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Voting begins now and will end on June 30th at 11:59 PM EST. The entry with the most votes will be the overall winner of all the COT themes.
- Theme: Treasure
She spins and she sways
To whatever song plays
Without a care in the world
And I'm sitting her wearing
The weight of the world on my shoulders
I am looking into baby-blue eyes, so big that that I can see my reflection, as I sit in the rocker and sing off key since mother is running late tonight. I smile my own goofy daddy smile into those eyes, and your toothless smile is reflected back at me.
Beautiful, and I will remember it forever.
It's been a long day
And there's still work to do
She's pulling at me
Saying "Dad, I need you,"
I toss you over my shoulder and spin in tight circles, calling you a sack of potatoes. Your adorable giggles that melt my heart are intermingled with chattering words that you've only just learned. Too dizzy now, I set you down, and you amble over to your beautiful mother, your palm-sized feet leaving palm-sized indents in the grass. You are the most precious walkie-talkie I will ever have.
Beautiful, and I will keep it in my heart forever.
"There's a ball at the castle
And I've been invited
And I need to practice my dancing
Oh, please, Daddy, please?"
I stand, cheering at the top of my lungs, to your mother's embarrassment. She claps enthusiastically, but leans over and asks me what could possibly be so intense about pee-wee soccer. I shrug and cheer louder. You stumble over the soccer ball, which comes all the way up to your toddler thighs, and your peals of laughter warble through the air like butterflies.
Beautiful, and I will love it forever.
So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
And time passes as it does, with its own enigmatic manner. Time is callous, unyielding, and merciless, not bothering to stop for anyone or anything. It leeches strength from the very bones of the greatest of us, leaving frail shells spotted with age.
Still, time is generous and compassionate, feeding life into the youngest and brightest of us, strengthening them and giving them wisdom. Helping them to grow up, flowing with just enough benevolence to let you live life to the fullest.
The whole thing is beautiful, and it's the world we live in.
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
The world we live in is so big, I can't fathom it.
But my world is so small, but it's all that I can fathom.
It is you, my beautiful daughter.
I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
It is you. Your smile, your laughing eyes, your hugs that you dive into with all your heart, the melody in your name, and the sweet sound of 'daddy' carried by your voice. It's what I live for, and what I treasure above all else.
And she'll be gone...
(Disclaimer: Lyrics belong to Steven Curtis Chapman.)
- Theme: The Game
The sandy haired man stared at his opponent across the table. He could make out his opponents thin lips, elongated lower jaw, and sparkling green eyes beneath his ornate metal hood. Silently, he lifted the ornate, translucent pawn of pure glass and slid it forward one space.
“Your move,” he said quietly to his opponent. But his opponent’s inhuman eyes, slitted like those of a cat, simply stared back at him silently, then once again at the board before him, where his own opaque silver pieces skirmished with their translucent enemies.
To any watcher who did not know the truth, this would seem merely like a game of chess, albeit played on a gameboard far larger than normal and with oddly
shaped pieces. But all of the hundreds of beings who watched with bated breath as the two chessmasters made their moves knew what was truly at stake.
Ataran was wagering against the sand-haired human, Gonan, for the future of the world itself.
Each time a pawn was lifted, a being in the mortal world moved. Each time a piece was taken, a mortal being died at the hands of a follower of the enemy. The rules of this particular brand of chess had taken Gonan years to learn, and even now he still did not consider himself a master.
Ataran, however, was an immortal deity. He’d had thousands of centuries from before the time before time to practice and hone his skill. Even now, Gonan thought, it seemed that Ataran was toying with him, trying to keep him off-balance on the fronts of the game he was winning while simultaneously controlling and toying with the sectors of the board he controlled.
What was still worse was that Ataran knew that Gonan was loath to sacrifice even a single pawn. He knew that each of them represented the life of a mortal being. As he watched, Ataran slid a pawn silently toward the rook, not caring that he had sentenced a human follower to death.
Ataran simply stared at Gonan through his expressionless jade eyes, wiling him to make a move. He could withdraw his rook from the game’s center, leaving one of his two bishops open for capture by one of Ataran’s rooks. While he still had both bishops, he’d lost both knights and a rook. Ataran still had all of his royal pieces except one bishop. Gonan’s king was shielded only by his bishop, it wouldn’t take much more for Ataran to break through the last of his defenses and seize victory.
Silently, Gonan withdrew the rook out of reach of Ataran’s pawn.
If Ataran won he'd would be free to make good on his promises to enslave the human race for eternity, rendering them mindless creatures once more.
But Gonan could see an opening as well. He still had his queen, as did Ataran. A dangerous, risky strategy took form. His queen could move and take Ataran’s bishop. Ataran would be forced to move his queen back to take Gonan’s queen, and his rook on the middle row could checkmate Ataran’s king, which was blocked from moving any direction but forward.
He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t pass judgment on so many humans. Not when he didn’t even know if Ataran would take the bait. If Ataran took it, then he, Gonan, had defeated the immortal deity. But if Ataran did not take the bait and continued to press his attack, it would be over for him within minutes.
Ataran’s eyes stared at Gonan coldly, daring him to make a move.
And Gonan made his choice.
- Theme: Amor Omnia Vincit
Story: The Kidnapping Sickness
"It was nice to meet you, sweetie!"
Grandma pats his hand and is wheeled back into her room by the caretaker.
He doesn't understand. He has only just visited Grandma two months ago. How does she not know him anymore?
He turns to his mother with a question, he sees her retreating hastily back down the pink tiled hallway.
"Mommy!" He calls, trotting after her. "Mommy, wait for me!"
He catches up to his mother and wraps his arms through the dangling leather handbag, trying to pull her to a calmer pace.
"Mommy, does Grandma not remember me?" He wheels around to see his mother's face, hopping backwards to keep her bent face in view. A raindrop hits him square in the forehead, and he is alarmed into crying out. But he looks up and is even more frightened to see that his mother is crying.
"Are you okay, momma? Did you get hurt?" The little boy wants to find out, and his light-up sneakers squeak on the floor as he stumbles.
Finally, his mother slows down. But she still does not stop, nor does she respond to his questions.
He turns with his mother into a small lobby, deserted except for a monitor-faced secretary. He follows as his mother sinks into the closest velvet and wood chair. He can't tell if she's still crying because her hand is covering her eyes, and he climbs up next to her, tugging the hand away.
"Can I give you a hug, mommy?" He remembers that when he is upset, his mother always gave him hugs. He also knew that those hugs cheered both of them up.
"Oh, Christopher," He is pulled into her lap, and she sobs and laughs all at once. "I'm so sorry, Christopher."
"It's okay, mommy. But why are you sorry?" He needs to know. So much is happening. "Mommy, I don't understand."
He feels his mother's lips press into the top of his head in a kiss, and his hair feels tickly when her breath makes it move. After a few deep breaths, her voice reaches his ears.
"Chris, you're a big boy, aren't you? You're almost five and a half," She says. "I think you're old enough to understand."
"Understand?" He wriggles in her grip, trying to see her face again.
"You see, your grandmother is very sick, Christopher. And the kind of sickness she has, it gets worse and worse and worse, and the doctor's can't make it go away." She loosens her grip, and turns him to face her.
"Not even the smartest doctor?"
"Not even the smartest doctor," She acknowledges. "And Christopher, you have to understand that this is no ordinary sickness. It doesn't make grandma cough, or give her a fever, or even give her aches and pains in her bones."
"What? Then what does this sickness do, mommy?"
His mother takes a deep breath. "This is the kidnapping sickness. It kidnaps her memories, and locks them away so she forgets things." And he furrows his brow as his mother chokes to a stop.
"How can Grandma forget things? Big things, like you and me? Doesn't she love us?" He feels tears welling up in his eyes, encouraged by the free-flowing tears of his mother.
"Of course she does, Christopher. That's what you must understand. Even though the kidnapping sickness takes Grandma away from us, she is still there for us," His mother reaches up and flicks away his tears expertly. "Even though she can't remember us, she still loves us."
"Because love conquers all."
- Theme: Ultimatum
Hezul stared at the wall opposite him lost in his own thoughts. He was a young man, barely into adulthood, and already he was in love. It was true love, too; the love of the heart, the mind, and the soul. He loved dear Fala, loved her with his entire being. But, that was not enough.
He learned of her illness as she did, but he did not know how far it had progressed until she was admitted into hospital in a critical condition. He had watched as she lay in the white, sterile room, with doctors hovering over her night and day. Finally, the doctors left, one by one. The last, a tall, icy man, had told Hezul that she would need a heart donor if she were to live.
He had been shattered, and he began raising money and awareness in the hopes that a donor could be found. Sadly, it seemed that Fala had a rare blood type, and a donor would not be easy to find.
That is, until Hezul took the test.
He was the next best thing to a genetic relative. His blood type matched hers, and his heart would be compatible. But he would be dead, and he would never see her again.
Now, he stared at the wall in the waiting room of the hospital, mulling the situation over and over in his head. If he agreed, his precious Fala would be alive, free to live out the rest of her days as she pleased, but he would not be there to celebrate with her. If he disagreed, she would be dead, and he would be weighed down with guilt for the rest of his life.
Would it be so bad, though? Some dark, ugly part of his mind whispered to him in charming, lilting tones. You would get over it. No one would blame you for leaving now.
That… was technically correct. Hezul glanced at the door. All he had to do was get up and leave, and he would have his bright, sunny future ahead of him.
He dropped back into his seat as quickly as he had half-risen. Without Fala, what was there to life? Was there any purpose to living if he could not see her joyous smile again? What would he do without her?
He glanced up as a doctor strode meaningfully towards him.
He decided there and then.
He would not give her his heart.
It was hers to begin with.
He smiled at the doctor and said, “Save her. My heart is hers. It always will be.”
- Theme: Character Story
Story: The Hippocratic Oath
“You people aren’t serious,” the middle-aged sole surgeon of Alexanderburgh’s sole medical clinic, Mr. O’Connor, was pretty explicit in his expression of surprise intermingled with just a bit of shock and horror. With reason, too. After all, it’s not every day that three men, armed to the teeth, burst in through the front door of your clinic.
George O’Connor was a typical 37-year-old man, not at all accustomed to people barging in through the door, especially not people that looked like they could shoot you with those dangerously lethal rifles in their hands any time now. He had a sturdy, but not particularly strong, build and darker skin than most of the inhabitants of Alexanderburgh, hinting to his Mexican ancestry on his mother’s side. Dark hair, cropped short just above the ears, and a dark goatee, and a complexion that was rather well suited to his just ever so slightly frightened expression at this point.
Before him and rather intent on getting through the door that he was currently delicately positioned to block, stood the three aforementioned men. One was short, light-haired, grey-eyed, Caucasian, dressed in blue shorts, a white straight jacket and something of a fisherman’s hat on his head and a rather amused expression on his face. The frightening part, however, was the rifle in his hands, and the two men besides him, who weren’t half as relaxed as he was. They, like proper gangsters, wore suits of the finest Milanese make. And frowns on their faces. Rather grim ones.
“Oh, come on, doctor,” said the laid-back one, a smile flickering on his face, “we only need to visit a friend -that wounded police officer that came in recently. We promise you, we’ll make sure no one thinks you had anything to do with… any mess that we may leave behind.”
O’Connor was not a brave man. But this was one step too far. He forced himself to scowl.
“What do you want with him?” with an ever more courageous tone, the doctor asked. “Lay your cards on the table, gentlemen. Truthfully.”
Mentally, he wrote a testament, leaving all of his belongings to his wife and children… and forbidding his wife from burning his copies of all the books of A Song of Ice and Fire that he had, what she hoped for ever since that day when he decided to get a tattoo of a crowned wolf in honor of the Stark family, as was their sigil in the books. Meanwhile in reality, he slowly observed the frowns on the men’s faces growing ever tighter.
“Let’s say we owe him something, Doc. I don’t think I have to pronounce every single detail of our plans regarding the good lieutenant out loud. You’re a smart man.”
“Yes, I am. And frankly, gentlemen, I see no reason to let you pass. Hippocratic Oath.”
Witnessing the quizzical expressions on their faces, he decided to add:
“Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.”
He crossed his arms. “I will not give up the life of one of my patients to save mine.”
The laid-back suddenly turned as grim as his fellows.
It seemed to O’Connor that an eternity passed by as the rifles turned towards him. He wouldn’t remember which one of them shot.
- Theme: Preparation
Story: All of the Pieces
Needed is paper, the canvas of the writer. The place where thoughts come alive. A blank expanse that awaits to be molded based upon thought and idea, a world just waiting to be formed. It can contain the great stories of heroics and bravery, of love and emotion, of darkness and of terror. It desires only the hands of those who have an thought that can be expanded, an idea that needs to be preserved. It is merely a pad of paper, but it can become so much more, so much greater. It sits on the desk, laying open, awaiting the words of a land formed by imagination.
Needed is a pencil, the tool from which words are formed. The tip holds the power of creation, the ability to design anything that the mind can see. It can be a weapon, starting wars, bringing death and violence. It can be a tool of beauty, creating lands that inspire and awe. It can cause depression or joy, tears or laughter. It is a mighty tool in the hands of one who wishes to write. It sits beside the paper now, awaiting the hand that will use its power, to stir the emotions of others, and leave a lasting impression on those who feel the words.
Needed is an eraser, the reverse of the mighty pencil. It can destroy all that the pencil makes, undoing what has already been set. It can fix the slightest of errors, or dissolve entire portions of a world. A battle can be undone, to have never happened. A character can cease to exist, remaining nothing but a passing memory. It can repair the damage of war, or undo the happiest of endings. It now stands silently beside its opposite, waiting for the chance that its abilities to change the past be required.
Needed is the hand of a writer, the force that allows the pencil to create, and the eraser to wipe clean. The hands that fill the paper with creation and imagination, that guide the creation of worlds. They hold the power to bring the pencil to paper, and bring hope and sorrow to those who live within the words. They steer each thought into place, and should one thought strike against the flow, remove it with the eraser. They sit aside the paper, one to the right, one to the left. They await the beginning of a new tale from the mind of their owner.
Needed is inspiration, the most valuable tool of all. It can not be prepared as the others, it arrives only when it wishes, bringing with it the path that the story must travel. Without it, there is no need for the pencil and paper, there is no world to create. The eraser lays in silence, having nothing to repair. The hands sit motionless, doing nothing but wait, hoping that the inspiration will arrive and allow them to begin. There is no way to control it, only to harness it and use it to form great works of the mind. It can vanish for days, leaving a writer to struggle, or it can arrive like a great energy, compelling the hands, steering the pencil, and creating realms based upon dreams and nightmares. It can come from the strangest of places, the smallest of sources. It can be awakened by the most amazing of events, or merely the preparation to write.
With all of these wondrous tools brought together, imagination can be unleashed.