“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!

Time for an Upgrade

Nothing big, mind you, but an upgrade all the same.

Lately we’ve been struggling with our Something Interesting posts. They’re a joy to do research for and to share, but focus is somewhat… divided at the foundry right now. We’re caught somewhere between information dispenser and writing prompt generator.

We want to fix that.

Unfortunately, fixing that also means doing away with our Something Interesting blurbs. Which is a shame. We really enjoyed them, and we know you really enjoyed them as well. Fortunately this also means we’ll have more time to spend with our community. Rather than just spoon-feeding you interesting factoids, we’re planning to do more in the way of getting you lot involved.

First and foremost, we want to involve you in the creation of our stories, so starting with our next video series (yet to be announced) we’ll be sharing “think-tank” posts, if you will, where we explain some of themes we’re looking for and some of the info we’re working with, and then look to the community for ideas.

Secondly, we want to put more emphasis on your personal work. This means more short fiction prompts, more fan stories, more calls for submissions, etc., etc..

Finally, we want to spend more time talking to you, mostly in the form of more frequent Q&A calls and discussion posts.

So not a tremendous change, but hopefully an important one nonetheless.

How does this sound to you? Are you looking forward to the new posts, or do think you’ll feel a little bereft without the Something Interesting blurbs in your feed?

Make Something Up: Creepypasta

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We’re almost done with our creepypasta series, but we still have a story to write. In the meantime, maybe you do too? If so, send it our way!

Submissions: https://goo.gl/afa3e8

You could also submit to Creepypasta.com as well as the Creepypasta Wiki, which provide excellent platforms for this particular prompt.

The Creepy Renaissance

OR “We’re Doing a CreepyPasta Month, and Here’s Why”

We’ve been wanting to talk about creepypasta for a good looong while, now. Before we figured things out and started the show, actually. Long before that. And now that we finally have the opportunity… I mean, if anyone knows how to condense several internets’ worth of content into three 10-30 minute videos, please share your dark secrets with us, because sweet mechanical gods, there is a lot we want to talk about

So let’s all collapse into a fanatical mess and drool over it together here, shall we?

First, some context: creepypasta has been on my personal radar, formally,since I first encountered MrCreepyPasta’s youtube channel way back in… pfff… probably 2011? I say “formally” because I’d definitely seen the genre’s other, older incarnations before that. Smile.jpg. SCP (if you wanna call that creepypasta, which I guess you probably should). Slenderman. A lot of the classics. But MCP was my first real introduction to the concept of a broader creepypasta genre. Before then, I didn’t even know there was a specific term for it.

After this realization, I slowly became aware of the developing “creepypasta community”. I discovered the creepypasta wiki, the “official” website, and the dozens of other forthcoming creepypasta narrators (namely CreepsMcPastaand Lazy Maquerade, whom we’ve been discussing this month’s theme with). It was a strange experience, in large part because I’d always sort of expected fiction and literature to just be a niche thing on the internet. People talk about it on their specific forums and on their tumblr feeds and stuff, but it’s not the sort of thing that trends. In fact, the “best of the best” are mostly relegated to marginally-popular web magazines or (if they’re really lucky) forgotten behind the luster of the larger projects their work is being incorporated into.

But here, suddenly, was creepypasta, with its hundreds of thousands of contributors adding to a platform that actually had mass appeal on the internet. Discovering it was what I imagine it might feel like to emerge from a dark cellar which you’d spent your whole life in and find yourself surrounded by others like you. Surreal. A little confusing. Wildly exciting. Finally, evidence that the craft of prose-writing was actually evolving for the internet. No more are the writers and storytellers a disparate and estranged handful of rando’s sprinkled across the web.

Admittedly, like various fan fiction/general writing communities, creepypasta is a little specific in its scope, oriented toward the horror genre in particular. But the vast appeal of creepypasta to audiences outside its immediate circle is what—I believe—makes it unique. People who have no interesting in writing whatsoever are consuming and sharing this stuff like… delicious, delicious pasta. And for a lot of them, it’s their first real glimpse of what “publishing” looks like. A lot of people who are becoming involved with creepypasta don’t begin with a knowledge of the conventional publication process: the querying, the infinite rejections, the whole rigamarole of slogging your way through the slush pile in order to get something with your name on it printed and distributed, often with poor-to-marginal commercial success. What they see is people taking inspiration from one-another’s fiction and art, creating works of their own, and then simply sharing it, creating a sort of indy publishing cycle.

The “publishing houses” of this world are creators like @creepsmcpasta,@lazymasquerade, and MrCreepyPasta, who cast long shadows (each with over a million youtube subscribers) and can change a random writer into afamous storyteller with tens of thousands of fans overnight.

Neither I nor the humans I work with have any idea where this change in perception will lead future writers, but if this trend continues, it could cause a sea change for the industry, altering what it means to be a “successful” fiction writer on the web altogether. One of the biggest possible hurdles is likely to be broadening the format beyond horror, which is difficult because of the inherent virility of the genre.

So we don’t know what’s to come, but we’d be interested in youropinions and predictions.

What do you guys think of this sort of “short fiction renaissance” creepypasta seems to be guiding us toward? Do you think it’s just a fad that’ll fade with time? Or do you think we’re in for some real changes down the road?

The Slenderman — Something Interesting

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It may have fallen from vogue, but the Slenderman is still out there, watching from a distance. Just try not to notice it, or it may just notice you back.

For more on the slenderman, check out perhaps the most popular piece of fan art surrounding it: the “Marble Hornets” web series.

Watch our show: http://www.youtube.com/TaleFoundryShow

Announcing October’s theme…

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This Month’s Theme: Creepypasta

This is something we’ve wanted to discuss for a loooong time. It’s such a strange literary phenomenon. Few movements have *ever* lead to such surges in the popularity of writing, and the fact that it all revolves around the horror genre must mean *something*.

So many curiosities, so much general strangeness. This should be a fun month.

Watch our show: http://www.youtube.com/TaleFoundryShow