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  1. #16
    next year will be new again Audo's Avatar
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    Default Re: the fragmental collective

    Quote Originally Posted by Dandelion View Post
    Yikes, that was hard to read. But because of its subject matter and how well it was written. I think dealing with the nature of abusive relationships is a hard feat, and even harder to capture the nuances of its cyclical nature, but you did it well.
    thanks tinny. :3

    Quote Originally Posted by Cinder View Post
    I do admire his determination to not let this beat him down anymore though, but to stand up for himself and against his father for the beliefs he forced upon him.
    yeah, time will tell if he actually can/will though~~

    Anyways, this was a powerful piece. It had tons of impact.
    Aw, thank you.

    You write some of the most heart wrenching stories there is, Audo.
    haha, yeah that really seems to be my brand at this point. sad and gay.

  2. #17
    next year will be new again Audo's Avatar
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    Default Re: [the fragmental collective]

    for this one i thought i would try taking the characters from my future game project and sorta feel them out and introduce them in this short story. the challenge was spell it out so i did it as sort of an acrostic with each word focusing on a little mini vignette of sorts. they probably don't quite all work together as a cohesive whole, but it was an interesting way of approaching the story and of getting a better handle on these characters. in a sense this is all a prologue to the game's story so i hope people find the characters and their set up interesting and will look forward to the game lol

    also, oof, i was originally planning on having this done for canada day (obviously) but it was taking longer than i thought it would and then just as i was getting back into the swing of things, the summer contest ended early and it kinda just took the wind out of my sails and i lost all motivation, lol. shame it took this long to finally bring myself to get back into it, but here it finally is. let me know what you all think!



    canada day.
    PROMPT: SPELL IT OUT
    CONTENT WARNING: N/A
    C - CLANDESTINE

    It began last Canada Day.

    Best friends Parker and Renae were in Renae's hot tub, giggly from the champagne they had swiped from her parents' stash. They had taken turns telling each other secrets -- voices falling to near whispers, hardly heard amongst the bubbles, when the girls' hearts were particularly exposed. Every so often their gazes would catch each other, and hold, just for a moment too long. In the air there was a distinct feeling of possibility floating about, a feeling that something was just on the cusp of happening, and then they would enter into a new world. It was both thrilling and terrifying, and throughout the night they both kept toeing up to the line, but always shying away at that last crucial moment.

    They had planned to go to bed, to end the night, shortly after the firework went off, but they never did. In that space of time it felt like everything stretched out in front of them. A moment lasting longer than it should. A vulnerability open for far too long, everything exposed. It was half-past midnight when the fireworks finally started -- delayed by two trains passing, they'd later find out -- but they didn't even notice at first. Neither of them would ever recall just who pushed past the line and brought them into a new, more complicated life -- a new normal -- but they did. When that first firework cracked against the night sky, Renae and Parker had embraced, their lips feeling ablaze against each other's.

    They pulled away as the light hit them.

    They watched, over and over, as the night sky seemingly broke open, again and again, in dazzling colours and sounds and, in the silence that followed afterward, they both knew that there was no going back to the world before now.

    A - AFTERMATH

    The morning after the first kiss, Renae slowly pulled herself out of bed, careful not to wake her friend. Parker lay curled up into a ball on the other side of the bed. Her arms were tucked close around her belly and her dark black hair splayed outward like an explosion against the white pillows. Renae smiled weakly at the sight before she walked over and sat down in front of the large ornate vanity on the other side of the room. For a moment she simply inspected her reflection in the mirror as she went over the events of the previous night in her memories. The champagne. The secrets. The fireworks.

    The kiss.

    Renae ran her fingers through her long blonde hair, catching a few tiny knots, before resting her forehead against the heel of her palm, elbow propped on the vanity's surface. She closed her eyes and tried to wrap her heard around the new reality they had entered, and what they were even going to do next. Behind her she could hear the soft sounds of Parker deep in sleep. When she opened her eyes, she wearily glanced down at her other wrist where a temporary maple leaf tattoo had begun to fade and wash away from the water in the hot tub last night. She traced the outline of the tattoo with her gaze, counting the points of that maple leaf that still could be seen. Eight.

    A soft sigh escaped her as she sat up in her chair and opened the first drawer on her right. Renae grabbed a bottle of nail polish remover and some cotton balls. After wetting the cotton, she methodically rubbed it against her wrist. The acrid chemical scent filled the air as, motion by motion, the maple leaf was wiped away. After, she stared at her reflection once again.

    Her reflection stared back.

    Renae's hair was disheveled. Her mascara had run and smudged along her eyes leaving dark circles. The lipstick she had worn the day before had nearly faded completely, but it too was smudged here and there. From the kiss? She didn't know, but she watched herself watching herself in the mirror for a long time. Everything washed over her mind like water flowing down a stream. All of the possibilities and routes and ways forward. The stream would fork and she would try to meet each path to its destination. So many possible outcomes, and yet, sitting there watching herself watch herself, she knew. Something would ultimately have to be chosen. And there was no returning upstream. There was no going back.

    She took a deep breath and released it slowly, carefully. And then, she gathered her hair in her hands and tied it into a messy bun. From the second drawer she took out a pocket of cleansing wipes. With clean, purposeful movements she brushed it all way. The mascara. The lipstick. What little remained of her blush and eyeliner. Until her face lay bare.

    Renae studied herself once more, taking in everything that she was.

    Then, she made herself up all over again.

    Once nearly everything was complete she opened the small box on her vanity -- the one where she kept all of her favourite things -- and took out the brightest, richest, waterproof red lipstick she had. She removed the gold lid and twisted the tube up. Renae didn't take her eyes off herself in the mirror as her lips became full and vibrant, and with it, everything screaming with purpose. As soon as she finished she smacked her lips and smirked.

    They were ablaze.

    N - NORMAL

    In the months that followed that Canada Day, more and more kisses joined the first, but with them came even more secret.

    To Parker it almost seemed like Renae thought of it as little more than just a game. There was an air of artifice surrounding each kiss, like it was largely just an act, something that Renae was putting on and little more. She never allowed it to become something more than a secret between them, something less abstract. Of course neither of them had really said what their intentions were, what they wanted to what any of this meant to them. Instead they just kept continuing, kept playing this little game and made sure no one else found out. Inside it was beginning to tear Parker apart. With so much artifice clouding her life it became difficult for her to tell what was real and what was fake. What was all part of the act, and what was a glimpse into how Renae really felt. Or even, how she herself felt about all of this.

    But when they did kiss, in those brief moments, to Parker it felt so achingly real and true and honest.

    And so, she kept hanging on. If this was the only way for them to be together, as limited a together as it was, than it would have to suffice, she had convinced herself. For in those moments when their lips touched, Parker could only feel that warmth coursing through her, and she knew that heat was everything she was looking for. She swallowed her feelings and the truth and everything those kisses meant to her, in order for them to continue. It was the only way she knew how to go forward.

    But as the initial weeks turned to months, turned to half a year, turned to almost a full year since that fateful night, she couldn't help but feel a growing discontent taking hold over her, rooting itself deep within her heart. Often she'd lay awake in her bed, sweating herself crazy from the summer heart, and just wonder, over and over to herself, was any of this really normal?

    All of the girls she knew were having crushes on the guys in their grade, hooking up, getting boyfriends. Holding hands and kissing boys in public. Falling in love. Being and feeling perfectly normal.

    And all she felt she was doing was pretending.

    A - ANACHRONISTIC

    Brandon dug the tip of his knife into one of the support beams of the small bridge he was under. He roughly carved into the metal, the paint chipping and collecting along the newly formed wounds. With every swipe of his blade, Brandon let out a short sound effect to match — something between a lightsaber and a sword. He bopped his head along with the mixed tape playing from the portable cassette player clipped on his hip. Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. When he was satisfied with his creation, he wiped the blade against his leather jacket. He ruffled his medium-length black hair and smirked.

    B O M B • V E S P E R I A

    It was crude but he was fond of it. The bridge had forever been altered by his little petty vandalism. He had changed things, just by being there. It was a good feeling, he decided. Productive.

    The tape ended and Brandon took out his headphones. He popped open the tape deck and flipped over the tape. Just as he was about to press play on Side B of the awesome mix his best friend Charlie had made for him, he heard a voice.

    “There’s something on your shoulder.”

    Brandon glanced down and saw out of the corner of his eye a long multi-legged creature crawling up his shoulder and heading straight for his neck. He yelped and swiped the bug off him, losing his balance in the process and falling backwards. His ass hit the pavement with a thud and he grimaced. He looked up at the girl who had warned him and found Parker standing there, clearly trying to keep from laughing.

    Brandon scratched the back of his neck as his cheeks began to burn. Parker smiled and held out a hand for him which he took. Once on his feet, he brushed the dirt off his pants and tried to act cool. She turned and knelt down to carefully pick the bug up from where it landed on the ground.

    “Was it a centipede?” Brandon asked. “They really freak me out. That’s why I, uh, reacted like that. I’m kinda scared of ‘em.”

    Parker softly shook her head. “It’s just a caterpillar. It’s harmless.” She opened her palm to show him. A small, fuzzy, green caterpillar casually inched its way across her palm. “Here, hold out your finger.”

    He held out his index finger for her as she guided the caterpillar onto hers. Then, she touched the tips of their fingers together, while lightly holding his hand stable with her other hand. They stood there together in silence, smiles deep on their faces, as they watched the fuzzy critter travel the bridge they had created.

    Brandon caught Parker’s gaze and felt his cheeks burn again. “Thanks,” he said quietly, although he wasn’t entirely sure for what.

    Parker tucked her hands back into the pockets of her jeans. “It’s okay,” she said.

    They watched the caterpillar crawl around in Brandon’s hand for a while and enjoyed the shade the bridge gave from the harsh summer heat.

    “So, uh, Parker….”

    “Yeah?”

    “Are — are you going to the big Canada Day party at Charlie’s next Saturday?”

    “Oh… I don’t know. Probably not?”

    “Aw, c’mon! It’ll be a lot of fun. It’s the big 150, right? You gotta show off that Canada Pride.”

    “I don’t know, Brandon….”

    “I’d love it if you were there,” he said with a smile as he let the caterpillar crawl into his other hand.

    Parker pulled in her lips as she thought it over. “I think me and Renae are probably doing something….”

    “Well, Renae is invited, too. Obviously.”

    “Obviously,” she mumbled.

    Brandon carefully placed the caterpillar down in some nearby grass and then wiped his hands off on his black jeans. He turned back to Parker and leaned against the support beam he had just vandalized.

    “It’d seriously be awesome if you came, Parker,” he said. “You and I never really get to hang out much outside of school. And pretty soon we’ll all be graduating and then, what? Maybe you’ll look back on this in deep regret.” He chuckled before doing his best Parker-impression. “’Oh man, I sure wish I had gone to that party with Brandon. Now I have no choice but to just waste away, an unfulfilled woman, always wondering what if’ you’ll say.”

    “You’re such a dork,” she said.

    “I’m tellin’ you. It’ll be fun, I promise.”

    Parker nodded slowly. “Okay,” she said.

    Brandon perked up. “Okay?”

    She let out a small laugh. “I’ll seriously think about it, okay? I’ll talk to Renae.”

    He beamed. “Alright! I’ll hold you to that.”

    She chuckled. “I better get going.” She gave him a quick wave and headed under the bridge and down the street.

    “I’ll see you at the party!” Brandon called after her.

    “Whatever,” she replied playfully.

    Brandon grinned as he watched her walk away. After she had gone, he pressed play on his tape player. Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” blared in his ears as he took out his knife and began digging it into the metal once more.

    D - DESPAIR

    Frank Moll had been parked outside the BC Liquor Store for hours. He gripped the steering wheel hard with his large and calloused hands and rested his forehead against the top of the wheel. In the passenger’s seat sat two bottles of scotch… and his divorce papers — finalized. On the radio some pop hit about love that Frank didn’t recognize was playing loudly. His fingers tightened and he pressed his forehead against the wheel even harder, eyes closed tight. Was this what his life had amounted to? Just… this?

    A deep anger formed inside of him until it felt like he was to overflow, but he never let it out. Just gripped the wheel tighter and tighter. He thought about what it would be like to bang his head against the wheel. To punch his fists through the windows. To turn the ignition on and ram his car into the side of the building, ending his and maybe some others’ lives, just like that.

    Instead, he grabbed one of the bottles of scotch and took a big swig. And then another. And another. He ran his hand through his thinning salt and pepper hair and let out a deep groan. The anger was pushed down, down, deep inside him, never being probably dealt with. It turned into a lump, a frustration, a feeling of immense discomfort that filled his veins, and then, it became pain. It was a pain he was never taught how to deal with. All his life he was told what a real man should do, should be. Don’t feel. Get a wife, a house, a real job. It was all just bullshit. He felt he had nothing now but he had no idea how to reach out, how to ask for help, because no one ever taught him how.

    Frank Moll was utterly alone.

    He let his head fall and hit the steering wheel. In a way he welcomed the small throb in his forehead that came with it. It made him feel almost alive, for a brief moment. Frank sighed and peered up just over the wheel as two teenage girls walked by. One Native and the other white. The white girl had long blonde hair that whipped with the wind. Her lips were a stark bright red. She was wearing a wet white t-shirt that revealed a red bikini top underneath and shorts that barely begun to go down her thighs. She stood out as an incredible beauty, especially next to her chubby, overweight friend who was wearing jeans in near forty degree weather. In their hands were a couple of plastic shopping bags with Canadian flags visible through the thin lining.

    Frank gripped the wheel as he watched them animatedly talk amongst themselves as they walked up the street.

    And then, he turned on the ignition.

    A - ASPHYXIATION

    Charlie felt like he couldn’t breathe.

    The party that Brandon had talked him into throwing was just days away now and his anxiety was going through the roof. While he had gone to a lot of the parties that the other members of the lacrosse team had thrown, he had never hosted one himself. But when his parents announced they were going on a trip to Quebec for a month, Brandon was quick to try and convince him. C’mon, man. It’s our last summer as high school students, he’d say. It’s, like, a rite of passage to throw a party. What about Canada Pride, eh? We gotta start our final year off right. And so on, and so on until Charlie had no choice but to relent. Perhaps he had even started to believe it himself, but with Canada Day looming ever close the false sense of security he had began to melt away.

    What if his teammates think his party sucks? Or what if the party got out of hand? What if something got broken? What if the entire place gets trashed? What if the cops are called and his parents find? What if his parents came home early? What if the guests do something awful to each other, like fight or worse? What if they get arrested for underage drinking or public disturbance or… something horrible he doesn’t even know about? What if, what if, what if.

    It was all just… a lot.

    Brandon lugged speakers passed him on the couch. He dropped them down with a thud, knocking the nearby end-table off its legs. Charlie’s stomach lurched and he shot Brandon a worried, uneasy look, which was promptly dismissed with a smile. After picking the table off the floor, Brandon gestured to it exaggeratedly as if to say, look good as new, even as the table’s previous contents lay strewn about the floor.

    Charlie sighed. He clenched his fists tight, then flexed the muscles in his forearms, his arms, and up by his shoulders. Held them tight and wound up like that for a moment and then relaxed them one by one. Fists, forearms, arms, shoulders. Tight. Shoulders, arms, forearms, fists. Slack. Over and over.

    “Man, are you still worried about this?” Brandon asked, leaning against the speaker. “It’s going to be great. You need to relax. Have a beer, or something.”

    Charlie held one of his fists in his other hand. “I don’t want a beer.”

    Brandon stood up a bit. “Well, just… try to chill a bit. Everything’s going to be fine.”

    “Brandon….” He took a breathe before looking up at his best friend. “Do we really have to do this?”

    Brandon softened. He stepped away from the speakers and party supplies and sat down next to Charlie on the couch, their legs touching. “What’s going on, Charlie?” he asked as he watched Charlie clench and unclench his fist.

    “I just… do we have to?”

    “Look,” Brandon began, “if you really don’t want to we don’t have to. I just worry sometimes, yknow? That like… if I didn’t push you you would never really step outside of your comfort zone, and that’s not a way to live, man. You’re the only one on the team who hasn’t thrown one of these things before, right? And, like, time is running out to do it, yknow? We’re almost done with school. Do you really want to finish high school and look back on this past year with regrets? Or do you wanna go out strong and do shit that scares you and actually make some memories?”

    He turned closer to Charlie.

    “I know it’s tough, dude. But all the good things are.” He wrapped an arm around Charlie and brought him close against him, giving him a little squeeze. “And I’m going to be there by your side the whole time, man. It’ll be okay. You know what, it’s going to be even better than okay. It’s going to be great. Everything is going to work out and you’re going to have a good time and everyone will love the party and love you. Hell, you might even get laid. Talk about a memory, eh? I’ll totally wing man you.”

    Charlie felt a small heat rise inside himself. He couldn’t help but smile in Brandon’s arms. Maybe he was right.

    “Okay,” Charlie said.

    “Alright!” Brandon said bringing him even closer against his side. “Just you wait. It’s going to be great, man. A night to f*cking remember.”

    Right, Charlie told himself, it’s going to be great.

    It’s going to be great.

    D - DETERMINATION

    Parker and Renae floated on individual air mattresses in Renae’s pool. They had an unspoken game of trying to hold a kiss as long as possible before the water pulled them away from each other. Eventually the water would bring them back together, and then, they would kiss once more. Every time, Parker couldn’t help but smile into Renae’s lips. They always smelled like chlorine and summer, standing out crimson against the water’s cerulean backdrop. As they drifted away, Parker would watch her on the other side of the pool — her heart-shaped sunglasses hiding away the eyes behind them. She loved those glasses, but frequently wondered what it would be like if they were gone, if she could see into Renae’s eyes right before and after they kissed. Would she finally have some clue as to how Renae really felt?

    It was the thought she kept coming back to over and over again as Canada Day loomed. Was this all just a game to Renae — a way to pass the time — or was there something more between them? Something that could actually become real and known?

    “It’s almost our final year,” Parker said shortly after they had broken off another kiss.

    “Yeah?”

    “Do you know what you’re going to do after we graduate?” Parker let her fingers trail in the water.

    “Realistically? Go to a university that my parents deem correct for me. Come back here. Get some stupid job and a stupid husband and stupid kids. Waste away.” Renae said, her voice dripping sardonic. “Something like that.”

    “And ideally? Like, if you could have anything?”

    Renae went quiet for a moment. “I guess… Hm…. I don’t know, Parker.”

    “No, c’mon. Tell me. I promise I won’t laugh or anything.”

    She sighed. “I guess… I’d want to get out of this f*cking town. We’d go to the coast and get a small cozy place close to the beach. We’d have a shit ton of succulents and a cat and we’d spend our days down at the pier.” Renae started talking with her hands, animatedly accentuating her words more and more as she spoke. “I’d probably, like, y’know, bring my easel and paints down to the beach and work on my art. We’d sip citrus drinks all the time and listen to records. Every Saturday we’d like, make food and keep our front door open and have little get-togethers with the neighbours and anyone stopping by. And we’d never think about this bullshit place again.” Renae let her arms fall down to her side. She pulled in her lips for a moment, before letting out a small breath. “We’d be happy.”

    Parker didn’t know whether to smile or not. “That’s really pretty,” she said.

    “Yeah,” Renae replied. “It’s really pretty to think so.” She turned to face Parker, wet strands of hair cascading down her face. “But….”

    Parker moved off her mattress and into the water. She swam over to Renae. Her heart felt like it was trying to escape her as she brushed the strands of hair out of her face. She delicately took Renae’s heart-shaped glasses off and placed them up on her head. Her eyes seemed puffy and red, but Parker couldn’t tell if she was just imagining it. Renae’s blue eyes looked unwaveringly in her own as Parker placed her hand on her cheek.

    It wasn’t just a kiss.

    It was, simply, everything.

    And that night, as Parker replayed the events of the day over and over in her mind, she knew that she couldn’t wait any longer. She needed to do what she could to make that future a reality. It had ignited within her a deep determination. She was going to tell Renae the depths of her feelings, and for once, she was convinced they would be returned in kind. And on that coming Canada Day, they would officially be together, truly.

    A - ABYSS

    Renae felt outside herself. Everything around her had gone hazy and ill-defined. She felt blurry around the edges. In front of her, her parents sat at the table, their faces all red and contorted and angry. She could see their lips moving, she could almost feel the vibrations of their screams, but she heard nothing. It was like it was all happening to someone else, like she was just floating above herself, watching it all happen to this girl she hardly recognized.

    She never heard her parents come home. Didn’t know that they had seen it all. Seen Parker. Seen the kiss.

    And just like that, this pretty dream that almost felt tangible fell apart.

    So here she was, the reality of it all screaming in her face. Her parents looking at her with an all-too-real disgust, like they, too, didn’t even recognize her anymore. And she felt so utterly and incredibly lost, sinking further and further inside herself. A darkness seemed to swarm around her pushing her even deeper, snuffing out the light.

    And then suddenly, she stood up from the table. Without a word she left the kitchen, left the house. She could hear her parents calling out to her, demanding her return, but she didn’t listen. She went straight to the pool and dived in, not caring about getting her phone or her clothes drenched. Not caring about anything at all.

    Her heart-shaped sunglasses sank to the bottom of the pool, and she along with them.

    Falling… falling… falling.

    Renae’s back landed softly against the bottom. Outside the water she could see the distorted figures of her parents watching, waiting. She knew once she reemerged that there was no going back to before the kiss. So she lay there in the shadow of the pool’s edge as long as she could — as long as her breath would hold out — before facing the harsh light once more.

    Y - YEARNING

    When Parker arrived at Renae’s house the next day she immediately knew that something we wrong. She could feel it in the air even though she didn’t know why or how. Even though she had come there determined to tell Renae everything and to ask her to officially be together, the closer she actually got to Renae, the more a sick feeling began to overwhelm her.

    She found Renae outside the back. Renae rested against the closed hot-tub on the deck. Her heart-shaped sunglasses hid her eyes as she looked out toward the water of the pool. A thin trail of smoke curled from the tip of the cigarette lazily held between her fingers. As Parker approached, Renae turned to her before quickly looking away once more. She took a drag of the cigarette and released the smoke slowly and watched as it swirled and dispersed into the air above.

    “I — uh — I wanted to talk to you about something,” Parker began. “After that kiss yesterday, I’ve been thinking—”

    “We can’t.” Renae said.

    “What?” Parker felt a lump in her throat. “We can’t what? What’s wrong?”

    Renae opened and closed her mouth a few times, as if trying to form the words. She took another drag before finally speaking. “We have to stop pretending,” she said. “Stop… Playing Lesbian or whatever.”

    “What are you talking about? What happened, Renae? Why are you do—”

    “We’re not gay, Parker! We can’t keep doing this, okay?! It’s f*cked.”

    “Renae.”

    “It’s our last year. We need boyfriends. We need to be normal. We need to stop f*cking pretending that there’s anything else out there for us. There’s just us and this f*cking shitty town, don’t you get that? And we need to make the most of it now.”

    Renae turned to Parker. “Brandon or Charlie?”

    Parker shook her head. “What?”

    “Their Canada Day party on Saturday. I’ll take whoever you don’t pick, okay? We’ll go out with them, we’ll drink and party and be normal f*cking people.” She wrapped an arm around her stomach as she brought the cigarette back up to her lips. “So, Brandon or Charlie — who would you rather sleep with?”

    “What are you—”

    “I can’t afford any regrets.” Renae took one last drag before flicking the cigarette butt into the pool. She stood up and watched it drift across the water. “This is how it has to be, Parker. Don’t make this anymore difficult.”

    She walked toward the door heading back inside her house. Above, in the second story window she could see her parents watching them through the curtains. Renae clenched her fists, the nails digging into her palms. At the doorway she stopped, her back to Parker.

    “Come to my house on Friday so we can get ready for the party,” she said before heading inside.

    Parker’s hands were shaking as she knelt down on the deck. She kept telling herself not to cry, not to let her feelings out. In the water of the pool she could see her faint reflection and she stared at it for a long time. She couldn’t even recognize herself, her face and heart so immensely pained. But she pushed it down, deeper and deeper within herself. It was foolish to believe in something so pretty. This was the reality.

    She swiped at her reflection in the water, letting the ripples and waves distort it completely, before she got back up to her feet and started to head back home to prepare.

    Renae’s right, Parker told herself.

    It’s time to stop pretending.
    Last edited by Audo; September 12, 2017 at 05:48 PM.

  3. #18
    Here Comes a Thought Dandelion's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Canada Day" - NEW STORY - [the fragmental collective]

    Wow. That was so powerful, and had probably the best flow out of any of your stories. I'm NOT SURPRISED that things ended on a sad note, but it's not the end

  4. #19
    next year will be new again Audo's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Canada Day" + "Mixed" - NEW STORIES - [the fragmental collective]

    For the Demyx Award, I thought I would finally write this story idea I've had for a looooong time but never got anywhere close to being finished. Since the award is all about being music-related I thought I'd do something like a songfic sorta. Basically the idea is that a character gives another character a mixed CD and as the character listens to the mix the songs remind him of things that happened in their past. I've included links to each of the tracks if you're curious to hear the song that inspired the section.

    This piece gave me a lot of trouble and I'm still not sure how I feel about it so please let me know how /you/ felt lol.
    Even though it's really rough, I hope people like it.



    mixed.
    PROMPT: DEMYX AWARD
    CONTENT WARNING: HOMOPHOBIA

    TRACK 01
    I WILL POSSESS YOUR HEART - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE

    Gaberiel tried to forget last summer. Things with Theo returned to normal, returned to homemade vegan fries and riffing on shitty horror B-movies where anyone with a skin tone remotely like Gaberiel's seemed to die first, without fail. They finally picked up their playthrough of Mass Effect again. He liked this. He liked feeling stuck. The future wasn't a concern when he was around Theo. There would always be more movies, more videogames, more books. Being with his best friend meant a blissful sort of ignorance. The past didn't matter, he told himself. Bullshit was all it was.

    "I made you a mix," Theo said as they watched the credits roll on another fantastically terrible movie. This one involved shape-shifting aliens that harvested humans.

    "Like a mixed tape?" Gabe replied. "That's pretty gay, man."

    Sometimes though, it gave him pause. He became conscious of his and Theo's actions since they reconciled. Thought about how close they sat, how their skin would sometimes touch, how a gaze would linger a little too long. Last thing Gaberiel wanted was to lead Theo on, give him the wrong idea. He ain't like that. You share one drunken kiss and suddenly every smile is an invitation.

    "A mixed CD." Theo dropped the mix onto Gabe's lap. "I'm going home."

    "Want me to come with?"

    Theo opened the bedroom door. "Like walk me home?" He didn't turn around. "That's pretty gay, man." The door closed quiet behind him.

    Gabe didn't know whether to laugh or not. He picked up the CD and turned it over. It was a simple CD-R with a title written in black Sharpie. "I made this for you," it said. And then, underneath, "Have sex with me?"

    Clearly, he had failed.

    TRACK 02
    SOME NIGHTS - FUN.

    Things had finally begun to smooth out after the summer. Theo and Gabe were talking again, finally, but there existed a rift between them. Something had changed, even if neither of them would talk about it. They could feel it though in the way that pauses lingered a little too long. Smiles seemed a little too forced. Laughter a little too hollow. Gabe felt foolish for thinking he could ever pretend that nothing had ever occurred, but he had. He imagined them brushing past the incident with the same sense of levity he had known them for. And yet...

    They sat in the bakery section of one of their local grocery stores. Neither of them had said anything for a good five minutes. The rare times they did speak the other would follow only with a clipped one word remark and then the silence would return again. Never before had he struggled this much with talking to his best friend, not even before they became friends in the first place. What if there really was no moving past this?

    Gabe thought about calling it and going home, but he gave himself until the end of his coffee. He looked up from the pitch black brew to catch Theo looking off at a stockboy in the distance. The stockboy had messy dirty-blond hair and a fit frame. He seemed to be humming to himself as he put away boxes, his head bopping here and there.

    "Think he's hot?" Gabe asked. He hoped that it would come off as playful, as showing that the summer hadn't bothered him, that he was past it, but it just came out dry and forced, even more so than all his other attempts at conversation that day.

    Theo mumbled something under his breath. Yeah, maybe.

    "Dare you to go flirt with him."

    "Don't be an idiot."

    "C'mon."

    They used to do this all the time. Back when it was girls.

    "Fine," Theo said. He slumped back in his chair and shot Gabe a pissed off look. "What do you want me to say?"

    "Ask him where the condoms are," he said. "And when he asks you what kind you're looking for, tell him 'whatever kind you use'."

    Theo shook his head, a hint of a smile in the corner of his lips. "You're an idiot, you know that?"

    They got up from their table. Gabe hung back as he watched Theo do exactly what they had discussed. He was prepared to intervene if the stockboy reacted poorly to Theo hitting on him, but to his complete surprise the boy smirked and grabbed a box of condoms from the shelf. Theo and the boy disappeared into the backroom. The doors swung closed behind them.

    Gabe stood there for a moment and watched the doors. He couldn't see anything. Couldn't hear anything. He kept searching for some sign of what was happening, but eventually turned away with nothing.

    He walked back to his table by the window and watched customers come and go. Occasionally, he'd look over his shoulder at the door to the backroom, but it remained still. An odd feeling formed inside him that he didn't know what to do with. His reflection in the black of his coffee stared back at him.

    Eventually he finished his coffee -- the liquid cold and acrid against his tongue -- set the empty mug down on the table, and left the store.

    TRACK 03
    US - REGINA SPEKTOR

    Before. Spring was finally coming back to Vesperia. The grass was still ugly and dead in most parts, but on the hill overlooking the town green started to show here and there. This was their spot for as long as Gabe could remember. They'd come up here and just sit and talk. That was why Gabe was there. Beside him, where Theo usually sat on the bench, was the lacrosse trophy he won at the recent competition. His name was on it and everything.

    Theo finally arrived. He took the trophy up from his spot and placed it in Gabe's lap gently. "Congrats," he said.

    "Thanks," Gabe mumbled back. He pressed his thumb against the name plate at the bottom, smudging the plaque with the oils in his fingertips. Blurred his name out as well as he could before setting the trophy down at the ground by his feet.

    "What's eating you?"

    Gabe shook his head. He gingerly pressed his foot against the trophy, rocking it back and forth in the dirt. The trophy collapsed, the faux gold finish becoming dusty and opaque. Theo's eyes narrowed, concerned, but said nothing. The air was dry around them.

    "It's just... is this all I'm going to amount to? This town? This trophy?"

    "It doesn't have to be."

    Gabe scoffed. "My dad wants me to stay behind once we graduate this summer. Wants me to help run the business. I don't really have a choice here."

    Gabe slammed his foot against the trophy, breaking one of the columns. He brought his foot down again, smashing the figurine at the top. And again. And again. He grabbed the pieces and hiked them off the hill, watching them bounce and break and tumble down the cliff side until they were out of view. In the distance, he could see the town, unaffected.

    "Feel any better?" Theo asked after a moment.

    "No," he replied. "Not really."

    TRACK 04
    SUMMERTIME CLOTHES - ANIMAL COLLECTIVE

    Months later the summer heat drove them to the nighttime streets. Armed with a bottle of gin between the two of them, they walked down the middle of the main street road heading toward the beach, passing the bottle between them. They had long discarded their shirts back at Gabe's. Even without the sun they had found the fabric to cling to their skin. So they did without them. They outstretched their arms as they tried to walk along the driving lines, trying and failing to stay straight.

    They reached the beach down the hill at the end of the street. The moon reflected in the water and the mosquitoes bit at them relentlessly. Neither seemed to notice. They dropped down into the sand with a thud, the smell of driftwood thick in the air, joined by their laughter. They huddled close even though they were both too warm. Theo stuck the bottle of gin into the sand like a sword and they both laughed far too hard.

    The laughter died down, replaced with hushed whispers barely heard over the lapping waves. What was said that night felt lost among the water, but the feeling stayed strong even now. A warmth, a feeling of home, of comfort. Peace, maybe. Like they could forget this shitty town and its shitty future completely.

    They reached for the bottle at the same time.

    Theo's hand on top of Gabe's. Theo's lips on top of Gabe's.

    Everything smelled like harsh pine.

    TRACK 05 WHERE WE BELONG - PASSION PIT

    The afternoon before the kiss Gabe sat on the bench overlooking Vesperia. He gripped his hair in his hands and tried to force the tears and frustration building inside him away. His throat felt coarse and pained. Crumpled up on the ground near his feet was a rejection letter for one of the universities he had applied to. He knew it was a long shot, but some part of him hoped that if he had gotten in, and maybe had gotten a scholarship or a grant or... something, that he could convince his parents to let him go. To let him leave.

    Theo came up beside him and sat down on the bench. He picked up the letter off the ground and smoothed it out on his thigh. Gabe tried to regain composure as his friend read the letter, but the lump in his throat wouldn't budge.

    "You don't have to stay, you know," Theo said after a moment.

    "Of course I do," Gabe said after clearing his throat. He gestured to the letter. "Where else am I supposed to go?" His fists clenched. "This is where I belong. Where I'm supposed to be."

    "Gabe--"

    "It's fine, okay? Like, I never thought it would be any different." Gabe coughed. He scratched hard at the skin on his left arm, breaking it and starting to bleed. "I'm perfect for this place and this life. A shitty good-for-nothing for a shitty good-for-nothing town."

    "Gabe. I know you think you should stay, that you have to, that you owe it to your parents or some shit -- but you don't." Theo turned to him. "You're better than this town. Give up on this place. Find somewhere better."

    Gabe sighed. "I don't know. What about my dad, the business, the future, or whatever?"

    "What about them?" Theo got to his feet. He held out one of his hands. "Now, c'mon. Let's forget about this for now." He threw the letter off into the wind, letting it get carried out beyond the hills. "The world is ending," he said with a smile. "Let's get f*cking drunk."

    TRACK 06
    PASSION [KINGDOM ORCHESTRA VER.] - UTADA

    Gabe pulled away. He stared at Theo as his brain tried to process what had just happened.

    The kiss.

    Before even saying anything he pushed Theo back into the sand and stumbled up onto his own feet. Theo called out for him and Gabe could hear the desperation in his voice, but he didn't listen. He kept walking. Theo grabbed onto Gabe's wrist and tried to get him to stay but Gabe whipped around and punched Theo square in the face. Gabe felt his knuckles make contact with Theo's stubble, felt the skin tear away. His friend fell to the ground, the blood from his lip mixing with the sand.

    Theo got up to his feet and retaliated. His fist collided with Gabe's own face in turn, splitting his lip. Gabe tackled him to the ground, pinned him and punched him in the jaw, the cheek, the eye. Just, kept hitting him, over and over. Theo struggled beneath him before finally flipping him over and returning the favour, fresh blood dripping off him onto his best friend's face. He stopped as the sight registered in his mind and for a moment the two lay there: bloody, bruised and panting, sand and sweat mixing with the wounds.

    Gabe pushed him off and got to his feet. This time, Theo didn't call out for him, didn't reach out for him. He stopped fighting completely and lay there in the sand, staring up at the night sky, panting heavily. Gabe spat a wad of blood off to the side.

    "Stay the f*ck away from me, f*ggot," he growled, before turning on his heel, leaving Theo and the gin behind.

    TRACK 07
    DON'T GO - RAE MORRIS

    Days passed. Gabe tried to move on, tried to live a life without Theo, but the whole thing just felt rotten. He felt rotten. His bones and wounds still ached, of course, but it was more than that. It was the shit he did and the shit he said. It was living without his best friend. Everything just felt... emptier. Hollow. Like he was only half a person by himself. So much depended upon Theo, upon a best friend. Every morning he'd wake up and climb out of bed, only for it to feel like the ground had disappeared and there was nothing solid to stand on anymore. He'd have all these thoughts and no one to share them with, and soon, they'd vanish, as if he never thought or felt them at all.

    But what was he to do? How could he possibly take back everything he had done and said? It was his lowest moment, and he feared that it was an irreparable one. That was it. The end of everything. It's how it felt, anyway, as he lay there in bed, staring blankly up at the ceiling, at the black painted handprints he and Theo had decorated his bedroom with many many years ago. He feared he had ruined everything. His past, and his future.

    What would he even say to him if he could? He wasn't... like that. Wasn't like Theo. He couldn't give Theo what he wanted. But they still needed each other, didn't they? They were still best friends... weren't they? Or was this really it?

    No.

    Gabe couldn't let it end like this. Not without trying at least.


    Gabe began hiking up that familiar hill. He had called Theo and asked him to meet him there, that they needed to talk. A part of him worried that Theo would refuse, that Theo had already moved on with his life and left him behind, but as he got closer and closer to their spot atop the hill, he could make out his friend's silhouette already sitting there waiting for him. The truth was he still had no idea what he was going to say. He tried to imagine scenarios of how the conversation was going to go in his head as he walked up the hill, but nothing felt right. It frightened him that the entire thing was largely out of his control, and that he would just have to accept what the results would be.

    He reached their spot and could feel his heart beat wild. Theo was sitting right in front of him, his back to him, and it almost felt like he was seeing a ghost. Gabe almost hesitated, almost didn't want to face the reality of what would become of them, but he pressed on.

    "Theo...," he said quietly, still unsure of what to say, of how to express the deep regret inside him.

    Theo turned around to face him, and the very sight of him broke his heart. Of course Gabe knew that Theo would look rough, at least as rough as he himself did, but now he was witnessing it, the very real evidence of the very real pain he had caused him. Even days later Theo's face was still deeply bruised, his left eye and cheeks dark purple, almost black in colour. His lip was swollen and cut and bloody. If it weren't for those same pale green eyes looking back at him, there was a chance Gabe wouldn't have even recognized him. Gabe felt his lips tremble. What had he done?

    Before he even knew what was happening, tears began to well up. His whole body shook as his heart thrashed inside him, as the tears fell from his face and onto the ground beneath him. Theo's eyes widened. It was the first time Gabe had ever cried in front of him. The first time he had ever cried in front of anyone, really, since he was a child. There were many times he felt like crying, felt that discomfort form in his throat, felt the way his heart ached, but he never could let himself actually go through with it. But here he was, sobbing, at the very sight of the pain he had caused to his best friend.

    "I'm sorry, Theo," he said through the tears, through the harsh, pained breaths. "I'm so f*cking sorry."

    He fell to his knees at the side of the bench, his head resting against Theo's hand. He kept saying it over and over again, not knowing what else there even was to say. Knowing, perhaps, that there was nothing he could say. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. But it would never undo what he did. It would never bring them back to Before. But he kept apologizing. Apologized for the way he reacted. For what he did. For what he said. Apologized for everything he could think of.

    Theo said nothing throughout this. He felt his friend's warm tears against his skin. Felt the way his body shook against him. Felt him beg for his forgiveness. But he couldn't bring himself to respond. A maelstrom of feelings was caught up between them. The memory of intense pain. The emptiness of being without the other. The irreversible actions. The love. It was all a tangled mess inside his heart.

    But there had to be a way forward, right?

    Theo put an arm around Gabe's shoulders and held him close.

    "It's okay," he finally said. "It's okay."

    TRACK 08
    THE CITY - PATRICK WOLF

    A couple weeks later, Gabe and Theo walked up the hill to their spot overlooking the town. The night air was chilly against their exposed skin. It felt like the weather had taken a drastic turn over the past few days, transitioning from summer to autumn harshly. The ridiculous overheated days became brisk and overcast without a moment's notice. Soon the leaves would begin to change, as the long road through the dead winter stretched out in front of them.

    Gabe had just gotten off a long shift working at his dad's automobile shop. He was still wearing his grease stained coveralls as they quietly climbed up the hill. In his hand was a four pack of beer that they had purchased at the liquor store at the base of the hill. Neither of them really spoke much as they made the trek up.

    When they reached their spot they both sat down on the bench and broke free one of the beers. They silently clinked their cans together before cracking them open with a loud hiss. Gabe took a deep gulp. He let his whole body slump as a groan escaped him. He had been working with his dad for about a week now and he could feel it draining him. The whole situation hung in the air between him and Theo. Many times Theo had tried to talk him into quitting, but he just couldn't. He had nothing to leave it for. Nowhere to go now. This was it.

    He knew it was maudlin to say, but it really began to feel like this shitty town would be his grave. Gabe took another swig of the beer. And another. Then let it go slack in his hands. Any minute now, he knew Theo would bring it up again. Quit. You're not happy. This is killing you.

    Glancing over at his friend, he could tell he was getting antsy. He barely touched his beer and was sitting there like a million thoughts were just about ready to burst. Theo scratched his cheek, only to wince. Their bruises were healing and had turned that sickly yellow, but a faint reminder of the pain still existed.

    Gabe sighed, and took another large swig of his beer

    "Gabe--"

    "Stop," he replied. "Just... I know what you're going to say, Theo. But we've done this."

    "Right...."

    "I have nowhere else to go," Gabe said, though mostly for himself.

    Theo got up off the bench and paced around in front of Gabe for a minute. He was clearly debating saying something in his head, and Gabe sat up in anticipation, for something felt different this time. After a while, Theo finally blurted it out.

    "Move with me," he said. Something in his eyes begged. "We can get out of this place together. We can... I don't know. Be happy?"

    Gabe looked at his best friend, looked at the longing and the hope in his pale green eyes. It hurt him to see it so plainly, this desperation. But it was a feeling he couldn't return. He knew he would just be leading Theo on if he were to accept, make it feel like he could give him something that he just didn't believe he could.

    "I... don't know if I can, Theo," he said it so softly, so carefully, as best as he could. Theo's shoulders slackened. He let out a small sigh as he sat back down beside him. "I wish I could," Gabe said.

    "Right," Theo replied. "It's just... there's more than this, you know? Like... there has to be more than this."

    Gabe nodded lightly. It was a nice thought, but as the days stacked on, and the nights got colder, he believed in it less and less. He finished off his beer, and immediately opened another one. The two of them sat quietly, drinking.

    "I wish you would let me love you," Theo finally said after a while. "Because, dude, I would f*cking love you."

    Gabe gave Theo a weak smile before turning to look at the lights of Vesperia in the distance, reflecting in the water of the lake. Glowing bright and harsh in the cold night. He zipped up his coveralls a little higher and held his free arm close to his body. Brought the can to his lips and finished what remained.

    "I know you would," he said.

    TRACK 09
    HOME - EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROES

    As Gaberiel listened to the second-to-last track on Theo's mix, he let his mind wander. Listening to the songs thus far had brought back to his mind so many memories, but now he had to think about the future. He thought about what it would be like to be with Theo. To leave Vesperia with Theo. What it would be like to say f*ck it, to everything. To this f*cking town. To his parents. To this life. They'd probably move out to the city. Some place on the coast where it's always warm. They'd forget about here, about the people trying to keep them down, about Vesperia. In some ways, it would be sad. But maybe that's the only way to live, with a little sadness.

    He pictured what it would be like to come home and for his best friend to be there. Someone he could share his life with, his thoughts with. Someone that made him feel like more than the sum of his parts. More than just his accomplishments, or where he came from, or what he did. Someone that made him feel More. It was a warm thought. A pretty thought. Too pretty, even.

    Even now there was still uncertainty in his heart. The last thing he wanted to do was to hurt Theo like he had. Theo and his friendship meant everything to Gabe. And the thought of wrecking it was almost too much to bear. How could he risk it, after everything they had been through? It was not an easy choice to make.

    Gabe still didn't know how he felt. He couldn't predict the future. There was nothing to say that it would work out. That they'd be any happier. That they'd live any fuller. But it was a possibility to have those things, and that felt like more than what he had now. It felt like a lifeline.

    A second chance.

    TRACK 10
    THE GREAT ESCAPE - WOODKID

    Gabe took off his headphones and pressed pause on Theo's mix. He ejected it from his computer and held the thin, flimsy disc in his hands. His thumb smudged the black Sharpie lettering until it was nothing but two dull grey marks on either side of the CD. Carefully he bent it in his hands, felt the material strain against the shape. It was so fragile. It was all so fragile.


    He found Theo sitting on the beach, right by the place where they kissed. The lake had begun to freeze over as winter was fast approaching. The water turned into hundreds of disc-shaped chunks of ice that floated along what water hadn't begun to freeze yet. It was a strange and beautiful sight, truth be told. It made it look like the lake was made of broken glass, ebbing and flowing. Theo had been watching it for who knows how long when Gabe approached. The sound of footprints in the sand caused him to turn around. His best friend looked up at him warily, unsure of what to expect. Gabe shot him a weak smile.

    "I made you a mix," Gabe said.

    "Isn't that a little gay?" Theo replied.

    "Well, I had some help."

    He handed Theo the mixed CD. His friend took it in his hands and read the front of the disc carefully before looking up at him with a wide grin. In the bottom most smudge, Gaberiel had written over Theo's previous message. An answer.

    "OK," it read.
    Last edited by Audo; September 27, 2017 at 06:39 PM. Reason: typos

  5. #20
    Here Comes a Thought Dandelion's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Canada Day" + "Mixed" - NEW STORIES - [the fragmental collective]

    You know, I was really worried that this was going to have a really sad ending, but SURPRISE, it was fairly happy! I liked this story from the onset, but aside from all the usual compliments, and my thoughts throughout as you sent me this bit-by-bit I have to say that I'm also really glad that you stuck with it, despite not caring for it all the time.

    I think that it, as a complete work, is excellent - and the last bits that I hadn't read yet were great, and not predictable. I'm happy with this one

  6. #21
    next year will be new again Audo's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Canada Day" + "Mixed" - NEW STORIES - [the fragmental collective]

    Quote Originally Posted by Dandelion View Post
    Wow. That was so powerful, and had probably the best flow out of any of your stories. I'm NOT SURPRISED that things ended on a sad note, but it's not the end
    Haha, yeah. Sad sad sad. It isn't the end, but, tbh, I don't really expect the game to be much happier lol.
    I'm really glad you liked the story though. I was worried the vignettes wouldn't really come together and would feel weird, but it's good to know that it still works as a whole. Of course a lot of it is just set-up but I'm glad people have been responding well to it. It gives me resolve to start work on the game sooner rather than later :3

    Quote Originally Posted by Dandelion View Post
    You know, I was really worried that this was going to have a really sad ending, but SURPRISE, it was fairly happy! I liked this story from the onset, but aside from all the usual compliments, and my thoughts throughout as you sent me this bit-by-bit I have to say that I'm also really glad that you stuck with it, despite not caring for it all the time.

    I think that it, as a complete work, is excellent - and the last bits that I hadn't read yet were great, and not predictable. I'm happy with this one
    SURPRISE~

    lol i liked the juxtaposition of these two comments in re: their endings. but yeah this one was actually a bit of a happier tale for me. HOW STRANGE.

    yeah I'm glad I stuck with it, too. I became more fond of it as I finished. I think for me it just felt kind of impenetrable at first, but the more I kept going the more it got a beating heart. For me, anyway. It's a bit of a silly premise, but my hope with it was that the silly premise would hit at a surprising deeper level. When I first came up with the idea I wanted to try and do away with being overly sentimental and stuff in the writing and try to pare it down. I don't think I quite fulfilled that goal, but I feel like the story expanded to where it needed to be to finally work for me. Thank you for reading it and commenting on it and encouraging me to keep going! I'm glad to be able to say it is complete and not have it's unfinished state nagging at me like a loose thread.

  7. #22
    Candy Cadet
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    Default Re: [the fragmental collective]

    Canada Day

    Say it isn't so! Say this isn't the end! I got hooked in deep and wasn't ready for the story to end right there! I got attached to Renae and Parker like glue. I love the individual characters we saw them interact with. My stomach briefly twisted in horror at the ignition being turned on by Frank. I thought for sure he'd do the unspeakable. And this instantly made me think a chain of reactions was set in motion. I have no idea if you plan on continuing this or not, but gosh, you have me at the edge of my seat.

    Mixed

    This not only moves me but makes me think hard about certain things in life. About second chances with someone I still care about. If there is forgiveness or a way forward. Anyways, I'm getting to caught up in the moment but, I really loved this. I loved the happy ending. I wasn't expecting it at all, but I enjoyed it so much. It gives me hope. Which probably sounds odd, huh? But yeah, this really sticks with me in a wonderful way. A story I won't be forgetting any time soon.

  8. #23
    next year will be new again Audo's Avatar
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    Default Re: [the fragmental collective]

    Quote Originally Posted by Undyne View Post
    Canada Day

    Say it isn't so! Say this isn't the end! I got hooked in deep and wasn't ready for the story to end right there! I got attached to Renae and Parker like glue. I love the individual characters we saw them interact with. My stomach briefly twisted in horror at the ignition being turned on by Frank. I thought for sure he'd do the unspeakable. And this instantly made me think a chain of reactions was set in motion. I have no idea if you plan on continuing this or not, but gosh, you have me at the edge of my seat.
    It's not the end! This short story is actually a prequel/prologue of sorts for the next game I'm going to make. Unfortunately it might be a long time before the game gets released :/
    I'm glad you enjoyed it though and we're hooked! It's really nice seeing people respond well to these characters as I was a little worried. It makes me more excited to work on the next chapter of their story :3

    Mixed

    This not only moves me but makes me think hard about certain things in life. About second chances with someone I still care about. If there is forgiveness or a way forward. Anyways, I'm getting to caught up in the moment but, I really loved this. I loved the happy ending. I wasn't expecting it at all, but I enjoyed it so much. It gives me hope. Which probably sounds odd, huh? But yeah, this really sticks with me in a wonderful way. A story I won't be forgetting any time soon.
    This is really great praise and thank you so much for it, it means a lot. Hearing how it impacted you... i don't know, it makes me happy to hear that it had that ability, you know? I'm glad it instilled some hope in you. It was a tough write, but I'm really glad I got through it, because I think it really ends in a right way and says something and I've grown fond of it. Maybe happy endings aren't so bad :p

  9. #24
    next year will be new again Audo's Avatar
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    Default [the fragmental collective]

    I'm back again with another collection of 101-word mini stories~

    For Christmas this year I'm trying to write a short story version of a novel idea my sister and I collabed on as a gift for her, but I was having some trouble with getting a feel for the story and characters so I thought this might be a good way of trying to do that. Basically there are 9 little 101-word drabbles, each focused on a different member of this group of kids that is the center of the novel. They aren't chronological or anything like that, but hopefully they will each give a little tease and feel for their story and character.

    the pf kids.
    PROMPT: 101 WORDS



    THE MAPLE BEAST.

    Tristan figured they were playing a prank on him -- some kinda hazing as the new member of their close-knit, baseball-obsessed circle -- when they first told him about it after he accidentally knocked a ball down the immense, practically square-shaped ravine-like pit. The Maple Beast, they said. It lived down there, in the maple forest growing up out of the bottom. It devoured warmth, futures, dreams, they said. It bled you out and carved your bones. And if you ever fell down there, they said, you'd never see the light again.

    He believed it now.

    PAST MEET FUTURE.

    Shane and Tristan climbed the long hill up past Delphine Street. The summer heat beat down harsh. Shane was careful not to push Tristan too fast or hurry ahead of him. He was patient as Tristan struggled to climb with labourious breaths. Whenever Tristan would remark that he was just too fat for this kinda shit, Shane softly shook his head and held out a hand to help him up.

    When they reached the top of the clay kills, Shane passed him a knife and Tristan carved his name among the other members' --

    truly one of them now.

    ROT13

    Pbql “Pbqrf” Fznyyf jnf raqyrffyl va ybir jvgu pbqrf naq pvcuref. Ur sbhaq gurz gb or pbzsbegvat, vafhyngvat. Jurarire uvf yvsr sryg n yvggyr gbb funxra, ur ergerngrq shegure naq shegure vagb pbqrf, vagb cnggreaf. Jura uvf zbz yrsg, sbe jrrxf ur bayl jebgr va Ivtarer Pvcuref. Jura uvf qnq jnf svefg qvntabfrq jvgu pnapre, ur jbexrq raqyrffyl ba znxvat uvf bja pelcgrk. Funar urycrq jvgu gur jbbq. Whyvn jvgu gur yrggrevat. Uvz naq Punfr oenvafgbezrq gur pyhrf uvf sngure jbhyq sbyybj gb penpx vg bapr va erzvffvba.

    Jura fhzzre raqrq gubhtu, ur sbhaq bhg rira pbqrf unq gurve yvzvgf.
    ARTIFICE

    During lunch hours, Erik would sneak away from the group to work on his art. He was just putting the finishing touches on the sculpture he was working on -- a Renaissance inspired statue of a man, missing his arms -- when the lunch bell rang and the other students in the art room quickly left. Once Erik was alone, he looked into the dull eyes of his sculpture. He traced the man's cheekbones with his fingers carefully.

    Erik leaned in close and wrapped his arms around the statue.

    In its masculine embrace, he began to tear up, and then, he cried.

    THE TREE THAT OWNS ITSELF

    Ava let her lit cigarillo hang loose in her hands as she read the plaque in front of her. Her phone buzzed, a call from her twin sister, but she declined. The Tree That Owns Itself. The property the tree was planted in was given to the tree itself, legally. Now it's impossible for anyone to tear it down or build over it.

    Autonomous. Recognized. In charge of its own destiny.

    She rolled her eyes; put out her cigarillo on the bark. Smiled.

    After a moment, the smile faded and she carefully wiped the ashes away.

    L'APPEL DU VIDE

    Pieces of the cliff's edge came loose and tumbled down towards the water as Zoey shuffled closer and closer. The wind whipped at the end of her 1950's vintage white dress, the fabric rippling in the wind. It stung the various cuts, bruises and wounds down her legs from playing ball and being the only member to refuse to wear jeans. In her hands, her cell, calling out for Ava only to be declined. She inched even closer to the precipice, stared down at the sharp rocks and waves below.

    All it would take -- one more step.

    TOUCH

    For Riley, her hands meant everything. Through sign language, it was the way she could speak clearly to other people. Sometimes she'd find herself hesitating before certain activities, knowing that using both her hands effectively muted her, kept her silent. But lately, more and more, as she found herself sitting across from Julia, she began to wonder what it would be like. To touch her. To hold her. To entwine their fingers together. Losing one way of speech but gaining a different kind. One even more intimate. Closer, and warm.

    To stop using words and to just...

    Feel it all.

    ANEMONE CANADENIS

    Julia and Chase were swimming in one of the more secluded lakes, hidden away in the bush. Over the past few weeks it had become something -- Their Spot. Neither of them really quite knew what to make of these feelings they had stumbled into with each other. Hardly anything planned, but rather, just the natural growth of what was already there. They hadn't even told the others about them yet.

    Julia watched Chase from the shore, smiling.

    He sat down beside her and gifted her a bunch of white wildflowers he had found nearby.

    They were happy, she thought.

    THE VOID

    Chase panted, eyes stinging. The forest around him swayed with the night breeze. Beneath him he could feel the blood leave his body. He brought his hand to his eyes. Crimson. Everywhere. Tears rolled down the side of his face. He thought to scream out, but nothing left his lips. The warmth was leaving his body, escaping, and so too did his thoughts, his feelings. His friends. His future. His hope. It all felt as if it was slipping through his fingers, barely tenable. He sunk farther and farther down into darkness.

    Soon, the Maple Beast would devour him.
    Last edited by Audo; November 25, 2017 at 11:37 PM.

  10. #25
    Here Comes a Thought Dandelion's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Canada Day" + "Mixed" - NEW STORIES - [the fragmental collective]

    The one about Codes was my favorite - but I love an origin story. I imagine the maple beast as giant thing of syrup with a mapleleaf face idk idk idk

  11. #26
    next year will be new again Audo's Avatar
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    Default [the fragmental collective]

    This one is sort of a continuation of the last story. Basically, me and my sister collabed on a novel idea. For Christmas this year part of my gift for her is a short story version of that idea. As a result it's kind of messy, being that a lot of it is obviously intended for a novel-length piece (such as the cast of 9 characters, many of whom arent really fleshed out in the piece just because of word constraints). But I'm hoping it at least gives a tease of what the full novel could be like. It's very very rough and I'm really looking for feedback on this one because, again, I want to give it as a gift.

    So please, please, please let me know what you think and any suggestions/feedback you have.


    we were younger.
    PROMPT: XMAS GIFT
    CONTENT WARNING: N/A
    WE WERE YOUNGER
    -FRAGMENTS OF A NOVEL-

    The summer between the seventh and eighth grade I was fat, lonely and new to Vesperia having just moved there a few weeks prior from the city. Well, I mean, I still am fat, but the lonely stranger thing was new for me at the time. Back in my old home I was hardly popular, but I always seemed to have friends. I had never been in a relationship but at the time it didn’t seem like a big deal. Moving to Vesperia though, I was suddenly very aware of just how alone one person could feel. We moved at the tail end of the school year so I hadn’t had any time to make friends. Hell, I didn’t even seem to have acquaintances yet. I was just the strange chubby kid, no one wanted anything to do with me. I don’t know what my parents were thinking. It was a small town — there was no hope for me there. By the time everyone was about to enter high school, they already had their friend groups sorted and locked down. All these little cliques and just… me orbiting around them like some overweight moon child. Of all the cliques though, theirs was the one that captivated me the most…

    Every day, didn’t matter if it was ridiculous hot out or pouring rain, a group of eight kids would play baseball together. They did it during recess, at lunch, and after school. Eventually someone would kick them off the field but instead of packing it up and going home, they’d just move to a different field. Now I knew next to nothing about baseball back then, but I knew as I watched the eight of them play, that I wanted to be with them. There was just something so… comfortable about them. Even though some of them were so different from the other members of their group, there was an ease to their interacting that I had never seen before. They knew each other, but more than just the friends I had growing up, it was something else, something deeper. You could see it in the way that they sometimes didn’t even speak to each other. They’d just give each other a look, and that was it. The truth was, I had never been understood like that by anyone in my life, and it pulled me to them, heart first.

    Like I said, I didn’t know shit about baseball, but the one thing I did know was that a team had nine players, and they were one short. I figured I could be their ninth man and just take up space in the outfield or something. It didn’t even really require me to be any good. The trouble was I was nobody to them. It’s not like they were just going to offer up a spot in their group to someone they didn’t even know existed. The only one of them I had even sort of interacted with before was Shane.

    Shane DeVon lived next door. As far as I could tell, he was the closest thing to a “leader” that the group had. The day we moved into our new house I saw him as we were unpacking boxes from the moving truck. He was watching us from the sidewalk. I didn’t really know what to make of him when I saw him standing there. He was wearing what looked like a vintage letterman jacket that was just slightly too big for him — a hand-me-down of some sort, I guessed — and a pastel pink baseball cap that stood out against his dark skin. His hands were tucked into the pockets of his jeans as he seemed to study us. Occasionally he’d tap the toe of his PF Fliers against the sidewalk as he stood there. I gave him a little wave, perhaps too eager, but he responded kindly with a nod, and then, a smirk. He headed inside his own house and that was that. Since then, whenever we crossed each other walking to and from school he would always nod my way, but that was the limit of our interactions, really.

    It was weird though. Even before we became friends I felt something toward him. Like some sort of magnetism pulling us together. They may have just been polite nods on the street, but even then it felt like something bigger was happening, that it was the beginning of some new destiny between us. Or, at least, that’s what I told myself at the time. Still, it would be weeks before I actually talked to him. Until then though, I’d watch him as he and his group of friends played ball. There was something so charismatic about him. The group would never claim to have an actual honest leader, but it was clear watching them that Shane naturally slotted into that role. And the others were happy to play along.

    Over the last few weeks of school heading into the summer, I tried to learn everything I could about their group from our other classmates. I didn’t really know how much of it all was truthful, but by the end of school I felt like I at least had a better grasp on who they all were — at the very least, what everyone else thought of them. Aside from Shane, there were seven other members of the group: Erik, Julia, Chase, Riley, Ava, Zoey, and Cody.

    Erik Holden was a thin pale boy most known for being an artist than for playing baseball. He was also the only exception to the general rule that the gang played ball every lunch time. He’d often be found in the art room working on his latest masterpiece. Somehow even his baseball clothes had paint on them. Before I talked to the group, he was probably the member that gave me the most hope that there might have been room for me among them as he didn’t exactly fit the ideal baseball player image either.

    Julia Baker was considered by many to be the prettiest girl in the school. She pretty much fit all the markers of “conventional” beauty standards — blonde, fair skinned, blue eyed. A lot of the guys in our grade seemed to be infatuated with her. Maybe even some of the girls, too.. If Julia noticed, she didn’t seem to care or pay them any attention though. Most of her time was spent focusing on ball and flowers. She was obsessed with plants and flowers and every summer would somehow find time to maintain a beautiful garden while juggling everything else. Frequently you could find flowers tucked into her baseball cap.

    Chase Vickers came from a Japanese-African family. Aside from Shane, he was probably the other member most known for their charisma and good looks. Most everyone I talked to had nothing but good things to say about Chase. He was known most for being a genuinely good guy. If you ever asked for help or a favour, he was there for you even if you hardly knew him. Rumours had it that he and Julia had started dating, but whether or not there was any truth to that — or if any of the other members of the group knew yet — remained to be seen.

    Riley McKay was deaf. She only spoke through sign language, and the rest of the group had learned sign language to be able to communicate with her too. Frequently you’d see them all in class signing to each other, knowing that the teachers and other students had no idea what they were saying. In a way, it had almost become something like a secret language between them, even though for Riley it was really her main one. After Shane, she was easily the best player on the team and came at everything with a clear determination. I didn’t know her yet of course, but I got the sense that the group mattered the most for her.

    Ava, one of the Pascal Twins, was described by many of our classmates as a “Filipino Goth”. Whether or not she actually thought of herself as goth or not, I didn’t know. Most of it came from the way she dressed, almost always in all black, with dark eyeliner. She was one of the quieter members of the group, always seeming to be more interested in listening than talking. Some kids claimed she was something of a witch and would cast spells on people, but I really doubted it.

    Zoey, the other Pascal Twin, was nothing like her sister. While Ava was rough, Zoey was soft. She would always wear light coloured vintage dresses from the 50’s or some shit. She even insisted on wearing dresses while playing baseball. As a result her legs and knees were always covered in scratches, bruises and wounds, but she didn’t seem to mind at all, nor did she make any attempt to cover them up.

    Cody Smalls, or as everyone seemed to call him — “Codes” — was the last member of the group. He had dark skin and dense curly hair. He was obsessed with codes and ciphers. His baseball mitt was covered in coded messages and he similarly doodled messages in the margins of all of his notebooks. Often he could be found tapping morse code messages to the other members of the group. Not many people really seemed to “get” Codes, but they always seemed to.

    Suffice it to say that they were kind of an intimidating group. All the classmates had stories about them, rumours, things they understood, but none of them could really claim to be friends with any of them, exactly. They were primarily, first and foremost, only really friends with each other. And trying to break into that group seemed impossible.

    Honestly, if it weren’t for Shane probably none of this would have happened, because all the others thought I was just a lost cause.

    * * *

    After embarrassing myself in front of them one day after finally having worked up the courage to approach them, it seemed like it would be hopeless. I had slowly inched my way onto their field, thinking… I don’t even know — that they just wouldn’t notice me until one day they did? It wasn’t really well thought out. But it wasn’t long until a ball was knocked right towards me and that’s when I proved just how little I could play the game. Not only did I totally not catch it, but it also hit me hard and I toppled backwards. It was mortifying, but things only got worse when I tried to throw it back to them and illustrated painfully that, yeah, I didn’t even really know how to do that well either.

    I could hear them laugh at me as I ran back home completely ashamed, doomed to enter high school that fall with no friends whatsoever. I didn’t know what I was thinking, that some fat kid with no knowledge about sports whatsoever, could just easily slot in with them like it was nothing. It was so incredibly foolish of me, and as I lay in bed that night I was utterly convinced that that was it. I blew it.

    I don’t know why — maybe he felt the same weird destiny feelings that I did — but Shane became determined to get me into the group’s good graces. The next day I found him waiting for me on our front lawn. I didn’t really know what to expect when I approached him but he flashed me a grin and stood up. He gave me a new baseball mitt and one of his old baseball caps and told me to meet him after dinner the next few weeks at the baseball diamond they played at. I thought about declining, just… cutting my loses right then and there after having already made a fool out of myself, but Shane seemed to sense my hesitation before I even vocalized it. Said that if after we hung out for the next couple weeks that I still didn’t want to try and get in with everyone, that it’s okay, but he wouldn’t accept me giving up without trying first.

    And so, of course I agreed.


    That first day part of me thought maybe it was all just a cruel prank as I sat against the chain link fence of the baseball diamond. I went there straight after dinner and felt like I had been waiting for a long time already. Maybe he wasn’t serious at all. Maybe it was all just some weird joke to see if I would really humiliate myself even further. I was ready to call it and go home just when Shane finally arrived, running and carrying a ball and a bat.

    “Sorry,” he said, “my parents wouldn’t stop talking my ear off about high school and shit. I couldn’t get away until just now. Have you been here long?”

    “It’s okay,” I said, feeling a lot more at ease now that he was actually here. “I don’t know if you really want to still do this though… I’m just not go—”

    “Look — Tristan, right? — you’re right. You’re not good at this. But that isn’t the same thing as you never being able to be good at it, right? Like we all had to start somewhere, and for you, you’re starting tonight. And that’s okay. I’ll help you.”

    “I just don’t think—”

    “Well, stop thinking,” he said with a laugh. “I think that’s part of your problem. You think too much. Worry too much.”

    I was about to object when he tossed me the ball. I completely fumbled it and it hit the dirt. My cheeks reddened as I stared at the ball. Even a simple toss I couldn’t catch, what real hope did I have? Shane got close to me as he picked the ball off the ground when it became apparent that I was, well, thinking too much. He placed his hand on my shoulder and shook me lightly.

    “Stop thinking,” he said. “C’mon, we’ll try again.”

    And we did. Over and over again. He’d throw the ball and I’d usually drop it or fumble it. I’d try tossing it back to him, and while he always caught it, he’d usually after really reach and strain in order to do so. But he wouldn’t let us give up, just kept going, never reacting with exasperation or anything when I’d fail again and again, almost as if it wasn’t even registering to him that I was doing anything wrong.

    “Your dad never played catch with you or anything?” he said after a while. It wasn’t an accusatory or judging tone or anything like that. Just curious.

    “No,” I said, finally starting to get a bit of a better handle on catching the ball with my mitt. “He’s kinda like me. Has like an office job and stuff. More into computers than sports.”

    Shane nodded. “You and Codes would probably get along. He’s really into computers and codes and stuff.”

    I nodded, not wanting to reveal that I had already known that from school gossip. I simply threw the ball back to him, and miraculously, it was a decent throw.

    “Hey there you go,” he said with a grin. “That was really good. You’re getting it.”

    I blushed a little bit, but tried to pretend like I hadn’t. I wanted to ask why he was doing this, why he was being so nice to me, but at the same time I didn’t want to jinx it. It almost felt like a dream being with him, having a friend, and I didn’t want to wake up and find out it was nothing after all. So we just kept going, throwing the ball back and forth, back and forth, until the summer light began to fade completely and we had to call it a day.

    “Thanks,” I said on the walk home together.

    “For what?” he asked.

    “This.” I scratched at my wrist and avoided meeting his gaze. “I just… I don’t know. I moved here a few weeks ago and this is probably the first time I didn’t feel…” I sighed. “Just, thanks. Like, even if this was just a one-off or whatever, I’m glad it happened.”

    He put his hand against my chest, stopping me. “Dude,” he said, his expression serious. “It’s not a one-off, okay?”

    I nodded unconvincingly.

    “I’m serious.”

    “Okay,” I said.

    “You’re an okay guy, Tristan,” he said, removing his hand. “You just overthink things too much. Once you get out of your own head so much, you’ll be great.” He nodded back to his house. “I better go. But, I’ll see you tomorrow night, okay? ‘Til then, try thinking less,” he added with a smile.

    I chuckled. “Fine. I’ll try.”

    “Good night, Trist.”

    “Night, Shane.”

    I watched him head inside before I, too, went back home. That night, I couldn’t stop thinking about him and what tomorrow would be like.

    * * *

    The next few nights were spent practicing throwing and catching while Shane told me more about his life, his friends, and the rules to baseball. We became closer and closer and, thankfully, I also got better and better at the fundamentals. My throw was no longer piss poor and laughable and was, in fact, serviceable. I was finally starting to feel good about myself when Shane announced that we were going to move on from catching the ball and instead start working on hitting it. I was dreading it. He of course pointed out that the same could have been said about catching just a week ago and look at me now, so I did my best to keep my doubts and worries about using the bat at bay. However unsuccessful I probably was.

    I gripped the bat tight and stared down at Shane at the pitcher’s mound. He coiled his arm and shoulder and snapped the ball toward me. I gritted my teeth as a swung the bat and… missed. I tossed him the ball and we tried again. Another strike. And another. And another. I started sweating from the frustration and embarrassment, getting even more flustered and feeling like a failure.

    “Just keep your eye on the ball, okay?” Shane said as he got ready to pitch it again.

    Another strike.

    “I feel like that’s what I’m doing?” I shouted back. I started pulling at my clothes a bit, feeling self-conscious about the amount I was sweating and getting flustered. About how sad and pathetic I must look to him, another fat kid who sucked at sports. diddly.

    He wound up and threw again and I tried to watch the ball, tried to imagine me hitting it and succeeding, but I didn’t. I was shaking as I held the bat tighter and tighter, feeling like I was just second away from hurling it against the fence and giving up. Shane dropped his mitt on the ground and jog over to me. He put a hand on my shoulder and tried to calm me down.

    “I just don’t think I can do this,” I panted, trying to hold back what felt like the beginnings of tears — and then feeling ashamed that I was almost crying over something so silly.

    “You can, Trist,” he said. “You’ve gotten so much better since we started and it’s the same thing with this, okay? It’s hard at first, and it sucks, but you’ll keep at it and you will get better. You just gotta stop spiraling before that happens. You can’t give up before you have a chance to improve.”

    “I don’t get how, though,” I said exasperatedly. “I feel like I’m trying everything and I just keep coming up short. I try to watch the ball, I try to imagine me hitting it, I try and it just isn’t…”

    “That’s the problem, Trist,” he tapped me on the head with his knuckles lightly. “You’re just too much in your own head again. If you weren’t thinking so much you would have hit that ball. You worrying so much and thinking about what others think of you that it’s getting in between you and the game. Just let it go.” He picked the ball up from the ground and came back over to me. “I’m gonna throw it to you again and this time, I just want you to stop thinking. Stop worrying about how you lookin or even what I think. It’s just you and the ball okay? Got that?”

    “Okay,” I said, nodding more so for myself than him. “Okay.”

    He clasped his free hand around the side of my neck. “You got this,” he said firmly.

    I watched Shane run back to the pitcher’s mound, and pick up his glove. When I felt my cheeks burn a bit at the sight, I shook it off. I took a deep breath and let it all out slowly. In, out. He readied the pitch, and then, the ball was hurling toward me.

    Snap.

    The bat smashed the ball and sent it flying. I stood there in disbelief as I watched it fly far into the field. Shane was shouting and jumping, but I barely registered it until he collided into me and pulled me into a hug. I felt so warm as he wrapped his arms around me tight, his voice booming in my ears as he congratulated me, said I did it, said he was proud of me. I smiled the biggest grin since we moved here, maybe even since before then too. I dropped the bat and wrapped my arms around him, too.


    We kept practicing after that, and while not all my attempts at batting were as successful, we still left the diamond for the night feeling a sense of euphoria. I felt like I really could do this, I really could become one of them, and the feeling made me so happy. Still, it was me, which meant some part of me was also doubting that feeling, and as we walked back home, I knew I couldn’t hold it in any longer — I needed to know why Shane was being so nice to me, why he was taking all this time to help me get better. The question built up more and more as we got closer to home, even as the conversation swung between different completely unrelated topics.

    He was about to turn to head home when I grabbed his arm and stopped him.

    “What’s up?” he asked, detecting the change in my expression.

    “I have to ask….”

    “Yeah?”

    “Just… why are you being so nice to me?” Shane looked taken aback for a second. “Like, I was no one to you, right? Like just some fat new kid. Why go through all this trouble? Do you have a bet going on or something?”

    “This isn’t a bad teen movie, Trist. No I don’t have a bet going on.”

    “Then why? Why do all of this?”

    Shane tucked his hands into his pockets and leaned back. He took a deep breath as he organized his thought. “Okay,” he began. “First off, you’re not nothing to me, okay? Or no one, or whatever. You gotta stop doing that.”

    “Doing what?”

    “I don’t know, putting yourself down all the time. It’s like you’re trying to do it before anyone else would like that makes it better or something, but it’s not. And it’s not, like, accurate or anything either. You’re not nothing. I really hope you don’t believe that about yourself, Trist, because it’s bullshit. You’re something. And I’m glad we’re friends, okay?”

    “Okay,” I said. And yet, I couldn’t help myself — “But still, why reach out in the first place? Before you really knew anything about me?”

    Shane sighed. “Honestly? I haven’t put nearly as much thought into it as you no doubt have.” He let out a small laugh. “Like, really.”

    “But… there had to be something, right?”

    He shook his head. “I don’t know. I guess…. I love my friends. They mean everything to me, and it’s crazy to me that not everyone has that, that not everyone can say that. Like, me and my friends… I don’t know. It’s something else. It’s on another level, y’know? But since Luke moved away and with high school starting… I don’t know, I think everyone is kind of worried that it means we’re just going to drift apart. The others don’t say it very much, but you can tell that something is going on. And I don’t want that. I want to show them that, yknow, just because that stuff happened or is gonna happen doesn’t have to mean we’re gonna lose each other. That, maybe, we can become even better. Have nine players again and stuff.” He kicked at a rock by his feet. “When I saw you that day, something just… I don’t know. It’s gonna sound weird, but something just pulled me to you. Like destiny or some shit.” He sighed. “I just knew I wanted to know you and I wanted to help you. I’m sorry if that makes you feel weird or something.”

    I didn’t really know what to say.

    “It doesn’t make me feel weird.”

    “Look,” he said, “I didn’t really plan for this, but I’m glad it happened. I’m glad I got to know you, and so will the others once we show ‘em what you can do, right? Regardless of what you think, you’re a pretty great guy, and there’s a place for you with us, I know it. Is that alright?”

    “Yeah,” I said. “It’s alright.”

    Shane let out a breath of relief. “Good. Now all we gotta do is just keep practicing.”

    “You really think they’ll want me?”

    “Without a doubt.” He patted me on the shoulder. “We’ll show ‘em. I promise.”

    And somehow… he was right.

    * * *

    After another week or so of practicing together, Shane determined I was good enough to make a second attempt at impressing the gang. He brought me along to one of their games and while there was so push back from the team at this random newcomer being in their midst, once we played and they saw that I could hold my own now — that I had improved immensely — the push back pretty much died down completely. Some of them were more welcoming than others, but in general, they seemed willing to give me a shot going forward. And so we played together, pretty much as soon as we all had breakfast until we had to go home for dinner. It was then that I learned that they never really kept score, and their games never really ended. Every day they would just pick up where they last left off. The whole thing was more about the game and about being together than it was about competition or winners and losers. Knowing that made the whole environment a lot more welcoming for me as a newbie.

    A week or so into my new membership into the group something happened that shook me up a little though.

    We were playing ball like normal when Erik hit a home run with a loud crack of his bat. The ball soared through the air, going over the fence at the end of the field and down into one of the large, almost square-like ravine-style pits at the end of the road. Everyone immediately started booing him and hitting him with their baseball caps as he ran the bases, chuckling to himself. I was in the outfield watching this happen and the whole thing bewildered me.

    “Eric, you idiot. Now we can’t play,” Ava said.

    “Yeah, good job,” Chase chimed in.

    Riley signed something I didn’t pick up and the others laughed.

    Shane just shook his head, looking pretty disappointed that the game was over so early in the day since now we would have to wait to get another ball. I didn’t really get what the big deal was so I started walking over to the pit, exclaiming over my shoulder that they didn’t need to worry, that I could get the ball. I approached the edge of the pit and stared down. The whole thing was a wonder to me and I didn’t understand how it came to be made. The Pit was immense, practically square in shape and there were two on either side of the street. The bottom was filled with a small forest growing up and out of the pit, obscuring the depth almost completely. It made me uneasy just to look at it. Who knew what was down there, and the incline to the bottom was so steep it was practically a straight drop to the bottom with next to no hill. I was starting to question my ability to get down and out when I heard a chorus of screams and yells behind me. I turned to find the entire team running towards me at full speed, terrifying the shit out of me. I almost backed up and fell down into the pit.

    Shane grabbed me and pulled me back and we rolled onto the ground next to the pit. He looked so serious and almost afraid as he shuffled us farther away from it. “What are you doing, Trist?” He exclaimed. “Are you tryin to get yourself killed?”

    I stared up at them bewildered. “I just.. I thought that I could get the ball. You all were so upset—”

    “If you were thinking, you wouldn’t have thought that,” Zoey said.

    “Why not? What are you guys—”

    Riley signed something.

    “Yeah,” Codes replied, also signing as he talked. “It’s a death wish.”

    Shane got up onto his feet and I ignored his hand to help me up, worried about hearing him strain to try and lift me. I dusted off my jeans. I turned to them, desperately looking for something in their concerned faces to help clue me into what the hell they were talking about. But I couldn’t make sense of it at all.

    “It’s the Maple Beast, dude,” Chase said quietly.

    I blinked. The Maple Beast. They had to be pulling my leg. “Are you guys joking?” But they didn’t look like they were at all. All of them stared back at me with solemn expressions.

    “It lives down there,” Julia said. “In the maple forest growing up out of the bottom.”

    “It devours warmth, futures,” Erik said.

    “Dreams,” Zoey added.

    “It bleeds you out and carves your bones, man,” Shane said.

    “And if you ever fall down there…,” Ava said.

    Riley mimed cutting her throat.

    “You’ll never see the light again,” Chase finished.

    I turned to look back at the Pit, unable to see where the bottom began. It was true, there really was no way of knowing what was down there. If it weren’t for the way they looked, I probably never would have believed them. And yet, when I looked down at that impenetrable void, I felt unnerved. I asked them how they knew about it, and they said it was a local legend. Every few years a kid would go missing from the town, never to be found, but they all knew that it was the Maple Beast. They each regaled stories about people they knew who knew people who knew people that had disappeared. And the more they talked, never once breaking into a smile, I believed them more and more.

    It was even something I had noticed before when I was practicing with Shane. We always walked by the pit on our way home, and whenever we did, he would always get strangely quiet, like he was holding his breath until we were past. At the time I hadn’t really thought much of it, but now, knowing what was down there and how they all felt about it, I got it. Whatever it was that was down there, whether it really was The Maple Beast or something else entirely — whatever it was, it had all of them scared.

    And soon, I would feel it, too.

    * * *

    Most of the rest of summer went by without incident. As we continued to play baseball everyday, me and the rest of the gang got closer and closer. They warmed up to me and as I learned more about them all and interacted with them more I felt like I truly belonged. One day Shane and I went hiking up to the clay hills where I found that each member of the group had carved their name into the side of the mountain. It was overwhelming to look at all of this history between them. Just when I wondered if I’d ever really be a part of it, Shane handed me a knife and told me to carve my name in, too.

    It was perhaps the best summer I had ever really known at that point. I was no longer alone. I had friends. We were happy playing ball and being able to forget about the looming future just ahead what with highschool fast approaching. The Maple Beast became little more than a distant thought as we continued to get into trouble together, bonding in a unique camaraderie I had never known. I was even beginning to pick up the basics of sign language more and more which I knew Riley appreciated even if I still was super rusty. One particularly hot day we all went to one of the local pools where Eric surprised us all by putting the moves on the female lifeguard who promptly (rightly) slapped him and got us banned forever. It was stupid and silly. But something to remember.

    We were good. That’s why it didn’t even faze us when one of the rival baseball teams in the area challenged us to a game. Insults were thrown of course, but it never really got to us. It should come as no surprise really that we wiped the floor with them. I played the best I probably ever had up until that point that day and it felt really good when I hit my first homer and the team cheered me on. I don’t know how else to put it — I finally had somewhere I belonged and it was so much more than I ever imagined it could be.

    To celebrate us winning the game, Shane took us all to the local carnival that was in town — everything on him. It was something I hadn’t ever really experienced living in the city. So strange and small town. Some of the rides looked sketchy and rundown but no one seemed to care or mind. We were all to busy being distracted by the multi-coloured lights, the sound of the crowd, and the feeling that we were invincible.

    We had barely even begun to enjoy the festivities when Ava pulled us all aside. She opened her bag. “Something to mark the occasion,” she said as she pulled out a giant bottle of gin. The other kids beamed with so much excitement, at the thrill of doing something illegal, that we all crowded around to take large swigs of the harsh drink. I don’t even know why I did it, really, aside from just not wanting the feeling of the night to ever disappear. After every ride we’d all gather together and drink more, and soon it was starting to hit some of us. Even with me being careful not to take too large of drinks, I could feel it running through my veins. Everything felt both warm and kind of sickly, but I couldn’t care. I was with my friends. I was happy.

    A bunch of them wanted to go on the Gravitron but I knew instinctively it would be a bad idea, so while they did that, me, Shane, Chase, and Riley went to the haunted maze/house/mansion/ride together. None of really quite knew what to call it, but we were excited, believing our emotions to be on edge from the drink it would likely be even scarier than usual. Well, except for Riley, who pointed out that a lot of the scares in these kinds of things are about loud noises. We handed the ride operator our tickets and headed inside.

    It really wasn’t scary. It probably would have been for a bunch of kids for whom the ride seemed intended, but for us, even in our drunken state, it was more funny than anything. Still, as we walked through the darken corridors, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander. Something had been bugging me ever since it happened, and I don’t know what it was — maybe the alcohol — but now seemed like the time to bring it up. While Riley and Chase went on ahead, I grabbed Shane’s arm and led him back behind a corner in the ride, where we couldn’t be seen.

    “What’s up, Trist? Are you scared or something?” There was no malice in his voice when he said it, like he was genuinely concerned and for some reason I found my heart beating a little too fast.

    “No, it’s not that.”

    He leaned against the wall, gaze fixed on me intently. “Hey, I just want to say, you did really good in the game today.”

    My cheeks burned. “Thanks. It’s all because of you really. None of this would have happened.”

    Shane shook his head. “Don’t give me too much credit, dude. You were the one who hit the ball. This is all you. Celebrate.”

    I smiled. “Yeah” And before I could help myself, I added, “I’m really happy with you and the guys. This is… this is everything.”

    He laughed. “You’re tipsy aren’t you.”

    “No.” Yes. “But I’m serious. This summer has meant so much.”

    “Well, it’s not over yet. There’s lots to still look forward to,” he said. “Well, except going to the pools I guess, since Eric ruined that, haha.”

    I stood up. “I’ve been thinking about that lately…”

    “Are you bummed about it? I’m sorry for Eric dragging you into getting in trouble.”

    “No. It’s just… Hm.”

    “What?”

    “What he did… kissing that lifeguard…,” I shifted in my spot. “What… do you think it’s like?”

    Shane stood up. “Have you never been kissed Trist?”

    I looked down at my feet. “I mean, no one has ever wanted to—”

    Shane took my face in his hands. His brown eyes seemed clear and focused, right before he closed them and leaned in close. His lips met mine and I sunk into them. My heart blared as I felt his hands trail down my face, to my shoulders, to my back. He pulled me in tight against him. And then, he broke away. He caught my gaze and smiled.

    “There,” he said. “Now you’ve been kissed.”

    I had never felt such warmth before, such a pull to another person. Before I knew it, I leaned in to him and kissed him, too. I didn’t know what any of this meant, but I knew I would regret it forever if I didn’t. Just when I thought it was a mistake, I felt him kiss me back. And I swear in that moment, I had never felt so warm, so invincible, so…

    Alive.

    * * *

    I walked home by myself in the early morning, before the sun was even up. Chase’s house, while close to the carnival, was awhiles away from my place, but I didn’t mind it. My mind running over everything that had happened the night before on repeat, trying to make sense of it all. In truth, the long walk would only help things as I tried to figure out what to make of it, and what it meant for the future of us. Shane and I had kissed, and I couldn’t deny it anymore, I had real feelings for him. Being around him… these past few weeks… the summer was the best one I had ever had, and all I wanted was to be with him, and be near him, and to kiss him again. But I didn’t really know what that kiss meant. Did he feel the same way? Or was it just a pity kiss? Or a drunken kiss? In the morning after, before I left Chase’s house, Shane was acting like himself. Like nothing had even happened. Did he even remembered what we did? And if he did… how did he feel about it?

    I was torn. On one hand wanting to acknowledge these feelings and to have them returned, to be able to hold Shane’s hand and call him my boyfriend and to be happy together, finally. And on the other, scared that any acknowledgment might mean the end of everything, of us, of our group, of this new happiness I had entered in being one of them. I didn’t know how any of them would feel if they were to find out I was… like that, let alone if Shane was, too. We were all so close, but it would be naive to think that none of them would have a problem with it… with us.

    These thoughts, and ones like them, filled my mind as I journeyed home. I was so lost in them that I almost shocked myself when I refocused on my surroundings and found that I was standing next to the Pit. Something was different this time though, like that feeling in the air right before something is about to happen, and you can feel the tension, the feel that you were right up to the precipice about to descend into a new reality. I approached the edge of the Pit and stared down into the impenetrable darkness below long and hard. The trees were swaying in the breeze, rustling. I could hear the crunch of twigs and leaves. I tried to focus on the bottom, but my eyes met nothing. And then, it felt like the Nothing was staring back.

    I stood frozen in place, feeling almost like my heart was being pulled in. Destructive thoughts entered my mind, like what it would be like, to just… let go and fall in. To tumble down and discover, for real, what lay at the bottom. I shivered as I continued to watch the bottom for signs of life, all the while feeling like it was watching me for the same. Eventually, thankfully, I manged to pull myself away and quickly made my way home. I held tight to my sides as I thought about the Pit and what was waiting at its bottom, and, crucially, what it might mean for all of us. I tried to pull out of it, and focus back on the predicament ahead of me with Shane and the others, but something at the back of my mind kept nipping at me, forcing me to think back to the Pit. I told myself I was being silly, that maybe I was just hungover and mentally and emotionally exhausted. I put my worries away and climbed into bed and shut my eyes, tight.


    Nothing would prepare us for the end of that fateful summer though—

    when the Maple Beast would devour one of our own.
    Last edited by Audo; November 30, 2017 at 08:43 AM.

  12. #27
    Here Comes a Thought Dandelion's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Canada Day" + "Mixed" - NEW STORIES - [the fragmental collective]

    I really liked it, and definitely think it deserves to be a bigger thing.

    I did enjoy the progression, the pacing was excellent I mean. The dialogue was believable, which is so hard when you're doing a whole budding romance thing. I don't know anything about baseball, but it felt like I was learning with Tristan. That was so well done. I'm honestly kind of at a loss because I wish it'd been longer.

    I do have a couple of tiny notes, but I'll just talk about them over PM.

 

 
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