25 November 2011

The PC Driven Campaign

PC motivations usually fall somewhere between "I like money" and "I don't like that guy." In there is the driving force that leads most PCs to risk their lives. Isn't there anything deeper than that going on? These PCs often have very rough origin stories. Most of them lost their parents at a young age and had to practically raise themselves. Let's try to add something to that.

The PC driven campaign requires a different outlook on how missions are given. You aren't going to want that mysterious stranger in the tavern ordering the PCs around for petty amounts of gold and "whatever they find in the dungeon." No, your missions will come straight from the PCs' backstories. They will create their own missions and you will set them up. The goal of this is to have the PCs actively searching for what they seek. Whether they find it through rumors, by accident, or from that mysterious stranger, the point is they find it and not the other way around.

Money and Treasure


This PC seeks money and treasure, and not for greedy reasons. This PC's parents (if they live) owe a debt that they cannot pay and the PC seeks the funds to save his/her parents. This PC may also seek to one day open up a shop in a big city and saves for that day. Perhaps, the PC seeks only to contribute all of the money and treasure he/she finds to his/her temple or church.

Pilgrimage


This PC is looking for a series of shrines or some other artifact. Maybe, the church sent this PC out to pray at shrines across the country, or maybe they sent this PC to find a special artifact for the temple. Maybe as a right of passage, this PC must single-handedly defeat a giant and bring it's head back to his/her tribe.

Out for Blood


This PC has an enemy that he/she seeks to vanquish. This enemy could be something like "all goblins" or "the man who murdered my parents." It could also be more vague like "all evil." Whatever it is, this PC is actively hunting it.

Glory and Honor


This PC seeks glory and honor for reasons of pride or to honor his/her parents or church or tribe. This PC will take on difficult, high profile jobs that will put him/her in the spotlight. This PC may already be famous in some places.

Some of these could take charge of a campaign if you are not careful. Remember that every PC will have motivations and will want to fulfill his/her goals, so don't let the game focus on just one.

At least two things can come from this type of campaign. The in and out game where each PC leaves the group after accomplishing his/her goals and then the player brings in another PC to replace the one who left. Or, the bonded campaign where, having completed his/her task, the PCs stick together until everyone has completed his/her quest.

Feel free to change, use, and abuse this idea in any way you like.

04 November 2011

Millionaire

What does it take to be a millionaire? Well, the first thing one will endure is the initial chuckle or smirk someone sends out in response to the idea.

"I'm going to be a millionaire," one might say.

"Ha! Oh? You're serious," is the response.

It may not be much of a bother at first. What do they know about one's plans? But, eventually it grows frustrating. How is it that nobody believes?

Probably, one may consider, because they don't know how simple it can be.


Those one-in-a-million ideas that completely reinvent the way society functions aren't what makes a millionaire. No, those make billionaires. What makes a millionaire is determination and constant sacrifice.

"But," some may say, "a million dollars is nothing in today's world."

"Sure," one might respond, "but, you do not have one million dollars and look at what you have now. Besides, the goal is not to see how quickly the million can be spent--rather, it is to see how quickly the million can grow into millions."

A million dollars is not a lofty goal. It isn't something one may acquire only through inheritance. It isn't as far fetched an idea as winning the lottery. So, what does it take to become a millionaire? It takes determination and constant sacrifice--constant sacrifice.

If one gives something up for ten years, one can spend the next twenty or thirty years indulging in that thing. No vacations for five years means the most amazing vacations for the next five years or two vacations a year for the next ten years.

Less money spent now means more money to spend later. And, not just the money saved--that money multiplied by compound interest will grow significantly through years of proper handling.

It doesn't take very much. It's quite a simple thing to do, really. Spend less than what comes in and keep the rest for later, and eventually one is a millionaire and all of those people who smirked before are jealous now.

The moral here is that, no matter how many smirks, laughs, and "Oh, I hope you're right,"s one may get, one will become a millionaire. And, one's friends will have an amazing time at the party when it happens.

28 October 2011

Fear

She was a sketchbook drawing on a blank white canvas--her lines and curves were unstable and moved and jerked in a chaotic dance that would nearly tear her apart at every second that passed. Smoke billowed up from the cigarette in her hand and stabbed and swirled its way inter her form. She and the smoke became a jumble of flat lines on the empty space around her.

She tensed up--an overwhelming feeling of being watched struck her. She whilred around and yelled.

"I know who you are!"

She could see it, the black canvas that outstretched and enveloped everything it touched, yet somehow remained on the edge of her vision. It was a nasty shadow reaching out to take her, to kill her, to end her.

"You're only fear!"

She yelled again to the empty room around her. Her words were silent letters that floated up from her mouth and dissolved against the canvas into nothing.

"Get away!"

She could feel it. It was inside her, burning her. It was the cold in her eyes. It was a heavy cloak that bore her down to her knees only to have her stand back up against the pressure.

"Get away!"

It advanced and yielded and retreated and advanced again while she turned and looked for it, always at the edge of her vision. She held her arms out and the smoke from her cigarette left her body to form a pillar at the edge of her reach.

"Get out here, Fear!"

She stood defiantly, and challenged the thing she hated most of all.

"I can run; I can hide; you will follow me."

Her form trembled and her lines grew thicker and darker. She yelled out in pain and gritted her teeth until they cracked.

"I bet..."

She yelled and took one final drag of her smoke, then threw it to the ground.

"...I can put you out..."

Her muscles tensed. The smoke rose up and twisted her form with tiny slivers of lines that crawled in through her feet and out through her head, then disappeared against the blank white canvas.

"...like a cigarette!"

Her foot came down on the smoldering remains of her cigarette.

21 October 2011

Our Dance


In this room there's you and me. The black walls melt around us and the ceiling drips, smearing your lipstick running down your chin like cold blood running through veins on the pale moon—your eyes the burning stars that blind the world and tear my limbs apart, leaving me helpless calling your name.

We dance a lover's dance in silence with snake-like rhythm against a voodoo beat, the rhythm of our hearts. Drawn and crying, you sketch your hate on my lips as you bite them, a desperate attempt to steal my heart. And now, I can't feel you, just the taste of your lips and blood linger.

But, when we danced, I echo your words with mindless absence and float to your voice But, when we danced, I felt your tears fall on my cheeks and I smiled and I told you 'This will never end.' Where'd you go?

Our fingers wrap together and your cold, rosy fingers dig into my hands and tear away. And again, I smell nothing but blood and you. I'm here! I cry out, desperate to hear you again. It doesn't have to end. And, we dance.

And, the ceiling collapses and you're nothing but an empty feeling that haunts my dreams and wakes me up in a cold sweat in a room with black walls.

I can't forgive you, I echo your words with mindless absence and float away, trying to forget that time that we danced, but you left scars on my lips and I still taste the blood.

Forget it, I fall and accept the soft ground in a room with no walls or ceiling and I build a statue of myself and climb to the top. This is me! I yell. This is who I am! I never liked our dance anyway.

14 October 2011

Three Bandits


Daryn counted the bandits. “There are three guarding the entrance,” he whispered to his three companions.

“I'll sneak around them and try to flank them, you guys keep their attention,” Tina looked to Daryn for support.

“Good idea. Gareth and I will attack first. We'll focus on the bandit to our right with the longsword Gareth, you stay back with the bow and I'll charge in with my blade. Nathan, you draw the other two men's attention while Tina sneaks around their right side.”

They all nodded in agreement and prepared for the battle.

Gareth struck first, landing an arrow in the bandit's chest with a thunk.
Daryn charge in behind the arrow and sliced through the bandit's leather armor.

The bandit turned to his partners, “William, Sean, we're being attacked!” He swung his blade down and caught Daryn behind the leg, knocking him to his knees.

Nathan decided to distract the other two bandits by throwing rocks at them, drawing their main focus to him as Tina continued to sneak around their backs.

The two bandits, William and Sean, approached Nathan, weapons drawn. William gritted his yellow teeth as he brought his ax down on Nathan, but was knocked to the side by Tina as she struck him in the back of the head with the but of her knife.

Sean turned to her, his dirty brown hair falling into his face, and brought his own blade down on her. She quickly intercepted his sword with her knife and threw him back a bit.

Gareth drew his bow once more and took aim at his target. This time his arrow pierced straight through the bandit's leather armor and a bit of blood trickled out through the hole.
Daryn stood up and grabbed the arrow and shoved it in deeper, causing the bandit to cry out and fall to his knees, blood shooting from his mouth.

The bandit dropped his sword and grabbed the arrow in his chest.
“Dannith, hold on!” William recovered from the blow to his head and rushed past Tina and Nathan to his partner's side. He swung the side of his ax at Daryn and knocked him to the side and took position between his partner and Gareth.

Nathan turned to Tina, “Follow my lead.” He dove down and grabbed Sean's legs, pulling him to the ground. Immediately, Tina was on top of him trying to pin his arms.

Sean managed to throw Tina off of him, but couldn't kick Nathan loose.

Daryn and Gareth exchanged glances and Daryn tackled the bandit, William, while Gareth notched and shot at arrow, landing it straight into Dannith's chest, knocking the bandit to the ground, unconscious.

William threw Daryn off himself and stood up while Tina managed to successfully pin Sean down.
Nathan stood up and hit Sean in the head with the butt of his blade, knocking him unconscious.

Gareth shot an arrow at William, but missed. Daryn stood up and took advantage of the distraction, knocking William in the head.

William saw his two partners go down and decided that this was a losing battle that wasn't worth dying for. He quickly fled the scene as one more arrow from Gareth's bow whirred past his head.

Daryn and Nathan quickly tied the two bandits up with rope and then they all let the adrenaline leave their systems.

“Is anyone seriously injured?” Gareth looked around the group.

“My armor is shot,” Daryn tossed the rags that used to be his leather armor to the ground, “Other than that, I'm fine.”

“I wasn't hurt,” Tina looked around the group.

“Nor I,” Nathan spoke up, “How long do you suppose these two will be out?”

“A few hours at the least,” Daryn examined the two bandits, “They won't be causing us much trouble when they do wake up.”

“Why don't we just slit their throats and be done with them?” Tina eyed them, playing with her knife in her hands.

“Because,” Gareth looked at her sharply, “We're better than that.”

“Yes,” Daryn agreed, “Now let's go. There will be more inside and we must be prepared.”

07 October 2011

Better Backstories


A character's backstory is a great tool from which to draw for both GMs and Players; it is also a great way to engage everyone on more levels of the game. So, why is it that we settle for such poor unoriginal stories? Why are all the parents dead? From where are all these orphans coming? It's a real epidemic, but it helps explain the lack of friends or enemies. These characters were never properly raised and don't know how to interact with other people—what else could explain their behavior?

Next time you start a game, tell yourself and your players that you will not settle for mediocre characters anymore. “Because you always wanted to” is not a good enough reason to join the militia. “Because your parents forced you” is not a good enough reason to pursue a career in magic.

These characters often have nothing to lose but their possessions and their lives and they risk all of it every day. Why is that? Why are they willing to put their lives in so much danger? Money is not a good enough motivation, and neither is depression due to the loss of family. What is the goal of the PCs?

Try this, make a list of things you could use from the backstories of your characters: people, events, places, items, etc. Take that list, and use everything on it.

If your list isn't as long as you'd hoped, then next time you run a game, ask for something more acceptable. Make your players flesh out your world for you. Ask for a friend, an enemy, a place, a meaningful event, and a special item, and make sure every PC has one in his or her story that links to the PC in some way. If you have a party of four, you have twenty plot items for you to abuse.

A Friend

A childhood friend, a pen pal, a friend from work, a close cousin or brother, etc. This person means a lot to the PC and should have a large impact on the PC's life.

An Enemy

A childhood rival, an evil twin, an evil landlord, etc. This person has caused deliberate harm to the PC on more than one occasion and causes the PC's blood to boil at the mention of her or his name.

A Place

Home towns are too easy and will not do. You need something less obvious. A first dungeon, a mysterious island that the PC stared upon as a child, a town to which the PC cannot go for fear of being hanged. These are more exciting and can provide more fuel to a smoldering game.

A Meaningful Event

This is something that has changed the PC's perspective on life and has led the PC to where she or he now is. This is something that haunts the PC's dreams. Births and deaths are easy, but acceptable. The death of parents is not acceptable. This can be a future event envisioned by the PC in a dream, or a massacre the PC took a part in, or an earthquake that swallowed a mountain. Something powerful with a bit of mystery sprinkled in.

A Special Item

This is something that the PC and others revere. Perhaps, it is a family heirloom or the ancient hero's sword that the PC now carries or the necklace the PC's daughter made before the PC left for good. Whatever it is, it's important.

30 September 2011

The Parents Are Dead Conundrum


Okay, it's time to address this whole 'my parents are dead' thing. What is the problem here, players!? Where are all the parents going? And, why is it that it's the same old story? You know the story—bandits killed my parents. Enough is enough. Let's make our parents interesting. What do you think?

Targets of Assassination

We're going to transition into this slowly. Your parents are still dead; only this time, bandits aren't the cause. No, this is something a lot more intriguing. Your parents were assassinated. And, get this! It was on purpose! Your parents were some pretty important people and some other people needed them dead. Who did it? Maybe you know, maybe you don't, but you as a player know. Write it in! Maybe the mafia killed your parents and your character has no idea who did it; it's more interesting when there's a face attached to your parents' killers.

Sacrificed

We're keeping your parents dead, so don't have a panic attack, but the next entry won't be so kind, prepare yourself. In this one, your parents were sacrificed or sacrificed themselves. Your god was demanding human sacrifices and your parents were picked. Right before your eyes, they were killed and offered to appease your god. Your parents were part of a ritual that claimed their lives and the result of the ritual marked you for life. Perhaps, it even granted you strange powers because of the ritual. Your parents entered a long-fought war and were killed in battle, or so read the report....

Ex-Adventurers

Don't adventurers ever settle? Do they all become merchants? Well, this time it's your parents. Maybe, only one of them was an adventurer and came home periodically until that time he or she left and never returned. What if your parents had met while adventuring together and decided to settle down and have kids? Would it be so bad to have somebody, anybody to come home to? Besides, they probably made plenty of friends who will recognize your name too, and maybe they made a few enemies as well....

Nobles

That last one probably threw you off, so we'll go back to something you know well—the noble parents. It's going to be different this time. This time, you didn't rebel and leave on bad terms, no. In fact, your parents encouraged you to become an adventurer. They loved the idea so much, they even had you specially trained to be able to go out on your own!

Trying to Kill You

“Egads!” you say. “Why on Earth would this be the case!?”
It's simple. You know it's going to happen if you leave your parents alive. GMs get off on turning your parents against you. Why not just do it yourself? Your parents despise your existence. They see you as a stain that needs to be cleaned, and the only way to do that is to kill you. You've been running from them for almost your entire life, and you've never been able to completely shake them off you. Those suckers are just too determined to see you dead. Maybe it's your fault and maybe it isn't; they're trying to kill you either way.

The best part about all of these? You know who your parents are! No more 'I never knew my parents!'

23 September 2011

Taking the Focus off Player Characters


The latest trend in gaming seems to be a focus on characters—developing their personalities and ignoring the numbers or, more likely, using the numbers as a way of development the characters as more than just stat blocks. How can I get my players to roleplay? How can I get my players to involve their PCs more with the game? How can I integrate my PCs' backstories into the world? These are common questions asked by GMs that focus on the Player Characters. Players are asking similar questions. How can I better develop my character and his/her personality? What are my character's motivations?

All of those questions are good questions to ask and can help build an involved game that can draw a lot of attention to the characters; however, perhaps we spend too much time worrying about PCs and perhaps we focus on them too much.

As players, it is easy to look to your character as your portal into the game world: as a vessel that lets you experience all that the world has to offer; therefore, it's easy to put all of our focus on development that character to be exactly what we want. This can create some issues, and many of them are common for us to experience.

Often, we will make a character and have an ideal development for that character. We can picture the character perfectly in our minds and know their personality in and out, but when we play the character, we grow disappointed in how they turn out. This might be because when we picture the character in our minds, he or she is the main focus—the main character, but when we play that isn't true; all of the PCs become the main character and, in a sense, none of them do. We each focus on our own characters and their developments while ignoring all the other characters and possibly even the world itself.

What if we began asking different questions? What is an interesting story that I can run to get my players interested? What's a cool situation that I can throw in to force the characters to work together? How can I take my players' focus off their characters and put it toward the world? Some of these go hand-in-hand with the previous questions. Integrating a character's backstory into your game is a great way to attract attention from that player, and what if the characters all had a shared backstory that they all created together?

For players, different questions need to be asked. Instead of 'What would my character do in this situation?' try asking 'What would be the coolest thing to do in this situation?' or 'What is my character capable of and how can I abuse that here to spice things up?' Instead of asking 'How can I better develop my character's personality?' try asking 'How can I form a better relationship between my character and the others in the party?'

What if the players in your game asked those questions? What if there was more inner-party roleplay? What if there was more 'What do you think, guys? Would that be cool?' Would you have more fun? Would you be disappointed in your character's development?

21 September 2011

And I Forget


Sitting here
Counting the stars
Gives me hope
And I forget
That my eyes are closed
And that I'm in this bed
And that everyone is worried
That I won't wake up

16 September 2011

Quotes


*on the way to college orientation*
Father: “You know, son, you're intelligent, but you aren't smart.”

Father: *Loud Sigh* “Son! When are you going back to work!? It's like you haven't been going lately!”
Son: “Tomorrow . . . I only had yesterday and today off.”

*home alone in room watching cartoons*
Father: “Son! Get out there and help your stepmom! She's pouring the mulch into the flower garden herself! I shouldn't have to tell you these things!”
Son: “I didn't even know you guys were back.”
Father: Grr! “Don't talk back to me!”

Stepmom: “Hey. Child was acting up at the babysitter's. He spit on a little girl.”
Son: “Wow. Did dad tell you what Child did this morning?”
Stepmom: “No, he didn't. What did Child do?”
Son: “I caught him peeing on the carpet.”
Stepmom: “Oh. I'll ask your father about it. It's about time for me to call him, anyway.”
*dials phone*
Stepmom: *blah blah* “...hey, Child has been acting up lately. I heard about this morning. How did you punish him?” . . . “No, I'm just wondering so I can punish him the same way if he does it again.” . . . “I'm not checking up on you.” . . . “Yes, I told Son about the limb breaking. He said he'll get it tomorrow, since it'll be his day off.” . . . “Yeah. Well, he's tired and it's dark out and it's a big limb. It's like half the tree.” . . . “Don't worry. He said he'll get it tomorrow.”

*sleeping*
Father: “Son! Wake up!”
Son: “Huh? What time is it?”
Father: “It's 10:30! You don't get to sleep in till 10:30!”
Son: “Oh. Sorry.”
Father: “Why is that broken limb still in the yard!?”
Son: “I was gonna get it today. It's my day off.”
Father: “No! It is not your day off! You work for me!”
Son: “Yes, sir. I'll go get it now.”

*Father walks out, leaves door open comes back minutes later*
Father: “Are your arms broke!?”
Son: “Sir?”
Father: “Why's the door still open!?”
Son: “...I thought you needed it open.”

Father: “What's that under the dishwasher?”
Son: “Oh! It looks like just water.”
Father: “Well, why didn't you clean it up!?”
Son: “I didn't notice it until you pointed it out.”
Father: “Are you blind!?”
Son: “Maybe I need glasses.”
Father: “You watch it!”

Father: “Son! Why is this milk out with the lid off!?”
Son: “Stepmom must have done that.”
Father: *cheerily* “That girl.”

14 September 2011

I Can't Forgive Him


We all just pretend it never happened.
But every time I look at him,
I remember
And I can't forgive him.

09 September 2011

Victim of my Greed


Oblivion is a place of nothing, and not much of a place either. I formed here, the guardian of nothing. I started changing things once I got bored. I would take lost spirits from the mortal realm and bring them to Oblivion. It became something—a transport to the afterlife, a chance at redemption for those who would have been forced to wander the mortal realm.

Some revered me as a god and chose to remain in Oblivion with me. Others shunned me as a demon. I dealt with those who would lay curses on me the only way I knew; I destroyed them, made them one with the nothing.

But things became stale and unexciting—once again, I was bored and my followers could not entertain me. I looked upon the afterlife and saw the wonders of having everything and I grew envious. I wanted it, but I could not take it. The leader of the afterlife was too powerful for me and my mere army. If only there were two of me....

I turned to the mortal realm; perhaps one of the lost souls could grow into a being like me. After lifetimes of searching and studying and trial and error, I found a mortal with potential: a scarred soul, lost in the midst of those who would shun her. She kept a secret lust for another.

I would have to test her. Would her lust for power match mine? Her love had taken another lover and I saw my chance. I came to this woman in a vision and offered her the power to gain her lover back. She would become one of my minions in the mortal realm—a witch, as they were called. As a price for this power, she would enter Oblivion upon her death.

She knew the risks. My mortal minions were being actively hunted in their realm. She did not care; she took the deal and gained her lover back. This was not enough for me. I came to her many times and taught her well; she grew strong and hungry for more. She wanted to rule the mortal realm—that was not my will.

I came to her lover as, what she called, an angel. I told the lover of the witch, my protégé, and led her to the witch's lair. My protégé caught her lover and betrayed her. She sentenced her to be burned at the stake, a price my protégé should have paid.

I watched the witch take her own life in regret. Good. We would have the afterlife as ours.

07 September 2011

Who is This?


She called him and said,
“I love you.”
And he said,
“Who is this?”

02 September 2011

Victim of my Betrayal


The fire crackled and she screamed like a devil and the crowd chanted, “Burn the witch! Burn the witch!”

I turned my eyes away and started back to my house; the chanting echoed in my ears long after I had entered my basement. I remembered my lover's glowing red hair before the fire torched it, long curls that bounced past her shoulders.

When she saw my lab for the first time and her eyes grew wide and started watering, my heart sank. The betrayal she must have felt threw her into a rage. I still have piles of swept-up glass from broken vials in the corners.

“You're not a witch!” she said. She held my hand and stroked my face. “This isn't yours!” She made excuses.

I had to be calm, but she couldn't be. She fell to the floor and clung to my dress pleading, “Please, no.” But the answer was yes. As cold as it must have felt to hear, “Yes.”

Our love was hard enough for us to keep a secret and I knew she couldn't handle the betrayal. When she left, she left full of hate and I filled with sadness. I knew what would come next, but I'd hoped it wasn't true.

With the remaining equipment I had after our fight, I concocted a potion to make my flesh clear and my footsteps silent and I followed her. Straight to the sheriff's home. It was out of my hands at that point. My work was vital to ending the witch hunts and I couldn't let it be lost. I had to act.

I had a precious advantage and the plan was formulated and put into motion. I beat her by a precious few minutes and silently slayed the sheriff and his family. I knew she would be in shock at the sight and I knew I'd have to to rush back home. I grabbed some vials and raw ingredients and placed them in a hidden place in her home and it was done. As soon as she reported the crime, she'd be the first suspect.

The rest was like walking through a dream. The search only lasted a few hours before the items I had planted were found. There was no trial, she was a witch and they had the proof.

It took only a few hours to get the fire set up for lighting. She never looked at me the entire time and she never spoke my name, not even to cast blame. I guess that's what hurt to most. I had just condemned her to be burned with fire and she wouldn't do the same to me.


I wiped tears from my cheeks as I prepared my final potion. The curves of the vials were her curves; the fires were her burning; the bubbles and fumes were her whispers. I put the potion to my lips, her lips to mine.

In the end, my work would be abandoned, unfinished. But, I couldn't forget the picture of her eyes locked on mine as her face became smothered in flame. I would love to imagine we'd be together in death, but I was to be cursed to oblivion.

My hand trembled as I tilted the potion and drank my bitter death.

31 August 2011

He Couldn't Remember


He couldn't remember what she looked like.
So, he just closed his eyes
And pulled the trigger.

26 August 2011

Psychosonic


I flicked out my cigarette and watched the cops ram a car into a building: a reminder of the dangers of my job. The man in the car had been blasting this psychosonic music out his windows—the kind of music that messes with your mind and makes you feel superhuman. It was the kind of music that made you stupid enough to blare it out your car in the city.

Blam!

Blam!

Two shots—one to the head and the second to the chest to make sure, and then the cops rolled away. He got what was coming to him; everybody knew how dangerous it was to own that music.

The briefcase I carried burned in my hands, “Hey, Tommy. Why do you think we do what we do?”
Tommy was my partner. Real quiet on these trips, but not from experience; he was young and nervous. He wore his cap backward and a button-up shirt missing buttons so he just let it hang open. He was a good guy, though. Dependable. He knew how to fight and when to walk away and he had the scars on his knuckles and chest to show for it.

He thought for a minute before responding, “I don't know. Boredom? We need the money to eat and I guess we both just want what happened to that guy up there to happen to us one day.”

Yeah, I thought to myself as we walked along in silence, We all have a death wish, don't we. Every person alive today wishes they weren't, but it's not so easy as that, is it?

We held our breath as we passed an officer on the sidewalk and tried our best not to make eye contact. They wore these big goggles that glowed titanium yellow and could see into your soul. At least, that's what it felt like every time one of 'em looked at you—like they were looking straight through you and could hear every one of your thoughts and feel everything you were feeling. It always gave me chills.

When we passed him, I watched the tension leave Tommy's muscles and the burning in my hand cooled down a bit. The path we tread was grimy and littered with bits of newspapers and missing person signs. I kicked a soda can onto the street and watched it fall through a gutter. The air smelled of rotten eggs and there always seemed to be a thin layer of dust over everything, you could feel it when you breathed. The only reason I smoked was to take the taste out of my mouth. That's what I told myself as I lit another one up.

Tommy was a big guy, he stood about five inches taller than me and I wasn't short. He didn't grow any facial hair and kept what he had on his head trimmed short. He wasn't much to look at, but he was a good partner. We were standing in front of a building, our delivery in hand, and Tommy buzzed the room. The door unlocked with a *click* and we walked in.

The man we were delivering to was a real mess, a nutjob: a typical client. His room smelled worse than the city and was cluttered with dirty clothes and plates of half-eaten food, save one corner. In that corner sat a music player and some headphones. He looked up at us with big, sunken-in eyes and drool crusted on his gaunt face. His hair was matted down in places. He gave us the cash and I gave him the briefcase and that was that.

As we walked back, I looked up at Tommy and said, “Do you really think this is worth dying for, Tommy?”

He shrugged and answered, “I don't know. But, what's worth living for these days?”

I guess he was right.

24 August 2011

That Star

You see that star right there?
Not that one--that one.
The one past the moon and our galaxy.
Past Andromeda.
The one that goes past the edge of our universe
And keeps going.
I miss you so much
It could reach that star
And come back.

19 August 2011

Thanks

“You don’t talk back to me! You don’t have the right to talk back to me!”

I stood firm and wiped the tears from my face. No more yelling, I was sick of it. “Don’t talk to me like that, dad!” My fists were clinched and my face was red.

His face twisted in rage. “Do you wanna fight me!?”

What? No! But I couldn’t say the words faster than his fist could break my nose. I fell to the floor and backed myself against the back of the couch. What’s happening? I couldn’t feel the pain, but I knew it should have hurt. Tears and blood mingled around my lips, but I couldn’t taste it.

“Stop crying, pussy!”

My face hit the floor and I could hear my step-mom come into the room, but I couldn’t tell what she was saying. What’s happening? She was on the floor next to me and she was scared. What’s happening? I tasted his shoe on my face and I felt my lip slowly swell, but it didn’t hurt.

“No, stop!” She screamed, but only once. She laid unconscious next to me.

I tried to back up farther, but the couch was in the way. Please stop. I’ll tell my teachers that I bit my lip too hard and it swelled up. I wiped blood from my face. It smeared against my arm.

“Don’t you get that on my couch! This is my house! You don’t wipe blood all over my house!” He lifted his foot, but I cowered back and he stopped.

The door outside was behind him. I couldn’t make it. The sun through the window burned my eyes. What’s happening?

I was in class and my teacher smiled and gave me some chap-stick, but my lips weren’t chapped, “Thanks.” I smiled and took my seat.

17 August 2011

Pretending


He knew she would leave him one day.
But, he held her close
And pretended it wasn't true.

12 August 2011

The Escape


As we scaled down the wall, the taste of fresh air burst in my mouth and, for the first time in years, I felt the cool night air blow through my clothes.

It was a tough climb down, but we weren't in any position to rest, my partner, Tobias, and I. It was his plan and my ingenuity that got us out of that godforsaken hellhole, and the pain in my muscles from the climb was nothing compared to the pain of losing my freedom. In his eyes, I could see the same conviction.

On the shore of the island, far from the piercing cries of the sirens and the barking of the watch dogs, we finally granted ourselves a minute to catch our breath. I could smell the salty ocean and feel it fill my lungs: a sweet aroma compared to the medley of odors inside the prison. I gazed at the stars. “Look up there,” I said to Tobias, pointing to the sky, “What do you see?”

“The sky? The stars. I don't really see much of anything.”

“You know what I see?” I asked, not expecting an answer. Pausing for emphasis, I stated, “Opportunity. You know, Tobias, I've always been an opportunist.” In those billions of stars and planets, in the almost endlessness of the ocean on all sides, I saw my freedom and all the possible new lives I could create. Everything was stretched out before me like an empty canvas, and I had the paint.

Tobias had carried a makeshift raft that I worked on for months, made of raincoats provided to us and our inmates. We promptly inflated it and hopped on. The salty ocean air burned my eyes. I welcomed the new sensations. The taste of the water on my lips, the dirt and grime clinging to my now wet clothes. The pure silence of the whole experience. Tobias stared into the sky, apparently seeing for the first time what I had seen earlier. Tears smeared the dirt on both our faces.

We never saw the rock sticking out of the water off the shore. The darkness of night and the waves hid it from us until our raft smashed into it, knocking Tobias and me on our faces, and then the death hiss of the air as it drained from a puncture in the raft. We were almost close enough to turn back, but the current was pulling us out farther and our paddles had fallen in the water during the impact. My heart raced in my chest and I could feel the adrenaline pumping through me. Tobias was yelling something, wide-eyed, frightened. We both tried to paddle the raft toward the shore with our hands, but it was too late. It had flattened and we were sinking with nothing to hold onto.

Three days later, a young officer approached the chief guard of the prison. The constant roar of inmates fighting and yelling was never out of earshot in this place.

“Sir, their bodies were found, caught against the rocks on the southern end of the island.”

“Thank you, officer. I want a full report on my desk by the end of the week. Dismissed.” The young officer nodded and walked out of the room, leaving the chief alone. The chief turned, a deep frown crossed his face, a permanent feature of the man. “I knew those sumbitches wouldn't make it. Nobody's ever made it off this island, and nobody ever will.”

Back at the sinking raft.

As the raft sank and Tobias held onto it with his life, I swam east just like I'd practiced every night for the last six months. I grabbed onto the same rock to which I tied my personal boat, made from wood and other debris that had washed up on short, much sturdier than the raincoat raft. I turned to watch Tobias sink, as I knew he would. He couldn't swim; almost nobody inside could swim. After decades locked indoors, it's easy to forget.

I hopped in my boat and dumped the body of the man I'd killed, only an hour before we'd left, into the water. I untied the twine, I made, and pulled inside the boat and began rowing away. Tobias's body floated against the rocks just like the other man's. Their faces would be picked away by the fish and they would be unrecognizable by the time they were found.

I leaned back in my boat and looked once more at the sky. Freedom, I thought before closing my eyes. For the first time in twenty-five years, I finally knew freedom.

10 August 2011

Please, Don't Jump


I watched her jump.
I didn't want her to but,
It was what she wanted
So, I didn't stop her.

05 August 2011

Fighting off the Crows

“Hey, guys! What's up?” A young girl walked up to the group, her black hair almost purple in the light. Her sharp, thin well-defined features clearly marked her as a half-elf. Her smile was big as she pushed her long hair behind her right ear, letting it hang in front of her eye on the left.

“Oh! Hi, Little Susie. We're just on duty, so...nothing.” Tina smiled at Little Susie.

“On duty again? Weren't you guys on duty last night?” Little Susie tilted her head slightly and raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah,” Nathan's voice was monotone, “Boss must love us.”

“After last night, you'd think he'd give us a break,” Daryn rolled his eyes and pulled his mouth to one side in disappointment.

“Yeah, I heard about the scary wolves,” Little Susie made a baby face as she said it, “Ha!”

“Hey! They were no walk in the park, okay?” Daryn took on a defensive stance.

Little Susie chuckled, “But the way you tell it, you guys fought a dragon!”

“Wolves, dragons, it's hard to tell the difference sometimes, right Daryn?” Gareth elbowed him and knocked him slightly off balance.

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever. What are you up to, Little Susie?” Daryn's attempt to change the subject was less than subtle.

“I'm glad you asked!” Little Susie perked up, “I'm on an important mission and I need volunteers, and since you aren't doing anything...I was hoping you guys would volunteer.”

“What's the mission?” Nathan lowered his eyebrows and crossed his arms behind his back as he leaned in a bit.

“I'll take that as a yes!” She hopped a bit as she spoke, “Today,” her tone lowered slightly and she scrunched up her mouth and eyebrows, “we're going to take on the oh-so-important job of scaring the crows from the corn fields.”

“Oh?” Tina fingered the knives on her belt.

“Yep, and I'll show you guys how. It's not as tricky as it sounds, but it takes practice.” She grabbed Daryn by the wrist and dragged him behind her. The rest of the group followed accordingly.

“The trick is,” Little Susie's voice was a whisper. The corn field stretched out before the group as they hunched down, little sprouts dotting the field with rows of green, “you can't just scare them; they'll just go to a different part of the field. You gotta scare them from all sides, so they think there's nowhere else to go. Follow my lead. Daryn, you stay with me. Tina, Nathan, and Gareth, you guys go around and try to encircle them.” She grabbed Daryn's hand and walked, crouched toward the crows. The other three began sneaking around.

Once they formed a solid circle around the crows, they started sneaking in. “Damn!” Nathan cursed himself as stones dropped from their pouch at his side. The crows turned to him and all flew up and away. “Hey!” Nathan's eyes grew wide, “I did it.” He stood up, arms on his hips and chest puffed out.

Little Susie chuckled as the crows landed a few yards away and Nathan's chest deflated. She motioned for them to regroup. “This time,” she looked at Nathan, “we'll make sure all our stuff is on properly, okay?” Nathan looked down sadly and Tina playfully punched his shoulder.

“Fine,” he said, “Sorry, guys. This time I've got it.”

“They'll be more wary now,” Little Susie got serious again, “We've gotta be extra sneaky.” She motioned for them to circle the crows again, and held onto Daryn's hand, dragging him with her.

The group got in close this time and Little Susie motioned for their attention. “Follow my lead,” she mouthed as she counted down with her fingers from three, “Three...two...one. Raah!” She let go of Daryn's hand and charged forward and the others followed. The crows lept up and knocked each other in confusion as they flew away from the field. “Good job, guys.” Little Susie perked up again and bounced as she spoke.

“Thank you. Thank you,” Gareth bowed.

“They won't be back for a while,” Tina looked triumphantly at the fleeing crows.

“Yeah, well, we'd better get back to our patrol,” Daryn smiled at Little Susie, “We wouldn't want to get in trouble.”

Nathan made an obvious frown, “Leave it to Daryn to ruin the fun.”

“Don't worry, guys. Maybe you'll run into another dragon,” Little Susie chuckled and skipped away. The others laughed and patted Daryn on the back.

“Yeah, yeah. You guys can shove it.”

03 August 2011

29 July 2011

My Grandfather

I used to go hunting with my grandfather when I was a kid. We'd go on the weekends almost every weekend; it was the highlight of my weeks. We would go to this reservation a few minutes from his house and it was like an adventure—it was so exciting, having to be quiet and getting to carry a gun. When I became a teenager, we would share a few beers while we were out and he'd always tell me, “Don't tell you're parents I'm giving you this.”

It was pretty much the only time we'd ever spend together; going out hunting, drinking, goofing off. I loved it more than anything and I could see in his eyes that he enjoyed it too. I killed my first buck, cooked my first squirrel, shot my first turkey, and my first duck with my grandpa and he was always so proud of me when I'd get one. I was thirteen when I shot my first buck, a little four-pointer absolutely nothing to brag about, but you couldn't tell me or my grandfather that. We came back to his house, where my parents and siblings were waiting and I just strutted up to the door with my chest puffed out and quietly, with a smug look on my face, pointed to the back of the truck where my prize was sitting. That was the best deer meat I had ever eaten.

As things go, I got older and the trips started spreading out more; some of it was my life catching up to me and some of it was my grandfather being less able to keep up and go out as much. We still enjoyed a good hunt together, but it became an annual thing, no more once a week or once a month trips for us. It was still just as much fun as it had ever been, and I still looked forward to it every year, counting down the days until our hunt together.

One year, I was twenty-five at the time, he called me up and asked if I was gonna make it to the hunt this year, but I told him I was just too busy this time; I'd have to get a rain check. Truth is, I was going out with friends to bars and clubs to pick up chicks and get wasted; we were gonna have so much fun out that night and we'd get so much pussy it would hurt. Found out the next day that my grandpa had an accident while he was out hunting. He was trying to climb one of the fences out there and half-way up had a heart attack and fell to the ground. He died alone out there because I wasn't with him.

I never forgave myself for that. If I had been out there maybe I could have helped him and saved his life, maybe it never would have happened if I'd gone with him, he wouldn't have had to exert himself carrying all the stuff and he would have had my help climbing the fence. There are so many maybes, but it's my fault he died and I have never been able to forgive myself for that.

27 July 2011

Is This Okay?

When is it okay
To tell your boss
That he smells like cigarettes
And that you ran over his dog?

22 July 2011

The Trinity Sword

The Trinity Sword is as old as the Angels and Demons and almost as powerful.

In times long past, the world was in chaos. Beings of light and shadow began taking forms and fighting for no discernible reason. The planet, Tera, was in its raw form, for the gods were still molding it. Nothing could survive on the surface save the spawning creatures of light and shadow who were at constant war.

The raw form of Tera was covered in expanding oceans and erupting volcanoes that reaped massive destruction on its surface. Hurricanes and Tornadoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis all rocked the surface of the developing Tera.

Amidst the chaos and war, four beings formed that were different from those of the light and shadow. They were formed of neither light nor shadow, but of the planet and lived in peace with Tera, but could not tolerate the wars of the other creatures and resolved themselves to put an end to it.

They prayed to their mother Tera and asked her for power and resolve. Tera answered by giving each of the four a different strength. One received command of the creatures of light. One received command of the creatures of darkness. One received command of the power within Tera. One received command over the powers of all things physical. Each received a body to represent their new power. The first took the shape of a creature of light. The second took the shape of a creature of darkness. The third kept his form. The fourth grew to towering heights, able to stand over mountains.

The four took their new powers and tried to use them to end the wars, but their efforts were futile. Frustrated, they called again to mother Tera. Tera answered once more with another gift. She took the three with command over creatures of light, creatures of darkness, and the power within Tera and combined their powers. The three took another form that encompassed all three in one physical form, the form of a sword. The fourth armed himself with the sword, and with one swing banished the creatures of darkness and light to separate realms, forming the Angels and Demons, and calmed the surface of Tera, leaving peace for life to develop. The energy necessary for the swing exhausted the fourth being and he fell dead, dropping the sword beside his body. From his corpse sprouted the first tree.

The Angels, seeing the power of the sword, took it for themselves and hid it from the Demons and the rest of the world for fear that it might be used against them once more.

20 July 2011

15 July 2011

The Recovery

“Hurry up, Stinson,” Thadeus paced the room. His hands went into his pockets, behind his back, across his chest, and on his neck as he circled a server box. He and his friends all wore goggles on their faces.

Stinson was laid back in a chair, completely oblivious to the world around him. His avatar ran across the goggles of his friends, “I'm trying, okay? Just stay calm. Leroy, I need you to flip that switch for me.”

“Which one?” His voice was raised as he glanced across the room. The images in his goggles lightly obscured the world around him.

“The one on your left.”

“Which one? There are like fifteen here!”

“The green one...up...yeah, that one,” Stinson's voice was calm as he guided Leroy to the switch.

“This one?” He grabbed it with his rough hand and pulled it down.

“Shit! Not that one! Unflip it, unflip it!” Stinson's avatar blinked red in Leroy, Thadeus, and Pete's goggles.

“Jesus, dude?!” Pete appeared to be staring at a wall, “Don't fuck this up, Stinson. If we get caught, we're dead.”

“I know! Okay, flip the one under the one you just flipped.”

“This one?” Leroy was sure to indicate the switch he was about to flip.

“Yes”

Leroy flipped it.

“Okay, yep,” Stinson's tone was calm and direct, “they know we're here.”

“What?!” Thadeus's face was red and the veins in his neck stuck out farther than his ears.

“Calm down,” Stinson's avatar gestured his hands downward, “just calm down, okay? I got this. Pete, you see the red switch in front of you?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Flip it down.”

“Okay,” as the switch went down, an alarm sounded throughout the building and water could be heard pouring in rooms around them.

Stinson's avatar appeared to be searching through files in a hall of file cabinets, “That should create the diversion we need so I can find these files.”

“Fuck, dude! That's your plan?” Leroy was practically bouncing around the room with anxiety.

“I told you, I got this. See?” Stinson's avatar held up some papers for the group to look at, “I've got the files,” he stuffed them in his pocket and blinked away. Stinson's body jerked up from the seat and he took in a huge gasp, “Ugh, I hate coming out of the network,” he unplugged a few wires from the server in front of him and stood up.

“Great!” Pete looked back at the group, “Now, let's get the fuck out of here.”

08 July 2011

Mommy, Where Are You?

“Mommy! Where are you?” A young boy ran through the woods, his face contorted with worry. His short brown hair was covered in caught twigs and leaves as he barreled through the trees and bushes. He had small cuts on his arms, none deep enough to draw blood, but still painful enough to make a boy of his age tear up. He had come out to his favorite park with his mother to celebrate his ninth birthday; she had disappeared hours earlier and he got lost trying to find her.

The sky was bright on this day and clouds covered most of it, casting shade on an otherwise hot day. Combined with the shadows of the trees, what little light that shined through bounced off of the young boy's face as he ran on.

“Mommy? Stop playing! Where are you?” His cries were frantic as he looked around. He had lost all sense of direction as he turned in circles and ran at random, finding himself in the same place many times over. He stood, once again in the place he had started. To the east were some bushes with little green berries that he knew he shouldn't eat. They dotted the bush in clusters. A little brown bird landed on one of the branches and began pecking at some of the berries. “No,” the little boy ran over to the bushes waving his arms in a shooing motion at the bird, “Don't eat those; they're bad for you.” The bird flew away, scared and confused.

The little boy plopped down into the dirt and leaves on the ground and started crying. Mud streaked his face in long fingers where he wiped his tears. His eyes grew red and puffy. “Where are you mommy?” His cries came out small and helpless.

In the distance, the sound of frogs croaking could be heard. It was a continuous white noise in the background of the forest around him. It almost drowned out all the other noise as he sat, silent, staring forward in a daze.

In front of him, to the west, were two tall, skinny trees that reached up, almost touching the sky. He watched two squirrels playing tag on the trees—chasing each other up and down the trunks, sending bark flying out in all directions. Any other day, he would have found this sight funny and he would have laughed, but right now he felt worse than ever. He was alone; he had never been alone before, not like this anyway.

“Mommy!” He started crying once more, “Where are you?”

06 July 2011

01 July 2011

The Plan

The city below them was an expansive network of grids crisscrossing in a patchwork of small buildings and sky-scrapers. Cars sped down the roads like ones and zeros across the bus of a motherboard,  lights dotting the city through the darkness like a giant machine with too many switches to count, flickering without a comprehensible pattern. Three boys, teenagers, stared across the landscape from the roof of a sky-scraper on the edge of the city. A fourth sat against the railing, touching at the air as if in an imaginary world of his own, goggles on his face and circuit-run gloves on his hands. He bobbed his head back and forth to the beat of the music coming from his sound-nullifying headphones.

“So what do we do, huh? After our last mishap, we're fucked!” Thadeus, the youngest of the group, threw his arms to the side. His face was red.

“Relax, D; we can figure something out. Our lives aren't over yet,” Pete, the tallest of the group, tried to keep his voice calm as he spoke, but choked a bit on his words. He knew they had fucked up and he had no idea how to fix it.

“He's right, Pete. They know our signature; they have our file; hell, they know everything about us now. How to we come back from that? Nobody's gonna want to deal with us, our faces are on practically everything now.” Leroy placed his thumb and index finger on the bridge of his nose and leaned against the cold, steel railing. His eyes were closed and he tried to calm his nerves.

Pete turned to the two, feeling like they were ganging up on him. He sat on the railing and leaned his body out over the street, fifteen stories down. The buzz of traffic rang through his ears as he assessed the situation.

“So, what do we do?” Thadeus interrupted his thinking.

“I don't know, okay? We can't just pick up and go somewhere else, the corporation's everywhere and we can't stay here; we'd be caught within weeks. We need to strike back. We need to destroy our files.”

“They're on lock-up,” the boy sitting against the railing didn't look at the group as he spoke to them. He left his headphones and goggles on and continued touching at the air, “They're keeping them in a secure vault within their network. I can't access any of it from here, but if you bring me to their server room, I could get to the files and delete them.”

“See?” Pete turned to Thadeus, “Things are looking up,” his grin almost reached both of his ears.

24 June 2011

Maybe I Am the Bad Guy

It's hard to do, you know? Getting a real job; earning real money. And, stealing and vandalizing is so much more fun anyhow. And, hell, it's easy. That's what I'm really looking for, right? Easy. So, here I am in some rich bastard’s home, trying to figure out if this is what I really should be doing. And I guess it is. It's the easiest thing for me to do, and, to be honest, after doing it for so long, why should I quit now? Why shouldn't I take this DVD player or this computer monitor? It's just sitting here unattended, ready for me to pick up and shove into the trunk of my car. It's just sitting here in this little suburban utopia where the houses all have two floors and the fridges have food in them--where the mommies and daddies buy their kids presents on Christmas. Nobody will miss their stuff for long. Hell, they'd probably throw it out in a few weeks for better stuff anyway.

And, you know what? I love smashing their matching plates and glasses on their shiny kitchen floors. The echo they make in this big fucking house is just too satisfying for me to stop. And what do these people expect anyway? They flaunt their big houses with the well-kept lawns and the fences around their yards in their little gated communities and practically say “Look at us; we have stuff worth stealing!” What do they expect when I have to live out of my car and I have to donate plasma for food money and they sit here comfortably with all this useless shit?! I'm not the bad guy here. I'm the fucking victim.

Maybe one day I'll live in a place like this. Maybe one day I'll have two refrigerators full of food and a pantry and a laundry room and I'll be able to sit on my own big couch and turn on my own big television. Maybe I'll come back from my office job and kick off my shoes and pass out in my own big recliner with the air conditioner on high, bundled in a blanket. My wife will wake me up for dinner and my kids will kiss me and tell me they love me.

I'm not trying to be the bad guy here. I'm just trying to survive and maybe show these people that their shiny little sheltered lives aren't all that's out there. Show them that there are people like me still out here in the world, stealing to survive and wishing I could live like them. It's not like I haven't tried to get a real job. But being treated like shit by an anal retentive boss in a job I hate for the rest of my life just isn't appealing. At least, not as appealing as this.

These people probably deserve this stuff; I'm not stupid. They probably worked hard for it and sacrificed a lot. But, I've sacrificed a lot and worked hard too. I deserve at least a piece of this stuff, but what do I have? Haven't I given up enough: my friends, my family, my life? Just so I could shit on the lives of people who probably don't deserve it? Didn't everyone always say “Go chase your dreams. It doesn't matter what you do as long as you love doing it?” Well, I chased my dreams and failed; now I take away other people's dreams.

I don't know; maybe I am a bad guy. But somebody has to be.

22 June 2011

Romance Novels

I spent all day reading romance novels.
It made me forget that I've never been in love.

16 June 2011

The Wolves

“This is so boring!” Tina rubbed the edge of her blade and turned it to reflect the light of the moon. “How come we always get caught up in the boring shifts?”

“Because,” Daryn's gaze pierced her annoyed grimace, “every shift is boring. You know that. Just try to keep it to yourself.”

“Huff,” Tina's short hair was a clear indication that she loved to play with her knives just a bit too much. She scraped her knife against her arm, it's six-inch blade catching every hair and throwing them to the ground.

“Guys,” Gareth's voice was a whisper, “I think I see a bit of excitement approaching at the edge of the field,” his hand motioned in the same direction his light blue eyes were staring. His focus was intense as he drew his bow, “I count three wolves looking for a late-night meal. What say we ruin dinner for them?”

Nathan already had his sling drawn and loaded, “I'll draw their attention.”

Daryn turned to Nathan, “Great. Tina and I will attack head on. Gareth, you keep them at bay from a distance.”

Tina's eyes flickered—two little stars amongst the millions in the sky, “Finally, some action. Daryn, you can handle the straight-forward crap. I bet I can get behind them. We'll be wearing their coats as trophies in no time.”

“Fine, just don't leave me hanging by a thread,” Daryn walked forward with his long blade in his left hand. The wolves noticed the man immediately and two turned to him, the third ignoring him completely, focused more on the sheep in the field. “Raah!” Daryn charged forward at the largest wolf. The wolf dodged the sword and Daryn rolled, coming back to a crouched position with his blade held in front of him defensively.

The wolves circled him, assessing the threat when a quiet crack caught the smaller one's attention. “Ugh, the Demons must favor me,” Tina let out a short curse as she looked at the twig she just snapped beneath her foot. The smallest wolf was on her in an instant, too quick for her to defend.

“Hey!” Nathan's stone knocked the wolf in the head and off of Tina, “Not so fast, you little shit!”

The third wolf circled slowly around the sheep, hoping to catch it's prey and leave quickly, but an arrow landed in its path. It looked around cautiously and crouched lower, maybe it could still make it past the guards.

Daryn struck out at the larger wolf, but his blade did not land. The wolf circled around to his partner and they stood back-to-back with teeth barred, letting out low growls. Tina ignored their warning and threw a dagger at the one that just tackled her. The dagger missed, but landed in the back thigh of the largest one. With a loud yelp, the two wolves ran away.

The third wolf, ignoring the scuffle, continued on his mission, until another arrow landed much too close to his head, spooking him and sending him off behind his friends.

“Yeah! You better run!” Tina tossed another dagger their way, but it fell short. “Well,” she turned to her party, “there's our excitement for the week.”

Nathan snorted at her words, “Too much for me. I'd rather be bored than risking our lives against wolves.”

“I don't know what you mean,” Gareth returned from gathering his two shot arrows, “I didn't risk my life at all.”

“Yeah? Well,” Daryn looked at the three, “the important thing is how cool I looked out there. How would you guys rate my performance?”

Tina smirked, “About one step higher than an adventurer clearing a basement of rats.”

“Yeah? Well, where's our wolf coats you promised us?”

“Next time, I'm sure. Right, Tina?” Nathan laid on his back, his arms crossed behind his head. He was too busy counting the stars to see Tina nod in agreement.

10 June 2011

We're Dead Anyway

She smiled at him, her tears striking lines in the dirt on her face. I guess you were right. She laughed and empty laugh.

Yeah, His expression was bleak and his eyes vacant, A lot of good that does us now, huh? He turned to her, but his eyes were on the floor, Now all we can hope to do is survive for as long as we can. He tried to smile, but, like her laugh, it was left incomplete and didn't comfort her at all. The door on the closet in which they were hiding was thin, and they could hear the loud cry of another victim. The shriek, cut short, became a low, sputtering gurgle, mere feet from their hiding spot.

What if we can kill it? Her eyes, stained black from the taint in the air around them, pleaded at him.

We've tried and we can't, he insisted, biting skin from his dry lips. Even if we could, we're dead anyway.

Yes, her voice, a raised whisper filled with desperation, but we can try again. What are our other options: sit here and die? And even if we are dead anyway, if we kill it, won't we be saving countless other lives? Another shriek pierced the air.

What are we supposed to do? We can't run! We can barely stand; our legs don’t work. We're too weak; the poison has taken all our strength from us. He stopped himself from speaking any further, slumping silently. Outside the room, they could hear the monster’s heaving breath. It lumbered lazily past their door. Besides, his voice took on a quieter tone, what could we possibly use to kill him?

I don't know, she looked down, defeated. I was just being hopeful, I guess.

Yeah? Well, hope is what got us into this. His left hand began trembling uncontrollably. He tried to stop it with his other hand, but the trembling was too strong. Now all we have to hope for is that our organs liquefy before It sucks them from our necks.

She let her head fall hard against the wall behind her and sat in silence.


Weeks earlier the two were sitting in a small observing room, looking through a one-way mirror. The girl was young and lively, she wore light blue scrubs and her red hair was pulled back into a ponytail. She was almost bouncing with excitement.

The guy was much older than her. He had beard stubble lining his neck and chin and held a pen and pad, taking notes while he observed the creature on the other side of the mirror.

Her hands were crossed behind her and she turned to him, “Richard, what do you think? Isn't it amazing? We've finally been able to create life from non-living material!”

“Yes, well, that was our intent,” he sounded bored and never looked at her, keeping his eyes on the creature and his notes, “Do you need to state the obvious every time we come to observe it?” He glared at her before returning to his work, “Besides, our results aren't exactly what we were hoping for. It's mindlessly aggressive and hard to kill. It is dangerous, Kara; remember that.”

She looked at the creature in the other room. It was large with brown skin and skulked around the room, surprisingly light on its feet for its ape-like appearance, “Maybe,” she said, “But it's still amazing.”


Do you have a match? Her tone became a bit more excited as she looked around their closet.

What?

Do you have a match? We're in the janitor's closet! I can't believe I hadn't noticed before.

I have a Zippo. What are you doing? He reached into his pocket and pulled out the lighter.

Good enough. She snatched it from him and grabbed a jug of ammonia and a jug of bleach, setting a mop bucket in front of herself. If we mix these together, maybe we can make an explosive.

What are you talking about? His vision was blurry and he could barely keep up with her frantic movements.

I don't know! It's Nitrogen something. You can get it if you mix ammonia and bleach, you can get it. Maybe we can kill it if we make it explode. Her expression became mischievous as she poured in the ammonia. Cover your mouth, this will burn. Once I pour this in, we'll need to make a lot of noise to draw its attention. If we're gonna die, we may as well go out in a bang, right?

He moved his right hand up to pull his shirt over his mouth. He left hand was trembling again, but he could no longer feel it. He tried to say something, but he couldn't move his mouth.

Hey, you big freak! We're in here! They could hear the monster running down the hall toward them. She struck the lighter and the little flame flicked up. In here! We're in—ahck! Hack augh! She began coughing uncontrollably, her lungs burned as the room filled with a sickly green gas. She held the lighter steady over the bucket. The suddenness of the door swinging open shocked her. The last thing she saw was the monster's grotesque face, deformed and asymmetric. She dropped the lighter.