term gigs and rejection, Gert was desperate. This is where everything went wrong.


Jon Cassius was a well-known gang leader in Trescoli, who, upon catching wind of a retired spirit binder looking for work, came to Gert with a proposition. It was a simple idea: Gert would summon the spirit of a long dead bandit king and they would ask where he had buried his stolen treasure. As a binder, Gert knew better than anyone that pulling a spirit back from the other side was a perversion of the natural order. Under pressure, and seeing no other option, he agreed.


The ritual had been a complete disaster. Not only did the spirit not tell them where the treasure was, in its anger at being brought back it killed two of Cassius’ men. In the confusion, Gert had grabbed his payment and ran. He hadn’t even said goodbye to Lara, for fear that Cassius would follow him to their home.


The first few weeks back on the road had almost felt natural, as if Gert was returning to his true calling. It would not be long before denying the supernatural occurrences became impossible. The bandit king’s spirit was stalking him. It seemed to be patient in its revenge, subtly reminding Gert of the mistake he had made in dragging it back into the mortal plane. With each passing day, Gert became more reluctant to enter boundaries, or any spiritually charged area. Low on options, he found himself in a position he had never expected. He needed an apprentice.


By a stroke of luck, a suitable candidate had appeared in his time of need. A young man named Adam had begged him to save him from his fate of an arranged marriage and a life of tilling soil. He had some aptitude for sensing spirits, not that it had mattered at the time. He was willing, which was all his master needed.


At the time, Gert had taken to calling him “the boy” as a means of ligh-


A sickening cracking sound rung out, pulling Gert back to the present moment. He recognised it immediately as the sound of splitting wood and it was coming from the direction of the cottage. The Cautiously, he approached the front door of the cottage to inspect it. Its surface was worn and splintered, but the wood was decidedly uncracked. Moreover, the seal Gert had placed was still intact. That meant that the noise had come from inside the cottage. With Adam.


Pressing his face against the door, Gert began to call out Adams name. In between shouts, he held his breath, hoping to catch even the slightest sound from inside.


The silence that greeted Gert’s calls was deafening. Adam was no more than ten paces away, and yet there was no response.


 Receiving no response, Gert made up his mind and broke the outer seal. Pushing open the front door and moving into the empty front room, Gert was struck by how cold the cottage had become. Moonlight spilled into the room through the front door, lending everything a pale, otherworldly glow adding to the ominous atmosphere. As he slid across the room warily, his breath begins to form small bursts of mist in front of him. Reaching the other side of the room, Gert stopped short of entering the bedroom. The moonlight didn’t quite reach this side of the room, but even in the half light, he could make out the wooden door torn off its hinges.

 

Pieces of shattered doorway lay strew across the room. Some pieces had been flung as far as the opposite wall of the room. Peering closer, Gert spies that some shards are wet and slick with some unknown dark liquid. What Gert couldn’t see was Adam. Tentatively, he stepped into the room and reached out to touch a particularly large door shard, slick with liquid.


As his hand met the cold wet surface, he froze. His hand wasn’t resting on a piece of the wooden door. This was a piece of Adam.



More specifically, a shard of his shattered rib cage. Other pieces of his deceased apprentice were strewn across the floor. In the scarce light of the room, the blood that covered the room appeared as black as the eye of a horse. Gert bit his tongue to stifle the scream rising in his chest.


Gert bolted outside, his mind racing. His right hand fumbled inside his jacket pocket, trying to retrieve the pouch with his naming stone. If he could reach it in time, he might be able to protect himself. After struggling for a moment, he produced the pouch and shook out the naming stone inside. As he prepared his invocation, Gert caught sight of the rune on the naming stone.


A queasy feeling rose up in his chest. The naming stone in his hand wasn’t his. It was Adam’s. Which means the spirit in the cottage, that had mutilated Adam so brutally, had been looking for Gert. The lone binder threw the stone down in horrified frustration. He had been so preoccupied with protecting himself from the spirit that stalked him he had put Adam in harm’s way.


As Gert cursed himself, the spirit began to stir inside the cottage. With the seal around the building broken, it wouldn’t soon emerge in search of its true target.

Gert closed his eyes and began invoking protections against the spirit of the bandit king. If the spirit had made it this far, releasing it or binding it was out of the question. But he hoped that his mumbled spells would be enough to weaken the spirit and save his life. As the final words of his second protection fell off his tongue, a high-pitched shriek rang out from the cottage. Then, all at once, the ghost rushed into him.

Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-29 11:27:36


When Gert regained consciousness, he found himself immobilised, his body lying in a grassy ditch along the valley. His vision was slightly blurred, but from what he could see there was no doubt that both of his legs were bent the wrong way. He didn’t dare look at what state the rest of his body was in.


Minutes slowly passed, Gert patiently waiting for the end. He began to think this was a cruel punishment, even for a vengeful spirit pulled from his eternal rest. Killing him for his act of his hubris seemed justified, but making him suffer like this? It was unfair.


As if in answer to his complaint, the spirit began to manifest itself, a few paces away. As the tendrils of ghostly light pulled together to reveal the haunting figure, Gert, for the last time in his life, gasped.


The woman was framed by light golden hair and she wore a plain blue dress, unadorned save for a dark red stain in the middle. Just beneath her ribs, a deep wound emanated red angry blood, as if the wound was only moments old. It was Lara, and in that moment, Gert finally understood what was happening.


The bandit king’s spirit hadn’t been plaguing him these past months – It had been Lara. Discovering that Gert had skipped town, Cassius’ men had gone after the only link to him they knew. He had known they were bad men, but he never expected this.


 When she couldn’t tell them where he was, they had killed her. Her spirit had remained, fuelled by anger or sadness. Once the realisation had washed over him, Gert couldn’t meet Lara’s gaze. He wanted to tell her how ashamed he was, but no words would come. In silence, she plunged her hand just beneath Gert’s ribcage – mirroring her own wound. Hot blood gurgled up into his throat. Drawing close to Gert, she pointed to her own wound and whispered “This. This was for you”.


As he began to slip away, the spirit’s words seemed far away to Gert. His last thought was of his apprentice and the price he had been made pay on his master’s behalf.

 


Response to Hall-19 Writing Contest 2019-10-30 13:17:48


Here I go again, making Fro regret not putting a word count limit on this contest. Anyway, forgive me if the formatting is a mess, and I hope y'all enjoy.


The Ghost of the Party (1/4)


Jason watched dejectedly as the plastic ball arced cleanly into the last cup in front of him. His eyes followed a little splash of beer that briefly gleamed in the light before it dotted the table. Then Matt was patting him on the shoulder with one hand as he effortlessly tossed the ball into the water cup with the other.


           “Don’t worry about it, man,” Matt reassured him, “the point of the game is to drink, anyway.”


           Jason lifted the cup and drained it, then moved away from the table. His heart hadn’t really been in the game in the first place. Halloween carried painful memories, but a morbid curiosity still drew him to the associated parties. One night he hoped to find what he was looking for.


           As the new teams grew more raucous, Jason left the garage to explore the rest of the party. Matt had pulled him off the couch earlier, declaring that he needed to stop moping around and help get the party started. Apparently, the party had indeed hit its stride while Jason had been busy helping Matt develop a healthy buzz. Whether it had been Jason’s presence in the garage that had invoked the appropriate magic, or if his absence from the main room had simply been a positive influence was up for debate. In any case, the house had filled appreciably.


           The couches had been pushed aside in the living room to create a make-shift dance floor. It would probably take a considerable effort to clean the rug of spilled beer and ground in snacks, but that was a problem the dancers seemed oblivious to. Jason wove his way through the mass of bodies, making his way towards the relative relief of the kitchen. He scanned the crowd as he was gently jostled through it, but everyone seemed lost in their own worlds, anchored only by the music.


           The kitchen door had been propped open, and Jason could smell a slight hint of smoke coming from those congregating in the back yard. If others could also detect the odor, they issued no complaint; the cooler air outside was a welcome relief from the heat of the crowded house. Jason grabbed a glass from the cabinet and poured a finger of rum from an open bottle, mixing it with some soda he found in the fridge. He struck up a conversation with Steve while he did so, who had apparently decided what this party really needed was some freshly cooked bacon. Jason wasn’t sure what Matt would think of Steve’s initiative, but slipped a piece of bacon off the plate hosting the cooked strips before moving on. Steve had some strange notions, but Jason thought party bacon might catch on.


           Despite the entertaining company, an unpleasant cloud continued to settle over Jason. The clusters of bodies were becoming oppressive, each a vibrant display of festivity, yet more notable for a very specific absence. Jason was familiar with feeling alone in a crowd and knew he would find little solace in further socializing. He needed a private moment, away from the press, the loud music, the cacophony of color, and the oppressive odors. Jason briefly steadied himself on the kitchen counter, his eyes closed, his head spinning through the combination of smoke, grease, and cloying scents steadily losing ground to a tide of sweat. He left the kitchen, heading towards the staircase and the meager escape of the second floor.


           Jason was relieved to see that, for the most part, the other guests had chosen to respect Matt’s privacy. He had no such compunction, walking quickly to the end of the hall, where the guest bedroom he had crashed in on multiple occasions waited. Jason opened the door and slipped inside. He closed the door behind him and let his head rest against the cool wood. The bass rattling through the doorframe didn’t allow him to separate from the party completely, but he was alone. He could wait here until the darkness passed.


           “Is that bacon?” a female voice inquired from inside the room. Her voice lilted towards the end of the question, filling it with a sense of amused curiosity.


           Despite the disarming nature of the query, Jason startled as if he’d received an electric shock. He turned to see a blonde woman seated on the bed behind him, her braided hair falling casually over her shoulder. Jason’s mouth fell open as he tried to think of an appropriate reply, causing the strip of bacon he’d held between his teeth to fall into his drink.


           The woman giggled at his stupefied expression.


           “Uh,” Jason stammered, before giving in to the absurd chain of events. He sighed as he slowly twirled the strip of bacon in a drink of now suspicious quality. “I really hope you weren’t looking forward to sharing.”


           This removed any pretense the woman had of suppressing her laughter. It was a bright sound that seemed to mute the commotion of the party below. The laughter filled the room with benevolence, a sense of safety Jason hadn’t felt in a considerable amount of time. He moved away from the doorway and sat on the bed with her, introducing himself.


           “I’m Erin,” she managed to get out after finally getting control of herself. “It’s nice to meet you, Jason.”


           “I’m sorry I barged in on you,” Jason said. “I wasn’t expecting anyone to be up here. Were you sitting alone in the dark?”


           Erin glanced behind him towards the nightstand, a small smile still playing on her lips. “I suppose that lamp isn’t bright enough for you?” she teased.


           Jason turned to follow her gaze, then blinked in confusion. He was certain the lights had been off when he walked in, but he couldn’t deny that the lamp was obviously turned on. Maybe he had just been too distracted by his own thoughts?


           “It’s been a long day,” Erin continued. “I was feeling a headache coming on, so I thought I’d take a break from the party before it ended my night. I thought keeping the room mostly dark would help ward off the worst of it.”  Erin shrugged, as if she was unsure how better to explain it.


           “So that’s me,” she said, “what’s your excuse for abandoning the party?”