Tuesday, October 29, 2013

100 Words a Day 436

“I ain’t no pilgrim,” I said in my best John Wayne voice as I approached the stall doors.

Selecting one that was ajar, I imagined I was the Duke kicking the saloon door open, and gave it a taste of my sneaker-shod heel.

It connected with a loud smack and caused the door to swing violently inward. I had only a moment to register the pair of feet and legs in what I had thought was an empty stall before hearing “Ow!”

Embarrassed, I said nothing and walked into the next stall and closed the door.

Eventually the man left.

100 Words a Day 435

“Die you little freak!”

The roving blade charged forward, intent upon the boy.

The young man backed away until he hit a wall. Looking around, he saw no escape; the townspeople had formed an impenetrable ring around him and the swordsman.

He turned back to the bravo in time to see the jeweled sword whip towards him. He raised his arms reflexively to ward off the blow, expecting a hot flash of pain. Instead, he heard a loud thunk and felt a heavy bump against the hard chitin of his crustacean arm. The sword had glanced off, leaving him unharmed.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

100 Words a Day 424

Kain felt for his next handhold, acutely aware of the need for stealth and speed, as well as the fatal drop beneath him.

After both his hands were anchored, he detached his foot from the wall. The dislodging of a small stone made him imagine the path it took as it tumbled through the abyss below. When his foot was again situated he pushed upward, feeling his rope weighing on him. Finding another foothold took longer than expected and he could feel his limbs begin to burn as his searching became frantic. He sighed with relief upon finding a toehold.

100 Words a Day 423

The last syllable faded away, plunging the room into darkness. After a moment, the circle of runes on the floor glowed a ghastly green, illuminating the chamber with a ghoulish light. The space inside the circle wavered and churned before spitting a small demon out. It raged at the old man, who ignored it, having heard it all before.

He whispered a phrase and the fiend was frozen. With a wave of the wizard’s hand, he caused the demon to float to the stout worktable, which shackled the beast. The old man selected a wicked-looking implement, and began to operate.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

100 Words a Day 422

He hit the button and was slammed back by the force of the seat ejecting. Moments later his fighter exploded, sending his chair tumbling erratically through space. Eventually he was able to stabilize himself using the maneuvering jets. The battle continued to rage around him as he floated helplessly, serenely, through space. The exchange of laser fire and explosions reminded him of a fireworks show his mother had taken him to when he was younger, before the alien attack.

Those memories came flooding back to him. He was a young boy playing in the twilight, on the Fourth of July.

100 Words a Day 421

He sat amid the destruction and said to himself: “Well, that could have been worse.”

Breaking up was certainly hard to do, but in the case of Viviana, it was also expensive. His posters were shredded on the floor; he was going to miss those. There was a hole in his wall with one of his weights hanging out of it. Shards of his mirror littered the floor, scattered among the piles of his less-breakable possessions that she had thrown or upended while raging.

As her screams faded down the block, he collected himself and started picking up the pieces.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Published in the Sun Times

I had another article published online: http://specialsections.suntimes.com/lifestyle/23274811-555/from-bored-to-board-dig-up-settlers-of-catan-for-your-next-game-night.html

100 Words a Day 420

He didn’t see any other choice; his forearm was hanging by a thread of flesh. Grimacing, he tightened a tourniquet around his arm. Finding a stick, he pulled his satchel over, extracting a saw, a needle, and some thread. After locating a suitable corpse, it was an orc, he grabbed the saw and severed the corpse’s forearm, then lined it up with the bloody stump where his own had been. He stuffed a dirty swatch of cloth into his mouth and began to sew the cooling, green flesh to his own warm, pale skin. Eventually his grisly task was complete.

100 Words a Day 419

“But they did it out of a sense of loyalty to their coach!” John said.

“Yeah and they betrayed their school and all their fans!” Jeff responded.

“So,” Veronica said, rolling her eyes before continuing. “The idea of betrayal is inherent in the concept of loyalty. Much as virtue never tested is no virtue at all, a person who never has to choose between two things isn’t loyal to anything. Basically, you guys are criticizing or praising them for making a choice in a situation where they are forced to hurt someone. I’m sure no one is happy with it.”

100 Words a Day 418

As night fell, he called upon his Shadowsight. He slipped past the guards, who huddled near their fire, unable to see as he could. Leaving them in their oasis of light in the sea of darkness, he crept up to the gate. Whispering a mystic phrase, he breached the Threshold and entered the Shadowworld. It took his vision a moment to adjust to the bizarre perspective of that parallel reality. After he had oriented himself, he slid towards the shadowform of the gate, and passed through without issue, returning to the physical world on the other side before continuing on.

100 Words a Day 417

I watched as he stood against my horde alone. Everyone else had fled, leaving the man alone to face me. He leaned upon his sword and waited for the charge of my army.

I could see from my position in the front lines that he was breathing heavy, tired from days of fighting and numerous, grave wounds.

I admired his courage, his tenacity, to stand there against insurmountable odds with nothing but determination in his eye.

I felt a twinge of regret when I ordered the charge. The death of such a man would be a loss to the world.

100 Words a Day 416

He awoke as she slipped from the bed, continuing to lay there as she prepared for her day. The process always fascinated him, that slow transformation from naked to madeup and dressed. It involved so many pieces of clothing that were alien to him and the manner of their donning strange.

That was the least of it. After using some arcane system to determine what sort of yoga getting dressed should require that day, she went into the bathroom and covered her face with an array of alchemical powders and things he didn’t have a word for before emerging transformed.

100 Words a Day 415

He looked down at his robotic leg, the latest of his cybernetic enhancements. He willed the joints through their full range of motion. They felt good, responding in a timely fashion. There were no “pain” signals that would indicate a malfunction. It wasn’t nearly as strange as his first replacement had been.

Aside from the radical alternation to his natural capabilities, which took considerable getting used to, he had felt like he had lost some of his humanity, and that was unexpected.

What surprised him this time was how he hardly felt like he had lost any humanity at all.

100 Words a Day 414

The captain entered the room where the ancestral treasure had been kept. The guards inside the chamber were dead in pools of blood, swords undrawn. The traps around the pedestal were untriggered, and he knew the guards in the mechanism room had been undisturbed the whole night. The guards outside the room had reported no problems either. The room was at the top of a tower designed to be unclimbable and there were no windows in the room. Pulling on his chin, he looked up at the ceiling, full of decorative carvings. They looked like they would make great handholds…

Monday, October 21, 2013

100 Words a Day 413

He felt a slap on his back and turned away from the bar, finding Paul before him.

“Hey man, what’s up?” Paul asked.

“Nothing,” John said, sipping at his beer. “When did you guys get here?”

“We’ve been here awhile. We saw you come in. With a girl,” Paul said with a smile. “Who’s that lady?”

“Who’s that lady,” their friend Jeff sang.

John rolled his eyes, “she’s not my girlfriend, if that’s what you are asking.”

“I wasn’t asking, but I’ll keep that in mind. She’s pretty cute.”

John rolled his eyes. “I see what you’re trying to do.”

Thursday, October 17, 2013

100 Words a Day 412

Charlie awoke early. He leapt eagerly out of his warm bed, hardly noticing the chilly air, and quickly donned his jacket and snow pants. The news had said it would snow last nigh. Sure he would have the day off, Charlie didn’t want to waste any of it inside. He careened down the hallway and nearly fell while going down the stairs two at a time before arriving at the front door where his snow boots waited. After struggling to put them on, he opened the door and was shocked to see the brown grass of his family’s expansive lawn.

100 Words a Day 411

The other two packed the camp with practiced efficiency. Ryan fumbled while trying to stow the cookware, sending a resounding clang into the night.

The others froze, listening for movement. After a moment they turned to him and glared hot daggers.

Ryan spent their night march kicking himself for what happened. How could he be such a screw up? All he had to do was pack the pans in the backpack without making noise. He was the valedictorian of his year. He’d done an internship at the most prestigious genetics lab in the country, as a senior in high school!

100 Words a Day 410

She raced down the street, dodging almost everyone, those that she didn’t, she left shaking a fist and yelling at her as she was speeding towards the corner. She was breathing hard and her feet hurt. Fortunately she had worn athletic shoes that day. She rounded the corner and the shop was in sight. She charged on, oblivious to the crowd of people shuffling along, eager to make it to the store before it closed. She caught the time on the old train station clock out of the corner of her eye as she ran by, still one minute left.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

100 Words a Day 409

The bridge groaned before giving out. Joan grabbed the rusty, metal frame, cutting her hands, but managing to hold on as it slammed into the side of the building. She spent a moment collecting herself before attempting to ascend.

Her blood-slick hands slipped and she plummeted towards the nightmares below, catching herself at the last moment on a metal bar.

She heard a frenzy in the darkness underneath that reminded her of sharks in chummed water. Blood ran down her arm, dripping silently into the blackness.

As she struggled to climb, she felt something grab her foot, with sharp teeth.

100 Words a Day 408

Rachel pulled the bloody ax out of the man’s skull, sending a spatter of gore onto the stacks of gold coins, dulling their sheen. She turned to his companions and raised her ax, holding it poised, waiting in stillness, while brain matter dripped from the blade.

They hesitated, Rachel did not. She danced among them, a whirling dervish, separating limb from body as a woodcutter hews branches from a tree.

When it was done, Rachel was panting. The floor was slick with blood. Ruined limbs and organs mixed with the disarray of gold that had been scattered during the fight.

Monday, October 14, 2013

100 Words a Day 407

The man drew a gun from his tattered fatigue jacket.

He pointed it at me.

His demands fell on deaf ears.

I was too busy trying to decide if his gun was loaded. Bullets had become rare since The Day, but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that he would have a few.

“Well?” the man asked.

I narrowed my eyes and said nothing.

He pulled the hammer back; it made a loud click as it locked into place.

I slowly reached down and grasped the hilt of my fighting knife. I drew the rusty, jagged blade and smiled.

100 Words a Day 406

He watched the small hut burn from atop the rocky ledge. The mob of villagers had set it alight when they saw the contents, weird and otherworldly, while beating the hermit. The myriad of strange things gave the smoke vivid colors and bizarre smells, driving the mob back. The old man’s body was inside, his misshapen corpse being consumed by the blaze. The wind shifted, moving the billowing pillar and sending the villagers scurrying away. A few got caught in the sparking blue smoke. They fell to the ground writhing. Their skin began to pulse and wiggle, slowly changing color.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

100 Words a Day 405

His run was ungainly. He still wasn’t used to having a large claw in place of a hand and it pulled him to the left. He tried to correct his gait as the villagers didn’t seem to be slowing. He threw a look over his shoulder and determined, they were in fact, gaining on him.

Looking ahead, he saw he was coming to the end of the island. There was nowhere for him to go but into the Void. Shrugging to himself, he prepared to leap. Maybe he would land on another island. Without looking back, he sailed into nothingness.

100 Words a Day 404

The emerald tablet lay on the desk next to a stack of ancient tomes and a sheaf of parchment covered in a mess of careless handwriting and cross-outs. I hardly noticed the books or the parchment though, so enchanted was I by the strange artifact.

It was a vivid, living green that seemed to shimmer in the torchlight. I had never seen, never imagined, anything like it. I ran my fingers over the gemstone tablet; it was cool to the touch and seemed to pulse with life. It was engraved with a serpentine script that was completely unknown to me.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

100 Words a Day 403

He slowly came to. The last thing he remembered was the frantic cries of the gnomes and the terrible rending of the airship breaking apart in the sky, but he was definitely somewhere else. Turning his head to one side he saw a workbench dotted with curiously shaped jars filled with liquids of colors he had never seen. One was the color of the blue flowers his mother grew, but it sparkled like impure stone. Another, the color of the morning sun, bubbled over a small flame. Each bottle was labeled in an angular script that he did not recognize.

100 Words a Day 402

There was a gnawing in his stomach and he was dizzy. His gut was bloated from hunger. The food ran out two days ago and he hadn’t seen game or forage since. He focused on putting one foot in front of the other. New Chadds Ford couldn’t be far.

He plodded along the derelict highway, through sunset and into the night. As the hours wore on, he teetered more and more before finally collapsing in the road, overcome by exhaustion. When he came to, the sun was high. He rolled over, starting when his burned neck touched the hot road.

100 Words a Day 401

He shoved the clutch in and shifted down. He felt it catch as he lifted his foot, while pushing down on the accelerator. The engine roared and the car shot forward.

They pulled alongside the black SUV they were chasing. He looked over at the other driver and saw his face of fear. Shifting up, he matched the SUV’s speed. He heard the rear window roll down and a moment later he heard several gunshots. The SUV swerved, banging off the guardrail, and slowed down. He didn’t look back as he continued down the road, merely upshifted and floored it.

100 Words a Day 400

He sat. He was unable to move. His hands were stretched out in front of him. His wrists ached. The incessant poking of his fingertips sent jolts of pain up his arm. There wasn’t space for his legs. They bent uncomfortably and no amount of shifting brought relief. About the only movement he could effect was to turn his head and see the row of similarly stooped beings that were seated in identical devices. Over it all presided a man. He gazed down on their misery hour after hour and cared not.

It was a typical day at the office.

100 Words a Day 399

Goggles secured and respirator in place, he plunged his head under the water. He could see a reef teeming with fish below him and, looking straight ahead, his vision extended far into the aqueous ether before terminating in a wall of blue. Looking back at the reef, he watched the colorful fish flit among the crevasses of the brilliant coral.

There was a flash of movement followed by utter stillness, broken only by the shimmering sunlight filtering through the clear water. He furrowed his eyebrows and looked around, finding a dark mass was slowly materializing out of the blue void.

100 Words a Day 398

The rest stop parking lot was crowded with cars of all types. Zack maneuvered their old Civic through the tangle of vehicles before parking between a sickly, tan RV and a green pickup. They all got out, Zack and Michelle to get sandwiches and Mike to look at the map. He was stepping into the road when a car roared by. He leapt back like a startled deer, landing between a black sedan and an old, white convertible. He watched as the oblivious driver screeched into a recently vacated parking spot, their bumper crunching as it hit the concrete barrier.