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Capntastic
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« Reply #60 on: November 05, 2012, 07:22:32 PM »

Missions
(1090 words)

Terry was on a mission. Standard procedure was to get out, and get back within a few hours. He'd left his mission jacket in his backyard overnight on the roots of his tree. It'd accumulated enough moisture and grime to send the signals he wanted sent. No shave and shower that day either, and he'd left his cell phone on its charger. Cutting free from those things not only freed up time, but made the mission more fun. A handful of one dollar bills was all he'd need, in terms of assets this time.

He stepped aboard the bus, slipping bills into the receptacle, savoring the texture of the cold metal on his fingertips while the rest of his hands were warmed by fingerless wool gloves. He sat down and repressed the urge to brush his greasy hair out of his face, and let the inertia of the vehicle in motion overtake him. His empty stomach made him jittery, and this only added to the sheer euphoric thrill he was experiencing.

Last week was the typical routine of work and socialization and all of that, but this was a special sort of weekend he kept all to himself. He'd even called in sick to his friends. Friday night he'd driven around with his running lights off, stealth mode and binoculars, acquiring mission intel. It took an amount of restraint to not go in right then and seize the objective that Terry found absolutely pleasurable. Knowing he was capable of that restraint, and that he could hold it indefinitely, was part of the reason he had the missions anyways.

His stop had come up, outside of a half-boarded up strip mall. As he reached to pull the bell cord, he felt the wool snag underneath his fingernails and became aware that he'd spent the whole ride clenching his hands into fists. Even his body knew he was getting closer. He shambled off the bus, brushing past people who were pointedly ignoring how decrepit he looked. That was a sort of power to Terry but it wasn't what he wanted.

He ducked behind the strip mall and followed along a chain link fence until he'd found the spot where it had been clipped through. Back here was sparse trees and dense brush, and slipping into it the noise of traffic dissolved. The action of his lungs and heart filled the silence. His senses were firing on all cylinders, and he immediately saw the thinned out section of brush, indicating a trail. The mission was now behind enemy lines.

Terry had read that the most important thing in maneuver warfare wasn't overwhelming force of arms, but the idea of controlling the tempo of the battlefield. Forcing your enemy to react, keep them on their toes, and keep them guessing. He briefed himself for the missions with this in mind. That was the power he wanted. And Terry knew that exerting it on some random homeless person across town was more ethical than starting trouble with someone he knew, or someone in his neighborhood. This was why he adhered to the mission structure so strictly.

He inhaled sharply through grinning teeth as he spotted the makeshift tarp shelter. He let his senses flow outwards, listening for any sign that he should make a tactical retreat. Just wind. He walked right up to the pale blue tent and began thinking. There was a mattress here, and quite a few trinkets littered around it. Some were in a milk crate. This was the hardest part for him, since he wanted to act with utter precision. He could simply cut the rope that held the tarp down across the tree branches, but that would be easy and obvious. The objective of the mission was hard for Terry to even define, and he would usually know it when he thought it up in the field. He could tip the milk crate over, or turn it upside down, just to force the owner to wonder how it had happened. That wasn't quite the effect he wanted.

Last month Terry had, in what he felt was a particular stroke of genius, taken a collection of porno mags he'd found on-site and burned them, leaving the ash pile where they'd been stashed. Once he'd found a picture frame of someone's family and he'd carefully opened the frame up and slid the picture out of the glass and folded it up and taken it home. Once he'd cut a dog's leash (getting close enough to do that was exhilarating!), and ran off before the owner could do street justice to him. The first mission he had was simply taking a water bottle and burying it some mud, where it'd be impossible to find. There was something special to each mission that made sense to him only when he was doing it. Terry was giggling as this new objective came to mind.

There were empty liquor bottles here, and he immediately began picking them up and throwing them at the tree. Some shattered instantly, while others missed or glanced off of it. He had to stop and look around every few pitches, since it was making an awful lot of noise. Once he'd rendered them all to shards and re-secured the perimeter, he began carefully scooping the glass into his palm, thanking his fingerless gloves for protecting them, and spreading it out evenly on the mattress. This was art. This was beautiful. He grabbed a few pieces of newspaper and used it as protection as he ground the glass deeper into the grimy fabric of the mattress. This was levels deeper than anything he'd done before, and Terry regretted not having his phone on hand to take pictures. He took his time, making sure each inch was embedded with tiny glittering blades. He sighed as he finished his work, clapping his hands and brushing the dirt off of his knees.

He was giggling on the bus ride home, and people were trying very hard not to look at him. That was still a sort of power, but he couldn't stop thinking about the pure moment of when the mattress's owner would return. Would it be dark? Would they immediately notice what had happened? He didn't care if the mattress caused harm, or if it would simply be turned over. He'd completed his mission, he'd gotten out, left his mark, and gotten back. It didn't matter what their response was, or what his own next move was. Terry controlled the tempo of his target.
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« Reply #61 on: November 08, 2012, 04:08:09 PM »

Tan
950 Words

The sun felt good on his body as he crested a dune. As the ocean brought in a breeze, he paused, and then quickly sidestepped a line of reeds sticking out of the sand. He saw no reason to even chance harming them. His heels dug into the sand as he made his way down the embankment, and revelled in his body's ability to adjust his balance and keep him upright. Finding a patch of sand free of driftwood, shells, and beached jellyfish, he made his body fall backwards. With his eyes closed he noted the sensation of his left hand resting on his bare chest, and his right hand stretched out at a low angle. Apparently he'd shown some measure of second-thoughts, and subconsciously tried to break his fall. Regardless, it was in this position, something like a snow-angel with one arm in a sling, that he stayed.

The sun had yet to reach its apex. His mind abstracted the sound sensations of the waves and the warmth sensations of the sun, tying these together with metaphors until the concept of the beach as a clock was in his head. Each crest of the waves was a tick, each trough was a tock, and the hour hand of the sun was being urged on by these mechanical motions, unified by some unseeable chain of mechanisms. He purged this illusion from his thoughts. His skin was warming and he knew this from both the contrast of the undersides of his legs and torso and arms, and from the rational logic following that it was a very bright day, he'd seen that the forecast predicted a generally hot day, and that on this day, he was wearing nothing more than cotton briefs. This last detail was decided days in advance, not so much for modesty as a legal concern. No need to bring undue attention.

It was some time by the time other beach-goers began to show up. He was certain that simple human instinct had led them to decide their positions solely by calculating their proximity to him. Unseen fields of personal space portioned the beach into a series of lots which gradually filled up with families, couples, or loners like himself. He knew this all from sound. Voices, radios, coolers being dropped into the damp sand from mere inches, footsteps of wildly varied tempos, discs flying through the air, towels being shaken out, and one child trying to impress their father by throwing driftwood into the ocean. Though he tried to focus on these all, one by one, as clean discrete components, the clock abstraction arose in his mind's eye again. The second or hour hands were not altered by these additions, and despite this lack of mechanical involvement, he subconsciously added them into the works as gears, springs, washers, pins, and rods.

He deconstructed the clock piece by piece and remove the concept. His attention, thus freed up, was now focused on his eyelids, which were starting to feel irritated. He scanned the rest of his face. His ears were hurting, as was his nose and lips. He felt the blood coursing through them all, matching the sun's heat. His leg, which had been left extended at an angle, was falling asleep. The sensory static this brought to him was exhileratingly sharp, and he tuned it out. The breeze picked up and he felt individual threads of his hair whipping across his forehead. A strand pierced the surface tension of a drop of sweat that had formed and got stuck. Moments later the drop slid down the side of his head and came to a rest on his ear. Each second, and each beat of the waves, was spent alternating introspection and extrospection.

Hours passed. His blood vessels were frayed, and what little sweat he produced left salty burning tracks across his seared flesh. The closest anyone had come to considering him, that he could tell, was a disc flying directly over him and someone running a narrow circle around him to retrieve it. He couldn't account for stares or glances, but no one had said anything. He would have heard it. The air had begun to cool, and the breeze had gradually increased the force of its gusts. The blaring redness that had been shearing through his eyelids for hours dulled and became dark. Night had fallen and people had left. He had known, from forecasts, that the moon was out. A portion of his mind altered the clock metaphor, changing the sun to the minute hand and the moon to the hour hand. That was the scale of things.

Through the night, he explored new sensation. He homed in on a clam hole, bubbling a foot or two away from his ear. He worried his body had blocked some, but could not feel anything. The saltiness of the air tasted different as the tide lowered. His skin was peeling, and he felt it as little sails rising in the breeze as dawn came. New people were here this day, as the tussles of gulls and clacking of reeds was drowned out by more crushing sounds. He fought hard not to compare these newcomers to the previous day's crowd, finding parallels, or criticizing their music choices.

He raced to steer his mind as fever and dehydration enveloped it. Blood rushing through his body and the action of breathing were now the center of his sensory experiences. He anticipated this. On the third night the tides began lapping at him. He let himself drift off as his conscious struggled to stay afloat. The recurring clock metaphor made sense now, though. The first timepieces were sun dials and waterclocks.
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« Reply #62 on: November 13, 2012, 01:28:13 PM »

Leashes
(247 words)

It never mattered how much got on him in the process, Cyril loved the feeling of tracking mud on the floor like a dog. It was the weekend for him, so he pulled up his hood and, in doing so, took off his leash. He circled a dead lamppost and waited. Someone was going to deal with his pawprints tonight.

Standing around looking and feeling dangerous was something he'd learned to savor. All too often the meat of the night was over and done with in the time it took for his heart rate to return to normal. Just scraps, really. Even tonight, as soon as he saw a reasonable enough mark, his biology kicked in. Running up, chewing through the purse's strap with a utility knife, yanking it away and fleeing was all automatic. It wasn't until he'd tossed his treat over a chainlink fence and followed it that he realized how unsurprised the woman had looked, staring downwards. She'd reacted with more of a yelp than a scream.

His breathing calmed, and he dug through the purse with saliva in his mouth. The zipper caught on plastic. Inside was white. Each lipstick, tampon box, coupon sheathe, the pocketbook, the cell phone, all were wrapped in their own plastic bag. Cyril whimpered. He hadn't left streaks of mud on this person's linoleum. He'd pulled up the floor entirely. He walked home with his hood lowered, wondering if returning the purse would do even more harm.
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« Reply #63 on: November 17, 2012, 02:33:58 PM »

Dear ______,

Thank you for submitting your story to —- for consideration in the —- anthology. We received a lot of great stories and the final selection was difficult to make. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to use Modern Appliances, 1946. We wish you luck in placing it elsewhere.

Thank you,
—- and —-, Editors



The house was filled with a dull noise that instantly dropped to an almost tinnitus KK pitched metallic tinkle.  The deadbolt of the door had slammed into the frame again.  Lucy had tried kicking it shut with her heel since her hands were full, and knew that it hadn't worked as soon as the noise came.  That terrible noise triggered a simultaneous flow of adrenaline and memories of similar mistakes. The bolt was always popping out like that. As much as she hated the idea of repeating the same mistake, she knew her twin sister Darcy just hated the sound the mistake made. It had never occurred to either of them to have someone come out to fix the lock's mechanism, since it was ideally the sort of problem that could be fixed by being more cautious and considerate. Whenever it happened, her heart would speed up and hurt a little.

She set the two boxes she was carrying down on the kitchen counter, and then took a second to close the door properly.  She slid the top box off and laid them side to side, smiling, and then called for Darcy to come out to the kitchen.  There was no response. She used her thumbnail to cut through the beige piece of cellulose tape and opened the first box. It was packed tight with a nest of pale wiry straw and deep inside was something smooth and white.  She pulled it out slowly and set it down to admire it.  It was a Belmont radio, a beautiful thing with a pristine Bakelite shell, and it was the cleanest thing in the house. "Come and look at 'em!", she called to her twin. She began unpacking the second one, knowing her sister wasn't feeling up for the unveiling. It was one of those nights.  It usually was.

The twins both loved music and had wanted a radio since the war had ended. They'd been too poor to get one before and too afraid to get one during. But luck finally had given them the chance. It wasn't good luck, though. Horace Brader's wife had fallen ill with tuberculosis several months prior, and Horace had been trying as hard as possible to keep strong for his wife, keep sane for himself, and keep his business running. He owned Brader Appliance.  He worked like a madman during the weeks, and every Friday he would come to the florist shop where Lucy worked.  He called ahead each and every time, to tell Lucy to make the best arrangement she could, given the season and available stock. When he arrived, he'd have her show him the get well soon she'd gotten in stock that week, sometimes having to seek out companies and distributors from out of state just to keep from having any repeats. He'd borrow her pen, always, to sign the card "I love you.  -Horace" before putting it into the envelope, and then head off to dedicate the entire weekend to staying next to his ailing wife.

She'd always felt odd, making all of these decisions for him.  It almost seemed like he was cheating by having Lucy select the flowers and cards for him.  Even so, she did her best, since she had never felt trusted with anything so important before. It had been six months of these romantically gratuitous Friday orders, when Horace didn't call or show up. Unsure of what to do, Lucy brought the arrangement (zinneas and lupines in orange and purple, just the thing to bridge Summer and Fall) to the hospital herself.  A nurse led her to the room and let her in.  Horace's wife was in an iron lung, and though he'd described it to her, she was unprepared. Seeing a human being completely immobilized, needing an enormous machine just to breathe, was something she didn't think you even could be prepared for. She saw Horace's wife's face, upside-down in the mirror above the iron lung, and made eye contact with it. She told her that her husband would be a little late, and that she'd brought some new flowers. She left the flowers on the table, next to the card (unsigned, but kept discreetly within the envelope) and quietly excused herself, trying to brush the devastating sadness of the encounter off of her mind by focusing intently on what the flower arrangement must look like upside-down.

Horace called the shop the next day from the hospital, apologizing for being late. He invited her to come on down to the appliance shop some time, and pick out something nice for herself on the house. She tried to turn the offer down, but eventually relented, deciding that it would be fair to take one radio for free and pay full price for the other one. No haggling, even.  Horace took great joy in helping her select the radios, extolling their virtues, and trying his best to represent all of the attentiveness to detail that Lucy had shown him.  He held the door open for her as she left with the two radios, and told her he'd see her on Friday.

As she continued setting the radio up, Lucy wondered if her sister was awake, or even home.  The Belmont fit nicely on the bedside table in her room, though she'd have to put her hairbrush somewhere else from now on.  She saw a small spark light up the inside of the socket as she plugged it in, and there was a low hiss of static emanating from the radio. It sounded something like gas from an un-lit oven, and she slowly turned the knob up, filling the room. And then it was the other knob's turn. Voices and instruments came and went, forming and dissolving out of the blur of pure noise. She went from one edge of the band to the other, absolutely pleased and dismayed at what her sister was missing out on. She brought the second radio to her sister's room, and found Darcy sitting att the edge of her bed reading. She didn't seem too enthused so far, so Lucy went through the same ritual as before after plugging it in. She slowly moved the dial up and down the band, presenting the entire range of radio entertainment to her sister. Halfway through the return trip as the needle homed in on a station, Darcy looked up and said "Stop; leave it there." Lucy did so.

It was a jazz station, broadcasting some raunchy, surging performance. They'd both heard the song before, in "Gilda", the recent Rita Hayworth film. "Put the Blame on Mame", which juxtaposed the 1906 San Francisco earthquakes with one woman's raw sexual power. The film itself was definitely more of a Darcy thing than a Lucy thing, though they'd both joked about wanting Hayworth's dress from it. Darcy was more of a Hayworth, anyways, preferring to be moody and trying to appear sultry. Lucy could never quite figure out the appeal. It was too impractical.

The new radios were used constantly, the sounds mingling between the two rooms, filling the house the twins shared. Though Darcy kept it tuned to the jazz station, turning the radio on or off when she chose to listen, Lucy preferred to scan the entire spectrum available to her, often enjoying a radio drama or adventure. Nero Wolfe quickly became her favorite, because Nero Wolfe reminded her however slightly, of Horace. He certainly had an affection for food that rivaled Horace's devotion to his wife; and she couldn't do anything but respect that. That deep, serious appreciation for something always seemed to elude her, and it was impossible to tell why. She knew she wanted to develop specific tastes, like Nero Wolfe or even her own sister Darcy, but it always seemed like getting too involved in something would prevent her from enjoying other things. She didn't want to become withdrawn and moody, like Darcy. She was content to respect that mindset from a distance.

Weeks later as she was raising the volume to truly enjoy an episode of The Adventures of Superman, without any noise or physical resistance, the knob simply popped off in her hand. It would never have occurred to her to take it into Horace's shop to have to have it fixed, since she did not want to bother him about something that was free. She assumed that one could reach in and move the little metal rod with their fingers, although she was absolutely terrified of the dangers of electricity. She simply learned to deal with unplugging the radio when she was finished listening, and plugging it back in again later. She learned to deal with the small sparks in the outlet, and never noticed that when her radio was plugged in, it was always louder than Darcy's.

Eventually, as Christmas grew closer, Lucy received a visit from Horace at the flower shop. He was more than joyful to announce that his wife would finally be coming home, and that, unfortunately, he would not be needing her services anymore. She was pleased to retort that his was the sort of business she would be glad to lose. He had brought her a new gift- a German invention called a Starmix food processor. "Leave it to the fucking krauts to invent a garbage disposal that lets you keep the garbage!" he joked. She would never be able to tell how someone could mix anger and joy so easily, when the war had only ended four years ago. After his burst of jovial hatred, his expression softened and he assured her, winking, that it was made as a way of repaying American women for borrowing their men for so long. Taped to the side of the box was his wife's special apple tart recipe, perfect for the cold weather. She couldn't help but accept it.

Once she made it home, she plugged her radio in and let Nero Wolfe drown out Darcy's jazz with an adventure, while she got down to the business of preparing dessert. As she was giving the Starmix its inaugural run with half of an apple, the house filled with the sharp noise of plastic shattering. Her heart sped up and hurt a little, as she (and this would become a joke for years) wondered if the Starmix was actually a device created by the Germans for revenge. But no, the noise was coming from her room. She smashing continued as she ran to see what was happening.

Darcy had torn the radio from the wall and was ramming down onto the bedside table over and over. Thin shards of white Bakelite were spilling everywhere, and Lucy could see the dark gleaming insides of the radio, despite it being rapidly shaken back and forth. Crying already, and with none of the vocal composure Rita Hayworth would have in such a situation, Lucy shouted "Stop; leave it there." Darcy did so. They didn't hug. They didn't talk about this until years afterwards.

It was impossible to understand her sister, sometimes, Lucy knew. And she could guess that it was just as hard for Darcy to understand her. She had started to realize, just a little spark, why Darcy was never particularly outgoing. If these two twins could only ever guess at what the other one was going through, what hope could anyone else ever have? But at the same time, she knew that if someone like Horace Brader, knowing nothing about his wife's favorite flowers or seasonal arrangements or even signing his name legibly, could express such a pure love to his wife through sheer determination and consistency, that there had to be something more to loving someone.

In the end, Lucy and Darcy forgave each other without ever needing to say it. They ended up trading radios, as the Belmont still worked despite the horrifically broken shell. Darcy was even clever enough to figure out you could use a screwdriver to adjust the volume up and down (though she used an oven mitt the first couple of times, to be safe.) The radios each stayed in their rooms for decades, long after the Starmix's motor eventually burned out.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2018, 04:46:32 PM by Capntastic » Logged
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« Reply #64 on: November 17, 2012, 10:08:00 PM »

Meet Cute Future
(746 words)

Acier did not have to drag their fingers across the glass surface they were skimming across to trace out the static electricity that had built up inside of it. Their physical body was not even required here in this particular chamber of the foundry. This tiny, humanity-laced action was justified in their mind as a way of signifying the action of discharging it as taking precedence over the thousands of other tasks being monitored. They let four insignificant robots disembark from under their fingernails and begin merging with the clear lattices of the structure, massaging the electromagnetic fields into cooperation. As Acier ascended from the depths of the power arrays, replacement robots slipped back into place without a fuss.

Reaching the flatness of the loading fields, Acier took moments to cycle through patterns of thought, tuning into them like radio-waves. The schedule was maintained. The next action they would be required to take would be several hours from now, when the process of selecting the components for the next outbound parcel would require a sentient mind to direct. Until then, Acier shifted away from consciousness and let the robots do the work. It was impossible to outpace this routine.

Minutes before Acier's mind was needed, there was a disruption. Seconds before Acier shifted back into total consciousness, there was a sky ripping force penetrating the upper atmosphere. Imperceptible moments before Acier began sending dozens of robots out to analyze the event, there was an incoherent noise across all spectrums that Acier's spinal cord passively sensed. Even light and gravity were warbling out a pattern too riot-like to translate and too purposeful to dismiss as a natural event.

With hundreds of robots within reasonable proximity, and thousands more providing what data they could from a distance, Acier was granted true three-dimensional sight. Not the merely human conceit of splicing a pair of two-dimensional visuals using some outdated hardware at the back of the brain, Acier could conceive of this new arrival from all angles. There was static, though. The bursts of light, shifting through colors, intensity, and strobing fast enough to hint at some encoded transmission, all sought to vandalize their 'eyes'. Acier's spine reacted to gouts of gravitational wells popping up and dispersing at random. Miniature black holes forming and sinking down to the core of the world to dissipate within millionths of a second. Was this an attack?

Legions of tiny robots chained together into circular belts around the anomaly, scouring it with simultaneous floods of data and sensory probes, hoping to pick up a reasonable reaction. Was this being from one of the many worlds Acier sought to autocolonize with their parcels? Was this some incalculably rare natural event? Was this some rogue machine, sent to scan Acier, or do harm to the routine? There was no way of knowing for sure, within these scant few seconds of contact.

The anomaly began sinking down into the generator arrays beneath the fields, and Acier sought to follow, taking a clever shortcut by distorting holes through bulk matter they knew to be functionless with one of their personal fields. There it was, the living static, circling around the cold reactor. One of the many beating hearts of the foundry. Was this proof of dangerous intent, on behalf of the anomaly? Acier switched on parts of their brain, relating to empathy and ethics. Could something this unknown be reasoned with? No, not without great personal risk. Acier's systems resolved to take action.

Many of the robots in Acier's fingertips began manipulating errant strands of electromagnetic force. Shearing through this intruder with uncountable particles and gauging the reactions would serve the dual purpose of analyzing and neutralizing the event. Acier was already considering defenses for future incursions as the beam began spilling towards its target. Now with all of their robots truly blinded by the discharge of such energy, Acier noticed that there was no reaction. The being had deflected all trace of it.

Acier switched on portions of their brain dedicated to curiosity and, not thinking it would do any harm or good, their own personal sight. With the two eyes active, Acier did not see the gravity swirls or jolts of radio-data. They saw a sentient being, not unlike themselves. Acier slowly raised a hand to scan the being with the robots on the palm of their hand. Part of their databanks reminded them that this was an early human greeting, as well.
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« Reply #65 on: November 19, 2012, 12:48:55 AM »

I dig your writing, Kyle.  Makes me want to get back into a reading habit.  Smiley
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Creativity births expression.  Curiosity births exploration.
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« Reply #66 on: November 19, 2012, 05:35:00 PM »

Quote
Della almost blew the seeds off of a talking dandelion.

The flower said, “Don’t” and Della managed to keep most of the breath in, but a puff escaped her lips. Several of the dandelion’s parachute seeds swayed.

“I said don’t. Back off, meat-weed.”

I don't get around to writing too much. I usually get really into it for a few months a year and then stop for a long time. Here's a short story I wrote this year. I hope you like it!

A Dandelion Preservation by G. L. Herrmann: http://blog.gageh.us/a-dandelion-preservation/
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« Reply #67 on: November 20, 2012, 12:38:53 AM »

Omen by Evan Balster

I came here after someone told me I'd missed a detail.  That it might hint at the fate of my friends from earlier in the film.  I couldn't leave the story unfinished like that.  It lacked closure.  I owed it to them, right?

A small pool, landscaped into place among the buildings.  We'd thrown our unnecessary belongings here earlier, shedding excess weight to lighten the load for our journey.  Coats and blankets, glistening trinkets.  Photos, perhaps.  We had no need of them in the investigation that would follow.  The undisturbed water permits the stars as companions to their decay.

I see a motion.  Blue eyes.  And there it is, clear as day -- the detail.  A wolf lurks below the water, its gaze locked on me.  It is motionless but for... breathing?  Is it breathing?

My mind races to deconstruct the symbol.  To understand author's metaphor.  My body reacts with instinct; I stand perfectly still, eyes wide and gaze locked, blood rushing audibly in my ears.

I puzzle at the omen --

-- and I am awake.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2012, 08:30:07 PM by Evan Balster » Logged

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« Reply #68 on: November 20, 2012, 12:02:24 PM »

I dig your writing, Kyle.  Makes me want to get back into a reading habit.  Smiley

Thank you, I appreciate the feedback.
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« Reply #69 on: November 21, 2012, 10:39:43 AM »

I don't get around to writing too much. I usually get really into it for a few months a year and then stop for a long time. Here's a short story I wrote this year. I hope you like it!

A Dandelion Preservation by G. L. Herrmann: http://blog.gageh.us/a-dandelion-preservation/

Finally read this today.  Sweet little story, yo.  :D
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« Reply #70 on: November 26, 2012, 09:35:13 AM »

Finally read this today.  Sweet little story, yo.  :D

Thanks!
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« Reply #71 on: December 02, 2012, 01:33:33 AM »

I've set my Tumblr to auto-update the latest handful of my short stories.  While there's still a lot of catching up to do before it runs ashore on new stuff, if you're likelier to be inclined to read it in that format, go ahead and follow me.
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« Reply #72 on: December 08, 2012, 03:25:09 AM »

Goodbye Court Meridian
(797 words)


Eric's work ethos was focused around consistency, and around that work ethos he conducted his personal time much the same. This composition was tuned with such accuracy that any misstep or skipped note inevitably stood out. From these ripples disturbing the placid arrangement of his life, Eric found that it was not the simple disturbances and perturbations of day to day activities that annoyed him the most, but the absolute truth that if they were not corrected immediately, larger obscenities would follow.

This Tuesday night had begun with Eric making the slightest error in movement while changing the blade of his razor. He'd flensed a thin layer off of right thumb and forefinger. It wasn't the pain that got to him so much as the almost unceasing flow of blood that followed. With a rag clenched in his fist, he managed to shave entirely with his left hand. He brushed a slight sheen into his clay colored hair before continuing his preparations. He cautiously rubbed a painstakingly almost-but-not-quite damp cloth onto his suit jacket, removing any speck of hair or dust from it. The motions required to put it on with just one hand available, jamming the cleanly bandaged fingers of his injured hand through the sleeve, were gentle and precise. Struggling to affix his cufflinks was something else altogether, and only moments into the task did one drop straight down the drain of the sink. He flinched, refraining just barely from chasing it down the pipes with his injured fingers. He threw his hairbrush down onto the countertop as hard as he could, cracking the formica slightly. He scowled, caught himself in the mirror and looked away. As he descended the stairs and walked towards his place of work, he kept his arms to his side.

The Court Meridian was busy this Tuesday, and Eric had been in the door for moments before having to assure a shouting customer that the gin and soda they had not ordered would be quickly replaced with a gin and tonic. Smoothing that wrinkle had set him off balance as he strode through the doors to the kitchen to acquire a salad to deliver to the table corner. He balanced the tray carefully with his non-bandaged hand, hoping no one would notice the missing cufflink. As soon as he set the tray down, an accusation shot up his spine.

"Are there no croutons?" an older guest asked.

"No, unfortunately," Eric responded with feigned empathy. "this is the Waldorf salad. There are apples, instead."

He portioned it out, struggling to use the tongs as deftly as he would have liked. His mouth relayed the rest of the "would you like fresh drinks" business as his mind was stuck on how the word "unfortunately" signaled an apology that the complementary salad was not the usual, boring spring greens or Caesar; as well as the absolute obscenity of an idea that fortune had anything to do with the situation at all.

His break came, and he slipped away to the front desk. He rubbed his wrist with his good hand. He'd borrowed two hairpins from the coatroom girl to secure his shirt sleeve. He'd also, in increasingly ungentlemanly steps, borrowed a cigarette, her lighter, and the keys to the coatroom. Locking himself in, he figured he'd have a moment to think. The night was simply off-kilter, and there was no clear way that he could see to stabilize it. The rest of the staff had seemed content to compensate for the evening rush by jumping over the details and into mistakes. They were problematic. With a quick rasp of his thumb across the spark wheel, he lit the cigarette and illuminated the inside of the coatroom. Here was a perfect mirror of the crowds assembled in the dining area. Disheveled cheap overcoats, or overly gaudy fur lined things that simply would not hold up to real weather.

He took a drag, long and slow, metering his break out as long as possible. He flicked the lighter again, looking closely for two sparkling dots he'd seen moments before. Here was something that was far and away the most hideous thing he'd seen all night. A non-descript fur coat topped with a greasy mink stole. He scowled at its eyes, which were absolutely replaced by diamonds some perverse taxidermist. He glared at it until his cigarette burned down to singe his already bloodied fingertips. He dropped the smoldering butt into the pocked of the coat and couldn't break eye contact as the thing ignited, flames reaching up and digging into the mink sewn into the top.

Eric backed towards the door and locked it from the inside. Smoke filled his lungs as he watched the fire reveal the diamond eyed creature's skeleton.
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« Reply #73 on: December 09, 2012, 07:04:06 PM »

Skip from one action to the next a little too fast, and you fumble around a lot.

His accent is so thick and fast that I can barely see through to the other side. It just sounds like he’s just repeating the same few sounds real fast, over and over.

I can’t understand a thing he’s saying.

I’m focusing on his mouth, real good now, trying to untangle and separate what’s coming out. The fate of my lunch depends on this programmed interaction.

“For here or to go?” he says, flipping and folding two flour tortillas.

“To go,” I tell him, side-stepping to the next checkpoint in Taco Del Mar’s ‘Build-a-Taco’ workshop.

He mirrors my step the right, still working the tortilla like a cardboard box, folding along imaginary dotted lines in his head, packaging day-old taco meat and processed cheese.

“For here or to go?”

One more time?

“For here or to go?”

Didn’t he just say that? Is he trying to say taco? I don’t get it.

“To go,” I say, again.

He nods his head, curling each taco into aluminum foil. He either didn’t understand me the first time and was asking again, or he understood that I wasn’t understanding him.

Now I’m confused.

Stop to collect your thoughts.

Before he’s at the register, I’ve already got my debit card out, waiting to be handed to him. He peels off his plastic gloves, yellow and oily red with taco bits. When I think of this hand-off of currency at fast food places, I always remember what my high school football coach would say to us out on the hot summer field.

“Catch it first, and then turn your body to run,” Coach Byers goes, for like the fiftieth time today.

There’s a blood vessel on the upper right-hand side of his bald and lobster red forehead, pulsating and growing. He pauses after speaking, touching every one of us dead center in the eyes.

“Again,” he says, all calm.

The next kid that was up, I really felt sorry for. Chance McGuiness.

If he didn’t catch this next rocket from our quarterback Ritchie’s arm, Coach Byers would erupt. I imagined the quivering vein above his eyebrow exploding, dribbling sticky red all down his face. Coach Byers would probably just grit his teeth and let it run down to his chin, telling us it was just weakness leaving his body.

It was a blistering hot day, the kind where the sweat would start to sting. It was the middle of August, in the plains. Your pads would rub against your soft underarms, wet with salty lubricant, and rub your skin red raw. Mosquitos, who liked to hang around the warm pools of mud, they only made it worse.

The helmets they gave us were really just crock pots in the heat, slow-cooking your head, turning your brain into chili. My hands felt like wet jelly, beaten and bruised from catching passes all day, and slick with sweat. I bet Chance McGuiness’ hands felt somewhat the same.

I felt sorry for him, seriously.

So Chance steps up to the line, his eyes fixed in nervous concentration.

It was one passing drill, but I bet for Chance, this is the Super Bowl, and we’re in the fourth quarter. Tie game.

Ritchie, in his scratchy quarterback voice, yells “Hut!” and off Chance goes, running a slant route.

Ritchie fires it off, and my head snaps with the ball, following the brown bullet across the horizon. Just as the ball gets to Chance’s outstretched arms the sun, already starting to set, blocks my vision of the point of impact.

I didn’t need to see what had happened to know.

The sound of a leather football, bouncing off of a chest pad.

The sound of Coach Byers, losing his voice for a week.

Coach Byers is practically running out at Chance who lay on the ground, utterly submissive and defeated. He’s stomping up dust, chucking his clipboard into the dirt.

“If you don’t catch it first,” he says, his voice squealing and cracking in violent anger. “If you don’t catch it first, this is what’s going to happen!”

My ears completely shot from being yelled at, I see him stomping around Chance, bald, throwing his fists around like Elmer Fudd.

Hey, it was funny when it wasn’t you.

So anyway, now I remember. Catch it first.

This guy that was working at Taco del Mar clearly never had Coach Byers. In his catatonic and autonomous-like state, he fumbles my card and it skitters from the oily counter and onto the floor.

Skip from one action to the next a little too fast, and you fumble around a lot.

He snaps out of it, moving his hand around a second too late, trying to make a visible effort to save it. I bend over, picking my debit card back up and off the maroon tile.

“For here or to go?” is what I hear, but I’m pretty sure he just meant “Oh, sorry.”

After a brief interruption in the script, we’re both back into character. He bags the two hot rolls of aluminum foil and hands it to me.

“Take it easy,” I say, like always.

The worst part of all of this is the walk home. When you’re high, the paranoia of having your plastic satchel of tacos inspected is always at full. I put my hood up, blocking out anything in my peripheral vision. I’m working mostly off of a ‘if I can’t see them, they can’t see me’ thing here.

I’m gripping the handles of my plastic bag so tight in my hand; it’s just bunched up into a little ball in my palm at this point. I’m squeezing it so tight and my palms are so hot that I feel like my hands might melt it right there, and the bag would stretch from my hand to the ground, spilling taco meat all over the street.

Sometimes I picture homeless people, appearing out of the alleyways and dog piling on the exposed carcass of my Mexican take-out, like zombies.

Soon, even through the cold rain, I’m home. My brain is boiling itself inside of my skull, seething hot with a new idea. I set my plastic bag on the counter, hardly interested in what’s inside any more. I don’t even take my shoes off, running to my computer.

I’ve been holding this idea in my mouth, trying to get to a place where it’s safe to throw it up. If you hold these things inside for too long, they start to taste sour, like stomach acid.

I reach into my back pocket, taking my wallet out, so I don’t have to sit on top of a brick with half my ass. I do my routine check inside, making sure that each part is called for and in its correct position.

Skip from one action to the next a little too fast, and you fumble around a lot.

I left my debit card at Taco del Mar’s.
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Maud'Dib Atreides
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« Reply #74 on: December 09, 2012, 08:07:53 PM »

shined black shoes gracing a welcome mat
a fresh american flag folded in a triangular shape
a woman's scorn, tears shed
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Guy: Give me all of your money.
Chap: You can't talk to me that way, I'M BRITISH!
Guy: Well, You can't talk to me that way, I'm brutish.
Chap: Somebody help me, I'm about to lose 300 pounds!
Guy: Why's that a bad thing?
Chap: I'M BRITISH.
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« Reply #75 on: December 16, 2012, 12:37:57 PM »

Unmoving by Evan Balster

A little river.
The earth at the opposite shore has the shape of a breaking wave.
Roots protrude through the soil from the trees and foliage above.
Strange holes dot the side of this little cliff.
Lumps of wet dirt sit half-submerged at the water's edge.
Downstream, there is an irregularity in its shape.
A great tree lays on its side in the riverbed, white and bare as a skeleton.
Even its intricate roots are clean and airborne.
As if to avoid them, the far shore takes a detour.
The tree's branches bury themselves in a sandbar, which stretches upriver.
A wide stream and a narrow one surround it, forming an island.

If I were to come a year ago, the tree might be standing, sickly, and the sandbar unborn.
If I were to come a year from now, the tree might be gone and the island still there, overgrown.
At either time the far shoreline would take a different shape than it does.

The water seems still, though it moves...
And though I do not see the act, I know I am among actors.
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Creativity births expression.  Curiosity births exploration.
Our work is as soil to these seeds; our art is what grows from them...


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« Reply #76 on: December 16, 2012, 04:22:49 PM »

What Ancients Begat  by Keith Nemitz

By the great river,
When cities first grew,
Two field workers fell in love,
And they started a family...

In the dream, the world was a grinding wheel. Golden disks clattered and shattered into beads. The family twisted a thread into the future, stringing beads along it, sometimes retreating to refresh. Crocodiles clawed the wheel into motion.

Newlyweds woke to the living world. Nuzzling, they contemplated. For what would their family be remembered?


(non-tutorial beginning of 7 Grand Steps)
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« Reply #77 on: December 25, 2012, 12:21:54 AM »

Fenceposts
(500 words.)

I stop the utility van next to an enormous stack of two-by-fours. I'm taking my sunglasses off and the cameraman's slides the side door open. His name is J and he's not good at his job. I hop out of the van and begin looking at the scenery. We're surrounded by dusty patches of brush, white irrigation pipes popping out of the ground and stretching into the distance. I'm pointing at all of this and making sure J gets enough b-roll of it all to pad this interview out.

Within a few minutes, our guy, Marty shows up, and he's packed into some torn up dungarees and a cheap cowboy hat and little else. He could be an extra in a Clint Eastwood movie, billed as Fat Cowboy or something. He gets closer, and with his bolo tie and floppy white work gloves, I can get a sense that he actually is comedy relief in real life. I introduce ourselves on behalf of our local news crew, and intersperse the small talk with telling J where to stand. Marty's nervous and keeps reacting to the orders I'm giving by shifting from side to side a few feet each time. I can't tell if he's camera shy or just really worried some city kids are gonna put his shirtless self on Youtube or something and ruin his life.

Once I've got the shots blocked out for J, we begin shooting. I roll the boilerplate introduction off the top of my head, and then turn to Marty.

"Here we have Marty, who has recently run into a bit of a legal snafu. How would you say it all went down, Marty?"

He pauses, looking at me and then at J and then J's camera and then some point in between all three.

"Well, what I'd say happened was, I was havin' a damned fine season, you know, and I'm calculatin' the yield and profits in my head, and then some inspection men came around. Said I'm usin' patented organisms. Said I'd better lawyer myself up."

Some small fragment of style within Marty caused him to look wistfully at the corn in the distance, and J tracked it with the camera. It's a nice shot, I can tell. Marty continues.

"Bees and wind and mice and shit cross-pollinate the plants. Should've taken more precautions keepin' trademarked products from slippin' across the property lines. I'm no thief."

I nod to J, making sure he's still rolling.

"That's very unfortunate. How have the legal proceedings gone?"

"Well, I was lucky to be able to settle out of court, since I'm not flush with cash. They let me off with ceding most of my land to them. Damned fine of them to do so. They're bein' magnanimous about it and lettin' me build the new fence for 'em. Gonna take the money, buy some cows, and start makin' cheese. Least then I'll have to worry about is yeast contamination."

Youtube was gonna love this guy.
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« Reply #78 on: December 25, 2012, 12:22:41 AM »

Scheduling

(999 words)

Seth sat underneath a ratty beige umbrella in front of the Saltwater Cafe, picking lint off of his tweed slacks. He was ignoring the seagulls waiting for low tide, and the salty air was doing bad things to his coffee. He checked his cell phone. He'd texted his secretary minutes ago to have her find out where Mark was. They were both taking forever.

He adjusted his jacket collar and let his hand slide down to his hip. He patted the spot over the interior pocket that held the taser that he was going to use to kill Mark. It was still there, with fresh batteries. He looked down the boardwalk, knowing it was going to happen right over the horizon. The cartridge had been removed (actually, he'd never even loaded it in.), so he wouldn't leave any marks. He'd grinned at this little play on words as he'd thought of it. His mood was improving even as the sky grew more overcast and millions of dying organisms and swooping birds stunk up the air and drove tourists away. He pitied the cafe owner.

His phone buzzed against the glass of the table, and he read the screen: "his secretary says hes on his way". Good enough. Better than last week, when he "got lost" and "decided to call it off." Now it would just be a glass of wine or two with Mark while talking up the business opportunity, walking him down to the end of the decaying pier he'd scoped out a month prior, tazing him into submission and throwing him under the dock. Quick, efficient, and no mess.

Levity was spreading through him as the tainted coffee warmed him up. He spun his phone on the table, almost allowing himself to admire the attempt at decor the cafe had made. Old foreign coins were pressed into a layer of acrylic underneath the glass of the table, giving off the air of commerce and the shipping trade that had caused the town to spring up some hundred years or so ago. The dates stamped into the coinage reflected this.

Seth's plan to kill Mark had evolved over the course of several weeks, after Mark had indicated that he needed to be killed. Associates in the same loose group of young realty professionals, they'd agreed to pool resources on projects to woo clients on a career-making deal. Seth ran the numbers, massaged the papers, and tightened the knots, while Mark merely put a friendly face on the duo's work. They'd worked well together. Unfortunately, Mark had allowed himself to think he was the authority in the partnership. He had changed the timetable without Seth's knowledge. Mark closed the deal when Seth was, through no accident, absent from the most important meeting of his life. Mark was hired on to a job he hadn't even worked for, and had graciously allowed Seth to be a part-time consultant. No office, no title, no cigar lounge or parties. Even his secretary was hired on Craigslist. Things could not be allowed to stay this way.

Seth looked up at a seagull circling close, and began to see why someone would allow themselves to sit underneath such a disgusting umbrella. And then Mark appeared underneath the bird's menacing swoops.

"Sorry it took so long, I can't tell if was your secretary or mine that screwed up the address. I ended up taking the cable car up and down the waterfront twice before I figured it out."

Seth nodded, masking how keenly aware he was of Mark's deflection. If a man can't be punctual, what good is he? Seth had told Mark that before, when Mark blamed one of their secretaries for ruining the meeting for him. Mark was always shifting his weakness onto others, Seth knew. He signalled to a waiter.

"Two of the house red, please. And some breadsticks."

Within moments these were served, and the two set to idle conversation between long, practiced sips. The breadsticks attracted attention from the seagulls, since neither were eating them.

"Man, I'd hate to own this place." Mark said. "How often does the water do this? Once a day, right?"

"Twice." Seth said.

"Right, like a broken clock."

Seth hid rolling his eyes by feigning interest in swishing the tepid, salty wine around his mouth for a second. He patted his hip again, savoring the weight there. Mark was tapping on the table, which Seth soon realized was being done with the intent to grab attention instead of idle noisemaking.

"This coin here, that's an 1820 twenty-drachma coin. It's Greek." Mark said. He was lowering his head to the table, eying it.

"Yeah? And?"

"It's in good condition. I think it might be worth something."

Seth stood up in horror as Mark got down on his knees to pry the coin off the bottom of the table. He produced a small black knife of faux-military style and had begun chiselling away. Seth positioned himself between Mark and the door, just to make sure no cops were called.

The sharp noise of the coin falling heralded Mark hitting his head on the table as he stood. He'd only tipped it slightly, but once the weight of the umbrella came into play, it dragged the rest of the metal and glass and Mark down with it. Shards were sticking to Mark's head and throat while blood and coins were spilling out onto the sidewalk. Seagulls converged as the breadsticks hit the ground.

Seth glanced at his cellphone, which had just buzzed: "his secretary says hes taking the trolly".
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« Reply #79 on: December 28, 2012, 11:27:30 PM »

i call this dr dum

there's a good dum and a bad dum and a red dum and a green dum and a sleepy dum and a bord dum and a cheery dum and a funny dum and a mad dum and a cat dum and a dog dum and a iguana dum and a cheetah dum and a mango dum and a pineapple dum and look at the clock i gotta go see the dr dum
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