THE St. Louis Speakeasy
It is currently Tue Jan 23, 2018 5:01 am GMT

All times are UTC - 8 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 8 posts ] 
Author Message

Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Autumn 'Hidden' writing contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:12 pm GMT 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:04 pm GMT
Posts: 162
Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!
Writing Contest entries

Theme- "Hidden"


This thread will contain all 7 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.


An Elephant Story
Hidden Lies
Workshop
Jane
Splinters and Ice
Unexpected
The Sight of Blackbirds


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 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 November the 22nd.

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.

_________________
Writing Contest Hub


Top
 Profile  
 

Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: Autumn 'Hidden' writing contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:25 pm GMT 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:04 pm GMT
Posts: 162
Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!
An Elephant Story

Colossal, wrinkled beasts we are. As grey and thunderous in our size as the monsoons that roll recklessly through to wipe this parched earth clean. Our strength is that of the hurricanes that deliver torturous love to the coastline and bring even the mightiest and most steadfast into a frenzied state of fear. Equipped with crushing weight and pointed tusks of ivory that look as if they were crudely created for war, we come, and yet we are the peacekeepers. We are like battle tanks rolling through the savannah, not with soldiers, but with children and mothers and grandmothers. There are five of us and we march solemnly, our elongated noses sweeping the ground searchingly - scent seeking pendulums.

The first that would be mentioned and named, for she is always the first to speak in any given situation (or the first to speak who we pay mind to), is Bao. She has been our steadfast leader for decades, strong in the heart and mind, but weakening in body. Then there is Shel the Silent and her two daughters, Isi and Fra. Lastly, there is Me, who is none other than myself. We are like slow moving pieces of thinking, feeling, moaning earth - as dusty as the orange ground we tread, our great forms swaying like the yellow grass of the parched savannah.

We have been wandering for days on end without much rest for our heavy bones. Bao searches, but we amble. We amble and we support our matriarch with what little strength our tired bodies and weary minds can scrounge up, like digging for tubers in a long since dried out and dead wasteland, but we are all wearing thin.

“Shel,” Bao’s guttural voice carries from the lead of the small band we travel in. Her voice is measured and languid from the lengthy years she has spent using it, a kind and wise voice to hear during our good times, and all of our ears move to catch the familiar sound. This time, however, it is coated in a sweet sadness that laps like the emerging waves of the ocean and smothers our sail-like ears. It is a very disheartening moment for us all, but we know it had hit Bao's old, unsound bones the hardest when her daughter and granddaughter had suddenly gone missing. “Can you smell them?”

Shel, though she rarely speaks a word, is our best smeller. Bao’s smelling is failing. Bao’s everything is failing in her many years, but we have not the heart to replace her. She had been like a warm, but stern mother to us all when we were young. Even when I had been nothing to anyone but an awkward orphan, she had welcomed me with outstretched trunk and tree-sap eyes. So, perhaps it is not merely the loss of Dodi and Sira that has caused us all to be deathly silent on our trek through the territory (though it is quite painful to no longer be in view of their warm, wrinkled hides), but that knowledge that a deep heartache has been added to the list of pains dear, old Bao’s body has to endure. Perhaps, as well, it is the bit of truth I know and have hidden far away from Bao’s quivering ears, caging it because it would only be like applying poison to a festering wound - it would kill the infection, but also threaten the host.

This knowledge that I hide, it would put an end to this search that has gone on for endless days, putting tiredness in our limbs and emptiness in our bellies. Though wise, Bao is stubborn and her heart and hope eternal. She will die before she stops searching, and we will perish with her. I share my knowledge - my secret - with only one other, and our hearts ache together for it, but we will also waste away together for it if it hovers only between the two of us.

I look off to my right where I know I will meet Fra’s beady, brown eyes. She has been watching me, as well, for a long while with a knowing gaze, trying to decipher what I am thinking. I nod solemnly to her, my trunk twitching grudgingly a little in Bao’s direction, confirming that I am, indeed, thinking what she more than likely thinks I am thinking. We are one in our knowledge. She nods back, though slowly and sadly, as though merely acknowleding it has added a hefty weight to her shoulders. I understand. With this silent conversation between us at a swift end, this swapping of nonexistent words, Bao comes to a halt, her aged wisdom picking up that I wish to have words with her without delay.

“Yes?” She asks, attempting to mask the impatience she feels from the search being interrupted.

I blow hot air out my extended nose and lower my head, expressing the tight weariness I have felt in my chest as I move to where old Bao now blindly faces me. Dread is heavy in my heart - webbing pulled too taught around something that needs to stretch and breathe. I extend my trunk and touch her cheek lightly and I try to pretend that I am confident, than I am calm and as strong as I have always admired our matriarch for being. The last thing I want to do is break the old cow’s heart, but seeing the tired, hungry faces around me, I know I have no choice. She will die before she stops searching, and we will perish with her.

“Bao…” says my quiet, unsure voice. Bao shivers, her body picking up on the dire vibes I knew I could not hide. Our kind are experts at body language, but often our bodies speak for us when we wish to remain silent. She senses that she does not really want to hear what I have to say, that it will be something terrible, and Bao moves back away from me, the dark shadows of her many wrinkles quivering over her suddenly tense muscles. She doesn't want to hear it. She just wants to find her daughter and her granddaughter, or she wants to die trying (we will perish with her). She doesn't want me to break her heart and, heavens save us, I don't want to break her heart, either.

“Bao…” I repeat, my trunk reaching out and twining around hers with an easy, strong, and comforting grip. I will ground her. I will support her, though I doubt the strength of my own knees. “The other day… when Fra and I were looking for a mud hole…” I start and my voice breaks. I am not afraid that she will hate me for keeping this from her -our kind cannot hate -but how I fear breaking her already severely cracked heart. “We found Dodi and Sira.”

Bao flinches and tries to rip away from me, her blind eyes wide with the horror I am about to expose, because she knows. She knows, she knows, she knows. She knows and she doesn't want to know. For once, she doesn't want to be the wise woman. There is this truth she has long known but stubbornly refused to come to terms with, something that her bones kept whispering darkly. I hold on firmly, my trunk curling tight. “Dodi’s tusks were gone,” I say in a louder and firmer voice than before so that she could not pretend to not hear me, but even in it's strength my voice cracks a little. I know it could never compare to Bao's heartache, but I hurt, too. “Sira’s little body was crushed. We... we just can't keep searching like this, Bao, I am sorry!”

I stare hard into Bao’s cloudy, fearful eyes. I hold her, like somehow I can steal away some of her pain and hide it somewhere deep within myself. She trembles, wide-eyed, for what could have been hours of fear and horror. And then her enlarged pupils melt down, darkness stepping aside so that they finally reflect a shine of somber understanding. She visibly relaxes and grips my trunk tight, leaning into me and on me all the contents of her spilling heart. All I can do is maintain our powerful grip and speak silent verses of comfort, appreciation, and love into her eyes. I am sorry. Shel, Isi, and Fra shuffle near (we are sorry), touching Bao gently with their noses, low and mourning moans vibrating from us and into the savannah ground, traveling miles to the ears of any capable of listening. Anyone likes us, capable of sharing sorrow as we do.

Our kind cannot hate - we can only love and grieve when love is lost. We are, rather than the peacekeepers, the peacemakers of the savannah. We are like battle tanks rolling through the great, yellowing savannah, fading into the night - not with fighting, hardened and battle-ready soldiers, but with tiny cherished children, the tender mothers who raise them with calm, reassuring patience, and the doting grandmothers whose old and eternal hearts will always love both above all other treasures on this earth.

_________________
Writing Contest Hub


Top
 Profile  
 

Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: Autumn 'Hidden' writing contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:26 pm GMT 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:04 pm GMT
Posts: 162
Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!
Hidden in Lies

The banker’s daughter sighed, sitting on her bed, looking out her bedroom window. She hated being stuck in her room, and she hated her parents for sticking her there. But, there was a party going on downstairs, and no one was to see her or hear her. She didn’t know why she couldn’t go to Peter’s house and hide there. Well, she did. He was “the reason” she had to hide herself. She stood up and walked over to the window, peeking out through the curtains she was told to keep shut at all times. She could hear the guests laughing and eating downstairs and her stomach growled, followed by two tiny feet also protesting the lack of food.

She groaned and looked down at her large belly, putting a hand to it. “Hush, now...I know...just a few months longer, then we can all be happy again.” She told the children growing inside her, for she was sure after the babies were born, her parents could no longer deny her marriage to the farmer’s son. She loved him so dearly, so fully and truly. Surely they would wake up one day and see that. Surely they would see the children when they were born and see they were created out of love, not “reckless stupidity” as her mother had called it. Lizzy and Peter were already in love with the children they had created, maybe her parents just needed a bit more time.

Peter’s mother had passed from pneumonia a few years prior, and his father followed shortly after, but Peter was already nearly 25 – setting them at a 9 year age gap that Lizzy’s father didn’t approve of – and was taking care of his grandmother and the family farm with little problem. Sure, she would be going from a banker’s daughter to a farmer’s wife, but she knew the risks and was willing to take them. What was the saying? Love conquers all?

~~~~~~~

When the children were born, Lizzy’s parents hadn’t changed their mind. They told her to put them up for adoption, let a “real adult” take care of them, but she refused. She insisted she was going to marry Peter and that they would be happy with their new family. Peter had saved up the money to have a photo taken of them in the hospital room, Lizzy holding the twins, one boy and one girl, while he leaned over, both of them smiling and so happy. He had a room in his house already set up for the twins with two of everything. He even had preparations at the small church he went to for a nice, small wedding.

But her father would hear none of it. The next thing Lizzy knew, she was standing at the altar with another man, listening to her baby girl crying the tears she herself wished she could cry. All of the sudden, her perfect life was over. She was married to a man she had no feelings but hate for, and the man she loved was having to leave...The only thing she was able to do, was name her children and insist she took the daughter with her while Peter took the son. She felt as if a piece of her was leaving, and the rest of her was dying, knowing her new husband had wanted nothing of the deal since she already had a child that wasn’t his. He didn’t want the stain on his reputation. He insisted on changing the child’s name, and the papers were signed without Lizzy even knowing until it was already done. The girl’s birth certificate stayed the same, though, mostly because the two men couldn’t find it. It became something Lizzy would carry folded in her purse for the rest of her life.

As her daughter grew, she filled her with lies. She told her that her name was different, that Lazare was her father, and that she loved him. She told her daughter nothing was wrong with her life, that she was the daughter of a plantation owner, that while she was born in Texas, living in Louisiana would be better for everyone. And she told her that her 4 younger siblings were all her full blooded siblings.

Lazare told her no such lies, because he didn’t speak to her. He pretended she never existed...until the night the girl finally put two and two together and got four instead of three or five or fourty two or fifty six.

Despite how hard her father tried and insisted and told her that she was, she wasn’t a stupid girl. Math wasn’t her strong suit, and she was very sheltered when it came to certain things, but she wasn’t stupid. When the friend she met when she was 15, told her that she looked nothing like her father or her siblings, and that it was very strange that, while her siblings’ birth certificates were on display, hers was not, everything fell into place in the poor girl’s mind.

She was a bastard. She was a bastard and the man who’s attention she had been trying to earn for so many years was nothing to her.

She ran to her mother and, after enough yelling, learned the truth. Her mother wiped away the years of lies, cleaned them away with tears, and told her daughter the truth. Her father was Peter, not Lazare. Lizzy loved Peter, not Lazare. The girl’s birth certificate had never been lost. Hher name had been changed. She had a brother. A twin. And a father that loved her.

While Lizzy felt the weight of the world had lifted off of her shoulders as the lies parted and the truth was revealed, she couldn’t help but let the heartache of the past rush back, and she knew she had to tell one last lie. Her parents were coming to visit, and her daughter was leaving, and she knew her husband would demand to know where she was.

After watching her daughter run towards her friend’s house, she moved about the girl’s room, placing pillows under the blanket. She walked out of her room, closed the door softly, and prepared to tell her husband the girl had caught pneumonia from being so hysterical. It would at least give her enough time to get far enough away from the nightmare, and hopefully on to a better life.

_________________
Writing Contest Hub


Top
 Profile  
 

Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: Autumn 'Hidden' writing contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:27 pm GMT 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:04 pm GMT
Posts: 162
Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!
Workshop

The house that night was dark; most of the lights had been switched off, with the exception of the occasional lamp or stray room light. There was no need for it; the only living being inside had ensured the house was dark.

Daryl crept downstairs; it was well past midnight, and aside from the occasional nightbird or cricket cry, all was silent.

He turned the key in its latch; it gave a soft click in response, though in the silence it sounded to him like gunfire. The door groaned and squeaked as he slowly pulled it open, revealing the portal to the dark, dank world below his own home.

He breathlessly began his descent.

The stairs creaked under his feet; years of dryrot and mold had reduced them to bent, rickety and noisy indicators of passage.

Daryl found himself at the foot of the stairs before he knew it; time always slowed down for him when he came down. He tugged on the hanging light switch, giving it a click as the dim bulb shed what light it had on the gloomy caverns.

He glanced around the deserted area; no one besides him ever came down here, and he couldn't blame them considering the atmosphere of it all.

Heaving a sigh at his thoughts, he wandered through the basement through a few doors and weave between walls. He had made sure to keep it all contained and far away from prying eyes; and here he knew it was safe. His work. His MASTERPIECES. No one else would appreciate them; they couldn't, he realized long ago. Society didn't take kindly to people like him, the ones who dared to think outside the box-the ones who dared break the mold and do what they wanted. It was sad, in a way, but if society wanted to shun true geniuses like himself, no skin off his bones, he noted dryly.

Daryl finally reached the last door in his short journey: iron and metal, it had rusted into an orange red color, almost eerie in the dark light. He turned a key in its latch, hearing the satisfying sound of it clicking open. With a small smile he walked in slowly, taking in his work space.

It was humble, in a way; certainly messy, with his work strewn everywhere, but it was home to him. It was a colorful work area, to be sure; if someone ever did come down here, he knew they'd be surprised.

He looked around at everything that was in there, and smiled softly. It was comforting to know that he could still come down here after all these years and put his mind at ease; no matter what happened in the day, no matter what nuisances had bothered him, no matter who did or said what or who put down who, he could always come here to his safe haven and just...BE.

Daryl finally put aside his distracting thoughts; it was time to get going. He picked up one of his tools; it was stained dark red, after untold uses in his opuses and works.

Slowly, he dipped the brush into a nearby can and added more paint to the canvas.

_________________
Writing Contest Hub


Top
 Profile  
 

Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: Autumn 'Hidden' writing contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:28 pm GMT 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:04 pm GMT
Posts: 162
Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!
Jane.

Her name was Jane. She wasn't special in any particular way. She liked books, and sneakers, and most of all sweaters. She liked her wavy, carrot-colored hair; she liked the way it fell across her face when she turned her head a certain way. She hated the blob of freckles that ran across the bridge of her nose.

She didn't particularly care for boys. She liked to watch as the other girls squealed and giggled as the football players walked past. She didn't really see what appeal they had. They were, basically, a big wall of muscles. They had no feelings, no intelligence. In other words, these girls were crushing over a brick wall.

She laughs and shakes her head and returns to the book she is reading. If only boys could be like the men she found in there. Smart, kind, and genuine. Not a mass of muscles who looks on to her papers just to barely pass the class.

As she is reading, she notices an ant that is slowly making its way toward her. She watches it intently, waiting to see what it will do. It is inches from her foot- centimeters. She picks her foot up and smashes it. She looks up and sees him.

He watches her intently, waiting to see what she will do. She swallows against a dry lump in her throat. It's him. Travis.
She feels color rushing to her cheeks, and she is powerless to stop it. Suddenly she wishes that she hadn't squashed the ant- that she was anywhere but here. Her thoughts go back to another time...


He walked down the hall, confident and surrounded by his friends. They laughed about something. Jane watched silently, without interest. She was alone, her book clutched to her chest and her blue eyes unfocused. The boys passed by a locker with the lock hanging, open. Delighted, the boys opened the locker and searched for anything valuable. Travis rubbed his arm uneasily.

Jane's eyes lit up, seeing the commotion. She watched Travis, waiting to see what he would do. He took no part in the looting. He took no part in the vandalism. He searched the faces of the boys that he had, once, called friends. And in them he saw no trace of anything vaguely resembling men.

His decision was made.

He slammed the locker shut and put the lock back in its place. His actions earned him jeers from the boys that had once followed him. Jane looked on in awe, amazed that mankind was capable of such... chivalry.

When Travis walked away, only half of the monkeys followed him.


Travis smiles and waves at her. Her heart speeds up. She tries to think clearly. But it's hard to focus. She doesn't know why she's feeling this way- maybe she's caught something. There's a nasty cold going around...

Travis stands up and walks to her. She knows that she should stand, that she should do something other than just sit here petrified by the wave of nausea that has completely overtaken her.
Travis pulls something from his bag. It's a rose. He hands it to Jane. She takes it, barely comprehending her actions.

Words try to form themselves on her lips, but they quickly fall away. She finds herself speechless.

Travis says something- her clouded brain barely makes out the word "valentine".

What day is today? She hadn't given it much thought, but as she sifts through the contents of her mind she realizes that it is February the fourteenth. Valentine's day.

The color rises to her cheeks, and she searches frantically for something to say. But she is still at a loss for words. Travis smiles and walks away.

She looks down at the rose in her hands, its pink petals soft to the touch. A smile spreads across her face, and she makes no move to suppress it.

Then she hears a sound from in front of her- talking, laughing. She looks up. It's Michelle. And Travis.

Michelle. She wrinkles her nose at the sound of her name. She is part of the cheer squad, and Travis's love interest for a year and a half.

Something sharp brushes against her thumb and she looks down to see the rose. Her mouth twists its way into a smug grin. He gave her a rose. He has no rose for Michelle.

Michelle talks to Travis for a while. She laughs at something he says, and glances at her briefly. She giggles. Jane waits.

Travis does the unexpected. He pulls Michelle closer and kisses her.
The grin falls. She picks up her bag and book and runs. Runs far away- anywhere but here. She throws the rose into some forgotten corner and keeps going. Finally she stops where there is no one- she is sure of it.

She feels like there is a hole in her heart.

He gave her a rose.

But he gave Michelle a kiss.

She doesn't understand why she feels this way. She had never had feelings for Travis, anyway. She didn't particularly care for boys, right?

So why did she feel so broken?

She takes a few minutes to compose herself.

She shoves her emotions back where they came from.

She opens her book and continues where she left off.

_________________
Writing Contest Hub


Top
 Profile  
 

Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: Autumn 'Hidden' writing contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:29 pm GMT 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:04 pm GMT
Posts: 162
Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!
Splinters and Ice

The floor was made of splintering planks of wood, thinly coated with frost. About as comfortable a place to seat yourself as a block of ice, but it was worse outside. There snow fell so thick you couldn’t see a foot in front of your own face. Plus the wind cut right through your clothes straight to the bone. I was already soaked and freezing, shaking uncontrollably… There was no way I was going back out into that.

Instead I cowered in a corner of a cottage that had seen better days, huddled by the pathetic excuse for a fire I’d managed to put together out of the inevitable trash lying around- remains of the lives of its previous owners.

I had no idea how much time had gone by. Felt like hours, but it might have only been minutes. The wind’s piteous wailing was starting to really grate. My thoughts twisted and turned, trying to think of something useful I could do- anything.

Anything at all.

I couldn’t make anything to eat. We hadn’t gotten rations in weeks.

I wasn’t going to waste my energy singing, even if my butchery of music might scare off the blizzard.
One idea after another quickly got the boot until only one thing was left. Digging through my pack, I tugged out a ragged book and, after a good while longer scrabbling around, a stub of a pencil. The book flopped open limply, and I prodded at the page experimentally. When it didn’t fall to pieces right off I decided it was worth a try. The pencil scraped quietly as I started scrawling across the bottom of the page.

“As I sit in this abandoned shack, cut off from the world by howling winds and walls of driving snow, I feel like this is going to be the last place I ever lay eyes on. No one is going to find me. Probably no one is even looking. It’s just me, my pencil, and this old copy of Candide I’m writing in the margins of. I’d feel bad, but I never did like this book and who’s going to yell at me now?”

Even just looking at what I’d written, it felt like I’d swallowed a brick. It was true. No one was going to look. They’d write me down as a casualty of the war, missing in action. Like half the rest of the damn army.

“Something’s telling me this is the only chance I’m going to get to let anyone know what happened anyway.”

Pausing for a moment to chew on the pencil stub and hunch up more into the corner, I tried to think of what to say next. There wasn’t a lot of interest in my life. Not very many friends, no family, no excitement other than the war, which I could’ve lived without. Still, that left the war as basically all I had. I turned the page.

“I never asked to be dragged out here. The draft just pulled me in like a whirlpool. This particular whirlpool led down into the maw of our Emperor’s military aspirations, battles and campaigns like you’d never seen the like of before. All for the glory of the Empire and getting yourself torn to bits in some distant land.”

A shudder went through me, and not from the cold. I’d never put the words out for others to see, even though I’d thought them a thousand times. No, more than that. Airing ideas like that would get you shot. But now all bets were off, since I was as good as dead anyway.

“Suppose I was lucky on that account- I’m fast and small enough that I landed the oh-so-pleasant task of courier. Others got caught, or shot, or disappeared. Lots of new faces, all the time. Not me, though. I never did get how the others never learned to duck at the right time, when to dodge and weave. When to break and run like the hounds of hell were snapping at your heels. Maybe it wasn’t fair that I had years of practice there.”

There was one place where I could have been grateful for not being coddled and supported my whole life. I wasn’t, but I could have been. Hypothetically speaking. Tapping the pencil against the book, I considered adding something more about that- being unwanted, abandoned, someone’s secret indulgence in irresponsibility. Oh, the sob story I could’ve made out of that. Lucky for everyone else I wasn’t inclined to.

Instead, I took a minute to rub some of the feeling back into my fingers. They stung as the numbness left them. Once the stinging had followed the numbness back off to the realm of uncomfortable feelings, I turned the page.

“I guess that’s why a whole lot of them didn’t make it past the first week. Come in full of patriotic spirit and spit and ideas of heroism, and you’re just going to wind up face down with your correspondence undelivered and your insides being where they shouldn’t be. It never helped that being couriers, and being nameless, interchangeable little servants skulking around in the shadows, they didn’t bother teaching them to value their lives. Just the war effort.”

I dotted the last period with a sharp jab that stabbed right through the flimsy paper. A thought crawled into my head, and after having a good hoarse laugh over it, I put it down on the page with the rest.

“Funny how dying doing your duty is played off as heroic when in a lot of cases, being dead makes it hard to finish whatever you were supposed to do nine times out of ten.”

Like prisoners who had just seen one of their own released for no reason, more resentment crept to the forefront of my mind. It all wanted out, for whatever good it would do. Or whatever good it wouldn’t do.

“Those were days when I would have killed for what I have right now. Being good at what I did kept me busy, but even when I was on the move I was never alone. On the front, on the march, making camp- someone was constantly within the jab of an elbow. I’d say a stone’s throw, but then I’d be implying there was room to throw rocks.”

A small sigh left me, trailing away like a smoky mist. That was an exaggeration. Travelling with an army was rough and I’d hated every second of it. My duties gave me more freedom to get away from my toe picking and lice-infested comrades-in-arms, at least…

“That said, being good at moving pieces of paper from one place to the other got me where I am now.”

Simple, but to the point. Not like there were two ways about it.

“This campaign was the worst yet. Sure, everyone talked about it like it would be the battle to end all battles. But when you go in somewhere without enough to get you back out alive, there’re going to be problems. We lost the minute we marched into this country even if no one knew it then. Command stayed just as innovative and bright as we dragged our sorry carcasses back home, too. Charred fields in the dead of winter are great to live off of.”

I laughed a bit to myself again, chafing warmth back into my hands again. I was pretty funny when I wanted to be, wasn’t I?

My gaze jerked over to the window as icy snow hissed across the frosted over panes. Straining my ears, I almost thought I could hear something… but no, it was just the storm with a side of wishful thinking. I bent back over the book.

“The captain told me he gave me this assignment because I was the only one with a spotless record. I always got things where they were supposed to go, no matter what. He said it like I should be honored. Sure, I’m honored to be sent out alone into the worst storm I’ve ever seen in my life to deliver a completely pointless status report. If I’d had any choice, I would’ve said no right off.”

A sickening taste of bile rose in the back of my throat at the memory of it. I should have said no. It’s not like I could’ve died more than once…

“So I left. The storm wasn’t so bad at first, and I’d made the same trip the day before… no such luck today, though. I wasn’t more than twenty meters out before I couldn’t see enough to get back. The wind picked up faster than-“

A loud thump at the door sent my pencil skidding across the paper in a spasm of terror. The second strike forced the door open a crack, and I dropped the book and pencil to the floor. ‘Knife, knife, KNIFE,’ I whimpered as I scrounged through my pack, my words muffled by the screaming of the wind through the opening…

No knife. I pressed myself against the wall desperately, prepared to kick the remains of my camp fire at the intruder…

I waited, tense and terrified, for what seemed like forever. And I waited.

And then I did this thing called, ‘waiting,’ some more.

The wind howled, snow scraped across the glass, the door sat there like the lump of dead wood it was.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I scrabbled to my feet, my numb legs shaking under me. Waiting a minute for them to settle down, I padded slowly towards the window by the door… silently… my heart felt like it was in the back of my throat. Its beat throbbed in my ears. Whoever was outside had to be able to hear it, it was so loud.

I pressed myself against the opposite wall and edged towards the window, slowly, carefully, quietly. I peered out carefully, making sure I wouldn’t be seen…

No one was there. The thud had been a pile of snow falling off the roof, blocking the simplest way out.
That was helpful. I was so thrilled, just let me tell you.

With a defeated slump to my shoulders, I dragged myself back to the corner. Sitting back down limply, I picked the pencil and book back up off the floor. The fire fizzled. No one was going to come. There was no hope. No point at all. I just had to finish what I wanted to leave behind.

My hand fumbled with the pencil a bit, the numbness setting back in in the wake of the rush of fear. I hadn’t realized how the blood had drained from my hands while I was fearing for my life. Flipping the book back open, I skipped to the next page. There was no point in trying to write over the frantic scribble that covered the bottom of the last one.

“The wind picked up and dragged the breath right out of me. I don’t exactly like getting pelted in the face with ice, but the storm was pretty keen on doing like that. So I stumbled along blindly with watering eyes and frost clinging to me until I smacked clean into the side of the cottage I’m sheltering in as I write this.”

I looked around for a moment, wondering if there was anything worth putting down about where I was. An unraveling basket sat nearby, waiting to get thrown on the fire. There were some rusty nails scattered around, some moldy rags, the shattered remains of what might have been some kind of bench… I wasn’t even interested in looked at any of it. Hunching up more, I took the tattered basket and threw it on the failing fire. There had to be something else to put down. Something worthwhile… But even with the meager fire, the numbness was spreading . Thinking was getting harder by the minute.

“To whoever finds this, I hope to God that you don’t need to read it. Due to me not being dead. If I am dead, give me a proper burial. I know you do that, even in this Godforsaken wasteland. It’ll be spring when you find me anyway, so no excuses.”

For a moment I lost my grip on the pencil and it clattered to the floor. After making a feeble attempt to get some feeling back in my fingers, I picked the pencil up off the floor. My joints just felt so stiff… I didn’t want to move anymore. But one more line was necessary. Going slower, I scrawled it down onto the paper.

“My name is Max, and I died for nothing.”

I stared at the words for a moment. It didn’t take long before they started getting fuzzy. I hadn’t noticed, but the cold had really been settling in this whole time, hadn’t it? I was so numb I almost felt warm. Warm and comfortable and so very tired… Trying to cling to consciousness didn’t seem so worthwhile anymore. I tried to anyway, but it wasn’t long before everything faded to black…

And I’ve been here ever since, haunting an abandoned shack. Waiting for someone to come. Lost to this world, and barred from the next.

Just my luck.

_________________
Writing Contest Hub


Top
 Profile  
 

Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: Autumn 'Hidden' writing contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 1:31 pm GMT 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:04 pm GMT
Posts: 162
Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!
Unexpected

They always seemed to talk about girls back home. Or girls here. Always girls. I suppose I had a girl back home. I had a daughter back home, and as much as I’d loved her mother, she didn’t seem to feel the same about me. That was a bit of a letdown, a lot. I wanted to be something more for her, but if she didn’t want that, who was I to push such a thing? So I talked about my little girl instead. I’d been blessed enough to be able to still be part of her life, still be her dad. That was better than a lot of guys in my position.

But it wasn’t the same. And when you were trying so hard to fit in with the rest of them, you had to do something. So I lied some. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to do so, but it still made me feel a little bad. I’d spent a good deal of my life lying about this already, it should have come naturally. But it didn’t come as natural this time. It was a lot easier to deny that looking at someone made you flustered when that person wasn’t right there, wasn’t there looking at you. Wasn’t sharing the same thoughts and struggling with them their self.

It was strange still, the feelings. Even after all this time. I’d not come to terms with them. And they hadn’t either. Suppose it doesn’t get any easier with age. It might, I might get better at not flushing like a school girl about it. Thankfully, freckles hide a multitude of embarrassed moments.

But they didn’t hide glances given in the twilight across the trench. Or the way the hair stands up on the back of your arms when you get the slightest shiver of excitement from just a brush of a hand passing smokes along. They don’t hide the beating of my heart in my chest, which surely could be heard by the others.

No one ever said anything though. It could have easily been fear of our situation that was driving it on. And no one wanted to call someone else out on the fear that quickened their own pulse if left alone in their heads for too long. No one wanted to be afraid, but we all were, to some degree. And that was not something a man admitted to, Let alone a soldier in the field.


A voice called me out of my thoughts, back into the still damp conditions of the rain drizzling down on us. It was clearer than the last few days, but it was still soggy and awful. “What are you looking at?” he asked. Martin Moore. A good friend, a friend from back home. A friend who probably knew more than he let on, but didn’t want to admit to knowing those things any more than I wanted to admit feeling those things.

“Nothing that’s here,” I offer, shoving him in the shoulder a little harder than I meant to. “Just thinking of home.” It was a lie, but who was to say that it wasn’t true? Who was to say that I couldn’t have been. No one. Not even Martin would say a thing to me just now.

“Yeah yeah,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “You hear from Kelly at all?”

“Nothing since the last time you asked,” I sighed, putting away the box of matches I’d been fiddling with for the last hour. “No one’s gotten mail in days, she’s writing, I’m sure.” Martin had a girl back home. And a couple of kids already. They’d married young, Same age that I’d been when I’d gotten the joy of my little girl. But Kelly and I hadn’t wed. She didn’t want that. I didn’t want that. I wasn’t like Marty. That wasn’t my thing. But Marty and his girl, that was something real. Something lasting. He was just worried over nothing.

Some days passed in much the same fashion. Nothing of interest to do. Even when we did see action, it wasn’t much and it wasn’t anything too new to any of us. We all felt like old hats at this war thing already. Things that had made us jump before in fear now made us jump to have something to do.


Finally we got to move out of the dirty, cramped trench. Move away from the action for a bit. We’d taken a couple of wounded and someone in higher command had thought it wise to give us a break I suppose. But it was blessing never the less. It was nice to sleep somewhere that wasn’t upright in the cold dirt.

But I guess all blessings come with a price as well. Or perhaps another reward. Depends on what happens.

We’d been given some outlying buildings in a small town. Most of its citizens had seemed to have fled, making their way to somewhere they thought safer. Which left few people to protest when we took over their buildings. It was nice to be inside again. Nice to have doors to open. Or hide behind.

I’m not for certain, still, after all this time, how it happened. But it did.

“Ashford,” his voice called out of the blue. Or it seemed to me. I’d been off in some sort of daydream sleep. It was nice, to not have to worry constantly about shells raining down on you, so sleep came easier. But hearing his voice in reality was more jarring than being bombed. Robert Jackson, in the flesh, talking to me. I knew I jumped, and he saw. His near silent chuckle told me so. “What are you doing in here all alone?” he pressed, coming towards me now, closing the door he’d opened as he went.

“Nothing,” I admitted, honestly. It wasn’t anything.

He hummed something of a reply before sitting himself down next to me on the floor. There were seats, mostly crates, but seats. The floor was better for stretching out your legs though. And since he was nearly as tall as me, that was something he could understand. “Nothing is always nice,” he said, leaning back and closing his eyes. “Makes all the something’s even more special.”

He laughed again, this time a little louder. His laugh was nice, deep and rich. Something that sounded the look on his handsome face. He was such a looker, even when we hadn’t really had the chance to clean up well and the dirt still lingered on his cheeks or nose. It hide well in his dark hair, but it only helped highlight his icy blue eyes. They were nearly the same color as mine, and I often wondered if he thought of that when he looked at me.

“Suppose,” I said stupidly, forcing myself to look away from him at last. I didn’t think he and I had ever been alone together before. “What are you doing in here, Jackson?”

He looked over at me, a playful smile I didn’t think I’d ever seen before on his face. “Nothing just yet,” he said with that chuckle again, like he knew something I didn’t know and he wasn’t quite ready to share the secret with me.

“Well those nothing times are something special, I hear.” It was easier than I thought to be flirty with him. He was always easy to talk to, but I never expected it to be easy to talk to him like this.

He chuckled, shaking his head as he shifted a little closer to me. I could fell the flush on my cheeks growing and I was thankful that it wasn’t too bright in the room just then. “I’m sure a very wise man told you that.”

“A wise one, yes, I suppose you can call him that.”

The flick to the leg that he gave me at that was unexpected, and far more playful than I thought he was capable of. But when I looked up at him, he was all serious face, like it had never happened. I said nothing, as he would surely deny it. “Well is he at least a nice fella to look at? I mean, it must be awful hearing things so boring coming out of an ugly mouths.”

“Oh he’s good looking,” I said without thinking, realizing what I said only after the teasing grin he was shooting my way shifted to something far more pleased. But since I was already in, might as well just keep going. So I kept talking. “He’s got a very good looking mouth. I’d be willing to listen to him spout out whatever he wanted, just to watch him talk.”

“Well how about I just talk about whatever then,” he suggested, his grin growing slier and slier. “Or something of a better use for these lips?” And it took no more than that for me to know what he was suggesting.

And it was a much better use of his lips, I had to agree. Not that I had anything to disagree with. It’d been so long since I’d kissed anyone, and I was sure he hadn’t either. But I still think it would have been nice, even if it hadn’t been so long in between.
The only thing to make the afternoon any better after we parted ways was the promise that we’d do that again.

We both made good on that promise as well. Often. It made talking with the other guys about lovers a lot easier too. It took away the problem of lying, really. But it did bring up the problem of not saying too much. What we were up to wasn’t something that many of the others would understand, let alone approve of. He was good at keeping it between the two of us, which was nice. And I’d spent so long lying about it as well that it wasn’t too hard.

But it didn’t need to be said for us to know that we had to keep quiet about it. It would cost the both of us dearly. And he was planning on making this his life and it wouldn’t do to have that sort of stain on his record. His old man would kill him, if the others didn’t have something to do with that first.


Even I said nothing to Marty. He knew though. Somehow he knew. “You look different today, Will,” he said one morning while we were cleaning our weapons together, sitting in a nice bit of morning sun before it got too much. “You’re all smiles.”

I looked up, saying nothing, but trying so very hard not to smile. But it was of course all I could do now that he’d said something about it. Robert and I had managed to find some time together the night before. And so of course I was all smiles. It was hard not to be, even without Marty’s words about it.

“They must be something else,” he went on, chuckling to himself. I knew he knew. And I knew he knew who it was as well. “Haven’t seen you this happy in a long time.”

And I had to agree, he was something else. And I was happy when I hadn’t truly been in a long time. I knew this wasn’t going to last. There was no need to tell me that. And I didn’t want it to last. I wanted it to be a good time while we were together and part on good terms. That’s all that mattered to me. And it was all that mattered to him.

“Yeah, well keep it to yourself,” I shot back, tossing a rag at his head that he swatted away.

“Don’t worry, I will. I know when to keep my mouth shut. Some things are best left known to only a few.”

_________________
Writing Contest Hub


Top
 Profile  
 

Boss of the writing contest!
 Post subject: Re: Autumn 'Hidden' writing contest entries and voting
PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2012 2:12 pm GMT 
Offline
Moderator
User avatar

Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:04 pm GMT
Posts: 162
Custom Title: Boss of the writing contest!
The Sight of Blackbirds

The dark bird dips low over rainswept earth. The bead of its eye fixates, for just a moment, on the figure of a man in a burgundy scarf and heavy blue coat. His tread is measured, his steps deliberate. He is growing old. The wind stirs, branches rattle. With a crack of wings, the blackbird disappears amidst the leaves. This is what the blackbird sees; to your eye it would be the same.



He has always found the month of October invigorating.

Once the first snows fall, everything will change. Up until a few years ago, he was an avid skier. When the first drifts of late November muffled the foot-traffic as well as the cars, and stripped the last stubborn leaves from gray branches, he would arise early and pull a Fisherman sweater over his head. In the pale light of a fresh dawn, he would stand on their little cement porch, fasten on his skis, and take the first plunge into pristine snow. In the quiet hours before the town awoke, before the first roar of snow plows rang through the stillness of the avenues, he would glide through a silent world feeling as though it belonged to him. Only when the sky gleamed with a risen sun would he return home, his burgundy scarf flapping like a pennant after battle.

It used to be that by the time he stomped snow off his boots and leaned the skis against the brick front of the house, Ruth would already be in the kitchen making hot chocolate. When the children were young, they would spring out of bed as early as if it were a school day, though much more willingly, of course. Some years, when Michael was nine or ten, the two of them had gone out skiing together, taking a slower, gentler circuit through the neighborhood. In his memory, the scene is tinted with a bright nostalgia. He forgets the impatience with which he stopped to wait at every corner, turning to watch his son struggle through drifts of powdered snow. Still, those were good days, and the two of them would always return together, skiing side-by-side, their faces pink with cold. And Ruth would greet them at the door wrapped in her flannel bathrobe, a mug of hot chocolate in each hand. Together they would stand in the bright winter morning, letting the cold air seep past them into their home.



Now, he wraps the burgundy scarf closer around his neck and pulls on his heavy blue coat. Of late, the autumn chill has seeped its way into his bones like poison, but he will not surrender to it yet. He is a creature of habit, he has walked the same path every Sunday morning for twenty-odd years, and he intends to continue doing so for as long as he is able. That, and the emptiness of the house eats away at his resolve.

Retirement did not come easily to him. Even after six years, he still dreams about his practice; always he wakes up muddled and glances to the clock, worried that he will be late. He maintains his habits, where possible, and suffers through empty hours where not. Worst of all is the silence.

He opens the door, stepping out into a brilliant autumn world. The light is soft and watery, dimmed by the great cumulus clouds which scud fast across the sky. They are white billows of impossible magnitude, like the sails of the old ships which once prowled the coastline a few miles from here. The erratic pulse of the day is measured in gusts of wind and light, as the same breath which rattles these branches pushes clouds from the path of the sun. The air buzzes with dry leaves in a thousand shades of red, orange, green and gold. The leaves, the light, the rich smell of damp trees, infuse October with a grandeur that belies the cruel, harsh bite of the first frost soon to come.



Ruth never accompanied him on these walks. Sundays found her unfailingly in church. He will pass it on his walk today. The crisp red doors and sharp slant of its roof constitute a familiar milestone. A few cars parked outside, perhaps faint strains of escaping music will be the only signs that the service is in progress, the congregation within. This time of year, it's too cold to keep the doors open for long. Many of the parishioners are elderly; they, too, keenly feel the chill of oncoming winter.

She was here when it happened. That was almost eighteen months ago now, yet it is still hard for him, when he sees the white steeple, to remember that she is not inside. There had been signs, of course, though he'd mistaken them for the slowing-down which comes naturally with age. Later he would berate himself for his blindness, until gradually he became convinced that Ruth had known all along, that she had concealed her symptoms from him to prevent a diagnosis.

“I don't understand why she did this to herself,” he had said, anger rippling beneath the surface of his voice. But what he'd really meant was, 'Why did she do this to me?'



The little church is in sight now, and he narrows his eyes. He hates to see it, he resents it, resents them. But he refuses to change the route he's walked every Sunday morning for twenty-odd years, and so he stares down the gray panes of its unblinking windows. He holds the church responsible, in a way, knowing this is irrational yet feeling justified nonetheless.

The April before last, she had collapsed in the middle of Easter services, had refused to let them call an ambulance. And so the parishioners had brought her home, a nervous gaggle of gray-haired ladies, accompanied by the father of a young family who had moved home after going bankrupt somewhere on the West Coast. Together, the two men had supported Ruth's arms and led her to the couch.

“I'm fine,” she'd kept saying. “I'm fine.”



By the time he returns home, the pale sunlight has given way to thick swathes of gray clouds which threaten rain. Sure enough, the first spattering drops come as he unlocks the front door to let himself in. The house is silent, empty. Its décor still reflects her somewhat pedestrian tastes, which he had grumbled about but ultimately put up with; the living room's chickadee motif is perhaps the most egregious.

He unwraps his burgundy scarf, hangs up his heavy blue coat, and sits to unlace his walking shoes. Exchanging them for a pair of plaid slippers, he shuffles into the library, listening to the patter of the rain. Though it is only half past ten, the house is dark. Outside, the brewing autumn storm absorbs all light. It pains him to be turning on lights so early in the day, though the weather leaves him little choice. The bookshelves on the left hold a number of reference books, some Emerson, some Thoreau, a Wallace Stevens collection, a few poetic anthologies. Mainly, though, they are medical publications. Once this wood groaned like Atlas beneath the weight of the literature stored here, but he gave away his medical books to colleagues upon retiring from his practice. Now the shelves are sparsely populated by journals in which he has had articles published, or journals with articles which cite his work.

On the right are her books, and these shelves too are sparse; she was never much of a reader. Still, what books she did keep were well-thumbed, devotionals mostly, and prayerbooks, that sort of thing. When they first moved in, he had tried to use this room for his study, but it wasn't long before her constant trotting in and out after some book or another drove him to distraction. At first he had snapped at her to wait, to return her books to the shelves later, when he wasn't working. He had shouted at her for making such an abominable racket, had tried shutting the door, even locking it, but nothing seemed to work. Each time she would knock and knock and knock until he broke down and let her in. Then she would go straight to her shelf, replace a book, and exit as blithely as she'd come, leaving him alone in confused exasperation. Eventually he had moved his study into one of the corner rooms upstairs, and this had become, simply, the library.

For eighteen months, her books have sat undisturbed. Now, his trembling finger hovers just above their spines. He does not quite trust himself to touch. At last he acts, his hand closing around a medium paperback. Dust motes stir in the lazy air as he draws it down from its place on the shelf. It is a prayerbook, yellowed with age, its pages soft as old leaves or the ancient skin of a fish. His heart beats faster as he makes his way back to the living room, shifts the quilted chickadee pillow off the armchair, and sits. There is a folded fleece blanket under the chair, and he withdraws it, spreading it over his legs with slow, deliberate movements.

Like most things in the house, this blanket has stood the test of time. He ordered it almost ten years ago from a seasonal catalog, but it's served him well. Not too long ago, he was still tucking his grandchildren under it when they fell asleep on drowsy winter afternoons. Ruth is gone and Miranda no longer speaks to him; Michael and his family are all that's left to him now, and he saw a lot of his son's family in the first year after the funeral. At first it was Michael dropping by with hot meals that Cheryl cooked, always a welcome relief from his diet of yoghurt, toast, and withered fruit. Later that summer, when they perceived that his mood had stabilized, they'd enlisted him to watch the grandkids during the day while the two of them were at work. This year, however, Lexie has begun staying for a full day's school, and Sam has been deemed old enough to watch her for a few hours after the bus brings them home. And gradually, the hot meals stopped coming.

Now he doesn't know when next he'll see them.

“Thanksgiving?”
“No, Dad, I told you, we're driving down to be with Cheryl's folks in New York.”



He fishes for his reading glasses and thumbs through the old prayerbook. What a painful surprise it is to see these pages marred by Ruth's familiar handwriting, her half-legible cursive scrawl. She has underlined passages, jotted notes in the margins, dog-eared pages. She has loved this book. At first he reads slowly, trying to devour every word, trying it feel it all deeply. She found answers here. There must be something he has overlooked and yet the words seem so simple, so shallow, so meaningless. He reads faster, tearing through verses, through chapters like a starving man. It must be here, this peace which eludes him. He wants to scream at her, “How? How could you be so sure?” She haunts him, and yet he is so alone.

He clenches the book in shaking hands. His house mocks him with its emptiness.



Outside, rain falls heavily. Half-concealed amidst yellow leaves is the dark smudge of a blackbird. It tilts its head and fixes one bead of an eye upon the man behind the gray glass pane. He sits reading in an armchair. He is growing old. This is what the blackbird sees; to your eye it would be the same.

_________________
Writing Contest Hub


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 8 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 8 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group