test jpg.jpg

Forum Posts

Tamago Atsuyaki
Sep 26, 2022
In Short Stories
Word Count: 1228 Created for the Tropetember Event - Meet Cute I trudge to the front of the line, resisting the urge to fall asleep right on the tiled floor after the long wait. The barista behind the counter looks at me with a chipper smile; I envy her seemingly unlimited energy. “What can I get for you this morning?” she asks, one of her hands already resting on the stack of cups to her left. “Just gimme an iced coffee,” I mumble. “In the largest size you got.” “Okay!” she says, pulling a cup from the stack. She grabs a permanent marker from her apron and squints at the tiny black print against the clear plastic as she writes. “Milk or no milk?” she asks, not looking up. I thought I ordered the simplest thing on the menu… I think. “No milk.” After another violent squiggle, she looks up at me again. “And your name?” she smiles. Oh boy, here we go. “Ezekiel.” The barista’s smile falters. “Huh?” “E - Z - E - K - I - E - L,” I spell out. She scribbles frantically as I speak. Once she finishes, she slides the cup over to the side where another barista picks it up. “Okay,” she sighs. “That’ll be $2.59!” I dig around in my jacket’s pockets. Finding nothing, I switch to my jeans pockets. I can feel the rest of the line’s annoyance creeping hot against my back. I finally manage to pull out the most crumpled five dollar bill in existence. I pinch it between two of my fingers and toss it on the counter like the wretched thing it is. “Keep the change,” I say before scuttling out of line to wait for my order. No longer under the pressure of a whole line of people, my eyes begin to droop again. Please, please, please, hurry, I beg mentally. I need this coffee inside me. My silent prayers were answered as a different barista moves towards the pick-up counter, an oversized clear cup of the prized dark liquid in hand. He holds it up, the dim lights above causing the cup’s thin coat of condensation to glitter. It’s most definitely my order, but I still stand back with the rest of the waiting group out of courtesy. “Order for,” the barista squints at the side of the cup, “Eh-zek…” he trails off. “Zeke?” He looks out at the crowd before setting the drink on the counter. I should really start making my own coffee at home, I think as I step forward. I finally reach the counter, wrapping my hand around the cool cup. I pick it up, eyeing a jumble of letters that looked like they spelled my name all crossed out and replaced with a “zeek” underneath. The barista mouths a sorry before calling out the next order. I shrug it off before taking a giant swig of the coffee. My tastebuds burst with its sharp bitterness; the ice stops the drink from burning my throat on the way down. My brain blinks to life, the caffeine already seeming to work its magic. I pull the cup from my lips, smacking in satisfaction. Ah, that’s the good stuff. Finally prepared to start my long day, I turn from the pick-up counter. Just to run into someone. It was so fast, I don’t even know what happened. What I do know is, the rest of my iced coffee is now spilled down the front of one of the most beautiful men I have ever seen. The rest of the small coffeehouse goes silent, all eyes piercing into the pair of us like daggers. “Holy crap, I’m so sorry!” I exclaim. “Oh no, it’s quite alright!” he laughs. I don’t know which has me more confused: the way his laugh sounds like the tinkling of wind chimes or how he’s able to be so good-natured about this. The man holds his arms out like a bird might hold its wings during flight and looks down to assess the damage. The cursed dark liquid stains his beige sweatshirt. It dribbles down his white jeans before finally reaching the puddle and empty cup next to his completely ruined hi-top sneakers. The man looks back up at me, his green eyes twinkling with what looks to be tears. But his smile never leaves his lips. “At least it wasn’t hot coffee,” he says, his voice cracking. “I might’ve had to sue you for that one!” “I hope that was a joke,” I say, forcing a laugh. “But uhh, lemme get some napkins for you.” “No, wait,” he says. A person passes around us to grab their drink from the counter, causing his face to finally redden. “Could you help me take this off?” he asks, flapping his arms. Alarms go off in my head. Undressing someone in public?! “Do you have anything on under that?” I stutter out. His eyebrows scrunch together. “Of course I do.” “Oh,” I mumble, my face heating as well. “Okay then.” I step a little closer, careful to avoid the puddle. The man pulls his arms into the body of the sweatshirt and I pull it over the top of his black curls. I immediately fold the stained part of the sweatshirt inwards. He looks down and pats at his completely dry black t-shirt with a chuckle. His eyes eventually found their way back to mine. “Oh my gosh, thanks!” “Uh,” I start, noticing another person pass us. “I think I have a change of clothes in my car if you want them,” I jab my thumb towards the side entrance. I get a skeptical look in response. Ezekiel, you’re such an idiot. Imagine someone who just spilled coffee all over you asked if you want to go out to their car with them! I fiddle with the clothes in my hands in an attempt to distract myself from my inner critic. “Thanks for the offer, but I live right down the street from this place. I can just walk back and get clothes there,” he finally explains. “Please let me drive you!” I blurt, surprising the both of us. “I can’t let you walk with your shoes like that.” Did you not just learn your lesson, “zeek?” So desperate to pay for your mistake? The man holds his chin in thought. “Well, just as long as you don’t drive me anywhere weird…” he replies. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. “Wonderful.” The man steps out from the puddle, and a janitor finally comes behind him to clean up the mess. His shoes make a squelching sound with each step as he makes his way to the side door. I follow behind him before he stops and turns to face me. “Oh, could you get my order from the pick-up counter?” he asks. “Sure. Which one is it?” “It’s a caramel frap for Jamie.” “Gotcha,” I say. “I’m really sorry about this again, Jamie.” He flinches as his name leaves my mouth. Maybe things would be better if you just stop talking. I huff a breath out my nostrils. Maybe things would be better if that part of my brain went back to sleep! “It’s okay,” Jamie says quietly, looking down. He crosses his arms, rubbing the bare skin as if cold. I waste no more time and run back to the pick-up counter for, hopefully, the last time today.
0
0
4
Tamago Atsuyaki
Sep 06, 2022
In Short Stories
Word Count: 3127 Warnings: blood, fictional disease Created for the Tropetember Event - pining Note: yes it's really long and really cringe My eyes flutter close and I find myself wrapped contently in the darkness behind my eyelids. The voice of a man rambles on in the background, providing the perfect white noise for a nice nap… “...could you answer this question for us, Sylph?” I jolt awake upon hearing my name. “Huhwhaa…?” I slur. Mr. Verdier glares down at me from the front of the class. The rest of the room’s eyes are on me as well. How could he tell I was sleeping?! I think incredulously. I was sitting up this time! However, I take the incident in stride, not letting all the stares bother me as they would have in the past. I clear my throat. “Which question?” “After being dropped from an equal height, would a bowling ball or a sheet of paper hit the ground first?” he says, crossing his arms. My mind blanks completely. I’m falling asleep in physics, my worst subject. I thought I would never have to take this course again! one part of me screeches. Well that’s what happens when you spend a month in another world, you get to redo your senior year, a different part quips. Tendrils of panic begin to tickle my back. I begin to utter my first “um,” but something nudges my arm. I look to my left and find Otto pointing at something frantically in his notebook. I squint to read his chicken scratch and make out the words, “same time.” The tiny bit of physics knowledge I had from before flows back into my brain. “They hit the ground at the same time, Mr. Verdier!” I say confidently, smiling. He sputters at my response, causing my smile to grow. “Yes, that is correct,” he hisses. “Moving on now.” “Psst,” Otto whispers. I look at him again. He’s wearing his own goofy smile, eyes still hidden behind his overly long black bangs. “Take this,” he slides me a stick of gum. “The chewing should keep you awake.” I chuckle, trying to hide my embarrassed flush behind my own hair. Oh Otto, where would I be without you? Probably wallowing in a pool of embarrassment, or even better yet, dead in a ditch back in Locradoon… I take the gum, our fingers brushing. They’re cold against mine. Wait, why am I noticing this? “Thanks,” I say, stuffing the gum into my mouth. Otto pets my head, running his fingers through my hair. “Of course!” “You there! Otto!” Mr. Verdier suddenly snaps. “How do you solve this problem?” He slaps a ruler against the blackboard, the resounding crack causing every student to jump. Otto flips up his bangs and takes a good, long look at the board. I take a look too, instantly cringing at the insane amount of math the teacher had scribbled on there. “Mr. Verdier…” Otto starts. “This isn't in the curriculum.” Otto was right. The gum did help keep me awake in my next two boring periods, but ironically, I now couldn’t stop thinking about him. I would absentmindedly twirl my pencil, alternating between wondering why Otto’s so kind to me and wishing lunch would come sooner so I could see him again. I don’t know what any of that was about, but as soon as the bell rang for the end of third period, all these strange anxieties left me. But now, as I make my way towards the cafeteria, a new thought consumes me: does Otto think the same way? I gnaw on my lower lip and push open the cafeteria doors, only to find myself ramming into someone on the other side. I stumble back, holding my head. My eyes soon land on the girl sitting on the ground in front of me. She blows a strand of strawberry blond hair out her face with a disgruntled expression. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” I say, scrambling to offer her a hand. “It’s okay! I’m just really clumsy,” she smiles up at me. She takes my hand and I pull her to her feet. “Thanks!” With that, she hurries out the door behind me. I also hurry away from the site of the accident, for other people are trying to use the door as well. Jeez, that was so embarrassing! How did I just knock her to the ground? I’m not even that strong… Someone suddenly latches onto my arm. I’m almost about to jump out of my skin, but I soon realize it's just Otto and melt into his touch. Wait, I’m doing what? “Holy heck, Sylph! You’re so lucky!” he exclaims as he leads me to an empty table. “I’ve been trying to get the courage to talk to Evelyn forever!” I sit down in some sort of daze. Otto plops down in the seat next to mine, throwing his backpack on the table. “Whatever for?” I ask. “Oh…” he giggles. Out of the couple months I’ve known him, this is the first time I’ve seen Otto blush. Is blushing contagious or something? It feels like my own face is heating up just from looking at how cute he is. “It’s ‘cause I have a crush on her,” Otto says. I blink at him. Wait he has a what? A crush on some random girl he’s only seen in fleeting glimpses over the course of two weeks? I don’t know why, but the thought makes something twist in my chest. I watch his mouth move and his blush deepen with each word but his voice is drowned out by my pulse roaring in my ears. Why is something so trivial bothering me like this? Otto’s voice phases back into my ears. “Yeah, so that’s why I like her.” He looks down, scratching his nose. “Don’t tell anyone, will ya?” It takes every ounce of my willpower to put on a smile, much to my dismay. “Your secret is safe with--” I cough, a fist flying to my mouth to catch it. I try to continue what I was saying, but the coughs just keep coming. Something tickles the back of my throat. I bend over the table, each cough taking a bit of my energy. “Oh my gosh, Sylph! Are you choking on something?” Otto yells. He hastily reaches over and begins smacking me on the back. "Holy heck, you sound like one of those sick kids in those fundraiser commercials!" His odd comment goes over my head as I feel the thing in my throat leap into the back of my mouth. Just a few more coughs and I manage to spit it out. Black spots threaten to blot out my sight entirely. Everything around me sounds far too loud. My limbs feel numb, my throat burns, my chest is prickly. I let myself slump into Otto. He’s rubbing small circles into my back. What a good friend he is… “Wait, is this a flower petal?” I hear him say. I can barely make the thing out on the table. It looks red. Otto pokes at it. “Ew, it's slimy!” he squeals. He then looks down at me, brushing the hair out of my face. Even behind his hair, I could see his eyes were wide and full of concern. “You just threw up a flower petal?!” he starts. “How did that get inside you? Is this some magical residue from Locradoon? Are you okay?” Oh Otto, why can't you just shut up and hold me? my brain shoots off. I can’t even question it as those pesky black spots win, turning everything dark. I blink awake, finding myself staring up at my bedroom ceiling. Was that all a bad dream…? I rub my eyes and sit up. Suddenly a dull, throbbing pain strikes me in my chest, accompanied by that burning sensation in my throat. I grab my throat, choking on just air. "Holy-- Sylphie, you're up!" Otto says. He rushes to my side, sitting on the edge of the bed and lightly patting my back. What a lovely thought, the two of us in the same bed, that weird part of my brain quips again. Hello? I'm literally dying and this is what you think about? my more sensible part snaps back. Wait, how did Otto get into my bedroom anyways? Into my house? He's never been here before and my mom isn't even home yet to let him in! "Hey, um, I think I found some cough drops around here if you want them. Don't think they would help too much though with the condition you have," he says, his voice dwindling down to a mumble. I try to suppress my coughs as much as I can when I turn to look at him. Otto must've ransacked my house because he's wearing one of my mom's silver headbands to hold his hair back. I wish he wore his hair like that more often, hehe, floats through my head. Shut up, stupid. He practically broke into your house. Be mad! Despite the war in my head and the pain in my throat, I manage an intelligible response, "What condition?" "Oh I was using your pc to research this stuff." He jabs a thumb behind him to indicate an open Chrome tab on my laptop at my study desk. "I typed in 'what does it mean if you throw up flowers' and Google said that it's this fake thing called 'hana--'" he pauses, "'hanahaki disease.'" He smiles at his successful pronunciation. I furrow my brows. But before I could ask about the legitimacy of a haphazard Google search, I'm overtaken by another intense fit of coughs. They hurt worse this time, several somethings cropping up at the back of my throat. Please just come out already, I pray, forcing myself to cough harder to accelerate their passing. Otto seems to be at a loss of what to do, only holding me close and rubbing my shoulder. It only makes everything hurt worse. Tears spring from my eyes as I finally hurl up a giant glob of red onto my bed. I slouch, tears streaming from my eyes as my body shakes uncontrollably. Otto bravely pokes at the glob and it falls apart, sending the scent of bile and other nasty bodily fluids throughout the room. I think I'm about to throw up. Again. "Okay, I think these are definitely rose petals," Otto says, taking on an analytical tone. "Roses symbolize, uhh, romance. I think they're the most common flower to puke 'cause this disease has to do with love!" I have a love disease? Just my luck. "The cure?" I ask, my voice protesting at each syllable. "Well, I think the best way is to find the person you're in love with and get them to confess to you. So, that begs the question…" Otto stares deep into my eyes. I stare back, his mismatched eyes reminding me of the rich earth meeting the blue sky above. "Who are you in love with?" he whispers. I don't know why he's whispering. I don't even know the answer to his question. How can I love someone if I don't know what love is? Not wanting to further irritate my throat, I shrug. A shadow of disappointment passes over Otto's face. He pats my shoulders before backing away from me. "Okay, well, we'll just go through every girl's name in your classes, you'll tell me if you like them or not, and then I'll get them to confess to you so you'll be cured! How about it?" Wow, that sounds like a lot of work… All of that for me? Seeming to notice my hesitation, Otto adds, "Oh, you can also die from this. Flowers grow inside of you until they pop out and you know…" He tilts his head to the side and makes a bone cracking sound. Jeez, this sounds like this is my best bet. I nod vigorously, agreeing to his odd plan. Otto wasted no time grabbing my laptop and bringing it back to bed with him. He rapidly clicks through several sites before finally pulling up a long list of names. Wow, he can use that thing better than I can. "Okay, don't ask me how I got this list, but let's get to it," he laughs. He squints at the tiny print. "So this is your first period. Kassidy Alders." I don't think I've ever seen her before. I shake my head no. "Hanna Amod?" Another shake. Otto starts to look a little concerned. "Emma Baker?" I let out a single cough, causing Otto’s eyebrows to raise. I still shake my head no. He studies me for a moment before his eyes slide back to the laptop. A grin suddenly breaks out on his face. "Candice," he snickers out. "Candice Dickinson!" Otto bursts into laughter. It's such a dumb joke, but I find myself laughing along anyways. Suddenly there's a sharp pain in my chest as if a knife had just been run through my heart. I double over, my laughter quickly becoming aggressive coughs. Curse you and your 12-year-old humor! "No!" Otto wails. He sets the laptop on the bed and throws his arms around me. "Sylphie, I'm sorry! I didn’t mean to make you cough again!" Once again, his attempt to comfort me makes it worse. This time, it feels like some evil monster is slashing its talons along my throat. A metallic taste blooms in my mouth. Tears anew trail hot down to my chin, mingling with the slobber there. I try to aim for the existing pile of rose petals through the pain. I let out a scream and squeeze my eyes shut, not caring about the extra burn. I only want this thing out of my throat. One final cough-screech and a wave of warm stuff rushes past my mouth. "Holy shnikies!" Otto mutters under his breath. "That's blood. A lot of it! You're bleeding from the inside!" I fall forwards, somehow managing to not land in the giant red puddle at the end of the bed. Those black splotches are back again. I despondently look ahead at the mess I made. "Sylph, these are whole roses! Thorns and all! The website said that the disease isn't supposed to progress this fast?!" Wait, the disease isn't supposed to progress this fast? What's accelerating it? Otto grabs my hand and gives it a squeeze. "I dunno what to do. I-I can't take you to the hospital, they're just gonna think we're crazy!" He pauses, trying to calm his own erratic breathing. "I don't want to see you die…" I suck in a breath as things finally click together for me. I squeeze Otto’s hand back. I open my mouth, more blood dribbling down the side of my mouth. I try to form the words, but Otto’s face soon pops into my field of vision. "Don't talk," he says, gently patting my cheek. He pulls his sweatshirt sleeve over his hand and wipes all the blood, spit, and tears from around my mouth. He doesn't do a very good job, only ruining the dark blue of his hoodie. I guess it's the thought that counts. But with this, the thought doesn't count. Thoughts will only leave me dead. If I throw up another rose, I might die or permanently lose my voice. So I gather up all my energy and speak my mind. My voice is barely above a whisper, "I love you." Otto blinks at me. "Whazzdat?" he says, leaning his ear towards me. A spark of anger flares up in me. It already hurt like crazy to say it the first time! Now he wants me to repeat? "I love you," I wheeze out, some more blood accompanying my words. I wince at the sharp spike in pain. "Oh," Otto mumbles. He looks at me, eyes wide as he retracts his hand from my face. "Oh." All I can do is stare at him, dread stabbing its talons into my heart. Or maybe that's the rose thorns… "Sylph, I, uhh, I don't think I really swing that way. Emphasis on think…" I ask the first question that comes to mind. "Why?" I rasp. "Why…?" Otto echoes, inching further away from me. "I just don't find other guys attractive? Like, I think girls are really appealing. But you sort of look like a girl, so I'm confused," he rambles out. “But it’s not just how you look, it’s your personality too! Not to say you have a girl’s personality or that all girls have the same personality, but yours is just flat out attractive?” It’s my turn to blink. The flower garden inside me stills as it too pays attention to his words. “Yeah, I dunno,” Otto laughs nervously. He scratches the side of his nose. “It’s really, really confusing for me. So, I thought earlier that if I told you that I liked a girl I wouldn't feel all weird about you still, but it didn’t work at all and I only made you deathly ill and now I feel completely awful as well as more weird because we both know that we feel the same for each other!” He heaves out his last bit of air before gulping down some more. My heart flutters in my chest, breaking free of the tangle of thorns. I can feel it -- all the roses shriveling up and falling away. The flowers sitting on the bed wilted as well, leaving crumbly brown stuff coated in red. It crudely reminds me of that story where the queen tried to paint roses red. A relieved smile creeps across my face. Otto mirrors my smile. “Yeah, so I guess it’s not so weird anymore, right?” “Right,” I whisper. He scooches a bit closer, taking my hand again. “Are you cured now?” “Throat still sore, but yeh.” “That’s the most amazing thing I’ve heard today,” he sighs, pulling my hand to his chest. “Well, it's in second place for that title with you saying you loved me in first, hehe.” I’ve never been so happy in my life before. But I have so many questions! Does this make us a couple? Should we tell anyone else about what happened? Are we going to make use of this bed any time soon? But unfortunately, my fatigue gets the best of me. Maybe next time… I think as I slip into the dark void of my subconscious.
1
0
9
Tamago Atsuyaki
Sep 04, 2022
In Short Stories
Word Count: 1099 Created for the Tropetember Event - Gaia's Lament The engine of my sandrider drones endlessly in my ears. Its powerful jets whip up a cloud of yellow dust behind me, shooting across the sea of sand. Charred, broken beams of metal loom over me. I think they used to belong to those things called “skyscrapers.” I’ve never not seen a broken skyscraper before, according to Old Man Joe anyways. But I didn’t even know what a skyscraper was before I started these foraging missions. I’m jolted out of my thoughts by my own hacking cough. The sand always tastes the same: gritty and metallic. Everyone else back at camp thinks I’m crazy for riding without a bandana, joking that I like eating sand. I shake my head at myself before leaning in closer to the sandrider’s battered handlebars. I expertly maneuver this floating hunk of dented metal past some shorter beams jutting dangerously out of the sand. Not long after, I come across a skyscraper that’s more intact than all the rest I’ve seen. It looks like the corner of a large square box poking out of the ground. It still has some layers of glass that twinkle under the glaring sun. I sit straight up, pumping my arms in the air. “Yes, finally!” I shout. All sorts of sand flies into my mouth, but I don’t care. I’m just glad I won’t be returning back to camp empty-handed this time. I park my sandrider outside and grab my pack of various equipment: a flashlight, a camera that detects electronic signals, and a walkie-talkie modified for longer range. I find the closest hole in this thing and hurriedly squeeze in. As soon as I’m past the threshold, I’m met with a sharp drop downwards to a lower floor. It looks like the concrete broke off as the building settled into place. I pull off my goggles and squint to try to get a better look at what’s down there. My eyes follow a single beam of sunlight coming from a hole up above to this weird looking thing surrounded by a pool of water. The top half of it is this bright color I’ve never seen before, and its bottom half is a skinny thing a color slightly darker than sand. I whip out my walkie-talkie. I press the transmission button and the familiar burst of static greets me. “Gene here. Home base come in. Over,” I say into it, my voice echoing throughout the empty skyscraper. There was a beat of silence. “Oh hey, sand eater!” a man’s snarky voice replies. “Finally calling in?” I huff, stamping my foot. I regret doing so as part of the small ridge of concrete I’m standing on crumbles into the unknown below. “Stop calling me that, Henry! And stop messing around, I can barely hear you over all the static ‘cause I’m almost out of range! Over.” I hear a staticky sigh from the device. “Ol’ Joe never should’ve told you those walkie-talkie terms… But what is it?” I grind my teeth at his nonchalance. “I found a skyscraper thing. I don’t think I’ve looted this one before, but there’s a huge drop, and there’s this other weird thing with some water down there. What should I do? Over.” “We don’t need any more water at base, plus the water you’re seeing is probably too contaminated for us to use. So just come back already.” There’s a pause before Henry wearily adds, “Do you copy?” My heart sinks. I’ve been out here among the dunes all morning and I haven’t found anything of use. When I get back, Henry’s probably going to confine me to cleaning duty. “Copy…” I mumble. “But what’s this other thing here?” “What thing, sandy boy? I can’t know crap if you don’t describe it.” I furrow my brow and squat down to take a better look at the object. “The top is fluffy and bright and the bottom looks like a stick,” I say. “What colors?” Henry sighs, the static flaring up again. What colors? The only colors I know are black, yellow, and grey. And this thing doesn’t match any of them! “I’m looking at colors I can’t describe…” I spend a minute racking my brain as the line is silent. “I think the stick part is a really dark yellow though.” I can see Henry pinching his nose at my ignorance. “You mean ‘brown’?” “Guess I do.” “And the top is ‘fluffy’?” “Yeah! The brown bits also poke up and are holding the fluffy stuff.” “Wait, Gene, do you remember when Ol’ Joe would always rant about those things he called ‘trees’?” There was a sudden urgency in Henry’s voice now. Like something’s finally clicking together for him. The change in tone confuses me. I’m just seeing some rusted old machine aren’t I? “Well, no,” I reply. “I always sort of tuned him out.” “Trees are green and brown. Their leaves make them ‘fluffy’ at the top --” he abruptly cuts off. “Henry?” I call over the line. “Uhh, Henry come in?” “What’s your 20? Over,” Henry cuts back in. I gulp loudly. I wish I had the not-so-serious Henry back. “I-I don’t know…” “Leave something there so we can find that location again. Return back to base, Gene. Over.” “Okay…” “You have no idea how big of a find this is, kiddo. If Ol’ Joe is right, then one tree could change our whole world,” he rambles out. “And it’s ‘copy that’ not ‘okay,’ sand eater. Over and out.” I could hear the smug grin in his last words. I grumble angrily to myself as I try to determine what I could leave behind. I finally take out the camera and leave it on a pile of rubble near the hole I came through. The camera has electronic bits in it that the others could pick up later, right? Plus I could just show another team the way back anyways. I leave out the skyscraper. The sun has sunk a little lower in the sky since the last time I looked at it. I shuffle through the sand towards my sandrider again. I throw my leg over it and pull my goggles back over my eyes. I kick the side of this metal turd and the engine revs to life. I pull away from the tilted skyscraper, trying to remember each part of my surroundings. I don’t know what’s so important about a "tree," but I’m happy that I found something that made this trip worthwhile. Maybe this will finally prove my worth as a forager to Henry and the others.
1
0
7
Tamago Atsuyaki
Aug 22, 2022
In Short Stories
words: 1988 note: loosely based off of Porter Robinson's song "Get Your Wish." I'm very bad at writing from songs because my brain doesn't relate music and writing too well, so I kind of missed some lyrics. Plot is also sort of janky, sorry. On a blustery day, me and my brother made the long walk from our farm to the city. I had never been out before, so I studied everything in awe like the gullible young child I was. I still remember the way the snow crunched under my shoes; the gentle tinkle of the few coins in my brother’s pocket. Ma had sent us to buy a new ax for Pa because he was complaining about his current one being too dull. She told us to be quick, but when we reached the city, my brother walked directly past the hardware store. “Walt,” I said. My small voice was almost drowned out by all the cars roaring past us on the street. “Walt!” He looked down at me, his smile warm enough to make me forget the chill in my fingers. “I want to show you something,” he said, grabbing my hand. I didn’t have much of a choice, so I followed him down the busy sidewalks. Just as it felt like I was about to fall out from all the walking, we came across this fountain. It was a large pool with a few jets of water shooting up from it. The water would arc gracefully into the air, somehow managing to sparkle under the grey sunlight, before falling back to the pool with a thundering crash. I couldn’t look away from it. It wasn’t like the water leaving that rusty spigot back home. It was beautiful. “Look there, Eddie,” said my brother. He pointed my face towards a man standing before the fountain. He wore an oversize coat; his fingers poked through his gloves as he worked a deck of cards. He held up a card, the ace of spades, smiling at the both of us. With a twist of his finger, the card had disappeared. A moment later, Walt pulled the card out of his own pocket. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking as he looked at the ace in his hand. We walked over and tried to return the man’s card. He told us we could have it, but I saw Walt slide the man a dime. He graciously accepted the money with an even bigger smile. When we walked all the way back to the hardware store, we were ten cents short to buy the ax. Walt dragged me out the shop and used the rest of the money to buy me a hot dog from a stand further down the sidewalk. As we took the long, winding path through the woods home, all was quiet again. I wiped the last crumbs of the hot dog bun off my face before speaking. “Why’d you do that?” I asked him. “Momma’s gonna be mad at you.” Walt squeezed my hand. “‘Cause I’m gonna be a magic man one day, Eddie. Imma get good at magic -- so good that I’ll never hafta live or work on no farm ever again.” “What’s wrong with the farm?” “It stinks. All of it. And the work is hard. Then Ma and Pa are always mean to me too,” he trailed off. “I wanna live in the city, where I can eat candy and have electricity and have fun like all the other kids!” I gaped up at him. I had never had candy before -- still never have. “Can I come too?” I asked excitedly. “Of course!” he smiled down at me. “You’d be my assistant and come with me everywhere so we can do magic together.” I squinted up at him. “Promise?” “Promise,” Walt laughed. That night, he was beat real bad by Pa for wasting his hard-earned money. But after that night, Walter had entered some kind of trance. He stopped doing his chores as often, conveniently disappearing when he was needed to do something. Walter would then show up again, in the pitch black of night to avoid our parents’ wrath. He would always wake me up, a flickering candle illuminating his glossy blue eyes. He’d sit on the edge of my bed, telling me to watch him. And I did. He’d whip out that same ace of spades from his sleeve, showing it off between his index and middle finger. Next, he’d twist his fingers and the card would clumsily tumble to the bed below. “That was just a fluke,” he’d chuckle, keeping his voice low. I’d watch with bated breath as he’d try the trick again. The card would fall from his fingers again. Walter would do this over and over and over until we heard our parents shift in the other room or the first rays of dawn got caught in our bedroom window. “I’ll get it next time,” he’d whisper. He’d give me another one of his smiles -- that big warm one that kept me believing in his dream. “Love ya, Ed,” would come next. And he would ruffle my hair before blowing out the candle. Then Walt would finally leave. That day, I would always find myself sleepy, barely able to do any work on the farm. Ma would alternate between scolding me and cursing Walt’s absence. Her words were mean, but I didn’t care. I would continue to stay up, waiting to hear the near-silent click of the bedroom door followed by Walt’s creaking steps. I’d continue to watch him do the same trick, failing each time. His eyes seemed to get deader and deader with each failure, but he would still say that he would be better next time. I never asked where he was going, or what he was doing during the day. I just always assumed he was in the city. But then Walt just stopped showing up. He disappeared. Pa spat on the ground, refusing to look for Walter. I don’t know why I didn’t look myself. I guess I was just too confused, too scared to leave the farm. I was only 6, after all. All I could do was hope and pray that Walt was out there fulfilling his dream. That’d he finally get his wish, become a successful magic man. That’d he come back and take me off this farm where I have to work day in and day out to help my family make money. But that was ten years ago. I let myself slip into the life of a farmer, the dreams of my brother becoming a thing of the past. One day, I was making another trip to the city by myself. The dirt from the road trickled into the holes in my shoes, soon poking at my feet with every step I took. I finally reached the city, its towering apartment buildings and squat little department stores were vaguely familiar. I had to buy some paint so me and Pa could pretty up the barn for Ma, who was always complaining about the way it looked. I could see the paint shop right around the corner when two boys suddenly rammed into me from behind. “Hey! Watch it!” I yelled, disgruntled. The boys were no taller than my waist. They stared up at me, eyes wide. “Sorry, mister,” one of them mumbled. “Ronald!” the other whispered pointedly. “We’re gonna be late for the magic show!” The boy nodded and the two of them were off zooming down the sidewalk again. It seemed like my heart started beating ten times faster at the mention of a magic show. Before I knew it, I was thundering down the sidewalk after them. Running allowed us to reach our destination in record time. It was the same fountain in the city center. The same jets of water, except now they truly glittered beneath the summer sun. The same pool of water, all the bronze pennies sparkling through its clear surface. The only difference was the large crowd of people gathered around it, all chattering excitedly. Not wanting to get crushed by so many people, I turned around, planning to just buy my paint and get out of there. But I stopped in my tracks as a voice rose above all the rest. “Now presenting our rising star, Walter Harris! The Miracle Worker!” a man yells through a megaphone. I snapped back around and tore my way through the crowd. I was desperate to see if my ears had heard true. I finally stumbled past the last row of people, bumping into the edge of the fountain. As I looked across the surface of the water, I felt my jaw drop. It was Walter. He stood on the edge of the fountain, somehow staying balanced in his polished black dress shoes. He wore a matching snappy black tuxedo and top hat. Walter smiled at the crowd, not unlike how he used to smile at me. He took a big bow, still keeping his balance on that thin bit of concrete; as he straightens, his eyes had this twinkle in them that I’d never seen before. Walter threw his gloved hands out to the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen!” he projected. “Watch me as I perform the greatest feat known to man -- one that no other magician has accomplished!” He took a step backward, eliciting several gasps from the audience. His foot hovered just above the surface of the water. Walter tipped the brim of his hat with a smirk before his other foot leaves the edge. And like that, my brother was walking on water. The crowd roared. All the voices, the applause, the stomps, all merged into one powerful sound. But then Walt began to move, began to dance, upon the water. He tap danced, putting his lanky long legs to work. He danced to his own tune, the water splashing around his feet as if he was playing in a shallow puddle. The crowd moved with Walt, seeming to vibrate in place as each individual did their own dances. A woman to my left fainted, her body slowly lowered to the ground by some others. A man behind me almost bashed my head in as he pumped his fists. I myself jumped up and down, shouting my brother’s name until my throat went hoarse. I wanted him to see me. To run over and pick me up and tell me everything he’s been up to over the years. Walt twirled, kicking up a sparkling shower of water over the crowd. Everyone went wild. And finally, Walt’s dance came to an end. He slowed to a stop, standing at the center of the fountain. The jets of water arced up behind him, creating a sort of glittering halo over him. His chest heaved with each breath he takes, revealing his exhaustion, but he still had a smile plastered on his face. He slowly folded his arms out to the crowd again, like the grand showmen that I only caught glimpses of on posters. “Thank you, everyone!” Walt said. “I hope you enjoyed the show!” The crowd let out one final shout, this one louder than all the rest. Walt’s eyes scanned the sea of people and I found myself beaming at the sense of pride he seemed to take in their reaction. Not once did he meet my eye. I found my smile slipping. Walt didn’t see me. Or maybe he did and he chose to ignore me. I don’t know. He treated me like one of the crowd. Narrowly avoiding the mob trying to engulf him as he hopped off the water. Walter soon had collected his large sack of donation money and slipped off with his announcer. I never saw my brother again after that. I never got to ask him what it was like to walk on water. I never got to ask him how he even acquired such an ability. I never felt so betrayed before… I have no idea what he’s doing now or where he is, but I hope that Walter got his wish.
0
0
9
Tamago Atsuyaki
Jun 24, 2022
In Short Stories
Words: 808 Desc: A young boy dreamed of becoming a knight. He finally achieves his goal only to realize that he's awful at slaying dragons. After a mysterious black knight saves him from certain doom, he uncovers the fact that the nobility had struck a corrupt deal with dragons. In other words, it's all fake -- killing dragons, saving princesses, everything. Background: I had written this for the May contest (disillusionment + dreams theme), but I just procrastinated on it and never finished it in time. It was sitting sadly in my Google Drive for the longest, so I thought to post it here. I didn't edit it either :') Think I should finish it? Outside of a rather ominous-looking cave stood a young man. He practically shook in his chainmail boots, and the rest of his armor was almost sliding off of him. A sword that was much too big clanked against his thigh as he walked over to his horse, which was tied to one of the rocks at the mouth of the cave. From its saddlebag, he grabbed what was supposed to be a helmet. In actuality, it was a metal bowl with a spoon welded at the center for a nose guard. He stared down at the amalgamation, tears welling up in his crystal blue eyes. “You can do this, Puck,” he whispered. “You can kill the dragon. You can save the princess. You weren’t just sent out here to die.” His grip on the bowl tightened before he plunked it atop his fiery locks. Puck then began his trek into the dragon’s lair. Each step he took, he found his mind wandering back to his knight training. The certain way he needed to hold his sword, the specific spot on the dragon he needed to jab. As it all came flowing back, Puck stumbled on a particularly large stone, sending him crashing into the ground. “On your feet, Cuck!” the drill sergeant yelled. A chorus of chuckles broke out among the other boys in the courtyard. “You see boys, sorry saps like this end up as dragon food!” the sergeant said, laughing along with them. “It’s Puck, sir,” he mumbled to the ground. He slightly jumped as he felt two large teardrops plink onto his hand. The laughter stopped. “What’d you just say?” Puck didn’t even have a chance to respond before he was violently yanked off his feet. He was stunned into silence, now face to face with the drill sergeant. The sergeant’s eyes looked like they were about to pop out of his head. “I’ll teach you what happens when you talk back to me, you crying wuss!” After being assaulted by both bad breath and spittle, Puck felt the ground coming up to meet him once again. Puck jolted out his vivid memory. He sprung to his feet, all his chainmail clanking noisily. He slapped his cheeks to get his head back in the game. I can’t give up here, not after enduring all of that… he thought. He picked himself up and ventured deeper into the cave. The deeper he got, the hotter it became. Any fire-breathing dragon emits heat, even if it's not actively spewing flames. His stomach sank as he realized this meant that he definitely didn’t have the wrong cave. The short tunnel finally widened into a large cave. It was similar to a dome in shape. Various trinkets and glittering gold pieces littered the ground. The princess sat on a stone outcropping high above the ground level; she was unbound, her legs dangling off the side. Upon seeing Puck, she sighed and turned her head. She didn’t even call for help, he thought confusedly. A skylight shone directly onto the thing Puck avoided looking at: a fearsome black dragon. It appeared to be asleep atop its pile of gold. Its dangerous tail was curled neatly around itself and its head rested on its crossed forearms. A silver teardrop scale glittered at the corner of its closed eye -- the thing that was rumored to help the beast read minds. The glittering sparked a different memory in his mind. One sunny day in the comfort of his town, a knight came riding through. A rescued princess was with him on his horse, her smile just as bright to match that of her knight -- her future husband. Above the knight’s head, he held a single teardrop-shaped scale. One side sparkled in the afternoon sun and the other side was dull with blood. That scale was a sign that he had killed one of the most dangerous dragons in existence. Puck drew his sword. He hoped to channel that knight’s bravery through him as he spoke. "Fowl dragon!" he started. He tried to keep all his fluids inside him as the dragon flicked an ear towards him. "I, Sir Puck, have come to reclaim the fair princess from your…" he looked at its claws and gulped, "rather sharp talons!" The dragon suddenly stirred to life. Its eyelid raised, revealing a deep blue eye trained directly on him. Its tail and wings unfurled as the dragon rose to its feet. Puck’s sword shook violently as he held it in front of him; he didn’t know if holding onto it with both hands was stabilizing it or making it shake worse. His neck craned up at the dragon’s face. It looked back down at him and snorted out a cloud of soot. Only one of its teardrop scales twinkled down at him.
3
3
13
T
Tamago Atsuyaki

Tamago Atsuyaki

More actions