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Author Topic: [March 2013] The City - Submissions Thread  (Read 4888 times)

Offline Idlewilder

[March 2013] The City - Submissions Thread
« on: March 01, 2013, 11:05:51 PM »



For my first month organising the writing contest, I thought I'd draw on something which I've found myself thinking about often with my reads in the last year:


The City.


The city is an ever important element of fantasy - whether it be real life cities or fantastic creations like Ankh-Morpork, New Crobuzon or King's Landing, this is something which writers of fantasy come back to time and time again.

Your challenge this month is to write a story, in whatever fantastic genre you like - but it must include the city as a core element, self-created or real life. (Fan fiction is not allowed)


Rules:
1. This can be prose or a poem. Be creative.
2. Must contain some element of the fantastic.
3. "The City" must be a core element in your piece.
4. 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%.




Entry will close on the 31st March 2013, and voting will be open for the month thereafter.

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website in May 2013.

Good luck and Happy Writing!  :)
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 11:30:25 PM by Idlewilder »
Make Another World.

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Re: [March 2013] The City - Submissions Thread
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2013, 06:45:57 PM »
I thought I'd try my hand at poetry for this one. :)

Is a city
Without the people
Still a city?

I remember how it stood
Once. Proud and strong
But like all the others
I moved along

The wells were drying up
And water became dust
The flowers perished
And iron turned to rust

They call it the Gray
Since it lost its name
Befitting and sad
But who's to blame?

Some said a beast
Was woken at last
Some said a magic
Accidentally cast

Sinners or Gods
Bad luck or fate
There's nothing left
No love, no hate

But I came back
I don't know why
I have been the greatest
fool under the sky

The city is gone
And left a shell
For me who loved it
it's an earthly hell

And no more a city.
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline ToffMyster

Re: [March 2013] The City - Submissions Thread
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2013, 08:05:38 PM »
First attempt at one of these contests, taking a bit of a risk with the whole poetry thing. It's a poem about a man telling us about a poem his old nurse used to tell him... yeah, poemception :D enjoy!

There is a city made of gold
By elven hands, glorious to behold.
But this is a myth I am told
For a sleepy boy and his nurse old.
She retells stories past, heard from travellers bold.

‘There is a place,’ they would say
‘The Trembling Mountains it hides behind;
Be wary, snow-capped and danger filled be they
Though at their dawn one may find,
A stone port made long ago in elven day.’

‘And on its floor a great mosaic
Depicts man, dwarf and elf.
Beyond this though travels a violent lake
Of which to cross from rocky shelf
Its name in elvish tongue must be spake.’

At this the listeners would stand in awe
For in their lands elvish was heard no more.

‘Ilean, Ilean, Ilean! Thrice we cried
In booming voice loud and clear
And the river God, fearful, fled to hide.
In simple boat elves drew near
Swift and silent, rowing against gentle tide.’

This is where my imagination flew
And this was something my old nurse knew.
Today she asks me what I saw,
And to her vast mind I add a little more.

‘The city walls are of bark silver made
Upon trunks of lofty trees.
The golden city sits in vast forest glade
Beyond the archways of branching leaves
Which from my mind will never fade.’

‘On marble road we were led
But with heavy human feet the elves would say:
“Please, be careful where you tread.”
Though we were so in awe
That mockery we did ignore.’

And this picture truly captivated me
For here, the palace we would see.

‘The palace doors of gold were made
And on silver hinges they did swing.
And carved upon them an elven maid
Sat under an oak trees wing
Which bathed her beauty in golden shade.’

‘The palace doors would open wide
And standing guard a golden hound.
When touched with tender hand upon its hide
Would seem to sing, a most pleasant sound.
And any guest was let inside.’

‘In the palace I did kneel
Amongst gold and purple drapes
Before the elven king of Godlike appeal.
And at his feet were granted all my hopes;
To tour his city gold so magnificent to behold.’
Now, she said, sleep well for my tale is told.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2013, 08:07:14 PM by ToffMyster »
I can't think of anything interesting to put here...

Offline Arry

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Re: [March 2013] The City - Submissions Thread
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2013, 11:30:07 PM »
The Gates of Demanlor

Derryn’s horse was frothing as he raced to the city gates. He breathed a sigh of relief as he got there just before they closed, looking forward to not spending another night on the on the road. And the message said clearly it was to be delivered before the sun set.

“Alright! Who do we have here, then? You looking to get into the city are you?” a rough voice called out.

“Yessir, I carry an urgent message for Lord Crankod.”

“I see. Have you been to Demanlor before, son? Because, I dont have the time to read you the rules.”

Derryn replied with a blank stare.

“If you haven’t been here, I’ll have to send you away until morning.”

Derryn puzzled over this for a second. He’s travelled far and wide as a messenger, but had never heard such a thing before. He had also never seen a city that closed their gates while the sun was still up. That definitely gave him pause for thought as to what went on here, but he decided to take a chance and lied. “Yessir. I have.”

The guard eyed him a second. “I hope so. I sure would hate to find we have to clean you off the cobblestones in the morning. Alright, pass on through. You want to hurry to find a place for the night. As do I, so off with you then.”

Derryn trotted his horse on, made his way through the city using directions given with the message. He slowed his horse to take in his surroundings.

Under the darkening sky, the city of Demanlor seemed to suck the light out of the air, everything darker than it seemed it should be. Derryn felt he could see moisture wicking out of the walls as he looked on. It quickly progressed from beads of moisture and formed rivulets down the stoney sides of buildings, formed puddles in the streets. As his horse splashed through water that Derryn would swear was not there moments ago,  the horse began to stumble.

“Fool boy! What are you doing to that horse! Get over this way, I’ll help you get into shelter.”

Derryn, confused with what was going on, started to dismount his  horse.

“NO! Double damn fool! You have a death wish? Trying to jump right down into the water fiends! Damnation take you!”

Derryn quickly sat back on his now visibly distraught horse, struggled to hold on to the reigns as the horse thrashed side to side. The man disappeared from a door way and came back with an oilskin tarp and threw it out towards Derryn.

“Now, use that, get that damned horse over here so you can jump down on the tarp, just be sure not to get too close to the fiends.”

“Fiends?”

“Who the hell let you in the city, boy? Yes fiends! The damn water fiends you just drove your poor horse through.”

Derryn struggled to steer his faltering horse over to the tarp, when close enough, he jumped down, legs shaking. He watched as his horse pitched over and seized in the street. He was jerked back as a hand grabbed his arm and yanked him towards the door. Stumbling across the threshold he watched as the heavyset man who pulled him in slammed and barred the door. He turned to glare at Derryn, who now stared at the bar on the door and struggled to swallow past the lump in his throat.

“Fool and damnation all rolled into one! Should have let the fiends take you for what you did to that horse.”

Eyes wide, heart pounding, Derryn felt a table behind him as he backed away.

“Gah!” The man waved a hand at Derryn. “It’s not me you should be afraid of, son! It’s those fiends you were just carelessly taunting out there.”

Derryn still just stared at the man.

“You do know about the fiends, right? They don’t let anyone in the city without a briefing.”

Derryn tried once again to swallow past the lump in his throat, holding onto the edge of the table behind him.

The man shook his head.

“Where the devil did you come from and how did you get in here? You look about as clueless as a blind sheep herder. You can understand me, right? You’re not mute are you?”

Derryn coughed to try to clear that damn knot out of his throat. “No. Not mute, sir”

“Sir! Do I look like a damn sir to you, boy?”

“No, si… No. Sorry, si … sorry.” He shook his head at his own inept response.

“So, you speak! Now, what are you doing in Demanlor?”

“I’m a messenger, sir.” Derryn looked sheepishly at the man, as he realized once again, he had called him sir. “Sorry. I’m a messenger.”

“Messenger, eh? And no one warned you about the rules here?”

“No. It was a last minute change of assignment. Someone paid a lot of money to get it delivered here. There must have been bandits on the roads here, because we've lost every messenger sent out this way. There was no one else available, and certainly no one eager to jump on it, so it fell to me. I figured it would be good pay for one trip.”

“Boy, you have no idea of the price of this trip. How did you get in the city? Do they have your blood?”

“My blood? What? Why would they have my blood?”

The old man shook his head. “I almost pity you for what you just stepped in, boy. But I don’t. This is life here. And you better get used to it. Because now that you are here, and without giving the gatekeepers blood for protection, you better start calling this place home.”

“I…I don’t understand.”

A sly grin spread across the old man’s face, cast with an eerie light, sent a shiver through Derryn. “Of course you don’t understand. The gatekeepers should have read you rules when you entered the city. They explain all of the, let’s call them oddities, about this place. Then, a mage takes a vial of your blood for insurance.”

“Insurance for what?”

“Well, two things really. To make sure you understand what the mage will do to you if you talk of what you see here. And to protect you before you leave. No blood with the mage, no way to leave.”

Derryn felt his face blanche.

“Can’t I give it to him now?”

The man’s smile spread as he shook his head. “No. You are considered one of the Unattested now. Even if you tried to leave, the magic surrounding the city won’t allow it. ”

At that, Derryn heard a door open behind him. He turned to see a cloaked figure with his hands held in front of him.

“Ahhh …. This must be the new Unattested I sensed in the city.”

“Yes. He had a bit of a scare from the water fiends.”

“And the gatekeepers have no protection on him.”

“So it would seem”


Derryn watched as the cloaked figure uncorked a vial, dark smoke spiraled out the top, filled the room. Everything went black as Derryn felt the floor rise to his face and everything faded away.

A maniacal laugh slowly sounded through the room.

“Well then. Always happy to have one more. Welcome to Demanlor!”
« Last Edit: March 13, 2013, 10:30:19 PM by Arry »
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Offline Louise

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Re: [March 2013] The City - Submissions Thread
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2013, 01:04:27 PM »
<insert inane noises here>

So I probably shouldn't say too much about this, only that I was experimenting with narrative voice and the present tense. This piece might not make a whole lot of sense, apologies for that, but I had a bit of fun and I guess that's what it's really about.  :)

*********************************

Necropolis

A man stands at the edge of the sidewalk, draws on the last of his cigarette and flicks the remains into a puddle of  fuel-stained slush. Water runs under his feet and clings to his trousers; though he don't feel nothing through his boots. The snow-fall around him is common enough.

And tonight's gonna be different.

He runs a hand through his hair and lets the flurry slick it back. Feels a cool chill spreads through his scalp and shoots down his spine. It lingers in his nerves along with anticipation.

He sets off and feels the air sinking teeth into skin. City's built on an old grid system and he's bound to find his way, so long he keeps moving. His eyes trail over the corrugated shops and the posters that flutter like paper butterflies. Shops are closed, hour's close to midnight, but he prefers it this way: the flyers add a lick of color to the palette.

He also finds the snow a strange comfort. Gives the place a sense of mystery he can never quite understand. Sounds become muffled and though it falls softly, it's like a force stopped the heart and motion of the city. No moving cars, no one drives by and there's not a note of flashy music to be heard.

Not a heartbeat to be felt.

There's a bar up ahead. It's lit up like Christmas, though the sign's half off its hinges and leans like a drunk under the weight of so much snow. Steve's – it proclaims in electric red neon, as if an animal's been marking its soil, but it helps light the street. Lampposts been broke for weeks.

Wisps of steam rattle out the funnel and fades into darkness. An invitation of warmth draws him inside.  He squints as he enters, can't see a damn thing. Electricity went out some time ago when the snow fell bad and now they're using gaslight, but it don't work for shit. When he can see, he makes out the bar and pool table – its still missing the cues, but he don't mind, the company ain't exactly what you'd call a social bunch. They entertain their drinks, none are much for talk and that don't matter to him. He's got eyes for one in particular and she wheels about the bar.

“Can I get you a drink?”

“Course yer can.”

Her expression flickers and he takes as a smile. She reaches out for his coat and he lets her pull it off him, bearing his own teeth.

“Make yourself comfortable.”

He does and finds an old couch by the window so he can look out at the city. There ain't much to see, just a wall of concrete broken by dumpsters. Most of the buildings are abandoned this side of town and he ain't never seen the other side.  The windows are smashed on some, the brick below stained like they've spewed something up and on others, they ain't even got walls. They're all just husks now, beams sticking out in the air like the white ribs of a whale.

“Your usual,” the girl returns.

It's a glass of Bourbon. Neat.

“You been on your feet all day?” He asks and takes a sip. Feels it warm his insides and calm his nerves. Somehow, she always does this to him.

“I never stop. I complete fifteen separate tasks.”

“You should think about doing something more with your life, while you're young at least.”

“I am sorry, sir, is my service unsatisfactory?”

“Nah, but-”

“If you would like to form a complaint, I will summon the manager.”

“Look I just meant...”

He reaches out and takes her arm. It's as cold as the lampposts outside. “I just meant, maybe we could go out some time, grab a bite or something?”

“I'm sorry, sir. I do not understand.”

He takes a breath; no risk, no gain he figures. “I thought it might be nice to spend some time...together...outside the bar.”

“I work for Steve's Bar, I am not licensed to work for another.”

“Oh, girl, he won't mind.”

She tries to wipe down a nearby table, but he still has her wrist. A pretty thing, if you like her type; slender, yet curvy, built for perfection. He drinks in her body.

“Sir, I must attend to other patrons. If you would like a drink, please wait by the bar.”

“Just give me an answer,” he grabs her other wrist.

“I am sorry, you must repeat the question.”

“God damn it. Look, will you let me take you out for the night?”

He starts to raise his voice and his drink lies forgotten. None of the patrons seem to hear. They don't even turn their gaze.

“Sir, you level of noise is not hospitable for the bar.”

“Then just answer me.”

Enough is enough. She turns to address another. He takes her shoulders and shakes her hard. He yells right into her, though her face don't ever change. It's blank, as cold as the snow outside.

“Am I not good enough for you? Is that it!”

There isn't even music to distract him from the scene. A shame – the player used to work. He looks around the room and the patrons grin at him, their teeth almost as white as their bones.

“Sir-”

“Please!”

He gives a final shake and her head snaps off at the socket. There ain't nothing but cables where it sat on her shoulders and in the following silence, it rolls across the floor. Her little synthetic mouth stays open forever, on the last words she was ever going to utter.

It's ice, pierces his heart. He's horrified and drops her limp body to the floor. The grey husk of her corpses judders once or twice: the last electric sparks.

Sickness takes him and he wants out. He can't stand to look at the patrons; they know what he's done, they seen it. He don't finish his drink or take his coat still hanging behind the bar. No...he runs out of that place, his feet staining the virgin snow. He don't even take the time to notice that his are the only footprints in the street, in the district, in the entire city even.

And high above, in the vacuum of space, the fallout rests over the city of the dead.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 06:06:13 PM by Louise »

Offline Phil the Drill

Re: [March 2013] The City - Submissions Thread
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2013, 04:41:42 PM »
This is my first attempt.  Thanks!

Obsidian City

A city of black glass seemed like a good idea.  The Maldrath Empire, in all its wisdom, decided to build a gigantic city totally made of obsidian.  Called it Grazul-Goram, meaning "where fear dwells."  It served its purpose:  by striking fear into the hearts of all the surrounding countries.  The jagged towers scraped the skies, both beautiful and sinister, an enigmatic form that loomed over the smaller towns and villages of Maldrath. 

Problem was, people had to live there.  Unfortunately, my family was stupid enough to volunteer.  And now they were all dead.  Only I remained.  A "cleaner."  Someone had to keep all the black glass shimmering and terrifying.  That person was me.

I spent my days constantly cleaning up blood.  Little dribbles or sometimes pools.  Someone sliced their hand opening their window or unlocking their door.  Or just walking.  The glass broke sometimes.  It was glass after all.  The citizens of Grazul-Goram were constantly screaming, cursing, or moaning.  I hadn’t heard a single laugh in the twenty years I’d lived there.

"We're going to move, I promise," a father said to his miserable children. 

"One more year.  I just know things will get better," a wife remarked to her scowling husband as he picked shards of glass out of his foot.

I just cleaned.  Polished all day long.  The Imperial soldiers stomped by with their obsidian helmets on, in a constant state of adjusting them.  Their teeth forever gritted.  I always thanked my stars that I'd avoided that gig.  Nothing could be more uncomfortable that wearing an unwieldy volcanic glass helmet on your head.

"Morning, Alec." Old Man Horace clanked down the street in his obsidian pants, the razor bottoms of his shoes like flimsy ice skates. 

I changed my mind.  Nothing could be worse than wearing obsidian pants.  "You know you don't have to wear those everyday?  Only on Glass Day."

"I know, but I quite like them."  Horace half-smiled, half-winced as he crunched past.

I grinned.  "Well, have a good day then."

Horace saluted and continued on his way.  I knew why he wore them.  The Maldrath Empire was always watching.  Anyone who didn't show that they loved the ill-conceived abomination of a city would mysteriously disappear.  Where they went, I never knew.  Nor cared to know.  I just polished the buildings like they told me to, and that's all I needed to do.

I longed for change though.  Just one day where I didn’t have to polish.  Didn’t have to see my grim face staring back at me. A wavering, shadowy version of myself. 

I saw a streak of blood on the Jacobsons' door-knob as I started my patrol.  "Great."

Pulling out my "door rag," I walked up the steps and reached out to clean off the blood.  The Jacobsons were pretty bad about leaving messes.  I spent most of my days cleaning off their grubby fingerprints.  When I touched the knob, the door creaked open.  More blood trailed inside. 

"No, no, no," I mumbled, spinning around and pretending I didn't see it.  "Nothing there, nothing there."

I turned back around, the blood shimmering on the door.  Dripping.  Someone was going to see it.  Just clean off the door and leave, Alec.  That's all.  Just clean off the door. 

I polished the fastest I ever had in my entire life.  Spotless.  Not a drop of red.  But a low groan came from inside the Jacobsons’ house.  "Help."

I didn’t hear that.

“Please, help me.”  The voice rose and fell.  “Please.”

Turning, I pushed open the fragile glass door and poked my head in.  “I’ll call the guards.  Be back soon.”

“No, come in.”

I started to pull the door closed again, sweat dripping off my nose. 

“In!”

The high pitch squeal made me jerk back and I tore the door off its hinges.  The glass shattered into a thousand pieces as I involuntarily slammed it into the side of the house.  I cringed, my eyes shifting around, my muscles tightened.  Did anyone see?  Did anyone hear?

The city was silent save the tinkling of the broken glass falling off the porch.  I ran inside the house to avoid being spotted by anyone.  The blood trail looked stranger than normal.  It flowed like a river, tiny waves rippling.  I found the source.  Something lie on the floor, bubbling, pulsing, writhing.

A city.  A miniature city made of sticky muscles and twisted bone.  It grew out of the glass, pulverizing it into tiny bits of black, sizzling sand.

“What sorcery—” I gasped, back-pedaling out of the room.  A gloved hand covered my mouth, muffling my screams.

“Quiet, Alec.  Not another sound.”

I stiffened. 

“Do you know what this is?”

I shook my head.

“A cure.  To make this city come to life.”  The hand removed itself from my mouth.

I just stared down at the steadily growing buildings that burped up from the floor.  Skin formed around one shifting house, veins snaking all over it like creeping vines.  “What is this?  What is this truly?” 

The owner of the voice revealed himself.  Thaddeus Jacobson.  Known as Dr. Jacobson’s “crazy uncle.”  He’d fought in the War of One Thousand Knives long ago.  Suffered a horrible wound to his head from a warhammer.  He leered at me with his dented-in face, drool dribbling from his lips.  “As I said, a cure.  It all starts here.  Just with a little blood.  This city will live.  No longer will it be a jagged, blasted city of glass.  It will thrive, pulse.  A city with soul and heart.”

“Heart?”

“Yes, the heart is right there.”  He pointed down at what appeared to be a park full of bloody trees and bone benches.  A tiny, beating heart sat on top of a fountain of twitching muscles. 

“How is this any better than the city we have now?  This is horrifying.”

“Yes, it is.  And what have our enemies been whispering of late?”  Thaddeus ran his finger along the bristling hairs of one building that looked like a growing arm.  “They say ‘A city of glass doesn’t scare me’ or ‘I hear the people that live in Grazul-Goram do nothing but complain.’  That’s what we are to nations like Urak with its lizard riders and Yamerra with its shamans and headhunters.  An empire of weaklings that cry when a little glass cuts us.”

“Is that what they say?” I cringed.  “I haven’t been out much.”

“No, you haven’t, Alec.  You’ve been polishing.  Keeping this city nice and pretty.  But for what?  So our enemies can laugh out how shiny it is?”

“I hadn’t considered that,” I said. 

“I need your help.”

“No, no.  I can’t help.”  I held up my hands.  “Not with whatever this is.  How did you even do this?”

“I studied.  The War did many things to me.  It opened my eyes to many different ways of life and death.  I can show you.  If you help me.”

“I don’t want—”

“Do you want to be eaten by a lizard, Alec?  Or have your head shrunken down to the size of a pea?”

I gulped.  “That sounds rather unpleasant.”

“Then help me.  Make this city one to fear again.  A city made of flesh.  A truly terrifying city.”

“How?” I stammered. 

“Your polishing rags,” he said, pointing down to my satchel full of rags.  “I want you to smear this blood all over the city.  Let this grow.”  He held a vial of blood up, shaking it.  “Just a little dab.  All over the city.”

“I don’t know.  What if the guards see me?”

“Tell them you’re cleaning.  Keep half your rags clean, half with this blood.”

I took the blood vial.  I just stared at it a long time.  “Lizards will eat me if I don’t do this?”

“Eat you alive, Alec.”

I nodded and marched out of the Jacobson house, slipping the vial into my satchel.  I wondered if this was a bad idea.  But when I saw the scowling, pinched faces of men, women, and children with tiny cuts on their fingers, I decided Thaddeus’s plan was better than this descent into mediocrity.  If our enemies could see us, they’d laugh.  Then they’d butcher us.  Maybe they'd laugh while butchering us.

I took to the streets first, dabbing some blood here and there.  No guards even looked up.  They were too busy fiddling with their uncomfortable helmets.  When the task seemed to be taking too long and the glare off the black glass began to make sweat pour off my head, I knelt down near the sewer.

“I’ll just pour the rest here.  That should work just as well.”  So I popped open the vial and drained the rest of it into the sewer.

Done with my task, I strolled back towards the Jacobson house, satisfied with my work.  Soon the city would be a nightmarish landscape of infinite horrors and no one would dare think of attacking the Maldrath Empire or Grazul-Goram. 

“That was good, right?” I said to myself.

Thaddeus grinned from the doorway of the house.  His grin faded when he saw me walk up.  “What are you doing?  Did you change your mind?”

“No, I’m finished.”

“Finished?” A twinge of panic colored Thaddeus’s voice.  “How in the hell are you finished already?  That should have taken you all day.”

“I just poured it all in the sewer.  I figured it would spread a lot faster that way.”

“You did what?” Thaddeus screeched.  He came thundering off the porch and grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me so hard my neck popped.

“What did I do wrong?”

“It’s meant to take root and grow slowly!  If it is just poured all over the place, it’s going to be out of our control.  We have to get out of here now!”

“But—”

The ground rumbled.

“Now!”

A giant fist burst out of the street, sending a shower of glass raining down upon them.  A mangled foot came next, kicking streams of obsidian daggers into the dumb-founded guards.  They clutched their eyes or throats and fell, their glass helmets shattering in a spray of blood when they hit the ground.  Spiderweb cracks weaved throughout the city as more hands tried to force their way through the buildings and streets.

“Run!” Thaddeus cried.  Too late. A gargantuan skull burst through the street and rocketed through the air, propelling Thaddeus with it, muscle weaving across the demonic face even as it launched higher and higher. 

I stumbled backward.  It was as if the city were being wrecked by giants from the inside.  So much black glass hurtling through the air it was like a sideways storm of needles flashing against my skin.  I ran and ran until I reached the city gates, dozens of soldiers thrusting their spears at a disembodied torso.

“Run!” I screamed as I ran past them, stumbling out of the gates.  The city became nothing but fists and feet obliterating everything, hurtling broken glass in the air.  No buildings stood.

I looked on the horizon.  The sun beat down on me, bits of obsidian dangling from my quivering hands and arms.  My eyesight blurry and bloody.

I wasn’t sure, but amongst all the screaming, I heard something distant, faint.  Maybe it was just the ringing in my ears.  Maybe it was the sound of all the tinkling glass. 

But it sounded like lizards.  Hungry lizards.

“I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, & am content.” Robert E. Howard

Offline Neila

Re: [March 2013] The City - Submissions Thread
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2013, 11:00:19 PM »
First try, pretty much no edits. Sorry if the grammar is so bad it makes your eyes bleed!
Had an idea for this story yesterday, wrote it out today. Enjoy (or don't!)


Department of Malevolent Magic Prevention
By Sarah Elkins


   
   He had a lead. It wasn't much of a lead but it was more than they'd had in weeks since the work of the Glamor Killer had made its first appearance in the city.
   Twelve victims.
   All identical.
   Not only were they identical in the manner in which they were killed (strangled by a nylon cord) , but they also looked exactly the same. It wasn't natural, which was why they had called him in instead of a regular homicide detective.  Someone had used magic to force all the victims to change into copies of the same woman. He thought he could find the killer if he found the real woman he was killing proxies of.
   "Detective Samhain," the aged bartender whose face was like dry cracked leather growled, "What brings the DMMP to my bar?"
   "You know what sort of thing," The broad shouldered Detective replied as he eyed a drunk man and his Escort shamble past him.
   "I ain't sold any Hexes since you busted me months ago."
   "You sure?"
   "Damn straight I'm sure. I was only in it for the money, I'm not stupid. Besides, more money in getting idiots drunk off their ass on cheep liquor, anyway. Speaking of, " the Bartender nodded toward the tap, each handle had a different logo or photo on it, one a voluptuous woman with dark hair. "Can I interest you in a pint?"
   Samhain frowned, "I can smell the charm you cast on that fish water from here Mueller."
   The bartender laughed, "Of course you can. Is it illegal to make people think they're drunk?"
   "Yes."
   The color drained out of Mueller's face.
   "But that's not why I'm here. I'll let it slide this time if you promise to start selling the real stuff. Casting magic like that on water will get your clientele drunk, but it comes at a cost. You'll be hit with all you cast three fold, you know that."
   The smile crept back across the old bartender's face, "You know some people go for that, right Detective?"
   Samhain pulled his smart phone out with the latest photo of one of the victims on it, "Have you seen this woman come in here?"
   "That's the woman that was on the news the other day, shame her twin sister was found dead too, right?"
   "Have you seen anyone that looked even remotely like her?"
   A light went on in the bartender's eyes, "Now that you mention it, there's a girl that comes in sometimes. Roxy, I think is her name. Mousey little thing, skinny as a twig, comes in to read and people watch, never drinks a sip. A few days ago I noticed her hair was different. Normally it's straight and red, but it was brown and curly, like your girl there. I didn't recognize her at first and she seemed scared when I mentioned it, grabbed her stuff and ran out of here like a bat out of hell."
   This could be it. A possible new victim, but why only change the hair? Was the killer casting the Glamor on his victims piecemeal? In theory it could spread out the 'Three Fold Price' for casting the magic, which could also explain why the victims still looked the same after they were killed. The killer was no ordinary Mage.
   "Any idea where Roxy went? Where she may live? Any last name?"
   The old man looked strained, "Shit...I know this...she mentioned it one time. Say, could you cast a remembrance spell on me real quick? I'd hate to think of sweet Roxy in danger, she's a good kid."
   The Detective put his phone back in his pocket, "You get off on magic being cast on you don't you?"
   "Maybe a little, but hell we both want to know where she went right? I can't for the life of me remember, but I know she mentioned it once. We used to chat when she'd come in. Try to figure things out about people that came in. Hell, she knew the booze was fake and didn't say a word."
   Samhain sighed, "Fine." He quickly figured the math on what sort of price he would have to pay for casting a remembrance spell on the old man. The old man would remember one thing for about thirty minutes, the target memory, while Samhain would forget three things for three times the length of time, ninety minutes. He would have no control over what he forgot. Was it worth it? What if he forgot what he was doing, who he was, or where he was suppose to go after the old man told him?
   "Shit, I remember, she has an apartment on Ninth street, a couple blocks from here. I offered to give her a ride home a couple months ago when the weather was shitty and she said she'd walk since it was 'just on Ninth street'. Damn it."
   Detective Samhain tried his best to not seem relieved, "Any idea which apartment complex it is?"
   "Nah, I got the feeling she didn't trust anyone. She never said more than 'apartment on ninth'. Aww damn, are you sure you don't want to cast that spell anyway? Maybe I'm forgetting something else?"
   Samhain  called back as he left the bar, "Nope. Clean up your act Mueller, get some real beer in here and I might take you up on that offer of a drink."
   
   The walk to Ninth Street from the bar was short, especially if one took the back alley that ran behind the Thai restaurant in the block between the bar and Ninth. Samhain wasn't sure Roxy would have taken that path, but it did make it a pretty straight shot to where the apartment complex was. He lucked out that there was only one. The old tower was less than authentically pleasing and stuck out like a swore thumb compared to the older shorter brownstone houses that flanked it. Together the buildings gave the appearance that the whole block was giving the neighborhood the finger. Samhain concluded that might have been the point given the general response in the city when a developer wanted to put in a new highrise apartment complex in the middle of an old neighbor hood.
   The Detective skimmed over the list of names on the buzz in board outside the Apartments. Roxy was on the 7th floor. He hit the button to ring her up and got out his badge to show her through the camera if she was home.
   "Uh....Heelll Hello?" Her voice was weak, terrified.
   Samhain held up his badge and photo next to himself, "Detective Daniel Samhain with the DMMP task force. Are you Roxy?"
   "Oh god. Oh god...You're with the Malevolent Magic Prevention Taskforce. Oh god. Please. Please come up. I need your help."
   The buzzer rang and the doors to the building unlocked. The Detective took the elevator up to Roxy's apartment. She answered the door wearing two coats, one with a hood up over her head and excessively baggy pants. Her whole body shook as she let the Detective into her apartment and then locked the door behind him. To his surprise she took out a roll of Ward Tape and strapped several lengths to the door. There were pieces on all the windows, every entrance to the apartment. Ward tape, while weak would slow down any Mage that tried to enter the room by force, and was generally only used by people incapable of casting magic because of it's corrosiveness toward magic.
   "Please, you gotta help me. I don't know what's happening. I can't go out. I look like that woman now and, and I can't. I can't end up dead. Please."
   "Slow down ma'am. I'm here to help. Please, have a seat, tell me when this started."
   She led him to the couch and recliner in the small living room of the two room apartment. Samhain sat on the recliner and noticed as Roxy sat that she was not a 'twig' in any sense of the word. Her coats failed to hide aggressive curves. He had to find this sicko and break the spells that had been cast so this woman could have her life back.
   "When did you first notice something was different?"
   "I...I was at the Bar, down on Eighth street, Mueller's place. He complemented me on my hair being different. It wasn't when I left the house that morning. I ran home. I tried shaving it off and it grew back the same."
   Samhain nodded, "Did you notice anyone out of the ordinary?"
   "No...well...there was a drunk guy with a woman I hadn't noticed before, but I was too freaked out, so no. I didn't notice anyone else."
   "Did you go to a specialist?"
   "No, I locked myself in, used my tape to seal the entrances. The changes...they kept coming though."
   The Killer wasn't casting the spells piecemeal, it was on a delay. That required a great amount of focus and a greater amount of preparation. The Glamor Killer had his sights on Roxy for a long time.
   "First it was my hair, then I grew six inches, then...they grew...huge....I just...I can't take it. I don't want anyone to see me like this. It's so gross."
   "It's going to be alright," He honestly wasn't sure, besides finding a victim he had no other leads. "We're going to find the person that did this to you, then negate the spell. You'll be back to normal in no time."
   "But...I heard the dead women didn't change back...isn't that weird? What if I don't change back?"
   A life bound Glamor? It would explain why they didn't change back, but that would mean the only way to break the spell, would be the death of the murderer. The Detective was only authorized to take a life if there was no other option.
   "OH GOD, YOU'RE HAIR!" Roxy shrieked!
   "What?" Samhain's short sandy blond hair was long, curly and brown. How did he get targeted? He should have been able to sense the magic being cast, unless...it was a little bit at a time. Moment by moment in an area already steeped with heavy magic muddling his senses. A place like the bar.
   "The...the changes come quick. Is there anything you can do? I don't want you to end up like me."
   "Shit." Samhain stood up in time to hear the door fly past his head and smash into the back wall of the apartment. Roxy shrieked again as the old bartender stepped into the room, a length of nylon boot lace in his hand.
   "Looks like I get a twofer," he growled.
   Samhain collapsed to the floor as his bones were compressed by the magic, reshaping his body, "Mueller? You sick fuck!"
   "Haha, Yeeeeeah. You were right. I do get off on magic. Casting it, seeing it's affects, feeling it's effects afterward. You know I thought you caught me for a minute. If it weren't for you I wouldn't have remembered where Roxy was at." Mueller held the boot lace taught between his worn meaty fists, "So thanks."
   Gun. Gun. Few Mages could stop a bullet, and usually it was enough to break one's concentration. Samhain struggled to reach his service pistol but it was gone. His holster was empty. He rolled onto his back, finding his cloths far too loose, like he was rolling in bed sheets. It felt as though he was being torn apart from the inside out. Mueller neared the writhing half transformed detective. The bar tender ignored Roxy, who was cowering in the corner of the room, near her T.V.
   "You wont be able to get away with killing a Detective!" Samhain shrieked, his voice a mirror of Roxy's.
   "They won't know who you were. No one will. You'll just be another of those busty bitches they find in the city from time to time with a terminal case of Dead."
   "NO!!"
   BANG BANG BANG
   Roxy fired the Detective's handgun into Mueller, a bullet caught him in the chest, another in the shoulder and the final shot hit him in the skull. He collapsed to the floor next to the Detective. Then the magic cast by the Glamor Killer started to unravel. Violently.
   The Detective was thankful that it was quick, painful but quick. After twenty minutes of dry heaving near Roxy's coffee table, with Roxy on the other side of the room doing the same he managed to stand. Ten fingers, toes, cloths fit right, voice, "Roxy..." deep and manly. Good.
   "I had to...He was going to kill you."
   "He was."
   Detective Samhain was not looking forward to writing the report on this one. 

Offline Lor

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Re: [March 2013] The City - Submissions Thread
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2013, 11:27:54 AM »
Vive la Révolution

   The mist coiled around the corners of the old brick tenements, teasing fingers beckoning, as though to lure the men from their warm drinking den into the obsidian shadows of the night. It carried a smell too, workers' sweat, burnt hops, discarded fish. The smells of a city settling down for the night.
 
   The wind from the centre of the city, from the halls of the mayor and his elite, the blackened heart, carried the scent of something rotten through and through.

   Frédéric's tavern was as busy as ever, despite the city doing her level best with the weather to chase her children home. Despite being a small establishment, originally surreptitiously built in the burnt-out ground floor of a since abandoned tenement, he was one of the busiest public houses in the city. He put it down to his wife's cooking, though she was at home with a fever tonight, and the sense of loyalty from the men who worked in the brewery at this end of the city. They made the beer, they knew it would be worth drinking.

   They were quieter than tonight though; the first drink of the night was raised as a toast to a lost brother. Andre had gone missing three nights before, swallowed up by the city shadows, and his battered and mangled body had been found dumped outside the brewery gates for them to find this morning, a pro-republic rosette pinned to his ruined chest.

   Frédéric had told them time and time again they were foolish to get mixed up in the civic unrest. The city was in turmoil, yes, her children divided, standing gun to gun, but it had been this way so many times before. She was an unpredictable mistress, their city, they could never know when she would turn again. Best thing Frédéric had found was to keep your head down, and just hope whichever side won remembered the little people.

   Not that the Republic had ever cared for the little people. She had once been a thriving port city, the hub of the Republic's trade, the shining jewel in its economic crown. It only took one night to change all that.

   The Republic claimed it was magic, the Mayor went to the gallows still protesting that it was science. Most people in the city agreed it was unnatural, and had caused their downfall. All anyone really knew was it had blown away half of their beautiful city, figuratively and literally, and they had fallen into disrepute.

   Now the city was in turmoil once more, and it was all Frédéric could do to keep his head down and carry on with his business. He'd lost count of how many times he had kicked anti-republic meetings from the premises. Not that he agreed with the way the Republic treated the people, but he didn't want his tavern targeted.

   There was a buzz though, a murmur that seemed to be coming from the city herself, as though the spirit of the people was rearing its head to protect their home. It was like a fever, spreading across boundaries, infecting anyone it touched. It made the hairs stand up on the back of his neck, and the bottom drop out of his stomach.
 
   It was worse than usual tonight, the tension in the bar was thick enough to chew, leaving a bitter taste behind. It made it hard for him to relax into his work behind the bar. Something was going to happen tonight.

   The building above them creaked, as though trying to get more comfortable on the bricks it rested on. The whole city had they same feeling of unease, the whispered street names, times, plots clinging to the walls, slipping unseen from person to person, the city calling to her children, asking them to fight. Frédéric shook his head; romanticism blinded the foolish.

   There was a bang, like a cannon going off, and a flash of blue set fire to the night. It was no more than a few streets away, and a roar that could have been a cheer in triumph or a scream of dismay rang through the darkness. It was echoed around the pub, and Frédéric immediately ducked down behind his bar as the stampede began, praying he be spared.

   Once silence had coated his bar for the length of three prayers, Frédéric dared to show his face. The bar room was empty, chairs and tables thrown aside as the patrons had fled, beers and glass from the fallen tankards creating rivers across the warped wood.

    He tiptoed to the window, holding his breath. His beloved city was on fire. Flames liked the sky as flashes of unnatural colour and screams rent the burning air. The sounds of cannon fire, rifle fire, steel on steel reached him even here.

   Frédéric hurried to the door, and slammed the lock bar down, barricading himself in, before sinking to the floor, tears escaping down his cheeks, his whole body shaking as he struggled to pull in rattling breaths.

   His home was burning. Hell had broken loose. The city was having her revenge.

   "Vive la révolution."
« Last Edit: March 20, 2013, 01:19:00 PM by Lor »
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye." - Miss Piggy

Offline rooker

Re: [March 2013] The City - Submissions Thread
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2013, 01:38:04 PM »
This is my first entry to a contest here. Hope you enjoy it :)


Good Luck, Random Citizen

The invisible sun has risen somewhere. Those who know can guess its whereabouts. For others, its a mystery.

The blare of the alarm wakes him up. Groaning, he braces himself for another meaningless day.

He clears a circle on the fogged window of his 253rd-floor flat. The air outside looks pregnant with frozen mist. There are no vistas stretching before him even at this height. Only buildings in the City's nucleus. Yellow sulfur lamps illuminate halos in the blackness. Everything seems still. Quiet even.

Head heavy, eyelids heavier...he gets to the basin, opens the spout and the water gushes. He wishes some things could change, on their own, just to keep it exciting. Maybe the transparent candy-red toothbrush. The curvy-edged mirror. The buzzer of the lift.

The long hand tells him he should have been up 20 minutes ago. I was, he tells it. But did not want to get out.

Am I the lucky one today? He thinks to himself. But rejects the thought immediately. How many people in the City? 5 million? He doesn't know. He was never good at guessing. But should be around that number. So probability? 1:5,000,000. Not likely.

He stares at the mirror, bares his teeth at it. How are you, stupid? You've get yellow teeth, stupid!, he sing-songs.

The box of cereal is metallic, airtight. Without the direct sun, small organisms copulate with abandon. He pours the cereal in a bowl. Then milk. Sugar. He stirs, stares, stirs. Tastes. Sugar. Stir. Stare. Stir.

No harm in checking, his inner thoughts go. The truth is, despite the slim chances, he has hope. Hope is just so powerful, he thinks. What if I really am the lucky one today? The unfinished mail from last night is still open. After a pause, he discards it.  Then taps refresh on the smart phone mail app. Waits. The 2G connection is slow, but he waits. Stares at the screen between mouthfuls of slushy cereal. The mail's there, like everyday. He opens the mail. The City’s Code loads. Almost accepting the coming disappointment, his mind readies the muscles that would toss the phone. Day after day, someone else gets the chance. And that someone does nothing. The System is rigged, he feels. Only the spineless get the chance.

The long Code has almost loaded. The name-key would be at the bottom. The day’s Opportunist or Defeatist. Depending on what he or she chooses. Still loading. Another spoonful of cereal. A trickle of milk runs down the corner of his lips.

The name-key appears. It’s him. He sits stunned for a moment, mid bite. The air is still. Only the dribble of milk continues its course down his cheek.

Fuckin finally.

#

The bus moves smoothly. Slickly, on a thick track. No rubber wheels, but rollers stretching below the bus. There are butterflies in his belly. Nerves. He leans out the window. The scarlet grease on the tracks looks like blood. Metaphorically speaking, it is blood, he thinks. The immensity of the morning's elation has passed. A newfangled outlook on the state of affairs of the City takes its place. Born out of forced thoughts. Attempting to give justification to his planned actions.

The bus takes him away from the nucleus, into the putrid desertion that surrounds it. The sky is dark with a perennial, burgeoning black cloud. Curdled out of centuries of pollution. Breeding a persistent gloomy shadow over everything.

The buildings here are falling, sunken shells. Out of bounds, inhabitable. Centuries old, rotten by age. The new buildings in the nucleus are born rotten, worm-ridden. The bricks-and-mortar in them purulent with swindled money. His money, and of others like him.

She is the worm. Eating, drilling, shitting, puking her way through the City, corrupting the men and women and buildings she touches.

He looks back inside, closes his eyes. If he goes through with his plan, the Code promises a hearing. If they see his point, he would go free. If not, it would be many, many years in the Under-prison. The tight ball of anger inside him loosens a little at the thought. Can’t afford that. Motivation is key. I am right. Right?

Treat the Power You now have with Responsibility and a Sense of Justice. So the mail had ended. The line does slow laps in his mind. Power. Responsibility. Justice. The three stays of the System. The System governs the City. The Code governs the System. He sees an analogy. Cloud: City, Code: System. Is she not bound by the Code?  He thinks of the unsent mail, his numerous tries at wording it right. He had saved up to move into a newer apartment with his sweetheart. His ticket to a happy life. Long-term plans. The worm laid them waste. He smothers doubt with anger. The ball gets tighter.
The City would be fair.

He gets down at the designated stop. Goes inside the gray, gray, black building. A glass door with a key pad next to it. He puts on the gloves. The mail had stressed on it. He punches the code that came with the mail. A timorous hand causes a mistype. Be calm. Again.

The door slides open. A voice activated system guides him through the building. He enters the key-code five more times, at five doors. The system checks his voice modulation, his retina, his palm print. It seems satisfied. Not another soul in the whole building. Only the machines can know who he is. The System will know later, if need be. A last door opens with just a push. In the room is one table; a large black bag sits on it. The wall behind the table is a screen with a projected image.

The image now has the City’s coat of arms : Power to the People .The name is done in big bold letters that take up most of the image. 'Treat the Power You now have with Responsibility and a Sense of Justice' brings up the lower half.

As he picks up the bag, the whole image changes to 'Good Luck, Random Citizen'.

#

The building is the tallest ruin around.

In the distance, the air of the City proper glows a diffused, warm yellow. The gentle hum from motors powering the mirrors and reflectors, high above the cloud,  fills the air. Grinding mechanisms, tracking the sun, directing its light under the cloud. Slowly warming the air.

Around him, it is icy cold. Heating mechanisms don't work in the desolation. The murk does not bother him much. It would have bothered those who had felt real sunlight even once. Those men and their children are long dead. People are now born in eternal twilight. Direct sunlight would give them cancer.

The roof parapet is broken in places. He finds a gap he can use. Prostrates himself. The black bag has all he needs. He opts to record the whole thing. For keeps.

He zooms in to the point of interest. At a square near the the edge of the City, a large crowd of people has gathered. A podium-truck is in position, the platform at its back raised on hydraulic pistons that show black through the white cloth draped over it. A table and few chairs are arranged on the platform. Once-exotic flowers, now made abundant by genetic fiddling, grown under artificial sunlight in musty, humid halls, cover most of the table and the platform - a display of victory over Rarity and Exclusivity. A large screen makes the backdrop for the podium. It announces the new scheme she has introduced. Adept for the Inept. A large chunk of working men’s savings redirected to the City’s coffers towards ‘uplifting of the Inept’. The cause to his misery.

He loses himself in the vision the viewfinder affords him. With great clarity, he sees the people talking, chatting, laughing, shouting. He knows they are doing all this, but cannot hear them. Distance brings Absolute Peace.
He feels a melancholic tug for the men and women in the viewfinder - he can see them in their tiniest detail, yet the distance makes them...out of reach. He likes this peculiar connection.

Then she arrives. The activity in the viewfinder ceases. His eye follows her as she ascends the podium and makes her way to the mic. She pauses, and looks at the tall covered statue standing next to the truck. She says something in the mic, and the crowd laughs and applauds. Icebreaker, eh?. A couple of beggar kids stand at the intersection, across the road from the congregation. The road demarcates two classes. Two People. The Powerful and the Powerless. The Third are peering out through windows and balconies of surrounding buildings. The Indifferent. He knows he has been one of the Third.
The beggar kids make a move to cross the road, but one of her goons shoos them away. He sees the irony. The irony is his reason. Distance brings Absolute Clarity. And justifications for actions.

She reveals the statue. Her own image, in ten-foot glory. He sees her lips moving, forming silent words. His mind’s ear gives them sound.

“This statue stands here as a symbol. For the Indifferent. I took their money, and used it as I pleased. The statue makes me happy. Some of the money might find its way to the homes of those beggar children too. They would be happy. The unhappy are those whose money I took. But no matter, they are the Indifferent!”

Closing his eyes, he mentally goes through the checklist the City asks everyone to make as they prepare for the moment they would get their chance.

1. A good reason? Check.

2. No unreasonable anger? Check.

3. More than a personal grudge? Check

4. Community's Best Interests? Check.

5. Sense of Responsibility? Check.

6. Justice? Check

7. Power to the People? Check.

8. Safety Catch Released? Check.


He opens his eyes. She is still in the viewfinder.

Indifferent? Enough of that.

He squeezes the trigger. The bullet travels through the murk at supersonic speed. It is stamped with the City's acronym: P2P. He watches as the bullet hits its mark, then quickly closes his eyes, rolls on his back. Imagines her head exploding red like a pressurized balloon, spray-painting the white sheets, the genetic freaks of flowers, her men, her goons, her statue.

Was it worth it? He doesn't know, yet. The System would get him soon. He would have his answer then.

Meanwhile, he shall wallow in his ecstasy, in his sense of justice, a silly smile playing over his lips.

#
« Last Edit: March 28, 2013, 05:17:05 AM by r00ker »
Live and Let Live. Really.

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