Writing Group: What’s the Catch?

Hello, swindlers and cheats!

Leave your scruples behind! No need for such things in the land of smoky back-rooms and mile-long business agreements. Instead, bring along a jar of that all-important palm grease and a magnifying glass to read the extra-fine print, because…

This week’s writing group prompt is:

 

What’s the Catch?

 

RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!

 

 

Fun little idiom here, because we can’t get enough of them.

When you’re reading a contract or an agreement that seems too good to be true, it’s natural to get suspicious, wonder how you’re going to get “caught” by it. So, the natural question when something seems indefensibly opportune: “what’s the catch?”

There are a lot of angles and apertures for this thing, but one key element to consider here is suspicion—the emotion which drives one to ask the question to begin with.

Of course, where, how, and upon whom that suspicion falls is totally up to you.

You could write a story about an ambitious demon nearly prepared to sign a loan for extra souls to move up in the underworld, but leery about where the interest is supposed to come from. You could write something about a fairytale creature offering a helping hand, which, if you know anything about faeries, is unto itself suspicious. Or, taking a turn for the more realistic, you could even write about that time you almost purchased a house, but that chained door in the basement they failed to mention on the listing really made you wonder about the excellent price…

Whatever you choose to write about this week, we await some good mischief and double-dealing. 

If we’re not questioning most of your motives by the end of this, I’m gonna be awfully suspicious…

 

 

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!

  1. Text and Formatting

    1. English only.
    2. Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
    3. Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
    4. Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
    5. 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.
    6. No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
  2. What to Submit

    1. Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
    2. Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
    3. Write something brand new (no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
    4. 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.
    5. 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).
  3. Submission Rules

    1. One submission per participant.
    2. Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
    3. Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
    4. You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
    5. 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).
    6. 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.
    7. 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.

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CansasDale
CansasDale
3 months ago

Sibling Games
By CansasDale

Ruby sat next to Anansi’s hospital bed as tears streamed down her face.

“Hey now, when did you get all sappy huh?”

Ruby jumped at the sound of her brother’s voice.

“When did I get sappy?!” She snapped jumping to her feet “Since your wife called me yesterday terrified because you had collapsed! Since I looked mom in the eye and told her that her son wouldn’t see another Christmas.” Ruby fell back in the chair sobbing.

Anansi knew Ruby was just scared. He held out his hand and asked with a smile “What’s the catch?”

Ruby whipped up her head. “What!?” Anansi had days left to live and he wanted to play this stupid game!

“Don’t tell me you forgot our favorite game.”

“I didn’t forget!”

“Good, now what’s the catch?”

Ruby sighed and wiped away her tears. “Fine, I’ll humor you.” She thought for a moment. “Is the catch food?”

Anansi snickered. “You’re asking if the catch is food? So catch food.”

Ruby rolled her eyes. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Guess again.”

“Is it umm.. you?”

“You think that after all these years, I’m the catch?” Anansi lifted his eyebrows.

“You’re right, that’s a dumb answer. I mean you’re not much of a catch.” said Ruby smiling

“Ouch. That hurt.” Anansi said putting a hand on his heart.

“You’re an idiot.”

They both laughed.

“Are you ever gonna tell me?” inquired Ruby.

“I’ll tell you when the time is right.” he replied softly.

Ruby slept beside her brother all night. She knew he was getting weaker. She could feel him slipping away.

It was around nine in the morning when Anansi reached out to hold Ruby’s hand.

“We live in fear of death but we signed up for death.” He said looking up at Ruby. “That’s the catch, sister. Death was in the fine print in the contract of life.”

Ruby was dumbfounded. “That’s the catch? You carried that with you for fifteen years?”

Anansi closed his eyes “Actually no, I read it in the paper last week.” his smile faded and his hand went limp.

minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
3 months ago

Pages of Her Story
By minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)

“An endless library… Each book containing someone’s life story, being written as they live…”

Daisy had never ran so quickly in her life. She barely spent a moment looking at the alphabetical categorizations, making her almost run right past the section she was looking for!

“Cyrus…Czar.. Dahlia… DAISY!” She lunged for the book as soon as she saw it. Finally… Finally! Concrete answers to her past! Something that could tell her who she was! She’d been searching for this for so long. Answers. Knowledge. Clarity.

She flipped through the book. Empty pages, Empty pages, Right now, Adventure… adventure… training… the cover…

The…Cover?

The Librarian came up to the top of the stairs. As he caught his breath, he witnessed her walk out of the aisle, book in hand and expression confused. “No…No this can’t be it! Where is it!?”

“Daisy, you’re only 16,” He interjected, anticipating this response. “Most of your story hasn’t been-”

“Where’s the first 13 years!? This thing is supposed to have my whole life! My past!” Her voice was steadily getting louder as she kept shaking the book out and checking for tears, only to find nothing. “But… It’s only… got year… 13! What’s wrong with this thing!? Is it defective or something!? CAN books be defective!?”

“They’re magical, life chronicling books!” He scoffed “They can’t be defective! Unless the person themself is defective-”

He was interrupted by the girl angrily spiking the book off of the balcony. It slammed onto a table far below with a splintering sound. He was about to scold her for such reckless behavior, when he noticed tears in her eyes.

“I knew this whole stupid place was too good to be true!” She mourned, head falling into her arms.

A regretful hand placed itself onto her arm. “I…I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“No.” She sniffed. “Y…You’re fine.” She pushed herself off the railing and walked down the hallway “Bye, Libraryman. Have a nice day.”

And in a flash of light the tearful girl was gone, and the librarian had some research to do.

Last edited 3 months ago by minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
PixieWings
PixieWings
3 months ago

Given Name
by PixieWings

“You’d have to lend me your name.”

He’d been running as hard as he could. He’s still only just keeping the rabbit in view.

“This way! This way!” She had singsonged ahead of him. The bundle of herbs and little red berries at his wrist yanked him forward.

The Celtic knot of Titania’s tattoo tightens at his throat.

Behind him, he had heard something thrashing through the forest. He didn’t look.

He misses in leaping a gnarled root, hits the ground hard.

“Keep going!” The rabbit trilled as she bounds over him. He hears the pitterpat of paws turn to the clatter of hooves. He’s already up and running.

He had crashed through into the clearing, stumbled over the ring of stones. He’s on his knees with one hand gripping the hilt.

His hazel eyes reflected back at him in the polished iron.

Which brings him to now.

Then?

Before?

“Present Tense helps.”

The miasma lifts. A little. The voice in the sword is different than the others. Titania’s is a force, an undeniable pull. The rabbit- Horse?-a tinkling bell. This is genuine speech, low and kind of scratchy.

“The last time I told a fae my name, I got this.” He thumbs at the knot settled in his skin.

“I’m not her. You can say no. But her kiss marks you for death.”

“I could tell you my name.”

“I could imagine no sweeter music. But I’d still be stuck in the ground.”

He tugs at the sword experimentally. It doesn’t move.

“What do you want?” He whines. He hates that he’s whining to them.

It?

“You know what I want.”

Them.

“Aden.”

Lightning cracks up his arm and into his head, arcing out his eye.

The sword is hefted in his hand.

He can see his eyes reflected.

One hazel.

One vivid green.

“What did you do?!”

“I don’t have a body. You can’t use a sword.”

His voice is low. Kind of scratchy.

“But only lending.”

The green eye winks at him. The current ebbs, taking the color with it. He can move.

“After you, Aden.”

Frei
Frei
3 months ago

Elijah’s Morning Catch
By Frei

Our brows raised that one misty morning. The old man usually rowed out to sea before the sun came up, and he’d come back with some amount of food. This was the first time he brought back nothing but snails, save for just four fish that the snails were crawling all over. He didn’t even give us time to mull over the catch, and we were a whole net’s worth of fish hungrier that day. Even stranger was the fact he was drunk that night – Elijah swore it off over a decade ago, or so we thought. Yet he was stumbling through town, tripping on everything, and mumbling about the sea. He screamed at the dark, starless sky, moonlight cracking through the ocean of clouds like flittering light on the water.

When Engel didn’t return from checking on Elijah, the town suspected foul play. Yet when we broke down his door, we found that he too was drunk. Had Elijah been stowing liquor? He was much more sober by now, just hungover, while it was Engel’s turn to moan and scream at nothing. “He’s just out of it right now,” the old man assured. We took his word for it.

If we had paid more attention, we might have noticed the pus which oozed from the back of Elijah’s neck. If we had paid more attention, maybe Marco, Ben, Thomas, and Susan wouldn’t have gone missing. If we had paid more attention…Maybe the whole town wouldn’t be battering our windows and doors, begging us to come and speak, to see Elijah, and witness the beautiful deep blue of the sea. They stopped bringing in fish a long time ago. Now it was just those snails, with the ivory flesh and intricate spiral shells that seemed to twist inward forever.

If we had paid more attention, that snail wouldn’t have gotten inside. If we had paid more attention, my wife wouldn’t have opened the door for the guests. If we had paid more attention…Maybe the ghastly face of Elijah wouldn’t be twisted into a grin, welcoming me to the family.

Chengir
3 months ago

What’s the Catch?
By Chengir

He didn’t have a name; not in the way we understand names. Everyone simply called him the Ambassador. Frankly, I don’t even know if he was male. It was anybody’s’ best guess. Outwardly, he resembled the result of a consortium of octopi… who’d had an unfortunate accident involving radioactive materials in a particle accelerator. Not the prettiest of sights I can assure you. When I met him, he had the strongest smell of chlorine about him… as if he’d recently climbed out of a swimming pool. Of course, it would have to have been an Olympic-size pool as he was rather on the large size. There was the taste of copper in my mouth. I think I bit my tongue. “What brings you to our world?”

His answer was terse. “Colonization.”

“When you colonize, what happens to the original population?”

The Ambassador had a voice with tonal qualities of machine parts scraping together. He waved several tentacles about. “I think we both know the answer to that question.”

“Any way we can talk you out of it?”

He didn’t hesitate with his answer for a second. “No.”

“What if we decide to stop you.”

“Your efforts would be pointless. Although I’d find it personally amusing.”

“So why have you come?

He let out something akin to a deep snort. “We’re intrigued by your stories of jinn. We have no such storytelling skills on our world. No one would even consider communicating a false narrative involving a mythical being. Like your jinn, we have immense power. So, we’d decided to grant you the traditional three wishes. The usual rules apply. No wishing for more wishes, no changing history, no wishing for unlimited time to make your wishes. I also feel I should warn you – we are going to come. There is nothing you can do about that.” He paused for a moment to let his offer sink in.

I crossed my arms over my chest. I had a grin bigger than all outdoors. “What’s the catch?”

Starfle
Starfle
3 months ago

The Rose Prince
By Starfle

“And where will you go!? Do you honestly think anyone would take in a wretch like you!?”

Cassandra whirled around and glared at her mother with searing rage. It was enough to make that old crone recoil.

“I would rather spend the rest of my days sleeping on a heather bush than spend another moment here! Goodbye!”

And with that, she marched into the woods, stomping through brambles and thorns until she arrived at her only happiness. A clearing in the heart of the forest, her only happiness standing in the center. A single, small bush of red roses. And now, at last, she let herself collapse before it and weep.

“Blasted old woman!” She sobbed. “I would rather be alone for the rest of my days!”

“Is that true, my dear?” Asked a voice, sweeter than the tingling of tiny bells. Cassandra gasped, and the bush’s form began to change.
Vines twisted together, thickening into two long arms. Red petals gathered to become a crown of scarlet hair, framing a gentle, smiling face. Her beloved rose bush had become a young man, wrapped in the forest’s leaves.

“Who are you?”

“I am the Rose Prince,” He said. “And I have come to take you away.”

Cassandra gulped. A real, life fae staring her right in the eyes. Every part of her wanted to go with him. To get away from this awful place. And yet…

“What’s the catch?” She asked calmly. “What will I owe you? I know how you fae work.”

The prince’s emerald eyes widened, and then he laughed.

“Why, I only ask that you allow me to repay your kindness. You will live with me, sleep in my finest heather bed, let me feed you and water you like you did for me for all these years. And should you decide to leave, you must let me say goodbye.”

Cassandra’s face flushed. Was that it? Did he only want to be her friend? She blinked.

“Well… Heather does sound comfortable.” She giggled.

And she took his hand, and from then on they lived happily ever after.

Last edited 3 months ago by Starfle
Mango Gravy
Mango Gravy
3 months ago

Bad Deal
by Mango Gravy

The atmosphere in the alleyway was palpable. Pure, unfiltered suspicion was so thick in the air that one could taste it. This may have been due to the intensity of the suspicion, or perhaps because of the nature of the two men staring down the alleyway at one another. The two men were wizards, and reality has a tendency to turn wonky in their presence. Case in point; if one were to step into the vicinity of their showdown, the air would taste vaguely of cinnamon, commonly known to be the flavor of mistrust. Not that anyone would approach this meeting. The general consensus among most people in the world is that robed figures in an alley should probably be left alone.

The two wizards, having contacted one another through somewhat unscrupulous methods, were about to make a trade. The posh one, pristine beard and locks billowing majestically despite the lack of wind, carried a very pretty looking purse, the contents of which one might assume to be copious amounts of currency. The other wizard, bearing a more raggedy aesthetic of soiled robes and a remarkably ridiculous comb-over, held in his grubby hands an ornate toaster.

‘This bugger’s too clean’, thought the raggedy wizard, clutching his toaster a little more tightly. ‘He’s probably a politician. I can’t bloody trust him or his gold. It probably explodes or… calls the constabulary… or something. I won’t make it two steps out of this deal alive.’

The posh wizard’s thoughts were racing similarly. ‘The Toaster of a Thousand Suns is in the hands of a plebeian? And an occultist by the looks of him. He’s probably cursed it to… make it join me in the bath or some such malevolence. That monstrosity of a comb-over is reason enough to doubt his intentions.’

Their thoughts danced to and fro, from simple fool’s gold to genocidal toast, and with each misguided supposition their faces contorted further.

After fifteen minutes of silent scrutiny, they both rolled their eyes and departed in opposite directions, feeling rather proud of themselves for their perceptiveness.

Last edited 3 months ago by Mango Gravy
Makokam
Makokam
3 months ago

Dealing With Devils
By Makokam

On a moonlit rooftop stood a woman in armor and a hooded cloak that hid most of her. Beside her stood a young man in a nice suit, who glared at the man they came to meet.

“So will you accept our offer, Mr. Rose?”

“Hmm,” the other man, in dress casual and wearing a long coat, said. He walked to the edge of the roof, then turned and took a seat on the railing, shaking a cigarette out of a pack, “So your end goal, Lady Death, is world domination?”

“In so few words.”

He raised a lit cigarette to his mouth, though he never touched a match or lighter, “So if I join your cause, I get private quarters in one of your bases, an expense account, and am free to do as I wish when I’m not needed?”

She nodded.

“Well, that sounds like a nice deal-” the young man’s scowl deepened. Flinching slightly, Rose looked at him, “Are you trying to get in my head? Most psychics find it very unpleasant in there.”

The man’s scowl didn’t change.

“Erro. Enough,” She said.

Rose’s expression eased the slightest bit, “Thank you.” He continued to smoke as he considered the offer for a minute, “And should you achieve your goals, I assume as one of your generals I’d receive wealth, power, land, women, etc.”

Lady Death nodded.

“Well,” Rose said standing up and clapping his hands, “That’s good enough for me.” He approached and held a hand out for her to shake.

She looked at his hand for a moment, then extended a gauntleted hand and shook it. “I’ll send a car for you tomorrow.”

“I’ll be looking for it,” he said, then turned, walked to the edge of the roof, and leapt..

The two turned and walked away as well.

“We can’t trust him,” Erro said.

“I am surprised he agreed so easily, but his power could be instrumental in achieving victory.”

Leaping from roof to roof, Rose thought, “I doubt they’ll accomplish anything, but if they actually become a problem, I’ll just kill them all.”

Last edited 3 months ago by Makokam
Aaron Fleming
Aaron Fleming
3 months ago

“Tears don’t come cheap” [Hidden Space Science Fiction]
By Aaron Fleming

We sat at the table in the Three Moons Bar on Sigma Aquilas Station across from two Termain traders. The Termain look like humanoid parrots, with arms instead of wings, three fingered talons for hands, and dull gray scales instead of feathers. Neither of our species could speak the other’s language. The neural implants that I and Adara possessed allowed us to understand them by computer translation. Likewise, Adara and I could silently send thoughts to each other via the implants as well. However, so unusual was the Termain’s request, I kept wondering if the translations were inaccurate.

“So, let me get this straight,” Adara said. “You’re willing to trade the whole shipment of Spice Moss, for human tears? Human tears are just salt water. Why so cheap?”

The head of the Termain bobbed up and down, followed by an open beak with a slithering snake-like motion of its tongue. “Yes, that is what we want” the words of the Termain played in my mind. “Not cheap! Not onion weeping. Tears that are not given freely.”

Adara stared blankly in confusion, as it dawned on me what they meant.
“I think I get it,” I thought to Adara silently.

She turned to me with a quizzical expression on her face.

“Trading is about an exchange of value, and the Termain are all about trading. They must see loss in terms of an exchange of value too. Something like, the pain you experience when you lose something is an emotional payment given in exchange. I think they want us to pay to the point of suffering.”

Adara shook her head saying to the Termain, “Hey, we’re not here to pay an arm and a leg!”

The Termain traders suddenly looked deeply uncomfortable, and I guessed the translation was sent to them literally word for word. The Termain crooned and gestured with its talons. The words came to us, “We will lower the cost in credits. Amputation is not something we wish to see.”

“Well that’s one way of convincing them to give us a better deal,” I thought to Adara.

WrongJohnSilver
WrongJohnSilver
3 months ago

Whale Hunt
By WrongJohnSilver

“The whales don’t come here anymore.”

Jayko watched the surf crash against the shore as Mattoo continued to complain.
“We’ve had to move our entire village up the mountain. There’s barely any beach anymore. And now the polar caps have melted enough that the whales have left the Bering Strait for good and gone north to where they can find any ice.”

Jayko had to agree with the assessment. The Yupik village had lost much. Ancestral land, under the waves. Dry, low sand bars were replaced with tilted, barren mountainsides that plunged into the ocean. The sea ice thinned out and disappeared. The whales had left with the ice. And yet, Jayko remained firm.

“We’re still doing the spring hunt. The whale means our livelihood. The whole village would starve without it. My son needs to learn the ways of the hunt.”

“Your son’s better off studying abroad anyway. He should have just left and not come back. Nothing here for anyone.”

“Except family. Everyone he’s ever known. Come, join the hunt with us. We all depend on it.”

Mattoo shrugged and picked a stone off the ground.

Jayko grinned. “Glad you’re coming.”

Over the next day, the hunters brought their kayaks to the water, checked their harpoons and supplies. Jayko’s son, who usually just went by the English name Paul these days, had arrived last week from college to join the hunt. Paul brought with him a huge pack, long and covered in seal skins, that filled most of his kayak by itself. They set off, looking for a sign of an increasingly mythical bounty.

But no blasts of blowholes. No undulating behemoths beneath the skin of the ocean. Nothing was seen on the empty sea… except the sound of a roaring engine and the lights of a giant vessel from Europe, laden with cargo, passing through the now-clear Northwest Passage.

Paul pulled back the skin on his pack and distributed gear to his fellows. Gun-fired grappling hooks, Kalashnikov rifles, pistols, zip ties.

Jayko looked at the ship and called out, “We have our whale.”

Flora Longtail
Flora Longtail
3 months ago

These Fish Ain’t Right
by Flora Longtail

Like always, Maurice had meandered down the swerving path through Nereid Bay, between dilapidated, slowly crumbling buildings. Past Albert’s house, now left abandoned by his children and grandchildren alike. Beyond Doreen’s old cottage, the door slowly releasing from its hinges. All the way down to the bay where The Lady Catherine lay moored, he walks with slow, measured steps. With trembling, wrinkled hands, he’d unmoored her from the dock, hoisted the sails, and drifted off far, far into the waters, beyond the mouth of the bay.

Together, they’d sailed this route many a time for well over forty years, a ritual he’d started back when the fish were plentiful, and Nereid Bay had been a thriving town. For years, though, the waters had little to offer but seaweed and small fry, not worth eating, let alone selling. Slowly, the town’d collapsed in on itself, physically and metaphorically…

And yet, Maurice’d never stopped heading out here, never stopped fishing these desolate waters. And lately, his hauls had been much better, with the largest fish he’d managed to catch in years landing right in his nets. And yet, none of those fish are quite… Right. Strangely limb-shaped appendages, a third eye that vanishes when you look away. Hell, one could swear some of these creatures had an otherworldly intelligence sometimes, with the way they’d seem to stare right through you.

By now, though, the sun is setting, and Maurice steers his Lady back into the docks, where the fishmonger, Ismene, is already waiting for him.

“What’s the catch?”

Maurice sighs. Now there’s a question he really should’ve asked when he accepted the bargain, months ago…

Last edited 3 months ago by Flora Longtail
The Assassin
The Assassin
3 months ago

Deals
By TheAssassin

Deals.
I’ve signed many with many men.
Few remain.
There is always a catch, always a sliver of fine print declaring their downfall, and yet, they sign all the same.
That’s what desperation does to a soul, drives them to do things they would otherwise consider mad.
But what is madness anyway?
They knew the terms; they read the contract, and in their minds, they considered the risk worthwhile. No, it’s not madness that holds the pen to their damnation, it’s their humanity.
Interesting, isn’t it?
Humanity.
It’s the very thing that keeps them distinct from the animals, keeps them civil, and makes them refrain from savagery, yet it is this very humanity that drives them to commit these desperate acts of madness.
Only the human signs deals, makes treaties and barters for themselves.
It’s their hope, you see.
Hope.
That’s all a gamble really is, anyway.
They hope they’ll emerge richer; they hope they’ll emerge stronger; they hope they’ll save the ones they love.
They hope I’ll have mercy…
Hope.
But that’s the catch, isn’t it?
Mercy for them might be commonplace, even expected, but for one such as I?
No.
Mercy is for the weak. For fools who hope.
They came to Me on their knees, begging for what they wish.
They came to ME!
In their desperate fervor to achieve their goals they placed their hope and their trust with the One who they would otherwise fear.
When I come to them, they cower in the dark places, hoping I don’t see them, hoping I don’t find them.
But I always do.
And when they come to me?
When they come to me, there is no mercy, no manner of sweet words for them to soothe my wrath, no manner of desperation that will quell my hatred.
There is only death.
And so, I make a deal.
And they sign. Hoping I will have mercy.
But I never do.
And I never will.
After all, what else would you expect when you make a deal with the Devil?

Last edited 3 months ago by The Assassin
Southern Today Gone Tomorrow

Graveyard Shift
By Sandeen (SouthernWolf)

“So, you’re saying, I just have to watch over her?” The man, after just experiencing his own death then finding out that he wasn’t going to be moving on, was a bit disappointed in this new development.

“Yes.” The boy said, glancing at his watch. “So you’ll do it?”

“Yeah, sure. I mean, what’s my other choice? Drift through the world yelling ‘boo’ at strangers? But, what does “watch over” even mean?”

The two made an interesting scene, in the middle of the forest. A clean-shaven boy with short hair fidgeting, and a tall, wide, shaggy man rubbing at the growth on his face.

The boy cocked his head to the side, “It means, you watch over her.”

“Thanks, Sherlock. So, I just stand there all day, staring at her?” His voice rose with his frustration. He’d already said yes, it wasn’t like he could back out now.

“That’s one way to go about it. And, you know, trying to make sure nothing kills or maims her.” He had a place he’d been waiting ages to get to, and this man was too dense for his tastes. His charge had been quick-witted and he had made a game of seeing who could solve her questions first.

God, he was going to miss her. Too bad he wanted to move on more.

“So, what, I get to be a poltergeist and move things around?” The man pantomimed knocking something over.

“Basically, until you fulfill your contract.” The boy then turned tail and ran. He was getting close to telling him too much, then he’d be stuck with a different charge. Again.

“Wait!” The man bellowed, “you didn’t say anything about fulfilling the contract! Is that why I’m here!” Damn it. Why didn’t he get a book of instructions, instead of some punk kid? He switched from scrubbing at his beard to his eyes.

When his hands moved away, he wasn’t standing in a forest anymore. He was staring at a woman singing, badly, some pop song at the top of her lungs while cooking.

Last edited 3 months ago by Southern Today Gone Tomorrow
Lunabear
Lunabear
3 months ago

Most Precious Memory
by Lunabear

Apprehension swirled through Jeremy’s chest. He had been certain that he’d wanted this before his ascension up the stairs.

Simply reliving the treasured memory didn’t have the same impact of being present in person. He hoped this would help.

He and the owner of this ‘establishment’, Herr Böhm, stopped at a door at the top of the poorly lit stairway.

A cat’s meow startled Jeremy as Bröm opened the door.

“I didn’t know you had a cat,” Jeremy remarked nervously.

“We do not.” Böhm eyed him critically in the sparse lighting. “Curious…” He jotted down some notes on his clipboard.

They crossed the threshold, and Jeremy nearly tripped over himself as an orange tabby crossed his path.

“What?” Böhm questioned.

“I-I thought I saw a cat.” His eyes darted around the room in the hopes of seeing it again. They alighted with intrigue when falling on four colored archways.

Böhm scribbled more notes.

“Over the phone, you mentioned ‘sensitive’ details.”

“Leaves: To forget
Mountain: To remember
Water: To retain
Star: To fabricate
Should you choose to continue, the results are permanent.”

Jeremy approached the water passageway, touching the cool stone of the structure.

“What’s the catch?” Jeremy asked, still facing the archway.

“Hold the memory in the forefront of your mind before entering. Doing this is advisable to avoid mix-ups. You must relive the memory entirely for it to be effective. If you do not, the process could backfire.”

“Trust me, it’s all I ever think about.” Jeremy closed his eyes on a sigh. “I’m ready.”

The memory rushed forward, as though it conjured itself. Jeremy whimpered. He always did.

The entrance’s void pulsed a vibrant blue.

Another meow sounded after he passed through the veil.

The animal’s incessant racket from outside was distracting. He would deal with it afterwards.

Adrenaline pumped through his veins as he raised the knife.

Except…

It was fear, not excitement, driving him. This…wasn’t right.

He was now the victim on the floor, struggling against the hand around his throat.

He noticed with dismay that the portal had closed.

Last edited 3 months ago by Lunabear
King_Nix
King_Nix
3 months ago

“Letter of Marque”
By King_Nix

Henry Smith had heard the rumors. A new nation in Europe, a kingdom, had risen as the world order broke down. Some of the ships he’d seized in the last few months claimed to be protected by ‘the Great Monarch,’ the title this warlord seemed to go by. Didn’t save them, and he was more concerned with the easy pickings in America. Now, chased Eastward by unified American fleets and encroaching Spaniards, Henry had gotten his first taste of the fledgling kingdom’s hospitality; an entire armada of Angevin ships had caught him as he entered French waters. Low on supplies, his handful of ships had no choice but to surrender.

So here he sat. In a small building at the port of Calais, he waited. It’d been roughly an hour, now, with no one other than a guard bringing him water to give him scarce moments of company. At last, the door opened, and in stepped a man. He was on the tall side, but not impressively so, and walked with a noticeable limp.

“Good evening, Captain Smith.” the man said, offering his hand. Henry stood and hesitantly shook it, getting a better look at the man’s face. A handsome fellow, much younger than himself, with one intense dark eye. The two sat across from one another.

“You know my name, then, boy.” Henry started. “Care to grace me with yer own?”

“Of course, captain, where are my manners?” the other replied. “I am Arthur Michael Constantine Plantagenet, King of Britain and France.” So matter-of-fact did he say it, that Henry’s eyes nearly jumped from his skull. THIS was ‘the Great Monarch?’ Entire nations, subdued by some one-eyed boy with a limp and a fancy coat?

“I had your pirates brought in to offer you a deal, captain. I want to provide you with supplies, plenty of friendly ports, and even place part of my own navy in your capable command.”

Henry hoped he had a straight face. “Do ya, then?” he asked. “And what’s in it for you?”

He wasn’t sure what to make of the young king’s grin.

Michael Case
Michael Case
3 months ago

Immortal for Soles
By Michael Case

“Just sign your name” Daemon said. This demon seemed pretty stupid, and I’m willing to bet that he was a loser too.

“What about the typos in the contract?” My friend Thomas asked.

“There are no typos, NOW SIGN!”

Thomas was incredibly happy to sign this contract. As soon as he did, the demon hobbled off to the vortex from which he came.

“What did you ask for?” I had asked.

Thomas went on to explain that he had offered up his soul to be made immortal. He had pointed out that the demon had written maid immortal and had listed his soles instead of soul then listed his signature as Daemon instead of demon.

Months later we were going to a costume party to celebrate our upcoming graduation from law school. The party was going to be a blast; we had all decided to dress up as French Maids just for the humor of it all. We should have known better, but at the time it just seemed like fun.

On our way to the party we saw a bad car accident. Thomas rushed to get the people out of the car. He died when the car exploded. He saved all the kids though. Thomas was a true hero to the end. I remember thinking that his contract with that demon must have been just a drunken hallucination.

A couple of weeks later I had to go help pack up Thomas’ stuff to send to his family. Thomas was a little weird from time to time, but none of his shoes had their inner soles, they were all missing. When I drove past the place where the accident happened, I saw a statue of a French maid. I stopped the car and read the plaque that was attached it. It read,

“The person who died here was a great hero to the Cross-Dressing Community.” The statue was titled “Immortalized Maid”

Across the dimensional divide, a demon named Daemon comfortably walked to his next contract applicant.

Last edited 3 months ago by Michael Case
Caitlin
Caitlin
3 months ago

“The Ersatz Catch”
by pyrope(discord)/moistteeth(twitch)
Been too long since I last did prose so I apologise in advance

After much heaving and toil, the Captain and I managed to drag the nets upon the ship. There was a single motionless but massive creature inside, it hit the deck with a heavy thud.

“So lass,” the Captain wiped his drooling mouth with his sleeve, “what d’ya reckon this is?”

Now I thought it looked a bit like a squid, it smelt like a squid, and we were out deep enough to catch a large bastard like that. But its body seemed bloated. Almost like someone had pumped it like a balloon and now it was just waiting, begging to be burst. The eyes bulged out of their sockets and stared out in anticipation. Rigid tentacles contorted into painful shapes. causing the thick oily skin to sag and clump together at the ends whilst what could only have been bones pushed up and up, childishly teasing to break the skin.

“A squid?” I finally answered.
“Wrong, it’s a meal!” the Captain grinned as he whipped out his knife and confidently strode over.

He then stabbed the damn thing. The skin tore apart like paper and oozed a black bile, beneath was a ghostly-white flesh. Immediately the stench of decay invaded my nostrils and I felt puke rise in the back of my throat. The Captain waved me over and, to my shock, he was still smiling.

“It’s a fresh one lass, enough to feed the village!” his eyes gleamed as he firmly grabbed my shoulder. I wanted to speak, to ask how he could think that this was edible, but the smell was too strong, too consuming, it was all I could do to not gag. And besides we were hungry.

As he began to skin and slice the creature, I stared into its eyes. They stared back.

The Man Himself
The Man Himself
3 months ago

Wise to Púcas.
By The Man Himself

“C’mon. Just hop straight on, we can go for a ride.”
The black horse trotted back and forth like it was displaying itself at a market. The only trappings it had were dark chains cast loosely over it and its eyes gave off a red glow that contrasted with the unnaturally deep black of its hair.
“Up and on, and we can get going. G’wan. Faster than any piebald you’ve taken around the field, I’ll tell you that for nothing.”

Con wasn’t sure if the creature thought it was being subtle. He wasn’t an idiot, there was obviously something afoot here. Once the fog descended, the beast had emerged from nowhere, eyes blazing and kicking up sparks on the soggy ground.

It passed within inches of his face.
“What’re you waiting for? What’s the worst that could happen?”
“I could die. I mean, that’s objectively the worst possible outcome, I think.”
The sourceless laughter echoed once again.
The horse continued to prance, trying to goad Con into hopping on its back.

“You’re missing out on one hell of an opportunity here, little man. There isn’t a horse in all of Ireland or anywhere else that could take you as far and fast as I.”

“So you admit you’re not a horse?”
“I didn’t say that”

“Look.” The monster disguised as a horse stopped doing its performative little back and forth and looked straight at Con.
“Free ride. I swear on whatever gods are popular, you won’t die.”
Con rubbed his chin. If it wanted to kill him it could’ve by now. It evidently was trying to trick him into something. “Broken bones? What about non-physical injuries? Will I come back and discover I’ve been gone for years?”
“You’re impossible.” With a howl, the fog lifted and the horse was gone.

Airëlyn
Airëlyn
3 months ago

“In The Halls of The Elven King”

By: Airëlyn Hooke

The great king Daimhín entered the chamber, trampling the petals of the roses welcoming him. A long feathered cape flowed behind him dragging against the floor and catching some of the rose petals along the trail, adding to its beauty. A tall horned helmet with branch-like antlers protruding from it and golden armor that were mounted on his shoulders and chest shimmered in the sunlight. However, he wore no shoes. His feet were completely bare.
When he sat down on his throne, the armor clanged like bells with his weight. He looked upon the lined suitors and sniffed.
Amalthean, the youngest one twitched. He could feel his eyes peeling at his skin. The other suitors whispered amongst themselves and occasionally pointed and snickered at him. He straightened himself up and regained his composure.
“You,” King Daimhín spoke, steely and baritone. He pointed to the first out of the four suitors. “Why are you laughing? Does my presence stir a comedic drive to you?”

The lone suitor just cackled, “You look like a woman!”

The King grinned softly, batting his eyelashes dramatically and crossing his legs.
“Come closer” he beckoned him in a lighter voice, crooking his finger.

With a confused expression, the suitor came closer and like a patient spider awaiting prey in a web, Daimhín slammed his heel into his chest, leaving a foot shaped dent in his armor. The loud bang made Amalthean catch his breath in his lungs. The force caused the suitor to fall back and gasp for air.
“Now that we’ve established what mockery will bring,” Daimhín announced. “You will require vigor, poise, and humility. May you not present these things, you will be punished accordingly. Understood?”
“My King, if I may ask,” murmured young Amalthean. “What are we to gain from our lessons?”

Daimhín turned to him, with a gentle smile, making him freeze. He placed his hand on his cheek, warmly gazing at him,” You will become strong soldiers and protect the people of this land. For they cannot defend themselves. When I die, you will be all that’s left of my legacy.”

Gregory Hess
Gregory Hess
3 months ago

“Caught” [Aleph Null Science Fiction]
By gregovin
The medium sized scout ship came into view. The Leif.

We’re right in front of them, but in disguise as a junk ship. All according to plan. The clients would love this! They always wanted more excitement in their lives.

My helmet speaker crackles.

“Clients: one human with low enhancement and full AI android. No additional occupants expected”
Uh. Why did it have to repeat this? I already know this info.
“Expected location: main bridge, holoprojection deactivated. Press-”
I press a button and skip through the rest.

Long ago, I learned you couldn’t skip through until precisely when it told you to press the button.

Who designed this thing? It’s so annoying.

My suit readies itself. Visual display confirms seal at above 99% effectiveness. Semi-stealth protocol is engaged. One last burst of acceleration and I’ll be on target.

The ship jolts a bit as an acceleration spike hits me. I hope they didn’t notice the exhaust flare. We’ve done everything we can to mask it, but there’s still a chance if they’re paying attention.

They don’t see us until we’re close enough that it is irrelevant.

Clank!

My headset crackles once more. “Preparing to board. Opening hull. Docking successful. Deploying safe sleeping gas”

I slowly walk aboard the ship and into the main room and stumble on two unconscious bodies. The android and the human. They look surprised. Ping. That must be my boss.

“Yes?” I ask.

They respond “Did you retrieve them?”

No, not quite finished yet. Breathe.
“Both clients. Distress beacon active on ship”

“Mission success.”

“Acknowledged”

I drag the two unconscious figures onto my ship using my suit to support the weight. They’re safely stowed in the back of the ship. Time to go back and drop them off at the destination and pick up my reward. I hoped they both enjoyed the adventure they bought, though they didn’t seem like the type to go for such things. Then again, I saw the receipt and no one seemed like the type. And the money was worth the hassle.

PitL
PitL
3 months ago

Sign Here, Please
By PitL (crosspost from private)

“Excuse me! Erm, hullo?” A voice called through the fog. “Is this Ritual Chamber no. 16? I’ve gotten myself all turned around – ”

Piercing green eyes appeared, slowly advancing through the mists. “Yessssssss?” It paused. “Are you missssster Kern?”

“Yup. Senior Inspector with the Department of Lesser Rituals, Hexes, and Spells.” Kern pulled a small notebook from his pocket. “You would be… the Dark Lord… Ashur – Eshoor – how do you say this?”

The Dark Lord scowled. “Esssshoorbeferoeaynevwllbme. I don’t know why people have sssso much trouble with it.”

Kern chuckled and quickly smothered it. “I’ll call you DL Esh. Seems less…” he paused. “Terrifying? Anyway, as you know, I’m from DLeRHeS. If I’m reading this correctly, you’re currently working on a ritual to summon the Dread God Ashkwenozotz to the mortal plane, correct?”

“That’ssss right.”

“And you wanted DLeRHeS to be here in order to legalize the ritual, so that your archenemy, “Average Underdog Protagonist”, won’t be able to intervene, correct?

“Yesssss. I’ve already ssssssubmitted form A16 partsss four through nine, as reqeusssted.” DL Esh loped closer. “To confirm, there’ssss no additional detailssss to cover? This is all highly time-sssenssssitive, and I don’t want to rissssk ssssstopping midway.”

“Correct.”

Esh twirled, waving his hands in arcane patterns. “Bring forth the firsssst ssssacrificial ssservant – ”

Kern gasped. “Erm, excuse me. Did you say servant?”

“What?” DL Esh turned. “Yesss.”

“Have you officially designated that servant as a sacrifice with the Satanic Labor Bureau? If we don’t cover our bases, the unions’ll be all over us, you know.” Kern pulled several papers from his bowler. “Sign here, and here, and here – ah, thank you. I’ll get those filed tomorrow morning. You’ll also need to fill out F67 part B sometime this week – ”

The cauldron let out an ethereal shriek, before exploding and covering the chamber in green sludge.

DL Esh gasped. “Noooo! We took too long! My evil plan – ”

“You’ll need to file a cauldron mishap. Sign here, and here in red ink (or blood, I suppose that works too) – “

Last edited 3 months ago by PitL
Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
3 months ago

The Forbidden Cookie Jar
by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)

Rebecca’s tummy rumbled as she finally returned home from work. It was getting pretty late in the evening and she had to skip lunch at work because of how busy it was.

She closed the front door behind her and called out. “Ollie! I’m home!”

No response.

‘Hmmmm he must be asleep still.’ she thought while instinctively heading towards the kitchen. ‘I guess I’ll have a small snack to hold me over while I wait for him to get up.’

When she arrived at the kitchen, it didn’t take her long to find it. A pristine jar labeled “Chocolate Chip Cookies.” Her favorite. Unfortunately it was also labeled with a sign that said

“DO NOT TAKE”

‘Hmm that’s pretty unambiguous.’ she thought disappointedly. ‘But, I’m sure Ollie won’t mind if I just take one.’ She quickly opened the jar and grabbed a cookie. Before long, it was gone, and a smile flashed upon Rebecca’s face.

Just then, Ollie walked in looking a bit zen. “Sorry I didn’t respond babe, I was meditat-” Ollie paused as he saw a smear of chocolate on Rebecca’s lips.

“Oh my god, you ate one of the cookies didn’t you?”

“Yes.” she said in a solemn tone. “I had to skip lunch at work, and I was hungry!”

“I get that, but those were meant to be an offering for Uthlec the many headed god of fire and despair!” Ollie retorted.

“I didn’t know!”

“There was a sign!”

“It just said to not take one!”

“Then why did you take one?!” Ollie took a few deep breaths. “I’m sorry, babe. It’s just that we’re going to be in a lot of trouble if we don’t find a replacement.”

“What’s the issue?” Rebecca asked. “I’m sure Uthlec won’t even notice it missing.”

“The number of cookies was precise. We need to give exactly one cookie to each head or fire and brimstone will rain!” He gave Rebecca a little hug and handed her the leftover cookie mix.

“Alright, let’s get to work. The offering is in an hour. And, yes, we can make extras.”

Last edited 3 months ago by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
Lari.B.Haven
Lari.B.Haven
3 months ago

Eldritch contracts are exactly like you imagined
By Larissa (Lari B Haven)

The High Priest lays down the ancient scrolls on the table.

Laura Ashens is walking back and forth in the dusty temple, needing to consult the possibility of the Ancients breaching the contract at the last minute.

“Did anybody clean this place? It’s a mess, for heaven’s sake!”

“Here is the scroll of the original deal signed a hundred and eight years ago.” says the priest, coughing and reciting. “As the law keeper between the world I…”

“Read the damn thing, you moron! I don’t pay you to be ominous!”

“Mrs. Ashens, you barely pay me as a lawyer and priest!” He responds, rolling his eyes and putting the magnifying glass over the frail piece of paper. “Let me at least keep the solemnity…”

She had already failed to bring the Gatekeeper to her reality by botching the last sacrifice. Without him, she couldn’t wake the Eldest Ancient, and if he was not awoken, the warning they gave in 1957 would look like child’s play.

“Oh, here!” He points to the tiny red letters hidden in the end. “It says that another cataclysmic punishment will hit the city if the sacrifices fail, but you have wiggle room to fix it before the next contract renewal. You just need to perform another sacrifice in time for the awakening.”

“Well, that’s reasonable, four months from now…”

“But…” The High priest gives her a yellow smile.

“But what, High Priest?”

“It needs to be ten people from each of the contractor’s bloodline. You know the City’s founder families… Or else they will wipe Diemount and pass the invocation duties to another town.”

“FOR HELL’S MERCY!” Laura screams at the priest. “We don’t have ten people to sacrifice at hand! Birthing people takes time!”

She thought hard, biting her nails and walking back and forth.

“We need to find a loophole!” she says nervously.“We can’t just lose the whole city of Diemount for a technicality!”

“I suggest you kill those people and negotiate this clause next time, Mrs. Ashens.” He shrugged.

“If we have the next time.” She agrees.

Twangyflame0
Twangyflame0
3 months ago

A Lady and her Knight
By Twangyflame0

His arrival had come to Andromea as a great surprise. She certainly hadn’t expected to find a handsome young man asking to be put into her service. She was used to people running away after two weeks of being with her. She couldn’t blame them, but she was tired of having to catch them and erase their memories after they found out.

“So you wish to be my knight?” She asked after sipping some tea. She heard how certain lords in the north had entire orders of knights, and even some of her colleagues had some; however, it boggled her why anyone would want to be her champion.

“That is correct, my lady,” He beamed in his chair, “My name is Sir Percival.”

She smiled inwardly as she thought of a couple of pet names to give him. He seemed like a child on their first day away from home. Though she wondered how long his smile would last when he–

“Also I think working for a vampire would be quite interesting.”

She nearly choked on the tea she had been drinking. How? How had he been able to–

“I had worked for a few before,” He gave a nervous laugh and pulled on his collar, revealing a few bite marks along his neck, “but they didn’t end so well.”

What? How? Who is this person? For what reason was he here in the–

“I had heard how you showed much kindness to those you drink from. I honestly wish I had heard of you much sooner. Might have saved me a few scars.”

“Oh really?, I’m so happy my reputation proceeds me.” She said as she was internally screaming at herself in order to figure this person out, ‘Well I have to say I am quite impressed for what–”

“Oh!” Percival nearly made her spill her tea, “I have one request though.”

She gave a shy laugh, “Oh really? What’s the catch?”

“I would like to court you, my lady.”

If Andromea could blush, she would have done so furiously.

Mike Collins
3 months ago

An Actual Human Being (Copy from Private)

By Mike Collins

“What’s the Catch? Why is this taking so long? Nobody will give me an answer.”

The RIPS Robotic Informational Protocol System smiled its artificial smile, “Mister James, there’s no subterfuge, just a long sleep and a new life.”

Guy James stood, “Every day they tell me to be patient. I started this interview process over a hundred days ago. I’m dead broke with my landlord evicting me. I need to know; do I have the job or not?”

“Mister James, this is more than just a job.”

Guy frowned, “If you say it’s an adventure, I’ll tear out your servos.”

A new voice came from the machine, “Sir, don’t threaten the bot. It just shuts them down.”

Guy jumped, “Oh my God, you sound like an actual human being.”

“It’s an adventure.” The RIPS moved again, “You are being processed for trip 25 to Titan and a better life… All you have to do is finish the interview process.”

Guy said, “Bring back the human being.”

The RIPS said, “Sir, you are the human being.”

Guy angrily replied, “I want to speak with a real person.”

The RIPS stopped smiling, “Sir, failure to control one’s self in the interview process could cost you a spot.”

Guy spat out, “Being… I want to speak with a human being.”

The RIPS eyes turned red, “Mister James, at this time we here at the Titan Experimental Community LLC feel you don’t qualify for a position on trip 25. Please see psychological studies for more information… Have a nice day.”

Guy got up into the RIPS’ faceplate, “You people ruined my life! I lost everything to come here and interview my life away, and now I got nothing.”

RIPS’ eyes started to blink, “Security will escort you to the door… Sir, have a nice day.”

Between gritted teeth, Guy said, “They won’t be quick enough to save you.”

___

Date July 17, 2120. Day 156 of the 300-day journey to Titan.

Subject HB1114 Guy James

The subject is showing stress levels indicating rejection of the simulation.

Recommendation: Observe the subject and, if necessary, wake.

Last edited 3 months ago by Mike Collins
MysteryElement
MysteryElement
3 months ago

What’s the Catch?
By MysteryElement

The market was buzzing with energy! So many stalls and vendors bustling in the dusty grey of twilight, the cool salty breeze coming in from the harbor, and glistening piles of freshly caught fish. I know not everyone enjoyed it; the pungent smell of the bay, the screaming birds that would never shut up, and the ever present wind. But I felt more at ease here than anywhere in the world.

“Good morning, Boss.”

“I told you not to call me that, missy.”

Boss was incredibly tall, his head clean shaven, and had the most straightforward way of speaking, in spite of the slight spasm that jerked his head to the side every so often. ‘What you get for doing a line of blowfish dust’ he had once said, though I am not sure if I had believed him. He taught me everything I know about cooking, from prep line to plating, and I respect him a great deal. Though I call him Boss mainly just to tease him.

“What’s the catch today?” I could not help the excitement in my voice, practically bouncing on my heels as I eye the coolers.

“It was a good day today. Plenty of flounder, some pikes, even had some of the boys in deep water to follow a swordfish. And…” he paused for dramatic effect, raising a foam cooler into view.

“Softshells?!” My voice squeaky from the strain of not shouting “What are they doing this far north?”

“No clue. We had set traps for some blues, and found these. They’ll fetch a nice price today. Though, for my favorite customer.” he grinned cheekily at me “I might give a special deal.”

I return his grin and make my purchase, selecting plenty of softshells and a variety of other fish before hefting the full cooler on my shoulder.

“Thanks Boss!” I turn before he can scold me again and take my prizes home, feeling quite lucky indeed.

Harbor market was the best.

T.E.
T.E.
3 months ago

Proposal for Reader
By T.E.

I’ll just call you Reader. Wanna know a secret? Come closer. You won’t regret it.

That’s better. I have a proposal for you, it’s a special one. What would you say if I told you there’s a place where there are no worries, no responsibilities? We’ll take care of all your little problems. All it takes is just one measly payment. But that’s no biggie, after all, you won’t need to worry about worldly belongings where you’re going. Just sign at the line below and our collectors will come by in a week or so.

______________________________

Great work Reader! I knew I could count on you! Now, moving on. Look inwards, think third eye, mental fortress, that kind of mumbo jumbo. I’ll meet you there.

Hey, you made it! Straight ahead you’ll find the headquarter. That’s where the eggheads are hard at work with your mental capacities, terribly boring place. Feel free to yawn. To the left – never mind, forget it. That’s a place I’d rather forget. We’re going right. You know, it’s called right for a reason.

Alright, here we are. I would describe it to you. But that kinda ruins it don’t you think? I’d rather let you decide. Anyway, this is where you’ll spend your time from now on. Great isn’t it? There’s a ton of features too. I’ll list a few here for you:

1. Limitless possibilities! Explore rich worlds, anything you can imagine really.
2. Bored? Well, stop being bored.
3. In pain? It’ll stop hurting if you just ignore it long enough.
4. And so much more!

So what do you say? Sound like a place you’d want to spend the rest of your meaningless existence? Thankfully it doesn’t matter what you think, you’ve already signed after all.

Now, I have other customers to serve. I wish you the best of luck with your existence. Imagination Incorporated sends its regards!

You’re still here? It’s finished. There’s nothing more for you Reader. You’re there already, go dream something up.

Fredrick Hoagland
Fredrick Hoagland
3 months ago

“The Contract”
By Fredrick Hoagland
“By signing this you can guarantee yourself comfort for the rest of your mortal life,” the grinning man stated as he slid the piece of paper towards Adam.
“And what of the life after that?”
“Well that depends on what you do with your newfound fortune,” the man of smiles replied while taking a glance outside the window of the top floor office.
“But why?”
“Why what?”
“For what reason would you give away your wealth,” Adam explained his suspicions rising.
“It was simply the ludicrous requirements left by my late master,” the man continued to beam as he gave his non-committal explanation.
“Well,” Adam replied as he rose from his chair, “I think I’ll pass.”
For a split second the grin flickered.
“But why?”
“Why what?”
“Why would you reject a chance at perpetual happiness?”
“Because I won’t be condemned on your part,” Adam responded as he stormed out of the room slamming the door behind him.
Left alone in the room the now non-smiling would be benefactor drew out a tape recorder from a drawer beneath the table and began recording another entry, “The results of candidate trial number One thousand and four are once again failure. I wonder, master, if you set the requirements to inherit your wealth as being completely trusting you knew no one would fulfill the requirements.”
Calmly he pressed the button for the intercom sitting on the desk and solemnly commanded, “Send in the next candidate,” as a grin reemerged on his face.

Connor A.
Connor A.
3 months ago

“A Friend”
By Connor A.

“What’s the catch?”

Rider watched as the dragon— hailing his size from his Western half and some of his serpentine body from his Eastern half— read the paper Rider held out.

“The ‘catch,’” he said as he stretched, “is that you visit me every now and then and tell me what life is like.”

Rider tilted their head.

“What?”

Rider found a blank space on their piece of paper and scribbled down a question. They held it up for Damocles to read. “You want a friend?”

“No, friends are just assassins that act nice to you at first.”

Rider fought back the urge to pinch the nose they did not have and scribbled down a response. “Those aren’t friends. They’re just assholes.”

The dragon processed this new information. “That explains a lot.”

Seeing such a baffled look on the dragon’s face helped Rider to a decision. “It’s a deal.”

The dragon’s eyes beamed. “Excellent.” He slid the top half of a charm over the bottom half, then seemed to shift into a humanoid form. “I have to attend some of my personal work first, but I promise that by the end of the week, you’ll get the transfer you want.”

Rider nodded and turned to leave.

“Ah, but first…” There was the sound of shuffling from behind them, then they saw a book in their peripheral vision as Damocles continued, “Just in case you can’t write.”

Rider grabbed it and looked it over. A sign language book. They gave the dragon a thumbs up and walked out of the cave. They opened the book to start reading and saw a small business card for Damocles— presumably the dragon’s name. Flipping it over revealed a small note.

“Nice to meet you, friend! -D.”

Rider gave a breathy laugh and slid the card into one of their pockets. They knew right then that they made the right choice.

Last edited 3 months ago by Connor A.
Calliope Rannis
Calliope Rannis
3 months ago

A Mutually Beneficial Agreement (Corespace Universe)
By Calliope Rannis

With a blinding pulse of white light, they both materialised. The man immediately gasped for breath, clutching his forehead. The woman wasn’t impressed.

“Stop being so dramatic, Drey. You’re fine, just like I said.”

Drey shuddered. “Sure, WE are fine. We’re the ones on the other side of the teleport. But Arlay, our original selves were disintegrated…”

“Our original bodies. Our selves are right here, aren’t they?” Arlay sighed, and pulled him into the shadowed room, where a raised platform stood. On it, what they had come for was just…lying there. A Warptrace Jammer, needed to hide right under Intergalactic Law’s noses.

“Should we take i-” Drey said.

“No. Not so easily.” Arlay looked up. “What’s the price? Uh…my lord?”

And from the walls, boomed the metallic voice of the Void Lord of X-cluster 327. “The Price Is Simple. If You Take This Jammer, I Will Let You Teleport Back. But From That Moment On, You Belong To Me.”

“..What?”

“Your Body, Your Mind, Your Freedoms. Once You Teleport Away.”

“How will you…do that?”

“I Won’t ‘Do’ Anything. I Will Not Track Or Pursue Your Ship. You Can Fly It Wherever You Please.”

Arlay was bemused. “So you will own us – but you won’t do anything to follow us? Or expect us to return to you?”

“Precisely Said.”

Arlay smiled. “Well! I accept then!” She snatched the Jammer off the altar.

“I really don’t think this is a good ideaaa-” But she was already dragging Drey onwards.

Turning back, Arlay cheekily exclaimed “Beam us up-”

A flash of light.

“-Scotty!……?” Nothing had changed. They were still in the Starship. “Ummm, hello? You didn’t teleport us!” She said, fear creeping into her voice.

“Oh, But I Did. In Fact, I Detect Your Ship Leaving Already. It’s Almost Like You Two Didn’t Trust Me.” A grinding chuckle echoed in the depths. “I Did Not Lie. I Just Disabled The Teleporter’s Disintegration Protocol.”

“No…nonononono OH GOD NO-” Arlay clutched her forehead as Drey started to weep.

“This Way, You Get What You Want. And I, Get What I Want.”

Last edited 3 months ago by Calliope Rannis
Alex
Alex
3 months ago

His Last Will and Testament
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)

Edmund couldn’t help, but feel uneasy, as the strange woman passed the documents to him. He was surprised at how smoothly it had all gone; the takeover of the business, the murder of his bleeding-heart saint of a father and siblings, the practices, which small-minded people may call immoral. He had gotten away with all of it and not once had anyone investigated him. He liked to think it was because of his overwhelming cunning and ruthlessness, but his unease held.

Edmund’s hand hovered over the paper, torn about putting his name down. He had read this document and his father’s will over and over again, but he couldn’t find anything wrong with it. The only catch was that his father wanted him to take his place. And that wasn’t even much of a catch.

And yet…

This woman dressed in carmine, holding a briefcase, was like a conflagration; he couldn’t take his eyes off her.

“What was your name again?” he asked.

“Mrs. Armitage”, the woman said, smiling: “Your father’s notary.”

“He never mentioned you.”

“It never came up.”

“You still haven’t told me, what’s in there”, Edmund indicated the briefcase: “You said, it was part of my inheritance?”

“Indeed. Your entire family left you something very special.”

Alarm bells were ringing inside Edmund’s head. His family’s assets were already his, or about were about to be. What could they possibly have left him?

“I want to see it”, he demanded.

He expected Mrs. Armitage to argue, but she simply shrugged, placed the briefcase on the table and turned it towards him. His suspicion turned to anxiety. Before he could stop her, she opened the lid.

It was completely empty.

Edmund was about to protest, as the sound of footsteps and whispers cut him off. He’d thought they were alone.

“Time for you, to take your father’s place.”

The world went black.

Edmund awoke to darkness, his body held in place by wooden walls. It took him a while to realize that his was lying in a coffin, the whispering voices of his family drawing closer.

Last edited 3 months ago by Alex