300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- VICTORY TO MOUSE!

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The Judge

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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 2013 by their respective authors, who grant the Chronicles Network the non-exclusive right to publish them here



This thread will be closed until July 10

-- as soon as the thread is unlocked, you may post your story



Entries must be posted no later than July 31, 2013

at 11:59 pm GMT




Voting will close August 15, 2013 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 Rules for the Writing Challenges



The inspiration image for this month is:



Photograph by Ken O'Brien


.
 
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Victoria Silverwolf

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

The Rook

Late in the afternoon, when the prisoners were allowed to rest from their labors, Anton and Gregor played chess. They drew the board in the dirt with calloused fingers. The guards didn't care what they did, as long as they returned to the barracks by sunset.

Anton moved a pebble two squares ahead. Gregor picked up a stone and rubbed it between his fingers.

"Make your move," Anton said. "I'd like to finish the game before dark."

"Chess is not a game for the impatient." Gregor set the piece down and folded his hands. He looked like a thin Buddha.

They continued the game in silence. Anton knew he was losing. He always lost, unless Gregor was sick or exhausted from breaking boulders.

A shadow darkened the board. "Looks like we have a kibitzer," Gregor said. A large black bird circled overhead half a dozen times, then landed a hand's breadth away. "Good evening, Miss Rook." Gregor tipped an imaginary hat. "Or are you a married lady, perhaps?"

"How do you know it's female?" Anton saw a way to delay his defeat. He moved his hand toward a Bishop. The bird tilted its head, as if to study him. It cawed three times, seized the rock in its beak, and flew off with it. "My God."

"A most unusual game! Shall we declare a draw?" Gregor shaded his eyes, looked up, and waved his hand. "Rook takes Bishop. Well played, Madame!"

Anton was unable to answer. He stared through the barbed wire, into the past. His wife used to laugh and steal one of his Bishops when he spent too much time at the chessboard.

Gregor frowned. "You are pale, my friend."

"Her name was Inga." She always said she wanted to come back as a creature of the air.
 

Karn Maeshalanadae

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

The Companion



A thousand years I’ve walked these roads, lonely, except for one companion. A raven. It follows me everywhere; I do not know why, save for that it may feel as I do.

Why am I so alone, along streets that once moved the country known as the United States? It has to do with one simple thing: Genetics.

Specifically, microbial genetics. About a thousand years ago, scientists, hired by pharmaceutical companies, decided to play God. They not only studied deadly diseases for potential cures and vaccines, but, like with humans, changed and manipulated their genetic structures. All was fine, until one day, they came across a virulent strain of staphylococcus. Known scientifically as USA600, it was a dangerous bacterium to be playing with. What those idiots did was they made it somehow feed off of immune system cells, much as the HIV virus had five hundred years earlier. As a result, it was an airborne death sentence. It spread out of the laboratories within twelve hours, and to within the capital of Washington, D.C. within twenty-four. In less than a week, ninety-nine percent of the population of the entire Western Hemisphere perished. It only took another day to spread to Europe, and another week to Asia and Australia.

What few survivors there were, succumbed to other diseases, wild predators, even each other. Until I was the last one left. Me, and this raven.

They say the raven is an omen of death. I don’t know if that’s true; it’s been following me around for a millennia. As for the secret of my long life, well…let’s just say that the death strain affected me in a different way.

But I wish I was dead. I guess this is my punishment, though…for I had destroyed the world.
 

Tywin

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

The Blueprint

It started in 1945 in a bombed out laboratory. “Damn crazy Nazis,” Bill said, blowing a layer of concrete dust off the blueprint.

Intelligence was supposed to be catalogued and filed, but this wasn’t intelligence.

“I’ll take it home and frame it. Someday I’ll show my grandkids how crazy the Germans were.”

The plan sat for ten years in a trunk in the attic before Bill remembered it.

“Who thought up this thing?” he murmured as he spread it on the kitchen table, “A machine to point the way to Asgard. And a note from Goering himself scribbled in the corner. ‘Questions to ask Odin when found.’”

Bill finished building the device in 1957, a week before Sputnik. The contraption looked like a pump topped by a weathervane. It whirred and clunked when he flipped the switch, but the pointer didn’t move an inch.

He scratched his stubbled chin thoughtfully, checking the mechanisms. Everything seemed right, “The dang thing should at least turn.”

A crow landed on top and looked down at Bill.

“Git! Shoo!” he commanded. It cocked its head skeptically, but didn’t budge.

He’d tinker with his project now and then. It never did more than make a racket.

The neighbors didn’t mind much. They’d give directions, “Drive three miles and take the first road after the crow that sits on Bill’s pile of junk.”

The bird was there for everything, right up until Bill’s heart attack in 1994. It flew off straight into the sky when the coroner switched off the contraption.

It soared over a rainbow and into a hall topped with golden shields. Feathers exploded in a cloud and out stepped a man.

“Anything?” Frigg asked her husband.

“Thirty-seven years and not a single question,” the one-eyed god sighed. “What a waste.”
 

Jo Zebedee

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

EUGENIE'S PROMISE

Pa and I found Whistles in the big shop just off Regent's Street; the one with gold-faded TOYS written across dusty glass. Forget Hamley's, Pa used to say, the big shop was where to find real treasure.

Pa was always right. We found Whistles at the back, in an old wooden cage. One beady eye glistened through a layer of dirt. His coat was mottled grey; dead. Pa said when he got Whistles home, he'd fix him up nice...

Well, Pa did. He cleaned his feathers 'til they gleamed like a golden ribboned coat. He opened Whistles and showed me all the cogs and gears inside. He took 'em out, cleaned 'em, replaced everything, and fixed me with a serious stare. "Want to make him come alive?"

I did. He showed me a tiny lever, buried under the feathers, and made me crank it not once or twice, but three times. Whistles cocked his head, fixed me with his eye, and sang. Such a song...

Pa sat me down, all serious like. "Now," he said. "You do that everyday and never forget. He's yours to care for now."

I did what he said. Sometimes I near forgot and then Pa's eyes would catch mine, and I'd run upstairs and crank the lever three times. Even when Pa died and wasn't there to remind me I still did it, and remembered Pa. It made me sad. And glad, mostly.

Now, it's me facing my last dance. Over in the corner, the dark man's waiting. I lift Whistles from his cage. My fingers struggle to turn the lever, but they're thin - thinner than ever -- and I manage. I sink back. Whistles ...

------------------- caws...

----------------------------flaps wings...

-------------------------------------------rains golden dust as he breaks free.

I breathe my last as Whistles breathes his first.
 

Luiglin

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

Through six year old eyes

It’s on balmy evenings like this that I remember my childhood in warm welcome tones of sepia.

They were days of endless sun and exuberant freedom; the creaky swing on grandfather oak where I flew; the plank across the brook and fishing in the pond beyond; the field of lazy golden corn where the wind whispered secrets; games galore and friends in abundance; Flash Gordon serials and Laurel and Hardy.

I’m sure that I had my fair share of tantrums, scabby knees and banged heads, which kid doesn’t?

Looking back though, it had seemed such an obvious thing to do at the time. I don’t think I ever truly understood then and, in adult hindsight, I’m glad that I didn’t.

It had taken me ages to scour the sheds and outhouses, grabbing bits and pieces, rusty or not, it didn’t matter. Crafting didn’t take long, the pieces going together with childish serious determination and nimble fingers.

I remember earnestly dragging my Dad to the field, others following, mournfully mystified. He had stood outlined against the late afternoon sun and listened patiently to my plan. Then he had knelt, weeping tears of joy rather than those of sorrow, as he had over the days before. With a glorious smile and a ruffle of my hair he had agreed that it was the best plan ever. The others remained respectfully back as my Dad took up the funnel and softly spoke before placing it to his ear, listening with a smile and a wink to me.

He’s never told me what he said and I know now that my device would never have worked. Yet, to my six year old eyes it had. He’d spoken to Mom once more, my scrap metal radio sending his voice to heaven and she’d replied.
 

Bowler1

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

Carrion Post


The wind gusted and rusty metal squeaked and creaked like chalk across a blackboard. I used to hate that sound. It felt like nails being dragged across my very soul, ripping flesh from my bones.

If only I’d known; really known.

‘Derek,’ whispered Amy, her body trembling next to mine in our hiding hole. ‘Here comes another.’

I just nodded gesturing for her to be quiet. Noise attracted their attention.

It shuffled to a stop, its head turning… listening.

I could feel Amy tense beside me, her fear building. I knew how she felt, this close they were dangerous… any mistake could kill us.

It shuffled some more, those dead eyes searching as it moaned and groaned, stepping forward just once.

The wind shifted, and above us the Carrion Post’s rusty metal sang out, shrieking in the breeze.

Its dead eyes focused and it stepped forward eagerly. Rotten teeth chattered with excitement and drool dripped from a blood flecked chin, it shuffled on over the tripwire and into the pit below.

‘We’ve got it,’ whispered Amy, delight in every word.

‘Wait here,’ I hissed back, carefully creeping out of our hiding spot, my pike held ready. I tiptoed to the edge of the pit, and there, it clawed the air trying to get at me. I swung once, my pike sending rotten brains flying and another un-dead lined the bottom of our trap.

Behind me; a sound of metal shifting, I turned, fear in every fibre of my body. Expecting danger.

I heard Amy giggle and felt embarrassed.

‘It’s just a crow,’ she said, ‘relax.’

A Carrion Crow, a sign of good fortune in this new world; where the dead walked.

‘Breakfast, my feathered friend,’ said I, laughing to hide my nerves. ‘Eat up.’

It cawed once, and fluttered down.
 

Glen

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

Writer’s Block (or Get your claws off me you god-damned dirty corvid!)

The following extract, translated from the French, was in a recently discovered cache of personal effects belonging to Pierre Boulle, French author, many of whose novels were filmed. This is the only surviving fragment of what seems to have been a much longer work - this page was numbered 80. The text is typewritten but ends abruptly, and is partly obscured by a note handwritten in blue pencil, evidently with some passion: the handwriting has ripped through the paper in some areas (see plate LXIX).

One must wonder why this single page was kept. Perhaps as a personal reminder of the difficulties of creative writing, or the paradigm shift in thinking that can make a story great.

Typewritten text:
Zaius hopped along his perch, his dark jackdaw eyes looked disturbed. “A man cannot speak with intent. He is but mimicking, as creatures of the wild sometimes do.”

“Ordinarily I would agree with you, Dr Zaius,” said Zira, “but my experiments show evidence of true understanding. He appears to use our language as well as we crows or jackdaws.”

“Yes, yes!” Cornelius betrayed his excitement, dipping his head and arching his wings. “He can complete difficult puzzles, and reason!”

“Be careful!” squawked Zaius. “It sounds as though you question the scriptures as well as science!”

Zira’s “But...” was interrupted by the loud cawing of the head Raven guard. “Enough of this! I must insist we incarcerate this specimen. We waste time on nonsense!”

“Incarcerate! Ha!” Cornelius said, “He will take up the largest of our penal aviaries!”

“Ahh... no...”

Handwritten note:
“No, No, NO! This is not working!! So much work on this story and it is not working!!!”
Smith, B, 2184, History of Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction, 3rd edn, pp. 1012-1013, Oxford Press, Airstrip 1.
 

Mouse

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

All That Glitters


Watching, waiting, looking on and salivating. Rings bling in a window and I won't go, though Crow said no – said, "Pay for it with your own dough."

Said I, "But why? Doesn't fly, that, with me."

Shiny things in shops, cops watch, can't rob and no job. I want it all for free, see.

Crow's a witch, a human-switched bitch. Tight-arsed, two-faced, money-hoarding waste of space. Won't help, gone home, flown away, left me alone.

Magic rings, the gold sings of castles and kings and things I can't have. Or need. I won't leave, I'll grieve. It's a tragedy. I concede it's greed. I have no fingers. Want lingers.

Mustn't look, mustn't stay, come again another day. But still I stop outside the shop, longing, yearning, never learning. It's caught my beady eye. Will I die? Pfft. Not I!

I take to the sky and fly. I'm Magpie.

(Besides, I've seen a cat.)
 

ratsy

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

Garden of Eden​

Here I stand at a crucial time for the human race. My name is Dr. Hans Lumin and I am a geneticist who specializes in stem cell work. I was a young man back when there were still protests on our research. They said we were playing God and should be stopped. We didn't listen…but we should have.

We created organs from essentially nothing, revolutionizing the lacking organ donor supply. That was when we started having problems. The organs began to mutate a few years after creation. By this point we had replaced thousands of organs in our terminal patients, from lungs, to hearts, to kidneys.

The mutations started slowly; a chemical was released into the recipient’s brains causing them to lose sanity. They became cannibals, biting their neighbors, eating strangers and the mutation passed with their saliva. Before we knew what happened, it was a worldwide epidemic. We now are centralized in Lagos, a Nigerian port city. What was left of the military has built a wall around the city and we are stuck here.

We have found no way to counter the mutation from the saliva. But I have found a way to create life immune to it. I am going to play God, as I was accused of countless times in my life, this time to give humanity a chance at survival. Before me grows the first of his kind; I have named him Adam for reasons you can understand. We will create him an Eve and soon there will be a new generation of genetically superior humans to take back the world.

The ship is being built as we speak to take this generation away to a secluded island where they can repopulate.

I pray there are no apple trees to tempt them.
 

HoopyFrood

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

Never to Be Told

One for sorrow... The last spadeful of earth thrown
on the grave. A man forever sealed from his young wife.

One for sorrow... Married so young.​

Two for joy... Alone, but not for long. Within months came
the swell of her stomach. Nine months after the
death of her husband she went into labour, bringing new
lives into the world.

Two for mirth... They thought it had been his very last act.​

Three for a girl... Twins.

Three for a funeral... He was found in the bedroom doorway,
glazed eyes staring and hair pure white.​

Four for a boy... Sliding out almost at the same time, clutching one another.

Four for a birth... Born just as one day ticked into
another. Different in appearance, but with the same mark on
their left ankle.​

Five for silver... People knew that money would be tight,
with two very hungry mouths to feed, but they were
surprised at just how quickly she returned to work.

Five for Heaven... She had to bite the
insides of her cheeks when they asked about a Christening.​

Six for gold... But she always had a caring heart,
dedicated to nursing people who would, in all likeliness,
never wake up. Wasting away...

Six for Hell... The first visit had been on the longest,
darkest night.​

Seven for a secret... And so her methodical siphoning of blood was unlikely to ever be discovered. Animal blood, mixed with their milk, no longer sated the twins.

But after a bottle of their new food they slept like lambs. As she tucked in their blanket, she heard the sound she had longed for for thirteen long months – the click of cloven feet outside the bedroom door.

Seven's the Devil his own self.
 

stormcrow

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

The Telling-Tree

“Let me tell you of humans, fledglings, they no longer believe their ‘sky’ is the firmament; the fools are misguided by their theoretical sciences. They have no notion of our true nature: that we came from the space within their own; that we live beneath and upon the seas as happily as we fly in their atmosphere.”

From the Telling-Tree, the Bringer Of Great Truths continues his observations:

“They’ve forgotten what they once knew: that the spheres of existence nestle one inside another like their Matrëška dolls; that the surface of the sea is as sky to the creatures of the oceans, as the sky is to creatures of the land. Nor yet, that we are their angels; we are their demons.”

This telling is to continue for some time, as below the Bringers’ perch the survivors of the days’ entertainments are quietly despatched.

“Liver and marrow; person or sparrow, worm fodder, ‘lest we indulge!”

This cruel enclosure: those damnable crows; their mocking caws and their trans-galactic lock picking arrogance!
All those years: here right under our noses, beneath the seas in their domed cities. Not ET. Not Mr Grey. Crows!

“See there? Their guts stain the sand just the same as any rabbit! Summon the Slitter with the Beady Eye!

In another life, another time, I might have marvelled at these feathered extra-terrestrials. As a specialist in a ‘protected profession’, I must serve them; observing, recording.

“Laser guns to blind ‘em; wires to bind ‘em! They’re battlefield carrion; nothing ever more! Ah, my nestlings; see, they dance for you!”

I’m meticulous; that’s why they spare me. What’s my profession? I train the gladiators in ‘specialist combat’; for the entertainments at their Great Feast. You’re disgusted, I can tell.

…and when I 'can tell', beware it’s not of you…
 

TacticalLoco

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

Found in Space


The ship was off course. Not really lost, of course. We could see where the stars were, but with the Navigation computer corrupted, physical and virtual gyroscopes hopelessly out of alignment, we weren't exactly sure where we were. Every spacer knows the fuel requirements and travel times of the Compression Drive are so massive we couldn't just point towards home and hope for the best. Arriving several light-years or even half a light-year off would leave us just as dead.


This had been the situation for several months as we coasted further up the Orion spur. In a million years or so we'd cross the Perseus Arm.


We didn't give up hope exactly, but were still surprised when our telescopes picked up strange reflections ahead. It seemed a large section of local space was filled the metal debris from thousands of ancient spacecraft.


Junkyard? Battleground? We didn't know or care. But we did send out expeditions looking for fuel or usable parts. It was a bonanza. Everywhere we looked we found binary based circuitry, adaptable instruments, even fuel and drinking water. The replacement astrolabe we cobbled together might not have been very elegant, but it worked well enough to track us back home.


It wasn't until well after we started back that the uneasiness set in. Some people claimed to have seen a dark presence outside the ship. One with a predatory eye and spectral talons locked on to us. Many heard the high pitched echos that rattled right though the bulkheads. Everyone knew a feeling of dread settled in.


At the time we told ourselves none of it mattered. We stayed focused on getting home. Bringing the ship back from the farthest journey anyone has yet accomplished. The only question now is, what did we bring back with us?
 

Mr Orange

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

The Guardian


“Watcha doin’?”

“Nuffin’. “

“Is that a Crow?”

“Hell, Neesa! You scared it!”

“Who cares? Crows ain’t even pretty.”

“Yeah but they’re the only birds left, and they can go anywhere they want… See, it’s out beyond the pines already! It’s not stuck behind this stupid fence.”

“You mean they can go anywhere until they get eaten by a Beast. And this “stupid” fence keeps us safe. That’s why the Benevolents built it.”

“They don’t eat Crows, Neesa.”

“Hmmph.”

“Anyway, soon I’ll be old enough to become a Guardian and then I can leave this boring city as well.”

“You’re crazy, Tyler. The Beasts wiped out the whole world, and you wanna go hunt ‘em?”



~~~~~~~~~~​



A boy ran to the other side of the rusty fence and stared out. I stepped instinctively back into the shadow of the pines as the mangy Crows cawed overhead. I could tell from the faraway look in the boy’s eyes that he was destined for Selection. Then the poor fool would find out the truth about the deceitful Benevolents. And the city’s beloved Guardians.

Humans were a danger to other worlds. This was the Universal Benevolents’ non-negotiable decree. The Beasts were a grotesque fabrication, a way of forcing us into the fortified pens they built. The Guardians worked for the Benevolents, and the job was simple. Control the caged population and round up the remaining Free People for the work farms. Or they would die. We would all die for the atrocities our forefathers committed in the name of interstellar exploration.

Guardians. Benevolents. Both horrible jokes.

I spat into the dirt before turning from the fence and moving deeper into the trees.

“Time to go to work Tyler,” I muttered darkly to myself as the dry pine needles crunched underfoot.
 

Starbeast

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

Moe Crow, Hillbilly Joe & Stumpy
vs
the Beast From Outer Space

Backwoods boys, Joe and Stumpy race down a highway in an old red Largo truck, trying to elude a terrifying flying creature they encountered from a landed green saucer. After many miles, they made it home and spoke to their talking bird friend, Moe, who was perched atop a metal car parts mobile.

"Moe! You were right, aliens exist!"

"I told you so Joe. Uh-oh, I see trouble coming."

"Dang, it found us! Run Stumpy!"

"Where are they crow? ....I'll give you a shiny piece of platinum."

"CAW! Check the barn."

"Joe! Moe betrayed us."

"Come out of there humans!"

Suddenly, the men run out and attack with chainsaws! The alien's tough hide protected him from the rotating blades.

"Run Stumpy!" (kick)

"Ow! You dirty fighter. Come back here!"

"Grab your shotgun Joe!"

"Stumpy! Get out of that shed, it's full of dynamite!"

"DYNAMITE! Holy Cats!"

Old Stumpy bolted past his buddy, Joe fired at the shed.

KA-BOOM!

"OUCH!"

"He's alive. RUN!"

"Hold it! Give me back my Klingon Moonshine, and I'll leave you both alone."

"Here. We're sorry mister space monster."

"Human scum."

"Caw. Didn't I tell you boys that stealing doesn't pay?"

"You're a smart crow. We should listen to you more often. Why you smiling Joe?"

"I got the beast's watch."

They were startled by a loud whistle. The winged alien stomps up to them, and snatched the watch.

"Mutton heads. Excuse me crow. How do I get to Roswell?"

"My name's Moe sir. Go south, and turn right on highway 380. It'll take you all the way there."

"Thanks Moe." I'm Krueton." Eyes the men, then leaves.

"Caw. You boys are lucky he didn't squash you like pumpkins. Well, I better get your taxes done early."

"Get out the shoe box Stumpy."
 

BetaWolf

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

Off the Grid

At 5:15 sharp, Ordo leaned against the desk and waited. Rap-rap-rap. Just on time. On the other side of the door, he found a young woman in an ash-grey delivery uniform. "CarryOn, sir.” He looked over her calling card and gestured her in.

“You’re new,” he said quietly. “I was expecting Nora."

“Yes, sir. Started today,” she replied, rather chipperly “Ms. Li has moved on.” He must have given her too grave a look, because she added, “NGO work, off-world, sir.”

Ordo forced out a grin. “Very well. You can call me Ordo.” He handed her a dozen small sealed envelopes. “Have these sent on their way. I expect a confirmation letter within the week—er?”

"Neela. Yes, of course.”

He took the envelopes from her hands and anxiously inspected them one last time. “More and more are opting out, like me. Do you mind if I add you to my face book?”

“Sure.” She pulled an 8” x 5” photo of herself from her satchel. Ordo carefully affixed it to a new page in his scrapbook with a glue stick. Then she signed her name in large, loopy letters three inches below the photo. The delivery girl thumbed slowly through the book and printed four other names below her own in block letters. “We have friends in common, Ordo.”

“So we do. I will send you monthly updates now.”

“Thank you. Look for mine, too. And my friends’ comments.”

“That’s what it’s all about--connecting and keeping touch. Off the grid."

With a friendly nod, Neela left his apartment. Ordo watched as her retro-cycler steadily carried her beyond the horizon. Then he wrote at the back of his book, “Neela More—four mutual friends.”
 

johnnyjet

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

Scarecrow's Crow

A hovering shadow told Scarecrow his friend was coming.

The dawn was dismal, yet light enough to cast long shadows across the dead fields. Scarecrow's shadow was the longest, a jagged and forboding slice across miles of bare earth and shriveled weeds.

Scarecrow himself was not so frightening any more. He was tall and man-shaped and stood on a high hill. He was rusted metal and broken pieces hanging in odd positions. A sizeable portion of his inner mechanism was exposed. His once commanding appearance was now sad, even comical. His parts were wearing out and his transmissions had stopped being acknowledged. It was a long while since a maintenance truck had last visited.

How long? He didn't know. That data was missing.

However, Scarecrow remembered his Directives. Monitor sky and ground for incoming enemies of the state. He performed his duties tirelessly day and night.

A crow alighted on Scarecrow's outstretched, useless right arm.

Welcome, friend.

The crow was an inconstant companion, using his rusty arm as a perch from time to time. Though there was no real communication between the two of them, Scarecrow looked forward to its visits. Sometimes the crow seemed agitated, letting loose strings of berating sounds. Sometimes it bobbed contentedly, emitting an occasional squawk. Every once in a while it simply stared out at the barren fields, motionless, silent.

Recently the crow began pecking at some exposed wires near Scarecrow's headpiece. He knew what would happen if the wires would break. That would mark the end of his existence.

Scarecrow was content with this knowledge.

Over time the crow pecked a little more. Then one day Scarecrow felt a break was imminent.

Thank you, friend.

He watched the dead fields never more.
 

BigJ

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

A Raven on my Porch

I breathed in the cool, crisp mountain air, taking in the cloudless sky. Peace and serenity came with isolation. I took a slow sip of my single malt; one does not waste good whisky by gulping it.

As I lowered my glass I heard a rustle of feathers, and turned to see a bird take perch on my mailbox, scant feet from my spot on the porch. It was black; a raven. I smiled.

“Now what are you doing here?”

“You know.”

I leaned forward in my chair. It was happening again. Too much liquor.

“That’s rather interesting, but why should I entertain the notion of a bird talking to me?”

“You know.”

My skull began to throb. Fingers dug into temples, but I only succeeded in making it worse.

“I was at peace! Why do you have to come to me now?”

“You know.”

Glass shattered. I’d thrown it. The liquor, the devil’s drink, too much, it had to be.

“What do you want from me?”

“You know.”

Daydreams shrieked bloody murder in my head, innocent lives, my innocence, washed away in a sea of red.

“I . . . I can’t! How am I supposed to . . . “

“You know.”

I scratched and clawed, skin raw, fingers bleeding, it wanted out, I couldn’t let it out.

“What have they done to deserve this? What have I done to deserve this?”

“You know.”

A black pit opened in my heart, threatened to swallow me whole.

“But I’ve already done what you asked, why am I not free?”

“You know.”

Fingers of hellfire snaked around me as I writhed on the floor, burning, scorching, cleansing.

“All of them?”

“You know.”

A moment of acceptance. I rose from my chair, setting down my tumbler of scotch, and went inside to fetch my rifles.
 

reiver33

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

Akira Dreams

I worked as site security for a stalled retail development nobody could be bothered to vandalise. It was a meaningless job but while the Tetsuo Corporation kept paying me I didn’t care.

Out beyond the perimeter fence was a New Age commune - a mix of aging punks, brain-damaged visionaries and the plain weird. Some of them fashioned driftwood, metal junk and animal bones into post-modern sculptures. The wind made their creations whisper and moan like the thwarted spirit of Commerce.

A stifling heat in the caravan woke me early. I pulled on tracksuit bottoms, unlaced boots, and headed outside in search of a breeze. It was almost dawn. Dry lightning flickered in the clouds.

My neighbours were awake, clustered around their creations. As I watched a neon-blue bolt struck one of the sculptures. It exploded, sending ersatz shrapnel tearing through the crowd. I threw myself down, arms covering my head. The air around me crackled and burned.

After a few minutes it stopped, leaving the smell of ozone and barbeque. I looked up, expecting a scene from Hell.

There was nothing.

No dead, no wounded, no deconstructed art work. Only the sculpture nearest the fence had survived intact, now home to a roosting crow.

I stood up. The encampment was deserted.

The crow looked at me. His eyes were two small light bulbs, wings a filigree of copper wire covered in feathers. I stared, open mouthed.

My skin itched, making me shiver. I looked down and saw slivers of metal embedded in my flesh, moving like miniature shark fins. A thumbnail peeled away revealing a mother of pearl replacement. My heart beat like clockwork. I was scrap, both human and industrial.

The crow flew down and perched on my shoulder. I started walking.

Rust never sleeps.
 

Phyrebrat

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Re: 300 WORD WRITING CHALLENGE #10 (July 2013) -- READ FIRST POST!

Theodora Sings


'Theodora, Theodora,' he chants at me.

He's a sorrowful adventurer, and he's back. Back, yet not back.

'Theodora, Theodora, she's the bird I knew I'd fall for.' He giggles to himself and jerks, as if he's just remembered something.

Is he happier now? I was here when the doctors found him dribble-giggling in the rig. As they wheeled him off he looked up to my perch in the rafters of his lab, and winked. Happy but not happier.

'Theodora, Theodora,' he croons.

He always sang when working his strange science; a different tune when talking of his childhood.

Going back; I won't go forward.
Oh! To bend the march of time.
Send me back instead of forward;
Children know the best of times.


I would be treated to a recounting of childhood days: fishing with his father for August tench; playing on a beach on the Vendée; looking at his face reflected in his mother's sunglasses; halcyon memories before the debunkery of adulthood prevailed and demystified the universe.

Always singing when working on his rig; songs of longing that carried a sense of anticipation. I joined in his lovely laments with my harsh caw, until the day came for him to use the rig, and when he did, was it folly to fly down and land on his hand? We entered his past where he was truly happy, and it was briefly wonderful until Time expatriated him, exiling us to the present.

Like dementia, but not, they said; brain damage reducing his mental state to that of an 8 year old.

He now abides at the window of the care home his yearning put him in, and with a wet glint to his eyes he still sings to me.

'Theodora, Theodora, I can move us back and forward.'
 
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