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Challenge of the Week #61: Write a piece of flash fiction about rejection. The most masterfully written piece, as voted and determined by the Prose team, will be crowned winner and receive $100. Quality beats quantity, always, but numbers make things easier for our judges, so share, share, share with friends, family, and connections. #ProseChallenge #getlit #itslit
Written by desmondwrite

Star Liquor and Chevron on Techniplex and Skywood Road

The man opened the door for his wife and, seeing Duke Hudson, kept it open. Duke walked faster but called out, "You don't have to. It hurts, y'know?"

 

"Take your time," said the man, remaining at his post. The old man still hurried, and you could see Duke had a crick in his step, the kind WD-40 can't fix.

"Thanks," said Duke when they were inside. "Just did three shows and I'm not your age anymore." The man didn't ask what kind of shows but nodded and followed his wife. Spurned, Duke went over to appraise cigars, only to find himself with the man again. Eh, what the hell.

"This place is an oasis," said Duke as if they were returning to an earlier conversation. "Been living here a few years, and this is the nicest thing they built."

He wasn't wrong, either. Other than apartments, the Techniplex was one of those boring business parks with storefronts like Carpets & Floors and Greater Houston Shipping Services and Billiards Galore. Everything was brick ranging from smokey gray to bright blood-cream, standing like tombstones or bloody teeth on palisades of grass.

"Not bad," said the man, before slipping away again.

Now Duke was no Socrates, but he felt the potential for rapport, if at least the fleeting affirmation that they were two potent and interesting men. One more time, thought Duke, feeling conspiratorial. He scanned a Twix Bar’s nutrition while he found the couple. The wife was headed for the register while the man was behind the island of coffee machines. Faking an interest in frozen burritos, Duke slinked around the other side of the island, but the man was onto him and turned to the cashier: “Where do you keep cough drops?” The cashier indicated the wall behind the counter, a quilt of yellow and red bags, and the man doubled back. 

But discouragement didn’t come easy to Duke. He’d been outwitted, but he saw another opportunity to greet the man. Duke could plant himself by the newspapers and on the couple's way out he could get the door and say, “Just paying it forward” or the winner, “Take your time.” 

It started. Duke headed down the freezers, trying to keep out of their periphery, but the couple saw him, and quickly swiped their card, realized the machine took chip, pushed in chip. The old man navigated three men in jeans with white paint flecks on their legs and as he passed the wine the couple punched no don’t want cash back and yes that’s the right amount. He swung by auto parts and the ATM like the meticulous, painful revolution of the second hand as it scrapes the bend of the clock. No, don’t want to donate to kids missing kidneys and parents. Bags, receipt? No.

They were out the door. As Duke opened it a second later, another old man slipped in and said thank you, sir. Duke told him to fuck off and hobbled out.

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Challenge of the Week #61: Write a piece of flash fiction about rejection. The most masterfully written piece, as voted and determined by the Prose team, will be crowned winner and receive $100. Quality beats quantity, always, but numbers make things easier for our judges, so share, share, share with friends, family, and connections. #ProseChallenge #getlit #itslit
Written by desmondwrite
Star Liquor and Chevron on Techniplex and Skywood Road
The man opened the door for his wife and, seeing Duke Hudson, kept it open. Duke walked faster but called out, "You don't have to. It hurts, y'know?"
 
"Take your time," said the man, remaining at his post. The old man still hurried, and you could see Duke had a crick in his step, the kind WD-40 can't fix.

"Thanks," said Duke when they were inside. "Just did three shows and I'm not your age anymore." The man didn't ask what kind of shows but nodded and followed his wife. Spurned, Duke went over to appraise cigars, only to find himself with the man again. Eh, what the hell.

"This place is an oasis," said Duke as if they were returning to an earlier conversation. "Been living here a few years, and this is the nicest thing they built."

He wasn't wrong, either. Other than apartments, the Techniplex was one of those boring business parks with storefronts like Carpets & Floors and Greater Houston Shipping Services and Billiards Galore. Everything was brick ranging from smokey gray to bright blood-cream, standing like tombstones or bloody teeth on palisades of grass.

"Not bad," said the man, before slipping away again.

Now Duke was no Socrates, but he felt the potential for rapport, if at least the fleeting affirmation that they were two potent and interesting men. One more time, thought Duke, feeling conspiratorial. He scanned a Twix Bar’s nutrition while he found the couple. The wife was headed for the register while the man was behind the island of coffee machines. Faking an interest in frozen burritos, Duke slinked around the other side of the island, but the man was onto him and turned to the cashier: “Where do you keep cough drops?” The cashier indicated the wall behind the counter, a quilt of yellow and red bags, and the man doubled back. 

But discouragement didn’t come easy to Duke. He’d been outwitted, but he saw another opportunity to greet the man. Duke could plant himself by the newspapers and on the couple's way out he could get the door and say, “Just paying it forward” or the winner, “Take your time.” 

It started. Duke headed down the freezers, trying to keep out of their periphery, but the couple saw him, and quickly swiped their card, realized the machine took chip, pushed in chip. The old man navigated three men in jeans with white paint flecks on their legs and as he passed the wine the couple punched no don’t want cash back and yes that’s the right amount. He swung by auto parts and the ATM like the meticulous, painful revolution of the second hand as it scrapes the bend of the clock. No, don’t want to donate to kids missing kidneys and parents. Bags, receipt? No.

They were out the door. As Duke opened it a second later, another old man slipped in and said thank you, sir. Duke told him to fuck off and hobbled out.
#fiction  #adventure 
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Challenge of the Week #60: You have just discovered a new lifeform. Write a story of 200 words or more. The most masterfully written piece, as voted and determined by the Prose team, will be crowned winner and receive $100. Quality beats quantity, always, but numbers make things easier for our judges, so share, share, share with friends, family, and connections. #ProseChallenge #getlit #itslit
Written by a060147

the boy in the glass

I meet him on a Sunday -- summer vacation, quarter after eleven, nearing lunchtime -- surrounded by people and things who don't really matter at all. Shouldn't, anyway, not with my mother acting as the lead director of the facility's new program. There are exactly three starkly dressed men in the room right now, all bearing lab coats, identification badges, and the tendency to speak over one another, and with their discussion steadily reducing itself to a heated, nearly incoherent squabble, my ability to pay attention has already excused itself several minutes ago. I find myself staring at the perfectly monochromatic linoleum instead, counting the outlined squares, then at the perfectly bare walls, then at the scuffed edge of an oxford shoe bearing one too many scratches to be in good condition. Then the shoe is speaking to me, and I'm looking up and into the disapproving gaze of one of the lab workers. The urge to slap him for his disrespect rises so quickly that my fingers twitch. I don't, of course. Mother had pulled me out of my activities for the day to show me her newest endeavor, and pleasing her remains priority over all else. Knocking one of her trusted scientists unconscious, possibly putting my own image in bad light in spite of this step out of line -- no, that wouldn't sit well at all. So I stare back with the wide-eyed, innocuous gaze I've adopted just for bastards like these. Hold my tongue. He doesn't bite, not fully, but he hesitates a bit and begins to speak in that professional, level tone again, reiterating.

"He's a feisty one, this boy," he explains, pushing up the bridge of his spectacles. "Lacks obedience. Difficult to handle. He is intelligent, though, and possesses a grasp of language and abstract logic like we haven't experienced so far -- but I'm sure that's what you're here for."

And I'm not sure exactly what that is. I don't deign to ask this underling the obvious, though, and instead opt to raise a brow in confusion. Give a blank, questioning stare over the edges of my own wire-rimmed glasses. He almost returns the stare, as if it had been my fault for not listening in the first place -- before the taller, lankier of the trio steps in front of him, placing a hand on his shoulder. It's difficult not to smirk at the sharp look he chances at him.

"If I may, Miss Fujino," the taller man addresses correctly and formally this time, "would you have your attention directed to your left?"

I turn.

And then become completely and utterly clear on the task at hand.

As the first on a long, long list of anomalies, the boy is encased in glass. In a tank, actually, with countless tubes connecting to both him and various apparatuses scattered about, unknown monitors tracking unknown conditions. He's a small, delicate little thing -- no taller than I stand, probably, with slender hips and shoulders and limbs -- and the considerable size of the tank itself dwarfs him to the likeness of a child. He's albino, of course. All the results of the program are. But he's the first one I've ever seen with such androgynous, youthful features that I can't help but be thrown off by the pretty lips and pretty eyes, the thick, thick lashes fluttering gently over rounded cheekbones. As if he'd been pulled from some fairy tale storybook, almost. As if he were some gentle, benign prince draped in gold and finery instead of breathing apparatuses and electrodes. The short, undeveloped feathers of his budding wings flicker occasionally in time with his breathing; the tips of his fingers quiver as if he's been caught dreaming. Then it's his eyelids that are quivering, slowly but surely, and I find myself staring into the cloudiest, most opaque set of rosy irises I've ever seen. Willed into stillness. He's just like --

"An angel, isn't he? I thought you'd like to see our newest success in splicing."

The proximity of the voice behind me startles me out of my reverie, forcing me to tear my gaze away from the creature -- and to eye-level buttons on a perfectly pressed, perfectly white blouse. My mother. My mother had come to see me, me of all people, instead of letting her secretaries inform her how this briefing had progressed with her daughter. There's a smile on my face before I can stop myself; I try to think of a phrase to best express my understanding and interest in my newest task.

But the short, bespectacled underling is on her before I can speak, and my fingers are twitching again. He taps his cheap shoes against the linoleum excitedly as he does so. "Director Fujino, what a pleasant surprise! What brings you here today?"

My mother allows his nearly shit-eating grin a dismissive glance before acknowledging me. Small nod, slight hum escaping her lips. I feel like I'm going to burst. She turns towards the taller man as he whispers something in her ear, makes a sound of approval, then leans so closely in my direction that we're nearly face-to-face, eye-to-eye. Begins speaking in that low, level tone I've only ever heard her use with her colleagues, and says, "Lucy, do you know why I brought you here today? Do you know why I've decided to show you, out of all my colleagues and partners, this subject? Why I've trusted you with this? Tell me what you think of it, Lucy."

She's talking directly to me. She's talking directly to me. The three squabbling scientists and stark walls and floors are gone, suddenly, as is the beautiful, winged subject in the tank. She wants to know the answers to exactly three distinct questions, all imperative to the program, and she's going to listen to me directly as I answer them. As I explain my role in this task in the most knowledgeable, most appropriate answer possible.

"I-I'm going to monitor the development of subject 0049. This high-functioning subhuman will be under my responsibility until the duration of the experiment expires. Until then --" I take a quick breath to stop my heart from jumping out of my chest," -- I will do everything in my power to ensure the progression of the subject's mental and physical capabilities, no matter the cost."

"And?"

And? I think quickly, studying her features.

"And -- and because I am the most controlled and least likely of all possible participants to produce lurking variables, I am the best suited for this task."

She frowns a little at this -- that half quirk of a lower lip lasting for only half a second -- before setting her smile again, nodding. I've made a mistake somewhere, I know. Probably should've commented on the immaculate state of the subject, the methods in which I would explore the subject's psyche and capabilities. Anything but that too simple cop-out of an answer. Too late now. She's already turned to leave, the room and squabbling scientists and tank returning to their rightful places; within moments the taller man is briefing me about the experiment in short, informative statements, tapping his pen against the clipboard. The man with cheap shoes has spared enough glances between me and the subject to be grating. I listen to the click of her heels as she leaves the room, exits the hall, and places the world right back where it should be in her absence.

At the end of the day, I'm alone again. My mother's decision to include me in her newest developmental project has been categorized as an internship under my university; the details are already neatly filed away. So I wouldn't have had a choice in the matter, anyway. Not that I ever would decide against it. The boy sits across from me in his tank, watching me curiously as I divide the paperwork into manageable sections. Stares with unfocused, rosy eyes as he taps the glass every so often. I'm not even sure if he's aware that he's under my care at the moment, if he had even heard anything of the conversation -- but he's supposed to be the best and the brightest of all the spliced subhumans, so I imagine he's understood at least a few things. He's a pretty, lovely little thing to look at, at least. My mother would appreciate the mint condition of his appearance at the end of the trial. The sound of a heavier, harder tap catches my attention for a moment, and I glance back to see the boy resting his palm against the glass, looking at me expectantly. A greeting of some sort, I suppose.

So he'd already figured out more than a few nuances in human body language. I can see why my mother had thought him so impressive.

I press my fingers in a reflection against his, immediately scouring his small frame and features for any sort of response. Pause. He studies me, grins, and mouths inaudibly but unmistakably:

Hello. How are you today?

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Challenge of the Week #60: You have just discovered a new lifeform. Write a story of 200 words or more. The most masterfully written piece, as voted and determined by the Prose team, will be crowned winner and receive $100. Quality beats quantity, always, but numbers make things easier for our judges, so share, share, share with friends, family, and connections. #ProseChallenge #getlit #itslit
Written by a060147
the boy in the glass
I meet him on a Sunday -- summer vacation, quarter after eleven, nearing lunchtime -- surrounded by people and things who don't really matter at all. Shouldn't, anyway, not with my mother acting as the lead director of the facility's new program. There are exactly three starkly dressed men in the room right now, all bearing lab coats, identification badges, and the tendency to speak over one another, and with their discussion steadily reducing itself to a heated, nearly incoherent squabble, my ability to pay attention has already excused itself several minutes ago. I find myself staring at the perfectly monochromatic linoleum instead, counting the outlined squares, then at the perfectly bare walls, then at the scuffed edge of an oxford shoe bearing one too many scratches to be in good condition. Then the shoe is speaking to me, and I'm looking up and into the disapproving gaze of one of the lab workers. The urge to slap him for his disrespect rises so quickly that my fingers twitch. I don't, of course. Mother had pulled me out of my activities for the day to show me her newest endeavor, and pleasing her remains priority over all else. Knocking one of her trusted scientists unconscious, possibly putting my own image in bad light in spite of this step out of line -- no, that wouldn't sit well at all. So I stare back with the wide-eyed, innocuous gaze I've adopted just for bastards like these. Hold my tongue. He doesn't bite, not fully, but he hesitates a bit and begins to speak in that professional, level tone again, reiterating.

"He's a feisty one, this boy," he explains, pushing up the bridge of his spectacles. "Lacks obedience. Difficult to handle. He is intelligent, though, and possesses a grasp of language and abstract logic like we haven't experienced so far -- but I'm sure that's what you're here for."

And I'm not sure exactly what that is. I don't deign to ask this underling the obvious, though, and instead opt to raise a brow in confusion. Give a blank, questioning stare over the edges of my own wire-rimmed glasses. He almost returns the stare, as if it had been my fault for not listening in the first place -- before the taller, lankier of the trio steps in front of him, placing a hand on his shoulder. It's difficult not to smirk at the sharp look he chances at him.

"If I may, Miss Fujino," the taller man addresses correctly and formally this time, "would you have your attention directed to your left?"

I turn.

And then become completely and utterly clear on the task at hand.

As the first on a long, long list of anomalies, the boy is encased in glass. In a tank, actually, with countless tubes connecting to both him and various apparatuses scattered about, unknown monitors tracking unknown conditions. He's a small, delicate little thing -- no taller than I stand, probably, with slender hips and shoulders and limbs -- and the considerable size of the tank itself dwarfs him to the likeness of a child. He's albino, of course. All the results of the program are. But he's the first one I've ever seen with such androgynous, youthful features that I can't help but be thrown off by the pretty lips and pretty eyes, the thick, thick lashes fluttering gently over rounded cheekbones. As if he'd been pulled from some fairy tale storybook, almost. As if he were some gentle, benign prince draped in gold and finery instead of breathing apparatuses and electrodes. The short, undeveloped feathers of his budding wings flicker occasionally in time with his breathing; the tips of his fingers quiver as if he's been caught dreaming. Then it's his eyelids that are quivering, slowly but surely, and I find myself staring into the cloudiest, most opaque set of rosy irises I've ever seen. Willed into stillness. He's just like --

"An angel, isn't he? I thought you'd like to see our newest success in splicing."

The proximity of the voice behind me startles me out of my reverie, forcing me to tear my gaze away from the creature -- and to eye-level buttons on a perfectly pressed, perfectly white blouse. My mother. My mother had come to see me, me of all people, instead of letting her secretaries inform her how this briefing had progressed with her daughter. There's a smile on my face before I can stop myself; I try to think of a phrase to best express my understanding and interest in my newest task.

But the short, bespectacled underling is on her before I can speak, and my fingers are twitching again. He taps his cheap shoes against the linoleum excitedly as he does so. "Director Fujino, what a pleasant surprise! What brings you here today?"

My mother allows his nearly shit-eating grin a dismissive glance before acknowledging me. Small nod, slight hum escaping her lips. I feel like I'm going to burst. She turns towards the taller man as he whispers something in her ear, makes a sound of approval, then leans so closely in my direction that we're nearly face-to-face, eye-to-eye. Begins speaking in that low, level tone I've only ever heard her use with her colleagues, and says, "Lucy, do you know why I brought you here today? Do you know why I've decided to show you, out of all my colleagues and partners, this subject? Why I've trusted you with this? Tell me what you think of it, Lucy."

She's talking directly to me. She's talking directly to me. The three squabbling scientists and stark walls and floors are gone, suddenly, as is the beautiful, winged subject in the tank. She wants to know the answers to exactly three distinct questions, all imperative to the program, and she's going to listen to me directly as I answer them. As I explain my role in this task in the most knowledgeable, most appropriate answer possible.

"I-I'm going to monitor the development of subject 0049. This high-functioning subhuman will be under my responsibility until the duration of the experiment expires. Until then --" I take a quick breath to stop my heart from jumping out of my chest," -- I will do everything in my power to ensure the progression of the subject's mental and physical capabilities, no matter the cost."

"And?"

And? I think quickly, studying her features.

"And -- and because I am the most controlled and least likely of all possible participants to produce lurking variables, I am the best suited for this task."

She frowns a little at this -- that half quirk of a lower lip lasting for only half a second -- before setting her smile again, nodding. I've made a mistake somewhere, I know. Probably should've commented on the immaculate state of the subject, the methods in which I would explore the subject's psyche and capabilities. Anything but that too simple cop-out of an answer. Too late now. She's already turned to leave, the room and squabbling scientists and tank returning to their rightful places; within moments the taller man is briefing me about the experiment in short, informative statements, tapping his pen against the clipboard. The man with cheap shoes has spared enough glances between me and the subject to be grating. I listen to the click of her heels as she leaves the room, exits the hall, and places the world right back where it should be in her absence.

At the end of the day, I'm alone again. My mother's decision to include me in her newest developmental project has been categorized as an internship under my university; the details are already neatly filed away. So I wouldn't have had a choice in the matter, anyway. Not that I ever would decide against it. The boy sits across from me in his tank, watching me curiously as I divide the paperwork into manageable sections. Stares with unfocused, rosy eyes as he taps the glass every so often. I'm not even sure if he's aware that he's under my care at the moment, if he had even heard anything of the conversation -- but he's supposed to be the best and the brightest of all the spliced subhumans, so I imagine he's understood at least a few things. He's a pretty, lovely little thing to look at, at least. My mother would appreciate the mint condition of his appearance at the end of the trial. The sound of a heavier, harder tap catches my attention for a moment, and I glance back to see the boy resting his palm against the glass, looking at me expectantly. A greeting of some sort, I suppose.

So he'd already figured out more than a few nuances in human body language. I can see why my mother had thought him so impressive.

I press my fingers in a reflection against his, immediately scouring his small frame and features for any sort of response. Pause. He studies me, grins, and mouths inaudibly but unmistakably:

Hello. How are you today?
#fantasy  #scifi  #fiction 
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Written by Meadow337 in portal Fiction

The Hadeda Who Lost His De-dah

Once upon a time there was a hadeda (otherwise known as Jim) who had an extraordinary musical talent. His call – ha-ha-de-dah - was the loudest, clearest and most beautiful sound any hadeda had ever heard. Whenever the flock swooped over the grasslands in the late evening calling out to each other Jim would call out and the flock would go silent to listen.

Naturally, this gave Jim a highly inflated opinion of himself. He took to calling at all hours of the day and night just to hear his voice. Equally naturally, this annoyed his flock mates who soon thought that Jim's voice was not as extraordinary as they first thought.

It did not take long for the flock to call an enclave. They met at the nesting site in the eucalyptus trees on the hill. The leader of the flock called the meeting to order, "Ha! Ha! Order! Order!"

"Ha! Ha!" cried the flock.

"We are here to discuss the problem of Jim."

"Ha! Ha!" agreed the flock.

"He must be called to order!"

"Ha!"

A lone voice called, de-dah and the flock turned as one bird and frowned at the youngster who had called out of turn.

"Ha! Ha!" called the leader, "Jim must be asked to leave."

"De-dah," cried the flock.

"Ha!" said the youngster, who was a beat behind.

The leader frowned, "All in agreement then?"

"Ha-ha-de-dah," agreed the flock.

"De-dah," echoed the youngster, but the flock ignored him.

Thus it was that Jim was asked to leave the eucalyptus roost until he learned how to be quiet. The trees wept long strands of bark in sympathy as Jim made his musical farewell to the only home he had ever known.

"Ha-Ha..." Jim cleared his throat, "Ha-haaaaa...." silence. Jim tried again, "Ha-ha - ha-ha," but no matter how hard he tried Jim could not say de-dah. He couldn't bring himself to utter the traditional words of agreement used by the flock in enclave. He did not agree he was a nuisance; he did not agree he had to go; he was not going to say 'de-dah, I agree'; and he certainly was not going agree to be silent in order to stay.

Angrily Jim flew off over the trees calling ha-ha in a harsh and unmusical tone. Everywhere he went hadedas asked him why he only ever said ha-ha with such horrible noise. When he told them his story, they would fall silent and wonder what he had done to deserve such a fate. Then as he flew off crying ha-ha they would join him, calling their agreement and sympathy ... ha-ha-de-dah but Jim never joined in with last part of the call. Sadly they would leave him, an outcast, forever marked by his refusal to moderate his cry.

To this day any lone hadeda, outcast from the flock for any reason, will only ever cry ha-ha and if you hear one, know that you are hearing the lone voice of protest, crying out in its refusal to agree to be silenced.

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Written by Meadow337 in portal Fiction
The Hadeda Who Lost His De-dah
Once upon a time there was a hadeda (otherwise known as Jim) who had an extraordinary musical talent. His call – ha-ha-de-dah - was the loudest, clearest and most beautiful sound any hadeda had ever heard. Whenever the flock swooped over the grasslands in the late evening calling out to each other Jim would call out and the flock would go silent to listen.

Naturally, this gave Jim a highly inflated opinion of himself. He took to calling at all hours of the day and night just to hear his voice. Equally naturally, this annoyed his flock mates who soon thought that Jim's voice was not as extraordinary as they first thought.

It did not take long for the flock to call an enclave. They met at the nesting site in the eucalyptus trees on the hill. The leader of the flock called the meeting to order, "Ha! Ha! Order! Order!"

"Ha! Ha!" cried the flock.

"We are here to discuss the problem of Jim."

"Ha! Ha!" agreed the flock.

"He must be called to order!"

"Ha!"

A lone voice called, de-dah and the flock turned as one bird and frowned at the youngster who had called out of turn.

"Ha! Ha!" called the leader, "Jim must be asked to leave."

"De-dah," cried the flock.

"Ha!" said the youngster, who was a beat behind.

The leader frowned, "All in agreement then?"

"Ha-ha-de-dah," agreed the flock.

"De-dah," echoed the youngster, but the flock ignored him.

Thus it was that Jim was asked to leave the eucalyptus roost until he learned how to be quiet. The trees wept long strands of bark in sympathy as Jim made his musical farewell to the only home he had ever known.

"Ha-Ha..." Jim cleared his throat, "Ha-haaaaa...." silence. Jim tried again, "Ha-ha - ha-ha," but no matter how hard he tried Jim could not say de-dah. He couldn't bring himself to utter the traditional words of agreement used by the flock in enclave. He did not agree he was a nuisance; he did not agree he had to go; he was not going to say 'de-dah, I agree'; and he certainly was not going agree to be silent in order to stay.

Angrily Jim flew off over the trees calling ha-ha in a harsh and unmusical tone. Everywhere he went hadedas asked him why he only ever said ha-ha with such horrible noise. When he told them his story, they would fall silent and wonder what he had done to deserve such a fate. Then as he flew off crying ha-ha they would join him, calling their agreement and sympathy ... ha-ha-de-dah but Jim never joined in with last part of the call. Sadly they would leave him, an outcast, forever marked by his refusal to moderate his cry.

To this day any lone hadeda, outcast from the flock for any reason, will only ever cry ha-ha and if you hear one, know that you are hearing the lone voice of protest, crying out in its refusal to agree to be silenced.
#fiction  #philosophy 
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Challenge of the Week #60: You have just discovered a new lifeform. Write a story of 200 words or more. The most masterfully written piece, as voted and determined by the Prose team, will be crowned winner and receive $100. Quality beats quantity, always, but numbers make things easier for our judges, so share, share, share with friends, family, and connections. #ProseChallenge #getlit #itslit
Written by carolinemills

The Triangle

The water of the Mekong River looked to me like chicken broth as we paddled below the ceiling of palm fronds in our wooden canoe. Diego and I had brought some food—rice and tinned fish—and he eyed it greedily as I peered into the thick green jungle beyond the banks.

Diego was a working biologist in Mexico City, but he’d gotten himself a pretty penny on the illicit market in Southeast Asia—new species abound in the Greater Mekong—and we were off to seek out a specimen for our employer, Mr. Atwood—an illegal collector of rare and unique species. I met Diego at the Gatwick airport in London and, after the requisite introductions, we checked our bags—guns, cameras, tents—and boarded our flight to Bangkok, and the next to Vientiane.

I won’t bore you with the minor details of our excursion—the sweat-soaked clothes, the bulbous blisters on our sore and stinking feet, the symphony of French horns that sounded in our bellies when the cold canned beans hadn’t settled well enough. Nonetheless, we found ourselves in a few days’ time in the midst of the Laotian jungle—the treacherous territory of Indochinese tigers, Asian elephants, giant catfish, and unexplored riches.

We spent our eighth evening in Laos reviewing sheets of charts and notes by our tent, drinking flasks of brandy and eating sticky rice out of bamboo baskets.

“We’re working against the clock,” I said. “Mr. Atwood funded the expedition for a fortnight.”

“Fortnight?”

“Yeah, you twit—two weeks.” I grinned deviously at him.

“Ay Dios mío, Eric.” He threw a ball of rice at me and laughed as he drunkenly swayed and fell off the log he sat on. “Your—accent,” he said between snorts. “Cómico—amigo.”

“It’s Cockney.”

“No, no—cómico,” he gasped. I threw the canteen of water at his feet and told him to drink.

“I’m beginning to like you, mate.”

“Oh? Beginning to?”

“Don’t ruin it.” I took a swig of liquor and went back to our papers. We had six days left, and I needed to molllify Mr. Atwood. Diego soon dozed off in the dirt, mumbling to himself in Spanish about ‘las serpientes’ as he slept in the yellow lantern light.

Four sunsets went by after that, and we still hadn’t found a specimen for Mr. Atwood. We’d seen a red and black newt, a horned lizard, and a speckle-bellied keelback—but nothing new. We’d woken at dawn each morning and trekked through the jungle for hours on end, digging and probing, scribbling some notes here and there, ’til twilight, when we’d pitched our tents and checked our charts as we ate.

“Two days, Diego. Two. Time is not our friend.” I thumbed my notes as he stood a few feet from me, smoking a cigarette in the darkness beyond the lamp. “Are you hearing me?”

“Yeah.” He took a drag and looked deeper into the jungle.

“I need that money,” I said.

“Oh?”

“Truth is, well, I’m in debt. Gambling.”

“You don’t seem much like a gambling man.”

“This whole fucking thing was a gamble, mate. If we don’t get that specimen, Mr. Atwood will ask for the funding back. I’m bloody broke.”

“Blackjack?” he asked.

“What?”

“Poker?”

“Oh. No—it was horses. The tracks.”

“Pasado de moda.” Diego laughed and stomped out the embers of his cigarette in the dirt, bending down to retrieve the butt.

“I owe the debt to Mr. Atwood,” I said. “That’s why I’m here. To wipe out the debt.” Diego strolled over and sat beside me on the log.

“Look, we’ll walk south tomorrow—there, on the chart. There’s time.” He raised his cupped hands to reveal a black beetle lying next to his fag-end.

“Life is all around,” he said. “We will get your money, amigo.”

The next morning, we went south. By noon, we’d reached our new search radius, and, after a meal of tinned fish and crackers, we separated to explore the area. Diego meandered off to the east as I frantically scoured the western half of the radius, sweating and swearing, tearing plants out by the roots. A few hours into the work, however, I grew doleful. I walked slower, looked less meticulously at the flora and fauna around me. I’d resigned myself to the loss by sundown, and I trudged back to our meeting site in defeat. I sat in the dirt, staring into the lamp light, and waited for Diego. He stumbled out of the jungle, wide-eyed, about an hour after.

“Nothing?” I asked.

“No.”

“Bollocks.” I weakly threw a leaf at the ground.

“Not no, I found nothing,” he said.

“Then—you found something?”

“Sí,” he said. “I found it—the new species.” He sat down on the log across from me. He seemed to have left his rucksack somewhere.

“Bloody tell me about it, Diego.”

“I found a snake.” He smiled at me, but sadly, somehow, and I took a swig of brandy, knowing by his tone that something had gone awry. I offered the flask to him, but he shook his head wearily.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I got bitten.”

“By the new species?”

“Sí.”

“It might not be poisonous, Diego.”

“Look,” he said, lifting his pant leg. I held my breath as I saw his calf—swollen, bruised, and speckled blue. I immediately began to gather our belongings.

“We’ll return to the river at once. We could—”

“No,” he said. “I won’t be able to—I can't—oh—oh.” He struggled for breath, and I went to him at once.

“I will help you, Diego. Does it hurt very much?”

“Claro.” He looked like he was deteriorating before my eyes. “Small,” he whispered. “Brown.”

“The snake?”

“Sí.”

“How will I find it?”

“You—won’t. Not—before it’s bitten you.”

“Tell me what happened. Tell me where to look.”

“I thought—I’d be okay,” he whimpered. “I felt nothing for—for a few minutes but—then I knew I had about an hour to get back.”

“An hour?” He said nothing. “Diego? Estás bien?” I looked at him, feigning composure. He seemed paler by then, and he was sweating, though shivering, too. “Are you cold?”

“Snake—an hour. Brown—small—poison.” He began to cough violently. “Eric?”

“Diego?”

“Triangle—black triangle.” I knew the myth—venomous snakes have triangular heads—but he said his poisoner had been brown.

“Black, Diego?” I asked, but he went stiff and fell off the log. “Diego?”

“Get out—amigo.”

“I won’t—”

“Bugger—off—mate,” he said. I looked at him in terror as he swore at me in his thick Mexican accent, and his face contorted into a twisted grin as he died.

“Diego? Diego?” I shook him, and I cried, but to no avail—he had left me to fend for myself in the Greater Mekong, and I somehow had to get through the night alone, next to his body—alone, and terribly afraid.

By morning, I had gathered myself and began the trek to the village at the river to get help. I swept a sheet over Diego and left our site hurriedly, headed north. I had walked about three hours when I sat to rest and drink some water. I opened a tin of cold fish. Diego, I thought. Poor Diego.

I felt something glide across my foot. I looked around my boot nervously, and then I saw it about a metre away—a small, brown snake with a black triangle on its head. The new species—our sought-after prize. I rifled through my rucksack for the snare, but suddenly my ankle began to burn. Diego had said I wouldn’t notice the snake—not ’til it bit me. Fuck, I said aloud. I had an hour, and the river was about an hour and a half from where I sat. I left behind the snare, the sack, the snake—and I ran.

An hour after, about five minutes from the village, I fell, gasping for air. I looked, bleary-eyed, at the green fronds I’d almost reached and the muddy brown broth beyond. Hasta pronto, Diego, I said. I began to black out. I said the Lord’s Prayer.

I awoke a week later in a hospital in Vientiane—without a left foot. The doctors told me that some villagers had come across me lying in the grass, moaning, and they’d carried me to their hut. I blinked into the sterile white light of the intensive care unit. We’d found the species, but I had no evidence to offer Mr. Atwood besides an empty sock. I’d left my rucksack somewhere in the Laotian jungle—no money, no visa, no identification. I began to think of a new beginning, and of staying in Asia, albeit illegally. I had no one in England waiting for me, and I needed to get away from Mr. Atwood—and the debt—somehow.

The nurse sweetly asked me my name as she brought my supper. I thought for a moment before I replied.

“Diego,” I told her. “I’m called Diego.” I tucked the napkin into the neck of my hospital gown and, with that, I was born again. Life is all around.

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Challenge of the Week #60: You have just discovered a new lifeform. Write a story of 200 words or more. The most masterfully written piece, as voted and determined by the Prose team, will be crowned winner and receive $100. Quality beats quantity, always, but numbers make things easier for our judges, so share, share, share with friends, family, and connections. #ProseChallenge #getlit #itslit
Written by carolinemills
The Triangle
The water of the Mekong River looked to me like chicken broth as we paddled below the ceiling of palm fronds in our wooden canoe. Diego and I had brought some food—rice and tinned fish—and he eyed it greedily as I peered into the thick green jungle beyond the banks.

Diego was a working biologist in Mexico City, but he’d gotten himself a pretty penny on the illicit market in Southeast Asia—new species abound in the Greater Mekong—and we were off to seek out a specimen for our employer, Mr. Atwood—an illegal collector of rare and unique species. I met Diego at the Gatwick airport in London and, after the requisite introductions, we checked our bags—guns, cameras, tents—and boarded our flight to Bangkok, and the next to Vientiane.

I won’t bore you with the minor details of our excursion—the sweat-soaked clothes, the bulbous blisters on our sore and stinking feet, the symphony of French horns that sounded in our bellies when the cold canned beans hadn’t settled well enough. Nonetheless, we found ourselves in a few days’ time in the midst of the Laotian jungle—the treacherous territory of Indochinese tigers, Asian elephants, giant catfish, and unexplored riches.

We spent our eighth evening in Laos reviewing sheets of charts and notes by our tent, drinking flasks of brandy and eating sticky rice out of bamboo baskets.
“We’re working against the clock,” I said. “Mr. Atwood funded the expedition for a fortnight.”
“Fortnight?”
“Yeah, you twit—two weeks.” I grinned deviously at him.
“Ay Dios mío, Eric.” He threw a ball of rice at me and laughed as he drunkenly swayed and fell off the log he sat on. “Your—accent,” he said between snorts. “Cómico—amigo.”
“It’s Cockney.”
“No, no—cómico,” he gasped. I threw the canteen of water at his feet and told him to drink.
“I’m beginning to like you, mate.”
“Oh? Beginning to?”
“Don’t ruin it.” I took a swig of liquor and went back to our papers. We had six days left, and I needed to molllify Mr. Atwood. Diego soon dozed off in the dirt, mumbling to himself in Spanish about ‘las serpientes’ as he slept in the yellow lantern light.

Four sunsets went by after that, and we still hadn’t found a specimen for Mr. Atwood. We’d seen a red and black newt, a horned lizard, and a speckle-bellied keelback—but nothing new. We’d woken at dawn each morning and trekked through the jungle for hours on end, digging and probing, scribbling some notes here and there, ’til twilight, when we’d pitched our tents and checked our charts as we ate.
“Two days, Diego. Two. Time is not our friend.” I thumbed my notes as he stood a few feet from me, smoking a cigarette in the darkness beyond the lamp. “Are you hearing me?”
“Yeah.” He took a drag and looked deeper into the jungle.
“I need that money,” I said.
“Oh?”
“Truth is, well, I’m in debt. Gambling.”
“You don’t seem much like a gambling man.”
“This whole fucking thing was a gamble, mate. If we don’t get that specimen, Mr. Atwood will ask for the funding back. I’m bloody broke.”
“Blackjack?” he asked.
“What?”
“Poker?”
“Oh. No—it was horses. The tracks.”
“Pasado de moda.” Diego laughed and stomped out the embers of his cigarette in the dirt, bending down to retrieve the butt.
“I owe the debt to Mr. Atwood,” I said. “That’s why I’m here. To wipe out the debt.” Diego strolled over and sat beside me on the log.
“Look, we’ll walk south tomorrow—there, on the chart. There’s time.” He raised his cupped hands to reveal a black beetle lying next to his fag-end.
“Life is all around,” he said. “We will get your money, amigo.”

The next morning, we went south. By noon, we’d reached our new search radius, and, after a meal of tinned fish and crackers, we separated to explore the area. Diego meandered off to the east as I frantically scoured the western half of the radius, sweating and swearing, tearing plants out by the roots. A few hours into the work, however, I grew doleful. I walked slower, looked less meticulously at the flora and fauna around me. I’d resigned myself to the loss by sundown, and I trudged back to our meeting site in defeat. I sat in the dirt, staring into the lamp light, and waited for Diego. He stumbled out of the jungle, wide-eyed, about an hour after.
“Nothing?” I asked.
“No.”
“Bollocks.” I weakly threw a leaf at the ground.
“Not no, I found nothing,” he said.
“Then—you found something?”
“Sí,” he said. “I found it—the new species.” He sat down on the log across from me. He seemed to have left his rucksack somewhere.
“Bloody tell me about it, Diego.”
“I found a snake.” He smiled at me, but sadly, somehow, and I took a swig of brandy, knowing by his tone that something had gone awry. I offered the flask to him, but he shook his head wearily.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I got bitten.”
“By the new species?”
“Sí.”
“It might not be poisonous, Diego.”
“Look,” he said, lifting his pant leg. I held my breath as I saw his calf—swollen, bruised, and speckled blue. I immediately began to gather our belongings.
“We’ll return to the river at once. We could—”
“No,” he said. “I won’t be able to—I can't—oh—oh.” He struggled for breath, and I went to him at once.
“I will help you, Diego. Does it hurt very much?”
“Claro.” He looked like he was deteriorating before my eyes. “Small,” he whispered. “Brown.”
“The snake?”
“Sí.”
“How will I find it?”
“You—won’t. Not—before it’s bitten you.”
“Tell me what happened. Tell me where to look.”
“I thought—I’d be okay,” he whimpered. “I felt nothing for—for a few minutes but—then I knew I had about an hour to get back.”
“An hour?” He said nothing. “Diego? Estás bien?” I looked at him, feigning composure. He seemed paler by then, and he was sweating, though shivering, too. “Are you cold?”
“Snake—an hour. Brown—small—poison.” He began to cough violently. “Eric?”
“Diego?”
“Triangle—black triangle.” I knew the myth—venomous snakes have triangular heads—but he said his poisoner had been brown.
“Black, Diego?” I asked, but he went stiff and fell off the log. “Diego?”
“Get out—amigo.”
“I won’t—”
“Bugger—off—mate,” he said. I looked at him in terror as he swore at me in his thick Mexican accent, and his face contorted into a twisted grin as he died.
“Diego? Diego?” I shook him, and I cried, but to no avail—he had left me to fend for myself in the Greater Mekong, and I somehow had to get through the night alone, next to his body—alone, and terribly afraid.

By morning, I had gathered myself and began the trek to the village at the river to get help. I swept a sheet over Diego and left our site hurriedly, headed north. I had walked about three hours when I sat to rest and drink some water. I opened a tin of cold fish. Diego, I thought. Poor Diego.

I felt something glide across my foot. I looked around my boot nervously, and then I saw it about a metre away—a small, brown snake with a black triangle on its head. The new species—our sought-after prize. I rifled through my rucksack for the snare, but suddenly my ankle began to burn. Diego had said I wouldn’t notice the snake—not ’til it bit me. Fuck, I said aloud. I had an hour, and the river was about an hour and a half from where I sat. I left behind the snare, the sack, the snake—and I ran.

An hour after, about five minutes from the village, I fell, gasping for air. I looked, bleary-eyed, at the green fronds I’d almost reached and the muddy brown broth beyond. Hasta pronto, Diego, I said. I began to black out. I said the Lord’s Prayer.

I awoke a week later in a hospital in Vientiane—without a left foot. The doctors told me that some villagers had come across me lying in the grass, moaning, and they’d carried me to their hut. I blinked into the sterile white light of the intensive care unit. We’d found the species, but I had no evidence to offer Mr. Atwood besides an empty sock. I’d left my rucksack somewhere in the Laotian jungle—no money, no visa, no identification. I began to think of a new beginning, and of staying in Asia, albeit illegally. I had no one in England waiting for me, and I needed to get away from Mr. Atwood—and the debt—somehow.

The nurse sweetly asked me my name as she brought my supper. I thought for a moment before I replied.
“Diego,” I told her. “I’m called Diego.” I tucked the napkin into the neck of my hospital gown and, with that, I was born again. Life is all around.
#fiction  #prosechallenge  #Itslit  #getlit 
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Part 2 Continue the story that you started on part one. Make it just as vivid and leave me desperate to know what happens next. This time I will give you a total of 300 words. Go back and add number 1 to your first and number 2 in your second and then tag me in both. So I can read from beginning! I will continue mine too! Have fun and drive me crazy wanting another chapter...maybe we will do a number three..ha!
Written by Jasper in portal Fiction

Bewitching Hour Part II

She stumbled backwards, gripping and digging her nails into the edge of the doorway to steady herself. Hyperventilating, she was overcome by a wave of nausea and immediately emptied the contents of her stomach, creating one more puddle on the already soaked tiles.

She fell to a squat, shaking, palms resting on a dry part of the hallway floor and exclaimed 'oh god' several times. Hesitantly she raised her head, hoping she’d imagined it but her eyes met the same scene.

Her three friends were suspended upside down in the air, with stiff arms straight out to the side as if crucified. Six slit wrists and three slit throats gushed hot blood, forming individual waterfalls converging into a single lake spreading across the floor. It would be commingling with her sick in the entranceway in minutes. Their eyes were wide open and moving ever so slightly; they were still alive.

Desperately clutching to the idea that this was all a horrible nightmare, she stumbled back to her bedroom. She tried the bedroom light. It still didn’t work. Her cell phone was on the nightstand. Her knees gave out again so she crawled across the dirty carpet strewn with clothes and empty bottles to find her phone. It was dead. Still on all fours, she started searching for her friends’ cell phones. To her luck she found all three but they were out of battery, too.

With no landline in the apartment, her last hope was her laptop. Her laptop was in the kitchen. There was a chance that it might not be drenched in blood, but she had the feeling going in there would prove to be a deadly mistake. Just as she was steeling herself to try, the TV in the corner of the room turned on to static.

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Part 2 Continue the story that you started on part one. Make it just as vivid and leave me desperate to know what happens next. This time I will give you a total of 300 words. Go back and add number 1 to your first and number 2 in your second and then tag me in both. So I can read from beginning! I will continue mine too! Have fun and drive me crazy wanting another chapter...maybe we will do a number three..ha!
Written by Jasper in portal Fiction
Bewitching Hour Part II
She stumbled backwards, gripping and digging her nails into the edge of the doorway to steady herself. Hyperventilating, she was overcome by a wave of nausea and immediately emptied the contents of her stomach, creating one more puddle on the already soaked tiles.

She fell to a squat, shaking, palms resting on a dry part of the hallway floor and exclaimed 'oh god' several times. Hesitantly she raised her head, hoping she’d imagined it but her eyes met the same scene.

Her three friends were suspended upside down in the air, with stiff arms straight out to the side as if crucified. Six slit wrists and three slit throats gushed hot blood, forming individual waterfalls converging into a single lake spreading across the floor. It would be commingling with her sick in the entranceway in minutes. Their eyes were wide open and moving ever so slightly; they were still alive.

Desperately clutching to the idea that this was all a horrible nightmare, she stumbled back to her bedroom. She tried the bedroom light. It still didn’t work. Her cell phone was on the nightstand. Her knees gave out again so she crawled across the dirty carpet strewn with clothes and empty bottles to find her phone. It was dead. Still on all fours, she started searching for her friends’ cell phones. To her luck she found all three but they were out of battery, too.

With no landline in the apartment, her last hope was her laptop. Her laptop was in the kitchen. There was a chance that it might not be drenched in blood, but she had the feeling going in there would prove to be a deadly mistake. Just as she was steeling herself to try, the TV in the corner of the room turned on to static.
#fiction  #horror  #mystery 
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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by PaulDChambers in portal Publishing

Husk.

If you asked me, if you really pushed me for an answer, I’d have to admit that I’m unsure as to the exact moment. That first step, the starting point of this quest. All I know is that my search has stretched across long and empty years. However, if I were to say it started a full, fat lifetime ago, that would also ring true.

It was my epic pursuit. My folly. The wide, wise and unwise world over, inbred town to smoky dirt streaked city, far flung country to verdant counties; both landlocked and sandy coastal, balmy and frosty hunts that spanned countless and seemingly infinite footfalls. A billion searching steps to save it. To save him.

And here it is, a mere handful of stumbling strides from my beaten track; quietly lying upon a dirty forest floor, causing my heart to spike and fall as I gaze down upon it. The whale sized shadows of scudding clouds flash moonlight and the image of branches' claws intermittently on it, a giant strobe light freeze framing it over and over as if it were a scene from a bygone age. Silver and ink. Light and dark. Then. Now.

And such a sorry and desolate sight. Just a tiny husk of papery skin over bloodless brittle bones, desiccated and forlorn as if a wind of change could scatter its remains throughout the lands. It is enveloped in a smudge of cloud, one that clings to its contours. It was something that had grown with importance; had taken on a gigantic image in my mind’s eye, only to seem pathetic now found. An errant shadow, a mistimed blink, and it could have remained undiscovered. Lost forever to rot and disappear from the memory of man and time, eaten by an animal from the shade.

Gently, with trembling fingers, I pluck aside the faded streamers that crisscross its sad shape and swipe away the red smudged corks, patina bottle tops and cigarette butts that frame it. I ease my hands softly beneath it and grit my pulsing breath before lifting it into my arms in a cloud of sour scent. Detritus flakes fall from the underside of the cadaver, shrivelled skin, sealable baggies smeared with white fingerprints, faded and perfumed letter scraps and faded sparkles. Barely registering as weight, the shell is cradled to my chest as I move my ear to its torso, daring to hope my quest was not fruitless.

A faint ticking in the ribcage informs me a life force still holds fort. Shocked, yet hopeful, my thoughts race away from me. It isn’t too late. I might still save this sad creature. Tentatively, I carry my delicate cargo to safety, out of the gloomy trees and to sunnier worlds and eras. The warmth of sunlight and sounds of nature stirs in this creature the briefest of movements. And then, I watch agape as eyes tremble away a surrendering layer of skin that open, slowly, to reveal blank, blind eyes peering through the smirch that still contains it. It shudders as if filled with fear yet remains in my hold.

Unseeing, the eyes fall away from me as a black tear wells up in the corners of each dry orb, only to moisten upon a few blinks. They swivel round and now have a pupil that I watch focus upon me.

‘Who are you?’ I implore. My reply, simply more blinks, sharpening the gaze that holds me.

Cracked and dusty lips open as if for the first time in all eternity and its dry mouth gulps greedy air, like a free diver emerging from hunting pearls. Nourishing air is taken in, pumping its emaciated chest and expanding its form. It breaths out dirt into my wincing face, the odour of its lungs tacky with tar and dust. Seemingly cleansed, the breathing continues and settles to a deeply rhythmic tempo.

I repeat: ‘Who are you?’

A fleeting smile, and its tentative voice appears in my head without the need to move its lips.

I am just finding out. Feed me. Please.

I take my refugee home and place him, for that is what I have decided he is, on a blanket from my childhood. I set to building him a shelter made of books set upon each other. Heavy tomes interlink with frivolous novellas that in turn lock into novels. I use song and poetry to bond the papery bricks and complete the roof with the words of wise men and women; alongside articles and reports from free thinking publications. He grows inside, jitters give way to the occasional sigh of contentment as he feeds.

The walls of this house I adorn with images of my family and friends, past and present. With a pen passed down through generations, I write upon spaces between the pictures the stories of those shown in these portraits. With each adage and every yarn, the cloudy shroud dims a little more and the dark casing of this husk grows warmer in hue, fatter in form.

‘Who are you?’

Soon, we will know.

And so growth can be seen with each addition. I enrich his life with animals and fauna, sunrises and sea salt, with knowledge and culture. As each day passes, nerves give way to quiet confidence as he absorbs all that I thrust upon his person. 

Politics, and facts fill him, healthy food and minerals nourish him. I carpet his home with maps of adventures and morsels of delicacies from around the globe. Trinkets and coins are hidden in cupboards, locked up with the snarling fiends that want to reach him, to sink their teeth into his rounding flesh. That which sucks of his life is set apart, so that he may focus on that which is before him. And what now lays before him is the world without the shallow glitter, the clutter and the shit outside of the fusty gutter.

The time is upon us. Quest's end. 

So today, I watch proudly as he rises calmly on his two sturdy pink limbs and emerges from his house of empowerment. He is grown. Gone is the dark shroud that held him, and sloughed off is the flake of rot that covered him. Weightless shoulders squared and sturdy, head high. A toothy grin mirrors mine and eyes sparkle with life and humour. He is older, but exudes wisdom borne of the earth.

‘What is your name?’

You still don’t know?

‘Yes. Yes, I think I do’ I beam, hairs on end as I see this repaired being for what he is.

Measured and understanding, open minded and grounded. Hidden are the negatives and dark driving forces; to be replaced with that which counts and a level-headed outlook on life. There is still fragility, but it is accepted and held aloft as a mace to ward off black beasts and gloomy worlds. 

Eyes, open, he freely sheds joyful tears as he stands before me. Face to face.

And without another word, he climbs inside of me, and we become the same. History and present face the future. The mended fused to the man that was broken, now the mender.

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We are a literary agency seeking fresh talent. In 200 words or more, demonstrate your writing talent. We will be in touch with any and all promising participants throughout the rest of this quarter.
Written by PaulDChambers in portal Publishing
Husk.
If you asked me, if you really pushed me for an answer, I’d have to admit that I’m unsure as to the exact moment. That first step, the starting point of this quest. All I know is that my search has stretched across long and empty years. However, if I were to say it started a full, fat lifetime ago, that would also ring true.

It was my epic pursuit. My folly. The wide, wise and unwise world over, inbred town to smoky dirt streaked city, far flung country to verdant counties; both landlocked and sandy coastal, balmy and frosty hunts that spanned countless and seemingly infinite footfalls. A billion searching steps to save it. To save him.

And here it is, a mere handful of stumbling strides from my beaten track; quietly lying upon a dirty forest floor, causing my heart to spike and fall as I gaze down upon it. The whale sized shadows of scudding clouds flash moonlight and the image of branches' claws intermittently on it, a giant strobe light freeze framing it over and over as if it were a scene from a bygone age. Silver and ink. Light and dark. Then. Now.

And such a sorry and desolate sight. Just a tiny husk of papery skin over bloodless brittle bones, desiccated and forlorn as if a wind of change could scatter its remains throughout the lands. It is enveloped in a smudge of cloud, one that clings to its contours. It was something that had grown with importance; had taken on a gigantic image in my mind’s eye, only to seem pathetic now found. An errant shadow, a mistimed blink, and it could have remained undiscovered. Lost forever to rot and disappear from the memory of man and time, eaten by an animal from the shade.

Gently, with trembling fingers, I pluck aside the faded streamers that crisscross its sad shape and swipe away the red smudged corks, patina bottle tops and cigarette butts that frame it. I ease my hands softly beneath it and grit my pulsing breath before lifting it into my arms in a cloud of sour scent. Detritus flakes fall from the underside of the cadaver, shrivelled skin, sealable baggies smeared with white fingerprints, faded and perfumed letter scraps and faded sparkles. Barely registering as weight, the shell is cradled to my chest as I move my ear to its torso, daring to hope my quest was not fruitless.

A faint ticking in the ribcage informs me a life force still holds fort. Shocked, yet hopeful, my thoughts race away from me. It isn’t too late. I might still save this sad creature. Tentatively, I carry my delicate cargo to safety, out of the gloomy trees and to sunnier worlds and eras. The warmth of sunlight and sounds of nature stirs in this creature the briefest of movements. And then, I watch agape as eyes tremble away a surrendering layer of skin that open, slowly, to reveal blank, blind eyes peering through the smirch that still contains it. It shudders as if filled with fear yet remains in my hold.

Unseeing, the eyes fall away from me as a black tear wells up in the corners of each dry orb, only to moisten upon a few blinks. They swivel round and now have a pupil that I watch focus upon me.

‘Who are you?’ I implore. My reply, simply more blinks, sharpening the gaze that holds me.

Cracked and dusty lips open as if for the first time in all eternity and its dry mouth gulps greedy air, like a free diver emerging from hunting pearls. Nourishing air is taken in, pumping its emaciated chest and expanding its form. It breaths out dirt into my wincing face, the odour of its lungs tacky with tar and dust. Seemingly cleansed, the breathing continues and settles to a deeply rhythmic tempo.

I repeat: ‘Who are you?’

A fleeting smile, and its tentative voice appears in my head without the need to move its lips.

I am just finding out. Feed me. Please.

I take my refugee home and place him, for that is what I have decided he is, on a blanket from my childhood. I set to building him a shelter made of books set upon each other. Heavy tomes interlink with frivolous novellas that in turn lock into novels. I use song and poetry to bond the papery bricks and complete the roof with the words of wise men and women; alongside articles and reports from free thinking publications. He grows inside, jitters give way to the occasional sigh of contentment as he feeds.

The walls of this house I adorn with images of my family and friends, past and present. With a pen passed down through generations, I write upon spaces between the pictures the stories of those shown in these portraits. With each adage and every yarn, the cloudy shroud dims a little more and the dark casing of this husk grows warmer in hue, fatter in form.

‘Who are you?’

Soon, we will know.

And so growth can be seen with each addition. I enrich his life with animals and fauna, sunrises and sea salt, with knowledge and culture. As each day passes, nerves give way to quiet confidence as he absorbs all that I thrust upon his person. 

Politics, and facts fill him, healthy food and minerals nourish him. I carpet his home with maps of adventures and morsels of delicacies from around the globe. Trinkets and coins are hidden in cupboards, locked up with the snarling fiends that want to reach him, to sink their teeth into his rounding flesh. That which sucks of his life is set apart, so that he may focus on that which is before him. And what now lays before him is the world without the shallow glitter, the clutter and the shit outside of the fusty gutter.

The time is upon us. Quest's end. 

So today, I watch proudly as he rises calmly on his two sturdy pink limbs and emerges from his house of empowerment. He is grown. Gone is the dark shroud that held him, and sloughed off is the flake of rot that covered him. Weightless shoulders squared and sturdy, head high. A toothy grin mirrors mine and eyes sparkle with life and humour. He is older, but exudes wisdom borne of the earth.

‘What is your name?’

You still don’t know?

‘Yes. Yes, I think I do’ I beam, hairs on end as I see this repaired being for what he is.

Measured and understanding, open minded and grounded. Hidden are the negatives and dark driving forces; to be replaced with that which counts and a level-headed outlook on life. There is still fragility, but it is accepted and held aloft as a mace to ward off black beasts and gloomy worlds. 

Eyes, open, he freely sheds joyful tears as he stands before me. Face to face.

And without another word, he climbs inside of me, and we become the same. History and present face the future. The mended fused to the man that was broken, now the mender.
#fiction  #nonfiction  #horror  #education  #mentalhealth 
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If you could give anything to someone you care about or to who you think deserves it, what would it give them and why did you choose that particular person?
Written by a060147 in portal Stream of Consciousness

punch-drunk

i.

I breathe, dazed. Still punch-drunk in the aftermath. The couch allows little give as I push up and away from it unsteadily, leveling the bare shoulders of my professor as he turns away from me, silent. I'd left one too many marks on them probably -- though that could easily be dismissed by the rhythm he'd chosen -- and already I can see the beginnings of a bruise forming near the nape of his neck, the scratches fresh against the dark skin. Then they're not bare anymore, disguised by the crisp white of his button-up and stiff collar, and I find myself staring instead at the seamless silhouette of his wide back in the dim light. Shadowed. His belt clicks audibly as he secures it; the binder of unused notes that he'd brought complains a little as he gives it a quick flip-through, even though we both know we hadn't bothered to take anything out of it in the first place. Habit, I suppose. I'm wondering what I must look like to him right now, unraveled and undone in a way he'd never seen me before -- and then I'm realizing, too suddenly, that he's looking at me over his shoulder with an expression I can't recognize. Not on him, at least. But I figure that the both of us hadn't expected anything of the past hour to actually happen.

He opens his mouth. Pauses. Begins another breath before pausing again, unsure of what to say. The binder seems like it's the only thing anchoring him to the floor, keeping him from running. Not that I'd be able to chase him, anyway, but that's beside the point. I'm not sure what he's thinking. He lingers around the door, grazing the knob with his knuckles, before looking me in the eyes fully for the first time since the act.

"I'm sorry," he says finally. It's the same manner he uses to address unfamiliar or uncooperative students, and I feel a strange sense of disappointment in his choice of tone.

The door shuts quietly behind him.

ii.

We pass each other at least five times over the next few days: him hurrying to whatever meeting or lecture hall in his casual, expensive shoes, me trekking by in my similarly everyday, costly wheelchair. It's a little easier to feign normalcy this way, with both of us either too awkward or too tongue-tied to say much of anything, and that's okay. A little more than okay, actually, considering the decade-long age gap and our deathly shy demeanors. When I think about it, really analyze what had happened that night, I can't  put together the order of events logically without adding some sort of outside explanation. I'd fallen out of my chair and nearly knocked myself unconscious, for one, when I should've been on my way for tutoring in the library. Two, after I hadn't shown up at our usual table for at least thirty minutes, my professor asked someone where I was and ended up wandering around, searching. Until he figured I was in my apartment, of course. Three, he found me crumpled on the ground next to my desk, confused, and had tried to leave me on the couch and ask for help when suddenly I'd kissed him, hard, and he'd kissed me back and I was pulling him down with me and I was wondering if this was real, if this was happening, because there was no way on earth my bookish, bashful professor would ever want to --

I sigh, burying my face in my hands. I'd kissed him because I'd wanted to, because I thought I was still dreaming, and he'd kissed me back out of ... politeness? As an expected reaction? Then I'd realized that he actually was real, and when I tried to apologize he was already closing the distance between my mouth and his again, clumsy but passionate. Gentle and genuine and fervent, all at once. His knee had accidentally brushed between my thighs at that moment, I'd -- I'd actually let out a moan against his ear, and suddenly the heat building up in my chest was unbearable beyond anything I'd ever imagined, was unthinkably encompassing and warm and too, too much to ignore. I'd begged, and he stopped being gentle.

Similarly, at least five times over the next few days, I pretend that the traces of warmth against my lips and thighs are as recent as they had been the other night.

iii.

My voice almost catches in my throat when I mutter: "I wanted it, you know."

He's staring at me as if I just punched him. I might as well have. With twenty minutes of our hour-long tutoring session having passed in near total silence, it's easy enough to know what he's thinking now. He's wondering if it was a mistake, fucking a student like this in circumstances like that. He's wondering if I was completely willing or able, if I'd wanted this for a while or if it was spontaneous, if I regret anything that happened. Worrying, too, if our long-term friendship can take a blow like that without falling to pieces, or if we'd be better off never acknowledging the night ever again. The pen sits still in his hand, still bleeding onto the index card, and I swallow the rest of my hesitation before it can resurface.

"And I wanted to say thank you, too, for that. For -- for helping me, I mean." I correct myself quickly, forcing down the urge to stammer. Slide the note across the table as nonchalantly as I can. "If I ever need any assistance again, I'll text."

He grins at that, looking relieved, and the expression is so familiar that I can't help but return it. I can read him again. Are you sure? he wants to ask. Have you thought about this? Do you know what this means?

He opens his mouth to speak. I nod before he can.

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If you could give anything to someone you care about or to who you think deserves it, what would it give them and why did you choose that particular person?
Written by a060147 in portal Stream of Consciousness
punch-drunk
i.

I breathe, dazed. Still punch-drunk in the aftermath. The couch allows little give as I push up and away from it unsteadily, leveling the bare shoulders of my professor as he turns away from me, silent. I'd left one too many marks on them probably -- though that could easily be dismissed by the rhythm he'd chosen -- and already I can see the beginnings of a bruise forming near the nape of his neck, the scratches fresh against the dark skin. Then they're not bare anymore, disguised by the crisp white of his button-up and stiff collar, and I find myself staring instead at the seamless silhouette of his wide back in the dim light. Shadowed. His belt clicks audibly as he secures it; the binder of unused notes that he'd brought complains a little as he gives it a quick flip-through, even though we both know we hadn't bothered to take anything out of it in the first place. Habit, I suppose. I'm wondering what I must look like to him right now, unraveled and undone in a way he'd never seen me before -- and then I'm realizing, too suddenly, that he's looking at me over his shoulder with an expression I can't recognize. Not on him, at least. But I figure that the both of us hadn't expected anything of the past hour to actually happen.

He opens his mouth. Pauses. Begins another breath before pausing again, unsure of what to say. The binder seems like it's the only thing anchoring him to the floor, keeping him from running. Not that I'd be able to chase him, anyway, but that's beside the point. I'm not sure what he's thinking. He lingers around the door, grazing the knob with his knuckles, before looking me in the eyes fully for the first time since the act.

"I'm sorry," he says finally. It's the same manner he uses to address unfamiliar or uncooperative students, and I feel a strange sense of disappointment in his choice of tone.

The door shuts quietly behind him.

ii.

We pass each other at least five times over the next few days: him hurrying to whatever meeting or lecture hall in his casual, expensive shoes, me trekking by in my similarly everyday, costly wheelchair. It's a little easier to feign normalcy this way, with both of us either too awkward or too tongue-tied to say much of anything, and that's okay. A little more than okay, actually, considering the decade-long age gap and our deathly shy demeanors. When I think about it, really analyze what had happened that night, I can't  put together the order of events logically without adding some sort of outside explanation. I'd fallen out of my chair and nearly knocked myself unconscious, for one, when I should've been on my way for tutoring in the library. Two, after I hadn't shown up at our usual table for at least thirty minutes, my professor asked someone where I was and ended up wandering around, searching. Until he figured I was in my apartment, of course. Three, he found me crumpled on the ground next to my desk, confused, and had tried to leave me on the couch and ask for help when suddenly I'd kissed him, hard, and he'd kissed me back and I was pulling him down with me and I was wondering if this was real, if this was happening, because there was no way on earth my bookish, bashful professor would ever want to --

I sigh, burying my face in my hands. I'd kissed him because I'd wanted to, because I thought I was still dreaming, and he'd kissed me back out of ... politeness? As an expected reaction? Then I'd realized that he actually was real, and when I tried to apologize he was already closing the distance between my mouth and his again, clumsy but passionate. Gentle and genuine and fervent, all at once. His knee had accidentally brushed between my thighs at that moment, I'd -- I'd actually let out a moan against his ear, and suddenly the heat building up in my chest was unbearable beyond anything I'd ever imagined, was unthinkably encompassing and warm and too, too much to ignore. I'd begged, and he stopped being gentle.

Similarly, at least five times over the next few days, I pretend that the traces of warmth against my lips and thighs are as recent as they had been the other night.

iii.

My voice almost catches in my throat when I mutter: "I wanted it, you know."

He's staring at me as if I just punched him. I might as well have. With twenty minutes of our hour-long tutoring session having passed in near total silence, it's easy enough to know what he's thinking now. He's wondering if it was a mistake, fucking a student like this in circumstances like that. He's wondering if I was completely willing or able, if I'd wanted this for a while or if it was spontaneous, if I regret anything that happened. Worrying, too, if our long-term friendship can take a blow like that without falling to pieces, or if we'd be better off never acknowledging the night ever again. The pen sits still in his hand, still bleeding onto the index card, and I swallow the rest of my hesitation before it can resurface.

"And I wanted to say thank you, too, for that. For -- for helping me, I mean." I correct myself quickly, forcing down the urge to stammer. Slide the note across the table as nonchalantly as I can. "If I ever need any assistance again, I'll text."

He grins at that, looking relieved, and the expression is so familiar that I can't help but return it. I can read him again. Are you sure? he wants to ask. Have you thought about this? Do you know what this means?

He opens his mouth to speak. I nod before he can.
#fiction  #romance 
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Chapter 4 of The Culling of Casimir
Written by Harlequin in portal Fantasy

Chapter 4: The Duality of Misfortune

    The Northern King William III showed me the Silver Pool just a year after I became his Fool, long before he’d descended into his mania. As we ambled away from our weekly advisory meeting with the rest of the magisters and court, he’d said, “Gods, I think we finally found an afternoon where both you and I are free of our responsibilities.” 

    Up to our necks in proper garb for the day, complete with layered tunics, ties, half-cloaks and embellished cuffs, the heat was stifling us from the inside out.
 A welcome change from the prolonged winters of the Northern Moonlands. “With all respect, William, it’s only you who ever has conflicting responsibilities,” I’d responded. “Sure, I have some appointments here and there, but I’m not as loyal when it comes to keeping them should something more … exciting turn up.”

    “True. Then again, you don’t have a quarter of the realm expecting your attendance with most of those occasions,” he replied, leading me to one of the reading rooms in the lower parts of the castle. "I can't wipe my ass without someone asking about it." He ran a hand through his hair and shook his head, as if the situation mystified him. 

    I shrugged. “Can’t blame yourself for that, really. You are a good king, William,” I said, shaking off the carelessness of my tone, if just for that statement. “Probably one of the best. Your parents would have been proud to see you handling all this so well, especially at this age, and with Portsworth, of all capitals.”

    “Oh.” He stopped walking. “I—well. Thank you.” He cleared his throat. “I’m sure they would have appreciated you, considering you've kept me sane throughout so much of it.”

    “A little laughter and companionship lessens any burden. It's the least I can do,” I assured him. “Then again, if they were here, it’s likely you never would have bothered with someone like me. The weight of Addoran wouldn’t be yours to carry, either.”

    At the time, the question of his reasoning for recruiting me from my chaotic past and into his court remained nearly untouched, something I respectively kept my distance from until he felt compelled to tell me, if he ever would. Not that I minded.

    “Strange how luck and misfortune seem to arise from each other,” he sighed, then opened the door to the library and ushered us inside. "I rather like how the events following their deaths tumbled. Could be worse," he shrugged.

    Extending outside the library was a terrace that matched my own, both in size and design, only it was eight floors beneath mine. “But I,” he said with an arch of his eyebrow as he checked to make sure no one had followed us, “have some plans for today that don’t involve the scrutiny of our court, nor any misfortune, for that matter.”

    “A library …” I hummed, eyeing the chandelier that hovered at the top of the ceiling, its enchanted globes and glass orbs slowly orbiting around one another, while a ring of upright swords circled the entire contraption. “Are we going to be reading for your day of reprieve?” I’d asked. “A perilous adventure into,” I slipped a leather-bound tome from one of the numerous shelves, “The Sovereign’s Crown: A Philosophical Approach to Governing? Gendric would be proud to see you crack open this monster. You know how riveting these tomes are.”

    He laughed with a glint of mischief in his eyes, one that I was all too familiar having stuck in my own. “Oh no … I think if I pour over another piece of parchment my stomach will churn and I will vomit a novel of some horrendous nature. You have no godsdamned idea how many writs, requests, and pleas I look at.”

    “Only I do,” I jutted in, “being the person that helps you judge their worth half the time.”

   He sighed, pretending to be annoyed by my remark. "It is a part of my daily routine to read things I can hardly organize or solve. So no, dear Casimir, we’ll not be doing any reading today.”

    “Well,” I said with a frown, “you don’t have to crush my dreams so damned hard. What about Lady Elise, where is she? Can’t she join us? I understand that your uncle more or less foisted the marriage upon you, but I actually enjoy her.”

    “Oh, the scholarly gentleman you are,” he praised with a slap on my back before opening the terrace doors and motioning for me to join him outside on the veranda. He stretched his arms and yawned, something that was rather rare. “Lady Elise is preoccupied today, discussing some diplomatic matters with a woman from the West Wrights Shipping Company.” He shook his head like any such thoughts were poison to him in that moment. “But please, let’s not talk about that. Gods! The sky is just glorious today. You see that pool down there, the one in the middle of the basin?”

    “You mean the one that nobody is allowed to swim in, something about Calan’s sacred nature and it being one of the six known Silver Pools in Addoran?”

    “Precisely that one! Oh, you are so perceptive!” he marveled while his fingers unbuttoned his tunic.

    “Naturally, you wish to—”

    “Swim in it. I am the Northern King after all. If anybody tries to stop me, I’ll just have their head!” he joked. At the time, it truly was humorous to imagine him doing such a thing.

    “The Priests of Calan are going to protest your reign if they catch us.” I imagined a whole horde of tan-robed acolytes marching up to the Foxfeather Castle, causing me to laugh more than a little. 
 He scoffed. “And here I thought you were the daring type. Now, I, the stern and relentless ruler, have to instruct my jester to swim in it? This is ridiculous. Don’t make me order you to enjoy yourself, now. It spoils the fun.”

    “You may just have to. It’s a steep height, my lord. Isn’t it dangerous? Is a little dip in the water worth a dive that could split your skull in half?” I looked over the edge of the veranda, passed the razor rocks that made up the basin’s borders, imaging just how much skin they would peel off my chest if I didn’t jump far enough passed them.

    “What happened to you? Did a prude crawl up inside the Casimir I know and replace his sense of frivolity with motherly concern? Don’t you know anything about Silver Pools? Gods, what do you do all day?”

    “Oh, well I feed my crow, walk around the markets, practice juggling, fencing tactics, I read and … all right, what is this? I’m not on trial here. But, aren’t these pools … eh … powerful? Some hogwash about purifying water used for healing spells? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a touch concerned about the gods smiting someone like me for stepping into something so holy. There’s a reason why I keep my daily activities private.”

    William waved that away, rushed to the library’s doors and locked them before stripping down to this undergarments. “Undoubtedly, there is some magickal properties to them. But we’re not here for that. They are,” he explained as he pried off his socks, “not entirely what you would call ‘water’, or at least that is what Magister Katrin tells me. She says they gain their silver aura because of geysers that constantly release a substance into them, and simultaneously pump the water with so much air that it becomes less dense.”

I clapped my hands behind my back and said nothing, waiting for him to explain why this made any sense.

    “Meaning,” he continued impatiently, “you can jump from the heavens into them, and your body won’t slap like a fish against the surface. More importantly, it’s pleasantly warm as a result. Just dodge the rocks!”

    Despite what he said, my stomach tensed at the thought of jumping from such a height. I despise heights. Yet, I found myself undressing, cursing myself as I did. “If I die today, from god or rock or drowning or otherwise, I hope you carve on my tombstone, ‘murdered by his king’s dimwitted idea of fun’. Also, why do I get the feeling that Magister Katrine came upon these findings through the study of books and not personal testing?” I asked him dryly, placing my jester hat on one of the finials of the handrails.

    “Oh, probably because you are exactly right. Consider your tombstone arranged. I will admire it from my view of the gardens. Alas! I am a free man for this afternoon, and my reign shall not be questioned!” he mock bellowed. “Right then. Up and over!” And before I could pull the damned madman back, he sprinted from the back of the library, pivoted off the handrails and launched himself off, screaming with the most pure and godly joy I’d ever seen.

    He dove through the bubbling water like a spear, disappearing beneath its surface for quite some time before reappearing, screaming all the same, just without as much breath.

    “You are more mad than I am!” I shouted at him. “How is it? Did you feel a goddess smite you, yet?”

    “And much braver, more handsome, and talented too! Calan doesn’t give two shits! You’re not going to make me get prosecuted for this alone, will you?”

    “You know I would never miss an opportunity to be at the center of attention!” I hollered back.

    “Less talk and more action, Casimir! Are you a performer or not? I hear elves can’t swim for their lives. You’re not going to let the rumor stand, will you?”

    The last question is what did it. I walked to the back of the library, sprinted, and just as he did, pivoted my weight off the guardrails, shouting partly from thrill, but mostly from terror, as I plunged into the air and tucked my legs into my arms. He dove into the water almost flawlessly, but I aimed to make a splash of cataclysmic proportions.

                                                                ~ ~

    There are moments in ours lives when destiny is a star glimmering far above the horizon, a drudging journey towards a nearly imperceivable, and perhaps pointless, destination. Then there are those rare, blissful instances, when we’re grasping it like a gift dropped from the gods in our lap. Whether it came from hard toil or sheer luck, or a bit of both, our path is clear, our next step sure. Other times, you chase after it like a demon who just clawed out of the earth, mad and invigorated, unperturbed, indomitable. Should something get in your way, gods have mercy upon it.

    My body fell through the air towards that glimmer of silver water at the basin of the cliffs, all the death threats and shouts drowned out by the rush of cold air now drumming over my ears. Balls of fire from an angry mage chased me in my descent, whipped passed my head before fizzling out, only adding to my spasms of laughter.

    A cry of exultation and thrill streamed from my body as I somersaulted in my flight, memory and present merging while the night’s sharp winds whirled about my body. And as I flew through the air, I prayed to all the gods that the fall would be just as harmless from my chamber as it was from that library, eight floors down, five years ago.

    As William and I discovered that summer day, within the Silver Pool, there is a cove that leads into an intricate system of carved tunnels and paths, one beneath Portsworth that opens up at a cave far beyond the city limits. Filled with stone imps and the occasional rat, the tunnels are all but unknown. A good escape route as any, I reckoned.

At this height, anyone who saw me would be forced to assume I drowned, or simply died, upon hitting the surface. Luckily for me, the Silver Pool had an incredible depth, and one that William and I surmised was all but bottomless; it was more than enough distance for my body to dive through. The substance in the pool was indeed far lighter than water, and made swimming in it extremely easy, more like floating in air. Surely, it wouldn't harm me now.

    Or, at least, I assured myself of those facts frantically as I neared it in my descent. Halfway down, my trajectory seemed to point me towards the center of the pool. I braced myself for the impact into the shimmering water.

    Then, my thrilled hollering was replaced by screams of pain.

    Something halted my descent just as I was about to break the surface of the water. It felt as if my spine nearly snapped as claws dug into my back. The unknown creature struggled against the inertia of my fall before lifting me back up and carrying me away.

    “Kuilmore fek!” I roared at my airborne captor. “Let go! Damnit! What in the gods’ …”

    Massive, scarred and weather-beaten wings flapped above me me. Large, milky-white eyes briefly glanced at me as it carried me away from the Silver Pool. It was a gargoyle bat, characterized by its grey hid, four legs, and terrifying size. I pounded its furry torso with my fist, bewildered. The creature didn’t seem to care in the slightest. Its head was twice the size of mine, while its body seemed just larger than my torso. Each of its wings was the length of your average desk, if not longer.

    I drew one of my daggers and nearly stabbed it, before looking down and thinking better. The city streets glowed in with torchlight and swirling fog far beneath me, with only weathered rooftops and cobblestone to break my fall. A few citizens enjoying the night looked up and rushed to get the attention of others to see the spectacle, hooting and shouting up at me.

    Briefly, I considered dying just to spite the creature for ruining my nearly-perfect escape. Then again, I couldn’t immediately decide what was more notable, disappearing into a pool of water or being carried away by a monstrous bat. It was the sheer unexpectedness of it that annoyed me senseless.

    Glancing back at my shrinking terrace, I saw my pursuers pointing and shouting at me. At least it would make for quite the story, I thought bitterly, before realizing that the situation made no godsdamned sense. Gargoyle bats don’t eat people, so hunting and swooping them up while they are enjoying themselves was simply unthinkable, especially this close to the city. And yet, here I was in one's claws, admiring the bony anatomy of its wings as it carried me away from Portsworth.

    Its pointed, furry ears flapped as the wind rushed through them, the creature making no signs of considering this out of the ordinary. 

    “Of all the things that could have happened …”

    As the city fell away beneath our arc through the clouds, I watched our moonlit shadows swim over the Sea of Blood’s scarlet leaves. Behind us, the angry caws of Felix chased us in our flight, though his protest did precious little to amend the situation.

    “Felix, Felix! I’m fine!” I assured him. The bat shifted its claws to get a better grip on my waist, piercing my skin with another set of marks. I winced. “I need you to send something for me!” I shouted over the whistling air, thinking quickly.

    “Get close to me, Felix!” I called to him as he struggled to keep up with the bat.

    When Felix was in reach, I fumbled with the feather ring on my thumb, trying to drop it into his messenger pouch as he flew beside us. At the same time, the bird couldn’t simply stop flying, let alone slow down, to give me time to do so. At last, I snatched him from the air and placed the ring in the tiny pouch attached to its leg. “Forgive me for being so rough. I know, I know, this is strange. Get this to Magister Fahim’s chamber,” I instructed, three times over.

    The terrified crow was cawing, now seeing the face of the gargoyle bat, whose eyes seemed fixated and trancelike, unlike a normal animal’s, as it continued towards its destination.

    I let Felix go, who, after regaining his balance in the air, watched us briefly before flapping back to the Foxfeather Castle.

    “Wait, Felix!” I shouted, but it was too late. “Don’t forget to find me! Somehow!”

    I cursed at my mistake. I should have let him follow me, first. A touch of loneliness creeped up into my chest, watching his tiny silhouette fade into the clouds. 

    By then, the Sea of Blood was far behind us, with Portsworth’s expanse turning into a wood and stone oval spread across the mountainous terrain cut by the sea. Four points of light: the east, west, north and south squares, illuminated surrounding structures with the symbols of the four gods of fortune. The bat veered eastwards, alongside the mountains that loomed over the forest, where early snows had already settled at the basins. My hands had gone numb, my mind was reeling, and my stomach, twisting, at the thought of whatever would meet me after this bat stopped flying.

    I had that terrible feeling that it was nothing with the best intentions.

    I squirmed until I could get the whetstone from my satchel. To pass the time for the uncomfortable journey, I sharpened my daggers. What else was there to do?

    “Small chance you are one of those infernal beasts that can talk?” I asked the bat.

    Again, its eyes only glanced at me before returning to stare at the terrain as it slid beneath us.

    “No, I thought not,” I sighed. "You don't talk to your prey, do you? That wouldn't be good table manners."

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Chapter 4 of The Culling of Casimir
Written by Harlequin in portal Fantasy
Chapter 4: The Duality of Misfortune
    The Northern King William III showed me the Silver Pool just a year after I became his Fool, long before he’d descended into his mania. As we ambled away from our weekly advisory meeting with the rest of the magisters and court, he’d said, “Gods, I think we finally found an afternoon where both you and I are free of our responsibilities.” 
    Up to our necks in proper garb for the day, complete with layered tunics, ties, half-cloaks and embellished cuffs, the heat was stifling us from the inside out.
 A welcome change from the prolonged winters of the Northern Moonlands. “With all respect, William, it’s only you who ever has conflicting responsibilities,” I’d responded. “Sure, I have some appointments here and there, but I’m not as loyal when it comes to keeping them should something more … exciting turn up.”
    “True. Then again, you don’t have a quarter of the realm expecting your attendance with most of those occasions,” he replied, leading me to one of the reading rooms in the lower parts of the castle. "I can't wipe my ass without someone asking about it." He ran a hand through his hair and shook his head, as if the situation mystified him. 
    I shrugged. “Can’t blame yourself for that, really. You are a good king, William,” I said, shaking off the carelessness of my tone, if just for that statement. “Probably one of the best. Your parents would have been proud to see you handling all this so well, especially at this age, and with Portsworth, of all capitals.”
    “Oh.” He stopped walking. “I—well. Thank you.” He cleared his throat. “I’m sure they would have appreciated you, considering you've kept me sane throughout so much of it.”
    “A little laughter and companionship lessens any burden. It's the least I can do,” I assured him. “Then again, if they were here, it’s likely you never would have bothered with someone like me. The weight of Addoran wouldn’t be yours to carry, either.”
    At the time, the question of his reasoning for recruiting me from my chaotic past and into his court remained nearly untouched, something I respectively kept my distance from until he felt compelled to tell me, if he ever would. Not that I minded.
    “Strange how luck and misfortune seem to arise from each other,” he sighed, then opened the door to the library and ushered us inside. "I rather like how the events following their deaths tumbled. Could be worse," he shrugged.
    Extending outside the library was a terrace that matched my own, both in size and design, only it was eight floors beneath mine. “But I,” he said with an arch of his eyebrow as he checked to make sure no one had followed us, “have some plans for today that don’t involve the scrutiny of our court, nor any misfortune, for that matter.”
    “A library …” I hummed, eyeing the chandelier that hovered at the top of the ceiling, its enchanted globes and glass orbs slowly orbiting around one another, while a ring of upright swords circled the entire contraption. “Are we going to be reading for your day of reprieve?” I’d asked. “A perilous adventure into,” I slipped a leather-bound tome from one of the numerous shelves, “The Sovereign’s Crown: A Philosophical Approach to Governing? Gendric would be proud to see you crack open this monster. You know how riveting these tomes are.”
    He laughed with a glint of mischief in his eyes, one that I was all too familiar having stuck in my own. “Oh no … I think if I pour over another piece of parchment my stomach will churn and I will vomit a novel of some horrendous nature. You have no godsdamned idea how many writs, requests, and pleas I look at.”
    “Only I do,” I jutted in, “being the person that helps you judge their worth half the time.”
   He sighed, pretending to be annoyed by my remark. "It is a part of my daily routine to read things I can hardly organize or solve. So no, dear Casimir, we’ll not be doing any reading today.”
    “Well,” I said with a frown, “you don’t have to crush my dreams so damned hard. What about Lady Elise, where is she? Can’t she join us? I understand that your uncle more or less foisted the marriage upon you, but I actually enjoy her.”
    “Oh, the scholarly gentleman you are,” he praised with a slap on my back before opening the terrace doors and motioning for me to join him outside on the veranda. He stretched his arms and yawned, something that was rather rare. “Lady Elise is preoccupied today, discussing some diplomatic matters with a woman from the West Wrights Shipping Company.” He shook his head like any such thoughts were poison to him in that moment. “But please, let’s not talk about that. Gods! The sky is just glorious today. You see that pool down there, the one in the middle of the basin?”
    “You mean the one that nobody is allowed to swim in, something about Calan’s sacred nature and it being one of the six known Silver Pools in Addoran?”
    “Precisely that one! Oh, you are so perceptive!” he marveled while his fingers unbuttoned his tunic.
    “Naturally, you wish to—”
    “Swim in it. I am the Northern King after all. If anybody tries to stop me, I’ll just have their head!” he joked. At the time, it truly was humorous to imagine him doing such a thing.
    “The Priests of Calan are going to protest your reign if they catch us.” I imagined a whole horde of tan-robed acolytes marching up to the Foxfeather Castle, causing me to laugh more than a little. 
 He scoffed. “And here I thought you were the daring type. Now, I, the stern and relentless ruler, have to instruct my jester to swim in it? This is ridiculous. Don’t make me order you to enjoy yourself, now. It spoils the fun.”
    “You may just have to. It’s a steep height, my lord. Isn’t it dangerous? Is a little dip in the water worth a dive that could split your skull in half?” I looked over the edge of the veranda, passed the razor rocks that made up the basin’s borders, imaging just how much skin they would peel off my chest if I didn’t jump far enough passed them.
    “What happened to you? Did a prude crawl up inside the Casimir I know and replace his sense of frivolity with motherly concern? Don’t you know anything about Silver Pools? Gods, what do you do all day?”
    “Oh, well I feed my crow, walk around the markets, practice juggling, fencing tactics, I read and … all right, what is this? I’m not on trial here. But, aren’t these pools … eh … powerful? Some hogwash about purifying water used for healing spells? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a touch concerned about the gods smiting someone like me for stepping into something so holy. There’s a reason why I keep my daily activities private.”
    William waved that away, rushed to the library’s doors and locked them before stripping down to this undergarments. “Undoubtedly, there is some magickal properties to them. But we’re not here for that. They are,” he explained as he pried off his socks, “not entirely what you would call ‘water’, or at least that is what Magister Katrin tells me. She says they gain their silver aura because of geysers that constantly release a substance into them, and simultaneously pump the water with so much air that it becomes less dense.”
I clapped my hands behind my back and said nothing, waiting for him to explain why this made any sense.
    “Meaning,” he continued impatiently, “you can jump from the heavens into them, and your body won’t slap like a fish against the surface. More importantly, it’s pleasantly warm as a result. Just dodge the rocks!”
    Despite what he said, my stomach tensed at the thought of jumping from such a height. I despise heights. Yet, I found myself undressing, cursing myself as I did. “If I die today, from god or rock or drowning or otherwise, I hope you carve on my tombstone, ‘murdered by his king’s dimwitted idea of fun’. Also, why do I get the feeling that Magister Katrine came upon these findings through the study of books and not personal testing?” I asked him dryly, placing my jester hat on one of the finials of the handrails.
    “Oh, probably because you are exactly right. Consider your tombstone arranged. I will admire it from my view of the gardens. Alas! I am a free man for this afternoon, and my reign shall not be questioned!” he mock bellowed. “Right then. Up and over!” And before I could pull the damned madman back, he sprinted from the back of the library, pivoted off the handrails and launched himself off, screaming with the most pure and godly joy I’d ever seen.
    He dove through the bubbling water like a spear, disappearing beneath its surface for quite some time before reappearing, screaming all the same, just without as much breath.
    “You are more mad than I am!” I shouted at him. “How is it? Did you feel a goddess smite you, yet?”
    “And much braver, more handsome, and talented too! Calan doesn’t give two shits! You’re not going to make me get prosecuted for this alone, will you?”
    “You know I would never miss an opportunity to be at the center of attention!” I hollered back.
    “Less talk and more action, Casimir! Are you a performer or not? I hear elves can’t swim for their lives. You’re not going to let the rumor stand, will you?”
    The last question is what did it. I walked to the back of the library, sprinted, and just as he did, pivoted my weight off the guardrails, shouting partly from thrill, but mostly from terror, as I plunged into the air and tucked my legs into my arms. He dove into the water almost flawlessly, but I aimed to make a splash of cataclysmic proportions.

                                                                ~ ~

    There are moments in ours lives when destiny is a star glimmering far above the horizon, a drudging journey towards a nearly imperceivable, and perhaps pointless, destination. Then there are those rare, blissful instances, when we’re grasping it like a gift dropped from the gods in our lap. Whether it came from hard toil or sheer luck, or a bit of both, our path is clear, our next step sure. Other times, you chase after it like a demon who just clawed out of the earth, mad and invigorated, unperturbed, indomitable. Should something get in your way, gods have mercy upon it.
    My body fell through the air towards that glimmer of silver water at the basin of the cliffs, all the death threats and shouts drowned out by the rush of cold air now drumming over my ears. Balls of fire from an angry mage chased me in my descent, whipped passed my head before fizzling out, only adding to my spasms of laughter.
    A cry of exultation and thrill streamed from my body as I somersaulted in my flight, memory and present merging while the night’s sharp winds whirled about my body. And as I flew through the air, I prayed to all the gods that the fall would be just as harmless from my chamber as it was from that library, eight floors down, five years ago.
    As William and I discovered that summer day, within the Silver Pool, there is a cove that leads into an intricate system of carved tunnels and paths, one beneath Portsworth that opens up at a cave far beyond the city limits. Filled with stone imps and the occasional rat, the tunnels are all but unknown. A good escape route as any, I reckoned.
At this height, anyone who saw me would be forced to assume I drowned, or simply died, upon hitting the surface. Luckily for me, the Silver Pool had an incredible depth, and one that William and I surmised was all but bottomless; it was more than enough distance for my body to dive through. The substance in the pool was indeed far lighter than water, and made swimming in it extremely easy, more like floating in air. Surely, it wouldn't harm me now.
    Or, at least, I assured myself of those facts frantically as I neared it in my descent. Halfway down, my trajectory seemed to point me towards the center of the pool. I braced myself for the impact into the shimmering water.
    Then, my thrilled hollering was replaced by screams of pain.
    Something halted my descent just as I was about to break the surface of the water. It felt as if my spine nearly snapped as claws dug into my back. The unknown creature struggled against the inertia of my fall before lifting me back up and carrying me away.
    “Kuilmore fek!” I roared at my airborne captor. “Let go! Damnit! What in the gods’ …”
    Massive, scarred and weather-beaten wings flapped above me me. Large, milky-white eyes briefly glanced at me as it carried me away from the Silver Pool. It was a gargoyle bat, characterized by its grey hid, four legs, and terrifying size. I pounded its furry torso with my fist, bewildered. The creature didn’t seem to care in the slightest. Its head was twice the size of mine, while its body seemed just larger than my torso. Each of its wings was the length of your average desk, if not longer.
    I drew one of my daggers and nearly stabbed it, before looking down and thinking better. The city streets glowed in with torchlight and swirling fog far beneath me, with only weathered rooftops and cobblestone to break my fall. A few citizens enjoying the night looked up and rushed to get the attention of others to see the spectacle, hooting and shouting up at me.
    Briefly, I considered dying just to spite the creature for ruining my nearly-perfect escape. Then again, I couldn’t immediately decide what was more notable, disappearing into a pool of water or being carried away by a monstrous bat. It was the sheer unexpectedness of it that annoyed me senseless.
    Glancing back at my shrinking terrace, I saw my pursuers pointing and shouting at me. At least it would make for quite the story, I thought bitterly, before realizing that the situation made no godsdamned sense. Gargoyle bats don’t eat people, so hunting and swooping them up while they are enjoying themselves was simply unthinkable, especially this close to the city. And yet, here I was in one's claws, admiring the bony anatomy of its wings as it carried me away from Portsworth.
    Its pointed, furry ears flapped as the wind rushed through them, the creature making no signs of considering this out of the ordinary. 
    “Of all the things that could have happened …”
    As the city fell away beneath our arc through the clouds, I watched our moonlit shadows swim over the Sea of Blood’s scarlet leaves. Behind us, the angry caws of Felix chased us in our flight, though his protest did precious little to amend the situation.
    “Felix, Felix! I’m fine!” I assured him. The bat shifted its claws to get a better grip on my waist, piercing my skin with another set of marks. I winced. “I need you to send something for me!” I shouted over the whistling air, thinking quickly.
    “Get close to me, Felix!” I called to him as he struggled to keep up with the bat.
    When Felix was in reach, I fumbled with the feather ring on my thumb, trying to drop it into his messenger pouch as he flew beside us. At the same time, the bird couldn’t simply stop flying, let alone slow down, to give me time to do so. At last, I snatched him from the air and placed the ring in the tiny pouch attached to its leg. “Forgive me for being so rough. I know, I know, this is strange. Get this to Magister Fahim’s chamber,” I instructed, three times over.
    The terrified crow was cawing, now seeing the face of the gargoyle bat, whose eyes seemed fixated and trancelike, unlike a normal animal’s, as it continued towards its destination.
    I let Felix go, who, after regaining his balance in the air, watched us briefly before flapping back to the Foxfeather Castle.
    “Wait, Felix!” I shouted, but it was too late. “Don’t forget to find me! Somehow!”
    I cursed at my mistake. I should have let him follow me, first. A touch of loneliness creeped up into my chest, watching his tiny silhouette fade into the clouds. 
    By then, the Sea of Blood was far behind us, with Portsworth’s expanse turning into a wood and stone oval spread across the mountainous terrain cut by the sea. Four points of light: the east, west, north and south squares, illuminated surrounding structures with the symbols of the four gods of fortune. The bat veered eastwards, alongside the mountains that loomed over the forest, where early snows had already settled at the basins. My hands had gone numb, my mind was reeling, and my stomach, twisting, at the thought of whatever would meet me after this bat stopped flying.
    I had that terrible feeling that it was nothing with the best intentions.
    I squirmed until I could get the whetstone from my satchel. To pass the time for the uncomfortable journey, I sharpened my daggers. What else was there to do?
    “Small chance you are one of those infernal beasts that can talk?” I asked the bat.
    Again, its eyes only glanced at me before returning to stare at the terrain as it slid beneath us.
    “No, I thought not,” I sighed. "You don't talk to your prey, do you? That wouldn't be good table manners."
#fantasy  #fiction  #books  #TCOC 
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Prose Challenge of the Month #2: Write a story where you wake up as the most intelligent person on Earth. Fifteen entries will be featured in a 500-coin Prose Original Book, whereby each winner will take 5% lifetime royalties. You must purchase the book to discover its authors, who will be determined by objective data (reads, likes, reposts, comments) and by team vote to ensure reader satisfaction. When sharing to social media, please use the hashtags “itslit,” “getlit,” and “ProseChallenge.”
Written by writerjess in portal Fiction

The Curse of Intelligence

You'd think it would be fun, wouldn't you? Waking up one day and realizing that not a single person in the whole world is as smart as you are. But it's not. It's not fun because it's not for the day, or the week, it's forever. And forever I will have to live with this power, this burden that I never wanted. That I never asked for. 

And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I'm selfish, that how could I ever possibly see this blessing as a curse. And trust me, I would've thought the same thing if it had been just ten hours ago. But this isn't ten hours ago, this is now. And now I've been faced with something I would have never expected. 

I've been faced with a power. And I don't deserve it.

Someone else should have woken up today and discovered that they were the smartest person in the world because I don't deserve it. A person who knows, not everything, but more than any other human in the world has a duty, a power, a voice. And with this voice, this person should be changing the world. Finding cures, eradicating crises, making outer-space discoveries, and educating others to create a better future generation. I know this, and yet I can't do it. 

Just because I'm smart now, doesn't mean I'm good. Just because I'm smart now doesn't mean I have the answers to the questions that actually matter. Just because I'm smart now doesn't mean I want to do anything. 

If this gift was miraculously given to me out of all the seven billion, four hundred and eighty-six million, five hundred and thirty-four thousand, nine hundred and ninety and counting people in the world then please, please it needs to go to someone else. I didn't even search up that number, it just came to my brain when I needed it to and that should not be happening.

I don't want to save the world. I don't want to look at the people around me and see every little detail in their personal life. I don't want to be overwhelmed with the endless information every time I look anywhere or at anything. I do it and I can't breathe because I can't shut it down, the numbers and facts, they just keep coming and coming and it's making my head hurt and my brain hurt and I know this is a run-on sentence and now it's bugging me and I don't want it to bug me and yesterday it would have been so useful to know on my essay but I didn't know it yesterday, I know it today and I hate it I hate it I hate it. 

And school, I can't go back to school where I know everything I could possibly be taught and I notice every mistake a teacher makes. I won't be able to talk to my friends anymore because I'll just always be, not one, but one hundred steps ahead. I'll hate them for the ignorance that isn't their fault, and they'll hate me for the knowledge that isn't mine. 

I never understood the saying "ignorance is bliss" but now I can't stop thinking about it. Oh, what I would give to live in complete ignorance, in complete bliss, never realizing my thoughts weren't my own and my perceptions were all twisted. I want to watch useless TV shows until it fries my brain, I want to live young and have no worries, I want to be reckless and laugh about it the next day, I want to feel the satisfaction of solving a problem I had wracked my brain on. 

Life is meaningless if there is not more opportunity to be challenged.

In a world that is a chess game, my only path is the path to victory, and yet I don't want the game to end.

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Prose Challenge of the Month #2: Write a story where you wake up as the most intelligent person on Earth. Fifteen entries will be featured in a 500-coin Prose Original Book, whereby each winner will take 5% lifetime royalties. You must purchase the book to discover its authors, who will be determined by objective data (reads, likes, reposts, comments) and by team vote to ensure reader satisfaction. When sharing to social media, please use the hashtags “itslit,” “getlit,” and “ProseChallenge.”
Written by writerjess in portal Fiction
The Curse of Intelligence
You'd think it would be fun, wouldn't you? Waking up one day and realizing that not a single person in the whole world is as smart as you are. But it's not. It's not fun because it's not for the day, or the week, it's forever. And forever I will have to live with this power, this burden that I never wanted. That I never asked for. 

And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I'm selfish, that how could I ever possibly see this blessing as a curse. And trust me, I would've thought the same thing if it had been just ten hours ago. But this isn't ten hours ago, this is now. And now I've been faced with something I would have never expected. 

I've been faced with a power. And I don't deserve it.

Someone else should have woken up today and discovered that they were the smartest person in the world because I don't deserve it. A person who knows, not everything, but more than any other human in the world has a duty, a power, a voice. And with this voice, this person should be changing the world. Finding cures, eradicating crises, making outer-space discoveries, and educating others to create a better future generation. I know this, and yet I can't do it. 

Just because I'm smart now, doesn't mean I'm good. Just because I'm smart now doesn't mean I have the answers to the questions that actually matter. Just because I'm smart now doesn't mean I want to do anything. 

If this gift was miraculously given to me out of all the seven billion, four hundred and eighty-six million, five hundred and thirty-four thousand, nine hundred and ninety and counting people in the world then please, please it needs to go to someone else. I didn't even search up that number, it just came to my brain when I needed it to and that should not be happening.

I don't want to save the world. I don't want to look at the people around me and see every little detail in their personal life. I don't want to be overwhelmed with the endless information every time I look anywhere or at anything. I do it and I can't breathe because I can't shut it down, the numbers and facts, they just keep coming and coming and it's making my head hurt and my brain hurt and I know this is a run-on sentence and now it's bugging me and I don't want it to bug me and yesterday it would have been so useful to know on my essay but I didn't know it yesterday, I know it today and I hate it I hate it I hate it. 

And school, I can't go back to school where I know everything I could possibly be taught and I notice every mistake a teacher makes. I won't be able to talk to my friends anymore because I'll just always be, not one, but one hundred steps ahead. I'll hate them for the ignorance that isn't their fault, and they'll hate me for the knowledge that isn't mine. 

I never understood the saying "ignorance is bliss" but now I can't stop thinking about it. Oh, what I would give to live in complete ignorance, in complete bliss, never realizing my thoughts weren't my own and my perceptions were all twisted. I want to watch useless TV shows until it fries my brain, I want to live young and have no worries, I want to be reckless and laugh about it the next day, I want to feel the satisfaction of solving a problem I had wracked my brain on. 

Life is meaningless if there is not more opportunity to be challenged.

In a world that is a chess game, my only path is the path to victory, and yet I don't want the game to end.
#fiction  #philosophy  #prosechallenge  #Itslit  #getlit 
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Challenge of the Week #58: You are a victim of injustice, write a story about it. The most masterfully written piece, as voted and determined by the Prose team, will be crowned winner and receive $150. Quality beats quantity, always, but numbers make things easier for our judges, so share, share, share with friends, family, and connections. #ProseChallenge #getlit #itslit
Written by EBJohnson

A Body of Choice

She sat on the sterile surface of the table and let the tears flow down her face. Their words thundered in her head over and over again as her heart beat wildly against the avian bones of her ribcage. No, no, no. This is not your body. You are nothing

A million thoughts exploded inside her mind. A thousand options presented themselves to her, each one more grim than the last. Knots twisted in her stomach and she felt the bile rise in her throat. 

"I won't do it," she croaked. Alone. "I won't do it." 

"You don't have really have a choice, I'm sad to say," came the response. The doctor's eyes looked at her with mocked sympathy, but the truth was written there in bold -- just beneath the surface. Another stupid girl, another stupid decision. When would they learn? 

"But this is my body. I won't do it." Another wave of grief washed over her and she felt the maelstrom move in her belly. "I can't do it. I won't do it. I would rather die." 

"Then you'll go to jail. It's a criminal offense beyond this point. There's nothing more we can do for you." 

A stupor set over her as the shock set in. All the illusions began to fall away like sheets of broken glass. Her world, her life was shattered. One-by-one, her dreams began to peel away and the chasm opened up beneath her. She could feel the flames licking her feet and she could feel the icy resolution of death fettering itself around her throat. The future and the past warped together and she saw the hell that was waiting for her ahead. A life of pain. A life without choice. This is what it meant to be a woman.

She lay in bed that night, feeling her doom kicking and twisting in her stomach. It was never supposed to come to this. It was never supposed to be this way. So many promises that had been made, so many doctors that had given her absolutes. None of it was true. And now? Now she stood at the brink and there was no going back. The reality of her truth choked her. The reality of her value and her place in this world wrenched her heart open wide and lay her soul open, raw and bare. She began to suffocate.

In the morning, her mind was made up. As the monster wriggled inside her belly, her mind turned to steel. This was her body. This was her choice. This was the only choice they had left her. Her, the brood mare. The half-person.

She watched the sun rise once more before she pulled the bottle from the cupboard and stuffed her hands with the little white pills. 

It was the only choice left, but it was her choice. Her only choice. The only choice the state had left her. 

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Challenge of the Week #58: You are a victim of injustice, write a story about it. The most masterfully written piece, as voted and determined by the Prose team, will be crowned winner and receive $150. Quality beats quantity, always, but numbers make things easier for our judges, so share, share, share with friends, family, and connections. #ProseChallenge #getlit #itslit
Written by EBJohnson
A Body of Choice
She sat on the sterile surface of the table and let the tears flow down her face. Their words thundered in her head over and over again as her heart beat wildly against the avian bones of her ribcage. No, no, no. This is not your body. You are nothing

A million thoughts exploded inside her mind. A thousand options presented themselves to her, each one more grim than the last. Knots twisted in her stomach and she felt the bile rise in her throat. 

"I won't do it," she croaked. Alone. "I won't do it." 

"You don't have really have a choice, I'm sad to say," came the response. The doctor's eyes looked at her with mocked sympathy, but the truth was written there in bold -- just beneath the surface. Another stupid girl, another stupid decision. When would they learn? 

"But this is my body. I won't do it." Another wave of grief washed over her and she felt the maelstrom move in her belly. "I can't do it. I won't do it. I would rather die." 

"Then you'll go to jail. It's a criminal offense beyond this point. There's nothing more we can do for you." 

A stupor set over her as the shock set in. All the illusions began to fall away like sheets of broken glass. Her world, her life was shattered. One-by-one, her dreams began to peel away and the chasm opened up beneath her. She could feel the flames licking her feet and she could feel the icy resolution of death fettering itself around her throat. The future and the past warped together and she saw the hell that was waiting for her ahead. A life of pain. A life without choice. This is what it meant to be a woman.

She lay in bed that night, feeling her doom kicking and twisting in her stomach. It was never supposed to come to this. It was never supposed to be this way. So many promises that had been made, so many doctors that had given her absolutes. None of it was true. And now? Now she stood at the brink and there was no going back. The reality of her truth choked her. The reality of her value and her place in this world wrenched her heart open wide and lay her soul open, raw and bare. She began to suffocate.

In the morning, her mind was made up. As the monster wriggled inside her belly, her mind turned to steel. This was her body. This was her choice. This was the only choice they had left her. Her, the brood mare. The half-person.

She watched the sun rise once more before she pulled the bottle from the cupboard and stuffed her hands with the little white pills. 

It was the only choice left, but it was her choice. Her only choice. The only choice the state had left her. 
#fiction  #nonfiction  #politics  #culture  #opinion 
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