Hello, gamblers and dealmakers.
Don’t look at me that way. It’ll be fine, trust me. Nothing’s fun without a little risk involved, right? What’s the worst that could happen, anyway? It’s about time you took a chance, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
Skin in the Game
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!
Oh my, what a doozy this prompt is. Starting off the new year with the idea of taking high risks with deep stakes. You wonderful people never cease to amaze.
One could easily make this about gambling, about a man who’s risking all of his money to win a game, even though he knows he needs that money for bills and family affairs. It could be someone who has no choice but to play some game in order to win back their family, or freedom, or even their own life. Perhaps even a game of poker between two demons, trying to win a delicious soul that they so desperately covet.
This could be taken in the literal sense as well. To actually put skin, or some physical piece of oneself, into the game. A doctor doing crazy experiments and missing just one piece, deciding to take that piece from his own body. Maybe a group of friends decided to go cliff diving, knowing that if they don’t jump far enough out, they’ll hit those sharp, jagged rocks at the bottom. Perhaps it takes place in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, and one brave fighter distracts the horde to allow his group to escape. Or maybe it’s about an author, typing away over and over and over, but never quite getting the story right, and working away until their fingers are worn down to the bone.
As they say, there are so many ways to skin a cat… as well as many other things.
So take a chance and write something truly delicious.
Who knows? You might even be chosen. That’s worth the risk… isn’t it?
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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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
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Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
The Book Binder
By Preserves Roses
The waxed thread pulled slowly and evenly through the thin leather, pulling it tight around the cover of the tome. Ethan ran through the list in his head again to make sure no detail had been missed. The thread had been enchanted to prevent fraying; the clasp he had ready had been enchanted to keep the book locked; the needle had been enchanted to prevent it from tearing the hide as it went through.
He kept thinking about the details of the book’s creation; anything to keep him from thinking too carefully about the job he was doing. He was sitting on the floor in his Uncles work room in the middle of the magic circle they had created together on the floor. They had put months of research into the casting of that circle so that no prying eyes, magic or otherwise, could see what was going on in that circle.
Ethan tied a final knot in the thread to finish off the back cover and turned the book over slowly in his hands to start on the front cover. As he wrapped the skin around from the back the twisted serpentine tattoo stared up at him from the front cover. Ethan felt like it was trying to accuse him of something: like he had some how failed before he had started.
His Uncle had often told him that he had poured his blood, sweat and his tears into the creation of this book. Then, after he passed, his Uncle’s friends had insisted that Ethan must bind this book in his Uncle’s skin, so that he could protect its carefully collected secrets in his afterlife. That completing this task would complete his training and turn Ethan into the wizard his Uncle had believed he could be.
Ignoring the wetness on his cheeks, Ethan reached for the clasp to attach it to the book and finish his task. With cracks in his voice, he recited the final spell that would seal the book to only be readable to him.
“The Drayden vs Barthus Dispute and How It Ended”
“I demand my pound of flesh, mine by right of law!” declared the wizened old man named Drayden before the judge.
The gathered spectators glared at old man Drayden. They had known him around town for years, he was cantankerous even before he got old. Him getting old just made it worse. Now he was just trying their collective patience with his demands for an outrageous agreement Drayden had made with old man Barthus. There had been conflict between the two for years.
“The agreement says only a pound of flesh, it says nothing about any blood to be taken,” said judge Haden wryly only slightly humoring Drayden.
“Tarnation! You want to be a stickler for that sort of law, huh?!” cried Drayden, “Fine I can prove to you I can take my pound of flesh without any blood, and if I can do so without drawing a drop of blood, will you give me what is mine!”
“Listen Drayden,” the judge said as his patience grew even thinner, “I’m not about to let you take a knife to Barthus. Let this matter drop.”
“I shall perform this feat without laying a finger on dear, dear Barthus!” Drayden grew a thin bitter smile. With a motion so swift the bailiff had no time to stop him, Drayden simply snapped his fingers. Suddenly Barthus groaned, the sound of his gut gurgling was audible followed by a tremendous discharge of gas from his bowels. Suddenly, there sitting neatly on a pewter platter was a pale mass of ropey bloodless flesh.
Drayden’s eyes bulged from their sockets as his moment of glory over Barthus turned to horror and the gathered spectators transformed spectacularly into an enraged mob.
For the love of blood (Tales from Adfidem – Book of Boghos)
By Alan Baker
Boghos entered the gold-encrusted halls of his brother king Gohar III Bagrat. Opulence emanated from every corner and alcove. Gohar was sitting on his throne surrounded by his courtiers, servants and fellow revellers. Lavish dishes lined the tables and wine flowed freely as the musicians played a vigorous melody. The doors closed with a resounding boom behind Boghos and all eyes were suddenly upon him. Facing the king, he said: “My lord, o brother of mine, hearken unto my words. Abandon these feasts and frivolous amusements they eat away at our future and that of the kingdom.”
“Behold m-my little brother,” Gohar exclaimed. “Here to l-l-lecture us on h-how to run a kingdom again?”
“I will not relent until you reform your ways, beloved brother.”
“You bore me with your incessant whining Boghos. Have you nothing better to occupy yourself with?”
“By draining our coffers like this, you endanger the security of the kingdom, my lord. This cannot continue!”
“You challenge your liege?” Gohar answered, his eyes narrowing.
“My duty is to the people under your rule and to The Gate of Majesty. A responsibility you have forsaken.”
“So you, my brother, are against me.” He said standing and bringing his fist down onto the table. “I will not stand for this. I will not be insulted like this in my own palace!”
“You will bring ruin upon this land!”
Boghos turned and fled the halls of his brother. Escaping into the desert, he hid from the king’s men who hunted him day and night.
They weren’t lyin’.
Rokujyo, hordaslayer from Brasshill, in the…
Well, he cer’nly ain’t in the flesh.
Guess they weren’t lyin’ ‘bout that either eh? He’s one-a-those freaks.
Jermy met a cold gaze, as the nomad marched past him, clacking an unchanging rhythm on the floor. Rows of black teeth rattled with each step he took, one’s absence leaving a hole in his dark scowl: the stone sitting on the hammer of his trusty snaplock 6-rounder. The bartender cocked his eye at the rare sight.
“And what are ye havin’?” he snarled.
“Black powder, refined, if you please.”
A crackling resonance emanated from his mouth as he spoke. Though not as much as a breeze left his lipless cavity, he still insisted on flapping his jaw.
He’s got no DUNG business here…
Showin’ off his grill like it’s nothin’…
Like he’s got enough scratch to get by without ‘em.
Jermy inched closer from the corner of the saloon, clinching the handle on his belt. The brute behind the counter lowered his brow but didn’t attempt to dissuade him. He simply sighed and poured powder into the cup.
“Aight, here ye go. Now, pay up and scram!”
Rokujyo snitched the cup from the bartender’s mitt and tossed a copper piece on the table. He poured rigidly and chugged. His lower jaw slid sideways, emitting a burst of sparks. A sudden, subdued “BANG” echoed in the saloon. His eyes flickered, as if life itself had befallen him for a brief moment.
Them cowards the’are,
scared of that petrified lunatic,
claimin’ he’s got some reflexes unfit for the livin’.
Mechanical precision? Some snaildud, that is!
Jermy tightened his grip. He could taste it, the mountain of copper, his infamy, his freedom, all separating him from it, the pull of a trigger. Jermy dragged the hammer back, rotated the cylinder, and filled his lungs.
“You should’a sold those teeth-a-yer’s while ye had the chance, stoneface!”
In an instant, before Jermy could as much as flex his flint-thirsty claws, Rokujyo had spun around, his snaplock cocked, his flashpan primed.
Well ain’t that somethin’…
It was the best day of his life. Worst winter storm in a hundred years, but it was the best day of his life. Shawn sat, beaming, beside his young wife Stephanie. He could not believe what he had just witnessed. More than that, what he was part of. When he was born his dad was nowhere to be found. Pretty much the same for all his life. Dad was always out and his mom, Janey took care of everything. He could not wait to call her.
After making sure Stephanie was resting Shawn raced down the hallway to a common area just around the corner from the nursery. He frantically dialed the phone… straight to voicemail. “Mom, call me back as soon as you get this, big news”, was all he could blurt out in his excitement. Shawn rounded the corner and began to nervously pace the hall along the nursery viewing windows.
Another storm was looming just beyond the horizon. A storm that would turn his world upside down and leave him questioning everything he thought he knew.
Janey was the one who always swooped in to handle his affairs when he was heading into the weeds. She handled life’s problems like a maestro. She had raised Shawn and sister Sarah solo and had pretty good radar when it came to his goings-on. And it wasn’t because he was lazy. That is what he used to tell himself anyway, but that is exactly what it was. He never really worried about things because mom stepped in whenever he screwed things up.
He saw some movement in the nursery, they were rolling in the newest little arrival. Pink blanket, he got excited. Was this his little girl?
He positively glowed as they moved his new baby up to the window. His phone rang. It was Janey.
“Mom?” he asked
He looked through the nursery window at his newborn daughter as his soaring happiness crashed around him into a million shards of sadness.
He now had skin in the game.
An Arm and a Leg
It was a stupid bet, but I was on a roll. The dealer’s face was beet red, staring at me with a contorted face. His game was rigged. Most of the games at this casino were.
When I arrived, I exchanged five credits for one breath of air and that’s all I thought I’d bet with. Yet here I was, cleaning the house. People from all over the casino were cheering. All the attention was on me, and I was loving it.
The dealer moved more credits onto the table.
“9,000,” he snarled.
“I don’t have that much,” I said. “But I’ll join in.”
The dealer raised an eyebrow. He probably thought I would fold. I didn’t know the exact exchange, but 9,000 credits were worth more than a single breath.
“Consider it an IOU,” I said.
The crowd around me grew silent. I took one last look at my hand and laid the cards on the table.
I looked up. Something was wrong. The dealer was staring as if he couldn’t understand that I got a great hand once again. Then he started to smile. A horrible smile. He showed his hand, and the world beneath me disappeared.
“How much are you short?” the man at exchange counter asked.
He stopped, sat up, and stared more intently. “Really?” he asked.
“Can I just exchange cash instead?” I asked. It would hurt for a few months, but I had enough money for emergencies. And this was a big emergency.
“Money’s no good here,” the man said. “Can’t let many know we’re here.”
“Fine,” I groaned. “What can I exchange then?”
He sighed. “Well, a year of your life will cover it.”
“That’ll get you 10,000.”
“What about body parts?” I asked. “I can give up a finger or something.”
The man scoffed. “A finger isn’t going to cut it, buddy. I’ll give you 7,000 for both of your legs or 6,600 for one leg and your least dominant arm.”
I felt my mouth drop. Such a stupid bet.
Chronicles Of The Dragon: Enemy of My Friend
Lady Death’s strength was impressive. Despite summoning an army of skeleton and spirit soldiers, her defenses were still strong and she didn’t look tired at all. It was no surprise now that she’d been able to kill her mentor.
The young heroes on the other hand, weren’t doing so well.
The magical one, he didn’t know her name, spent the entire fight on defense; protecting her team from the less physical threats. He could see her shaking no matter how strong she tried to seem.
Saeti, the poor girl, the first one he’d met even, was only standing out of spite. None of her animal forms had been effective and she’d been reduced to hit and run tactics.
The Cajun boy, another name he didn’t get, they’d spent more time trading barbs than blows on the battlefield, but most of the swagger was gone now. His plasma blasts had wiped out whole swaths of foes, but couldn’t break through Lady Death’s shields.
Max was always getting in trouble during their fights, but this time he might die even if they won. He’d lost a lot of blood.
Bit, the pixie powerhouse and Scribe’s best friend, was flitting around Max doing her best to make sure nothing else happened to him.
David was helping with that, but his voice was giving out. He’d been great crowd control early in their assault, but now had to really pick and choose his moments.
If Scribe was here, things could have been very different. Lady Death may have taken her out of convenience, but brainwashing her was possibly the smartest move she made. It was good he’d gotten her out of there. If she’d stayed under her control, they’d all be dead by now.
Lady Death was looking incredibly smug as her forces had the heroes literally backed into the wall.
He flicked his cigarette away and vaulted the railing. A tsunami of flame swept her forces away as he landed.
Her smug look vanished. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Jonathan stretched his shoulders and neck, “Putting an end to your shit.”
Skin in the Game
The console lights on the of the Sunflower’s bridge all started blinking at once. “What is it, love?” I used my playful voice on him. The one I use to get his attention.
Tom gestured to the screen which rose from the console before us. There they were as plain as day. We come out here in the Sunflower to escape everyone, to be by ourselves, but people just won’t go away. “Pirates?” I ask.
“Looks that way, Elle. We’re not on a straight course and they keep adjusting their flight path to intercept us.”
I sat down in his lap and gazed into his eyes. I do so love those beautiful steely eyes. It’s the first thing I fell in love with. “What are we going to do?”
“We don’t have enough fuel, so we’re going for a tumble,” he smiled.
“Oh, I like the way you think,” I put my arms around him.
“We’ll get to that later,” he winked. “I have just enough propellant to put the ship in an endless roll. That will make it difficult for them to dock. Maybe we can convince them it’s not worth the trouble and they will leave us alone.” His expression sank. We both knew that was not likely to happen. Still, he set the thrusters in motion, and soon we were in an uncontrolled spin.
When they arrived there was the terrible sound of metal scraping against metal. The kind of sound that makes you want to rip your ears off. The ship shuddered. A wire support rack broke as the ship shook and pierced Tom through the chest. I ran up to him.
“No,” I shrieked. “Tom, TOM, it can’t end this way. I’ll always love you.”
His voice cracked. “It ended long ago. We don’t have any skin in the game anymore. This was just the final curtain call.”
He closed his eyes and I screamed. The two of us faded away. Our ghosts faded to ephemera as the hatch opened on the long-abandoned empty hull of the Sunflower.
Three figures in the moon’s glow
By Mango Gravy
“Where are we?”
“We are flesh and blood again. This means we are in the first circle.”
“Then it worked? The anchor finally set and we were wrenched free of the third.”
“What am I?”
“So it would seem, though not without repercussions. We are not all here, nor are we all there. Tell me, who are we?”
“Who am I?”
“My name? What is it? Esharr be damned, who am I!”
“Was it the soul anchor that wrought this, or the torture we endured in the third circle?”
“Must you play the scientist before we can even remember ourselves?”
“Yes, I was a scientist. I devised the anchor, in fact.”
“Then this is your failing!”
“You latched our souls to the moon, if I recall.”
“Yes, out of the Esharrs’ reach.”
“Then their wrath means nothing to us. They cannot threaten us with the third circle for we are eternally bound to the first.”
“The Esharr can’t hurt us.”
“We will hurt them!”
“I must! I will!”
“We might actually manage it.”
“With our souls outside their grasp, death is temporary.”
“Names. We will need names.”
“Ira!” yelled Ira. “There will be no mercy. No yielding.” His voice, gravel and fire.
“Fitting, I suppose. If that’s the route we take then I shall adopt Cogitos.” She placed a hand on her chin, graceful and thoughtful. “Yes, that will do nicely.”
“They will fear us!” seethed Ira. “They will weep before the end!”
“Libra seems to ring true for me,” said the third. He looked around. “I sense there will be more of us.”
“Then let us wait,” said Libra. “and plan.”
“We truly have all the time in the world,” said Cogitos. “As long as the moon glows.”
“They can take nothing from us. Not anymore.” Ira said, “We will take everything from them!”
Three names and more, baptized under the gentle moonlight. Three names and more, never to be remembered, never to be forgotten. Three names and more, always to be revered.
Maggie let three bullet fly from her rifle before most of the men in the wagons had thought to take their hands out of their trousers. In fairness, she wouldn’t be posted on this ledge above them, rifle jammed in her shoulder, if she hadn’t been expecting trouble.
Two outlaws fell from their horses, and hit the dust. Maggie heard the crack of their ribs, as the riderless horses beat a hasty retreat over them. The rest of the outlaws retreated out of her range. Maggie cursed. But she had no choice.
She stood from her hiding place and ran closer to them. Below her, the people in the wagons had picked up their jaws. Bullets spat out in the sunset’s glow. The riders flew from hiding place, split into two parties. Maggie put a bullet into one of their horses, before it occurred to her that the outlaws were missing at least three folks.
She raised her rifle, and scanned the rock again with the scope. It took a second, as she bit her lip hard, ignoring the shots below her.
There! Three men started to trot out of the shadows, hoping to use the confusion to run for reinforcements. Maggie took a deep breath, and aimed. She caught one in the chest, one in the head, and then she shot the last one’s horse.
The horse fell over with a scream, crushing the outlaw’s leg. He didn’t suffer long.
Maggie lay back down in the dust, not too quickly. She didn’t want bullets flying her way.
She breathed in the gunpower and blood on the still air, as she waited. One breath, into another. Faint, scared conversation started among the party below, as they took in their own dead, and scavenged what they could from the downed outlaws. She listened intently. Not a word about a strange woman, high above; just grateful folk happy to be alive.
She risked another look, scanning quickly through the crowd. There, she saw her son, gun in his lap, pale but alive, and breathed easy.
The City of Shadows
The dim, neon lights were all that lit up the inside of Linvil’s office with the occasional searchlight entering the wall of glass. The sound of the helicopters chopping past were all he could hear. Linvil stood hunched over his bar, the sound of ice shaking in his glass from his nerves. The whisky tasted empty as it touched his lips. How could they have made it to the fifty-ninth floor without being detected until now? Unless-
The sound of a gun battery loading came from behind Linvil.
“Don’t move. There’s no escape for you.” a voice said from behind you. It was calm but slightly echoed, like someone talking into a metal box. Despite the warning, Linvil slowly turned, shaking in his place.
“What do you want?” Linvil exclaimed, nervously. “Is it money? ’cause I can get you money.”
The voice chuckled. Before Linvil now stood a cloaked figure with a metal mask covering its owners face.
“Surely you’ve figured out what I’m here for by now?” The voice responded smugly, “Your shade.”
“I have… no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Cut the act Linvil. I’ve been watching you for a while. At first, I thought you were just lucky. Then I realised, no one could take control of a mega-corp like SevTec as quickly as you did.”
Linvil’s eyes widened. He wanted to argue his defence but couldn’t.
“Your term as a shade user is over. From this point on, no one will fall victim to your corrupt leadership. Though you deserve this, forgive me.”
The figure’s gun fired its shot.
Linvil stood motionlessly for a moment, then fell to his knees and then to the floor. A thick cloud of black smoke began to simmer off of his recently made corpse. A sulphur-like smell began to fill the room. The figure kneeled over Linvil’s body, submerging in the fumes. They removed the mask that covered their identity. Like a flame to oxygen, the smoke drove itself towards the face of the now unmasked killer.
“One down. Seven to go. Forgive me, Brother.”
The Trial of Restoration
By Fredrick H. (challeng3r22)
James stood in the middle of the standing stones he had erected in his backyard.
“The neighbors are going to think I’m crazy,” he muttered. “In the morning they’ll realize how right they are.”
He began to recite the incantation from the grimoire. Following that he drank from his chalice.
“That poison will either kill me in a week or slow the bleeding enough for me to complete the ritual,” he thought.
Taking deep breath, he plunged the dagger deep into his gut.
As he felt his body drop to the ground, he felt his soul soar to the skies. As he passed through cloud he crashed into a bog.
“You’re early,” a hooded figure commented.
“You expect me to wait to be taken like the rest of my family.”
“There is an order to the universe. I do not take. I merely retrieve.”
“Then I shall retrieve my family.”
“It is not that simple. I cannot return those who have come to me.”
“I wasn’t expecting you to anyway. Just show me where they are.”
“In order to see them you must die or earn the Power of Restoration.”
“And how do I earn this power?”
The figure began to turn and walk away. James was hot on their heels.
The landscape morphed into a desert. Soon they stood at the entrance of a cave.
“In there you shall face your trial. You can still return to your body if you wish.”
“I came this far. I’m not turning back now.”
“A few warnings. If you fail to complete the trial by the time your body bleeds out, you will be unable to claim this power. If you ‘die’ during this trial, you will face pure oblivion. You will have never existed. Are you sure you wish to precede?”
“If I fail I’ll have nothing. If I return it will be the same. My only hope is to win.”
By Aidan Ramesheod
A flame sputtered from the fallen tent, as the sun rose over the desert.
A small man, in flamboyant clothes from a distant land, stood checking himself for wounds. His companion hefted her musket, men’s robes flowing in the still-cold wind. A third and fourth, clothed more properly for the coming sun, stood apart nervously.
They stood by as the tent burned, and everything in it too. The poles, boxes, beds.
The foreigner collected himself and gently strode toward the camels nearby. “Gentlemen, you are on your own from here. Chagri, I think we should be going.”
She slung the gun, approaching another mount. “I agree. Forget about payment, brothers, the advance is enough. God help you with…” The tent burned further, still just a smolder despite the fuel. “This.”
One of the others came forward and grabbed the camel’s reins. “I’m sorry please, but we didn’t mean this, this was supposed-”
An Italian sabre silently lowered from above, resting just over his wrist. From the saddle Mauro spoke in his soft way. “Kind sir, let go. We are leaving. So unless…” He watched the tent burn, smoke rising in dawn.
The hand lowered wordlessly, letting go as the rider mounted. She steered slowly, plodding out into he desert sands toward the city. Her companion followed just after, not before one final glance at the tent, the plume of smoke.
The freelancers rode alongside each other with the sun casting long, warm shadows behind. Chagri was first, beside the wind, to break the silence in her casual way. “Don’t pay it any mind, Mauro. We’ll leave this business to them, now. It’s none of ours, God willing. Hopefully we find better work in Baghdad.”
“Right, right! I suppose we should simply just… forget all that, then?”
She lounged in the saddle “I’ve always found that worked best. What else can you do?”
He pulled the ruffle of his hat forward, a poor shade for the eyes. “I… suppose so. Not our problem. Not now, anyways.”
Smoke rose over the early desert sun, as a tent sputtered and cracked and popped, burning itself away.
A Simple Bet
“Well, well, well, look who it is.” The pirate captain smirked from her seat at the table. “Our very own bilge rat has come to play.”
Walt’s eyes were dark above his grin. “Seems a little early for a promotion, don’t you think?”
“Ha! You’re still a worthless son of a whore. Nothing can change that.” She dealt out the cards. “So, rat, what be your wager?”
Walt’s shackles clanked against their chains as he sat down at the table. “Your life against mine.”
The captain laughed. “This rat has some spine, boys!” Her eyes glinted like a demon’s. “Very well.” She drew her pearl-handled pistol and set it on the table between them. “Leave us,” she ordered the pirates guarding the door. “This won’t take long.”
Once they had left, she made the first play. “Why do you want to kill me, rat?”
“You know why.”
She laughed as she drew another card. “I’ve killed countless people for just as many reasons. You’ve got to be more specific than that.”
“It’s not vengeance-”
“Oh, I see how it is.” She scowled. “You detest seeing me in a man’s place.” Her dark frown didn’t leave when Walt shook his head. The next few turns passed in silence save for the rustling of cards.
“It’s nothing personal,” Walt said cooly after a long pause. He laid out the winning hand on the table before him. “It’s a duty.” He held up the king of diamonds.
“You little shit! I knew there was something off about you!” She lunged for the pistol. But Walt was faster.
“Any last words?” Walt smirked.
“Devil take you!” She spat.
“It’s too late for that.” He chuckled. “See you in hell.”
The two guards burst through the door to see their captain slumped over the bloodstained table. Shackles lay piled on the floor beneath an open window. They raised the alarm and roused the crew to search the ship.
The Red Widow was dead.
“One down, two to go,” Walt thought as he swam beneath the waves to shore. “Two more to freedom.”
A Night to be Remembered (Oneiron Universe)
By: Insania404 (Repost from Private)
“What do we do now?”
Lucas looked at his pawn and grinned. “We make them remember. We finally make them suffer! With these shadows, we will take by force what they have denied us! Don’t you see, Joseph? We can shatter these chains!”
The two led their army across the ruined city until the flashing red lights of a towering skyscraper could be seen in the distance. Even in the darkness the facility’s logo beamed brightly, practically outshining the moon itself.
Fear rattled in Joseph’s throat like gravel. “The Oneiron Corporation? Are you insane? The technology within those walls will kill me before we even see it!”
“I may be immortal, but I can be killed, Joseph!” Lucas snapped back. “They came along and cast us out of their utopia, claiming that we were unclean, Deprived, corrupt. They treat us like monsters, so we might as well play the part! If it takes savagery to get what we need to survive, so be it!”
While they journeyed, Joseph processed these words. “They denied my family entry when Lucy was pregnant. She became Deprived because of them and now I have to live, knowing how she killed our unborn child. My nightmares don’t even compare to that reality!”
Joseph turned to his friend. “We will make them pay for their actions tonight. They deserve nothing more than to be slaughtered in their own safe haven! If we are to die, then we will not die alone!”
A sinister grin crept across Lucas’s face. “Yes, my friend. Tonight they will fall at our feet, or we will be dashed on the rocks of our own failure. Either way, we will make them remember us!”
Lucas buried himself in his thoughts. “He’ll be perfect. I just need to ignite more passion in him and he’ll be an excellent puppet.”
The shadows marched toward their final destination, yellow eyes glowing like hundreds of fireflies. They would be remembered, either as victors or as stains on the parking lot of the corporation. That is, if they could even make it that far.
Overheard in the City
By RVMPLSTLSKN (Content warning: Second Person Body Horror)(repost from Private)
The city’s beating heart. You know the phrase. The beating heart.
I hate this, but rules are, well, rules. So I’ll talk to you while we do this. I’ll put you in your place and then remove the excess. Mine is the last voice you’ll ever hear.
The beating heart. An idiom, don’t you think? Maybe once a simple poetic phrase but now it has meaning. Like skinning a cat or a dancing ursine.
Don’t worry about the noise now. There’s a lot of people here, in the beating heart, with dry calluses like cobblestones underfoot. That beating heart again. Metaphorically, we’re there already, Soyl, but literally it’s beneath us. We’ll go in and down, down, down through the pulsing city foundations. You’ll finally start being useful to society. I have to talk to you, but I never promised to say anything kind.
That one, that eyeless lid, it’s our way in. You won’t hear me in there, I’ll have to hold my breath while we go, but I’m told you’ll feel like you’re breathing a breath of fresh air. Quite novel really. Try not to squirm too much. You wouldn’t want to get knocked loose. I’ve seen the city’s liver. Trust me, it’s nothing at all like the heart. You got lucky, I guess; better than you deserve.
Is that a quiver? Are you afraid? Do the eyes scare you? Is that why you lashed out against the city?
This is for your crimes. Your punishment. Honestly, I’d have thought you’d have been on a slide in the cultures. You’ve got the perfect disposition for a rather nasty infection or three. Can you imagine yourself covered in boils? Think of it as poetic justice, you needing someone to poke and prod you, to lance your bubbling flesh. After what you’ve done, that’s what you deserve.
But I’m just a valve expert. A plumber of flesh and welder of meat. A pearl diver freelancing to earn a little extra nutrition from the city. What do I know about justice?
Here we go, Soyl, try not to squirm too much.
@Shawna DeNyke, @anyone who can help
I was wondering if there’s a way to have a story removed. I’m planning on submitting a previous story I posted to a competition and had no way to contact the moderators aside from posting a comment here.
The prompt was “By the light of the Fire” and it was titled The Children of the Wolf.
If anyone knows how to get in contact with the moderators or how to go about deleting an old post, could you please let me know?
I don’t want to go (Darkspell Universe)
Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
Cynthia approached the dirty white tent with excitement mixed with trepidation. Ever since her violent death, she’d dreamed of returning to this earth in a body and escape the cold of the afterlife. As she floated closer, she could feel the almost creepy aura emanating from it. It reminded her of a deep forest at night.
“I wouldn’t do that.”
Cynthia whirled around, immediately recognizing the speaker.
“I have to, Felix,” she said. “I want my body back. Or at least a body.”
“They can’t help you.”
“Fae are powerful.”
“Fae are, as Max puts it, tiny butterfly monsters, who eat children. They can’t resurrect you anymore than I can. Even if you do beat their game, they’ll only con you.”
Cynthia felt anger bubble to the surface. It had taken her four agony-filled days to die and she had spent all the time afterwards utterly hollow. She was sick of watching the living embrace and kiss, while she could only remember.
“You don’t know what it’s like!” she shouted, as nearby rocks trembled. “I want… I want to feel again. I want to feel warmth, feel skin. I want to hug my parents, my brother, my friends. Make me feel again!”
“I can’t. I’m a reaper, not a gardener. I am a hand of death, not life.”
“Fine,” Cynthia threw up her hands. “I’ll be a ghost. I’ll just… float around the world, forever content to just… haunt. Because I’m done with emptiness. I’m just… done.”
“You don’t want that.”
“Trust me, I do.”
“Trust me, you don’t. There is nothing kind about loneliness. It’s agony, which never stops.”
Cynthia’s mouth began to quiver. Translucent tears ran down her cheeks.
“I didn’t ask to die.”
“Nobody does. You can come back with me, if you want. To the afterlife. There are souls who have dedicated themselves to help the deceased, ever since the reapers began to die. Maybe they can help you.”
Cynthia looked at Felix’s outstretched hand.
“I’ll never feel warm again, will I?”
“You won’t be alone.”
Cynthia turned to the tent.
“Alright. You win. Introduce me.”
By: Michael Word
Fear gripped the chest of William Leary as he stared wide eyed into the dark forest before him. A cold sweat covered his body and despite his best efforts, the 13 year old boy could feel his bladder releasing and a warmth spread over the front of his pants and down to his visibly shaking knees. The rope securing his leg to the wooden post beside him cut the circulation off to his foot, causing a pins and needles sensation that he barely noticed as his eyes scanned the woodline. He had lost The Game, young Billy, and when you lost The Game in the small town of Ellisburg you got brought to the woods and left to be taken.
The trouble had started almost immediately after the founding of the small, Pennsylvanian community. The water seemed to become poisonous and the soil barren almost overnight. Madness had swept through Ellisburg like a plague. It had all been the work of the thing in the woods, some kind of monster or demon or god of old whose presence permeated through the very bedrock of the town. At first the men had tried to kill the thing, hunting parties would enter the woods only to be found spit out days later, their bodies intact save for the fact that every inch of skin was missing from the cadavers. Eventually, the people had learned how to deal with the thing, how to satiate it. They townsfolk would hold a yearly game of chance, sometimes a lottery drawing, sometimes a coinflip, sometimes just a simple game of scissors, rock, paper. The loser would be brought to the woods and left as an offering, their skinless body being retrieved the next day to be put to rest in the town cemetery. Every member of the community was made to participate, even the children, and this year Billy had been the unlucky chosen.
Staring deeper into the woods, his lips trembling and tears welling at his eyes, William Leary watched as a shadowy figure emerged from the dark and advanced on him.
A Friendly Game of Chess
Mark sat down at the table, it looked like it was made from oak, like it grew that way, and the chessboard itself looked like it grew itself into the table. He faced the lipless, nose-less, eye-less, bone-white face draped in black cloth, its staff ending with a bell attached to it, Death adjusted its cloak, and covered its mouth, making itself look like a leper.
“Odd to see such a Grim Reaper”
Mark remarked about Death’s appearance
“I am new, I have arisen recently, the century shaped me like this, if you win, perhaps you’ll yet see the other ones”
Death retorted, without moving its mouth or shifting eyeholes.
“You guys usually carry a scythe”
Mark pointed out, he still remembered the previous Reaper’s, the only time he saw a Reaper without a scythe was in 1945 and 1918.
“Enough of pointless talk, you have slipped past our grasp for the past two centuries, you have died again, again you may play for your life”
Motionlessly Death moved a white piece two spaces forward.
It said. They battled on wits long and hard, but Mark was losing, he lost too many pieces, and with every piece, he lost more of himself, first fingers, then legs, arms, torso, and head, he has now left a brain and two eyes floating in the void, using whatever shreds of will and intelligence to move the last three pieces.
Death moved a Knight, beating the last of Bishops of the board, Mark felt as his left eye became ash, scattering on the windless hails of the void in-between.
Mark moved his Queen in a desperate last attempt, just next to the king, Mark felt he won, past death again, until world killed him once again. Death moved a Tower, Mark managed to witness as his Queen disappeared, and then so did his eye disappear, centuries of dodging death erased, for nothing, he was left alone, touchless, scentless, tasteless, deaf and blind, with only his thoughts, until that was taken away too
“Direct Involvement” (Sword Isles)
By Connor A.
A black staff stopped the sword from completing its swing. It made a sound that struck the soul instead of the ears.
The servant and Edward looked at who held the staff and saw a cloaked figure.
“It is not her time.” It was the closest thing to a void a voice could get. It was the voice of Death.
Despite the situation he was faced with, Edward’s smile grew wider. “Oh, lighten up. I thought this was your whole thing.” He waved the sword around. “Isn’t it why you’re here?”
The staff gently met the blade to stop it from swinging, which caused a shiver to shoot up Edward’s spine.
If Edward was getting nervous, he was not showing it as he moved into a proper position.
Then the two began to fight. Any time Edward tried to get close, his sword connected with the staff and let out a soul-wrenching noise that sent Edward reeling just long enough for Death to put enough distance between himself and Edward. Despite the opportunities to do so, Death did not try to hit him back.
Edward eventually lept onto the table and tried getting a hit from the air, but Death only dodged and stared.
“If you’re going to kill me, then do it!” Edward snapped. The jolt in Death’s stance made something click. “I still have time.” He looked at the servant, who was trying to escape into the kitchen, and pointed the sword at her. “Tell me, did that priest find out who’s gonna kill me?”
She fumbled with her dress pockets and threw a rolled-up piece of paper at him. Edward unfurled it and eyed the contents with disgustingly bright green eyes.
That was the last thing Edward said before he blacked out.
Death lowered his staff. He took the paper from Edward’s hand and saw a name alongside a location.
“Marcos Fernán. Gladia City.”
He ran out and avoided the guards coming in response to the commotion.
By C. M. Weller
The moon was high, the smoke in the longhouse was thick, and the game of knuckles and runes had been going on for longer than it should have. Women were not usually allowed, but this one had knocked out three bigger warriors during the earlier carouse, so nobody was arguing with her. They might start something again with the way she kept winning.
Horgar nudged Thane, “The woman has to be cheating,” he whispered.
“She doesn’t look like she’s cheating, how do YOU know?”
Horgar was careful to only murmur out of the side of his mouth, “Because I’M cheating and she’s still WINNING.”
She couldn’t have heard him, but this muscular hulk of a woman glared Horgar square in the eye and said, “Cheats end in curses.”
Horgar decided to bow out while he still had trinkets to wager, preferring to watch and drink the plentiful mead. That may have been why he survived that night. He watched the woman going after Bjorn Arctin like she wanted to own him. She won his gold, knives, sword, shield, and helm. He had little left but his clothes.
“What do you want from me, woman?” Bjorn demanded. “My body?”
“I want my bearskin back. You stole it while I was fishing.”
Bjorn went white and wet his pants out of pure fear. “Bearburra?”
“That is a HUMAN name, not mine,” she sneered. “I. Want. My. Skin.”
He handed it over, trembling like a newborn lamb.
“Where is my head? Where are my claws?”
“Targin Ursa has the head. Fyl and Rheyk of Halmyndgard have your claws.”
The woman slew everyone in that longhouse with Bjorn’s sword, and left Horgar with the curse of being a coward. Horgar would never forget the sight of her putting her skin back on, her transformation into a bear left incomplete.
She had three more thieves to kill, and anyone else who got in her way.
Will’s eyes narrowed. “Are you ready?”
“Knock yourself out.” Matt crossed his arms.
“Hmmmm.” Will pondered. “You’ve never had a job before.”
“Until all this craziness started, I’d been working since I was 13.” Matt scoffed. “Try again.”
“It wasn’t in retail. It was something where you didn’t have to deal with people.”
Matt chuckled. “Wrong again. My longest job WAS retail.”
“It wasn’t THAT small…”
“Actually…” Laila chimed in. “It… was pretty small. There’s a reason no one discovered us for ages…”
“Aha!” Will pumped his fist. “You worked retail but only with people who KNOW you! And that is why you still have faith in humanity. You’ve never experienced them before!”
“It wasn’t like that!” Matt growled. “It wasn’t like everybody liked me or anything. I had to deal with rudeness.”
“Dude, you’re like… the most powerful being on the planet.” Will laughed. “They were not treating you like a normal person.”
“No one knew that at the time!” Matt defended. “Even me!”
Laila let out a weird cough. “Actually… humans can feel magic. They just don’t understand it. You were always very… intimidating…”
“Whose side are you on?” Matt growled.
“I present article two of my argument!” Will began to point out everyone. “We have an angel, a goddess, a demon, two half demons and one human turned INTO a demon. Therefore, Daisy is the most human person in this room.”
“And I was a horrible person…” Daisy murmured.
“That was because of Alex!” Matt defended.
“No…” Daisy sighed. “I wasn’t a good person before I met him either…”
“Why?” Will asked.
“Because people suck and being a bitch is how I survived.”
“Because people suck!” Will repeated. “They’re only ‘good’ when it benefits themselves and even then, it’s a coin flip. Be honest. Most people judge each other based entirely on how convenient people are to their own existence. Human nature IS selfishness.”
“There are good people.” Matt said defiantly. “There will always be good people.”
“That’s true. But we’re not talking about them.” Will laughed. “We’re talking about the majority. Check and mate.”