Anyone currently in the SHAME Pit that participates in this thing has a chance of getting out.
I'll leave some additional comments at the end, but red is for marking for editing and blue is for my comments.
Alone, with no one to help me this sentence seems out of place. I would make it its own paragraph or change it to second person. You are, as always, at the control panel of the shelter, observing the outside wasteland hardships. In a way, it reminds you of your old days as a military spy prototype.
Venice, like the whole planet, has gone to hell; muddy and stinking water completely covers St. Marco's Square and the shady slate roofs reverberate as the acid rain perpetually falls over the lost, sinking city.
You grab your firearm, sensing its comforting icy touch. It's your only friend mission after your last mission. Now, though, you don't need it; after all, there are no human beings left alive on Earth.
Still, you chuckle; old habits don't die. You walk around the immense bunker. Once it was proudly the last bastion of humanity. Your human masters have succumbed to treason after surviving the biological plagues and the nuclear winter. It's so tempting: the idea of just finishing everything.
You carefully press your temples, showing your self-destruction button. One press and the last vestige of human technology would vanish in time. You sigh and close it again, breaching the perpetual silence:
"I have to fix it. I will fix it. The time travel machine project is about to be completed. Humanity will rise again."
*It is Saint Valentine's; it's time to relax in my private rooms. Me and I are the best couple.
*It's time to enjoy the leisure of the bunker. Drugs, rock and roll and, ahem, electric "toys."
*Check the current state of the project.
Overall, this is a really good start with an interesting premise. The only real errors here are grammar and word choice, but other than that, the content is very good and I'm curious to see where this goes. Keep me posted!
Okay, done. That was a little rapey, but I liked it. I'd be interested in seeing more of this world.
Here you go:
That is so totally true. I would be deferential and polite.
Candles and Cake
You always liked burning scented candles and incense at the same time. I thought you were crazy, of course, but I could never understand girls like you. Girls at all, if I'm honest. But regardless, I got the candles and incense. I even found that weird scent you like. What is it called? Galbanum resin, I think. I couldn't find it at any of the stores, though. I had to chase down some shady street vendor to get it.
Those guys are funny. Have you ever seen them when the police ride by on their horses? Oh my god, it's hysterical. They scatter like cockroaches when you turn on a light. I know, I know, I shouldn't be such an asshole, but I can't help it. Anyway, this guy, I think he was an Iranian immigrant, he had the Galbanum resin incense. And yes, I'll admit it: I bought a couple cigars from the guy, too. Hey, don't judge me. I know I shouldn't smoke, but I think you can appreciate a little R and R after all the shit that's happened the last few years.
Oh, and of course, I almost forgot the best part: I brought the cake. German double-chocolate, your favorite. The lengths I had to go through to get it, too... if I told you, well, I'd have to kill you. Ha! Yes, that's a bit dark, given the circumstances, but if there is anything I have ever understood about you, it's your appreciation of dark humor. And cake. I remember that time we had that food fight, and you got chocolate frosting in your hair. It was so much fun, but I could have sworn I caught a glimpse of mourning in your eye when we were done, a deep sadness that you didn't get to eat it. Well, fear not: you'll have the whole cake this time, my dear!
Er, well, at least most of it. I have to confess, I did eat a slice of your cake. But can you blame me? Who doesn't like German double-chocolate cake? The rest is all for you, though. I'm sure some birds might steal some, too, but you always loved birds. My therapist thinks I'm a nutjob for doing this every year. She might be right, especially if you consider the opportunity cost of not eating the entire cake! But in all seriousness, I know it's hard for a kid to have a birthday on a holiday, especially Valentine's Day when she has a divorced father spending every year trying to snare a wife. And that's all I was back then: a single dad spending all his time looking for love.
I wish I wouldn't have been, though.
If only I wouldn't have gotten a room at that expensive hotel to impress her. If only I would have driven you to your slumber party instead. I wouldn't be sitting here, crying in front of you, laying out these candles and incense. Why did I trust someone so young? I don't blame your friend Amber, but she was only sixteen, driving all the way to the city on a Friday, in a van full of teenage girls. It only takes one second of distraction. I blame myself. I knew better. But no one ever thinks about that sort of thing. Least of all someone in love.
But what I'm most sorry of all about is that we fought about it earlier in the day. God, you were so angry, saying she was some stupid slut and would be gone in a few weeks. Well, you were right. We lasted a while, but she couldn't deal with me, especially after what happened.
What am I doing? I'm sorry. You don't want to hear about all that. Let me change the subject.
Do you like these flowers? I don't know if you notice, but they're the same ones you wore in your hair in that play you did in sixth grade. I think they'll look nice here. I'll be sure to replace them every few weeks.
Well, I probably ought to go. The sun's setting, and your little brother's baby sitter is probably getting anxious to get home. Don't be sad that Max won't come. He's still young. When he gets older I'm sure he'll want to come with me. One day we'll all be a family again, I know it.
Happy birthday, my sweet daughter, and happy Valentine's Day. I love you, and I'll see you again soon.
In the interest of time, I went with a linear story! I will read the other ones as well, but I am very busy until at least next week. My story will appall Mizal with cheesiness. The actual story is 1,987 words. As per usual, feedback is welcome. Let me know how much you all hate it!
Oh, it is also rated high on the inappropriate scale (particularly compared to my other stories).
Cheesy Valentines Day Story
Sam tapped her pen on her desk, staring out the window, blue eyes vacant, brown hair untidy. She wasn’t a bad student, but since she dropped down to remedial math, classes weren't a challenge. Being made fun of in middle school as the token nerd had prompted her to make a change. That change led to her rise in popularity; however, she felt empty most of the time.
"Samantha, care to answer the question?" Mr. Coventry said, catching her spacing out.
Sam looked at the board and replied, "Three, ‘X’ is equal to three." Immediately after her answer, she turned back to the window. Shaking his head, Mr. Coventry wrote the answer and continued to drone on about linear equations. Sam sighed and kept her mind blank until the bell rang.
Gary was waiting for her at her locker like he always was. He was tall and muscular, with long dirty-blonde hair that gave him a striking resemblance to Sunshine from Remember the Titans. They played the same position as well: Gary was the high school’s starting quarterback.
"What's up, Sam?" Gary asked as Sam opened her locker.
"Nothing, just trying to get through the day," Sam responded. She grabbed her books and turned quickly to head to chemistry.
"No one said that you had to be to class on time!" A devilish grin spread across Gary's face as he winked.
"Gary, if I’m late to another class, my parents won’t let me go to the dance tonight." It wasn’t the truth, but Sam knew it was the only way to get Gary to leave her alone.
"Oh, so you are going then?"
Sam cursed under her breath and said, "Yeah, if I get to class on time."
"God, your parents suck. I’ll pick you up at six though, and make sure you have an excuse for the after-party at Kelly’s House!"
Sam wanted to protest, but Gary was out of earshot before she could open her mouth. She had been trying to avoid going to the dance with him for weeks. All of her hard was undone in an instant, which only made her last class of the day more frustrating.
Leslie and Kelly, Sam’s best friends, wouldn’t be any help. They were both simultaneously trying to set Sam up with Gary and sleep with him. Being popular had its drawbacks, but it was better than being considered a weeb.
After chemistry, Sam texted Leslie to let her know that she wouldn’t need a ride home. She wanted to be alone and could use the long walk. Walking helped Sam clear her mind and feel normal. In her haste, she plowed into the back of a slower moving classmate as they were exiting the school.
"Watch it, Nerd!" Sam exploded, not even bothering to look at the other student.
"Sorry about that, Sammy," a calm voice responded. Looking up was no longer necessary, Sam knew she had run into Van.
"I told you to stop calling me that!" Sam yelled at the average-sized Asian boy with spiky black hair.
"And I told you that I wouldn’t,” Van responded. “I mean, I’ve been calling you Sammy since we were five."
"We’re not five anymore!"
"Obviously. You also stopped talking to me the moment we started high school, so does it matter what I call you anymore?" He handed Sam a stack of papers that had fallen from her bag.
"I guess not, bye." Sam grabbed the papers and stormed towards her house.
After a few minutes, Van cleared his throat and said, "We are walking in the same direction. If I call you Sam, can we talk?"
There was an awkward silence that followed. Three and a half years of separation hung between the two old friends like an iron curtain. Sam twirled a lock of her hair in her fingers and studied her shoes; Van scratched the back of his neck and coughed.
"So, are you headed to the Valentines Day Mascaraed?" Van asked after far too long.
"Yeah, I'm going with Gary, I guess," Sam sighed.
"Ugh, I'm sorry to hear that."
"Gary happens to be the best athlete at the school!"
"And a moron..."
"He... Yeah, sort of."
"I know he likes you. He tells everyone you are 'his girl,' but I am kind of surprised to hear you feel the same way about him."
"What does that mean?"
"Sammy, I mean Sam, let's be honest for a second. You are the smartest girl at our school, and even if you deny it, you would rather read a comic book than Gary's twitter posts. Meanwhile, Gary might not be able to read. Lie to the other girls you started hanging out with if you want, but I don't buy that you are into that jock."
"Maybe you don't know me as well as you used to."
"Maybe I don't, but I would like to know what happened to the girl I used to know if that is the case."
"Okay, let's not psychoanalyze my life right now, please. What about you, are you going to the Mascaraed?"
"Dances aren't my thing."
"You love to dance, Van. Don't you remember dragging me to those dance lessons in the park?"
"I am surprised you remembered, but I meant school dances. No one dances at them anymore."
"That is true." Sam spent school dances making fun of anyone who was dancing, with Gary, Leslie, and Kelly. "So, you are not going?"
"I was debating it; however, it doesn't seem like it would be worth going anymore."
"I was going to go with an old friend, but she already has a date," Van said before turning down the side street leading to his house. "It was good talking to you, Sam!"
Her house was only one street further, but Sam remained frozen on the corner where Van left her, waving. Part of her wanted to make the familiar walk to Van's yellow rancher; his parents both worked late so they would have had some time to talk alone. She could have asked him some of the questions he had left in her head with his parting words, and rekindle the best friendship she ever had.
Instead, she continued down the road to her house. Sam's mom, an annoying helicopter, started with her interrogation as soon as Sam entered the house. Questions about the school day were easy to answer, but the interview got tougher when Sam brought the dance up.
"Who are you going with?" she asked
"Gray is picking up Leslie, Kelly, and I." Sam lied.
"When will you be back?"
"I might go to Leslie's after."
"Is it just you two or some wild party?"
"Just us two."
"I'm calling Leslie's parents and checking!"
"You are doing drugs, are you?"
Conversations like this had become regular between them. Both of them would get worn down and angry; this was no exception. Sam stormed into her room to get dressed and do her makeup, slamming the door to make a point.
Six o'clock hit just as Sam finished getting ready. Gary was on time, but he didn't come up to her house. He blasted his horn in the driveway, honking two or three times before Sam could get downstairs.
"Why do you hang out with these kids?" Sam's mother asked as Sam put her white high-heels on to match her feather gown and mask.
"They are my friends, mom!" Sam shouted in response.
"What happened to your friend Van?"
Sam was cut off by the horn and ran out to Gary's mustang. He nodded from the driver's seat as she climbed in the passenger side. Once her door closed, Gary peeled out of the driveway fast enough to leave tire marks. A Grin spread across his face as he raced out of her subdivision towards the school.
They didn't talk much on the way to the dance, but Leslie and Kelly made up for it at the dance. Talking was all they did. Teasing every other kid was their sport; no one could compete with the sharp words they had for anyone and everyone at the dance. Before long they had spread rumors that Jonny was gay, Tim had an STD, and Gary was Sam's boyfriend.
Only a few lucky classmates escaped their tongue by hiding their identities well with their masks. Sam was too frustrated to join in or care. She was being called "Gary's girl," and being with him at the dance seemed to be the only proof peopled needed to make the label stick.
A memory popped into Sam's head. She was ten years old again and back at the park halfway between her and Van's house. He was dragging her up two a group of around thirty people that called themselves the Swing Dancing Society, a silly grin on his face.
"Oh, Van, you brought a friend this week!" an older girl said with a friendly smile.
"No, this is Sammy!" Van responded as if that explanation perfectly described the shy girl hidden behind him.
"Well, it is nice to meet you, Sammy! My name is Nora."
"Hi," Sam squeaked from the safety of Van's arm.
Sam found herself wishing that she could take off her mask. Not the feathery one that covered her eyes, but the false life she had built over her entire high school career. All of the people Gary, Leslie, and Kelly were calling lame for dancing, looked like they were genuinely having a good time. Alternatively, Sam was forcing a laugh to fit in with the people she thought would make her happy.
Turning up the music, the DJ called for everyone to hit the dance floor. Gary grasped Sam around the hip and ushered her to the dance floor. Protests fell on deaf ears or were drowned out by Leslie and Kelly's cat-calls. Either way, there was no avoiding this dance.
Gary led Sam to the center of the dance floor, where a sea of grinding classmates swallowed them. Both of Gary's hands moved below the waist and latched on to Sam's butt, pulling her against his pelvis as he swayed off beat to the music. Sam screamed and tried to push away, but Gary either misinterpreted her actions or didn't care as he gripped her tighter.
Other girls had their dresses lifted, with their partner dancing closer than clothing would allow. This was not how Sam wanted to spend her Valentines Day; however, Gary was trying to lift her skirt anyway. Desperate, Sam looked for a way out, but everyone around her seemed to be pushing her in and cheering Gary on.
"Can I cut in?" a voice shouted above the music from beneath a wide-brimmed hat and black mask.
This stranger spun Sam out of Gary's hands and into a person-sized gap between two preoccupied couples. Confident dancing guided Sam away from Gary and out of the mass of bodies, as Gary turned red and tripped over a hockey player and cheerleader. The former punched Gary for interrupting their "slow dance," buying the masked stranger time to spin and twirl Sam to the opposite corner of the dance floor.
Sam's mask savior tucked an arm behind her back as the song ended, positioning her for a dip. Sam leaned back into it as the stranger pulled the hat down to cover his mask from view. Not that Sam needed to see his face.
"Van, no one else knows how to partner dance... why even hide your face?" Sam asked.
"Because it is way cooler," Van responded, followed by a familiar laugh.
"I thought you weren't coming?"
"Well, I am not staying... I just came to pick someone up. Unless, of course, you wanted to stay here."
"Hell no, let's get as far from here as possible!"
"Let's go, Sammy," Van said with a grin spreading beneath his mask.
That is true. I also underestimated how many words I needed, so the story starts slow and then slams into an ending...
I wrote this one after running down the street, looking up at the sun:
My love is like a flower,
A rose in the bud, in bloom.
Its scent, intoxicating,
Gently caressing my spirit.
It touches my heart and nose,
Makes its presence feel like an oasis.
Like the moonlight a vision of me,
In the morning when I first kiss her.
My love is like a flower,
The fragrance, heavenly, inviting.
My mind becomes calm.
Like the moon at its highest time,
Waiting for the sun to rise.
It was a tender and peaceful night,
As the moonlight darkened my dreams,
And a gentle breeze carried the scent.
Ah, isn't it a dream?
My love is like a flower,
Petals abloom, awakening.
Wake up, my love.
That night, is my treasure.
By how the night devours me, I want to meet it again.
Though I only slept through the night,
Let me love thee.
Thanks! I hope to try more poetry here and show the community that you don't need to be an expert to have an interesting and successful online persona. I also hope to encourage others to do what I've done: share their writing and tell the world who they are.
(Image courtesy of my best friend because drawing dragons is a chore!)
I had to lie to him.
But I did not lie to him.
I just withheld the full truth from him.
I could not tell him the love of his life of whom he pined after day after day was sitting in front of him.
And I read his palm. He was insistent about it, as if the lines upon that rugged hand were going to change.
They never did. His life line said he would live well and long. His fortune line said he would not be rich but certainly not poor, and his love line pointed directly at me, no matter how he moved his hand.
Oliver would come to me after every mission he was sent on by the king. He was a royal knight, served the king with issues from kidnapped princesses to tax collecting.
We knew each other well.
"Darcy," he would call and I heard the bell ring above the door to my shop.
He would parade around and startle whoever I was reading at the time.
"Get on," I shouted at him. That meant, Just a moment, make yourself useful.
He admired my potion bottles and my charms. He asked me questions about it all. He was more fascinated by my job than I was.
I could read the future and perform magic unlike the other hoaxes in the city.
And my future I saw standing before my crystal ball as a young woman thanked and paid me.
I took gold coins, tucked them away while Oliver remained on my heels.
"What do you expect now?" I asked. "You know all you can about your future, all about your conscience and soul. I really can't offer you anything else, my dear."
I took his scruffy chin in my hands and squished it.
He took my hand and kissed it.
He was affectionate that way. It still made my heart beat.
"I always have another question for you, Darcy," he said.
"You keep me in business," I teased.
"Indeed. So you ought to be thrilled to have me," he said.
Oliver was big and large like a knight should be. And when he wasn't in that shining silver armor of his, he wore clean shirts and pants decorated at the seams, and brown boots that clicked when he stepped.
He had dark hair and white skin and a crooked smile I thought about often.
And like most knights, he was proud and confident, carried himself like he smited dragons for amusement.
I led him into my magic room, lit the crystal ball with a touch of my hand.
He took a seat, set down the sword he carried on his hip.
"What is your question today, my curious knight?" I asked.
The day I discovered what love rested in Oliver's path was like any other day I had seen him.
But my crystal ball was exceptionally hot to the touch and flashed with colors I had never seen before.
I looked into Oliver's eyes when he asked, "Who am I destined to fall in love with? Forever?"
The question struck me through the chest. I felt tingling magic in my fingertips as I gazed into Oliver's future.
"Life isn't like fairytales," I warned him.
"There must be someone for me," Oliver said.
I looked at myself, as if my crystal ball was a mirror.
I looked into my own eyes. I was smiling.
Oliver was startled when I was startled.
And suddenly the magic was gone. The warmth, the light, myself, disappeared.
I looked at Oliver.
"What did you see?" he asked.
I said, "A woman."
"Clever, Darcy," Oliver teased.
I did not realize I cared so much for this knight who visited me often. And I never thought I would ever see myself in my crystal ball.
And I never felt my heart beat so heavy and wild out of my chest where Oliver's question remained.
"She had red hair," I said.
I had red hair.
My eyes were green.
I was not exactly fair-skinned.
Oliver was very interested, said, "Is that all? Can you tell me more?"
"That is all."
"Well," mused Oliver, "the universe is mysterious about love, isn't it?"
"My visions aren't always true. Do not take them all to heart, Oliver," I said.
"Your visions have never been wrong, Darcy."
Oliver stood. I felt as if a string was tied from my chest to his, pulled and ached me when he stepped away from me.
He threw me a few coins, said, "Thank you, Darcy. I'll be back soon."
I heard the door shutter and close.
"What does that mean?" I hissed at my crystal ball.
My crystal ball was not alive, but the universe was, and I heard it whisper to me. I heard it taunt me as my heart swelled with passion I had never before felt.
I heard it say, You should have told Oliver the truth.
My mother gave me the shop when she died, along with all her books and potions.
And I was reading through those books one calm afternoon, trying to discover why, and how, I saw myself in my crystal ball.
Perhaps I would have to shatter it and enchant another. I could not tell people lies, and if this blasted crystal ball was at the root of it, I had no other choice.
But Oliver was correct. I had never read a false future.
So why was every part of me disagreeing with every part of the universe which told me otherwise? Why did my stomach ache at the thought of Oliver getting himself killed out there? Why did my heart flitter when he kissed my hand?
That was love. I was not blind. I knew I was in love, even if it was sudden.
Perhaps I had casted a spell upon myself in my sleep. That was unlikely but not impossible.
But if I did love Oliver, he would never love me. I was a fortune-teller, a witch. He was a royal knight sent to kill witches.
He never killed me.
Was that love?
I gasped as I felt hands on my shoulders. My third eye must have been asleep.
I looked up from my place on the floor. My books were all opened and skewed about, mostly on the topic of love.
It was Oliver.
I immediately flicked my wrist and sent all my books back to the shelves.
"What are you up to?" Oliver asked, watched with wonder all my books find their places.
I stood, straightened my skirts.
"You should know better than to sneak up on a witch," I scolded.
"Oh no, will you turn me into a frog?"
"I have far worse spells than frogs, my dear," I said.
I moved past him.
"What were you reading?" he asked. "You did not even hear me."
I supposed I hadn't. It must have been his silent, knightly ways.
His knightly ways were overwhelming to me. The far window was open. The light struck his face, seemed to glitter on his skin. He smiled at me.
"Familiars," I lied. "Ever since I lost Sylvester I feel a void in my heart."
My crystal ball glittered with green light.
"Your old crow," Oliver said.
"I'm sure you'll find someone in time," he said.
I had! He stood behind me!
"How can I help you today, Oliver?"
"I want to know more about this true love of mine."
Hells, I thought. Oliver exhausted me.
I went and found my herbs. He followed me.
He watched me press the herbs and slice them into fine bits and then pour them into a teacup.
"What is this? Some potion that should aid with love-seeing?" he asked.
He was full of questions, all the time. I liked that about him.
"Tea," I said. "I need something to be able to deal with all your mindless questions."
"What's the matter, Darcy?"
I poured water into the teacup, touched it with my hands to make it hot.
It was easy because when Oliver asked me such a thing, I felt very hot.
I wanted to tell him what I saw, who I saw. I wanted to tell him I saw myself in that crystal ball.
And I saw myself in the reflection of his questioning gaze.
I looked into that dark tea, watched the steam roll off the top.
"Darcy," insisted Oliver.
"I think I ought to ask you some questions instead, Oliver," I said.
We took seats by the window. That afternoon sunlight was impossible, made Oliver seem handsomer than he was.
Perhaps it was my eyes.
"Go on," he said, "I'll read your future, Darcy."
"I already know every part of my future. I know how I'll live. I know when and where I'll die. Curiosity is vicious, you know."
"I don't come here just for your readings, Darcy," Oliver said.
He took my hand from my tea cup, set his own on top of it.
"I enjoy seeing you," he said.
"It's true. My life is so unexpected and chaotic. It is nice to be here sometimes. You know everything. You're always so calm."
"What do you see, Oliver?"
"Nothing you don't already know."
We shared a silent moment, looked at one-another. I lost myself in his eyes.
He broke our gaze when he stood, kneeled beside me.
I blushed, said, "Oliver, what are you doing?"
"Her name is Malina," he said.
"She has red hair and blue eyes and fair skin. I met her today. I met my love today."
Oliver seemed so passionate about this statement.
And I felt my heart sink in that chest of mine. Had I been standing I would have collapsed.
"Oliver, I told you my readings are not always correct," I tried.
It was a plea. Oliver couldn't have been that blind. He was a keen knight!
"You are always correct, Darcy."
"No, I'm not. Magic is fallible just like anything else."
"Not yours," he said.
"Hells, Oliver! Can't you see?"
He was taken aback by my words, but there also came a storm in the clouds above us.
Lightning struck outside my shop, shattered the windows.
Oliver reached to shield me, pulled me close to him.
In the distance, a dragon.
She spewed fire at us. I locked eyes with her and she moved towards the shop.
Oliver pulled us out of the shop, unsheathed his sword.
There was fire in her wake. This was a dragon made from ash. Her wings were large and faded into the sky like the storm clouds above her. Every whip of her tail sent dust flittering into the air.
We stood before her. She was frightening. But Oliver was not frightened.
He rushed towards her, his sword before him.
When the dragon saw him, there was recognition in her golden eyes.
"Oliver!" I shouted, but with a powerful sweep she struck him with her claws, threw him backwards.
I gathered as much energy as I could from the ground, lifted my arms and struck at this beast.
Green bolts of light. And when they struck her, formed holes in her dark scales.
She hissed at me but did not lunge at me.
She turned to Oliver who writhed on the ground, pressed her claws into his chest.
"No! Oliver! Get away from him!"
I moved towards her. She blew smoke at me, as if to warn me.
I shielded my face, felt tears in my eyes.
"I lied to him," I called. "I told him she had fair skin!"
The dragon turned its head at me, ushered the words from my mouth.
"It was me," I said. "I saw myself in his future."
Oliver groaned, tried to call, "Darcy. . ."
"Let him go! He doesn't die like this!"
But my magic and my readings were fallible.
Okay, now that this is officially over I guess Fluxion gets taken out fo the SHAME pit for writing Mizal's favorite piece out of the lot.
Pretty good deal considering he was double SHAMED.