I've only been here for, like, fifteen minutes and I'm already clinging onto someone.
"Uh... I think the freshman guide went that way."
"Shh, just let this happen..." The guy who I refuse to let go of looks like he's a junior or a senior. It really didn't take much for me to flock to him. He was talking to an older professor here that I recognized as T_E_Trueman; he spoke at the National Book Festival last year that I attended. The guy looked pretty awkward from what I could tell, forcing a nervous laugh here and there through graceless, "sounds cool's," "I'm interested's," and "I might try that's." I wouldn't have paid as much attention to him as I did if he didn't catch the attention of Professor Trueman, someone who I knew could pass on my books to insiders of this game of death called publishing. And I wanna make money. I wanna make money real bad.
"Who are you exactly?" The guy asks, casually shouldering me off of his arm. I pause for a second at the question before realizing that I never introduced myself and how I probably look like a creep. My cheeks burn against their will.
"Oh! Sorry 'bout that. I'm SelfTitled. I used to go by SelfTitledKND, but that's retarded." The guy smiles a little at that, laughing in a not-so-awkward way that makes me feel like dying of happiness now that I'm actually making friends.
"Cool," he says, holding out a hand for me to shake. "Name's jwelker76. Yeah, I have numbers on my name. Deal with it."
"I'm not complaining," I reply, giggling a little as I shake his hand. "Sorry for being a total freak five seconds ago, by the way. That kinda happens when I'm put in new situations."
jwelker76 shrugs in a very "I feel your pain" kind of way. "You are a freshman, right?"
"Yeah." He gives me a once-over that makes me feel some type of way. Then, "you look pretty young to be a college student."
"Uh, yeah..." Control yourself, girl. "I graduated early from high school cuz my school is complete shit. But, like, the epitome of shit. Like that one that you just can't flush down the toilet that might flood your house. That kind."
"It was. I had to flee from that coming flood as soon as possible. I can't swim."
"Are we speaking in metaphors still?"
"No. I literally cannot swim."
"Wow." A silence falls around us that gets stunted by my mental screaming of shitshitshitshitshit! at the fear that I fucked up. Curse me and my awkwardness! Luckily, some black-and-white looking chick runs over to us and tackles jwelker76 to the ground in something that looked like a hybrid mix of a hug and a choke-hold.
"JJ!" The girl exclaims, hugging/murdering him tighter, if possible. "You didn't come to the bar with us! I thought something happened! I was so worried!" Meanwhile, "JJ" is gasping out things that sounded like the seagull noises I make while freaking out over something.
"Uh... lady? You're kinda strangling him." The girl takes a second to register what I just said before gasping and letting go of jwelker76, looking tearful like she just flushed his goldfish or something.
"Oh my God, JJ, I'm so sorry! You're okay, right? Please say yes!" Welker sits up, taking in deep gulps of air for a minute, holding up a finger for us to calm ourselves. He nodded a minute or two later.
"Yeah. I'm good. Sorry. I was just showing this freshman around. Her name's SelfTitled-without-the-KND-because-that's-retarded." A can't help but to smile at that before waving at the monochrome girl.
"Hi. Sorry about stealing him away from you. Just needed some assistance." The girl laughs a little and nods, agreeing.
"Yeah. This place can be a little wild some time. I'm SoulHearts by the way. If you want, I can show you to the girl's dorms so you can get your housing papers and key card. I would let JJ take you, but he kinda has a date right now that he's supposed to be going to."
"I do?" He thinks about it for a second. "Oh, it's with, uh... Tyla, right?" SoulHearts shakes her head and then JJ looks delirious. "You're kidding. Okay, then it's ALifeWithArt." Another no. "Jessi?" Nope. "JRose?" Nein. He thinks about it some more, harder, and you can see how hard he's thinking. It's a head-scratching, eyes-clenching kind of contemplating. He then snaps his fingers in realization. "Oh yeah! saltandink! The banana girl!"
I choke on my spit at the last part. "Are you like a pimp or something?" jwelker76 shakes his head, but smirks and winks my way.
"I could be."
Insert seagull noises here.
jwelker76 and SoulHearts both look like they went deaf. I clear my throat and stop, face hot. "Sorry. Uh, SoulHearts! We should get going, yeah?"
"Oh, um, yeah... I'll see you later, JJ! Have fun! Make good choices! Use protection!"
"I'll try!" He grins at us and waves before walking away. SoulHearts takes my arm and starts leading me to the girl's dorms.
"So, you excited to start classes here at Prose?" She asks me. I nod.
"Yeah. I'm still super nervous though. I mean, I'm sixteen and I'm in college now with adults. It all sounds so crazy." SoulHearts smiles down at me in a very big sister sort of way that made my heart clench.
"Don't worry too much about it. When you get your schedule, just follow back with me and I'll help you out. If you're lucky, you'll get the really chill professors. Like sandflea68, dustygrein, JamesMByers, RubyPond or nceguy68. The the others are also nice, but more stricter when it comes to English and such. This is the only university in the country that's a pure language arts institution. And we're Ivy League. People like Broken_Toe, PaulDChambers, A, Harry_Situation, PhynneBelle, desmondwrite, T_E_Truman, and MarkOlmsted are gonna be expecting the best from you." I let that sink in, chewing the inside of my cheek.
"That doesn't sound too bad..." I nod some more. I've been nodding a lot lately. "Anyone I should go to or avoid?"
"Well... I wouldn't really say avoid, but we have some people here that seem like they wouldn't really be your cup of tea. For instance, there's Octavian. Nothing wrong with him. He's just totally fine and I will end you if you ever touch him or my JJ."
"There's also AndyBetz. He's a professor here, too, but I hope to god that you don't have him as a teacher. He has this thong thing going on and it's so gross."
"And EstherFlowers1 is a literal tiger. Then CreativeChaos is a lion. I kid you not. They just walk around here attacking people because, you know, why not?"
"...What the fuck did I get myself into."
"But, as for people you might like..." She takes one glance at my My Chemical Romance t-shirt and then the "NBHD" bands on my wrists. "I think Winterreign is into the stuff you like. So is OnyxCity, lonely, Hella and Bunny. You know. The goth and emo squad."
"Just kidding! They're actually super nice! They just have darker senses of humor sometimes."
"...I guess that's okay."
"Delilah49 is super nice if you just need someone to talk to or help showing you around. She helped me out quite a few times when I first started coming here. Then casteleijn is super into that punk stuff. Like, "ANARCHY BABY!" stuff. I do know for a fact that itsdemoray is into The Neighbourhood, so that's an easy conversation starter. Finally, justaperson is a younger student like you are. I bumped into her when arriving today. Maybe they set you two up as roommates?" I immediately brighten up at the news.
"Yeah, hopefully." We continue to talk to each other about insignificant things because that's all filler due to a lack of inspiration to write it. She helps me get my key card and then leads me up to my room. I smile at her before heading inside.
"Well," I say, "this is my stop. Thanks a lot for helping me out today. Sorry again for keeping jwelker76 away from you."
"Hey, it's not problem. I'm just glad you made it here okay. Just one more thing though." The bright smile on her face darkens like the black side of the moon. "If you so much as touch my JJ without my permission, you'll lose your hands. Got it?"
"OOOOKAAAYYYY NOWWWW IMMA JUST GO IN MAH ROOM NOW THX!" Practically running into the dorm and slamming the doors shut, I lean my back against the surface, eyes clenched shut, trying calming down from that near-death experience. "Christ, what a day..."
"Oh yeah, definitely." Eyes snapping open, I come face-to-face with the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Only thing is that she's naked, still wet, and drying her hair with a towel, so she must have gotten out of the shower not too long ago. I can already feel my face swelling with blood. The woman beams at me and walked over, holding out a hand for me to shake, not even caring about how unbelievably hot she is. "Hi. My name's SamanthaFowler. I guess we're roommates, huh?"
Holy motherfucking Baby Jesus Christ with eagle wings. This school fucked me the hell up.
"Y-Yeah..." I force a smile and shake her hand, doing everything in my power to keep my eyes on her face only. "I-I'm SelfTitled... nice t-to meet you, Samantha..." She raises an eyebrow at my stuttering before sending a devious smirk my way.
"You can look if you want. I don't mind," she purrs.
"It's not like I'm the one doing the staring." She takes a second to eye me up and down, biting her lip. "Although, I could be."
Internal seagull noises.
"I-I sh-should go unpack my things now..." She pouts, but shakes her head with a breathy laugh and a smile, letting go of my hand and taking a few steps backward so I could have my space.
"Good idea. You have a long day tomorrow anyone. You should relax tonight now that you have the chance." Is it just me, or does everything she says sound like sex? It's probably just me. Fuck you, God, for making me a raging bisexual. She chuckles at the look on my face before turning around and heading back to the bathroom attached to our room. The good thing about Prose University is that the dorms are so big and the school is so rich that we don't have to share one, huge bathroom, but each dorm gets it's own. Much like a hotel. The bad news is that I'm sharing a room with a fucking Succubus. Before closing the door behind her, she turns around and winks at me. "You can join me in here if you want. I'd love to get to know you better."
It's gettin' real hot in here, but I've gotta keep on my clothes today. I do this weird thing with my neck that nods would be ashamed of it I associated it with them. She closes the door to the bathroom, leaving me and my gay thoughts alone. Jesus H. Christ. The best thing that I can do in this situation is either eat the gay away or sleep. Without much thought, I flop my face into the unmade mattress of the unoccupied bed and shut my eyes, falling asleep almost immediately.
Christ, what have I done.
Alternate Prose Universe (for @SalingerTwain)
"C'mon, already, Shadow!" my friend calls.
"I'm coming!" I shout back, marching out of the bathroom in a huff. My long brown hair is unmanageable when even the slightest bit wet. It's a pain.
My real name isn't Shadow, but Chained In Shadow. Yes, I know, my parents had weird ideas when it came to names, and they grew up Gothic, so that probably explains it.
Mnezz is waiting for me. She's a really nice girl, and I've never heard her say anything bad about anyone. In short, everyone loves her.
"Sorry," I apologize, as we hurry down the hallway of Prose High.
"It's okay," she responds. "Did you know that Charlton Ghosh is subbing for our geometry teacher?"
"Didn't have a clue," I respond. I don't care about geometry. Half the time I just doodle in my notebook, and fool Mrs. Butlersteph into thinking I'm copiously taking notes.
Allyson, my other best friend, is waiting for the two of us by the entrance to the gym. "It's going to be brutal today. We're dissecting frogs."
"Hmm. I think I have the flu," Mnezz kids.
The three of us laugh.
Brittany Sowards sweeps past, blonde hair braided into a French braid.
"Her hair is always perfect," Allyson complains.
"It looks nice," Mnezz points out. "Umm...so, Shadow, I hear your brother is missing?"
I blink quickly, trying to hide my tears. "Y-yeah. Braskii said she saw him at ten o'clock by the duck pond. But he never made it home, and no one saw him after that. EWJ typically is making is rounds at that point, but he was in the park and didn't see him, either."
Mnezz nods, and Allyson throws her arm around my shoulder. "It's okay, Detective Octavian is good; if anyone can find him, you know who it'll be."
I nod, but it isn't all that comforting. He's my brother.
Nehasri, the cafeteria chef, walks by and eyes us carefully, like a meltdown's going to happen at any moment. I pull myself up straight and force a smile. I will not cry.
The three of us walk into geometry, and of course, because we're seated alphabetically, I don't get to sit with either of them. I sit next to Braskii, which kinda makes me ache inside, because she was the last person to see my brother. She gives me a kind smile, and then we're being tortured with geometry.
As we head to the cafeteria, Miss Miriam (dubbed Ruff Miriam) reminds us our astronomy reports are due. Allyson, Braskii, Mnezz, and I give the required groans, and then we're back on our way.
It's hamburgers today, which is as good as it gets in this place. We sit down together and start munching on fries.
"Mmm," I say, mouth full. "Is that the new kid?"
Allyson twists around to have a look. "Brieannekt," she says. "She seems nice enough, kinda lonely, though, considering it's a new school and all and she doesn't know anyone."
Lenore is talking loudly with someone, I don't know who.
"I didn't do it, I swear!" says Lenore.
"Then who did?" mystery person demands.
"I didn't do it!" Lenore repeats.
"I'll ask around, but if it is you..."
I'm curious to know what's going on, but just then another kid, who everyone calls Hashtag Fiction (maybe because of his lying habits?!), walks by and tells us there's a special meeting in the auditorium.
Braskii pulls out her phone and checks the time. "We've only been here for five minutes! What's the rush?"
Allyson shrugs, as Mnezz stands up.
They're already heading for the door, and I might lose them in the surging mass of students. I hastily take one last bite of hamburger before running after them.
"So," Prose says. I always thought his name was weird but he'll kick us out if we say anything. "Does anyone have news?"
We all shift uneasily. Journal time is when we explode on the page, but group sessions are normally uneasily quiet. Prose taps his foot on the floor and looks at all of us. "Hey Jumotki, how are your cats?"
"Cats? Fine. They're fine. Everything's just fine. Please pick on someone else," she stammers quickly.
"Justaperson, how's fixing the world going?"
She stares wide-eyed at him. Prose waits for a second, before moving on. Justaperson looks like she might pass out. Famewriter gently pats her arm. Prose looks for A, but he's nowhere to be found. He's almost never in group. Lucky. Prose starts to talk to Yankeedoodle30 but receives a death look so sinister that he turns away. He looks around at the rest of us. Acadec56 is snoring pretty loudly, which makes us relax a bit because he's distracting Prose. Tyla left, which sucked because she was my friend and make talking easier. Amberlight... I think that was her name. She left so long ago that I can't remember. Prose sighs.
"You know I can't just let you guys write. That's not what group is about."
We are fish, staring at the raving man. He sighs and tries again. "Mnezz? Have you been anywhere cool lately?"
"I already wrote about that!"
"Well maybe you should read what you wrote..."
"You said we never had to share out loud!"
"I know. I'm sorry... I just..."
Mnezz makes an x with her fingers and holds it towards him until he moves on. Prose looks towards me and I pulled the strings of my hoodie until just a little air hole was left. Prose sighs again. "You all need to talk about things too! Otherwise things will never get better."
He watches us watch him for a while. Suddenly, he goes to the back and brings out his prisoners. Our notebooks. Like excited puppies, we all can't sit still now. We watch him. He watches us. He sits with our notebooks on his lap. "Now, whoever talks can get theirs."
We are roaring with news now. Mel slapped her boyfriend for looking at another woman. Sandflea68 is publishing another book. Finder ate a peanut today even though she was allergic just to remember what it felt like. EriduSerpent and her family went to the zoo. Acadec56 didn't get any sleep last night because he was watching his niece. Soon, everyone in the room has their notebook. Everyone except me. I watch Prose like a wounded leopard.
"Come on, AJAY9979. I know you've got something."
I shake my head.
"Did you wake up yesterday?"
I shake my head.
"Did you eat anything?"
I shake my head.
"Did you go anywhere?"
I shake my head.
"AJAY9979, tell us something."
I pull my hoodie off my head and pull the rubber band out of my hair. My purple weave falls down to my shoulders. "I'm a girl," I murmur.
Prose turns red. It's the first time I've seen him embarrassed since he and chainedinshadow had their huge argument and she said he had the reddest butt she'd ever seen, and she was glad they broke up because she didn't like baboons. For months, he'd been calling me a boy. Everyone had. I grab my notebook and write about how I want Prose to go fall in a dung pile.
Chapter one: The Quest
The gray hues of dusk were already casting shadows on hewn stone of the Prose medieval fortress. The old man in a black frock stumbled along the cobblestone street,— his pace slow and methodical hiding the urgency of his mission. The witching-hour was fast approaching and the deadline loomed like an angry bar-wench demanding coin from a pauper for services rendered.
At first glance one might think: aged monk, — in desperate need of a shave; with each step,— staff positioning for balance,— blending with his large sleeved garment — walking with purpose. Yet others would deem the pure white feathered companion on his shoulder depicted the occupation: falconer——still needing the shave. But on closer inspection: the small barn owl perched high and proud pictured more the parrot of a pirate, mocking its owner’s shuffling gait,— endangering both on the treacherous paved road,… shave?
“At this pace we’ll both be dead before….”
“Shh, shh, shh, OwlLite, I’m moving as fast as these tired bones will allow.”
“Perhaps an oxen cart would be faster?” Remarked a shadowy figure licking its paws on the seat of a horse-less carriage: as in, no horse harnessed; I said medieval, remember?
The old man stopped and stared at the tiger cub.
“Oh that would never due,” OwlLite chirped in. “Oxen move far to fast for peace-of-mind.”
The cat burst out laughing. “What’s the big hurry anyway?”
The old man cleared his throat, “We are on an important errand Tigerista. No time to talk, no time at all.”
The tiger stood and jumped off the carriage. “I guess we’ll have to talk on-the-way.”
Disgruntled, the old man continued his journey.
“Where are we headed?” The cat asked as she darted ahead in a quick leap.
“OnyxCity,” OwlLite beamed. “It’s life and death.”
“Yes, life and death,” agreed the old man.
“Isn’t that, that tavern next to the Black Tower?”
“Yes, yes,” the old man replied when a young woman ran out from behind a stone wall fence and collided with the old man,—— knocking him down as a stack of papers went airborne. OwlLite took to flight with feathers ruffled; but Tigerista simply paused, sitting down on her hunches and began cleaning a paw.
“Ohhhh,” the old man moaned. “…Are you on a mission to kill the old farts?” he grunted while carefully adjusting to his knees.
“Yes,— kill the old fart?” OwlLite corrected, perturbed: Tigerista really wants that paw clean.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you there,” the young woman replied, hurrying to gather up her lost work. “I’m really glad I took the time to number these.”
The old man picked up one of the sheets, barely discerning the scrolled quillwork detailed fully across the page — in the limiting light. “You’re a chronicler; aren‘t you my dear?”
“Well,—— I like to write.”
“This is fate,” OwlLite offered in confidence.
The young woman reared back clutching her gathered papers to her chest, somewhat excited, “Your bird talks?”
The cat stopped licking, “That’s not all she does.”
“Holy shit! The cat too?” The woman winced almost fearful.
“Who might you be?” the old man asked.
“That’s SelfTitled,” OwlLite answered.
“How did you know my name? We’ve never met,—— at least I don’t…”
“She’s a soothsayer my dear,” The old man replied, handing the gathered sheets back to his new acquaintance. “She dreams, dreams — that speak of life and love, of heartbreak and glory.”
“How is it your animals talk?”
“Well,——nobody owns these girls. But to answer your question, all things are possible when our eyes are opened to imagination.”
“And, who are you?” The young woman asked.
The old man paused looking down, “I am nothing.”
“But he aspires!” The owl chimed in.
“Wasting time,—— to quote a phrase,” the cat growled.
“She is coming with,” declared OwlLite.
“Where are you headed, my dear?”
“I need to get my chronicles into OnyxCity before the deadline.”
“Then it seems our paths have crossed, my dear.”
“Tick, tick, tick…” The large cub reminded,— standing and cocking her head in the direction of the Black Tower.
“Yes, yes, Tigerista, let’s be on our way.”
The old man posted his staff and struggled to stand as SelfTitled took hold of his arm to help him up. “Are you going to be okay?”
“I’m more spry than I look, my dear.” Tigerista could be heard snickering.
The four musketeers continued onward,— the Black Tower’s silhouette forged within the silvery glow of the full moon like a beacon of doom looming over the quest ahead.
From the left they could hear voices beckoning, “Come hither and see. Just come, you must see.”
“What’s that all about?” SelfTitled pause as if to answer the call.
The old man pointed to the sign above the saloon. “The Simon & Schuster’s Wishing Well:—— Patrons there often vie for company and tips.”
“I would like to see!” SelfTitled exclaimed as she turned toward the door.
Tigerista broke her trance. “I thought you had a deadline?”
“Oh yeah,” the young woman frowned looking to the papers clutched to her chest.
As they neared, the sound of music marked the trail’s end with large red double-doors and lanterns on either side beckoning: the weary soul refreshment and pleasure amid song and drink. Walking through the heavy paneled doors, the small party moved to the side, scanning their surroundings for the goddess and owner of the establishment. Scantily dress dancers staged over the audience seductively graced their patrons with beauty and elegance.
“Who are they?” SelfTitled asked, mesmerized.
“Those are sirens my dear: Winterreign, SamanthaFowler, Scooby, Soulhearts.… Their songs chronicle life. Some choose not to listen to their words, but these sirens are respectful of others, singing within the realms they call home.—— To each their own, I say.”
“I think they’re beautiful,” SelfTitled said in awe.
Just then the front doors burst open, swinging like batwing-doors announcing the new arrival of a pard’ in full Western Gear of the 1880’s replete with colt not lashed.—— Silence fell over the crowd as all stared.
“Who is that?” whispered SelfTitled.
“TheTallOne,” OwlLite meowed with a gleam in her lovely green eyes and then purred.
“WHAT? that’s my line,” Tigerista roared.
OwlLite gave the superiority head tilt, ignoring the feline.
“Hey Dumb-Ass, — wrong portal,” came a nearby catcall.
So fast,—— no-one even saw the pistol drawn as TheTallOne leveled his piece at the rude customer. “Shit for brains, we’re all about to find out what’s between those ears.”
Dustygrein stood cautiously with both hands motioning calm. “Woe, woe, — dude,—— he was just sayin’,—— Westerns are on deck three.”
OwlLite chirped in, “Don’t mess with a real man.”
“And just how am I to get beamed there?” TheTallOne re-holstered his weapon.
“Harry_Situation’s in charge of the elevator,” Dusty… replied.
TheTallOne’s left hand still resting on the butt of his sidearm, “And you’re going to find him for me,—Right?” tapping his finger lightly on the leather, ready to draw again.
“Consider it done.” And Dusty… disappeared into the crowd.
TheTallOne’s voice boomed;—— “In the MEAN-time, I was summoned here by a voice in my ear.”
The old man looked to the bird perched on his shoulder.
…Lite shrugged, “What can I say,——I’m a sucker for authentic men.” If it weren’t for the beak, you’d swear she was smiling.
“Was it an annoying owl… who,— who—spoke? Tiger… questioned, sarcastically.
“Who you calling annoying, bitch?”
“Now, now girls,— no cat fights over the dark stranger,” The voice of reason beckoned from the old man.
OwlLite repositioned her perch to face the sleek cub at the old man’s side. Her large eyes narrowed. “He’s all mine, Sister! Keep those clawed paws off.”
“Oh,—please,” Tiger… snarled.
“He is kind-of cute.” SelfTitled pitched in.
“Who invited you?” OwlLite almost growled.
SelfTitled looked dumbfounded, “You did.”
The little owl’s head did a full 180. “Who?”
The old man nodded, yes.
“Damn!” Ruffling her feathers, the little owl‘s eyes narrowed. She was pissed.
“What’s all this then?” TheTallOne said turning to the old man with a fierce, no shit stare down. “I need answers,—— and fast.”
Prose Laboratories (V. 1, Pt. 1)
"Welcome to Prose Laboratories!" A loud, boisterous voice cuts through the clacking of keyboards at computers. "The place where fiction becomes reality!"
Heads snapped to see who entered the spacious room full of people sitting at large desks with computers, papers and pencils. The clicking faded away along with the scribbled of pens and pencils. The CEO, RubyPond, the head of our labs, our amazing fiction to reality labs, entered the room, followed by a brown haired girl, dress in a black TOP shirt and sweatpants.
"Hello everybody! Today we have a new friend joining us! Would you like to introduce yourself?" RubyPond asked her. The teen nodded, and stepped forward.
"Hey guys, my name is Herman2O. Not 2.0, but 2O. I like Supernatural, country and rock music," Famewriter, a writing partner of mine, tapped my shoulder.
"Do you know her? I feel like I've seen her before, but I can't place it."
I turn to them, "Herman2O? Yes, I know her. We went to school together." RubyPond finished speaking, and we turned back to our work. I slid my chair over by Harry_Situation, to see what he was working on.
"What ya working on? Another review? A new Sins of the Father arch?" I questioned him, excited for his newest work.
He looked at me smiling and shrugged. "I don't know yet. I was thinking maybe another arch, but I'm not sure yet." I slid back and sat in front of my keyboard, thinking of what to make part of reality. Dragons? Nah, too much havoc. What about mini dragons? It could work.. Let's try! I face my computer and rest my hands on the keyboard. Fingers fly across the keys, describing dragons of small sizes to put into the Machine. Lunch came, and I went to eat.
Grabbing a random tray of food, I sat down with Famewriter, SelfTitled, and Chained in Shadow. They were all eating their food absent mindingly, until Snowshoerabbit came bounding over.
"Guys! Guys! Look what I found on one of the computers! Someone is gonna make mini dragons!" She told us with a gleam of joy in her eyes. I know, it's mine!
"I know, right? I made it. Well, I'm not done yet, but soon I will be, I might finish it today!" I say to them. They look at me in surprise, saying with their eyes You? Did not expect that. We sat in silence after that.
I finished my lunch early and headed back to my desk to continue my work. Dragons of every shade from jade green to neon pink and even chameleon dragons went through my mind as the day finished, and my project for the machine came to finish as well. Before my shift was over, I took my paper, my paper describing dragons and took it to the machine.
I walked through the rows and groupings of desks scattered unorganized across the room. I spot Mnezz, OnyxCity, Jumotki and CreativeChaos sitting at a small group of desks, hushed whispers among them. My manager, sandflea68, scratching furiously at a piece of paper, frustration covering her face. JamesMByers and PaulDChambers are near each other as well, but they don't converse as much as others. PhynneBelle walks out of the Machine room, followed by MilesNowhere, looks of disappointment shadowing their faces. lonely was with Zikeda and Bunny in a corner near the library here. I passed them all walking to the Machine.
The machine stood at the far end, in a solitary room. It was glorious. Put in a paper describing whatever you want, and it will make it. I just hope mine isn't too complicated. It shouldn't be, saying I've seen actual people come out of the machine.
Coming up to the machine, I find the slot to insert the paper and do so. I blink, ready to press start. The big red button does as I will. The machine hums and lights flicker. I hear the gears whirring inside and magic magicking. I see a tip of a tail start to come out, and smoke envelops a room. As I run towards the door, the machine explodes and throws me against the wall, and a fiery red-orange dragon with forest green eyes and large, intimidating wings crawl out of the crushed machine. Its wings touch the ceiling and it looks at me angrily, and walks towards me. I quickly open the door and the dragon smashes the wall. Sandflea68 looks at me.
"Uh, there's a dragon on the loose?"
To Be Continued
The Prose Universe
The people of Anonymous had done their homework once again. Systematically they eliminated over and over again until they found the one. The One. Their purpose was to better the world with facts. As they narrowed the "playing field," they found a companion to facts. They found out what the world really needed.
All of the members were in attendance. The votes were in. The President stood at the podium as his image was projected behind him (silly though, they all had a thin mustache). He placed his finger on the button.
He pushed and the button turned green. All applauded. Now they would wait.
This affected the entire world. Face Book shut down. Trump was pissed that Tweeter shut down. All social media shut down. Only Prose and YouTube remained on line.
The best IT guys in the world were unable to fix this.
After all the finger pointing and rumors of war, the world settled down and accepted that other than e-mails, shopping, education and essential banking, Prose was the only social media available (Is it considered one?). Anonymous was nervous, but "nothing ventured, nothing gained" was their motto.
The new members began to read beautiful poetry, stories and prose of all subjects. Many tried their hands at writing. Pen names were all the rage. People felt safe writing their thoughts. Translators were soon in place. The world became more compassionate. Trump became an awesome poet, as he could budget time, he loved the feedback.
Prose became the Universe of Prose. Prose T-shirts were everywhere. Many popular corporations asked for endorsements. Ellen Degeneres asked the founders to tell about the birth of Prose on her show. She'd heard they met at a seminar, had a drink at a bar and made some phone calls.
Original writers, then later others, were encouraged, at no cost to them, to attend the annual "Prose Party." Members physically met in an atmosphere unlike a Carnival Cruz. Many were recognized with little Prose Trophies. Prose was financially self supporting in all it's endeavors. As in any society, there were leaders and writers of specialty. Portals grew. Prose supported humanitarianism and philanthropy.
Most importantly, Anonymous was right. The world became a better place because of The Prose Universe.
Prose Verse part 1, New comer (of course mine be a western)
As understandable as the problem was, annoyance could not be negated. Six horses pulled the large stagecoach along the hilly landscape; their heavy hooved trot slammed into the hard packed dirt road and somehow broke dust free in huge trailing plumes. Despite the animal’s admirable attempts at swift speed, they could not move faster than the dust. It caught and clung to their wake, and the fancy wood covered wagon they towed about by leather and metal harness.
Tin Crow sat atop the driver seat, sucking down dust his bandanna refused to filter and generally cursing his lot in life. The horses were old hats to this run and needed very little correction. He could of slept if it not for the bounce and sway of stage couch. The steel clad wheels of the coach seemed to find every god damn runt and hole. He also had to piss, and the aforementioned worn road and its bone rattling trappings weren’t helping. Tin Crow considered once more, standing up, riding out the buck of the stagecoach and pissing over the side. But just as quickly as the thought came, he wiped them away, not out of decency, but rather practicality, he doubted his own sure footedness.
Thus Tin turned his ear upon his shotgun toting partner Acadec in hopes for a distraction. Acadec spoke in earnest, this was their fifty-six run together and Tin Crow still found himself listening with intent as Acadec went on about his dreams of directing plays at the local theater. While they both went to the Faux Hero Theater together, Acadec always seemed to get more out of the plays than Tin, whether it be the lines and the conviction in which they were spoken or the proper emotion for the scene. In a lot of other western states Acadec would have been an odd man out, not that there weren’t black people about, or even black cowboys, but just as a stagecoach driver. Not all jobs were seen as proper for someone with black skin, but Wyoming seemed to be different than rest of the Union, Tin Crow had even heard Wyoming had a black U.S. Marshal appointed by the government and everything.
Acadec sucked in a deep breathe through his nose, it vibrated with thick wet, which he immediately turned into a hocking followed by a huge spit ball of snot, saliva, and mucus encased dust. Throat now clear he turned toward Tin. “What did you think of Henry V?”
While he thought on his answer Tin Crow pulled down his bandanna to better speak to his friend. He had to shout a bit to be heard over the horse hooves, harness jingle, and rock and sway of the coach. “It was good, that one speech, the one the King made before the battle, it got me all wound up. I mean, I wanted to pick a fight with someone.”
Acadec nodded. “I know what you mean. I love the Saint Crispin’s Day speech. I start every morning by reading that. Makes me feel like I can take on anything, come what may.”
Acadec shifted the shotgun in his lap. “I think I want to modernize the play, rewrite it. Maybe have it happen during the war. Switch out the French for the South and the Brits for the Union. Having the proper costuming would certainly be easier, no armour, just maybe your own or even your father’s military uniform. I would have to change some of the dialogue and maybe some of the scenes to make it work. Except for the Saint Crispin’s Day speech, it is too good to mess with.”
Tin thought about that and then nodded. “Could work, but who says the Crispy speech? We have no king and Lincoln never led men into battle. Though you could have him say it instead of the address after Gettysburg. After all, I can’t see Grant being sober enough to string that many words together, and in all honesty that speech sounds more like a thing Lee would do.”
“Maybe I should have Sherman say it--- yeah, that works, since the play is about Henry marching on French, Sherman’s march could easily replace that. Part of the point of the play and especially the “Crispy” speech is Henry V’s right to rule and his justification of the war. That works with the Civil War being about the Union trying to establish its right to rule and Sherman justifying his march. ” Acadec looked excited, almost ready to stand and pace as he worked out the specifics. However, due to circumstance he sat and shifted constantly in his seat.
Tin looked his friend over again. Acadec cradled the shotgun absently running about within his own mind, the scatter gun seeming an afterthought since there was no real need for it. Marshal Paul Chambers and Sheriff Sammie Lee brook no nefarious doings and so the town proper and the surrounding county saw very little crime. Well, until recently.
Tin forgot he had to piss, until he remembered he forgot.
* * *
The horses pulled through a turn on a high hill which allowed a brief glimpse at the coming township. Inka, Ink to friends, and Miss Salt to everyone else stuck her head out her open window to get a better view of her new home. The town looked much bigger then she thought it would. Prose had been gaining popularity as of late and found itself with a sudden influx of new residents. Her whale bone corset strained under her movement, hindering it somewhat, but thankfully she hadn’t tightened it too much.
“Have a place to stay Miss Salt?”
Ink turned to the voice and smiled. ‘At least she didn’t sit next to me.’ The women seemed nice, but Ink tended to have issues with close proximity of other people. Her book thus far had deterred conversation, however, Ink had to abandon it for her view of her new home and so her fellow rider sprung upon her chance to speak with Ink. She sat back and smoothed out the wrinkles in her dark blue bodice and settled her bustle behind herself. Ink was thankful the stupid bag of cotton hadn’t gone too askew, how the in the world the bustle had become poplar again she wound never know. Ink resisted checking her hat, instead relying on the pins to do their job and hold the silly thing tight to her tirelessly made up brown hair. Her dress fell into order, the dark yet shiny blue contrasting the wide belt of floral printed fabric at her waist. The print swirled in and out of gold, sliver, and emerald flowers. The skirt followed suit with the same fabric laid out as wide horizontal stripes down its length. This was offset by a solid deep blue bit of skirt that tucked in under the floral belt on the right side, hiding the stripes on one side as it draped to the left, thus making it appear she wore two skirt instead on one.
Ink fiddled with her book, wishing to rush back into the pages. “Yes Miss City…”
“You may call me Onyx darling.” Onyx City seemed to favor dark colors when it came to her dress, purple with blue lapels and a wide blue belt, which fell into a skirt made of folds and drapes of both colors. The purple and blues were of a shade so dark they verged on black. She wore simple black top hat tilted slightly to the left atop her raven hair, which was pulled into a tight bun. Onyx smiled and Ink stared, for some reason Ink noticed Onyx’s dog teeth looked a bit longer than normal.
‘Why did I notice that? Better still, why are you looking at her teeth? Say something, anything, too much time has passed.’
Ink grabbed her skirt and moved the drape about. “Yes, I am staying at the SandFlea.”
Onyx nodded. “Mrs. Sandy is a wonderful woman. I think she knows everyone in town. And don’t worry; there are no fleas in her place. She is not too far from Ruby’s Pond, a nice little café. And you must see a play at the Faux Hero Theater darling.” Onyx smiled again, dog tooth seeming to bite into her lower lip a bit.
Ink went back to fingering the pages of her book. She really wished she was reading it. “I will keep that in mind.”
Onyx didn’t appear to see the fidgeting and its implied meaning. Or she chose to ignore it. “What brings you to our little metropolis? Work, family, future husband?”
“Um, work. I am to write for The Situation. I don’t know what I am to write, but Mr. Situation read some of my work and hired me to write for the newspaper.”
“Harry is a lovely man; he writes for his own paper, did you know? These great little pieces about a little girl and her stepfather and their adventures together. And don’t listen to what others have to say; him and the town preacher get along just fine darling.” Onyx smiled again, teeth separated a bit. A bit of pink appeared and quickly vanished.
Ink furrowed her eyebrows. ‘Did she just lick one of her oddly long dog teeth?’ Ink shook the thought loose. “Preacher?”
Onyx nodded. “Yes, Tobias Broken. Don’t worry, he is not the fire and brimstone type. He is more of the, let’s talk about God, or not, whatever you want type. You see, he and Harry often get into these long, and sometimes loud, discussions over beer and whiskey at the Beowulf and Grendel, that is James Byer’s saloon by the way, people hear loud and they think heated, but it just not so darling.”
Ink gave up on the book and her nonverbal clues about her desire to read it. “I heard there some trouble about, bandits?”
Onyx smiled again. “I won’t worry too much about them fine ladies, they only rob men. And very specific men for that matter.”
As they neared the town proper a sign flash by.
Mayor Ruby Pond welcomes you
and asks for you to turn over
your firearms to the local law.
Ink caught only a glimpse of the sign and reviewed the words she thought she had seen. Certain she was not mistaken she looked at Onyx. “Did I see that right?”
“Why yes darling, no guns in the city limits. Can’t anybody getting angry and shooting a person, or dog for that matter. Guns are bit uncouth.” Onyx took this moment to stare significantly at Ink’s purse.
‘How did she know about my pistol?’ Ink’s mind flashed to the little .38 British Bulldog tucked into her hand bag. Such guns were considered best used by ladies or whores, and seeing how Ink was not a whore but not quite a lady, it suited her just fine. The short little barrel tended to be about as accurate as spiting across a table, though the noise and smoke produced made up for that. The bird’s head grip fit well into her hand and the double action took care of the worry of remembering to cock the hammer. Granted the best results would be achieved by burying the barrel into someone’s gut or back and pulling the trigger till empty. ‘If I have to do it again, I wonder if it will get easier? How many times must it be done before it is a practiced skill?’ Ink meanwhile decided to ignore the implied meaning of Onyx prolonged stare at her handbag. “I meant the mayor.”
Onyx smiled. “Ahh, yes, our Madam Mayor, Miss Ruby Pond. Like I said, a wonderful woman--- wait did I say, huh, none-the-less, it holds true for her as well. This is Wyoming after all and women’s suffrage is a strongly held belief. We had it before being welcomed into the Union and held onto once we achieved statehood darling. Here women are allowed to vote, serve on juries, female teachers earn the same pay as a male teachers, and women even have property rights that can be kept separate from their husband’s. There have been a few female judges, and then general feeling is, if a women can vote for who is allowed to hold office, than she can damn well run for office too. Wait till we get out very own Congresswomen and female Governor. While the other states are very backward in their thinking, Wyoming is a good place to be an independent women.”
Ink smiled back. “Or a bandit, apparently.-- But wait, Wyoming is not a state yet, it is still a U.S. Territory, what do you mean statehood?”
Onyx looked lost for a second, her mind turning things over. But then she smiled once more and opted to touch a long dog tooth with her tongue rather than out right licking it. “Sorry about that darling, got a bit ahead of myself. I sometimes forget the time.”
Ink narrowed her eyes and looked off to the side, losing herself in thought. “Odd,-- also it has occurred to me, the names are a bit on the strange side.” Ink nodded to Onyx. “Onyx City, Sandflea, Faux Hero, Rudy Pond, Beowulf and Grendel, and I think our drivers are named Tin Crow and Acadec Fidysax. It seems all a little queer.”
Onyx raised an eyebrow. “So says the lovely young lady with the names Salt and Ink. Now, now, darling, this is the wild west after all, and odd names, titles, nicknames, aliases, and strange monikers go hand in hand. You will hear more unusual names before the day is out.”
It was Ink’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Wild west? I don’t think I have heard it called that. What a queer thing to say.”
Onyx chuckled. “I forgot the time again, sorry for the confusion darling.”
“You keep saying that, I forget the time. Also very queer, what do you mean by it?”
Onyx smiled, dog teeth ever so slightly biting into her bottom lip again. “Not a thing darling, poor choice of words on all accounts. It must be the heat, it has to be muddling up my brain a bit. I find the sun doesn’t favor me most days, I prefer the night.”
Prose University (Volume 1 Part 1)
I walked down the hall of Prose University, dreading Science. I walked into the bathroom and cupped my hands. As the water filled my hands, I noticed Braskii standing behind me. She was a shy girl, never talking to anyone. Or at least that's what people say. She always sits in the corner.
"What?" I say. My hands are done filling up and I splash it on my face. I look at her with expecting eyes as I dry my face.
"You know about the Prose Writing Contest?" She asked. She fiddled with her purse strap.
"Yup," I said. I picked my backpack up off the floor and head for the door.
"Wait," She called out. I stop and turn around. "Are you entering?"
"Duh, I am THE Famewriter!" I pushed open the door and slipped into the hallway. Braskii followed but instantly went back into her Shy Cover.
"Was Braskii talking to you?" My friend Allyson came up beside me. He ran his hand through his longish brown hair.
"No," I said with a serious face.
"Yes, she was," He looked at me weird.
"You know me too well," I said. He smiled.
"I know," He said and then we split for class.
The whole way through class all I could think about was what Braskii wanted. Science was next period and I knew that I needed to study. I shrugged and tried to get back to concentrating on the class. But, I failed.
"Was Braskii talking to you?" Was all that was ringing in my ears. Why was Braskii talking to me?
Allyson joined up with me at lunch. So did justaperson, AJAY9979, and MayFlower.
"Allyson says that you were talking to Braskii, what did she want?" MayFlower leaned closer, her golden hair falling into her lunch.
"Allyson!" I looked at him.
"Sorry, you just are more open with MayFlower then you are with anybody else," He said. "I just thought you would tell her."
"Actually, it's justaperson and MayFlower," I corrected. "And yes, Braskii did talk to me."
"What she say?" Now AJAY9979 was in on it.
"She wanted to know if I was going to be in the Prose Writing Contest," I said. I took a bite of my sandwich and chewed.
"What'd ya say?" Justaperson stuffed her whole cupcake in her mouth.
"I said that I would be," I said while AJAY9979 told justaperson that he wasn't going to call the ambulance when she choked.
"Rumor has it that Hashtag Fiction is entering!" MayFlower said. Hashtag Fiction wasn't his real name. That's just what he was called because of all the lies he had told when he had gotten here.
"He has some pretty good idea's in Workshop, so, he could probably do that," MayFlower said. She glanced at ChainedInShadow as she and Mnezz walked by. Mnezz waved but ChainedInShadow walked by.
"She's nice," Justaperson had finally been able to shut AJAY9979. "I heard that ChainedInShadows' brother went missing!"
"Now is not the time for gossip!" Allyson said. "I don't think she wants a ton of people knowing."
"I feel bad for her," I said. I put my luch tray in the middle of the table. "The rest is yours."
"Okay," MayFlower looked at me and I pionted to Braskii. She nodded.
"Gotta go study," I said. I quickly existed the cafetirea and went to follow Braskii.