View Full Version : Short story contest #2 - 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times'

11-08-2003, 16:13:19
Welcome to the second CG short story contest!

For this contest, your story should start with the words 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times', but from then on you are free to go wherever your imagination takes you!

Write as much or as little as you like, but please respect the fact that your peers will have to find the time to read your entry

Submission deadline is c. sunday night (the 17th), only one entry per poster.

Comments on stories should be posted in a seperate thread, this thread is for STORIES ONLY.

12-08-2003, 09:32:07
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" "It was the most bollocks of opening lines." "Nah, there must be plenty worse lines opening lines than that." "I think it's quite good." "Good? it's shit." "You can't just say that, why is it shit?" "What? I dunno, it's just so annoying." "But why?" This is where, sober, I'm convinced I'd launch into a brilliant assassination of not just this intro but everything Dickens has ever written. Problems are #1 I'm not sober and #2 the only reason I think I'd be able to launch into a brilliant assassination of everything Dickens has ever written is because of the false confidence instilled by #1. "It's just shit." I can't even think of an example of a better opening line. Dammit. Actually I quite enjoyed the only Dickens book I've read but this certainly isn't the time to admit that. Suddenly, inspiration. "It was the day my grandmother exploded." "What?" "Yeah, what?" "It was the day my grandmother exploded. Opening line of The Crow Road by Iain Banks. A similar but far superior opening line. Which book would you read? 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' or 'It was the day my grandmother exploded.'" I'm on a roll now. "Best of times, shit, I mean, thanks for the information Charlie but you haven't inspired me to find out why it was the best and worst of times. I do, however, want to know what caused granny to blow up." "What did happen to Granny?" "See! My point exactly. Have either of you read A Tale of Two Cities?" "Of course." "Nah. Don't really read very much." "So, bearing in mind you don't read much, which line would inspire you to read one of the books?" "Have to be the exploding granny." I sit back, feeling not so much smug as relieved that I might have retrieved the argument. Time for another drink. "Why did she explode?"

12-08-2003, 14:16:52
'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times'
'Yeah, fucking brilliant, just a shame you woke up in a puddle of your own vomit'
'That was the worst of times bit. But before that-'
'Yup, before that... now I know why you wanted one with size twelve feet'
'The stripper....'
'Oh yeah... well you know, they say it's stylish.'
'Drinking Diamond White from a strippers shoe?'
'I thought you said it was champaigne...'
'Er, yeah. It was.'
'Anyway never mind that, why are you still wearing those panties on your head?'
'Oh these? I like em, anyway you know how it is... best of times, worst of times, ladies-garment headware times.... all the same to me really'
'Yes, indeed. I am never doing anything like this again.'
'Yeah. By the way, did I tell you I'm getting married next month?'

The End.

Scabrous Birdseed
12-08-2003, 18:51:52
It was the best of Times, it was the worst of Times. This was to be expected as there’d so far been only one issue. Steve felt smugly proud of it. There was the front page article about the new store opening down Hallow Way, Mrs. Gently’s cat getting lost, the Women’s Institute knitting competition, even a primitive crossword.

In Steve’s estimation, though, the best article was the one he’d spent hours researching at the library down in Renton. It listed all previous attempts at bringing a newssheet to the village- from Lucas Maunder’s turn-of-the-century Melford Items to Joan Carling’s incredibly gossipy Melford Tatler. He’d even found one made by two schoolgirls in the 70s, seemingly as a joke but stored in the library nonetheless. None of them had really lasted more than an issue or three.

“Stephen!” Steve’s mother was using her come-down-there’s-someone-here-to-see-you voice. He typed a quick brb in a Trillian window and shuffled down the stairs.

In the doorway stood a man of quite extraordinary appearance. Tall and heavily built, he lacked the red-faced complexion generally associated with the stature, instead having deeply pale, almost transparent skin. His clothing was a motley assortment of outdated fashions from the past century. Black Doc Martens were complimented by black silk stockings and equally black plus-fours, a black woolly sweater and a black waistcoat. All this was topped by a black shawl tightly wound around the face, a ridiculous-looking black Stetson hat and a pair of oversized 1930s aviator’s sunglasses (black). When he spoke, he did so in a high-pitched squeal.

“Could I please see your codec?”

“Er, what?” asked Steve, perplexed.

The strange man frowned, excused himself and walked down to a convertible car parked outside the gates in which sat another two men of equal size and clothing eclecticism. Steve could see them mumbling in conversation, sighing, making furtive gestures towards the sky. He only snapped up one word, an exasperated squeal of “Again!”.

Eventually another of the men came forward. “Excuse my companion, just his little joke.” He issued a short unconvincing laugh, ruffling his feathered boa. “We’re, er, inventors. We are sending out a press release about our new, er, machine next week, but we thought we’d be nice and show it to the village first. Would you like to come with us?”

Steve, overjoyed at his newspaper’s early impact, was more than happy to squeeze down between two of the men in the car’s back seat. Off Renton Road they drove down a forest track until, in a glen, they stopped at a curious low concrete building partially hidden beneath the forest floor. It apparently had no windows. Inside it was dusky and quite clammy, and smelled strongly of earth. This must be something quite wonderful, thought Steve, if they’ve hidden it this well.

“Behold,” squealed the second man, “the dream machine!” He pointed at a barely-visible chair in the corner. “We’re going to give you a personal demonstration.” Kick-ass, thought Steve. “Just come with me please… Sit down here… Put on this headband like so…” Wow, dream machine, here in Melford! What a scoop! “And these earphones…”

Steve felt a sudden tingling sensation- Whee, it starts!- and then he must have passed out because the next thing he remembered he was alone in the room and he felt deeply nauseous. On his hands and knees he crawled towards the door, feeling the murky soil apparently covering the chamber’s floor. Not looking, he bumped into a tall free-standing shelving unit, and he worked himself up one edge of it and finally stood straight.

On the shelf in front of him stood a row of jars that, despite his state, provoked his interest because they glowed in such a strange way. His eyes had grown accustomed to the gloom now, he picked up the jars one by one and read the labels. As he read his stomach finally upended itself, and Steve felt sicker than he’d ever done in his entire life. “Essence: Lucas Maunder”. “Essence: Joan Carling”. “Essence: Stephen…”

It was the best of Times, it was the worst of Times. There was never another issue published again.

14-08-2003, 03:32:36
(Set in the same continuum as: http://www.counterglow.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&postid=379605#post379605 )

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Ugh. Do they really expect me to read this?” said Trisha the First, newly crowned Queen of Jhucadia.

“I cannot believe you have to do a report on that stupid book. Just do what I did when I had to do one. Use Cliff Notes.” I told her.

“Oh, why bother with all that work, Your Majesty” said Count Weasel #1. “Just go grab one off the net. It’s what I did when I was in high school.”

“And that worked for me in college.” said Count Weasel #2.

“Hey, we could go Google up a few reports for you” said Count Weasel #3.

“That sounds great. Here, check these links out” said Baroness Weasel #4.

*Maybe I should {Polymorph} them into weasels and let the castle hounds hunt them down?* I thought. Seeing the four weasels trying to crawl as far as they could up her behind, I decided it was time to go elsewhere. *She’d asked me here. Why?* I wondered. We had barely talked, with all the other people about. All the old king's crowd was trying to impress upon her how useful they would be to her. *Cockroaches and weasels, the whole lot of them. Maybe I should just use {Mordhaki's Ever Killing Curse} on them? No, no need to reveal to them I know that one.* I thought glummy.

"Humm..." *{Polymorph} is pretty common though.* I thought cheerfully. *And it really wouldn't be much a change for those four. More shrinking in size then anything else.*

A large tiger striped house cat walked up beside me, and sat down. I reached down and stroked it. *No point changing them to weasels if she’s here… the hounds will be as far away as they can get.* I thought to myself.

“I’ve never seen such a small animal frighten the Royal Hounds” said the Duchess. I nearly jumped. But of course, the Duchess wouldn’t recognize me currently, I remembered.

“You sure move quietly.” I said to her. “Yes, it’s a most courageous being. Much more then the hounds, apparently.”

The Duchess just smiled wryly at me. “Yes. Strange.” She reached out to pet the cat. It hissed, slashing her hand viciously. She took a step away from the cat, and it ran behind the throne, giving one last parting hiss at her.

“Not a cat person?” I asked her.

“Well, I am. It doesn’t seem to like me though.”

I shrugged. “Cats are like that. So, do you know why Ralph stepped down as king? Getting too busy elsewhere to keep up with being king, or just bored and wanted a change?” I asked her.

“Why are you asking me? Shouldn’t you be asking the Queen?”

“I have asked her. But I was wondering what you had heard.”

“What did she say?”

“She didn’t know.”


“So, what about Ralph?”

“Why are you asking me?” she repeated.

“Because you are the legendary Duchess” I said, grinning.

“Legendary? Me?”

I got tired of her act. *Time to be a star-struck hick.*

“Yeah. You and the Green Knight and Marlin the Magnificent and Teela the Terrible and Zonar the Zh’Ranger were the first party to beat the Countless Hoard, to kill Bhummra the Ever Living, to open the ---”

“Yeah yeah yeah.” She cut me off, and walked away. She obviously had enough noses trying to snorkel up her backside to have lost all patience with anything that hinted at that. I remembered not to smile, and act disappointed instead.

Well, it was time to go in search of a particular hidden room in the Royal Castle of Jhucadia. If only Ralphie had been smart enough to grant me permission to enter his castle, he’d still be in charge of it. Now, I just hoped that the junior meta-wizards haven’t scrambled up the castle too much in all the enchanted changes they’ve made since the plans to the hidden room had been mapped.

I winked at Trisha on my way out of the throne room. She got what she wanted; now it’s my turn…

14-08-2003, 18:08:01
"Phew." *Man, I could really use another cold beer.* I thought, opening another of what seemed zillion plus one doors in the castle. I was still looking for a way to get down to Dungeon level 2. Either this wasn't the right castle, or someone had really gone crazy expanding and rearranging its underground.

So far, I hadn't found anything dangerous down here, other then boredom. But I was occasionally getting the feeling that someone was following me. *Maybe I'm just so bored, I would like to have someone following me.* I thought to myself, as a sound echoed up behind me. Did that shadow move? I stared at it, waiting on further movement, until I just got too bored to care. Shaking my head, I decided I had enough of these boring corridors and rooms full of nothing more then barrels, ropes, bags, and other odd and ends. *I'll just finish this last room out, and call it a night.* I thought to myself.

Leaving the door open, I walked inside the room. Like most of the others, it was filled with barrels, ropes, bags, and other tidbits. *Why in the world had anyone bothered stocking it with this?* I wondered. *Just how many barrels and ropes did these people need? There's enough rope here to hang every goblin under the continent, I bet...*

Dejectedly, it occurred to me I still needed to check all the barrels and bags in this room. "Ugh.". They needed to be checked to ensure there were no anchored magic portals in them. The entrance to what I wanted was supposedly in a small freshwater well located on the lowest floor of the dungeon. But so far, the map had been wrong about everything past the first corridor of level one. The amount of change was truly boggling.

And to make it worse then just a bum map, it had occurred to me that with all of this change, some enchanter or meta-wizard might have found the magic portal in the well, and reanchored it elsewhere, ensuring the hidden room would be their private preserve and pocket universe. That was what made this dungeon crawl so mind numbingly tedious. Having to not only find the freshwater water well room (in case it did still exist, *I hope it still exists!*), but check everywhere someone might hide the portal that was once anchored in the well.

For all I knew, they might have filled in the well room, with all that have been changed. If they had done that, the portal would guarantee to have been moved. It was a very stern enchantment, and the most they could have done with it would be to have moved where it was anchored. And considering how long it had been since the map had been made, I had this crazy feeling that someone else had found that portal and moved it. I just hoped it was still in this castle's underground. Otherwise, I didn't have a chance of ever finding it.


I started browsing through the closest sacks. My mind was so bored, it took a few moments to sink in that these sacks had something in them. Food. Fresh breads, cheeses, dried fruit...


A movement out of the corner of my vision gave me just enough time to look up and...



I reeled backward, and fell, being caught so completely off guard.



Several dark, warm, and furred somethings were knocking me about. But between all the knocking about, being dizzy, and the fact that I hadn't bothered to maintain anything better then {Cat's Eye}, I really couldn't tell more. This part of the castle's underground had a decorative fae fungus that gave off just enough light to keep these rooms and corridors from being pure stygian blackness, but it wasn't full moon brightness. In fact, it was equal to just a few stars peeking through a grey, overcast night. I had thought earlier that it was the perfect enchantment hunting brightness, as anything remotely magical should stand out in this bleakness. Now, I regretted being such an idiot. I needed more light if I was going to have a chance in this fight...

"{Illumi---" I started to enchant, and then got smacked so hard in the chest, I lost my breath. Trying to get air back into my lungs, I noticed the dull shine of what seemed silver from the direction of whatever had hit me. It looked like... a monkey hand holding a goblet? Damnit! IT was a goblet!


Another one of the things smacked me so hard, I was rolled over. *Man* I thought turning off the physical sensations, *I'm really getting my ass kicked!*

One of the bigger shapes landed squarely where my legs met my body. *Damn!* I felt my body curl up, while trying to puke at the same time. *I am a pebble, resting in calm, cool pool. Small waves wash over me, trying to distract me, trying to upset me, but I am as unfeeling of these as I am of all such minor waves. I am a pebble, and these are merely sensations that pass as all waves pass...* I thought to myself, over and over, waiting. There was nothing else I could do.

After a few more gratuitous shots from the bigger shapes, they stopped. They seem to have decided that a fetal ball of human, bleeding and puking, was no serious threat to them.

After a bit longer, I could hear them, as well as the blood roaring in my ears.

"<...should kill it now, and not worry about asking it what has happened to our friends.>" said one.

"<If we kill it to start with, we cannot take its stuff.>" answered another.

"<Then take its stuff, and kill it.>"

"<NO! We need to know if our plans are still on!>" a third yelled back to them.

Their voices seemed... squeaky to me. Damn, how much longer do I have to wait until I can see straight again?

"<We know their biggest rat is no more head of warren. But we don't know if the plan remains the same.>"

"<Of course it has!>"

"<Has it? Noone was suppose to be coming down here. He's here, so something more then whose butt warms the throne has changed.>"

"<How much longer until we can go and ask--->"

A shrill battle cry came then, interrupting the speakers. The Duchess came charging into the room, twirling a very bright bar of light around. The room suddenly seemed as bright as the sun...

I rolled for the safety of a wall as fast as I could.

I cowered bravely between two of the largest barrels. The Duchess was trying madly to imitate a blender. As my eyes started adjusting to all the light, I could see she was doing a fair job at her imitation.

I could finally see what the monsters were. "humm" *Wolf? Rat? Boar? Some kind of were beast, that's for sure.* I thought. But once you take a furry, four legged mammal, stood it up, made it bigger and more muscled then the average man, and then anthropomorphize it, they all looked about the same to me. *Just a few differences in the eyes and nose.* "Humm.. " *Was that whiskers?*

The Duchess decapitated one of the beasts. Its head rolled nearby. "Ahh." *Definitely whiskers.*

One of them had managed to grab both her arms, pinning them to her side. He wouldn't hold her for long, but his pack mates weren't waiting on her to get free. I could see one, bringing up a big club to swing at the back of her head.

"{BANG!}" I said, shooting at it with my hand, just like a kid playing cops and robbers. A very small, fast, prismatic glowing marble shot out of my finger tip, and slammed into the were-beast's head. The head exploded in a great spray of gore and rainbowed streaked light.

*Dammit! If only she had waited another 5 seconds, I might have been able to find out who they were going to meet. Which weasel is also a rat?* I wondered to myself, as I brought my thumb back up, ready to 'shoot' another {Magic Missile}.

I noticed that the body I had put on a crash diet from the neck up was rapidly rotting, turning into dust, and blowing away in a wind not felt by anything else in the room. Surprised, I tried to count how many others might have done the same thing, but there was too much happening for me to have a chance of doing that by simple eye.

*Well, might as well finish them all off now then...* I thought.

"{BANG!}" I said, pointing at the right shoulder of the big one still holding the Duchess. It blew up spectacularly. The Duchess went back to chopping off large bits off the were beasts unfortunate enough to be within her sword's reach before the last of beshouldered were beast's meat had splattered across the walls of the room.

"{BANG!}" I said, pointing at the chest of one of the other were beast that had turned around after my first missile, and started to charge me. Its head flew up and bounced against the ceiling, as its arms kept charging in my general direction, suddenly liberated from the no longer existing upper trunk that they used to belong on. The entire room was now redecorated in another extraneous fresh coating of blood and bits of flesh too small to identify.

A cute, naked young human woman reached over one of my protecting barrels, and grabbed both of my wrists. *DAMMIT!* I was pissed off at being caught, and by surprise, *AGAIN!* I started to snarl a seriously high order spell when she pleaded "<Please spare me, wizard! As I spared you!>" Her face was... terrified. Was she crying?

*What a strange thing!* I wondered if she was significant or not.

I nodded at her. "Change. Now."

Startled, she did. Into a large, black hooded rat. I grabbed the rat by the tail, and stuck her into one of my spell pouches. She disappeared. *Very odd.*

My {Magic Missile} spell broken, I stood up fully from my protective niche between the barrels, summoning my dueling staff to me. *Pay back time.* I thought vengefully, charging at the last remaining couple of were-beasts. *The nerve of them! It's pay back time! Pay back--- for being gob smacked!*

15-08-2003, 11:36:47
'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times''. How come that lame quote stuck in my head, just before I was to go through the door? I took in a deep breath, rested my hand on the handle for a moment and then finally entered the room. There she was, sitting on the edge of the bed, looking scared and sad.
I sat down next to her on the bed and stroked her back in comfort. She kept looking at me with those dark, fearfull eyes, already red from what I expected to be a previous weeping session. The "I think we need to talk" call had had it's impact. I sighed deeply, closed my eyes, and said:
"I guess you know what I came here to talk about."
She was about to say yes, changed her mind, wanted to say NO!, but it ended up with some sort of questionable shrug, the lower lip trembling. I needed to keep the moment going, to keep her from completely breaking down.
"It's just that, I'm..., I'm not ready for a relationship at this moment. I know I said otherwise, but there's just too much going on in my life to have a serious relationship with it."
She nodded, looking down at the floor.
"You have to believe me when I say the problem isn't you, it's me. You are such a wonderfull person and so beautifull. Had it been another space and time, I would have gone for you forever."
She broke down, bowed her head and started crying. I crunched and mentally kicked myself. DON'T MENTION WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN!, I silently yelled to myself.
"Please don't cry, baby, I don't want you to cry over a guy like me. I'm not worth it. You deserve so much better than me."
The crying turned into a hickup sobbing.
"It's just, there's so many things and so many people in my life right now. The other day I found myself looking at another woman, and I felt so guilty. Then I realised it was a sign that I shouldn't be holding you back like this. This way isn't good for you OR me."
Trying to look up, eyes to the wall, she said bravely: "Well, I have been having doubts about us myself."
"You see! I guess it just wasn't meant to be this way." I said in a slightly overly patronizing voice. She nodded again, while looking at her shoes.
"But I do want us to remain friends though! There's no reason not to stay in contact with each other. I'd really like to know how your job search turns out, and stuff like that. It would be sad to throw everything we had away just like that." Finally she looked up and our eyes met. She managed a sad smile. I gave her a soft kiss on the cheek, but she was to dazed to give one in return.
"I'll think I'll go now. Thanks for everything we shared, it really meant a lot to me." Again the sad smile.
I stood up, walked to the door, opened it, turned around and looked at her a last time. "I'll call you, ok?" I said with a sad smile. She didn't even hear me, her stare completely blank. I closed the door softly behind me.

Outside on the street I let in another great gasp of air. What a relief! Finally rid of that lame bitch! The letting go moment sucked, but I was getting better at it. But I really had to stop having these one month relationships. Too short to mean anything, but too long to mean nothing.
Now, where did I leave that cute girl's phone number?

Immortal Wombat
15-08-2003, 14:13:43
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually, sod that, it was neither. It was a mediocre time. The least memorable time it could ever have been. Why I should even see fit to make reference to it, I don't know. Except that... except that it was different this time. Urgh, cliche. But until I have a chance to sit and think about it in some depth, that's the only way I can compare it to the other times. It wasn't as mind-blowingly fantastic as the third time, or as embarrasingly forced as the eighth. It wasn't as desperate and frenzied as the twelfth, nor as utterly, perfectly relaxed and euphoric as the twenty-fourth, and it didn't leave the sour taste that the awful thirtieth time had. It was somewhere in the middle of all of that. There was very little sense of anything afterwards. It had been bland, almost, like a bus journey or a bath full of concrete. And yet, when it was over, there was a sense that something somewhere had changed. Changed how though? For better or for worse? I don't know. I don't even know if that question makes sense in this context.

These thoughts all flashed past in a split second. I opened my eyes.

"Oh my." This time had been The Time. And things had changed.

15-08-2003, 16:50:15
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Which, of course, all depends on how you look at it. When the aliens were discovered some thought it a travesty against humanity and swore to destroy the alien menace once and for all. Others remembered that there were good times before they found the aliens and couldn't understand why good times could not continue. To the prior crowd, these people were referred to as nitwits.

"Bloody hell! What's the hold up?"

"Ah, you know how it is. Single file, curves in the road, sun bearing down. Add a bridge to that and what do you expect?"

"I expect us to move. We've been standing still for over an hour. This is unbelievable. How can a simple stroll take so long?"

"Now this ain't one of your prance through the meadow like a fairy with a rubber hose down its pants strolls, this is man's walkin'. See those cliffs around the bridge. One wrong move and it's splat-city, if you catch my drift."

"But single files? The road is 5 meters wide. I could drive a truck through it. Two trucks!"

"Now Fizzy, you can't drive two trucks. Not at the same time anyway. That's impossible. Unless, of course, you were a blasted alien. I reckon they could do it."

Fitzgerald Bottoms, Fizzy as he was commonly called, scratched his nose and thought about it. It's not that Fizzy is mentally deficient or anything. He just thinks differently from other people. For example, he sees things that are there and actually stops to think about certain events. Quite unusual in today's 'get in the queue and don't asl any questions less the guy in front of you goes berserk and begins asking boring questions of his own and nobody wants that' type of world. Fizzy's deviant behavior comes from his own upbringing. Unlike his peers, who were raised in the warm, glowing embrace of television and video games, Fizzy's parents actually took the time to talk to him and explain to him how the world worked. After a brief bout of depression, Fizzy decided to take control of his own life and actively tried to teach himself how to behave with some TV and video games thrown in for good measre. He didn't want to be too different. That never went over well.

"This whole things is stupid. Why are we walking like this? Across a treacherous ravine that is the long way to our destination?" shouted Fizzy again ignoring the rules of normal social conduct. A burly man in an off-white jacket turned around to answer.

"Now, I say, quiet down son. I reckon this be the march that Peachfuzz was a talkin' about earlier. Says in a time o' crises, we gotta march to get the ol' brain juices flowing. And I reckon in a time like this, we need those juices a flowin'."

"If only," muttered Fizzy.

"What with those aliens tryin' to take over the whole damn place. Ya don't want ta live inna world full a' alines, do you? Well, not me. That's for sure."

"Ack, aliens!" cried a decrepit old lady in front of him. "Ah been a nanny of over forty years. Ah can't imagine havin' ta take care of some alien's baby. The thought of it makes me sick."

"Same here, ma'am. Ifin' we let those aliens come in an' take over, then the next you know there be aliens everywhere: in our schools, in our churches, in our food, even in the little cracks between our toes."

"Horrible, horrible," sighed the little old lady.

"Now you know the problem whenever a new critter enters a new habitat. They don't try to make the enviroionment better for themselves. Naw, they just make it worse. Take trees, for instance. They need them there carbodioxides stuff ta breathe. Do they make their own carbodioxides? Naw, they make oxygene. Oxygene that they expect us to clean up for 'em. I swear that stuff is rustin' up my ol' pickup. Anyways, you see my point. them aliens are just gonna make a big mess. Anna there's no way I'm cleanin' up alien shit."

"Or changing alien diapers."

Fizzy may have responded to all this, but shortly after the man spoke, "What with," Fizzy bolted past them and began running down the road as fast as his little legs would take him. Despite the warnings, the ravine was not that treacherous nor the curves that sharp. The sun, however, still remained quite hot as Fizzy's clothes had become heavily with sweat. Although his skin was very slippery at this point, it was not enough to stop a large, moustached man from grabbing him on the shoulder to halt his advance.

"Bloody 'ell. What you think yer doing then?"

"I was just jogging up to the front of the line seeing as how this side of the road is perfectly clear," responded Fizzy while gasping for air from both shock and exhaustion.

"Ah, we canna have that, now can we? Gotta keep up the order, we do. Udderwise, we don't be no different rom those bleatin' aliens, now do we?"

"How are we differeent from the aliens in this repsect?"

"Why we're civilized an' all. That's why we gotta keep in order. Show'em oo's the betta man an' all."

"But we don't know hardly anything about these aliens. How can we judge them civilized or not?"

"A course we can. Jus' take a peek at 'em. They come 'ere an' try to take ova our government. I wouldn't call that civilized behavior, would you? No, didn't think so. Civilized people don't just march into ya land and start bossing ya around. Ain't proper."

"Isn't that how we all got here to begin with? Conquering, pillaging, and stuff?"

"Yeah, be we weren't civilized then."

"We weren't?"

"No, we were sorta civilized in training."

"I thought we wanted to spread civilization to the primitive man? That's why we did it all? I read it in the Times."

"Hogswash! You call murderin' and rapin' civilized? No, it's not never is." For the first time in his life, Fizzy was truly baffled beyond words. He didn't know how to argue with someone he found himself agreeing with. One of those few useful traits that Fizzy missed during is proclaimed 'self-development.' "Now, the only way I says we were civilized in trainin' is because a the way we were orderly about it all. You know, start by shooting the tallest men an' work yer way down. Orderly an' all. Now that's civilized." Fizzy breathed a sigh of relief as his world fell back into place with those words. Sick with the heat and this coversation, Fizzy decided that it was time for him to depart the queue constable.

"Yes, I see your point exactly. I'd better get back in line then." With that Fizzy began his journey forward.

"Now wait you just a minute then. Where a you think you goin' anyway?" asked the moustached man again placing his large hand on Fizzy's increasingly soppy shoulder.

"I', going back to my lace in line. It's up near the front. Got to be orderly and all."

"Right then."

Video game are educational tools not to be scoffed at. They have a lot to offer to a young, developing mind. Now only can you important information, like the only way to defeat Lord Zargus is to first destroy his defensive orbs, but also, you can develop skills that will aid you endlessly through your life, of lives as it may be. For Fizzy, he discovered that tunnel vision is the perfect way to avoid anymore unwanted encounters. At least, most of them. As he reached the head of the line, he knew he wouldn't be able to pass unscathed.

"A raccoon? It's obviously a possum," said a round, young man with a goatee.

"No, look at the eyes. They're all black like a bandit. Just like a raccoon. And Bandit's a perfect name for a raccoon," said a taller, thinner man pointing at the head of a deceased animal.

"Of course its eyes are black. They're gone. It's dead, And how can you say its name is Bandit?"

"Because I just named him Bandit, so it must be a raccoon."

"You can't name a raccoon, Bandit. It's a stereotype. It promotes the image that raccoons are thieves."

"Aren't they?"

"Those that are, only do so because that is what they believe is expected of them. If I called you Bandit, what would you do?"

"I guess I'd have to hit you over for money then. I see your point."

"Good, so it's settled. It's name is Bandit so it can't be a raccoon because no one in this day and age would be so insensitive to name a raccoon that. So it must be a possum." Fizzy looked down at the dead raccoon. It seemed to be holding something, but he couldn't quite make out it out. Hi smind refused to believe that it was a wallet.

"You there! What are you doing here?" shouted the round man toward Fizzy, "Do you know who I am?"

"You're Peachfuzz, aren't you?" replied Fizzy.

"Peachfuzz! My name is Beckham. Frederick C. Beckham the fourth. Why do people keep calling me Peachfuzz? How do they get that from Beckham?"

Fizzy had no answer.

"Don't get in the way. I'm leading this march. We'll show those aliens that we're not afraid of them."

"And how will we do that?"

"By marching, of course. Nothing intimidats an enemy more than a good march. just think of it. If a bunch of strangers were marching in front of your house, you'd be so scared that you would do whatever they said, no matter how crazy it was."

"But the aliens are invincible. They won't be afraid of us."

"It's not just about intimidation. We also plan to use the march to interfere with their daily lives. When you were a kid, did you ever want something really bad, but your parents said no? So you kept bugging them and bugging them and bugging them until they gave in. That's what we're doing. Only with a thousand kids."

"How can we interfere with the aliens' daliy lives? They never leave the capitol building now."

"Then we'll just kill them. That's what the computer said."

"The computer?"

"With the aliens gone and the end of their repressive regime, we're going to need a new leader. That's where the computer comes in."

"You want us to be ruled by a computer?"

15-08-2003, 16:50:42
"Why not? The computer is a perfect ruler. It is knowledgeable and wise. It has no ambition or desires except maybe to remain plugged in. It has no biases or prejudice. It will treat everyone fairly and equally. Plus, it is immortal. This will give us cinsistency everyday for the rest of our existence. The new Utopia will be realized." Peachfuzz stopped to wipe the drool from his mouth.

"What will we called this new leader? God?"

"Don't be silly. There is no God. God is just human beings innate desire to be ruled by a computer. Only stupid people can't determine the God fantasy from the God reality. As for our computer lord, I believe that it calls itself Gaggle. But we'll all it, Electronimatrix."

"And this Gaggle or Electronimatrix told you how to deal with the aliens?"

"Yes, I simply typed in aliens and clicked the 'Go' button. There was another option, but I wasn't feeling lucky at the time. Anyway, Electronimatrix then provided me with all the information in the universe about the aliens. I was certain that it was all there simply because there was so much."

"When did the computer tell you to kill the aliens?"

"Oh, it gave me information on how to kill the aliens. It would never show me usch data unless it wanted us to kill them. It also seemed to imply a lot that we should have sex with the aliens, but I wasn't entirely clear on this matter." At this point Fizzy felt that he should leave.

"Well then, I'll just be going then."

"Going back in line, I'm sure. You're either with us or against us, you know," said Peachfuzz reaching for his gun, which was already smoking from prior use.

"I'm going back in line," said Fizzy reluctantly.

"Good. Now Fink, get my wallet from that dead raccoon so that we can get moving." Seeing that Peachfull had turned away from him and had just begun a speech defending the raccoonness of the raccoon, Fizzy quickly turning around and ran for the capitol building.

The area around the building was completely deserted. Upon finding out that their leaders were aliens, everyone went home to ponder this new turn of events. Ponder meaning to sit in front of the television and wait to hear waht other people think. Given the lack of, well, anybody, Fizzy had no trouble entering the building and the aliens conference room.

"I say, we need to do something about this being discovered business. Now that the people know we are aliens, they are even less likely to listen to us no matter how right we are," spoke a green, bulbous headed, bespectacled alien to his colleagues all sitting around a semi-circled table.

"We shoud set them on fire or just burn them in oil!" shouted a shorter alien.

"Yes, those have always been effective measures, but the other aliens are beginning to frown on such behavior."

"What are they suggesting?" said a possibly female alien.

"Oh, you know how difficult they are to follow. I believe I was able to make out something called electronimatrix. More of their usual gibberish, I'm afraid. In short, we can expect no help from them."

BLAM! BLAM! The shorter alien fell down.

"Would you please stop that?" the bespectacled alien requested.

"Sorry," Fizzy said sheepishly, "Too many video games, you know."

"I say, this is improper behavior. I mean the only reason we let your kind use guns was so that the less reputable of you would all shoot eachother. Why must you always make a mess of things?"

"Sorry, I only came to warn you that an angry mob is coming after you."

"Angry mob? Angry about what?" inquired the possibly female alien.

"I'm not sure. My Best guess is that it's because you're aliens and they are not."

"I see, well we're not worried. We are invincible after all," said the bespectacled aline as the shorter one got back in his seat.

"Yes, well, it seems that they've found a way to kill you and are on their way to do it among other things."

"Oh, well then. That's no problem. We'll just leave. I've been looking forward to visiting home for quite some time."

"That's it? You're just going to leave?"

"Sure, why not?" We'll just come back in a different disguise and take over again," explained the possibly female, " Don't you remember last time? Oh, of course you don't." With a shared chuckle, the aliens began to leave the room in single file.

"Before you go, can I ask you one more question?," pleaded Fizzy.


"What would you rather be ruled by? Aliens or a computer?"

"Aliens, of course," responded the bespectacled one with an all too toothy smile.

17-08-2003, 20:56:23
‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ said the legend underneath the picture. Above it the class of ’06 stood smiling in their dress uniforms at the passing out ceremony. ‘The worst of times’, Banks said to himself, laughing emptily. We used to think the worst of times was a 10k run in full kit, he thought. He looked at the picture again, and doing a rough count, guessed that at most seven of his class of thirty were still alive. He threw the picture down on the floor with all the other pictures, books, pennants and other memorabilia they had collected from the remains of the camp.
It hadn’t even been six months since they had left training, full of passion and bravado. Now he looked back on his pride and optimism as ignorance and arrogance. Two hundred kilometres to the front line they had travelled, joking about who would win a medal first, who would be promoted. Banks took off his beret and turned it round, looking at the front of the cap where the unit insignia should have been. He remembered suddenly that they had all removed the shiny silver insignia because of snipers.
He tossed the beret onto his old commander’s desk and slumped into the old man’s chair. Kicking his feet up on to the table he eased himself into the brown leather and let his eyes fall shut.

Twenty kilometres away, the guns of the third regiment were being loaded with large canisters, quite unlike the explosive rounds they had been firing upon the heavily entrenched enemy positions for the past few days.
‘Grapeshot, sir?’ asked one of the sweating gunners to his commanding officer.
‘Yep. Now that the enemy’s been forced out of his hole we’re going to give him something to think about,’ he smiled, ‘and make sure the bastard never comes back.’
He laughed and his men laughed too as they slammed the heavy canisters into the breach.

It couldn’t have been more than a couple of minutes before Banks’ dozing was interrupted by the stamp of boots on the wooden floor of the hut.
‘Sir, Captain, Sir!’
Banks’ eyes snapped open and he looked up at the voice. It was his lieutenant, Meakin.
‘What is it, Matt?’
‘Thought you might like some dinner sir. Corporal Stamp was able to find some old cans in the quartermaster’s store. He managed to rustle up some chilli and rice, if you’re interested.’
Banks contemplated his stomach: it rumbled at him softly.
‘That sounds good lieutenant, bring me in a plate, and bring your own in here too, I want to talk to you.’
‘Yes sir.’ Meakin said and left without saluting. Most of the finer points of army discipline had become lost in the last few months. In most units, respect for authority hung on a tightrope, reports of soldiers shooting their officers and deserting were not uncommon.
Banks chuckled to himself as he wondered what the old CO, Colonel Giles, would have made of it all. Giles was a military man made for peacetime, a man who valued well-shined shoes, marching in time and crisp white bed sheets. Banks wondered where the old man was now. Probably drafted in to command some poor front-line outfit, now that combat-trained officers were so thin on the ground.

The men of the third regiment stood around their guns, as still as a tableau, as their officers confirmed firing details with the forward observers. The CO turned away from the radio and held up three fingers to his sub officers.
The officers turned to their men ‘Three minutes to firing time! Get to work!’

Meakin came back in to the hut carrying two steaming plates. He laid one in front of Banks and then from the leg pocket of his fatigues pulled a small bottle of whiskey.
‘Found a couple of bottles of this in the Quartermaster’s too’ he grinned.
Banks smiled. ‘Well done lieutenant. I would recommend you for a medal but I don’t think there are any left at Divisional HQ’.
‘The whiskey will be reward enough sir.’
Both of them then quickly set down to eat. Taking time over meals was a long-forgotten habit, now they wolfed down their food, anxious that it should be finished before an air raid siren or the alarm call of a sentry.
Banks began to sift through the drawers of Colonel Giles’ desk, and found a cloudy, half-empty bottle of whiskey and two tumblers. He set the tumblers down on the table and wiped the dust out of them with the cuff of his shirt. ‘Right, let’s have that whiskey then.’
As Banks poured, Meakin looked around the room. ‘So this was your old training base, sir?’
Banks picked up the picture of his class and passed it to Meakin. They both smiled, thinking the same thoughts of that ridiculous, innocent world they had passed through to become soldiers.
‘Yeah. Can’t have been more than two months after my class passed out that they evacuated the place. After we lost the battle at Roy Valley, the enemy was only 50 klicks away. HQ aren’t putting recruits quite that fresh into combat - well not yet.’
Meakin looked into his whiskey thoughtfully. Banks could tell he was about to ask something.
‘Sir, are we in a pocket as those stragglers from Greene’s unit said we are?’
‘Well that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.’ He drained his own glass. ‘Yes, I think so.’
‘Shit!’ Meakin said, shaking his head. ‘Then what are we going to do, fight here? We’ll be slaughtered.’
‘Lieutenant you know I want nothing more than for us and the boys out there to get back to our lines and get the hell away from this war. I agree with you, if we stay here we don’t stand a chance.’
‘Then what? Surrender?’
‘I thought we might try and break out of the pocket. Split the men up into small groups, you take one, I’ll take one, let sergeants Grass and Matthews take the rest.’
Meakin seemed to be not quite paying attention and was looking upwards, out of the window.
There was a sudden roar, horribly familiar, and then the hut seemed to explode. Only for a fraction of a second Banks saw the wooden walls perforated and white shafts of light through them. Then Meakin fell and there was blood on the table and on him and just afterwards there was a second explosion and Banks too, died.