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Author Topic: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread  (Read 3289 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« on: September 29, 2016, 09:30:21 PM »
Corpses


Christian Friedrich von Kahlbutz, 17th century knight from Germany

Corpses. Still trickling blood or ancient and dusty. Result of a horrible crime or a fatal accident. Left where they should be or somehow missing. stone-dead or fake and still alive. Anonymous or well-known. Pumpkin-spiced or... okay, I think you got it. ;) There's a lot one can say or write about a corpse and with All Hallow's Eve nearing you may already be in the mood or if not, the story you are going to write will probably help.

Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. One or more corpses must play a crucial role.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys next to the 'youtube' symbol.
SPECIAL RULE: In this month's contest, all submissions will be ANONYMOUS. This means that you don't post your story in the submission thread but send it in a personal message (formatted in the way you want) to  @Anonymous. (If you don't know how, feel free to ask.)
I will post the stories with that account in the submission topic, checking every day (as time allows) for new stories.
When the voting for the stories has ended (November 30th), I will reveal who wrote which story if you didn't specify in your submission or later that you don't want to be revealed.

Entry will close October 31st/November 1st, 2016 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

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 piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.

Remember that this thread is only for entries - and since you don't enter yourself, it is locked. ;) Discussion or questions can be posted here.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2016, 09:34:35 PM by xiagan »
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2016, 08:58:55 AM »
"The Raid"

Spoiler for Hiden:
She held Marais hand as she pulled her sister up the steep slope, the wetness dripped from the trees. “You have to help me, Marai. I can’t do this all by myself” Samina wheezed as she continued to pull her sister up the slope.
 
“I’m sorry Sam, I’m sorry”. The sisters finally reached the top of the ridge. Samina sat down in the wet moss, breathing hard.

 “Sam, do you think anyone else made it out of the village?”

 “I really don’t know Mar, I just hope someone did.” The two girls just sat there resting in the grey pre-dawn light. The forest around them had just started to come alive with birdsong and some of the smaller animals could be seen starting their day. As far as they could see, there were Pines and Firs. Suddenly they heard a sound, a barking sound, a guttural shout that was answered within moments from other directions.

 “They found us!” Marai gasped and rose, staring wildly about her. Samina rose as well but she stared fixedly in the direction where the first bark came from.

 “No, not yet but they are looking though. But if they knew where we were, there’d be some coming for us, but I can’t hear anything yet.” She pointed in the direction they just came from.

 “What do we do? Where do we go?” Marais tone was pleading with her sister.

 Samina stood there, staring, fiddling with the rent in her nightshift that been slit opened by the goblin that near caught them just as they were leaving the cottage. She felt the pain from the long scratch from her knee to her hip.

 What do we do now? She felt the frustration building.

Where do we go now? Where do two girls go to seek shelter in the Darker Woods? Turn back south wasn’t an option and Amberton was too far west. East of them there had been other calls, hunting calls, during their flight.

 The last option was further north, but Sam knew that goblins came from the north, so they were likely returning there to avoid the Duke’s men in the morning. Decision crystallised.

 “We’re going this way” Sam took Marais hand again and started to trot northeast along the curving low ridge.

  By the time the sun was up, they hadn’t heard a hunting call for at least a candle and they slowed to a walking pace. Their nightshifts had been soaked during their flight the dense brushwood and along some small streams, but had dried in the morning sun.

 “Sam, I’m hungry” Marai whined and her tone got immediately on Sams nerve. “I know, so am I, but there isn’t much I can do about it, is there?” Sam’s glare silenced Marai.

  As they walked on the soft moss along the low ridge, Samina did not say much and Marai seemed to have lapsed into a tired silence. Something brought Sam out of her reverie.  On the northern facing slope of the ridge, she saw at least three lichen covered ancient building stones.

“Mar, look! What’s that?” Marai stopped

“What’s what?” “Down there.” Samina started down the slope. “Let’s take a look.”

 Marai did not move. ”I’ll wait here Sam. You can have a look see.” Sam pursed her lips, she realised that Marai was tired. Sam let go of her feeling of annoyance and turned back down the slope.

 She reached the stones in moments and saw how the whole area was covered with square stones, they were about two times larger than normal bricks.  Almost in the middle them was a flat round stone, about the size of a cottage table. She walked over to it and as she took a step onto it, it gave way.

 She fell and slid across it’s surface into an opening. As she fell down into the pitchblack hole, she thought… this is going to hurt.

But it did not, but it did knock the wind out of her.

Marai sat rubbing her legs, when she heard the strange crashing sound. She instantly stood again and stared about her; she saw or heard nothing out of the ordinary. “Sam!” she called…no response.

Where is she? Marai thought. She started down the slope, and run when she saw the dark opening among the old stones.

 “Sam….Sam! Can you hear me?” Marai felt the fear from earlier coming back. As she threw herself down by the gap, she saw in her mind how Sam’s broken body lay down there in the dark. “Sam!” Marai’s shout rung in the small chamber and then she saw her.

 Samina’s pale legs and grey nightshift showed quite clearly as she laid there on the floor of the cave. She moved and Marai felt relief.

“Ahh…bloody ruin, damn near killed me” Sam’s voice was quite clear and angry.

Sam sat up looking up at her sister and realised that the fall was not more than six or seven feet. “Calm down, Mar. I feel fine. But I can’t see much, can you see something?”

  “What happened?” “Nothing, Mar. I just fell down a hole.” She stretched her legs and ankles carefully, as to prove to her sister that she in fact was uninjured. She did not felt any pain and stood up. Her head was not far from, what she perceived as the ceiling of the cave. She stood still to let her eyes acclimatise to the dark space around her. She saw or felt as the space she was in was low but wide and it extend well beyond her senses.

 “Mar, come down here.” “Why can’t come up to me? We have to keep going you know.” Marai sat up and looked around her. “Please come up now. I want to go.”

Sam only half listened to her. She continued to stare and finally she started to be able to make out her surroundings. She could make out, what it seemed to be a pillar just ten feet from her and beyond that a weak beam of light trickled in through the roof.

 “I think I see something, get down here.” She still did not listen to her sisters protests. She moved carefully towards the pillar, when Marai whimpered. “They’re coming….Sam I hear them.”
 Samina stepped into the light again and gestured, “Get down here, now. “ She whispered forcefully. She reached with her arms towards her sister, and Marai finally, in her incipient panic, listened and started to crawl into the opening. While Samina helped her down she started to hear the sounds of armed men walking and running.

They backed further in, all the way up to the pillar. They held on to each other and listened to the growing sounds of closing raiders.

 They are here, she thought. They are where I was, when I saw the ancient stones. The moving sounds lessened but they seemed to have a discussion. Samina tried to hear what they said, but it was all grunts, yips and growls.

 It sounds like dogs trying to talk, she thought. She looked around, now that her eyes adjusted, for a hideout or somewhere to run. The cave was large but she couldn’t see anything that might help them.

 What are we going to do? Samina felt how despair threatened to engulf her; Marai’s quiet sobbing did not help either. What do we do… what do we do? The thought continued to grate on her mind.
 
She leaned on the pillar and felt it… a handle of some sort, embedded in the pillar. She desperately started to tug at it, Marai stopped sobbing realising that Samina might have found something. She started to tug as well.

 The two women pulled, jerked and pushed. Anything and everything to loosen whatever it was. The goblins heard the noise and acted.

 At the same time as Longrunner and Headcleaver landed in the cave, the sisters had prised the handle free, it was a short ancient stabbing spear.

Samina whirled in near-panic to face the goblins only to find them kneeling in front of the pillar, and without any thought to why. She stabbed down into Longrunner’s neck and killed him. Samina stabbed again and again, until she saw Headcleaver’s charcoal black eyes looking at her in apparent fear. In an instant she turned the spear on him. He died as well without defending himself. She turned towards opening again but no more goblins were in sight.

  Instead she heard a hunting horn and the baying of hounds….the Duke, the dukes men were close by. The young women sank down, in relief, to the floor drenched in dark green goblin blood, hugging each other.

 Two armed men with torches found the cave a candle later. They climbed down and raised the torches to see the whole cave. What they saw was the two hugging, sobbing girls, the bloody and gored goblin corpses and encased in a pillar of ember, the mummified corpse of the last goblin king….
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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2016, 09:51:05 AM »
The Bridge Battle

Spoiler for Hiden:
Though I held him pinned against the low, stone wall that ran along the edge of the great bridge, my attacker’s hands gripped my throat, choking me. My eyes bulged. I could not breathe.

Far below, the river had turned the color of headstones in the failing light. Without sunlight, without energy, I was doomed. I had been a fool and would die like one at the hands of a layman.

He could not draw his knife to finish me, but he wouldn’t need to. He was a wizard-killer, and he knew his trade. And he was the stronger by far.

But the valley wind that swept around us was strong, too, so high up. It buffeted our hair and billowed my cloak around me. I lifted my hands, fingers spread out, into the wind.

Intent on murdering me, he did not react when the wind died down or notice the dimming of the light. He smiled grimly, and I knew his thoughts: without speech, wizards are powerless.

Brilliant purple flashes clouded my vision, but I returned his smile.

I don’t work that way.

His smile slid to shock when I blasted him through the stone railing with only a pressing gesture. In a cloud of shattered masonry, he arced out into empty air and pitched down toward the river valley far below. I sucked air and coughed, clutching my throat. He was still falling, I think, when I realized that I could not flee without warning my friends.

There was no time, and for all I knew, they had betrayed me, too. But better to be betrayed than to betray. By far. If they tried to kill me, so be it.

I ran to the tower door, wrenched the iron door from its hinges with a wave, and darted inside the bridge’s great buttress. Without wind, I had no power, but I didn’t care. I sped down the tightly twisting stair, my hand hooking the central pillar as I spiraled around and around. At the bottom I stumbled through the broken doorway. My boots crunched across shattered glass. My shout of warning died in my throat.

The laboratory we had painstakingly built was now a shipwreck of broken furniture in a sea of loose papers and torn books. Their corpses lay hacked and torn amongst the wreckage, swimmers in a sea of blood and gore.

Cantria and Boren lay facing one another, curled like children dressed in bloody rags, limp arms of ragged flesh still raised in vain against hateful blows. Cantria’s head was a beaten, ghastly ruin. Boren stared at her in the sleepy, disinterested way of the dead.

In a corner Glaccius sat bent viciously forward, like a child’s discarded doll, her legs splayed out beneath her. Her head lolled at an unnatural angle, forehead pressed onto the floor in the space between her knees. Her long, golden hair, the curls that had so often distracted me, all stained red at the roots. She stared at the floor, as if noticing it for the first time.

Merron sprawled face-down across the broken back of a table, his golden robes hacked to bloody ribbons. I made out an ear tilted unnaturally and recoiled as I realized he lay on his back. The face no man or woman ever resisted was now just a tattered crimson mass, a wet heap of red laundry. I fell to my knees, and my stomach emptied across the floor.

They didn’t betray me, I thought. The small relief only broke my heart. I kneeled in the ruins of my life and my friends and wept.

I resolved to finish alone what we had begun. I wiped my tears on my sleeve and rose in anger. But the room had been ransacked. Our great invention was gone. So too were all our records and notes. Our enemies had been thorough.

“All for nothing,” I whispered.

Looking over their silent remains, I recalled their banter that morning. They deserved better, but I could not bury them without burying myself. My fingertips pressed against the stone walls, sensed the vast, crushing weight of the bridge bearing down around us, my dead friends and I. In the palm of my mind I molded that energy, shaped it. I raised a fist and shook it at the corpses of my friends. I opened my fingers and loosed cleansing fire.

They deserved better.

On wings of choking black smoke, I strode back up the staircase. I did not hurry. It reeked of burned flesh and death, but its heat was pure and righteous. I coiled its energy, weighing it in my mind like a warrior hefting an ax. Let them come.

I emerged from the tower, and there, on the causeway before me stood Jerden, flanked by two men and two women. Five wizards to one.

“You are overmatched!” Jerden yelled. His face shined with contempt and betrayal, like a hidden joke at my expense finally made clear.

“Am I?” Through the bridge itself, I pitched the energy I had gathered at them. In a rush of thunder, my wave sluiced through the stonework toward them. Shattering stone splashed and crackled across their wards. Their defenses were strong.

“Am I?!” I yelled again, snatching at the wind and sky with my hands.

They knew I had no defenses. They laughed at me, waving my hands like a carnival charlatan. But when the wind died, so did their laughter. All became deathly dark and quiet until I struck them again, stronger this time.

The bridge shuddered. But their wards held.

“Two strikes,” my teacher had said, “show foes that their defenses are sound. To hold your foe, strike hard twice.” He was right. Of the five arrayed against me, only two struck back. The rest huddled behind their wards.

Jerden and one other heaved fire at me, but I snuffed it from the air like an old woman stifling a candle, tossed it back at Jerden’s companion, and taught her a lesson about courage. She ignited, became a shrieking firework.

“AM I?!” I bellowed once more.

They grimaced in fear now, even Jerden.

I seized the heat from the woman’s burning. The flames died down, and she slumped, a silent, blackened thing. I rolled the energy into a ball that bounced from one foe to another, to another.

One by one, they screamed and burned. Too slowly they realized their wards meant nothing to me. They were as naked as I. Only Jerden had the higher power. The fire faded harmlessly off his wards, but he could not both defend and attack.

Jerden stood alone. He chose to hold his ground, wait for reinforcements. He knew I could not break his defenses. He had only to wait me out, keep me in place.

The wind tugged at us. Above and behind Jerden, the great citadel loomed. Soon, they would come, my thousand bitter brothers and sisters. And I would die.

“You were my friend,” I said as I prepared. The wind slowed. The light dimmed.

“We don’t have friends,” he said. The mockery was gone from his voice. “We’re wizards. The strong take. Now I take your life.”

“Come,” I said, opening my arms. “Take it.”

He suspected a trap, I think. It was, but not as he imagined. I wanted him to sit behind his wards. I needed time to gather all the energy around me. I stilled the rushing wind, seized the last light of the day, harnessed the crushing weight of the bridge itself, all that leverage, hanging so high and so far, for so long.

“You cannot pierce my wards!” Jerden called. “The Planes of Gyrnis have no edges!”

“I know, Jerden.”

I clapped my hands vertically, unleashed the power I had melded together, but the greater force came from beneath, lifting the causeway just behind Jerden, pitching up all the stone beams and blocks up in a haphazard jumble, undoing all the joints and mortar, lifting Jerden high into the air. He screamed.

“I know.”

The ancient bridge crashed back down, but its structures and strengths had been unmade and could no longer bear their own weight. The Bridge of Val collapsed. Jerden was engulfed in dust and darkness and was gone.

Only a trembling tongue of stone remained, jutting from the colossal buttress, extending a few dozen paces past me out into empty air. I looked down as ruin rained down on the city Val a thousand feet below. Thunderous impacts filled the river-cleft with dust.

I looked up at the citadel on its perch over Val, dark and silent but inside, teaming with my brothers and sisters, now my enemies. Surely the ground had shaken with the fall of their great bridge, filled their hearts with a dread as great as mine. They would pursue me, and they would catch me. Nothing would stop that now. But their fear of me would be the greater.

Nonetheless, I fled.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2016, 06:45:56 PM by xiagan »
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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2016, 09:52:20 AM »

Where there's a will

Spoiler for Hiden:
It was good to be home.  I drew in a pointless breath, dragging the soft perfume of mother’s flower garden through a nose that had lost its sense of smell long ago. I pulled the coat more tightly around my shoulders. I used to feel the cold more, but now the welcome embrace of fleece lined leather was more a comfort to the soul than to the body.

The thick gravel of the drive crunched and slipped beneath my feet, as treacherous to the balance as the softest sands of Biazi. Ah those happy childhood summers, mother, my siblings and me. I had been her favourite, always and now the prodigal son returned.

I found my way guided more by memory than sight. My distance vision was not what it used to be, turning the finely carved frontage of my parents’ mansion into a white blur. Only slowly did its features resolve into windows and doors and a shape standing sentinel duty beneath the portico.

To his credit Sejev didn’t bat an eyelid at my return, the consummate butler he stood ready to welcome even the most unwelcome of guests.

“It is good to have you home at last, Master Tomas.”

“Are the others here?”

“You are the last to arrive, sir.”  If there was an intended rebuke it didn’t show in his tone. He hurried on, “A sad day, sir, may I extend my own condolences.”

“I want to see her first, before I meet them.”

“Your mother is in the green room, sir.” Of course, her own private receiving room.  Even father would never have had the temerity to enter it without knocking.

I could hear a bubble of chatter from the drawing room, a tinkling laugh so inappropriate for the occasion. One of my sisters no doubt, or perhaps Ernest’s latest wife – whatever her name was.  They would all be there and I wasn’t ready to face them.

A footman emerged from the side passage bearing a tray of fizzing champagne flutes one handed. He stumbled when he saw me, the tray tipping sideways in his shock and then, as he attempted to arrest the toppling slide of the glasses with his other hand, he succeeded only in volleying the entire assembly up into the air. I ducked into the green room, pulling the door closed even as the shower of wine and glass crashed into the floor followed by the dissonant cymbal of the tray hitting the tiles.

There was silence for a moment, the kind that settles after every disaster be it great or small, and I took my chance to greet my mother once more.

They had laid her in an open coffin. Mahogany. She would have liked that. Ernest at least was not skimping on the expense. The undertaker had done a good job, though it helped that mother had always been a beautiful woman. She fell a decade short of the three score and ten that was her due, but she had always looked younger than her years. It was vanity in the end that killed her. The riding hat might have constrained her flowing mane of suspiciously blond hair, but the hat would also have saved her skull when Milady’s stumble threw her mistress from the saddle.

Life is cruel like that, death too. It separated us now just as much as it had ever joined us.

I could say that she looked like she was sleeping, but there was a waxy sheen to her skin that could not be stroked away by my soft grey fingers. Who knew what damage the undertaker’s art might have done.

“What are you doing here, freak?” Hanerila’s shrill shriek shattered my reverie.

Despite the intemperate urgency of my sister’s question I turned slowly, not wanting to try my rickety knee. It had a habit of popping out and popping it back in was – if not especially painful – something of an awkward contortion.  They stood in the doorway, doubtless told of my arrival by the glass juggling footman. Hanerila led, the others followed, Ernest hovering at the back.

As she narrowed the distance between us I saw that fifteen years apart had barely treated my eldest sister any better than it had treated me. The beauty of her youth had softened into lumpen middle-age, a pudding of a face in which two black eyes shone with hatred.

“Who said you could come?”

“She was my mother too.”

“You stopped being her son when you dealt with that devil.  Mother said you were dead to her.”

I smiled cautiously - never a truer word as they say – before launching into a defence of my employer. “Kirren has been a loyal friend to me, I owe him everything.”

“Still owe him, according to what I’ve heard,” the woman by Ernest’s side spoke. Even my faltering eyes could see well enough to tell she was a stranger to me.  The latest Mrs Ernest, I presumed.

“Petsin, how nice to finally meet you.” I plucked the name from my memory, a court announcement in some rag that Kirren had once passed on to me.  “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to the wedding.” None of us mentioned the fact that I hadn’t been invited.

“How much did the bastard charge you for his services?” Petsin brushed aside my pleasantries, evidently not a currency she dealt in. Poor Ernest, doomed always to seek out wives more strident than his sisters. “I hear Kirren’s wizardry does not come cheap.”

“He has been kind enough to let me work off my debt through indentured service. Another ten years should set me free.”

Hanerila snorted, hands on hips. “That’s what brought you crawling out of the dark isn’t it. Mother’s will. You want a share in the estate, to pay for freedom from your dark mage.”

They misjudged me, but then they always had, and that tragedy with the runaway cart had only hardened their prejudice. I tried an air of wounded innocence but I suspect it resembled more of a leer. I had not done much looking in mirrors lately so I was out of practice at facial expressions.

“My needs now are few and simple, sister dear. I want no more than what is my due.”  I knew mother had left me more than my fair share. She had never really liked my sisters, nobody did. And she thought Ernest’s staggeringly poor matrimonial choices proved him unfit to be trusted with a legacy of any significance. Half the estate was to be mine. “She told me about the will,” I said. “I know she never changed it.”

Hanerila’s lips spread in an ugly smile, like a duellist who knows that only their pistol is loaded. “I’ve read it too, you get half of everything.” The smile broadened as she pulled the trigger. “Unless, that is, you predeceased her!”

Ah, she had me there, I had to admit.

Ernest’s friends all had an absurd fondness for life insurance which I had never understood – why worry about looking after those left behind once you were dead? Kirren by contrast did a remarkable line in death insurance, the business of helping people look after themselves after they were dead. His policies were expensive, too much for me to pay for all upfront. But I had not regretted it.  Knocked down by a runaway cart I should have been dead, in fact I was. But the joy of necromancy is that death really isn’t the end.  Thanks to Kirren I could walk and talk and function pretty much as well as I used to, though to be honest a dead body wasn’t so good at the mundane business of repairing all the knocks that life so irritatingly threw in one’s path.

“So, my zombified brother,” Hanerila crowed. “You can just shuffle out of here. We only want the one corpse in this house today. And try not to drop any fingers on your way.”

Ernest had the grace to look a little shame faced. “She is right, Tomas,” he said. “Petsin checked with the lawyers.” A helpless shrug, an apologetic grin and then an offer in compromise. “Maybe you could take a keepsake to remember mother by?”

I smiled. “Well there are a couple of things I had in mind.”

***

Kirren was bent over the counter when I got back to the shop, getting ready to re-animate a mouse that the cat had caught that morning. He looked up at the jangle of the bell; I stood in the doorway savouring the moment. Motes of dust danced in shafts of sunlight, beads of sweat gleamed on the necromancer’s bald head. “Ah, you’re back,” he said.  “Did it go well?”

I shrugged, careful not to test my suspect collarbone. “Well enough.” I waited. It didn’t take him long to notice. Kirren was always an observant fellow.

“Ah,” he said. “I see you have your mother’s eyes.”

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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2016, 09:54:14 AM »

The Soulspeaker

Spoiler for Hiden:
It was pouring rain when Merrick Lockwyd arrived at the nondescript house on the edge of town.

He pounded on the door, brushing a veil of water out of his eyes. The aged greywood was slick and wet with rain.  The boards had warped with time; Merrick imagined the house must leak every time it rained.  Peasants.

He pulled his wet hood back, doing his best to take in his surroundings despite the rain. The chill rainwater filled his hair, leaking onto his face in a continuous stream.  Merrick cursed. It was cold in Whitehold even when the snows melted, and rain had a way of freezing a man more effectively than ice ever could.

Dead grass surrounded the house, it's eaves steep and dark in the style of the Southern Reaches.  To keep off the snow.  Merrick hated when the Queen sent him assignments in the Reaches.  Not just because of the cold.  Merrick hated killing his own people.

He banged on the door once more.  "Hello!" he shouted, hoping to be heard over the rumbling skies.

To his surprise, the door creaked open.  An old woman narrowed her eyes at him through the door.  Haphazard strands of her coarse unkempt hair, a medley of greys and whites, escaped her poorly-tied bun.

Merrick began, "I'm here to--"

"Shush, you fool! We know why you're here."

"I'm sorry, I--"

"Do you have it?"

Merrick fished the black feather out of his shirtpocket, broken and wet.  The Nightravens sang for the dead, it was said. It had taken him months to discover the price of admission.  His fellow Southlanders kept their secrets carefully.

The woman's eyes looked sad, as if she still wished to turn him away.  She did not move, hesitating in the door.

“Please— I came a long way… and it was no small task to bring… to bring it with me. In these elements.” Merrick motioned behind him.

The woman frowned. “It's in the cart?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“Bring it around back, to the barn. You will need to leave your sword outside.”

“Does that mean you’ll see me?” It was his earnest eyes that made him good at his job.  No one ever suspected a man with earnest eyes.

The woman said nothing.  She only closed the door.

Merrick pulled the wet bundle of rugs and cloth from the back of his cart and heaved it over his shoulder. Gods, it was heavy! He had hoped to find a lighter corpse, a child maybe, but this was the freshest dead man he could find on short notice.

The old woman greeted him at the entrance to the barn, an rusty oil lamp in one hand, guiding a six-year-old boy in the other.  Merrick frowned.  Of course she would have children.  Grandchildren.

"Set it there."

The barn was empty save for a small cookfire in the corner, and a long table in the middle. With a loud thump, he dropped the corpse down with a loud thump.  The woman raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t know the deceased.” Merrick said apologetically.  “I’m here on behalf of another.”

Both statements were true, if misleading.   It was said the Soulspeaker could see into living men’s souls and tell a lie. He would have to choose is words carefully if he did not want to be found out.

Soulspeakers had been born in Whitehold for as long as anyone could remember: when the city was a village, when it’s people were a tribe.  They had advised Clan Bearwynd, each generation a new chief, each chief a new Soulspeaker.  But today Whitehold was a city. Nearly a hundred and a half greywood houses dotted the chilly southland prairie. The only civilization for miles.  Clans and Soulspeakers were an oddity, something for folkstories and whispers. All that remained of Clan Bearwynd had died six years ago, and House Syleste had little patience for superstition in the Queen's Court.

The old woman kneeled and touched the boy's face gently. "Are you sure you want to be here?"

The boy nodded.

"Fetch us some tea then."

The boy scurried to the cookfire.

"He's your grandson?" Merrick asked.

The woman didn't answer.  She folded her arms. "Why are you here?"

"I--I have questions for the dead. Questions for the Soulspeaker."

"Sit down."

"I'd rather--"

"If you want your questions answered, sit."

Slices of an oak trunk surrounded the table. They were too poor to afford proper chairs.  Merrick took a seat as ordered.

"Two questions for Leck Meggragor."

She knew the corpse's name! He hadn't even unwrapped the corpse!  Still, she more than likely heard of his demise.  It wasn't proof.  Merrick cleared his throat.  "Did Leck… can he tell me where his niece is?"  The Merrick's colleague Fregg had taken the girl to another village two years ago. Her safety in exchange for Leck's continued service to the Queen.  And his silence.

Merrick waited.  Would the corpse speak on its own? Would she chant?  Would she call to the spirits?

She only stared at him flatly.

"Are you…"

"You have one more question."

"Leck's wedding ring-- where is it?"  Fregg told him the fool had lost it in a bet a few months ago.  Merrick watched her carefully. Still the woman did nothing.  Merrick breathed a sigh of relief.  Maybe she wouldn't answer his questions.  Maybe she was a charlatan.

The boy returned, handing Merrick a cup of hot tea.

"Drink," the woman said.

"I'm really not thirsty. Are you--"

"If you want your questions answered, drink."

Merrick took a sip. "Listen, if you're not the Soulspeaker--"

"Drink it all, and the dead shall speak."  Merrick frowned, then chugged the hot liquid with a wince.

"Leck thinks his niece is in Iceharbor, but he's not sure if she's still alive.  He lost his wedding ring to Nerrind Feywether just a few months ago, but he thinks Nerrind pawned it already.  He wants me to tell his wife that if she's going to get so upset about a ring, she can kill herself and have words with him herself."

Merrick paled.  It had been the boy, not the woman who answered.

"Dowen!" the woman gripped him tightly, wrapping her arms around him.  "You were supposed to remain silent!"

"Not this time, grandmamma," the boy seemed sad.

Merrick gripped the table in shock. “He’s… six!”

“Of course.  It was six years ago that Aaris Torthorne was cut to pieces in his sleep. The night the last Soulspeaker was murdered, was the night my daughter went into labor.”

Merrick frowned.

“Aaris was eighteen when he died.  They say Aaris was born the day Hervyn Softspeare was strangled and dumped into the river.”

Merrick’s eyes widened.  “When one Soulspeaker dies…”

“…the next is born.” The old woman finished his sentence for him.  Her eyes looked tired with worry.

Merrick frowned. It had been six years since he last killed a child. A little girl burned alive with her family.  He fingered the knife stowed away in his sleeve.  This would be more far more intimate.  A frail woman and a child-- he wouldn't even need the knife. Some days he hated his job.

"Grandmama, please…it's time."
The old woman nodded, her sad eyes locked on the boy.  And she retired to the cookfire in the corner of the room.

Merrick gripped the knife hidden in his sleeve.  He had the proof he needed.  The boy’s power was real. He turned to the child. "You… heard him.  You heard Leck?"

"Not just Leck.  I heard them all."

Merrick stopped.  "Them all?"

“The dead buzz around you like flies, if flies could scream,” Dowen added the last bit matter-of-factly.

Merrick's eyes narrowed.

"Aaris needed the bodies, but I don't."  The boy puffed his chest proudly. "He says I’m the strongest Soulspeaker in many generations. I answered your questions and now Aaris has questions for you.”

This had gone too far.  Merrick tried to lift his knife, but his arms were heavy. So heavy.

"What-- what have you--"

“He told me the Queen ordered you to bar the doors of the Bearwynd House and burn it to the ground.  The dead cried out to him, and the next night you sliced him apart in his sleep.  He just wants to know--"

"Enough questions," Merrick had wanted to shout but his voice was weak and raspy.

“He wanted me to ask you before you died. Did the Queen order his death as well?”

Merrick tried to stand, but his legs refused.

“Valerian nightshade hits the legs first.”

“The Queen will send another man if I fail. And another if he fails.  You won’t live.”

“Eventually she’ll run out of assassins,” the boy said matter-of-factly.

Merrick collapsed on the ground, saliva leaking from his mouth.

“You’re the first man I’ve killed,” Dowen said softly.  Merrick was dead, but the Soulspeaker knew he could still hear him. “You won’t be the last.”
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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2016, 10:54:39 AM »
Blink

Spoiler for Hiden:
Corpses are everywhere. They're much more common than the average death fearing citizen thinks. It's people like me who are rare. 
The dead clutter, live together like we do. They converge in morgues, hospitals, research buildings, cemeteries, houses, the odd back alley.
I try and live far from human life to keep away from human death, but the lush forests and deep rivers are appealing, and sometimes one of my silent friends come a-visiting, dragged along unwilling, to be left behind, like a bone buried in the big cities' backyard.
Then I'll blink and my traitorous eyes open somewhere else, to some vista a corpse is unknowingly enjoying.
I've trained hard to keep my Death-Eyes from wandering, but isolation makes me slack, and my dusty morals couldn't keep me from tipping the police.

I assume this is how FBI special agent Lem McCaulkay tracked me down. He came to me with his head bowed and his feet dragging.

"You know I wouldn't be here if it weren't huge, if you couldn't make all the difference in the world."

"I'm retired."

"Have you looked at the news?"

"No. Did you notice the absence of TV? The long, winding dirt roads? I don't want news to find me. I'd rather you hadn't found me either. You're bad news incarnate."

"Lone..."

"That's Sørensen to you, Agent McCaulkay."

He drops the file then, all printed out, old school. It's thick and thumps hard on the table. He flips the cover without saying a word, revealing eight young women, looking up at me with their white, dead eyes from dog-eared photographs.
The press coupon taped behind them dubbed their maker the "Last Shadow", after his taste for afternoon abductions.
I thumb through the autopsy reports, find a map with details of dates and locations. All the victims were snatched and dumped in a pretty short and even perimeter. Accidental, bold, or stupid?
Asking for my help was the obvious thing to do.

"He's just plucked a new one off the street yesterday. We were lucky to learn about it this soon. We believe he keeps them alive three to four days. If you join us, we might catch him in the act."

Agent 'Caulk', fixer of all things gone wrong, had asked me for help before. Some cases just won't patch themselves, some killers are just too clever, or too lucky, too educated, or too odd.
I had worked for him, answering my own youthful needs, strongest among them my need to please, to earn approval and notice where there were none. Such drives are long gone, and my own case is another thing 'Caulk' cannot mend. I didn't retire for nothing.

"I suppose you've noticed the numbers in the autopsies, here, such high levels... He does that to them while alive, Lem. Dying. Damn it, you come here to ask me to go with you and look out for this, look down a peeled chest being sawed off and then up the monster's face. Who's gonna pay for my therapy after that, the FBI?"

I fix my inhuman eyes on him then, childishly hoping to make his skin crawl, but all I see is the despair coiled deep within his sunken, red-rimmed eyes.
I idly wonder if it's this case that turned all his hair to silver, or if it was gradual, colour leached by a decade of sleepless nights spent hounding the worst dregs of humanity.


"Hell, Sørensen, you know I'd pay to swap those Death-Eyes of yours if I could, anything to avoid involving you. Chasing serial-killers is my calling, not yours. But this," he taps a new picture, not yet stapled down on the Last Shadow's folder, a photograph of a woman alive and smiling, "this is enough for me to come and ask you. Do you think I'm pleased to have you look for a corpse in the making, when we know she's still alive? We have Jenkins and Everyn pulling their hair out over this case, they still haven't cracked it. Please, Lone, we need you. So that this one becomes the last. Join us."

I feel the edges of the silence where he ought to have said "one last time", but refrained from lying. They'll ask me as long as they'll know where to find me.
I look around at my house, so cosy and warm, full of hard woods and the flicker of flames, wishing I had the guts to say no.

"Just this once, Lem. Just this once..."

I'll just have to hide better next time.


My job from then on is to blink, and blink is what I do, while some FBI goon drives us around.
Decay clouds my sight, so I can browse through bodies, identifying fresh ones, newly hatched from their living shells.
I blink, my vision shifts–there is no describing it–and I see a lot of darkness. Blink, a ceiling, blink, a couple of students busy over my chest. Blink, and bright lights, exhausted, masked faces. Emergency rooms and operating blocks are sad places to look into.
There comes blurry trees and I tell that to Lem. Oak and chestnut. You've got to know your plants in my line of work.

"White male. Gloving and bloated, weeks old. Looks down a hill on a grey concrete building. Not sure, it's hazy."

"We'll check," Lem says, dispatching the description for someone else to deal with. Decaying male bodies aren't what we're after.

It is late in the night when we stop in an isolated motel. Our driver gets his own room while Lem settles in a bed across from mine, a habit from our days doing cross-country manhunts.
I drift asleep, my mind stumbling into dreams of the past, nightmares of corpses I made, where I blink back up at my own blood-speckled face, my eyes like twin black holes amidst a red galaxy.
I wake in a cold sweat and listen to Lem's breath in the paling night, its even rhythm calming my nerves, pushing the terrors back down the dark corridors of my mind.

We drive on, making circles in the circle of the Last Shadow's deaths. I can hear Lem sitting by me, juggling paper maps, GPS and ringing phones. I can feel my face pressed against the window, the roughness of my jeans as I rub my thighs in a little ritual to remind me I'm alive, to help me centre myself when I blink back into my living flesh.
Blinking away from yourself thinking this was just another stop in another corpse is an experience one learns to avoid.

I blink and look up into the affable face of a mortician busy fixing my eyes closed for some upcoming ceremony of adieu. I blink through the dimness of many morgue drawers, freezers, closed and open casks.

When he kills her, she is so close it draws my eyes like magnets, the vision crystal clear. I cry out, startling everyone including myself.

"Lem, oh shit Lem, he's cutting me up!"

The recorder is pressed to my cheek and Lem's hands cup my skull, brushing my face, my real face, not the one looking down on the surgical saw's movements.

"You're here with me, safe. Talk to me Lone."

There is precious little to say about the butchering happening to her – to me, as I see it – that was not already said in autopsy reports or guessed by the experts and technicians working the case.
The Last Shadow, a blond, portly man, has boring features, light baby-blue eyes and a clean, cunning set-up in a mortared cellar, offering very few chances of clues for his pursuers.

It goes on forever, it seems, before Lady Luck gives me what we need. The Last Shadow never quite foresaw that one of his dead women would damn him by looking over his shoulder as he carried her out to his white van.

"Blue roof, two story house, messy garden with a big oak tree. Heck! Lem, there's a church sign down the right side," I roll my eyes, straining, "It's for a Lutheran church, Black Hill County!"

I feel my body sink into my seat as our driver slams his foot on the accelerator. Lem is barking orders in his phone, while I look up into the face of our murderer, framed in his van's open door, unsuspectingly smirking down on his handiwork. I guess he's looking forward to tomorrow's newspapers.
What a bad surprise he's about to get. Yet what a cheerless victory, seen from down there.

I close my eyes at last, covering my tear streaked face and willing darkness to bring me whatever relief it can through the blaring sirens, with Lem's palm hot over my bunched fists.
Forlorn, I once again find myself wondering whether my eyes will finally cease to see the world when fate in turn makes a corpse out of me.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2016, 07:59:24 PM by Anonymous »
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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2016, 08:11:14 PM »
Hoy Girl

Spoiler for Hiden:
“Thou must kiss her,” said Marley’s pa.

Gran’s body that been weeding, picking, and pickling yesterday were laid on her bed like a pea pod shelled. Nothing good left inside. The village women had dressed her in her best with rushes and cedar shavings on top the wedding quilt she’d slept under forty years married and twenty years widowed, then they’d filed out and the witnesses come in, and Marley come in after. She stood inside the door, feet rooted.

“Thou must,” agreed Brother Kent, him standing at the far side of the bed. Marley disliked Brother Kent. It were his soft, fat hands that stuck out from his black coat, his heavy jowls, and the ugly blue aura.

Thou must kiss her. Thou must bless her. And why? Because her soul won’t fly without the hoy girl’s say so? Well, there weren’t anything in that body on the bed that needed anyone’s blessing. Maybe none of these men could see it, but it were clear as morning to Marley.

Pa fidgeted. Brother Kent sighed, twitched a hand toward his pocket like he wanted to pull out his watch, but knew he shouldn’t. Seven men in the room with Marley, all waiting for her to do what she should do then get on with things. Mostly all she’d ever said to these men, excepting Pa, were 'good morning Brother This’ and ‘good evening Brother That'. They'd touch the brim of their hats to her, but no more’n that, since Marley weren’t the hoy girl then. When Gran said 'good morning Brother This' or 'fetch me that better chicken Brother That', they'd take off their hats and bring that chicken, because Gran were the hoy girl and been so for as long as anyone remembered. 'Yes, Sister Rachel,' they’d say - which were Gran - 'Of course, Sister Rachel.'

But Gran were dead now, and Marley to be the hoy girl from this day on.

Brother Kent cleared his throat. He liked to hear his own voice even more than he liked to look at his fancy watch. “Sister Marley,” he said. Marley startled. No one ever called her ‘Sister’ before. You called women 'Sister', not girls just fifteen. Marley saw him see she were startled, and he got a knowing look, so he said it again. “Sister Marley,” he said. “I’m sure your grandmother leaving us with no warning is a shock to us all, but you are the hoy girl now. I expect Sister Rachel instructed you in all the hoy girl’s duties?”

Oh, he were a sneaking man were Brother Kent, asking that like a little knife to slip between Gran and Marley, because he surely thought Gran taught her nothing, since she were standing there like a clod. Except that Brother Kent were wrong. Gran told Marley a lot. It were just Marley hadn’t quite understood some of it before.

But Gran hadn’t told Marley full everything, because here were this dead body with nothing in there good and needing to be set free, so what were the point of a kiss? And here were fat Brother Kent watching Marley to see how well his words was working.

Marley broke her eyes away. She hated doing it cause that were running away from him. She needed a minute to think. But looking around at the grown men filling the room, looming over her like they done since the first day she ever known, she saw they weren’t to give her much time to think. Pa’s aura were orange like it got when she were about to get the belt. And Brother Kent - his aura adding that nasty shade of yellow Gran used to call thinking you’re the best poop in the pile. Seven men’s auras, all colored with doubt, satisfaction, and dismissal.

"Give me a minute." Marley meant it to come out strong, but it came out like a little peep. Well, hells. "Give me a minute," she said again, and liked how it sounded this time.

That settled the men a bit. Long enough Marley got her feet moving, made the witnesses draw back to let her past so she were right beside Gran. Well, she'd got them to quiet, but they was still rustling and scratching their beards. Marley wished they'd just leave and let her think.

This were what she needed to think about. The hoy girl kisses newborns so their souls get pinned to their bodies. And she kisses the dead to let them spirits go back to the beyond. 'Born and buried', Gran used to say, 'that's our business.' Then she'd add, 'And pretty much everything in between.' It were why the hoy girl were so important, why she rode from town to village to farmstead for days around and even to the city when needed.

But if the hoy girl kisses the dead to free their souls, why ain't Gran's soul still here in her body? Marley studied the old woman, traced the crow lines of her eyes down the maps of her cheeks to the eighty- year imprint of frowns and smiles. Nothing. No aura, no spirit. An empty husk.

Pa lost his patience. "They's waiting the funeral feast for thee, Marley. Thou needs to do thy duty and stop this dawdling."

"Yes," put in Brother Kent, who weren't going be left out. "Thou’s the hoy girl, now. Thou must do thy work or thy grandmother's soul will be trapped in this world. You know that ain't right."

Marley didn't look at him, but she doubted he believed that. It were just words with him. You could tell.

Gran, thought, Marley. There ain't nothing of you here for me to kiss, so why should I do it at all? All the times she took Marley along on birth trips and death trips, Gran taught her herbs and salves, auras and songs, lies and people. Marley'd seen the births, even helped them along. But Gran never took Marley in to the dead, where only the men witnesses and the hoy girl were proper. "What happens?" Marley'd ask. "You kiss the dead, of course." "Yes, but what happens?" she'd insisted. "Well," Gran would snap, her patience done. "You'll figure it out, just like I done. Just like any of us with any sense do." And that were that.

Well, Marley had figured out one thing, which were that Gran were dead, her aura gone, and no soul inside that cold body at all. And if the hoy girl were there to set free the dead but no soul were there at all, then the hoy girl herself were a lie. A great big, fat, powerful lie. Which made Marley so angry she wanted to spit.

"I see you're confused," started Brother Kent, like he knew real things, “Perhaps we men can help.” And that were the last straw.

"Ya'll can leave," said Marley, heart pounding. That startled them, especially Pa.

"Marley, girl --" he said to her back.

She turned and fixed him with her best imitation of Gran. She swallowed down a whole tater of fear and put the look on each one of them witnesses. "Ye can all leave," she repeated. Then she turned her look on Brother Kent, not even knowing how she were finding the backbone to do it, and said, "But I need a witness for this to be proper, so thou can look in at the door."

He looked her right back, and she saw how damned smart and confident he were. He'd win some arguments with her in time to come, but were willing to wait. "That's just fine," he said. They filed out, Pa dragging his feet, but Brother Kent used that bulk of his to push them ahead so's he would be the one looking in to see.

Marley blew out a breath, feeling all trembly inside and in her knees and fingers. She pushed back the tears that wanted to come and faced Gran's body.

"So this is me then," she said to it. "The hoy girl, my own self." She glanced over her shoulder and saw the men at the door, held back by what she'd said, by who she were, and what she'd learned just now. "Hells, Gran. Won't do any good to give you a smack, so I guess I gotta give you that kiss."

She leaned down, stopped with her lips almost but not quite touching the wrinkled forehead. She sent her senses out hard, one last time, hunting down any hint there were a spirit in there somewhere. But there weren't. So she pressed her lips down and gave that skull a hard, hard kiss.

Marley stood and turned. Brother Kent nodded once like he were in charge. There'd be dinner now, and  folks she'd know'd her whole life would look at her different. She hoped there'd be a baby to kiss next. That would be a whole lot nicer.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2016, 08:17:46 AM by xiagan »
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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2016, 08:14:51 AM »
WARNING:  Excessive Foul Language

Weincawnathun

Spoiler for Hiden:

“He bwoke my fucking nothe.”

“Jesus, you’re bubbling blood, snot, and teeth everywhere.”

“Thowy.”

“And you sound like a fucking idiot.”  Karla toed the body lying on the stained carpet in the apartment building hallway.  “Did you need to kill him?”

“Awe we thuwe he’th dead?”

“Are we sure? I suppose he might recover from your knife.  Buried to the hilt.  In his eye.”

Her partner, Dallas, leaned his head back against the wall and groaned, bloody fingers gently probing his nose and gums.  “Ow.  Didn’t have to ewbow my fathe.  Bathtawd thouwd have jutht come quietwy.”

“Shut up.  I can’t understand a goddamn thing you’re saying.  And stop getting blood on the fucking wall.”  Karla gestured to the dead man’s apartment door.  “Grab his arms and help me get him into the fucking room before every goddamn cop in Chicago shows up.”

She dug in the dead man’s pockets, found a set of keys, and within moments they were inside his apartment.

“Bathroom’s over there.  Go wash up.”  The place was small, but tidy.  “And don’t get your mess all over.  We’re already going to have to pay the Sorcs a small fortune to clean this up.  I don’t want to add any more than we have to.”

Muffled from the bathroom, “We couwd do ith ouwthewes.”

“And leave trace evidence for the Witchunters to follow?”  Hands on hips, she stared down at the corpse on the tile floor and shook her head.   “No, idiot, there’s a reason Boss Harl makes everyone use sorcerers.”

Dallas exited the bathroom, looking much cleaner, but like someone had taken a tire iron to his face.  “But, we dohn have the money.  Ethpethiawy now that thith fuckehw ith dead.”

“You think money matters to me?”  She flung her hands out to the side, incredulous.  “You and I are going to end up on store shelves everywhere after a visit to Harl’s dog food factory.  Our only chance is to figure out where this asshole hid the Tome of Archons.”

“Twue.  Maybe we can jutht athk him.”

“Sure.  Great idea.”  Karla shouted, “Hey, dead-douche!  Where’s that book our boss wants?  What?  You can’t talk?  That’s right, because you’re.  Fucking.  Dead.”

Dallas sighed.  “No, dumbath.  I know a guy.  On the thouth thide.  He can weanimathe the dead.  We can take the money we’d thpend on the Thowcth, and give it to him inthtead.”

She squinted and crossed her arms, “For reanimating this guy?  Why are his prices so cheap?”

“Becuth we dohn need fuw wethuwecthuhn.  We jutht need the body to wawk and tawk.  Kinda wike a thombie.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, theewiouthwy.”

***

Shortly after 10pm, their shiny SUV pulled up to the mouth of a dead-end alley on the South Side of Chicago.  Karla, from the passenger seat, peered into the darkness, barely able to make out the hard lines of dumpsters and the more organic piles of God-only-knows-what-else.  Even the curb-side buildings were covered in ominous graffiti spiraling like a warning sign, shooing away the curious.

“We’uh heuh.”  Dallas shifted into park and turned off the car.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Nope.  You wan’ed theap.  Get out and gwab hith feet.”

“I swear, if this goes south, I’m leaving your ass and getting on the next bus to Topeka.”

They popped the back hatch and grabbed the body from where it lay, wrapped tight in a floral-patterned comforter.  Grappling with the upper half, Dallas led the way down the alley, Karla waddling along behind, the dead man’s knees cradled in her arms.

After splashing through puddles and dodging sleeping forms she only hoped were human, their little procession stopped at an unmarked, steel-barred door.

Pinning the corpse’s head in an unnatural position, wedged between the doorframe and his thigh, Dallas jabbed the buzzer on the wall with his thumb.

A crackly voice responded a few seconds later, “Yeah?”

“Hey Biwwy, ith Dawwas.  We need youw thewvitheth, man.”

“Man, I can’t understand a word you’re saying.  Get the hell away from my door, you bum-screwing hobo bitch.”

Dallas turned to Karla, eyes pleading.

“I can’t wait until that swelling goes down because you sound like an asshole.”  She shifted her part of the weight.  “He said, ‘Hey Billy, it’s Dallas.  We need your services.’  Or something like that anyway.”

“I don’t know no goddamn Dallas.”

Growling, Dallas said, “Ith Dawwas fwom that thit in the thixth gwade, bathtawd.”

“He says ‘It’s Dallas from that shit in the sixth grade.’  Or maybe, ‘shivving the six gays.’ Jesus, I don’t know, man.  His nose is broken and my arms are getting tired from holding this dead bastard out here.  Just open the fucking door and let us in.”

Moments later, there was a buzz and a click and the door swung open.

“Dallas!  C’mon in, man.”  A skinny black man in a stained wife-beater opened the door.  “Wow, you look like shit.”

“Thankth, Biwwy.”

The group pushed in through the door and dropped the body with a thump in the middle of the filthiest apartment Karla had ever seen.  She watched three rats haul away what she assumed was debris for their nests among the piles of refuse and rotting food.  A thin, cleared path, which led from the door, to the couch, to the kitchen, was under threat of being buried in a garbage avalanche.  And the smell.  Fuck me.

“Ew!  Don’t put it there, man.”  Billy was pointing to the body.  “This room is just for the cops and tourists.  Follow me.”

He walked into the kitchen, closed his eyes, and laid a palm on the refrigerator.  The entire thing slowly descended into the floor, revealing a stairway behind.  They trudged and stumbled down the brick steps, carrying their load, and looped back beneath the garbage parlor.

This area was more like what she had expected, a large room with a couple medical gurneys, and shelves with a mix of alchemical ingredients and high-tech gadgets lined the walls.  While maybe not sterile, it was certainly tidy.

“Put him right there.”  Billy pointed to one of the stretchers.

Karla and Dallas heaved the body onto the padded surface and stepped back, tired and breathing hard.  She was thankful to be done dragging the heavy bastard around.

“We need yohw hehwp.  We need to weanimathe thith thuckehw.”

After briefly inspecting the body, checking pupils and pulse, Billy folded his arms and glanced from Dallas, to Karla, and then back to Dallas.

Dallas motioned to Karla.

“We have money.”  She pulled out a fat roll of twenties and thumped it down on the corpse’s chest.

Billy’s eyes lit up, greedy.

“But we don’t need a full resurrection.  We want the cheap one.”  She looked to Dallas and he nodded back.  “We just need him to help find . . . a certain item for us.”

“Wight.  Weanimathun.”

“I see.”  Billy took a couple steps toward the cash, stretched out and snatched it up.  “I have just the thing, and it looks like you’ve brought just the right amount.”

Before Karla could protest, he had scurried over to the shelves and was pushing among the jars.  “This will be perfect.  Exactly what you need.”

After an age of digging and mumbling, he finally came away with a syringe and a fat vial of dark liquid.  “Best part?  This should only take about twenty minutes for potency.”

Billy worked the plunger on the needle, pulling the serum into the reservoir, then jabbed the tip viciously, straight through the comforter and into the dead man’s abdomen.  A strong push and the syringe was empty.

Satisfied with his work, Billy tossed the used needle into a nearby bedpan.  He glanced a the two of them, gesturing to some modest chairs, and said, “Can I get you guys a beer while you wait?”

After Billy strutted out into the adjoining room, Dallas leaned over and whispered into Karla’s ear, “We’hw hawe that tome by mohwning.  Bothe Hawhe by aftewnoon.”

“I hope you’re right.”  She wasn’t kidding.  She hoped for all three of their sakes.  Billy was part of this now.

The group was halfway through their beers, still chatting about sixth grade, when the covers shifted, the body beneath moaning and growling.

“Here we go, man.”  Billy grinned as he stood up out of his chair.  “Another satisfied customer.”

The covers flipped back and a head popped out.  Two big brown eyes stared at them, framed by long floppy ears and lolling tongue.

“What the fuck?”  Karla’s eyes widened, horrified.  “It’s a fucking dog!”

“Yeah.  I figured a bloodhound would be the most useful form to take in the reincarnation process.  Especially if you wanted to find something.”

“i thaid weanimathe, dipthith!  weanimathe!  Not weincawnathe!”

The dropped beer bottle rattled across the floor, splashing beer everywhere, but Karla didn’t see it.  She was already up the stairs and pounding down the alley with plans on catching the 11pm bus at 74th and Damen.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2016, 05:07:45 PM by Anonymous »
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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2016, 08:15:52 AM »
The Grinning Man

Spoiler for Hiden:

The fires of autumn were fully alight,
sleeping trees the only witness that night.
A soft breeze was moaning, a wolf gave a bark,
rusty gates squeaked and soon came the dark...

A girl wandered lost in the midst of the trees.
A forest so thick she could only just see,
passed all the boles that crowded her path.
Wood fingers danced wild, rocked by the wind's wrath.

Her village was north, she was sure it was so.
But which way she walked now, how was she to know?
The pitch of night fell around the young girl,
and inches away purple clouds did unfurl.

Shifting and changing, adrift with the wind,
the purple fog cackled and started to sing.
"Little girl wandering, how came you to me?
This is my haunted forest, do you now see?

"I own all the trees and the roots and the leaves,
I own all the squirrels and badgers and bees."
The smoke coalesced in front of the child;
a tall, thin man with a horrible smile...

Dressed in a suit of purple and black,
a glowing bow-tie and a tall top hat.
Worse were his hands than even his lips,
long pointed claws dripped blood at the tips.

The girl froze in place, her legs turned to water.
Visions of blood and horrific slaughter,
filled the girls mind and she started to cry.
"It's okay, child. Everyone dies."

The grinning man swiped with vicious efficiency.
The girl was surprised it was over so quickly.
As her head toppled free, a strange thought occurred,
death was more painful, or so I'd heard.

Her body still stood in front of the man,
a defiant corpse that refused not to stand.
Giggling and clapping, "I could give you a hug."
Then she fell to the ground, earning a shrug.

"Soon the leaves will cover you whole,"
he said as he stepped over her body, now cold.
"Autumn is best for when I go killing,
not hiding the corpse is just simply thrilling."

A black bird arrived who was late to the show,
a large inky raven... or was it a crow?
It watched as the man with the ghastly wide grin,
transformed into smoke and left with the wind.

The leaves on the ground formed a blanket above her.
Her body lay cold, no-one would discover,
the horror that happened to the girl in the park
lifeless eyes seeing nothing but dark...
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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2016, 08:26:52 PM »
Fashion Monsters

Spoiler for Hiden:
Rema had been prepared for cramped conditions and long, thankless hours, but not this. Impersonal spaces, sterile walls and tools, cloth-covered bodies; things she expected in a hospital morgue. Not beneath a modeling agency and nothing like the media's portrayal of fleshcrafter dens.

Since she'd started at Rise High and learned the truth about their models she'd been jumpy. The threat of an axe lingering at her throat a new constant in Rema's life. Thoughts of what would happen to her if discovered filled her sleep with nightmares.

Thoughts of what would happen to her family if she spoke out or tried to leave filled her waking hours. Not that she could after they'd tricked her into a binding magical contract.

With each new corpse she'd had to look over Rema felt her conscience bend and buckle. The agency only saw them as assets, rendered down into parts and rebuilt for their profit. She wasn't sure she could handle another of Tya's rants about how society shunned her craft. Or her boasts about how flawless her abominations, her children, were in their construction. Of how better they were with their customizability and lack of needs like food and sleep.

The children of damnation, as she called them in her head, had become a constant fixture in her life. If it wasn't the models themselves in the stitch room, it was their pictures plastered everywhere or in her nightmares. She often thought of the families whose loved ones' bodies had been stolen from them.

Did they suffer each time they saw familiar features hidden in a stranger's face?

She thanked every deity should could think of Tya only expected her to examine the bodies for now. Tya's few other assistants handled the processing. Tya herself handled the construction and maintenance of the models, she trusted no other with her children's care.

Rema had tried to sabotage a model once, in the beginning, but Tya had found and fixed the mistakes within hours. Rema had barely gotten out of severe trouble by passing it off as a rookie mistake. She'd been too scared to try again since then.

While she wouldn't sabotage the models again, she continued her one-sided, silent war with Tya. Most of it was little things. Move this tool here, hide that part there, send this model to the wrong stitch room. Things she could blame on ignorance, miscommunication, or absentmindedness.

It wasn't just small things though. Sometimes, when her courage ran high, she'd burn a body or two then make up excuses. They were compromised or there'd been issues with delivery and it hadn't arrived.

Then it happened, a body which shouldn't have made its way into their hands had arrived. She'd had to force down a scream when the harsh, broken smile and bleeding eyes were revealed. Weeping Grin, fatal and highly contagious with no known treatment; most healing magics she knew of made it more virulent.

She should have burned it and alerted Tya the moment she'd opened the box. Instead she cleaned his face with care and did her best to rearrange his features. Everything to hide the major symptoms; she wondered why the media hadn't raved about a weeper yet.

He was an attractive young man, so Rema had no doubts he'd be processed soon. By the time anyone realized the truth it'd be too late.

Could she condemn a person to death with such a disease?

Did it matter, the city was already infected; where there's one weeper there's a horde. She was just making sure her superiors were taken out in the spread. Drag them down into damnation with her. Those who stole bodies to supply the models, those who paid for their creation to fatten their coffers, and those who put them together.

Poetic justice if they wanted to defile corpses for their own gain.

As she moved his body to processing she prayed the outbreak wouldn't reach her family half a nation away.
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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2016, 08:27:58 PM »
DRIN

Spoiler for Hiden:
He seemed to enjoy his work.
It wasn’t the kind of work you enjoyed.

“I don’t trust him.” Through narrowed eyes, Harrap looked through the windows of his small home, watching the man as he appeared with his wagon.

“Bring out yer dead!” He rang his bell and made the first call. The man smiled and caressed the body of one of the corpses  stacked atop his wagon and covered in blood, sick and piss.

Harrap swore he saw the man once do a pirouette in the air as he graciously took the bodies from the village. Harrap stared at the man and he stared back and waved at him. He shut the blinds then turned to his mother, same time as the second bell rang. He could see some people dragging the bodies of their deceased soberly, as they marched to give the Wagonman what he wanted.

“Leave it alone, Har,” his mother croaked, as she watched Drin, still expecting him to get up. “He takes away the bodies.”
 
Harrap grunted, folding his arms.

“There’s no soul anymore. Let him take them and dispose of it,” Ma said. A cold chill went down her spine when she heard the fourth bell ring: a cruel metallic song. Harrap looked out the window gain and saw the man frown, confused as to why all the dead were not yet out.

Harrap wanted to let the last bell ring, wanted to test the man’s patience. But his mother looked like she was going to kneel and beg for him. She didn’t want the body in the house anymore. Harrap sighed and went into the kitchen, sliding a knife into his back pocket before helping her to carry Drin.

The air always felt still when Wagonman visited and Har could see everyone else trudging back to their huts, save for them and Ol’ Bat, whose limp made it more difficult to carry her own bodies.

Har eyed the man as he placed his brother into the man’s wagon. Har saw his mother walking back towards the house, but Har felt rooted to the soil. He couldn’t let the man out of his sight, not when he had Drin’s body.

“Let me help you, sir. The journey would be faster if I lend a hand.” He heard his mother gasp, then quickly shut her mouth. He didn’t watch her expression, but felt her eyes burn through the back of his skull. For some reason, he couldn’t set his sights off the man, who used his dry, cracked lips to kiss his forehead and nodded. Harrap felt for the knife in his back pocket, trying to feel safe.

***

He felt the stabs of guilt all at once for leaving his mother alone in that empty house. But each time he looked at the man, he felt it go away. They visited more villages that day, and Har’s nose scrunched up when the smell from the wagon became unbearable. The Wagonman saw him and tied a napkin scented with lavender round his nose. Har worried he was letting his guard down, as he felt the tension in his muscles ease.
      But the relaxation didn’t last for long, as he felt all the hair on his arms stand when the sun went down.
“Last stop, boy. It’s looking dark, so I’ll let yer stay at mah house.” Wagonman puckered his lips together and emitted a low hiss that pierced through the night. He brought out his bell and rang it raucously. He saw a score of eyes appear out of the blue, but they couldn’t possibly be human. They had small slits as their pupils, from which fresh blood trickled down. Wagonman shot him a dangerous glare, before settling into a sly grin. Harrap took a deep breath, holding in all his screams. He reached for his knife again, gripping the blade so tightly that it cut his skin.
     He heard the wagon creak and his head spun to that direction. He peered at the cart and saw two new bodies neatly stacked atop it. He turned back but saw no trace of the eyes again.
     “Let’s go,” Har heard, and he took off running, but still moved at the Wagonman’s pace. Harrap’s eyes started to water, as a particular smell went through his nose and filled his throat and lungs. The lavender couldn’t hide the stench and he felt like depositing all his intestines on the field that was nearest to him. He clutched his stomach and took deep breaths through his mouth, but it only made it worse. He could taste it now. He ran to the fields and hunched over, retching and dry heaving.
     He looked up and saw the mountains of bodies lining the fields—some peaceful and some macabre. He couldn’t believe that this was where he was going to lay Drin. He couldn’t accept that his brother was just another piece of meat for the flies to pick away at. His head spun and Harrap wished he stayed home. He could only imagine his mother suffering from being alone and he yearned for her too. His body didn’t feel safe in the dreary night and he wanted to rest his head on his mother’s lap while he cried himself to sleep.
     Wagonman caught up with him and rested his hand on the boy’s shoulder. Harrap could feel the man’s thin flesh and bones and wondered if the Wagonman was one whisper away from death.
     “Not here,” the man croaked. Harrap looked at the man, half relieved and half perplexed.
     “But this is the dumping grounds. If not here, where else?”
     “Follow me home.”

***

The man had an organ in the corner of the room. Harrap wasn’t sure if the man’s nimble hands would even allow the man to play well. The house was nice, way too good for a man like him.
     “Let me make yer summin’, boy.” The man limped off to the kitchen and Har studied the house, feeling the warmth of such a lived-in home—the scratches on the table, the leaks and cracks on the wall, the skele—
     He stopped and looked over at the kitchen door, before opening the door of the closet. Harrap jumped up and brought the knife out of his pocket. The closet had several corpses in it, all stacked together like they were a pack of sardines. He slammed the door after he saw it and paced around the room. He tried to exit through the front door but it was locked.
    The Wagonman came in with some biscuits and tea. Har rushed towards him and slammed him against the wall. The snacks fell out of the man’s hand and broke into pieces. Harrap’s hands shook and mind rattled. He could barely stutter out a word.
    “Y-y-yo-you-you’re mad! W-why would you keep bodies here? What are you do-doing with all these people?”
    The Wagonman drew his lips together and let out a song.
    “When the bell rings
     When the bell sings
     And the clanking makes a sound
    Leave your bodies on the ground.
   And while they lay
  Just you wait
  For the Grim Reaper to come around.”
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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2016, 07:52:30 PM »
Harry

Spoiler for Hiden:
She woke up and there he was. Scarlet smiled.

Not much had changed since he showed up three years ago slumped on top of her cheap, eight-drawer dresser like a bear rug, staring down at the floor with his eyeless sockets and toothy mouth. Not much except his hair. That particular remnant of humanity had somehow continued to grow out the dead man’s skull. She didn’t think hair was supposed to grow out of dead skulls, but what did she know? Scarlet was only ten.

“Morning, Harry!” she said, her bedsprings making the same old squeaky noise it always made. Mother told Scarlet she would get a new bed when she turned ten. But instead mother took her step-father, Trevor, to Mexico and left her here with grandma and grandpa. Scarlet hadn’t minded though. She hated Trevor and she’d been glad he wouldn’t be here for her big day.
 
No one else could see Harry, of course. He showed up when she was only seven years old, and when her mom took her to the doctor, he said that it was a “stage of grief” Scarlet was going through after her real daddy died in a plane crash.
 
Scarlet didn’t know what daddy had to do with a corpse on her dresser, and she took her mother to the room and pointed at the dead man’s grinning face as she cried and cried and begged her mother to look harder. But she couldn’t see it. No one but Scarlet could, and when she tried sneaking into her mother’s bed at night, Trevor picked her up, took her back to her room and locked the door.
 
Scarlet had spent the entire night crying, but when morning came and she saw that it was dead dead like the big spider she’d squished outside her bedroom door, she felt better. Scarlet tried talking to it and found it was just like anything else that didn’t have brains, or a heart, or all those other things the Wizard of Oz characters were missing. It was dead, and that was that.

Scarlet walked over to her dresser and winked up at Harry, who remained motionless and stiff as a gargoyle. Once she tried moving him to a place under her bed where he could be more comfortable, but no matter how hard she tried, he just wouldn’t move. Harry was a part of her black dresser like any drawer or handle. Scarlet liked him there.

But something was different this morning. “Harry, did you move?” Scarlet reached up and swept the hair away from his decayed, skeletal face. “You did move! Oh, look here!”

For three years his chin had rested on her top drawer, preventing her from opening it. It didn’t bother Scarlet much when she was younger. She was too small to reach up and inside the drawer anyway.

But this development intrigued her young and curious mind. Harry’s head was tilted up now, so that he was looking directly at her bed. Scarlet liked him better the way he’d been before, but now she could use her top drawer!
 
“That was nice of you, Harry. Now I have a place to put all my books!” she exclaimed, beaming up at him. She opened the drawer and heard something rolling around inside. What could it be?

Looking up at Harry, she slid her hand in the drawer and felt something round and squishy, like two tiny rubber balls. She clasped them both in her hand and when she opened it two dilated pupils looked up at her. Scarlet screamed and dropped the eyes on the ground before running into the hall and calling for her mother.

Oh no! she remembered, making it only halfway down the hall. Mother was out of town for the weekend! She turned to go back to her room when Trevor lumbered around the corner.

“I’m trying to sleep, Scarlet! Get the fuck back into your room and don’t come out until I tell you. I swear if I have to say it twice –.”

She bolted back into her room and slammed the door, cutting him off mid-sentence. She could hear him swearing on the other side, stomping over the empty beer cans he left all over the house the night before.
 
With her back pressed up against the door, Scarlet looked down at the two glossy eyes staring up at her, the irises sky blue with pupils so big they looked to swallow her up. The longer she stared at them the less menacing they seemed. They were just like Harry, she thought. Dead as dead, just a couple of eyeballs hiding in her dresser. Scarlet giggled.

“Harry, are these yours?” As always, there was no response. She crept over to the eyes, picked them up and held them in front of Harry’s face as if to taunt him. “Do you want these? I bet you do! You’re gonna have to come get them!” But before she could scamper back to her bed the eyes flew from her hands and slipped into the corpse’s sockets with a sickening squishing sound. “What? How . . . how did you do that?”
 
Scarlet went to call Trevor, but then stopped. The last time she disobeyed Trevor he’d taken his big, brown belt to her bottom and made Scarlet promise to never tell mom. Scarlet remembered the pain, how she couldn’t sit down in her chair at school unless she put her winter jacket underneath her bum. No, Trevor was tired and angry. He’d probably do something even worse!

Harry moved! Just a little tilt of the head, but he’d moved. Scarlet hurried to her bed and hid beneath the sheets. Breathing heavy, she could hear cracking, squishing and the scraping of bone on wood. There was a loud creak. It was her warped floorboards bending and resetting. Only Trevor made the floorboards do that, so Scarlet peered up from beneath her sheets, for once in her life praying it was her step-father.

She saw Harry’s back, a mixture of yellowed skeleton and gangrene flesh covered by a tattered layer of green and burgundy cloth. He was rooting through the top drawer, and when he found what he was looking for he held it in the air in triumph. It squirmed in his hand like an over-sized, pink slug, and when he turned around to face her, Harry put it in his mouth, rolled back his skull and shook his jaw side to side. After five seconds he let out a haunting sigh. Scarlet wailed louder than she thought she knew how and peed herself.

“Hellooo Scarrrlet,” Harry said, his voice like a strong gale blowing through a cracked window. He stared at her through his long and grey hair with his big, lidless eyes as he bobbed back and forth. He took two steps toward her. “I’ve come a loooong way to see youuu. Do you know whyyyy?”
 
Scarlet couldn’t scream any more. She was white with fright, arms extended helplessly as she tried to ward Harry off with her small hands. But he kept coming, slow and rhythmic as he dragged his feet along the floor. That was when Trevor burst through the door, red and sweating forty-percent alcohol and sixty percent rage.

“What did I fucking tell you?” he pulled his belt from his waist, studded with little metal beads. Scarlet began sobbing uncontrollably, unsure what to be afraid of more: The belt, or the grinning corpse standing before her.

“Look!” she said, pointing at Harry. “Look, he’s real!”

Harry pivoted toward Trevor and the blood left her step-father’s face. He froze, his body shaking as a wet streak of piss ran down his grey jeans and pooled at his bare feet. Trevor tried to scream, but his neck tensed up and the veins bulged in his neck. He shifted his hopeless gaze to Scarlet.

Scarlet liked it. For once Trevor had no power and he couldn’t hurt her. Harry was here, and Harry was going to protect her. She knew for sure when he stopped in front of Trevor, knocked the belt out of his hand and lifted him off the ground by his throat.

“Yeeess?” Harry asked in his spectral voice. Scarlet knew that if she let Trevor leave this room he would come back later and hurt her. She looked at Harry and said yes in her softest voice.

A cloud of swirling black ash surrounded them and before Scarlet could count to ten it was over. Nothing was left of Trevor but a limp skeleton in beer-stained clothes, and when Harry turned around Scarlet smiled.

Even though Harry looked exactly like her step-father she knew it wasn’t true. He was smiling at her. Trevor never smiled at her.

END
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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2016, 06:00:39 PM »
A Song for the Dead

Spoiler for Hiden:
I sing this song in the name of the dead.
For all those who have no voice of their own.
In memory of those now departed.
Who  left us to manage their meat covered bones.
The corpses, forgotten, lie waiting in graves
Or hollows, or ditches, should it be said
That even in death, money can be saved.
There always are some who profit from death.
The eternal rest, so it is described.
Yet how can they sleep? Smothered, drowned in dirt?
A stone marks their bed, and on it inscribed
A witticism, some pithy last words
Holding the ideals of those in decay.
But words, like corpses, shall soon fade away.
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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2016, 04:03:34 PM »
The Unidentified Corpse of Stony River, 1922

Spoiler for Hiden:
Great-granddaughter,

If you are reading this I should assume that I am dead, and you are looking at this letter with some puzzlement. I regret that I never spoke of this to you in person, but some things are easier to tell with pen and paper.

You should already have met Jeffery, who has agreed to discuss all of the financials and accounts that have been placed under your name. Do well for your children, Meredith. And for god’s sake, spend some of it on yourself. That is my final request, so I expect you to honor it.

Now, I’ve left plenty of other letters for emotional things that I have stowed away, so let me explain why this one was written. I’m writing this because I believe you, though I never came out and said it. I was afraid, I suppose. Thinking back to my own experiences with the supernatural has frightened me, and honestly, I felt that digging those old memories up would begin to haunt my dreams.

After finally deciding that I would write this letter and explain to you the nature of my experience, she found me. Well, memories of her, I should say. It has indeed haunted me these last few weeks.

It was early spring and the countryside was gaining back the color winter had stripped away. The sun’s heat made the days hotter, and the nights warmer. I had been troubled by something that my grandfather had told me before his death. He was part of the Thirsty Horses gang. I’ve left some articles that I clipped for you to read and saved some penny novels that were published during that time. All lies, of course, but they wrote what they had to for people to pay attention.

After the war, he took up life as an outlaw. He robbed banks, trains, wagons. You name it, they took it. After retiring, he came back home, burying his gold in fake graves on the farm. A few years later he caught a fever and fell into a coma. The mayor came during this time and offered to buy a small plot of land that had those graves with grandfather’s gold. She never knew of his past, and grandfather knew better than to tell her. She wouldn’t have forgiven him I think.

The mayor turned that plot of land into a cemetery and had four massive pillars erected as boundaries, covered in runes that would protect the spirits of the dead. Cemeteries were places for looters in those days, so pastors began to use holy runes to protect them from grave robbers. They worked, too.

So, when grandfather recovered and learned of the cemetery, he knew his gold was lost forever. A pastor had taken note of the unmarked graves beneath a hickory tree, and carved runes of blessing and protection into them. Any person that tried to harm the grave would bring death upon themselves.

He would never touch the gold again. Thirty years later, grandfather sat in his bed dying as he told me this story. During his funeral, I made a vow that I would find a way. Little did I know that the way would actually find me.

I visited the cemetery often for grandfather, but I also spent a considerable time staring at the unmarked tombstones. Then, one night after falling asleep on a bench, I woke when the moon was full at the top of the sky. I watched it a while, then felt something. I didn’t know what it was, but it was a pulling sensation, as if little strings were embedded into my flesh. They tugged and I turned toward the hickory tree. A blackness stood, nearly shapeless mere feet from where I sat. Fear struck me stronger than I had ever felt before. I couldn’t look away. It held my gaze, lured me in as it undulated and whirled. It came closer, I threw every ounce of my strength against the invisible force that held me, but found myself standing. I took a step forward, then another.

I can’t recall returning home that night, but I woke the next morning in my room. Light from the morning sun caught the dust floating about, but as my eyes focused, I felt the cold dread settle into my stomach. Writing covered the walls of my room, written in an erratic hand. The room blurred as memories that were not my own flashed in my head.

Thrashing, choking, dying.

I vomited, lay trembling for hours. I knew at that moment that the blackness from the cemetery was her. The girl whose memories had played in my head.

The memories of that night haunt me still, so forgive me, but I will not detail them further.

It took the better part of a year to find the man I went looking for. I won’t mention his name, but I knew him the moment I saw him. It wasn’t hard to befriend someone of his nature. Alcohol could sway even the most stubborn of people.

I told him of my grandfather’s gold as if it were a family tale, but mentioned I had a way into the cemetery that would prevent any harm from befalling me. Upon hearing that, he insisted we take a look. He would have killed me and taken the gold for himself. I could see his thoughts. At least, I felt I could at that moment.

We traveled back to Stony River and waited for nightfall. We entered the cemetery and found a grave whose runes had been scrapped off, the name no longer legible. Armed with shovels, we dug.

Nearly halfway down, I stood to stretch my back. Over the man’s shoulder I saw a shadow. It lurked near the hickory tree, watching, pulsing. It did not pull at me, but I found myself lost in its depths.

I felt a tugging on my sleeve that returned my focus. “You okay?” He said.

I didn’t respond, just kept shoveling. Sometime later my shovel clunked into wood. We cleared the top of the casket and I set to work popping the lid with the back of a hammer. “Damn! I ain’t never smelled something like that in my whole life! You sure this is the right grave?”

“I’m sure,” I said, snapping the last board and tossing the lid over. There she was, a mess of bones and decay. A girl of twelve, life cut short and left to rot in an alley. A gust of wind ripped through the cemetery, nearly lifting both of us away.

“The hell is this, Mathias? Ain’t no gold in here!” He grabbed me by the collar and slammed me into the dirt behind. “You said you knew where it was.”

“I know where it is.” He hit me in the jaw and my knees buckled.

“What game you tryin’ to pull?”

“Bettie Price,” I said. His eyes widened as he glanced at the corpse below. “It’s her.” Bettie’s memories returned to me, reliving the horror of that night again. “The girl you strangled.”

Lost in the memories, I didn’t see the second punch coming. I spit blood as he hauled me to my feet. “I ain’t listenin’ to anymore-“

“She knew what I wanted,” I said. “She scrapped the runes herself, breaking their power. She wanted you to see her one last time, one last look that will fill your mind for all eternity once she had her way with you.”

I saw him look up. The horror on his face told me what he saw. Why she didn’t hold him as she did me, I don’t know. Perhaps she wanted him to feel the terror that he had once given her. He scrambled out of the grave and ran.

I hauled myself up, grabbed a sledgehammer from grandfather’s wagon and walked to the old hickory tree. Four graves. Three fake. One grandfather’s.

There was a shriek so startling that I still get chills thinking on it. It cut off with a loud rip, like someone tearing strong fabric. I took a breath, lifted the sledge and brought it down onto the first tombstone. It cracked. The second hit broke a piece free, a third sent the stone shattering to pieces. Gold bars fell from inside the tombstone.
I broke the other two, loaded up the gold into the wagon and walked toward the gate. I stopped at Bettie’s grave. Fresh blood coated the casket, but it had been resealed somehow. It didn’t take long to cover her back up.

The blood trail led back to the man’s corpse, or at least, what was left of it. I left with the gold, which I now leave to you.

When I say I believe what happened to you, know that I speak the truth. Please forgive me for telling you this in a letter. I’ve written as much as I can bear.
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Offline Anonymous

Re: [Oct 2016] - Corpses - Submission Thread
« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2016, 06:54:20 PM »
Navigator

Spoiler for Hiden:
The hissing of an air pump. The beeping of a low oxygen warning. It was these sounds, and no others, that woke Adrian Martinez from his pleasant dream. He was watching the ocean with Mia and Scott.

There was no ocean in deep space. Deep space was where Adrian was now, and he realized that with the lazy certainty of an oxygen-starved brain. Above him, his scout ship's canopy looked out onto the stars, a canopy with three tiny holes in it. Bullet holes.

The system sun crested the horizon on his cockpit's left edge, and Adrian realized his silent ship was slowly spinning. He squinted through crystals of water and blood. How the hell was he still alive?

Hands that moved slowly in zero-gravity thumped his flight suit. Gloved fingers slid across his faceplate, the one that had automatically snapped shut when the enemy bullets zipped through the canopy. There were no holes in his suit, or if there were, his suit had sealed them.

The sun set on the right edge of his cockpit, and the world went dark again.

Their ship had vented to vacuum long ago. His suit's internal oxygen had kept him alive while he slept, but he had obviously slept too long, because now it was angry at him. He needed to get them home.

Adrian sorted through blurred memories. Flight command had given him constellations to use as guides if the waypoint system malfunctioned. Those constellations would help him orient the ship. Maybe his navigator...

Shit! She hadn't said a word since he woke up. What if she was hurt, or dying?

Adrian twisted in his chair, but the straps fought him, so he popped the straps and floated off his seat. He pushed up and started a slow twist, careful not to overdo it, and stared at the shadow in the seat behind him. Airman Shelly Hart didn't speak, and no lights glowed on her suit.

The sun rose, illuminating Hart's suit, and her shattered faceplate, and the staring blue eyes inside her helmet. The pale face covered in little flecks of ice. No oxygen warning was beeping inside her helmet.

Adrian watched her until the sun set.

His oxygen-starved brain refused to focus on anything but the woman who should be alive right now, but wasn't. His partner. He tried to remember who Hart had waiting for her back on Earth. He vaguely recalled a sister, and a father. Hart's mother died on Titan, in one of the first enemy attacks.

Adrian pushed against the canopy and back into his seat. He fumbled with his straps as the sun rose and set, squinting through droplets of Hart's blood. Once he was strapped in again, he focused on the stars that would guide them both home. They, like his memories, were blurry now.

He couldn't die out here, not yet, because he needed to get Hart's body home. He knew what it felt like when someone you loved didn't come home, because that's where his brother was now, not home. Not dead, not prisoner, just missing, and forever. He wouldn't do that to Hart's family or his own.

Adrian flipped the emergency start. Nothing happened. He flipped off all the auxiliaries, counted to 10, and flipped them on again. He waited as the sun rose and set.

A single yellow button glowed inside his cockpit. That glow was joined by others, banks of tiny green lights that rapidly turned yellow or red. As glowing guidelines floated before him and a 360 threat sphere materialized above his flight stick, hope struggled to the surface of his drowning mind.

Yet as Adrian's gloved hands wrapped around the flight stick, as his booted feet hovered above the thrust pedals, he didn't know where to go. Navigation was one of the red lights - the destroyed systems - and while he knew the fleet had set a rendezvous point for survivors, he had no idea where it was.

Hart would have known. She could read the stars of this system better than any map. She would tell him how to spin the ship and go home, but she was now a corpse in his back seat.

Adrian focused on the briefing he barely remembered and tried not to scream. There were no constellations beyond his canopy. Just thousands of tiny blinking lights, all waiting to watch him die.

The sun rose and set again.

The sun. He would aim their ship for the sun, because the engagement map had them heading rimward from the carrier, toward the enemy. Heading coreward would take them home.

Adrian only had one thruster left, but it wasn't like he actually had to stop. He cancelled the spin and pushed toward the sun. He had always hated how the stars didn't move, how it felt like nothing was moving at all. With no navigation screen to track their velocity, the stillness was maddening.

He wanted to tell Hart they'd make it home. He wanted to sleep because he was very, very tired, but falling asleep was also falling dead. He couldn't do either just yet.

"Martinez?" Hart's voice echoed through the speakers in his helmet, barely audible.

Was he hearing things? "Hart?" He was too tired to look behind him.

"The fuck are you doing?" Her voice was weak, quiet, but it was her.

"You're alive!" Had he imagined the cracks in her faceplate?

"No shit." Her familiar snark cut through the blanket of disorientation infesting his brain. "Is that why you're trying to kill us?"

"I'm not trying to kill us."

"On this vector you are. The Slingshot's 40 degrees off port."

The Slingshot! Adrian saw it then, the constellation, just where Hart said it would be. "Hot damn."

"Turn the ship, you idiot."

Adrian oriented their nose toward the constellation. "Done. What's next?"

"Straight up from the Slingshot, 20 degrees."

Right. That's what Captain Fallon said in the briefing, up 20 degrees. Thank God for Hart's clear head.

"Now right 15," she whispered. "Right 15."

Adrian turned the ship. He fired the thruster, burned the last of their fuel, and grinned wide. "Hey, think we'll get a medal for this?"

"Just get us home, pilot," Hart whispered inside his helmet.

That ended the small talk, because they both needed air to live. Yet they were headed in the right direction now. Rescuers would find them, alive or not, so no matter what, their families wouldn't wonder.

Adrian eventually lost his fight with sleep, but a loud pop shattered that peaceful black. He blinked bloodshot eyes as a plastic mask crushed his face, as oxygen fought its way back into his lungs. Even though the blur, he recognized the blocky lines of the carrier's launch bay. Medals for everyone.

He struggled as medics in red jumpsuits pulled him from a ship filled with holes. As they settled him on a stretcher, holding the mask over his face, he tried to ask them about Hart. He couldn't, but that was okay. They'd find her and save her, too, and they'd have one hell of a story to tell.

He slept again.

Adrian woke once more in a soft bed. Captain Fallon sat beside him. The sight of his commanding officer caused one arm to stiffen instinctively, but Fallon said "at ease" before he could try, and fail, to salute her. He nodded instead, and then he asked her the first question to enter his head.

"Did Hart make it?"

"No, and I'm sorry." Fallon squeezed Adrian's shoulder, but her comfort felt cold in the face of her words. "There was nothing we could do for her."

Adrian felt a heavy weight settle in his chest.

"Even so," Fallon said, "you got her home. You got the both of you home, and that's something."

Adrian sat back. "It was Hart who got us home, sir."

Fallon narrowed her eyes. "How's that?"

"I blacked out after we took three rounds to the canopy. After I woke up, Hart told me how to orient the ship. She remembered the constellations, sir."

Fallon was quiet for a moment. "Hart told you how to get home?"

"Yes sir. It should be on the tapes, sir."

"The only voice on those tapes is you, Martinez, and your vitals are clear. Hart died the moment those bullets penetrated. It wasn't your fault."

Nausea blossomed as Adrian remembered Hart's pale face and staring eyes. "She was alive, sir."

"The tapes say otherwise."

"Then the tapes are wrong, sir."

Fallon watched him for a moment. "Airman Hart guided you home, correct?"

"Yes sir."

"Then that's what I'll report." Fallon stood. "That's what I'll tell her family."

Adrian relaxed. "Thank you, sir."

"Get some rest."

Adrian tried to make sense of things after Fallon left. He knew he'd heard Hart's voice in his helmet, her whispers directing their ship. The tapes were wrong. The tapes had to be wrong.

But even if they weren't, his navigator had guided them both home.

THE END
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