300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- VICTORY TO ALCHEMIST

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Ursa major

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THE CHALLENGE:


To write a story in 300 words or less


INSPIRED by the image provided below, and in the genre of
Science Fiction, Fantasy, or other Speculative fiction


Only one entry per person


All stories Copyright 2012 by their respective authors, who grant the Chronicles Network the non-exclusive right to publish them here.


This thread will be closed until April 10 -- as soon as the thread is unlocked, you may post your story


Entries may be posted no later than April 30 2012
at 11:59 pm GMT


Voting will close May 15, 2012 at 11:59 pm GMT
(unless moderators choose to make an extension based on the number of stories)


You do not have to enter a story to vote. In fact, we encourage all Chronicles members to read the stories and vote for their favorites.


You may cast three votes


For a further explanation of the rules see here:
Rules for the Writing Challenges



THE MAGNIFICENT PRIZE:


Three months of Glory and Adulation!
Your story posted on the SFFChronicles home page and added to the
300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE Roll of Honour
A book of your choice, up to the price of £10 GBP, from The Book Depository









Image credit: Chris Green
 
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Luiglin

by day Stuart Orford by night Dark Lord's scribe
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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

I sit and watch


I sit and watch. It’s a simple act that provides my oft flagging soul great comfort and peace of mind.

I’m aware of the talk behind my back. The dark utterances, the plots and paper thin alliances.

Do I care?

Sometimes these days I believe I do. It’s a source of ironic amusement to me that I let it continue where once I wouldn’t have done.

Yet, this is truly a lonely life and this would be a truly lonely place if it was not for my erstwhile friend.

How long has he stood this eternal watch? Certainly longer than I care to remember. Generations have passed by in a blink of an eye.

My friend has not aged, no wrinkles adorn his brow and no grey garnishes his hair. He remains bound forever pure.

Head bowed, he endlessly reads the same page from the well worn Book; a work of unwholesome virtuous literature that he used to once quote from memory without error or pause.

This place honours him, honours his achievements and honours his memory.

Without him I would have had nothing. It was a gift that I promised I’d never forget.

The sun dips, shadows stretching their long cloaks as of hints at the dark of the night to come.

I sat and watched, remembering the enemy I once had, the friend I have now.

Our eyes meet in prisons of my own crafting. Mine locked within this slowly decaying decrepit body; his locked within a body of purest unyielding platinum. I’ve long since left my madness behind, but as I look into those wild rolling eyes of startling blue, I’m pleased to see that it found a new home.

My enemy, my friend, it was good to sit and watch … you.
 

crystal haven

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

Seen and not heard


“Have you been in my room?”

My sister shook her head.

“Are you sure?” I pressed. “I’ve... Something’s gone missing. A book. With a blue cover.”

She put her head on one side, thinking. “Lots of books – in Uncle’s library.”

“Yes. But... Oh, never mind. I’m sure it will turn up.” But I wasn’t sure. I’d searched all over, and Uncle’s house was massive, like a castle. Striding across the hall, I passed the statue of my oldest cousin. My heart beat hard with worry; if my brother had my diary he’d know about Peter, a secret I had no intention of sharing.

I had one foot on the stairs when a cough made me jump.

“In a hurry, our Lizzie?” Uncle said. His blue eyes peered at me from above his round glasses.

“I’m looking for Adam. I think he’s taken something of mine.”

“It wouldn’t be a book, by any chance?” he asked, pushing his glasses further up his nose.

“Yes. Yes, it is,” and I couldn’t stop my smile turning into a grin. “Have you seen it, Uncle?”

He nodded. “It’s down in the cellars, Lizzie. In the hand of the statue.”

I did not recall a statue. “What statue?” I asked.

“Of Adam.” He put his arm around my shoulders and guided me to the hall. “Can’t abide naughty children. Adam’s gone away, to stay with your father. So we’ll have a few days of peace.”

“Sounds good, Uncle.” We passed the statue of my youngest cousin, kneeling by a chair. “You like statues, don’t you, Uncle?”

“Oh yes, Lizzie. That I do.” He collected his pipe from the mantelpiece. “Statues are quiet and well behaved. Now, what’s so secretive about this book? And would your dear mother approve?”
 

Jo Zebedee

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

IS THIS THE DAY?

My eyes burn. My bones thud. My muscles contract in searing spasms.

Steady.

A minute, maybe two.

Breathe.

I inhale the familiar air, deep into me. The sandstone walls surround me, nurturing, unchanged.

Slowly, I look round. I’m in the right place; I always am.

I’ve jumped the maw of time, embracing its ecstasy and pain, too often not to know my place.

Perhaps, this time, I’ll feel my son’s warm body pressed against me. I’ll push him behind me and stand proud as the soldiers near, their chain mail and swords glinting in the streaming sunlight.

They pulled my innocent son from me, and the magic failed.

“No,” I’d pleaded. “The treason was mine.”

Jean looked over his shoulder as they led him away, trying, at twelve, to be brave. I hugged the treacherous tablet to me, and the first wrench tore me from him.

Tore me into my first ecstasy.

I flew: my body light and my mind filled with wonder. I cried: overwhelmed at the light, the freedom and the joy embracing me.

Jean was dying – burning – for my treason, and I was filled with the elation of my first jump.

Following it; the landing. I howled and tried to fight the pain. When it eased, I looked, and jumped again. The second time, I lay still, exacerbating the cramps, welcoming the penance of pain.

Now, I expertly wait and breathe, knowing I am in the same portal, the same castle, the same world.

The wrong moment. Jean’s missing warmth tells me that. Still, I look at the tablet. 2012. Too far. I wrench myself away.

The ecstasy! The hope that this time, after the pain, he’ll be there. We’ll jump, just once, to safety, as we should have, before. Please, let my penance be paid.
 

Warren_Paul

Banishment this world!
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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

In This Hall I Do Not Speak


In this hall I cannot speak. In this hall I cannot sleep. In this hall I will not weep.


I am bespelled, disallowed. Made solitary; made desolate.

Call me a sculpture. Call me a statue. Call me what you will, it matters me nil.

Forever I stand, forever I wait, for she who can free me; she who has forgotten me.

In my resentment I suffer, in my frustration I despair.

These chains I bear, these pains that sear.

There is no lock, to this key I hold. There is no stop, to this past I’m told.

In my hands my life unfolds, in my hands my anger’s twofold.

In my memories she resists me, she angers me; she fights me.

In my memories I loved her, I berated her; I hurt her.

In my memories lights flashed, and chains clasped.

My pleas voiced, my excuses made, my charges received.

The spell they uttered, the magic that seared. In my hands they placed, the memories I have faced.

Forever I stand, in this prison made; my fate declared, and punishment adhered.

If I could speak I would curse her. If I could speak I would plead her.

In my thoughts I dwell, and my regrets are hell.

The mistakes I have made, the love misplaced. Redemption I wish and devotion I seek.

Hope I cast in you this trust. Forgiveness I beg, your presence request.

Forever I stand, forever I wait, for she who can free me; she who has forgotten me.

Through my understanding I live, and my foolishness I curse.

Through my redemption I breathe, these chains I leave.

In my heart was the lock, to this key I held.


In this hall I speak. In this hall I sleep. In this hall I weep.
 
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reiver33

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

Vote For A Better Tomorrow

We are not setting Man above God, as the Vatican claims.

We do not intend to cripple our economic and political rivals, as the United Nations alleges.

We cannot stand idly by and let disaster overwhelm our great nation.

The fall of Communism left the United States as the only true superpower. Imagine what we could have achieved if we’d known then what we know now.

We can now change history and improve our lives by using the Reality Engine.

Knowledge of technical innovations, medical breakthroughs, natural disasters, attacks by enemies foreign and domestic. All this information can be sent back in time to a group of carefully selected individuals. These patriots will ensure that the best of the last thirty years is preserved, and that the worst never takes place.

We know with certainty that this technology works. Knowledge of how to build the Reality Engine was sent to us from the future. A future so ravaged by terrorism, disease and energy shortages that Humanity bound together in one last great enterprise, to save our world from their fate.

We cannot betray their trust. We need a majority ‘Yes’ vote on 22nd June.

Many of us see the Reality Engine as Divine Provenance, symbolising a new covenant between God and Man. Certainly this project has united the religious and scientific communities as never before. Individuals from all walks of life agree that the benefits to Humanity will be beyond measure.

Despite their public reticence, foreign leaders privately admit that a US-led grand coalition represents the best chance for world-wide political stability and economic growth. Never before has our manifest destiny been so clear.

Vote for Proposition 13 on the 22nd June.

Vote for the Reality Engine.

It’s not just your future.

This infomercial was brought to you by mediaCore
 

Mouse

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

The Only Explanation

Okay. It was the Skyman. I watched him step down from his cloud and trample on humanity. I didn’t care much and I found it a bit dull after a while, but it was amusing to start with. All those screams!

Even the memory of it makes me shiver in delight. The humans, I know, got exactly what they deserved.

A horrible, horrible death.

Course, I’m not sure why the Skyman did what he did, but I’m not complaining. Maybe they did something to him, long ago. Just as they did to me. Long ago.

I was human, once. Until the people drove me to insanity and I became something other. I have this vague memory of a bloodied skinning knife and a mound of wet, stinking flesh.

Yes, well, I don’t remember much other than that. They took most of my memories when they took my skin in some sort of bizarre punishment.

Skin me alive and leave me to die.

I grew a new skin afterwards. I remember that it hurt like hell. I scabbed over and became rock hard.

Ha!

Anyway, the Skyman. After he destroyed all the people, he tore up the buildings. He seemed to be enjoying himself, though personally I thought he should pace himself a bit. You don’t want to peak too early.

While he was busy, I wandered among the corpses, peeling flesh from bones so I could make myself a new suit.

Go on, touch me. I’m squidgy.

Nice. So, once the Skyman had finished doing his thing, I killed him. You don’t believe me? I’m tougher than I look.

Buns of steel.

Oh, there’s no evidence. No corpse. He just sort of… vanished. I know that sounds ridiculous but come on!

You don’t think I killed everyone?

Do you?
 

Karn Maeshalanadae

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

Pepsi And The Sandwich Man



“It's through here, Captain,” the colonel ordered. A bright portal flashed open, the four discs along the corner spinning at incredible speeds to generate the energy needed to open the door.

“Remember, Captain, this is a reconnaissance mission only. Do not engage unless absolutely necessary. We need reports on the location and to know whether or not it is safe to return.”

“Yes, sir,” Captain Orrin replied. She grabbed a massive plasma shotgun from the rack and readied it, stepping through the portal.

She couldn't believe what had happened to Earth. It had been only five years since plutonium geysers had erupted from deep within the planet's surface, forcing oxygen out of the atmosphere, making it fatal to breathe. Now she was walking down a long hallway of an ancient hallway, abandoned long before the Exodus to Mars, her gun ready and her senses alerted to every sight and sound.

The captain caught her breath as the corridor opened to a large, spacious chamber.

Within the chamber it stood. A statue made of a metal long since lost to humanity, a metal she did not even know of. Approaching it, she was able to see in its hands was a closed, small case, not part of the statue.

She couldn't believe it. The words on the case read Pepsi Cola. She had long thought that the stories of carbonated water drinks were nothing but myths. Exploring the statue further, she found a small plaque on the floor, after removing the case of Pepsi Cola from the statue's hands.

The plaque read “To the Sandwich Man, savior of our monastery. When the first catastrophe struck our planet in the year 4542, he delivered food, drinks, and medical supplies to us when we needed it most, asking for nothing in return.”
 

Lilmizflashythang

Dogs win, every time.
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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

The Secret of the Statue and the Book​


Mason had wanted a book. Not just any book either, it was an ancient alchemy text. He had begged a favor from Jake to get him into this maze for it. After all, who better to ask but a treasure hunter. At least Mason had included a map.

Jake glanced at the map. He didn’t even want to touch the book, much less deliver it. Shoot! He’d taken the wrong turn four turns back. He spun around, only to face the remains of a large cobweb. He closed his eyes and tried to banish the images of which poisonous spider had made it.

Tomb raiders really needed to get hazard pay for these jobs. Then again, this one was more of a favor. Last time he would ever do anything for free again.

Jake trudged back to the intersection. He checked the map. It appeared it would take two turns to make it to the statue that held the text.

There. The statue was just as Mason had described, human-like but cold. One could easily believe that it was capable of speech. The book was within his grasp. He’d be home in time for happy hour.

Jake walked up to the statue, wary of any traps. Mason hadn’t claimed any. Maybe this job was easier than he thought. Jake pried the book out of the statue’s hands.

It was time to go. Jake started to leave but couldn’t move.

The statue! The marble seemed to have taken on a more fleshy appearance. The statue, no the man examined his hands. He looked at Jake. “Many thanks” he said.

He raced out of the maze. His final words echoing through Jake’s ears. “I’m free! I’m free!”

Jake wanted to growl. This was all Mason’s fault.
 

Arkose

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

[FONT=&quot]The Lost Leaf of the World Oak[/FONT][FONT=&quot]

[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Metal echoed from the barracks, soldiers frantically gathering their armor. Chrobry already fully armored, stood in the corridor overlooking the courtyard. A storm approached with an unnatural pace. “Would armor even matter?” he thought to himself.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]A halny hit the castle, throwing everyone exposed to the ground. Scrambling back to the window Chrobry saw the first soldier killed. Bolts of lightning rained down with precision, bodies flying off the wall. A golden chariot, pulled by a white goat, rose over the wall. A tall, muscular god, with a bright copper beard and a large ax stood inside. Chrobry went into a dead sprint, rounding the corner onto the courtyard. [/FONT][FONT=&quot]
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]“Chrobry?” Perun called out.[/FONT][FONT=&quot]
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot] Chrobry halted, “I...” [/FONT][FONT=&quot]
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]“Golden apple?” Perun interrupted, hand extended.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Perun, I am sorry, but will not.”[/FONT][FONT=&quot]
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Perun stared at Chrobry before twisting the ax in his hand. Lightning bolts shot down from the heavens hitting Chrobry and releasing a rumble of a victory. [/FONT][FONT=&quot]
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Chrobry held his ground, hands only slightly twitching.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Perun flinched, “You have my stones?” [/FONT][FONT=&quot]
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Chrobry lifted his hand, “Yes, lifted by the wind on the 7th year.”[/FONT][FONT=&quot]
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Lifting the second hand Chrobry showed a golden apple. The apple busted apart into a ball of lightning.[/FONT][FONT=&quot]
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]“What do you want?” asked Perun, eyebrow raised.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“To rule my country,” Chrobry replied with conviction. The ball of electricity [/FONT][FONT=&quot]reforming into a golden apple.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Rule?” Perun questioned, lowering his ax. “It’s never that simple, but all I have is time,” lifting and pointing his ax at Chrobry, “Rule great or I will destroy your country.”[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Perun’s voice grew with authority. “I, Perun, name Chrobry the first King of Poland, and from this point be called Bolesław I.” [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Perun pulled the reins, lifting his chariot into the clouds, leaving Poland with its first king.[/FONT]
 

southron sword

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

The Script


The grey slowly crept across her face. It started from the eyes; it always does, because seeing it causes it.

The Script held an air of mystery, which some found too tempting to ignore. She was stuck in a pose, feet together, hands on the Script, looking down, transfixed. Once eyes lock onto that document, forever are they part of it.

The grey moved swiftly across the face, down the arms, over the body. Every citizen knew of its existence, almost all feared it. Town after town lived in fear that a new Script would come to their homes. Little children were told horrible stories to keep them away. Kings ordered guards to surround the document. Wars were once fought to possess it. Countless cautions, warnings and threats were issued. The Script was a mystery, but the general attitude was that it was dangerous.

The grey had almost consumed her, creeping down her legs to forever lock her in history. It was a stone tomb, the Scripts only defence.This was how the mystery was held. The Script surrounds the curious in an unescapable trap. Once the trap is sprung a new Script materialises, in a new location, ready to snatch the unwary, the naive, the adventurous.

The grey had locked her in place. Here she will stay, an object of fear, of regret, of reminding.

The myth held that the Script provided clues to the ultimate goal, Eternal Life. The myth holds true, always. For the curious are ALIVE after being consumed, and are alive forever more.
 

David Evil Overlord

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

Checkout Chicks Of The Apocalypse.

Karl had walked until the goneworlder wizard’s towers dominated the horizon like geometric mountains. The dirt roads had given way to the picked-clean bones of the goneworld. Here the roads were made of black pebbles all melted together like cooled lava, with rusted iron carriages frozen beside them.

Scavving in goneworlder buildings was for those who struck it rich and could buy the sheriff’s forgiveness. Those who returned empty-handed pretended they never went scavving at all. Some never returned.

Karl found a building with curving sandstone arches and windows apparently made of dirt. The dirty glass was intact. No scavs had been here before him.

The door would not open no matter how hard he pushed it or pulled it. Breathing hard, he leaned against the door and it slid sideways, and he fell into the forbidden building.

Inside, the building was as big as a barn. Skeletons in rotted clothes were slumped at their desks at the front of the building. Behind the desks stood shelf after shelf of goneworlder treasures.

A black iron statue stepped between Karl and the door. “Intruder alert!” The statue’s hands split open. Inside were iron organ pipes that hurled thunderbolts.

Karl leapt for cover behind a desk.

Scanning. Hello Susan.

Susan? Karl saw light fall from the statue’s eyes onto a badge pinned to the uniform of the skeleton beside him.

The badge said: Hello, my name is Susan.

Karl thanked God his mother had taught him his letters. He snatched the badge and pinned it to his wolfskin tunic. If the statue thought he was Susan…

He crept towards the treasures.

The statue’s hands split open. “Susan, your shift ends at five o’clock.”

Karl looked up and groaned. The clock hands were forever frozen at five minutes to nine.
 
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AnyaKimlin

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

Tortured Freedom.

'Come with me,' a voice whispered.

Brother Thomas looked down at the flat-shaped urn in his hand as he stood in the stone crypt. His jaw hardened. 'We are abomination.'

'You don't believe that.' The voice burned into his soul and branded its message on his heart.

All those years ago. He'd walked away from the abomination. Found his home and his sanctuary here within the walls of St Swithun's. Safe from himself and the filth that he'd allowed to be part of him.

One letter had invaded his world.

'You came, you wanted it.'

Stood by the road. Suitcase in hand. One moment of blessed clarity, peace and finally freedom. He'd chosen the natural man over God. Accepted himself.

With a grinding crash of metal God had spoken. Peter was taken before Thomas could cheat on his vocation. He'd walked away unnoticed and been back for Compline, before the Brethren had missed him. That blessed moment would remain between Thomas and God.

Peter had left Thomas a bequest. Himself. Asked him to keep his ashes close.

Filth and abomination had returned, but nothing could replace the complete peace of that one moment. A roar is building up as the water approaches the floodgates. Soon the room would be underwater. The ashes would be swept away. Taking Thomas's torture with them.

'Come with me.'

Thomas closed his eyes. His body felt heavy, leaden. A life of torture, penance and pain lay before him.

He felt the warmth as a hand took his. The urn dropped into the rising water and Thomas allowed the hand to pull him forward. Water flooded his lungs. He closed his eyes and waited for God to determine his eternity: torture, penance and pain, or clarity, peace and freedom.
 
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Scott R. Forshaw

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

Double Oh, S**t!



I anxiously paced the room. They'd find me soon enough – no-one could outrun the agency for this long, and expect to live.​

I used to be one of them – black suit, cold exterior – a government puppet. I guess a lot of things can change in eight months.

At first I hadn't known what I was getting into – hell, I'd even embraced it. Biggest mistake of my life!

I'd worked through the ranks, determined to make it into the field. I was an idiot. I should have stayed behind a damned desk where it was safe. Long forgotten myths are buried for a reason.

I guarded the crypt. Everyone else went inside. When the screaming began, I bolted.

#​

My family would be dead, now. I missed them, but the agency didn't believe in loose ends.​

Sobbing, I slumped onto my bed, and stared at the package, my hands trembling.

From them?

I'm in a goddamn monastery in the middle of the Himalayas, for Christ's sake.

How?

#​


Sunlight streamed into the corridor through the open windows. I breathed in the fresh mountain air, and smiled.

Slowly, I unwrapped the package, pulled out the portable media player, and switched it on.

The screen flickered. Gibbs' voice rang out. My heart began to pound.

“Run, damn it!”

The image jerked. Gibbs raced between stone pillars, his breathing harsh, ragged.

“She's coming!”

I shuddered at the fear in his voice.

Gibbs spun. Her ravaged face loomed into view. I gasped. Her head was awash with countless writhing snakes … and those eyes – those cruel, malignant eyes...

I froze.

#​


It's been thirty years. I'm surrounded by the most wondrous scenery the world can offer, yet all I can dream of is death. Time seems endless in this place.

I should have become an accountant.
 

r_j_dando

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

Knowledge Comes

Summoning the arc-fire in my hands, I shield the warm glow between my fingers to protect it from draughts as I step down into the chamber.

I stand alone, surrounded by those who came before me. The flames cast a flickering light that makes movement where there is none; a finger twitches, eyes follow my steps, and hair blows in the air from the open doorway. Their stone faces watch, implacable, as I wait. I catch glimpses of statues behind, and still more behind them, row upon row fading into the darkness.

The light from behind vanishes as, with a creak from protesting hinges, the centuries-old oak door slams shut.

You failed us.

I bow my head.

“I did all that I could.” My breath mists in the freezing air.

It was not enough.

“What more could I do?”

You needed to learn. To observe. To study.

“I didn’t have the time.”

You will have.

The cold of the flagstones beneath my bare feet begins to spread upwards.

Here, we can only listen. We learn.

I try to take a step backwards, towards the door, but my feet are fixed to the floor. The chill of understanding flares through my body, raising hairs on my skin.

We judge.

The arc-light wavers. Shadows grow longer, and a susurrus of unintelligible whispers come from all around.

Panic grips me as realisation dawns, and the flames in my hands blaze higher, blue-white, fuelled by my emotions. It dies down to a faint flicker, leaving the after image burned on my eyes. Stone faces, all turned to me. The numbness reaches my ribs, and I struggle to draw breath. I hear them, one last time, as my vision fades to stone.

The next one will not fail.
 

johnnyjet

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

A Handful of Memories

Number Seven stopped during his walk through the mausoleum to remember. He stood motionless, transfixed by the images in the handheld device his masters had given him. He clutched it tightly as he watched his memories in the only place they existed since the day of his rebirth, when his brain was installed in this cold metallic android body. His mind was cleaned of everything before his rebirth.

He was on his way to his watch. Number Seven and the other eleven android watchmen were commissioned to guard and protect the sleeping masters, who by design would not be awakened for many centuries. The android watchmen were built from the strongest materials and each was installed with enough weaponry to squash an army of warriors or an assault of marauding beasts.

Before the masters went to sleep, they gave him a memento, a tiny morsel extracted from his memories, fifteen minutes of a video album that he could view whenever he wanted or needed to. A beautiful wife. Two young children. Laughter. Singing. Was that him playing with the children? And then, before it is over, one small kiss on the cheek from his wife.

Of course, there was much missing. He especially wondered about the events that led up to his new life within this cold skin. A new life without feeling, without even one small kiss. Maybe his masters did not want him to remember those events. Perhaps they were too painful. Did the masters have compassion?

The time was near to begin his watch. He proceeded toward his watchstation.

Number Nine turned to him as he approached. Number Seven took his position.

As Number Nine passed him on his way back to his recharging station, Number Seven handed him his handheld.

It was his turn to remember.
 

StilLearning

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

Shipwreck.
He wonders: What happened? Outside, tangles of metal are sinking into a soil choppy with craters.
The living-stone ship is mutilated and dying.
The crew has vanished.
This diary was lying face down, the final page scrawled hurriedly:


I must write quickly:
Our ship, Moonsong, is eighty springs from home. Ours is a mission to find new mountains, see new wonders, contact new peoples.
This...phenomena... began moments ago. The year was calm, the summer setting, and I had retired to my cabin when the air above the soil filled with flickering movement.
Through the windows I saw the spray of grass atop the soil forming neat patterns; ordered squares that stretched as far as I could see.

A new natural wonder, so soon!

I noticed that the flickers were now in the corridor outside my door.
Subliminally fast movements. They grew more numerous as the days ticked by.

Then I heard screams. Out in the corridor people were vanishing.
For long moments I doubted my senses. The flickers thickened. Thoughts shaking, I cried out through Moonsongs rock; only a few distant voices answered.
I cried out again and none replied. Pieces of Moonsongs flesh began to disappear.

It shrieked in pain!

Now I see boxy shapes floating out on the soil. As the sun and moon flash by overhead I see the squat cubes are made of mutilated flesh! Our flesh, the ships flesh, dead flesh, yet still changing and growing.
The dead flesh grows into a mocking reflection of mountains, shining skin covering shear sided spires. Flickers almost a fog. Tingles racing over me, abysmally fast things touching me, unknowable runes are cutting themselves into my flesh, write themselves onto the walls.

Have mercy, NO MORE!
 

allmywires

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

The Voiceless Men


The men of stone lived in halls of stone. Broken and crumbling in the desert. Halls of silence.

The men of flesh and blood came to the halls of stone to think. They wore their rough cloth and vests of metal wire, rubbing their skin until it bled, crusted over, bled again. Anklets of barbed wire, feet purple like fresh fruit, bruised and aching. Skin marbled like the arched walls they walked beneath.

They stood in front of mirrors, carefully sewing their lips shut. Drops of blood on stone paving. Sharp breaths on cold glass.

First the lips would swell. The stitches would itch. The hunger would grumble, growl, gnaw. Hands damp and cold, clammy and restless. Flesh would shrivel; hands would shake; skin would crawl. The lips oozed green and yellow, colours of a dream. The desert outside sat flat and yellow, and skinny cats yowled in the empty hallways, flies buzzing about their matted skin, dozing in the heavy sun. The men sat between their four stone walls, scratched the stone until their nails cracked and bled. Kicked until their toes snapped. Yet no words were spoken. The stitches began to dissolve. And then, the man would have to do it all again.

Shaking hands in front of the mirror. Hooked needles sharp and glinting in the endless desert sun, the cruel cyan sky. Face swollen beyond recognition, the pain indescribable, the test obvious. To become a man of stone, you must dissolve the flesh. Peel it away like a reptile’s skin: release the temptations of the blood, the bones, the bags of bile that made them weak.

The voiceless ones walked the arched corridors, offered no encouragements, just touched the walls and waited for the stone to take them, to freeze where they stood.
 

Glen

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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

The End of Art

We are now almost at the end of our tour. Thank you for listening and for visiting the European History of Art Gallery. Step to your right and enter the cloister.

This striking figure represents the twenty-first century, now infamous as the period in which most art forms died. Carved in that century’s last year by artist unknown, this is the last stone sculpture known to be carved.

The figure, ironically, is not representative of human build at the time but is an ideal type which contrasts with the moribund state of people’s health in the then developed world. Most humans were clinically obese, and radical surgery, chemical therapy and other continuous courses of medication were required to maintain life and mobility. The figure wears tight, compression garments of a kind worn by athletes earlier in that century. Again, an ironic statement as professional, amateur and recreational sports had ceased.

The figure is posed in a stance that had been lampooned by satirists and performance artists of the time, but was later regarded with increasing suspicion and fear as it became ubiquitous. Seated or standing this pose became the norm for all humans. The figure’s gaze and attention is lost in a computer or tablet which connected the user to virtual communication and activities. It is this virtual experience which came to replace other forms of human interaction and experience.

Compare the isolation of this representative figure with the highly communal, visceral life that would have been experienced by the builders of this old abbey, as discussed earlier in this tour.

Please now move on to the exit and souvenir shop where you can purchase facsimiles of many of the art items you have seen today, including miniature working models of the tablets held by twenty-first century man.
 

Perpetual Man

Tim James
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Re: 300 WORD CHALLENGE -- number 5 -- READ FIRST POST

Engraved Lies

As I led my team of archaeologists down into the catacombs beneath the city it was impossible for me not to think of my father. The disdain he had for those elements of society that so feared death they would rather calcify themselves - literally transforming themselves into unchanging, living rock - than face whatever loomed on the other side of death’s dark curtain.

I had once asked him, as he lay close to his end, what happened when we died. Despite his pain he replied, “Imagine the most beautiful meadow you have ever seen. Grass so green that it is beyond perfect. Spotted with buttercups, primroses and daisies, while iridescent butterflies take to the air and bees hum as they work from flower to flower.

"The sky a rich blue, with few clouds and birds fly, singing the sweetest songs; while somewhere in the distance the sounds of children playing echoes like the music of angels.

"On the edge of the field an ancient oak rises, its branches bent under the weight of its leaves, not too much, just enough to provide the perfect shade.

"And that is where I will be, sitting beneath those boughs, my favourite dog by my side. If I close my eyes I can hear them all, my friends and relatives who went before me and that, that is where we go when we die."

I believed him.

Now as I sink into those old catacombs, I hear those words again ringing in my memory like a bell.

Figures loom in alcoves, garish statues caught in shafts of light from above.

The dead that are not dead.

Become a statue ensnared.

And suddenly before me: my father.

He lied.

No rustic paradise.

No perfect world.

He did not die.

Just went into the stone.
 
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