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.
The rock ceiling overhead trembled as a low rumble passed through the cavern. Every man there looked at each other, their expressions tinged with fear. Before I could call out to the workmen another tremor passed through the cavern. This time the rock ceiling overhead cracked, then split completely, raining down boulders and debris. The workmen scattered for stable cover from the collapsing rockfall. The roar of the earth around us was deafening, there were screams of men being crushed to death beneath the rubble, and for a moment I froze. “What do I do to save them?!” was all I could think.
The roar ceased as swiftly as it had begun, now echoed only by the groans of the trapped men. I emerged from the cover of a smaller side passage and rushed out into the larger cavern chamber. The other workmen were rushing with me to aid the injured and trapped men. I was a work crew guide, so I lacked the strength some of the more powerful workers possessed. Still, I moved swiftly, lifting all I could, rolling out of the way what I could not. I looked up and saw Barlow rushing over to help me. Barlow was a mountain of a man, with prodigious strength! Groaning with the weight he pushed himself to his limit hoisting boulders and clearing them away.
We were able to reach Marik now. It looked bad. His leg was not only clearly broken, but it looked as if the boulder had twisted his lower leg completely backwards!
“Help me!” he moaned in agony. I knew there was nothing I could do to heal an injury like this. The healer Gondar rushed to his side. His magic could stitch together wounds, and heal fractures, but this. Marik would likely lose his leg to this. I felt sick, but knew there was no time to think about things. Other men were still trapped and wounded. I turned to the next pile of rubble and began to lift what I could.
By C.W. Spalding
On the oven hung a sign which read “Do Not Enter.” Petre passed it every day as he loaded up the trolleys. The wheeled devices were so heavy, running in their treads like a train on a rail, and each one was chocked full of uncooked morsels of chicken. Each trolley was filled, pushed in, sealed up, and then set to bake.
“You about done?” Wurman asked.
“Just ’bout,” Petre replied.
He wiped the sweat from his brow on the sleeve of his plaid shirt and placed the last basket of legs on the cart. Wurman turned away to his own baskets; his quota was not nearly finished.
Man, it was hot. And loud. The industrial fans did little to quell the intense heat of the ovens’ baking.
“I’ve gotta piss,” Wurman said.
He was already behind.
“Hurry back,” Petre said warningly.
Wurman went hobbling off and Petre turned to push in his cart. But as he put his shoulder to the edge of the trolley, it didn’t budge. That was odd. He grunted with effort, pushing with his hips too. Still nothing. So, he glanced into the dark long tube of the oven.
There must be something on the rail.
When he stepped inside, the oven was cool. The tube was stale with the smell of grease. It muffled the monotonous roar of the factory. As Petre peered into the darkness, he pulled out his mini-flashlight.
Oh, there was the source of his troubles. A stray basket which must have fallen off the night before lay wedged with its corner in the rail’s divot. Quickly, he went inside to grab it. And he chuckled as he picked it up. Stupid thing.
But then he heard a rumble and he turned to get a face full of trolley as it was pushed in.
He could see the door, over the trolley. He cried out. But not louder than the factory’s noise. The last thing he saw was Wurman smiling, having done a good deed for his friend Petre, as the door… swung shut. The oven hurred to life.
Endgame (Tales from Adfidem – Book of Boghos)
By Alan Baker
Boghos then travelled, in secret, to the leader of the five tribes that dwell south of the kingdom. On entering his tent, he said:
“O Phnom Neak tamer of the wilderness, gatherer of tribes, I know thee to be a wise and fair leader to thy people. I bid thee harken to my words.”
“You are Boghos, brother to king Gohar,” he answered. “Why would I listen to the blood of my enemy? His soldiers pillage my villages and burn my crops. I have no patience for your line Bagrat.”
Bowing, Boghos replied:
“I have come to see the poison that my brother spreads throughout this land. I believe the time has come for a new king to sit before The Gate of Majesty.”
“And you have come to seek my help in claiming the throne for yourself? Bah! Leave now before I have you thrown to the dogs.”
“Not so,” Boghos answered quietly but firmly. “I came here to offer the throne to you, Phanom Neak.”
“Me? Ha! You believe I could conquer the kingdom? You know The Golden City is impregnable, and even if we breached the walls, the angels would come to defend The Gate. We would be slaughtered.”
“The angels will not come, for you will already be king before you enter the city.”
“How am I to become king without entering the palace?”
“A king is not made by a building, but by the people and virtuous he serves. As you do with your people and as I wish for you to do with mine. I one month gather your people and take them before the city as if to give homage to Gohar. There as night falls, all will become clear.”
Chronicles of The Dragon: No OSHA Compliance
Jonathan walked through a tunnel along a cluttered walkway, gracefully slipping passed rock crumbling from the ceiling. The tunnel opened into a chasm, and it was now that he noticed the lack of any sort of railing as it crossed to the other side. He glanced over and was unable to see the bottom. He dropped a ball of fire, and after several seconds he couldn’t tell if it had hit bottom or dissipated on it’s own. He shrugged and continued on.
Not much further he could hear the sound of machinery and cracking stone, and a minute after that the tunnel opened up again. This cavern was exceptionally large, and dozens of people were working to make it larger. The room was lit to the bare minimum for the work to be done, with cables snaking all across the floor, and stacks of supplies stacked seemingly at random. The supports seemed to be insufficient for the size of the room, based on the frequency of stone falling from the roof.
Standing on a platform at the end of the tunnel, he found the target of his search; Lady Death.
He walked up beside her, taking a long drag on a cigarette. Looking out at the crews working to expand the cavern he said, “Ya know, before I thought you just didn’t care. Now, I’m thinking this place is a death trap on purpose.”
She slowly turned her head towards him, a small smile on her face that gradually grew into a feral grin. “Why on earth would you think that?” the necromancer asked.
Ignoring that question, he asked another, “So is it for people that try to stop you, or are you expecting the people working here to die so you can take their souls or whatever you do?”
She shrugged, seeming as pleased with herself as he’d ever seen her, “A little of Column A, a little of Column B.”
Ero came in then and sneered at Jonathan, “Why do you smell like a brothel?”
“Well, when a man and a woman love each other-”
New Party Member
By Preserves Roses
(prompt not safe for work)
“Alright everyone grab a beer and listen up. I got us our first job with the Mercenary Guild. We get this right and there will be more to come.” Grizz said as he sat and laid his worn helmet on the table.
“Excuse me, um excuse me” said a thin man as he pushed his way in among the group of warriors sitting with Grizz.
“Does that helmet meet current safety standards?” The man wheezed.
“My helmet is enchanted against scrying,” said Grizz frowning.
“The recommended enchantment for armour is protection. If the helmet doesn’t provide adequate protection against concussions, it will need to be replaced.” Answered the thin man leafing through a black book.
“Who is this guy boss?” asked Sticks.
“Allow me to introduce myself I’m Bob from Legal,” answered the thin man. “ I accompany teams on Mercenary Guild work to ensure proper adherence to safety regulations. You would be the mage of this group? I will need to review your wand storage to ensure proper security. We also need to discuss your spell ingredients and the proper handling of hazardous materials in the workplace.”
Bob continued talking while referencing his black book. Oblivious to the confused and angry looks around him.
“As for the team healer, the current standard is the ability to heal 500 units of health per team member per planned day of the assignment.
Sticks leaned towards Grizz and spoke in a low voice as Bob continued to spew rules.
“Boss does he know what happened to our last 3 healers?”
Grizz grimaced and shook his head.
“Boss, is he really coming with us? I’ve fought against plants stronger than him.”
Grizz glanced at Bob who was still talking.
“That new spell I gave you; got it ready to cast, Sticks?” Grizz asked.
“Sure Boss, but what use is storing a person in a small jar…” Sticks glanced at the interloper. “Uh right, I’ll take him somewhere to talk about my wands or something.”
Grizz and Sticks nodded curtly at each other then turned back to their beers, ignoring the droning voice.
A Notice (Oneiron Universe) [Private Repost]
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.
Not Safe for Work
Grimthorne dared to open his eyes. It was as shiny as gold, looking up at him like a giant spider. His fellow dwarf Ziggy stood over the device proudly. The central body reminded Grimthorne of a brass egg. Rising off the ground on eight spindly legs, it held a hammer and a chisel in two other metallic extensions. The thing bubbled and gurgled as if it was alive. Grimthorne wondered if Ziggy had seen the tiny puff of smoke rising from the device’s nostrils.
“What is it?” Grimthorne asked.
“It’s a steam-driven mining machine,” Ziggy said, climbing into the chair atop the device’s main body. Grabbing two handles, he brought the thing to life. It clanged and made a deafening noise as its inventor woke the machine from its slumber. “Patent pending, of course.” Ziggy had to scream the last part so it could be heard over the machine’s racket.
Moving the infernal machine, Ziggy directed it at the far wall of tunnel shaft #557. Grimthorne didn’t think the thing could get any louder until the hammer started pounding on the chisel. Rock chips and dust started flying everywhere. In a few minutes, the machine extended the tunnel two feet.
“Will you come down off that thing,” Grimthorne bellowed.
Ziggy shut the machine off and dismounted. The rattle and clanks slowly died down. Ziggy had always been an odd little fellow, even for a dwarf. He was never satisfied with the way things worked. He never quit his desire for improvement. Like the automatic bartender. Which might have worked except for the layer of soot it left on the tops of everyone’s drinks.
“It’s great, isn’t it?” Ziggy exclaimed with a gleam in his eye.
Grimthorne pulled the mad inventor out of the way and back up the shaft away from the machine. It had begun to struggle and bang uncontrollably. The two just made it to the entrance of the shaft when the thing exploded in a shower of smoke and sparks.
“Well,” Ziggy apologized, “I guess it’s not safe for work yet.”
Not Sure Fuselage Will
The convict was now safely contained. Sure, we had to put him in a mouth guard, but all seemed well. I put my rock away for the night and continued exploring the world.
A week later, Fuselage and I were fixing the control panel. “Hey, look at that one.”
“Wow, I can’t believe they exposed a panel like that,” I gasped, staring at the wire. “That looks like a death trap.”
“You’re telling me. We’d have to shut down the whole grid to work down here. But I’m sure Virgo would have to sacrifice using her hair straightener for a whole hour. We don’t want to do that.”
I shrugged. “I’m not sure if bashing on Virgo will help us. Now where’s the switch?”
“I think we’ll be fine, Cameron.”
“But protocol says…”
Fuselage sighed. “Protocol was made by dumb apes. I think it’s alright to cut some corners.” Well, I didn’t feel like arguing with him. I could only hope he wouldn’t be fried before my eyes.
I watched him lay the new panel on the exposed wires. I held my breath as he did so. So far so good. “Huh, what’s that?”
I leaned in, only to lose my balance and for my hand to fall directly into the wires. There it was, the shock. It was short lived however.
A blue light slowly grew brighter. “What are you two doing? Are you really dumb enough to try fixing a panel with the power still on? You almost got Cameron killed!”
Fuselage crossed his arms. “Well I didn’t, Virgo. Besides, Adam told us to do this. Fix the panels.”
“Fuselage, just go upstairs. I’ll deal with this.” Virgo flicked her wrist and the two of us left.
‘Astronaut’s Angles’ [343 words]
– story by J.A.C.
Bodies were floating in the hallway. Even as the lights died, their outlines were still there. They did not speak, not a word. But they cried, let us drift away, silently.
I can’t let you go, whispered away from the other end, I saved you. The suit was bundled into the corner, a frail and broken corpse left inside. It struggled to breath, to think. One day, I’ll show you what I saw out there. Control panels mourned in a faded red, on and off, on and off, like a constellation of bleeding stars. A memory suffocated the atmosphere every time the color washed over what little was left,
he witnessed it all at once and let tears descend in pairs. Stars droned on for millions of years, past him into oblivion. “Please, I’m begging you, finish the repairs.” They beckoned him, come closer, away from the shuttle. He wanted nothing more but to feel the cosmos wash over him forever as it did now. Nothing else could bring his soul back. “we need you to hear us, please hear us—”
I hear you now; I hear you. It said it as a promise to the suspended silhouettes. None of them could beg for hope anymore. Please, don’t leave me alone. I’m still with you. Panic shrouded the corridor. The most horrible screams echoed everywhere now. It put on the helmet to protect itself, but the sounds imprisoned themselves inside the very fabric. Voice after voice, in a melody that rotted away fear, and mellowed from screams back to moans. It wailed in an attempt to drown out the affliction, but no amount of remorse could silence them.
The astronaut reached desperately for the last working door. Its ailing hands took hold of the lock and paused for one final moment. Looking out through the small window to the other side, it could see the same stars which sailed life far away from here before. It could only hope that they would do so again for all the souls it didn’t touch.
Weapons Check (Crossroads City Canon)
By Fredrick H. (challeng3r22)
It was the 21st century and Frourós was still standing guard. Today it was at the 3,697th Assembly and he was in charge of weapons checks.
“Place any weapons you may have in the bin, please,” he stated to the girl with blonde hair standing across from him.
She slowly placed her golden glowing longsword in the bin. After giving an inspection of it’s impressive length he placed a yellow band on the hilt and returned it to its wielder.
Next up a boy with green eyes placed his wand in the bin. It was made of a nice hardwood and was fairly thick for a wand of this length. Frourós placed an orange band around the handle and returned it to the wizard.
As the young… couple? walked away he heard them mention something about finding a sorcerer of sufficient skill to warp the flesh of a non-magic entity.
Following this, a young man of Japanese origin stepped up and placed his blade in the bin. There was a nice curve in the blade and it appears as though it could traverse through holes in reality.
“This will not be allowed into the Assembly and I will need need your fingerprints to validate your identity.”
After that the man muttered something about having to trail his target now.
At the end of the line came a well-dressed business woman.
“Place any weapons you have in the bin, please.”
“I have nothing of the sort. I am Lady after all.”
As she walked through the magic detector its light glowed red and its buzzer sounded off.
“Place all the magic items you have in the bin please.”
She pulled a small pouch out of her jacket pocket and placed it in the bin.
“Care to explain to me what that is.”
“Nothing. Just the components necessary to summon a succubus.”
By G.J. H.
“Oh, I almost forgot about the audit tomorrow! Did you fix that unsecured gas container of yours?”
“Sure, I did.”
“But wasn’t the container cabinet full already?”
“Yeah, I secured it with sticky tape against the Table.”
Tom burst out laughing, “Not exactly secure by the textbook.”
Jeph turned around in his chair. “I won’t take advice from someone who just fixed the dangers of his ragtag deep temperature reaction apparatus by attaching a note saying, do not touch.”
“That’s an official work instruction sheet!”
“It’s a scrap of paper with text marker writing on it..”
They both looked up at the sound of the door and saw Professor Gelick blinking in disbelief at the state of the laboratory.
“Didn’t I tell you to prepare everything for the audit? That apparatus of yours is still there, Tom! And is that sticky tape there on the gas container? Are you stupid?!”
“Well the cabinet was full, so I thought that’s the best way to secure it.”
“If someone sees that, It will be classified as a safety hazard. Take that tape of and put the container in the corner behind the cardboard. And Tom, dismantle that apparatus of yours and store it away. You can install it again the day after tomorrow.”
With that, he turned around and left the laboratory.
“Do you ever wonder whether we’re doing this safety right?”
“No. I’ve stopped wondering”
The Briefcase (Repost from Private)
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…
Early morning. I scrolled mindlessly through the inbox. Almost a hundred emails had been received during the night. Couldn’t production achieve anything without supervision?
Peter strolled into the room. Dark rings underneath his eyes. Probably hungover, again. “There are ants in the coffee machine,” he said.
The words didn’t quite sink into my mushy brain. “Come again?”
“Look. The thing is swarming with the things.” He sat down at the desk next to mine and showed me the cup. A thick layer of many-limbed corpses covered his morning elixir. A myriad of shapes. Some forming words.
“Those aren’t ants, Peter. They’re letters.”
I was no expert. I’d never encountered coffee-ants or letters before. But they had to come from somewhere. I leaned forward, focused my gaze on the screen. The letters seemed to crawl, the serifs grew into little legs which carried the letters offscreen. Were they getting bigger?
“They’re crawling out of the damn screen!”
I nodded in silent agreement. “They do, don’t they.”
The letters covered the entire desk now. The morning’s memo had spawned its own brood to join those from the inbox. Only the two of us in the office. Tired. The caffeine withdrawal began to set in. Not the optimal circumstances to deal with hours of administration, even less so for dealing with an infestation of letter-bugs.
“Let’s try keeping them on the desk,” I said. “We need to get all this sorted before lunch.”
I had an idea. “Coffee.”
I shambled to the kitchen. A post-it on the coffee machine read: “Don’t drink. Ants.” The machine worked perfectly. Even though I got as many dead letters as coffee. I filled every cup I could find and took them back two at a time.
The letters kept to the desk, dove into the cups. “Well, let’s get to sorting,” I said and began picking the scalded letters one at a time from the black liquid, trying to make sense of the mess.
Another day at work. I had to filter my coffee through my teeth.
The Devil drinks on the Job
by Arthur Draig
“What a ridiculous life I lead, God of chaos. What an oxymoron.” mentioned the God himself.
“God implies hierarchy,hierarchy implies law, law implies order. Sitting on his thrown of skulls drinking a glass of red wine beyond the deepest crimson you could ever imagine.
“sir shouldn’t be making chaos for the humans?”
Pointing a bony, lengthy finger with a sharp, crooked nail at the particularly brave imp that said such a thing to the devil himself, reducing him to nothing but a frog and some raggedy clothes.
“listen here my now amphibious friend”. Getting up from his thrown.
“I am who I am because I understand chaos, it’s my job to sow the fruits of distrust and conflict and of desire to turn the winds so that ships never make it home, to give the earth a little push every now and then. but in my understanding I have lost the ability to appreciate the true artists of chaos. I may be phenomenal at my job, I mean who else could pull off the diseases and natural distastes I’ve created, just wait till you see Yellowstone. But humans are just on another level. What other species could turn a wrong turn into not one but two world wars. how can I compete with that?”
“yes quite right best to not dwell on it”
and the master of all gods watched this conversation giggling to himself with childlike glee.
“master, should he not be paying attention it’s dangerous is it not to leave the humans disconnect from chaos?” said his main adviser.
But the master just pointed towards the human world and saw that their was plentiful enough of chaos to go around for everyone threefold. indeed chaos was the most abundant resource humans have ever created. And the master looking at the devil himself drunk on the job and casting spells on the imps. and he thought that no one could have been a better choice for the roll.
Standards Apply Posthumously
His long dark robe made him nearly trip, those dress codes are gonna kill him one, he thought to himself, of course, he meant it metaphorically, he doubted he could get much more dead than now. He looked again upon his dark clipboard, the days of carrying scythes have passed since they needed to adapt to modernity after all, what would their clients think when seeing a scythe, though, not that they had much choice of company.
He exclaimed excitedly when he finally came upon their latest client, amongst strewn around boxes, with his head in an unnatural position, as a reply Reaper only got some gurgling. He extended his hand to his client, helping him onto his feet, before helping him with his head.
“Who are you?”
The recently deceased asked.
“Reaper Ignatius Psychopomp, R.I.P to friends”
Reaper answered, trying to ignore the slight chuckling of his client, he never got why they did this. Reaper handed the deceased man his clipboard.
“Sign here, it’s the official contract of employment at Light at the End of the Tunnel Inc.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Well, you can vanish into nothingness!”
Reaper cheerfully replied, still seemingly oblivious to the weight of what he was saying, the client, for his part, hearing his only other option, hurriedly signed the contract. Client’s clothes were exchanged for stylish white-collar attire, and they were immediately transported into the immaterial office space.
“Welcome to our headquarters, your job is filling in the details of newly deceased for the likes of field operators like me!”
Reaper said enthusiastically, before noticing how the office space looked like, at least 3 junior deaths were making paper planes out of heavenly paper, and everyone else was so much worse.
“Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you don’t have to behave!”
He heard a quiet oh-oh from the new employee.
“How did you die?”
Employee replied timidly, Reaper facepalmed himself, this is gonna be a long day.
The Best Hall Monitor Ever
By Adrian Solorio
“Here you go, Angel,” Mrs. Swift said. “Remember, being a hall monitor is a big responsibility, and I know you’ll do a good job.”
“I will, Mrs. Swift.” Angel said, putting on the orange vest. He ran his thumb over the yellow time-out tickets and stared at the thick book with wide gleaming eyes. “I’m gonna be extra responsible and safe!”
Mrs. Swift stared at Angel with an eyebrow raised. The school year was almost over, and he was the only student she hadn’t picked to be hall monitor. He smiled at her with a grin so big she could see his molars. “Just remember, it’s a big responsibility,” she said.
“I know,” Angel said before running out of the room. Mrs. Swift watched from the doorway and wondered if she’d made a mistake. Maybe, responsibility was what he needed. She closed the door and prepared the Math lesson.
For the next ten minutes Angel patrolled the playground with an air of authority and superiority unseen in previous hall monitors. Monica got a time-out ticket for running, Erica got one for jumping off the swing, and when Ricky spoke up for her—he got one too. “No, no, no,” Angel said, pointing at his vest and handing out another ticket. “On the wall till the bell rings.”
And so it went.
Inside the classroom, Mrs. Swift had finished prepping the math lesson and was eating her lunch. Finally, she had some peace and quiet. She took a bite of her sandwich and as she chewed, she wondered about that—the quiet. It was unnatural not to hear the children screaming, yelling, and causing a ruckus. She frowned and glanced at the door.
When Mrs. Swift went outside, the playground was empty. She turned at a sniffling sob. The children sat along the wall. Some with their heads down, some wiping at their eyes, and some staring sorrowfully at their shoes. Meanwhile Angel stood thumbing through the tickets with a smile, and when he noticed Mrs. Swift, he said, “See—I’m the best hall monitor ever!”
Mrs. Swift sighed. Thank God it was Friday.
No Rest for the Wicked
By Karl Aegnor
Entering the warehouse, Naish took note of the exits. Several windows, only one door. Good. He readied his gun and crouched behind some boxes. If the intel from June was good, this would be the easiest bounty he’d bagged in a while.
Naish wheeled around. Behind him was a girl, she couldn’t have been older than ten. Rosy-cheeked, with a vibrant smile, though she turned pale when she saw the pistol pointed at her face. Naish stood and lowered his gun, though he kept it in hand. “What are you doing here?” He asked, trying to sound as gentle as he could. The girl only managed to produce a few stammering sounds. Crouching down, he tried again. “I’m sorry, it’s just that you scared me, I wasn’t expecting anyone else to be here.”
“W-well that makes sense.” The girl continued, “I was just here to give my daddy something he forgot. He usually comes here when he has ‘business.’”
Naish concocted a simple lie. “Well, I’m a friend of you daddy’s. Why don’t you give me whatever it is, and I’ll make sure he gets it.”
“What’s your name?” The girl asked, “If he doesn’t have it when he gets home, I need to know who’s still got it.” Naish grimaced at that.
After a moment, he responded. “Naish.”
The girl cocked her head. “Nay-sh?”
“Short for Ignatius. Iggy was never my style. Now go home, I’ll give it to him.” Naish said, holding out his hand.
“Well, alright.” The girl put a small, metallic object in his hand and headed towards the door. Naish breathed a sigh of relief, he hadn’t though his performance was that convincing. His relief was short-lived, the girl’s father came in.
Naish tossed something to June, a pocket watch of antique design. “What’s this?”
“For the bounty, some sort of good luck charm. For us, dinner.”
June inspected the watch. “Why didn’t you bring him in? Did he get away?”
Naish lit himself a cigarette, and stood a few moments before answering. “Nah. I just thought I’d save my ammo.”
Ace of Clubs (Craggybrooks Unvierse)
Edmond Clyde slumped back in his chair, but he still kept an eye on the game in front of him. Jesse Moran and Leslie Payne, the two across from him, pulled their cards close to their chest while trying to sneak a peek of each other’s. The air picked up on the tense silence of the table and stiffened, however; it loosened up at the gleeful chuckling of the man sitting next to Clyde.
Robert Hament, the very cheeky devil that was grinning ear to ear, stroked his beard while leaning toward Clyde. With a quick glance, Clyde got a good look at Hament’s hand. It would have been a royal flush had it not for a two of hearts, however; he then caught a glimpse of the cause of Hament’s glee and grimaced.
“Why don’t you play, Edmond?” Hament vetoed his glare with a innocent smile as he slide his hand under the table.
“Not happening.” Rolling his eyes, Clyde revered back to his old, poor posture with his nose resting on his knuckles.
“Oh, come on know Clyde.” Payne piped up. “Just one game, or are you scared of losing to me much like these two are?”
“Says the one with the most losses so far.” Clyde gave a slight chuckle.
“Just wait until I win this round.” Payne’s eyes gleamed with their signature amber eagerness.
“As if I’ll let you take my pay raise.” Old Moran barked at the lass as he slammed a flush of diamonds on the table.
Payne’s revealed her full house in turn, which made the old man storm off. Turning his attention back to Hament, Clyde watched him laid down his cards. In place of the two of hearts stood the ace of clubs, a royal flush. Clyde gave an icy glare at the man who was gleefully counting up his winnings.
“That is the last time I help you with something as risky as that, trouble-boy.” Clyde leaned close to Hament in a hushed voice.
“Thank you, Eddie.” Hament gave Clyde a toothy smile.
By Mango Gravy
The Book of Droogs had in it every alchemical recipe known to Wizardkind. Unfortunately, it had been lost to time and rediscovered a hundred times over and many of its pages were long gone, and others were barely recovered. It was the lifelong purpose of many Alchemists to find what was lost and, in doing so, rewrite the venerable book.
“Holy fuck. I’ve gone and bloody done it,” yelled Gripwood, ecstatic at his achievement, “Master! Get your sorry arse in here!”
“I do say,” muttered Aldieb as he rushed into the laboratory, silver beard thrown over his shoulder and flowing behind him, “you must regain control of your tongue, young man.”
“Drink this shit and we’ll see what you have to say about it you old fart.”
Aldieb was apprehensive, on account of the foul language, but his apprentice was a fine lad and had the makings of a legendary wizard in him. So he took the goblet in his protege’s hand and downed the liquid.
“Not the worst tasting potion I’ve ever drunk,” he said after a moment’s consideration, “Still tastes like hot piss.” His hand shot to his mouth, astounded that he uttered such an… unprofessional word.
“Say something you wrinkly c-”
“Entry sixty nine! The vulgarity potion. Merlin’s balls, you’ve done it, boy.”
“Bet your hairy butt I did,” said Gripwood as he stumbled over to his notebook, violently flipped through it and slammed his finger down on a checklist.
Aldieb followed, an excited smile stretching across his face. When he spoke he chose his words carefully. “What was… missing … from the f-… damned book?”
“Read it you old coot.”
Aldieb reached into his sleeve and pulled out a pair of eyeglasses, then bent down to skim over the page. Suddenly he reeled back, hands clasped over his mouth until he could compose himself.
“Troll’s fingers roasted alongside a veil woven from spider webs. Trolls and web, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” Aldieb caught himself on another curse and slowly continued. “How long will this… ordeal last.”
Gripwood shrugged, “Fuck if I know.”
Dangerous Habits (A Tiefling Tale)
C. M. Weller
As far as Kim was concerned, Kosh was a collection of odd habits and hangups in the blue skin of a demon. There was also a generous dash of self-destructive impulses in his makeup – as evidenced by the way he was currently hanging a picture.
On the long drop side of the stairwell, he had propped one of the dining tables between the railing and the wall, and was now balanced on the chair. Precariously above a damaging fall.
“What are you DOING?” she squawked.
“Well we don’t have a ladder, fraulein,” said Kosh, “I’m not about to go shopping with people still trying to apply the Tiefling Tax. Not for this.”
He scoffed. “This is more stable than some places I’ve been.” He adjusted the balance of the frame. “Perfect. Besides. I know something you don’t know.”
“Just… stop fooling around. Please. We need you.”
“For now,” he said. One last adjustment and he looped his tail through a rung of the chair back. “Sooner or later, I will be inconvenient to know. Even to you.” Without any other warning he literally hopped off the chair, jerking it out of its balance.
Kim screamed, but only for a fraction of a second. In the space of a breath, gravity seemed to disregard the Tiefling as he floated safely to more stable ground. He even caught the chair on the way down. “Kosh, what the–” She stopped herself from saying something that could have offended. An inchoate sputter was all that tumbled out.
“Hell?” he asked, sharp-toothed smile wide and challenging. “I’ve been able to slow my fall for months, Frau Segen. If I don’t practice my skills, I can’t be sure of them in battle.”
“You could have told us…”
He only laughed on the way to return the chair to its proper place. “It’s cute how you pretend to be concerned.”
The Garden Soyl
By RVMPLSTLTSKN (From the City of Meat)(repost from private)
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.’
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.
All for Wine (Sword Isles)
By Connor A.
Oberon sat in front of the fire pit he set in the middle of his cave. He was mending one of the bows his followers offered to him when he heard his falcons screech. Assuming it was a trespasser, he paid no mind to it.
“Hey! High King!”
The hunting god jumped at the voice. He haphazardly tossed the bow aside and ran out to the mouth of the cave to spot a fur-clad person shielding himself from the falcons’ talons. Oberon whistled for the falcons to come to him, and they promptly obeyed.
The person straightened up and revealed a Wyld Lord’s mask. He chuckled and said, “Been awhile.”
Oberon snapped out of his shock when he realized who it was. “Lord Vio, people give their offerings at my shrines for a reason. The Hilt is dangerous.” He sent his falcons off and motioned for Vio to come inside.
As they entered the cave, Vio adjusted his gloves. “Yeah yeah, no magic and all that.”
Oberon turned around and stared Vio down. “I am serious. You have no protection beyond the Blade. Humans will not show you mercy out here.”
“Well, I’m still alive, right?” Vio reached into his coat and pulled out a wine bottle. “I know how you are about offerings from outside the Isles, but I don’t know when I’ll get my hands on Tu wine again.”
Oberon’s stare turned to the bottle. He took it by its neck and walked back to his seat. “I will make sure your departure goes smoothly. For now, share some of this wine with me.”
Vio took off his gloves and rubbed the webbing in between his fingers. “Thanks.”
He would never admit it, but Oberon held these small visits higher than any material offering. It was a comfort in a land he no longer recognized, and he would take it whenever he could.
Oberon poured a cup and handed it to Vio as he sat across from him. When he poured his cup, he toasted Vio and drank the surprisingly sweet wine.
Dekka (Forsaken Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
Zurian was busy crawling through a vent, toolkit in hand, trying to readjust several wires. Using their tail, they reached into their toolkit, feeling around for a screwdriver, when a loud clattering noise drew their attention. They looked up, then went back to work.
The clattering came again, louder this time. It came from one of the cargo bays, if they weren’t mistaken. Had someone knocked over a crate? They shrugged and tried to go back to work, when a loud yelp startled them.
The entaran left their tools, crawled out of the vent and sped towards the cargo bay. They opened the doors.
“Is everything… okay?”
The following scene greeted him:. Newton crouching behind a crate, Rain ducking under what looked like a tiny fireball, while what appeared to be a miniature dragon stood on a pile of boxes, hissing loudly.
“I told you to keep it away from the coffee beans!” Newton yelled.
“Is this really the best time to argue about this!?” Rain yelled back. “Dekka! Down!”
“It’s not a dog!”
“What is happening here?” Zurian asked.
“Dekka’s having a mood,” Rain said.
“Dekka’s gone mental!” Newton corrected.
“I assume Dekka is…” Zurian pointed at the winged lizard.
“Yes! Can you help us catch her? I’m worried she’ll get hurt!”
“That’s what you’re worried about?!” Newton exclaimed.
“I got this,” Zurian said.
They leapt over several crates, making their way to where Dekka stood, using their tail to balance themselves. It had taken them years to become this agile, but the long hours had been well worth it. They bore down on Dekka, as she suddenly spread her wings, vaulting off the crate and into the air. Zurian crashed hard onto the boxes.
“Looks like flying beats leaping,” Newton commented.
“Not helping!” Zurian replied. “Let’s try a pincer movement.”
About an hour later, Rain, Zurian and Newton were standing in the med bay nursing several burns and scratches. Rain was holding the sleeping Dekka in her arms.
“Before I patch anyone up,” Jackie said, arms folded,. “I wanna hear a damn good explanation.”
You’ve Done It Now, You’ve Gone and Made a Big Mistake
Lilith sighed as her office door opened. She knew who it was immediately and chose to keep her attention on her computer monitor.
“Mother…” Alex greeted curtly.
“Alexandros.” Lilith replied, matching his tone. “Should I assume this visit is because of a certain herald to the apocalypse who you provoked?”
“Firstly, he started it with me. All I did was feed.”
Lilith let out a chuckle. “Is that all? I could have sworn you kidnapped one of his group and used them as a bargaining chip. After torturing them.”
“He’s too powerful to fight head on! I’d be dead by now if I hadn’t!” Alex growled in frustration.
“That would be such a shame…”
Alex’s eyes narrowed. “Anyway… I heard you were part of his group now. I need to know if you’re going to be a problem.”
This caused Lilith to look away from the monitor and flash her progeny a predatory grin. “And just what would you do against me if I were?”
Alex took a cautious step back. “I didn’t mean it that way, Mother. I just need to know how deep in this I am.”
“He’s LITERALLY the destined mate of Death.”
“Exactly.” Alex stewed. “So, I have to keep him out of my hair without trying to kill him. Death made herself VERY clear on that from the last time.”
“That poor fairy.” Lilith said, almost with genuine sympathy. “May I offer you some advice?”
“I am, in fact, NOT with Matthew anymore. I come with strings to Hell and he chose to be neutral.”
“Here’s the thing.” Lilith leaned in. “I gave him a secondary offer. I’d take you out myself. All I asked was for him to spare me in the apocalypse. One he continues to deny will happen.”
“He couldn’t. The words wouldn’t come out even though he wanted them to. My advice, my stupid son… is that Matthew is going to kill us all anyway. Your death is just going to be personal.”
“…Thanks for the help.”
“Don’t mention it.” Lilith smirked, watching Alex leave.