Joined: 27 Jan 2008, 01:00
Location: Lexington, Zettler, Germania
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The Categories are two, an two will be the number, and the number of the categories will be two: Writing and Image. Any medium of either is acceptable; poetry, short story, song, etc for writing, and graphic design, spriting, painting, embroidery, what have you for images. No restriction except it must be an original work.
The Theme? Anniversary. It needn't necessarily be about Mercury either. Anything to do with anniversaries is fair game.
The Prize is being the first person to receive an award after the implementation of the Awards System, and if you so choose, you may choose what you would like the icon to be. I can design it, or the winner can submit an image. If the winner doesn't care what the icon is, just say so and I will design an original one myself.
You get one vote--so make it count, and no backsies.
Below are the entries, encapsulated most lovingly in spoiler tags made from the highest quality HTML and PHP codes imported from India:Albert Clare's Entry
Crystal Shards's Entry
Something must have gone wrong with the Reactor: it looks as though there was some Kind of Explosion, and everybody seems to have left. The Building that Housed it is only a twisted Heap of Metal now, though sometimes, when I look at it, it looks first like a Flower, and then a great Castle jutting up out of a Sea of Crystal. Everything around it has been turned to something that sparkles in the Sunlight, and there seems to be Water among it. How long has it been like that? I cannot quite remember when it became so, or how I came to live here, or why. I know that Building once housed the Reactor, though, and that its being Built was the Talk of the Town. How could it have gone so very wrong? And why has everybody left?
Dare I to approach it? I feel as though the Reactor is calling out to me, but that is rather ridiculous in itself. A Reactor has no Mind, so how can it call out to anybody? The Building itself looks more and more like a Castle each Day. The great Spires of Metal seem to be twisting themselves every which Way into Spires and Battlements, and I can see the Gaps in them becoming more like arched Windows. I thought I was imagining it at first, but now I am sure of it. There is even Masonry over Parts of it now that was not there before. I have to go and see what is really about with it.
The Crystals are many, and there are Troughs and Valleys and Precipices and Tors all through, but everything is still. There are no Plants, and the Ground has been turned to something like Glass where there is not Crystal, so I suppose nothing really could live out here. I would find it all very sad if it were not so Beautiful.
The Castle is so far away. It is very much a Castle now, and I like to look up at it. I can see stained Glass in some of its Windows. The Masonry is very fine — much finer than anything you might see on a Government Building like the one that housed the Reactor — and it looks almost more like a Cathedral than a Castle in Places. Have I died and moved onto the next World? There is nobody else here, but I remember a Time at which there were People, and I still find myself eating. There were Trees that bore Fruit, and I have packed quite a Lot of it into my Bag. The Skies above are getting dark, but I do not wish to sleep out here on the Crystal Wastes. I hear Water in the Distance, and it is making me thirsty. I have no Canteen, and I could not very well take the Spring from which I oftenest Drink with me. There is no Hurry, however, for there can be nothing dangerous out here to meet me. Any Signs would be so very clear on this Waste of Glass and Crystal that they would have become directly identifiable. There do not even appear to be Animals anywhere in the Woods outside of the Crystal Waste.
I cannot contain my Relief at having found Water just before the Sun has set. It is clear and cool and slakes my Thirst. A few Pears and Plums make for a lovely repast, though I wonder sometimes if I ought not to be eating Meat. I remember eating it in the Past, but there does not appear to be any about. The Fruits fill me, so I suppose I should not worry. I am still young and strong. I feel as though I could uproot a Tree with my bare Hands, like that one there. I can uproot Trees. I wonder if I have always been able to do this... I cannot seem to remember ever having done it before, but that does not mean, I suppose, that I could not do it before.
There is something very nice in sitting in the Shadow of this Castle. It is very high up above the Crystal Wastes, so I shall have to climb up to it tomorrow.
Making my Way was hard, but I am finally here, at the Brink of the Castle. It is rather cold being so high, and my Clothes are very worn. My Shirt has not survived the Trip. Did I always look like this? I think I remember a Time when there was less Bulk to me, but I do not mind having grown. I am strong, and the Climb has not tired me. I found an old Tin Canteen on the Crystal Waste, and filled it for the Climb, and it is delightful to take great Gulps from it. Water falls from the Castle here and there, so I can always get more, and it is always refreshingly cold. The Castle itself is surrounded by Masonry Walks with Gardens here and there. It seems to be growing. I wonder if it is being readied for somebody to move into it.
Inside, there are a great many peculiar Machines, and everything seems ornamental. The Windows are all great Arches full of Glass formed into Flowers. I have already spent Hours wandering and marvelling at them. What is that ahead of me? A very high Balcony overlooking the Lands below. There is something eerie about seeing the Crystal Wastes from so high up, but I am so high, I am safe from them.
What was that Sound? Footfalls? It feels as though I have not heard Footfalls in Ages. How much Time has passed since first I found myself here. I can count the Days to the Space of perhaps half a Year. I feel I should not be here. I must not be found. A Door! And what is this Place? It is much darker, and surrounded by very many high Windows with peculiar Pictures on them. There is a Gap in the Stone there... It is another Door, and I can push it shut behind me. What? The Footfalls are in that odd Room with all the Windows? I do not think that they are coming after me, but I had best move on, and very quietly. There is a Fork here... I shall go to the Left. I am going up, and there are Windows again, but they are without Glass.
I am in the highest Part of the Castle now. It is a Garden. The Footfalls are coming again. Who is following me? And why? I should be safe here, behind this Tree. I feel my Back sink against it. I have sunk into it. What is happening? I see a tall old Man, and he is looking angrily at a Shadow. He is making a rather menacing Gesture at it. An Explosion? And another Boy running away. What is that Light, and whither is he gone?
The Man cannot see me even when I step out from the Tree. He sees me now that I have tried to walk through him.. It is too late. I know him. He used to work with the Reactor, but he was younger then. I am perhaps two Heads taller than he is.
I seem to be strangling him. I want to ask him why I feel this Anger, but I cannot. I must get rid of him. This Castle is sacred to me. He cannot be allowed to stay in it. He is somewhere out on the Waste now. I have thrown him there with such Force that he passed through the Glass and was swallowed by something below. I know that he must have caused the Reactor to explode, but I cannot guess why.
What is this? A Looking-Glass? And who is this Person in it? Me? I know I did not look like this before... I wonder if I was changed by whatever happened... And I wonder if I can change it back... But do I wish to?
She stood in the window, the occasional flash of lightning illuminating the outline of her body. She stared blankly into the darkness, listening to the downpour; the sound of the droplets hitting the tin roof calmed her for some reason. The air conditioner in the window blew on her with full force, the cold air making her skin as tense as her heart. I can’t see anything. She adjusted her shirt, glanced down at her bare legs, and turned her attention back outside, pulling the curtains wider. The next bolt of lightning illuminated the whole room. The rain continued to fall.
Suddenly she lurched forward and her forearms hit the window. She placed her forehead on the windowpane and stared out into nothing. The window was what she was not: cool, solid, strong. Lightning flashed and she felt her lips parting in a slight gasp. She trembled, her body shivering. Her right hand automatically reached down and turned the setting from “7” to “Off.” She stared out the window still, her eyes unfocused. A breath escaped her lips, and her chest collapsed. She felt nothing.
Her hands dropped to her side and she turned away from the window. Another flash illuminated the room. Rain continued to fall. She walked back to her bed and sat on it tentatively, leaning against the wooden headboard and folding her legs up closer to her chest. Her head hit the wall behind her and she closed her eyes. I can’t see anything. She sighed.
She’d remembered it as if it happened only moments ago. She remembered the voice screaming at her, for no reason other than to make her feel guilty. There were words, empty words that she’d muttered a year ago today, trying to cool his unusually-hot temper, words she wished she could take back. She hadn't meant them then and she didn't mean them now. But she’d said them, and now she regretted it. They had parted on terms she didn’t quite understand, terms that were bound to change when she least expected it, when she actually expected things to go well. If the future had only seemed uncertain while with him, it was certainly uncertain now. But she deserved it. She sighed, remembering how badly she shook as she walked out of that door for the last time, out into the humid air that only promised her rain. The sky had already begun to darken when she climbed into her car and drove away. It had already made its promise.
When she could bear it no longer, she laid out, stretching her legs as far as she could and pulling the covers up to her chin. She then curled up and clung to the sheets as tightly as she could. Within a few minutes she felt a bit warmer, but if she were to move, everything would be lost. Lightning lit up the room. The rain continued to fall. She was alone.
I touch the scar on my lip and grimace. It doesn't hurt, it hasn't in a while honestly, but memories can sting just as much as an injury if you're not careful. It's best not to dwell on them, normally, but sometimes you can't help yourself, I suppose. Sometimes you need that little bit of self indulgence.
Especially after ten years.
I walk into the lobby of the office building with a confident stride. "Act like you belong here," is what the movies tell you, and it works a lot more often than you'd think. People don't question someone in a suit who walks like they have some kind of purpose, even if they have no idea who you are. I pass the front desk without anyone offering a glimmer of acknowledgement, and three security guards look directly at me without saying a word. I almost start to think I might get through here without having to do anything stupid.
I look to my left in a fashion that implies a sort of disdain I have no real right showing. The guard shrinks back slightly but stands his ground; it IS his job to monitor elevator traffic, I suppose, so I can't fault him for being insistent. "Yes?" I say, letting my disgust drip from the word, implying how utterly beneath me he truly is.
"I need to see your ID please." The voice is cowed, meek, but insistent. I'm guessing he's either too new to have any fear of upsetting the wrong person or screwed up too many times to take any chances. I guess it would've been too easy otherwise.
"Do you know who I am?" I hiss, not loud enough to draw attention, but powerfully enough to get the point across that he's making a mistake.
"No, I'm sorry, but I don't, and that's why I need to see your ID, please." The apologetic tone in his voice was practiced this time. Whatever fear he might have for his job, I wasn't getting past him without some effort.
I sighed heavily and dug my hands into my messenger bag, turning to face the lobby as I did so. I scanned the lobby quickly to see if anyone happened to be looking our way, then produced a plastic ID badge with my left hand. As I made to hand it to him, I stepped in front of him so that I would block anyone's view of him, then punched him in the throat. He gagged and his eyes rolled back in his head as he blacked out; he would probably die, I reasoned, but I'd assumed that would happen sooner or later, so I wasn't concerned. I calmly lowered him into the chair behind him, shut his eyes and neatly folded his hands in his lap, then took his ID badge for myself and hopped into the nearest open elevator.
I touched the scar again as the doors closed.
I got off the elevator a floor early, just in case, and took the stairs up the last floor. A bit of paranoia can be healthy, especially when you're technically breaking and entering, and as I opened the doorway and looked into the office before me, it turned out I was right to worry.
Three armed guards stood in the hallway, between me and the office at the end of the hall. Shit.
I took a small bag out of the messenger bag at my side, then placed the larger bag by the door to the stairwell. I pulled three things from the smaller bag: a handful of glass balls, which I spread across the floor, a hollow metal ball, which I rolled behind the group, and a solid metal ball, which I held in my right hand. Pressing a button on my belt, I watched as the hollow ball made a soft rattling noise that attracted the attention of the three men before me. They turned as one to look curiously at the ball, and I beaned the one in front with the solid ball, knocking him unconscious. Normally I'd have to make some kind of noise to draw attention back to myself, but luck was on my side again, as the now unconscious guard made a noise somewhere between a grunt and a death rattle on impact, drawing the attention of his friends to my position.
Almost as if I'd planned it.
The two men raised their guns and made general assertions of their superior position while demanding my immediate surrender. To be clear, when I say "guns" here, I want it understood that these weren't rent-a-cops with pistols that fired a caliber of bullet that wouldn't likely stop a guinea pig. The guards, aside from being on the corporate payroll and thus at least somewhat well trained, were wielding guns that would likely be described as "compensating for something" and most likely featured automatic fire of some sort. Dodging a bullet fired by a person who likely hasn't handled their gun since it was given to them is surprisingly easy; dodging a hail of them from people who probably shoot on the weekends for sport, somewhat less so. I dropped to my knees, placing my hands above and behind my head, and the guards approached, just as I'd expected they might. The one in the rear, having originally placed his hand on his radio, thought better of it since I was so compliant, and the two even thought enough of the oddity of the situation to make an off-color joke that, to anyone else, might have been mildly unnerving.
Then the guard in front had his legs taken out from under him by the marbles he'd completely missed, and I lunged.
The front guard barely had time to hit the ground before I'd stomped on his face for good measure, and the rear guard was too slow in bringing his gun to bear. Now, I'm not a martial artist, and I'm certainly not physically imposing by any means, but I've spent plenty of time learning a thing or three about fighting from underneath and using every opportunity to my advantage. There's one move in particular that I rather enjoy that I learned from watching mixed martial arts. The move itself is simple: you launch yourself forward and, using your momentum, draw back and punch the person as hard as you can, thus hitting them not only with the force of the punch, but the added force of your body. The move is called the "superman punch," one presumes because of the pose one ends up making in the process, or possibly because of the force behind it.
The point being, with minimal time to react and a lot of ground to cover, I opted to superman punch the guard in the back so hard that I saw a tooth fly out of his mouth as he dropped.
I turned back to the guard on the floor, who was, instead of attempting to stand in the pile of marbles, trying to shake off the stomping I'd given him and aim at me from a prone position. I slid into his face like it was home plate, catching him full force with my momentum and the thick soles on my boots, then pushed into a lunge position and dropped a knee into the back of his head. The low moan that came from his throat was enough to confirm he was either unconscious or dead, and at this point I didn't care which.
I pulled myself to my feet, retrieved my messenger bag, and headed to the office at the other end of the hall.
After ten years, it was both the longest and shortest walk of my life.
The office itself was surprisingly sparse, given the otherwise public opulence of the man within it. Aside from a large oak desk and a fairly expensive leather chair, the rest of the office was utterly barren. No decorations, furniture, or anything else that would mark the financial splendor of the man who occupied it graced the walls... there wasn't even a potted plant. It was almost unsettling in a way, given the lavish nature of the man in public.
He looked up as the door opened, somewhat taken aback but otherwise unfazed, almost as if he expected someone to break into his office sooner or later. "Well hello," he said, his voice dripping with southern hospitality and just a hint of malice, "how can I help you today?"
I looked around the office a second time, taking in not what wasn't there but what was, and produced a metal box from the bag. "I'd have expected the room to be more... extravagant."
"Well," he said calmly, "I don't exactly have a large amount of visitors here, on account of it being an office, where I tend to... you know... do work and all."
I placed the box on the ground in front of me, noting his confused expression, then pressed another button on my belt. "Is that what you call it? Because I call it murder."
He chuckled at that. "I'm sorry, I'm not sure what you mean-"
"Do you know who I am?"
"Am I supposed to?"
"No. While I always hoped there'd be a sign of recognition when you saw me, I think I always knew you'd have no idea. Ten years ago was the most significant date of my life, but for you, it was Tuesday."
He laughed hard at that. "Paraphrasing Jean Claude Van Damme movies? Really? And you managed to make it in here without someone killing you? I'm downright ashamed of myself."
"Not for the right reasons, I assure you. You do, I assume, know the name Daniel Drake?"
He stroked his chin mockingly as he considered the name, before holding up a finger. "Ah, the young man in charge of the experimental projects division, that's right. Smart boy, that. What ever happened to him? Oh, that's right, he had an accident."
"You killed him, you mean."
"Now now, I don't appreciate such baseless-"
"I was there, sir. I was there when you murdered my husband."
He paused at that point. "So YOU'RE the 'Danielle' he always talked about. I don't remember you there for some reason..."
"You should, you gave me this," I said as I pointed at my lip.
"Oh, yes, so that was YOU I kicked in the mouth. Old age, you see. Wow, is today the tenth anniversary of his death? And you planned this all out to get to me? I'm almost honored. It's a shame you came all this way to-"
"Fail?" I asked as I strode across the room. His jaw dropped as I hopped over the desk and pressed a small piece of plastic against the window. "Not so much. Or did you think that Daniel gave you ALL his inventions?"
I pointed to the box. "Portable EMP generator. Screwed your alarm system to hell the moment I set it off." I flattened out my hand and backhanded him across the face, then shoved a spike into the plastic. "Your guards will be up here eventually, of course, but by then it'll be too late for you."
"I-I-I-I-I have money, I can give you anything you want!" he shouted, any trace of confidence falling apart as he realized he was out of options.
"Oh? Can you now? Well that changes everything!" I said, false cheer filling my voice. "I do want one thing."
The color returned to his face and he exhaled heavily. "Anything you want, it's yours darlin'."
I smacked the spike I'd planted into the plastic, detonating it out into the bulletproof glass, spiderwebbing it out to the edges. "I want my husband back you son of a bitch."
He opened his mouth to respond, but anything he might have said was utterly uninteresting to me at that point. I shoved him into the broken glass and kicked him in the abdomen, giving him just enough force to push through the glass and, after some tense teetering, plunge to his death. I wasn't terribly interested in the actual act of killing him, per say, but I admit, the idea of him sailing down fifty stories, knowing he would have to confront his imminent demise long before it happened was... satisfying.
I brushed my hand against the wedding ring on my finger and closed my eyes. After ten long years, all I could think of to say was "Happy anniversary love. I hope you like your gift. I love you."
In ten minutes there would be guards all over the place, looking for me. As I jumped out the window and pulled the cord that opened Daniel's backpack glider, I wondered how long it'd be before they realized I was gone.
After a while, I realized I didn't really care after all.
Wake up to the alarm clock, roll over. Wiggle across the bed and reach over to the far side, hit snooze. Lay awake for the next nine minutes, look at the ceiling. Know I should be up already.
Get up, shower, shave, brush teeth, get dressed. Cook a late breakfast while Samantha begs, she's drooling. Cook an extra strip of bacon for her, she doesn't wait for it to cool. I laugh. Mark off another day on the calendar: October sixteenth. No work today.
Pour coffee to go, get in the truck, drive to town. So many leaves have changed, falling now. It's getting pretty chilly, forgot my jacket. Don't waste time getting into Walmart, it's empty. Pick up Sam's heartworm medication, price went up.
Go to the hardware store. Jim's working, we chat, he helps me load up mulch into the truck. Says Ruth and him want to have me over. Sounds great, tell him I look forward to it, give me a call whenever.
Start toward home, decide to stop at Jeff's, light lunch. Jeff and Suz ask how I am, “Keepin' busy,” I say, smile. Talk about the weather, flowers, they excuse themselves, get busy. I finish another cup of coffee, slowly. Cup my hands around the mug for warmth; early arthritis twinging a bit.
Drive home, pull the truck around back, Sam's barking. Back up the truck to the flower beds, hop out. Run inside, grab a dirty jacket, Sam follows, I play with her ears. We head back out, I look at the sky; it's sunny. Big Sky Country, past the trees. It's so beautiful. Can't believe I hated the thought of moving here.
Get out the shovels and spades and pitchfork, too many. Throw a bone out in the yard for Sam, start shovelling. The mulch is still warm inside, trip more than once, Sam keeps playing. I tease her for not looking after me, she gets excited and jumps around the truck. I stop and jog around the acreage with her for a while, then we walk back, panting. God, what a wonderful dog.
Spend the afternoon in the garden, prepped for winter. Wind picked up, got blustery. Temperature dropping low tonight, maybe hard frost. Think about getting the perennials mulched just in time as I make some cocoa.
Getting dark out, it's dinner time. I nibble. Turn on the lamp in living room, settle in. Play the Amadeus soundtrack low, get my book. Sam still has her bone, at my feet. Read for a while, till Dies Irae starts; can't focus. Stop reading and stop the music, turn on the TV instead.
Flip through some channels, Firefly marathon. Can't watch that right now, keep going. Nothing feels right, keep going. Pixar movie; it'll do. Samantha and I share a look, I smile. She's wagging her tail, mouth open. I get down on the floor and grab a rag-bone. We play and tussle for the whole movie, it's just for noise anyway. God I love this girl.
Mind still going, body tired. Nothing better to do though, head for bed. Change into PJs, turn out the lights, moon's bright. Sam's already on her side and I scratch her side vigorously, snuggle in beside her.
It's really quiet tonight, except the wind blowing outside, making everything cold as the temperature drops so quickly. I'm chilled, myself, and cuddle up closer to Sam, my nose rubbing the other pillow. But the wind must have knocked something outside, and she gets up and jumps off the bed. I put my hand on the empty sheets between me and the nightstand with the alarm clock; still warm. Now my pillow is wet. I don't move though. Happy Anniversary Tad.