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NeoGAF Creative Writing Challenge #95 - "Aftermath"

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Cyan

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Theme - "Aftermath"

Word Limit: 2000

Submission Deadline: Friday, April 20 by 11:59 PM Pacific.

Voting begins Saturday, April 21, and goes until Monday, April 23 at 11:59 PM Pacific.

Please note the changed deadlines!

Optional Secondary Objective: MRUs

I've been thinking of doing this as a secondary for a while, since I've found the concept so useful, but I've held off as it's more of an editing tool than a writing tool. Still, I think it's valuable enough to be worth trying out. See next post for details.


Submission Guidelines:

- One entry per poster.
- All submissions must be written during the time of the challenge.
- Using the topic as the title of your piece is discouraged.
- Keep to the word count!

Voting Guidelines:

- Three votes per voter. Please denote in your voting your 1st (3 pts), 2nd (2 pts), and 3rd (1 pt) place votes.
- Please read all submissions before voting.
- You must vote in order to be eligible to win the challenge.
- When voting ends, the winner gets a collective pat on the back, and starts the new challenge.

NeoGAF Creative Writing Challenge FAQ
Previous Challenge Threads and Themes


The Entries:

Crunched - "Digits"
Valerie Cherish - "facepalm.jpg"
n0b - "Invitation to Work"
John Dunbar - "After the Roses"
Ward - "Brevity to the Point, Yet a Missed Opportunity to have a Title Longer than the Submission"
Tangent - "Monkey Trap"
weepy - "Bang"
Grakl - "Lab Log"
Bootaaay - "Earth-2"
Gattsu25 - "Tnayuocuos"
Sober - "Peacetime"
Ashes1396 - "Requiem for a Broken Arm"
Cyan - "Voice in the Dark"
 

Cyan

Banned
Jun 10, 2004
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Huh?

Motivation-reaction units. Also known as the basic building blocks of a scene. The idea comes from Dwight Swain, but Randy Ingermannson (the Snowflake guy) has a great explanation of them on this page (scroll down to "Small-scale structure of a scene"). I'll give a quick overview.

The short version: in an MRU, something happens (the motivation), and the main character reacts to it (reaction).

The long version: most scenes using "showing" or in-the-moment storytelling can be broken down into smaller pieces. These are MRUs: something happens, the character reacts. Something else happens, the character reacts again. In order to ensure a smooth flow of story, you should make sure the motivation and reaction happen in the right order. This sounds trivial, but it can be surprisingly difficult to get right.

Here, a quick example:

The giraffe opened its mouth to reveal wicked fangs. It bent its neck lower, right towards Noah." (motivation)

Shock jolted through him. He flinched backwards and pulled his trusty knife. Then, muscles tautening, he leapt for the giraffe. 'There'll be no vampire giraffes on my ark!' he bellowed. (reaction)

The giraffe dodged easily, hooves kicking up water. It laughed, a hollow, booming sound that seemed to come from the depths of a giraffe well. (next motivation)

Noah clapped his hands over his ears and fell to the ground. (next reaction) etc, etc.​

So what's the point of all this? The idea--and remember that this is an editing tool; this isn't something to think about while you're actually writing!--is to look over your scene and make sure it breaks down properly into MRUs.

A motivation is external. It is objective. It is what a movie camera would see. It can consist of several events, if they're all happening in quick succession (like the giraffe first opening its mouth, then bending down). It could be several paragraphs long, or it could be a single sentence. In any case, it should generally be followed by a paragraph break.

Next up, the reaction. It's internal. It's subjective. It consists of the character's immediate feelings, reflexive actions, and rational actions--in that order. Note what Noah does above in his first reaction. First he feels shock. Then he flinches and pulls his knife, both reflex actions. Finally he attacks while shouting, a rational action. Why this order? Because that's generally the order things happen in. First you feel something, then your body reacts, then your mind reacts. Note that not all of these are necessary in a given reaction. But it's important that if they are present, they be in the right order.

Another paragraph break, and it's on to the next motivation.

What does it look like if it's done wrong?

Shock jolted through Noah as the giraffe opened it's mouth to reveal wicked fangs. 'There'll be no vampire giraffes on my ark!' he bellowed, but the giraffe easily dodged aside when he leapt for it with his trusty knife, muscles tautened. He clapped his hands over his ears and fell to the ground as it laughed, a hollow, booming sound that seemed to come from the depths of a giraffe well.​

Yikes. What a mess.

Now, the usual rules for writing-rules apply--as in, there are no hard and fast rules for writing. If you write stuff out of order and can make it work, more power to ya. But I've found this way of looking at scenes incredibly useful, and I think folks might want to give it a try and see what happens.

Ok, I'm done blathering. On to your regularly scheduled donkeys and taverns. If I've been unclear in this post, feel free to ask questions or add comments.

Also, one more thing: I am publicly pre-committing to a detailed MRU critique for anyone who tries this secondary (and wants one).
 

Cyan

Banned
Jun 10, 2004
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The eagle-eyed among you will note that I've futzed with the deadlines again. The last time I messed with things, people said that two days to vote wasn't enough. So I thought we might try simply moving things forward a day, such that there are still three days for voting. Under this schedule, the writing period would be Tues-(next)Fri, with voting then going Sat-Mon.

If this setup still doesn't work for people, well, we can always switch it back next time.

I've also added a new link to the bottom of the boilerplate OP. I hit the character limit in the old FAQ post a month or so back, mostly because of the ever-expanding list of previous threads, themes, and winners. I'll be moving the list over to a post in this thread a bit later.
 

Cyan

Banned
Jun 10, 2004
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Righto! MRU post added.

...man, little quiet around here. Anyone participating this go-round? ;)
 

Tim the Wiz

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Sep 22, 2004
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Hopefully. That MRU thing seems so sensible I could swear I do it already, except I honestly have no idea. Put me down for your secondary critique, Cyan.
 

q_q

Member
Aug 31, 2010
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Congrats Cyan! Looks like an interesting topic. I'll have to give this one some thought.
 

Cyan

Banned
Jun 10, 2004
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Hopefully. That MRU thing seems so sensible I could swear I do it already, except I honestly have no idea. Put me down for your secondary critique, Cyan.

Right on.

You probably do do it already, if subconsciously. It's a pretty natural way of writing, unless you're in narrative summary mode. Thing is, it's surprisingly easy to accidentally violate the order. It's not always as obvious as that second example.

I've found it very useful to be able to bring it to conscious attention when need be. :)
 

Alfarif

This picture? uhh I can explain really!
Jan 28, 2007
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I might write. I don't know yet. I've been having some pretty down right messed up dreams lately that I can turn into stories.
 

Tangent

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Mar 15, 2010
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Awesomeness. Count me in. I love the secondary. Love it!

I would like some critique on the secondary too. Now it's just the primary prompt.... hmmm.... time to think until 11 pm on Friday.
 

Ashes

Member
Dec 11, 2008
23,378
5
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What's this, no dictatorship comments?

Ashes, I am disappoint!

Cyanships have their perks. ;)

Awesomeness. Count me in. I love the secondary. Love it!

I would like some critique on the secondary too. Now it's just the primary prompt.... hmmm.... time to think until 11 pm on Friday.

Friday next?
Or do you mean this Friday. Thinking of entering the poetry thread. ;)
 

Cyan

Banned
Jun 10, 2004
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Previous Challenge Threads and Themes, #1-100
Previous Challenge Threads and Themes, #101-200

Previous Themes (and Winners):
#201 - "The Mind-Forg'd Manacles" (Mike M)
#202 - "Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal" (Mike M)
#203 - "Unlucky" (Nezumi)
#204 - "Lure" (Ashes)
#205 - "[#]" (Tangent)
#206 - "Overheard" (mu cephei)
#207 - "Honour & Virtue" (Ashes)
#208 - "Hidden in Plain View" (Mike M)
#209 - "Tyranny" (mu cephei)
#210 - "Fusion" (Royal_Flush)
#211 - "Origins" (Nezumi)
#212 - "Lost & Found" (Team Chunbar)
#213 - "Utopia" (FlowersisBritish)
#214 - "Internal Landscapes" (Alucard)
#215 - "Searching" (Tangent)
#216 - "Energy" (Charade)
#217 - "Discovery" (Cyan)


Previous Secondary Objectives:
#201 - PWP
#202 - And a Happy New Year
#203 - Charismatic villain
#204 - New Weird
#205 - Submit early. Submit twice.
#206 - Resistant to Change
#207 - Repetition
#208 - Implicit
#209 - There are no happy endings
#210 - Wretched Excess
#211 - Create a Legend or Tale
#212 - Collaboration
#213 - Incorporate all or some of the elements in the image into your story.
#214 - Careful Descriptions
#215 - An active and resourceful protagonist
#216 - Give a darn
#217 - What a twist!
 

Red

Member
Feb 16, 2008
23,686
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Digits (1768 words)

It was that fucking guy with the long fingers. Him and his freak brother.

Those two always gave Jack the creeps. One of them, with the fingers of his left hand cut off at the middle joints, his little stubs like pigs-in-a-blanket, like a little baby hand blown up to man-size; the other's right hand like spider legs, with his brother's amputations dangling there, attached by gnarled scars.

Fucking weirdos.

And there they were now, just watching him, staring at him with those dead eyes of theirs. Like ink wells; Jack's reflection dipping deep, deep.

Jack sank back into the plush red cushion and fingered the cold gold buttons in the lounge chair's stitching.

"You want to leave, then?" asked Mr. Hicks. He leaned forward and puckered his lips, his ass bumping into the arm rest of his cedar chair. The floor wheezed beneath it with the sad drawl of a scrape.

"I want," Jack began, clearing his throat, "I want my uh, my..." he trailed off, thoughts wobbling.

"You want your finger back," said Hicks.

Mr. Charles Alrick Hicks. With his dress shirt two sizes too small, his neck rawed red from rubbing the collar; him, sitting there, clean-shaven, hair brushed and shaped immaculately -- what a good old boy, thought Jack. What a goddamn good old, shit eating American bureaucrat. Jack cradled the gauze on his right hand where his pinky used to be. His knuckle tingled.

"Yeah."

Hicks sighed. "You know, Jack, you got a good thing going here."

Jack was silent.

"I ain't shitting you. You do, what? You do almost nothing here. You sit around like the rest of the shit brains -- no offense to you two," Hicks laughed, turning to the brothers. "... And you reap the benefits that I," he laughed again, "bestow upon you. You do nothing. You sit back and put your mind in some other place. You imagine, Jack, that I am taking advantage of you. I know. I've heard it before. But who's the one cashing the check?"

The long-fingered brother yawned.

Jack could feel his eyes dampen, but he didn't know why. He looked at the dirt-colored wallpaper peeling off the office walls, the two lamps on the far end of the room, behind Hicks (only one of them worked), spilling out dirt-colored light. He looked at the rug in the middle of the room: mauve or red or burgundy, tough to tell beneath the wear and the stains. In one corner was a clump of something black: gum, or tar.

The two brothers kept staring at him. He'd never talked to them before, only seen them around. Not walking. They were, the two of them, so tall and lanky and languid in their motions that it was unfair to say they walked. They floated. Both of them, always together. Silent. Watching.

They sat now on two wooden chairs, different seats but somehow resembling a bench with them side by side. Even now Jack thought they looked out of place. Off the ground, hovering, in some way, chemically or pathologically, far off.

"I do," Jack finally answered. Charles Hicks nodded at him, sad in way, as if feeling sorry for a mentally handicapped child.

"Yes," Hicks started. "It's you. I work for what I have. I have worked for it: my whole life! And I still do. I don't sit around and take advantage of the --" he cupped his hand in the air, percolating the word, "-- generosity of others."

Generosity! though Jack, and he wanted to say it, wanted to spit it back in Hicks' face, but instead he puked up a kind of choked gurgle.

"What?" asked Hicks. "Do you disagree?" He patted the bulging front of his shirt, and straightened his tie. "Let me ask you this: what do you give back? What do you provide for your community? For the world?"

Jack had no answer for this at all. He squeezed his eyes and tried to think, could feel his ribs tightening on his soft insides, but his mind, his mind was all blank.

"You give nothing!" Hicks chuckled, his hands raised, pleading, as if it was the most obvious thing. "That's why you're here! That's why you keep coming back!"

"Maybe I don't. But I'd like to." Jack mumbled, unsure of what point he was trying to make.

Hicks nodded at him, and his eyes nodded too.

"Of course. Of course you would."

Jack looked again at the brothers, and they looked back, but farther than Jack, through him and beyond. They weren't listening, he could tell; they were there, but not there, in another world, like how girls would get in the red room during their first few days at Hicks' place, after mixing crystal and smack. Sometimes after smoking those cigarettes the regulars gave them, which, Jack knew now, had heroin mixed with the tobacco.

Sometimes they got there without any drugs at all, after watching someone get cut.

That's how the brothers were now. Jack thought, maybe that's how they've always been. He couldn't remember. His own thoughts were all haze.

"You know something? You're not the first," Hicks wagged his finger. "How could you be? And you won't be the last. But I'll tell you something else." He leaned over the desk, to get closer to Jack, "You'll be back. Everyone comes back. You know why? Guess."

Jack wanted to say, fuck you. It's my own fucking finger you fat shit. It's not only my property -- it's ME. What he said instead was, "I know why."

Hicks smiled at him and relaxed.

"Sometimes," he started, noisily reaching for something in his desk, "I like to keep souvenirs. Not everyone wants their uh, pieces and parts back." He set something down on his desk, hard, with his hand still wrapped around it.

"But you, you aren't as," (unfolding his hand), "liberal."

On the desk stood a small jar, the bottom filled with ice. On the glass were a few hardered streaks of blood, thinned, Jack guessed, by water from the melting ice. He recognized his pinky, leaning inside it like a stick for a bug.

Hicks rattled the jar.

"These things cost, Jack. Not everything can be a charity."

"But I don't have --"

"I know the drill," Hicks waved in dismissal. "Don't give me that bull. Get a job. This is what I mean! Relying on me, the man, whatever. Look at this," he held up the jar. "Look at how -- small! Insignificant the thing is. And tell me how much I paid you, just to have this cut."

Jack leapt for the jar; almost instantly, the arm of the stub-fingered brother swung like a whip against his chest. He collapsed back into his chair, winded, with the tall man looming over him.

"You see?" asked Hicks. "I told you when we first met, I told you to be sure you wanted to do this. We had a deal."

"I didn't... fucking... have a choice." Jack sputtered out.

"Everyone has a choice, Jack."

"It was... do this... or go hungry. Do this or die," Jack protested, catching his breath.

"I did it. I survived! I did fine without taking advantage of -- and excuse the irony here, I do have a sense of humor -- the bigger man."

Jack wheezed deep. The stub-fingered brother sat back down without turning; his eyes, like skewers, on Jack. Jack watched him and winced.

"I'll pay you," Jack said. "But you have to help me first. You have to get my finger put back on before," (he thinks of meat once he forgot -- he wished he didn't! what a waste, that food -- at the bottom of his fridge), "it goes bad."

"No," Hicks said, humorlessly. "Money first. I pay you first. You should do the same. It's only fair."

"But I can't!"

"Then I can't. We had a deal, a contract. Sorry."

Jack bit his lip, his eyes pinging like a typewriter, searching for something -- what was it -- something he read, heard, saw. And then:

"I'll go to the press."

"What?"

"I'll tell them what you do. Who you are!"

"Jack --"

"I saw it in the paper, you running for mayor."

Hicks assessed this man before him, who he'd thought only moments ago to be the mere shell of a man. A man suit, a skin sack slipped over a gibbering, vaguely man-shaped automaton. A kind of resentment, or respect, flinched in his heart.

"Sounds to me like killing the golden goose."

Jack didn't know what that meant, but he got the idea.

"And not just for you, but for everyone."

"Well?" Jack asked, not entirely sure what he was asking for.

"Well what?" said Hicks. "It's up to you. I'm not going to kidnap you, keep you here. I'm not going to chop you up and keep the parts. If you feel that strongly about it, go. It's in your hands."

Jack looked to the brothers, both inert.

"I'm a reasonable man, Jack."

"All I want is my pinky back."

Hicks shook his head. "I can't."

"Why not?"

"That's not the way I work." Hicks sighed. "You know the rules, Jack. You have until the ice is gone."

Jack stared at the jar and saw his finger in it shift over the melting ice, a run of water down the inside of the glass meeting another and pooling slightly at the bottom.

He thought of all the people who had given themselves up to Hicks, given up parts of themselves to humor him; he thought of the checks they received, small and large, depending on what they lost. This man, this whole, fat, man, with more money than God, sitting in a dingy office in near-dark, the only evidence in the whole place of a life outside, of a brighter world, a place where people could give without taking so much away. Hidden where he looked so obvious.

And he thought of the people who hadn't given themselves up yet, struggling to survive, and wondered then if their lives now weren't much the same.

"How about for a toe?" Jack asked. "You can have my little toe. Will that do? Like a trade, so I can have more time?"

Mr. Hicks smiled.




Dropbox

I'd like an MRU critique if you don't mind, Cyan. I think I am a decent writer, but not very good as a storyteller, and I find myself "breaking the rules" more often than I'd like. One of the words I abuse is "as;" everything is always happening as something else is, and it makes sense to me as a conceptual thing, but I know it doesn't work as a sentence in a story.
 

Elfforkusu

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May 4, 2007
28,771
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MRU sounds like a really inefficient cache-clearing algorithm.

e: I initially screwed up my programmer joke!
 

n0b

Member
Sep 8, 2006
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rateyourmusic.com
Well, I wrote a story. Haven't done one of these yet though, am I supposed to try and edit it first, or just submit it as is for possible critique and then try to edit it after. I generally don't do well editing my own work anyway, so I don't know how much it would change, but I could try.

Iunno. Merp. Need to come up with a title though.
 

Tangent

Member
Mar 15, 2010
658
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Yeah. I knew already. ;P

I guess it's obvious sometimes!

Well, I wrote a story. Haven't done one of these yet though, am I supposed to try and edit it first, or just submit it as is for possible critique and then try to edit it after. I generally don't do well editing my own work anyway, so I don't know how much it would change, but I could try.

Iunno. Merp. Need to come up with a title though.

I think the idea is to give it your best shot -- if that means editing first -- which I think it does for most -- then go for it! But regardless, I think everyone appreciates it when new folks submit stories. So don't let anything stop you! Well, that's my 2 cents...
 

Cyan

Banned
Jun 10, 2004
34,830
0
0
Well, I wrote a story. Haven't done one of these yet though, am I supposed to try and edit it first, or just submit it as is for possible critique and then try to edit it after. I generally don't do well editing my own work anyway, so I don't know how much it would change, but I could try.

Iunno. Merp. Need to come up with a title though.

Best foot forward! To get the best possible critiques (not "best" as in the most complimentary; "best" as in the most cogent), present your best possible work. If you don't do well editing your own work, well, it's something you'll need to learn at some point. Why not start now? :)

Edit first!
 

Cyan

Banned
Jun 10, 2004
34,830
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0
Only a few more days, peeps!

Still slightly weirded out by how few posts this thread has, but then the last thread only went one page and still had a bunch of entries. So who knows.
 
Sep 14, 2006
29,134
1
1,365
England
the-final-sin.blogspot.com
Shhh...we're working :p

I've got an idea for mine finally, going to type it all up tomorrow and do an editing pass or two on Friday for the secondary. It's science fiction and it probably won't fit in to the word limit without being hacked to bits, but fuck it.
 

Grakl

Member
May 15, 2010
15,835
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Does anyone here write on paper first, then type it in to the computer afterwards? Seems more natural to write a story on paper.
 

Cyan

Banned
Jun 10, 2004
34,830
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0
Shhh...we're working :p

I've got an idea for mine finally, going to type it all up tomorrow and do an editing pass or two on Friday for the secondary. It's science fiction and it probably won't fit in to the word limit without being hacked to bits, but fuck it.
Same on all counts. :)

Thinking of bringing back characters from an earlier story; they seem to fit nicely into what I have in mind. Though I might decide to tweak their personalities a little.

I'm going to write in this thread.

Ok, At least I got that out of the way.

I'm not even going to commit to a submission, this time around.

Sounds like a firm commitment to me! Welcome aboard!
 

n0b

Member
Sep 8, 2006
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995
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rateyourmusic.com
I think I did a thing.

Invitation to Work (1661 words)

"Come on, I am going to do some work at the coffee shop. You should come too. You can work on your book, or write something new. You need to get back to writing consistently."

I reacted to the offer with a pause. "You're saying in order for both of us to get some work done I should go somewhere public, with internet access, and food. Do you not know how easily distracted I am?"
Patrick smiled and said, "Come on I'll motivate you to work, I'm good at that. Make sure you don't get off track."
"But that’s my point," I responded, "The presence of somebody there is usually enough to completely distract me. I used to spend hours in the library moving around because I would get distracted by the simple presence of another human in sensory range. For the most part the only way I can ignore even the smallest distractions is by cutting a deadline so close that I have no choice but to time my own internal micro-deadlines for every hour." Patrick insists I go and I reluctantly join him. I guess it would be good to start writing again.

So now here I am, sitting in a coffee shop trying to write something new for the first time in months. Patrick insists I write about the coffee shop, but I counter by looking up the current creative writing topic on the forum. Besides, I've already taken my glasses off. I briefly attempt to entertain his option, but I can't get a clear read on anybody in the coffee shop. — God damn it I'm distracted again. Where was I? — Nearsightedness. All of the other patrons of this fine establishment are outside of the range in which I have clear vision. The only person that isn't outside of that range I already know. I guess it’s appropriate that I can’t see them clearly since I don’t know them well enough. Maybe I'll try to combine the writing ideas. I'm outside of my comfort zone though. I don't like writing the everyday.

I look back at the thread in my browser. What are Motivation-Reaction Units? I think I already kind of do that in my writing, but the concept is oddly warped in my perception now, because the causality of my story does not match that of my life. Both are perfectly logical progressions of events. It’s just that I've jumbled my real life sequence of events. The past thirty minutes or so are all mixed up in my writing, things I've already done have yet to enter the narrative.

The volume in the building fluctuates. I look up and observe the world around me, things getting clearer as my eyes adjust somewhat to uncorrected vision. I could almost see the building as part of an old train station. The walls are blocks of marble, with large windows cut out of them intending to let the daylight in, but at this hour they only let a little of the shop's light go out, absorbed by the dark blue night sky. The ceiling is tall, with chandeliers hanging down from a somewhat ornately decorated ceiling. I can almost sense the mist of steam engines in another part of the building. Probably just my vision combined with the breeze of the air conditioning. Patrick says that it used to be a bank, but I prefer my interpretation to the reality. Either way, it has been here for a long time, the weight and solidity of the building and its history are soothing. A light stream of classical music tinkles out of speakers somewhere in the building. The musical choice echoes slightly in the open space, mingling soon afterwards with the light din of indiscernible conversations.

I pick up on one of the conversations right next to me. God damn it I knew his phone would be going off constantly; he’s got too many friends, too many distractions. The outside world shouldn't be intruding on my concentration. "She doesn't come here but once every six or seven years," he raises his voice slightly, almost imperceptibly, "She doesn't come here but once every six or seven years."

My attention drifts away from the phone call. A woman has walked into the coffee shop. Maybe she was already here? I write her into the story but don't know what to do with her. I associate the statement I had just heard to the new customer. I don’t know why somebody would come that infrequently to a specific coffee shop unless they just didn’t like coffee, but I tell myself I will figure out the motivation for her timing by the end of this story. Maybe she searches for a secret love, and it turns out to be the writer sitting there describing her. No, I decide that interpretation seems to cliché in my mind. She stands at the counter, talking with the barista and waiting for a cue for her character to activate. I can't think of anything though. She remains in this character stasis as I continue to be indecisive, each time I look up she remains in the same place. My coffee has finally reached a temperature where it’s right to drink. Some of my characters are getting frustrated now. The man halfway across the room looks down at his feet and fidgets, as if wondering why I haven't introduced him to the story yet. The volume of nearby conversations starts to increase, as if the potential characters were wondering why I don't flesh them out yet.

Is it too late? I haven't introduced my setting well enough; I haven't maintained its solidity. Outside where my train platforms were being imagined, traffic enters onto the tracks and crashes into the steam engine. A lone violinist drips out of the speaker onto the table in front of me. I don't react, obviously, because I am merely writing it. My characters have becoming increasingly annoyed by my inability to stave off entropy. Almost as if reacting to this thought, they start to embody that entropy. The girl at the table in front of me glares at me over the violinist that fell on her table. He is still playing despite his isolation from the rest of his orchestra, wedged in a collapsed table at a coffee shop that can’t decide what kind of building it is. The girl gets up with her friend and leaves the coffee shop. I need to focus before I run out of things to write about.

Where is the woman that came in? I forgot to define her. So far I only gave her temporal existence. She is a transient presence in the coffee shop. She only comes here every six or seven years? What does that tell about her character? Does it tell me where she would sit? I try to remember, or maybe I just try to create. She had red hair and glasses, and she wore a colorful sweater. Was she sitting somewhere in the sea of chairs in front of me? I resist the urge to put on my glasses and remove myself from the writing process. She must have walked by and sat on the balcony above me. It doesn't matter. After twenty minutes I still haven't come up with her story. The balcony in the back of the building collapses and the girl falls with it. Once every seven years and the day she happens to come in on is the one in which I collapse the balcony so that I that I can stop thinking about it and focus on writing.

It’s too late to write about that either because the accidents around the coffee shop have caused the potential characters to start to leave. Few remain for me to write. The barista is still there, but he was always a bit player in my story anyway. Part of the environment, there to define the meaning of the space, and kind of pissed off at me for thinking so lowly of him in the first place. He turns to me and tells me off. "I'm a person too! I could be a hero if I wanted. All you had to do was write me into the story." He kicks over the entire counter, crushing and parting the sea of tables in front of me. He pays me no more attention as he storms out of the building. The quiet people in the corners of the room just fade through the wall, shaking their heads in disappointment at my failure to consider them for a role either. The coffee shop sits in front of me, quiet and empty. I've been too busy writing to pay attention to the faces or the sounds of the real world, so they drop out of my story.

A disheveled man looks in through the window at me as if the world was offering him up as a possible character. He proceeds directly away from me as if challenging me to find a way to write in an entrance for him. My Bloody Valentine comes on over the speakers. The wail of the distorted guitars is just as soothing as the other music and just as fitting. I sit here alone in the wreckage of my fiction, unable to find a hold to even start my journey. I lean back, take another sip of coffee, and look at the world around me. Friends smiling at a shared joke, students working on the side wall where they can plug in their laptops, why do I need to write about them? They are fine how they are; I don't need to change them, to impose something on their world. I was right, at least somewhat. Patrick still doesn't seem to have started working. I was wrong about my own progress though. I take my last sip of coffee, write my last sentence, and close the document.

Dropbox
 

John Dunbar

correct about everything
Mar 10, 2007
17,286
1
0
After the Roses
(2,000 words)

The book lay closed in her hands. It was too hot to read, so she lounged in her seat behind the bar, savouring the breeze from the table fan. Its gentle humming was the only source of sound in the deserted room. She knew it did not bode well for business that on such a day there was no one hankering for a pint of cold brew. She knew, and she did not care. It was too hot.

At length a man a man with stubble on his weak chin and a golden ring on his left ear came in. Sitting down on a stool he grinned at her. She did not want to leave the fan that did little more than stir the hot humid air trapped in the room, but she nevertheless got to her feet.

“Sure is sweltering today,” the man said, and took a paper napkin to wipe his soaked brow. “A beer, if you'd be so kind.”

“Sure,” she said, and smiled as she let the beer flow; a shred of paper had torn off and now clung to the man's forehead. The man's grin widened.

“My name is Harlow. Winston Harlow. It's a pleasure, miss...”

“Connie,” she said. “My name is Connie.”

“So, Connie, how much is it?”

“It's three fifty a pint, Winston.”

“No, not the beer,” Harlow said. “You.”

“Excuse me?”

Harlow took the pint and slurped the foam, then let out a loud AAAAAH. “I want to know how much is that slit between your legs, Connie.”

She just smiled: it was too hot to let bar-room vulgarity to bother her. “In case you haven't noticed, Winston, this is not a brothel.”

“Surely there's a bed in the back," Harlow persisted, snatching a toothpick to adorn his smirk. “Or a couch. I'd settle for a couch. Or even a table, I'm not prejudiced against a good table.” Harlow took her hand in both of his, and looked her in the eyes. “Look, Connie,” he said with such earnestness in his voice she was taken aback. “I'm not a bad looking guy. I ain't handsome, I'm not saying that, but I'm decent enough to look at. I'm sure you have serviced plenty of blokes worse than me for free, so why not earn a bit?”

“Because I'm not a whore,” she said, reclaiming her hand.

“I was hoping to make you one,” Harlow said with his ever-widening grin, the toothpick dangling from his lip. “Listen, Connie, I am a wealthy man. I ain't rich, I'm not saying that, but I got money. I can make it worth your time. All you have to do is spread those legs. You don't even have to fake anything if it's a bother.”

“And tell me, Winston,” she said and leaned forward on her elbows, giving Harlow a spectacular view of her cleavage. “How much would you say I'm worth?”

Harlow lost his tongue for a moment, though his grin lingered and the toothpick moved from side to side as he counted the sweat beads gathering on those fleshy mounds pressed together between her arms, barely contained by her tank top. He seemed about to say something when the door crashed open.

They both turned to look, and kept on looking. The bright sunlight streaming in from behind silhouetted the newcomer, but they could see he was wearing a flat brimmed hat and a cape that fluttered faintly in the weak wind. He stood erect, hands akimbo. Connie let her head drop. “Oh no,” she said.

“Unhand the lady, you wretch!” the stranger roared.

“Huh?” Harlow said.

As the stranger marched to them they could see he was dressed all in black, wearing a Spanish gaucho hat and a piece of cloth with eye holes wrapped around his face. “I'll warn you once,” he said. “Leave now, or else you shall rue this day.”

“Why are you dressed like Zorro?” Harlow stood up to face the stranger, and glanced back at Connie. “You know this clown?”

“I really don't.”

“I would never jeopardize a lady by revealing my identity,” Zorro declared. “I warn you, filth, there won't be another warning.”

“Listen, buddy, I don't think you know who you're dealing with,” Harlow said, chewing his toothpick. “I ain't a black belt, I'm not saying that, but I've been in a few fights in my life. Beating a whelp in a costume isn't going to break a sweat, even if I wasn't already sweating, so you just leave us to our business, understand?”

Apparently Zorro did not understand. He reached for Harlow's ear and yanked off the golden ring, along with a piece of flesh. Harlow's scream was soon stifled when a gloved fist struck him on the cheek so hard it sent the toothpick flying, and the man himself spun and fell face down on the bar. Before he could get up Zorro grabbed him by his neck and belt and slid him down the bar until he crashed on the floor. Winston Harlow struggled to his feet and ran out, holding his throbbing cheek and maimed ear.

Walking back to Connie, her mouth agape, Zorro brushed his hands together. “He won't be bothering you again, my lady.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

“My lady?”

“You beat him up!”

“I was defending your honour, my lady. The things he said, I shudder to even think of them.”

“He was my customer!”

“My lady, you, you mean to tell me you were actually intending to sell your virtue to that brute?”

“Of course not, you damn idiot!” she yelled. “Even if I had some virtue left to sell. I was going to let him ogle all he wanted. He would have drank and given a huge tip, and then left with an empty wallet and blue balls. What do you...”

Zorro placed a finger on her lips, and shook his head gently. “My dear Connie,” he said, a voice full of parental concern. “My dear, sweet, innocent Connie. You simply do not understand what kind of an animal a man can be. They may seem harmless to a maiden such as yourself, even charming, but do not be fooled. A dose of that firewater you peddle is all it takes. Ah, what a vile creature a man is, spending his hard-earned coin to make a beast of himself.”

Connie stared at the masked face, thinking how easily she could pluck him out from a line-up. Realizing his finger was still on her lips, his sad blue eyes fixed on hers, she slapped his hand away.

“What did I do to deserve this?”

“I swore to protect you, my lady.”

“What if he goes to the police?” she said, and it was her turn to sound concerned. “You could go to prison!” Hearing what she was saying, she hurried on: “And the last thing I need is a reputation that anyone who flirts with me gets beaten up by some masked loon!”

“You've had a stressful day, and I thank you for your concern, but you need not worry for me. Many have been the devilish schemes to trap me, all of them to no avail. I will leave you for the nonce, but I shall always be close at hand.”

With a ceremonious swirl of his cape he dashed out the door, into the sun. Left alone, she sank to her chair by the fan. “I swore to protect you,” he had said. That he had done. She remembered the night she first met her Zorro. Having just closed her bar and begun walking home someone came running, bumping into her. She looked up and saw her purse abandon her company for the clutches of a common thief who was now drawing fast away. The thief ran almost to the end of the street, until he abruptly vanished into an alley. She followed him, all the while hearing noises, struggling. Around the corner she saw her purse on the ground, and the thief was holding a knife to someone bathed in shadow. She went up to the thief, called out, and as he glanced over his shoulder she emptied half a can of mace. Screaming he dropped the knife and ran away. When he was gone the stranger picked up her purse for her, and she saw his costume. At the time she thought he was coming from some merry masquerade, though it was rather peculiar how he had kissed her hand and made his vow. He vanished into the night, and she thought she'd seen the last of him.

Only he kept appearing at her bar, almost nightly. After missing a night he would bring a glorious bouquet of roses as an apology. She felt more than little uncomfortable when the outfit of her new regular turned out to be more of a uniform than a costume, but as time passed she grew used to his company.

Often when he came to see her, late at night, he would limp and ache to his table. His ribs were sore, his face was bruised. She would nurse his sad blue eyes, swollen beneath their cloth, with cold beer, pleading him to stop before he would get himself killed. ”If I won't do it, who will?” he would answer. And as she tended to his wounds, cursing his folly, he would tell her stories. He spoke of Andalusia, how he had galloped across a moonlit desert on a stallion as black as the sea at night, protecting the pueblos from the bandit hordes which roamed the land. He spoke of distant lands and fair princesses he'd seen and saved. He even confessed that he wasn't really Zorro, reasoning that the way to hide his identity was to disguise himself as another hero; his was a mask behind a mask.

When they parted she always knew she should call the police, or a hospital. But she could not. Was she as crazy as her masked champion? It was the the way he spoke of beauty, of a way of living and caring that made her feel that he was from a world that had never existed, could never exist. She knew that his stories were fictitious like his namesake, that there was no bandit plague in Spain, but when she tried not to think she could compel herself to believe him. And in him. When he was in her life there was something that made it special, something that was not ordinary. She ceased asking him to stop, no matter how much he bled, and reporting him felt a sin. What a tragedy it would have been for him to lose all that made him what he was, and for the world to lose it all through him. No matter what else happened in her life, she could always rely on him being just what he was. He was a constant star in the dark.

Until the night came when Zorro himself did not, and neither did the roses.

She would keep a candle lit on his table, hoping he would limp in to be mended, dreading she would hear of some gallant fool in a costume meddling when bruises alone would not suffice. When she remembered the thief's knife, she pictured Zorro, his body broken and laying behind some great green dumpster, dying. But that was too sad to think about for too long, and she told herself he had simply given up his folly, or maybe he was getting help somewhere. Some place where he belonged. Sometimes she could even bring herself to believe that he went back to Andalusia, and that made her happy.

And for a long time after those nights she thought she saw, or hoped she saw, a dark figure: perched atop a museum or a monument, a brownstone or a stadium, the figure huddled beneath a cape and gazed over the ledge, keeping her world safe. Keeping it extraordinary.
 

Ward

Member
Jun 4, 2008
507
0
0
Brevity to the Point, Yet a Missed Opportunity to have a Title Longer than the Submission
words: 20


The water level in the room rose even more fervently.

John recoiled in disbelief, "Oh no, what have I done?"
 

Red

Member
Feb 16, 2008
23,686
2
0
Brevity to the Point, Yet a Missed Opportunity to have a Title Longer than the Submission
words: 20


The water level in the room rose even more fervently.

John recoiled in disbelief, "Oh no, what have I done?"
Jeez man, you ever hear of editing?
 

Tangent

Member
Mar 15, 2010
658
0
0
"Monkey Trap" (1061 words)

Not the most polished draft but I have to catch my ride to Yosemite now... too bad: I wanted to work more on these MRUs but am holding a promise to myself to work on them for upcoming writing challenges, in addition to whatever future secondary objectives there may be!
 

weepy

Member
Jun 2, 2006
3,622
0
0
LA
Brian's computer bathed the small dorm room in an eerie white glow, its cursor silently blinking after a single word written in bold Times New Roman lettering typed in on the top left of his writing program. Soon its inactivity will activate its screensaver, a picture of Brian and his girlfriend Jamie smiling broadly with the blue sky as their backdrop. Soon their grinning faces will gaze mockingly at the limp figure before them but for now the cursor continues to disappear and reappear in a tick-toc manner.

Blinking. Blinking.

From the computer's sight, its master was arched backwards with his arms dangling to the sides of his chair with one hand loosely holding a gun. His bare chest was mostly visible in the dim light, his head cocked back spilling his thoughts to his chair's backing and the carpeting below. Behind him was a drippy display of blood, bone, and brain matter. It oozed purple in the dim lighting as it cascaded down the bedroom wall. As the computer sat motionlessly viewing the scene, the cursor continues to blink.

To the right of Brian was a whirlwind of clothes that lined his bed. A shirt here, a sock there.

A purple blouse. A bra. An arm draped off the side of twin sized mattress.

On the bed was a tangle of sheets and the lifeless form a small, nude figure. Her hair was a beautiful red mess that was splayed over the covering and half obscuring her face. A crimson spot taking form and spreading beneath her, soaking the bed Brian once slept on and shared. Jamie was blonde just a couple of minutes before.

The computer dims, the cursor continues its disappearing act. The door of the small dorm room begins to knock. Louder and louder. All the while the computer's cursor blinks silently at the two lovers.
 

Grakl

Member
May 15, 2010
15,835
2
0
How do you put a password on a file from dropbox and make it so you can share the link?
 

Puddles

Banned
Jan 19, 2010
14,766
0
0
Oh shit, I got off work and started drinking. I was supposed to write a story.

Not sure how this is going to work.
 
Sep 14, 2006
29,134
1
1,365
England
the-final-sin.blogspot.com
More than four hundred years had passed since man had first set foot on the moon, yet still the stars remained beyond his grasp. Though it's own star still shone brightly, the Earth was labouring under the burden of it's children, harmful, destructive and reluctant to leave the nest. But as the population grew and resources dwindled, it became apparent that the Earth no longer had the strength to sustain so many. War spread like wildfire, followed by famine and then disease, but eventually, common sense prevailed. The greatest scientific minds were gathered and plans were set in motion. If the Earth was to survive, mankind needed a new home. And so, to the stars man looked once more, with ships of glistening metal that pierced through the skies and up into the black above, headed back to the moon, and then on to Mars, to Jupiter, to Saturn, to Pluto and, finally, to Eris. Man had claimed the solar system, but for all his advancements it was not enough to claim the stars.

Many attempts were made of course, and not one met with any success. The mass driver on Charon tore it's payload to shreds and all contact was lost with the fission-powered Intueor, a seeding ship five years into their seventy year journey to the Gliese 667 system, while the Bussard collector aboard the Katsu exploded in spectacular fashion, it's wake trail scrawled brightly across the night sky as a testament to Earth's dwindling hopes. Strangest of all was the Horizon, it's pitch-g engine simply collapsing in upon itself on departure, taking Titan docks with it. Yet while humanity gazed longingly outwards, one man was gazing in. Cedric Preston deployed his device at 11:26PM UTC on July 21st, 2425. It took three hours for the shielded sphere to drill it's way into the Earth's core, and only half an hour more for the authorities to find him, but by then it was already too late. At 02:56AM Dr. Cedric Preston's device activated and the world trembled.

The pulse reverberated outwards from the core, a wash of liquid blue that stilled in motion every being, every atom. And then it was gone. The world government were reluctant to respond, but they could hardly deny what fifteen billion souls had all felt and seen, while deep inside a government facility Dr. Preston explained the principles behind his quantum duplication device. The observatory on Deimos was the first to report back the news. Parallel to the Earth, at the opposite ends of it's orbit, sat a perfect replica of the planet. The footage that began to stream in stunned the world, but raised more questions than there were answers. How had Preston achieved quantum duplication of an entire planet without the destruction of the original? How had he generated the forces necessary to perform such a previously-unimaginable feat? Would the Earth ultimately survive the process? Would the new planet, dubbed simply Earth-2, survive? Would it's orbit remain in lock-step with our own, and if so, for how long?

But once it became apparent that Earth's doom was not impending, Dr. Cedric Preston in an instant became the system's biggest celebrity, hailed as the saviour of humanity from the science outposts in the skies of Venus to the Eris orbital deep space observatory. All those questions with complicated answers thrown by the wayside in the face of the sheer implications of his success, as sitting around three hundred, million kilometres from Earth was it's newly born twin, unexplainable to all but Preston, formed seemingly from the aether. Scans of the planet found it to be identical to Earth in almost every detail. Plants grew, trees swayed, rivers flowed and cities waited, lonesome and uninhabited, for there was no animal life on Earth-2, Preston's device cleverly designed not to replicate more complex organisms. Soon, an expedition was manned, ships filled to the brim with scientists, soldiers, labourers and livestock. The Arks left Earth on October 11th, 2425, and touched down 173 days later on March 27th, 2426.

A month on and the news from Earth-2 was encouraging. The Ark colonies were fully established and the scientific data being sent back showed nothing out of the ordinary. Soon, more Ark's were on their way, and not long after that commercial and privately owned spacecraft too, as the curious, the adventurous, the opportunistic and the desperate flocked to the infant planet, despite the world government's express wishes. But for the first time in hundreds of years, there was simply too much empty space to police. While in the fields and meadows, communities took root and were carefully nurtured, elsewhere, a frontier lawlessness emerged. Those who wished to live apart from society could do so, and those who wished to create their own societies were now free to do so too. But while humanity tinkered and toyed with it's new home away from home, deep in the Earth's core Dr. Preston's device sat and it's shields beginning to falter.

There was simply no warning when the device exploded, but the effect was devastating. The Earth shook with unprecedented violence. Great gouts of magma spewed forth from the crust, cracked open wide like an eggshell, as Earth's vaunted cities crumbled and fields burned. Some ships managed to launch, a paltry few, before the Earth split asunder with a violent shudder. All across the solar system, the seeds of humanity watched in sheer disbelief. On Mars, on Titan, on Ceres, on Io, on Earth-2, all eyes trained on the sensor data streaming through. Within hours the exposed core of the planet had begun to fade, like the embers of a dying fire. The surface of the planet that remained bloomed here and there with a volcanic ferocity, but soon it too was darkened and fading.

On August 24th, 2426, the remnants of the Earth crumbled and pulled away into their own orbits, countless new rogue asteroids revolving chaotically about the sun. For all it's desperate need, man had fallen far short of the stars. Billions had become millions in the blink of an eye, humanity reduced to numbers not seen since thousands of years past, as all across the solar system ships limped from colonies and outposts that could no longer rely on being resupplied from Earth. To the new Earth they hobbled, trickling in slowly, surely, to find a world as beautiful as the one they remembered, if only in appearance, not spirit, and somewhere, deep within the vast, lonely wilderness, Cedric Preston began to walk, while the remnants of humanity began to build for a future his guilt would not allow him to see.

The set-up was taking too long and the story wouldn't fit, so I cut the story, lol. I guess that makes this more of an account, or an introduction to a premise.
 

Gattsu25

Banned
Jun 6, 2004
33,439
2
0
USA
blog.gattsu25.com
http://gattsu25.blogspot.com/2012/04/tnayuocuos.html

Samantha was asleep and didn’t notice the light beaming in from outside her window. The walls in her room danced with firelight as a dim ball of flames hovered ever closer to her home. As the fireball approached it began to shrink in size until it was small enough to fit in the crack beneath Samantha’s barely ajar window. A quite filled the small house then and all light seemed to be drained from the world.

Samantha was pulled from her dreams and stirred. Slowly, and with a heaviness that only deep sleep can bring, she opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling of her dark bedroom. No light from outside her window flowed into the room. It was utter black.

She moved to get out of bed and check outside but in that moment felt her own body betray her. She couldn’t stir. Am I still dreaming? she thought hazily to herself as she stared into the darkness of her room, unable to shift even the gaze of her eyes. Slowly, she began to test herself and wiggled her toes, fighting against the lethargy. She moved her foot to test her strength and then wanted to shriek in terror as she felt someone else’s hand clasp down around her ankle and hold her leg down. The hand that held her was warm, very warm, and covered in a thin layer of what felt like gel.

“Shhhh, child!” hissed the whispered voice of a woman much older than Samantha. A foreign voice invading from the safety of her own home.

Samantha thrashed to free her leg but felt her strength seeping away and she heard the old woman’s voice gasp with exacerbation. As if in response, the darkness that once filled the room lessened enough for the ceiling to be seen and Samantha tilted her head toward to window and stared out into the cold moonlight. A normal night like any other.

Was this all a dream?

Samantha shivered as she felt a cold emerge from within herself. She looked around her room, at her dresser and bookshelf, dimly lit in the moonlight. She closed her eyes as a sudden desire to sleep washed over her and she did fall into a slumber, of sorts. Another ripple of cold bathed her and she felt her lower jaw begin to shiver. She tried to tuck her feet under her comforter for warmth and panicked as she again felt something grasping her leg, refusing to allow it to move. She fought against the forced sense of sleep and managed to lean up in her bed. The room was lit by the moonlight save for the area of the room around her constricted leg. She felt the cold again, a chill from her head that slowly flowed down to her captive leg, as if her very essence was being absorbed by the shadow. A dim glimmer of light burned through the darkness as the cold took her completely and the figure holding onto her began to glow as if it were of cooling embers burning the shadow away.

Now illuminated by some dim internal lightsource, Samantha was able to discern that the figure that held her captive was that of a slender emaciated elderly woman. The woman’s mouth was locked onto Samantha’s lower leg and a trickle of blood dribbled down her to her bedsheets. The woman appeared to inhale and the dim glow burned brighter and more brilliant. Samantha felt weaker still and shivered with the cold. The woman removed her lips from Samantha’s leg and wet blood freely dripped from the woman’s horrible mouth. She twisted her face into a cruel smile. The woman appeared to have been skinned and her entire body was steeped in the thick black ichor of coagulated blood. In a flash of light the woman appeared to disappear into the darkness.

Samantha furiously tried to free herself from the hold still placed on her but did not have the strength to move. Tears freely streamed down her face as she eventually fell into a deep sleep, weakened from the experience.

A blazing ball of flame tore through the evening night sky.
 

Sober

Member
Feb 8, 2008
14,640
0
0
“So do you have any comments on rumours that you plan to run for office in the next election?”

Run for office? Herbert was prepared, but not for this particular question. Who would suggest anything like that? During the war, he was ready for anything unexpected, but this was something else entirely.

“What rumours?” was all the reply he could muster up.

“Why, Mister Black, you do happen to know you are somewhat of a celebrity, a war hero if anything. I’m sure you have a fandom somewhere and maybe just a few of them feel you have what it takes to be in politics.”

Herbert began to sweat uncomfortably in his uniform. War hero? He wouldn’t admit that but he did what he had to for the war effort, even if it meant having his face plastered on those posters. Why were they still up? The war is over.

“If that’s what people think, then why should I say no?”

Herbert wasn’t quite sure how he formed those words, or why he chose to go along with it. He made an awkward smile at the camera before self-correcting it.

“And there you have it viewers and listeners. The war hero Herbert Black! The inside look on the war and everything surrounding him. His war stories, the tale of his capture and escape, and then subsequent rise to fame on the battlefield!”

“Well, not everything, Diana. If I did, they’d have to kill us both!”

“They sure would!” followed by forced laughter from both of them.

“And that’s it for tonight folks! I am Dianna Dresden, and you have been either watching or listening to Evening Exposé. Join me tomorrow evening as I talk to famous best-selling author Jacqueline James about her new thriller ‘There’s No Tomorrow After Tomorrow and the Day After That’!”

Immediately as the cameras stopped rolling, Herbert grabbed his microphone and ripped it off. He thanked Diana for her time and headed for the exit, signalling for Oliver to follow.

“We need to talk, Oliver. What’s this about me running for office? I just want to go home. The war is over. They keep me over there for months and now they want me to hop around doing interviews and appearances in the capital for what?”

“You know it was bad, Number 2. Sure, all those stories that made it back about your heroism did some good to liven up the mood but just the war being over isn’t enough.”

Herbert grimaced, “You don’t get to call me ‘Number 2’. You weren’t over there like we were. You don’t get the privilege to call me that.”

“Right. Anyways Herb, don’t worry about it. We have another week of interviews and then --”

“Home.”

“No Herb, after that we have to gear up for your campaign. You’re running for office, remember?”

“I most certainly did not agree to that.”

“C’mon Herb. What you said back there? ‘If that’s what people think, then why should I say no?’ Ever so duty bound. People are expecting it. A war hero running for office? It’ll be a shoo-in! All of your opponents are giving up already!”

Herbert just stared at Oliver. He didn’t have to say it as he’d repeated himself enough times that it became the de facto response: “You weren’t there. You couldn’t possibly understand.”

“Oliver, I am tired of only being able to talk to her. I need to see Eleanor.”

“She’ll understand. Maybe we can convince her to come along during the campaign. No reason to have her waiting for you to come back. You can be together and still run for –”

“I’m sick of moving around, Oliver. I just want to settle down.”

“Really? New places to see and people to meet? Get sick of that already?”

Herbert just gave him the stare as they climbed into the car.

“Okay, whatever, Herb. Driver - The hotel please.”

--

“So you’re coming back next week?”

“Yeah, Elle. It’s been too long.”

“At least I got to see you doing all those interviews. Looking handsome as ever, although the last one you were definitely sweating there.”

“Listen, about that…”

“So are you going to do it Herb? Become a politician and everything?”

“I don’t know Elle. I don’t know. Oliver keeps giving me crap that saying ‘no’ isn’t in me. Said I was duty bound.”

“Well, do you want to do it?”

“He said you could always come along and --”

“That’s not important Herb. Do you want to do it?”

“No. No, I don’t. I just want to -- ”

“Then you have your answer, Herb.”

Herbert breathed a sigh of relief as he finally processed his decision. No one was keeping him here. He was free to leave.

“Hey listen Herb, it’s getting late and you’re probably busy being famous and all, so I’m gonna let you go. I can’t wait to see you next week though. Bye.”

“You might just get to see me sooner than that, Elle.”

After hanging up the phone, Herbert paced in his room for hours waiting of the perfect opportunity.

When he reached the lobby, he noticed Oliver amongst a group of other well-dressed individuals. Herbert tried to walk by them without being noticed but was caught by Oliver.

“Hey Herb! Over here! I have some people I want you to meet.”

Herbert walked towards to group and grabbed Oliver and pulled him aside, “Gentlemen, sorry but Oliver and I have something to discuss. I’ll remind him to introduce us shortly.”

“C’mon Herb, what is it! Oh, great now they just … do you know how hard it was just to get them together for even five minutes? A few senators, the grand chancellor, the speaker…”

“That’s what I came to talk to you about, Oliver. I’m done. You can’t keep me here. I’m going.”

“Is that why you’re all dressed? You can’t leave, Herb. People are counting on you!”

“The war is over. You didn’t fight but I thought you’d realize that much.” replied Herbert.

“Another low blow!” as Oliver let a shout that attracted all the people in the lobby. “Really Herb? Got nothing original left? Sure I didn’t fight, but you don’t have to make everything about that! I did my part in the war even if I didn’t fight!”

Herbert replied with a calm and stern voice, “Only because you think I want to keep going on with your plans. You didn’t even have to leave home. Think of how all of us over there wanted so much to come home. Why am I stuck here?”

“You can be so much more! You are a damn war hero! More than those parasites you’ll run against can ever be! You just want to throw it all away and go home?!”

“It’s decided, Oliver. I’m going.”

--

“Do you have to do this Herb?”

“Eleanor Whitby, I have to set the record straight. I don’t want to be harassed day and night about the rumours that Oliver started. I don’t want a political career.”

“I said I could come with you if you wanted.”

“It’s not what I want. I just want a quiet life. Maybe I’ll reopen dad’s hardware shop. Teach the kids how to use their hands. If I remember, that did impress you.” He coaxed a smile and faint blush from Eleanor.

“Politics feels like I’m just fighting a different kind of war. And I’m tired of it.”

Herbert held her hand until he was called up to the stage.

Herbert took his place on the podium and gave a moment for all the camera flashes to stop. He had never cared much for the ‘war hero’ image they had crafted around him.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to disappoint you but I have only come here to set the record straight. I’ll make this short – I am not running for political office, despite what my friend Oliver Mill may have said. I don’t care much for politics or fighting a losing battle. Honestly, I don’t believe I could be a good choice. I can tell you that you should pay attention to those that ran the place before and during the war. See who can do right by you. If you have to take any advice from me, take that and think hard about who you want in office and as leaders. Thank you and good night.”

Suddenly there was a rabid amount of shouting of questions from the crowd but Herbert did nothing to answer them. Instead he just walked away. His job was done and it was up to those in the crowd to pick up the pieces.


down to the last damn second, hopefully 1 edit is enough - hint: probably not :(
 

Cyan

Banned
Jun 10, 2004
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Voice in the Dark (1975)

Georgie peered down at the console screen as the comp sorted its way through the influx of sensor data. The system of Naos looked--wrong. Not the star itself; Naos showed as the same looming blue mass it had always been. Nor the lone planet orbiting the star; Farikon, though nearly eclipsed by its star, still gleamed blue and green and beautifully poisonous. No, it was the station that caught Georgie’s eye. Hammerhead Station, comprising little more than a pilot’s bar, a message center, and a fueling station, lay cracked and crushed and bleeding, half torn away from the asteroid it capped.

Around Hammerhead, at the thin point of the asteroid field, lay the detritus and remnants of battle. Crumpled bulkheads, crushed thruster pods, sheared titanium. Dead ships.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/68747405/Voice%20in%20the%20Dark.pdf
 
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