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Spring/Summer Contest (Prose) – The Deserted Road

 
 
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  #1  
Old 02-14-2012, 12:37 AM
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Default Spring/Summer Contest (Prose) – The Deserted Road


The next seasons contest theme was provided by PaintedRed, one of the winner of last season’s contest, congratulation. Before I digress, the next seasons theme is ‘The Deserted Road’


* * *


Entries:

Members are allowed one entry in the prose contest. (You are welcome to enter our poetry contest as well.) Prose entries should be submitted as posts to this thread. The competition is open to all members of Writer’s Beat, including staff.

Members are requested to refrain from commenting on entries in this posting thread. Please use the Spring Contest Comment thread instead. That thread will remain open throughout the posting period and afterwards, and members are encouraged to let entrants know what they thought of their entries.

Word Limits:

Prose: 2,000 words Maximum

Edits:

Once an entry has been submitted, it cannot be altered. Any work that is edited after it has been entered will be disqualified. If you feel you need to make a small alteration (a misplaced comma, a spelling error), contact a member of staff. If we feel your request is reasonable, we will make the correction on your behalf.

Close Date:

22nd June 2012, 12 midnight GMT (Extended for August Quarterly issue)

Judging:

Winners will be selected by means of a public vote, so you, the members of Writer’s Beat, will choose the winners.

After the closing date, a voting thread will be posted. Voting will commence on the 23rd of June and close on the 29th of June 2012, 12 midnight GMT.



* * *


Recognition:

The winning entries will be considered for publication in Writer's Beat Quarterly, subject to the approval of the editors. To increase your chances of getting published (whether you win or not), make sure your document is as error-free as possible!

Also, the member (or tying members) with the most votes will get to suggest the next contest theme!



* * *



If you have any questions about the contest, contact a staff member and we will happily answer them for you. Now sharpen your pencils, fill up your inkwells and get writing. Good Luck!

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Last edited by Devon; 03-22-2012 at 02:55 PM..
  #2  
Old 02-28-2012, 04:55 PM
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Tau,
I don't understand how to enter the contest. Where to I post my entry?
thanks
auldshaman
  #3  
Old 02-28-2012, 11:08 PM
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Right here in this thread.
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Old 03-03-2012, 02:36 PM
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Please consider this bit of prose for the Deserted Road Contest. Thanks auldShaman

Reparation

I keep walking. The sun burns my skin as the desire pushes me onward. I’ve walked this way many times in my time here. I seek water, just a drop would do but it won’t be for me.

Off in the distance, I see a thunderstorm raging. Lightning rends the sky and the cannonade of thunder roars over my head. What’s left of my hair stands on end as I trudge onward, ever onward. I’ve lost track of how long I’ve been here. My mind isn’t so sharp anymore. I feel very old.

I can’t even remember the reason I’m here. A dim memory of a long ago pronouncement and here I am. Rags are all that remain of my clothes and my shoes….well, they used to be fine Italian leather.

My skin has turned leathery and hard. I sometimes think it will crack open like an overcooked potato. I’ve become accustomed to the pain, but the searing thirst is ever present. And I still walk.

I think back to a life of leisure, money and sex. I had all of them I desired and more. My life was one endless pleasure after another. I guess enduring this punishment is what I’ve earned.

I’ll do my time with hope of redemption. Maybe who ever put me here will find mercy for an old man like me. After all, everyone deserves mercy, right?

Wait a minute! I see movement on the horizon. Could it be someone walking this way? I put one foot after the other with renewed vigor. Yes! It is someone! I think I see a bucket of water in his hand. It must be water. It seems to be heavy and he leans with the weight.

I can see him much better now. He’s wearing a nicely pressed suit with a cravat instead of a tie. I remember those times when I dressed with Italian made suits and shoes. Oh, the finery!

Oh yes, he’s definitely carrying water and I see a ladle handle sticking out of the pail. I can taste the cool liquid as it slakes my thirst. Salvation is at hand, I just know it!

Just a few more steps now and I can get that small drink of life from the bucket. Yes, the bucket! My thoughts are consumed with the bucket and I can see nothing else.

At last, I fall to my knees as he stands just a few inches away. I grab the ladle and press it to my lips.

The dry sand fills my mouth and I choke on its heat. I look up to his face to ask why the cruel joke and I see the hollow eye sockets and the jagged teeth of my tormentor. His empty mouth is agape in endless laughter.

“You ain’t done here yet! Keep walking atheist!”
  #5  
Old 03-05-2012, 10:24 AM
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Default Heaven's Gate

Hope you like reading this as much as I liked writing it.

***

Heaven's Gate

One of these days I have to stop working this road. Not much action anymore, not since the police started rounding up Johns and taking photographs of license plates. The girls are looking for new places to hustle, but I stay. I have to.
The ones remaining are those who cannot leave, like me. The other girls, and me, we’ve got an itch that can only be scratched by a certain kind of John. We yearn for the man that can make the girls forget, like I want to forget...

If I ask Michael for some TLC that would seriously help me. His touch works like magic, even if it stings. It only takes one for the night to come to life with every shade of grey and black imaginable. I see what was hidden before in outbursts of color. So maybe I should …

There is a guy walking up and down the now empty road, in full view of the cameras mounted on every corner. He is whistling an ominous tune and looks at me, like I am one of the girls. He slowly stalks me; closer and closer he comes. It freaks me out. I almost shout for help, for Michael, when he whispers, “I can help you.”

I ignore him, but he keeps walking towards me, until he is real close. He has a handsome face, lips made to kiss, and eyes are blue as heaven. Not even Michael is this good looking. No reason to be afraid.

“I’m not the one who needs help on this road.” Even with the rush on me, I calmly float in this sea of grey and black images.

He will leave if I pay no attention to him. He’d better leave, before Michael descends, and teaches him a lesson. I am supposed to be stronger than this, and I fear Michael and his judging eyes. If he thinks I am slacking, he will put me in an even worse spot. No, it will be better if I solve this on my own, now, before Michael sees that I need help.

“I could help you … it’s what I do ... I can give you whatever you wish … and more. Perhaps we can make a deal?” I attempt to reverse our roles.

He must be looking for some pleasure, what else is he doing here? I flaunt my assets, like I have seen the other girls do. Somehow it doesn’t affect him. He keeps staring at my eyes, with those sapphires of his. I wish he would lower his gaze. My boobs are worth staring at. Why does he pretend to not see them through the sheer fabric my robe is made of? It itches like hell, never did before. Jeez, got to scratch, but that could break the spell. I clench my fists.

“What is it you are searching for? You can tell me. Ask any of the girls. Nothing is too crazy for me.” I have to take it up a notch.

He pretends not to hear me. Instead he circles me, driving me to where it’s darker. His footfalls are loud; his breath is hot and heavy behind me. I will not turn around. I refuse to be scared by a man. Not even this one. I am not afraid. He can’t touch me.
But, I do turn around, just in time to see him take a wand out of his chest pocket, thin, not to long and shining like the sun on a mirror. Now that’s different. Maybe he isn’t just any man. Maybe he is like Michael. If he is, then I am in need of help, but not from him.

“Why have you come to me?” My voice has an edge to it.

“I think you know, my angel.” His stays calm, detached.

Shit, shit, shit! He knows! Lame, If Michael finds out…

“Now tell me, did you find Heaven’s Gate here on this road?”

Why does he ask, if he knows?

“Michael is near! He will come! You can’t hurt me!” I shriek; my throat is dry as sandpaper.

“I know … But I can still play with you …” He is behind me now, I stand very still, I don’t even blink. His words are hot in my neck, on my cheek. “Nobody to stop me … Not now …” His lips almost touch my ear; the heat of his body warms my side. “I’ll make you a deal …” Oh, those sapphires burn my corneas when I look at them. That voice of his scrambles my brain. “Let me help you and I will find another to play with.” Those last words fall upon my skin like feathers, it’s all I can do not to lean into him.

I take a deep breath and shudder, before answering. “Why do you think you can help me?”

He smiles, and now shivers run down my spine. I should not be afraid of this man. I swallow and wipe my humid hands on my robe. It’s no longer itching, but burning like liquid candle wax where it touches my skin. I pluck at it ready to rip it off, instead I pick up my bow, and play with it. Never noticed before how it feels in my hands. It is rough, like it is made of iron, rusted iron.

“I can bring back life to this road. Make it so that you actually have a purpose, instead of just standing there, waiting for an opportunity to shoot that arrow at some sorry bastard.”

Am I hearing him right? He’s saying he can overrule the mayor’s decision?

“How would you do that? Michael won’t let you.” Exasperated, I can already see this opportunity pass me by.

But … maybe I should make this deal. It would earn me points to shoot and actually hit something. Maybe I would no longer have to stand here, on this deserted road, without a chance to score for real.

“I could start by bringing people back to this area. I could give the girls a place off the street… That would bring the Johns back… You could work for me.”

Sounds good, but Michael will not tolerate it. He has placed me here, out on the street, for all to see and use. Oh yeah right, I should be the one using. Or am I being used? I am confused. This man is messing with my head. I have to focus, but it’s hard. Slowly the words trickle from my mouth. “If … you … bring back life … to … Here … this deserted road … that’s good … for me … the girls … I can’t … I … already … have … a boss.”

He laughs and points his wand at me. Sweat starts to form beads on my upper lip. I haven’t broken a sweat since I joined the ranks. I’ve pretty much lost all human emotions, except for fear. I know fear … and desire.

“I won’t hurt you … It is just a game. You try to shoot me, I will try to stop you. If I can touch you, you are mine … If you shoot me …”

If I shoot him he is mine ... for eternity. Not a bad deal. I can do that. I already can imagine having him at my beck and call. I really so need to focus. My aim isn’t that great, but he is standing awfully close, it’s impossible to miss, even for me, even now. He on the other hand needs to come up close and personal to be able to touch me. Confident, I smile and place the arrow on my bow.

He rushes forward, almost past my bow and into my chest. His arm extends, and the wand is pointed at my throat, barely touching me. He chuckles; I swallow.

“Never play with the devil, little angel…You might get burnt…Or taken to Hell.”

Why didn’t I see it? Smell it? Now it’s too late. This close, the smell is hard to miss. The gleam in his eyes was another sign. His confidence also should have given me a clue, but I was too preoccupied with the road being too empty, to notice this was no ordinary man, and now it’s too late. He has me, no escaping this, unless…
Slowly I raise my bow, it’s heavy. The arrow is almost in position to pierce his heart. Yes, even the devil has a heart to be stabbed. It won’t kill him; my arrows are not meant to kill. It will make him love the first woman he sees, and what do you know. That would be me.

“It seems we are in a stalemate.” He purrs. “You won’t be able to shoot me before I…” He grins and lightly touches my skin with his wand, “...but I would love it if you tried.”

Without delay I release the arrow, at the same moment a burning pain pierces my brain, and everything disappears in a haze of white.

“This is Trisha Manning, and I am standing here on this deserted road, where the body of a young woman is found. She is probably one of the girls who refused to leave after this road was wiped clean of dealers, pimps and hookers. The police have stated no evidence of foul play is found. The official statement is that she died of an overdose of drugs. This could be one of the long line of victims fallen prey to the drug they call ‘Heaven’s gate’. My source tells me the smile on her face is a clear sign of her abuse of it. Evidence however, has to come from the coroner after the autopsy. This was Trisha manning. Back to you Curt for the weather.”
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  #6  
Old 03-12-2012, 07:00 AM
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Default Deserted

1
Can you feel life dancing around everywhere? Dust Dancing, Waving through the bodily esteems... and even in the deserted life's corner you see... What you never had: the universe's dance, spiraling through the mind's corner, and in silence imposed upon the never leading road, you can hear... unheard... you can hear trees growing, you can hear ants collecting food for winters, you can hear grass dancing with the music of nature's silence. You are not deserted. You are not alone.

(Excerpt from my prose article [/I]Sin'e Nature[/I])
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Old 03-20-2012, 07:54 PM
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Icon1 Memory Reel: Spring Contest (Prose) Entry - The Deserted Road

First, I'll give credit where credit is due. The song Kiss it All Better by He Is We served as the inspiration for this entry. Also, I haven't been on the site for long, so I hope you all enjoy what I have to offer.

Memory Reel

One hour.

That’s how long I had been on the road. One hour ago I had made it past the Los Angeles city limits, planning to make it all the way to Tijuana. But only an hour in, and I was already feeling the futility of my efforts catching up to me, racing faster than my car could ever carry me.

In front of me, a vast and empty road. No light, no salvation. Behind me, all the same. All around me was the black shroud of night, only barely withdrawn from the dim glow of my headlights. I felt the darkness creeping in from every direction, and felt the massive vacuum of oblivion capture me. It swallowed all hope.

When I heard a blast from the tailpipe and realized that I hadn’t topped off the tank before fleeing, my heart didn’t sink. I wasn’t even sure if it was still there. There was no emotion. No helplessness and no desperation. I had almost been expecting it. I sat there for a full ten minutes and absorbed the absolute silence that surrounded me. Then I felt the rage boil up. I beat the steering column furiously, slammed my closed fists against it. I cursed the man who tore my life apart, and was confined to the memories.

The memories…

I closed my eyes and saw my life for the past twenty-four hours playing in Technicolor. It started with the wonderful dinner, a night of love and togetherness and celebration. 1950 was upon us. We ate at a nice place near our house in Bunker Hill, and then I took her dancing at a jazz club in Hollywood. We listened to the singer, a German broad with a sultry voice, and swayed to a slow brood and the moan of a clarinet. I kissed her and told her I loved her. She smiled, said it back, and told me that marrying me was the smartest thing she’d ever done.

Fast forward, ten, twenty, thirty minutes. She went out to hail a cab while I fetched our coats from the table. I heard gunshots: blam, blam, blam! I was out the front door and shoving my way past a bouncer who was telling me not to look. Then I saw her. On her side, hardly moving, and trying to understand what was happening. I saw the blood staining the pavement and fell to my knees beside her.

The picture was vivid, and I coul see every detail of that night in more gruesome clarity that I did when it was happening. I see myself laying a hand on her face and bringing her up to face me. I cradle her lifeless body and hold her hands… they’re so cold. I feel the first of the tears come down my face, first in the memory, and then sitting alone in the car. She looks up at me, her face a portrait of shock and pain, and tells me she’s scared. She asks me to kiss it all better, tells me she’s not ready to go, and I lose all composure. The fear hits me like a mallet and I lower my face to hers. I say, “Everything will be alright.” It comes out a hoarse whisper, and the guilt of lying to the woman I love makes me feel like a despicable man. Suddenly, her eyes glaze over. I bawl, and beg her not to leave me. Her body goes limp, and I pull her closer, hoping the gesture will bring her back.

Then I notice the gun, a .45 revolver, lying on the ground a few feet away. The rage grows inside.

Fast forward, five, ten, fifteen hours. It’s the next day, and I’m at work. My partner finds me in the hallway and tells me he’s sorry. We hug like men, and I realize I have nothing to say. Captain Dougherty calls me to the office and offers me the day off. I say, “No thank you, sir,” and walk out. A parade of endless consolers from the Detective Bureau catches me in the hallway. Some of them giving me pats on the back and remind me that if I ever need something, they’re there. I nod and brush past every one. Then I go to work.

I find Technical Services working on the weapon and trace it to a gun shop in Central. The proprietor recalls selling the piece, and a look at his books gives me a name: Theodore Fitch. He’s a lowlife. Street scum who robs for his next H score. I drive over to Ad Vice and talk with some of the dicks from Narcotics. They give me an address for a hole not far from downtown. I’m out the door and on my way.

Fast forward, one, two, three hours. I’m sitting in my car outside the dump and across the street. No one’s gone in or out since I’ve arrived, but I can feel him in there. The hophead scum that ruined me, and took away the love of my life. I sit back in the driver’s seat and think about what I’m about to do, and realize I don’t care. I realize that I’ve got the curse on the punk in there and I know it’s never going to change. I take a deep breath, take out my badge, and place it down on the dash.

Step, step, step. I walk to a set of ragged wooden steers and trot up them one by one. My footfalls are hard and loud, and I know that part of me wants him to hear me coming. Seconds go by, and I’m standing in front of a shoddy screen door that’s kept shut with a flimsy latch. My heart is beating like a hammer, and my hand removes a switchblade from a breast pocket. I stick it in the gap between the door and the frame, and negotiate the latch so that I can open the door without making a sound. I do so, and draw my Colt Detective Special.

I hear snoring. The place is dark, and my hand gropes the nearest wall for a light switch. It finds one, and a dim light reveals all. He is lying passed out on the floor, drool congealed around his lips. I decide that this just won’t do, and kick him firmly in the ribs. Fitch coughs and tries to rise to his feet, but stumbles back against the wall. I look him square in his eyes that lack any humanity, and realize that the animal is still high off his latest score. Bought with my wife’s money. I take off my fedora, and show him my face. He sobers up quick.

One, two, three seconds. His eyes widen, narrow, then widen again. He’s never seen me before, but he sees my gun and that’s enough of a message. Teddy Fitch knows who I am and why I’m there, and he knows what’s coming. I let the reality of his situation sink in, and pull the trigger. The first shot punches him in the torso, right under the sternum. He convulses. One of his hands goes to the wound, and I fire a second time. A tear joins the shot and suddenly I’m crying and I can’t stop. I fire a third time. Four, five, six shots. And my .38 clicks empty. The hammer comes down on a spent cartridge, and I’m out of ammo.

Teddy Fitch’s dead weight is slumped against a wall. His blood stains already chipped paint, and he falls dead. The memory reel was catching up to me.

Fast forward. The hours raced by and I was losing count. It’s nighttime and I pull my car up alongside the road leading out of the city. My partner’s sedan is there, and he’s leaning against the hood, smoking. He meets me, and looks for confirmation. I start crying, again, because the pain is too much to bear. I shot the man six times, I say, and it didn’t bring her back. I’m a murderer, no longer a cop, and I cannot stay in Los Angeles. I look at my partner, my buddy, my pal. We shake hands, and he agrees to do what he can to delay the rest of the boys in Homicide. Then I’m off, racing down the deserted road to Tijuana.

My mind tried to fast forward, but there was no more of the memory reel left. I was woken out of my dazed recollection. I wasn’t in the city anymore. I was in my car, and there was nothing but an endless road to look at. Darkness. Not a human soul besides mine, and that one was already slipping away. In front of me, a meaningless existence in a foreign land. Behind me, imprisonment. Nothingness in either direction. Two inescapable fates, and a tunnel with no light. The big nowhere.

I stared at the deserted road ahead and contemplated walking the distance, but rejected the idea. I’d starve before I reached anything, though walking the road wouldn’t be nearly as bad if she had been there to do it with me. I closed my eyes, saw her face in all its innocent beauty, and knew that she was only a memory. There was nothing left to do.

I reached under my jacket and removed my .38 from its shoulder rig. Under the seat was a box of ammunition, which I found after a couple prolonged seconds of searching around with my hand. I took out a single cartridge and broke open the cylinder of my revolver. I loaded that one round, jerked the cylinder back into place, and pulled the hammer.

One last look at the road. Purgatory. My life, shattered. I looked down and stare at the Colt Detective Special. I begged God to forgive me for what I wanted to do, and knew that she never would have if she were there.

But suddenly I felt the twinge of hesitation. I didn’t want to die, but I certainly didn’t want to be alive. Suddenly I looked up at the road once again, and knew that the whole of my existence was just like sitting in the middle of that godforsaken road. Alone, between two horrible alternatives. A tug of war, with me in the middle. The only chance at ending it was a bullet to the head, but I didn’t want even that.

I wanted to cry, but couldn’t. There was no emotion left. I closed my eyes, saw my wife, and held the gun close to my chest. I asked her image to stay with me until I fell asleep.
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  #8  
Old 03-22-2012, 09:39 AM
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I turn into Market Street, the road is clear, the pavements deserted, all looks soft, mellow in the soft autumn sunshine, and that's when I see her. She walks slowly, stumbles, and pulls her body upright only to walk a few steps further before falling onto the grassy bank that edges the road. I watch as she fights to prop herself up against the nearest old oak, press her back against its trunk. Her head lolls, her legs lie limp, askew, her handbag abandoned, sits between her stick-thin legs.

At first I think she is wearing some kind of uniform, a grey short skirt with an unbuttoned jacket. But no, the stained sleeve of the jacket and the patched skirt are too old, too crumpled to be a uniform, obviously she’d been wearing the same clothes for some time. You’re probably wondering how I can see such details, the patch, and the stain. I’d drawn nearer to the girl and now each footstep brings me closer . . . my heart races . . . the thought jumps into my head -- do I recognise that face?

Her forehead is creased; her thin sullen lips are closed tight.

The road is clear, deserted no cars in sight, just a few people walking the pavement, but no one to notice as I move in even closer. Marjory, the name creeps to my lips, Marjory with her cloud-grey eyes and lop-sided smile. How long ago . . . too long?

* * *

It was summer; the sun bathed the tall elms that lined the country lane, glinted on the steering wheel as I drove towards the small sea-side town of Winterton. Eva, sat beside me, a poor map reader but I was grateful for her help as I manoeuvred the winding lanes. I could hear Margery humming as she played with her doll in the back seat of the Volvo. A day out, it was a rare treat for us.

I didn’t see it. It came, from nowhere, slid across the carriage way, and ploughed into the right side of the car. Later, after weeks, months of hospital treatment, of darkness, and pain, they told me the lorry driver had lost control, he’d been drinking. Eva hadn’t stood a chance. When I asked for Margery they told me she’d been unharmed except for a few bruises, been taken into care, and fostered with a good family.

How many months before I was released from hospital, who’s counting? I was alone, I took to the bottle; lost myself in the only world I wanted to know.

* * *

I’m still standing, frozen; my head full of days I’d thought I’d long forgotten, when a woman runs from MacDillan’s grocery store, squats beside the girl. I can’t catch her words, but I can see her mouth working. Her hand strokes the girl’s cheek. I want to stay – I want to run.

‘How is she? I saw her fall.’

The woman has cell phone in her hand, is dialling.

‘How is she?’ I can hear the tremor in my voice. I’m shaking. Darn woman why isn’t she answering me?

She looks up, ‘The ambulance will be here in minutes. Do you know her?’

I move backwards, stumble. I want to run, but my legs are heavy, unwilling. I will myself -- one foot forward, another, and then another. I turn the corner, leave Market Street. I make for the iron bench at the side of the road. The ache behind my eyes hurts, and my cheeks are wet. An old emptiness fills my chest, I have to go back. I must go back.

Market Street is empty; deserted with the wind floating the falling leaves of the old oak, they sing swish and whoosh, twirl high before they drop and pile into tumbled heaps around the oak’s thick trunk. I hear their song; it cries out to me . . . a song I’d forgotten . . . ‘Daddy.’
  #9  
Old 04-23-2012, 01:33 AM
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Default In Search of Us

I don't know when I first started. As far back as I can remember, I'd spend hours every morning sitting at my bay window, watching the people walk up and down the street. I wondered who they were, where they were coming from, where they were going. I envied them, wishing I could be just like them. Wishing I had a purpose, a destination.

While they didn't exactly walk in lock step, they were surprisingly orderly in their journeys. Those headed north stuck to the east side of the road, while those headed south stuck to the west.

Some wore jeans, some khakis, some suits. They were all ages, male and female, all races. Some were quite good looking and some were plain. Their common denominator was what I envied. They were going somewhere.

What it would be like to be walking with them, I wondered. Would my gait be fast or slow? Would I wear bermuda shorts and a t-shirt? No, that really wasn't me. I'd likely wear one of my plaid work shirts and a pair of jeans. Would they say hello as we passed one another, or would they ignore me? What if I initiated the greeting?

Where would I go? To truly experience what they were experincing, I'd need a destination. I had no idea what lay north or south; not an inkling of what lay over either horizon. Yet, even though that part of my fantasy remained undefined, it did nothing to reduce the pleasure I felt as I imagined the whole scenario over and over again.

As time passed, idle curiosity transformed into a sense of longing. The comfort I'd spent so much time cultivating here in my home began to erode, replaced by a craving. The pleasure of fantasy became the ache of desire.

More than once, I stood from my seat, intent upon opening the front door and satisfying my urge. Fear, though, stopped me. Before I took more than a step or two towards the door, my stomach would clench into a small, dense ball. Chastising myself for being a coward, I'd return to the comfort of my parlor and my seat in front of the window. Some time would pass before I'd calm down enough to resume my fantasies.

Still, my craving grew and, along with it, a sense of determination.. I began filling in some of the gaps. I decided to drop the work shirt and jeans. Those were a part of the old me. I needed attire that proclaimed the new me.

I'd wear a pair of tan pants with a black dress shirt and black shoes. Maybe I'd even don a hat, though I rarely did so. A tan fedora. The crowning accessory, though, would be my Dad's old walking cane. It was a beautiful cane, made from polished black wood. Mahogany, perhaps, crowned with a brass lion's head for a handle.

One day,I decided to actually dress up in my imagined garb. The thought of approaching the door still paralyzed me with fear, but I could at least taste my fantasies, see what it felt like to be long with the people outside of my window, even if I remained within the safety of my own home.

And so my habit began to evolve. At first, I'd just try on my walking attire in the bedroom and admire myself in front of the mirror. Soon, though, I rearranged my furniture, clearing a path from one end of the parlor to the other. I still began each day sitting at the window. Around noon, though, I'd leave my chair and change into what I now considered to be my alter ego. I'd spend the rest of the afternoon promenading back and forth in my parlor, practicing my confident stroll, the tip of my hat, the twirl of my walking cane.

With each session, I gained a little confidence. This was something that I could do. This is something that I would do. Weeks passed as I wore a path in the carpeting. Finally, I decided it was time. Tomorrow, I thought. Tomorrow I will join them. Tomorrow I will leave the house and take a walk down the street.

I remember waking up with a sense of well-being. I felt empowered. I immediately donned my walking clothes, taking extra care to make sure everything was just right. I made sure my shoes were shiny, my shirt was tucked in straight and my belt was buckled in the correct hole.

As soon as I left the bedroom, though, fear began to well up inside of met. It was just mild apprehension at first, but as I neared the front door, it grew stronger and stronger. Waves of anxiety threatened to overwhelm me. More than once as I walked down the hall, I almost turned to retreat to the bedroom. But no, I was determined to go through with this.

I rotated my head, trying to loosen my neck muscles. I did a couple of deep-knee bends, then took a few slow, deep breaths. I tried to envision the tension draining down my body and out my feet. All to little effect.

I reached the door and stopped. I stared at the doorknob. Time slowed. This was it. Do or die. Soon either my fantasies would be fulfilled or I'd be cringing in my bedroom, hating myself. If I failed now, I'd likely never gather the courage to try this again. I grabbed turned the door knob, but as I cracked open the door, pure panic engulfed me. My knuckles turned white as they gripped the door knob. I squeezed my eyes shut and fought down the nausea.

Out of desperation, I swung open the door and flung myself outside. I ran, never opening my eyes. In retrospect, I'm surprised I didn't stumble and fall. I ran until I imagined the street was directly in front of me, then stopped lest I run into someone. I felt foolish, and refused to open my eyes for some moments. Just what kind of spectacle had I made of myself? Had the throng of journeyers stopped to stare at me? I could feel my cheeks flush with embarrassment.

It was this profound sense of humiliation that finally forced me to open one eye, just a bit, to peek at what must be the astonished people all around me.

Only, they weren't there. I opened my eyes completely. No one was there. I looked north. No one. I turned south. Still no one. Not a soul was on the road. Nor did I see anyone to the east or west, nor in any of the other directions. There was my house, the road, the horizon and myself. No one and nothing else.

*

I vaguely remember standing there for some time, anxiety giving way to a dazed confusion. After that, I don't remember anything. The rest of that day is completely lost to me. At some point, I must have returned to my house, but I don't remember doing so. Nor do I remember what I did once I was back inside.

Since that day, I no longer look at, let alone stare out, the bay window. I keep the curtains drawn, and sit facing in the opposite direction. On the wall I now face, there's an oil painting. I never noticed before how magical that painting seems. It depicts a Victorian waltz, complete with orchestra and numerous couples on the dance floor.

The dancers seem so happy, so content. I find myself trying to imagine what it would be like to be one of them....
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Old 04-23-2012, 09:59 PM
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Is there a minimum or maximum word count for this contest?

I see that the theme should be 'The Deserted Road', which i assume can mean quite a few things. But are their any specifics that I should know when writing this aside from any potential min/max word length?
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Old 04-23-2012, 11:10 PM
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The max length is 2,000 words, as stated in the first post in this thread. Other than that you are free to write what you want around the theme 'The Deserted Road' (yes it is very broad, we like people to have their own interpitation).
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Old 04-23-2012, 11:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Tau View Post
The max length is 2,000 words, as stated in the first post in this thread. Other than that you are free to write what you want around the theme 'The Deserted Road' (yes it is very broad, we like people to have their own interpitation).
I haven't been leaving a very good impression on this site I fear. I read that first post a few times before asking, and i didn't see that word limit once in those times i read through. My bad, and thanks.
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Old 04-23-2012, 11:54 PM
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Originally Posted by <3Less View Post
I haven't been leaving a very good impression on this site I fear. I read that first post a few times before asking, and i didn't see that word limit once in those times i read through. My bad, and thanks.
No worries, we all make mistakes, the trick is to learn from them.
As I said earlier, good luck.
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Old 04-24-2012, 07:30 AM
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Exodus
He was in a hurry to leave, and needed to get his phone. He felt quite rushed, though no truly pressing matters were in the air. It was the first time he had felt a need to rush anything in a long while, or ever, he noted, when it came to her. But as He formed a plan in his head (was it in his head? Was it out loud?) to trade phones with her and leave for a short stint in the university’s library, she walked in off the balcony.
They looked at each other directly, almost intimately, ignoring the Man’s brother who was sitting quietly on the sofa. The Man grasped the horns of his brother’s bicycle preparing to wheel it around and go. Off for the first quiet peace he had had in what seemed a while, not that he minded how raucous he and she, they had gotten.
“I think I need to see my friend. I think I need to leave soon,” she said, almost like an ashamed little girl.
The Man’s heart audibly sank through his chest and got stuck somewhere around his knees.
“How soon?” he spoke, feeling his mouth go bone dry.
“Tomorrow…or today,” she murmured with the airy sobriety of guilt, “we can walk and talk about it.”
They both awkwardly navigated themselves and the bicycle that the Man was leading out the door.
I should never have tried to rush.
I should never have tried to rush.
I should never have tried to rush.
The thought must’ve yelled itself in his ear a hundred times a second.
They walked. At first, in silence, but that never lasted long with them. The Blonde girl who had a sheer presence of hope and vitality seemed in dispose, slightly off set of her usual grace.
“I think I should leave today…I’m feeling like the time here has played tricks on me. Almost, as if, I’ve been hibernating since I got here. I need to wake up,” she stated unsure of herself or perhaps unsure of her situation.
“Sometimes we all need to rest. It’s good for us,” he logicked with a fake grin.
“And it has been.” She explained.
Once again unsure of what to say, they walked quietly, the Man trying to keep the bike at his side, but intentionally never between them.
“I know we were supposed to walk the mountain together tonight, and I will stay if it means that much to you. But I feel like I should go,” she said feebly in what may have been their only awkward moments together.
“I wouldn’t ask you to stay. I’ve known from the beginning that you’d leave when you were ready, and I’ve tried to ready myself for it. But it would mean the world to me to take that walk with you…but I couldn’t ask you to stay,” he said softly with a trained sort of muted pleading.
“Well, I think I’ll have to leave very shortly,” she spoke as they rounded the second bend down the hill, the Man still being meticulous about the bicycle’s position in tow.
“If it means anything, anything at all you, and your sister, for that matter, have influenced me and inspired me in ways that I cannot rightly express to you, and I must tell you I loved our time here. It has been a long sought blessing for me,” he spoke as though he had rehearsed this conversation in his head over a hundred or more times.
And perhaps he had. For whatever reason, though he had thought long on saying to her that she had the wildest spirit and most peaceful grace about her, and how beautiful she was everyway round.
But she never heard those words.
Instead, she agreed readily with him saying that she too “loved our time here” and followed it up with what might have been the kindest, sweetest words to ever pass through the ears of this Man.
“I know I’m leaving. Physically,” she cleared her throat gently, “but I want you to remember. I want you to feel that even in our passing by each other I carry with me a ribbon of your heart in mine, and you me. And despite distance there will always be what was. And that is a truly beautiful thing to carry with you.”
He stupidly, muddily –in some transitory daze – conjoured in his mind and into speech a piece of an e. e. cumming’s poem:
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

For some inexplicable reason, that was all he could offer her back. Unknowing then, at that moment what else he could say. His brain would not form a thought on its own, none worthy of regurgitating right now, least ways.
She smiled anyway, and spent the next few moments assuring him that she felt strongly perhaps, even, without a doubt that they would meet again someday down the road. And at that she gave him the softest shadow of a kiss. Two kisses. Two breaths of love to remember. They looked at each other’s eyes, hardly daring to blink but knowing, both of them, to stop. She turned and walked back up the hill they had just descended, but this time alone; she was gone to collect her belongings and be on her way.
The man continued to stand there, staring at the same spot her eyes had been not moments before. He stood, and perhaps apparent to no one, perhaps apparent to all he turned into a boy again, still standing with his bicycle at the end of the road, unable to accept or know any truth about the future or life, except that he had just lost his girl.
  #15  
Old 04-24-2012, 01:09 PM
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Deserted Roads

I find, in my travels, that deserted roads are the corpses of once well known paths. A road once trampled by a hundred thousand feet, now a bare stretch of road going from nowhere, and leading just away. I have walked for years; I have been walking my whole life. My feet are scarred, far used to walking upon any type of surface be it dirt, rock, water, ice, or fire. I find myself jumping from one abandoned way to another in my never ending search for an answer. That though alone is worth a few laughs, because I don’t even know the question yet.


I travel a well worn dusty path, strewn with sharp rocks that try so hard to draw blood from my feet. But I am well worn too, and I can hardly even feel them. I have seen no others in my travels, and expect to see no more than that in the course to follow. I am alone; as deserted and outcast as the roads I walk. The sky is blue, a sight most might consider beautiful. To me it merely means the sun has free reign to burn across my back and face as I walk. To sweat is like to lose your life force when you have no water at hand, and yet I survive. Maybe that is what I seek; the question to why I survive, and the answer that might lead me to death.


Deserted roads are many, and those who travel them even more so. A deserted road that a person walks might be a single line of thought, or a straight from one city to another. Once people used to be humble; they used to be loyal; they used to be self-sacrificing and honorable. Those roads of thought have far been deserted by most, and yet it is I who walks alone; I who wanted nothing more than to keep sight of those worthy paths.


The stray dusty wind turns cold almost as fast as the fiery dirt road turns to ice and rocky daggers. A stray rock pierces my heel and I am humbled, reminded that even I, so long a traveler, have much to see and learn. The hole in my foot aches with every step; it becomes my companion; a companion willing to tell me that I have thought too much of myself. I am but a man, and all men can be wounded, all men can be killed. The winds whip at me like the howl of a hellish beast. I find myself climbing; first a handhold, then a foot, a place for my other hand, and my other foot. A slow methodic process and the climb has begun.


I have climbed many mountains, and fallen twice as far. I cling to worthy roads, but even I am not innocent when it comes to abandonment. I have abandoned ways that were set before me all for the pursuit of my own goals. I once saw myself as a bird, soaring high; always higher than before. There was no end to how high I could fly until I fell. I was brought down by my own selfish wants; I was brought down by my own companions who had yet to lose sight of their ability to know when to not press their limits. I fell, a broken man; but I was given the chance to recover.


Maybe I look for what I lost. I am humbled, but perhaps I have lost sight of my courage and pride in the process. It is a hard truth to know. It was once said to me that the hardest person to know is your own self.


I was promised many things, and was given many things upon my birth. I was expected to soar higher than anyone, and in those expectations, I began to see them as my own. Expectations and genius are never a good combination. They oft lead to arrogance and sinful pride.


It was a good lesson then, and still is now. The top of the mountain leveled flat, and I forced myself through waist deep snow across the jagged surface. From up here the entire world, it seemed, could be seen. And still, all I saw was loss. Deserted, abandoned roads all around me, like the twisted broken fingers of a far reaching crippled god. They were always there. Always pulling me right back to them. I took my first step off the mountain when the cold receded.


I walked a meadow of wild flowers. A sea of gold and green spread before me, and the not overly warm sun smiled above. A gentle breeze carried the scents of spring, and I walked through the deserted meadow. Sometimes, when things are deserted, it is better for its own well being. This meadow could never have grown to be so beautiful had it been occupied. Buildings would be sprung, houses and shops; alleys would be dug, and footpaths would be worn in. In time, the flowers would be a distant memory; but not now. They were free now, from the traveling of men and their counterparts.


And as always, the brief glimpses of happiness remain as such, brief, never lasting long enough to create even the shortest of memories. Those flowers would be gone from my mind as surely as they left the minds of those who came before me. I remember a better time; once, long ago, when I was happy. With her, and our children, I had known what it felt to be truly content with what I had. I had no desires to reach for more; but like all dreams, it was never meant to be. All I remember of after is an indefinite path of grief that I walked on my own. The path came to a head when I found my answers. If I wanted to honor their lives I had to strive farther than ever before. I could praise them, and show my eternal love for them, through my effort to be the best in everything I did. If only honorable intentions stayed as such; but nothing planned ever goes accordingly.


I found myself walking a deserted corridor. It looked vaguely familiar. Unlike all the other paths I traveled which had become so known to me, this one seemed like a distant far off memory. The floor was a checkered grey and black, the walls were straight grey with wall hangings depicting triumph in battle, the gritty arts of war, and the long lost farewells of the dying. Those thoughts seemed to strike home, intermingling with thoughts that had been long since repressed. I stumbled along the corridor and clutched at a wall hanging, succeeding only in bringing it down along with me. I would forever be plagued by my own self, it was my destiny now.


I brought myself back to my feet, and continued on, as I always do. I came across doors, open to the beautiful interiors of wealthy nobles. Colorful silks and satins draped everything that could be draped; gold was gilded on even the most homely items; precious jewels studded every facet of every object in sight. The wanton show of wealth among the rich brought a feeling of sickness. A sickness at not only their own greed, but at the secret demons lurking inside myself as well; the same demons I strove to abandon deep inside; as deep down as the tallest mountain reached high.


Those rooms came and passed in a sickeningly frequent rhythm. I was reminded at how significant the gap was between rich and poor, and I was reminded how although I claimed honor, and duty to protect the weak, what had I ever really done for them? I came to the end of the hallway, and a doorway stood open for me to see. It stood in front of me like a letter addressed to somebody else, yet with no instructions that said it was to be read only by the recipient. I cracked open the door further, and saw what I was to see.


A year passed before my eyes and I came crashing to my knees. I heard a ragged scream echoing down the halls, and only the blood in my throat told me it was my own. Memories came flaring to life within my mind; memories forgotten or otherwise locked away.


I walked with my love across a cobbled bridge overseeing a river I could not recall the name of. It was me and her, as it always had been, and as it always would have been if things went according to plan. We kissed, and I remembered that it was my first kiss. I was a mere squire then, but with promise. I would go far they said, and they were right; it was unfortunate that none of them warned me of the dangers of tumbling back down.


I saw every waking moment that I spent with her; from our first kiss to the day she came up to me with tears of joy streaking down her beautifully pale face, from her beautiful sky blue eyes, saying she was with child. I remembered that day now, vividly, and it still brought tears. I saw it all, in no particular order; the day we got married; the day her father had consented to the marriage; my knighting; the birth of our second child; and then the day my world ended.


The last came in a deeper shade of meaning. I watched, useless, from the sidelines as my wife and kids were ravaged. I tried looking away, tried closing my eyes, but it was all beyond my control. I could hear a voice, echoing loudly through my mind. It was mine, and I regretted the words I had spoken that day. My heart grew heavy as it repeated, over, and over, and over again. “As happens during war,” I remembered myself replying to the news of my family’s death, “there is nothing that can be done now.” It sounded so knightly back then. I had duties to attend to, and they were not the first, nor would they be the last, of the innocents to die during the war.


And yet the tone; the emotionless tone that I heard in my own words were what scarred me the most. I knew I was full of grief, but the war raged in my mind, and I had no time to for it. I fought savagely in the war, and somehow came out alive, and on top. I was granted a Lord’s title to go with my Ser, as well as a gracious amount of lands and incomes to go with it. It was all I could have hoped to give my beloved; yet she was gone, and I fell into sadness. I promised to fight for her, and the little ones, till the end of my days; but I lost myself as well.


I became absorbed in the conquest, the flight of the highest of towers. My genius led me down paths full of blood, sweat, and tears; and I filled them with such, but not my own. Never my own. I was promised everything, and yet I was given everything but what I wanted. I won tourneys, became the king’s own hand, and was titled “best swordsman” among a plethora of other titles. It was never enough.


Who could have ever thought that the person to strike me the fatal blow would have been a squire of lowly birth? Who could have said that, till the end of time I would wander the deserted corridors of my forgotten memories, the long lost roads of those that came before me, and those yet to be forsaken.


My mind filled with fog and I found myself standing afore an empty, dusty road that stretched away forever. The first question of my lips: “Who am I?” And the cycle begun again.
  #16  
Old 04-25-2012, 09:49 PM
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Props to NPR for putting this idea into my head earlier today. Hope you enjoy it!

Poppy Field Road

Poppies swayed lightly in the breeze to his right and left, the dust and dirt of the road crunched under his feet, and as always, the sun beat down from above. He walked forward in the middle of two columns of men, taking it all in with an air of constant suspicious awareness. The plants were beautiful and menacing all at the same time, beautifully grown and maintained, menacing in their purpose. He knew that the presence of the plants meant one thing, the locals weren't friendly.

He and his men kept walking down the seemingly endless dirt road, turning every dozen steps to check their rear for anyone following them. No one was, as was usually the case. Following was a sure fire way to get nabbed and interrogated. No, if the locals had any malicious plans, they would execute them differently. An IED blast and then a barrage of gunfire from the front and one of the sides, creating a textbook enfilade on the patrol walking down the road.

"And that's the reason we're out here. To get shot at and to shoot back." He said quietly to himself. No sooner had he completed the thought, than the IED fifteen feet to his front detonated, the shockwave knocked him and half the platoon to their feet.. A second later, a dozen AK's had started firing from somewhere beyond the field of poppies.

He had been thrown a few feet back into the poppies and looked around, trying to reorient himself from the explosion. Johnson was in pieces, Guiterrez was on his back grimacing and holding a wound in his stomach as the medic tried to patch him up. The rest of the platoon was surging forward into the field of poppies, weapons blazing. Bullets whistled menacingly through the air, knocking poppies apart and sending a pressurized red burst into the air when they found a human target. Sometimes screams followed the burst of red, other times the unlucky man just fell forward or back.

He awoke with a start, covered in a sheen of cold sweat and confused. He looked around the dark apartment. Virginia. Not Afghanistan. His conscious brain registered his location but the unconscious side of him stayed alert and kept his eyes scanning the room, clicking from one sector to the other, trying to establish a baseline. He kept this up for a dozen seconds before he started to fully relax and come down from the dream. He laid back down and stared at the ceiling, knowing that sleep wasn't going to come back tonight, just like last night and a hundred nights before.

He grudgingly threw off the blankets and rolled out of bed before walking to the kitchen and pouring himself a generously sized scotch. He gulped at the half full pint glass for a second, the burn of the alcohol quelling something unsettling inside of him. He lowered the glass and stared into the sink thoughtlessly. He took another sip. He realized he was staring at the sink and snapped himself back to reality. A second later he was on the couch flipping on the TV, searching for the news. Hearing about the war usually calmed him down for some reason. He found the news quickly.

An anchor and a pundit were discussing the recent 'war crimes' committed by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Apparently, some grunts had been engaged in a firefight and lost a few guys to enemy fire. After defeating the enemy, they had taken pictures of themselves with the dead enemy. Many of the pictures featured smiling young men using their fingers to give their dead enemies bunny ears. He thought it was kind of funny. The pundit did not.

According to the hefty, middle aged, balding man who was some kind of analyst for some think tank, these men were worse than terrorists, and were propagating an imperialistic war of aggression. Listening made him forget his dream, rage took over.

'Yeah, you'd fucking know all combat wouldn't you? You weak ass civilian bitch.' He said to the TV. He sipped his scotch again, the burn of the whiskey matched his rage appropriately. He absently thought that the pundit who was villifying the soldiers who took the pictures probably had a little yellow ribbon magnet on the back of his car.

'Support the troops!' He said sarcastically to no one. 'Right up until those troops have a normal reaction to combat. Then fuck 'em, they're just crazy war vets, send them to the VA to get fixed. But hey, seriously, support the troops.' His anger was starting boiling over now. It just wasn't fair, damnit. He had gone to Iraq and Afghanistan and done his duty. He and his men had been engaged about once and week. Then they had come home and been told they were heroes. None of them particularly agreed with that, they hadn't done anything they felt was extraordinary or heroic.

A few weeks later though, the real truth started to become apparent. People just said stuff like; 'you're a hero', 'thank you for your service', and 'I appreciate what you did over there' because it made them feel better about themselves. They didn't actually give a damn about him, his men, or the hundreds of thousands of other service members that had gone to the sandbox. That was especially true whenever a soldier did something out of line, like pose with a dead terrorist. Whenever something along those lines happened, the concerned and enraged citizenry called out in dismay about how the men and women in question were 'war criminals' or 'animals' and should be punished as such. No one ever seemed to remember the stress that forced such actions. They forgot that the military had been asked to go to war against an unseen and unknowable enemy for more than a decade and shoulder the weight quietly. That didn't matter it seemed. All that mattered was that they did something most Americans couldn't understand, because they had never had the guts to sign up and go. They asked so much of so few and were so unwilling to give anything back. In fact, they thought that it was their right to not have to give anything back.

A quote he had heard a few years ago surfaced in his mind; 'America isn't at war, the military is at war. America is at the mall'. He laughed bitterly to himself at the thought as a single tear rolled down his cheek. He gulped at the almost empty glass, hoping the buzz from the scotch would hit hard and fast. Maybe he'd get lucky and pass out.

An epiphany murkily rose through the cloud of liquor that was starting to roll through his brain. He was alone, just as alone as they had been on that road in Afghanistan. He would never be free of it either. He was doomed to walk that road in his dreams for the rest of his days. That long, dusty, bloody road to nowhere was his to trudge along and fight over for all time.

Last edited by Tau; 04-25-2012 at 11:25 PM.. Reason: Format issues.
  #17  
Old 04-26-2012, 06:14 AM
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Default Deserted Road Story (1,999 words)

No Roads on Bosei


They came up onto a high plateau. Here, the ground was too flat and the wind too strong for the snow to settle. Underfoot was permafrost, the few plants that clung to existence on its cold, icy surface were dry and brown and brittle as glass. Fine snowflakes fell, were swept up by the wind and driven on. The sky was a uniform grey, close and forbidding. To Harris it seemed as if it were pressing down on them. He felt the weight of it above him, an unremitting burden, though the gravity of Bosei was a 0.001 N/kg less than that of Earth. They’d come twelve miles out. There’d be twelve long miles home.

Harris’ fingers were numb, even cocooned as they were in the thick, station-issue gloves. He stamped his feet, his toes prickling uncomfortably. He’d put on three pairs of socks, but maybe he should have tried four. He wondered if he could requisition boots a half-size larger, the better to fit additional socks. He waited impatiently while his partner, Kyle Lund, knelt beside a spiny-looking grey shrub and peered at the readout on a scanner.

“Hurry up,” Harris told him. “Maybe you want frostbite, but I think I look better with my nose still on.”

“Sorry,” Kyle said. He peered more closely at the scanner. “I can’t make it out.” He banged the scanner on the ground a couple of times and then held it up to his eyes again, trying to shield the screen with one gloved hand.

“Great,” Harris said. “Broken is it?”

“Maybe - it’s giving some funny readings. Doesn’t recognise this plant. Says it’s made of sodium hydroxide, calcium carbonate and fluorine.”

“Ice has got into the shell,” Harris said, brightening. “It happens.” Early finish! He thought. You couldn’t do a survey without a scanner. Even Modlian would accept that. Back to station then and the promise of warmth and hot food. “Get a sample to take back and let’s go.”

“Wait,” Kyle said. He had stood up and was peering to the South. The ground sloped downward in that direction and Harris could see marker flags. They’d been placed a few years ago when there’d been a plan to lay a road up to Station 3. The plans had been shelved, but most of the red and yellow flags were still there, faded by the weather and clinging raggedly to their poles, lining a road that never was. “What the hell’s that?” Kyle said then, pointing.

“I can’t see anything.”

“There, to the left, near the fallen marker,” Kyle insisted, and started off in that direction, walking fast, stuffing the scanner into the pocket of his jacket as he went.

“Wait!” Harris called. “Jesus, Kyle!” But Kyle didn’t stop and Harris was forced to follow him.

Walking behind, he didn’t see anything until they reached the fallen marker, where Kyle slowed and moved to the right, hesitant. Unprepared, Harris suddenly saw what had caught Kyle’s eye and he took an involuntary step back, swearing.

It was a corpse. Of that there could be no doubt, though Kyle, with trembling hands, took out the broken scanner and waved it uselessly above the body.

“She’s dead, Kyle,” Harris snapped.

“Yeah... yeah I can see,” Kyle said. His voice was very quiet, shocked.

“Well, put that damn thing away then!”

“What do we do?” Kyle asked. He turned to look at Harris. Above the thick scarf, his eyes were open wide. Harris felt uncomfortable. He had no idea was they should do. He wished Kyle had never noticed anything. He wished they were on their way back, happy in their ignorance, thinking only of ordinary things, like what would be served in the station canteen later. Someone else should have found her; someone who’d know what to do, anyone else – just not him and Kyle. Kyle would never agree to walk away. Kyle would insist they do something.

“What is this she’s wearing?” he said suddenly. He frowned down at the corpse. It occurred to him she was wearing very strange clothes, and also that she was beautiful, or at least, had been beautiful once. He went nearer and knelt by her side, reached out and gently ran the tip a finger over the fabric. “It’s silk,” he said.

She was wearing silk. It was crumpled and tiny flakes of snow had gathered in its folds. A silk dress, like something someone would wear to a party, a brilliant blue like the summer sky he’d not seen in five years and had missed every day of every one of those years, longed for in this endless winter. On her feet, shoes of gold and blue, like sunlight on a wave. Her hair was golden too, damp now and straggling over her cold, dead face, but he could see it had a curl to it. Pretty hair, hair he might have liked to wind around a finger, had she been alive, and laughing, her head tilted up as she waited for a kiss. The thought brought the unaccustomed sting of tears to his eyes and a hard lump into his throat and he stood up quickly, rubbing roughly at his face.
“How did she get out here?” Kyle asked. He stared around as if he hoped to find some clue, some hint of how and why in the gusting wind, the endless, featureless plain.

“She can’t have walked here. In those shoes, in those clothes. And do you know her? I never saw her in my life and I’d swear I know everyone on this godforsaken planet.”

“I don’t think I know her. If you push her hair from her face maybe I could see for sure.”

“Me? You want to see her face – you do it.”

“We should check,” Kyle said. He sounded appalled but resolute.

“Be my guest,” Harris told him. As Kyle knelt down next to her he felt his stomach lurch. He swallowed and shut his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, Kyle had brushed the woman’s hair back, revealing her mottled, cold-damaged cheeks, her cracked lips, her sunken eyes. Harris breathed out and swallowed again against a rebelling stomach. Kyle was bending over her like a doctor with a patient. He tried to move her head, but her hair and skin must have been stuck to the ice. Suddenly Kyle was backing away, scrabbling on his hands and feet, swearing.

“What?” Harris asked.

“Her head – it’s....it’s all stove in at the back...”

“What?”

“She was killed!”

“Murdered?”

“This is bad,” Kyle said. “It’s bad.” He was shaking his head, standing up and brushing powdery snow and dirt from his clothes. He stared at Harris. “How’d she get out here? There’s nothing here. There’s nothing to show how she came. And those clothes? They’re not issue. Were you allowed to bring anything with you? Data yes – pictures and things – nothing else.”

“If she was allowed those things she was someone important,” Harris said.

“But they made such a big thing about storage, and weight and.... Who was she? What should we do? Carry her back to the bug?”

“Maybe she was killed at a station then brought out here and dumped,” Harris said. “Do you see any blood?”

“No.”

“So, we take her back. There’s nothing else for it. Unless...” Harris eyed Kyle and decided to go for it. What did he have to lose? “Unless we didn’t find her.”

Kyle stared at him, utterly uncomprehending for a moment. As understanding dawned his eyes narrowed in anger and disbelief. “What? My God, Harris. How low can you get!”

“Joke, Kyle,” Harris said sourly. “Come on then. Guess we have to peel her off the ice.” Thinking if he didn’t do it straight away, he wouldn’t be able to bring himself to touch her, he bent down to take her feet. He was glad of his gloves. If he’d had to touch her skin he wasn’t sure he could have borne it. As it was he and Kyle would have to carry her a mile back to where they’d left the bug. Would it cope with the extra weight? It was notoriously unreliable, and built only to carry two.

He lifted up her feet, had to close his eyes as he gagged. She didn’t smell, she was stiff with frost but still he could not help imagining the sickly-sweet, putrid reek of rotting meat. He shuddered and swallowed hard. “Kyle?” he shouted angrily. “Are you going to help or what?” There was no answer. Harris dropped the feet again in disgust, letting them thump heavily to the ground. “Kyle!”

Kyle wasn’t there. Inexplicably, he was gone. Harris didn’t believe it. He blinked and turned round, then turned around again. He shouted but there was no reply. He peered at the ground, as if somehow Kyle could be hiding there. He walked around in a wide circle, unconsciously moving faster and faster. His heart was hammering, up in his throat it felt like, choking him. His skin prickled all over. He yelled, but the wind stole all the power from his voice, his calls sounding hoarse and feeble. The plain was open and utterly free of hiding places. There were no pits in the ground, nowhere Kyle could have fallen, no place for even a mouse to hide, let alone a grown man.
He managed to stop, took a deep breath. Kyle was gone, somewhere. He didn’t have to think about that. If Kyle was playing some kind of stupid joke then he’d find out sooner or later. He refused to consider it any longer, closed his mind to it.

His eye fell on the corpse.

Harris turned around and started to walk, back to the bug.

I’m in shock, he told himself as he walked. I’m dreaming. This kind of thing doesn’t happen. If anyone’s looking at me – filming me and laughing - I’ll make them regret it till the day they die!

Where is Kyle? There’s nowhere! Nowhere he could have gone. I turned round for a second. One second! Am I blind?

The wind blew through his clothes, thick though they were and lined with layers of reformed, recycled plastics. Harris marched, eyes fixed to the ground ahead, looking neither left nor right. His back continued to prickle, shudders running up his spine. He thought of the dead woman and how the wind felt like her breath, as if she walked behind him soundlessly. In his mind’s eye he could see her, watching him accusingly, beseechingly.

“I couldn’t carry you on my own!” he blurted out. He realised he had spoken out loud and glanced around quickly, but there was no one there. No one visible. Not Kyle, nor the dead, unknown woman, only the grey-brown frozen ground and the fine particles of snow that were blown like sand on the wind. He walked, and the walk became a jog, and the jog a run.

He reached the bug eventually. The journey seemed to him to have taken hours, but his watch told him it was only a little over twenty minutes. He gasped with relief when he saw it. He was aware then how much he’d feared it would also have vanished. He was about to open the door when he caught a glimpse of something colourful in the glass, something reflected. It was attractive, such an attractive thought to ignore it and just drive away. Why not? Who would know? But he could not, somehow.

He walked over to the colourful thing. He knew what it was this time, long before he reached it.

Kyle lay on the ground, dead. It was as if he’d been dropped from a great height – his body broken and mangled. One of his legs was canted at an unnatural angle, folded back like a hairpin. But he too wore silk, a red silk jacket and matching trousers embroidered with black thread, and there was a smile on his face.
  #18  
Old 05-06-2012, 01:21 PM
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Default THE DESERTED ROAD (730 words)- UK spellings/speech marks.

It was a choice between “The Deserted Road” and “Alien Planet.” Teenagers, Jan and Caroline decided to toss a coin.

'Heads or tails?' asked Jan as she threw a fifty pence coin into the air.

'Erm..heads!' shouted Caroline.

Heads it was, and Caroline chose "The Deserted Road."

'Well, I hope it's as good as you say,' said Jan.

'It will be,' assured Caroline. 'I read about it in the “Express”. It's one of those supernatural films. About these people who get lost on a deserted road. What they don't realise is that it's haunted which is why no-one ever uses it.'

'OK,' said Jan. 'Come on, let's hurry or we'll miss it. It starts at seven.'

They quickened their pace to The Corner cinema, paid their money and crept through the heavy doors into the darkness. The film had just started. Beams of light from the big screen flickered across the auditorium, revealing the whereabouts of empty seats. Caroline grabbed Jan's hand and led her down the aisle.

'Shall we sit here?' she whispered. They settled themselves down, leaving their jackets on an empty seat.

There were gasps and groans from the audience as the film progressed. Then silence as the key characters found themselves on the notorious deserted road. Audience fear was palpable. Jan stared at the screen, wide-eyed with terror.

She put her hand on Caroline's arm, inadvertently squeezing as the tension mounted.

'Jan...you're hurting,' said Caroline.

'Oh! Sorry. Got carried away.' Jan pulled her hand away and relaxed into her seat.

Then she saw something unexpected. There was a house along the deserted road. It looked just like the house where she lived with her mother and sister. She could not believe her eyes. The key characters were oblivious to this building, as if it did not really exist. The house seemed uninhabited at first. But then, people emerged. Jan could see her mother walk out the front door into the garden. Her sister Roberta appeared at the front door before going back inside. Just seconds later, flames shot through the roof and blew out the windows. Her mother screamed and ran inside. Jan could hear shouting and screaming.


'Oh God! Oh God!' Jan shouted out.

'It's OK. They're gonna escape,' whispered Caroline, unaware of Jan's terrifying vision which had faded away just as quickly as it had appeared.

Jan scrutinised the screen, searching for the house on fire. But all she could see now were the key characters dashing down the deserted road, fleeing from weird creatures on their tail. The whole auditorium was in uproar, shouting and screaming, willing them to escape the evil followers.

'Caroline, I've got to go!' said Jan.

'You can't! It's not finished!'

'I've got to go,' insisted Jan. 'Come on!'

'Don't be silly. Sit down!'

Jan picked up her jacket and rushed up the aisle, through the heavy doors and out of the cinema.
Caroline dashed after her.

'For god's sake, Jan. What's up?'

'I don't know. Just got to get home. I think something might be wrong. Just got a feeling.'

Jan broke into a run and Caroline did her best to keep up. It was less than half an hour away. They kept up the pace until Jan caught sight of her house. She stopped abruptly and stared. Nothing seemed wrong after all. She calmed down and waited to catch her breath.

'S-sorry Caroline. I just got panicky.'

Caroline also stood still trying to catch her breath.

'That's OK. Anyway, I best go now, it's eight-thirty.'

Jan walked in the front door only to find her mother and sister, Roberta, clearing up charred remains from the TV.

'Mum,what on earth's been happening?' asked Jan.

'Oh Jan. You've no idea. Glad you were out.'

'What's happened to the TV?'

'I was watching a trailer for that film, “The Deserted Road”, explained Roberta. Mum was in the garden. All of a sudden, there was this funny smell, then some smoke and then flames shot out the TV.'

'I heard Roberta scream and when I rushed in, the house was practically on fire. It's caused a bit of damage, mainly from the smoke, but nothing more, thank goodness.'

'What time was that?' asked Jan.

Roberta looked at her watch.

'Must have been about quarter to eight.'

The colour drained from Jan's face.
  #19  
Old 05-07-2012, 11:22 AM
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Icon6 The Deserted Road - Manzanar

The Deserted Road – Manzanar (1498 Words)
I was in search of Inyo County star tulips for my photo gallery of the salt flats’ flora commonly found in the Owens Valley in California. A research source indicated that I would find fields of the Inyo County star tulip just north of Lone Pine and west of Highway 395. I had exited the 395 on to a dirt road as indicated by the research material and had driven several miles without siting any star tulips. So, I turned around and was in the process of backtracking when I noticed a small dirt road on the right. I pulled to a stop and peered down what seemed to be a deserted road which didn’t appear to have had any traffic in decades. I took a moment to do a 360 degree scan of the landscape and then decided to scout out the deserted road for a few miles. I was just about to turn around and backtrack again when I saw down the road, less than a mile, what promised to be the answer to my search. As I drove forward a cross wind had picked up and was blowing sand and dust up obscuring my vision. Suddenly, I had to hit the brakes. I had come upon the remnant of a wood and wire gate blocking the road. I just sat still for a moment collecting my thoughts.
As I opened the door I felt the sting of the sand being blown by the wind. I walked over to the gate noticing there were sections of barbed wire fence extending from both sides of the gate which had not been maintained. There was a wooden sign hanging from the gate by one corner. I moved to it and could see the faded word “Manzanar”. I thought for a moment and then remembered I had read something about a Relocation Center during World II named Manzanar. As I raised my look from the sign, I saw a shadow like figure approaching through the dust and sand. As the figure got closer, I could see it was a young woman. She got within yards of me and I could see she was Japanese. The wind began to subside reducing the sand and dust in the air. I could see a second figure, a male figure moving towards me. As the wind calmed the air cleared of the sand and dust. I could now see in the distance many people moving around between barrack like buildings. They were Japanese. My focus returned to the gate which was no longer broken down nor were the sections of barbed wire fence. As I looked to my left, there was a guard tower with an armed army MP in it. I was stunned.
The young woman continued towards me until she was a couple of yards from the gate and then she turned her head up towards the guard tower. She was not allowed to approach any closer to the gate. She was close enough though for me to see a feeling of betrayal in her dark eyes. As she seemed to study my face the male figure reached her side. He was three or four years younger and had a family resemblance to the young woman. They both stood silently looking at me. The silence was broken by my voice asking who they were and how did they get there.
She looked up again at the guard tower. The soldier was looking away and didn’t seem to be paying any attention to us. She moved a couple of steps closer and told me in a soft voice that her name was Grace Shinoda and her brother’s name was Larry as she indicated the young man next to her as she gave me a slight bow of the head. Grace went on to tell me that President Roosevelt had sent them here as part of an Executive Order 9066 for all persons of Japanese ancestry had to evacuate the West Coast. They were told it was for their own protection. The look of betrayal that had been in her eyes was replaced with one of pleading for understanding.
Grace eagerly continued to relate their experiences in those opening days of the war with Japan. They had been returning home from church when they had heard on the radio of the attack on Pearl Harbor. They had been shocked and stunned just like every other American that day. Shortly after that fateful day, Roosevelt issued that executive order that would drastically change all their lives. Grace was fifteen years of age at the time and Larry, whose name was actually Lawrence, was twelve. They were given seven days to take care of their belongings such as homes, cars, pets because they could only take what they could carry. Loaded onto trains with the window curtains pulled down, they were being sent off to a place they did not know and for how long they did not know. How could this be happening to American citizens they had wondered. Grace’s father, Kiyoshi, had come to America when he was twelve years old and had gone on to graduate from UC Berkley as an Electrical Engineer. Unfortunately, he died when Grace was six almost a decade before humiliation was brought upon these honorable members of the American communities. Grace’s mother, Hide Watanabe, came to America with her father and mother when she was one year old. Her father was a librarian. Grace’s maternal grandmother graduated from Woodbury College. So, both Grace and Larry were naturalized citizens by birth.
It was dusk when Grace’s family arrived at the Manzanar War Relocation Center, a euphemistic name for a prison camp. On arrival they had been given muslim bags and told to stuff them with straw to use as mattresses. The early barrack classrooms had cracks between the floorboards which allowed dust to blow up into the classroom making visibility difficult. Later they had wooden benches in the classroom. Accommodation at Manzanar were meager and Spartan. Larry used his natural creative design skills to make for his mother and grandmother wooden reclining chairs with arm rests out of discarded crates. They became a sensation in the camp. At one point it had been discovered that some camp employees had been stealing food supplies intended for the Camp Internees. A protest broke out and the army guards fearing a riot fired into the crowd killing some of the protestors.
Grace paused and looked up to the guard tower and seemed to listen to something. Perhaps it was the wind as it picked up again and the dust mixed with sand arose again. Grace and Larry had started to back away beginning to fade into the dust. Grace paused momentarily and turned back and said “Remember us!” For just a second I closed my eyes to the dust and sand whirling about me. When I opened them again, they were gone. The wooden gate had returned to its broken down appearance. I rushed to the refuge of my car to escape the stinging sand.
As soon as I was back in the protection of my car I took my smartphone and booted up the internet. I went directly to Google to search for Grace Shinoda to see if not only had she existed but had she been detained at Manzanar. There it is! She was in fact at Manzanar from 1942 to the Spring of 1944. Upon her release her family made their way to Colorado to where some relatives had fled escaping the ordered evacuation of Los Angeles. Later with the aid of a charitable Student Relocation Project she received a scholarship to Redlands University becoming the first Japanese American College student to return to California. She graduated with honors and went on to receive two Master Degrees enjoying a rewarding career in education and the arts. What would I find about her brother Larry. Here it is. He was able to make a career out of his passion for cars and their design. Designer Larry Shinoda has been closely associated with the Corvette Sting Ray, the stunning design that debuted in 1963. He earned a spot in the Corvette Hall of Fame. One more thing, did the government own up to what they did as being wrong? Okay, here it is: “In 1988, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government. The legislation said that government actions were based on ‘race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership’. The U.S. government eventually disbursed more than $1.6 billion in reparations to Japanese Americans who had been interned and their heirs. “
Looking up my phone I saw that the wind had stopped and the air had cleared. I turned the car around and once again backtracked to the 395. I hadn’t found my Inyo County star tulips but I had gained a lasting experience. Thank you, Grace!

References: http://www.nps.gov/manz/forteachers/id-booklets.htm http://www.corvettemuseum.org/library-archives/hof/shinoda.shtml http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_American_internment
Movie: “Come See The Paradise” starring Dennis Quaid and Tamlyn Tomita – an Alan Parker Film – 20th Century Fox
  #20  
Old 05-30-2012, 04:17 PM
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The Deserted Road
1379 words

Glenda Miller sat in her easy chair, a drink in her left hand and a book in her right, a smile upon her face. With her feet nestled tightly together in the hassock, she started reading various excerpts aloud from the book. Some remained a silent story to be told only to the next reader, some flew among the wings of the comfortable July breeze that swept across the patio of her Maine cabin. Each entry in the book was dated. This particular entry had been written when she was just eighteen. Twenty-nine years ago today.

“It all started with insects. Pulling their wings, ever so gently in opposite directions, until they snapped from their fragile bodies. I could feel the separation in my fingertips. It almost felt like bones breaking at the mercy of my hands. I would watch the little shits run around on the table afterward, unable to take flight again. Unable to escape their abuser.

House flies just didn’t cut it for very long. Seeing the wingless creatures no doubt satisfied me, but I longed for more. Laugh if you will, but I moved on to spiders. Those eight-legged freaks could still walk with six legs. Or five. Or however many I decided to leave them with at the time of my doings.”

Glenda shifted a bit in her seat, a grimace on her face. She sipped from her glass of wine, keeping her eyes on the book during the entire motion of removing the glass from the table beside her, the drink itself, and replacing the glass. She read aloud again.

“This made me wonder. This made me want more. If a spider could walk on six of their eight legs, could a squirrel walk on three? A cat, or a dog? Being one of the only children on our street (that which had a very low population) to not own a pet, the chances of my finding out were slim to none. I wasn't mechanically inclined enough to devise a trap well enough to catch a squirrel.”

Another sip of wine. A fine red wine. The setting sun cast an orange glow among the pool, throwing long shadows of oak tree fingers across the yard, stretching and swallowing anything that crossed it's path. Glenda read to herself for a bit, then again aloud.

“...Until the cat strolled into the yard on that early August morning. I may not have been able to coax a squirrel into my arms, but a cat with a strong desire for attention (and a nice belly rub) will come to anyone willing to provide such attention. I was just that person.

It took no time to convince the cat (which I recognized as Kiki, owned by Stephanie Twitchell from down the road) that I was just another kind animal lover that wanted nothing more than to feel the silky smooth fur between my fingers. I carried Kiki into the back yard to my fathers tool shed, softly stroking between her ears along the way. She purred with delight. Illuminated by nothing more than sunlight that came through the side window (I couldn't keep the door open, as it faced my house), I placed the cat on top of the work bench. Staring into it’s eyes, I told Kiki just what I was about to do. She didn’t flinch. She didn’t jump for the window. She didn’t plead for her life or beg me to reconsider. When I snapped her rear leg, breaking the tibia and fibula in one swift motion, she all at once wished she had.”

Glenda flinched, removed her eyes from the book for a moment. She scanned her back yard as if to check for bystanders watching her amidst a robbery, then returned to the pages. She read aloud.

“Kiki let out an excruciating cry that I'd never heard come from a cat before. She ran (as best she could) to the furthest corner of the shed away from me. She shifted her body so that she could lick the wounded leg without putting any unnecessary pressure on it. I knelt down, smiled at the cat, and explained to her that she was lucky it was a mere fracture. I wanted to use Dad's ax and amputate the leg, but that would leave too much of a mess. Mom and Dad would question the blood throughout the shed. There would surely be a trail of it to follow once the cat limped it's way home, too. (That is if she didn't die before making it home.) That trail would lead back to this shed. A broken leg would heal, though.

I opened the door a crack and checked to see if anyone was about in the back yard. Once I knew it was clear, I gave it a shove and told Kiki she was free to go. In reality, I just wanted to see how difficult it would be for her to walk on three legs. She didn’t know this, though. She just saw a route for escape and took it.

She also didn’t know how disappointed I was. I was disappointed in the fact that she could still run on three legs. How in hell was that possible? I considered it a failure on my part. Disgusted with myself, I napped the rest of the day away.”

Glenda offered a smile. Wanted to chuckle. She wasn't quite sure what brought on the urge. Returning to the pages, she rifled through, skimming bits and pieces until something caught her eye.

“Throughout my childhood and teen years I never took it any further than our four legged furry friends. Of course I didn’t stop and I found different methods of torture. Torture was the extent of it for quite some time. The first time I saw death was by mistake. The poor poodle just didn’t have the blood content that I thought it had. Seeing it die, though...it awoke something inside me. It raised a beast that needed to see and cause more pain, discomfort and even death. I would travel the surrounding towns, kidnapping (is that what we call it when an animal is involved?) animals and fulfill my sick desires with them. Simply seeing the missing posters on telephone poles and the cork board at the local store would arouse me. I recognized each and every one of these household pets. I knew none of them would ever see their owner again.

After quite some time, the urges had subsided. I no longer felt the need to continue with my evil deeds. I married and had a child. Life suddenly felt normal and things were all falling into place for me. I loved my daughter with every ounce of my being. Things just seemed perfect.”

A tear shone in the corner of Glenda's eye. She put the book down on the table, finished off the glass of wine, and moved to the pool. She sat on the edge with her legs submerged into the chilly water. A half hour passed before she returned to the patio, refilled her glass and lifted the book once more. She turned toward the back and read to herself again for quite some time.

The last entry in the book held her attention more than any of the previous. Throughout the next fourteen pages were details of a murder that had taken place twenty years ago, complete with newspaper clippings, including an obituary.

It all started with a luring similar to Kiki the cat. A gunshot. A dismemberment; each and every limb. Locations of various burial points, some over one hundred miles from the others, were mapped out not only in text but drawings. Everything was done with great precision in order to prevent detection in the future.

She stopped reading for a moment. The book fell between her knees to the ground. It landed agape with the last page staring back at her.

Again she read aloud.

“And with my dear husband Frank gone, Glenda and I lived a prosper life on his generous life insurance policy.”

Glenda turned to her left and put her hand atop her mothers. She sipped off her wine. “Oh, mother. Alzheimer’s turned Memory Lane into quite a deserted road now, hasn’t it?”
  #21  
Old 05-31-2012, 04:53 PM
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Purpose
325 words


Once upon a time, it connected Harristown and Pleasantview – a thriving copper mine and railway depot, respectively. It supported the transportation between both towns, running parallel to rail tracks that went onwards, beyond the horizon. Every day, trucks loaded with copper ore would barrel down its narrow lanes, crossing the Del Mar river, to unload at the depot and head back, ready for refilling.

And then the mine played out. The trucks stopped rumbling. That was okay, though. It still served as a way for Harristownies to get to ever-rarer jobs in Pleasantview, or to reach Pleasantview’s shops. It still had purpose, and so was honored to stand its duty.

And then one summer, the ground rumbled with distant machinery. It continued on and on and on until winter froze the landscape to a standstill, only to start up again with the spring thaw. By now, it was lucky to see twenty cars a day, but it did its job as it always had, and hoped to always do.

Eventually, after six years of rumbling earth, the noise died down, and it rested easy. But then the Del Mar began to rise. At first, it was nothing to worry about, but as water began lapping steadily against the undercarriage to the bridge, it couldn’t help but worry.

There hadn’t been a traveler in weeks.

The water continued to rise, and worry became panic.

Panic gave way to acceptance when permanent barriers of concrete and reflective paint were posted on either side of where it ran under the water.

Now, the villages of Harristown and Pleasantview have thriving tourist-trade to support their ever-growing populations. The mine is a historical landmark. The Old Road has a boat ramp on one side of Lake Del Mar, and old men fish off the other side.

Deserted? Maybe. But the road doesn’t care.

It still has purpose, even if the majority of it can only be seen with scuba gear.
  #22  
Old 06-12-2012, 01:24 AM
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Icon1 The Deserted Road by TGurney

I've had a lot of fun writing this, and really hope you enjoy it. If you like it, let me know. If you don't like it, let me know anyway...it's the only way I will improve...

I have had a few challenges with the editor in the past, so a PDF is also attached in case the formatting issues carry over.


The Deserted Road
1989 Words





My father once told me not to dwell on the events of the past ”to live my life and not worry about things you cannot change.” Wise words which to a large extent I have made my mantra. But some things are just too big.

The mistake I made was a long time ago. Twelve years in fact, and it haunted me for several years, until I met Amy. Amy brought with her her own barrel of troubles, but I love her dearly and, working through her issues was a welcome relief that proved the panacea to my own problems.

A few weeks ago I woke in the early hours, sheathed in sweat and disoriented. At the time I thought it was just a nightmare from days gone by; but the nightmare persisted. I now know it was a call to arms, and a reminder that some secrets will not stay buried.

Let’s backtrack a little. I called it a mistake before. It wasn’t. It was a way out of a very bad situation and, at the time, felt like the only way out.

*



It began when Mark Jacobs was assigned as the new account leader for one of our vendors. Initially he had seemed like a nice guy, but I soon realized we were going to butt heads. Sure enough when I was assigned a reengineering project, which threatened his bottom line, Mark lost all composure and turned feral overnight.

I am unsure if he deliberately misinterpreted my actions, but I soon found myself on the receiving end of a seemingly unending barrage of critical emails from Mark, copying senior leaders in my organization, and claiming that I had been duplicitous in withholding information, which had lost his company the tender.

In my ten years with the company no one had ever had the gall to question my integrity, and I was damned if I was going to bend over and take it from this jumped up little despot. A five-minute conversation could have resolved our differences however Mark chose a different path, in his desperate attempts to undermine me.

Overnight our working relationship disintegrated, and I knew there was no way back so submitted a request for his removal from the account for professional misconduct. This only served to make things worse.

It turns out Mark was a smarmy little bastard who had spent his first few months sucking up to the regional leaders to secure his place at the table as a trusted disciple. As such he had friends in very high places, and those friends had his back.

Mark was forced to apologize but otherwise our dysfunctional relationship continued for several months, until his temper got the better of him and he pulled the same shit with someone else. Mark was then forced to step down.


*



A few weeks later I was driving home on Falls Road, a largely unused road, with the Freeway carrying the majority of traffic these days, but it was my route of choice for precisely that reason.

It was getting late and as I rounded a bend I didn’t have time to register the obstacle on the road. The car hit and all four tyres blew out in rapid succession sending my car over an embankment and careening downhill, until it smashed hard into a large rock. The impact was severe and, although the airbags deployed, I was left barely conscious.

Seconds later the driver’s door was flung open and rough hands yanked me from the car and dumped me unceremoniously on the ground.

When my eyes focused I was incredulous. The face before me was Mark Jacobs, and his wild eyes told me something was very, very wrong. Gone was the corporate suit, and immaculately groomed man that I had once known; replaced with this disheveled, alcohol sodden and deranged psychopath. I passed out.

Sometime later I awoke facedown on a bed of leaves and felt like I had been kicked all over. My left eye was swollen shut, and when I tried to move, my ribs and stomach sent sparks of pain throughout my body; but that was nothing compared to my left shoulder which was excruciating, as I tried to turn onto my side.

A long moment passed before I had the courage to move again, but this time was successful and with a struggle managed to get to my knees getting my first view of the campsite.

Mark had built a campfire in the middle of the clearing, the remnants of which barely smoldered. It was dark, and Mark was slumped on the far side of the fire, propped against a duffle bag and cradling a bottle of Jack Daniels as he snored his head off.

I took a few minutes to steady myself against a ghost gum as I found my feet.
The bush was alive: cicadas, bird song and the myriad sounds of animals foraging unseen in the night conspired to disorientate me. The cacophony of sound did nothing to soothe my pounding head.

The combination of fading light, towering gums, and bush scrub obscured anything beyond the clearing. This guy had brought me here with a clear intent. I was furious, and wanted to lash out, but survival instinct kicked in and convinced me to run.

A few shaky, and painful, steps later and I realized that running was not an option. I could find nothing to restrain Mark with, and with only one functional arm it would have been impossible anyway, so I had to eliminate the threat.


*


Direct confrontation was out of the question as my injuries, whilst not obviously life-threatening, were too severe and he would have quickly overpowered me. I took a few minutes to scout around and found a sturdy branch that I could wield with one arm, and returned to his unconscious form.

Mark’s body was a wretched sight and for a moment I felt sorry for him, but only for a moment. I tried convincing myself that this was not the way but, Mark had chosen this path for us and, it was him or me.



I brought the branch down hard, aiming for the top of his head, but catching the side instead. There was a loud wet thump, and his neck snapped to one side at an impossible angle. His body convulsed momentarily, but then he was still. I hit him one more time for good measure, collapsing the side of his head with a satisfying crunch; and a mix of: blood, bone and grey matter began to ooze from his fractured skull which told me the job was done.

I stood for a long moment glaring at the bastard that had brought me to this, then turned and vomited. In part I was relieved that it was over, but the guilt gnawed away at me. I built up the fire with some kindling scavenged from the edge of the clearing and dropped the murder weapon into the flames.

*


In Marks bag I found an old shirt that I used to cover his head. The bag also contained a map, a large hunting knife and a handgun. It was clear that his motive was anything but pure.

There was also a bag of chips, chocolate bar, and a cheese & pickle sandwich, in the bag, which I devoured; but the prize was another bottle of Jack Daniels.

I wished to god Mark had packed some painkillers, but the whiskey did the job and, with the exception of my shoulder, eased the pain nicely. I settled in for what felt like the longest night of my life. It was a long, cold, and uncomfortable night. Sleep was a long time coming.


*



The next morning I awoke stiff and in a lot of pain. I walked a short distance in each direction trying to get my bearings. That’s when I found what Mark had planned for me. The shallow grave could easily have been my final resting place, and that’s when it dawned on me how close I had really come. I shed a few tears but consoled myself that, thanks to a bottle of Jack and Mark’s failure to restrain me, this would now be his eternal resting place, or so I thought.

Moving a body must be hard at the best of times, but when you only have one functional arm and busted ribs, hard becomes almost impossible. The grave was only about ten metres from the campsite, but that’s a long way to move a dead weight, and by the time I had deposited his body I was exhausted. I lay for a while at the side of the grave, before passing out.

When I woke I was surprisingly refreshed, and cleared the campsite dumping the remaining items in the grave, alongside Mark’s body. Wielding the shovel proved tricky, but I made do and before long he was buried. Covering the grave and campfire with leaf matter erased the final traces, and I took the shovel with me a short distance before dumping it off a cliff into the dense bush below.

As I headed back to the road, I was nervous that I had not covered my tracks well enough and that if the CSI folks came looking the police would soon be knocking at my door. Those thoughts would haunt me for several years.


*



When I found my car it was almost dark. It was burned out. I struggled up the embankment and, discovered a rental car further up the road, which I assumed was Marks. A police sticker on the windshield had it flagged as abandoned and for towing. I kept walking. A short way down the road I was picked up by a girl, who drove me to hospital. That girl was Amy, and she later became my wife.


*



My injuries were severe: fractured eye socket, broken nose, dislocated shoulder, two broken fingers three cracked ribs, and bruised internals. I was pissing blood for a few days, which was worrying, but after several weeks on the ward I was well on my way to recovery. Amy visited every other day whilst I was in hospital, and we exchanged numbers before I left. I spent another few weeks recuperating at my parent’s house in the Blue Mountains before returning home.

The police interviewed me a number of times, took photo’s of my injuries but were ultimately convinced by my story about being mugged, driven out to the bush and left for dead. The investigation was ongoing for some time, and remains unsolved.


*



Fast-forward twelve years. I thought I had left behind the nightmares, and consigned that psychopath Mark Jacobs to history. Then the bad dreams returned a few weeks ago. They ended abruptly after I read in the local paper that the RTA is due to commence an expansion of Falls Road, converting it to a dual carriageway; and that a housing estate was planned in the bush land where his body was buried. It was time to visit my old “friend” Mark.


*



Locating the grave was tricky after all this time but I found it. Moving a body, after it has decomposed is an entirely different proposition to what I had to endure all those years ago. It took less than an hour to exhume his remains, and another hour or so to pack the bones and other items in black plastic and cover my tracks.

The bag of bones stayed in my boot for a few days until I could get away to visit the folks. Amy wasn’t able to come which made it easier, so on the way up the mountains I took a little detour and dug a new grave deep in the bush where it won’t be disturbed again. RIP Mark Jacobs. You were a pain in the ass in life, and death.

Last edited by Tau; 06-12-2012 at 02:26 AM.. Reason: Aproved Edit
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Old 06-12-2012, 06:20 AM
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The Deserted Road.

Another groan comes from the lips of a worn body as she slowly slips away into the bliss she seeks from drugs. I take another breath as I stand. The fumes in the room hurt my lungs so I move to the door of the shed I call home. I step out onto the dirt road and turning in the direction of a familiar spot. I grab my old fishing pole because if I didn't we wouldn't eat that night. I sit on a river bank with darkness closing in. I look to the handgun I carry in-case of snakes. Then my father's voice rang clear in my head.
"Son just keep your feet moving and eventually you will walk out of the mud-hole of a desolate life."
'That didn't work for him. He ended up in a hole with that damned triangle flag on his box,' I thought standing, 'leaving me alone'

I continue on anyway, an eight year old on the deserted road that is my life.
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Old 06-17-2012, 02:44 PM
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Default At the end of the road

The Gatekeeper yawned, exhaling a fetid stench that stank of faeces. He shifted his weight from one leg to the other causing a swarm of angry black flies to rise from his tattered robes, disturbed by the sudden movement.

..........Behind him, the Gate remained closed with stoic indifference, and he wondered if he would ever get another opportunity to open it. He also wondered if, after all this time, the mechanism would still work. Ahead of him, the empty road stretched away into the darkness, and he pondered if his existence would ever serve purpose again. He eyed the paving slab nearest to him, with discerning looks that also barely concealed accusatory glances. He sighed a sigh that only the lonely and the truly bored are capable of, and once again found himself considering his situation.

..........The River drying up should have given him an inkling that something, apart from his breath, was rotten. A change of career was something he would never have contemplated under normal conditions, but it was something he had no control over. He had abandoned the redundant Ferryboat, leaving it half submerged in the stinking mud and started trudging along the paved road toward the Gate, his oar slung at an acute angle, over his shoulder. He had noticed then, on the final approach to the Gate, the freshly dug foundations for what would become the last of the paving slabs to be laid along the well-trod road, although he had not given it much attention at the time.

..........Disposing of the incumbent had been a doddle. His oar, made brittle through dehydration, easily broke into three pieces which he threw in different directions. The three-headed hound literally tore itself apart in its confused excitement. He had unceremoniously dumped its remains into the gaping pit of the paving foundations and assumed his new position. No longer Charon the Ferryman, now he was the Gatekeeper.

..........For a long time business was good. They still came in droves, across the dried up River with no need of a Ferryman and along the paved road, spitting their obols* as payment for passage through the Gate, and Charon would let them enter. And when they tried to escape out he would beat them mercilessly with his staff until they retreated back inside, to their damnation, and Charon was satisfied. But his satisfaction bred complacency and his ancient body began to wither, for as the last piece of the pavement was laid, he was required to do less and less, until time stood still, one moment fused into the next. And from that time to this, nothing moved on the road.

..........He folded his arms across the top of the gnarled wooden staff, the last memento of his previous existence, which he used for support and bent forward, trying to exorcise some of the atrophy from his wretched body. He rested his chin on his forearms and looked forward, waiting.

..........The incessant buzz of flies receded as they gradually settled once more into the rank folds and creases of his foul garment. One or two, perhaps enticed by his noxious, malodorous emissions, settled around his mouth and nose, crawling into the dark confines of his nostrils. He sneezed. A violent rapid staccato, spraying a vast plume of rancid spittle, which goaded his chest into retching spasms. The swarm arose once more, seething with irritation. Gripping the top of his nose, he snorted each nostril to clear the insectoid invasion and finally he was calm again, with just the occasional rivulet of mucus to sniff back up his nasal passage, before it dripped off the end of his pestilent nose.

..........From the inside the Gate came a hollow, hesitant knocking, and then a muffled voice.

..........“Charon? Is that you? What was that noise?”

..........“Yes, my Lord. I am here. I merely sneezed,” replied the Gatekeeper, without moving for fear of unsettling the flies.

..........“Oh…” said the voice, tinged with disappointment, “I thought…I heard… Has anybody come yet?

..........“No my Lord. Nobody has come. Nobody has come since…” he paused and looked once more at the newest paving slab, “since your last good intention.”

..........“But, that was ages ago!” whinged the voice like a child gone too long without sweets, “I need somebody to come Charon. I need them! Why don’t they come anymore Charon? Why?”

..........Charon continued staring ahead, already bored with the conversation yet again. He’d lost count of the number of times this scenario had been played out. The road stared back at him from the void and he suddenly felt more isolated and alone than ever before. He was surrounded by a vast emptiness and the deserted road seemed to channel it all toward him, enhancing his utter solitude. A determination came over him, starting with one last sigh.

..........“Because, my Lord,” he said calmly, “your last intention, was not good enough. They saw right through it, got wise, and now there’s no more sin. You blew it, my Lord.” With that, Charon shrugged, uncaring of the flies, and straightened up. He continued shrugging to deter the flies from landing again and took a step forward, onto the road, “And by the way, I quit.”

..........The voice behind the Gate became anxious.
..........“Charon? What do you mean? Where are you going? Charon?”

..........He took another faltering step. And another. And soon he was striding along, his robe fluttering freely in the backdraft of his swift pace. The voice became gradually fainter, lost in the emptiness of the road, until he could no longer hear its plaintive cries and demands.
..........Soon he drew near the offending paving slab and was close enough to read the inscription of the intention as he passed by.

- SIN FOR ME AND REAP THINE REWARD -

..........“Idiot! He never really understood Mankind, and there’s the proof. If they were going to sin, they were going to do it for themselves, not anybody else, the selfish bastards!” he muttered, and carried on walking past, onwards and upwards, along the deserted road that was paved with good intentions.

In his head, he began formulating his résumé. He was going to need a new job on the other side. Hopefully one that involved meeting people. Perhaps a doorman. Or maybe a bus conductor.

THE END


*obol – small silver coin placed in mouths of the dead to pay the Ferryman with.


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