Wall mounted shower seats fold down

Using The Train Walkthrough w/ Pictures

2023.03.22 06:18 HugeRichard11 Using The Train Walkthrough w/ Pictures

Seeing pictures I’m sure will help familiarize many planning on taking a trip or those that have fears of using the rail if it’s something new to you. Also I use the words train/metro/rail/subway rather interchangeably.
First off I’ll be using Google Maps for these, but the in-person principles for most apply the same on any other platform.

Part 1
When you start the route the first thing you need to figure out is where to enter.
Tip: The best way to do that is zoom into the starting point and sometimes Google will pinpoint where to enter a specific entrance.
In my picture you can see it tells me to enter also in the description via the Meiji-dori Ave exit which despite the wording can be used to enter and exit.
Where you enter sometimes doesn’t matter as long as it contains the correct metro line you need. Which in my case I need the Ginza Line at Shibuya station. You will often find a good amount of signs at Tokyo stations telling you which metro lines are available in them.
There you can buy a ticket to enter, but understand and I’ve only used this method once after landing in the airport. Is that you have to select the fare amount to in a sense “deposit” into this train ticket. As once you exit later is when the actual cost is accounted for.
Tip: Realistically most new people don’t know how to calculate this, so I recommend scrolling down on Google Maps for your route and it should tell you the actual total fare amount. Once you buy the ticket you can use it to go through the gate.
Note: I believe they only accept cash at least that is how it was for me at Haneda Airport
The better option and is why I don’t know too much about the above method is simply using a Suica/Pasmo. I won’t go into them too much since they’re already covered pretty extensively in other threads, probably the FAQ too.
Note: There’s a problem with Visa cards sometimes for using it with Apple Wallet. I had trouble using my Visas, so I recommend adding a Mastercard or Amex to your Apple wallet before your trip. Which I fortunately added a dozen or so of my cards beforehand in case.
There’s also the JR Pass which operates similar to the ticket, but is unlimited for certain amount of days on JR Line rails. Again also covered extensively, so won’t go over that too.
Use the ticket by inserting it and make sure to grab it before leaving. Or use your Suica/Pasmo to get through the gate by tapping it on the giant part that has an “IC” on it.
Once in the station make your way to the train platforms by following the signs that tell you which direction to go for your specific metro line, which for me was the Ginza Line. I have more example pictures of the signs in the second part.
When you are finally at the train platform area usually there are two platforms, one on each side or more depending on the station. On the Google Maps image previously you can see it tells me to go to Platform 1/2 which means I can embark on either platform options.
Make sure you are at the correct platform as some are separated and if the train comes and you’re at the wrong platform. You probably won’t have the time to get to the correct one and board the train.
Tip: The best way to make sure is look at the signs above. They will have the platform number along with other useful information such as which metro line is associated for the specific platform. For some more modern ones that have digital sign boards they contain the incoming trains for the platforms with their intended direction and time.
Note: You can see there are different kind of trains from rapid, express, and local. On Google Maps it mentions which kind it is, so make sure you get on the right one as the non-local trains will skip stops.
Once the train arrives there will be digital displays on the side of the train carts mentioning which direction / ending stop the train is heading for. Make sure it matches what Google Map for your route since a number of other trains will likely stop by too.
On newer trains I’ve been on such as the Ginza Line they have big and detailed displays giving a ton of information of further stops. Some older trains will have a more pixelated singular line information display center.
Tip: The lines and station stops have specific circular logos. For Ginza Line you can see it’s a “G” inside an orange circle with the numbers representing the numbered station. On Google Maps it says to get off at G12 which I find these more straightforward than remembering the station.
Each stop it also displays which train cart you are in and where in the station are the exits for escalators, elevators, and restrooms. I don’t really pay attention to those parts since the crowd will more or less flow a certain way. Along with on the display are which doors will open.
If you were using the ticket method and end up with a higher fare than you originally put on the ticket then you will need to do an adjustment at the machine.

Part 2
At this point you successfully have used the rail to get where you want. However, if your trip is further with other trains then this will go into transferring to the next train which is simple.
When you get off the train you want to look at Google Maps to see which the next metro line you will need to go towards. I don’t bother with the Google Map walking directions for this part since there are a ton of signs directing you where to go.
For this route you see I need to go to the Tozai Line. There will be overhead signs specifying the direction you need to go to
There are multiple different signs directing you to the metro line platform every few steps including ones on the pillars, walls, and overhead signs. Simply follow the direction the arrows are pointing towards.
For some they have a giant board telling you of all the stops along with which platform is on each side.
For my train Google Map says I will need to Rapid train at Platform 3 that will transition to a different train while staying on board even after the last stop.
Here it is best to confirm again, you are at the correct platform through the signs around you. Pay attention to the direction of which the station number it goes toward as T10 to T01 would not be what I wanted as that would be going backwards. In addition there are also mentions of which direction the train is going through signs on the wall.
That ends it since the transfer is basically the same thing just longer. Hopefully you learned enough that you can read the Google Maps route info to see what is important. Things to focus on such as the intended ending stop that determines the direction, the station number icon, local/rapid/express, and mainly which platform you need to be at.

Additional Items
Throw this disclaimer to say this is one specific case and i'm sure there are differences between others metros, locations, and whatnot. Posted this in my profile since it's not allowed in the subreddits
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2023.03.22 06:02 ZachTheLitchKing [CW] Smash 'Em Up Sunday: B'Stilla

Original Prompt
The northern warrior, Ekkehard, found himself captured. The Romans were too mighty on the battlefield and his fellow surviving clansmen had fled. Wounded and abandoned, Ekkehard was taken by the centurions and marched back to Rome with hundreds of other captives to be sold into slavery.
He'd heard rumors of the Coliseum and assumed that was where he was. Tied to a seat with a sack over his head, but he could feel stone beneath his feet and the hot sun was burning him from above. The was a faint yet sickly sweet scent of death all around him; a familiar odor to a warrior of his tenure. Corpses had been here. If he was to fight for his freedom, he would win.
"Ekkehard the Condor," a voice drolled. It was the first time Ekkehard heard his tongue spoken since he was captured, though the accent was odd and somehow unsettling, "More like Ekkehard the Pidgeon. You were far too easy to take. Shame, shame."
The bag was removed from the northman's head and the sunlight blinded him for a moment. His eyes adjusted and he took in his surroundings. Not a pit of sand, stone, and death, but instead he was surrounded by flowers, shrubs, and tall walls with marble pillars. The sun was high overhead and the chair on which he sat was in the middle of a narrow stone path in this little garden enclave.
"Abandoned on the battlefield by your brother's in arms?" the voice asked, stepping around into Ekkehard's view. The man was squat and rotund, with dry and flaky skin around his bald head and bronze face. He rubbed his chin, some bits chipping off, as he looked at a scroll of sheepskin that had something written on it. Ekkehard did not know any letters, least of all the ones of this foreign land.
"Hmm, very tiresome to track you down," the man grumbled, "Oh, where are my manners? I am Consul Manilus, and you are my prisoner. Would you like a drink? I have spiced wine and posca. I would offer you coffee, you seem quite tired, but it has not been discovered yet."
Ekkehard looked up to ask what some of the strange words he said meant, like 'wine' and 'coffee', but when his eyes met the peeling man's Ekkehard knew that he was speaking to a monster. Red rings glowed bright around narrowly slit pupils that looked back at the warrior. It was like staring into the eyes of a snake, but instead of the glassy-eyed look of a reptile, it was an intense and consuming hunger. Ekkehard felt less like a man and more like a meal under that gaze.
He looked away only to find more horror. The plants nearby were lush, but a pale and rotting hand was visible between the leaves of one small shrub. Ekkehard's eyes darted around the garden as the cause of the smell of death became apparent; there were bodies everywhere. They were half buried in the soil and the plants seemed to be growing over them, or through them.
"Do you like my garden?" Manilus asked, rolling up the sheepskin and tucking it into his tunic, "I love my garden. More than your brothers loved you, it seems." he reached out and ran his fingers through Ekkehard's hair. The touch chilled the warrior's skin and he tried to flinch away. Manilus laughed, "Ha! Don't worry, I won't add you to the collection. Not if you have something you can offer me in return. Let's make a deal."
"Deal?" Ekkehard asked, the spark of hope in his eyes.
"Yes! What do you have to give me? I do not desire gold, I desire something far more personal. Think on it, and be quick. A little imagination goes a long way."
"I... have little to offer," Ekkehard grunted as he struggled against his binds, "Only my body. I can fight for you."
"Hmm... I don't want your entire body," Manlius said as he drew closer to the bound warrior, "Little and lasting is better than much and passing,"
Manlius reached into Ekkehard's chest, and a great pain shot throughout the warrior's body. He felt the burning cold grip of the demon around his heart and then a violent tug. His chin fell down and he saw not a mark on his chest. As he weakened, he looked up and saw Manlius holding a beating heart in his blood-soaked hand.
"Twenty down, eighty to go," Manlius said, his mouth stretched into a too-wide grin, showing far too many teeth. The last thing Ekkehard saw was the grinning mask of a monster with burning red eyes.
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2023.03.22 05:32 RobotsBanging Nude Week on the Oil Rig - WIP

Ezra arrived at the oil rig early in the morning, after a long and arduous journey that left her feeling exhausted. The helicopter ride was bumpy, and she struggled to keep her breakfast down as they flew over the vast expanse of ocean. But despite her queasy stomach, Ezra couldn't help but feel a sense of awe at the sight below her. The crystal-clear waters were so blue that they seemed almost unreal, while small islands dotted the horizon like emerald jewels.
As she stepped off the helicopter onto the deck of the offshore rig, Ezra was immediately struck by the deafening noise. The sound of machinery whirring and clanging filled her ears, making it hard to hear anything else. But even though it was loud, there was something comforting about it - like a steady heartbeat that kept everything running smoothly.
The workers who greeted her were all men, their faces weathered by years of exposure to wind and sun. They wore hard hats and reflective vests that made them stand out against the dull grey metal of the rig. Despite their gruff appearances, they welcomed Ezra with open arms and showed her around like an old friend.
Fred, in particular, stood out to Ezra. He had a thick beard that covered most of his face and eyes that twinkled mischievously behind his safety goggles. He spoke in a deep voice that rumbled like thunder whenever he laughed or joked around with his colleagues.
Throughout the day, Ezra worked alongside Fred as he taught her how to operate machinery and carry out routine maintenance checks. She struggled at first with some of the heavy equipment - wrenches and hammers that felt awkward in her hands - but soon got into a rhythm as Fred patiently showed her what to do.
The smells on the rig were intense too - a heady mix of salty sea air mingled with diesel fumes from the generators that powered everything on board. There was also a faint tang of oil in the air - not overpowering but enough to make Ezra feel like she was part of something important.
During lunch break in the dining hall, Ezra sat down at one of the long tables with Fred and several other workers from different departments. The room was plain but functional - stainless steel benches lined up against white walls with fluorescent lights overhead casting an artificial glow over everything.
Despite being surrounded by strangers who worked in such different roles from hers, Ezra felt comfortable here. The workers chatted amicably about their work experiences between bites of their meals while occasionally ribbing each other for fun.
Jake caught everyone's attention when he told an outrageous story about getting lost on another rig where he used to work before joining this current one. His laughter rang across the room causing other diners' heads to turn towards him while Mike listened quietly but amusedly from across their table.
As the day wore on, Ezra felt more and more at home on the rig. She had always been a hard worker, and the physical labour of her job gave her a sense of satisfaction that was hard to describe. There was something about being part of a team that worked together to keep everything running smoothly that made her feel alive.
But towards the end of the day, things took an unexpected turn. As she was packing up her tools, one of her coworkers - a man named Dave - approached her with a sly grin on his face.
"Hey Ezra," he said, "you excited for Nude Week next week?"
Ezra felt her heart drop into her stomach as she realized what he was talking about. Nude Week was a tradition on some offshore rigs where workers would shed their clothes for an entire week while they worked as a way of bonding and having fun.
She had heard about it before but hadn't given it much thought - after all, it wasn't common. But now she felt like she had been blindsided by this question from Dave.
"I...uh...I don't know," she stammered, feeling suddenly self-conscious.
Dave just chuckled and slapped her on the back. "Don't worry about it too much," he said. "It's just a bit of fun. But I gotta warn you - we get pretty wild during Nude Week."
Ezra tried to laugh along with him but couldn't shake off the uneasy feeling in her gut. She didn't want to seem prudish or uptight, but the idea of being naked around these men made her nervous. Her boyfriend Tom was the jealous type and they've always been exclusive with each other, she wondered what he would think if he heard about her working around a bunch of fit young nude men, possibly even being nude herself.
She tried to put the idea out of her head, it was something she could worry about next week.
As she made her way back to her cabin, Ezra couldn't help but feel grateful for the experience of working on an oil rig. It was hard work, no doubt about it - physically demanding and mentally exhausting. But there was something exhilarating about being part of such a vital industry - one that kept economies running and people's lives moving forward.
She knew that there would be many more challenges ahead of her in the days and weeks to come - long hours, rough seas, and tough conditions. But with support from people like Fred, Jake, Mike, and even Hank, she felt confident that she could handle anything that came her way.
And as she settled into bed that night with the sound of machinery humming around her like a lullaby, Ezra felt at peace knowing that she was doing something meaningful with her life - something that mattered not just to herself but also to countless others who depended on the oil industry for their livelihoods.
Despite the grueling schedule, she found herself enjoying her time here more and more. The other workers had become like family to her - a close-knit community of people who relied on each other for support in this harsh environment.
Ezra had even struck up an unlikely friendship with Hank, one of the older workers on board. He was rough around the edges but had a heart of gold underneath it all. They would often sit together during breaks sharing stories about their lives back home or making jokes at each other's expense.
But as Nude Week drew closer, Ezra began to feel anxious once again. It wasn't just about being naked in front of these men - it was also about what might happen afterward- whether she could resist temptation no matter how strong that desire inside became?
She tried not to think too much about it as she went through her daily tasks but couldn't help feeling nervous every time someone mentioned Nude Week within proximity.
The morning of Nude Week had arrived, and Ezra felt like she was walking to her doom. The mere thought of being naked in front of her male colleagues made her feel queasy. She tried to psych herself up by telling herself that it was just a bit of fun, but it didn't help much.
The morning of Nude Week had arrived, and Ezra felt like she was walking to her doom. The mere thought of being naked in front of her male colleagues made her feel queasy. She tried to psych herself up by telling herself that it was just a bit of fun, but it didn't help much.
As she stepped out onto the deck, Ezra found that most of the other workers were already nude, milling around and chatting as if this were perfectly normal. Some of them were even carrying out their work duties while completely naked.
Ezra tried to avoid looking at anyone for too long, but it was difficult. Everywhere she turned there seemed to be another naked man - some old and wrinkled, others young and toned.
She could feel eyes on her immediately as she walked around the rig. Some men looked away quickly when they saw her coming, while others stared openly at her body in a way that made her feel uncomfortable and exposed.
Despite trying not to stare too long at any one man's body, Ezra couldn't help but notice every contour of muscle rippling beneath tanned skin or every vein that ran down an erect penis standing proud between muscular thighs.
The sight of so many naked bodies all around her had awakened something deep inside her- something primal and raw- a hunger for sexual indulgence unlike anything she had ever felt before.
Every time Ezra caught sight of a man's bare chest or butt or genitals, she felt an intense surge of desire wash over her. And as the day wore on, these feelings only grew stronger until they became nearly unbearable.
It wasn't just physical either - there was something about being surrounded by so many naked men that made Ezra feel wild with lust. She found herself flirting shamelessly with some of the guys who showed interest in talking to her - batting her eyelashes and swaying her hips suggestively as she talked about work-related topics.
But despite all this sexual tension building up inside her, Ezra knew that she couldn't act on it openly. She was here to do a job after all - one that required focus and concentration if she wanted to make sure everyone came home safe at night.
During breaks from work activities though things got even more heated because now some men were starting to make crude remarks which only added fuel to the fire within making things worse than before!
And then there was Fin...
He looked like he belonged back in high school rather than working on an oil rig among experienced veterans twice his age but he had caught Ezra's eye early on during Nude Week because every time he thought nobody was looking he'd steal glances at her body too quickly followed by averting his eyes trying not get caught staring directly at anything inappropriate which made him seem even more adorable somehow!
They started working together later in the afternoon when they both got assigned to the same task. Fin seemed nervous at first, fidgeting with his tools and avoiding eye contact as they worked side by side.
It wasn't long though before Ezra noticed how fit he looked underneath all that grease - tight muscles bulging against taught skin with every move he made- especially when he bent down over equipment exposing his lower backside for all the world (and Ezras' hungry gaze) to see! Her own nipples hardened as arousal coursed through every fiber of her being making it hard to focus solely on their task ahead while being surrounded by such temptation!
Her gaze drifted lower until she noticed his ballsack hanging low between his legs- round and full like ripe fruit waiting for someone's eager mouth or hand...or both! It took everything within Ezra not to pounce onto him right then and there, to wrap her hands around that tantalizing sac and massage it until he was moaning her name.
But Ezra knew better than to act impulsively. She was still in a committed relationship with her boyfriend back in Idaho, after all. She couldn't let herself get carried away by these wild desires, no matter how much she craved the touch of another man's body against hers.
Still, the temptation was too much for her to resist. As they worked side-by-side, Ezra found herself getting bolder and more daring with every passing moment. She pretended to drop something near him and reached down between his legs from behind to grab it and brushed her hand against his ballsack as she did so.
"Oh! Sorry!" She said giggling.
Fin looked startled but didn't seem to mind her touch. In fact, Ezra could see his penis twitch in response growing more prominent with each passing moment.
She bit her lip and felt a flush spread over every inch of exposed skin as she realized how much he was enjoying this illicit contact between them. She wanted nothing more than to reach out and grab hold of those tender orbs- squeezing gently until they spilled over into ecstasy.
"D-Don't worry about it" he said.
But their brief contact seems to have stuck with him, several minutes later while she was replacing a fuse in a blasting cabinet she looked down and saw Fin laying on a creeper seat with his head and shoulders under the machinery and his bottom half sticking out laying upright on the floor below her.
Even several minutes after their brief touch his penis was hard and erect as if in anticipation of her welcoming hole. Ezra's own arousal surged to even greater heights as she realized what he wanted from her.
As she worked on the machine above him, she stretched out her leg just enough that it brushed against Fin's inner thigh. He gasped slightly at the contact, but didn't move away.
Ezra took that as a sign of encouragement and looked around too see if any other coworkers could see them.
Luckily, everyone else was busy with their own tasks and there were no prying eyes around to catch them in the act. Emboldened by this newfound sense of secrecy, Ezra quietly closed the fuse-box and stepped over Fin with one leg. She slowly squatted down with her legs apart, positioning herself over Fin's hard cock. She give one more quick glance around to be sure nobody was watching and then lowered herself slowly and quietly onto Fin's throbbing erection.
Fin gasped with shock, which made Dave look up from his desk in their direction. Ezra looked back like a deer caught in the headlights. Dave was on the other side of the room and could see her squatting down in front of the machine, but couldn't see Fin underneath her so he returned to his schematics.
Ezra was still frozen with fear of being caught, but she felt Fins hands grasp her waist and lift her up until only the tip of his penis remained inside. Then he pulled her back down with a soft grunt.
Ezra let out a sigh of relief as she felt Fin's hard length slide deeper inside her, filling her with an intense pleasure that left her gasping for breath. They moved together slowly and quietly, their bodies rocking in perfect rhythm as they tried to keep their activities hidden from the other workers.
Dave glanced in her direction again but this time she didn't stop moving.
She continued to bounce up and down on Fin's hard cock, feeling the pleasure build within her with each thrust. She was so close to the edge of release that all she could think about was how good it would feel when she finally let herself go.
And then suddenly, they heard footsteps approaching from behind them. Panic set in as Ezra realized that someone had caught them in the act.
But it wasn't a coworker come to catch them red-handed- it was just Fred who had finished his work under the machine and decided to check on their progress.
"Hey guys," he said, poking his head into view. "Everything alright?"
Ezra froze mid-thrust for what seemed like an eternity, but then she stood up quickly, pulling herself off of Fin's cock with an audible 'pop' and leaving a ring of wetness around him. Her face flushed with embarrassment and arousal.
"Uh...yeah," she said, trying to sound casual. "Just fixing this machine."
Fred raised an eyebrow and then asked: "Fin in here?"
Ezra nodded, feeling relieved that they weren't caught in the act. "He's under the machine," she said.
Fred narrowed his eyes at her: "Okay... just make sure you clean up when you finish."
Ezra couldn't help but feel a thrill of excitement at Fred's words. She knew that he was winking at her, letting her know that he was aware of what she and Fin had been up to.
Despite the embarrassment she felt earlier, Ezra realized that part of her wanted to be caught - wanted someone else to know about the illicit encounter between them. It made it all the more exciting and dangerous somehow.
As Fred walked away with a knowing smirk on his face, Ezra turned back to Fin who was still lying on his creeper seat looking dazed from their intense experience moments ago.
"Is everything okay?" she asked him softly.
Fin nodded silently, his eyes glazed over with pleasure as if unable to speak or move after such an intimate moment "Yeah..." he said breathlessly."That was... amazing."
Ezra grinned widely in response feeling grateful for this unexpected connection they've shared today. Despite how risky it had been both physically (they could have been seen by anyone) and emotionally (both were already in committed relationships), there was something inexplicable pulling them together- something primal and fierce like fire raging within each other's bodies demanding release until satisfied completely!
And even though Nude Week would end soon enough leaving nothing more than just memories behind; yet those memories will last forever etched into their minds reminding each other of this incredible day years down the line when they think back upon life changing events- maybe someday they'll even meet again!
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2023.03.22 05:08 dale_whitehill Dale VII – Ghost of the Grove

It had been two nights since the attack, but Dale's pain wasn't to stop with the Starbreaker. Upon his arrival at the gates of Highpoint, the castellan had been whisked swiftly away to Maester Alwyn, who had insisted on immediate treatment of the break in his nose.
Even with a strong dose of milk of the poppy, the pain had been agonizing; first he cauterized the inner nostril, and next he took to straightening Dale's nose. The pain was enough for him to fall unconscious, by fortune, and he awoke the next day with cotton-stuffed nostrils.
"Don't dare remove those," he recalled Alwyn saying, "or you'll regret it."
His hands were in similarly grisly shape; their deep gashes still stung at him mightily, and he could scarcely bear to hold a quill. Most of his time had been spent bedridden, at any rate, and it was early in the morning when Alwyn paid him another visit.
"How do you feel?" he asked, arms crossed.
"As well as you'd expect. How do I look?"
The corner of the old maester's mouth curled in a wry smile.
"As well as you'd expect."
Dale rolled his eyes, sitting up in the bed. He crossed the room, grabbing a hand mirror from his desk.
Alwyn made no lie; half of Dale's face had blackened and swollen beyond recognition, one eye forced nearly to closing. He set the mirror down with a grunt.
"That one really gave me a beating. I'm surprised that I made it out in one piece."
Alwyn's eyes moved to the castellan's left hand; noticing the maester's gaze, Dale rolled his eyes and lifted his hands.
"I know, I know. That was my least favourite pinkie anyhow."
Alwyn let out a restrained chortle, earning a cocked eyebrow from Dale.
"What is it?"
The old maester sighed.
"Dale... you've been summoned to meet with the remainder of the family."
Dale felt a wave of confusion come over him.
"What's this? What do you mean, remainder?"
Alwyn let out a softer sigh, this one accompanied by a grimace.
"I... believe that it would be best to allow the council to explain. We should go; they're expecting us."
Dale followed Alwyn to the meeting chamber, outside whose entrance they found the brothers Wendell and Walder Warrick, swords at their hips. They bowed their heads respectfully, more cordial by far than Dale had ever known them to be.
"Dale." said Walder, some hesitance evident in his tone.
"I'm sorry. We're glad to see you safe." he continued, Wendell nodding beside him in solemn agreement.
"I suppose it's what I deserve for leaving without the two of you in tow."
They followed Alwyn and Dale as they entered the [meeting chamber](https://on.soundcloud.com/M5gLMpabVbXN4AFZ9), which had been occupied already by a handful of his kinsmen; taking a quick count, he tallied six in all – making seven with Dale's arrival.
Pairs of the elite household guard stood vigil at each entrance, each resting his offhand on the pommel of their sword. The Whitehills too wore swords at their hips, an uncommon sight. Stranger yet, another guard offered Dale a blade of his own – which he responded to by holding up his bandaged hands. The man nodded, handing the blade to Walder instead.
Taking a seat, Dale cast a quick glance to the ceiling; sunshine came down in beams from seven stone-etched stars, revealing specs of dust floating through the air, accompanied by a familiar morning chill.
Before him sat a hot cup of tea, steam rising restlessly above it. He turned it awkwardly and slid it nearer with his right hand, carefully servicing the handle so as not to pain his palm before taking a sip.
When Dale set down the cup, his uncle, Ser Conan – the justiciar of Highpoint – cleared his throat, glancing about the table dourly at the men in attendance.
"Now that the castellan has arrived, let us begin."
Conan gave Alwyn a glance, opening his mouth again to speak.
"Have you given Dale the details?"
The old man shook his head.
"No; I suspected that it would be best he hear it from another member of the house."
Conan sighed.
"Very well, then. Dale, how well do you recall the attack?"
He shrugged.
"Well enough. I was discussing productivity with a handful of my foremen when those fanatics stormed the village. I made for the stables in flight, but two of them intercepted me."
He waved his hands over his own features.
"I managed to kill them and escape, and after that I rode here."
Dale's twenty-year-old cousin, Delwen, raised an eyebrow in response to Dale's recollection.
"You dispatched two men by yourself? I can't recall ever seeing you at the sparring grounds, cousin."
Dale glared back at him.
"Steady now. You'd be fighting with rusty blades were it not for my work, lad."
Delwen's face twisted in a scowl.
"That's *ser*, pinchpurse. Perhaps you'd have put up a better fight against that rabble if you took to a real man's 'work'."
In a fit of rage, Ser Conan brought his fist down hard on the table, spilling his own tea over its ironwood surface. Grown red in the face, he barked out as if he were drilling the keep's garrison.
"Shut your fucking mouths, or I'll shut them myself!"
Dale sighed, taking another sip of his tea; Dafyn – Delwen's father – and Daniel, the elder of his sons, stared indignantly at the justiciar, while Conan's son Connor and their cousin Waltyr sat in silence.
His expression having lessened in anger by a hair, Conan continued.
"Your account matches an eyewitness report I received during my investigation of the attack – a man who called himself 'Twiggy'. You know him?"
Dale nodded.
"Aye, that's one of my foreman – and what of the others?"
Connor shook his head sullenly.
"It was a slaughter. What few weren't cut down burned in the torching."
Dale grimaced.
"Gods... those were some of our best craftsmen. You say they cut down everyone in the village? There were at least a hundred people there; how did the Starbreakers kill them all?"
Conan's brow furrowed at Dale's question.
"Perhaps you took note of their weaponry; that was not rabble you faced. Those men armed themselves with Whitehill steel, stolen from our own armoury."
Dale looked incredulously at the justiciar.
"Stolen, you say? Then there are Starbreakers within our walls? I know not of a man among us ascribed to the old ways."
Conan shook his head.
"Those were not our men that attacked the village; we tallied no desertions, and of the dead Starbreakers, none were identified among any of our settlements."
Dale frowned.
"Passing strange. They come from afar, then – but why here? The faith is nothing new in these lands."
Waltyr chimed in next, offering a shrug.
"These savages grow emboldened by the day. Lord Domeric has killed plenty of them; perhaps they sought revenge on an easier target."
This time Dafyn cut in, giving a resolute shake of his head.
"How in seven hells would a random assortment of rabble infiltrate our keep and pilfer our barracks? We examined the wounds of the dead villagers; these were trained killers. Whoever sent them was out for blood."
Dale puzzled as his uncle spoke. The more he learned, the less sense it made.
"But why Pinewood, of all places? The Pine and Poplar was the only reason for anyone to make the trek there."
Conan gave Dale a nod.
"Aye, I'm told it served the cheapest ale within leagues of Highpoint – and that one man was known to frequent the establishment regularly."
Dale's eyes widened.
Conan nodded again.
"Aye, you. Whoever ordered that attack wanted you dead."
With a groan, Dale took another sip of his tea.
"Lovely. I don't recall anyone threatening my death of late, though."
Conan's lips thinned in a frown.
"We have discussed a number of explanations. We suspect that your cancellation of the ironwood contract did you no favours with Lord Tarly."
Daniel groaned.
"If the Tarlys were behind it, they could afford their own swords. Besides, they wouldn't have gained anything. It was a shit deal, and I'll wager they knew that."
Dale snorted. Daniel had always been the wiser of Dafyn's children. Waltyr offered his thoughts next.
"It must have been someone else in the North. I think we should address the obvious – the Forresters envy us! Our power grows by the day, while theirs subsides with the wind. They wish to sabotage our castellan in order to drag us down to the dirt alongside them."
None of the other men seemed to question the idea. The Forresters' envy for the might of Highpoint was no question, after all. Dale had known the spawn of Ironrath to be neither honourable nor noble.
"Aye, I would not put such a thing past the Forresters. But why would they risk so bold a move? It is Lord Corin demands the spread of the faith – and his wife is a Forrester, if you've forgotten. They're spineless, the lot of them; they don't have enough assurances to take such a risk."
"Nor would they be wise to," said Conan, "but that question is the key to it all – or half, at any rate."
Dale raised an eyebrow.
"Half? What do you mean?"
Conan closed his eyes with a grimace.
"There is something you must know, Dale. The attempt on your life is not the true reason for our assembly this morning."
Dale looked about the room; it was a strange gathering, in truth. Conan and Dafyn were the only council members present, aside from Dale.
"Will Lord Willas be joining us, then?"
The room grew silent.
"No. Lord Willas..."
Conan sighed.
"It appears that some of these assailants infiltrated the keep in advance of the attack; while I investigated the torching at Pinewood, much of the family sheltered within the sept in prayer. There were plenty of guards inside – more than enough to protect them all.
"But the cowards didn't face our men head on. They barred the doors tight, and they set the sept alight."
Dale could scarcely believe it. He had always been a black sheep at Highpoint, but he could not begin to fathom committing such a crime.
"I see. How many were there?" asked Dale glumly, looking to the chamber doors.
"And who else has yet to arrive? Wilmer, Glendon, and Alvin? This is early an early morning, after all. Perhaps they are paying their respects to Willas? I would join them–"
Conan shook his head stoically.
"They're dead, Dale. All of them. Glendon, his wife, his children. Irma. Alvin, his wife and little Arthur. Wilmer and his wife..."
The eyes at the table moved to Waltyr, Wilmer's only son.
"And Waltyr's wife as well."
Dale's cousin wore a morose expression.
"And your daughter, Jessica...?"
"Is unharmed," said Waltyr, "for she has been ill. She was resting when the attack occurred – as was Irma's bastard, Simon. I kept watch over them with a handful of men during the attack."
When Waltyr finished, Conan continued with a sigh.
"My... wife was there, as was Dafyn's – and their daughter, Doris."
Daniel and Delwen looked as sullen as their father. Dale leaned forward
"What of Cormac and Conrad?"
Conan gritted his teeth.
"Cormac stood guard outside the sept when the attack took place; the assailants shot them down before burning it.
"As for Conrad... he was a brave lad. He was always a brave lad. He managed to break down the door when the fire was discovered, but... when he tried to rescue the children, the rafters gave in to the flames. He died with all the rest."
Dale knew naught what to say. He had never been a nurturting man, after all. Silence took the table for what felt like an eternity.
"All told, that leaves nine of us. Ten, if you count the bastard boy." said Conan in a tired tone.
Dafyn cleared his throat.
"Eleven, if you count our father. He draws breath yet in Crowtown, last I heard."
Conan shook his head.
"It doesn't matter. Father's duty is to the Watch now; I will not trouble him with our failings. What matters now is that we maintain the strength of Highpoint, and that Lady Alice is protected at any cost."
Conan looked to Waltyr.
"I shall trust you with the safety of our lady and your daughter. See that our most elite men remain with them at all times."
Waltyr nodded.
"Of course."
"We are all the men remaining to the house in this very room," said Conan, "and we must be vigilant. There could be another attack any day now."
Dale's ears pricked up at Conan's last statement.
"Wait, uncle."
The room's eyes turned to face the castellan.
"There is one Whitehill you've forgotten."
Conan seemed confused. Dale look first to the justiciar, and next to Dafyn.
"Your brother – Gared."
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2023.03.22 04:43 King-of-Cardinals Did Placidusax Shatter the Elden Ring? Lore Theory

Basically what if Placidusax shattered the Elden Ring in the era before the Erdtree and this is why he looks the way he does outside of time. It would also explain why the Elden Ring is in a different shape than it is now. This theory’s line of thought can be supported by:
  1. The description of Marika/Radagon
  2. The description of Gravel Stone
  3. The description of Ancient Dragon Smithing Stones
  4. The Appearance of Marika/Radagon after Shattering the Elden Ring
  5. The Appearance of Placidusax
  6. The Soreseals found in the game
  7. The Dragoncrest and Drake Talismans
  8. Remembrance of the Dragonlord description
First off is how Marika/Radagon are portrayed in the game, which is being made out of rock/stone. This is seen in their game models where they are not only the same color as stone and rock but fighting them in the Erdtree shows how they are quite literally made of it. And it is implied that this was always the case through the statue in the capitol that reveals the true nature of Radagon and Marika as the only person to realize their secret was the sculptor of the statue, someone whose entire profession revolves around working stone and rock. Where apparently he realized they were the same person when inspecting them for the statue.
Now how does this relate to Placidusax. Well first we have to take a look at the description of Gravel Stone “A small clump of sharp, pointed stones…Such compound stones, found in lands once beset by ancient dragons, are said to be the scales of those very beasts.'' This describes the scales of the ancient dragons possibly being made of stone and is later confirmed in the descriptions of the Somber and Ancient Dragon Smithing Stones, “Ancient dragonrock smithing stone drained of color. A scale of the Ancient Dragonlord” and “Smithing stone made polishing a golden Gravel Stone. A scale of the Ancient Dragonlord”. Placidusax is the Dragonlord i.e his scales are made of stone. This lends credence to the idea that Placidusax held the Elden Ring like Marika/Radagon did and took on similar properties to them.
More evidence for this is both of their appearances after theoretically/actually shattering the Elden Ring. For Radagon and Marika it is pretty obvious they have cracks running throughout their stone bodies and chunks are missing all over the place as well as them quite literally missing a part of their head. Now compare that to Placidusax as we find him, cracked all over the place missing parts of his tail among other things and noticeably down a couple of heads. The similarities are pretty striking in terms of how they share very similar injuries as well as physical makeup.
Now the first thing you might point out is that Marika was the vessel for the Elden Ring and that's why the damage to the Ring is shared by her as well, Placidusax is described in his remembrance as being the Elden Lord of a time prior to the Erdtree. And that is correct, however, it also doesn’t lock him out of being the vessel either. There is no established set of rules saying the Elden Lord can’t also be the vessel or whether one is even needed as Gowry makes no mention of when speaking of the Order of Rot led by their vessel Malenia. So the point of the Elden Lord might just be precaution so the vessel doesn’t have the strength to shatter the Elden Ring and lesson that might have been learned when Placidusax shattered it?
More evidence that could support this thought is the Soreseals you find in the game. Which are described as an eye with an “Elden Rune” engraved in it and that for each seal they represent a rune for a different person in this case Radagon and Marika. In Farum Azula we see a different visage of the elden ring represented on a mural that is very different form the one present in the game, most notable the root like protrusions in the background. Many other theorists have attempted to explain these differences but none that I've seen have suggested that this could be Placidusax’s seal. It even seems to occupy a similar position to that of Radagons seal.
Another item/items that support Placidusax also being a vessel of the Elden Ring is the Dragoncrest and Drake Talismans “The ancient dragons, who ruled in the prehistoric era before the Erdtree, would protect their lord as a wall of living rock.'' These description’s only reference Placidusax himself as lord singular. No mention of a consort or family and it would make sense if he was both lord and vessel why he would be the only one mentioned in these descriptions.
Now the final question of course for this theory to work is why? Why would Placidusax shatter the Elden Ring? Well one possible reason is because he didn’t want to serve his god anymore which is inferred to be one of the reasons Marika rebelled after severing loyally for centuries. Many people seem to read the description of his remembrance, “the Dragonlord whose seat lies at the heart of the storm beyond time is said to have been Elden Lord in the age before the Erdtree. Once his god was fled, the lord continued to await its return.” as Placidusax waiting to mean he is loyally waiting for his gods return however it could also be that Placidusax awaits it’s return to finish what he started when he shattered the Ring. The description doesn’t give any insight into the intentions of why Placidusax is waiting, meaning any reason is just as likely. Also Placidusax shattering the ring could be how Marika knows about it being possible to shatter.
TDLR Placidusax shattered the Elden Ring and that’s why he’s so banged up when we find him and he’s waiting for his god to come back to finish what he started.
Another note to support him being the vessel is the description of Placidusax’s Ruin which describes as dwelling “eternal” beyond time, a word commonly used when describing Marika as well.
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2023.03.22 04:41 scarymaxx I have a paralyzing fear of water. After I became a dad, I found out why.

I’ve always been terrified of water. Not like, a glass of it. I’m fine drinking it, using a toilet, washing my hands. Showering is tolerable, but unpleasant. Bathtubs are a no-go. Fuck pools, lakes and streams. And especially fuck the ocean.
Did I mention I live right on the beach. My therapist thought it might help me face my fears. I can’t say it’s done much yet.
My mother always said my dad was the same way. He didn’t stick around long after I was born. Just a couple of months. But the one memory that stayed with her is me crying my head off while she tried to bathe me in the sink, and my dad screaming his head off, “Not the ears! Not the ears!”
The word around town was that dad had little babies like me all over the state, all of them scared of water. When I went to the beach as a kid, I’d always walk up to the other kids who weren’t swimming and ask who their daddy was, but I never did meet any of my half-brothers or sisters.
Naturally, I always hated my dad. For a long time, I thought the best way to avoid becoming him was to skip having any children of my own. Then I married a great girl, Mira, who convinced me I was a worthy human being, and that the best way to fix the mistakes of the past was to settle down and become a loving father.
And she was right. When my son, Matthew was born, I almost physically felt myself become a better man–that something in me had changed at a biological level. When he wrapped his tiny fingers around my thumb and stared straight up into my face, suckling at the air, I knew I was done living for myself, that every day after would be for him.
Matthew was about three months old when I had a knock on the door and opened it to find an old, bearded man that looked like me on my worst day. I knew right away that he must be my father.
“I’m here to see the new grandbaby,” he said.
“Like hell you are.”
“Come on,” he said. “Be civil. It’s starting to rain.” He nodded to the threatening storm clouds overhead. A shiver ran through me. I’d been caught out in a storm once when I was young and ended up having a severe panic attack, screaming myself unconscious as I huddled under the relative dry of a maple tree.
My father entered, shaking a few drops of water from his coat and then setting it on a hanger by the door.
“I don’t suppose anyone’s stopped by to tell you the do and don’t of being a father,” he said, settling into a spot in the center of my loveseat.
“I’m doing fine on my own,” I said, picking a rocking chair in the corner. “Can I call you an Uber or something?”
He ignored me, and looked toward my baby monitor, where a black and white image of Matthew sleeping filled the screen.
“You’ll be having the headaches by now, I ‘spect,” he said. “Probably not enough to knock you on your ass yet, but believe me, in a month or two…”
My stomach dropped as he said these words. Because they were true. Over the last few months I’d been having headaches for the first time in my life. And they were getting worse and worse. It was like my skull felt too full.
“I’m fine,” I said. “You really should get going. My wife’ll be back soon, and I’d rather you two didn’t meet.”
“No she won’t,” he said quietly. “Won’t be back until 2:00am after her job at Rudy’s gets done. You and I, we’ll have plenty of time.”
My hands were shaking a little bit now.
“Time to do what?” I asked.
“What needs to be done,” he said, gesturing to the baby monitor. “It’s really better to get it done now. Less suffering for both of you.”
Outside, the storm was starting in earnest. Sideways rain pounded the front windows, and lighting struck the nearby ocean.
“Come on,” he said. “You must have sensed what you have to do. It’s in your blood. Your instinct. The Second Birth is just as natural as the first one.”
My head was throbbing. I rubbed at my temples, and they felt foreign to me. Where they’d once been spongy, I know felt new bristles of bone, like miniature spines beneath the flesh. Had they always been that way?
“They’re ready,” he said. “God, you’re practically bursting. Nothing like the first time. Come on, let me get a look at you.”
“You can look at me from there,” I said.
“Not this you,” he said. “I mean you. Come on. Whatever you think about me, I’m your father.”
He stood and walked over to me. I thought he wanted to look me in the eye. Instead, he leaned over and peered into my ear. His breath stank like birdshit and his beard tickled against my cheek, yet somehow I couldn’t tell him no.
“Come out,” he said. “I can’t see you.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” I said. I didn’t know whether to cry or scream. Of course, if I got too loud, I knew I’d wake up Matthew, and my night would get even worse than it already was.
Then, without another word, my father knelt on the ground before me. Then his eyes rolled back and his body went limp. For a second, I thought he’d had a seizure, maybe even a heart attack. Yet he was strangely still.
Then I saw movement: a sickly, subcutaneous shiver by his temple that progressed downward toward his ear. And then finally the thing came out: white and shimmery as a pearl. It might have been a worm, but it moved more like a snake, wet and glossy, clothed in shining scales.
“What are you?” I asked, pulling back into the chair, my heart beating uncontrollably.
“The same thing as you,” came a whisper from my father’s human lips. “You could call us passengers. Unkindly, parasites. But really, we’re symbiotes. We live amongst them, growing in their young at an early age. I’d like to think we live their lives better than they ever could.”
My stomach was in knots. I knew I was about to vomit any second.
“You’re saying I’m a… I’m not… I’m not human?”
My whole existence was shattering before me, because deep in my aching, pounding head, I knew it was true. I was just like him, a shimmering serpent, a predatory monster.
“You’re something far better than human.”
As my father’s body spoke, the snake withdrew back into his ear. Then, slowly, he rose from the floor stretching out his withered limbs.
“Now that your human body has sired an heir, the next stage of the life cycle has begun. Already, your eggs are hatching within you, ready for their host. All that remains is for you to sleep beside your boy, to let your real sons emerge and enter him.”
“Matthew would die?” I asked. And then I threw up everywhere, my stomach acid covering my legs and the chair beneath them. But my father just kept speaking, unperturbed.
“Of course not,” he said. “Everything about him would remain. But he would be… enhanced as part of the symbiote. Reborn as something better. As us. And once that’s done, your work here will be done. You can move on to another human woman, sire another heir. And then another and another. The survival of our species depends on it.”
I looked at the monitor. Matthew was still sleeping peacefully, even with the raised voices in the living room. He really was an awesome baby. He deserved better.
“No,” I said.
My father shook his head.
“I knew you were weak. I’ve been watching you all week, waiting for the right time to have this talk. In that time, you know what I’ve seen? A little man who jumps when his wife makes the littlest demand. You’re the one who rocks him at night, feeding him a bottle as she sleeps. You’re more a daughter to me than a son. Fine then. If you won’t do it, I will. I’ve always got an egg or two lying around.”
He got up and started walking toward the hallway, toward Matthew.
And that’s when I snapped. Without another word, I tackled him. We collided against a wall. As we did, I heard a sickening crunch and he crumpled to the floor.
“You broke its neck, you idiot,” my father’s body rasped. “No matter. Bodies are replaceable, and the solution lies right down the hall. Just drag me by your son. I’ll take him myself. Of course he’ll be a bit small for me at first, but in time–”
But I didn’t let him finish the thought. I dragged him outside into the storm. Rain pounded down and panic filled my body, but I didn’t scream. This fear was primal, but that didn’t mean it was real. As the raindrops circles around my ears, I felt myself–my reptile self–choking, but not in a way that would kill me, just like a little coffee that had gone down the wrong pipe.
I dragged my father’s body through the sand toward the ocean.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” my father rasped. “What the hell–”
I plunged him into the ocean as we reached it, the water crashing over his head, completely submerging him. He was trying to say something, looking up at me from underwater with terrified eyes, but I was no longer listening. For a second after that I saw the silvery snake–my real father–emerge from the body’s ear, but it was too late. The snake gave one last shiver and then went limp even as the life went out of his human form.
Back at home, I took the best shower of my life. For once, the hot water running down my neck didn’t bother me. I knew it wouldn’t be enough to choke me, now that I knew what I really was.
When Mira got home that night, I was rocking Matthew in the chair, which I’d cleaned thoroughly.
“You okay hon?” she asked. “Hope he wasn’t too rough on you.”
“Not at all,” I said. “He was perfect.”
“You know,” she said. “I was reading this article on co-sleeping on the bus ride home. Now that he’s a few months old, it sounds like it wouldn’t be too risky, and there might be some real health benefits. Plus, I just kind of like the thought of it: all three of us cuddled up together in one big bed.”
“He’s been doing so well,” I said. “I’d hate to change a thing.”
“Maybe one day?” she asked.
“Maybe one day.”
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2023.03.22 04:35 InFerroVeritas Creative Accounting

Talea reclined on the day bed in her office, one leg folded under her and the other swinging free along its side. The rich red upholstery squeaked with each swing; she paid it no mind. Her attention was directed to the letters on her desk, read a half dozen times, and her gaze was fixed on the ceiling. Tessellated patterns of hexagons and trigons repeating with geometric precision, inlays of gold-flecked lapis lazuli and pale blue agate bringing color to the relief carvings.
"I think we should send him a gift," Yna said.
Talea turned her attention towards her companion. The arch of her eyebrow made her question plain.
Yna sipped at her tea and then recoiled as if slapped. "Aquan's blood, girl, how do you drink this?"
"Practice," Talea said with the barest hint of a smile. "That and a general mistrust of the water in this city. The Blackwater is no Sweetwater, yes?"
Yna resisted the urge to fling the contents of the cup over her shoulder and out the window, but only just. Instead, she set the porcelain down on its saucer and gave it the sort of dirty look a banker reserves for smudged ink in a ledger. "As you say. And as I was saying, I think we should send Hightower a gift."
Talea chortled. "How many iron coins do you think a raven can carry, my dearest friend on this wretched continent?"
"I was thinking about something with a bit more... refinement," Yna said. "Mayhaps a ring?"
Talea turned her gaze back to the ceiling and considered the proposal. "Fine enough. But I think I ought to talk to Aelinor, too."
"You haven't mentioned her in a spell," Yna said. She crossed the room to a credenza and plucked two glasses of carved crystal from a mahogany stand. "Things did not end well last time."
Talea sighed and closed her eyes. It was that or grimace. "No, they did not."
Yna knelt and searched through the cabinets under the credenza, examining bottles and decanters until she found a rich red that fit the occasion. "You haven't told me much about it."
This time she did grimace. "Mistakes were made."
Yna rose, holding a bottle of Rasnic. "Look what I found."
Talea turned her attention back to Yna. Her eyebrows rose when she saw the label, a wheel with three spokes. "I thought we drank the last of that."
"They brought some back from Liy." She produced a knife from somewhere and began peeling back the wax seal. "Let's celebrate."
"What are we going to celebrate?" Talea waved vaguely in Yna's direction. "The fact that you didn't lop a finger off with your knife because you're too stubborn to use a corkscrew?"
Yna barked a sharp laugh. "The only corkscrew I use --"
"-- yes, yes, I've heard that one before."
Yna waggled her eyebrows.
Talea groaned.
"So -- ring for Hightower, what's this about Aelinor?"
"Well, her new tax plan --" Talea was abruptly cut off as a piece of wax flew past her ear. "You missed."
"I took pity on you." Yna flicked another bit of wax with her knife; this piece failed to clear the distance between them.
Talea snorted. "Superb bladework, ser."
Yna sniffed and looked down her nose at Talea. "'twas intentional, my lady."
"I feel like there's a dirty joke to be had here." Talea grinned across the room to Yna. "Shall we workshop it, my dear?"
"I struggle to conceive of a situation in which you need help finding a dirty joke, Tal." Yna finally wedged the cork out of the bottle with a satisfying pop and began filling the crystal. "Something about over-promising, I suspect."
Talea placed a hand over her heart in mock indignation. "Why, I never! The implication!"
Yna poured the remainder of the bottle into a decanter and carried the crystal across the room, offering a glass to Talea. "Spare me. Now, do you want to drink and talk about Aelinor or did you want to talk about something else?"
Talea pushed herself up into a seated position and accepted the offered crystal. She met Yna's eye and allowed her gaze to wander, with as much brazen disregard for etiquette as she could muster, down the other woman's figure. She smiled slightly as she went, then pointed at Yna's knee. "It looks like the cleaners haven't swept up lately."
Yna glanced down, holding one leg out to examine the indicated knee. "Oh, that wasn't from here." She met Talea's eyes and took a long sip of her wine. "That was from the other kneeling I did this morning."
Talea threw back her wine, not even bothering to savor the taste of it. She paid no mind to the fact that the Rasnic vineyards ceased to exist a decade ago or that the vintage in question was almost as old as she was. She set her crystal aside and leaned towards Yna. "I think that discussion about Aelinor can wait, don't you?"
Yna laughed. "I'm sure you can multitask, oh great and clever Emissary of the Iron Bank. It's a wonder you're able to fit a hat on that head, what with your enormous intellect and unrivaled mastery of numerology."
"Laugh all you want," Talea said. She snatched Yna's wine away and drank that took. This time she did take a moment to savor it, but not nearly as much as the vintage deserved. "I'll have you know that I am the foremost mathemagician in Westeros."
"Wow!" Yna said. "It's an honor to be in your presence, my lady!"
Talea smiled. "Yes, I'm sure it is." She reached out, hooking three fingers around Yna's necklace. Whatever Yna's response might have been was lost as Talea pulled her in for a kiss.
A few heartbeats (or perhaps ten minutes) later, Yna pulled away. "Feeling focused yet?"
"Oh, very," Talea said, biting her lip. She realized she still had a glass of crystal in her left hand. Fine Myrish crystal, as clear as a fine Spring day. She flung it across the room, indifferent to the sound of something worth thrice its weight in gold shattering against a stone wall. She pulled Yna in for another kiss.
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2023.03.22 04:31 KingoftheRednecks Spears Among the Stars, ch 23


Mogan relaxed, wearing something like a small loincloth as he stretched out in something that was either a chair or a bed. After more than a week he still couldn't really tell which. He was leaning towards “bed” simply because he dozed off so often in it, but he thought that had more to do with his schedule than his age. At least, so he hoped.
At that, he was wearing more than most of the people here. Many walked around in clothing that seemed made mostly of strings. While it was an interesting view, he imagined it must be uncomfortable to walk in. Considering how warm it was, most of the San had picked up the local fashion quickly, although a lot of the tourists still considered them pretty conservatively dressed.
Last time he was on a beach like this it was with Hyeshi. Her clothing had been just about as minimal as his, and while he certainly didn't mind the view it had also been easier to see that she was showing with Ellisan.
Mogan had spent some time on the various types of watercraft, and even some of the small fliers, although he took it easy with those—not like Ellisan, certainly—but his schedule was too busy for most of that.
Mogan snapped out of his doze. “Sorry. What is it?”
“They've returned. The... ones... that were escorting the guests.” Even here, she was more careful about references to warriors or soldiers than most.
“Good. They're a day or two late, but I forgot sometimes how slow those guys travel.”
“And everything is fine. Nothing that really needs to be worried about.”
Mogan caught the hesitation around 'really,' heaved a sigh, and sat up.
“It can wait; you're wearing yourself out fixing everything here!”
“Did somebody do something stupid?”
Ellisan sighed. “Yes.”
“Is it something that will cause us trouble?”
She paused. “...Probably.”
“Then I can't just leave it.”
“Maybe, but you've got to delegate at least some of it. You didn't come home last night until almost morning. Breaking up the fight at the Seafront, dealing with the two idiots who got cheated in gambling at the Moonsrise, and then stopping that incident when some fool tried to start some bets on fighting.”
At least she didn't know about the two people he had to carry home because they were too drunk to move.
“Plus those two people you had to carry home because they were too drunk to move!”
Damn it.
“It's getting better.”
“It is.” Ellisan nodded. “They're not stupid, just not used to any of this. But you've done more than enough work. You should be out here enjoying yourself, not catching up on your sleep because you were cleaning up other people's messes all night.”
“Can't. There are two thousand people here, Ellisan, and they've all been through blood and fire the last few months. Most of them are drinking too much, but I don't know how to just cut them off. Tonight there'll be another fight at the Seafront—the owner doesn't care how many fights there are as long as he makes money selling drink. And there was almost a fight down at the walk, over the women offering... services... there. I'll need to be there part of the night. And—”
“And someone else will.”
“The chieftains are already busy.”
“Then tell someone else off,” she continued relentlessly. “Inton, that guy isn't stupid—let him handle the Seafront. And Burjit is the galaxy's premiere expert at dealing with men's stupidity; she can handle the walk just fine. Half of the time you know who the problem people will be, so find something to keep them busy instead of doing something stupid.”
Mogan sighed, defeated. “Alright. I'll delegate away all the hot spots for tonight. But for now, I have to see what this problem is.”
Ellisan shook her head, but lead him to the small gathering area under a few tents where the chieftains were relaxing. Mogan noted that they didn't look nearly as tired as he, which he found irritating. Burya nodded to him.
“I told you you didn't need to take care of every problem, Mogan. None of them tonight. For now... Have a seat. This should be interesting.”
Mogan wasn't sure he liked the way Burya said “interesting.” It sounded a bit like the way Ellisan had said “really.” But he sat, and someone handed him a drink that tasted something like fruit juice. Ellisan wasn't sent away. What her status was now, nobody knew, but she'd obviously saved enough lives to earn a spot in the circle. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, and then Logog spoke.
“I presume everyone is familiar with my hunter Chadnov?”
“He's not the sharpest spear in the quiver,” Skalli nodded. “But he's certainly the biggest.”
Logog sighed. “That's the one. He was with the escorts. And over the next six days they traveled, everybody spent a lot of time talking. Sort of got to know each other, and...”
“And one of the soldiers is with child, isn't she?” Skalli snorted.
“We didn't know this was possible!”
Ellisan stared at Logog, raising an eyebrow. “You didn't know that humans and Sylfa could breed?” Her lower set of arms waved. “What in the Frozen Valley do you think these are: antlers?”
Logog snorted, trying not to laugh. “It wasn't a Sylfa, Ellisan.”
“There weren't many Shawing there, but they're good people in general.” Mogan nodded. “We should speak to her.”
“It... um... She, uh...” Logog was staring intently at the sand between his toes. “She's not a Shawing either.”
There was a horrified silence, that extended for two full minutes before it was broken by Ellisan's horrified giggle.
“Well....” Mogan paused. “Let's, uh, let's bring in the happy couple.”
“Her name is apparently Karshta,” Logog said, “one of the blade-walls. It seems the Sovereignty will pay them for having Meht children. They're generally considered stupid, so even though their Meht are smaller they're considered to sort of have the best of both worlds. I think we can all agree we don't want the Sovereign to find a Meht with that kind of power and our.... traits.... yes?”
Mogan chuckled. “Too bad Akin isn't here. He really wanted to do a wedding for someone. Still, if she wants to mix her strength with someone else's intelligence, she might have wanted to pick someone... different.”
“The situation is what it is, not what we'd rather it be.” Burya shrugged. Mogan swore he sounded more like an old man than any of the old men present. “But if she's up to it, a marriage would be a good way to solve the problem. She stays with us so the child doesn't end up in the Sovereignty's hands, we get her contributions, and Chadnov has a wife three times his height to keep him from getting a roving eye.”
The others voiced their agreement, and a runner was sent for the happy couple.
They were a nervous couple when they arrived, the man ahead of the Mantu. Chadnov was a huge man, easily the tallest and heaviest of the San. Mogan was of average height, and he didn't even come up to the man's shoulder. He probably weighed twice what Mogan did, for that matter, and he doubted any of it was fat. He had often amused the children—and the ladies—by lifting whatever seemed heavy: barrels, logs, stones, vehicles, prey, whatever couldn't run away. In hunts, he was often known to cast his spear straight through an animal so hard that it stuck into the ground or trees several yards behind it. Mogan wasn't completely sure who was the stronger of the pair. Or the smarter.
Karshta looked fairly petite for a Mantu, which meant that she was a little less than three times his height and probably weighed a little less than a bison. Her legs were bent, but he doubted they could straighten much more, at least not enough to stand any taller, and her feet were three-toed and longer than a spear, with claws that dug into the sand as she walked. A heavy tail trailed behind her, occasionally brushing the ground, and Mogan had no doubt that even without the armor they wore it could be a definite hindrance to any combatant behind her. Her hands were also three-fingered, like her feet. Mogan had thought of her as much like that strange and fearsome lizard he had fought back on New Klon, but those had tiny, useless arms, with sharp claws that were probably never used. Karshta's arms were so long that they almost reached the ground, and while the three fingers, one opposable, had claws, they were clipped and smoothed.
She had a longer neck than any human, or most animals he had seen, but not exactly snake-like, and her muzzle was more than a foot and a half long, big enough that she could probably grab a human by the waist and powerful enough that she could then touch her teeth together. Four eyes marked the front of her head, and two more closer to the sides, smaller ones.
It was a certainty that if Chadnov's attentions were not welcome, she could have made him aware of this in a fashion that left no room for confusion and little for healing. What wasn't certain was just how they had managed in the first place, but Mogan shook his head. That way led to the madness of the Auels.
He was amused to find three of the others shaking their heads as well. What had attracted Chadnov was also something of a mystery. Her own clothing was of the three-strings variety, but she had no breasts, nor hips, and the shape of her legs was mostly the shape of a lizard's legs.
“Welcome, Chadnov and Karshta.” The way Ansam paired the two, as if he was stating one name rather than two, was certainly deliberate. “This will take some time, and we don't want you to be any more uncomfortable. Sit, relax.”
The two sat, looking somewhat nervous. For Karshta, it simply meant folding her legs under her, although Chadnov sat cross-legged.
“Now,” Ansam began. “Rumor has it that you're expecting.”
“Expecting what?” The two spoke together, and brought another moment of stunned silence to the circle.
The silence stretched, as they stared at the two and the two stared at them, with growing expectation, until finally Ellisan broke it.
“The baby?”
“Oh. Yes, I will be giving birth.”
Mogan nodded. “Well... why don't you start with that? Do you lay eggs?”
Karshta seemed offended, but she told them. Apparently Mantu birthed live young, often three or four at a time but usually just one or two for their Meht, after a pregnancy of nearly a full year. While other species often looked down on their Meht, Mantu valued them immensely. This was only in part because the Sovereignty offered a hefty payment, and in part because Meht were able to get jobs that most other species could not. Mantu were often the heavily-armored barrier for Sovereignty armies—blade-walls, they were called—but were often not intelligent enough to manage vehicles or guns. Mantu Meht could carry massive weapons, or carefully pack and load valuable goods, or even serve as police forces or intimidating guards with far less chance of mishaps.
They did not have milk, but the babies were immediately able to eat mashed meat; they were apparently like dogs in that they were generally carnivores but could eat some plants. And perhaps because they had less brain to develop, they grew to adulthood in a shorter time. This made Chadnov quite nervous until he discovered that she was in her nineteenth year, and they usually lived to their sixties.
“And you're certain that Chadnov here is the father?”
Chadnov winced, but Karshta nodded. “He is a cute little thing.” Chadnov winced again.
“Well!” Ansam nodded. “Congratulations to the both of you, then.”
Chadnov's eyes widened in horror as he continued. “That means, of course, that our people have certain duties. We'd like you to come with us, Karshta.”
“You'll need help raising your children now,” Mogan added, “and we can do the marriage right here, if you'll take him.”
“You are referring to... a husband? A... human husband?”
Chadnov stared, and they could almost hear the wheels creaking as they turned. The hunter could refuse the wedding, of course. But “of course” meant the same as “really” and “interesting” in this case—it would be the end of his reputation and his aspirations. He would have a hard time leading anyone, joining hunting parties, or getting near a woman again if it was known that he had gotten a woman with child and abandoned her. All he could hope for was that she would refuse him, and by the look of it that wasn't going to happen.
“And all of your children will be Meht. Here's hoping you have many.”
The smile she turned upon her new fiance was downright predatory, and Chadnov found himself chuckling.
submitted by KingoftheRednecks to HFY [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 04:15 RevolutionaryCan5095 I asked Bard to write a gut wrenching emotional story. First draft was robotic so I asked for it to write it with a more fancy prose. This is pretty compelling to me for tech that is still in its infancy.

I asked Bard to write a gut wrenching emotional story. First draft was robotic so I asked for it to write it with a more fancy prose. This is pretty compelling to me for tech that is still in its infancy. submitted by RevolutionaryCan5095 to GoogleBard [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 03:58 Kiyomi_Raven_Misoto The Chieftainess’ Reincarnated Wife- Fate's Call

Here is the first chapter of The Chieftainess’ Reincarnated Wife. It will be for a more mature audience. Especially, the dreams (memories). Please enjoy and tell me what you all think:
The Chieftainess’ Reincarnated Wife
Fate’s Call
779 A.C. Scandinavia, Skinwalker Clan Stronghold
Two women stood outside the great hall as their servants and advisors looked over their dresses and appearances one last time. They wore their crowns. One had dark ginger hair with dark bright eyes. The other had dark blonde hair and bright white eyes. When given the approval, they looked in each other’s eyes and smiled at each other.
The blonde asked, “Are you ready for this, my Chieftainess?”
Chieftainess replied, “Yes, my Queen. We should get this over with.” The Chieftainess looked at the high advisor before she continued. “High Advisor, announce us.”
The High Advisor put his fist across his chest. “As you command, Chieftainess.” The High Advisor said.
He turned and walked towards the doors of the great hall as the guards opened them. He walked to the center of the room as those already in the great hall became silent and looked towards him.
The Chieftainess and her Queen walked in the main hall as he began to speak. “I present to you all Chieftainess Elsha Ulfsdottir, the daughter of wolves, most favored by Lord Odin, the shield breaker, and first of her name. As well as Queen Chara Frydenlund the faithful and last of her name.” The High Advisor said.
Elsha and Chara made their way to the two thrones sitting at the far end of the great hall. Those in the room would salute them as they passed by. When they made it to their thrones, they turned to face everyone, and they sat down. The High Advisor approached them.
Elsha said, “Let’s get this started, High Advisor.”
“As you command, Chieftainess. I present to you Birger Unfrid the Brave.” The High Advisor said.
Birger Unfrid walked and stood in front of Elsha and Chara. He saluted them.
Elsha said, “I know why you are here, Birger. You come to fulfill the oath that the former Chieftain had with
your father to give him our blessings for and expedition to find lands across the great sea. Your father passed away, and you are going to fulfill that dream. To honor the oath, I give you my blessings for your expedition and may Lord Odin himself watch over your endeavors.”
“I appreciate your blessings, Chieftainess, but I think you are mistaken in the oath that your father gave to mine.” Birger said.
“Mind your tongue, whelp.” The High Advisor said.
“I mean no offense towards you or your queen, Chieftainess. The oath was that he would lend his entire fleet and able bodies to the expedition.” Birger said.
Elsha raised her hand to silence everyone as she spoke, “I along with my queen and advisors will review the oath. If it is as you say that it is, I will lend to your expedition our entire fleet. Also, the entire clans, including my queen and myself, will accompany you and your clan on this expedition of yours. If not, you will leave my great hall with my blessings alone. You shall have our answer in three days. You and your kin are welcomed to stay until then.”
“Thank you, Chieftainess. I look forward to your answer.” Birger said as he saluted and started to leave.
Elsha said, “Oh, one more thing, Birger. If we do this, your clan must pledge allegiances to my queen and I alone. We are in charge, and everyone will listen to us. Do I make myself clear?”
Birger was shocked. “Yes, Chieftainess. It will be as you command.” Birger quickly replied before he saluted once more and left with his kin.
The great hall doors shut.
Present Day, Tokyo, Japan, An apartment
There was a sudden knock on a bedroom door. A girl groaned as she slowly woke up. She looked at the time and it was eight thirty in the morning. She reached over and grabbed her inhaler and took a couple deep breaths from it.
“Ohayo, Chaisa. Happy birthday. I know that it is summer break, but we have an important visitor who has legal matters with all of us. Please, get dressed and come to the kitchen as soon as you can.” The woman at the door said.
Chaisa groaned in protest and said, “Ohayo and ariagatou, Okasan. I will be there in a few minutes.”
“Hurry up and don’t forget to take your pills.” Chaisa’s mom said.
Chaisa screamed as she got out of bed, “I won’t forget!”
Chaisa quickly got dressed and put on her glasses. She went to the bathroom and filled a cup with water. Chaisa took a sip of water and swallowed her pills. She brushed her teeth and combed her hair. Chaisa headed towards the kitchen where she could hear her mother talking to a man. For some reason, the voice sound familiar to her. She walked to the dining room and was stunned when she saw the man. He looked exactly like the man from her dream. Except, he had a business suit on and not a Viking outfit. Chaisa noticed that her little sister was holding a black stone with some type of symbol on it. When her little sister saw her, she put the stone on the table and ran over to her. She hugged Chaisa around her waist and looked up at her.
“Ohayo, Onee-Chan. Happy Birthday!” Chaisa’s sister said as she smiled brightly at her.
Chaisa smiled as she hugged her sister back and said, “Ohayo, Akahana-Chan. Thank you.”
“He, he, he,” Akana laughed.
“Good morning, Chaisa. I am sorry to bother you on this important day. Let me introduce myself. I am Birger Unfrid, and I have come a long way to meet you and your family.” Birger took a deep breath before he continued. “Kaede, would you please hold the stone for one moment, please?” Birger said.
“Umm…sure. I would be happy to.” Kaede replied as she picked up the stone.
She held it in her palm with the symbol facing her. After a few moments of nothing happening, Kaede handed the stone back to Birger. He took it from her and looked at Chaisa while she couldn’t help from feeling a sense of Deja-vu. Chaisa noticed that he was staring at her.
“Chaisa, don’t be rude. Come and sit down with us.” Kaede said as she looked at her.
Chaisa blushed and said, “Oh right. I am sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”
Chaisa sat down and put her hands on her lap as Akahana stood between Chaisa and Kaede.
Birger held out the stone to Chaisa. “I know that this might seem unusual. Please, humor me for a moment by holding this stone for a few minutes before we get started with why I am here.” Birger said.
Chaisa looked at her mother. Kaede nodded. She sighed as she slowly took the stone out of his hand and held it in her right hand. She was drawn to look at the weird symbol on the stone. Chaisa was amazed with how familiar the stone felt and looked, but she couldn’t put her finger on why. Suddenly, the symbol began to pulse as she felt a slight pain in her forehead. The stone started to turn a milky color before shinning a bright white light. Chaisa blinked, and the stone was back to normal. She looked at Akahana and Kaede, but they didn’t seem to notice. She looked at Birger as she reached out to hand the stone back to him. Chaisa noticed the shocked look on his face like he did notice. He took the stone from her as he set his briefcase on the table. Birger opened it and put the stone up before he pulled out some papers and a pen. He set the briefcase aside as he put the papers down in front of him. Then, he looked at Akahana, Chaisa, and Kaede.
Birger folded his hands on top of the paper. “I really do appreciate you welcoming me into your home, and I want to apologize once more for the unannounced visit to your home.” Birger said.
Kaede waved her hand. “There is no need to apologize. I am sorry for the state of my home. It must be quite a mess. You said that you had business concerning my late husband.” Kaede said.
“Yes, of course. I want to extend my condolences for the loss of your husband. I am sure that he was a loving husband and father. But I am sorry for the confusion. The business doesn’t pertain to him specifically, but a distant relative of his who recently passed away. How much do you know about his family?” Birger said.
“I appreciate your kind words. He was a very loving husband to me and cared for our daughters very much.” Kaede paused for a second as she thought before she continued. “I really don’t know much about his family line. He said that he came from Scandinavia or something like that. He never called them, and they never came to visit. Why do you ask?” Kaede replied.
Akahana climbed onto Chaise’s lap as they continued to listen to them speak.
“It is true that he and much of his direct family lived in Scandinavia for a long time. But he had a
Distant relative who lived in Canada that was rich and owned a considerable amount of land. That relative recently passed away from an unknown illness, and they left your family their entire fortune, home, and land. However, there are some criteria that must be met before all of it will be passed on to you all.” Birger replied.
Chaisa interrupted by asking, “What are those criteria that you referenced?”
Birger looked at Chaisa. “The criteria is that you all agree to move to Canada to become the legal landowners. The fortune will also be signed over to you all as well at that time.” Birger replied.
“What happens if we refuse to accept these conditions?” Kaede asked.
Birger shifted uneasy in his seat as he looked at Kaede. “The money will be seized by the local government, the home torn down, land auctioned off, and the last of your husband’s legacy lost forever.” Birger said.
Chaisa asked quickly, “What if we say yes? Then what?”
Birger smiled as he looked at Chaisa and Akahana. “If you all agree; all of your and your father’s medical bills will paid in full. Your belongings will be shipped to your new home. You all will never have want or have to scrape by. You all will begin a new life in a new home and have servants who will take care of all of your needs.” Birger held the papers before he continued. “By signing these papers, you enter into a legal obligation to fulfill all of the conditions. Then, everything will be taken care of from there.” Birger replied.
“If I sign those, when would we leave?” Kaede asked.
“If you sign these, your all will be on a plane to your new home on Thursday morning. Then, the following Monday, you have a job interview with the mayor of the town.” Birger replied.
Chaisa asked, “Do we have to decide now, or do we have a few days to decide?’ “Unfortunately, once I leave your apartment today, the inheritance will be lost forever. So, I need your
answers today.” Birger stood up before he continued. “Pardon me. I need to use your bathroom to give you all time to decide.” Birger replied.
“Of course, take your time, and thank you.” Kaede said.
Birger waved at them before he closed the door and locked it. Chaisa and Kaede leaned towards one
another to get close.
“What do you all think?” Kaede whispered.
Chaisa whispered, “It will be tough for Akahana-Chan and me to leave everything that we know, and this sounds too good to be true. But… it would be great to see you a lot stressed out and worrying so much. It would also be good to know something more about dad’s past. I say… let’s go for it.’
“Me too.” Akahana said as she smiled brightly.
“Are you sure? You are almost a year from graduating high school.” Kaede whispered.
Chaisa nodded as she whispered, “I am sure, Okaasan. I think that a new place could be good for all of us to start over. Maybe, Canada will do all of us good.”
Kaede smiled. “I agree. We should go for it and leave all of our woes behind. I will tell him yes when he gets back. Would you like some coffee? I just brewed it before you got up.” Kaede said as she got up.
Chaisa smiled and replied, “That would be great. Thank you Okaasan.”
Kaede went to the kitchen and took out a mug out of a cabinet. She put creamer and sugar in the mug. Then, Kaede poured coffee into the mug before she stirred the coffee. She brought the mug to Chaisa as Birger unlocked and opened the bathroom door. He walked out towards the dining room. He sat down at the same time that Kaede did.
Birger looked at them. “So, what did you all decide on the matter?” Birger asked.
Kaede looked at Chaisa. She nodded, and Kaede looked back at him. “We have decided to accept the inheritance.” Kaede replied.
Birger smiled. “I am happy to hear that. I just need you to sign these papers.” Birger said as he passed the papers and pen to Kaede.
Kaede took the papers and pen away from Birger. She went over the paperwork as he went over the paperwork with her. Birger would point where Kaede would have to sign. After she was done
signing where she had to, Kaede passed the paperwork to him. Birger looked over the paperwork. When he was satisfied, Birger took the pen from Kaede. He put the paperwork and pen back into his briefcase, closed it, and grabbed it as he stood up. Kaede stood up as well.
Chaisa asked, “What now?”
“Now, you all must pack your bags for what you all will need to take with you. The movers and plane tickets will be sent over later today. I hope you have a great birthday, Chaisa, and best of luck in your new home.” Birger said.
Kaede began to walk Birger out the front door before Chaisa asked, “Wait, where are we moving to in Canada?”
Birger smiled. “I believe it is a little town called Hunangsfall.” Birger replied before he walked out the front door.
As he walked away, Kaede closed the door behind him. When he heard the door closed, Birger smiled and faded away. They decided to start to pack just in case it was true after they had finished eating breakfast. After they had cleaned up from breakfast, Kaede received a phone call from the hospital informing her that all of her medical bills had been paid for. They were shocked, so they started to pack in earnest. After lunch, a courier came with an envelope marked “Urgent”. Kaede opened it and found their plane tickets and itinerary. Kaede contacted their landlord, and he informed them that everything was already taken care of. She just needs to drop her keys off before they leave and wished them luck before they hung up. Chaisa began to help Akahana start to pack her bags, when they heard a knock on the apartment door. Kaede opened the door to discover a moving company was there to start to pack their belongings. Kaede, Chaisa, and Akahana finished packing their bags and watched over the packers. The packers were careful as they packed Chaisa’s father’s shrine and urn. Just before dinner, everything was packed in boxes and had been taken out of the apartment. They looked around their apartment and were amazed on how it looked so bare and empty without all of their belongings in it. They had to throw out the remainder of the food, because they had nothing to cook it with. They decided to eat out as it was Chaisa’s birthday, and it was their last night there. Kaede wanted to let. Chaisa decide where they eat at, but she decided to let Akahana decide. They ate at Burger Palace, and each got a slice of pie for Chaisa’s birthday. When they got home, Chaisa and Akahana took turns calling their friends to let them know that they were moving the next day. Chaisa wrote down her friends’ social media information and helped Akahana get her friends’ numbers. It was soon time for them to go to bed. They changed, brushed their teeth, and Chaisa took her pills as Kaede set an alarm clock for them to get up on time. Then, Chaisa and Kaede laid out a blanket for them to share that evening. Akahana laid down between Chaisa and Kaede. Chaisa put her glasses where she could reach them, but they were safe from harm. They told each other good night. Akahana was the first person to fall asleep. Soon, Kaede had fallen asleep. But, Chaisa felt like she would never fall asleep before it was time to go to the airport. Her eyelids slowly became heavy, and she slipped into a vivid dream.
779 A.C. Scandinavia, Skinwalker Clan Stronghold
Elsha and Chara laid cuddling in bed with just a thick fur blanket covering them. Elsha noticed that Chara was having trouble following asleep. Elsha looked at Chara and kissed her lips.
Elsha was concerned as she asked, “What troubles your heart so much that keeps you from fallen asleep, my love?”
Chara nuzzled Elsha as she replied, “It’s this whole exploration. I don’t know if it was wise of us to accept it.”
Elsha asked, “What do you mean? The High Father Odin has personally blessed our voyage.”
Chara replied, “I know and that’s not what bothers me. Everyone knows that the world is flat and is surrounded by a vast ocean. What if we sail and find nothing but endless ocean or the edge of the
world. Then, our voyage would be for not.”
Elsha silently rubbed Chara’s back before she responded, “It could happen and most likely be true. We sail for eternity and eventually come to Jörmungandr. We would just turn around and come back home knowing more about our world than ever before.” Elsha paused before she continued. “However, what if there is more out there than we could ever expect. What if we find new lands during our travels and new people to blunder. It would make us the first of our kin to sail farther than anyone else ever has. Wouldn’t that be worth it?”
Chara smiled as she sat up to look down at Elsha. Her hair fell around her face, and they giggled before Chara kissed Elsha’s lips. She replied, “Yes, it would be worth it. Besides, we gave Birger our oath. If we back out now, we will be known as oath breakers and be cursed by the gods for all time.”
Elsha smiled as she brushed Chara’s hair out of her face before flipping her onto her back. Chara laughed as Elsha climbed on top of her. Their bodies touching each other’s as they passionately kissed. Some time later, they were cuddling once more as they breathed heavily and were covered in sweat. Elsha laid behind Chara as she kissed the tattoo going sown her back.
Chara said as she sighed happily, “I love you, my Chieftainess, and I will follow you to the ends of the earth.”
Elsha smiled and said, “And, I love you, my Queen, and I will walk with you the entire way to the edge of eternity.”
They soon fell fast asleep as they held each other close.
Present Day, Tokyo, Japan, the next morning
Chaisa woke up groggily the next morning from the sound of Kaede’s alarm clock going off. They slowly woke up as they got up. Chaisa used her inhaler and took her medicine. She went to the bathroom and got dressed. Chaisa helped Akahana get ready as Kaede was getting ready as well. Chaisa put on her glasses before she packed all of her stuff away. They made sure that they had everything packed and wouldn’t leave anything that they would need before they grabbed their stuff and walked out of the apartment. Kaede closed the door behind them and locked it for the last time. They made their way downstairs where Kaede placed their keys into an envelope with their apartment number on it. Then, she placed the envelope in the drop box. They walked out to the street and made their way to the subway. They got on the subway train and rode it to Tokyo International Airport. When it arrived, they got off the train and made their way into the airport. They went to the check in station and checked in their check in luggage at the counter. Then, they went through security and made their way to their terminal. They realized that they still had some time before boarding call, so they made their way to a Konbini to get breakfast. Shortly after they had eaten, it was boarding time. They realized that their tickets were first class, so they loaded first. They had three seats near a window. Akahana wanted to sit near the window. So, it was Akana, Chaisa in the middle seat, and Kaede had the isle seat. They followed all instructions as they put their seatbelts on.
Chaisa asked, “Akahana-Chan, are you excited about your first time to fly in an airplane?”
Akahana looked at Chaisa as she smiled brightly. “Yes, Onee-Chan. I am very excited.” Akahana said.
Chaisa smiled and said, “That’s good. Me too.” Chaisa looked at Kaede before she continued. “What about you, Okaasan?”
Kaede looked at Chaisa and Akahana as she smiled. “I am excited because you two are excited. But this isn’t my first time flying. I have flown from one side of Japan to the other, but this is my first time out of Japan.” Kaede replied.
Soon, the pilot’s voice could be heard over the airplane’s intercom system as the plane backed out of the terminal. The flight attendants checked everyone’s seat belts, seats, and tray tables as the airplane approached the runaway. Then, they made their way to their seats and buckled in. The airplane began to gain speed as it barreled down the runway. Soon, it lifted off of the ground and climbed higher in to the early morning sky as it climbed higher and higher. It flew towards the west with the rising sun behind them. After forty-five minutes, the flight attendants came around with refreshments. Chaisa started to feel motion sickness and just wanted a seltzer. When the seltzer arrived, she used it to take her motion sickness pills. Chaisa put her glasses on her tray table before she leaned her seat back. Akahana started to watch a movie, and Kaede read a book as Chaisa slowly fell asleep while listening to calming music. She was soon dreaming once more.
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2023.03.22 03:17 KatrinaSimmons Blade Cop: The Biohazard

Open on Precinct 01 in downtown Neo-America City. The bullpen is full of officers mulling around and pretending to work. There was no crime on the schedule until the afternoon so the morning shift was basically an exercise in trying to stay awake. The front door open and Blade Cop glides in to the room; her outfit noticeably free of perp-blood but with mysterious brown stains on her legs. A putrid odor follows her into the room, emitting visible stink-lines. As the stench washes over the closest officers they turn to her in disgust and retch, moments before dissolving into a pile of bones. The other officers jump from their desks and back away. A sergeant hurries ahead of her path and throws his hands out. “Hold on detective!”
Katarina stops abruptly and gives him a quizzical look. “What’s the problem sergeant?”
He gestures behind her to the piles of bones and holds his nose shut. “I think you may have stepped in something sinister.”
She looks down to her laser-blades and notices the grotesque stains on her jeans. She bends over slightly and sniffs, detecting the faint aroma of souls crying in agony. “Sorry about that Sarge, I must have gotten used to it,” she says, as a perfectly reasonable explanation for her immunity to the highly caustic smell.
“Just hang on a minute until we can get the haz-bot out and figure out what’s going on there.”
On cue(sitcoms abhor dead air), an awkward robot clomps into the room on two poorly designed feet. It angles towards the sergeant who points at Kat. The robot shuffles towards her in a straight line, plowing desks out of the way carelessly. As it approaches a slot opens on its chest and a sensor array emerges. It immediately begins flashing red lights as it announces “Biohazard detected, threat level: STANK”. Seconds later the robot begins to jerk erratically and then explodes.
“Damn,” Kat remarks, “it overloaded the sensors so much the thing just blew up?”
The sergeant looks at her curiously. “Who would design a sensor that explodes from doing the one thing it was made for? No, its single use only. Captain hates having used equipment in the precinct. Anyway, you gotta get down to de-con and take those things off. Maybe we can fast track them on a rocket to the sun for disposal.”
Kat grimaces “The blades stay on sergeant,” she says firmly and with a twinge of anger.
The sergeant furrows their brow for a moment and then rolls his eyes. “Ahh, sorry. I didn’t realize you were that blade cop.”
The Blade Cop”, she corrects, a bit too insecurely.
“Well what did you blade through? Whatever it is we can’t have it just lying around the city.”
“No worries there sarge, was on assignment down in the sub-city.” They look at her in shock as she continues, “Was delivering a new commendation to Detective Plopton. Must have trudged through a puddle or two of liquid nightmare.”
“Liquid nightmare, of course. The irrecuperable final waste product that gets spit out of the bottom of the city.” They state, expositionally. “Well we’ve got to clean this up somehow.”
Kat shrugs, “Let’s get to it.”
:Generic sitcom montage music begins:
Transition to Kat standing over a drainage grate in the precincts showers. A garden hose is stuffed into the ankles of each of her blades. The sergeant twists both the spigots open fully and the water floods into her blades. The runoff begins to pour out of them, void-black. The camera zooms into the blackness until it occupies the whole frame.
The sergeant grasps a large pair of industrial tongs, holding together a taped bundle of cheap air-fresheners. They cautiously guide them towards Kat’s blades. As they get within a foot they start to smoke. Before they can make contact they burst into flames and crumble to ash.
Kat stares in disgust at something off camera. As we pan over, we see the sergeant holding a pair of clean white tennis shoes. It pans back and Kat gives two thumbs down.
The shower scene resumes and we see Kat playing two-tris(the unlicensed future version of Tetris) on her wrist-com. The sergeant is nodding off while leaning against the wall. It’s obvious some hours have passed. They both glance down to the run-off, which shows no sign of diluting. They shrug in sync and we transition again.
The sergeant, but in a white lab coat, gestures at a drawing board. On it are poorly drawn images of Kat. An extra pair of laser-bladed legs from the knee down is grafted to her knees. A second picture shows her original legs chopped off and tossed into a box marked “To: Sun”. They both stroke their chins, pondering for a moment before the sergeant flips the board over in frustration.
A shoe-shining robot shuffles into a room. Kat is sitting on a bench with her blades out and gives the robot an inquisitive, hopeful smile. The robot glances to the rancid blades, flips open a panel on its arm, and presses its self-destruct button.
:Montage music ends:
“I guess we’ll never get them clean.” Kat sighs in exaggerated disappointment.
“I mean, we tried everything,” the sergeant replies, “guess you’ll have to transfer to the sub-city.”
They stand in silent defeat for a few moments before a shrill desk phone rings. An officer picks it up and has a short, unheard conversation before hanging up. They hop to their feet and turn towards the pair in alarm. “Sergeant! The soap factory in city zone T exploded. The whole district is flooded in two feet of hyper-concentrated Sudz™!. They need boots on the ground ASAP.”
The sergeant and Kat exchange glances. “Boots? How about a pair of blades?” They jump up and Katarina skates to them for an enthusiastic high-five, having forgotten the main plot point this episode. The sergeant screams and collapses into a pile of smoldering bones.
Kat looks at the officer and says, unapologetically, “Oops!”
Cut to black.
submitted by KatrinaSimmons to BladeCop [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 03:15 CH1CK3NW1N95 [M4A] Misadventures in Duskwall

"The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic." -G.K. Chesterton
The moon setting in the west marked the end of another day for the folk in the city of Duskwall, and Monty was glad to be out on one of his evening walks.
He had all he needed for such an activity; the discreetly-armored clothes on his back, the trusty knife and pistol on his belt, and the wits in his head. His walk took him from the industrial district of Coalridge where machines belched smoke and noise and workers labored to keep the Imperium's production needs met, to the many-hued vice dens of Silkshore where any imaginable pleasure or illicit product could be found if one knew how to look and who to ask. From the views of the Spark Wall that kept out the legions of ghosts from the Deathlands, to the park that was lit with trees than glowed with light both eerie and comforting. He saw many people on his wanderings that night; a Bluecoat patrol he had narrowly escaped, a thief he knew well and claimed several favors from, a crew of Railjacks that had helped him with smuggling operations on the trains in days not long past, and many others, for he was a well-connected man with a finger in many pies and an ear to many grounds.
As he wandered, he thought, for he found it claiming and focusing to walk through the city, following no path and pursuing no errand. The Crows had collapsed, following one daring heist too many, and had cast the Crow's Foot, the city's most crime-ridden district, into war as the scavengers convened to pick up the pieces and fill the power vacuum. The Crows had been the uncrowned kings and queens of the city's underworld, which meant in the end that they fell with the force of a dying leviathan, tearing asunder the web of grudges and favors they had woven and throwing the city's underworld into chaos.
Monty knew he had a responsibility to his own crew, and he intended to make something of them out of all this. They had been getting by, starting from the bottom, subsisting on the crumbs and scraps that fell their way when the big players were done with the feast of the day. But with the old powers fallen, the field had been leveled and untold hordes of wealth and power were up for grabs. Monty planned to see that his crew prospered, for they were his friends, his comrades, his dear confidants for whom he would match through fire and lay down life and limb.
As the night grew from young to full, Monty had gotten his thoughts in order, and walked back to his crew's lair. It wasn't much, but it serves them well enough, and if Monty had his way, it would be expanded before the year was out. He stopped to get some chicken and greens, wanting to treat the crew with something more than simple eel pie and rice portage. When he got to the crew's lair, he gladly took up his role as the cook, and began making dinner, chatting all the while and enjoying the company of friends.
When dinner was served, goat cheesecake was in the oven, and beer was being poured, Monty looked at all the crew with his trademark grin; the one that said he had a plan and something very worth noting was about to happen.
"Boys and girls, Crow's Foot's gone to shit and back, things are starting to heat up all across the city, and if you're all with me, we're gonna use all that to take our place as top dogs and be living like kings by this time next year."
He leaned back in his seat, and raised a glass of Skovland beer that tasted like mulling spices and the far-off promise of victory."
"But first, a toast, to the beginning of something big."
Hi there! Thanks for reading :D
I find myself driven, as of late, to indulge my love for the Blades in the Dark TTRPG and for written roleplay, so why not do both at the same time? Two good things at the same time are usually guaranteed to be even more gooder, except well-mixed cocktails and life-saving surgery, but my point stands in general.
I'd like to do a story of a small, low-down criminal gang rising in the ranks of the underworld in the Victorian, gothic-steampunk/dieselpunk, occultish city of Duskwall. The setting is rich and there's a lot of detail to go into, so it's impossible to give a truly comprehensive pitch while keeping it simple, but if I had to summarize this setting in three sentences, it would be as follows:
"The sun vanished from the sky a thousand years ago, alongside the Gates of Death shattering and allowing ghosts and occult magic into the world. The city is a mashup of London, Paris, and Venice, in roughly Victorian times with a hefty helping of steampunk/dieselpunk/electropunk technology al-la Dishonored meets The Order 1886. The city is home to a lot of criminals, with a thriving, complex underworld that has recently been thrown into chaos due to the toppling of its most powerful gang, and in which our characters will take part."
If that setting intrigues you, then I'd be happy to explain more! Also, no knowledge of the setting is needed, I plan to play a character in the gang who is knowledgeable about the setting and its people so I can be a guide both in the story and out. My basic plan is that we'd each plan a few characters in the gang, as well as create the gang itself together.
If anyone is curious, I'm male, 24 years of age, and from the EST time zone. I've been roleplaying for about half my life and playing Shadowrun for 6 or 7 years, so while I'm not a grandmaster of either, I think I know enough about both to create an awesome story with someone who wants to work with me. I'd be happy to send a writing sample to anyone who wants to verify that for themselves. I can usually crack off at least a few posts a week; I try to go for one or more a day as much as I can, with moderate success since my job is taxing and I sometimes don't have the energy to write much. But I'll always do my best to keep up, since this is one of my favorite hobbies and I love this setting a hell of a lot. I can generally put two or three good-sized paragraphs in my post, sometimes more depending on what's going on. I'd also like my partner to be interested in planning out the story from the start, since this is your story too if you decide to play it out with me.
I'd ideally like somebody who can match my average of 2 or 3 paragraphs, who is 20 or over, who writes in 3rd person, and who communicates openly; otherwise, I'm open to writing with anybody I vibe with, :). Come one come all; if you're interested in this prompt (and please include the word "Machiavellian" in your message to let me know you read it all), then I'm interested in talking more with you about it. I can't address every detail or question someone might have in this post, so if you have any questions or comments, PM me here and I'll be glad to answer them.
I hope to hear from you soon! :D
submitted by CH1CK3NW1N95 to roleplaying [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 03:08 Darren716 Post WWE NXT 3/21/2023 Show Discussion Thread

Winner Loser Match Finish Stipulation
Tiffany Stratton Indi Hartwell Moonsault Stand and Deliver Ladder Match Qualifier
Ilja Dragunov JD McDonough Double DQ when both competitors run into Dragon Lee at ringside and start to brawl
Lyra Valkyria Ivy Nile Round-House Kick Stand and Deliver Ladder Match Qualifier
Bron Breakker and Carmelo Hayes w/ Trick Williams Pretty Deadly Nothin' But Net
submitted by Darren716 to SquaredCircle [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 02:58 MissPandoraCrow Separated, looking like a nasty divorce.

Hi All,
This post is somewhat of a sister post to my JustNoMil one you can read here if you want, where my stbxh's mother and sister called my boss's ex-partner at her work to lie to her and tell her I was having an affair with my boss. I tried to add this context as a comment but I think it was removed and it really is a JNSO post all of its own so here goes.
I recently separated from my husband, we have been together for about 13 years, and we had an amazing relationship, his family adored me, right up till my stbxh proposed. You can read the carnage on my profile, there are a lot of very long posts so if you want to waste a day, enjoy.
stbxh, completely stopped working and stopped going to uni, he basically completely stopped showering for 18 months.
Normally I would see this for what I thought it is, a serious depressive episode, and in the beginning, I treated the situation as such, tried to help him as much as possible, and treated him with love and care while gently asking him to speak to his councillor and spend the time focusing on getting his headspace to a better and more stable place.
Instead, he was spending over $100 a week on cheap bottles of alcohol drinking a full 700ml -1L bottle of hard liquor a day, while I was struggling to pay our mortgage, utilities, and all our bills (including all his bills) and the hundreds of $$ a week in his food costs (I barely ate because we couldn't really afford it). I found out later he went around to my family and his friends asking people to borrow $1000 each because he had failed a uni test and needed the funds to “re-enrol”, some of them obliged, he asked everyone to give him the funds in cash and not to tell me because he didn't want to “upset me”, I have no idea where this money went, he didn't re-enrol.
He completely stopped showing me any affection and I eventually stopped begging to just have a hug.
Every week or so he would become angry and hysterical, picking fights with me mostly over not getting enough sex, which he heavily implied he had a right to (I had told him it had dwindled because of his poor hygiene and that was a risk to my health but that didn't matter apparently), he would cry, yell and call me names, punch holes in the walls at my head level and doors I was standing behind, throw things and sit on the couch in all I can describe as a murderous rage playing with knives, he was also telling his friends, my sister and who knows who else that I was cheating on him, I never did.
For the last 4/5 months, I started begging him to get help and go back to work, told him I couldn't do everything on my own and we were rapidly burning through our savings, told him we were about to lose our house, none of it mattered.
It all came to a head when I asked him what he wanted to do for Christmas day, said that my family and I would love to spend the day with him and he shouldn’t spend the day alone but given he wasn't in the best place I wouldn't force him to go and it was up to him, he said he would think about it and ultimately agreed to go which I thanked him for.
An hour later I heard him outside loudly and hysterically crying, I went out to see what was wrong and comfort him and he started yelling at me that I didn't love him, didn't want to have sex with him, that I should be chasing him, that we were just roommates and I should have begged him to "come to support me with my family", I told him that while I wanted him to come with me I understood he wasn't in the best place and would not force him into a position what would make him uncomfortable, and that I didn't "need support" with my family as they had never been anything but loving and supportive towards both of us.
This argument kept escalating with him yelling that I didn't appreciate him or support him and me saying that I have been doing nothing but literally supporting him in every way but more so completely carrying him for 18 months and asking him what he brings to the relationship.
He then tried to get into the fridge and I blocked him, he shoved me out of the way took a bottle of vodka into our garage and literally drilled the door shut cry yelling that I was the reason he wanted to kill himself.
I had to call CATT who had me on hold for over half an hour and eventually dropped the call so in a panic, I had to try to break the door down because he was in there drunk off his face yelling about killing himself surrounded by sharp trades and power tools.
After this, he came outside and sat still drinking and looking enraged for a few hours but started to calm down, during this time I honestly feared for my safety and started packing, I went out and told him I needed a break and was going to spend the night at my parents, but he begged me to stay so I did.
The next day while I was at work I saw him leave on our cameras with a suitcase, he didn't tell me how long he would be gone only that he was going to his cousins.
He was there for just over a week all the while telling me how much better his life was, how he had gone back to work basically the day after he left, that he was going to the gym and going out enjoying his nights with his cousin rubbing it in my face how much better he was doing now that he didn't have to deal with me, but then started saying that his sister (sil) was kicking him out and he wanted to come back so I had to leave.
I knew this was seriously toxic and we were heading to the end, I also knew how bad things could get on the current trajectory and didn't want either of us to go through that so I asked for a few days, packed my things (everything I could carry), paid off both of our debts to wipe the slate clean for both of us and moved out of the house.
When he moved back in he called my boss to tell him I had moved out and taken all my things, started telling him how awful I had been treating him and I hadn't left him with enough food to survive (the fridge and both freezers were full as well as an emergency chest full of can and dry goods, ntm he still had access at this point to my bank account)
I gave him a full month in our home to set up his utilities while I was still paying the bills, during this month he asked my sister to come around as he "wasn't doing well" he then attempted to get my sister to sleep with him, telling her how he had always loved her and wanted to be with her, how he could be a father to her son and "they could be a family" she obviously refused and when she got home immediately told me what had happened but gave him the benefit that he was in a seriously bad headspace (in her words, “he's lost his mind”).
Not much later he asked her and his best friend to come around as he was depressed and wanted the company to make sure he “wouldn't do anything drastic”, they went around and he spent the entire time telling them how I was an awful person, he then attempted to kiss my sister and his best friend had to pull him off her, (they both confirmed this with me). Neither of them went back after that.

Finally, we come to the context of the call (sorry it has taken me so long).
Ok so after a month of living completely free (while still spending my money on booze) I sent him a message to say that I organised to have the accounts in my name shut down and gave him the dates (which still gave him 2 weeks to a month to set up his own if he hadn't already), I simply got an “ok”, an hour later the calls started.
Now stbxh was on bosses ex-partner's FB friends list (she has her profile locked down so only her friends can see her information), and he has been going around telling people I'm cheating for a while now (I wasn’t and really just want to be alone for a while tbh so still no), so SR and sil could only get her employment information from him, again they asked for her FB name, not her real name, (I had never told stbx her last name), they implied the accusations that I’m a child abuser, which only they have spread that rumour and a day after the call was made I had stbx calling me over and over again till I picked up (about 6 times) he then started saying that he had heard that my bosses wife had received “some call” and wanted to make sure I knew it “definitely wasn't him”, no siree.
We got into an argument because I told him I knew his mother and sister were the ones to make the call, that I knew what he had been telling people about me, and all the other things that point to it being them (bosses ex-partner had not confirmed the voices at this point), also that I knew about the money he had been borrowing from people and that he tried to sleep with my sister. He told me that he didn't try to have “sex” with her only to spend the night snuggling her in our bed and that that was my fault because I left him, he was lonely and that he didn't actually want to but he just wanted to get back at me and hurt me.
I told him I was done, and he got mad and asked if I was just giving up and didn't want to put the effort into work on things, I just said “why tf would I want to be with a person who could do that to me, you wanted to hurt me, you did, now I'm done.
”So we’re done. Since then he has unlawfully changed the locks on my house and refused me access to either get the rest of my things or meet with agents to sell the place, even though my name is on the deed and I am still paying half the mortgage and insurance. I am now in a struggle to get the property sold and he keeps making excuses as to why he can’t move out and I can't move forward with the sale. So it's looking like I’ll have to go through the courts, and I have to be separated for a minimum of 12 months before I can file for divorce.
submitted by MissPandoraCrow to JustNoSO [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 02:55 FirefighterLefty I will give so many awards to whoever can fix my issue (BSOD WHEA_UNCORRECTABLE_ERROR)

Build. (along is DELL 1907FP Monitor) used as a third monitor
Example of it happening.
The name of the error is a WHEA_UNCORRECTABLE_ERROR. Either it blue screens immediately with no pause and immediately restarts upon freezing, as in the video, or it freezes on the BSOD screen and stays at 0% until I hold down the power button to restart it.
This happens when the device is under heavy loads such as call of duty or Minecraft. Usually does not happen while idling or when listening to YouTube or working on a spreadsheet.
This began happening after I moved. When transporting the PC I failed to remove the GPU from the mobo socket so it might have jiggled around while I was driving. Additionally, it is now powered through a power strip plugged into an extension cord plugged into the wall to a ground outlet that I grounded myself.
I have tried:
I'll suck your dick dry if you find a solution I swear to god
submitted by FirefighterLefty to techsupport [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 02:40 LeeCloud27 ACT 2-6-6: Lingering Scarlet Fear

"Tell me, please. Everything you know." Sumireko asked Meiling.
"Everything?" Meiling asked. "What do you mean by-"
"The state of the mansion, the whereabouts of all the residents, whatever happened to Koakuma and Patchouli, the events that took place in Gensokyo. I want to know what exactly happened here. Please, I want to know what went wrong, and you seem to be one of the only people around who has an idea of what exactly happened." Sumireko said in a single breath.
She looked at Meiling with a serious and scared look. Meiling looked back at her with minor bewilderment, only to lower her head as the calm and gentle look she had was replaced with one more grievous.
"You want to know how it all started? I can do that." Meiling said. "I’ll tell you everything I know."

Switching POVs…

Several months ago…
It was the night of the Moon Festival. I had been taking a break from my daily duty of gatekeeping and had been enjoying a nice cup of tea with everyone else in the living quarters. Sakuya’s tea was always a delight to enjoy and helped keep me from feeling fatigued after the long hours I put in.
I was talking to her and Patchouli about how nice a night it was and the things we would’ve done over at the Moon Festival had we gone. Unfortunately, we decided to stay at home since it was one of the few nights where we could enjoy the peace and quiet.
"It is a shame that we decided not to go." I say. "I would’ve wanted to try all the delicious foods they have over there."
"I agree. I heard that the Kappas had something called a ‘fried cucumber on a stick’, which sounds weird but at the same time very appetizing." Koakuma said as she poured Patchouli another cup of tea. "Wouldn’t you agree, Lady Patchouli?"
"Hm…I think staying at home was for the best. We had a lot of chaos this past week, especially with the way both Remilia and Flandre were acting." Patchouli said. "Did anyone else feel like it was odd of them to be so childish with one another?"
"I didn’t think they were exactly childish." Sakuya added. "Though, it was weird on the day that Fargo Kid came, they were acting much different. It’s not everyday you see them bicker or do something so meaningless."
"Hey! We weren’t bickering! We were having a well-conducted discussion about pudding!" Flandre said. "Besides, you were the one who decided to buy a road roller from Kourindou the other day!" She pointed at Sakuya.
"...Fair." Sakuya said while I laughed. I noticed the look she gave me, almost seemingly threatening to pull out her knives, so I stopped myself.
"Um…Well, we can’t forget about that book Koakuma has, can we?" I say.
Koakuma flinched, nearly dropping the kettle when she was pouring herself some tea. "T-That was only one time! Besides, I burned the thing, so there’s no way anyone else will be reading it anytime soon."
"Book? What kind of book?" Flandre asked in an oh-so innocent manner.
"It’s nothing a lady like you should be reading!" Koakuma responded.
"...Say, I wonder where Remilia is right now?" Patchouli asked out of nowhere.
"Didn’t she say she was going to be talking to someone?" I asked. "But the way she was acting was a bit strange indeed."
"Yeah," Sakuya said. "She was acting as though-"
And then it happened. We heard the sound of the doors to the room opening up. We stopped our conversation to look at who it was.
We saw Remilia standing there, wearing a black dress that she almost never wears except on certain occasions. Her eyes were closed when she walked in, her steps almost sounding like echoes with each step in the immediate silence we all displayed. I took a look at her, at her posture, her hands, and her face. Her smile was wide, too wide. She didn’t have the look of a humble vampire who got home from an evening stroll. She looked more…sinister. It only took one sense of her qi to get the idea of what’s going on.
“Something’s not right.” I thought.
"Milady?" Sakuya said. "What brings you here? And why are you wearing one of your event dresses?"
"..." Remilia stayed silent; her eyes opened up to reveal not the familiar scarlet-red ones but purple. She looked around at all of us. She looked at me, at Patchouli and Koakuma, at Flandre, but didn’t look at Sakuya for some reason. Then her mouth opened up, and she spoke.
"F̷̜̓o̶̜̿ṷ̶̉r̷̓ͅ ̴̱́P̸̱̂u̴̗͋n̶̗͑c̶͕̅h̴̰̉i̶̱̕n̴̤̄g̸̹͆ ̸͚̑B̶̼̅a̵͝ͅg̶̘̀s̷̠̽ ̵͇̅a̴͖͗n̵͖̿d̶̪͑ ̶̟̈́ä̴͇́ ̶̢̉L̸̨͒o̷̬͛y̸̩̍ȧ̷̝l̵̟̾ ̵̨̄B̴̡̍i̷͓̎t̶̠̕c̴͉̃h̶͕̽.̴̪̃.̷̟̃.̵͈́I̴̙̔ ̴̩̋h̴̠̀ỉ̷̼ẗ̴̡́ ̷̗̃t̴͙̍h̷̞̉e̵̦͝ ̷̰̾j̷̼̓ả̸͜c̵̳̀k̴̲̃p̴̞̑o̸̟͆t̴̝̀.̶̦̊" She spoke in a hard-to-distinguish voice. That was when we all knew something was wrong.
I stood up from my seat, getting into a fighting stance as I readied for what was to come.
"WHO ARE YOU!?" I shouted. "What did you do to Lady Re-"
She vanished from sight, and a split second later she was in front of me as I felt a heavy blow pass through my stomach. I was knocked back, falling to the ground due to my energy flow being disrupted and the immense pain that followed.
"Meiling!" I heard Flandre shout. "Why did you hurt her, Onee-Chan!?"
"Onee-Chan?" Remilia said. "So you’re her sister… How ironic." She said. She zipped over to Flandre, grabbing her by the neck and squeezing with her hand while lifting her up.
"Let go of me. Why are you-aa…aaaugh…ack…" Flandre tried to speak, but due to being strangled, she was unable to.
"Hm…I can sense a lot of destructive power coming from you… I think I can use that somehow. I’ll think of a way though, so I’ll keep you." She said. I watch her throw Flandre over at where Patchouli and Koakuma were, hitting them both and sending them all to the ground. The sound of teacups shattering rang in my ears while I tried to stand back up.
I look back down at my hands, noticing a purple electrical energy coursing through them. It felt weird, but at the same time it was good, too good. It was an intoxicating sensation that I knew could easily consume me if I allowed it. I focused my energy, releasing this corrupt energy from my body, then stood back up again, more focused than before.
"Oh? You’re back up already?" Remilia spoke to me. "And your eyes don’t seem any different…Not everyday you come across someone who can resist the feeling of power." She said.
"Don’t move, or I’ll slice your neck off." Sakuya said, standing behind Remilia while holding a knife to her throat. She looked at me, giving me a nod while I nodded back, and moved to help Patchouli and the others back up.
"...If you wanted me dead, you would have done so by now, right Sakuya?" Remilia asked her. "Your ability to stop time would allow you to do whatever you please and no one would even know, yet you don’t take advantage of your ability to its fullest extent. Why is that? Is it because you know it would be too unfair for your opponents, or perhaps an external, omniscient force up above us is making it so that no one in this universe is allowed to use their powers to their full capacity?"
In a blink of an eye, Remilia seemingly warped from one stance to another, facing Sakuya instead of being pinned towards her. She grabbed her wrist, pulling her knife towards her neck instead, a hint of blood leaking out of the small wound that she gave herself using Sakuya’s blade.
"So why don’t you do it now? Kill me while you wield that precious weapon of yours. End the biggest threat you’ll ever face before it can unleash havoc." She smiled almost sadistically, only for her tone to switch and her face to express sudden sadness rather than vile intent.
"Ẃ̵̠-̶̥̎Ẅ̶͕́a̴̖̒ì̷͔ṯ̷͝.̵͕͝.̸̦̑.̷̪̋ ̷̾ͅD̵̝̏-̷̻͂D̷̖̾ò̶̟n̸͓͝'̵̙̍t̶͉̕ ̶̣͒l̴̙͆i̴̭̓s̵̥̎t̸̮͑e̵̯͛n̵̼͐.̴̘̆.̷̣̂.̸͕̐ ̶̗͌T̸͉̋-̶̱̆T̵͛͜-̸̯̾T̶̺͌õ̵͜ ̵̺̿h̷͕̆ė̸̠r̶͔̔.̸̧́.̶̞͆.̴̖̃ ̷̟̓S̴̬͑a̶̫̔k̴̰̓u̶̩͝y̷̺͊a̴͓̐.̸͙̐.̷͉͋.̵͎͝ ̷̩̀Ẹ̷͒v̸̠̾e̵̪͘r̷̗̎ý̵͔o̵̭͋n̵͔̕e̷̬̓.̶̧̈.̵̂ͅ.̸̨̈́ ̵͊ͅṔ̸͔l̸̠͠e̷̅͜a̵͕͑s̶̰͐ë̸̖́.̸̱̅.̶̩͝.̴͈̋ ̶͍͆I̵̘̔ ̵͇̚ṇ̷̅ȩ̴̀e̵̼̿d̴͙̎ ̷̅͜y̷͚̔ô̸ͅu̵̠̐ ̴̯̍t̸̮̓o̴̙̅.̴̱͋.̴̤́.̸͎̕" I could hear Remilia’s voice while I was helping Flandre back on her feet. All of us were shocked to hear Remilia speak before that imposter took back control.
"Ah, whoops, I let her slip a little…But I think you get the idea of what’s at risk should you end my life now." She said, pulling the knife closer to her neck, letting the tip of the blade dig into her skin. "So, are you willing to sacrifice your beloved mistress, Sakuya Izayoi?"
Sakuya stared at her for a few moments before dropping the knife, the sound of the blade colliding with the polished wooden floor flat on its side. I could see the look on her face. Of all the years I’ve known Sakuya, I've never seen her show a look of hesitation.
"...I-I…Can’t…Hurt the mistress…" Sakuya said.
"Oh? You can’t? But why? There is nothing preventing you from doing so. Literally nothing…But I suppose so long there exists a consequence, nothing can ever truly be done simply because someone wants to, because someone can… Unlike me, who has nothing to lose."
She let go of Sakuya’s hand, stepping away from her while Sakuya reached back down to grab her knife. Then, using her own hand, she formed one of her scarlet spears that she is known to wield and began walking around us. I kept my guard up, staying by Patchouli and the others if she decided to get close.
"...Relax, I’m not going to kill you all…Yet." She said. "All I want is a place I can stay until my plan comes to fruition. Considering you all care oh so much for your friend, you have no choice but to allow me to stay. Should you try to fight back, go against my commands, or even drag others into this…Then I’ll show you how one goes about killing a vampire in the most painful, brutal fashion imaginable."
She stopped pacing and stood before us, looking into our eyes.
"Do we understand one another?"

Switching POVs

"We all had no choice but to comply. We couldn’t risk losing Remilia, let alone have someone else suffer our fate. We ended up spending the next several months living with that monster, Inco. Patchouli took it upon herself to maximize our security while also looking for a possible solution to save Remilia. I, on the other hand, forced myself to be as awake as possible to ensure no one outside the mansion got close. But it wasn’t easy. Day after day she did whatever she pleased, abusing us in ways that only got more and more creative as time progressed. She would constantly abuse Flandre verbally and make her feel like she’s the cause of all our problems; Patchouli and Koakuma were overfed and starved respectively, and I ended up being her main target for unleashing her anger and joy. Yet for some reason she spared Sakuya everytime, but always kept her around to watch the rest of us be tortured." Meiling finished explaining.
"I-I’m so sorry you had to go through that." Sumireko said.
"That’s not even the worst of it… On one particular day we had a trial take place over at the Human Village, and for some reason Inco wanted only Sakuya to attend…I haven’t seen her since, nor have I seen Remilia come back."
"W-What about Patchouli, or Koakuma? What happened to them?"
"She broke…Inco broke her… On that same day the trial took place, I ran inside the mansion when I knew something was up… I went into the library first to find Patchouli but…I saw…Koakuma…" Meiling hesitated to finish her sentence. "E-Eating her."
"...E…Eating?" Sumirkeo asked with alarm.

I ran into the mansion the moment I saw the darkened sky. All I could think about at that moment was looking for Flan and the others. I sprinted down the halls, arriving at where the library was and barged through.
"Patchouli! Koakuma!!!" I shouted, running inside the apparent dark yet spacious room. I ran inside until I arrived where I knew Patchouli would be. "We need to get out of here! Something went wrong, and I don’t think-"
I stopped, taking another look at what I was staring at. I froze upon seeing what my eyes were exposed to.
"P…Patchouli?" I say.
I couldn’t believe my eyes as I looked down at the sight beneath me. Patchouli lay on the ground, looking almost lifeless, while the ravenous beast that I knew to be Koakuma was going at it, clawing at her and digging into her insides. Her skin looked ghastly pale and shriveled up; she showed no signs of having any muscle or fat, yet she was going at it like a lion that hadn’t eaten in days.
"I’m so sorry…. I’m sorry. I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m so sorry… I’m so so sorry Lady Patchouli… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…" Koakuma said over and over again while continuously eating her. "I’m just so hungry… I haven’t eaten anything proper in a long long time… She wouldn’t let me… I wasn’t allowed to eat… I’m just so hungry… You understand right? You understand that I need to eat food to live… You understand, don’t you? Don’t you Lady Patchouli? I’m just doing this for the sake of my survival… It’s your fault anyway; you were allowed to eat. She was so kind and generous to you, letting you fatten up that gluttonous belly you have, your plump and juicy body. I-It's not my fault… It’s not my fault… IT’S NOT MY FAULT YOU HAPPEN TO BE SO FUCKING DELICIOUS!!!" Koakuma screamed with a mouth full of blood and flesh.
I watch her continue to gouge into her. I was shaken up, unable to react. I only stood there, afraid of what ended up between those two. Koakuma stopped for a moment, turning her head around to look at me with those cold, ravenous eyes.
"What’s wrong, Meiling?" Koakuma said, pulling out what I could only assume was one of Patchouli’s organs. "You want some? It’s deliiiiiiiiicous." She said while biting into it.
I was so afraid that I turned around and left the library, instead going over to find Flandre.

"I wasn’t able to save Koakuma or Patchouli; I failed to save either of them by the time she turned into that abomination, a former shell of someone I called a friend." Meiling said.
"B…But you managed to save me. You healed me with the flower. Couldn’t you have done the same for them?"
"...You don’t think I tried?" Meiling said. "I was able to use the flower on you, but… For some reason, it wouldn’t let me save them. The flower allowed me to bring you back because you were still alive, but they were not. I had to kill Koakuma with my bare hands just to keep you from dying. And Patchouli…She was far too gone when I saw her again. All that remained was a living corpse that felt nothing but misery."
"...W…What about Flandre?" I ask. "Did she also turn into that?"
"...No…She did not." Meiling said. "When I found Flandre, she was hiding in one of the bedrooms of the mansion. We tried to escape together but… I-I haven’t seen her ever since."
Meiling slowly but surely began to shake, and her words started to sound more sorrowful with a heartbreaking tone. "...I lost everyone…I lost Lady Remilia to that person who called herself Inco. I worry that Sakuya met the same fate. I was forced to kill Koakuma with my own hands, and I had to put Patchouli out of her misery because I couldn’t watch her suffer any longer… I don’t even know if Flandre is even okay. I lost everyone. I-I lost!!! And it’s… It’s all because of that damn tyrannical-!!!"
Instead of finishing her sentence, Meiling proceeded to make a dent in the wall next to her. A dent in a shelter that was designed to withstand WWII Era Bombcraft, and she managed to damage it with her fist. Sumireko was startled when she showed her frustrations instead of shouting them out. Meiling put her hands on her face, almost looking like she wanted to cry but didn’t, yet she wanted to regardless.
"Meiling…" Sumireko spoke again. "I…listen. I think Flandre is still out there."
"Huh? What makes you say that?" Meiling asked, removing her hands from her face.
"I found something a while ago that may hint at her still being around. We shouldn’t give up hope just yet; I’m certain we can find her." Sumireko said. "But first, I need you to help me. I have someone who’s also trapped inside the mansion. Her name is Ko-Chan, and I’m worried about what may happen to her if I don’t do anything."
"...I-I’m sorry but…Even if I wanted to, I can’t help you with that." Meiling said. "I’ve seen what those god-like beings are capable of. I nearly lost my life twice after accidentally confronting them the few times I looked for a possible way out. It’s safer if we stay in this shelter where they can’t reach us."
Sumireko sighed.
"What are you even saying, Meiling? That doesn’t sound like the brave gatekeeper who stands diligently in front of the mansion gate, keeping trespassers out while protecting those who threaten the other residents. What happened to the Expert Martial Artist, the Champion of Sleeping While Standing, the sworn enemy of the Legendary Catfish?"
The last one caught Meiling off-guard a little, "W-Where did you hear that?"
"All I’m saying is that you can’t give up now. Not while there is still hope, a chance, a moment to make a difference. Would the other members of the mansion give up on you? No, of course not. They would probably use whatever they have up their sleeves to save you from whatever issue you face, so you should do the same. Do it for me, for them, for Flandre."
Meiling didn’t say anything for a moment. There was a brief silence afterwards, followed by a confident smirk from the gatekeeper herself.
"First, all I can say is that you need to work on your speeches a little. Second, you’re right. I’ll help you save them." Meiling said. "But if we’re going to do this, we’ll need a plan on how to handle the imposing threat that lingers inside the Scarlet Mansion spreading fear."
Sumireko nodded her head. "Just tell me what to do."

On the second floor of the mansion, Satsujin, Rumia, Cirno, Mary, and Suika were all walking together, following the cybernetic cat as it led them down the everlasting hallway. They made twists and turns; checked doors and rooms. But all they found were roots, deceased hobgoblins, and fairy maids who had experienced tragic fates. So far, most of them were feeling very uneasy as they continued down the hall.
"How many doors are we going to check until we find something other than a dead body?" Cirno complained. "It’s just nothing but stuff you would find in a horror story, and it sends shivers down my spine."
"So even an ice fairy can feel shivers." Suika commented.
"Well at least one of us is lucky to not have to see all the blood-gushing bodies all over the place, right Satsu? Speaking of blood, I’m feeling thirsty. Do you mind if I-" Mary said.
"No." Satsujin said.
"I didn’t even get to finish what I was about to say~."
"Regardless of what your intent was, the answer remains the same."
"Hmph! You’re no fun." Mary expressed.
While everyone else was chatty, Rumia was silent. All she could think about was Ko at the moment, yet the sights of dead or mangled bodies only made her more uneasy. It reminded her of her past, what she used to be, and how hard she has tried to move away from it.
She could still recall the happy smiles of her Reimu, how they made her turn a new leaf and experience the life of a family, but now she was in a land that was the same as her own, yet it was unfamiliar at the same time. Sometimes she thinks about what her purpose was in all of this; why was she of all people brought here? It’s no doubt that Cirno probably thinks the same, yet she doesn’t bang her head around the matter.
The group continued to follow Amai when she suddenly stopped on her feet.
"Huh? Amai, did you sense something?" Satsujin asked the cat.
Amai turned her head over at the wall on her right, and then she started sprinting down the hall as quickly as she could, leaving the others behind.
"Amai!? Where are you going!?" Satsujin asked, running after the cat.
The others pursued him and Amai, but the chase was cut short when they all heard the sound of screaming.
"Help!!! Help!!! Get away from me!!! Heeeeelp!!!" A voice chirped.
Satsujin turned his head over at one of the doors on the right, his eyes figuratively widened with shock upon realizing who that voice belonged to.
"Huh? What was that screaming?" Mary said. "It sounds kind of familiar."
"That voice… It can’t be…" He said.
"Because it is not!" Apathetic Satsujin’s voice yelled in his head. "That is obviously a trap, and you are a fool for going in!"
Satsujin ignored the voice in his head and ran right for the door anyway. He literally tore the door off its hinges, revealing a girl with torn-up clothing struggling to move away from what looked like a zombified hobgoblin.
"Ew! No!!! Get back! Help! Help!!!" The girl cried. Her hair was a shade of pink, her eyes gray, and her clothing white and brown. She had a pair of wings on her back, but both her wings and her arms and legs were bound up together in roots.
"Heh heh heh… I’m going to be feasting on some tasty pheasant." The hobgoblin said while making some ludacris tongue noises. "But first, maybe I should have some fun with you."
"Noooooo!!!" She screamed. The hobgoblin laughed maniacally, reaching for her, when suddenly a blade with a brand new handle came and split the hobgoblin in half. One half fell on the left, the other on the right, and blood spurted outward like a wringed sponge.
The blade, coated in blood, absorbed the contents while Mary became sated from acquiring some fresh blood yet again. With a few quick slashes, he cut off the roots binding the girl’s arms, legs, and wings up before he moved the blade back into his cloak, inserting it into its sheath.
"Mystia?" Satsujin said, facing the girl. "Are you alright?"
"S…Satsujin? Is that…Really you? You’re…You’re not one of those fakes, right?" The girl said. "Why do you look so ghostly?"
"It’s a bit of a long story, but let’s just say that I kind of ran into an embodiment of death." Satsujin said.
He reached his hand out, helping the girl back up. Mystia stood up, and moved to embrace the man, hugging him tight.
"You’re so…cold…But your heart is still warm." Mystia said. "It really is you."
Satsujin returned the hug, feeling happy to be able to reunite with Mystia. The others were either confused as to who the girl was or how they were inside the Scarlet Devil Mansion of all places. But their confusion was cut short when Gummy, who was riding on Rumia’s shoulder the entire time, noticed a smaller figure walking into the room.
"Ribbit!!! Ribbit!!!" Gummy croaked.
Rumia looked over by the door, and saw a very damaged Shanghai. She looked as if she had been thrown and brittled, her shoulder dislocated, and her clothes burned. She was leaning against the wall, looking weak and tired.
"Shang…hai…" She said.
"Shanghai? What happened to you!?" Rumia moved to help Shanghai as the doll struggled to keep standing. "Where are Sumireko and Ko!?"
"Shanghai…Shang…Hai…" She said.
"Ribbit…Ribbit?" Gummy responded back.
"Ah…I forgot we can’t understand either of you without Ko." Rumia said.
"Ko…Ko!!!" Mystia pulled away from Satsujin, speaking with immense worry. "I remember her! She’s trapped in here too! I know where she may be!" She said.
"Wait, you do?" Satsujin asked. "How do you-"
"There’s no time! We have to go save them before it’s too late!" Mystia said, pushing past Cirno and Suika and leaving the room, turning right down the hall. "C’mon! Hurry!!!"
"Lead the way!" Rumia said. She started following Mystia, while carrying both Gummy and Shanghai. Cirno followed, and so did Suika and Mystia. Satsujin was about to do the same when he stopped upon hearing his apathetic self again.
"Wait wait wait… What are you doing you fool!?"
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"This is way too convenient. First you find the one person you’ve been wanting to find; next, they know the other person you’re trying to save, and now she’s leading you right to them. It’s obviously a trap!" The Apathetic Satsujin said.
"A trap? We just found Mystia and you’re already accusing her of being a liar?" Satsuki said. "Honestly, you’ve been so paranoid lately, ever since we came in here."
"I’m just trying to make sure this gullible bird-lover doesn’t get us killed…again!"
"Hey! I’m not gullible! I trust Mystia; she’s done nothing wrong!"
"How do you even know she’s the real Mystia anyways? You should know by now whether or not she’s real."
Once again, Satsujin rambled and argued with his other personalities, while the others watched him, very confused. Mystia especially as she had no idea what was going on.
"Um… Why is Satsujin…" Mystia asked.
"We don’t really know either." Cirno said. "We’re pretty sure he either developed some kind of split personality."
"I see…Are any of them dangerous?"
"Well we had a run-in with one of them a few days ago, but other than that, not particularly." Suika said.
Satsujin’s split personality conversation continued on, all three variants bickering like dogs barking between a fence. It was up to Satsuki to get them both to stop.
"Hey! Stop it you two!" She said, using her trusty bat to bonk both of them to make them stop fighting. "We don’t have time to argue; we should focus on our objective and get out of here as soon as possible. Satsujin, It’s up to you on whether we should follow Mystia or not."
"What!? Don’t just leave it up to him! It’s obvious what his decision would be!" The Apathetic Satsujin said. "And why leave it up to a choice? That almost sounds meaningless to do!"
"Well we don’t know until he speaks. Satsujin, what’s it going to be?" Satsuki asked him.
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2023.03.22 02:27 ProbablyWrongSmarty Mass Extinction Event 11

It had been a long time since Torniv had gotten a message from Clover. He began to get worried. There’s a hundred nasty things to run into in space, like the Arxur, the Federation, black holes, large rocks, and the sun. There’s a fucking Arxur on the ship, what if it ate her? What if a black hole ate her? What if the Federation ate her!? What if a large rock ate her!?
Half of his worries were utterly ridiculous, he reminded himself.
After a while, though, a letter arrived. He rushed to tear open the strange casing that Terrans often covered their letters with.
He read the paper.
He read it again.
It got a bit hard to read the third time. Too blurry.
Torniv felt like-
He felt like-…
He felt-………
Torniv put the letter down. Then he sat down and stared into space.
He sat there for a long time.
A knock at the door.
"Come in." The door opened, because the silly little Venlil had left it unlocked. He should really learn to lock it. He didn't have Clover here to protect him anymore.
"Hey. I'm here to... uh..."
“Oh. Hey Soren.”
“ …Are you okay man? You, uh… You’re looking kinda….”
“I got a letter in the mail today.”
“Uh… that’s good? Clover finally getting back to you about-”
“NO,” He yelled. He cleared his throat before speaking again, a bit more… calmly was the wrong word, but it was sounded like he was trying to be calm. “No, it… it wasn’t from Clover. It was-” Torniv gestured at the paper sitting on top of a small desk. Soren picked up and read it.
“Oh. …Oh. This is-”
“A fucking… mass produced “I’m sorry for your loss” message.”
“...Do you want to talk about it?”
“...No. N-not right now.”
“Do you want me to stay here with you anyway?”
“...Yes. Yes, I want that.”
“May I hug you?”
“Yeah.” Soren hugged Torniv, who lost what was left of his composure and kind of collapsed, sobbing. Soren’s hug was basically the only thing preventing him from flopping onto the floor.
Time passed. Torniv’s cries eventually quieted, and his breathing normalized.
“...How do you feel?”
“Terrible. …What she said makes a bit more sense now.”
“Before the- before that… thing… the Krakotls did. She said she wanted to go back to Earth to spend time with her family, in case the Krakotls won. I… I was against it. I told her to stay here. If her family survived, then she could visit later. If they didn’t survive, then going to Earth would just get her killed along with them. I convinced her to stay on Venlil Prime. To stay with me. And… it turned out that my worries were right. That her family died. If she had done what she wanted, she would’ve died then too. …But she didn’t see it like that. She told me later that she felt somehow that their deaths were her fault, because she wasn’t there. Even though there was nothing she couldn’ve done. I- I get it now. When I read the message, I thought… I wish I was there, with her.”
“I don’t wish I died. That’s not what I feel. It’s just this… I feel like her dying was my fault because I wasn’t there and I didn’t help her.”
“Torniv… it says she’s MIA. She could still be alive, but-”
“Soren, please don’t give me that hope. Don’t you dare. She- her ship sent out a distress signal and then vanished. That’s like… death. I mean, there’s other things it could be, but… I don’t want to have that hope, only to lose it if they find her. That out would be like… like her dying twice, you know? And- and what if they never find her? I’ll just be worried forever.”
“...I understand. But…” How was Soren supposed to say this? He didn’t want Torniv to give up. But why? How the hell could he explain the stake he had in this without sounding like a total ass?
“But nothing. I shouldn’t butt in. It’s none of my business.”
“You look sad too. Soren, are you ok?”
“...And that’s… none of your business. Sorry, it’s just… not something I want to share. Hey, it’s getting late. I’d better go home. But, do you want to mabe hang out tomorrow? I want to make sure you’re doing ok.”
“Y-yeah. I think that’ll help.”
“Great. I guess I’d better be headed home then. See you later.”
“See you then.”
Soren walked home. Or, well, he didn’t. He walked to the public transportation station, rode to the fifth stop, and walked to the hotel he’d been staying at during his time on Venlil Prime.
Two beds. Why did hotel rooms always have two beds, even if there’s only one person there? Now, if there were still someone traveling with him, then maybe the extra bed would be a welcome discovery. Now, though, it was just pointless. Its presence here, it’s very existence, was for nothing right now. Ding dong you stupid bed, it’s just Soren here, flying solo! You don’t need to be here! You can fuck off and go to bed-land with all the other beds!
He sighed and opened the strange pack that he was now using as a travel bag. There was way too much room in it for the general toiletries and food supplies a person needs to survive. Of course, the last person to use this was carrying all that, a ridiculous amount of cloth, and some of what he liked to call “contraband.” Soren still found some lying about in his apartment now and then.
He groped around in the oversized compartment of the boxy contraption to retrieve his toothbrush but instead, pulled out a packet of beef jerky.
“Look at this. Look at you. Smuggling “contraband” from beyond the grave. That’s so you.
Soren looked at the morbid relic, and made a short sort of laugh again.
“Heh. And here I thought I was bummed out. Torniv was just… wow. I guess I’m lucky you died before I really got attatched to you, huh?” He laughed. “Yeah, that’s a pretty messed up thing to joke about, but then again, you had a pretty messed up sense of humor. I think you’d appreciate it.”
He hid the beef jerky into one of the compartments of the “suit-case.” If he got caught with meat, people might think he had predator disease!
“Yeah, your sense of humor was messed up. Don't try to deny it. Remember that joke about the fruit you showed me, with the red juicy bit on the inside and the hard green shell?”
No response. He didn’t expect one. He wasn’t crazy after all. But everyone talks to something that doesn’t respond. Sometimes it’s a god. Sometimes it’s a plant. Sometimes it's a cat. Sometimes it’s the hypothetical supernatural presence of a dead human
“Yeah, it was called a “watermelon.” You said “what’s the difference between a baby and a watermelon?” According to you, the difference was “one is full of delicious juicy red flesh… and the other is fun to hit with hammers!” If Yotuls had red blood, I would have called the fucking exterminators on your creepy ass then and there…”
Soren laughed at the memory.
“And all those times you tried to make puns, but they didn’t work because the language was different… oh, the look on your face when I just had no reaction…”
Soren seemed to think of something that made him sober up.
“Look at me. Torniv’s already accepted that Clover’s dead, even though she’s just MIA. Then look at me. I know you’re fucking dead but I’m still talking your ear off… if it hasn’t rotted away already. I don’t even think you’re a ghost or anything, that’d be crazy.” He laughed then.
He decided to have a drink. He poured himself a glass of Kelph and looked out the window at the city below. He used the air conditioner mounted on the windowsill as a table to set his glass down on.
“Then again, maybe I am! Who’s crazier, the guy who talks to voices only he can hear, or the guy who talks to voices he can’t hear? Hey buddy, if you’re haunting me as a ghost or whatever, do something spooky so I don’t have to feel so awkward.”
The air conditioner shuddered. The violent vibration knocked the glass to the ground.
“...You ass. You could’ve just made the walls bleed or something.” Brief pause. “Do it again.”
Nothing happened.
“Ah whatever. I guess I’ll just keep pretending you’re listening in on this. …I just don’t like how Torniv gave up. And I didn’t really know why at first, but after I thought about it, I got it. You’re dead, man. Ain’t no two ways about it."
As if to confirm this, there was silence.
I don’t know why I got so invested in those two. But when I heard that Torniv was part ot the exchange program and his partner was still alive, I got attached. I think it had something to do with missing you. Felt like a second chance. Someone who isn’t me wouldn’t fuck up and get their human killed. But then, guess what?”
No response.
“I guess I…” Soren paused. “The reason I don't want Torniv to give up is... If I had the option to hope you were actually alive, I would take it. And the fact that he just gave up doesn’t sit right with me. But, it’s like you always said… the good thing about pessimism is that sometimes you’pleasantly surprised!”
Soren poured himself another drink.
“Maybe she’s okay out there. Maybe she’ll survive. Maybe she’ll come back. The look on Torniv’s face is gonna be priceless! …I hope he’s wrong. I really hope he’s wrong.”
He took a sip, before setting the glass down again.
"I wonder how many humans out there don't even have anyone left to get those automated messages... it's kinda sad, ain't it? I wonder whose job it is to put 'em in the paper shredder if there's nobody to send them to. Gotta be a depressing job. It's sad to think of all those people with nobody around to miss them now that they're gone. ...but hey, you're one of the lucky ones. You've got me around to mope about you being gone, right?"
There was silence. Then the air conditioner shuddered again, knocking Soren's drink back off of it.
"...Fuck you."
“Something’s wrong with these coordinates,” Filom pointed out.
“What do you mean?” Mulheri asked. Mulheri was in the planning room with them. It was hard to tell with the sidewards eyes, but she seemed to still be avoiding Clover’s gaze for the most part.
“I mean there’s no way anybody could travel eight kilometers in a day, much less in two hours!” Filom exclaimed.
“That doesn’t seem too outlandish to me,” Clover said.
“No! That’s not- look, I don’t know what human’s speed is like, but anyone who runs that far would get like… super tired. You wouldn’t have the energy to get back.”
“I didn’t run, I walked.”
“You walked eight kilometers, and then walked back, all before the sun set?”
“Correction, I power walked it.”
“...Are our systems of measurement not translating right or something?”
“Nope. It’s… er… I’m actually not allowed to tell you, but… Screw it. Early humans hunted by following their prey across long distances. The prey would run at first, and get to what it thought was a safe distance and lie down. But we’d still be following it, and we’d eventually reach it. If it could still run, we’d repeat the process until it can’t. If it can’t run anymore, well…” Both prey creatures were now staring at Clover with shock and horror.
“Clover. Clover, that’s really fucked up. That’s like… some horror movie shit right there.”
“That’s why we aren’t allowed to tell anybody.”
“Like, you could make a movie about that and call it something like “it follows.”
“We have a movie like that.”
“Because we know we’re scary. Most of our scary stories are about evil humans, evil things that used to be human, are human but shouldn’t be, or were never human but seem to be.”
Filom facepalmed. He was glad he had learned this human behavior, as it had become more and more neccessary for him to use as time went on. Everything was facepalm worthy.
“Okay, let’s just… forget the implications and… think tactically!” He said. “Clover can cover a lot of ground without getting tired. That’s… great. Just great.” He suddenly perked up. “Actually, it is great! Alright everyone. I have a plan. To Ugibal’s Shopping Cart!”
“Alright, so Mulheri, get in the basket. I’ll ride on Clover’s head. And Clover, you pull the cart.”
“I feel ridiculous,” Clover deadpanned. “That being said… Clovermobile… AWAY!” Mulheri held on tight to the wire mesh. It was going to be a bumpy ride.
Meanwhile, in an unknown location.
“Greetings, patrons and benefactors. I would like to show you my progress so far, to prove your investment is worthwhile. The experiments with the Crasher Beacon are going well. Twelve hostile ships sunk so far. Most wound up on uninhabitable worlds, asteroids, or moons. One landed here, but the predator crewmates are likely to devour each other before they can become a threat. This could give us an edge against those barbaric Magnet Bombs. We can’t use shields, they can’t trust their navigation.”
“So how does this work, exactly?” A new face, someone who’d only recently jumped on the bandwagon asked.
“Simple. While it would hypothetically be possible for a navigation system to constantly record its own poition in the galaxy and determine from its movements where it currently is, that takes too much damn work. Instead, they use stars as landmarks, deciding where it is based on what constellations are visible from its position. The Crasher Beacon works by causing a bit of… interference. It sends out a signal that tricks the navigation system into- well, thinking it’s somewhere else. The ship’s autopilot spirals out of control, and it usually hits something it doesn’t intend to in the chaos. And before you ask, it’s easy to prevent friendly fire. Just have your own people be warned that you’re going to use them, and to take manual control of their ships.”
“...You said that you had stranded a ship on this planet. How far away was it?”
“A few kilometers south of here. We have nothing to worry about, they-”
“I will be having a few of my troops come in to torch the forest.”
“But sir, such a large change to the planet would make our presence obvious!”
“Listen. This isn’t exactly common knowledge, for morale reasons, but… distance like that doesn’t matter much, to a human. As long as they don’t run, they’d be able to get from there to here without once stopping to lie down, all in less than a day.”
“It was a really small ship, there couldn’t have been too many people aboard.”
“That doesn’t matter. We might outnumber them, but they’re not up for a fair fight. They’re made for killing. So we don’t give them a place to hide, got it?”
“...Yes. I understand. I have a handful of exterminators among my crew, in case a predator from the wilderness breaks in. They might be able to track down the crew of that vessel.”
“Fine. We’ll do it your way. But if that doesn’t get results…”
“I understand.”
submitted by ProbablyWrongSmarty to NatureofPredators [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 02:27 RehnWriter I Challenged Myself to Ride the Tram for an Entire Week Without Getting Off, I Challenged Myself to Do the Long Ride - Day 6 [Final]

Part 5

Hey there, everyone, sorry for the lack of updates. After what happened on day six, I just needed a few days to get myself together and to get some well-needed rest.
Things got out of hand, more so than any other day before, and I’m more than lucky to even write this. But more about that later.
Let me start day six by telling about my encounter with a familiar face. It was the old man who I’d met on day two.
This time, he wasted no time and sat down next to me right away.
“Guess you’re still on here,” he said.
“Same as you. Guess we both enjoy riding the tram,” I brought out half-jokingly.
“It’s not all fun and games, young man, but I’m sure you know that by now, given how long you’ve been on.”
“Sure do,” I said, laughing.
The old man didn’t join in, but gave me an expectant stare. And so, I told him about my experiences over the course of the past days.
When I told him about the strange undescriptive people and the station I’d encountered on day four, his expression changed. It became one of sadness, of longing, but said anything.
Eventually, I told him what had happened the day prior, about my encounter with the waving man and what the homeless guy had told me.
“That man’s right indeed. You’ve stayed on for far too long. As I told you, certain things might notice you, and now they have.”
Once more, I felt a shiver running down my spine. I was in for it now, was I?
“You better stop this madness now and get off. It’s not worth it, young man.”
“Well, to be honest, I want to, but this is day six, and I told myself I’m going to set this out. There’s no way I can give up now.”
When the old man heard this, he just shook his head.
“Let me repeat myself, it’s not worth it, but I guess your mind’s set. I hope you don’t find to regret your choice.”
With that, he got up from his seat, walked off, and settled down in the tram car ahead of me. For a few more minutes, he sat there, but the moment I took a glance outside, he was gone.
The next couple of hours were rather quiet. It was Saturday afternoon and only a few people here and there entered the tram on their way to the inner city area.
The moment we left it behind, I soon found myself all alone again.
We’d just made it to the outskirts of the city when the tram doors opened behind me, and I was greeted by loud yelling and laughter. A second later, a group of six kids rushed past me. They were so fast, they seemed like nothing but colorful blurs.
They began causing a ruckus in the tram car, then rushed back past me, giggling. I began rubbing my temples and was about to yell at them to knock it off when one of them slapped me on the shoulder.
“You’re it!” he called out before he and his friends rushed past me once more.
I watched as they hurried to tram car ahead, and how they tried their best to hide themselves. I thought nothing of it and couldn’t help but sigh a little when I saw one of them crawling below a set of seats and another trying to hiding himself behind the ticket machine.
Others, however, were doing... strange things, impossible things, and I felt myself shivering in my seat. I watched as one kid almost folded into himself, becoming smaller and smaller while another one seemed to melt between two seats, vanishing.
I sat there, closed my eyes, and then opened them again. By then, all six kids were gone. Yet every once in a while, I could still hear muffled giggling.
I just sat there, trying my best to ignore it. This is just happening because I’m all alone on the tram. All those things, they only ever happen when I’m completely alone. Just wait till other people get back on, then it will be over.
My thoughts were interrupted when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“The kids are waiting,” the hand’s owner cackled from behind me.
I froze. Without moving, I took a glance at the hand resting on my shoulder. It was old and wrinkly, but its fingers were too long, much too long.
A moment later, when the sun pushed itself out from behind the clouds, I saw the shadow of whatever was standing behind me. It was a giant, monstrous shadow that seemed to spread over the entire tram car, stretching further and further.
“Well, why aren’t you going?”
“No-no. I’m-“
I didn’t get to finish my excuse. The creature’s hand closed around my shoulder and I felt its nails dig into my skin.
I cringed in pain, but kept my mouth shut. Don’t scream. Don’t move. Yet with each passing moment, the creature squeezed harder, and I felt its nails dig deeper into my flesh.
Finally, I saw the tram approaching the next station, and I could see a group of people waiting for it. When the tram came to a rest, I was released.
“Let’s go kids,” the thing behind me screeched and right away all six kids reappeared, jumping out from behind seats, and from place they couldn’t possibly have been.
For the first time, I could make out their faces. I wish I hadn’t. They were nothing but mockeries, estimations of children’s faces that were only half-right. What made it even worse, however, was that I somehow recognized them. In the deepest corners of my mind, I knew I’d see them before.
I couldn’t help but shiver again as they raced past me.
Then they were gone. When the tram moved again, driven by a strange sense of curiosity, I turned around.
What I saw outside was a group of kids, standing around an old lady who seemed to smile down at them. A second later, she turned towards me and her eyes found mine. In an instant, her face changed. What had been a kind, smiling face before became nothing but an angry, twisted visage.
My breath caught in my throat and I jerked back around, more than happy to leave these ghastly children and their guardian behind.
This, however, wasn’t the only scary thing that happened during the day. As always, the same recurring passengers entered the tram. By now, they’d long become an almost normal part of the Long Ride. Just another strange thing amongst a plethora of them.
Yet when my eyes followed one of them, an older woman, I noticed the change right away. She wasn’t minding her own business like she usually did. That day, I found her frowning slightly, measuring me up, almost as if she was probing me.
I remembered what that homeless dude had said:
“He’s marked you, and now others know as well!”
I took a deep breath and averted my eyes, trying my best to ignore her, but I could feel her continuing to stare at me until she got off the tram.
Only a few stations later, she got on again, and once more she stared at me. I didn’t look at her directly, only took a single, side-way glance, but I could’ve sworn her frown was getting deeper.
This behavior was true for every single one of them, and like her, they too became angrier with each iteration.
It made me feel restless, and not a tad big anxious. I felt trapped, haunted by multiple pairs of eyes staring at me and only me.
When it became evening, the bustle of partygoers started again, and for the first time in hours, I felt myself slightly relaxing. Under the constant bustle of people entering and leaving the tram, I felt hidden.
And yet, I knew they were still there. I could still feel their glances even amongst the general chaos that ruled over the tram.
Finally, though, as the tram grew emptier once more, I found almost a dozen of them staring at me. It also seemed that under the cover of the partygoers, they’d gotten closer. By now, they were all in the same tram car as me, seemed to have encircled me.
At that point, I couldn’t take it anymore and finally spoke up.
“The hell do you want from me!?” I called out.
Yet nothing changed. I got no answer. They just continued to stare at me.
Before long, however, they reminded me of the guy in dark clothes I’d encountered on day three. They didn’t just sit in their seats anymore, didn’t just stare at me, but were leaning forward, their faces distorted by unadulterated rage. Their hands were on their seats, their feet shuffled over the floor as if in anticipation of... something. The worst, however, was that with each station, more of them entered.
If it’s just one set of eyes staring at you, you can ignore it, you can handle it, but when it’s more than a dozen, you just... can’t.
With everything I’d heard, with all the warnings I’d received, I knew something was going to happen. It just seemed they were... waiting for something.
In that instant, fear washed over me, raw and hot, fear that soon turned into panic, and I finally decided that was it. I wouldn’t just stay on here until god knows what would happen to me! Fuck the Long Ride, fuck the tram, this is over.
I closed my hand around my backpack, was about to get up, but at that moment, their angry glances changed. They turned to smiles, hungry smiles. The same feeling I’d had when I tried to feel the guy in black clothes came over me. If I’d get up now, they’d come for me, wouldn’t they? That’s what they were waiting for, wasn’t it?
I just stood there, at my seat, my hand closed around my backpack’s strap, unable to move. Then the tram turned a corner, a bend that shouldn’t be there, and we encountered another un-location.
Half-defeated, and knowing I was trapped either way, I plopped down on my seat again, and stared outside with a feeling of miserable wonder.
The entire area outside was covered in nothing but small buildings, shanties comprising nothing but rubble and trash. They seemed to have been put up without rhyme or reason, were almost growing from the ground like mushrooms. Between them, I saw things moving, twisted things I could tell weren’t human.
Yet it wasn’t merely this shantytown we’d arrived at. No, they were all part of another location, were built around it as if they were part of an infection that spread further and further.
The dim red light that flooded the tram was enough, and one glance ahead told me that were once more approaching Club Red.
No, I thought, not this place again. I hoped the tram would pass it by, that we’d return to reality, that other people would enter the tram again, and I’d be able to flee.
Instead, the tram approached a wide, arching opening and then drove forward and straight into Club Red itself.
What I saw in there was utterly surreal. All I’d seen on night four was the building’s exterior, and it was nothing but a taste of the insanity the place contained.
It was nothing but a cesspool, an amalgamation of sin.
All around us, the same strange psychedelic non-music was blaring. I saw stalls everywhere. They were offering drinks, food, but also... other things. In some of them, I thought I saw bound humans or things that might have once been human.
Here and there, people were having sex, copulating with creatures that weren’t human. In other places, I saw orgies, strange rituals, people praying to disgusting, twisted idols and so much more.
Even here, even inside, the place defied the laws of physics. The walls were covered in doorways, all connected by a mad network of stairs, but stairs that shouldn’t work. And yet, they did. It was as if the works of M. C. Escher had become reality.
Then the strange, fascinated trance that had come over me broken, and I jerked back as I remembered where I was and what was happening to me.
While I’d been staring outside, and I’d not given them any attention, it seemed all the reoccurring passengers had inched closer towards me, were now surrounding me.
I opened my mouth to throw them another set of insults, to tell them to stay the fuck away, when the tram’s doors opened.
Instantly, the air filled with a disgustingly sweet odor, a stench so oppressive it almost made me cough. It smelled of strange spices, of body fluids, but also... blood.
Yet this wasn’t the worst. I noticed something approaching the tram, and before I could even react, the creature had entered it.
Its limbs were bent at strange angles as if they had too many joints with them, limbs that sprouted from places they shouldn’t.
I watched as its head pushed itself forward, its neck stretching further and further as it scanned the interior of the tram.
And then, one step at a time, the monstrosity made its way through the tram on its spidery limbs, slowly getting closer towards me.
I just sat there, mouth open in shock, not able to do anything but stare ahead. No, it couldn’t be. Why was this thing here? Why the hell was it back!?
Cold sweat broke out all over my body, and I just sat there, my hands holding onto the seat in front of me. Then I began to shake uncontrollably. Oh god, I thought, as I watched it getting closer. It’s coming for me. This time it’s actually coming for me!
By now, the people around me were all grinning. I understood now. This was what they’d been waiting for. It seemed almost as if they weren’t able to do anything to me, weren’t able to hurt me, but this... this thing could!
As I watched the twisted creature take another step, as it stalked forward in my direction on its spidery limbs, I just... freaked out. I screamed in terror, jumped off my seat, and dashed for the tram doors. I didn’t want to go out there. Hell, I shouldn’t, but I wasn’t in control of my body. It was nothing but pure, primal fear that drove me on, but then the doors closed right in front of me. For a mad second, I clawed at them, tried to pry them open with sheer force, but before I could, the tram started to move again, trapping me inside.
Fuck! What the fuck do I do!?
Then, with no other option, I rushed to the back of the tram, praying we’d return to reality, to my city, to another station that would allow me to get away.
Outside, we left Club Red behind, but then continued on through the ever-extending shantytown. Fuck! Why aren’t we back yet!?
I sat in the back, huddled together behind a seat, trying to keep the panic at bay, but one glance forward made it impossible.
By now, the disgusting creature had almost reached the last tram car and, for a moment, its eyes focused on me. Its jaw fell open, unhinged like that of a snake, and a distorted bout of guffawing laughter escaped from it.
At that moment, I couldn’t fight the panic anymore. I jumped up, my hand closing around one of the glass breakers. And then, with all the force I could muster, I swung it against the window. It crashed against the glass again and again before the window shattered.
A moment later, I threw myself outside.
I landed hard on the asphalt. My hands and knees exploded with pain. I felt the skin of my hands being scraped away and felt my knees crunch hard against the asphalt.
Then I felt myself being propelled forward, rolling over the street.
I heard a horn, heard brakes screeching, but I somehow avoided the oncoming car by a hair’s breath.
As I lay there on the ground, I was panting and in terrible pain. When I finally looked up, all was normal. There was no hint of any un-location. Instead, I was on an entirely normal street in my city.
By now the driver of the car had jumped out, his face a mixture of anger and worry, and a moment later, the tram driver followed.
While the car driver asked if I was okay, the tram driver began laying into me. He called me crazy for destroying the window and for jumping off. He spat at me, accusing me of being drunk, on drugs, or insane.
Instead of reacting to any of these words, I stared back at the tram. It was empty. No one was inside. None of the reoccurring passengers, no twisted, spidery monsters. I could only listen as the tram driver explained to the other man what had happened. I’d apparently jumped off my seat, screaming and freaking out before I’d broken a window and jumped off. Even though I’d been entirely alone on the tram.
I opened my mouth to tell them what had happened, but then closed it again. What could I even tell them?
In the end, all I could do was to drag my battered body to the sidewalk and sit down. By now, the tram driver had called the police and informed them about what I’d done.
To be honest, I could’ve tried to run, to get away, but in the state I was in, it seemed impossible.
As I sat there, I thought back to the old man, to the vision of his torn apart and broken body.
If that car had hit me, something similar would’ve most likely happened to me.
Was this what this had all been about? Had all those people, and this creature, been nothing but visions to drive me over the edge, to get me to go crazy and end up being run over?
When the police arrived, they were quick to take the statements of both drivers before they spoke to me as well. Then they took me to the station and questioned me for almost an hour.
In the end, I told them I’d had a panic attack, that I couldn’t breathe and thought I’d die of a heart attack unless I get off the tram.
They were skeptical to say the least, and subjected me to not only an alcohol, but also a drug test. When both came out negative, I essentially let off the hook, but not scot free. They charged me with vandalism and I’d have to pay for the tram window I’d destroyed, which would come down to almost a thousand Euros.
They also told me I should consult professional help and see myself checked in.
I mumbled a thanks and could eventually leave.
And so, the Long Ride ended on day six, in the earlier hours of the morning.
What I’m now left with is nothing but a tale, a tale I can share only here because you guys are the only people willing to believe any of the things I’ve seen.
Thank you all for staying with me, for your thoughts on what happened, and for following me along on this crazy adventure.
I’d have never thought things would get out of hand like this, and there are still so many questions I’ll probably never find answers for.
Yet I’d also like to give you guys a word of warning, or reiterate those given to me multiple times. Don’t do it.
There are things out there who wait for people who linger, who stay in the same place for too long. They are dangerous things, things that will find you and will come for you.
And maybe, just maybe, you won’t be as lucky as me and get away.
submitted by RehnWriter to nosleep [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 02:26 menorahman100 Secrets of Da Vinci's The Last Supper

Secrets of Da Vinci's The Last Supper
The theme we will address has never attracted as much attention as it does in the current days. The recent success editorial of the book "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown instigated the imaginary, through a narrative that involves all of these matters related to the life of Christ questioning and presenting conjectures and theories, some credible and many others, in my view, without a lot of reasons, such as the mention of the work of Leonardo Da Vinci, "the Last Supper".
Before we talk about the meaning of Leonardo's work, let's quickly address some aspects of his life to understand the context in which all his work developed.
Leonardo was born in April 1452 in Vinci, a village near by the Florence, son of Piero da Vinci, a notary, and a servant. Leonardo was an illegitimate child, having no rights to his father's estate. But his father, zealous, did not abandon him, having assumed his creation. We must remember that Leonardo was born in the middle ages.
The end of the middle ages is determined by the fall of Constantinople in May 1453. Of course the change from one period to another does not occur through a single event. This is a process of transition that involves multiple events.
With the end of the Middle Ages we have the Renaissance, with the resurgence of the appreciation of man as a factor of relevance in all contexts. Begins Humanism, a movement that revolutionized the thought, emerging new concepts and worldviews. This new concept is a precursor of specialization of knowledge, resulting later in the systematization of human knowledge, with scientism and segregation of knowledge that until then was unified.
Leonardo is more a medieval wise man than a person aligned with trends Renaissance because he was not restricted in specifics knowledge like other geniuses contemporaries geniuses. He had a broad knowledge. He was not only a painter. He was a sculptor, musician, architect, engineer, inventor, anatomist, and also an astrologer, although his biography does not to mention about the universe of hidden knowledge. In short he had a universal knowledge. In all areas he left the mark of his genius.
When he turned 14, his father had placed him as an apprentice in the arts studio of Verrocchio who was a great master of Florence. The art workshops held not only artistic works such as paintings and sculptures, but also construction of buildings, bridges and works of engineering, metallurgy, war machines, everything that required creativity of man to make some kind of artifact.
Leonardo soon excelled in all these arts, having participated in the production of a painting by Verrocchio, by order of Lorenzo Medici, ruler of Florence. He did paint an angel face on a canvas and the delicacy of the lines and the play of light, called the attention of the Medici family, who came to protect him. At this time, the success did not depend on talent, but especially the figure of a protector, a Maecenas.
The Italian peninsula, at that time, was a region of many disputes, without the identity of a country, which has consolidated only in the second half of the nineteenth century with Garibaldi. There were city-states, which they lived in strife. Wars were fought systematically, in order to solidify the power of the clergy. In this context, a war was deflagrated against Florence, promoted by the Vatican, for there were many interests of political composition, dominance, hegemony and economic supremacy.
Leonardo facing this situation, after serving the powerful others, as the Borgia, for example, just moving to Milan, had offered his services to the Duke Ludovico Sforza. Just to get an idea of the talents of Leonardo, he presents his resume as primarily military engineer, as he liked to be recognized, Architect, Builder Weapons, inventor, musician and at the end of the list of qualifications is painter and this is just his ability is that Duke engages him. Ludovico became the new protector of Leonardo.
Among the many works that Leonardo executed custom Ludovico is the "Last Supper." The work should decorate the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The work began in 1495 and was completed in 1497. In reality it did not complete. By the way, no work of Leonardo, except St. John and baby Jesus was completed. Were several lawsuits filed against Leonardo because he did not fulfill contract. Leonardo spoke "creation is divine, execution is slavish!"
The Last Supper was painted on the walls of the hall and Leonardo developed a new technique. It is often said that it is a fresco, but in reality a fresco is a painting done on a layer of newly applied plaster still wet. This technique does not allow error and touches later. As Leonardo was primarily a perfectionist, he wanted a technique that could shorten the drying process of the ink
This does not mean he was not an expert, but he wanted the drying delay to execute the work with the greatest perfection imagined. So he developed certain dyes and pigments that have been shown ineffective in relation to conservation. The fresco has been constantly attacked by the action of fungi that decompose, requiring constant maintenance and restoration. Disrespect for art is not a fact that occurs only in our days. Note that, by the need to create a passage for a next room, was opened and then closed the door just about painting, destroying forever a part of the base. A similar fact occurred with the Mona Lisa, which is a painting done on wood panel, which had the sides sawn.
Let us now turn to analyze the picture presented. We see that the figure of Christ is placed exactly in the center and if we trace two perpendicular lines, projecting the vanishing point, we have this convergence point exactly on the right eye of Christ.
Thus we have the picture, with Christ at the center position and the apostles distributed on both sides. Around Christ is formed a circle passing through the arc of the door at the back, forming a triangle with the apex up ward and the other with the apex downwards. In the book "The Da Vinci Code", Dan Brown speaks of these symbols in a simplistic way, relating them to the masculine principles, personified by the figure of Christ, and the female, formed between him and John standing right beside him.
As John's features are feminine Dan Brown claims to be Mary Magdalene, who had been his wife and mother of his daughter Sara, giving rise to the dynasty of the Merovingian, the first kings francs (?). He argues that even Jesus to be a Rabbi, could not be single, and would necessarily have to be married. This is true among the Pharisees, but if we consider Jesus as Essene it would not be a fact, because the Essenes took vows of chastity and poverty of course he could not be married. (See studies on Essenes in the Dead Sea Scrolls).
But that does not interest to the narrative of Dan Brown, because it would invalidate the book. Dan Brown is a researcher and I believe he has his knowledge, but I also believe that it is not interested because it contradicts with their commercial interest, because the truth does not sell. This symbolism is represented with two triangles with opposite vertices, is actually very deep, being present in different traditions such as Vedic and Hebrew, which presents two interlocking triangles, forming the six-pointed star.
The six-pointed star, although it is known as the Star of David or Seal of Solomon is present five thousand years ago in the Vedas This symbol contains hermetic principles, such as correspondence, the polarity, as well as the sex and this cannot be reduced simply to a phallic reference. We are not depreciating the work of Dan Brown and recognize who never spoke much about these matters. These works have never been as visited as it is today and this in itself already has its importance, but we have to put things in their right places.
We can relate the triangle with vertex upwards (upper triad=Spirit), containing the principles Will, Wisdom and Mind (Consciousness). The triangle with the apex downwards relates to the matter (unconsciousness). Thus when the two overlapping triangles results in the manifestation of life.
It is the projection of spirit into matter, as we can also see in the painting of Narcissus (below right), by Caravaggio, where he falls in love with his own image reflected in the mirror of water, going to deny its divine origin and losing in the webs of illusion of the world of things, which is transitory, local and temporal. The world of things is composed of the four elements (Fire, Air, Water and Earth).
The combination of the three higher attributes mathematically generates the four material elements.
Let's see. By combining the primary elements, i.e., "A", "B" and "C", produce the four elements, where "A" is associated with "B", "A" is associated with "C", "B "associates with" C "," A "is associated with" B "and" C ".
Thus we have four secondary elements. We also make an analogy with the primary colors, which are blue, yellow and red, that combined together form the four secondary colors, constituting the structure of the septenary manifestation (seven colors of the prism, seven musical notes, seven days a week seven deadly sins, etc...).
Thus, the higher will generate the ternary quaternary, with a combination of three with four, resulting in the twelve that reflect the different basic types of energy, or twelve human archetypes.
The three, four, seven and twelve numbers are sacred numbers, since summarize the constitution of the universe.
The pyramid, for example, is a splendid symbol, it is the ternary seated on a quaternary basis (I and II).
If we look at the pyramid over its apex, we shall see the division four equal parts (III). If these parts are opened (IV) will produce 12 angles (combinatorial analysis 3 of 4).
This results in the Maltese cross, or Templar cross (V), where the center is located the eye of God, who sees everything (omniscience), precisely the right eye of Christ, who is the central vanishing point in Leonardo painting (ternary on the quaternary).
In astrology there are three primary types (come Primary Cause is the Absolute = Universal) and four secondary. The three primary types show human behavior. The secondary indicate the human temperament. Human behavior is determined by the mode of expression (Cardinal, or the one who initiates an action. The fixed stabilizes the action. The mutable amend the action). It´s is the gunas of the Vedic tradition: Rajas, Tamas and Sattva, which make up matter.
We can represent these correlations through the diagram below, where the archetypes are formed considering the kinetic and static manifestation of matter and its modulation with three forms of behavior, producing the twelve basic types of temperaments, according to the diagram:
We speak of the qualifications of Leonardo that among them he held the astrological knowledge. It is precisely this knowledge that is being revealed in his work. He had deep knowledge of archetypes, detailing its characteristics, perfectly demonstrating the zodiac with the twelve signs of the Sun (Christ) as the center of events and creation, which becomes more evident if we observe that the apostles were arranged in four groups of three.
Thus, we have four groups, linking them to the four seasons of the year with an apostle for each sign.
Each station has three months and consequently three signs, starting in the spring, which is the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere, with the months of March, April and May, related to Aries, Taurus and Gemini. The summer, with the months of June, July and August, related to Cancer, Leo and Virgo. The autumn, with the months of September, October and November, related to Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius and winter, including December, January and February, related to Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.
Another way to demonstrate this is the figure we see a three-dimensional form, with the figure of Christ and the apostles to the center divided in the ecliptic (the Sun's equator).
In the zodiacal wheel, we have divided the signs forming axes, where a sign has his virtuous characteristics, and the difficulties are experienced in the sign placed in opposition. This refers to the principle of polarity, which says that everything has two poles, and they are similar in nature, varying; however the degree and that these polarities can be reconcilable (The Kybalion - Hermes Trismegistus).
To overcome the difficulties represented by shadow, there to seek the virtues that which is light, located in their opposition.
In reality what must determine between the two poles is the search for balance, i.e., the central point is that the figure of Christ. It is to live the way of temperance, the middle path. The consciousness.
Associating the different disciples (nominated by Leonardo himself), we have the representation in the figure below:
Jesus opens his left hand upward, feeding those placed his left. Are the seasons of spring and summer, where there is the birth and growth. The right hand side down in an act of absorption of energy and experiences accumulated by the autumn and winter seasons, related to maturity and death. This demonstrates the zodiacal cycle of birth and death. It is noted that the same correlation is made in that the light is projected to the left and the right shade Christ. The same polar duality is also represented in the mantle of Jesus delimiting the two hemispheres.
At the head of the table, to the extreme left side of Christ, we have the figure of Simon, representing Aries. Leonardo represents in the order of left to right, since the signs, as seen from the earth moving anti-clockwise.
Aries, the sign that opens the zodiac, is the pioneering characteristics, leadership, initiative, and this is exactly the role demonstrated by Simon, sit at the head table. Aries rules the head and the head of Simon are displayed prominently. The position of Simon's ascendancy over the others. But not only is the position occupied by Simon Aries denoting this role but what the theme suggests, because everything results from something spoken by Simon, as the other apostles are commenting, arguing and watching Simon himself, it was told.
If Aries is related to the self, the personality, Libra corresponds to the other, the relationship and the satisfaction of the need of the partner.
It is ideal for Libra living relationship in an atmosphere of peace, beauty, balance and harmony. The figure of John, diametrically opposed to Simon receives and absorbs the full impact of what was spoken, causing it to assume a posture of submission and retirement. John's hands are placed in position reconciliation. The figure actually has a female face, because Libra, seeking harmony is associated with receptive condition. The garment also refers to balance, in that is divided in two colors. Libra is ruled by Venus and Aries by Mars. This is the axis of individuality, and Aries representing the personification of the psychological ego and Libra the other with whom the ego relates.
Next we have Judas Thaddaeus. It is related to the sign of Taurus. Taurus is characterized by personal values, possessions, to have. Taurus has the need to develop a solid structure, have support. In the painting we see that is the only apostle to lean on the table, put the left arm using the table as a shield. The size of the Taurus is solid, strong. Taurus rules the neck and throat and this is very evident in the painting. The attitude of Judas is prudence. He argues and accepted.
This is the value axis and power, having one side of Taurus and Scorpio on the other.
Scorpio is represented by Judas Iscariot. Scorpio relates to the values ​​of the other, the collective values​​. Judas, for he was treasurer of the group. Scorpio is the sign of the depths, transformation, regeneration or death. Ruled by Pluto or Hades, represents all that is profound and transformative. The role of Judas Iscariot, as misinterpreted by the Christian traditions, was critical to the tragic outcome of the drama that is the passion and resurrection. Judas Iscariot somehow was the most loyal of the apostles, because he did fulfill the scriptures. He took the most painful mission of the group fulfilling the order to terminate the Sinedrion following the proper order of Jesus, when he said, "Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22:48).
Actually Scorpio is the dynamo of the Zodiac, because it determines the transformation processes necessary for evolution of life. Judas Iscariot in the painting is presented as a spectator, watching the unfolding drama, examining the course of events. These are characteristics of Scorpio. Deeply analyzes, traces the strategies and act at the right time, accurately.
Next we have Matthew, related to Gemini whose ruler is Mercury. Gemini is related to the whole mental process and communication. The mental concrete, the process of accumulation of cognitive and applied knowledge to material reality. The natives of Gemini are slender and agile, jovial, looking curious and considering all possible variables facing situations. They can be considered, sometimes contradictory, unstable, and fickle. Matthew demonstrates some of these features.
He is communicating with Simon, looking at him, but arguing with hands and arms as if he had considering all aspects of what was said. May also appear an ambiguity between what was said and what the group thinks. As Gemini is related to communication and speech relates anatomically to the shoulders, arms and hands and this is what we also noted the figure of Matthew, who is also considered the reporter of Christ, like Mercury (Hermes), the messenger of Jupiter (Zeus).
We have here the axis of knowledge and wisdom. Peter opposes Matthew, representing Sagittarius. It is the sign associated with religion.
Sagittarius governs the higher subjects, abstract knowledge and spontaneously puts into the unknown. Sometimes it is brutish and can express themselves with excessive frankness. This corresponds to the spirit of Peter, who founded the Church, or the Christian religion, with Paul (Saulo de Tarsus).
The faith when taken to its ultimate consequences may be blind and in his defense all can be allowed. Peter's hand is holding a knife to defend his own ideals, not in a threatening attitude to John, by some want to believe, even argued by Dan Brown. Sagittarius, the centaur wields the bow with the arrow to be thrown. Anatomically Sagittarius governs the hips and this is evident in the painting. The right hand rests on it. The disposition of the body of Peter remembers the design of the symbol of Sagittarius.
In the sequel we have Philip, associated to Cancer.
Here we come to the bottom of the Zodiac, or Imum Coeli (Latin for "bottom of the sky"), is the axial point of the unconscious corresponding to all devotional manifestation, the maternal feeling, the origins and traditions. This relates to home and family and Philip embodies this archetype.
With distinctly feminine face, Philip takes his two hands to his chest, as if calling everyone as children to be reconciled. Indeed, precisely Cancer governs the breasts, stomach and uterus. Hands with arms also form a figure that resembles the claws of the crab is the cancer itself.
This is the time axis, with the past and destiny. The past is associated to cancer, the mother, and the future (Capricorn) with father. So Capricorn governs the destination, i.e., what we seek as a career, as the goal of life and social role as we seek and desire recognition. It concerns the authority.
So, Andrew as Capricorn is clearly a Capricorn attitude. Capricorn is cautious and practical and could be cold and pessimistic. As Philip says "come to me," Andrew seems to say "depart from me", because to assume the responsibilities is to calculate and plan what should be done.
Capricorn corresponds anatomically to the entire bone structure, knees, skin. In painting Andrew is the one who has hands with bony fingers, demonstrating the bone structure. Alongside Philip, we see James the Less, related to Lion.
Leo is sovereign. Charismatic, flashy, creative, dramatic, seeks recognition through the exhibition. It is ruled by the Sun and radiates its light.
Leo governs the heart that is analogous to body sun. These characteristics are clearly incorporated to James Minor. Surely he is the most beautiful scenic figure painting. James to take the attitude of open arms, exposing the light, standing next to Christ himself.
Demonstrates an open chest, the heart of generosity, a typically leonine behavior, which sometimes comes to be naïve and centered on vanity and self-centeredness.
This is the axis of the power of creation. If Leo is the maintenance of creation, Aquarius is change and renewal which is also creation. Leo governs the power of the king, the monarch. Aquariums are the collective power, the group, society. This axis is that occur the struggle for power.
Aquarius, with Uranus the ruler promotes all sorts of abrupt changes, meaning always drastic changes. Often in the name of innovation is deposed monarch for the establishment of a new regime, to then become similar with the previous model. It is what is observed with the Aquarian revolutions like the French Revolution, with the deposition of Louis XVI. Napoleon was later crowned as emperor (Leo). Recently, we have the Cuban Revolution, with the deposition of Dictator Fulgencio Batista and Fidel ruling as King-Dictator.
Aquarius is associated in this way, the actions of libertarian, to rebellion, radicalism because it is engaged with human values, such as progressive values, but it is impersonal.
Analyzing the figure of James the Greater, we see that it does not appear in the foreground. He does not expose himself alone, but through the group, through diplomacy and see: Aquarius is the sign of friendship and we see James hugging Andrew and Peter, demonstrating that the strength comes from the group and not on individual attitudes.
Finally, we have Thomas, representing the Virgin.
The Virgo is related to the practicality, analysis and criticism. It also ruled by Mercury, but here the mental focuses on utilitarian and practical application to be given to all things. For that reason they questioned him, details and discriminate. Virgos is in extreme need to feel useful and provide their service, but to do so he needs to understand the cause of things. Within these characteristics we see the figure of Thomas. Thomas needs to see to believe.
Thomas in his act of inquisitor asks to Christ himself, in that puts her right in front of Jesus forefinger. As Virgo tends toward shyness and humility, Thomas is also placed in a position away from the table.
This is the axis of the serve, having Virgin correspond to service pragmatic and Pisces, the humanist service, sometimes not very clear and perceptible, which may lead Pisces to live in a state of unreality.
Pisces is associated with the dreamer inspiration and understanding. Are compassionate, emotional, intuitive and romantic, but for this state of contemplation, if not well channeled, can lead to evasion and fanciful attitudes, having difficulty perceiving reality.
Bartholomew the Apostle is which closes the zodiacal circle. He is on the other side of the table. It clearly demonstrates the Piscean characteristics. It seems that his vision is directed to a point that goes beyond the environment portrayed, a point diffuse and may not realize exactly what is going on. Does not speak, only observes, contemplates and accepts. Pisces rules the feet are just his feet, interlaced, which are illuminated under the table. Pisces has great intuitive potential, but needs to know how he can transform his nature, his sense of serving humanity in a more practical and constructive way.
Thus we come complete cycle of the zodiac, sounding clear that the message displayed in this painting, as in other works of genius. It conveys much more than seemingly suggests.
True knowledge was hidden in encrypted form by the need to preserve it, protecting it from the misunderstanding of those who thought they possessed the truth. What is hidden, veiled, does not mean it is not to be seen. It is only unveiled to those with eyes to see. Leonardo leaves us that genuine arcane wisdom was, is and will be the knowledge which guides humanity toward enlightenment through awareness.
Astrology, by the psychological approach is a process that allows us to analyze, understanding paradoxes, our conflicts, our shadow, our projections, and perhaps, through self-knowledge, doing the reintegration of contents for consciousness, so we can promote the process of transforming into true human, and better integrated with the sacred.
The path continues to be followed.
Astrology shall be understood in this view, showing that the splendor of diversity means that we may above all be tolerant and compassionate, understand the nature of the differences and accept them as a manifestation of the same source of life.
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2023.03.22 02:08 disqussion1 Diary of an NHS car park attendant

0429 - I wake up to the sound of Rammstein's "Reise, Reise" blaring out of my phone. My Alexa-linked coffee maker has already started brewing and by the time I complete 2 sets of 20 pushups, my drink is ready.
0435 - I like to reflect on the day ahead as the almost boiling beverage warms me up, by reading the inspirational messages I have framed on my living room wall: "Dear parking team, please cancel my ticket, I was at my nan's bedside helping her eat, I completely forgot to extend my time, and then my phone had run out of charge so I couldn't use the app. When I got to my car, there was still a minute left, but someone had already put a ticket on the windscreen." Yup, this one's my favourite this month.
0440 - My front door thuds as I close it firmly behind me. Time for my morning run. I complete 10 laps of the hospital grounds and carparks, scoping out for any cars parked by the night shift team before the day shift arrives and make it unclear. It's always good to pre-round. It's still dark out, so I doubt any of the staff working in the hospital notice me, especially as I'm decked out in military-surplus camouflage I got on Amazon. It's fine for me though, I've got night vision goggles on.
0500 - I get back home and do some weight lifting. I use car tires from staff cars we've impounded and get a decent number of reps in. Time for my protein shake.
0530 - Donning and doffing is important in the NHS. I don my bullet proof vest, body cam, and hat in the correct order. Boy do I love the smell of the parking enforcement printer warming up in the morning.
0600 - I've been at the office for a good 25 minutes but the stupid NHS computer has only just logged in and loaded up all the stupid notices, mandatory training reminders, and MS Teams. Time to check for any new refund request emails for my "wall of inspiration" next month.
0611 - As I scroll through the emails and decide which ones to print, I press play on our answerphone that's been flashing incessantly since I got here. More fools trying to make excuses for why they didn't follow tha law, and don't respect ma authoritah. HAh!
0740 - Managed to get in a few more pushups and sit ups. The added weight of the body armour really helps build core strength.
0742 - The phone rings. I continue with my exercises. It goes through to voicemail. Are you feelin' lucky, punk? Let's see what this person has to say: "Hello, erm, is this the car park attendant office? I'm one of the surgical SHOs on night shift and had to park in the patient area last night...," I frown, and then rub my hands in glee, "...and well we had a lot of peri-arrests overnight and I have to hand over a lot to the day team, so I might be a few minutes late getting to my car, please can you not give me a ticket. My license plate is..."
0744 - Ah yes, I remember that plate from my reconnaissance run this morning. Gray. Vauxhall Corsa. 2005 model. North carpark, level 3, by the broken flourescent tube light; oil stain and 2 discarded face masks in the empty space to the right. These junior doctors, who do they think they are! They get paid less than a Costa barista but dare to call me an attendant! We have a proper title! She said she's surgical, they changeover at 0800. They are allowed to park in patient areas overnight. But night ends at 0800. I realize I have less than 15 minutes to get to the target. Are you ready ol' Bessie? That's the name we gave our parking ticket printer. Time to ENFORCE.
0758 - Made it! I'll give her one minute to be fair.
0759 - BOOM! I slap the enforcement notice on the target windscreen. As I got more experience and skill over the last 21 years doing this job, I've increasingly been able to precisely place these notices exactly at driver's eye-level, adjusting for seat position. Another win for the Vehicle Capacity Coordinators! As it says on my badge: We are the peacekeepers, we are the law.
0800 - Time to start my rounds. I have an extra spring in my step today thanks to that surgical doctor.
1200 - My rounds weren't very successful. Only issued a few dozen tickets, mostly around the maternity unit. Had lunch from the canteen.
1230 - I start my afternoon rounds.
1235 - West carpark, level 1. What's this? Someone's decided that just because they are a doctor, they can just "create" their own parking space in an unmarked area. Oh it's a fancy car, but a few years old. Must be a consultant. They do this sometimes when they drive from our other hospital site and can't find a spot. No traffic is being blocked, there is no harm to anyone. But the white lines are the law. Apparently they think the law doesn't apply to them just because they can't find a space and have to start their clinic. BOOM! Enforced.
1245 - Well, well, well. What do we have here? No permit eh? BOOM! You've been enforced! Oh what's that on the dashboard? Something scrawled in desperate handwriting: "Going to renew..."--
1247 - In a flash, I duck and then go prone to minimize visibility. A few cars down the Capacity Violator from 1235 has returned to his car and seen the Notice. He's looking around desperately. Sneaky one. He's read the time stamp and realizes I'm probably still around. He thinks he can talk his way out of it. Well the Trust policy is clear - no eye contact = no verbal interaction. My weeks at boot camp with Drill Sergeant Barry really paid off. The situational awareness training just kicked in. He didn't see me.
1250 - In the reflection of a puddle, I watch him intently as he frantically looks around, pacing up and down, shaking his head. These are the moments I live for. Come on Dr Consultant, surely you've got pAtiEnTs to see in your precious clinic. No point wasting time looking for little old me.
1255 - He's heading off, dejected, plodding. The stethoscope he came to retrieve swings limply from his left hand. If he'd come back just a few minutes earlier he may have made eye contact with me and it might have come to an actual engagement with the enemy. I shudder, and press on. Oh I'm sure he'll send an email to the helpdesk soon. Yet another contender for my wall of inspiration.
...to be continued.
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2023.03.22 02:03 The_Happy_Hillbilly Aggressive Disregard for Others

In all the time I've spent out and about with my mother in public, something that infuriates me to no end is her blatant disregard for other people. It's embarrassing. It's not even that she's dumb or unaware, she just gets a sick sense of joy from behaving this way.
Some of these behaviors include:
  1. Taking two parking spaces. Intentionally. All the time, because, "The lot's not that full."
  2. Parking a cart in the middle of the aisle while shopping and refusing to move it until she's found what she's looking for. I always have to push it aside so others can get through and she bitches at me for being "too nice."
  3. Making rude comments about others while they're in earshot and shrugging it off when I ask her not to do that.
  4. Hotboxing me in the car with her stupid cigarette smoke (I've asked her not to smoke in my car, but y'know) then tossing the butt out the window if she has nothing to put it in. She won't use an permanent ashtray in the vehicle because they stink. If I cough or complain about the smell she either laughs mockingly or sarcastically says, "Sorry."
  5. Digging around in her purse for said cigarettes while driving and nearly getting us into accidents.
  6. Refusing to use the signal light or wear a seat belt. When I wear mine she asks, "What, are you afraid of my driving?"
  7. Wouldn't get the covid vax. Literally cost her her job but she wouldn't budge. She then tried to forbid me from getting it but I did it anyway because f*ck that noise.
  8. If anyone she deems "inferior" challenges her in some way, her immediate response is the threat (or display) of violence. Her former workplace has a hole in the wall where she kicked a door with insane force because a colleague she didn't like made an insensitive comment. She then threatened to follow said coworker home. She was not disciplined for this.
  9. This one's kind of unrelated but putting me down and criticizing me in front of others, then getting mad when others treat me poorly. They're following your lead, Mom.
submitted by The_Happy_Hillbilly to raisedbyborderlines [link] [comments]

2023.03.22 01:41 Trash_Tia Every October 1st, the eighteen year old's in my town go crazy for one night. We call it The Teen Purge. (Part 3. Ending.)

I'm writing this from the ruins of our old diner. This will be my last post.
When the bus came to an abrupt stop suddenly, I pressed my head against the window and peered out, hyper alert of my surroundings.
I was seeing a large glass building which reminded me of a school, or maybe a hospital. It looked far more modern than anything in Littlewood. It hit me that this was the Halfway House we had been promised solace ever since we were kids. I vaguely remembered our class being told about the curse and quickly following that up with, “But we’ll keep you safe. Like we do every year, we send our seniors to a place of healing to prepare them for the outside world after going through such trauma where they can mend and reignite themselves."
Ironic wording, considering what really happened to us.
In actuality, I knew exactly what it was. The whispering in my head had revealed the Halfway House’s true meaning. Inside that building we were going to burn. We were going to fucking burn and nobody was coming to save us. Not our parents or the town. Leaning back in my chair, my gaze flicked to the front where two armed guards were beginning to escort my classmates off of the bus. I had already made my decision when I grabbed Jun’s sleeve and yanked him under the seat in front of us. He let out a sharp gasp, almost a sound of protest. “Bee, what are you doing? Get off--"
Slamming my hand over his mouth, I pressed myself into a ball, pulling him further under the seat. The thud, thud, thud, of the guards' boots sent slithers of fear creeping up and down my spine. They passed us. I could hear their breaths, their muttering to each other.
The guards already knew our game. I sensed them checking under each seat—which motivated me to shuffle myself further under until I couldn’t breathe. Jun didn’t move, his breaths sharp and heavy into the flesh of my palm. After a moment which seemed to go on forever, thudding boots retreated back towards the front of the bus. I squeezed my eyes shut when the engines started up once again. Gripping Jun for dear life, I settled on taking deep breaths. We were going to get out, I thought. We were going to escape.
“Can you get off of me?" Jun tried to squirm from my grip, but I tightened my hold on him.
“Shh.” I said under my breath. “Don’t make a sound, okay?”
"Why? We're going to the Halfway house!"
I bit back a yell, stopping him from crawling away from me. "There is no halfway house."
Once the bus started to move, keeping a firm grip on Jun’s sleeve, I pulled us from our hiding place and lifted my head, scanning for somewhere better. The back was our best bet. When I started towards it, dragging Jun with me, however, I spotted two familiar faces already in hiding. Jonas and Mira. Jun let out a low grumble, and part of me couldn't believe he was still salty about Jonas in this situation.
Without speaking, we joined them, with Jonas shuffling back so I could join him, pulling a reluctant Jun with me. It was an uncomfortable squeeze but we were safe. I allowed myself to breathe when the bus fell into a steady drive. But I didn’t have time to relax. I was considering asking Jonas in low whispers why he had chosen to hide, when once again the bus came to a jolting stop. “Forty six?” The bus driver all but thundered from the front. “What are you talking about? Fifty were loaded onto the bus. I fucking counted them!"
Shit. Shooting the other’s a panicked look, I weighed our options. Four against one.
We could easily get past him.
“No. No, we did a sweep of the bus!" His voice was growing panicked. "There’s nobody on here."
Jonas twisted around, shooting me a questioning look.
What the fuck is wrong with him? He mouthed.
I pressed my index over my lips in response.
Jun let out a frustrated hiss, and I instantly knew what he was going to do. Before he could, however, I was slamming my hand over his mouth once again, this time with Jonas' help, cutting off his strangled, "We're over–"
Jonas shoved us further under, dragging a struggling Jun. "Do you want us to get caught!?" He exploded in a hiss of breath.
Jun only muffled into my hand, and I half wondered if knocking him out would benefit us. The bus driver’s voice was eerily shaky. I could hear every tremble in his tone. “Check? Yes! Uh, yes, I’ll check now. Don’t worry, alright? There’s no more kids on this bus. They must have ran away."
When the driver started down the aisle in a bumbling stumble, ducking under each seat, I attempted to hide. I mean there was nowhere to hide, though I at least tried to shove myself uncomfortably further under the damn seat until we were squashed like sardines. “Hey!”
The driver’s steps quickened towards us and I felt my body catapult into fight or flight.
“What are you kids still doing here?” When I lifted my head to meet his eyes, I expected anger. There was no anger, however. I was seeing frustration and fear, trickles of pain blooming in wide cartoon-like eyes. The guy was keeping his distance from us, I noticed.
Like we were teeming with the plague. It was a curse, not a contagious virus.
"What do we do?" Jonas murmured.
"We stay here."
"But he's looking directly at us." He said in a sing-song voice. "I don't think he's blind."
Before I could stop him, Jonas was awkwardly dislodging himself from the gap underneath the seats. He jumped to his feet and raised his arms in mocking surrender. His smile was bright, but there was an underlying darkness in his eyes, and I had no doubt he wouldn’t resort to violence. “Yeah, okay, you got us. We were just hitchhiking back to town. I’m not a fan of the whole half-way house thing,” he said. “I’d rather just ride back into town and go and see my pops.” His lip curled. “I want to see if he’s okay. You know, after last night. I'm sure you know I'm a little on edge."
“No.” The driver’s eyes filled with tears. “No…” he shook his head rapidly, his arms trembling at his sides. “You're not going anywhere. You.. you're staying right there."
"What, so I get possessed by the dead souls of my ancestors and now I don't have basic human rights?" Jonas rolled his eyes with a scoff. "You're legally inclined to let me go. I don't want to go to some weird halfway house and pretend I didn't gut my best friend's mother, alright? I'm going home, asshole."
The driver didn't move. "I'm telling you to… to stay back." He moaned. "Please. I have a wife. I have a wife and two children, and I just got promoted! I don't need this shit!"
Jonas' eyes darkened. "What did you say?"
"Jonas…" Jun hissed out.
"No, no, I'm curious to know what the fuck this guy's problem is," The boy spat. "I woke up tangled in my neighbors guts, and this guy…" He started to laugh, a hysterical giggle collapsing into a sob. "This guy thinks his job is more important?"
"You're a disease." The man said in a whisper. "You shouldn't… exist." His gaze flicked to me. "All of you. You're a disease."
A look of hurt sparked in the boy's eyes, and his lip curled. “The curse is over, Jackass! I'm not going to kill you!" Jonas cocked his head, his expression crumpling with confusion when the guy started sobbing. "Are you…crying? Jeez, what did I say, huh? I'm not going to kill you! We just want to go home, alright? Look! I'm holding up my hands. Just take us home."
Just as promised, Jonas held up his hands.
I chose to stand at that point. Jun followed hesitantly, Mira following, staying behind Jonas. The driver stiffened, backing away.
“I said stay back!" He hissed out. “Do you hear me?” His shaky hand went into his jacket, his eyes squeezing shut like he was expecting something. Pulling out a phone, the man's fingers nervously tapped the screen. He didn't take his eyes off us. “I’m taking you kids back to the Halfway House, alright?"
He nodded at us like we would agree if he looked as pathetic as possible. And he did. The guy looked like he was ready to drop to his knees and beg. “Just… stay there.”
I caught the exact moment he dropped the notion of an authority figure. His lips twisted when Jonas ignored his instructions and took a casual step towards him. If this guy had a gun, I knew he would use it. Instead, he stumbled back with a cry. “Don’t fucking move! I mean it!”
Jonas' lip curved. He raised a brow. “Like this?” Another step.
This time, the man let out a shriek.
“Jonas.” Jun said. “Dude, stop. You're scaring him."
"Scaring him? What's to be scared of?" He laughed. "The night's over, and this guy still thinks a bunch of kids are going to gut him."
"I don't know," Jun whispered, "but don't get too close, okay? He looks freaked."
“Why?” Jonas twisted around to look at him. “This guy’s got fucking problems. Didn't I tell him we weren't a threat?"
I caught a glimmer of that maniacal glitter left over from overnight. “Let me guess,” Jonas laughed. “Do you see dead people?” In three strides, he was face to face with the guy. Nose to nose. Still smiling. The driver was petrified to the spot, like Jonas was inhuman. His eyes were wide, lips moving, but he wasn't speaking. "You look like you're about to poop yourself over a bunch of teenagers, my guy. Kind of pathetic, dontcha think?"
"I…" The man's bottom lip trembled. His breaths were heavy, his mouth twisting and turning and trying to speak. I would have felt sorry for him, if it wasn't for him being responsible for bringing my class to the slaughter. He couldn't even get words out, wide eyes pinpointed on Jonas and Jun like they were ghosts. Something was building in my head, a pressure harsh enough to make my nose bleed.
I found myself staring out of the window. I had initially caught the movement of a lamppost swaying back and forth. But there was no wind. When I squinted, I noticed more things which didn't make sense; a patch of flowers which had been planted outside the Halfway House were… drooping. No, not just drooping. They were blackening, rotting away into their soil, petals being whisked into the air and coming apart.
It was 10:30 in the morning, and the sky was darkening.
Jun started forwards and grabbed Jonas’s wrist, and with the two of them so close, the man let out a childish whine which only confused Jonas further. Outside, a tree I was so sure had been standing tall and proud, crashed onto the ground suddenly, the force of the impact rattling the bus. I fought to hold on. The pressure was building in my brain, and suddenly I couldn’t… I couldn’t breathe. “Hey!” Jonas yelled in the driver's frozen face. “What did I say, huh? The curse is over! You don’t have to be scared of us anymore, alright? Just… take us home–"
It sounded like bursting bubble-gum.
I didn’t hear the latter half of what he’d said because the bus windows were suddenly bright red, dripping red. The floor was red, the seats, and the ceiling. Jonas was red, and I could feel splatters of it on my cheeks and speckled on my chin. The others had gotten the worst of it, but it was still painting me. The red was warm and wet, like I had bathed in it. It was at my feet, pooling and spilling and spattering every colour from existence. I felt like I was back in on the school corridor being suffocated by a wet rag pressed over my mouth, horrifying images projecting into my hand from the fumes. But these weren't delusions. This was real. It was happening.
There was a dizzying moment when I thought it was raining blood before my brain found reality and I blinked at the spot where the driver had stood in front of us—and it began to dawn on me. I hadn’t been looking at the man when he popped out of existence. I was watching the leaves on the trees outside start to brown and then blacken into nothing. Like there was an invisible force decaying everything in its path. Jonas, who looked like he was starring in Cannibal Holocaust, twisted around to face me with wide, almost unseeing eyes. He looked like he might say something before the bus shook, and I forced myself to move, to find the window.
Outside, the ground had started to crack apart, zigzagging raptures spreading like fire across the sidewalk. Jun grabbed my arm and pulled me off the bus, Jonas diving off first, Mira on his heel. The world was crumbling around us, I realised. I could see it in flocks of birds flying across the sky in a panic. When we found solid ground, Jonas started hyperventilating. I was half listening to him mutter obscenities to himself, eyeing the growing sinkhole eating up everything in front of us. A woman jumped into her car and attempted to drive straight ahead before another tree collapsed, crushing her. “This is the curse.” Jonas said shakily. “It’s got to be, right? But why would they still be mad?"
The four of us teetered on a safe piece of sidewalk.
Mira wasn’t speaking. I think she was frozen. Traumatised. I could barely see her through the red.
“Nope.” Jun murmured. He swiped blood from his eyes with his sleeve. “It’s because we’re refusing to save the world.”
“What?” Jonas spluttered.
The ground started to split in front of me and I staggered back, my stomach galloping into my throat.
“He’s brainwashed.” I found myself gritting out. “Jun’s convinced we’re saving the world.”
“Like… like The Avengers?” Jonas grabbed his arm with a laugh. “Dude, did you hit your head?”
“Then what are you talking about?”
“Didn’t I make it clear I didn’t want to talk to you?”
“Well, you might as well! Since the fuckin’ world is ending!” He paused. "If this about me and Wendy--"
Jun laughed. "You're telling me this now?!"
“Stop.” Mira cut in, her cry breaking into a sob. “Just shut up. Shut up! I can't think!"
Their back and forth was barely a whisper in the back of my mind while I watched chaos unfold in front of me. Have you ever heard a human being explode?
It kind of sounds like bubble gum bursting.
I glimpsed a running man hand in hand with a little kid before both of them went “Poof!” against the store window, painting it in a whole new colour.
Like a domino effect, the town's people started rupturing like the ground beneath us. I was staring at an old woman struggling to hobble through a panicking crowd when the mayor announced himself via megaphone across a particularly large crack in splintered concrete. Armed guards surrounded him and I wondered if whatever this was would spare him. “Stay exactly where you are!”
“Do you understand me? Do not move!”
When they risked coming closer, part of me revelled in seeing fear prickle in their eyes. Behind the mayor, was our principal. His face beet red. The guy was seething. “Can you kids understand what you have done?”
Uh, yeah.
I think we had accidentally caused the death of Littlewood.
I didn’t say that, though. I wanted answers and Jun and Jonas seemed in their own world, watching our town crumble around us. “The curse.” I said shakily when they were close enough to hear us. The bookshop I’d frequented my whole life started to crumble behind me, windows splintering with the force of the quake. But It barely fazed me. Neither did the little girl screaming for her exploding mother showering her in scarlet. “Who really started it?”
The mayor dropped his megaphone. “If I tell you, will you hand yourselves over?”
Even his voice was shaking.
I nodded. “Of course.”
"What?!" Jonas shot me a look.
"She's not being serious, idiot," Jun muttered to him. "She's stalling."
The mayor's lips twisted. “No fighting? No more questions?”
“Sure.” I said, gesturing to the world around us. “You should hurry up though. Unless you want to turn into brain soup.”
If the phenomenon happening around us wanted to take the three of us, we would already be dead. It wasn’t targeting us, however. It was killing everyone except us.
Which spoke volumes.
“Uh, no,” Jonas hissed, tugging on my sleeve. “We should run. Like, right fucking now. I don't care what you want to say, okay? I don't want to be part of this!"
“Let him explain.” I said.
“Bee, are you serious?” Mira's eyes were wide, cartoon like.
“Very.” I told her, before directing my words at the mayor. “I want to know why you made Noah Sharpe kill my mother eleven years ago. And I don't want bullshit."
A woman who was mid run across the ruins of the sidewalk blossomed into a cloud of red, and I only just glimpsed what was left of her bag landing onto the ground with a comical splat. The mayor looked like he might argue or even attempt to capture us right there and then. But he didn’t give the order. Instead, he pasted on a strict smile. “Two hundred years ago in the year 1799, the elders of this town made a grave mistake which they knew they would regret for the coming years, dooming their children, and their ancestors to eternal misery” He cleared his throat, suddenly looking uncomfortable. “Littlewood was on the brink of collapse. Women were unfortunately barren and unable to bear children, and nothing they tried would work. They tried everything, Bee. Everything which would work and wouldn't - - old wives tales, and whispers in the wind carrying word of mouth. The town had no other option and were forced to make a terrible choice. Our elders prayed to an entity and asked for good luck and prosperity to help us through trying times, and for their women to no longer be barren."
“Prayed?” Jun frowned. “Like… to a God?”
“You could say that.” The mayor smiled proudly.
"No, you said… you said there was a fire," Jonas whispered. He was already in denial. "That's what you told us! You told us there was a fire which killed a bunch of kids…and we’re punished because you didn’t help them. Because you let them burn."
The mayor was doing a good job of skirting around actual conversation.
He nodded gravely. “That was the story we told you, yes. It was built on the bones of the truth. However, the reality of what really happened would cause panic. The truth is our ancestors sacrificed fifty teenagers in the year 1799. They were a gift to this entity in control of our beloved town. As you already know, human sacrifice was practised in those days. Some say it was normal. Human blood and life force was seen as the greatest gift Littlewood's bearers could accept— as well as the soul from an elder, or an authority of the town. But of course we couldn't do that. In the simplest of terms, our elders were.. more important. ” He folded his arms. “However, what they did not know is that those sacrifices were… impure. They had engaged in certain activities which would be deemed… unsanitary, or maybe that's not the word for it. They, ahh.. I'm not sure how to–"
“They fucked.” Jonas cut him off with an eye-roll.
The mayor’s gaze found the ground.
“Indeed.” He said. “Angered, the entity demanded more than the town could give it, and when town’s people started to notice rotting food and animals disappearing, rumours of a beast lurking in the trees beginning to circulate, they struck a deal. Every year following, the eighteen year olds, with fifty being the minimum, would be sacrificed as our punishment.”
“Burned.” I corrected in a scoff.
The man found my gaze. “In those times, yes. Burned at the stake. However, throughout the years we have found a far more humane way to complete the ritual.”
Yeah. Incineration.
“I’m not a virgin.” Jonas said dryly.
“That doesn’t matter.” The mayor said. “Whether you are or not, fifty sacrifices were demanded to make up for the towns sins. If the debt wasn’t paid, however, the entity threatened a wrath greater than hell on earth to strike our town and then the world.” This time he lifted his gaze and looked me directly in the eye like I was supposed to feel guilty. “What we call The Teen Purge would be child’s play in comparison to what they have planned for us,” he continued. “If the correct number of sacrifices are not made, Littlewood will fall, which will cause a domino effect. Destruction will spread to neighbouring towns and then cities, followed by countries across the world, killing billions of people.” The mayor gestured around us as spattered red. “As you can see, we are already seeing the start of it.”
“So… two hundred years ago, you idiots prayed to an inhuman entity and actually expected them to give you what you wanted?” Mira whispered.
Then she laughed to my surprise. “You killed fifty kids because a faceless presence told you to?”
“Like I said, Mira,” The mayor’s tone grew cold. “Human sacrifice was considered normal in those days. I’m not saying what our ancestors did was right, but they were starving. Their women could not bear children.”
“What does that have to do with turning us into psychopaths?” I found myself asking, my voice was trembling. “Why did Noah kill my mom?”
This time, the man wore the slightest of smiles. “Do you really think parents would agree to us murdering their children if we didn’t make them fear them? If we didn’t plant the idea in their head that it was their twisted child’s life or innocent towns people? Your parents were as in the dark as you. In their eyes, you were cursed. Killers. You had to be taken away.”
“You’re kidding.” Jonas looked frantic, his eyes darting around, searching for an escape, “Do you seriously think I’ll die for a town which has ostracized us since were five years old? Who made us think we were fucking monsters?”
“Mr Lockhart, the sole reason why this town is crumbling around us is because you are still breathing.” The Mayor told him. “Right now, forty six seniors have been… gifted as part of our yearly ritual. That is not enough to stop them from destroying us. We need exactly fifty sacrifices.”
“Well, good luck finding them.” Jonas said in a choked laugh. “I’m sorry, but no. If you think I’m going to willingly sacrifice myself, you’re deluded!”
“Jonas.” The principle at least tried to be sympathetic. “I know you don’t want to do this, but which would you prefer? A world which is no longer recognisable, one which you wouldn’t be able to survive anyway, or a peaceful euthanasian? Your father is still alive. You will be saving him.”
“I don’t care!” He sputtered. “You think I give a fuck about anyone in this town? You’re an elder,” He accused. “Why not give yourself to them, huh?”
“That’s…” The Mayor looked taken aback for a moment. “Mr Lockhart, that is incredibly disrespectful.”
"So is murdeding our entire senior class! " He gasped out, his body trembling. Jonas backed away, grabbing Jun’s hand, and then mine. I held on, but Jun wrenched away from his grasp, his eyes far too empty for me to bear.
“The girl who told me she had a siren in her head,” He said softly. “She said I was going to save billions of lives, and this is what she meant.”
Jonas let out a sound of distain, and Mira laughed again. Her laughter was hysterical.
There was a content smile on Jun’s face and I realised with a pang in my chest, that I preferred it to the agony twisting his expression when I’d found him. I wanted him to be happy, to be at peace. But not like this. I wanted to run away with him, with Jonas and Mira, even if this twisted fate demanded otherwise. Jun strode over to the guards, with two out of four spontaneously combusting in their helmets before the remainder grabbed and restrained him. For a moment, Jonas looked like he might join him. I saw it in his expression, in his eyes filling with tears.
He took a shaky step forward like he would abandon self-preservation for a boy he had confusing feelings for, a boy who was locked into a fantasy nobody could pull him out of. Before he turned on his heel and ran. I watched him go, concrete splintering under his every clumsy step, as he pushed himself into a sprint. I respected that Jonas had chosen himself over the town. His own life over 7 billion people. He didn’t owe Littlewood anything.
“Mr Lockhart!” The mayor yelled, a look of panic twisting his expression.
“Go after him! We need fifty sacrifices!”
The guards hesitated.
They were scared to get near any of us.
After hesitating, they were stumbling after him, but Jonas was already out of sight.
He nodded to the remaining guards holding Jun. “Take him to the halfway house. They’re waiting for him."
At his words, I found myself backing away, and an almost childlike look of pain crossed his face. “Bee.” The mayor stamped the ground like a child, like he was having a tantrum. “Did you not hear him?” He shook Jun like a doll, his smile widening into a grin. “You’re going to save the world!”
I laughed at him. In his fucking face.
He had to be kidding!
He’d taken away my mom, and Noah— now Jun. My entire fucking class.
To make up for a mistake THEY had made. We were being punished for what they had done.
For 200 years, we had suffered.
Because of them.
And he expected me to give myself up?
One look at Jun told me he would never follow me. He had already made his choice.
Still though, I smiled at him.
And he smiled back.
Not a Wonderland Smile, a real smile.
“You’re insane.” I found myself spluttering. “You actually want to die.”
Jun rolled his eyes. “Die?” He said. “Who wants to die? No, Bee. I don’t want to die.” My friend laughed, and the guard holding him flinched, as if a single movement or expression would trigger him to combust like the others. “What did I tell you? I want to go visit my dad before Christmas. I want to move across the country and start fresh in a new college. I want to…” he pulled a face. “I want to eat New York pizza and kiss a stranger, make mistakes that I learn from. Maybe I want to go skinny dipping in mid-December, drive through late night traffic with my head stuck out of the window singing to cheesy pop. Barf all over myself after too much drinking, and then do it all over again the next night because I have zero self-control.”
The more he was speaking, the more I realised I was losing him. No, I’d lost him.
Jun was speaking in goodbye, and there was nothing I could do to stop him. Because, if he had made his choice to give in to his fate, then what business did I have trying to save him? He would only hate me. He was doing a bad job of acting like goodbye didn’t matter to him though, swiping at sore eyes. “The list goes on, Bee! Of course I want to live, idiot,” he laughed again, though it was more of a sob. I thought I was getting through to him. I knew deep, deep down, he didn’t want this either. But Jun was a good person.
He stepped out of the guards restraint , and into my arms. He was warm, and I held onto that. “Nobody ever wants to die,” He mumbled into my shoulder. I squeezed him tighter. “even on the edge of life, even with that storm cloud over their head, the suffocating pressure in their chest. All of that anxiety and pain knotting up their gut telling them they’re not worth it. That they should give up. They all still want to live. They want that reason to keep going.”
I knew exactly what he was talking about. Why I couldn't step in front of traffic or cut open my wrists. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe not all of Jun was gone. His eyes were far too sad for me to call them empty. Brainwashed. “But,” he stumbled over his words, pulling away so abruptly, I felt like all the air in my lungs had been sucked away. “How is it fair that I live while everyone else dies? Our whole class, Bee. How could I stay breathing while they sacrificed themselves for us every year prior?”
“They didn’t have a choice!” I said through gritted teeth. “Do you really think they willingly walked in there? They didn’t want to die, Jun! I saw them die. All of them."
Jun’s eyes flickered to the guards in front of him, and for a moment it looked like I was getting through to him. He made the slightest of movements, his hand grasping hold of my wrist, fingernails digging into my flesh. I felt that desperation to live. Even if he insisted it was the opposite, I knew he was putting on a brave face. But then our Principal was gone, and more red was spattering my face. Jun let go of my wrist and stepped away from me for the final time, allowing the dwindling guards to grab him. I finally understood what the mayor meant. The longer we were breathing, others were suffering and the town was falling apart. Except I couldn’t bring myself to have sympathy for them.
Would you?
“Jun.” I was fighting, then. Fighting to hold myself together when I was splintering apart. “What I heard… in my head,” I sputtered. “They weren’t voices. They didn’t speak to me.” I could feel my knees buckling. “They were screaming! They didn’t want to die! And… and why should we?”
I turned to glare at the mayor who was still standing. “Why should we die for them, huh?” I demanded. “Give me one good reason why we should die. So they can kill the seniors next year? Why should we be the ones they sacrifice? Prisoners exist! Child murderers! Why can’t it be them?”
“That is something we considered.” The mayor started to say, but I cut him off.
“Shut up.” I gritted through a mouthful of tears. “You don’t get to speak."
The mayor looked like he might argue but decided against it.
Jun shrugged. “It’s either us or the planet.”
“This isn’t a movie,” I said, “Do you really think you’re doing some heroic gesture and the whole town is going to cheer you on?” I was seething, I couldn’t control my words, control my breathing. “No. They see you as a sacrifice and nothing else. I don’t see them putting up a fucking memorial. Did they for the others? Did they care, Jun? The girl who put all this in your head. Did the town remember her?"
It took two single strides to grab him.
Shake him.
"Did. The. Town. Care? About any of them? Noah? Tommy? The girl who filled your head with all this crap? Did Littlewood remember them?"
He held my gaze. “She said I was going to save billions. They don't have to care."
“So?” I shrieked. “I choose myself any day! And you should too!"
I expected him to call me selfish, but that wasn’t Jun.
“So, run.”
I let go of him. “Jun, I swear to God–"
“I’m not saying goodbye,” Jun said in a strained voice. “I’m going to turn around and walk away. And you’re not going to look back, okay?"
If Littlewood hadn't been decaying around us, I would have held onto him.
Mira was grabbed before she could follow Jonas, and I was so close to following Jun. I was so fucking close to giving myself up, as long as I got to be with him and the others. When one of the guards took a hesitant step towards me, however, I found myself backing away. No. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to fucking die, and if that made me selfish, so be it. I felt myself moving step my step.
One last look at Jun.
He wasn’t smiling, his head bowed as a guard pinned his wrists behind his back. When he lifted his head, his eyes were on the horizon. He looked content. And knowing that he was happy—he was at peace with his fate, I ran. And behind me, just as I turned around, the mayor was staring at me, a look of immense disgust on his face. I stared back. I wanted him to explode. I wanted his body to shower the street in red and prove to me that this so-called entity didn’t just take innocents. It took those in power too. And yet he stood there, not a smear on his perfectly pressed suit. His expression was twisted with fear, a pain in his eyes I had never seen before.
And his words were echoing inside my skull.
"Human blood and life force was seen as the greatest gift Littlewood's bearers could accept— as well as the soul from an elder, or an authority of the town. But of course we couldn't do that. In the simplest of terms, our elders were…more important.”
I took pleasure in quickening my pace into a sprint.
It’s been 12 days since I last saw Jun. On October 3rd, the trees started to blossom again. Outside my hiding place, the remnants of the diner, a rose bush bloomed out of nowhere, followed by daisies. Amongst the chaos, the endless shower of red every time another towns person was claimed, there it was. Life. Sitting in a battlefield of death. Jun.
Number forty seven. I want to believe it wasn’t him, that he got away, that he got some sense knocked into him. But it was hard to ignore the suffocating presence squeezing the breath from our town lift—even if it was only slightly. I lit a candle for him. Well, I couldn’t find any candles, so I set my neighbour’s yard alight instead. October 5th, the ground stopped cracking apart and the town's people were spared. Number forty eight. Jonas. It was fast, and I knew by the way the wind knocked into me threatening to throw me off my bike when I was scoping the ruins of my neighbourhood, a powerful gust blowing my hair from my face, that it was him.
I sensed his anger and frustration, but no pain. I think he liked being part of the wind. Jonas had done the opposite of what I thought he would. Instead of running away from his fate, he’d given up. Maybe he didn’t have anyone left. He should have ran. Maybe there might be far more destruction if he did. Jun and Jonas totalled the number of sacrifices to forty eight. I wondered if it was enough to make Jun’s wish come true. Did my fallen classmates really save the world?
Following them was Mira. I knew by the pace the leaves started to flower on trees, like the town was mending itself, that she was gone. With her combined with the boys, I think it was enough to stop the destruction, at least for a little while. Mira had fought until her last breath. She didn’t want to die, and that was evident in her lingering presence causing more decay than life before she seemingly found some kind of peace. Birds started to sing again, and the last person who exploded was, ironically, her mother. Sucks to be her. I think I’m allowed to laugh in this situation, right? Maybe Mira had a hand in it.
And I did laugh. I laughed until I cried.
Until the remaining town’s people power washed her off the sidewalk with everyone else.
October 13th, and the sun is shining.
The town are attempting to rebuild a broken Littlewood, and I sit here hoping me still existing and breathing will bring their downfall. I don’t have to hide anymore. Nobody will come near me. I’m like a plague, which works for me.
I’m skipping town soon, but first I want to stay behind to see the fireworks. I want to know if Littlewood has truly been spared or they’re just taking their time. I like to think my classmates are still here. I mean, they are. I see them in spring flowers coming to life in Fall. I hear them in the wind blowing my hair back. Some call me a coward for running away, while others beg me to keep going. And I will. I’m just… waiting.
I’m waiting for Littlewood to fall. Because I am the 50th sacrifice. While I breathe, their debt is not paid. My town’s clock is ticking, and I can’t wait for a wrath to finally be bestowed on the ignorant. I know this “entity” won’t rest until we’ve all been gifted to them. I can see that in rotting animal carcases appearing in the road and on the sidewalk. The town try to hide it.
They’re trying to hide the sudden appearance of maggot like insects festering on every street corner and a mysterious flu which has taken hold of the kindergarten. Like I said, I should sympathise with their dead. I don’t think our parents knew about any of this. We were just monsters to them; monsters they decided to let go. I am thinking about playing the pied piper and taking the little kids of the town with me. I can still save them, right? They don't have to die too.
I saw a junior girl yesterday.
Lanie Matthews. I used to sit with her in the cafeteria sometimes. She was handing out flyers in an attempt to send away Littlewood’s juniors to a safe place so the curse doesn’t get them next year. I want to tell her that her fate will follow Noah Sharpe and Jonas Lockhart. Mira Jane. Jun Sato.
Did their sacrifices really make a difference?
Who knows? Maybe this “entity” will take our world before October 1st, 2023. I think they’re waiting for me. They’re waiting for me to give in too. At some point, I almost caved. It was the screaming I couldn’t bear. Mother’s crying for their children in despair, and vice versa. But then I got a hold of myself. If I want to bring down Littlewood, then I have to survive. I wonder if the world will follow…
Are you worth saving?
In my opinion, no.
You're not worth Jun and Jonas and Mira, as well as generations of our town burning them alive.
Why should I sacrifice myself for a planet which is already killing itself?
I think I'm losing my mind. Yesterday, when I was hunting for supplies, readying myself to leave, I could have sworn I saw two guys leave the remnants of what used to be the old church. Hands entangled, the two of them hissing at each other, wielding baseball bats and cloth bags on their backs. Maybe I haven't been eating enough, but their faces, despite being bloodied and bruised, haunted eyes scanning an oblivion in front of them– a cursed town which insisted on their sacrifice– were familiar. They moved in a cloak-and-dagger dance across ruins, the one in front keeping a firm grasp of the other's arm, and when they moved, each step was in sync, the two grasping onto each other like their lives depended on it.
I can't help wondering if perhaps I was wrong. Maybe Jun and Jonas aren't part of the wind, afterall. I think they're much closer. And whether they are reincarnations built in flowers, or ghosts still attached to the town, I will find them again. But also… I won't fall victim to my own imagination. It could have been anyone. The way they moved, however, made me want to believe my delusion. It is hopeful thinking, but that is all I can do right now. I can hope they're much closer. And I'll reunite with them.
One day.
I’m going to ask you that same question again.
If this was your choice.
What would you do?
Would you surrender yourself to a fate which will save billions of lives… or run?
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