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Saturday, 26th June, 2004, 05:43 AM #41
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
Summer 2004 Ceramic DM
Round 1, Match 3 – Carpedavid vs. Piratecat
He looked at me with worried, watery eyes. “Snulap Kpog?” He blinked rapidly as flashbulbs went off behind us. “Nick, why am I paying you for Snulap Kpog?”
I slapped him on the back and put a companionable arm around his slumped shoulders. “You’re not, Ben. You’re paying me for a million dollar multiple entry advertising campaign that’s going to win awards and catapult your company into the Fortune 500.” My voice caught fire with infectious enthusiasm, and I gestured emphatically towards our young models. “You’re paying me to gain you customers as you expand your business into Russia. This is what I’m good at. I’m an expert at branding, as you should damn well know from all the catchy marketing jingles I’ve written for you. Trust me, Ben, people will notice Snulap Kpogyk clothing – you’ll see that extra ‘yk’ at the end of the word once the front two cheerleaders turn towards us – and they’ll each want their own wardrobe of Americana, a little piece of neo-retro sensibility that assuredly won’t come cheap. They’ll each want to wear a little piece of you. And they’ll pay you handsomely for that privilege.”
More blinking. “If you’re sure...?” he asked doubtfully over the delighted laughter of the imported Russian models. They were trying to sing one of my advertising jingles in English, the little minxes, and they were making quite a hash of it. “It is an awful lot of money, and we spoke about the risk, and the company has never. . .”
“Ben.” My voice was firm, reassuring. I could almost see Ben’s spine straighten and his shoulders square as he regained his slipping confidence. “I wouldn’t steer you wrong, because I’m never wrong. The point is that right now ‘Snulap Kpogyk’ doesn’t mean anything in Moscow. It’s a symbolic blank, baby, an empty set, a cipher. With these cheerleaders and these ads, that’s about to change forever. Three months from now it’s going to mean ‘the hottest trend in foreign clothing.’ You’re going to define Russian fashion, my friend. You’ll see. You’ll be more successful than you ever dreamed possible.” I lit a good cigar for him with a flick of my lighter, turned back to the girls and the cameras, and smiled widely in satisfaction. I liked my job.
That night I stood alone on my balcony looking down towards the lights of Los Angeles, two of the Russian girls asleep in the bedroom behind me. I was naked under my light robe and I shivered in the sea breeze. Southern California just wasn’t as warm as I’d really like it to be, and I’d had to kindle a blaze in the tiny gas fireplace in my penthouse. The result was fundamentally unsatisfying. I took a sip of my drink, and savored the taste of the bitter gin. Not bad, I thought. Out came the cell phone.
“Snulap, my dearest friend,” I said in flawless Russian into the receiver and up into a satellite and eventually down into the ear of a part-time mobster some six thousand miles away. He sounded closer than that. “Go make a bet with your drinking partners. I’ve done my part. Pretty soon everyone in Russia will be seeing your name, and you’re going to be famous. You’ll just need to sit back and enjoy it.” I listened for a minute. “Exactly. The payment will be as we agreed?” The heavy, disbelieving voice crackled across the miles. “I’m sure you will. Snulap Kpogyk, no one in Russia is ever going to forget your name again, just like you asked. I’m an expert at this sort of thing. Wait and see.”
I sat in the dark for a long time that night, listening to the wind and thinking about myself.
What I am is an arranger. I make things happen. You want to be seen with Michael Jackson or the Olsen twins? I’d arrange it. You want to be with Michael Jackson and the Olsen twins? That’s a lot tougher. But I could work miracles when I put my mind to it, just like I’d gotten Ben’s crappy little clothing company out of a hole-in-the-wall in New York City and catapulted them straight into the international fashion circuit. Like Ben and Snulap, I tried to let my clients quietly help one another. I’d done dozens of similar jobs, hundreds, and the challenge made every day a delight. I worked solely by word of mouth, only helping those who’d ask me to, but I kept quite busy. Lots of irons in the fire. Customers were seldom left wanting, even with the high prices I was able to command. I tried to live up to my reputation. So I was more than a little put out when eight months later, Snulap informed me that he wanted to renegotiate.
Renegotiate? To hell with that. Renegotiation wasn’t how I did business.
This required personal attention, so I postponed my little pal Macaulay’s comeback and flew out to Russia myself. The trip was a bore. I personally knew which of my colleagues had designed most of Russia’s transit systems, and he was prominent in my thoughts as I spent hours chasing my own tail and waiting for flights that never arrived. America’s not really any better, truth be told, but at least the terminal facilities have been upgraded a bit. I whiled away the hours with some idle conversation about religion, some petty gambling, sketching out a few new ‘environmental’ bills for a political client of mine, and teaching some young passengers a new trick. One of them was even wearing a Snulap Kpogyk dress; very fashionable, I thought. Whether you’re teaching a new language or a new hobby, kids learn best when they’re young, and it’s always delightful seeing the fresh innocence of youth embrace your lessons.
I finally caught up with Snulap Kpogyk in the Russian city of Rybinsk, perched on the edge of the sea. When I did, he didn’t seem at all pleased to see me. Ingrate. I was splayed lazily across his living room sofa when he came home late from the theater. It was near midnight, and greasy rain pounded down in the darkness outside. Droplets still pattered off of his stained raincoat as the stale smell of cheap cigarettes reached my nose. “Your phone has rung seventeen different times,” I told him matter-of-factly. “You’re a popular guy. You should buy an answering machine.”
“How did you get in here?” he blustered, dark eyes bulging slightly. “The door was locked!” I made a dismissive gesture. His heavy brow furrowed. “Of course the phone has rung seventeen times, you American bastard. It never stops. Never. Always different people. I have unlisted my number, and still it rings. I have unplugged the phone from the wall, and still it rings! Make it stop!” As if on cue, the phone began to ring. He picked it up and flung it across the room into a hallway. It kept ringing.
I clucked my tongue, something that I’m exceptionally good at. It’s the physiology, of course. “You’re famous, Snulap. People want to talk to you. People want to be near you.”
“I’m not the one who’s famous!” he bellowed as he wheeled around the room. “That clothing is! It’s ruined my life, and I don’t get one kopek from it!”
I cocked my head and did a pretty fair imitation of what he first told me nine months before. “I want my name to be on everyone’s tongue,” I mimicked, and Snulap’s face went first white and then a fiery, dangerous red. I liked the look. “C’mon, man. It’s not like arranging this was easy. And you’re not even wearing the clothes!”
“You. . .” He sounded strangled. “Get. . . get out! I’m not going to pay you for having ruined my privacy, ruined my marriage!”
“Sure you will,” I said easily as I swung myself up off the couch. “I did what you asked, Snulap. It’s pretty straightforward. The fact that you regret your request...” I saw that he was about to explode. His fists were clenching, the knuckles white. “Tell you what, we’ll sleep on it. Let’s talk tomorrow. I’m staying in a boarding house down the street, so we can have lunch together.” I chucked him lightly on the shoulder with my fist as I headed out the door. “Looking forward to it, my friend!” Then he was standing mutely behind me, swaying slightly, and I was past him down the stairs and out into the rain. The downpour hissed as it hammered into me in silvery sheets.
“Excuse me?” asked a bedraggled group of teenagers who obviously didn’t have enough sense to get inside out of the rain. “Does Snulap Kpogyk really live here? The famous one?”
“He sure does, sweetie,” I said with a smile as I held the door open for them. “Third floor front. Head on up.” When I left to walk down the street, one of them was holding the door while the other was calling her friends to tell them the good news. Ah, sweet celebrity.
It was just after three in the morning when they jumped me. I was sound asleep at the time. Before I knew it I was hogtied with my head in a rancid gunny sack. They thrust me onto the floor of an ancient sedan, and someone kept a gun barrel pressed into my spine during the short trip. The blows to the head hurt. The blows to the groin hurt more. I could feel a rib grate every time I breathed, and I was pretty sure they’d broken my tailbone. Apparently, Snulap wasn’t so famous that he had given up all of his old mobster friends. It’s nice to see people stick to their roots.
I was dragged into a dry and dusty basement before they pulled the hood off of my head. Snulap’s paunchy face was the first thing I saw. “Bastard,” he spit. He turned to the others and grunted. “Get him down on the table.” As the three hooligans manhandled me onto a tilted operating table, I recognized the designer clothing brand on one of them.
“Hey, I like your shirt.”
“Shut up!” Snulap roared, hitting me again. He opened a drawer and displayed a transparent mask hand-decorated in the cheery colors of the local hockey team. http://www.enworld.org/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=14749]Someone clearly had a sense of humor[/url], but I still noticed flecks of residual blood around its perimeter. Snulap held the mask up in front of his coarse features and grinned dangerously.
I looked at him dyspeptically. “You need a good dentist,” I suggested, and was rewarded for my comment by a blow to the nose. He shoved the transparent mask onto my own face with one hand and leaned forward to hold my head flat against the table. I smelled old blood, the familiar tang of sweat and fear. His cohorts silently bolted down the edges of the mask, and just like that I was pinned like an insect to the table. Then my wrists and ankles were shackled, the hired muscle left the room, and my client leaned over me once again. He tried an entertaining conversational gambit.
“Your body will wriggle but your head will stay put within that mask, and you will scream and scream and scream.”
I just looked at him patiently and whistled the theme to “Cheers.” He didn’t get it, and his eyes were hard.
“My wife has left me, Nick, telling me she can not be married to someone as famous as me when she is just a nothing. Now she lays with another man instead. My job fired me for being distracting, and no one else will hire me because they think I am too rich and famous – not even that damned American clothing company, who is suing me because they claim I stole their name! My life has fallen apart since we made our deal. Fame is not what I thought it would be.”
I couldn’t help smiling. “It never is. I was a little surprised when you hired me for it, to tell you the truth, but I relish a challenge.”
A vein began to pulse in Snulap’s forehead. He probably wasn’t used to people who weren’t scared of him. His voice was a low growl. “You are going to undo whatever it is you have done to me. If you won’t undo it, I will torture and kill you. If you can’t undo it, I will torture and kill you. Since you won’t be moving your head, I’ll start by putting out your eyes one by one. Then I’ll move on to your tongue. I’m sure,” and he took a shudderingly deep breath, “that you’d much rather renegotiate our deal?”
“Sorry,” I said jauntily, “no can do. You and I made a contract that I lived up to, Snulap. Now you owe me payment. It’s very simple. I think it’s also worth noting that killing me isn’t part of that payment.” I winked. “If you didn’t like your name being famous, why didn’t you just change your name?”
“I tried!” Snulap bellowed, slamming one fist into the nearby wall. “Time after time! And every time they lost the paperwork. One time the whole office burned to the ground. It’s as if someone is sabotaging me. As if I’m not allowed to!” He wasn’t, of course; that was part of the fine print. But I wasn’t going to remind him of that.
“Are you sure you want to kill me?” I asked teasingly. “I’m not anonymous or unknown, you know. I’m Carrot Top’s agent. I arranged for Microsoft’s Clippy, the Office Assistant. I’m very involved with email mass marketing. You can’t expect to simply make me disappear.”
He looked baffled. “Who. . what?”
I moved on with a shake of my head. “Never mind. My point is that killing me will have consequences. You really, really don’t want to face those consequences. If you hurt me again, I’m going to officially hold you in breach of our contract. I doubt you remember the details, but you aren’t going to like the result.”
“You can’t threaten me,” he blustered, ignoring the obvious fact that in my own way I was threatening him. “You’re my prisoner! I’m the one in control!”
“Of course you are,” I said in a placating tone. I rolled my eyes under the bolted down mask. “Look, Snulap, I arranged for cheerleaders to spell out your name on billboards and television across Russia. Your name is in magazines, in newspapers, and plastered across a hundred thousand peoples’ bodies. It’s tough luck you don’t like it, but that’s what you asked for.” My tone was brisk. “Now then. I’ve got an appointment in New York tomorrow that I’d rather not reschedule. You need to settle your account with me, my friend, because I’m not reversing anything.”
I was looking into his eyes as he finally snapped. He made an inarticulate noise. Both of his huge hands locked on my exposed throat underneath that mask, and I felt him squeeze. The windpipe went first, then the neck itself gave way. I felt everything. He was shaking me at this point, almost ripping my head from my shoulders in his fury. It hurt quite a bit. Amateur.
Well, there went that body, damn it. It would take me some time before I could arrange to rebuild more flesh by myself. With a squelch, I sat up and left the meatsuit behind.
Snulap gagged from the sudden burst of brimstone in the air. “Is it my breath?” I asked sympathetically. The air felt frigid. My hooves ignited the floorboards, which helped a little, and then I had the forked tip of my tail under Snulap’s throat as I stalked towards him and he backed away while gibbering in pure terror. “Our contract is terminated, Snulap Kpogyk,” I rasped in my most businesslike tones. “Pay up.”
He ran. I chased him, just slowly enough to let him think he had a chance.
The city of Rybinsk overlooks the sea. It was just after dawn when he finally collapsed on one of its beaches, winded and quivering with fear. “Ppppplease,” he pleaded. The surf hissed around my hooves as I stood over him and shook my head.
“Some humans are so impatient, Snulap. I was on your side, pal! You were a client. Another two weeks and everything was scheduled to turn around for you. You would have had fame, money, sex, and another thirty seven years of life before I showed up to bring your soul down to my boss. By then you’d be a happy and degenerate old crank, and probably Premier of all of Russia; you certainly had the name recognition. Too bad you decided to squander it.”
He looked up at me, horrified. “Wwwhy didn’t you tell me?” he stuttered in disbelief. “That’s. . .”
“Evil?” I finished for him. “Yeah, there’s a shocker for you.” I idly tapped one long nail on my goateed chin as I considered him. “Who was responsible for that mask?” I was actually curious. “Nice touch, that.” He just whimpered, and time was fleeting. I sighed and used two fingers to pick him up by the throat.
“A shame about my old body. I’ll need to eventually reshape your face into something a bit more attractive.” I ran a claw down his ribcage with a sound like a screaming zipper, and nearby gulls took to the air in panic. I breathed into the chest cavity and quickly scooped the steaming gray innards out onto the http://www.enworld.org/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=14748]glistening sand[/url]. “You won’t be needing these, my friend,” I murmured in his ear as I plucked out his soul and stepped inside his empty flesh. It was the dawn of a glorious new day, and a world of opportunities lay open before me. My, I do love my job. Experiences like this just remind me how much. “Bye bye. Have a nice trip, and tell everyone down there I say hello.”
I cast him out. The echo faded after a time, but the gulls just wouldn’t come back.
Now alone on the beach, I looked down at my new self. I still had a plane flight to arrange but first things first; the clothes I had on were irrevocably torn and stained. That was easily remedied, of course. If I had to pick up new clothes, I knew just the brand. . . and I already liked their advertising. It suited me.
I strolled off down the beach to arrange for some shopping.
-- End --
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Saturday, 26th June, 2004, 05:48 AM #42
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
Last edited by Piratecat; Saturday, 26th June, 2004 at 05:50 AM.
Saturday, 26th June, 2004, 02:24 PM #43
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
If you did that I might just start liking you again.Originally Posted by Piratecat
Saturday, 26th June, 2004, 07:58 PM #44
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Oops, I'd kinda been hoping I would see pictures posted today. Err... I'm ready any time now, really. I mean, I won't have much time tommorow, but what with three days being available and all, you can go ahead and start it.
Unless it's not me that's the hang up, in which case... well, I'll still be waiting.
Saturday, 26th June, 2004, 08:35 PM #45
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Round 1 Match 4
Fieari Vs Orchid blossom
4 pics, 72 hours, 5000 word limit.
Last edited by alsih2o; Saturday, 26th June, 2004 at 09:09 PM.
Saturday, 26th June, 2004, 08:39 PM #46
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I miseread one there, sorry Fieari and OC, pics for you
Saturday, 26th June, 2004, 08:46 PM #47
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Ummm, ouch? This should be interesting.
I take it you meant 5,000 words? Otherwise you're getting poetry.
Saturday, 26th June, 2004, 08:48 PM #48
Novice (Lvl 1)
Clay, you are an evil, evil man. How are those pictures going to go together at all....
Good luck, you poor, poor competitors.
Saturday, 26th June, 2004, 09:10 PM #49
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Yes. Pardon me today, please. I started my day with a broken waterline in the backyard and have not recovered from the "fun" yet.Originally Posted by orchid blossom
Saturday, 26th June, 2004, 09:12 PM #50
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Ants in the AC, broken waterlines.... You have the worst luck. When does the plague of locusts arrive?