Souls have been proven to exist and to be what makes us sentient, we just don’t know what they are or how they work. Scientists begin to study them, poke them a bit, move them around, take them apart… [Link to post.]
“So, it’s not going to kill me, right?” The disheveled, bearded man asked while looking around at the white room he sat in. White light seemed to be coming out of every wall, including the ceiling and floor. He sat upright in a metal chair in front of a large glass desk. A beautiful woman with long dark hair sat behind the desk, but he did not know her name. It wasn’t important. He was here for the money.
“Mr. Spinne, unfortunately I cannot guarantee that an accident won’t happen. However, I can be completely transparent with you. We have had some patients react badly and die during the testing. However any financial compensation due to them was paid out to their families, with a bonus. If you like I can give you some references to double check. All I can promise you is that it is not our intent that you die, or suffer. The process is sometimes painful, but we will try all we can to make you comfortable.” The man scratched at his beard while he listened.
“Call me Spider,” he said.
“Spider Spinne? That’s an interesting name.” The woman scratched out his name at the top of the file and wrote in ‘Spider’.
“No. Sebastian Spinne, but Spinne is German for spider. I like that better.” The man smiled revealing several missing teeth behind the dense brown forest of his beard. “I even got a tattoo, see?” He rolled up his sleeve to show a giant black widow spider tattooed on his arm.
“That’s nice,” the woman said. She corrected the name again and wrote in Sebastian.
“I’ll sign whatever. When do I get the money?” Spider sat up eagerly.
“Do you know what you’re signing on for Mr. Spinne?” He chuckled.
“Yeah, to get a million bucks and probably not die. Call me Spider.”
“That’s not good enough,” the woman sighed. “This institute has discovered the human soul. It answered many questions, but gave us ten times as many. We have been trying to learn all we can, and you are volunteering for that experimentation.” Spider burst into laughter.
“I’m selling my soul! Sister, for a million bucks you can have it. I ain’t usin’ it.” He slapped his knee, releasing a small puff of dirt.
“Please don’t misunderstand. We’re not removing it entirely. The procedure is more along the lines of a biopsy. We only cut out a small piece to experiment with.” Spider rubbed his chin through his beard and his eyes sparkled.
“What’ll you give me for all of it?”
“We have no intention, nor interest in buying all of it.” She placed the clipboard on the desk and pushed it towards him. “Please sign these papers if you agree. You will receive an initial physical, and if you meet our requirements you’ll be given 25% of the money today with the rest promised to you after you complete the procedure. “
“You got it!” He scraggled ‘Spider’ on the dotted line.
“Please avoid using nicknames Mr. Spinne, it’s a pain from a bookkeeping perspective.”
“My name *is* Spider,” He said with a flash of anger in his eyes. She decided it would be easier to adjust the names as she went.
“Of course. Sorry Spider.” She pressed a button and seconds later a pair of orderlies stepped into the room. “Please show Spider to the next room, he’s ready for his physical.” She handed Spider a small card with the number 33 on it. “You are subject thirty three.” Spider grinned a holey grin.
“Must be my lucky day. 33’s my favorite number.” He took the card and followed the men out of the room. The young woman sprayed deodorizer in her office then left to the lab. She walked down the white halls and entered a larger white room. On one end of the room was a glass pane with Spider on the other side of it. He sat under a humming machine that scanned him with blue and red lights. Her assistant rushed to her.
“Dana, this guy’s amazing!” Dana glowered at her assistant.
“Right, sorry. Ms. Sharp.” the assistant cleared her throat. “This guy is amazing! His soul is entirely unique from anything we’ve ever seen.”
“What do you mean?” Dana followed her assistant to the bank of monitors. The younger woman pointed at the center monitor that showed a glowing golden light.
“His soul is *literally* glowing with golden light. It fried the rest of our instruments when we tried to scan it. I can’t wait to get a piece of it.” Dana stared at the glowing light on the monitor.
“How about the whole thing?” She smiled.
“No.. we can’t. Can we? We don’t know what’ll happen to him.” Dana shrugged.
“It’ll be a good opportunity to find out, right? Put something together, quickly.” She walked out of the room and into the room that held Spider.
“Mr. Spinne? I may have spoken too soon.”
“Spider. What do you mean? I’m not gonna get my money?”
“Oh, no Spider. You’re going to get more money than you ever dreamed of. When I said we were not interested in purchasing your soul, I spoke out of turn. Unbeknownst to me, my boss *has* been looking for someone willing to make the trade. For science of course. We’re curious to see what happens if a soul is removed entirely.” Spider sat up straighter and his eyes narrowed.
“What happens if I die? I got no family to give the money to, and I ain’t gonna be around to spend it.”
“Well since you’re making such a big leap of faith in the name of science, we can easily do the same.” The door opened and Dana’s assistant walked in with a clipboard. Dana took the clipboard and looked over it it. Then she handed it to Spider with a pen.
“If you agree to sell us your soul, you become our property. We will give you 10 million dollars. Today. Then you return in a month for the procedure. If you survive you will get an additional 10 million dollars.”
“What if I run away?”
“Mr. Spi-” He glared. “Spider. We have the technology to extract souls. We can easily track you no matter where you hide. But, I don’t anticipate that being necessary.”
“What if I commit suicide?” Spider asked. Dana shrugged.
“Your loss. We don’t expect you to die after the procedure, and we have the latest medical technology available to us, should something go wrong. If you kill yourself you’re only missing out on another 10 million dollars.”
“Alright,” Spider nodded. “I’m in.”
“One more formality. We’ll need to brand your subject number on you.”
“Can I get a tattoo?” Spider grinned.
“Of course. However I assumed you would want payment as soon as possible. Today is Friday and the tattooist won’t be back until Monday. If you agree to the brand you can get it now and I’m sure your money will help ease the pain.” Dana said. Spider rolled up his sleeve to show off his black widow tattoo again.
“Put it under the spider.” Dana nodded to an orderly through the glass pane. In seconds he appeared in the room with branding iron. The number 33 glowed bright orange on the tip.
“This is going to hurt.” Dana said.
“No shit.” Spider grunted and locked eyes with Dana. He nodded. The orderly jammed the branding iron into his arm.
“hnnnnnngnnn” Spider held his scream while he stared Dana down. The smell of burning flesh hit her nostrils and she brought her hand up to her face to try and cover her nose. The orderly pulled the brand away and Spider exhaled.
“Thank you Mr. Spinne. I have a courier on his way here with the cash.”
“Spider!” The fresh brand on his arm began to sparkle with a faint golden light. Dana chuckled.
“It doesn’t matter. You’re our property now. Enjoy your next month, *Spider*. Because when you return you will only be addressed as Test Subject 33. Not Mr. Spinne, not Sebastian, and definitely not Spider. Is that clear?’ Dana turned to walk away. Then she heard a scream from her assistant. As she turned she was knocked over by the orderly rushing out of the room.
Sebastian Spinne stood in the middle of the room, and he stared at Dana while she picked herself up off the floor. His eyes glowed with golden light. The  branded on his arm glowed with the same brilliant light. Dozens of black widow spiders crawled out of his scraggly beard and down his body towards Dana. They kept creeping out, more than she could count.
“My name is Spider.”
You are an NPC in an MMORPG, talking the exact same dialoges and giving the same quests over and over again. Now you’ve had enough of this routine, so you tried something off-script. [Link to post.]
“Please guide me to the entrance of the cave. From there I can journey safely to my home,” the young enchantress said. She rolled her eyes, but KiritoLegolas69 did not notice. The adventurer was too busy crouched on the ground trying to see up her skirt. After a second she felt that he agreed to the task. Once he accepted the quest he ran off ahead of her and she began to walk toward the mouth of the cave.
Every day it was the same thing. Adventurers came to “rescue” her from the dragon’s cave, in which she never saw a dragon. Then she would offer a reward from a selection of magic jewels. No matter which one they took she always had more. She remained trapped in the cave as long as she could remember. Sure, she had memories of her childhood, but they seemed so distant she doubted they ever happened. She had plenty of time to think in the cave.
She approached a rocky outcrop looking forward to the first ambush. There were five ambushes in total, but the first one was so easy she never died there. She hoped KiritoLegolas69 was as much a jerk as she thought. She could not die. But she still felt pain and the goblins knew it. Initially the little bastards reveled in it, but even that got old after a while. They eventually formed a sort of understanding. She stepped on the familiar crack in the floor.
“You’ll never escape Princess!” Screampig yelled. “*sorry*” Screampig whispered to her. She just nodded, then his mace bludgeoned her arm. She screamed.
“Defend me KiritoLegolas69!” The adventurer ran to her side, then laughed in her face.
“LOLOL Escrot quests suck!” She wondered what an escrot was while the goblins continued to beat her.
“He’s not going to help, is he?” Screampig asked, then swung his mace again.
“Defend me KiritoLegolas69!” she yelled. He ran away, out of the cave. “No, he’s not,” she said. “This is perfect.” She smiled at Screampig and he nodded. After a few more hits and yells for help, everything went black.
The princess found herself back in her cage with empty pockets. She dumped out the magic jewels before she died. “Thank you, KiritoLegolas69. You’re my hero.” For the first time she spoke her script with sincerity. He had no way of knowing, but he helped her escaped. She just needed one more adventurer to start the quest. To her surprise and delight the next person she saw coming was KiritoLegolas69 again. He opened the cage and the enchantress stepped out. KiritoLegolas69 immediately ducked to try and see up her skirt.
“Thank you for rescuing me. Please guide me to the entrance of the cave. From there I can journey safely to my home.” She held her breath. Then she felt the weight of the jewels appear in her pocket. He accepted the quest. He ran off again, and she sighed heavily. She was free now. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the jewels. Over time she learned how they worked, and how to use them. Red gave her magnificent strength and fire magic. Blue fortified her constitution and taught her ice magic. Yellow gave her the gift of speed and lightning magic.
Each ambush stripped her of her powers, and cancelled any magic she tried to use. Once the stones were reset they remained inert for the rest of the ambushes. She tried using all the powers at once. She tried using one at time to get to the next ambush, but that only got her to the fourth one. The goblins could not help but attack her. No matter what she did, she could not use the same set of stones to reach the exit of the cave.
One time she accidentally dropped the jewels when she died on the fourth ambush. It took her a while to reach that point again, but she noticed the jewels she dropped were still there. She managed to pick them up and activate one, then she died again before she could do anything with it. It took thousands of deaths, and an unknown amount of time. Years, centuries maybe. Now she finally had gems stashed at all five ambushes. She knew she could reach the mouth of the cave. She enjoyed the walk to the first ambush with KiritoLegolas69 nowhere in sight.
“You’ll never escape Princess!” Screampig yelled. The enchantress activated the first set of jewels and politely slaughtered the goblins. She felt exhilarated when she picked up the set of jewels she dropped. She ran to the second ambush.
“The Princess is loose!” Her powers faded, and she activated the second set. She did not know the rest of the goblins as well as she did Screampig. She killed them all with no hesitation. She picked up another set of jewels then ran to the third ambush.
“STOP THE PRINCESS!” Her magic fizzled, and she activated the next set. The goblins were getting more difficult to deal with, but still trivial. When they were all dead she found her next set of jewels and ran to the fourth ambush.
“The Princess is escaping!” She did not waste any time destroying them. After she picked up more jewels she ran to the final ambush.
“Your escape attempt ends here, Princess,” the goblin boss said. In her excitement she forgot the goblin boss had more lines. She activated the next set of jewels, then felt power course through her as her magic doubled. “GUARDS!” The boss yelled, then her powers fizzled out.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” She yelled as the burly goblin charged at her with a sword. She dropped her arms and head in defeat. “I’ve got all the time in the world. I’ll get here again.” Then everything went black.
“Are you okay?” she asked. “No,” he said, “but I will be.” [Link to post.]
Jasmine Lee walked through the crowd searching for a mark. Any sucker that looked like he had a heavy wallet. She spotted a short man with his blue hair standing upright in a well kept mohawk. He wore gold chains and a dim look on his face. On his feet she saw the gaudiest white snakeskin boots she ever laid eyes on. Literal dumb luck, if Jasmine ever saw it. Elaborate tattoo sleeves decorated both arms. He walked next to a young woman in a purple and gold hoodie. Jasmine decided to follow them to try and get him alone. She decided to do some side jobs while she followed her blue payday.
Jasmine spotted a hurried man approaching from the other direction, almost shoving people out of his way and glaring at those around him. He wore an expensive watch, and Jasmine felt good about giving the jerk what he deserved. She changed her course slightly, then bumped into him. He looked ready to blow his top at her, but Jasmine smiled at him with a gleam in her eyes.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“No,” he said, “but I will be.” The man’s anger melted into a smile and he nodded at her politely. Then he continued forward and Jasmine heard him whistle as he walked away.. She looked down at the watch and wallet she ‘found’. The wallet held a couple of bucks, and the watch was fake. She sighed and kept walking. She spotted the blue mohawk and kept following it. The girl still walked next to him. Jasmine pocketed the worthless items and searched for another victim. The lunch rush offered her plenty of opportunities, usually she only needed to work about an hour a day.
She spotted another jerk barreling through the crowd.
He almost shoved over a stroller in his way, and did not bother to apologize. She stepped into his path and shoulder checked him.
“Are you okay?” she asked with her practiced smile.
“No.” he said, “but I will be.” He smiled at her and walked away at a more peaceful pace. She checked his wallet and found it loaded with 100 dollar bills. She looked up to check for the blue mohawk. He and the girl walked past a policeman and then stopped in front of a pizza shop a few stores ahead of the cop. The girl in the hoodie nodded and disappeared into the pizzeria while the short blue haired man leaned up against the wall to wait.
“Perfect!” Jasmine said. While walking she pulled a couple of hundreds out of the richer wallet and put them into the poorer one, then she pocketed the rest of the money. She did not understand her power, but she always felt an empathic flash whenever she used it. The first guy was in the middle of having a very bad day, and she felt guilty for making it worse. The second guy was an asshole through and through. She stopped and handed the wallets and watch to the police officer.
“I found these on the ground.” The officer looked at her with skepticism.
“Yeah right kid. What are you? 13? 14? So you picked some pockets and trying to ditch the evidence?” The officer grabbed her wrist. Jasmine did not want to miss her window with the blue haired guy. She stepped forward and bumped into the officer.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“No,” he said, “but I will be.” The man walked away smiling. In a few hours when her power wore off he’d have some vague memories that the items were lost, but with no idea of where he found them. With the officer gone she walked towards the short man leaning against the wall. She walked towards him while trying to figure out how to best bump him. Him not walking made it a bit more awkward. When she walked near enough to make her move her ankle shifted. She stepped wrong on something and tumbled toward the man. She managed to think quick enough to activate her power as her body pushed the short man against the brick wall of the pizzeria. After the contact she looked at him.
“Are you okay?” she asked with her dazzling smile. The contact alone was enough to use her ability, but over time she learned that being personable helped it take effect faster.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He pushed against her slightly to help her find her balance. “How about you?”
“Huh?” Jasmine panicked slightly. It was the first time her power did not work on a man. She recovered quickly. “Yeah, I’m fine. I tripped on something I guess.” She looked back to where she took her misstep and saw a small red translucent cube. It looked like a dice, with no spots on it. As she looked back to the blue haired man she noticed he also had a pair of red dice tattooed on the back of his hand. The dice sat next to a golden beer bottle that showed the number 25 on its label.
“Shouldn’t you be in school?” The man asked with a goofy smile. Somehow it was endearing without being creepy. At 14 she was used to creeps, and this was not the first time she’d heard that line from creeps. Usually a sinister smile accompanied the question. Something seemed different about him. Instead of telling him to mind his own business, Jasmine shrugged.
“I’m on lunch break, and I’m working to take care of my parents.” Both were true, though she never admitted it to anyone. Both parents were sick and unable to work. Jasmine’s lunch hour managed to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, so they knew better than to ask where she was getting the money from. After she realized what she said she gasped, and her hand flew to her mouth to cover it. The stranger’s smile became friendlier. “Why’d I say that?” she asked.
“Feedback,” the man said. “My name is Vegas, by the way.”
“Feedback?” Jasmine’s eyes went wide. There was no way that was accidental. He knew exactly what he said, which meant he knew exactly what she could do. He nodded.
“Your power doesn’t work on people who are expecting it,” a female voice said. Jasmine turned to see the young woman in the purple and gold hoodie standing in front of them holding a pizza.
“I’m Jenny by the way,” Jenny said. She pulled her hood down to reveal her short, spiky hair glowing blue. Jasmine saw golden finger tips coming out of her black gloves. “Want some pizza?”
Eva stepped out of her blue shimmering portal and stared around at the park, then sighed.
“Hi. I’m Eva, and I’m conducting a poll about current events. Do you mind if I asked you some questions?” Her speech was practiced enough to sound honest. Determined to find differences between universes, Eva began to catalog every universe she visited. The man smiled at her and nodded.
“That’s a cool tattoo,” Eva said. Before Jake could respond she continued talking. “Anyway, first question. You should know this even if you’re not from the area. Who is the current President of the United States?” Jake’s eyes rolled upward as he tried to think.
“Oh shit, really? I mean, yeah. You’re absolutely right.” Eva flipped to a new page in her notebook and wrote down his answer. It was the first time she heard it. She wanted to leave the universe then and there, but she wondered if Jake might like to travel with her. She didn’t know anything about him, though she found herself drawn to him for some reason.
Must have the phrase, “A fish may love a bird, but where would they live.” [Link to post.]
“YES!!!” Robin screamed and bounced in place. The late afternoon sunlight caused her red hair to glow like a flame. She hurriedly pulled Posie up from the ground where he knelt. A crowd of strangers around them cheered and clapped, tossing out congratulations. “Of course!” She wrapped her arms around him. Posie returned the hug for a second, then Robin felt him push her away gently. She noticed tears streaming out of his orange eyes.
“I’m so happy you said yes,” Posie said. He walked toward a nearby bench, leading her by the hand. They sat and he stared at a knot in the pier. “Now that we’ve gotten to this point, there’s something about me you have to know.” He looked up from the ground to meet her eyes. “I won’t bring any secrets into our marriage.” Robin nodded, and her heart overflowed with love. She needed to reveal her own secret too. She had been afraid he would reject her for it, but she felt now was the time.
“Okay. I have something to tell you too, after,” Robin said. She clasped her hands around his. “Go ahead.” Posie closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He breathed out.
“You know the tattoo on my back?” Posie asked. Robin nodded, she loved the tattoo. It was a beautiful orange and white koi fish with the number 50 on its scales. “I got it for my 18th birthday. Since then I noticed I had… powers.” Posie went quiet when Robin made sound. Her cheeks puffed out and her lips broke into a smile. She was losing a fight to hold in her laughter. “I know it sounds crazy. That’s why I asked you here, so I could prove it. I can talk to fish.” The damn broke and Robin guffawed at him.
“HAHAHAHAHAHAAAH” Robin doubled over on the bench, holding her stomach.
“Hey.” Posie said in a whisper. Tears gathered at the corner of his eyes. Robin grabbed his hand again, still laughing.
“No.hah. Wait,hehe.” She took a deep breath. “I believe you.” She touched brushed his chin to turn his eyes to her. “I really do believe you, it’s just so much funny happened at the same time. I couldn’t hold it in. I’m sorry.” A look of confusion clouded his orange eyes.
“If you believe me, what’s so funny?” She smiled brightly.
“Well, first of all, don’t be offended. But talking to fish? I wouldn’t call that ‘POWER'” She used air quotes while she giggled. “An ability maybe, but it’s way too useless to be called a power.” She squeezed his hand to reaffirm her love. “Second of all, I believe you, because I can do it too.”
“No way? You can talk to fish too?” Posie shrugged. “I believe you, mostly because you know how useless it is.” Robin shook her head.
“Sorry, I mean I can talk to animals too. Not fish, but birds. I got it the same way you did too. You know the robin on my butt?” Posie nodded and smiled.
“Yeah it’s cute. Wow, that’s a hell of a coincidence. I guess we’re meant to be together.” Posie reached his arm around Robin and pulled her closer to him on the bench, and chuckled. “That is pretty funny though.”
“Oh, there was a third of all too!” Robin smiled at him. “Something my dad used to say, and it just made me laugh. ‘A fish may love a bird, but where would they live?’ ” She giggled, and Posie joined in.
“How bout my nest?” he asked with a broad grin.
“Well duh. My apartment is way too small,” Robin said, then kissed him on the cheek.
Next Chapter: Deathly Giggles
Whilst out exploring the woods you stumble upon a dragon who has yet to see you. You have only heard stories of dragons from the village elders and thought they were a myth. The sight of such a monster freezes you in your tracks. [Link to post.]
I held my breath and stared at the giant, golden scaled hide shining in the sun. I heard voices. A woman’s voice that sounded magical. It was the prettiest voice I’d ever heard. But I could say that about any girl’s voice I guess. I was only nine, and raised by monks. Then I heard a man’s voice replying. His voice somehow sounded just as magical. I concentrated to try and sneak closer without making a sound. Though I’ve been with the monks as far as I could remember, they only began training me two years ago. I still hadn’t mastered moving quietly, and it took a lot of focus. I hid in the shadows by a tree at the edge of the clearing, and listened.
“It’s almost time! I’m so excited!” The female voice said.
“She’ll be the first of her kind,…” The male voice said. His voice wavered with worry. “I just hope she’s healthy.” I tried to lean to see who else was talking, and slipped. I landed on several sticks and the sound of them breaking cracked throughout the clearing. I stood up and found myself face to face with a giant golden snout, and pair of deep royal purple eyes. Each eye was bigger than my head.
“Hello, child. What’s your name?” I saw the dragon’s lips move, and her beautiful voice tickled the back of my mind.
“M-mm-monk.” I said.
“Monk? That’s an odd name.” I heard the male voice and looked around for another dragon. Instead, I saw a glittering green ball flying around. It left a trail of green dust everywhere it flew. It stopped and floated in front of me. It was a small man with green fluttering wings that looked like butterfly wings. Green powder landed on me as he flew by, then I didn’t feel scared of them anymore.
“The monks said I had to give up my name to live at the monastery. Everyone there is Monk,” I said. The small man nodded, then I heard another loud crack come from the clearing.
“It’s time!” The big dragon yelled, then turned away. The green fairy smiled at me and waved me to follow him.
“Monk, you must be very lucky to have been guided here right now. Come and meet our new daughter.” He flew toward the center of the clearing, and I followed him. I saw a giant green and gold egg as big as I was. The number 42 was on the side of the egg in green. The top was already cracked open. A human hand, the same size of mine reached out from inside.
“Remember what we talked about dear,” the fairy said. Then, he looked at me. “Monk, you will learn many secrets today, and we ask that you keep them to yourself. Can you do that for us?” I nodded my head as hard and as fast as I could and he smiled. Then he began to grow bigger. I looked over to the giant golden dragon and she began to shrink and change shape. In moments they looked like a pair of normal humans. The fairy had long black hair, and his face looked smooth and young. The dragon was a beautiful woman with short red hair and pale skin. The woman stared at the egg with wide purple eyes, and the man waved me closer to the egg.
“Wow, you can change shape?” I asked. Their magic was the most amazing thing I’d seen.
“My wife and I met while we were disguised as humans. We honestly didn’t know what the other was until she got pregnant accidentally,” the man said. He shrugged and chuckled. “We decided that if the she looked human, that’s how we would meet her, then explain everything to her later.” I heard the loudest crack yet and we all turned to the egg. A small girl about my height stood up and kicked the shell pieces away from her. She had a full head of long red hair and looked around at all of us. Without a word she turned and reached her arms up to her mother for a hug. The mother smiled and reached down to pick her up.
“Hello, Flutter. We’ve been waiting for you.”
Sasquatch and Waldo are tied in this years Hide-and-Seek Championship. [Link to post.]
“He’s *gotta* be cheating.” I heard Waldo say. I looked in the direction I heard the voice from. The crowd of fans made it hard to pick him out. Waldo’s fame pretty much ensured he had an entourage anywhere he went. People flocked tightly around him, as if they were trying to fit into a phone booth.
“Damnit Waldo, quit hiding,” I said with a sigh. He stepped out of the crowd and I saw him. He sighed even harder.
“I’m not hiding! It just kind of happens,” he shrugged and walked closer to me. The cluster of bodies followed close behind him. Inwardly I chuckled slightly at the comedy of it. These people would just show up and stand around. No one ever asked for an autograph or anything. It seemed like just standing near Waldo was enough for them. “Anyway, Sasquatch has to be cheating. There’s no way something that big, hairy, and stinky can hide so well,” he said. I nodded, then the announcer’s voice caught my attention.
“Five minutes until the tie breaking Hide-off! Contestants please report to your spotters.” I turned back to Waldo, but the crowd seemed to have swallowed him again. I cursed myself for taking my eyes off of him.
“Would you please stop disappearing?” I said. He stepped out of the crowd again.
“I keep telling you. I CAN’T HELP IT!” he yelled at me.
“You know, if you really can’t help it… it could be argued you’re cheating too,” I said with a shrug. It wasn’t the first time Waldo mentioned Sasquatch cheating. Waldo had been the Hide and Seek champion four years running. This is the first year Sasquatch entered the competition, and I knew Waldo was just feeling insecure. Deep down he knew there was no way to *cheat*, because there were no real rules to break. To win, a contestant just has to go the longest without being spotted. Waldo used his entourage during the competition, so whatever Sasquatch was doing was definitely valid. Without a reply from him Waldo’s bundle of people walked out of the locker room, taking Waldo with them. I made my way to the bleachers.
They used a large football stadium for the Hide and Seek arena. The 50 yard line marked a border between a dense forest, and a crowded beach. Colorful beach towels and large umbrellas decorated the white sand while people milled about enjoying the sunshine.
“Ladies and gentlemen our competitors are ready to take their mark. Are you ready?” The announcer asked. The crowd cheered. It made me smile when I realized how full the stands were. In recent years with Waldo winning so easily, interest in the sport had begun to decline. There was no denying that Sasquatch helped revitalize the game. An airhorn sounded and I closed my eyes along with the rest of the spectators and the announcer began to count.
“One!” he said, and the crowd joined in.
“MISSISSIPPI!” I smiled at the laughter and cheering. All these strangers had enough faith in each other to close their eyes together. This was why I loved the sport. It’d taken hard work to get to this point, but the HaS association didn’t mess around. In the early days there was plenty of pick pocketing, and audience spotters for competitors. The HaSA implemented strict rules, and even stricter security guards. Anyone caught with their eyes open was ejected from the audience, after being thoroughly embarrassed in public. This game was the biggest crowd I’d ever seen, and it was almost magical to stand in a stadium full of people with closed eyes, being able to completely trust everyone around you.
“MISSISSIPPI!!!!!!!!!!!” The crowd roared.
“Alright folks, open them up and let’s see what happens. Though I’m sure most of you know the rules, we here at the HaSA pride ourselves on being welcoming to newcomers, so I’ll explain the rules in case this is anyone’s first game.” The announcer took an audible breath.
“Each competitor has a team of three Spotters. The Spotters each know where their athlete is, and they are tasked with finding the opposing athlete. Now, each Spotter is paired with a Spotter from the opposing team that tells them whether they are right or wrong, when they think they find an athlete. Spotters of the same team all work independently, and the first team to get two correct sightings wins. That’s the gist of it anyway, and if you have any other questions, just ask around. Someone in the crowd will be happy to help you understand it,” the announcer said.
The roar of the crowd died down now that the game was officially under way. Giant screens on each side of the field showed different views of the field, and everyone watched the spotters scrolling through different views in real time. I sat and enjoyed the camaraderie of the crowd. Hide and Seek was not an action packed game, and people liked to chat while they waited. After several hours the announcer’s voice came through the speakers.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are now marking the end of Day 1. The score is still 0-0, and we will start again tomorrow morning. Please hold on to your ticket stub if you don’t want to pay again.” I waited until most of my row filed out before I went down to the locker room. When I walked in I was surprised to see the HaSA president and Sasquatch talking to a crowd of people. I saw a hand in a red and white sleeve come out of the crowd and wave me over.
“So then we’re agreed? Sasquatch is willing to settle for a tie if you are. He’s already bored and just wants to go back to his forest.” The HaSA president asked. Waldo stepped out of his human fort and extended his hand toward Sasquatch.
“What?” I asked, and walked over to grab Waldo’s hand.”You’re giving up?” He looked at me, and I saw his eyes sparkle behind his glasses. He smiled brightly.
“I told you he was cheating!” he said, and shook hands with Sasquatch. The HaSA president spoke up.
“Turning invisible is not against the rules, but your Spotters would never find him.”
“Invisible?” I asked, and looked up at the giant 8 foot tall mountain of fur. Silver liquid began to drip out of his fur. Slowly at first, but within seconds it covered him completely in a silvery, mercury like liquid. Then he vanished.
“Are you sure it’s okay?” I asked Murry. He had been my best friend for over 20 years. He had a good heart at his core, but his morals were a bit grey. He was driving us to ‘The Spot’. I had a couch that seemed impossible to get rid of. No one wanted the ugly thing. It had yellow upholstery decorated with brown flowers. I put it on the curb and no one touched it. I posted an ad, and no one called for months. Then I posted another ad without a picture. The one guy that did come look at it punched me for wasting his time. I even tried burning it one time, the timing on that one was too perfect. For absolutely no reason at all a fire truck was driving by. They put out the fire, and I earned a hefty fine and a stern talking to from the Fire Marshal. I bought it while drunk one night, and seemed cursed to own it forever.
“Yeah man, don’t sweat it. I dump crap in there all the time,” Murry said while he drove. Everyone knew about The Spot, but no one knew anything about it. Government scientists had tried researching it. They sent probes, guys with cables, everything. Nothing ever returned. It still felt like dumping to me, but my mind relaxed a bit when I saw a federal truck driving away from it. “See man, even the feds do it.” Murry reminded me. I wondered what they were dumping, and realized I probably didn’t want to know. After another five minutes we reached The Spot. The area was like a crowded town square.
People were walking around buying things from shops set up by enterprising folk. The Spot was a bit out of the way, so the trend started out easily enough. Someone set up a stand to sell drinks and sanitary wipes to help clean up after dumping. Then someone started selling food. Within a year it became a tourist trap, with the added bonus of easy clean up. They just swept all the trash into the dark hole in the ground. I glanced at the small line of people waiting to dump. It seemed silly that there would be a line, but due to all the food stands around the hole there was really only one place left to dump from. As soon as we parked some kid ran up to us pulling a dolly behind him.
“Hey Murry. 5 or 10?” the kid asked. Murry handed him a five dollar bill.
“Just the dolly,” Murry said. The kid handed him the dolly and ran off.
“You really do this all the time, huh?” I chuckled. “What’s 10 bucks get you?” Murry pointed to a big burly guy that looked like an older version of the kid that rented us the dolly.
“Help,” he said. I climbed up in the bed of the truck and we worked the couch down and onto the dolly. We got it to the back of the line with minimal fuss. “Hey man, want a beer?” Murry asked me. I saw him waving down the same kid that provided the dolly. I nodded, then reached into my wallet.
“It’s on me, thanks for your help.” When the kid arrived I handed him a 20. “Two beers, and keep the change. “
“THANKS!” he smiled broadly at me and ran off. I smiled at him and remembered my younger days. That kid seemed full of energy running everywhere. I smiled when I saw more children running, and thought to myself that this was kind of a nice place. Almost like a park. I saw a couple of adults running too. It was nice to see the parents playing along with their children. Then, I noticed more adults and kids running, some adults running while carrying kids. All in the same direction, away from the hole. I heard a scream. I turned my head and saw a skeleton climbing out of the hole.
“That’s never happened before,” Murry said. I almost lost myself to panic, but his comment kept me grounded. I let a small chuckle escape. I liked Murry. In our long friendship, I’ve never known him to panic or over react. He calmly placed a hand on my shoulder. “Let’s go somewhere else,” he said. It seemed like such an obvious thing, but he said it so casually. He sounded like he was disappointed with the menu choices in a restaurant. We left the couch and dolly there and walked back toward his truck. People ran all around us, and I started seeing more skeletons appear. They pounced like wild animals on anyone that they saw running.
The walk was difficult. I mostly kept my eyes on the back of Murry’s head while he paced forward, almost as if he were taking a Sunday stroll. Any time my eyes looked somewhere else I saw blood and death. The once bone white skeletons were now covered with crimson. The screams were horrifying, but I focused on the back of Murry’s head. I was so focused on the back of his head I didn’t realize he stopped walking until I crushed my nose against the back of his skull.
“OW!” I said, then felt immediate shame. People were being slaughtered around me, and I was annoyed because I bumped my nose. I looked over Murry’s shoulder to see why he stopped. Several feet in front of him stood the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. A pair of under developed horns jutted out of the top of her head. She had long jet black hair that reached her waist, and her eyes glowed with red light.
“You look level headed enough to hold a conversation,” the woman said. She walked toward Murry and me. “Can you tell me why there’s a thriving economy built around filling my home with trash?” the woman asked. She stood a foot away from us and stared at Murry in the eyes. She ignored me completely, something I was thankful for. For his part Murry just shrugged.
“We didn’t know it was your home. We didn’t know it was anyone’s home. It was just a hole that goes nowhere,” Murry said. I felt something brush my leg and looked down to see Murry pulling his knife out from it’s sheath on the back of his belt.
“No hole goes nowhere,” the woman said. “I like your honesty. That hole shouldn’t have been there anyway, but unfortunately my piece of shit son is an idiot.” She looked Murry up and down, then looked at me. She turned her head to look around. No sign of another living person. The skeletons surrounded us.
“It’s not often someone keeps their cool when I show up. This world is mine now, but you guys get to live.” She waved a hand at us dismissively. Several skeletons moved out of the way to let us pass. I glanced down and Murry let his knife go.
“What do you mean this world is yours? You just got here. Sure it’s easy to kill a bunch of people having a day out, but do you think our governments are just going to kneel?” Murry asked. The same thought crossed my mind, but I kept it to myself to avoid warning her.
“Oh. Obviously you don’t know who I am. I’ll tell you, just so you keep in mind how generous I’m being by letting you live. When I say this world is mine now. I mean…” she raised a hand into the air and black holes began to dot the sky. As far as I could see across the horizon, the sky looked like swiss cheese. Skeletons rained out of each hole. “… this world is MINE. NOW.” I jumped as a skeleton landed next to me. It shattered on the ground, but pulled itself back together. It held a bone sword and began walking towards the nearest town. Dozens more skeletons continued to fall and head towards town.
“My name is Ballisea the Demon Queen.”
“You’re a man now son.” Dad leaned in whispering. “Your mother doesn’t know about this drawer.” He opened the drawer of mysteries. [Link to post.]
“You mean mom doesn’t know about the whole saving the universe thing?” Regal asked. His father took the day off work, and they were both down in the basement while Regal’s mother was at work. His dad showed him a secret drawer hidden by boxes he thought were full of clothes and childhood toys. The boxes were completely empty and moved out of the way with ease.
“Are you crazy? Your mom starts worrying when you’re even five minutes late from school. I can’t tell her you’re destined to save the universe, do you know dangerous that is?” Regal’s father let loose a belly laugh and patted his son on the back. “No way, this is our secret. But now that you believe me, it’s time.” Regal glanced in the drawer and saw a tattoo gun along with several small colored jars; he assumed they were ink.
“I did a lot of tattoos when I was younger. Didn’t for a while, but with your 18th birthday coming up I started practicing again.” The older man smiled. Regal had never seen his dad this excited about anything.
“You’re going to give me a tattoo?” Regal asked while he stared at the tattoo gun. The gun looked old but well kept. He did not know whether to feel scared or excited.
“Yeah. Having your number on you activates your powers,” The man pulled his shirt off to reveal several tattoos on his chest. Then he turned around to show more on his back. “See the globe on my shoulder?” He asked over his shoulder. Regal found the tattoo. A blue and green, proper globe. Not just a doodle of the Earth. It had a base of the mount displayed the number 37 in a golden font.
“37? Oh! El Mundo!” Regal said. His father turned and nodded while putting his shirt back on.
“Yep, Atlas. My power is, I got to make you,” he smiled at his son and pulled him in for a tight hug. “C’mon get your shirt off, I’ll put it on your back.” Regal pulled his shirt off and laid prone on the work bench his father cleared off. He jumped when he heard a sharp buzz behind him.
“So, what’s my power? I can’t even imagine how much power it would take to save the universe,” Regal said.
“Relax. It’s gonna hurt, but it’ll be SO worth it. No idea what shape your power will take, but remember. It’s not always about who’s the most powerful. Your destiny is to save the universe, but there’s got to be a million different ways that could play out.” The buzzing stopped an Regal saw his father wheel around in front of him in his office chair. “You need to start understanding this now. Just because you’re destined to save the universe doesn’t mean you’ll be there for it. Sometimes putting things in motion is enough. Whatever your power is, it’s designed to help you fulfill your duty. Not do it for you. Clear?” His father looked serious. Regal met his eyes and nodded.
“Yes sir. I’ll try to keep that in mind.”
“Good.” The buzzing started again as his father rolled out of view. Regal clenched his teeth and tensed his body when the pain started in the center of his back. “Relax!” his father said again.
“So mom doesn’t know that you’re a Unique?” Regal asked, hoping to distract himself with conversation.
“Nope. She’s not one and I don’t want her feeling any less special to me. It doesn’t affect our day to day lives, so I figured there was no point in telling her.”
“Who taught you everything? Was grandpa one?”
“Nope. I’m the first one in the family. As for who taught me, I got lucky on that one. When I got my tattoo, the knowledge just filled me. But, I think that’s something limited to Mundos.” Their conversation drifted to family, then to different topics after that. The tattoo session lasted a few hours, with a couple of breaks in between.
“Ready to see it?” Regal’s father stood in front of him holding a mirror pointed at the ground. Regal stood in front of a mirror with his back to it. He smiled and nodded at his dad. The older man brought the mirror up for Regal to see.
On the center of his back was a golden lion’s head stylized to look like a sun. The number 46 in purple decorated the lion’s forehead. Regal’s body began to glow with a golden aura.