Donate coins to AmandaJ.
Juice
Cancel
Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by AmandaJ in portal Trident Media Group

A Year in Dreams (Excerpt)

[Literarily, journals are problematic. Unless you’re an astronaut, a war reporter, or an arctic explorer (and sometimes even then), there are profound limitations on the narrative merit of real life. But what about surreal life? The following is an excerpt from a collection of my dreams, recorded over the course of a year.]

Sight

The first thing is that it’s grey, sloping woods, like in every Russian war movie from the past century – a tangle of thin, gnarled grey trees stretching from grey upward into lighter grey.

The second thing is that everyone is blind.

There’s a room where people go, in ones and twos, to tell one another secrets. To pray. Whatever. It’s a few degrees cooler in this room. I’m not sure whether people take the sacredness of this room seriously, but the fact that almost no one’s ever here, even in the crushing heat, is a good indication. There’s a dartboard along one of the far walls, which seems silly. To get to this room, you cross from a wooden platform via zipline, which is really just a chunky metal chain stretching upward into oblivion, swinging downward like a very unsafe version of a Discovery Zone rope swing. Or you can just stretch and scramble your way upward onto the far platform, but this is frowned upon. The room is long, and very dark, which I suppose doesn’t matter. There’s an off-white box of a vintage PC centered against one wall, near the entrance – one of various instances of obsolesced technology as ignored decor. As I pass it, I think: This is what I’m doing here. We have to write all of this down.

This is where I go to tell Stacy I’m not blind.

“You already know what I’m going to tell you,” I say.

“Say it,” she says.

Stacy has suspected for some time. My not being blind anymore. First when I noticed one of her tattoos. Second, when she was throwing things at me to see if I could see and I sort of forgot she was doing it and dodged a little bit, something sharp probably. Third, when I was getting my own tattoo, and lodged a minor complaint, ostensibly based on having felt the error, but of course Stacy knew that was bullshit.

I didn’t want anyone to know I wasn’t blind, so I started practicing what people call one’s “beggar face.” It just means looking blind. Stacy doesn’t seem to care, but still, I don’t want anyone here to know that I can see. I haven’t been here long enough to know whether or not they kill their gods.

Purportedly, there are two other people who have sight. I haven’t met them yet. Or maybe I have, and they just have better beggar face than I do.

Road Trip/Mayflower/The Squirrels

Thomas Middleditch and I are going to repeat this vaguely coastal road trip as many times as it takes. Which is at least three.

Each time it's only slightly different, like a historical glitch, circling back on itself in fits of interruption and resumption.

And one last thing that bears noting: the squirrels in this world (Tom explains) are malicious. They're essentially what the birds are to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Later, we will hang glide over the Mayflower, the historical site where it famously crashed off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. After all, Tom remarks, there’s no safer place from squirrels than a hang glider.

Cornfield Cult Film Festival

I sit in the low-topped muscle car, just sweating, for what feels like forever. I am feeling things out, pretending to be her daughter, at this weird, cult-film-inspired festival in the middle of nowhere that appears to 100% share a guest list with the nearest comic-con.

Why her daughter? Am I that much younger looking? No; this is swiftly confirmed by the fact that people start mistaking me for her almost instantly. Is it because I’m embarrassed? Because knowing so little about a full blood sister is head-cockingly weird, whereas being a daughter implies distance, estrangement, adoption, switched babies at birth… any number of good reasons to not have known this person who shares my genes almost exactly? Yes, that’s the one.

I finally do extricate myself from that suffocating little car, picking my way across the defunct cornfield to one of a slew of concrete warehouse buildings, gutted and shelled for this momentous occasion. Inside, throngs of people who parked on the field are milling about – discussing, theorizing, arguing, reliving – this horrible little movie whose tangential excitement should have died down, culturally, about one week after it came out.

Some plaid-clad showrunner arrives and sticks me in a pair of enormous, clunky platform shoes with treaded soles, and I don’t question why (this is not necessarily weirder than other things happening concurrently). The reason becomes clear when I am led out to a slab of wet concrete in the field, evidently to execute some impoverished version of the Mann’s Chinese Theater nonsense. I am flanked by others in weird shoes, apparently from the film, who eye me with a mixture of excitement and suspicion.

The only person who leaves me alone at this thing, who doesn’t buy for a moment that that I am ¡her!, is a gal who turns out to actually be her daughter. She is round and frank and ingenuous, a sharp crop of black hair framing her pale face. She looks exactly like her. Well, like half of her.

The reason this girl (my niece/a stranger) chats me up but never supposes that I am her is because she knows that her mother is dead.

Well, of course she’s dead. I should have known that.

Heroin

Speeding down the side of a forested mountain, I should be questioning the safety of my companions, but mostly I'm kicking myself for not doing heroin before.

Within moments I am an old pro. Toggling back and forth between the two types, ingeniously labeled “brown sugar” and “white sugar,” it becomes clear that we are smuggling this shit. The police arrive, and everyone debates in hushed caws what to do.

But the answer is obvious: more heroin.

Obits

Near the border, a small, bespectacled man makes his way past hot, unruly clusters of people. He is going to the office to meet his partner. Although they could not look more physically dissimilar (the man’s partner is heavy, towering, untucked, shaped as though poured into the warped jug of his button-down shirt), they each look 100% their part. They are obit writers, a task they approach with the wry dedication befitting their profession. Through a clerical error – an intentional one, coming definitely from someone and somewhere – the small man learns that his own mother is dead. That she has been dead for three months.

Tornado Drill

As tornadoes dance in the distance, like so many snakes being charmed, the sky beneath them slurs from a rich peach to a drained antique yellow. This is the color of greyish gold that makes everything around it look greener, and there is plenty of green. For miles around, there is nothing and no one, only my friend and I as we look from newly planted tree to newly planted tree, some roadside project, for the fattest trunk or the deepest roots, something we can hug in a crisis. I am poised to make a very funny tree hugging joke, but she’s busy tugging at thick strands of grass. Thinking? Hard to say. She’s an idiot, but I’m still going to save her life if I can.

The other part of this is that we’re rehearsing a play. Today is our first rehearsal, and it’s a pro bono gig in a ramshackle little cabin, about fourteen meters from where we’re standing now. Totally senseless, no pay, and it’s the middle of nowhere, but we all love the author. You can get people to do just about anything if they love the author.

A spiral of stone-black clouds whirs overhead and moves on. We decide to head into the cabin, to check on the boys and to see if they have a basement.

Inside, the mood is best described as picnic-like, and the director is keen on rehearsing lines. The stage manager is tossing me my lines, handwritten, one at a time on ripped fragments of notebook paper. The director, lying on his side, propped on one elbow, looking like an embarrassing antique doll, questions my lack of commitment to the production. I assure him of it.

Once the director has stormed off or supernaturally vanished (who cares which), I wander to the porch and look out over this great idyllic nowhere paradise. The danger seems to have retreated, reduced to an overdramatic wind with harmless tendrils of tornadoes in the deep background. My friend suggests “running lines” but really taking cover in the closet – which she assures me is the safest place during a storm (it is not) – to make out with the boys. She’s making sense, and anyway, she likes the one I’m not crazy about, so I figure what the hell.

As we head back inside, someone announces that the storm has so completely cleared, the danger so completely passed, that there is no need to take shelter in the closet at all. Everyone is laidback and bored, passively resentful but accepting of having their time so elaborately wasted. I am quietly angry. No one is making out.

I bitterly gather my scraps of lines from the wood floor and listlessly put them in order. This tornado was a total fucking wash.

Apartment Hunting/Tree of Life

Looking from the windows to the north and south, there’s nothing but interstate wasteland, grey on grey, billboards for hundred-year-old products. But to the east and west, the windows reveal an exotic playground of green and tangled trees. Returning with the landlord to the courtyard of the apartment complex, apparently located along I-95, south of some dystopian future New York, there grows a giant, gnarled tree. Low-hanging elements that can’t quite be called fruit dip low and at odd angles. It looks as though it would be fun to climb, but you find yourself wondering: would the tree like to be climbed? I try to choose between the superior view of the second floor and the convenience of the first, for when the baby comes.

Some time later and for no reason, we cut the tree open, and inside is a gnarled wilderness of cerulean blue and vivid green, a little liquid civilization. People talk about the sensation of peaceful, maddening irrelevance beneath a star-filled sky, the individual against the universe. But they have it backward. Staring into the colorful veins of this tree, descending into some better, smaller universe, how much closer it must be to the perfection of the atom.

Capture the Flag

There’s a kind of dead that’s almost dead, but not quite. That’s the kind of dead I am when the boys come running up the hill, playing some soon-to-be-abandoned variation of Capture the Flag.

They are covering me, a noble investment in my modesty, but in covering me, they are burying me.

Shoe Shopping

We go “shoe shopping,” my new friend and I, which means filching the shoes from beneath the racks on the upper level of this nightclub in Paris. Why so many people have chosen to take their shoes off is beyond me.

I select a pair of seafoam green ankle booties, calfskin etched with delicate flowers. “You don’t know if it’s calfskin,” my friend says.

At dawn, I walk through the gardens with a small, glorified paper dixie cup of beer. We go into the museum, but there is nothing to see, except for a beautiful, subservient academic type standing watch. She doesn’t give me any trouble about the beer.

There are so many things I’ve forgotten, still knocking around just beneath the skin.

The water. The ocean or something.

22
5
9
Juice
822 reads
Donate coins to AmandaJ.
Juice
Cancel
Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by AmandaJ in portal Trident Media Group
A Year in Dreams (Excerpt)
[Literarily, journals are problematic. Unless you’re an astronaut, a war reporter, or an arctic explorer (and sometimes even then), there are profound limitations on the narrative merit of real life. But what about surreal life? The following is an excerpt from a collection of my dreams, recorded over the course of a year.]


Sight

The first thing is that it’s grey, sloping woods, like in every Russian war movie from the past century – a tangle of thin, gnarled grey trees stretching from grey upward into lighter grey.

The second thing is that everyone is blind.

There’s a room where people go, in ones and twos, to tell one another secrets. To pray. Whatever. It’s a few degrees cooler in this room. I’m not sure whether people take the sacredness of this room seriously, but the fact that almost no one’s ever here, even in the crushing heat, is a good indication. There’s a dartboard along one of the far walls, which seems silly. To get to this room, you cross from a wooden platform via zipline, which is really just a chunky metal chain stretching upward into oblivion, swinging downward like a very unsafe version of a Discovery Zone rope swing. Or you can just stretch and scramble your way upward onto the far platform, but this is frowned upon. The room is long, and very dark, which I suppose doesn’t matter. There’s an off-white box of a vintage PC centered against one wall, near the entrance – one of various instances of obsolesced technology as ignored decor. As I pass it, I think: This is what I’m doing here. We have to write all of this down.

This is where I go to tell Stacy I’m not blind.

“You already know what I’m going to tell you,” I say.

“Say it,” she says.

Stacy has suspected for some time. My not being blind anymore. First when I noticed one of her tattoos. Second, when she was throwing things at me to see if I could see and I sort of forgot she was doing it and dodged a little bit, something sharp probably. Third, when I was getting my own tattoo, and lodged a minor complaint, ostensibly based on having felt the error, but of course Stacy knew that was bullshit.

I didn’t want anyone to know I wasn’t blind, so I started practicing what people call one’s “beggar face.” It just means looking blind. Stacy doesn’t seem to care, but still, I don’t want anyone here to know that I can see. I haven’t been here long enough to know whether or not they kill their gods.

Purportedly, there are two other people who have sight. I haven’t met them yet. Or maybe I have, and they just have better beggar face than I do.


Road Trip/Mayflower/The Squirrels

Thomas Middleditch and I are going to repeat this vaguely coastal road trip as many times as it takes. Which is at least three.

Each time it's only slightly different, like a historical glitch, circling back on itself in fits of interruption and resumption.

And one last thing that bears noting: the squirrels in this world (Tom explains) are malicious. They're essentially what the birds are to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Later, we will hang glide over the Mayflower, the historical site where it famously crashed off the coast of the Pacific Northwest. After all, Tom remarks, there’s no safer place from squirrels than a hang glider.


Cornfield Cult Film Festival

I sit in the low-topped muscle car, just sweating, for what feels like forever. I am feeling things out, pretending to be her daughter, at this weird, cult-film-inspired festival in the middle of nowhere that appears to 100% share a guest list with the nearest comic-con.

Why her daughter? Am I that much younger looking? No; this is swiftly confirmed by the fact that people start mistaking me for her almost instantly. Is it because I’m embarrassed? Because knowing so little about a full blood sister is head-cockingly weird, whereas being a daughter implies distance, estrangement, adoption, switched babies at birth… any number of good reasons to not have known this person who shares my genes almost exactly? Yes, that’s the one.

I finally do extricate myself from that suffocating little car, picking my way across the defunct cornfield to one of a slew of concrete warehouse buildings, gutted and shelled for this momentous occasion. Inside, throngs of people who parked on the field are milling about – discussing, theorizing, arguing, reliving – this horrible little movie whose tangential excitement should have died down, culturally, about one week after it came out.

Some plaid-clad showrunner arrives and sticks me in a pair of enormous, clunky platform shoes with treaded soles, and I don’t question why (this is not necessarily weirder than other things happening concurrently). The reason becomes clear when I am led out to a slab of wet concrete in the field, evidently to execute some impoverished version of the Mann’s Chinese Theater nonsense. I am flanked by others in weird shoes, apparently from the film, who eye me with a mixture of excitement and suspicion.

The only person who leaves me alone at this thing, who doesn’t buy for a moment that that I am ¡her!, is a gal who turns out to actually be her daughter. She is round and frank and ingenuous, a sharp crop of black hair framing her pale face. She looks exactly like her. Well, like half of her.

The reason this girl (my niece/a stranger) chats me up but never supposes that I am her is because she knows that her mother is dead.

Well, of course she’s dead. I should have known that.


Heroin

Speeding down the side of a forested mountain, I should be questioning the safety of my companions, but mostly I'm kicking myself for not doing heroin before.

Within moments I am an old pro. Toggling back and forth between the two types, ingeniously labeled “brown sugar” and “white sugar,” it becomes clear that we are smuggling this shit. The police arrive, and everyone debates in hushed caws what to do.

But the answer is obvious: more heroin.


Obits

Near the border, a small, bespectacled man makes his way past hot, unruly clusters of people. He is going to the office to meet his partner. Although they could not look more physically dissimilar (the man’s partner is heavy, towering, untucked, shaped as though poured into the warped jug of his button-down shirt), they each look 100% their part. They are obit writers, a task they approach with the wry dedication befitting their profession. Through a clerical error – an intentional one, coming definitely from someone and somewhere – the small man learns that his own mother is dead. That she has been dead for three months.


Tornado Drill

As tornadoes dance in the distance, like so many snakes being charmed, the sky beneath them slurs from a rich peach to a drained antique yellow. This is the color of greyish gold that makes everything around it look greener, and there is plenty of green. For miles around, there is nothing and no one, only my friend and I as we look from newly planted tree to newly planted tree, some roadside project, for the fattest trunk or the deepest roots, something we can hug in a crisis. I am poised to make a very funny tree hugging joke, but she’s busy tugging at thick strands of grass. Thinking? Hard to say. She’s an idiot, but I’m still going to save her life if I can.

The other part of this is that we’re rehearsing a play. Today is our first rehearsal, and it’s a pro bono gig in a ramshackle little cabin, about fourteen meters from where we’re standing now. Totally senseless, no pay, and it’s the middle of nowhere, but we all love the author. You can get people to do just about anything if they love the author.

A spiral of stone-black clouds whirs overhead and moves on. We decide to head into the cabin, to check on the boys and to see if they have a basement.

Inside, the mood is best described as picnic-like, and the director is keen on rehearsing lines. The stage manager is tossing me my lines, handwritten, one at a time on ripped fragments of notebook paper. The director, lying on his side, propped on one elbow, looking like an embarrassing antique doll, questions my lack of commitment to the production. I assure him of it.

Once the director has stormed off or supernaturally vanished (who cares which), I wander to the porch and look out over this great idyllic nowhere paradise. The danger seems to have retreated, reduced to an overdramatic wind with harmless tendrils of tornadoes in the deep background. My friend suggests “running lines” but really taking cover in the closet – which she assures me is the safest place during a storm (it is not) – to make out with the boys. She’s making sense, and anyway, she likes the one I’m not crazy about, so I figure what the hell.

As we head back inside, someone announces that the storm has so completely cleared, the danger so completely passed, that there is no need to take shelter in the closet at all. Everyone is laidback and bored, passively resentful but accepting of having their time so elaborately wasted. I am quietly angry. No one is making out.

I bitterly gather my scraps of lines from the wood floor and listlessly put them in order. This tornado was a total fucking wash.


Apartment Hunting/Tree of Life

Looking from the windows to the north and south, there’s nothing but interstate wasteland, grey on grey, billboards for hundred-year-old products. But to the east and west, the windows reveal an exotic playground of green and tangled trees. Returning with the landlord to the courtyard of the apartment complex, apparently located along I-95, south of some dystopian future New York, there grows a giant, gnarled tree. Low-hanging elements that can’t quite be called fruit dip low and at odd angles. It looks as though it would be fun to climb, but you find yourself wondering: would the tree like to be climbed? I try to choose between the superior view of the second floor and the convenience of the first, for when the baby comes.

Some time later and for no reason, we cut the tree open, and inside is a gnarled wilderness of cerulean blue and vivid green, a little liquid civilization. People talk about the sensation of peaceful, maddening irrelevance beneath a star-filled sky, the individual against the universe. But they have it backward. Staring into the colorful veins of this tree, descending into some better, smaller universe, how much closer it must be to the perfection of the atom.


Capture the Flag

There’s a kind of dead that’s almost dead, but not quite. That’s the kind of dead I am when the boys come running up the hill, playing some soon-to-be-abandoned variation of Capture the Flag.

They are covering me, a noble investment in my modesty, but in covering me, they are burying me.


Shoe Shopping

We go “shoe shopping,” my new friend and I, which means filching the shoes from beneath the racks on the upper level of this nightclub in Paris. Why so many people have chosen to take their shoes off is beyond me.

I select a pair of seafoam green ankle booties, calfskin etched with delicate flowers. “You don’t know if it’s calfskin,” my friend says.

At dawn, I walk through the gardens with a small, glorified paper dixie cup of beer. We go into the museum, but there is nothing to see, except for a beautiful, subservient academic type standing watch. She doesn’t give me any trouble about the beer.

There are so many things I’ve forgotten, still knocking around just beneath the skin.

The water. The ocean or something.
22
5
9
Juice
822 reads
Load 9 Comments
Login to post comments.
Advertisement  (turn off)
Donate coins to desmondwrite.
Juice
Cancel
Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by desmondwrite in portal Trident Media Group

Introducing Roco

[This is a sample of my novel, Roco, about a squirrel who turns into a human. I wrote this piece solely for this challenge—it's not an excerpt, although it features characters, themes, etc., from the novel. More technical details after the sample.]

The squirrel paused on the treeroad—really, a few branches in the proximity of each other—and surveyed the forest floor. To us, the squirrel would have looked like any other Western Gray with his silver fur coat and creamy white belly all shadowed by a tail-banner.

But to other rodents, this squirrel was instantly recognizable from tiny unique features on his face, ears, and fur, and by his smell—a mixture of oak tree, sugar breath (his family had a secret patch of berries), vinegar, and rectum. His name was Oakbear.

“Roco!” shouted Oakbear at the still woods. "You've gone too far!"

Oakbear had come to a perimeter in the trees invisible to us but easily detected by the sensitive nose of a squirrel. Here was a disturbing lack of familiar smells, specifically the fur trace and rectum oils of the Village. Oakbear didn't know this forest except in the abstract. These trees hadn't been frequented by squirrels for a few summers because the dreys had become nesting sites for owls. In chasing season, those damned birds hunted tirelessly, mostly for mice but sometimes four-legged meat as big as a Western Gray. While the Village hadn't heard hoots this year, it didn't mean there wasn't a nest being developed somewhere. In the heat of the chase, if a squirrel wasn't careful, he might find himself embraced by claws sharper than a broken beer bottle.

Vibrations on the treeroad told Oakbear someone was coming. He looked back, his head motion almost mechanical, and peered into the leaf-cover with a discerning black eye. But it was only Sudry, a pup about the same age, who still lived in a drey with his parents.

It was apparent Sudry's parents had just birthed a new litter, because the squirrel's fur had the sour scent of nursing whelps. To give you a complete account, Sudry smelled like sour hair, wet leaves, botfly, cinnamon, and rectum. He had a few things to work on before he’d be a suitable mate. The Western Gray's scientific name is Sciurus Griseus, phonetically 'greasy scurrier,' an apt description here.

"Where is she?" asked Sudry, panting.

"Somewhere around here," grumbled Oakbear. "You know, every other female lets her mate catch her after awhile. Somehow I ended up chasing the one squirrel who doesn't want to be caught."

"Maybe she's not ready to settle down."

"But I have the drey in Meadowbrook. The one with the view of the valley. And I have access to a bear's horde of berries. And—" Oakbear struggled to think of more reasons why he was such a desirable squirrel. "And I'm strong!" To prove his might, Oakbear picked up a bark beetle and broke it in half. Sudry tried to look impressed, but he'd seen all of this before. "And—"

"And your cheeks," said Sudry.

"Right! I could fit a hawk between these chompers."

"Mind, too."

"Thank you! Almost forgot—I have the memory of a bluejay. Never misplaced a cone." 

As Oakbear reviewed how fast he could scamper, how many worms he could dig up, how warmly he could cuddle, Sudry watched a squirrel wriggle onto a branch overhead. Then a cone plonked on Oakbear's back.

"Owl!" shouted Oakbear, jumping away, his hair jutting out like a porcupine. He would have fallen right there if his leap hadn't luckily taken him to another branch—a branch which he clung to tightly, upside down.

Above, a high-pitched: "Rocococo!"

Roco also looked like every other Western Gray Squirrel, although she was a little slimmer, having been something of a runt. Although Sudry couldn't smell her from his branch, he knew she was an odd concoction of familiar and exotic scents. Even if she smelled of the usual fungus, nuts, moss, the sides of trees, carcasses, bugs, and mud—they were not the fungus, nuts, etc., of the Village.

But Roco was not named for her smells. Instead, she was named after her ululating laugh, which sounded something like“rocococo.” It was an odd thing for a squirrel to do. Although squirrels often lived carefree and simple lives, they were more prone to scold than scoff. But Roco was always laughing, and at events nobody else found funny. She chuckled when Hepper’s mate discovered her husband had eaten all the foodstores for winter—she rococo’d when Mottle mistook a pebble for an acorn—and she collapsed when Elder Smells-Like-Bark-Beetle accidentally fell on a beaver. Now, her prank was creating all sorts of undignified chatter.

"Roco, you could have killed me!" shouted Oakbear. Roco downclimbed (for treetrunks are highways to squirrels) and stood on Oakbear's branch.

"Still chasing me, Bearbutt?"

"Yes," said Owlbear, looking nervously at the forest floor. Squirrels were immune to the fear of heights, but Owlbear was unaccustomed to being vulnerable.

"Why don't you go find some pretty pup in the Village and leave me alone?"

"But—my berries," reminded Oakbear.

Roco made a choking noise, and for a moment they thought she was sick. Then she coughed up a slimy blue pebble.

"Already found your patch. Thought your family could squirrel that away forever?" Roco looked to Sudry, who was watching her shyly. "Hello, friend." 

"Hello."

"Race you to the lake."

With that, Roco leaped away, taking the treeroad deeper into the wood. Her two suitors, however, didn't need any more prompting to head back. 

* * *

Regarding the Novel

Title: "Roco"

Genre: Modern Fantasy (Native American & Norse Mythology)

Target Audience: Teenagers and above.

Age Range: 12+, although it's YAF, I think twentysomethings would enjoy this, too.

Word Count: 50,000+

Author: Desmond White

Project: Modern fantasy is a popular genre right now, and my book comes at it from an interesting angle: a squirrel turned into a human! Plus, I'm going to catch those nostalgic Animorph fans.

Hook: A squirrel who's been turned into a human must rescue her friend from an ancient order of snakes who inhabit (and control) people's bodies.

Synopsis: Roco's mother, Nutsour, filled their warm, comfortable nights in their drey with stories about ancient squirrel heroes outwitting all sorts of nasties—from hawks to foxes to eagles to bears. One day, the opportunity for adventure presents itself when a human girl on the run (and slowly recovering from a poisonous bite) hides in the Crown, the squirrel's hill-village. The girl, who can use spellrunes to perform feats of magic, is able to communicate with the squirrels, and soon contracts Roco to be her sentry in exchange for bits of a granola bar. The girl saves Roco's life when the squirrel is attacked by an owl—an act that reveals the girl's position to her pursuers. Now, Roco must rescue the human girl from these mysterious enemies (which look like human beings but smell like slithering things) on an adventure that will pit her wits, and her mother's stories, against ancient monsters and mages. Roco's story becomes even stranger when a "helpful" ancient spirit, in ironic jest, turns her into the most powerful creature on the planet—a human being. A human girl, in fact.

Regarding the Author

Bio: A high school teacher who writes when his students aren't looking.

Platform: Prose, Personal Blog

Education: UCSB College of Creative Studies (B.A. in Literature); HBU (Master of Liberal Arts)

Writing Style: Poetic, Concise, with a snap of Snark

Hobbies: Playing & Designing Board/CardGames; Reading & Discussing Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Old Books; Doting on my Wife and her two Evil Cats

Hometown: Sugar Land, Texas

Age: 27, going on 28 in August

Website: www.desmondwrite.com

Twitter: @desmondwrite

19
7
16
Juice
473 reads
Donate coins to desmondwrite.
Juice
Cancel
Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by desmondwrite in portal Trident Media Group
Introducing Roco
[This is a sample of my novel, Roco, about a squirrel who turns into a human. I wrote this piece solely for this challenge—it's not an excerpt, although it features characters, themes, etc., from the novel. More technical details after the sample.]

The squirrel paused on the treeroad—really, a few branches in the proximity of each other—and surveyed the forest floor. To us, the squirrel would have looked like any other Western Gray with his silver fur coat and creamy white belly all shadowed by a tail-banner.

But to other rodents, this squirrel was instantly recognizable from tiny unique features on his face, ears, and fur, and by his smell—a mixture of oak tree, sugar breath (his family had a secret patch of berries), vinegar, and rectum. His name was Oakbear.

“Roco!” shouted Oakbear at the still woods. "You've gone too far!"

Oakbear had come to a perimeter in the trees invisible to us but easily detected by the sensitive nose of a squirrel. Here was a disturbing lack of familiar smells, specifically the fur trace and rectum oils of the Village. Oakbear didn't know this forest except in the abstract. These trees hadn't been frequented by squirrels for a few summers because the dreys had become nesting sites for owls. In chasing season, those damned birds hunted tirelessly, mostly for mice but sometimes four-legged meat as big as a Western Gray. While the Village hadn't heard hoots this year, it didn't mean there wasn't a nest being developed somewhere. In the heat of the chase, if a squirrel wasn't careful, he might find himself embraced by claws sharper than a broken beer bottle.

Vibrations on the treeroad told Oakbear someone was coming. He looked back, his head motion almost mechanical, and peered into the leaf-cover with a discerning black eye. But it was only Sudry, a pup about the same age, who still lived in a drey with his parents.

It was apparent Sudry's parents had just birthed a new litter, because the squirrel's fur had the sour scent of nursing whelps. To give you a complete account, Sudry smelled like sour hair, wet leaves, botfly, cinnamon, and rectum. He had a few things to work on before he’d be a suitable mate. The Western Gray's scientific name is Sciurus Griseus, phonetically 'greasy scurrier,' an apt description here.

"Where is she?" asked Sudry, panting.

"Somewhere around here," grumbled Oakbear. "You know, every other female lets her mate catch her after awhile. Somehow I ended up chasing the one squirrel who doesn't want to be caught."

"Maybe she's not ready to settle down."

"But I have the drey in Meadowbrook. The one with the view of the valley. And I have access to a bear's horde of berries. And—" Oakbear struggled to think of more reasons why he was such a desirable squirrel. "And I'm strong!" To prove his might, Oakbear picked up a bark beetle and broke it in half. Sudry tried to look impressed, but he'd seen all of this before. "And—"

"And your cheeks," said Sudry.

"Right! I could fit a hawk between these chompers."

"Mind, too."

"Thank you! Almost forgot—I have the memory of a bluejay. Never misplaced a cone." 

As Oakbear reviewed how fast he could scamper, how many worms he could dig up, how warmly he could cuddle, Sudry watched a squirrel wriggle onto a branch overhead. Then a cone plonked on Oakbear's back.

"Owl!" shouted Oakbear, jumping away, his hair jutting out like a porcupine. He would have fallen right there if his leap hadn't luckily taken him to another branch—a branch which he clung to tightly, upside down.

Above, a high-pitched: "Rocococo!"

Roco also looked like every other Western Gray Squirrel, although she was a little slimmer, having been something of a runt. Although Sudry couldn't smell her from his branch, he knew she was an odd concoction of familiar and exotic scents. Even if she smelled of the usual fungus, nuts, moss, the sides of trees, carcasses, bugs, and mud—they were not the fungus, nuts, etc., of the Village.

But Roco was not named for her smells. Instead, she was named after her ululating laugh, which sounded something like“rocococo.” It was an odd thing for a squirrel to do. Although squirrels often lived carefree and simple lives, they were more prone to scold than scoff. But Roco was always laughing, and at events nobody else found funny. She chuckled when Hepper’s mate discovered her husband had eaten all the foodstores for winter—she rococo’d when Mottle mistook a pebble for an acorn—and she collapsed when Elder Smells-Like-Bark-Beetle accidentally fell on a beaver. Now, her prank was creating all sorts of undignified chatter.

"Roco, you could have killed me!" shouted Oakbear. Roco downclimbed (for treetrunks are highways to squirrels) and stood on Oakbear's branch.

"Still chasing me, Bearbutt?"

"Yes," said Owlbear, looking nervously at the forest floor. Squirrels were immune to the fear of heights, but Owlbear was unaccustomed to being vulnerable.

"Why don't you go find some pretty pup in the Village and leave me alone?"

"But—my berries," reminded Oakbear.

Roco made a choking noise, and for a moment they thought she was sick. Then she coughed up a slimy blue pebble.

"Already found your patch. Thought your family could squirrel that away forever?" Roco looked to Sudry, who was watching her shyly. "Hello, friend." 

"Hello."

"Race you to the lake."

With that, Roco leaped away, taking the treeroad deeper into the wood. Her two suitors, however, didn't need any more prompting to head back. 

* * *

Regarding the Novel
Title: "Roco"
Genre: Modern Fantasy (Native American & Norse Mythology)
Target Audience: Teenagers and above.
Age Range: 12+, although it's YAF, I think twentysomethings would enjoy this, too.
Word Count: 50,000+
Author: Desmond White
Project: Modern fantasy is a popular genre right now, and my book comes at it from an interesting angle: a squirrel turned into a human! Plus, I'm going to catch those nostalgic Animorph fans.
Hook: A squirrel who's been turned into a human must rescue her friend from an ancient order of snakes who inhabit (and control) people's bodies.
Synopsis: Roco's mother, Nutsour, filled their warm, comfortable nights in their drey with stories about ancient squirrel heroes outwitting all sorts of nasties—from hawks to foxes to eagles to bears. One day, the opportunity for adventure presents itself when a human girl on the run (and slowly recovering from a poisonous bite) hides in the Crown, the squirrel's hill-village. The girl, who can use spellrunes to perform feats of magic, is able to communicate with the squirrels, and soon contracts Roco to be her sentry in exchange for bits of a granola bar. The girl saves Roco's life when the squirrel is attacked by an owl—an act that reveals the girl's position to her pursuers. Now, Roco must rescue the human girl from these mysterious enemies (which look like human beings but smell like slithering things) on an adventure that will pit her wits, and her mother's stories, against ancient monsters and mages. Roco's story becomes even stranger when a "helpful" ancient spirit, in ironic jest, turns her into the most powerful creature on the planet—a human being. A human girl, in fact.

Regarding the Author
Bio: A high school teacher who writes when his students aren't looking.
Platform: Prose, Personal Blog
Education: UCSB College of Creative Studies (B.A. in Literature); HBU (Master of Liberal Arts)
Writing Style: Poetic, Concise, with a snap of Snark
Hobbies: Playing & Designing Board/CardGames; Reading & Discussing Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Old Books; Doting on my Wife and her two Evil Cats
Hometown: Sugar Land, Texas
Age: 27, going on 28 in August
Website: www.desmondwrite.com
Twitter: @desmondwrite
19
7
16
Juice
473 reads
Load 16 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to DarbyRiales.
Juice
Cancel
Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by DarbyRiales in portal Trident Media Group

Chapter 3 - The Merchant (an excerpt from: The Square)

The quartet wandered about through the side streets of the world’s largest bazaar, Khan il Khalili. Colored lanterns gleamed from every angle, and the tables and shelves were crowded with amulets, statues, and handmade wooden boxes. As the group rounded the corner, they came across a line of cafes.

“We must stop here,” Amr said, excitedly.

“What's this?” Grace asked.

“This coffee shop has been around for over 200 years,” Amr said. “Owned by the same family too. You can’t leave without trying it. It’s called El Fishwy.”

Grace and Gia happily agreed, and the group took their seats at an outdoor table. Moments later, an Egyptian man in his late forties came to greet them and take their orders. His name was Khalid, and he spoke no English. He was tall and lanky with a thick, black mustache and glasses. The hair around his head was cut short, and the center of his head was bald. He was all smiles and smelled of Egyptian spice and coffee. He wore a clean, striped button down shirt and brown slacks.

Khalid brought coffee in a beautiful, tall brass pot with a long, curved spout. He set out tiny white coffee cups trimmed in gold.

“Have you ever tried Arabian coffee before?” Omar asked.

“I have,” Grace said.

“I have not,” Gia said.

“You are in for a surprise,” Omar said, chuckling.

“Why? What do you mean?” Gia asked, eyes wide.

“It’s very, very strong,” Grace warned. Gia smiled and took the tiny cup between her thumb and index finger. She drew the cup close to her lips and took a small sip.

“Oh, whoa!” Gia exclaimed. “That will put hair on your chest!” The guys erupted in laughter.

“Why do you think all Arab men have hairy chests?” Omar asked.

“Oh, wait,” Gia said, glancing down at her own chest. “I think I see one coming up.”

“I can check for you,” Omar said, taking a casual sip from his coffee and winking. Amr gave him a twisted look.

“Maybe later,” Gia said, grinning.

“I will check anything for you,” Omar said, casually. “Just ask. I will not say no.”

“What’s so funny?” Ahmed said, strolling up to their table. Amr and Omar immediately lost their smiles.

“Who are you?” Gia asked, looking up at Ahmed.

“My name is Ahmed,” he replied, cooly. “And you?”

“Gia,” she said, extending her hand to shake his. He shook her hand and directed his attention to Grace.

“How are you, Grace?” he asked, ignoring Amr’s glare.

“I am well,” Grace replied, visibly happy to see him, much to Amr’s dismay. “And you?”

“I am much better,” Ahmed said smoothly. “Now that I am seeing you again.” Grace’s face flushed pink. “You are so beautiful.”

“What are you doing here?” Amr interrupted, clearly unamused.

Ahmed shifted his gaze from Grace over to Amr. “Shopping,” he said. “Now, I am thirsty.”

“You should join us,” Gia said. Ahmed smiled and pulled a chair over from another table. Omar and Amr sat up straight with their shoulders tight.

“You should leave,” Omar said, glaring at Ahmed.

“Omar!” Gia said. “Don’t be rude.”

“No,” Omar said. “He needs to leave. Now.”

“Why?” Grace asked.

“Because we do not want him here,” Amr said. Ahmed sat back in his seat casually.

“Why not?” Gia asked. “What is your problem?”

“I am not the one with a problem,” Amr said, angrily. “He has the problem. I do not want him sitting with us. Ahmed, leave.”

“You don’t have to leave, Ahmed,” Grace said, pouring him a cup of coffee. She handed it to him, and he smiled slightly.

“How are you liking Egypt so far?” Ahmed asked, taking a sip from his coffee.

“I love it,” Grace said, eyes bright. “It is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.”

“You are more beautiful than I could have ever imagined,” Ahmed said, not taking his eyes off of her. Gia raised her eyebrows and looked from Grace to Ahmed to Amr and then back to Grace again. “I will go to Alexandria in a few days. You might consider joining me.”

“I don’t know what Amr has planned for us,” Grace said, looking questioningly at Amr. “We’re staying with him. I do not want to be rude.”

“They can come too,” Ahmed said. “If they want.” He did not bother to look anywhere other than at Grace. “You must see the sea. It is so beautiful. It is like the color of your eyes.”

“It’s getting pretty heavy over here,” Gia said, awkwardly. “I feel like I should move. Am I in the way?” Amr pursed his lips. Gia was sitting between Ahmed and Grace, while Omar and Amr sat on the other side of the table. Gia glanced at Omar. “There was a lamp I wanted to buy. Can you come with me?” Gia asked, looking at Omar and Amr.

“A lamp,” Omar repeated. “Like a big lamp?”

“I will show you when we get there,” Gia said, hinting that they should leave Ahmed and Grace alone to talk.

“What are you going to do with a lamp?” Amr asked, visibly perturbed. “How will you get it back to America?”

“I’ll think about that later,” Gia replied. “Right now, I just want to make an irrational decision and go buy a lamp.”

“Okay,” Omar said, standing up. “Yalla! We will go get your lamp.”

“Ahmed just got his coffee,” Gia said. “Someone should stay and keep him company.” She glanced at Grace.

“I will stay too then,” Amr said.

“But I need your help,” Gia said, pleadingly. Amr hesitantly got up. Gia smiled and joined them, walking over to the nearby lighting vendor. Ahmed smiled at Grace. His smile rarely showed teeth. One side of his mouth turned upwards slightly. His eyes were the darkest shade of brown, almost black. Out of the three guys, he had the lightest skin color. His nose was wide and flat, and his lips were full. His jet black hair was incredibly curly, like a head full of tight ringlets that had been twisted into short dreadlocks.

“Do you like the drink?” Ahmed asked.

“Why does Amr hate you so much?” Grace asked, bluntly.

“I don’t know.”

“Come on now,” Grace said. “If we are going to be friends, we can’t start off lying to each other.”

“Maybe some woman left him for me at one point.”

“You stole his girlfriend?”

“I did not steal,” Ahmed said, calmly. “A woman is not a thing. She is free to make her own choices.”

“Did you know they were dating when you made your move?”

“Why do you ask so many personal questions?”

“Why do you avoid them?” she asked.

“Does it matter? It is in the past. We cannot change it. We can only make a better future.”

“Well, it obviously matters to Amr.”

“Maybe he is scared,” Ahmed said.

“Scared of what?”

“Scared that you will choose to be with me instead of him.” Grace stared at Ahmed for a moment before she decided to respond.

“What makes you think I will choose to be with either of you? I am just here visiting.”

“We shall see,” Ahmed said.

Gia, Omar, and Amr walked back over to the table. Omar and Amr were carrying an enormous bronze, hanging lamp with red glass panels and intricate square designs. Grace burst out laughing as soon as she saw it.

“What the hell are you going to do with that?” she asked.

“I am going to save it for when I finally buy a house,” Gia said, confidently.

“So, in about twenty more years,” Grace joked.

“Maybe sooner,” Gia replied. “Maybe I will find some rich Sugar Daddy who can build me a manor. That’s what I’ll do! I’ll hang this in my manor!”

“So, that’s what you want,” Omar said, giving Gia and sideways glance. “You want a rich man? What else do you want? A palace? A crown?”

“That would be a good start,” Gia said, batting her eyes at him.

Grace looked down the market street as she stood up to leave. She saw an old man selling t-shirts. He was screaming something in Arabic that she could not understand.

“Hey,” she said, grabbing the group’s attention. “What’s he saying?” They stopped and turned their attention to the old man.

“He is saying, ‘Down with Mubarak. Down with the Regime.’” Amr said, looking alert and tense.

“What does that mean?” Grace asked.

“Mubarak is our corrupt president,” Ahmed said, disdain in his voice.

“He should not be doing this here,” Omar said.

“Why not?” Gia asked.

“That is why,” Omar replied, nodding in the direction of six armed soldiers heading toward the old T-shirt vendor.

The old man screamed in their faces. One of the soldiers grabbed his arm and twisted it around, shoving him up against his own cart. The old man resisted and struggled against the soldier’s grip. A second soldier hit the man in the back of the head with a baton, knocking the old man unconscious. The first soldier straddled the unconscious man and cuffed hands behind his back. The old man’s face was pressed so firmly into the stone that it was a wonder all the bones in his skull were not crushed.

Two of the soldiers ripped down all of the apparel, shredding it in the process, while the rest stood guard. Their guns were ready to greet any other trouble makers. Ahmed, arms tense, stood up and took a step in their direction. Omar pulled him back by his arm, holding it firmly.

“No,” Omar said.

“Don’t touch me,” Ahmed said, jerking his arm free.

“What are you going to do? You can’t do anything,” Omar yelled, attempting to talk Ahmed out of doing something incredibly stupid.

“I will do something,” Ahmed said. “You watch.” He started off in the direction of the soldiers.

“Ahmed,” Grace yelled. He turned back to look her, her pleading eyes begging him not go through with what was going on in his head. His hesitation gave the soldiers plenty of time to move along, dragging the unconscious old man and all of his merchandise behind them. They threw him into the back of a military van, loaded up, and drove off. The crowd left behind was utterly shocked, but no one was brave enough to make the first move after what had just happened. No one, except Ahmed.

To be continued…

Title: The Square

Genre: Fiction

Age Range: 18-35

Total Word Count: 71,436

Written by Darby Riales

This is an excerpt from my novel about the 2011 Egyptian revolution. There is nothing like this on the market. 

Hook: Two American girls are caught in the middle of a revolution in Egypt.

Synopsis: Grace has wanted to visit Egypt since she was a little girl. Finally able to go with her best friend, Gia, the two are quickly whisked away in the enchantment of Cairo. Their joy is cut short when a revolution against the president breaks out across the country. Grace finds herself torn between her old friend and soldier, Amr, and the rebel she just met, Ahmed. 

Target audience: YA

Short Bio: Darby is a young, diverse writer originally from Arkansas. She has spent the last 4 years in Los Angeles, CA as a writer, producer, and model. She has two cats, Luna and Piper, who travel with her often. She has a large following on social media, particularly Instagram, and runs her own travel blog. 

Education: BA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Arkansas

Experience: Over 7 years of professional writing, former fiction judge for The Vortex Student Literature and Art Magazine, scriptwriting, novel writing, short stories

Personality: Free-thinking, animal loving, American pinup girl made of agave nectar and viper venom.

Hobbies: photography, painting, and travel

Hometown: Searcy, AR

Age: 27

12
2
2
Juice
440 reads
Donate coins to DarbyRiales.
Juice
Cancel
Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by DarbyRiales in portal Trident Media Group
Chapter 3 - The Merchant (an excerpt from: The Square)
The quartet wandered about through the side streets of the world’s largest bazaar, Khan il Khalili. Colored lanterns gleamed from every angle, and the tables and shelves were crowded with amulets, statues, and handmade wooden boxes. As the group rounded the corner, they came across a line of cafes.

“We must stop here,” Amr said, excitedly.

“What's this?” Grace asked.

“This coffee shop has been around for over 200 years,” Amr said. “Owned by the same family too. You can’t leave without trying it. It’s called El Fishwy.”

Grace and Gia happily agreed, and the group took their seats at an outdoor table. Moments later, an Egyptian man in his late forties came to greet them and take their orders. His name was Khalid, and he spoke no English. He was tall and lanky with a thick, black mustache and glasses. The hair around his head was cut short, and the center of his head was bald. He was all smiles and smelled of Egyptian spice and coffee. He wore a clean, striped button down shirt and brown slacks.

Khalid brought coffee in a beautiful, tall brass pot with a long, curved spout. He set out tiny white coffee cups trimmed in gold.

“Have you ever tried Arabian coffee before?” Omar asked.

“I have,” Grace said.

“I have not,” Gia said.

“You are in for a surprise,” Omar said, chuckling.

“Why? What do you mean?” Gia asked, eyes wide.

“It’s very, very strong,” Grace warned. Gia smiled and took the tiny cup between her thumb and index finger. She drew the cup close to her lips and took a small sip.

“Oh, whoa!” Gia exclaimed. “That will put hair on your chest!” The guys erupted in laughter.

“Why do you think all Arab men have hairy chests?” Omar asked.

“Oh, wait,” Gia said, glancing down at her own chest. “I think I see one coming up.”

“I can check for you,” Omar said, taking a casual sip from his coffee and winking. Amr gave him a twisted look.

“Maybe later,” Gia said, grinning.

“I will check anything for you,” Omar said, casually. “Just ask. I will not say no.”

“What’s so funny?” Ahmed said, strolling up to their table. Amr and Omar immediately lost their smiles.

“Who are you?” Gia asked, looking up at Ahmed.

“My name is Ahmed,” he replied, cooly. “And you?”

“Gia,” she said, extending her hand to shake his. He shook her hand and directed his attention to Grace.

“How are you, Grace?” he asked, ignoring Amr’s glare.

“I am well,” Grace replied, visibly happy to see him, much to Amr’s dismay. “And you?”

“I am much better,” Ahmed said smoothly. “Now that I am seeing you again.” Grace’s face flushed pink. “You are so beautiful.”

“What are you doing here?” Amr interrupted, clearly unamused.

Ahmed shifted his gaze from Grace over to Amr. “Shopping,” he said. “Now, I am thirsty.”

“You should join us,” Gia said. Ahmed smiled and pulled a chair over from another table. Omar and Amr sat up straight with their shoulders tight.

“You should leave,” Omar said, glaring at Ahmed.

“Omar!” Gia said. “Don’t be rude.”

“No,” Omar said. “He needs to leave. Now.”

“Why?” Grace asked.

“Because we do not want him here,” Amr said. Ahmed sat back in his seat casually.

“Why not?” Gia asked. “What is your problem?”

“I am not the one with a problem,” Amr said, angrily. “He has the problem. I do not want him sitting with us. Ahmed, leave.”

“You don’t have to leave, Ahmed,” Grace said, pouring him a cup of coffee. She handed it to him, and he smiled slightly.

“How are you liking Egypt so far?” Ahmed asked, taking a sip from his coffee.

“I love it,” Grace said, eyes bright. “It is more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.”

“You are more beautiful than I could have ever imagined,” Ahmed said, not taking his eyes off of her. Gia raised her eyebrows and looked from Grace to Ahmed to Amr and then back to Grace again. “I will go to Alexandria in a few days. You might consider joining me.”

“I don’t know what Amr has planned for us,” Grace said, looking questioningly at Amr. “We’re staying with him. I do not want to be rude.”

“They can come too,” Ahmed said. “If they want.” He did not bother to look anywhere other than at Grace. “You must see the sea. It is so beautiful. It is like the color of your eyes.”

“It’s getting pretty heavy over here,” Gia said, awkwardly. “I feel like I should move. Am I in the way?” Amr pursed his lips. Gia was sitting between Ahmed and Grace, while Omar and Amr sat on the other side of the table. Gia glanced at Omar. “There was a lamp I wanted to buy. Can you come with me?” Gia asked, looking at Omar and Amr.

“A lamp,” Omar repeated. “Like a big lamp?”

“I will show you when we get there,” Gia said, hinting that they should leave Ahmed and Grace alone to talk.

“What are you going to do with a lamp?” Amr asked, visibly perturbed. “How will you get it back to America?”

“I’ll think about that later,” Gia replied. “Right now, I just want to make an irrational decision and go buy a lamp.”

“Okay,” Omar said, standing up. “Yalla! We will go get your lamp.”

“Ahmed just got his coffee,” Gia said. “Someone should stay and keep him company.” She glanced at Grace.

“I will stay too then,” Amr said.

“But I need your help,” Gia said, pleadingly. Amr hesitantly got up. Gia smiled and joined them, walking over to the nearby lighting vendor. Ahmed smiled at Grace. His smile rarely showed teeth. One side of his mouth turned upwards slightly. His eyes were the darkest shade of brown, almost black. Out of the three guys, he had the lightest skin color. His nose was wide and flat, and his lips were full. His jet black hair was incredibly curly, like a head full of tight ringlets that had been twisted into short dreadlocks.

“Do you like the drink?” Ahmed asked.

“Why does Amr hate you so much?” Grace asked, bluntly.

“I don’t know.”

“Come on now,” Grace said. “If we are going to be friends, we can’t start off lying to each other.”

“Maybe some woman left him for me at one point.”

“You stole his girlfriend?”

“I did not steal,” Ahmed said, calmly. “A woman is not a thing. She is free to make her own choices.”

“Did you know they were dating when you made your move?”

“Why do you ask so many personal questions?”

“Why do you avoid them?” she asked.

“Does it matter? It is in the past. We cannot change it. We can only make a better future.”

“Well, it obviously matters to Amr.”

“Maybe he is scared,” Ahmed said.

“Scared of what?”

“Scared that you will choose to be with me instead of him.” Grace stared at Ahmed for a moment before she decided to respond.

“What makes you think I will choose to be with either of you? I am just here visiting.”

“We shall see,” Ahmed said.

Gia, Omar, and Amr walked back over to the table. Omar and Amr were carrying an enormous bronze, hanging lamp with red glass panels and intricate square designs. Grace burst out laughing as soon as she saw it.

“What the hell are you going to do with that?” she asked.

“I am going to save it for when I finally buy a house,” Gia said, confidently.

“So, in about twenty more years,” Grace joked.

“Maybe sooner,” Gia replied. “Maybe I will find some rich Sugar Daddy who can build me a manor. That’s what I’ll do! I’ll hang this in my manor!”

“So, that’s what you want,” Omar said, giving Gia and sideways glance. “You want a rich man? What else do you want? A palace? A crown?”

“That would be a good start,” Gia said, batting her eyes at him.

Grace looked down the market street as she stood up to leave. She saw an old man selling t-shirts. He was screaming something in Arabic that she could not understand.

“Hey,” she said, grabbing the group’s attention. “What’s he saying?” They stopped and turned their attention to the old man.

“He is saying, ‘Down with Mubarak. Down with the Regime.’” Amr said, looking alert and tense.

“What does that mean?” Grace asked.

“Mubarak is our corrupt president,” Ahmed said, disdain in his voice.

“He should not be doing this here,” Omar said.

“Why not?” Gia asked.

“That is why,” Omar replied, nodding in the direction of six armed soldiers heading toward the old T-shirt vendor.

The old man screamed in their faces. One of the soldiers grabbed his arm and twisted it around, shoving him up against his own cart. The old man resisted and struggled against the soldier’s grip. A second soldier hit the man in the back of the head with a baton, knocking the old man unconscious. The first soldier straddled the unconscious man and cuffed hands behind his back. The old man’s face was pressed so firmly into the stone that it was a wonder all the bones in his skull were not crushed.

Two of the soldiers ripped down all of the apparel, shredding it in the process, while the rest stood guard. Their guns were ready to greet any other trouble makers. Ahmed, arms tense, stood up and took a step in their direction. Omar pulled him back by his arm, holding it firmly.

“No,” Omar said.

“Don’t touch me,” Ahmed said, jerking his arm free.

“What are you going to do? You can’t do anything,” Omar yelled, attempting to talk Ahmed out of doing something incredibly stupid.

“I will do something,” Ahmed said. “You watch.” He started off in the direction of the soldiers.

“Ahmed,” Grace yelled. He turned back to look her, her pleading eyes begging him not go through with what was going on in his head. His hesitation gave the soldiers plenty of time to move along, dragging the unconscious old man and all of his merchandise behind them. They threw him into the back of a military van, loaded up, and drove off. The crowd left behind was utterly shocked, but no one was brave enough to make the first move after what had just happened. No one, except Ahmed.

To be continued…

Title: The Square
Genre: Fiction
Age Range: 18-35
Total Word Count: 71,436
Written by Darby Riales
This is an excerpt from my novel about the 2011 Egyptian revolution. There is nothing like this on the market. 
Hook: Two American girls are caught in the middle of a revolution in Egypt.
Synopsis: Grace has wanted to visit Egypt since she was a little girl. Finally able to go with her best friend, Gia, the two are quickly whisked away in the enchantment of Cairo. Their joy is cut short when a revolution against the president breaks out across the country. Grace finds herself torn between her old friend and soldier, Amr, and the rebel she just met, Ahmed. 
Target audience: YA
Short Bio: Darby is a young, diverse writer originally from Arkansas. She has spent the last 4 years in Los Angeles, CA as a writer, producer, and model. She has two cats, Luna and Piper, who travel with her often. She has a large following on social media, particularly Instagram, and runs her own travel blog. 
Education: BA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Arkansas
Experience: Over 7 years of professional writing, former fiction judge for The Vortex Student Literature and Art Magazine, scriptwriting, novel writing, short stories
Personality: Free-thinking, animal loving, American pinup girl made of agave nectar and viper venom.
Hobbies: photography, painting, and travel
Hometown: Searcy, AR
Age: 27
12
2
2
Juice
440 reads
Load 2 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to BAMF_Writing.
Juice
Cancel
Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by BAMF_Writing in portal Trident Media Group

Blood & Ink: Chapter 1

     Shoveling dirt in the darkness, he found himself oddly happy. He found himself at peace. As he worked, a tune made its way to his lips, one that he knew all too well. With each scoop of dirt he bound himself, in a way, to her. The stark black of the soil caked his hands and clothes, lodging beneath his fingernails like a rabbit in its burrow. His skin was freezing, the air frigid in the night, the girl groaning on the ground.

     Does she dream, I wonder?

He paused in the middle of his labors, the song leaving him, and examined her features. Her nostrils, coated in the dull brown of clotted blood, wheezed and whistled with each ragged breath. A soft moan issued from her pouting lips, but her expression betrayed no discomfort.

     Her dreams are peaceful it seems.

     He smiled to himself before gripping his shovel once again, pushing her limp body into the pit before him. He heard the wet thud of flesh slapping against the rough earth beneath.

     I’d hate to wake her during such a pleasant dream.

     He concerned himself with the mound of turned earth next to him. He had to bury her, quick, working methodically, the dirt falling upon the girl one shovelful at a time, mechanical in its pacing. A soft whisper caresses his ears from below even as the dirt falls upon her frame.

     “Please…”

     A single word. Her voice, pitiful. He sighs, grasping the shovel with both hands he upends another portion of dirt upon her and, without a word, brings it down upon her. He feels bone give beneath his blow, sees the flesh part at the edge of his spade, and the rich smell of blood rises in the cold night air. It is an intoxicating aroma, one which would drive him from reason if he allowed it to, but reason reins in instinct.

     Not now.

He kneels down beside the shallow trench and puts a hand to her cheek, his fingers tracing the line of her jaw down to her delicate chin and up to her lips in an eternal pout. She doesn’t react. He laughs, a soft chuckle filling the clearing.

     If no one will laugh, I will.

     Blood trickles down her forehead, running between his fingers, mingling with the dirt and snow, warming him with her ebbing life. He relishes the feeling. It makes him feel… real. He closes his eyes.

     I dream too, you know.

     The warmth seems to flee as soon as it came, vanishing with the coming of his thought. He looks down to see specks of white melting to nothingness in the warmth of the sanguine pool that surrounds her head.

     It’s snowing again.

     He looks up to the sky, the stars hiding themselves beneath their shrouds, but the moon bears witness to his deeds, like a terrified child peeking out from under the covers at the monster he fears lurks under his bed. Standing, he pulls himself up and out of the pit, dusting dirt and snow from his pant legs.

     There’ll be trouble if I come home at sunrise again.

     Tugging the shovel free from the mound of dirt he set to work again, whistling all the while.

     Jack sat slumped in the train’s wooden seat, a copy of the Paradpolis Prophet draped over his face like a makeshift blindfold to shut the cruel light of morning from his bloodshot eyes. Its thin effectiveness left something to be desired. Reaching up, he grabbed the paper from its perch. His head pounded in response to the light that flooded his sight. Blinking, the world swam into focus, his sight settling on the headline splayed across the top right column of the front page. “Crown Street Killer Strikes Again!” Jack let out a sigh.

     “Guess I wouldn’t be headed out this way if it wasn’t for this guy,” he said to an empty train car, and let his eyes flit over the article, picking up bits and pieces here and there. The murders seemingly indiscriminate in their victims, the bodies eviscerated in a uniquely grotesque fashion. This makes lucky number seven. Seven victims. It was almost unthinkable. Jack returned his attentions to the article in the hope that there might be something more, but it descended into standard police propaganda, the sort that encouraged a healthy sense of paranoia in the populace.

     By now, Jack figured they were overdosing on the stuff. At this rate, every Joe and Jane is gonna be callin’ the police on their neighbor if they walk their dog a little too late at night. He caught the name of the lead investigator, one Detective Ness, and instantly conjured the image of his old CO, a man with iron in his eyes as well as his spine. The man had called him three days ago. It was the first time Jack had heard from him since he’d left the army.

     Jack had a room in the Red Lantern District above a brothel. The brothel belonged to an old acquaintance of his, Madame Noir, who owed him a favor or two thanks to some work he did in when he was first getting his feet wet as a P.I.M.S. Before he knew it, he wasn’t wading through the shallows, but drowning in it. The Madame kept things quiet, for the most part, discretion being a watchword in her line of work. That is, until Ness had shown up for a visit. That’s when this whole mess started.

     “Jack, you look terrible,” Ness said. He always was the blunt sort. Jack let out a bitter laugh as he peered at him from above the chained lock of the cracked apartment door.

     “You ain’t exactly first prize yourself, Lieutenant,” said Jack. “Though, I still think I might grab second if it came down to it. You? Fourth at best.”

     “A real comedian, as ever,” Ness said, annoyance in his tone. “How’s the arm?”

     The question was innocent enough to any errant ears, but Jack felt a little ball of rage knot in his stomach, even as white-hot pain raced through the veins in his left arm. He bit down on the string of remarks bubbling into his mind before schooling his features back into the placidity of a man suffering a raging hangover.

     “Now who’s telling jokes, LT?”

     “I hope your mind is still as sharp as your tongue.” Ness raised an eyebrow, making a questioning gesture as if asking to come in. Jack shut the door before undoing the chain, as well as several other locks that adorned its frame, and eased the door open. In truth, these were the most words Jack had exchanged with another mortal being in over a week. It was the most mentally aware Jack had been for some time, his daily routine primarily consisting of betting, drinking, and trying in vain to drum up more work for himself.

     “So, Ness, what has you darkening my doorstep on this wonderfully dreary day?” Jack said Jack. He padded across the bare wooden floor to the small table in the corner, its surface littered with discarded liquor bottles and old betting slips. In response, Ness merely produced a rolled-up newspaper from inside his trenchcoat and whapped Jack on the forehead, eliciting an irritated hiss. He dropped the paper, open, on the table, causing bottles to clatter to the surface and betting slips to whip up into the air in a facsimile of a snowstorm.

     “What the Burning Hells was that for?” Jack said. His gaze dropped to the unfurled paper on the desk. “And what’s all this?”

     “Where have you been the past few weeks, Jack?” Ness said. His eyes narrowed, the look he gave the new blood in the division when he had them lined up for parade.

     “I’ve been… busy,” Jack said. He slumped into an empty seat at the table, the one with one of its legs propped up on a spare penny dreadful he had bought during a case to hide behind.

     “Mmm, I’m sure.” Ness said. His face said he already had an answer of his own. “Anyway, just because you quit the force, doesn’t mean the scumbags of this city stopped doing whatever they want. On top of that, I’ve been short-handed lately…” Ness shook his head, banishing his own less pressing concerns from his mind for the moment. “But this case tops anything that’s landed on my desk in the last five years, easily.”

     “That’s quite a claim coming from you.”

     “Yeah, well, five people being butchered in less than three weeks tends to elicit such a claim.”

     Jack leaned forward in his chair. “You shitting me, LT?”

     “Not my kind of joke, Jack.”

      Ness talked as he walked, pacing around the cramped confines of Jack’s office and apartment, examining the rather unusual collection that’d he’d managed to accumulate over the years.

     “The corpses of the victims were discovered in… abnormal states to say the least. Never seen anything like this… not even stuff the savages pulled on the western front.”

     “Gods.” Jack picked up each of the bottles on the table, shaking them and listening for the tell-tale swish of liquid within each, a flicker of disappointment crossing his face with every instance of silence. “Looks like the higher-ups are running you ragged.”

     “Haven’t had a full night’s sleep in two weeks now.” Ness gave a weary shrug, a sign of resignation to the state of things.

     “So, this why you came here?” Jack said. He stabbed a finger at the front page of the paper laying on his desk, as he peered into the neck of a bottle of what he believed was the last remaining bit of whiskey in his office.

     “No, actually, I have a favor to ask of you.”

     Jack straightened up in his chair. “Calling in something, LT?”

     “No, no, nothing like that,” Ness said. He waved a dismissive hand, but the attempt did nothing to allay the fear Jack felt rising in the pit of his stomach.

     “Alright… but—“

     “Don’t worry, Jack. The department will compensate you. Three times the usual rate if things go well, I just need this thing put to bed.”

     Jack couldn’t see anything outwardly wrong, and he had no reason to doubt Ness’s word. The two men had gone through Hell on earth during the war, and Jack still owed him for a few things, even if he wasn’t calling in those favors just yet. And Ness had helped him get on his feet as a P.I.M.S. after he quit the force. But, Jack wouldn’t be much of a P.I.M.S. if he only looked at things as they appeared. The “P.I” did stand for “Private Investigator” after all. The Monster Squad came after, if things got hairy. Literally, sometimes.

     He needed to get out of the office, and this was an honest job with guaranteed compensation at the end of it, not some paranoid husband thinking his missus was seeing another man. He just had… well, a bad feeling is all. The promise of triple the normal rate, had raised his suspicions as well. Not to mention the dull throb in his left arm at the shoulder… a little reminder of the cost of not heeding his instincts.

     “Fine, fine. I’ll take this job you got for me. But, let me ask a couple things first.” Jack said.

     “Sure, shoot.”

     “First, why me?”

     Ness sighed and walked to the middle of the room, his gaze tracing the various newspaper clippings pinned to the wall, occasionally broken up by a proper and framed pictograph hanging. “Because, you’re someone I can trust implicitly to get this job done, Jack.”

     “Because of what we used to do, LT?”

     “Yes, Jack, exactly.” Ness turned around. “My bosses know… part of what I used to do. Which means when a friend of theirs comes asking for discreet assistance in a personal matter, my name came to mind.”

     “And since you’re too busy with official department business to go off on some errand for a couple of desk jockeys,” Jack said, “my name came to mind.”

     Ness walked back over to Jack who was nursing the almost empty bottle as he sat at the kitchen table.

     “Jack, I need a Hellhound on this one.” His words were even, devoid of the weariness he had displayed earlier. There he is. Ness placed his hands on the table and leaned in, staring dead in the eye. “I need the Heartbreaker.”

     Jack straightened up in his chair, shifting with unease at the mention of the name. “Never thought I’d hear you use that nickname, Ness.” He met the man’s gaze, a spark of anger igniting in his eyes.

     “Well, if the shoe fits…”

     “If the shoe fits, it better be steel-toed because I’m about to kick someone’s teeth in if they use that damn name agai—”

      Jack, tightened his grip on the bottle and felt it shatter in his hand, the tinkle of errant shards as they clattered to the wooden floor filling the room, neither flinching. It was Jack who relented first. “Tch. Fine, LT, I’m on it.”

     Ness straightened up. “Good, glad to hear it. I need someone I can trust on this one.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Jack looked down at the shattered remains of the bottle in his left hand, the shard simply falling the ground, the ruddy crimson flesh of the palm not even scratched. Jack eyed it for a second, a dozen different memories flitted through his mind before he looked back to Ness.

     “You had another question, though,” Ness said.

     “Yeah, it’s about these murders. You said the corpses were found in an ‘abnormal’ state. What exactly are you talking about here?”

     “Intuition acting up, Jack?”

     “More like my professional curiosity. I got no interest in joining the force.”

     “Heh, shame. We’re short on detectives, good or bad. Having one that’s competent and I know I can trust would be a real benefit for me.”

     “Sorry to disappoint you, Ness. You not I can’t go back after—“

      Ness held up his hands. I know, I know. Just venting a little frustration on my end.” He reached up and pulled the brim of his rain-spattered brown fedora down over his eyes. “It ain’t exactly a pleasant topic to discuss, though.”

      “I’m a big boy, Ness. I can handle it.”

     “Alright, alright.” Ness was pacing again, this time in a line instead of the circular root around Jack’s office. He did it at briefings a lot back in their army days, Jack recalled, man could probably dig a trench by pacing alone if you gave him an idea to chew on for a while.

     Some people never change.

     “First off, it’s just like every rag in the city has reported: the corpses were dismembered beyond the point of recognition in most cases. Their fingertips were cut off and their eyes gouged out, the wounds indicating some sort of sharp instrument being used. The wounds run deep enough to nearly reach the brain.”

     “Nasty work,” Jack said.

     “Not even close to the worse part. The blood in the wounds showed signs of clotting.”

     “What? Then that means—“

     “Yeah, this bastard tortured em’ to death.”

     Jack leaned back in his chair.

     “Cause of death was determined to be blood loss as a result of hemorrhaging. This perp didn’t intend to kill’em. Not initially, at least. He was merciless, persistent, and methodical.” Ness stopped in front of a headdress made of dozens of feathers from a number of different animals, some magical and some mundane, all arranged in a spectacular pattern that resembled a mane that you might see on some big cat. It was a piece that was equal parts majesty and terror to those who might behold it. Jack had displayed it alongside a box of medals and ribbons from his days in the Hellhounds. Ness narrowed his eyes.

     Yeah, I bet you recognize that.

     “We’re dealing with a real psycho here,” Ness said.

     Jack remained silent.

    “That’d normally be enough to separate these cases from the rest of the pack.”

    “There’s more?”

     “Yeah…” Ness leaned forward on the desk, looking at Jack beneath shaded brows. “Look, this doesn’t leave this room for now, alright?”

     “Of course.”

     “We were instructed by the brass to keep this under wraps for now, but I know that sooner or later the public’s gonna find out and when that happens—“

     “What is it, Ness?”

      Ness leaned forward over the table toward Jack and dropped his voice to no more than a whisper. “There was extensive… damage to the bodies. Specifically to the lower abdominal region, and the wounds we found there were… distinct.”

     “Distinct how, Ness?”

     Ness sighed. “The boys in forensics say it’s as though they were… torn apart by a sharp set of teeth.”

     The train car jostled, the sudden motion tearing Jack from his reverie. He reached up and rubbed his eyes. It had been three days since his meeting with Ness, and this psycho had taken a new victim in the time since leaving the city. From what Jack had managed to glean from the article, it seemed Ness’ hunch was correct, the new corpse featured the distinctive wounds reported on the other victims, a portion of the lower abdomen missing with bite marks surrounding the wounds there.

     Which means this bastard is cutting em’ up nice and slow before sinking his teeth into em’.

     Jack suppressed a shudder. He had seen some terrible things during the war… done some terrible things too. But this… it was the sort of thing you heard whispered around the cookfires in a camp right before a battle. Something they thought the savages in the West might do, or some monster from the Old World. The latter thought persisted in his mind. Maybe the police are looking at this the wrong way… He made a note to ask Ness when he returned. The press had been getting on the police, accusing them of putting their image ahead of the safety of the public, that the initial response to the killings was bungled and that information is being released at too slow a rate, and some is being kept from the public entirely. Truth is, they were only making doing their job that much more difficult. Jack leaned back in his seat.

      “Well, nothing I can do about it right now,” he said aloud, his voice filling the silence of the train car. Shaking his head, clearing the thoughts alighting on the edge of his mind, he reached underneath his seat and produced a worn wooden box, its lacquer scratched in places, and bearing a brass placard on the lid. Jack Valentine, 66th Mechanized Cavalry, it read.

      Unhooking the latch, he opened the lid, revealing a bundle of documents, rolled up tight upon itself and bound with a bit of string alongside a worn, but well-cared for, pistol. Loaded, of course.

     Can’t be too careful these days, after all.

      Reaching his left hand inside the case, past the weapon, he used the tip of his clawed hand to clip the string, the papers falling open almost in relief. Jack picked them up, eyes darting across the pages. Ness’ little job. A missing person’s case of all things, and outside of the city no less. The person who had requested an investigation had pulled a few strings back at the department. Friends of friends, favor for a favor sort of things. Jack knew all too well the sort of cascade that had occurred in order to get him on this train.

     When Jack had first been handed the bundle at the train station, Ness had said that once he had taken a look at the case, he would take a “personal interest.” Jack quickly understood why. A missing daughter. Hell. He always had a soft spot for these sorts of things. He cursed himself for being weak, and Ness for using that to his advantage.

     The document itself was none too helpful, providing only the most basic of information on the case. Details will have to come from the client in question. Great. Dealing with clients was one thing, kissing the ass of some bastard who had enough pull with the police department to turn the heat up on Ness’ bosses was another. Jack wasn’t dumb either, this was the sort of report you put together when you didn’t want to risk certain details getting out. The whole thing stank, and here he was about to step into this shit up to the ankle. Jack chuckled to himself. I really am an idiot. He smiled. Well, at least I don’t have to deal with what Ness has to right now.

     Jack noticed that the train had begun to slow, the swaying of the cars lessening as the frosted forests and snow covered hills began to give way to roads and houses, before the train station finally came into view. Replacing the documents within the box and snapping the brass latch shut with an audible click, Jack tucked it into the pocket of his long coat, before shrugging it on and tugging down the brim of his fedora.

     The breaks of the train hisses with protest and the train finally came to a stop in the station. Jack worked his way to the front of the car, giving a nod to the conductor as he stepped out onto the platform, nearly empty save for a few travelers shuffling out in the cold close to mounds of their belongings. Digging in his pockets, he produced a carton of coffin nails. Tapping the bottom of it in his palm a few times, he snagged a nail between his teeth before shoving the carton back in its place. Raising his left hand to the end of the nail, shielding it from the wind with his right, he snapped his clawed fingers, producing a small flame that immediately caught on the end of the nail alight. Jack took a puff of the coffin nail, letting the warmth flow into him for a few seconds before setting it dangling from the corner of his mouth, and stalked off through the snow.

     Snowflakes traced circuitous paths on their descent towards the ground as Jack trudged along the paved road through the small town towards a wide dirt path lined with magelight lanterns.

     “Am I even headed the right way?” Jack said, his words coming out in an irritated mumble. “Why do the rich always have to have the tallest building in the middle of the damn city or own the biggest patch of dirt in the middle of Godsdamned nowhere?”

The winds whipped up as if in response sending flurries of snow dancing further along the path, Jack clutching his coat tighter to him and raising his collar.

     “Alright, alright, less complaining, got it.”

     It wasn’t the cold that had Jack on edge. Hell, he never much minded the cold ever since the procedure. No, it was the name of the missing girl that was driving him up a wall. It was a name Jack was familiar with. A name that had been a comfort after he had come back from the West, a bright light amid the sterile white corridors and blood-soaked sheets of the hospital he had been evacuated to. A name he’d never thought he’d hear spoken again by anyone, but him, in the quiet moments of his life. A name he’d tried so desperately to forget. And here he was, trudging along an icy patch of dirt, chasing a name he’d been better off forgetting.

     Gods damn Ness. Her name was scrawled across the top of the documents he’d been given in the man’s near-pristine handwriting. Disappear though? The lack of details in the file though was the thing that intrigued him most though. It had him combing over old memories, reopening wounds that had only begun to scab and heal in the recesses of his mind. He put a hand to his forehead as he felt a dull throb wrack his mind.

     I shouldn’t have come back here. There’s too many memories. I should go back to the station, get on the next train to Paradpolis, and tell Ness to shove this whole case right up his boss’ a—

     “Umm…”

     The words froze his thoughts in place. He had been so preoccupied he hadn’t heard the crunching of snow underfoot, nor the approach of the figure. It was a young woman, her hair like spun gold, eyes like the oceans waves lapping against some forgotten shore, and her skin only a shade brighter than the snow the two of them were surrounded by.

      “Are you..?” That voice. Her voice.

      It was a voice he had heard before, a voice that had been his constant companion. When he had been a child it was at times an annoyance, belonging to a brat that followed him as he stalked the streets of the old neighborhood looking for trouble. At other times it was a comfort, scolding him for his recklessness but filled with concern as he dragged himself in from another row with a boy twice his size. A voice he had heard scream his name in agony in a singular moment of utter helplessness. A voice that haunted his dreams to this very day, absolving him one instant and damning him the next.

     “Ellie.” He breathed the name into the frigid air with a shudder.

     Blood & Ink is a 4,260 word excerpt from a novel that is anticipated to be much, much longer when finally finished. A unique blend of classic pulp detective novels, fantasy, and horror, it falls into a genre that the author has taken to calling “Fantasy Noir.” Set in and around the 1920's-inspired fantasy metropolis of Paradpolis, Private Investigator and Monster Slayer (or P.I.M.S. for short) Jack Valentine has been given work by his old commanding officer: a missing persons job where the person hiring him doesn't want him to find anyone. From there, Jack becomes entangled in a web of conspiracy involving a murder, kidnapping, cults, cartoons, and more than a touch of cannibalism. Get to know the collection of misanthropes, ne'er-do-wells, and outright criminal scum that run through the streets of this rain-slick city, in a genre-twisting mystery that will bury its hooks in you and drag you all the way to the end. The perfect kind of read for those tired of the same-old fantasy tropes and settings, Blood & Ink is just the right balance character- and plot-driven narrative with a smoke-choked voice distinctly its own.

    The author is one Brendan Anthony Michael Forte, another aspiring writer trying to make ends meet with a regular 9 to 5. Born and raised in another one of the cut-and-paste suburban developments around Miami, he was the kid who wore a metal band t-shirt under his Catholic school uniform. Graduating from the University of Central Florida with a major in Film and a minor in Creative Writing in 2014, he has since worked a variety of odd jobs all the while supplementing his unstable income with freelance writing gigs on the side to stay sharp and get paid. With a distinctly dark, twisted, and sarcastic voice shaped from a lifetime of books, movies, comics, video games, and way too much time on the internet, he dreams of the day he can pay at least half his bills through writing.

15
3
2
Juice
434 reads
Donate coins to BAMF_Writing.
Juice
Cancel
Trident Media Group is the leading U.S. literary agency and we are looking to discover and represent the next bestsellers. Share a sample of your work. If it shows promise, we will be in touch with you.
Written by BAMF_Writing in portal Trident Media Group
Blood & Ink: Chapter 1
     Shoveling dirt in the darkness, he found himself oddly happy. He found himself at peace. As he worked, a tune made its way to his lips, one that he knew all too well. With each scoop of dirt he bound himself, in a way, to her. The stark black of the soil caked his hands and clothes, lodging beneath his fingernails like a rabbit in its burrow. His skin was freezing, the air frigid in the night, the girl groaning on the ground.
     Does she dream, I wonder?
He paused in the middle of his labors, the song leaving him, and examined her features. Her nostrils, coated in the dull brown of clotted blood, wheezed and whistled with each ragged breath. A soft moan issued from her pouting lips, but her expression betrayed no discomfort.
     Her dreams are peaceful it seems.
     He smiled to himself before gripping his shovel once again, pushing her limp body into the pit before him. He heard the wet thud of flesh slapping against the rough earth beneath.
     I’d hate to wake her during such a pleasant dream.
     He concerned himself with the mound of turned earth next to him. He had to bury her, quick, working methodically, the dirt falling upon the girl one shovelful at a time, mechanical in its pacing. A soft whisper caresses his ears from below even as the dirt falls upon her frame.
     “Please…”
     A single word. Her voice, pitiful. He sighs, grasping the shovel with both hands he upends another portion of dirt upon her and, without a word, brings it down upon her. He feels bone give beneath his blow, sees the flesh part at the edge of his spade, and the rich smell of blood rises in the cold night air. It is an intoxicating aroma, one which would drive him from reason if he allowed it to, but reason reins in instinct.
     Not now.
He kneels down beside the shallow trench and puts a hand to her cheek, his fingers tracing the line of her jaw down to her delicate chin and up to her lips in an eternal pout. She doesn’t react. He laughs, a soft chuckle filling the clearing.
     If no one will laugh, I will.
     Blood trickles down her forehead, running between his fingers, mingling with the dirt and snow, warming him with her ebbing life. He relishes the feeling. It makes him feel… real. He closes his eyes.
     I dream too, you know.
     The warmth seems to flee as soon as it came, vanishing with the coming of his thought. He looks down to see specks of white melting to nothingness in the warmth of the sanguine pool that surrounds her head.
     It’s snowing again.
     He looks up to the sky, the stars hiding themselves beneath their shrouds, but the moon bears witness to his deeds, like a terrified child peeking out from under the covers at the monster he fears lurks under his bed. Standing, he pulls himself up and out of the pit, dusting dirt and snow from his pant legs.
     There’ll be trouble if I come home at sunrise again.
     Tugging the shovel free from the mound of dirt he set to work again, whistling all the while.

     Jack sat slumped in the train’s wooden seat, a copy of the Paradpolis Prophet draped over his face like a makeshift blindfold to shut the cruel light of morning from his bloodshot eyes. Its thin effectiveness left something to be desired. Reaching up, he grabbed the paper from its perch. His head pounded in response to the light that flooded his sight. Blinking, the world swam into focus, his sight settling on the headline splayed across the top right column of the front page. “Crown Street Killer Strikes Again!” Jack let out a sigh.
     “Guess I wouldn’t be headed out this way if it wasn’t for this guy,” he said to an empty train car, and let his eyes flit over the article, picking up bits and pieces here and there. The murders seemingly indiscriminate in their victims, the bodies eviscerated in a uniquely grotesque fashion. This makes lucky number seven. Seven victims. It was almost unthinkable. Jack returned his attentions to the article in the hope that there might be something more, but it descended into standard police propaganda, the sort that encouraged a healthy sense of paranoia in the populace.
     By now, Jack figured they were overdosing on the stuff. At this rate, every Joe and Jane is gonna be callin’ the police on their neighbor if they walk their dog a little too late at night. He caught the name of the lead investigator, one Detective Ness, and instantly conjured the image of his old CO, a man with iron in his eyes as well as his spine. The man had called him three days ago. It was the first time Jack had heard from him since he’d left the army.
     Jack had a room in the Red Lantern District above a brothel. The brothel belonged to an old acquaintance of his, Madame Noir, who owed him a favor or two thanks to some work he did in when he was first getting his feet wet as a P.I.M.S. Before he knew it, he wasn’t wading through the shallows, but drowning in it. The Madame kept things quiet, for the most part, discretion being a watchword in her line of work. That is, until Ness had shown up for a visit. That’s when this whole mess started.
     “Jack, you look terrible,” Ness said. He always was the blunt sort. Jack let out a bitter laugh as he peered at him from above the chained lock of the cracked apartment door.
     “You ain’t exactly first prize yourself, Lieutenant,” said Jack. “Though, I still think I might grab second if it came down to it. You? Fourth at best.”
     “A real comedian, as ever,” Ness said, annoyance in his tone. “How’s the arm?”
     The question was innocent enough to any errant ears, but Jack felt a little ball of rage knot in his stomach, even as white-hot pain raced through the veins in his left arm. He bit down on the string of remarks bubbling into his mind before schooling his features back into the placidity of a man suffering a raging hangover.
     “Now who’s telling jokes, LT?”
     “I hope your mind is still as sharp as your tongue.” Ness raised an eyebrow, making a questioning gesture as if asking to come in. Jack shut the door before undoing the chain, as well as several other locks that adorned its frame, and eased the door open. In truth, these were the most words Jack had exchanged with another mortal being in over a week. It was the most mentally aware Jack had been for some time, his daily routine primarily consisting of betting, drinking, and trying in vain to drum up more work for himself.
     “So, Ness, what has you darkening my doorstep on this wonderfully dreary day?” Jack said Jack. He padded across the bare wooden floor to the small table in the corner, its surface littered with discarded liquor bottles and old betting slips. In response, Ness merely produced a rolled-up newspaper from inside his trenchcoat and whapped Jack on the forehead, eliciting an irritated hiss. He dropped the paper, open, on the table, causing bottles to clatter to the surface and betting slips to whip up into the air in a facsimile of a snowstorm.
     “What the Burning Hells was that for?” Jack said. His gaze dropped to the unfurled paper on the desk. “And what’s all this?”
     “Where have you been the past few weeks, Jack?” Ness said. His eyes narrowed, the look he gave the new blood in the division when he had them lined up for parade.
     “I’ve been… busy,” Jack said. He slumped into an empty seat at the table, the one with one of its legs propped up on a spare penny dreadful he had bought during a case to hide behind.
     “Mmm, I’m sure.” Ness said. His face said he already had an answer of his own. “Anyway, just because you quit the force, doesn’t mean the scumbags of this city stopped doing whatever they want. On top of that, I’ve been short-handed lately…” Ness shook his head, banishing his own less pressing concerns from his mind for the moment. “But this case tops anything that’s landed on my desk in the last five years, easily.”
     “That’s quite a claim coming from you.”
     “Yeah, well, five people being butchered in less than three weeks tends to elicit such a claim.”
     Jack leaned forward in his chair. “You shitting me, LT?”
     “Not my kind of joke, Jack.”
      Ness talked as he walked, pacing around the cramped confines of Jack’s office and apartment, examining the rather unusual collection that’d he’d managed to accumulate over the years.
     “The corpses of the victims were discovered in… abnormal states to say the least. Never seen anything like this… not even stuff the savages pulled on the western front.”
     “Gods.” Jack picked up each of the bottles on the table, shaking them and listening for the tell-tale swish of liquid within each, a flicker of disappointment crossing his face with every instance of silence. “Looks like the higher-ups are running you ragged.”
     “Haven’t had a full night’s sleep in two weeks now.” Ness gave a weary shrug, a sign of resignation to the state of things.
     “So, this why you came here?” Jack said. He stabbed a finger at the front page of the paper laying on his desk, as he peered into the neck of a bottle of what he believed was the last remaining bit of whiskey in his office.
     “No, actually, I have a favor to ask of you.”
     Jack straightened up in his chair. “Calling in something, LT?”
     “No, no, nothing like that,” Ness said. He waved a dismissive hand, but the attempt did nothing to allay the fear Jack felt rising in the pit of his stomach.
     “Alright… but—“
     “Don’t worry, Jack. The department will compensate you. Three times the usual rate if things go well, I just need this thing put to bed.”
     Jack couldn’t see anything outwardly wrong, and he had no reason to doubt Ness’s word. The two men had gone through Hell on earth during the war, and Jack still owed him for a few things, even if he wasn’t calling in those favors just yet. And Ness had helped him get on his feet as a P.I.M.S. after he quit the force. But, Jack wouldn’t be much of a P.I.M.S. if he only looked at things as they appeared. The “P.I” did stand for “Private Investigator” after all. The Monster Squad came after, if things got hairy. Literally, sometimes.
     He needed to get out of the office, and this was an honest job with guaranteed compensation at the end of it, not some paranoid husband thinking his missus was seeing another man. He just had… well, a bad feeling is all. The promise of triple the normal rate, had raised his suspicions as well. Not to mention the dull throb in his left arm at the shoulder… a little reminder of the cost of not heeding his instincts.
     “Fine, fine. I’ll take this job you got for me. But, let me ask a couple things first.” Jack said.
     “Sure, shoot.”
     “First, why me?”
     Ness sighed and walked to the middle of the room, his gaze tracing the various newspaper clippings pinned to the wall, occasionally broken up by a proper and framed pictograph hanging. “Because, you’re someone I can trust implicitly to get this job done, Jack.”
     “Because of what we used to do, LT?”
     “Yes, Jack, exactly.” Ness turned around. “My bosses know… part of what I used to do. Which means when a friend of theirs comes asking for discreet assistance in a personal matter, my name came to mind.”
     “And since you’re too busy with official department business to go off on some errand for a couple of desk jockeys,” Jack said, “my name came to mind.”
     Ness walked back over to Jack who was nursing the almost empty bottle as he sat at the kitchen table.
     “Jack, I need a Hellhound on this one.” His words were even, devoid of the weariness he had displayed earlier. There he is. Ness placed his hands on the table and leaned in, staring dead in the eye. “I need the Heartbreaker.”
     Jack straightened up in his chair, shifting with unease at the mention of the name. “Never thought I’d hear you use that nickname, Ness.” He met the man’s gaze, a spark of anger igniting in his eyes.
     “Well, if the shoe fits…”
     “If the shoe fits, it better be steel-toed because I’m about to kick someone’s teeth in if they use that damn name agai—”
      Jack, tightened his grip on the bottle and felt it shatter in his hand, the tinkle of errant shards as they clattered to the wooden floor filling the room, neither flinching. It was Jack who relented first. “Tch. Fine, LT, I’m on it.”
     Ness straightened up. “Good, glad to hear it. I need someone I can trust on this one.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Jack looked down at the shattered remains of the bottle in his left hand, the shard simply falling the ground, the ruddy crimson flesh of the palm not even scratched. Jack eyed it for a second, a dozen different memories flitted through his mind before he looked back to Ness.
     “You had another question, though,” Ness said.
     “Yeah, it’s about these murders. You said the corpses were found in an ‘abnormal’ state. What exactly are you talking about here?”
     “Intuition acting up, Jack?”
     “More like my professional curiosity. I got no interest in joining the force.”
     “Heh, shame. We’re short on detectives, good or bad. Having one that’s competent and I know I can trust would be a real benefit for me.”
     “Sorry to disappoint you, Ness. You not I can’t go back after—“
      Ness held up his hands. I know, I know. Just venting a little frustration on my end.” He reached up and pulled the brim of his rain-spattered brown fedora down over his eyes. “It ain’t exactly a pleasant topic to discuss, though.”
      “I’m a big boy, Ness. I can handle it.”
     “Alright, alright.” Ness was pacing again, this time in a line instead of the circular root around Jack’s office. He did it at briefings a lot back in their army days, Jack recalled, man could probably dig a trench by pacing alone if you gave him an idea to chew on for a while.
     Some people never change.
     “First off, it’s just like every rag in the city has reported: the corpses were dismembered beyond the point of recognition in most cases. Their fingertips were cut off and their eyes gouged out, the wounds indicating some sort of sharp instrument being used. The wounds run deep enough to nearly reach the brain.”
     “Nasty work,” Jack said.
     “Not even close to the worse part. The blood in the wounds showed signs of clotting.”
     “What? Then that means—“
     “Yeah, this bastard tortured em’ to death.”
     Jack leaned back in his chair.
     “Cause of death was determined to be blood loss as a result of hemorrhaging. This perp didn’t intend to kill’em. Not initially, at least. He was merciless, persistent, and methodical.” Ness stopped in front of a headdress made of dozens of feathers from a number of different animals, some magical and some mundane, all arranged in a spectacular pattern that resembled a mane that you might see on some big cat. It was a piece that was equal parts majesty and terror to those who might behold it. Jack had displayed it alongside a box of medals and ribbons from his days in the Hellhounds. Ness narrowed his eyes.
     Yeah, I bet you recognize that.
     “We’re dealing with a real psycho here,” Ness said.
     Jack remained silent.
    “That’d normally be enough to separate these cases from the rest of the pack.”
    “There’s more?”
     “Yeah…” Ness leaned forward on the desk, looking at Jack beneath shaded brows. “Look, this doesn’t leave this room for now, alright?”
     “Of course.”
     “We were instructed by the brass to keep this under wraps for now, but I know that sooner or later the public’s gonna find out and when that happens—“
     “What is it, Ness?”
      Ness leaned forward over the table toward Jack and dropped his voice to no more than a whisper. “There was extensive… damage to the bodies. Specifically to the lower abdominal region, and the wounds we found there were… distinct.”
     “Distinct how, Ness?”
     Ness sighed. “The boys in forensics say it’s as though they were… torn apart by a sharp set of teeth.”

     The train car jostled, the sudden motion tearing Jack from his reverie. He reached up and rubbed his eyes. It had been three days since his meeting with Ness, and this psycho had taken a new victim in the time since leaving the city. From what Jack had managed to glean from the article, it seemed Ness’ hunch was correct, the new corpse featured the distinctive wounds reported on the other victims, a portion of the lower abdomen missing with bite marks surrounding the wounds there.
     Which means this bastard is cutting em’ up nice and slow before sinking his teeth into em’.
     Jack suppressed a shudder. He had seen some terrible things during the war… done some terrible things too. But this… it was the sort of thing you heard whispered around the cookfires in a camp right before a battle. Something they thought the savages in the West might do, or some monster from the Old World. The latter thought persisted in his mind. Maybe the police are looking at this the wrong way… He made a note to ask Ness when he returned. The press had been getting on the police, accusing them of putting their image ahead of the safety of the public, that the initial response to the killings was bungled and that information is being released at too slow a rate, and some is being kept from the public entirely. Truth is, they were only making doing their job that much more difficult. Jack leaned back in his seat.
      “Well, nothing I can do about it right now,” he said aloud, his voice filling the silence of the train car. Shaking his head, clearing the thoughts alighting on the edge of his mind, he reached underneath his seat and produced a worn wooden box, its lacquer scratched in places, and bearing a brass placard on the lid. Jack Valentine, 66th Mechanized Cavalry, it read.
      Unhooking the latch, he opened the lid, revealing a bundle of documents, rolled up tight upon itself and bound with a bit of string alongside a worn, but well-cared for, pistol. Loaded, of course.
     Can’t be too careful these days, after all.
      Reaching his left hand inside the case, past the weapon, he used the tip of his clawed hand to clip the string, the papers falling open almost in relief. Jack picked them up, eyes darting across the pages. Ness’ little job. A missing person’s case of all things, and outside of the city no less. The person who had requested an investigation had pulled a few strings back at the department. Friends of friends, favor for a favor sort of things. Jack knew all too well the sort of cascade that had occurred in order to get him on this train.
     When Jack had first been handed the bundle at the train station, Ness had said that once he had taken a look at the case, he would take a “personal interest.” Jack quickly understood why. A missing daughter. Hell. He always had a soft spot for these sorts of things. He cursed himself for being weak, and Ness for using that to his advantage.
     The document itself was none too helpful, providing only the most basic of information on the case. Details will have to come from the client in question. Great. Dealing with clients was one thing, kissing the ass of some bastard who had enough pull with the police department to turn the heat up on Ness’ bosses was another. Jack wasn’t dumb either, this was the sort of report you put together when you didn’t want to risk certain details getting out. The whole thing stank, and here he was about to step into this shit up to the ankle. Jack chuckled to himself. I really am an idiot. He smiled. Well, at least I don’t have to deal with what Ness has to right now.
     Jack noticed that the train had begun to slow, the swaying of the cars lessening as the frosted forests and snow covered hills began to give way to roads and houses, before the train station finally came into view. Replacing the documents within the box and snapping the brass latch shut with an audible click, Jack tucked it into the pocket of his long coat, before shrugging it on and tugging down the brim of his fedora.
     The breaks of the train hisses with protest and the train finally came to a stop in the station. Jack worked his way to the front of the car, giving a nod to the conductor as he stepped out onto the platform, nearly empty save for a few travelers shuffling out in the cold close to mounds of their belongings. Digging in his pockets, he produced a carton of coffin nails. Tapping the bottom of it in his palm a few times, he snagged a nail between his teeth before shoving the carton back in its place. Raising his left hand to the end of the nail, shielding it from the wind with his right, he snapped his clawed fingers, producing a small flame that immediately caught on the end of the nail alight. Jack took a puff of the coffin nail, letting the warmth flow into him for a few seconds before setting it dangling from the corner of his mouth, and stalked off through the snow.
     Snowflakes traced circuitous paths on their descent towards the ground as Jack trudged along the paved road through the small town towards a wide dirt path lined with magelight lanterns.
     “Am I even headed the right way?” Jack said, his words coming out in an irritated mumble. “Why do the rich always have to have the tallest building in the middle of the damn city or own the biggest patch of dirt in the middle of Godsdamned nowhere?”
The winds whipped up as if in response sending flurries of snow dancing further along the path, Jack clutching his coat tighter to him and raising his collar.
     “Alright, alright, less complaining, got it.”
     It wasn’t the cold that had Jack on edge. Hell, he never much minded the cold ever since the procedure. No, it was the name of the missing girl that was driving him up a wall. It was a name Jack was familiar with. A name that had been a comfort after he had come back from the West, a bright light amid the sterile white corridors and blood-soaked sheets of the hospital he had been evacuated to. A name he’d never thought he’d hear spoken again by anyone, but him, in the quiet moments of his life. A name he’d tried so desperately to forget. And here he was, trudging along an icy patch of dirt, chasing a name he’d been better off forgetting.
     Gods damn Ness. Her name was scrawled across the top of the documents he’d been given in the man’s near-pristine handwriting. Disappear though? The lack of details in the file though was the thing that intrigued him most though. It had him combing over old memories, reopening wounds that had only begun to scab and heal in the recesses of his mind. He put a hand to his forehead as he felt a dull throb wrack his mind.
     I shouldn’t have come back here. There’s too many memories. I should go back to the station, get on the next train to Paradpolis, and tell Ness to shove this whole case right up his boss’ a—
     “Umm…”
     The words froze his thoughts in place. He had been so preoccupied he hadn’t heard the crunching of snow underfoot, nor the approach of the figure. It was a young woman, her hair like spun gold, eyes like the oceans waves lapping against some forgotten shore, and her skin only a shade brighter than the snow the two of them were surrounded by.
      “Are you..?” That voice. Her voice.
      It was a voice he had heard before, a voice that had been his constant companion. When he had been a child it was at times an annoyance, belonging to a brat that followed him as he stalked the streets of the old neighborhood looking for trouble. At other times it was a comfort, scolding him for his recklessness but filled with concern as he dragged himself in from another row with a boy twice his size. A voice he had heard scream his name in agony in a singular moment of utter helplessness. A voice that haunted his dreams to this very day, absolving him one instant and damning him the next.
     “Ellie.” He breathed the name into the frigid air with a shudder.

     Blood & Ink is a 4,260 word excerpt from a novel that is anticipated to be much, much longer when finally finished. A unique blend of classic pulp detective novels, fantasy, and horror, it falls into a genre that the author has taken to calling “Fantasy Noir.” Set in and around the 1920's-inspired fantasy metropolis of Paradpolis, Private Investigator and Monster Slayer (or P.I.M.S. for short) Jack Valentine has been given work by his old commanding officer: a missing persons job where the person hiring him doesn't want him to find anyone. From there, Jack becomes entangled in a web of conspiracy involving a murder, kidnapping, cults, cartoons, and more than a touch of cannibalism. Get to know the collection of misanthropes, ne'er-do-wells, and outright criminal scum that run through the streets of this rain-slick city, in a genre-twisting mystery that will bury its hooks in you and drag you all the way to the end. The perfect kind of read for those tired of the same-old fantasy tropes and settings, Blood & Ink is just the right balance character- and plot-driven narrative with a smoke-choked voice distinctly its own.
    The author is one Brendan Anthony Michael Forte, another aspiring writer trying to make ends meet with a regular 9 to 5. Born and raised in another one of the cut-and-paste suburban developments around Miami, he was the kid who wore a metal band t-shirt under his Catholic school uniform. Graduating from the University of Central Florida with a major in Film and a minor in Creative Writing in 2014, he has since worked a variety of odd jobs all the while supplementing his unstable income with freelance writing gigs on the side to stay sharp and get paid. With a distinctly dark, twisted, and sarcastic voice shaped from a lifetime of books, movies, comics, video games, and way too much time on the internet, he dreams of the day he can pay at least half his bills through writing.
15
3
2
Juice
434 reads
Load 2 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to GhoulCircus.
Juice
Cancel
Written by GhoulCircus in portal Stream of Consciousness

Admit One

     Something sings in the dark, a muted lull of smothered sparks. This act is lust and foul sway ‘neath amber dusk and twilight grey. Be still, they say, and quiet more; when light is cruel, the dark adores each mournful tear, impulsive cut. Be still, they say, and quiet much.

     I’ve been lost on grounds unknown, a Fair quick to parade my desires and fears. Fire swallowed in turn, beyond the callow singe and burn of novice flesh. Spectacles veiled where silken swathes of ribbon sail, a synchronized troupe of nimble flight fain to tumble from the heights. I’ve been tempted by a fortune new, a crystal ball and scry to view my life, my death and dreary heart in myriads of trompe l’oeil art.

     Something claws at the air, a sickening prayer of sweat and flame. This game is light and shadow-play, a hunt of shame and swift betray. Be quick, they say, and clever more; when dark is sweet, the light abhors each honeyed smile, velvet touch. Be quick, they say, and clever much.

     I’ve toured iron wrought and caged around a tameless beast, wild eyes and famine feast on gangly corpse and putrid meat. Time is semblant brutish quip, imprinting pelts by lash and whip. Billowed tents loom slight askew, a home to none and many few but faces warped and freakish form, ‘round petting pens their patrons swarm. I’ve heard the cries of children ring, no allies to the horrors seen imprisoned in this ghastly age and shackled to a savage stage.

     Something burns within the heart, a smoldering wound of blackened art. This trick is harsh and bitter pay, lithe predator of dream's decay. Be poised, they say, and brazen more; when magic fails, the truth restores each cloying lie, each mocking crutch. Be poised, they say, and brazen much.

     I've been found on grounds traversed, a Fair slow to conceal my revulsion and screams. Lights flicker in resist— above the carousel’s peak, they insist revenge. Be still, they say, and quiet more; when dark is cruel, the light adores each song, each claw, each burning heart. Be still, they say, and love the dark.

27
12
18
Juice
356 reads
Donate coins to GhoulCircus.
Juice
Cancel
Written by GhoulCircus in portal Stream of Consciousness
Admit One
     Something sings in the dark, a muted lull of smothered sparks. This act is lust and foul sway ‘neath amber dusk and twilight grey. Be still, they say, and quiet more; when light is cruel, the dark adores each mournful tear, impulsive cut. Be still, they say, and quiet much.

     I’ve been lost on grounds unknown, a Fair quick to parade my desires and fears. Fire swallowed in turn, beyond the callow singe and burn of novice flesh. Spectacles veiled where silken swathes of ribbon sail, a synchronized troupe of nimble flight fain to tumble from the heights. I’ve been tempted by a fortune new, a crystal ball and scry to view my life, my death and dreary heart in myriads of trompe l’oeil art.

     Something claws at the air, a sickening prayer of sweat and flame. This game is light and shadow-play, a hunt of shame and swift betray. Be quick, they say, and clever more; when dark is sweet, the light abhors each honeyed smile, velvet touch. Be quick, they say, and clever much.

     I’ve toured iron wrought and caged around a tameless beast, wild eyes and famine feast on gangly corpse and putrid meat. Time is semblant brutish quip, imprinting pelts by lash and whip. Billowed tents loom slight askew, a home to none and many few but faces warped and freakish form, ‘round petting pens their patrons swarm. I’ve heard the cries of children ring, no allies to the horrors seen imprisoned in this ghastly age and shackled to a savage stage.

     Something burns within the heart, a smoldering wound of blackened art. This trick is harsh and bitter pay, lithe predator of dream's decay. Be poised, they say, and brazen more; when magic fails, the truth restores each cloying lie, each mocking crutch. Be poised, they say, and brazen much.

     I've been found on grounds traversed, a Fair slow to conceal my revulsion and screams. Lights flicker in resist— above the carousel’s peak, they insist revenge. Be still, they say, and quiet more; when dark is cruel, the light adores each song, each claw, each burning heart. Be still, they say, and love the dark.

27
12
18
Juice
356 reads
Load 18 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to Carla_Galva.
Juice
Cancel
She was beautiful but nobody saw her...
Written by Carla_Galva

Not Enough

She was told that she was beautiful but nobody saw how much she didn't believe it. 

She cut herself to feel something, to feel pain because the world around her was numb to all types of beauty and only regarded one. She hated being told that she wasn't beautiful enough for this, so she had to change herself. She was beautiful for this but not enough for that. 

She was told this so much that she started to feel the words in more than just chest, her heart, her skin.

She wanted to rip her skin off, she was stuck on not being enough yet she was still beautiful.

She was stuck on what she was limited to but not what she dreamt of becoming.

16
5
0
Juice
247 reads
Donate coins to Carla_Galva.
Juice
Cancel
She was beautiful but nobody saw her...
Written by Carla_Galva
Not Enough
She was told that she was beautiful but nobody saw how much she didn't believe it. 
She cut herself to feel something, to feel pain because the world around her was numb to all types of beauty and only regarded one. She hated being told that she wasn't beautiful enough for this, so she had to change herself. She was beautiful for this but not enough for that. 

She was told this so much that she started to feel the words in more than just chest, her heart, her skin.

She wanted to rip her skin off, she was stuck on not being enough yet she was still beautiful.

She was stuck on what she was limited to but not what she dreamt of becoming.
16
5
0
Juice
247 reads
Login to post comments.
Advertisement  (turn off)
Donate coins to SonofEternity.
Juice
Cancel
Write the longest grammatically sound alliteration you can possibly muster. The longest such alliteration's author wins $150 if, and only if, this challenge receives at least 300 entries. Editing is allowed.
Written by SonofEternity in portal Words

Frustration - The Other F Word

I'm feeling freaking frustrated, 

foes, friends, and family finding faults, 

flipping fervor for fear, 

fickle freedom, 

while flattering financial feats fondle fiction, 

foolish friction fraternize fair fantasies far from fantastic, 

fire flamed filled fences, 

forced father fatalities, 

fetal fraternity facilities feeding feminist fish foods, 

fingers forgetting fundamental functions, 

fuel fees, frantic freeway flux, and fleeing focus fade frontal foresight, 

false flight falling fifty-five feet fornenst a feeble fringe fathoming future fulfillment, 

fist of fury fighting ferocious phenomena fending folding figures funneling flaky facts, 

futile fashion, fruitless freelance, 

frivolous frequencies flooding favorable fellowship, 

fiending freakish foreign forsaken flavors framed in familiar fabric, 

flying phobia, failing phobia, 

forward footsteps filming the finale following frustration.

33
12
11
Juice
634 reads
Donate coins to SonofEternity.
Juice
Cancel
Write the longest grammatically sound alliteration you can possibly muster. The longest such alliteration's author wins $150 if, and only if, this challenge receives at least 300 entries. Editing is allowed.
Written by SonofEternity in portal Words
Frustration - The Other F Word
I'm feeling freaking frustrated, 
foes, friends, and family finding faults, 
flipping fervor for fear, 
fickle freedom, 
while flattering financial feats fondle fiction, 
foolish friction fraternize fair fantasies far from fantastic, 
fire flamed filled fences, 
forced father fatalities, 
fetal fraternity facilities feeding feminist fish foods, 
fingers forgetting fundamental functions, 
fuel fees, frantic freeway flux, and fleeing focus fade frontal foresight, 
false flight falling fifty-five feet fornenst a feeble fringe fathoming future fulfillment, 
fist of fury fighting ferocious phenomena fending folding figures funneling flaky facts, 
futile fashion, fruitless freelance, 
frivolous frequencies flooding favorable fellowship, 
fiending freakish foreign forsaken flavors framed in familiar fabric, 
flying phobia, failing phobia, 
forward footsteps filming the finale following frustration.
33
12
11
Juice
634 reads
Load 11 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to AJAY9979.
Juice
Cancel
Write the longest grammatically sound alliteration you can possibly muster. The longest such alliteration's author wins $150 if, and only if, this challenge receives at least 300 entries. Editing is allowed.
Written by AJAY9979 in portal Words

Eh

Erudite emigres expatriate, escaping evil empires. Eric exulted, entering England easy enough. Eleven entered, elatedly eating eggplants. Each expelled eager enzymic ejections every eight encablures. Emblazed eyes examined Ely, England. Every emigre exuded exclamations, evoking English enantiopathy. Enceinte Easteners ensanguined ewes eagerly. Ecophobics excreted exasperatedly. Exiting evenly, effulging emigres entered embouchements ennomicly.

7
1
0
Juice
193 reads
Donate coins to AJAY9979.
Juice
Cancel
Write the longest grammatically sound alliteration you can possibly muster. The longest such alliteration's author wins $150 if, and only if, this challenge receives at least 300 entries. Editing is allowed.
Written by AJAY9979 in portal Words
Eh
Erudite emigres expatriate, escaping evil empires. Eric exulted, entering England easy enough. Eleven entered, elatedly eating eggplants. Each expelled eager enzymic ejections every eight encablures. Emblazed eyes examined Ely, England. Every emigre exuded exclamations, evoking English enantiopathy. Enceinte Easteners ensanguined ewes eagerly. Ecophobics excreted exasperatedly. Exiting evenly, effulging emigres entered embouchements ennomicly.
7
1
0
Juice
193 reads
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to literatebritt.
Juice
Cancel
Write the longest grammatically sound alliteration you can possibly muster. The longest such alliteration's author wins $150 if, and only if, this challenge receives at least 300 entries. Editing is allowed.
Written by literatebritt in portal Words

Simply Sinister

Sitting still so some solitude settles, Salome speaks.

"Stay."

Susannah swallows some Syrah. "Sorry?"

"Stay," says Salome softly.

"Supper’s soon," Susannah says.

"So?"

"Suppose Samuel stumbles..."

"Silly," Salome soothes. 

"Sex surprises some spouses, ‘specially since Samuel suspects…"

"Samuel suspects some standard, sultry situation," Salome says sternly.

"Surely..." Susannah starts.

Salome stops speech — soft shapes strategically stroked, sweetly smothering Susannah’s solicitude.

Subsequently, Susannah succumbs. Salome smiles smugly, stroking Susannah’s supple sun-striped silver skin.

"Samuel," Susannah sighs suddenly.

Salome stills. "Samuel?"

Susannah stirs, satisfaction spoiled.

"Samuel?" Salome sibilates.

"Salome," Susannah says.

Salome’s secret sphere shatters. Samuel sullies something special.

Simple solution, Salome supposes.

***

Samuel scales stairs, stops -- something serious, something suspicious, something sinister...

***

"Something," says Sergeant Simmons.

"Senseless slaughter," says Sister Sarah somberly.

"Stabbed," Sergeant Simmons says, studying Samuel's stiff.

Sister Sarah sighs sadly. "Slaughter sprouts such sorrows."

"Simply sinister," says Salome, slyly. "So surprisingly savage."

"Sinful," says Sister Sarah.

"Suspicious," says Sergeant Simmons, studying Salome.

"Sad," Salome says simply.

Simmons suspects Salome’s suffering’s spurious. Salome simulates sobbing, seeks Sister Sarah’s sympathetic support.

Simmons supposes sinners slip sometime: strategically scrutinizing stories starts spilling secrets sinners safeguard.

Simmons sits. Salome’ll slip soon. Simmons’s stoic.

***

Simply sinister, Salome’d said. So surprisingly savage.

Simmons sees Susannah spread -- silent.

"Strychnine?" says Sergeant Simmons.

"Strychnine," says Stephen. "Swallowed."

"Symptoms?"

"Spasms, seizures. Slightest stimulus strengthens spasms," Stephen says, scrubbing scalpels, slab. "Suffocation stops sentience."

"Standard substance?"

"Scarcely," says Stephen.

"Strange," says Simmons.

Stephen stops. "Servants," Stephen says, "sometimes snuff squirrels. Strychnine’s simple — standard solution."

Simply sinister, Salome’d said. So surprisingly savage.

Spasms, seizures, suffocation. Simmons sits, significant specifics silently spurring succeeding steps. Salome’s sinful, sordidly slaughtering Samuel, Samuel’s Susannah. 

Salome’s sin’s surfacing — soon Simmons’ll seize Susannah’s sinner.

12
3
5
Juice
236 reads
Donate coins to literatebritt.
Juice
Cancel
Write the longest grammatically sound alliteration you can possibly muster. The longest such alliteration's author wins $150 if, and only if, this challenge receives at least 300 entries. Editing is allowed.
Written by literatebritt in portal Words
Simply Sinister
Sitting still so some solitude settles, Salome speaks.

"Stay."

Susannah swallows some Syrah. "Sorry?"

"Stay," says Salome softly.

"Supper’s soon," Susannah says.

"So?"

"Suppose Samuel stumbles..."

"Silly," Salome soothes. 

"Sex surprises some spouses, ‘specially since Samuel suspects…"

"Samuel suspects some standard, sultry situation," Salome says sternly.

"Surely..." Susannah starts.

Salome stops speech — soft shapes strategically stroked, sweetly smothering Susannah’s solicitude.

Subsequently, Susannah succumbs. Salome smiles smugly, stroking Susannah’s supple sun-striped silver skin.

"Samuel," Susannah sighs suddenly.

Salome stills. "Samuel?"

Susannah stirs, satisfaction spoiled.

"Samuel?" Salome sibilates.

"Salome," Susannah says.

Salome’s secret sphere shatters. Samuel sullies something special.

Simple solution, Salome supposes.

***

Samuel scales stairs, stops -- something serious, something suspicious, something sinister...

***

"Something," says Sergeant Simmons.

"Senseless slaughter," says Sister Sarah somberly.

"Stabbed," Sergeant Simmons says, studying Samuel's stiff.

Sister Sarah sighs sadly. "Slaughter sprouts such sorrows."

"Simply sinister," says Salome, slyly. "So surprisingly savage."

"Sinful," says Sister Sarah.

"Suspicious," says Sergeant Simmons, studying Salome.

"Sad," Salome says simply.

Simmons suspects Salome’s suffering’s spurious. Salome simulates sobbing, seeks Sister Sarah’s sympathetic support.

Simmons supposes sinners slip sometime: strategically scrutinizing stories starts spilling secrets sinners safeguard.

Simmons sits. Salome’ll slip soon. Simmons’s stoic.

***

Simply sinister, Salome’d said. So surprisingly savage.

Simmons sees Susannah spread -- silent.

"Strychnine?" says Sergeant Simmons.

"Strychnine," says Stephen. "Swallowed."

"Symptoms?"

"Spasms, seizures. Slightest stimulus strengthens spasms," Stephen says, scrubbing scalpels, slab. "Suffocation stops sentience."

"Standard substance?"

"Scarcely," says Stephen.

"Strange," says Simmons.

Stephen stops. "Servants," Stephen says, "sometimes snuff squirrels. Strychnine’s simple — standard solution."

Simply sinister, Salome’d said. So surprisingly savage.

Spasms, seizures, suffocation. Simmons sits, significant specifics silently spurring succeeding steps. Salome’s sinful, sordidly slaughtering Samuel, Samuel’s Susannah. 

Salome’s sin’s surfacing — soon Simmons’ll seize Susannah’s sinner.

12
3
5
Juice
236 reads
Load 5 Comments
Login to post comments.
Donate coins to MariaShusterova.
Juice
Cancel
Write the longest grammatically sound alliteration you can possibly muster. The longest such alliteration's author wins $150 if, and only if, this challenge receives at least 300 entries. Editing is allowed.
Written by MariaShusterova in portal Words

Artistic Author

Aloha amateurs, anticipate an articulate alliteration. Any artistic author always aims at acquiring awards and almost always achieves actual acclamation, and advantageous approval. Applicants' accomplishments avidly acknowledges ability and academia alike. Apparently appropriate arguments accompany abstract. Authorship attracts apprenticeship. Abundant aesthetic animation advertises advanced art. Autonomous agents attempt against another. Artists apply an admissible attractive afterthought. Applaud all amazing adherence, admittedly absurd. Alas, aspire again, avoid anger, adopt admiration. 

14
4
0
Juice
211 reads
Donate coins to MariaShusterova.
Juice
Cancel
Write the longest grammatically sound alliteration you can possibly muster. The longest such alliteration's author wins $150 if, and only if, this challenge receives at least 300 entries. Editing is allowed.
Written by MariaShusterova in portal Words
Artistic Author
Aloha amateurs, anticipate an articulate alliteration. Any artistic author always aims at acquiring awards and almost always achieves actual acclamation, and advantageous approval. Applicants' accomplishments avidly acknowledges ability and academia alike. Apparently appropriate arguments accompany abstract. Authorship attracts apprenticeship. Abundant aesthetic animation advertises advanced art. Autonomous agents attempt against another. Artists apply an admissible attractive afterthought. Applaud all amazing adherence, admittedly absurd. Alas, aspire again, avoid anger, adopt admiration. 
14
4
0
Juice
211 reads
Login to post comments.
/p/ajax/explore?order=spotlight&startIndex=20