Freeing Meal (5-21-18)


[WP] You just have to go in there, get the package, and come out. Easy-peasy. [Link to post.]

Terry Mullins stared out the car window at the unassuming Chinese restaurant. He eyed the full parking lot and wished he could choose a better time frame. Some time darker, and not so in the middle of the weekday dinner rush. He turned back to face the rotund thug sitting in the driver’s seat with a shotgun resting on his lap, barrel pointed at Terry.

“What if-” Terry began to ask, but the enforcer cut him off. 

“Go in there, get the package, come out,” he repeated. The only words he said to Terry since the big boss sent Terry on this errand. 

“Right, just double checking.” Terry said, then looked out the car window again. 

“Today’s Monday,” the driver said. Terry turned around and nodded.

“Yeah, it is,” Terry said, confused.

“I watch football every Monday, all season. I never miss it.” He focused his gaze and locked eyes with Terry. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take you to get your ass out of this car and go get the thing, but I do know how long it takes me.” He looked at the clock on the car radio, it showed 5:38 p.m. “If getting the package is so easy, you should probably start wondering why the boss sent me along with you.” He shrugged and sat back against his seat. 

“Right. I got it,” Terry mumbled quickly while he forced himself to open the door and step out of the car. He felt a cool breeze rub his skin as he walked to the front door of the Chinese restaurant. The sound of a bell above him caught his attention when he pushed the door open. He looked around and felt relieved to see no one else paid him much attention. He walked to the counter where an elder Asian woman greeted him with a smile. 

“Hello. Can I help you?” She asked. Terry looked around himself to make sure there were no eavesdroppers nearby, then he leaned forward over the counter. 

“Dragonheart,” he whispered. He revealed a matte black credit card under his hand, then slid it across the glass to the woman. She looked down at it, but did not move to get it.

“We no longer serve that,” she said. Terry blinked several times at her while he processed her response.

“I’m sorry, what? No, that can’t be,” he said. His voice took on a hard, panicked edge.

“How about some Firecracker chicken?” she asked. Terry shook his head.

“I’m gonna die. They’re gonna kill me,” he mumbled to himself. He stared down at his reflection in the glass counter.

“Who?” the old woman asked.

“They told me if I did this simple errand,..”

“We haven’t served Dragonheart in years,” she said. She turned to the kitchen and yelled out something in a language Terry did not recognize. A burly cook in a white t-shirt and dragons tattooed on his arms walked out of the swinging kitchen door holding a large cleaver. The old woman spoke to him and pointed out the front door.

“What car?” she asked Terry.

“Wh..What?”

“Bad guy. What car?”

“Uh, green Ford across the street.” Terry replied, she smiled then continued to talking to the cook. When she finished the cook turned around and walked back into the kitchen, she followed him. Terry did not know what to do next, but he knew he shouldn’t go outside yet. He found an empty booth and sat down to ponder his life. After several minutes the lady walked out of the kitchen holding a tray of food. She brought it to Terry’s table.

“They trick you to kill you, they know we don’t serve Dragonheart anymore. You not the first, but you’ll be the last. Eat, relax. Takeru kill them all.”

Dread vs. Jelly_Jim (5-20-18)


[OT] Sunday Free Write [Link to post.]

Dread reached the Derby track and stepped across the boundary with her right foot. Her black and gold motorcycle boot attracted a stream of nanos from the track like a magnet pulling metal filings. They flowed from the smooth white surface to assemble themselves into a column of wheels along the sole of her boot. She completed the step, then she used her left foot to push herself forward. Once her other boot crossed the boundary it gained its own wheels and she skated to her position at the starting line, next to Jelly_Jim. Dread’s helmet coalesced around her head; it covered her bone-white spiked hair and tiger ears. The front of her helmet displayed a sugar skull logo decorated with golden flowers.


“First time. What am I in for?” Dread spoke into her helmet to ask Dirge. The shorter, curly haired girl stood at the sidelines to watch the match. A buzzer sounded from the floating scoreboard in the center of the half-mile, oval shaped track. Jelly_Jim took off like a shot, his green translucent body wobbled as he pushed himself forward on the skates. Dread skated forward at a relaxing pace to wait for Dirge’s reply.


“In Derby he gets a hand of five cards after the first lap, then every lap after that lets him draw another card. Card Mages mostly deal with summoning monsters, but they have effect cards too. The longer the match goes the stronger he’ll get, so you’ve got to knock him down fast or find a way to stop him from completing a lap. Oh yeah! You don’t actually have to knock him down. Card Mages automatically lose any game if their hand stays empty for too long, or if they don’t have any more cards to draw,” Dirge replied.


“Does outlasting him work too?” Dread asked. She began to glide faster atop the white track when she noticed Jelly_Jim taking the first turn, a quarter mile ahead of her.


“Not really. He can stop skating any time he wants, and he won’t have to draw a card if he doesn’t complete a lap,” Dirge explained.


“Do I get to know how many cards he has?” Dread asked. She looked to her left to see the green man across the center, on the other side of the track.


“Yeah, you’ll see it when he gets his first hand. Stop asking questions and go knock him down!” Dirge encouraged Dread to get serious. “Hey, where’s your beast?”


“Not yet,” Dread replied. She moved faster now, actively trying to catch up to her opponent. She focused on him as he completed his first lap. A string of five golden, floating octahedrons formed a single file behind him as he crossed the starting line. They followed his every swerve like the body of a snake chasing the head. After all five appeared, one vanished.


“Zone: Outbreak” Dread heard a deep male voice announce the play from the scoreboard when Jelly_Jim activated his first card. The smooth white track shifted. Dread felt the surface grow texture under her skates; she saw the white track darken and become a grey-black city street. Abandoned cars appeared on the street ahead of her while a neighborhood of houses with boarded windows grew in the center of the track. Dread could no longer see Jelly_Jim because houses around the scoreboard, but she heard another play announced.


“Zone Upgrade: Sleepers.” Dread saw a single zombie appear in front of Jelly_Jim on the track, She scanned ahead of him, but saw only the one ragged corpse standing in place. Jelly_Jim touched the zombie as he passed it. It woke up and began to shamble towards the starting line.


“Can I kill it?” Dread asked Dirge.


“You totally should! His monsters drop power-ups sometimes, and he gets more sleepers every time he completes a lap; next time he’ll get two, then three and so on,” Dirge explained.


“So he’s just helping me?”  Dread skated up behind the zombie. She crouched low to the ground and ran her hand along the street surface. Thin flowing streams of nanos collected in her hand to form her weapon; a large black, double bladed battle axe. She hefted it with little effort and cleaved through the zombie in front of her. It fell apart in two pieces, then disintegrated.


“Power-Up: Hyper” the announcer’s voice said from the scoreboard.


“Dirge?” Dread asked, unsure of the effect. Ahead of her Jelly_Jim was about to complete his second lap.


“That power-up boosts one of your class abilities, your beast counts too!” Dirge replied through Dread’s helmet. She glided atop the street towards the starting line and she noticed Jelly_Jim moving slower; the gap between them diminished. She picked up speed and gripped the ebony handle of her axe tighter.


“I don’t need my beast for this,” Dread said. Jelly_Jim slowed so much he appeared to be walking to the starting line. Dread twisted her hips slightly, and readied the axe like a baseball bat.


He stopped skating, but Dread did not expect that. The sudden halt threw off her timing. She meant to swing the broadside of the axe forward like a tennis racquet to swat Jelly_Jim’s gelatinous body; however, the stop caught her by surprise and she rushed the swing without putting any power into it. The green jelly caught the axe with a wobble, but Dread built up so much momentum her body continued to move forward while her hands still held the trapped axe. The conflicting forces sent Dread flying, feet first, across the starting line. She completed a lap, but still ended up on the street, flat on her back.


“Point: Jelly_Jim,” the scoreboard announced.


“One point for me,” Jelly_Jim said. He pulled Dread’s axe out of his body and tossed it over the starting line. The heavy blade embedded itself into the track next to Dread’s helmet. Dread jumped to her feet and held her hand out. The axe disintegrated into a stream of nanos that reformed the axe in Dread’s hand. She noticed Jelly_Jim standing behind the starting line. He waved at her, then she noticed one of the octahedrons behind him disappear.


“Zone Upgrade: Sleepers” A single zombie appeared in the small gap between Jelly_Jim and the end of the track. He woke it, then it turned to cross the starting line. Dread sliced through the zombie.

“Sleepers,” The scoreboard announced. Four zombies appeared in front of Jelly_Jim, two for each card played, and he woke all of them. They shuffled across the line, Dread killed all four of them with little effort.


“Sleepers,” The scoreboard announced. Six zombies appeared in front of Jelly_Jim, three for each card played, and he woke all of them. They shuffled across the line, Dread killed all six of them, though it took some effort.


“Sleepers,” The scoreboard announced. Eight zombies appeared in front of Jelly_Jim.


“Dirge? Help?”


“You have to go around again and push him across the line! But leave your beast out to kill the zombies or he’ll fill up the track. If he gets control of the track you lose,” Dirge said. Dread spun around and skated as fast as she could around the track.


“Your beast!” Dirge yelled in Dread’s helmet.


“I don’t know how!” Dread yelled back.

***
Previous Dirge & Dread chapter: AlterNet Entrance
Next Dirge & Dread chapter: Roaring Success

Marriage or Death? (5-19-18)

[WP] You’re a shopkeeper by day and a dungeon delver at night. A customer comes along and asks for a unique item. You don’t have it, but you know where to find it, and it won’t be easy to get. [Link to post.]

I looked up from the dagger I was polishing when I heard the chime over the front door. An angel, or at least a half-angel, walked in. I did not see any sign of wings, but the golden halo over his long, straight, black hear tipped me off to his race. 

“Afternoon. Something I can help you find?” I asked.  I set the dagger and cloth down on the counter to give him my full attention. He ignored me at first, instead choosing to look around the shop at my wares. 

“Uh, maybe? I need a gift for my fiancée. I have something specific in mind and after asking around, several people pointed me to you,” he said. I nodded. It was the same story as most of my clients. 

“I guess I am pretty good at fulfilling special requests. What can I do for you?” I asked. He looked around the shop again as if he were checking for other customers, then he stepped closer and lowered his voice. 

“I’m marrying a mermaid, and I want to give her a harp as a wedding gift,” he explained. I assumed he would not come to me for a simple stringed instrument, but I needed to be sure. El Arpa could be a powerful item, and I often did my part to ensure powerful items didn’t fall into the wrong hands. 

“A harp? There’s a bard guild down the street with all kinds of instruments,” I said and pointed East. He shook his head. 

“Not just any harp, I want a Unique one. Number 53,” he said with an eager face. 

“Ah, so you do know what you’re asking for, good.” I reached up to scratch my beard while I ran down some harps in my mind. “I do know the location of a few, did you have a specific variant in mind?” I hoped he didn’t. I had a harp in the shop, but it was a cursed, useless variant. Its ability entangled anyone that played it in harp strings. Unfortunately he nodded. 

“Yeah. She wants a Lasher variant,” he said. “Money’s no object.”  Of course she’d want the most powerful one. The Lasher causes slashing and sonic damage, as well as granting a stat boost. I sighed. I could have lied, but my honesty is what helped established my reputation. 

“I do know where there’s one,” I shook my head. “But no amount of money will convince me to get it.”

“What, why not? Everyone spoke so highly of you, but no one mentioned you were a coward,” He laughed at me. 

“Ballisea,” I said with a straight voice. He stopped laughing. 

“Oh. Well, I’m not afraid of her. How much will it take for you to tell me where it is?” Again, I shook my head. 

“Man, you’re about to get married, I’m not gonna send you off to die.” He burst into laughter again. 

“I am Unique #12, El Valiente. I’m a max level half angel, half fairy,” two sets of clear, veiny dragon fly wings popped out of his back. “…unicorn souled,” a rainbow washed through his black hair and a golden horn popped out of the top of his forehead. “…wizard. My magic stats are completely maxed out. Ballisea doesn’t stand a chance.” I smiled at him. 

“Well no wonder you’re loaded, you’re a farming machine. But see, the problem is you’re still thinking of it as a game. Ballisea’s real, and she’ll absorb your soul before you can think to yourself, ‘hey, I’m not respawning’. Tell you what, I got a Harp in the back I’ll let you have for free. It’s a cursed variant, but you can still get the stat boost without playing it.” He shook his head. 

“I want the Lasher,” he said firmly. I shrugged. 

“I only know where the one is, and I’m not gonna tell you. I can put out feelers for another one, but I can’t promise that in time for your wedding.” He clenched his fists as his face went red with frustration. I decided I’d had enough of him. 

“Okay, new deal. I’ll be happy to tell you where it is, if you bring your fiancée to tell me you have her permission to go out and get yourself killed. If there’s nothing else I can do for you, then please leave my shop.” 

Unique Conversation (5-18-18)

[CW] Write a story in which the narrator can only use words the characters have used. Or the converse: The characters can only use words the narrator has used. [Link to post.]

“Threnny! You know Lauren asked after you jus’ the other day. She said to me, ‘Vegas, how come Threnny don’t visit more often?’ ” Vegas said. “Ain’t that right, hon? Anyway, I nodded, cause she was right. Then I told her, ‘I don’t know hon, my guess is she’s too busy having fun.’ ” 

“Come on in to the house girls, but ignore the mess. Just watch your step with the paint cans. We were renovating, but the crew bailed and they haven’t replied to any of our e-mails for a while. Vegas said he’s gonna give them another week before changing their luck. But you’re not here to hear about that. Threnody, please introduce us to your friend,” Lauren said.

“First of all, I need to tell you guys I changed my name from Threnody to Dirge. And this is my new sister Dread. Regal asked my parents to adopt her, and you know them. She’s a Calavera. Dread, say hi to Sammy Vegas Jr. and his wife Lauren,” Dirge said. 

“Hi.” Dread said. “Dirge demanded I meet you guys before we head toward adventure.” 

“Hi Dread, you can call me Vegas. I gotta say, your hair is somethin’ else. The white looks good on you, may I touch it? I’ve gotta compare those spikes to my mohawk.” Vegas asked. 

“I don’t mind,” Dread nodded. 

“You’re gonna need to crouch. He’s too self conscious to ask,” Lauren said. 

“I don’t know why. We all see you, Vegas. We can tell you’re short,” Dirge said. 

“Still taller’n you, Shortcake,” Vegas nodded to Dirge. 

“Yeah, but I’m only 13. Still growing, you know? Dread, bow down and let the tiny man touch your hair,” Dirge said. Dread bowed. 

“If you’re done makin’ fun and laughing…” Vegas touched the white spikes. “Whoa that’s sharp. You’re like a porcupine girl, how much product have you added in there?”  Vegas asked. 

“None. Just my soul.” Dread said. 

“Now why didn’t I ever think of that?” Vegas asked Lauren. “Thanks for the tip, I’m gonna start that tomorrow. I’m already set for today.” Vegas touched his mohawk. “See? Almost stiff as yours. Almost.”

“So what adventure are you two chasing?” Lauren asked. 

“Before Regal found her, Dread was liberating Earths from Ballisea, so we’re gonna go do that some more,” Dirge replied. 

“That’s not a bad plan, but she ain’t someone you wanna bump into. Threnny, I know you. Don’t get cocky.” Vegas said.

“I won’t. Dread already made me promise we’d bail if we ever think she might be around. Even though no other Muerte is a match for me,” Dirge replied. 

“You might be right about that, but Ballisea is a Sol, not a Muerte,” Lauren said. 

“Yeah, and she’s already got some strong Uniques on her side. One in particular you really want to avoid. If you ever hear the name Flutter, beat feet,” Vegas added.

“Flutter?” Dread asked. 

“We’re suppose to be scared of someone named Flutter? That’s hilarious,” Dirge laughed. 

“It’s just a name, she’s a Calavera too. I seen her split an Earth in two with no more effort than it took her to make a fist,” Vegas said.

“So? I killed everyone on my Earth, except my parents, just by being born,” Dirge said. 

“You know about that?” Vegas asked Dirge. She nodded.

“My parents don’t know I know, so don’t tell them. But it’s kind of obvious that I’m not in my own universe when Regal shows up with Mr. Tyler every year for my birthday. He thinks I don’t know they’re aging me,” Dirge said. 

“Smart as a whip, didn’t I tell you hon?” Vegas asked Lauren. “I’ll keep my yap shut. But make sure you treat Flutter exactly like you would Ballisea. Run.”

“I promise,” Dirge said.

“You girls want to join us for dinner before you portal out of here?” Lauren asked.

“Sure! We were gonna go get food after this anyway. I wanted to take Dread to my favorite Chinese restaurant. If can find it.” 

“You’re in luck, I know where she is. She keeps me updated when she moves to a new Earth,” Vegas said.

“Really? Awesome, let’s go!” 

Alien Kindness (5-17-18)


[WP] A homeless guy that you see everyday on your way to and from work always holds up a sign that says, “The Aliens are coming!” One day, as you’re coming home, you see that he has added something to his sign. Now it says, “The Aliens are coming! They’ll be here tomorrow!” [Link to post.]

“Mornin’, Jerry.” I dropped a $20 in his coffee can like I did every Monday morning. The cross-legged, bearded man lowered his cardboard sign and looked up at me with a smile. 

“Thanks, Buddy.” He looked from me to the crowd of strangers marching by, making a noticeable effort to pretend he was invisible. Then he looked down at the coffee can that held only my donation and back up to me. “You know,” he scratched his beard and his eyes softened. “Sometimes it seems like you’re the only decent human around. I don’t think I could get through the week without you. I appreciate it.” I reached down to shake his hand, and his smile grew broader. 

“You wouldn’t have to struggle out here every week if you accepted more help.” His hand released mine and he waved me away. 

“You do more than your share, I can’t ask you for more,” he chuckled. “Now go on and get to work so I can eat next week.” I laughed and waved at him as I left. I walked to work thinking it odd that I considered a homeless man my only friend. I tended to keep to myself and work provided little opportunity for making friends. Jerry told me I was the first person to donate to him after he ended up in my city. He claimed his own street corner that happened to be on my usual route to work three years ago. That Monday I happened to be feeling generous. On my way home that day he thanked me profusely and offered me friendship bracelet he braided in return. I smiled and thanked him for the blue and purple string bracelet as I put it on. The next week I did it again, and after that it became habit. 

We chatted here and there the first year, and by the second I’d begun buying us monthly lunches to hang out. Despite my willingness, Jerry always turned down ‘too much’ help, as he called it. He turned me down when I tried to donate more than once a week. I felt confident I could get him a starting position in the mail room, but he turned that down too. During one of our lunches he told me the only reason he accepted those invites was because he felt like a real person having lunch with a friend. A few months ago he started holding up a sign that said, “The Aliens are coming!” I asked him about it at his favorite burger place and he laughed. 

“There’s a reason I didn’t try to pinpoint their arrival,” he said with a wink. “There’s aliens out there somewhere, and I’m sure they’ll be here someday,” he said laughing some more. “I gotta entertain myself however I can, you know?” I nodded and joined his laughter. 

“Well I guess you’re not wrong,” I said. I liked Jerry. Over the years I figured out his particular situation was a choice for him. I didn’t know what to think at first, but he seemed happy enough to be panhandling. The money I donated to him was no major loss to me, and I enjoyed his stories about his free-spirited way of life. The way I looked at it was: it costs me next to nothing to make someone else happy. I kept donating even after I realized it. 

Work went by uneventfully, and then I started the walk home. I waved at Jerry as I passed by, and he waved back with his sign. I noticed it was different. He added another line at the bottom.

“Tomorrow?” I asked. “What happened to ‘someday’?” I asked using air quotes. He stood from the ground, but his eyes remained downcast. “Hey Buddy, man I hate to ask.” His hand rubbed the back of his neck as he asked. He really behaved like shame ate away at him. “I know our monthly thing isn’t till next week, but can I impose on you for dinner tonight instead of next week? Please?”  My mind quickly ran down my plans for the evening. Dinner, then bed. I nodded.

“Yeah man, no problem. We’ll do both,” I said, eager to spend time with my friend instead of eating alone. “What’re you craving?”

“Burgers & Burgers.” He named his favorite place. It should have been my first guess, but his request caught me by surprise. In three years Jerry never asked me for a single thing.

“Grab your can and let’s get going,” I said. I turned to face the direction I just came from, and he joined me. He left the can behind, but I assumed he grabbed his earnings. We sat down in our usual white and orange booth, and the waitress came over as soon as we were comfortable. After she took our order Jerry turned to me with a curious look in his eyes. His whole body seemed to be stiffer, and only a ghost of his usual smile remained.

“Something wrong?” I asked.

“Yeah. Look, uhhh. You know me, right? We’re friends?” I nodded and held up my arm and tugged at my sleeve to show him I still wore the blue and purple bracelet on my wrist. He smiled. “Okay, so -” he stopped talking when the waitress showed up with our drinks. Then he started up again.

“Aw hell. I’m just gonna say it, and you react however you think is appropriate. The aliens will be here tomorrow. I know that, because they told me,” Jerry said. He stopped talking talking, and I realized I subconsciously leaned away from him. I felt embarrassed and leaned forward again.

“Man, you’re normally straight as an arrow. Did you get around to trying some LSD or something? I ain’t gonna judge, I’ve tried it myself. But just be careful, man.” He shook his head, then he made an effort to look around the restaurant and see where everyone else was. I looked too and I got the impression no one would see or hear us until the waitress brought our burgers. He leaned over the table.

“If you trust me, stay calm.” He put his hand on the table and grabbed the yellowing, chewed nail on his middle finger. Then he pulled it off. I grimaced and half closed my eyes, but I did my best to stay calm. Because my friend asked me to. Instead of blood I saw a grey wiggle.

“Is that another finger… in your finger? Man, start explaining it quick. Please.” He lifted his hand off the table slightly and pulled down on the end of his finger. The skin came off like a torn rubber glove leaving only the bony grey finger. He used it to flip me the bird for added effect, then he pulled his hand under the table and out of sight.

“Aliens will be here tomorrow, they’re my ride home. You’re my only friend on the planet, wanna come along?”

Lion’s Tale (5-16-18)


[WP] Future seers tend to be very successful, but every one of them turned to the dark side eventually and became history’s worst mass murderers, tyrants and dictators. One day, you saw into the future, thousands of years into the future. You decide to use this knowledge for good. [Link to post.]

I woke in my bed, turned on the lamp, then reached for the pen and notepad I kept on the nightstand to write my dreams. Writing out what I could remember helped me put the images into a cohesive prediction that I could work with. This one was easy to remember, but deep down inside I knew I could change it. 

“End of humanity,” I spoke aloud as a habit while I jotted it down. “5037”  I closed my eyes and focused to pull more information from my dream memory. It wasn’t alien invaders, nuclear war, or viral pandemic. My eyes shot open. “Suicide?” I asked myself in disbelief, then added it to my notes. “Mass Suicide.” I closed my eyes again, but the memories remained. Somehow every human was convinced to kill themselves in 5037. I wasn’t immortal, and I’d be long dead by then. But I had to stop it. I glanced at the clock. Red block numbers said 6:30 a.m. so I reached for my phone. 

An hour later I answered the door to see my two best friends, Ryan and Jesse. I had more friends that knew about my visions, but they were the only ones I felt comfortable calling so early on a Saturday morning. Ryan handed me a bag of breakfast as he walked in carrying two others. Jesse handed me a cup of coffee from a tray holding three.

“What’s the emergency vision?” Jesse asked as he stepped in. 

“I saw farther than ever, the year 5037,” I said as we made ourselves comfortable on my red couch. Ryan pulled the coffee table closer to hold our food. 

“Whoa, that’s awesome. Did you see any cool tech we could start inventing?” Jesse asked. Normally I would have chuckled, but I just shook my head. 

“I saw the death of humanity.” 

“Oh. That’s not awesome.” Jesse said, then took a bite of his breakfast sandwich. 

“How’d it happen? How can we fix it?” Ryan asked, then took his own bite.

“I don’t know how to fix it, that’s why you guys are here. As for how it happened… man. It was pretty horrible. Saying ‘mass suicide’ doesn’t seem like a strong enough description considering it was every single human, but yeah. That’s what happened, everyone killed themselves.” I finally bit into my own breakfast while their brains worked on the problem. 

“What about the kids? Did the parents…” Jesse let the question hang, but I shook my head.

“Ebrywon,” I said with a mouth full of egg, sausage, and biscuit. I held my finger up, then swallowed. “Everyone did it themselves, even the kids. I don’t know how we can even affect that far in the future, but we gotta try.” 

“You gotta come out,” Ryan said. “Prove you’re a Seer, then maybe people will listen. If we get enough people to listen to you now, maybe we can pass the knowledge down the generations.” 

“He can’t come out, you know how Seers get treated.” Jesse brought up the negative stigma around Seers. They’re rare, but I knew I wasn’t the first by a long shot. The only problem is all of them ended up corrupt somehow, causing an insane amount of deaths. I appreciated Jesse looking out for me, but deep down I knew Ryan was right. A part of me felt I knew that when I called them but I just wanted some moral support. 

“No, Ryan’s right. They might hate me, but they’ll believe me. Can you guys help me get some videos online over the next few weeks? I don’t know how many predictions I’ll have to toss out before people believe me, but I know it’ll be more than one.”

“Yeah man, of course,” Ryan said.

“If you’re sure you want to go that route, we’ll help,” Jesse added. Once the decision was made I felt a weight off my shoulders. We spent the morning chatting about how to address humanity’s end, and the guys helped me doctor it up a bit. I decided some embellishment wouldn’t hurt, since it was for the most important cause. Plus if everything went according to plan it wouldn’t happen anyway. They left in the early afternoon. It gave me a chance to sit down and plan my night.

I couldn’t necessarily call the visions at will, however I’d gotten pretty good at coaxing them out fairly regularly if I really wanted to. I had to have a vision that night and it needed to be something happening soon. I spent a quiet evening alone meditating on and off, then went to bed. The next morning Ryan and Jesse showed up with breakfast again, ready to record. 

“Get anything useful?” Ryan asked as he set up a tripod. I nodded and held up my notepad.

“Yeah, I lucked out and got something for tomorrow. So we gotta get this uploaded early.” I placed my bag of breakfast on the kitchen counter and left it untouched. The other two guys followed my lead and we got down to business. Ten minutes later we were ready to film.

“Alright, we’re filming. Go for it.” Ryan nodded at me. Jesse headed to the kitchen for his breakfast. I started the speech I’d been practicing in my head since the day before, minus the details of the prediction.

“Hi! You don’t know me yet, but you will. My name is Leo Goodson and I’m a Seer. I’ve kept this fact hidden for a while now, but two nights ago I had a vision so important..” I stretched my arms out wide. “Well, here I am. Before I can talk about what I Saw, I need to make sure everyone believes I’m a Seer. To that end I’ll start posting predictions online, until you guys are ready to hear the big one.  Here’s your first prediction. Tomorrow, Monday the 21st, game 7 is going to be rained out.” I waved at the camera. “That’s it for now, stay tuned. More predictions to come.”  

“Looks good,” Ryan said after he stopped recording. “I’ll have it uploading in a bit.” He pulled his laptop out of his backpack while I headed towards my breakfast. He joined Jesse and me in the kitchen once the video was uploading. 

Six months later I sat in a large conference room with Ryan, Jesse, and the leaders of the world. I made predictions as often as I could, but unfortunately some of them took weeks to resolve. But now I had the attention I needed. I explained my vision for the end of humanity, but it took another two years of accurate predictions before they believed me. It took the world governments an extra two years to believe me, but I released my big prediction to the public after that initial meeting. All the predictions I made to prove myself to the government brought me more and more subscribers. I repeated my vision to my followers as often as I could. I needed to remind them how horrible it would be. I needed my message to echo across the generations. 

***
5037: 

“Morning!” Baxter walked into the bright kitchen to join his family at the breakfast table. “Happy Lion’s Day!” His family greeted him in kind, his wife and two sons smiling like Christmas morning. 

“Do we gotta wait for everyone else?” His son Leo, named after the prophet, asked. Baxter nodded at his youngest. 

“Well, I suppose you don’t have to.” Leo eagerly reached for his loaded gun resting at the center of the table with three others. “But, the Goodson did intend for everyone to do it together.” 

Clueless to Conspiracy (5-15-18)


[WP] You’ve been walking all day, so you decide to take a rest on a nearby park bench. Once you do, a man in a black suit comes out and drops a briefcase by your feet before nodding and walking away. You notice a note attached to the case… [Link to post.]


I watched the stiff man walk away then turned my gaze back to the briefcase. A thin white string wrapped around the shiny black handle and attached it to a small sheet that looked like it had typed instructions on it. I looked up and down the walkway, but saw no sign of anyone else. Including the well dressed gentleman that left it behind.

Not my circus, not my monkeys.” I shrugged to myself then left the aluminum park bench, and the black case behind. I checked the time and grumbled to myself when I saw how late it was. I spent most of the day out and about, hoping to be “in town” in case some of my friends wanted to hang out. Now that six o’clock was fast approaching I decided to grab some food and just head home. A twinge of sadness pulled at my heart, but my small circle of friends were known for being very busy. I did not begrudge them even if I did end up dining alone.

I headed towards my favorite pizza shop, and felt a bit better when the waitress greeted me with a warm smile. I visited the shop almost every time I was in town and got along well with the staff. Sandy, the particular waitress that greeted me today was my favorite server. She did her job well and always had a friendly word for me.

“Usual?” She asked, and I nodded. She walked back to enter the order, then returned with my drink. “Hey, didn’t you say your birthday was coming up last time you were here?” she asked as she set the dark soda and straw down on the wooden picnic style table. I nodded at her while I reminded myself to give her a bigger than normal tip for remembering.

“Today, actually.” I said and forced a smile.

“Really?” her smile grew wide. “You come through here often enough, tell you what. Today your pizza’s on the house. Happy Birthday.”

“Wow, thanks. I appreciate it.” I decided to tip her the cost of the meal. I doubted she had the power to decide something was ‘on the house’ and assumed she planned to pay it out of pocket. She smiled and walked away to check on her other tables. I heard the bell jingling over the front door, and looked up. My booth faced the door and I caught sight of a woman wearing a black suit carrying a black briefcase. It struck me as odd that she did not remove her sunglasses once she was in the restaurant. She walked towards my table, I almost expected her to sit in the booth seat across from me. Once she reached my table she nodded at me, then placed the briefcase on the floor next to my table. She turned and walked out of the shop. I looked down at the black briefcase, a small note was tied to the handle with a small red string.

“Nice briefcase,” Sandy said as she walked by. I raised my hand to catch her attention.

“Hey Sandy, can I get the pizza to go? And the briefcase isn’t mine, you can put it in the lost & found.”

“Are you sure? It looks like it was left for you, I saw that woman drop it off,” she asked. I shrugged.

“If it was for me she should have said something. I can’t read minds, and she didn’t communicate. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s not my problem.” Sandy laughed.

“I guess you’re right. No sweat, I’ll get your pie boxed up.” She grabbed the briefcase then walked to the back. After sitting and staring at my phone willing it to ring for about 10 minutes she brought me the box of pizza and a 2-liter soda in a grey plastic bag. “Since you’re taking it to go, I tossed in a drink too.”

“Wow, thanks Sandy. You’re the best,” I smiled at her. I dropped her generous “tip” on the table, with the ones on top, and scooted my way out of the booth.

“Happy birthday again!” she waved at me as I walked out of the restaurant. I half lifted the pizza box in lieu of a wave and stepped out into the evening. I caught sight of the descending sun through the trees and felt a cool breeze caress my cheeks. I decided it was too beautiful a night to rush back home. I had a great pizza ready to eat, so I needed a great view to go with it. I walked to the nearby pier and sat on one of the wooden benches to enjoy my pizza and the sunset.

I began to work on my fourth slice when I caught sight of another suit walking towards me. This time an older gentleman with a greying beard left a briefcase near me. The note was tied to the handle with a green string. 

“Hey, is that for me?” I asked the man as he walked by, but he ignored me. “HEY!” I yelled after him, but he kept walking. I sighed, then closed the pizza box. I wanted to get home and end the day to put the disappointing, and weird, birthday behind me. My friends were great; I knew they’d make it up to me. But it still stung a bit that I didn’t get so much as a “Happy Birthday” text, even if they couldn’t hang out. 

I walked into my house and saw two of my best friends having a conversation in the front room. They both looked at me with surprise.

“What are you doing here?” Fred asked. He appeared to be in the middle of getting dressed, or maybe undressed. His belt buckle was undone, his fly unzipped, and he wore only a white undershirt. 

“Yeah you’re not suppose to be back for a couple of hours, how’d you get done so fast?” Lynn asked. She was completely dressed, but her makeup was half off, and her hair looked like a coppery bird’s nest. 

“Done with what?” I asked. I set the pizza box and unopened 2-liter on the counter.

“Your birthday scavenger hunt.” Lynn said. “We’re still setting up your party you idiot.” She walked over and smacked me on the shoulder. 

“What birthday scavenger hunt? No one told me anything about it.” 

“The park, the pizza shop, the pier? You know, you were supposed to follow the clues then come home. But they were supposed to take you some time to decipher,” Fred said. He finished zipping up his pants and buckling his belt. I heard the door behind me open, but now that everything was coming together I assumed it was a party guest. 

“I didn’t look at the clues, I didn’t know they were for me.” I said, then turned to see who came in. Sandy held the briefcase with red string up and smiled broadly at me. 

“Yeah, he’s pretty clueless. Cute, but clueless.” She walked by me, being careful to rub herself against me as she passed. “You didn’t open the soda either, did you?” She asked as she pulled the drink out of its plastic bag. The bottle looked empty of soda, but it held a rolled up scroll inside. She shook it around for added effect. 

“Oh yeah, I guess that did feel kind of light,” I said. 

Inkedskin (5-14-18)


[CW] Write a fairytale in the style of a superhero origin story. [Link to post.]

“Hey.” Johnathan Strauss jumped awake, instinctively grabbing his faded green duffel bag. The voice belonged to an elderly woman that poked his chest to wake him. “You’re going on two days here, time to move along.” She gestured towards the exit of the bus station. She handed him a white business card with the name “Mike’s House” and an address printed on it. “You can go here if you’ve got nowhere else. They get a lot of veterans,” she said and nodded at his uniform. Johnathan accepted the card, then stood. He nodded at the woman with a faint smile of gratitude. 

“Thanks. I appreciate it.” He hoisted his bag over his shoulder then moved towards the exit. A chill ran down his spine as he stepped out into the cool night. It was the middle of January, but Johnathan did not bother checking the time on his way out of the bus station. He had nowhere to be, it didn’t matter. He walked several blocks before he pulled the card out and checked the address. 

“I should’ve asked her how to get there,” he mumbled to himself with a chuckle. Johnathon was in an unknown city without a penny to his name. His few relatives died while he was at war, so he had no place to live to get back on his feet. He rode the bus as far as his last dollar took him. He kept walking. On the next block he passed a man leaning against the side of a tattoo shop named “Devil’s Ink”. The tattoo shop was closed, so Johnathon knew it was late. The man nodded politely as Johnathon passed and he took a long drag on his cigarette, causing the end to glow a brilliant orange. That was enough of an opening for Johnathon to turn around.

“Excuse me, sir. Do you know the way to Mike’s house?” Johnathon dug into his pocket and presented the card to the stranger. He did not move to take it, but stared at Johnathon. 

“You don’t wanna go there. You’re better off staying with relatives,” he said with a low gravelly voice. Then he took another deep puff, but turned his head to avoid blowing smoke in Johnathon’s face. The soldier laughed.

“Yeah, if I had relatives I would. Can you point me the way, please?” he asked the man again. The stranger pulled the half finished cigarette from his mouth and dropped it on the floor. “Got nowhere else to go? C’mon into my shop, I got a lotta respect for you boys in green. Let’s get you fixed up.” Without waiting for a reply the man turned around and opened the door to the tattoo shop. He held it open for Johnathon, and encouraged him to enter first. Johnathon did not like the idea of sleeping in a room full of strangers, so he stepped into the shop. 

Johnathon looked around at the tattoo parlor, but it looked like every other one he’d been in. Flash art on the walls, glass display cases showing off the piercing jewelry, barber’s chairs and a folding screen at the back to give some privacy for more intimate tattoos and piercings. The owner pointed to the best chair, it only had two holes in the red pleather. 

“Have a seat, let me grab something from the back.” He walked past Johnathon, so the soldier sat down on the suggested seat. After a minute the man came back. Johnathon took a good look at him for the first time. He wore a heavy dark green trench coat. He was a pale man with a black pointy goatee at his chin, and every visible inch of skin, including his head and face, covered in tattoos of some sort. He held a small container of red ink and a heavy looking book. He pulled up a rolling stool in front of Johnathon and sat down. 

“It’s early, so I’ll get straight to business. If you don’t like what you hear,” the owner handed Johnathon a folded sheet of paper. “Here’s a map to Mike’s house.” Johnathon unfolded it to take a look, then decided it looked enough like a map to make him comfortable. He nodded.  

“I’m a devil. Not THE devil, just a lesser one. But, I do the whole bargain thing.” Johnathon flinched, he nearly jumped up to head out the door. But he managed to keep calm enough to stay and listen. “Unfortunately as a weaker devil my bargains are more like bets. I bet you that you can’t do something. If I win I get your soul. If you win you get whatever you want.”

“What’s the bet?” Johnathon asked. He leaned forward on his seat. The devil shook his head.

“Nope, first you gotta decide what you want. Then we build the bet around that. So tell me soldier boy, what do you want?” 

“I want to never have to worry about money again,” Johnathon knew that much. He considered the opportunity. If this guy really was able to make a magical deal, he could do a lot more than just money. “And super powers. I want super powers and money.” The devil chuckled. 

“Ah, super powers.” He nodded. “Yeah that one’s becoming more popular recently. No problem. Here’s the deal. I tattoo you right now. Then for seven years you come back every year. You have to walk through town to get here, you can’t Uber yourself to my front door. If you make it till the 8th tattoo you win.”

“What do you mean if I make it?” 

“Well there’s a few stipulations of course. It’s no fun if it’s that straightforward. I get to choose what the tattoo is, and where it’s placed.” The devil shrugged with a smile. “Obviously I’m going to go for the face to make it difficult for you. Now since this is just for the bet, if you get all eight you can wipe them clean. Also, you won’t have any super powers yet, but you need to live.” The owner stood up and removed his green jacket. “As long as you have this on, you’ll have money and credit cards in the pockets. But take it off once and it’ll break the spell. You won’t lose the bet, but you’ll be out of money. You can shower with it on, but people usually just skip showering because it’s not like you can get clean anyway. If you win you can choose a super power. If you fail to get the eighth tattoo I get your soul.”

“So I get unlimited money for seven years as long as I keep this coat on? And I have to walk here to get my tattoo every year? That’s easy enough, with all that money I can just stay inside and hang out on the internet.” The devil nodded with a crooked smile.

“Ohhh yeah. You won’t get lonely at all. So, wanna get a tattoo?” 

“Let’s do it.” The soldier stuck his hand out and shook the devil’s hand. 

***

Note* for the curious. This is based on the fairy tale: Bearskin. 

Game Start (5-13-18)

[OT] Sunday Free Write [Link to post.]

Dirge jumped out of a glassy, clear portal; her exit disturbed the surface making it ripple like water. Dread stepped out of the portal behind her and took in the sites of the Derby park. Dozens of different looping and twisting tracks surrounded by hundreds of spectators as far as she could see. On the tracks she spotted players racing around and knocking each other down.

“This is gonna be fun!” Dirge cheered as she stared at the sight. She produced a playing card sized transparent rectangle from her pocket and held it up. “Let’s test out our upgrades.” Dirge sang a short, steady, high pitched note causing the clear Node to glow with golden light. She inserted it into a small white dock wrapped around her wrist. After a bright flash of light Dread noticed Dirge’s outfit and hair changed. Instead of her black and orange lolita dress, she now wore a black short and flowy sailor skirt with orange trim along with a matching top and black thigh-high boots. Dirge twirled in place to show her outfit off to Dread, but the taller girl focused on the spinning girl’s rainbow hair.

“This is my AlterNet character,” Dirge chirped as she posed with a wide stance, then smiled.

“Nice hair,” Dread said. Dirge ran her fingers through the rainbow curls and looked at it.

“Unicorn Soul,” She smiled. “Let’s see yours.” Dread nodded and pulled her Node out. She held the clear rectangle in front of her and yelled short sonic scream at it to attune it to her. It began to glow with golden light, then she slid it into a dock on her belt buckle. A brilliant flash of light left her transformed. Instead of her red shirt and blue jeans she wore black leather pants with reinforced knee pads and black biker boots with golden buckles. Her top consisted of a black leather jacket zipped up to her neck. A black helmet with a skull drawn on the front covered her head. The skull design resembled a sugar skull decorated with golden flowers. She spun in place to show Dirge the tiger and shark yin-yang in red and blue on the back of her jacket.

“I can’t see your face.” Dirge pouted. Dread reached up and touched her helmet causing it to disappear. A pair of orange and black cat ears protruded from her bone-white hair. “Cat Soul?” Dirge asked.

“Tiger.” Dread nodded.

“Cool! Let’s go.” Dirge led the way through the crowd to look for any open challenges, Dread followed. After stopping at various tracks to check the rules Dirge found one that she seemed happy about. “This one’s a good warm-up, it’s a simple knock down challenge,” she said. Dread looked at the track in front of them. It was laid out in an oval shape with none of the corkscrews, loops, or jumps that made the other tracks so interesting.

“Looks boring,” Dread said. Dirge nodded.

“This is your first match, right? You need to get used to it before you can move on to the fun stuff. C’mon!” Dirge and Dread crossed the white line that separated the track zone from the rest of the spectators to join the game. The moment they crossed a translucent green man wearing elaborate blue and white robes appeared in front of them. His hair seemed to be a single mass sitting atop his head, it was a darker shade of green but also translucent.

“Challengers?” He asked. His voice sounded eager, but somehow ready for disappointment at the same time.

“Yep!” Dirge smiled.

“Rr-Really?!” His eyes widened. “Are you sure? Did you even look at the rules?”

“Yeah. Knock down challenge, no sweat,” Dirge said. The green man looked at the pair of girls.

“But it gives you my info too. Are you sure you want to try a knock down challenge against a Slime?” He stepped forward and his entire body jiggled like gelatin after he shifted his weight. “No one’s ever knocked me down.” Dirge dismissed his concerns with a hand wave.

“Yeah, yeah. Slime Card Mage, we got it. My friend here just wants to warm up anyway, doesn’t matter if she loses.”

“I won’t lose.” Dread spoke up in a hurry, and stood up straighter. The Slime man shrugged.

“It does matter if you lose, I’m not competing for free. Can you cover the bet?”

“It doesn’t look like you’re competing at all.” Dread said with a half smirk.

“Yeah.” He nodded, causing his entire head to wiggle. “Because I don’t do it for free. If you kids want a ‘friendly game’ go to the newbie zone.” He pointed them off the track.

“No this’ll be fine. We can cover the bet.” Dirge touched the Node on the inside of her wrist then a tiny brown leather sack appeared in her hand. She dropped the bag on the ground, and immediately the ground swallowed it up. A scoreboard appeared in the center of the oval track showing two names in blue letters.

[Dread versus Jelly_Jim]

Jim nodded then turned around and wobbled his way to the starting line. Dirge grabbed Dread’s hand before she left.

“Okay, listen. He’s a Card Mage so… Oh wait. What class are you?” she asked.

“Beastmaster.”

“Oh, okay. Actually that’s a pretty good match up, you’ll be fine. Experiment with your class skills and get used to them. You only have to knock him down once to win, but he has to knock you down three times. Oh, and remember, your scream won’t do anything. It’s not a recognized class skill so the nanos will protect him from it. You go it?” Dirge asked.

“Yeah.” Dread nodded then walked towards the starting line.

***

Previous Dirge & Dread chapter: AlterNet Entrance
Next Dirge & Dread chapter: Dread vs. Jelly_Jim

Ballisea’s Story (5-12-18)


[WP] Even monsters have stories. Tell me yours, wanderer, I wish no harm to you. [Link to post.]

“You wish me ‘no harm’?” The pale, tall, dark haired woman said with a soft laugh and stared at the man who wanted to hear her story. He stood tall, protecting his wife behind him and showing no fear. The invading woman smiled when she noticed a tattoo of the Earth with the number 37 on the back of the man’s left hand. “Ah, a Mundo, that explains the interest. I can tell you’re stalling, but I’ll humor you.” The tall woman smiled at the couple whose house she stood in as she sat in a faded green wooden chair at their small dinner table. “You obviously haven’t heard of me, but you should pass my name on to whomever you’re expecting to come to your rescue. They might change their mind when you tell them Ballisea the Demon Queen is in your kitchen.” Her eyes breathed a red glow. 

“Ba- Ballisea?” The brave man’s weight shifted backward at the name. He managed to continue acting brave, but beyond that point it was only an act. Ballisea’s right eyebrow cocked upward.

“So you have heard of me? Congratulations, Mundo, you get to be the one to hear my story.”

“My name is Arik Hansen.” The blonde man said. He mustered his courage to sit down at the table across from Ballisea. She dismissed his reply with a wave. 

“Oh please, you’re just a Mundo. As far as Uniques go, your kind might as well be Zeroes. One on every Earth, but you can’t leave it. No real powers, just knowledge.” Ballisea said, then she turned her attention to the woman standing behind her seated husband. She gripped his shoulders with both hands and stood straight up staring at the small pair of bone-white spikes growing out of Ballisea’s head. Ballisea brought her hand to the top of her head and touched the spikes. “You like my horns? They’re just getting started, but they’re going to be amazing.”

“Liv, some tea please,” Arik said. She squeezed his shoulder then moved away to putter around the kitchen. They both knew they were going to die, but Arik’s request reassured Liv in a way. The Hansens would not die without dignity; they would face death with courtesy and bravery. While Liv filled the kettle Ballisea leaned forward and lowered the front of her black dress to show Arik her ample cleavage. He noted a golden sun tattooed on the upper portion of her left breast, over her heart, with the number 46 in the center of it in red numbers. 

“A Sol? We all thought you were a Muerte.” Arik said. Ballisea lifted the front of her dress back up and nodded. 

“I don’t remember when I was born, or even when I was Awakened. I wandered universes for a long long time, death and destruction came easy enough, but it was all a blur. My memory starts at the moment I met him and fell in love for the first, and only time.” Her eyes softened as she thought about him. Liv placed a cup of tea in front of Ballisea, then moved the sugar closer to her. 

“You fell in love?” Liv asked. Ballisea nodded, but did not move to touch the tea.

“His name was Allister. He was a Zero just like you,” Ballisea looked at Liv. “But he was so brave and so handsome. I was living on a medieval Earth at the time, and he was sent to kill me. He didn’t stand a chance, of course, but I thought it would be fun to tease him. I let him think he had the advantage and waited for him to strike the killing blow, just to mock him when he failed.” One side of her mouth turned upward in a wistful half-smirk. 

“He refused to kill me, said I was too beautiful. He wanted to help me reform.” Ballisea chuckled. “Zeroes are deeply stupid, aren’t they?” Ballisea asked Arik. He pulled his wife closer to him, but did not say anything. Ballisea shrugged. “I went along with it thinking it might be fun for a while, then I’d kill him the moment I got bored.” She looked at the couple holding hands. “You guys know what love is, but I had no idea. The boredom never came. He made me smile, but beyond that I felt content with him. Just when I thought I couldn’t love him more, he proved me wrong.” Ballisea’s body stiffened, Arik noticed her hands clenched. 

“We’d started a life together, and as happy as I was I began to relax my guard. Then some loser Diablito got lucky and caught me by surprise and knocked me out. He probably could have killed me if he tried, but he just wanted to get his rocks off. Allister found me in the forest, but a couple of months later my pregnancy started to show. It wasn’t Allister’s.” Ballisea reached forward to grab the white ceramic cup. She took a sip to give them time to process what she said. 

“El Diablito,” Arik said. Ballisea nodded and placed the cup down. “I needed to rid myself of it. I used a spell to purge my flesh, using my connection with Allister to keep me alive. Allister became known as a necromancer, since he always had a skeleton with him. I was literally just bones, and he still loved me. Eventually I managed to kill another Unique to get my flesh back.” Ballisea brought her hand up in front of her and admired it for a second. She made a fist then opened and closed it several times. “But I was still pregnant.” 

“How can that be?” Liv asked. Ballisea shrugged. “We’re Uniques. At that point the only thing left to do was to wait it out and kill the little bastard. So we did. Allister doted on me non-stop, then the time came. I took us to an empty Earth to give birth, but I moved too soon.” Ballisea’s head fell slightly as she admitted her part of the blame. 

“Birth check.” Arik said, he noticed a single tear traveling down Ballisea’s cheek.

“I stabbed myself, not even waiting for him to come out. I thought he was ready to be born, close enough right? The energy he released in self defense was enough to crack the Earth we were on; enough to wound me, badly. Enough to kill Allister.” Ballisea said. She rose from her seat in a hurry. Arik squeezed Liv’s hand. “And that little bastard STILL had the gall to be born!” Ballisea threw the small table to the side in anger, then made a gesture at the air beside her to open a pitch black portal. Two skeletons walked out of it.

“I love you,” Arik whispered in Liv’s ear, and she nodded. Arik placed a hand over her eyes and pulsed golden energy through it to put her to sleep. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight as the skeletons approached them. 

“He’s out there somewhere right now having fun. I can’t kill him yet, but once he matures enough I’m going to enjoy killing him.”