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Friday, 13th June, 2003, 01:30 AM #111
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Hey, when did ceramic DM start again?
Dammit. I'm not spending anywhere near enough time on the boards if I missed this starting
Settles into couch with popcorn and the expectation of a good evenings reading
- EN World
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Friday, 13th June, 2003, 02:24 AM #112
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Here is my entry for Round 1
The Price of Kindness
The day ended as it usually did. The sun slowly dipped into the horizon and with its descent, cast its deep amber light across the valley. Long shadows slowly spread from the field of trees which blanketed the vale like dark narrow fingers, spreading their grip and claiming this territory for the night. As the evening blanket of shadow crept up towards the rocky hills which skirted the valley, Eamon MacCumhail moved as fast as his weathered form would allow. Up through the narrow stone halls and rooms in which he had made a home for himself over the years, he pressed on, limping occasionally and bracing himself with one hand on the wall. Feeling the smooth stone run along his fingers as he moved, a smile permeated itself upon his face for he knew what was to come this evening – a special treat that only the deep light of sunset during the summer months could produce. Panting slightly, he reached the uppermost hall, which progressively opened up into the wide valley below him. Continuing to brace himself against the nearest wall, his smile grew to a grin. He was not too late. Above, beside and all around him, the stone walls shone and glittered with a myriad of colours and shades as the various minerals and metals which still clung to the stone reflected the light. Pouring in from the many holes and crevasses in the upper most portions of the hallway, the sunlight bathed the walls in its warm farewell [pic 1]. Eamon did not blink an eye, for his admiration of this natural wonder was absolute. Deep reds, gold and purples bathed him in their presence and he closed his old eyes, feeling the warmth of the light against his skin. Despite the fact that he had lived in these caves for more than thirty years and had seen this phenomenon hundreds of times, he never grew tired of it. Eamon knew that these caves, the whole valley in fact, had once been deep under the oceans and in its slow and ancient recession had left these water-smoothed cave walls painted in resources. A less artistic person may not have enjoyed the event as much as Eamon did – but nobody was more artistic than he. Nor benevolent for that matter. Yet it was his benevolence that eventually led to his downfall.
Early the next morning, Eamon rose from his slumber in the pre-dawn darkness, scratching the sleep from his eyes and running his other hand through his long tangled grey beard. Blinking rapidly in the blurred darkness, he felt around on his bedside table for his spectacles. Finding them, he placed them on his face and watched as the room slowly came into focus. It was a modest room, clothed only in his bed, a few trunks along the wall, a small wooden desk and chair near the door and a large hearth which made use of one of the many passages in the rock walls, allowing for smoke to rise up and out of the room. Noticing that a few embers still glowed among the ashes of the previous night’s fire, he exhaled deeply and rose to his feet. Crossing the room in a matter of steps, he picked up a small amount of kindling and wood shavings that lay in a few small piles by the door. Navigating across the room again, he lay the shavings down upon the ashes and blew gently. He watched as the new flames licked at the wood and over the next few minutes, he layered the kindling and had a fresh morning cooking fire. Placing a few stout logs upon the fire before leaving the room, Eamon paused only to gather up a small blanket from one of the trunks. He exited his room and started to walk up the same path he had the night before. He passed his workshop, which was directly across from his room, his kitchen, and then came to a left turn in the hall, which swung upward towards the main entrance. Immediately upon turning to his left, he spotted the large feline pacing, stopping only to sniff and claw at the space below a door. Hearing the old man hobble around the corner, the Tiger quickly lay down in a feeble attempt to appear innocent. Eamon merely smiled and patted his faithful pet upon the head.
“I thought I told you to stay away from the pigs you sneaky feline!” Eamon chided. “If I catch you sniffing and clawing around here again it’ll be back in cage for you Murphy!”
Oblivious to the fact that he was being chastened, Murphy merely licked the old man’s hand and stood up to follow him the rest of the way out of the cave. Eamon checked the lock on the door. It was still secure and the door’s structure had not been compromised. His final assurance came from hearing the small pigs running around in their pen on the other side of the door. Giving Murphy one final cutting glance, he began his march once again – the tiger close on his heels.
The sun was slowly ascending into the sky when Eamon plunged into the small pool just outside of his cave. Every morning the old man would wash himself in the crystal clear spring, removing the layers of dirt and dust accumulated from simply living in the hills. Surrounding the small pool lay a humble vegetable garden and a modest wheat field. Turnips, potatoes, carrots and other easily grown produce sat in the morning sun, still too young to be harvested. Living off these vegetables and the number of pigs he purchases and raises whenever he is in town, he is able to feed himself easily. Moreover, asides from using the wheat for flour with which to bake bread in his hearth, he saves a large number of the plant stalks for use in his art. For Eamon, art is a melding of agriculture and creativity, the fusion of man’s labour and artistic ability. Using wheat stalks he is able to create functional baskets and frames, as well as many decorative works. This summer he was already deep into a series of pieces with which he would then sell in town in the coming Autumn. Pulling himself out of the icy water and reaching for the blanket to dry himself off, he noticed that Murphy was pawing at something by the wheat field. Draping the blanket around his shoulders and running a hand through his slick, wet hair, he strolled over to the curious tiger.
“What have you got there?” he inquired.
Eamon was not a superstitious man, so one can imagine his surprise at what he saw at Murphy’s feet. Lying in a clump, clothed only in what appeared to be burlap rags, was a small red creature. He was devoid of hair and his crimson skin glowed in the sun. Emaciated and apparently unconscious, the small figure rocked lifelessly with the force of the Tiger’s prodding paws. Eamon’s heart stopped beating for a few moments when his brain finally registered the strange and monstrous figure that his eyes were falling upon. Whatever this thing was, it was obviously not human. Its ears were longer than a human’s and its bestial fang-like teeth protruded from under its lower lip. In one ear, a large metal ring pierced the flesh and hung from its dark red lobe. Its closed eyes appeared to be recessed into its skull, but upon closer inspection, Eamon identified that the skin surrounding them was merely black [pic 2]. With one hand gently upon his lips, the old man suddenly noticed that he was breathing heavily and despite being dry from the pool, lines of sweat began to roll down his temples and back. He was terrified.
The figure was no more than 3 and-a-half feet tall and could not have weighed more than fifty to seventy-five pounds. After gathering up enough courage, Eamon kneeled down and began to scoop up the figure into his large muscular arms. With some effort, the old man had the figure in his arms and he was standing up – visibly taxed. Looking down at his tiger, Murphy shot him a return glance of pure innocent curiosity.
“Im scared Murphy. I don’t know what this thing is but we can’t just leave him here to be picked at by birds or wolves. We’ll take him inside and clean him up a bit. Come now…” He explained as he slowly trudged up towards the cave, struggling with this new load upon his old legs.
Sprawled out on the old man’s bed, the small red figure stirred. Across the hall, Eamon worked diligently at this summer’s art project while he waited for the creature to regain consciousness. His cooking fire had been blazing brightly when he returned with his newly found cargo. Murphy, as usual, was tagging at his heels. After laying the burlap-clad humanoid onto his bed, he moved immediately to put a large black iron pot over the flames. Hanging it from a hook upon the hearth, Eamon began to fix a stew. Gathering some dried pork, vegetables and fresh water from his kitchen, he had combined the ingredients and left them to boil. It was the warmth of the room and the delicious smells of the cooking pot that roused the figure from his slumber.
Opening its eyes to a blurry alien environment, it rose slowly, clutching at its rags and bearing its teeth in a fearful grimace. Peering across the hall, the figure had its first view of its rescuers. Clothed in a striped red shirt and wearing strange shiny plates over his eyes, the bearded man was busy working at something. From its position, the figure became only more afraid. The sun, cascading down from the ceiling and into the room in which the man was standing, shone upon a strange many-stranded sphere, causing it to glow eerily [pic 3]. Unaware that this was merely a work of art, the small figure feared the worst and huddled towards the back of the bed. Noticing that it was awake, Murphy rose from his prone position at Eamon’s feet. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end and a curl grew in his lip as he bent into a defensive posture. Feeling the tiger’s tension immediately, Eamon cast a glance into his bedroom across the hall and upon the red figure now huddled against the headboard. Placing a hand upon Murphy’s back, Eamon walked slowly out of his workshop and into the hall.
“Easy lad.” He assured Murphy. “Its alright.”
“Do you speak common?” Eamon inquired while moving across the hall and towards the doorframe of his bedroom. He held up his hands up innocently as he walked.
The figure merely gazed at him, wide-eyed, afraid and confused.
“Eat? Hungry?” Eamon asked as he mimed the action of eating from a bowl. “You need to eat something.”
Moving slowly over to the hearth, he gathered up a bowl and ladled some of the steaming stew into it. Smiling, Eamon raised the bowl to his nose and took a long breath in through his nose, smelling the stew and rubbing his stomach with his other hand.
“Mmmmmm.” The sound reverberated off the old man’s lips. “Its good. Here eat.” Eamon had moved over to the bed and was now holding out the bowl to the frightened creature. Overcome by hunger and the tempting smells of the bowl, it snatched the bowl from his hands in the blink of an eye. The figure began to slurp at the stew quite noisily.
“Careful its hot!” Eamon warned, but the figure apparently paid no attention to the temperature of the meal. Murphy stood at the doorway, still locked in his feral pose.
When it had finished consuming the stew, the figure appeared to be more at ease, releasing his death-grip upon his burlap rags and relaxing the tooth-filled grimace which filled his face during his opening moments of cognizance of being in Eamon’s home. Now, his lips rested naturally, although now covered in a layer of broth. Smiling gently, Eamon backed up and away from the bed, allowing the figure to relax even further. Closing the door behind him, Eamon walked back into his workshop and was soon working to the sounds of the rhythmic breathing of the sleeping creature in the next room. The old man smiled.
He never did manage to teach the creature to speak, either because he was too poor a teacher or his student was just never capable of learning. After five years of existence under Eamon’s care, Wolf, for that is what the old man came to call him, had grown larger than his new father and had large patches of charcoal black hair growing along his body. His red skin, long ears and black fur made the creature appear to be a crimson wolf-man of some infernal origins. Moreover, Wolf’s behaviour and instincts began to become as feral and savage as his cosmetic appearance. Despite Eamon’s incredible benevolence in saving the poor wretch, ensuring it was fed and clothed, Wolf would randomly explode into rages, tipping over furniture or rampaging through the kitchens without disregard. For Wolf, his feral, demonic or otherworldly origins were too much for him to control.
One evening, becoming fearful of these destructive acts, Eamon was driven to bar the locked door into the pig farm so that Wolf’s rage would not lead him in there one day. However, much to Eamon’s horror and Murphy’s satisfaction, Wolf’s strength and bulk allowed him to easily bash through the pig farm’s door one afternoon while the old man was out picking vegetables. Upon his return, Eamon stared blankly at the shards of wood and twisted beams of metal that lay on the dusty floor by the shattered doorway into the pig pen. Dropping his load of fresh vegetables onto the floor, he hobbled forward, dodging the rolling produce as it raced down the slanted hallway. Peering into the pen, his heart jumped into his throat. Lying on his side, Murphy, bloated with consumed pig-flesh could barely move. The pigs, oblivious to what had just recently occurred, crowded around and even over top of the gluttonous feline [pic 4]. It was his satiated hunger and successful consumption of the pigs which he had longed for that had induced the Tiger’s snoring, audible even as Eamon walked on down the hallway.
The old man found Wolf in his workshop, continuing his rampage in there. With wide- eyed shock, Eamon screamed for the creature to desist. Blinded and deafened by rage, the creature smashed through his father’s works of art, showering every surface with wheat stalks. Enraged by witnessing his life’s passion torn to shreds, Eamon leapt forward with the speed of a man half his age. Bounding over a barrel which had been tipped aside by one of Wolf’s mighty sweeps of the hand, Eamon approached the still-oblivious creature. Gripping him by his furry shoulders, now coated in a fine layer of wheat dust, Eamon pulled with all his might, easily tossing the beast to the ground as years of farming had made him stronger than he appeared. Landing with a crash, Wolf roared with pain as his massive form smashed through a wooden box of carving tools that broke his fall. Stunned by what he had just done, Eamon knelt beside his son and reached a hand out towards him, his heart pounding in remorse. However, Wolf’s feral rage had reached its pinnacle. His massive red hand closed over a chisel found among the remnants of the tool-box and he spun around towards Eamon. As fast as one could blink, Wolf was upon his father, driving the chisel deep into his chest. Grabbing hold of Wolf’s hand, Eamon gazed into his eyes, tears welling up and blurring his sight, his son’s dark red façade rippling away into a watery visage. He coughed and a spray of human blood cascaded onto Wolf’s skin where it was barely visible against its red tone. Moaning in pain and heart-wrenching sadness, the old man rolled off of his knees and onto his side. Whatever humanity existed within Wolf, acquired from his years spent living with Eamon, came to life. Pulling his hand away and slouching back against a work desk, he lowered his head towards the ground as a child would after being chidden. Raising his eyes slightly, he gazed at his dying father. The old man’s life force dripped down his chest and the line that ran down his chin expanded further with a few wet blood-soaked coughs. Roaring in frustration and fear, Wolf leapt towards the door and bounded up the hallways, wailing in lamentation as he fled the caves.
Eamon dragged his failing blood soaked form up the smooth stone hallway, his matted clothes covered in wheat stalks stuck among the congealed blood. Coughing involuntarily, he moved slowly past the pig farm, offering a quick glimpse at his still-bloated pet, banishing the thought that if he had not been such a greedy cat he might have been on hand and helped him restrain his son. Clutching at the chisel which still remained embedded in his chest with one hand, he braced himself with his free hand against the wall. Arriving at the utmost hallway, at the peak of sunset, he slouched to the floor exhausted and defeated. Gazing out onto the valley in hopes of spotting his confused bestial son, Eamon experienced his summer phenomenon one last time. Blanketed in reds, purples and golds, he managed a smile as his eyes closed and he felt the warmth of his last Summer’s sunlight.
[pic 1] – the coloured caves
[pic 2] – the red bestial face
[pic 3] – the old artisan and his art
[pic 4] – the tiger and the pigs
Friday, 13th June, 2003, 02:28 AM #113
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Well there is my entry. It is definitely not as good as I wanted it to be, but that blasted real life kept getting in the way. I also did not get the chance for a proper edit, but that's the way it goes sometimes
Right now I have to get dressed and out the door. There are a bunch of friends who just came in from Ireland and want a good night out. Unfortunately I have to work tomorrow
Joshua, I wish you the best of luck and I cannot wait to see your entry. May the best man win!
Friday, 13th June, 2003, 02:37 AM #114
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I went to three formal dances when I was in HS and got a new dress each time (damn puberty). Guys have it much easier.Yeah, I hope so. It's probably going to rain. A lot. Just picked up my Tux. $150 to rent a suit I'm going to wear for more or less 5 hours, sheesh. Luckily, my dad picked up the bill there.
After we post our stories, we'll have to compare notes.
Friday, 13th June, 2003, 02:45 AM #115
Novice (Lvl 1)
I'll step up for kahuna - can I get a little extra time though? Thanks.
Another Ceramic DM
Try my story hour, Shadow of the Spider MoonCampaign(on indefinite haiatus I fear), or don't, if you prefer.
Friday, 13th June, 2003, 03:09 AM #116
/me is glad I'm not facing Gregor this round
Friday, 13th June, 2003, 03:10 AM #117
Magsman (Lvl 14)
”If you don’t take your seat, you can’t have any pudding!
How can you have any pudding if you don’t take your seat?”
"Brothers and sisters, we are all sinners before Almighty Jesus!" bellowed the country pastor. "We are all unworthy! We are like snot to be blown out of Jesus' nose!" He was a rail-thin man, with grizzled, wispy hair around a bald crown. He had thick glasses, and a small mouth; he was a poster boy for mild-mannered. But when he was behind the pulpit of the little country church in Lulabel, Ohio, he was suddenly a different man. He seemed to grow to an unnatural stature, huge, dark and foreboding. His eyes gleamed, reflecting the very hellfire that he called on the populace to avoid by lives of absolute purity. And his voice pounded the entire building, stentorious, billowing in its depth and power.
"I'm unworthy!" said old man Kowalski. "I'm a gambler, a fornicator! Give me peace, sweet Jesus!" The pastor bellowed at Kowalski.
"Forsake your sins, man! You are hurting the Almighty Lord with your iniquity! You cause him intense pain on the cross! He will burn you at the last day, you will rot in hell!" The congregation moaned and chanted. Old man Kowalski fell to the floor sobbing. An undertone of repeated "Praise the Lord!" "Hallelujah!" and other interjections created a ripple throughout the church.
Only a few people in the back didn't seem quite as swayed by the hysteria of the rest of the congregation. Horace Lumley was one such -- a middle-aged man, round about the middle, with a thick, long gray beard. He was wearing glasses, and has a wide, gentle face -- many of the local children say he's Santa Claus. Horace liked church, but he's never been a participant per se; he never confessed his sins publicly, he never chanted or sang -- but he liked to sit in the back and listen to the preacher, and observe the townsfolk he'd known most of his life. Horace is a loner -- he has a small farm away from the tiny town, and he raises pigs and vegetables. In his spare time, he restores furniture -- actually a more lucrative endeavor, but one that he still views as a hobby, not a profession.
The townsfolk know Horace as a quiet man, a harmless man. He lives alone, but is nice -- he usually has a pocketful of hard candies for the youngsters when he sees them about town. One thing the town does not know about Horace is his secret, lifelong love of Melissa Burgess.
He watches her even at the church -- she also sits in the back, more absorbed with her husband -- her third, he knows -- than the service. She's always come to church too, but except for a brief time in her early
twenties, she's never been one of the more rabid members of the congregation. She's now a lean woman of forty-five, with short graying hair and a lined but strong face, with a sweet smile on it most of the time.
She's careworn, but unbowed. Horace thought she was just as beautiful now as she was in her early teens, when he first loved her.
"The devil is everywhere, sneaking' around, looking for ways to drag you down to hell and chain you to that awful lake of fire and brimstone. The only way to stay outta his way is CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Never let your guard down for a minute!"
Horace was distracted by the pastor and glanced away from Melissa for a minute. As his eyes panned the church, he caught a glimpse of a glare – a glare directed at him. He didn't recognize the face -- a stranger, and when he looked back, the moment was gone; he couldn't see the face looking at him anymore. But he had had a glimpse -- something had been there. He shivered momentarily, feeling a sudden wash of inquietude. The congregation was now on it's feet singing.
"Just build my mansion, next door to Jesus
And tell the angels I'm coming home
It doesn't matter who lives around me
Just so my mansion sits near God's throne."
Horace decided he had had enough religion for a Wednesday night. He stepped out into the cool autumn night and started walking for home.
It's funny how dark it can be at night out in the country. Horace could barely follow the pale ribbon of the packed earth road, with the massive oaks, elms, alders, willows -- all lining the road like an honor guard, or perhaps grim spectators, like the kind that always gather around an accident. His feet rustled the fallen leaves on the side of the road steadily. It was the only sound save the occasional sighing, groaning or blustering of the wind, which picked up leaves and made them twitter madly through the air. Even the birds and the insects seem to have fallen completely silent.
Horace suddenly stopped in surprise. There was another sound, actually -- very faint, but very alien. A sound that seemed like an interloper, a stranger, like the one he saw at the church. Looking up, he saw a faint glow in the sky. It was near the town -- there was always a glow there -- but different somehow, more intense, closer, encroaching on the countryside like a spreading plague. He stood still for a moment dully, then decided his curiosity had got the better of him after all. He quickened his pace, crossed the road, and took a small trail through the woods, crashing through the brush and branches like a bulldozer. He stumbled momentarily, his knees wet with the moldering leaves that coated the ground. Then he burst out of the woods and looked out over the small town. Below him was the Save-A-Lot, and in the vacant lot behind it...
A carnival had arrived and was setting up shop. Large trucks stood, mostly idling or shut off now, but there nonetheless, and a number of Ferris wheels and vomit comets were glinting dully in the starlight and reflected harsh lamplight from the parking lot beyond. Horace chuckled softly to himself. He realized he had been holding his breath for some reason; as if afraid of what he would find here. Partially to shake off the lingering doubt and tinge of unreasoning fear, he decided he'd leave the woods and stroll through the lot where the carnival was being set up.
Occasionally he saw one of the carnies hard at work, but for the most part, even they seemed to be gone, as if breaking for dinner, or perhaps even they were ephemeral; vanishing like bad dreams with the coming dawn. The carnival had the air of a ghost town -- the wind whipped through the nearly abandoned stalls and attractions.
But suddenly Horace did feel a presence; a very live presence. He could hear a strange sound that wasn't caused by the wind, but as if by some huge, pacing body on a trailer. Ahead of him he could see a thick cage, set apart, so spectators couldn't get too close -- and inside was a huge tiger, it's yellow eyes gleaming at him like hellfire; like the pastor's impassioned gaze. A deep rumble growled in the beast's throat, and Horace stared back transfixed. Even with the cage, the loneliness of the place made him feel vulnerable, a victim the tiger was eyeing like a deer or wild boar in it's native India. Horace backed away slowly, never taking his eyes from the creature. He backed over a thick guideline attached to the funhouse and fell over backwards. With a hoarse pant he scrambled to his feet and ran away from the tiger, from the killer, made his way back towards the woods. There he nearly collided with a man -- a stranger. The same stranger who he had seen at the church. The man did not move aside, nor excuse himself, but simply glared at Horace, who gulped and panted, running past him. He didn't stop until he reached the road.
The world seemed normal again -- the loneliness was the comforting one he was used to, not the strange, alien loneliness of the carnival. Horace was doubled over, his throat burned with each intake of the cool night air, and a stitch brought him to his knees. He rolled over to his back, his eyes staring at the brilliant night stars as his breath and heart slowly calmed down to their normal pace.
Why had the tiger so unsettled him? And who was that stranger, and what did he want? Why was he always following him? Horace pulled himself stiffly to his feet, his body now cold, wet and dirty, and walked the mile or two back to his house.
Horace sighed and sank back into his chair. He was in his workshop now, the comforting glow of the naked light bulb chasing away the darkness of the walk home. That tiger -- there was something evil about that tiger, something blasphemous. He was a killer, a man-eater, Horace would swear to it. He didn't understand how he knew, but he simply did. Horace, despite his quiet lonely ways, was of course, very close to the forces of evil and death, and could spot one from afar.
He looked over again at the ethereal smoke creature that floated above his workbench (picture #1). His own personal, pet demon, the fiery, smoky, familiar of hellfire and brimstone, his best and only friend, and his hated reminder of his days as a student of the occult. Smoky, as he unimaginatively nicknamed him, has been his prisoner, his companion, his jailer. They're relationship was complicated -- Horace feared the tiny creature, even as he nominally controlled him. It had a personality and cunning as slippery as the original tempting serpent, but Horace was determined not to play Eve's role in that drama. He had no interest in losing his soul to the devil, even as he took advantage of his minions for small favors.
But a dark thought had come to him, penetrating, painful -- like the rape of his mind by some blasphemous demon of the abyss. He trembled at the thought -- surely the Lord couldn't sanction such a thing; didn't David get condemned for just that? -- but he couldn't eject the thought from his mind. Over and over again it turned over in his head. "I don't have to go all the way through with it, though," he thought. "I can just scare him away." He trembled more than before, and sweat pored from his entire body. Soon the workshop was thick with the stink of it.
"OK!" he said, in a half sob. Smoky bobbed up and down excitedly, like a dog being invited to go on a walk. Horace sat listlessly on the ground, his eyes heavy. Soon his breathing became heavy too, like the pumping of huge wet bellows. And then, it stopped.
Horace could now see through the "eyes" of the smoke puff, the horrible demon pet that had lived in his house for the last twenty years. And, to a certain extent, he could control where the thing went. He could feel the tiny consciousness of the creature, arrogant, excited, malicious. He could see his own body, slumped comatose in a sitting position. Then he made the thing turn away. He slipped through a tiny crack in the window, reveling in the sense of flying, of squeezing through the glass, of wheeling over the forest. He flew so fast that the dark trees were a black blur underneath him. And then there was a faint light. He now zig-zagged through the carnival -- which was darker and lonelier than even before, but he no longer feared it. With a mad cackle from the demon that he could hear faintly in his mind's ear, he ducked into the lock on the tiger's cage, caressing the tumblers inside until it popped quietly open. Then, he ducked -- smoke-puff and all -- directly into the tiger's head.
Now he could see through the tiger's own yellow eyes. His sense of control was shaken somewhat -- he was controlling the tiger through Smoky, and his control of Smoky was tenuous already. He could feel the pent up rage, the bloodthirstiness of the tiger. He knew he was right; this tiger had killed men before. He tried to balk from his purpose, but his control of the demon wasn't firm enough -- or was it the tiger? It was hard for him to separate the tugging insistent wills that were overlaid with his own. Before he knew it, the door was open and the tiger was padding softly out of the carnival area and into the woods.
It was a nervous few minutes for Horace -- he tried to pull control back in, and consumed with his struggle of the wills, before he knew it, he was in front of the Burgess house. The tiger stopped and looked for a few minutes to see what it had seen. He could hear the shower running -- and the beautiful sound of Melissa, apparently singing from it. He saw her husband Art, laughing softly to himself as he stepped outside to pick up a log from the woodshed. The tiger started moving slowly towards him; Horace could feel the bloodlust rising in it's breast. He tried desperately to grip the will of the beast. He succeeded in keeping it from rushing headlong into a frenzied maul of the creature, but it still crept forward slowly. Art was almost on his porch now. C'mon, Art! Move it! Get inside! Then with a sudden pop and a cackle of malicious glee from Smoky, his control was gone. He wasn't even inside the tiger anymore. He had concentrated too much on the tiger and not enough on Smoky, and the tricky devil had taken advantage of that to throw him out. His last thought before finding himself dry heaving and sweating on his workshop floor was seeing the tiger, roaring like a locomotive and pouncing on Art, it's claws and teeth flashing.
Horace stumbled madly through the house, shouting in desperation and rage; tearing through books and papers. He tripped over a coffee table, falling heavily and breaking his glasses. He got up again with a sob, his eyes wild. The broken glass of his spectacles had made a deep cut under his eye. He didn’t notice the dripping blood that stained his carpet.
In his bedroom, under his mattress, was a book. This book wasn’t like other books in the house; Horace never pulled it out or looked at it. Frankly, it always scared him; it was a palpable presence in the house. Even knowing that it was there, underneath him as he lay in bed, was often enough to keep him nervously awake at night, and he almost felt he could hear the book calling to him. He couldn’t tell if it was lulling him seductively, or simply outright cursing him, but he could swear the book had a voice that spoke in the back of his mind, one that tickled his consciousness just enough to remind him that it was there.
Horace found that book now. It was ancient and macabre – it was bound in a pale, smooth leather that always made Horace break out in a sweat, and the vellum that made up its pages was worn silky and yellow, like the strong teeth of a predatory animal – like those of a tiger. With a frantic energy, Horace flipped through the pages of the book now, and he could feel it, laughing at him triumphantly; scornfully. It turned right to the page he wanted, as if inviting him, as if it knew exactly what he came to it for. The page lit up in front of his eyes, like a gaping sore, like a beacon of hellfire. The most feared ritual of his occult days, the one he used to look at and titter about nervously. Nobody he knew personally had ever done it. But now he had to, for Melissa’s sake. To save her from the grisly fate he had inadvertently brought to her.
Quickly, his voice tremulous and strangely high-pitched and squeaky, he read aloud the words, enacted the rituals – then he suddenly was not in his house anymore.
Before him was the landscape of Hell itself – close walls of scorched and blasted brimstone loomed over him, but a path was also clearly laid out before him. The path he most feared to take. The path he must take. (picture #3) Smoke and pale corpse-lights swirled around him, but Horace had no time to confront his fear. He saw the pale forms of corpses shuffling along quietly in tight lines, their heads down, harsh taskmasters yelling at them as they went, forcing them into seats of pain, dribbling coagulated blood like pudding. He simply swallowed hard, wiped the dank, stinking cold sweat from his forehead and moved forward. Moved forward to the very master of Hell itself.
It was the carny he had seen at Church. Horace blanched at the sight. “You… can deal with me?” he said hesitantly. Somehow, even knowing the deceitful nature of the devil, he had never expected him to come to Church, to foreshadow the terribly thing, the abomination, that he must do tonight.
The glaring man’s face crinkled into a smile. His skin went red, his teeth grew, his hair disappeared – he was now a figure of complete horror (picture #2). “Would you prefer I take a more traditional look, Mr. Lumley? Would that make what you come to do easier?” He laughed a bit at Horace’s crestfallen face. “What, you think I don’t know exactly why you are here? My friend Smoky has been more clever than even you realized, Mr. Lumley. Why do you think I was in Lulabel Ohio,” and he said the words with a contempt that felt like a blow to Horace, “if not for you, my dear sir.”
Horace tried to speak, but was only able to manage a hoarse croak. He cleared his throat and rasped his request. “If you know what I want, then will you give it to me? I’m prepared to offer you something to save Melissa’s life; to stop the tiger before it kills her.”
The red-skinned man smiled; his face darted back to the face Horace had seen earlier tonight. “Very well, Mr. Lumley. The tiger will not kill Melissa. In return, upon your death, my agent will be along to collect you. Are the terms acceptable?”
Horace hung his head, and nodded weakly. The devil laughed again. “Well, then, you’ll be wanting to get back home, I imagine. A pleasure, Mr. Lumley. I hope we can do business again soon.” He laughed again, hard, cold, pitiless. Horace began to cry.
His house looked like an earthquake had struck it. Furniture was broken and scattered, overturned and scattered crazily. The pigs were out of their pens, small pink ones, mostly – and they snorted and scampered about the house in a panic. Horace stumbled weakly out of his bedroom, his body and mind weary and caked with the smell of fear and cold sweat. On the floor in front of him was the body of the tiger, stone dead with staring eyes (picture #4). Horace’s head swam and his vision blurred. Before he could stop himself he had fallen to his hands and knees and was vomiting on the floor.
A few minutes later, he came to himself in the bathtub, the shower running weakly over him. He must have stumbled in in a daze, not even sure what he was going. He let the water run on him for a good half hour more, until he felt strong enough to get up. He stumbled into the kitchen and downed coffee straight from the pot, even enjoying the scalding burns it left in his mouth and on his throat.
There was a light tap at this door. He looked out – the porch light was still on. It was Melissa. She paced nervously on his porch, her eyes red. Horace was dumbfounded. All the years he had known her, she had rarely acknowledged his existence. Was it possible she guessed his role in the night’s tragedy? He didn’t see how it could be. Slowly he undid the deadbolt and slipped the door open a crack. Melissa’s face looked in at him, vulnerable and hurt. At that moment, Horace loved her more than ever, his heart went out to this woman who had suffered so much tonight, because of him. The door opened wider.
Then Melissa’s face twisted into a cruel smile. She pounced in on Horace, like a tiger herself, twisting him painfully to the floor, breaking his arm. Then she laughed and spit in his face. Horace was too stunned to even feel the pain. “What? I don’t understand…” he mumbled.
Melissa shook her head and rolled her eyes at him as if he were an exceptionally stupid child. “Do you really think the Dark One was hear tonight because of you? Pig-farmer! Arrogant pig yourself! That was quite a bit of luck on my part – I gathered already two souls tonight, and then you walk in uninvited and offer yours as well! My Master will be pleased. Oh, your arrangement did call for his agent to collect your soul on your death, didn’t it? I suppose I’ll have to kill you to collect it, then. The letter of the contract must be fulfilled.” Melissa twisted his neck until the spinal column snapped. Horace’s world went black.
[b]Note/b] Actually, I just heard that Pink Floyd song while writing the last part of this, and thought I had to work in the imagery there somewhere. That's the poorest fit to the story, but hey -- even a serious piece of horror fiction's got to have a moment of silliness here and there, right?
"I realize that I am generalizing here, but, as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care." Dave Barry
Friday, 13th June, 2003, 03:17 AM #118
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
/me is NOT glad I AM facing Joshua this roundOriginally posted by Drawmack
/me is glad I'm not facing Gregor this round
Cheers for the compliment.
Friday, 13th June, 2003, 03:31 AM #119
Magsman (Lvl 14)
http://jdyal.freezope.org/doh.gif A lot of errors crept through my frenzied edit. Such is the pressure of the deadline and real life, I'm afraid!
Good luck to my fellow competitors -- nice job on yours Gregor. I thought it a matter of principle that I should write mine before reading yours, but it looks like we posted within only a few minutes of each other really.
"I realize that I am generalizing here, but, as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care." Dave Barry
Friday, 13th June, 2003, 04:21 AM #120
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Puts on judge's robes, grabs gavel...Originally posted by Joshua Dyal
I thought it a matter of principle that I should write mine before reading yours, but it looks like we posted within only a few minutes of each other really.
Actually, part of the rules for this contest is that you don't ever read your opponent's entry before submitting yours. 'Course it's the honor system 'round here, but...
Also, I'll post just a few formatting rules reminders that have come up before (and can cost you the competition on really close entries):
1. Always post your name vs. your opponent's name at the beginning of your entry.
2. Always notate in the entry what descriptions go with what pictures.
3. Grammatical and syntax errors will count against you, at least when I'm judging an entry. If you have the time, make sure you do a final edit before submitting.
4. NEVER, I MEAN NEVER, EVER edit your entry after submitting it. Now that I've said that here, I want everyone to know that I will automatically disqualify any entry that has been edited post-posting (of course I'm only one of three judges, so you could possibly still win).
Now the games can continue