Writing Group: The Man at the Crossroads

Hello, Weary Wanderers and Will-o’-the-Wisps!

Looks like you’re a bit lost, my dear. Let me help you. Let’s see, you could go that way…but it would be dangerous. Or you could go that way…but it would be boring. Decisions decisions. Best make them wisely because…

This week’s Writing Group prompt is:

The Man at the Crossroads

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!

Stories—especially of the fairy tales and fable variety—are full of strange roads, and mysterious men. Oftentimes, our intrepid hero will arrive at a crossroad to find someone pointing them in a certain direction. This person could be perfectly benign, or they could be a villain pointing them down the dark, dangerous path—perhaps down the road leading to their own castle. 

A good example of this prompt is Alice in Wonderland. She is faced with many crossroads along her journey, and many creatures who direct her on her way. Some help her, others direct her poorly, and others simply want to talk there in the middle. But whichever direction she chooses, she faces only more strangeness and madness. 

Crossroads don’t have to be roads exactly. A crossroad can be any sort of diverging path. In science fiction stories, a crossroad could be a crew deciding if they should go back for more fuel, or hope what they have lasts the rest of the way. A crossroad can be a difficult decision; our friends don’t always have the best advice. 

Likewise, “man” doesn’t have to be a man exactly. The human race as a whole is often referred to as “man.” A silhouette could at first look like a man, but upon closer inspection prove itself a creature of mimicry. Maybe we don’t even see the man, but assume the lantern glowing in the dark, seemingly guiding us, hangs from a human hand…only to learn much too late that it was a hinkypunk leading us astray.

Demons and devils often prey on lost creatures. Perhaps a demon appears human, whispering the wonders of the darker path. Or perhaps it offers another path, with a higher cost, and a greater reward. In real life, people often end up joining cults, or getting caught up with addiction because of a single encounter when they were at a crossroad in life. 

Or it could be something more benevolent. Maybe a scarecrow stands at the crossroad, its purpose and delight directing passerby. Or maybe it’s just the nice lady at the craft store directing you to aisle three. 

Now, you best be on your way. And keep your wits about you. Not everyone on this road will be as helpful as me.

—Kaylie

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 five stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and three 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!

  1. Text and Formatting

    1. English only.
    2. Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
    3. Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
    4. Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
    5. Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
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  2. What to Submit

    1. Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
    2. Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
    3. Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
    4. 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.
    5. 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).
  3. Submission Rules

    1. One submission per participant.
    2. Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
    3. Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
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    5. 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.
    6. 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).
    7. 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.
    8. 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.

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Iosef Paramonov
Iosef Paramonov
8 days ago

The Burden
by Iosef Paramonov

It lay on its shell in the middle of the crossroads. A foul creature, black mucus spewing from its soft underside with a stench that rotted the air, and six pairs of suckers twitching feebly. It had two buggy eyes and a black-lipped mouth, which opened and closed with jagged breathing.

It heard the boots stop nearby. It averted its eyes from the stranger’s gaze.

“What are you?” inquired the stranger.

“I’m a Burden,” said the creature, “Sorry to bother you.”

“Why are you sorry?”

“Just… for being a Burden.”

The stranger shuffled their feet. “What’s a Burden?” they asked.

“I can only live on the backs of other people.” said the Burden, “I ride on their backs, wherever they go. I feed off their successes in life. I weigh them down, until they cast me off. Then I must wait for another person to bear my weight.”

It sighed. “I’m not proud of it. But this is what I am.”

The stranger squatted closer to the Burden. “Can’t you move by yourself?”

“No,” said the Burden, “I only follow, never lead. I don’t have a destiny. I just exist.”

The stranger pondered this in silence. Then they extended a hand. Gently, they turned the Burden onto its front suckers.

“What are you doing?” asked the Burden, confused.

“Pick a path.” smiled the stranger. “Walk down it.”

“I can’t!” cried the Burden, tears in its eyes, “I don’t deserve to!”

“What’s deserve got to do with it?” said the stranger, “You are your own person. If you exist, you exist for a reason. Find that reason. Pick a path.”

The Burden’s eyes darted fretfully here and there. Then they closed. It took a deep breath, and stretched its sucker out as far as it would go. Barely a millimeter. Then it stretched its next sucker. And the next foot. Then the next. Now it was on its hands and knees.

The person raised themselves, and gazed at an endless path meandering in the distance. They turned, glancing once more at the smiling stranger. Then they took another step forward.

Semantics
Semantics
11 days ago

What the world has come to

By Martin/Semantics

Snowflakes drifted from the dark night sky into the lit snow-covered streets as a young man wearing nothing but sleeveless t-shirt and reaped jean pants walked home. A few other similarly lightly dressed people where walking about with yawns on their faces, saying good night to their friends whom they had just spend I lively night with.
As the young man walked, he came at a crossroads where a man dressed with many layers, a fedora and a warm long coat sitting near the corner playing a little ditty on his old-fashioned guitar. The young man being curious approached the man saying.

“Well, isn’t this a rare relic to see”

The old man promptly stopped playing and looked up at the young man with a grin.

“it’s a Yamaha”

“I was talking about you old timer. Didn’t think your kind was around anymore”

“Oh yeah? And what kind is that pray tell”

“You know. The cybernetically un-enhanced. The technologically abstinent. The bodily purists”

The man put his guitar to the side and stood up facing the young man
“Don’t kid yourself boy. Surely there is something you desire, something more than the trivial conveniences of your gadgets. Perhaps the talent that people can only dream to be born with”

The young man scoffed at the mans remarks and replied “Just tell me what your selling and for how much already”

“How about limitless musical talent? I can make you more famous than Mozart. All your dreams come true for the mire price of your soul, and since most of you don’t even believe in that it should be quite cheap. What do you say?”

The young man gently picked up the mans guitar and started playing the exact melody the man was playing but a moment ago perfectly. “This is the first time I have ever picked up a musical instrument. If there is such a thing as a soul why would i risk ensuring damnation, regardless of how slim the chance, for a shortcut while i can achieve anything i want with just a few modifications?”

After finishing his statement, the young man put the guitar back down and waved to the man off as he went on his way.

The heavily dressed man sighted at that. “Times where you could get a hole wish for a soul. Perhaps I should get a new job” said the man as he dissipated into black smoke.

Now i know i post this past due and it has a few too many words but i just wanted to post it anyways since i wrote it. Hope you like it.

Sevau Cilla
11 days ago

A deal with certain Death
By : Sevau Cilla Galya

On a dawn blighted night, and atop a hill sat a man. Rugged is one way to describe him, barely living is another. Like a deposed king in his last seconds on the gilded throne. Maybe he was one.

In front of him was an impaled man. The one who was supposed to conclude his tyrannical. Yet, there they were laying bloodied.

The usual gentle bellows of wind across the plains of red, was now littered with the sounds of clanking and grating chains on the ground. Both the living and the dead were silent in the face of the newest arrival.

As far as those around knows from their screaming instincts. “That” shouldn’t be bothered, denied, nor prevented. The Sinner, relegated by the world itself to prevent the worst of the worst…

…and yet, here. “That” was standing in front the near-dead man. Clutching a bloodied pole.

A dry raspy-voiced echoed from the slits and tears on the bandages and chains that covered the man. “Do you know why I am here?” it said.

“Yes.”

“Then, Pray. Pray that you have made amends.”

A resounding silence came about as that question appeared. The man thought to himself, ‘What of these atrocities have I done to bear being the weighted mark of a hunted Sinner?’

As though accepting inevitable fate, The man answered a resounding.

“…No.”

“No?”

“Sometimes, To save yourself. You don’t have to make amends! I might have been a tyrant but I am still their king. End me but spare the men.”

Stifles of laughter echo throughout the silent fields.

“I see. Well then, Someone like you shouldn’t die in a place like this. And certainly, I am in the need of a finger to etch around.”

Forcing a smirk underneath heavy breaths, and the will to live a single day longer. The man answered.

“I—…”

Before being cutoff by the Sinner with a wide grin peeking out the bandages.

“Choose wisely, Oh unbound deposed tyrant. For this is a deal between man and death.”

Vivante
Vivante
12 days ago

Wise Choice
By Vivante

The old woman hobbled along the rocky pathway. A path made of hot lava turned into thousands of rough knives that stabbed and tore her feet. Faded grey eyes were glued to the horizon, and an endless mantra echoed through the deafening silence: “Just a bit more…. Just a bit more…. Just a bit more….”

The path, which looked flowery and beautiful at the start, showed more and more dangerous traps and obstacles with each taken step. But no matter how hard the road became, an alluring mirage at the end never let the woman stop moving forward. She chose this path. And, no matter what, she was determined to push till the end.

Something at the horizon flashed. The barley-yellow line cut through the blackness of endless claws of the unforgiving earth. The woman sprinted towards the line, which slowly turned into a gravel road surrounded by the sea of wheat. She ran as fast as she could, not wanting to waste even a single second. Then… she suddenly stopped.

“This is supposed to be the exit! There is no other way!” She shouted before collapsing to the ground. “I thought…. that… I can finally…. leave….”

She was at a crossroad. That wretched crossroad to which she returned time and time again. There were no paths she left untried. No, she inspected every nook and cranny. At yet… she came back to where she had started. Only a statue of a white angel indifferently observed her anguish. As if to mock her, it was holding the text: “Choose wisely and you will find the exit.”

A sudden child’s cry rang through the field. A little boy appeared in front of a statue. He stood there lost and after seeing the old lady asked: “What is this place?”

“The crossroad that you can never leave.”

“But it says that there is an exit.” The boy pointed at the statue.

“I know.”

After sitting in silence for a long time, the boy got up and went to one of the exits. The woman recognized this path. It was the last one she tried.

“Stop! That one is not good!”

“Why not? I like it.” Boy paused.

“It’s very painful.”

“Are other paths not painful?”

There was silence. The boy started to move again. Then, the lady asked: “Are you sure you want… THAT… path?”

“Yep.” The boy replied and moved forward. The woman sighed.

Later, the silence covered the crossroad. On the road that was chosen by the boy, the child’s traces were left on the ground, and another bloodied traces were seen beside them. No one was able to see a smile appearing on the face of the white angel.

Mephistopheles
12 days ago

To Define Revenge
by Mephistopheles

As a train rushed past the abandoned garden, a smile tugged at my lips. It had not changed at all since the day I’d found it. The little ramshackle ruin, with its overgrown lawns, musty gazebo and incomplete fence held a special place in my heart. It was here that my life had changed.

It was a hazy autumn evening, and wearied by my aimless wandering, I had stumbled across this little retreat by accident. It had been abandoned mid-way through its development some years before and its gates were locked, but I had gained entry through a break in the fence. Large trees denied sunlight entry into the place, though little beams snuck through, laying down a net on the ground. The garden seemed eternally suspended in twilight.

My life, until that day, had been on a perfect trajectory, so that I knew not how to deal with the sudden crisis that had befallen me. I sat there, half dazed, till the dull lamps had come on, half-illuminating the great trees. Shadows danced when the wind swayed their boughs, and the rustle of the leaves seemed to whisper in my ears:

“Revenge!”

I had been betrayed. Anger and sorrow filled my thoughts, obscuring any path forward. I had sworn revenge before I left. But what did that mean? What could I do against them? I had spent years working with them, so I knew how powerful they were.

In that moment of despair, I met him. We did not know each other, but he seemed to understand my suffering. He stood by me for a long time in complete silence. I welcomed his presence, for it felt warm and friendly. Then, he spoke a simple sentence – a tiny gesture of kindness. And that was enough.

That was many years ago. My life has never been better. The best revenge, it seemed, was to live a good life.

I left, that day, with the man at the crossroad. And that has made all the difference.

Last edited 12 days ago by Mephistopheles
Mr DeBlob
Mr DeBlob
12 days ago

Caught Between
Mr DeBlob

Ellois hung between two realities, the one he left shining far above him while the next lay far below in darkness. He’d finally fallen halfway down this eternal tunnel when an angel flew in from the space outside universes, seizing him in its manifold wings.

“Why hast thou trespassed the walls of thy world?” Its voice pierced his mind, drawing the truth from him like a syringe.

“To escape your Master’s judgment,” Ellois whispered, “where he marked no sin upon me, upon the world.”

Its eyes appraised him, shifting just so that he knew the angel recognized his countenance. He closed his eyes and awaited his punishment. What might it be this time? The scourge? Locusts? Abaddon?

No pain came; instead, it set him down on solid ground. When he looked, the tunnel had turned and shrunk into a small corridor, realities occupying separate ends. The angel floated above, sharpening its wings as eyes surrounded him on all sides.

With a single swipe, it split Ellois in twain as two of him emerged from one. For a moment, his mind occupied both bodies peacefully, without pain until they began walking towards their respective realities.

“Consider this His Grace, O Marked.” The angel retreated back between realities. “Thy child bade thee return, and so thee shall. Yet thou only possess one mind.” With each step, his mind stretched further. “So choose, wayward son, choose.”

Ellois had no time, no way to reason. He could only close his eyes and walk on.

MasaCur
MasaCur
12 days ago

Corner Gas
By MasaCur (Reposted from Private Group)

Melissa pulled off the cracked pavement of the country road into the gravel lot of the small gas station. As soon as she parked the car next to one of the pumps, Erykah got out of the passenger seat and stretched. Melissa got out with a groan.

“Erykah, fill it up. I’ll see if they have sandwiches or something.” She hoped so. There wasn’t much else around but Nevada desert.

“Where are we, anyway?” Erykah asked, grabbing the fuel nozzle.

Melissa shook her head. She looked at the faded painted sign on the front of the gas station storefront. Tucker Gas. “We passed Goodsprings about fifteen minutes ago. Pioche will be a few more hours.”

Melissa walked into the store, blinking as her eyes adjusted to the dimmer lights inside. Behind the counter was a young boy with blonde hair, probably no more than twelve.

“Afternoon,” the boy laconically said.

“Good afternoon. Have you got anything to eat here?”

“There’s sandwiches in the left-most cooler, just above the beer. Chips in the second aisle, chocolate bars in the third. I’ve also got hot dogs.” The boy slapped the roller grill beside the register.

Melissa warily eyed the hotdogs on the rollers, certain they had been there far too long. She wandered over to the sandwich cooler, looking over the meager selection.

“If there’s anything you want that you don’t see, let me know. I can probably get it for you,” the boy added.

Melissa laughed. “Aren’t you a little young to be working here? Shouldn’t you be in school or something?”

“I’m older than you’d think. And getting things for people is my side hustle.”

“Can you get my boyfriend out of prison?” Melissa asked sarcastically.

“Which prison?”

Goosebumps raised on Melissa’s skin.

Erykah entered the store. “Hey, Mel, we’re gassed up, and…what are you doing here?”

Melissa turned to see her friend looking at the boy. “You know each other?”

Erykah frowned. “We’ll take that gas, and nothing else.” She turned to Melissa. “This kid doesn’t look like it, but I’d like you to meet Satan.”

Makokam
12 days ago

Where Paths Diverge (Chronicles of The Dragon)
By Makokam

Thomas sighed into his beer.

“How’re your ribs doing?” His friend, Sherman, asked him.

Thomas took a deep breath and winced at the pain. “Not quite there yet.”

“That sucks,” Sherman said, drinking his beer in one go. “Another!” He shouted to the waitress. “We could’ve really used you on the last job.”

“Yeah? Something happen?”

“Soldier’s good with tech, but he ain’t patient. When he didn’t get through the door the first time, he got pissed and had me break it down-”

“Fuckin’ idiot.”

“So the guards came running, and it was Wolf Pack guards, so it was a problem.”

“Of course it was.”

“Yeah, but it was a FUN problem,” Sherman said, he took his fourth beer from the waitress. “I mean, Harpy got her wing broken so she’s gonna be out for awhile. And Chimera got shot to hell so he’s gonna need to sleep that off.

Thomas looked around the bar at the other career criminals. Super Villains even. “Don’t you ever get tired of it?”

Sherman stopped drinking his beer. “Of what?”

“Stealing. Hurting people. Getting punched in the face.”

Sherman stopped again. “Do you?”

It took a moment, but Thomas answered, “Yeah. Puzzling out how to get a job done is fun, but I like making stuff.”

“Is that what you want to do? Make stuff?”

Thomas shrugged. “It’s how I started. It’s what I did in middle school, before I started getting into  trouble.”

Sherman grinned. “Yeah. Good times.” And he downed his beer.

Thomas stared into his drink. Good times. Yeah. Maybe. He hadn’t had much else to do. And he’d enjoyed his friends praise when he picked a lock, or hacked a vending machine or arcade cabinet. But it was never about what he could do, only what he could do for them. And he could do a lot. For himself, and the world in general.

He got up and said, “I’m gonna pay my tab and head out.”

“Have him send a couple more over would ya?”

He waved his hand and nodded as he walked to the bar.

Charlie Ford
Charlie Ford
12 days ago

The Man at the Fork

By Charlie Ford

“This is an interesting problem,” I thought to myself. I had lost my map a while back when a bird swooped in at me and stole it. The one path continues straight, made of gravel, and surrounding this path is a beautiful meadow filled with wildflowers and sheep grazing. The other path was marked with a skull on a spike. The path itself was made of a tangled mess of roots and stones. Around this gloomy path was a huge forest of trees and vines.

I waited until I saw more people. After a short while, I saw a couple passing through and I said, “Which way are you going.”

“Straight I guess,” they said and continued on. I would not satisfied until I saw someone go down the skull path. Person by person, hiker by hiker, some had kids with them, some did not, but none satisfied me by taking the road most taken. That was until I met Otto.

Otto was a short old man with a hunched back and a cane. He had one squinty eye and sharp jagged teeth. Even though he was about the size of a mouse, he looked tough and in some short of shape for his age. I said to him, “This has got to be a long way for you, hasn’t it.”

“Yes, it is I guess,” he spoke in a coarse, uneven, rough manner. He continued to walk passed me, but when he reached the turn he took a sharp right and continued down the skull path in an uneven shuffly manner like a turtle crawling on land. It was at that moment that I knew what I would do. I began to walk down the skull path…

Mango Gravy
Mango Gravy
13 days ago

Convergence
By Mango Gravy

Dry soil and grass crunching, warm wind blowing, the sun low on the horizon and getting lower. It wasn’t a cheery mood but Cassius was never one to complain. He breathed the open air, happy to be on his feet.

A peculiar sight caught his eye, a man stood silhouetted by the setting sun, casting a long shadow. Getting closer, Cassius saw the lines on his face, the whiteness of his hair and his hunched posture. He was so old. What was he doing out in the middle of nowhere? He should be at home in bed. But then, Cassius always loved wandering the forests no matter how often his children asked him to rest.

He wished he’d been as adventurous in his youth, when his body wouldn’t protest his every step. Now a simple stroll through a garden would leave him bedridden for days. He had been in bed, mere moments ago, surrounded by friends and family, but had wanted to muck about under the sky at least one more time. How had he wound up here, so far from home?

“Here you are,” the old man said.

“Here I am indeed,” Cassius said, “And where is… here?”

The man chuckled, “Turn around for a moment.”

Cassius did so, and saw multiple trails cutting through the short grass, all converging on the point at which he stood.

“I don’t understand.”

“All roads eventually lead here. Some are short, others long and winding. Some must be forged, the undergrowth cleaved and beaten out from before you. And others are easy, as it seems the gods pave the way as you coast along. Your choices can send you down certain paths, and sometimes the world chooses for you. But no matter the unrealized possibilities, regardless of the ease or struggle, this destination remains the same.”

“I see,” Cassius said, suddenly weary. A strange wind howled, kicking up dust and grass, and the sky grew dark as the sun dipped below the horizon.

It certainly wasn’t a cheery mood, but Cassius was never one to complain.

Last edited 12 days ago by Mango Gravy
aSapling
aSapling
13 days ago

It‘s not as it seems
By aSapling

A story may often begin with a detailed and yet cloudy description of the weather.
„It was raining“, or „The sun shone brightly“. But really, there is no relevance to what the weather was like in this story. For the sake of not making it overly complicated, let‘s just state that it was night time and that the moon illuminated the dark forest underneath.

Through this very forest, a Wanderer traversed, neither strolling, nor in a hurry. He knew where he had to go, or rather, how far, and so time didn‘t really matter.
It wasn‘t long until he reached a clearing where the path split into two. And in the middle of the two new pathways stood a creature, swallowed by the shadow of a nearby tree.

„Ah, a traveller“, exclaimed the thing upon discovering the Wanderer. „It has been such a long time since last I saw another living being. Do tell me, what brought you here to this deserted place?“.
There was no answer, as if the Wanderer felt hesitant to speak to the creature. Instead he had come to halt, keeping a safe distance to it.

„Oh, do not fret. I am but a mere human.“, the thing spoke and, as it stepped into the colourless light of the moon, revealed the shape of a man. No monster nor demon, just a man. But the Wanderer still seemed hesitant. He made a step backwards, seemingly deciding that this wasn‘t a path he would take. It wasn‘t about the choice he would have had to make, it was more about the being, the HUMAN, he would need to pass.

And so, as the Wanderer turned around to walk the path he had come, a ray of moonlight illuminated his face, for just a second. A tortured hiss escaped his mouth and the Wanderer quickly pulled the hood above his six glowing eyes.

Mark Charles Compton
Mark Charles Compton
13 days ago

After-Sunday Supper
By: GrimSleepy

All these years of defiance had finally culminated to this day. My throat was tight as I swallowed the lump swelling within it. Rubbing my hands together I stretched my gaze up, reaching that high steeple gleaming in the mid-morning sunlight. Every other time its image left me with such melancholy, now replaced by a foreboding feeling. I clenched my book tightly and strode up those steps to the quiet chapel, its occupants restlessly awaiting my arrival. “I’ll show these haggardly old stiffs how to truly see the light!” I thought proudly to myself smugly smiling as I passed the threshold…

My mind muddled and the time blurred as soon as the highest-ranking member wretched his finger at me in such a disdainful and hateful manner. The interrogation left me in a kind of timeless trance, and I felt incapable to utter a single vowel through the onslaught of accusations, which all compounded on me in a tumultuous crash when they concluded that I was to be “excommunicated” for my ‘blasphemy’.

They were telling ME I could no longer be a member of their church?! Good riddance, I can worship in any fashion I like anyhow, they can’t tell me what I identify as or how I study any religion I study! “Ya! I probably know this book better than any of them, heck better than All of them combined” I thought vindictively.

“ME?! You’re throwing ME out?! You’re telling me how I can or cannot worship?! Maybe I’ll become Muslim!! How about Protestant!!!” I screamed as I clambered down the stairs.

As I was holding my Bible to the sky, belching out my uproarious tirade to the public street, a gust of wind carried a piece of paper and slapped me in the face. I dropped my book, ripped the paper off my face in a rage, and looked down upon what filthy wad of trash had interrupted my monologue. I was surprised and puzzled at what I read:

“Dreams of Hindu”
Authentic Indian Cuisine.

Last edited 13 days ago by Mark Charles Compton
Matthew R. Wright
Matthew R. Wright
13 days ago

When Lost, Join a Queue (Next Number Please)
By Matthew R. Wright

It was a time of uncertainty. Was just another worn-down tyre thrown to the burning pile. Directionless. Heavy at the chest. Could do with some advice. Heard there was a guy hanging out by the crossroads. A good a plan as any. Too much time inside my own head. Could lend a fresh perspective. Set me on the right path.

Headed out of town. A long dirt road. Wasn’t five minutes before I saw it: the Queue. Must’ve been a 100 persons long. Teenager, blonde with train-track braces, handed out handwritten tickets. I was #291. Last in line. The man was named Shamus. Queue this long? Must’ve been good.

Hours passed. With each step I got closer, the more of conversations I heard. Sounded smart enough. What was his motive for being out here? What’d he have to gain?

Queued from dusk till around 2AM. Had nothing particular that needed doing. Became next in line. Expected to be told that he was tired. That he couldn’t see me. Got lucky. Passed him my ticket. Got to have my turn. Noticed he stood by the body of someone. Throat slashed. Blood’d turned black in the moonlight. No one had asked about him.

“What do you need?” he asked. Wasn’t materialistic. Assumed many had asked for something from him.

“Nothing. Direction. Something to do” I replied.

Saw him reach inside his coat. Expected a cigarette pack or a hip flask. Pulled out painkillers. Looked him over. Dark patches under eyes. A Slow sway. A light slur to his words. Black tipped fingers. He was tired. Turned, saw least another 100 waiting their turn. Stroked the heavy at my chest.

“Ain’t your master, you have to take what you want.” He then swallowed a half dozen painkillers. Wasn’t a great answer. Expected better. “Are we done?” he asked.

“Yeah, we’re done.” I took out the heavy at my chest, cocked it and emptied the full magazine into his head. Fell hard. Landed on top of slashed throat. Another burning tyre.

Turned and faced the queue. “Next number” I called.

Last edited 13 days ago by Matthew R. Wright
V3RU5
V3RU5
13 days ago

Meds or no meds? That’s the question
By Vera

I stare at the small bag of herbs. They affect the way, one’s mind reacts to the flow of time, students use it to stretch their time of study and exams to get an advantage. With the herbs, time doesn’t flow consistently, but slows down, allowing for mor work in less time.

It’s effects are known to be addictive.

“You don’t need this stuff, just pay better attention, as everyone else”

As everyone else. Time doesn’t erratically dance around everyone else, it walks alongside them, always the same pace, always predictable. Reliable.

Due to some innate condition of my mind, time doesn’t work that way for me. It slows down or speeds up randomly, or jerks around in tune with my nervous heart beat. It makes me nervous.

“It’s just medicine” I keep telling myself. People, even in my own family take medication for chronic conditions. They get it from a healer, same as me. Only difference, my illness affects the mind, not the body. Intelligent beings are immune to ailments of the mind, right? Then why would I need this medicine, these herbs? Am I really that weak? Stupid, lazy? How di I stop being lazy?

“If you take those herbs, there’s no coming back” they warn me. It’s true, getting away from drugs is a long way, years and decades of work. So, do I try the herbs, risk becoming their slave? Or do I return to my life as a failure, who can’t handle the simple concept of time?

Go back to all the missed appointments, where the right time passed before it came? Disappointed family, friends? Friends that left me for my inability to change. Unwillingness, they insisted. As everyone can change, the only explanation is, I don’t want it enough. Wanting with my whole heart isn’t enough.

The medication should solve it, it does for others with the same ailment. At the price of being considered junkies, for taking drugs abused so often by the healthy.

If I take this step, am I a junkie? Or just a sick person, dealing with their symptoms?

Norman Gray
Norman Gray
13 days ago

“You’ll find Jimmy at the Crossroads.”
By Norman Gray

Through the haze of the desert heat, they could see movement up ahead.

“That our guy?” asked Gallows.

“Looks like it,” said Graves.

As they approached the crossroads, it became clearer. . . They saw the flapping of a crow’s wings, as it moved to perch itself atop a slumped-over body.

Graves pulled the car up close, and got out. “He’s dead. . . I think maybe the heat cooked him.”

“Boss didn’t say what he was doing out here?” Gallows asked.

“No,” Graves replied. “He didn’t.”

Gallows rubbed at his chin. “He was supposed to be alive, weren’t he?”

Graves shrugged. “I’m guessing so.”

“You’re guessin’? You mean you ain’t sure?”

“Boss just said our guy would be at the crossroads. He didn’t specify whether or not he’d be alive.” He put on his gloves. “C’mon, help me put him in the trunk.”

The two men lifted the body into the trunk, and got back in the car.

They drove in silence, for awhile.

“You’re sure that was Jim, right?” asked Gallows.

Graves sighed. “You don’t know what he looks like?”

“I assumed you did.”

“I’ve never met Jim. Why didn’t you mention that you didn’t know him?”

“Didn’t think I needed to. Figured we’d just roll up and ask him, ‘hey, are you Jim?’ I wasn’t expecting a dead guy.”

A heavy silence fell between them.

“So, we could be driving back to the Boss with a random dead body in the trunk.”

More silence followed.

“Or worse,” Gallows added, “The dead fella in the trunk is Jimmy, but the Boss Man was expecting him alive. . .”

“That ain’t worst case scenario,” said Graves. “Worst case, the guy in the trunk isn’t Jim, which would mean Jim’s still out there. Which means he’ll be dead soon enough.”

The two men turned quiet again.

“We should’ve waited,” said Gallows. “See if anyone else shows up.”

“We’re in the middle of nowhere. . . It’s gotta be him.”

They didn’t say a word for the rest of the drive. It was a long, long road back to the city.

DaLeen
DaLeen
14 days ago

Wrong Headed
By Taja DaLeen

It was terrifyingly dark, and the air tasted of rain.

A storm was coming.

She wondered if he already knew. But by now she only cared about escaping him, it was what she wanted, needed most.

And she knew her beloved was waiting for her at their crossroad, so they could get away, together.

They’d be together forever, that’s what she believed. Had to believe, to not lose her sanity.

She still remembered how they met. She was to be wedded to him, to establish a connection between their clans, and they were a servant to him. One of those he made.

The crossroad came closer. She knew, because she was already able to see the lantern they held. She just couldn’t see them clearly yet.

Oh, how she longed to see them again. They always were the one good thing about having to meet him. He was just nasty, both in the way he treated her, as if she was just a prize, a pretty trinket he could own, and in the way he treated them, as if they were a tool to be used.

She hated him, with every fiber of her being. Having to spend the rest of eternity with him was about as horrifying as it could get.

The need to get away was stronger than anything else. She wouldn’t be able to live on if this didn’t work out.

But reaching the light, everything fell apart. It wasn’t them waiting for her, but him.

She was furious. “What did you do to them?!”

Surely, he had to have done something to them. They would never disappoint her like that. Maybe he finally got rid of the tool he no longer needed? Discarded them because they grew too close to her, to his prize?

“Darling, please. How much longer do you intend to keep this up? When will you accept their death?”

“You’re lying!”

This couldn’t be true. She just talked to them yesterday. She knew…

Sobbing she broke down in the now pouring rain, and with the first crack of thunder everything faded to black.

Sam C.
Sam C.
14 days ago

Fate’s Doorman
By Sam C.

Where he was, he wasn’t sure, but why he was there was the far greater question. As far as he knew, he was driving home from work when suddenly he was here, in a beige wallpapered office lobby, in which the only furniture was a counter with a bell on it.

There didn’t seem to be anything else to do, so he approached the counter. Engraved on the silver bell were the words “RING FOR ASSISTANCE” in a fancy cursive script. Looking around and seeing nothing else, he tapped on the silver bell’s clapper.

The resulting ring was so loud that it shook the room. From the room behind the counter came a skeleton dressed in a black robe and half-moon spectacles, like the grim reaper if he was about four-and-a-half feet tall. The skeleton looked at him and said, “Okay, Let’s get started. I am The Fate’s Doorman,” he said, clearly by rote, “You, Soul #7,975,806,230, are dead. I am here to escort you to the correct afterlife.”

“Wait, I’m DEAD?” He asked hysterically. “Nonononono… I can’t be dead, I can’t be…” He cried, tears starting in his eyes.

“Well why can’t you be?” asked The Doorman.

“Well, I’ve got so much work to do, I’ve got a beautiful wife, heck, I’m only 24!” he exclaimed.

“No,” The Doorman replied, “those are reasons you shouldn’t be dead, not why you can’t be. I’ve been doing this for eternity, and I can assure you, You are nothing new. Your wife will recover, your job will be given to someone else, and you are far from the only person to die young. You are here to pick an afterlife for yourself, that is all.”

“Can’t I go back? Can’t I have just a little more time to say goodbye? To Hold her one last time? I’d come back willingly, just enough time to change the world, to give a little more?” he asked desperately.

The Doorman paused a beat. “Few have convinced me. What makes you think you can?”

“You just said few,” He replied.

The Doorman Smiled.

Jacob Guillerey
Jacob Guillerey
14 days ago

Chosen of War
By Jacob Guillerey

There were a hundred of us.
Armed to the teeth in metal and wood, clad in bronze armor, surrounding him. The chants were deafening, claiming glory, mocking defeat, giving praise. Our brother, my brother, was standing before us, as his time had come.

Shining in the morning sun, he stood standing, three javelins by his side, head lowered, arms resting by his sides, lost in thought. I had watched him work through every combat class, Dagger, xiphos, axe, spear, pike, buckler, tear-shield, hoplon, tower-shield, hand to hand. Sletel wasn’t the best there was, but knew when to faint, how to counter strike, and used his anger to fuel his determination. But anger wouldn’t suffice here, he had failed too many times already.
The instructor placed his hand on Sletel’s shoulder, and handed him his first Javelin.

After a few moments, he raised his head. We all knew what he had to do, with his three javelins, hit the heart of the three targets in the distance, and finally join the ranks of the soldiers of Parate.
A small whispering rumor spread through the crowd as he squinted his eyes. He always had a hard time seeing what layed in the distance. After a minute, he finally put on his helmet. And turned towards us.

“Brothers ! On this day, I do not simply challenge myself to join you in battle ! I will show the might of our mettle ! PARATE AG SLAGET !”

Parate ag Slaget, Glory to the soldiers of Parate. As his speech finished, the winds flew stronger, and a low rumble started to rise. Stronger and stronger, our feet trembled as a terrible vibration moved the land. The winds encircled Sletel, blurring his features, all but his unnaturally bright red eyes. As we lost balance and fell, he stood against the forces and aimed his javelin. And a booming voice resonated through the rumbling ground “Ag”. He threw his javelins, one by one, hitting the targets.

Slaget shieldbreaker, God of war, had spoken. Blood and glory would come to Sletel.

Last edited 14 days ago by Jacob Guillerey
Aracnarquista
Aracnarquista
14 days ago

Hello, there. This was a very interesting submission. I really like how you build the scene and the realization that the protagonist is dead – there is a good mix of credible reactions while at the same time the overall tone is light and a bit carefree, specially considering the character of the Doorman.

I’d point out two thing, thought. One is a bit of critique, the other is just something about formatting. For the critique, I think the ending was a bit on the weak side. We all have to deal with the dreadful word count and its limits, but to me it felt a bit too little for the Doorman to be moved. So, I don’t know, I really like the build-up and the way the scene is set, but the ending felt both a bit rushed and a bit on the weak side. Maybe you could end with the Doorman saying that so far, very few had being able to move him, but he was willing to listen to this man story and motives in length (which would contrast with his sense of haste from before and paint him as compassionate). Still, I don’t know.

And a second thing, about the format. If you see the other submissions here, we usually use the two first lines for the title of the piece and the authorship. The bot that counts the words in the submission only starts counting it after the first line break (the one that is usually after the authorship). Using other kinds of formatting will confuse the bot, and breaks the pattern of reading. So, I’d suggest editing it with the “title card” so that everything is alright.

Anyway, very interesting story, full of character. Keep writing!

Maxer4000
Maxer4000
14 days ago

An offer
By Maxer4000

“Due to your failure in the mission, you’re not going to receive your payment, and of course, we don’t need to fork out for your insurance.” One of the two smarmy women talks down to a girl in trauma bed, despite being catatonic, she can still see and hear. It’s unbelievable, she was tasked to go to her assigned are and the payment would be on how many enemies her team can take down, there was no talk about failure, she was doing fine until some sort of mech stormed in, killed her comrades and left her to bleed. Now she’s screwed out of her salary and further in debt.

That night, something lurks in the dark, sneaking into the girl’s room. She felt it, reaching for her bedside remote to turn on the light to see what it was. Beside her bed stands a man towering over her, his menacing green eye staring down at her like a predator to a prey, yet it feels familiar. A memory came, it was the same eye looking back at her when she grazed the mech’s visor, at this point she can move now, she rushes to look for something to defend herself, only to face the barrel of her own gun. “Don’t even try it, lass.” He was quicker on the draw than her “Look, how bout ya relax a bit, lie down for what I have to say, yea?” the man lifts the gun and strolls to a stool, confidently leaving his back open, the girl couldn’t do more so she obliges.

He sits down, twirling the pistol “So I heard, somewhere on the grape vine, someone got screwed out of their money!” He looks at her with a cheeky smile, the girl’s eyes widen, the man continues “I have some offer, yea? It’s rather simple, work for me and I’ll delete that debt that sweet sheila down in Basile street owes” she falls silent, she knows he mentioned her mother. He then walks to her side “Ya can choose not to” he slides the gun under her pillow “If yes, ya know what to do, mate.”

The next morning, gunshots were heard, two bodies painted blood on a wall, a patient went missing.

Sam C.
Sam C.
14 days ago

Fate’s Doorman, By Sam C.

VulpesRose
VulpesRose
14 days ago

Rules of the Road
by VulpesRose

If you are driving in the rain and you come to an intersection illuminated by a single streetlight and you can’t remember the last time you saw a bus stop or a gas station, do not pull over for the man hitchhiking.

If you do pull over, do not ask him where he is going. Simply ask if he needs a lift. Resist all urges to tell the man your destination. If he asks if you can take him somewhere specific, tell him you can only take him as far as Springfield.

Do not let the man sit in the backseat. Insist that he sit up front, even if one of your other passengers must relocate to the back. You will have to insist. Do not take the car out of park until he agrees.

Do not let the man adjust the radio station. Suggest a tape or, better yet, that you need to focus because of the weather. Lead an unaccompanied sing along if you must, so long as he does not change the radio dial.

Do not take anything from the man. He may offer sweets or alcohol as payment or thanks for the ride, but do not accept them. Keep the windows rolled up while he is in the car, and refuse if he asks to smoke.

When the road starts to feel unfamiliar, when a curve you should have reached by now fails to appear or a familiar landmark is nowhere to be found, and the icy chill that was working down your spine settles in your stomach, you might remember this advice.

If you didn’t elaborate on your destination, your family and friends should be safe. If you made him sit in the front, your passengers may be spared. If you didn’t tune in to his radio station, all memories of you won’t vanish along with you and your car. If you didn’t accept food or drink, they may eventually find your body. But there was no saving you from this fate.

I warned you not to stop for the hitchhiking man.

Arith_Winterfell
Arith_Winterfell
14 days ago

“Bounty Hunter”

By: Arith_Winterfell

The man was dressed in an old ragged duster coat spattered with patches. He had drawn a pistol and levelled it at my head with a shaky grip. I put my hands up showing I was no threat.

“I would know the name of my killer,” I said.

“Jareth,” the man said without fanfare.

My heart pounded, but I took a deep breath. “Jareth. You fire that thing in here and you’re likely to puncture the hull or a window of the space station, because we’re close to the station’s exterior. You’d likely kill yourself and several others here along with me.”

“I – I won’t miss,” Jareth said.

The man didn’t appear to be wearing any armor to protect him from weapon fire or blades. Nor did he appear to be wearing anything that would block my telepathic abilities. His hand holding the gun shook slightly. I wondered how much this would-be bounty hunter had really prepared when he set out to capture me.

“Just come with me, let me collect the bounty. I don’t have to shoot anyone,” Jareth said. His gaze shifted about, watching for any sudden moves by the other patrons of the dingy diner.

I concentrated my thoughts. His gun turned into a snake, and he flinched throwing the gun across the room with a clang as it struck the wall and fell to the ground. He didn’t seem to have realized I could alter his perceptions. He just stood there with a stunned horrified expression on his face. I focused my mind again, and vanished from his sight. Of course, the other patrons could see me rise from my seat just fine, but they didn’t want to get involved.

Jareth, having recovered, lunged forward at where I had been, and wrestled with the empty bar stool. I quickly exited the diner out into the space station promenade. I merged and blended into the crowd. I hoped this would be the last inept would-be bounty hunter I would have to deal with during my visit to this space station.

Aracnarquista
Aracnarquista
15 days ago

Titans at the Threshold
by Aracnarquista

Sensorial perception fades, and I fade with it. As I fall in this vast void, memories are left behind – the iv dripping cold moisture in my arm, the warm comfort of the bed, the cacophony of beeps of the monitor machines… all displaced in favor of the Message. Which is what I am now.

I come to be at what I expect to be the Threshold. It seems as if nothing here waits for me. Yet, I know the silent Giant expects the Message. No, not a Giant. There are Giants, battling in the checkered battlefield; but the majestic figure supervising the battle is Titanic. Clad in Darkness, concealed in hood and cloak, she is the receiver… a counterpart to the immortal who imbued me with the Message.

The Black Titan spends a moment observing the battlefield – a lifetime, a parcel of Planck time, an eternity. A moment which spans beyond any measure. Who am I, what am I, to read such a grave countenance? Alas, I ponder on that immensity. Graveness and playfulness mixed into something else. Passion, perhaps? Presentness? While I muse these things, the Titan raises her visage to me.

Expressing what exists concealed in those robes is impossible. What was revealed to me does not concern communication. My experience was beyond memory itself. Yet, I know the words the Titan in Black utters to me, a language older than any language. My time at the Threshold is at an end. I will not cross it, I will be sent back. The words she utters next are not for me, but I remember the code. I am once again a Messenger.

Back then, to the world of the living. The beeps, the cold wetness in my arm. A jolt in my chest. A miracle, people would say afterwards. I see the face of a man, an immortal clad in the white robes of a doctor. Without a thought, my tongue conveys the Message of the other Titan: Bxd4. The Titan in White smiles, rejoicing in my survival, yet mostly in the continuity of their game.

Reinkarnitor
Reinkarnitor
15 days ago

The City

by Reinkarnitor

The City was unforgiving. Mary knew that when she first arrived here. A mistake here was a mistake forever and there was no chance you could ever redeem yourself. Despite that, she decided to come here. She was after all a prodigy in her town, and everyone congratulated her when she got the chance to leave that poor life behind. Surely, she would not crumble in the city.

What an amazing illusion that was, a lie she told herself, like so many others did. In the end, the City swallows all these youngsters full of dreams and only a few can reach the top of the food chain, where the rich and mighty reign.
Now she was at the bottom, where the gangs and punks ruled. People filled with cybertech, and implants, each one looking more eccentric than the last.

She could go back but…the shame was too much for her. She thought she would be different, yet she was just as delusional as everyone else.

That’s how she got into this bar, to forget some of her sorrows…but instead met him.

Even with all the people she has seen here so far, this guy was different. He seemed to have little in common with a human anymore, his entire body seemed to be encased in a metal armour, even his face was hidden behind plates, which only slightly moved when he spoke with a rough metallic voice:

“Would you like to earn yourself a bit?”

“Meaning?”

“You look like another one of those who went through the City’s mechanisms and got thrown out. And people like you often have many…skills. Skills that could be useful for my line of work.”

She hesitated.

“You either go home, stay here and get drunk…or you come with me, and I will give you a chance to become a legend after all…and stick it to those rich guys who deemed you not good enough.”

That did it. Her hesitation was gone as she rose from here seat.

The City was unforgiving. But maybe…she just got another chance…on that road she chose.

Last edited 15 days ago by Reinkarnitor
J. J. Peterson
J. J. Peterson
15 days ago

The Way Back
J. J. Peterson

The weary traveller stumbled up to the crossroads, almost falling, but he managed to catch himself on a weathered wooden post. He sat down and emptied his canteen, the last few drops wetting his parched tongue.

The path behind him extended straight as far as the eye could see across seemingly endless plains of parched dirt and withered grass. Before the man stood another three paths, joining with the one he came on in a perfect cross. A small, shrivelled green man came silently out of the forest to his left

“Good afternoon traveller,” the small man rasped in a clear, but overused voice.

Startled, the man jumped up, hastily dropping his canteen in his pack and hiking it back on his shoulders, “H-Hello.” The man stared around wild-eyed and weary.

“I mean you no harm,” the small man said with a slight bow, “Only advice. You have three options before you and danger is certainly hurtling down the trail after you.”

Our weary traveller looked behind him suddenly, startled, but the shrivelled man continued on unperturbed: “You have three choices. You can go right and traverse through the mountains inhabited by the cave trolls, but they say the paths are littered with skeletons. You could keep going straight, but no one has ever come back alive. Maybe it’s because there’s a paradise at the end of the road, but the path probably goes on forever. Or you could follow the path to your left, it’s a rough road with many roots, but after three days’ travel you’ll reach Insal, the town of many pleasures. Make your choice quickly, I sense danger fast approaching down the way you came.”

The goblin scurries into the trees to the left and the traveller hesitates for a split second before following the goblin down the path through the woods. I step out into the open and whistle softly, a smile on my face. The trees shift, closing the path behind the man, and I turn down the way he first came. He never considered turning around.

Last edited 15 days ago by J. J. Peterson
OcculticZ
OcculticZ
15 days ago

A Choice Between Lives
By Occultic;Z

“I died again, didn’t I?” I sat on the crystalline block as these defeated words left my lips. I looked out across the infinite void of colours that expanded ever onwards before me, a sight I had grown to comprehend. I turned my head back to look at Her.

She did not say anything. She didn’t need to. She just gave me that same look of pity that She always did and began to rest Her hand on my back. The touch made me crumple inside.

I had been to this place far too often. I’d grown rash in my behaviour. I had started to take Her kindness for granted.

“You know… the offer still stands,” she said to me, her voice echoing with as gentle a charm as a wind chime. “you can always take the other option.”

“No.” I turned away from Her with a scowl. I think deep down, She already knew this would be my response. Yet every time I came here, She offered. “This time will be different. This time I can save her.”

I wiped my cheek from a tear that I only now noticed. How long it had been there, I do not know.

“Hmm? How might you be so sure of that?” She asked. It was in her apathetic tone, but I knew she had great hope for me.

“Because it needs to be different. I need to be different. I have to save her.”

I felt Herdrift back away from me. My own words rallied me. I shot to my feet and gave a last look at the void I hoped not to see again for a long time. Not until I was victorious.

I turned to Her. She smiled. “Very well then. As is required of me.” She said as she stretched out her arms. Her presence radiated stronger than ever. Her voice began to boom.

“As is the same when all living things come to an end, a choice is granted. You may move on to your next life, or you may repeat your last. Which shall it be?”

Donovan
Donovan
15 days ago

l’endroit où être
by Donovan

The streetlamps emit pale halos, the mist interrupting the light’s normal routine of straight lines. The night sky is overcast, so only the faint glow of where the moon must be is visible through suspended water. The paving stones are damp, and glimmer like the surface of a slow-moving river. You’ve been in this city before, only once or twice. You’re here now just for one night, as a stop on a longer journey. You’re not sure where in the downtown you are, but not in a way that worries you. As you pass down a side street a warm glow pulls your gaze. Between dark doorways and dwellings, at the bottom of a building that seems to meld into the mass of three-story city dwellings around you, there is a café, or maybe a restaurant. It only strikes you now how hungry you are, and the convenience of the timing and location is too much to resist. You don’t notice then, but later when you remember it you’re struck by how empty it was, how not even the sound of distant cars or people permeated that silent street. Above the glowing windows you can just make out the name of the place, a French name, though you are not in a French city. You pause for a moment before opening the door, experiencing the strange feeling that this is one of the moments in your life that you will not forget, something with magnitude. The air feels heavy, and your head feels light. Then you pull, and the door opens.

The air that fills your lungs at the first breath seems thick with a mix of scents so palpable and complimentary that it can’t be anything but designed. Airy notes of mint and sugar are balanced by an undercurrent of pepper and wine. The light seems dim, but warm, you think of candle-light, but without the flicker. Somewhere deeper into the place you can hear the faint half-echoes of a quiet conversation. To your right a woman rests behind a small stand.

“Table for one?” she asks.

jgjgj
jgjgj
15 days ago

Humility

By jgjgj

Disorientation like a man stuck under the waves has my mind pulled every which way, peeling my cognition back to its rawest form I forget everything that happened in the space of time before, & continue to struggle with reality in front of me.

As effects begin to subside, my senses begin to dilate to my surroundings.

I signal to move my hand but I feel no wind or inanimate to catch it, I breathe but feel no oxygen pierce my nose. I slither but I do not fall on the floor or become conscious of my body. I move my lips in a chewing motion as if to speak, but I hear nothing. I lean to hear but I hear only deafening darkness and isolation.

“A nightmare,” I articulately convey to myself. “But how do I feel so calm?” I say to myself, dooming my original conclusion.

“You are not dreaming, or in a nightmare, you are only vexed,” I say to myself– oddly.

“You have left your previous world, and have arrived at Purgatory,” “How do I know this? How did I die? What is this thing possessing-” “You have no need to think such inconclusive thoughts, you are only to acknowledge & listen.” The demon says to me.

“I am no demon, and I am not here to sentence you to suffer. In words of truth, I am here to offer you a choice of existence.” “I do not need to pay your understanding any mind, because ultimately either option will bring clarity with time.” The deity declares.

“You have two options; continue to live an impoverished life of an ordinary soul, or steal the life of a soul to achieve a life of great purpose.”

My stream of consciousness pours back in- I don’t seek to find any other answers but to this one- & I already have the answer dedicated to my subconscious; and so choose-

Sweat trickles down the back of my neck, as I wake up in a cold sweat from my nightmare. I feel the covers touch my sweat-covered legs, my skin feeling the temperate warm temperature of summer, and the pleasure of being in my own body again giving me a warm chuckle. It was just a dream.

The pitter-patter of footsteps comes to alarm me, & I rise to combat but fall as if from exhaustion. Two foreign faces acknowledge my presence in surprise as if I were a Spectre, & wept tears of joy, and hugged me! I was confused; but in laying in silence, I realize, touch my face-, and wept.

Last edited 15 days ago by jgjgj
Alex
Alex
15 days ago

An old Favour (Darkspell Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)

It would have been a dark and stormy night, if the weatherman had been right. Unfortunately, people with actual precognisant powers had better job offers than ‘weather forecast’, given how rare they were. A shame, if Max was honest. The world could use more magic-wielders who didn’t try to be heroes.

He tied the final string around a stick and stood in the middle of the crossroads, folded his fingers and began chanting. It was an old chant, deep and sonorous, reverberating through the surrounding air, causing leaves and the string to vibrate intensely. As the chant reached a crescendo, waves of air rushed through to him from four corners and when he finished, he was no longer alone.

The newcomer was dressed in formal clothing, which had once seen better days. He staggered for a bit, almost falling over, before catching himself. For a moment, he just looked around, trying to get his bearings.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been summoned like this, Max Zwickau” he said, patting his coat down. “Bloody Exile, it had to be you.”

“Aw, come on, have I made that bad an impression on you?” Max couldn’t help but grin.

“You little… ugh,” the man had just stepped into a puddle. “What do you want?”

“Call in my favour.”

“You couldn’t have just called me?”

“What guarantee do I have that you won’t hex my phone?”

“My word?”

“You are literally two-faced.”

At this, the man cocked his neck and hitched up the collar of his coat.

“Fair. Well?”

Max breathed in deeply, knowing he had to choose his words carefully. He only had one chance to phrase the information he needed, exactly the way he needed. One favour, one question. No do-overs.

“I have a question for the Weaver. There is a weapon. A scythe, belonging to the Last, the lord of reaper-kind. How do I find it?”

“Ooh, the Scythe,” the man cocked his head to the side. “For someone special?”

Max said nothing.

“Alright, keep your secrets. You’d better get out some paper. I’m only going to say this once.”

Last edited 14 days ago by Alex
Faustini
Faustini
15 days ago

Reunion
by Spawn of Faust

“You know if you go that way you shall perish surely. On the other hand, you go that way and you will not die horribly and maybe you can even settle for a comfy life.” Said a familiar man, dressed in plate armor and bearing a chunk of steel, which he deemed to call a sword, on his back, to me as he was pointing with his arm in the direction of the forest from which I emerged.

“And I shall die if I stay here. You know me better. Where are those two companions of yours?” I asked the man.

Man took a swing from his flask. “They went that way and as you can expect it did not work out as well as they intended. Now their remains are spread inside of a few different beasts.”

“Gimme.” I said as I grabbed his flask. Cork was already popped open and I took a large gulp of bitter wine.

“Let their death not be in vain.” My mouth crooked with a bitter smile. I would miss them, but It would not do me much good if I wallowed in my sadness. I returned the flask into the man’s hand and prepared myself to leave.

I turned away from the hulking figure of the man. Smile was returning to my scarred face.

“Don’t go there. Listen to my warning.” Man grabbed my hand and turned me so I faced him head on.

“Until now all choices in my life were made by others. Now it is my turn and this is for Ilo.” I said as I plunged the knife under his jaw, thus ending his life.

“Right move Veren Tytär. Goodbye.” Said man, his grip loosening.

“Goodbye Kain. And say hello to those two.” I bestowed last words onto the man’s corpse and I ventured into the dark cave, leaving his still body behind.

Lee Strangely
Lee Strangely
15 days ago

Decidophobia
by Lee Strangely

The whole car practically reverberated as it made its abrupt halt. The fog moved as if to cower upon the vehicle’s entry.

“Well?” Ike tensed.

Brom leaned forward to look past the wind shield, “Well I suppose that’s a neat looking scarecrow, I guess…” The pumpkin-headed strawman hung there between the paths, smiling, with damp clothes and condensation making him appear to sweat more than Ike.

“The roads Brom,” Ike reiterated, “which one.”

“I don’t know, you pick.”

Ike’s hands tightened their grip on the wheel, “You’re the one with a place to go, I’m just taking you there.”

“You have the wheel, you decide.”

Ike continued to explain, faltering, “How? I don’t know where we are, and thanks to this stupid fog I don’t know where either road goes.”

“Well neither can I,” Brom hissed, “now will you just choose one already! You’re blocking the road.”

“What do you mean, there’s no-” Ike glanced at the mirror, paling at a silhouette in the grey murk.

“Just drive.”

“It’s not a car, it looks to just be someone on a horse. They can go around.” Ike then rolled down the window. “Hey! Go around!” he shouted to the figure.

Silence.

Ike called again, hand signaling, “GO. AROUND.”

Stillness.

“It’s simple,” Ike’s mind reasoned, “just two choices. Right? Left? Right, why not go with right… But where does it go? What if it’s washed out, flooded? Well take left then! But wait, where does left go?” He panicked at the combined terror of Brom’s annoyance, the figure’s appearance, and the circle the riddle could never escape. Perhaps it was a hallucination out of this fear that caused him to start hearing the car’s digital clock actually tick as it too judged him.

“DRIVE!” Brom shouted

Like a whip, the one word made him move. His foot nearly going through the floorboards as the car flew past the scarecrow’s right. With it behind him, he finally calmed down.

Something in the distance eventually forced him to slow down. He nearly cried upon being stabbed again…

By yet another fork in the road…

Tamela Redfin
Tamela Redfin
15 days ago

Confessions of a lovesick doctor (Tale of Alois)

By Tamela Redfin

I smoothed my hair, walked the corridors, lights flickering, after leaving my brother to his work, but then I heard crying. Should I follow it?

“Alois, is it your business? No, but someone could be hurt and the other staff doesn’t care.” I contemplated.

I listened for a while longer and then rushed into a sight I didn’t want to see.

Cora sat in a bed, bruised and beaten. “Gott, Cora! What happened?”

“N-nothing, I fell.” She lied.

I walked closer, “Cora, tell me the truth. Was it my brother?”

“Augen?” She flinched.

I walked over and hugged her. She flinched again but slowly reached up and hugged back.

“Nothing has been the same since Henry left. He’d never let Augen touch me like that.” She sobbed.

“Let me be a hydrogen then. Your guards are meant to protect you.” I whispered back, feeling my heart beat faster.

Wait, did I like my brother’s girlfriend? Oh he’d kill me if I did. Or was I using Cora as a way to get over Reagan? Well, it had been fifteen years and Reagan did make me a homewrecker, but Cora?

My niece Engel entered the room, “Mum, are you feeling better?”

“Yes Engel. Alois is seeing to that. How’s Vi?”

“Aunt Helen is with her. Uncle Maxwell said the genetic altering of her eyes could cause blindness though.”

Cora was distraught, screaming, wailing and shaking in my arms.

“I don’t know what I can do, but I will do my best to prevent it. I can’t believe it! My brother has done monstrous things before, this must be a new low.”

But was I making the right choice? Suppose Cora was lying, but could she fake her reaction? And what would be gained from lying? It was time to branch away from Augen.

Galer
Galer
15 days ago

Walking through the world

by Galer.

This world was a strange one, out of the many the couple visited.

The shade and the light literary walked through it, seeing several exotic things like trees growing out of the ceiling of this world, some of them having the texture of dirt, the road itself was bizarre due to being made out of tissue, not to mention the vegetation itself that had mouths that screamed went you touched then

Eventually, they hit a crossroad there was a creature, that had a top hat and a baton, but for the couple, the being was far from average, it was a sphere that reflected the glint, that the light was shining towards it, the creature also levitated slightly from the ground in where his shoes were, along with having three appendages one of then grabbing the baton.

“So what are this lovely couple doing here?” said the creature with a comically exaggerated tone of voice

“We are t just visiting this world,” The shade said with a melodious voice ” I had to say its a very…colorful place”

“Oh so you are outsiders, Interesting we didn’t have void walkers here for a long time,” said the creature ” My name is Latarion”

“My name is Parna and this grump beside me is Talak” Parna the shade said with an animated voice while her companion, color changed to a red one in a flash before returning to normal, he was clearly bothered by that ” as for why we are here well, we were bored so we are going on a trip,”

“Hey! I am not that grumpy” Talak the orb of light protested ” if anything your pranks annoy me”

“Oh please! you love then” she replied to her partner that just harrumphed at the response.

“If it is fun you want, you came to the right place, ” Latarion said ” I will be your guide,”

At the end of this short trip, the duo had his fill, eventually disappearing, as for Latarion? well, he just gave the pair his equivalent of a smile and a farewell.

Roman Rivero
Roman Rivero
15 days ago

Clean work for the clean man
by Roman Rivero

The Cowboy on his horse found a cleanly dressed man waiting for him on a fork of the long desert. This man, with a straightened composure in a black suit and beige pants was unaffected by the winds or sand and stood at the crossing and stared at him. Expecting him as if he were a doctor ready to see his next patient.

“Kindly day to you friend,” the man grinned.

“Uhh, kind day to you too sir.” The Cowboy tipped his hat and with a quick glance to see only the barren wastes of sand prompted, “What’s a fella like you doing out in nowhere? You seem lost in this dry heat.”

“Lost? Oh no I know exactly where I am, I was making my way east from here to Limpio Peak for a job opening. Looking to help be a janitor for the saloon.”

“A cleaning job? You seem too clean yourself to try dirtying anything. A good suit like that would make anyone think you own the joint.”

“Yes it’s true, this is a nice suit. Would be a shame if some drinks or vomit or just about anything really got on it. But it’s just a suit. I’m sure I can change out of it and into a new one.”

“Right.” The cowboy nodded. Feeling he wanted to leave the conversation. “Well, good luck on the job, but I’m heading west from here, so sorry if you needed a lift.”

“Oh no no, I don’t need a lift. Like I said, I know exactly where I am. My clothes might be at its cleanest but it doesn’t define me, it’s what I do that does. Tables and floors need to be clean. I’ll get dirty and no one will even bat an eye, but I know my responsibilities because in the end, who doesn’t enjoy a clean bar?”

The Cowboy stared off with eyes widened as he looked back towards the storming horizon. Something creeping up inside him. He turned back down to see the man had vanished.

Cleanly gone.

C. M. Weller
15 days ago

A Kindness in the Crossroads Tavern [A Tiefling Tale]
C. M. Weller

“What are you doing in my pack, kleine?” The Tiefling was drunk. So drunk that one might call him blind. And yet, he could see her.

Anemone froze. Nobody should be able to see her!

“You hungry? Looking for money?” He didn’t wait for an answer, just handed her his meal right off the table. “I just spent my last coin on this lot. It’s not good, but it’s all I can spare.” It was half a trencher of stew, barely picked at, a heel of dry bread, and not a lot of butter.

A man’s last meal. Even a devilborn should not be down to one last meal. And yet he gave it away without a thought. “You shouldn’t see me,” she said.

“Too many overlook those in need,” he belched. “Pard’n. Here. You look like you need it more than me. Take it. Eat. I will not let eine kinder go unfed.”

A gift from one in need. One without any expectation of a boon. But he would get one, oh yes. He would GET one.

Anemone glimpsed into his future, and gave him a trinket so he might know who would help him. A little thing that bore the sigil of the family of the helper. When he found it, he clenched in fear. What a tricky creature this Tiefling was!

She tried something simpler. A trade of gold for the paintings he ‘found’ in a nest of thieves. She saved him from trouble and gave him far more than what they were worth. He viewed it with suspicion. Anemone did not wish to gift him with concerns.

Finally, he stated what he wanted to someone in power. Easy for a Brownie to accomplish! He need not deal with lords and ladies to get what he wished. He had HER on his side!

It was only just that she took three tries to get it right. Things with the Fae always happened in threes. This was something he clearly wanted. THIS time, she was going to get it right.

The third time may indeed be the charm.

Marx
Marx
15 days ago

Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Everybody!
By Marx

Matt’s eyes bulged in shock and confusion. “You… got a tattoo? Of me?”

Lucy smiled, looking down to her shoulder where the image of a chibi Grim Reaper on an adorably fat horse rested. “Yes. A friend of mine taught me the value of taking something that terrifies you and taking away its power.”

Matt’s eyes narrowed. “I freed you.”

Lucy downed the shot glass in front of her. “You are also the only one who can put me back. I assume the walls to Hell are breaking down without me?”

“Yes,” sighed Matt. “I was hoping for your help with that.”

Lucy refilled her glass. “I say this aware of the pointlessness of such an endeavor, but should you attempt to cage me again, I will fight you with every ounce of my soul and will.”

“N… no! I don’t want to cage you again! I just-… I need help. I need something that the demons fear more than Hell.”

This time Lucy’s eyes bulged. “You request my assistance in a display of power? Why not simply use your army?”

Matt fought the urge to get a glass for himself. “They’re not an army!”

“They are thousands of fallen angels, demons, and deities at your beck and call, merely awaiting your orders. This is also known as an army.”

“They aren’t mine. I… freed them…”

“You freed me too.” Lucy downed her drink again. “Why is it okay for you to ask this of me and not them? I’ve been trapped in Hell for most of my existence and I am… weary of it. I just want to enjoy what remains of my life in peace.”

Matt paused for a long moment and then flashed Lucy a smile. “You should do that then. Sorry to bother you.”

Lucy looked momentarily dumbfounded as Matt got up to leave. “What will you do?”

Matt shrugged in defeat. “I guess I have an army to mobilize…”

“Might I make a suggestion?”

“…please do.”

“When going into battle, making use of War and Conquest would be… wise.”

Matt smirked back. “Heh. Duly noted.”

Samuel Gallew
Samuel Gallew
15 days ago

Title: Decisions of Misery
Author: Samuel Gallew

Elen held the dagger in her clammy hands, her thoughts a storm of misery and fear as dark and wild as the one raging outside.

She thought of the declining health of her sister, the abuse that stemmed from her mother’s drinking problem, and the trap that low funds and too many mouths fed into. If she didn’t eat or read so much…

The blade clattered to the floor as the implications became too much for her to bear. While her death would guarantee everything would improve, she couldn’t stand the thoughts of-

There was a knock at the door

“Elen?” her mother called, sober for the moment. “Are you alright in there?”

She kicked the dagger under her bed. “Yeah, dropped a hairpin.”

“Go to sleep already. You have work tomorrow morning.”

“I know.”

As the footsteps faded away, she knelt down to grab her nightgown and felt a sharp pain on her wrist, yelping slightly while trying not to let herself be heard.

Someone knocked at her door.

“I’m fine mom!” she said, trying to press on the bleeding wound.

The door opened, revealing a figure she didn’t recognize.

She yelled. “Who are you?!”

They put their hands up, and spoke in a calm, masculine voice that was oddly soothing.

“I’m a friend, I promise.”

“What do you want?” Elen asked, glaring sideways at him.

“I see you’re having some troublesome issues. I want to help you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your life is an unfortunate one. Currently, your only two options are to die and fix everything, or grin and bear the suffering.”

She felt tears stinging her eyes as she shivered, glancing at her wrist. “I don’t want to die, or suffer.”

“Nobody does.” He slid his hand across the wound, and while it hurt for a second, it stopped bleeding entirely.

“How?” she asked, stunned.

“There is a place that needs you to save it. You’ll find power like this, and more. You won’t die here and you’ll see your family in better conditions. What do you say?”

She barely even paused before she answered.

contract
contract
15 days ago

It has to be this way
By contract

Arthur woke up.

He had a hard time remembering what happened. He just knew it was something weird, and the following events were about to confirm that feeling.

When he opened his eyes, he saw an old man sitting on a wooden chair, in the middle of a crossroad with four paths.

“So she decided to send you here. Well, here are the rules, fir-”

“Who ?” interrupted Arthur.

“Magic, The shiniest star, the velvet vessel or whatever you call her” answered the man with his deep voice.

“That doesn’t answ-”

“The northern path leads to Death.
The western path leads to Conquest.
The eastern path leads to Famine.
The southern path leads to War.
Which one do you choose ?” said the old man assertively.

He marked a short silence.

“You can ask me four questions to help you, but since you already used one, there are only three left.”

“That’s unfair !” protested Arthur.

“I don’t like being interrupted. Now ask your questions and choose. And quickly, each second, the horsemen approach.”

“What is the good path ?” asked Arthur, worried.

“The one where you don’t die”

“Helpful. Which horseman is the least dangerous ?”

“For you, they are all equally lethal”

Arthur thought for a moment before posing his last question. It was obvious he wouldn’t get a valid answer from this man, but maybe a more unusual question could help.

“What are the rules ?”

“The ones I explained. No more, no less.
You have no question left. What path do you choose ?”

Arthur looked around. The four horsemen were now visible. He smiled, for he knew the answer.

“Up. I choose up. No rule said I couldn’t.”

“Success. Maybe she won’t kill you after all.” he said, before him and everything else around Arthur disappeared in a tornado of dust.

A velvet little girl appeared behind him.

“You survived ! Impressive ! Most people die on this one !
Well, time for our next game !” she exclaimed.

She snapped her fingers before giggling.

Skeleton
Skeleton
15 days ago

Stains of Time (The Will)
By Skeleton (Edited by MelodyLuna7)

“Oh, would you quit being so cowardly!” Greda admonished, rolling her eyes at her husband. “Look, it’s just a boy.” The wulack seamstress marched towards the crossroads—towards home. Her husband, Vendrick, had no choice but to follow.

When they reached the black-hooded, white-masked figure standing in the intersection, Greda leant down in her usual caring manner. “Why, don’t you look terrifying!” she teased the young, human boy. “Did you make your costume yourse…”

She saw the glint of the knife, but it had already passed through her and Vendrick’s throat.

Startled, both wulack travelers found themselves on the ground, grasping their necks to try in vain to staunch the profuse bleeding. In her final struggles, Greda felt the purse on her hip free itself from her belt and watched as the masked boy walked into the dark night.

*****

He could still smell the blood in the soil. The black-cloaked man stared down to the dirt of the forgotten crossroads with undying recognition. Even in this long-since forgotten part of the country, he could not forget the pain he had caused. He could still feel them writhing inside his chest—in his non-essential heart.

“Hey, Eymir.” The man looked up from the path to see Zaila standing up the road a little, looking back to her mentor with a confused glance. “We need to keep moving if we’re ever going to meet up with Ericka and the other forces on time.”

The man did not respond, looking back to the dirt with rare pain revealed in his eyes. “Eymir?” Zaila’s voice rang out in concern. “Are you—?”

“The world doesn’t care about you, Zaila,” Eymir began slowly, now trotting up to the young dragoness. “The world will trip you, cut you, break you, violate you, and tear you apart until you’re nothing more than meat. You are nothing to the world.”

Zaila looked around nervously as his hands landed and grasped her shoulders. “O… kay?” But the confusion died when she saw his eyes.

“We care about you.” he breathed. “I… care about you. And… I always will. I promise.”