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View Full Version : Talking Time Writing Circle, Round the Third!


Alex Scott
06-14-2011, 11:14 AM
Hello hello hello and welcome to the Third Round of the Talking Time Writing Circle! I'm your host, Alexander Scott.

Attention: Entries are now closed, and voting is now open! You have until late night next Monday, August 1, to vote for your favorite story by PMing me.

Since we've gotten such good results from the basic rules, they are still the same. I'll let Aquadeo remind us:
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.)
The winner, as usual, gets to host the next round and decide the rules for it.

To that, I will add this special rule:

All entries must contain one paragraph with the sentences in alphabetical order.
-- That is, if the first sentence begins with "A," the next starts with "B," the next with "C," and so on.
-- It can use any sequence of letters. If you want to begin the paragraph with "Q," that's fine, as long as the next sentence starts with "R," then "S," and so on until the end of that paragraph. If you get to "Z," and the paragraph isn't done yet, the next sentence starts with "A."
-- This paragraph can be as long as you want, as long as it's at least 3 sentences. Sentences can be as long or as short as you want.
-- It only needs to be one paragraph, unless you want to show off, and it can occur anywhere in the story.

June 15, 2011, 7:47-ish: Suggestions are closed, and we have our plot elements:

BEAT: A NOTEBOOK FULL OF INSANITY
Falselogic: A cup of coffee gone cold
PapillonReel: A magic lamp
Rosewood: Mercury
Pombar: A blind shopkeeper/store manager
Nyarlathotep: Witnesses failing to report a crime
caviar.n.cigarettes: A well chewed piece of gum, still being chewed despite its lack of flavor
Prinnydood: A feral child
bobbywatson: A weird collecting habit

BEAT
06-14-2011, 11:28 AM
LOOK AT HOW HARD BEAT JUST SIGNED UP FOR THIS.

A NOTEBOOK FULL OF INSANITY

Falselogic
06-14-2011, 12:00 PM
I hated what I wrote last time but I need the practice and an excuse to get me writing...

a cup of coffee gone cold...

PapillonReel
06-14-2011, 12:03 PM
My element will be... a magic lamp. Here's hoping this round goes better for me this time around. :o

BEAT
06-14-2011, 12:08 PM
Guys, for this round I think I'll just straight-up write the crazy person notebook.

For added bonus you can pretend my last two writer's circle products were earlier entries in the crazy notebook.

Rosewood
06-14-2011, 12:13 PM
Gonna try and be less of a lazy procrastinator of a writer this time.

Mercury shall be in your story. (Capitalized or no.)

Pombar
06-14-2011, 12:19 PM
Gonna see what my rusty creative organs can regurgitate after all this time, methinks.

A blind shopkeeper/store manager is the element I'll throw in the mix.

Nyarlathotep
06-14-2011, 12:21 PM
Witnesses failing to report a crime.

caviar.n.cigarettes
06-14-2011, 12:30 PM
A well chewed piece of gum, still being chewed despite it's lack of flavor.

Alex Scott
06-14-2011, 12:36 PM
Wow! Seven Eight in just over one hour! The brackets are looking more likely.

So far we have:

BEAT: A notebook full of insanity
Falselogic: A cup of coffee gone cold
PapillonReel: A magic lamp
Rosewood: Mercury
Pombar: A blind shopkeeper/store manager
Nyarlathotep: Witnesses failing to report a crime
caviar.n.cigarettes: A well chewed piece of gum, still being chewed despite its lack of flavor
Prinnydood: A feral child

Prinnydood
06-14-2011, 12:36 PM
Let's see if I can write a winner this time. Since my thing was so ordinary last time, I'm going to go a bit off the wall for this one.

My thing: a feral child

Dizzy
06-14-2011, 01:12 PM
What's up with these letter constraints?

Hmmm... I want to suggest we don't use the letter 'e.'

(It's an item! The letter e is an item!)

BEAT
06-14-2011, 01:31 PM
Be aware that if that becomes a rule, I'm just gonna write my thing normally and do a find-remove on all e's.

Just full disclosure here.

Prinnydood
06-14-2011, 01:35 PM
I'm pretty sure Dizzy's element won't get accepted. There's no way someone can write a one-thousand word story with no Es in it. If he wanted to show that kind of spirit, he should have introduced his element without writing any Es.

Nyarlathotep
06-14-2011, 01:47 PM
Maybe we should only establish rules that would aid our writing to become more interesting, rather than forcing contestants to perform tricks that act as a determent to the story.

Alex Scott
06-14-2011, 02:02 PM
Yeah, unless it's suggesting, say, a story element where someone has or had the option of using the letter 'e' and decided against it, I don't think I can accept it.

(so are you guys saying the alphabetical paragraph thing might not work?)

Rosewood
06-14-2011, 02:05 PM
Yours is fine, Alex. It's even less restrictive than Aquadeo's was.

Prinnydood
06-14-2011, 02:06 PM
The paragraph thing is fine with me. Having no Es at all is not.

Dizzy
06-14-2011, 02:36 PM
Be aware that if that becomes a rule, I'm just gonna write my thing normally and do a find-remove on all e's.

Just full disclosure here.

Lazy bum.

In fact that's going to be my new story element, lazy bums.

Maybe we should only establish rules that would aid our writing to become more interesting, rather than forcing contestants to perform tricks that act as a determent to the story.

We're just picking random stuff here and mix-blending it. If we were to establish a rule that would aid our writing, it would probably have to be us giving actual feedback and editing our stories back and forth.

Alex Scott
06-14-2011, 02:59 PM
Lazy bums it is.

bobbywatson
06-14-2011, 03:08 PM
I'm pretty sure Dizzy's element won't get accepted. There's no way someone can write a one-thousand word story with no Es in it. If he wanted to show that kind of spirit, he should have introduced his element without writing any Es.

For the record, French writer Georges Perec wrote a book (in French) without using the letter e. At all. And e is also the most used letter in French.

Count me in!
My element: a weird collecting habit (rocks, insects, anything).

BEAT
06-15-2011, 07:53 AM
Every single item you guys have added so far has fallen seamlessly into my master plan. This is going to be my best creation yet.

And by best I mean worst.

Alex Scott
06-15-2011, 10:48 AM
I'm thinking now if there are no more entrants by 5 (when I get off work), I'll close suggestions so everybody can get started. Good?

Dizzy
06-15-2011, 12:55 PM
I'm dropping out!

Alex Scott
06-15-2011, 03:10 PM
Okay, it's past five, and I'm guessing this is everyone who wants to join this round, so No more new entrants or suggestions. There are nine participants this time, so I'm wondering now if we still need brackets, or if you'd rather all write from the same pool. Reply with your thoughts and I'll kick things off tonight or tomorrow.

PapillonReel
06-15-2011, 03:13 PM
I'd like to write from the same pool, if possible. Being split off from my entry last round was painful!

BEAT
06-15-2011, 03:17 PM
SAME POOL

Rosewood
06-15-2011, 03:20 PM
My vote is for one pool.

bobbywatson
06-15-2011, 04:55 PM
I vote for one pool also.

Pombar
06-15-2011, 05:24 PM
Yup, same pool all the way.

Alex Scott
06-15-2011, 05:46 PM
And we have a majority. You're all working from the same pool! To review:

BEAT: A NOTEBOOK FULL OF INSANITY
Falselogic: A cup of coffee gone cold
PapillonReel: A magic lamp
Rosewood: Mercury
Pombar: A blind shopkeeper/store manager
Nyarlathotep: Witnesses failing to report a crime
caviar.n.cigarettes: A well chewed piece of gum, still being chewed despite its lack of flavor
Prinnydood: A feral child
bobbywatson: A weird collecting habit

Everybody has until Midnight, June 30/July 1 to write a 1000-word story with these plot elements, plus an alphabetical paragraph.

Now go! Write! Write till your fingers fall off!

Prinnydood
06-15-2011, 06:14 PM
I'm currently swirling things around in my head and these elements aren't as challenging to fit in as the last round, excluding BEAT's and my own. I'm not sure what to make of that.

Alex Scott
06-15-2011, 07:00 PM
Not too surprising. I basically wrote my last story just by describing the Writing Circle to a guy I know. "So, for example, I've got this guy with bad body odor who lives in a tenement, finds a dead mouse, and finds out there's a torture chamber he needs a keycard to enter, and maybe I should stop."

Oh, what's that? Seems a famous author has come to wish us luck! Who could it be?

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v203/Gumpman/percyhemingway.png
I'd have gotten here sooner, but I dropped my Nobel Prize at the bull fight. Good luck, everybody. And call me Papa.

Alex Scott
06-27-2011, 02:52 PM
Just a reminder that submissions are due Midnight this Thursday/Friday!

I'll try to have another Encouraging Author Percy up soon.

Prinnydood
06-27-2011, 04:29 PM
This is going to be a photo finish for me as I'm going on vacation tomorrow. I'm not sure if I'll have reliable access to the Internet or not.

Falselogic
06-27-2011, 06:12 PM
Bowing out. Personal life has been too crazy and will continue to be crazy for the foreseeable future.

Sorry all.

BEAT
06-28-2011, 11:16 AM
Tonight I'm going straight home from work and just smashing this thing out.

Smashing, I say!

caviar.n.cigarettes
06-28-2011, 11:27 AM
So I'm not the only one who's procrastinated the hell out of this? Rawk!

...I mean...I'm doing so well. I'm almost done. I'm not a procrastinator...not at all!

Prinnydood
06-28-2011, 11:44 AM
So I'm not the only one who's procrastinated the hell out of this? Rawk!

Are you kidding? (Almost) everyone procrastinates with this. Desperate typing is where I get my inspiration.

Nyarlathotep
06-28-2011, 12:34 PM
I thought about it quite bit and came up with a premise. Since then, I've picked away at it by about two-hundred words per night. I'll probably still have to rush a bit by the end, but the start I have gives me a solid foothold to work with.

bobbywatson
06-29-2011, 05:57 PM
I've been working on mine almost every evening this week, but the story is going nowhere, and it's going there fast.

BEAT
06-29-2011, 11:52 PM
Fuck I'm running late and the next few days are jam packed for me.

If it goes up on sunday it goes up on sunday.

Rosewood
06-30-2011, 09:35 AM
I'm also posting my application for membership in the Suck Club.

A few days or one more week? Maybe a holiday will get the brain-juices flowin'.

Prinnydood
06-30-2011, 10:11 AM
Add me to the Suck Club as well. Vacation is leaving me with no Internet until July 10. As ambitious as it would be to type the whole thing on my phone, it's simply not going to happen.

Rosewood
06-30-2011, 10:41 AM
I've printed out Alex's post and am taking a notebook with me to Anime Expo. I have a setting and a few elements in place, but, as usual, the thing has no plot....

Alex Scott
06-30-2011, 11:41 AM
Okay. You have through the 4th of July to finish.

PapillonReel
06-30-2011, 11:55 AM
Okay. You have through the 4th of July to finish.

Hooray!

bobbywatson
07-04-2011, 08:05 AM
The Box
by bobbywatson
Terry grabbed the coffee mug on his desk, brought it to his mouth and took a sip. It was disgusting. It was cold. How long had the coffee been on his desk? He looked at his watch. Was it really already 10? He rose up, walked out of his cubicle. He noticed that he was the last person in the office. Again. He went back to his desk, took the mug, walked to the restroom and dumped what was left of he coffee in the sink. He rinsed the cup. It was time to go.
As he was getting out of his Mercury Sable, he noticed the newspaper in the box next to the door of his house. He grabbed it while unlocking the door and got in. Inside, he noticed the nice smell of fresh banana bread Laura had cooked earlier. Terry put the paper on the dining room table, took off his shoes, and walked to the fridge.
He turned on the TV and switched to the CBC news channel. The news anchor was enumerating all the catastrophes that had happened during that day. Terry did not listen. He was eating a slice of banana bread while flipping through the pages of the newspaper. A title caught his attention: "Feral Child Found". That was original. Apparently the child, a girl aged five, had been found in northern Ontario, near a small town. She was not able to speak and had been transferred to a hospital, where she was being treated. Terry wondered how she had managed to survive, naked in the Canadian winter. Scientists were apparently quite excited to finally be able to study a real feral child. Too bad for the kid, ending her life as a lab rat...
He was about to throw the newspaper in the recycle bin when Laura walked into the kitchen. She was wearing her night dress. It looked like she had just woken up. "Hey sweetie", did she say. "Hi, honey. What are you doing up?"
"When did you get here?"
"Not too long ago. Why?"
"Are you hungry? I can heat up some of the leftovers from dinner"
"I'm good, don't worry. I could do that myself, you know."
"I know. It's just that..."
Terry understood. She had been feeling down for a while now, ever since she had lost her job. She wanted to feel useful again. Terry had told here time and time again that she had nothing to feel ashamed of, but somehow that had never worked with Laura.
"How did the job search go?"
"Not well. I printed a bunch of resumes this morning and dropped a few in some stores downtown, but nothing so far."
She opened the fridge's door, grabbed a slice of banana bread. She split it in two and handed one half to Terry. "There's something on your mind," Terry said. "What is it?"
"There was this weird antique store. You know, the one with the blind shopkeeper?"
"Lady Irma's Antiques? Yeah, we've been there before."
"I stopped by to drop my resume, but then I remembered that she could not read it. So instead, I started to browse. I got you a little something..." She pointed to a box on the counter, next to the sink. Terry opened it.
Aircraft safety cards. A whole bunch of them. He took one out of the box. Pan Am!
"You're kidding, right?" said Terry, a big smile on his face.
"Nope. All Pan Am safety cards in mint condition. I knew you did not have any in your collection. Well, now you do. The shopkeeper said it covers all of their aircrafts. I never thought someone other than you would be collecting that sort of stuff. It was pretty cheap, too. I think the shopkeeper was quite happy to get rid of them."
Amazing! He hugged and kissed her many times. She started giggling. "Glad you like them. I know you've been looking for that kind of stuff for years... It was the only one, though. I looked around and could not find any other box."
"Did the store keeper say who brought that in? I would be curious to know who it was."
"I did not ask."
***
Terry left work early the following day, pretexting a violent headache that extra strenght Tylenol could not cure. He was not sure if his boss bought it or not, but he did not really care. He spit out the gum that he had been chewing before he climbed in his car, as the flavor had run out long, long ago.
The store with the blind shop keeper was downtown, next to the public library. He parked in front of it. The shop keeper welcomed him when he entered. "Good afternoon sir, welcome to Lady Irma's Antiques". The welcoming formula was most certainly an antique. Terry thought it was charming. Terry walked to the counter. "Hi. My wife bought a box with aircraft safety cards in it. Do you remember who brought it in?"
"I remember. A gentleman sold me this about a year ago. Can't remember his name. I hear he is in prison now," did the old woman reply.
"Prison? What did he do?"
"He was a witness to a crime he did not report and did not help the victim, or so I hear."
"Did he sell anything else to you at that time?"
"Aside from a journal his great grandmother had written, no, I'm afraid not."
"What kind of journal? Do you still have it?"
"No, I sold it a few days later to a shrink. Apparently, that book was so full of insane stuff that the shrink wanted to study it further and use it for a post-doctorate or something. The gentlemen also sold me a lamp that he claimed was magical. I tried it."
"Did it work?"
"I'm still blind and old, so I'm going to say 'no'."
Disappointed, Terry thanked her and exited the store. He walked back to his car and drove toward his house.
Oh well, it had been worth a shot. He could always see if he could find the guy online. They had internet access in jail, right? Any everybody and their dog was on Facebook and/or Twitter these days.

Well, that was pointless. Sorry about that.

Nyarlathotep
07-04-2011, 05:18 PM
My story is done, but I'm trapped without internet in Kentucky until tomorrow. I'm sorry, guys, I didn't relize just how devoid of technology this place was.

Alex Scott
07-05-2011, 09:42 AM
Guys, seriously. I know we just passed a major holiday weekend, but if we don't have any more entries in the next few days I'm stopping the round so we can vote between bobbywatson and Nyarlathotep.

bobbywatson
07-06-2011, 09:19 AM
Guys, seriously. I know we just passed a major holiday weekend, but if we don't have any more entries in the next few days I'm stopping the round so we can vote between bobbywatson and Nyarlathotep.

Everyone is probably busy recovering from Monday's drinking parties...

Alex Scott
07-10-2011, 02:35 PM
Okay, I've given it some thought, and I've decided to make a new deadline: two weeks from today -- Sunday, July 24. Same rules and elements apply. If anyone has bowed out, now's your chance to rejoin.

Prinnydood
07-10-2011, 02:39 PM
Awesome. I just got back from vacation so I'll be able to work on mine.

Pombar
07-11-2011, 01:24 PM
Yeah, sorry about delay on my part too, I had a big internet outage for a while back there, and then had to deal with end-of-exams immediately followed by travelling through hostels without my computer. Time to get back on this.

bobbywatson
07-11-2011, 05:10 PM
Cool, I might go back and review my entry then, because it needs it.

Nyarlathotep
07-13-2011, 11:07 PM
Daniel Markowski stared at the reversed lettering painted between two thin layers of glass announcing to all of Centennial Street that this was Merconon’s Antiques, Merconon himself standing behind the beat-to-shit, mahogany-stained Formica-glass box of his counter. To his right there were a dozen high price artifacts made vaguely valuable components put together so artlessly that one for got their base materials—silver, copper, an eight karat chunk of gold molded into something like teeth, a supposedly magic lamp made of real bronze—could have either beauty or value. To his left were painted steel shelves covered in wooden novelties in near perpetual motion, necks pivoting on their forty-five degree metronomic duties or seemingly on the with swords raised on the verge of a strike.

Behind all of those, though, was a metal door so small Daniel had to duck to get through it. That was where Merconon kept the real collector’s items. Old paintings by suicidal frontiersmen, pistols with pearl handles (which he didn’t have the license to sell), and other bits of old Americana. These formed a dustless nation in his back room along with roughly five tons of old paper-work.

To say Richard Merconon’s files were disorganized would be a bit like saying wonderland was a bit weird. It captured the basic concept, but the volume and density of the mess were things that needed to be witness. Pages of unfiled tax returns, receipts, personal notes, bills, and mad ramblings from his notebooks formed chaotic wood pulp geometry in origami patterns on the end of the room opposite the door. This was the monster’s layer for Daniel’s employment. Every day he came to rifle through the sheaves of untamed paper which had crept like ivy across the office, slowly choking the walls and floor. That Thursday was like so many of the others: in, read, walk between back room stock and the office, read old documents to Merconon.

After a particularly odious transaction with a woman whose face was so heavily canvassed in makeup that she looked more embalmed than embellished, Daniel set a tentative focus to the filing cabinet in the back corner of Merconon’s papermaze. After shuffling vertically hanging folders which clung to the edges of the cabinet’s bottom drawer, he came across a black leather-bound notebook in good condition bearing the signature of “Dick Merconon” on its inside cover. Flipping through the pages, one could get a sense of Merconon’s general health. The handwriting slowly deteriorated as his mind and sight left him and words gradually became like child scribbles. The first few pages contained a series of poems, all expressed in the shaky hand of a man who is not yet sure of his own abilities. On the third page he wrote about wax boats whose masts were wicks which burned violently in human storms, all the sort of thing expected of twenty-somethings with new journals, and Daniel spent a moment trying to decide if the boat was a metaphor for war or love.

Delving further, the pages seemed to split between poems and journal entries. Halfway through, they even began intertwining as Merconon gave up his rhyming penchant in favor of hyper-realism-prose poems. He described women in the detail that only a truly lonely voyeur can. Lips, thighs, nails, eyes, weight, hair, faces were chronicled in the methodic manner of an assembly line worker.

Ten minutes passed before Daniel realized he wasn’t being paid to go through an old man’s diary (though he could have gotten away with it easily enough), and he put the journal in the inside pocket of his jacket. He was continuously aware of the book’s weight against his left breast, but he managed to make it through the day without giving any major signs of unease. He had given up smoking a year before and had, since we can never truly go without filling the void left by one habit with another, taken up gum-chewing as a substitute. He chewed his current stick furiously so that it lost its flavor after a few minutes, but he chewed it anyway if only to keep his mouth shut. He thought if he said anything not prescribed in the office’s records he might let something slip.

He didn’t have to work hard at that, though; Merconon was infamous for his vision. Some light and blurry silhouettes may have filtered in through those milk-drenched ocular cavities, but they weren’t good for much beyond dodging particularly large oncoming traffic.

When he arrived home he took his scarf, and hat and coat to the couch and, after removing the notebook, dropped the clothes unceremoniously. He tried to focus on reading, but the cold had worked itself into his knuckles, and his fingers ached even at the turn of a page. His old mercury thermometer on the back window of his apartment (paid for, in large part, by his parents, even when he was employed and not busy with schoolwork) read twenty-three Fahrenheit. That night, he read in bed, selecting pages randomly. In an entry not long before the senility crept into Merconon’s pen Daniel read “Haven’t thought about him much. Not even at all, I guess. I think I should feel worse about it than I do, really.” He flipped back three pages, skipping several poems, a few uninteresting entries and a list of “Best American Artists,” to a previous entry from two weeks prior. There was a small rhyme about burning wheat fields and how the ruby embers complimented the golden stalks. Below that:

“...got rid of him.” “…I helped deliver…” “I took it out on the highway, but I lost my guts” “…Oedipal…” “…she won’t do anything.”

Going back a few more pages took him back several months. Apparently Merconon hadn’t felt like or been able to update frequently in that time:

“…don’t know what she planned on doing with it.” “…still worried about the others, but I’m don’t think they’ll tell.”

He found where the updates began to become irregular:

“I just can’t remember it. I’ve tried, but I can’t.” There were a number of pen marks next to these words which were etched into the page. On the page before it:

“She said I forced myself, and I was certain she lied, but now Jack and Ian are supporting her. They said that they didn’t see me, but they saw something happening, and that I was the only other person there, so who else could have done it?” “The whole night is hazy.”

And the day before that:

“Something happened to Lucy. Ian and Jack are visiting her now, but I’m afraid to see her. They said it was bad and that they’re not sure what happened to her.”

Several lines down:

“It was bad.”

Daniel closed the book.

Holy shit, I’m working for a rapist. I’m working for a rapist who forced a girl to throw out her child. Jesus-fucking-Christ. I don’t know if I can even look at the guy, let stand around talking to him for seven hours every weekday.

He flipped back to the pages following the entry about forgetting the child, but found only poetry. The intervals between dates were longer. He closed the book and took two sleeping pills. He didn’t want to think about Merconon anymore, didn’t want to think about permanent damage to a woman’s body or psyche how she might never be able to walk strait or think about anything other than her unending pain and merciless psychic punishment, and didn’t want to think that these thoughts would be constants as long as he remained employed at Merconon’s Antiques.

He had deep sleep, no dreams.

Because of his early sleep he woke at six the next morning. Considering that the pills’ residue remained in his head, he was surprisingly functional enough plan his next moves. Daniel would go in as if nothing happened. Exactly: Nothing had happened. Files irrelevant to the business had been very temporarily moved. Granting that they made their way back to their place only he and God would ever have any suspicions. He would then give an excuse for why he needed to leave, take care of the formalities, get the hell out and never look back. Ignite the bridges and be gone forever.

But that didn’t happen.

He did go into Merconon’s Antiques but, rather than a welcome and the usual offer of lukewarm coffee which tasted a bit like partially-filtered swamp water, he was greeted by silence. Merconon was not in his usual position, glaring out without seeing into the distance beyond his backwards name in the store’s glass panes. No, in fact the store seemed vacant, although Daniel knew that wasn’t possible since the door was already unlocked, and he had helped to lock it up last night. He had already been nervous and this break from routine did nothing to ease his mind.

He walked between the twenty islands of merchandise, all in gridded alignment, to the back door. It was already cracked, and he could see the paper storm had swelled in his time away from it. He pulled the handle and looked in. Merconon was there in his papers, looking from one to another futilely tears rolling down through the valleys of skin under his eyes and around his mouth. “Where is it?” Daniel paused for that moment. He couldn’t see me, to him, I could be anyone. I could turn around, walk away and he wouldn’t know for sure whether it had been me or a customer.

“Here” Daniel said, taking the journal from the inside of my coat. He took it and pressed it to his forehead, still crying.

“Did you read it?”

“Yes.”

There was silence punctuated by that metronomic click of the moving antiques on the shelves behind them. He held the book to his chest and I watched him for several minutes. When Daniel could no longer take it, he backed out of the doorway, dropped my set of keys on the counter and walked out.

Three days later, they found Merconon’s body on the edge of some forests near the highway north of town. He had frozen to death under a large pine. Daniel though it must have been the same spot which the child was left to the wilderness, and he thought of one last poem from the journal, one about pine cones falling from trees to the flaky earth.

Rosewood
07-15-2011, 10:42 PM
Okay, I've given it some thought, and I've decided to make a new deadline: two weeks from today -- Sunday, July 24. Same rules and elements apply. If anyone has bowed out, now's your chance to rejoin.

I had half-finished my story before going on a week's vacation, and am back now, so I'd better get crackin'!

"Feral child." mutter mutter

Nyarlathotep
07-19-2011, 07:38 AM
So, hows about them stories?

bobbywatson
07-19-2011, 08:32 AM
Finally sat down and reviewed what I had. It's not great, but since I'm going to be away until next week without access to a real computer (the iPad does not count), I figured I should just use what I have. It's not great, but it will do.

Prinnydood
07-19-2011, 11:53 AM
So, hows about them stories?

Great stories take time to craft.

The horrible truth: the extension is making me procrastinate even harder. But I'm gonna have it done for real this time.

Prinnydood
07-23-2011, 09:38 PM
Am I gonna have to double post? I believe I'm gonna have to double post.

I just planned and finished my story in the span of three hours. It's without a doubt, the most disturbing, disjointed, and altogether grossly-assembled thing I've ever written. Now you all have no excuse for not getting at least something done.

Alex Scott
07-23-2011, 11:48 PM
I see no issue with double posting. The Let's Plays seem to do just fine.

But yeah, just a few days left, y'all!

Rosewood
07-24-2011, 09:45 AM
The horrible truth: the extension is making me procrastinate even harder. But I'm gonna have it done for real this time.

I would never stoop to this kind of behavior. And would certainly never wait so long that a headache Saturday evening would mean I haven't written the second half of my story yet.

It isn't even 9:00 AM here. I'd better get crackin'

Prinnydood
07-24-2011, 03:41 PM
It’s truly amazing what a person will do in order to maintain their sanity during an especially demanding time. While I wouldn’t dare compare the crushing weight of boredom to being caged up by a psychopath, I’m still left with the two very noticeable routines of tapping my foot against the rough courtroom carpet or scrutinizing my nails in order to keep myself from nodding off or flying off at the handle. The first had the added effect of sending ripples through my now ice cold coffee while the second gave me time to realize that the nail polish on my right ring finger was starting to chip—most certainly things I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. The dead silence of the courtroom certainly isn’t helping things move along any quicker nor is the stifling tension that’s choking the air courtesy of state prosecutor Jones and defense attorney Hanning.

In my line of work, I deal with patients suffering from mental illness. It’s not a glamorous job, but I’m not complaining. I never thought I’d ever be called into a courtroom and used as ammo in the case of The State v. Kerry Cunningham. I’m beginning to feel like no matter what I say or have said I’ll either be glorified or vilified for it—not that I’d stray from the truth while testifying in a court of law. It’s just that the truth in this case is so bizarre that I’m having a hard time not sympathizing with Mrs. Cunningham just a little bit. After all, I’ve seen a side of her that even the majority of people involved in the case haven’t witnessed firsthand. It makes me glad I’m not among the jurors charged with handing down the verdict that will determine the path of the rest of her life.

“All rise for the honorable Judge Nimley…” the bailiff began with his usual booming voice once the peanut gallery had finally completed their somehow organized skittering into the room. I’ve heard this routine about twenty times already, so I can’t help but tune it out and leave the next few motions my body performs to muscle memory.

I’ve already testified once for the state. Every day since I gave my testimony, during the introduction by the bailiff and ten minutes of legal goings-on afterwards, I’ve replayed it in my mind to make absolutely sure I didn’t miss or forget anything, or otherwise unintentionally commit perjury against myself.

I took my place on the stand, feeling much too intimidated to even think about glancing up at the judge. I made the unwise decision of chewing a piece of gum during the lunch break that day which ended up backfiring on me when its acrid taste started showing through after three hours of vigorous chewing. Out there was a sea of eyeballs all trained on me: the jury, the attorneys, the defendant, and the sizeable audience that really had no place being there, in my mind. Every time the trial was delayed even by nanoseconds because one of them decided to take their sweet time filing into the courtroom was another time my fingernails found themselves digging into my palm.

I could see Jones lining up the questions he wanted to ask me like bullets being loaded into the chamber of a gun. He had his trademark stone face on as he rose from his chair and began with the usual fare of making me confirm I was who I claimed to be: Barbara Schill, a psychiatrist practicing out of her own firm located near a simple coffee shop… whose product had gone cold on me that day as well, now that I think about it.

“Is it true that the defendant was sent to your firm for psychoanalysis on the day of September 9, 2004?” Jones asked.

“Yes,” I answered succinctly. It was an easy question, of course, as they all are during the first few minutes of testimony. He was just waiting for the chance to get to the more incriminating questions later on.

The state is still under the impression that Mrs. Cunningham was still in control of all of her mental faculties and thus was fully aware when she murdered her husband. She was brought to me in order to determine that and I found that, at least in the time she was with me, she was a wreck, for lack of a better word. Her hair was frayed and her skin was covered in welts which I would guess came from her never-ending itching habit. Only later, after she was run through a hospital, would I find out those were caused by a bout of mercury poisoning.

And that simple fact is where the case enters a snag. I evaluated her as unable to control her own mental faculties, and whether that was due to the mercury poisoning or not is impossible for me to say. The defense is trying to play that angle, yet it’s hard to believe after hearing what the police found—or I should say, simply saw—when they entered her home. There were lamps lined up on shelves all over her house. Not lamps that give off light, but “magic” lamps anyone would believe had been pulled straight out of a fairy tale.

She told me about the lamps and their purpose quite bluntly. She said she was trying to fix the “abomination” she had birthed into the world. My first thought went to her son, but from the pictures I had seen of him, he looked to be a healthy little boy. Mrs. Cunningham was withdrawn after explaining why she had the lamps. Up until that point, she had been surprisingly candid with me, but she then began repeating her trip to the antique shop where the blind shopkeeper had convinced her that they were indeed filled with magic—no doubt a simple task if her present state is anything to go by.

“And what of the notebook she had with her?” Jones asked, pulling me back into the courtroom.

The notebook was another curiosity. It seemed to me to be a diary of sorts. I remember the first entry being dated December 14, 2003. She was methodically going through her daily routine with every day beginning and ending the same way. A shrill scream would awaken Mrs. Cunningham in the morning and at night, just before falling into a deep sleep, that same scream would ring in her ears, just beyond her perception. She had taken care to document nearly everything she did during her day. In a way, it’s a perfect timeline of her descent into madness.

See, after a while, she settled into a routine: she would wake up, go to one of the many lamps she had purchased and proceed to rub it all day while praying that the “abomination” be fixed before going to bed and repeating the process again the next day. That went on for weeks until the final entry of the diary. To say that she confessed to killing her husband would be an understatement. Not only did she confess, she described in detail how she killed him, disposed of the body, and then went back to her routine like it had never happened. The very last line of the final entry read, “Farrah’s secret is now mine alone.”

I looked out into the sea of faces once again after giving my testimony. The jury understandably hid the confusion from their faces, but the audience was as blatantly floored as I expected them to be. It’s not like they hadn’t already been exposed to every minute detail about the case via the news for the last few months. There were a few people eyeing Mrs. Cunningham as she sat in her chair, bleary-eyed and distraught with fear. They saw it as an act to garner sympathy.

And why shouldn’t they have? After the skeletons were cleared from her closet, she could be seen as nothing but a monster. “Farrah” was her daughter, whom was quite clearly declared an “abomination” to me, and Mrs. Cunningham very nearly miscarried her in her own home due to her mercury poisoning. The “secret” was that Farrah now lives with severe birth defects and disfiguration thanks to her mother’s poisoning. She was kept in the basement chained up and otherwise treated like an animal.

When Farrah was discovered, it was clear she was too far gone for any hope at regaining a normal childhood. She’s now a ward of the state, her brother is now in his grandparents’ custody, and their mother has now been labeled as someone too embarrassed by their child’s unfortunate situation to seek the proper medical attention. Everyone is choosing to fill in the fuzziness between Farrah’s birth and her discovery as the period where her father was a knowing and presumably willing accomplice in Mrs. Cunningham’s scheme. It doesn’t take much of a leap of logic to assume that, after a time, the guilt gnawed away at him and he was killed because he wanted to get her help.

By now, most of the story has been laid out to the jury for them to assess. A few more days of hearings and the verdict will be handed down. I assume I’m still here just in case I’m needed to clarify anything in my testimony. Jones did come into the courtroom today with a look of victory on his face, and I guess I can’t blame him. I’m not silly enough to believe there’s any way that Mrs. Cunningham won’t be getting convicted for her husband’s death and the neglect of her daughter.

Maybe Mrs. Cunningham’s attorney knows that and is continuing out of either some misguided sense of pride or as a way to twist courtroom theatrics into earning his client a “not guilty” verdict. Now that the state is done pleading their case, the defense is going to have a hard time chipping away at the stigma brought up against their client. Obviously, barring some spectacular legal gymnastics, the confession is an undeniable smoking gun against them. Pleading guilty, in a weird way, may have been the only way Mrs. Cunningham could salvage her integrity after the thorough assassination of her character.

Alex Scott
07-25-2011, 06:19 AM
Everybody has all day today to finish/post their stories. I'll close it and start voting at about 10PM tonight.

Now go! Write! Poooooost!

Rosewood
07-25-2011, 12:19 PM
I seem incapable of squeezing everything into 1000 words. So, here, have 2000. :p

Alex's criterion paragraph is marked with an asterisk (*) to lessen the effort of tracking it down.

*****


Downtown Fox Spirit

It wasn't called a magic shop. The sign over the door stated "Pawn Shop," without even the proprietor's name to indicate that it was any different from the other pawn shops and payday loan centers lined up along the rubbish-strewn downtown street.

But Daniel knew better. He'd stumbled into the area drunk one February getting away from the heat and closeness in the club, scarcely noticing the gradual decrease in sound as he moved from the party district to the more obviously desperate one. Johnson's shop was the only one open at that hour, and Daniel had been drawn in to it first because its lights were on and because he was drunk. A week later, he'd gone there during the day on a Saturday to confirm its existence, since he wondered if he'd just imagined the place.

Over the next few years, as Daniel finished college and worked at his first full-time job, he and Johnson had become as close of friends as a shopkeeper and an infrequent customer could be.

It was apparent very early on that Johnson was blind. He navigated the shop easily, and unfailingly knew where each item was, whether in the shop or the storage area. When Daniel asked him if he had ever been robbed, Johnson replied "no" with unaffected confidence. He must be able to defend himself and his shop unassisted, as he had no bouncer, or even an obvious camera, in his shop.

Johnson's wife, knitting in the corner most of the time, would quietly move forward to assess books or other items where vision was needed, then just as quietly go back to her chair, but Johnson himself gauged the value of most things. One time Daniel had stood to watch as a shabbily dressed woman dragged a heavy wooden chair through the door. Johnson tilted the chair, sniffed it, sat on it, ran his hands over the surface of its rungs, then told her brusquely it wasn't worth the space it would take up. The woman's response was hard to read, but her leaving the chair in the middle of the shop said enough.

Another February came. The old mercury thermometer outside Johnson's shop read 20 degrees F, and the carefully dusted barometer was falling. Daniel knew already from the weather report that it would snow later that evening, but he had decided to take the train downtown and walk to Johnson's regardless. "Daniel," Johnson said, sitting up from his investigation of a metal object on the counter, impressing him as usual by knowing his step, or his breath. "It's going to snow. Why are you here?"

"Oh, the usual. Is there anything new?"

Johnson flashed a rare smile, the edges of his unseeing eyes wrinkling. "Look at this," he said, holding up the metal object, stroking its surface with his hands. "A magic lamp!"

It wasn't presupposing as magic lamps went, looking more like an ancient, battered tea kettle, something you might have used 150 years ago to heat water over a campfire. Daniel squinted at it, seeing nothing. He took off his gloves and turned the kettle in his hands in unconscious imitation of Johnson's motions, hoping to perceive what he had perceived. "Really?"

"Got it for next to nothing, too. Seller thought it was just an antique and I didn't tell him different. His loss, he should have seen there's no corrosion on it. More of a fox spirit than a genie in there, and it's been sleeping for over fifty years, but if someone can find a way to wake it up and speak to it…"

Daniel set the kettle back on the counter and swallowed. "How much?"

"For you, six hundred."

The potential of awakening even as small a god as this was cheap at five times the price Johnson was asking, and both of them knew it. But it never hurt to play at reluctance, especially when six hundred was as much as he had in any given month after rent. "I'll think about it. Anything else?"

"Found this one myself." Johnson pulled a petri dish from a drawer behind the counter, proudly displaying it to Daniel. What lay inside it looked like a piece of gum. "It's been chewed to death, but it still has two charges of an umbrella spell in it. Could come in handy on the way home. Only ten for this baby."

Of course, Johnson knew about Daniel's Spell Candy collection, which extended back to the '70s . Who knew if their charges had dissipated into the aether by now--the important thing was that they were unopened and collectible. Spell Gum was much rarer, even used, since it didn't come in colorful boxes like the candy did, and people tended to throw them away even with charges left because they didn't want to chew used gum. And it had been discontinued five years ago.
Daniel had wanted to use one of these forever, but didn't feel right opening one of his precious collectible boxes. This was the perfect opportunity.

While he was pulling his wallet out, a loud tapping and scratching came from the rear of the store. Johnson motioned Daniel to stay put, and went to investigate. After a moment, cold air from the open delivery door blasted through the shop, making both Daniel and Johnson's wife huddle in on themselves.

Shortly thereafter, the door was closed and Johnson returned to the shop. "How is she?" asked his wife.

"As well as you might expect. She lost the hat you gave her, so I gave her another one, and some of the food we bought for her. I wish she'd stay longer, but you know how she is."

Daniel's curiosity got the better of him and he asked them whom they'd been talking about. Apparently there was a little girl in the neighborhood, as wild as a feral cat. They called her Kitty. She knew very little English, was skittish, and was entirely alone in the world. Johnson had called Child Protective Services about her many times, as had other business owners in the area, and no one that had come had been able to find any evidence that she existed, not even footprints in the recent snows. She had a wild thing's instinct for avoiding capture. So Johnson answered the door when she knocked, fed and clothed her to the degree he could, and prayed that no one with unkind intentions caught her.

The sun was growing low in the sky. The street lamps along the street that hadn't been vandalized came on one by one. Tufts of half-wet snow were starting to fall from the sky. It wouldn't be long before the trains were running late or shutting down. Reluctant to leave, but feeling he must, Daniel paid for the Spell Gum and asked Johnson to hold the fox spirit until he came later that week, to which Johnson readily consented.

Daniel popped the gum in his mouth as he stepped outside, and enjoyed watching this corner of the world grow white as he walked to his station. The white wouldn't last long. It never did. But it was nice to see on a winter evening with a little dime-store magic to keep it off him.


****

Two days later, Daniel was surprised over his afternoon coffee at work by a same-day courier that came to deliver him a package. His work in an insurance office wasn't prone to such things. Even more surprising was that the package came from Johnson and was marked "urgent." Something was definitely wrong.

He made a brief, and possibly unconvincing, excuse to his boss, pleading a migraine. Then he half-bundled up, grabbed the package, and rushed out of the office, leaving his coffee to grow cold on his desk.

* Snow still lay thickly on lawns and roofs, but was already gone to grey slush on sidewalks and streets. The trip home on the Green Line was stressful. Unwilling to open the package until he got home, and feeling more uncomfortable the longer the contents were unknown to him, Daniel drummed his gloved fingers agitatedly against it as the train crept along on its snow-day schedule.

He blew out a fierce breath of relief on arriving at his apartment. He dashed to the kitchen and tore open the package as quickly and carefully as he could manage. Within it were a battered hardcover journal, a note, and the kettle containing the fox spirit. Trying to fight back fear, Daniel opened the note.

"Daniel, I'm sorry this is so sudden, but there's no time. By the time you read this I'll be gone.

"My rival has discovered me. This is one of his notebooks. You should be safe if you put it in a lock box.

"Please take the fox spirit, and check on Kitty for me if you can. --C. Johnson."

Daniel opened the notebook, and regretted it at once. The figures and words on the page were insane. Although impossible to read, except perhaps by the hand that had written them, they nearly caused him a real migraine to look at them. The drawings implied a world where he would never want to live, and whose impression would live with him for a long time, even as he slammed the notebook closed again. He wanted to tear the book, burn it, erase it from existence. But its pages resisted his efforts, and his head felt even more pain, when he tried.

*****

The book was as contained as it could be, Daniel having secured it at Union Bank within an hour after he'd opened it. He wanted to head downtown right away to Johnson's. He suspected Johnson would already be gone, but he had to check. He didn't call cabs often, but this time it felt important to save as much time as possible. He left the fox spirit at home, assuming it would be safer at home than on his person, just in case.

He knew within a block of Johnson's that something was very wrong. He asked to be let off early because of the crowd around Johnson's. Pedestrians, typically focused on their business with the pawn shops, or skulking out of sight otherwise, were gathered around, shivering and murmuring, the occasion giving them rare opportunity to socialize with each other.

Daniel pushed as far forward as he could. The windows of Johnson's shop had blown out, glass shards all over the slushy ground, but there was no other indication of violence. The interior was completely empty of stock, furnishings, or any evidence that harm had come to Johnson or his wife. Even the sign and the old thermometer were gone. Only the building, the husk, remained.

Maybe this kind of thing happened between people like Johnson and his rival all the time, leaving only stunned onlookers behind. Had a crime happened here, and if there had, would any witness come forward to speak?

It began to snow again. Daniel fished the petri dish out of his pocket. He felt the last charge of the Spell Gum dissipate as he walked back to the station.

Rosewood
07-25-2011, 03:02 PM
Oh, hell. All that typing, and I didn't use Alex's criterion.

Good luck, everyone. :(

Prinnydood
07-25-2011, 03:18 PM
You've still got time to work it in there before the deadline.

Rosewood
07-25-2011, 06:02 PM
...and done! Nothing like bringing it in under the wire.

Alex Scott
07-25-2011, 09:12 PM
Okay, I'm about to go to bed for the night, which means one thing: Entries are now closed! Voting is now open. We have four stories to choose from this time (including bobbywatson's from earlier). You have until late night next Monday, August 1, to send me your vote by PM. Winner gets the next round.

Alex Scott
07-31-2011, 12:50 PM
With one day remaining, I have enough votes to declare that Prinnydood is the winner! Congratulations, and good luck running your round!

Prinnydood
07-31-2011, 01:09 PM
Hot damn, I actually won one of these things! I suppose I have the honor of running the next round. It should be up in the next week or so.

Rosewood
07-31-2011, 10:58 PM
Congrats, dood!

Prinnydood
08-08-2011, 12:57 PM
Round four begins! (http://www.gamespite.net/talkingtime/showthread.php?p=1119533#post1119533)