Ceramic Dm (final judgement posted, New Champion announced!) - Page 33
  1. #321
    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

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    Quote Originally Posted by carpedavid
    Upon close inspection of the pictures, it appears that, once again, I will be unable to fulfill my goal of composing a Ceramic DM entry entirely in nonsense verse.

    Looks like limmericks are out too.

    Oh, c'mon, you just need to try harder. You need to work hard to fulfill your goals.

    So, um what does your name mean? As best as I can tell, it is some sort of amalgamation of carped and avid. A quick copy/paste from dictionary.com shows the following.

    carp ( P ) Pronunciation Key (kšrp)
    intr.v. carped, carp∑ing, carps
    To find fault in a disagreeable way; complain fretfully. See Synonyms at quibble.

    A fretful complaint.

    av∑id ( P ) Pronunciation Key (vd)
    Having an ardent desire or unbounded craving; greedy: avid for adventure.
    Marked by keen interest and enthusiasm: an avid sports fan.

    So, you are some sort of enthusiatic complainer? I get it! You are an art critic!

  2. #322
    Quote Originally Posted by Sialia
    Oh this . . .this is going to be goood.
    Clarification: the above comment referred to the set of pictures for CD and BSF, not Macbeth's as-yet-unveiled entry.

    Which I expect will be better than he thinks, but that would still be "good" with only 2 o's and no italics.

    The extra emphasis is solely for the delight in watching CD and BSF squirm.

  3. #323
    Hmmm... Following BSF's lead, I did a little thinking about my oponent's name:



    Beer and door?
    Attached Files Attached Files  

  4. #324
    Quote Originally Posted by Sialia
    Clarification: the above comment referred to the set of pictures for CD and BSF, not Macbeth's as-yet-unveiled entry.

    Which I expect will be better than he thinks, but that would still be "good" with only 2 o's and no italics.

    The extra emphasis is solely for the delight in watching CD and BSF squirm.
    Although actually--now that I think about it--by that criteria, Macbeth's current agony does qualify for the extra o and italics.

  5. #325
    Round 2, Match 2: Macbeth vs. Berandor
    By Sage LaTorra, a.k.a. Macbeth

    ďTo sleep, Perchance to dream.Ē He was talking about death, you know. Hamlet. When he said ďsleepĒ he meant ďdie.Ē I never understood that, until recently. But now I see what he meant.

    I had the dream again. She was there again. I suffered again. And I still wake up every morning, still unforgiven. 12th night in a row Iíve had that dream. I think it may be driving me insane. Not medically insane, not DSM-IV insane, just not in my right mind.

    Itís not depression. I checked DSm-IV, and I donít have the symptoms. Depression feels better then this. I donít have the symptoms of depression. I just have my pain. No depressed appetite, no difficulty concentrating, no inability to get up and do things, and no sleep disorder (unless you count the dreams). Iím just going insane.

    Dostoyevsky had some interesting ideas on suffering. I never understood that, until recently. He suggested that you ďaccept suffering, and be redeemed by it.Ē I tried that. And I try it again every night. But I havenít been redeemed.

    I donít know how to deal with the pain. The guilt. I need to let it out. I need an outlet. I need to show my pain to others.

    Last night. Last night. Last night I was there again. The same dream.

    I was laying on my bed, eyes pointed to heaven, examining the cheap light fixture over head. The fake gold, the glass diamonds, the plastic crystals. All of it fake. The gilt hanging over me.

    It was one of those dreams, the ones where youíre not sure youíre dreaming. Iím still not sure if I was, come to think of it.

    My eyes had been closed for a while, my blinders to the world. I was safe inside my own head. Then she was there. Inside my eyelids, inside my head, a vision from what seemed like so long ago, I hoped I had forgotten it. The ephemeral shapes that danced across my closed eyes gathered, and she was there. Her face turned at me, her daughter hiding in the long folds of her dress. The last image of a place Iíll never visit again. She said something, something I couldnít hear. She said it from too far away, too long ago.(1)

    And she faded, and my dream began, if it was a dream. I was in the mountains again, on my way to Rapatna. But the trucks werenít there, the meat wasnít there, it was just me, carrying it all in my hands. Literally.

    I held it all in my hands, a fragile egg, carrying the hope of it all. It was so small, not a thing with feathers, but a thin shell holding the yoke I had to carry, with names written on the shell. I had to look closely just to see the names, and with the logic of dreams, the words came into focus. A village by any other name. Every citizen, everything I was responsible for, all written on the shell that carried their salvation. The shell carried salvation, and I carried the shell. (2)

    And so I walked. I walked because I had gone this way before, a long time ago. I heard once that dreams are just your brain organizing information, and I guess thatís why I was walking the same way I had gone before. It was all symbolic.

    And so I walked, and hoped that I could carry the hope of others, the fragile shell that carried my yoke. The mountain crags, the barely cleared road, every rock, every stone was in my way. It was hard, because it had been hard before.

    But it wasnít the rocks, the stones, the mountain crags, that made me drop the egg, the hope, the yoke. The gentle indifference of the world, the laws of my own mind, meant that I dropped it. It was my fault. Maybe I didnít hold it tight enough, and it fell, or maybe I held it too tight, and it cracked. I didnít know why, I was just struck by the simple realization that it was broken. The viscous center, the thing without feathers, the hope of so many people, ran down my fingers, like the blood of innocents. I fell to my knees on the cold mountain road, and let the shattered hope from the egg bearing the names that I was responsible for mingle with my tears.

    I woke up crying again.

    I had the dream again. Always the same. Same. Same. Same. Never the same actions, but always the same meaning. 8th night in a row Iíve had it. Maybe Iím going insane.

    But itís not schizophrenia. I checked DSM-IV, and I donít have the symptoms. I know Iím not hearing the voices. I know they arenít out to get me. My thoughts are orderly. Iím just going insane.

    I fell asleep quickly last night. First time I can remember that I fell asleep quickly. It was like I wanted to hurt, I wanted to suffer. Maybe my suffering will help.

    It seems like I had barely closed my eyes, like I could still see the after-image of the gilt light fixture hanging over me, and she was there. She just appeared, her daughter behind her, looking across the river at me, leaving with the trucks. The long hem of her dress fell away, like a waterfall of tears, a memory of a place I can never be again. She said something to me, on the edge of hearing. If I could have been just a little closer, focused just a little more, I could have heard her.(1)

    And then I was in the town again. I had only seen it across a river when I had been there, but I knew I was there. I knew this was the village. And it was empty. I knew it was the village after I left.

    I wandered the street. I wandered the streets, knowing I was alone, knowing I wouldnít find anybody.

    They were all gone. They only left their bones.

    And the city fell down around me. Around me. Because of me. They didnít live here any more, so the city died with them.

    I ran. Not away from the buildings, but into them. I tried to die with them. I begged the collapsing buildings to take me with them; I wanted to die, like I should.

    They seemed to fall in slow motion. I tried to dive under every brick, tried to be crushed by every plank of wood, and I failed. Failure seems to be the only constant in my dreams.

    The city finally stopped dying, and, even more then before I was alone, alone in my defeat. I cried. I tried to wash my hands in the streams of absolution running from my eyes, the tears of regret, but I couldnít be clean. My ever-bloody hands.

    The bones of the village, the bones of the villagers, the bones of my life, they all started to fade. I couldnít let them fade. I couldnít let them be forgotten. I moved to the nearest pile, and I started to build. I destroyed this, and I would rebuild it.

    And I built. From the bones of the town, I remade it in my own image. From the simple huts, the wood and bricks, the village held together by clay and community, I created a modern town. With the speed of thought, scaffolding assembled, buildings were born, and among it all I built. In the darkness of my heart, in the darkness of my dream I rebuilt it all. Rolling girders into place, turning the wreckage of a village into the skeleton of a town.(3)

    And I rebuilt the people. Bone by bone, and of my own flesh, I brought them back to life. I was healed. I gave them my flesh, my blood, and I was healed. It was the first good dream Iíve had since I left the women on the other side of the river. I dream of a task worse then Sisyphusí boulder, and itís a good dream.

    And then it all went wrong. I hadnít built it right. With the instant knowledge you only find in dreams, I knew it wasnít right. I had brought them back to life, but now they were all me. I had remade the village, but it wasnít Rapatna anymore, it was some bland amalgam of pseudo-American architecture. It wasnít the rose of India, it was the dregs of America.

    I was in hell. I couldnít stand being myself anymore, much less meeting myself. And now I was in the village of the damned. I stood helpless as my own flesh and blood, the villagers I had restored, the villagers who had cured me, brought the same doom on themselves as I had brought them. I couldnít watch. I hid my eyes and cried.

    I woke up crying again.

    Itís odd. Iíve never had the same dream more then once. And now Iíve had the same dream for 3 nights in a row. Not the exact same, but the same events, the same feeling, just different imagery. I think it may be driving me crazy.

    But itís not obsessive-compulsive disorder. I checked DSM-IV. I donít have the symptoms. Iím not obsessed with germs, or symmetry. I donít care about mirrors. I donít focus on sexual behavior. I donít feel like I need to check things, or arrange things, or clean, or horde. Iím just going insane.

    The woman has been there every time. She stands on the other side of the river, watching us leave, her daughter hiding in the folds of her dress, the armor of a parent. As we leave she class across the river, ďYou saved us. Thank You. We owe our lives to you.Ē Her voice is distant, but the irony is not lost on me. They owe their lives to me.(1)

    And then her image fades, and Iím standing in Rapatna. Iíve never been in the city, but I know thatís where I am. I know Iím in Rapatna. And Rapatna is alive. The dark skin of the Indians, walking about, doing business, living, is absolution for me. They arenít dead, I was wrong, their still here. I didnít kill them. I saved them. I saved them from starvation when China closed the trade road from Tibet. Theyíre all still here.

    And then I see the thorns.

    The people of Rapatna are still alive, but theyíre not the same. They know that I shouldnít be here. They know Iíll hurt them if I get too close. So they have thorns on their skin, to keep me away. The rose of India now has its thorns.

    They have thorns to keep me away, but they still invite me in. Children run up to me in the street hugging my leg, praising me for bringing the gift of food. And with every hug, their thorns cut me, gouge me, pry off my skin. I walk through the streets of Rapatna, and I donít care that, for some reason Iím naked. This isnít a dream about going to school in your underwear. This is a nightmare, and being naked is the least of my worries.

    It scares me, walking around the city I killed, seeing the dead walking. I know that I shouldnít be here. I know they shouldnít be here, anymore. But Iím happy theyíre alive. I would let them cut me, slice me, wound me, as long as theyíre alive.

    And the girl from across the river, the one hiding in the safety of her motherís robes, runs up to me. I know sheís saying thank you, and all I can do is cry. She jumps onto me hugging me, throwing her arms and one of her legs around me, embracing me in thanks for saving her.(4) And the cuts grow deeper. My eyes bleed and my wounds weep.

    I woke up crying again.

    I slept well last night. I donít remember my dreams.

    The mountain air is sharp as the caravan winds its way through the mountains away from Rapatna. A few months ago the Chinese closed the main trade road running to this small Indian village. There are no major roads to Rapatna from the Indian side, and the village has been starving to death without supplies from China.

    It took months just to get a simple road cleared. Even with modern technology, with explosives and computers and polymers and chemicals, it took months to turn a footpath into a road just wide enough to let the flatbed trucks through.

    Up here, news from the outside world takes over a week to reach us. That turned out to be important.

    We finally made it to Rapatna. We didnít have time to bridge the river, but the villagers ferried the bricks of meat over on makeshift rafts. It was inspiring. The villagers came out to help take the food in. They donít get much meat up here, so we made sure to bring a lot. Poultry mostly, to avoid religious issues. All of it tightly packed into little bricks of protein. The building blocks of a new life.(5)

    The entire village waved at us from the banks, yelling thanks in languages I didnít understand. It was like the choirs of heaven, singing my praises. They eventually left, one by one, until only a woman and her little girl were left, yelling at us from across the river. ďYou saved us. Thank You. We owe our lives to you.Ē Her voice meant more to me then she will ever know.(1)

    And now weíre heading back. Itís been 3 days since my little rescue mission left Rapatna. Weíre just now getting in touch with civilization again. Cell phones buzz to life as we finally regain communication.

    I got a call the moment my cell phone was in touch with the nearest tower.

    It was the man who financed the humanitarian mission at Rapatna.

    He said the meat was diseased.

    Some kind of disease he said, make sure they donít get the meat he said. I said nothing.

    I couldnít say anything.

    Hello, he said.

    Is there anybody there, he said.

    It was shock. I know that now. My thoughts had just frozen, I couldnít act.

    Hello, he said.

    I knew then. Rapatna was gone. Not physically gone, but gone, nonetheless. Everybody would be dead.

    I sent a truck back to check, to find survivors, to save what they could. It came back empty handed.

    They had all died painful, vomiting, convulsing, deaths. And it was my fault. I should have known. I should have checked the meat. Those bricks of meat had built a city of the dead.

    With this on my mind, I think last night was my last good sleep for a while.

    So now, on my way home, I try to avoid drifting off. I try to avoid falling asleep. Because Iím not sure what my mind holds for me.

    I donít know how I can cope with this grief, this guilt, this shattered responsibility. Maybe Iíll take up art. Something to provoke in others the same pain that I feel. Something to inflame. Something for the dead. Maybe something of the dead.

    ďTo sleep, perchance to dream.Ē Iíve never really thought about that line before. What the hell is that supposed to mean? Anything to avoid thinking about the deadÖ

    ďTo Sleep, Perchance to dream.Ē

    (1) The memory of the women from Rapatna, seen across the river, as the narrator is leaving.
    (2) The egg from the dream, with the names of the villagers carved on it, holding their hope, being held in the narratorís hands.
    (3) Rebuilding Rapatna in the narratorís dream.
    (4) The girl from across the river, hugging the narrator, with her thorns digging into his flesh.
    (5) Villagers of Rapatna carrying the bricks of meat across the river.

    * post roll count doesn't match database

  6. #326
    Well, that's it. I'm not to happy with it, I had a hard time with the pics, but this is it.

    And in my 1,600th post too!

  7. #327
    Ceramic DM, Round 2 - Match 1: Macbeth vs. Berandor


    "Violet? I'm home."
    Jason Gardiner closed the door. Exhausted, he took off his identity badge and put it on the small table, next to his keys. It had been another long day at the National Initiative for Control and Examination. Working for NICE was time-consuming, but very rewarding. His superior officer had already mentioned him favorably in a report, and Jason could hope to be promoted within the next year. At 22, he would be the youngest senior officer at NICE.

    Forcing all work-related thoughts from his mind, Jason entered the living room. He was surprised to see his wife and his daughter sitting at the kitchen table. Violet had a glass of wine in front of her, in front of Rose stood a glass of milk. Rose had been examining her Degenerative Effect Blocker. Both looked up when Jason entered. Rose rushed forward to embrace him, her golden hair flying behind her, but Jason stopped her.

    "Honey? Your d-blocker." He could see Violet's eyes clouding for a moment, or at least thought he could.

    Rose turned around and grabbed the small ball from the table, then came back towards him. Jason dropped to his knees and took her in his arms. She rested her face on his shoulder.

    "Isn't it a little too late for you to be still awake, young lady?" he asked.
    "We've been waiting for you," his wife answered. "You haven't seen her the whole week."

    Jason grimaced.
    "Could we not talk about this now?" he asked. "I've just come home to my wonderful daughter and wife, and I've had a very hard day."
    "Of course. Let's just pretend everything is fine. Let's just not talk about it." Violet said sarcastically. Jason closed his eyes. Not tonight, he thought.
    "How many glasses of wine have you had, Violet?" He felt bad immediately after saying it, but he didn't apologize, either.

    "Mommy, daddy," Rose said, "please don't argue." Violet didn't heed her.
    "You should be grateful that I drink, so that I forget how my own, loving," she almost spat the word, "husband can't bear touching me without me being blocked."
    "Violet," he began.
    "Or how he wouldn't even touch my daughter, our daughter, without being blocked, either."
    She had tears in her eyes now, and her voice broke.
    "You despise us, don't you?"

    Jason didn't know what to answer. He loved his wife, and he adored his daughter. But when their mutation wasn't blocked, when they didn't use the d-blocker they'd gotten from the black market, the thought of touching them made his skin crawl. Violet's mutation wasn't even that obvious. He'd tried to overcome his feelings once, but when he felt the roots she had for feet snaking tendrils around his legs, his stomach had turned. He'd run off into the bathroom, and when he came out, Violet had held the d-blocker in her hand.
    He hated himself for it, but he couldn't change his feelings.

    His silence was answer enough for Violet.
    "I knew it." She took the glass of wine and emptied it in one gulp.
    "Vi, you know I love you," he said weakly, but his voice was almost drowned by the sound of a helicopter flying low above the house. For a moment, Jason wondered where it was headed. Violet ignored the noise as she ignored her husband.

    "I'll bring Rose to bed, and then we'll talk." He took his daughter's hand and turned towards the door. The helicopter was still droning above them. A knot began to form in Jason's gut.
    "Don't forget to bring the d-blocker with you."
    He sighed and walked towards the door, pulling Rose behind him. Before he could reach it, however, he could hear the front door burst open, and booted feet rushing into the hallway.

    Rose gasped, and dropped the d-blocker. Jason felt her thorns reappearing, burrowing through the skin on his hand. He cursed in pain and pulled his hand away from her, just as the door behind him was thrown open and what seemed like a dozen armed men swarmed into the room.

    "MDU! Freeze!"
    The men from the Mutant Detection Unit pointed their flashlight-mounted rifles at Jason and his family. Jason was too shocked to think. He mechanically lifted his hands above his head, blood dripping from his right palm, and then looked back towards his wife. Rose clung to her waist, and she was holding her daughter's head protectively. Violet's eyes, however, were rooted on Jason.

    Two officers led Jason out of the house. The night sky was lit green by the helicopter's searchlight, its rotor churning dust. Two transporters marked "MDU" stood in the front yard. From behind windows, Jason could see neighbors watching.

    One officer grabbed him and pulled him to the side. Violet and Rose were led out, guarded by four men. When the searchlight hit them, their skin began to glow, their mutated genes reacting with the light waves.

    Rose was crying, but Violet seemed calm. When she passed Jason, she took a step towards him. The officers didn't stop her. Jason stood, unmoving.

    Violet lifted a hand and caressed his face. She smiled, then leaned forward and kissed him softly.
    "Remember us," she whispered, before they continued their march onto the yard.

    "You're coming with us," the man holding him said, and began to pull him towards one of the transporters, away from his wife.
    "Daddy!" screamed Rose. She held her thorny hand out to him, trying to reach him.
    Jason looked at his hand. Blood was still flowing from the wounds. He let himself be dragged into the car.

    As the door closed and the car moved forward, Jason looked back. The helicopter was descending slowly, preparing to land. Violet held Rose in a close embrace, dust blowing around her, skin glowing in the searchlight.


    "Sit down, Jason."
    Marcus Green handed him a glass of whiskey and pointed at the couch. It was made of white leather, and crunched as Jason sat.
    "You look terrible, do you know that?" he asked as he sat down in a matching armchair. "You've got rings under your eyes the size of watermelons."
    Jason smiled and rubbed his left hand over his beard.
    "That's what five years of prison will do to you, Marcus." His former friend winced. "You're still thinner than I am, though."
    Marcus laughed. "That's only because Tina doesn't cook for the prison, but she cooks for me."
    "Where is she?" Jason asked.
    "She went to a friend of Timmy's," Marcus said, blushing. Jason understood. Marcus had sent his wife and son away when he'd called. So much for being friends. Jason took a sip of his whiskey.

    "Well, how can I help you?" Marcus wrung his hands nervously. "Do you need money? I can lend you something..."
    "Thank you, Marcus, but I've got some money."
    "But I thought they took everything when they sentenced you?"
    "They did." Jason slid his thumb over his right palm, feeling the slight depressions. Rose's scars. "I've worked the past five years, without a chance to spend the money," he said.
    "I understand. Well, what is it, then?"

    "Why didn't you visit me, Marcus?" Jason asked.
    "I did," he protested.
    "Your last visit was three years ago, Marcus. What happened?" Jason didn't feel well about pressing the matter, but a guilt-ridden Marcus would be more likely to help him. Green tried to change the subject.

    "Jason, you've just come out. Let's go downtown, party around. We can talk about that later. What do you say?"
    "I can't pretend everything's fine, Marcus. Besides, I don't feel like partying. As you have noted, I haven't slept much recently."

    It took another half hour before Jason felt he'd pushed enough buttons for Marcus to help him. He took another sip from his whiskey. It was still Jason's first drink; Marcus was already pouring his fourth.
    "Do you still work for NICE?"

    Marcus feigned a smile, grateful for the change in topic.
    "You know what they say: I'm a NICE man."
    Jason smiled as well.

    The government-funded agency was widely regarded as the scientific sister of the MDU. While the Mutant Detection Unit located and prosecuted mutants who tried to live among humans, NICE examined the mutants themselves, searching for reasons for and protective measures against mutation. They had also developed the d-blocker that reversed a mutation's effect on the victim's DNA. Of course, access to these devices was severely restricted. It took about five years to apply for a d-blocker, and even then only about 5 % of all mutants were eligible.

    "Then I need you to find out where my family is."
    Marcus' smile froze. He drank some whiskey, and then coughed and spit it back out.
    "Sorry." He coughed again. "Didn't you know? Your family's..."
    "...dead," Jason finished, nodding grimly. "They told me. They even gave me this," he took the golden ball out of his pocket and placed it on the table between himself and Marcus.

    Marcus leaned forward and took the ball in his hands.
    "That's a d-blocker," he said, astonished.
    "That's their d-blocker," Jason added emphatically. "They disabled it. They even put a small inscription on it."
    "Why would they give you that?"
    Jason shrugged.
    "It was the only thing left. The rest burned."
    "Burned? Oh, my god. I had known they died. I didn't know..."
    "They're not dead, Marcus. They're not dead."

    His former colleague regarded him with wide eyes.
    "What are you talking about?"
    Jason stood up.
    "Marcus, I think my family is still alive. I think they survived the accident, but something got messed up. I don't know. Maybe one of them died, maybe, but not both. I need to find them." His voice had grown louder as he talked, until he'd practically shouted the last words. "I need to save them."

    Marcus swallowed. He emptied his whiskey. His face was red from the alcohol, his glasses fogged up.
    "Let's just, for a moment, say they're alive. How should I be able to find them? We think they're dead, after all."
    "I just want you to find out where they'd been originally sent."
    "Is that all? Is that why you put on all that talk about not visiting you, not being a good friend, just so that I would look into old records for you? Jesus, Jason, you could have saved yourself half an hour of intimidating me."

    "It's not all I ask you to do. I need you to access the MDU database."
    "Well, then I suppose the guilt-trip was necessary." Marcus stood up.
    "I need another drink before you tell me exactly what you want."

    An hour later, Jason left Marcus' apartment. At the door, Marcus stopped him.
    "How do you know they're still alive?"
    Jason locked gazes with Marcus.
    "Because they've told me in my dreams."


    Jason lay on the bed in the small room he'd rented for the night, listening to the cars driving by, watching a bug crawl up the wall in the light of the neon sign hanging outside the window.

    Jason's legs hurt from propelling the walking wheel forward. It was harder than he remembered, but then he'd only been forced to wheel around for a few weeks before he'd bought his first car. He knew that before the oil wells ran dry in 2034, people had used bicycles for transportation, but without rubber tires to run on, the industry had switched to big iron wheels you could run in, much like a hamster's wheel. Walking wheels enhanced the walker's steps, protected him partially from accidents and bad weather, and they were cheap. Jason couldn't afford to buy a car; he might need all the money he'd saved for his family's rescue.

    He lay on the bed, dead tired, but afraid to close his eyes. He knew they were waiting for him. Subconsciously rubbing his thumb over his right palm, Jason reflected on his meeting with Marcus. Marcus would get the information he wanted, needed. And then, he would find his family, and get them out of whatever mutant zone they lived in. Together, they'd flee to Canada, where they only imprisoned mutants that were proven to be dangerous.

    During his prison time, Jason had discovered how much he missed Violet, how much he loved Rose. He had taken their love for granted, he knew, but he wouldn't make the same mistake again. He didn't even care whether they used d-blockers, or not. He just wanted to see them again, to apologize.

    The beetle reached the ceiling and began to march head first towards him. Jason yawned, and felt his scarred palm once more.

    In his sleep, he saw Violet and Rose, glowing in the green light.
    "Remember us."


    Jason stopped his walking wheel in front of the decrepit building. The house had been built before the turn of the century. No elevator waited to take guests to the upper floors, no security camera watched for uninvited guests. It wasn't even built with dirt-repellant mortar. Jason had to admit the building fit right into the poor neighborhood Marcus had sent him to.

    His friend had called this afternoon and told him what he had found out. Violet and Rose Gardiner had been sent to the Fire Island Colonies, a small group of islands roughly 6 miles from the coast. The islands were mostly rock and forest, though. From what Jason could find out, the mutants that were kept there had enough stone and wood to build anything, but not enough fertile ground to feed more than a handful of families. Some farmed pigs, but most were fetched every morning and worked on the mainland, earning their pay in food. There was even a small quarry on one of the islands, delivering boatloads of hewn stone each month.

    Marcus had also told him about a man who could possibly help Jason locate his family if they were still alive. Arnold Webster had been suspected twice by the MDU for harboring fugitive mutants, but he'd never been convicted. He was said to have strong ties to the mutant communities as well as relations to the upper levels of society.

    "He has a hand in everything," Marcus had said. And now Jason stood before the abode of this notorious information-broker and wondered if he hadn't made a big mistake coming here. Whoever lived in the old building - if indeed someone made his home here - couldn't possibly be resourceful enough to locate someone in a mutant zone, let alone someone believed to be dead. Still, now that he'd come here, Jason would go up and see him, just to make sure.

    Jason climbed the makeshift stairs on the outside of the building. The wooden construction swayed and groaned under his weight, but did not collapse. About thirty candles standing in front of a big round mirror illuminated the top floor. The mirror reflected the candlelight and enhanced it, dousing the top floor into bright, warm light.

    Jason walked to the open doorway leading into the apartment, and knocked on the doorframe.

    "Hello? Mr. Webster?"
    The room beyond lay dark, but Jason could make out a wooden desk and a chair behind it. Piles of paper lay on the desk. The smell of cigars hung in the air, clinging to furniture and walls alike. Jason could make out another doorway looming across from him, leading further into the dark building. He thought he could hear someone move, but he didn't see anything.

    "Mr. Webster, a friend of mine sent me here. He said you might be able help me. I am looking for my family."
    No answer. Jason got impatient. Marcus had either played a joke on him, or simply been wrong. Still, he felt unable to leave without a final try.

    "They live on Fire Island."
    Jason wanted to turn around and leave, as a voice answered him. It was a dry voice, intermingled with clicking sounds as if someone would hit two forks together while speaking.
    "Do you have detailed information?"

    Jason pulled out the file Marcus had given him before sending him here.
    "Put it on the floor, and put five hundred dollars on the floor, as well."
    Jason hesitated. He'd about two thousand dollars overall, and spending a quarter of it on a disembodied voice seemed risky. In the end, he had no choice. He lifted the folder, put the money in, and closed it again.
    "Come back tomorrow, I will know something then."

    Jason stepped away from the dark apartment and began his descend. As he tried not to fall down the wobbling structure, he wondered what Arnold Webster could find out in one day's time.


    Jason gasped and sat right up. He was in his room, jolted awake from a bad dream. The sun had just begun to rise.
    He rubbed his eyes and yawned. He hoped Webster would be able to help him. When he closed his eyes, he could see the apparition. Hear her voice.
    "Remember us."


    The sun had gone down an hour ago, and the only light falling into Webster's apartment was the light from the candles in front of the mirror. Jason had returned as the mysterious man had bid.

    Once again, he could sense something move inside of the apartment, but he couldn't see anything. Even the cigar smell was the same. Slightly annoyed at Webster's attempt at secrecy, he knocked on the doorframe again.

    "I am glad to see you've returned," Webster's voice rang through the room.
    "Can I come in?" Jason asked, stepping inside.
    "I'd rather you wouldn't." Jason stepped back outside, shaking his head in frustration.

    "I am brokenhearted that I cannot offer you a more comfortable position, Mr. Gardiner, but I am willing to make more than up for it."
    "Whatever. Have you found out something?"
    "I haven't "found out something", Mr. Gardiner - may I call you Jason? - I have found your daughter."

    Jason didn't react at first. He had been right. They were alive. They...
    "My daughter? What about my wife?"
    "What about her? I am afraid she died in the accident, as has been reported."

    "No..." Jason dropped to his knees and held his face in his hands. It could not be. It must not be. As he knelt in the doorway, his body shaking, despair trying to take root in him, Arnold Webster remained silent.

    Some time during his breakdown, Jason had sat himself against the wooden railing of the stairwell, his knees drawn up to his body. That's how he found himself as his sense returned. His shirt was wet with tears, his eyes burned, his stomach felt as if someone had punched a hole into it. He sniffled, and then tried to compose himself.

    "Are you sure it's her?" Webster answered immediately, as if he'd only waited for him to ask. It seemed to Jason as if the voice came from right beyond the doorway, now.
    "As sure as can be. I am afraid there is no infallible conviction in that matter. She is about the right age, however, and she has no parents. She has no birth records, either, which makes verifying her age impossible, but would fit with your daughter's history. She has the same deformity, which is to my knowledge not one of the most prominent mutations, though certainly not unique, either. And finally, though just a small detail but definitely completing the picture, her name is Rose."

    Jason nodded.
    "It's her." It had to be. Otherwise... he would not think about it.
    "I want you to free her." If Webster was surprised, he did not let it on.
    "That would be expensive. I don't know whether you are financially capable of such a transaction, Jason."

    "I have one thousand five hundred dollars."
    The clicking intensified as Webster let out his version of laughter.
    "That is not nearly enough, Jason."
    Jason stood up.
    "Please. She is my daughter. I must find her."
    "You have found her."
    "But I need to see her." He walked towards the doorway.
    "Do not come in, Mr. Gardiner," Webster said menacingly. Jason froze in his steps.

    "What would you do when I brought her to you, Mr. Gardiner? What would you do?"
    "I would raise her. I am her father."
    Webster laughed again, clicked again.
    "I have read about your testimony, Mr. Gardiner. You could only bear your daughter with a d-blocker. What makes you think you could do better now?"
    "I am her father."
    "So? A lot of fathers should not be left alone with their children."
    Jason rubbed his nose between thumb and forefinger. What did that man want to hear? He sighed.
    "I love her."

    Silence. Then Webster said, "Very well, Mr. Gardiner. I would agree to free your daughter, but there is still the monetary issue to discuss. I am afraid you don't have nearly enough resources for such an operation. We are not talking about a simply extradition, but about forged documents as well. I assume you would want to head north?"
    Jason nodded. When Webster did not respond, he said, "Yes."
    "That would make two passports, a forged history, perhaps even a job and an apartment to begin with. You cannot pay for this."

    Jason shook with anger.
    "Then why are you telling me all this?" He clenched his hands, feeling the scars in his palm again.
    "I want you to understand, Mr. Gardiner."

    Suddenly, Jason had an idea. No. Not an idea. An epiphany. He pulled the disabled d-blocker out of his pocket and held it out.

    "Would you accept this as payment?"
    Silence followed, but this time, it was a surprised silence.
    "Is that..." There was hesitation in his voice now, and but a single click.
    "It is a d-blocker, yes. It has been disabled, but it might be repaired." Jason smiled. "With access to the proper resources," he added.

    Suddenly, Arnold Webster appeared in the doorway, accompanied with a sharp intake of breath from Jason.

    Arnold Webster was a small, bloated man with wrinkled skin. Small, pudgy feet propelled his rotund body forward, and he used the lower pair of arms to support himself while walking. All in all, Arnold Webster had three pairs of spindly arms, eight limbs total, like a spider. Three hands grabbing the doorframe, he leaned forward and held the fourth hand out to Jason.
    "Give it to me," he demanded. A pair of mandibles protruded from his mouth, rubbing together as he spoke, clicking rhythmically, glistening with spit.

    Jason stumbled backwards.
    "You... you are a mutant," he stuttered.
    "Really? You are quite the observer, Mr. Gardiner. Now give me the d-blocker."
    "But how...?"
    "How I can live among humans? Subterfuge, caution, bribery, and things you don't want to know about." Jason shook his head. He could not believe it.
    "Now. Hand. Me. The. Blocker."

    Jason handed it over. Webster grabbed it and disappeared in the apartment, only to reappear at the window closest to the candle-mirror. He had grabbed a glass lens and held the d-blocker with two hands, the lens with another pair, examining the device.

    Jason could see Webster's eyes gleam as he held the d-blocker in front of him. He could only imagine what such a device meant for the mutant. He took two steps towards him.
    "Can you repair it?"

    Webster looked up as if he had forgotten about Jason.
    "Yes, Jason. I most definitely can." Greed shone in his eyes, and satisfaction.
    "Then will you accept it as payment? Is it enough?"
    Webster smiled. It was a hungry smile.
    "I will not only accept it, Jason; for this d-blocker, I will even get you a car."


    Jason stood on the beach, and waited. It had been two weeks since Arnold Webster had agreed to free Rose, and finally the day had come. At first, Jason had been apprehensive when Webster had explained the details of the plan to him.

    "What am I supposed to say if someone asks why I am there?" he had asked.
    "I don't know, Jason," Webster had answered, already a little annoyed at Jason's eleventh hour panic. "Pretend you're sunbathing, or swimming."
    "In April?" he had retorted, but Webster had just shrugged with his shoulders - all of them.

    And now, Jason stood on the beach, and was cold. He was dressed in his bathing suit, and April winds chilled his blood and blew sand against his calves. He'd tried to swim, but the water was icy, and he'd brought just a small towel with him, stolen from his hotel room.

    The car Webster had provided him with waited on a parking lot a hundred feet away. Webster had put a pair of suitcases in the trunk, filled with clothing for him and Rose. Indeed, the spider-mutant had been very generous, buying a small house in Vancouver for the Gardiner's, as well as procuring a job at a major health company. All that was missing now was Rose.

    Jason stood on the beach, and imagined her departure from Fire Island. They would smuggle her among the bricks in their monthly delivery. He could see her huddled in a small crawlspace, salt water lapping at her from below, tons of bricks sheltering her from above. He could see the workmen with their paddles, the small floats they used casting off, nearly sinking under the weight of their cargo, but staying afloat. It took them roughly an hour to reach the shore again, sometimes a little longer.

    Today, they would need longer, but only because they would take a small detour, dropping Rose off on the way, delivering her to Jason. He fetl his heart pumping fast. His hands were sweaty. Still, he saw no sign of the floats.

    It took another half hour before he saw them. Three floats, drifting along about a hundred feet off shore. He waved his arm.
    "Ahoi! Why are you fishing for stones?" he shouted the pre-arranged question.
    "Because the fish are simply inedible!" came the correct answer.

    Jason felt butterflies in his stomach. Now, he knew, they would signal Rose. She would squeeze through a narrow opening in the bottom of the float, and then hopefully swim to the shore. Jason looked for any sign of her, so that he might swim towards her.

    There she was. She was a little off, perhaps fifty feet farther down the beach, but she made good way for a little girl. Jason ran forward, rushing along the beach, splashing into the water, standing knee-deep when she felt ground below her, and stood up as well.

    "Rose?" She wiped the salt water from her face and looked at him.
    "Daddy?" her hopeful voice asked.
    He froze. The Rose standing in front of him was not his daughter. He saw the thorns in her skin, but he also saw her dark, short hair. His daughter was blond.

    Had been blond.

    The MDU had been right; he had been wrong. His family was dead. He realized he'd used his family to shield him from his guilt, but now reality had caught up. They were dead.

    "Daddy? You're crying," the other Rose said. "Is something wrong?"
    Jason looked at her, blinking away the tears. She was younger than the real Rose, maybe eight or nine years old. She stood trembling in front of him, icy water running down her body. Webster had said she had no family. Doe-like eyes watched him, watched his every move, searching for acceptance, expecting rejection. Her name was Rose.

    Jason shook his head.
    "No, honey. Everything is all right. I am just so happy to see you, is all."
    He opened his arms, and Rose threw herself at him, slung her arms, her legs around him. Her thorns pricked his skin, but it did not hurt him much. He stroked her hair, and carried her out of the water.
    "Come on," he said, "let's go home."

  8. #328
    Phew. I am quite happy with the story, especially compared to my other CeramicDM entries. Now, I'm gonna take a break and enjoy the day. And see - it's raining outside! Isn't that wonderful?

    Good luck, Macbeth, I'll read your story sometime tomorrow, probably

    P.S.: Look at my Custom Title

  9. #329
    Quote Originally Posted by Macbeth
    Hmmm... Following BSF's lead, I did a little thinking about my oponent's name:



    Beer and door?
    Actually, it'd be more "bear and door", "bear run door", "bear under" or something like that

    But beer is fine.

    ETA: What is it with these pics? (BSF/carpedavid) Looking at pics 1-4: "Wow, that's really a very cool ghost/horror story building up here!"
    Looking at pic 5:
    "Skyscraper. Damn!"

    Is this EN-d20modern-World or what?

    (The above is not meant to be a disparaging comment re: judges, but just a small colorful commentary for my own amusement. So there!)
    Last edited by Berandor; Saturday, 17th July, 2004 at 04:45 PM.

  10. #330
    [Unbiasing commentary of equal praise to both competitors, so I'm not moving it to the other thread. So there.]


    Many thanks to both of you for your excellent stories. It makes me so happy to see pictures get used like this. Wow. Poing poing poing. What a great set.

    I'm so glad I don't have to judge this one.

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