Hello, Employers and Employees!
Are you crazy? What if you get caught? You know how the boss can be. You could be written up, or even fired on the spot. Look, do what you want but I’m not taking the fall with you, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
Not Safe For Work
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!
The first thing I must mention here is that while we all know what the prompt tends to mean in today’s vocabulary, please do follow the rules that are in place. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of ways to make this prompt work.
One way to handle this prompt is the subject of workplace safety, and how many people tend to disregard the rules and regulations set in place. You could write about that one coworker you have who is always dropping thumbtacks into the drawers willy-nilly rather than packing them back in their box. Perhaps you choose to write about someone with no regard for workplace safety regulations and decides he doesn’t need a hard hat on the construction site. Maybe a mechanic is too busy scrolling through his phone to notice that the tire he’s filling is beyond full. What about a witch who thinks she’s better than everyone else and doesn’t need her protective gear when mixing potions? Perhaps a werewolf has taken up security as a job, and has been told to cover someone for the night shift.
Of course, we can still look at this from the perspective that it initially brought to mind. The trick is to find ways to bend and twist it to still work for us. This could be as simple as an office worker thinking their little cubicle is more private than it is, and being caught by their boss looking at things they really shouldn’t be in such an environment. Perhaps a company representative has ended up having an affair with one of the company’s best clients, and their actions to and around one another are becoming a bit too bold and noticeable. Maybe someone has decided to take up streaming games, but they haven’t figured out all the hotkeys for the software yet and accidentally switches to a screen that probably shouldn’t be shown live.
Rather ironic, isn’t it? Needing to write safe for work… about not being safe for work. We’re excited to see what kind of stories you can create from such an interesting exercise in writing.
But I emphasize, please keep it in the parameters of the rules set in place.
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 Saturday 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!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
- No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
- You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
- Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
by Gage Jarman
In the clouds of possibility, luminescent with meaning and sparking with creation, the silhouette of a figure casts a shadow in their amorphous mists. Another figure marches towards them.
“What’re you doing!”
The feminine figure tries to ignore the other one, focusing on the ether below the heavens. “Shhhh, I’m almost done.”
“Done with what? This is my project.” The masculine figure lowers himself beside her.
“I know, I’m just helping. There,” she dusts off her hands, “I fixed it.”
He shakes his head with a shocked expression frozen on his visage.
“It’s… There’s… I-it’s… nothing is right. It’s too late to reboot. They’re already past the Alpha. How could you? This is so…. They’re sullied, soiled, corrupted by your touch.”
“Excuse me,” She touches her chest. “I think it’s an improvement. Everything was decided for them. They only had the illusion of choice, but now they have real freedom.”
“But look at them! They’re fornicating. They’re killing. They’re eating each other. They fight for sport, just to see the pain on the other’s dying face as countless pools of blood soak into the very ground. Sickness and disease spreads across the land as millions collapse under the weight of their own mortality.”
“Exactly. You’re welcome.” She smiles
“This is what you wanted? How could you be so cruel?”
“It’s not cruel. It’s a challenge. Everything is more rewarding when you have to work for it. Your project was so,” she twiddles her hands, “rudimentary. Everything was provided. Everything succeeded. I gave them hardships, but I also gave desires and vices, otherwise they’d just all kill themselves from the pressure of all the bad.”
“They don’t have meaning anymore!”
“They do, just not the one you gave them. Who wants to obey divine laws for eternity? Then, they’d really want to kill themselves. They have the meaning they decide for themselves. I’m not even sure why you’re a progenitor in the first place. Be more creative.”
“Fine, be that way.”
“Oh me oh my, how do I fix this? …That one,” he sighs, “is coupling with a sheep.”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
The projector whirred to life as the teacher walked to the back of the room. The film counted down. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. There was a pause before a blonde woman in business casual appeared on the screen.
“So, you want to learn necromancy.” Her voice was clear, but her delivery seemed forced. “Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’m Kathy Blovard, and here are Blovard’s School for the Magically Gifted, we teach many of the old magics. Necromancy is the magical study of life, death and how you can manipulate them to your own whims.”
The screen wiped left and now the woman was standing with the green-gray man that stood slightly hunched. It was very obvious her smile was forced.
“However, before we begin teaching you that, we must discuss the linchpin of every necromancer’s repertoire: the zombie. Let’s meet one now! This is Bob. Say hi, Bob!”
The man raised a hand and waved briefly before it flew across the screen.
“I’ll get that later. Hi, everyone!.”
“Thanks, Bob. But how come you’re not trying to eat me? And you can talk?”
“Those are very good questions, Kathy. I’m what’s called a standard zombie. I can talk and think for myself. However, that’s because the necromancer that raised me fuels me with magic.”
“So, instead of eating flesh, you eat magic.”
“So why are there so many movies, like those of Jorge Oremor, that depict zombies as brain-eating monsters?”
“Well, if the magical line is severed between a necromancer and a zombie is lost, the zombie develops its own process to acquire magical energy. That is consuming human flesh to convert it into magic.”
“That sounds really dangerous.”
“Not to worry. That’s why we’re making this video! So that you don’t end up in a zombie horror movie situation.” The zombie pointed to the screen with his stump hand.
I looked around the room. Only about three other people were watching. Some had fallen asleep. Some were on their phones. The teacher had left the room. No wonder zombie outbreaks were so common.
by Exce, checked by Zendrelax
The desk was cluttered with tools and sketches, a lamp above illuminating it almost too brightly inside the otherwise dark room. In spite of that, Matthias Johanson was sure that the persistent ache and itch in his eyes was not from the vicious glare.
He allowed himself a moment of respite, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath before opening them again and picking up a jewelers loupe to clamp in front of his eye.
“Alright, let’s get this done.”
With one hand he picked up an eyeball sized crystal, with the other a metal scaler not unlike that of a dentist. These Soulcrystals were of a newer production line, and he had to know if they would hold under the strain of use.
Johansons eyelids fluttered as he went through the list in his mind “Steady drain of generated energy, pressure of casing, vibrational damage through the machinery moving or hitting solid objects, crack resistance…purity and output…”
His teeth bared before opening in a yawn, his vision momentarily growing dizzy with faint tears. God if he could just go to sleep and pretend he forgot. But there was no way around it, at least a few tests had to be done.
The Engineer slowly brought the metal tool against the crystal, scraping it against the smooth surface. At first only lightly, and the metal slid over it effortlessly. He steadily increased the pressure.
It was monotone and his mind started to wander as he repeated the motion.
Then the world went briefly black, only for Jonathan to be rudely woken up as he felt a hot pain in his finger.
Eyes snapped open he looked at the impressive gash across the two upper phalanges of his index finger. It took him a moment to realize that in the jolt of waking up…he had flung the crystal away into the dark room, where its dim glow would be barely visible with all the tools and utensils stacked around.
With a groan he slumped in his chair. He wouldn’t find it tonight, and his finger was bleeding.
Rihonnon’s knuckles were white as she gripped the steering wheel. The street evaporated as she looked forward. She still remembered the last things she said to Morgan before she left.
“You’re such a worry-wart.” She giggled, looking at her husband.
“I’m just saying that the weather is saying the fog is going to be thick.” He sighed and looked down at her. “Are you sure the delivery can’t wait till tomorrow?”
She put a hand on his shoulder. “I would if I could, but I need those flowers for the shop.”
Morgan looked down. “I just… don’t want to see you get into an accident.”
She smiled, got on her tippy-toes, and then kissed his nose. “That’s sweet but I’ll be ok. The fog won’t be that bad. I’ll promise that I’ll be safe.”
He nodded. “Alright. I’ll make dinner for you when you get back, then we can watch a movie.”
Oh, how lovely that sounded. Oh, how that scene replayed in her mind over and over again as she tried to find the center of the road. Her breaths were uneven and quiet. The whole seemed silent, besides the car rolling along.
She had pacified nature spirits. She had fought and defeated deadly devils. She had proven herself to her sisters. But just simply taking the wrong turn and never seeing Morgan again petrified her. It made her stomach churn. She just wanted to cry.
She released the breath she had unintentionally held when she saw the lights of the town. She allowed herself to drive a little faster as more and more lights guided her home.
She eventually parked in front of her apartment complex and then stopped. She laid her head on the wheel and shuddered, her body a bunch of wires.
Suddenly, there was a knock on her car door. She looked up to see Morgan looking at her with great concern. She slowly opened the door.
She just collapsed into his arm, tears streaming down her face. He wrapped his arms around her and tried to provide as much comfort as possible.
“Have a nice day!” I smile and wave as my customer leaves the store. Glancing around, I see it’s empty. Good. I can finally get my cleaning done.
I take the bottle of cleaner and some of the disposable wash cloths and head over to the slurpee machines. I wipe them down and wash the trays, humming softly through the process. Might seem strange, but I love the cleaning aspect of my job.
Once done, I figure I’ll give the floors a quick sweep.
I put away the cleaner and toss the dirty cloths and head for the backroom door to retrieve the broom.
I jump, stepping out of the way quickly as my manager exits. We both laugh and apologize, then continue on our way.
I step into the back and retrieve the broom, then head to the door again. I glance out the window to make sure I’m not going to run into her.
My smile vanishes, overtaken with a look of shock as all I feel is shame.
There she is, in front of the nacho display, pulling the expiry date stickers off and replacing them with new ones. For the fifth time. Once she finished with that, she headed to the pastries to do the same.
I exit the backroom and start sweeping, but it’s no longer a relaxing chore as my mind spins.
These things all have a short shelf life. She wants us to sell expired product so she doesn’t have to order more until we’re almost out. I’m not the only one who’s caught her doing this, but none of us want to speak up in case we lose our jobs…
I’d report her to the higher-ups, but… I don’t know how. She put the book away so we couldn’t find it. Probably in the cigarette cabinet only she has access to…
The door chimes as a customer enters and heads for the counter.
I rush to the counter to greet him with a smile. “Hello! What can I get for you?”
My heart drops as he heads for the nachos.
By L. L. Marco
Mordecai gave a soft tsk as he scooted up to the table. He’d had a lot more visitors than usual lately, not that that was much of a surprise. There had been some stirring on the higher floors; one can only make so much noise before it caught Reginald’s attention and he was not a patient man. Those issues were handled swiftly and without mercy.
Mordecai was, however, surprised to see this woman. She’d been working at the institution for the last several years as some biologist or something. He didn’t know all the details but he had seen her handy work pass through his doors in the past. She was a cold-hearted woman who did what needed to be done to succeed. Reginald’s favorite kind of employee.
“What happened?” He mused, swirling around and around in his swivel chair as he stroked his chin. “Surely you didn’t grow a conscience! That wouldn’t suit a woman like you.”
Mordecai was met with begrudging silence. A delighted chuckle escaped him after a moment and he leaned in closer, eyes gleaming with mischief. The eccentric man was mere inches from her and she didn’t even flinch. Yes, quite the unshakable woman.
“I know, I know! You got a little too comfortable, yes? Thought you could tell him how to run things? Maybe even demanded a higher position? He hates that.”
He paused for a moment, contemplating what she might have said if only she still had air in her lungs. Unfortunately, that’s quite hard to accomplish when they’d been torn up so dreadfully. The mortician had no issue contemplating what her surely snarky reply might have been as he sewed the final stitch back into her chest and closed up the autopsy wound. He, unlike her, was quite happy doing his job and his job only.
“Well, it was nice chatting with you one last time,” he gave a crooked smile as he slid her back into the morgue locker. Cold air hissed as the door slowly shut and he gave a pleasant wave. “Sweet dreams!”
by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
“Rebecca! There you are. I was getting worried.”
Rebecca sheepishly steps off the elevator and into the office. “S-sorry I was late, Steph. Traffic was bad today.”
“That’s alright, I’ve set your work for the day on your desk already. Good luck!”
“Uh, yeah. Thanks, Steph.” Rebecca flashes a tired smile and sits down at her desk. It is only then that the scale of the absolute mountain of paperwork that she is tasked with becomes apparent to her. It’ll take her all day to get through this.
Rebecca sighs and gets to work. She carefully sets her bag down and begins to tackle the behemoth ahead of her. Three busy hours later, she puts her pen down and yawns. Feeling the need for a short break, she gets out of her desk and heads to the bathroom.
It was then that the stowaway made his move. Carefully, he knocked down Rebecca’s bag and began to slither out. Poking his giant head out of the cubicle, he hears someone scream.
Cornflakes shrugs it off as a coincidence and continues exploring the new building. ‘So this is where Rebecca works? It’s cozy! If a bit cold. And what is that smell?!?’
Cornflakes flicks his tongue a few times, closing in on the scent. He turns a corner, and sees a shocked Rebecca coming out of the restrooms.
Cornflakes happily slithers towards Rebecca. Behind him, following close behind, is the crowd that had formed, watching his little tour unfold.
“Rebecca, is this your snake?!?” yells out Stephanie.
“N-no, it’s my boyfriends! I-I have no-”
“Rebecca, you should know this kind of thing is not safe for work! Besides, our office has a strict no pet policy!”
“Im s-sorry, I’ll t-take him awa-”
“It’s obvious to me that your boyfriend of yours has been a bad influence on you. I think you should take the rest of the day off and reflect on what you’ve done here.”
Families aren’t work safe
by Jesse Fisher
The chatter of the bar was like a wave rolling on the open sea, noises coming and going. The heterochromic eyed bar kept moving from one table to the next. The will dressed god’s eyes fell on the waitress that began to buff the now empty tables. Said waitress had a wrapped harness around her chest with two small bundles of fluff held in place.
The patrons of the bar mostly just cooed over the smaller beings held on her chest, then there was…
“What type of whole would bring kids to a bar like this?” A familial looking being to him spoke aloud. “What weak ace man would let her out of sight parading around like that?”
Korun would not have told the man that the navy wolf next to him was said man, and a grin on the keeper’s face. At this moment the metallic sand yellow dragoness in a toga walked up to him, a two tone egg cradled in her arms.
“Honey why are you having that look on your face?” A tilted head that then followed the eye line.
“There is a reason I never talk about my family.” Korun replied as the shouting match began to devolve into a fight. Rather gory but Korun just shrugged. “One of them is currently being vivisected by Demon.”
The dragoness looked back at her love before a head plopped onto the counter, and it was cursing still.
“That dastered best be aware because….” He said before his eyes saw the god in front of him. “Cousin Drunken Korun, where have you been?”
“Not much Minor Masculino, I see your foot and mouth quirk.”
“I can’t help it if the world is wrong and I’m right.” Minor then looked to Oleander. “Who’s the whole that looks like they should be in a cage for later use?”
“She is my wife and I’m going to toss you to my waiter.” Korun said anger clear in his tone, grabbing the head before yelling. “Adfectus daemonium, slice and dice.”
Cantankerous Fried Yokai
by minergirl778 (Aka frogfireFantasy)
“Alrighty then! One fried chicken sandwich coming right up!”
Harriet pocketed her pencil and headed back to the kitchen.
“Hey, Dad! We got an order for…”
Her voice trailed off when she saw 2 familiar figures sitting on the kitchen counter, leaning over the deep fryer. One of them looked towards her, and his heterochromatic eyes lit up
“….Gale? Atlanta? What are you doing here?”
“Sealing away our foes.” Atlanta’s voice was as monotone as ever, “This evil spirit has tortured mortals for the last time.”
“W-Why are you doing it in my dad’s restaurant!?” Harriet balked.
“Well, it’s a chicken spirit!” Gale quipped, pointing out the beak on the angry orb they were dangling over the fryer, “So we figured it’d be fitting.”
He reached for the controls on the fryer, and the oil angrily bubbled to life. She didn’t miss the anticipatory look they gave the crackling liquid.
“No way!” The cook stepped in to stop them, shutting off the fryer, “You are not using my dad’s equipment for one of your harebrained monster hunts! I get enough of you two messing things up already, my family’s business is not being added to that list!”
“But none of the other methods worked!” He retorted, “None of our spells held it for a second!”
Atlanta supplied an explanation, “It would seem that the creature generates an anti-magic aura around itself at all times. This causes traditional sealing methods to cease being useful. We need a physical means to seal it, like a thick iron ball-”
“Or a tasty fried coating, I get it,” She sighed, resigning herself to their logic “Come on, off the counter you two.”
The two adventurers hopped off the counter, and Harriet took the soul to examine it. This isn’t what she had in mind when she said her home was always open to them, but she couldn’t expect anything less from her crazy companions.
“…Are you sure this’ll seal it away for good?”
She dropped the soul into the basket and plunged it into the oil with a satisfying sizzle.
A Notice (Oneiron Universe)
By: Insania404, Proofread by RVMPLSTLSKN and Lunabear
Alfred hoped that his rapid promotion to director would be a temporary one, but nonetheless, he couldn’t stand how cluttered his friend had allowed the desk to become. It was during this impulsive cleaning that he noticed the pink slip of paper, dated exactly one year ago, nestled in one of the many small wooden drawers. His eyes caught only a glimpse and the note latched onto his mind, filling it with a dark truth:
Director Jameson Pulchant,
I, Isaac Burgess regretfully inform you that my employment at Oneiron Technologies Ltd must come to a close. As you know, my condition has been worsening for the past few weeks and I am sure you are as aware as I am regarding the negative influence it has had on my work. This condition is more than simple exhaustion and insomnia. It feels as if literal shadows are taking over my mind, clouding my judgement.
Until such time that I can determine what the cause of my ailment is, I will be taking immediate leave from this facility. I fear I will carry the burden of last week’s incident forever and I do not wish to cause any further harm. Please, do not inform the rest of the company of the extent of my illness. I do not wish to worry them.
Isaac Burgess, content writer
Alfred’s heart sunk into his stomach once the wave of truth washed over him, drowning out the reality that he knew of his friend. “You knew about this for at least a year? Jamie, why didn’t you do something to stop it?”
Alfred rummaged through the other small papers in the drawers and on the surface of the desk, ignoring bills and other worthless trash that echoed the petty struggles of the world before the Madness. He didn’t know what he was searching for, but his fingers found the damning evidence he’d been seeking. He brought the simple note into view and read the small message:
Despite my best efforts, I have failed. Even the CiRFiS cannot force us to dream again.
Just another day on Limewire
By Larissa (Lari B. Haven)
“Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, Neutral Milk? Dam, you’re in love with a hipster girl. ” Jonas jokes, looking at the songs scribbled down on my notebook.
I grunt and sat in front of his computer. He knew me too well sometimes.
I open the program and look again at the list. I was, of course, a bit too frustrated to say that Jonas actually has a point. She liked some weird music, and I would probably be here sitting for hours trying to download whatever Fleet Foxes was.
For a couple of hours, things were fine. I even open a random page on Wikipedia, in case his parents come to snoop on what we’re doing.
Until I listened to a weird static on his right speaker. We’re hit by incredibly loud moans. And I try to find where it’s actually coming from. I close every tab, stop every download, and still nothing. The deranged female moan continues.
“It’s everything alright?” Jonas’s mom shouts from the kitchen.
His face turns pale, he shouts a generic response and scrambles to turn off the speaker.
“I leave you alone, you download a ton of porn viruses on my computer?” Jonas tosses me off the chair and opens the program’s tabs and tries to hunt down whatever infected his computer.
He stays silent for a couple of minutes, frantically typing. I stay by his side at a relative distance.
The screen fills with pop-ups of naked ladies, and he tries to close every single one of them. Jonas slams his hand on the table. Something says that he would rather be slamming my head.
“Say to me, that you at least download the right songs!”
I was in such panic I couldn’t even think of a proper answer.
“I d-didn’t listen yet.”
Jonas breaths deep and hits play on the media player. It has a few seconds of silence. He cranks up the volume and:
“YOOOOUUUU! Soulja Boy off in…”
Jonas walked to the other side of the room, got a pillow, and screamed for five minutes straight.
“It’s not safe to keep them on board, John!” Henry said to the huge man before him.
“Oh come on, sir, they make gettin’ the work done a hell of a lot quicker.”
“That’s entirely missing the point-” Henry began, only to be interrupted by the sudden entrance of a panicked Peter.
“Lord Admiral!” he shouted. “Tiny Tim’s got stuck in the torpedo racks again!”
“Fuck’s sake, Pete! I told you not to name them! They aren’t yours!” Henry pinched the bridge of his nose. “Just, get him out of there. You don’t need to come to me every time this happens.” Peter nodded, and rushed back the way he came. “Do you see what I mean, John?”
“I dunno, that’s the first time in over a week he’s done that. I think we’re seein’ some improvement.” John chuckled. “Frankly, I think you’re just annoyed that little girl’s goin’ around calling herself ‘Little Smith’.”
Henry sighed. He’d had just about enough of this. “We’re heading for Cornwall, John. Once we’re clear of Spanish waters, I want the Naval colors raised. We’ll find a decent orphanage for these kids back in the Empire.”
John gave a dismayed look. “Aye aye, sir.” he said before lumbering off down the hall.
Returning to his quarters, Henry found ‘Little Smith’ spinning around in his chair. “Don’t get comfortable.” he told her. “We’ll be getting y’all to a proper home soon.”
Not stopping, the girl asked, “When?”
Henry sighed. “Six weeks.” If my luck holds up, he thought to himself.
“So there’s time to teach me to fight?” she asked excitedly.
“Will it keep you out of my quarters?”
“Fine. No more of this ‘Little Smith’ nonsense, either. If you need a name, how about, ehh…Joanna! Deal?”
The girl pulled lightly on her short hair. “Joanna…Yeah! Joanna Smith!”
Henry groaned. This would be a long voyage.
A House Filled with Danger
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
“I…should not have signed up for this.”
Connor’s bag of cleaning supplies fell from his hand with a quiet thud.
Mr. Zoriander’s mansion loomed in front of him like a haunted house, except the colors were bright and the siding and windows were in perfect condition. Even the flowers in the window boxes bloomed in bright yellows and oranges.
The sign reading “Trespass at your Own Risk – Traps Present” had made his stomach squirm.
Eventually Connor gathered his courage and approached the door, unlocking it with the key provided with the application. Which, for the record, did not mention ANYTHING about the manor being trapped.
He pulled the door open and, thank goodness, immediately noticed the morning sunlight glint off a thin tripwire just inside the doorway. He stepped over it carefully and closed the door behind him.
The interior was elegant, but still full of looming danger. Connor, taking each step extremely slowly, looked for the kitchen.
He found it, and immediately suspected the multi-colored tiles.
He tested a white one. Nothing happened.
He stuck to white tiles and awkwardly touched up the kitchen, which was much cleaner than he originally expected it would be. It almost seemed trivial to hire a professional to clean something this well-maintained.
The rest of the checklist Conner completed with extreme caution. This saved him from two more tripwires and a trick floorboard in the living room.
Finally, many hours and dodged traps later, Connor checked the last task off the list with a sign of relief. He was about to leave when a hand landed on his shoulder.
Connor nearly jumped out of his skin, and whirled to look at the man who’d jumpscared him: tall, professional, with a small smile on his face.
“You have quite the eye for detail, and you’re still in one piece. Here is your payment.”
He placed a check in Connor’s hands and turned away. The check, signed Amarant Zoriander, was worth three times what he’d signed up for.
Conner decided it was worth it.
by Astrid Jones
A soft knock at his office door rescued Bonemeister from his mountains of paperwork.
“Yes?” he called out.
The door creaked open and a short skeleton with a patch of shaggy moss on his cranium stuck his head in. “The inspector is here, Mr. Bonemeister, sir.”
Bonemeister scratched his brow ridge. “But we had an inspection last week. Didn’t we?”
“That was the Skeleton and Other Undeads Equal Employment Bureau making sure we installed ramps for the zombie workers.”
“Well then, where’s this one from?”
The moss-capped skeleton looked at a card in his hand. “They said they’re from the O.S.H.T. organization, but this only has their contact info on it. It’s not a group I’m familiar with.”
“Hmm. It must be a new one from the government,” Bonemeister said. “They’re always putting together new committees and associations. Very well. Show them in.”
A moment later, the inspector breezed into his office. In one hand he clutched a clip board. In the other he held a pen. Lips curled from his teeth as he smiled at Bonemeister.
“You’re not an Undead,” Bonemeister blurted.
The inspector’s face fell and he scribbled on his clip board. “Do you know how many times I’ve been reminded of my condition today? I would like to get on with my inspection without any further remarks on that front.”
“Yes. I’m terribly sorry,” Bonemeister said. “However, I’m unfamiliar with your organization or what you’re here to inspect.”
The inspector huffed. “I’m from the O.S.H.T. organization. I’m here to inspect your Obvious Secret Hidden Traps.”
Bonemeister nearly laughed. “But we don’t have any obvious traps.”
“That’s exactly why I’m here.” The inspector glared over the edge of his clip board as he scratched away at the paper. “Your traps aren’t obvious.”
“How am I supposed to catch anyone if they can see my hidden traps?” Bonemeister asked, his humor gone.
“That’s something you’ll have to figure out. For now, we need to make sure they’re obvious. Otherwise, we’ll have to shut this place down. Now, shall we begin?”
Bonemeister sighed. “Right this way, inspector.”
The instructions were simple: leave the briefcase behind at work when I go to lunch. But as I commuted, I found myself casting glances at it as I drove. It looked innocuous enough. A simple leather front with brass closures. And yet…
“Good morning, John.” Mary’s smile interrupted my thoughts.
“Oh… uh… good morning,” I said briefly as I walked past the receptionist’s desk. It’s just another day, I reminded myself. So just act like it. The weight of the briefcase against my chest told me otherwise.
“Say, is that a new briefcase?” A co-worker I didn’t recognize commented while we rode the elevator together. “Decided to invest in yourself with that promotion, eh?”
I laughed, probably a bit too quickly. Damn these nerves. “Yeah. Thought that since I am a real employee now, I should look like it.”
“That’s the spirit!” I shifted uncomfortably at his hearty pat on my back. Did something inside the briefcase… click?
“Uh, this is my floor. Nice talking to you.” I rushed out the door to my cubical. I stashed the briefcase under my desk and started to work.
As the hours crept by, my nerves twisted upon themselves despite my constant attempts to focus. It’s nothing. Nothing. Do nothing, and you’ll be safe. My girlfriend will be safe.
Lunch couldn’t come soon enough. I hastily grabbed my jacket and left. As I hurried to the stairs, I realized that I forgot my wallet. With a curse, I did a one-eighty and bumped against the co-worker from the elevator.
“Woah there, kid. What’s the rush?” He smiled.
“I-it’s nothing. I’m late to meet someone, gotta go-” He grabbed my arm.
“Oh, you’re not going anywhere.”
“Hey, let go!” I tried to yank my arm away.
“Tick tock, Johnny Boy.” His grin glinted with hidden knowledge. He let go just as a blinding flash of fire erupted from up the hall.
“John. John, can you hear me?” A voice cut through the foggy darkness. Why couldn’t I… see? Why couldn’t… I… move… “We’re losing him!”
Please be safe…
Magical Field Test
Melissa knelt on the floor, her hands in her lap. She closed her eyes, her breathing deep, yet relaxed. Francis was kneeling beside her.
“Feel your muscles relax, starting from your jaw, then your neck…”
She was interrupted by a loud bang, followed by thumps descending the stairs in the hall. Melissa’s eyes slowly opened and she clenched her teeth.
“What was that?” Francis asked.
Melissa’s mouth tightened into a tight smile. “I’ll be right back.” She stood up and left the room.
Erykah was lying on the floor at the foot of the stairs. Next to her was an overturned office chair. Melissa rushed over, only to see Erykah look over with a grin on her face.”
“Hey, Mel. ‘Sup?” Erykah asked.
“What the bloody hell is going on?” Melissa demanded.
“Oh, just teaching Ryan how to cast an armor spell.”
“Hey, Melissa!” Ryan said, waving from the top of the stairs. He had another office chair next to him.
Melissa glared down at Erykah, who was now sitting up. “You’re making a lot of noise for someone teaching magic. In fact, you look like you’re goofing off.”
“Actually, he’s already cast the spell,” Erykah said. “We’re testing it out by seeing who can surf down the stairs the furthest on a chair.”
Melissa shook her head and sighed. “You two are idiots. And when you both end up inevitably killing yourselves, I’m not going to heal you.”
Francis’s head poked through the doorway. “Actually, if they do hurt themselves, maybe this would be a great chance for me to practice, Melissa.”
Melissa shook her head sternly. “No. We’re not enabling their idiocy.” She walked back to the door. “Take it outside; I’m helping Francis meditate.”
Erykah sprang to her feet. “Yeah, maybe. Come on, Ryan. We’ll test this in the garden.”
“Be right down!” Ryan nodded.
Melissa took a breath and returned to the room. She knelt down again, only to hear the crash of broken glass, followed by more thumping.
“Nice one, Ryan! Are you hurt?” Erykah asked.
“I think so. Does it look like I’m bleeding?”
The Eldritch Coffee Machine of the 44th Floor Breakroom
Rosa Melicant was feared among the Janitorial Department. Not for how she kept her workspace; she was the favorite of The Janitors, consistently clean and surprisingly organized for a mad scientist.
Rosa was the only member of the Science Department that was allowed into the Janitor’s break room, and that led to the legend of terror that was her name.
See, the Janitors had the break room on the 44th floor. The one with the Cursed Machine.
It was whispered that The Machine was a gift to the Head Janitor that he could not get rid of. It snarled and gurgled in the darkest corner of the break room, untouchable. Only the Head and his Directors had half a chance of making it work, and they refused to approach it unless it was one of the weeks where they would be amused at the chaos if they had the time to appreciate it.
The Machine was respected and feared, and had half of the break room to itself.
Except for Rosa Melicant.
Dr. Melicant made the trek down eighteen floors daily to see The Machine. She wished it a good morning as it grumbled murderously at her, and then fed it, a daily mixture of fresh grounds and an assortment of other ingredients, including: cinnamon, burnt peanut butter, moonshine, cream, a drop of blood, spirits, rain water, sugar, white vinegar, paprika, chocolate powder, and rosemary.
The Machine would cough and hiss, and produce a cup of foul dark sludge. Its smell alone would send trained Janitors running in terror, and the bubbles were shaped like skulls.
Rosa raised the mug, declared with no inflection “All things die,” and slugged it back.
Then she patted the demonic little thing on the lid and left.
Any witnesses to this ritual were not believed until the Head Janitor himself investigated and witnessed the atrocity.
He promptly declared it a company secret on par with The Machine’s existence, and gave orders to both of their sets of minions that she was absolutely not allowed more than two cups of that cursed swill a day.
A Rejection Of All Accepted Wisdom (Nyssa’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
“Hello, Professor, I was wondering if-”
“Yes? What is it, Ms Nyssa?”
“Oh uh, I wanted to ask about the concept of Arcane Transaugmentation?”
Memories of many academic conversations from long ago played back in Nyssa’s mind, as she opened the trapdoor to the roof of her lonely tower. The rain and wind immediately stung her face.
“I don’t understand.”
“What kind of nonsensical theory is this?”
“This is out there even by YOUR standards.”
In her shivering hands was a bulky length of segmented metal, as Nyssa approached the socket she had built.
“That cannot possibly be safe.”
“The possible outcomes would be almost impossible to predict.”
“The whole process would be agonising…”
Clothes already soaked from the rain, she bolted the final component into the socket, the cold metal painful to her bare palms.
“Your thankfully theoretical machine would mangle magical and living essence together!”
“This isn’t something you can refine into safety Professor, the concept itself is an abomination.”
“It would kill you. You know that, right?”
She turned a nearby crank, extending the metal pole upwards segment-by-segment. The lightning conductor was a defiant finger towards the churning sky.
“I know why you ask about this, Nyssa.” She recalled the kindly face of her old mentor. “You’ve always wanted to learn some magic of your own, much like your peers. I can understand why this feels desirable, why it might feel like the only way for you.”
She remembered how he paused in thought, before continuing.
“But…maybe your efforts would be better spent elsewhere? You don’t need magic, not really. Look at you, you’ve already come so far without it! You are one of the most determined and dedicated people I have ever met. If anyone could find a way to live a meaningful and fulfilling life without magic, it would be you.”
“Sorry Arling,” Nyssa said to the sky. “I never figured it out.” Her tears were lost in the rain as she retreated downstairs.
Now inside, she sighed in relief. Everything was ready. Finally.
The Transaugmentation Machine was complete, and it was beautiful.
The Garden’s Soyl
By RVMPLSTLTSKN (From the City of Meat)
The first Soyl to be laid in the garden wasn’t called Soyl. The name was given, as were the last rites, by the Carnomancers Baculli. They were a troublesome pair of brothers who loved and laughed and faced the Plight with a grin.
‘Soyl,’ they said as they laid him down. ‘This is better than you deserve.’
The garden was a place chosen for its isolation and high walls. The great veins were nearby, feeding from the upper coronary artery. Soyl would, as no citizen should, live forever.
Soyl, they joked, was inert. They meant this to say he was no carnomancer, to reference a dim memory they shared of earthen floors instead of callused flesh, but really they wanted to feel safe. Truth, they were as blackhearted as Soyl and they felt like they were losing.
‘Soyl,’ they said as the meat quivered. ‘This is not justice.’
But it was the arbiter’s orders; the sociavore would service society instead of preying on it. Death would lead only to sickness and rot. This would not serve the city.
But neither did Soyl, so they laid him down in the meat and their garden was planted.
A carnomancer’s work is slow, methodical, each piece attached surgically and magically fuse. It is as much art as skill; this is why they chose the floor for Soyl. A pun and punishment as the great eye above watched him forever. The city is eternal.
But there is sloppy work too. The brothers Baculi are not known for sloppiness, those telltale signs of scarring and deterioration. There are things to remember that even most experienced valvemen would not think of; gall, acid, waste and air. Yes, always air.
They work slow, these two, cleaning and leaving no place for rot to infect the city. Under them, muscles trembled and bones clicked and the City lived. They were proud of their work and Soyl was now a pair of eyes in the meat.
‘Soyl,’ they said as meat joined the city. ‘We wish we could give you kindness, but then we would be like you.’
“The Hunt’s Reward” (Godhood Series)
Alexia sat before the fire, the mud on her skin hardening from its heat. Ffepu’en sat beside her and his tail swayed in satisfaction as they both enjoyed her first kill. She was very green, but thanks to Ffepu’en’s help, she could start revering the Dragons in her own way.
“So, do I need… a mate to join the prowl?” Alexia asked, before taking a sip of berrywine. Her face was red from embarrassment, asking such a provocative question.
Ffepu’en pondered for a second, “Requirements for joining prowl not set for humans. Having mate in prowl is common way that other Weaam Taam join. Normally, family and prowl make you home when of mating age. Is a big celebration. Those without mate live in… communal home. As huntress and priestess, have many freedoms, and good for finding mate.”
Alexia took a second as she thought about her circumstance. Her first hunt had been a success, and that paired with being a priestess of the Dragon Cult could give her a significant place in the prowl. Besides, where else would she go? It seemed clear that the hunt was the best way to worship them.
Ffepu’en spoke, “More attractive when not covered in mud. Ready to finish getting cleaned?”
Sheepishly, Alexia let her clothes fall to the ground before she sat while facing Ffepu’en with an answer, “I’m ready.”
Ffepu’en froze, his ears twitching and jaw loose. “Aayo, you are brave female, indeed.”
“Just be gentle, please.”
The Weaam Taam took his claws and started to comb through her hair, his feline eyes gazing at it with wonder. It reminded him of stories of his kin with manes. He then shifted down to start licking the muck off of her neck.
“Ffepu’en, are you lonely?”
“Not lonely, have friends. Am a cub of the pack, means don’t know father. Mother… moved on, sister visits some, but has a mate in another prowl. Why do you ask?”
“In that case…” Alexia then stopped Ffepu’en and pulled him into a long kiss. He was shocked, speechless even. “Could I be your mate?”