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Saturday, 25th October, 2003, 02:27 PM #211
57 more minutes for sparky, by my watch
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Saturday, 25th October, 2003, 03:35 PM #212
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Piratecat vs. Sparky
Festival of Lights
Diwali. The Hindi festival of lights. The triumph of light over dark, knowledge over ignorance. Here’s hoping.
Day 1 - Dhantrayodashi
When Ankur popped around to my cluttered corner of the fourth floor lab I knew something was up. He leaned around the side of my cube flourishing a tacky, blue suit and a battered instrument case. I pursed my lips as he hung the unpleasant suit over my print of George Washington Carver. He very carefully put the case on the floor, as if it held something unimaginably precious.
“Check this out, these used to belong to my uncle,” he grinned, thumbing a release on either side of the case.
With a clack the clasps leapt open. Ankur beamed with the pride of nostalgia at the two decrepit ventriloquist’s dummies entombed inside. I couldn’t help but feel we had disturbed their rest. Dust floated out. I stifled a sneeze.
“Your uncle had a Michael Jackson dummy?” I asked hiding a smile behind my sneeze-warding hand.
Ankur pointed at the smaller dummy’s forehead, “See her bindi. HER bindi. They’re married,” he motioned to include the other figure.
He pivoted on his heel to give me a long, measured glance before turning back to the creepy figures, “Tonight is the first night of Diwali,” he began slowly, “There’re performances every night. Anyone who wants to perform can,” he grinned again and shrugged, “Rather, anyone who wants to perform is allowed. Want to go?”
“Sure, it’s not like Dr. P needs these anytime soon,” I said gesturing at the lab paper’s I’d been marking up. Ankur stiffened. He’d had a run in with Professor Pflanzer.
“Sorry,” I muttered. Or something like it. Smoothing the hair on the dummies, Ankur cleanly snapped the case shut.
“I should go on around eight-ish. Come find me before the show. I have something to tell you.”
As he walked away his foot left a neat print in the dust from the case.
Eight-ish had come and gone. And nine-ish. Ankur was nowhere to be found. Worry. Making a circuit around the Auditorium I found a door I hadn’t previously seen wedged open with a bag of squishy orange candy. Ick, carnival peanuts. Nasty. Slipping through the door, I crept carefully in, peering through the dim. Old scenery. Canvas wardrobes, mothball stink. Shadow puppets, shadows. Fog from a machine somewhere spilled out over the floor. From above, distant and dreamlike, the hypnotic drone of tamburas, the heart-wrenching brightness of sitars.
And there he was. Sitting in the dark with his dummies, a grin stuck on his face, meditating.(suit.jpg) Something wasn’t right. The fog was pouring off of him. Alarm. I reached out and gasped as my fingers touched solid, Ankur-colored ice. His fixed and staring eyes began to glow white and the mouths of the dummies dropped open spilling more fog. But this fog didn’t fall to the floor with the rest, it looped and coiled, serpentine, toward me. Blinking I tried to pull my hand back, but it had frozen to Ankur’s face. I beat at his brittle, blue suit with my free hand. Freaking out. The coils seem to wreathe my neck and for no real reason I thought of the lunches my mom used to pack for me. And I screamed. Fainted.
Day 2 – Narakchaturdashi
I’ve been cold for a while. Can’t sleep when I’m cold. Blanket… where’s my… This is not my bed. Those are not my sounds. Not my room. I have a splitting headache and a knot on the back of my head. The fingertips on my right hand are sore and poorly bandaged. I remember Ankur. I sit up, brilliantly awake, heart in my throat. Small, gray room. Unmistakable rocking. Puke on the floor. I didn’t eat any of those nasty candy peanuts. What… It’s a boat. And from the look of things, I shouldn’t be expecting Captain Stubing any time soon. Though I’d settle for Gopher, or even Julie.
A slow, building squeal announces the opening of the hatch and I back up into the corner, well away from the door, just like a good little damsel. Damnit. A bulky figure, bundled head to toe in heavy winter clothes, enters. I think it’s a man, but its curves suggest a woman. White light glows from underneath its cap. My knees go weak. Had I been standing I’d have another hefty knot on my head. The bundled figure pulls me bodily out of the bunk and through the hatch. By the time I get my feet under me, we are turning, down one deck, turning an ankle, through a bulkhead and a firewall, over a catwalk, down a couple steps, moving forward I think, across another catwalk, through a bulkead. I can see my breath. My captor undogs a hatch labeled Authorized Personnel Only and shoves me through with a foot. I catch a glimpse of shining white spats.
“But, I don’t have clearance!” I shout, turning to face the hatch as it slams in my face.
Panic chants at the edge of my thoughts. It occurs to me that really, I’m in shock. Total shock. Nothing is reaching me. Not fear, not panic, not conscious, coherent thought. Focus. Focus. I bite my mouth trying desperately to keep hold of the situation. This room. Odd. Not gray. And tanks, lots of tanks. It is filled, floor to ceiling, wall to wall with tanks of liquid helium. Well, that explains the temperature. I shiver and rub my arms, looking around at the tanks.
I begin to move through the area, looking down one narrow aisle of tanks then another. Another. And another, when he appears. Professor Pflanzer. He is grinning.
“Ah…. I expected more fire out of you. Where is that famous Irish blood?” he croons, steam pouring from his mouth. I am reminded of the vapor snakes and Ankur’s dummies.
“Kovalev…?” I toss back weakly.
“Not your father,” his eyes begin to glow white, “McClendon,” the tips of his fingers begin to glow, “Your mother.” He takes a deep breath and exhales in my direction.
I think of the grade school lunches again. Unbelievable.
Pflanzer advances, swarmed in writhing fog tentacles. I back away slowly. There’s a valve just there. No – don’t look at it. Easy… easy… Don’t let on. Pretend to freeze.
Pflanzer moves in… Now!
I reach up and yank the valve. It sticks. Damnit, damnit! I lift myself off the ground hauling on the valve open for all I’m worth until I hear a satisfying spray. My hand aches suddenly. Burns, vanishes, aches… hurts. I am running. Pflanzer screams as the jet catches him and I get one good look at him before I take a header into another tank. His face reflects in the cloud of breath above him. I have time enough to think it very strange indeed that his reflection wasn’t inverted like it should have been before the darkness comes.
Day 3 – Laxmipujan
I wake even more uncomfortable than before. My hand is... frozen. I’m not yet sure just what that means, but it won’t be good. I roll onto my side as a great explosion rocks the floor. Another not good thing. Staggering to my feet, I catch glimpse of the Professor’s body, or what’s left of it. It is broken in chunks across the floor. Gruesome. I am worried about my hand. Another explosion. I barely keep my feet. The tanks groan under the strain of the detonations. I’ve got to get out of here. I run to the hatch and desperately feel all around it. Got to open from this side somehow. I hear the rolling of the wheel on the other side and spring out of the way just in time to miss the door. A cloud of bitter smoke, or gas – agh! my eyes! Backing away, choking and coughing. Just my luck. The thought is no sooner through my head when I see the gun barrel, helmet and face of a soldier steps through the hatch. His face is screwed up against the reek of the gas. Clearly, he’s able to withstand it, but that doesn’t make it smell any better. (mindifismoke.jpg) Convulsed with coughing I lean over, raw throated and red-eyed.
“Who…” is all I manage to rasp before I fall to the ground.
Before I can drop and pass clean out again the soldier catches my arm and leans in as another explosion hits, “This way,” he shouts into my ear. He is pointing, motioning his buddies through the hatch. I stop coughing long enough to unbend and cough in his face. He takes that as a sign that I’m okay and we’re off. He prods the fog-pouring chunks of Pflanzer.
“Nasty business,” he shouts.
I flinch, there wasn’t much noise to cover his shouting this time. We all make our way aft, through offices or lab space or something when I see familiar papers on work bench. I dig my heels into the deck and with my good hand and grab a fistful of papers. Exactly what I thought… my research. What in the world is it doing here?
Day 4 - Bali Pratipada
We hustle aft and I notice that the floor is starting to cant. Quite a bit. I take that to mean that the explosions did the trick. Trying vainly to see through teary eyes just what part of my research this is, I realize the soldiers are really starting to work to drag me along. I should carry myself. Risking cuts, I tuck the paper into my waistband and start pulling myself along the more and more treacherous floor. We reach the deck. Bitter wind sends spray arcing into the air and I am dazzled by sunlight and sea air. And cold. The ship stretches above and below us. The water is clear. The soldiers rally and split into two groups as two helicopters make an approach. They are hovering near. Searing pain as one of the soldiers grabs my hand. He realizes his mistake and throws me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Copious rope burn and bruisings later I am snugged into the back of the helicopter. I look down only once and see the horror of all that steel sinking beneath the waves. (upended.jpg) I hope no one is alive down there. No one alive to die that terrible death.
When I realize that I am finally safe a wave of emotion sweeps me. I didn’t think there were tears left. I cry myself to sleep in the back of the helicopter. A phrase comes to me as we leave the sinking ship, something Ankur had said.
“Let suffering go and let Bali’s kingdom come.”
“I’m hungry, I want a sandwich.”
Day 5 – Bhaubij
Ankur’s funeral is today, but I will not be there, I’m still in the hospital. My left hand is gone. And my dear friend.
Ankur tried to warn me about Pflanzer. About the experiments. Mixed in with the research I had taken from Pflanzer’s ship was the hardcopy of a private email from the head of company research and development to a Mr. P. – Pflanzer. It explained in no little detail solutions and suggestions for maintaining the vitality of a certain crop of monstrous peanuts he had fostered. Monstrous peanuts with shining white spats. Spats, tophats, canes and monocles. I tear into my PB & J and think dire thoughts. At least I finally got my sandwich.
On a beach not far from the last reported location of an unnamed, unknown ship, an oddly shaped figure in a decidedly strange wetsuit strolls into the water. (nut.jpg) He steps lively on skinny legs as the waters close over his head.
Saturday, 25th October, 2003, 03:36 PM #213
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Saturday, 25th October, 2003, 11:33 PM #214
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
I can't believe you did that. Ha, that's beautiful!
Judges, have fun with these.
Saturday, 25th October, 2003, 11:53 PM #215
Sunday, 26th October, 2003, 12:36 AM #216
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I am ... awestruck ... wow ...
Avatar by Sialia!
Now with name shortened from BardStephenFox
New Ptolus Campaign in Albuquerque, seeking players
Ceramic DM FAQ for Fiction
Ceramic DM Winter 2007 Contest
Sunday, 26th October, 2003, 07:28 AM #217
So many games, so little time!
Sunday, 26th October, 2003, 02:45 PM #218
sparky vs. piratecat
Strangely enough both stories were spooky and featured more than natural puppets, and oth used the smokytrail on the helium picture as a spell-like effect. Great stuff.
Allthough I laughed load on the last few lines of Sparky's story. My vote goes to Piratecat
I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that this was a tough decision in many
respects. Both of the authors displayed a strong response and association
with the pictures, and constructed their tales closely and ably about them.
Both have demonstrated apt use of the short story.
Sparky: Good reference to Diwali. Feels very appropriate to me as a number
of close friends are currently celebrating. I also like your sentence
structure - short, sharp and to the point. A times a truly horrifying tale.
Your story really maked me think.
Piratecat: Detective stories have always been a favourite staple of mine.
They are fun to write, and easy to read. The double cross at the end was
very nicely handled. D20 modern touches, of magic and possession, are
always a good bet.
What a fix.
My vote goes to Piratecat.
i was so disappointed when i thought the first round may give us our best match-up, but i am pleasantly surprised at being wrong.
sparky- i tend to key in on creative use of pictures, and man-o-man did you hit that nail. mixing in cultural attributes that were foreign to me, freezing hands, and paper cuts! what hero worries about paper cuts? an interesting one. and i haven't even touched on the self referencing "nut." brilliant and spooky and unpredictable and interesting.
piratecat- gumshoe sorcerer. very good. some great lines here and a great feel for mixing 2 genres. one criticism i have stated in previous judgements, i don't like it when someone uses one of the pictures as a picture in their story. all around a great tale though.
vote- both are great tales, with pic as pic reference for p-kkitty and the freaky nut reference at the end of sparky i have to choose sparky.
DECISION- 2-1 for piratecat.
see you in the finals kids!
i will ask for mythago vs piratecat check-in in the morning, weigh ins have been cancelled, but we will stil be checking for foriegn objects.
Sunday, 26th October, 2003, 03:00 PM #219
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
*woof* I can exhale. Sparky, your story was fantastic; the constant references to peanuts was subtle and consistent, slipping under my radar until the last. Nicely done, and thank you!
The final matchup is a little ironic; Mythago is the GM for Sialia, one of my former players who now lives in San Francisco. We're tied together in a lot of ways. Judges, you have to try and separate us! Or maybe we can use custody of Sialia as the prize. Hmmmm....
Clay, I am leaving Monday for Pittsburgh on business and will have no internet access until Wednesday night. If you post these Sunday night late or Monday morning early (which might be a problem for the west coast Mythago?), I can work on my entry while traveling and post when I get back. If not, though, I'm out of touch for a few days.
Last edited by Piratecat; Sunday, 26th October, 2003 at 03:06 PM.
Sunday, 26th October, 2003, 03:14 PM #220
Wow, guys, amazing stories! And Sparky, you done hurt my haid.
You SO do not want to go there.Originally Posted by alsih2o
Late Sunday/early Monday is fine by me. If Piratecat is offline I will have much opportunity to smack talk behind his back.
When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended for self-flagellation solely. (Truman Capote)