Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Not Over Yet

And by 'it's not over yet', I really mean that this isn't necessarily finished and that I don't know what I'm doing anymore and that ARRRRGH! hehe.

OK, shutting up now!

It's Not Over Yet

"I was never meant to be a soldier.

I should have been a housewife, a mother, something like that. I guess if everybody hadn't started dying around me, I might've gone that way.

As a little girl I wore pretty dresses with flowers on them, I played with plastic figurines of ladies—Barbies, they were called—and I daydreamed of the day I'd wear white and totter down an aisle in sparkling white heels. I was a bit of a weirdo by that point—most of the other little girls liked what I liked, or wanted what I wanted. But I stuck to my guns—god, that's a terrible pun, and I didn't even intend it to be one—and clung to my girliness.

Everything changed, of course.

It's a well-known fact that civil war changes a woman. It bends her, twists her up a little inside. My mind isn't the same as it once was. Nor is my heart, or any part of me for that matter. I've got scars on the outside, remnants of battle wounds, but the ones inside are what never leave me, even when I dream. Did I mention I turned all emo? Yeah, I resent that in a big way, but I've accepted it. I've accepted a lot of things I never thought I would, especially in the last few days. Because there's a point in every rebel soldier's life when she just can't deny any of it anymore—she realises once and for all that she lives in hell and she's going to die there too.

The really good soldiers decide that they might as well do what they can, while they're still standing.

I'm still standing, hard as that is to believe. I'm still standing, but the machines are my last chance, the only chance I have to get the message out, beyond these walls. I don't trust machines, but they're all I've got. They're all the outside world has got."

Red light ticks to green and I open my mouth to start talking.

I've planned it all out in my head, but now that I'm really here, now that the machine is on and I've got the chance to speak, my voice conks out on me. On the very first word it catches, and I choke, cough, splutter. It's one of those coughs that doubles me over—working the abs, you know?

As if I need more of a workout than I've had lately.

Somewhere in the middle of the hacking fit I start to laugh. Things get worse, like my face turning red—I can't see it but I can feel it burning…pretty soon it's got to turn purple; that's a sight I know well. Am I really going to die here, squeezed of all air and of the strength to keep my feet? Because that would be really ironic.

That's when it happens: I stop, gasping for air—filling my lungs with the desperation of a woman who knows her days are far more numbered than her hours. Anger flashes through me at the thought of how much time I've wasted already. I grip the console and steady myself, taking a few long, deep breaths to regain my equilibrium. Then I begin to hum, testing my voice.

It holds.

"I'm reporting from Sector Fourteen, it's…" I tap my watch to bring up the date and time. "February thirteenth, time is eighteen-twenty-two. I estimate I have an hour before the machines die here as well. I'm not sure who this message will reach, if anyone, but I can only hope it goes somewhere. The truth has to be known because you're not going to hear it from anyone in red or gold, I can assure you of that…"

My voice is trembling, just like my hands. I grip my knees to stop the latter, but there's nothing much I can do about my voice. This has to be done, but I'm still not happy about being the one to do it.

How did I end up here?

I talk for thirty-seven minutes before the machinery gives out. There is so much to document but it doesn't much matter if I fail to relate it all. I start with the best examples, and they are good ones indeed. The rest can be construed—I make it clear with every word I utter that we're only scratching the surface here. To really understand what has happened, a person would have to live through what I did. There are always going to be facts that are lost to history.

But I can give them something, at least.

Some idea of how our nation has been betrayed.

It happens so quietly that at first I don't really believe it. Green light flickers, and my voice falters. Green light flickers and begins to fade. My voice gives out entirely. I stare at the dull shiny orb that used to be lit, just stand there and stare. Then I brace myself against the console, bowing my head. I close my eyes and let myself be. Just for one moment.

The time has come for me to leave this place. I fought hard to get here and now I'm leaving. But I can't execute my plan from here.

They won't feel me if I strike from this far back.

I need to go and meet them.

The further I walk, the more my thoughts tangle in my head. My veins rush with energy and vengeance fuels my motion. Still, I can't help thinking.

For me, thinking has never been a comfort.

I pass countless graffitied walls, and on one I see long-dried drips of paint that form the words, taller than my head but similarly messy:


My thoughts take a turn in that direction, and I start to contemplate the meaning of hell as I know it. I used to be religious. I used to fear hell.

I'm not so scared now, though, because I know you can find hell on earth.

You only have to know where to look.

Hell is realising that the people you trusted, the ones you wanted nothing more than to please, are the same ones who got you into this mess to begin with. Hell is learning that, contrary to popular opinion, you and your comrades just don't matter. You're utterly expendable, and quite frankly, the sooner you go down the better.

The more of you that die, the less resistance there will be in the end—resistance to the Revolution.

And god, I hate that word—Revolution. It's got all these connotations, like it's something amazing. Something wonderful.

It's not wonderful. It's not amazing.

It's hell.

"They turned on us at the worst possible moment. I guess that was the idea, right? Cut us off at the knees. Go for the jugular. Sever the spine.

So many clichés, so little time to make them all come true. But they did a good job.

I lay in a pile of bodies. Some of them twitched for hours, others were still in an instant. They grew cold around me but I stayed warm. They made a great windshield.

My comrades and my enemies all around me, friend and foe alike dead as last week's rancid meat. But there was an upside to lying there pinned by the weight of human flesh—it gave me time to think, really think. It gave me time to formulate a plan."

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Almost forgot that it was my turn to prompt again. 

Well, it's almost October, which means that a lot of us are either thinking about NaNoWriMo or avoiding thinking about NaNoWriMo.  In the spirit of doing the first rather than the second of these two things, I thought it would be fun to give you this prompt:

(1K-10k prose/333-3,333 verse)

"This is the short version of my story, the simplest way I can possibly tell it."

Good luck and sign up for Nano early before the site gets bogged down.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I've got a confession to make, people - I still haven't finished last week's story! But I will. Just got to...slap myself around a little. Suffice it to say the story already got weird - a girl's liver is talking to her. Or rather, it's telling her off, practically screaming at her. Not quite sure how it's going to end yet... Maybe I'll wind up with a novel about a talking liver??

Anyway...this week's prompt is...this:

Write 1,000-10,000 words of prose (or, ya know, 333-3,333 words of that verse stuff) based on the following:

"That sweltering calm I'd never known

Blue skies and home"

Friday, September 16, 2011

All Because of Swan Poop

Not really finished . . .

It is their shadows that make me look to the sky, black wings so wide that they block out the sun.  I stop in midstroke, the cold lake water lapping around me, my lips part in awe until my jaw hangs slack.

As they land, the swans swoop so low that I could have reached up to stroke their downy bellies.  The whirl of their powerful wing steal the breath from my lungs.  I have never been this close to them.

Then a streak of white flashes through the air.

A sour taste in my mouth. 

My throat seals around it.  I flail in the deep water, no longer treading.  There is no one there, except for me and the seven black swans.  Without oxygen, the world goes purple-blue.


I remember a hand just under my ribs, fingers groping in my throat, pushing and pulling something free.  My mouth is forced open wide, jaw practically dislodged.  There is no noise, no voice of panic trying to call me back.

The hand withdraws, pulling out of me in one slow, steady movement.  Just as I wonder it it has given up, my body is rolled over so that I am on my side.  A sharp fist thwacks me between the shoulder blades.

Reflex rattles a cough out of me.  Hot, vile liquid spews out of my mouth.  There is so much of it.  It tears me from the inside.  Someone wipes me clean with their bare, calloused hand.

A sound like a dozen anxious rusty hinges worries at my ears.  Warm, feathery bodies press to mine.  My eyes flutter slightly, but I can’t keep them open.  For a second, I see two large brown eyes scouring my face, but I can’t hang on to them.

I take a breath and I suddenly feel the cold.


The sound of thunder makes me open my eyes.   I open my eyes and this time I can hold on to the big brown eyes.

The boy is long and wiry, with gold-streaked hair falling down to his shoulders.  He smiles when he sees that I am awake, but he doesn’t say anything.  I guess that maybe he is fourteen or fifteen.  The cave we are in is dark and cramped, but warm and sheltered from the storm that seems so violent that we are pitched around as if we were on a tiny boat rather than a rock in the middle of the lake.  My head is balanced on his lap, my legs pressed shoved against a rocky wall.  One of those candles in a jar with a holy card shines down on us.  I do not know who the saint is, but he holds up two fingers.  A sign of peace.  By it’s flickering light, the boy appears to be knitting.

“Hello,”  I try to say, try to thank the boy for saving my life, try to ask him how he did it, but my throat is bruised beyond functioning.  The word is barely a sound.

The boy lifts a hand from his knitting and places a hand over my mouth, shaking his head from side to side.  His hand feels feverish on my face, cracked with dryness and uncomfortably warm.  Then, he slowly shifts his hand to my eyes.

Don’t speak.  Try to get some sleep.

But the thunder roars again and I jump under his touch.

The movement frees a cloud of black feathers.  And I realize that this is why I am so warm—why the boy’s touch seems like fire on my skin:  we are covered with black downy feathers.  I grope around beneath them to make sure that I am still wearing my swimsuit, that this stranger didn’t undress me thinking to get me out of wet clothes or something crazy like that.

Then I feel it.  My torso is covered in warm slimey wetness.

In the light of the single candle, I don’t know what it is immediately, but I put it to my nose and send a million more feathers flying through the air.

Bird poop.


Between the storm, the cramped cave, being covered in swan poop and the boy, I do not sleep all night.  I toss and turn, wanting nothing more than a hot shower and my own bed.

The boy doesn’t help.  He is ominously silent, except when he takes a raspy rattling breath.  I don’t know if he can’t talk or if he won’t.  He does not say anything to me at all.  I imagine that he is some kind of hermit who has taken a vow of silence.  I want to ask him what he is knitting and who the saint on the candle is. 

But I do understand this about him:  he is ill, very ill.  Pressed up against his body, I can hear every labored breath he takes.  His eyes are glassy and he knits almost as if he were in a daze.  Although his body feels like fire on my skin, his skin prickles with chills that I don’t feel.

The little hole where we hide is too small for me to move anywhere else.  Unless I close my eyes, I have no choice but to stare up into his face.  When I do this, I can’t help but notice the peculiar details of his face and compare them to the other guys I know.  This makes me even more uncomfortable.

As the night passes, I obsess over how miserable the little cave is.  Not only is it small and diseased and uncomfortable and full of feathers, but when lightening illuminates the walls, I swear that dried bird poop is dripping down the walls.  I begin to believe that I am breathing it in, suffocating on it.  The thought makes me vomit once, but I swallow it, because the thought of lying in it and smelling it all night seems worse than all the bird poop in the world.

When the night finally passes, the storm goes with it, leaving a dense fog on the silent glassy lake.  I crawl out of the cave and realize that it is nothing but an old buoy, covered in rushes, black feathers and bird poop.  A strangled noise escapes from my bruised throat and I dive down into the freezing water to distract myself from thoughts of vomiting again.  The boy’s head emerges from the cave and he reaches a hand out to grab me.  Shivering, I duck out of his grasp.  It doesn’t matter that I am convulsing with cold, I run my hands all over my body, scrubbing every bit of poop off of me.

The boy makes wild gestures at the mouth of his poop-covered home.  It seems that he wants me back inside.  I shake my head.  Nothing will ever make me go back inside the little hut.  It does not matter that I can not see the shore through the fog, I have spent every summer on the shores of this lake.  I know that it is not that large.  Two summers ago, I swam all the way across.  The boy makes his wild gestures again, holding his hands out as if to tell me that there is something big and terrible in the water.  I try to mime back to him that I am going to swim to shore, but he dives in after me.

Only, he can not swim.  His thin limbs flail around wildly, but he sinks like a stone.  I do not realize what is happening until the water until several seconds after the water has closed over his head.

The fingernails driving into my skin are a good thing and a bad thing; a good thing because it means that he has not yet lost consciousness and a bad thing because he is pulling us both deeper under the water.  In the end, I have to yank him up by his long golden hair and physically place both of this trembling hands firmly on his poop covered buoy.  Coughing without sound and shaking so hard that he can barely hang on, he clambers on to the buoy and reaches out to me once more. 

In the morning light, he is so pale that his skin appears to have a strange blue tinge.  His cheeks are flushed a deep red.  As he trembles from the water’s chill, I can see nothing but bones sticking out from his nearly transparent skin.  What I took for boyishness the night before looks something closer to starvation now.  He might be seventeen or eighteen for all I can tell.

Against my better judgment, I take his hand and let him pull me back into the unsanitary confines of his home.  I cover him with the soft black feathers, holding him in my lap silently and chafing his bare arms.  His brown eyes grow dim as if he can no longer see this world and the chill of water on his skin transforms back into a raging fever.  But he takes the knitting in his hands and loops the rough yarn until he passes out cold.  Even then a stitch or two continues blindly.

I hold his handiwork so that the light from the shack’s narrow opening might give me some hint as to what is going through the hermit’s mind.

A dress.

The boy is knitting a dress? The fabric is rough as if it were knitted out of burlap and the dress is short like a kind of tunic and very, very wide.  It looks like it would only fit a girl with a 40DDDD.

It is the most horrendous thing I have ever seen.

The strange thing is, when I looked into the boy’s eyes the night before, he didn’t seem crazy.  He probably wasn’t crazy when he saved my live.  But he’d obviously been knitting this—um—tent for days, maybe even weeks.

I am claustrophobic again.  There is no food here, no medicine, no clean water.  Nothing but horrendous knitting for a girl with a bra size gone rogue, feathers and poop.  The idea of leaving him, makes me feel guilty, but I know that if I do not find help, he will die.

As the fog burns away, the fever escalates—the boy’s eyes roll back into his head and his limbs nd torso spasm out of control.  The little shelter threatens to collapse around us.  I hold his narrow limbs tight with my arms and try to remember the symptoms of bird flu.

Squinting at the horizon, I can just make out the shore.  With the water so still, it will be easy to swim.  I disentangle my body from his limbs, blow out the saint’s candle to save the wick, squeeze his limp dry hand—a promise to return.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Phew. I'm alive, though school is trying its hardest to make that not be true. So, I bring to you a prompt:

Write a short story of 1-10k words (or verse, 333-3.333k) based on the following:

Seriously, it was the worst thing I could have chosen to choke on.

Best of luck!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Case o' the Crazies

Case o' the Crazies

Waiting room.
          There are people coughing and I figure that even though I'm here for some sleeping pills, maybe a set of handcuffs if the doc thinks they're necessary, I'm going to leave with a lot more than that—like at least one cold, maybe more.
          Gotta love coughing strangers in a confined space, no windows, no aeration.
          But I figure as long as I don't catch crazy, I'll be fine.
          Yeah, there's one of
those sitting beside me—I always attract his type; I think I'm a magnet for them—babbling on about hiding places and being smelled. I have no trouble imagining people smelling him from a mile away—as far as him and baths go, let's just say it's been a while between meet-ups.
          His words wash over me, an incomprehensible melding of slurred words and 'sh' sounds. I don't want to look, but I make myself look, and confirm what I suspected—he's got a few teeth missing. Strike that, he's got a few teeth left in his mouth. The rest have gone walkabout. Part of me wonders if he misses them. Then I realise I'm in a waiting room, surrounding by coughing sneezing hunched-over people…and with a bona fide crazy for company.
          He's the only one who doesn't have a cold. Or if he has one, he's hiding it well.
          He's got plenty else to be thinking about, though. Like the holes in the walls and the way you flatten yourself against brick and stop breathing—for minutes at a time, even; he claims he was the best out of anyone at keeping his lungs full. He's got stories to tell, ohhhh does he ever. And lucky me is here to listen.
          Doc's running late again. As usual. She's coming up on a record this time—forty-seven minutes so far. Longest I ever waited was an hour and two minutes, but I'm hoping I won't be outdoing myself this time. Fifteen more minutes of sitting here with Bozo the Dirty Clown doesn't really float my boat, I've gotta say.
          For the most part, his words wash over me. But then he says something that gets my attention.
Sleep-walkin', they call it. But I didn't feel sleepy, I'm tellin' you. All I know is, I woke up halfway to Merton City, no idea what I was doin'. Train station. Got this distinct feelin' I'd been…with company, I guess. Saw shoe prints in wet stuff—prolly good ole H20, I don't know. But I could see 'em clearly down there on the ground. Right beside me. Not my shoe size, 'fore you ask. Different size, by a long shot. Looked around, but no sign of anyone. I just got a sense of…having been with at least one other person. Not sure they're a friend, know what I mean? And I remembered a really white light. And I don't mean no 'Call to the Heavens' type deal. Nuh uh. More like 'M'gonna shine this in your eye and see how you like it.' Or, like, they're tryin' to see how I react to it. Like…experiments. Know what I mean?"
          He's looking at me, mouth twisted in a sort of grimace, eyebrows furry with dust and grime, skin wrinkled but not with age—more with hardship. One of his eyes is fixed on me—the other's kind of scrunched shut, as if it's remembering the white light. Why don't both his eyes remember? And don't try and tell me maybe he's got no second eye at all—I can see it moving around under his lid. It's there. So what I wanna know is, what's up with the scrunching.
          More to the point, I want to know why the hell a chill just rippled through me as I listened to more and more of his words. And why it's not going away.
          "You should be careful," the crazy says. "I wasn't careful. Now look at me. Wouldn't want the same thing to happen to you."
          What, I wind up on the streets with dusty eyebrows? I want to ask him. But I stay quiet as he rises to his feet.
          "You might think you're safe, lady, but you ain't safe. Not anywhere. Not anyhow. Just telling you to be careful. Watch yourself. Watch your back. 'Cause nobody else is gonna."
          "What's that even mean?" I ask, turning to face the crazy.
          He's not there.
          And suddenly, coughing waiting people are staring at me. They're looking wary, like
I'm the damn crazy in this place.
          I swallow a sick feeling and clear my throat. I reach out through my body with my mind, seeking discomfort. Nothing, except maybe the dullest ache in the back of my head—something I just put down to sleep deprivation. Walking in one's sleep will do that to a person, at least that's what I had figured. But maybe it's an ache that's a sign of more than just lost sleep. Maybe it's a symbol of something lost.
          Like sanity, for instance.
          I stare down at my hands trying not to grimace.

Doctor Osbourne checks out my eyes. She shines a light into them. Goosebumps break out over my skin as I remember the crazy and his strange tale. Hell, I heard a lot of strange tales while I sat beside him, but I didn't pay attention to most of them. The only one I remember is the one about sleepwalking, about train stations at night and company you don't remember. About white shining lights, not the kind that welcomes you to heaven.
          Heaven, I think bitterly. She shall never be mine, for I am damned. Some old poem, but it fits. Not that I'm damned. I just feel that way sometimes. It's like a subconscious thing. Something I can't put my finger on, but it's a feeling and it's there.
          Sticking to me like dandelion dust.
          "Everything seems fine," Osbourne tells me, clicking her miniature flashlight off and tucking it into a voluminous white pocket. "Have you been having the headaches?"
          Something tells me to lie. So I do. "No, I just woke up last night… In my hallway. I mean, it's not that scary. I just thought…"
          The doctor nods. "You've seen the ads on TV?" I don't answer, just incline my head. "I wouldn't worry. Those cases are…extreme. And those victims have been exposed to…well, let's just say it's not something we need to worry about here. Not yet."
          Don't we? I say in my head. What about the crazy I talked to? What about what happened to him? Only, I'm not sure he ever existed, except in my own troubled head. I refrain from asking the question. From incriminating myself further.
          All this goes on record, I realise. Every visit I make here. Every inquiry where I identify myself. It's all on record for anyone in the right position of power to see.
          I haven't been careful. I haven't been watching my back.
          I'd better start. Because if I don't, who's gonna?

"There are places you can hide," the hobo tells me, "if you just know where to look. The trick, though, is to disguise your smell."
          I stare at him, wondering how many hobos I'm going to have to talk to before I understand what they're telling me.
          "Why do you think I'm dressed like this?" he adds.
          And finally I get it.

I go down to City Park and find myself a nice muddy puddle. Some of them have too much water, but I finally stumble upon one that is sufficient percentage clay. I peer left and right, up and down, making sure I'm alone. Then I dive into the puddle and roll around, making sure to get as much dirt in my hair as I can.
          This isn't going to be enough. It's just mud, clay, what have you. I need to smell really bad. I need to smell worse than I ever imagined I could.
          I need to complete my disguise.
          Then I need a hiding place.
          Somewhere they can't smell me anymore.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Prompt 36

Hahahahahah!!!!!  Not late this time.   The power of writing things up on Sunday.

I thought I'd give folks a little extra incentive for this prompt.  There is a Titanic (as in that rather large ocean liner from 1912) writing contest on this blog:

And . . . for any girls between the ages of 13 and 21, is giving away a $5000 prize for a 500 word short story on any subject.  That's $10 a word for the winner.  I don't think Charles Dickens was paid that much.  Details here:

 Let us know if you've entered or are intending to enter.  We'll <3 you as often as we can.  ;)

Now for the prompt (1k-10k prose/ 333-3,333k verse):

"I know all the best places to hide.  But there are certain precautions you need to take if you don't want them to smell you."

Good Luck!