Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tables Turned

Storm and Shovel by Will/Tolkien

The storm boomed and roared above the trees, and the rain poured down in surging torrents. The roadway was a river, muddy and dark, and the shoulders of it were little more than banks of sucking mire.

The shovel sliced the soaking earth, turning up the mud and flinging it aside as water poured into the gap. The dark figure ceased from his work for a moment, his breath steaming in the downpour. Rain coursed down is features, soaking him from head to foot, but he seemed to pay it no mind. He was like a statue, shin-deep in the muck. His face was dark as he turned to glance at the shape that lay unmoving on the ground beside him. Soon. Soon it would all be over.

He seized the rough handle of the shovel again and continued his work. It was a hard task in the torrent. The sides of the hole caved in again and again, and the mud was loose and watery, difficult to heave from the hole. But he would not be deterred. Deep inside, he laughed at the elements. Thunder cracked far above, but it was powerless to stop him. Wind and water and sinking earth. They would not turn him aside from what he had to do. He could not go back now. He never even had the option. Why would he?

For a moment, he thought back on the events of the last night and day. It had been a long day, full of excitement for him. The shovel had served him well all this time. He ran his hand gently over the handle. It had been his ally, his companion through all of this. It had been the key…

Splash. He was knee deep in the hole by now. It would have to be deep enough. He glanced at the shape on the ground again. It did not move. He did not think it would move again.

The rain seemed to be lessening. About time. It had not been able to stop him after all. It had aided him, in fact. No footprints. No signs. But it had been difficult to deal with at first, especially with the digging. It made the dirt soft and yielding and prone to collapse. It was not good for carving out tunnels, and he had cursed the seeping water more than once when he had crawled through the darkness under the earth, when it was only him and the shovel, scraping silently in the night.

But he had overcome it, even when it poured into the breach where he had emerged from the tunnel, nearly drowning him.

He laughed, suddenly, remembering how he had spluttered and gasped and thrashed out of the earth, and then laid still beneath the glowering night sky. Out beyond the walls of the compound. In the free air.

Deeper and deeper the hole went. The lip of it reached to his shoulder now. He had reached a layer of clay, and the walls held together now. The downpour had slowed greatly. It seemed the storm was passing away, its fury spent. It had done its utmost, but now it was defeated, like a wild beast…such raw anger. He had known that kind of anger before. Even today.

He patted down the walls of the hole one last time, and then stood back to admire his handiwork. It would do well. There would be no sign.

Another glance at the huddled form that lay unmoving in the mud beside him. She should have known better. She should never have tried…It had made him angry—so angry. His temple still throbbed from the blow she had given him, coming in through the side door of the house.

It had looked empty, no lights, out there in the middle of the field…the sun just setting behind it. They would be searching for him. Surely they would have missed him by now. He needed somewhere to hide. The swinging door had yielded to his touch—not even a creak—and then he was in the darkened kitchen, muddy shoes on the tile. Yes, it was perfect.

But then…then she had screamed, and the baseball bat had come crashing against his skull, and he had fallen down, dazed...

No. Even that could not stop him. He was a big man. He took the bat from her and smashed it against the wall. She fled, but he caught her—caught her with the flat of the shovel across the back of her head—

—He shook himself. Get on with it. He tossed the shovel up out of the hole, and then tried to follow. It was hard work. The mud was slippery, and there was nothing near enough to grab. He grunted and scrambled, but could not find purchase. He fell back for a moment, breathing hard. He was a good digger—he had taught himself well. Maybe too well.

But this would not stop him. No, not at all. He dug a foot into the clay that formed the side of the hole and heaved himself up, stretching his arms, clawing at the earth for a handhold. His hand struck something hard this time. A tree root. He seized it and held on tight, trying to dig his other foot into the side. He was almost there…almost—

A last flash of lightning threw the clearing into stark black and white, and time seemed to slow. The trees stood out sharp and defined before him, straight down to the muddy road. Frozen in that moment, still and peaceful…

A sudden flicker of movement caught his eye to the left, and he wrenched his head around as time started again, swinging out desperately with one arm—

—It was too late. The shovel came down hard upon his head, and the handle cracked in two as he fell like a rock into the pit and lay unmoving in the muddy water.

The woman stood motionless for a moment on the edge of the hole, eyes wide, rooted to the spot. Her face was covered in dirt, the broken shovel-handle still clenched in her hands. She shivered, and tears sprang to her eyes as she stared at the crumpled form below.

Then she turned away, dropping the splintered piece of wood. It had served the man well, but in the end, it had turned against him.

The sky rained down a slow, cool drizzle, washing the mud from the woman’s face as she stumbled back toward the road.


By Aimee/Aderia:

Apologies in advance, if this comes off as too forward. But life is a whore. It screws everybody. Sooner or later, you’re bound to wake up with a cold hard slap to the face. Mine came today, and now I’m standing in the ICU of the nearest hospital with barely enough strength to stand on my own two feet, let alone support my sobbing wife.

I glance at the clock on the far wall, squinting to make out the angles of the arms. It is almost three in the morning. I can hardly believe we woke up only half an hour ago to our son’s agonized screams. Those screams will haunt me for the rest of my life.

The diagnosis, the doctor had told us, is not looking good, to be truthful. A CT scan showed a lesion in his brain.

Now, you must know, the doctor had continued, that these things are not uncommon. But brains are tricky things, no two brains are the same, and so no two problems are the same.

“…Tomorrow, I may not be a mother anymore,”

I barely heard the words as they were whispered into my tear-stained shirt. But those broken words gutted me with their sheer relevance. Come the morning light, and we may no longer be parents.

I don’t know if something is wrong with my brain as well. I am feeling very little of the grief that plagues my wife. Surrounded by the heartless clicking and whining of machines and the stench of cleaning agents in the hospital, what I feel most right now is anger.

Just a few short hours ago, our son, our beautiful, smiling, six year old son was laughing over the dinner table at me. We tucked him into bed, and then, bam. Just like that, tables turned. Happy life topsy-turvied to a living hell that smelled like hospital.

Like I said. Life is a whore, screwing everyone.


By Evan/Lego Junkie:

The faint dripping of water pulls me the from the depths of my unconscious sleep like a pounding headache.
Well, the pounding in my head may have been what woke me and not the dripping of the water, but it's good imagery for telling a story.

The room i'm sitting in feels large, and dark. The darkness is all encompassing.

Strings of sticky tape pin my hands behind me to the steel chair, and more tape winds around my shoulders and legs to hold me in place.
I wriggle my bounds wrists experimentally, wincing as the gooey tape cuts into the already raw flesh of my arms.

Without any warning, a bright bulb flicks on above me, dazzling my eyes for a moment. When I recover enough to squint out, I see a table in front of me, and a face.

A familiar face.

The weathered and careworn visage  regards me across steepled fingers and says, "What are we going to do about this little problem? I can't have you breaking into my factory and stealing what I've worked so hard to procure."

His left eye twitches, causing him to lose focus and allowing me to quickly recall the events leading up to my critical circumstance.
Rain, trickling.  Blood puddling, fences, dogs.

The images blur into a starkly lit memory.

I lean back and sigh, "There's nothing you can do to me Sebastian that hasn't already been done. You've killed my family, my wife, my kids. There's nothing left you can try. The tables have been turned my friend, I'm no longer at your mercy. You are at mine."

As my words trail off, bright lights flash through momentarily invisible windows, and then the crashes of glass and shouts fill the now floodlit warehouse.

"**** you Rhodes, if I'm going down, you're going with me."

And the table overturns as he leaps towards me.


Tables Turned by Andrew/Velox

I sat at the counter of the bar, my hands resting on the wooden table, grasping my glass of cheap vodka. I drained the last bit and called for another in my thick Russian accent, looking up slightly from under my large hood but not meeting the bartender’s eyes.

He quickly prepared another for me, and I reached for it quickly, almost as if addicted. I wasn’t, of course, but I needed them to think I was.

The door creaked open behind me and a large group of men walked in loudly as if they owned the place. They may as well have. They immediately kicked people out of “their” booth, pushed people out of their way – and everyone complied. I understood why, of course. Just looking at them would be enough to send a man packing. But I knew that behind their brawn and muscle they were just a bunch of weaklings who liked to pretend they were big stuff simply because they were in a gang and carried guns. Not that they knew how to use them, of course.

I took another drink from my glass, the liquid warming my throat. I could feel it start to affect me, so I put it down casually before I drank too much. Even with my high tolerance for alcohol I had to be careful.

One of the men approached me from behind. “Hey buddy, outta the bar,” he said. I didn’t move. For some reason that was enough to provoke a fight with these idiots. But then again, that’s exactly what I wanted.

He reached out to grab my shoulder and in one quick move I turned, grabbed his arm and twisted before he even made contact. He yelped in pain, falling to his knees. I kicked him in his stomach to make sure he’d stay down and left my place at the bar, advancing toward the rest of his group as they faced me.

I took the first one out easily, side-stepping a blow and using it to my advantage, hooking my foot in his and causing him to fall hard on the wooden floor. He hit his nose first and immediately a pool of blood began to form.

As the second approached I grabbed a chair to help defend myself; his first two blows landed on the hard wood, after which I side-stepped and hit the chair over his head. I quickly stepped to the side again, onto and over a table, kicking the table over afterwards. I turned two more tables before I faced my attackers again, now coming at me more slowly and spread-apart.

Taking them easily one by one, I bested them all.

“Tell me boys,” I said, my accent obvious, “how does it feel getting beaten by a girl?”


By Iro/Knock Out

I once thought to myself that there was a sort of karmic energy to the universe. You know, the whole “good-in/good-out” deal. It’s a sort of addicting mindset, one that consumes the self easily… or myself, at least. Falling into it, I found myself trying to do good deeds for reward, for the extrinsic value. This, while admittedly not bad, per se, I realized takes a certain enthusiasm that I just didn’t have.

You see, there are many things I want in life – good fortune, a good education, the love of another. The whole karma mentality is that you get good in return for doing good, though it’s never explicitly stated when or in what form. So then one starts to expect things, expect that this deed will lead to that particular outcome, that this amount of good is too vast for one’s current desires not to be met. Needless to say, the crushing defeat that comes afterwards is nigh-unbearable.

However, everything in this world is a learning experience. I learned that to do good for reward isn’t the point of doing good. A person does good simply because the deed, act, gesture, or what have you is… well, good. The only reward is that feeling of satisfaction that comes in knowing that you helped another, bettered another, or that – at the very least – you tried. It isn’t as glamorous as another’s love, not as useful as a rich education, but it’s something. And, perhaps, that’s all someone like me needs to move on to the next day, all that some like me needs to go to sleep at night and rest easily… and with a smile.


By John/55555:

"Son of a gun," I said to myself in a low tone. Talking to yourself is permitted at times, but it must be done quietly. The Counselors does not approve of noise. The scene that was unfolding before me was a remarkable one, and, at least in my mind, I will remark upon it. It is discouraged to teach reading or to write anything in any form, even drawing symbols is frowned upon, as it might evolve into a new form of written language. Which would complicate things. I had gone down into one of the tunnels at the edge of the city. I always felt a bit more comfortable underground, I suspect that there are not so many cameras there. The microphones can reach through walls and stone, but the cameras cannot. The battle before held my gaze, but it prompted many strange thoughts. Ideas of rebellion, of going against the Suggestions, of a place without microphones and cameras. All of these things I had gone over before, in an absentminded fashion, as one thinks of magic and old dreams. But the silent conflict in the tunnel was no dream. Four strange mechanoids were trying to destroy a small group of the Advisors, the small mechs (or perhaps robots) that prowl the cities obscure areas, tracking down noise-makers and other disturbers. The Counselors tend to believe in peace. The warriors clashed together nearly silently, all of the machinery, the gears and the pistons were oiled and smoothed to perfection. Wether through habbit or strategem, the rebels had made their battle machines as quiet as the Advisors themselves. One by one the Advisors fell, each one was caught by one of the rebels and laid on the ground. One, who seemed to be the leader of the... squad? stepped forward, surveying the battlefield and his vanquished enemies. He looked at me, just a bystander to this war that I knew had I begun. And then he yelled, at the very top of his disused voice, echoing through the underground passage, "The tables have turned!"

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