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Aquadeo
05-18-2011, 07:29 AM
Welcome back, one and all, old and new, ladies and gentlemen, writers and readers! The first writing circle (http://www.gamespite.net/talkingtime/showthread.php?t=11674) was a lot of fun, and a great way to jumpstart one's inspiration, so let's try this again, shall we?

Anyone can join. All you have to do to sign up is reply in this thread, and suggest a story element. This can be an item, an event, a personality trait, an emotion... whatever you wish. The only two catches are that it has to be original, and reasonably simple. (Otherwise, there isn't enough room for creativity.)

UPDATE! THE CHALLENGE IS MET!

Your brackets are:

The Jets Division
Nyarlathotep
Evil Dead Junkie
Monochromorator
CaliScrub
BEAT
Rosewood
Prinydood
Falselogic

Their story elements are:

a sweet deal
a strong sense of nostalgia
wind
a finger bone of a saint
an almost completely vacant hotel
a broken laptop
a crossbow
a skull cap

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

The Sharks Division

Itakare
Dizzy
Alex Scott
Luana
Papillon Reel
bobbywatson
Karzac

Their story elements are:

a keycard
a backflip
a tenement
hideous body odor
a dead mouse
cracked lips
a torture chamber

There you have it. And now, the rules:

1. Everyone will be tasked to write a short story (at least 1,000 words) using all the story elements listed for their division.

1a. In both divisions, for the first and last sentences of your story combined, you have to use the letters J, Q, X, and Z at least once. (For example, your first sentence might have J, Q, and Z, and your last sentence would have a X in it.)

3. Once the contest starts, you'll have until Friday, June 3 to write and submit your story. You can either post the text here in the thread, or provide a link to it.

4. All participants will then choose their favourite story in the other division, and send me their votes by PM. The winner of each division will be announced, and everyone will then cast a vote for their choice in the final.

5. The winner gets to host the next writing circle! This means that the winner will also be able to add their own little rules as they see fit (such as my own addition of Rule 1a), so long as the basic contest structure remains the same.

That's all there is to it -- so, let's begin! I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone contributes!

UPDATE:

The final round of voting is between:

ROSEWOOD!

VS

ALEX SCOTT!

Congratulations, both of you! now, everyone - regardless of division, or whether you submitted a story - can read those two stories (Chicken Bone (http://www.gamespite.net/talkingtime/showpost.php?p=1071728&postcount=73) and The Mouse, The Landlord, and the Laundry Room (http://keromaru.blogspot.com/2011/06/story-mouse-landlord-and-laundry-room.html), respectively), and get your vote in by this Saturday!

Who will emerge victorious?... Stay tuned!

Nyarlathotep
05-18-2011, 07:33 AM
I'm totally down for this.

I'd like to suggest an almost completely vacant hotel.

Oscar
05-18-2011, 07:42 AM
This sounds like fun! Count me in.

I'll suggest 'a strong sense of nostalgia' for my thing. OK!

bobbywatson
05-18-2011, 08:09 AM
I'm in!

My suggestion is 'a broken laptop'.

BEAT
05-18-2011, 08:13 AM
Oh shoot look who wants in.

It's me.

SUGGESTION: A BACKFLIP.

CaliScrub
05-18-2011, 08:17 AM
My contribution is "hideous body odor".

Prinnydood
05-18-2011, 08:32 AM
Mine is going to be terrible, but I guess I'll throw my hat into this.

My thing: A skull cap

Aquadeo
05-18-2011, 08:33 AM
I am shocked and delighted that we've hit the minimum number of participants so quickly! It was fun working with eight elements in Round 1, so there's no harm leaving the list open for a while longer...

Excellent suggestions so far, by the way!

Falselogic
05-18-2011, 08:36 AM
Let's see... at some point Plato's Phaedrusmust be referenced.

Prinnydood
05-18-2011, 08:38 AM
Quick question. How integrated are those items supposed to be? I can see some of the crazier elements people could come up with only working with a passing reference.

BEAT
05-18-2011, 08:47 AM
I barely mentioned a few things in round one and made others the focal point of the whole story.

Nobody complained then.

Dizzy
05-18-2011, 08:57 AM
A torture chamber.

Rosewood
05-18-2011, 09:28 AM
This is what I get for not reading every thread on this board--this is the first I've heard of the Writing Circle!

My element:

A tenement.

Aquadeo
05-18-2011, 09:48 AM
Quick question. How integrated are those items supposed to be? I can see some of the crazier elements people could come up with only working with a passing reference.

My rule of thumb is that if you can substitute the word "toothbrush" and it doesn't make any less sense, it's not integrated enough.

Examples:

My dog Toothbrush jogged happily besides me.
I stepped over a toothbrush on my way through the schoolyard.
I picked up a toothbrush and threw it at the copy of Plato's Phaedrus.

Oh, and speaking of which... I think I'm going to have to hand down a ruling here. Plato's Phaedrus is either going to require a detailed discussion on Greek philosophy, or else it'll be only be mentioned in passing, like in the examples above.

I'd accept "Greek philosophy" as being a suitable element, with bonus points for Plato's Phaedrus being mentioned. But if Falselogic wants to re-submit, we'll accept that, too.

Evil Dead Junkie
05-18-2011, 09:49 AM
Awesome I'm in.

The Finger Bone Of A Saint.

Alex Scott
05-18-2011, 09:50 AM
I really enjoyed round one, so this should be interesting.

My element: Wind.

Aquadeo
05-18-2011, 09:53 AM
That's eleven -- any more, and it's going be unwieldly.

Submissions are now closed.

Here's the final list:

Nyarlathotep - an almost completely vacant hotel
Monochromorator - a strong sense of nostalgia
bobbywatson - a broken laptop
BEAT - a backflip
CaliScrub - hideous body odor
Prinydood - a skull cap
Dizzy - a torture chamber
Rosewood - a tenement
Evil Dead Junkie - a finger bone of a saint
Alex Scott - wind
Falselogic - a dead mouse

Gentlemen, you have your mission!

Deadline: June 1st

Falselogic
05-18-2011, 09:55 AM
I'll just re-submit. A dead mouse.

BEAT
05-18-2011, 10:02 AM
I'll just re-submit. A dead mouse.

False I'm gonna use both. At the same time.

Falselogic
05-18-2011, 10:10 AM
False I'm gonna use both. At the same time.

well then you are the man BEAT!

Rosewood
05-18-2011, 11:09 AM
aquadeo, was the "J, Q, X and Z" in the OP just an example? since it wasn't in the final list you put up.

I'm kinda hoping it was, because I have almost everything lined up, but that one is killin' me

Karzac
05-18-2011, 11:23 AM
Dang, I missed out!

PapillonReel
05-18-2011, 11:39 AM
Aw nerts, I missed the sign-up period. Oh well, best of luck guys!

BEAT
05-18-2011, 11:41 AM
The window of opportunity here was really small. Maybe we could let the guys who didn't make it in time write something anyways?

That would be pretty nice.

ThornGhost
05-18-2011, 12:06 PM
Yeah, maybe anybody could write a story, but only the first few people get to submit an element?

Though I think I may sit this one out anyway. I really enjoyed the first one but I've got a lot on my plate at the moment.

Nyarlathotep
05-18-2011, 01:40 PM
Perhaps it could be split up into two groups. Each group could read the other group's stories. That way, everyone could participate without letting the reading get out of control for anyone.

Aquadeo
05-18-2011, 01:47 PM
Sorry, guys, I didn't expect to get a dozen signups in the first three hours. We could re-open the entries, and split people and elements up into two groups, if you'd like... or we could just have an advance signup list for Round 3 instead. Any thoughts?

EDIT: All right, we'll split it up into two groups, and each group votes on the other's winner, followed by a final vote between the two brackets. Karzac, Papillon, anyone else: the submissions are open again!

Oh, and by the way -- yes, I'm going to earn the enmity of Rosewood and confirm that the JQZX rule is still in effect. : )

PapillonReel
05-18-2011, 01:54 PM
Huzzah! Thanks a bunch, Aquadeo. :D

All righty, here's my submission: a crossbow.

Soren Highwind
05-18-2011, 02:22 PM
I'll sit this one out. I'm not much of a writer anyways.

Karzac
05-18-2011, 03:56 PM
Sweet deal.

In honour of that, my element will be : a sweet deal.

Luana
05-18-2011, 04:17 PM
Cracked lips.

Rosewood
05-18-2011, 04:26 PM
Oh, and by the way -- yes, I'm going to earn the enmity of Rosewood and confirm that the JQZX rule is still in effect. : )

Time heals all wounds... I'm good now. You will see the results before long! :D

Aquadeo
05-18-2011, 04:54 PM
Yay! This is great!

Okay, that's two groups of seven now. We'll take a few more hours to see if anyone else signs up, and then you'll be split into two pools. Each pool will have half of the total number of story elements, so don't get too far ahead of yourself until it's revealed just which story elements you'll be working with.

(The elements and writers will be assigned to each pool independently: there's no guarantee whether or not you'll even be writing about the element you suggested! Of course, nothing's stopping you from including it anyway...)

Thanks for your patience!

Prinnydood
05-18-2011, 05:12 PM
Can we have all of the important info like brackets and story elements in the first post for easy reference?

Aquadeo
05-18-2011, 05:22 PM
Yes indeed -- I'll give it a proper first-post-explains-it-all treatment tonight.

Itakare
05-18-2011, 07:50 PM
There's no way I'm letting this slip past a second time. If you guys will accept a dude with hardly any posts, then

a Keycard

would be cool, maybe.

Aquadeo
05-18-2011, 09:24 PM
Don't worry, Itakare -- I happen to know several excellent people who don't have *any* posts on this board! Welcome aboard. : )

All right, then... that should do it. I'll randomly split up the teams and elements, and list the (final) final roster in the first post (http://www.gamespite.net/talkingtime/showpost.php?p=1057891&postcount=1). Look, I even linked it for you there.

Note that you'll be voting for your favourite story in the division opposite your own. (I will only cast my own vote in the event of a tie.)

Also, let's make Friday, June 3 the deadline, shall we? With the 1st on a Wednesday, there are bills and stuff to worry about.

Thanks again, guys. This is going to be wonderful!

BEAT
05-19-2011, 06:06 AM
My element was randomly placed in the other team's bracket!

You know what though?

I'm still gonna have a backflip.

Nyarlathotep
05-19-2011, 10:04 AM
When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way, from your first cigarette to your last dyin' day.

BEAT
05-19-2011, 10:18 AM
Uh oh guys I'm in love with Dizzy's sister.

Dizzy
05-19-2011, 10:42 AM
Who wants to co-author a story with me? I'll write 500 words, you write 500 words and we'll co-edit.

DOUBLE TEAM (http://static.cdn.masjo.com/movie/images/double-team-.jpg)

Nyarlathotep
05-20-2011, 06:43 PM
Finding a good way to work in that goddamn crossbow is going to drive me absolutely batshit.

Prinnydood
05-20-2011, 07:24 PM
You mean to say you actually found a way to work in the finger bone of a saint?

I'm in the process of outlining my little tale now. I don't know of any way to work in the crossbow or the saint's finger bone without somehow referencing the occult and/or some Amazons.

Nyarlathotep
05-20-2011, 07:38 PM
Sure. Churches in Europe have approximately five billion saint bones. Using a church as a setting is easy enough.

Edit: Actually, I think I just figured out how to use the crossbow.

Aquadeo
05-21-2011, 09:36 AM
Sure. Churches in Europe have approximately five billion saint bones. Using a church as a setting is easy enough.

Very true. A few hundred years ago, they were the equivalent of lucky rabbit's feet -- and they were usually just chicken bones that were sold by a particularly charming traveling merchant.

bobbywatson
05-21-2011, 10:57 AM
Is there a maximum number of words?

I'm way passed 1k words at the moment, and I don't think I'm anywhere near done. (And I still have the dead mouse and the torture chamber to fit in the story).

Aquadeo
05-21-2011, 03:04 PM
Nope, there's no maximum. Just don't write anything so epic that it would take us days to read.

bobbywatson
05-21-2011, 03:08 PM
Nope, there's no maximum. Just don't write anything so epic that it would take us days to read.

Looks like I managed to keep it at under 3000. With a bit of editing I should be able to bring it down to 2500.

Rosewood
05-23-2011, 08:50 AM
Finding a good way to work in that goddamn crossbow is going to drive me absolutely batshit.

You mean to say you actually found a way to work in the finger bone of a saint?

(Spoilers?) The fingerbone was the easiest thing for me and is a major part of my story. The crossbow is driving me nuts, though!

Alex Scott
05-29-2011, 01:11 PM
Just wrote my entry's first draft. Thanks to that torture chamber, this is turning out a little more disturbing than the last time.

Prinnydood
05-29-2011, 03:28 PM
Just wrote my entry's first draft. Thanks to that torture chamber, this is turning out a little more disturbing than the last time.

I haven't even put one word down. I haven't yet outlined it either... I blame the crossbow.

Nyarlathotep
05-29-2011, 05:40 PM
I'm mostly done, but I don't really feel satisfied with story at all. Maybe it's just because I'm dwelling on it too much, and my writer's block yesterday made me frustrated with the whole thing.

bobbywatson
05-29-2011, 06:44 PM
I am somewhat satisfied with my story, actually. I've actually just finished the first revision (first draft was completed last weekend). I should probably do two or three more readings. I was expecting to remove a lot of stuff from it, but somehow I feel that most of it is actually essential. The dead mouse is in there (dead mice, actually), but we'll see if it's a big enough element to count.

Small warning: English being a second language for me, there are probably a few grammar errors here and there.

Alex Scott
05-29-2011, 07:48 PM
Speaking of dead mice...

Remember Jerry, the guy who left the dead mouse in the shoe in my original story? He's the main character now.

Prinnydood
05-29-2011, 08:45 PM
I've actually hammered out a skeleton for this thing! I even managed to half-assedly work in the crossbow and the saint's finger bone. I guarantee your eyeballs are gonna want to evacuate your skull after you read how kludged together my story is.

Speaking of dead mice...

Remember Jerry, the guy who left the dead mouse in the shoe in my original story? He's the main character now.

You should pull a Pixar and carry this guy through all of these writing circle stories.

Rosewood
05-30-2011, 08:31 AM
I'm somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of my first draft. It's going a lot more easily than I expected, considering I haven't written anything for eight or nine years.

Prinnydood
05-30-2011, 10:08 AM
Okay, so I had outlined the whole story and managed to work in all of the story elements, but then when I sat down to write it (at 12:30 in the morning for some reason), my story strayed so far from the outline that I may as well have never done it. This may be the delirium talking right now, but I'm kind of happy with how it turned out. I just need to fill things out a bit and I think it may actually be good.

Regardless, it always feels good to complete a story, even if it is only 1500 words.

bobbywatson
05-30-2011, 10:11 AM
Regardless, it always feels good to complete a story

I completely agree. It's been quite a while since I've written anything complete. Or, actually, written anything at all.

Karzac
05-30-2011, 12:47 PM
Yeah, the high I felt after completing the last one of these was pretty great.

I have an essay due Thursday, so I haven't really done any work on this. I've got a general idea of it mapped out in my head. The elements seem to fit pretty well together.

BEAT
05-31-2011, 12:19 PM
Shoot is it the end of the month already? Time to finish this thing up.

Dizzy
05-31-2011, 12:38 PM
Ohhh man... I haven't even began crafting my tale! NOOOO~

Itakare
06-01-2011, 06:45 AM
It was supposed to be a quiet little experiment.

That was the only whisper of thought that could get past the dull brick of terror that filled his mind. He was in an interrogation room straight out of CSI, waiting, stewing in his own juices. He could practically feel the eyes of the men behind the mirrored glass, watching him, judging him, sizing up how best to attack, to destroy, circling as a hunter circles its prey, creeping ever closer until finally-

The door beeped. A rotund man with a worn uniform and a worn mustache nudged the door open with a box precariously balanced in one hand and a keycard in the other, muttering under his breath.

The box was deposited on the table and the officer sat down in the other chair heavily. It was the seventh hour of a long, long shift, and he was tired. The kid in question, a peaky twenty something with one sixteenth of a facial hair and an expression that was probably intended to be ‘intimidating’ but was much closer to ‘constipated’ was rapidly flicking his gaze from him to the box and back.

Very slowly, the officer took the lid off of the box. The kid’s lower eyelid was twitching.

He pulled out the form and a pen, and put them both in front of the kid.

“Sign and date, please. Just there, on the dotted line.”
“I don’t have to sign anything, I was told this was just a questioning, am I under arrest?”

The officer blinked once, slowly, and the reached into the box again, pulling out a small white card.

“Ahem. Says here that you’re a one Dick Hanson, Private Investigator and hardboiled straight man. Is this correct?”

Dick licked his lips nervously. At this point he was visibly perspiring. He was really Richard Hanson, hopeless loser and barfly. He had had the cards printed as a last ditch effort to impress girls at the least awful club in town, The Torture Chamber. His brain was screaming at him to come clean, explain everything and hope to whichever gods cared about him that he was put in a cell with the least sodomy inclined inmate available.

“That it is, and I’m given to understand that as a P.I. I’m entitled to certain protections. We’re on the same side here buddy, so why not just dispense with the formalities and let me get back to helping you guys out?”

To his credit, the officer managed to keep a straight face. He was a longtime patron of The Torture Chamber and he enjoyed an amicable relationship with the owner. The presence of a copper or two kept the bar a more reasonable place, where drunken patrons are less likely to cause property damage with wild bar fights. (As impressive as a shattered chair looks at the point of impact, after the fact there’s a lot of wood to clean up and those damn things are expensive to replace.) One evening he had been pulled aside and invited up to the managers office, situated above the club in what used to be the entire top floor of the tenement the club had once been.

Sit down, they had said. Have a drink, they had said. We have a little problem we want you to take care of, they had said.

The worst part of all of this was definitely the kid’s ongoing ‘investigation’. When he had come aknockin’, the boy had been intently studying some ‘clues’ that had been dumped on him by some girl with a cruel sense of humor. The kid wasn’t a menace to anyone, except possibly the unemployment office. He’d thrown most of it out, but he had kept the dead mouse.

He took it out of the box now, in its sealed glass jar. He wondered privately if it was possible to get a mouse framed.

“I’m happy to let you get back on the case Dick, but I have two conditions. Favors, if you will, from one man of justice to another.”

The constant licking of lips was starting to tell, and while he didn’t stink yet, there was the unmistakable promise of hideous body odor to come detectable on the very edge of the palate.

“Sure. Favors? No problem, I understand, What do you need done, my good man? You need only ask.”

“Well, your stern countenance and direct, no nonsense manner were causing no small amount of upset with the shady types who run The Torture Chamber. I think it would be best for all involved if you were to steer clear of there whilst in pursuit of justice.”

The kid’s twitch was back. It was amazing to watch. He nodded.

“Second, and this is for my own curiosity more than anything else, could you tell me how exactly this mouse here fits into the grand scheme of things, what with your investigation and all? I’m only a simple copper, I can’t quite put it together myself.”

Richard was keeping it together quite well, in his own opinion. He’d stuck to his guns and the officer had done a complete backflip. They were practically old friends now. Staying away from the club was going to be the easiest thing he had ever done, but the mouse. Oh god, the mouse.

Welp. Running his mouth off without engaging his brain had gotten him this far.

“Understandable. It eluded me as well, at first. I believe the mouse is the symbol of an ancient cult, the grisly leftovers of an ancient ritual designed to sustain the life of its key members as the continue their dark duties and corrupt those they can reach. The rat was left behind there as they were casing the club for viable sacrifices, but they found none and so departed. It was then quite clearly killed by one of the staff with a broom. I’m up against dark forces here, and I would appreciate it if you kept the mouse in a safe, well lit place. I’ve done all I can with it.”

Several seconds passed in silence.

“That about clears that up then. Just sign the record and you can be on your way.”

He signed the record.

He was shown the door.

The officer managed to get well out of earshot before he lost his composure, laughing long and hard.

For weeks afterwards, he would tell anyone who would listen the joke about the justice zealot with the cracked lips and the dead mouse.

I totally phoned in some of the elements but they're all in there, however tangentially.

Anyway, the first shot is fired. Your move, Jets.

Prinnydood
06-01-2011, 09:07 AM
Until we hit the dirt road, the only things disrupting the relative quiet of the countryside were the low whine of the car’s engine and an expressly bothersome fly that proceeded to zip around my ears after I foolishly lowered the windows while on the adjacent forest trail. Hearing the tires ground the rubble underneath into a fine powder was like stepping into a portal to the past. There was a very specific sound this dirt road made when it met with a car’s tires that I’m sure will never escape my ears for as long as I live. The last time I heard it was when I had a job at the old hotel that straddles the makeshift road.

The reason my ears had the pleasure of hearing such a scathing symphony was sitting in the passenger’s seat: my wife, Leona. She made a deal with me—for reasons I have yet to figure out, she kept calling it a sweet deal—to return to the place where we first met for our one-year wedding anniversary. I’ll admit my mind was elsewhere when she brought it up which must have led to me agreeing with her without realizing it. She always did have an affinity for getting her way by manipulating things in her favor.

Where she held a strong sense of nostalgia for our first meeting place, I held nothing but sordid memories full of back-breaking labor for menial pay and woefully underfurnished room and board. To this day, I can’t fully understand why Howie would put up with running a hotel that never saw many lodgers, though I’m convinced it has something to do with his insular upbringing.

The Meridian could have been considered more of a pit stop than an actual hotel. The place was only known for sitting smack in the middle of the only discernable road for miles. Because it sat out in the middle of nowhere, the only tenants were the freakishly huge rats that scurried through the prairie and the many pests that called them home. Howie had a hell of a time trying to keep them out. But if we had a choice, we would have gladly taken a few rogue vermin over spending our waking hours in the same building as him.

Everyone on the hotel staff thought he was crazy and a few of them even told him so right to his face. They ended up earned themselves pink slips in the process, but I can’t exactly say I was thankful not to be in their shoes. The alternative was being in my position after all, and that meant cleaning and maintaining a hotel that barely saw any use, all while enduring the ravings of an old man who had been alive longer than he had any right to. I was sure I could see the thread he used to cling to life alongside the saint’s finger bone he had strung around his neck.

He was anything but subtle about its origins, telling anyone and everyone that he got it from a fortuneteller he frequented in the next town. She had been able to convince him that the bone would, as he liked to call it, “grant him and extended stay on this blue Earth”, not that she needed to work all that hard to convince him.

To say the man was a superstitious old bat would have been a compliment to him, yet that’s only half of the equation that makes up Howie. The other half would have to have been the sheer confliction his situation landed him in every day he went to work. There was no end to the stories he had fostered over the years. After I had stumbled into the hotel looking for a job with only an out-of-date laptop to my name, I couldn’t go a day without hearing another wacky tale from one of my co-workers.

That same laptop was the one thing I could depend on to steer me right in a world that had very little patience for a young man with no working experience. I was desperate for a job as I wanted to eat more than table scraps for once in my short and harried adult life. I saw that laptop as a machine that listed possible job opportunities and nothing more. Sadly, it now exists in two severed halves since Howie’s dementia has led him to believe that even outdated technology is a sign of the Devil’s return to prominence.

The poor old man was apparently a pretty nice guy until he grew older. Senility led him to fabricate shoddy reasoning for his hotel’s lack of guests: it was haunted. Needless to say, none of us found that to be terribly sound reasoning, yet Howie embraced the idea his failing mind had implanted wholesale. One person told me that he was so convinced shadowy specters patrolled the halls that he did the same thing in search of them, armed with a crossbow loaded with bolts soaked in holy water. When I heard he made the crossbow himself, I momentarily applauded his resourcefulness until I remembered that he lacked the mental fortitude to wield such a dangerous weapon properly. Apparently, the others thought the same thing because they begged him to stop his one-man crusade against the legions of the undead.

“I’ll bet that’s why you wanted to come back here,” I said as the dingy hotel came into view. “You want to see if Howie’s gotten any crazier since then.”

“You mean I can’t just want to relive one of the earliest moments of our relationship?” Leona asked.

“Not when that moment involves him.”

“Oh come on, he’s not that bad.”

“The only reason you can say that is because you didn’t have to work under him for two years.”

“Who’s to say those stories you heard weren’t exaggerated anyway? When I talked to him, he seemed to have everything together.”

“I don’t think it’s all that hard to maintain your sanity when you’re finally getting the one thing you want.”

Leona tapped her chin and mused in silence. What reason would Howie have had for revealing his more addle-brained tendencies to a person who was asking for a room for the night?

I remember that night more than any other. Leona burst into the hotel soaking wet. A storm had blown in unexpectedly and Howie wouldn’t let us hear the end of it thanks to his prattling on about it being the curse’s doing. My shift at the counter was almost up when she approached me and uttered in a voice eerily devoid of chattering teeth:

“Excuse me. You wouldn’t happen to have any rooms available, would you?”

My first thought upon seeing her was that she was among the most unique looking people to come to the hotel in my short time working there. Until then, I couldn’t say that I had met someone who would dare walk out of their house with as loud a skull cap as she was wearing. The bright purple hat sitting on her head looked more like a beacon than an accessory. The rest of her wardrobe wasn’t quite as eccentric, a fact I found myself oddly disappointed with. I figured she may as well have gone all the way with it. Apparently, that sentiment made its way to the surface as she caught me making a face at her.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Why are you looking at me like that? Look, do you have a room or not?”

Howie nudged me to the side and I could tell he was resisting the urge to sprinkle his vial of holy water on her. Judging from how soaked Leona was and the ill-placed rose in her hat, he very well may have seen her as a water nymph or something.

“You’ll have to excuse the boy,” Howie said with a nervous laugh. “He’s still new here.”

“Is that right?” she asked, a sly grin slowly stretching across her face. “Then I guess I'll have to break you in by having you carry my bags to my room—”

She gave me a look then that I can safely say has never graced her face since. At the time, I read it as her exhibiting her ownership over me for the entire time of her stay. The only reaction I could muster was a forced smile as a façade for the utter contempt I held for my situation. Only later would I find out that she was trying to convey a sense of adoration. Love at first sight was something I had only attributed to fairy tales, yet there she was looking at me like I had stepped out of a dream. And there I was doing everything in my power to ruin it. She’s still quick to remind me that I haven’t learned to read her more subtle expressions.

“—you do have a room available, don’t you?” she asked Howie.

“Why yes, of course. Why don’t you and Ivan take care of your bags while I have your room prepared?”

“Sounds good,” Leona said. She beckoned me to her side, thrust open the front doors to the hotel, and pointed out her car. “My car’s the lime green one over there.”

I couldn’t help but glance at her cap again. Clearly she hadn’t worn matching clothes for it because she was saving the eccentricity for her car. Not only was it lime green as she said, but it also had a purple stripe running along the side of it—the same purple that colored the cap sitting atop her frazzled hair. The wind from the storm was howling so loudly, I could have sworn it was laughing aloud when I could only do so internally.

“What are you waiting for?” she demanded. “Go on.”

She unlocked her car from the shelter of the Meridian and practically shoved me into the freezing rain. I had to make three trips in order to get all of her luggage inside. It certainly was out of place for me to question her as to why she had so many bags, but any sense of friendliness I may have held towards her had washed away along with the torrential downpour.

“Why do you have so many bags?” I asked her point blank. “You’re only one person.”

“You mean to say you’ve divined how long I’m staying here?” she asked me.

To be honest, I hadn’t, but it was still a valid question. “No one person would have a need for six suitcases just to stay at a hotel.”

She crossed her arms tightly and shivered slightly. Finally, the wind and rain had caught up to her nerves. “If you must know, I’m busy traveling the country on my extended vacation—” She sounded like she would go on, but instead cut herself short.

“Why?” I couldn’t help but ask.

“Are you always this nosy with your guests?” she fired back with a light huff. Howie had just finished booking Leona’s room and was fast approaching us. “Come,” she said as she swiveled on the spot, flicking her now whiplike hair in my face, “help me take my bags to my room.”

I remember standing there, suppressing the urge to sabotage my forced smile with a grimace. I’m still not sure if her throwing her hair in my face was supposed to be flirty or an honest mistake. Whatever the case was, she certainly didn’t find it necessary to take even a single bag to her room herself. Why should she have when she had me, one of many who were bound by their occupation to be at her beck and call whenever she needed them? All I could do was let out a sigh and stuff her bags in my hands, under my arms, and around my neck while praying that she didn’t get a room on the top floor.

That was the first time she had manipulated me into doing her bidding, and it most certainly wasn’t going to be the last.

Things remained that way for her entire stay. Whenever she needed something, she made it a point to ask for me to get it for her. Maybe if I had figured out that she was just trying to spend more time with me, I wouldn’t have greeted her with as much bitterness as I did. She never seemed to mind it, though, and over time, as I was inadvertently getting to know her more, I had to admit that I grew to enjoy the time we spent together. She brought a sense of liveliness to that old hotel that it hadn’t seen in the time I had been there. That was the reason I was drawn to her, the reason I eventually bonded so well with her, and the reason I took her hand in marriage.

I didn’t realize how much the Meridian meant to Leona until we pulled up to it and she stepped out of the car. She just stood there, drinking in all of its dilapidated boarding and misaligned shingles. It must have appeared to her just as it did that day: the hotel staff shuffling their feet inside to the manic howling of Howie, the cross and rosary hanging just over the entrance, and the decided lack of cars parked outside of it. The freshly painted “CONDEMNED” sign hanging on the front door may as well have not even been there.

If she held such strong memories of our first meeting and wanted to return to the place where they were made, who was I to begrudge her that?

bobbywatson
06-01-2011, 04:59 PM
The Remnants of Joseph Mazargo

Dalton Sinclair threw his copy of Don Quixote on the floor and got up. As the book was in midair, a keycard fell off. Sinclair got off the bed on which he had been lying and grabbed the card. On it, he saw the silhouette of a dolphin doing a backflip. "What the hell..."

He had bought the book second hand a week earlier, in a small bookstore near the tenement. Sinclair reached for yesterday's pants from the floor, took out his wallet and put the keycard in it. He would worry about that later.

Dalton Sinclair jumped in the shower. He turned the knob all the way up, knowing perfectly well that there was no point. This place had probably never seen what a water heater looked like, but old habits are hard to kill.

After getting dressed and eating a quick breakfast, he walked to his car. On his way to work, for the first time since he had taken this volunteer position, he did not feel bad about driving to work while everyone else around him was walking or biking. Even though he had said to himself that he would worry about the keycard later, for some reason the picture of the dolphin doing the backflip kept coming into his thoughts.

He arrived at the office and parked in front of it, next to his boss' bicycle. He got inside the crummy building, said "Hi" to the receptionist and walked to his desk. He got his wallet out of his pocket and grabbed the keycard. He looked at it again. Nothing was written on it. He flipped it over. The magnetic stripe seemed to be intact.

This could not be a hotel keycard. Any hotel would have its name on that kind of thing. Assuming any hotel in town actually used keycards to lock the rooms, which was somewhat unlikely. This town was most certainly not a tourist hotspot, and most hotels did not even have TV sets in the rooms (which was a good thing, considering the quality of local shows).

Sinclair put the keycard back in his pocket and looked at the stack of folders on his "in" tray. He inhaled deeply, removed the stack of paper from the tray, flipped it upside down and started reading the first file. This was going to be a long day.

At 10, Sheila Dickson walked into the room. She sat on the chair in front of Sinclair's desk and waited for him to finish reading.

"Hey, Sinclair. Anything special?"

"No," said Sinclair. "The usual: women asking for help because their husbands beat the crap out of them every day, hookers who want to get away from their pimps... This place is hell on Earth for these women."

"I know." Sheila kept quiet for a while, and then she said: "I need your car and I need you to come with me."

"Where to?"

"Little Tommy's place. Again."

"Shit."

"Yeah."

Sinclair and Dickson got up and walked to Sinclair's car. He sat in the driver's seat. Getting to the tenement took about thirty minutes. Neither Sinclair nor Dickson said a word. Neither of them felt like talking. They had no idea what they were about to discover.

They reached a street too narrow to drive through. Sinclair made sure they were not leaving any valuable in plain sight and he got off. They walked for a few minutes before reaching the entrance to a basement. The door was ajar. They listened for a few seconds. Nothing. "After you", said Dickson.

Sinclair fished the small flashlight out of the right pocket of his pants, switched it on and pointed it toward the staircase going down. Slowly, he started climbing down. Dickson followed a few steps behind.

Sinclair soon found himself in a dark room. The only source of light was a half barricaded, shattered window. Behind it, they could hear the sounds of the streets. Kids yelling and playing. Women calling out for their kids.

Sinclair could not describe the smell inside the room. Feces, mixed with urine and sweat, and most likely some cheap whisky or beer. Possibly even vomit. With his flashlight, Dalton searched the room. It did not take long before the beam hit the man's body. He was dead, no doubt about it. Decomposition had already started. Around it, Sinclair found a big number of unlabeled glass bottles, some of them broken into pieces.

"Where's Tommy?" asked Dickson.

Sinclair resumed his search of the room and found the kid's bed almost immediately. Little Tommy was on it. Dickson walked to it and put her hand on the boy's bare chest. "He's breathing", said she. Sinclair got closer. Little Tommy was in an advanced stage of dehydration. His lips were dry and cracked. He needed medical care. And he needed it as soon as possible. Dickson took the three year-old in her arms and walked toward the stairs, Sinclair right behind her, lighting the way with his flashlight.

They ran back to the Jeep. They were in luck: the vehicle was still there. They reached the hospital only ten minutes later. "I can take it from here," said Dickson as she was exiting the vehicle.

"You sure?"

"Yeah".

Sinclair hesitantly left her in the crowded waiting room with the boy in her arms. He stopped at the receptionist's desk and asked for an ambulance to come and pick up Little Tommy's father's body. "I'll pay the fee".

He was soon back in the basement. The body was still there. The hospital employees picked it up. As they were putting it on the stretcher, one of its arms fell on the side. There was a tattoo on it that Sinclair had not noticed the first time. Sinclair got closer and soon realized that it was a dolphin. Doing a backflip. "Hey, have you ever seen that symbol?" he asked to the hospital employees. They looked at it. The younger one (he was about twenty) said he had never seen it. The other one, well into his forties, recognized it immediately.

"That's the symbol of the Dauphins. They were quite active about thirty years ago. During the Mazargo years. They were his death squad."

The name of the old dictator and the atrocities he had committed sent a chill down Dickson's spine.

The two men left. Sinclair started searching the room again, thinking. The Dauphins. Dolphins. How could he have missed the obvious connection? Thirty years ago. The keycard was much more recent than that.

Sinclair grabbed some clothes for Little Tommy and left. The smell was about to make him throw up. The smell of the street, which he usually found nauseating, was almost like a nice perfume.

As he was driving back to the hospital to make sure Dickson and Little Tommy were alright, he passed in front of the bookstore where he had purchased the copy of Don Quixote that had held the keycard. He decided to stop. It seemed highly unlikely that the owner would remember who had sold him the book, but it was worth a shot. He did not have many leads to follow in this so-called investigation.

The owner walked to the counter as soon as Sinclair got in. "Ah, Mr. Sinclair! So good to see you again! Are you looking for anything to read?"

"Actually, no. I'm here about the book you sold me last week. Don Quixote."

"You liked it? I'm afraid I do not have anything else by Cervantes."

"That's not why I'm here. I found something in the book, and I would very much like to give it back to its owner. Do you remember who sold you that book?"

The clerk seemed to think for a few seconds, uncertain. Then, he kneeled behind the counter and, when he rose, he was holding a thick ledger that he dropped next to the cash register. "It's been here a while. Most people don't read classics anymore... Let me see... Oh yes! It was sold to me by Mr. Ignatio Klein. He comes here from time to time. If you want to leave the item to me, I could certainly give it back to him next time he comes in."

Sinclair thought about the proposition for a few seconds, but decided to decline. He wanted to know what the keycard was for, but he also did not want the book seller to see it. The man was old, and Sinclair was not sure what his reaction would be if he saw the logo.

"I would prefer to do it in person."

"Certainly, certainly. Well, here, let me write down Mr. Klein's address."

Sinclair got out of the book store a few seconds later. He looked at the address again. There was no mistaking it: it was definitely the place referred in town as The Mansion. This was getting weirder and weirder by the minute.

Sinclair put the address in his wallet, next to the keycard, and drove toward the hospital. He would worry about The Mansion later.

Dickson was waiting for him at the main entrance. She was alone. She got in the car. "He's going to be fine. They will keep him for a day or two, but he will be fine. How did it go at his father's place?"

Back at the office, Dickson informed the rest of the staff of Little Tommy's situation, while Sinclair was tasked with finding a new home for him.

***

Sinclair got out of the office at around six. He sat behind the wheel of his jeep and took out the small piece of paper with The Mansion's address written on it. Ah, what the hell, it was only a small detour, so he might as well stop and give the keycard back.

It took him about twenty minute to reach the house. It had quite a history. It had been built more than a hundred years ago by foreigners. It had changed hands many times. Nobody really knew who it belonged to nowadays. The last known owner was Joseph Mazargo, while he was in power, before his disappearance.

He parked in front of the gate and looked at the house. It was huge. It had to be worth millions. It was two-story-high. The exterior was made of grey bricks. It looked like a rich colonial house. Sinclair got out of the car and walked to the doorbell. He pushed the button. A few seconds later, a female voice said through the speakerphone: "Hello? What business do you have?" The tone was rude and Sinclair did not feel welcome at all. Nevertheless, he was here for a reason, so he ignored it.

"I'm Dalton Sinclair. I'm here with Peace Corps. I recently found an item that I think belongs to a certain Ignatio Klein, which I was told lives here. I would like to give it back to him."

"What item?"

"A keycard. With a dolphin doing a backflip on it." The voice at the other end suddenly went silent. After waiting for a minute, Sinclair said: "Hello? Are you still there?"

"Please move forward to the front door."

Puzzled and intrigued, Sinclair climbed back in his car and, as the gate opened, he drove up the lane. He was greeted by a Black man in his sixties. He was wearing a clean white shirt, black pants and shiny shoes.

"Mr. Klein?" said Sinclair as he was getting out of the car. The man nodded. Sinclair took out his wallet, grabbed the keycard and handed it over to its owner. "I found it this morning."

"Thank you, Mr. Sinclair. You may leave now."

"What does the keycard open? Why does it have the Dauphins logo on it?" Sinclair never knew exactly what pushed him to ask those questions. He never expected Klein to answer. And yet...

"You are with Peace Corps, you said?"

"Yes."

"Can you keep a secret? We do not want the world to know what is in this house."

"Then, I guess you should not show me then." Sinclair could tell that whatever was happening in this house weighted a lot on Klein's mind. He felt that, if he was allowed in, he would serve the same purpose as a priest: Klein had a confession to make.

"Follow me."

The two men entered the Mansion. Inside, the floor was sparkling. They were in a large lobby, dominated by a curved staircase going up to the second floor. A Black woman was standing next to it. She was looking at Klein, looking very unhappy. It looked like she was about to throw a tantrum, but instead she turned around, and left.

"Please forgive my wife," said Klein as he was gesturing Sinclair to follow him upstairs. Sinclair did not comment and followed the man. As they were going up, Klein asked: "Are you familiar with the history of our beautiful country, Mr. Sinclair?"

"Probably not as much as I should."

"You do not recognize my name?"

"I'm sorry, no. Should I?"

"My son was the cause of Mazargo's downfall. I had him in my arms during a protest. He was two. A bullet shot by Mazargo's private militia caused the uproar that this country needed."

"I'm very sorry to hear this," said Sinclair.

Klein stopped in front of a door with an electronic lock on it. He took the keycard out of his pocket and put it in the slot. He opened the door and invited Sinclair to come in.

The room was small. The walls were white. The sun was pouring in, almost blinding. In the middle of the room was a single chair. A man was sitting on it. He looked at least a hundred. Nothing was tying him to the chair, but it was obvious that he could not move. He raised his eyes toward Sinclair. "Who are you?" did he say with the low voice of someone who was no longer used to speak.

"Mr. Sinclair, meet Joseph Mazargo."

Sinclair walked up to the old man. He had seen photos of Mazargo. He could see the resemblance between the healthy dictator and this decrepit man.

"How did he end up here?"

"He never left. While his regime was falling apart, my wife and I sneaked into the mansion. We hid him while the place was being ransacked by an angry mob."

Sinclair could not get his eyes off of Mazargo. It was hard to believe that he was in the presence of such a legend.


"Please kill me," said the old dictator as Sinclair got close to him. "Please, get me out of this torture!"

Klein was standing next to Sinclair. "While trying to escape from my wife and me, Monsieur Mazargo fell down the stairs and broke his spine. He has lost the use of his arms and legs."

"These... people have been feeding me dead mice, rotten meat, made me drink unspeakable things... Please, get me out of here! Kill me!"

"Is this true?"

"Yes," said Klein. "This man took everything from us. He brought our country to its knees. He ordered the murder and torture of countless people. He had money. After the fall of his regime, he could have gone anywhere and enjoyed a life of luxury. My wife and I agreed that we would make him pay for his crimes."

Sinclair looked at what was left of Joseph Mazargo. "Please!" Mazargo yelled. Sinclair turned his head toward Klein.

"Let's get out of here," said Klein.

"I cannot condone what you are doing here. This man is a criminal, yes, but I believe he deserved a fair trial. Is that what you wanted to hear? Is this what you wanted me to say?"

Klein did not reply. As the two men were going down the stairs, he said: "That is exactly what I was hoping you would say. What are you going to do now?"

Sinclair suddenly understood. This man was caught in his own trap. He wanted to get out, but felt that he could not. Sinclair had not been here to pass judgment. His role was to be this man's liberator.

"Nothing. I am going to do nothing." Sinclair reached the ground floor and turned around to look at Klein. "This is not my country. I know not enough of your laws or your culture to do anything. I'm leaving now. Go back to your torture chamber. Do what you want."

Sinclair opened the door, climbed back in his car and drove down the lane. As he was getting close to the gate, it opened. He took one last glance at the Mansion, and then drove back home. For the first time in years, he felt like having a drink. Or five.

The next day, the local newspapers were announcing the death of Joseph Mazargo, found dead by the police near the tenement, apparently strangled.

CaliScrub
06-02-2011, 12:06 PM
Sorry guys, I'm going to have to bow out of this one. Been too busy planning a vacation that starts tomorrow. Maybe I'll cook something up a week or so after voting is over, just to show to myself that I'm not a complete slacker.

Evil Dead Junkie
06-03-2011, 09:30 AM
I wish I had time for another draft but c'est la via.

The King’s Crossing:

The sound from the adjoining rooms cut out so abruptly when John shut the door that it was disconcerting. As though he had plunged from a high dive board and into a deep and hidden pool. For a moment he felt the disorienting feel of vertigo that he always associated with the feeling. The sense of horror that always came in the back of his mind when the surface gave way. But he soon shook it off.

He made his way to the garage fridge, weaving only slightly. The seven beers he had ingested over the course of the night taking their toll despite his Irish constitution. He gave a belch which he stifled and crouched before the fridge. It was a big white number, which gave off an ominous electric hum that John could feel as well as hear. The kind of fridge made in the seventies, when no one had even heard of energy star ratings. He opened the fridge with a great crack as the sealing plastic pulled away from the alabastor walls. He felt the blast of cool air and whispered a prayer of thanks.

The fridge was filled with cheap domestic beer with one syllable names, the type of beer that John hadn’t bought in years. He pulled out a can and held it to his forehead. The cold was shocking. It had been a searingly hot summers day, which had progressed into a searingly hot summer dusk. Even the dank garage wasn’t immune to the oppressive heat. His starched white shirt clung to him with sweat, he would have been embarrassed but everyone else looked about the same. He had left his suit coat in the car outside, in a crumpled ball in the passenger seat of his rental car. Now in his shirt, black pants, and tie he looked like an overgrown Mormon missionary. It seemed like a good idea at the time, as it let him cover his laptop, which had contracted some kind of computer version of the hunta virus on the plane ride over. It was an eerie feeling not being able to communicate with the outside world. It was as if circumstance had conspired once again to make this small city on the edge of the desert his whole world.

He stood up somewhat steadier than he had sat down, balancing himself with three beers in either hand. He braced himself before the door. Set the beers down and twisted the knob, taking a moment to absorb the light and heat before making his way into the house to become part of it.

The hundred or so family members, parishioners and friends had been whittled down to a core of a couple dozen for the wake. The tone was rowdier than it had been at the funeral, or the reception afterwards. Everyone had a drink in their hand, the smell of pot smoke even wafted in from the back patio. Music, The Strokes or The Killers John couldn’t tell, something a few years out of date played from some nice speakers. Were it not for the formal wear it could have been mistaken for a normal party.

It had been Kennefick’s home and now Kennefick was gone, leaving them to salute his ghost. He knew all of these people, to one degree or another. Seeing them all in one play was disconcertingly like watching his facebook page spring to life and cavort around the room. Michelle was at the center of them all, of course. In a black dress gracefully accepting condolences flanked by two faithful lieutenants. He had spoken to her at the funeral but hadn’t been in close proximity to her since then. He would soon. But not yet.

He made a circuit around the house passing the beers to those who had asked for them. It was odd the groups that people stayed in, seemingly without notice. Townies, and those who had just stayed in town. Those who had gone into the army and now sported tattoos on their forearms and eyes that never stopped moving. Professionsals and hipsters who wore their own bands tshirts underneath their dress shirts. They stood in groups, the spreading start of early middle aged guts, friendly yet vague conversation, punctuated by strained silence. He gave them their beers and toasted and drank with most of them. By the time he finished his circuit he felt drunk again, and what’s more he felt glad for it.

He had finished his first beer and opened a second as he found himself before a picture on the wall. Looking into the gap toothed grinning face of Kennefick in seventh grade, sandwiched between his two parents. They where gone to. Cancer got the both of them within two years of each other. They’d left Kennefick the house he had grown up in and he had moved in. Now he was gone too. John felt an overwhelming tide of sorrow, one which he could feel nipping at him since he had heard the news but had kept at bay. But now, after jet lag, a long day and drink he could feel it starting to overpower him. He turned and ran straight into Bobo Israel, who reached up to clasp his skullcap to keep it from falling off.

Bobo smiled at John, “It has been to long my friend.” He clasped John’s shoulder and dear God John thought he actually meant it. Bobo was in training as Rabbi of Temple Beth David. A fact that John found hard to believe as the last time that Bobo had seen John it had been to offer him a really sweet deal on some coke that John didn’t want.

Still from what John could tell the change seemed sincere. There had always been a fire in Bobo, something beyond the simple chip on the shoulder that being an outsider gave you. Looking into his eyes now John could see no sign of it. There was just a slightly weary calm that looked suspiciously like peace. “How have you been?” Bobo asked.

“I’ve been better.” He was relieved to find that his voice was under control. The grief was gone, burned away by a low irritation He could not quite explain. How had Steve Earle said it? “Lose the sadness. Use the anger.”

Bobo nodded sagely, “We all have. But we must have faith.”

“Must we?” John asked, he was smiling but his eyes had gone cold. He had spoken much louder than he had meant to and he noticed the sound of conversation dip around him. But if Bobo noticed he didn’t show it.

“None of us know what happens after we die.” He said softly, “We all just have to prepare as best we can. Miles was prepared. I hope that can give you some comfort.” It didn’t, and Bobo seemed to realize this. He shrugged and turned walking off to another group more receptive to his bull.
John ran his hand over his face, trying to dissipate his anger. It wouldn’t go. He wanted to be away. He felt like people were looking at him but when he looked up he could catch no one’s eyes.

He backed out of the room stumbling down the hallway. Opening the first door he came to. It was cooler in there, and dark it took him a moment to realize where he was. It was Kennefick’s room. Not the suite that he shared with Michelle, that was at the other end of the house, but the room where he had grown up. The room where he and John had spent countless hours in between the years. If he closed his eyes he could almost reconstruct everything. The spot above his head over the door where the D&D nerd had hung his crossbow. The Master Of Puppets poster that had hung on his closet door. The big Dell in the corner on which they had explored porn at 56 kilobytes. The Cross that hung above the light switch that his aunt had brought him from Italy. It was a hollow reliquary the cross which contained what was said to be the finger bone of a saint, though the aunt was unsure which one.. They had shaken it as boys and heard it rattle.

The room was sparse now. A mattress in a low bedspring just off the floor. A desk in the corner John couldn’t tell if it was the same one that had been there before. It didn’t look like a place where Kennefick had spent much time. The fact made John a little sad, but he understood. Who the hell wanted to spend time in the place they had grown up? Even being in the town he grew up in was driving him a little crazy.

He sat on the bed, and then found himself laying down staring at the familiar ceiling. His eyes grew heavy and the room gently spun. Before he knew it he had fallen asleep.



He woke with a start. He had no idea what time it was. But the sounds of the party had disappeared. John cursed to himself and got to his feet. The room swayed beneath him like a trick room in a funhouse. He could feel the cotton mouth that signaled he was in store for a killer hang over. Nothing he could do about it now though. He stepped out into the hall. He could tell from the silence that he was the only one of the guests left. How long had he been out? Three hours? Four?

He crept down the hallway hoping not to meet anyone, hoping to not have to explain. There was no such luck.

Michelle sat at the end of the long wooden table in their dining room. A glass of red wine filled near to the brim sat before her, as did a small saucer she was using as an ash tray. John winced. Kennifeck had hated cigarette smoke, wouldn’t let anyone light up indoors or in his car. It was her house now, John reflected. But he couldn’t shake the feeling he’d been witness to a betrayal.

She was surprised to see him but not scared. “I was wondering why you didn’t say goodbye.” She said and poured him a glass of wine which he took against his better judgment. He raised the glass, said salude and took a deep sip. She nodded offered him the pack of cigarettes. He shook his head.

“I fell asleep.” He said, unnecessarily.

She gave a laugh, the one she hated. Michelle had two, one warm and generous, the other a quick jab with an ice pick. “Don’t you mean passed out?” she said and gave the ice pick laugh again, “You never could handle your liquor as well as you thought you could.”
John couldn’t hide his annoyance, so she pulled back a little, “Don’t worry about it. It’s been a tough day for all of us.”

“I’m so sorry.” John said.

She sighed, exhaling the smoke, “Everyone keeps saying that…” she said, the pause was pregnant as if she had more to say. She seemed to be struggling to and then slumped like someone who had been bested after a valiant fight.

John took a sip of his wine and then stood to leave, “I had better go.” He said.

She cocked an eyebrow at him, “You’re in no condition to drive anywhere.” She said.

“I’ll walk.” He muttered.

“Where are you staying?” she asked.

“The Desert Edge.” He said.

“That’s five miles.”

“It’ll clear my head.”

“I’ll drive you.”

“I don’t want to impose.”

“Nonsense.” She stubbed out her cigarette for emphasis, “In fact a little drive is just what I need.” Before he could protest she had stood, slipped on sandals and held out her hand demanding his keys. He passed them over.



They road most of the way in silence. John pressed his head against the passenger window glass. The coat and the broken laptop tucked beneath his feet. She found Gram Parsons waiting for her on an AM radio station. And they sat and listened to his voice warbling in through the airwaves like a ghost brought temporarily into view.

Three more songs passed and they where at the motel. The Desert Edge was no misnomer. It stood on the edge of the city, a squat collection of low one story buildings centered around a gravel parking lot at the very edge of the wilderness. As they pulled in John saw the eyes of the coyotes waiting for them to go into their rooms so they could raid the trash. They looked oddly judgmental out there in the night. John could hear the gravel clearly underneath the tires. The motel was mostly deserted. Only two other cars stood in the parking lot. A black town car that looked too nice for the place and a rusted Honda so beaten down in life that it was doubtful it would ever move again.

“Which place is yours?” Michelle asked, and John pointed. Michelle parked the car a few yards from the door.

“Thanks for the ride.” John said, “I’ll be by to pick up the car in the morning.”

She shook her head, “Thank me when you get into the motel room. I’m not going to have taken the time to drive you out here only to have you pass out in the parking lot.”

John nodded dully and pushed the passenger side door open. He heard the drivers side open and the sound of gravel disturbed under Michelle’s light step. They reached the door. John turned to her to thank her. But she spoke first, “You didn’t want Kennifeck to marry me did you?”

The question caught John so off guard that he couldn’t answer. The fact that it was true almost seemed inconsequential.

She didn’t wait, “What did I ever do to you?” Before he could answer, she lunged forward and kissed him. Just a tensthof an ounce of pressure away from being a bite. There was no love in the kiss just a terrible want indistinguishable from need.

He pulled away, “We shouldn’t do this. We can’t do this,” he said, but she moved towards him again and this time he did not pull away. They where both sweating, the disappearance of the sun had seemed to do nothing but amplify the heat. It came from everywhere rising off of the gravel and the stucco of the wall. It was carried on the wind that howled against them. It came burning down from the stars. It came from her, she felt like a fever victim. The next thing he knew he had her pinned up against the wall and was hiking her dress up around her hips. Then he was part of her heat, they burned together and the next few minutes were lost to him.



Some hours later in the last moments before dawn John woke. He turned over and saw Michelle lying there. They had finally made it inside and it had been hours before they had slept. Later there would be recriminations and guilt, the path that led him to that moment reconstructed like a crime scene. Now the fact was too evident to do anything but accept it.

He stood up, slipped on some Jeans without boxers, and snuck over to her purse, breaking the silence with the sound of the metal clasp. He withdrew a cigarette from her path and the lighter and went outside for a smoke.

The jury of coyotes still stood on the other side of the highway. John met their eyes. Tomorrow, or rather today he would fly away from all of this. That was why she had chosen him, because he would completely remove himself from her life. He would rise above the graveyards and the desert and the judgment of the coyotes. He would never return to the city, it was not zion, he had buried the last of his dead there, exhumed the last of his sins, quieted the last of his ghosts. .

Alex Scott
06-03-2011, 09:40 AM
The Mouse, The Landlord, and the Laundry Room (http://keromaru.blogspot.com/2011/06/story-mouse-landlord-and-laundry-room.html)

Falselogic
06-03-2011, 09:52 AM
An excerpt from the Strange life of Jared Tywlyndale (http://fictivefunk.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/an-excerpt-from-the-strange-life-of-jared-tywlyndale/)

Rosewood
06-03-2011, 11:00 AM
Uh-oh. I shouldn't have confused "June 3" with "June 6." Ah well, I wrote most of my college papers this way and only got one D. Charrrrrge!

PapillonReel
06-03-2011, 11:02 AM
Aaaaaa I need more time

Aaaaaaaaaaa

Guess I won't be sleeping tonight. Onwards!

Dizzy
06-03-2011, 11:10 AM
As far as I'm concerned, my deadline today isn't until 11:59:59 PM Central.

Nyarlathotep
06-03-2011, 11:15 AM
Aaaaaa I need more time

THERE IS NO TIME!

Rosewood
06-03-2011, 06:36 PM
Go Jets!


*****


Chicken Bone!

__________________________

Janice's Compaq was on the fritz. Its screen had gone an illegible, murky purple and it had frozen in the middle of her report for the third time in the last fifteen minutes. The County had gotten what they believed to be a sweet deal on the laptops, blinded by the idea of enabling (or encouraging, or forcing) its employees to do work at home.

She would have to head in early and finish yesterday's records at the office. She sighed in frustration and mashed the power button on the machine, which refused to shut down until she pulled out its battery. She gathered up her work tote and the laptop, momentarily fantasizing about throwing the machine into the dumpster on the way out.

She'd often wondered if it was really a Compaq at all. The vendor's support center was mysteriously on holiday regardless of when they were called, and she disbelieved that a real Compaq's logo would peel off in a week.

But Janice enjoyed her work too much to let a small setback get her down, and was cheerful as she arrived at the office at 7:00. She loved how well she'd gotten to know every corner of the county as a building inspector, her cubicle neighbors were fun--with Tim being good-looking into the bargain--and the coffee was always good.

Today's assignments lay in a neat pile in her in box; her lead must have arrived even earlier than she had. She rifled through the pile and put the finishing touches on her reports as she drank her coffee. Most of the files were ordinary, worth a cursory scan for the addresses but nothing more. The one at the bottom of the pile caught her attention, though: the Carriage Wheel Hotel barely within the county line.

The Carriage Wheel had been moderately famous in its heyday in the '50s. It was somewhat unique on what used to be Route 66, in being a full-on hotel rather than a motel. A star or two had stayed there on their way from Plains City to the private airport on the other side of the county line, and a preservation society had stayed its destruction well past the point that its decay had made it unfit for vagrants, never mind tourists. The society's funds had run out and they'd finally given up, and this inspection was a formality that would free the Carriage Wheel for demolition, and allow Merrick Development Inc. to introduce "Street Not Thru" signs and cookie-cutter condos to the area.

While Janice was no fan of the bland, shoddy developments that sprang up wherever Merrick went, and was sad that the Carriage Wheel was going to be torn down, it had been on its deathbed for over a decade. It was time. She gathered up the files into her tote, took one last sip of coffee, and waved goodbye to Cassie and Tim. Tim called out, "O'Connor's tonight?"

Janice flashed him her best smile and replied, "Sure, see you there!" as the office door closed behind her.

*****

The old man in the tattered skull cap who'd let her in to the Carriage Wheel looked worried as they both squinted into the dim, dusty lobby of the hotel. Despite the wind whistling through the various holes in the walls, they could hear that their entry had brought on lots of scurrying and at least one loud set of footsteps. "Are you sure you'll be all right, miss? I can come, too, if you need me."

Janice turned her flashlight on and made a cursory scan of the floor, the graffiti-littered walls, the main staircase, and the ceiling. "I'll be fine," she said confidently. "If anyone's here, they'll keep quiet. They know I'll report them if I see them, and they don't want the sheriff coming here.”

He continued to hold the door, still doubtful. "If you say so. I'll go on and stay out here, then. Yell if you run into trouble, won't you?" He kicked a crumbled piece of wood into place to boost the door open, and sat down on one of the metal benches in the portico, which was luckily on the lee side of the hotel out of the worst of the wind. He waved her off, and Janice waved back, turning to face the sad ruins of what had used to be a popular stop for travelers on Route 66.

Although Janice knew the inspection was only a formality, she also knew she had to be thorough, just in case the county's documentation came into question. She started with the lobby. A few glitters on the floor caught her attention, and she ran the flashlight upwards to illuminate the huge chandelier-like electrical fixture hanging from the ceiling. Clear, teardrop-shaped pendants rattled against each other in the wind: they were plastic. She suspected the whole place had a similar cheap "beauty" and looked forward to seeing more examples of it. She photographed the chandelier, a couple of the graffiti, and the collapsed front counter for the file.

From the lobby, she made her way to the main staircase which led to the mezzanine and the banquet rooms on the second floor. The staircase was made of wood, with desiccated carpeting and cheap, crumbling plaster ornaments on the lower banisters. The stairs were mostly intact and would have no problem holding her weight. A trial of the first few steps confirmed her belief. She was halfway up the stairs when another object on the floor caught her eye. Unable to tell at first glance exactly what it was, she pulled a cloth out of her tote and picked it up. It was a bone, shiny and white, about four inches long.

"Chicken bone!" she murmured, as her footing creaked and cracked beneath her, and she plunged backwards down the stairs.

*****

"Miss! Miss! I knew I should have gone in with you!" cried the old man as he rushed towards Janice at the best pace he could muster. She half-sat up, the wind knocked out of her, the bone still clutched in one hand. She did her best to reassure the old man with gestures as she caught her breath, trying to assess whether she was in pain or in shock. After a few moments, it seemed like neither was the case, and the man helped her stand up. She absentmindedly picked up her tote and put the bone into it so she could brush herself off with both hands.

She walked back and forth in the lobby. "I'm okay," she told him, surprised by the truth of her words. She gave him a reassuring smile. "I'm really okay. Although we’ll have to reschedule the inspection. If the building is hazardous, we need to bring the lead inspector in. You have a good eye."

Janice felt a wave of disappointment as she stepped out into the sun and wind to call the office and notify them of the change. She had been looking forward to seeing the rest of the Carriage Wheel, but instead it was going to be business as usual for the rest of the day.

*****

Janice had been home for a couple of hours after Tim had driven her home from O'Connor's (more smiles but nothing else, more's the pity) when she remembered the bone in her tote. Making sure to use the cloth to pick it up, she took it out and turned it this way and that. The bone was pure white, not yellowed or cracked. It looked almost like it was made of porcelain, its inside and outside shiny and smooth, although it was obviously old, since it was hollow, the marrow and cartilage long gone. She gave it a tentative sniff and it had no odor at all.

All of a sudden, the sequence of memories she'd relived before she fell down the stairs came back to her, and a wave of nostalgia hit her. "Chicken bone!" was something she hadn’t thought about since college.

The Legend of Rink had been Janice's favorite game when she was in second grade. She and two boys in her class had formed a small, informal club based on their mutual interest in the game, playing the various characters in a vacant lot after school and discussing how to get through the difficult parts when they got tired of running around swinging sticks at each other.

Unfortunately, the club didn't last long. Cooperation between its members soon turned to competition. Roy demanded precedence; Carlos resented Roy; Janice tried not to stir up trouble, while coming to the unmistakable conclusion that she was better at the game than either of them. Then, two devastating things happened. Janice discovered a Rink's Life Piece that could only be found by using his crossbow and silver bolts to break a piece of wall. Then, she reached the seventh dungeon before either of the boys and blabbed that Fairy Boots were the treasure. She'd broken the rules. Roy kicked her out of the club, with an even heavier dose of his usual sternness and desire to have the final word than usual, and Carlos went along with it.

Years passed. It wasn't long into the internet's life that fans became well aware that the American staff who'd localized The Legend of Rink had created the chicken bone. They were desperately trying to conceal religious references in the game, and changed a saint's finger bone found in Hell to a chicken bone found in a forge.

At Electrocon '99, another net meme was born. In the middle of a panel with a handful of nonplussed-yet-polite Japanese staff of the "Legend of Rink" series as guests, ten college boys stood on their chairs and shouted "Saint bone!" Another group on the other side of the auditorium stood on their chairs and shouted "Chicken bone!" The whole audience got caught up in it, someone recorded it, and over the next weeks, people added photoshopped art, and then music, to the video. Even today, typing "Chicken bone" for a YouTube search will bring up a half-dozen versions of the video*, although the one using Ranma 1/2's third opening song is the most popular and well-known one.

Despite its possible gruesomeness, Janice decided to keep the bone for good luck, and as a memento. Of evenings spent practicing the evil Fanon's laugh until her dad told her to take it outside. Of scouring borrowed magazines for news of upcoming "Legend of Rink" games. Of exploring a different world, and creating her own place within it. Nyrule would live on, and the Carriage Wheel would, too, each in its own way.

She often debated taking the bone to the forensics department of the county police so they could determine if it were human or something else, but, in the end, decided against it. Who knew, maybe it was a saint's bone after all, and it had kept her from getting hurt when she’d fallen down the stairs of the Carriage Wheel, and revealing it would dispel its magic.

Saint's bone, or chicken bone, or neither, or both at once. On another windy day in October, the bone vanished. There was no way it could have gotten lost, as she kept it in a zippered pocket of her tote at all times. No one else knew about it except her, and possibly the man who'd let her in to the Carriage Wheel hotel, and they never saw each other again once the hotel's inspection was taken out of her hands. No one would want to steal it, even if they knew about it.

The bone's exit from her life was as mysterious and sudden as its entrance had been. Janice wondered who would find it next.

*Disclaimer: it won't.

Karzac
06-03-2011, 07:33 PM
I promise mine will be up soon! At the very least by tomorrow night!

Nyarlathotep
06-03-2011, 07:33 PM
Jesus, this story turned out even worse than I thought it would. I appologize for its existence. It might be the worst rushed ending I've ever done.


Come with me, Longshoreman

The staff at The Hotel Zembla jokingly referred to me as “Longshoreman.” You can too, if you’d like. I learned to adapt to the northeastern coast of England, near Scotland’s south border, with a leather jacket and a skull cap, so on a particularly cold wet day (i.e. the overwhelming majority of the calendar there) I could have passed for an old salt, though I’ve had only a few trips down to the local docks in the eight months I’ve spent here.

I’d rather not waste your time with some life story crap, though, if you don’t mind. I’m writing this just to sort out just what’s happened earlier today. I got back to the hotel on Sunday after eating downtown, and it was empty, or it was as far as I could tell. No one at the front desk, no lounge loiterers, no poor souls at the wretched continental breakfast. No one. A few people had been there about an hour before when I left. It struck me as weird, but I didn’t think much of it, and I climbed the stairs and walked down the hall to my room on the second floor. When I got there, I could hear some people in the rooms next door, which put me back at ease. After that, I went into my room and opened my laptop, which didn’t automatically light up, the way it normally does after being in sleep mode. I tried turning it on with no result.

That computer was my sole connection to my home. You know, a tie to something I felt familiar with. It seems kind of pathetic, but I desperately needed that stream of video bullshit to feel comfortable away from anything I knew really well. With no one in the hotel and no link to the world beyond it, I started feeling lonely as all hell. I slammed the laptop shut, and left my room. I looked around The Hotel Zembla for a bit, but decided that even if anyone was there, I didn’t want to talk to them. It’s not like I knew anyone, especially with the constant renewal of the hotel’s meager population. Even the management didn’t really socialize, even though I was a bit of a long-term resident. I guess that’s how it is when you work at a hotel though. You know, not getting attached to people, since they’re so transient and all.

Anyway, I decided to go out, but when I got outside, I noticed that the weather was turning foul. The wind was ripping small branches from the tree outside the hotel. Still I didn’t want to be there, so I ran back to town, which was only about a quarter mile, and found the local tourist trap area. This was comprised largely of some twenty houses and buildings, the key feature of which was a small castle which was on the east edge of town and served as its primary tourist attraction. The castle’s historical significance was so incredibly minor that when I got here, I could scarcely find anything on it short of their pamphlets. Outside there were these knights posed on either side of the entryway, one with a sword and the other with a crossbow. For some reason I always thought the knight with sword would win in that fight. I guess they weren’t necessarily fighting, but that’s always the impression I got, since they were facing each other sort of and brandishing their weapons.

Across the road was an antique church, a humble, small thing, which still held services. It was one of many churches of Saint Jerome – the name apparently earned by one of the several hundred fingers Jerome left behind. Hearing about how many fingers, toes, ribs, etc. he left behind, I can only imagine Saint Jerome as some kind of hundred-handed monster ripped strait from a Greek myth. Really, I went there for a feeling of human, rather than spiritual, comfort. I won’t bore you with those details, save to say my dad was pretty religious and I liked him. Churches give me this nostalgia and a sense of closeness to my parents. I wanted something familiar, you know? This was the best I could do for a contact back home now.

Inside, it looked a bit more new. Outside, weather-beaten, moss-covered limestone, seemingly on the verge of collapse, gave the same impression most old European ruins are cultivated to give: Neglect and decrepitude. Inside, the plush purple carpet, and white-washed walls, and golden decorations gave the impression of fresh glamour, the type not typical of the old religious world. There were more people than I wanted inside, though. I made my way through a group of old ladies chattering on about death and found a vacant pew. I alternated between kneeling and sitting when I felt it was appropriate, but my mind was stuck on getting out of there. Not just the chapel, but the country. I wanted to be home, and without the tenuous connections to it, I felt so alone.

Some people sat next to me in the pew, and as their asses hit the polished wood, I jumped up, suppressing a little scream. Some of the sound escaped from my nose though, and the young woman and her eight-year-old who sat next to me started glaring. I’d never felt so alone as I did then.

And I guess I panicked.

I tossed my limbs everywhere getting out of that pew, and naturally the adjacent people recoiled as they watched, but I didn’t care. I ran through a procession coming down the aisle and outside. I hit the street and sprinted to the downtown market, which was about two miles away, and while I’m reasonably athletic, my body wouldn’t stand for the exertion, and when I finally stopped on Fincher Street, just a block or two from the Main Street market, I fell on my side and vomited in the road, covering the right side of my face and the nearby asphalt in mostly-digested bread and bile. People on the sidewalk stared, and pointed, and made little unintelligible noises. I still didn’t care. It was like coming into a foreign civilization and not knowing customary behaviors. I didn’t feel that I had done anything wrong, so I didn’t react. A truck’s horn finally jolted me my rest in the road about five minutes after my collapse. I got up, but before I left, I scooped up two handfuls of now-cool vomit and threw them through the truck’s open driver’s side window and ran. Then I was in the bakery I ate breakfast in, walking up to the counter. They were pretty good, but I most came their because of the deals. They’ll throw pastries at you for next to nothing. The clerk recognized me and said “hello.” I think he likes me, but we’ve never had any interaction other than commerce, and in my muddy clothes with sick running down the right side, he looked uneasy. I started taking bread from the displays and cramming it into my mouth, and he watched me without saying anything, just looking kind of scared. I coughed and spit bread that I couldn’t chew quickly enough, and I slammed into the soda fountain and got a spray of dark brown fizz in my hair before positioning my mouth beneath the nozzle. That was probably good, since it got most of the vomit off of my face. I think I heard the cashier talking to the police as I ran out again. Unfortunately, I still couldn’t keep my food down, and everything came back up on a streetlamp about ten feet from the bakery. There was probably a staggering bile deficit in my body by now, eating anything else just seemed pointless, so I walked up the street and through an alley. A woman and her child screamed when I came out of the alley’s other end, and I leaned in and bit her on the nose. Not that hard, but I think I got a bit of blood. She screamed more.

The police got there pretty quickly, but by then, I had recovered enough strength to make a break for it. I ran through more alleys, making my way back to Zembla.

I’m in my room now, and I’m not sure when my laptop started working again, but I think they’ll be here for me pretty soon. I lost them, and no one here really knows, me, but I’m sure they’ll be around. Anyway, I just want to get that off of my chest.

And to apologize to the Hotel Zembla staff. My room’s a bit of a mess now, but I don’t think any of the damage is permanent.

Sincerely,
Alex F. Quincy

Dizzy
06-03-2011, 08:35 PM
THE QUEEN OF KINGS - AN EPIC SAGA


Hi! You’re about to read the first two chapters from my epic jumbo saga about a village recovering from a disaster that has been both a blessing and curse—there is romance, magic, grandiose battles, harrowing quests, witty zingers, intrigue, mischief, surprising twists and turns and mythical creatures from beyond. Enjoy!

CHAPTER 1

I knew she'd like it, Cady thought.

He was kneeling before his positively dazzled bride-to-be Georgette, who had the ring finger on her left hand extended before him. It was a beautiful day in the recently harvested wheat field of Norbrook, and Cady received the answer he anticipated ever since he laid eyes on Georgette when she rescued him from the rubble of his former hut that was destroyed in the Great Spin Scream of 1756.

He slipped the engagement ring through the first joint of her ring finger and then slowly slid the ring down. His eyes were widening as he did this and the edges of his mouth raised high just as much to form a smile—until the ring got stuck on the second joint.

"…" Cady said.

He tried pushing the ring down but it wouldn't budge any further. He pushed it down once more before taking the ring off and scrutinizing it. Georgette lifted her ring finger up to her face and pinched it to see how fat it was. Cady blew on the inside of the ring and added some of his saliva.

Cady asked to see the finger again. Georgette gave him her finger and he slid the ring down her finger but it still didn't advance any further than before. Miffed, Cady pulled Georgette's finger back and with the full strength of his thumb and finger pushed the ring forward—still no success.

"Cady, stop this," Georgette said. Her finger was turning red and puffy and she yanked it away from him.

"I can't believe it doesn't fit," Cady said. He then mumbled "I paid a lot of good money for this ring."

Georgette sighed as she massaged her finger with her thumb. She didn’t feel too disappointed and was nevertheless happy that Cady asked for her hand in marriage.

"Well, at least the ring looks beautiful. How much did it cost?" Georgette said.

"Uh... maybe we can discuss this later," Cady said. He turned his head away from Georgette and patted his bald scalp.

"Cady?" Georgette said. She folded her arms, which were quite powerful. Cady squinted and looked back at her, but then he saw someone walking in the horizon behind her. Cady covered his eyes from the sun and peered more intensely.

"Is that... Reedy?" Cady said. Georgette moved into Cady’s sight with wide eyes. She then asked him again the price of the ring but Cady ignored her by repeating Reedy’s name and walked toward him. Georgette called Cady but he briskly walked away.

Reedy, the village drunk, hapless sap, beggar and occasional errand boy for the Court of King Judge Catherine Mapplethorpe, happened to be seeking Cady just as Cady had spotted him. The two met with Georgette trailing behind.

“Cady, how are you on this fine day?” Reedy said. While he didn’t look like he had a bath—his body odor was hideous—he was dressed in a fresh uniform and possessed no bottle. “The King Judge, er, the Judge King herself demands… your presence in court right away.”

“Oh, thanks for telling me,” Cady said. He too was an errand boy for the court, but he was tasked with more important assignments than Reedy and this year he was charged with other court monkeys with an important and tedious task: transcribing everything said in court sessions at breakneck speed with quill and ink.

Reedy noticed Georgette behind Cady and gave a polite nod with a smile that wrinkled his deeply lined and tanned face into something resembling a raisin. His dry lips cracked and he licked them before trembling and staggering deeper into the wheat field.

“The King Judge herself summons me, Georgette. I must be in court at once!” Cady said.

“But you haven’t answered my question, just how much did the ring cost? You didn’t spend too much did you?” Georgette said.

They both said more, but Reedy couldn’t hear as he staggered into the small trees that lied beyond the wheat field. With a jittery hand he plucked a particularly bright green apple from a tree and tried to gum it. He tossed the apple aside when he couldn’t eat it and with his back against the trunk of the tree he slid down to the ground to rest. He pulled out a flask of fresh whiskey from inside his uniform’s jacket and took a sip. He then pulled out a gold coin from his pocket and studied it till his eyes felt heavy.

CHAPTER 2

Two weeks before Reedy was snoring outside the summer cabin for Norbrook’s aristocrats in the Carpathian Forest. The ground was muddy from rain in the afternoon and now in the night Reedy was sinking in it as he was reeling from incomprehensible dreams. His canine aid, Sky Master, sat alongside him bored after toying with a dead mouse.

Inside the cabin, the heads of the village’s aristocratic families gathered for their seasonal round of dead pool.

There is Ivy, head of the Ivy family and charged by Catherine, the King Judge, with overseeing her castle. Originally he was a cook within the castle but advanced to aristocracy inexplicably by the good graces of Catherine. The castle is the largest and most baroque property in Norbrook and Catherine refuses to live in it, preferring instead to live in her own court house.

There is Ollie, head of the Ollie family and charged by Catherine with overseeing the rest of the properties in Norbrook. He is the hardest-working aristocrat among them all and well-liked by many of the villagers. Many of them secretly desire for Ollie to be the new King Judge of Norbrook as he is more involved in the daily affairs of village life than Catherine, who prefers to rule from her high court seat.

Then there is Dunlap, who has no family because no one can stand him. He is, however, head and lone funder of the Mythrath Group, a group devoted to practicing and promoting the use of magic and a constant thorn in Catherine’s effort to rid Norbrook of magic. Dunlap has survived many assassination attempts, a feat he attributes to his use of a magical force he calls “pranic energy.”

The seasonal round of dead pool, a private gambling game played among the aristocrats, began after the Great Spin Scream of 1756. Catherine was the originator and used the game to hoard the wealth of the whole village in her hands until the rising death rate of old people frightened the villagers and the declining wealth of the village frightened the aristocrats.

Catherine distributed some of the wealth back to the village. The rest she used to build a court house in the center of Norbrook and an underground torture chamber for practitioners of magic. She passed the game on to the aristocrats and ruled that the aristocrats must bet their wealth on villagers estimated to die. In summer, the winner with the most correct guesses has control over the wealth of the village. Last year the winner was Ollie, this year—

“Ah ha ha ha! I win again!” Ollie screamed. He took another gulp of beer from his wooden mug and rubbed his tummy with a rosacean smile. The militia men around the cabin who were also indulging in Norbrook’s fine brew cheered. Ollie was the one who administered their income.

The moderator of the game crossed an X next to the name ‘Charlie M.’ with chalk on a board featuring over 20 names of villagers—farmers, cooks, store owners, doctors, militia, iron smiths, tenement owners, etc.

Dunlap didn’t feel the least bit bothered by Ollie winning again and was waiting for the night to be over so he could get back to his home and pore over the ancient manuscripts of Grecian warlocks who invented tiger hypnosis with entrancing keycards. While usually hysterically belligerent, tonight Dunlap was quiet and tired.

“Ollie is no winner. Not yet,” Ivy said. Ivy managed to earn second place in the game, but it was a place that earned him nothing.

Ollie gave a befuddled look before giggling and saying “Of course I am the winner. All the people I said would die have died!”

He pointed to the board with his mug and then took another gulp. Ivy walked over to the board flipped the board back and pointed out his name.

“And just what is that supposed to mean? Look, this fool betted on his own death!” Ollie said with a laugh.

“Absolute nonsense,” Dunlap said. His head was resting on his right palm.

Ollie glanced at Dunlap and agreed while shaking his beer mug. “The witch speaks the truth!”

“I am a wizard!” Dunlap said.

“I’m still in the game and this game isn’t over. It ain’t over…” Ivy said. He pulled out a pistol and raised it to his temple.

“…until I say it is!”

Before Ollie could object Ivy pulled the trigger and with a thunder-like clap his bright red brain matter went splattering against the chalk board. His body collapsed to the floor and the sound of the fall echoed throughout the cabin in what felt like to the residents a heart-stopping silence. Ollie let out a sharp sigh and his left eye twitched.

His beer mug dropped to the ground with a splash, and he then looked at the chalk board and saw all of Ivy’s blood sliding across the names of the villagers he successfully betted would die.

“Sons of bitches!” Dunlap screamed. He stood on his feet, paused, and then jumped on Ivy, shaking his body profusely while yelling his name. Ollie sat in shock and the rest of the militia men were too drunk to act. The moderator of the game emerged from behind the chalkboard with wide eyes and looked around the room.

Dunlap raised his Ivy blood-covered hands and looked at them in horror.

“Nooooo!” Dunlap yelled.

“Do I still win?” Ollie said. Dunlap gave Ollie a teary, enraged look and said “How can you think of that while Ivy lies dead here? Dead by his own hands!”

“Not exactly,” the moderator of the game said. “Ivy was only one point behind you Ollie, but now he’s won the game. The village wealth is, um, in his hands now.”

“What!?” Ollie said. “That is outrageous! He is dead. How can this be?”

“You swine!” Dunlap said. He lunged at Ollie and tightly squeezed his throat.

Tune in next time for the continuation of my epic saga. A preview:

Ollie discovers that the village wealth will indeed be buried with Ivy. Ivy’s burial is interrupted by Reedy who offers the parched graveyard workers a tasty liquor treat. Cady covers a court case where King Judge Catherine Mapplethorpe tries to officially shut down the Mythrath Group in order to institutionalize science in the village but fails as Dunlap is too tempestuous and vigilant. Cady and Georgette—a carpenter by trade—end up living and working in a tavern because he used all of their money for a ring that didn’t fit her. Catherine’s two sons begin murdering and raping people in the Mythrath Group and she obstructs any investigation of those crimes.

Reedy becomes a fixture at the tavern, buying everyone rounds of drinks but then begs for more money when he runs out. A history behind Norbrook, the Great Spin Scream of 1756 and Catherine’s ascension to power is shared. There is then more court sessions between the intractable Dunlap and Catherine. Georgette becomes the owner of the tavern and becomes interested in the court reports Cady is writing, noticing strange details that cast a light on some of the curiosities currently happening in the village. With the help of Cady and another court monkey she decides to investigate. Catherine spends her last effort trying to shut down Dunlap. Furious, she uses Ollie to kill Dunlap but Ollie can only bring himself to torture Dunlap. Even more furious, Catherine decides to reveal her true nature to Ollie and Ollie is never seen from again.

Georgette and Cady's sleuthing lead them to Dunlap, who they rescue from an underground torture chamber. They explore the chamber and arrive in a strange gallery that reveals everything that has been going on. With renewed strength Dunlap decides to confront Catherine in her own court with the villagers watching. Catherine decides enough is enough and reveals she is the one who caused the Great Spin Scream of 1756 that led to her becoming ruler of Norbrook, after the death of her father, the original King of Norbrook. Catherine also reveals that she is truly capable of magical powers whereas Dunlap is not, but she wanted the end of the Mythrath Group because many of the members were capable of magic and thus a threat. She then transform into a gigantic, hideous Medusa-like beast and eats Dunlap alive. She attacks the other villagers. Her sons flee.

Georgette tries to protect many of the villagers in her tavern but is then assisted by Reedy, who has been in possession of the village wealth the entire time after he stole it from Ivy’s grave. Reedy reveals that the coins contain weird magic that causes them to duplicate. Reedy convinces Georgette to visit Ivy’s grave to see if it may contain magic that may stop Catherine. She leaves Cady to help the villagers. At Ivy’s grave Reedy tries to cop a feel and Georgette shoves him into Ivy’s grave, but then a magical event happens that leads to Ivy resurrecting inside Reedy’s body. Ivy reveals in his former life he had powerful magical powers he was unaware of and that he was an illegitimate child of the original King of Norbrook. Now possessing the knowledge and power of the Heavens, Ivy decides to leave Earth and explore the universe. Georgette begs for help and Ivy gives her a magical sword and then flies into the sky. With the sword Georgette battles and defeats Catherine.

With Catherine dead, the villagers and remnants of the Mythrath Group decide to re-build Norbrook. With their never-ending wealth thanks to the duplicating coins all the villagers prosper and live peacefully. In another part of the universe, an Ivy-possessed Reedy decides to create a new galaxy but lacks the power to do so. In Norbrook the gold coins of the village display the letter 'X' and begin to glow.

FIN

Evil Dead Junkie
06-03-2011, 08:37 PM
Too much world building.

Dizzy
06-03-2011, 08:48 PM
I spent four hours on that story!

PapillonReel
06-03-2011, 09:25 PM
It's becoming increasingly apparent that I won't be getting this done before the deadline, so I guess I'm out. :< Ah well, it was a good run; I got about a few hundred good words written out of it, even under the constraints I had going into the final week, so I'll definitely finish up sometime after.

Anyway, good contest! All the other entries are pretty swell.

BEAT
06-04-2011, 12:18 AM
This was gonna be a true to life tale of why I'm running so late, and then all of a sudden it wasn't.

BEAT BERT clicked the new posts link with a quiet sort of joyful zeal. It was a good click, he thought. And my finger a good finger. Saintly, even. Why I wouldn't trade that particular set of bones for the world. Then the page finished reloading and all the color rushed from BERT's face.

It was getting close to midnight, and BERT had been relaxing in his quite living room, ready to greet the new calender day with a smile. He was feeling pretty good! He had called in sick to work that morning, slept in until noon and filled the rest of the day with meaningless video games. He was now sitting on the internet making sarcastic comments on his favorite forum and posting stupid Youtube videos in IRC. The cool wind from a nearby oscillating fan rushed over him every few minutes only increased his incredible lethargy. Why the very last thing BERT would consider doing right now was doing work of any kind.

The newly reloaded page had other ideas. It helpfully displayed the newst post had been made in the thread where a bunch of the guys were gonna write stuff. BERT only hated about a third of them, pretty good by his standards of harshly judging internet dudes. Viewing it there on the top of the new posts list caused a strong sense of nostalgia to wash over him.

"Oh yeah. I was supposed to do that thing, wasn't I?"

Okay, BERT thought to himself. No problem. Just smash out a few hundred words then call it a night. You used to write every single day! How hard can this be. I just need some inspiration. And so he opened his instant messenger client and messaged one of his closest internet friends.

"Kill yourself".

nodal Noodle was probably joking. That guy, what a kidder!

“No seriously do it you wuss. Hell I'll do it. I've got a crossbow right here. We can make this shit happen pronto.”

That guy, what an asshole! BERT had no intention of murdering himself to appease a forum full of jackasses like that that guy! He just needed some inspiration! He just needed to feel the wind in his hair. Yeah, that was. and so he grabbed his laptop and ran out to his car.

20 Minutes later.

BERT would be lying if he said he wasn't mad at the kindly old orthodox jew who decided not to wait for walk signal to light up. BERT had barely avoided hitting him breaking very severly and causing his laptop to be violently thrown from the passenger's seat into the dashboard. "Stupid Skullcapped asshole" he muttered to himself as he examined the broken wreckage of his beloved computer. All his meticulously collected stolen comic books and hip-hop songs gone forever. Well at least untill he downloaded them all again. Still, annoying.

His cell phone rang. It was getting close to 2 AM. Who on earth could be calling at this hour? He answered apprehensively. “Hello?”

"I hear you need a new computer"

"Who is this?"

"I can get you a sweet deal on a laptop. Real nice. Meet me down by the holiday inn."

"The almost vacant one?"

"The same".

"Alone in the middle of the night?"

"Totally."

BERT thought about it for a long moment. Something seemed off about this whole deal, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Finally he gave the only appropriate answer.

"Hot damn, a cheap laptop! I'll be there in no time!

20 minutes later.

The almost abandoned hotel somehow looked a little more dark and foreboding in the middle of the night. BERT wondered to himself if there was any reason the stranger had insisted on meeting here. Probably from out of town, got a really good rate on a room. He knocked on the door of the agreed upon suite, reassured that nothing could possibly go wrong.

Then the door opened, and a huge, tattooed man hit BERT in the face with a two-by-four.

BERT regained consciousness a few hours later, and took a moment to examine his surroundings. He had apparently been thrown on the cheap hotel couch after being knocked out, and the huge tattooed guy had apparently taken the opportunity to change into a loincloth, set the bed on fire and cover the walls in arcane symbols. He now appeared to be praying to some ancient dead god, long forgotten by the kingdoms of man. BERT was less then amused.

"Hey man," he spoke up "I'm not sure what's going on here but you said something about a laptop?"

"Soon the ancient Ostrich will dig the glorious hole," The huge guy responded. "We shall follow that hole to the great swamp, where Ictnaudh't rave never ends."

That didn't answer BERT's question at all! "Are you on drugs?" he inquired of the large gentleman, "Because drugs are bad for you. You should probably stop."

The man produced a large knife and stated slowly walking towards BERT. "The blood of the devilman shall hasten Ictnaudh't return to us. Today, I bring the world one step closer t salvation."

"Man, that does not answer my question at all", BERT looked at the giant man incredulously. "I'm starting to think You don't have a free laptop at all!

The giant man raised the knife high above his head. "I shall see you in the great swamp, where we shall dance and sing forever".

Suddenly, the window shattered, and the giant man fell over dead, a large crossbow bolt sticking out of his back. BERT stared at the bolt not knowing what to think for a full minute before he finally spoke.

"What the shit?"

On a grassy knoll about a half mile from the hotel, Noodle lowered his now useless weapon. "God dammit, I missed". He sighed as he packed up his weapon. "I will kill you one day BERT. you'll see. It'll be so extreme."

Rosewood
06-04-2011, 09:14 AM
What's the deadline for turning our votes in?

bobbywatson
06-04-2011, 09:34 AM
Looks like I'm going to have a lot of reading on my trip to Orlando tomorrow. Should be fun!

Karzac
06-04-2011, 09:27 PM
Gah, looks like tonight's not happening. Well, if you want to cut it off, that's fine, although I think I can finish tomorrow, I swear.

Aquadeo
06-05-2011, 11:10 AM
Wow! That is indeed going to be a lot of reading -- but a lot of fun, too! Thanks to everyone for submitting!

Now, I'd like everyone to submit their votes to me by PM. Remember, if you wrote for the "Sharks" list, vote for your favourite "Jets" story, and vice versa. I'll announce the final showdown as soon as the votes are in, so don't delay!

at least, don't delay any longer than I did in posting this. : )

Karzac
06-05-2011, 08:01 PM
Done! I guess I don't qualify for voting, but I still had fun writing this!

It was just another day on the job for Detective Jack McQuinn. He stood in front of the tenement house, cursing the rain. This had better be worth my goddamn time, he thought as he pulled up his collar, tipped down his hat and rang the doorbell for the fifth time. He resolved that if the landlord didn’t answer within one minute, he was leaving. He didn’t care how much shit the chief gave him, no dead-end lead on a year-old case was worth this rain. It was coming down in thunderous sheets, drowning every thought in Jack’s head that was more than four letters long. He shook his wrist to get a look at his watch. Ten more seconds, then he’d be out of here, heading back to his warm apartment and his warmer wife. Eight seconds...hot cocoa filled his thoughts...five seconds...the guy must not be home...three seconds... he turned and walked down the steps...one second...the door creaked open. There stood the landlord.

“Can I help you with something, sir?” The landlord spoke with an eerily high pitched voice. His arms were thin and spindly, looking like they’d snap if you shook his hand to hard. Wrinkles lined his sunken features and he kept licking his cracked lips as he spoke.

Jack pulled out his badge. “Jack McQuinn, Special Investigations Unit. We spoke on the phone.”

“As yes, Detective McQuinn, do come in. You’re here about, ah, Mr. Johnson’s room, aren’t you?”

“That’s right,” Jack answered as he stepped through the doorway, thankful to finally be out of the rain.

Jack looked around the tenement house, trying to get his bearings. It seemed harmless enough. Hardwood floors, an old throw rug, a few pictures and some tacky lamps. The place was almost charming, in a sad sort of way. If half the things Jack had heard about Marcus Johnson were true, this didn’t seem like the kind of place he’d hangout. Maybe Johnson just had one of those ironic senses of humour.

“So when was the last time you saw Mr. Johnson?” Jack asked the landlord.

“Two weeks ago, I believe,” he replied, licking his lips. “Mr. Johnson is, ah, a private man.”

“Is in now?”

“I don’t, ah, believe so. Generally when Mr. Johnson is in, there are, ah, sounds we hear from his room.”

Great, thought Jack. That sounds just swell. “Can you let me into his room, then?”

“Certainly, certainly. Come right this way and I’ll give you his key.”

Jack followed as the landlord slowly led him down the hallway and into an office. He went to the desk, opened the top drawer and handed Jack a keycard.

“A keycard? Bit high tech for this place, isn’t it?”
“Like I said, Mr. Johnson is a private man,” the landlord said as he smiled. “Well, follow the hallway until the first door on your left, go down the stairs and you’ll find the room. Happy, ah, hunting, Detective.”

“Thanks.” Jack turned from the room and followed the directions. First door on the left, swipe the keycard. As soon as he opened the door, a hideous odour slapped him in the face. It smelled like a locker room that had been left without ventilation for weeks. He coughed, pulled his collar over his mouth and nose and proceeded down the stairs.

He hadn’t taken three steps down before his foot landed on something soft and he slipped all the way down to the first landing. Crawling back up, he saw that he had stepped on a dead mouse. Blood, pus and guts oozed out of its crushed body. Jack stood up, dusted himself off and continued down.

The room was pitch-black at the bottom of the stairs. All Jack could here was a faint machine-like humming noise. He fumbled around on the wall for the light switch. When he hit it, the room lit up in a flash of white, forcing him to just his eyes to keep from being blinded.

When he opened them, he saw a long table at the end of the room, along with a desk and some filling cabinets on either side. Next to the table was a huge piece of what looked to be medical equipment, which was the source of the humming noise. A white tablecloth hung lumpily on the table, as though there was something underneath it. Jack felt for his gun in his holster, but since there was clearly nobody in the room, he decided not to draw it. Carefully, he approached the table.

As he approached, he noticed that the horrible odour was getting worse. It smelled like sulphur, sweat and rotting flesh. It was all Jack could do not to gag.

“Johnson, you sick bastard, what have you been cooking in here?” he whispered to himself when he reached the table. Slowly, he lifted the tablecloth off, then flung it to the ground.

Underneath was a rotting body.

“Fuck,” Jack muttered. “Fuck, oh fuck, Johnson you bastard.” Clearly, the body had been there from some time. The flesh on the face was nearly all sloughed off, making it impossible to tell who this person used to be. The arms, legs and torso were all completely emaciated, with bones showing in some part. Diodes and electrodes had been attached in various places and were connected by wires to the humming machine sitting next to the table. Beeps, whistles and whizzes were being periodically emitted from the machine.

Jack reached down to the corpse’s jaw, trying to see if the teeth were in good enough shape to indentify through dental records. As soon as his finger touched the rotting flesh, the machine behind him went mad. High pitched squeals and shrieks went off so loudly that they threw Jack back from the table.

He regained his composure just quickly enough to see the corpse get up off the table.
Shit, it’s a re-an! Jack just barely had enough time to think before the corpse started running towards him. This clearly wasn’t one of those shambling fuckers, either. Johnson knew what he was up to. Jack quickly pulled out his gun, but the re-an was on him too quickly. It swatted the gun out of his hand as though he was a skinny kid with an ice cream cone. Then it pushed Jack back up against the desk, smashing it under his weight.

Jack wasn’t going to let some re-animated security system get the better of him. As the stinking corpse threw him to the ground, Jack grabbed one of the broken legs of the desk. He pushed himself up, shoving the corpse back. It stumbled and Jack took the opportunity to swing the splintered piece of wood at its legs like a club. But the re-an was too fast: right as Jack was about to smack it in the femur, it did a back-flip, jumping out of the way. Jack reacted quickly, chucking the desk leg at its chest and stunning it for a minute. Then Jack ran into the corner and grabbed his gun off the ground.

The re-an ran at him and Jack unloaded six round into its skulls, sending it to the ground with a thud.

Well, he thought as he sat on the ground trying to regain his composure. That was certainly worth my time.

Karzac
06-06-2011, 11:49 AM
Damn, I just realized I forgot to put X and Z into my last line. I'm dumb.

BEAT
06-06-2011, 01:35 PM
TONIGHT'S MISSION: READ ALL OF YOUR WORDS

ALL OF THEM.

Nyarlathotep
06-06-2011, 04:10 PM
All the words!?

Aquadeo
06-06-2011, 05:12 PM
Well, you can ignore mine, if you want.

Rosewood
06-06-2011, 06:08 PM
The words have been read. The vote has been cast.

bobbywatson
06-06-2011, 06:34 PM
The words have been read. The vote has been cast.

Same here. I really enjoyed reading all the stories! It's amazing that, despite having all the same elements, all the stories are very, very different.

Prinnydood
06-06-2011, 07:04 PM
I've placed my vote as well.

Alex Scott
06-06-2011, 07:06 PM
As have I. One came in a very close second.

Nyarlathotep
06-06-2011, 08:18 PM
Yup, I done voted. Best of luck and all that crap.

Aquadeo
06-06-2011, 10:05 PM
That's five votes recorded... there are still quite a few more required before we reach quorum!

Itakare
06-07-2011, 06:47 AM
That was kind of a pretty close three way tie but the vote is cast.

Aquadeo
06-08-2011, 11:09 PM
Okay, enough votes have come in that I can determine winners for each division.

(Incidentally, I think all but one of you commented on how hard it was to make a choice. This was a surprisingly close race!)

The final round of voting is:

ROSEWOOD!

VS.

ALEX SCOTT!

Congratulations, both of you... now, everyone - regardless of division, or whether you submitted a story - can read those two stories (Chicken Bone (http://www.gamespite.net/talkingtime/showpost.php?p=1071728&postcount=73) and The Mouse, The Landlord, and the Laundry Room (http://keromaru.blogspot.com/2011/06/story-mouse-landlord-and-laundry-room.html), respectively), and give me your vote by Saturday... and we shall crown a champion of the Second Talking Time Writer's Circle!

BEAT
06-10-2011, 05:30 AM
Gotta go with my man ALEX

Aquadeo
06-11-2011, 08:29 PM
The votes are in... congratulations, Alex Scott! You're the winner of the writing circle this round!

Now, it's up to you to host Round 3, and set it up with whatever rules you wish.

Thanks again to all our competitors!

Rosewood
06-11-2011, 09:21 PM
Congrats, Alex! That means I get to write next round, so it's all good.

Alex Scott
06-11-2011, 09:35 PM
Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

Okay, give me a few days.

Nyarlathotep
06-11-2011, 11:17 PM
Man, I just finished reading and was going to cast my vote :(

Oh well, I liked the stories, and I'm very much looking forward to the next writing circle.