The endless isles of thrift (Or, I’m still alive)

Hello! I’m still alive. I got about nil done on NanoWriMo and have done very little writing since. But I did this. It was a card for a Christmas present that was a coupon for shopping in a thrift store. Enjoy!

This started life as a story similar to most of the ones I write where odd, vaguely parallel universe-ish stuff happens. The ugly shirt was simply supposed to be a bit of flavor text that would bow down in deference to the beauty and writing of the main story. That derailed like a speeding locomotive, because when have stories listened to what I wanted them to do? (Never, not once, and I freaking love that.)

 

The endless isles of the thrift-store seemed to grow deeper as I continued to not find what I was looking for. A particularly hideous…shirt caught my eye. It was pink, and although I am naturally adverse to pink, the color is usually not bad. Overused, but not bad. Although for this shirt it was making an exception. To think that I never would have known that pink came in a color reminiscent of vomit.

The pink wasn’t the problem, the shirt could have been salvageable if it was in some flattering cut or style; the problem with this shirt was the ruffles, it appeared to be made of ruffles, and the ruffles were held together by bright green thread forming the words to a Psalm.

Why? No, a better question was how? How did this product get thought up by some monkey in a typewriter factory, and then not immediately shot down by the higher-ups who reviewed the monkeys’ performance to see if any of them spat out Shakespeare. And for this idea to then get past them, and put onto a factory line where it was mass-produced by child laborers in China, after that sent to stores and stocked on shelves.

Of course, for this monstrosity to end up here, it would have to have been bought for someone. Someone looked at this shirt and said to themselves, ‘Yes, this is something that I would like to spend money on, and then presumably wear or give to someone else (to wear).’

It was at this point in my consideration of the piece of modern art in front of me that an elderly woman walked past and took the conglomeration of bad ideas off of the shelf, inspected it, smiled distractedly, and nodded.

She then went and purchased it, presumably to be given as a Christmas gift because it appeared to be at least five sizes too small for her. And so the cycle begins again.

I say again, how?

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Lowered Expectations (A NanoWriMo short story)

She sat at her computer, headphones covering her ears and replacing menial sound with dramatic music. She had it all set up; a hearty ability to power through that pesky need to sleep, a cool fan because white noise is necessary even with music, and a word processor that had both wordcount and spellcheck. Glaring at the glowing screen she considered what she had so far; six thousand words, a healthy dose of self deprecation, and a nose bleed. Crackling knuckles gave way to quiet breathing, measured and thoughtful. She could still salvage this. If she put her shoulder to the grindstone and worked until she started to see pretty, sleep deprivation induced hallucinations, she could hack out a good seventy thousand words. Everything was poised, everything was in place. She opened her document, surveyed the lines of text that stood out starkly against the screen with the look of someone considering just working at McDonalds for the rest of their life, because seriously, this writing stuff was difficult. Everything lay on a feather’s edge, a mirror’s fall. The music reached a crescendo. This was it, perfection for the arts. But she simply sat, staring at the screen; a feather tilted, a mirror smashed, and the music died down to melancholy remainders of its former glory. So many plans, laid like the foundation of a house that could whether a thousand storms, broken when the builders realize that the mortar had not been used. This is how she feels, wondering how the most crucial detail could have been forgotten. She turns away from the screen, a teardrop hovering at the edge of her eye. It was so simple, right in front of her, how could she have missed it. She breaths the words out, infused with a sigh, “I really wish I knew what I wanted to write.” 

NanoWriMo

Ah NanoWriMo, how I loath you. Sure I appreciate the fact that you make me sit down and write, but I don’t appreciate that I get even less sleep than usual.

This means that I will probably not be posting much this month (not that I post much usually), and if I do it will probably be rant-ey, sleep deprived, and attached to an utterly weird poem or short story. Just a warning. Happy NanoWriMo to you all.

No. 26 (goodness I’m lazy)

Hello dear non-existent readers (alright, I can make out semi-corporeal forms now, so it’s progress). Firstly, I would like to give a huge thanks to those of you who have, for some reason, decided that you enjoy my writing enough to want to read more. Thank you all so much. Secondly, I am lazy. I lack words for how lazy I am. The length of time it took me to post this had nothing to do with my muse going on strike, or my computer dying, but simply pure, unadulterated laziness. I wrote this story a few weeks ago, directly after No. 25, but I have just left it sitting in my folder.

As a bit more on the story its self, this was written as a practice for my written conversation skills, which I practice infrequently. I takes place in the city directly before No. 25, and since it is practice, is not the best, but nonetheless, here. Without further ado and/or exposition, the story! Enjoy.

 

No. 26
The man saw a woman sitting against the wall of a dilapidated building. She held an ancient sword in her hands, the blade marred with scratches and the hilt coarsened with chips. He walked over to her and crouched down beside her.
“You know, if you’re planning on doing yourself in with that there are easier ways.”
The woman looked at him, her expression unreadable, “I’m not. The hell will be here soon.” She spoke these words as if they were simply comments on the weather, and perhaps they were very close.
“Our soldiers can stop them,” the note of pleading in his words was missed by neither.
“They cannot. Just as you or I cannot stop the wind from blowing or the tide from rising.” She shrugged.
“Then we’ll fight them. We can, they can be killed. They have to be.” The pleading had turned to desperation, as if begging the woman to hear his words and find them to be true.
“And so we will. They can be killed, but we cannot succeed. I will take as many of them with me as I can, but it will not be enough.”
“How can you say that? We will win, we’ll make it. And if we don’t the other cities will.”
“Do you have faith in anything?” Asked the woman, looking at the tarnished blade.
Mutely the man shrugged. “Used to.”
“I do. And I am the last of my religion, just as we are the last of the people.”
She held up a finger when the man opened his man to refute her claim. “We are. There were never very many who believed in this religion in this area anyway, and everywhere else is gone. You know it’s true.”
“We can’t be. There must be more.”
“And yet there are not.”
“Then damn it, I’ll make them fight for every bit of these streets. They won’t get these stones, they won’t.”
“I believe in people. That we are truly good. And we are. But we will still fall.” She said this with a small smile as she spoke of her faith, and a look of conviction as she spoke of the truth.
The man shook his head. The woman began polishing the blade she held. A haggard woman called for the doctor.
The man stood, “Thank you.”
The woman nodded, “Goodbye, and stand well.”
Then the man left, following the caller, and the woman worked tarnish off the blade.

 

 

No. 25

All right, I listened to a song while doing this one as well. Two Steps From Hell, awesome, listen to it please. Link for the song I listened to here;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7qOJrT_lUg. Enjoy!

The Last Stand (No. 25)
The things rushed forward, thought and logic lost, for the scent of prey, of fear, of life. Screams were heard form the battlements, and the great gates shook in their foundations. The darkness was something unstoppable, like the ocean, or the wind.
They fought, brave survivors with no chance for life, and they knew it. They fought back with the ferocity of beasts, but still, inches were lost, and with each one, people lay down their lives, their blood, their souls, for that inch.
And yet still the things came, feasting on the lives lost on the ground they now overtook. They reached the gate, that had stood for long, but nothing stands forever.
Wood bent, and stone cracked, great chains twisted open like nothing more than paper links. At last, with the sound of death reminiscent of the long dead space whales, the gate gave.
The city had known that it would happen, and yet they had not been expecting it. But as unfathomable creatures swarmed their city, they had to. Nameless things, better unknown, came forward. Creatures of shadow and empty rooms, creatures of silence and leaf-covered graves, creatures of death and creatures of ending.
There were spots of still in the chaos, a million tiny eyes of an endless tempest.
A mother holding the things off for far longer than she should have been able to to protect a baby born only days ago.
A man holding a broken piece of rubble, prepared to defend an alleyway as creatures surrounded him on all sides.
A woman walking into the sea of things, a long forgotten holy sword from a dead religion glowing with the light of determination before she was overtaken.
And so the world was lost, save for the dark, simply craving the emotions that they could never feel, but for the hopes, and fears, and dreams, and terrors of their prey.
And so they fall, and so they forget, and so in the far edges of the forgotten a space whale cries and a mother holds her child.

Genies

I wrote this at four in the morning, The next day I had completely forgotten that I had written it. Reading back over it, I was honestly much more interested in some of the throwaway lines for the other universes. I may have to do something with those. Well, enjoy!

No.24
The first thing everyone learns, as soon as they can understand the simplest of concepts, is (of course said in the adult voice that demands the utmost respect and listening) do not, under any circumstances, no matter how dire, life threatening, or generally horrible, let a Genie give you a wish.
Don’t make a wish, don’t give them money, handouts, or help, don’t even talk to them if you can help it. Not even ‘I want nothing,’ ‘cause if you say that, you get nothing. No house, no belongings, no spouse or significant other, no cloths, no money, no major internal organs, you get the gist.
You just have to ignore them, like the sad puppies in the pound on West Chester Street, you know the ones with their cages against the window that you walk right by on your way to work, with the little orange signs saying when they’ll be euthanized, and it’s all you can do not to go in there and adopt all of them. Yeah, you know.
It’s like that with the Genies. Say you just lost your phone, and you really need to get a call about where the meeting is scheduled, but you can’t get it and you’re worried about getting fired, so you say to the Genie ‘I wish I knew where my phone is.’ So you know where it is, but there were no guarantees that the Genie didn’t move it to the bottom of the Atlantic. They could move it because they were given the power to manipulate it so that they could find it, so they can keep using the power for a bit longer.
I hear that some universes just have strange men in trench coats who try to sell you knock-off watches, or sex, or drugs in some dark, dingy ally. But at least they’re not Genies. I hear that there’s a universe where the homeless shadows try to peddle you tiny dragons, adorable things really, cuter than rats and almost as smart as humans, they can teleport you as well, anywhere you want to go, for the low, low price of your soul. Grad A free-range soul, they love it, eat ‘em like candy, they’ll almost certainly get it when you die anyway, so why not start early? There’s even a universe where the Great Squishy Giant Omnipotent Tentacle-ey One-eyed Landsquid (the GSGOTOL for short) will buy off your firstborn and give you someone else’s, most people don’t even understand that one.
But the point of that is that they’re not those thrice cursed Genies. Sure it’s not common, but sometimes someone does make a wish, usually when they’re not thinking clearly; someone they loved just died or is going to, they’re drunk (alcohol is banned for this exact reason), they got fired, they’re injured, sleep deprived, insane, or just otherwise mentally and logically compromised. That’s when it gets messy.
We had a zombie epidemic a few years back for just that reason, some poor sap’s friend died and they wished to bring him back. The problem is that every once in a while it works, you get what you wished for, you hire a good enough lawyer to write a wish with no conceivable loopholes (although the Genie usually finds one), or someone gets the rare (and I mean rare, rarer than diamonds in asphalt) good Genie, and then everyone is making wishes. You can probably guess how it ends.
So, hopefully you see why we say not to wish to Genies.

And back to ones I like. Yay!

I listened to Two Steps From Hell, which is a wonderful band, and you should go listen to all of their songs. Listen. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6y4jBYEoeRE

Mercy in Darkness (No.23)
I wandered the battlefield under the darkening sky, searching for any survivors from either side. If there was one from our side, well I would have to evaluate their injuries, see if they could be saved. And if it was one of those things, that’s what the gun in the holster on my waist was for.
I was a medic, so it was my job to go out here and either put our men out of their misery or save them. The bugs were just collateral.
I wasn’t even sure why I’d taken this job, except that the pay was ludicrously good. I could see why. If you want people to do this hell the pay has to be exorbitant. Honestly, pay or no pay, if I had known that I would be wandering around a chillingly quiet battlefield in the dark, five months ago I would have thrown the pen in the face of the person holding the contract instead of signing it. There are days where being a gun, or bandage, for hire sucks.
But there are also days where it’s great. Traveling, seeing the stars. And on the days where a job goes well, or I and those working with me actually help someone, when we’re sitting on some craft with the stars shining all around us, I thank God, or whatever deity might be out there that I hadn’t ever wanted to have a desk job.
And there are days where it’s hell, where you lose a friend, or a chip of your sanity. Where you know that you did more harm than good, and you’re sitting planet side, not a star in sight through the haze of smoke in the bar that you decided to go to get good and drunk, although by the time you get there all you do is nurse a beer all night. Those are the days I wish I had taken a desk job, or something stable, that holds very little risk of serious injury.
Then there are days like this, the ones that will hold something more even though you don’t know it yet.
I was startled out of my musings by a…rattling….skreeking….sound. One of the bugs.
I came upon it, and looked at the thing. I was a bit like a dragonfly, mixed with a nightmare. Those bulbous, faceted eyes that seem to watch you wherever you are freak me out. They seem just humanoid enough to be highly unsettling, like retro video games that had the graphics in the “uncanny valley”, that place of rendering and pixels that is human enough to be realistic, but not quite human enough, where something is…off.
It tilted its head at me, legs pulled to its thorax and wings furled up, those tails of theirs never seemed to move unless they were impaling you with it, and it was in no position to do that right now, with one of its legs trapped over a flipped ground-ship.
I reached for my gun, and something stopped me. Perhaps it was the way the light from the stars seemed to glint off its eyes, or the way I had been thinking earlier, about doing good, but it suddenly seemed afraid. And almost human.
It was the first time I wondered if they had feelings, opinions, thoughts. It hadn’t been determined whether or not they had a hive-mind, but it was simply assumed that they did. They were bugs after all.
I wondered if they had mercenaries, and contracts, and payments, as well. If they had good days and bad. Or fear. Especially fear.
And so I figured out a way to get it out from under the ship, all the while wondering if this was a very stupid idea. It probably was.
I pulled it up, and it looked at me, it clearly looked at me, then it…bowed…said something in that language of its kind, and flew off. I finished my sweep, and turned in my resignation from this particular job as soon as I got back to base. I didn’t care that it would leave a bad mark on my ratings for hire.
It seemed like the thing to do at the time, and it still does. And if I’m faced down by a million of the bugs one day, with vengeance in their eyes for the wounded I had killed, well, I wouldn’t know whether to feel foolish or terrified. But until then, I would be glad of my choice.