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Writing Contest #20


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#1 Apocalypse

 

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 12:09 PM

Prompt: Crumble into chaos
Rules: All participants must choose one of the following pictures and base their story off of both the prompt and the picture they have chosen. Multiple writers may choose the same picture. Your decision to submit must be made before the pictures are posted, so if you have not already indicated your willingness to participate, do so before Barbara posts the pictures. No word/genre/style limit. You need not specify which picture you have chosen to base your story upon until you submit the story.

Pictures and deadline to be posted by Barbara.

Edit: The pictures are here, and the deadline is September 4th.

Edited by Apocalypse, 23 August 2010 - 08:41 PM.

Recent-ish blog entry: The D20-headed Knight, Chapter Six: The Prodigal Steve Returns
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#2 ensign edwards

 

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 02:24 PM

The Fall

by Tyler Edwards.

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The distant screams faded away as he headed deeper into the park. It was quiet here, peaceful. Everything was neat and orderly, arranged into a harmonious union of nature and civilization. It was late autumn, and the bright flowers, emerald leaves, and lush grass of summer had faded, but they had only given way to a starker kind of beauty.

He headed down the white stone paths, admiring the gentle clatter of barren branches in the wind, the subtle play of mist along the ground, and and the refreshingly cold air. The day was overcast and grim, but still beautiful. He tried to savor it all without wasting too much time. There was little time left to waste.

He came to a steep stone bridge over a tranquil canal. He walked to its top and looked out. From here, he could see the order of the park spread out before him and gain an impression of the city beyond. And of the fires outside it. Out beyond the city, the bleak but pure gray clouds gave way to churning red-black skies.

He could hear the screaming again. The forces of chaos were closing in.

His gaze again swept the park, and a single tear rolled down his cheek. All this would soon pass away. All things must end, and soon, all things would. The fight was nearly over. The enemy had won.

But there was still one act of defiance left to him.

He looked down at the mirror surface of the canal. The bridge's reflection seemed to link up to the actual structure, forming a perfect ring. It gave the place an uncanny quality--but there was more to that than an unusual reflection. This bridge was located at the exact center of the park--in fact, the very center of the city, the last bit of land unclaimed by chaos--and that gave it power. But even before that, it had been a place of significance, of wild energy never fully tamed. That was why the city had been built around it.

Once, his people had been great, and he had been among the greatest of them. He extended his hands, calling on the last vestiges of that power. A thin bubble formed between his palms, and images flickered within it. Some were images of nature: trees, grass, the sunrise, the flow of stars across the night sky. Others were of people: a laugh, a quite moment between two lovers, a child at play. It contained an echo of everything that had once been good in the world.

He separated his hands, and the bubble slowly drifted down until it disappeared into the water of the canal. The forces of chaos were about to destroy the last unclaimed holdout of order, but the future would hold more than the utter desolation they sought. One day, long in the future, the seed he had planted would sprout, and the world would begin anew. It would not be the same as it had once been, but it would be good in its own way.

The last of the city's defenses had now failed. Flames licked the trees at the edge of the park. The sky churned maddeningly. The terrified screams of his people were giving way to the frenzied cries of a thousand thousand fallen souls, the darkest parts of history dredged up to bring about its end, the forces of chaos.

As the last bastion of order crumbled into chaos, he felt himself do the same. He at last gave way to grief within him, turning it into a searing rage. He tore the fires from his enemies' control, swirling them into a vast whirlwind above his head. And then, as they closed in, he unleashed their own power against them, his furious howls mingling with the roar of the flame.

#3 Apocalypse

 

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 10:13 PM

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Prompt: Crumble into chaos
Title: Death Become Unto Law
1,243 words

The marshal slouched against the coarse logs that comprised the walls of his jail cell, an impotent and defeated figure in the miasmic gloom. His badge perched in his hand, the lone bastion of hope in the despair that encroached upon his soul. This badge, he thought, meant power and responsibility, but above all it meant capability. So when the flimsy door of the Sheriff's office was kicked in and the chiming rattle of keys pierced the silence, he was not surprised. He was the only man to which this town could turn.

A disheveled citizen awkwardly tried to unlock his cell door in the darkness.

"I can't light a candle. They might see," he explained as he went about his clandestine task.

The marshal stood and walked to the door, inspecting his rescuer. A mining pick leaned against the man's shoulder, swaying in time to his jerking movements. Blood was on its edge, gray in the dark.

"Go get my gun," the marshal commanded, reaching through the bars to grasp the set of keys. The miner obeyed him, searching by touch for an aged cabinet, from which he retrieved the elongated silhouette of a rifle. He tossed it to the marshal, who caught it deftly as he stepped out from the unlocked cell, an oily click ringing out sharply as he checked its ammunition.

"I brought you extra ammo, Marshal," said the miner, handing him a small, ornate box. Within were several dozen elegant bullets that shone with the same fierce golden light as his badge. Both were symbols of fear, pain, and death.

"You douse 'em in holy water?" he asked as he slid each bullet into his bandolier.

"Sure did. Went up to the preacher's place and he gave me a full basin to use. Kept some for myself," he said, lifting his canteen as its sacred contents sloshed.

"You don't have to stick around, son," the marshal said, cocking his rifle as he loaded the last round. The miner was almost as old as he was, but the marshal was a man to which even the venerable were called "son." A relieved expression crossed the other man's face and he exited through the back door obsequiously.

His badge once more resting on his chest, gleaming, the marshal stepped out into the main street of the town, blackened dust rolling from underneath his boot heels as he paced forward. Scraping footsteps reverberated across the faces of charred buildings, sparks still drifting into the inky sky as the embers of the fire slowly expired. The glow was dim, but between the billowing smoke and the light one could not see the stars.

"Why don't you come on out here and we'll settle this," he called to the town.

There was a muted susurration, as if the buildings were whispering to one another.

"We don't follow the law of man, Marshal!" shouted a disembodied voice. It could have come from any direction.

"Well that's good," said the marshal, spitting, "'cause I ain't here to arrest ya."

A shriek emanated from what was formerly the general store and the marshal swiveled, rifle at his shoulder. A woman with a torn dress stumbled towards him. He had been introduced to her when he rode into town, but he had forgotten her name.

"Stop there!" he shouted, finger on the trigger.

"Marshal, please," she pleaded, eyes red from tears and wide with terror.

"I can't take chances, Miss. Not with them," he replied, reaching into his coat and hurling a wooden object at her. "Catch."

She reached out her hands, the item teetering on her fingers before she clasped it. It was a crucifix, and the mere fact that she could touch it assuaged his fears.

"Run to the church, and don't stop for nobody," he said, turning again with the barrel of his rifle pointed down Main Street as the woman's quick footsteps faded. With a cautious but inexorable step he pressed onward, fastidious eyes searching the burnt shells of buildings.

"You can't stop us, Marshal," said an abrupt, echoing whisper to his left, but when he swung to face it, no one was there. "We razed the town and we will raze the earth." He swung again to his right, seeing nothing but moving continually down the street.

A keening scream rent the night. Somewhere, the woman had put the cross to use.

The marshal's stubborn steps left boot prints in the ash. A shadow flared against the door of the stables and he entered slowly, a man's weeping floating past his ears, perceived but not truly heard.

"They killed her, Marshal," said a crumpled stable hand, cradling a small child in his arms and weeping. "They killed my girl."

"Touch that horseshoe, Bill," demanded the marshal, his rifle aimed unerringly at the man's torso as he nodded towards the errant shoe.

"What?"

"Touch the iron."

Panic crossed Bill's face as his gaze flitted from the marshal's stone countenance to the metal horseshoe.

"What's that got to do—?" he began before the marshal interrupted.

"Touch the goddamn iron and I'll know you ain't one of them!" he bellowed.

Bill hesitated before attempting to scramble away, and the marshal shot his retreating form. The stable hand disintegrated in a flash of fire and molten flesh, sizzling and burning as his short, bestial scream was cut short. Only the bullet, dipped in holy water, remained, falling to the earth amidst the cloud of hellfire.

He slowly moved towards the prone girl, prodding her with his foot, only satisfied when she did not move. His guard was only lifted to kneel down and close her staring, vacant eyes.

Outside, the murmurs flooded the warm night air, buffeting him with a thousand dead words.

"Marshal…"

"…you son of a phlox. Leave…"

"…kill you dead, Marshal…"

He continued onward. Only when he was at the town's crossroad did they attack. They still looked human, but their minds weren't, and they leapt at him with makeshift weapons and undulating, hellish battle cries. He stood his ground, the menacing noise of his rifle's lever-action punctuating the deafening explosion of the bullets, the clatter of the lever almost as terrifying in the brief, nascent silences as the shots that rang out shortly thereafter.

A cloud of sparks and ash ringed the marshal and mingled with the existing byproducts of fire. He still walked forward, pushing ammunition into his rifle. There was one man that he had not seen yet.

"I know you're out there, Sheriff!" he called again. There was a faint rustling in the cornstalks beyond the town's outskirts, and the marshal made for the rigid lines of crops. "I don't know what you are, but sooner or later, the law catches up with everybody."

He saw the dim outline of a human body, standing, waiting, and he crept towards it. Too late he saw that it was a scarecrow, hanging there with a madman's grin, dangling from its pole like a corpse. Fear punched him in the gut, and he was tackled from the side, rifle lost in the stalks. The marshal wrestled with the impossibly strong man that had leapt upon him, but the sheriff's hands were forcing themselves towards his throat. His muscles ached and trembled and were on the cusp of failure.

And all the scarecrow did was watch, staring not at the two men but at the badge of the US Marshal, lying half-buried in the dirt.

Edited by Apocalypse, 24 August 2010 - 11:02 PM.

Recent-ish blog entry: The D20-headed Knight, Chapter Six: The Prodigal Steve Returns
"Oh, come on... be reasonable. You can't destroy everything; where would you sit?"
-The Tick

#4 Allee

 

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Posted 29 August 2010 - 11:42 AM

That Which Remains
by Alyson Lee

I don't know what you want from me when you look at me that way. It's funny, sometimes it's like I can almost read your mind and then other times, like this, I have no idea what you're thinking about or even what you think of me. I guess that's not my job to figure out. That's not what I'm here for, after all.

Well, they tell me to talk, so I guess I'm just supposed to spill out all the sordid minutiae that brought me to this point and this place. But honestly, I'm sick of hearing it, myself. It's the same old crap that rolls around in my brain, day in day out. What's to talk about really? The time in first grade, when I lied to the teacher and told her I found the bathroom that way, instead of admitting I couldn't unhook that stupid belt, my mom bought, in time to not pee on the floor? And how, even at 6, I was clever enough to get my coat on before anyone noticed I'd wet myself? What do those memories serve? Do I share all the tiny regrets of things I have done, from the time that I didn't know any better until the time that I did? I can't go back, I can't change anything now. I just don't see the point in rehashing things. I do that enough already, to myself, and look where that got me.

So, I guess you're just going to sit there and let me do all the talking then? You're not real chatty. Fine. I still don't know what you want from me. What do you want to know? You want to know why I'm here? That's an easy one. Things just kind of got out of control. No, that's not really it. I just finally reached a point where I ran out of energy – energy to take on any more crap. You ever feel that way? Well, I'm sure you wouldn't tell me if you did. Anyway, I've just had a lifetime of crap piled on me and I used to be good at remaining unaffected by, or removed from, the situation. Apathy gets a bad rap, it served me well for years and apparently was the only thing keeping me sane.

I guess I got tired of being left out of life and I thought it would be good to be like everybody else, you know? I just wanted to feel something, something good for a change. That's not so easy to do, to let yourself feel. It's like when your foot falls asleep and you're afraid to move it once the blood starts to rush back in, because you know it's going to hurt. But then you move it anyway and the pain kills you for a few seconds, then gradually things are perfectly normal. So maybe it's not exactly like that. Maybe it's a lot harder than waking up your foot. . . same sort of principle though. There's that fear that, once you open up, you'll be wearing a giant target inviting anyone to immediately shoot you down. It's safer not to try, but what can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess.

Well, to make a long story short, that didn't work out too well for me. Seems I chose apathy for a reason, way back when, because I'm just not cut out to handle feeling all that well. I remember being light-headed and thinking I was dying, until someone told me it was a panic attack. Only, I didn't have a reason to be feeling that way. Then I learned, that's the fun of panic attacks, they show up whenever they want, like annoying relatives. Eventually, more crap came my way and brought some new additions along with it. I'd find myself sitting still, staring at my hands, trying to catch them shaking uncontrollably, as I felt they were, and nothing . . . no movement at all. My body was perfectly still yet I swore it was jumping out of it's skin.

At that point, I'd just chalk everything up to panic attacks, so I wouldn't have to worry about anything being more serious. Now, I don't know for sure, but I half-think it was a sort of foreboding on my nervous system's part. Yeah, I know that sounds crazy, but hey, what better place to say crazy things, right? So, anyway, something happened and I found myself barely able to function. This time I couldn't help but see the shaking. I was driving and I couldn't hold my foot down on the gas pedal, my leg was shaking so badly. I used my left hand to steer and my right to hold my leg steady, but I needed both hands on the wheel, since my arms were shaking too. I don't really know how I made it back that way. I just knew I had to get off the road.

I don't know how many times I found myself leaning over the toilet without any hope of anything surfacing. I was devoid of everything, physically, emotionally, yet my body kept insisting it needed to expel something. Maybe it wanted to rid me of the god-awful feeling, but it never could. I was shaking so much my teeth were chattering. I tried blankets but I wasn't cold. I tried sitting, I tried laying down. I wasn't hungry or thirsty and I couldn't think straight. I thought I felt my heart drop out and would have bet money its usual spot was now vacant, yet I was still alive somehow, though I didn't want to be.

I waited for hours, for the one person who could have made everything better, the one person who made everything worse. The help I wanted from him never came, he just lied to me like that little girl in the first grade, making the truth whatever he wanted it to be. I just wanted an apology, an explanation, some inkling that it wouldn't happen again and he denied me that by denying everything. I was waiting for him to save me and he chose to save himself, or at least convinced himself he was safe. The truth would have calmed me; the truth would have made everything better, coming from him. It makes all the difference in the world how you learn the truth. Problem is, I'm usually the one to figure out the truths no one wants to share. I'm some sort of magnet for major relationships surrounded by and based on lies.

The shaking lasted for more than a week. He pretended he didn't notice it or my involuntarily crying myself to sleep. He's a master avoider, if there is such a word. It must be incredibly nice to be able to believe your own lies; tell yourself nothing happened or everything is okay and go about your day carefree and calm. Maybe I'm just pissed he thought I was stupid enough to believe him or more so that I ever trusted him to begin with. I used to be smarter than that.

Why isn't nervous breakdown a viable medical term? It seems like a pretty accurate description to me. I still feel broken down, my nerves are shot. I used to be strong. I used to be able to function half-decently. My mind still runs circles around itself searching for possible answers, because God knows I'll never get real ones. I can't help but think about it, even when I try to put it out of my mind. It just creeps back in. It's hard to focus on anything else when you have no hope of closure. But I don't need to talk about it with these people. I don't need to be pitied and looked at with paid-for empathy. Truth be told, I only checked myself in here for the professionally dispensed meds; I needed that damned shaking to stop. The pills aren't doing much for the workout my brain is getting, but at least my hands are finally steady.

Anyway, that's enough about me, it's your turn to tell me what you're doing here. So, what put you over the edge, little guy, too much catnip?

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