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Author Topic: [July 2013] The Deep - Submissions Thread  (Read 3935 times)

Offline Autumn2May

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[July 2013] The Deep - Submissions Thread
« on: July 02, 2013, 04:20:29 PM »
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. - Edgar Allan Poe


Image by nakedpastor

In our world there are few places left that humans have not conquered and few things that truly remain a mystery. But the places and things that still elude us are usually somewhere deep. Deep in the rainforest, the desert, the ocean, in the pits and caves of the Earth, or in the space beyond our planet’s borders. In real life these places can be intimidating and deadly, but we usually understand the dangers and can plan accordingly. In fantasy these same places can hold the things that no amount of preparation can ready us for: fortresses of pure evil, treasure beyond imagination, curses and blessings of ancient magic, or creatures from forgotten legends. Whether good or evil, in fantasy you can never tell what lies in the darkness of the deep.

This month, your challenge is to write a fantasy story or scene that takes place in or involving “the deep”. The deep could be a forest, a cave, a dungeon, a lake or ocean, any place that is dark and foreboding or mysterious. (No fan fiction please.) Once again, we are opening the contest to both prose and poetry.

Rules:
1. This can be prose or a poem. Be creative.
2. “The deep” must be a core element in your piece.
3. Prose must be 500-2000 words long. Poetry must be 100-500 words long. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits by any more than 10%.

The contest will close at Noon (GMT) on the 1st August 2013, barring any extraneous circumstances and voting will be open for the month thereafter.

Please post your entry below. All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their writing displayed on the main Fantasy-Faction website in October 2013.

Good luck and Happy Writing! :)
« Last Edit: July 16, 2013, 08:05:22 PM by Autumn2May »

Offline diamondeyes

Re: [July 2013] The Deep - Submissions Thread
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2013, 11:38:58 PM »
My first entry ever!  I've been a reader for a long time, I hope this fits the theme well enough!



The Ocean's Daughter


The ocean had always made Lina feel safe.  Perhaps it was the fact that it was always there when she needed it, always in the same place, waiting for her to dip her fingers in the water.  Even at its coldest the ocean was beautiful and kind, a cradle where Lina could rest tearful eyes.

   If her father saw her on the dock, he would be angry again.  She was not allowed to go into the water.

   She rested her head on the rough wooden platform, only a few feet above the gentle little waves.  A boat floated at her side, lashed to the dock with bolted iron chains and a thick padlock to which only her father had the key.  It was rusted now, and too old to be opened.  Her father had not used that boat since before she had been born.

   Lina lay belly-down, and reached her hand out to touch the ocean.  It was warm this time of year, and gentle on her dry, cracking skin.  She stared at her reflection with the deepest of frowns, resenting everything she saw.  Nothing about her was like the other kids at school.  They made sure she knew – every moment at her tiny desk was another spent enduring the teasing names and torments, spewed from the mouths of even the kindest and unassuming of her classmates.

   Half-breed.  Slime-skin.  Grey-face.  Fish-girl.

   Her hand wiped salted tears from her eyes.  Today had been no different.  One of the boys had pulled on her delicate ears, bruising the thin, long tip.  At first she had tried to wear a hat to hide them and her too-bright orange hair, but the teacher had told her it was rude.  She just wanted to look normal.

   Above her yellowish eyes were thick ridges of scales where there should have been brows, and between her fingers the skin stretched, giving the faintest impression of a frog-like web.  The rest of her body was grey tinged and mottle-skinned, and on her neck were small slits which opened and closed when she breathed.  Every time she sucked air into her lungs it felt too dry, her throat often hurt and rubbed like sandpaper.  It was hard to run, she could never play the same games the other kids could.  Lina always sat on the edge of the field, watching.

   Her father had not said much about who her mother was.  She was supposed to have been very beautiful, with hair like fire even under the waves.  All Lina knew was that somewhere, in that emerald sea, her mother swam among the whales and coral with her glittering tail, so far away.

   “Leenie?” a voice called.  It was her father.  Lina ignored the call, curling her knees against her chest.  She did not want to speak to him.  He was the one that made her this way, so strange and alien.  Why couldn’t he have married a land-woman?  Then they could be happy, a wonderful family of three.  Lina could be pretty, with little rounded ears and blue eyes that sparkled like the sea.  Maybe she could have had a brother, or a dog that she could run with instead of watching from her window.

   Footsteps approached from behind.  She buried her face from view, ashamed.  How could her father stand to be around her?  To have a freak for a daughter, when he was so handsome and strong.  Age had done nothing to make him less striking, with his soft white skin and hair like the gold of the sun. 

   He sat at her side and pulled off his shoes.  Her father let his feet dip into the water, a privilege he had always denied Lina.

   “How are you feeling?” he asked her.  She said nothing.  Her back shook from the effort of keeping her crying in, where her father could not see.  She disappointed him enough without seeming like a baby.

   Her father sighed, and put his arm around her shoulders.  “Miss Carina called me today.  She said you left before class was over.  Do you want to talk about it?”

   Lian sniffed.  “No,” she replied.  Her father sighed. 

   “You can’t keep doing that Leenie.  Otherwise you won’t graduate, and then you’ll never get to go to high school like the others.”

   Her hands clenched into fists.  “I don’t want to!” she yelled. 

   “You have to go to class, Leenie.  Everyone does.”

   Lina finally brought her head up, and stared her father in the eyes.  Hers were swollen, the bright yellow of her sclera riddled with red lines.  “Mom didn’t,” she replied.

   He turned away from her and took his arm away.  He folded his hands on his lap and looked out onto the water.  “Your mother was an exception.  They don’t have schools in the sea.”  Her father gently smiled, as though he was partial to a joke Lina did not understand.  “At least, not in the sense that we do.”

   “I want to go where she is,” Lina said.  “I want to find mom.  I don’t want to stay with the other kids.  They hate me.”

   “They don’t hate you.”

   “Yes they do!  You always say that they’re just jealous of me, but that’s not true!  They know I don’t belong with them, I’m just a stupid little fish-freak that they can make fun of whenever they want!”

   Her father was quiet.  He had known this would happen, Lina knew that.  When she was born and her mother swam up to the shore to deliver her baby to him, he knew that she would never be accepted.  No kind like hers ever was.  There was no crueler place for a half-human to be than a school filled with children. 

   “Lina,” her father said, using the name her mother had given her, “Put your feet in the water with me.”

   She frowned.  He never asked her to do that, he was usually very angry when she did without his permission.  Lina did what he said, relishing the feel of the cool water on her dry skin.  She felt her feet become slippery like the skin of a dolphin.  This was where she was meant to be.

   “How does it feel?” he asked.

   “Wonderful,” Lina replied without hesitation.  “The ocean is welcoming me back.”

   Her father’s back was hunched over, as though the effort of keeping it straight was now too much.  “Your mother used to say that,” he mumbled, “She told me the ocean would sing to her, sometimes.  Then it would growl when a storm came.”

   “It does sing.”  Lina reached down and scooped a handful of water in her hand.  It stayed, trapped between the webs in her fingers.  “Can you hear it, dad?  Listen really close.”

   He leaned down and moved his ears near the water she held out to him.  His weak smile faltered, his eyes becoming sad.

   “No, Leenie.  I can’t.”

   “I can.”  She started to hum, matching the gentle tune the water gave.  Somehow her humming began to form words, as though the water was feeding them into her ears and out of her mouth. 

   Lady Ocean, what do you see
   When the dawn is gone
   Lost in green

   Tell me you can see her there
   A girl with fire hair
   Lost from me

   Bring her to the great blue deep
   So I may see her sleep
   Lost, my Lina


   Lina’s eyes popped open.  Somehow they had closed while she sang, lost in the sounds the water carried.  When had she heard those words?  They had come unbidden, locked with her heart.  Her father placed a hand on her shoulder.  “That’s her, Lina.  I’m sure she misses you.”

   She looked across the water, to where the sun was beginning to set.  Soon the light would touch the horizon and turn the sky orange and purple, turning the ocean into a rainbow.  Her father stood beside her.  When Lina looked up, she saw that he was crying.

   “Twelve years is a long time,” he said.  “I’ve had more than my fair share.”

   He reached down and took his daughter’s hand.  He helped her up and drew her into his arms, pulling her into his chest.  “Do you want to see her?” he asked.

   “Can I?” Lina replied.

   “I always wanted you to grow up like the other kids.  To go to a good school and get married, bring me little grandchildren with pink cheeks and loud giggles.  But I know… I’ve known for years now, that it was never you.  You’re a being of the deep, just like your mother is.”

   Her father’s arms were shaking.  Lina clung to his heavy jacket, which he had to wear when he was outside.  The cold was harsh to him, the ocean always too chilly.  It was never that way for Lina.

   “I never wanted you to go in the water.  I was afraid you wouldn’t come back.  You’re right, Leenie.  You don’t belong with the kids at school, and you don’t belong with me.”

   He pulled her away from him and wiped his eyes with his sleeve.  “Go, he choked.  “Find mom.”  He stepped back from the edge of the dock, and tried to smile at her.  Lina glanced at the water, then back at her kind father. 

   She could still hear the ocean singing.  When she faced the land, where her father was with his crinkled eyes, there was only silence.  Her feet moved closer to the edge of the dock, toes curling over the wooden boards.

   Lina looked back at him.  “I’m not leaving forever.  I’m coming back.”

   Her father let out a short, dry laugh.  “Your mother said that too.  But the ocean called her too much.  The land was no place for her, even with me.”

   The gentle waves washed up and down the stony beach.  Her house, a small wooden building with trees all around, perched on the bluff.  It would be so empty there without her, so lonely.

   Lina ran back to her dad, and hugged him so tightly her arms hurt.  “I love you, daddy.”

   “I love you too Leenie.  So much.”

   He let her go.  She moved back to the edge, where she closed her eyes.  Her mother’s song filled her ears, the rush of waves poured into her body.  Her arms raised above her head, and she jumped. 

   The water caressed her skin, seeping into her frayed hair and tickling her eyes.  It was so easy to breathe, her lungs had never felt so free and strong.  With a powerful sweep of her legs Lina swam down, the crush of the water pressure no more than gentle kisses on her skin.  The song was strong here, all around.  Lina followed it, to where the sun would touch the horizon.

   Her father watched from the dock.  He knew it would be the last he would see of the daughter with hair like fire, and the mother with the diamond tail.  A sad smile spread across his cheeks, and he stood to watch the water.  Lina would be where she belonged.

   The deep.

« Last Edit: July 21, 2013, 02:44:53 AM by diamondeyes »
“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”  - Madeleine L’Engle

Offline mark.atreides

Re: [July 2013] The Deep - Submissions Thread
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2013, 05:26:01 AM »
First Submission:

Run Now, Run Forever
The mechanical whine of the five X200 dogs hissed in Francis’s ears. The humming of their legs told her they were close. She stood paralyzed starring at the heaps of metal ahead knowing she had run out of options. Her father, the governor of the province and of her body, was beyond angry by her latest defiance.

The trash heaps at the edge of the province lived in legend growing over 800 feet high resembling skyscrapers of a bygone era. Outdated models of robots piled on broken food processors, the stacks resembled a dark forbidden forest. Sunlight never peeked through these trees, their leaves and trunks growing constantly as their society found more and more thing to throw away. If it outlived its warr?anty, its utility, or its appearance, it ended up here. Francis shivered. She plunged ahead.

Feeling the cool air, a picture of Coal's face came unbidden to her mind, poor sweet dark Coal with his shifty smile and careless laugh. When he heard what her father had been doing to her, his face exploded in rage. He said he'd kill her father--the governor. The bravado of youth only made him more attractive. If she let her mind slow down, she could still feel his arms and hear his whispers. His lips stealing kisses in the dark.

A clang rang out, the mechano-dogs had reached this forest of refuse.

Time to run.

Her feet pounded away, throwing dirt in every direction, her eyes only able to see a foot in front of her. She strained to hear dings, pings, drops—any hint of where her pack of techno-pursuers was coming from. Her shoulder suddenly hit a wall. An electric pain ran down her arm. Grasping her elbow, she stepped backward putting a hand against the wall using it to guide her. She kept running.

Oh Coal, why'd you have to stand up to him? I was so close to emancipation, I might have lasted the next few nights.

Red lights flashed behind her. Her legs betraying her, the taste of rust in her mouth, Francis gasped for air to keep going. The acid in her blood causing her body to start cramping.

She tripped.

A robotic arm, invisible in the dark, had betrayed her.

The first bite ripped through her leg and she was pinned against the hounds and despair. Metal teeth holding down her arms and legs, she struggled futilely against two thousand pounds per square inch of the most advanced hunting and tracking robots a governor could buy. Contemplating her fate, panic seized her and she thrashed her body against chromium and nickel. Her tongue sweeping her mouth, she found the cyanide pill Coal had given her. Just in case.

The click of her father's shoes was unmistakable even in this graveyard of trash.

Her eyes looked up searching in the dark begging, "Please father. I’m sorry. Please stop."

A glint of white light reflecting a sinister smirk, a voice in the dark replied, "No."

She bit down.

Offline aidanlynch

Re: [July 2013] The Deep - Submissions Thread
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2013, 03:41:12 PM »
Into the Depths
[/i]

Captain Julius Dorn sat in his command tent, staring at a pile of reports as if doing so would make them transform into a set of orders he could follow. Years of warfare had led to this point. The troll-kin had been driven back but at tremendous cost. The nations of the world simply no longer existed. And here he sat, probably the highest ranking officer left in this loose alliance of soldiers, mercenaries and street-toughs. Sure, there were a few other captains, but they were just boys. Dorn had earned every one of his grey hairs on battlefield after battlefield. So many that they all blended together into one nightmare of noise, blood and death. And now he had to send more men into a nightmare of a different sort. He sighed. He had turned down offers of promotions to avoid having to make these decisions. Fate could be cruel. As the weeks passed the pile of reports grew but nothing new ever came up. The caves were still quiet. If only he could pass this up the chain of command. He snorted, if only there was a chain of command left. Wishes and children’s tales don’t come true he thought, remembering a favourite saying of his father’s.

         

   “What are we doing here?”  Bryce asked for what seemed like the hundredth time since the sun had broken over the mountaintops. “Raced to get here and now we’re just standing about. Getting real sick of all this hurry up and wait business”
“Could be worse I guess. Could be fighting our way through those blood cursed troll-kin”
   “What do you know about fighting? Bet you never fought more than a drunk farmer in a backwoods tavern.”
  “Sure Bryce. You’re right.” Jeff said absently. “Still at least we’re doing something here. Keeping watch so we can give warning if they come back up.” He patted the horn at his belt for emphasis. The only reply Jeff got was a disgusted snort from the big brute standing as far back from the cave mouth as he could and still be on duty.
 
He turned back to watching the cave mouth, hoping that Bryce would let it drop. Guard duty with Bryce was about as popular with the rest of the soldiers as the stomach flux. Jeff just wanted to get through it without incident. Bryce was big, with wide shoulders and almost no neck. His hands looked like they could crush stone and his arms were thickly knotted with muscle. Before the troll-kin he had probably been an enforcer in one of the criminal gangs in the capital. Not that anyone cared now. He could swing a sword and hold the line in battle and that was all that mattered. But he was still an ass.

Further into the cave a large fire was burning, extending the range of their vision into the stygian depths. Beyond that was blackness, the profound darkness of a realm that had never known the sun. Anything could be lurking in that darkness, anything. “Time to throw some wood on that fire Bryce, got to keep it nice and bright” Bryce didn’t answer. “Don’t worry; I’ll go into the cave. Couldn’t have you being scared in there” Bryce started to growl menacingly. That’s it thought Jeff annoy the short tempered ogre. How long until the next watch gets here? He glanced sideways at Bryce, making sure he hadn’t moved. With that he ventured into the cave with an armload of firewood.


Trystan walked up to the captain’s tent, stopped to calm his nerves, then pushed through the canvas flaps. “It’s been three weeks Dorn. We can’t wait here forever” he said, trying to put as much authority as he could into his voice. It was difficult when talking to a man who was at least fifteen years older.
  “Trystan. Or should I say Lord Trystan. Good of you to join me”
 “If you want. Titles mean nothing to me” Trystan focused a small amount of magic into the gems on his pendant and vambraces, which started to glow with their own internal light, just to remind Dorn of who and what he was.

The captain sighed. “As I see it we have three choices. One, we block up those entrances and walk away. Two, we set a watch here for the rest of our lives and walk away” he hesitated before continuing on “And three, we go down there and carry this war into their realm. We cause so much damage that they never come out again. And most likely we all die in the darkness and never see the sun again. So tell me mage, what do I decide. Because this is on me no matter what”

 “What is it you want? To keep your men alive for the present, or protect humanity in the future. Something has to be done. I didn’t turn my back on centuries of tradition and join this war just for you to hesitate at the end. Myself and the others are outcasts now; the Academy will never take us back. We’re with you whatever you decide. Just make a decision and be done with it” With that he turned and walked out, using his magic to open the tent flaps. Once outside his shoulder sagged. He didn’t know where he had found the courage to speak like that to the man who had to make a choice he himself could not.


   Jeff sat outside the tent, happy to have avoided watch duty with the irritable Bryce. Days had blended into weeks and the watches had grown tedious. At first it had seemed like a vital job but now the army was growing restless. The men needed to do something. Without a purpose thoughts of returning to what was left of their homes and rebuilding their lives.  He leaned back and watched the bustle around him. There, a soldier was mending the frayed straps of his armour. There, a scrawny boy carried a bundle of arrows from the fletcher to the quartermaster’s wagons. There, some of the soldiers played at dice for bits of copper that nobody was really sure what to do with any more. Need cities and towns and such to have coins I guess thought Jeff So all my savings probably won’t be worth too much either.

 He had just started to doze when he heard footsteps approaching. “Look lively! Get off your lazy asses” bellowed a leather lunged sergeant. “Captain Dorn wants all soldiers assembled and ready in twenty minutes! Jump to it runts!” Jeff climbed to his feet and grabbed his kit bag, not that he had much. A whetstone, oil, tinderbox, and a few other odds and ends. And a bloody fortune in gemstones, not that they’ll do much good these days. Who wants shiny stones when food is so scarce?
 “What do you reckon this is all about?” asked a soldier that looked vaguely familiar. “Think we’ll be going somewhere? I can’t wait to get out of these mountains” Jeff nodded in agreement and stayed walking. The way things were going lately, looking for good news was a sure way to get disappointed. And probably ripped apart by some angry troll-kin. Still, a small part of him hoped for good news.


   Trystan stood to the side of the command tent. Waiting, like everyone else, for Captain Dorn’s decision. He wasn’t sure what he really wanted. On the one hand, travelling into the underworld would be the adventure of a lifetime. And hopefully he would be able to learn enough about that foreign realm to bargain his way back into the Academy. On the other hand, travelling into the underworld would probably result in a violent and messy death. But not going left a chance that the troll-kin would re-emerge some day. He knew what had to be done. But that didn’t mean he had to like it.
   
Dorn came out of the command tent, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the light. He had made a decision. The only one he could possibly make under the circumstances. The command tent was situated on a slight rise allowing him to look over the assembled soldiers and camp followers. The soldiers standing in neat ranks, the followers in a loose rabble behind them. “I’m sure you’ve all been wondering what happens next. Well you’re about to find out. We pushed the troll-kin back into whatever holes in the ground they crawled out of and it cost us. Now we have to go after them. If they’re left there, someday they’ll pour back out and people will go through this waking nightmare of ours all over again. So at dawn we march down there and bring this war to them. I won’t force anyone. If you want to leave, pack and go tonight. But if you’re still here in the morning you’re marching with me into the darkness.” With that he went back into his tent, leaving the crowd outside to make up their minds about his sanity.


   Dawn came far to swiftly for Jeff. He stood at the mouth of the largest cave with the rest of the men. About one in three had left during the night, Bryce among them. Those that were left were all resigned to the fact that they were likely marching to their deaths. But they would make the troll-kin pay before giving up their lives.
   
   Trystan stood just inside the cave mouth, his four of his five fellow mages stood with him. The fifth had left during the night to take his chances with the Academy. Each of them held a lantern that they had enchanted during the night to give off a magical light. Each one shone with a slightly different hue, making odd patterns on their pale coloured robes. They knew what had to be done. And they knew their magic was the best chance these men had of returning alive.
   
Dorn walked through the remainder of his army, who stood up straighter as he passed. Their faces echoed his own determination to carry out this task. At the mouth of the cave he turned to survey these soldiers of his. His eyes roved over the gathering, occasionally settling on a man who would nod back.

 “Alright” he said in a tone that brooked no dissension “Let’s go” He spun on his heel and started walking. Trystan and the mages only a couple of steps behind. The soldiers hesitated, shocked by the lack of a speech or plan from their commander. Jeff pushed his way to the front and stayed going. Behind him the rest of the soldiers began to follow, until the entire army was swallowed by the darkness. Not one of them expected to return from the deep places of the world where the troll-kin lived.     

Offline Mythos

Re: [July 2013] The Deep - Submissions Thread
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2013, 08:11:57 PM »
Silent Echoes

*...come to me...*

Walter stopped as the words whispered through his mind. He looked around for their source, though he knew they weren't real. The wind blowing through the trees, that's all it was. There was no voice calling to him, beckoning him towards the cave known as the Deep. But still he continued on his way, his feet bringing him ever closer to the Deep and whatever was calling him there.

When he was a child, his grandmother would tell him stories about a witch that was said to live in the darkest depths of the Deep. Tales about the townsfolk who claimed not to believe the legends. Who believed the legends were started to hide a vast treasure. Who would venture into the Deep seeking it and were never seen again. These stories terrified Walter as a child. They would keep him awake long into the night, seeing the Witch of the Deep in every shadow as she came to devour his soul. All these years later, those same stories raced through Walter's thoughts as his feet carried him towards the Deep.

*...come to me...*

Again the words slithered through his mind as Walter found himself staring into the gapping maw that was the entrance to the Deep. His heart was pounding in his chest; the sweat beading on his forehead. And all he could think of was the Witch of the Deep hiding in the shadows of his childhood bedroom. He begged with himself, pleaded to turn back and go home when the words entered unbidden into his mind yet again, stronger than before.

*...Come to me...*

His feet betrayed him and carried him into the Deep. Deeper and deeper he went, the light from the mouth of the cave dwindling. Soon Walter found himself in complete and utter darkness. His hand scraping along the wall of the cave as he tried to remember the twists and turns that have brought him this far. Every sound that echoed through the passages set off his imagination. Every drip of water, every scuffle of some animal moving down a side tunnel became the shadow of the Witch of the Deep.

*...Come To Me...*

The desire to turn and run filled in his mind, but Walter is unable to turn his feet. A tear fell from his eye as another thought popped into his head. He's going to die down here, and no one will ever know. Nobody will coming searching for him. They don't even know he's down here. Even if they did, who would risk their lives in the Deep.

*...COME TO ME...*

The voice shouts in his mind now, driving him onward. Forcing him farther into the Deep. Compelling him deeper into the cave. Walter's feet take him around a bend in the passage and into a large, open chamber. The sudden light from candles placed on ledges and rocks all around the chamber momentarily blind him. As his sight returns, he sees more than just a cave. He sees chairs and cabinets and tables and rugs. Someone lives down here. Someone lives in the Deep. And then he sees her. Pale waxy skin that hasn't seen the sun in far too long. Long stringy dark hair and piercing green eyes that he knew could see right to the heart of him. And then she spoke to him in a voice like a snake slithering through dead leaves.

"Come to me, Walter. I have been waiting for you."

Horror filled his eyes as he opened his mouth to scream, but the only sound Walter heard was the Witch's voice echo silently through his mind.

*...come to me...*

Offline Ashella Wick

Re: [July 2013] The Deep - Submissions Thread
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2013, 12:25:08 AM »
Beyond the Veil
(754 words)

   The ghost of Charlotte Jane Harper was not happy. The Other Side, after all, was no picnic. For the earthbound spirit of the deceased, she found herself stuck in a whirling vortex of pressure and endless darkness, the nothingness of Purgatory that even ghosts in their limited awareness thought of as a deep abyss.

   Why Purgatory?

   For Charlotte, the path of her afterlife was not a clear one. She didn't do enough good to go straight to Heaven; she didn't do enough evil to be sent to Hell. In fact, she didn't do anything at all, simply because she never had the chance to live. Of course, none of this was Charlotte's fault. She died in her mother's womb before she could see the world, let alone experience it. Christian doctrine would state that as a powerless babe, she was an innocent. But then, Christianity was not the only faith that existed in the history of the human world.

   It's difficult for a spirit such as Charlotte to keep track of the human world. It continues on outside of herself, and for her the passage of time is confusing. She sees the results of human innovation, the shifting advances in science and technology, but she's not part of it. In a way, she grows, too. She grows alongside her twin, outside and yet parallel to her existence. Within that swirling vortex, there is a sense of what her life might have been. However, at her core, she is childishly immature. She is pure instinct and basic urges. Some intangible connection to her sister drives her to watch over her well-being as best she can, but she doesn't understand it. If given the option of choice, she's not certain what she would do.

   She can't remember when she started drifting through the circle. Her strong connection to her twin must have pulled her to this place, this portal back to the world of the living, through the rift. If she had more skill for conscious self-reflection, she might have wondered why she was able to accomplish this when it was so against the forces of nature. Humans live and they die; they don't usually get a chance to come back.

   At first, she was only dimly aware of floating out of the vortex of souls and reentering the living world. Soon, she began being inescapably drawn into the slumbering form of a living person. It was strange that it was the same person every time. She wasn't sure how she could tell this was true, but it was. She began to recognize the familiarity of the boy's mind, his dreamscape. No matter what he dreamed about, there was a signature to his thoughts -- perhaps it was his unique brain waves -- that allowed Charlotte to recognize it was him. He rarely dreamed regular dreams anymore. His dreams were a battleground of vague imagery. Part of the boy's uniqueness was in the way other beings like Charlotte could slip into his unconscious and take root, at least for a night. It was easier to try settling here than anywhere else she tried. There was a communicativeness, and Charlotte quickly became hooked on the possibilities. Finally, here was her chance to affect, to convey content. Eventually, whether it took months or years in living time, she became the only ghostly voice to invade the boy's dreams. She pushed away her competitors more and more. The more she did it, the easier it became.

   It took a while to figure out how to shape the images. At first, the boy resisted. Even asleep, the boy's mind seemed to sense the foreignness of the messages being relayed. His mind knew they were not organic to his own thoughts. Even with practice, the images Charlotte managed to conjure up were not clear-cut, not linear, but it was the best she could do. Ghosts didn't know much, but what they did know, they want to share with those connected to them who are still living. The unfinished business the living believed the dead had in order to linger... Charlotte couldn't finish what she never got to begin. The thing is, she and the other meager spirits of the formerly living weren't the only things that could travel through the rift. Any time a slice in the mortal veil occurred, the risk was the same. What followed her and those like her out of that deep, dark abyss was no human shade. Only the dead know of the horrors to come.

Offline 137minutes

Re: [July 2013] The Deep - Submissions Thread
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2013, 03:04:13 AM »
   
The Island

   I eased the skiff up to the dock.  The waves were wound up, making angry appearances over the lip of the boat and soaking my shoes. The unruly wind kept blowing my damp orange hair across my line of sight. In my haste, I had forgotten to pull my hair back before leaving. If I came across a pair of scissors before a rubber band, I wouldn’t hesitate to use them.
   I fumbled with the rope as I pulled myself onto the dock, slipping in my wet shoes. My hands were equally uncooperative as I tried to secure the rope. I could slice through a vena cava with the precision of a laser, but somehow this was giving me trouble. 
   It was that time of day when everything becomes a shadow of itself; difficult to distinguish a rock from a shell from a crab. The sun was leaving and taking with it all the color of things.  This place was foreign to me. I was at home under the florescent lights of the lab; secure walking through the tight knit buildings of the city.
   Here was too open.   Too natural.
   Tonight, the dark was creeping faster than usual.  I took one last look out over the ocean, shoving my glasses up my nose. The infernal humidity of this place kept them constantly down near my nostrils. Storm clouds were closing in and the line between the darkening sky and the grey ocean was rubbed out, making them one roiling mass.
   This better be quick, I thought as I squelched up the sagging dock.
   Further around the west edge of St. Lucerne was where the large fishing fleet docked. This was the south edge, a small jutting of the hilly island dotted with dilapidated shanties and faded bungalows. Old tires, rusted back ends of pickups and clotheslines were typical lawn art. Only one dusty road led here from town. So it was either that or small motor craft to get here.
   Of course, tonight, the truck had decided to heave its last breath. 
    I was still trying to work out how I was going to get the body from the house to the boat by myself. For sure Captain Lapierre would be no help. He would love to see me sweat it out. The tension between him and Mack, my grandfather, was a living thing that lurked around the edges of their polite, clipped conversations. That, and he held outsiders in strict disdain.
    And I was an outsider.
   I thought of how his nostrils would flare and the corners of his mouth would curl down like a stink had crawled up his nose and coated his tongue whenever we had the pleasure. I tried not to take it personally, because it really could just be the formaldehyde.     
   This was my first run alone. The last body, since Mack got sick, had been brought in. It wasn’t like we had a freezer full of bodies. St. Lucerne was a vacation island. The sick, infirm, and extremely wealthy came in droves during the sunny season to reap the benefits of its medicinal herbs, hot springs, and salty ocean.  Most made it back to the mainland for the better.
    Time had just caught up with Mr. Hodges. He was eighty-seven.
    At least that’s what I kept telling myself. 
   I turned the corner, the dock giving way to a sandy path leading into bending palms, normally swishing a shady welcome. But tonight they looked predatory; all dark claws and patience. The wind, somehow, hadn’t reached them yet. 
   The island felt like it was holding its breath.
   And I felt watched.
   I shook my head. This was St. Lucerne, exclusive and hot and island-y.  It was just sand, palms, pines and locals. If I walked in any one direction it would be ocean, sand, forest, town, and then more forest, more sand, and then back to the ocean. All Mack’s stories of the rainy season didn’t make this place any more than just an island with deep steeped traditions and colorful local tales. 
   Very colorful.
   I arrived at the squat bungalow. A rusted coupe, a police cruiser, and a shiny black 4x4 with sparkling chrome were parked haphazardly over the dusty front yard. I could make out soft voices coming from the house.
   And crying.
   I raised my hand to knock on the flimsy screen when a shadow loomed from around the corner of the house. I turned quickly, my heart pin-balling around my ribs. I stumbled backwards, my shoes letting out an exasperated squelch.
   The talking inside paused. Standing and looking at me with daggers, was Bartholomew Orlando Martine.
   Boone.
   His usual impeccable white button-down was slightly askew because he had a body slung over his shoulder. It was wrapped in a sheet printed with little flowers. Such a dainty sheet for such a huge body. Whoever had died was large, their legs hung down to Boone’s knees, which spoke to Boone’s strength because he didn’t seem to be struggling at all.  His long strides reached me without so much as a stagger.
   Well, this helped my transportation problem.
   He stood over me, and the malice was gone from his eyes, replaced with something else.
   Once, I had come across Boone Martine sitting on a shady dock.  His white oxford, wrinkled, rolled and half undone to reveal a leather cord that hung low into his shirt.  The Martines didn’t wear anything as mundane as leather, especially not around their necks. Leather was for shoes and saddles. It was gold rings, platinum watches, and shirts with embroidered initials for St. Lucerne’s most prominent family, so the cord made me glance twice. His nose was buried in a well worn copy of Robert Frost’s A Witness Tree.  Boone Martine’s nose was more likely to be buried in the tanned, perfumed neck of a mainland debutante than a book. The look he gave me then was the same as now.
   It said: Don’t Tell.
   “Where’s your truck?” he asked in a hushed voice. I wondered why he was whispering?
   “Where’s yours?” I asked in my normal voice. I was annoyed allover again by the fact that the truck was uselessly sitting in my grandfather’s driveway.
   He pursed his lips, which was an accomplishment. They were quite a pair of lips. To purse them would take real effort. Boone Martine’s lips were a source of fascination for me since my own were nothing more than a thin slash across my pale face.
   “I came with my father.” He jerked his head in the direction of the shiny 4x4.
   “Mine’s dead.”
   His bee-stung lips turned into a complete O.  He stared at me. I stared at his lips.
   The island around us waited.
   Then, like a broken spell, the voices inside the house continued and I realized my mistake.
   “The truck. The truck is dead.” Of course my father was dead. Everyone knew that.  It was the reason I was on this island.
   “I brought the boat.” This time I did whisper.
   “C’mon.” He grabbed me by the arm and turned me back toward the dock.  I had to trot to keep up with his long legs. I wanted to ask what the hell was going on, but he seemed...intent. That and he was carrying the body, so I decided best to let him.

         
****
   Back on the dock, the day was still on it’s way out, but it was brighter here than under the trees. The storm that was closing in now looked like a wall of blackness rolling in on white capped waves. The wind whipped across the dock, knocking my small boat into the rail because of my pathetic docking job.  The look on Boone’s face when he saw it, said he agreed.
   He laid the body gently on the dock and went to untie the boat. My hair was alive from the wind so I yanked at it and shoved my glasses.  I noticed the threadbare sheet had been blown back, revealing the entire torso and head of the body.
   It was Ruby J.
   Ruby J worked on The Martine fishing fleet.
   Ruby J was Boone’s best friend.
   Ruby J was dead.
   “Robin?” It was Boone, leaning over me, but his eyes looked furtively back the way we came.
   “It's Wren.”
   “Right. Wren, sorry. Listen. We need to get this body back to your place for an autopsy now.”
   “Boone, Captain Lapierre didn’t mention an autopsy.”
   “Lapierre didn’t call you.” He was whispering again, but somehow I heard him over the wind, like I knew he was going to say that.
   “We don’t have time for this.” That he did say to himself.
   “Boone, where is Captain Lapierre?”
   “He’s inside with my father and Ruby J’s mother.” Now he was intently looking at me, as if trying to tell me something with his eyes.
   I tried to keep my voice calm. “We can’t just cut open a body. There needs to be paperwork and family consent and cause.
   “How many nineteen year olds just drop dead?” Boone’s voice was rising over the wind, pleading.  Boone Martine didn’t plead.
   “A lot. It’s called drugs.”
   “Ruby J didn’t do drugs.” Boone dropped to his knees on the other side of his friend’s body. I looked down at Ruby J.  He was a huge specimen, all pectorals and no neck. I reached out and slowly traced my hand from his clavicle down his abs and on to his kidneys and then back, letting it rest on his heart. No beating. No movement, and there wasn’t a mark on him.
   I had been around many dead bodies in my seventeen years.  More dead than alive, really. It had been my father’s business and his father’s. This body was still pliable and slightly warm? I pinched the skin to see if it pinked-up.
   Boone reached out to stop me. “What are you doing?” 
   Most bodies went into rigor a mere few hours after dying. Ruby J should have been stiff and blue, or at least slightly grey.
   “When did he die?” I asked.
   “Two days ago.”
   “What?”  This was not a two day old body. “Did they put him on ice?” That could  account for his...preservative-ness.
   “Maybe, I don’t know.” Boone was impatient.
   I reached out and opened his jaw and both Boone and I leaned over, our foreheads almost touching.
   The smell. Both pungent and sweet, with an underlying aroma of rot.  I squeezed my eyes shut trying to block out the image of Mr. Hodges flayed open on the autopsy table. His organs black, as if burned. But, instead of turning to ash, they had melted into a tarry ooze.
   The smell was the same.
   Fat drops of rain began to fall around us. 
   “What is that?” Boone’s voice had risen over the wind. I thought he meant the smell, but he was pointing at the charm necklace Mack had given me when I arrived here six months ago. It had come loose from my collar and was now hanging over Ruby J’s chest and Boone’s eyes were locked on it.
   Where’d you get that?” He accused.
   “I...” But at that moment, I felt him grab the gold chain and yank.
   “We’re too late,” he said. 
   I looked down, confused.  It was Ruby J who clung to my chain.  His eyes were wide open and a fathomless black, like I knew his insides were. He yanked again, and my chain gave way, and I fell back.  In a move that was both lightning fast and most certainly not dead, he was on his feet. His pretty sheet blowing on me.
   Boone made a grab for him as I struggled out of the sheet. Ruby J. ran up the dock through the pouring rain and disappeared into the waiting forest.
   Boone pulled me to my feet, his eyes following his friend. “Go home, Wren.” And then he took off after him.
   I stood there, staring after them, but seeing little through the rain and dark and my splattered glasses. I jumped as lightening cracked, and for a heartbeat it looked like the whole island lit up.  There was Boone, his bare chest glistening and rain soaked, standing at the edge of the trees.  He turned to me, his eyes impossibly reflected in the flash. And then he was gone.
   I took off, sliding my way up the dock and stumbling through the swampy sand to stand where I thought I saw Boone disappear.  Lightning streaked again, and something glinted. I reached out to the broken branch.  It was a necklace. Not mine, but similar, its charms tied on a long leather cord.
   I peered into the black trees, and for the first time, I wasn’t sure what was on the other side.
   How deep were the secrets of this island? 
   I clutched the leather cord in my hand, and stepped into the waiting trees.
   

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: [July 2013] The Deep - Submissions Thread
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2013, 01:44:28 PM »
And the contest is closed! I'll have voting up soon. Thanks to everyone for submitting! :)