There is a new version of the forums ready for testing. Please post here if you're willing to help test! We could also use the help of coders!

Author Topic: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Punch-free edition “Before and After” (Result)  (Read 2162 times)

Have you ever looked at a photograph and asked yourself what happened before it was taken? Or what happened afterwards?

For this edition of FWC, we’re going to do just that. Below, I have laid on a selection of photos. You will choose one photo and concoct a story which includes a brief moment, somewhere in the middle, that can be illustrated by your chosen photo. How your story leads up to that moment, and what happens afterwards is entirely up to you. The moment depicted in the photo can be part of a major plot point, but it doesn’t have to be.

There is no set theme, so otherwise, write freely.
Oh, but there is one more restriction: No punching - We’re all punched out from the last round, so let’s say no to punching this time around.

You’ve got two weeks starting from now.  (Deadline: December 6th)

1.


2.


3.


4.


5.
« Last Edit: 14 Dec 2021, 12:09 by Stupot »

Sinitrena

  • Mittens Serf
  • Wheel of Fate
    • I can help with translating
    • Sinitrena worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Sinitrena worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Interesting topic and these photos can lead to some very different stories.
Question, though: Is it necessary that the photo could have been taking in the situation in-story, or can the depected situation occur without someone present or able to take the photo?

Question, though: Is it necessary that the photo could have been taking in the situation in-story, or can the depected situation occur without someone present or able to take the photo?

Good question. In my mind I wasn’t thinking there would be a photographer taking pictures of the scene in the story, but if you want to include that, go for it.

Mandle

  • NO PIXEL LEFT BEHIND!!!
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Mine is taking shape... I have written maybe a third of it or less... gonna be a long one again I think.

How are those stories coming along, folks? 4 days to go.

Mandle

  • NO PIXEL LEFT BEHIND!!!
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Any chance of a 3 day extension or so?

Any chance of a 3 day extension or so?
Granted.

Where is everyone. I hope Sinitrena and Baron are okay.

Sinitrena

  • Mittens Serf
  • Wheel of Fate
    • I can help with translating
    • Sinitrena worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Sinitrena worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Runs into the room. Here! Here, I'm here! What's...? Oh, it's just...

...

...

Yeah, I kinda forgot. I had a great idea: witches, missing children, spellcasting - but not the time to write a novel. (Go ahead and guess which picture I considered.) I remembered yesterday and wrote a shorter piece for a different photo instead:

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

Crain and Company


The young man put his head in his hands and leaned forward. The cheap IKEA table groaned under his weight. „Bed-sheets?“ he said.

The man opposite him stapled his fingertips onto each other slowly and nodded.

„Bed-sheets,“ the younger one repeated, letting as much doubt creep into his voice as he dared. „These are bed-sheets.“

„Of course. Soft and versatile, sturdy and warm – the best in the country, the best in the world.“

„Yeah, never liked that jingle. It’s not exactly catchy, is it?“As soon as the words had left his mouth, he wanted to move his hands from his forehead a couple of inches downwards. He was never good at keeping the quiet part – well, quiet.

„We had better, I agree,“ the older businessman admitted readily with a smile, though.

„Like: Sleep in Crain – it feels like the rain!? Or: Bed-sheets by Crain – never fear a stain – try them today, the new blood-resistant sheets.? Or: Crain and company – use our sheets and you’ll get the romp for free!? Honestly, Sir, they are all awful.“ Having criticized his potential client’s advertising once, Alex didn’t bother holding back now.

“Well,” Theodore Crain squirmed on the uncomfortable chair that had his massive form wobble over the sides.

Crain – smooth as grain. – I’m not even sure what that one is supposed to mean.” Alex sighed, “Sir, with all due respect, your advertising is shit.”

“The advertising might be, but our quality and our fabrics…”

“Yes, sir, I’m sure they’re great but…” Alex sighed, then started from a different angle. He could really use the money. “The fabric is indeed amazing, sir, I agree. But what makes you think that bed-sheets are on the way to becoming the new thing in fashion? I mean, they are bed-sheets?”

“Precedent.” the businessman said simply and with the confidence of someone who was never doubted.

“Precedent?” Alex tried to wrap his head around the idea that somehow a lawsuit was involved in this, but he just couldn’t come up with anything. His mind was obviously wandering in the wrong direction. When the older man didn’t continue, he said: “Could you perhaps be a bit more specific, sir? I really don’t…”

Theodore Crain shook his head with an indulging smile on his thick lips. “The youth of today!” he exclaimed and leaned forward. “Shouldn’t you know what is in in the fashion market of today? You are a model, after all.”

A model who really needs the money, Alex reminded himself to keep his less flattering thoughts at bay. “I am so sorry, sir, it seems I must have missed a trend. Maybe you can explain just a bit further?”

The indulgent smile widened into an obscene size. “There are countless people walking the streets with sheets over their heads. Why should we leave the market to the competition when our bed-sheets are the softest and the finest – Crain linen, perfect to spin in!

“Walking the streets?” Alex shook his head to get the dreadful music out of his head that usually accompanied this abysmal ad on the radio. When his head had spun enough, sudden inspiration struck him. “Perhaps, by any chance, did you see people walking around in bed-sheets in the fall, let’s say, late October, around the 31st, to be precise?” He tried to be gentle.

Mr. Crain shrugged, not bothering to reconcile his memories with any kind of calendar. He saw no reason to, anyway.

When Alex received no answer, he shrugged as well. It was just a job, after all. What did he care if the guy was wasting his money? And he didn’t seem to know what he was doing, so why not add a bit extra? “Well, my going-to rate is 500 an hour for the modeling alone. Holding advertising signs or some-such is an additional charge of 200. If that’s okay with you. Same price for my partner, of course. So, for three hours that’s, all in all, 4200.”

“Done. And you can keep the sheets!” Theodore Crain clapped his hands together like an excited child getting an ice cream in winter. “They’re perfect for you. Crain’s sheets and pillows – feel like sleeping under willows!

*

“You sure we should let them go?”

The officers were discussing their fate a few steps away from Steve and Alex but the two could hear them nonetheless. Steve had a sour look on his full red lips while Alex couldn’t stop himself from grinning, especially considering how cute Steve looked when he was in a bad mood (and he knew that they would reconcile later). The more Alex thought about it, the bigger his grin got.

The two young men leaned against the police car in their jeans and shirts, the bed-sheets not very neatly folded at their feet. Alex nudged them with the tips of his sneakers, then he nudged Steve with his elbow. “The sheets are amazingly soft.” he whispered suggestively, “And the old grinch did say that we could keep them…”

Steve, for now fixated on the two cops not too far away, slowly turned towards Alex, an incredulous look in his bright blue eyes. “We nearly get arrested because we run around in the middle of summer covered in bed-sheets. The cops think we’re either perverts or robbers and you… you think about sex?”

“What else am I going to think about?” Alex laughed. “We did nothing wrong!”

Come touch our sheets – feel our treats?” Steve said and pointed at the sign that lay discarded to the side. “Fucking hell, Alex, I think we might be perverts, and I don’t even know what this is supposed to mean!”

Alex shrugged. “It’s Crain and Company. What did you expect from their signs?”

“Yeah, it’s Crain and Company – but we were the ones running around like that. Come on, the sign doesn’t even have the Company’s name on it, or explains anything or…”

Arguments rushed through Alex’s mind: You agreed…- The money is good… - We did nothing illegal… - It’s art… - It will be a fun story to tell later...

In the end, Alex just stepped forward and brushed a stray hair from Steve’s cheek. With the hand already in position, he pulled him closer. “You’re hot when you’re angry.”

As he knew he would, Steve melted into the touch. “I’m always hot.” he said and planted a kiss on Alex’s lips.

In that moment, the two officers came back over to them. One of them cleared his throat. “Between a school and a bank is not the best place for weird advertising.” he said and handed them back their IDs. “Get lost.”

“Of course, officer,” Alex said with fluttering eyelashes.

“Alex!”

“What?”

“You know perfectly well what!”

“Steve…”

“Get the damn sheets, Alex, and…”

“Oh, yeah, the sheets…” If grins could split a face in two, Alex’s would have in that moment. He scooped the sheets from the grass. With his fingers wiggling from the holes intended to look through, he leaned into his partner and whispered: “What do you think we could use these holes for?”

“Alex…” a pained expression was coupled with a furtive look back at the two cops.

As Alex and Steve found out later that day, bed-sheets by Crain and Company were indeed soft and sturdy and quite useful for their originally intended purpose.

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




I assume you can figure out which photo I used, even though it's not directly described.

As you can see, forgetting to write leads to silly slice-of-life stories from me.  (roll)

With a three day extension, maybe I'll come up with a second silly little story for one of the other photos.

Baron

  • Mittens Serf
  • AGS Baker
  • Rottwheelers
  • Not-so-Evil Banana Dictator
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Best Innovation Award Winner 2011, for the concept and management of SWARMAGS
    • Baron worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Baron worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!


Partners in Crime

   Detective Brenner shook her head to clear the fog.  She rarely slept much these days as the horrific details of her caseload crashed through her mind at all hours.  Detective work often meant being one step behind the scumbags and one step ahead of burnout, as her old partner used to say.  Of course that was before he stuck a gun in his mouth and stopped quipping pithy phrases.

   Detective Brenner scrunched her eyes closed to stem the up-welling of emotions within her.  Hers was a tough job, wading through the wreckage of human misery to try to bring some order to the chaos.  A stabbed lover here, a strangled child there; what was another pile of shit along the road of human error?  The good thing about her job was that, although pain and self-loathing were part of the job description, there was mercifully little free time to actually indulge in them.

   And so she opened her eyes to survey her surroundings again.  A meadow in late June, the sun shining clemently as the daisies churned with butterflies and bumblebees.  It was a peaceful place, or would have been if people hadn't tracked their problems through with them.  Now this idyllic field was scarred with clues of violence and betrayal, and it was her job to unearth them.

   She stepped over the police tape lines to examine the green shoes, the white laces loosely tied so that they could casually be kicked off at a whim.  It would have made a cute picture, except it was the last known action of one Yulia Kosovich, missing person.  Detective Brenner carefully examined the vegetation surrounding the shoes, but could see no sign of footsteps or broken stalks.  Of course the flowers and grasses would right themselves as the hours passed; otherwise there would be no such thing as a picturesque meadow, just mangy tramped-over messes.  She therefore estimated the shoes to have been in their present location for at least a day.

   Carefully she stooped to turn a shoe over.  She recognized the brand – probably owned a pair, at one point - flat soles, pretty to look at, but not very practical for long hikes.  Slight scuffing and grass stains along the edges, to be expected in such a location, but no obvious signs of foreign material that could indicate the path that led here.  Maybe the lab boys could find an incriminating spec lodged in the tread when they arrived, but for her the only other clue she could discern was the direction they were pointing.

   And so she set off through the gently rolling field that seemed to dance with carefree happiness, a merry chorus of birdsong scoring the scene.  Here a bunny bounding through the clover, there a groundhog peeking above the petals.  Grasshoppers popped and fluttered, a toad hopped cautiously out from under foot.  Detective Brenner's mind was trained to note such details carefully, but she couldn't help but feel that their meaning was somehow lost on her hardened soul.

   She began to study the ground more carefully.  Here a severed insect wing, there a mouse bone, and now a spider waiting patiently for a victim to fall into her snare.  This was the grim reality beneath the superficial peace: life was actually a gruesome affair.  Even the gentle daisies would wither to dust without roots that gorged on the pâté of death that makes up the soil.  All of it, all of us, are just living a precarious existence built on a foundation of past and future violence, she realised.

   And then she felt a chill as the sun passed behind a cloud.  Maybe that's what Hal, her old partner, had come to understand.  Beauty is just a veneer for the truth, peace just the calm between the storms.  Sure, you could enjoy the brief moments of sunshine, be happy for a time.  But to anyone with half a brain it was obvious that there is trouble lurking in the shadows just down the path.  Even the squirrel hopping through the summer branches kept half an eye on winter – there was no peace but for the stupid and the soon to be dead.

   But... her mind cranked more quickly, the thoughts churning in relentless as water cascading down a gorge.  But awareness of the dangers brought nothing but misery, and inevitably the same result.  There were no ten year old squirrels, no matter how vigilant.  So what was the point of it all?

     Detective Brenner closed her eyes again, trying to focus.  Which mystery was she trying to solve here, anyway?  Hal was gone, but she might be able to help Yulia, although something in her gut told her she was deluding herself.  Metaphorically or literally they had both walked through this field.  They had both walked along the knife-edge of peace between the chasms of death, and they had both tumbled off into oblivion.  Detective Brenner smiled despite herself at a faint glimmer of consolation: at least they could keep each other company.

   And then she felt a gentle touch of light on her neck and she opened her eyes once more.  A shaft of sunlight was piercing down between the clouds, casting just her corner of the meadow in a hopeful glow against the shadowy world beyond.  A ray of hope, she supposed, marvelling at the simple comfort of human connection.  A tear dripped down her cheek, for she finally admitted to herself how wretchedly alone she felt now that Hal was gone.

   And then a glint caught her eye, and she stooped to find a shell casing nestled between the flower stalks.  Hmmm...  17mm, she noted.  It was probably just coincidence that that was standard police issue.  She reached for a baggie in her right jacket pocket in which to put the evidence, but her service revolver and car keys fell out with a gentle clank in the attempt.  Careless, she muttered to herself, as she stooped once more.

   But as her hand was about to pick them up she stopped, suddenly noticing three things at once, the meaning of which was disturbingly very clear.  Flecks of dried blood coated the flower petals to her left.  The tag on the keys from her pocket read Yulia K. Brenner.  And her feet were bare in the warm meadow grass.

Ponch

  • AGS Baker
  • Tasty!
    • Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
    • Ponch worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Ponch worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
I'll be honest, when I skimmed the forums, I misread this as "ponch free" edition.  :=

Mandle

  • NO PIXEL LEFT BEHIND!!!
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
I'll be honest, when I skimmed the forums, I misread this as "ponch free" edition.  :=

I will have to be sure to break that imaginary rule when I finish my story.

Gilbert

  • Local Moderator
  • * KILL* * KILL * * KILL *
    • Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
I'll be honest, when I skimmed the forums, I misread this as "ponch free" edition.  :=
Just make sure the story either doesn't involve a dancing cow, or involves freeing an enslaved cow will make it suit the extra rule. :=
No extra points awarded.

Baron

  • Mittens Serf
  • AGS Baker
  • Rottwheelers
  • Not-so-Evil Banana Dictator
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Best Innovation Award Winner 2011, for the concept and management of SWARMAGS
    • Baron worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Baron worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Technically the last several dozen writing comps have been Ponch free editions.... (roll)  :P

Sinitrena

  • Mittens Serf
  • Wheel of Fate
    • I can help with translating
    • Sinitrena worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Sinitrena worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Technically the last several dozen writing comps have been Ponch free editions.... (roll)  :P

Yes, and that's completely unacceptable!  :=
To make up for the lack of a Ponch, I can offer you another Dancing Cow. It's not the original, of course, but...

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

Flora’s Dance


The rider patted his horse. The white mare was unusually nervous this morning, dancing from one leg to the other and snorting every couple of seconds. Her head nodded up and down again and again and her teeth gnawed on the bit as if it were a tasty apple. Small puffs of smoke escaped from her nostrils into the cold morning air and her front hoof scratched the dirty ground as if she were a bull in one of the other paddocks.

He patted her and talked to her as they waited for the signal. It would be a short training, just some galloping, a bit of bucking. Even though Flora was normally the gentlest horse imaginable, she was trained to seem dangerous and wild. It was just for show. The rearing and the bolting were a practiced dance between horse and rider. She would react to his signal, she would calm down when they were done.

But today she was so nervous. He whispered meaningless words to her and her ears pricked up and turned towards him, twitching more like the ears of a dog. For a moment, he considered bringing her back into her stable, grooming her and leaving her be for the day, but that was just a fleeting thought. As much as he liked the mare, he would not allow her to dictate his daily routine.

When the signal came, he swung himself into the saddle as she scuttled side-wards away. Her neck stretched toward the ground, then shot up into the air, but that was all part of the show. She listened to the signal of his hand on her flank, to the weight of his foot in the stirrup, to the heavy braided rain slung around his arm. It was supposed to look like the gentle mare was an untrained and un-ridden horse, not his partner of many years.

He didn’t notice it at first, but Flora’s attention was clearly to their right, where a wide meadow lay next to the paddock he trained in that belonged to a farmer keeping milk cows. From time to time the animals wandered close to the fence and munched on the tasty grass under the partition but mostly they ignored the horses there.

Today, a single one had walked over. Separate from the other cows, it was particularly interested in horse and rider. It’s thick and heavy head followed every movement of the pair in a lazy and sleepy way. Its big round, black eyes did not leave them for a single second as they made their rounds around the barrier of the paddock.

Despite her nervousness, Flora followed the rider’s directions without too much trouble, as it was by now as much a natural endeavor for her as for him. Still, her steps were not as clearly pronounced and controlled as on other days and her head always drifted towards the cow at the fence.

After a while, one could imagine when the show of human and horse was becoming too boring, the cow mooed a couple of times. At first, the sound was quiet and reserved, testing, then it became louder and deeper. It resonated and vibrated through the ground and soon had a demanding and attention-seeking cadence in its swelling and fading droning.

Flora reacted to the sound more than she should have. She turned towards the other animal, looking at it, then answered with a pitiful whine. It almost sounded as if they were talking to each other, the neighing of the horse and the mooing of the cow. More than that, it sounded like they were arguing.

The skittish nervousness in Flora’s steps became more pronounced, her movements more exaggerated and wilder. The rider patted her and pulled on the rains to call her out of the routine, to end the exercise. And he did, but not in the way he wanted to.

She gentle mare bucked and reared and kicked the empty air behind her hind-legs. It came so unexpected, so sudden, that the rider lost his balance on her back. His feet slipped from the stirrups and his weight shifted to one side of the horse. The saddle, normally well-adjusted to the strain of a wild ride, did not hold its position on the horse’s back.

In short, the rider tumbled from the back of his steed and slithered a few feet over the dusty soil. His head bonked against an errand stone. Pretty little stars danced in front of his eyes.

When he had found his direction again and turned to Flora, the horse had trotted over to the fence and was head-bumping the cow, who was silently mooing into her ears. A whine and a neigh later, and Flora reared. Her front-legs whipped the air in front of the cow for a moment while her hind-legs scuttled over the ground, searching for a better position. Then, when she had found her footing, her front-hooves stood perfectly still in the air. As if she was waiting for something, she looked at the cow.

The big bovine seemed to sigh, puffing hot air out of its nostrils, then it walked a few steps backwards. Pawing the ground, it seemed to get ready for a jump.

It didn’t jump, but it ran forwards. Its hind-legs buckled and bent and its fat rump sank towards the ground, leaving its short front-legs in the air. Propelled forward by the sprint the cow had started, it stumbled further towards the fence and the horse. Like a bulldozer, it tramped forward until it collided with the still rearing horse. Legs entangled legs and heads butted gently against each other as cow and horse embraced.

For a moment, they stood there leg in leg, staring into each others eyes, then they started to gently sway from side to side. Their hind-legs began to move in a rhythmic pattern, first awkward and stiff, then with a Lipizzaner's elegance. Their hooves stomped their rhythm into the ground, a tambourine from the horse, a timpani from the cow, and their neighs and moos added the singing and the melody.

In that way, they danced above the fence as the rider’s hurting head slowly sank back into the dust.


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

I guess there's two entries for the price of one from me this time around.

Mandle

  • NO PIXEL LEFT BEHIND!!!
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Green Sneakers

So, ummm, firstly just let me say "hello" and "nice to meet you".

How are you? Erm, sorry, that was stupid, but you keep just staring at me like that and I dunno what else to say.

Okay, I guess that is not exactly true.

It's just that I never expected to be telling my story to anyone, least of all you.

Well, I guess I'll just start at the first relevant part then?

Huh... strong silent type, eh?

Nothin'?!

Okay, okay! Je... Jeez! Alright, here goes then:

So, I'm all crouched down, first on the ladder and waiting for the whistle blast and the call. I'm going over in the first wave so I know I'm dead, but all I can think about is Jacob, my little brother. He's going over in the third wave and is somewhere down the line. I think "If I can live just one single moment longer maybe the bullet meant for him will hit me instead.".

Yeah, I know it's a silly thought even as I think it but it's all I have left.

Then the whistle blows and the call of "OVER THE TOP!!!" comes and I put my left hand on the ladder's pole and my right boot on its first step, and, as I pull myself up, I get a huge splinter from the sun-bleached wood of the ladder driven deep into the meat of my left hand, angling from the gap between my thumb and first finger all the way toward my wrist and then breaking skin again and sticking out down there.

I bark out "OWWW!" and then laugh at how funny that is and keep climbing the ladder. I already see bullets slopping mud off the top of the trench above me but I climb up into them and get the top of my head blown off just as I top the edge.

I had heard that the brain has no nerves so it cannot feel pain, but that is just bullturds. When the bullet hit just under the rim of my flat helmet and tore the right-upper quarter of my head off to rattle and splatter on the roof of that helmet before spurting down my neck, it hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.

And I hear the guy behind me, Charlie, swear cos his face just got showered with my shattered skull and brains and then I hear nothing.

And then there is this growing sound, like nothing I never heard. It's like what I always thought an opera would sound like, or one of those classy orchestras.

I'm frozen in place and soldiers are pouring through me like I'm not there anymore, and, actually, I'm not, because my dead body has already been pushed aside and lays slumped on the muddy, bloody edge of the trench to let others pour up over the top and get mowed down and I try to turn my eyes down to avoid seeing all that but something forces them up instead and...

I see Him.

The light behind Him is blinding and I try to put a hand up in front of my eyes but He is already right in front of me before I can and he says "Leave off from your worldly struggles for you are with Me."

I try to say something but nothing comes out. He reaches his hand out and touches my forehead and suddenly the whole battlefield is gone from under my feet and we are on a vast golden stairway.

The stairway looks at least five hundred feet wide and slopes up into the overcast sky. A biplane flies by behind me, machine-gun rattling silently, and I look down over the golden railing and see the trenches of the Great War far, far below, soldiers running and falling like just so many ants.

And that is when I realise that I can move again of my own free will.

I look at Him. He... he is nothing that I can describe. He is beautiful.

He says to me "Follow Me. You have been accepted and will dwell in the house of the..."

And then I open my brash mouth and say "NO! I gotta go back and take care of Jacob! Let me go back!"

He just continues to climb the stairs and says "Follow, for Jacob will be with you soon by His side."

And I get my first really good look at the guy, from head to toe, and everything looks just like they told me it would, except for his shoes.

He has these strange green shoes on his feet. They look like they are made of green canvas. They have white rubbery soles and white laces and their cut under His ankles dips low around under his sockless feet.

I point and blurt out "What are those?!" and He, following my stare, says "Ah, I did not have time to change them from My last job. Sorry about that."

"Ah!" I intelligently begin. But then I say "What?!" and He laughs and says "Look, between you and Me, I would rather if we didn't mention this when we stand before Him. I'm supposed to come dressed era-appropriate and the shoes are a bit of a big deal."

"What?!" I manage again and he says "Yeah, I could come down with the rest of Me naked if I wanted to but without My shoes I couldn't cross over to bring you guys out when I have to. The shoes are kind of a big deal."

It's then that I realise I've been climbing the stairs, sliding my hand along the golden railing, behind him this whole time. Off to my right, and above and below me on the staircase, hundreds of soldiers clad in British and German uniforms are also following hundreds of similar "Hims" up into the misty underside of the heavy grey clouds that hang over the forgotten battlefield below and even the biplanes criss-crossing it look like tiny insects now.

"The shoes?" I ask Him and he replies "Yes. We need them to do His bidding."

"Need them how?" I reply and he says "To step over into your world long enough to become... "real"... and bring you out when you... sorry... when you die."

And then this is about how our conversation went for the next few minutes. Something like this:

"STOP! WAIT! I have to go back! My brother doesn't need to die!"

"He will be by your side soon and you both will be with Him. I have seen the list."

"He has a wife and two kids. He's never even seen the youngest! I have nobody! Just take me!"

"I cannot change His list."

And here's where I get my idea and I grip my left palm with my right hand and say:

"OW!"

And he says "What?! What is that? You cannot feel pain here."

I say "OWWW! I still got that bloody splinter from that damn ladder in my hand!" even though I didn't really.

He glides down over the golden steps between us, His beautiful face concerned, His wings extended and then flutters to a rapid stop as He turns His head down to look at my left hand held out before His face.

And that's when I... Sorry... but that's when I reached my combat-trained right hand around behind His head, my fingers passing through His halo with a tingle, and grasped his golden locks of beautiful flowing hair, and slammed His head, face-first, into the golden railing of the stairway.

He goes down like a sack of shit, His limp body tumbling down seven or eight steps before stopping, face up and eyes-rolled back, silvery blood pouring from the gash on His otherwise flawless forehead.

I leap down the stairs two at a time, jump in beside His splayed feet and yank the weird green shoes off of His feet. When the second one comes off after a bit of a struggle, both Him, the staircase below us, and the multitude of people (and their guides) climbing it all vanish.

Now I'm just falling, still clutching those weird green shoes, one in each hand.

Two biplanes cross a hundred feet or so below me, almost crashing into each other, and then I see a third I hadn't noticed and it DOES crash into one of the others.

I fall through the tangle of burning canvas and wood as if it wasn't real. I see the face of one of the pilots for a split second. I don't know which side he was on but his face is covered in burning fuel. The pointy edges of his handlebar mustache burn like the wicks of candles.

Then I'm just in the air again, and the battleground below is rushing up fast.

I put one of the shoes under my left armpit and use both hands to pull the other shoe over my right foot as I tumble.

I pull the shoe out from under my armpit and, glancing down, I can see the craters full of muddy, bloody water getting way too large in my vision.

I struggle with the second shoe. I don't know if it is because I am so panicked or one of my feet is swollen or the shoe is a different size or if the laces were tied tighter on this one. All these thoughts run through my head but then the shoe pops into place over my left ankle and...

Everything changes. Instead of the battleground below I see a green field of daisies. And then I realize that I see it VERY well, well enough to know that they are daisies, and I try to tuck into a ball before I hit but then I hit and it isn't as bad as I thought it would be.

I think I bounce a little, or maybe that's just what I imagined would happen, but then I'm just lying on my back with grass tickling the sides of my face and a beautiful blue sky above me.

I jump up and stand and look around. What I see astounds me!

I am standing in the middle of a small field of grass and flowers sloping down to a stream with an arched stone bridge over it and what looks like a wooded area beyond. But that is not what astounds me.

What astounds me is the massive cliff-face of... buildings beyond the trees. They must be buildings, but they rise so high, so impossibly high. They have windows, so many, many windows, so they must be buildings, but the tips of them are higher above me than I have ever looked up except to see the empty sky or clouds.

I do a complete turn and the cliffs of these buildings are on all sides of this meadow. I wonder what possible kind of place this could be. And that is when I notice something even more surprising to me at the time, but something I grew used to.

When I blink, nothing happens. Well, what I mean is that I feel the relief of the blink and my eyes don't feel dry anymore, but there is no brief moment of darkness.

I hold out a hand and look down where I know it to be, but there is no hand there. There is only grass and daisies.

And then I look all the way down to where my feet should be, and all I see is the green shoes sitting in the long grass, some of the white flowers bending over them.

Just sitting there.

Empty.

And then I twitch my right big toe.

And the tip of the right shoe laying there in the grass moves.

"What the..." I say, and I can hear my voice.

I yell out "JUST CALL ME GHOSTY TWO-SHOES!", not the best line I'll admit, but I see a man walking a small white dog down by the arched stone bridge look my way and then walk on.

"Hmmmm, interesting," I say to myself and I take my first step in my new form.

The right shoe seems to levitate from out of the grass and flowers, do a perfectly solid arc of about two feet long and half-a-foot high, and then plant itself solidly back amongst the low flora with the weight I had as a living man.

I say "Interesting, indeed," and take off running gleefully down the slope towards the little stone bridge, my invisible face held up into the sun hanging low over the impossibly tall buildings, feeling its warmth, glad to be "alive" and to have two green shoes thumping away impossibly beneath me.

« Last Edit: 08 Dec 2021, 15:54 by Mandle »

Mandle

  • NO PIXEL LEFT BEHIND!!!
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Mandle worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
When I started writing my story I had a quite simple one in mind that could be completed within the boundaries of this contest. But then it grew so much in my mind that I realized there was no way to fit it in here, neither time-wise nor length-wise.

After bashing my head against the extended deadline I asked for, and given some current RL circumstances, I decided to just tell the first part of the story here and leave the reader hopefully intrigued as to what was going to happen next.

Please rest assured that the story does eventually resolve earlier plot-threads of the main character and his brother, Jacob.

But to get there it will be a story at least 20 pages long and I didn't want to just "Yadda yadda" over it, as they say in Seinfeld.
« Last Edit: 08 Dec 2021, 15:42 by Mandle »

Ponch

  • AGS Baker
  • Tasty!
    • Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
    • Ponch worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Ponch worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Technically the last several dozen writing comps have been Ponch free editions.... (roll)  :P
I've started a few stories, but I never seem to finish them.  :embarrassed:

Thanks for the stories, everyone. It’s time to vote.

As always, everyone has 10 points to split between the four stories as you see fit. There are 4 stories, so you could go 4,3,2,1 in order of your favourite story, or whatever works best for you.

Unlike the previous few FWCs, to allow for a little bit more flexibility half points are allowed. Don’t feel you have to use half points. It’s really just to provide a bit of help if you are struggling to split the 10 points in a way that reflects your preferences.

PM me with your scores by the end of December 14th

The stories, in order of entry, are:

Crain and Company (Sinitrena1)
Partners in Crime (Baron)
Flora’s Dance (Sinitrena2)
Green Sneakers (Mandle)

Happy reading and voting.

Baron

  • Mittens Serf
  • AGS Baker
  • Rottwheelers
  • Not-so-Evil Banana Dictator
    • I can help with AGS tutoring
    • I can help with voice acting
    • Best Innovation Award Winner 2011, for the concept and management of SWARMAGS
    • Baron worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Baron worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
It's all love and death this time around - no small plot drivers!  I include my feedback below in hide tags so that Mandle isn't tempted to read it before voting.   ;)

Spoiler: ShowHide

@ Sinitrena: Both of your stories were basically the same, in that same-sex lovers overcome an obstacle to be together (and seem to savour their love all the more for it).  :)  But there the similarities end.  I'm sorry but I found your first piece a bit flat, I think due to a combination of factors.  Foremost, I think by announcing right off the cuff that the cops were probably going to let Alex and Steve go, there was no real problem to overcome (unless surmounting the horrible advertising jingles was the real obstacle to their love....  (roll) ).  But I think Alex's shifting character also makes it hard to root for him: he swings from sceptical to "all-in" so quickly it's hard to feel as if I know him, while Theodore Crain and Steve are just flat caricatures of a crazy boss and a reluctant side-kick respectively.  Your second story was much better written, in my opinion.  Your word-choice in this story painted more vivid pictures in the mind, while the unanticipated union of the mare and the cow keep the reader enthralled right to the end.  I think it was an especially good touch to have the rider hit his head, making the surreal dance of the animals seem as if it might have all been the imaginings of a dazed brain (although the "pretty stars danced in front of his eyes" seemed a bit cartoonish for an otherwise serious atmosphere).  A bit of proofreading would have made this piece even stronger ("rains" should be "reins", and I chuckled at the "errand stone" that should have been errant), especially as the problem of the fence between the beasts was glossed over entirely, but overall this was my favourite story.

@ Mandle: This story had more twists than a spaghetti junction!  I liked the writing style (especially when the main character was describing his death wound).  The story was definitely entertaining, but (as you caveat in an addendum post) it feels rushed with more than a few loose ends.  Clearly your Mr. Character is impulsive, but assaulting an avatar of god on the extremely long-shot chance of helping his brother to avoid his pre-determined fate by learning to harness and control incomprehensible cosmic powers in a matter of a few crucial minutes seems a half-baked plan at best.  I mean, the downside is pretty much infinite....  Even the comparatively benign ending you leave us with is really a categorical failure: he's stuck in a different time period with no corporal essence to work with except for his voice and his goofy shoes.  But despite having a hard time empathising with Mr. Character's plight, I did find the piece entertaining and was sure to reflect that in my votes.


Sinitrena

  • Mittens Serf
  • Wheel of Fate
    • I can help with translating
    • Sinitrena worked on one or more games that won an AGS Award!
    •  
    • Sinitrena worked on one or more games that was nominated for an AGS Award!
Sinitrena:
Spoiler: ShowHide

@ Sinitrena: [...]I'm sorry but I found your first piece a bit flat, I think due to a combination of factors. [...]

I agree. As I said, I had something else planned but forgot to actually write it. So this was a last minute thing I wasn't really into...  :-\

Quote
Your second story was much better written, in my opinion.  [...] ("rains" should be "reins", and I chuckled at the "errand stone" that should have been errant),

And this story was literally last minute, just a bit of fun, so not proofread at all. (But mixing up rains and reins really hurts - stupid mistakes that automatic spell-checking doesn't catch...)

Quote
especially as the problem of the fence between the beasts was glossed over entirely, but overall this was my favourite story.

How was this glossed over? The fence is litarelly right between them as they "dance", they have to embrace like humans because it's between them and they sway from "side to side" not forwards or backwards. It's a deciding factor in how they dance.


Baron and Mandle:
Spoiler: ShowHide

It seems like your ideas with the shoes went in the same direction, taking them as a symbol of death, even more, a symbol of a transitional stage between life and death. You both have a dead main character, who is not just dead but in the in-between, for both the shoes are part of the step from one world into the other (literally for Mandle's protagonist; in the form of a realisation for Baron's).

Baron: I'm not enterly sure what happened with Detective Brenner. It's clear she's dead and it's clear she hasn't realised this at the beginning of the story and that the shoes tip her of, not just to her death, but to who she is to some degree. But how did she die? How did Hal die? (If he actualy died - "gone" could, technically, also mean that he left) The two most likely scenarios are that she either shot herself or that Hal killed her, but there are a few other possibilities as well. It's not clear.
The story is very philosophical in nature, musing about life and death and the futility of existence and in this aspect it is very well done. I think it would work even better if we had known Brenner for a few scenes longer, maybe even one where she is still alive.
The revelation in the end could also be a bit stronger. Detective Brenner knows who she is (as the text is from her point of view and she is referenced by name), yet she can't make the connection to the Name Yulia Kosovich without seeing the name on her keyring? I do love the very last sentence though. I can't tell why, but it feels very strong.

Mandle: This story feels incomplete - which it is, as you said yourself. There are just too many loose ends for it to work the way it is. I'd love to read the full version, to see how it matches with the speculations and ideas that formed in my mind as to how the story would and should continue.
When re-reading, after reading your comment, I thought about ways that could turn this into a complete story without the need for a lot of re-writing, that is also not very time-consuming. I'll just put them here, mainly as a thought experiment:
- Remove the framing devise of the protagonist telling his story to someone. You necessarily need to come back to this to avoid a loose end, and we don't want to write more here for now.
- Remove all references to Jacob. It's impossible to resolve this plot thread in such a short story as long as you want to keep the general structure intact.
- Shift the protagonists personality slightly, to make him more of an egostic asshole. That's the part that needs the most rewriting, but we already have him attacking the Angel of Death, so it will fit with this part of the story
No brother to rescue and a generally unpleasent personality changes the tone of the ending, but turns it into a proper ending. The protagonist basically conquered death and starts a new "life" without a care in the world. This obviously changes the whole tone and feeling of the story, but it would make it into a complete one without a whole lot of re-writing.
The way the story is right now - I like the writing and the descriptions und the tone (more than I would in the edited version I suggest above) but there's just too much missing. It feels incomplete because it is and that makes it difficult judge. Normally, I would say there are loose ends (obviously) or the end feels rushed or somesuch, but that is all due to it not being finished. I'd say it's worth working on and completing it, though.


Baron wins for me this round.