Sunday, July 29, 2012

What the Tide Brought In

By Nick/Zarayna:

What the tide brought in

I don’t know what prompts me to look, every day, at the tide as it comes in. Perhaps an ingrained nature, or perhaps something deeper. The second, I often think, is more likely.

Is it that water is not contingent upon place, but instead has a universality that no other things has? Or is it because water here is of the same substance as water elsewhere, and my nature thus inclines towards it?

Inclines, thus, substance, I really think I’m going crazy here, maybe turning into a hermit, those old guys who sit on mountain tops and give advice to anyone who climbs past. You get the feel they’re nuts. But maybe they’re not, maybe we were. Maybe they had a unity none of ever had, even I who spoke of that virtue to extollently.

The tide in an interesting thing to watch, the rhythmic sound of the waves soothing and calming.

Maybe it’s because the sea brought me to my first home, maybe that.

The sea bore me, thus I bore the sea. I bore it, that is, it could be bored watching me watch it in silence for hours. Or maybe the sea loves its children, especially those children that contemplate it.

I move now, my feet making the same prints in the sand they did when I came to my first home. Even the tears that drip from my face cannot mar them. Homesick, that’s what I am. Next to a sea, in fact the same sea that brought me to my first home, and I’m homesick.

But the sea was far off when it brought me to that home, and that home is no more. I look up sometimes, expecting to see gate of my village, see the huts that house my friends and charges. But the sea is empty, only its presence familiar to me. I tell myself sometimes that they’re still alive, that I still have a duty to them. Rational logical arguments, but I am not rational, I am not logical. Those faculties stayed behind with my home, and were shattered with my home.

Sometimes I bow my head as I walk alone, or when I sit or lie. In shame, in anger. I who spoke of unity have broken that bond. I tell myself at times that I am unified with the sea, but such arguments are weak and fail. I have abandoned those whom I love in my weeping, and separated myself from them.

I am Gali, Toa Nuva of Water. I am no more than what the tide brought in.

The tide is wild, and I am wild. It brought me in can it take me out? Those thoughts have plagued me in my sleepless nights, and they overwhelm me now.

I step into the waves, taking my Nuva mask of water breathing off. Deeper and deeper I wade.

You brought me in on Mata Nui. Bring me out from Spherus Magna.

I hardly notice the fist of water that I form slam into me. As I lose consciousness, the waters surround me, and at last I am unified with it.

The tide brought me in; the tide has brought me back out.


By Legolover-361:

Chronic Morning Syndrome

My employer has chronic morning syndrome. (It’s not a real syndrome, but it should be.) Whenever he demands to meet me in the morning, my first thought is dislike, and my second thought, coming to me when I finally arrive at his “office” — a casino on the edge of town — is, Well, well, look what the tide brought in.

Mr. Anonymous Criminal Mastermind certainly looks the part of washed-up detritus. His hair is short, yet that somehow makes it look even messier. He wears glasses; they do nothing to disguise his lazy eye. He’s thin as though he skips breakfast as a custom, and his suit is generally one button off. I think his five-o’clock stubble is part of the mask he puts on every day. Bonus points for when he forgets to brush his teeth.

“Kel, you’re late.”

I award myself bonus points when his breath slaps me upside the head.

“Sorry, sir. Was busy.”

“With women?”

“Sir, I would’ve thought you knew me better than to accuse me of such villainy.”

He grunts. I grin.

“...No women, sir. A few cigarettes, though.”

“I can’t have a thief high on the job,” he says. “—not to imply you don’t already act like that, but still.”

“What job, may I ask?”

He presses a button behind his desk, and a hazy gray hologram shimmers to life above its polished wood. I give it a cursory once-over before returning to trying to gaud him into a staring contest. I’m not afraid of him. He always says he kills people who annoy him, but I’m like a son — a son who’s done his share of dirty work over the past five years. An extra robbery here and a clean database wipe there can do wonders for employee-employer relations.

“Blueprints,” he grunts, as though I hadn’t looked already. “From your last database wipe, I—”

“The one against the biggest arms developer this side of the Atlantic?”

“The biggest arms developer in the world, actually. And they’re developing something big for the U.S. military.”

“So is this another touch-and-go operation?” I query.

He shakes his head. “Infiltration.”

I lean my head back and stifle a groan. Infiltration is a fancy word for spending weeks working your tookus off to get into enemy territory and get back out again without being detected. Believe me, it’s just as difficult as it is wordy.

“You’re the best at this sort of thing.”

“Yeah... top of the class.”

“That’s the spirit.” Boy, is he sarcastic today. He slides over a datachip — “All the info you’ll need is on this.”

I heft it. “Security codes and everything?”


“Good. Anything else I should know?”

I’m all business now. I think he appreciates my sarcastic side’s temporary lull, because he’s smiling a little. “The job starts today. Good-bye.”

“I — what?”

“You heard me. Get to it. The designs will be physical in just a week. You need to work fast, Kel.”

I nod. “Right.” Then, a final cavalier comment just to tick him off before I leave: “Your jacket looks nice this morning. I think you buttoned it all the way up this time.”

He looks down and immediately curses. I grin as I turn away, but when the office door closes behind me, I can’t help but wonder if this assignment is the one where he finally gets rid of me.


By Aimee/Aderia:


I've never been much for twisting things in life to fit into some kind of deep, philosophical metaphor. You know this, I must have told you at least a dozen times. Those whispered conversations in the back of study halls, or sitting out on the grassy hill behind my house, watching stars play hide and seek behind the moonlit clouds. I do miss those days.

Do you remember, senior year in AP Literature class? I'm sure you do. And do you remember the paper we had to write? Well, I remember mine.

'People, I had written, 'In your life are like the waves that lap on the sand. They are like the tide that can never decide how much of the beach it wants to consume, always receding and advancing in a dubious cycle. People, the tides of people in your life, they shape you and mold you and change you in so many different ways. You are always the same familiar beach, but you are never the same as before. They come and they go, taking and leaving the most unexpected things.'

Oh, if I had only known then.  

To quote one of my favorite songs:
"He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came."

When I fell in love with that song, I never imagined I would ever be able to relate to it on such a personal level.  The funny thing is, I don't think you've even heard that song. So you couldn't have planned all this.

Perhaps my beach is not the most unique. Others in the world have similar stories, I know. Similar yet each unique. Your footprints in the sand walked beside my own for the longest time. I fooled myself into thinking it could be forever. And then, all of the sudden, my feet were the only ones leaving prints in the weathered sand.

You see, as I looked back over my lonely tracks, I hated you. Your footprints had vanished without a trace, leaving mine lonely on the barren sand. But like I had written in that ironic little essay, people are like a tide. Our prints were washed away, needless to say, by a new tide.

I'd like to tell you, I no longer walk alone. Tiny footprints in the sand stumble alongside my own.  And I will fight the ocean, the entire ocean, to protect those little footprints from being washed away by the world.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


By Nick/Zarayna:

Beneath the Bleeding Fruit.

The village stood as it had always stood, crowded by the surrounding trees. They were in fruit now, and it hung heavy upon the branches. The fruit was like bloodied flesh to a casual glance, flesh ragged as if slashed and hacked.

The buildings were in contrast in appearance, but in symbolic essence the same; some burned, the others were piles of rubble. Nothing stood that was not ruined, and everything spoke of destruction.

The ground about the village spoke of the fruit in a deeper hue: for while the buildings were dead and gone, the fruit although blood red, were still living. So also were the lucky in the battle. But not all; like the wounds apparent in the fruit, corpses lay about, bloodied or shattered, still in their death, while some few moved, just as the fruit swayed in the breeze.

But still over this desolation did the sound of battle rage. By sound, not only the clang of metal, the shout of fighters. Screams and roars beyond rational hearing exploded about, coupled by periods of deathly silence.

Faces opened, and tongue like worms hissed. Staffs clanged and staffs shot, and the lone warrior flew under them, landing in the midst of his foes. The heavy longsword in his hands swept in a scything blow; the legs of one foe were crumpled in by the impact, and the creature fell to the ground. The advantage of wound-shock the warrior would have had, however, was lost upon the painless suite of armor, and it responded with a blast from its staff. The warrior deflected it with his kanohi’s power, landing a telekinetic punch to the creature’s face, crushing the kraata within.

It’s not rational. It can die.

Like the fruit, when the faceplate fell open by some chance, the worm was bloodied and red, and the warrior could not help but smile grimly before pivoting to block another staff blow. On and on he fought, tiring every second. Foe after foe fell ,and foe after foe replaced them. His arms tired of his sword, and he wished for a lighter weapon, even though he rationally recognized that a lighter weapon would be useless against the heavy armor the rahkshi wore.

Block staff, counterswing. Knock the other thrust you didn’t see before aside with your mask, that was really all there was to it. Blast a kraata apart with sound waves, smash the pommel of your sword into another’s head, forgetting that they aren’t regular foes. Get send flying from some non-deadly attack, and throw yourself to your feet, fighting with now desperate moves to regain composure and position. That was the essence of such a fight. Blood leaked from wounds, bones ached and must be ignored.

But like the fruit, those wounded could never keep up such a fight, and as the battle progressed, the warrior fought slower and slower. His sword dropped, his guard was open more, and his power waned. Only his kanohi wore on strong, inexhaustible, though his intellect tired of the effort needed to use it.

Explosive blasts wracked the ground about him, what rahkshi power he knew not.

I will not fall, although bleed I may!

The warrior made another slash, this time slicing through the knee of another suite, sending it to the ground, where he thrust through the faceplate, killing the worm within.

You cannot.


A blast hit him straight in the chest, and he was sent flying, and flying, his sword far from his grasp


The warrior hit the ground hard. Armor shattered and bent, blood leaking from wounds uncounted, he resembled greatly the fruits about the village.

I am Zarayna. This is my village. I… Have lost it.

And like the fruit, he was too battered and scarred to think forwards, and his body joined into the desolation.The village stood as it had always stood, crowded by the surrounding trees. They were in fruit now, and it hung heavy upon the branches. The fruit was like bloodied flesh to a casual glance, flesh ragged as if slashed and hacked.


By Aimee/Aderia:

In All Seriousness...

"The theme," he said, to my chagrin,
"Is going to be 'rambutan'".

Regardless to say,
No one was thrilled
They skulked away
The chat had been killed

Bravely and truly, some of them fought
Against the looming writer's block
Others like me, they were caught
And all they could do was walook at the clock

There's not much to lose, not much to gain
Writing, simply, for writing's sake
Except, one thing will drive you insane
And give you a massive, killer headache

Never before has a challenge been
So trying as that of 'Rambutan'.


By By Nate/GSR:

“What,” he asked, “in the name of -"

She stood, the spiny fruit cupped in her hands.  “Don't finish that sentence.  It’s a rambutan.  And if you’re going to be crass about it, which I know you are, you can just go ahead and ask Computer.”

He rolled his eyes.  “Computer.”

The rambutan (taxonomic name: Nephelium lappaceum) is a medium-sized tropical tree in the family Sapindaceae. The fruit produced by the tree is also known as "rambutan." The name rambutan is derived from the Malay word rambutan, meaning "hairy".

He sighed.  “Thank you, Computer.  Your ability to recite Wikipedia articles never fails to amaze.”  He motioned to her, and she handed the fruit over.  He turned it over experimentally.  “Let me get this straight: you chose this over, say, apples or bananas?”  She nodded.  “Care to explain why? It can’t have been cheap to get prototypes for.”

She shrugged.  “We each agreed, one thousand creds of personal spending for each of us.  This was how I spent part of mine, is all.”  He rolled his eyes.

“Thirteen months of non-stop before we hit the next colony, and I pick the girl who plants rambutan.”

Another shrug.  “Hey, don’t act like you could afford anyone else.  It’s a miracle either of us even managed to get permits to leave the station.  If I feel like having rambutan, you can just deal with it.” 

He scowled but handed the fruit back.  Rule number one you learned before getting a long-travel permit: never rise to your partner’s bait.  Too many ships wound up at port with a pair of corpses inside.  And in any event, she was right: they’d each agreed to set aside a thousand credits for personal purchases.  Nothing in their contract had said what they had to spend it on. 

She took it and said smugly, “Guy I got it from’s been working on the prototype for ages now.  Back on Earth these things only ripened on the tree.  Not these.”  She tossed it up and down in her hands.  “Plus, he swears there’s practically no difference in taste.  You’d think you bought it at a market, or whatever they called it back then.”

He stopped short, a look of utter terror on his face.  “Oh my God. “ She looked at him quizzically as he put a hand out to steady himself.  “I care so little I think my heart stopped for a second there.”  She scowled back but let the comment slide.   He wasn’t the only one who’d learned rule number one.

He shook his head and strolled on past to the back of the biotope – a very short walk, given the size of their ship.  Tapping the screen on the wall, he pulled up a menu.  After a moment’s pause, he turned and looked back at her.  “Rambutan stew for dinner? Really?

She shrugged and started peeling the fruit in her hand.  “Either that or reconstituted beef again.  Your choice.”

They stared at each other for a moment more, then both returned to their tasks.

Rule number one.


By Tolkien/Will:

Not What You’d Expect

Tap tap tap, the tune played out into the cold night air, and whirled upon the wind before it was lost to the sound of the city. It was a neat little song—percussion and clever words that were lost on the journey down from the dark window above.

Yellow lights winked in the distant night, and he sighed a steaming breath as he continued on his walk, pulling his coat tighter. He wished he was indoors tonight. Especially tonight. If only it were that simple. Sit indoors and relax, listen to some music like that, drift off. If only…

But no, he would not be relaxing tonight.  Tonight was work. Grim work indeed.

His feet crunched in the thin snow that covered the sidewalk. To his left, the glare of streetlamps made little islands of light on the dark street, and icy flakes glittered as they swirled in the cold wind.

He checked his watch casually and glanced up at the buildings that rose on either side. Apartments, leaning in close over the street. Number three-fourteen…three-fifteen...There. He slowed. This was his stop.

He didn’t bother with the front door. It never worked out that way.

Around the back, through the trash-filled alleyway. The fire-escape rose black against the red-brick wall. It reminded him of an insect or some exotic fruit or burr—a cast off husk left clinging to the wall, except this one was made of iron, and its barbs were bolted to the bricks.

He kicked a crate over to the rusted ladder that hung eight feet above the concrete. He was a tall guy, but not that tall. A step up, and then a leap. The cold metal froze his hands as he pulled himself up, rung over rung. His foot met the bottom of the ladder and he was up in a flash, steadying himself on the narrow platform. Fourth floor. Time to be careful.

He reached inside his coat and pulled a pistol from the holster under his arm, checked it for the sixth time that night, put it back. His soles skittered a bit on the icy metal as he mounted the stairs, zig-zagging up the side of the building. He’d done this before. More times than he cared to admit, actually.

Second floor…third floor…he slowed. No creaking, now. No slips or stumbles. He leaned in toward the wall of the building and sidled up the last set of stairs. The window was dark. No curtains though. He couldn’t see what was inside. The snow was pretty thick on the platform. Undisturbed. Good sign. That would’ve been the easy way out.

He tried the sill. It didn’t budge. Quickly, now! Out came the wire, and he slipped it down between the frame and the sliding part of the window. There was the catch— just there. He bent the wire carefully, twisting until the rigid end hooked on the latch-pin. A quiet click made him smile in satisfaction.

He leaned close as the window slid upward. Cold wind rushed in through the opening as he crouched. One leg over the sill, then the other. The wind cut off as the pane slid back into place.

He was in.

The interior of the apartment was very quiet. The carpet was spongy beneath his shoes. He stood up and waited for a moment, listening. No sounds. Nothing stirring. Good.

His hand went into his coat again, and the pistol gleamed dully in the moonlight that filtered in as he moved through the space. It wasn’t his weapon of choice, but it’d do. He was good with most weapons, but tonight, death would be a bullet.

Down the hall. There were doors on either side and one at the end. The first one on the left was a bathroom. The others looked to be bedrooms. Careful now. Not a sound. The door on the right was closed, but the one straight ahead was slightly ajar. Best try that first.

Silent as a shadow, he moved to the door. The gun was out, ready. He put out a hand and nudged the door open. Slowly, slowly. No creaking hinges. Good. The room was dark, a bare wall, a dresser…and then he saw the edge of the bed. He paused, and the air felt tense as he squinted into the darkness. Yes, this was it. Finally, after all this time, he could tie things off neatly. He really hated unfinished business.

He breathed and slipped through the gap. There was the bed, low off the ground. Table beside it, and a bowl of fruit. Nasty looking stuff. The sheets were in a tangle around a single, unmoving form. The sound of heavy breathing filled the small space. He could see the shallow rise and fall of the man’s chest. He was on his back, hands folded over his stomach. Peaceful. That was good. It was better that way.

He was at the bedside. The gun was in his hand. The man did not move. His breathing was steady, undisturbed. He would never have expected...but it was time.

The man’s eyes snapped open.

They saw.


The morning air was crisp and cool, and there was a sound on the wind. Almost like music. Fresh snow had just fallen, coating the steps of the apartment building and street beyond, covering up the marks of feet and vehicles that had filled the street a few hours before.

“Looks like we’re done here, then.” The door of the building swung shut with a click as the two officers exited. Snow crunched. They paused on the step to compare notes.

“I’d say that ties things up,” Clark said, nodding. “Quite a commotion.”

“Sad, though,” West said, frowning. “The guy sure put up a fight. It happened what, a month ago?”

“Yeah, sounds like it. He’d healed enough to be out of the hospital, at least.” Clark chuckled, “Landlord says he was in ‘Nam.” He leaned against the wall, pulling something from his coat. Bag of fruit.


“Yeah. He was tough, but I guess he couldn’t catch a break.” Clark shook his head, peeling one of his fruits.

“That’s just not fair,” West said. “The guy goes through war, comes home and gets shot by some punk on the street…”

“That’s life.” He chewed.

“Actually, now that you say that, it makes sense now,” West flipped through his papers.

“What? You mean the cause of death?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“It wasn’t the wound?”

“No. Not this wound, at least. Coroner’s report says it was his heart. Bullet fragment from a previous injury. Must have been from his time in the service.”

“Makes sense.”

“It got him after all this time. Crazy. One bullet.” West’s face was grim.

Clark shrugged, “Either way. It always does. It’s never what you think.”

“I guess. Hey what’s that you’re eating?” West asked. “Looks awful.”

Clark chuckled, “Fruit. It’s good. Gotta peel them. Spiny on the outside, but it’s sweet.

“Not what I’d expect.”

“Never is. You want one?”
“I’ll pass.”


By Legolover-361

Fruit of the Tree

The rambutan tree in the middle of the Forever-Voyager’s East Wing greenhouse was all Elaine Gormoine had now, but she was okay with that.

To think: In all the recesses of the vast worldship, carrying the remainder of humanity within its coruscating silver walls and underneath harsh, fluorescent lighting, only one living thing could listen to her now. The tree surged with energy whenever Elaine leaned her back against it, as if it felt her plight and knew her emotions.

It was the father figure in her life because of how its gnarled old wood reminded her of a father’s stern hands, and how its fruit, so fuzzy-looking, looked like red beards on the ends of the tree’s branches.

It was the mother figure in her life because of how it gently enveloped her in shadow whenever she needed cold, how it lifted its branches when she longed for light, how the very same fruit that Elaine found humorously similar to an old man’s facial hair was so sweet and succulent once its peel was removed.

Sternness and sweetness. Yin and yang. She needed balance in her life, and here it was.

Being an orphan aboard a starship wasn’t fun. When Elaine was seven, she had run from her guardians and managed to evade them till she came to a door that towered before her like a white edifice. She’d pushed through it and taken five — or maybe six, or seven — before she had been lifted into the air by hands that didn’t actually care, only pretended to.

By twelve, during the stage of her youth where she was obsessed with poetry and art, she had asked on a whim to be led back to the greenhouse. Her guardians, probably as eager to escape her as she was to escape them, had agreed. A blissful hour had been spent in that greenhouse, sketching the crops that waved under winds of cold and winds of change, as she had called them in her first poem, which she entitled “Trees and Silver” and adorned with a small illustration of the rambutan tree.

Over the next two years she had visited the tree once a week; her visits gradually grew more frequent as she entered puberty and began attempting to alienate herself from the adults in her life, till she found herself daily sitting beneath the rambutan tree’s comforting branches, her dark bangs covering her brow, and either sketching or writing poems.

By fifteen, she was told she had to find a trade. That meant no more visits to the rambutan tree.

She’d whined, begged, done everything possible to inflect her voice in just the right manner to strike a heartstring somewhere in her guardians’ chests. Maybe she was too old by that time, because they dismissed her complaints blithely and attempted to convince her working was for the best. She had followed them only to avoid further argument.

The next two years were blurred in Elaine’s memory, as though someone had gone back and smudged them with water and vigorous application of cloth. She only remembered the rumors she had heard that the Forever-Voyager’s Leading Council was beginning to abuse its power, that unnecessary restrictions were being instituted, and that her very generation would be the one stuck with the repercussions.

Being the shortsighted teenager most girls were at seventeen, she had dismissed the gossip as just that and continued looking for a like-aged boyfriend among the handsome males of her class. She was in engineering; she’d be one of the most important individuals on the worldship if she graduated with high enough marks.

Enter eighteen-year-old Elaine sobbing at the C on her report card.

No relationships. A forced repeat of engineering academy. At least she had the artificial summer cycle free.

So she went back to the East Wing greenhouse and found the rambutan tree still grew there. She sat underneath its leaves pensively, like she was around a long-absent friend and didn’t know what to say. The tree said nothing, either, just sheltered her as it had when she was oh-so-younger. She visited it every day that summer.

And the next summer. And the next.

And the next after that, when she shared with her rambutan tree her A report card and wrote a short victory poem entitled “Of the Tree and the Girl” and adorned it with a quick pencil-sketch of the tree in its beauty.

And this one, when she, twenty-two years old — still single, still parentless, now with her hair pulled back — decided she was okay with a rambutan tree being her best friend and her parents all in one.


By Andrew/Velox:

The Devil’s Fruit

“So, are these terms agreeable?”

I kept my host’s stare through my aviator sunglasses as I thought about the question. It was true, it was a good deal, but there was the question of ethics to answer. Dealing with an arms dealer, even if it would be for the “greater good” in the end, it wasn’t exactly something I wanted to do.  But orders were orders.

“Come on, Raphael, you must make a decision sometime. It is a good offer,” he said when I still hadn’t answered, his Indian accent thick with every word.

“You know what the alternative is. You either deal with me, or you die.” It was true, I did know. Of course, according to the Powers That Be, this was all part of the plan.  He picked a fruit from the bowl in front of him; a red one covered in spikes. He squeezed it until it opened, and using that small hole, pulled apart the rest of the skin until the inside was completely revealed, taking out the white sphere and taking a bite out of it.  “Rambutan. Such an amazing fruit, isn’t it? How can something that looks like that, still be good to eat? You may not like what you see when you deal with me, but the outcome is what counts.  Don’t make me waste such a valuable asset.” A provider, that’s what I was – or going to be, rather. I had spent the last six months creating a good reputation.

“I’ll tell you what,” I said at last. “Raise the price by another hundred and you have yourself a deal.” He didn’t like it. The fire started to burn in his eyes again – the fury like the one that had overcome him just the day before, when one of his workers had disobeyed his orders. Without hesitating he began to beat the man with his bare fists until his face became a bloodied, scarred mess. But even that wasn’t enough for him. He continued to pound away until the worker’s heart stopped beating.

But he “needed” me. And as soon as he realized that, the fire in his eyes began to die down again. “All right. One hundred more, that’s it. But your service better be impeccable.”

“It will be.” I stood up from my chair, and turned to leave before stopping myself and turning back toward him. “Just make sure you keep your end of the deal, Rambutan.”  

“Of course,” he answered, offering his hand.

I walked away. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Fear

Five Cups of Coffee by Legolover-361:

Jensen feigned an itch on the back of his neck.

He stood up, excusing himself to the pretty brunette sitting across the restaurant’s dinner table. She nodded, her painted lips tightening as she watched her date head for the bathroom. He could feel her eyes on him till he rounded the corner that led into the restroom hallway.

Once inside, he collapsed to his elbows atop the sink and stared into the mirror.

His suit was smart, checked meticulously for lint two hours before Jensen had left home. His normally messy hair had been combed just right, his glasses folded in his pocket in favor of contact lenses — he’d even shaved. He was a semi-successful movie critic who worked for a local newspaper; that was how he had met Sara and first asked her out. Two weeks and five cups of coffee later, here they were.

So why did the sparks refuse to fly?

Maybe he was being too stiff. He’d tried to crack some jokes near the beginning of the conversation, though; he had rehearsed them whilst at home, working on the timing of his own laugh and making sure his smile was neither too wide nor too unenthusiastic. But she had only gifted him with a small smile, a polite one that said, I don’t want to offend you, but your joke wasn’t funny, so please don’t bring it up again. Improvisation was dangerous, but if that was what she wanted...

Or maybe she wanted more contact. He had made sure to walk her to her table by the hand, his fingers around hers, lowering her onto her chair before he himself took a seat, but that had been it. More touching of fingers? Maybe he should plan for a quick good-bye hug before she left?

Think, Jensen, think! Maybe you planned this too much. Just... be yourself—

No. He’d invariably mess things up. That was not a good idea; in fact, that was a bad idea. He would just try to smile more. To ensure the smile reached his eyes properly, he rehearsed a few times in the mirror.

When he exited the restroom, he made sure to step with an air that was cautiously confident, casually professional—

One look from her and he melted inside.

He circumvented the tables between Sara and him, finally dropping himself into his chair but catching himself before he struck the cushions with an audible thump.

She sighed. He tried to meet her eyes, but she stared instead at the floor, one red fingernail tracing a circle above the edge of her wine glass. The glass was still full; the velvet liquid within caught the light from the candelabra above, its radiance complementing Sara’s deep crimson dress beautifully.

“Have I told you that you look stunning tonight?”

Her smile was, again, forced. “Yes. Multiple times. Five, if I’m not mistaken.”

He was taken aback. “You counted?”


Her hesitation was all he needed to collapse mentally, flicking as many safety switches as he could before the date burned out: innocently quizzical expression, raised eyebrows, a slight pout of his lips to show his remorse.

“—I’d like to go home.”

The pang he felt within his chest was familiar by now. Its familiarity, however, did not make it any less frightening. He opened his mouth but closed it for fear of messing up his damage control. His nod was slow but understanding. Only now was Sara’s smile genuine.


By Nick/Zarayna:

I fear.

It has been said that fear does not exist within the order of the Temple, that we are proof against such dart of the Enemy. But that is false. Our armor of chain and helm cannot block those darts, our shields of wood cannot turn them, and our swords of steel cannot hew them.

Indeed, I fear, and some would say that I did rightly so. My hand upon the lance I bear feels sweaty, a sweat that is not to do with the heat of the heathen desert that encroaches upon us.

It can only be fear.

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give glory. For thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake: lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?”

The words ring through our heads, their meaning reflects off our swordblades and lancetips, even as their sound echoes from the mouth of every knight.

Not to us, not to our fear.

Forwards, always forwards. The breeze of the charge is refreshing against my face, although none reaches through the conical helm upon my head. Ahead of me by far the standard flies. Once again, the fear strikes me, the fear in the form of gladness, that I am not in the frontal lines, that I may indeed survive.

The enemy closes upon us, or rather we close over them. Through their ranks we fly, their men not proof against our charge. Images fly in spurts through my mind; the cry of a swordsman as the knight to my left rides him down, the shocked face of the spearman whose hauberk is pierced by my lance. I do not even see his corpse as he falls, for now we have moved on.

My hands are shaking, and my next thrust misses. Our glory has been achieved now, and the enemy is slaughtered by the dozens. I risk a glance over my shoulders; a line of mounted archers separate our forces from the main lines.

Trapped. Kill the Knights first, and then slaughter the rest of the force. My commander I tell has guessed this already, as our charge slows and he pauses before giving farther orders. But the whistle of arrows is heavy, and two slam into the bottom of my shield. But from the cries and tortured screams of the horses, I already know with a sinking feeling that our horses, our only means of escaping, are being butchered.

Escape; here also is the fear, the fear of flight. I feel it in my bones as I search for an enemy to slay, listen for an order from my commander. Then I too am falled, leaping out of the way as my horse collapses. The padded cloth and chain mail provide some blunting force, but not too much, and I land hard. Resting is not an option, and I scrabble to my feet. Few of us are on horse, the majority forming a makeshift shieldwall. Our archers, also on foot attempt to provide some return fire, but are far too few.

For thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake: lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?

The enemy is advancing now, rapidly. Some dozen of us have fallen, but one could consider that our formation mad up for it. The banner is set in the ground, and we stand in a circle about it.

Then the lines clash.

Sword on sword, shield on shield, lance against main, axe against helm. They press upon us, with forces ten times our number. Even as I thrust an enemy through the throat I note that quality outweighs quantity. Until, of course, the knight next to me falls, and an enemy swordsman takes his place. Our single line cannot close fast enough. With a roar I slam my shield into my forwards enemy then spin to slice the forehead of the breacher open. He staggers back, but my enemy to the front has not fallen far, the press of attackers allows for not that. His mace slams into my chest, my armor of chain not proof. All around me, I can hear the cries of my comrades. I can see the enemy soldiers pouring in, feel their footsteps upon my fallen body.

“The cross has fallen! The banner has fallen!”

Where is our God? Where. The fear speaks once more as my breath fades, and with my last breath I laugh. Laugh yea, for it cannot harm me.

For my God is where I go. And fear is not there.

I do not fear.


Glass Children by Aimee/Aderia:

Sometimes I envy my classmates, the ones who always talk about sleeping in on Sunday mornings. My Sundays mornings from 9:00 until 10:30 are spent sitting on a rug in a nursery room studded with rocking chairs, bouncers, and cribs.  I get it, not every teenager's Sunday morning dream is to keep infants happy and dodge projectile baby-formula vomit.  

But really, I cannot complain. I have learned one very important thing about myself during these weekly hour and a half slots of time.  It is a bit backwards, to be sitting on a plush pink carpet and jingling a Whinnie-the-Pooh rattle above the face of a gurgling two month old and realizing one of your deepest fears .

I fear the world, and all its atrocities. I fear for the innocence and laughter of these children that I watch over for a mere blink in their lifetime. To see their contagious joy melt and the simplicity in their life stolen, I fear for them. The world is not a kind place, and I have no faith that by the time they are my age, it will be kinder. Even though I will not know them in fifteen years, I hate to think of what the world will do to them.

The innocence of children will inevitably take flight, but my hope for them is that it will not be ripped violently away from them.  I have lost that blissful oblivion that is characteristic of a small child. It's not often that a smile of a stranger makes me smile in return. I can't remember the last time I could sit down and be content just to watch the world, whether in a high-chair or not. I would say that I miss that innocence, but since I don't remember it, I cannot miss it.

The children are made of glass, and I can see their genuine and honest emotions, their simple and sweet emotions, as clearly as I see my own reflection in a mirror. How many true and unmasked emotions can I see in my own face?

My point is, that somewhere along the way, the precious and beautiful little children I see every Sunday morning will inevitably lose their ability to so fully find joy in the simple things in life, and I fear that in the world of a thousand tomorrows, they will never have a chance to find that joy again.


The Fear By Evan/Lego Junkie:

Her black hair brushes the chipped and weathered stone railing, blocking her face from the drifting red lights emanating from the interior of the building.

I look through the doorway at her, nervously wiping sweaty palms on my jeans before couching and walking out onto the cool night.
A quiet voice raises itself over the whispering wind just enough to be heard, “That took a while for you to decide to come out, I don’t bite you know. Well, not often anyways. And only if you make me very angry.”
I close my eyes for an instant, and then let my shoulders sag ever so slightly, and then say, “Well, it’s not very often that I approach pretty girls. Much less at night and at a party.”
She snorts softly, and flicks her hair over her shoulder while turning to look at me. The light catches her eyes as she appraises me, “You’re such an idiot Josh, We’ve been friends for how long?  I can’t still scare you that much.”
Raucous cheers blast out of the doorway behind me, momentarily derailing my train of thought and causing me to sputter incoherently for a minute before regaining my voice.  ”Its’s been… quite a while. And you’re just as intimidating as the day I met you, though you’ve lost the sharp edges you had when you shoved me down in the subway.”
A loud laugh leaves her at my words, and she grins at me with a cheeky look, “I didn’t shove you down, I was late for a train. You just got in my way.  Totally your fault Josh.”
I can’t help but feel a smile rise on my face as well to match hers, “That’s what you say, though it did give me a chance to ask you out to dinner after you’d missed your train helping me pick up my things, so I’m not complaining.”
More shouts bounce out of the house, making us both turn to see what had caused them.  A rather red faced Senior seemed to have lost his cool and thrown a fellow party-goer across the drinks table and onto the dance floor.
As his friends wrestle with him to stop him from going after the beer splattered and dazed victim on the floor, she looks back at me and asks, “Did you want something in particular? Or were you here just to exchange stories?”
I cross my fingers in my pocket, extending the other and saying in a rock steady voice at odds with my stomach, “Care to dance?”