Hello, Daredevils and Thrill Seekers!
Are your hearts racing? Do you feel those tingles along your spines? Have you got your favorite comfort item? Well, prepare yourselves, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
Don’t You Dare
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!
This prompt provides quite the challenge. Usually, these three little words are an order, like a parent admonishing a child before the child does something naughty. Or perhaps it can be an extremely strict army sergeant working to keep new recruits in line.
What about the games of “Chicken” or “Double Dog Dare” that you and your friends challenge one another to, adding more and more outrageous dares as the games continue? Or maybe it’s a joke that not everyone knows about. What if someone takes it a tad too far and someone gets hurt or an even more fatal outcome occurs?
Perhaps someone takes it as an opportunity to defy the nature of the phrase, engaging in a dangerous mission while knowing the consequences? What if it turned out that the person made a good call in their decision?
Will you heed the call or turn the other cheek? The gauntlet has been laid; all you have to do is pick it up.
We triple dog dare you.
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 3:00pm 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! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.
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.
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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- 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.
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- 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 Boss of the Jungle
“Nick, don’t you dare!” shouted Otto pointing his weapon at him. “We can’t fight him yet until Nick and half of his team were getting more resources to prepare for another boss in the Jungle, while the other half was looking for more resources in Skeletron’s Dungeon.
Nick and his friends have been playing Terraria for three years until they decided to go modded. They already defeated the pre-hardmode bosses and now they were in hardmode.
Nick and His whole team just finished defeating the mechanical bosses and now they split themselves up into two groups. One group looks for Plantera’s Bulb and the other to farm for some epic mini-boss and boss loot and looking for resources in Skeletron’s Dungeon.
Nick and his group were the ones to go look for Plantera’s Bulb. Fifteen minutes passed. Nick and his group split up to cover more ground. Nick was about to call it quits until he fell down a deep hole within the Jungle Biome. He landed with a hard thud but he wasn’t hurt cause he had Golden Horseshoe with him which makes him take no fall damage. But he forgot to bring his wings with him.
Nick then groaned from the little pain from the long fall until he looked up and finally found what he was looking for. The Plantera Bulb was staring right at him and then it started to say something but Nick couldn’t understand what it was trying to say. The next thing he knew, the voice of the bulb was soothing him. Telling him “everything was fine, free me from this prison”. The bulb was hypnotizing him.
Nick was about to break the bulb until Otto found him, jumped down at him, pulled out his sword, and told him to stop.
But it was too late, Nick have already spawned Plantera, the Mighty Boss of the Jungle.
Dare I? By LanaMae
I know I missed the deadline, just noticed that. Sorry
Do I dare ? Eh, why the hell not? I have nothing left to lose. My entire life is inside that watery cave, or already dead , taking a deep breath I jump into the shark infested murky waters, my fists smacking at the nearby sharks,, punching them in the snout to divert them.
Trying to hold my breath I kick towards the cave beneath the waves, as I near the mouth of the cavern, my lungs strain for air, just as I think I will pass out from lack of oxygen I spot a glimmer of light up ahead.
Quickly I kick my way towards the light And hopefully the surface. Coming up in a shadowy cove inside the underground chamber, I gulp in air as quietly as possible,. Peering around for signs of life while slowly inching forward. There are a few paths and openings to choose from.
In the distance I hear the cries of a child, my child , my only son. The sound echoes from the walls. My heart beats loudly in my chest. Clutching the knife on my thigh I slowly make my way towards the cries.
As I enter the darkened room from where I hear the cries of my son my eyes widen , in front of my baby boy is the biggest three headed dog I have ever seen. The dog appears to be asleep, but I know better.
My eyes land on a large stick, slowly I slide towards it, letting out a loud whistle and throwing the stick past the large dog shouting fetch. He doesn’t fall for it, in mere seconds I am completely devoured by the humongous beast .
Nightmares Are Dreams Too
By: G. Zeus
Marcus ran. He ran like hell, but they all did. What made him different from all the poor souls screaming and flailing in despair was that he ran towards…it. How could IT go so wrong? Memories kept flashing past Marcus’ eyes as he traversed the winding hallways of the maze-like laboratory. Was it really that night when it tortured Edward? The closer Marcus got to the source, the further he drifted inward. The blood splattered on the walls took the shapes of memories past. Perhaps it was in its nature, as something foreign to our reality. Miranda was right with that quote…something about growing forces, not of our space?
It was supposed to be a force for good! But even back when ordered to “save” Miranda, the way it went about it definitely felt wrong. The leukemia was cured, but the agony, …so much agony. It ripped the cancer straight out of her with those long thin fingers. Turning past the last corner, There it was. The humanoid silhouette with skin like T.V. static, behind it stood James, cowering trapped at the end of a dead-end.
“SOMNUS, stop!” Marcus bellowed.
kept twitching and convulsing erratically in place. The sound of breaking bones and shattered glass it produced made it hard to focus. Marcus needed to be very careful what he would think of next. Somnus
cared not for intent, all thoughts are his to know, and his to be.
“ I command you to desist, you aren’t allowed to harm any more humans!”
began to raise its long and slender needle-like claws.
James’ legs gave under him and fell to the floor, shaking like a leaf.
“I’ll get you out of this place, I promise. Just stop!” Marcus approached slowly.
plunged his claw into its own head. As his fingers went in, James began to choke. Slender static fingers came out of his mouth.
“Please, son! I’m begging you on my knees, just stop!”
The fingers wrapped around the head and started pressing. Muffled screams came from the static-covered head.
“SOMNUS PLEASE, DONT DO THIS, DONT YOU-” *Splat*
Flowers for the dead
Her brother’s grave had been ravaged the day after being laid to rest. His body was plucked from the ground and hung above the city plaza. A pointlessly cruel message that even dead her enemies would allow her family no peace.
He had committed no sin more significant than entering this world with the name Flores. He was a good man, a loving father, and the only politician who cared about this city. His hands were clean, but their family’s business tainted his blood.
She called for war. Her Abuelito denied her. “Don’t you dare seek vengeance, Mari. Don’t you dare bring another war to our home. I’ve worked my entire life to rip our family out of this business. You will not drag us back down into it. I will go. I will seek peace.”
He was left above the plaza too. She buried peace with him.
She called for war, and her soldiers answered with blood. Her enemies dragged her family into this pit, and so she would show them the monsters they thought were long gone. There would be no rules, and she would spare no innocent. She would not rest until every last one of her enemies swung where her loved ones did. Their mouths stuffed with marigolds.
She called for war, and her city burned. Consumed by her grief and thirst for vengeance, she torched entire neighborhoods to extinguish those who wronged her. She demanded blood and could not be sated. Not when all her enemies ate flowers. Not when her family begged for peace. She burned and burned until even her home was not safe.
She swung above the plaza too. When her family could no longer stand the monster she had become, her son could no longer recognize the mother he loved.
Keeping the light
By Donovan Clark
“Don’t you dare, boy.” The rugged lighthouse keeper rumbled. But the beast was nearly to the tower. At that size it could rip brick from mortar and send it all skipping into the ocean. The old man knew the rules as well, and John knew he would do the same. But John could tell by the way Ernest winced when he climbed the many stairs to the beacon that the old man would never make it in time. So he snatched the lantern from the dining table and started running, slipping one arm into his coat as he opened the door. The rain was coming down so hard it felt like drowning, but he scrambled down to the dock as he put his other arm into the coat.
He grabbed a spare paddle from the shed and tumbled into the canoe. As quick as he could he lashed the oar to the yoke and hung the lantern from the top of his improvised mast. Then slamming both paddles into the rock he pushed himself backwards into the surf.
John rowed like a man possessed, placing yard after yard between the lighthouse and himself. Then he saw the beacon flicker off.
“Good,” he whispered between breaths sucked through clenched teeth. The only light on that dark sea was his. Then, by a distant crack of cloud borne lightning, he saw it. A swelling in the water, coming towards him and away from the rock. It was working.
John pulled at the oars with all the strength of a man in his prime, with all the years of hard labour, and with the conviction of a saint. But the beast was gaining on him, as he knew it would.
Ernest watched from the lantern room as that small flame sped into the night. He had never seen a boat move so fast on such wild seas. Then it disappeared behind a wave, and he knew it was done.
Would you accept the trade
At night, a man was inside a quiet cabin, an old witch sat at the opposite side of a table.
“Tell me what you want.” The witch spoke with her screeching voice, staring straight with her grey eyes. The man bit his lips hard. It was dangerous to ask the witch for help, but it was the only way left.
“I want to see him again.” A woman said, calming herself down. She was at a small store, by the corner of a crowded shopping mall. The scary witch giggled in the most uncomforting way. “I can do that for you, young girl. But what can you give me?” The woman took a deep breath. “I have a lot of money. I-I can give you as much as you want-”
The sly witch shook her head. “No, no, no, young man. Money is not what I’m looking for.” The witch disapprove caused the man to panic. “Please! I have something else for you! Do you want treasure? I can give you everything I have! Please, I just want to find her…”
The woman’s pleading didn’t seem to work on the heartless witch. She cackled and laughed at her naive proposal. “The most precious thing is inside one’s body. The little mermaid traded her voice for her legs. What can you offer me like that?” This was a serious extort, but the woman was determined to accept the trade. There were no other ways.
“Everything. Everything you need from me, I will give you.”
The witch smirked. “All I need is your soul.” The young couple was terrified. Losing their soul was not expected, and they hesitate. The witch’s annoying giggle entered their ears as if it was mocking their love. They finally had their decision. One soul for them to meet again. It was worth it.
The witch smirked again. It seemed like she had two more counts for her soul hunt tonight.
“So, would you be willing to sacrifice yourself?”
A dozen men sat gathered around a long dining table. Food and drink in silvery dishware crowded the table, luxurious clothing draped over the velvet chairs and the noise of rambunctious conversation bounced around the dining hall. The hall decor was incredibly well upkept and shone from the golden light of priceless chandeliers. Flowery scents seeped from fragrances hidden high in the ceiling beams.
“I say, have you heard what the Scholes have been talking about lately?” Minister Plunth asked, cofounder of the Suavve political party. “They’re suggesting a new bill to give more rights to charities. Charities!” He scoffed loudly.
“They say it’s for ‘humanitarian reasons’.” High Minister Leviticus, the party’s head member, chuckled. “And, get this, that it’ll ‘help the economy’!” The table erupted in laughter. Fists pounded the table and tears rolled down cheeks.
“Heh heh. They’re such liars! Hehehe. It’s hilarious!” Governor Munster said between giggles as he attempted to compose himself.
“Yes, yes. I think we all know the real reason they suggested it,” Leviticus said as the table calmed, a smug smile plastered on his face. “It’s a clear attack on the economy. Who proposed this, after all?”
“Water4All, that’s who; the ‘water’s a human right’ fiasco who’s hated us from the start,” Governor Beuford completed, disgusted.
“Why not support it, though?” The table abruptly grew quieter and everyone’s attention shifted to the party’s newest member, Mayor Stevens. “I mean, this would allow volunteer organizations to easily distribute important resources and reduce reliance on government programs.” Leviticus stood from his seat and approached Stevens. “Suavves are the reason they have… to…” He suddenly became very aware of the many eyes on him.
“Oh, don’t mind me,” Leviticus said, adjusting a sword on his hip. “By all means, continue. Someone with such strong convictions should never be afraid to share them.”
“I, uh,” Stevens stammered. “I suppose some things should simply remain private.”
Leviticus returned to his seat. “Oh, don’t worry, mayor. You still have much to learn about the world of politics. Now, where were we?”
Fool Me Once (Chronicles of The Dragon)
“JONATHAN! DON’T YOU DARE!”
Caitlyn did the only thing she could as it seemed Jonathan was, in fact, going to dare; she held on for dear life.
Already moving at highway speeds, Jonathan reached the edge of the cliff and leapt. Caitlyn was too terrified to scream, her eyes shut as a horrible sense of vertigo overcame her and it felt like all her organs were being pushed into her throat. Seconds later they landed, softer than she’d have ever imagined, on a back road not too far from the Wendy’s she wanted.
“We walk from here,” he said, letting her down.
She dropped down on unsteady legs. After a few seconds, she managed to take a breath. “That was…incredible…” She turned and shoved him. “Don’t ever do that again! I thought I was gonna die!”
Jonathan laughed. “But it’d have taken another ten minutes to go the normal way. And I’d have never done it if it wasn’t safe for you.” He wrapped her up in a hug.
“Hmph,” she said, letting him nuzzle her. And after a few seconds she turned and kissed him on the jaw. “Fine. You’re forgiven. For now. Let’s go eat.” And pushed him off of her and strode down the street.
What felt like a lifetime later, Caitlyn stood in an apartment, looking at a man she hadn’t seen in over two years. “Jonathan. Don’t you dare. You leave now and I won’t be here when you come back.”
Jonathan gripped the window frame and the wood splintered in his grip. “It was always over. I keep telling you what I am, and you keep telling me you accept me, but you don’t. You never have. And that’s why I didn’t tell you I was leaving. We’d argue and fight but I’d still have to go. I thought maybe you actually understood this time. But no. Same thing. And now, I need to go. And if you’re gone, so be it. If you’re not… I’ll give you a last ride to the airport.”
And he vanished through the window.
Beyond the Wire
Two disheveled soldiers moved through the crowded trench filled with the wounded and tired. The rain poured harder, with the loud pattering of steel helmets and armored shoulder pads becoming audible. Mud rats moved with the two steel troopers that trudged along.
“You do not need to do this. You have nothing to gain from this dumb bet!”, exclaimed one of the soldiers in a desperate voice.
Both soldiers arrived at a metal ladder that rested on a wall of mud. One of the two soldiers placed his foot firmly on the step, and his dirty gloves clasped on the ladder to begin his climb into No Man’s Land. The other soldier grabbed his shoulder to stop his ascent.
Before another word was uttered, Holden raised his hand to shush him.
“Jacoby, I need to do this. This is my chance to show Hanford and the lads that I’m no coward. Besides, I’m only going to grab the dead courier’s bag. I’ll be back before you know it”.
“You’re going beyond the wire, there are mines, roaming patrols, and Panzer Giants too! Hanford’s stupid dare is not worth it. Plea–”
Holden placed his hand on Jacoby’s shoulder and smiled.
Holden climbed and surveyed a valley of mud, surrounded by barbed wire, and populated by rats and corpses. Holden found the courier, slumped in a ditch made by the mechanical foot of a Panzer Giant. It wasn’t far, but it was far enough to be dangerous
Holden began his sprint, jumping past mines. The enemy trench line noticed Holden, and bullets were now whizzing by his head. Holden dove headfirst into the ditch, catching his breath and coming face to face with the courier’s pale face.
Holden ripped the bag from the courier’s hands and sprinted back to the trench as bullets flew past him. Holden tripped and fell face-first into the trench. Lifting his face, with the mud covering up his bloodied nose, Holden met Jacoby’s eyes.
Holden shoved the bag into Jacoby’s arms and sank his face back into the mud.
“Tell Hanford that his dare was too easy”.
An Unexpectedly Sticky Friend (Nyx’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
Nyx finished packing her supplies and stood, looking out towards the rising dawn.
The forest had been a fun change of scenery. But she was definitely looking forward to urban life again, despite the dangers of her work.
She stepped forwards, and –
“H-Hey! You’re already leaving?”
Nyx turned back to find her new half-hag friend, freshly awake and confused. “I’m not much of a goodbyes person,” she said apologetically. “And I’ve got a long way to go, so I should-”
“You could have told me dear!” Louise replied with exasperation. “I would have started packing up earlier!”
“Look, I’m sorry I didn’t – wait, why are YOU packing?”
As Nyx said this, Louise was already rushing across the camp, piling up bottles and bugs. “To go with you, of course!” She called back matter-of-factly.
Nyx blinked. “Uh-um-what do you-erm, I mean, why? Like, thank you for saving my ass with all those witches and everything, but you don’t need to escort me out…”
Her words did not seem to slow down her friend’s bustling manner. “I said I was going with you, silly! Not escorting you, that’s completely different!”
Wait, GOING going? As in, all the way to –
Nyx walked up to Louise, clasping her shoulders with her hands to keep her in place. “You really, really shouldn’t be doing that. My life is – well, it’s dangerous. Especially for you.”
Louise looked up at her, affronted. “You think this forest is safer than your buildings?”
“No-no, I don’t. But, this forest is your life, and has your dangers. And the city has my life, and my dangers. It’s different, and it could get you in big trouble.”
“Hmm!” Louise looked thoughtful for a moment, before a sly grin crawled up her face. “Well, if I do get in trouble, then I suppose you will have to protect me then, won’t you?”
Nyx’s cheeks reddened. “Err, I don’t know if I-”
“After all, I did that for you. It’s a fair exchange dear!” Her grin widened.
Nyx tilted her head resignedly, and smiled. “Fine then! But don’t say I didn’t warn you.“
“The Cradle and the Grave”
I drive my shovel into the soil of the infant’s grave and begin digging. My apprentice Liana’s hands gently squeeze the soul gem holding the infant’s soul. Her eyes flick about expecting the dead child’s parents to come upon us with an angry mob at any moment. I keep digging. The shattered moon hangs silently in the night over us.
Liana breaks the silence, “Master Arith, we really shouldn’t do this!”
I keep digging, silently intent on my work.
“We have to work quickly Liana. We have to return the soul to the infant’s body as I can’t perform a resurrection spell. The body needs to be revivified while it can still house the child’s soul before the connection is lost completely. We are lucky the elves don’t embalm their dead,” I say.
Liana nods in agreement, but is still on edge. “We are really risking a lot doing this whole plan just to satisfy a blind elven Seer and her wind spirits,” she continues, “I still can’t believe you just took its soul out like that.”
“I do what I have to,” I say without looking up or ceasing my digging.
Something shifts in the loose soil, and I stop digging so as to not damage the body. I brush the soil away, revealing the still infant’s form dressed in its white funerary clothes. I clear the soil from the body, and thrust one hand out in the direction of the soul gem Liana held. Purple energy arcs between my palm and the gem as I concentrate. Energy arcs from my other hand into the infant’s body, pooling into its eyes and mouth. Then the gem cracks and shatters into fragments. The infant remains still. Liana stares at it fearing we failed.
Then the infant sucks in a deep breath and begins crying. I smile at Liana and gather up the child in cloth, wrapping it warmly. Now we could return to the mourning parents and give them back their living breathing child, safe and sound. And the Seer WILL answer my questions now.
The Past Always Comes Back
By: Elliott (aka rebelwoutacause)
I had never imagined I would be sat here, on this hard, unforgiving chair while a woman in a nicely pressed, navy blue suit grilled me with questions. I was rather under-dressed for the occasion, which is not to say I had any choice in the matter considering the fact that I was barely able to wash my skin in the public bathrooms of the subway stations, but, nevertheless, the intimidation I felt from her looming presence was all too real. I tried to maintain composure, my back somewhat straight while straggling brown hairs were whisked away from my line of sight as I listened to her questions.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get the question…” I hung my head a bit, still trying to keep composure. The entire room was full of spectres – memories of those nightly beatings, screams about how I was ‘too feminine’ and somehow a ‘disgrace to mankind as we were meant to be,’ something like that.
“Can you recall any occasions in which the defendant directly caused physical or mental harm to yourself while you were entrusted in his care?”
Her face was so official as she asked, so stiff, as if she didn’t really have any feelings toward the answer I might give. She already knew the answer, after all: that was why I was here. Of course that man hurt me – it would be an understatement to leave it at that!
“Yes.” I responded. My mind was racing, detached from the scene as I tried not to crumble beneath the pressures of all of these various eyes staring at me, relying on my words for their own interpretation of everything this man had done.
‘Don’t. You. Dare.’ His glare screamed at me, pierced through my very soul as I sat upon the stand, trying anything and everything not to cower beneath it.
I am so sorry, father… I am so sorry they made me tell.
The Break through
A hazy blue light projected through the room, emitting a loud presumptuous hum as it undulated and twirled in the apparatus.
“It worked? IT FINALLY WORKED!! EAT IT KINES, I’M THE LORD OF TRANSPORT NOW!” Thoreau burst out in a frenzy of spite and triumph over his old colleague’s comments. After years of careful study and research, a lifetime’s worth in total, he would finally be able to travel instantaneously. No waits, no more traffic, vehicles, trams, trains… nothing, he thought, Near instant teleportation! “Now, all that’s left is to see where it leads.” He said.
Tightening up the suit fittings around his appendages he was finally ready to test it. Cautiously he stepped toward the anomaly which had now begun filling the room with various colored lights. Reaching for his utility belt he grabbed at any tools he could find then proceeded to toss through the portal to no reaction.
“Seems safe enough,” he murmured and continued walking towards it when from behind a sudden flash of light illuminated the room and a gruff but familiar voice called out from behind.
“STOP! DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH THAT!”
“Who the hell.. are… you?!” Thoreau exclaimed, spinning around to see an older tattered version of Kines splayed out upon the floor. Thoreau could only stare for a moment as his mind reeled the plethora of implications this had.
“You don’t… need to.. Do this…. Please stop!” The older Kines ordered. “The timeline. The natural order. All of it. Destroyed. By your actions today. Please.” Kines reached desperately toward the much younger Thoreau who stood there in shock. Every principle, every law he ever knew, all of it was shattered by the existence of this man.
One thought kept creeping up in the back of his mind every time he considered this strange predicament. If he had created a time machine by accident and Kines came back to stop him from using it, then it was already too late. Thoreau took a deep breath, smiled at the decrepit visage of his rival and said snidely, “For Science,” before stepping through it.
Barking Cars (Darkspell Universe/The Depths Files)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre) and ThatWeirdFish
Max just knew that he should have asked for quintuple rates, instead of triple, as he scoured the used car lot for what he was looking for.
The source of Max’s frustration was currently holding up a car key, a mischievous grin on his face.
“Oi, Max!” Trip yelled from the front desk. “Wanna see somethin’ cool?”
“The only thing I want to see,” the exorcist replied, forcing his voice into a meditative calm. “Is results on my case, not a demon-ish in sore need of a fidget spinner and a proper babysitter.”
“Aww, come on. It’ll only take two seconds!”
Max didn’t respond but checked the underside of the cars for any evidence of demon activity. It wasn’t easy to do in the poor light, but he followed the smell of rotten fish and soon came across what a small taste test later revealed to be a trail of saltwater.
“Got you”, he whispered.
Trip walked up behind Max, casually spinning the key ring around his finger. “Ya ever hear a car bark?” Then with a flourish, he pointed the key fob towards a random car and prepared to push a button.
Max got up and turned around. It was a hauntingly slow turn.
“Do not push that button, Trip. Do not. Need I remind you that I am trying to be covert?”
“Tryin’ to do what?” He asked with oblivious calm as he pushed the button absently.
“Huh… that’s not a car sound.”
If looks could kill, Trip would have combusted ten times over.
“No, it is not,” Max’s voice still had that haunting calm to it.
His hands had gone to his pockets, where he kept his exorcism needles. So much for covert. He stepped towards Trip, tore the keys from his hands, threw them to the floor, and trampled them.
“I. Told. You. No. Idiot.”
A loud bark emanated from one of the cars, closely followed by a frogman, bolting into the dark. Max growled.
“Don’t you dare follow me,” he took off after the water demon.
“Told ya cars bark,” Trip grinned and followed.
By Jim Grayston
The tremors hit without warning. They seemed to last a lifetime. And when they finally stopped, I found my left hand jammed into the rocks, strangling the climbing rope between my fingers, and my right arm tensed, weighed down at my side.
But the rope was too loose, too flexible to hold weight for long. I looked up its length to an anchor, fifteen feet above. It had been hammered into the cliff-face, but the aftershock had nearly detached it from the wall.
I had seconds to react. If I didn’t, we’d be sent careening into the abyss.
There was one way out of this situation: I could use an adjustment anchor to reattach the rope to the rocks. I had a few of them strapped to my harness, but I…I needed leverage and dexterity and time, and I didn’t have any of that, and I had never even attempted to make an adjustment like this in the middle of a climb much less with only one hand, and I-
My eyes tore across my right arm to see my climbing instructor, hands in mine, dangling helplessly in the air. And though her legs were limp and unwilling to cling to the wall, her voice and her gaze met me with the same indignance, the same malice, that cut through me every time we trained at the climbing gym.
Every time I let her down. Every time, she let me fall.
“Don’t you dare let me go.”
I could feel every nail on her fingers gnashing at my arm, every bruise on my back and shoulders screaming, every aspect of my being, knowing, feeling what I had to do, but petrified, with no net to soften the landing.
I wrenched my left hand free from the rope and reached for my harness.
The anchor above us trembled and lurched in its last throes of life. A minute passed. A year. A century. A moment, wholly unshackled from the laws of time.
And then, at last, it lost its grip on the cliff-face, and plummeted into the darkness below.
Just as the water that day, all these ugly emotions could no longer be contained and poured into this world. My mask crumbled. I realized, crouching on the cracked concrete, feeling the marks engraving themselves into my wretched flesh as the gathering water drops reflected my most inner thoughts, my true self. At last, able to remember what my real face had once looked like. However, what I found was an incomplete rose, the roots missing. I felt so defenseless.
“Is someone there?”
The footsteps resonating in that filthy alley were light, graceful ones. Perhaps belonging to a young high school student. How I yearned to walk with such ease once more.
“I heard someone crying and-“
“Don’t you dare look at me!” I expressed with the little strength I had left in my voice, engulfing my face in soaked clothes. Regardless, I evaded her gaze too late.
“Your persona… it’s gone.
“I envy that you were able to free yourself from this fusing facade.”
Her previously rosy face and warm gaze suddenly seemed so troubled with regret.
“No, I envy that you are able to maintain this protective mask,” escaped my hesitant lips. “I would trade everything for things to go back as they were before.”
“Even your core, your being, that which defines you?” she asked bitterly.
I could hear her internal cries of sorrow.
Yet, I had no answer.
“This pathetic disguise we have built for ourselves has not shielded us from harm, but shattered us from the inside, defying who we truly are, robbing us of our humanity and our true existence, leaving nothing except a lifeless void and captured souls behind. One day you will awaken and find that you can no longer disentangle it from your threads of skin and understand that this mask has embedded itself like a parasite.
“So, it is your choice if you want to choose to live as a faulty, nevertheless, humane being or an artificial and superficial slave of society, like the one I have become.”
The Gospel of Un-Mattering
The arrangement is not dissimilar to an altar, when one thinks about it. There are the other, lesser command points scattered along the console: dials, buttons, displays with all manner of information showing set coordinates and the like, but attention is called to the center piece, the sanctum sanctorum that condenses the gravitas of the room in it.
Truth be told, it is not in the spatial center of the console. I oftentimes wonder if its placement, a little bit to the right from the point of view of the operator, does not break an intended divine symmetry. Or, perhaps, it is exactly as it was meant to be, its position in perfect dialogue with the ergonomy of an everyday operator, who could just move his more dextrous hand to open the protection and press the button.
The Button. Maybe its off-centeredness is another sign of a greater sanctity, one that does not unveil itself to mundane eyes.
That would make sense. To unsuspecting eyes, the console is awe-inspiring, but still quite mundane. Its raison d’être only really communicated to us, its operators, ministers, aides, officiants.
There are sounds in the room, but the button is silent. Silent, but very communicative. It’s red hue, it’s protective case, the yellow and black stripes that surround it… all work together to strengthen that instinctive call of danger. “Do not press me”, it says.
Would it be pressed a whole chain of events would be triggered. This chain reaction, a domino effect of electrical, mechanical, sociological, humane and chemical cascading decisions would unfold. One fingertip – the whole human race – could coalesce urgency and decision into a point of pressure that would, in effect, end our world.
Something that is not meant to be.
Still, there is the Button. It was made.
We made it.
We made it to end the world.
An argument, they said. A deterrent.
One touch of it and uncountable lifetimes would flash in an instant. A heavy, long, and definitive instant.
Decisions, finality. Maybe It was built so that we could exert them.
The Thrill of the Fail
By Matthew R. Wright
Posted by CleanCurtis
Inspired by all of your wonderfully disgusting memories, allow me to share with you a favourite thrill of mine and a memory. I call it “The Thrill of the Fail”.
It is required to know, before I begin, that I’m a qualified first-aider. All of the opportunities the training’s provided me to indulge in my /ImmoralThrill, have been absolutely incredible. Would 100% recommend.
My thrill, to be completely blunt with you, is: Allowing someone to die whilst their loved ones cling to the hope that I can save them.
For me, the thrill comes not from the act itself, but from the surrounding emotions. I feed off their desperation, inevitable disappointment, and grieve. In these vulnerable moments, they cling and beg, putting their trust and faith in me. To break that faith, destroy that trust, right as their beloved fades before them, it’s pure ecstasy. Nothing like it.
I remember one man; who’d had a heart attack in his car. His daughter had pulled him out and laid him between two cars. She called out and I came. I said all the right things from training to get her to believe in me. As she called 999, I did the counts “1..2..3..” all the way to thirty, but pressing gently on his chest, giving him no compressions. The daughter was in-such-distress that she never noticed that I was barely-moving. I stared into his eyes, wide-open yet-unresponsive. I spoke to the paramedics over-the-phone, talked-the-talk. Three-quarters-of-an-hour later, the paramedics declared-the-man dead, and thanked me for my assistance, despite the result. Death was the only result I assisted in. I always go and talk-to-the-family afterwards, give them my condolences, hug them if they request it. I look into their eyes and revel in their despair and loss.
My count so far is twenty-seven, with no plans in stopping. I’ll leave with one-piece-of-advice for any readers visiting the UK anytime-soon. IF you are ever in need of emergency-medical-assistance, never accept help from a British-man in aviator-shades and a dark-green-jacket, that’ll be me, and I won’t try and save you.
Title: The Hardest Step
Mother never had much of a way with words. When she told me that she didn’t want me get a tattoo or spend time with the cute girl down the street, she made it known immediately. I always told her what I was thinking of doing.
Every time, her reply was the same. “Don’t you dare. You’ll break your mother’s heart. Did you ever consider what it would do to me?”
Of course, I had given it thought. I had done so over and over again throughout my life. If I were to go out and get a job, I would be able to bring in more money for us. That way, we’d be able to afford nicer food and maybe go to the occasional movie. Of course, I’d also be away from home pretty often.
If I were to go to a barber to get my hair cut instead of having her do it for me, I might learn about new styles. But styles cost money.
If I had met the right person, maybe I would have fallen in love, married, and even had kids of my own. By now, she could have grandchildren to blanket with affection. I can’t help but think she’d be happy to see them every day.
If I had gone to a trade school, I might have been able to get skills to help us even more. Imagine if I became an electrician. I could make sure that we had the wiring for proper lighting without risking a fire. If I were a plumber, we could even have indoor plumbing!
I once read that you don’t need a working parachute to go skydiving. You just need one to go a second time. I’m not sure mother would understand that entirely.
After she went to bed for the night and I was sure she was sleeping, I took my leap. I straightened my hair, put on the closest thing I had to a suit, and quietly went out the door. I will dare to make things better for us.
Mother Nature, Gaia, Tellus, Great Mother. These and many more are the names of the creator. She is the Eternal beginning, our gruesome end. The humans think my mother is kind and gracious, has flowers in her hair and birds flying around her.
When did this come to pass? Cobwebs make up her hair. She leaves death and destruction in her wake. She started wars to appease her siblings. I’m often in the crossfires.”
“I saw what you did.”
“Oh, did you? What have I ‘done’?”
“You allowed sickness to ravage our beautiful islands and took no issues with humans killing themselves.”
“Perhaps you misspoke. I only help our people survive.”
“How do death and decay help our people to survive?!”
I couldn’t stop.
“You are a cruel, despicable woman! I will continue to use your power to reverse the damage and return my friend to his rightful home!”
“You will regret thi-“
“Haha, I won’t.”
I turned to leave when she dragged me back and said,
“Despite you calling me wicked, I will take this opportunity to impart to you some wisdom.”
She adjusted herself, then continued.
“When the earth was a rock, I was young. I was fragile, and because of that, my sisters cast me out. They told me only power could become part of their realm. The stars showed every once in a while. They were the only company I had.
The next darkness, I found myself walking with no particular rhyme or reason. The stars were screaming at me, yet I couldn’t hear them over the muffling clouds. I fell into a tunnel, which seemed to beckon me forward.
I unburied an ancient flute. I wondered,’ what would something so ornate be doing here?’ I blew into it, then the clouds parted, but I could no longer hear the stars.
The planet came alive at my command. The seas parted. I made more friends like me. That’s when things fell apart.
A close friend of mine stole my flute. She proclaimed I was a tyrant, not worthy of being called Mother earth. They started fighting for the flute. I grabbed it while they were arguing and commanded them to stop.
They were now under my command. I was satisfied but no longer happy. Neither were the people I created. I told my sisters of my power. They asked,’ How did this supposed power of yours come?’ I lied, promising that ’this power only works in one realm’ They agreed and modified their minds, so they could not remember my reign. My sisters were proud, but I wasn’t. They were doomed to die of their hand, so I made it so they could escape each other. They would not remain on this earth for long.”
By L. L. Marco
Ajila ducked her head down as another set of footsteps rushed by their hiding place. She couldn’t see how many agents had swarmed around the abandoned building but she knew it was too much for her to handle. or rather… her eyes drifted over to her companion, sitting unusually still beside her. It wasn’t that Ajila couldn’t take them on. It was that if she unleashed her full potential, she couldn’t keep Rhian out of the crossfire. That was the one thing Ajila wouldn’t risk; she would not sacrifice her friend to save herself. So there was only one choice.
“Listen and do not argue,” Ajila whispered, placing her hands on Rhian’s shoulders. “They only want me. Shapeshift into one of them and slip out the back; they will never know the difference. You can still leave.”
Rhian’s eyes widened. She opened her mouth to speak but nearby footsteps silenced her; instead, she shook her head. Ajila’s brow furrowed; every second wasted was another moment closer to them being discovered. There wasn’t any time for this.
“I won’t leave you,” Rhian whispered. “You didn’t do anything! W-we can explain it to them… We…”
“You know that is not how this will go, Rye. Do this for me–”
Warmth. It bloomed across her lips and down her entire body as Rhian, with all the bravery she had, silenced Ajila with a kiss. Their first. Ajila was completely caught off guard. Before she could return the kiss, Rhian pulled back and her body immediately began The Shift.
Ashen skin replaced her pale flesh; her skin cracked and her form grew. It took Ajila a moment to process what was happening. Why she she looking at an exact copy of… herself.
“Prove our innocence, Ajila.” Rhian took a deep breath and then stood. It all happened so fast, but to Ajila, the moment moved like sludge. She watched, horrified, as her friend leapt from their hiding spot and straight into the enemy. The enemy that knew no difference between a shapeshifter and Ajila. Rhian looked back and mouthed one single word:
Semantics in Gunslinging
by Lee Strangely
Sunlight poured through the doorway, shining around the silhouette that stood in the middle of it. With each step he took the patrons got quieter and quieter. There was a table with only one scruffy looking man at it, and he decided to sit there across from him.
“Mr. Grint!” a rather well-dressed man shouted at him from across the bar, “fancy seeing you here.”
“I’m here strictly on business,” Grint replied, gritting his teeth and resisting the urge to strangle the idiot. He pulled out his revolver, looking as if he was pointing it in the man’s direction.
“Uh, uh, uh,” he smugly said as he pulled his jacket back to reveal a silver badge, “I’m a lawman now. You can’t touch me… Or at least not without consequences.”
Grint congratulated him, “Good for you. I feel sorry for the sheriff though. It must be hard times for him, especially to resort to deputizing people who aren’t even brighter than the reflection off their badge.”
“Ha. Ha…” the deputy grumbled.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a man to shoot. I’d advise that you get out of the way so you don’t get hurt.”
What appeared to be a very simple statement triggered what looked like a very deep thought process within the deputy’s mind.
After thinking about it for a moment, the deputy announced, “Oh no. no, no, no. Oh I get it.”
“Don’t try it. Don’t you dare! I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying trick me. I’m not going to fall for your crap this time Grint.”
Plain and bluntly, Grint responded, “Suit yourself.”
It all happened faster than anyone’s eyes could see. It started and ended all in mere slivers of a second. Just one shot. The man across from Grint dropped dead. Behind him came an emasculating yelp of pain. The deputy clenched his leg.
“Y-you shot me! You SHOT AT ME!”
“No, I shot at him,” Grint clarified, gesturing to the corpse, “and I warned you that I would, as everyone here can attest.”
Protecting the Luminous Vial
“Don’t do this, Algar!” Ford Jones yelled.
“Yeah, yeah, I know, ‘it belongs in a museum’. But don’t worry, after I finish drinking the Luminous Vial, the flask will go to the Stethsonian Museum, where I will be heralded as a hero once again!”
Life in Ituante is complicated. Some days you’re at home watching TV, other days you’re fighting a renegade military wizard from the North Capital trying to steal a potion from an old god on top of a moving train. Again, it’s complicated.
The Luminous Vials were created by a long dead god, Scand, The Luminous Elemental, who gave them to his most powerful priests to make them even more powerful. There were only four remaining flasks in the whole planetary system, and Jones wouldn’t allow a madman to use one.
Quickly getting his trusty whip, Ford attempted to wrap it around the flask to pull it from Algar’s grasp. But as fast as him, Algar held the lash with his free hand and discharged an electric spell on the weapon, zapping Jones, almost knocking him off the train. His trusty whip failed yet again.
“Cheers!” the wizard proclaimed.
“Don’t you dare!” the adventurer protested.
Algar hastily drank the whole bottle. It was done.
“Yes!” he said, “I can feel the power! The energy! The… wait a minute…” he looked at his own hands, noticing that something wasn’t right. His hands were… turning into stone? “A petrification potion? But… But you…”
“Well, I had to make it look convincing, right?” Jones smiled.
Algar tried to get angry, but it was too late. Losing balance, he fell off the train into the grassy fields, where he finished turning into a living statue, the empty vial firm in his hand.
Bonnie Croft was right, Ford Jones thought. Making a replica with a fake potion inside was a good idea. The real vial was safely hidden in a random box of wines in the cargo bay. Now all he needed to do was to go back to his seat and enjoy the trip. Life was once again less complicated.
The Old Well
By George Kaplan
They stared into the void.
“I dare you—” a high-pitched voice began.
“N-no.” Billy interrupted, notes of terror ringing in his voice.
“C’mon, it’s just a dare. It’ll be fine”
“No.” Firmer this time, more confident.
Jon took a step back from the open well; thick vines of ivy ran up the old brick surface. They weren’t supposed to be there— not now, not ever.
“What are you, a scaredy cat? A coward? A yellow-bellied—”
“No. I just don’t think it’s safe. That’s all.”
“Fine, coward. I’ll do it myself.” Wiping a smear of mud from the side of his freckled face, Jon grabbed a coil of thick, oily rope, and stepped towards the edge of the well. He swallowed hard.
“You better not drop me.” He said, dangling a length of rope over the side.
“Th-this isn’t a good idea.”
They took their positions, Billy bracing himself against the side of the well with two handfuls of rope, Jon slowly repelling into the deep.
“Hey… wha-what’s happening?” Billy said, effort fracturing his speech.
“Give me more slack. Ugh, these walls are slimy. Gross.”
“Do you see the ball?”
“Not yet. I…”
“Did you hear that?” Panic began to take hold of his speech.
From the deep, a moan sounded. An unearthly, ancient sound.
“Pull me up, pull me up!”
He groaned with exertion. “I can’t, I’m not strong enough.”
Feet scrambled against the side of the well. Rubber against slime. Slipping, sliding, as if drawn downwards by some unseen force.
Billy grunted, pulling with all his might.
“Somethings coming! Help! Do something!”
Something grabbed the end of the line, tugging sharply downward. Dragged over the edge, Jon’s fading scream filling his ears, Billy clung to the lip of the well. What little strength he had begun to ebb. He hung there, almost motionless except for the futile kicking of his feet. A trumpeting sounded deep below. He knew it was all over.
There i was, tied up in an little orc camp. There weren’t any more than three of those loud mouths, each of them uglier than the last.
And as i watched hopeless with my back tied down to a tree i thought of what my last wish would be before my flesh would be consumed by hideous green mass. And in my endless footman wisdom i thought it would be humorous to see an orc fight and orc.
“Oi green-skins.” The grotesque green man hunched over. “What do you want man thing? We’re busy.” “I was just wondering which one of you is the strongest.” “Why do you care pink skin?” snorted another.
My mind was thrown into panic, as i didn’t really wanna die any faster than i already was destined to. “Well i would feel more at ease knowing that whoever eats me actually has the mettle to earn it.”
The orks laughed out loud. “As if anyone would be stronger than me, Bhorg the long tooth.” The laughter ceased. “Don’t you dare spread such nonsense Bhorg! I can wrestle three bears at once! You couldn’t crush a wolf if you tried!”
The heat of the rivalry grew stronger “Shut your gob! You don’t even know the difference between a grog barrel and a bear you drunk!”
“Well i dare you to a arm wrestling match!”
I was at awe, my simple joke had created an opportunity for me as the orcs wrestled. However my window of time was cut short as already the victor was declared “DINNER FOR ME!” yelled Bhorg. “What about me?” yelled the third orc. But he too was cut off, literally as the loser drew his cleaver.
“I captured the man-thing, I eats the man-thing” The orcs were really at each others throats now. And i in the midst of all that chaos managed to escape and flee.
I still cannot believed it worked.
Patient No.001 – Brian
The situation looked grim if I might say so myself.
After the police negotiator failed to convince Mr. Brian (in the later text – Patient), I was summoned to the scene to resolve the situation as peacefully as I could.
The patient is male, early thirties, fit with as far as I could see at the time, greasy long black hair, which fell over his eyes, hiding them.
The victim, held by the patient, was a woman. She was alive if her struggling was any indication. I wonder about how the patient managed to hold her for so long with a single hand even now.
Once I arrived on the scene, the negotiator clued me in on what was going on. “We are pretty sure they have no connections to each other. She was visiting a friend that lived in the same building. Witness reports state that he subdued her and brought her to the roof. He says he will kill himself but won’t tell us why, nor why he took the girl or the reason why he won’t let her go. We have people in place for if he drops her.” He gave me a troubled look as he continued. “I don’t see this ending without bloodshed, but if you can do something about this Doc we would be very grateful to you.”
Nodding, I took the megaphone he handed to me and went close enough to the building so that I can see a bit better.
“Heya, Brian, I don’t know what put you in this situation, but I suggest that you let the girl go. And by that, I don’t mean that you drop her.” His only reaction was a bodily twitch.
“That won’t work on me man, I wouldn’t try to do that again if I were you, or I will drop her.”
“I suggest you don’t do this Brian-” He let the girl go and a gunshot was heard.
A white room with a single desk and two chairs. The patient is restrained and sitting across from me.
“Now Brian, what made you do that?”
The Last Steps (CW: Abusive relationship)
Jena didn’t know how long she had.
She had packed a single suitcase, hesitating over including dozens of different things. She’d ended up packing mostly clothing.
Now she was standing in the front hall. Her sister was waiting outside. She was six feet from the door, and yet, she lingered.
Her sister kept saying that this was the first step, but in truth the first steps had been months ago. When she’d first told her sister she was scared. When she’d first admitted the bruises weren’t a result of clumsiness. When she’d finally accepted that their marriage wasn’t “normal.”
Actually leaving, though, felt like the final step. A grim weight hung over her as she surveyed the set dressing of her life. They were supposed to grow old here, together. She had meant “till death do us part,” and it hurt to imagine her life any other way.
She was startled as her phone vibrated. A text from her sister.
He opened the door, a frown already on his face. He stopped when he saw her, narrowing his eyes at the sight of her suitcase.
“You can’t be serious.” His voice was light and mirthful, but his eyes held no humor.
He sighed and stood aside, motioning widely toward the open door. “Go ahead and leave if you want. But we both know you’ll be back. No one else will put up with everything I have.”
She studied him, searching for even a trace of the man she had fallen in love with. The man who had promised “to love and to cherish.”
He shrugged. “I understand. It’s been rough lately. We can talk about it, make some changes.”
But changes, like promises, vows, were fleeting things with him. She was leaving, but he had ended the marriage a long time ago.
Without a word, she picked up her suitcase and walked the last steps steadily toward the door.
He lost his mask as she passed him, and she didn’t have to look to know the rage that lurked behind.
But she was already gone.
A Shiny Red Button
By MasaCur (Reposted from the Private Group)
Myrgan finished cutting open the blast door with the plasma cutter. Together, he and Rydia pried the doors apart.
Myrgan looked around the empty command center. “Well, the place looks abandoned. I guess we should see what we can find out here.” He made his way to one of the terminals and tried to boot it up.
“Oooh! Shiny!” Rydia said.
Myrgan didn’t even look over at her. “What did you find, Rydia?”
“A button! A big, shiny red one!”
Dread filled Myrgan’s soul. “Don’t touch anything!” He managed to connect to the outpost’s server, and started scanning through folders for information.
“I’m the captain; you’re just the underling. You can’t tell me what to do!”
Myrgan slapped his hand onto his helmet, right above his forehead. He jumped out of his chair and bolted to Rydia. “Stop whatever imbecilic thought is staggering through the street carnival you call a brain! We’re here to find out why the outpost was abandoned, not to engage in your every childish whim!”
Rydia stuck her tongue out. “If they didn’t want me to push the button, they shouldn’t have made it so enticing.” Her hand hovered over the big red button.
Myrgan slapped Rydia’s hand away from it. “Go find something else to do!”
“The button even says ‘Danger’ on it in big letters! Clearly this is not a button for touching!”
Rydia crossed her arms, clearly sulking. “Fine. I’ll go explore somewhere. Maybe in engineering.”
“I swear by Gorlach of the Unending Marsh, if you push any buttons that you clearly shouldn’t, I’m going to get back on our ship, and leave you here to die.”
“Well, don’t worry about it, because I clearly won’t.”
Myrgan sat back down in front of the terminal, and found the daily logs for the outpost. He started poring through the files going from newest to oldest.
Minutes later, the intercom crackled to life. “Attention. Self destruct sequence initiated. Please evacuate according to command protocols. Thirty rotational segments and counting.”
Myrgan thumped his helmet against the terminal screen with a groan.
I was 14 when I tried to kill my childhood. I thought that if I wanted to survive in this world I had to kill any weakness I had that held me back. But I didn’t want to. And that was the problem. I hesitated too much. Was too meager to do anything, just clinging to this stupid bear.
My right hand was on the gun and my left over my racing, aching heart, as I held the gun against the back of my teddy bear’s head. The tears had already stained my face once I decided to slowly pull the trigger, closing my eyes as I did. After it was done I could fight back.
“Don’t,” a small voice said.
My eyes shot open, and I saw Teddy stand up and turn, looking at me with his tiny black eyes that glinted with light.
“Teddy?” I said weakly and astonished.
My grip on the gun weakened, but I caught myself, and raised it between Teddy’s eyes.
“I saw what you’ve been going through,” Teddy said kindly. “You’ve lost a lot. People were cruel to you despite knowing about your losses. And now you’ve learned things that make you view your childhood differently. But that’s a lie too. You thought that I would always be your younger self that never grew up. But I’ve been growing up with you. I’ve seen it through your eyes. Our eyes. I was there. Getting rid of this teddy bear isn’t gonna do anything when you still have the memories. I will always be there to remind you of your sense of wonder so you can explore your fears, and your ability to care so you can tend to your wounds. The only way to kill me is to forget me. But you’ll lose all of the good things I came with, and that’s suicide.”
I gave the old teddy bear away. I was able to let go of the toy and keep myself.
Years later I caught my daughter about to make the same mistake. I told her, “Don’t.”
Making the Best of It by Thunder
I took petty satisfaction from seeing the human prince, Roren, wearing a new tunic. We greeted each other, cordially if stiffly, neither acknowledging the incident in the garden. When we finally sat, at the head of the table with our respective parents seated across from each other, dinner began.
I hadn’t been sure what to expect from the human, but all-but-ignoring me wasn’t it. Instead he stared down at his plate, idly picking at it while sipping at the wine. I followed his example, staring rigidly ahead, ignoring the concerned looks from my parents.
Finally, a note landed on Roren’s plate. After he read it and snorted, I finally broke my silence. “Is there a problem, Your Highness?”
“Hmm? Oh, my mother thinks we should at least attempt to converse.”
I snuck a glance at the human queen, who was doing a fairly bad job of pretending not to watch us. “How… nice, of her. Ensuring we get along.”
He only snorted again, so I continued. “I doubt you know anything about me, mayhap we should start there?”
“Must we keep up this charade?” he asked tiredly. “I doubt I will live long enough to need any information you could tell me.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Expecting a blade between the ribs, I take it?”
“Your people can’t be happier about this than mine.”
“We aren’t barbarians,” I returned. “No-one would do anything so uncouth.” Then, after an appropriate pause, “We would just poison your food.” In the sweetest voice I could manage, “How do you like the wine?”
He stopped mid-drink, then hurriedly downed the glass. “Worth dying for, if you must know.”
“Glad you enjoy,” I said, masking my disappointment.
“If you are trying to scare me, Princess Lynnara, you will have to do better,” Roren said with a smile.
“Give me time,” I replied glibly. “I’ll convince our parents to break this off yet.”
Another snort, then he raised his voice. “I wouldn’t expect anything else of a knife-eared harlot.”
The entire room went silent as I upended the wine pitcher over his head and stormed out.
By Noel ID McGrath
Joshua held his head low, tears nearly bursting out. By the door his twin brother, Lawrence, stared back at him. “I still refuse to believe it, you wouldn’t leave the order, the order we group our whole lives in!”
Brother, don’t you dare stop me! There’s a war out there, and I refuse to stay put preaching peace in a temple.” Lawrence said.
“But brother, we can still do so much here. People need us to look after them, especially the orphans!” Joshua came over and placed his hands on Lawrence’s shoulders.
You can manage here, I’ll keep everyone safe out there.” Lawerence embraced his Joshua, attempting to sooth his heart. “This is so unlike you, usually you’re the mature one. What’s happened, have the stories made you a young naive youth.”
“We’re still in the flower of youth.” Joshua squeezed his brother then calmed down for a moment. “No mother, no father, no other family! It was always you and me: the temple was our whole lives, the leaders were our parents! The order was our only family, now you’re leaving it for the fight like so many other eager kids our age!”
Lawrence looked at the doorway then back at his brother. “You know me, I could never sit back and watch the universe fall into chaos.” Then he took out a broken pin. Joshua’s eyes lit up for a moment. “Brother, this house is divided, our order is fractured, but our family can never break like this pin.”
Joshua then grabbed the other half of the pin from his pocket. “I want to but I shouldn’t force you to stay, you’re the only one I got.”
“Don’t be so pessimistic, I’m not abandoning you or anything. I promise I’ll write every chance I get, at least so you know I’m safe.” Lawrence smiled.
Joshua was still hesitant, but stopped complaining. He knew better than to stifle Lawrences ambition. He was leaving the temple, and that was final.
Just Say Truth
By Lantis Armstrong
April held her brother Hayden up so he wouldn’t fall and hit his head as he nearly collapsed from blood loss. The man in red shades waved a finger, and the gushing blood from Hayden’s side ceased, the wounds internally and externally seared shut by magical fire dancing across his belly.
Gasping for air, face sweating profusely, Hayden offered his kidney to the man in red shades; he turned his nose up at the organ and waved a hand to vanish it with a puff of smoke.
The three of them stood alone deep in the woods. From here, nobody had been able to hear all of the screaming.
“Okay, you’ve impressed me, boy. I can’t believe you survived that. So that means it’s your turn: Truth or dare? What would you ask of me?” the man in red shades gave a wide, friendly smile.
Hayden looked up with cloudy eyes on a pale face, and he strained to force himself back up to his own feet, pushing his sister back. His eyes narrowed and lips weakly curling back into a deep sneer.
“I know you’re angry and hurting, but please just say truth. Ask him where our parents are,” April begged.
Hayden shot her an angry glance with energy unbecoming of his frail and shaking form.
“I choose dare,” Hayden told the man in red shades, “I dare you to drag everyone responsible for our parents’ disappearance to hell!”
The man in red shades nodded, then snapped his fingers. Thin, rusted silver chains with barbed hooks whipped up from the ground like a series of snakes striking at the siblings, sticking into their skin anywhere they could manage to fasten themselves. The two screamed in shock and fear as the chains tightened and began dragging them underground.
“I’m feeling sporting so I’ll tell you both the truth, too,” the man in red shades said, “your parents weren’t kidnapped. They went into hiding when they learned their own children were making deals with the devil.”
The earth swallowed them whole while the man smiled.
The Magic System
The only sound was crackling flame. The magma walls that had flowed for so long were finally cooling, and Athera could only hope that her work was complete. The halls held a grim finality.
A single voice, cracking like a glacier falling to pieces, wrapped its frozen claws around Athera’s heart. It was fate, really, that the one goddess Athera had hoped to never see was the one goddess who escaped the flames that consumed her brethren. Ignoring the lump in her throat, Athera turned to face the goddess: her former patron, Ignacia, Goddess of the Frozen Wasteland. Her magmatic limbs were cooling with the walls, turning the goddess’s very body into an obsidian sculpture that rippled with flowing lines and still glowed with what remained of her magic.
As much as Athera didn’t trust herself to respond, it was what Ignacia deserved. “I had to, my lady.” Her voice broke. “I- the humans- they can’t live under you anymore.” The tears were flowing now, marking lines on Athera’s soot-stained face. She gave up trying to stop them. “And so I- I listened, I listened to the magic. I’m sorry, my lady, I know you always told me not to, but… I have to do this.”
Unimaginable pain covered Ignacia’s slowly hardening face. “My child…”
“I have to!” Athera screamed.
The goddess’s once-beautiful voice was turning to stone, and the grating sound filled Athera’s soul with sorrow. Fresh tears fell. Her breaths were shallow. “There is another way, my child.”
“But there isn’t!” The shout echoed through the hall, empty save the two of them. “I have to do this! You can’t protect us anymore!” Vision going blurry, Athera began to draw a hasty rune in the air, complex and looping and full of long-abandoned power.
As the rune started to take shape, Ignacia let out the smallest gasp of horror. Athera pushed it away, for now. “You wouldn’t dare…”
Blazing rune complete, all the fire finally left Athera. She looked into Ignacia’s eyes one final time and whispered, “I have to.”
Don’t you dare
It started when I was young and I said to my mum that I bet I could climb that wall and the building I could stand on. She replied “don’t you dare”. Fair enough, she didn’t want to see me hurt but when me and some of the kids were playing football and the ball landed on a roof, I knew I had to try. I grabbed onto a drainpipe that ran down the wall’s side and straining as I went, I grabbed the flat edge of the roof with my arms and pulled my weak self up. With scratches and grazes all along the back of my forearms I threw the ball down and jumped back along with it. I went home later that day. My mum saw my injured arms. She applauded me for my effort’s but told me “don’t you dare try and do that again.”
Many years later, I was a teen and I saw an old woman being robbed. In the spur of the moment though I’m still not quite sure why, I jumped in to try and help, Grabbed the mugger, grabbed the bag, took a punch to the face and left with a bloodied nose but the lady got to keep her stuff as I wrenched it from his hands. The commotion attracted attention and the man cut his losses and ran. The old lady commended me for my efforts but seeing my face, told me “don’t you dare try and do that again”
A fair few years later and I joined the military too but here we sit now, me and my platoon. We were trying to deliver supplies to another who needed them but we were hit by a bomb before we could reach them. I look around me with ringing in my ears at the bloody and beaten faces, eyes that are crying each and everyone of their faces saying to me “don’t you dare stop and give in now, keep on going and make sure you and those men live to fight again, don’t you dare stop moving now”
Cyntha popped her needle through the canvas, and carefully pulled the thread through.
“STEVE YOU BETTER NOT BE AFTER THE LAST COOKIE!”
“Uh-!” Steve froze. Cyntha calmly did her next stitch as Merle skidded around the corner, claws scraping at the hardwood.
“Steve, that’s mine! I called dibs!”
“It ain’t dibs till you’ve licked it!”
The lighting was really nice, Cyntha mused. She checked her pattern again. Just three more blue stitches.
“We can break it in half!”
There was a bang as Merle’s tail slammed into the drywall. Cyntha snipped off the thread with her sharp teeth, and started preparing her next color.
Steve shouted, diving for cover from three hundred pounds of fishy fury. Feathers went everywhere.
Cyntha looked up for a moment. They were wrestling on the carpet. Poor Steve was going to need a bath after this to get the mess out of his feathers. They rolled, Merle’s tail swinging wide and-
Smacked Braxton’s heat lamp. He woke up at the noise with a loud grumble.
“Steve- that’s my cookie!”
“I’ll give you three cinnamon sticks for it!”
Cyntha pulled the thread back out. Her last stitch was backwards, and she wanted this to look nice. Braxton stalked out.
“Not worth it! Surrender, sibling!”
Steve bounced over Merle and scampered. He smacked directly into Braxton, who had wandered back from the kitchen, holding half a cookie. Half of a ginger-cinnamon frosted molasses crinkle cookie, the very last one.
Both siblings’ eyes immediately snapped to it.
“Payment. For waking me up.” Braxton made a show out of licking it.
Both Merle and Steve groaned. Cyntha caught Braxton’s hidden smirk. He opened his mouth.
“There’s still half a cookie left.”
Steve and Merle bolted for the kitchen, banging into everything as they went.
Braxton walked past Cyntha and slipped her something small and crumbly. Braxton winked with six of his eyes.
“Don’t tell Pops.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Cyntha popped the half-cookie in her mouth and bit down on the chewy goodness.
From the kitchen came twin shouts of disbelief.
By Marx(CW: Physical/Mental Abuse, Violence)
Sabrina said Daisy was weak.
And she was right.
Daisy laid limply on the floor, her spine severed with one blow. Sabrina had centuries more fighting experience than her. It was so easy to forget that with Sabrina’s sickeningly sweet demeanor.
“P… please.” Daisy begged. “I’ll go with you… I’ll be your sister… Whatever you want… Just… leave them alone…”
Will and Rhea laid opposite Daisy, still struggling to free themselves. All they could do was watch as Sabrina approached them with her ever-present smile, as her nails grew into claws. “Oh sister, you’ll do that regardless. Only this way, you’ll be much wiser. Their screams will echo in your mind whenever you think you can foolishly leave Him. That you can be happy without His love. Learn your lesson well, my dear. This hurts me as much as it hurts you.”
Daisy’s magic responded to her increasing panic as she could feel her spine snap back in place, along with the corresponding rush of pain.
This wasn’t working. She’d tried to talk sense into Sabrina.
Daisy grit her teeth as she began to move, her nerve endings screaming at her to wait a little longer. She didn’t have time for that. She wasn’t going to watch her friends get tortured.
She gave Will an apologetic look. She’d promised him she’d be good from now on. And that meant no more killing. But that thinking was what made her hesitate. What made her try to reason with someone who clearly couldn’t be reasoned with. What made her weak.
With a scream, she launched herself at Sabrina.
“See? Their loss is already making you stronger, dear sis-”
Daisy was seeing red as she reached into Sabrina’s mouth, grabbing her bottom teeth with one hand and her upper teeth with the other. “For… the last… time… I’M NOT YOUR GODDAMNED SISTER!”
Daisy brutally pulled the two halves apart, bringing the fight to an end.
However, Will and Rhea’s horrified faces at her actions made Daisy unable to bask in her victory.
But they were alive. That was the important thing.
Desire and Deterrence (The Will) by Skeleton
Remianna slowly turned back to the distraught man on her bed. “So… are you going to explain what that was all about?”
“I don’t know how you can stand next to me without retching.” Eymir exploded off the edge of her bed as if he were being electrocuted. “If not out of fear, then at least out of disgust!”
“What are you even talking about?” the dragoness reeled in confusion, reaching out to steady the man’s energetic pacing and twitching.
Her claw, however, was slapped away sharply with his retreat. “Don’t touch me!”
It had been so long that she didn’t recognize the signs at first, but from his quivering fingertips and jaw, and now with the black tears running down his face, it was obvious. “You’re… afraid?”
“I’m going to kill you, Rem.” The statement was not a threat, but something that was fact in his mind. “Maybe not now, but it’s going to happen.” He paused with a shaky breath. “I… I think it would be best if I stopped—”
“No!” Remianna demanded, her anger steadfastly riveting the man to the floor. “Don’t you even dare suggest it!”
“I don’t want to be the reason you die!”
“I’m going to die anyways!” she shouted back. “It might be tonight, tomorrow, next month, or sixty years from now, but it’s going to happen!”
Eymir remained silent, his response to turn away and close himself off. “I don’t know if you realize this,” Remianna began to admit, her anger giving way to frustrated embarrassment, “but I want you!”
“Why?” The question was quiet, nearly smothered by the still air of the room. “Why me?”
With a long, exasperated sigh, Remianna began to shake her head. “This again?” she whispered to herself, mostly. “If you’re so worried about losing me, then marry me!”
He seemed not to understand the words at first, but when his body began to quake harder, she knew Eymir understood what it was she was asking. “I… don’t deserve you.”
Remianna embraced her friend. “Yea? Well it’s a good thing you don’t get to decide that!”
Plea of a Stranger (trigger warning: suiside stuff)
A man walked through a copse, down a long and meandering path early in the morning while it was still dark. He had an air of professionalism and was clean shaven and well dressed without either a crease on his attire nor a scuff on his shoes. He had had enough. He carried the pain of a thousand wounds on this soul and each day added a new. With his most recent vicissitude he had made a terrible choice.
He reached the end of his peregrination at a large bridge and climbed up the railing, using a support beam to keep his balance. The roaring river stretched up to the horizon where the sun would be coming up any moment now. He pulled out a cigarette and put it to his lips, as one last smoke seemed appropriate. He searched his jacket for his lighter and almost lost his balance as a trembling voice spoke.
“Don’t you dare!” It said. He looked a saw a young woman, apparently out for a morning jog. “Please, I don’t know who you are, but just hear me out.” She continued, speaking with care and urgency. I don’t know what you’re going through right now, but believe me when I say you can get through it! I know the world is full of pain and suffering and I know that at times you can feel helpless and depressed, but if you remain stoic you will get through it. You may feel as though you’ve reached your limit but I promise you if you just hold on things can and will get better. You only live once, I beg you please, step down.”
The man pondered this for a moment as the sun peaked over the horizon, he realised that perhaps he had been stuck in his own head once again. And besides, this woman had kind of ruined the mood… that and he had left his lighter at home.”
He glanced at her, then down at the river, then at the sunrise. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and stepped down.
Leave it Alone
“Leave it alone.”
From childhood, Alex remembered these words. Words said to him when the subject of “The Place” was brought up, rare as it was. It only became worse once he revealed his curiosity.
But, ever since he had stepped in front of the entrance once, stumbling upon it by accident, he couldn’t. The cold air seeping from within, the darkness stretching out, as if reaching for him, something about that sight had forever changed him.
Even in his dreams, it haunted him, hanging over his mind, unable to simply be dismissed.
Why did everyone seem to fear a simple location so? Why was he irresistibly attracted to whatever lie within? ,
He had to forget.
“Alex, get up! I’m going to be cooking breakfast soon, so I need you to go out and get some water!” A voice woke him from his half-slumbering state, emptying his thoughts.
Without a moment’s delay, he rose from his bed, and clothed himself, grabbing the wooden water bucket.
He departed past the cabin’s yard, ignoring his mother’s watchful gaze on his fading silhouette. Her thoughts were obvious.
‘Stay on the trail.’
She would repeat this every time he left, like a mantra. Yet, she had seemingly forgot it today.
Without thinking, his feet carried him through the forest, far from the path, directly in front of the cave, where it was.
He stared deep into the infinite darkness, eyes taking in the entirety of the nothingness that stood there, unmoving and unchanging in front of him.
He stepped in.
Later that morning, Alex’s mother stood at the window, solemnly staring into the deathly silent forest. She blinked away moisture welling up at the corners of her eyes, and dismissed the growing dread within.
“What’s wrong, mother?” It spoke to her, with her son’s voice, looking at her in an imitation of worry.
“…Nothing, child. Let us have breakfast.”
She avoided looking at the thing that had stolen her son’s form, and went about her day.
Just like all who had lost people to it…all she could do…was leave it alone.
The Call Of Chaos
The human thinks it can outwit me. High above supposedly out of reach, lies my prize. The leap to the summit will be difficult but not impossible.
Power hums through my muscles as I wiggle my butt ready to jump.
I soar. So great is my will that this challenge means nothing.
Thump. Thump. My paws land soft, stable, I have done it.
“Don’t you dare.” My Human warns. Glancing my direction, but too focused on the box of light to make the first move.
A preposterous mistake. So typical of their kind. A stalk towards my reward, claws flexing with anticipation. That sweet discordant shatter and ensuing chaos so close, so tantalizing. I lip my lips.
I sit calmly, my tail flicks. Human says nothing more. A second longer I stare around pretending to be bored. Fangs flash as I yawn. The time for games is over.
My paw reaches out, the object glisens, water dances. Is it taunting me? Does it think I won’t do it? I slide it to the edge of the cliff. What do you think of that!
It quivers. I relish in its fear. I will savor its downfall. I, who is master of all.
Eyes narrowed, my head turns. Too late are you foolish Human! You cannot hope to stop what has been set in motion.
“Don’t you dare!” Human repeats, fully turned around, grubby hands already seeking to grasp my one weakness. A malicious weapon with the ability to shoot water over great distances.
No cost too great. Our wills clash, mine triumphs.
Whoosh! It tumbles down, life blood splashing everywhere. The piercing scream of shards as it breaks. A sadistic grin follows it down.
My victory is short lived. A jet of acid strikes me in the side. A yowel of pain slices the air. I deem a tactical retreat necessary.
Slipping into the darkness, I plot my next move.
Await my glorious return. I will be back.
I thanked the taxi driver and scooted out with my dufflebag. My sister seemed to be doing well if I could judge by her house. The purple flowers I spotted beside her door smelled sweetly, the drive was swept, and as I got closer I saw the trim if not freshly painted, was freshly cleaned.
“Come in! I’ll be out in a moment!” I heard my sister yell from the open window of her bedroom. I smiled; even now, whenever there was a brisk day, she would pop open her windows.
I let myself in and dropped my bag by the door. I had done the same last year, but where there were coats dropped on top of shoes despite the coat hook hanging just above, now there was a small shoe cubby, and the hook was furnished with a wide sun hat.
Her house smelled like baked sweets. It always had, even at the worst of times, like an oasis that persisted despite the desert.
Drawn to the kitchen, I peeked into the oven. Oatmeal raisin, and not yet golden, but getting there. My sister should be out soon, I hoped for the sake of the cookies, and for my stomach.
I wandered into her living room. There was a picture of dad! He looked young, and strong and healthy and… I had forgotten what he looked like before. Or rather, I could only remember what he looked like in the hospital bed. I promised myself to ask my sister for a copy of that picture, and then went to look around the room to recenter myself.
On the table beside the couch I spotted a cookie. Sis must’ve left that one for me. Oatmeal raisin were best fresh out the oven, but they were also best when you were waiting for your sister. I closed my eyes and held the treat close to savor the smell.
Her voice sounded stern.
“You put that cookie down right now.”
What?” I said.
“You know the last cookie is always for dad.”
“Yes… Yes, I remember.”
By Tamela Redfin
(Special thanks to my beta readers)
A few days passed since we rescued Jezebel and I couldn’t help but feel guilt for the pain I caused her. Too bad I was too scared to speak.
But at night she stumbled over to me. “Hey Sal.” She hiccuped.
I smiled, “Hi Jezebel.”
“Shut up, I’m drunk.” She snapped but then her face softened, and she looked nervous. “How did this happen to us?”
“I’m not sure, I guess we just drifted apart.” I sighed. “I miss you Jezebel.” What are you doing, Salvador? I asked myself.
She lit a cigarette and held the box close to me. “No, I gave that up. It reminded me of an unpleasant manchild.”
“Who are ya and what did ya do to Salvador? Ya loved ya cigars.” She chuckled.
“People change, Jez. I’m so sorry. Had I known you were pregnant, I wouldn’t have left you. I might have not been mature, but I would have tried. For you.”
“Salvador that… ya mean it?” She leaned in and I realized I didn’t smell a drop of alcohol on her breath. She was sober and just wanted to talk to me.
I nodded, “I loved you, Jez and I still do. I’d do anything to have my girl back.”
“But how can I trust you won’t…” She then broke into a coughing fit. Those damn cigarettes! I patted her back until she stopped.
“You were saying?” I asked.
“And what did ya see in me? Clearly not mah beauty. I nevah was pretty.” She frowned.
“Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“You try being rejected on all sides: Male, female, human, cypha. It doesn’t mattah.”
“Hey, we can take it slow, okay? How about I…” Then our son Mica ran over, out of breath.
“Mom… dad… Sapphira had her twins. I’m a father.” He panted. “Come, I want you to see them.”
We found Sapphira laying on a cot holding two babies in pink blankets. One with hair like Mica and mine and the other with Sapphira’s brown locks. She looked exhausted but happy.
“Meet Garneta and Aquamarine.” Mica smiled.
The Untold Truth (A Tiefling Tale)
C. M. Weller
The Earl Valiant had never revoked the position of Heir’s Bodyguard. Even though that heir was far away. Bothari trailed along after the younger son, Spitebane Fortitude Bulwark Whitekeep, fourth of the name. It was easier than keeping the young Lord Kormwind safe.
Lord Spitebane could be relied upon to stay asleep in his bed and remain in the room in which he was put. Bothari didn’t have to keep explaining that he was a mortal and needed food or to take a piss. In this way alone, the young Lord Spitebane was a LOT easier than Lord Kormwind.
In other ways…
“I’m going to declare war when Papa lets me light the throne,” declared the tiny Viscount, aged five. “Those Olikent rogues are getting far too bold outside our southern border. Papa will be very proud of me.”
‘Your father won’t let you near the Blood Throne,’ thought Bothari. He took his lead from Nurse Nani Felfeather, who nodded and smiled at the boy.
Spitebane was being lead about on a pony by another servant in full Castle livery. Woe betide any of them if they let the Viscount fall and hurt himself.
“And when I’m done with the Olikents, I shall abolish slavery all over the world. I’m certain other leaders will agree it’s abhorrent. They simply must not know it’s happening.”
Whitekeep was one of the few realms that had never had slaves or serfs. It was true that it took ten with their feet in the mud to keep one with his head in the clouds, then it followed that it took a hundred up to their necks in shit to keep one with his head up his ass.
Bothari had to wonder how long this would be allowed to continue. This lad was in for disappointment.
“He has to be told,” Bothari murmured to Nani at their lunch. “He has to know the truth.”
“Our lord the Earl has ordered no mention of that heir. Talk of it is treason. Are you committing treason, Mr Bothari?”
He bit his lip, and said no more.