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  1. Eyru

    so ambage is dead

    long live ambage you'll be in our hearts 4ever
  2. The Ambage-hosted Fortnightly Flash Fiction Contest Welcome, one and all, to the Ambage-hosted Fortnightly Flash Fiction Contest! Be sure to read all of the Contest Rules and Important Information. With the success of the Flash Fiction Marathon, as well as the want of added perks for Ambage members, we bring you the Fortnightly Flash Fiction Contest. These contests are hosted by the Ambage hosts.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Contest Rules and Important Information [*]There will be a new contest every other week. The contests will alternate between Bionicle and COT.[*]Each contest will last two weeks. The first week will be the entry period, the second week will be the judging period.[*]Every COT contest will take place in this topic. Instead of creating a million topics, as this will be a recurring contest once a month (with a two-week Bionicle contest in between), I will be updating this post with the current contest and make a post announcing the new contest each time. Remember, these will be once a month, so keep checking back (and participate in the Bionicle ones, too!).[*]Each entry should be between 400-800 words. This is flash fiction. The absolute maximum word count is 1000 words, there is no absolute minimum.[*]Each contest will have a new theme. Keep checking back for the new contest's theme.[*]COT entries are not allowed to be Bionicle. That's what the Bionicle themes are for. And vice versa. Save your COT stories for the COT contests.[*]For each theme, contestants will have one week to enter. The next week will comprise of judging. The next two weeks after that will be a Bionicle contest. Then another COT contest and so forth.[*]Entries will be judged. All contests will have at least two judges. Judges will not enter.[*]You must post your stories in a topic. Unlike the Flash Fiction Marathon, you cannot just post your entries in this topic. Please make a topic for your stories.[*]All entries must adhere to BZPower's rules and guidelines. There shouldn't be any problem here.[*]Your story must be new and never before posted on BZP. You can certainly have been working on your entry before this, but it must be posted on BZP onlyafter the start of the contest for it to be eligible. The exception is if you are a member of the Ambage and were given the theme before hand.[*]Keep it PG-13-ish appropriate. So no gory descriptions, excessive violence, inappropriate content, et cetera.[*]You cannot edit your entry once the entry period has closed. Editing will be allowed until then. If editing is done after the deadline, your entry will be disqualified.[*]This contest is open to all BZP members. However, there are perks to being an Ambage member. See the Prizes section.[*]There will be prizes for each contest. Read the Prizes section for more.[*]Each contestant is allowed THREE entries for each theme. You may of course write more, but only three flash fiction stories can be entered into the contest. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------How To Enter: There will be two main topics, one for COT (this topic), and one for Bionicle; make sure you post your entry in the right topic. If you are entering a Bionicle theme, post in the Bionicle topic.To enter, please use this form:Member Name: [your name goes here]Theme: [include what theme you are entering]Word Count: [insert the word count of your story here]Link to Story and Title: [provide a link to your story with the title as name] ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Current Theme: Theme #4: Christmas Any interpretation of the theme is valid, but your entry must be a COT story and it must adhere to the rules posted above. Also, if you are an Ambage member, keep in mind the December Writing Prompt (to get more achievements): "She had hair like a raven's wings--and a beak to match." ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Themes Archive: Theme #1 Theme #2 Theme #3 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Prizes The winner of each contest will receive the following: [*]A custom member title for a month, stating "Bionicle/COT Writer of the Month" courtesy of Hahli Husky[*]A spotlight on the front page of BZPower at the end of the month, along with the Bionicle contest winner.[*]For Ambage members only: A review by an Ambage judge.[*]For Ambage members only: A spotlight in the Ambage topic. Feel free to post any questions here.Your hosts,Velox55555TolkienNuile
  3. The Ambage-hosted Fortnightly Flash Fiction ContestWelcome, one and all, to the Ambage-hosted Fortnightly Flash Fiction Contest! Be sure to read all of the Contest Rules and Important Information. With the success of the Flash Fiction Marathon, as well as the want of added perks for Ambage members, we bring you the Fortnightly Flash Fiction Contest. These contests are hosted by the Ambage hosts. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Contest Rules and Important Information [*]There will be a new contest every other week. The contests will alternate between Bionicle and COT (a topic will be made in COT when the first COT contest begins October 15th). [*]Each contest will last two weeks. The first week will be the entry period, the second week will be the judging period. [*]Every Bionicle contest will take place in this topic. Instead of creating a million topics, as this will be a recurring contest once a month (with a two-week COT contest in between), I will be updating this post with the current contest and make a post announcing the new contest each time. Remember, these will be once a month, so keep checking back (and participate in the COT ones, too!).[*]Each entry should be between 400-800 words. This is flash fiction. The absolute maximum word count is 1000 words.[*]Each contest will have a new theme. Keep checking back for the new contest's theme. [*]Bionicle entries may be human-Bionicle, if you wish. Just as long as they have some sort of relation to Bionicle. As usual, the story does not have to follow the canon storyline -- you may create your own characters, settings, etc., as long as in some way the story relates to Bionicle.[*]COT entries are not allowed to be Bionicle. That's what the Bionicle themes are for. And vice versa. Save your COT stories for the COT contests.[*]For each theme, contestants will have one week to enter. The next week will comprise of judging. The next two weeks after that will be a COT contest. Then another Bionicle contest and so forth.[*]Entries will be judged. All contests will have at least two judges. Judges will not enter. [*]You must post your stories in a topic. Unlike the Flash Fiction Marathon, you cannot just post your entries in this topic. Please make a topic for your stories. [*]All entries must adhere to BZPower's rules and guidelines. There shouldn't be any problem here.[*]Your story must be new and never before posted on BZP. You can certainly have been working on your entry before this, but it must be posted on BZP only after the start of the contest for it to be eligible.[*]Keep it PG-13-ish appropriate. So no gory descriptions, excessive violence, inappropriate content, et cetera.[*]You cannot edit your entry once the entry period has closed. Editing will be allowed until then. If editing is done after the deadline, your entry will be disqualified. [*]This contest is open to all BZP members. However, there are perks to being an Ambage member. See the Prizes section.[*]There will be prizes for each contest. Read the Prizes section for more.[*]Each contestant is allowed THREE entries for each theme. You may of course write more, but only three flash fiction stories can be entered into the contest. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Current Theme: OTC Contest Any interpretation of the theme is valid, but your entry must be a Bionicle story and it must adhere to the rules posted above. Previous Themes: Theme #1: Red Star Theme #2: Tablet of Transit Theme #3: Broken Mask || Entry Lists || ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------PrizesThe winner of each contest will receive the following: [*]A custom member title for a month, stating "Bionicle/COT Writer of the Month" courtesy of Hahli Husky[*]A spotlight on the front page of BZPower at the end of the month, along with the COT contest winner.[*]For Ambage members only: A review by an Ambage judge.[*]For Ambage members only: A spotlight in the Ambage topic. Feel free to post any questions here.Your hosts,Velox55555TolkienNuile
  4. [12:12:29 AM] Andrew P: Hey any ideas for a bionicle flash fiction contest? [12:15:28 AM] Kakaru: okay uh [12:15:44 AM] Kakaru: "Broken Mask" [12:16:46 AM] Kakaru: "The Village" [12:17:33 AM] Kakaru: "A Canister Ashore" [12:19:08 AM] Kakaru: "The Great Mine" [12:19:47 AM] Kakaru: "City of Carvers" [12:20:10 AM] Kakaru: "Lightstone" [12:20:28 AM] Kakaru: "Archivist" [12:20:58 AM] Kakaru: "The Seven Warlords" [12:21:06 AM] Kakaru: "Tren Krom Break" [12:22:04 AM] Kakaru: "A Dark Hunt" [12:22:31 AM] Kakaru: "Bohrok-Kal" [12:23:15 AM] Kakaru: "Antidermis" [12:24:10 AM] Kakaru: "As the Mask Fell" [12:24:31 AM] Kakaru: "The Makuta's Blindness" [12:25:29 AM] Kakaru: "A New Leader" [12:25:54 AM] Kakaru: "The Order" [12:26:13 AM] Kakaru: "Death of a God" [12:26:47 AM] Kakaru: "The Morbuzakh" [12:27:31 AM] Kakaru: "Six Stones" [12:27:45 AM] Kakaru: "The Telescope by the Sea" [12:28:03 AM] Kakaru: "Impostors" [12:28:15 AM] Kakaru: "Titans" [12:28:46 AM] Kakaru: "As Time is Lost" [12:28:56 AM] Kakaru: "The Great Barrier" [12:29:29 AM] Kakaru: "The Rahi in the Snow" [12:29:35 AM] Kakaru: "Hivemind" [12:29:53 AM] Kakaru: "Surrender or Run" [12:30:40 AM] Kakaru: "The Great Temple" [12:31:37 AM] Kakaru: "The Honour of a Makuta" [12:31:53 AM] Kakaru: "Camaraderie" [12:32:39 AM] Kakaru: "Now Only Five" [12:33:08 AM] Kakaru: "Transformation" [12:33:26 AM] Kakaru: "Power Relinquished" [12:33:54 AM] Kakaru: "The Rahkshi" [12:34:07 AM] Kakaru: "Only Last Year" [12:35:10 AM] Kakaru: "Wake One, You Wake Them All" [12:35:59 AM] Kakaru: "The Bay" [12:37:31 AM] Kakaru: "Canyon of Unending Whispers" [12:37:40 AM] Kakaru: "The Coliseum" [12:37:58 AM] Kakaru: "Pakari" [12:39:37 AM] Kakaru: "Where Wisdom and Valour Fail" [12:39:54 AM] Kakaru: "The Queens" [12:40:14 AM] Kakaru: "Who You Once Were" [12:40:32 AM] Kakaru: "Chains of Karzahnii" [12:41:00 AM] Kakaru: "For Freedom We Rise" [12:41:29 AM] Kakaru: "Where Rocks Scream" [12:41:44 AM] Kakaru: "Awakening" [12:41:52 AM] Kakaru: "And in the End" [12:42:15 AM] Kakaru: "Once Reaching for the Sun" [12:42:35 AM] Kakaru: okay out of ideas [12:43:36 AM] Kakaru: pick -one-
  5. TNTOS

    Novel: Finished!

    As of this morning, I finished my NaNoWriMo novel, The Mad Voyage of Prince Malock, clocking in at 92,245 words, as you can conveniently see in the content block to the right. So I will not be updating the content block any more this month, although I will keep it up until December 1st because of reasons. I expected to hit 100k, but 92k is fine, too. I'm just on a high right now, feeling really happy about myself. This is the first original novel I've written that I feel I can make into something publishable, although as per the usual course I will put it aside for a few months while I work on some other projects. It will definitely need to be rewritten and edited and I need to do some research in some areas as well as flesh out the world a bit more, but I'm so excited for it, which is definitely a good sign. I'm just stunned that I not only hit 50k before the end of the month, but I also finished the novel itself. It's not unusual for me to hit 50k by Thanksgiving, but in past NaNos I've finished the novel itself in December. It was like the novel just came rushing out of my fingers and it was all I could do to keep up with it this time. So what are my plans for the rest of the month? Well, I do have an original short story I need to write for the Ambage website's "Selected Writings" page, so I will probably be working on that. Not to mention In the End's third draft is not yet complete. So I will probably spend the rest of the year on that short story and In the End, unless something else comes up in the meantime that I desperately want to work on instead. That's all for now, so see ya, -TNTOS-
  6. I awoke to the rising sun shining into my hut. I sat up, excited for the day ahead. Hopping out of bed I quickly checked in the mirror to be sure my mask was straight and looked over my metallic parts and joints for scrapes or scuffs before zipping toward the door. I grabbed my pack, which was waiting for me there, and my bamboo pole and throwing disk, just as the usual precautionary defenses. I strolled eagerly toward the village gate of Ta-Koro. It was very early and hardly anyone was up, but the guard questioned me and my business before letting me out. I crossed the bridge and soon reached the outer edge of the volcano, where I continued on at a brisk trot, heading inland. I made way through the sunlit forest and admired the beautiful trees and scenery. Soon I reached my destination: A small river, one that ran through the middle of the forest on its way to the sea. I set my pack on the ground and heaved a contented sigh. I found a nice spot to sit beside the river, and set down my bamboo pole and throwing disk there. Then I retrieved my fishing pole and line from the pack, grabbing some bait as well. The critters won't know what hit them. I tossed a determined and confident expression at the river. I wound up my line, attached the bait, and swung the line into the river. Then I sat back to wait. And wait. And wait. Ah, the joy of the hunt. Matoran versus wild, I thought as I began to nod off. My pole was wedged firmly between a stone and my leg, my fingers still coiled around it. After a fine little nap, I awoke feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Soon I also felt unsuccessful. No tugs on the pole had awaken me, but I drew in the line to be sure. Nothing. The bait was still there. By now it was all soggy, though, so I replaced it before tossing in the line again. Now I sat, wide awake, pole grasped with both hands, and waited eagerly for my first bite. I waited patiently. And waited. And waited. Nothing. I leaned forward and looked into the water, but try as I might I couldn't even catch the glimmer of scales nor a splash of any kind. I sat back. They just aren't out and about today, I suppose. I reeled in the line and cast it again. The minutes passed. There, a ripple! I leaned forward eagerly, only to see a small nut floating in the river. Evidently it had fallen from a tree. I sat back in disappointment. Waiting, and more waiting. Well, that's what these sorts of days are for, right? The minutes stretched into hours, and soon it was mid-afternoon. I sighed. Well, that's a fine day, then. Time to go home, I guess. But just as I was about to reel in the line, I thought I felt a tug. It was so faint, and lasted so short a time, that I thought I must have imagined it. But there it came again, and then again with more force. I slowly reeled in my line, and the force of the tug grew. A grin crossed my mask. This one's putting up a fight! The intensity of the pull grew still more, and soon it was a full-on battle between me and my quarry. I patiently worked the line, struggling to bring it in but taking care not to break it. The minutes stretched on, and I felt that the day hadn't been such a waste, after all. Oh, the exhileration and excitement of the hunt! Slowly, inch by painstaking inch, I dragged the line closer to shore. Finally the creature began to weaken, and I reeled him in with more speed. Finally, to my incredible gratification and delight, I just about had him. With a final great big yank on the line, something large erupted from the water and flew into the air! A fish! A beautiful, scaly fish that was bigger than my head! I reveled in the beauty of it as it sailed through the air, glistening water droplets flying alongside it. What a beautiful sight, and what a beautiful dinner it would make. What happened next still baffles me. Even looking back on it now it causes me to shake my head in wonder. A bird came along, a big raptor with wide wings and sharp claws. It swooped down out of nowhere and grabbed the fish, my fish, right out of the air. My shock then was no small thing. I stood there dumb for several moments before I regained my composure enough to shake my fist and yell at the bird, who passed on without even acknowledging my presence. Nor did I give up. That fish was mine by right, and I would have it back! I instantly grabbed my throwing disk and ran after the bird. I had a hard time following him through the forest, and several times I feared I'd lost him, but finally I tracked him to a sizeable spire of rock at the edge of the forest. I watched, frustrated, as he set the fish down on the very top of the spire. I may be too late. . . But all of a sudden he took to the air again, flying out over the forest again. What caused him to leave I would never know, but I didn't stop to wonder. I began to climb the spire, which wasn't too terribly steep. A few perilous slips and much physical exertion later, I reached the top. Panting, I heaved myself up the last foot and beheld my beautiful fish, looking just as wonderful as ever, flopping limply on the rock. Then two things happened that made me stop dead: First I heard growling, then right in front of me I saw the angry face of an Ash Bear. My heart-light skipped a flash, and we stared across at each other. The bear's claws clung perilously to the stone. But this was still my fish, and neither bird of prey nor Ash Bear would have it from me! He growled again and heaved himself still higher up. In that instant I made my move, and with the flash of an arm the fish was in my grasp. In the next instant I turned and the bear leaped towards me. I was too slow, but the bear was clumsy and he crashed headlong into me. Before either of us knew what was happening we were tumbling down the side of the spire, and as we tumbled the fish flew from my grasp. The bear eagerly snapped at it with his jaws, but from his back I was able to grab it before he could get his teeth into it. Then with a kick to the stomach he loosened my grip again. This continued all along our bumpy ride down the spire, each of us struggling vainly not only to slow our fall, but first and foremost, to get that fish! Finally we landed in a heap at the bottom, he on top of me. There, on the ground in front of us, sat the fish. In an instant we were racing for it. Before either of us could grab it, though, another Ash Bear suddenly appeared from the foliage and grasped it in his jaws. With a growl that sounded to me like a laugh, he ran back into the forest, but the first Ash Bear and I were hard on his heels. Soon we reached a small clearing, where the fish-stealing bear was tackled to the ground by the larger bear. The fish flew from his mouth and into the air, where I leaped and grabbed it before landing and dashing off into the forest. Only, now I had two ash bears after me. Oh, Taku, how do you get yourself into these things. . . ? I sought the only way of escape that I could see, and leaped for a low-hanging branch. But I was too late, the bears were upon me. The leader crashed into both me and the tree just as I grasped the branch, which snapped off under the bear's weight. Upon hitting the ground I realized with a start that the ground here began to decline, and I tumbled head over heels down the hillside. The bears tumbled after me. Again the fish slipped from my grasp and a bear snapped at it, only to be shoved aside by the other bear, who swiped at it with a paw. He hit it but couldn't grasp it, instead sending it high into the air. I then lost sight of it and began to wonder if I cared anymore. The world refused to stop spinning, no matter how many times I asked. . . The bullying trees and rocks were no help, either, who seemed to take delight in beating on me. Finally, though, the three of us came to a stop at the edge of another clearing. In that moment my only thought was escape, but just then we all caught sight of the fish again as it came sailing down out of the air and landed in the middle of the clearing. It flopped helplessly. Suddenly many tooth-lined maws and sniffing noses stuck out of the surrounding foliage. In an instant, no less than twelve more ash bears were madly converging on the fish. My own two friends included. In their crazed charge they shoved me along, and I found myself unable to escape. The circle of bears closed in, and the first ash bear I had met that day dragged me screaming into the mix. Finally I fell to the side just as a larger bear crashed into mine, then I was forced to roll aside as two giant paws slammed into the ground. Another bear kicked me with its hind leg, and I found myself in the middle of a knot of bears, like the eye of a hurricane. To my incredible wonderment, the fish suddenly plopped out of the sky and into my lap. I laughed a giddy laugh of amazement. But then dozens of furious eyes converged on me, and with a terrible cry of fear I flung the fish from my person. Rolling away desperately, I sought to escape the claws, limbs, and bodies that entangled me. How long this continued I am not now certain, but finally I found myself flying through the air, after which I landed on the back of one of the beasts. As he turned to snarl at me, I recognized the first bear I had met that day, and I thought I saw a flash of recognition in his eyes as well. And then wouldn't you know it? I again saw that dratted fish flying through the air, and instinctively, though I can't imagine why I did it, my arms flashed out and grasped it. The bear and I now stood on the edge of the clearing, while the bears behind us were still fighting tooth and claw. After his initial glance at me he turned his attention to the woods and we were soon flying along between the trees. It took the other bears a few moments, but soon they were after us, their large bodies crashing a terrible swath through the undergrowth. On we ran, until suddenly we crashed headlong into something big, metal, and hard. The something growled in response. My steed inched back in fear as a great Muaka cat heaved his giant body and turned to see who had disturbed his afternoon nap. As he turned his head was opposite us, and he caught sight of our pursuers before us. With a roar of rage he charged them and sent them scurrying away in fear. My own bear lost no time in putting as much distance as possible between him and the other Rahi. On and on he ran, before finally coming to a stop beside the very river from which the fish had come. He panted and stood very still. For some reason I felt less afraid in that moment. I slipped quietly from his side and flopped into a sitting position, leaning against him and dropping the fish to the ground. Once my breath had returned, I laughed. I laughed loudly and heartily, amazed by what had happened. And to think we finally came out of it with the fish! It's a magical world, I realized. Somehow I was beginning to feel a little kinship toward this bear. In response to my laughing, he turned and I could have sworn that he began to laugh, too. We laughed for several moments in wonderment at our marvelous escapade before returning our attention to the helplessly flopping fish. Our eyes rested upon it just in time to see it flop back into the river. No! We both ran forward, but it was too late. The fish was gone. I couldn't believe it! After all that, the fish had finally escaped our grasp, right back into its own home. When suddenly with a flash of wings, a great bird of prey, the same one as before, I could have sworn, swooped out the sky and dove into the river. I watched in amazement as the strong claws dragged the great big fish right back out of the water. With a swoop of his great paw the bear felled the bird, who escaped with his life but lost the fish. The fish sat between us. I stared it. The bear stared at it. Then I took out a knife and set the tip against the fish. After a glance at the bear, I proceeded to cut the fish in half. Well, not quite half, the bear was more than twice my size, after all. He took his chunk and gulped it down in several large bites. I held my half and watched him as he ate. Once finished, he stared calmly at me for a few moments. Then with a farewell chuff, he turned and went off into the forest. After several more long moments I realized with a start that the woods could still be swarming with angry ash bears. I quickly retrieved my pack and gear, save the throwing disk which still lay at the foot of the spire, stored my share of the fish in the pack and made my way for Ta-Koro. Yes, it was quite a day.
  7. Eyru

    A Monster Calls

    It's a book by Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd. I picked up this book because many Ambagers were raving about it. I'll be succinct: it's a beautiful book. The characters are immediately engrossing, and the atmosphere of the book immediately sucks you in, aided in no small part by Jim Kay's illustrations, which are nothing short of hauntingly brilliant. It's about a boy named Conor, who is visited shortly after midnight by a monster. Not the monster from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. This monster is different; it's something ancient and wild, and it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor: it wants the truth. The book is haunting, lonely, sad, painful, and hopeful. I was immediately drawn into its world, and the ending came far too soon, but it felt right. It's very unique -I've never read another book like it- and it's undoubtedly a masterpiece. This short review is also short on details, but that's partly because my emotions took too much of a beating for me to able to type anything particularly profound. I would encourage anyone and everyone to read this book.
  8. Kanakalackin

    Bells

    Hi guys, this is what I wrote for yesterday's write-off. The subject was bells. Lewa was strolling through the jungle one day when he heard a new sound. It was unlike any other that he had heard before; it was too high to be a drum, but to metallic to be a flute. He cut down some underbrush and found Tamaru expressing his love for music with a very strange piece of metal. “What happy-fun are we having here?” Lewa asked. “Oh, nothing really.” Tamaru replied. “Just thought what new clang-noise a funny-shape piece of metal would make.” “It sounds nice.” Lewa said. “May I play-try?” He asked. “Yes, but it was hard to make. Please be careful.” Tamaru said as he handed the new instrument to Lewa. Lewa tapped it lightly with his finger. “It made no sound-noise.” Lewa said. “Did I break it?” He asked in dismay. “No, you swing it like this.” Tamaru said as he brought the piece of metal up and flicked his wrist. The bell responded by making a melodious sound. “That’s a pretty noise-sound.” Lewa said. “May I try again?” He asked. “Sure.” tamaru said as he handed the bell to Lewa. Lewa then flicked his wrist the same way that Tamaru did, only he wasn’t holding on tight enough. “The bell flew out of Lewa’s hands and hit a very scared Tamaru. Tamaru then flopped onto the ground unconscious. “Well, have happy-fun with your new noisemaker!” Lewa said as he hurried away. Hopefully Tamaru wouldn’t remember what happened.
  9. Ambage-Hosted Fortnightly Flash Fiction Contest Entry List Theme #1: Red Star Entry #1:Member Name: Danska: Shadow MasterTheme: The Red StarWord Count: 804Link to Story and Title: The Hole in the SkyEntry #2:Member Name: Quote (Mr.Traveler) [aka: Grant-Sud]Theme: The Red StarWord Count: 998Link to Story: Weeping StarsEntry #3:Member Name: iBrow VoltexTheme: The Red StarWord Count: 804Link to Story: In the MourningEntry #4:Member name: ChroTheme: The Red StarWord count: 995 (approx.)Link to story: SnowfallEntry #5:Member Name: Clockwork KineticistTheme: The Red StarWord Count: 325Link to Story: CheckmateEntry #6:Member Name: TolkienTheme: Red StarWord Count: 985Link: Hue #1471Entry #7:Member Name: Lord DarkonTheme: Red StarWord Count: 557Link to Story and Title: CrimsonEntry #8:Member Name: dotcomTheme: Red StarWord Count: 844Link to Story and Title:Crimson Note
  10. Ambage-Host Fortnightly Flash Fiction Contest Entry List Theme #1: Pathfinding Entry #1:Member Name: Nuile: Lunatic WordsmithTheme: "Pathfinding"Word Count: 921 (epigraph included)Link to Story and Title: That Extra MileEntry #2:Member Name: Nuile: Lunatic WordsmithTheme: "Pathfinding"Word Count: 868Link to Story and Title: Rugged ExplorersEntry #3:Member Name: Danska: Shadow MasterTheme: PathfindingWord Count: 922Link to Story and Title: A Jaunt in the WoodsEntry #4:Member Name: ZaraynaTheme: PathfindingWord Count: 1,000 words.Link to Story and Title: We Wanted Those Infidels Dead!Entry #5:Member Name: Delicious Chocolate Milk (Eyru)Theme: PathfindingWord Count: 427Link to Story and Title: Beyond the ConstellationsEntry #6:Member Name: AderiaTheme: PathfindingWord Count: 914Link to Story and Title: Someone's Waiting For YouEntry #7:Name: Emissary to the VoidTheme: PathfindingWord Count: 992 (excluding title)Story: Julia's DinerEntry #8:Member Name: dotcomTheme: PathfindingWord Count: 997Story: The Wrong PathEntry #9:Member name: KakaruTheme: PathfindingWordcount: 964Story: Accomplishment
  11. Fat and GreasyThe fat, greasy man shifted his weight on the couch, which trembled ominously underneath him. The man licked his hand and used it to slick his hair back as he grabbed a shaker, unscrewed the tap, and tossed the whole thing of salt back. His shrimp of a son with his tidy blonde hair and nervous gray eyes darting all over the room stood in front of him, holding a piece of paper in his hand.“What is this, Dad?” the son asked.“That is a serious short story, son.” the man said, letting out a belch and shutting his eyes tight, fumbling for the can of pop sitting on the food tray in front of him.“I mean what you’re eating.”“Oh... it is salt, my lad. Do not ever try it.”“Why shouldn’t I?”"Don’t be so insolent - it tastes bad, it feels bad, it makes you fat like me, and then it kills you, son. Never even think about those serious short stories."“But Dad, I thought we were talking about salt.”“Salt, serious stories, what’s the difference?” the man said, shrugging his shoulders. His son cringed as his father’s fatty chin wobbled and flopped along with the movement.“How does a serious story do that, father?” the son asked timidly.“It is like how I first tossed back the salt, lad. It hooks you and never encourages you to get up and walk away to do something with your life.” the father told him, letting out another belch before patting his protruding belly with extreme difficulty. “Look at me now. What good did those serious stories ever do me?”“I thought it was the salt.”“No son, it was the stories. I sat there hunched over the computer once upon a time before I was too fat to type, reading and writing those serious stories. I never got up – not even to sleep.” the man tried to rub his eye, but his arm was too fat and he stopped trying after three attempts. “Son, if you ever read or write anything, I want you to take the pepper.”“What do you mean, take the pepper?”“Eat the pepper, son. The pepper is spicy and it makes you dance around praying that you will recover and be able to taste again. It forces you to exercise! Now, the pepper of stories is a good comic.”“A comic? Like a comic book?”“Or a text based comedy, it doesn’t matter. Both force you to get up, run around, and stay in shape. With a comedy, the running around is your nonstop laughter.”“I’ve heard laughter is very healthy, father.”“That’s what I’m saying, son. Now be a good boy and get me another serious story and some more salt. I need to continue being a slob.”“Maybe I could read you a comedy tomorrow, father.”The father grunted and his chin wobbled some more.“You can feel free to do so, son. It’ll take a miracle for a totally fat slob like me to get off the couch again.”The son nodded swiftly and turned, exiting the room as fast as possible. He relished the smell of the fresh air, without the toxic fumes of sweat, salt, and books rotting in the aforementioned sweat that pervaded throughout the room his father lived in. With any luck this next story would finally get rid of his father, and he could move on at last to his own dreams and desires.“Hmm... this one should do the trick.” the son muttered as he reached the bookshelf. “Hm… The Casual Vacancy. This book is bloody serious... I’m sure it’ll do father right in this time! And then once that’s done... I’ve heard the movies are pretty easy to get into.”The End I wrote this back in... November, I believe, as a part of the Ambage 15 minute write-off theme "salt shaker". The short length is both due to the time limit and due to the fact that it always takes me a few minutes to get an idea going in my head when I participate in these. But I don't think I really need to excuse the length anyway. This is a story where I really don't care whether you like it or not. It's also not ment to insinuate that short stories are bad, or that comedies are necessarily better than serious works of literature in any sort of way. Sometimes, perhaps, but certainly not always. I did clean this up a bit; I fixed some spelling and grammatical errors, and I altered a few lines within the story so that it would make more sense and flow more smoothly. I did not add any new scenes to it, however, in order to retain the integrity of the piece for what it is. Critique is appreciated, although I did receive it already through the Ambage back in November. -ibrow
  12. Breathe in. A gasp of breath. Breathe out. A rattle of air expelled from dying lungs. Let the air flow through you, clensing, washing away your sins and memories as you wash the dirt from your body. The battlefield's cold wind gusts through the valley, chilling the fighters to the bone and beyond, their very souls frozen. Clear the sounds from your mind. A grenade blast not fifteen feet away, the pressure wave blowing out the young soldier's eardrums. He's deaf, he can't hear-just a loud ringing, and soon, even that died away. Draw within yourself, to find your inner core. Another soldier lying on the ground, his white winter coat stained with dark blood, trying in vain to hold himself in one piece, unable to do more than that as he sits in shock. Find your peace. The dead sergeant's face, peaceful at last, in its lack of movement. *** Jacob frowned, sighing, the memories of the battles coming back to haunt him again. He couldn't find the peace that he needed, he couldn't just forget, he couldn't drive the images away... The stench of blood and gunsmoke pervades the air as Jacob frowns, a small M3 submachine gun held in his hands. His squadmates behind him held an assortment of weapons ranging from Thompsons, M! Garands, and M1918 A1 BAR's in their hands, to the pistols holstered at their belts, the grenades chinking in pockets on their chest. He shook his head, stepping inside. He'd tried enough for one day. Tomorrow, he'd probably repeat the same events, only to find himself disturbed again. Such was his life. He reached up to the cupboard in his kitchen, pulling out his cereal, pouring himself a bowl, robotically moving through the motions of getting himself something to eat. Slowly, jerkily, almost robotically Jacob pulled himself through the remnants of the small town that they'd been fighting in. Rubble littered the streets, cartridge casings gleamed and rolled around on the ground...the moans of the dying and the dry sobs of their friends pervaded the air, assaulting his eardrums with their melancholy sound. Sitting at the table, Jacob morosely stirred his spoon in the cereal bowl, only taking one or two bites in the next three minutes. The memories were assaulting him again, coming back in full force, as they always did, forcing him to relive every last moment of the war. "Hands up," one of the soldiers growled, his bayonet jabbing in the German soldier's back. Jacob's M3 was trained upon him, as were his fellows' weapons. He stood there, baring his teeth like a mad animal as they led him out to join his fellows, tossing him a shovel. Jacob closed his eyes, leaning back from his barely touched cereal, and rubbing his temples. Always, always headaches came with the memories. Always having to remind him of the physical pain he had felt, then, always forcing him to close his eyes, to view the memories as though on a movie screen on his eyelids, always making the headaches stronger. "Bitte, bitte!" The German cried, staring in horror at the bodies of his fellows, having fallen into the elongated holes they'd dug. "Schaden Sie mir nicht!" Jacob stood back, his M3 held loosely in his hands as the sergeant, having ignored the small man's plea for mercy, read off of a short sheet, a crude mockery of a court martial sentence. Slowly he stood, turning down the hall, ignoring the news on the TV-talking about some victory or another back in Iraq, where the new boys were fighting. He could care less-they'd feel the same as he did, some day soon. He was certain of it. It was inevitable, really. It apparently always happened to the more normal ones. The sentencing done, the sergeant stepped back, ignoring the blatant, unhidden terror on the condemned soldier's face. Nathaniel lowered his rifle, and a single shot was all that was needed to end the German's life. A spray of blood flew from the point of impact, splattering Jacob across the face. He didn't even care enough to wipe it away. He stumbled into his bedroom, stepping over to the table he had at the side of it. Pulling the stopper from the bottle he took one more swig, finishing the contents within. It burned like sandpaper going down, but that was all that Jacob needed to fortify himself for what he was doing next. A quick burst of gunfire, and another man went down, Jacob continuing through the streets, his weapon raised, bullets qiuckly spurting out and taking down any enemy soldier he saw. He ducked behind cover, staying put by Erin. He looked up, checked the streets, and gave the all clear. Erin rushed out, to the next piece of cover, only for one last fighter, one last German soldier who'd been lying in wait for him stepped forwards with a bayonet. Erin would never breathe again. Find the right key, find the key, end the memories once and for all. Ah, there it was. Jacob, his hands shaking now, pushed the key into the lock on the large, metal safe before him, a single twitch all it took to unlock it and open the door. A moment after that and his shaking hand reached within, grasping a small object and pulling it out. Jacob didn't even yell. He stalked forwards, quietly, aiming to surprise the soldier. He could already hear his breath. A single step more...the German popped out, bayonet ready, but Jacob was prepared for that. He deflected it by throwing up his M3, catching the bayonet in the stock of his weapon, and a simple twist and pull was all he needed to remove the German's weapon from him. In the cabinet, there it was. A single magazine, shiny, gleaming new. Jacob pulled it out, looking at it with a dull, uninterested glance, before he set it down. He moved up his thumb, popping several bullets out of it, until one was all that was left. Jacob gasped, bending over as he was kicked in the stomach, his weapon ripped from him as well. He looked up to see the German pointing a pistol at him, a sneer on his face, before Jacob sprang forward. The latter soldier tackled the former to the ground, the Luger falling a few feet away. He slid the magazine, with its single .45 caliber bullet, into the handgrip of his M1911. The one souvenir, after his scars, he'd kept from the war. The only thing he owned that he could expect to work perfectly every time, never to fail him. And the magazine fit perfectly, just as it always did. Jacob headbutted the German soldier in the face, again, knocking his head back to the ground, dazed, bleeding from the now-broken nose. Just as he began to come to he would see Jacob standing above him, his M1911, already just as battle scarred as Jacob was himself, pointed for his forehead. Pull back the slide, disengage the safety. Robotically, in almost slow motion, Jacob pulled back the slide of his weapon, a bullet clicking into place, and with the thumb of his other hand he disengaged the safety on his weapon. It was ready. Make sure you had your target ready, pointed straight for the brain. A quick, clean kill. A slight adjustment in his aim and Jacob's pistol barrel was pointed right at the spot in between the German's two, bright blue eyes, which were simultaneously glaring at Jacob and glancing apprehensively at the pistol he held. Just a moment longer, savour the victory... Pull the trigger. Pull the trigger.
  13. The woman trudged up the snowy incline, a settler of disaster on her way home. The canvas satchel thudded against her back, though numb as she was with cold, it did not bother her. An owl cried out amongst the snowflakes. She stopped and turned her back to the wind, glaring towards the chilled breeze. The owl called again. She turned in a circle slowly, searching for the source of the hooting sound. No sign. She began to walk again. Up the incline, then down again, meandering purposefully through the snow. The colony was barely visible, obscured as it was by the white sheet that Nature had laid; merely a few small huts clinging to the white plain. This colony was aptly named Disaster; monikers like Safety and Fortitude only seemed to encourage strife. This was the way things were, as they knew it. They had come here many months ago, looking for fertile land after their last several plots had run dry and frozen. But Nature had forsaken them, as they now knew, for each land to which they ventured soon became crushed by drought, seared by fires of the forest, or cocooned in winter’s harshness. The people of Disaster were hardy farmers, tough, and they knew how to survive this pain, for a time. Sooner or later they knew that something had to change; Disaster would hold no more, and a new settlement would be needed. They would move on, they would adapt. - - - The woman trudged up the grassy incline, a settler of disaster moving on. The canvas satchel thudded against her back, though joyous as she was with hope, it did not bother her. A bluebird cried out amongst the raindrops. She stopped and smiled. Slightly less "meh" than some of my other entries- I actually like this one, although it was cut a bit short by the time limit. I'm also posting this as one of two entries for this week's Fortnightly Flash Fiction Contest.
  14. The man slumped, tired, into the third chair from the left. The usual bustle of the law firm’s waiting room was withdrawing for the night, until its return at seven o’clock sharp the next morning, always stylishly prompt. He sighed and ran two fingers through his dark hair. It had been a long day. The next employer had fired him, just like the last two. Can’t take money from me, Mike, he’d said. I don’t care how many mouths you’ve got to feed. And then he was out of work yet again. And so the pattern of misfortune would continue like it had. The faded tan of his coat contrasted the deep red of his shirt, bought only last week, after his previous one had been too threadbare to tolerate. His denim jeans were headed down the same path, an obvious conclusion upon taking a single look. At last the door opened and the man stood up, straightened his coat and the already-straight-enough tie, made a half-hearted effort to tuck in his shirt, and walked into the office. The lawyer sat there, left arm placed on the corresponding armrest of his large office chair, the brown leather pleasantly reminding the visitor of an elderly man’s worn face. The pen click-tapped on the wooden desk and then alighted on the lawyer’s ear, both arms now up on the desk, his right hand supporting his chin. “So,” he asked, “what brings you here tonight, Michael?” and smiled emptily as if he didn’t already know. Playing along with this charade of obliviousness, the visitor replied, “Looking for a job.” “Well, I’m sorry to tell you,” the lawyer winced with false sympathy, “I don’t run a hiring agency, and I’ve already got a secretary. Oh, and a janitor, too.” “Yes, I know. Are you sure there isn’t any small way I could help a very competitive man like yourself in his endeavors?” “Now that you mention it, the Burton - Graham case is getting a little out of hand. Of course that simpleton isn’t innocent, but he did hire me and now I’ve gotta clear him.” Michael looked across the mahogany desk at the lawyer. He knew that it’d be like this before he had entered. That didn’t make it any easier to accept; but when you were as close to broke as you can be, you had to do some things you wouldn’t want to otherwise. The system was his scapegoat, the target of his blame; the judiciaries were the ones responsible for his troubles. If only the defendant hadn’t hired the best lawyer in the state, he’d be fine. Of course, the best lawyer in the state was, and had been, Jason Nichols. But there was nothing Michael could do now, really. “Then how would you like me to help?” he grudgingly asked. The lawyer eyed Michael from across the desk, and sighed as he spun his pen between two fingers. “Well let me see…” the lawyer trailed off, looking at the bland grey ceiling while mumbling to himself. “Ah, that’s it- here.” So saying, he handed a small round pill bottle to his visitor. The white cylinder was unmarked save for three carefully made green dots on the lid. “Graham’s lawyer, rival of mine, takes regular medication for a minor liver condition. Perhaps there would be unexpected side effects if, say, his prescription were to be changed?” As he said this he reached into his desk and removed a pair of perfectly smooth, crisp fifty-dollar bills, then handed them to Michael. The visitor nodded and sighed. Pocketing the cash and the blank bottle, he stood up and bowed his head. When he next spoke Michael’s voice was choked by a sudden biting resentfulness. “You know I wouldn’t be doing this, Nichols…” “Of course,” replied the lawyer who had taken apart Michael’s life, arguing against an innocent man, five years before. His mock sympathy had returned. “I know just why you’re doing this, and of course, you have my sympathy.” Jason grinned coldly. And Michael noiselessly left, hands in his pockets. Four days later Jason Nichols was dead. The scene of the crime- his office- was sealed off in accordance with police protocol. The old leather chair had recently acquired a red-rimmed hole from which leaked sickly yellow cotton. On the desk there was a bullet shell, a scorch mark, and fifty dollars, forlorn and crumpled. Under it there was an empty pill bottle with three green dots on the lid. Michael hadn’t wanted to do it- he wasn’t one for revenge- but Graham’s lawyer had paid him four hundred. That would be enough to feed his family for a month or so. It would be fine, for a while at least. Some say that in a time of crisis the need outweighs the guilt. And at the end of the day, are we only human after all? I've had this in progress for a little while, and honestly I do like it. This has gone through a lot of changes and edits to the point where I'm satisfied with it; and it sort of fits the theme for this week's FFFFC, so I'll be entering it for that, too. So, tell me what you think, if you want.
  15. Ekelest dropped his shovel and collapsed to his knees, his face covered in dirt and his hands covered in splinters. He coughed so hard than he could not feel any mucus in his throat. "Help me," he said. Tigrina helped him up. He leaned against her shoulder. They were inmuns. They were not glorified like others for their nobility, for their age, for their sincerity, for their heart, for their history, for their humility, for their bravery, or for their heroics. In fact, the inmuns were a people reknowned for their fun and their partying nature. Tonight was by far not a party night. "No, help drag me away," said Ekelest, exhausted. "We need to get away right now!" "What? It's dead!" said Tigrina. "That isn't just any 'it'. That thing is an 'it'," said Ekelest. "Come on, you're just any other person in the middle of all this. You're just a bystander who got caught up in it all. We're not safe. We have to go." Tigrina began dragging Ekelest along. "But it's dead," she whispered to herself, bewildered and afraid. As best he could, Ekelest got back to his feet, wincing at the pain. At least he was catching his breath back. He couldn't run away from the grave yet, only walk as fast he could. His adrenalin had run dry. "You weren't around during any of the wars we had with the nuadine," said Ekelest. "I'm a veteren. I knew some great people, and I knew of some even greater people. Someone once beheaded one of them and thought it was dead, and then it just came back and hunted down him and his friends a year later. My friends died so that people like you didn't have to fear these feroceous aliens, now run! We need to get more people. We need to make sure that when it digs its way back up, there are enough local law enforcement around to kill it for good." "But - " "Just do it!" shouted Ekelest. He slapped her wrist and pushed her, and she began running. Ekelest could not catch up with her. He ran as far as he could, and then he hid behind a tree. He looked at what was left in his pistols. he hated that his inmun arms were too weak to hold a Shock Grade 2.0 Rifle. Those things were specifically made for these circumstances. As it happened, he had these laser pistols, and he didn't have much left, so he had to make every shot cont. He looked around the tree and located where he had dug the grave. The loose soil was beginning to vibrate like a diaphragm. Something was trying to push its way up. His heart quivered. He licked the blood off his teeth and ran a few trees farther down. He heard the muffled explosion of the nuadine breaking free. He closed his eyes shut and grimaced. He could already feel the pain. He thought of all his friends. At least this was the definitive way to die, and they would be proud of him. Ekelest turned around the tree. There was nothing there, and an empty hole was in the ground. He swore he could hear the nuadine lumping away. It was retreating? On the other hand, it had been beaten half to death. Maybe he actually had the upper hand. Ekelest took a bet, and ran in the direction of the sounds. The hunt was on. 24601
  16. : Beyond the Ridge of Tears : Far away, beyond the Ridge of Tears, there is a deep chasm. The worms cannot cross the chasm. They never have, at least, and that is good. It has allowed us to thrive, after so much death. The black-haired woman showed us the way. It was on a night full of storm that she came, a night when the worms hid deep within their lairs beneath the earth, all around our settlement. The last settlement, scarcely a few hundred of us left. I was only a child, and even I knew that much. She came down the pathway out of the fields and stood before the Stone House of my father, and my father went out to her while the thunder crashed above, and the people gathered to watch. It was night, and still they gathered, for the storm was a relief. The worms would not venture out while the sun was veiled. I watched from the window above as the woman addressed them. I could not hear everything, but I heard some. She spoke of far-off fields, and a country where the devourers could not reach us. She spoke of new life, but it came with a cost: “You must leave behind this place and all that you have,” she said. “It is a hard journey, for you must pass beyond the Ridge of Tears. Or else, stay, and be devoured. I can give you no more hope than this: on the third day from now, a sign will come, and you must make your choice.” My father the chief tried to address her then, but she raised her hand and stooped to whisper in his ear, and he fell silent. “On the third day you will make your choice.” A noise of wings flapped in the torrent, and for a moment I thought I saw the shape of a bird, crow-like, fluttering up into the darkness. But then it was gone, and the people stood silent and dripping, my father among them. I do not know all that she whispered to him, but I do know that he was a changed man after that night. There was something in his eyes. Something clearer, sharper. I first noticed it when he called the Meeting together the very next morning, once the storm had broken. He stood in front of the people—their chief—and spoke to them of what the woman had said. Many had seen her, and many wondered what her coming portended. “We must leave this place,” he said to them. “She will show us where to go.” Many dissented. They did not trust the word of the woman. “How can we know that this is true?” they said, “It is certain death to cross the waste now.” “It is certain death, but only a quicker death than we will suffer here. Our crops are burned, our livestock devoured, and the worms grow ever bolder. I know it is hard…hard to leave all this behind, but we must if we are to live on. I may dwell in the Stone House for now, but when I and my son are gone, it will be only rocks piled one upon another, and one day the worms will devour even those.” Others spoke of the sign. “Let us wait," they said. "Let us watch for the sign. Only then must we choose. We will watch and wait.” So the days passed. Three sunny days, and the devourers stalked the shimmering horizons, croaking and waiting for their prey to stir, playing their deathly flame over the already-burnt fields. I remember that the water-skin sprang a leak on the first day, and we were thirsty by evening. So thirsty. And yet my father did not care. His eyes were bright. He bade me gather my things from the upper room, and all our tools, and he patched the water-skin as best he could. Then we waited. Two more days of waiting, two more days of thirst, as the worms drew ever closer. Soon they would return to the settlement. Soon they would stalk the streets, and this time not even the walls of the Stone House would save us. But then the evening of the third day came, darkness falling fast, and the people came forth from their shanties to watch, for they remembered the words of the woman, clinging to that hope as the devourers croaked in the gathering dark. My father and I stood on the path before the Stone House with our packs made ready, and many stood with us, watching, waiting… Suddenly a cloud of sulfur swept down the pathway, and a child cried out in the crowd as a worm came bellowing out of the darkness at the edge of the settlement. There were no walls now. Nowhere to hide. Its skin was like stone, sloughing off dust and death, and its jaws were full of liquid fire. The crowd shuddered, and many turned to flee. This would be the end of us. Was this the sign the woman had promised? There was fear in the air, and yet my father stood firm. “The sign will come!” he yelled, and the people near him stood still once more with newfound determination. The sign will come. The worm gave a roar as it spilled flame over the hovels nearby, and the smoking stench filled my lungs. Many fell to their knees, choking. The sign will come. Another bellow rang out from the darkness, and many more joined it. A circle of fire springing up around the settlement as the worms closed in— —And then something changed. Something in the wind, and with one movement we turned our heads toward the north and saw the storm. The sign. Thunder broke over the scene, and the worms writhed and fled as the rain fell in sheets, and then it retreated north again. Northward, it said to us. You must make the choice. And it was settled. : : An entry for the Ambage Fortnightly Flash Fiction Contest. Theme: Settlement. JRRT
  17. He looked at the cold waters in front of him, then at the forest behind him. All around him, men and women were hauling materials; occasionally a small child would run back and forth, delivering messages. He himself held a crate of tools in his hands, but he allowed himself a minute or two of rest and recollection. It wasn't every day you went to a new land, after all. It was a new life, a new world for him to explore. An entire ocean rested between him and his old home now. It truly was something to marvel at, and something to fear at the same time.Sighing, he carried the crate to a nearby pile of them, looking at the men sitting nearby playing a game of dice. Even so far out here, the work was being divided up amongst the unlucky. Some things would never change, even so far away. He put his crate down in a neat fashion and pried it open, revealing a number of axes. Pulling one out, he glanced at the group further away in the forest and went to join them. It took him some time but he finally arrived, lending his help to the men cutting down wood. The fall was here, and if they couldn't build shelter quickly then they'd all freeze in this new and unknown land. It was a tedious and hard job, but someone had to do it, and he was among one of the strongest youths in the party.That night there were many celebrations, several fires roaring and the best of the salted meat roasted and eaten. The ale brought along was broken out and all were happy to have made the great journey safely. They were a tight band, seventy six heads if you included the three natives they had come across in the lands to the far north they passed while on the voyage. It was a marvelous party, and he enjoyed himself thoroughly throughout it. When it had all died down and many were asleep, he stayed up, gazing at the sky. Even though they had traveled thousands of miles, the stars still were the same. It was a strange thing that he doubted he'd ever understand.Someone came from behind, a young woman. He smiled and they embraced, then looked at the stars together. The months ahead would test the mettle of all involved; society itself would have to be rebuilt. Houses would be erected, wells dug, hunting grounds established. Perhaps there would be combat with the natives; perhaps a famine would strike. Regardless, he knew he had to keep his spirits up. The gods would watch over them, he was sure. In his eyes he could see a prosperous future, thousands living in this Newfound land. There'd be children in the streets, bakers, farmers, blacksmiths, cities...And so, with that, he returned to the camp and slept. Slept and waited for what tomorrow would bring. [--------] At 495 words, this story was written for the Ambage Skype Write Off and is being posted for the Flash Fiction contest because of much arm twisting it fits the bill nicely. More of a setting piece but that's what you get when you write something in fifteen minutes and spend the first five asking questions. Yes they're Vikings, and yes it's not exactly historically accurate.
  18. Chro

    Endgame

    This tower had fallen long ago. Rubble littered the misty, forested land of the former battleground; not a soul in sight, living or dead. Perhaps great and terrible things had once happened here, but there was no evidence anymore. Just half a tower and a pile of stones amidst the trees. I jogged quickly, ducking through the ruins with a practiced air. The remains of the old army lookout post had practically been my home the past few days. Best place to hide out when things got a little dangerous. I strode into the clearing that had once been the center of the tower. A short quarter-ring stone wall edged the expanse. Walking to a pile of stones and logs designed to camouflage the tent, I stopped. Something wasn’t right at all. Carefully, I kept walking as if nothing was wrong. I’d trained myself to follow my instincts, and to trust the feeling that you were being watched. This was when I needed those skills the most. Crouching down below the wall level, I moved towards the tent as if entering. If I stayed inside then whoever was observing would no doubt approach. So instead, I crawled back around the wall, and cautiously peered over. Yes, there it was. A grey form plodded through the mist of the darkening evening. There was nothing to do. I ran. A shout rang from behind, then a gunshot. A tree shattered. No time to think. No time to stop. Go. Run. The war had ended long ago, but I was still fighting, and now someone had tracked me out here, of all places. How…?I kept running through the trees. I knew where I was going, but only vaguely. But that didn’t matter now. The trees all blurred together and eventually it was all the same color, the grey of the mist and the sunless twilight, the bark of the trees, running on, running. I had been trained for this. I couldn’t hear the man behind me over the sound of my breath and my footsteps, but the feeling of eyes on the back of my head remained, so I ran on. Eventually I saw it. A stone. Profile hugging the ground, between the trees. Run. I was back at the ruins of the tower. Here’s where I could gather my supplies and take him. Faster now, ducking through, between, around, the blind grey stones not sparing me a glance nor I them as I sped by. And there I was. I could barely see the wall and the ruins in the darkness that had overtaken the grey dusk, but they were there. I ran to where the tent would be. Nothing. What? Nothing there. I ran to the wall where I had buried a few emergency supplies. The wall? Where? There was no wall. I heard a crashing behind me. The man who had chased me stomped into the clearing. And I remembered then the story of the two towers that had fallen to the enemy all those years ago. So. This was the end of the war. So this was... okay. Just a quick write-off piece. Wanted something first-person, not boring, and barely on-topic (theme was "the tower"). And besides, I just wanted to contribute to the new COT Library, great establishment that it is, (or will be if all goes according to the plan,) because as we know, it needs a lot more stuff.
  19. Entry for fortnightly flash fiction contest since Andrew asked and oh no I don't have any homework at all and wasn't planning on writing one of my other stories for the Ambage at all but who's complaining am I right. Theme: Pathfinding. Wordcount: 964I feel lost. That's not even an awful metaphor either. I literally am not aware of my physical surroundings in their relation to where I want to be. Absolutely lost.The walls are white, painted cement like I remember them being for years. The ceilings are lit by rows of bright fluorescent lights, stretching endlessly down the halls. The floor is black and smells of rubber or crude oil. Petroleum based, anyways. Not like I care. The smell is awful, that's the important thing. When I recall my past in here, it seems --as though a vague mental image-- that it was almost a year ago. The floors have been getting darker and my lungs seem to grate with every breath.I hear footsteps padding down the hall, somewhere around the next corner. I slow down as I approach the next intersection and press myself against the wall. Within seconds the muted echoes approach and I plant a solid fist in the runner's stomach, sending him sprawling across the floor. I look down at his face with an immense amount of guilt as he gasps for breath. There are no mirrors in this place, true, but an external sense tells me that the face of this man is my own. Whether a clone, an apparition, or simply a psychological trick, I no longer care. I put my foot against his throat and do what I've done this entire time, to survive. I know that I am the only one in this maze, quite literally. Every version of myself that I've cut off through decisions in the past have been merged to a single universe, where I've been forced to confront every version of myself and destroy them. I suppose whoever engineered this think of it as am amusing metaphor, that I literally have to kill off every bad decision I've made and come to terms with who I've become in that time, but all I see is a twisted reality where I've become a killer.As his body dissipates into the ground, the stench of rubber seems to grow ever so slightly.I continue down the halls, feeling more cheated with every kill. I feel sick that I'm becoming desensitized to this, that the moral problems and emotional impact is dulled as my methods become more brutal, merciless, and stunningly effective.I make a right at the next intersection, followed by two lefts, a flight of stairs, and another right. There's no method to my choices any more. I used to agonize over the psychology of the maze, how every corner could be a setup to drive me into doing exactly what they want-- whoever they are. But now I just blindly decide on a whim, snapping back and forth, stopping occasionally to listen for the footsteps of myself.Oh, speak of the devil. Another apparition runs past a crossroad ahead, screaming. I lunge forward and give chase. My breaths come heavy now. The death toll of the day is starting to wear. I'll probably take a nap after this one. He's wearing a straitjacket. I quicky match his speed as he turns a corner. I twist my leg around his and plant my foot on the ground, effectively collapsing his gait. I grab his neck and arm as I pull my leg back, slamming him face-first into the ground with a splintering crack. His body slowly disintegrates into a swirling black mass, like a swarm of flies that crawl into the black floor. My stomach is upset and I slump against the wall, directly across from a doorway.Wait. There are no doors in this maze. I haul myself to my feet, wavering, and nearly puke with the excitement of this find. I take one step forward, then two, then I brace myself against the opposite wall with one hand and stop to take a deep breath and calm my stomach. I tentatively slide my fingers around the brass knob. It's cold, shiny and perfectly smooth. It's probably never been touched by my hand. I crack it open, and before I have time to regret my decision, I close my eyes and swing the door wide open.I sit up with a start, my fingers still clenched in midair. The hum of medical equipment fills the silence my ears had been accustomed to in the maze. The walls are still white, but there's something different. My body goes cold as I move my legs, realizing that it feels so different than what I had been doing in there. A doctor stands to my side, frowning."The training was supposed to go on for six weeks more," he remarked. Was he angry, disappointed, or was that just an observation? The feeling of being cheated fills my mind."May I refresh your mind? It's possible that the months in there have erased some of your memories. You are in a military training facility. Here we give you the most difficult of all tasks so that you may be ready for anything in the battlefield. You must know how to kill, and you must see the look in your own eyes as you do so. What have you learned?"None of this sounds familiar. This doesn't sound like something I would voluntarily ask for, and I feel no sense of duty or accomplishment at his words. It all just seems pointless. I stand up and waver for a moment as I regain my balance. Suddenly a new sensation fills my mind and I can't seem to push it back to my subconscious. The feel of solid ground beneath my feet. I'm no longer lost.I grab the doctor by the collar with only a tingling sense of regret in my mind."Let me show you."
  20. NIXIE DRIFTED UP ON THE BLUE, BLUE SHORES OF SOME DISTANT LAND. Her raft was ruined, and her thick, curly hair in her face. She was unconscious and incapable of really noticing that she had come to a stop. It was a while before she woke up. The calm, peaceful sun beat down upon her. She peered out at the world from behind her dark brown eyes, not really feeling anything, other than a deep desire to feel the sun as a gift of comfort and not as a reminder of her dryness and her lack of drink. She got up. Looked around. Shook her head. There was nothing but the green of tropical trees, the light tan of the beaches, and the aquamarine color of the see. It was beautiful, like some sort of paradise. She was alive. Yet for now, all she could do was roll off of the raft and sit there, her bottom in the sand, her hands on her lap as she looked out into the vast infinity of the see. She would need food and water soon, but before that she just needed to ponder what she had lost. No, she hadn't lost anything. Her friends and her younger brother were still out there, just out of reach. She new she would see them someday. it was just a matter of having faith and starting to search. Somewhere across the waters... She got up and grabbed her bag from the top of the raft. Its strap that was supposed to hoist around her shoulder was broken, so she used it as a rope and just dragged it across the sand. It formed a line, and the line disappeared into the trees. She had managed to spot without much difficulty the highest point on the island. It was a large rock outcropping, like a spine coming out of the earth. Along the way, she found strange new fruits and gave them a try, risking her life on the hope that they weren't poison. She tried their bright orange and yellow and green juices and was replenished. Ah, that was so much better. It wasn't enough to lighten up her head quite yet, though, so she decided she would make camp. That wasn't so difficult, since the leaves on this island were huge. In fact, some of them reached eleven feet across, by her guestimate, since they were about twice her length. It would be easy to make a tent out of them. But not here in the forest. No, she picked a few, rolled them up, and set them out on the beach and set up a tent there. There would be no bugs and no creepy things to crawl over her while she slept. The next day, she ate some more and gathered up food, and then she went back to the tall rock she saw. It took a bit of climbing, and her grip was only so strong, but she wanted to give it a try. She saw the jagged face of the rock through the trees and ran up to it, then looked for a foothold. She then, through force of determination, found a way up, and endurance came to her through the form of a continued sense of wonder. Once she was halfway up, she saw the world around her in an outstanding beauty. The bright blue area where the deep see came up to the sandy beach was beautiful. The island wasn't that large, but she couldn't gather its exact size until she got to the top of the rock that afternoon. She stood there, on a narrow pathway, able to look southease and northwest of the aisle, out upon the surrounding isle. It was about five miles across. "Hello?" she cried out. "Is anyone here?" No answer. "HELLOOOOO?" There looked to be no sort of settlement on the island. She figured she would leave, then. It wasn't worth staying if there was nobody here to help her. It was best to just pack up fruits onto the raft. She climbed down the rock to get back to the raft. "Hey, wait," said a voice. She looked around and saw a golden bug on the rock, about the size of the palm of her hand. It had eight legs along a segmented body, and then a front area like a centaur, which had pincers for arms and these two beady eyes on the ends of stalks, which swiveled about comically. He looked like a scorpion or a crab of some sort. It was a bit strange, but she had seen a lot of strange and unexplainable things since she had left home. "Hello, who are you?" she asked. "I'm the only person on this island," said the bug person. "But you're a bug," said Nixie. "A bug person," said the bug person. "What's a matter. Haven't you ever seen a dichester before?" "Have you ever seen a human before?" asked Nixie. "Come to think of it, I have no idea what you are," said the bug-person-dichester. "Well I'm leaving this island," she said. "I'm coming with you," said the dichester. "And my name is Jetty." "Nice to meet you, Jetty. My name is Nixie. And yes, you can come with me, but I'm leaving this island." "I know. I figured that you came on a raft, and I've been lonely for a while now." That evening, Nixie sat under the tent with a fire started to keep them warm and cook some fish that she caught, while she recorded her thoughts into her journal, the sole item she carried with her in her bag. She bit into a golden apple, and its juice dripped onto the pages, right on top of her brother's name. Then she stopped and contemplated it all. Where she was right now, the encounter she had with Jetty, and the leap of faith she was taking by setting her raft out onto the open ocean again. She came out of her tent and called out Jetty's name. He came scurrying over, leaving little dots for tracks behind him. They ate what food was left, but it was a quick meal. She wanted to drift into the night time and make as much use of the cool moonlight air as possible. Jetty got onto the recrafted raft while Nixie got out on back and pushed it into the ocean. After paddling along for a while, cutting her knee on a piece of coral, she pulled herself on and let herself dry off, putting herself at a distance from her bag so that she didn't get her journal wet. And so they went off with the stars in the sky, ready to discover another of the many islands out there, hopefully one that had friends and support. And when they looked out, there were many stars, and they were reflected upon the water so that the division between the heavens and the waters was impossible to make, and it was all one swirling cosmos. Nixie had seen this before, but this was during a vision where she was given sight over the entire universe, and she knew everything, and she knew where she was. She still wondered if that wasn't a dream, if it wasn't for how she had mysteriously came to a paradise once it was over. She could only wish that the same force was watching over her still, and she rolled onto her back and slept, with her new companion using her hair as a bed. It was a weird world out there, but it was also beautiful.
  21. SUSY HAD THE POWER TO TURN THINGS INTO ANY COLOR OF THE RAINBOW SHE CHOSE. It was a very potent power. She was going to make all the difference in the world with it. By that, of course, one can only assume that all the difference in the world equated to making children happier, and she was most often seen changing the colors of balloons and carnival candy. It was a pretty cool benefit, actually. She got to see the smiles of children all the time and she let them believe in magic and all that. In her mind, it was certainly making a difference.. Then her sister, Katy, found out that she wasn't just switching balloons and that it was an actual superpower. "Wait, seriously, can you actually just change the color of stuff at will?" she asked. "Yes. So?" asked Susy. "Can you change the color of my eyes?" Katy asked. "I always wanted blue eyes, but I didn't want them to be contacts. I want genuinely blue eyes." "What's wrong with the ones you have?" asked Susy. "I always liked your brown eyes." "But blue would be cooler," said Katy. "Why not? You have your superpowers. They're meant to be used, and you like using them to make life more fun. Why not make my eyes blue?" "I don't know," said Susan. "With great power comes great responsibility. I think your eyes were meant to be brown." "What's the difference between my eyes and those balloons?" asked Katy. "Well, a lot of things," said Susan. "You're a piece of art already so beautifully made. I'd hate to alter it. Balloons aren't that special. I don't think it's right. Please don't peer pressure me." "Alright, but could you change the colors of some of my clothes so that they match?" "Well, I guess I do that with my stuff every day," said Susan. She looked down at her Sunday clothes, which included a playful red tie half-taught around her neck and a red trench coat that made her feel nice and pirate-y. Red was her Sunday color, and she had orange for Monday, yellow for Tuesday, green for Wednesday, and so on, ending with violet for Saturday. "Sure. Is there anything you want?" "My prom dress isn't the right shade of pink. I'd also like some prismatic blue highlights," she said. "Something very artistic. Hey, there you go! Why don't you use your powers to be really artistic? You'd be the best artist in the world!" Susy liked that idea. After changing Katy's clothes, she went out to do a lot of "painting", although it was really just imagining any colorful image that came to her mind and willing it onto the canvas. She figured people really enjoyed that, too, just like they enjoyed balloons. It was different, but she still saw that it touched the world in new and unique ways. She even impressed a guy named Emperor Kraggh who did a lot of black-and-white pencil drawings and didn't normally see the value in colorful art. She painted chapels and buildings and giant murals with all the colors of the rainbow, glorifying sunsets and country life, city life, and life. She painted weather, childhood, adulthood, and the many things that people experienced between birth and death. It was all glorious, and she was sure she was making a difference. Then one day a man in a white suit and cape came to her. He had many, many superpowers and called himself Superman. "Susan," he said. "I heard you change the colors of clothes." "Wow, Superman. Yes, I do. What do you want?" "I also heard that you change the colors of balloons," he said. "Someone named Clark Kent wrote a very interesting story about it. I love how simple colors make such a huge difference in peoples' lives and spread so much love. I have a question." "Yes?" "Could you change the colors of my suit? They're all white, but I want a prism of the primary colors. My home planet is a world of crystals and light. I think it's a little more fitting." "Alright," said Susy. She touched Superman on the chest and a spectrum of three bright colors spread throughout: red, blue, and yellow, as bright as the laserlights from the crystals on Krypton. "Thank you," said Superman, and he flew off. Susy felt silly. She had no powers compared to him. And he was making a true difference. Then, a while later, it occurred to her that she created what might have been the mot iconic color scheme ever. And she lived on happily. It turned out that she really did make all the difference in the world with her power. ---------- For the sake of clarity and so that certain elements of this don't seem quite so jarring, this was part of an Ambage Write-Off, and it was our objective to write a Rainbows-themed story in 15 minutes. This was the first thing to come to mind. Looking at what everyone else wrote, I'm surprised to find that I'm the only person who actually played the theme straight. Almost everyone else used it to write something grim and/or depressing. Lighten up, folks! 24601
  22. Theo payed an unexpected visit to his grandson's house."Who are you?" asked Michael."I am you grandfather, Theophilus Rhodes Zweifel," he said. He stood in the doorframe for a full beat before Michael turned around to look at a woman with short hair and bangs hanging in his face, the woman that Theo knew from the pictures in the newspapers was his granddaughter-in-law. What a shame he wasn't invited to the wedding.Ah, and how precisely like his father, Leonidas, did Michael appear. The same narrow features, the same princely looks, the same flaming orange hair that crowned the head of every man in the Zweifel family. It was a shame that Michael had lost his eyes in such a tragic accident."I'm not sure who you are, but you should leave," said Michael, and he closed the the door, but Theo blocked it with his foot."Not so fast, son," he said. "I know you lost your eyes, and you can't see me, but the physical resemblence that you have with your father, and therefore me...well, let's just say that my instinctive narcissism fills me with pride."That shy young lady, so thin, so hidden, slowly came up from behind Michael. He looked down to where he felt her hand on his arm. "He does look like you, just thought I'd mention it.""Well, regardless, you will let me in. I'm the current head of the treasury. I have some authority. Not that it demands that I be let in, but I'm an important man in the government all the same. It looks like the same could be said of you, Michael!"Michael backed up. Theo allowed himself entrance into the room, unashamed of himself."I'm familiar with the name. Head of banking or something like that," said Michael."You heard the name and didn't wonder if, by chance, that some Swiss immigrant with the same name as you was of some relation?" said Theo. "Well, as it happens, I have been unable to contact your father. Have you been in touch, Michael?""We don't talk.""Ah, like father, like son like grandson," said Theo. He leaned in with a smile. "I think that it's about time that we break that tradition. I would like to work with you, Micahel. You're perhaps the richest man alive thanks to your lucky investments. Very lucky investments, not to mention the surreal experiences you've gone through that make you quite unlike any man alive. Yet, you have no friends, only a wife and a sister to keep you company. What a strange hermit you are. With my help, I think this company you own could contribute to the world in brand new ways. What do you say?""Get out," said Michael."No, I don't think I will. See, I pulled some strings. I'm afraid that by several unique legal requirements, you must work with me. I just wanted to see if you would have shook my hand otherwise. Good day, Michael. I will see you tomorrow at work."Theo tipped his hat and left, flashing another evil smile. He was the luckiest grandfather in the world.
  23. ~ ENIM SAPIENTIA ~ ~~~ Down an unknown road To embrace my fate Though that road may wander It will lead me to you ( - From "Go the Distance" by David Zippel ) ~ * ~ The path ambled along through the rolling hills, stretching away farther than the eye could see. We made our progress slowly, she and I; there was nothing in the world to hurry us and everything to encourage delay."Beautiful weather," I observed."It's a beautiful view."I smiled at the silken screen of hair that cascaded down the back of her head. "It certainly is."She let out a happy sigh. "Sometimes--sometimes I just wish I could walk forever.""Free of worry, free of care. Under the golden sunlight by day and the starlight by night.""And when it rains I would dance in it. I would laugh at the thunder. And when the sun came back its grin would dry me.""It sounds wonderful.""It does. Just to walk. . . .""And who would be walking with you?"She tensed. I looked away and quickly introduced a different topic. "It's amazing the way the hills are all so alike and yet somehow different. Sort of like people.""People aren't all alike.""Oh, but they are. At the bottom of every heart there are the same thoughts, the same dreams. Every heart has the--the same love. Some people just forget that. Some never find it. Some ignore it.""Jacob--" But she broke off."Rachel, I care about you. You know that, don't you?"She hesitated. Then she said, "Some have to wait for love.""Wait to find it?""Yes, some. But others who've already found it have to wait for the right time."She bit her lip. We walked on.All too soon there came a fork in the path. A side road branched off the main. We paused and turned to face one another. "Which way are you going?" I asked. I knew the answer, but I dreaded it. Somehow I hoped feigning ignorance would buy me a few more moments.She did not respond. She couldn't say it. She only murmured in a tone thick and strained, "Goodbye, Jacob.""Rachel, please . . ." But I didn't know what I was asking. I examined my shoelaces with a shrug of my shoulders. "'Bye, I guess."She turned away, hugging her shoulders. Her gracile figure sidled away along her path as I began along mine. But before she escaped earshot I turned with sudden fervor and called out to her."Remember what I told you! I care about you. That won't change. Even when paths branch apart, they come back together. They intersect again."She looked at me. Her eyes were moist and her cheeks glistened in the sunlight. Yet for all that she beamed at me. "I know it." ~ * ~ The next evening I was traveling my lonely path when another came up alongside it, running parallel. Somehow I sensed, before I even looked across the verge, that Rachel was there.She looked happy. Was there an almost haunted quality to her eye, or did I imagine it? I couldn't be sure. I only caught the corner of its deep beauty before she turned her head in the other direction without even glancing at me. I turned, too.Neither of us spoke. It would have been too painful. So close and yet so very far.But beneath the ache in my chest there was something else. Buried far beneath my skin, constrained by the twisting of my heart, it was there: joy. Just a faint glimmer of delicious joy. And somehow through the pain that little joy made me feel as light as air.Did she feel it?Ahead the paths diverged. As soon as I caught sight of it I halted. After a few paces, she did the same. My heart pounded as I stood there, gazing at the back of her head, hoping.She turned. She smiled. My heart soared.I stepped to her side, keeping on my path but not taking my eyes off her for a moment. I ravenously devoured each passing second spent staring at her. She flushed under my gaze; but the rosy tint to her medium-dark cheeks only made her the more beautiful."I miss you."She met my gaze with eyes that glowed brighter than the first stars appearing overhead. "I miss you, too."In tacit concordance we turned and walked on until our paths separated once more.And I kept walking. ~ * ~ That's the hard part. To keep walking. To go on and never falter. To know the only way back is forth.The world passes by me with each step. But I keep going because it's empty. I fill it with what good I can when I can; but there's nothing left in it, not for me.I wonder where she is and I wonder where my path is taking me. I wonder about many things. My mind brims with the swelling ranks of unanswered questions.But what can I do but go onward? With patience and perseverence I have to fight my way forward. Along the way I strive to make myself into a man worthy of her. She is like a distant star guiding me along. It is day and I cannot see her, but I know she is there, and I follow her.Someday our paths will reconnect. Until then I'll continue wandering; but my heart will never stray. For my Rachel I'll go that extra mile. Sincerely, Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith
  24. A man sat in the balcony of the Senate Chamber, discussing politics. There were other voters and political activists. For some reason, he was the only person with his set of beliefs in the room. It was very discomforting. Some people began talking to him, and he didn't say much for his beliefs. He let them walk over him, let them listen to themselves talk. He would never convince them of the proper way to govern a country."Yes...Yes...Yes...I understand. I respect your views. I understand where you're coming from, but for my various reasons that are a bit too expansive to express all at this moment, I can't really see eye to eye on you with this issue."So he went, never quite taking a stand for himself.Suddenly a great rectangle, nearly thirty feet high and ten feet wide, opened in the middle of the floor. A great wind came forth. The rectangle was no physical object, but an image like a window. Many people panicked, not understanding, nor having the slightest idea of what was going on. There was heat, lots of it. The image, for those who dared look, was that of a pipe organ and alien architectures. Strange creatures came forth, but they parted as a tall man in a cape walked through them.He had the exact same face as the man who meekly debated with protesting voters in the Senate Chamber. There were a few physical differences between them, sure, considering that the one who came through the portal was much older and had a silver beard, but regardless, they seemed to be the different incarnations of the same man. The latter man stood straight, unaffected by the heat, not flinching in the face of strange monsters armed with blades and arrows."I am King Tijdschrift," said the strange, bearded man. His deep, melodious voice boomed and echoed throughout the chamber. "I rule the universe. Everyone bow before me."Some strange magic possessed the people to bow against their will, all except for the man who stood straight. He did not bow."Tom, I sent you to this Earth, born of human parents, to lead," said the King. "I conquered the rest of the universe with my silver tongue alone. You are my son, with all my gifts given to you, and yet you are unable to rise to greatness in this small pebble."Tom looked away."Look at me!"Tom refused."You may look like them, Tom, but you are not one of them. Do not make yourself humble. Rise. Be their leader. They are a great people, far superior to so many races across the universe, so long as they have a spark to make them catch fire. They can grow bright. These are people of the great Earth, and you are the salt of the Earth. Yet, you dilute yourself in the waters of the ocean. Tom, rise!""I am not God," said Tom. "I am only a man. I chose to live my life for other forms of greatness."And Tom was punished that day. Publicly, in plain site. The world saw this strange alien man beat his son, inflict him with seventy-seven lashes while security forces were helpless to stop the violence. Unknown powers were at play. However, the man named Tom survived, and King Tijdschrift left through his portal.Years later, Tom carried out his father's will, but only after attending to things more important, more human. Whatever it was that he felt he had to accomplish, nobody knows. Beyond his leadership of the human race, little was public knowledge. We historians still ponder what was important to him to this day.
  25. Long Day It was raining, and he was wet, tired, and lost. He had tried to hitchhike a few miles back, but no one stopped. No one. After all, why would anyone in their right mind stop for a ragged-looking man on the side of the road in the middle of a storm? He was an axe-murderer for sure. For sure.He had made it back to civilization regardless. His feet hurt, and he was wet through, but he had made it. Houses rose up out of the downpour before him, lit by streetlamps that caught the rain in halos of flickering orange. Sheets of water ran off the sidewalk and leaked through his shoes as he went on. The patter of raindrops had been constant for the past four hours. Four hours? Maybe more. Regardless, it was a bad night to be wandering the streets.But what streets were these? He had no idea. There were no signs on the road, not a convenience store to be found, only dark rows of houses twisting away into the torrent. A suburb. He had to get directions from somewhere. There was nothing for it—he didn’t think he could go on much longer.The doors of the houses all looked pretty much alike. No porch-lights that he could see. A short sidewalk leading off each drive and up to the entrance. Most of the houses were two-story affairs. It was a two-story house that he found himself in front of now. He’d have to go up and try the bell. Just do it. There’s no shame. Well, that wasn’t true. Of course he was embarrassed. They probably wouldn’t answer anyways. Not in the middle of the night.He strode up the drive regardless, stood in front of the door. No doorbell, so finally he knocked. Four loud knocks on the wooden door. Nothing happened. The rain went on, running down his face and neck. Could his clothes be any more wet? Probably not. He tapped his foot, shifted his weight from side to side. Nothing. Nothing at all. No one home, or they were just sleeping too peacefully. He was wasting his time.He turned back toward the sidewalk, glancing at the upper story of the house. Why had he picked this house again? He couldn’t say. Maybe it was because it reminded him of another house. The house he had lived in as a kid, back in the days of no-worries. Back in the days when it didn’t rain. Those days were gone. He ground his teeth. This was definitely a low point for him. Very low.But he didn’t go back to the sidewalk. No, he turned around once more and went back to the door, raising his hand to knock one more time. He would do six knocks this time. Hard, loud knocks. Come on, folks. Up. At least acknowledge my existence. It would make no difference anyways. No one would answer. He knew what the outcome would be. He knocked anyways.And that was when the door clicked open, unlocked.He stood for a moment, staring dumbly into the dark beyond. The rain pounded down on his head. What...what now? Maybe no one was home? He shouldn’t be here. He was trespassing for sure. He ought to grab that door-handle and slam the thing shut and be off. Try some other door maybe, if he could get the nerve again.But then again, he could just step inside. Just for a bit. There was no car in the drive. No lights in the windows. He could dry off a little...get out of the rain, rest his eyes. Then he’d lock the door and continue on his way, right? Just for a bit...No, no, he shouldn’t. Shouldn’t! But it looked so dry inside, and he was soaked all the way to his bones...It smelled nice inside the house. He left the front-door slightly ajar, in case he needed to make a quick exit. He could hardly hear the rain now. It was blessedly quiet.He shrugged out of his sopping wet coat and his shoes, leaving them by the landing. There were no lights, no movement inside. Not a sound. The house was sparsely furnished, but nice. The blinds were all drawn downstairs. It was cold too, but that was just because his clothes were evaporating now. He shivered, hugging himself tight as he stepped into the kitchen. He blinked water from his eyes. There—a sink. He took off his woolen sweater and wrung it out as quietly as he could. Still no movement, no sound. He was definitely alone. Even so, the hair on his neck stood up. There was tension in the air.He should have stayed downstairs. Should’ve stayed right by the door, but he couldn’t resist. A stairwell led up to the second story off the landing. He’d just take a look. It wasn’t his house, and he knew he shouldn’t be so glib, but it was kind of exciting, you know? There was a hallway upstairs. A few bedrooms, empty. A bathroom...and one closed door at the very end. He put his ear against it and listened. Silence...or was it silence? A fan, maybe? Maybe he was just imagining. He was so tired. It had been a long day and a long night too.Then something shifted behind the door, and he almost jumped. Almost, but then he doubted again. It was nothing. Just air circulating. Sure. He put his hand on the doorknob, turned it, pushed. The door didn’t budge. He pushed a little harder. It creaked a little, but still resisted. Then he put his full weight against it, careful now, stay quiet. Careful!The door sprang open, and he stumbled forward, forward into the bedroom beyond. Dresser to the left, against the wall, closet to the right. A window on the far wall slanting dim bars of moonlight across the bed and the two prone figures lying there— --- Thunder cracked, and he sat up, suddenly very awake. His eyes were heavy from sleep, but his heart was pounding. He shook his head, disoriented. The room was still, the only sound was his breathing, breathing fast. Whew, what a start.“Hm,” his wife turned over beside him, rubbing her eyes, “What is it?”“Um,” he looked around the room, “Nothing. Just dreaming. Sorry.”He hated that kind of dream. Shocks you right out of bed, and then it’s gone. He sighed and settled back on one arm.Ribbons of water ran down the window-pane behind the blinds, glinting in the faint moonlight and the flicker of lightning. Everything was as it should be, except...except the bedroom door was ajar.That was okay though. It had been a long day. Must have...must have left it open. Yawn. Yeah. Go back to sleep.He laid his head back down and closed his eyes.------------Written for the Ambage Challenge #3 (Theme: Write A Dream) during one of the weekly Ambage Write-Offs.JRRT
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