FLASH FICTION INDEX 1 - May 2007-Nov. 2011


Writing challenges, flash fiction, interesting anecdotes, amusements, and general miscellanea.

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Post October 18, 2008, 03:00:58 PM

06/'08 - Fantasy Subgenre

Lord of the Ring

By:
Casey Callaghan



It's not an easy life, boxing. For one thing, your medical insurance premiums go through the roof.

And it's even worse when you're about three and a half feet tall. Not that I'm complaining. I mean, I chose this life. After Uncle Bilbo retired injured and left me his padded vest and gloves, his trainer – my trainer now, old Gandalf – spent about an hour going through the minutiae of several contracts before finding a clause that permitted him to sign me on mid-season to replace my uncle. And it was important, of course; Uncle Bilbo had got himself a running spot on the Mt. Doom International Tournament, and with him injured Mordor would have been the uncontested world featherweight boxing champions. So, really, it was up to me to defend the national honour. (Gandalf himself was a foreigner; for him it was a personal vendetta with the Mordor trainer, one Sauron).

This isn't to say that it was easy, of course. First he had to persuade the Boxing Federation that I could legally take my uncle's place and his accumulated score so far in the tournament – not an easy task, he had to call together a council headed by the boxing league president, Elrond. This was made rather tricker by the fact that on the way, at Weathertop, a stond had turned under my foot and I'd pulled a muscle in my shoulder trying to steady myself. Fortunately, Elrond's household included an excellent biokineticist and they soon had my shoulder working again (though it's likely to contiue giving me problems throughout my life now). And then, of course, we had that trouble at the pass; it was snowed over and so we had to take the bus the long way around. And then when we get there, they've got some kind of specieist policies that only the boxer and his trainer are allowed in and both have to be the same species, which cut poor Gandalf out. I ended up taking Sam with me for moral support, and everyone else had to face the terrors of the paid seats (I'm told the crowd was pretty rowdy). All we had to face was the mosquitos at that bit of marshy ground just outside (there must be thousands of mosquito corpses there) and a humungous spider on the wall. Despite what Sam may tell you, I did not faint on seeing the spider, and I did not have to be carried in by orcs as a result.

Still, after all the trouble we had getting there, the fight itself was kind of anticlimactic. Gollum was a tough opponent, and at one point I seriously thought he was going to win the fight; but I managed to knock him down for the count in round three without taking too much damage. I'll admit I hit him hard enough to break a finger, and I ached all over the next morning, but those were the only injuries I took.

Gandalf tells me that some fellow called 'Tolkien' bought the rights to the story. Of course, he exaggerated it a bit.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:01:27 PM

06/'08 - Fantasy Subgenre

Dawn of an Age

By:
TaoPhoenix



Senior Magician Starchild was restless. He was intrigued by a barely developed area of knowledge in his texts. Some ideas were beginning to occur to him which he wanted to test. Presently, he arranged a research sabbatical. He would be available for advice in an emergency, but his third-in-charge could benefit from the organizational practice. Such a request was quite sensible during peacetime, and it was granted. He promised to inform the royal court of his discoveries when he was finished. Contact arrangements were settled, and the magician reposed to his personal library.



...

Senior Magician Starchild called a meeting with the Captain of the Royal Guard. “Captain Clendenning, does your army have time to support some of my research?”

“Hello, Magician. Yes, I can spare some manpower. We've been lucky enough to be safe for a long time, and I am certain a few of my men could use an exercise to keep them sharp.”

“Excellent. I will be operating out of the unused West Territory past the castle premises. I will be there in a couple of hours."

At the site, the Captain presented his squad of twelve volunteer soldiers. The Senior Magician nodded to his colleague, and addressed the group. "Sirs, Gentlemen. Thank you all for assisting me in my studies. To start, I would like to conduct a small war-game exercise. Since your commanding officer has trained you well, do not blame yourselves when matters become confusing. Consider it a side-effect of assisting me with my magical studies.

"The goal will be simple. Work crews have built a mock-castle with a throne room for each side. The goal will be to capture the enemy king alive and bring him back to the home side throne room, such as might happen with a blackmail threat." The camps were set at one hundred meters apart, with the Captain guiding the Red team, and the Senior Magician guiding the Blue forces. The Red forces were offered first pick of the assembled quality swords, shields, and armor. A stone wall drawn by a horse&cart arrangement was also present. The Blue forces, upon advisement, chose leather and stone instruments.

The soliders began to relax at this news. So far, this was comprehensible enough. They trusted their magician, but when they volunteered, it became a question of when, not if, clarity would completely depart the premises.



The Blue Forces were content with a defensive formation, and their instructions were to deflect but not engage the enemy. The Red team opted for a classical charge on the enemy position. Soon the members of the Red team began muttering about "What strange force is making this so difficult?" Each successive step towards the enemy castle was increasingly difficult, and near the end the men were picking up each leg one at a time to haul it forward. However, the pesky flies buzzing around were having no problems. For that matter, the Blue Force scouts seemed "as swift as the wind". They simply ran past their counterparts swinging their stone maces, which "magically added a few centimeters" to their twists out of weapons range.

A couple of Red Team strongmen made it a point of pride to make it all the way to the enemy gate, where they hooked arms around the enemy gate lest they slide away. However, they knew that this was a symbolic victory at best, and that they were in no condition to actually attack the castle. The Blue Forces quietly hauled their mysterious wall into readiness and waited as instructed. The Captain waved for a meeting.

"Potent Magic, indeed, Magician. That must be tiring you greatly."

"In fact, I am doing absolutely nothing and my full strength is at my command should I need it."

"Really? You have apparently literally repulsed my offensive force, so I resign from my attack." With a signal, the Captain retrieved his exhausted offensive line. "However, what is your offensive strategy?"

"Watch. Blue Forces, secure the enemy premises." So ordered, they wheeled the mysterious wall closer to the enemy gate. It seemed to grow easier as they drew closer. At the final stage the stone upturned of its own accord and slammed adjacent to the enemy gate with a deafening roar. The Magician invited one of the Red Team members to attempt to move it. He was barely able budge it a centimeter. The Red Team king was trapped inside. "I submit a Siege Strategy. You will have to compromise your own castle to restore normal operations, at which time a standard offensive invasion should suffice."

The Captain nodded. "I resign my defense as well. What is the principle?"


"Lodestone, Royal Grade. It creates something called a Magnetic Force which operates in two directions. On my side, it repulses metal. Since your men gleefully decked themselves out in metal armor and weapons, they encountered this force which never tires. If they were to discard it all down to their basic uniforms, in peace, they could walk up quite naturally."

"Hmm. What about your mysterious wall stuck to my gate?"

"I did not wish to risk the lives of my men in an actual attack, which your army has trained to defend against for decades. That wall is also Royal Grade Lodestone, attracted to your gate by the same untiring magnetic force. When the enemy has exhausted their forces weakening their own fortifications, then we can also walk up to negotiate in peace.

"How do I get my man out?"

"Your men working together should be able to slide it sideways."

"Phenomenal. What branch of Magic is that called?"

"Science."


[align=center]The End[/align][/quote]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:01:52 PM

06/'08 - Fantasy Subgenre

- Winner -


Nightshade

By:
Bill Wolfe



The wind howled as the Banshee sang her woeful tune. She sounded pretty good, and I wondered if I hadn't already downloaded her CD to my iPod. But I wasn't here to appreciate the floorshow. I had a client, the paying kind. A kilo of elfin gold was stashed under a loose floorboard behind my filing cabinet. It was enough to keep me in bullets and cheap whisky for a year. Everything a Private-Eye needs to survive in this crossroads cesspool of a city.

Nightshade, the city between the worlds of science and magic. You wanna get from one side to the other, you gotta go through here. It was a playground for conmen, smugglers—both human and faery—and anyone on the lam. That was my case, and I'd just found my target. He was in the far back booth, talking with a human I recognized. He was some elflord who had broken one of their strange codes and was trying to get to the other side before his buddies found him. My snitches told me that I wasn't exactly the first gumshoe that High Lord Muckety-Muck had tried to hire. All I had to do was tail him and call the client on his cell.

Most folks don't mess with elves, but I had an edge. An old police nightstick with an 1876, honest-to-God iron nail driven into the butt. Cold iron, heat-forged on a coke fire and beaten into shape with a hammer. Just a touch would drop them the way a charged-up cattle prod would drop me. Don't touch skin, it doesn't even leave a burn mark. Far as I know—and I know a lot about this town—it was the only cold iron this close to the border. One touch, and the fay loose two important things: consciousness, and that day's memories. Ain't no law against cold iron. The Sidhe just hunt you down and kill you. It was an edge, but a risky one.

A fly buzzed my head. My distracted swat almost made me miss his exit. He was a smooth one, alright. He moved with the sinuous grace that only the High-Elven display. I had rear-exit privileges in this joint, but I didn't want to spook him. The back alley offered two directions, but I knew he was heading for the freight yards. The human he met worked the trains.

The alley was empty of all but its smell, he'd had plenty of time to get-out. Another fly—couldn't be the same—buzzed me, close. As I turned my face to avoid contact, I noticed some very well-crafted boots, barely visible behind the dumpster. I pulled my piece and my billyclub, I hated alleys. I approached cautiously, gun out, club low. It was my runner, alright. From the bruise on his head and the upturned cobblestone next to him, he'd been koshed, but good. You can't kill an elf with a rock, but you can ruin his day.

"Mister Reuel." The familiar voice was accompanied by a light pinprick on the base of my neck. I'd seen enough elven blades to know what was there. "Do drop the gun and that ridiculous truncheon."

"Contract's fulfilled, you've found him." I spoke slowly as my gun clattered on the cobblestones. I hadn't let go of the nightstick, yet. "I hope you have the other half of the payment, on you."

"Oh indeed," I could hear him picking-up my gun. I was about to make my move when my left hand felt like it was hit with a blowtorch. My nightstick bounced at my feet. Elven blades burn.

"But unfortunately, I was too late." I heard the high-density ceramic cylinder open, bullets clinked. He'd just unloaded my gun. "It seems the disreputable private investigator I hired bungled the job. When poor Lord Alaron confronted him, he was killed in the struggle."

"Ain't easy killing an elf," I said through gritted teeth. The hand was agony.

"Oh?" More clinking, he was reloading the gun. "Even with steel-jacketed bullets?"

I gasped, but not in pain. Steels weren't just contraband, it would cost millions to smuggle something like that into Nightshade. There were powerful protective wards to be bypassed. Heavy magic. You could kill a freakin' dragon with six steel .38's.

"Son-of-a-troll." It wasn't eloquent, but it was all I had.

"Of course, Lord Alaron would have managed to take your life, even as he died. Now turn around, Mister Reuel." The fly that had been buzzing me flew over and landed on his shoulder.

"Oh, of course," he grinned as he addressed the fly. "You're dismissed."

"You bugged me." My voice betrayed my awe. Enchanting a fly was serious Ju-Ju. Few had the Talent to do it right. By looking through its eyes, he knew exactly where I'd been all day.

"Who is this Lord Alaron, anyway? What'd he do?"

"Let's just say that a public trial might have raised questions that certain powerful interests would rather keep quiet." He was holding my gun in his right hand.

"A few defensive wounds, I think. Lord Alaron was handy with a blade." Agony seared with each light flick of his sword. Chest. Arm. Another on the wrist. I dropped to my knees, head bowed, trying very hard not to scream.

"And now mister Reuel, you would have landed several blows with your truncheon before he drew his weapon. Do hand it to me, please. Handle first, of course."

Sometimes, they just make it too damn easy.

That he was found alone in the alley carrying contraband was the talk of the town. Some said it was a magic tome, others that he was selling faery dust. We all heard about the trial and execution, but nobody said anything about steel bullets. Imagine that, carrying five lethal bullets and being so careless as to touch one with his unprotected hand? No wonder he couldn't remember anything that happened that day.

Five? Everybody needs a little edge, don't they?


[align=center]The End[/align]
Last edited by kailhofer on October 19, 2008, 03:34:30 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:06:02 PM

07/'08 - Where Have all the Spoons Gone?

The challenge was to explain the reported disappearance of 18 million spoons annually from the city of Melbourne, Australia.


Example story:


[align=right]1000 Words[/align]

Wanting

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



Harold was a spoon.

He spent most of his days in a drawer, away from public scrutiny, and he liked it that way. Harold didn't want anyone to know about the rough nick all down the back of his handle. That flaw hurt most people's hands when they held him and prevented him from stacking quite right, so he usually sat at the bottom of the pile, year after year. He didn't mind the lack of use, but he couldn't stand the snickers and aloof attitudes of the other spoons, calling him a second. Still, the spoons that came back to the drawer boasted of their experience: warm teas, bitter coffees, yogurts... In spite of his fears, Harold longed to try these things.

[align=center]***[/align]

Barry Levovich stole spoons.

Swiping the odd spoon from work now and then didn't really seem like much of a crime to Barry, at least at first, so he went along with it. He'd never seen his shadowy "extra" employer clearly, but he knew his name was Stapleton. In the end, Barry didn't care what a man who paid for spoons--obtained legally or not--looked like, as long as the money paid to him was always in focus. To that end, he took a number of part-time jobs across Melbourne that afforded him broader choice.

[align=center]***[/align]

Harold felt a gentle nudge when the drawer opened. He observed the spoons above him lifted out then heard the clatter as they were tossed into the drawer's other compartments. He saw the hand reaching for him, and felt himself lifted from his resting place. He'd been out of the drawer before, but had always been put back.

"Vinecrest stamp," Barry mumbled.

Shortly after taking on his mildly illegal task, it became obvious his employer was looking for a particular spoon, but didn't know which it was. Incorrect spoons paid a little. Some paid more. However, the tremendous compensation for the right spoon had been made very plain, so Barry became a spoon expert.

Harold's proverbial heart was in his throat when Barry flipped him over, for a person so versed in flatware would surely be aghast at a flaw as obvious as his. Harold steeled himself for the toss back into the drawer or even the waste bin.
He felt small. He felt unwanted. He felt like everything the other spoons had said, mocking him, was true. He felt... wet.

Harold realized that he had fallen into a cup of coffee. He could scarcely believe it. This person, this expert, had chosen him, despite the gash in his finish. And the flavor! He never imagined how good it was to take in the coffee, to feel it throughout, to be warmed by it. It was heaven.

[align=center]***[/align]

Sunset painted muted tones across the dark park. Stapleton stood in the shadow of a Eucalyptus tree, a black silhouette to Barry. There were no lights near the picnic bench where Barry waited with his garbage bag of spoons. Harold lurked near the bottom.

"My finest huntsman," Stapleton croaked, "the others have failed miserably this week. What do you have for me?"

Barry sat upright. "What others?"

Stapleton's retort was raspy. "It has been years, and still you have not obtained it for me. I was forced to widen my search. Open the bag and step aside."

Barry moved back. Stapleton lurched to the bag as he always had, grabbing a handful. He examined each of them. One he set on the table, the rest were tossed on the ground. He reached for another handful, then another, until the bag was emptied. Ten spoons lay on the table, the rest on the ground.

"Not there," Stapleton moaned. "I'll give you ten dollars each for the ones on the table, and twenty for the rest and your trouble."

Barry nodded. Not bad extra income for the week. He grabbed the bag to pick up the mess.

Harold trembled at the bottom of the bag.

Forgotten.

Unwanted.

Unwelcome.

"Wait!" Stapleton shouted. "There's still one in there."

His dark employer came close enough for Barry to see his face. It was twisted, marred by a jagged white scar that ran diagonally across to his empty eye socket.

Barry gasped.

Stapleton glared. "Now you know. Give me the bag."

Harold felt rough fingers yank him from the plastic.

Stapleton paused, running his fingers quickly over Harold. "Vinecrest. Yes, that was one of ours, I remember. New Excelsior modern. I worked on that line. Did we do those that day?"

Barry thought Stapleton said it oddly, as if discovering the truth as he said it.

Stapleton stroked Harold's flaw. "The fash!"

"What?"

"Fash," Stapleton replied. "Fitzhume was removing the fash from the blank with his lynisher. He was nearly done when a shard cut his face. I stepped to help him. He lost his balance. The machine came up into my face and hands. The blank fell into the pile for the dies that make the bowl of the spoon. The only one I missed."

"How's that?"

"I was the inspector. Old Penberthy promised that if I could catch 100% of the seconds in a half million run, he'd leave the factory to me in his will. He watched it happen."

Barry gaped at him. "He still wouldn't leave you the factory even though another worker injured you?"

"Ha! He wouldn't pay the medical bills and fired me, but the lawyers saw to that. In the end I got the factory and his fortune, too."

Stapleton held Harold in front of his face. "But I didn't have the one that got away, and I couldn't let go of that. I spent half that fortune on this. I had to have it, to find it."

Harold was flabbergasted. He had never once thought of himself as wanted.

Stapleton handed Barry five thousand dollars. "This spoon is exceedingly comfortable in my mangled fingers. I think I shall never need another."

Harold felt warm and loved... and always would.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:06:43 PM

07/'08 - Where Have all the Spoons Gone?

Von Neumann

By:
Casey Callaghan



“Gleeble fitzwallop.”

“Gleep-glorp chunchoo?”

“Pickle-worp to turn the universal translator on, you lamebrained, addle-headed idiot!”

“I thought the batteries had gone flat.”

“No, they had not, some moronic lunkhead hadn't put them in, that's all. Now, what do you have to show me that's worth dragging me all the way out of the solar system for, you witless imbecile?”

“Nanites.”

“Nanites? Is that all? Nanites are old technology, you -”

“Not just any nanites. Self-replicating nanites.”

“You. You – the sort of person who forgets to put the batteries in the universal translator and someone actually let you get within fifteen point seven five metres of Von Neumann machines? Do you have the slightest idea what happens if self-replicating nanites get loose on the world, you -”

“Von Neumann's Doom. Yes, I know. The nanites use up all the nanite raw materials on the planet, start feeding off each other, sooner or later an error occurs when copying, and an evolutionary scenario sets in, with the life form that evolves from the nanites eventually taking over from the original inhabitants of the planet. Yes, I know. That's why we're outside the solar system.”

“Hmph. So perhaps you have some slight modicum of sense after all. But you can't weaponise Von Neumanns without risking the Doom, so -”

“Actually, you can, that's what I wanted to show you. You see, these nanites are what I call 'fussy replicators'. Before they will accept a surface as suitable for raw materials – which can be almost anything containing iron and manganese, by the way - it must be at least point six three metres squared in area. On top. Look, if I put a few on this sheet of metal; you will notice that the sheet is only point three one five metres square. Note how they run in a large pattern? If the surface is at least point six three metres square, they don't fall off. But if it is less, they reach the edge and fall, like so, which -”

“You addlebrained nincompoop, the floor is an iron-manganese alloy with hard vacuum on the other side!”

“Oops. Quick, there's plastic spacesuits in the airlock! It'll take them a few minutes to dig through the floor...”

The nanites drifted through space for centuries. Three thousand nine hundred and thirteen years after their original loss in the deeps of space, a small group of them came across – and landed on – a ball of rock, ice and dust, commonly known to the inhabitants of a nearby solar system as Halley's Comet. And thirty-two years after that, a few, blasted off the comet by the emissions of a nearby star, drifted to a landing on a small, blue-green planet.

--------------

“James?”

“Hmm?”

“Why, exactly, and I realise I might not like this answer, why are you staring at that spoon?”

“What? Oh, sorry. Just one of those weird things that happens. There's a piece of dust or something moving around on the spoon. Must be blown around by air currents. It looks almost as if its trying to get out, but it can't handle the slope and keeps slipping back.” James shrugged and put the spoon down. “So, how do you think tomorrow's game is going to go?”

“Ah, we'll win easily.”

“You always say that.”

“Is there anything wrong with optimism?”

“No, but if you look at the lineup...”

A few minutes later, once the nanite had convinced itself that the spoon was at least point six three metres square, it slowly began to self-replicate. And when James reached down to pick up his spoon – it was gone, leaving nothing but a strange, silver-grey dust that scattered on the breeze. A few grains found their way into the spoons drawer, and the rest eventually drifted out on the breeze, spreading across Australia, and eventually across the rest of the world as well...


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:07:36 PM

07/'08 - Where Have all the Spoons Gone?

“Spoons and Forks”

By:
J. B. Hogan



“Spoons,” Detective Senior Sergeant Ian Carroway said, “are disappearing from Melbourne at an alarming rate.”

“Spoons,” Detective Inspector Ayers asked, “what the devil are you talking about?”

“Utensils,” Detective Sergeant Hash, Carroway’s partner, explained to the inspector, “hand-held, sort of elliptical and dug out on one end, used for consuming foodstuffs – in particular soups, sir.”

“I know what a spoon is, you idiot,” Ayers bellowed at Hash. “I want to know why they are bloody disappearing and why anyone should care.”

“Sorry, inspector,” Hash replied meekly.

“We don’t know why they are disappearing, sir,” Carroway said, “but over eighteen million spoons go missing every year here in the city.”

“I suspect the communists,” Hash suggested. “A plot.”

“Hash,” the inspector said, turning towards Carroway’s diminutive and newest partner – his others having gone on to bigger and better things: one to waste removal, the other to hotel doorman. “Hash, do you realize that the cold war has been over for nearly twenty years. It’s not a communist plot!”

“We have some theories,” Carroway stepped in to protect Hash, “not involving communists.”

“Space aliens?” Hash suggested rashly. “Beings from another dimension.”

The inspector turned a fierce eye on the little detective sergeant.

“Anyone else feel like coffee?” Hash asked sheepishly.

“Let’s hear your theories, Carroway,” the inspector said, shaking his head as he watched Hash hustle away for coffee, “and they better not sound like an episode of Dr. Who.”

“No, sir,” Carroway replied evenly. “Sir, I believe it’s a ring, a gang if you will, of women stealing the spoons.”

“Women!” the inspector snorted incredulously. “What sort of blather is that?”

“Reasonable blather, sir,” Carroway said, trying to finish with the inspector before Hash returned with the coffee. “We received an anonymous tip to that effect just before you arrived.”

“You didn’t tell your mini-partner?”

“Would you, sir?”

“Point taken.”

“We’re tracking down the caller as we speak, sir. I expect to have a suspect in custody within the day.”

“See that you do,” the inspector said authoritatively. “And keep your munchkin away from me from now on.”

“Yes, sir, will do.”

* * *

Casey Bryn was a tough nut to crack. Or so she seemed to Hash, who felt that with her purply-pinkish spiked hair, nose ring, dirty jeans and dirtier T-shirt, Casey was in fact the space alien perpetrator that he had suggested to Carroway and the inspector.

“Why did you do it?” Hash grilled the young punk girl, who only snarled a smile back at the junior detective and seemed on the verge of hocking a gob in his face at all times. “Why just spoons, why not knives and forks.”

“It ought to be bleedin’ obvious,” Casey growled, “even to a couple of right dills like you two.”

“Now, Miss Bryn,” Carroway tried the nicer cop approach, “we’re just trying to get to the bottom of this, uh, situation.”

“Sity’ation, you call it,” Casey laughed. “You’re a pair of brown-eyed mullets if I ever seen ‘em.”

“Enlighten us, then, please,” Carroway said, mulling over what he and a mullet had in common. Whatever it was, he was none too pleased with the comparison.

“It’s simple really,” the girl explained to the two cops as if they were new arrivals on planet Melbourne, “us Shielas have a thing about spoons. Knives are sharp and nasty and irrelevant. Forks are for ratbags like yourselves.”

Casey’s words went over Hash’s head like little laser bolts fired from an inaccurate laser death ray. The junior detective looked up pleadingly to his more-worldly partner.

“Okay,” Carroway played the straight man, “we give you the irrelevance of knives and whatever it is about men and forks, but why all these spoons and why just women taking them?”

“Because it’s gender-genetic and –specific,” Casey sniffed, giving Carroway a new look that mixed mild interest along with some level of sexuality.

The senior detective felt his stomach muscles involuntarily tighten as if the girl might drive a hard right hand into his solar plexus rather than give him the vaguely sweet smile that played around the edges of her curled lips. As for Hash, Casey’s words caused him to tilt his head towards her as if he were a dog attempting to understand a garbled command from his master.

“That’s all there is to it,” Carroway finally managed to ask, “women just like spoons?”

“You shonky blokes must’ve just come in on the first boat,” Casey told the detectives, barely suppressing a laugh.

“Humor us,” Carroway said. “Give us the last word.”

“The word,” Casey said, leaning towards the detectives – causing Hash to lean away from her and Carroway to lock his knees tight to keep from falling forward – is really quite basic, you know.”

The detectives waited for Casey to speak as if they were penitents waiting for redemption from the Inquisition.

“We women,” Casey pronounced grandly and finally, “just want to spoon, but you men, all you want to do is fork.”


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:08:08 PM

07/'08 - Where Have all the Spoons Gone?

The Master

By:
Kerry Callaghan



“Coffee,” he muttered from the shadows. Then, a little louder, in his voice which was like a gurgling snarl and made my skin creep, “That’s the answer – coffee.”

“Ummm… sorry sir,” I acted like I was barely able to stammer the words out. The Master expected us to think that speaking in front of him was almost certainly suicidal, but then I had found out months ago that the only frightening thing about him was his growl of a voice, so I took the risk. “Sorry, sir, but what exactly does coffee have to do with achieving world domination?”

Yes, I know it’s a cliché, but like so many before him, the Master was seeking world domination. I had thought that all I was getting into was a major worldwide crime syndicate, a way to make some money fast so I could retire early. But before long, I had to admit that the master was not all there – alright, well he wasn’t there at all. But by then, it was too late. Once you were in, you stayed in, or they took away what you loved most – I wasn’t afraid of death, and I had no family, but I had had my teddy since I was a baby and I couldn’t imagine life without Teddy. So, I had to help a power-crazed creep in ridiculous missions for world domination. Sometimes, it could actually be quite fun…

“IDIOT!!!” he roared, and I jumped out of my skin. Embarrassed, I quickly pulled it back on while he explained. “I know it might be a bit higher-grade for you, Appleseed, but if you hadn’t noticed, most of the population is unable to function without coffee. So, if we stop them from getting their coffee, they will turn into mushy blobs. They will be forced to surrender to my POWER!!!!!”

Oh, great. This would be even worse than the time, when I had just entered the organization, when we had to streak at the national rugby game due to his theory that the world would surrender to the threat of having to see that sight again. Needless to say, it didn’t work. We got more cheers than the game, which had been a bit boring until halftime. You cannot even BEGIN to imagine how embarrassing it is to an aspiring criminal to appear in the newspaper as a ‘new daring performance artist.’

“Sir, HOW exactly will we stop people from drinking their morning cups of coffee?” I asked with a resigned sigh.

He grunted, and explained his ridiculous scheme. After I was dismissed, I almost cried with exasperation.

He didn’t want us to burn the plantations, or sabotage the factories.

He didn’t want us to chemically alter the drinks to contain no caffeine.

He didn’t even want us to simply steal coffee from the supermarket shelves so that nobody else could buy any.

No; he had a theory that the rest of the world’s population were all as stupid as he was. So, he theorized that without a spoon to stir it properly, people would simply not drink coffee. Yes, ridiculously, appallingly, he wanted us to steal spoons.

After three months the city of Melbourne was blissfully unaware of a secret warehouse holding over four million silver spoons, stainless steel spoons, desert spoons, sugar spoons, teaspoons, soup spoons, and breakfast spoons. We even had one or two wooden spoons. Hardly anyone had even noticed anything. I was no closer to my early retirement; I was becoming desperate. Somehow, I had to either knock some sense into the master, or knock him out of the top position.

That was when I had the Idea.

Months ago, after I had realized the idiocy of the master, I had followed him home once to see where he lived, just in case I ever needed to know. As I had expected, he was stupid enough to have only a few dozen secret bodyguards outside of headquarters, despite the fact that he was the head of the stupidest crime syndicate in the world. He seemed to have forgotten that I was the ultimate master of stealth – on the other hand, maybe I was so good that he had never even found out. By now, I knew his whole routine.

The next morning, at 10 am, I was concealed in the bushes of a children’s park across the road from his home. Sure enough, he left in his Mercedes after a few minutes – he went to gym every day, without fail.

I snuck in to his unguarded house and stole every single spoon.

The next morning, he buzzed me for an urgent emergency meeting.

When I arrived half an hour later, he was already at headquarters. His usual snarling voice had become a whimpering squeak, and he was indeed the most blob-like man I had ever seen.

“A-Appleseeeeed…” he moaned, “I give in. You win; I retire as Master. Here, take the badge of office, you are now Master. Just – please! – give me a spoon… and a very big cup of coffee!”

“You will serve faithfully?”

“Anything, anything!”

“Good,” I grunted. He could be a good criminal, and I was glad not to have to kill him.

Later that day, I drove to the warehouse to review my resources. At the sight of the six million spoons we already had, I finally realized that my early retirement would never be enough. With the kind of manpower behind me that could achieve this, I could rule the world…

So this was how it felt to be Master.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:08:39 PM

07/'08 - Where Have all the Spoons Gone?

Our Tribute for the Suzerain

By:
J. Davidson Hero



Colonial Governor Bizroy’s head pounded as the sunlight glared in his eyes. His aide-de-camp, Quin, turned from the now opened blinds. Bizroy scratched the floor with his hand searching clumsily for the probably empty bottle of brandy he had been working on. For a moment it was at his finger tips and then it shot away rolling under his desk just as he tried to tame it into his hand.

“It’s almost time Sir. The Suzerain will need to be dealt with. We have to keep him happy or you know the consequences.”

Bizroy looked for a moment at the aide through half-opened eyes and considered the implications of his statements. What fascinated him more than the implied complexity of Bizroy’s own situation was the fact that the aide had actually come to share the governor’s worldview.

“Yes, yes Quin. I suppose I’d better get myself ready. Have my dress uniform laid out in my room.” The governor thought for a moment, and then noting his dry mouth added, “And have the commissary send up another bottle of brandy.”

The aide bowed and left immediately.

Bizroy fumbled through some papers, then fiddled momentarily with the blinds. Outside a seemingly endless arid land stretched out and away. Was he finally growing tired of this? After all these years? Surely the inane chatter of the natives long ago lost its quaint fascination. Surely the climate had taken its toll on his delicate complexion, and to have to walk around daily in this infernal getup. The entire scenario had worn thin. But what was Bizroy’s alternative, return home? No, while he wasn’t yet a misanthrope, he despised his own culture with a passion. That is why he had joined the Foreign Service to begin with.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, of course. The entire occupation had been boggled right from the beginning. The first governor, Bizroy’s then superior, had chosen Australia because of a misunderstanding concerning the phrase “shrimp on the barbie.” In addition they had experienced endless technical difficulties. The governor, unstable to begin with, couldn’t handle the pressure, and after months of making excuses to the Suzerainty, Bizroy finally concocted the plan. And now twenty years later, maintaining the plan had begun to make Bizroy unstable.

Still, to let it all go... while it would likely mean death for Bizroy, at least after some lengthy investigation by the bureaucracy, he was more concerned about the natives. It would mean something horrible for them, and though difficult to admit to himself, he did like them. They would surely be eradicated when the Suzerainty discovered that his entire colonial government was a sham.

***

An hour later Bizroy was sitting in the conference room. He was in his dress uniform and flipped nervously through his notes. At the other side of the room a huge screen was secured to the wall. Currently the screen was black, but occasionally an empty chair would flicker into view in a dark room. In the background behind the chair were banks of lights, panels with buttons, and tiny screens. Further back a large window could be seen and beyond that, endless dark unfathomable waters.

Shortly Quin appeared at Bizroy’s side.

“How long?” Bizroy asked feeling agitated.

“Should be any minute now Sir.”

Bizroy knew that transmissions from the capital were seldom on time. A lack of punctuality was representative of his species’ mind-numbing lack of organization, which was ironic considering the levels of bureaucracy that attempted to mask that fact. They tended to make up for these shortcomings with shortsighted brutality though.

Bizroy continued to stare at the screen. It flickered to black once more, then when the image returned, the Suzerain was there. Bizroy was almost shocked by the image. Perhaps he was ‘going native’ or perhaps it was just the hatred of his own species. The Suzerain was immense, a bloated purple head, constantly filling and emptying as he breathed. Below the head a passel of tentacles swirled about in what seemed a mindless dance. A razor-sharp beak, gilded and decorated, opened and closed repeatedly, and buried deep in his head, the Suzerain’s eyes looked unblinkingly.

“Governor Bizroy, your report,” the Suzerain commanded with a long exhale.

“Gidday Suzerain, how’s the capital?” Bizroy asked.

“Shrimalla B’be is beautiful this time of year Governor. The grinal-fish are spawning and if you remember, they are delicious.” The Suzerain gave a wicked chuckle, and Bizroy knew he had him distracted.

“You really should take some time off and return for a while,” he continued.

Bizroy felt more at ease now, knowing the Suzerain was in a relaxed mood.

“No Suzerain, I couldn’t leave my post here. It would take years for me to travel all the way home. Besides, the colony is much too busy.”

“Yes, yes, I suppose, governing an entire planet takes some effort.” The Suzerain seemed to wink, which Bizroy knew was anatomically impossible. Bizroy did wink back though using one of the artificial eyelids that he wore and somehow it made him feel vastly superior.

“Well then, on with your report,” the Suzerain said returning to his officious tone.

“As tribute then the humans have again this year provided...”

“More trinkets and baubles I suppose?” the Suzerain interrupted with conspicuous disgust.

“As I’ve stated before Suzerain, the humans prize these things above all others in their society. For them to provide such a tribute is for them to honor us highly.” An image flashed across Bizroy’s mind of what would happen if the humans knew they were actually under the rule of a colonial government from a far off planet. Violence, bloodshed. It was easier this way, and no one needed to know. So long as Bizroy had the energy to keep the ruse up and had the manpower to continue to secretly collect a passable tribute.

“So Suzerain, as last year the humans have given in tribute, 7 million pairs of socks, 1 million left sneakers, 18 million spoons...”


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:09:08 PM

07/'08 - Where Have all the Spoons Gone?

Ten Thousand Spoons When All You Need Is A Knife

By:
G.C. Dillon



Desi Costello ran into work, rushed to the register, and began to punch her id into the keyboard in order to clock-in. Marisol, her shift supervisor, stood next to her.

“You know you are supposed to be ready to work when you punch in.”

“I know, I know,” Desi replied, and began twisting a ponytail holder around her long, black hair. “But the bus was running late. It's not my fault.” She pushed her small, octal-shaped glasses back upon her nose.

“Yeah, but Lori's still here. Get your apron on and hurry.”

“She's here. Still?” Desi's nose wrinkled and her eyebrows furrowed.

“Quarterly paperwork, I think. Or she's having a fight with her husband and doesn't want to go home.”

Speak of Shiva, and Shiva appears-- Lori came out of the backroom, a stack of papers in her left hand and a giganto sized in-house cup of coffee in her right.

“Where's Bob? I'm going to kill him,” she asked.

'We can't blame it all on Bob,' Desi thought, 'though we do try.'

“I know this sounds like makework,” Lori said, “but some company accountant wants an inventory count every year. And Bob! He can't just make up numbers wily nilly. I have to answer for these figures.”

“Why? What's the problem?”

“We have more spoons than we've ever ordered.”

“That can't right. I mean people aren't bringing in their own spoons and leaving 'em for us”.

“What is the accelerated depreciation on a spoon, I wonder,” Desi asked. “Why do we even have spoons?”

“Real spoons are more Green. It's part of the socially minded life style our guests enjoy here at Café du Jour,” Lori stated.

“Except for the hot water in the power wash sink,” Desi added.

Marisol's eyes told her to keep quiet.

“I'm on Drive-Thru?” Slipping the headset over her head, Desi said,”Welcome to Café du Jour. How may I take your order?”

[align=center]* * *[/align]

At closing, it was just Marisol and Desi. Desi was getting a ride from her co-worker, and though she wanted to leave, she waited while Marisol had her last cigarette of the night.

They settled onto the floor of the office.

“Spare a cigarette?”

“I thought you quit.”

“I'm quiting unless I have to stay up all night. Cigaritto por favor.”

Marisol passed one over. Marisol was pretty much dedicated to the job when on the clock, but she became chatty when the work was done.

“I felt like such a witch,” Marisol confessed. She and Desi sat on the floor of the coffeshop's office. Desi's eyes strayed to the flat screen monitor. The security camera showed them a dark, yet still clear, view of their dining area. The pale illumination streamed in from the lights of the parking lot that the shop shared with other stores in the mall.

“I was showing a new hire around. We came to the daily use bins, and I asked him to sweep up all the coffee beans that were on the floor. You know from the broken bags and all... “

“Yeah, we get a lot of them. More than statistical probability should allow for.”

“So he put the beans from the floor back into one of the bins. I lost it. I screamed, 'What are you doing!'”

“There! There. What was that?” Desi asked. Marisol ceased the recounting of her story, and looked to the monitor.

“Nothing. It was a spot on the screen. Could even have been a fly.”

“No, it was something. This time it's not just a fly. Let's go.” Desi pushed herself off the office floor, and ran for the dining area. She flicked on the lights. And...

The something stood by the condiment bar.

“G'Day mate. Or nite since you're antipodean,” it said. It was ugly, brutal, and short. Long pointed ears swung like bats' wings from its head. Prickly fur covered its body. It smiled through large carnivorous teeth and fangs.

“What was in that cigarette!” Marisol said.

“What are you?” asked Desi.

“I'm a Gremlin.”

“Like in the Twilight Zone? But what are you doing here?”

“Oh a little mischief. Have to sabotage your coffee bags to spill all over the floor. I've done a few other things 'round here that I like to check up on, too. Such as the fact that your town name prints out wrong on the receipts?”

“My God! It's Palinfield, not Plainfield. He – it's right.”

“And to deliver a supply of spoons, of course. These are from Melbourne. Oh! You should see the utensils from Adelaide.”

“Spoons?” Desi sputtered. “Why are you leaving spoons here?”

“Where am I to be putting 'em? A pot o' spoons at the end of the rainbow!”

“Why do you have to be so rude?”

“I'm a Gremlin., sugar bosoms.”

“Okay, now I know I'm offended.”

“Took you long enough, baby. Look, I know, it's a let down from drinking motor oil and antifreeze from combat squadrons and WWI flying circuses. But a Gremlin does what a Gremlin can. A torn bag here, a missing spoon there. Say, you're a nice Sheila.”

'I don't know what that means, but I don't like the sound of it,' Desi thought.

Desi lifted her middle finger. “I like you,” the creature said, guffawing.

“I've a memory gleas about me someplace. Oh, yes. You won't remember anything tomorrow.”

[align=center]* * *[/align]

Desi Costello rushed into work. The bus was late again. She paused at the Condiment Bar. She glanced at the napkins embossed with the company logo, ran her hand along the packets of sugar, sugar substitute and honey. But she stopped at the small cup for the spoons. It was overflowing. Again. She picked up two of them. 'The company could at least buy the same design,' she thought. 'I know times are tough, but did they get these at a garage sale.

No, but there was something about where the spoons came from... Something she couldn't recall clearly.

“Hey,” yelled Marisol, “time to punch in.”


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:09:36 PM

07/'08 - Where Have all the Spoons Gone?

- Co-Winner -


Spoons

By:
Robert Moriyama



The shinyroundonstick was the key to everything. It made digging easier -- with patience, one of the People could carve a whiskerwide hole through materials that tooth and claw could barely scratch. And by some magic, when the stick-end was wedged into a crack and one or more of the People pushed on the roundthing, their strength was magnified many times.

Chktaqueep had first dragged a shinyroundonstick with him to a nest of the People many generations ago. He had spent much of his life learning to use his prize as an extension of his teeth and forelimbs, and had tried to pass on what he had discovered to other People. Sadly, it seemed that only Chktaqueep's own offspring were able to absorb their father's knowledge; other nestmates only sniffed the shinyroundonstick, perhaps tasted it to see if it was food, or had food on it, then skittered away.

But the shinyroundonstick gave a big advantage to those who understood its magic, and Chktaqueep's descendants prospered and spread from nest to nest. Better fed and more intelligent than any People they encountered, they soon dominated any group they met -- and at the first opportunity, they set out to acquire more shinyroundonsticks...

[align=center]####[/align]

Jake Willard stared down at the flatware tray in consternation. "Honey, why are there only three teaspoons? Didn't this set come with eight place-settings?"

From the next room, Amanda Willard replied, "I think the kids keep taking them out in the yard to dig. Thank god we keep the real silverware out of their reach!"

Jake sighed, closing the drawer. "I'll pick up another set at the dollar store. No sense in paying a lot for something that's just going to disappear overnight."

"Pick up some mousetraps and another box of steel wool while you're there," Amanda said. "I found another hole in the wall under the sink."

Jake knelt, opening the cupboard door and peering into the shadowy space under the sink. "No," he grunted, "that's the same hole. I think the little blighters have figured out a way to push or pull the steel wool out without having to taste it or cut their paws."

"Lovely. We have smart rodents," Amanda said. "I wonder if it would help to get a cat?"

"Allergies, Mandy," Jake said. "I'm allergic to cat fur, and I like Angie is, too."

"How about one of those hairless cats -- what are they called? Sphinxes!"

"I think I'd rather live with the mice, or rats, or whatever this is. Those things creep me out."

[align=center]####[/align]

"Twenty-six seconds -- a new U. Melbourne record! Maybe even All-Australia!" Bill Disney clapped his hands and danced a clumsy jig as he read the latest results from the computer-timed maze run.

"That's only the second time Number 43 has seen that layout, right?" Jennifer Dillon shook her head in astonishment. "Maybe we didn't clean it well enough and he's just following his own scent trail."

Bill grinned. "No scent trail. This is the same layout as Maze Variant -- uh, 214B -- but it's brand-new -- built from scratch."

Jennifer whistled. "Then Number 43 is one genius of a rat. The cerebral enhancement gene therapy is really working."

"That it is," Bill said. "But according to Doctor Gigio's lab notes, Number 43's great-great-great-grand ... uncle, I think -- one of the first subjects of the treatment -- might have been even smarter."

"Great-et cetera-granduncle? Didn't they use the super-rat for breeding before they cut him up to study his little brains?"

"They never got to autopsy him. He got away."

Jennifer shivered. "And the enhancements seem to breed true. Can you imagine how hard it would be to control the rat population if they were all that smart?"

[align=center]####[/align]

Chktatreekachrr sniffed at the wickedly pointed end of the old shinyroundonstick, his sensitive nose detecting the musty odors of old wood and soil and mildew, tantalizing hints of redfruit and crumblesweet, and under it all, the sour tang that only shinystuff carried. This one had been used many times to dig and to pry, and had worn down until its tip was as sharp as the teeth of one of the People. He poked at the tip with his forepaw, chittering in pain and jumping back as it pierced his flesh.

Dimly, he saw images of a bigfur pouncing on one of his nestmates in a raid that had ended badly. Bigfurs had teeth and claws larger and sharper than those of the People to go along with their much greater size.

But now this shinyroundonstick was like a tooth even larger than a bigfur tooth. People could use a shinyroundonstick like this one to dig and pry not at soil or wood, but at flesh. Rival nests could be bitten into submission. Even bigfurs could be driven away, or even killed...

[align=center]####[/align]

"Mommy! Tom is dead! Mrs. Barbera's cat is all dead! He's lying in the garden all dead!"

Amanda Dillon cursed under her breath and rushed out through the kitchen door. This was not the way she had planned to teach her youngest daughter about death.

Probably the King's dog got him, she thought. They're always letting that beast run loose!

But Tom, the Barbera's venerable old cat, hadn't been killed by a dog, not unless dogs were carrying shivs these days. There was something shiny sticking out of Tom's side. One end was rounded. The other end was buried deep in Tom's blood-matted fur.

"What the hell?" Amanda gasped. "Who could have done this? And what is that thing in poor Tom's ribs?"

Before Amanda could pull Angie away, the little girl had dropped to her knees to take a closer look. She poked at the shiny thing, frowning, then looked up at Amanda and asked "Is that a spoon, Mommy?"


[align=center]THE END?[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:10:34 PM

07/'08 - Where Have all the Spoons Gone?

- Co-Winner -


Science On a Budget

By:
Bill Wolfe



In order to use the low-bid, third-rate teleporter towers, they required a supply depot that was surrounded by nearly-empty countryside. It also needed an astonishing variety of the sampling devices to use as replacements. In the end, there was only one choice.

The sampling devices would be teleported to the ship, altered, and then dispersed to every consumption establishment in the world. This way, if the device didn't exactly match the other cutlery, it was unlikely to be noticed. Of course, because the survey was underfunded, they could only process about fifteen million of them per orbit around the system's Primary. The comprehensive survey would take nearly twenty orbits, which—entirely by coincidence—was just short of where the contract's overtime clause would kick-in.

Of course, there were always individuals who never visited consumption establishments, so samplers were dispersed to individual households on a case-by-case basis. One device could sample as many as one thousand individuals, so once the entire household was sampled, the device was retrieved, immediately. The data was read and the device sent somewhere where it may sample as many as twenty individuals in a single day.


Martha closed her eyes as she stepped-up on the scale. She was standing in her too-bright bathroom, completely naked. She took a deep breath as she listened for the electronic beep which meant that the red LED readout had stabilized. She knew from long experience that she could easily discern it over the sound of the toilet tank, refilling. "No use weighing the contents of a full bladder," she whispered to herself. It was one of the many mantras that had helped her through these last, tortuous few months.

Aboard the Galactic Survey Ship, Subassistant-Second-Class FrdBXX, was watching the scene with such concentration that—due to lack of attention—two of his/her eyestalks lay flaccid against his/her cephalic node. He/She had just been assigned this being who hadn't yet been sampled for the Genetic Database. The creature simply never seemed to use a sampling device..

Martha opened her eyes. "DammitDammitDammitDAMMIT!" She stomped off the scale, scrupulously avoiding so much as a glance in the large bathroom mirror. "How can I possibly weigh a pound more than yesterday? How?" She continued her solitary tirade as she yanked-open drawers and slammed them shut after rifling the contents.

"Six months of rice cakes and raw vegetables and fruit and popcorn-without-butter and black coffee in the morning. . .AND FOR WHAT? At this rate, I'll never loose weight!"


FrdBXX had always had doubts about the cheap translators they were using on this survey, and the recalcitrant being's last statement only added to them. Was this creature attempting to nullify gravity by consuming certain foodstuffs? He/She knew of at least three ways to achieve antigravity using a domestic animal, ventilation conduit repair adhesive, and a plasma torch. But trying to do so using organic foodstuffs just sounded silly. He/She decided to query the linguistic database for an explanation.

As he/she read the true meaning of the words, an idea dawned. Perhaps a little more research was required. He/She wouldn't want to take too much. Their internet supplied bounteous ideal templates.


On Saturday morning, Martha woke-up two hours late, and thin. She bounded-out of the bed with an energy she hadn't felt in years. And then stood astonished, staring downward as her pajama bottoms fell about her ankles.

In low-earth orbit, NOBODY noticed when fifty-three pounds of human adipose tissue and extra skin briefly flared, as it was burned-up upon reentry to the atmosphere.

For the first time in a decade, Martha stood staring at her naked body in the bathroom mirror. It was a miracle, at least. She'd never heard of anything like it. She glanced at the scale, and decided it didn't matter what the damn numbers had to say. What she was looking at said it all. "I think I deserve a treat."

Her hand shook so badly as she reached for the dusty-topped sugar bowl, she had to put her steaming cup of coffee on the counter. It had been a long time since she had even allowed herself to look at the thing. "A spoon-full of sugar helps the medicine, go down." She sang softly to herself as she opened her cutlery drawer. She was a little embarrassed to realize that her mouth was watering. Like anyone, she took the first offered from the slot. Had she noticed that it felt unfamiliar in her hand, no doubt she would have chalked-it-up to the fact that she hadn't touched one in months.

It took her two tries to break through the semisolid crust. "Humid here," she mused. The chunky white crystals piled much higher than normal. She considered dumping it back into the bowl and then decided that it would do. It was still much less than her pre-diet, six-per-cup.

She kerplopped the overladen spoon into the black liquid and slowly stirred, savoring the slow, circular motion and the diminishing gritty scraping she felt at each revolution. With careful deliberation, she raised the spoon to her mouth and sensuously placed the warm metal to her tongue. The bittersweet combination momentarily overwhelmed her near-atrophied taste buds. The slight tingle she felt melded with the rapturous flood of sweet, satisfying sensation.

She placed the spoon down and—using two hands—embraced the warm mug. Her ears registered the slight pop as the spoon was teleported out, but her mind was focused elsewhere.

A rough translation would be: "Got'cha!", if FrdBXX spoke any language even vaguely resembling English, that is. But for now, he/she dutifully logged the data from the sampling device, placed it in the redistribution queue, and turned to his/her next assignment.

This one had lost its upper appendages, and—though it seemed impressively dexterous with its feet—obviously wasn't quite steady enough to use a sampler. He/She watched its frustrated efforts to consume dead animal broth, and wondered if it would cause too much consternation if it grew two new arms, overnight.



[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:12:25 PM

08/'08 - The Reluctant Superhero

The challenge was complete a story using a superhero who did not want to use his or her powers because of a physical, mental, or psychological flaw in 1000 words or less.



Example story:


Reluctant Hero

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



"Hey, remember Baron Monsoon?"

Mike looked sideways at his best friend. "What about him?"

"Well," Larry drawled, "Everywhere he went, it rained. Indoors or out."

"Hence the nickname. So?"

Larry paused. "He musta hated it. Always wet or damp. Skin all wrinkly. But he was a superhero for a long time."

Mike sighed. "And what happened to him? Remember?"

"Oh, yeah," Larry said. "Suicide. But still, he had a gift, like you, and he didn't give up."

"Until he killed himself."

Subtlety was lost on Larry. "Right! So, no more talk like this. C'mon! No other superhero has the powers you do."

Mike snorted. "I can't run worth a damn."

"You can fly. Catch 'em that way."

"They duck into buildings."

"So just crash through the wall after them. It'll be messy, but after you do it a few times criminals will stop trying."

"You know, it hurts doing that."

Larry sighed. "It's not like you'll break something. It would take a surface to air missile to crack one of your ribs."

Mike winced. "Don't remind me."

"Come on. What's this really about?"

Mike pointed up at the billboard above the building across the open square from where they sat. It showed Mike's smiling face beside the logo they always showed for him. A round circle bisected by a lightning bolt with the initials 'BF' over it all. The words at the sign's edge read, Saving us all.

Larry shrugged. "It's nice. What about it?"

"That's not my name."

His friend's eyes rolled. "Can't you let go of that? People want to call you--"

"Hey, Bigfoot!" called a woman's voice from across the square. Mike looked up to see a group of women in their twenties waving at time. "Woo! Show us those feet, big guy!"

Mike sighed, then gave a practiced PR smile. He lifted one of his size 36 shoes and waved.

Larry shrugged again. "You know, they figure, big feet, big--"

"I know what they think! All any of them can see is a guy with big clown feet. A laughingstock."

Mike pushed away from the table and flew out of sight.

Larry grumbled, "Getting chicks should be a perk."

[align=center]***[/align]

It was one of those perfect days. The sun was warm on his shoulders as he flew over the surface of the water.

"Ha!" he shouted. "Who needs water skis?"

His bare feet sprayed water everywhere as he skimmed the surface.

"Yes!"

Mike saw some of his friends around the next bend. He recognized Larry, Randy, as well as some of the girls from school. He hoped Mary Fulsom would be there. She was the hottest girl in town. Time seemed to stand still whenever he looked into her eyes.

[align=center]***[/align]

The heart monitor quietly flashed its green light like it always did. Most of the lights were off, so it cast an eerie tint across the room. Mike flipped a lock of hair off the face on the pillow.

"Is that you?"

Mike replied, "You know it is. Do you always have to make it so dark in here?"

"What do I need lights for? I can't see. Now, What did you do today?"

Mike frowned. "I stopped an armored car heist and caught a train car full of people when they fell off the tracks. They would have died."

"Good." The voice was sharp, not friendly. "Now, help me roll on my side."

[align=center]***[/align]

"Hey, Mike," Randy called. "Think you can do that water-ski thing faster than my dad's speedboat?"

"Hell, yes."

"Prove it," Mary said. "And I'm coming along."

"Come on, then." Randy jabbed a thumb toward the boat."

"No." Mary pointed her finger at Mike. "I'm riding with him."

Mike stood up and looked at her. "How are you going to do that?"

She stepped over to him, placed her feet on top of his, reached around his waist, and pulled herself tight against him. Her body pressed tight to his.

"Like this."

His jaw flopped open for a moment. Seeing the amused stared of his friends, he said, "You'll be safe with me."

Her eyes burned into his. "But will you be safe?"

[align=center]***[/align]

Mike tumbled headlong into the lake, end over end. Water filled his eyes, his lungs. Sand from the bottom dug into his scalp as dug a long trench with his head.

Looking up, he saw the surface through the red haze. In the center of the cloud, the body floated.

He pushed himself up through the water. He cradled the body in his arms, lifting her as gently as he could. Her face was a bloody mess, smashed in. Her eyes... He winced at the sight of them.

She gurgled, spitting up water. "Mike? Is that you?"

"Y-Yes," he stammered, his heart in his throat. He brushed away some of the blood and felt his whole body go cold. Across her face were marks from each of his toes.

He had done this.

He didn't hold on tight enough. He didn't look where he was going. He didn't watch were his damn big feet went.

"M-Mike." She gasped. "Promise me you'll never stop saving people. Promise me--"

Her body slumped.

"No!"

[align=center]***[/align]

Mike said, "It's time for me to go. Do you need anything?"

Her laugh was caustic. "Everything I need you took from me. Remember why you're here."

"Because I promised to take care of you."

She threw up her hands. "No, idiot. You're here because you hate this. You hate me. You hate using your powers because you might kill some innocent person. I know how much it hurts you to keep using them, and I'm glad it hurts. I won't release you from your promise to keep saving people. You owe that to the memory of my daughter until the day you die."

"Yes, Mrs. Fulsom."

"Now, get out."

On his way through the door, he heard sirens in the distance. A tear rolled down his cheek.

"For you, Mary."


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:12:59 PM

08/'08 - The Reluctant Superhero

The Gift

By:
Robert Moriyama



They stood in a hidden cave, its walls black with the residue of a thousand torches, its floor carpeted with insect husks and the bones of small animals that rustled and crunched underfoot and dust that tickled the nostrils even and masked the sharp, musky scents of
the forest. One was a man, young and strong, with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. The other was ... something more.

I must warn you, once you accept this Gift -- this burden -- there is no turning back.

Frank Templar nodded. "I understand. 'With great power...'"

That is part of it, but -- I am not permitted to say more.

"I understand! I've read the Annals of Ashtalon--"

The fragments that have survived, you mean. And even when they were written--

"There were things that could not be said. I get it. I'm ready."

The man with the ancient eyes reached out and laid one hand on top of Frank Templar's head.

Even through his thick, gel-saturated hair, Frank felt a momentary pulse of stinging heat, then numbing cold, then --

"It is done," the man said. The suddenly old man.

I'm really immortal? Frank asked. He blinked as he realized that his voice had changed.

"Yes," the old man said. His voice, now stripped of its eerie resonance, sounded tired and weak. "And in your hands, you hold--"

The power of life and death.

"Yes," the old man said. "But when you tip the scales in one direction, they will be balanced."

Saving a life -- kills someone else? Frank's face -- the same face, but transformed in some indefinable way by the gift he had just accepted -- twisted in dismay.

"Sometimes, yes," the old man said. "Lesser deeds have lesser consequences. Heal a minor wound at the cost of a minor illness or injury to another. Heal a grave illness -- cause a grave illness. Raise the dead --"

Kill someone else... Can I control it somehow, spread the effects, or at least choose who suffers?

"You can try," the old man said. His voice seemed even weaker than before, thin and breathy as if he was no longer able to fill his lungs. "I tried. Sometimes I think I succeeded, other times --"

Other times what?

But the old man -- the ancient man, papery skin and wispy hair and withered muscles having replaced the godlike figure of only minutes ago -- said nothing more. His legs buckled and he sank to the floor of the cave like a tent whose center pole had been set in quicksand.

[align=center]####[/align]

Ten years passed. Twenty. Thirty. Frank had almost used the power a hundred times -- to heal an injured child, to cure the cancer of a beloved friend. But every time, he had hesitated, wondering how the scales would be balanced.

If I cure a child, who will suffer? If I harm or even kill an evil man, where will the life force I take go? For all I know, I'll transfer his strength to someone worse!

He'd had to change his name, move to a new town, and spend much of the wealth that his predecessor had bequeathed to him to buy all the electronic and paper traces to go with his new identity. A man who does not age, even in a world of ubiquitous cosmetic surgery, draws too much attention.

On this day, his twelve thousand, two hundred and twelfth with the power, Frank was walking slowly down the street toward the supermarket to pick up a box of frozen hamburgers. He never worried about cholesterol or sugar or salt. Hell, around Day Four
Thousand, he'd been depressed and had tried drinking a jug of liquid drain cleaner. It hadn't even given him stomach pains (but the toilet had run a little better the next day).

The screech of brakes and crunch of shattering glass and metal made him stumble as he stepped up onto the sidewalk. The screams made him fall, his elbow scraping along the concrete, tearing his shirt, but leaving his flesh unmarked.

When he regained his feet, he almost fell again as he saw the reason for the noise. A young woman and her daughter had been struck by a speeding car and crushed against a bus shelter. The rapidly spreading pool of blood made it clear that they must be dying -- or dead.

Thirty years. Maybe a thousand more to come, if he never found someone to take the power from him. The young-then-ancient man in the cave must have lived a very long time before he found Frank. Could Frank stand to live that long and not use the Gift?

If only I could control who will suffer if I bring those two back!

He had to try.

"Let me through," he said, consciously suppressing the strange resonance of his voice.

"Are you a doctor or something?"

"Yes," Frank lied. "Let me through! I think I can help them."

He pushed through the half-dozen people who had formed a worse-than-useless cordon around the stricken mother and child, wincing as the cloying, metallic odor of fresh blood filled his nostrils.

The power of life and death, he thought. I can cure or kill with a touch. He knelt beside the two battered and bloody forms, ignoring the still-warm blood and the glass shards that slid harmlessly over his skin. Carefully, he arranged the victims' hands so that his own right hand covered both at once.

Then he laid his left hand on his own chest.

Heat and cold and a draining feeling that weighed him down like a sodden blanket...

"Oh my God! I think the little girl moved!"

"Her mother, too!"

"Hey mister! What did you do?"

Frank fell forward, his face stinging as bits of glass tore the skin. He felt his heartbeat slowing -- slowing --


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:13:48 PM

08/'08 - The Reluctant Superhero

The Flyer

By:
Cornelius Brandt



There it was again! That touch of nausea, the slow swirling of the stomach, the odd feeling of uncertainty, the cramp under the, copious watering of the mouth, the knowledge that profuse voiding was about to happen…

I closed my eyes. “No. No. Settle down!”

Slowly, slowly, the trembling stopped. My breathing slowed to a normal pace and I was able to swallow. Did I dare open my eyes? The light bulb had to be changed!

Without opening my eyes I climbed back down the three steps of the ladder, I walked across to the telephone and called the handyman…

Ever since I could first fly at around 3 years old I had found every moment in the air to be filled with the most exquisite feelings of joy. It was just so wonderful to be able to swoop through the air, to be wherever I wanted to be, to be free, to be free!

[align=center]---O---[/align]

I met Carla one evening in Harare. Yes, I know you are asking yourself “why on earth did he go to Harare?” Well, if I wore my goggles, it was only about three hours flight from Pretoria, and I had decided that I wanted to see for myself what was going on – and after all, I could fly, and a few billion dollars would feel good in the pocket –even if it wasn’t really worth too much.

I was lonely at the hotel, it was already dark, so I flew into the centre of town and found a nightclub, I paid the stiff entry fee of Z$300 billion. As luck would have it, the guy sitting on the right of the doorway decided to stretch as I walked in, his foot shot out into the passageway between the tightly packed tables, I tripped, and in one of those odd side effects of being a flier, went slithering across the floor for about 15 yards before managing enough traction to come to a halt. Before me where the most exquisite pair of legs that I have ever set my eyes on!

She bent down and helped me up. I went weak at the knees! She thought I was about to pass out and she held on tight, supporting me – I almost did pass out!

[align=center]---O---[/align]

That was three years ago. We are to be married next week. How will I ever be able to explain to her? How will I explain to my children? No – I will not fly again!

It started just six months ago. It was Carla’s birthday, I decided to fly down to Cape Town and buy her a bunch of Gladiola, Yes, of course you can buy “Glads” up here on the reef, but only the hybrids. Ever since our holiday in the Cape last winter she has loved the stark beauty of some of the winter growing Gladiola of the Cape, and most particularly the stunning Gladiolus liliaceous. So I dressed in my leathers to brave the cold winter night, put on the thermally protected backpack I used for flying, and packed my wallet. I planned to be at the market on the foreshore first thing Saturday morning when the flower sellers would have small stocks of local indigenous flora, and then fly straight back – in time to take Carla out to a romantic supper at Berties Place. She had moved to Randburg last summer and it felt like she was just around the corner.

It was about six in the morning, still dark. I was flying low, just a few metres above the Karoo bushes. I had been this way often before – there were no dangers – in fact there was pretty much nothing here. As I went over the edge of the escarpment the sudden void – the blackness the nothingness!

I never did quite know what happened but I was instantly aware of being in the air and susceptible to falling – an odd sensation, no, a gut wrenching, sickening sensation!

I vomited as I tumbled down and down, I had been flying at about 180 mph and now I was falling. I had never really fallen in my life, now this!

I did manage to control the fall enough to land without breaking anything, and there I lay at the foot of the escarpment bringing up every last bit of gall my body could manufacture!

When I got everything back in control. I could not fly – well I could… but I could not stomach being even a foot off of the ground. I packed away my goggles and jogged to a nearby road, where I thankfully managed to get a lift with a local farmer going into Cape Town with a bakkie full of vegetables. I did manage to get to the market and buy the flowers, and even managed a gut wrenching flight home on SAA, and yes, in time to take Carla to Berties Place.

I am still struggling with the depression of not flying. No, I have not told Carla – I want to marry the girl! How could I say “Sorry honey I don’t want to fly anymore!”

“Fly, Fly! Since when could you fly in the first place?”

No, Carla is just too precious, perhaps it is better like this, now I never have to explain that I can fly, and since I have severe acrophobia, nobody would guess.

[align=center]---O---[/align]

11 August 2011 the acrophobia is gone now, but hey, this way life is less complicated. It is Carla’s birthday, we are in Cape Town - we drove down through Namaqualand leaving Robert, our 3 year old with my sister in Benoni for 10 days.

Carla’s cellphone rings…

“Chris dear, its you sister Joan.”

“She says Robert was sitting on the roof, she doesn’t know how he got there, don’t worry, they have got him down.”

“She says he just smiles and says he is a bird. Really we must stop encouraging him to be so imaginative!”



[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:14:16 PM

08/'08 - The Reluctant Superhero

Superheroes Anonymous

By:
Casey Callaghan



“Hello, everyone. My name is SuperDuperExtraUltraMan, and I'm – I'm a superhero.”

The room was drab, the light grey of the shadows produced by two rows of flourescent bulbs forming only a weak contrast to the white, tiles floor and light grey, plastic chairs. The costumes of the people seated in the chairs, however, contained every bit of vibrant colour that seemed to have been leached from the room; reds, yellows and blues dominated, but there was also a lot of green, orange and purple; almost everyone was masked, and no two costumes shared a single feature; indeed, most of the costumes clashed with each other, some more so than others, the overall result being a garish display which would give any clothing designer a headache.

“Hello, SuperDuperExtraUltraMan.” replied the people (and occasional alien) seated on the other chairs, in a bored chorus.

The only person who seemed at all glad to be there was the facilitator, a man in a plain business suit with no powers who considered it his responsibility to chair the meeting.

“Welcome, welcome!” he said, enthusiastically. “And would you care to tell us your story, how you came to join our little support group?”

SuperDuperExtraUltraMan looked down at his feet. “I'm sure you've heard similar stories a million times.” he muttered.

“No, no, not at all, every story is unique.” The facilitator pointed towards an empty seat, over which the barest suggestion of a heat haze quivered. “Take Mr. Invisible over there, for example; he hasn't been visible in public for the last five years. Before he joined us, he hadn't been visible at all for four years. Or the Batman over there -” this chair was occupied by a grotesque half man/half bat monstrosity - “ever since his DNA got fused with that of a bat, he's hardly been able to get his own meals down. And besides which, it's important for you to be able to tell us in your own words. That's the first step to being able to heal the base issue.”

SuperDuperExtraUltraMan looked around the room. “Well, it's – it was fun at first, you know. Swooping in, defeating the bad guy, saving everyone, hero of the hour, you know, the whole kaboodle. It was only when Linda died that I even realised I had a problem. I mean, there I was, looking at her dead body – she'd been run over by a truck while I was in Venezuela stopping Dr. ReallyMean again – and I suddenly realised, you know - I hadn't been with her for more than five continuous minutes in the previous fifteen months. And, I mean, she was supposed to be my girlfriend.” SuperDuperExtraUltraMan sighed. “And not just her, either. My parents - I hadn't heard from them in the past three months, and I think the reason I stopped hearing from them was that they were still waiting for me to dash off a hurried reply to their last five messages. My boss – well, I was in the office so rarely, I later found out that he thought I'd quit and I hadn't been paid for eight months as a result.”

“And how did this make you feel?” asked the facilitator.

“Well – empty, I suppose. As if – as if there wasn't even a real me, as if SuperDuperExtraUltraMan was all there was. As if my whole life was a thin facade, to be stripped away by the lightest touch, no more substantial than an image in a mirror.”

“Um, excuse me?” A thin, bespectacled man in a robe and a pointed hat covered in stars waved a hand.

The facilitator sighed. “Yes?”

“Just a point of order here. I've summoned up mirror images before; they're quite real.”

Batman leaned forwards, resting his wings on his knees. “That doesn't prove a thing, Mr. Magic. You've summoned up someone's worst nightmare before – and that was only a thought in his head until you gave it form.”

“That's entirely different.” sniffed Mr. Magic. “In that case, what I did was take a piece of psychosensitive aether from a parallel univer-”

“Gentlemen, please!” snapped the facilitator.

Both Mr. Magic and Batman stopped their conversation.

“Thank you.” continued the facilitator. “SuperDuperExtraUltraMan, you have the floor.”

SuperDuperExtraUltraMan looked down at said floor. It was still white, and still subtly crisscrossed by faint grey shadows. “Um, I think I'm pretty much finished, actually. I heard about this group, and I decided I had to do something and this seemed like the right place to do so.” He took a deep breath. “I'm addicted to the media coverage, to the glitz and glamour of being a superhero. And – and I want to kick that habit, I want to just live a normal life, but I'm not sure if I can do so on my own.”

The facilitator nodded. “Well, SuperDuperExtraUltraMan, once again, welcome to our meeting. You'll be given a free copy of our informative pamphlet, 'How To Give Up Media Coverage In Twelve Easy Steps', on the way out. Please, sit down. Now, are there any more new superheroes who have joined us today?”

SuperDuperExtraUltraMan sat, grateful that he'd managed to get through at least the first part of his first meeting at Superheroes Anonymous. But a faint worry niggled inside him, a slight uneasiness in his stomach, the knowledge that he hadn't been fully honest, the reason why Linda's death had gained that strange extra poignancy that being preventable entailed? Should he have mentioned that, in order to push up his own media ratings, he'd donned a second costume, put on a second cloak – should he have mentioned that, aside from being SuperDuperExtraUltraMan, he was also Dr. ReallyMean?


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:14:50 PM

08/'08 - The Reluctant Superhero

The Truth Hurts

By:
Kerry Callaghan



I had always wanted to know everything. Until one day, I suddenly did.

I was born with a genetic disorder that left me mentally retarded. Before starting school, I was ignorant, unaware. My family treated me as a normal child; my two older sisters loved me the way I was and never mocked my stupidity. But they all neglected to tell me that actually, I was stupid, that there was something wrong with me. I arrived at school, shaking with excitement for my first day, and I still didn’t know.

The first thing we had to do that day was get into pairs and introduce each other to the rest of the class. We had to say what our partner’s name was and what they liked doing. When it got to us, my partner stood up.

“This is Sarah, and her favourite colour is purple. She likes to play in the sandpit.”

Then it was my turn.

“This is Julie.”

I couldn’t remember anything else she had said. I sat down again and the whole class started laughing at me. Julie looked furious. I started crying. I was a reject from that moment onwards; nobody ever wanted to be paired with me in case I messed it up again. My junior school years were seven years of hell.

Eventually, I got through and high school seemed like a chance for a fresh start. I met a pretty girl called Sam and her friend, Jessica. They were the first people that ever treated me as a friend and I thought it was heaven. One day, Sam even shouted at someone for calling me a retard. Then, after a year and a half of the best life I had ever known, it ended again.

I woke up one morning and I knew everything. It seemed like a blessing - for the first hour. I was ecstatic. When my mom dropped me off at school, I soon found Sam and Jessica, giggling excitedly. Jessica jumped up and hugged me. “Guess what, Sarah, guess what, Peter asked me out!”

Sam jumped up as well. “Isn’t it exciting, Sarah? He’s so hot. I can’t believe how lucky Jess is!”

They looked at me expectantly. Confusion filled my heart and lungs and entered the world in a rush of misplaced words. “You shouldn’t date him, Jess.”

“What? Why not? This is my dream guy! What are you talking about?”

I frowned. “You really shouldn’t. He’s a real player.”

Sam and Jessica turned to each other with looks of outrage. “I don’t believe it, Sarah,” Sam spat out, angrily. “I just don’t believe it. You’re jealous! Well, you’re not going to take this away from Jessica. C’mon, Jess.”

They hooked arms and stalked off in the opposite direction. Desperately, I yelled after them, “I’m warning you! Playa-playa!”

Sam turned back, spite and disgust filling her expression as she screamed back “What do you know? Retard!”

Then I knew that I had not been blessed, I had been cursed. This terrible power, this knowledge had taken away the only friendship I had ever known. I wished that I could become stupid again, but I couldn’t. I knew everything, and even when I tried to disguise it, it still showed. I finished school with the highest marks in the whole country. I went to university and got degree after degree in record time. But I never had friends again. This power of knowledge and truth that I had was made into a burden by the fact that I was still retarded when it came to relations with other people. I was desperate not to use my power, my curse, but the retarded part of me always made me blurt something out at the worst possible moment. Since it was always true, I was hated for it.

Just after my twenty-eighth birthday, astronomers announced a huge meteor that would narrowly miss Earth. The news bulletin announced that a “beautiful streak will be visible on September the twentieth, speeding past above the atmosphere.”

But they were wrong, and I knew it. That meteor would hit.

I went to NASA and because I knew everything, I was able to lie my way in until I got to talk to someone intelligent enough to understand. “The meteor will hit us. Surely you know that?”

He looked confused. “What are you talking about? It will miss us easily!”

Here I made my mistake. “No, it will hit, there is an error in your calculations. Page five, line seventeen.”

He was now outraged, certain I was a hacker or a spy, and called security with the silent alarm. But I knew that he did, because I knew everything.

“Wait! You can stop it; all you need is a nuclear cannon with enough power, attached to an orbiting space vehicle. Here, I have drawn up the exact plans you need!” I tossed the blueprints onto his desk. Moments later, security arrived.

“Arrest this woman!” the NASA official shouted. “She is trying to disturb the peace with untoward rumours. And trying to use this meteor as an excuse to build weapons of mass destruction! She clearly plans to take over the world!” He brandished the blueprints.

Because I knew everything, I knew that everyone else would believe him, not me. And so it was. I sat in my jail cell on September the twentieth, wishing that I had never gained this power, and even more fervently, that my retardation had never forced me to use it. Everybody thought I was depressed because I awaited a lifetime in prison. But I was depressed because I awaited my execution, and that of the entire human race, in two hours, thirteen minutes and eight seconds. I was depressed because I knew, along with everything else I knew, that if I had not been perceived by the world as a retard, I would have succeeded.

I was depressed because I could save the world, and they didn’t want me to.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:15:21 PM

08/'08 - The Reluctant Superhero

The Deiform Sovereign Mind of Meaglia Vox

By:
Mark Edgemon



He entered into our temporal realm a mute, born into a world that despised virtue; he emerged from the darkness of his mother’s womb into an even greater darkness of a base society, twenty years past this December.

He had a pale visage with almost translucent skin, intermingled with an epidermis of fluorescent green. His eyes were black as soot, giving the impression that there were no eyes, just sockets where the eyes should be.

It appears I was destined to be the transcriber of these events as I am the key witness to the history of these proceedings. I am Dr. Dimitri Gennadiya, lead scientist at the Leningrad Neurosurgical Institute. It began as I was working late one night when I received a call from a doctor at a nearby medical facility, who asked me to look in on a newborn, who’s appearance was unlike any he had ever seen.

When I arrived at the hospital, the attending physician informed me that the mother had died during childbirth within the dreary walls of one of Russia’s degraded penitentiaries. The father was believed to have been a prison guard, who was discharged months earlier and whose whereabouts were presently unknown.

In time, the child grew and was placed under my care at the Leningrad Psychiatric Medical Facility for study and evaluation. Our preeminent Russian scientists could not understand the reasons for this child’s abnormal appearance or why he would not speak. It was ultimately concluded that he possessed low-level intelligence and could not comprehend basic language.

He was a child without a name, having only a patient number that was given to him by the state. He would sit on his cot in his darkened room of stone, eyes directed forward, expressionless without ever showing any sign of emotion, although, he evoked it in me and the other scientists at the Institute.

One evening, after routinely examining him, I stepped into the hall and sat at a desk about ten feet from his room. A radio on the desk was broadcasting weather reports until abruptly interrupted by static. I began to adjust the dial when all of a sudden; I heard an eerie, strange voice coming from the radio, joined by a fluctuating metallic sound that could be heard in the background.

Without warning, the table began to vibrate. Light began to pierce through the ceiling, passing through solid objects like they were not even there. The metallic sound was now surrounding me as every object, including my very bones were vibrating.

Suddenly, I saw transparent beings descending through the light and enter into the hall as if they were looking for something or someone. The aliens assembled themselves outside the mute’s door and simply passed through it. Seconds later, the door opened and the beings once again entered the hallway this time accompanied by the mute.

I clutched my chest in fear as they glided across the floor toward me. I began shaking as I looked into his empty, black eyes feeling his thoughts inside my mind. His was the same voice I had heard on the radio only moments earlier.

He began to calm my fears as he told me through my conscious mind that he had been communicating with these beings through brain waves for many years even though this telepathic activity inflicted great pain upon his body. The electrical impulses within his brain were affecting his physical body with low-levels of electric shocks, which he sustained during his telesthesia with the beings of light who he called the Vox. He told me they saw him as a god, and referred to him as Meaglia.

I knew from examining patients with varying levels of telepathic ability that if nerve cells in the brain were fully interconnected, the amount of brain wave voltage would be exceedingly great. If this were done, it would extend the range of one’s brain waves over immeasurable distances. I believe this was the answer to the question I had been seeking, why the mute was unwilling to talk when he was fully capable of doing so. He was a telepath and chose to communicate in that way and since there was no one on earth that shared his telepathic range and power, he chose to communicate with these aliens of another species.

The muted telepath had convinced the Vox, a race of powerful empathic beings to use him as a conduit to interconnect the minds of the earth’s population, telepathically attaching the nerve cells within each human’s brain and linking their minds together in order to bring stability to the human race.

He had been sensing people’s minds throughout the earth for many years and knew of decisions by world leaders to unleash nuclear weapons that would destroy much of humanity. He decided to link their minds, joining them to the primary purpose of establishing peace throughout the earth. He would do this, even if he had to drag the human race through the process, because he knew they would not change on their own. However, the operation was at great cost to him, causing him immense and indescribable agony.

Suddenly, he began to vibrate, first slightly then moments later, violently as his molecular structure began to break down and merge with the beings of light. He looked at me once more and slowly began to smile; the only time I had ever witnessed emotion from him. Soon, he was disembodied, his molecules dispersed and absorbed by the beings of light.

Throughout the next few hours, all of humanity became linked together and a harmonious, communal spirit began to take hold upon the earth. He had done what no one else could do; he had become the superhero as told in fictional stories, doing what all-great heroes do, he gave himself for the rest of us.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:15:57 PM

08/'08 - The Reluctant Superhero

In the Land of the Blind

By:
Bill Wolfe



In my dreams, I see colors for which I have no name. There are smells, too. Odors that seem so close, so real; and yet drift away from my reality like so much fog the moment I awake. These are the odors of food that are actually pleasing. Of merely damp soil, and of dry particles of dirt that float around in dry air. I try to describe these things to my adopted Family, but it's no use. They just can't understand. But when I'm grieving at their gravemud, I know I will try again to tell the next generation about the colors, the odors, the memory of a large, soft face looking at me with love. A face that is much like mine.

"Immortal" It's the velvety touch/thought of Meerkin, the current head of the Family. But it's not his normal, gentle waking touch. I sense fear, urgency. "Our birthing-crèche is being taken by the deepmud. We cannot pull it back. I understand that you want us to do without you but this is too much. Please help us."

This is serious, and though I have been less willing to help, of late, I jump from my oversized firmmud berth with barely a touch/thought of acknowledgment. The echoes of the dreams vanish as I leap away. In two bounds I am at the crèche.

Meerkin is right. A truly huge bubble of gas has surfaced just beneath one corner of the woven-vine building. What was stable hardmud is now a gaping hole coated with the slick, slimy, near-liquid deepmud. The structure would have already plummeted to the bottom but for the twenty-something villagers with foretendrils wrapped around the far corner. There are the crècheworkers, of course, but also every adult that was close enough to lend a tendril is here.

Furiously backpedaling with every cilium that can dig mud, they are being inexorably drawn into the pit as the weight of the building—and its precious occupants—pulled harder down the shallow slope. The thick, stagnant air fills with the pain-laden grunts of those holding on. There is the smell of fear, agony and pure determination as tendrils strain to the breaking point. And yet none have released their grasp, even as the front cilia of those at the very edge find no purchase except for air.

"And they call me a superhero!" I touch/think to myself.

My crèchepeople must be from a world of superheroes because I am stronger than the whole village, combined. My lower appendages also allow me to walk upright, and to do something that I have tried to explain to them for as long as I can remember. Jump.

I jump. High.

To those struggling with the crèche, it must seem that I fly in from the sky. They can only see things a few bodylengths away.

I needed to jump high because the mini-tendrils at the end of my lower appendages have to dig deeply into the side of the hole. As I had hoped, the slick, slimy deepmud merely coated the sides. Beneath is pliant hardmud. I have a solid anchor to push from. The crèche is many times larger than I am, and for the first time in generations, I'm not sure I am powerful enough by myself.

Pushing off from the lowest corner, I wriggle my mini-tendrils deeper into their new little dens. I am out of tendril shot of those pulling, so I can't warn them that I am about to push much harder. My own hummmmph! of strain joins those up top as I reverse the direction of the crèche and slide it quickly back up the slope. But as I push with all I have, I feel the hardmud beginning to give way. The little dens are fast becoming long gouges and I can tell that I am about to slip.

Inspiration strikes. I place my head in an irregularity in the vines and let go with my upper appendages. These I dig into the hardmud like I did with the lower. By pushing my rigid mini-tendrils into the mud, I can walk up the hardmud slope using both my upper and lower appendages. The woven building cuts through the tiny dead tendrils that cover my head, and I taste my own blood as it runs around my face, but I keep pushing and wall-walking.

When the weight disappears, I flop forward and taste deepmud. I do not move, I just lay there, my air exchanger pumping. A dozen tendrils entwine me, all touch/thinking at once as they haul me the rest of the way to the top.

Through myriad voices, all of whom I have known since they emerged from their own birthing-crèche, the message is one.

"Gratitude, Immortal. Our children are safe. We humbly accept your sacrifice of injury and pain"

Their thanks are done. Sometimes, I want them to praise me for the things I do for them. I wonder if my crèchepeople appreciate their heroes differently. I don't remember. I was nearly as small as them when I wandered into the village. The Family has touch/memories of smoke and heat and a crash that shook the very hardmud just before I arrived. They know that I am not one of them, but one of the aliens that come to enslave whole villages to use as translators between creatures from different worlds. But they cared for me and I feel responsible for them.

I tell them they must do for themselves because I plan to leave this place. To go where the aliens can be found and maybe they will take me with them. I do not touch/tell my Family how much I hate the smell, the heat, the gelid sludge they call food. I can't touch/tell them that the sight of their tapered, grey, slimy bodies makes me want to squash them like the slugs they are. And most importantly, I absolutely have to get away from all this rotten stinking mud!


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:16:47 PM

08/'08 - The Reluctant Superhero

Talon

By:
G.C. Dillon



“Does it hurt?” my son questioned.

“Does what hurt?” I asked.

“Your hooks.”

“Only when the crocodile tick-tocks along.”

“Dad!” My daughter disapproved.

I hooked the steering wheel about with my prosthetics and pulled up to my children's house, once my home. My metallic 'claws' turned off the ignition key.

“Mommy,” the kids yelled as they ran for the front door. My ex-wife stood there. A curly brown aureole of hair circled her head. She wore a white knit blouse.

“Oh, I need some equipment from my old workshop,” I said, after my children slipped through the door.

“Sure,” she said.

“Thank you for letting me keep the workshop even though you got the house in the divorce. I know your lawyer was against it.”

“She thought it was your way to worm your way back in. I knew it was your way away from me.”

“I didn't...” I started.

“You couldn't help it,” she interrupted. “Ever since the accident. You were once so confident, so ambitious. Ready to design the next cutting edge thing. You were going to work at NASA. After you just holed up in that wood shack working on things no one wanted for stingy grant stipends.

“God! That makes me sound so shallow,” she said.

“Don't worry; you're not. It was a way away from you. I'm sorry.”

She silently closed the screen door. I went behind my – my former house toward a wooden work shed. It had what appeared to be a simple padlock. I slipped a sliver of metal from my prosthetic into it. A small smart chip released the lock. Let just anyone try to pick that!

The doors of the shed swung open to reveal the lair of a superhero. Most of the space was made up of CNC controlled machinist grinders, band-saws, dies, a networked series of laptops, but one small area of the room was my 'danger corner'. It was a electromagnetic field generator for weight resistance training, levitating uneven bars for twirling swings, a floating balance beam for gymnastics with no bobbles, and a rail-gun target range. My equipment was specially coated to be nonmagnetic.

The summer before the explosion, I was an intern working on sensor bearings for a small manufacturer. The HR recruiter told me that he liked to hire engineers who had grown up on family farms. He felt they were more ingenious, using what they had in the barn to solve problems. If he could look at the equipment laid out before me, what would he think of my ingenuity?

Every superhero needs powers – be they from a radioactive spider or a blast from gamma or cosmic rays. My powers came from the mechanical devices before me – from my ability to design and build them. I'm the only one who can wear them, the only who can use them, the only one who could be their singular brand of superhero. I am Talon.

I picked up and examined the nozzle for the flame retardant for use against Firefly, and checked the electrical shunt I needed for Madam Lightning Bug. I also had my sabre extension just because I liked the blade. I stuffed the devices into a gym bag.

Alter-ego and superhero is a facade, like when Lin Miaoke lip-synced to Yang Peiyi's voice at the 2008 Olympics. One face to the public, one voice driving you on.

[align=center]* * *[/align]

I released my grappling hook and retrieved its micro-fiber rope into my “hand”. My cowl radio picked up a police officer calling in a 10-100. A bathroom break. I swung open a small window in an office building twenty stories from the hard pavement below.

In my heroic career, I've defeated Ms Spitfire and teamed-up with Captain Nine*Star, but I was about to meet who should best be called Arch-Rival. One hundred dollar bills were piled upon his desk. I recognized Franklin's smug visage.

“It was easier before you knew where the money was coming from? Am I correct?” Beneath my cowl, I must have flushed scarlet. After college I'd gotten money orders for thousands of dollars – always below the Federal reporting limits. The checks were to fund my research. It was research that lead me to Talon. To myself, my new self.

“I don't owe you!"

“Not for the money, no. But for your creation. You would be just a paraplegic, if lucky in some charity job making light bulbs, or if not then watching Jerry Springer in a nursing home. Because of me, you are Talon.

“I helped you murder my predecessor.” He smirked.

“I hadn't meant to kill.”

“Of course, you did. He caused your accident.”

“He murdered my father.”

“No, he placed a bomb in the car of a district attorney and took off the hands of an engineering grad student. One who I, still a lowly accountant then, could fund and later finance the constructing of prosthetic devices to be utilized against that crime lord.”

He threw a folding file on the desk. “I have some 411 on my competitors' operations and the opportune times for Talon to strike.”

“Do these times help your own operations?”

“That is none of your concern!” he shouted. “My competitors have super-powered associates. So do I. Only mine wants to fight crime.”

“I do.”

“You could have stopped. Perhaps should have. Stopped working with me, stopped slipping off your 'gloves' for super-powered gadgets. But you can't, even if it means my help or losing your family. Or is that what's left of your family. You've chosen this, you've traded your life for Talon's. Since the explosion, it has been true.”

I started being Talon for grief and revenge. But I used Arch-Rival's blood money to do it. Talon won't be done till I repent that mistake.

One day I will move against him. One day I will complete Talon's mission. One day I will bring him to justice. One day!


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:17:41 PM

08/'08 - The Reluctant Superhero

Speeding Towards...

By:
J. Davidson Hero



Kenneth Marko stared past the scrawled note to the wrinkles on his hand... the wrinkles and the age spots. His grandma had age spots. He felt the walls of his life closing in around him and there was no place to go, no options left; he just had to run.

He looked around the apartment for his suit. Just one more time, he owed Vidhatri that much. Vidhatri was responsible for everything, but ultimately, she was Ken’s only hope. Finally he spotted it in the corner behind a box of comics. He had missed it in the shadows, and he realized his eyes were getting bad. As he slipped his leg into the skin-tight suit, he wondered, ‘would this be the last time?’

***

“I don’t understand.” He looked at Vidhatri.

“It appears to be cellular degeneration. Every time you do this... this thing... it accelerates your aging.” Vidhatri Verma looked perplexed. She thought she had seen the last of Kenneth. Their relationship had fallen apart under the guilt: it was her recklessness that had cursed him. Now he showed up with this horrible problem.

“Is this normal?” Ken was trying to follow this new idea to its natural conclusion.

“Nothing about this is ‘normal’,” said Vidhatri. Sadness clouded her face. “If you continue like this, it will kill you.” She looked deeply into his eyes and saw the fear, the immature wish that this could all be magically undone. She realized now that this is what drove them apart. It had all been adolescent wish fulfillment to him. He didn’t realize, until this point, that there were real consequences, and in the face of those consequences, he was merely a scared boy.

***

There was a crack that lit the air on fire. It matched the pain that shot through Ken’s chest and threatened to take his breath away. In half a second he had thrust two of the thugs against opposing walls, probably killing them. Then he slowed himself down enough to pin the leader by the throat without decapitating him. He would have to make this really convincing.

“Where is she?” Ken snarled.

“She’s already dead,” the thug spit back, “you being here signed her death warrant.”

Ken smiled. “And you just signed yours. Ever wonder what it’s like to feel your eyeballs pulped in your skull?” This was a bluff and he felt his arm start to quiver as the last of his normal strength started to wane. “Look at your friends. I don’t have time to waste. If you don’t tell me, I’ll find someone who will, and your eyes will be running down your face like raw eggs.” Ken used just a little speed to vibrate his arm back and forth, just enough to shake the guy up, but good. The guy started screaming and it sounded like he was yelling into a fan. Ken pulled up short. But it was too late; the guy was already unconscious. Still, Ken had made out what he said. Ken knew where they were keeping Vidhatri.

***

He heard the sirens just blocks away. If the police knew what was going down, the mob would too. Suddenly he realized that Vidhatri would be dead before he got across town. He would have to use the speed to get there. He paused for a moment removing his glove. His hand was covered with wrinkles. The skin had grown thin and looked sunken. His knuckles were becoming deformed and ached with arthritis. He wondered what his hair looked like... thin, grey? Was he balding like his grandpa?

He forced himself to stop thinking about it. If he didn’t, the fear of death would paralyze him. Vidhatri was the only one that might be able to reverse this, to save him. So to save himself, he had to first save her. He looked down the street, tensed his muscles, and was gone. A sonic boom split the air.

***

“Hey Boss,” a man with an earpiece leaned in close to the city’s kingpin of crime, “Fast Forward hit the crew on Broadway.” The whisper was barely audible. But none of the Boss’ guests so much as blinked

Boss Groat’s cheeks reddened with excitement. It made his henchman very nervous. Groat turned his head to the side and coughed a phlegmy cough. He meticulously wiped the spaghetti sauce from the corners of his mouth with a white napkin, leaving stains of red that would probably never come out. Thus composed, he looked up at his man, “Radio the warehouse and tell them to clean up when they’re done.”

***

Sweat ran down the sides of Vidhatri’s face. She was tied to a chair and gagged. A limpid light dangling from the steel structure high above created a large circle around her. From above, she thought, it must look like a bull’s-eye. She also knew that snipers were strapped to that structure above and waiting.

She should have stopped Kenneth when this all started, prevented him from playing the hero. But now it was too late. The wheels were already in motion. The clock was already ticking. Tears ran down Vidhatri’s face and mixed with the sweat.

Then there was a crack of thunder that blasted the side of the building away. For a moment Vidhatri thought she saw Kenneth in front of her, but his face was gaunt, and wrinkled, hardly recognizable. She heard a rain of gun fire, but it was distant and then she realized she was in the night air and her bonds were gone. For a moment in the dark she felt Kenneth hugging her to his body with all his might as he ran. And then there was a jerk and she felt her body skid across the pavement like a ragdoll. She fought to stay conscious, ferociously. And when she had rolled to a stop, she forced herself to lift her head and look back... look back at the moldering corpse of her hero.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:18:11 PM

08/'08 - The Reluctant Superhero

- Winner -


The First Step

By:
Joseph Nichols



Screams.

It always begins with screams.

For me, that first day had been no exception.


[align=center]-----------[/align]



The year is 2008. I am finishing a short break in the restroom when I hear them. Women first, of course, but the men dutifully echo. As does the sharp retort of a gunshot.

My first thought is of Evelyn.

I rush from the room, rivulets of water chasing slow-motion paths to the floor from my hands.

I stare at the room beyond. Two breaths fill and empty my lungs before anything but her name makes sense. Languidly, my brain puts the scene together.

I’m standing in the lobby of the bank where we both work. Men, women and children lie prone against blue-speckled carpet. Behind the counter are two women. One is middle-aged, Hispanic. Julia. Her head rests against the back counter, almost as if she’d simply sat down for an afternoon siesta. The illusion ends where her crimson chest begins.

The other girl is my Evelyn. Her hands are raised, open palms pleading. So young. Wide blue eyes set within porcelain skin. I will forever remember how fragile her features appeared in those stolen moments before I made my choice.

There is also a man. He is shrouded in black leather to the knees. He might be wearing jeans beneath the jacket; his lines are fuzzy in my mind. He never really mattered. In his hand is a shotgun. Even from where I stand the scent of gunpowder burns my lungs.

I want to move, but my feet are frozen to that hideous carpet. I know I can stop what will follow. Even as the silent movie drags forward, as the shotgun rises, pointing its angry finger at the girl I will make my wife, I cannot will myself to do what must be done. To be the hero.

You see, history is written in the blood of good intentions.

I have seen heroes. And I have seen them fall.


[align=center]-----------[/align]


The year is 1988. This time there are no screams.

He is eight years old. His fingers are hidden within his father’s strong, callused ones. The two have come to Seoul to attend the games of the XXIV Olympiad. For the boy, this is a dream come true, forged by those same hands that enclose his own. An eight year old smile mirrors the summer sun. The man is more than his father: He is his hero.

For the man, this is an ambassadorial directive. He has come to shake hands. He has come to calm fears. The South Korean nation has somehow been honored by selection for the games despite President Chun Doo-Hwan's hopes that international exposure will legitimize his authoritarian regime.

The boy knows nothing of these things. He simply waits for Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson to line up for their historic 100 meter dash.

Before the athletes can take the field, the boy’s attention is distracted. His father is no longer at his side. For but a moment, his heart quickens its beat, heavy against his throat; then he sees his father’s familiar off-white suit moving through the crowd. Curious now, the boy splits his attention, glancing in turn at the events on the track below as well as the purposeful stroll into which his father has fallen.

The man in the pale suit steps away from the crowd, pressing close to a tall figure with a face etched from stone, a five o’clock shadow clinging like thin moss.

Both Lewis and Johnson finish stretching, their feet firmly pressed against the blocks.

His father’s hand slips into the pocket of the suit, withdrawing a black object which he then slides into the other man’s palm.

A chime sounds, the runners snapping up, sweat glistening off their calves.

Surprise melts from the tall man’s face as the boy’s father whispers in his ear. His features soften. His eyes fade to a gray contentment. His fingers close around the object and, as it begins to rise toward the field, the pale suit is already returning to the boy’s side.

The gunshot pierces the arena and the runners take their first steps toward the finish line. It isn’t until Johnson has narrowly defeated Lewis that the spectators realize what has happened. This is when the screams begin. President Chun Doo-Hwan lies bleeding on the stands next to his wife.

The boy is not watching the horror below. He sees only the strong hand wrapped around his own, which now shudders involuntarily.

South Korea will become a democratic nation under Chun’s successor, the assassination the catalyst for political stability. Carl Lewis will be given the gold medal after it is discovered Johnson abused illegal steroids. Good ends drawn from evil means drawn from good intentions.

In that moment, a legacy is born while a hero dies.


[align=center]-----------[/align]


At the time, I had not understood my father’s full role in those dark days, only that he had helped kill a man. I would discover his legacy later in my childhood; the power which I had earned blood to blood. I had abhorred its existence, ignored its potential. Fearful of its call. That is, until that day at the bank.

Watching Evelyn, I made my decision. Time slowed to a viscous liquid as I strode forward. I heard nothing, felt nothing but the press of my body against the gunman’s. A whisper in his ear. That’s all it took. I told him to put his gun on the counter and leave. He did, his jaw slack. His eyes dead.

Evelyn did not die that day, though she would in less than five years time. Not at this man’s hand but, rather, my own.

I remember a television in the corner of the bank whereupon Michael Phelps was winning his 12th Olympic gold. That day had been his last step in becoming what others would come to call a hero.

But I know that day had been my first step in becoming my father.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:22:54 PM

09/'08 - The 200 Challenge

The challenge was to create the best possible opening to a story that would make readers most want to read a story that could follow what was submitted. Entrants were limited to 200 words.


Examples:



[align=right]140 Words[/align]

Gone to Sea

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



The creak of boards surprised Nick. She was next to him.

He dared not breathe. He hadn’t seen her coming through the heavy fog.

He watched her from the corner of his eye. Any sound, any movement, from him and she would go. He’d waited his whole life for this.

“The night will be cold,” she said.

Her tone was so beautiful he could scarcely believe it. Her voice was supposed to be raspy.

“Nicholas,” she said, still looking out over the water, “I know you want to ask me something. Ask it.”

He looked at her. The elders had said she had no skin, only a tangle of seaweed, but she had a woman’s face. A beautiful woman’s face. Smooth skin, bright, loving eyes.

Nick swallowed hard. “Why did you kill me?”

She smiled.

“Because you wanted me to.”


[align=center]The End[/align]



[align=right]198 Words[/align]

Egg Paragon & The Spruce Tree Helpers

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



[area]The trees chose as their champion a man who was their sworn enemy. He was a man of despicable qualities, intemperate disposition, and of a shady, low past. He was also the greatest hero in the history of the world.[/area]

Ed winced. Some helper painted "Egg Paragon" across the side of his hangar in six-foot letters. He had slight speech impediment when it came to the letter ‘D,’ so people thought his name was Eggward. It was annoying enough as a nobody, but now that he was famous, it really got under his skin.

He never tried to be an environmentalist. He used to be a truck driver for a company that hauled toxic waste, and he loved it. He was known for an uncanny ability to empty his truck faster than all the other drivers. His other passions were obtaining money and flying homemade helicopters.

Until fate stepped in.

Swallowing his apprehension, he stepped in through the side door. There were pots and bags of soil all around the room. Ed swore to himself that he’d make the Damn Thing stop spitting out all those trees and give him his office back, come hell or high water.


[align=center]The End[/align]



[align=right]200 Words[/align]

Nightwatch: The Pursuit of Happiness

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



The rain thundered down, flattening the edge of rain forest he tried to hide in.

Josue's cry betrayed his position, and Simon dove behind a wide mesua tree. Lead spat into the bush just inches behind him.

"Damn you, Callow!" Simon shouted as he stuck his 9mm out around the side of the trunk and emptied his clip blindly toward his pursuers. "This wasn't in the training video!"

His eyes searched for a way out. Josue's English garden may have been wide open, but the Sinhajara was dense jungle cover. If he could make a dozen meters, he could vanish into it.

He took a single step back and heard the click, the metallic spring of the trip wire.

He spun to his right, lunging for the far side of the tree, back into the hail of bullets.

Dirt sprayed at him.

The mine vaulted up from the ground.

[align=center]***[/align]

Simon struggled against the continual pounding on his body.

"Hey," Tom called. "Wake up, already."

Simon's eyes finally responded, snapping open. "I hate monsoon season."

"I can't imagine why." Tom was soaked despite his camouflage rain poncho. "How'd you fall asleep in this, anyway?"

Simon frowned. "I've been here before."


[align=center]The End[/align]


Entrants were not allowed to submit Nightwatch pieces. I just couldn't resist using this old bit I had on file.
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:24:17 PM

09/'08 - The 200 Challenge

Metamorphosis

By:
Casey Callaghan



I yawned, opened my eyes - and then immediately closed them again. The light was so bright! I let go with my feet and dropped, spreading my wings as I fell. I kept my eyes closed; by some instinct, I opened my mouth and sang instead. Only instead of hearing my own voice - as you might no doubt expect - I rather heard the objects around me singing. It was - I don't really know how to describe it properly. The best I can do would be to suggest that they sang back in colours rather than sounds - the bookcase, for example, was a bright white sound, while the unmade bed in the corner of the room was a muted and very dark navy blue.

Breakfast I thought. I left my room, went to the staircase, flew over the banister and -

- now, I realise I'm not exactly a morning person, but I have to admit that, odd though it seems to write about it now, at the time I didn't even notice anything strange. In fact, the utter weirdness of the whole morning only hit me when my sister first saw me, when she cried out:

"A BAT!"


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:24:45 PM

09/'08 - The 200 Challenge

Damaris's Sword

By:
G.C. Dillon



I curse my teachers of Latin with their fine letters, and those masters of rhetoric who drilled me for hours. I curse them for they taught me to write. I hate them for it -- for now I must write this. And I curse you who reads this most miserable missive in your hands. I hate myself for the writing.

A scratchy hay nest hides me as I compose. I have nothing to fear if I am discovered. I am in a barn on the Estates Coucy. All know me here as the youngest child of the Earl. I have two things to accomplish before stepping into my father's keep. First the words you read. Second, I must secret my treasure on the estate, throwing it into a bog on the eastern boundaries, seventeen steps from the gnarled oak tree with its wide and varied limbs.

I delay my tale...

“This sword does not stand between the king and his enemies. This sword trains the swords that do stand twixt the royal purple and its foes. Now, en garde.” Damaris charged me. My practice sword flew away into the air. I fell ignominiously on my flat ass, deflecting his blade.


[align=center]The End[/align]
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Post October 18, 2008, 03:25:28 PM

09/'08 - The 200 Challenge

A Metallic Pounding

By:
J. B. Hogan



Stephen woke to the metallic pounding of a nearby engine, felt its oily heat practically searing his skin. He closed his eyes again briefly, hoping that wherever he now was would go away and take the blasted machine with it. It didn’t. Giving in then to the heat, odor, and relentless sound, Stephen took in his new, alien surroundings.

“Hell,” he said, “I’m in hell.”

“Of course you’re in hell,” a nearby voice yelled, giving Stephen such a start that he nearly fell off the small cot on which he had been lying.

“Yiieee!” he screamed.

“Knock that off,” the voice said gruffly.

Stephen looked over to see a short, filthy character snarling at him.

“Get up and get busy.”

“You can see me?” Stephen asked.

“Of course I can see you,” the man said, “you bone-idle, jackanapes?”

“Hurry with that coal,” another man, standing by a large oven at one end of the large engine, called over, “and stop jibber jabbin’ wit yourself.”

“This is not happening,” Stephen said, shaking his head.

He closed his eyes again, but when he reopened them, the two men and the merciless machine were still there.

“Crap,” he groaned, “holy crap.”


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Post October 18, 2008, 03:26:09 PM

09/'08 - The 200 Challenge

- Co-Winner -


The 9 Ways of Truth

By:
J. Davidson Hero



His was a soul seeking asylum.

From his vantage point Gunnar Truth surveyed the village wall. Though hidden by the morning fog now, he knew that the heat of the sun would quickly boil it off in the high places first, and he was behind a rock on a hill. Some sort of winged insect the size of a sparrow from back home whirred past his nose and made him jump back. Even after weeks he was still skittish and in this harsh land it was amazing he was still alive.

His hand reflexively caressed the butt of the pistol in his holster. What he wouldn’t give for a light-beam weapon, but in this case he was indeed thankful to God for this bountiful gift. Few who dropped had weapons of any sort. Any smart enough to make one on the surface usually didn’t have time. Gunnar had only nine bullets left... he felt like a cat.

It would be much safer in the village: warmth from the freezing nights, shade from the burning days, food, water. But before he walked down and introduced himself, he had to determine which sect they belonged to. He only prayed they weren’t Catholics.


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Post October 18, 2008, 03:26:44 PM

09/'08 - The 200 Challenge

- Co-Winner -


Premonition

By:
Kerry Callaghan



She sighed and plopped onto her squashy lounge chair. At last, after a long day at work, she could relax. She put her feet up and reached for the TV remote. And then suddenly – she felt it coming. She had learnt, now that she had been getting premonitions for almost ten years, to know when one was about to come.

It had started when she was still in school, with trivial things, like a premonition of what questions would be in a test. Over time, she had begun to see more and more important things, and over the past couple of years, whatever she saw was generally the top headline in the next day’s newspaper.

The dizziness… the feeling of very rapid movement… and then it came. A body… her father’s body! Everything went dark and she flashed back to reality, where she was whimpering and crying. ‘Dad… dad!’ She cried for hours, until she ran out of tears and just sat there, rocking herself in the darkness. Even then, in the silence, she couldn’t admit to herself what she had seen. She couldn’t admit that tomorrow her father would die, and that… that she would kill him.


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Post November 01, 2008, 11:27:56 AM

The Evil Henchman Challenge

[area]What follows is intended for Mature Audiences only.[/area]



The challenge was to create a classic-style horror story that explained the motivations of an evil henchman in 1,000 words or less.



Example story:


Wife of Wickedness

By:
N.J. Kailhofer



The choir echoed throughout the abbey, calling out their faith to... to nothing. Nothing as far as Renfro cared.

He tried to ignore the stench of incense that permeated the dark antechamber. Her body would come soon, as soon as that infernal singing stopped. The Master wanted her. He loved her.

Renfro dared to wonder what would happen if he left her to rot. Milady never had another nice word for him after that day. Never acknowledged he existed. She was beautiful, surely. He'd watched her grow from a bold, eager child to a haughty noble woman. He was nothing--the bookish son of the Exchequer. He was restricted to only the lowest levels of the castle while she roamed free.

The acolytes brought the coffin and set it at the far end of the room before leaving for vespers. The gravediggers would come for her in the morning.

The casket was open and he looked down at her face. It was innocent looking, like it was that morning.

***

"Renfro," she hissed down the long corridor. "Are you there?"

He stepped from the shadows. "Here, milady."

"Oh, you startled me. How do you hide yourself so well?"

He shrugged. "It seems to be one of my gifts, milady."

She gave him 'that' look. "Stop calling me milady. We've known each other since we were seven years old."

He bowed. "Since the day you saved me from the footman's fists. He loved to box me."

She glared at him.

"Juliana."

She smiled. "It is my birthday and as your present to me, you will take me on an adventure."

"As I'm sure you have already found, I left a present for you."

"A book?" She made a face. "What use is that? In three months time, I am to be wed to some Earl my father wants lands from. I want a real present, something I can remember."

He sighed. "I am dressed in my best clothes. Today I must meet with a clerk from the Chancery. I may become his apprentice."

"Nonsense, you will be able to keep clean."

"Your ladies in waiting will be looking for you."

"My ladies are boring. I want something to remember."

Renfro surrendered. "Where must we go?"

***

The pond was far from the castle, deep in the woods.

"This is it?" she asked.

"Yes, milady."

"Juliana. Is it safe?"

He shrugged. "I have never been in it before."

"Go and check it."

"My--my finest clothes. I mustn't."

She stamped her foot. "You would rather I fall prey to some snake or catch my foot in some root and be pulled to my death?"

"No, of course not, but..."

She moved behind the bushes. "Oh, take them off, then. I won't look."

He just finished folding his clothes by the bank when he realized she was next to him.

Naked.

"Juliana!" He could not take his eyes from her.

She glanced down. "Are you well? Your body changes, below."

He blushed. "Your body has also changed much since we were seven, milady."

She kissed his cheek and took his head in her hands. Looking him in the eye, she said, "You are a silly thing. Now, go and check the water."

"I--"

"Here she is! I found her!"

She turned red and looked around, frantic.

"H-Help!" she shouted. "Save me! He's trying to ravish me!"

"Juliana!" Renfro protested.

The footman tackled him, striking again and again. "Get away from her, you filth!"

She ran for her clothes, but said nothing.

The thrashing he took from the footman was nothing to what he received when her father, the Duke, was told how they were found. The castle guard beat him until his body broke and then left him for dead.

***

Safe in the Master's catacombs, he undressed her body. Despite bearing two children for the Earl, she looked the same as she had that day by the water.

A sudden blow on Renfro's hunched back sent him to the floor.

The Master demanded, "What are you doing?"

Renfro got only to his knees. "You wanted her in the red dress, Master."

The next blow was to the side of his head. "That dress is for after, when she joins with me of her own free will. For our wedding night."

He dared look up. "Master! The Abbot gave her full rites. He anointed her himself."

"Not Brother Fergus?" The Master paused. "How unexpected. She will be useless to me. I cannot bring her back."

"Master, can I have her then?"

An eyebrow rose. "What for?"

Renfro looked at the floor. "She is still very pretty."

The Master stroked his tight beard. "Very well, but keep her deep in the catacombs that I might not see her ever again."

"Yes, Master."

As soon as the Master departed, Renfro returned to the body. He slowly ran his hands along her sides, lingered over the curves of her chest, caressed her cheeks and finally ran his fingers through her hair. He stared deep into her expressionless eyes.

He cackled and lifted her over his shoulder.

"I will tell you a secret, Juliana," he said in hushed tones as he carried her down the corridor. "I told the Master about you. I knew he'd want you. He always wants the pretties. I knew he'd give you the poison I made for him. I knew he'd steal you from your husband, the Earl, and confound your father, the Duke. I could not reach you, but the Master could."

He whispered directly in her ear. "But here's the biggest secret. You are not dead. The poison will wear off soon after we reach my bridal suite, and you will be mine. Mine alone."

Renfro smiled. He had waited years already, and even if she would not learn to love him in time, it didn't matter.

His seed was already inside her.


The End
Last edited by kailhofer on November 11, 2009, 06:29:34 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post November 01, 2008, 11:30:04 AM

The Evil Henchman Challenge

[area]What follows is intended for Mature Audiences only.[/area]


__
HE


by:
Richard Tornello



IT got done because HE ordered it, with a nod; not wanting to be trapped by words.

At first I thought HE was just a nut when he said HE wanted to rule. HE was tired of being second fiddle to his parents, useless as they were. To me HE was lonely, just another harmless wacko that told interesting if not bizarre stories. HE claimed he had money and power. I was the only one who didn’t ridicule Him at the coffee shop. I just drank my drink and nodded my head.

One day I received an invitation to a foreign government affair. I’ve never been to a government gala or anything. I rented a tux. As I entered I was escorted to a table in front and sitting there was HE Himself dressed up as I had never witnessed. HE was son of the late rulers of his country. HE in his street garb and manner made mention; I didn’t believe Him. I just humored Him. This was a funeral and coronation all in one. His parents, the Extreme Rulers died in a plane crash. Was HE sad?. Not sure. I espied a glint in His eye. HE nodded for me to follow Him announcing to great fanfare, that even in this time of ‘mourning’ I was the guest of honor because I truly befriended Him.
_____________________________

Lacking a job I could say I enjoyed, I accepted His invitation and moved to His country. He gave me many duties and tutored me in the ways of government. I carried out all manner of His dictates some strange and others border line. A test?

HE had ultimate control over the lives of everyone. I was to realize, so did I. I found solace in becoming the second most powerful person in His country. I was wanted, even loved for the first time in my life.

One day I hit my stride and found my calling, my bliss, through Him. HE felt that a number of His military were about to conduct a coup. Responding immediately to His suggestions I ordered their torture and execution, “On his behest”. He watched as I conducted the activities. He Nodded smiling as I went along.

I learned much from Mao, Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin and The Americans at GITMO. History is replete with artists in this line of work. I chose to work in a modern setting ignoring the past greats like tomas de Torquemada. HE was happy, ergo was I. I never knew I had it in me. What a wonderful discovery. I always denied it. No not I, but yes! HE gave me the freedom. With His nod and smile, I just let it rip.

I then purged all the intellectuals, writers, artist and the like since they don’t ever color in the lines. In our country the loss didn’t matter. A cultural wasteland? Who really cared anyway. We had enough human capital. I loved it. I loved Him for letting the real me come alive!

I staged lavish entertainment extravaganzas for Him where by the Piece de Resistance would be the public execution of the current enemies of the state while rewarding those who turned in the most people. He once mentioned something about traitors and spies. I soothed his worries. I made it happen. What joy on His face when HE beheld it.

HE allowed me my most creative ideas. I could work in the arts, music, military anywhere. HE just had to hint, any situation, Nod. It was taken care of, on earth as in my most dreamed of heaven. Real, Power a drug once injected never leaves the blood stream, propagating itself, a virus, growing in intensity and need. I did anything HE needed and wanted.
__________________________________

This was His country. I was His Loyal Servant. His only true friend. HE cared for me treated me with respect. I would never do a thing to hurt my best only real friend, ever. I was acting under His command and I WAS IMPORTANT, I was RECOGNIZED. Yes I was. HE was the LAW and I … It’s arm

I was once questioned about guilt? Not at all. And I sleep very well. The interorrogator, he died.

Once, I though of inquiring as to why he disliked, distrusted and despised so many. I knew to question Him in any manner was to begin the spiral down in His estimation. So to keep my head, others lost theirs. Oh well so be it.

I was not a hermit by any means. I had my share of lovers. I discovered power is an aphrodisiac. My affairs were short lived, figuratively as well as reality. Most were abhorrent to Him. He liked to play ‘The Game’: When introduced they were asked to leave immediately. Any word of pain, disenchantment usually meant I would have to have them “put to sleep” as HE liked to say. He got a kick out of the American euphemism for destroying animals as “being put to sleep”. “Wake up NOW!” he would yell. We just had to laugh. I would echo his command. He was just so crazy.

___________________________________________


As we aged HE was less and less open with His staff. I became the conduit for communication. HE Himself was depressed and slightly paranoid. I did my best for Him. I was loyal to my benefactor, my ruler.

As I end my days a content old man, retired to this lovely island HE purchased for me, I can reminisce. He made me artist, a creator, and a weaver of real stories. The main characters usually died, and not too nicely I will add. Oh how we loved those endings. The surprise on the faces. Each one I made a bit different with a twist here or there.

And in my bliss I do yet for Him. HE still smiles with a nod.


[align=center]The End[/align]
Last edited by kailhofer on November 11, 2009, 06:30:03 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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Post November 01, 2008, 11:32:24 AM

The Evil Henchman Challenge

[area]What follows is intended for Mature Audiences only.[/area]


Unhinged!

by:
Mark Edgemon



Lightning flashed across the darkening sky over the castle of the mysterious Lord Baron Duke of Earl Von Hitchercock, the evil, corrupt, villainous, rat bastard and generally unpleasant mad scientist of Dungmeister Retreat, the swanky get away for vain seeking, jet setting, evil thrill seekers. The rapid thunder rippled in and out of the silence, reverberating through the ancient stonewalls of his diabolical laboratory, nestled in the castle’s dungeon, which was similar in design to other laboratories of that day. The realtors of Century 17 wouldn’t consider selling a castle without one.

In an obscure corner of the castle, was the lone figure of a half man, half gremlin like troll, who spent much of his waking hours with his imaginary thoughts that were more real to him than reality is to the rest of us. He rarely bathed for filth was one of the few things he could call his own.

Morley merely existed. He had no ambition, no purpose and no passion for anything except for the momentary exhilaration with each new curiosity he discovered. He separated himself from reality, exploring his musings as if the rules of society did not apply to him. But he had affection for the castle. It was his soul. He couldn’t see himself living without the comfort of these ancient stonewalls, a place where he intended to rot the rest of his life away in servitude to the evil Baron. His service was the price of his security and his castle home.

Like a trained animal, he bolted whenever his master summoned him.

“Morley” the evil one called, “Bring me the plans for the village orphanage.”

Von Hitchercock was currently entertaining the charming Ingrid DeWeatherborn, Lady of Downspinster Township with stories of his generosity toward orphans and the financially deprived. There were no such plans, but it sounded good in the telling and he wanted to impress her right down to her tightly fitted corset.

Morley came into the room without the plans, for there never were any plans and to the surprise of the Baron, with his penis hanging out. Obviously, the Baron had interrupted him at an awkward moment and Morley did not have the presence of mind to give much attention to details of that nature.

“What were your plans looking for?” Morley mumbled. “Not enuff nuff nuff” he said incoherently.

The Baron became anxious that Miss DeWeatherborn might turn around and become incensed by the total absurdity of the predicament, so he continued to position himself between Morley and Lady Ingrid in order to prevent the disaster that was seemingly begging to happen. Then suddenly, Morley walked over to the wall with his back to the both of them appearing to be off in his own world. The Baron thought Morley was merely talking to himself as usual, however in actuality he was relieving himself against the wall.

As the Baron began to whisk Lady Ingrid toward the door before she found out about Morley’s indiscretion, she slipped in a puddle of Morley’s urine and fell backwards hitting her head on the hard stone floor. When she awoke some hours later, she stormed out of the castle with a bandage tied around her head and her dress reeking from the foul stench of Morley’s untimely imprudence.

The Baron screamed, “Morley, get your ass in here now!” Then, with the visual image of Morley walking in backwards sporting a naked ass, he changed his summons to, “Morley, may I see you for a moment?”

Without hearing a sound, the Baron began a room-by-room search throughout the castle until he found Morley focusing intently on drops of water as they cascaded downward in the castle’s cellar. Instead of scolding him, the Baron sent Morley to search for a recently deceased person to use in one of his experiments, thinking this would keep him busy and out of the way while he hand mopped the ballroom floor.

Within the hour, Morley was back at the castle with a corpse draped over his shoulder. As the Baron inspected the body, he noticed that it had no eyes, just sockets where the eyes should have been. He asked Morley, “What happened to the eyes?” Morley said to the Baron, “They’re in my pocket,” proud of himself that he knew the answer to the question. And with that, Morley removed the two eyes and held them up so the Baron could see they were in good condition.

“Why did you cut out his eyes and put them in your pocket?” his master asked angrily. “So they wouldn’t get dirty,” Morley answered with indignation.

Upon further inspection of the corpse, he noticed that the eye sockets were filled with graham cracker crumbs. The Baron pointed this out to Morley, who answered in exasperation, “Where else was I to put the crumbs that was in my pocket.” And with that, he walked out of the room feeling unappreciated.

The Baron decided to use Morley as the next specimen for his experiment seeing that it was always his intent to do something about Morley’s mental inconsistencies. He strapped Morley to the laboratory table and placed the brain wave alignment apparatus on his head and the second one on himself. The outcome was supposed to be that Morley’s lack of mental prowess would be replaced by a copy of the Baron’s brainwave patterns, giving Morley stronger focus and reinforcing his mental capabilities. He thought that maybe if Morley had an efficient brain, he could serve in a more intelligent way without the usual mishaps.

The Baron pulled the switch to his mind transference machine only to have Morley’s mentality transferred to him and Morley’s mind remained unchanged.

Now, with both of them having the same simple-minded, slow-witted, mentality, they decided to do the only thing that was left for them to do…they went into politics.

[align=center]The End[/align]
Last edited by kailhofer on November 11, 2009, 06:30:48 PM, edited 1 time in total.
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