Hello, givers and receivers alike.
What? Oh relax, it’s not like it’s going to explode… at least it shouldn’t. No, it doesn’t tick either. Why don’t you trust me? It’s just a gift. Pretty paper, little bow, what’s suspicious about that? I think you should open it up and see what’s inside, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
I Left You Something
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!
With the holidays upon us, this prompt brings one main thing to mind: gifts! But knowing the talent here like we do, we know the word “gift” can be twisted any which way.
Some of you could write about the sad side of this, like a father needing work on his child’s birthday, and leaving their gift on the table with a note. Perhaps it could be a long lost relative who has left a note and clues about their disappearance so many years ago. It could be about a parent who has passed on, and left something for their child or children to help them remember the happy days past. It could even be the loss of a pet who has left behind their toys, their collar, and their empty bed. Maybe that something that is left is simply loneliness and sorrow. Or maybe… that something is a warning.
You could write about a man finding a baby on his doorstep with a note from the mother, surprising him by telling him the baby is his. It could be some powerful artifact left to a simple assistant who is then tasked with completing their master’s work. Maybe what’s left for someone is a simple gift that brightens their day in a way they really needed, like a note in a locker or flowers at the front door.
One thing to remember is that not all gifts are wanted. Sometimes it’s a power given to someone who just wanted to live a normal life. Other times it’s a curse bestowed upon a person simply by poor circumstance. And sometimes, the something left is simply the dead mouse that your cat has decided to leave on your bed first thing in the morning because it thinks you can’t hunt on your own. Maybe the “something” isn’t even a thing at all, but a feeling. Maybe even just an interaction that left a bad taste in your mouth.
This prompt can be woven in so many intriguing ways, whether sad, mysterious, wholesome, or some weird amalgamation of the three, and maybe even more.
Now then, we’ll leave you to your devices and imagination. We look forward to what you do with them.
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 four stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and two 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!
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- English only.
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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
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Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
I have no idea how to leave an email for Tale Foundry, but I was ever wondering when their might be a Video that discusses the Horror surrounding Silent Hill and the Themes behind the Horror Video Game. That might for an interesting video
A Parting Gift
By the late writer (G.J. H.)
The door slid open with a soft hissing sound and Strafford slipped inside. Finally, there should be no more sensors and security here.
The room was strangely clean and tidy. It had an almost empty look to it. Not what you would expect from a crime-boss, but then again Cadaro was not just any crime boss. It had taken Strafford years to locate his hideout on Beta-Juno and now everything seemed to be almost too easy.
He walked up to the interface on the desk, turned it on and began searching the data.
“So you finally found my office.”, a sonorous voice said from behind him.
Strafford spun, he had drawn his magnetic revolver and found himself aiming at a large screen on the wall displaying Cadaros face. He lowered the gun. Was this real time, or a recording?
“I’m sure you realize that I let you find it. You’re good, Strafford. But never as good as you think you are. I have already left the station, but don’t be too disappointed. I have left a little gift for you.”
Cadaros face vanished and the screen displayed a countdown:
Strafford stared at the timer.
Too little time to escape.
Following an instinct, he threw himself to the floor behind the desk.
This was it, he was done for.
A loud barking laughter!
“I can almost see you there. You are cowering behind my desk, aren’t you? Five Seconds is just too short a time to get anywhere.”
Strafford stood up from behind the desk, looking Cadaros smiling face in disbelieve.
“You’ve been a pain Strafford. But I respect you too much to kill you without good reason. Beta-Juno is yours now, do with it as you please.
But don’t try to follow me.”
Thanks for the Mischief
“Well, this was certainly a journey,” I let out an exasperated sigh, crossing from the cold of Nifelheim back to the comfort of my front yard. My guest joined me a moment later, shaking snow off of his leather coat.
“I certainly say so,” Loki remarked, twirling a tiny red jewel in his hands while casually tossing a severed hand back into the portal before it closed.
“Was it really necessary to do that to Fenrir?” I dashed to the porch, practically leaping into my rocking chair. It felt like heaven after what I had been through.
“Of course, it was the only way to get what I needed without alerting Odin’s ravens.” Loki grinned as Sleipnir trotted to meet its mother.
“And the fistfight with Baldur? Was that all part of the plan as well?”
“No, I just wanted to see how far he’d throw you.”
I felt my back pop. The jerk.
“Soo, I guess that is it then? No more work shoes full of itching powder? No more ‘salmon surprises’ for dinner? No more having to explain to the homeowner’s association why the neighbors keep reporting a horse in the back yard?”
Loki sat in the chair next to me and rolled the jewel in his fingers.
“I suppose so. I mean, Sigyn can’t stay mad at me forever, and I hope this is a step in the right direction.”
We were silent for a while.
“Sounds like you’re gonna miss being here on midgard.” I remarked.
“Fine, be that way.”
Tomorrow morning, the rains came. By the afternoon, Loki and his pets were gone. On his couch, he left behind two things, a drinking horn and a letter. With a thought, the horn could create any liquid you wanted. Think of anything impossible and sewer water dripped out. The letter held one simple phrase:
You’re right, I am going to miss this place.
The letter burst into a cloud of sneezing powder moments later.
by Lunabear (Private Repost)
Four sharp raps jolted Cal from sleep. He nearly toppled backwards out of the chair but righted himself before he met the floor.
Rising groggily from the desk, he crossed to the door and pulled it open.
As usual, no one was there, but the customary food tray rested on the ground. He collected it and settled on the enormous bed.
While he was elated to see the blood samples he’d asked for, the cold thump at not seeing Sephrina grew louder each day. Ever since he’d agreed to help undo the curse on her sister, her visits had been reduced to dropping the tray off with the requested items and retrieving it.
There were also the different flowers she left him each time. He wasn’t complaining about those, though.
~Get a grip. You’re leaving once the curse is broken.~
He shook himself and turned the vials into and out of the light. He watched in amazement as the purple substance gleamed and dimmed. One contained a faint green tinge.
He took his spellbook and flipped the pages until he came across curses and hexes. According to Sephrina, Helatia’s transformation was slow, which would suggest low venom potency or low dosage. Cal cycled through his limited knowledge of dragons.
Either mountain or forest dragons administered the bite. He would need to talk with Helatia to confirm it, however. In the meantime, he had samples to study.
One drop from each vial was placed on a thin bit of glass. He then magnified a second piece of glass with an enlargement spell and overlaid the samples.
Formations in Helatia’s blood showed spiked crystalline shapes while Sephrina’s had a ribbed oval shape.
Cal scrubbed a hand down his face. The venom was intertwined with Helatia’s blood. A simple blood transfer wasn’t going to undo it.
He searched deeper. Swallowing hard, he realized that dark magic would also be required.
An unscheduled knock interrupted him. His heart raced as he opened the door.
Surprisingly, Helatia stood on the other side. Her green, red-tinged eyes appraised him coldly.
“I need a word, human.”
Family helps Family
Ahead of him Tyg saw a tunnel, lined with torches casting sharp flickering light on a tall figure with his back to him. He was almost skeletal in his build, and his skin was a pale blue grey.
Tyg cleared his throat, “Um, Hello?”
The figure turned, and Tyg found that he couldn’t make out the man’s face. There was an absence where his face should be. Tyg’s eyes couldn’t focus on any features.
The man considered him, “You’re quite an escape artist,” he said flaty. Tyg had a sinking feeling that he knew who this man was.
He spoke carefully, “What can I say? I’m light on my feet.”
“Good, that skill will serve you well soon.” The figure paused, “I have a theory, Rackartyg. You always do what it takes to survive. Correct?”
“Well, I prefer living to dying,” Tyg said dryly, checking his belt. None of his weapons were there. His pulse quickened, “What do you want?”
“We have a mark for you. Do this, and all is forgiven. We’ll stop hunting you.” He spoke like a predator studying its prey.
“I swore I’d never kill for you people again,” Tyg scoffed.
The man bristled, “You fail to recognise the severity of the situation.That tavern you stay at? If you don’t do this, it will burn. All your new ‘friends’ will die. Choose your battles wisely.”
Tyg grit his teeth, “What’s the mark?”
“We’ll give you instructions when the time is right.”
“Bullshit! Tell me who!”
“You’re in no position to demand information.” The figure said darkly.
“Good.” He dropped a small gold charm into Tyg’s hand. “This will give you the information you need when you need it.” There was a sickly smile in his words, “Welcome back.” This last echoed, and warped as if underwater.
And then Tyg woke with a start. For a moment he was relieved. Just a dream. But then he felt cold metal in his hand.
“How dare you show yourselves here again.”
Capricorn scowled at the two staggering towards him. Scrap paper fluttered wildly as a familiar rift closed behind them.
“Please Cap, we need help. This was the only place we could think of.” Gem spoke while holding up the larger man. His eyes seemed vacant, his injuries severe. Several moments passed in silence until two men appeared behind Capricorn with their weapons drawn.
“What should we do boss?” The man on his right asked him while holding the intruders in his sights. Capricorn spat in the space between him and the hurt travelers.
“Let’em in.” He turned and walked towards the back inside the camp.
Some time later within the camp, Capricorn was sitting in his tent staring at the handwritten letter, the writing almost faded. He heard someone cough at the entrance and saw Gem.
“You still have that huh?” A faint smile on her face as she softly spoke.
He got up, tossing it by her feet as her smile started to fade.
“Don’t think after all this time I just forgot Gem. I should have put a bullet in both of your heads the second you showed up here again.”
“But you didn’t Cap.” Gem paused after speaking and picked up the knot holding it close. “You let us in. Leo’s alive thanks to you.”
“How many are dead thanks to Leo huh? Thanks to you!? You both up and left when we needed you the most!” Capricorn exploded but didn’t care, he’d been holding this in for 15 years.
“Look around ya Gem! This is all we could save!” Capricorn threw open his tent’s cover to show the small camp of 200 survivors. Gem’s face stared back at him, the camp and then the ground, her face contorting into grief.
“We had, I mean we couldn’t have, I’m…I’m sorry Cap.” She hung her head in silence.
He brushed past her going back to his seat. “Once Leo can walk, get the hell out Gem. Go back to your timeline and never come back.”
A Well Intended Gift (also in private)
I would like to start by expressing my appreciation for your tremendous work in the maintenance of the premises. Everything has been kept clean and orderly, to my standards, and deemed satisfactory. You are greatly appreciated.
That being said, it pains me to inform you of a crucial shortcoming in your otherwise exemplary work. I am afraid there is very little variety in the food being prepared each day. I understand you do not eat at my table or share my meals, but I have grown rather weary of the monotony and wish for you to expand your knowledge in this area.
To that end, along with this note you will have found a fowl, a rather fine beast procured from my latest hunting trip. I expect it to be prepared for dinner tonight, and for this style of meal to be a trend in the following weeks.
Do not fret about how you shall obtain more of them. I have noticed your family’s lack of hunting experience, so I shall procure more birds on your behalf. Or, if you prefer, I am prepared to make you the magnanimous offer of teaching your offspring to hunt. It is never too late to learn and this skill will aid them later in life.
I hope my generosity has not overwhelmed you, and I look forward to the meal you shall prepare for me this evening.
Dutifully and Sincerely, Lord Regent Claude Felonious Wyskerus III
A.K.A. Mr. Whiskers
by Aidan Rameshead
Six screws undid the panel, letting him into the superheterodyne coaxulator, as arcs still lingered on the gaps. Pops always said “never work on live wires, especially the radios” but hey, that was years ago. He was better at this now, he’d be fine. Besides, not like there was a safety shutoff.
Dad never finished that… the relay computer was supposed to manage power for the facility, but he only bothered to make it kick up alerts when stuff broke. And every time it came up, of course, he’d say “I’ll get it later, c’mon, gotta switch that transformer.”
Speaking of, as he probed an arc shot off one to his screwdriver, thankfully grounding itself through the wire, not his heart.
“Gah dammit! What the-” he caught himself. Closed his eyes, counted down binary. Looked down, centered himself in his dusty work shirt, boots grey from salt outside, sun darkened arms, hands, fingers. He was alright. Inhale. Back to work.
Where was that fault, now? Times like these he wished he had the diagrams for this stuff still. That there were diagrams, that dad hadn’t kept it all in his head, but…
He looked over the charge gaps, counting the irridescent glass cans. He was what, 17 now? He could take care of this himself, he had the last few years. Still didn’t know what half it all did, or why, or what this was all even for. Why Dad built all this, all the way out in goddamn-
Breathe. Check the- “Hey, what’s that?”
Something light, poking out the corner of the hatch. Taped off to one side, barely there, but… Ancient tape crackled off, spreading adhesive dust, and the boy pulled out a little 3×5 card. Typewritten in terse, quick words. Familiar.
“Charge gaps finnicky, if reception stops try 7 or 10. Tap gently, stay grounded, and discharge. Stay grounded.”
This was… weird. Dad always kept his own notes. Remembered the problems in the machine himself, knew the mechanisms inside and out. Could rattle this stuff off top of his head like nothing. So… who was this for?
I Left You Something
Yancheng, China August 6, 1945, 8:05 a.m.
Looking out over the barbed wire, you might have thought I was in a trance. There was rust on the wire. It had begun to deteriorate, just like everything else in this wretched place. You could smell the coal burning in the factory and the dust. In this place, you could always smell the dust. You went to sleep with it in your nose and when you woke up… you could still smell it. This and the mold which had been growing on my uniform since Wake island almost four years ago.
The sun was already up, but the Japanese officers must have wanted to sleep in because they hadn’t come to get us for the work parties. Lt. Williams grabbed my arm. “I left you something, kid. It’s under my mat in the barracks.”
“What the hell could you possibly have of any value in this hell hole?” I snapped.
“You talk to an officer that way, private?” Tears would have welled up in my eyes if I hadn’t been so dehydrated. “I’ve seen the future, Ed.”
He’d always been saying things like this. Even as far back as Wake. Even then, he knew when they were coming. He was better than the radar we didn’t have. But now I watched him close his eyes. And I knew… deep down somewhere in my gut… those eyes weren’t opening again. His chest shuttered violently one last time and was still.
I scuffed my feet back across the dry ground and made my way into our barracks. Under the lieutenant’s mat was a note. I have to give my gift to somebody kid… now it’s all yours. I sank to my knees. I sobbed like a baby, my body shaking. In my mind, I could see a great ship, an American naval vessel. On her deck were Japanese in black tails and top hats. They were signing a piece of paper.
Then through the window, I saw a bright light, like a second sunrise.
The Place we Built
By: Makeshift Mousepad
Ariadne put her weight on the desk to check under it when the corner she placed her hand on snapped clean off with a dray crunch. She jolted up, “…Sorry, Joseph.” She said with a nervous smile.
Joseph turned in the doorway, “Please, try to be gentle. The wood I made this cabin with has been extinct for one-hundred-forty-seven years. So, I can’t replace them.”
She huffed, “Well, it’s not like you couldn’t just recreate those trees whenever you want. Or just replace them with regular pine wood.” Ariadne argued.
He walked towards her. “Ariadne… I’m not mad,” Joseph smirked. “And you have a point.”
She sighed, “Jeez… Could you change your eye color back? It’s hard to read your emotions when it looks like you photoshopped the color out of your irises.”
“Don’t hurt my feelings; this was their natural color. Honestly, I’m surprised you prefer the glowing orange version.” Joseph rubbed his fingers on the break in the desk when he noticed something. “Hmm… There’s a hidden chamber just under the top.” With some force, Joseph removed a stone box from within.
“My guide in the labyrinth, you’ve lived up to your name, Ariadne.”
“Is that from her… Caroline?”
“Probably. I can smell peppermint oil; it’s great at keeping bugs away. This was being preserved for the long haul.” The lid sucked air past its lip as Joseph pulled it off. The humble contents were only a few cloths and a laminated photo. Joseph paused. With trembling hands, he gently grasped the photo and let the stone container drop to the ground. “…It’s been so many years since I saw her smile. Let alone while she was standing by my side.”
“Joseph. There’s something else.” Ariadne gently turned his hand to show the back of the photo. Written there, in his dear old friend’s handwriting, was only three words: “I forgive you.”
The Carved Wooden Box
The wooden box sat on the table, dust laying in the carved details. It was the only thing he had left behind, but she had never opened it. She had imagined many different things to be inside of it. A letter of explanation that would sooth her hurts; a family heirloom maybe; or a parting gift – a silly sentimental thing.
Her hand reached for the tarnished latch on the front. Her hand grew closer to the lid, moving slower as if the air was thicker, nearer to the mystery. Her fingers grazed the latch, she snatched her hand back as if she had been burned. No, she couldn’t trust him. The contents were something horrible. Opening it would release an evil spirit to make her life a misery. It contained a curse that would steal her health. It had to be some sort of written confession, a tainted family history, the knowledge of which would surely drive her mad.
The safest thing was to get rid of it. She snatched up the box, tucked it under her arm and marched towards the back door. Her shovel was in the garden, she would bury it in some unmarked spot so she couldn’t find it again even if she wanted to. She yanked the back door open, letting it bang against the wall. The fresh morning air washed over her face, like a soothing balm. She hesitated. She hadn’t heard or felt anything move when she had tipped the box, it was probably empty. He had probably left her a pretty decorative box as some sort of parting gift thinking it counted as an apology.
No it had to contain something, he would never do something as simple as just leave a gift. With a snarl that tore at her throat she turned and threw the box across the room at the far wall. She heard the wood crack as it struck. It clattered noisily to the floor spilling out its contents. She looked at the mess, sinking slowly to her knees, silent tears streaming down her face.
By Claire Aslesen (ThatWeirdFish)
The old elf rummaged through his knapsack, humming quietly to himself. The war had made it difficult for everyone, even the fey. Still, one can only do one’s best.
He pulled out a handful of sweets and placed them in the shoes waiting by the fireplace. He arranged hand-carved wooden toys on the mantle. Next came some paints that he placed carefully on the tray next to the easel in the corner, just the colors the painting needed.
Had he forgotten anyone? Oh, yes. The mother. He crept past the sleeping dog to the spinning wheel. It was old: handcrafted and passed down through the generations. With a wave of his hand, the faded painted flowers became vibrant again, and the rust vanished from the spindle and gears. He smiled at his handiwork and turned to leave.
A soft whine caught his attention. The dog was awake now. It looked up at him expectantly as its tail thumped limply on the dusty floor.
“Dear old boy, how could I forget you?” The elf chuckled and reached into his sack. It pulled out a small tube of ointment. “This will take care of those pesky fleas for a while.” He said as he applied the medicine to the dog’s back. “And this,” He reached into his sack again, “is for being such a good boy this year.” He pulled out a big rawhide bone and gave it to the happy dog. With several pats to the dog’s head, he left.
The next morning the small family awoke to find that, despite the war, Christmas had come. Children babbled excitedly over the sweets and toys. The father held his wife’s hand as she joyously wept over the restoration of her spinning wheel.
“Daddy! Look! Look what Santie left you!” One of the boys exclaimed as they pointed to the easel. There were the missing colors, silver tubes glinting in the morning light. The father’s eyes grew misty. Finally, he can finish the duke’s commission. And with that money, they can escape the war.
Teal box, lost one
It’d been three days since Suecia’s gone missing, and Leonel was freaking out.
The gruff teacher was revisiting some of his classroom’s assignments as well as his anxious mind could let him.
He knew his little brother had always been somewhat of a rascal; Always scurrying away without warning, sometimes for days or even weeks. He’d then returned, with less money in his pocket and an impish smile on his face, like a kid that got caught after running away to a party.
But this time, it felt different.
Gliding his red pen through a student’s essay, Leo couldn’t calm his buzzing mind enough to grade the paper with something as simple as a “you did well” note or an 8/10.
A bell rang in the distance.
Leonel scoffed ;It was midnight and he wasn’t mentally prepared to actually receive someone at his house.
The bell rang again.
He rose up from his chair and started walking towards the door.; Perhaps it was his brother, the fool, finally returning from his latest errand?
Someone banged the door.
Perhaps his good for nothing sibling was outside?
Perhaps his worries were overexaggerated?
No one was at the door.
He sighed in disappointment.
Leonel looked around for signs of a visitor.
Perhaps he imagined the sounds?
Then, he looked down.
A tiny box, wrapped in teal and with a cardboard lid, was sitting right in front of his feet, on the broken pavement.
Very well then.
He brought the gift inside, even if he wasn’t expecting anything. At the moment he was too sleep deprived and confused to give it a thought.
He decided to leave it at the counter, only for it to slip and unceremoniously spill it’s contents on the floor.
There was a bloodstained letter.
There was a bloody hand.
On the floor.
Chronicles of The Dragon: My Happy Ending
Berri scrambled up the side of the building, taking it two stories at a time, carrying a bag of groceries in one hand. She reached the top of the building and ran across the rooftops, then leapt across the street to the next block.
She paused for a moment to look back. Once upon a time, she’d never dare to try a jump like that unless her life or liberty depended on it. Now, she felt comfortable doing it for something as basic as a grocery run. She still couldn’t compare to the mountain of his strength, but she was literally leaps and bounds beyond where she’d been when they met.
She easily ran the next couple of blocks to their apartment building, then slipped down from the roof and in through the window.
“Joooooohn!” she called, “Are you here?” Her ears twitched as she pulled her cap off and tossed it on the couch. She ran her fingers through her hair and scratched her ears. It was strange to her that she once kept that hat on at all costs, but now it was the first thing to come off when she was home.
There was no response, which wasn’t a surprise. She just moved on to put the food away, taking her jacket off then setting the bag down. Her tail swept back and forth, now that it was free, as she fished around for the one thing needing refrigeration. She turned, and that’s when she saw the note.
She plucked it from the door as she started to read, then dropped the bottle.
“I can’t stay any longer. I’ll have to leave until things cool down and people forget about me. The keys are taped to the fridge, if you didn’t see them. Rent is paid for the next three months. Everything in the apartment is yours now. Do with it as you wish.
“I’ll make sure I’m easy to find the next time I’m in the city, if you want to tell me how much you’ve missed me. Or kick me in the face.
“The Gift and the Echo”
I ignore the muttering bodiless voice, and concentrate, causing the room to take on a pale glow that seemed to come from nowhere in particular.
“I can see one of them!” I shout upon seeing a creature that looks like a softly glowing white dog with its hindquarters dissipating to smoke behind it.
“Good, good!” cries the elderly Master Nariyon.
The dog-like spirit stares at me, apparently just realizing I can see it. It sneezes once, then begins to smoke, and within moments boils away. I back away from the sight, but Master Nariyon gently puts his thin boney hand on my shoulder. “It’s all right. I know the first experience seeing into the Otherside can be disturbing, but don’t abandon your gifts! Many people can’t see into the Otherside even with years of training, but you’ve done so within days. I don’t take on many apprentices, but I could see very quickly you had an unusual potential in you.”
I smile, happy yet still unsettled. I look around and see other spirits about the room. Another creature, a worm like thing with a single human eye, swims through the air whimpering softly. There in a darkened corner of the room, sits a hairless man with dead white skin, sitting with his knees drawn up to his chest. He is muttering to himself over and over and stares blindly ahead. It dawns on me; he is the muttering voice I’d been hearing since I entered the room. A dead man lost into himself saying nothing.
I marvel at it all, until I look back at Master Nariyon. A dark shadowy thing towers over his frail bent form. “You see it now, don’t you,” said Master Nariyon suddenly serious. I nod silently. Nariyon smiled softly, “It is an echo of my coming death, like the future it waits for me, but necromancers like you and I, young one, we have the gifts that will keep death waiting forever.”
Re: Re: Disturbing Research
To: tkiltton at oneironcorp.net
Re: Disturbing Research
Thanks for sending this to me Tommy, but the information cannot be released right now, as the masses are prone to panic if any of this were to get out. Perhaps we can do something when the initial scare dies down, but until then I’ll hold onto it and slip it to the director for you later. I’m sure he’ll know what to do with it. The next time you discover something important that you want to tell me about, you should send it to my secured email. We don’t need any more information about this thing leaked after all. You remember how furious the director was last time! I’ll give you my access password tomorrow morning. I know you’ll do the right thing.
To: afredrickson at oneironcorp.net
Subject: Disturbing Research
I’ve been studying the effects of caffeine on the infected as you suggested, and I discovered something that you may want to send higher up. I still don’t have the proper clearance to do it myself, so I figured it would be safe with you. I left a hard copy of the research documents in your mailbox if you feel like looking over the boring details, but to summarize: Caffeine is a way to treat the disease, as we expected. The issue is that once the drug wears off, the disease worsens. Many subjects still have cravings even after days of refraining from any form of caffeine. They’ve even said that they’re seeing strange things in the corners of their vision. Some of our older patients have told me that their nightmares have worsened, making them afraid to sleep until they’ve had a cup of coffee or tea. There are also a select few that have begun hallucinating and my team has had to move them into a more secure location for their own safety. I think we should advise the public to pay strict attention to their caffeine intake if we wanna beat this thing.
For You, the Living
By RVMPLSTLSKN (repost from private)
Padas stood in the seawater, ankle-deep and foaming coldly. His hands stung, but he’d learnt to ignore the sensation years ago. Still, he was careful as he collected clams. He kept his gaze on the horizon.
It had been months since The Deep One ascended, but the whelming wave had ruined mudbrick houses, stone piers and wooden seawalls alike. The sea acted strangely ever since, riptides and whirlpools replaced the tidal habits. The fear had receded as the months dragged on, so Padas was more careful than afraid. Still, fear is difficult to unlearn.
The clams were the only meat in season.
He felt one crunch underfoot. His numbed foot warmed with pain. He glanced to the horizon before putting the broken clam in his bag. You never knew what blood might attract. He saw a pearl in the shattered remains. Juru Dovana, he muttered; seagod or seas’ gift.
As the pearl touched his skin, he felt the impression of divine presence, numbed and faint, like the sensations of his fingers.
-These are for you, the Living.
Padas blinked as the pearl vanished. He looked again at the horizon. It was flat, grey and cold. He decided he’d had enough of clamming. He needed to cook them still and Vienas wasn’t much good with fire tending anymore.
Her blindness limited them to her former god’s temple. Padas, a simple fisherman still, had nowhere else to offer her home. The temples were warmer and stronger than his old mudbrick house. He never ceased to be amazed at the speed of decrepitude upon empty homes. The city looked like ruins, even now. Not even a ghost had been left by the Deep One.
He liked her. She fed herself. Always. It was a strange thing to like about someone. She was smarter. Weakened, but still strong. Each should’ve been unsettled by the other. They weren’t.
That night every clam yielded a pearl. Padas tried to collect them. They only vanished when touched by skin.
-These are for you, the Living.
Vienas bit one and smiled through her sudden tears as it vanished.
A box, simple, plain, darkish brown, nothing out of the ordinary, literally nothing, and yet there was still the feeling as if something wished the box opened, as if some cosmic force wanted nothing more than the box to be open. John twisted again the simple note that was on the side of the box, it read “I left something for you”, the style was somehow at the same time brutish, and incredibly complex, John never saw somebody write like that.
A awful sound of cracking spread through the small apartment, at first it was nothing, simply some wood cracked under weight in the next apartment. John remembered that no one lived above him, did the noise come from the box? He could swear the crack was actually that of a human bone. John rushed to the window, nobody lying in convulsions on the street, no crash, no nothing.
Then it must have been the box, John tried to reason with himself, it was after all a simple box made of cardboard, what kind of thing could even fit in it. Then John felt something wet on his foot, a drop of water, it was followed by a second one, and a third. John looked up, the box was leaking, of course, John at first reasoned he must have spilled something, no cup was in sight, maybe the vase broke, upon inspection no breaks.
The box itself was producing this watery substance, by the looks of things just a bit denser then the real thing. John backed away from the box, whatever there was, now that it has been soaked wet it must have been unusable, he should just get rid of it,.
Just as John was supposed to come to his senses, gurgling came, and the box opened itself up, John looked away, he didn’t want to gaze into the darkness of the box, and whatever was in it, he didn’t want to see the something. It called to him, John began to slowly turn his eyes upon the something, it was…. Beautiful.
Inside the Drawer (Darkspell Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
It was that time of year again; the days before the Passing, when the year of one god ended and the year of another began. It was a day hailed with celebration and joy, saying goodbye to the old and greeting the new. When people hung branches of conifers in their homes, exchanged gifts and said farewell to another year on the Evergreen Market, followed by a huge dinner among friends and family.
And even though Sparrow’s Evergreen Meal usually involved little more than a dish of duck and dumplings with her aging father, it was still her favorite time of year. She even made an effort to stay away from the temptation of alcohol for one evening. While everyone else indulged on spiced punch and eggnog, she locked away all her booze and devoted her entire time to her father.
But right now, she was sorely tempted to start drinking.
She’d seen her partner, Tim Kessel, rummage through the drawers of her desk. She knew exactly, what he’d been doing there. He was checking her drawers for alcohol. It was something he did regularly, ever since she’d started drinking on the job.
On some level, she knew Tim had every right to be suspicious, but it still felt like an invasion. In that moment, she’d snapped. Yes, she had a problem, but she knew how to mediate herself, at least at work. Didn’t he know that? What right did he have to just search her desk? Didn’t he trust her? She was a detective, for crying out loud. She’d screamed at him, had almost hit him, before he’d left for the Evergreen Market to meet with his rather large family.
Her hand brushed something bristly. She looked down and saw a pine branch tied to her drawer. That hadn’t been there before.
Curious, she opened the drawer and saw a CD cover. It was the new album of her favorite band. Underneath it was a note.
It read: To Sparrow. Merry Evergreen. Tim.
“You weren’t checking me for alcohol,” she whispered into the empty police station.
The Forget me… something or other
Everyone stood still. The people in the room had an accusative look on their faces. Standing there, I too, pondered where that smell was coming from. We all kind of knew what it was, but the question of who brought it into the house was the at hand. Who would lift their shoe up first?
Uncle John was the first one. “It’s not me. My shoe is clean enough to eat off of.” He proclaimed this while shoving the sole into my face.
Aunt Susie was the next to say it wasn’t her, but nobody saw her really check. She just looked at us all cock-eyed and spouted off something about her new rug being ruined and walked away.
I looked down and exhaled with relief as it wasn’t I that brought in the…
“What the hell is wrong with you!” My Grandmother shouted. Throwing a couch pillow at the dog that was clearly suffering from a bout of diarrhea. “You get the hell out of this house, you stupid dog!”
My stepfather had looked very weird at the dog. “whose dog is this?” He asked. Looking around at everyone. His eye’s settled on me.
“I don’t know. I don’t even remember him coming in the house.” I had just gotten those words out when the dog looked at us all and gave us all another spraying of it rear end.
“I didn’t come in with anyone.” The dog said.
“Wait! What!” my Grandmother said while throwing another pillow at the dog.
We all stood there shocked at this dog that was talking. This dog that was crapping all over the house at this point was also bitching at us.
My Grandmother threw another pillow at the dog. “Stop standing there and grab him. You all act like you’ve never seen a talking dog before.” She was pointing at the dog as it started to squat it’s rear end again. “Hurry up before it’s crap wipes your memories.”
The Package (The Damacles Continuity)
By Fredrick H. (challeng3r22)
It had been a few months since the disappearance of Mark’s father and the subsequent inheritance of the family company and manor.
As with any other day Mark was lazing about in the foyer without anything of importance to do, when a knock came at the door. Suspecting it to be a new tool set that he had ordered he found himself at a loss for words.
Before him stood a casket-shaped package with a note attached to its front side.
“Dear Mark,” it read. “I find it safe to assume that you are now at the helm of the company. As such you will soon be rapidly finding dust accumulating in extreme amounts and your energy lacking alongside it. I know you’d rather not deal with other people in and around the house, so I’ve found a solution. Inside this box is a machine I have designed. I have named it ‘Arianna’ and she will take care of home and person. You will have to tend to ‘her’ maintenance. Make me proud.”
With shaky hands he pried off the front of the box to reveal an angelic face cast in bronze. Gingerly, he stretched out his hand and brushed its cheek.
A clicking sound rang out as the machine sprung to life. Slowly the eyelids lifted to reveal a pair of orbs the shade of night.
“Are you Mark?” the Automaton inquired.
“Yes. Are you Arianna?” he replied with dry throat.
“That is the designation I was given by…” the machine suddenly paused.
“My father,” Mark completed for her.
“My apologies. It appears my memory discs have been tampered leaving only your name, my designation, a perfect floor map of the mansion, various cleaning techniques, and a wide variety of recipes to choose from.”
“Well, come on in then. I have a pile of dishes in need of cleaning.”
With his new maid hard at work Mark had to chuckle at the thought of the man who arrived late and inebriated to his graduation managed to create entirely new technology for him to live in antisocial comfort.
Candle in the Dark
Scuti grumbled as he walked along the main deck. He had dared to hope, but it took the station commander no time at all to crush it. Now he had to find another way. He had to get inside. The Archives weren’t just a library of records for an entire species, it was THE library of records. How often had he not dreamed of perusing the ancient knowledge of the First People? He was close, he knew it. The answer had to be somewhere in there. Some way to make sense of this blasted transmission that sent him halfway across the galaxy.
Tired, he sat down on one of the public benches he’d seen on his way in. He’d been in such a hurry to see the station commander he hadn’t stopped to take in the view. It was astounding. A space station the size of a metropolis floating in orbit of a red dwarf in an otherwise empty system. You could hardly tell from the inside with all of its buildings and greeneries. It had been given the name of Me’Fir, meaning ‘of the First People’. This station, and the Archives it holds, were found utterly abandoned and overgrown decades ago. That was why Scuti was here. Even if the Archives couldn’t tell him what was in the transmission, he knew they might still tell him who sent it. The transmission carried an identifier unique to the First People that was found nowhere else. The First People had disappeared millenia ago, but he hoped that this meant they were still out there somewhere and Scuti was determined to find them.
But for all his determination, the stout four-armed Tswo still needed another way into the Archives. Luckily, Bennir had had the foresight to prepare for the worst. Being the size of a metropolis, even this station had its underground. Rumor across the sector was that you could get anything for the right price, and that access to the Archives was the jackpot. This wasn’t going to be easy, but thanks to Bennir, at least he had the money.
By Pete Warosa
It was a lazy Sunday morning, and Victor was making coffee when he heard his doorbell ring. “Coming!” he called, hurrying to admit his guest. When he opened the door, though, whoever had knocked had left, leaving only a letter sitting atop a large package. “That’s odd”, he muttered. He picked up the box and placed it on the kitchen table. He opened the letter and began reading:
You win. The inheritance, our father’s estate, all of it is yours. Your vicious attempts to slander my good name and remove me from the will have proven effective, as my life is reduced to shambles and my reputation is forever spoiled. I have decided that fighting for our late father’s wealth is simply not worth it anymore. By the time you are reading this I will already be on my way to the airport. I am leaving my old life behind, and going to a place where nobody has ever heard of me, so I can start again.
The money is in the box. I hope you choke on it.
Victor placed the letter back on the table, tears streaming unheeded down his face. His heart had been consumed with the lust for his father’s riches, but now, with the fruits of his labor before him, he discovered that they were not worth what he had done to obtain them. He grabbed the box and sprinted out the door to his car. He forgot to turn off his coffee machine.
Freddie had not gotten much of a head start on his brother, so he had hardly entered the airport when Victor ran him down.
“Haven’t you done enough?”
“I wanted to apologize! Look, I even have the package!”
Freddie stared at Victor, surprised. “The inheritance! You really mean it, don’t you?”
Freddie smiled. “I’m glad, but I still have to leave. You did destroy my whole life with your rumors.”
“Fine, but can we at least part ways as friends?” Victor offered his hand.
Freddie took it. “Friends.”
Oh I Know You Know
The door exploded off its hinges from the force of Matt being hurled through it.
“YOU NAMED ME!” She roared, stepping through the wrecked doorway.
“I didn’t know it was such a big deal.” Matt grumbled, rising to his feet completely unfazed by the blow.
“I know.” She growled.
“It just made logical sense at the time. You didn’t have a name, so I suggested one.”
Matt blanked for a moment. He hadn’t known her for long, but in that time, he wasn’t even aware that she could GET angry. Much less to this extent.
“That’s because no one has ever done something to make me THIS angry!” She hissed, reminding him that she could hear his thoughts. “If you’d just let me finish, I would have told you the one who was supposed to name me was my husband!”
Matt made a face. “Um… about that… Lilith made it sound like we were kinda… married, now.”
“If only it were that simple.” She sighed. ”Marriages can end quite easily. You do realize that now a core part of my identity will always be tied to you? We will always have this… intimate connection.”
“Um… now I do?” Matt admitted, scratching his head.
“Besides.” She continued. “Seeing us as married is a moot point. You don’t like me that way.”
Matt’s eyes bulged as a danger signal started flashing in his mind like a siren. “Well…”
She let out another sigh. “I literally know what you’re thinking.”
Matt tried to find something. Anything. “I… think you’re really cute…”
“There’s just this whole thing with-“
“Sorry…” Matt sighed. “You don’t have to accept the name, you know. It was just a suggestion. You can wait until there’s someone you’d rather name you, if you want.”
She paused and stared into Matt’s eyes for a bit before looking away. “I… like it. The name, that is.”
Matt smiled and thought about what he was doing this time before offering his hand. “Hi Nora.”
Nora blushed profusely but accepted the gesture. “…hi…”
Late Night Beginnings (Knowledge Keeper)
By Connor A.
Newton’s eyes shot open at the sound of shuffling. He sat up in his bed and and looked around before pausing.
Wasn’t he just sleeping on the ground?
Panic settled in his gut. He made out the shape of a nightstand next to the bed and felt around for his glasses. As his fingers curled around them, he also felt paper sitting underneath them. Newton put his glasses on and picked up the note. Then embarrassment replaced his initial panic.
“Did I really think glasses would help me see in a dark room?” He muttered to himself.
The candle on the nightstand lit up. Newton scrambled away from it as best as he could without falling off of the bed. For a few minutes, he could not pull his eyes away from the candle. He had to force himself back to where he was before so he could read the note.
“Master Robinson,” the note began, “I humbly welcome you to the Robinson Estate. Whenever you wake, your presence is needed in the library. Good health.”
Newton stared at the letter. “I’ve seen too many horror movies to know where this is heading.” He placed it next to him and picked up his phone to check the time.
Two AM. On a school night.
“Maybe I can still sleep,” Newton reasoned with himself.
“Not a good idea,” a voice at the foot of the bed said, “I heard it can ruin your sleep cycle.”
“That’s a worry for la—” Newton’s hand hovered over his glasses. He looked up and saw a black cat staring back.
“Don’t scream,” the cat spoke again. “Trust me, not a good idea. Now, you really should get up. There’s important work to be done.”
As the cat hopped off, Newton asked, “What work?”
“Important work. The golem will explain.”
Newton slowly got out of bed in case he was dreaming.
“Don’t dally. It’s not a good look on your first day.” The cat walked out.
More confused than scared now, Newton hurried out of his room and followed the cat.
“Our maker’s Gift of Time.”
By Joe Kharms
Hello, my reader. I’ve left you something: A story. Not just any story, this story is like you and I…
The story is fast approaching. But first, let’s set the scene.
A woodland. Twisted leafless trees act as crooked fingers pointing to the grey heavens. A man stood beside a stream. His peculiar nose, with it’s bulbous shape and freckles resembled a pear sitting under his glasses. What sort of man stands in the middle of the woods in a full suit and tie accompanied with a sweet sweet bowler hat? A mad man.
The story is fast approaching us my dear reader. Are you ready?
But first, an advert break.
“We asked twenty people what they thought ham was made out of. All twenty of them said ‘Pork of course! Pork of course!’
But little did they know, most ham is actually: 20% plastic, 5% errymollachol, 2% arsenic, 27% seagull meat and the list goes on!
So here, at Ham United we make sure you can confidently say it’s actually:
“(Mostly) PORK OF COURSE! (Mostly) PORK OF COURSE!”
Are you comfortable? The story is fast approaching. The story of the man in the suit with the pear shaped nose. The story of what he did beside the stream under the grey sky surrounded by trees. That story, of which I just described is approaching… fast!.
The man took a deep breath. And shouted:
“This is the story!
La! La! Squably La!
Are you enjoying life yet?
Adverts and tension!
Pay slips and school!
Are you enjoying life yet?
Merry Merry, ho ho ho!
This is the story!
Fat monkey children!
Are you enjoying the story yet?
This is your life.”
After shouting this he did an amusing dance.
Ha! ha! ha!
An Inheritance of Wood and Amber (Mary’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
After four agonising years, Mary had finally returned.
Her mother’s now-abandoned hut had once been her entire world. She sometimes wished it had stayed that way. Maybe then, Mary would still be alive.
Her mother’s rough-hewn cabinet had mostly empty drawers, and a long-dead Magnolia on the top. However, one of the drawers hadn’t been touched… until Mary opened it.
The object inside looked like her mother’s Focus at first – the wreath-like talisman she used to focus her magic. But this one was different. The woven ring was not willow, but a darker wood – walnut, perhaps? More importantly, while her mother’s Focus held the tiny skull of a raven at the centre, this one held a chunk of amber, with something small deep inside it.
Almost without thinking, Mary picked up the strange Focus, and held it before her cloudy green eyes. There, the speck’s form became a tiny butterfly, trapped within the amber.
A butterfly… one of her favourite creatures. To see one now, within a new focus? This must be hers. Her very own Focus. Her mother must have made it for a coming of age that never came.
As she realised, light began to shine within the amber, and warmth flowed through her hands. A warmth not felt since waking up as a corpse two years ago. Her hair blew backwards as the wind started to swirl around, embracing her.
The light and the wind grew stronger, as the warmth spread through her arms and into her body, until every inch of Mary thrummed with energy, the Focus shining like a star.
Then, it was over. The light faded, the wind settled, the heat sank away into her body. But she still felt changed. The energy hadn’t left.
She looked up, catching sight of the wilted Magnolia once more. Delicately, she reached her hand out towards it, giving the stem a gentle touch.
As she did, warmth filled her fingers once more – and in seconds, the flower was alive, blossoming as if it had never known death.
For the first time in four long years, Mary smiled.