Fortnightly Writing Contest: Outlandish! (Open until April 18th)

Started by Mandle, Thu 04/04/2024 14:45:07

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Mandle

OUTLANDISH!


The theme of this round is somebody suddenly doing something so inappropriate, and possibly so unlike them, that it would be considered outrageous! Perhaps even they themselves are shocked at what they have done, or maybe it's part of a carefully orchestrated plan.

Anything goes, as long as it's outlandish!

Open until April 18th. Shock us!

Baron

Spoiler
I am shocked by this theme.  Simply shocked.  8-0
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Durinde

Working on something, hopefully will have it polished by the end of the weekend.

Mandle

Awesome! I wasn't going to write anything this time, as a non-entry I mean, but an idea came out of the blue, so I probably will.

Sinitrena

Warning: Death of children, none graphic but brutal.

Spoiler
Twelve Beads

Every day, she woke up at six. Every day, she showered and brushed her teeth. The water boiled while she put on her clothes, and dripped through the filter while she checked her e-mails. And every day, the coffee still stood on the kitchen table when she returned in the evening, untouched, cold, forgotten.

Every day, she rushed to the bus stop and every day, she missed the bus. But it drove in a wide circle to the next stop, and a hidden footpath through the gardens brought her right there, just in time. Coins were exchanged for a slip of paper and she slid into the seat right behind the driver. Every day. For twenty years.

Her head leaned against the glass of the window, red, tired eyes staring back at her from the pane. Trees and houses trickled past, then a river rushed as the bus drove quicker. And then it stopped, as it stopped every day, right at the next halt, right next to the house that had burned down so long ago.

The first day she took this bus, it had stood tall and proud in the morning sun. But that night it burned and the next morning blackened walls, wet still from the firemen's efforts, stared back at her. They had dried, over the days and over weeks, the soot had washed away some in the rain. Over months, a demolition crew had torn it down and over years, a new house was built in its stead. But she still saw the ruin when she looked through the window every morning, while more and more passengers filled the bus, until it started to move again with a heavy groan, as if it, too, remembered. When the bus turned at the next corner, her eyes stayed on the house, watching the children leave its front door to wait for another line.

Only when the last corner of the house had left her sight did she turn away. Twelve children died in the children's home that night, twelve beads on her necklace glided through her fingers, each one a name, a face, a story, a life.

Three stops more and she got up from her seat, standing at the door, waiting for the fourth. There was a coffee shop at the corner and if she walked fast, she just managed to get her coffee before it was time to clock in. Every morning, for twenty years, she rushed to the counter. For many years now, her usual was ready when it was her turn to order, and still every morning she ordered. The faces changed, the voices, even the standard greeting, but her order stayed the same. And then her steps slowed down. With the coffee in her hand, she could tell herself that she couldn't, shouldn't run, that it would spill, that it would stain. But the truth was that a different stain slowed her steps, one that could never be washed away, not with soap, not with bleach. Never. And nor should it.

The smile was genuine when she greeted her colleagues, the laughter real. Some days, the jokes were forced, the smiles more muted, when the day before had been stressful, when the day to come promised trouble, but so was life. So was life.

And life was her daily routine. The lives of children, broken, destroyed, hopeful, rescued. Probably. Maybe. Hopefully.

There were always notes from the night shift to go through, emergencies to follow up on, children and parents to interview, police reports to read, standard check-ups in foster homes. Her days were always different, and always the same. She preferred order, routine, but it was not always possible. Hardly ever. Never, really.

Over the years, the cases blurred in her mind, the stories mixed and intertwined. She had to take the sons of fathers she had taken away before, to place them in a better home. In a better home than she had placed their fathers in. She lost many, she saved a few.

After a couple of years, she had started a list, a list of successes, of failures, though many cases never made it to the list, the children disappearing to a new life as adults she never heard about, or to a new case-worker, or back to their families. After a while, she stopped adding new names to the list. But it still lay there, after twenty years, the paper wrinkled and discoloured, but still there. And sometimes she looked at it, at the first name, the very first name she added, even though the case was years old when she did.

She still remembered it, her first day, her first case. The little boy with the burned hand and the innocent smile. She remembered the black eye, the father yelling that the boy deserved it, that he was a little demon, that he needed to be stopped, that this was the only way. The mother had stood in the corner, looking from father to son, looking to her, pleading. To this day, she did not know what she pleaded for, what she wanted her to do.

They had come themselves, all three of them. And the father told her to take the boy away, that he was a monster, that he needed help. That he would kill, that the father didn't know how to stop him, how to stop him if not by hurting him, punishing him, screaming, hitting.

He screamed then, in her office, while the mother cried and the boy just smiled. She took him away, first to a different room, then to a temporary home, just for the night. And she called the police. She informed doctors to look at the boy's eye, psychologists to talk to him more in-depth than she could. She did what she had to do, what was expected of her. What was right.

And still she had to write his name in the failure column once she started her list. It was the only name written with shaking hands.

The memories always returned when she sat down at her desk in the morning. So often, she thought about throwing away the list, moved her manicured fingers to drag it from the table. But she never did. She sighed and took the next file. There was always one more, one more case, one more fate. For twenty years, the number never seemed to reduce.

She seldom ate lunch. And still every day for twenty years she went to the cafeteria and sat down next to her collogues. Every day she watched them eat, every day she talked with them about this and that, every day she drank her fourth or sixth coffee. Every day. Except today.

Except today.

Today, she couldn't move.

She had become so used to her routine that even the mistakes in it were part of it. But today she sat frozen at her desk, her heavy purse next to her.

Every day. But not today. Twenty years, but not today.

Today, this morning, she never woke, because she never slept. And the coffee burned her tongue when she drank. And she could have reached the bus if she wanted to. Just this once, just today. But today she took the footpath nonetheless, today she followed it through the fences between the backyards.

She was early and she knew she would catch her bus even if she didn't rush. And so she didn't. Her steps almost crawled to a stop. She got slower and slower the closer she came to one of the houses in the neighbourhood. The house of a new neighbour, one who had moved here less than a month ago. Children laughed there in the garden, running to the halt she tried to use every morning and never quite reached in time. There were two of them, brother and sister, none older than nine. The girl's arm had burned once. It was easy to notice in the summer.

She had seen the father a couple of times when she sprinted to her bus. He still had the same boyish face, the same innocent smile, the same burn marks on his hand. Others had been added over the years, one prominent at his ear. She still remembered the burned-out house where it occurred. If he turned his head just right, he looked disfigured, but usually he wore his hair over the ear and a baseball cap over his face.

Three houses had burned in the city in the last month, two cars suddenly burst into flames.

This morning, he was not there, and so her steps hastened again, and so she reached her bus just as out of breath as she always did. And so she looked at the once burned down house as she always did and the beads glided through her fingers as they always did.

But her purse felt heavy, too heavy, and her tongue hurt from the coffee burn. And so she did not go to the coffee shop and her usual waited for her on the counter, unclaimed, for the first time in twenty years.

Later, people would say that she acted different that day. That she threw away a piece of paper, that she charged her phone at her desk. That she didn't come to lunch.

And that she got off the bus a stop early this afternoon.

For the first time in twenty years, she took the footpath in the afternoon, clutching the purse to her chest. School had not let out yet, but the father was working in the garden, burning leaves in a small pit.

He looked up and nodded when she came closer and for a moment she kept walking. She walked past the garden. And then she stopped. And then she turned around.

Twelve children died in the fire, twelve beads dropped from her necklace now. Once, they were chained to her by the murderer she had sent to their home. Now, she let go of the chain as she slowly pulled the gun from her purse.

She was as methodical as in her daily routine. She pulled the trigger without hesitation. Then she got her phone from her purse, the phone she had made sure to charge. And she called the police herself. And then she waited.

Tomorrow, no coffee cools on the kitchen table and a seat on the bus stays empty. Forever.
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Baron

Spoiler
I'd just like to say that I'm not working on anything yet, but...

Spoiler
...but I also didn't want to spoil that fact for you if you didn't really want to know.   :P
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