Author Topic: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please! (RESULTS!)  (Read 1191 times)

JudasFm

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'Tis the season to travel!

At least, it is in this installment of:

The Fortnightly Writing Competition!

So, your character wants to go on a trip! Maybe to another planet, or into elven lands, or maybe just go on vacation somewhere. Or maybe they're trying to sneak past the border. Or maybe they're in charge of maintaining the border. Whichever it is, sooner or later they're going to run into the local equivalent of this phrase:


Yes, I have been watching Let's Plays of this game rather extensively, but this really is an area of worldbuilding that's seriously neglected. Got a spaceship? Sure, you can fly to a completely different planet and stay as long as you like, with no visible means of support or any proof that you aren't wanted for murder or hamster stealing or unprovoked weasel juggling! Want to cross the border from human lands into elven? Go right ahead!

Well, no more! This is where you guys come in. It can be fantasy, or sci-fi, or realistic, it can be past, present or future, but the central theme must be around gaining access to another place for some reason. It doesn't have to be paperwork in the sense of visas; proof of dragon-slaying or beating the border guards in single combat to earn your way in works too. Or sneaking across the border. Or protecting the border. So long as there's something stopping people from just waltzing in, whatever it is, you're good to go.

Best Character: What it says on the tin. Which character made you laugh, cry, feel or want to strangle them? (Hey, it's not Best-Loved Character!)
Best Story: Does it have a compelling plot? Do you pour a cup of coffee, only to forget all about it and let it go cold as you're swept up in the story?
Best Setting: Be it fantasy or fascism (or fascist fantasy) is the world convincing?
Best Writing: Who can turn a phrase the best? Who can bring readers to their knees with one well-chosen word?
Best (or Worst!) Bureaucracy: Most believable system, whether it's the familiar one of visas or something else entirely.

Deadline is Monday 28th January at 23:59! However, extensions may be granted to certain applicants ;)
« Last Edit: 03 Feb 2019, 03:13 by JudasFm »

Baron

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #1 on: 15 Jan 2019, 00:46 »
Can we have some transparency as to who these "certain applicants" might be?  Do we have to apply early to find out if we qualify?  ;)
« Last Edit: 15 Jan 2019, 00:58 by Baron »

JudasFm

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #2 on: 15 Jan 2019, 01:07 »
Can we have some transparency as to who these "certain applicants" might be?  Do we have to apply early to find out if we qualify?  ;)

All are treated equally in the Republic of the Squid! There shall be no favoritism or nepotism here, sir! (Bribes in excess of $1,000,000 are acceptable. Anything less shall be burned with contempt).

In other words, anyone who needs an extension and asks for one qualifies ;)

Ponch

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #3 on: 16 Jan 2019, 02:08 »
Do I need to file in triplicate? Or will a hastily scrawled note written in mustard on a napkin do? I don't have Baron's connections in high places. I don't have a fancy monocle. I'm just a simple cow (or I would be if I could ever be bothered to fix my avatar).
*

JudasFm

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #4 on: 16 Jan 2019, 02:27 »
Do I need to file in triplicate? Or will a hastily scrawled note written in mustard on a napkin do? I don't have Baron's connections in high places. I don't have a fancy monocle. I'm just a simple cow (or I would be if I could ever be bothered to fix my avatar).

Cows are granted special dispensation on the grounds of being yummy! Written notice of your request in purple ink upon a piece of cheese will suffice ;)

WHAM

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #5 on: 16 Jan 2019, 13:52 »
Damn, I should have written that dragon-story of mine from a while ago and applied it HERE instead!
Now I'll have to re-write it, but with unicorns instead!
My Fortnightly Writing Competition collected works
https://goo.gl/VUQbzU

Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #6 on: 17 Jan 2019, 21:14 »
Is there a lower-bound word limit for this kind of competition?

JudasFm

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #7 on: 18 Jan 2019, 14:03 »
No, there's no upper or lower word limit for this contest :)

Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #8 on: 18 Jan 2019, 14:48 »
No, there's no upper or lower word limit for this contest :)

Good, I always have something that I want to write but am scared by the sheer size of the task. I'll see if I can come up with something!

Mandle

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #9 on: 19 Jan 2019, 14:50 »
WAR AND PEACE AND MY MOTHER

It took me a very long time to decide if I could write all this down or not but you're reading this, and you already know that I did, so here it is:

When I was two-years-old, my mother threw me across the border to a soldier who did not take his hands off of his rifle to catch me. My head hitting the concrete is my earliest memory of pain.

My mother was screaming something at me but my ears were ringing. I couldn't understand a single word as she was dragged back and the line of soldiers on the other side closed ranks.

I think I remember seeing her hands splayed out between military shoulders but that might just be something I saw on a propaganda poster later on as...

I grew up on our side of the wall, raised by uncles and aunts more out of duty than love. No... that was a harsh thing to say. I doubt I would have done better raising a child thrust upon me.

On my third or fourth birthday I remember a cake and even presents of a kind.

On my seventh birthday there was a card, smuggled in at mortal risk, as I understand now, across the border by one of my cousins, down his pants.

I'm opening the drawer in my desk where I keep my most treasured things right now. I'm taking out that card so that I can write the words here exactly:

"Dearest Joseph, I don't even know if you remember me but I am your mother. I dream of the day when I can see you again and hold you in my arms. Know always that I am here loving you and hoping to one day see you again. I love you more than anything. Your mother, Helen."

I turned sixteen and entered compulsory military service.

While on an employment experience drill at a guard tower overseeing the wall the door opened and a distant cousin held his finger up to his lips.

From behind him a woman walked into the room. I didn't recognize her but, as you, reading this, will have already guessed, she was Helen, my mother.

Some introductions, hugs, awkwardness, crying, hugs, awkwardness, and then a desperate calm where the darting around of heads told me that time was short, later:

My mother handed me a book. It was Tolstoy's "War And Peace".

She told me to read it, and that she loved me, and then was almost carried out the door and was gone.

During the next thirty-odd years I read the book cover to cover, over and over.

Well, that would be a great line in a book, wouldn't it? Actually I read it twice in totality and then just kept it by my bed and opened it at random before going to sleep. And I did this less and less as time went...

By the time the wall opened up, kind of, I was in my late forties.

We were allowed passes to visit family on the other side but the process was long and expensive.

After saving up for months I got to see my mother again in a tiny room, across a table, with intimidating men with military shoulders on both sides.

Oh God, she looked so old.

She asked me if I had read the book and I told her that I had. She asked me if I knew why she had asked me to read the book and I told her that I did.

I saw the recognition of my lie in her eyes as they took her away.

The wall closed.

And then, just as suddenly, it opened again nine years later.

Weekly visits to relatives were now a thing again but without the bribes.

Oh God, she looked so old.

"The doctors say I'm dying but I don't believe them."

I asked her why she didn't believe them and, after a rant about them being government quacks who never have to fear unemployment, she told me that she always knew I would read "War and Peace" to her, cover to cover, before she would die.

So, every week I showed my papers, crossed the checkpoint, and read "War and Peace" to my mother across a table, a bit at a time.

Now, this is the point in my story where I have to get really honest, especially with myself.

After a while I could tell that she was not following the story from week to week as precisely as she thought she was.

So, I started to cheat. I started to repeat the story. At first I would go back just a few paragraphs and then I would read entire pages and then even chapters over again.

Sometimes she would catch me out doing this and I would skip back to the place we were really at, but this happened less and less as the disease ate away at her mind.

Fucking sue me. I didn't want the book to end.

My mother died before I had read her even a third of it.

On my last walk back out through the checkpoint I laid the book down as close to halfway across the border-line, painted in a thick white line across the asphalt, as I could.

I didn't lay it down with "War" on one side and "Peace" on the other.

I laid it down so that the line on the asphalt bisected the title top to bottom as best as I could judge.

And then I walked away.
 
« Last Edit: 19 Jan 2019, 15:49 by Mandle »

Sinitrena

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #10 on: 26 Jan 2019, 17:46 »
Dreaded Words
(For my Mother)


The girls‘ feet thumbed against the wooden board of the bench they were sitting on. Outside, the landscape rushed past, trees and fields, shining golden in the morning sun.

No matter how often they had made this journey, it was always exciting and boring at the same time. They were nine and six. Trains were fun, trips into the big city and then further to their mother‘s godmother were always hectic and there was always something new to see, something new to experience.

At the same time, this journey was boring. First leaving the house early in the morning, walking to the small train station of their village, then waiting for the train, then riding it, then waiting in the next city for their connection, then riding another train, changing it again... Hours, it were hours that they could not play, hours that they had to sit still and do nothing but staring out of the window.

Their mother wasn‘t in the mood to play games. She never was anymore when they traveled on this route. In years past, it was nothing special. Taking the train was normal, even something the older daughter had done alone a couple of times to go to the dentist in the next city. But trips to their grandmother became more and more disturbing over the years and less and less often. She lived in the big city and so part of the trip to her and to the godmother were the same.

Now, the mother held one daughter on each hand and pressed them close to herself wherever they went, holding them tight. She let go of them when they sat down but her eyes flicked from one to the other, then to the train tickets and the passport in her hand, the paper of both sweaty.

Her breath came steady, forcefully so. She concentrated on each one, projecting calmness where there was little. And the two girls sat silent and waited for the journey to be over for lightness returning to a trip that should be fun.

As always, the train stopped just a short distance from the border, allowing the VoPos to board it. They entered in pairs, one pair from each side of the train car, and went through the seats slowly and methodically.

“Papers, please!” the words were heard over and over again through the confined space of the train. At some places they stopped for a longer time, at some they asked more questions, sometimes, often, they looked through any and all bags.

And when they inevitably asked some people to stand up and come with them, the mother and two daughters knew, like everyone else, not to notice and not to react. Arresting people was a rather quiet affair.

The controls took a while. With every passing year and every passing month they became longer and longer, the wait more nerve-wrecking. And no matter how long this all took, the girls knew not to whine but wait silently like everyone else.

Finally, the VoPos came to their seats.

“Papers, please,” one of them said in the same bored, matter-of-fact tone they had heard about twenty times already that day.

“Of course.” The mother handed her passport over with a shy smile and the police officer inspected it silently and carefully for a while. He looked from the woman to the passport and back again, matched the photo with the face of the woman, the ages noted there with the two girls sitting next to their mother, checked the address and all other information strictly. Done with the passport, he started a not less thorough inspection of the train ticket, which told him that they were traveling to Potsdam and back again on the same day, crossing the border four times all in all in a single day.

Without comment he reached for the bag the mother had placed between herself and the older girl and started to rummage through it, grunting from time to time. It contained little, just the mother’s wallet and a new ball for the girls to play with.

After a while he turned to the younger girl. “So, where are you going?”

“We’re -” the mother began but a raised hand stopped her immediately.

“Where?”

“...auntie...” the girl answered shyly.

“We want to see Sanssouci!” the older one added.

He stared at the passport for a long time.

*


The morning was a little more hectic than usual and so he hardly noticed the rather odd request of his father’s. Take your chess set along. We can play a bit during the races.

They planned to go to the horse races and had set out in the motorcycle and side car, the boy clutching the expensive chess set on his lap. Only now as he held the case did it sink in that this made no sense and he looked over to his father, not quite asking a question he feared.

He paid more attention to his surroundings than he usually would. Usually, he just trusted his father to know where they were going, but now he noticed that they did not take the street to the north but to the south. The motorcycle rumbled over the uneven road and he felt his heart beat faster with every bump, as trees rushed past and the wind ruffled his hair.

The father’s heart was beating just as fast. He saw it in the face of his son, the knowledge that he realized that something was amiss and he could only hope that no-one else would notice.

After a while, the son’s voice sounded past the noises of motor and road. “Where are we going?”

He didn’t answer at first, not sure what he should say, not sure if he should reveal the truth. Or if the truth still needed revealing.

He took a couple of deep breaths, hoping that the son might think he hadn’t heard him. “To Potsdam,” he finally called over the airstream on the empty road, the only place he could be certain nobody would overhear, “and then with the train to West-Berlin.”

There was silence for a long time between them after that. It was the father who broke it again. “We leave the motorcycle behind and buy tickets back home. We get out earlier.”

The boy looked straight ahead, staring at the landscape and then at the chess set, his most valuable possession and all he would keep from his former life. It did not take long to sink in, the knowledge that this was not a spur of the moment decision or reversible in any way. He swallowed a couple of times, then he nodded, even though his father couldn’t see it.

The father hoped the boy wouldn’t ask more questions. The less he knew, the better. The less he knew, the less he could say at the wrong moment.

This time, it was the boy who broke the silence. “What about Mom? What about...?”

“We’ll meet them there,” the father interrupted him as fast as possible, too afraid that his words might turn out not to be true to allow himself to dwell long on the thought. Where the words true, were they an inadvertent lie?

The roads through the countryside were bad, potholes and puddles everywhere, but the journey was uneventful nonetheless. But this wasn’t the dangerous part.

They parked the motorcycle in front of the town hall and left the keys in the ignition.

“Makes it easier for them to confiscate it,” the father whispered with a bitter smirk, trying to lighten the mood. “They’ll take it anyway.”

*

Finally, the VoPo nodded. “It’s a pain that you have to take the train through West-Berlin.” he said with a friendly smile and handed the papers back to the mother.

She dared not breathe a sigh of relief, not yet. There were other people to control, other people who might get dragged from the train before they could cross the border, a wrong look, even a wrong thought that could betray her. The mother’s hands searched instinctively again for the hands of her daughters, pressing them hard.

When the VoPos left the car and the train started its journey again, the crushing grip became slowly a mere holding and then a nerveless lying on their legs.

A few stations later, they got off the train and only then did she dare to whisper to them that they weren’t going to her godmother but to visit the girls’ grandmother.

“Why?” the older one asked as they walked past the long row of similar looking houses in Siemensstadt she was familiar with from former visits. “Why didn’t you tell us before?”

“You know how it is.” She sighed. “The controls get stricter and stricter every month and it’s just easier to say that we only cross through West-Berlin and not stop. But it’s so long since we visited Grandma...”

She did know that. “But you said we were going to Sanssouci...” she whined anyway.

“You don’t want to see Grandma again?”

Of course she wanted to and the suggestions what all they could do that day soon made the daughter smile. And so they trotted further along next to their mother, whose steps seemed to become faster and faster and ever more purposeful. When they finally reached their grandmother’s apartment, their mother sank into a chair with another deep sigh, looking from the older woman to the two girls and back again.

The two adults had hardly spoken after a short greeting and now they stared at each other for a long time, their expressions unreadable. After a moment of silent tension, the mother whispered: “I’m so sorry girls. It seems I have a bad headache. How about you go and watch a movie while I rest for a moment?”

*

It wasn’t a short walk. The movie theater was several blocks away and so they returned hours later, smiling and laughing and exhausted too.

They returned to a house filled with hushed conversations, whispered words in stolen moments.

The children felt the dread in the words even though they did not quiet know what the adults were talking about. They sat on the floor in the living room away from a conversation that was clearly not for their ears and played with one of their dolls. They didn’t even remember bringing here. It wasn’t in their bag. As a matter of fact, it had disappeared some days ago.

“We have to go back,” their mother said, sitting in the kitchen with her shaking hands around a steaming pot of tea, “If they aren’t here soon...”

“Everything is going to be fine,” their grandmother reassured her, “There’s still time.”

It did little to soothe her nerves. Going back was the only protection if they did not all manage to cross the border safely. Only coming back would keep them safe, making it look like they all only ever intended to cross the border for a few hours, not a lifetime.

“They’ll come, I’m sure they’ll come.” No matter how silently the words were spoken, the deep voice of their father still drifted through the small apartment.

Father and brother had been there when they came back from the movie theater, explaining in short words that they spontaneously decided to visit the grandmother instead of going to the horse races. At first, the girls did not question it. It was too long since they came here for a visit. But the afternoon stretched into the evening and the faces of the adults became darker and darker with every passing minute. Worry hardly crept into their voices, because it was always there, but it became more and more noticeable.

The boy, the oldest of the three, bit his lip. He had sworn to keep quiet, his father had explained it to him. But his eyes were shifty, the excitement or fear barely contained behind a mask of playful teasing.

And his older sister did notice. In her mind, the meaning of the whispered words slowly started to sink in. She knew what it meant, what staying here would mean; that she would never see her home again, never play with her friends again, never, ever, return. Never again. Maybe it wasn’t true. Maybe her mind played tricks on her because the day was a bit weird. But in her heart, a different fear than that of her parents formed.

Exhausted sitting with shaking hands became nervously walking up and down. The eyes of the three adults kept drifting towards the big round clock over the sink, then towards any other clock in their possession, hoping beyond hope that they ran faster then they were supposed to.

“We have to go back. It’s getting too late,” the mother said, standing up to hug the grandmother goodbye.

“A minute longer.” The father stopped her. “Only a minute longer...”

A minute became an hour, a sunny afternoon the red sky of approaching night. Time for dinner came and went.

And then the doorbell rang. The breath of all of them caught simultaneously. The atmosphere was still palpable. For father and mother, the hope of salvation lay in this one ringing of the doorbell.

And only as they opened the door and saw the other grandparents of the children did they all sigh with relief.

Hardly there, the father and grandfather left the apartment again and the mother knelt down in front of the girls. She started a couple of times to say something but the words wouldn’t come. Tears started to well in her eyes.

“Where is Dad going?” the younger girl finally asked.

“To send a telegram.” she answered, glad to have a way to start this talk, “To let people know to take care of our cow. We’re not going back.” She choked back tears of relief with a hicuppy laugh.

For a moment, the older girl just stared at her mother. Unable to say anything, tears of loss started to roll down her cheeks.




Sanssouci: Castle in Potsdam.
Potsdam: City south of Berlin. It belonged to the GDR, like everything surrounding West-Berlin, from 1949-1990.
VoPo(s): Slang term / short form of Volkspolizist(en), the police force of the GDR.
Siemensstadt: Part of Berlin in the district Spandau, in the west.

On the creation and background of this story:
Spoiler: ShowHide
This story is a largely fictionalized account of my mother’s flight from the GDR to West-Berlin in May of 1960 (she is the older daughter). I kept the general story but tweaked the details as I saw fit. I interviewed my mother for this story and kept some details that seemed important to her even though I normally would have removed them from a purely fictional story. She asked me to leave out names and identifying features. In case you are wondering: The infamous Berlin-Wall was built in 1961, so it didn’t exist yet when this took place and crossing the border between the different parts of Berlin or from neighboring villages was normal, or even necessary, like in this case where it was literally the only train connection to Potsdam from my family’s home.

Compared to other stories of people leaving the GDR, this one is minor, very much so. They were lucky, on more than one account: They realized when they were in danger and had to leave, they had relatives in the west, my mother and aunt didn’t realize what was going on and my uncle didn’t spoil the plan, even though he wasn’t supposed to know either. I do not know why my great-grandparents were delayed. My mother doesn’t remember. But this was the only real hitch. And, of course, the wall wasn’t build yet.

Many other people were not so lucky. The article on Republikflucht, the official term of the GDR for leaving it, is a good starting point for further reading.

JudasFm

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #11 on: 28 Jan 2019, 07:36 »
Last call for entries!  :-D

Baron

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #12 on: 29 Jan 2019, 00:55 »
I'm writing as fast as I can!

-------------

Well, it's more of a story fragment than a finished piece, but it's all I can crank out right now given time constraints.  Enjoy!

Liars, Criers, and Brain Vampires

   Griffith twirled his pencil absentmindedly.  A crumpled piece of school work lay on the desk in front of him.  A half-mummified tome lay closed next to the crumpled sheet.  Griffith was under the impression that it was the text for this particular class, although he had no first-hand evidence of that fact.  He glanced at the clock and groaned inwardly.  Were the hands moving backwards?  Griffith tapped his foot in boredom, drawing furtive glances from the students around him.

   Mrs. Calhoun the teacher cleared her throat like an aggrieved dinosaur.  The wrinkles on her forehead multiplied spectacularly as her brow furrowed, and her thin lips drew back to bare her ancient, yellowing teeth.  The air seemed to be sucked out of the room.  Griffith met her murderous stare briefly, and then pretended to go back to his work again.

   Paper rustled purposefully.  Somebody coughed.  Pencils scratched.  The oppressive stuffiness of the room weighed down on the back of Griffith's neck like a Jovian atmosphere.  The hands of the clock seemed bound like those of a criminal.  The clattering of a dropped pencil on the floor caused the old beast at the head of the class to growl once more.  Griffith needed to escape this prison.

   He silently turned to Davis, his neighbour and partner in crime.  Davis seemed to be entirely absorbed in his work behind his textbook, which of course he was.  His eyes were about two inches from his page as he carefully tended to his penmanship.  Griffith tossed a bit of eraser at him to get his attention.

   Well?, he asked with an intent stare.

   Just about done! Davis replied with a muted gesture.

   We've got to get out of here soon! Griffith urged with an exasperated eye-roll.

   OK, OK, Davis soothed with a smug look.  He finished the last couple loops of ink, and then nodded to Griffith.  They both stood in unison and marched to the front of the class.

   “What is the meaning of this?” asked Mrs. Calhoun with an ill-concealed sneer. 

   “We have a ...er, appointment ...with Principal Mazarin,” Griffith explained.

   Mrs. Calhoun eyed them both over the top of her thick plastic glasses, an uncertain frown creasing her otherwise wrinkled jaw.  Mrs. Mazarin, the arch-tyrant of the Ponchworth Institute of Secondary Studies, did not have a name that was lightly invoked.  If Mrs. Calhoun was a grumpy old lizard, Principal Mazarin was a three headed fire-breathing dragon.

   Griffith lightly hit Davis on the arm, and in perfect imitation of someone who had forgotten he searched his pockets for the note that he had just forged.  Mrs. Calhoun scowled down at the note, then back at the two boys.

   “Well, this is highly unusual,” she muttered, comparing the time on the note to the time on the clock.  “What precisely is this 'appointment' for?”

   Both boys stared at their toes penitently for a few moments before Griffith spoke up.  “It's, uh... to do with the incident yesterday.”

   Mrs. Calhoun frowned even deeper, squinting at first one boy and then the other, trying to detect any hint of deception.  But honestly, Griffith thought to himself, who would ever intentionally want to visit Principal Mazarin?

   Mrs. Calhoun eventually reached the same conclusion.  With great reluctance and a sour expression she opened her desk drawer to retrieve two faded and yellowing hall-passes.  She was obliged to blow the dust off them before neatly writing the time, date, and her signature.

   “Bondarssen will collect your things if you are not back before class ends,” she muttered, returning to her work and waving them away.  The boys exchanged a quick glance, collected the hall-passes, and proceeded out the door.

      *      *      *      *      *

   “I can't believe that worked,” Davis gasped, once they were in the hallway.

   “You gotta have a little faith,” Griffith smirked, giddy with freedom.  “It was the plausibility that lent truth to the lie.  Who would ever lie about meeting with Machete Mazarin?”

   “What could possibly go wrong?” Davis asked ruefully.

   Their banter was interrupted by a snarky laugh coming down the hallway.  “Oh Em Gee!  Like, who let the dogs out?!”

   “Great,” Davis muttered.  “Grace Smugworth.  The ditsiest loud-mouth in the whole school.”

   “I heard she was implicated in that sassy cheerleader scandal,” Griffith whispered back.

   “I heard she was super smart until two years ago before her brains sank into her chest,” Davis whispered back.

   “I heard she gets out of homework by-”

   “Like, I'm totally right here listening to you!” Grace blared, causing the two boys to make frantic hushing motions.

   “What, like, you're skipping class?” she asked, incredulously.  “You're, like, so going to get busted.  It's best to fess up right now, and, like, uh, totally get your desserts.”

   Davis frowned slightly.  “You mean, get our just deserts?”

   Grace seemed to puzzle over his words for a bit, allowing Griffith to step in.

   “We totally have hall-passes, Gracie,” he said, waving the passes under the girl's nose.  “School business,” he stated with an air of finality.

   “Like, whatever....” she replied, flicking her hair and stalking off down the hall.  “Just don't get caught by Whelkins the hall-monitor,” she called over her shoulder.  “He's, like, more of a dorky git than even you two!”

   *      *      *      *      *

   Davis and Griffith emerged from the unguarded photo-copy room with a ream of butt-copies.  They giggled maniacally as they began shoving the folded pages through the grating of random lockers along the hall.  Griffith was having the time of his life until one of his butt-copies shot back out of its own accord.

   “No, no, no,” Griffith chided, picking the paper back up.  “You are destined for this locker, little butt-copy.  Like it, lump it, or STICK IT.”  He jammed the copy back through the grating and waited a few seconds to ensure that it was good and delivered.  He was nodding with satisfaction at a job well done when suddenly the paper was spit out again.

   “The hell?” Griffith wondered aloud, looking up and down the hallway.  “Dude, you seeing this?”

   Davis turned and shrugged, joining his buddy outside the offending locker.

   “This prude-locker is just begging for an ass-calation of hostilities,” Griffith quipped.

   “You think it's in need of a carpet bumming mission?” Davis quipped back.

   “Affirmative, rear-admiral sir!” Griffith volleyed.

   “Should we attack with the crack of Don?” Davis returned.

   “We'll teach that cheeky bugger,” Griffith shot back.

   “I sphincter might be right,” Davis punned.

   “OK, STOP, I GIVE UP!” the locker blurted.

   “Well, good,” Griffith replied jovially.  “Cause we can go aaaaallll day.”

   “Literally,” Davis nodded.

   “So what's your story, talking locker?” Griffith asked.  “You gotta name?”

   “Agent  Caramel,” the locker said.  “Corporal in the sixth form resistance.  I drew reconnaissance duty today.”

   Griffith and Davis exchanged glances.  “Resistance?  What resistance?”

   “Don't tell me you haven't noticed the strange comings and goings.  The steady stream of smart students being sent to the office and slowly dumbing-down as the term drags on.  The weird rash marks they get behind the ears.  The almost sycophantic deference shown by staff to Mazarin the Merciless.  The mysterious iridescent orange of the custodian's mop water after scrubbing down Room 101.  The backwards running clocks.  The pathological amnesia of anyone dragged before the arch-fiend herself.  The unsettling texture of the cafeteria meatloaf on Thursdays.  The obsessive testing and grading, fattening up our brains.  It's all connected, man, and our mission is to find out how deep it goes!”

   Griffith and Davis exchanged glances again.  “Uh....  We didn't notice any of that.”

   “Do you think maybe spending so much time holed-up in a locker is making you a bit paranoid?” Davis asked.

   “What do you do when you have to use the bathroom?” Griffith wondered.

   “I ensure you that we have considered all contingencies,” the locker replied tersely.  “Now I'm going to say this once, so listen carefully.  There are moles on the inside.  Trust no one.  Don't try to exit through the entrance or you'll be sorry.  If you get into trouble you need to tap the garbage can three times.  Help will always be given to those too stupid to know better.”

   Griffith and Davis exchanged glances a third time.  Griffith was about to say something stupid to prove a point when they were suddenly accosted from behind.

   “FREEZE!”

   They both jumped, causing copies of buttocks to fly in every direction.

   “Well, well, well....” Willy Whelkins purred, stroking his hall-monitor sash.  “Caught red-handed Distributing Smut.  Also Littering, Cursing, Resisting Arrest, and pack me a cat-food sandwich for lunch if I'm wrong, but I'm betting we can add in Obtaining a Hall-Pass Under False Pretences.  You boys are going down for a looooooong time.”

   “Hey, we didn't resist arrest!” Griffith complained, turning to his friend.

   Davis, however, had already booked it.

   “Ah, shit!” Griffith cursed, sprinting after his friend.

   *      *      *      *      *
   
   Principal's office waiting room,  11:25 am.  Which was interesting, given that they had skipped out of class almost an hour ago at 11:15.  Griffith still had the evidence on his hall-pass, neatly scribed by Mrs. Calhoun.  Willy Whelkins sat smugly between him and Davis, making any kind of conversation impossible.  It was only a matter of minutes now before shit truly hit the proverbial fan.

   The door to the principal's office opened, and out stepped Gracie Smugworth wearing a vacant looking expression.

   “I guess it's time for I-told-you-so,” Griffith said to her, inviting at least the fireworks of her scorn as a way of lightening the tenseness of the situation.

   But all Gracie did was roll her eyes towards him briefly, mouth agape, before proceeding to the exit.  As she passed Griffith thought he saw a funny rash behind her ear....

   In the meanwhile Whelkins had jumped up out of his seat and proceeded to the door of Principal Mazarin's office.  He knocked politely and stated his business, stroking his hall-monitor sash again.

   “Enter,” rasped the husky voice of the Mazarinator.

   “Don't go anywhere,” Whelkins said with a knowing wink, before closing the door behind himself.

   “Did you see the clock!” Griffith exclaimed to his friend, waving the hall-pass.

   “Did you see the rash!” Davis exclaimed back, scratching nervously at the back of his ear.

   “Nuts to this,” Griffith said, making for the door through which Gracie had just exited.  He couldn't believe it when he turned the knob: “Locked!”

   They both turned towards the only other door of the waiting room that didn't lead to Principal Mazarin's office.  On it in bold letters were the words “Entrance Only”.

   “That weird locker dude who pees in bottles said we'd be sorry if we tried to exit through the entrance,” Davis warned.

   “You want to stay here and get your brain sucked?!?” Griffith freaked.  “I say we do this.”

   Davis scratched behind his ears again.  “Well.... it's not like we can get into any more trouble, eh?”

   Griffith reached for the door handle and gave it a try.  Reassuringly it turned all the way until the latch clicked.  Then the floor gave way beneath them, and they were falling into darkness.....
 
   
    
« Last Edit: 31 Jan 2019, 03:44 by Baron »

JudasFm

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Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Papers, Please!
« Reply #13 on: 29 Jan 2019, 04:36 »
Aaaand, that's it! No applications for extensions were approved (since none were made) and this round of the contest is now in VOTING!
So, to sum it up, we have:

Mandle with War and Peace and My Mother
Sinitrena with Dreaded Words
Baron with Liars, Criers and Brain Vampires

And just a reminder of the categories:

Best Character: What it says on the tin. Which character made you laugh, cry, feel or want to strangle them? (Hey, it's not Best-Loved Character!)
Best Story: Does it have a compelling plot? Do you pour a cup of coffee, only to forget all about it and let it go cold as you're swept up in the story?
Best Setting: Be it fantasy or fascism (or fascist fantasy) is the world convincing?
Best Writing: Who can turn a phrase the best? Who can bring readers to their knees with one well-chosen word?
Best (or Worst!) Bureaucracy: Most believable system, whether it's the familiar one of visas or something else entirely.

Voting closes at 23.59 on Friday Feb 1! (Kind of; The Squid and I are a few hours ahead of everyone, so we try to take that into account whenever we run one of these  :-D)
« Last Edit: 31 Jan 2019, 02:16 by JudasFm »

Baron

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    • Baron worked on a game that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Best Character: I'm going with Mandle's Joseph (with no offence intended towards Sinitrena's family  ;) ).  I liked that he had off-the-cuff feelings, but then revised him as he contemplated more.  He also had an interesting strategy for cheating death and an obvious flare for the melodramatic.  :=

Best Story: I'm going with Sinitrena, because it kept me guessing until the end.  To be fair, Mandle's piece kept me guessing as well (When is he going to find another dead cat?!?), but I think the suspense was more authentic in Sinitrena's piece. ;)  Will they be arrested?  Will the plan fail?  Will time run out for our heroes?

Best Setting: Well, they're both the same setting, aren't they?  I guess I'm going with Mandle for a more detailed description of the actual physical border, the people standing on either side of the line, and its surrounding infrastructure.

Best Writing: We swing back again to Sinitrena for her ability to interlace the inner thoughts and feelings of all the characters in both first- and second-hand. 

Best (or Worst!) Bureaucracy: I think I've gotta give an edge to Sinitrena in this category for her description of the police system for checking papers.  It really was a mug's job, arresting many innocents just to catch a few rule-breakers, but at the same time having to know that they were missing all kinds of others.

OK, question time.  Mandle: what was the real reason that the mother wanted Joseph to read War and Peace?  I couldn't figure it out either....

Sinitrena: Why did it matter if the grandparents arrived?  I understand that they were jumping the border too, but I don't understand why it would make sense for the whole family to return just for the safety of the grandparents.  They're old - surely they understood the risks and were prepared to accept the consequences of failure so that their progeny could have a better life? 

Aaaaand, don't you feel just a little bit responsible for the decision to build the wall, what with whole families stampeding over at a time?  ;)


JudasFm

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Sinitrena: Why did it matter if the grandparents arrived?  I understand that they were jumping the border too, but I don't understand why it would make sense for the whole family to return just for the safety of the grandparents.  They're old - surely they understood the risks and were prepared to accept the consequences of failure so that their progeny could have a better life? 

This is something that went through my mind as well. The only reason I could think of (and this is purely a guess, so Sinitrena, please correct me if I'm wrong) is that the GDR was similar to modern-day North Korea. If someone manages to escape that country, then life for the loved ones they leave behind can become very...unpleasant :-\

Sinitrena

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Best Character: Baron - For Agent Caramel. I must say, I find him way more interesting and likable than our actual protagonists here. I appreaciate a character who figures stuff out and acts accordingly. Why again, didn't we read about the Sixth Form Resistance instad of the two assholes you wrote about?

Best Story: Mandle - This story took place over a very long period of time and considering that it is fairly short, making it so that the narrator seems distanced from what is happening, narrating in a rather dry tone. Maybe a more in-depth characterisation would have been better, but I can still see the story unerneath a writing style I didn't appreciate here. Baron's story, on the other hand, has the problem that it doesn't really go anywhere. The mystery, which is fairly well set-up, is never actually revealed.

Best Setting: Baron - I like the unusual approach to the topic.

Best Writing: Baron - As I said above, I don't really think Mandle's writing style works so well for the story he chose to write, being to unemotional and dry. Baron's is generally better, though I have to wonder wha't with all the As-You-Know Dialoge? I mean, what they say about Grace can be taken as (not-so-) friendly ribbing, but this line: "Just don't get caught by Whelkins the hall-monitor."? They know he's the hall-monitor. This line is there for the reader as a form of exposition and probably not the best writing style.

Best (or Worst!) Bureaucracy: Mandle - Baron seems to think we wrote about the same setting and I have to wonder if you intended this to be the German-German border or just a random, not specific one. Well, it's not the Inter-German one, too many facts would be just plain wrong. But as a generic one I find it interesting enough. Like Baron, I also couldn't figure out why th mother wanted the son to read War and Peace, but I assumed I couldn't figure it out because I never read it.


Sinitrena: Why did it matter if the grandparents arrived?  I understand that they were jumping the border too, but I don't understand why it would make sense for the whole family to return just for the safety of the grandparents.  They're old - surely they understood the risks and were prepared to accept the consequences of failure so that their progeny could have a better life? 

You're asking a question of real-life people that would be much more valid to ask of purely fictional characters. It's easy to say someone should sacrifice themself for the good of his family, that they should act heroic and whatnot. No, it was as easy as "We all go, or none of us." Think about it. Could you leave your parents behind? Your children? Your wife? With the explicit knowledge that you would never see them again, ever? Even if they did not get arrested?

Would it have protected the grandparents if the others returned? Maybe. Probably not if they were already arrested, but if they were just stopped? Then yes (for very much the reason JudasFm mentions). And then they could have tried another day. But if they were seperated, there would have been no second chance.

We're talking about an oppresive regime during the Cold War right at the border of East and West, a border that went right through a country (technically two countries, I guess, but West Germany didn't actually accept the GDR as a souverane state (see Exclusice Mandate) at that time), and right through a city. Both the government and the people became more and more paranoid (is it paranoia if it is true?) and the Stasi started to monitor its own citizens. (For a fictional account of the extend of control see the movie The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)) Land was being expropriated, and many people began to realize that the economy of the east would not be good (to put it in the most simple terms). In short, people in the east often knew that it would be impossible to live in freedom if they stayed. (Of course, some people followed the idiology of the state and believed in a better life there. Stories of people going from the west to the east exist, though a lot less than the other way around. And there were good things about East Germany as well, for example a higher degree of gender equality - well, according to some sources, some call it a mythos  :-\)

The general atmosphere of opression was certainly felt.

Aaaaand, don't you feel just a little bit responsible for the decision to build the wall, what with whole families stampeding over at a time?  ;)

In some cases, it were whole school classes  ;) (No wiki article, but the movie isn't too bad.) I know the question was  tongue-in-cheek but for a serious answer see above and remember that a state that needs to imprison its citizens is maybe doing something wrong.

Baron

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You're asking a question of real-life people that would be much more valid to ask of purely fictional characters. It's easy to say someone should sacrifice themself for the good of his family, that they should act heroic and whatnot. No, it was as easy as "We all go, or none of us." Think about it. Could you leave your parents behind? Your children? Your wife? With the explicit knowledge that you would never see them again, ever? Even if they did not get arrested?

I agree that I would never willingly leave my children behind.  And probably not my wife (on most days)  ;).  But my parents?  Yeah, I could live with that.  Not because I don't love them and we're not close, but because I don't see them as integral to my future.  And I think they'd be ok with it.  My dad left his parents behind when he dodged the Viet Nam draft and fled to Canada.  Two of my grandparents emigrated leaving their parents behind (only one was still alive for a brief visit twenty years after), and two of my great-grandparents emigrated without ever seeing their parents again.  It's just a natural part of the life-cycle from my perspective, so I struggle with the concept of people willingly sacrificing the future of their children for the sake of sticking around grandparents.  On the other hand, I suppose it's a little sad that close-knit-family is a foreign concept to me.   :undecided:

Sinitrena

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My dad left his parents behind when he dodged the Viet Nam draft and fled to Canada.  Two of my grandparents emigrated leaving their parents behind (only one was still alive for a brief visit twenty years after), and two of my great-grandparents emigrated without ever seeing their parents again.

You're missing an integral part here. When your dad fled to Canada, his parents could have followed him at any time. They could have visited. The possibility of letters and phone calls existed. Your grand-parents were not in life-threatening danger or had to fear torture.

The situations are hardly comparable. Moving to the other end of the world isn't a problem when you think you can contact the other person at any time, even if you don't do it in the end, even if you never see the other person again. The possibility still exists.

That said, I can understand the general idea that the next generation seems to be / is treated as more important than the previous one. "For the futur of our children" is not an empty saying and shouldn't be, for that matter.

But returning would have meant the possibility of a second chance for all of them to leave another day. If everything seemed normal, suspiciouns would have been less likely. In short, this is about hope. Again, how well it would have worked is a whole other can of worms and pure speculation.

Mandle

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Best Character: Sinetrena: The mother. So conflicted between getting out to safety or getting back to safety. Whichever was safest for her children.
Best Story: Sinetrena: I was on the edge of my seat when the doorbell rang.
Best Setting: Baron: I loved the '80s movie feel of the story and the Agent 13 feel of the locker resistance fighter.
Best Writing: Sinetrena: You really worked hard on this to replicate a story you heard but also provide extra details to flesh out the world.
Best (or Worst!) Bureaucracy: Sinetrena: No brainer. Realest because based on a real story.

To answer some questions.

My story is set on a fictional border but based on the Berlin Wall.
The resolution of the story is supposed to, rather heavy-handedly, reveal the narrator's take-away for why his mother wanted him to read the book to her. As for her actual reason, we will never know...
« Last Edit: 01 Feb 2019, 13:58 by Mandle »