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  #1  
Old 01-07-2010, 04:49 PM
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Idea Small Worlds

As some people may know, I've always held off posting my original fiction on the forums as, due to copyright laws, once a story's released into the 'public domain' (that is, somewhere where anyone can see it for free, such at the internet), it can't be published.
Which is a bit rubbish, but never mind!

Plus, you know, I don't any of you diabolical people stealing my ideas.

However, I have recently participated in a possibly-monthly fiction competition on a different forum and, since the stories there are being put on public display, I see no reason not to post them here as well.

These competitions used to run monthly on the other website, any are seeing a bit of a revival. I'm currently working on my entry for the second competition I've entered and will post it here after I post it there. And I may or may not get another story to post every month or two, and assuming I do, I will keep posting them in this thread (as I said, why not?).

So here's my first story! The theme of the competition was 'Aliens' and I decided to write a story using the back-story to the sci-fi epic I'm hoping to write.
I can't say it's the best thing I've ever written (it really isn't), and it's a little bit depressing, but here ya go.
Also, it has a stupid title (The title was an experiment in its own right)


The Cause of the End of the World was the Increasing Rarity of Fossil Fuels, and the Rising Price of a Loaf of Bread


Earth’s World War Three was not a war of nuclear weapons; half of the fighters didn’t want to poison the ground they were fighting for. The other half knew they were too poor to win a nuclear war, but on the other hand they did have much of the world’s agriculture and fuel.

It was a long, tentative war, marked by long hungers and millions of people crossing the world on foot. But in the end the powers that fought together turned against one another and the great inevitability of any story of modern global warfare occurred.

No one ever took claim for dropping the dry-nuke that destroyed north-western Russia, flattening mountains, massacring millions of people in the space of minutes and leaving thousands of miles of land uninhabitable for hundreds of years to come.

The shock of the first dry-nuke ended the Third World War for most of the people on Earth. As with so many wars before, people tried to make peace, to restore friendships, to rebuild what was left to rebuild. There were promises not to forget, not to make the same mistakes, not to let the billion people who died in the war have died in vain, and people did what they could, but the world was broken and could never go back. As the pollution of the first dry-nuke began to seep into the lives of the 10 billion people left in the world, the call for global nuclear disarmament was finally heard and people began to do what they could to repair what they had done.

Fifty three years after the end of the Third World War, people forgot. Once again, no one claimed credit for the dry-nuke explosion that destroyed the United States of America, from north to south. And as can only inevitably happen when the most powerful nation on Earth ceases to exist during a night, everyone saw the opportunity to gain power, or to have it snatched away, and so the Fourth World War was fought for the role of being top nation on Earth.

After more than 15 years of skirmishing and hatred, the Fourth World War began to peter out in the face of a more pressing problem. Two enormous nuclear explosions had done the Earth no good, and the oceans began to die. The land began to die. Across the world, billions of people left their homes and fled inland seeking food, health and life. The sustainable parts of the world were soon overfilled. Across India, China, Europe and South America, overpopulation led to more fighting. What was to be known as the Dying Earth Era of human history had begun.

Famine and disease crippled the human race and still the nuclear poisoning crept inwards. Governments began quite independently trying to construct shelters to keep the lethal winds and deadly poisons at bay. Across the world, the largest cities began to grow shields that blocked out the deadly forces of a vengeful world. This also kept out the refugees, allowed some control over crime and resources and restored some sense of order to human civilisation. From the combatants of the Fourth World War, eight world powers arose; North America (Canada and Alaska), South Africa, East Africa, Siberia, Europe, China and India, Oceania, and the Middle East. South America was poisoned beyond habitability by the nuclear weapons and the fighting that had been going on there since the refugees came pouring in, and eventually as many survivors as possible were evacuated, but there were few better places to take them.

But still food shortages wrecked the dying world, and the Earth’s life continued to die. Poisoned oceans did not produce much oxygen, and the enormous photosynthesis factories that appeared across the world could not sustain the world’s ecosystem.

And so people ran. There was a universe out there. People had tried to make the moon, Venus, Mercury and Mars liveable, but attempts had failed. Scientists theorised that there might be more Earth-like worlds out in the infinities of space that could be changed. And if Earth’s population could be decreased enough, it might just be enough to allow things to heal.

For some the evacuation seemed like a way of saving some of the species, leaving the others to die. For others, it looked like a way of sending a large portion of humanity to their deaths so that those left on Earth might have a chance at survival.

The Eight Global Powers agreed to the plan, and the building of the Juggernauts began.

The ships were huge beyond belief. They were built entirely in space and were intended to land only once. They were designed so that they could be taken apart easily and rearranged into a habitation; a construct-it-yourself-kit for a complete city. The ships were coated in solar panelling and collision-power-generators (that generated power by being hit by space-dust at rapid speeds). They each used country-sized ion-cluster engines and solar sails to power them at enormous speeds through space. Each of the world powers built ten. Between them they would carry one billion people away from their parent planet.

Eighty city-sized ships left Earth over the space of three years. They headed out into an empty, lonely universe. Loaded with largely experimental technology, the first exploded before it reached the Sun’s closest neighbouring star. The others fanned out in different directions, searching for any world where they could land and terra-form, any place that offered some hope, some future, for the human race.

Many vanished. Many at least managed to send a broadcast back to Earth to explain what had gone wrong before transmissions ceased permanently. In control centres on Earth, technicians sat at their terminals, ticking off routine transmissions from the ships, and crossing the ones that failed to call. Several ships landed on planets that had seemed suitable, but then failed to adapt them. Some of these stranded colonies managed to struggle on for a while. Every report received for more than a century that a ship had seen a possibly suitable planet for terraformation and was altering course for a closer inspection was met with increasing hopelessness. Earth was still dying, slowly, and the dreams of salvation on another world seemed more and more foolish. The transmissions to and from the Juggernauts were routine and pointless.

The message, when it came, was not long, or bold, or clever. But it ensured that Captain Josiah Raven of the South African Juggernaut 7 would become one of the most famous men in history, and that humanity would be changed forever. The message that would become more famous than Winston Churchill’s or Franklin Roosevelt’s declarations of their countries joining the second world war, more famous than the words of Martin Luther King sharing his visions of equality for the human race, more famous than the words of great poets or philosophers, and that would be taught in schools for centuries to come, was heard now by underpaid technicians at their unkempt terminals on the dying Earth, “There are ships around the planet… By the dying Earth, there are ships! Not human… They’re approaching us; we don’t know if they’re hostile… We’re not alone out here.”


-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-


It didn't win But there you have it! As I say, my entry for the next competition on this site is almost finished so I'll probably post it here within the next two weeks.
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Last edited by Splat; 04-22-2011 at 04:57 PM..
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Old 01-07-2010, 05:08 PM
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Wow! That was really good; well done!
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Old 01-09-2010, 08:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Splat View Post
As some people may know, I've always held off posting my original fiction on the forums as, due to copyright laws, once a story's released into the 'public domain' (that is, somewhere where anyone can see it for free, such at the internet), it can't be published.
Which is a bit rubbish, but never mind!.
Not necessarily. John Dies At The End, a horror novel, started out as an annual Halloween piece done by David Wong on Pointlesswasteoftime. Eventually it was picked up by Permuted Press, and then harper books. All he had to do was get rid of the copy he had on the internet.
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Old 01-09-2010, 09:31 AM
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lol xD due to the same reason i rarely upload my original art in the internet...

nice story ^-^ i like the style & the title made me lol xD




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the sci-fi epic I'm hoping to write.
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Old 02-15-2010, 02:14 PM
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I have another story to place on the altar of criticism!

Right, this was, once again, written for a fiction competition on another forum. The these was Ostranenie (yup, that's what I thought) which means something along the lines of de-familiarisation of a familiar object.

My entry was based on an old idea and ever so slightly blagged, and the result didn't win.

But it went a little like this...

(Another weird title!)

Objective (Adj):
  1. Free of bias or prejudice
  2. Based on facts, rather than thoughts or opinions
  3. Observable to an outsider
  4. Existing independently from the mind of the observer


She opened her eyes – which was strange. She had never done that before. Above her was the dark sky, speckled with pale stars and stained by red-orange ambience.

She sat up, then froze. Gosh, she had sat up! What was going on? She rocked back and forth, feeling her back curve; she wiggled her tummy and bounced her shoulders. Shoulders! She had shoulders! What on Earth… And she didn’t stop there; she had arms, hips, legs between her and her feet! Very slowly and very carefully she pulled her legs up beneath her and – holding her arms out stiff to help her balance – raised herself onto her feet. She wobbled, flung out her arms and found her balance. Then she stood very still for a long time until she was used to it.

She was so cold! She carefully tucked her elbows against her sides and then, when she was sure she wasn’t going to fall over, wrapped her arms around her chest. It was freezing! She was shaking; there was an odd clicky sound and it took a few seconds to realise that she had teeth and they were knocking together! She had teeth! She had teeth! SHE had teeth! She had lips, mouth, nose, and eyes! Of course, she could look up at the sky and the image had depth! Eyes weren’t as good as she had imagined. Things were dimmer and harder to see than she would have thought and she couldn’t see most of what was around her; just dark shapes against the sky.

She took a tentative step forward, rocked, took another to stop herself falling and then found her balance and stood still again. She stopped, breathing hard, and then found a new marvel. “I’m breathing,” She said aloud, just to see if she could, and the words were startlingly clear. It was amazing! She hadn’t even realised she was doing it! The effort it normally took to do anything, to wake up, to go to sleep, to cool herself down when she was working too hard… And now she was doing a million things without even thinking about it! She was breathing; she could faintly feel the solid sensation of something pumping in her chest and the thought that she had a heart and blood was…

Well, actually it was mildly disgusting but she pushed that thought aside and took another step, rubbing her hands on her naked arms. It was so cold!

Her sight seemed to be getting stronger. She stumbled towards a wall to her side and ran a stiff hand over it – fingers were just too much at the moment. The surface was rough and unpleasant, but keeping that hand pressed against the wall she staggered forwards. How were you supposed to stand on these stupid legs?! She thought about squirming along the ground on her arms but she felt it would be slower, and she wanted to escape the cold!

There was another wall close on her right, parallel to the one she was following. But above, behind and ahead she could see the sky. She staggered forwards. She was suddenly drawn to the feeling of her skin; smooth, slightly grippy and so… pliable, so elastic! It was like nothing she had felt or been before! She had skin; she had joints in weird places! She had a beating heart and lungs that breathed without being told! She was real; she was alive; she was– OW!

She stumbled and fell in a heap on the ground, ow! Ow! OW! What was this feeling? She untangled her limbs and dragged one of her feet in front of her. There was something on her hand, sticky and warm. Investigation using her poor eyesight and her odd, wiggly fingers revealed that something had cut open the skin on the bottom of her foot and this warm, sticky liquid was leaking out; blood, she realised, fitting this experience with the information on her head, and shuddered. And this bad feeling was coming from the cut in her foot, and from her elbow and knee, where she had scraped herself falling over. She knew if you lost too much blood you died. But how did you stop it? She tried clasping the skin on her foot together but that made the bad feeling so much worse, and if anything made more blood come out. What was she going to do?

There seemed to be no choice. She pushed herself to her feet and staggered forwards, trying to stop the hurt foot touching the ground too much. The feeling was worse if you put weight on it. With all she had learnt about injury and bleeding, why hadn’t she learnt about making the bleeding stop? Maybe she needed bandages, she thought, grasping at vague information, barely understood at the time. Well she didn’t have them. She didn’t even have clothes, and that was probably trouble enough. She hobbled forwards and finally came out from the walls. She was standing now on the edge of a wide, flat stretch of what seemed to be rock stretching away on both sides, and on her side and the opposite side of the line were… houses. Houses where people lived, with clothes and bandages. She hobbled towards the nearest door.

* * *
Ben Davy was not happy to be woken by his doorbell at 4:13 in the morning, especially as he had intended to be in bed until at least midday. Come on; his morning lecture had been cancelled so surely it was his right to spend the entire morning in bed!

At 4:15 he began uttering curses against every person he could think of who might be hanging on his doorbell in the early hours of the morning. One of his friends, drunk, he guessed. Well they could go and ring someone else’s doorbell! He put his pillow over his head. He wished one of his housemates was in, but they’d all gone home early for Easter.

Finally, at 4:21 it was becoming depressingly clear that whoever they were, they weren’t going to go away, so he flopped out of bed, pulled on some jeans and a t-shirt and staggered down stairs. “Alright, I’m coming,” He muttered as the bell rang again. Getting ready to start yelling, he jerked open his front door. The rant collapsed in his throat; the woman on his doorstep was both a stranger and totally and utterly naked. “Huh?”

“You!” She declared.

His brain suddenly realised what his eyes were focussed on and they snapped up to her face. She was looking furious! “Wuh?”

“You!” She shouted again, louder.

Desperately trying to shake himself awake, he choked, “Uh, you’re naked.”

“That’s it?! That’s all you have to say?! You throw me out in the trash and that’s all you have to say!?”

His brain was cycling like mad. Who on Earth was this woman? Fearful that the neighbours would look out to see him being shouted at by this naked woman, he stepped back, “You better come in?”

She glowered at him but stepped through the door, stumbling as she did. She was drunk, he decided. She had to be!

“You want me to call the police or something?”

“Only for yourself!”

Why was she so angry at him? “Um, I mean, are you lost or something?”

“LOST! You’ve already forgotten who I am?!”

He closed the door behind her in a hurry. “Look,” He said desperately, keeping his eyes fixed on her face, “I don’t know who you are, but-”

“You have forgotten me!” She shouted, “All my life spent slaving away for you, night and day, and then you chuck me out and forget who I am!”

“Chuck you out? We’ve never even met before!”

“Hah!” She said, and now there were tears in her eyes, “I bet you’ve already replaced me!” She gave a sniff that was perhaps meant to be scornful but was more tearful, “Don’t think I wasn’t looking, all that time on PC World and Comet, looking at cover plans and RAM capacities! Well if I’d known you were going to forget about me so completely, I would’ve let myself burst into flames!”

“Hang on, hang on!” He said wildly, “I… But I didn’t take anyone with me to PC World, and I didn’t even go to Comet in the end!”

“I bet she’s Windows Seven, isn’t she? Out comes Seven, and Vista’s a thing of the past! Don’t act dumb with me!”

He raised his hands pleadingly, “I don’t! Know who! You arrrrre!” He rasped.
She looked at him scornfully, “What a thing to tell a girl!”

“I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE!” He roared, “We’ve never even met before! I think I’d remember! What did you do, stalk after me when I was shopping for a new laptop?”

She glowered at him furiously. He could barely believe this was happening; he was having an argument with a strange, naked girl about whether he knew who she was or not. Of course he didn’t! He would remember that face; she was – not to put too fine a point on it – very attractive! (Man, he was such a geek.) But she seemed just as convinced that she knew him; how drunk was she?!

She was red faced, angry and hurt. “All that time I spent working for you, and this is what I get? It wasn’t even important stuff most of the time. Stupid forums with your weird friends, and webcomics!” She said it with much distain. “And reading frankly horrible Wikipedia articles! Ha! Complete waste of my life! Why did I have to get landed on you?”

He stared at her, “What do you have to do with that?”

“And signing up that poor twelve year old to those horrible sites, just because he didn’t know how to spell! I hope you’re ashamed of yourself!”

“But no one knows about that! Have you been hacking into my laptop or something?”

She swelled up furiously, “I AM your stupid laptop, idiot!”

“Oh, good grief.”

She glowered, “I am!”

“Oh come on. I can tell you for one thing, my old laptop didn’t have…” He waved a hand desperately, “Oh, good grief.”

She glared.

“Why do you have to be naked?” He wailed, rubbing a sleep-deprived hand over a sleep deprived face.

“I never asked for it!” She said. “And it never worried you before!”

He groaned, “Look, I’m gonna go and get you some clothes; just… stay here.” He started running upstairs.

“Hey!”

He stopped and turned back.

“Is she up there?” She asked dangerously.

He stared at her (her face, thank you) for a moment, then groaned and hurried away to his bedroom.

He returned a moment later with some clothes. “Sorry I’ve got no girl’s stuff,” He said automatically to the space above her head. “When you’re done, just come through here,” He stuffed some jeans, a belt, a t-shirt and underwear into her clothes and hurried through a door.

They were all too big for her but she figured out how a belt worked (why couldn’t he have at least once read the Wikipedia article on belts?) and did alright. The t-shirt had ‘GIVE QUICHE A CHANCE’ written across it and she smiled, remembering ordering that for him. Maybe there was hope, after all.

“Hey,” She said, coming through the door into the living room. He was sat on the sofa. “That’s our chair, isn’t it?” She said, pointing one out.

He stared at it, mystified. “It’s next to a plug socket,” He mumbled. “Is this real?”

She nodded numbly.

“How?” He choked.

“No idea. I was as shocked as you are, really.”

“That old laptop was broken for months! I was lucky to get all my files off before it cut out altogether!” Her eyes narrowed but he went on like a lemming. “Didn’t save everything, either. I was missing half an essay when I transferred the stuff over, and I couldn’t figure out how to save my internet favourites.”

“You gave her my memories?” She whispered venomously.

He looked up in surprise, “Uh, I never thought of it like that before,” He floundered.

“It doesn’t look like you thought about much at all!” She cried.

“Well, s-sorry! If I’d known you were going to… sprout legs and stuff, I wouldn’t’ve…”

“Wouldn’t have what?”

“Uh… chucked you out in the trash, for one thing… But come on; you were broken!”

“So? Would your mum chuck you out if you got the flu? You wouldn’t be working like you’re supposed to!”

“But people get better! You were out of warranty!”

She looked as if she had been slapped around the face. She stormed towards him furiously.

He noticed her hobbling, “Uh, are you alright? You hurt your foot?” He suddenly noticed the trail of blood she was leaving on the carpet and groaned; his landlord was going to kill him! How did you clean a carpet?

“Um,” She put her rage on hold, “Yeah. It doesn’t feel very good.”

“Let’s have a look.” He sat her down on the sofa and examined the bottom of her foot. “I’ll get you a plaster,” He said and ran out of the room again.

It was, she noticed, easier to see inside, and much, much better than she had been able to see with that webcam he had bought her. Humans had amazing vision! Why did they waste it on computer screens?

“Here,” He said, coming back into the room with some thin, pale square and a damp cloth. She was a little nervous of water but let him gently wipe the blood off of her foot, and then he stuck the square thing over the wound.

“What does that do?” She asked.

“Stops you bleeding on my carpet,” He muttered, then louder, “and stops it getting worse, and helps it heal, I guess.”

“Do I have to install a wound healer or something?” She asked obliviously, wondering how humans installed new programs.

“Um, no; your body heals itself.”

“Wow, that’s in your core software?”

“I guess… Is this real?” He asked again.

“I look real,” She replied.

“But you don’t look like my laptop.”

She immediately launched into a rendition of his ‘favourites’ folder, followed by a recital of the essay he had lost and rounding up by singing that awful song he’d written when he was 16 (she got the tune completely wrong).

“Alright, this is weird.”

“You mean this doesn’t happen a lot? I thought this was like, some sort of final program. Where else would new humans come from?”

“Oh, don’t even go there!”

“Look, this isn’t getting us anywhere,” She said. “Just accept it; I’m real.”

“And what am I supposed to do with you? People need an identity, a birth certificate and stuff. You don’t have any records; you don’t exist to the government, so you can’t get a job or anything.”

“Didn’t you keep my invoice?”

“That’s not quite what I meant.”

“Look,” She insisted, “Does that matter? We’ve got each other, right?”

“Whoa, hang on! Whoa! Where are you going with this?”

She looked puzzled. “What does that mean?”

“Come on,” He said, trying to laugh, “You’re a machine, apparently.”

“So?”

He stared at her. Good grief; his laptop had a crush on him. “Um, do all… all computers get a personality like this?” He’d never go near one again! Never!

She shrugged, “I’ve got a brain and a body. The rest just grew itself out of stray data. I don’t know if it happens to all of us. Does it matter?”

“So in five years’ time is this gonna happen to the other one?”

She gave him a deadly look.

“Because if it does, someone’s going to have a lot of explaining to do!” He said loudly. “Look, I didn’t ask for this to happen. Yesterday I didn’t know you could think. If I had known there was a person in you, I wouldn’t’ve thrown you in the rubbish and bought a new one. I’m not some psycho who thinks he can push people around like that!”

She bit her lip. “Alright, I believe you.”

He sagged with relief. “This is really weird.”

She smiled, but nodded. She had a pretty smile. “I know you’re nice to your friends; I’ve been reading your emails for five years.” Her smile turned into a grin. “I remember when you used to boast about how great I was!”

He found himself blushing, “Really, don’t you know why you changed?”

She shrugged again, and then rolled her shoulders a little, apparently enjoying the feeling. “Maybe you just have a way with things.”

“I hope not; the last thing I need is computers turning into naked girls when ever I walk past.”

And then she laughed, and suddenly he didn’t care that this was his laptop; she thought he was funny and she had a beautiful laugh.

“Good to see we share a sense of humour,” He said weakly.

“I’ve been reading your jokes all my life; I’ve gotten used to it.”

“Oh. Good.”

She smiled at him and stood up, holding her hands out to check her balance. He took one quickly, and helped her to her feet.

“You’re a nice boy, Ben.”

“You know my name?”

She nodded, “Ben Davy’s Home Computer. That’s who I am.” She added proudly.

“You’re gonna need a better name than ‘Home Computer’.”

“Maybe you can think of something. Didn’t you have that conversation once about names you liked?”

“Um,” She was moving slowly towards him. This was slightly awkward. “I guess. Don’t really remember it well, though.”

She smiled, her face inches from his, “I remember every word,” She breathed.

And then their lips met and his eyes closed and for a brief moment he was with her in Heaven. Then she pulled away and there was a loud clatter and he opened his eyes.

She had vanished! He looked around frantically, and then looked down. “Oh, bugger!”

His old laptop was on the floor at his feet beside a crumpled pair of jeans, half buried under his Red Dwarf t-shirt. Its top half was almost broken off, hanging feebly onto the keyboard half by one twisted hinge.

He scooped it up and shook it, “Hello?” He pushed the top back into line; he tried opening it without it falling to bits and jabbed at the power button, to no effect. He tried kissing the screen, the keyboard, the touchpad. “Damn, damn, damn!”

She was the girl of his dreams! And he’d turned her back into a machine!
“Damn it!”

Cursing profusely, he dumped the irreparable laptop on the table and stalked moodily upstairs. Just his luck! Just his stupid luck!

He burst into his bedroom and threw himself angrily onto his bed. Then he sat up again, very quickly, his eyes wide.

“Hey, watch where yo layin’ yo head, bruvva,” Grumbled his pillow, sleepily.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
I didn't bother to check formatting properly So if there's any mistakes, feel free to point them out.

Once again, not my best writing ever. The plot was based on an idea kicking around in my head for a while - an emotionally connected item becoming human. I tried writing a story of it before (with a watch instead of a laptop, but otherwise quite similar) but it didn't really go anywhere. But it's a fun idea, so I tried it again.

The problems were trying to put in all I wanted without it being ridiculously long, and finding a good ending. I guess I didn't do a great job on either count.
After much thought, I went for a classic fairy-tale-parody ending. Got the whole 'Frog Prince' thing going on, where kissing the frog turns it back into a human, so kissing the human turns it back into a...

Ok, it was rather abrupt. The African-American pillow was a joke to finish. And it was kinda a stereotype. I can only apologise.
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Old 02-15-2010, 05:19 PM
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Have you permanently taken down your song attachment? Please do, because it keeps getting in the way of other posts.

With that aside...an interesting story. Short, yes, but this IS a short story place.
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Old 02-15-2010, 05:36 PM
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Song attachment?
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Old 02-16-2010, 07:37 PM
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Song attachment?

Good story, Splat. It was immensely weird but I nevertheless enjoyed it very much.
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Old 02-20-2010, 05:50 AM
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hehehe what a geek story xD but it's well written I like the descriptions and the beginning of the story ^^
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Old 04-22-2011, 04:36 PM
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What-ho chaps! It's been a loooong time.
How have you been?

Right, too much Portal for Splat.


So, the possibly-monthly writing competitions I mentioned when I started this thread (back a million years ago) turned out to be disappointingly un-monthly. But as I said when I posted them, the stuff I was writing for those competitions was never that good, so it's no great loss. I have been writing a bit since the last time I posted any sort of fiction on OWF, but it has been a relatively barren few months. Bits and pieces have come, but since most of them are dwarf-ideas for stories that might one day get written, they won't be appearing here.

So why am I posting, I hear you cry? Because I do have something to post.

I've written... a poem!
I don't normally do that. I'm not great at poetry, especially the non-silly kind (C.F. Cloudy Apple Juice). But I've had this idea knocking around my head basically ever since I bought the awesome CD, 'Book of Silk' by Tin Hat Trio, and heard the track, Lauren's Lullaby. It just inspired this in my head and I tried writing it as a story, which was a disaster. So today, bored to tears of computer games (too much Portal, Splat), I suddenly felt the desire to just write it, as it is in my head. So I ended up with a really free-form, structureless poem.

And here it is, bearing in mind it's very much a first draft (written a few hours ago). Since I'm occasionally nagged for over-analysing my own writing, I'll leave it at that.
It has the same title as the song it grew out of.


Lauren’s Lullaby

In Lauren’s lullaby
There is a princess
On the turrets of a tower,
Looking down on undulating hills
That roll to sun-bright horizons.
There are forests of wolves,
Mountains of ice
And somewhere is a knight
In shining armour
On a white horse
Who looks for her and doesn’t know it.
She wears a scarlet dress and
Hides feathers and secrets from the witch who guards her
And she waits.

In Lauren’s lullaby
There is a cave
With a troll
And three brave children who
Battle it with wits and words
To win its treasure
And escape its jaws.
It has never seen the sun
And so they beat it, return to the bright world above
And use its gold to free slaves,
End tyranny,
Win hope.

In Lauren’s lullaby
There is a swan
That sings words in human speech
More beautiful than flowers in spring,
More haunting than autumn moonlight.
In a stone room, a crumbled cottage
The swan turns into a beautiful,
Sorrowful girl. She has a chain around her neck and waits
For the chance to win her freedom
And her heart.

In Lauren’s lullaby
There is a soldier in a pit.
As fire and death surround him he
Remembers all he fights for,
All he will return to.
Green trees,
Laughing rivers,
Chaste promises with a pretty, humble girl.
For now he fights, does evil,
And treasures memories more than dragons’ gold.

In Lauren’s lullaby
Is an old woman,
Dying in a hospital bed.
She has kind, dark eyes,
A loving smile.
She remembers a world of dancing,
Jazz, community and colour.
She says, “I watched the world change.
Things were bigger then.
Small men were heroes and
People talked.”

In Lauren’s lullaby
There are stars that will burn forever;
History changes around bonfires on dark nights.
There are toffee apples, fairground rides,
Elephants in a zoo,
Cars flashing past a small girl on a roadside.
Dragons fly and breathe wonders,
Cursed kingdoms are trapped in ice
Awaiting heroes.
There are rockets and locks,
Lost treasures behind forgotten doors,
Safe, strong hands
And loving words.

In Lauren’s lullaby
There are promises and stories
Older and younger than the sun.
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Last edited by Splat; 04-23-2011 at 02:46 PM..
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Old 04-23-2011, 04:19 AM
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i like it! 8D


some modern poems too barely rhyme at all xD

It may not be much of a poem.... but it's inspiring, and it matches well with that music too!!
-feels like a whole life has been put into textform :>
it could be a cool and very long story actually ^^


oh btw: I'm very late (sorry) but still Happy Birthday Splat !!!
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Old 04-23-2011, 02:42 PM
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It was, thanks
What ever happened to your dA, Sci? Also, yay! Great to see you!

I've edited a few lines and words in the poem. I need to replace 'undulating' though, and I'm not quite happy with the last stanza...
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Old 04-24-2011, 04:54 AM
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How about switching 'undulating' for 'rolling' and 'roll' in the next line for 'spread' or 'stretch'?

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Old 04-28-2011, 07:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Splat View Post
It was, thanks
What ever happened to your dA, Sci? Also, yay! Great to see you!

I've edited a few lines and words in the poem. I need to replace 'undulating' though, and I'm not quite happy with the last stanza...

welcome! n__n

lol you follow my dA? 8D -I abandonned it.
...And moved to a new account there but except for the animation nothing cool is up so I didn't put a new link in my signature... yet xD
But it's great to see you write something again .D

hmm... undulating... i would phrase that differently somehow -this line and the following- though the way they are now, they remind one of ocean waves... which is nice. ^^
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Old 04-29-2011, 04:23 PM
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Changed the first and last stanzas; won't edit but I'll post them here, so you can see which you like.

In Lauren’s lullaby
There is a princess
On the turrets of a tower,
Looking down on rolling hills that reach
To sun-bright horizons.
There are forests of wolves,
Mountains of ice
And somewhere is a knight
In shining armour
On a white horse
Who looks for her and doesn’t know it.
She wears a scarlet dress and
Hides feathers and secrets from the witch who guards her
And she waits.


And the last...

In Lauren’s lullaby
There are promises and stories
Older than the sun and younger than
The flowers that blossom for a day.


Not happy with that last line, but I like it better than the previous version, I think. Really need to get that final line right; I don't think it'll be about flowers eventually. That's like the tenth draft of that stanza and it's between shapes right now, as it were.

Having said the poem's structureless, it actually has to feel right. I can't change one word without changing the shape of the whole line, and I can't change the line without adjusting the lines around it. There are definitely rules for the structure that the poem follows; I just don't know any of them (or ever will, probably). Writing is more like driving a train than driving a car or a plane; I can control many things but ultimately I don't decide (or often even know, so maybe it's like driving a train while drunk) where I'm going.

I've also written the story described in the poem about the swan, so I'll post that soon. It's probably not exactly what you're expecting (it's not what I was expecting, anyway).
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Last edited by Splat; 04-29-2011 at 04:30 PM..
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Old 05-05-2011, 03:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Splat View Post
Having said the poem's structureless, it actually has to feel right. I can't change one word without changing the shape of the whole line, and I can't change the line without adjusting the lines around it. There are definitely rules for the structure that the poem follows; I just don't know any of them (or ever will, probably). Writing is more like driving a train than driving a car or a plane; I can control many things but ultimately I don't decide (or often even know, so maybe it's like driving a train while drunk) where I'm going.

LoL I can relate to this xD but that's why i like to write poems

anyway the first stanza sounds much better now, great! 8D


...."In Lauren’s lullaby
There are promises and stories
Older than the stars and younger than
The dreams of
yesterday."...

-that's what i wanted to suggest when i read the last stanza but
'dreams of yesterday' doesn't really fit with young but 'today' wouldn't fit in the line ...so never mind xD

Hey I look forward to the story you wrote !!!
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Old 05-05-2011, 05:24 AM
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In Lauren’s lullaby
There are promises and stories
Older than the stars and younger than
The something something something something thing.

Hmmm... I think the beat's right. Not sure about the words, though.
On a whim,

In Lauren’s lullaby
There are promises and stories
Older than the sun and younger than
The dreams that linger after day has come.

I don't think it'll stay like that, if nothing else then because the internet has ruined the word 'come' for me.

Aaanyway, in a classic example of the previously mentioned 'stories being what they want to be', I tried to write the story in the 'swan' stanza of the poem.

In Lauren’s lullaby
There is a swan
That sings words in human speech
More beautiful than flowers in spring,
More haunting than autumn moonlight.
In a stone room, a crumbled cottage
The swan turns into a beautiful,
Sorrowful girl. She has a chain around her neck and waits
For the chance to win her freedom
And her heart.

I did write it, but the result is probably not something you'd sing as a lullaby to a young girl. Because stories are what they want to be (that or I've been reading too much by Neil Gaiman).

Contains some mild horror of the 'Brothers Grimm' variety, and is therefore rated PG13, and has a typically awful title.
Don't read on if you're in need of a happy ending.


Swansong


Under starlight, in a cold pool beneath winter-bared trees is a swan. Its neck is elegant, its white feathers pristine. Its black mask hides its tears as it opens its beak to sing.

To hear it would break your heart, the most haunting and beautiful ballad beyond the work of any composer or poet. It is a song to make writers turn in their pens and papers and live in darkness for the rest of their days.

As the sky greys at the coming dawn, its aria ends and it glides to the shore. With less elegance it strides onto land and moves silently into the woods. It is a pale wraith beneath the dark trees.

In the woods, near the pool, is a stone hovel, long-ruined. Its ceiling gone, its walls decaying, it daily moves closer to the clay. Here the swan comes and stands silently, its neck erect and its eyes fixed firmly on the east as the sky pales.

At the first showing of the sun it changes. Feathers fade into dust and its body swells up into its neck. Its wings twist forward and stretch into arms as its legs grow thick and lithe and after ten seconds she stands erect, naked and beautiful in the dawn. She is frighteningly pale, her eyes sunken and dark and her hair silver, though she is not old – a few years beyond puberty. Her nearly-white skin is unmarred, but for a livid red scar above her left breast.

Around her neck, like a sadistic bauble, is a thin, cold, iron chain. She raises a narrow, perfect hand and touches it, assuring its presence, and she sags as she feels it, hope stolen away again, as every morning from the dawning of her memory.

With a hissing and shuffling, a hunchbacked hag hobbles into the ruin. Her eyes are wide and mad, her hair a grey tangle. She wears rags and carries a simple white robe, which she holds up. The girl takes it submissively and slips it on. It seems thin and inadequate against the pitiless late-winter chill, but the girl does not seem to feel the cold. As she puts it on her hand brushes the red scar on her chest and the old woman grins madly and holds up a small, moon-silver chest. The girl takes it and holds it to her ear. She hears inside, faintly, thud, thud... thud, thud...

The hag wears a white-gold key on a cord around her neck. The chained girl sighs listlessly and hands the locked chest back before following the old woman out of the hovel.

The hag points to a black iron cauldron that the girl fills at an over-grown well. She points to a pile of sticks which the girl builds into a fire and lights. She points to an earthen-ware dish which the girl picks up and carries back to the pool, to fill with frogs and leeches.

-

The prince is round-faced but his jaw is firm. He wears a light, cloth shirt under a woollen coat, for the season is cold. He rides his horse effortlessly through the winter forest, relaxed and laughing with the riders around him. Hounds pad gently at the legs of the mounts, but there are no horns, no rush, for there is no hunt today. A warm-up in the hope of the coming spring, and nothing more.

The lion that charges onto their path is mangy and starving. Its hunger makes it desperate and it takes the party by surprise. It tears four of the dogs and leaps at the mounted beasts, which scream in surprise and bolt all ways. The one it leaps at directly rears, and the prince is thrown from its back before it brings its forelegs crashing through the lion’s skull. Without realising it has killed its foe, the animal flees for its life.

-

After many hours the prince awakes. It is nearly dark and he feels hot blood on the back of his head; it stains the stones of the path. The dead lion, its skull crushed, and the luckless dogs, lie nearby, swarming with flies and small beasts which do not miss an opportunity in the cruel season. The prince rises. He is disorientated, but stumbles back down the path towards home.

Night falls, and the sky fades. Soon the path is lost to his sight, the chill of the dark biting at him, and pain in his head tearing him apart. He wakes from a daze to find he has lost the road. He has lost himself. He stumbles through the wood, trying to retrace his steps, but hours pass as he walks.

Distantly he hears a melody he takes to be the howling of wind (though the air is calm). As time passes and his wandering feet move nearer, the sound becomes a song: a strange, alien voice. Seeking company, shelter, he follows.

He finds the star-lit pool and watches from dark shadows the circling swan. Its song stirs his heart and he weeps and weeps and does not dare approach lest he scare the elegant creature to flight.

So lost is he in its lament that the paling sky takes him by surprise. He finds the unwitting performer has fallen silent and looks up in surprise to see it walking into the woods.

A wind has risen up now, rattling the naked branches and hiding the sound of his frantic pursuit of the singer. Pushing through bushes he sees the swan vanishing into the ruined hovel and stops, breathless, waiting. The sky pales and the sun rises and moments later a pale girl walks out of the crumbling cottage.

She is upright and elegant and more beautiful than he could have imagined. His desire is raised and his heart aches to speak to her, but then another figure emerges. The bent old woman is foul and the sight of her fills him with a nameless, primal dread. Animal panic stirs him to turn and flee; he fears the hag like the mouse fears the owl. It is all he can do not to scream as he runs.

-

Later that day, he is found. He returns to his castle, his people, but day and night he can think only of the song of the swan on the starlit pool, and sight of the girl who walked from the ruins. She has stolen his thoughts and becomes his obsession. He has to see her again.

Not long later, when his head is nearly healed, he leaves the castle with friends. It is a cold afternoon and the first snowdrops are white against the black earth of the woods. The friends are trusted and trusting, and he has arranged to leave them and wander alone. They will camp in the woods and meet him the next day when he has won his prize.

His companions left behind, he walks through the depths of the woods, tripping over branches and falling into gullies in the darkness. He fears now he will not find her again, or for the first time worries that it was nothing but a dream. Was she ever real? He begins to feel a fool. He is just about to turn back when he hears the song. He runs towards it.

On the silver pool the swan swims its circles and sings its heart-rending aria. He watches from shadows, blissfully hypnotised, drinking in the sight and sound of the bird.

As the sky lightens he stirs himself from his reverie. As the bird closes its beak and turns to swim for the far shore he pushes through the bushes and shouts, “Wait!”

-

She turns her head, observes him with a black, masked eye. This is something new to her. He makes strange sounds that mean less to her ears than the whistling of birds or the chittering of squirrels. She watches, impassive, as this new creature wades into the cold pool, holding a hand out to her, eyes wild and desperate.

She feels nothing, but the throb of the scar on her breast (now hidden beneath her white feathers). But she stays and watches him, for she is curious, and she does not understand the hearts of those who have them.

-

He is torn between longing for the swansong, and dread of scaring it from him, so he stands up to his knees in the freezing water, a hand half held out to it, needfully, longingly. The creature is more beautiful than he remembered, more elegant than any of its kind he has ever seen.

It watches him, still as stone, as the sky pales.

The sun rises. He stumbles back, eyes wide in amazement, as her feathers melt away, her beak vanishes, her shoulders move up, she rises into her erect neck, and before him is the beautiful girl who has, for the last month, haunted his dreams and daydreams. She is naked, her pale skin flawless and perfect but for a sore, red scar above her left breast. He speaks to her, babbles, but she looks at him uncomprehendingly.

Her lips part slightly, shining silver in the dawn-light. Her need seems as great as his. She raises a hand and beckons.

-

The iron chain is heavy at her neck, but perhaps this strange creature is what she has waited for.

-

He follows, almost unable to resist, and anyway he is unwilling. He would follow her into a tomb. He runs, splashing, through the frigid pool and up onto the far bank. She walks ahead of him through the trees, her pale, naked back, legs, buttocks, all he desires. She leads him to the crumbling hovel, and through a yawning gap in the wall.

He follows her in, forgetting what he saw before, until he is face-to-face with the hag, and fear and magic root him to the spot. He cannot move, cannot speak; his eyes are wide in terror as the hag turns to the girl, who meets the old woman’s eyes and points back to him.

The old woman pulls from her rags a small, silver chest. He sees the girl’s face in profile, the desperate longing in her eyes, her half-open lips, as she tugs at the iron chain around her neck, and reaches out for the silver box. The old woman taps it with her bony fingertips, thud, thud... thud, thud... thud, thud... She points a crooked finger at the prince, and draws a dark-bladed knife from her belt and hands it to the girl.

She holds it; she looks confused. The old woman points to the chest again, and to the prince, and dread floods into him. Understanding dawns on her face and she turns to him. For the first time he sees the hollowness of her eyes, and the blankness behind them.

Unfeelingly, she pulls open his coat, and unbuttons his shirt. His heart hammers frantically in fear, giving itself away. She places the dark knife against his skin and drops of blood form on its edge. She thinks only of the contents of the silver chest.

-

When she turns his heart is bloody and still in her hand, and the hag is holding the casket open. The girl drops the knife onto the stones and reverently lifts out from it a purple organ which beats steadily in her grip; thud, thud... thud, thud... She stares at it greedily, like a lost lover at last brought to her, and almost absently places the still, dead, bloody heart into the chest; the old woman slams it closed and draws out the white key. The prince is slumped on the ground, eyes empty and skin already growing pale and cold.

The girl, after a few moments uncertainty, raises her heart to her mouth and bites into it. As she chews and swallows the first mouthful, the rest in her hand still beats. As she eats it the iron chain around her neck crumbles link-by-link and falls away. The livid scar on her breast pales and disappears. She swallows the last mouthful and steps out of the hovel.

There she stops. She turns. She observes the lifeless prince on the ground, the blood on her hands, and her eyes widen as she realises the murder she has committed. For the first time in her life she feels the emotions long stolen from her and they stir and toss and burn more than the scar ever did. She falls to her knees and weeps, leans over the dead prince and kisses his mouth. When she moves back from him her pale lips are stained red with his blood.

Leering, the old woman waves her hands over the weeping girl and mutters dark, foul words; the girl does nothing to resist or prevent the spell. Her feathers return, her body diminishes, her sharp pain becomes a dull ache that will never go away. She spreads the wings she will bear for the rest of her life, and lifts into the air. She rises and fades, a white speck against the pale dawn sky, leaving behind only the last echo of her haunting, heart-breaking swansong.
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Last edited by Splat; 05-05-2011 at 05:39 AM..
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Old 05-28-2011, 04:32 PM
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That clearly went down well.

Never mind.
Thanks for the feeback Ench, though while I appreciate the rep very much I'd've liked it if you could have posted the comment here That's another word the internet has ruined, I guess.


This night, I won't present you with a story, but rather a scrap of a story; I guess it classes as fanfiction, though I'd prefer to think of it as more of an adaption

One of my all-time favourite stories is 'The Snow Queen', a fairy-tale by Hans Christian Andersen, who also wrote 'The Little Mermaid' and many other fairy-tales. It's a story that really stirs my imagination; it's basically about a little girl called Gerda who's best friend, a boy called Kay, is abducted by the Snow Queen, so she travels across the world to find him.
I love so much about it, the amazing (but believable) courage of Gerda, the fantasy of the world she walks through and the people she meets, the increasing bleakness of the world that grows as the story progresses...

Anyway, I've on-and-off entertained a dream of one day writing some sort of adaption of it; it'll probably never happen because I'd want to be too close to the original, and I'd fail completely to make a new story. But there are a few scraps in my 'stories' folder that are basically extracts from various drafts of my imaginary adaption. The shortest, and I think by far the best, is what I'm about to post. It's set towards the final part of the story, but I'd use it as a prologue to my version, and then repeat it probably word-for-word in its place when the plot reaches it.

My version of Gerda, the main character, is a few years older than her counterpart in the original.


'Snow Queen' Prologue


A young woman, barely out of girlhood, leans forwards into a driving blizzard as snow lashes against her, burying itself in the folds of her clothes and the dangling tangles of her wind-swept, greasy hair. She wears a thick mantle of white fur around her shoulders and arms, falling down her skinny legs, but her bare feet are blue with cold and she limps painfully forwards, up to her knees in snowdrifts. The wind screams furiously against her, as if trying to push her back, force her away, but her eyes are half-closed against it, teeth gritted, head bent low as she stumbles on, too cold to shiver but defiant against the pitiless weather and the shade of death that circles around her. She trips and falls forward; the mantle is whipped away from her and flies out behind her like a sail as she grips it with one fist, frantically trying to pull it back to her body. Without it she wears only the rags of a once-fine summer dress.

She finds the strength somewhere to drag the fur back to her, pull it around herself, and soon the snow that filled it when it came free is melting against her skin, chilling her further. Her breath is coming out in heavy gasps of fog. The wind cannot hold her back but will whip the heat away from her, slowly chilling her to death. Snow is building on her face; her naked feet fumble and tremble as if she has no control over them. The howl of the wind is like the baying of wolves, threatening, merciless, hunting for her, seeking blood. If you listen closely, you can hear her voice in response, whispering a single word over and over again with every trembling breath.

“Kay... Kay... Kay... Kay... Kay...”
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Last edited by Splat; 05-28-2011 at 04:46 PM..
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Old 05-29-2011, 02:02 AM
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dawww 'The Snowqueen' is great, i liked it a lot back when i was a child it brings up memories :3 another one of my fav authors back then was Astrid Lindgren x3
the little passage you wrote is sad but very well written, i like the descriptions a lot ^^


I also like your story with the Swan girl, I'm not sure why but the ending when she turns into a swan and flies into the sky is my favorite part it's sad but beautiful for an ending <3

your writing is beautiful. So keep it up, even if not many people might be around to notice that... ok?
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Old 05-10-2012, 02:56 PM
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It's been a while...

I wrote this at the start of the week and have redrafted it a bit since then. I wrote it as a short story with nothing really to go around it, but then decided that I'm going to write one or two episodes more from the lives of the characters, to give a more complete story and answer some of the questions this leaves hanging. Not sure if I'll post the later parts when they're written 'cus I'm wondering about the commercial possibilities of this, but I'll at least post the first part, 'cus it's good to share with friends.
I'm not sure if I'm happy with the ending or not; the detail is all there but perhaps the wording and progression could be better. Feedback about that would be appreciated if you read this. Also, I changed a big part of the conversation part way through, and haven't redrafted since, so it might be a bit wonky in the middle.

It doesn't have much of a title yet, so I'll just call it...


Imogen and Maera

The captain shook his head at her question. “There are two ways the story goes, that I’ve heard. There’s the one you hear sailors tell, where a man sees them in the water, falls in love with one of ‘em and jumps overboard to be with ‘em, and drowns. In the other they use bewitchments, charms, to lure men into the water and to their deaths.” He shrugged. “You’ll hear both stories all the time, and I expect you have. But I’ll tell you this: I’ve never heard anyone say they’ve seen it happen first hand – at least not anyone I’d trust – and my Da’ told me the same, and he was at sea near thirty years even before I was a babe in arms. Half the men who tell the stories haven’t ever seen ‘em, and few who tell the stories have ever spoken to them.”

Imogen, a little shy, a little nervous, nodded. “I’m sorry; I didn’t wish to seem... prejudiced. I just... I know so little.”

“I tell you this,” the old captain asserted firmly, “I’ve seen them pick drowning men out of the water, and I’ve seen them guide ailing ships to harbour. They’re like men; some of ‘em are decent and those are the ones you see; the bad ones keep out of the way of us. They live like savages – they don’t build or trade or farm, just move and hunt – but they’re canny as men. They tell us that years ago they warred with men, and so now they keep away from cities and land where there’s a lot of people, hide from ‘em, like. But out here we’re on their ground, so to speak, and they know the ways of the sea better than any sailor could ever hope to.”

She nodded, trying to look wiser than she felt. Despite the old sailor’s stern assertions, she was still nervous of the people she had come out here to seek; she couldn’t help but be. Not just from all the stories she had heard (did they really come just from superstition?) but because they sounded so alien, so... inhuman.

Not that there seemed much chance of seeing them now, she reflected unhappily, walking to the rail of the ship as the captain moved back to his work. She’d been told even the day that she’d first had this idea, and gone down to the docks to ask the sailors there for their aid, that the odds were poor; it was too late in the season. They migrated to warmer, southern waters for the winter. The same waters her husband had been returning from...

She dabbed at her eyes with a silly, lacy handkerchief, not sure if it was her reflections or the sea wind that prompted her tears.

Too late in the autumn; most of them already gone south... So she’d been told by most of the captains and traders she’d spoken to – those who did business with her husband and father, who she had had as guests in her home and could trust to be reputable. Captain Oliver of the Thisbe had been one of the few to see hope for her quest. Or perhaps he’d merely taken pity on her. Or perhaps he’d merely been interested in the pay she’d offered him. Either way, they were out here now, the captain with his stern, certain beliefs and her, a bundle of doubts and fears and nerves, for the people she was seeking and for the news they might bear. But she had to know, she steeled herself. Anything was better than not knowing, than carrying shallow hopes as fragile as sculptures of salt.

Even if what she learnt was what she dreaded.

But now, out here, it seemed it was all for naught anyway. They had been away from land, anchored in the open ocean, for nearly three days now. Though winter’s chill rode the wind, the sky was clear and the sun was bright. “They don’t like sunlight like this,” one of the crew had told her the day before. “They’re used to the dark in the depths, and they don’t like the sun. As long as it’s bright like this, they won’t come to the surface.” And so late in the year, most already gone south... same old song. Nearly three days passed already, and she’d negotiated with Captain Oliver to wait four. The day after tomorrow they’d return to land, admit defeat. Her silly idea would come to nothing, and she’d go back to her empty home and the plague of not-knowing, until he came, or years passed in waiting.

“Even if we find them, they might not know anything,” the mate had attempted to console her earlier, with ironic effect.

And another sailor had overheard and jeered, “Or they’ll lie to please us.”

That had led to a renewal of her doubts in the people she sought, and in turn to her being berated by the captain for listening to such superstition.

It was growing colder as the evening drew on. The land was at her back, the sinking sun and the open sea ahead. Her eyes ached from staring out there, looking for who-knew-what-sort of sign. Now she was shivering, too. Summer had ended early that year and she’d spent most of autumn inside. She hadn’t built the winter’s resistance to the cold, or changed her wardrobe for the colder season, and most of the dresses she’d packed were ill-suited to the chilly weather. At least she could go and get a scarf and a warmer hat if she was going to loiter on deck all evening. The sailors were bored, not used to being so still at sea and, though the captain and mates set much necessary routine work to occupy them, the mood on the ship fed her melancholy. Or perhaps her mood fed the ship’s – a sorrowful, aimless circle.

She was walking towards the cabin door under the paling sky when she heard the shout.

“Ho, ship! Ahoy! Air-men, ahoy!”

In the sudden, dizzying flurry of activity amongst the loitering sailors, she failed to pick up on what was happening, until someone rushing past grasped her arm and said, “It’s them, miss. They’ve found us.”

She found she was running back towards the railing; then she caught it, and leant over as far as she dared. She could see them, a cluster of heads breaking the water, some with raised arms waving. Were there ten? Fifteen? It was too hard to count them in the bobbing waves beneath the brilliance of the low sun.

Men were swarming around her, hauling on ropes. “Move her out of the way!” She heard the mate call, and moved herself before any sailor could take up the duty, slipping back through the throng, away from the railing. They were preparing to lower a boat over the side.

“Miss,” the captain’s voice caught her attention. “You’ll go down in the boat?”

She wasn’t sure if it was a command or a question, and the breath caught in her throat; she hadn’t even considered talking to them herself before now. Did he believe she would want to speak to them herself, or was it his aim to rid her of her prejudices towards the merpeople? She could hear them shouting up from the water to the sailors. Their words were in her language, though thick with accent and spoken with odd inflections and awkward sentences.

“Yes, yes, I will,” she said, breathlessly. “Just let me get my wrap.” She ran past him (ran! She hadn’t run since she was a girl!), into the ship, to her cabin, dug through her trunk.

By the time she returned to the deck, the small boat had vanished over the side and men were arrayed along the railing, looking down at the water. The captain was there, offering his hand to her and, taking it, he helped her turn herself backwards over the railing, her dress getting in the way, and crawl down the ladder hung below. She felt someone take hold of her foot and guide it into the boat. She turned.

She realised then that, until that moment, she hadn’t really believed in them. Seeing them stole the air from her lungs. A huddle of heads were in the water, those closest obscured by the four sailors clustered close to the front of the boat (the captain had stayed aboard, but the second mate was down here). Their skins ranged through blue, grey and green. They had dark hair clinging wetly to their heads. Their eyes were large, dark and glazed-looking, their noses quite flat, their lips narrow. They had large peaks around their ears that twitched and twisted as the conversation moved between the people in the sea and the men in the boat. When they opened their mouths, she saw pointed teeth.

The sailors were talking to them avidly, their backs to her. The mate was leading the talk, which seemed to be a general exchange of news and fortunes; she judged that it would probably be a while before the conversation turned to her business. Feeling rather excluded, she drifted down the boat, hoping to reach a position where the other sailors didn’t block her view of these peculiar folk so much, and ended up at the very end of the boat (the stern? The bow? She could never remember one from the other).

She could see four or five huddled close together below the sailors, with about the same number again gathered on the edge of the huddle. Others trod water nearby, some keeping their distance and others right under the shadow of the ship. A small group were up near the far end of the ship and were singing eerie music into the air, their faces turned up to the staring sailors above them.

“Hello.”

Imogen started, and looked down. A woman was in the water just before her, her hand holding lightly onto the side of the boat. Her fingers were long and webbed, and her arm was slightly pudgy, skin thick with layers of insulating fat. There were large fronds of thin, translucent flesh on her forearms that reminded Imogen of the fins and tails of ornamental goldfish. Her skin was greenish in colour, her long, dark hair was sticking to the back of her neck and making a cloud in the water behind her, and her eyes were daring and curious.

“Hello,” Imogen replied, slightly breathless at this strange encounter.

“You’re no sailor, are you?” The woman asked her, her voice exotically accented.

She shook her head, “No. My name’s Imogen.”

“I’m Maera,” the sea-woman told her. Her expression was assessing, challenging. Her other arm was crossed over her chest, clutching a dark bundle there. Imogen could barely see the top of it, just breaking the surface of the water and obscured by the woman’s hand. “Why are you here?”

Now the moment was here, it was difficult to get the words out. So many hopes rested on what would come next. “My... I’m... My husband is... at sea, somewhere. I don’t know where. He’s a trader; he sails to other lands, and buys and sells.” She felt so awkward having this conversation. She was usually so certain of herself, bred to be a creature of society, but this last month it seemed she’d had so little control over everything in her life, and here she was, talking to this... this otherworldly woman.

“I know how human trade works,” the merwoman said stiffly, though her expression was slightly softer now. She pronounced ‘human’ as ‘yair-man’, or perhaps ‘air-man’.

“I... I’m sorry, this is... strange for me. I’ve never seen one of your kind before.”

“One of my people,” she corrected, and Imogen flushed. She seemed to be making mistakes and dropping accidental insults every time she said something. Perhaps she should have stayed in the ship and left the talking to the sailors. “We’re not fish. You are new to me, too – you’re the first air-woman I’ve seen.”

Now Imogen felt nervous and rather embarrassed, both at her own blunders and the way she now felt judged. “Have you seen many sailors?” She asked, floundering in the conversation slightly and hoping to strike on a safe question.

Maera tossed her head from side to side. “Many ships; air-men have ships everywhere. Some stop if we surface, and we see the men onboard them. Sometimes they come down and talk.” She gave her that assessing look, and Imogen raced to fill the stuttering conversation.

“I used to sail with my father, sometimes, when I was a child. He’d take me on short trips, up and down our coast. This is the first time I’ve sailed out of sight of the land. He was a trader too...” She was babbling, she realised, and stopped herself. But Maera’s expression invited her to go on, so she added, “It stopped once I had a brother, and I went to my mother’s care. This is my first time at sea in... oh, fourteen years?”

“What do you do on land?”

“Um,” Imogen struggled to think of a way to justify herself to this woman who looked so wild, so savage, who travelled around the world with her family and her men. “I, well, I take care of the money, the house, and the land. I organise my family’s holdings as my husband is away so much.”

Maera shook her head. “Air-men place so much care on... owning things. On holding things.”

Imogen frowned at this quick dismissal of her world. “Don’t you want for stability? For security?”

The merwoman’s reply was odd; she spoke with belief, with conviction, but her expression suddenly looked troubled. Her face showed none of the certainty of the words; “The sea provides our home, our food...” Her eyes cast down into the murky water as she added, “So my people survive.” She took her hand off of the side of the boat and gestured broadly towards the other merpeople clustered around the ship. The movement disturbed the bundle she held to her chest and it stirred suddenly. Imogen was shocked to realise that the thing the woman held was alive. And then a small fist flew out and she exclaimed.

“Oh, you have a baby!”

She put a hand over her mouth, taken aback by her own loud outburst. Maera clasped both arms protectively around the child, but smiled proudly up at the human woman. “My daughter. My first.”

“What’s her name?” Imogen asked, wilfully resisting the maternal and very human urge to reach her arms out towards the child.

“We don’t name our children until their eyes open,” Maera replied, and lifted the child out of the water and turned her enough for Imogen to see her face. It was growing dark now, but Imogen could see that the child’s eyes were gummy and tightly closed beneath fleshy eyelids. “Not until a month after birth.”

Despite its alien features, there was something in that baby’s face that called out to Imogen’s maternal instinct and, forgetting that the child she saw wasn’t human, was the daughter of a sea-creature, was at home in the ocean, she reached out towards it with both her arms. Maera shot back six feet from the boat, closing her arms tightly around her daughter.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to...” Imogen stuttered.

Maera pierced her with a warning look. “Humans once stole our children from us!”

“I-”

“Long ago, there was war between us!” Maera spat. “Humans forget, but we remember! How you hunted us with spears and hooks! Drove us from the shores! Men would kill us, cut us, take our children and lay them in high places to dry to death in the sun!”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you,” Imogen said beseechingly. “I... I just...” Tears were coming to her eyes; she couldn’t prevent them. She rubbed at them with her fingers and wrapped her arms around herself.

When she looked up, Maera was watching her guardedly. “Are you a mother?” The merwoman enquired.

“I... no... I mean, I was...” She sniffed. “I had a son. But he died before he was a year old. And...” She drew in a deep breath. “I had another die in me, before he was born. And since then... no.”

Cautiously, Maera was treading back towards her.

“How old is she?” Imogen asked, needful.

“Six days,” Maera replied quietly. Her expression warped with indecision for a moment, and then she lifted the child up, “Here, hold her.”

As the tiny body rose from the water another mystery was solved for Imogen. With the way they floated so effortlessly with just their heads and shoulders above the water, it seemed small wonder that so many people thought they must have fish tails beneath their waists, but this child had legs, long and lithe, with long, flat feet. Imogen reached out quickly, her hand brushing briefly against Maera’s wet, fleshy forearm before closing protectively around the girl. “She’s slimy,” she exclaimed quietly. And indeed she was coated in a layer of slime that Maera didn’t have.

The sea-woman nodded, “It keeps her warm, until her skin grows thicker.” Apprehensively, she added, “This is her first time out of the water.”

Imogen clasped her to her chest, unmindful of how the wet and slime soaked her clothes. She could feel the child stirring in her arms, her lungs pumping as she breathed noisily through her mouth for the first time. There were gills in her sides, below her ribs, closed tight now she was in the open air. “She’s gorgeous,” she breathed. The child stirred in her arms and let out a soft, high-pitched squeak, disturbed to be in this strange, new world. Like a second birth, Imogen thought.

Maera now had both hands on the side of her boat, staring at the child in the human’s arms. “She is...” She took a deep breath, “But she’s born late in the year. She should have been born in the spring... I...” She cast her eyes down and went on quietly, stunted by shame, “I was picked out by my husband last winter. He sowed in me, and four others of his wives, and he let his brother plant in me, too. But I, alone of us chosen, didn’t conceive.” She raised an arm and pressed her hand against her daughter’s back, those long, webbed fingers brushing against Imogen’s pale arm. “It brought shame on me, and on him. Our family is very large; soon it will split in two. He hopes that he will be head of the new family that forms, and so he took me for a wife, has many children and curries favour, and so increases his strength and standing. And because I didn’t conceive for him, he sowed in me again in the spring. And this time I had her.”

“I’m glad for you,” Imogen said softly, meaningfully.

Maera gave her a baleful look. “His shame is assuaged, but he wanted a son. Now I must journey with her, all the way to the southern seas, and he will not support me. She will make me slower than the others, and predators will be drawn to her, and I must find food for us both. I don’t... I fear...” She swallowed. “If I lose her now, I will be shamed further, a failure of a mother. He will never give me another child.”

Imogen stared at her. “He’d do that to you?”

Maera shrugged one shoulder without meeting her eyes, bowed beneath shame and fear for the future.

“Did you... did you choose your husband?”

“He chose me,” Maera replied, looking up now. “That is how it is done. He picked me, with my father’s favour, and took me from my family, to swim with him, to mother for him if he wills it.”

“Do you... Do you love him?” Imogen dared to ask, breathlessly.

“I...” She faltered, and then ran her hand over her daughter’s back. “I love her. And he gave her to me. I couldn’t bear to lose her, whatever suffering she costs me. But...” She looked up into Imogen’s eyes, “My people do not have security. We do not have a home. I must trust the sea to provide for us, and hope.”

Imogen stared at her, struck dumb.

As they stood in tableau, there came a piercing bark from the huddle of merfolk near the sailors. Imogen jumped and turned sharply to see one of the women in the water glaring at her.

“Give her to me,” Maera said softly, reaching towards her. Wordlessly, Imogen handed back the girl. Maera clutched her to her chest again.

“We’re leaving,” One of the mermen near the sailors declared in a deep voice. Immediately the others began gathering towards him as he turned away from the boat and disappeared beneath the water.

Maera’s eyes flashed with hesitation again and then, on impulse, she reached and pulled off a necklace she was wearing. It was strung with what looked like small teeth, about the size of Imogen’s finger nails. Hanging on the bottom of the loop like a pendant was one much larger tooth, big enough to sit in her palm. “When you have a child, let it cut its teeth on this.”

Silently, Imogen nodded and reached out to accept the necklace. She kissed the fingers of her other hand and reached down, hoping to press the kiss like a blessing onto the child, but the tiny girl was out of her reach, so she waved her fingers in the air between them. “Goodbye,” She said softly. “Thank you.”

“Fair parting. I hope we meet again one day, Imogen,” Maera told her.

Daringly, Imogen began, “Here, next year-”

“I must go where my husband goes,” she apologised as she pushed away from the boat and began to swim away through the water.

“Goodbye!” Imogen cried, waving, “And good luck! Good luck to both of you!”
Maera gave her a last wave of her long, webbed hand, and disappeared beneath the waves, which glowed under silver starlight.



Back in her cabin, Imogen set the necklace on a table and changed out of her dirty clothes. She was just straightening her nightdress when there was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” She called, and one of the crew entered, carrying a bowl of stew. It was standard fare, but Imogen suddenly felt intensely hungry and, after thanking and dismissing him, gobbled it down.

When her meal was done she set the bowl down and reached for the tooth necklace but whatever cord it was on was not meant to be out of the water; now dry and brittle, it snapped into pieces as Imogen lifted it and several of the teeth skittered free. Fortunately the table’s raised edges caught most of them, and only a few fell to the floor. She dropped to her hands and knees and chased after them, collecting them in a cupped hand. She would have to restring them on something, and wondered what she might be able to get that would be suitable. She had seen one of the sailors mending a sail with a massive needle earlier that day, and wondered what sort of string or cord they used; perhaps she could ask for a length of it.

She was on her feet and tipping the teeth onto the tabletop as there was another knock at the door. She was slightly irritated by the disturbance as she called the knocker to enter but when the door opened Captain Oliver stood there, his expression grave.

“Michael says you had a long discussion with one of the sea-women,” he stated.

“Yes, that’s true,” she said, wondering what trouble she might have gotten herself into. Was he going to berate her for holding the baby? Or talking alone with Maera?

“What did you talk about?” He asked her.

Guardedly, she replied, “I told her a bit about my life, and she did the same.”

He frowned. “Did you ask her about your husband’s ship?”

She felt stunned that she hadn’t, hadn’t even thought of it. She’d been so awed to see them, and so nervous at first, that the topic hadn’t come to her mind. “No.”

His frown deepened. He paused before speaking. “Then I’m afraid I have to tell you this... Their leader spoke to another clan of their kind a week or so ago. That clan saw your husband’s ship caught in one of the storms we had at the start of the autumn. They said the ship was already listing badly – leaking or with too much cargo, badly stowed – and it was turned over by the wind and water. Normally they try to save drowning sailors but the storm was so fierce, they couldn’t surface. There was nothing they could do.”

Imogen stared at him, speechless. She sank slowly into her chair.



Silly girl that she was, she had brought now black clothes with her, and so couldn’t dress for mourning; for the rest of the voyage, she wore her grief on the inside and felt the pain of it more poignantly for that.

She avoided company as much as their confined world allowed, staying in her cabin or drifting to the prow of the ship where she could look out over the vast, restless ocean and imagine she was alone. All the worlds seemed very empty and bleak. The life she had always imagined for herself seemed to have petered out before she was twenty three years old.

Thinking of his face was a pain that brought tears to her eyes. His loss was a black hole in her; her path and her plans disappeared in a shadowy fog. Could she really be a widow? Could it be true? Was uncertainty really worse than knowing the bitter truth? Or had she come out here knowing that after the storms at the end of summer, after his long delay, he couldn’t really be alive? Then why had she come? What had she sought, and why had she found only pain?

The necklace remained broken on the table in her cabin. It seemed a useless gift now, for her husband’s death was also the death of her dreams of motherhood. Why had Maera given it to her – because she knew her own child couldn’t possibly survive? She nearly left it behind on the ship, as seeing it brought only the pain of what she had lost, but in the end , nearly on a whim, she folded the pieces in a handkerchief and took it with her; she told herself that she couldn’t let herself forsake the only physical memory of her dreamlike meeting with the merpeople.

Three days after her meeting with the merfolk, her ship returned to its harbour, and she to her home. Sharing the news with her mother-in-law was nearly unbearable, but to have someone share her grief with was a blessing.

So she mourned and remembered. They were dark days, strangely empty to her memory. And then one day she looked at the calendar and realised that a month had passed since she had spoken to Maera; if her child still lived its eyes would be open now, and it would bear a name.

She wondered, once more, why Maera had given her the tooth necklace. Was it just the first thing that came to hand? Had Maera believed that she herself wouldn’t need it, that her precious daughter wouldn’t survive the long, dangerous journey to the warm southern waters?

Or, perhaps, were some of the stories true? Did her kind really possess some magic, some charm? Was there some power in the strange gift she had been given (when you have a child, let it cut its teeth on this)?

In the days that followed she thought often of Maera and her daughter, praying for them and wishing them well. At times their plight seemed so distant, so unreal, that she struggled to believe that it could be taking place. But then she took out the broken necklace, ran her fingers over the teeth, and remembered. Later on, she repaired it.

Had they survived their journey? The hunger, the exhaustion, the danger? Had they reached that distant place, those southern seas that offered warmth and hope?

She realised, as her own healing began, that she had already believed her husband dead when she had gone on that voyage. All she had sought was confirmation; all she had lacked was solid fact. Finding it had let her bring her pain out into the open, where it could begin healing.

Life wouldn’t go on as she had dreamed. The expectations she had had as a girl didn’t form a map of her life. But perhaps she didn’t need a map to find those warm seas; perhaps all she needed was to carry on her journey.



-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

This is a bit of an odd thing for me, so please reply and let me know what you think! I'm really not sure how believable or generally readable this is, so your feedback is very valuable to me!

As I said before, I'm not sure if I'll post any more of this. But if you insist on stepping outside the bounds of the story, and you don't mind spoilers for if I do post more of this, then I will tell you that Maera's baby survives the journey - and Maera names her 'Imogen' (obviously). The malnutrition in her infancy permanently effects her health, and she'll always be leaner than is healthy for one of her species. But she's a born fighter and she won't give up on survival but that's not the whole story.

I read probably more than is healthy about dolphins and killer whales while and after writing this. But I won't bore you with the details. The merfolks' social structure is based very loosely on dolphins', and Maera's struggles are partly inspired by a nature documentary that was on TV recently. Imogen's story is partly inspired by a series of novels I read recently - the Liveship Chronicles by Robin Hobb.
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Old 05-10-2012, 03:35 PM
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I read that and enjoyed it - It was well written, with a good flow, and was descriptive enough conjure up decent accompanying images within my minds eye as I read. There is one typo: "Silly girl that she was, she had brought now black clothes with her, and so couldn’t dress for mourning;" - should be "she had brought no black clothes with her"

One question. How familiar with human life is Maera supposed to be? Since she seems to know of how human society works quite well - And how it compares to her own way of life. She seems to be afraid of not having security for herself and her child - But if she's always lived that way, shouldn't she be used to it?

I suppose it wouldn't make good story writing though. Maybe I'm being overly critical.

Anyway, that was well written. More please.
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Old 05-11-2012, 02:59 AM
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No, I'm happy to hear what you think. Maera's picked up a fair bit about humans; whereas very few humans see merfolk, many merfolk see humans. And it's kind of a conversation topic ("Look at how backwards they are on land!") She's probably not as knowledgeable as she thinks she is, but she knows more about humans that Imogen expects.
For the first time in Maera's life, she's facing true difficulty. Life has never been easy but now she's facing really desperate times ahead, and that's why she's worried.
Maybe I should think about making things clearer.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback It makes my day to see this being read.
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Old 05-19-2012, 01:29 PM
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nice open ending was open... this chapter was like a very unusual 'slice of life' anime in my mind xD -but a great one! i enjoyed reading this very much! 8D

you said there are more chapters so i look forward to them, in case you post them here

also, it's nice that your merfolk is a bit more unique than the "typical" one! It's interresting, the 'topic' of this story too btw...

...and it's great to read something from you again!
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Old 07-01-2012, 04:29 PM
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Whot ho chums!

Here's something I wrote quite a long time ago - in fact, I think it's the oldest piece of writing in this thread.
It's based on a story from the Bible - specifically about a man called Eli who was the High Priest of Israel and teacher of Samuel, the latter being someone I expect more people have heard of as he has a much longer role in events than Eli.

There are a lot of good stories in the Bible, whether you believe them true or not. A lot of very real people with strengths and flaws, with very interesting and emotional lives. The way the Bible tells them is brief though, and as a lover of stories, my imagination runs wild reading it. There are a lot of stories in there that I feel I could adapt, and (with some artistic licence), here's one of them.



Eli

In a way, he had watched it drawing near for years – in the way you tilt your chair back knowing you will never overbalance, or watching a child playing at the top of a stone stairway, knowing it’ll never quite get close enough to fall.

So when he had watched his sons taking bribes for justice, stealing offerings from the people and forcing sex from the women who came to serve in the temple, he had said to himself, “They will never go beyond redemption. God is merciful.”

Yes, he had rebuked them, scolded them, shouted at them, but he had never stopped them. He had never taken the matter into his hands. It was so much easier to lie back and sink into complacency, into lethargy. He was an old man; it was hardly his part to deal with such things. High priest, maybe, but so old, and world-weary, and he needed rest. And wrong or not, the takings of his sons did make life that much more comfortable, with stolen meat and underhand money.

And then the day came when the chair tipped back. A man had come with a message from God. That God did not speak directly to him was insult enough, but the message he brought… “You honour your sons above the Lord… I have rejected your family… Not one of your descendants will live to old age… Your sons will both die on the same day… Another will take your place and your descendants will beg at his feet…”

The terrible days that followed, the sleepless nights, arguments with his children that did nothing to change their ways. The walls were closing in around him and people still came for aid, for advice, for wisdom, and he wished to scream at them, “What can I do? What power do I have now?”

Old and fat, he tried to shy away from the world, but the world still needed him.

“The Philistines are attacking, teacher. There numbers are far greater than our own… Please, you must appeal to the Lord for our salvation.”

The Lord, the Lord who had rejected him, “Do what you will.”

And they had done what they would. The Ark of the Covenant, where God had promised his spirit would always dwell, they had taken with them, to carry into battle, to try and win God’s favour to them.

And his sons had gone too, laughing, strolling off to war, and he had tried to stop them, “Do not go! Don’t you realise you are cursed men?”

They had jeered, laughed, they had not believed, “Go back to your scrolls, old man; go back to your chair by the fire.”

And he had, in the end. Oh, he had paced, and worried, and burnt sacrifices, and prayed at first, but his age, his weak heart, his bulging stomach had pulled him back, and that chair was too inviting.

He was at the end of a corridor, watching a child playing at the top of a stone stairwell, had watched the child trip, its face warped in horror as it teetered on the edge of the abyss, had run, knowing that he could never be fast enough. There was nothing he could do.

He was wakened by a banging on the door. A moment later a messenger burst into the room, gasping for breath, doubled over. “Teacher… Philistines… We are defeated… Israel’s army turned and ran… Philistines took the Ark… Your sons… Your sons are dead…”

And he threw himself back in his chair, howled in grief. And in response his chair tipped, reached that indefinite, endless point where you know you have gone too far, that powerless, hopeless moment where the balance tips, and you know the fall is inevitable; there is nothing you can do.

Time stood still.



-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man, and he was heavy. He had led Israel forty years.
1 Samuel 4 v 18


The Ark of the Covenant was eventually returned to Israel because wherever the Philistines took it, bad stuff happened to them.
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Old 08-11-2012, 04:08 AM
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Another roaring success!

Ah well.
Here's a thing...

Looooong, long ago there was an off-topic RPG here on OWF called 'The Community' which was, not to mince words, pretty darn awesome. It died when one of the key players disappeared (possibly having been sucked into a different dimension as part of a suspiciously Stephen-Kingy plot twist) but it was, for its time, very fun, and had some great story, especially towards the end.

Shortly after its hideous death I made an attempt to make a coherent story out of it but never got anywhere - it's beginnings were very messy and I tried to be too close to the original - but I did manage to write an intro to it, which was slightly pretentious but not total rubbish.

Aaaanyway, many a year later I had an idea of a woman running though a forest, and I wrote it as a story; the result wasn't great, but it was at least good - especially the part where she was confronted by her pursuers. The last sentence of that story was incredibly good.

Finally, a year or two ago, on a whim, I tried, for some reason, to write the two things together - the introduction for 'The Community' and the story of a woman being chased through a forest. The result... really worked!

Maybe there'll be a story to go with this one day; I'd love to use this in something. But for now, and for your viewing pleasure (creative title ahead)...


TC Intro Meets Running From Wolves

Some people believe that every time the dice of probability are rolled new universes are created to accommodate every possible outcome. The first flaw in this is one of words; the word universe means, by definition, everything. There is one universe, whole and complete, that cannot be added to or taken from; only changed.

And then there’s the more practical problem of, if you’re making a trillion trillion new universes every nanosecond, what do you make them all from, and where do you put them?

Change the way you think; there are multiple worlds within the universe. Not dimensions, because a dimension is just a direction you face when looking at something, but different places, all connected in different ways, some as simply as the distance between the Earth and the moon, and others like the connections that hold elements together. All worlds interact with all others in some way, though how when all are tight and contained and wide and open at the same time is beyond imagining. As for numbers, well, imagine a world connected to ours by a simple door; are they one? But then what if a third world is connected to the second, but in no way related to ours; does that mean all three are one when this world shares nothing with the third? And then in a second’s time things shift and suddenly those worlds are torn apart and others take their places. Things are hard to quantify once you get past the realms of sight and sound.

The thing to remember is that power in any form changes the container that holds it.

The other thing to remember is that details don’t matter; bangles and bells and colours and clothes that are as solid as mountains are irrelevant, while the small, hidden things, as lasting as vapour and as mighty as hurricanes are the things that change the course of reality. Ignore the solid, real things that will never change in a thousand years and have no more impact than throwing pebbles at a castle wall, and see the truths that will change the world and are as brittle as delicate sculptures of salt.

Ignore the bells and the lights and the bangs; see the fragile things:

* * *

It is dark, and there are stars, and clouds swirl in the sky in unnatural shapes. A young woman runs through a forest, gasping for breath as her trembling legs throw her onwards. There are no branches as low as her head, but perhaps you see them swipe at her regardless, twigs catching at her clothes and hair and scratching the skin of her arms and face. She is weeping as she runs; she knows there is no hope.

Do you hear her pursuers? It does not matter that they make no sound as they chase her; they move silently around her, closing in, moving in a synchronicity beyond the power of words, spoken or not. You may hear them shout or crash or curse and it will make no difference.

Blood pours from the girl’s bare feet. Her skin is marred with fading bruises.

Somewhere far ahead, people dream. In their houses, behind their walls, they feel safe from all that lives and runs in the wild.

And then the girl stumbles; does she trip on a fallen log? Put a foot in an old rabbit hole? Turn an ankle on a raised root or stone? These things do not matter; all that matters is she is on the ground and she has time only to push herself to her hands and knees before they are all around her.

Her pursuers are not men but wolves; twice the size they should be with eyes of fire and deadly jaws. Their fur is matted and dark. They are cursed, half-decayed things and their chests heave from the exertion of the chase while their postures are firm with the triumph of the hunt.

Do you believe in the Big Bad Wolf? Do you see the innocence in predators that hunt by claw and tooth?

Here is a fragile thing, so easy to overlook: where their feet touch the grass the plants are dying and decaying.

The woman is breathing too hard to speak; she can do nothing but crouch and take gasps of air, so great that they cause her physical pain. Its jaw twisting into a snarl, one of the wolves speaks; “Stand.”

She takes a great gasp of a breath and pushes herself up onto her knees. “I’m not like you anymore,” She pants, barely believing the words herself.

“Stand,” It repeats, its eyes flashing with fire. This one will be the one to kill her.

With much difficulty and favouring one leg, she pushes herself to her feet. She is still breathing hard.

Another of the beasts speak, “Give it to us.”

“It’s gone,” She replies between breaths. “Lost.”

“Where?” Barks the leader.

She smirks at it though her heart pounds with terror, and with courage she does not believe in she replies, “Kill me.”

Words and lost treasures are beyond it; one thing it understands. Its confidence returns and its bloodlust rises. “As you wish.”

And in that moment someone incredibly far away and (remember this; this is all important) closer than the girl’s skin is to her heart writes these words:


“And then, for just a fraction of a second, the clouds parted, and moonlight shone down over the trees.”


For half a second the forest is bathed in silver. The girl’s skin changes; suddenly she is glowing with golden light – gold like precious things. The wolves howl and stumble back and scream animal screams, and then the moonlight goes and darkness returns and so do the shadows in their minds, but by now there is no sight of the girl. Howling in rage and denial they spend the rest of the night circling and searching frantically for a sight, a smell, a hint of their quarry until their dead footprints stretch for nearly a half-mile wide circle around where they surrounded her and the approach of dawn’s light forces them to flee.

Not one of them sees a tiny silver spider crawling away through the dying grass.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-



Ok, so even I don't know what I was talking about in there some of the time.
The girl, and her reaction to moonlight, was partly inspired by a character from 'The Community' called Kix, who was created by T-Nex.

As for the wolves, they're a very strong image I've had in my head for a long time - these enslaved creatures, transformed from real animals into fairy tale monsters - rotting fur, hoarse voices and fire dancing in their eyes.
Do you believe in the Big Bad Wolf?

Towards the end of the RPG I introduced a character called Elfair who had contracted a disease that warped the more animal, savage aspects of her body and gave her an irresistible blood-lust and an urge to spread the disease by biting more victims. She was a 16 year-old girl, trapped in the body of a monster. That's something else that will have to find its way into a story one day.
If the story hadn't died when it did, she would have attacked and bitten one of the story's villains, who, unlike her, wouldn't have tried to resist his new instincts. Man, I wish we'd gotten to that.
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Old 08-13-2012, 06:34 AM
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overall it's well written, both stories. In the last one the description in the beginning was a tiny little bit too long imo, but it was still nicely written so nvm ^^

i like how you described the chase too ... and the concept of those wolves -aswell as the girl who shines in the moonlight, they are both pretty cool
it was great!
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Old 12-03-2014, 03:31 PM
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I Wish I Could Stop Loving You Awhile

Crash, splat! “You stupid bitch, why don’t you watch where you’re going?!”

Tracy froze and cringed like a deer in headlights as Darren raised the now-empty, dirty pizza tray as if he meant to hit her with it. Everyone in the kitchen was staring at them. Embarrassment, fear of the angry man, exhaustion and helplessness made tears spill from Tracy’s eyes despite her effort to hold them in.

“That’s enough,” Stephen, the kitchen manager, said, unfreezing the room. “Jen, get this mess cleared up. Is the rest of this order ready? Dani, find out who ordered the pizza and apologise to them; tell them we’ll have it out as soon as another’s ready. Darren, get started on making it right now.”

“How long do we have to put up with this? The dozy bint goes ‘round with her head in the clouds-” Darren began to rant furiously.

“Tracy,” Stephen interrupted him and gestured with a shake of his head, “Come with me.”

She had her head in her hands, hiding her tears.

“Tracy,” he snapped more firmly. The girl now cleaning up the splattered pizza pushed her gently in the back and Tracy tagged after Stephen out into the cool, narrow stone corridor between the kitchen and the food store.

The tiny passage felt uncomfortably cramped. Stephen, always-Stephen-never-Steve, waited for her to control her crying while she apologised half a dozen times through her tears. In the end he gave up waiting and said, “This isn’t working out is it?”

She could say nothing to that, but tried to keep herself from sobbing harder.

He sighed. “Look, I can see you have your own problems, and that wouldn’t matter if you could just leave them at the door and do your job right, but that’s not happening...”

He trailed off, inviting her to say something in her defence. She’d begged to keep from losing jobs before and she felt he wanted her to beg for this one. He was a nice man and wanted an excuse to do her a favour. But she didn’t have the pride to beg now, or the will or the strength.

He sighed again, and though he couldn’t bring himself to say it, she knew she was dismissed. Quietly, she went to her locker and changed out of her kitchen togs, put on her jumper and picked up her bag. She took her coat from beside the door and put it on before going out into the dark street.

The rain had stopped but it was misty and bitterly cold; it would be horribly icy tomorrow. That thought sat in her like a lump; the ice would make walking to the restaurant hellish, but she wouldn’t be walking to the restaurant because she didn’t have a job there anymore.

When she got home she called the hospice where her brother was living, as she did obsessively, but the girl she spoke to was foreign and Tracy could barely understand anything she said.

* * *

I was challenged on another website to write a story between 500 and 600 words long (much shorter than I like writing, but the idea I created was for such a micro-story that I undershot and had to find ways to make up the count) that had to involve a pizza-related disaster. I'm guessing the challenge setter wanted something funny, but I'm not too sorry to disappoint. I like this. I'm proud of it. People over there are terrible at giving feedback so I thought I'd test the water over here and see if any of the old crowd are still around.


Also, hi everyone! Guess who's not dead!
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