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Cafe Doom  |  Competitions and Markets  |  Short Story Competitions and Markets  |  Doom's 3rd Anniversary Comp 2007  |  Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread

Author Topic: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread  (Read 31169 times)

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Offline Ed

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Re: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread
« Reply #15 on: October 31, 2007, 04:27:16 AM »


I’m scared as I sit here, with the wind howling outside, like a kraken shifting in its sleep.  The internal struggle between the fear of life passing me by and being too insecure to get up and do anything about it, is glowing inside me.  Growling and pulsating like a chained wild animal, caught in the ebb and flow of a tide.  The rain spatters against my window, drainpipes sway, leaking their juices over an oblivious world.  One that is too caught up in its coming and goings to notice Mother Nature crying out against the brutalities society has reaped upon her.

The boiler creaks, groans and thumps, splintering the deafening yet strangely, serene silence.  My solace interrupted by its mysterious language, talking to its brothers the pipes.  Communicating in an alien tongue to its sisters, the radiators.  Whispering tales of the great days long past, when its ancestors, the steam engines were king.  I scrunch my quilt tightly in my balled fist, then pull it gently up over my body, tucking it under my chin.  Fooling myself that it will protect me, from the harshness of life.

I consider myself knowledgeable, but too much knowledge doesn’t make you a better or more intelligent person.  It instils you with a sense of hopelessness, abandonment and fear.  A profound paranoia, that separates you from your fellow man.  Setting you adrift on a sea that turns into a waterfall, at the edge of the horizon. Sailing on a ship of bloated corpses, being pecked by scavenger birds, picking away at your carrion deck, leaving you less and less footing, as time goes by.  While the rest of the world sails on past you, in a sleek, expensive liner.  Happy in their knowledge that the planet is round and the sea never ends.

The night presses on me, with the weight of a mothers love.  Like a mothers love it can be oppressive and stifling, allowing you no freedom, to do what you really want.  It blankets the street outside, battling the dimly lit lampposts for supremacy, enveloping my room, isolating it.  The darkness courts the wind and rain, at first, it introduces itself subtly, then it bows and takes their hands.  Placing a kiss on each of them, before asking the tempestuous elements to dance.  They shyly accept, slowly whirling and wetting themselves through the guttering, overturning and filling empty cans, before picking up the tempo.  Screaming over rooftops, flooding gulleys, then smashing against windowpanes.  As if threatening to shatter them, for not taking part in their wild rampaging waltz.  The darkness performs a baroque ballet, pirouettes, then stops to meet them head on, with its arms out stretched.  Capturing them in its all encompassing, icy embrace.  Reminding me that the agony of life is only exceeded, by the sheer terror of wandering the void that lies on the opposite side of it, alone for eternity.

I tighten my grip and settle slowly back on my bed, the quilt still clenched, it follows me like a shroud.  My head sinks into the pillow; it welcomes me with familiar smells of my own sweat. Thoughts march through my mind, making me visualise armies in formation, walking into another senseless war.  The repetitive crunching of their boots, lull me softly into Morpheus’ realm of sleep.

I’m awoken by a trio of knocks at my front door.  I jerk, go red in the face, as adrenalin opens the floodgates, for my blood to rush through. Butterflies attack my stomach, making me feel a need to expel faeces.  Who can that be?  No one knocks for me, not because it’s late, just that nobody bothers me and I don’t bother them.

Thunder rolls excruciatingly through the sky, like a fat old man, tired of life throwing himself off a cliff.  Lightning split’s the darkness, as if God had torn out the fat old man’s veins, enlarged and illuminated them, then tossed them down from heaven, as a punishment for his sin of suicide.

The door knocks again, three times as if emphasising my thesis on knowledge,
KNOCK . . . hopelessness, KNOCK . . . abandonment, KNOCK . . . fear.
I know I’m going to have to answer it, even if the very thought of doing so leaves me in tatters.  I get up out of bed, clenching my quilt so tight; it feels as if my fingers are going to crack.  Each step I take is like walking on broken glass, and it seems to make just as much noise.  I open my bedroom door and look across the hallway, so I can peer through the window of the front door.  Trying to make out who
It is, all I can decipher is a black shade, a silhouette, a shadow.

Again, that dreadful rapping, KNOCK . . . hopelessness, KNOCK . . . abandonment, KNOCK . . . fear                                                                     
A shiver descends my spine, as if someone has slit the nape of my neck and is slowly, sliding a frozen, shattering, stalactite down it.    I quiver like a virgin, about to encounter her first sexual experience.  Anger mixes with my ever-increasing dread, giving me the boldness I need to cross the hallway.  I can hear the ticking of the clock, the sound of my feet shuffling across the carpet, the creaks and groans of my old friend the boiler, telling me stories of past glory.  I can even hear the fridge buzzing, as it feeds of the electricity.  There is a sound missing, that I know subconsciously should be here, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

My hand reaches out, as if by its own accord.  The latch unclips and the handle turns, allowing the door to swing slowly inward.  I expect to see a person, features, hair, arms, legs, something! But it’s exactly as it was before, a shade, a silhouette, a shadow.  With a sound like metal being filed, without it making the slightest tremor or movement, I hear the shade say,   “TIME TO GO.”   With horrifying clarity, I realise what sound is missing.  The sound of my heart beating, the taken for granted hiss of the suck and blow of breath, as it inhales and exhales from my lungs.  I look down at myself, to see if anything has changed.  The quilt wrapped tightly around me, still clenched in my claw like hand, has turned into a blood-stained shroud.

The shade stands there, motionless and quiet; it’s so dark it hurts my eyes. Blacker than darkness, blacker than the depths of the cruellest human soul, the oppersite of light, the anti-light.  The dark that was already old prior to creation.  It triggers a deep-rooted primordial fear, which only Neanderthal man may have experienced before they discovered fire.  My head is full of stinging bleak silence, the solitude screeches at me, piercing with its desolate emptiness.  I realise it is the undeniable sound of death.

I spasm into a sitting position, gasping for air, startled, awake, my bed soiled, perspiring like a junkie needing a fix.   I grip my quilt, pull it up over my body, and tuck it under my chin.  I must have fallen asleep, and not woken back up, ’THANK GOD!’   I’ve never had a dream so shockingly real, so vivid.  It makes the existence I’m in now; seem like a hallucination in comparison.  It’s still night, and the wind’s wailing outside, with the rain beating indentations into the sodden grass.  My boiler is deep in conversation with its family, and all seems right with the world, such as it is.

I lean over to pick up my glass of water, hoping to quench my all consuming thirst, in mid motion I hear a noise that freezes the marrow in my bones.
KNOCK . . . KNOCK . . . KNOCK.                                 

The End                                                             
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline Ed

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Re: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread
« Reply #16 on: October 31, 2007, 04:28:22 AM »

   It was dusk by the time I found the place at the end of a run-down street.  It was an old building with intricate ironwork over bricked-in windows, and not a crack for any light to show.  It looked deserted.  A sign on the gate said “Soulrest Manor: a Private Hospital” in pointed black letters.  I opened the gate, went up the stairs, and knocked.

   How the mighty have fallen, I thought.  I’d worked my way up from the bottom only to be fired from my most prestigious directorship with no explanation.  Now I’d landed in this derelict neighborhood.

   “I’m here to interview for your Hospital Librarian position,” I said when the door opened.  “Your ad said to just drop by.  I’m Gabriel Dunkelman.  Most people call me Gabe.”  I held out my hand.

   “Good evening, Mr. Dunkelman,” the man said smoothly.  “Delano Connor, director of the Hospital.  Come in.”  He closed the door behind me with a clunk and led me down a candlelit stone corridor to the library.

   I stopped in the doorway.  Like the rest of the building, the library was dark.  The only illumination came from candles in braces along walls and on tables.  The wax dripped as it burned, eerie shapes made stranger by the dim flickering light.

   “After you,” Connor’s mellifluous voice said behind me.

   Well, so what if it was weird, I thought.  I needed a job, so I went in.  Once again, the director closed the door behind us.  We stood in a tall room with a mezzanine running around the edge where the second floor would have been.  The walls above and below the mezzanine were lined with books, old books by the look of them.  The bindings nearest to hand were leather, with elaborate tooling and gold embellishments.

   A shelf above the door we’d come through held a large clear glass jar with an ornate golden lid.  Candles on either side illuminated it enough for me to see that it was filled with a muddy substance I knew wasn’t really mud.  It sent a shudder through me that I struggled to hide from the director.  Though I wanted to ask what it was, I found I didn’t dare.  Not yet.

   Little gnomes were busy at the shelves, scampering up and down ladders with feather dusters and stacks of books.  It was the cleanest library I’d ever seen, and I had seen a lot of libraries in my time.  This certainly wasn’t what I’d expected, and yet, it had potential.  The workers seemed devoted, and that was more than could be said for most of my past employees.

   What set this apart from most libraries was the noise.  A soft sighing pervaded the air, and from time to time, howls and clanks rose from somewhere in the building.  They had no place in a normal hospital or library, and I found myself clenching my jaw in response.

   “What’s the racket?” I asked Connor, trying to sound casual.

   “Just some of the patients,” he said, the quickness of his answer making me sure he was brushing off my question.

   “Really?  What do they get up to around here, then?”

   “Oh, the usual.  Surely you understand the nature of our patients.”

   I waited.

   Finally Connor sighed.  “The patients we treat here aren’t suffering from physical ailments.”

   “Oh, so you mean you’re into holistic treatments?  Mind over body and all that?”

   “Not exactly.  Our patients’ souls are afflicted.”

   “Psychological difficulties?”

   “You really are a slow one.”

   I felt anger shoot from my stomach toward my mouth.  I had been called many things, but slow had never been one of them.

   Connor went on before I had a chance to retort.  “You would probably call our patients myths.  They’ve always existed on the fringes, but they flock to us.  Some call them creatures of the night; others call them inhuman; but they are neither.”

   “Then what are they?  They’re human?” I asked, done with being kept guessing.

   “They’re lots of things with lots of names.  Vampires, werewolves, unfortunates of all kinds.  They’re all human with various wounds to their souls.”

   “And I’m to keep a library for these mythical beings?”

   “That’s why you applied, isn’t it?” he asked with a leer.

   “I’m a librarian.  This is a library.”

   “Good!  You’ll be living here, of course.  Everyone who works in the hospital lives here.”

   I hesitated.  “Aren’t there any windows?”  The closed-in, cave-like feel of the place was already starting to get to me and now that I knew what Soulrest Manor really was I was having second thoughts about having applied to work there.

   “All the windows have been filled in.  Sunlight would be deadly for some of our patients.  You understand.  Are you willing?”

   I thought about it.  This was the only interview I’d gotten, though I’d applied for lots of jobs.  The money had to come from somewhere.  It wasn’t as if I was committing to forever.

   “If you’re offering the job, I’ll take it,” I said.

   “Very good.”  I could tell he was pleased.

   “I’ll show you to your room.”  I followed him down another candlelit corridor, where I saw one of the gnomes exchanging spent candles for new.  We stopped outside a heavy wooden door and he pushed it open.

   “You’ll begin your duties tomorrow morning.  Sleep well.”

   I walked into the empty chamber.  It was surprisingly well furnished with tapestries on the walls and a lush velvet spread on the bed.  My feet sank into the carpet.

   I blew out the candles, pulled up the blankets, and lay looking into darkness.  If coming to the dark hospital had been a mistake, it was too late to change my mind.  I fell asleep listening to intermittent clanks and screeches.

   I dreamed I woke up to see one of the tapestries on the wall pulled back.  A big rectangular machine with switches and dials slid out, and glided all the way to the bed.  I wanted to run as it loomed over me, but couldn’t move.  It glared at me out of a blank screen as two needles jabbed themselves into my arm hard enough to make me shout.  Switches clicked, the screen lit up and the machine whirred.  It was taking my blood, doing something to it.  I couldn’t lift a hand to switch it off, so I stared, mesmerized, at my blood flowing in and out.  What would happen if I just pulled out the needles?

   After a while, a deeper whirring started up inside, and dark sludge splattered into a glass jar I hadn’t noticed before.

   When I woke, I was alone in the room.  I jumped up and yanked back the tapestries, but saw only stone walls behind them.  It had just been my imagination playing on my fear of the jar in the library.

   I put the night behind me while I washed my face and got dressed.  It was time to face the first day of a new job.  As I was finishing up, there was a knock at the door.  Mr. Connor stood outside waiting for me.

   “Escort?”  I raised my eyebrows.

   “I just wanted to ask how you were after your first night.”

   “I’m well, thanks.”

   He nodded, walked beside me to the library, and left me at the door.

   That first day, I was able to convince myself that I was in familiar territory.  Every library I’d ever worked in had had its share of troubled visitors, and as long as I thought of the patients that way, I felt right at home.

   The one thing that ruined my sense of normalcy was the jar above the door.  I caught myself looking at it time and again, skin prickling.  I couldn’t look for long without fear robbing me of breath and making me dizzy, but neither could I keep my eyes averted.  It was like a scab I just kept picking, even when it hurt and got infected, and like a festering wound, my fearful curiosity grew to encompass all of me.

   I spent most of that day alternately staring at the jar and watching the gnomes work.  I sensed their devotion and felt sorry they were stuck here in a place with no windows, working without a break.  Occasionally patients interrupted me by needing books or throwing tantrums, but for the most part, I was left to myself.

   By the time I’d been there several weeks, the place didn’t seem so unusual anymore. The patients shouted and carried on as much in the library as anywhere else in the hospital, so I got used to their outbursts. I guess you could say I was settling in.

   There were only two things I couldn’t shake.  The first was my fear of the jar over the door.  The second was the dream that had been with me since my first night at Soulrest Manor.  Every night the jar of sludge was a little fuller.  Inexplicable dread weighed me down as I watched it fill drop by drop.  I slept less well every night because of it, and lack of sleep kept me on edge.

   I sat behind my desk one day, gritting my teeth while a particularly obnoxious patient shouted at me.  Connor might claim this place wasn’t a psychiatric ward, but the more I saw, the more I thought it resembled one.  Finally one word stood out through the torrent.  The patient was raving about librarians.

   “What about them?” I asked, interrupting the incessant flow of words.

   Startling red eyes met mine and narrowed.  “I was the librarian before you came, before anyone came!  All of this was mine.  I was the first.”  A bony hand swept up and around taking in the library.  “Now I’m part of the Special Collection.  I’ve seen you looking at it.  You know what it’s for!”  The creature—patient, I reminded myself—cackled and pushed out the door, its laughter echoing from the stone walls.

   I looked at my hands, folded and clenched on top of the desk.

   I won’t look up, I told myself.  I won’t look up.

   The next thing I knew, I was staring at the jar, the Special Collection.  It was true.  As soon as I’d heard the name, I knew what it belonged to.  Of course, knowing the name only left me with more questions, the most pressing of which was collection of what?

   I tore my eyes away and looked frantically around the library.  The gnomes went calmly on with their work.  Suddenly I thought they were enjoying themselves too much.  They looked like they were working, but they must be shirking in some clever way I couldn’t see.  I got up and kicked the nearest one.  “Get back to work!”

   It glared accusingly at me, and carried on shelving its stack of books.  I felt better and went back to staring.

   That night I dreamed again, and this time when the machine switched itself off, the jar was full.  I woke in a cold sweat in an empty room, with serious doubts about my job.  I was going crazy living among so many mentally unbalanced patients.  I breathed deeply.  I was okay.  The jar was full and nothing terrible had happened.

   As I lay in the dark, my door slammed open.

   Connor stood there, a dark shadow backlit by flickering candles.  “I need you at once in the library,” he said, then turned and strode off down the corridor without waiting for me to follow.

   I grabbed a robe and followed.  A whole crowd of patients had gathered in the library.  I’d heard their voices from the corridor, but they fell silent as I crossed the threshold.

   “Dunkelman, you’re one of us now,” Connor said.

   “You woke me up to tell me this?”

   “You were already awake.  You know it’s time.”  He reached into his flowing black robe, and it was then that I noticed he wasn’t wearing his usual suit and tie.  From a pocket somewhere inside, he withdrew the jar from my dream.

   I shrank back and the patients hissed gleefully.

   “Tonight is truly a special night,” intoned Connor, holding up the jar for all to see.  “Tonight we add to our library’s Special Collection.  The ladder, please.”

   A gnome brought a ladder forward and leaned it against the doorframe.  Connor climbed it, robe billowing, unscrewed the golden lid, and held the smaller jar poised over the large one.

   “Welcome to the Special Collection, Dunkelman.”

   “No!” I screamed, too late.  The sludge from my dreams had joined the rest in the big jar on the shelf.

   I sank to my knees.

   “Now you’re one of us!” said the patient who had babbled to me about the Special Collection so long ago that same afternoon.

   “But I’m the librarian,” I protested.

   “Not anymore.  I’m going to explain this to you while you can still understand.”  Connor suddenly sounded cold and clinical, his voice sending a chill scurrying up and down my spine.

   “I’m not planning on getting stupid,” I snapped, feeling something unraveling in the back of my head.

   “I’ve just added your soul to the Special Collection, Dunkelman.  With no soul, there’s nothing to balance your mind, and you’ll go crazy, just like our other patients with damaged souls.  Few people can say they’ve seen their own souls.  How do you like it?”

   “It’s dirty!”

   “I’m afraid the dialysis and distillation process does that to them all as they’re removed from the blood.”

   “The dreams were real?  Are you saying I gave up my soul just for a job?”

   “It’s a small price.  Most jobs take it out of you eventually anyway.  It’s less painful this way.  I did you a favor.”

   I shook my head, trying to clear it, but fog was setting in.  I couldn’t remember living a normal life outside the hospital.  This was my home.

   The crazy patient reached out and took my hand in his clammy one.  “I’m glad you came,” he said, leading me out of the library and down a hallway I’d never seen.  “I’ll look out for you.”

   I nodded, glad to have someone to show me the way as memory faded.

The End
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline Ed

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Re: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread
« Reply #17 on: October 31, 2007, 04:29:32 AM »

Jeremy Samson bounces on the cusp of his sofa cushion, shaking as much from the double-shot of espresso in his mocha as from the deadline. His back contorts over last year's most sought-after laptop. It shares the glass coffee table with Zeus, his nine-month-old kitten from a recent marriage. Zeus attempts to anticipate her owner's next keystrokes and then cover those keys with her paws. Sometimes she suggests alternative letters.

Samson had been against naming a female tabby after a powerful male god for just such reasons. He jingles his keys and throws them to the carpet near the hideaway plasma television. Zeus darts after them. Samson had wanted to name her "Captain A.D.D." instead, but that particular wife hadn't allowed it.

   Samson tells himself he's beyond the pain in his lower spine, beyond the pressure in his bladder, which--if he lets himself think about it--is more distracting than his back pain. He tells himself he'll finally make time to urinate after checking one more lead.

   He'd edited Waterguide, his last and likely final film, with the same posture and impatience, culminating in a back stress-injury a year before. But while that pain had been transitory, Waterguide can survive the moon if selected for the Archive, and if not eclipsed by the presently-more-ubiquitous gossip mill.

The permanent, Samson believes, always justifies the temporary. That's why he directs film, not theatre. That's why he buys in bulk. That's why he would have never married if he hadn't believed each time that it was for life. But in this instance, it's his biography he's editing, which will never be a work of art no matter how much passing pain he endures to shape it. He's forty-three years old: too young to retire from directing, and too young to develop a bladder problem.

   It's twelve minutes until noon on the day of the Great Web Snapshot. That's noon Eastern US time, to which Los Angeles still defers in all matters of bicoastal importance. For Samson that makes it far too early. Or late. He's been up all night, hunched in a bathrobe, satin or silk pajama pants (he can never remember which is which), and a pair of cheap cotton socks. The socks are new. He hadn't needed them to edit Waterguide, and in fact he prefers to be barefoot, which is why he and his second-to-last wife opted for carpet instead of hardwood floors when they built this Beverly Hills brownstone. But Zeus has trouble differentiating between toes and chewtoys, and therefore: socks. It must be like silk and satin to her owner.

   Samson's list already includes over five thousand websites and articles--hosted on almost as many servers--detailing or referencing the lie he shall not allow to outlive him. Some sites Samson finds by simple web searches, others by complicated algorithms only a woman named Crater understands.

   Samson doesn't know Crater's real name, or whether she's even young enough to be a potential ex-wife, but he trusts her  more than he fears the moon. After Samson's desperation at Waterguide's commercial underperformance (but critical success; let's not forget that!) and his despair at a misconstrued misunderstanding in Minnesota, Crater had emailed Samson with biggest-fan claims and a redemptive path for her filmmaking hero. Crater couldn't fix public opinion, but she could change how moonless mankind would remember Samson forever.

   Samson checks Crater's blog, in which she regularly praises his directorial genius and influence. Not updated yet today. Crater had said she'd unleash, minutes before the Snapshot, specific counter-stories on her own website and on unmonitored, user-edited databases. And those stories would last forever if they lasted an hour.

   What happened was this: shortly after Waterguide bombed, Consolidated Wire Services had pounced on an erroneous St. Paul, Minnesota newspaper story (more of a blurb really) about Samson's visit to a video rental store and subsequent correction of an employee who'd listed Samson's seminal work, Undersweet Angels, on a Worst Films "Evaaar" shelf.

The story so ruthlessly spread through news sites, blogs, and catty, leaked memos between development executives in Hollywood, that Samson could not even transmute the negative publicity into the needed heat for a greenlit film. Every public mention or review of Samson or his work since has included a snide remark about those incidental minutes he should have left in Minnesota. The world is run by savages who will deserve what they get. There's no other explanation.

   Eight minutes until noon. Zeus has grown tired of the now-motionless set of keys. She gives herself another bath, her fourth or fifth since midnight. She pauses mid-lick and stares at Samson every dozen seconds. The accusations in her eyes distract him. His mind goes to every mistake he's made in the past ten years, things the cat couldn't possibly know about.
In Samson's pocket, his phone chimes the "Satan's theme" melody from the Undersweet Angels soundtrack, indicating an incoming call from one of his fairer-haired exes. Samson thumbs the ringer switch from chime to vibrate. It's more important now to scan an online Hollywood rumor-mill article that, in the second paragraph, uses "Samson-ed" as a verb to describe the London nightclub behavior of some horsefaced diva who can't keep her dress from falling down for the cameras.

   Samson types the web address URL into Crater's hackware program. The server identifier comes back green, which means it shares a host server or connection or family of sites with another URL already on Samson's list and therefore already marked for the chopping block. Crater has told him that seeing redundancies like this was a good sign. A sign of thoroughness. He must be almost ready to push the button.

   Of course his publicist had released a clarification about how the Minnesota story was apocryphal, based on Samson's reputation as a passionate filmmaker. Samson had actually been very courteous to (and forgiving of!) the video store employee. He had not in fact yelled, but instead calmly offered that, if Undersweet Angels was so allegedly poor in quality, then why were there no unrented copies left in the store, hmm? A few blogs and podcasts commented unfavorably on this press release, but neither Consolidated Wire Services nor the more popular industry news portals ever ran a retraction of the original, damaging smear.

   Four minutes until noon. Zeus tells Samson she's hungry by jumping on his bent back and licking the salt off his neck. It's a trick she'd learned from her brother Hades, a more aptly named kitten who'd failed to survive his first month in Casa del Samson. He'd clawed his way up a screened window on the third floor, perhaps to get a better view of the gardener Philippe outside on his riding lawn mower.

The screen couldn't handle even the kitten's modest three pounds. Hades and the screen window fell outward onto the lawn. He was bruised, but that failed to deter him from being curious about this amazing metal machine making so much noise and spitting out cut grass. "Well, I'm not going back to the store to get another one," Samson had told his wife, which led to another misunderstanding about Samson being callous or uninterested or something. Savages. The whole world.

Zeus's rough tongue scrapes against Samson's skin, but he knows any sudden move to shake her off will only be greeted with a tighter grip by her claws. Samson had wanted to have them surgically removed even before the tangentially claw-related death of her brother, but his ex had said they would be easy enough to trim once per month. She'd said this just a few weeks before leaving both Samson and Zeus for young Philippe. She left Zeus with Samson because she didn't trust Philippe not to kill her, too, in the course of things. This had made a bit of depressing sense at the time.

   Presently he tries to motionlessly bear both Zeus's tongue and the now-overwhelming reminder that he needs to urinate, because he stumbles across another misguided review of Waterguide. There's no mention of the Minnesota story for once, but it's clear the reviewer has never been to film school. It's fine for her to believe it "pretentiously dull" (Samson welcomes legitimate criticism, always has) but he or she (who uses initials for a byline anyway?) also clearly got the themes all wrong!

   Samson adds the site to his list. The server identifier comes back red. This is a new response and for a second he worries he's crashed Crater's program. His body flinches at this break in concentration, causing Zeus to dig her front claws into his upper back (as predicted) to keep herself from sliding off. This in turn causes his body to send a searing stroke of pay-attention-to-me up from his bladder.

   Three minutes until noon and a bathroom break can no longer wait. He involuntarily shakes as he reaches behind him to brush Zeus off his back. He bangs the bottom of the laptop with his knee as he rises from the sofa. He worries he's damaged it, that he has lost all his work, but the LCD doesn't show any obvious signs of problems. He runs to the bathroom with Zeus as his overexcited shadow. He almost beheads her when he slams the door behind him.

At the drop of his pants Samson remembers the significance of red in Crater's hackware program. It means the site shares a server with one of Crater's "counter-intelligence" sites, where she will post positive stories about Samson in the moments before the Snapshot. If he takes down the unjustified smear, the corrective flattery will be removed as well.

   Samson exhales as the pressure leaves his bladder. He rubs his face, moist with the sweat that's collected in his beard stubble. He feels some of his anger stream off into the toilet with his urine. He counts the number of toilet rolls stacked in the shower stall beside him. He wonders why the human body can't operate like buying in bulk. Why can't he go to the bathroom once per year for four days straight and be done with it until January? Repeating one's day-to-day tasks is for plebeians. Isn't that why he became a filmmaker in the first place? So that each project is something new?

   Samson begins to doubt. What if all this hackery ends up cleaving the bulk of his life out of history? What if every online biography of Samson includes the Minnesota story? He needs to do a new online search for positive stories. He has only a few minutes to determine whether he'd rather be forever remembered as a one-time ass, or scarcely mentioned as a footnote in the annals of American cinema.

   No, he thinks. Stick. To. The. Plan. He should always ignore those fleeting doubts, just like his last second decision to cut away from the car explosion at the end of Undersweet Angels. It's a beautiful moment, ultimately restored for the director's cut DVD. Surely if Undersweet Angels is picked for the archive, they'll use the director's cut, won't they? Surely he won't be remembered for a moment's stupidity.

He closes his eyes and imagines having to fight for this new version of his film yet again.


Samson wakes up to the stale smell of urine. The off-white ceiling doesn't look familiar, although he's annoyingly had to use this bathroom a thousand times, interrupting more important work. Zeus's front paws reach under the door trying to get his attention. Or maybe Captain A.D.D. has just forgotten what's on the other side of the bathroom door again. Samson's first or second wife used to leave the bathroom door open, so Samson put closed-door peeing in all future pre-nups. 
Samson is on his back. His legs straddle the base of the toilet. Did he slip with his socks on the tile or just pass out from unclenching his body to pee?

   Samson's eyes go wide. He pulls himself to his feet. He yanks open the door.

   He kicks off his pants, which--along with the just-as-excited Zeus--threaten to trip him up on his way back to the laptop. He shakes away the new pain in his back (from the fall or from his tenseness and posture while on the laptop all night?) and hits the keys harder than necessary, only to confirm his fear.

   It's noon, but noon local time. He'd been out for three hours. The Great Web Snapshot has come and gone. Elsewhere, as he slept, server farms and computer arrays have indexed, downloaded, and archived the public web as it existed at whatever millisecond that it reached each individual server and page, as it will be remembered wherever mankind goes next. Of course there are minor sites probably still in the queue to be indexed--nothing in life is as instantaneous as it should be--but the major portals, and the more significant websites are certainly captured and done.

   Samson scrolls helplessly through the list of servers, to which Crater's program was supposed to send viral attacks--on Samson's command--in the moments before the Snapshot began, thus excluding those crashed servers and sites from the Archive forever. Zeus walks across the keyboard of the laptop. Her back-left paw hits the ENTER key.

"You couldn't have done that when I was in the bathroom?"

   But now the Minnesota story will outlive Samson. It will outlive the gossipmongers, which Samson supposes is a small consolation. And it will even outlive Minnesota, unless this moon crashing business turns out to be a hoax. It certainly seems possible that a 50-mile wide asteroid impacting with the moon could cause an enormous chunk of it to break off and fall to the Earth below, but he had never been interested enough in popcorn films to do the research for himself.

   It's five years away, but Samson is justly certain he won't be selected for the New Earth shuttles. Few will. Though somehow they'll make room for an Archive containing the Minnesota story and the rest of the World Wide Web, and, if his luck turns with the soon-to-be-worsening tide, one or two of his better films.

   There's an email message from Crater in Samson's inbox, squeezed between probably-angrier ones from ex-wives and actresses scorned. The internet continues to develop and dissipate in its fluctuating aether, and one day it will disappear altogether, along with Samson and Crater and that video store prattler. But from this point on, no online changes will matter to future generations. Perhaps they never did.

   Samson scratches his stubble and considers shaving for the first time in weeks. There's no hurry to get back to Crater and her "Phase II" plan to get buzz going about his body of work, to increase the likelihood that his films will be selected for the Archive.

   Zeus's meow sounds like a cry. She bites his toes through his sock. He'll feed her, and then decide what to tell Crater about his slip-up and what to leave out.

   Maybe he'll take a shower.

The End

« Last Edit: October 31, 2007, 04:31:17 AM by Ed »
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline Ed

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Re: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread
« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2007, 04:32:10 AM »

   Jet skis weren't allowed on the lake. The town voted on the issue not quite three years ago and the result was unanimous. Jet skis were a nuisance, Mayor Bicks pointed out. They polluted the waters with their gas run off and frightened the wildlife. No, jet skis had no place in their little town. The local boys knew better than to break the law, they understood the reasoning behind it and the trouble they would get in for breaking it. Which meant the jet ski currently hopping across Gulliver Lake couldn’t possibly belong to a local. Turning her binoculars to the waves, Alexis soon saw that she was right. In a town as small as Gulliver you knew everybody, whether you wanted to or not, and she sure didn’t know this guy. Sighing, she told herself to turn away but couldn’t. The guy looked to be about her age, give or take a few years, and seemed completely oblivious to the trouble he was sure to get into. He probably didn’t even know it was illegal to be on the lake. Just another out-of-towner sneaking down during the off season to enjoy the lake all alone. It happened more often than the people of Gulliver cared to think about.

   Alexis decided to call him Frosty. There was no way of telling his real name, after all, and Frosty seemed a suitable moniker for someone out jet skiing in this kind of weather. Sure, Frosty was wearing a wet suit, but it was still cold as a witch’s tit when the wind came by. Zipping up her denim jacket, Alexis wished she had worn something warmer to go bird watching. She hadn’t realized how deep into Autumn they were, and from the looks of it neither had Frosty. Still, he looked like he was having fun. The binoculars Alexis had gotten last Christmas were top of the line. She could even see that Frosty was smiling ear to ear despite the wind and water lashing at his face. It was going to break her heart to see him get in trouble, but Alexis supposed it was inevitable. At least he was having a nice time, for what that was worth.

   Maybe Frosty wouldn’t get in trouble, Alexis thought to herself. If he stops soon he could get back to the shore and make it to his car in no time. No one would ever have to even know he’d been here except for her, and she wasn’t going to tell anybody. Alexis felt hopeful for a few seconds but soon deflated. No, Frosty was going to get in trouble, she knew it. The jet ski was making a ton of noise tearing up the water like that. She really should put her binoculars away and go home. It wasn’t her business if some fool wanted to joy ride all over the lake. If he’d paid attention he would have seen the warning signs posted all over. He probably had seen them, they were lime green and stood out like a sore thumb. True, he couldn’t have realized how big a deal it was to bring a jet ski onto the lake, but that hardly excused him breaking the law.

   Alexis fought the urge to get angry. It wouldn’t do any good. Every year a few people would get in trouble out on that lake despite the town’s best efforts. Like her parents had explained to her growing up, there was no use getting fired up about things that couldn’t be changed. And besides, if people would just obey the rules there wouldn’t be any problems in the first place. As a child that had all seemed pretty straight forward to Alexis. Age, however, had made her question authority more and more. By twenty-six she had gotten fed up with the lake rules a number of times. All of them. Other than the jet ski one, there were five others:

1. You must have a license to swim in the lake.

2. No fishing allowed, by boat or by shore.

3. No swimming after six p.m. at night.

4. No loud music or fireworks allowed within one quarter mile of the lake.

5. No swimming beyond the red buoys.

   The first rule was really a nice way to say that only locals were allowed to swim in the lake. The whole permit system had been thought up back in the fifties to make it sound less unfriendly. No one in Gulliver wanted tourists thinking they weren’t welcome in the town. They were welcome, just not in the lake. Not that there were ever many tourists in town. Who wanted to go visit a place with nothing to do and a lake you couldn’t even swim in? The town had tried having a festival for a few years and that had attracted some tourists but after a while they started breaking rules and getting in trouble. The lake was simply too big a temptation, too cool and refreshing on a hot summer day, so in the end the town voted to eliminate the August festival. For a while there was talk of maybe making a new festival for the fall or early spring but it was eventually deemed too risky. Even if it was too cold to swim, people might try getting out to fish.

   Alexis was surprised that nothing had happened to Frosty yet. He was still out there, having the time of his life by the looks of it, and making quite a racket.  She felt so sorry for him. How was he supposed to know how bad it got when you were caught out on the lake? Nobody could know, unless they were local, and that was the really unfair part. It was especially hard when children got caught breaking the rules. That was the biggest reason for shutting down the festivals, kids were sneaking out to the lake behind their parent’s backs. That freaked the town out big time. No one wanted to see kids get into that kind of trouble and they sure didn’t want to have to deal with the parents. You just couldn’t let these things slide, that was all.

   Having to think stuff like that got to a lot of people. Every year a bunch would move away. Teenagers who couldn’t get into a college would find work a few towns over and only come to visit on holidays. It was better for them that way, but the town itself was starting to suffer. Another twenty or so years and there wouldn’t be a real town left at all. Alexis knew that one day she would leave too, it was only a matter of saving up enough money. She would need bus fare, for starters, and after that enough to rent an apartment until she could find a good job. Sometimes Alexis wondered if her parents made her pay rent to teach her a lesson in being a mature adult, which they claimed was the reason, or they really were doing it to keep her in Gulliver a little longer. Without having to pay rent, she would have left last year. Maybe she’d even have a boyfriend.

   There weren’t many guys to date around Gulliver, especially since the best ones went off to the city after college. Alexis wanted a man who was smart, someone who could teach her about the world. Living in such an isolated town all her life, she felt incredibly left behind. She thought things were getting better when she left for college, only to have to leave after two years when her father claimed the family was out of money. She’d wanted to learn so much more. There wasn’t even a book store in Gulliver. A computer would have helped, but Alexis’s mother wouldn’t hear of it. The woman was set in her old fashioned ways and claimed that computers were only for scam artists and pedophiles. Not wanting to argue, Alexis had tried to make herself happy with bird watching and a few school books she’d brought back from college. Her two favorites were the ones on philosophy and world mythology. She had a few fiction books too, from her freshman english class.

   The water on the lake was starting to get choppy now. Frosty noticed and turned to head back to shore. Without knowing it, Alexis crossed both her fingers tight. Maybe he’d make it in time. The waves got bigger though, until without warning Frosty’s jet ski was tossed roughly to the side, spilling him out into the water. A huge tentacle rose up ten feet high then slammed onto the sputtering water craft, reducing it to smoking chucks of twisted metal that sank slowly beneath the waves. Frosty didn’t wait long enough to see that part, as soon as he spotted the tentacle he swam for his life. It wasn’t nearly fast enough. Alexis watched as the tip of a tentacle popped up in front of Frosty’s face, blinding him as it wrapped itself around. Another tentacle went to encircle his waist and, with a brisk tug, Frosty’s head was plucked from his body. The neck had time to spurt a thick stream of blood before the head and body were taken under. Then it was over.

   Alexis tried not to cry, but did anyway. Before she knew it she was sobbing, her head buried in her knees as she cursed the lake and whatever monstrosity lurked within it. No one in town had ever seen the whole thing, or if they did no one had spoken up about it. They only knew that if they followed the rules it left them alone. Outsiders were on their own. Alexis wished she could have warned Frosty, not that he would have believed her. They never did.

The End

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline Ed

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Re: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread
« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2007, 04:35:40 AM »

“What’s your name, then, young lass?”

      I was jealous already; he was looking at her with that light in his eyes, that special light that was usually reserved for me.

     “Suzee,” she replied as she wound a strand of too-blond hair around a lacquered fingernail, “Suzee Lambon.”

     “Susie? That’s a very feminine name. I like feminine names.” His voice was a low gritty drawl, his smile lupine.

      “Su-zee, with two Es and a zee, silly, it’s so much more profound don’t you think?”

     Too easy Suzee more like, I thought. She was a tart and Daddy would see through her. He wouldn’t let such a slut stay.

     Suzee lasted a week, a very long week for me, alone and cold in my bed. Their sex noises seeped up through the floorboards and I felt sick with disgust. But a week was all it was.

     “Where’s Suzee?” I asked Daddy as he trod in a new rose at the bottom of the garden. “Her rent’s late and all her stuff’s gone. I haven’t seen her for days”

     He held my eyes for a moment, a frown slicing his brow. Then he looked down and continued treading. “Threw the whore out. Soon as she said her name was Suzee with a zee I knew. Got no right to be walking God’s earth. She can spread her filth elsewhere. Told you before Angel, stay away from their likes.”

     I was happy again, I had my Daddy back and I was no longer alone at night.
But then came Deni, another tart’s name if ever I heard one. I washed the dishes as they talked at the breakfast table.

     “So why do you want to rent a room? You want to be alone with your boyfriends. That’s it I’ll bet,” drawled Daddy in that voice of his that always makes me shiver.
     Deni giggled. “No, no. I don’t like boys, I haven’t got time for lads, they’re just so immature.” She leaned forward, her pink fingernail tracing the edge of her smile.
Daddy narrowed his eyes. “You’re not one of them lesbians? You don’t look like one.”

     That’s it Daddy, you tell her. Daddy wouldn’t put up with no gender bending. But when I turned from the sink I saw his eyes had the shine of lust to them and knew that Deni would be staying. And if she was a lesbian it seemed Daddy cured her of that.

Daddy loved his roses; he speaks to them as if they understand him. He’d lean in close, caressing them with his breath as he talked. He’d snip off a dead head: “I know it hurts darling but it will make you better, I’m doing it for you. Don’t scream so, it hurts my head. You’ll thank me, wait and see.”

     The roses would be here forever; something to keep Daddy’s mind off those girls. Then Sissy arrived and I was struck still as a statue. I don’t remember my mum; she left when I was just a little girl, ran off with a lodger Daddy said. The picture above the fire in the living room was the only image Daddy kept of her. Then I realised that Sissy was a good twenty years too young to be Mum and that she was just another of Daddy’s tarts.

     “Marsha, sit down and meet Sissy, she’ll be staying in the spare room.”

     “Why bother? She’ll be gone before the month is out.”

     “Marsha,” he growled, “I said sit down and meet Sissy, and apologize for being so rude.”

     I could see Daddy’s anger bubbling under so I did as he said. I pulled out the chair and sat next to her. “Sorry Sissy but for a moment, I thought you were my mum, you look just like her but… too young,” I finished, bowing my head in embarrassment.

     “Hey, that’s really sweet of you to say so. Is that her picture over the fire? She’s very attractive.”

     “Yes. Yes it is.” I smiled. Maybe this one was different. She had a proper name and seemed interested in me.

     Daddy slapped an impatient hand down hard on the table, “Enough of this. I’ll show you your room.”

As the weeks passed I started to grow fond of Sissy and I was sure that she liked me too. I’d never had a friend or mother or been close to anyone apart from Daddy. Other people were a bad influence he said, and I was special and pure and he didn’t want anyone to spoil his Angel.

     One day after shopping together I realised that Sissy had been here for nearly two months now; longer that any of the others. I had grown to love her in a way; she was so unlike me - confident, attractive and independent. I found it hard to believe that anyone like her could have any time for me. As we made tea in the kitchen I felt I had to speak.

     “Sissy, I’ll miss you when you’re gone.”

     “Gone? Marsha, I like it far too much here. Why ever should I want to leave?”
     “Daddy always gets angry. He has… his ideas.”

     “Listen Marsha, I know you think a lot of your dad but perhaps you should try opening your eyes a little.”

     “What’s that supposed to mean?”

     “Oh, Marsha,” she smiled, “you’re still a little girl really. What I mean is people don’t always practice what they preach. Your daddy does an awful lot of preaching but not so much practicing.’

     “Please don’t talk like that about Daddy.” I tried to defend him; “He’s been very good to me… and you.”

     “He rents a room out to me, that’s all. But, being a man, he wants more.”

     Sissy held my gaze until I understood her meaning.

     “Has he tried… anything?”

     “Oh, he’s tried. More than once Marsha, but I think he’s tiring.”

      At first I felt relieved that Daddy was tiring of her: that meant she’d stay and I’d have Daddy back. But I knew what happened when Daddy got bored.

      “Please Sissy, please don’t let that happen, don’t let Daddy get tired of you.”

“Daddy?” I asked as he leant his spade against the shed and took his secateurs to a rose.

     “Yes Angel?” He cut a branch back to the nearest node and I heard what I thought was a gull screech in the distance.

     “What really happened to Mom?”
     “Our Secret,” he said.

     “Our secret?”

     “This bush, it’s called ‘Our Secret.’” He continued to prune and each snip sent a scream through my head.

     “But I want to know!” I had never raised my voice to him before but all the worry about Sissy had made me so angry.

     He turned and glared at me as he jabbed the secateurs in my face. “You really do want to know don’t you little Miss Tantrum?”

     “Did you grow tired of her, is that it? Was she a whore too?”

     He blinked as his eyes slowly filled with tears and his voice turned softer. He shook his head as he spoke: “I loved her.” He turned and looked at the rose at the bottom of the garden. It had been there for as long as I could remember. “A Rose for my Rose.”

     Like a slap in the face I saw the little girl stepping slowly towards a naked woman’s back. The woman was making those sex noises. And as that woman turned to look I saw the respective faces of my mother; of Suzee and of Deni riding Daddy’s supine body.

     “Not fair, not fair! I’m Daddy’s girl!” As the scissors descended time and again until the handle was too slippery to hold in my tiny cramped fingers.

     “So now you know. But you always did. Didn’t you?”

     “No, Daddy, no.” I was crying as he stepped nearer.

     “Of course you did. What do you think happened to all those girls? I can’t keep covering for you Marsha! You did it; you wanted them out of the way!”

     “Not Sissy, Daddy. Not my Sissy’

     “Not your Sissy?” Your Sissy?” You mean you and her… Well that’s why she wouldn’t…”

     He seemed relieved. He would rather believe that I was… like that than believe that Sissy had spurned him. I was enraged. It was still them he wanted; always them and I would forever be on my own. I snatched the spade up and ran at Daddy. They wouldn’t have him; he was mine, all mine. I swung the spade at his head as he raised the secateurs.

I can’t breathe but that’s not important because I am no longer alone. Sissy lies next to me placed there by Daddy. Even now he shows his love and forgiveness by laying us together. Another shovel of suffocating earth slaps against our faces.

     Daddy’s happy; he has two new roses. He treads them in as I lie without breathing next to Sissy in the cold wet earth. Daddy walks away but soon returns and I hear his voice seep through the clinging soil.

     “Remember Angel, I’m doing this for you, all for you.”

     The damp earth muffles the metallic snipping. And the bushes scream while my daddy prunes.

The End

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline Ed

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Re: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread
« Reply #20 on: October 31, 2007, 04:37:13 AM »

I started turning blue at around ten in the morning, during our weekly staff meeting at work. First I noticed the tips of my fingers going cold and cracking around the hardened flesh of the nail area. The coldness stopped there but the blueness travelled up my arms and around my neck during the course of the meeting. I couldn’t see it at first as it was hidden by my suit but I became distinctly aware of a warm fuzzy sensation tickling the hairs on my arm and chest.

I hid my hands beneath the table as the rest of the team waffled over various statistics, but allowed myself a peak down below.

They were dark twilight blue now and really cold despite the rest of me feeling warm.

“Are you ok Roger?” asked a colleague, clearly aware that something was afoot.

“Yes, why?” I replied.

“Well you are sweating quite heavily and…”


“Well, one of your eyebrows appears to have fallen into your tea.”

I stared down at the hair-slug floating in my cup and decided to take action.

“Excuse me for a second!” I said and hastily left the conference.

In the toilet cubicles things got worse. After stumbling past a work colleague on my way in I fell desperate into the cubicle and slammed the door loudly behind me. The warm fuzz was now all over me and I was twitching like a rabid. I tore off my blazer and shirt and spazzed out on the floor wrapped around the bog bowl. Pulling down my trousers to see what was going on I noticed my legs were bluer than my hands and my chest was bluer than my legs.

Suddenly I had an overwhelming urge to be sick but when doing so all over myself, all that spurted from my mouth was thick bright pink sludge (a bit like McDonald’s milk-shake).

What was happening to me? I stood in attempt to compose, unlocked the cubicle door and stared at the reflection of my face in the mirror. It was still white, whiter than ever actually, beyond pale.

I excused myself from the office for the rest of the afternoon and immediately phoned my Doctor.

“Nothing to worry about!” he said. “People turn blue all the time. It can be down to stress, over-working, all sorts.”

“But I feel terrible too!” I barked into the phone.

“Just rest yourself for the rest of the week. You’ll be as pink as fairy-time come Monday morning.”

“Ok, is there anything I should take?”

“Hmmm,” the Doctor queried on the other end of the line. “No just a couple of Nurofen should do the trick. Remember rest is the key.”

I hung up the phone and stared at my reflection in the living room mirror. Common my arse I thought as I stared at my face which was starting to twinge slightly in tone and was softly becoming a light shade of turquoise. Maybe I should get a second opinion.

“No,” the Egyptian Doctor Malak abruptly replied. “There is nothing wrong with turning blue. It is a beautiful colour and very racist to think otherwise.”

I shivered uncontrollably behind his desk. By now my entire body was as blue as the sky. “But… I’m dying, I know it!”

“You are stupid.”

I decided the most sensible thing for me to do was to coat my entire body in a mixture of pink and beige body-paints that I found on the shelves of a west-end sex store. The paint was fortunately also edible so would be easy to lick off at short notice if need be.

Come Friday evening after a west-end shop slog, I covered myself head to toe with the skin like body paint and allowed it to dry in front of a fan heater. I must admit the effect was startling. I looked like one of these sun-bed girls who spent nearly every waking hour modelling their skin colours to that of a wood finish. But compared to the alternative it was fine. Now all I had to do was put the tone to the test.

The local discotheque was flooded with bright young sparkly starlets donned to the nines in the latest trends. Loud modern music spewed from the over-sized speakers like the sounds of a thousand machines making music while at war.

Light beams stretched colour across the room while mad DJs spun vinyl from the safety of their booths high above the crowd of dance-floor destructors that bopped to their beat.

I was merely the weirdo in the corner, the man at the back in the Macintosh with complexion issues. This was probably not the most appropriate of places to test my blemish considering most of the people in here looked bluer than I did under the ultra-violets.

I decided some exposure on the dance-floor was needed so downed my happy juice and ventured out to bop.

Now I normally manage to clear dance-floors without being blue but today something happened. I don’t know whether it was the mix of different coloured body paints, ultra-yellow hyper-lights and the blue undercoating but for some reason my skin seemed to glow aluminous like a man on fire.

I started dancing awkwardly as I always did but then the crowd of excitable youngsters began standing around me and staring in awe at my beaming flesh.

They were amazed and looked at me as if locked in a trance.

Wow, I saw one of them mouth, and then one by one they all started adopting my dance moves as if under hypnosis.

Four hours later after the evening had ended I left the club to go home and crash in a drunken slumber but was somehow curious to see the crowd of about thirty on-lookers follow me out of the club and stand staring at me in the middle of the street.

“What’s wrong?” I asked but got met with a shared silence. They just kept staring with their mouths open like dogs ogling a piece of meat.

Feeling a slight fear I turned to leave but the crowd started following me. I stopped when I realised this and then decided to pick up my pace.

The crowd picked up their pace too and even when my pace turned into a manic run I soon found myself being chased across London by the maddened crowd.

I screamed as I ran and they screamed too! They were mirroring my every activity. I didn’t know what else to do other than continue running screaming for my life.

“Hi its Roger here, I don’t think I’m gonna make it into work today,” I spoke into the phone to my boss the next morning.

“Oh,” my Boss replied dubiously. “Still feeling a bit unsure?”

“Yeeeaah,” I said and then stared round at the thirty clubbers all standing there in my living room staring at me.

“I’ll probably be back in a week or so”, I said and hung up the phone.

My skin tone hadn’t got any worse since it peaked in blueness yesterday, but it hadn’t got any better either.

The warm fuzzy feeling had now gone and I was beginning to accept the fact that I could very well end up staying like this for the rest of my life. 

Meanwhile, I had bigger fish to fry. There were thirty hypnotised clubbers in my living room.

I turned to face them and decided that maybe it was time I started trying to strike up a conversation.

“Hey guys, what’s happening?” I said extending my fist in that cool way.

They just stared, and stared.

“My name’s Roger, I’m an accountant for a law-firm called Strathe & Quolm “I like playing tennis, reading and visiting art galleries”.

Suddenly, one of the female clubbers opened her mouth and then fell to the floor dead.

“Oh God”, I said.

“She died for you,” said the male on-looker who stood next to her. 

“I didn’t mean to!” I replied in panic and surprise that one of them had actually spoke.

“We will all die for you,” the male went on.

“Look,” I decided it was time for action. “This has gone on far too long enough, too far! You need food and rest you can’t simply stand watching me until you drop down dead.”

Thud. Another of the crew hit the floor.

“Oh God!” I panicked massively now. “No look can’t you see you’re all dying and you can’t stay here! My landlord will be furious.”

“But there is nothing else,” the male onlooker spoke again. “We have seen the light. Without you there is only darkness.”

This was indeed a conundrum to be reckoned with, and not one I really wished to deal with when I had skin issues.

I decided there was only one thing for it. I had to get in touch with a professional hypnotist to break them out of their trance.

Funnily enough there was only one hypnotist in the yellow pages and her contact number was listed with an old dialling code, even though it was the latest edition of the book.

Her name was Madame Bonobo. She claimed to be a psychic exorcist and a general expert in all things other worldly.

I dialled her number and let the phone ring, and ring, and ring until finally a click and the start of some recorded chanting followed by a voice claiming; Madame Bonobo is not at home right now but if you think your name and number down the receiver she will get back to you sooner than you think.

I decided to speak my details. “Hi my name’s Roger Banister and I need you to break a trance for me. Actually I need you to break about thirty trances for me but I hope that won’t affect the price. Also, do you know anyone who can skilfully dispose of dead bodies?” Thud.

“You rang?” came the voice from my left. I dropped the phone and turned round to the doorway surprised to see who I could only presume to be Madame Bonobo.

Even the thirty hypnotised clubbers broke their trances and turned to the left in surprise.

Bonobo looked a bit like Shirley MacClaine, but a bad gypsy version with way too much make-up.


“Bonobo,” she followed.

“How did you-?”

“I am psychic. I knew you would call so left two days in advance. I also knew that you would pay me fairly and in such abundance so made special effort to be on time.” She spoke in a Marlboro tinted German accent and then lit one to prove it.

“You are the blue man?” she asked the obvious.

“How did you know?” I replied without thinking.

“I am Bonobo,” the Madame spoke as if stating the obvious and then raised her leg revealing a black stocking strap and veracious veins. She rested her foot on the arm of my sofa. “I know all but see nothing.”

“You mean, you’re psychic abilities are based on something much deeper than basic sight and emerge from your inner core?”

“No. I am blind, but can walk well through life without guidance.”


“Now,” she said. “What seems to be your problem?”

“Well,” I said and turned my head towards the gathering of hypnotised clubbers.

“Hmmm”, Bonobo spoke. “The village of the idiots.”

I nodded.

“Ok!” Bonobo clapped her hands and addressed the clan. “Idiots! Time for you to wake up!”

The group just continued staring.

“Leave this man alone!” Bonobo waved her finger and tutted.

“Are you not going to put them under some kind of hypnosis?” I asked.

“They are already under hypnosis. You can’t hypnotise the hypnotised, this would cause big brain implosion and many mops will be needed. Plus I don’t want to waste vibes on these sows, when all they need is stern persuasion,” she said and returned to the group. “Out everybody, get out!”

They did not move. The Madame came close to me and whispered in my ear: “You know. Maybe you have some kind of uniform to wear? There is something about the German accent and a man in a uniform that frightens people into submission.”

After half an hour of screaming, one by one Madam Bonobo slowly managed to get each of the clubbers to leave of their own accord. She slammed the door on the last of them and then turned to face me with a smile.

I handed her a cup of tea. “Thank you so much for your help!”

“No ‘twas no problem,” she replied.

“And thank God those two had only passed out with nervous exhaustion!” I added. “I’m not fit to go through all that explaining to the police, especially after my history with the electric Eskimo,” I continued.

“No all your problems are over Mr. Man,” Bonobo said and punched my cheek in a friendly American manner.

“Maybe we can go and get some kind of refreshment yes yes, after all this hard days work?”

“Ah I’m not really up for it to tell you the truth. I am still blue from head to foot and don’t want to end up hypnotising anyone else with my skin colour.”

“I have heard of a certain type of Indian tea that was known to have turned an entire island blue. Rumour has it was denied all knowledge of by the manufacturers and smuggled abroad on some random ship to be planted on some other poor sops far away.”

“You know, I was drinking tea when this happened.”

“Maybe this was the tea that turned you this way maybe?”

“Could be, could be. Only one way to find out!”

“Yes we’re all blue here,” said my Boss down the phone.

“Really? That’s great.”

“Yup, the whole building is running blue.”

“I know what’s doing it sir! It’s the new Indian tea the cafeteria stock!”

“Wonderful, I guessed that all along. I’ll be damned if it wasn’t good old fashioned British tea we’d still be white to this day.”

“Of course sir, you can bet your money on it. I suppose we’ll all have to probably stay this colour now forever too!”

It was then that Madame Bonobo interrupted. “Actually I know someone who may be able to help you blue people.”

I stared down at her with curiosity: “I’m sure you do.”


Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline Ed

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Re: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread
« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2007, 04:38:01 AM »

It’s what the natives once called it, centuries ago, in some long-forgotten tongue. When the white men came to claim the land that was no man’s to claim, they changed its name. They called it everything from people to places and things. But they should never have done so. Like the crosses placed in barren arctic regions to warn travelers that an area is hazardous, the name of the lake is a warning. A warning of danger. A warning of death. A warning of something far worse.

White men may have changed the name, but they can never erase the threat of Vulture Lake.

* * *

   Beverly knelt by the edge of the lake, cleaning his knife blade in the murky water.

   He looked out and over the lake, to the mountains on the horizon, and wondered what this place would have looked like if it hadn’t been polluted and over-fished by men. His grandmother would have told him the thought was just the Indian coming out in him. She would have said it was in his blood to care and take care of the land.


   At 6’3 and 260 pounds, with shoulders as broad as two average college students standing side by side, no one called him Beverly.

   He looked up to see Caitlyn, the whole reason for him to be on this trip. They were at the lake on a camping trip for Spring Break. There were nine of them; all classmates and biology majors from the university.

   When Beverly had been invited on the trip, he’d initially declined. He knew the group’s idea of “camping” would be to get trashed while trashing the place. When he found out that Caitlyn was going to be there, though, he’d quickly changed his mind. She was pretty, but not like most of the other college girls. She didn’t wear a lot of makeup or purposely revealing clothes that would embarrass him if he ever introduced her to his grandmother.

   “Hey, Caitlyn.”

   She smiled and Beverly wondered how many women would’ve been frightened off by a huge bear of a man cleaning his knife in the lake.

   “What’ve you been up to?”

   He was pleased, but not surprised, to see that she was sober (unlike the rest of the group who’d packed more beer than they had food into their coolers).

   “Oh, I’ve been hiking the trails. It’s really gorgeous out here.”

   Beverly looked around himself, although he’d been looking at the scenery ever since they’d arrived there that morning. It was beautiful; he just wished he could find one spot where he could look all around without seeing anything paved, graveled or littered.

   “It is, isn’t it? You ever wonder what it’d look like untouched, though?”

   Caitlyn nodded thoughtfully.

   “Yeah, if I squint just a little, I can almost picture it. So, what have you been up to?”

   Beverly flicked his knife blade closed.

   “I found something interesting near the observation point. Want to check it out?”


   As they walked down the trail, Beverly wondered how many women would have been so willing to wander off with a huge bear of a man to a secluded spot.

   Even with the cigarette butts and empty bottles he passed, Beverly was feeling pretty good.

   They reached the observation point and veered off onto a dirt trail. They followed it until they reached a spot beside the lake that would have been breathtaking if the ground had not been paved to hold a picnic table covered by a metal awning.

   “Check it out,” Beverly whispered, pointing to the awning.

   They were standing at the top of the trail, about twenty feet from the picnic table so that they were looking down at the top of the unsightly awning.

   On the edges of the metal structure sat nearly a dozen vultures, all still as statues. They were beautiful creatures. Large and powerful with eyes the blackest black. Beverly had always felt an affinity to the birds, ever since he’d been given his Indian name. These particular birds were all facing towards the center of the square they made on the awning, making it look as if they were having some kind of bizarre telepathic conference. When one bird flew away, a different one arrived immediately to take its place.

   “Weird,” Caitlyn whispered. “It’s like they’re talking to each other.”

   Beverly nodded.

   They watched the birds for awhile longer, amazed how they retained their silent, square discussion even when one vulture replaced another.

   Beverly couldn’t have described it, but he felt something more unusual was happening there than just the normal flocking pattern of birds. The longer he watched it, the more convinced he was that something was going on there. He thought Caitlyn felt it too, because she had inched closer to him until her shoulder was touching his arm.

   Beverly didn’t mind so much.

   “We should probably be getting back before dark.”

   Caitlyn’s slight whisper caused the 6’3, 260 pound bear of a man to jump.

   He looked up at the sky.

   The sun was setting, although it was behind the mountains and he could only tell because of the change in the sky. The gray clouds had purple underbellies, wisps of cotton candy color and designs, drifting in the fading sky. Beverly felt a tug at his heart, knowing the world below could never compare to that rapidly-changing beauty.

   And then the scene shifted, as every cloud of every sunset of every night has ever done. Color drained to only gray. The clouds seemed to drift a little quicker. It grew darker until the sky above matched the dismal world below. Dark and bleak.

   “Yeah, let’s go.”

   Beverly didn’t want to admit that he didn’t want to be there with the vultures when it grew completely dark.

   They walked back up the trail, both noticing how many birds were there at the lake this summer. They had both been there before on different occasions, and they agreed that there had never been so many. Beverly thought it was kind of nice; it was as if the birds were reclaiming their land.

When they arrived at the campsite, Beverly felt like he had when watching the sunset a few minutes before. One moment he had been walking through the woods, chatting with Caitlyn, and the next he was back in reality with a bunch of college kids he didn’t really care for. One minute, magic; the next, *poof.*

If it weren’t for Caitlyn being there, Beverly would have grabbed his sleeping bag and found another campsite immediately.

The area was hardly what could be called a “campsite.” Aside from the tents and campfire, the trampled land had been turned into what happened to the rest of the world man inhabited: it was converted from nature to convenience. Trees had been hacked down years before to make an unnatural clearing. Grass no longer grew there. In its place were empty beer bottles and other trash.

The group of college kids acted not as if they were guests in nature, but the kings of it. There were seven of them, nine including Beverly and Caitlyn. Beverly had secretly given them all nicknames to represent what he thought of them. It was kind of like a weird twist on the names his tribe had once bestowed on its members, decades ago. His grandmother had told him all about it. She said, decades before, when the Indians had not become like the white men and grew ashamed of their heritage, they had been given titles to each other that showed their true selves.

“These titles were always attributes of nature and animals,” his grandmother had said. “It was the greatest compliment to the tribe member because it showed they had become one with their surroundings. It showed they were attuned with the world and themselves.”

His grandmother had then bestowed a tribal name on Beverly, then only ten years old. Friend of Vultures.

“Gramma,” Beverly had whined. “I don’t like that name. Vultures eat dead things.”

“No, child. Vultures are beautiful, proud creatures who sustain the natural order of things. They are not ashamed to do what must be done. And one day, you too will carry out your duties with pride.”

The younger Beverly had been satisfied with the explanation, and as the years passed he found himself viewing vultures and their functions as beautiful, dutiful processes.

The group of college kids at the lake that Spring Break would never have understood his affinity with the birds, nor nature itself. They all fit the nicknames Beverly had given them as well as he did his own.

Right then, Sloth and The Neck were flicking beer caps into the campfire in some odd competition that only an alcohol-addled mind could comprehend and enjoy. Bloomingdales was dozing topless on a padded lawn chair (no one had bothered to tell her the sun had set), while the Perv sat a few feet away, pretending like he was reading a magazine. Earless was talking loudly and animatedly on a cell phone, pacing from spot to spot in pursuit of getting a better signal. Cain and The Leech were discussing whether or not they’d brought enough beer for the trip and whether or not they’d drunk too much of it to drive to the nearest liquor store.

Caitlyn sighed beside him. Beverly smiled to himself. He’d given a nickname to Caitlyn as well, but he didn’t plan on ever telling her.

“Home sweet home,” Caitlyn grumbled, and Beverly couldn’t help but laugh.

“If this is home, I think I’m running away.”

She grinned back.

“Not without me, your not.”

Beverly tried not to imagine what it would be like to wander off and set up camp in another spot with Caitlyn. Just the two of them, alone.

“Well, I guess we should make the most of it.”

Caitlyn walked into camp, and Beverly watched her with a smile, thinking how she was like a too-brief sunset, bright and beautiful even though the world all around was ugly and dark.

* * *

   The only good thing about the others in the group getting annoyingly loaded was that they all passed out before too late, leaving Beverly and Caitlyn alone by the campfire.

   After a few hours of listening to the meaningless, drunk babble, Beverly’s nerves instantly relaxed when he could hear the grasshoppers again.

   “This is nice,” Caitlyn said, warming her hands on the fire.

   “Yeah,” Beverly agreed. “At least it is now.”

   She laughed, and the sound was as soothing as the grasshoppers’ song.

   “I didn’t think those guys were ever going to calm down.”

   “Me neither.”

   They spent a few more moments, enjoying the silence and each other’s quiet company.

   “So, why did you decide to come one this trip anyway?” Caitlyn asked. “I know you can’t stand those guys any more than I can.”

   Beverly blushed, hoping that if she noticed his flushed cheeks she would think it was just the heat of the campfire.

   “I heard you were coming.”

   The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them, but he didn’t regret it.

   Caitlyn looked up at him and smiled, the fire dancing in her eyes and a soft breeze lifting her hair. Beverly had the sudden impulse to memorize that image, the way she looked just then, so that he could carry it forever with him in his mind.

   “So why did you come, then, if you can’t stand them either?”

   She looked down at the fire, shaking her head back and forth so slightly that he wondered if she was even aware she was moving it.

   “You’d think I was crazy if I told you.”

   “Try me.”

   She continued to shake her head, ever so slightly.

   “I don’t know.”

   “If you do, I’ll tell you why I was named Beverly.”

   She stopped shaking her head and looked at him sideways, the fire still gleaming in her eyes.


“You first.”

She told him hesitantly and softly, as if afraid he would think less of her when she told him.

“I had this weird dream. I was flying, up high over the lake, so high that the trees were just little dots. I could feel the wind beneath me and in my hair. It was so realistic, it’s like it was really happening, you know?”

Beverly smiled at her.

“So you came to the lake to fly?”

She shifted uncomfortably.

“I told you it was weird. I don’t think I’m really going to fly. It’s just, I had to come.”

“There’s nothing wrong with acting on your instincts. I think it’s kinda nice. Although I would have preferred if you’d came because you heard I’d be here.”

Caitlyn smiled back at him.

“Well, sometimes our reasons change. Okay, now your turn. Why were you named Beverly?”   

   So Beverly told her. He told her how his mother had conceived him after she’d been brutally raped. He told her how she’d harbored such an intense fear and hatred of men after the experience that she couldn’t even accept her child was male. He told her how she’d named her son Beverly, in some sort of denial of the fact. And he told her how she’d killed herself only two months after his birth.

   Even the grasshoppers seemed quieter after Beverly’s story.

   “So, I was raised by my grandmother. When she told me all this when I was older, she told me how she’d thought of changing my name. But then she decided against it. She always said everyone has two names: the name they’re given and the one they earn. She said that the first one is not nearly as important as the second, so there was really no reason to change it.”

   Caitlyn took his hand in hers. He had been so involved in his story that he hadn’t even noticed when she’d moved beside him. Now he was well aware of her closeness.

   “Have you earned it yet? Your second one?”

   He nodded, feeling her smooth fingers dwarfed by his own rough hand.

   “Yeah. It’s ‘Friend of Vultures.’”

   Caitlyn smiled.

   “I like that. It suits you.”

   Beverly looked down at their intertwined hands. Hers looked so small. So delicate and fragile.

   He felt her other hand lift his huge bear of a face until their eyes met.

   “Well, Friend of Vultures, what about me?” Her words were seductive in their softness. “Do I have a second name?”

   Her eyes were shining with the firelight. His were the blackest black, like a bird. Like a vulture.


   It was a strangled whisper. He had never planned on telling her the name he felt best suited her. When he had met her at school, he’d known it immediately. She was so kind and down to earth, the kind of person who would never go too far in life because she would never walk on anyone else. He'd known her name immediately, but he’d hoped he was wrong. He’d hoped . . . well, he didn’t realize how accurate it was until he’d reached Vulture Lake.

   “What is it, then?”

   Her words so slight, he didn’t know if they’d been spoken or merely thought. Her eyes, gleaming, gleaming.

   Above them, something huge and black blocked out the night stars. There was a huge whooshing sound, like the flapping of giant wings.

   Caitlyn looked up at the commotion, and Beverly found it was easier to do what had to be done without those flickering eyes looking at him.

   “It’s ‘Carrion,’” he answered in a choked sob.

* * *

   No one ever knew what happened that spring at the place once called Vulture Lake. No one alive anyway.

   There wasn’t a lot of evidence. Everything was gone; tents, supplies, people. Even all the trash that usually littered the place had disappeared. The bodies were never found, just huge quantities of blood soaked into the ground. This was blamed in part on the birds.

   The huge flocks of birds that had descended on the lake must have picked clean the bodies, leaving not even bone. They sat on the tree branches and ground, picnic tables and metal awnings, eyes gleaming the blackest black.

   Only they alone knew what horror had happened at Vulture Lake that spring. And they weren’t telling.

The End
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline Ed

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Re: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread
« Reply #22 on: October 31, 2007, 04:38:43 AM »
4... 3... 2... 1


Pascal banged silently on the hatch, but swore loudly into his helmet radio.

It was an act of desperation since although the metallic torch would send sound waves reverberating through to Jacqui inside the station, she’d already condemned him to die. Two other astronaut friends had already disappeared, presumed adrift, from the Mars orbiter.

Four minutes of air left. Maybe an additional minute of residual air in his spacesuit before suffocation unless he opened up. He wasn’t going to do that. He might as well asphyxiate with the slim possibility of a last second reprieve than have his head slowly explode.

He could try reasoning again.

“Jacqui, come in,” he said, ruing the irony of needing her to say ‘come in’.

“Have you anything new to say?”


105 minutes earlier

In spite of losing two friends already he felt he had no choice but to undertake an extra-vehicular-activity mission.

   Jacqui’s bloodshot eyes betrayed her incessant crying since Ed, their Texan telecoms expert, left on the first EVA to fix the comms antennae module that had mysteriously become inoperable.  Without it they’d survive although it would’ve been tricky if life support failed without being able to summon help, or if they needed assistance when their orbital geometry changed. The latter occurred shortly after they’d lost contact with Ed. Suddenly their problems became life threatening. So the second-engineer, Kate went EVA, but this time with Pascal as buddy.

   Before Pascal left, Jacqui tugged at his arm. “It’s not too late if you find him.”

   “It’s been over an hour, Jacqui,” he said, and then he shut up. He was going to say, ‘since his air would have run out.’ Although he was in his suit, he gave the redhead – short-cropped for easy maintenance - a hug. “Of course I’ll look for him, and bring the big bastard in; him and his horse-playing keeping us guessing.”

   Between renewed sobs, she grabbed him harder to make sure he looked at her eyes. “I know the cameras don’t show the moment he dropped out of sight, but he’s probably in a blind spot. And there’s an emergency oxygen cache he might have reached.” Pascal sniffed his air supply trying to guess of which metallic tang it reminded him, in addition to that of new plastic. 

   If Jacqui was thinking straight she should’ve known that the cache hadn’t been touched or the sensors would have told them. Ed’s not responded to the suit radio, independent of the comms array that had gone bust. Anyone would think Mars missions were really jinxed like the pundits said with so many early unmanned voyages dropping out of sight.

   “It’s time I set off after Kate.” He was three minutes late, even though only one can get through the airlock at a time.

   Two minutes later he was outside. He was about to link his safety line to a loop attached to the exterior when he thought: No, that’s what they would’ve done.

He checked the outer hatch was sealed and set off using handholds around the railway-coach-sized station to reach the antennae. The aerial array module with its Yagi and dish aerials along with the cone transmitters showed no sign of being hit by micrometeorites or damage from internal pipe blowouts. Ed and Kate must have gone out of sight over the other side tracing the conduits.

   “Kate, I’m out here at the AM. Where are you? Come in.”

   Nothing, although a flash of light seemed to come from over the blind side. It could have been a number of things including a sunlight reflection off the slowing spinning station. Suppose...

   “Jacqui? I’ve an idea. Maybe there’s a short that’s disabled the aerial array and electrified the safety line? Are you getting this?” Nothing but crackles, but she might’ve been able to receive. “The safety line shouldn’t conduct electricity but a powerful surge of static might stun an astronaut. Not wearing mine, by the way, or can you see that on images?” 

   He tried to raise the one likely colleague with air supply. “Kate, you did anchor to the line? Kate?” Still nothing as he steadied himself by holding onto an Earth-pointing parabolic dish.

   If a fault was preventing transmission back to Earth it meant he could... “Hey, fuck you Congress, fuck you, twice, Space Apportion Committee. While I’m at it, fuck the President, vice president, you’re all loonies,,, who else?”

   “Receiving you, Pascal, you’re the fucking loony here. All you say is being recorded. By the way, the images are very grainy. There must be electronic disturbance. Maybe there’s something in your hypothesis. Over.”

   “Oh well – no promotion. I can hardly hear you, Jacqui. Have you seen or heard from Kate?” He couldn’t be bothered with protocol call signs.

   She might have replied but all he could hear were garbled crackles. He wondered if the sun had shot out a flare they knew nothing of because of the radio malfunction. Surely not. Their own solar radiometers would have alerted them and Mission Control would have yelled days ago unless it was particularly large and caught Earth unawares too. A big solar flare could induce a charge in some equipment, but it wouldn’t disappear his colleagues. They must have become entangled or...

   “Jacqui, I don’t know if you can hear me. I should follow the likely direction of Kate over the starboard side, which I can’t see from here. But that’s what she probably did, and maybe Ed. Suppose there’s something there? I don’t know what. Some broken machinery, high magnetic or other force that prevents them returning. Jacqui?”

   “Pas...Go over... it... Ed... ver.”

   “Hey, at least I can hear some of your message, Jacqui. Please repeat.”

   “...idiot... find Ed... Kate...ov..”

   “Jacqui, we need to think about this. Look, Kate has at least an hour of air.”

    He realized her priority was to find her long-standing boyfriend from space training days. Even so, it would be sheer stupidity for Pascal to sail over to where they now had no comms, no images and no one coming back.

   Part of him wanted to do the noble deed and see if his friends were merely caught up in cables or loose struts. Odd though, because if the station had been hit by a stray meteorite or a gas escape from a ruptured pipe created obstructions they would have felt it on the inside. Unless it happened when they were all asleep, but then any such event would have been captured by sensors and cameras. Ah, but no one’s had the time to go through them all, and if a proximity alert klaxon had been turned off or faulty...

   “Jacqui, I’m going to free-flight around the station. I’ve got the cam on in front of my helmet and the other looking back from my backpack. You getting this?”

   Nothing. He prepared himself wondering how far from the station would be safe, as if any distance was. He should stay within suit radio range, the extreme range was a kilometre or more; too far for him to see dark niches properly.

   He heard a radio crackle, and then, “Roger your fr... flight. Over.”

   Steadying himself at fifty metres from the aerial array he used the hydrazine jet to puff himself forward. It was hard work maintaining a roughly circular path because Newton made that damned law about moving in a straight line unless acted upon. At the same time as watching his own movement he looked at the dark side of the station for Ed and Kate.

   “Jacqui, are all the lights on that could be on this side? It’s blacker than your knickers.”

   No reply. Presumably the external lights had blown.

   Then a flash, similar to the one he thought he saw earlier. This time it blinded him because he’d had no sun filters lowered on his helmet. He puffed the hydrazine to stop his forward motion and waited for his eyes to readjust, as surely they would. He felt nauseous and worked to stop the awful experience of throwing up in his suit. The new plastic odour in his air supply carried the distinct flavour of last night’s curry. A shiver ran up and then down his spine.



Three minutes.

   Appealing to Jacqui again was not going to work. She must think he’d let her down and not looked properly for Ed. Maybe she thought three minutes plus x residual seconds were sufficient to start another search. He had to employ a subterfuge, and one occurred to him.


Two, one minute.

   He’d waited to make her think he’d been round and back. Thanks to John Wayne the Texan accent was easy to copy, especially over crackly radios.

   “Jacqui, honey, let me in. It’s Ed, here. I’ve less than ten seconds air.”

   If he’d given her more time to think she might have worked out it couldn’t be Ed but she released the hatch lock.

   Her scream reverberated through the station making him wish he’d not removed Ed’s helmet until he’d ear mufflers ready. Luckily, the torch was handy and she now floated, silently.

   He caught his reflection in a shiny panel. Why did she scream? His protuberant eyes were much more efficient than the two inset human orbs. Perhaps it was his scaly epidermis. No matter. He wondered how long it would be for the other humans to send a rescue mission.


Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline Ed

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Re: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread
« Reply #23 on: October 31, 2007, 04:40:28 AM »
That's all folks :afro:

Thanks again to everybody for taking part. Don't forget to vote for your three favourites. May the best story win :cheers:
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline Ed

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Re: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread
« Reply #24 on: November 03, 2007, 09:36:27 PM »
Now unlocked, in case anybody would like to leave a comment about the stories.  :afro:
Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]

Offline SamLeeFreak

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Re: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread
« Reply #25 on: November 03, 2007, 10:32:18 PM »
Well, I got spanked, but I'm still proud of my story. What can I say, I have a soft spot for giant tentacled water monsters.  :goldt:

Offline Sallyq

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Re: Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread
« Reply #26 on: November 04, 2007, 02:56:02 AM »
It was a very tough job to vote, and there are a lot of good stories on here which I hope the authors will go on to sell somewhere else. I'll give my thoughts on individual stories later.

Cafe Doom  |  Competitions and Markets  |  Short Story Competitions and Markets  |  Doom's 3rd Anniversary Comp 2007  |  Stories for 3rd Anniversary comp - Story Thread

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