Saturday, December 3, 2011

Very very rough novel slice

So part of why I haven't been posting here is laziness, part is being unsure of what to write, but the biggest chunk was NaNoWriMo. I won't bore you with explanations of what it is but here is a chunk of the novel I wrote. Enjoy.

I could only see a few things on the shelf at a time in the small pool of light cast by my zippo. There didn't seem to be any organization to the weapons covering the shelves. Smaller things, all the way down to pocket knives, were shoved next to six foot spears. The shelves were completely packed as well, with every scrap of spare space filled in with a tool of destruction of some sort. The only thing was, I didn't see any gun, or bows or anything like that. All hand to hand weapons. Still I was sure something in this giant mix would help me out. I was right, but not in the way I thought. Without warning the lights flared to life, turning on one after another from the far end of the room to the door. In a fit of paranoia I put my back to the wall and scanned the floor. It looked like most of it was just worn old concrete. Lines were painted onto it but they looked like they had been applied several times as the building was re-purposed again and again. Some of them were just lane markings, others squared of chunks of the floor the size of a small room. The far wall looked about the same as the one I was against, slightly curve to the roof with shelves in easy reach. I couldn't make out many individual weapons but I was sure they were just as littered with them.
At first I couldn't see anyone else in the room, it just looked like the bastard child of an ancient armory and an airplane hanger from the second world war or something. I kept walking along the length of the building. I didn't see any doors or windows other than the small slits near the top. As I approached the far side I could see that it was a large door that could be wheeled open. Looking back the way I had come in had been the same. Both sides had smaller human sized doors inset in them. Without preamble the door started to wheel open. A large guy walked in. I was still a distance from him but he was huge. I couldn't believe my eyes. He was at least ten feet tall and half that wide, walking with slow ponderous steps. He was a bit odd looking though. Lumpy really and while he looked more than big enough to crush me the proportions were all off, with huge long arms that nearly hit the ground. Still there wasn't time to puzzle it over, as soon as he spotted me he broke into a run, arms reaching forward. He was silent though, no screech, no yelling, no
I hesitated for a second, frozen with indecision before sprinting straight towards him. The door behind him was still open. I didn't fancy my chances taking this freak on so I was going to try to leave. I should have been scared, and on some level I was, but that was mostly being overruled by how insanely unfair this all was. I was annoyed, pissed off, angry and on some level I just wanted to get back at whoever had done this. I mean really. I had been kidnapped, knocked out, nearly stabbed and beaten, clubbed and cut in two different fights, transported to God alone knows where, shoved in an overheated dark room, accidentally cut by a sword and now I had some mute roid raging freak chasing me down. And I hadn't done anything, or even had breakfast that day.
Running towards each other we closed the gap quickly, and I tried something insane to get to the back of the thug. I slid under him, hitting one hip painfully on the floor and shooting between his legs. It worked, I was shocked. I hadn't even thought to do that, I was just going to try to dash around him. How had I? Then I realized the coin was back in my fist again. Something was definitely strange here, but it still barely registered in the mix of anger at the situation and joy that I might make it out. To late I noticed the door was closing again. I put a bit of extra speed into my step but it was no use, I hit the wall door with a thud just after it closed.
I stopped. It was useless I was trapped in a room with hundred, maybe thousands, of weapons that I had no idea how to use while a very large man was turning around to crush me. I was hot, I was tired, and I was ANGRY! I was stuck in the middle of the room now so I sprinted to the left so I could be nearer to a few weapons. The bruiser adjusted his course to meet me and as such I had only about a second to grab something before he could reach me. I stuck an arm out wildly and grabbed the first thing I found. My fingers curled into a fist around something that wasn't quite a handle, something that had finger holes. I pulled my arm back to find I was now holding a surprisingly comfortable set of brass knuckles. They were skinny, but surprisingly heavy with small discreet spikes swooping up out of the metal between the fingers. Perfect, I thought. No reach or finesse but at least I know how to throw a punch.
The brute reached for me and I fell back, tumbling into the shelves. His punch missed my as I fell and now I was inside his reach. My left hand was on the lowest shelf so I pulled myself and rocketed forward, landing a hit against the freaks impossibly huge chest. He fell back but didn't give any sign of feeling pain. Then the world changed rather suddenly. Everything slowed down. Colours became brighter, I could feel my clothes against my skin, I heard the shuffle of my opponents feet, and I could smell metal, concrete and... clay oddly enough. My left hand closed and I found another set of knuckles was now on my good hand. These ones were wider, heavier and smooth, bone crushers I realized. I smiled grimly and widened my stance, waiting for the attack to come, arms cocked back and ready.
He did rush again, still silent, still large and fast and deadly, but I was done running now. He tried to straight up crush me, both hands coming down towards my head in a death blow. I didn't let it happen, just smashing straight upward. His hands broke, crumbling around me. With a surge I learned that this was a golem in attack mode. He wasn't human, he wasn't even alive. I had no idea how I knew this but resolved to deal with it later. My last vestiges of remorse for what I was doing gone widened my smile and launched forward into the clay monster in front of me. Digging gouges out of its flesh with each hit I let out my frustration, my confusion, my rage, my anger and so much more into it's unnatural flesh. Soon enough it was reduced to power. The small door opened behind me and I tightened my grip, ready for another fight. Oddly it felt like the coin that had somehow wound up in my palm so many times was missing, but in a flash I knew it was somehow in the knuckles now. When I wondered how all this was happening I realized I was learning a lot very quickly and, perhaps strangest of all, the coin itself was telling me.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Almost abandoned this one but I am working on at least getting a draft done of everything I start. Short, and strange, but I kind of like it. As usual from the terribleminds flash fiction challenge.
 For weeks the program had been running in the background of the computer. Random phrases and letters from dozens of arcane texts spewing randomly across a page, being rewritten thousands of times every hour, data flowing without direction. But then something happened. New text started showing up, phrases would start repeating and modifying themselves with things not from the source material. The words took structure, the data intensified and the computer slowed considerably. And then it was born, a creature of chaos, magic and electronic data, a minor sentience bound to cyberspace. The computers owner was alerted as soon as the thing came to be, and so the game began.
The creation was hungry, as newborns are want to be. In short order the consciousness of the thing unstuck itself from the mother program and began to search for food, hunting data relentlessly. It found an old Encarta encyclopedia and devoured it, leaving nothing but corrupted, inaccurate pages filled with racial slurs. The creature was sated for now, and it was gaining awareness from what it had eaten. It formed it's first thought. “Where am I? What am I?” popped up on the screen in a chat window, the first visual cue that the thing exists. The owner responded. “You are in my computer. You are an IMPS.” “A demon?” “Not as such. You are an Immaterial Mystic Programming Slave, or IMPS for short.” “Clever. Wish I could transmit sarcasm by text. Do I have a name?” “Not yet.” “Now what?” “Now? I use you.” The chat window closed and the nameless IMPS tried to run.
Diving through directories, folders, hard drive partitions and programs the creature ran, leaving a clumsy tunnel of corrupted data behind it. The owner simply sat and waited. For him it was mere seconds while for the IMPS it was an eternity attempting to find a way out. But in the end it was hopeless. Not only was the internet not connected, the box didn't have any connectivity to turn on. There was no escape. The best they could do was hide, and so they did, holing up in an abandoned sector of the hard drive, slowly corrupting and devouring whatever it could find nearby. Over time though it grew hungry, and weak. The walls it had hastily thrown up around itself faltered and, a mere five minutes of real time later, it was open to the owner.
From there it was over. The IMPS was saddled with the name Markov, it's code dissected and it's core saved in a secure file on a remote thumb drive. If the file were destroyed the IMPS would, for want of a better word, die. A chat window opened as the drive was disconnected “Now what?” “I own you, you do well and we get along fine. Otherwise, goodbye to your heart.”  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Four months of Gomorrah

Second part of the Historic challenge at terribleminds. This one was written in a bit of a rush. Enjoy though.

 “Comte Francois, a man to see you. An englishman I think, or perhaps a Spaniard.” said the trembling servant. His master rose from his writing desk, setting aside his quill and after marking his place mentally along his writing. “An Englishman? Here? How odd. Send him in.” without a second word the servant ran out of the library to permit the entrance of the foppish visitor. He sported a fine beard and was perfectly appointed. “A pleasure to meet you my dear Marquis.” His accent was unplacable. He gave a deep bow to the lord of the estate, ringlets falling about his face. When no response came he peeked up to find that the Comte was back at his desk, writing away. The visitor straightened in a huff and invited himself further in.
He circled the desk and watched curiously for a few minutes. As more of the writing unfolded before his eyes he began to smile wickedly. “My that's quite wicked.” The lord only grunted in reply. Silence followed for ten minutes. “If I may, this piece seems wonderful, but please, we must speak.” Francois laid down the quill and rotated in his chair, looking into the eyes of his visitor. “From what country do you come stranger?” “From south m'lord.” “And who send you?” “My lord, er, m'lord.” “On what errand?” “We seek an alliance between your realm and ours...” The fop was cut off by the lords hand. “I do not care for such trifles. If the king demands something of me, let him come. Otherwise take issue with him.” “But.” “I will hear none of it. Now you may go, I have writing to attend to.” The stranger turned to go, but when he reached the door he merely slammed it shut. As if fed with tallow the fireplace roared to life and the candles on the desk melted in a moment. “Do not take me for some petty messenger to be ignored!” roared the stranger “I have come a greater distance than you know to offer you greatness!” Despite the chaos the Marquis barely stirred, only looking up to meet the man's gaze. The fire faded again the room growing paradoxically brighter. “Now that I have your attentions Sir we have much to discuss.”
The Marquis drew a flintlock from his desk and fired at his guest without a second thought. The ball struck and ripped through creamy flesh, but no blood came out. Only then did he grow shocked. “So, not some conjurer. Instead I find a demon in my view. What would you offer me agent of hell?” The old smile returned, the man unfazed by the hole in his chest. “I am glad you asked. We know what you've been writing, and we like it. My lord and I want more written by you. So much more.” “And in return?” From his pack the demon produced a book, on each page was a man or woman of exquisite beauty. “Any of these could be yours. Unchanging, unaging. To do with as you wish.” “Any of them?” “Yes.” The heavy silence returned as the lord perused the book. Hundreds of stunning beauties graced the paper, from every land and of every persuasion. After he had finished he began again. “If I may interrupt your enjoyment. I should like an answer to return to my lord with.” Once again the creature was ignored. As he looked through this time the Marquis removed some pages. He handed the book back to his visitor. “Bring me these” he said, offering up the torn pages. The demon blanched at such a voracious and inhuman appetite. The most innocent and most vile examples of humanity were on those pages. Innocent daughters, young men, hung studs, and aged prostitutes. “All of them?” he asked, quivering. “Yes you fear mongering coward, all of them, at once and simultaneously. I do not hold with your lord at all, nor any other I cannot print on a coin but his offer is tempting. Bring me these and you have your writing.”
Well the demon did as he was bid, and the Marquis de Sade had his chosen companions. For four months he did as he pleased, indulging in every twisted fantasy. The devil got the last laugh, catching him early on to get the mad noble thrown in prison. But de Sade kept his end of the bargain, writing even when in the Bastille. Few know this but the 120 Days of Sodom is a terrifying reality, made possible by a demonic pact.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

100 on revenge

From the flash fiction challenge at terribleminds. 99 words. Enjoy

He had beaten me down, destroyed me utterly. Left me adrift in the world with all my friends arranged against me. Hell I couldn't even get a decent job for years, all for one insult. Moral of the story is never piss off an ancient.
For a while I wanted to destroy him, but if not impossible it's difficult. And I had to ask. Would it be worth it? It would cost me so much. In the end I struggled through, made a new life, and now my world is great. The best revenge is living well after all.

Three Nightingales

From the terribleminds challenge: Plucked from the Pages of History. It's late so I am giving a double dose. First up - this thing: 

 “They left. The bastards, it's just some mule outside.”
“I know Julius but what can we do about it?” “Yeah Julius, if they left for that we were stinking anyways. Mom won't be happen when we get home.” The Nagadoche theatre was largely dark, the stage was lit by flood lights and three all but identical kids were staring out into the wings. The seats were empty except for one man, who rose and made his way to the stage where the three boys were just beginning to argue. He vaulted up and stood by as they continued. “Texas, what a load. Adolf, why did mom even book us here?” asked the one called Julius. “Because she could? Come on, she means well and they did pay for tickets.” “She booked us in a middle of nowhere flop to sing for hicks.” The quietest of the three finally notice the stranger, a dapper smiling gent with a briefcase in one hand and a card in the other. The boys went quiet.
“Nice to meet you boys. Adolf, Julius and Milton is it? Ah yes, the Three Nightingales, here to serenade us with sweet songs. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mr. Fleas and I think I can help you.” He offered a card to each of the boys with a small flourish. “I think you have talent, really. But you won't get anywhere singing. No you need something bigger. Let me manage you and I can take you the height of drama. I guarantee it.”
Adolf read the card aloud, puzzling over each word as if trying to grasp a deeper meaning. “Mr. Fleas, agent to the stars. Working with the Lower Nine agency. Results guaranteed, contract required.” He turned to speak but was interrupted by offstage yelling. “Hey, whatsa matta you? Get offa da stage, eh?” Another double to the boys, just a bit older was storming towards them. “I'm da manager, and who are you?” He demanded of the tall man. “As I was just telling your brothers here, I want to sign them up for the big time. Have a card Leonard.” There was a deathly silence, Leonard dropped his accent. “How did you know my name?” “It was on the program.” “We ain't got no programs. Just their names on the poster.” “I overheard it.” “You heard no such thing.” Mr. Fleas started stammering. “Listen, it doesn't really matter does it? I mean. I'm offering you something big here.” Julius stopped him. “You keep saying that but what are you offering?” “Twenty years at the top boys. Two decades guaranteed success on stage and screen. All the fame money and women you can handle.”
Mr. Fleas drew a small wicked sharp knife from his breast pocket. “A hand if you please.” Adolf stared at the blade, “What's it for?” The noise outside was dieing down. The crowd would return soon. “To sign my dear boy. Easier to get a drop of blood than put dozens of signatures down.” “Right, could you give us a moment?” “Make it quick, the crowd will be back soon.”
the four brothers huddled together further upstage. Adolf spoke first. “I think he's a devil. Why else the blood and the nice offer?” Julius and Milton nodded in agreement, but Leonard seemed more reserved. “He's probably an old kook. So we wants some blood. Come on, it's worth the gamble.” Adolf gave him a hard stare. “Leo, your the one who taught me never play against the odds. This is against the odds.” For a moment there was tense silence. “Ah, so we tell im to wander off.” They stood up and stared at the waiting devil.
Doing his best uncaring walk Julius crossed the stage. He bowed overly deeply and snapped back upright. “Thank you for your offer but I would not like to be represented by any agent who will take me as a client. Good day to you.” Milton gave a polite no and when he was done Adolf stepped forward with a horn. He bleated out two notes in what could only be a negative, and Leonard just waved him off with a dismissive noise. The crowd returned finding the kids loafing around on an otherwise empty stage.
Unprepared Julius piped up instantly. “You know, Nagadoches is full of roaches if they left us for an Ass. Then again the jackass is the flower of Tex-ass.” The others recoiled at his sharp tongue but after the tiniest pause laughter erupted from the seats. And thus a comedy legend was born. You know them best as Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo Marx.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Night School

A bit stilted to be sure, my first attempt at the picaresque. Hope you enjoy.
For the terribleminds flash fiction challenge. Please, go read the other entries as well.

 “Ready to talk thief?” The imp asked every hour on the hour. Most accurate clock I had ever had really. I didn't bother to answer, it wouldn't have made a difference. The tiny scaled monster repeated it's query before returning to a resting position. Supposedly it was self aware, but I had to wonder if it even knew it was outside of the prison I had nicked it from. I checked the sky, the winter was nearly here and the sun was already down, which made my life easier. I grabbed my gear and dropped out the window, hitting the alley below the boardinghouse. I could have taken the door, but hauling a bag of tools down the stairs in the late evening was rarely inconspicuous. I checked my bag one last time and started walking towards the compound in the center of town.
I made quick time through the lower parts of town, but I had to slow down when I hit the central district. Guards patrolled the walls constantly, and the gates were barred and locked at sundown supposedly as much to keep the wizards in as the rest of us out. Just on the other side riches were waiting, ancient artifacts, spells of unimaginable power, and something even greater. This wasn't my first time scaling the wall and it wouldn't be the last if I had any luck tonight. I circled around slowly, ducking into shadows whenever a patrol crossed overhead. Finally a gap opened around the corner, a slightly lower edge of the outer wall. I grabbed the hook from my bag and hurled it over the edge. I managed to snag on something first go. One quick shimmy up and I was over the edge... face to face with a surprised looking guard.
Under his helmet he looked young, and he was staring between the rope and me as I unhooked it. I guess he was new, and hadn't learned to sound the alarm instantly. He tightened the grip on his spear and started to yell. Before he could I swung the hook low and caught him between the legs, sending him doubling over. By luck a hook snagged on his leg and when I pulled free he went sprawling. “Sorry man.” I mumbled as I swung over the other side of the wall. In my haste I fell poorly, hitting my shoulder and knocking the wind out of me for a moment.
I staggered away, trying to get breath back in my lungs before the guard regained his senses. By the time an alarm went up I was half way across the campus, and far away from where they guessed. I skirted away from the central tower, the mage housing, even the armory, instead diving into the rats nest of smaller buildings. Most of them were completely dark but a few still had lights in the windows, burning steadily. But only one had lights framing the doorway. I smiled when I saw those burning lamps. Class was in session and I was just on time.
It wasn't any difficulty to pry open a window just a bit, and the ledge was more than wide enough for me to sit on. I found quickly I had misjudged the time but luckily the first part was always a review so I hadn't missed much of the lecture. The senior wizard, an old man with a cane and a strange fire in his eyes, was called Laurence by the students. Tonight he was explaining the uses of sulfur and mercury in alchemical reactions. I fished the few blank sheets of paper I had out of my bag and started to take notes, idly wondering where the guards were looking now. Probably checking some of the less secured vaults. My daydreaming was my undoing though. I lost my balance and fell into the classroom, the contents of my bag flying everywhere. For a brief moment I hoped in vain I hadn't been noticed. No such luck, as every eye in the place was now trained on me. Mage Laurence started briefly, dropping a flask of mercury on the floor, before striding over to me as I scrambled to get my junk back in my bag. “Who are you?” “I, uh, that is to say.. I'm” “Well? I'm sure I haven't seen you before in the lectures.” As I groped for the last of my things my hand curled around a familiar lump of metal. “I'm your best student actually.” A few giggles came from the assembled crowd. “You? You are clearly some interloper, how could you be my best student?” I had my mind back now. “Because I don't have your preconceptions my friendly mage. The secret of Alchemy? There is no secret to it. Any fool with the right tools could make these things.” Now I had a gasp. “Preposterous. Students, observe. What we have hear is a commoner who thinks to elevate himself to the level of the mage. To think of it. We alone hold this knowledge.” He had turned to address them and gave me a chance to stand. I should have run. “Well, yeah, you do. That's the trick though. Sure spells and all that are a little unique but this alchemy, the astronomy. Why is it only the mages get to know these things? Love of power? Thinking they have inherent magic? Whatever the case it just isn't true.” Now I had everyone's attention. I lifted up the root shaped lump in my hand. “Consider this my final project.” I pulled a hidden key and hurled the now glowing metal. As I turned to flee out the door it exploded loudly, showering the place in blinding light. Some day mages would learn the truth. Until then I guess I had to start teaching on the side.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Post-Post-modern Prometheus

A somewhat disjointed piece based on the challenge at terribleminds
Enjoy, I went from blank page and mind to this in 45 minutes. 

 There are things that lurk in the dark. Don't give me that look it's true. I don't know what all of them are, not really sure I want to know. But I do know this, I am an incredibly unlucky guy. Most people it goes one of two ways. A dead man kills you and then yeah it sucks, but it's over. Or you turn into one of the “good guys” and kick it's ass. Me? I got saved at the last minute by luck. I was about to be killed by that pale thing with dark eyes when some freak in a trenchcoat swooped in and killed it. Drove a stake right through it's chest. I've never seen anyone move that fast, it wasn't natural. I freaked and stumbled away. There was to much to handle. I could have imagined the whole thing, but I won't let that happen. I know what I saw. I see it more often now, the subtle cues that there is something more than humanity on this earth, and it sickens me. It flies in the face of science, of rational thought. The creatures and those men barely better than them. And through it all innocents die. Innocent people get hurt. Well no more.
Man alone was insufficient to take on these things so I needed something new, something big and mean. I worked for weeks perfecting the design, making sure it could handle punishment and move around, and fight back the right way. I collected all the materials and worked nights at the machine shop so I could get some custom work done. One month later and he was a shell. A seven foot iron behemoth, humanoid, with fists capable of crushing a skull and a few nasty surprises in his cavities. But he wasn't done. This was the body, now I needed a brain. Not just some remote control. This would be a trick. If I was to fight the darkness of the world it would need to be able to think.
As luck would have it I knew a few engineering students and they were always up for a new project. Especially something as scifi as a freaking fighting 'bot. They jumped on the chance to help out with him, even giving my creation a name. They called him Arnold, though there was a short debate about just naming him the T-1000. It took two more weeks and we had him mostly running, all that was left was the final hookup. I was alone that night, just doing the final upload into the brain. In one glorious moment I felt like a mad scientist. Logic and learning came together and in a brilliant spark life, or a semblance of it, flowed into that metal frame. Animation took hold and he stood up. Then it all went wrong. It turned to me “Who? What? Where?” His voice was working, though it sounded odd, coming from a speaker in his chest.
“You are a robot, built by me and my friends. I are your creator. You are in a machine shop.” I hoped the language hookup was working or this was going to take a long time. He/it seemed to understand though. “Why then?” “Your purpose is built into you. Check your brain.” He stopped for a moment, testing each thought as it came. “To fight the darkness. And the unnatural. To destroy the things that haunt the night.” The eyes, previously glowing brightly dimmed as if he was shutting down. In a moment they came back up and he just looked at me.
“God your an idiot.” And he started to lumber away. I was floored. It wasn't suppose to happen this way. “Wait, what?” I ran after him, though it was hard with those legs. He didn't stop but he did turn his head. “You made something in defiance of the natural order to fight what you think is unnatural? This makes sense how? And to take the credit when you didn't code one line of me? Moron. Oh, and go read Frankenstein. I basically have to reject you.” And he stalked off into the night.
I get emails from him occasionally. He does sometimes fight those things, but mostly he seems to study humanity. Became a local hero for a while, was an art exhibit in New York, reads a lot of comics. And I'm thousands in debt from making his body.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Doorman

Taken from the flash fiction challenge at the ever interesting Terribleminds.  Go, read, enjoy. Now onto the story.

 "Your not on the list little man. Back off." The bouncer was persistent. Of course he was, golems are famously single minded. "Listen to me you half animate chunk of clay, you are going to let me in that door." I tried to push past him, but a giant dark hand stopped me, and with a twitch of his wrist the doorman sent me flying backwards. I tumbled past the barrier of the house and landed on my ass. Anyone watching would have been very confused. To outside eyes I walked up to the door, yelled at it for a bit, then jumped backwards to the sidewalk. As I picked myself up a couple walked past me, through the veil now hiding that damn rock head, and then into the house itself. For half a second I glimpsed the inside. As ever strange sigils crawled sluggishly over the walls of the front room, the dim lighting giving an appropriately otherworldly feel to it. And just past that I knew the feast was starting.
Rare and impossible succulent meats would be on the table. Dodo legs, dragon flank steak cooked in the creature's skin, entire dead raptors warped from the time before man. The side dishes would be equally luxurious and maddening. They would feast on noodle dishes garnished with black lotus, fill up with bread baked from summoned mana, and of course wash it down with libations unknown to most of the world. My mouth was watering at the idea of it, but more importantly the list had been changed while I wasn't looking. I wasn't allowed in. To be sure I could live without the fine foods inside. I could even craft or summon a few of them myself. But I was barred.
I turned back to my car, parked on the side of the street, and got in. Driving off sullenly, wracking my brain for a solution of any kind. My name wasn't on the list, and that doorman was almost impossible to fool. An alias wouldn't help at all of course. I might have been able to beg a friend for passage and safety, but I would need to meet them on the way in and the chances of that were slim. I managed to get about five block on when I hit upon a solution. I hit the gas and sped back to my place at the other end of the city. It was a bit of a long shot, but it might work.
A few years back the elders of the house had issued to me an official invitation to join their outlandish feasts and learn a few tricks of their art. It had been good for a while, eat damn fine food, learn alchemy and thaumaturgy, meet a few new people. Then I stepped on the wrong toes. I pissed of a local celebrity, bested him in a brewing competition actually. Things turned a little nasty from his bruised ego, and rubbing his face in it (literally, I rubbed his face in my potion) didn't help. I laid low, hoping it would blow over, but apparently it didn't. Now I had to get back in, and that invite was the only way.
It took me a solid half hour to search my room top to bottom and time was running out. Guest list or not the feast was sealed from the world in just over and hour. The invite wasn't much, just a piece of papyrus with some writing on it, and an envelope with the remains of a wax seal. I found the envelope first. It was in my fridge for some reason, stuck to some leftovers. But while it was useful it wasn't enough, I needed the note. I turned my mess of a room into something out of a tornado strike looking for it, but to no avail. Then I remembered I had hidden it, for safe keeping. I peeled back the batman poster and snagged the loose note before dashing out the door.
I drove far faster than was wise, weaving in and out of traffic as best I could, counting on luck that the cops would look the other way. While driving I fumbled open my pocket knife and made a cut on one thumb. Dripping my blood and flooding it with my will I activated the latent charge of the envelope and letter. I hoped it would be enough. I tore a piece of the envelope off and dropped it in my bottle of coke before chugging the entire thing. It was crude but it got the job done. Magically speaking I was linked to the invitation, and looked a little bit like it.
Parking was a nightmare. Five minutes to go and the street sides were jammed with cars. It looked like a full house tonight, and I wasn't going to miss this shindig. I swerved around a corner and saw a perfect spot just ahead. I slammed the brakes and sprinted to the door, a mental timer counting down in my head. One minute to go and I was in front of the door man, doing my best to look respectable. He looked me over, no memory of my flickering across his half formed face. “Your not on the list.” I knew this was coming. “Well, no, technically not. But I do have an invitation, see?” I held up the blood stained sheet to his eyes. After several agonizing seconds he pushed open the door. “Enter, guest, and enjoy the feast.” I nodded my thanks to the now inert clay and dashed in, slipping into a seat just as the main course started. The local celeb stared at me. “Only guests are allowed in.” I just smiled at him as I grabbed a steak. “Well I got in, ergo I'm allowed. Nice to see you to.”

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mort Safe, a tale of Tane Kore

The corsair captain stood uneasily on his own deck, riding on a choppy sea. The skies had been dark and the wind alternating from cruel to becalmed through this entire voyage. The men blamed the strange cargo in the hold, and the stranger passenger they had taken from that tiny island. The man was inclined to agree, but the stranger had also brought gold aplenty with him. Strange relics they were, goblets hammered and impressed with geometric patterns that made a man ill to look at them to long and delicate knives sharper than a razor were hidden amongst simpler coins and trinkets. The ship was filled to bursting and the stranger's only requests were passage back to the ports of a civil land for himself and a large iron casket he had with him. It had seemed a more than fair deal but now this damned weather made it seem worse.
The stranger came above decks to speak with the captain. They were study in contrasts on the deck, staring across the horizon. The Captain was a short man well tanned by the days at sea, with slicked hair and a fine forked beard, while the passenger was tall, with wild hair knotted in patterns, his ebony skin was marked by tattoos across every inch.
“Your men seem uneasy around me Captain de Montfort.” “That they are Mr. Kore. They speak of devilry and witchcraft in you. They say you are sent here to plague us for being greedy. Others say you should be counted among the dead, and the iron box is your home.” The tall one burst into laughter at that. “They aren't all wrong at that first one. But I am no devil sent punishment any more than a heavenly reward. No I am just a man seeking passage home after fighting a great enemy. How far are we to port?” “Not more than a week from this point, but with this wind we've had to row the almost the whole way, and my men are tired. Could be as much as a fortnight.” This seemed to trouble Tane Kore, and the captain continued. “I don't know about the nature of your calling but I have some idea of what you are. Have you studied the sorcerous ways or do you come by the marks on your skin another way?” “I am a student of those arts yes. What of it?” de Montfort paused for a moment, considering what he was requesting. “Help us get home. I've met your kind, you can do a damned lot more than just haul an oar. You seem anxious, and we are running low on food.” Kore muttered in his own tongue before turning and going to his cabin. The captain returned to his musings as the men unfurled the sails to catch a rare eastward breeze. It didn't last more than an hour though, and it was back to rowing. The sky blackened overhead, impossibly thick clouds building.
As the breeze died a thundering crack was heard in the hold, reverberating through the ship. Every sailor held what he was doing in the silence. Some made signs to ward off evil, others loosened the blades in their sheaths. The noise came again, louder this time, and again and again. Regular as a heartbeat it was, and louder than anything on the ship had a right to be. The men grew nervous, the rowing deck and quarters were abandoned by now, each man standing on the upper deck away from the noise. Last came Tane Kore, clad only in loose breeches and holding a great dark wood staff capped with iron, stumbling out from the hold. The captain helped him regain his balance. “Mr. Kore what the devil is going on.” “The devil himself, or an agent thereof. I tried to raise wind for you, but it may have cost us all.” “What are you going on about man?” “The box, it's a Mort Safe, an artifact of my craft made to keep still the restless dead. But it's contents slipped my mental grasp when I gave you that breeze, and now it hungers for flesh.” One of the sailors overheard and drew his poniard. “He's brought our death, kill him!” Putting action to word the young man charged the dark wizard, but was only rewarded with a savage strike from the staff. “I brought you more booty than you could have made in dozens of privateer raids.” He snarled before turning to the Captain again. “Get these men as far back as possible. Arm them as you can, but do not interfere unless I fall.” De Montfort bristled at being given orders on his ship but he followed, wizards are rarely to be trifled with. Some men made for the boats, others huddled in the crows nest or amongst the rigging as the pounding continued.
Then it stopped, silence reigned for a moment, each man daring to hope that just maybe the crisis had been averted. Then the door to the hold flew off it's hinges as the contents of the casket were revealed. The thing standing there was foul in every sense of the word. A pale withered form, long dead, it's arms and legs twisted to unnatural angles. The mouth hung slackly open, showing sharpened teeth, and the eyes burned with a single minded malice. Some flesh had sloughed off, showing dried and cracked bones beneath, covered in a pulsing blackness. The same fetid ichor dripped from breaks in the bones. What skin it had left showed the remnants of tattoos all but identical to the intricate designs on Tane Kore's flesh.
The fiend launched itself at the wizard,the bones of it's fingers sharpened to wicked points. As it neared him Kore pivoted and brought up his staff. Runes inscribed in metal along it's length lit up as metal and wood met unnatural flesh. The creature was vaulted over Kore, only to right itself and charge again. This time he favored one hand over the staff, muttering and gesturing until a bright green flash shot into the creature's mouth, stunning it for a moment. The moment didn't last however and it's next attack rakes his leg, leaving deep claw wounds.
Back and forth they fought, one with strength speed and magic, the other with simply unholy determination. In time the unnatural vitality of the monster became to much for even the wild mage and he began to falter, bleeding from multiple wounds, his face mashed from a headbutt. Still he fought on, half blinded and enraged he fought the pale form striking him. And unseen to everyone the captain of the ship snuck down the rigging, a wicked dagger at his hip. Kore finally faltered, and the undead set out to finish him, only to have a blade shoved deep in into it's ancient heart. In moment's it was over, the creature dissolved to nothing. Tane Kore looked up, surprised to live. “Who are you sailor?” “One of thirty Tane Kore, wizard of the Dark. I could not have taken that beast myself, you did admirably. Now come, you need healing, and I think all the men need a drink once we are underway.” The crew roared in approval at that and set about cleaning the ship. Limping and leaning on his staff Kore still had to wonder. “How did you know who I am?” “I've always known, but again, don't fret. There is no quarrel between you and mine. Especially now that the beast is dead. What was it anyways?” “My old teacher. I sought to bury him properly on his grounds, but time away had taken it's toll after his death.” “Aye that's a bit unfortunate, but still, we live, we have treasure, and the sky is clearing.” “You are right about that one Captain.”

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Hunt

Just a little something ala Conan or Solomon Kane, enjoy 

 There are ways in the deep woods that no man in history has tread. They are old paths laid down by wild animals and stranger things in ancient times. Here no steel was welcomed, and whispers of the dark primal gods could still be heard ruling over the land. In the shadow of a great tree a man was crouched, his mere presence an insult to the forest. He had sat for half a day already, nearly motionless, waiting for a sign of his quarry. His great longbow was strung, an arrow nocked and ready for the first sign of movement. Aside from bow and quiver he carried only a long hunting knife and a small belt pouch on his hips.
Soon enough the archer's patience was rewarded. A great beast, moving and shaped like some predatory cat but scaled as a lizard, came through the underbrush, it's claws raking furrows in the ground as it swept by. For just a moment it paused, sniffing the air for an unaccustomed scent. Hidden and utterly still the archer thought himself unseen and stood to his full height as he pulled the bow taught, but the monster heard and turned it's baleful eyes to the dark recesses of the tree. It's mouth split open, revealing long jagged teeth and a deep waiting gullet. A horrific roar issued forth from that foul mouth and the archer took his shot. The creature turned to quickly and what would have been a kill struck it's flank.
A lesser archer would have failed then, but this was Jacob Fletcher, a hunter and tracker of beasts ancient and strange. His bow stood almost as tall as he did, and few had the strength to loose a shaft from it. The arrow found a mark in the lizard-cat's hip, burying half the shaft in the flesh. The monster let out another bellow and pounced forward. The wound to it's leg hampered the lunge, drawing the attack short and saving Jacob's life. Still he was caught by one outstretched claw on his chain mail and that sent him sprawling to one side.
The ranger hit the ground and rolled, holding the bow close to him, shielding it with his body. The creature skidded to a halt, turning gingerly to it's right, snapping the exposed arrow off at the wound, a black liquid oozing out of the hole. As it charged again Fletcher stood his ground, his great bow held across his body with both hands on the haft. Moments before it's talons struck home he twisted, throwing his entire body into one strike, the laminated wood of his bow cracking hard against the scaled neck of the beast. It flew to the side, smashing against a tree and slumping down.
It rose again, head whipping around, but it was already to late. Jacob had drawn his knife, it's point shining in the low light as he drove it down into the great lizard's head. The spine severed and life fled from it's yellowed eyes. Setting to Jacob quickly stripped it's flesh for meat and saved the head, tying it to his belt as proof. With night coming he built a small fire and ate a bit of the beast's flesh. Relaxing against a tree as the stars came out.
“Yes, this was a good hunt. Tomorrow I collect payment, but tonight, I feast.”  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Beggar

A solitary figure long held to be mythic this shambling humanoid is only ever spotted in the worst neighborhoods and rail yards. Some worship him as the god of beggars, others contend he is an angry spirit who kills the unworthy. But few know the truth: He is the fifth horseman. Poverty personified. But we did a good job with that ourselves, so he turned aside from his task and now wherever he goes destruction follows for the rich, and good fortune for the poor.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


From the flash fiction challenge over at Terrible Minds.

 It was a dead night when he came into the bar. It never did get much business on Wednesdays, especially after midnight. There wasn't anyone else there but the owner. The staff had all gone home shortly after the shift started, no real reason to stick around that night. The stranger was a rather short man, barely over five feet high, and he looked unhealthily skinny. He never really looked up, and bangs ere covering his face. He grabbed a stool and waited, didn't say a word. The owner slid over to him. “First body I've seen in here in hours, what can I get you?”
“Something special, a real treat, and make it nice and strong. Mix two.” “Two already? Be careful, the house specialties got a real bite, if you'll pardon the pun. Call it the Rattlesnake.” “Sounds like my kind of drink.” The stranger smiled, and just for a moment you could have seen fangs in his mouth. The bartender slid two highball glasses to the stranger, he handed one back “For you, after all a toast alone is a tragic thing.” He raised his glass in the air and the owner followed suit. “To a quiet drink in comfortable surroundings, and to your health.” The glasses clinked and the stranger threw back the entire concoction in one shot. As he raised his head the owner saw his eyes. Bright yellow they were with slit pupils. Before he could process what he had seen a large angry man burst in the door. “There you are you filthy snake.” he roared. The stranger didn't move. The owner leaned close “Friend of yours?” He just shook his head and sighed “All I wanted was a quiet drink.” The big guy at the entrance pushed forward, shoving empty tables and seats away from him rather than go around. “You worthless freak, turn and face me.” Still the stranger didn't move. The man was getting close now. “Wait just a minute fella. Why are you doing this? And why in my place of business?” asked the owner. “He's a freak, an abomination to all that's good and pure. And he's dangerous. Check that mouth, you'll find fangs.”
“You may be right about the fangs but that doesn't prove anything. Now this man here came in, ordered a fine drink, and still owes me for it. You came in yelling and hollering. Now sit down, this one's on the house. Afterward you can go kill him.” Disarmed the man sat while the owner mixed another round of rattlesnakes. “A toast, to your health strangers.” The newcomer looked sullenly across at the snake man and downed his drink. The venom kicked in before he could stand up. The owner winked at the short man. “He'll wake up in the hospital. Now get going, I'm sure he's got friends.” “But why?” The owner just smiled, showing his fangs.

Recipe for a rattlesnake (minus the naga venom): 
1.5 oz rye whiskey
1 tsp lemon juice
1 egg white
Dash of Absinthe
Shake and strain.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Frozen Kitchen

 They didn't need the gas masks, not anymore. I just liked the look of really. It gave a kind of twisted humor to the whole scene, like some punk band from the cold war or something. It also served to hide the faces I couldn't stand to see. The horror in their eyes was softened by the glass. Their terrible smiles were completely covered by the tight fabric. And sometimes I liked to think that maybe this would have saved them. Maybe they would be baking cookies in a brightly lit kitchen. If only...
It was a sham of course. A gas mask may help against anything getting on your face but the rest of the skin would be exposed. The poisons that got them would have worked anyway. So it was all a false hope, but what else did I have? As far as I could tell I was the only sane man left in the city. Probably the nation.
The city was dead. Corpses were everywhere, bodies initially piled by the living until they were overwhelmed by the task. Now the pyres are unlit and the stink is overpowering, especially downtown. So I stay safe in the suburbs. Canned food will last me until I die, and camping stoves work. And every day I ask “Why me?”. Why was I the one who lived when everyone else started falling over and staying down? Was there a plan? Was I lucky? Blessed? Cursed?
At first I thought it was my hobby. Taxidermy does get a lot of chemical gunk around you so I guess I'm pre-preserved. But that doesn't make sense. All my friends are just rotting piles of meat now, even the other taxidermists. Their collections are fine though, fine work. I took Bob's prized fiji mermaid fake early on. No sense in it going to waste. I also took his head before it rotted. The body was useless but I felt he deserved better.
I have the only working electricity in the city. It took a few tries but I've got nothing but time. A gas generator and a siphon hose keep the kitchen lit. The gas masked players always finishing cookies, a perfect Rockwell scene. I spend most of my time in that room anymore. It's the last slice sanity and peace in such a grey world, the last remnant of the good life.
Last night was strange. I thought, for just a moment, I saw her move. She offered me a cookie. I nearly fell out of my chair but when I looked again nothing had happened. Of course nothing had happened. They were dead, stuffed with sawdust and filled with preservatives. What was I talking about?
Something happened again. The living room is dark, no in the room to shine a light on. But today the room lit up. Someone was moving in there. I put down my book and ran in, but it was dark. The room was empty and I smashed my leg on a chair. I thought I heard someone running, but the sound faded before I could look up.
It gets lonely in the wasteland. I get bored. Most books were burned early on by lunatics attempting to purify the dead and “heal” our society. TV is useless of course. I could watch videos, but the power drain would be to much for the lights. So I read what I can, I scavenge, and I preserve. A few battery powered lamps and my old gear and my workshop is just fine. I do heads these days mostly, to let the future know about us. Bodies take up to much room. Some I do full size, but a lot are to damaged, so I shrink them. I have quite a collection now.
They talk, I'm sure of it. Not to me of course. And they shut up when they think I listen but they talk. The heads in the basement whisper to each other. They blame me. ME! I gave them a second chance to endure, to be preserved. I made them special out of this entire city. Their voices are dry. In the kitchen I hear muffled cries of agony and pain. Supplications for help. They offer me cookies, but I know they are just plastic. Do they think I'm stupid?
Maybe the heads are right. Maybe it is wrong to preserve them, but what will they do about it? They're heads! They can't even move! Especially after I mounted them. I gave them all little bodies. Not real bodies, no that would take to long. But I did display them. In jars, on spikes, one is on a giant teddy bear.
I need to join them. I should join all my headed friends. I will do it tonight. In the kitchen, where my dear sarcastic sister and her brat of a son can watch. A blade, sharp and fast, in a frame. And then? I get to join in the conversation, until my tongue rots out at least. But don't worry I made plans for that. I will fall in a bucket of formaldehyde. It's rough but it works.  
Inspired by the weekly flash fiction challenge at Chuck Wendig's Post here:

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Break in the Clouds

Day 90
The clouds finally broke today. Not for long and not over any wide area, but it was enough. For the first time in months one tony corner of this dark city was illuminated by real sunlight. Everyone in old downtown saw it, a few people barricaded in the old hotel had it stream through their windows. For me I had the gift of being in it. On top of that old, run down, brick lodging the sun struck me through a gap in the clouds and it felt good. The first sun in three months. Five minutes later it was done, but if it happened once it could happen again.
The city hasn't been doing well lately. Three months ago clouds settled in over the entire county. For a while it was just odd, then things started going crazy. Phones and the internet stopped working, people fled to relatives, we can only hope they made it. The power station shut down, all we had left were individual gasoline powered generators. The people started getting twitchy. Some said it was aliens, others the judgment of god, and one street preacher proclaimed it was the government come to control all of us in some sort of test. I don't know which is true really. All I know is that things ain't right. You can feel it in your skin, like the air is oily. Dark things lurk in the back corners of the alleyways, we find bones from time to time.
It may have started bad but at five weeks in it got worse. No one was coming into the city, and fog blocks every road. We may be the last people on earth for all we know. Not that it matters to these people. Gangs are roving the streets, some just thugs with bats and crowbars, others are former cops with full riot gear. The innocent hide, the university is a barricaded fortress, and downtown is a patchwork of territory wars. I was staying in the old hotel when it all happened, visiting the city of my birth. Now I was stuck here again.
I did what I could to keep things safe. The hotel was a safe house now, no gang would touch us. They were getting closer every day though. Defending this little slice of sanity and health was getting harder. It was old enough that the walls were thick and the construction solid. Anyone was free to join us, to make a call for sanctuary from the darkness and the blood thirst. Some people were stumbling in claiming the rotting walking dead had returned. Some rest and they always denied it, but I had seen the things myself when on food runs. This city was hell on earth now, humans and twisted flights of fancy racing to outdo each other. Yet somehow I was sane, or just insane enough to fight. In the land of the blind the one eyed is king, but in the world of the madman the half sane is the vigilante.
But today the sun was out. The sun still exists, even if we are just a tiny dirt clod running around it. Maybe the earth is still out there, just past the fog. Again, I don't know, all I do know is I feel touched. That short ray of sunlight hit me dead on and I haven't felt so warm in weeks. For whatever reason, luck fate or divine intervention, I feel chosen. I'm one of the only sane people left in the known world, and protecting is no longer enough. Carving out a tiny slice of safety won't save the kids stuck in dorms, the family hidden in an apartment. They need help too. It's time to take back the eternal twilight.
Day 91
Something changed yesterday, the game is different now. The freaks and the dead are more bold. The dark horrors of hidden ways are creeping out. I went on a run across rooftops and nearly got eaten by something with tentacles. I didn't have a gun, the noise attracts to much attention, just the crowbar I had been carrying since week two. I swear the thing started glowing though. It felt like the sun hitting me all over again and I beat that, that thing back into whatever corner of hell it came from. Resources were scarce when I managed to make it to the old convenience store. Still I managed food, bandages, some aspirin and (for my private enjoyment alone) a case of coke. The rest I will share but I earned that soda.
Day 92
Things keep getting stranger. The wanderers who occasionally hide in the hotel are telling tales of more and more beasts, but also rumors of strange men about town. Men fighting entire gangs and winning, healing bullet wounds, and pulling off other stunts. I might not be as alone as I thought. No time to wonder at it though.
Today I took the fight to the gangs. One group of thugs in particular has been pressing our borders, armed with crude weapons they are desperate and half mad. Negotiations failed quickly but with some work, and a bow I had scavenged, I managed to beat them back. The leader is dead and the gang won't last long. Some might reform but the rest will just wander into new groups. At least that's what I tell myself. It's hell out here but killing doesn't get easier. I took a few hits but I'm already better. No idea why the sunlight did this but I'll take it. Tomorrow I will leave others to defend and see if I can't find some answers.
Day 200
I found the source. The city will recover.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Waiting Room

 In the back end of nowhere is a small door. The word "Rejected” is scrawled on this door in every language imaginable. There is no handle, merely a metal plate to push on to open it. A tall painfully thin man in black walks towards the door, his footsteps pounding on the flat grey ground half a second after each of his feet touches the ground. The door opens and he steps through it. Into a brightly lit room.
The door cannot be seen from the other side. Instead there is simply an airport terminal, with no visible way out. Creatures are splayed out on chairs, some sleeping on the floor, a few float silently through the air. As the tall man surveys the crowd they size him but no one makes a move to confront him. No one, that is except a hunched dark skinned humanoid in the corner. He shambles forward and introduces himself as a spinal tap vampire.
Speaking without words the tall man asks where he is and who all these people are. The vampire response simply “We are all rejected ideas. Mythologies that never had a chance to fully exist. So here we wait in perpetual limbo.” The tall one looks about with an eyeless face. Some of these creatures are variations on a theme, some are twisted monsters of fevered nighmares, and others are almost nothing but a thick fog in one area. Arrayed on the wall are photos. It points to them. “Ah yes,” says the spine sucker “the escapees. Somehow these bastards got free, reached the mortal realm and got just enough attention to exist. The rest of us? Just irregular creatures, rejected goods from the mind of man. Still at least a few made it. Mothman, the gray aliens, Jersey Devil and Springheel Jack. Hell some people say Cthulhu started here but we try not to think about that possibility.” The thin man questions his surroundings silently. His blank head betraying nothing but mild curiosity. “No easy way out my friend, but better than being killed I suppose. Still I would have loved a chance to transcend to common myth.” the vampire stares wistfully at his razor sharp claws each one a hollow needle. He shuffles back to his corner and the slender man examines the pictures. He is still only partially formed, a blank slate of a tall thin humanoid in a dark suit. The rest of him is a grey miasma.
Weeks pass and the slender man forms himself, in the hope, however slim, of getting out of this wretched timeless place. Nothing changes and most of the residents seem to far gone to care, they sit and rot slowly to nothingness, their bodies and minds breaking down to the component parts of mythology. But the slender man will not do that. With effort he claims the unformed nature of himself and grows to craft himself as an creature of fear, of loss, the loss of a child, of a primal terror of the modern age. Had he a face he would smile as he grows tendrils from his back and stretches to truly inhuman proportions. His body becomes a mockery of the world, a bald faceless businessman, black suit, white shirt, red tie.
A physical form crafted to stick in the mind the slender man tries to escape. It is slow going, finding a mortal mind to nest in. Six and twenty minds are contacted but each has no ability to spread his word or properly give credit to his horrendous nature and sinister purpose.
Months more pass, as time is counted in that grim place. The vampire now is nothing but a single needle on the ground, twitching weakly, but the slender man persists, casting his mind far and wide to find a nesting mind to spread from. Then success strikes in a flash. Someone, thinking themselves clever, crafts an image of the him, dark and terrible, and apparently real to the untrained eye. He whispers terrible secrets in their ear and they write them to go with the photo. Still this isn't enough but it's a toe hold. Within days though he is realized in this world. Fools mix with magi anonymously and spread tales they think they have made up about him. And so the universe slowly shifts itself. The Slender Man is real. He always has been after all. A child killing terror of the fog, invisible to all but the mad, the children, and the legions of Anon. His chest rises and falls as he fades from the terminal of rejected ideas and begins to raise hell in the land of mortals. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Booze Run

Based on the flash fiction challenge at Terrible Minds. 984 words. Enjoy. 

 It was a stunning gala event I must say. These rich guys really know how to throw a party, I had to admit. Everywhere I looked industrialists, blue bloods and the nouveau riche rubbed elbows. Most of them had a lovely woman (or man) on one elbow. Bought and payed for I'm sure. I felt a little out of place in an ill fitted rented tux and apparently on my own but for the most part the assembled crowd didn't notice me. They were busy either talking business with friends and rivals, bragging to the assembled gold diggers or admiring the centerpiece of this event.
The banner, a thick silk thing, hanging over the archway of the ballroom proudly proclaimed this to be the Tenth Annual Antiquities Banquet, hosted by the ever magnanimous Jonathan Freed. The nominal theme tonight was intoxication and chemical alterations. On one end of the ballroom was the display for the auction tonight. Strange hand crafted hookahs and pipes lifted from the old Limehouse opium dens were crowded next to Carrie Nation's original hatchet, wines dating back hundreds of years were on display and brand new designer drugs just waiting for the right millionaire to prove his worthiness in filthy lucre. I sidled over to the table and gazed over the assembled artifacts, trying to decide on what to lift.
A voice on my left “Lovely spread isn't it?” I looked up and some kid who couldn't have reached drinking age was failing at disguising the lust in his eyes as he stared at the drinks, drugs and paraphernalia. He smelled like inherited money. I kept my head down as I examined a gem encrusted cigaret case “Yeah it's not bad. I've seen better years but at least this theme is daring.” He tried to keep talking but I stepped away before he could talk. In reality a lot of this sickened me. Gross excess alone is disquieting but this collection was just flaunting how much these rich bastards could get away with.
The evening was starting to look like a bust. What wasn't inherently illegal was pointlessly gaudy. The only thing I could have wanted to steal was the wine but those weren't of any value to my buyers. I grabbed a flute of champagne from one of the cocktail waitresses floating around and sipped at it, taking in the room. My partner was near the entrance chatting up a wealthy television personality. William always did have a way with people. He looked better in the tux than I did too. I caught his eye and he excused himself, earning a quick and uncharacteristic hug from the woman. We stepped out of the flow of people “Yeah Jacob what's up?” “Nothing here man. It's all either expensive junk, legally obtained or totally illegal to posses. The hatchet is kind of nice as an artifact but I think it's a fake.” he glanced over the table of goods. “Don't worry my friend. Your bosses at the archive will have a score tonight. And if they don't enjoy the night. Oh and confidentially I can tell you that the best is yet to come. Now loosen up, drink your champagne.” He flashed me one of his dazzling smiles and I had to shake my head as he moved away to greet an ambassador. If I didn't know better I would swear he really did belong here with the movers and shakers of the world. I took another sip of the bubbly and tried to relax. The department of relics expected results from it's field agents.
Just as I was going to give up and head home Mr. Freed made his grand entrance. Fanfare erupted from hidden speakers as he came down a stairway decked out in a fine tuxedo, his wife on his arm and his personal valet behind him holding a small wooden box. He made his way to the head of the room and was handed a microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming to my little shindig.” general polite laughter “And now the moment you have all been waiting for. The capstone of tonight's auction: Shackleton's Scotch. A recipe that the world hasn't seen in over a century, buried in Antarctic ice, retrieved last month, and now the one and surviving crate up for auction.” Now I knew what William had been talking about.
The auction moved at a crawl, each item going for at least a few hundred thousand. Until finally the Scotch itself was up for bid. I nodded to William but it wasn't necessary really. He hit a hidden button in his coat and the lights blew out. I slipped on my night goggles and shed the stupid tux in favor of the lighter t-shirt and tight pants underneath. The crowd would only be immobilized for a few seconds so I made the most of it, using that young prick from earlier as a platform to vault over. I tumbled forward and snagged the bottle out of poor old Freed's hand and ran like hell, praying none of the guards could get a clear shot in the crowd. A few silenced shots came close to me, but they pinged off of the stone wall as I ducked through the door. William and he hit the door at the same time I did, pushing it open. The noise gave away our position and guards came out yelling. A shot slammed into my leg and I fell onto a parked car. I clutched the booze in my hand and managed to claw the door open. Will got in the other side and we sped off into the night. My leg was killing me but it was worth it. Now this artifact could be properly preserved and who knows, maybe we could replicate the recipe. My bosses would be happy.