Hello, soldiers and civilians!
Did you ever think the pall of war had missed you? That fighting was something other people got wrapped up in? Well, I’ve got news for you: there are all kinds of war, and someday, you’re bound to be drafted into one of them. That’s why…
This week’s prompt is:
A Different Kind of War
MASSIVE RULES CHANGES BELOW!
We’ve made some really big changes to the rules! Make sure you scroll down to the bottom of this post to see them before submitting!
At a glance, this kind of sounds like it’ll be a grim subject. War, but different. Maybe this time they’re using chemicals or memetic weapons. Maybe they’re still shooting each other to death like they always have, just for a new reason.
There will be submissions which take this more literal route, and they’re going to be great.
But remember: wars aren’t only fought on the battlefield. That’s how we use the term these days, but I think there’s something deeper in it. In fact, if you trace it all the way back to its roots, you find that it gradually shifts from our current “armed conflict” to an archaic “general, violent, uproarious confusion”. More or less.
And that is something which can happen anywhere.
So when you’re thinking about this submission, instead of just reframing the structure of two factions and some bloody conflict between them, think about the more general tumult that erupts at the center of contention. Think about all the different places it can happen, and what it’s like to be at the center… and then layer over something new.
For instance, maybe we have the foot soldier’s perspective: a cacophonic storm of death all around them, nothing but adrenaline keeping them on their feet. And now apply that perspective to a child in a divorce. Imagine, instead of bullets whizzing by, biting words, one parent to another.
Maybe we have the surveyor’s perspective: watching the formation and the carnage that, unable to see any individual face but watching the bodies fall. And now apply that perspective to a foreman at a factory, watching, day by day, as the machines come in to replace your line workers.
These are smaller, yes, and quite a bit less bloody. But they’re wars all the same.
Find yours, and write about it. Put us at the dizzying center of that general, violent, uproarious confusion, and if we manage to walk away afterward, leave us reeling.
Dismissed, and godspeed.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least six stories during each stream, three of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new (no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
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- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
by Scott Nems
The all-seeing god, whom the ancients of eons gone had called River, looked down upon the world, and felt confusion and irritation. Time and time again, River had watched the hard-won progress of men inevitably wilt at the feet of their own complacency, or burn at the hands of their own ignorance.
Of this predictable cycle of self-sabotage, River often thought, “Why don’t I just take away the sun, just to see what they would do? What would men do if the sun just suddenly disappeared? Or what of the moon? I could take the moon, so that the darkness they unwittingly strive for could truly be complete. Without a light to warm their lonely nights, would they instead seek the warmth of one other?”
River knew not for certain. Long ago, when men were just beginning to build their first kingdoms, and the aspiring heights of men’s dreams knew no obstacle, River would be driven to tears by the sorrowful collapse that always came, knowing that they’d have to start all over again. However, it seemed to River that the day in which men would finally learn from their barbaric follies would never come. This hopeless realization had left him feeling drained and a kind of strange boredom.
“What would happen?” he thought again. “I could take anything I wanted to.” It was true. He would take anything away, if he knew it would show them how fragile the world really was, how much they needed each other.
The only things River would not take away were people themselves, for River had watched men forcefully remove men from the world countless times, and knew from how the cycle always restarted, that it never truly solved anything.
The City, by finalsalvo
The city springs up over the grassland like magic, its golden spires rising over the horizon as if they pierced through the earth. It is a young city, but a busy one.
Uniform streets score the land, each one choked with people. Wealth flows in endlessly, snaking in on caravans that cut through the grass. At night, the city lights up with a thousand taverns, disturbing the once tranquil steppe with raucous amusement. Ask any one of its people, and they will tell you a tale of glorious conquest over the earth, of the many battles with the “savages”, and the utter dominion of man. However, beyond the golden city and its fledgeling walls, the steppe-dwellers tell a different tale, one of flight and subjugation. Their foe was not one that fought with guns or steel or horse, though they did have those in spades. Nay, their strength was in their wealth and their tenacity. With scripture, plow, and fence, they subverted the old ways and broke them like a calf at the time of slaughter. It was a different sort of war.
They no longer quite live up to their name, living on the fringes of the City in sun-cracked mud homes much different from their tipis of days past. Their former paths have long since been split and divided into the domains of the plantations. What spears and bows they did have been taken from them. The few who refused to integrate were dealt with long ago.
This is not the end of their tale, however. Stay until the brazier runs dim, and you may hear of another war altogether. The works of man do not last forever, and the earth will not forever be his sandbox. When the city’s cobbles become choked with moss, its spires worn and decrepit, and its people old and jaded, there will be a reckoning. Nature will have her due someday, and when that day comes, it won’t be much of a war, The only thing that awaits, is oblivion.
Nice little domestic scene. You hint at a lot of things going on, making me so curious to hear the full details.
I can tell there was a lot of information you wanted to include in here. It’s tricky to put so much in 350 words, and it comes off slightly awkward, but the story is still enjoyable.
I really liked the semi-formal, affectionate tone you used, for both description and dialogue.
Adrift Without A Breeze
by AnonymousMidshipman (Idiot)
Another day at sea, and I prayed to God that we’d find an enemy ship to shoot. I started to lose track of time.
Since that battle with that Spanish fleet, the mood of the crew just spiraled. We were supposed to dock past those ships, but we had to make due ‘till we found another friendly port. But the Captain said nothing, and I saw nothing but open ocean. And the men who questioned him got keelhauled, and we all had to watch. Before, I thought nothing was scarier than killing a man, the screams, the faces they made, the wounds. But when I saw a yeoman two years my senior pulled from the depths oozing blood and most of his skin torn off, I had new nightmares. Had begged the older men for their grog.
It was after a break that someone echoed my thoughts, Philip, one of the senior deckhands.
“Ya knew Thiebaut, right?” he asked me. Every yeoman knew who he was, and he was well-liked by the crew. We also knew the Captain keelhauled him, and the doctor thought he was a goner.
I told him, “Of course I do!” Looking back, I should’ve wondered about this, but I was glad someone wanted to talk about it. It hadn’t been my idea of what the Navy was like, and I said as much to him.
I remembered him checking for anyone listening before he said, “The Captain’s gonna discharge us. All of us.”
Now, I couldn’t believe it, but he said he got word from the first mate. The crown made peace, and we’re all going to be cut off from the Navy when we made port. The Captain didn’t care what would happen to us.
Then, he said, “Just be ready in a few days.”
That got me curious. “Ready for what?” I asked.
He didn’t answer, just went on another tangent. “What were you hoping for when you joined up and sailed to the new world? Glory? Gold? Freedom?”
Then he smiled. “Don’t you think it’s time to take it?”
Hashtag Cognitive Dissonance
Hey Twitter, I need your help. This may be the most important poll you’ll ever answer. Explanation thread to follow. 1/7
So let’s talk about values. Everything in the universe is just applications of physical laws piled up at different levels, right?
Except for one important thing.
Values are uniquely human. They’re the things we arbitrarily declare good or bad. They underpin every goal and decision we ever make. They DRIVE us, beyond instincts. If you’re asking what OUGHT to be done, values answer that question. 3/7
But they don’t FEEL arbitrary. Cognitive dissonance keeps most people from picking values that go against their gut. But if someone could change dissonance to harmony at will,
They could change the whole world.
Well, I figured out how to do that. 4/7
It’s hard to explain, but I created something that let me induce or relieve cognitive dissonance at will. It’s imperfect, for NOW, but it works. All tests have been innocuous so far.
But I can’t overstate it — this thing scares the HELL out of me. 5/7
This tech could be amazing. What do you want to want? This could make you HAPPY to do boring hard stuff! Replace bad habits with good. Turn you into a BETTER person.
But it could be SOOO evil if the wrong people could control others at will. What if someone made you want to do something horrible? Or manipulated you into undying loyalty?
And you’re CHOOSING that, so you c/wouldn’t even fight back!
What if this starts a war
of values? 6/7
So yeah, I’m stuck. I can’t make this decision myself. Got a hammer right here. But should I use it?
People of the internet, what say you? Should I send my research into the world and let science perfect the technology? Or do I destroy it, right now?
Please vote, and retweet. I want everyone to see this.
Tell me why you picked your choice. 7 — end
POLL: YOUR FATE IS IN YOUR HANDS
Send it out!
Destroy it now!
Dreaming of Survival
By Derek McEldowney (Deviacon)
In my slumber bring me sight
From the eye of gnawing fright
And should it catch me in my flight
Give me strength to show it might
The words echo slowly in my mind, reverberating deep, deep, deep into my dreams. Words recited each night by every person still living. Sleep was no longer restful, for it had become a war of attrition, waged in the mind for our very essence, against such Terrors that lurked just beneath waking consciousness.
I recognized the feel of grass against my flesh, beneath my feet. Soft and comforting. The vast field of my childhood sprawled before me. Bright green summers and dewy springs of ages past. The stony old vacation home, so cold and damp. Refreshingly so to the stale stagnation of daily life.
A familiar forgotten voice calls out to me hearkening back to days long reminisced. Before I can turn to face the voice, the ground has warped beneath me. The lines of rhyme echo gently in my ear. I look back up and see the scene pulled and misshapen as if sculpted into a singular path. The insidious entropy of the Terror’s twisted hunts.
I run through the halls of grassy fields and stony walls, the looming gnashing sound slithered just behind the previous bend or two. The branching, twisting paths open into a tightly grown forest of rotting, fallen trunks and a rusty dilapidated industrial halls. With every step through the amalgamation of scenery I hear the footless steps get closer, feel the slithering hunger at my heels.
The Terror lashes at my sides, grasping at my soul. Pulsing, dripping teeth and bones, slithering eye of rancid hunger. Biting branches, clawing tongues, desperate for its feast. With no choice left I push ahead, dive and tumble, regain my footing, and turn to face it, in hopes I might make it crumble.
War of the Bath by Jesse Fisher, looked over and edited by Dukki
“Blood…how could there be so much blood.” Talebot mused in disturbed shock.
The Angel had returned after a game of tag with Demon dripping with nearly neon red blood all over him. Both of the bots stopped what they were doing as Toa moved to check on his charge. The Angel explained how this…
“…huge monster just appeared out of nowhere and ate Damon, but then the monster started to sway before it fell and he crawled out like this.” While she spoke this to Talebot with exaggerated movement, there was a commotion going on behind her.
“Demon you are getting a bath right now.” Toa chased after the anthro wolf as bloody shoe prints trailed after the wolf.
“No, Poopy bot won’t get me!” Demon yelled as he sprinted away.
“You are lucky they can only hear the kid friendly version of that.”
—One Benny Hill montage later—
“I told ya,” Toa said as he scrubbed the disrobed wolf in the once clean soapy water in the wash tub. “You can keep winning the battle but I will win the war.”
“Poopy bot mean,” Demon shouted out. “You waste the good juice with bad liquid.”
“I’m about to wash your mouth out with soap and holy water if you keep complaining.” With this going on Toa looked over to Talebot. “How goes the deblooding of the outfit?”
“I’m not sure I’m doing this right.” Talebot used his hand to move the clothing around another tub. “How do you know that this will work?”
“Given Demon’s love of blood, you would be surprised.” Toa responded as he lathered the wolf’s body.
“Wait his ‘love of blood’, what do you mean?”
“Well it is more just how he is.” Dumping water onto said wolf. “Mostly from his original self, but at this point it is like red wine without the drunk side effect.”
“So will this be an issue later on?” The concern was clear in Talebot’s voice.
“Given the fact he got eaten to defend the Angel, I doubt it will.” Toa replied with a crimson wrapped growling Demon.
“A Different Front”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
Rot skulked the forest on high alert. It must be close. She could smell it. Then, she saw it. A hulking bone-colored monster. It towered three feet over Rot herself, but was thinner than the trees. Its many appendages segmented into innumerable joints, and from its crest hung four tendrils, each a different length and width. Each tendril had dozens of lamprey-like mouths.
Rot charged, falling to all fours as she shifted into werewolf form. She slammed hard into the creature, the two colliding with a tree. Rot got up and stepped back. It, too, got up, knocking the tree over in the process. The she-wolf looked around. No one. The creature’s appendages whipped wildly, striking Rot hard. She fell into the litter, cracking ribs. A gurgling roar filled the air. The sound made Rot’s blood run cold. She crawled back up and looked back; the lights of the village grew closer. If it went any farther, there’d be a bloodbath.
“You go no further!”
Rot pounced, dodging the appendages. She slashed at its belly, but its chitinous skin resisted. The creature swatted her to the ground with a thud. Rot’s side burned with pain. Gasping for air, the she-wolf dodged another blow. Quickly, Rot hoisted herself up.
Then, she heard it: chanting. Rot smiled as the trees glowed a soft green. The creature tried to run, but something kept it in place. Slowly, the thing faded until it was transparent. It lashed out, but its appendages passed through Rot. It was strange; she could see it, but it wasn’t there. Eventually, it vanished from the world and Rot collapsed to her knees, back in human form. From behind an oak, a man with graying hair stepped out.
“I guess Nexus Scions are different from cultists, eh, Inquisitor?”
Rot panted, her hair stuck to her face. “Easy for you to say, sir.”
“It was just a juvenile.”
Rot cleared her throat. “It was a pleasure to work with you, Shaman Von der Hain.”
Von der Hain nodded. “Likewise. And remember, Rot, we don’t hunt alone.”
Heels in the Office
By frogfireFantasy (AKA minergirl778)
“…Greetings, Ms. Mechkowski.”
He hadn’t even looked up from his desk, and he could already tell who it was. He’d recognize her indignant voice and slamming of doors from anywhere. He had no idea what she could be mad about this time, so he kept his eyes on his work. That was, until, a pair of checks was slapped over his documents.
“Care to explain?”
He picked up the two checks, examining them. One was made out to Steffie Mechkowski, the other to a new hire they’d gotten this week. He gave a deadpan look to the woman staring him down across the desk.
“I don’t see the problem here, Ms. Mechkowski.”
She pinched the bridge of her nose and let out a sigh
“This greenhorn is getting paid TWICE what I am. TWICE! I’ve been teaching this kid, He can’t even unjam a typewriter!”
“Ms. Mechkowski, He’s a Yale graduate. He’s an asset to this department.”
“Oh, and I’M NOT!?” She laughed dryly “I’ve been with this company for 3 years and this little fat-head gets to waltz on in here and get paid MORE for doing NOTHING!?”
He stood up from his desk, attempting to defuse the situation “Now, no need to shriek, Miss. This is just how things work in the business world! A woman in your position should be glad to be paid even CLOSE to someone like him. There are women working for Railway that get paid a lot less than you do. It’d be wise for you to know where you stand.”
She stared at him open mouthed. A few sputters and some failed attempts to retort later she let out a breath and steeled her expression. “…Fine. If that’s how this world works… Then I don’t want a part of it.”
“What do you me-”
Her employee ID was tossed on the desk. His eyes widened in disbelief as he turned to face her. He’d never seen such fire in her eyes.
“The Secret Game” (Godhood Series) Submitted by Connor/Dragoneye
Arxix pushed a piece towards an adjacent square, gesturing back to Mordina.
“Has anything else come up from your research?” asked Arxix.
Mordina took her bishop and knocked an opposing knight off of the table. “We’ve come around to harvesting the stars from the nebulae, and we’ll see if we can cultivate some high density white dwarfs out of them.”
Arxix pushed his rook to the opponent’s edge of the board, in the perfect place to strike her king. “Checkmate, my friend.”
“Y’know, I had high hopes this time around, but you always have a secret plan, even in a game.”
“That’s my job, of course. Can’t expend any chance to exercise my duties in everything I do.” The two Aeonyx shook hands, Mordina in solemn defeat and Arxix in an honorable victory.
“So, what of you, Arxix?”
“You know of my duties, and I don’t need to expand on that.”
Despite their kin being faceless, Arxix could feel Mordina’s curious gaze. “C’mon, Arxix. You know you can trust me.”
“You know I can’t trust anyone. Not even you. It’s why the Lady has trusted me with the Empire’s knowledge.”
“Fine, then. Keep them. At some point, they’ll come out,” she said before she stood up and began to exit his archive. “How about you come by the laboratory some time? To see the Empire’s future in real time?”
Arxix replied, “I’ll consider it.”
Colleagues of Arxix lost contact with him about a month after he was last seen by Mordina. He, along with his archive, mysteriously disappeared, and any attempts of communicating with him failed. Currently deemed a fugitive by Lady Void due to the unprecedented nature of his disappearance, others have kept their eyes peeled for either any sign of his whereabouts, or even his return.
Strife in Reverie, by Zendrelax
The Dream is a strange place. A more talented reverie wanderer than myself could, with a little effort, find their way into a person’s sleeping mind, but the rest of us are limited to the Broader Dream, a shared space defined by the collective thoughts, ideas and emotions of a community, rather than an individual.
The plaza I was walking through was one of the main places of business in the entire city, and was trod by thousands of people every day. As such, the Dream reflected it in exquisite detail. There were loose cobbles, a slight swell from a tree root, and horse poop out in the open. Even in Dreams, I couldn’t get away from poop in the street.
I wasn’t alone amidst the smell of horse poop. As it did in the light of day, the space thronged with travelers, merchants, and tradesmen—not actual people, but the idea of people, archly-drawn. And guards, too, but they weren’t paying any attention to me, yet. At the edges,rumors and folk-tales danced through dark alleys.
Slowly, I wound my way down a meandering path to an open well at the plaza’s center. Making sure to look casual, I took my measure of the space around me. The dream guards hadn’t noticed me, and none of the reverie wardens at the city walls had followed me here.
Turning to face the well, I reached into a pouch at my waist, and pulled out a small handful of its contents. I cast fragments of glass, ground nearly into a powder, into the well. Judging by the tiny cuts on my hand, a few droplet s of my blood made it into the well, too. Good.
Maintaining a casual air, I moved on. I had a few more wells to visit, to poison with glass, to seed with bitterness and discontent and distrust. Looking up, the sky was lit by the Backbone of Dreams, glowing with divine blood. I fought down a growl. My god was long-dead, but we would win, in the end.
“Age of Annihilation” Submitted by Exce
A lush green coast appeared before them.
The captain folded his arms behind his back, a smile on his face. After weeks on the sea it was good to see the shore. Especially one who promised some fun.
He was shaken from his thoughts by the words of one of his Lieutenants. He approached him from the side, carrying a tablet.
“Our scouts have found the closest settlement,” the Lieutenant scoffed. “Looks medieval, quite primitive over all…” He tapped the screen a few times, highlighting several buildings. “These are what seems to be the trading hub, barracks and the administrative building.”
The captain nodded. “Have you sent the coordinates to the other ships?”
“Yes, sir, they are calibrating.”
Again the captain nodded. “Excellent.” Ready the pilots, as soon as we light up those primitives I want them to assist the landing parties with establishing a beachhead.”
The Lieutenant saluted and turned, then hesitated. “Should I also ready the AAs?”
At those words the captain’s smile turned vicious.
“Maybe one, if you’re feeling bored. These primitives do not possess aviation technology. Or any technology, for that matter. They have feathered wings, like a bastard of street pigeon and man. Now, Lieutenant, I believe you have your orders.”
As the man walked out, the captain stepped forward, looking down on the display in front him.
One after another, the ships signaled that they had locked onto the coordinates. When all signals were on green, the captain pressed the comm button.
A shudder went through his own ship as all the main guns fired, tendrils of smoke rising from each barrel, following each shot.
In front of them, over the verdant green shore, great balls of flame rose, and the faint echos of thunderous explosions was like music to his ears.
After a few volleys, squadrons of aircrafts took to the air, circling above groups of amphibious troop transporters.
The captain could not suppress a chuckle when he watched a group of straggling winged figures being blown out of the sky.
This truly would be a new, refreshing kind of war.
The Hardest Battle
Dukki sighed, running her hands over her face as she stared at the prompt page she’d created, “Alright… what idea can I come up with this week?”
She opened a new tab, clicking the WordCounter bookmark. The page booted up, but she just stared at the blank space, trying to think.
“Well… I could do another Angel and Talebot story… that’d be cute.” she mumbled, “Or.. I could write about my depression. That’s a battle too. A constant one..” she nibbled her lip as she thought, the blank space staring right back at her.
“Gingerrrr, I don’t know what to wriiiiite!” She whined to the orange cat lying at the balcony door. He continued to stare outside.
“Ginger! Ginge! Hello?! Hey! Gingy! Gingaboy! Don’t ignore me! Giiiiinge!” She bugged, then clicked her tongue at him several times until he finally looked up at her, his expression rather unamused.
“Ginge, I don’t know what to write.” She huffed. He blinked, and looked away again.
She sighed, staring at the ceiling, continuing to nibble her lip. Both ideas were so good. Everyone seemed to love the Greenhouse stories, and reading about Talebot trying to put a reluctant angel child to bed was adorable. But the opportunity to write about an aspect she knew so much about was also enticing.
Letting out an exasperated sigh, she typed up a story on her depression. Once it was done, however, she wasn’t sure she wanted to post it. It felt dark. No doubt people would be wondering if she was okay.
She flopped back on her bed, stretching out her legs, “Maybe I should go with the Angel and Talebot story. It’d be happier, more lighthearted.” she groaned, puffing her cheeks out, then letting out the air in a steady stream. She sat back up, letting out a yell of frustration, “This shouldn’t be this hard, dammit!”
She saved the depression piece, then erased it, ready to start on her Greenhouse fic.
Then it hit her.
She grinned, biting her lip as she began typing.
“Dukki sighed, running her hands over her face…”
A War of Attrition, By Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
When I was young, I was the target of relentless bullying. The other girls would call me names and go out of their way to exclude me. Because of this, I would often eat lunches alone outside. I didn’t mind it too much; it was actually quite relaxing to sit alone and listen to the sounds of the city muffled by glorious maple trees and pretty birds.
On one lonely autumn noon, I was munching on some sunflower seeds when I noticed that a visitor had arrived at my table.
“Hello there.” I said politely. ”What is your name, little guy??” The iridescent black bird that had joined me at my table just stared back at me with a blank expression.
“Well, it was nice of you to join me.” I continued. “Here.” I poured some sunflower seeds into a pile in front of him. “Enjoy a departing snack.” The crow was hesitant at first then he took a few bites and flew off.
For the next few days, my beautiful visitor would return, asking for snacks, and I would oblige, happy to have a new friend. Eventually, I grew a small following of crows, vying for attention and snacks, but the large crowd drew attention from others.
One day, as I was heading to my table for lunch, I was followed by two of my bullies. They were older girls, a couple of years ahead of me. As soon as I sat down, they came over and pushed my lunchbox off the table, destroying my prepared meal. I started to cry. The stress from classwork and the constant teasing was really getting to me.
“Aww. Is the witch starting to cry? Maybe she shouldn’t have dropped her food!” one of the girls said as both started laughing.
Upon hearing the warcall of one of their brethren, the crows in the nearby trees simultaneously took flight. They all began pooping and dropping rocks on my attackers. Soon, the bullies were routed, and the crows returned to me in a protective circle.
It’s nice to have friends in high places.
When she stopped to pretend
By Larissa (Lari. B. Haven)
Zoella looked at Carlos with sorrowful eyes.
“Is going to be only for a short while, my love…” Carlos said with a hopeful smile holding her hand.
“Carlos… You can say this to yourself, but I know I won’t be here for a short while.” She let go of his hands. “If I ever leave…”
“You will!” He reassured her.
“Carlos, I…” she stopped herself. “Just tell Luis that I love him”.
The nurse called across the visitors’ ward. Zoella got up, and Carlos kissed his wife on the cheek. “I love you, Zoella, I truly do.”
Zoella held back tears as best as she could and waved goodbye before going back inside the facility.
She entered her bedroom, the nurse handed her a cup, and she swallowed her pills.
The first time was easy. Both agreed that it would be better if she spent some time away.
Zoella was sure that she was only feeling like this because she lost her children, then Luis was born and the feeling didn’t go away. Far from it, it only grew. She felt more distant and disjointed each day.
She should be happy. Happy that Luis survived, happy that her husband loved her and loved her child even more. But she wasn’t. She’d feigned happiness for a while, and failed.
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
Her memories were all distorted and scrambled. Everything was hazy, dreamlike. She wasn’t there but simultaneously was.
One moment she was with her son, and the next she could see only red, overflowing red running down the drain.
She hurt only herself, but the fear was still there.
To some extent, Zoella felt like the stuffed jaguar that was in her husband’s trophy room. Only mimicking the beauty of what it once was, but emptied of life.
Her memories of a happy life were there but had been drained of all shine that once made them worth remembering.
Her mind needed time that she did not have.
“I love you Carlos, goodnight.” She whispered to herself and fell asleep.
Swords to Plowshares
By Jen (Bookwolf)
I stared at the pile of weapons the man had brought. The collection consisted of mostly blades, but here and there a spear or pike could be seen.
“You’re sure you want these melted down?” I asked.
The warrior, for he couldn’t have been anything else, gave an affirming grunt.
“And you want them turned into… tools?”
“Farming equipment, yes.”
I looked at the weapons again. Many tools could be made with what he’d brought.
“I am able to pay you,” he said, mistaking my thoughtfulness for worry about payment.
“That was never a question.” A dagger with swirled etching caught my eye and I tugged it from the stack. “The question is why. You could sell most of these, buy the farming equipment you want, and have money left from your sales. The King’s war has them in high demand.”
His hand running over his stubbled cheek sounded like sand on rock. “If I did so, they would find their way back to the likes of those I took them from in the first place. This way, I know they will produce life, rather than death. The King’s war is not mine.”
I wondered then if this warrior knew the losing battle he was fighting. There would always be weapons in the wrong hands. The King would continue to take able-bodied men from their villages, leaving the women and the infirm behind to fend for themselves. If those left had the right tools, perhaps they could survive. Maybe this battle-field veteran knew what he was doing after all.
“You’ve brought me a lot of material to work with,” I said, putting the dagger back down. “What kind of farming equipment are you needing?”
“Everything a single farmstead could need. As many of each item as you can make.”
We discussed prices and method of payment then. Surprisingly, he agreed to most of my terms. I had expected to haggle more.
“I will return in three weeks,” he said as he walked to the open front of my shop. “Perhaps I will bring more business for you.”
By MasaCur (with help from DukkiFluff)
“Off with her head!”
Nabiki angrily glared at the girl pointing at her. She was getting tired of Kireina’s runaway fairy tale characters, but Hart was taking it to a whole new level.
“Hart, you can’t order Nabiki’s execution,” Kireina explained.
“Yeah, maybe you should just go home!” Nabiki cursed.
Hart scoffed. “If I was in charge, off with your head!”
“Well, you’re in Japan now, so suck it!” Nabiki was shorter than Hart, but she was determined to stare the other girl down.
“That’s it!” Hart’s face lit up. “I’ll declare war on your stupid kingdom!”
“Oh! A war would be so much fun!” Kireina clapped. “But, they don’t fight wars like us, Hart.”
A grin crossed Nabiki’s face as she cracked her knuckles. “Bring it! You’ll regret it!”
“We could wage the war in the school yard!” Kireina exclaimed. She grabbed both of the other girls by the hand and skipped merrily down to the school entrance. Once outside, she released the two girls. “What do you think?”
Nabiki smirked. “I’ll kick her ass anywhere.”
Hart turned to Kireina. “Hatter, I require a dodo.”
“Dodos are extinct here.”
“How do you expect me to wage war on this barbarian without a dodo?” Hart demanded.
“Wait, idea!” Kireina took off her top hat and pulled out a walking stick with a brass dodo head. “Will this do?”
Hart took the cane and gave it a couple practice swings. “Yes. This will work nicely.”
Nabiki pulled out her bass guitar, and holding it by the neck, rested it over her shoulder. “I’m going to wreck your face so bad, your mother won’t recognize you!”
Hart looked back at Nabiki. “No, you idiot girl! We won’t be doing something so vulgar as combat!”
Nabiki was taken aback. “But…you declared war on me.”
Kireina pulled off her hat and swung it in an arc. From within, a number of wire hoops and colored wickets sprang and planted themselves in the ground. Finally, four colored balls emerged and landed.
“You see, Nabiki,” Kireina chimed. “In Wonderland, all wars are settled through croquet!”
Deep within the temple palace of the high city of Urba, bustles a retinue of immaculate servants. In the midst of their fervor sits what one might mistake for an immense statue, the dreaming king of the Domvari, Illos, who peers endlessly through time and space. For millennia, he watches the great mechanism of the cosmos turn, fueled by the raging currents of Luminous and Chaotic magicks, a ceaseless war between the Creator and the rebellious Void. In this war fought on fronts both physical and metaphysical, Illos seeks for the knowledge to guide his people toward survival.
Other beings are hard at work. Keshek, the cosmic frog, lurks in the depths of the Great Dream, spinning vast networks of intrigue as he eternally calculates the future, imparting forbidden knowledge upon hapless mortals. Bearing no concern for the wellbeing of this world, he manipulates events to bring about the downfall of the other Elder Things, which hunger for any advantage in their Great Game.
Omnipresent, and perceivably omniscient, the Void hates all. It was the perfect Creation, forged by a perfect Creator, so how dare He change It? What function do the stars and the planets have but to insult the perfection of the empty Universe? And then came the blasphemous Primordials, whose wretched spawn breed like parasites on those cancerous worlds, fueled by the pestilent suns. In the name of justice, this War must continue until the last ember of light has been snuffed out, and perfection restored to the Universe.
Throughout the ages, all peace gives way to war. Just as the Primordials destroyed themselves, so too did the Daemon King Nix bring about the downfall of his own brother, and orchestrate the destruction of the golden kingdom of Sun’Ashar, and drive entire races to obliteration at the hands of his perverse experiments. So too did the Baraki enslave and destroy their own Centaur comrades, and the races of Men wage war after war for dominion over the world.
With no answers to be found, Illos continues to dream, as the world falls ever further from grace.
“Battle of Words” by Carrie (Glaceon373)
This wasn’t a battle, she thought. Why was this a battle? Battles were cinematography masterpieces, or pages in history textbooks. They were fought between evil and good, or at minimum mediocre and less so.
Then why was this text message giving her visions of bloodshed and chaos?
“Hey Rebecca, can you give me a hand with the groceries?” her mom called from downstairs.
“Right, yeah, coming.” She tried to leave the phone behind, but it stayed between her fingers. She didn’t let go, even to carry in a bag of potatoes.
Her mom scanned her over. “What’s up? Did something happen at school?”
“What? Oh, everything’s fine, Mom.” Rebecca put the potatoes in the cupboard, “Just tired.”
“Honey.” Rebecca’s mom suddenly bore the visage of an unbreakable general. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
“It’s…” Rebecca sighed. There was no hiding it. She handed her mother the phone. “It’s the giant text. You don’t have to read it all.”
Her mother read the whole text anyway. She sat down at the table and kept staring at it.
“I know I shouldn’t get so worked up about this—”
“This is worth getting worked up about.” Her mother set the phone on the table.
“Heck yeah! You need better friends! What kind of friend, or more accurately PERSON, says this about anyone?”
“Mom, I don’t think you understand—”
“Plus, what even ARE these insults? Even my insults are more creative than this!”
“MOM!” Rebecca screamed. Her mother stopped, and noticed the tears on her daughter’s face.
“Mom. I deserved that. All of that. I hurt them, I hurt so many people—” She began to sob.
“Sweetie…” Her mother wrapped her in a hug. “That doesn’t mean they responded in the correct way. They could have at least told you in person.”
“Or not in a group text.”
“Like I said: you need better friends.”
“But I deserve—”
“No you don’t. No one does.”
Rebecca continued to cry in her mother’s arms.
Title: The Tail Wars
It was at the end of the dry season at the end of the Fourth Age when two very different societies would meet in a conflict that would have repercussions to the modern age. A bloody conflict that spanned decades, known as the Tail Wars.
As far back as historians could tell, the Dragonfolk had ruled the northern continent of Tol’uk. They were spread out along the vast deserts in many tribes; however, they all shared a common religion and practice, which mostly involved sacrifice and consorting with devils. The only real competition that they received was from themselves and the Lizardfolk of the south.
However, arriving on the eastern shore were newcomers coming with weapons that the primitive tribes had never seen before. They came on great warships. They came with metal rods that shot explosions. Within the week of their arrival, they had already set up defensive camps along the shoreline. They wore strange clothing that was not made out of scales or hides but out of cloth. They also had fur of varying colors, which many tribes were not accustomed to seeing.
They were the few remaining Ratfolk in the world. They had come to Tol’uk in order to find a way to save their race from a deadly virus that only affected them. They were a part of Clan Kotiry, a Clan mostly found in the Nuvasi Isles. They were led by a cunning tactician by the name Vecteek, who had a penchant for using chemical and firearm based tactics. He was a ruthless individual who didn’t tolerate even the slightest failure.
Once word of these invaders spread throughout the tribes, many younglings began gathering war parties to attack the Ratfolk. These initial parties were utterly annihilated upon contact. With mortar and rifle, the young warriors were butchered and taken by Veckeet for experiments. The surrounding chiefs knew that this was an act of war and so, throughout the volcanic valleys and barren deserts, the drums of war were heard. And so a war like no other in the world would be fought.
Alexei sat down by his console at T-10. The crowd cheered. Over two hundred thousand seats, all full. The cameras, he knew, had begun rolling, half a billion more were watching the feed.
“You can do it!” he caught a shout from the front row.
He turned to smile at the young woman; pretty, near his age. He read the silently added “…please” off her lips. His smile did not falter.
At T-5, Alexei drew down the sensory blinders of his station. The world around him disappeared.
He had admired the players as a child, always known he was meant to be one, never imagined how much he’d hate it.
He double-checked terrain, objectives, and forces. No surprises there. He had gone over the scenario fifty times since it was released to him.
Each in-game unit was backed up by its identical number in the metal, down to the number of rounds of ammunition. Each underwater drone really existed, somewhere deep in the pacific; each ICBM was guaranteed by the real thing; each orbital platform…
They weren’t where the units in the virtual map were, of course. He wouldn’t be controlling the physical platforms, wouldn’t be downing real satellites or – god forbid! – nuking real cities. Not today, at any rate. And, hopefully, not ever.
But they had to be backed by actual war assets, otherwise the result was meaningless.
Alexei had met the boy who was his opposite number: Liu Ye. They met at a trust building exercise, back when relations between their two countries were going better. They met at fourteen, long before the inflection point between increasing preparation and dwindling reflexes that defined their one year career.
He’d seemed like a nice kid.
Tonight, one of them would go home a hero, the other a disgrace.
If Alexei won, a border would move fifty kilometers, over nearly thirty million civilians, most of them rooting against him. If Ye did, an embargo over a different twenty million would continue instead.
Not one missile would fire.
It was a better, more humane, way.
Except, perhaps, for the two of them.
Fires Kept Burning
By Giovanna J. Fuller
“Ooooouuuur next guests are two of the greatest heroes our generation has seen, best selling co-authors brilliant magic casters. They, who stood on the front lines in the fight against the fourth dark lord, Mr. and Mrs. Deveraux!” The camera panned over to a warlock and witch walking onto the set. They were waving and smiling at the applauding crowd.
They sat down on the long sofa next to the host’s desk.
“Welcome! Welcome!” The host fawned over the couple.
The image disappeared as the TV was shut off.
She walked in, carrying a giant bowl of popcorn. “Hey, where is it? Aren’t they on?”
“Adam, mom and dad are going to be on ‘Wily Yinfer’.” She plopped down on the sofa next to him. “Don’t you wanna watch?”
Adam shrugged again. “What’s the point? It’s like, what, their sixth time?”
Angela put her bowl of popcorn on the coffee table. “Yeah…but this one is for their new book.”
“They’ve written three.”
“This one’s a textbook!” She took on the tone of a movie trailer voice over. “‘Preventing and Defending Against Dark Lords’.”
“I have finals to study for.” He stood up and moved to leave the room.
“You’re on break.”
“You can never start-.”
Angela grabbed his arm before he could leave. “Wait.” She was forcing a bright smile. “We don’t have to watch ‘Wily Yinfer’. There’s this other TV show on the mortal network about a scientist who can turn himself into fermented gourds!”
“Marsh promised me it’s really smart! Big brain stuff! BIG brain!” She was smiling and jumping, as she pulled harder on his arm. “Come oooooon Ad-um! Ad-um! Ad-um!”
The sixteen year old rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”
“Yay!” She pulled him back on the sofa. She wrapped her arms around him. “There’s my snuggle buggle!”
“Angie…” He protested weakly, a small smile on his lips. It was like when they were kids again, all alone in the big family house. Angela, too warm and smelling like burnt, overly buttered popcorn, holding him close as they stayed up far past their bedtimes.
“Endless War” by Geoffrey (Ashikkon)
What was I to do?
It was a dark, lonely night in the city. There was no limit to progress, promised the offices scraping the sky. There was no darkness too deep, promised the neon arrows and metal doors. There was someone for everyone, promised the warmth betwixt voice and cup.
But not for me, promised the pulse in my veins.
It was a dark, lonely night; the night I met her.
Slender, but powerful. Auburn, accenting her midnight skin. Beautiful, as though artistry itself. Her green eyes stared at me as I marveled at her. Every movement swirled the air around her and even her musk was alluring. The promise of acceptance as she invited my hands around her became too tempting. I placed a hand on her cheek and asked myself.
What was I to do?
I have done all that I was asked, and more was taken than I could give. Her acceptance was all I had left, wasn’t it? The lovely form of the words she’d speak, and even more the warmth with which they were offered pulled me closer to her. “It isn’t so bad” I thought as I placed her cheek to mine. She was all I needed, at the end of the day.
She would always accept me, even when my family denied me.
I loved freely, and I felt now, more than ever, in need of her love.
I wrapped my hand about her waist and kissed her deeply. “Is this what I want?” Images flashed behind my closed eyes as I lost myself to our tender embrace.
She only needed utter one word from the magazine I had given her. That one word was all I needed to end the war the world had raged since my birth. I had fought for so long, but there was no rest for the weary.
I still wanted something from this fight. Even just one more, but I’d see another dawn.
I ended our kiss and let her rest on my pillow.
What was I to do?
Fight another day in this endless war.
“Datapoint” by gregovin [Aleph null science fiction universe]
To the national institute of Virtual Reality combat research: A description of events
It had started as a split in the playerbase. The True Citizens clan and the Game breakers clan were always in competition. The True Citizens clan is entirely based on role playing, to the extent that metagaming can get you exiled. The Game Breakers clan is entirely based on “playing as yourself” and uses exploits frequently.
Eventually the fighting started.
The actual start of the war is still somewhat mysterious. However, it is theorized that a botched dialogue update exacerbated the pre existing conflict, and some trolls took the opportunity to start a war.
And so I came down to observe. There could be so many papers written about this event.
I joined the game as a healer.
Soon, I found an organization that called itself the Red Cross, and helped them heal players on both sides.
The propaganda war exactly and weirdly mirrors real life. I’ve even seen ads decrying both sides as communists, which is quite frankly outdated and hilarious.
In my estimation, civilians had been treated far better than in any real war. Only one hospital was destroyed during my time there, which is quite impressive considering I estimate there were approximately 10,000 hospitals that at one point or another were in a combat zone.
Of course, this war had no casualties. You could always respawn. That being said, based on the admittance rates of my organization, I would say that militant deaths outnumbered civilian deaths at least 10,000 to 1.
This war is still going on today, however in the form of a somewhat cold war. Right now, major corporations are sponsoring each side(including, infamously, the wells fargo corporation). Whenever a new update comes out, there is always some fighting after the Game Breakers abuse the inevitable glitchiness of the update, but it usually calms down fairly quickly. Based on my interactions, it seems the True Citizens see this as abusing the world and react accordingly.
This is my report,
To Slay a Titan (The Star Titans universe)
By Calliope Rannis
A 30 foot long steel spear blasted out of its cradle of magnets. For a frozen second, it gleamed bright in the eyelight as the air screamed around it, before plunging deep into the flesh of the Father. A fountain of black-purple blood erupted from the gap it had found in the titan’s metres thick armour plates, as the ten-legged monstrosity staggered backwards. “It bleeds. IT BLEEDS!” the Commander roared in triumph.
But the Father was not stopped. Ignorant of the blood drenched spear sunken halfway into it, the colossus shifted forwards once more, oversized hooves cracking the ground with every stride. Observing from the Commander’s platform, Silomara could barely turn away from the titan’s domelike head, covered in compound eyes that glittered in the Watcher’s light. Even so many miles away, high in the mountain range, she felt that cold glare.
Her attention was broken by the nearby Commander’s bark down the radio. “The beast still advances! Prepare to fire again, and this time with ALL rails!” Sounds of metallic clacks and whirrs answered as the turrets of Silomara’s design were primed.
“Commander… are you sure we should do this?” she said. His head quickly turned to her, but didn’t reply. “I know you want to believe that this creature is just a monster, a mindless force. I do too.” she continued. “But if this really is the Father, if this really is His true form…how do we go on after this? How do we win a war against the gods themselves?”
“Simple.” he replied. “To slay a Titan, we do what you did – we learn their weaknesses, we innovate upon our weapons, and we make a plan to bring them down.”
“It’s not just-”
“I understand your concern. But far, far too many people have been already lost to this THING and its cursed kin. These are no gods of mine.” He turned away, and into his radio he shouted once more.
In the sky near the mountain ridge, seven great spears shone in the eyelight for a single second, before sinking into dark flesh below.
An Ephemeral Season
Dude. You are not gonna believe it.
No, I ain’t jokin’. We’re at the hospital right now – hey, wait, hold up, gotta sign something –
There we go. Anyway, you gotta get here Right. Now. Like, this is not a drill. Just get over here.
Yes, the grandparents are here. Yes, you have to deal with them –
Just get here soon, okay? … I already said I’d let you hold her fourth-ish!
K. See ya soon.
Oh. My. Gosh. Is this picture not adorable? Look at her chubby little baby-toddler-face!
Okay, yeah, I want you to babysit. That obvious, huh?
God, I never expected this. Sure, there’s no sleep, and even less recreation –
Yeah, it’s a blessing, it really is.
Oh, come on. I’m hardly –
Yeah, just try and get here around 2:00. Work and all that, ya know.
Thanks so much. Love you, bro.
I’m thinking early next month. Is that good for you or –
Great! She’ll love to visit the cousins again! You know how she gets whenever she sees baby Phillip.
Probably be good for me too! It’s a little stressful around here, especially since…
Well, yeah. I think she’s taking it okay. A little moody, maybe, but nothing that unexpected –
Truth. It’ll be a good little vacation for all of us.
Wait, really? A cat, huh? Nice.
It’s so weird. One minute they’re a baby, and then they’re a kid, and then you turn around and they’re in high school. It’s weird, bro.
Of course, it was a little easier back when they were short and had a limited vocabulary.
Yeah, you know how it is.
Happened to you, too, I assure you. You were the grumpy one, hands down.
Mum agrees, ya know.
Don’t deny it!
Maybe you should talk to her… ya seem to have your head on far straighter than I, my guy.
… She left, earlier. Yelled at me. Loudly.
Them damn family reunions, amirite? No one likes ’em! Heh…
… I know. Twenty years. Where did they go?
I’ll call back in a bit.