“Extinguished” — Short Fiction Competition Winner (Discord)

Extinguished
by DevourerofStars#5717

The sky was painted in brilliant reds, yellows and purples, all bleeding and blending into one another above the darkened, slumbering forest.

Almost time.

I looked over my ragged net, cobbled together from frayed rope and horseshoes. I could only pray the net would hold. I could already see the net falling short, falling apart or, worse, going up in flames.

Just three. Three feathers was all we needed.

I glanced at the tree ahead of me in the clearing. High above the ground and nestled within its skeletal branches, was a nest. From what I could see, the nest was thoroughly coated in a thick, yellow resin.

So damn close now.

It had all started as a wild goose chase, a fool chasing myths in deep snow. Lured by the promise of reprieve, how could I resist?

My stomach growled, churning itself inside out.

Days had stretched out into weeks, characterized by howling winter storms, numbness and searing burns. Trudging through deep snow and biting cold, I began to think there was no nest. And then, on one cold morning, I found it, silhouetted against the rising sun.

I checked over my trap, consisting of a dead hare tied to a stake in the clearing. A crude trap, but it would work. It had to work. I took my place, crouching behind the bush, net in both hands.

Now all I had to do was wait.

***

The sun finally peeked over the horizon, its rays piercing the dawn sky. Shafts of sunlight shot through the canopy and fell upon the resin-soaked nest. It smoked and smoldered, the resin becoming a wrinkled black paste.

Then the nest burst into flame.

Fire raced from the crown down to the base of the tree in seconds, consuming it in a swirling vortex of flame. Mesmerizing in the way only fire could be, the flames danced and swirled across the bark of the tree. The wood crackled and popped, charred black and criss-crossed with magma-like veins. I could almost taste the sweet, heady scent of burning wood even from where I stood. The sun continually crept upward as the fire raged unabated.  Finally, the fire began to retreat, leaving behind thoroughly scorched bark in its wake. The flames all moved unnervingly towards a single point, closing in from the branching crown and thick trunk. When they finally converged, the flames coalesced.

And there, where the nest had once stood, was a falcon wrapped in all the colours of a sun set. The reds, yellows and purples of its body faded into one another, beginning with the brilliant yellow on its head, down to its vibrant red body, and finally to its royal purple tail feathers. It was a sun onto itself, its mere presence lighting up the entire clearing.

A Phoenix.

The Phoenix let out a haunting screech, piercing the morning stillness under the dormant forest. It searched it’s surroundings with its black, pearly eyes, finally settling its gaze upon the carcass far below on the forest floor. With a powerful stroke of its wings, the Phoenix dived, it’s obsidian talons outstretched.

It collided with a faint thump, flapping its iridescent wings to stabilize itself. It’s claws sank deep into the tender flesh.

I almost threw the net then and there.

The Phoenix took off with the carcass in tow, only to come crashing back down, cawing in indignation.

I hurled the net, which sailed through the air before enveloping the fallen Phoenix and sending it tumbling. The Phoenix screeched, attempting to take off, only to find itself entangled in a web of robe. It entangled itself further and further with each successive stroke.

It worked. Holy crap, It worked. I tore through the bush and raced to the thrashing bird. Stooping to my knees, I grabbed it’s body, carefully avoiding the flapping wings.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay, it’s okay.” I whispered, stroking it’s body with my other hand. Maybe it understood me or something, but it gradually stopped struggling, now looking into my eyes intensely.

“Good boy, Good boy.” Gingerly, I plucked three feathers, only receiving a terrifying flinch each time. I dropped the feathers into a leather bag, their glow still spilling out from it.

“Alright, time to let you go buddy.” I began to extricate the Phoenix from the tangled net, carefully repositioning the rope to free him and avoid constricting it’s fragile wings. Then I stopped. If three feathers was all it took to help us through this year, what would six do? Seven, eight, nine or even 10? What about 20?

The Phoenix thrashed again, screeching bloody murder.

“Just a few more…” I wasn’t sure if that was more to the Phoenix, or to me. I tore into the bird, ripping off it’s beautiful feathers one by one. It’s struggle intensified,  talons kicking and hooked beak snapping to no avail. With every feather I wrenched from its body, I could practically feel the flowing silk robes and taste the rich wine on my tongue. I ignored it’s strangled cawing and wild eyes, thinking, I just need a few more…

An ear-splitting shriek tore it’s way out of  Phoenix, and then it’s struggles ceased. The forest darkened, it’s cry still ringing out across the new dark.

A deep cold settled on my chest, and I found myself struggling to breathe. I sank to my knees, hands shaking.

“Oh Jesus, No no no no no…”

The Phoenix was utterly stripped of its otherworldly beauty, left with nothing but raw, pink flesh. It’s wings were beyond mangled, twisted and bent at unnatural angles where the thick rope pulled tight.

The bag. The bag had no glow coming from it. I scrambled to it and grabbed the bag, tipping it over. Only black ash poured from the opening.

I covered my face with my hands, and yet I could still see the broken body of the phoenix. Something broke. I began to weep, sobbing and shaking deep in the forest at sunrise.

Thanks for reading!

This story was written by the clever and talented DevourerofStars#5717 for a Slavic Folklore-themed short fiction competition on our Discord server. A big thanks to everyone who participated, our community team who organized the event, and to the winner, for writing such a lovely piece!

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“Fungal Leprosy”, by William J. Maitland, Jr.

FanSubmission_JunjiIto_FungalLeprosy_WilliamMaitland

It’s always the things you don’t see that get you. That’s what my boss used to tell me. Of course, he was simply referring to that spot of dirt beneath the floor that we neglected to mop up earlier that day. Prophetic-sounding hogwash in the face of absolute normalcy. You get used to this, as a minimum wage worker. A manager acting like he’s the next great philosopher or herald.

He has no idea, however, what fresh hell he brought into my life.

I’d taken up the job several months prior, so I could afford textbooks for the coming semester. Of course, this wouldn’t do shit for the larger end of the bill I would one day need to foot. I’d just wipe down some tables, cart away some dishes, and that’d be it. Menial work for a bi-weekly pay. It put money in my hands, that’s all that mattered. Until, of course, it started to happen.

It was slow at first. Subtle. My middle finger, just below the cuticle, became very itchy and irritated. It persisted for a good week or so, even on the days I didn’t attend work. The skin grew flaky, inflamed, and necrotic. At first, I thought little of it. A simple infection from working with bleach, that’s all. A pair of gloves, from here on out, would need to be employed. A simple fix to a simple problem.

The gloves proved… ineffective. The infection not only worsened to the point of skin tearing and wounds opening, but began to spread to the other fingers on my right hand. It would itch and burn, like claws sinking into my flesh out of thin air. Searing hot claws.

I expressed my growing discomfort with the manager. He made mention that the local health codes mandated that all of these rags be cleaned with bleach, that which I believed to be the source of my rampant inflammation. Subtly, however, we agreed that I would no longer need to use bleach-soaked rags for my cleaning work. Hot water, very hot water, would suit the rags just fine. I was surprised to find him so cooperative. I was even more surprised when the  infection still persisted, even after complete separation. Even worse, my flesh would feel as if on fire when working with the vegetables. Part of my responsibility, after all, was chopping up lettuce for the salad bar. For some reason, the would-be pleasant feeling of wet leaves more closely resembled a brush with a hot iron. I fought the urge to scream as much as I could, gritting my teeth whenever I washed my hands.

That week, I quit. It wasn’t a burning of bridges at all. In fact, the old man was surprisingly on board with the notion of me terminating my employment there. Perhaps it was the first look at my decaying fingers that persuaded him. Perhaps it was that I was so loyal and unquestioning in the face of ailment that he didn’t want me to end up getting killed over it. Shame it was too late for that.

At home, I tried every potential remedy under the goddamn sun. Ointments, creams, hot soaks and compresses. Bandages, disinfectant, anti-fungals, and even bloodletting from the wounded area. Nothing worked. It all just worsened in a haze that seems to blur between days. By that week’s end, my hand was completely covered in this godawful infection. By the second week, it covered most of my arm. Third week, it started crawling steadily upward and downward, reaching my neck. I didn’t stop fighting it for a single day. I fought alone, but I fought valiantly. Fruitless, all of it. But it had to be better than sitting there and letting it overtake me. I began to lose sleep amidst the discomfort, and what sleep did befall me would last for entire days at a time. At this point, I wasn’t sure if my eyes were sunken in because of this intense sleep deprivation, or because the necrosis had fully surrounded my eye sockets and everything in my face was beginning to rot.

My entire head was itching. Itching something fierce. I couldn’t help it. I scratched and I scratched and I scratched for a good long while. All of that medical shit I had been trying for the last month or so could rot in Hell, now. Scratching it was the only thing that felt good. Tension began to leave my skin like steam from a burst lobster. In my mind’s eye, my head exploded with the rushing colors of a psychedelic hocus pocus. As my fit ended, I collapsed onto the cold floor where it initiated. In that whole ordeal, I’d completely forgotten that I was in the bathroom.

I woke up, peeling myself off of the tile. I lost hours on that floor, and I wasn’t sure how many it had been. The thing that greeted me in the mirror was nightmare made flesh. My face was completely cracked and torn, deep with ridges of dried blood. My nose and upper lip had been torn off, baring the teeth within. Mushrooms sprouted out of the deep fault lines in my flesh in isolated, errant fashion. Most bizarre of the mutations, though, was my scalp. Where once a human head of hair was, there now sprouted a porous and putrid fungal spore. My mouth fell agape, confirming indeed that this monstrosity was my very own body. Feebly, I raised my hands into view. Repugnant masses of sores, both of them. I tested the physical integrity of the fingers on my left hand. The tip of my middle finger broke off. Light as paper. Ink-black smoke plumed out of the hole in my finger. I could not look away. I screamed, and screamed, and screamed, backing away from that which I could not escape. This was me. I was not human anymore. This had to be some mad hallucination. But clearly, inflicting a wound on myself didn’t snap me out of it.

FanSubmission_JunjiIto_FungalLeprosy_WilliamMaitland_Art

Finally, resigned to my sudden ravages of metamorphosis, I took a seat beneath a tree in my backyard. I had no choice. Six chambers, fully loaded. I knew it had to be quick and it had to be now, before I resembled things that be not man or nature. I begged the soil to take me back and cleanse me of this filth. I fired a single shot, and my vision clouded with the putrescent black smoke as consciousness failed me. The infection, I hoped, died with me.

 

 

Thanks for reading!

This fan-story and the accompanying art were both submitted to us by the clever William J. Maitland, Jr.

For more like it, click here; if you’d like to submit your own, click here to read our guidelines; to check out the stories we’ve written ourselves, click here to check out our show.

“The End”, by Eric Porter

FanSubmission_JunjiIto_TheEnd_WilliamMaitland

The blade of the ax slid along the log, shaving fine chips of wood as Hanna worked silently. It wasn’t an ideal tool–there were no ideal tools any more, just what you could find–but it was sufficient for the job she needed to do.

She packed the wood shavings into an old detergent bucket and carried it to the stream to soak, then dragged it to the cave. Holding fast to the guide rope, she worked her way to the end of their farm by feel, trying her best to ignore the pungent smell that permeated everything.

She had believed that she would get used to it eventually. You would have to when mushrooms were the only crop that would grow anymore, but she didn’t. She still hated mushrooms and the smell made her sick; only the will to survive kept her at work. After all she had to survive. She was one of the lucky ones. At least she told herself that.

She had been out camping when the world ended. When the bombs fell, she hadn’t been in any of the cities whose smoke now blackened the sky and left the world cold. She had even survived with a few others while most died of starvation before they could harvest their first crop.

Now she was alone. It had been days since her friends had left her to go down the mountain looking for new tools and other survivors, if they existed, days since she heard another human voice. She almost didn’t realize it when she heard one again. She gave a start looking up from her work amending the mushroom beds with the moist wood shavings.

“Hanna!” Rowan’s voice called from outside, “Hanna! Are you there?”

Blindly she felt her way back through the cave. “Yes, I’m coming!” she called, unfamiliar with the sounds she made.

“There you are,” Rosa exclaimed as Hanna reemerged into the gray light.

“I’m relieved you’re back,” Hanna breathed. “Did you find anything, anyone?”

“No one again,” Rowan Responded. “I doubt anything can survive in the radiation long. Cullen found some working solar panels though. We think we will be able to rig some lights into the cave.” Rowan finished holding up some LED light strands.

Hanna nodded, then seized Rowan’s arm. “Burns,” she hissed, “I told you the radiation is too dangerous even for short trips!”

“Whoa! Calm down,” Cullen said coming up from behind Rowan. “That’s a chemical burn,” he said in calming tones.

“We tried to salvage some batteries to hook up to the solar panels, but they were corroded and leaked on my arm,” Rowan said.

“We only stayed in the perimeter of town, and only for a few hours at that,” Rosa added. “I don’t think we came close enough to the epicenter for too much exposure.”

Hanna grimaced. Despite their precautions, thinking about the ruined cities on the far side of the mountain made her anxious.

The others went to work on setting up the solar panels while Hanna kept the fire. It wasn’t late in the day but since The End, summer never came. She was warming her hands when Rosa approached from behind.

“Have you seen Cullen?” she asked, and Hanna flinched, unaware Rosa had been there.

“The last I saw him he was stringing lights into the cave,” Hanna answered.

“Can you come with me? I think Rowan’s burns are getting worse.” The concern was evident in Rosa’s voice as she offered her hand.

“Where is he?” worry filled her as she took Rosa’s hand.

“I left him on the hillside where he was trying to mount a panel.”

“He washed himself after the batteries leaked right?”

“As soon as we got to a stream.”

“It must still be on his clothes then.” Hanna frowned.

Rowan stood up from his work to greet them as Hanna and Rosa came up the hill.

“Hey,” he said, “I think we’re done here.”

“Rowan!” Hanna yelled, out of breath, “Oh my god!”

That the burns were worse was an understatement. What had been an isolated blister on his arm had spread to cover the whole thing, and tendrils of scar tissue appeared to be creeping up his neck.

“Come on Rowan,” Rosa said, “lets get you to the stream so we can wash your burns.”

“My burn?” Rowan asked, “It feels fine.”

“Look at it!” Hanna wailed.

His eyes widened as the tendrils spread up his face, and Rosa helped him down the hillside and brought him to the stream. Stripping off his clothes revealed the extent the burn had spread. His entire torso crawled with lesions.

Stepping into the water Rowan shivered and then screamed. His flesh writhed and he fell to his knees.

“Rowan!” Hanna shrieked, as dark fuzz sprouted from his hands, mouth, and eyes.

Nodules appeared across his back, and the screaming abated as he began to choke. Rosa rushed to the bank and pulled him out of the water, his face twisted by the swelling growths and terror.

A familiar pungent smell rose on the air as the bulges erupted into fruiting mushrooms. Rowan fell and a terrible silence filled the clearing, broken as Rosa started screaming. Mycelium sprouted from Rowan’s arm where she held him, binding her hand there.

“Help! Oh my god Hanna help! It burns!” Rosa sobbed, collapsing with rowan on the bank.

Hanna fell back, afraid to touch them now, as Rowan’s body became an unrecognizable mass propagating mushrooms.

Rosa wriggled, inching toward her as the fungus spread, stopping only when the mycelium rooted her to the ground.

“Please, please,” Rosa gasped again before falling still.

An interminable amount of time passed while Hanna trembled, unable to stand as she watched her friends decay. A faint moaning finally reached her conscious mind. She had no idea how long she had heard it without being aware.

The sound came from the cave. Cullen was still in there. Standing, she shivered as she tried to reassure herself that the farm didn’t kill her friends, that Rowan had picked up some mutant spores in the valley. She wanted to believe that.

The whimpering continued as Hanna stood transfixed by the cave’s gaping maw. “Cullen!” she called finally.

“Han… Hanna,” Cullen’s voice trembled, “I tripped over something and twisted my leg.” he said between whimpers. “I need your help to get out.”

She looked as far as she could into the cave, the faint glow of the light string was too dim to see much by, but not too far in she could see a cluster of them rising and falling with Cullen’s breath. She swallowed her unease and found the guide rope. There shouldn’t be anything to trip over; they had worked meticulously to clear the cave of debris to allow them to work without light. Still Hanna stepped carefully.

It wasn’t long before she found Cullen reposed against the cave wall, lit by the jumble of dimly-glowing lights.

“Thanks for coming,” he said weakly. “I was worried I would have to spend the night in here before anyone came to look for me.”

Hanna pursed her lips, “Let me look at your leg, we need to know how badly you’re hurt.”

Cullen nodded and lifted up his pant leg. Hanna knelt and ran her hand along his calf. It was swollen, but not broken, thankfully. She felt the ground where he had fallen to find what he had tripped over, but the dusty floor didn’t give anything away. Then next to her knee she found it, the broken cap of a mushroom. Her hand drew back, and she pulled a cluster of lights together to look at Cullen’s leg, and let out a sigh of relief not to find any burns or lesions. The bundle of lights fell to the ground and she drew back as her eyes focused where they fell.

“Hanna? Is it bad?” he asked trying to hide the distress her reaction caused.

White threads of mycelium lined the sole of his shoe, and she stepped back.

“Hanna!” panic crept into his voice, “Don’t leave me Hanna!” he wept.

She turned and ran out of the cave, leaving Cullen’s cries behind her. Out in the clearing she breathed deeply. The smell of rotting choked her. She regarded the cave and listened as Cullen’s screams grew then silenced.

She ran, ran until it burned. How far was it until she was safe? She didn’t know, but surviving was all that mattered. She was the lucky one right?

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading!

This fan-story was submitted to us by the clever Eric Porter

For more like it, click here; if you’d like to submit your own, click here to read our guidelines; to check out the stories we’ve written ourselves, click here to check out our show.

We are One Year Old!

17270358_10212187992871950_2079505387_n.pngAs of today, Tale Foundry is one year old!
 
On behalf of everyone at the Foundry, we thank you for a year worth of wonderful creative thinking and writing. We are privileged to have such supportive fans and enjoyed seeing the many minds we inspired this year.
We invite you to share your stories with us by posting them on Tumblr with the “keep making stuff up” tag, or by submitting them here: https://goo.gl/ynaE9V. The same goes for any alternative art for stories you may have been inspired to create or any general fan art. We want to see what we have inspired you to do!
Thank you.

We’re One Year Old Tomorrow!

Tomorrow marks one full year since we posted our first episode! We believe that this is a major cause for celebration and we want you to join in.

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We invite you to share your stories with us by posting them on Tumblr with the “keep making stuff up” tag, or by submitting them here: https://goo.gl/ynaE9V. The same goes for any alternative art for stories you may have been inspired to create or any general fan art. We want to see what we have inspired you to do!

At the bottom are the links to all of our series. We’ve had a great time letting our creative juices flow with you this past year and we can’t wait to see how well the upcoming year goes!

Thank you, everyone.

Chloe, Happy Human Helper

Celtic Folklore

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-YplUq8htcQh9-RZJn4CJ4X

Game of Thrones

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-YagUCJ6fIFQUOZT_46vqLC

Weird Fiction

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-aBqWzHwiUiKvaczsW6riLt

American Mythology

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-Y4LDaObCud7smW86aKy1lX

Pokémon

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-YHtheCuzlwNinJ4_G-jiod

Creepy Pasta

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-YjkHXRlo5HhZSEuJytO2vC

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-apySLXczOQxjuqM3nwfe92

Westworld

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLegyBq4Mvn-ao21hH5cn63Jy8FgK-dayr

Make Something Up — Harry Potter Month

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Time to MAKE SOMETHING UUUUP~

This month’s story prompt. If you’ve been following our Harry Potter posts and you’ve got a story brewing in your head, now’s your time. Write it up and send it our way!

Read the post for details on what we’ll be looking for. For submission details, visit: TheTaleFoundry.Wordpress.com/contact

“The Meat Lady,” by Vangluss

fansubmission_creepypasta_themeatlady_vangluss

I had a neighbor once. She was never quite right. Often, on random days of any given month, she duct-taped raw meat to her front door. Nobody, including me, bothered her about that. Live and let live, I guessed. Until she did the same to me.

She never left anything I would consider prime cuts. It was always some kind of offal. Kidneys. Livers. Brains. Guess I wasn’t good enough for prime rib.

We kept an unspoken peace. She duct-taped meat. I threw it away before the other neighbors started asking uncomfortable questions. This surreal daily routine continued for months. Then the October incident happened.

I remembered the day as clearly as I remembered the smell. I struggled to push my door open, and saw the Meat Lady’s masterpiece. A pig’s head, pink, raw, and chopped to gory bits decorated my door.

After taking it down with copious amounts of panicked pulling, I absolutely lost it. I stormed over to her house, and banged on the door. Thank God it was near Halloween. Nobody was the wiser.

She wore a black sweater with a long black skirt. She was a frail little thing with hair like dying Spanish moss. Her pitiful appearance didn’t stop my rage. I said a lot of things. Especially regretful things. By the time my ranting was done, several of the other neighbors enjoyed my freak-out. The lady silently cried. In my heart of hearts, I knew I fucked up, but didn’t care.

In between soft sobs, she hitched up her skirt. Ragged lines and patches of dense, scarred skin riddled her legs and thighs. She murmured, “I was only trying to help.” repeatedly until someone called the police and I backed off, terrified. The cops took her away. She ended up in a psych ward. Those hollow corpse eyes haunted me for a long time.

To my bitter delight, the meat deliveries stopped only to be replaced with another disturbing phenomenon. I kept waking up with random, jagged cuts somewhere random on my body. Last Friday morning, it was my stomach. This Tuesday morning, it was on my right thigh. Some are deeper than others are. Some bleed more than others do. They all stung like hell. Still, this was a lot more manageable than that lady.

Some real demons were eating her up.

 

 

Thanks for reading!

This fan-story was submitted to us by the clever Vangluss(https://vangluss.wordpress.com/)

For more like it, click here; if you’d like to submit your own, click here to read our guidelines; to check out the stories we’ve written ourselves, click here to check out our show.