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King of Teeth

One of the better jobs was simply maintaining the cage. Quiet, predictable work that was always done in a group or at least a pair. No chance that a grudge might sneak up on kill you. The others in the group didn’t even have to be allies. You were all united in not wanting to add to the blood you had to scrub off the concrete. Cleaning the cage was a little spot of peace in the Underground.

A flash of light caught Zaymie’s eye. She set down her bucket of rinse water and crouched, careful not to let her bare knees meet a soap-covered stain. No immediate joy. One of her locks slid over her shoulder as she  turned her head this way and that, trying to get the firelight from the sconces outside the cage to catch on the mystery object.

There. More of a glint this time, flashes over more than one angle, as if the thing had many facets. Her hand shot out and she jumped back to her feet. “Found a tooth,” she called out, palming it. “Who’s got the bag?”

“I do.” Tiger appeared at her side, the curt reply the only sound he made. Only long acquaintance with the short knife fighter kept Zaymie from jumping. He handed her the smelly burlap sack reserved for debris such as teeth and fingers.

Ill fortune. If Kickaby had been holding the bag, he would have simply thrown it to her, never mind the chance of spilling. When it came to a sharpness contest, Tiger was a dagger and Kickaby was a bowl. “Thanks.” She reached into the bag and relaxed her hand, not quite letting go of the thing. “I’m gonna see if it has any fellows.”

Their eyes locked. Tiger’s normally straight-lipped expression broke into something akin to a bemused smile. The cage was designed to be a heatsink, to cool the combatants in the sweaty, literal heat of battle. Not the sort of environment that allowed for flushed skin. Certainly not from something as basic as lying.

Goosebumps rose to sharp points, prickling hard across her neck like sandpaper under her skin. “Unless you want to be the King of Teeth.”

“Not today.” He turned away first, his breath and shoulders shaking. Laughing at her.

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Free-writing On the Run

Hadley leaned forward to get her head between her knees. Her frizzy black hair draped over her legs like a ragged curtain. “Are they still out there?”

It was a stupid question, which Brian wasted no time answering. “Where do you expect them to go? They’re as trapped as we are.”

She disagreed. Nothing with teeth like that could truly be said to be trapped. Predators were the masters of all they surveyed. The beasts weren’t trapped. They were in charge.

That and other similarly bleak and useless things crossed her mind in a whir of activity. She bumped her head back and forth between her knees like an indecisive pinball, then launched herself up. Too fast. Combined with the smell of neglect and old rat leavings, the whiplash blurred her vision. She slapped her face with one hand and rubbed her eyes. “You think the chains will keep them out?”

“I don’t know.” Her brother sat on the crumbling old mattress beside her and rubbed her shoulder absentmindedly. “The door is made of metal, so they probably won’t just chew through it.”

Probably. So comforting.

“Those claws didn’t look like they’d help much with tool-manipulating, either. Even if they’re smart enough to open the door, I doubt they could.”

The warehouse had been a boon. From the outside, it had seemed to span the whole world. It very well could have done. The truly wonderful part about it was that it clearly connected contiguously from within, while only threatening a few entrances.

The truly disgusting part about it was that it looked like a concrete factory had thrown up into a dusty wood pile. Hadley coughed into both hands, then twitched away from that comforting hand on her back. “Then we should find all of the doors and chain them.”

Only Brian could smile in that situation. She couldn’t remember the last time she had smiled. Too much stress. Too exhausted. But Brian was always grinning, laughing at his own stupid jokes, and generally finding the silver lining in everything. He flapped her hair away from her face. “Take a second to breathe. They’re locked onto us, which means that if we don’t move, they won’t.”

“You can’t possibly know that.”

“No, but I can figure it out. Using logic.” He tapped the side of his head with a grimy finger. “The usurper sent beasts after us. That could mean just about anything on his end, but what it means for us is that they’re not gonna do the kinds of things a ranger team would do. Like secure all the doors.”

As much as Hadley’s back ached to flop onto the mattress and curl up for a good long kip, she could smell it all too well. She wasn’t quite burnt out enough to consider it over the floor. There were less places for fleas and lice to live on the floor. “Then you think they’ll just hover where we are until we move?”

“It’s highly likely.”

“We should still chain all the doors.”

Brian scrubbed at his chin. There was a bit of scruff there, but he was still too young to grow a proper beard. “It’d be better if I went by myself. You need to sleep, and if we split up, they might be confused enough to go slow and split their own forces. I’d have a better chance of making it to the next door then.”

The floor definitely looked inviting. It would be hard and cold, visibly dusty with cobwebs that would stick in her hair for ages. Still inviting. Hadley slid to the floor and pushed herself farther from the mattress in little scoots. “And I’ll get the next one.”

“You better.”

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Bad Day (freewriting)

In a competition for shittiest day, Ludy knew she wouldn’t win. She watched the news. Read books. People survived bombs, spousal abuse, and hurricanes. Her day had merely been a personal black cloud. Cartoonish. Still enough to soak her through and dampen her smile.

A literal rain storm brewed overhead, threatening to reward her imagery. She had an umbrella, but it was busted. Barely good enough to beat off a mugger, which had busted it even more. At least it still added to her outfit. Cheery pink and dotted with tiny white flowers. The perfect addition to her light blue sundress and grey jacket. Scarf with a duck pattern.

The scarf was the only thing that had survived her day. The jacket had lost a sleeve, and a rakish tear in the dress’s neckline prompted her to walk with her arms up. As if she were a boxer about to begin a match.

The skies opened up, weeping with a thousand unseeing eyes. Ludy stared into the rain with wide open eyes, baring her teeth like a wild animal.

And got a mouthful of dirty water.

Choking and cursing, she lashed out. She spat. Her arms swung, fast and hard. Her tantrum cut off suddenly as she realised that she had struck something. The way her day had gone, she should have expected a wall, but it was too soft. Something living. Not a stray dog with rabies, which she also should have expected.

A human man wearing a crisp business suit and a shocked frown. He held a cell phone to his ear, hovering as if it were more important than a crazy woman hauling off and smacking him in the street while she swore like a hobo.

She scowled at his umbrella. The source of the waterfall that had gushed over her face. “You should watch where you’re going,” she snapped.

“You hit me.”

“You nearly drowned me!”

He stared at her, clearly uncomprehending. “We’re on the sidewalk.” He looked around, as if he honestly had no idea where they were. “In front of a Chinese restaurant. How could I drown you?”

Words did not come. She spluttered for a few seconds. While her day had not been car-bomb bad, it had certainly been spread-the-misery bad. She snatched his obviously expensive black umbrella out of his manicured fingers and held it at just the right angle to show him exactly what he had done to her.

To his credit, he did not flail about and strike her. He coughed and spat water onto the sidewalk.

“Like that, you bitch.”

It would have been a good exit line, but he was still bent double. She didn’t want to just drop his umbrella and run away like a criminal. Her patience was rewarded when his coughing turned to laughter. An apology lurked in there, even as his suit went shiny, ruined in the strengthening downpour. “I’m sorry.” He held out his hand. “My name is Ivo.”

“Ludivine. Ludy.”

As she shook his hand, his eyes widened. “Are you okay?”

She laughed. It didn’t sound as good as his laughter. Her voice, always high and reedy, had become raspy in the freezing damp. “If I were any less okay, I would have to start screaming.”

“Do you need a doctor? Your dress…”

“You should see the other guy.” She held her hands up to her chest again. Jumped when Ivo covered her shoulders with his jacket. “Hang on, I don’t–”

“It’s the least I can do after I almost drowned you.”

He had already done the least. He’d apologised. It had been the first time she’d heard the word ‘sorry’ since she’d caught her ex in bed with two other women. It sounded better coming from Ivo. “I guess it is.”

“Are you hungry? We’re still standing in front of a restaurant. We could go inside it.”

Even wet, the jacket was warm. Her ducky scarf tickled her nose, pressed sticky against her skin. “Why not? I like Chinese food.”

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Wrong Number

I might continue this. Probably without using graphics.

~

Liam rolled onto his side and cursed. Every nerve blazed with pain. His pillow was crusty with blood, hopefully just from his nose. When he reached up to check, his fingers came away bloody and trailing bandages. He could remember cleaning himself up–clearly he had done a shitty job–as well as some of the fight. “Gotta stop getting into bar brawls.”

His phone chirped on the bedside table, the screen lighting up the room in an explosion of unwelcome light. After two halfhearted waves of his arm, he banged his wrist on the edge. A wrist that he had apparently not broken, but a sprain wasn’t out of the question. Especially after whanging it like that.

If the damn phone hadn’t gone off two more times, he would have left it for the morning. He sat up slowly and inched himself closer to the bedside table before reaching out, again slowly, to pick up the phone like a human rather than a blind monkey. Head throbbing like an unremittant club bass-line. It took a few minutes for his vision to clear away the purple splotches and allow him to actually see the screen.

The number was unfamiliar, but he was used to that. He used his phone for work, and since he worked mostly on commission, most of his calls came from unknown numbers that didn’t stay in his contacts list afterwards. What was strange was the amount of digits. Sure, he had a hangover, but that number was too long. The message didn’t seem to be about a commission either.

texta1

Having been in similar situations, Liam typed the first thing that came to mind and jabbed send without thinking.

texta2

A reply came in immediately.

texta3

Nobody went to clubs to dance. People went to clubs to lose their minds and fuck someone up against a bathroom sink.

texta4

Talk about a wrong number. Liam turned off his phone and dropped it on the bed. At least it hadn’t been a real emergency for someone he knew. And he’d even helped. How long had it been since he could say that he’d helped anyone? He tossed the bloody pillow onto the floor and tugged the bandages off. The blood had dried. It’d be a bitch to wash off in the morning, so he lumbered over to the bathroom to shower.

His skin hated him by the end of it, and his head would never speak to him again. No loss. They were bastards.

Somehow he made it back to bed, although he couldn’t bring himself to even look for fresh clothes. His apartment windows all had curtains. He could get away with sleeping in the buff. Especially since L.A. never reached a temperature that he would personally call ‘cold.’

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Freewriting – Total Cock-up

“Wow.”

“Shut up.”

“No, seriously. I am wowed as fuck.”

“If you don’t shut up, I’m gonna shoot you.”

“There is nothing here.” Fancy Carpenter tossed her head, flicking her partner across the face with her greasy hair. Each lock rendered whip-like by days without a bath. “We have never been this boned before.”

Said partner, one Isaac Namgung–soon to be nicknamed Useless Science Nerd–raised his .32 in a gesture that someone else might have respected. “This isn’t my fault.”

A triumphant ha stuck in her throat. Two weeks, they’d been out in the wastes. The last three days of that without food or water. All in the hopes of finding a fabled cave with an even more far-fetched treasure inside. She could have strangled him. If she’d had the energy, she might have done. “Your research landed us fortnight-deep into the asscrack of hell. I don’t see any cave, and I sure as hell don’t see any dragon bones.” A cough wracked her upper body. More than just lack of water. “I’m pretty sure that puts this all on you.”

“My research is dependant on your fieldwork,” Isaac pointed out. His logic hit the dust along with his butt as he dropped to the ground in a ladylike huff. “And as for boned, I wasn’t the one who decided to come out here without any backup.”

‘Backup’ meant a retrieval and protection company. Men and women no better than mercenaries tracking their movements, waiting for an alert when things went wrong. Outside of the wastes, they looked like a bunch of parasitic jerks, as far as Fancy was concerned. Anything a person could do with a gun, Fancy was a dab hand. Shoot, clean, build, beat someone to death with.

One thing she couldn’t do though, was drive. Not in the wastes. Taking a dainty seat beside Isaac, she dug her fingers into her hair. It felt like digging runnels into mud. “Okay. Maybe you got me there. We could have possibly made a few decisions in a different kind of way than we did.”

“Using all the words doesn’t change the fact that you are the shit who got us into this mess.”

“And doing all the fucking science doesn’t make this flatland patch of sand a goddamn cave.”

“Bitch.”

“Asshole.”

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Starveling Cat

sore

Listening to: Castle – Halsey

~*~

City dark was nothing like country dark. In the country, night fell gently, an old boy slipping in the back door after sharing a few drinks with the guys. Cities fought back the night with billboards, street lamps, and every window blazing with rebellion against bedtime. Cities were St. George against the dragon with swords of light.

A nice analogy, but the dragons it refers to are not the darkness. Not the literal darkness, anyway.

I lay stretched out on a park bench, one arm hovering over my eyes. Blocking out the light of the nearest lamp post without obscuring my vision completely. A girl had to sleep with both eyes open in this city.

“Please, don’t hurt me…!”

That sounded like the rest of my analogy. The dragons. I let my eyes roll back as if drawn by gravity. The scene settled into my vision like a card slotting into place in a viewfinder. It was even upside-down.

Continue reading

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Dialogue Fun Times

Fisher: The hell?! Get out of my car, man!
Jake: Can’t! Drive!
Fisher: You wha–
Jake: reaches over to stomp gas pedal
Fisher: grabs wheel, knuckles white
Fisher: Are you insane?
Jake: leans out open window Not today, cupcake.
Fisher: …cupcake?
Jake: relaxes back in seat Hey, guy. Thanks for aiding my escape back there.
Fisher: sarcastic Oh sure, no problem. Mind telling me what you’re escaping?
Jake: You wouldn’t believe me.
Fisher: You’re probably right.
Jake: beamish smile, looks around self
Jake: Nice car.
Fisher: blink  Er… Thanks?
awkward silence
Jake: So where’re we going?
Fisher: Dude, I don’t even know. You just hijacked my car and now I’m going north.
Jake: North.
Fisher: Yeah.
Jake: That’s all y’all got for me.
Fisher: Now you’re gonna start making demands?!
Jake: Nah, I’m not the demanding type.
Fisher: Aside from shrieking “DRIVE” at a total stranger.
Jake: Special circumst–whoa hey hey! I do not shriek.
Fisher: inclines head Yeeeah your voice got a bit high back there.
Jake: Did not.
Fisher: Oh, it absolutely did.
Jake: I have a high voice, okay? I’m a tenor.
Fisher: Is that a musical term for, “I shriek when I get tense?”
Jake: frosty tone No.
Fisher: Relax. I’m sure you have a very good reason for… anything you do.
Fisher: …reasonably sure.
Jake: You got a name, guy?
Fisher: It’s Fisher.
Jake: First or last?
Fisher: What?
Jake: Never mind. My name is Jake. Last, but my first name is basically awful so I won’t tell you what it is.
Fisher: Wait, your last name is Jake?
Jake: You dwell on very minor details, Fish.
Jake: It’s not healthy.
Fisher: My name is Fisher.
Jake: It’s called a nickname, Fish.