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Topics - Aucoq

Literate Chaotic / The Wasteland
March 08, 2013, 06:55:31 AM
The Wasteland

For my entire life I've been wandering through the infinite expanse that is the Wasteland.  My sun-bleached hair is long and unkempt.  My beard reaches well below my chest, blowing about with the wind.  My face shows the signs of constant exposure, years of wrinkles etched into my visage.  My eyes, once bright and blue in my youth, are now dull and lifeless.  My tanned, leathery skin tightly stretches around my skeletal frame.  My legs are the only part of me that has anything remotely resembling muscle mass.  And they are the one part of me that constantly aches after walking from sun up to sun down, day after day.

I have no place to go, mind you.  I have never known a place to go to.  I have never met another living being.  I have never seen signs of civilization.  All I have ever known is the vast desert before me and the constant heat of the sun above me.  I am completely alone.  And that's the worst part.  When I stop to sleep at night, some relief finds me as the pain in my legs fade into a simple throbbing.  When the sun sets, I am granted a reprieve from its heat.  But the gnawing pain of my loneliness is ever present.  No matter if it is day or night, if I'm asleep or awake, it tears at my very soul.  And the Wasteland has its ways of making sure I never forget it.

I woke one morning to the sight of the sun just starting to climb over the horizon.  It looked like a giant red eye staring me down, judging me for crimes I didn't remember committing.  The remnants of night were starting to disperse, replaced by a brilliant blue sky.  White clouds lazily floated above me, clouds big enough to let their presence be known but not so big that they provided shelter from the sun's hellish wrath.

I stood up and shook the dust out of my hair and beard.  With eyelids still heavy from sleep, I continued my pilgrimage to nowhere in particular.  Hours passed as I continued to walk, driven by my innate desire to be somewhere, anywhere, but there.  The golden sun stood high in the sky.  The clouds had long since disappeared.  Yellow-brown earth sprawled out in front of me, continuing on until it met the blue sky.  A sigh escaped my dry, cracked lips.  And that's when I saw it.

I almost couldn't believe my eyes.  In the distance something shined like a star in the night sky.  I had never seen anything like it before.  Something within my being urged me to go to the alien light.  Without thinking, my steady, plodding walk became a jog which gave way to a full blown run.  I ran as hard as I could towards the light like a sailor towards land after a year at sea.

As I closed the distance, the nature of the light revealed itself.  The light was no beacon or sign.  It was sunlight reflecting off of the surface of water.  Before me stood a waist-high, round well made of light brown sandstone and filled to the brim with crystal clear water.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I had never seen the liquid substance before.  I quickly moved to the well and then stood shocked.  Hiding behind the well I saw it.  There, lying on the ground was a decapitated body, black and mummified from being left out in the harsh environment of the Wasteland.  I took a step back, unsure whether the well was a trap or not.  But with a mouth so dry that it felt like sandpaper, the idea of the water ridding me of my thirst was too great for me to ignore.

I stepped up to the well and looked down.  That's when I saw it.  At the bottom of the well sat another grim totem.  A gouged out eyeball silently stared up at me.  A tremor ran down my spine.  Once again I thought about whether or not drinking the water was a good idea, but by that point I had already made up my mind.  I cupped my hands and dipped them down into the cool, clean water, creating small ripples racing outwards towards the well's walls.  Cold and wet, the sensation was like nothing I had ever felt before.  My heart began to beat faster.  I lifted up my hands, full of water, and brought it to my chapped lips.  I was overwhelmed by pleasure as I drank the cold water.  My head swam.  And for the first time my frail body felt something close to strength.

That's when it happened.  The air and ground around me began to wave gently like the surface of a pond called to action by a breeze.  My heart raced.  My eyes darted back and forth.  My breathing picked up pace.  Everything around me began to ripple as if someone had dropped a pebble into reality itself.

I sat in the grey leather seat of my black BMW at a complete standstill on the highway.  I wore a grey business suit with a blue tie.  My hair was medium-length and slicked back.  My face was clean shaven.  I looked like a typical upper middle class businessman. 

I looked at the cars that surrounded me.  Some of the drivers looked stressed out of their minds.  Some looked like they were about to fall asleep.  Some were cursing under their breath and others had smiles on their faces.

I held up my wrist and looked down at my Rolex.  Something deep within my stomach clinched.  I was going to be late.  My boss was going to kill me.  To take my mind off of my impending scolding, I reached forward and turned on the radio.  The speakers blasted Johnny D. and Rick the Animal, a morning show whose hosts were mindlessly chattering away with unnatural energy for the time of day about the latest movie star who got arrested for a careless act.  As they talked, they used an army of wacky noises and sound bites for comedic effect.  I laid my head back against the hand-stitched headrest and closed my eyes, waiting for the traffic to move.

The vision ended as quickly as it had begun.  There I stood in the Wasteland with dry, cracked earth beneath my feet and the sun beating down on me from above.  The well and headless body were gone.  There was no sign that they were even there to begin with. 

A deep sigh escaped my parched lips before I continued on my journey.
Literate Chaotic / 3 Word Story
November 26, 2012, 07:31:53 AM
LOL, just kidding!

My taxi sped down 635 heading west towards DFW airport.  I was going twenty miles per hour over the speed limit.  Going so fast was probably a little dangerous, but it was three in the morning and we were the only traffic on the highway so I wasn't worried about a cop stopping me.

I adjusted my rearview mirror to get a good look at the customer in the backseat.  The interior of the cab was pretty dark.  The only light came from the dim glow of the dashboard-mounted computer screen and the streetlights we passed under every few seconds.

The man had short, dark hair.  He had dark eyes and a round face with a nose that was big but fit his face.  He wore a light grey suit with a dark red tie.  Something about him was off though.  He was pale, but his paleness didn't look like it came from a lack of sun.  It looked like he was sick or he had something weighing on his mind.  He acted like he couldn't get to where he was going quickly enough.  He fidgeted nervously when he wasn't checking his watch.  Of course I've had my fair share of impatient pricks, but they usually didn't get wound tight until we hit traffic.  This guy was wound tighter than a drum from the get-go.

I had picked him up at an office building downtown.  He threw the backdoor open, jumped into the backseat, and told me "DFW" before I could even ask him where he was headed.  He put a small overnight bag on the floorboard between his legs and a black shoebox in the seat next to him before closing the door.  I put my cab into drive, heading east out of the downtown area and towards the nearest highway.

"Business trip?"  I had asked, trying to make some light conversation.

"Yeah.  Yeah.  No.  I mean no," He answered.  He checked his watch.

Okay.  "Where are you flying to?"

"Burlington.  Vermont."

I drove underneath the highway, took a left turn, and then went up a ramp to get onto Highway 75 heading north.

"Ah, I thought you had a weird accent," I told him," You're from there?"

"Yeah.  Well, just east of there."  He checked his watch.  "Is there any way you can go faster?"

I exited 75 onto 635 heading west.  "I'm going as fast as I can, my friend.  When's your flight?"


I laughed.  "Don't worry.  I'll get you there with plenty of time to spare."

He checked his watch.

I drove on heading west down 635 in complete silence.  I mean so quiet you could probably hear my thoughts if you listened closely enough.  I slowed down to a respectable speed once we neared the left turn that leads directly to the airport's toll booths.  As we passed the booths I asked him which gate.

"B13," he answered.

"B13? You sunk my battle ship."  I gave a big, cheesy grin.

Nothing.  Not even a chuckle just for the sake of being nice.  What a prick.

We pulled up to the gate's entrance.  I put the car into park.  Checking the meter, I tell him the fare is sixty-three dollars and fifty cents.

He threw open the backdoor.  Quickly reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out his wallet, took out a bill, and then put his wallet back into his pocket.  He threw the bill at me, grabbed the bag from between his legs, and then jumped out of the cab.  Slamming the car door shut, he started running towards the airport's automatic doors.

I picked the bill up off the seat where it had landed and took a look at it.  My heart felt like it skipped a beat.  A hundred dollar bill.  I quickly opened my door and stood up, looking over the cab's roof.

"Hey mister, you gave me way too muc-" He had already disappeared into the building.

What a tip!  On second thought, maybe that guy wasn't so bad after all.

I stuffed the bill into my pocket before sitting back down in the driver's seat and closing the car door.  I checked the clock.  Three thirty-nine.  I checked the dashboard-mounted computer screen to see if dispatch had any work for me.  Nothing.  Oh well.  My shift ended in a little over an hour anyways so it's probably for the best.  Nothing ruins my day like having to haul someone a long distance away right before my shift ends.

I put the cab into drive and headed north towards the airport's exit before taking a right onto 635 going east.  I looked down at my fuel gauge.  Almost empty.  Good.  There was a nice gas station a few miles down the highway that gives a discount to cabbies who haul people to and from the airport.  That was the perfect excuse for me to laze around until my shift was up.

I pulled into the gas station and parked the cab at the closest pump.  Bright, white light flooded into the car from the gas station's roof above the pumps, causing me to squint for a second while my eyes adjusted.  Turning off the car, I threw the keys into the passenger's seat before opening the door and getting out.

I opened the latch on the side of the car then unscrewed the gas tank cap.  Turning back around, I took the company's credit card out of my wallet and swiped it through the machine.  I selected the correct type of fuel then grabbed the gas pump's nozzle and placed it in the car's tank.  I held down the handle and flipped the underneath tab that kept the fuel going without me holding it.  After a second or two the sound of fuel being pumped into the car started.

I turned around to sit back in the driver's seat to relax until the gas pump was finished but something caught my eye.  I looked through the backdoor's window.  A black shoebox sat on the backseat.  That guy had accidently left it behind.  Shit.

I opened the back door, grabbed the box, and then returned to the driver's seat.  I put the box on the passenger's seat.  What was I going to do with it?  The man had to be long gone by now.  I didn't pick him up at his place so I couldn't drop it off there.  Should I just toss it in the trash?  Nah.  It could be some invaluable family heirloom.  I guess I'll have to take it back to home base and give it to the company's lost and found desk.  I definitely wasn't looking forward to that.  There was no way my boss wouldn't find out about it.  And when he did I could expect him to throw a fit about how careless I am.

I picked up the box and put it on my lap.  I decided to check to see what was in it.  Maybe there would be some kind of identification.  If there isn't and it doesn't look valuable I'll just throw it away.  I don't want to get on my boss' bad side.  Again.

I took off the lid and tossed it into the passenger's seat.  Well, the contents definitely weren't valuable.  A box of letters.  I sat the box in my lap and picked up the letter on top.  The return address stated someone named Samantha O'Hare .  The mailing address was to someone named Jon O'Hare.  It's a shot in the dark, but my guess is Johnny boy was my customer.

I held the envelope in my hand, thinking about taking the box to the address listed.  I could.  But my shift was almost over.  Plus the address is way on the other side of Dallas.  It'd take a good forty-five minutes to an hour to get there.  And there's no way the company would pay for a joyride so the gas spent would be on my dime.  Nah.  I don't make nearly enough for that.  Of course, I could use the generous tip the guy left me to pay for the gas.  Nah.  I'd much rather pocket the money.  Plus it's not my crap so why should I care where it ends up?

I quickly flipped through the box of envelopes.  There was a book's worth of letters there.  Each one was dated a week after the last.  This Samantha girl must've written them like clockwork.  I thought about putting the box up and throwing it out later, but my curiosity was starting to get the better of me.  With so many letters surely there'd be something interesting to read while I wait to go home, right?

I put the box to the side and took the letter out of the envelope I held in my hand, placing it to the side afterwards.  I quickly read the letter.  It wasn't very long.  And then put it back in the box, taking out the one written a week later.  Each one was relatively short although their lengths varied.  They were pretty mundane.  She essentially recounted what happened during the week before in the small town she lives in.  After reading almost half of them I started to get a clear picture about the girl's life.

She's Jon's sister.  She still lives with their parents.  Most of what she writes was fairly boring.  She goes to the local high school and plays on the school's soccer team.  She hangs out with her friends most days of the week.  Like most kids she doesn't get along too well with her parents.  She seems to be quite the morning person.  She likes to wake up early, well before the sun rises, because she enjoys the peacefulness of it before everyone starts to wake up.  She likes to paint which she does in the mornings when she's not studying for school.

Outside of her family and friends the only other regular name that pops up is a man in his early thirties named Mark.  He's her neighbor, living across the street.  He's a science fiction writer who is famous in the New England area.  He's the Sunday school teacher at a Catholic church called Saint Mary's.  He also writes the pamphlets and newsletters for the church.  He wakes up early in the morning to go jogging so she often sees him when he's stretching or warming down after the run.  She usually waves at him from her window.  Sometimes she'll go out and talk to him.  She even jogs with him every now and then.  It sounds like he's a surrogate father, in a sense.  Since she doesn't like to talk to her parents, she usually talks to him especially after Jon moved to Dallas.  He's apparently a good listener and doesn't judge her unlike her parents.  Although she does get the feeling she annoys him sometimes when she wants to talk while he's trying to exercise.

I put the last letter I read next to the box and rubbed my eyes.  I guess I was wrong.  There wasn't anything interesting.  I looked in the box.  There were still a little over a third of the letters left.  In my mind I weighed the pros and cons of giving up reading the rest versus continuing on.  I wanted to give up.  But my curiosity was still urging me on.  Whatever.  It's still better than zoning out, I guess.

I picked up the next letter and read through it.  The date on it read September 1, 2012.   My heart raced a little.  Now it was getting interesting.  The usual mundane details were replaced with some small town news.  It seems that some locals were hiking through the heavily forested hills that surround the town.  They went pretty far off into the wilderness when they ran into something quite interesting.  They found the old, mostly intact ruins of a cathedral that no one had known was there.  Stapled to the letter was an article from the local newspaper announcing what they found.  The local historians don't know for sure but think that the church was built by the French since it looked to have been built before the English controlled the area.  If that's the case they probably built it to convert a local group of natives called the Abenaki.  Interestingly, the church isn't a simple wooden building.  It was built out of stone like a lot of old churches in Europe.  That's quite a rarity in the New World, especially in a place that was so remote at the time.  No one knows why they built such a church.  The article also contained a picture of the smiling couple that found the church as well as a poor quality, black-and-white picture of the church itself.  The image of the church gave me a strange feeling.  I don't know if it was because the quality of the picture was so bad, but it looked rather sinister.

Any negative feelings I had were drowned out by my excitement though.  Even though there was a lot I don't know I've always had an interest in history.  And the uncovering of a mysterious church was about as good as it could get.  I felt pretty envious in fact.  It must be so great to actually be there and see it in person.

September 8, 2012.  Samantha talks about how St. Mary's Church is buzzing with excitement over the discovery.  Father Paulson, apparently the priest in charge of St. Mary's, has visited the ruins and given them his blessing.  The church is even planning a celebration in honor of the "town's Catholic history."  Samantha admits that even though she hasn't been to Mass in years even she has been caught up in the excitement.  Stapled to the letter is another article that rehashed the information from the last article but included a new photo taken from inside the ruins.  The picture is of a fairly intact mural that is a painting on the inside of the church of an unknown priest blessing an Indian.  The caption identifies the Indian as most likely Nescambious, the leader of a tribe of Abenaki who aided the French in their battles against the English.  He was even knighted by King Louis XIV and was known among the English as a "bloody devil" for often massacring women and children.

A mass murderer gets blessed by a priest?  That's organized religion for you.

September 15, 2012.  Samantha states that the celebration was a big hit with the town.  She states that Father Paulson has visited the ruins more and more.  There are even whispers that he's thinking about holding Mass in the ruins once they repair it a bit.  She then says that she went out to talk to the neighbor Mark about it one morning since he was so close to the church.  She was disappointed that he had visited the ruins once but doesn't want to go back.  He never gave her a real reason why.  He just said he had a bad feeling about it then went on his jog before she could ask any other questions.

September 22, 2012. Samantha says that Father Paulson and some members of the congregation have started repairing the ruins of the church.  They practically spend all day there.  Even some of her classmates go there after school to help out.  She hears that at the rate they're going the church should be serviceable within a few weeks since most of the damage was only due to half the roof collapsing.  Everyone in the town is excited because they're building it to look exactly like it probably looked when it was new.  Father Paulson specifically asked that it be completely authentic, using the same processes the French would've used during that time.

September 29, 2012. Samantha states that the word on the street is the repairs are almost nearly complete.  Father Paulson has even started performing special nighttime services after the day's work is finished for the congregational members and children who are working on the church.  He has also decided to live in the ruins for the time being, setting up a cot in a small room in the back of the church and bringing in some supplies such as food, water, and toiletries.  His reasoning is that he's getting older and the hike to the church through the woods, which takes a couple of hours, drains him too much.  The priest in charge of St. Mary's during Father Paulson's absence has expressed some worry that he hasn't seen any of the members at Mass since the work began, but he knows they will return once the job is complete so he's not terribly concerned.  She ends the letter by saying that their parents have even helped out with the repairs some, and that true to his word Mark has yet to return to the ruins despite everyone else's interest.

October 6, 2012.  Samantha says that the church's repairs have been completed.  Father Paulson has been holding services every night.  More and more people have started going to the new church.  She says she decided to go to a service at St. Mary's.  She notes that the church was nearly empty.  It felt weird.  The priest performing the service appeared upset that so many people had left.  Mark looked disappointed even though he wouldn't admit it to her afterwards.  Rumors were running wild about what Father Paulson was doing at the ruins.  Most of them were pretty silly, ranging from animal sacrifice to alien abduction.  She ends the letter by stating that a lot of the people are becoming nervous about the apparent split in the community.

I wondered why people would be so uptight about another church in the town.  How typical.  People don't like what they don't understand.  I picked up the next letter.

October 13, 2012.  Samantha opens the letter by stating that the mood in town has changed for the worse.  The priest in charge of St. Mary's had Mark write an open letter to the community urging those who had left to return.  She hadn't read the letter, but she heard from her friends that it wasn't hateful or aggressive.  They said it was just a friendly plea, stressing certain quotes from the scripture.  Neither Father Paulson nor his congregation has responded to the letter.  However, something about them has changed.  Even her parents, who leave every night after the sun goes down to attend services at the ruins, have changed.  She says during the day they seem so lifeless.  They have conversations with you.  They go to work and see friends after the business day is over.  But there's something missing.  It's like they're going through the motions.  They'll laugh if you tell a joke.  But it's like they do it not because they thought it was funny but because they were expected to laugh.  At night it's like they return to normal.  They laugh and joke and seem to have more energy once the sun goes down as they head off to services.  She says that dinner has become increasingly awkward.  Her parents have been urging her to go with them to the ruins.  They seem so normal when they ask.  But when she refuses it's like they return to their lethargic state.  She says it almost feels like they're just pretending to be normal to try to trick her into going with them.  After dinner, they leave for the ruins without saying goodbye.

Wow that's weird.  It almost sounds like they're drug addicts.

October 20, 2012.  Samantha claims that Father Paulson's congregation continues to change.  They've started to regain their personalities and life, she says, but something is off.  It's like they've become cruder.  They act rude just for the sake of hurting you.  When you get upset they just laugh at you.  Samantha says that when one of them approach people who don't go to the ruins for service the people leave instead of interacting with them, and that she has stopped eating dinner with her parents because they're so cruel and gross now.
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone / Solitaire
November 24, 2012, 06:34:36 AM
I've recently been playing a lot of Klondike (what most call Solitaire) while writing a story for another thread.  The more I played the more I realized that Solitaire is, in fact, a rather accurate metaphor for life.  You see, like each one of our lives Solitaire ultimately has only four possible outcomes.

The first outcome is that you play the game and, with a little thinking and a lot of luck, you win.  No matter how little you think you still win because it's technically impossible for you to lose.

The second outcome is that it's possible to win.  But the only way to actually win is to be able to have the foresight to know what effect your current action has on the (at the time unknowable) actions and possibilities of the future.  In other words, to win you need to know that the one move you're about to make is going to seal your fate twenty moves down the road before you make the move in the first place.  Or, again, luck comes into play and you manage to unknowingly make the right choices therefore winning.

The third outcome is that you lose from the get-go.  You never had a chance to win.  You never even had a chance to play.  There was only one way to move one card, and that move ends the game before it even starts.

I've noticed that the fourth outcome, like in life, is by far the most common.  You've been playing the game for a long time.  You've had to make tough decisions.  When you've made a mistake, you managed to recover.  Most of the time, you're able to think clearly enough and far enough into the future to make the right decisions.  You've lined all your ducks up in a row.  You can taste victory.  You know the end is just around the corner.  All your hard work and wise decisions are about to pay off.  And then BAM!  GAME OVER.  You lose.  You freak out.  You look back at the game to try to figure out what the hell happened.  You look at the situation.  Then you realize that, like the third outcome, there was no chance in hell you could win the game.  All possible paths led to the same destination: failure.  You punch your computer screen or throw your playing cards across the room.  You spent all that time and effort and energy playing a game you could never win to begin with.

Such is life.  But you know what?  I still love playing Solitaire when I'm bored or need a break even though I know I'll lose 9 out of 10 games no matter what I do.  Why?  I don't know.  I guess because even though I know what the inevitable outcome is it's still a fun game to play.