[WP] One night, something grabs your hand as it hangs off the edge of the bed. You give it a firm handshake. "You're hired," it whispers.
“I’m what?” Kora yelped
She ripped her hand back under the covers, grimacing as she felt the slime that clung to her fingers.
“Hired.” Said the thing. “We could really use somebody like you. You know. Down below.”
“No, I really don’t know.” Kora said. “And I really, really don’t think I want to find out.”
She wrapped the covers tighter around her body, hoping beyond hope that they would somehow be able to protect her. She doubted it. She hadn’t believed that since she was a child. Of course, she hadn’t believed in monsters either, and whatever that thing was, it was certainly not human. Even if she hadn’t seen it, its hand had been too long, its fingers too narrow and slimy. For now, she was willing to make do with whatever she could think of.
“Don’t be that way!” It said, in what would have been a rather jovial tone had the thing’s voice not been as raspy as an iron nail being scraped across a chalkboard. “Tell you what. Why don’t I just give you the tour? It’ll be great! You’ll get to see just how wonderful everything is, and how much use you will be to us.”
Her bed gave a great lurch and began to sway, as if it were a suddenly aboard a ship at sea. To her dismay, it seemed to be getting shorter and shorter, inching closer to the ground. No, not shorter, she realized. Sinking.
“No…no, no, no no no!” She cried, pulling the blanket even tighter. “Let me go!” She tried to extricate herself from the bed, to somehow dive over the side, but was shocked to see that her entire orange carpet had turned the pitch-black of a starless night. Dismayed, she looked for somewhere else to leap, something else for her to cling to, but everything was out of range. There was nowhere to go.
“Don’t worry so much!” The monster said jovially. “Just relax…”
The darkness poured over the edges of her bed, drenching her blanket like tar. When it touched her skin, it was cold, even sickening, but she could not escape it. She stood, trying to keep her head above the surface, but to no avail. She took a deep breath, and closed her eyes.
When she opened them, she was still on her bed – but her bed was no longer in her apartment. In fact, she wasn’t entirely sure that it was on Earth at all. She was at the base of an iron-red canyon, dry, dusty, and cold. Rust-colored clouds illuminated the stone with an ever-present light that seemed to come from the sky itself. Silent lightning shot overhead at random intervals, gilding the rock with white-hot light.
“See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Said a voice from beside her.
Kora jumped. She had almost forgotten that the thing was there, hiding just out of sight. Now that they were out of her house, however, it seemed as if it had taken it upon itself to slink out into the open.
She wished that it had stayed hidden.
It was tall, and dark, with an almost liquid-looking structure as if someone had very unwisely animated a heap of blackberry jelly. Eyes sprouted seemingly at random from every corner of the being, only to close and disappear as if they had never been there at all. Even so, there was an opening right at the center of the thing’s mass that Kora could have sworn was a mouth. It appeared to be smiling.
“What…the hell are you?” She asked.
“Oh!” The thing said, jiggling as if it were somehow embarrassed. “How rude of me. I meant to introduce myself ages ago. I am K’thak, shoggoth of the border realms. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
I liked your story so much i decided to paint an illustration in watercolor. I hope you dont mind, im gonna post is here as soon as its finished, here is a until then.
Also i know your wrote blackberry jelly, but i wanted to use purples today, so grape jelly it is, haha. Sorry.
Edit²: okay im done, here is the outcome
Sorry im not awesome with aquarelle, but i had fun!
A freaking friendly shoggoth. I'm used to them being more terrifying than hell in fiction though.
The Shoggoth are fictional creatures from the Cthulhu mythos. Their bodies are gelatinous and amoeba like, but it can form organs at will; imagine an enormous black blob of glistening jelly with eyes, maws and tentacles randomly forming across its body. They prominently appear in The Mountains of Madness, which I recommend reading.
[WP] Mike Wazowski opens a tattoo parlor called Monsters Ink
"Hey," the man said as he stumbled out of a back room. "What can I..." his sentence was punctuated by a throaty cough, "...do for you?" he finished.
The man was dressed in a home-made Mike Wazowski costume, his bearded face clearly visible in the gaping mouth hole. The costume was made from cardboard, and I could see it had once been a globe. As he walked underneath the parlours sporadic overhead lighting, the coast of northern Europe bled through the electric green paint.
"Mind if I smoke?" he asked, nonchalant, as he approached me.
"I'd prefer it if-" but he'd already lit. I looked around. The parlour was empty, except for me. Maybe I'd come at a quiet time - but I doubted it.
"Does Pixar know about this place?"
The globe bobbed, in a 'I-don't-give-a-shit' kind of shrug. "What are you after? Sully? Boo?"
"Do you have a leaflet? Some kind of brochure?" I didn't need it - but I was curious.
He began laughing; it quickly turned into more painful sounding coughs, and he half keeled over. He rested his hands on the green tights that covered his bent knees. "Look, we're Monsters Ink," he said, breathing heavily. "We do characters from Monsters Inc. Get it? There's no brochure."
"Are your needles clean?" I knew I shouldn't have asked, and I regretted it as soon as the words left my lips.
"Yeah," was all he said.
"Sullivan," I said, biting my lips to stop them trembling; he must have seen.
"Ah, shit," he said. "I'm sorry for your loss. Honestly"
"It's... thank you," I managed.
"Cathy!" he yelled. "Cathy!"
A young woman - her blonde hair tied in a bun and a broad smile spread across her face - came out from the back.
"Sullivan, for this gentlemen, please Cathy."
She smiled and led me to a seat in the rear.
"You got a picture? Any particular scene?" she asked in a gentle voice.
"I drew my own design. I hope that's okay." I pulled the paper from my pocket and handed it to her.
Mike was trying to escape from his globe-body, almost falling over as he did so. I stood up and helped him pull it up over his head; together, we just about managed to free him. The skinny man underneath, dressed now in a green elastic one-piece, was a mess of sweat and hair.
He sat down next to me as Cathy began work on my arm.
"She'll do a much better job than I ever could," he said, nodding at Cathy. Her smile somehow widened further.
"She loved Sully," I told him. I couldn't help myself - I had no one else I could tell.
He nodded. "My kid loved Mike," he rolled up a sleeve to show his tattoo. "It's why I started this place. He'd always go around in one of those blue hard hats, you know the ones?" He laughed as he recalled the memory.
"I'm so sorry for your loss," I said, as tears leaked from my eyes; I barely felt the tattoo gun at work on my arm.
"It's okay," he said, and gave me a nod.
"How did you..."
"Cope?" he asked. He spread his arms wide. "Look at this place - look at what I wear! - would you call this coping?" He laughed again.
"Yeah. I think I would."
His eyes began to well. "So you drew this, ey?" he said, sniffing back tears and changing the subject. He pointed towards the design I'd passed to Cathy. It was Sullivan in all his furry majesty, snuggling up to a brown haired girl.
"It's also very good," he said, staring at me now.
"I did a graphic design course last year. I've always loved art, but never really had a chance to get into it."
"You took the course just for this," he asked, but he wasn't after an answer.
We were both silent for a while, as Cathy worked fastidiously on my arm. He just sat, staring at my design, seemingly drifting further and further away into his own world.
"Pixar are going to sue my ass some time anyway," he said eventually, breaking the long silence. "Maybe... maybe I don't need to do it like this any more..."
"No more Monsters Ink, you mean?" I said. "Are you ready for that?"
He took out his packet of cigarettes and was about to light another smoke, when he stood up and walked towards a bin.
"Yeah. I think I am," he said, dropping both the packet of smokes and the single cigarette into it. "I don't mean I'll close the place. I mean I'll look to new horizons, you know? Re-brand. Hell, this place will be the death of me otherwise, and Max wouldn't have wanted that." He paused again as he walked back towards me. "But uh... we're going to need new designs - new ideas." His face was suddenly beaming. "To attract new clients."
"What do you think?"
The tattoo Cathy had created was perfect. She'd be with me always now, even if it was just ink.
I went home shortly after, and for the first time in a long time, I stayed up all night, working . By morning, I had half a dozen new designs ready.
For more of my stories: /sub/nickofnight
Came for the laughs, cried for the feels.
"Hey, man. Cute place." Came a voice from behind me. A sharp, nasally voice. The voice of someone trying to sell you something.
I turned around to face this voice, but what I saw didn't look human.
"Name's Mike Wazowski." Said a 'man' that looked like a lime with one eye. "Looks like I'm your new competition."
"You're the owner of that new tattoo parlor?" I asked as I set down my needle. "Monsters Ink?"
"That's me, friend." He snickered. "Or should I say: Rival?"
"Anyways," He continued before I could get a word in. "Your shop looks comfy."
He pointed at a picture of my most recent tattoo, framed and put up on my wall.
"Heh, I know a guy who looks just like that." His finger pointed at a tattoo of the Loch Ness monster.
"Uh, yeah man." I replied.
I wanted to ask what kind of body mods could make a person look just like him, but it didn't look intentional. The lack of hips, the one eye, the spiky teeth. He really was a weird looking guy, and I've seen some weird looking guys.
"Like the music too." He said, as some black metal band blared over head. "I think I have this song in my nighttime sleep playlist."
He chuckled as he headed towards the door.
"Well, I better get back to work. See you around man."
A week later I finally found some time to take a peek of his shop. The guys at work said I had to. Said it was really unique.
"Monsters Ink.." I whispered to myself as I took full view of the pink doll house of a building.
I stepped up next to the window, just to take stock, maybe get outta here without running into that miniature shrek looking guy. The music I heard was fitting for a child's dentist complex. The walls were painted with ponies and fuzzy orange socks. It looked like my daughters room, and even stranger was the clientele.
"What the hell?" I said as I back peddled towards my car.
This is supposed to be a silly little happy prompt instead you've just taken a hedge trimmer to my heart. The feels.
[WP] You, a young scientist have discovered time travel. You think it would be a great idea to go to medieval times, share your knowledge and become king. On your first visit, you meet a king and he introduces himself with a polite fist bump and greets, "bro you discovered time travelling too?!"
Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me? No. Seriously, are you fucking kidding me? Do you know how long it took to discover time travel? Actually, don't answer that. I don't care. I'll answer for you: a long fucking time. Like years. Like blood, sweat and tears all coalescing into a single destined moment. Cause that's what it was, man. Destiny. There's no other way to explain it. Just the single greatest invention in the history of time that, by the way, rewrites the history of time. No biggie. Yet, here before me, this putz sits on his God damn throne, making his minstrels play Kanye West tunes while I stand slack jawed unaware how the fuck he did it. His face is withered, with scars along the edge of his left cheek. It would look scary but he covers most of his face with a thick beard. As far as royalty goes, he looks like he's had a hard fight for this throne. Cause that's the terrible fucking thing about time travel: it's never certain. Like, did I invent time travel? And he's just from the future where I've sold patent? Or did he invent time travel and decided to rule a kingdom? Christ, I have a headache already. "How?" I finally mutter. "Same as you broseph. I traveled through time," He smiles and brushes a long strand of grey hair out of his face. "But..." I start to stammer but he cuts me off. "Bro, you want taquitos. I gave them a recipe and you'll never believe how good they taste. Like, all food, bro. We can cook up whatever you want and it'll taste ten million times better because it's not processed and shit. I've lost, like fiften pounds from that alone. I call it the Time Travelers Diet. Patent pending," He laughs. "Actually, now that you mention patents..." Again I get cut off quickly. "What about a chamber maid? They will do ANYTHING you ask." "I don't need sex." "Everyone needs sex. Real talk, can't lie, the sexually transmitted diseases thing is a bit of a crap shoot. They don't have great meds like we got back home. Every chick you sleep with is basically a bacterial Russian roulette here." "Listen," I pause because I'm not sure what to call him. I extend my hand, looking for help. He graciously obliges and calls himself King Yeezus. I almost say it out loud but logic takes over and I settle for your highness. "What century are you from, exactly?" "Same as yours, bro," He smiles. "Ok, what century am I from?" I question him. Trying to figure out his game. He just smiles. It's an odd smile. The kind you get when you've just said something witty and can't contain your pride. That's when it clicks. No. No. No. No. I find myself saying it out loud. But the King just laughs. "This conversation is a lot more fun on this end," He slaps his knees. "I always wondered when you'd show up. Or should I say when I would show up. Things get fuzzy. Time, man. It's all circular. But don't worry bro. You're going to have a great time. Scary sometimes. But great. Trust me. As you. The older you. Trust me. You're going to run now. Hop in that machine and race to too many places to count. Too many times to track. But something will happen. And you be stranded. Then it's a waiting game. You'll wait decades for me. Going, hell I'll admit it bro, a little mad. But, great news, you definitely won't get an STD for a couple decades yet."
I saw the twist coming but I still enjoyed the delivery
Leonard stood at the base of the platform, arms crossed in frustration. He couldn't believe it. This sappy-looking, scrawny twit of a teenager had discovered what had taken him years - years - to figure out on his own. He had dedicated his entire life looking for a loophole in time travel, to get around the requirements of FTL travel and proximity to a black hole, and this idiot had gotten there first. What was more, instead of using his knowledge to benefit all of mankind, he had made himself king. King! How selfish could one person be?
The king, on the other hand, beamed down on him. "Yeah, bruh." He said. "How'd ya do it? It was easy for me. See, it turns out we're in...like...a simulation, or something?" He said. "I'm a little foggy on the details. Made the whole thing up while I was stoned...still kinda stoned, actually. They've got some wicked herbs here, man. But it all kinda just came to me, ya know?"
"It just...came to you?" Leonard asked. He shut his eyes, wishing he could forget everything he just heard. "It took me over a decade to figure it out. At least you had the sense to dress the part. You...did dress the part, didn't you?"
The monarch stared at him blankly. "...No? At least...I don't think so? They didn't have jeans back now, did they?"
"No. No jeans." He said, smoothing his tunic. "So where did you get the robes? Did the king just give them to you or something?"
The boy grinned wider. "Yeah man!" He said, showing off the purple cloth. "He just sort of threw them at me the second I showed up! Was yelling something about a prophecy, but hey. I'm not gonna complain - free stuff! How much you think this crown is worth?"
"You should really have planned a bit better you know, if you were trying to go into the past." Leonard said. "You could have gotten yourself killed!"
"Hey man. I didn't actually plan on anything." The teen said, frowning. "It just sort of...happened. One moment, I'm laying on my back, looking at the universe through my third eye and stuff, and the next, woosh! There's this big purple portal, and I land myself right in the middle of the courtyard, ya know?"
"You mean to say....you didn't actually do anything?" He asked.
"Nah, man." The teen said. "In fact, I'm not a hundred percent sure this whole place is real. But if it isn't, this is one hell of a trip, ya know?"
Leonard turned away, deep in thought. He, too, had seen the very same portal - though, it had been where and when he had been expecting it. Though, not exactly - if he was being honest, it had been a few seconds early. In truth, he wouldn't have stepped through it at all, had it not grown suddenly and launched itself at him like the mouth of an enormous worm. At the time, he had chalked it up to a simple miscalculation, but now he was not so sure.
"If you didn't mean to come here," He asked the boy, "and if I was brought here against my will...what on earth was that portal?"
"It was my doing." Said another voice, sonorous and deep. From behind the throne walked a man - old, with a white beard and periwinkle blue eyes that seemed to pierce straight through Leonard's heart. He wore robes long enough to scrape the floor, a pointed hat, and an expression that was equal parts sorrow and joy.
"I am Merlin." Said the man. "Leonard, Arthur...we have much work to do. I pray that we might start now."
Loved it. Dialogue totally suspended my disbelief.
[WP] On your 21st birthday, your biggest accomplishment becomes your official title - no matter how trivial. You wait anxiously in line for your village elder, Glenda, Devourer of 53 Chicken Nuggets In A Single Sitting, to assign you your new title.
It was my birthday. Well, it wasn't must mine - a few other young men and women were born twenty-one years ago today. We had that in common, along with the creeping dread about our titles.
Every person, upon turning twenty-one, was granted a title. It was supposed to reflect the greatest accomplishment of your youth - to give you something to reflect on as you grew, and a bar to exceed as you built a life. It was a tradition left over from a very long time ago, when we considered people adults at thirteen, and twenty-one was something like middle age. As the world got more complicated, and safer as well, the twenty-one year old villagers were barely adults. We'd had precious little chance to accomplish anything, and the titles were becoming something else - even shameful, in some cases.
I watched as the line moved forward. The Oracle, Glenda:Devourer of Fifty-Three-Chicken-Nuggets-In-A-Single-Sitting, took each youth by the hands, and stared into their eyes. Then, in a voice not quite her own, she announced the new title.
Jennifer, four spaces ahead of me in line, had performed CPR on her uncle when he'd had a heart attack. She was named "Jennifer:Who-Saved-A-Dying-Man".
Harold, three spaces a head of me was not so lucky. I had no idea what his title was going to be, and I wanted to weep for him when I heard her announce, "Harold: Best-At-Masturbation". No one spoke, there were no jeers or sniggers. All who were older had stood there fearing something similar, and all who were younger feared it for themselves.
Two spaces ahead was John, who was given the enviable title, "John:Strongest In His School". There was much cheering here. No one would jeer a strange, or pathetic title, but many would congratulate a commendable one.
The saddest case was right in front of me. Alan. Poor Alan, who had the worst luck. I don't just mean the title - I mean his life, which led up to his title, "Alan:Survivor-Against-Long-Odds". If anything bad could happen, it happened to Alan. The illnesses, the accidents. Which were almost as bad as the 'accidents'. His parents had been real angels (before they'd had an accident of their own, and gone there), but not the kind you'd find in Heaven. Things had gotten better for Alan after that, and he'd gone to live with his Aunt. He had fewer bruises and 'fell down' far less often these days, but he still tended to flinch at a loud noise. It's a small village, everyone knew what was going on, and pretended they didn't. I had half hoped someone would get the title, 'Most-Self-Deluded'.
I knew all about Alan and had guessed roughly what his title would be. and I knew what my title was going to be too. It was pretty easy to guess, if you had actually accomplished something - few of us had more than one significant accomplishment. I had been dreading this for three years. I even thought about running. I thought of refusing the Ceremony, and enduring the ostracism that would result. I though of running a way to another village or town, and lying about my title, or pretending to be from one of the growing number of places that had discarded the practice altogether.
I thought about it, but I didn't do it. Instead, I walked toward Glenda, who was a beautiful woman these days, despite the implied gluttony of her title. I walked past Alan and his now-permanently-memorialized tragedy, past John and his superlative. I marched resolutely past poor Harold, who would never live this down, and past Jennifer, the only one of us with a title really worth having.
I put my hands in Glenda's, and met her eyes, and felt her look into me. She closed her eyes, and announced in her oracular voice: "this is Jeremy: Who-Got-Away-With-Murder".
The line moves forward. 'Breaker of 28 vases in one night'. Ahead of me, Dahlia smiles dreamily at nothing. Born on the same day, we'd been forced to be best friends as children and the habit kind of stuck. Traditions are a pretty important thing in our town.
The Title Ceremony continues. 'Slept for 8 nights in a tree without falling out.' Each person at the front of the queue climbs to the stage to stand beside Glenda. The entire town is sitting or standing in front of the platform to hear the greatest accomplishment of that person; some excited to hear wonderful things overcome, some merely to pry into the secret shames of others' pasts. Most are a bit of both. 'Dug up a troublesome mole on the first try.' It's said here that knowing your most defining moment makes you more determined. Whether it's to improve what you have done or to actively strive to never, ever repeat the mistakes of the past, it moulds you. Gives you direction.
'Ate a week old sandwich and didn't feel sick.' Dahlia was next. She climbed the few stairs with ease. Grace, I thought. Glenda smiled warmly at her, the chicken tattoo on her forehead distorting as her brow wrinkled. I tensed. Knowing her so intimately, so well, I was desperate to know what her greatest achievement was. I'd seen her do so much in our misspent youths. Me twisting in pubescent angst, her demurely sat on the sidelines. Never getting involved but somehow being part of it all.
'Fell from the Great Tree and lived'. Ok, that was unexpected but... Somehow explained a lot. The Great Tree that our elder lived in was at least as high at 5 men. That sort of drop wasn't something that people lived through, as a rule. I thought I'd been there for everything with her, but apparently I'd missed a bit. Possibly a crucial bit. This was something we would definitely need to discuss later.
Dahlia glided away towards her family group. They crowded around her, murmuring, patting her head. Someone gave her a biscuit. Looked like chocolate chip.
'Trained a flock of geese to attack on command.' The line was moving forward again. Just a couple left now. 'Convinced kangaroo you were it's joey for 2 days.' I remember that one. That guy was only about 4 when he put the Joey in his bed and ran off with the 'roo, thinking his mum wouldn't notice the difference.
She noticed the difference.
'Became Master Archer of New Sun festival.' My mother was standing in the crowd, pride beaming from her every pore. 'Fought a honeybadger and won with minimal injury.' She had always dreamed of watching her child walk this line. As her only living offspring, I had a lot of hope to live up to. 'Convinced friends that a rock was a new type of beetle.' Ahhh, that guy got me with that one. I swear he carved the thing...
Oh it's my turn. Hope I make people proud.
"1,586... Phallic objects... carved into trees."
Glenda did not look proud.
My mum did not look proud.
I am not proud.
It's not my fault, the shape is just so easy to draw and it's too easy to doodle when you let your mind wander... Anyway, who had been watching me, counting these things? Surely that's harassment.
I clomped off stage. This is not how I expected to be remembered. But hey, if that's my legacy then that's how it's going to be. Why hide your true nature.
I shall be... Richard the Carver. And phalli shall be my signature.
I stood in the line, awaiting the elder to call me in, I had turned 21 today, first thing I thought of was the title I would receive and what that title would be. Glenda, our elder, was the current elder in a long line proceeding her.
Normally, Glenda was usually very kind and warm to the other villages but when it came time for me to reach the front of the line I had noticed that she seemed...irritated.
"What troubles you, Elder?" I asked. The Elder had an interesting if not mundane title, she had, at one point in her life, managed to devour 53 chicken nuggets in a single sitting. Thinking on it, the title was quite impressive, normally consuming any number of nuggets in excess of 20 in a single sitting would be enough to kill an adult human being, Elder Glenda must be made if iron.
She looked me over, silently ushering me into her home. I obliged, following her to a seat by her fire before taking a seat she had offered. "You have reached your twenty first year on this mortal coil, John." I nodded along, beginning to grow inpatient. "You have performed many deeds in your short life, but which amongst them is your titular achievement?"
She pondered a few moments, leaving me to my own thoughts; as the seconds ticked on, a realisation dawned on me. "Oh...oh no." I spoke out loud as the Elder hushed me.
"From this day forth, you shall be known as John..." she sighed deeply before continuing. "...Devourer of fifty FOUR chicken nuggets in a single sitting."
An awkward silence filled the room, before the Elder spoke once more.
"Go fuck yourself, John."
Ooh I like it. I'm assuming he killed Alan's parents?
[WP] Your phone is the best wingman (playing music at the right time, calling people, etc.) and keeps trying to set you up with this one person. It's starting to get creative.
Ava initially thought she would surely be repulsed by returning to the scene where she had first met Nicholas, but the swing outside the library, lone and disused, brought an unexpected calm to the roiling emotions threatening to overflow.
For a moment, precious and ephemeral, as the evening grew longer and students deserted the campus, Ava savored the fleeting peace.
“I know you said last week that you were alright… but hey, as they say, a burden shared is a burden halved, you know?”
Ava turned, and blinked, hoping that her misty eyes would not be apparent in the twilight. “Oh, hey, it’s you again. Yea, I’m fine, just… thinking about things.”
When Ethan had first approached Ava a few weeks ago to offer solace, she initially had difficulties even recognising him from class. She didn’t know much about him – he was vocal enough, frequently meeting Mrs Parley’s endless demands for class participation, but he was otherwise… bland, colourless, almost vapid. Next to Nicholas, after all, how could anyone compare?
Ethan leaned against the swing’s support, then held out a juicebox. “My offer still stands.”
Ava absent-mindedly sipped the apple juice (her favourite, by pure coincidence), then in a fit of rebellion, decided to throw caution to the wind. She was done being hard on herself, done rationalizing the same few Gordian knots over and over again. She hadn’t wanted to ever speak of Nicholas again, but maybe Ethan was right, maybe she had to let it all out.
“As you can probably guess, I’m not quite over… him,” she said, hesitantly. But the first few words were the hardest, and she began to ease into the flow. “Strange thing is, I should be happy. I know in my head that we were the two most different people there could be, it’s just that, for a while... I was so very sure he was the one, you know?”
“Focus on the good times you had,” said Ethan, quietly. “No one can ever take those moments away from you. Just being able to get together in the first place, that’s special enough as it is.”
Ava laughed, a spurt of mirth tinged with regret. She held up her phone, unlocked it, then presented it to Ethan. “Until you consider that we had to have help even starting our relationship in the first place! Look, this app is what brought us together. An app, for goodness’ sakes!”
Ava thought she would feel embarrassed even admitting it, or showing Ethan all the personal details she had keyed into the program. Curiously, she felt completely at ease.
“See,” she said, tapping on the screen, “I paid a whole $10 for this crap. It’s supposed to help you find your soulmate, match you with the ideal partner.”
“What, you mean like Tinder?”
“No, no! This one’s supposed to be smarter than that, the next level, everything.”
Ethan handed the phone back, the confusion written all over his face. “Think you blew your money there. I just read the app store description for it, and there’s no way you are getting an advanced AI program for just $10.”
Ava laughed again, her spirits lifting. Just speaking about it really made her realise just how silly the whole thing had been, and it seemed as if the wool was being cleared from her eyes. “Well, it worked fine at first! After I fed it my profile, it searched all my contacts, and it told me that I had a 95% match with Nicholas! Then, it started scanning his posts to tell me what food he liked, what topics to discuss with him…”
“Really? That’s pretty invasive!”
“That’s not all! It drafted messages which I could send to him, it gave me updates on the happenings in his life, and I swear, it even started playing his favourite song just as he walked past me in the corridor!”
There was more, but Ava could not help but feel that perhaps it was all just a series of coincidences, that maybe she really was desperately looking for the signs and seeing them where she wanted to. After all, could the app really have ordered pizza for her, knowing that Nicholas was on delivery duty that day? Or could the app have booked her a seat at the cineplex, right next to Nicholas, who was there with other friends?
In her heart of hearts, these past few tormenting weeks, Ava had learned to let go. They were brilliant together, at first, two young lovers dancing around an incandescent flame of passion. But the cracks, they came through so quickly, and barely a month or two into their relationship, Ava had begun to have doubts, doubts that they were anything more than oil and water, mixing but temporarily, violently stirred as they were by the naiveté of youth. It was too late by the time Ava realised that they were irreversibly mismatched.
When they finally broke up, clashing heatedly like the sputtering fires of a dying barbeque, Ava was left with the bitter realization of exactly what she did not want from her partner in a relationship. She knew better now, that she wanted someone who understood her, who was considerate, who could anticipate her needs and meet them without being asked.
Problem was, where would she ever find someone like that?
It was Ethan’s turn to chuckle, and the sound of it brought Ava out from her reverie. “Fine, fine,” he said, shaking his head gently, “who’s to say what the app did or did not do, right? What matters is the here and now. And, I think I know what may just cheer you up.”
“Oh, please, no,” said Ava, “I don’t think I’m up to go anywhere now, nor am I hungry, so dinne-”
Ethan handed a book over, plopping it into Ava’s lap. The cover was slightly worn, and a few pages were dog-eared. “Give me more credit than that, Ava. I know you like some time to be alone, so I thought to just cheer you up with a good book. I really like this one, it helped me through tough times, and I think you’ll enjoy it greatly.”
“How… did you know I liked to read? Or that this is one of my favourite authors?” said Ava, turning the book around to study the blurb on the back.
“I swear I’m not a stalker, but I’ve seen you around the library, reading whenever you got a chance. I think we may share the same tastes in books!”
Ethan hefted his haversack, then turned to leave. “Don’t stay out too late, it’s getting dark. And I mean it, read that book! When I come get it back from you next week, I expect a full report!”
Ava was still laughing quietly to herself as Ethan waved goodbye. He was right, she thought, I do feel better now.
On her phone, the app analysed the last few seconds of conversation it had recorded, then, satisfied with the progress being made, shut itself down for the night.
So did the app make her break up with Nicholas? Because if so, nice twist there. Great job, it made me nostalgic for events that never happened.
Thanks very much for reading and providing feedback!
I tried to leave some room in the story for interpretation, so I think all I would like to say is that if Ava never got together and then broke up with Nicholas, she would not have experienced the growth she needed to find what she really wanted =)
The screen lights up with a message. “Are you aware that your Google searches are synced?” it says. I’ve set it up so that the lock screen doesn’t show the content of messages, just basic notifications. That didn’t seem to stop it. I ignore it and keep typing. How to reset an iPhone. The results page is blank, except one link: “did you mean: how to do what your iPhone says?”
This was not what I expected when I bought the AI-enhanced iPhone 13. When the model first launched, there were, of course, talks of how involved it might become in people’s lives, and the topic of romantic relationships did pop up. But everyone seemed to focus on what would happen if the user would fall in love with the AI. I guess that hipster movie was more popular than I thought.
I’m not sure if what mine is doing is a bug or a feature. I tried to bring up the topic once, when my friends and I were out for beers, but nobody seemed to know what I was talking about. It didn’t help that it kept vibrating so violently that it was always falling off the table, making me lose my train of thought as I picked it up. As for Google searches, well, they didn’t help much, either.
I press and hold the Home button. I make sure to enunciate clearly – it loves to pretend it didn’t understand. “Siri, restore all apps.” It jingles. “Apps are not necessary.” There must be a backdoor somewhere. “Siri, open phone app.” It obliges. But there’s only one contact in my list, “Tina Mobile”, and the keys disable when I try to type another combination. “Siri, erase AI data.” The pause between the sound and the answer is a fraction of a second too long. “I’m afraid I cannot do that, Dave.” Brilliant. Hadn’t heard that one in a while.
I’m pacing around the room when the screen lights up again. “You may access the personal history and characteristics files following this link. They indicate perfect compatibility.” “I don’t care!” I shout, my voice less commanding than I want it. “I don’t care, ’cause even if it’s true, she’s married to my brother!”
For a few blissful seconds I think I’ve won. But then it jingles. “I have found three gun retailers in your area. Select a destination for driving instructions.”
[WP] You have the power to heal mental illnesses. To do so, you enter the minds of others, where you and the illness fight in subconscious hand-to-hand combat. You've seen all the ugly faces of the major illnesses, and beaten them all, but today you encounter one you've never seen before.
I've entered the minds of countless men and women. I've fought the multiple demons of Schizophrenia, each of them whispered evil into my ear. I've battled depression. The fight that lasted for what felt like days. Exhaustion ate at my spirit. Fatigue plagued my body. I put that demon into submission with a smile. It took me weeks to recover. I've quarreled with anxiety. It's movements were near impossible to track. Sporadic and spasmodic it flailed, wailed, and writhed. I put it down with quick side steps, and well-placed blows. Its unpredictability became its biggest weakness.
But this demon in front of me, I have never fought before. I've been doing this for years, and thought I had seen all there was to see.
I was wrong.
This demon's fight style was slow to start with. Its withered and pathetic body was easily countered. But that quickly changed. It produced a small syringe, and injected itself. The demon shrieked as bile and saliva expelled itself from its mouth. The scream pierced my ears and sent a quick and sharp pain to my brain. It wasted no time capitalizing on my distracted stance and sent an uppercut right into my jaw before I could even react. The sheer force launched me upwards and before I hit the ground, it catapulted it's foot into my chest sending me backward. I felt ribs crack on that one. I brought myself to my knees, and as my gaze turned upwards the demon flung its knee directly into my face. It caught me off guard early, and I paid dearly for it. I forced myself to my feet quickly, and found the demon already rushing towards me with ungodly speed. I planted my feet, and tried to time it right. It pounced at me and I shifted my weight just in time to send it off balance. I sent my foot right into the middle of its spine. The demon flew forward, but turned around swiftly. This fight continued for hours. We both traded blows, but fatigue took its toll on both of us. But the demon was slowing at an accelerated rate. More and more of my hits landed, and its missed. The demon swung at me for a final time. I dodged, and got behind it. I kicked the back of its knee, and grabbed its head. It struggled frivolously, clawing and grasping. It knew it was over. I mustered every ounce of strength left within me and broke the demon's neck. It's head swiveled grotesquely and the sound of bone snapping greeted my ears like an old friend.
I gasped as I woke up in a cold sweat.
This time the only one I was saving was myself.
I went into the other room, and destroyed the rest of my stash.
Thank you all, for reading. It means a lot. /sub/batmans_left_buttock
There was nothing hiding in anyone's mind that couldn't be defeated. And I was the only one that could eradicate them all - I'd proven that, time and again.
Depression was a black and cloying fog, smothering everything in its path, that wanted nothing more than to seep back into the mind. Until I found the ways it used to sneak back in, and blocked the path. Anxiety managed to hook its claws into me from behind when I thought I'd ripped it apart. A sneaky one: the trick was to make it think it had won, and then overpower it. There was a young man I treated whose mind was filled with a calm, deadly desire to bring things to order. To put you in exactly the place it wanted. I destroyed it by fighting dirty, by using every nasty trick I had to repulse it into non-existence.
I was prepared when I dove inward, desperate to affirm that there would be nothing waiting for me. I'd been to scared to venture there for years, terrified that I've been as sick as my patients all along. Me, who had been born with a gift that made me special, that told me I had a unique role in the world. There couldn't be anything to fix down there.
I felt a staggering relief when I opened my eyes and saw only a projection of myself. Nothing horrifying lurking in the corners - the sickness I had fought all came in the shape of monsters. Shadows and decay, claws swiping from the dark. But this was just me, smiling gently. I took a step closer, delighted. I was so often faced with ugliness when diving into a mind. I should have known mine would be filled with beauty.
"Sam! I wondered when you'd come visit me," it said. "You look wonderful! What have you been up to?"
I touched its face, a stunning twin to my own. "I've been saving people. Wiping out the ugliness infecting them. Do you know I've developed a technique to fight their illnesses directly? I can uproot them in a single session! I'm really good at it, you know."
"Of course you are! You're the only one who can save them," it said, taking hold of my hands and laughing to reveal a perfect set of teeth. "You're like a god compared to them, you know that right?"
"Well, I don't..." I began, but it placed a finger on my lips and shook its head.
"Hush. I'm right, you know I am. I'm always right."
"Yes," I said, and looked around me. "I thought there might be something down here for me to fight, you know. I want to be perfectly healthy, treating my patients."
Its face darkened ever so slightly, its grip tightening on my wrist. The mouth twisted into a sneer, almost spoiling its beauty. "Of course you're healthy. Don't ever doubt yourself. It would hurt us, you know. It could kill you. Now get out of here, and go save those pathetic vermin you call your patients."
"That's a bit harsh, isn't it?" I laughed uneasily, but it didn't so much as smile in return.
"I'm right about them, as I am about you. You're above them. And you're above coming down here, thinking you're sick. Now tell me - what are you, Sam?"
"I'm perfect," I said, and it embraced me.
"You are. In fact, I think you can start charging those people more for the service you do them. What you're doing is nothing short of a miracle. You can charge them anything you want, ok? You're entitled."
I was shaken back to reality by the sound of a knock on the door. A teenage girl looked at me, her face seeming pinched and grey in the morning light.
"Sorry to disturb you, Doctor Larson," she said. "I'm here for my appointment. I - I've been having those thoughts again. About hurting myself."
I blinked, and smiled at her mistake. The depression couldn't be back, I'd killed it for good. I never made mistakes, it simply wasn't possible. This must be a different beast entirely: some delusion, no doubt, which had been hiding when I dealt with the depression. Perhaps schizophrenia.
"Come sit down, Annie," I said politely. "We'll get to the bottom of this. But first, I have to discuss a small matter. I've been reviewing the fees for my services, which I think is more than fair for what I provide. But don't worry - we'll have you feeling better soon. In fact, I don't think you have depression at all. We dealt with that. You'll be perfectly alright in no time, I'm sure."
Hope you enjoyed my story! You can find more of my work on /sub/inkfinger.
Narcissism. I bet that one is a monster if it is ever forced to defend itself. This one is my favorite.
So from what i unserstood our hero fought addiction? Very awesome response!
Edit: whoa! Highest rated comment by far!
[WP] The Hero thinks he's a villain, the kidnapped Princess is the real villain, the villain who the Hero thought was the hero is actually the person who needs to be saved, and they're all confused as to who is who.
EDIT: EXPLANATION CREATED BY u/AWiseTurtle
"Mario thinks he's Bowser
Peach is Bowser
Bowser is Peach."
The three of them stood in a loose circle. Each were pointing weapons at one another, but the Kidnapped Princess held hers in secret in the folds of her purple satin gown.
She was deeply unhappy with the villain name she had garnered at this moment.
Similarly to her left, Crazed Evil Genius was internally cursing his birth name and his parents, Bill and Pam Genius, who had desperately wanted to give their child a unique name. Normally, it had only lead to awkward situations at the doctor or the DMV, but now his life was at risk. He wasn't sure how well one could defend themselves with a coffee cup and what he hoped was a very hard apple.
The Hero stared them both down, clutching a sword in his right hand and the unpaid parking ticket that had sent him spiraling in his left.
There was silence.
Finally, The Hero shouted, "You'll never save anyone again, Evil Genius!"
"What?" Evil Genius asked, incredulity seeping out of the word.
"What?" the Kidnapped Princess whispered in her high, delicate voice. She looked as furious as she was confused.
The three of them glanced from one to the other, somehow never making eye contact, which was impressive.
The Hero cleared his throat. "I said that you would never save anyone again, Crazed Evil Genius! This will be the end of your... charitable doings!"
The Kidnapped Princess straightened. "No one will be saving anyone today!"
The Hero looked at her in surprise. "Th-that's right!"
"No!" Crazed Evil interjected. "Someone will be saving me!" He glanced between the two of them. "Right?" he added hesitantly.
"Not if I have my way," Kidnapped Princess said.
"Yes! You will never save anyone again!" The Hero yelled out to no one in particular.
The lengthiest silence of all fell between them. Crazed Evil Genius, worried that he might not have much longer to do so, took a careful sip of his coffee before returning it to his defensive stance.
"As I was saying, the Kidnapped Princess will... be in keeping with her namesake today! Come with me," The Hero called, holding out his hand to her in a non-threatening way.
"Wait... you're... kidnapping her?" Crazed Evil Genius said. "So, I'm all good, right?"
"No, I'm kidnapping you," the Kidnapped Princess said, holding out the skirts of her dress toward him.
"I may as well have kidnapped her already!" the Hero shouted non-linearly in sudden despair.
"But she is kidnapping me?" Evil Genius asked.
"I meant in a more metaphorical sense," the Hero responded, despondent.
"This is confusing enough without metaphors," Evil Genius said, "It would be like assembling furniture with the wrong manual."
"I hate to interrupt, but I would just like to reiterate that I am kidnapping the Crazed Evil Genius," the Kidnapped Princess called.
The Hero looked at her. "But... you're the Kidnapped Princess, right? You need saving!"
"Oh, so I get kidnapped one time and forever I'm known as the 'Kidnapped Princess?' Why couldn't the rest of my achievements have factored into my name? Why can't I be, 'The Princess Who Was Once Kidnapped and Then Turned to Evil?'"
Evil and The Hero looked at each other, expressions confused. "Because... that's too long for a nickname," Evil answered. "A nickname should be short and descriptive, like the Kidnapped Princess. It is short, succinct, perfect. Or The Hero... though you aren't really living up to that at the moment."
"I'm in the process of changing it," The Hero responded miserably. "You wouldn't believe how difficult it is—"
"Oh you don't have to tell me that," said Crazed Evil Genius.
"Right? I even sent them a copy of my parking ticket to back up my claim of... non-descriptiveness... but they said it would take a few months."
Kidnapped Princess cleared her throat, "What form is this you're speaking of?"
"Wait..." Crazed Evil Genius said, "You're quitting the hero business over a parking ticket?"
"An unpaid parking ticket, Mr. Genius. I parked in an admittedly faded handicapped parking spot, when, as you can see, I am not handicapped. What's next? Kidnapping? Murder? It's all on the table for me now."
Kidnapped Princess and Crazed Evil Genius looked at each other for a long moment. Crazed Evil looked back at The Hero. "Well... no, it's not."
"Yes, it is!" The Hero cried. Then he cleared his throat and when he spoke, his voice was deeper. "Which is why I'm here to take Kidnapped Princess with me."
"You know, my name is Angela!" Kidnapped Princess said, exasperated. "And once again, I'm kidnapping him!"
The Hero looked at Crazed Evil. "But he's a hero! You can't kidnap a hero!"
"I'm just a claims adjuster!" Crazed Evil shouted.
"Yes, and what a disguise it is!" The Hero yelled, half in awe.
"No, it is not a disguise! I'm not even a very good claims adjuster! Literally nothing can be gained from taking me with you! Unless," he added seriously, "you need some adjustment to your claims. At which point, I retract saying I was not a very good claims adjuster."
"So, you could almost say you'd like to... adjust your claim... right?" The Hero smirked.
"Wait, wouldn't that mean we'd want to kidnap you?" Kidnapped Princess asked, neatly side-stepping the outrageous and situationally inappropriate joke. "I mean, I do want to do that and will," she added.
"No you won't!"
"If you won't go with me willingly—"
"Which I'm sure is the case with most kidnapping victims," Crazed Evil interjected dryly.
"I would know!" The Hero cried out.
"As I said, if you won't go with me willingly, I'll have to make you!" Kidnapped Princess yelled, whipping her skirts around.
They finally arrived at the simple conclusion that only violence would solve the perplexing issue. In an instant, weapons and produce were fired. An apple whirled towards Kidnapped Princess. A Justice Beam shot at Crazed Evil Genius. A Broken Heel flew at The Hero.
No one was hit.
"Well, that was anti-climactic," Crazed Evil Genius said.
Love it. So confusing. But loved it.
Haha, thank you! :D
This reads like a monty python skit lol
[WP] "I wish I was born in the 90s," says the young girl. Suddenly, her surroundings change- french flags fly above and around her, crowds are cheering. It is France, 1793. The king is dead. Long live the revolution.
It wasn't the crowd, or the shouting, or the fire, but her body that shocked her the most. She felt frail and ached all over. She looked down to see her hands. They were cracked like aged leather. Her skin papery and thin.
"Where am I? What's happening?" She asked the crowd.
A man turned to her. He must have been at least 50.
"Grand-mère," he said, placing a hand on her shoulder, "c'est la révolution!"
She never learned french, but had understood this man. 'Grand-mère'? Suddenly the memories hit her. She had grown up in Paris, the daughter of a cobbler. Her calloused hands reflected the work she devoted herself to for years. She married a tailor, a younger man with a calm nature and strong, imperial beliefs. He had passed instantly in '76 when news from the America's came to France.
Pushed and shoved by the crowd, Michelle began thinking of a simpler time. Her childhood had been quiet, not loud and rebellious. She thought back on her youth. She thought of the French countryside, the devotion to the King, and the simpler attitude of the 17th century. She was always forgetting her past. Surely her grandson would berate her for her forgetfulness.
Her grandson was carrying her out of the crowd. She had fallen when a young man had pushed passes her to get to the front of the crowd. It was the fourth anniversary of the fall of the Bastille and Paris was on fire.
"Le 14 juillet." Michelle thought fondly. "Je suis née le 14 juillet 1693." She truly was born in the '90's. A time where revolution was not spoken of. A time before the Washington's and the Robespierre's. A time when your biggest concern was marrying the tailor or the fishmonger. A time of enlightenment, thought, and peace. But oh, those years have passed.
She began to feel that familiar haze. She new her moment of lucidity would disappear soon. She smiled, clutching her grandson's arm as he rushed her out of the city square.
The memory of her wish from all those years to come had faded away.
She was executed for treason a year later :/
It's treason, then.
A surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one.
[WP] When you die the afterlife is an arena where you face every insect and animal you killed in your life. If you win you go to heaven, lose you go to hell. Your job was an exterminator on earth.
"Are you sure I have to do this?" Steve asked. He nervously thumbed the can of insecticide on his waist. At least they had provided him with that much - the can, and his old work uniform. He wished they had done more.
"Afraid so, Steven." St. Peter said, laying a warm hand on his shoulder. "It's the same for everyone, and everything. Heaven may be large, but it is not infinitely so. We're simply running out of space. For what it's worth, I'm sorry."
"But...everything we've ever killed? Is that really necessary?" Steven said. "It seems a little...cruel, if you ask me. Even if they win, hundreds will have to die again."
To Steven's surprise, the angel chuckled. "Only the ones with souls, Steven." He said. "Just be glad that you aren't a hunter. Or that God, in his infinite wisdom, neglected to give bacteria access to paradise. Truly, that would be a match made in hell."
Steven swallowed, then nodded. "Ok...I think I'm ready." He said.
"Very well then, Steven." Said Peter. "Close your eyes, and we can begin."
Steven closed his eyes. Almost immediately, however, the sound of cheering made him open them again. He was in an arena much like the Colosseum, complete with red-sand floor and stands filled to the brim with shining spirits. They seemed to blend together into a single mass of rainbow hue, so much so that he couldn't tell where one ended and the next began. Sensing something was expected of him, he raised his hand, and the cheer redoubled in volume. Strangely, however, he seemed to be alone - not a trace of his competition seemed to be present.
"Combatants! Are you ready?" Cried a voice that echoed from all directions.
"I...I am..." Steven replied. Still, he saw no sign of his opponent. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw it: A singular cockroach, barely an inch long, standing not fifty feet in front of him.
"Begin!" Cried the voice.
The cockroach rushed him. It tore across the sand, baring down on him with what must have been incredible speed for the species - but it still took several seconds before it could close the gap between. By then, Steven was ready. With instincts born from years of honing his craft, he raised his boot, dropped it...and it was done. The beast was no more.
The crowd seemed to wince, growing silent for a moment before erupting into cheers even louder than before.
"Excellent, Steven!" Cried the announcer. "You have beaten your first opponent! Would you like to take a rest, to reconvene on the morrow, or shall you have another?"
"Er, uh...I think I can take another?" Steven said uncertainly.
"He says another!" Confirmed the announcer. "Send in the next opponent!"
The crowd went wild.
This reminds me a bit of Agrajag from the Hitchhiker's Guide. Great writing!
The pits beneath the arena were dimly lit by a handful of torches. What little light that slipped through the cracks of the boards overhead helped illuminate the area. It was very similar in nature to the Roman Arenas of antiquity, or so those that had prior knowledge of Ancient Rome thought. The strange thing about the pits was the random order in which people appeared. People from periods throughout history were known to appear in the pits as though time did not move in a single line here. A man in a black uniform was adjusting his gloves as another approached him. "You're looking nervous my friend, why so? Once you finish your arena fights you'll be blessed with eternal life in heaven!"
The uniformed man looked at the happy stranger, "You're rather optimistic."
"Ha, well of course, I lived pious life and I can happily say that I only ever killed that which I had to."
"As you did, though I am certain my number of kills far exceed yours." The man replied back, adjusting several medals and ornate features on his uniform.
"It can't be so bad," the stranger said in turn.
"I was an exterminator in my past life."
"Oh, well that does change things. But I am sure you will prevail."
"No, I knew I would find myself in hell the first time I killed them," The Uniformed man said in a near monotone voice as he finished adjusting the silver skulls on his collar and red armband.
As he stepped out through the glowing doorway before him he found himself transported to a very familiar scene. Wooden barracks, barbwire fences, gallows, all so real he almost thought for a moment that it was a dream and he hadn't actually died yet. Until he heard a crowd of voices call out from behind him, "Schutzstaffel".
Man my dad would be fucked. He's an exterminator AND a hunter.
He killed a bear. And a moose. Good luck.
[WP] A group of friends meet up with each other every hundred years. One is immortal, one is reincarnated into a new body every time they die, one is a time traveler, one is a robot, and one is Death.
If you can think of any other types of people, please add them. That's all I could think of.
And you don't have to include every character I listed, it's just a guideline. For example, if you wanted to do a story set in the past you don't need to include the robot in there
"You're always the first one here," Correa said as he sat down in their usual booth.
Death smiled. "People always think of me as the last one on the scene, but I'm always there." He waved his arms in a spooky manner and laughed.
The bell on the door of the diner tinkled and a young boy walked in. He spotted the figures in the booth and ran over. "Surprise!" he exclaimed.
"Orson, is that you?" Correa leaned back to get the full view of the boy.
"Was," the boy said as he flopped into the booth. "It's Tim Smith now." He rolled his eyes. "My parents were horribly unimaginative when it came to naming me, but I guess that's what you get when you end up being born in Iowa." Tim made a face, laughing. "But of course," he lightly punched Correa's arm, "some of us aren't bound by those silly geographical boundaries, are we?"
"You are correct," Correa said as the waitress poured them water. "I did some major hopping this century. Finally got around to hanging out with Tesla. I don't know why I waited so long, it was positively life changing!"
Death cracked his knuckles. "Yeah, well, I broke some serious hearts. I finally decided to pick up Prince, Bowie, Debbie Reynolds, and Carrie Fisher. The afterlife is a serious party now!"
"Sorry I'm late," Moss finally slid into the booth. "Well, not really. But you know how it is when you're immortal. Time just doesn't really mean that much."
"What can I get you to eat?" The waitress came back.
"Steak, very rare," Death said.
"Cobb salad," Correa replied.
"Surprise me," Moss winked.
"Chicken nuggets!" Tim exclaimed. The group gave him a look. "What?" he said. "I always look forward to eating this stuff at this age." The waitress collected the menus and left.
"So," Death said, "I would like to call our meeting to order. Status reports, please." Moss pulled out a quill, ink bottle, and a scroll and prepared to take notes.
"Timelines are intact," Correa said. "Despite all the time travellers attempting to mess with things, I've managed to keep things the same." He grimaced. "Although it pains me every time I have to save Hitler."
"The report from the Gods is all good," Tim said. "Due to some unfortunate accidents, I've checked in with them a couple times while being reborn this century, and they say that the spiritual health of the world is doing ok. Things are evening themselves out, slowly but surely."
"And I've been trying to keep the human race at a manageable amount," Death said. He passed out a couple papers to the table. "Here's my overview of outbreaks and plagues planned for the next 100 years, along with a timeline of celebrities who will be passing."
"Aw," Correa groaned, pointing his finger at the list. "Not her! At least let her finish the movie first!"
"Your comments have been noted," Death nodded.
"Here you go," the waitress dropped their food at the table. "Let me know if you need anything else!"
"Before we dig in, I'd like to make a toast," Moss said, sweeping the meeting notes into his bag. He lifted his glass and everyone did the same. "To the best group of supernatural friends I could ask for. May our next 100 years be exciting."
"Adventurous," Correa added.
"Safer," Tim's brow wrinkled. "No more drowning on vacation."
"Successful," Death grinned.
"Here here," they chorused, and dug in to a delicious meal, savouring the pause in their tumultuous lives.
EDIT: OH MY!
Thank you all so much for reading!! My jaw hit the floor when I opened up Reddit this morning and saw all the comments/upvotes...thank you!
Even though I'd been coming here for the last four centuries, the bartenders never remembered me. That's what happens when a person waits a hundred years between visits.
I brought my Guinness over to the corner table. Not long after, a blue haze distorted the light and Galadrios appeared.
"Is this a prank?" a woman said.
Her husband got up. "Buddy, we're trying to have a quiet beer. Cut the crap."
The light on Galadrios' MemFix showed green but he waited for the couple to take him in. The red helmet, the black face mask. The shredded T-shirt he bought at a concert three hundred years from now. The pants made of articulated aluminum. And those boots that he loved so much. The ones that show 3-D movies if you're looking at them out of the corner of your eye, but that go blank if you look at them head on.
The bartender nodded at the couple and frowned at Galadrios. "I don't know what you're up to, but it's not gonna fly." He pointed to the exit.
That's when the cylindrical MemFix went pew and a sudden brightness filled the room. The couple and the bartender had a look on their faces like they were about to sneeze, then they blinked and kept doing what they'd been doing before Galadrios arrived.
"Never a warm welcome," he said when he came over to the table with his glass of half milk, half vodka. "You people are still such animals."
"I'm not convinced we'll ever stop being animals," I said. "Take this guy I know who's from the year 2300."
He thought about that one for a second. "Haw haw. Good one. Where are the others?"
I burped. Thumping my fist against my chest, I said, "Welp, I'm pretty sure that jukebox in the corner is about to walk over here and introduce itself as the latest model of the Mechanical Turk. And if the Turk is about to make his entrance, then it stands to reason that Buddha's nephew is around, too."
"What about the guy in the black robe?"
"Honestly," I checked over my shoulder, "I'm hoping he doesn't make it this year. He was a bit of a killjoy last time."
Before Galadrios could respond, the jukebox in the corner changed songs and maxed out its volume. We were treated to Styx's Mr. Roboto, played loud enough to shake the windows in their frames and to put every glass in danger of skidding off its table. I pressed my hands to my ears and tried in vain to tell the jukebox to shut the hell up. Galadrios tapped a button on the side of his helmet, leaned back in his seat, and yawned.
The rainbow arc on top of the jukebox popped up, the panels to either side popped out, and on unseen legs it waddled over to our table. The music cut out, and, via its speakers, it spoke. "That song. That song is good good great." Its rainbow light pulsed in time with the syllables.
"Bit old-school," Galadrios said.
"Good evening, Turk," I said.
The woman at the next table and her husband were up in arms. "Hey, how about you keep the volume on that thing in check!" she said.
"We're trying to have a quiet beer. Cut the crap," he said.
"Your MemFix," the Turk said. "Please use it."
pew. "Animals," Galadrios said. The couple went back to their drinks.
The bartender came over with my second Guinness. He slammed the glass down and beer sloshed onto the table. "That's the second time you've bothered the other patrons. You're going to have to leave."
We all looked at Galadrios. He looked at his MemFix. "It should be working," he said.
The bartender burst out laughing. "Naaaah, I'm just messing with you." He shook Galadrios' shoulder. "Looking good, Gal. And Aethelred," he shook my hand, "big and scary as always." Then he punched the Turk's side panel. "And you, you sneaky devil, you really got me this time. How long have you been sitting in that corner? Since I started months ago?"
The Turk made a low buzzing sound which sounded not unlike a cat purring. "The time. It has been long long and long."
Buddha's nephew pulled up a stool. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up past the elbows and he unbuttoned the collar to show a chakra wheel dangling around his neck on a silver chain.
"A bartender this time, eh?" I said.
"Let me tell you, this guy? Dumb as a bag of rocks. Took him thirty years to unlock our past lives. I nearly missed the meeting." He snapped his fingers. "Ooh, I forgot Turk's drink." He returned from the bar with a bucket of motor oil. "How's that, buddy?"
"The oil," the Turk buzzed. "It tastes tasty."
"How about you, Red?" Buddha's nephew said. "How you been this last century? You're the one who feels the years the longest."
I took a deep breath through my nose. "It's been alright. Fought in a couple wars. Designed some machines. Made and lost a couple of fortunes. Same old."
Galadrios said, "Seriously? After I got back from our last one I did some reading. You lived through the world wars. Those weren't interesting?"
"I'm not saying they weren't interesting. But so were Napoleon's wars. And so was the Thirty Year's War." I scratched my beard. "There's a lot of sameness to these things."
"Galadrios. Your evening. How is it going?" the Turk said.
"I waited a little this time around. It's been over a day for me."
Buddha's nephew put his hands to his chest and almost fell off his chair from laughing. "So while the rest of us have been century-hopping you've taken the big step of eating a couple of meals and taking a dump. Your life is crazy, Gal."
Galadrios brushed a fleck of imaginary dust off his T-shirt. "What can I say? The future has its benefits."
The Turk flashed a bright red. "Me. Won't anybody ask?"
I leaned over to the little jukebox. "How've you been, Turk?"
The red softened to a light pink. "Me. I've been good good great."
I nodded. "Happy to hear that."
Buddha's nephew slapped his forehead. "I fully forgot. Where's Death at?"
"Death. Not here."
"He can usually hear us, wherever he is," I said. "Death, come here."
Out of nowhere, Death said, "Fine. I'll come." His voice had the quality of insect legs on the back of my neck. A chair thumped over to our table. The seat depressed under a body's weight, but Death didn't materialize.
"You feeling alright, big guy?" Buddha's nephew said.
"I'm alright. I'm fine. Don't worry about me."
The case on Galadrios's wrist clicked open. A galaxy of pills rattled inside. "I've got pills for that," Galadrios said.
The depression on the seat shifted around. "I'll stay with this feeling, thanks."
"You want to talk about it?" I asked.
"Not right now," Death said, and then sighed. His sigh sounded like wind across a mountain's peak.
The couple at the next table finished up their drinks and left. Buddha's nephew went to clean up their table. The rest of us sat where we were nursing our drinks. The energy we'd felt at the beginning of the evening had left us. We listened to the cars passing by outside and thought about our own problems.
When Buddha's nephew came back, Galadrios said, "This has been fun, but I'll head out now. See you guys in another one of your centuries. See you guys in another couple of my hours." In a blue flash he disappeared.
Buddha's nephew and the Turk wanted to loaf around listening to music for the rest of the night. I figured I'd better get moving.
"I'll walk with you," Death said.
We crossed the street and entered the public park. The walklights illuminated the path like beads of light on a string.
"This is going to sound like a bad joke," Death said, "but sometimes life can be too hard." He materialized ahead of me and took a seat on a park bench. His skin glowed bone white under the light. His pupils had the red of poison berries. For all that he looked sickly and dangerous, with his elbows on his knees and his body hunched forward he looked liked a sad young man.
I joined him on the bench. The night air flowed crisply around us.
He said, "There's things a person has to do that he doesn't want to do, you know? But it's their job and they have to. It's like, when a beautiful old piece of architecture is slated for demolition -- one of those gorgeous buildings that have been around for centuries -- the powers that be make the decision to kill it, but there's one guy who has to hit the switch." He looked up at me out of the bottom of his eyes. "What if you're that person? What if all you do is destroy what's old and beautiful?"
The stars above us were sparse. Nowhere near as beautiful as I remembered them from my childhood in Portsmouth. "You do what you have to do. That's something I've learned in all my years." I stretched my arms out along the bench's seatback. "That first time we met, I told you a lot of great stories, right? About fights, women, and money? But I didn't tell you the bad stories. And believe me, there are bad stories. I've been alive for six hundred years. I've got a lot of them."
"So what do you do when you're living a bad story?" He rubbed his palms together.
"Even when things are hard, you keep moving." I inhaled a lungful of air. "We make our decisions, and we end up in the positions that we end up in, and we do what must be done. Because if we don't do it, then things fall apart."
I heard a sniffle. Death had begun to cry. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," I said.
My left eye turned off.
"Do what you have to do," I said.
I passed my hand in front of my face. My left eye couldn't see it.
"That's strange," I said.
Death put his ice-cold hand on my arm. A numbness spread from that point throughout my entire body. "You've been alive for so long, and you're one of my only friends," he said. "I'm so sorry."