July Writing Challenge Day 30

The family van whined as it pushed up the last big hill of the journey. The rear view mirror was still, nothing but corn and the gentle, roiling track of asphalt behind them. The children were quiet. Adrian was gazing deeply into the screen of his mother’s tablet. Caroline was drooling into her harness. For the first time in the thirty four hour drive, the car was quiet. Peaceful. Alex smiled.

Beside the driver’s side window, something shimmered and flashed. Alex wished it was a mirage, but a second later he heard the words.

“Don’t let her get away with it.”

Alex winced. He pressed a little harder on the gas peddle and the shimmer slipped behind him. Kristine turned and flashed a smile at him. She reached over and grabbed his hand. Somehow she failed to notice the cold sweat that had gripped him.

The final stretch was low and smooth. Alex waited until he saw the sign to wake the children. Aleswich; pop: 507. Adrian glared out the windows and sneered. Caroline looked around the car blankly. Then she cried. Kristine turned and hoisted her from her booster seat. It took a bottle of formula and a minute’s antics of Elizabeth the Elephant to quiet her. Alex sighed as he pulled in.

Hi parents owned a small stretch of land along a lonely stretch of highway. It hadn’t been a highway when he’d lived there, but somehow it all looked the same. The house was a squat, tired looking thing perched on the rocky edge of a desolate gulch. He’d hated it, even growing up, and the smile he wore as he turned into the long gravel drive was forced.

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July Writing Challenge Day 29

So, I decided to drop the story from yesterday. Hadn’t really thought it through enough.

Today I decided to try a story I started a few months ago, but do it in a completely different way. I’m not going to say much more, since I’m kinda out of it right now, but I hope you enjoy it. Lemme know what you think.

Untitled
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 626

How many nights has it been? Twenty? Forty? He can’t seem to remember. The lights in the city never seem to fade, never seem to change. During the day the smog chokes the warmth and brilliance sunlight as it struggles through the towering skyscrapers, and at night there are a million lights reflecting off glass and oil slick puddles. Perpetual twilight reigns over the city. Any part of it he visits, at any time of day, seems to look the same as any other. That’s not true, not really. The fashion district is obviously different than the upper Burroughs, and the brick facades along the wharves are darker than the ones you find in midtown. No, he can tell the difference if he tries, but he never does. It all seems the same to him. Unfamiliar.

Eleven months. That was how long he’d been gone. They’d been some of the best, and shortest, of his life. For eleven months he’d left the stuffy, diseased, filth encrusted confines of the city behind him. The freedom he’d felt had been intoxicating, almost exotic. Freedom to breath and move and grow and think. He’d done it. He had escaped. And now…

He pulls his sedan up to the corner, slow and sure. He doesn’t recognize the neighborhood, but the girls that slink forward through the neon light seem to know him. They purr and whistle and flex long, slender limbs in his direction, all latex and fishnet. A few of them touch themselves, a finger tracing a line between their legs, a hand cupping a breast and flashing a nipple. He wants to get out. He wants to heed the siren call and join them, to give into the city and run through the streets killing and fucking and debasing himself. A second part of him wants to leave. Leave the corner. Leave the city. Be free again.

He slips his hand in his pocket, fingers the worn edges of the photograph tucked there, and knows he can do neither.

He pulls in to the motel and tells the girl to wait while he get’s a room. Fifty bucks. A hour. He pays in cash, takes the key and leads the girl up the stairs. The railing wobbles as she leans against it. How much easier would it be if it were to give, he thinks? If she leaned against it with all her weight and it suddenly fell, spilling her out on the pavement below? Would he be free again? Would the city’s hold be shattered? Or would the cycle simply begin again? They make it to the top and the point becomes moot.

Inside the room the air has the unpleasant tang of chemical odor remover. The girl doesn’t seem to notice as she reclines on the bed. She bounces expectantly, the bed springs squeaking and her gum smacking. He pulls out his wallet and hands her a hundred dollar bill. She slips it into a slit in her plastic shorts and smiles.

“How do you want me, baby?” she asks.

For a moment he considers taking out the photograph. Has he already shown it to her? He can’t remember. Definitely not tonight, but maybe before, on another night. Even if he had, it was always possible something had changed, that she had remembered something or met someone who knew the boy in the picture. But he doesn’t. Instead he unbuttons his pants, let’s them fall in a heap on the hard, stained motel carpet. He’s already semi-hard from anticipation, and he swells to full as the girl grabs him.

The sex is loud, the pace hard and fast, but passionate would be the wrong word to describe it. Desperate. Cathartic. Unbridled. Those would be better words.

July Writing Challenge Day 28: A New Story

So I decided it was time to start a new story. My last one was kind of going nowhere. I’ll go back to it after this month is over, rewrite the parts I hate, trim it down, and then keep going with it. I just need to think about it more.

Speaking of needing to think about things more, I decided it was time to start a new story. This particular story is one I haven’t had for very long, just about a month or so, and I really have very little of the plot down in my head. So, honestly, I’m not sure where it’s going to go. I’ll outline the basic premise here in a bit, but first let me say that I’m not super thrilled with what I did today. It seems a little…I don’t know, shallow. Quick. Like I’m trying to get too much exposition out at once and sacrificing everything that good fiction needs. Or maybe I’m just still bummed out from the last story. I dunno. Not really digging my own writing ability right now.

For this story, I wanted to do a sci-fi story. The basic premise is that there is this world, one that is roughly equal to Earth’s technology about 400 years ago. So, basic gunpowder equivalent weapons, at maximum. Culturally they are…well, another culture, so it’s hard to draw parallels. Anyway, a few months before the story starts the planet is visited by “short, odd looking men from the sky”. Aka, aliens. And these aliens decide that they want to come to this world and exploit it’s resources. But instead of wiping out the local populace they decide to help them out, elevate them and invite them to become part of this intergalactic society. The story starts with a woman, one of the natives, being debriefed about a mission that she helped with. The world is small and has a lot of dense, dangerous jungles. The “aliens” (who, btw, are humans), fund this expedition into it’s depths because they’ve heard about something amazing. Anyway, long story short, things go terribly wrong, lots of people die, and only the main character and one or two others make it back. She tells this story to the humans in hopes that it will dissuade them from pursuing it further, but instead the humans shrug it off. They say that yes, hundreds and even thousands will die while they set up a way to exploit this wonderful thing (still working on what), but once they do it will make them lot’s of money. And besides, this is just how progress works. The main character is stunned that anyone could think like this.

Now, keep in mind that we do this kind of thing today. How many people died making the Panama Canal? The Transcontinental Railroad? Working in mines throughout the ages? This is just how humanity sees problems. Keep bashing away at something until it’s easier.

Now, a few other things. 1) Whatever the “wonderful thing” is that the humans want, it’s ridiculously small. Like a slug that creates a particular enzyme that could be incorporated into industrial grade lubricant and increase productivity by .05% across the galaxy. It is so small that the natives wouldn’t want it, and is the only thing really worth exploiting from a planet (I mean, water and other compounds/elements are all over space, and once your up there, you just have to mine it, so it’s nothing like that). 2) I envision the natives as deeply religious. Their planet is Mother, and the sun is Father. And they live within Mother and one day they know they must leave her. This lends a bit of religious fervor to the locals and makes them want to help the humans because the humans can help do just that. 3) The main character is smart, brilliant even, and resourceful, but something about her has made her shunned and distrusted all throughout her life, so she doesn’t really buy into society worshiping these space men like they do.

I played around with that third idea today. Basically the natives are human shaped chameleons. But they have hair, or something analogous, and the can’t change their hair color. Back when they were evolving they evolved dark hair that would blend in to their jungle environment, but every so often you might get an “albino”, someone with hair so bright that they can’t hide. In an uber-religious society this would be a bad omen at best and a mortal sin at worst.

Anyway, those are just some of my thoughts on the story. I know, it was all kinda rapid fire. Sorry bout that. Anyway, I really think I’ll just redo this section for tomorrow, leave out the whole hair part. Probably tone down the color changing aspect as well. It’s just…not the right place for it.

Okay, well, that’s enough from me. Now…here’s more from me. Thanks for reading, and enjoy.

Untitled
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 818

Kyeera had ceased being startled by doors opening themselves after a day on the ship, but this time she let out an audible gasp. The sleek, rounded gunmetal walls and brilliant blue lighting that seemed omnipresent throughout the rest of the ship suddenly gave way to a pleasant, familiar scene. The room she found herself in had been fashioned from the deep bluestone of her homeland, dark and cool and comforting. The furniture was beautifully crafted tynewood of exquisite quality. Tynewood trees grew for centuries before they attained that rich reddish hue. Often teams of men would venture through the jungles for weeks before they found even a single tree of sufficient age. Most breathtaking, and perhaps disappointing, of all was the view. It was breathtaking because the room’s right wall opened onto a tynewood veranda that looked out over a densely wooded mountain valley. Kyeera could even hear the call of chatterbirds in the distance and feel a gentle breeze on her cheek.

It was disappointing because she knew it wasn’t real. In the past few months, ever since the short, strangely colored men had come from the skies, she had seen wonders and marvels beyond everything she could have ever imagined, and she had learned enough to know that such a thing was not beyond the space man’s art. And if the view wasn’t real, then nothing in the room was real. She sat in one of the chairs facing the illusion, felt what felt like genuine leather against her skin, and she waited.

A few minutes passed before she heard the door hiss open. She turned her head slowly and saw a pair of men enter: space men. She sighed and realized she would have to stop thinking of them like that. In a short time her people, too, would be space men. It was difficult. They were not unlike her own people in appearance, two eyes, two arms, bipedal, five fingers on each hand, but sometimes the smallest changes are the hardest to deal with. What was it they called themselves, she wondered as she stood? Ah yes, humans.

“Kyeera, thank you for meeting us.”

The first man’s name was John Haverstrom, and he strode across the tynewood floor to greet her. He was short and round and pale. He extended a hand and Kyeera looked at it for a moment. Then she remembered that this was a typical human greeting. She took it lightly and let the man shake. As he dropped it she noticed the look on the second man’s face. She did not recognize him, but from what she could tell he was surprised, though it did not seem unpleasantly so. She looked at her own hand and realized that she had subconsciously initiated her own people’s greeting. She took a breath. The skin shifted from bright orange back to dark green.

“I’d heard about that,” said the second man. “Wasn’t sure I believed it until just now though.” He smiled, another human gesture she was getting used to, and his teeth shone against his dark brown skin. “Would I be right in thinking that the display and change of color plays a large role in your society’s cultural interactions?”

“You would,” said Kyeera. Her skin tone lightened a little and a moment later she nodded to let him know what it meant. “Very astute.”

“Thanks,” said the dark man. “Remind me to teach you people to play poker sometime.”

“I would advise against that,” said the John. He breathed in and out very rapidly and noisily. What was that called? Laughing?

“Ah, you’re no fun,” said the dark man, also breathing loudly. Kyeera’s skin soured. “Still, I bet it comes in pretty handy in the jungles, right? Camouflage.” He pointed a finger at Kyeera’s body as if to illustrate his point. Kyeera blued and nodded. “Can I ask something though?”

“If you must,” Kyeera said.

“Is it just the skin?” Kyeera turned a deep, angry shade of red. “Erm….I don’t know what that—have I said something wrong.”

“No,” Kyeera said, though her color did not change. “No, it’s nothing. Yes, it is just our skin. The pigments react to chemicals secreted by a series of glands throughout our body. The ability does not transfer to our hair.” Kyeera reached up and touched her own alabaster locks as she said this. “In ancient times, a child with white hair like mine would have been left for dead in the woods. Though, in these modern times that does not happen.”

The dark man’s eyes narrowed. “But,” he said, as if finishing her words for her, “there are still people who view it as a sort of stigma? Bad luck?”

“Yes,” Kyeera said quietly. The dark man smiled again.

“It’s like I say every time, no matter where you go, people are people.” He clapped a hand on the John’s shoulder and breathed—laughed—again.

July Writing Challenge Day 27: A little break

Today I decided to take a break from the story I’ve been working on. It had become an unenjoyable experience to work on, so I think I need to let it breathe. Instead I just wanted to take a writing prompt and write whatever came to mind. And that’s what I did.

I might return to the story tomorrow, or I might start a new story and work on that for the remainder of the month. I’m not really sure yet.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and enjoy.

Untitled
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 1125

Davidson smiled as his computer’s hum shifted down through several octaves and then finally whirred to a stop. He stood and arched his back. The pops that ran down his spine filled the silence of the office, as did his groan of pleasure as some of the stiffness abated. The only other sound was the constant squeak-blop-squeak of the little drinking bird toy that Carol kept on her desk. It was strange how loud it was when the rest of the office was dead.

He pulled his phone from his pocket and checked the time. It was just past 8 pm. God knew how he’d let himself get so far behind this month, but the finally he was done. The last report was zipping through the cables in the walls and it would be waiting in his boss’s email when he came in on Monday. He grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair and headed towards the elevator. He stopped at the water cooler to pull it on and grabbed a paper cup. The glug-glug of the air bubbles was added to the silence. And that damned bird. Glug-squeak-blob-glug-squeak. How could Carol stand that damn thing all day, he wondered? Worst thing he could imagine.

He had the paper cup almost to his lips when the lights went out. The darkness was so sudden that he jumped and the cup slipped from his fingers sending ice cold water all over him.

“Hello,” he called into the gloom. “Is someone there?” The only answer was the squeak-blop-squeak of the drinking bird.

Icy fingers dripped down Davidson’s spine. The darkness wasn’t complete. Faint white light from the parking lot below streamed through the blinds on the far side of the wall. Orange flares of battery powered exit lights also dotted the darkness. None of this made it any easier to see. Instead the office was transformed into a twisting maze of shadows. Davidson took a few steps and almost cried out when he bumped into the edge of the water cooler. He stepped back and held his hand out to grasp at a cubicle wall and steady himself. He almost fell when his hand touched nothing but shadow. It was impossible to tell what was and wasn’t real.

“Can anyone hear me?” Davidson cried out again. “If you’re there, could you please turn the lights back on.”

Squeak-blop-squeak
“Anyone?”

Squeak-blop-squeak-whisper

Davidson gasped. “Hello? Who’s there?”

Whisper-squeak-blop-whisper-squeak

“I know someone’s there,” Davidson said. “I can hear you. This isn’t funny.” Davidson took a few cautious steps in the direction he thought the whispering was coming from. When he didn’t immediately crash into anything he continued more quickly. The whispering grew a little louder and he pressed on.

“Look,” he said slowly, “it’s been a long day. I just want to go home, order a pizza and watch some TV, okay?”

The whispering was definitely louder now, but it was still impossible to tell what the whisperers were saying. Davidson’s hand touched something firm and fuzzy, a cubicle wall, and he followed it until he came to a corner. He rounded it quickly. Up ahead he saw an exit sign glowing dimly in the darkness. His best guess was that he was in one of the center aisles that separated cubicle blocks, which meant that he should have a straight shot to the wall with the exit sign.

Whisper-squeak-whisper-blop-whisper-whisper-squeak-shh-shh-shh

Whoever had done the shushing had been close by. Davidson surged forward, ready to catch whoever was playing these tricks and put a stop to them. His right foot came down on something a few inches before it should have. It was low, hard, and wheeled: the leg of a rolling chair. His foot shot forward, his body twisted, and he slammed shoulder first into a support column.

Laughter-squeak-laughter-blop-squeak-whisper

Davidson took a few moments to gather himself. He managed to get his left leg out from under him. The initial pain in his shoulder died away, leaving a burning ache that would be worse in the morning. Then he pushed himself up, letting the column support him. The whisperers had retreated during their bout of impish laughter. He staggered forwards, found the chair they’d left in the aisle and kicked it aside.

Whisper-squeak-blop-whisper-squeak.

“Fuck you,” Davidson said. “Fuck all of you. I’m out of here.” He looked up, ready to aim himself at the exit sign and limp through it.

It was gone.

He turned around. It wasn’t behind him either. He shook his head and tried to concentrate. It had been there, hadn’t it? He looked around. The shadows looked—different, somehow. Not that he’d really been paying attention, but they just didn’t feel familiar. Had he blacked out? Gone walking aimlessly before he’d come to his senses? He didn’t think so, but it was hard to be sure.

Whisper-squeak-blop-squeak-whisper.

And it was damned hard to think with these little insidious noises creeping in his ears and through his brain. He limped forward and turned another corner. There, in front of him was another exit sign. He glared at it, daring it to disappear. When it didn’t, he hurried forward again.

Whisper-squeak “Shut up!” Whisper-blop-squeak-shh-shh-shh

Davidson skidded to a stop. He squinted into the gloom. He leaned forward and with every step he swung his arms out in front of him. If he was going to run into anything again, this time he’d be ready.

Movement caught his eye. He looked up. One of the shadows looked wrong. There was a blocky shape in front of him, probably a cubicle wall, but something round was sticking up near the corner closest to him. The edges of the object were fuzzy, indistinct, and Davidson found it easier to see it if he tried to look at a point to either side of it.

Laughter-whisper-shh-shh-shh

The round object ducked out of sight suddenly and another round of implike laughter began. Davidson snarled and lunged forward.

“Gotch!” he cried. The he cried a second time as something sharp pierced the bottom of his shoe and stabbed him in the heel. He hopped and darted sideways. He stepped on another pointed object, this one stabbing his big toe. Davidson fell backwards, his tailbone smacking the tile with a thud. He stifled a moan and pulled his foot up to his chest, ran his hand along the sole, and then pried the foreign object from the leather. He held it up, waving it through the darkness. Finally it hit a patch of light and glinted just enough for him to see.

It was a push pin. He looked ahead of him and saw a dozen or more pinpricks of light. Someone had laid them out on the floor for him to step on.

July Writing Challenge Day 26

You know, every single day since I’ve started phase 3, I’ve stopped writing after an hour and left my computer. I’ve done other things, usually sitting in my parents hot tub or reading a book for an hour or so. And every day I tell myself that I’m going to come back and write more. But I don’t. I never do.

I guess most people would think it strange that I am so perturbed by such events. From what I gather most people who call themselves writers are prone to similar problems. They sit, they produce a meager few words, and they get on with life. No muss. No fuss. I am the same, except I add both the muss and the fuss.

I go about my life and all I can do is think and wonder and speculate. I stop every thought before I act or speak upon it, and once I do I stop and think about it again. Over and over. Nothing I do or say is random. It is always carefully thought out and analyzed. And yet nothing I do or say is ever good enough, because everything I do and say is thought out and analyzed.

The worst part is that I don’t even know why I keep it up. And when I say “it” I don’t mean the thinking or the analyzing. I mean the…doing. The being. I’m never happy with what I do. I’m never happy with what happens to me or how I react to those things. I just…I don’t know why I keep going anymore.

Not really sure why I’m saying all this. Probably because I have to, and I know that nobody reads this stupid blog anyway.

Well, I guess to make a long story short, I sat down for an hour and wrote this. I told myself I’d write more, and then I didn’t. If you’ve been reading the story so far, let me know. Thanks, and enjoy.

Knackered
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 772

The shapes milled around for another minute or two, exchange muffled curses about the smell and the heat, and then there was a general motion towards the door.

“Boy!” Elbar bellowed through the darkness. Gavin jerked, his head bouncing off the slanting tin wall above him, and he hurried out of his makeshift burrow. A moment later he stood before his boss and father. “Breaks over,” he said. “Get back in there and don’t come out til sunup.”

Gavin did as he was told, sliding the door shut against the wind and his adoptive father’s wrath. The smell seemed worse than it had before. He pulled the lumpy wooden pole from the wall and began yet another round of the vats.

The night passed without incident. Sunup came and Gavin handed his pole to the day shift. Then he slept a fitful sleep. Again he dreamt of the endless amber void, and the cold, hungry light in the distance. When he awoke, the day started much the same as before. He woke a few hours before sunset, made a cursory pass of the vat shed, and then at a filling but unsatisfying meal in the kitchen. Then it was back to the shed for another lonely vigil.

He was standing on the catwalk by vat number six when he saw it. There was a particular smudge on the liquid’s bubbling surface. It was a greasy, dark red stain about a foot wide that refused to mix with the surrounding tincture. Gavin sighed and pulled his tunic up over his nose. When you got a patch like that, it usually meant that a chunk of meat had somehow shielded itself from the wholesale separation and breakdown around it, usually due to an inordinate amount of fatty tissue, and was slowly leaking blood. He aimed his pole at the center of the stain and jabbed down several times in quick succession. He hit something solid and stabbed it a few more times. Something gave and he felt the mass break apart.

A second later something bobbed to the surface. It rotated, slime dripping off it’s curves. It turned and grinned a crimson grin at Gavin. The liquid around it bubbled and hissed and then it sank back into the filth.

Gavin nearly dropped his pole. He grabbed it back at the last moment and closed his eyes tight. Fervently he told himself that he hadn’t seen what he had thought he’d seen. It hadn’t been a human skull. It hadn’t. Gavin thought himself better acquainted than even the most learned layman with the remains of all sorts of animals, but he was no expert. Perhaps it had been the head of some great ape delivered there by the circus or the National Zoo. He supposed it could even have been some sort animal skull, bovine or feline or anything else, that had been warped by disease. Yes, that must be it. No reason for alarm.

Once again, the sound of sobbing rose to fill the shed. Gavin gripped his pole tight and drew it close. It was louder now than it had been the night before, and much, much clearer. So clear that it was near impossible to discount as anything other than human in origin. Gavin shuddered and yelled into the sticky, odorous gloom.

“Shut up!” he cried. “What reason do you have to cry? You’ll be gone in a few days. A week at most. You aren’t trapped here. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life in this awful place! If anyone has the right to cry it’s me!”

The shed wasn’t large enough to echo, but somehow it seemed large enough to swallow his tantrum and then return it with empty indifference. Then sobs broke the silence of the shed. Not the disembodied cries of the vats, but the frantic, desperate tears of Gavin.

“You’re wrong.”

For the second time in two days, Gavin completely and totally froze. Even his tears seemed glued to his face. His breath came low and ragged, and now he clutched his pole not in comfort but in fear.

“Who—who’s there?” Gavin asked the emptiness. “What do you mean?”

“You’re wrong,” the voice repeated. It was calm, but slightly discouraged. “You say we aren’t trapped here, but we are.”

“Wha—who’s there?” Gavin rounded the shed, checking every nook, cranny, and gap that he knew someone could hide in.

“Do you really have to ask?” Again the voice sounded bored, and even though he was on the opposite side of the shed, Gavin heard it just as clearly as he had a moment ago.

July Writing Challenge Day 25

Not much to say about today’s writing. I’m getting a little discouraged. I can’t tell if it’s because writing is getting harder, or if writing is getting harder because I’m getting discouraged. Maybe I’m just feeling a little more depressed than usual. I don’t know. Feelings are tricky.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got for today. Lemme know what you think. Thanks.

Knackered: Day 4
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 706

She sounded so sad.

“I know how you feel, little one,” Gavin said as he hung his pole on the wall. “I don’t like it here either.”

It was becoming too much to bear: the heat, the smell, the sobbing. He decided he could risk taking a break and made his way toward the shed door. He was three feet away when it slid open. Elbar Gush stood in the opening. His scowl was deep and dark in the light of the lone safety lamp on the wall. Behind him Gavin could make out the outline of three other men.

“What’re you up to, boy?” Elbar growled. “Sneaking off in the middle of the night, are you?” Behind him, Gavin saw the other men shuffle nervously. It looked like the two in the back were carrying something large between them. Elbar slid to fill the entire doorway.

“No sir,” Gavin lied. “I just thought I heard someone coming was all.”

“Like hell.” Elbar eyed him with suspicion. Gavin closed his eyes and prepared for the first blow to land. It didn’t. “Make yourself scarce for a minute. Got some late business to discuss.” He stepped aside to give Gavin room to leave.

“What bu—,” Gavin began. This time the blow did land.

“Now!” Elbar barked the command and raised his hand again.

“Yes sir,” Gavin said. He hurried out into the darkness. As he left the other men entered. Gavin caught another glimpse of the object they were carrying between them. It was long, perhaps five and a half feet, and no more than one or two wide, and it was wrapped in sack cloth from top to bottom.

And there was a large, wet, dark red patch spreading down it’s back.

Elbar slid the door closed with a clatter and Gavin was alone in the freezing dark. The wind whistled through the yard and rattled the shacks and sheds. Gavin pulled his patchwork coat tighter around himself and hurried off to find a warm place to wait. Preferably someplace out of the wind.

Gavin had spent five years of nights working the vats, and he liked to think he knew all the places to hide while he shirked his duties. On a night like this, with the wind biting and frost already spiderwebbing it’s way through the yard, there was only one place he liked to go. He rounded the outside of the vat shed until he reached the point where it butted up against the yard’s wooden fence. The gap between them would have been too small for anyone else, but he wriggled through and after a few inches he came to a point where the tin wall of the shed was dented inwards. It was just big enough for him to draw his knees close to his chest and sit in comfortably. It was secluded, both from the wind and wandering eyes, and best of all on a night like this, it was warm. The shed walls radiated a little of the heat from within, but there was also a gap in the tin sheets that let hot air out uninsulated. Gavin closed his eyes and let it wash over him. The fact that it also let a bit of the smell out was a small price to pay.

“Can’t thank you enough for accommodating us on such short notice.” Gavin’s eyes popped open. “You know how tricky these things can be.” Gavin didn’t recognize the voice, but it seemed to be coming from the hole in the shed wall beside him.

“Aye.” Gavin recognized the second voice as belonging to his adoptive father. “And I expect your boss will be compensating me for the extra services rendered?” Gavin heard the faint sound of coins clinking. He leaned in to the crack. His field of view was a bit limited, but he saw a few shapes at the far side of the shed. One that looked like Elbar reached up and caught something that clinked when it hit his hand. “Much appreciated.”

The shapes shuffled. Gavin heard the sound of a chain being moved. A few moments later there was a long, heavy flapping sound of cloth being unrolled and a goopy splash.

July Writing Challenge Day 24

Hello all.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about my work for today. I got another thousand words on my story, which is okay. I realize it’s not exactly a blistering pace I’m setting for myself, but it is constant, which is good for me. I’ll try to pick up the pace and finish the story in the next day or two, that way we can get started on a second before the month is over. I’ll probably extend the challenge past the month just to get two stories done.

Anyway, here’s the next chunk of my story. Please let me know what you think.

Knackered: Day 3
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 1004

The kitchen was near the front of the yard. As Gavin drew near he saw the yard’s oxen drive in ahead of a wagon that was loaded with four or five animal carcasses. Most were horse, animals too withered and weak to survive the winter, but at the bottom of the heap was a diseased looking ox, which was probably why the yard had sent their own out to gather the haul, and it was always possible that one or more smaller animals had been stuffed in along the way, parasites and all. As Gavin watched, a team of men dangling with chains approached the wagon. They reached in, metal in their hands, and skewered the top carcass with half a dozen meat hooks. They heaved on the chains and the withered body hit the packed soil of the yard with a wet crunch. One of the butchers gestured with a cleaver and the men began dragging the body towards the nearest butcher’s shed.

The kitchen itself was one of the smaller shacks on the yard. It was a cramped room with tin walls and a sloping roof. On one side was a small wooden table and a few stools. The rest of the room was dominated by a small iron stove, a barrel of grimy water the men used as a sink, and a hodgepodge of shelves and cupboards riveted to the walls. On the stove was a blackened pot. Gavin looked inside. The stew was cold and lumpy and not really stew at all. It was essentially hunks of meat in gravy, but at least someone had added a bit of onion and a few carrots. Gavin threw a few bits of wood and a lit match into the stove and got it going again, then lumped a bit of stew into a bowl and sat on one of the stools to eat. The stew was salty, the meat greasy, but it stuck to the ribs and Gavin was full before the bowl was done.

He’d almost finished when the door opened and a pair of men walked in. One was Mr. Smythe, the day foreman, and the other was Elbar Gush. Elbar was a large man. His bald head brushed against the ceiling starting around mid slant, and the swell of his belly bumped into cupboards whenever he turned in the crowded room. He was also technically Gavin’s father, adoptive, but Gavin thought of him only as a boss. Elbar Gush owned the knacker yard outright, and, in a way, had owned Gavin as well, ever since the day he’d purchased him from the orphanage. The men were discussing the newest load of animal flesh as they entered.

“You there,” Elbar said to Gavin as he pulled a tea kettle from one of the shelves and filled it with dishwater from the barrel. “You see to the vats before you come in here and eat my food?” Elbar rarely used Gavin’s name, and sometimes Gavin wondered if he’d forgotten it years ago.

“Yeah,” Gavin said through a mouthful of stew. Elbar casually reached over and cuffed him on the back of the head, causing stew dribble out his mouth and plop onto the table. “Yes sir,” Gavin corrected himself. “Number three is clear. Should be up to heat by the time the bodies are ready.”

“Better be,” Elbar grumbled. “They’re a pretty sorry lot. Most of ’em have been dead at least a week, which means we ain’t got to bother bleeding ’em first. Straight from the butchers to the vats, you hear?”

“Yes sir,” Gavin said. He’d expected as much. The yard rarely ever got corpses fresh enough to render certain byproducts from. Occasionally they’d get a fresh but otherwise damaged or diseased carcass and they could string it up, bleed it dry, and then dehydrate a batch of blood meal, but mostly they just got carved up and then thrown in the vats to separate, and so Gavin never planned on having the extra time to spare. “I’ll just go make sure it’s coming along then.” He squeezed around the folds of his adoptive father’s fat and stumbled out into the yard.

Gavin was alone in the vat shed for another hour before the carcasses arrived. Alone except for the strange sobbing that drifted up on bubbles of rot gas. He tried to ignore it as he went about his duties.

The door to the shed slid open and a team of men pushing wheel barrels of animal parts walked in. The sky outside was the dark gray of an overcast sunset. Gavin, who’d been down in the pit checking the coal fires, scrambled up the ladder and over to vat three. Once there he unhooked a length of chain from between two iron railing posts and stood back. The men, sleeves stained brown with old blood, grunted and began dumping their loads in the water below. The flesh had been shaved and butchered, all the organs had been remove, and everything else had been sent to the vats. Bloody forelegs, sticky rib cages, bits of spinal columns several vertebrae long, all tumbled into the copper tub. A few went wide and bounced into the spaces between the gaps. The men turned and gave Gavin a look. He nodded, but waited until they were done. Then he put the chain back and made his way back to the ladder to retrieve the excess bits.

Hours of relative silence passed, with nothing but the sobbing and his own labored breathing filling the shed as the light outside faded to full black. It was starting to worry him. The sheds was always a little strange. Odd noises were normal, only odd because of their diversity. But for one sound to persist like this, it was almost unheard of. And then there was the quality of the sound. It was low and distorted, twisted even, and Gavin could swear that it belonged to a woman. A young woman, perhaps even a girl.

July Writing Challenge Day 23: Phase 3 Continues

Hello all, welcome back to phase 3 of my writing challenge.

Before we get started, I have a little bit of trivia for you. Did you know that when drug companies make generics of prescription drugs, the generic only has to be within 40% of the original drug’s strength/dosage? Up or down. So, if you’re like me and you take anti-depressants and sleep pills, some months you are taking a drug that can be 40% weaker than the baseline, or 40% stronger. Or, to look at it another way, it’s entirely possible that you are taking a drug that is 80% stronger than what you took last month. No joke.

So, yeah, long story short, I think my meds are all stronger this month, because I am so unbelievably, incredibly, mind numbingly tired all the time. Well, drowsy, I guess is the word, since I’m still a hardcore insomniac and can’t fall asleep at normal times. And when I do fall asleep, I wake up a lot, but since I’m so drowsy I just stay in bed. What this all means is that I “sleep” around 10 hours a day and when I do get up I can barely focus or get motivated. Usually I can shake it off if I absolutely have to get up and do stuff, so today I did chores around the house for a few hours. But alas, I simply slumped back into a chair when I was done and let the day slide by again.

This makes it really hard to sit down and write. The writing part, not the sitting down part. It’s just so hard to focus. I finally managed it though. Wrote for over an hour, got about a thousand words done, plus some editing.

I am going to post the entire story so far, just under 1,700 words, since I did a few small changes to what I did yesterday. Not much, just some word choice adjustments. Let me know what you think. Any comments or criticism you have would be greatly appreciated. Anything to get me pumped for tomorrow, pretty much. Until then I’ll try my best to dream about my story. You know, use my downtime.

Thanks, and enjoy

Knackered – Day 2
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 1696

Gavin floated. Opening his eyes he saw an endless expanse. At first all he could see was amber light, but as his eyes adjust he saw shadows, other things drifting along just as he was. And he was drifting. He could feel it now, a gentle but irresistible tugging towards a speck of light, impossibly distant but noticeably brighter than anything else he could see. As he went, he overtook some of the shadows. Here was a book, bobbing along in the invisible current. It’s pages were dry and brown, the cover stained with mildew. Gavin could see gigantic bookworms wriggling inside. Next came a pile of oblong objects, all blackened with age and rot. The pile turned and grinned at him. Bones. Something streaked over his shoulder, a lump of iron trailing crimson like a rusty comet.

Ahead the speck of light was brighter now. It was still so very far away, but Gavin thought he could discern a faint, irregular pulsing quality to it. Almost as if it were some kind of erratic beacon pulling him in. Pulling everything in. Around him the shadows were larger now, some the size of trees or large animals, and all of them were horribly twisted and wasted, as though suffering from some kind of blight or the ravages of extreme age. Gavin was cold now, and he somehow knew that he was getting colder each second he drifted towards the pulsing beacon in the distance. He tried to turn away but there was nothing he could do except struggle vainly against the tide.

“Gavin…” The voice was quiet, but not exactly a whisper. It was more like a shout heard from a long way off; something carried on a chill wind. “Gavin…” There it was again. Gavin twisted in the amber, searching for the source of the voice, but there was nothing but shadows.

“Gavin…” This time Gavin happened to be looking at the speck of light, and as it flared the word touched his ear. “Gavin….Gavin…” Every time the beacon pulsed it said his name, screamed his name across the vastness of the void. It wanted him. “Gavin…” It was getting louder now. Just barely, but each time it called it sounded closer. “Gavin…” Real terror gripped Gavin now. Whatever was calling for him was vast and cold and ravenous. More than anything, it was the end. Desperately he pulled against the tide dragging him to it, and inch by inch, he failed. It was inevitable.

“Gavin!” Something heavy slammed against the wood planks beside his head and Gavin woke with a start. A threadbare blanket fell off his thin, sweaty body, and onto the hay covered floor of the loft where he slept. Winter wind blew through the gaps in the wall and made him shiver. “By the gods boy if I have to climb up there you’ll be due for a thrashing.” The voice belonged to Mr. Smythe, the day foreman, and he sounded angry.

“I’m up,” Gavin called.

“Well move your arse, boy,” shouted the foreman. “It’s quarter past four already and I ain’t got time to waste on you.”

“Coming.” Gavin reached out and grabbed his tunic on the second try. He slipped it over his head and then reached for his coat on the second hook. Calling it a coat was a bit generous. It was mostly made of patches by this point and was hardly any thicker than his tunic, but it was holding up around the shoulders nicely and kept the worst of the wind at bay. Then he staggered to the edge of the loft and clambered down the ladder. The stables were tiny, just big enough to house a few oxen and their feed, but right now it was empty. Even so, Gavin took care where he stepped as he walked to the doors. Fiero, the stable boy, was notoriously lax in his duties, and Gavin didn’t relish the thought of stepping in anything squishy so soon after waking.

Mr Smythe was waiting for Gavin by the stable doors. “Hurry up, boy,” he growled. “Got a full load coming in from out by the old Briarstoke way so you best go and make sure the number three vat is ready for ’em. I’ll want to get them in it ‘afore nightfall!” He churned up a glob of phlegm from his gut and spat it on the floor, barely turning his head to miss Gavin as he did. Gavin mumbled an acknowledgment and shuffled out into the yard.

The knacker yard was a large stretch of hard, packed earth right in the middle of the city, but it was mostly filled with a twisting collection of low, ramshackle buildings and tin sheds surrounded by a high wooden fence and so not nearly as open as it might have been. Just now it was even worse. Dozens of people choked the snaking pathways that wound through the place. Most milled around the entrance watching a select few load carts full of barrels of the yard’s products for overnight delivery. Gavin ducked out of the way as a pair of butchers lumbered past, their aprons caked with gore and their belts clinking with cutlery. They were big men, roped with muscle, and they had a knack for bumping into you so that you caught the edge of a flensing knife as you fell. Then he skittered between a gap in two buildings and made his way to his destination.

The vat shed was the largest building in the yard. They’d simply stuck it in the back and built everything else around it. It was the final stop for most of the meat that entered the yard, and Gavin steeled himself before he slid the doors open. The stench hit him like a summer squall, warm and violent. He paused a moment, waiting to see if it would overwhelm him today. When the retching subsided he stepped inside. It was perfectly fine to vomit inside the shed, so long as it landed in one of the vats, but if someone trod on his sick on the way in he’d likely get thrashed.

The shed consisted of a series of iron catwalks at roughly ground height above a pit inside which sat the huge copper vats. There were six of them, each one twelve feet across, and they were sunk ten feet into the ground. Below each was a small furnace, and in between them ran a gently sloping channel that led to a grate at the back of the shed which in turn fed directly into the sewers. All of the vats were full of liquid, one clear and the others in varying shades of putrid, from cream with a sickly orange tint to brown with streaks of red.

Gavin climbed down a grimy iron ladder. The space below was crowded web of iron posts, large valves, protruding handles, and pipes, some going up through the roof of the shack to vent smoke from the furnaces, others bending downwards so that the vats could be drained at the end of each cycle. Gavin crawled through and checked each of the furnaces in turn. Five were burning nicely, but the furnace under vat number three, the one full of clear water, was dying down. Gavin rolled his eyes. Obviously whoever had dumped the vat earlier hadn’t been back to check on it, but Gavin knew it would be his skin if it didn’t reach the proper temperature by the time it was ready to be loaded. He cranked a handle and opened the mouth, then he walked to the end of the row and pulled the shovel down from where it was hanging. He opened the coal chute and lifted a load from within.

As he was walking back to the furnace, backwards through the tangle of metal since he couldn’t turn around with the shovel in hand, he froze and listened. He’d thought he’d heard something. It was faint, and in the depths of the vat pit it was hard to tell where it came from. For all the world, it sounded like someone sobbing. For a moment he thought it was coming from inside the vat to his left, and he nearly placed his ear to the copper side to listen better. A dozen latent burns on his flesh began to tingle, and he stopped himself just in time. He decided to ignore it. The vats made strange sounds some times, he thought as he backed up and dumped his load of coals into the furnace. No sense in listening to them. Sparks flew from the metal mouth of the furnace as he stirred the new coals into the red ones. He repeated the process twice more and then closed everything back up.

Then he climbed back up the ladder and made a round of the vats from the top side. One and two were still in their early stages, and there was little for him to do. Vats four through six were further along, and he poked and stirred them as needed with a long wooden pole. Every now and then a bubble of putrescence reached the surface. The stench was worst up here and it made him gag. He spit a load of bile into number five and went on his way.

When he’d finished his first round he put the stirring pole back on it’s hooks. His stomach knotted painfully, but this time it had nothing to do with the smell. After five years working the vats, his body had learned to feel a whole host of things simultaneously with revulsion. Right now, it felt hunger. He took another peek at vat three. It was coming along nicely and should be hot enough by the time it came to add the carcasses, so he decided to head to the kitchen shack and get something to eat.

As made to close the doors he once again thought he heard a faint sobbing coming from the direction of the vats, but it he shook it off and soon it was lost to the sound of the cold winter wind.

July Writing Challenge Day 22: Beginning Phase 3

Hello all. Welcome to the beginning of phase 3 of my writing challenge, where I take all I’ve done for the past 3 weeks and apply it to writing stories I’ve always thought about but never actually gone anywhere with.

First things first, if any of you read yesterday’s post, you might have gathered that I was not feeling well. I was dizzy and feverish and drained of energy and in a foul mood all around. So I got like 3 paragraphs done in the hour I worked, then I went to bed. Today I am better, but I’m still really tired and a little fever-y, so I didn’t work as much as I wanted to. I still wrote for an hour but I only got about 700 words. I plan on doing at least 1,500 each day from here on out, but today I just couldn’t focus. Hopefully I sleep better tonight than I did last night and tomorrow I’ll be rested and ready.

So, with that out of the way, let’s talk about this story. The origins of this idea are now lost to me. I can’t remember how or when or why I thought of it, but I still like it so that part doesn’t matter. The basic premise is this: a young boy in a vaguely London-esque city is taken from an orphanage and put to work in a knacker yard. If you don’t know what a knacker yard is, google it. It’s like a slaughter house but they take carcasses too diseased or malnourished to be much good to anyone and they break them down. Like, every part of them get’s used. And one of the ways they do this is they render the bodies. They throw dead animals in huge vats of warm-ish liquid and wait for them to break up. Everything kind of separates and they use the layers to make things like tallow and lard, bone meal, and glue. It’s a disgusting process and smells horrible. The main character (who I’ve named Gavin but I’m not in love with that name), watches the vats at night and stirs them as needed. He is not well treated, by his adoptive father or by the workers of the yard, and the best thing he can hope for is that everyone will ignore him. He starts having nightmares, and eventually begins to get the idea that his adoptive “father”, the guy who owns the yard, is running a business on the side, disposing of human bodies in the vats. His suspicions are more or less confirmed when he finds human bones in the….soup, and then the vats start talking to him. The voice (maybe voices) convinces Gavin that his “father” is an evil man and that he should kill him and throw him into the vat. Well, he eventually does, but then he finds out that he’s been duped.

See, the voices don’t belong to the angry spirits of the people disposed of in the vats. Instead, they are the manifestations of something else, a God of entropy. Think Lovecraftian abomination (Azathoth springs to mind), or one of the chaos gods from Warhammer fame (Nurgle). This God is the death of all things, the hunger that devours all, the personified heat death of the universe. And, because this knacker yard is all about breaking things down, it’s a perfect window into our world for this God, who just happens to get bored waiting for everything to die and so takes an interest in things every few millennia or so. The God shows Gavin the eventual fate of all things, the inescapable end that entropy entails. Then he thanks Gavin for the diversion and sends him back out into the city with a gift. Gavin is now old, incredibly old, and has less time to wait before fading into the realm of the God of Entropy.

That might not all make a ton of sense, but like I said, I’m still a little woozy. Today I managed to get through one of Gavin’s nightmares and a little further into the daytime after. Tomorrow I’ll try to get at least to the point where he finds the human bones and starts talking to the voices in the vats. Hopefully after that it’ll be one more day where he kills his father and then meets this elder god thing and goes insane. Fingers crossed.

Thanks in advance for reading. Please leave any comments, criticisms or ideas you have so that I can incorporate them as I go. Otherwise, please enjoy and stay tuned for the rest.

Knacker
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 708

Gavin floated. Opening his eyes he saw an endless expanse. At first all he could see was amber light, but as his eyes adjust he saw shadows, other things drifting along just as he was. And he was drifting. He could feel it now, a gentle but irresistible tugging towards a speck of light, impossibly distant but noticeably brighter than anything else he could see. As he went, he overtook some of the shadows. Here was a book, bobbing along in the invisible current. It’s pages were dry and brown, the cover stained with mildew. Gavin could see gigantic bookworms wriggling inside. Next came a pile of oblong objects, all blackened with age and rot. The pile turned and grinned at him. Bones. Something streaked over his shoulder, a lump of iron trailing crimson like a rusty comet.

Ahead the speck of light was brighter now. It was still so very far away, but Gavin thought he could discern a faint, irregular pulsing quality to it. Almost as if it were some kind of erratic beacon pulling him in. Pulling everything in. Around him the shadows were larger now, some the size of trees or large animals, and all of them were horribly twisted and wasted, as though suffering from some kind of blight or the ravages of extreme age. Gavin was cold now, and he somehow knew that he was getting colder each second he drifted towards the pulsing beacon in the distance. He tried to turn away but there was nothing he could do except struggle vainly against the tide.

“Gavin…” The voice was quiet, but not exactly a whisper. It was more like a shout heard from a long way off; something carried on a chill wind. “Gavin…” There it was again. Gavin twisted in the amber, searching for the source of the voice, but there was nothing but shadows.

“Gavin…” This time Gavin happened to be looking at the speck of light, and as it flared the word touched his ear. “Gavin….Gavin…” Every time the beacon pulsed it said his name, screamed his name across the vastness of the void. It wanted him. “Gavin…” It was getting louder now. Just barely, but each time it called it sounded closer. “Gavin…” Real terror gripped Gavin now. Whatever was calling for him was vast and cold and ravenous. More than anything, it was the end. Desperately he pulled against the tide dragging him to it, and inch by inch, he failed. It was inevitable.

“Gavin!” Something heavy slammed against the wood planks beside his head and Gavin woke with a start. A threadbare blanket fell off his thin, sweaty body, and onto the hay covered floor of the loft where he slept. Winter wind blew through the gaps in the wall and made him shiver. “By the gods boy if I have to climb up there you’ll be due for a thrashing.” The voice belonged to Mr. Smythe, the day foreman, and he sounded angry.

“I’m up,” Gavin called.

“Well move your arse, boy,” shouted the foreman. “It’s quarter past already and I ain’t got time to waste on you.”

“Coming.” Gavin reached out and grabbed his tunic on the second try. He slipped it over his head and then reached for his coat on the second hook. Calling it a coat was a bit generous. It was mostly made of patches by this point and was hardly any thicker than his tunic, but it was holding up around the shoulders nicely and kept the worst of the wind at bay. Then he staggered to the edge of the loft and clambered down the ladder. The barn was tiny, just big enough to house a few oxen and their feed, but right now it was empty. Even so, Gavin took care where he stepped as he walked to the doors. Fiero, the stable boy, was notoriously lax in his duties, and Gavin didn’t relish the thought of stepping in anything squishy so soon after waking.

“Hurry up and check the vats, boy!” Mr. Smythe yelled from across the yard as Gavin left the stables. “Got a full load coming in from out by the old Briarstoke way and we’ll want to get them in ‘afore nightfall!”

July Writing Challenge Day 21: Don’t read this

Everything slides into focus. His hands move. Bam—Crunch. He knows his present state of mind won’t last, can’t last, but he doesn’t care. Three seconds after the impact his mind registers the pain. Bone under flesh. Wood splintering and cracking. In the morning people will ask him why and, being human, he will lie. He will tell them that he fell. That he doesn’t remember what happened. They will believe him, and everything will slide into place. Stupid.

Weeks will pass.

His hands will heal. Slowly. Terrible things will pass through his mind. He will write them off as nightmares, terrors confined to the twilight hours. It is a lie. Not one he tells himself, but one he tells the world. Better to discount the awful things than acknowledge them.

More time passes.

There is pain. Red wounds blossom on pink skin. Who hurt me, he wonders? He remembers the knife, the impetus, the blood. But not the action. He takes off his clothes and looks in the mirror. Where did all this fat come from? Why do I have so many scars? The mirror shatters and he wipes away the blood.

His phone vibrates. It inches its way closer to the edge of the counter. He waits for it to fall, hopes it will fall, but then it stops. It buzzes again, this time moving in the opposite direction. He sighs and picks it up. He wishes he hadn’t.

It’s nothing special. Just another alert about how well she’s doing. Nothing at all. The anger he feels grounds itself in the closest nothing it finds. In the morning he wraps bandages around his hands and tries to forget.

Even more time passes.

The nightmares are worse now. They seem to target recent events, build upon one another until all he can remember is nightmare. The blanks are filled in with something worse than nothing.