Saturday, August 25, 2012



"Well, screw it," I said, dropping my pencil. "I'll just fight crime in real life, not my writing."


By Nick/Zarayna:

The Archer and the Bandit

The road through the forest was dark and dry, shaded well in the early evening. It was well trodden, yet there were no travelers in view. Complete silence reigned, and peace as well.

The sound of a horse broke through, and immediately the figure that had previously been hunched against a tree stump moved, his mottled cloak making him blend in well with the surroundings. There was the audible sound of a nock connecting to a string, and the figure stepped behind a tree, his longbow in hand. The approaching horsesteps were still a little way off, so he had time.

What do I know about him? The archer asked, solely in preparation. A warrior, and a skilled one, although not a knight. According to sources in the last village he had passed through, this warrior had plagued the entire countryside, usually accompanied by a band of armed ruffians; able warriors, but far deadlier than their leader. Jacques was his name, and the villagers had other names for him; words that were muttered, and probably not decent in the least.

The archer could see movement, and half drew his bow back, waiting.

The black horse trotted into view, with two short lines of footmen following on either side. With skill born of long practice, the archer sent an arrow straight through the skull of the horse. Chaos followed, as the footmen swerved to avoid the falling horse, and the man aback of it who jumped clear just in time. The archer noted the escape as he was drawing back another arrow, which he sent into the chest of the farthest footman. Then another, and another: by the time the bandits had realized what was happening, half their number had fallen. The few with shields huddled behind them, searching desperately for their attacker.

Arrows flew in, and all but two of the footmen collapsed. The remaining bandits huddled behind their crude kite shields, waiting for a movement, or at the least a command from their leader.

Arrows flew in, piercing eyes as they peered about the shield, or feet protruding out from under. As Jacques rose to his feet from where he had fallen, he was greeted by the sight of his last footman falling to the ground, dead. He got his round shield in place just in time, as another arrow buried itself in the center.

However, Jacques was far from a normal soldier, and unlike his unlucky followers, began to run. He had some knowledge of the skill of his attacker, but even an archer of that skill could not hit a target that moved as fast, and was covered as well, as he was. An arrow buried itself in the ground next to him, another in his shield. He laughed in triumph as he reached the tree his attacker must be behind-

-But even as he lowered his shield and struck out with his sword, an arrow slammed into his right shoulder, sending both man and sword to the ground. He lay there groaning, watching helplessly as the mottled figure approached, kicking his weapons away.

“Who… Are you?” he gasped.

The figure smiled under his cowled hood.

“I am a King’s Ranger,” was the simple reply.


By Legolover-361:

Price Tag

“I told you, I’m not interested in the price tag. I’m only interested in the target.”

Romanov slammed a fist on the table between him and Zem. “So you keep saying,” he grunted, removing the hand. “But there’s no man who kills without reward. This is a big political target you’re asking for — worth a lot of moolah.”

The blinds of the office window draped a striped pattern of light and shadow across Romanov’s being. Zem didn’t speak immediately, instead drinking in the scene. A second passed. Another. Romanov’s lip twitched, and Zem noted the movement.

“If you refuse to cooperate of your own accord—” Romanov leaned forward, shifting his cigar to the other side of his mouth. “I have ways of making you talk. As it stands, I find it highly suspect that you would meet me about the bounty only to refuse cash. What self-respecting American would do that?”


“That is not the point.” Romanov sighed, casting his gaze to the ground. One eyebrow twitched; his arm muscles moved, presumably to operate the fingers now twitching against Romanov’s knee behind his desk. The data was filed carefully away in Zem’s subconscious. “The point is, I like to understand my clients before hiring them. I do notunderstand you. Are we clear?”

“Crystal, sir.”

“What, were you in the military?”

“No, sir.” Zem’s lip twitched, his largest show of emotion since entering the office. It could’ve been a contemptuous gesture, or an impatient one, or a nervous one; no one would be able to tell. The movement was as glacially calculated as the rest Zem had taken since entering the room.

Romanov stood up. He was two hundred forty pounds but didn’t look fat. He strode leisurely round the desk and round Zem. Zem didn’t flinch when his interviewer vanished from his peripheral vision.

“I would kill Damian Young if I had to pay you,” said Zem simply.

The footsteps paused. A questioning breath lay on Zem’s shoulder seconds before the query was made verbal. “Oh? Why?”

Zem was silent.

“See, this is why I cannot trust you.” Romanov again appeared in Zem’s vision, striding to his desk. Zem scratched the back of his neck idly, and Romanov sneered.


“What? You’re begging now—?”

“Like I said, I’ll do anything. I just don’t have the means. That’s why I came to you.”

Romanov scoffed. “Who’s hiring who here?”

Zem shrugged apathetically. Romanov’s reaction — muscles tensing, eyes bulging a little, forehead reddening — was as expected. He didn’t like losing control. He liked power. Zem was outside his domain, and that made him furious.

But he was also dangerous. Even as Zem watched, Romanov cooled off and even managed to smile. “Fine. You keep secrets from me? Just know that if you botch this job, you’re dying before the cops get a hold of you.”

“That’s okay.”

“So why do you want to kill him?”

“I’ll leave now to make preparations. I left contact information with your receptionist.”

Romanov sighed in defeat and waved Zem away. The lanky man needed only three careful strides to exit the door.

Now to plan the killing of his brother.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


By John/55555:

Around the morbid star rotated a crimson world. It was not crimson in hue, but rather in nature, washed with the metaphorical blood of unnumbered warriors. In the many battles that raged on that world not a single drop of blood was shed, and the color of that blood is not known. It was a battlefield of minds, and many fell.

Long ago, before the sun grew dim, these were a happy, peaceful people. They had no great gifts, and no great defects. They had no currency, they merely bartered their simple assets. Grain, meat and the work of their hands.

Time spun on, but little changed in this happy backwater realm. And then the sun guttered and began to fade.

The peace was broken as the fields failed to return fruit from the seeds of the people. There was panic in the streets, and the sons of that world strove among themselves.

Something to do with telepathy and mind battles, but the chaos keeps them alive so symbiosis ha. SON.


By Caleb/Cederak:



I need you. And you need me. We've been through a lot the last few years. I think the first years together were the most unexpected. When you don't know someone very long, there's a lot up in the air. The only thing that was certain was that I saw something in you, sitting there at my brother's wedding, sitting there so unsure of yourself. I had no idea where my life would take me when I was first introduced to you…I had no idea the importance you would come to play. From a casual conversation and not hearing a word from you for several months after, I had stayed busy pursuing life. And then there was that day in the supermarket, a bit of serendipity and a phone number and we were off and running.

I enjoyed the early times together, learning to know you and your life. We shared a lot of wonderful times and there are many ahead. Despite the bad fight we had that one, despite the few weeks we chose not to say a word to one another, even despite the car accident, we remain nearly inseparable today. I had reflected for some time about the idea of children…children with you. I want to stress even now that I would have been apprehensive about  the matter with any man, it wasn't a fault of your own. Hard to believe they have children of their own now, off to experience the world for themselves.

Always know that I love you. Know that I need you…and you need me. And even now, into our nineties, whatever awaits us, there are many wonderful times ahead.




By GSR/Nate:

They say there are ten types of people in this world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t. 

Those people should not be allowed near the English language.

What there really are, of course, are two kinds of people: leaders and followers.  Writers and readers.  Elders and youngins’, haves and have-nots, ones and zeroes. 

Or in short: presence and absence.

Everything, if you think about it, comes down to that.  Zoom in on your favorite book or chair, your lover’s hair, the bullet in the body of your best friend, and it all really comes down to that: presence and absence.  Was there an electron here, rather than a proton? Was there anything there, rather than a bit of empty space?

And then you can scale up.  Your friend being dead (versus alive) is due to the presence of a bullet in his left ventricle (versus an absence).  Your favorite book is you favorite because of the presence of one set of words over another.  Your lover is your lover just as much because of what they aren’t as much as what they are. 

But then you’ve got to ask, what if the other option was gone? What if there could only be electrons, not protons? 

That’s simple.  Then there wouldn’t be such thing as an electron.  There would just be.  There’d be no name for that thing, because there would be something to distinguish it from.

And that, now that would be boring, wouldn’t it? No names, no change?

No definition?

So we latch on to opposites and alternatives – because they define us exactly as much as we define them.  Give and take. 

One and zero.


By Nick:


That which is in space by nature is together, a communal entity, sharing together the same material place.

Even closer are those live in union with each other, or those who at least stay some what near one another. Blessed is the unitive, accursed is the separate.

But, this is not always the case, and as I move after my target, I reflect upon this fact, even as I finger the blade in my hand.


Unity is what caused a dozen benighted fools to gather into one home, thinking it was the will of the Spirit.


Unity is what made us quarrel, and in the end what broke us.


###### unity.


Separate species should remain separate!


The Vortixx ahead of me suspects nothing. Should he but glance my way he should see me, for we know each other far too well.


This is what unity breeds. I begin to run.


Soon there shall be unity.


He turns now, and we are joined only by proximity. He frowns, and I can almost hear the curses he’s about to sound off.


I drive my first into his face, unifying myself to him through the blow. He reels back and my other hand shoots forwards.


My knife slams into his heartlight, unifying it to him through embeddation.


Well, there is certainly no union between us, I reflect as I wipe my knife.

Damn unity.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


By Nate/GSR:


“Oh, no.  Oh, no no no.  You’ve got to be kidding me,” moaned Jack as he stared in dismay into the back of the truck.

The deliveryman shrugged.   “Hey, I just deliver the stuff.  You want to complain, go talk to whoever put the order in in the first place.”

Jack groaned.  That would be him.  He was always rushing to get paperwork done; there was enough going on running a 7-11 that he didn’t need to sit down and spend hours of his day double-checking all the order forms. 

But then again, he thought as he stared at the two giant ice machines the deliveryman was now taking out on a palate, it wasn’t until you dropped an e from ‘Icee’ that you really appreciated the value of accuracy.


He stared morosely at the machines now sitting behind the counter (accompanied by a sign bearing a grinning polar bear – he’d been less than comforted that he’d gotten the spelling right on the order for the sign at least).   Wasn’t much to be done about it – he’d put a lot of the monthly budget into ordering these things, and the supplier was very particular that there be no refunds unless the machines could be demonstrated to be faulty upon delivery.  The scotch on the rocks he was now taking occasional gulps from was plenty proof that they weren’t.

Ice machines, then.  What could you do with ice machines? Well, you could make ice, for starters.  And then you could make more ice.  Maybe if you really put your mind to it, you could even make some ice.  Glumly, he flicked the switch on the front back and forth between cubed and shredded.  This wasn’t exactly going to be a hit with the customers; nobody needed ice when all your drinks came in 16-ounce bottles. 

Which left Jack with two big energy-hogging chunks of metal.  He sighed again and took another gulp.

The downside of running a 7-11 was that you didn’t have to be very creative to do it.


It was three days later, with a high of ninety degrees, when inspiration struck.  In this case, literally, against the side of the window on the side of the store, in the form of a weathered baseball.  He gave the requisite glare to the kids on the other side as they nervously darted over to the building to pick up their ball and return to their game, but his heart wasn’t in it; by then an idea had planted itself in Jack’s mind.

If you couldn’t sell butter, maybe you could sell guns.


He nodded with satisfaction as he pulled the lid off the old blender he’d never had much use for at home.  Pouring the results of his experiment out onto the counter, he set to work, packing and rolling the reformed ice in his hands.  A few seconds later, the finished result smacked against the back wall of the store with a satisfyingpluff.  He smiled.


When the kids next stopped by to pick up a stray ball, they took a detour inside and made a few purchases, tossing the gift from Jack’s ice machines back and forth playfully as they left.  Behind them, a painted-over Icee sign stood proud:



By Legolover-361:


The gunshot is still echoing in my head when the figure in my bedroom doorway falls with a thump.

I think I shot him. If I hadn’t, he’d be moving now. Right?

I only release how obvious that statement is a second after the initial explosion of emotion subsides. I’m sitting, I think; I can’t tell for sure through my thick jeans and numb legs. My pistol is still gripped in my right hand. It feels like ice. Deadly ice, like flash-freezing, like getting caught in a freezer—

Jon. Focus.

I breathe in deeply and, as I exhale, stand from behind the cover of my bed. The pistol weighs down on my arm like a fifteen-pound weight. I’m no weightlifter. I’m not even very fit.

The darkness of my bedroom and the adjoined hallway is broken only by the city lights streaming through my apartment’s windows. They’re multicolored, waxing, iridescent, waning; they illuminate the edges of the figure that now lies in the middle of my doorway.

I take a step, but I think the real Jon is on auto-pilot. He’s not used to controlling his own body, but I sure as heck aren’t going to do it. One cautious step leads to another, then two more, et cetera, as he — I — relearns how to walk.

But then, maybe I am still moving of my own accord.

The intruder lies facedown, his hands clasped over his chest. A bulls-eye. Reality brings me to my knees, and I pull one hand away to examine the damage.

A red stain is spreading across his no-sleeve shirt and into the carpet. Repulsed, I return the hand to its former position. His grizzled head moves a little, but he otherwise makes no reply. He is, after all, dead.

Now what?

Call the cops, I think. That’s what I was supposed to do in the first place. Except, he’d been there, and I had kept a pistol under my bed for such an emergency, and my exhilaration had been demanding...

My heart thrums in an up-tempo rhythm as I dial nine-one-one. Dial tone. Pause. Click. Calm female voice: “This is nine-one-one; what’s your emergency?”

My voice is shaky, but I manage to say, “I — I, uh, there was an intruder, and — could you send someone here? — I shot him in self-defense, he was coming in my room, I didn’t know what else to do—”

I pause. The operator seems to understand. “I’m sending an officer over right away,” she assures me primly. “How many? — intruders, I mean. Just the one?”

“Uh. Yeah.”


“Twenty-Fifth Street. Lobos Apartment Complex. I’m Jonathan — uh, Jonathan Dempsey.”

“Right,” she says. “Please hold.”

I put the phone beside its mount and stare at it for a long while. I blink. Now I’m looking at the man in the doorway again. No, don’t, Jon. Stop it. You did it already; it’s over; let it be.

Horror. I feel sick. I ended a life; is this how killing feels? It’s a sour aftertaste.

But there’s something else. The intruder’s face floats back into my mind to the background noise of a conversation I’d had with Ken Durante, my immediate neighbor and friend:

“Yo, man, going out tonight. Won’t be back till late."

Oh, God.

Feeling sick, I rush to the man and make excuses along the way. I just want to look at his face and reassure myself. I’m just a little afraid and need a confidence boost, is all. When I near him, my relatively clear mind interprets the body as reeking of alcohol and something unidentifiable but faint. Drugs?

I turn his ice-cold body over and somehow, through my crystal-clear recognition of his face, make a mental note to clean the carpets as soon as possible. My suddenly profuse tears aren’t enough to rid them of the bloodstain.


By John/55555:

Cold Venom

My feet are cold. It is the slow freezing, it is the beginning.

The iciness spreads, i have seen it many times in my patients in the see dark days. It spreads from wherever it begins, sometimes in the hand, sometimes the legs, sometimes the head or chest. Those are the quick ones. First the freezing pain, then comes a frightening numbness.

After this the victims lose consciousness, and this is when, I believe, they die. And begin their living death.

No one really knows where the Cold Arachnids came from, but it was very far from here. Long legs, long fangs, still as the earth they camouflage themselves against, and fast as straight lightning.

I have seen many of their bites, and many of their victims. Often and often I have tried to stem the tide of the freezing, never have I been successful. Pain, death, and worst of all 'resurrection' are the crooked path of these unfortunate souls. They clumsily serve their poisoners until they die again.

And now here I am, trying yet another remedy against the venom. I have kept careful track of the results of every cure I've attempted, many desperate, few hopeful. I have recorded my latest attempt, and will record the symptoms as they come. I apologize if this document is found unfinished.


By Andrew/Velox:


He shuffled nervously forward, wringing his hands together and constantly looking side to side. Armed men stood sporadically spaced out along the walls beside him, standing perfectly still yet ready to start shooting at a second’s notice.

He stumbled, tripping on a crack in the stone floor. His face hit the ground hard, and blood began pooling out of his nose. He let loose a whimper of pain before one of the two men behind him grabbed him by the collar and forced him back up.

“Move,” he said softly but sternly. The anxious man walked forward again, shaking. One of the guards behind him shoved him forward when he walked too slowly. He was falling. Falling toward the ground again, but caught himself, staggering forward before walking “normal” again, still shaking and nervous.

The large hallway seemed to last forever. He pleaded inwardly that he wouldn’t die today, even though he knew the chances of getting back out alive were slim. He prayed to a god he didn’t believe in – tried anything that might help. But he knew it was hopeless.

When at last he came to the long corridor, a final two guards stood on either side of a wooden door. As he approached, one turned and opened it, allowing them to pass. The doorway spread into a large room, and in the center stood a single man dressed in an expensive black suit. Another sentry stood on the far right.

He didn’t want to enter, but the push with the butt of the guard’s gun behind him sent his feet moving again. As soon as he and the two guards entered, the door slammed shut behind him. He jumped and was shoved forward once again.

He approached the well-dressed man as slowly as he could, having to forcefully control his body to keep moving when his mind told him to stop.

“P-please, please,” he begged, “don’t kill me. I-I d-didn’t know!”

“Shut up,” one of the guards behind him said as he kicked him to his knees.

“M-my wife, my k-kids!” he sobbed, his head downward toward the floor and shaking back and forth. “They can’t survive without me.” His face was wet with sweat and tears, dripping down onto the cold stone before him.

After seemingly ages, the well-dressed man spoke. “You won’t make that mistake again.”

“No, no, I won’t, I swear!” But it wasn’t a question.

“No, you won’t,” the cartel leader said before putting a bullet through the man’s head. His heart was ice.  


By Caleb/Cederak:

Only Us

Claire sat on her front deck, staring up at half a moon. She took another sip of the drink in her hand, letting the ice gently meet her lips as the taste of strawberry and vodka mingled with her taste buds. A few feet away, a young man approached. Claire was two years his senior, a difference they were comfortable with. As he stared down at her, the moonlight glistening in his emerald eyes, he offered his hand.

"Adrian, I told you I'm not much of a dancer," Claire said shyly, hinting a smile.

"You also told me you wanted to dance beneath the moonlight," Adrian replied. "Well, we're here. Now. So please, dance with me, if only briefly."

Claire reached for his hand, hesitant at first, getting to her feet as Adrian pulled her up. She pressed her head against his chest, listening to the steady beat of Adrian's heart. "You have a strong heart. It's…loud."

Adrian chuckled. "It's yours."

Claire smiled, staring at the moon as she and Adrian began to sway in a circle. She was dancing. Nothing terribly intricate, but dancing nonetheless.

"When did you know you loved me?" she asked.

Adrian kept their pace as he thought about the question, moving them gracefully to the sound of the cicada harmonies and cricket choruses. "When I longed for sleep to come at night…knowing it was you I wanted to dream of. And now…it's like a dream come true."

"Our dream, Adrian," Claire said, taking his head in her hands and slowly, carefully kissing him. "One we can live each day. It's only us, love. And I wouldn't have it any other way."


By Aimee/Aderia:


Do you hate me?

I’ve only ever heard you speak six words, so I don’t know you. And you don’t know me.

But those words, spat from your mouth with such vehemence, left no room for doubt.

“Get this trash out of here.”

Am I wrong to hate you in return? You weren’t talking about me, I wasn’t the ‘trash’ you were referring to, although, I may as well have been. That day, I didn’t learn about anti-abortion campaigns. I learned about the world outside my world.

A day in the capitol is all I had expected upon opening my eyes only hours ago and rolling out of bed. I’d hopped on a bus with relatives and friends, looking forwards to a day where I would join hundreds of thousands of unknown friends and exercise our right to assemble and voice our opinions.  

It was cold and it was rainy. I remember not being able to feel my feet, it was so cold.

You and I may be important in this story, but my brother, my dear and little brother, barely out of the fourth grade, plays the pivotal role in this tale. His hands were frozen in his thin gloves around cardboard protest sign. I vaguely remember him hugging it to his chest, probably in an effort to conserve heat on that dreary February day. 

He  and I, we made our way to the nearest building. There was a pile of signs much like the one I was clutching, outside. They were prohibited beyond the door. In my rush to get him out of the icy cold, the pile of signs evaded our notice.

I was prying one of his hands away from his sign, trying to warm it with my breath, when you showed up.

You should not even be in my story. But now you are my story.  

We were standing in the storefront, barely even through the door. I saw you in my peripheral vision, and before I could even shift my attention fully to you, I heard your six words.

“Get this trash out of here.” You didn’t bother to hide your spite. Not even for my brother's sake.

I still remember the fear, the confused and real fear, in his eyes as he looked from you and your angry words to me, desperately trying to understand what was now happening.

I didn't even know what had been happening until you had shoved us back through the door into the drizzling cold. I almost lost my footing on the icy sidewalk. I remember that detail because that's when I saw the pile of abandoned protest signs. Then everything made sense to me.

Execept it didn't. What's so bad about wanting life to go on in the world? Was it worth kicking two kids back outside to freeze for the sake of a two by two foot cardboard sign? Do you feel tough now?

I hope you realize you shattered my brother's world. He is young and lives in a world of books and love and innocence. Sure, he'd have to learn about the cruel world and the heartless people one day. But the fact that you were the one to introduce him to the real world, and in the manner that you did, it earned you my hate. I spent the two hour bus ride back home that evening sitting next to him, and trying to explain how everyone was different, and some people, as horrible as it may sound, are a very bad kind of different.

Maybe I'm being over the top about you, and this whole thing.

But maybe I'm not.

It's a matter of opinion, I think. And everyone is different.


By Grant-Sud:

Not Too Cold

"So, strawberry huh?"

"Double scoop please!" I heard Marie tell the bored ice cream worker behind the stand. This Ice Cream girl has curly blond hair, is an older teenager and wears way too much eye makeup. She's kinda good looking, but in that self important way. She has one hand near her pocket, and I swear I can see the glow of her cell phone.

"Right, double scoop of strawberry, and I'll have ... pistachio? Yeah, pistachio please," I say, reaching into my own pockets to scrap together the few dollars I have.

"Double scoop also?" the teen asks.

"Yeah, that'll be fine."

Marie looks over at me and smiles and grabs my shoulder and then shakes it intensely, all in like, two seconds.

I'm kind of looking away from her and feel a little nervous, since we've only been dating for two weeks. Or, wait has it been three already?

Our relationship is starting to get serious.

"It's gonna be ten dollars and ... sixty six cents." The girl is squinting at the cash register, like the numbers are some foreign language.

I blink though when I hear the cost.

Looking down at the dollars I've assembled into my hand, I do a quick count and find I'm about a dollar short. Sighing, I place hand up to the back of my neck and mumble to my girlfriend, asking if she has any money. The boy is always supposed to have enough money for the date, just in case, right? I don't know if I'm doing this right.

Marie though is already shifting through her purse, moving past her cell, iPod, makeup and whatever else girls carry around in their bags to pull out a crisp five dollar bill, like new. She hands the fin to the cashier, and receives the change.

We get our ice cream in the next few minutes, and somehow I feel like I've been ripped off, because these scoops are less than a pathetic snow ball in size. We move into the booth next to the window, where traffic is screaming past on the road and people walk toward their next destination to fill their unfulfilled day.

"Here," Marie says with a mouth full, having taken a bite - not a lick, a bite- out of her ice cream. "Here's what I owe you."

I blink as I stare at the change.


"Yeah, the change, you paid for almost all of it." She looks slightly disappointed as she says that, but there's appreciation in her eyes too I think. I guess I seem important. The boyfriend who bought her the double scoop of strawberry ice cream which I know is her favorite.

"Thanks," I reply.

"You feel okay? You seem a little distracted," she says to me, watching me intently.

"Yeah, I'm okay. I'm just wondering..." But I stop suddenly, realizing that despite the annoying little traits I keep finding, from the loud cars, to the pieces of gum under our table and that annoying girl who stands there all day and doesn't care while right behind all that ice cream, don't matter too much. Because I'm, with a good friend, who's just happy if I enjoy my desert.

"I mean, I'm thinking, that we should do this again next week," I tell her. And despite being a little chilly right now on the inside, my attitude glows for the rest of the day.

Challenge #2: Vocabulary Definition

By Tolkien/Will: 

Your Turn

There they were. Large as life. Two of them sitting at a table. Two of them playing their indescribable game. Couldn’t quite see it. Never could. Maybe I was too far away, or maybe my mortal mind just couldn’t comprehend it except in bits and pieces. The game seemed to work with dice and pieces and cards and other things, but I couldn’t tell. It was all too big. Too big.

They were like gods, sitting at their dark table in their darkened room. I’m not usually one for thoughts like that. Too much poetry in it for me. Gods and dreams and visions. But even so, that dark room could have been the universe. Yes, in fact, I think it was. A dark universe. A universe that was ended. There they sat amidst the emptiness that used to be filled with stars and worlds and light. There they sat and played their game of time.

The god on the left lifted a hand and made some move. I couldn’t see what it was, but the other god scowled a bit, resting his head on one fist...

...and then I awoke.

The morning was grey beneath blankets of snow-filled cloud. I shrugged on a coat and stepped out into the snow. I was five minutes early leaving. No rush. The car idled in the drive, gushing steam from the tailpipe. I tasted mint—the last hint of my toothpaste. It was all so normal, so ordinary. But I couldn’t escape the feeling that it was all just waiting for something to happen. Just waiting. God, what a night.

A night…it had started with the dream. Weird, weird dream. I don’t usually remember dreams. In fact, I never do—not since I was a kid, at least. But this one felt real. Way too real. It made me shiver. I had awakened in a sweat before my alarm went off. Hadn’t been able to go back to sleep. That was odd too. Upset my routines. I like my routines.

All the same, the feeling wouldn’t go away. Something was going to happen. I only wished I knew what, so I could be done with it.

Muddy half-slush made little banks on either side of the road as I drove on towards work. It had snowed steadily since last evening, and the fresh coat was still white on the sidewalks and lawns, but the streets were a mess. It was always like that. Normal. I shrugged and flipped radio stations as I sped through the pale grey morning. The frosty pattern on the car windows was almost gone when I came to the four-way stop.

Another car pulled up at the same time across the way, and I knew what was going to happen. We sat there for a long moment. I hate four-way stops. Always have. No one knows how to handle them.

Finally I waved at the other driver. Go ahead. Your turn, I thought. The car moved ahead, straight, and I hit the gas. The guy wasn’t turning anyway. We hadn’t even needed to stop. I caught a glimpse of his face as we passed each other. It was familiar, even through the fog-shrouded windshield. Huh, where had I seen that face before?

The sound of a horn blast drove that thought from my mind in an instant, and the shock that followed was so sudden that I could hardly comprehend what was happening. A car. Another car.

Tires shrieked on the ice and the asphalt. It had come from the left, sideswiping the vehicle beside me and clipping the corner of my vehicle. I was flung right, right, right, hard. Couldn’t see, it was all a blur. The breath left me with the second impact, and the crash was deafening and full of glass.

Stars flew across my vision...and the pain...and cold, windy blackness...

And stars. Stars. Dead, black stars.

And it was the vision again, except now I was no watcher. I was on the table, and the two gods looked on as I careened across their board.

Wind whistled in my ears, and there was terror in my throat, and a single thought flashed through my mind in a blaze of despair. This is the end, I thought. The end. The end.

It was real. So real...I had no choice but to believe it. Because I was the piece, the die, rolling across the vastness beneath the gaze of impassive eyes. Flung headlong, helpless. The moment stretched, and I found for a moment that I could think. Questions rose, but I had no answers. Not yet. The ‘something’ had happened, and it was bad, and I could not stop it. The end. It was the end.  

Was that it, then? All just a game? Chance or determined, it didn’t matter. Was I really just a die cast into the world, spinning and rolling until I came to rest and the game moved on? I had never really thought it through. Never really cared, I guess.

But then a voice inside me said no. No, you’re not just a piece on a board. Move!

The moment passed, and the vision veered around me. I was sick, but I had grasped upon a truth. Something solid, and all of a sudden I found the strength, the will. I tucked, and drew my limbs together amidst the whirling, sickening backdrop. The dark, dead, empty universe...

...and my feet hit the ground hard. Hard, but steady, and I was standing. The shock ran up though my legs, and I held still for a moment, balancing myself until my stomach began to settle.

Then I sat down slowly, feeling the cold surface beneath me. Yes, my actions were still my own. A streak of triumph and relief coursed through me. It was over. For an instant I thought I understood how it worked. It was strange, disconcerting, and yet comforting at the same time.

The hand was dealt, yes, and the die was cast.

But I fell where I chose, and I was responsible for the choosing.

At last I raised my eyes to look upon the gods who played their games. My vision cleared at last...

...but there was only clear sky above, littered with a few flakes of snow, and my breath steaming in a cloud as I staggered suddenly up and away from the smoking wreckage, and felt the life pumping, pounding in my veins.

Dreams. Visions. Not the end, no. Not the end. Your turn. Your turn!

Your turn.


By Legolover-361:

The Chrematistic Mr. Robert Doles

The chrematistic Mr. Robert Doles, of 42 Elmer Boulevard, had ensconced upon Mr. James Delaney’s couch with a weary sigh and shut his eyes. Forty winks could be hard to come by when a busy gentleman such as Mr. Doles had so much work to do. Wealth did not earn itself, after all; Delaney could attest to that.

The lamp beside the couch cast a halo across the lying gentleman’s face. Delaney watched him closely.

At length, Doles’s gray mustache twitched. “Delaney,” he said without opening his eyes, “I’m afraid my time is coming.”

The methodical manner in which he uttered his doomsday was neither surprising nor expected; perhaps the proper emotion, the one whose name now hid under Delaney’s tongue, was somewhere betwixt the two. He had known Doles was sickly — his friend’s pallid hue was proof enough — but to the point of death?

“Now, let’s not rush to conclusions,” he began, but Doles interrupted him with an upraised hand.

“Alas, how short time is upon this Earth...”

“I — I have never before heard you act like this.”

“That’s because I wasn’t at death’s door then!” He sat up with sudden energy; a button on his stretched waistcoat strained against its bindings. Only now did Delaney notice the bleak light in his friend’s eyes, one that perfectly complimented the morose yet hasty fashion in which Doles had entered sans preamble.

Those same eyes darted about Delaney’s ascetic living room frantically. Delaney himself waited on the chair opposite the couch and before the television. When Doles calmed, he would speak.

Doles did speak. “You are my only true confidant, James.”

“That must not be true. The many workers under your employ—”

“The many workers under my employ do nothing but work. Perhaps I am an empty name to them, a level to which they must aspire.” He paused. “I don’t like that thought,” he decided aloud, and proceeded to think of something different.

Again Delaney was quiet. Doles was a good deal older, perhaps seven and thirty years — such a chrematistic gentleman as himself needed time to accumulate his fortune, after all — and yet, of the two, Delaney was the quieter and more patient. Sometimes he wondered if, rather than become senile, Doles was attempting to fit the remainder of his life into his every waking hour; it would certainly explain his perpetually hassled expression and his constant glances to his golden pocket-watch.

When Doles again spoke, his gray mustache seemed to pale with his skin. “The doctors say I have a single month.”

“What is your condition? Surely you require watch even in your own home?”

“You assume I am not watched.”

“How, then, did you come to my door in such haste without retinue?”

He pursed his lips. “I must profess I have... escaped their clutches for the time being. My financial advisor believes this matter should be kept secret.”

“And yet,” said Delaney with deliberation, “you have come to me.”

“Yes! Because I want you to take my company.”

Perhaps the ramifications of the statement were so massive, Delaney didn’t notice them right away. He was about to say yes — for who could refuse such an offer at first glance? — but he quickly sobered.

“I’m... not sure if I can, to be frank.”


Doles’s question was sharp, and Delaney’s reply was more so.

“Because I don’t have the time. I have a family: a wife and three children. You know this. I became a lawyer so I could spend more time with them.”

“And yet you would hesitate to allow an old man to pass on his earnings to someone worthy? — someone I cantrust?”

“No. I mean yes.”

Doles sighed again and closed his eyes. For another long period of time, silence fell upon the Delaney family’s living room.

Three minutes and twenty-seven seconds passed before Doles stood.

“I have business to attend to, then,” he said smartly. “Do reconsider my offer, but until then I shall prepare to negotiate another deal.”

Delaney saw off Mr. Doles with a wave and a forlorn smile that only appeared on his face as an afterthought. He would think about Doles’s deal, yes, think about it at length and from all sides; but accept? — no.

He ensconced upon the couch where Doles had just vacated its leather and sighed just as the chrematistic gentleman had.


By Nick/Zarayna:

The question of Prudence

I fell through my imprudence, yet I fell in the name of prudence.

Yet, even in that so flawed meter, I find a starkly clear flaw. For in what fool’s imagination has my race ever been prudent?

But, I counter as I have often countered; a person is not defined by his race, for how can one substance be defined by those similar to it? Those arguments are logical, but there are many counters, and many counters to the counters. I tired swiftly of such debates, rage as they do within them. What is in me, I can control, unlike most people.

I am different. I am a Makuta.

Such a name means much to many, in both good ways and bad ways, but I choose to see it in the good form. We are a race with a destiny high and lofty. Pride and austere is our mentality, as it must be for us to fully life out our duty.

Perhaps then I fell through my lack of destiny, not my lack of prudence? But no, it cannot be. Prudence is a universal value, as binding as right and wrong. Destiny is just… Destiny, it is not of me. And what is not of a Makuta, he vows to keep it from being a part of him. For to allow other things within ones soul is a shattering potential.

But Destiny is only the cover to the real problem, the problem of prudence.

I did not think of it when we came together, nor when things got worse and worse between our two leaders. This of itself proves to my mind, as denying as it may be, that I fell not out of prudence, for a prudent person is always prudent, not just when he is at the test.

Some still would say I fell through prudence; I weighed loyalty against survival, friendship against disgrace. In choosing the second, I lost both.

Prudence is often thought of being very, very careful. It is. I was not careful, so I fell.

Did I fall because I sided with Miserix, which caused my fall? I hold that not, although others might. For prudence as I understand it is being careful in the actual, not in the personal, although the personal relates and is affected by the actual, or the universal.

To be sure, siding unto the end with my leader may have not made much, but on the universal level, it would mean something, for myself, y province, my brotherhood, and the species I represented.

But no. When those burning eyes rested on mine, I did not step forwards, staff in hand to give battle; I only looked down, I only surrendered. Personally prudent, I thought, for it ensured my current safety. But imprudent on the long term and the universal.

I have fought a long fight by my imprudence, yet I survive it. I do not think Destiny wished this for me, or else Destiny is some strange demon. Either way, it is not of me, and it shall not be. My destiny is erased, I have turned my face away from it.

Prudence and duty, sternness and kindness. Those must together be wound into one law for Destiny to lose its grip, for my kind and all kinds to survive on their own, undirected by slavish forces.

Prudence though, it all lies in prudence.


By Nate/GSR:


The man in the top hat slid his cards down onto the table.  "Three kings."  

Across from him, his companion cursed and threw his cards down.  "That's forty-seven thousand, three hundred and ninety-two to twenty-two thousand, six hundred and eight then."  The man in the top hat nodded and took a puff of the pipe that never went out.  His companion sighed.  "Well, perhaps we could try a different game next time."

"Sure," the man in the top hat agreed.  "Shall it be one of the ones where three kings loses or one of the ones where three kings wins?"  

His companion grunted and picked up the bottle on the table, morosely taking a swig.  "Surprise me.  It's about the only thing that changes around here."  He took another swig.  "That's the issue, you know – permanence.  It's all so bloody permanent."

Top Hat shrugged and leaned back in his chair.  "Maybe so.  But look at it this way – at least we haven't got anything to worry about."  

His companion took another drought from the bottle.  "And we haven't got anything to look forward to either.  God, if I had a brain it'd drive me mad."  Another swig.  "What do you think we got painted for, anyways? What possessed Paul to say, 'I think what the art world really needs is a lugubrious pair of cardsharps playing three kings to a four-card straight for the rest of eternity?'"

Top Hat shrugged again.  "Perhaps he thought we'd fetch a good price."

Another grunt.  "The chrematistic approach, then.  Bloody wonderful."  Yet another swig.  "Hope he got a good price for us.  God, where do you think we even are? Some rich snob's basement? Back corner of a pawn shop?"

Top Hat drew from the pipe again.  "Oh come now, you've got to give us more credit than that.  Look at your brushwork – that's got to get us in a gallery, at least."

"Oh, bloody great.  A gallery.  'Cause what we really need is some bunch of curators putting us in one of those glass cases that you can't even get air into so's our paint never wears out.  Permanence, I'm telling you."

Top Hat tipped his hat and leaned back in the chair.  "You know, you haven't got the half of it there."

His companion glared daggers at him.  "Whatd'ya mean?"

"I mean that those curators could take us out into the street and throw us into the river, and we'd be around as much as ever.  All it takes is one little print or copy.  Or maybe by now they've figured out to make copies that can't get torn up or worn out."

"How'dyou figure that?"

"I don't know, but it's possible.  It's been, what, a hundred-forty-odd years?" His companion grunted affirmation.  "But anyways, that's hardly the really important bit.  Fact is, soon as someone even takes a glance at us, that's it, there's another one of us floating around in their head."

His companion moaned.  "Gods.  You trying to make me depressed over here?"

Top Hat leaned forward and shrugged one more time.  "Just a thought.  Anyways," he picked up the cards, "where were we?"

His companion put the bottle down and picked up his cards as well.  "Forty-seven thousand, three hundred and ninety-two to twenty-two thousand, six hundred and eight."

"Right, let's have another go at it."