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Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: The September-December contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:06 am GMT 
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Writing Contest entries for the September-December Writing Contest

Theme- "Better Now than Never"


This thread will contain all 10 excellent entries for the writing contest as well as a link to where you can vote for them. They will be posted in roughly the order in which I received them. Please take the time to read through them all (though I recommend not in one sitting!)

Their titles are, in order.


Friendship is Madness- the Secret of Zecora
Among the Costegrag Mountains
The Staircase
The Lord is Our Butcher
The Hunters
Procrastination
Two Shots of Bourbon make a Man
Windy, Snowy, Foggy
Foreign Lands
Redemption


Voting

You can vote by visiting the following link and filling out your choices for first, second and third place, as well as for the special awards.

Vote in the “Better Now than Never contest

Note that you cannot vote the same entry for more than one place, and you obviously can't vote for yourself! You can vote the same story more than once for the special awards however.

Consider all aspects of the story, style, writing quality, composition and content, including how much it fits the theme, when voting.

If you have any problems or fill something in wrong, PM me and I’ll sort it out.

You will have 2 weeks in which to vote- from now until the 29th December.

Be sure and use your Lackadaisy forum name to fill in the survey, especially if you are a contest participant.

All contest participants must vote or risk disqualification.


Comments


Comment on the entries here

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 Post subject: Re: The September-December contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:07 am GMT 
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Title: Friendship is Madness: The Secret of Zecora.

Twilight Sparkle decided to take a walk. It was late, but not quite bedtime for this little pony. She walked towards the town center. There were a few lights here and there in the windows. She looked up at the sky. The stars shone humbly, she found, and as an afterthought she added to herself, if that makes sense. She walked some more. She had just arrived at Sugarcube Corner when she saw Zecora walking towards the Everfree Forest. Twilight hadn‘t seen her for quite some time and ran towards her.
„Hi, Zecora! I haven‘t seen you in a while“, she said as she approached Zecora.
„What are you doing here at this hour, Twilight? I didn‘t think I would see anypony so late at night“, said Zecora.
„Oh, I was just taking a walk before going to bed“, answered Twilight. She shivered. It was rather cold.
„Why not head home where it‘s hot, it is rather cold, is it not?“
„I guess that would be a good idea. Nice seeing you, Zecora!“
„Seeing you too was nice. But now it is time for our goodbyes“.
They both headed home.

The morning after, Twilight went to see Fluttershy. Fluttershy was not at home. Twilight looked everywhere for her, but she was nowhere to be found. There was only one place Twilight had not combed over in her search for Fluttershy. „She would never go to the Everfree Forest“, Twilight said to herself, „at least not on her own“. She walked, as she pondered where Fluttershy was, to Carousel Boutique. Maybe Rarity could tell her where Fluttershy was. But when she arrived nopony was there. So she went to Sugarcube Corner. She asked the Cakes whether they had seen either Fluttershy or Rarity, but they didn´t even know where Pinkie Pie was. Twilight was growing uneasy about this whole thing. She was worried about her friends. What if something happened to them?
She absentmindedly went home to the library. When she arrived she couldn‘t recall any reason for going there. She saw Zecora walking towards the Everfree Forest. She ran towards her.
„Zecora! Have you seen any of my friends? They‘re nowhere to be found!“, Twilight said frantically.
“Do not worry your little head! I only invited them to my homestead!”, answered Zecora.
“Oh. Thank goodness!”, said Twilight. She was relieved. “I guess I didn’t need to worry!”
“Why don’t you come with me? I have something I want you to see”
Both of them went inside the Everfree Forest.

They didn´t go straight to Zecora’s house, but took a detour and went much deeper into the forest. It became eerier and eerier as they went deeper. Soon they arrived at a bright spot amidst the trees. The trees formed a circle around a bed of roses, that shone blue, then yellow and then green.
“See these flowers that change. They are, indeed, rather strange”, said Zecora.
“They are strange. But pretty. What are these called? I have never seen them before”, said Twilight.
“This flower is called a Rainbow Rose. Why don’t you look at them from up close?”
Twilight went closer, and the roses started to shine much brighter.
“They also smell nice and sweet, nothing their smell can defeat”
Twilight took a sniff. They did smell good and they gave Twilight a strange feeling. She felt much lighter and everything around her became so much more interesting.
“Twilight, come now with me. There is more I want you to see”, said Zecora.
They continued their journey deeper into the forest

Twilight swore she could hear voices. She couldn’t hear what they said, which added to their creepiness.
“What are these voices?” asked Twilight.
“Do not pay attention to those. They are creatures that draw you close. If you get to close they bite, and that would be the end of you, alright!” answered Zecora.
Twilight said nothing, but she kept close to Zecora. They arrived at a spring.
“This spring has a funny effect. Go on and drink! It is not what you’ll expect!” said Zecora.
“I don´t know what to expect!” said Twilight, excited to try the spring. She drank.
Everything started spinning. She also saw double.
“Zecora, what is happe…”
She never finished that sentence since she passed out.

It was pitch black when Twilight Sparkle woke up.
“Zecora? Zecora!” she shouted.
“T-Twilight?” said a familiar voice.
“Fluttershy? Is that you? What’s happening?” asked Twilight.
“I don’t know, but I’m scared”, answered Fluttershy and began to whimper.
“Don’t worry, Fluttershy! I’ll get us out of here!” said Twilight reassuringly.
She tried to do an illuminating spell, but she found out, much to her horror, that she couldn’t feel her horn. It had been broken off.
“My horn!” she screamed. Tears welled down her cheeks as she tried to break free from the shackles that held her to the wall. Suddenly, they heard a creak as a door was opened and a little light escaped inside the room.
“Now, now, my dear little Fluttershy!
Now it is time for you to die!”
Fluttershy cried and pleaded for mercy, but to no avail. She was dragged outside the room, and Zecora slammed the door shut. Twilight was alone. She started to sob. Now she knew what had become of her friends.

She was not quite certain for how long she had been there. It could have been hours, a day even. She felt tired, sad and above all, angry. She tried with all her might to break free. She tried casting spells, but nothing happened, she pulled at the chains, but they would not break. She couldn’t stop hearing the last cries Fluttershy made and she also couldn’t stop thinking about what awaited her. The door opened and the light hurt her eyes.
“Oh, it is time my dear Twilight. The stars happen to be just right!”
Zecora dragged her out of the room. Twilight tried as she might to break from her grip but it was quite impossible with all hoofs tied.
She was dragged up to an altar stained with blood. Fluttershy’s blood, thought Twilight.
Zecora picked up a crooked knife and chanted:
Your time has come, O Great Old One, you shall rise as this deed is done!”
As soon as she finished the chant she cut Twilights torso open, enough for the blood to pour out, but not so much that she would die too quickly. The pain was unbearable as the blood floated slowly up to the ceiling and formed a circle. Soon, something black formed inside the circle, a whirlpool. Twilight was getting sleepy but she forced herself to keep awake. She was not going to die there, she decided. The whirlpool whirled above her. Out of it came tentacles. Twilight screamed and tried to break free as the tentacles groped her. She felt all kinds of unimaginable pain (which, in fact, is much too imaginable when you get down to it) as the tentacles pulled her from the altar and devoured her.
“Take this pony and rule this realm!
Come forth from your eternal hell!
Rise! Rise, Plothufa and rule forever!
It is better to rule now than never!”
These words were the last thing Twilight heard before she slowly faded into oblivion.

The end.

Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Zecora and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic are copyrighted to Hasbro.

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 Post subject: Re: The September-December contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:09 am GMT 
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Among the Costegrag Mountains

They had travelled for a long distance, and the days stretched out behind them heavier than the miles did. Each of them knew the importance of their journey, and the importance of completing it quickly. They were tired already, tired of sleeping on the ground in the cold night air, saddle-sore, and tired of eating dried rations without the luxury of a campfire. Things were only going to get worse before they got better, though, and there was no use complaining when they were not even halfway through their quest.

Gwyn knew it more than the rest of them. He was no seasoned warrior – only a boy of nineteen who had grown up fighting away imaginary wolves from his father’s pastures – but he refused to be the weak one. He was supposed to be their leader, after all – his sister was the Queen now, and he had a reputation to uphold. More than any other time in his life, he had a point to prove. The Woodeward family had quietly kept to their own little dukedom, staying out of the wider politics of the realm, until now; it was up to him to prove that they were worthy of royalty. Though it would have been easy for him to curse the day that the King ever set eyes on his dear, sweet sister, he would not let himself go down that route. Things happened in life; better to deal with them when they did, than spend your life ruing the fact that they had.

Still, the unavoidable fact remained that it was down to their marriage that he was here, now, looking up at those formidable mountains that they had yet to cross. He shivered slightly as his eyes wandered over the snowy peaks and crags of the range, the natural border of his sister’s kingdom. If they had never married, she would never have become a political target – would never have been poisoned – would never have needed the antidote that could only be obtained from the forested hillsides of the country that lay on the other side of these mountains. Worse still was the fact that Clevenfeld, the country in question, was the very country that they were currently at war with – and the Cleven armies surely knew that somebody would be coming to seek out the antidote. Their journey thus far had been stealthy and lacking in home comforts, but that was all. From here on in it would be fraught with danger, and the chance of them all making it out alive was a slim one.

But what else was he to do? Leave his sister to die a slow, agonising death as the poison gradually wasted her away? Gwyn shrugged his sword belt more comfortably over his shoulder and nudged his horse forward. There was no other option.

‘This is it, then,’ Martin commented in a low tone, sounding just as apprehensive as Gwyn felt. Though he was only a handful of months older, he had seen battle, and as far as Gwyn could gather that had been the only reason that the King had allowed him to join their party. He was glad to have a friend along with him, particularly one of his own generation, to keep him company. Sir Geoffrey Groston was much older and quite reserved, and while Reynold Longton was only in his mid-twenties he was still a world’s worth of experience away from the two of them. Gwyn did not feel quite as much as though he was being mocked, when Martin was there to be young and green with him.

‘Aye, well, no time like the present,’ Reynold grinned, urging his own horse forward a little faster than the others, as if to compete for the title of the most eager to save the Queen.

Gwyn gritted his teeth against saying anything or calling him back into line, and glancing around at Sir Geoffrey he felt appeased by the similar look of annoyance on his face. Swallowing down his feelings, he took a breath to calm himself and focused on reaching the first pass that would take them into the mountains, knowing that now more than ever he had to stay alert.

The air grew colder as their path wound upwards, between two great rock faces that threatened to block out the sky if they narrowed any further. The maps showed this crevasse continuing for at least a few hours’ ride, and then opening out onto a more open series of ridges that would lead them steadily upwards. Gwyn, along with his companions, could only hope that their journey had so far gone unnoticed, and that no ambush lay in wait for them.

They had almost reached the opening that led to the first ridge when Sir Geoffrey uttered a low, sharp warning. Ahead of them, a slight movement betrayed the presence of a man dressed in grey, perfectly camouflaged against the rock walls of the pass. He was not alone – behind and above them, looking down upon them, more men were appearing, all wearing the same uniform. They did not yet strike – it was probable that they were only a scouting party, and not an attack force sent purposefully to catch and attack the group – but when they realised that the invaders were Alreish, they were sure to set upon them with a vengeance.

‘Looks like we’ll be hard pressed to get out of this one, chaps,’ Reynold breathed, not with any trace of cowardice, but with a grim recognition of the situation. ‘Someone’s going to die here, whether us or them.’

‘Better now, in the service of my King and country,’ Sir Geoffrey murmured in reply, ‘Than never, and live as a coward.’

‘There’s a sentiment I can understand,’ Martin agreed, his hand resting ready on the pommel of his sword, a moment’s thought away from drawing it and entering the fray.

A few paces ahead of them, Reynold had already drawn an arrow and notched it to his bow, waiting, the tip pointing at the ground for now instead of at a target, but ready to go. All they needed was one sign of aggression, and everything would begin. The horses stepped forward uneasily, picking up on the tension in the air, and the sudden, absolute quiet as each side waited for the other to make the first move.

Finally, a single arrow whizzed through the air towards them, clattering sharply against the side of the mountain, and Reynold fired back. The fight was on.

The Cleven scouts soon joined them in the pass, their advantage lost as Reynold shot down both of their archers with expert shots. Though Martin may have been chosen by Gwyn, Reynold and Sir Geoffrey had been handpicked from the King’s armies. They were not untried boys or unskilled stable hands – they knew their way around a skirmish, and they were renowned for it. Sir Geoffrey’s broadsword swung a deadly arc in the air as he wheeled his horse to face those advancing from behind, while Martin dismounted and stepped forward against the couple of men who had guarded the opening ahead of them. Without even discussing it, they kept Gwyn between them, only able to take on anyone who would pass them. He resented that, even though some part of his brain told him that it was the sensible and right defensive position to take.

He shook the reins of his warhorse impatiently; a young stallion, he had fire in his belly and a hunger for blood that had been bred into him. Gwyn knew how to end this quickly, and he did not want to see his friends or companions hurt. Urging the horse towards Martin, he reached forward to pull him out of the way by his collar as they reared up, deadly hooves smashing down on the one man Martin had not yet dispatched. Turning, they saw that Geoffrey, too, had finished with his attackers – and the skyline was, for the moment, clear.

‘Let’s get out of here,’ Gwyn shouted, gesturing towards the clear opening. Who knew how far behind the scouting party the main body of soldiers were?

‘Better now than never,’ Martin grinned, jumping back onto his horse even as it started to move without him, and the party headed as one for the clear space ahead of them, hooves drumming a steady rhythm against the ground.

Gwyn took one glance back, at the crumpled bodies littering the floor of the pass, dark blood seeping out around them. That had been his first real fight, the first man he had killed. Something in the pit of his stomach was struggling to get out, but he swallowed it down and turned away, urging his horse on faster. Kill or be killed – that was how it had to be now, and hadn’t he dreamed of this, as a young boy playing in the keep? Hadn’t he hoped for this when they first came to court? Hadn’t he felt a rush of pride when the King gifted him his first real war sword? No matter what feelings arose inside him, this was his reality now. He remembered his sister, lying so weakly in that chamber that smelt of death and roses, her faint voice begging him to be careful, and whatever it was that was in his stomach went still. He was going to save her – no matter the cost.

Their path began to lead upwards now, steeply, and their scope of vision widened until they could see a large amount of the surrounding area. Turning for a moment’s rest, they each took in the distance to the horizon on either side – how far they had come, and how far they had yet to go. Their only comfort was the lack of movement around them; perhaps the army had not yet missed their scouts, and had not thought to send anyone looking for them. The bodies in the pass were hidden to them at this angle. Softly, without a moment’s warning, it began to snow.

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 Post subject: Re: The September-December contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:10 am GMT 
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The Staircase

Man fell into a man hole. He slipped through empty space for a long time before he landed next to Satan. Satan was drinking alone, playing what looked like solitaire, though Man quickly realized it was poker.

“It’s broken,” said Satan.

Indignantly, Man rose, brushed himself off, and fell over.

“Which bone?” he whimpered.

“Most of them.”

“Oh.”

Something dripped in the gloom. Cards shuffled between Satan’s fingers.

“Who are you?” gasped Man, at last, to distract from the pain.

“I’m Satan,” said Satan.

She dealt herself four aces, but was beaten by her royal flush.

“Are you winning?”

“Usually.”

He shook his head in disbelief.

“This can’t be…hell?”

Satan grinned and replenished her glass from a bottle of vodka.

“…it’s just that it’s drafty down here, and you’re not red with horns,” explained Man.

“The fires weren’t worth stoking anymore. We’ve downsized.”

“So where is everyone?”

Satan flicked out two hands for dime store.

“You know…they don’t make evil like they used to,” she mused. “Nowadays, it’s all muggers from
underprivileged socioeconomic backgrounds, and ignorant politicians trying to do good. Even psychopaths have underdeveloped amygdalas. Did you know that?”

“You—wait, you aren’t—” Man spluttered. “You mean Hitler is in Heaven?”

Satan rolled her eyes.

“We’re too old to go on wreaking revenge like we used to. All the bad eggs are in an educational facility now. After all, you’d rather teach a man the harp than hear him scream.”

“But there are some people you just can’t—”

“We have eternity; we might as well try.”

Man reeled indignantly.

“You shouldn’t reward them.”

“Oh, we certainly don’t.”

In the ensuing silence, Satan’s smile spread from ear to ear.

“Ah, knowledge,” she sighed, with a hint of nostalgia. “Delicious, isn’t it?”

“Not very.”

“You humans always did have poor taste—it’s comfort food over French gourmet—just like Mother used to
make.”

“Speaking of whom…” ventured Man.

“Yes, God’s doing fine, thanks for asking.” Satan knocked back her latest shot. “Not very familial of her, though, reforming only to abandon me here. Frankly, things have been rocky since the Enlightenment.”

Man blinked.

“Now that you mention it, I haven’t heard much of you since then.”

“I was always more attentive than God, but she won custody rights anyway. Besides, you don’t need me to make a mess up there.”

Man processed, slowly.

“So if you don’t punish people, and you don’t have them contract their souls in blood, and you don’t fight God…what do you do?”

Satan raised an eyebrow.

“I play cards.”

She stood up. Her chair scraped across the stone, and she meandered over to touch Man. He wasn’t broken. He stood up, amazed.

“You can heal?”

“Isn’t that what teaching ought to be about?”

Man didn’t answer, so Satan slapped him on the back.

“Read everything you’re not allowed to,” she advised.

Man found the stairs and climbed up and up and up.

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 Post subject: Re: The September-December contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:11 am GMT 
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The Lord is Our Butcher

Morning sunlight, a new beginning for many, simply makes another mark on the wall, the only time keeping device left working in Thomas Stees’ home. He looked up at the unblinking orb, squinted his eyes at the brightness when the previous eleven hours had been filled with a cloudy darkness. His diminutive stature implied a man of modest abilities; however, this was betrayed by the chiseled musculature of his body, now slightly decayed from the atrophy of the previous two weeks. His shirt was splattered with droplets once crimson, now a brown crust, marring the once white ironed fabric. Light colored mud crusted the bottom of his black slacks and covered his black dress shoes and socks.

A thick miasma of body odor pervaded the confined area of the house, that he could no longer smell due to an acclimation no living creature should undergo, impressively covering the frankincense that Thomas burned incessantly while fondling the beads of his rosary one by one. The words tumbled from his sleep deprived mind. “…Pray for us, O holy Mother of…of God That we may be made w-wor…”

The man’s hands trembled as he stared at the final bead on his rosary, his fingers toying with it as he struggled through the word worthy, slowly becoming aware that tears flowed down his cheeks, gathering on the floor. Thomas gripped the rosary tightly in his paw, gulping down the lump gathering once more in his throat, his thick dry tongue licking over his lips as he sensed movement out of the corner of his eye.

A face! It was still there, his fevered mind finally snapped as the brief glimpses of madness were now clear, and they were here to stay. A paralyzing fear seized his body and his mind, two yellow eyes boring down on him from the visage of a middle-aged calico, scowling viciously while blood poured down his face. “I … I remember you,” Thomas managed to croak out, reaching out and placing his paw flat against the glass as the calico recoiled slightly from the window, the scowl turning to a look of disgust.

“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry; I’ll never kill anyone again!” Thomas sobbed as the calico turned and then promptly disappeared from his vision, leaving the piteous prisoner of his home to rot. He pushed himself to his feet, and was hit with a wave of nauseating odor that had been holed up in his various joints and crevices until he stretched out, releasing them to assault his senses once more.

This started his mind and focused him a little bit, leaning against the wall and staring out of the window, fear continuing to play over his heart as he realized what he had just seen. It had been Trevor, his victim, his very first…and now he was sure that Trevor was his last as well, the images playing through his mind with the vivid realism of those moving pictures he used to enjoy so much.

It was dark; the trees seemed to grow in this part of the forest for the sole purpose of inspiring claustrophobia and discomfort in its guests. The smell of rain still hung heavy in the air, having rained most of the day, but the only thing Thomas could feel as he darted from tree to tree was the weight of the Tommy Gun on his arms and the mud sucking his feet down, as if it were trying to stop him.

Trevor was a short distance ahead of him, he could hear the calico’s footsteps sloshing through the mud and his ragged breathing, “You don’t need to kill me, I’ll just leave town!” Came the plea, followed by more footsteps, he remembered thinking that the tremor in Trevor’s voice and knew he was at the end of his rope, giving Thomas the thrill of a hunt coming near the end. Adrenalin pumped through his limbs his legs straining to jog forward through the sucking much, aiming the weapon of death forward as he sought the form of his victim.

It struck him as fascinating, the look Trevor gave him as he had begun to dart towards another tree, but saw Thomas running towards him with the barrel of the Tommy Gun pointed directly at him. He had frozen like a deer in the headlights, a look of abject horror plastered on his distorted features, and when the gun had began to flare out from the tip of the barrel.

This, the most vivid part of Thomas’ memory was the sudden change from sheer terror to confusion, to a completely blank look. The newly found killer had brushed droplets of blood from his white button-up shirt, only managing to smear them, coating his paw with blood. The metaphor was not lost on him and triggered a dark realization in the depths of his mind; he had ended someone’s life like the monsters written about in the daily paper.

Coming back to the present, he looked back down at his shirt, the dark brown splatters still there, then at his paw and noticed that the smears of blood were gone, but he could still feel them, still wet and sticky. Thomas reached into his back trouser pocket and fished out a tin that held his cigarettes followed by a tarnished silver lighter. Some nicotine would surely help clear his head; however, as he tugged out the last cigarette from the gentle straps he glanced at the front door, for the first time contemplating heading to the market now that both his food and his cigarettes were running out.

“No, matter…” He muttered, shaking his head slowly. His lips closed around the thin tube of tobacco as he flicked the lighter a few times in an attempt to produce flame, but to no avail. “Damn…damn, damn, damn!” His finger slammed into the flint repeatedly in a manic frenzy until a flame leapt up and ignited the end of the cigarette in a pleasingly warm and comforting glow.

“Mmmm…” he moaned like the cherry red tip of the cigarette was his own personal catharsis, enjoying the influx of smoke filling his lungs, and then being released into the putrid air. “I feel like I can think again…” He glanced around his living room again, clean and tidy aside from a couple of now dried up muddy footprints. He was reminded of how nervous he was the day before his hit; he had gone and spoken with the gypsy outside of town who had read his cards. He remembered her smiling politely while he chuckled nervously seeing that the first card that was flipped over read Death in a strangely beautiful calligraphic script.

“Oh, no it’s not telling you, you will die…” She had assured him, as if reading his thoughts, with a pat on the back of his paw, “It simply means a change is on its way, it will affect your mind and soul and turn you into a completely different person”

He stood, once again torn from his daydreams, and started walking up his creaking stares, his mind mulling over her words, “A change…A change…perhaps it’s time for one” He stripped off his clothes, tossing them unceremoniously to the floor and stepped into the bath to clean himself of the dirt, grime and funk that had accumulated over the long time he had spent in lamentation.

He felt invigorated, a new man, and figured that a bath after that amount of time would give almost anyone a rising sense of hope, “Well, time for that change…” Thomas hummed a tune to his favorite song as he felt the embrace of the clean fabric of his Sunday best, followed by a brush through his head fur. He practically skipped down the stairs and stared at the pile of books and newspapers on his coffee table, unread but collected from his front porch and sighed, fishing through his pocket for his lighter, then habitually for his tin of cigarettes, after which he unleash a hearty laugh while shaking his head.

“Right, right…no more cigarettes” He flicked the lighter, and as if some unseen power had agreed with his reasoning, it flared up with a warm flame before he simply tossed it behind him, and after hearing the thump of it landing on the stack of newspapers he stepped outside, finally satisfied.

The sun rolled out soft yellow light through the dirt streets seen just outside the city, and every footstep towards his intended destination made him feel a little more whole inside. He watched the children playing, and the world moving onward in spite of his wrongdoings with a bit of a disconnected apathy. His focus was truly on the church that lay before him, growing larger and more intimidating the more he approached. “I will repent…then I will take my leave of this place, and make a completely new life wherever I may find myself”

The heavy oaken doors opened eagerly to allow him entry, the tap, tap, tapping of his dress shoes amplified by the acoustics in the building. The large clear windows set on the side of the building painted a vision that gave him a sense of closure; a house that had sheltered him and kept him safe for such a long time had smoke pouring from the windows, and would soon be reduced to ashes. Though, that was not what was important, at the front of the chapel was a beautiful carving of Christ upon the cross, sorrow on his face but hope ever-present in his powerful eyes. It was a sign, forgiveness was at hand, and anyone could change their way if they kept faith.

He looked to a booth set off to the side and made his way toward it, unceremoniously throwing the door open and slipped into it with a bowed head, the door closed behind him with a small click. “Forgive me father, for I have sinned…” He said quietly, once he had sat down in the small enclosure, somehow not unlike a coffin to his mind. “It has been three years since my last confession.” He waited in silence for a moment, for some acknowledgment from the priest that was sitting in the neighboring enclosure, Thomas suddenly wondered, that in his long absence he could have forgotten some type of formality that had followed his previous words; however, before he could speak again he heard a voice.

It was icy cold, with an even tone, that sounded like death incarnate. Its words sinking into Thomas’ mind like the claws of a sinister beast from hell, twisting sacred scripture into a dark and evil threat. “The righteous perish, Thomas, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”

A silvery shine from a barrel glinted in the corner of his vision, just managing to turn and see the fiery flare from the tip; however, before blackness enveloped his vision, and his mind he recognized the voice. It belonged to his employer, his shepherd, and now his butcher.

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 Post subject: Re: The September-December contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:12 am GMT 
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The Hunters

The moon was high in the night sky and half the forest slumbered. But two of its inhabitants surely didn't. They’d made a deal, to test each other’s skills. Every so often they’d chase each other through the woods, and Artemis had promised to always remain human while she did so. Or at least in her human form. She was human and they both knew that well. But it didn’t stop their friendship at all. He’d gotten what he’d prayed for, he’d gotten to be her companion and be by her side whenever she called for him. And he was so very happy.

Artemis was in the lead tonight, letting Orion attempt to catch her. To be fair she was running much slower than she could, even if he could keep up pace with her fair well. She still gave him a sporting chance. And she wanted to be caught by him after all.

She ran gracefully, her short dress pulled in close to her body. She hoped fallen logs and skirted around bigger bushes that blocked her path. She wasn’t going down the well-worn trails, that would have been far too easy for him to follow. And it wouldn’t be any kind of test of his skills if all he had to do was follow after her down a trail. So she made it as difficult as she could and still keep him from falling too far behind. He was only half a god after all and it wasn’t that fair of her to use her divine prowess to beat him so surely.

“I will catch you mistress,” he called after her. She’d slowed down too much if he could see her. He only ever called out like that when he could see her. She glanced over her shoulder and sure enough he was right there behind her.

“You haven’t yet,” she teased, putting on burst of speed and twisting around a bend of trees and braches to make it harder for him. He kept running the way she’d turned but she’d turned again and back tracked some to make it harder for him to follow.

She heard him curse from a ways behind her when he figured out her trick and she just laughed at him and kept on running. It was like he expected her to act in a non-logical way. Silly man.

Artemis slowed her run some to let him catch up again, but as soon as she heard his footsteps on the leaves behind her she picked up pace again and took off at her divine speed. He’d have no hope of catching up to her then, but her goal was to loop back around again and come up behind him. Just to annoy him further. He made more mistakes when he was annoyed with her and she enjoyed showing him up.

She passed him along the other side of a river, having quickly sprinted across it and then back down and around. She came up silently behind him, waiting until he stopped at a fork in the path’s to figure out which way she’d taken. Smiling slyly, she shook the branches behind him on the try, laughing as he jumped in the air in surprise. “Not listening well are you Orion?” she asked teasingly, leaning around the trunk of a tree to look at him.

“No,” he grumbled, looking annoyed at her as he spun to catch her while she leaned so casually against the trunk. But she was too swift and slipped out of his grasp by just a fingers length.

“So close,” she chuckled as she skipped away, going right past where he was and back the way she’d gone to loop back. She’d send him in a circle again just for the laughs. He’d get frustrated and slip up again and she’d catch him instead of him catching her like he was supposed to do. And frustrated Orion was a very good looking Orion.

But flustered Artemis was a distracted one, and thinking about that was awfully flustering to her. She shouldn’t have been thinking about that. Because it could never happen. Should never happen. They were just companions and that was all they ever were going to be. He seemed happy with that after all. It had been what he’d prayed for months ago and she’d granted him his prayer.

Artemis needed to focus, needed to not slip up. If she couldn’t tease him for slipping up, what fun would the night be?

Orion was less than pleased with himself in that moment. She was playing him and he knew it. Knew it a bit too late, but he knew it. He crossed the river, took up her trail again, saw the double trail there because when she’d looped back around she’d not done it exactly the same way as she’d done before. But he had to follow it back around again so he could pick up where she was at on the other side.

But finally he did, catching how she’d gone in a circle again to just annoy him. She knew that he’d slip up when he got annoyed, especially when he was annoyed at himself like he was right now. He’d let himself get distracted with her, with her just perfectly muscled limbs and the way her hair was down tonight in a tumble of curls down her back with feathers braided in. He felt sometimes she knew what he thought of her and she did things just to fluster and distract him from his goals.

It would be just like her to do that as well. She seemed to enjoy playing tricks on him.

He stopped for a moment, thinking and listening. What would she do next, where would she go? Because if he could predict that, then he could catch up to her. He could hear her in front of him now, hear her steps and the way she slipped through the underbrush. He had her now. Taking a shortcut for him he made his way in front of where she was supposed to be going.

The Huntress slipped through two close trees, knowing that Orion's broader shoulders would never make it through the gap there. But she stopped dead as she ran right into the man who was supposed to be the one behind her. She gasped and smiled up at him as his arms went about her from the force that she'd run into him.

"Caught you," he said simply, a smug and pleased smile on his face as he released her waist. He didn’t want to let her go, but he had to.

But she didn’t step back from him at all. Her hands that where on his chest didn’t move either. Artemis looked up at him with a look in her eyes that he’d never seen before and frankly, wanted to see every day of his life after this. She looked absolutely stunning and he could tell in that moment that he was wrong, and that just maybe, she might return those feelings that he thought he shouldn’t have about her.

Orion’s hands went back to her waist and she didn’t fight it. “Artemis,” he started and she shook her head at him.

“No words,” she said in a soft murmur, reaching her hands up to take hold of his face. She looked at him for a long moment, him just staring at her with a bright smile on his face.

Finally she pulled up down towards her, pushing up on her toes to meet him half way. And then she did something that she had never ever done before and she kissed him.

To say that he was in shock was an understatement. But that shock was not bad, and he pulled her in closer against him, happily returning the kiss as her fingers entwined in his hair. For a very long moment they stayed embraced, neither of them willing to stop the kiss.

But she couldn’t let this go any further, not right now. This just needed to be sweet and innocent and that was all. The goddess pulled back slowly, loosening her hold on his hair. “No words,” she repeated, smiling at him lovingly.

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 Post subject: Re: The September-December contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:12 am GMT 
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Procrastination

The girl flips the page of the calendar. Her eyes widen. “Oh crap, it’s already November?”


She tries hard to remember something about that particular month, something that she’d put off until now. She can’t remember. “Oh well. If it’s really important it will come up sooner or later.”

The girl goes to school. She comes home, she does her homework. She eats dinner, she goes to sleep. The next day, she goes to school, she comes home, she does her homework, she eats dinner. She goes to sleep. The next day, she goes to school, she comes home late because of practice, she eats dinner, she stays up late doing her homework, she drinks two cups of coffee, she finally finishes, she takes a shower, and goes to sleep.

After another week or so of this routine, she finally has a free moment that she can spare for the internet. She checks her Facebook, her 70 or so notifications, she checks her 50 unread emails, she goes down her list of frequented sites.

“www.lackadaisycats.com”

“Wow, it’s been a while. I wonder what I missed.” She clicks it. “Oh. Not much, I guess…”

“Oh, the forum!” She clicks it. She goes first to the forum games, adds a new post to the ones she has been involved in, joins a few new games. When she is done, she goes back to the main page.

“Wow, I wonder what’s new in the writing section.” She clicks it.


“OH FRICK IT WAS THE WRITING CONTEST ENTRY.”

She quickly opens up a Microsoft Word document and begins typing.

“Well, better now than never.”


And that, my friends, is how this wonderful story of procrastination was brought to you.

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 Post subject: Re: The September-December contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:13 am GMT 
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Two Shots of Bourbon Make a Man

Two shots of bourbon make a man burn redder than his hate can stand.

It shields its eyes. The intoxicated fire glares upon Hate and scolds the immature child with a crackling finger of disgust, of regret that stands alongside Bourbon and mocks Anger incessantly. Low blow insults that curtail tears like a harvest. Bourbon has to remind Regret of its flaws. The bruises to the Gut from the monkey wrench it loves. Loves more than the Gut could ever understand. Regret abuses Gut far more, faaar more than the Body can stomach and forces the Mind to grab some ‘feel-betters’ from the regular fedora down Bedlam and Squalor.

So…

So two shots make this man angry at his regret till his has to drink some paint-thinner/potato cocktail. Some…moonshine, shoeshine delicacy left preserved for this intrepid scientist to discover and analyze.

The nighthawk adjusted his collar and rubbed his two nickels for luck. One was just a penny but the booze made it special that night. Dressed it up nice, treated it well. Better than some beatnik’s hemp wallet. Better than spent.

The warm, mild and empty shot in his hands clattered one last cube of resistance weakly, like a bum not even tryin’ no more. Up against the world, he’d rather roll over.

He’d have hoped for somethin’ better than this.

They’d all sang the same tune but found themselves at different mom and pop hotels. His was the kind you’d smile about and walk slowly away from, wishing them schmucks who had to endure “this kind” of seamy a quick death.

He watched that mad man swing his gold chain in the midnight rain and watched him fade from his world. Back into the darkness like all the other mirages that came to and fro. He put a hand to the window, the grime makin’ a nice outline of longing that the bartender would forget to scrub away. It would stay there for years before the logo would fade away.

And it would be there always.

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 Post subject: Re: The September-December contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:15 am GMT 
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Windy, snowy, foggy.

---
The small figure pulled himself out of his sleeping, the conditions much like it was the day today. Windy, snowy, foggy. Still though, he held hope of a good day. Especially today. It was the day that he expected to be able to just get out and be able to go further North, as he had been over the past few weeks.

As he stepped out of his tent, a cold breeze rushed against him, almost knocking him backwards. The strong winds of the Arctic wasn't at all that appealing, particularly when it threatened to fling him a nice long way backwards. He had come quite a distance, though how far, he did not know. He kept his form minimal, producing as best an aerodynamic form as possible. Even then, the winds pushed hard against his form, still making clear the threat.

He began to pack up, the winds began to pick up. The Arctic Wolf hurried as quick as he possibly could in the conditions to have it all packed up. The wind battered him hard, and made his efforts in getting everything together. He heard a noise in the distance, a growl, and with that he let his packed up tent go. It caught the wind, flying a long way away and being lost to his eyes...

"Darn it..."

He knew that he couldn't progress far without it, since it also doubled as a bag with all his supplies, all his food. He turned in the direction, but knew that without knowing where precisely it went, that he would be way more than lost in the weather.

Thankfully for himself, he still had his sword and compass. Sure, most people could use guns, but that was hardly something to need out here, though in the open, would make him an easy target. He drew his sword anyway, so as to be ready for whatever that had caused that noise.

"Better now than never," he muttered.

He was right to trust his instinct of a threat, for he spotted a figure, a shadow in the near distance. The thing didn't appear at all familiar to him, towering way higher than most of the creature he had seen. He had little to think of that when it noticed him, however.

The thing charged hard and quick, knocking the Arctic Wolf over before he knew it. Sure, he had his sword ready, but wasn't ready for the agility that this thing seemed to possess. All the breath that he had was forced out of him. His vision blurred, he couldn't see exactly what it was. It did however, raise something that he recognised as a threat. It looked like one of the limbs that it was raising had a sharp edge, and on impulse, grabbed the sword and swung. It caught the limb, and confirmed that it was something strong he had hit.

He kicked out, knocking down the figure. As he scrambled, it tried to grab at his leg, snarling in a manner that was truly terrifying. Running, he dare not try to look at his attacker. He was lost out in the cold, and stood little chance of finding his bearings. He sighed through his nostrils.

"Better now than never..."

He began to trudge through into the distance. Unknown to him, the figure was not gone, as it began to track him through the cold.

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 Post subject: Re: The September-December contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:30 am GMT 
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Foreign Lands

Eastern Europe, 1905

On a winter's evening, the station was a place of white fog against sooty shadows, soot against snow, sharp sound over muted chatter. White spitting steam from the Steam engines, coils of cigarettes and cigar smoke spiralling up to make solid the beams of light sent out by gas lamps, and the little clouds of warm breath against the cold air.

People bored or tense, excited at big changes or bored at their daily routine, but all of them, save the beggars, waiting to move or moving in haste through the crowd to the carriages, stepping on and off with a slam of the doors or paused with blank faces upturned towards the destination boards, ears attuned to the shouts of announcers. At this time of year, many of the black engines chuffed their way into the station with a thick coating of white frost and snow blasted to their buffers, and the platform and rails were piled with soot smeared snow the trains had brought in with them.

Years ago, reluctant to return home after shopping trips to the city, young Mihaly had navigated this crowd at knee height with his brother close on his heels. Slipping in the gaps between the crowd, sliding over the slush and ducking past the coats of gentlemen and the broad skirts of ladies to get to the platforms where the engines waited.

It was always easy enough to wait until his mother was distracted, and it wasn’t as if she’d ever been in a hurry to catch them. When they reached the black bulk of the steam engines, his brother Adam always shied from the hissing and spitting of the idle machines, clamping his hands to his ears. That rare fear in his generally brave little brother’s eyes always spurred Mihaly to bravery beyond the usual. Mihaly would climb up and stand on the footplate at the open door of some quiet 2nd class carriage and tell Adam this was it!

This was the time they’d step up into the carriage. They’d stow away on this train and not go back home to a life of scholarly drudgery and rules and lessons. Onwards to foreign lands populated with whatever fantastical mixture of the exciting and the desirable and the delicious and the just plain ridiculous Mihaly’s imagination could come up with.

Logic be damned, out there was a land of gypsies where they had no work and yet they lived in big mansions where the entire floor was like one big pillow and all they ate was delicious dessert and good chocolate and they’d never heard of school and yet they had a load of books and plays on that were about travel and interesting monsters and heroes who fought in big battles and you could take part in them and pretend you were whatever you liked! And Adam’s large dark eyes would look up at Mihaly in admiration and interest, for a moment half-believing it.

But then, the grand plans would always draw to a sorry close- some rail staff would chase them off or their mother would notice their absence and come after them. Or failing that, Mihaly himself would lose his nerve and hop back down onto the station platform before he got carried off to those foreign lands he’d been idealising..

And they’d get a beating for wandering off, when they finally returned home to that life of drudgery and lessons. Still, he’d do it again next time, and, protesting and scared or not, his brother would duly follow. The idea of a momentary escape, even if they failed their nerve over it or got caught every time, was enough.

It got harder, the older they got and the more they knew. The more they realised that often the end of the line wasn’t some ‘foreign land’ but another part of their own country, and the more they realised the facts about real places that contradicted the silly stories Mihaly spinned.

All of it had culminated in one occasion where Adam had looked him right in the eye and said calmly, “you’re lying.” Mihaly had protested, and he’d tried to use his authority as an elder brother to back it up, but to no avail. So he’d gone in and sat down inside the carriage and that time, he’d not lost his nerve when, but sat down and sat tight.

It was only when the train started up and his little brother was yelling at him from the window that’d he’d felt any sense of fear and guilt and that churning feeling of having done something that would undeniably cause him severe trouble. He’d gotten off at the next station and rail staff had scolded him fiercely for not having a ticket and sent him back on the next train. And he’d gone back, head bowed, to await his punishment.

His mother had drawn him to her and hugged him tightly when she found him, and for a moment he’d thought with surprise that her concern was going to outweigh her desire to punish him. Surprise only endured up to the point where she followed that up by smacking him on the side of the head, but some shame at having caused such worry lingered. That had been the last time he’d climbed up on footplate of a carriage to tell foolish stories of impossible escape

________________________________________


Mihaly, older and wiser, half a year of dutiful studying into his degree at University, looked at the man he loved standing on the footplate of a 1st class carriage ready to leave. The man who’d been the best part of his new life in the capital city. His friend and room-mate, and only person he’d ever found with whom he could spend hours upon hours discussing the humourous and the serious, the sublime and the stupid.

What was the sum total of the small kindnesses, the occasional touch or look that lingered fondly too long, the delicate skirting round the topic of sexuality when they stayed up late discussing life and freedom and society? Did Dominik guess how he felt? On the one hand he felt like Dominik should practically be able to read it in his face, the attraction heavy and obvious like the beat of his heart when Dominik drew too close or looked at him a certain way.. Yet was it written as plainly across his face as it was plainly scored deep into whatever trite and inadequate metaphor you chose to use- heart, brain, mind, psyche?

He looked at the destination board he now knew was showing a destination in Germany, no longer some mysterious ‘foreign land’, even if a country he’d never been to. Berlin, where Dominik would spend his Christmas and New Year with his relatives.

Two minutes to go. Was this the time to say more? To take a chance? Better now, perhaps, than to forever stay silent- or at least silent until next year? But then, to speak now was to brood over it for months until they saw each other again.

“Dominik,” he started to say, and gave him a rather clumsy half embrace, half pat on the back and then looked right into his face, heart pounding stupidly fast. Dominik’s face creased into a slightly puzzled smile, and he could see some wariness start in Dominik’s eyes, as if he was preparing himself.

“.. It’ll be a dreary few weeks without you,” was all Mihaly said, lowering his eyes and then looking back up to his face.

“You’ve come over all sentimental,” observed Dominik, with that endearingly teasing smile that always just about turned Mihaly’s stupidly susceptible heart over on itself, “I’ll see you again next year! I’ll be thinking of poor you in your provincial snow-hole, when I’m sitting back in the back room of a Berlin club, a fine cigar and a glass of wine.”

Mihaly gave a groan of envy at that image, and all his bitterness about returning home welled up to the surface in a rush, “three weeks only before I’m back at the dormitory, but three weeks back at the “provincial snowhole” are eternity enough. Ordinarily I’d escape with my dear brother, but this year if try I’ll end up sitting in a freezing hunting lodge trying not to get frostbite listening to his friends’ tedious hunting stories.

So I shall be stuck at home being treated like a kind of failing race horse on which the family fortunes are riding and grilled as to all aspects of my current and future projected performance. My grandparents will conspire to ruin our frigid familial peace by picking a grandchild each to criticise and waging a war fought in insults and compliments. And let us not forget the requisite gift they will doubtless bring- Religious shame enough to make my mother sink herself into a vodka glass. By New Year we’re all wishing ourselves a quiet death, as is family tradition. “

He paused and added, reflectively, “At least there’ll be strudel.”

“Sounds dreadful, strudel excepted,” said Dominik, “You should have come to Berlin with me, my family wouldn’t have minded being host for a friend. I plan to enjoy a few weeks of relaxing, visiting clubs, galleries, pubs and generally engaging in exactly the kind of sophisticated debauchery you seem to appreciate. “

“Oh now, it’s not as if I require my debauchery wear evening dress a top hat and tails, just so long as it’s not completely brainless..” protested Mihaly.

“I suspect you’re the only one who expects some sort of brains to be involved with debauchery- the sort who’d probably appreciate a striptease where the dancers recite Nietzsche,” said Dominik dryly.

“Yes, grimly, like a dirge,” mused Mihaly.

“In any case you’d have enjoyed Berlin a lot better than you sound like you’re going to enjoy your family. What was it you wrote in that essay?“ ‘Duty, honour, shame, and blind loyalty to tradition are the prime barriers to true progress. The stalwart obsctructors of justice, progress, and compassion. Respect only that which you think deserves respect. Honour only what you have reason to honour. It was something like that.’ ”

It was inevitably something of a misquote and grander even than how he’d put it, but it was true. He felt a painful, twinge in his chest at the thought of the hypocrisy of it. He was going to walk away from this platform to find the train home because he felt he had to, like he had no choice.

Yet he was eighteen, old enough to make a choice for himself as to where he wanted to be. Berlin- modernity, culture, art. The place where Magnus Hirschfield and had sowed seeds of the sort of rebellion he most appreciated. Against intolerance, for freedom. More importantly, the place where Dominik was and his family wasn’t.

“Dominik….I..“

“Mihaly?” An arch of the brow.

The porter began to slam the doors with a force that made the carriages flinch. Dominik retreated back into the carriage, still looking at Mihaly questioningly.

Mihaly didn’t want to be a slave to duty. To what was the done thing. The ‘right thing’. None of that mattered. What mattered now was what he wanted. So.. This was it.

He found himself climbing up the steps after Dominik into the carriage, heart thumping fast in his chest as if he’d taken a jolt of cocaine to the system.

He met Dominik’s confused, questioning glance with a smile and when he spoke it was with surety.

“I’m coming to Berlin,” he said. The porter slammed the door behind him with ear hurting force, as if to punctuate it. Mihaly sat down heavily opposite Dominik on the plush seats of the first class compartment.

Dominik stared, pale eyes widening, his lip slowly lifting up into a grin on one side. Before giving a scoff of laughter.

“So you are! Throwing off the chains of the past.. Defying tradition.. Er .. and travelling without a ticket?”

“Yet..”

“Or money?”

More sheepishly Mihaly responded to that with “I have a little. “

Enough money to buy himself a ticket and refreshment on the journey and a little more. Presents from the city for Adam and his family, all of which he’d shy from attempting to pawn or sell. Not enough to sustain him for three weeks in Berlin without Dominik’s help.

Fortifying himself against that unpleasant thought he brightened his tone and added, “ah but what is money compared to the richness of friendship and good company?”

“By that do you mean ‘I don’t need to carry money if I can scrounge off my friend?” asked Dominik, smirking. Behind the teasing, Mihaly could tell from the broad smile on Dominik’s face that he was glad as he hoped he would be, and he was so glad Dominik was glad he gave an uncharacteristically broad smile in return.

He adopted a pseudo-cajoling tone, arching a brow “my exceedingly kind friend, who I am very grateful to and will of course pay back promptly on return?”

“Of course of course, it’s always good to give to one’s less fortune fellows!” said Dominik.

A shrill whistle announced their departure and the train lurched forwards, steam puffing white against the dark of the window. There was a pause and Dominik shook his head, still smiling in disbelief at Mihaly’s gall. “You are crazy, you know that?”

Brave, crazy- that was somewhat subjective.


With a chuckle, Mihaly crossed over to the window of the compartment and opened it, letting in a frigid blast of air and the choking scent of steam. Poking his head out and narrowing his eyes against the cold he looked back towards the station, its lofty Victorian arches receding as the train clanked over the points and onto the bridge. Below them, the river stretched out, tinted blue by moonlight and streaked orange with reflections of domes spires and sandstone from the grand buildings on the shore.

The inhale and exhale of the engine’s breath was difficult not to match with his own breath as he sucked in cold air and stretched a hand out into the darkness like a drowning man clutching for air.

Suddenly, Dominik was at his side, so close he could smell the scent of his characteristic German cigars, and poking his head out of the window beside. The train let out a sudden blast of smoke that hissed out white past the window, and they both choked and grinned stupidly as the smoke, lit by the carriage lights, framed a beautiful nightime vista of the city, pinpricked with street lights with the answering lights of stars half veiled in cloud above.

Dominik’s hand pressed lightly at the small of Mihaly’s back as he leaned forwards..

-Love was a bit like sticking your head out of a train window. Pain and sharpness, blowing wind that enlivened the senses whilst half blinding your eyes to reality, ruffling your hair up and threatening the safety of the very hat on your head. Giddily fun and beautiful apart from the occasional blinding cloud of smoke to bring you back to what you were doing. Not just love, life itself was like sticking your head out of a train window.

…Except you could stick your head out too far and get struck dead by a passing train or pass into narrow places where you’d mutually choke and be blackened by the smoke of what stupidity you’d committed and regret that it happened.

Love was also like the sort of thing that when you were on a train caused you to make up stupid pessimistic metaphors about how life and love was like train travel when really, they were all very different things.

It was good. And this was good. This was right. He basked in the simple rightness of that thought.

Another good thing was that Dominik had brandy, and he passed it to Mihaly and Mihaly pressed the bottle to his lips and adored the way it warmed his throat right down to his gut against the cold and how he could taste just a little of Dominik’s cigars from it.

“What about your family?” shouted Dominik at Mihaly’s ear over the noise of steam, and then the train let out a piercing shriek and they were buried in the darkness of a tunnel and the smoke became cloying. Gas lamps lit their wind dishevelled faces as they slammed shut the window and settled back down to sit in the compartment, hats in hand.

“They’ll.. “ Mihaly coughed a little, frowning faintly at the flecks of soot on his hat, and reached for the brandy, taking a generous swig from it, “they’ll be fine. I’ll send a telegram tomorrow.”

“I now reject notion of obeying depressing family tradition. Going to Berlin. Damn you all! Have a good time See you next year?”

Mihaly looked to the window and the tunnel was replaced by a broad landscape of rolling hills and farmland, contours dusted a white turned blue by the light of the moon.

“Yes.. exactly that..” Mihaly said, although of course, he couldn’t quite go that far, “PS- keep strudel and a bottle of Palinka for me.”

“Here’s to that,” said Dominik, raising his brandy bottle, “onwards, to the land of decadence and freedom, cheap beer, and my honourably not so damnable parents.. and my ability to say ‘Prost’ without offending the sensibilities of your people”

“And strudel and Palinka!” added Mihaly.

“Yes! Except .. eh.. sorry to tell you Miska, they don’t have Palinka in Berlin..”

“What terrible land am I on my way to?” said Mihaly, with a laugh.

(*- Prost- German for cheers. Pálinka/ Palincă- Eastern European Fruit Brandy. Miska- short version of ‘Mihaly’)

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 Post subject: Re: The September-December contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 10:32 am GMT 
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Redemption

September, 1917.


“How are you feeling today?” the officer asked pleasantly, slipping a record from its case and laying it down on the turntable, “I brought your favorite again- Das Rheingold. Would you like to continue from where we left off?”

No answer.

Act like everything is normal, the officer reminded himself. A tall order when you were talking to a man bound to a hospital bed with leather straps, solely because he had a tendency to attack the medical staff in bouts of nationalistic fury. His injuries, serious as they were, didn’t seem to slow him down much in that regard. You would think he was still fighting for his life, not sitting out the rest of the war as a prisoner.

“You remember that the last time, the giants had just taken Freia hostage. For her ransom they demanded the treasure of the Rhine maidens- the Rheingold, which had already been stolen from them by the dwarf Alberich…”

The officer’s fingers gently lifted the arm of the Victrola. It hovered briefly over the spinning record. Finally, needle touched down onto the record with a small crackling noise, briefly muting the whir of the turntable.

“And Wotan decided to descend to the realm of the dwarves with the trickster, Loge, to retrieve the gold at any cost…”

“Wer hälfe mir!” sang a tinny voice in the midst of the burgeoning melody. [(Mime): Who could help me!]

His eyes turned to the prisoner. It was not without sadness that he noticed the gleam of hatred in the man’s eyes and how the man’s hands were clenched into tight fists…

That bitter, enraged look was the only answer he got to his question. Again.

“Gehorchen muss ich, dem lieblichen Bruder…” continued the tinny voice. [(Mime): I must obey my own brother,]

The war had already taken so much from the world. The Great War… it didn’t seem like an appropriate title. Greatness, in his mind, implied goodness. This war was anything but.

”der mich in Bande gelegt.” [(Mime): who has bound me in chains.]

Greatness did not drive men into madness and leave them bound by irrational hatred and shattered by the horrors of the battlefield. Greatness had not made the man lying on the bed what he was. The bullets that had left him bed ridden and crippled hardly amounted to glory.

“Dich, Mime, zu binden, was gab ihm die Macht?” sang a second voice, questioning the first. [(Loge):What gave him the power to bind you, Mime?]

Terror, perhaps even evil, had found its way into that man’s heart. The war hadn’t made him a hero. It hadn’t given him a purpose for the cause of good. It had broken him, twisted him into something no man should have been… a monster. Nothing could undo that, of course, but the officer had to believe that the man wasn’t beyond helping.

So whenever he could, he visited the prisoner. Somehow, it seemed like doing that could make up for at least some of the things he’d been forced to do on the battlefield. He had been forced to sit idly by while so many others suffered, all too often because of his own orders. But now he had a chance to show this one man compassion. An opportunity to show his enemy human decency, even if that had been impossible in the past. Not that playing music for a prisoner of war could ever really absolve him of his participation in the slaughter that was the war. But it was something.

Better than nothing, at the very least.

“Doch erliegt der Feind, hilft deine List!” insisted a third voice. [(Wotan): But the foe will succumb if your cunning lends help.]

“Here Alberich’s brother Mime betrays him by telling Loge of his power to change shape, and Wotan and Mime together beg Loge to capture Alberich by whatever deception is necessary to gain the gold...” said the officer quietly.

The prisoner was too enthralled to hear him.

When the officer had first started doing this, he’d tried to explain every line, painstakingly and carefully… but the prisoner had quickly grown frustrated with that. The interruptions had agitated him more than they’d helped him.

“Deiner Untreu trau’ ich, nicht deiner Treu’!” sang a fourth voice. [(Alberich):I trust your faithlessness, not your faithfulness!]

In a way, it gave the officer hope that the prisoner seemed to enjoy at least the musical aspect of these visits. Even now, his clenched fists were relaxing as he concentrated on the melody… The officer thought it was a sign that the man’s blind hatred was fading… No, that was too optimistic. The beginnings of understanding were there- that his enemy was human, too, not a vile, inhuman beast fit only to be slain. That his enemy had things worth fighting for and protecting, just like he did.

“Bis ich’s geprüft, bezweifl’ ich, Zwerg, dein Wort,” insisted the second voice. [(Loge):Till I have tested it I doubt your word, dwarf.]

“Now that Alberich has declared his ability to shapeshift, Loge demands that he prove he can truly turn into anything… of course it’s a trap on Loge’s part. Do you understand?” said the officer, looking at the prisoner’s face for any sign of comprehension.

A moment passed before the prisoner even bothered to look back at him.

“Je ne veux jamais comprendre votre langue de la merde,” snapped the prisoner without making eye contact, “Fermez la bouche.”

The officer sighed a bit

Always more of the same old hostility. Most of the time the officer suspected he wasn’t getting through at all, that he should give up on this foolish venture entirely… But if he did, what was the point of saving this soldier from dying a bloody death on the battlefield? Abandoning this man to his own demons would amount to the same thing. The prisoner treated everyone as an enemy combatant- he made no distinctions. That had to change.

Even if it seemed like the prisoner didn't want that change himself.

The bottom line was that the officer simply could not give up.

“Loser den Bast, binde mich los; de Frevel sonst büssest du Frecher!” cried the fourth voice angrily. [(Albrecht): Loosen the rope, set me free, or you shall pay for this outrage, impudent rogue!]

“Loge used Alberich’s pride to trick him into a shape small enough to capture,” said the officer, “…and from Alberich’s wrath and Loge’s greed came the curse that will ultimately bring doom to the gods. Wotan will pay a high price for attempting to do a good deed…”

The officer trailed off… and when he looked up, the prisoner was staring at him. His eyes had a strange light to them. Not gratitude or joy, or even irritation, but revelation. As though the prisoner had just come up with an idea that no one wanted to see to fruition but him.

A writhing, cold, sinking feeling settled into the officer’s stomach. For the first time this felt like a serious mistake.

(French: “I never want to understand your damned language. Shut up.”

Excerpts from Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold)

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