The first thing I did that morning was calmly let out a blood-curdling scream. At the sound of it, Peter was soon at my door again, knocking loudly.
"Sara! Sara! What's wrong?" he demanded, his voice shaky, but still oh-so-beautiful. My glance darted towards the door, and I was thankful to see that there was a lock on the door.
"Just, um, curling my hair!" I said, then realizing that my hair was already so curly that if it curled anymore it would roll up into itself. Apparently that seemed to sate him, however, as he mutely replied, "Don't scare me like that, Sara. You need to be more careful." I muttered a response to him, and looked once again in the mirror. Who was this Amazonian that stared me right back in the face? I felt dumbed. Was this why Peter had always been so absent? He was taking care of his little sister? My second concern then cropped up, more belated than it should have been. Where was Peter's sister? Was she in my body? Did she just disappear? All questions I saved to myself to ask later. Now was the time to keep appearances. I had read body-switching novels before, their first mistake was letting the situation get the better of them. I wouldn't let that happen! I was Sara Karanin! Wait, now I was Sara Tersky. My heart was overcome with joy yet my mind defeated by this. I had, in part, accomplished what I had always wanted.
"Sara!" Peter yelled again, just as I was getting lost in my fancies. "If you don't come out in ten seconds then I'll have to break your door down and get you out. Are you listening?" As ashamed as I was to be rebuked, it was very exhilarating to be gotten angry at by Peter Tersky. As if I was his property, to be shamed and used. I pushed those thoughts aside. I cannot distract myself from keeping appearances, I told myself.
"I'm just getting dressed, bro." I replied, in a carefree manner. With this much natural beauty, I doubted I would need to do much. So many good genes in one small family. I slipped on my blouse, my tie, my skirt, and cardigan, and slipped on my shoes with the greatest haste. I unlocked the door and stepped out into Tersky's home.The house was light and airy, and ridiculously empty. While his sister's room had been filled to the brim with toys and miscellany begging to be lost in itself, the living room that her room lead out into was devoid of anything but a settee, an old television, and a small table lamp plugged in next to the wall, sitting on a white carpet floor. It was if I entered an entirely different world. I looked back and forth between my room, and they definitely both existed in front of my eyes. Peter peered around the corner where I could only assume the kitchen was. The look on his face was both impatience and relief.
"Sara, quickly, come eat. I've invited your friends in since you took so long." he stated. It was not a request, but it was still spoken kindly. I obeyed without thinking, and something inside me felt shame for making him have to go through more trouble on my behalf. The kitchen was attached to the living room, the only barrier between the two being the wall that hid the kitchen from my view before. It was then I noticed that I had seen the entire house. The door was on the opposite side of the kitchen, and a blanket and pillow were stuffed messily into a corner. Peter himself was dressed disheveledly, his own uniform untucked and his hair unkempt. Around the table sat Sara Tersky's friends. Almost immediately my gaze fell upon one of them. She bore a striking resemblance to Karoline, with a sharp nose, dark, long, chestnut brown hair and striking green eyes. While Karoline's appearance reminded me of a drab shrew, her young counterpart recalled me the image of a playful kitten, her eyes darting all around, and her unable to sit still. The other two I was unable to draw such a comparison, but one was very tired looking, her eyes bagged and her face otherwise plain, mar a pair of beauty spots that followed the outward line of her left brow; the other was just as energetic as Karoline's counterpart was, but it was a more nervous type of energy, her fingers twiddling and twitching as she sat, squirming. She was by no means pretty, but she had that queer squareness that prodded amiability in some folks. There was one empty seat that neither Peter nor I occupied, but from Peter's gaze, I could tell it was intended for me. I sat down, inwardly a bit glum for some reason. Maybe it was the fact that I was sharing Peter's table with other females. Nevertheless, I reserved myself and attended my attention to the others at the table.
"Sara you'll never guess what Krissy came across this morning!" The young Karoline grabbed my wrist to tell me this, looking equal parts excited and full of mischief, evident from her wide-eyed smirk. The nervous one, who must have been Krissy, looked as us on the mention of her name, but was quiet.
"What what?" I prodded her on, as I would imagine a younger girl might do.
"She found a token of the dark lord!" Young Karoline exclaimed, waving her hands in a feigned horror. I was a bit lost for words there, but managed to utter out: "A token?"
Young Karoline looked incredulous. "I thought you would've felt it in your life-line. It surely means dark days are ahead for all of us! We may be facing the end as we know it! Don't tell me the dark one has gotten a hold of you as well!" She made a grand gesture, pretending to faint backwards. Peter placed down a breakfast in front of each of us. A plate of dark rye bread, a number of eggs and plump sausages adorned the plate. Young Karoline immediately broke her play and dug into the food as if she hadn't eaten a meal in days, while the tired one prodded it. I was in the process of trying to digest what Young Karoline was even talking about, when Krissy pulled at the sleeve of my blouse.
"Did you really not feel the disturbance in your life-line?" she asked quietly, her eyes wide and pleading. I swallowed, unsure of what to say. Was this girl about to cry if I admitted I had no idea what her friends and her were talking about? Better to leave sleeping dogs lie, I told myself. I searched my mind for some malarkey to feed her.
"My life-line was...clouded this morning. But I feel your pain within my...life-line now. My power level is rising again." I said awkwardly. I saw Krissy process this in her mind, and I held my breath, hoping I had not betrayed myself already. Thankfully, a look of satisfaction came over her face, and a small smile threatened to peer out from her lips. Poor thing, I thought, living in a fantasy. Peter cleared his voice at me, nodding pointedly at my breakfast. I started to eat it, to not give him the impression that I would make a disobedient wife...or sister. Krissy also ate, as quietly as she spoke. Almost as soon as we finished, Peter snatched up our plates, and ushered us out the door. I felt guilty that he would be late because of us, but also concerned since I would be unable to see him now. I wondered what type of school Sara Tersky went to. As the door closed behind us, I turned my attention to the tired girl who hadn't spoken.
"Man, my brother can be so uptight sometimes," I joked, praying to God that I didn't mean it and that Peter is perfect.
"Maybe if you weren't so loose he wouldn't care," she said dryly, with what I hoped was a playful sneer. Before I had the chance to form a comeback, Little Karoline grabbed my wrist and pulled me into her conversation.
"Sara, Sara! I need to talk to you about something very important." She came close to my ear and whispered, loud enough so that everyone could still hear, "The back of your shirt is undone." I reached back and felt. I had only zipped the shirt half of the way, and it clumped under my cardigan awkwardly.
"Ah shit," I swore under my breath. "Help me fix it."
"One second, I need to revel in the image of an embarrassed Sara Tersky," said the tired one snarkily. Krissy was the one who ended up fixing it for me. She slid off my sweater with ease, and then zipped up the back of my shirt. Before she could put back on my sweater, Little Karoline stopped her and pointed to my chest. "What's that?" I looked to where she was pointing. I had seen it in the mirror, and it had been around my neck when I woke up. From my neck hung a necklace that put me in the mind of a medallion, and it was detailed with many small letters. Here, in the sun, it glowed with an effervescent air...
I wish I could say it wasn't my fault...
But when it comes down to it, I really can't find anyone but myself to blame. My name is Sara Karanin, and all that I am about to tell you is one-hundred-percent, without question, my fault. As a high-school girl swept up in the excitement of love for the first time, my decisions were distorted by an insatiable lust to have a boyfriend- and not just any boyfriend. Only to make the most popular boy in my grade mine. His name? Peter Tersky. He was cool, geniunely hilarious, had beautiful curly locks that seemed to be spun of gold, his face was smooth in many of the ways a girl's was, but his visage glowed masculinity. He was intelligent and dilligent, yet fun and flippant. If there was ever a possibility that God created a perfect being- well, Peter would've been proof of that. My mother often said that he was too liberal for his own good: he chose to use the English variant of his given name and was often seen downtown with a sling of females on each arm. But that was part of what attracted me to him. He seemed mysterious and exciting, whilst being trustworthy and protective- like so many of the heroes in the books I read about when I was young.
"I wonder where his parents are, to let him scamper around as he does, completely free of responsibilty! Just you wait until he graduates- he'll be thrown out of university and soon his family will refuse to spoil him as they do! You'll see!" My mother warned.
"But his accent is so spectacular, mother, it's so posh and refined." I had responded, not really minding that it did little to actually rebuke what my mother said. And so I loved Peter. I wasn't special, I sat with the other girls, laughing at all his jokes and hopelessly flirting with him. I, like every other girl, would scoff every time another girl attempted to confess their love to him. Each time without fail he would dimiss them as if they never uttered a word. Some were even foolish enough to confess to him in public. Their public humiliation usually hurt their reputation so much so that it became almost taboo to speak of love to Peter and each attempt at his love became more and more private. But for the longest time I believed I was special. I employed a strategy to capture his heart slowly- unlike all those other idiots. By being there every day I would remind him of myself and discourage any newcomers to the group who wished to join in the trivial flirting we did each break. I'd come earlier than the others, but not early enough that it would be seen as creepy, and I'd always come from having done something.
"Oh, Peter, what do you have for lunch today? I had to eat mine early today since I was helping Ms. Whatever-her-name-was organize the library- I never realized how many of those books I'd read, you'd never guess I was a star athelete!" That, embarassingly, was one of my milder brags.
"You're always impressive, Sara. I don't know how you keep up, you're amazing." He responded. I was taken back. This was the highest praise I'd ever heard him utter- although looking back on it through non-rose-coloured lenses, I now spot the sarcasm the sentence was dripping with. This was my moment of weakness in my plan, and the point where I abandoned it.
"Hey Peter," I said quickly, hearing the footsteps of the other members of my group start to get closer and closer, "could you stay a moment after school? I need your help with something." He was surprised, to say the least. No one ever asked for his help with anything. A look of pain crossed his face but quickly succumbed to his usual smile, albeit a bit sardonic.
After school, he met me at the atheletics shed where I planned to confess. Only I chickened out and he actually ended up helping me clean it. After an hour, we had barely gotten into the shed. It had completely defeated us I was reminded why people didn't tend to store their club's equipment in the shed. It was stuffed full of so much junk, and barely any of it was sports related. I suggested we take a break but he admitted that he had to go home now. This surprised me since I didn't think he was the type to go home before it got dark. Without thinking I suggested that I could accompany him home. He accepted.
At this point I was over the moon. No one else could attest to having walked home with Peter- I doubted anyone even knew where he lived. So we walked home together. To be perefectly honest I can't recall anything we talked about until we got to his home. It was the moment of truth.
"Peter! I want to tell you something." I said as he opened the gate to his home. I noted that the home was fairly standard and didn't really stand out as much as I expected. "I really enjoyed spending this time with you, would you care to spend more time together in the future?"
A wide smile unlike what I'd ever seen on him before crossed his face. "Definitely, Sara. I've never had a better friend that you." Internally, I screamed. I was being friendzoned, and we both knew it, but with that my fate was sealed. I would forever be his friend and there wasn't any going back or forth from it without really cutting my ties. Or so I thought.
We continued to work after school on the shed. No teacher ever came by wondering what we were doing- I wonder if they even noticed at all- and we continued to walk home after school. For a time I would tell myself: "it will get better, he'll make a move eventually". I soon learnt better. During school he would treat me as he did everyone else, but we would become like childhood friends afterwards. I soon learnt that while he may never love me, at least I was the only one who could see his real smile.
"Peter is out sick today, but I'll need someone to take his work to him. Does anyone know where he lives?" asked my homeroom teacher one morning. The class fell silent. I took a silent delight in knowing that I was the only one who held this information. Slowly and surely I raised my hand.
"I know where he lives, miss." I said, my smile proud and smart. I could feel the glares of my group dig into me but I didn't care. This is my chance to see his house. My plan formed perfectly inside my mind. I was on my way to his house when I noticed I was being followed. I needed to throw those girls off my trail. Think. What was one route they wouldn't be able to follow? It dawned on me quickly. I needed to get to the shed.
The week before when we were cleaning out the shed we found something marvelous. In near pristine condition was a chrome bike. We tested out the engine and it purred better than I'd ever heard a cat purr. Sure I didn't have a license but it was a risk I'd have to take if I wanted to keep Peter safe from the clutches of the other girls. I walked briskly back towards the school and noted with pleasure how the girls trailing me pretended to go their own ways. I headed up to the shed.
It wasn't there. The bike wasn't there. Did a teacher finally catch onto us? Did someone steal it? My mind was whirling. What had happened? Why now of all the times? It was an emergency, of sorts. I looked back. Only one girl to be seen. Karoline, I think her name was. I headed into the shed and closed the door behind me. Maybe I could wait them out. I headed into the shed. It was surprisingly big on the inside, and I could easily see why clearing it was so much trouble. We had recently pulled a couple javelins out and that had caused a bigger mess than what we had started on on that afternoon. If anything else, I might as well clean a bit to pass the time, I told myself. And so I got to work. It was about six in the evening when I found it, buried under a pile of magazines that had fallen off a number of high-rise stacks. A silver mining lamp ornated with ruby swirls on the top, like soft serve ice cream.
When I first laid eyes on it, I was stunned. Who would ever leave something like this just lying around? I inspected it and was further surprised to find a tag on the handle of the lamp that read: "To activate, light me up with a match." It was getting dark in the shed so I decided I'd take out my lighter and light up the lamp, see if it still worked. Good thing I hadn't quit my smoking habit. It took me a while to figure out how to open it but after I did the rest was simple. I light it up and light filled the darkening room. I breathed a sigh of relief. My phone didn't give off a good light so this would make getting home easier. No sooner than when I sighed however, did the unimaginable happen.
The light flickered twice and suddenly went blue. I turned to it frantically. What if it blew up? I didn't know how gas lamps worked! Then suddenly the flame was gold once more but it grew and grew, trying to escape the confines of the glass lamp. The lamp rattled and I fell back, afraid of what I believed to be an inanimate object! Then a shadow started to creep up the wall, slowly, as if waking up from a nap. It stretched up to the ceiling and stretched it arms and then pulled itself quite literally out of the wall. I was petrified and clutched at my heart praying like I had never done before. The shadow took shape; long curls of hair fell down from its head and jewelry started to shine in blackness. Its eyes opened to reveal golden pupils. It whispered to me in a raspy voice barely above a whisper: Open the door.
It wasn't my decision to move, but my body's. It hand unquaveringly reached to the lamp and opened its glass doors. The beast was free. Fire shot out of every orfice and the being came to life. Its black skin turned olive, its black jewels and bangles turned gold, its chest erupted and was...very naked. I looked away from the olive-skinned (and naked) lamp lady, suddenly ashamed. The lady laughed richly in a deep alto.
"My child, you cower so, yet you feel no shame in claiming this shed's treasures as your own? Where is your courage?"
"Shed's treasures?" I heard myself ask. I wondered as well, since I hadn't actually taken anything from the shed.
"Yes, my silver chariot, my bad of wonders...they are all magical, you know. Your lover took them with him yester night." she responded. My mind raced. Did this mean...Peter took the motorcycle? What else could the chariot be? I guessed the bag of wonders was a kindergarten backpack that Peter intended to take to the police station, but why would he have also taken the motorcycle? I turned slowly to the woman from the lamp. She smiled as I gazed upon her, her nakedness only seeming to trouble me. "Do not fear, child." She crooned to me. "I do not seek to harm you in any way, nor do I seek to take my treasures back. For since you've awakened me, I shall offer you something far greater than what you could ever owe me- three wishes. Three wishes that could change the world completely in your favour. Do you wish to be stronger, faster, taller, shorter? Do you wish to have money or talent? Or possibly...love?" I blushed and an evil smile crossed the genie's face. "It's not selfish, you're the only one who will know. The question is, are you willing to pay?"
"Pay? With what? You already said that I could never pay you back!"
"I said I will give you something far greater than you could ever offer in return for- however you do have something that I would want in return...your body."
I was taken back. What did she mean by my body?
"I don't mean anything but what I mean darling. I want full use of your body for 24 hours for each wish. Nothing more, nothing less."
"What would you want my body for? Something...dirty?"
"Goodness no, darling! I can use my own body for that. Simply, I seek to ensure the wish is set properly so that the world can adjust to the changes in reality. Plus, having legs is really a luxury these days."
"And that's it?"
What harm would there be in trying? I told myself. None whatsoever. She came into my mind and ensured me.
"So...what will your first wish be?" She asked, her eyes narrowing as her grin widened.
I swallowed. Here went everything...
"I wish...for Peter Tersky to love me for all the days I live!" And as those words were uttered I felt myself pulled from my own body and into oblivion. When you wake up 24 hours from now...Peter will love you more than anyone else in the world. The genie promised. I felt an ethereal tear of joy fall from my starbound spirit. Did I cheat, absolutely. But was it worth it? I was soon to find out.
I woke up feeling two years younger. Literally. I sat up in my unfamiliar bed, and noted the heavy sheets pinning me down to the bed. I hauled them off myself and stood up. I felt younger but I was actually taller. I turned around and found a mirror. Only I couldn't find myself in it. In the mirror only a girl with a chest much heavier than I remembered, long curly locks that seemed spun of gold, and that natural blush I had taken months to try and perfect with makeup. A knock came at my alien door.
"Sis, it's time for school! You don't want to be late again!" said Peter Tresky. "Your friends are all waiting!"
PREFACE: This is the Discord where these contests take place weekly: https://discord.gg/gdT896j
Two shots of whisky, half a pint of beer, and a glass of tequila in peyote. Russell was now intoxicated enough to wipe his muddy boots down and approach the barmaid he had been eyeing the past week. Slicking back his hair, he pushed open the swinging doors and entered The Lame Horse.
Almford was a hick town, for sure, but it had promise. If the girl was right, Russell was willing to put aside his roving ways and settle down, bring a few boys into the world to share his fortune and keep him cared for in his old age. The settling west wasn't known to being kind to old men- especially those with two enemies to every friend.
He spied the girl leaning on the bar, fixing her hair in a looking glass. God be damned, she was gorgeous with her dark locks and modest frame. She had the hips and youth for a good batch of kids as well, which was equally important as her looks to Russell. He approached her with a swagger that was half drink, half confidence.
“How rare to find a flower this far into a desert,” he started, leaning on the counter. “What did it take to drag you out here, daddy out to find his fortune?”
She looked over at Russell with a quizzical look. “More like I set out for my own fortune only to end up at a dried river with a dead horse and an empty wallet. What about you, stranger?”
“I wandered in on a very much alive horse, but halfway to my grave. Been here for a couple weeks now.”
A sly smile. “A couple weeks here, and only now did you come to see me? You been hanging around, staring me down like a thirsty dog. What did you think, I was going to come 'round first?”
“Pardon me ma'am, I weren't feeling my best, and you deserve better than a thirsty dog.”
“Then come round, handsome, and I'll mix you something to drink.” She winked at Russell and rounded around the counter. Russell sat down across from her and she pulled out a collection of bottles.
“Now I like a man who can hold his liquor. What do you say, out-drink me and I'll consider giving you a chance to woo me proper.” She placed down two shot glasses on the table and poured the first shots. Whisky, import, nine-percent. Russell felt a little queasy inside. His social grease beforehand was biting him in the ass, he already felt tipsy.
The first couple rounds weren't so bad, but by the third, Russell was starting to feel a bit sluggish, and he wondered if his eyes looked glassed over. The barmaid seemed no worse for wear, and raring for more. Russell knew he was beaten, and to save his face, he toppled backwards, tumbling to the ground as graceful as he could.
“Sirrah?” She called to him. He didn't answer, ashamed of his performance. A beat, and her footsteps came towards him. A pause, and he suddenly felt her touch. But it wasn't an affectionate touch. She rustled around his pockets, searching. He launched up and grabbed her arm, and she let out a yelp. He pulled her down, and shifted his weight to be on top of her.
“I'm a retired bounty hunter, ma'am. No one's stolen my purse and lived for it.” He warned her.
The look in her eyes told him she was close to tears, but she bit them back with just a minute loosening of control.
“What's a girl need to steal money from honest folk for anyways in this small town?” He asked, half rebuking.
“Maybe a girl wants to get away from this small town and its honest folk. Maybe she don't want to live her life barren in this barren desert.”
“I suppose you'd be stealing my horse too, eh?” He let go of her arms and climbed off her. She stayed where she was, embarrassed. That pout, and the look in her eyes: he had seen it before, and his heart yearned for her again. “She has a temperament, that mare. You'll need to steal me to ride her.”
The look he gained in response was equally parts enticing as it was mischievous. “Then you'd better be better at riding than you are at drinking, sirrah.”
She stole on last thing: a kiss.
PREFACE: This is the Discord where these contests take place weekly: https://discord.gg/gdT896j
Once they had extracted the cyanide pill from the spy's tooth, getting him to speak was easier than hand-to-hand with a straw man. Wicker, the man with the golden tooth, extracted the information neatly and without (much) blood.
“Lt. Kester- he's got a new weapon from the HQ...blows all of you to smithereens!” The man proceeded to laugh manically, and Wicker, deciding that the man told the truth, shot him square in the forehead. Pally was glad, he couldn't stand the man's voice.
They discussed what to do over a can of rations and light piano music. “What do you suppose we do about the weapon?”,“I suppose we move base again. No point fighting them with just six guys.”, and so the plan was simply set in motion. Pally and Lancer would pack up and move, Wicker and Terrance would scout the new place, and Luis and the General would provide cover.
They moved under the guise of night. Spotlights shone down like heavy rain, but the clothes layered over the barracks made it easier to hide from them. Lancer carried the forcefield, and Pally everything else. The new spot they found was comfy but noticeably smaller than their previous place. The first thing the General did was command that Pally put up their flag. It was a wonderful flag, in Pally's opinion. They had come up with the idea themselves. The battered tarp they used was half dyed green, and the top half was a bleached white. In the middle, a patch made by their late friend Yonket sat in the middle. The patch detailed a great creature, Yonket's vision of the behemoth. Pally's hands couldn't flip the pages of the Bible anymore, but he remembered when Yonket would read to them.
They lasted in that place for a week before Kester sent a patrol to their doorstep. The fight was difficult, and Terrance died. It was inevitable, Pally decided. Terrance wasn't adapting like the rest of them. He was still mostly human. They feasted on two cans of rations that night in remembrance, and Luis sang. His voice contrasted his thick, grey skin, a beautiful tenor from a rhino-like man.
Their plan to escape this new hideout was cut off by Kester's new weapon. It was a tank of sorts, and its shots decimated Lancer and the General before they even knew they were in danger. Wicker was sullen and as silent as ever as they abandoned everything except their flag and food. The forcefield was destroyed by this powerful weapon. Luis raved on about how this was the end, and Pally vainly tried to block out Luis' whining tone. The next morning, Pally found Luis had fled. Dead or alive, Pally wasn't in the mood to search for him. Wicker was tongueless and much more bearable anyways. They continued on for days in silence. Pally had dreams every night, usually of his comrades.
It was a hot summer day when they were met with the end of the world. A huge crevice spanned before them, black and burnt. There might've been another side, but Pally wasn't in the mood to try and find it, so they waited for surrender. When Kester did finally catch up, Wicker took himself out with the pill hidden in his gold tooth. Pally, utterly alone, was taken prisoner. They continued to give him shots, and he found his strength depleting and his form returning partially to what it had been before. Soon they moved him from a special prison to a steel cage. He didn't have the strength to escape anymore.
Eventually they wheeled him towards his execution. They were going to take out his brain, study him, he knew. Strapped to a cart, they took him down that all-too-familiar hall, and his eyes caught something that infuriated him. The bastards, they've made a new me. He thought, looking at his human likeness reborn in a tube.
“Alright,” said the doctor after they'd strapped him to a table, “Let's see why Pally number 30 failed.” The scalpel to his head was all Pally saw before he fainted to an endless sleep.
PREFACE: This is the Discord where these contests take place weekly: https://discord.gg/gdT896j
It had been a good seven minutes since the two men walked into the sauna, with nothing but a towel and a thermos to each. They had sat silent next to each other on the top stair in the sauna, the fat man leaning back against the wall.
'Have you thought about the deal?,' the fat man asked. The other one, a young business type, shrugged.
'I've thought about it, but it don't seem too kind to me. What do I get out of it? Nothing!'
'You get more than nothing, kid. You're getting paid more than you're worth.'
'I'm not talking about money, big guy. Any loser worth even half his salt can make it rich just doing a bit of down-and-dirty work. I want something more. I want to be more.'
'You're talking dangerously, kid. Boss don't take kindly to upstarts.' The fat man took a sip from his bottle then set it down again. The young man tapped his foot with a pang of irritation. He took a swig from his own bottle, then shifted his weight to face the fat man.
'Well if I ain't going to get up and start things, then who is? When the boss' time comes, there'll be fighting over his seat. What's so wrong with trying to use it to my advantage.' He laughed, running his hand through his coarse black hair. 'You wouldn't understand, big guy. You've been a grunt for your whole career. A muscle type. That doesn't come easily to me, all my strengths are up here.' He tapped his cranium, then laughed again, taking another swig.
'You'd be surprised at what can I know, kid. You don't just work 40 years in the family business and not learn a thing or two. For example, I'm aware you lost your sense of taste when you were young, correct?' The fat man smiled, but the young man stood suddenly and grabbed the fat man's neck. The fat man gagged, and flailed in the young man's strong grip. The youngster couldn't help but laugh again, and he let the man go, who fell to the ground coughing. The man cursed, and the young man spread himself across the seat. With a glare, the fat man exited the sauna.
Once he was gone, the young man took a sip from his thermos and released his bravado. How did that man know that information? He was just some common bouncer-type. The young man took another sip of water. Perhaps he just overheard it being talked about...but why would they talk about such an odd detail?
The young man scratched at his throat. It was starting to feel a bit coarse, as it did after enough time in the sauna. Odd, he'd never gotten this dry so quickly. The young man chugged the rest of his thermos of water and headed to the door to exit. He pushed the handle. Locked.
No. No, this wasn't right. Why would be locked? This was a public pool. He looked out the window. The pool, which had been full of life earlier, was now bare. The young man banged against the window. It was too tough, double-enforced glass, he presumed. He returned the door and pulled even harder, but to no avail. He breathed in but started coughing. His throat was closing up now, and each breath was more painful than the last. He fell to the ground, grasping at his neck. A shadow appeared at the window. The fat man. The window was fogged on the other side of the glass. The fat man traced his finger, writing in the fog four letters: N-A-C-L
PREFACE: This is the Discord where these contests take place weekly: https://discord.gg/gdT896j
Knock knock? The faint tap came from behind a battered blue door. Isabel and I looked towards it. We were trapped inside a place that seemed to span infinitely, and every place what would've been the ceiling or a wall or even the floor was a different door. Each one was unique, as far as we had discovered.
“What do you suppose is behind it?” asked Isabel. I didn't know, as usual, and said as much.
“...and I don't care to find out,” I amended. Isabel shrugged, disappointed.
“You could at least suppose something. Like it's a game!” she said.
“Alright, I'll suppose something. I suppose it's a monster come to grab me and drag me with it into oblivion.” I said sourly. Somehow that answer satisfied her, and she took her turn.
“I suppose behind it is a cake shop. They'll have hundreds of different treats, but every single one will look like a door!” She laughed at the absurd notion. I laughed, but for my own reason. I laughed at the fact that she still found ways to entertain herself. I had mostly lost track of the day, my only indicator of time passing was when the white door in the middle of the room knocked to give us paltry portions of provisions. We would open the door and in a small room inside it would be a plate of food. The proportions that each of us got had increased since the others died doing their own foolish things. Alexander had tried to open a door where nothing had knocked and was rewarded by disintegrating on the spot. Penny had figured that if she knocked, she could enter without harm. She suffered the same fate as Alexander. Liam had stayed in the food room one time, and had vanished completely the next knock that came around. Unna had gone crazy. We killed her ourselves.
All who remained now were myself and Isabel, a girl a few years older than myself in age, but much younger in maturity. She took her confinement in stride. My mind drifted to the first one to die. The Example. We never knew his name, but he was the one I remembered most. He was the one who opened doors for us, fearlessly. He figured out the white door on the first day, opening it after the knock and receiving the food. He then opened other doors, finding everything from the mundane to the entertaining. It kept us busy during the early days. One day not long after the food knock, he opened a red door with an ornate glass handle and embossed diamond shapes in the wood of the door. Behind it was something so terrifying his face turned white and all he could say was “Don't look” before he died where he stood. That door still stood open, far along the hall. We stayed in the middle now, taking our food and keeping to our own.
Another knock. This one came from a mahogany door with no handle but a brass bar to push. Isabel supposed it was some alien theatre. I could only picture a hideous alien that would murder us.
“What do you suppose we do then,” she stated simply. “You've been such a downer.”
“I don't know. Live and die here?”
“We saw so many amazing things before, can't we take at least one chance?”
“You can do that and die. See if I care.”
“Do you care at all?”
Not really, I wanted to say. “Of course. One day we'll escape. Maybe we can have kids and once they're all grown we'll try doors until we escape or die. Then they can repeat the pattern until we're finally done.”
“That's a stupid idea,” she laughed. I joined in, and our jovial voices echoed throughout the hall. A resounding knocking from many doors chimed in. The knocks almost sounded like laughter, voices sharing in our joke. Some joke, I thought, but I couldn't help my continued laughter. Isabel and I knew we were both going mad, but at least we'd do it together.
PREFACE: This is the Discord where these contests take place weekly: https://discord.gg/gdT896j
“He's a real asshole, I'll tell ya that.” Wallman lit up a Camel, then passed the lighter to Tom.
“You say he's the asshole, but you're the one who started the fight, you know?” Donny snickered. Wallman dragged sullenly.
I noticed in the flickering of the discarded work light, Wallman's eye was now bright purple. I knew he also had a knife gash across his shoulder, but I made sure to bind it up tight. Leroy had been left behind, but I figured he could throw the Jacks off. He knew Civic Center better than anybody.
“C'mon, let's get going again,” said Roost. True to his name, his red mohawk drooped over the back of his shaved skull. “Them Jacks catch up to us an' last thing we need to worry about is who beat who, kapeesh?” He motioned to Wallman, who spat to the side, before begrudgingly butting out his smoke on the tunnel wall. My feet were cold and wet from wading through the sewer, but no one else had complained yet so I kept quiet.
We walked along for a time before Wallman spoke up again, kicking up some water. “How much further do we have to go, Roost? How do we know this fella of yours will follow through? We ain't hardly met him!”
“Lawrence my friend, Wallman, I'd appreciate it if you trusted him. We're nearly there. ”
Wallman stayed silent as we continued on. Eventually we reached an opening where the sewers opened up into a room, where a raised platform of cement awaited us. Tom and I were the first ones up on there, and when we saw that this was our destination, we eagerly took our wet shoes and socks off. Donny, the clever bastard, had taken his socks off before wading, and exchanged his wet shoes for the dry socks once he reached the mound. The five of us took a minute of reprieve.
Roost broke the silence. “Listen, Lawrence is a bit jumpy around new people, so stay calm and don't give him any reason to run or nothin'. He whistled down one of the number of tunnels that spouted from the room. Deep in the darkness of the tunnel, another whistle came in reply. “He's coming,” Roost reassured us. A minute passed, and the whistle came again, obviously closer. Tom had the flashlight, and flashed it down the tunnel. Nothing but blackness.
Wallman opened his mouth to complain when the blackness moved, a low gurgle barely audible as it squished it's way through the tight passage. Tom froze, keeping his light on the shapeless form that approached us. A splash behind us made us aware of Donny, running down the opposite corridor. Wallman's mouth had opened wider, his disbelief as evident as his rage. “Roost,” he said, his voice shaking, “What the fuck is that?”
Roost turned around, but I sensed immediately that the man who stood before us wasn't Roost. Not anymore. “He's my friend,” he said in a monotone voice, his eyeballs seeming blank in the darkness. Lawrence whistled in response. “Stop shining the light on him, he doesn't like it,” Roost commanded Tom. Tom was unresponsive. Roost knocked the flashlight out of his hand with a kick, snapping Tom out of his trance and scrambling towards the flashlight. It had fallen into the water. “Stop!” Roost called, in his own voice. Tom didn't listen. He jumped into the water, and with a sudden yelp, he keeled over in pain.
“MY LEGS!” he howled to us, turning around. He fell backwards and his legs- what was left of them swung up as he was enveloped in the water with a quickly muffled scream. The water had torn the flesh straight off. Wallman cried in horror. Lawrence whistled in a tone that reminded me of a disappointed mother. Roost was nonreactive to Tom's death, he turned immediately back to Lawrence, who had nearly reached the mouth of the tunnel, as far as I could tell in the darkness. I shivered, pulling my Rangers cap further down my brow.
“As long as you stay calm, everything will be fine, Roost assured the two of us. The thing entered the room, growing and stretching to fill the room, engulfing all but our plateau.
I picked up Tom's lighter and flicked the switch. In the light, a thousand bulbous eyes stared at me. They whistled directly to me their lullaby, and I let the lighter off. Their music was beautiful.