View Full Version : Short Story Contest #6 - 'It was growing'

06-11-2003, 13:14:23
Welcome to the sixth CG short story contest!

For this contest, your story should start with the words 'It was growing', 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
For this one I think we'll keep to the two week entry period, so deadline is the 20th November

As always, only one entry per poster.

Comments on stories should be posted in a seperate thread here (http://www.counterglow.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=16397), this thread is for STORIES ONLY.

07-11-2003, 18:15:07
It was growing, finally growing! Surprised and elated twelve-year-old Bill Whitaker ran to tell his mother.
“She said it would grow,” he told himself, “That all I had to do was be patient, and it finally is! Boy, will dad be proud of me.”
The size and the pain of it compressing within his trousers were making the young man walk funny, and he knew it, but he didn’t care. He hadn’t much further to go. Just around the corner, through the alley, three blocks down, hang a right, and there he was; a short saunter for a lad newly within his prime.
“Why had it grown though,” Billy thought. “Mom said that would happen when it was ready, and that I would know why. Yet I don’t know, maybe mom will know. I will ask her, and if she doesn’t know I am sure dad will.”
Billy rushed into the alley, which was dark and smelled of rotten fish and soaked pavement. The light from the rear end of the restaurant shone softly into the narrow space and the sound of early diners echoed off the wet walls. Shadows always filled the corridor this time of night, sending Billy’s imagination into a fit of panic and worry.
The light from the restaurant became brighter; someone was coming.
“Ah, Billy,” an old woman called as he exited the back. “On your way home?”
“Yes Mrs. Chin, it is finally growing!”
“What is growing?”
“It!” Billy insisted pointing to his pants.
“Oh,” Mrs. Chin said with a smile. “Well you better get home quickly it’s almost dark, and I am sure your parents will love to see it.”
“Yes, I know, have a good evening,” Billy shouted as he limped out the other side of the alley.
The three blocks seemed much longer today than any other day. The rain started up again, but Billy didn’t care as the excitement and eagerness welled and surged within him. As he neared the street end another young man emerged from a bush on a red bike, a bike Billy admired.
“Where are you going Zit-aker,” the boy said making fun of the Bill’s surname.
“I’m going home, Derek,” Billy said with a snarl.
“Yeah, going to go cry to your mommy again because of how small it is?”
“No, stupid. It is growing.”
“Really,” Derek responded with amazement. “It’s growing?”
“Yeah, stupid, and sooner than yours,” Billy teased.
The two stood staring at each other. Billy noticed the edge of jealousy Derek contained within his voice, and this made Billy proud. He was proud not only that it grew, but that he knew he was the first boy in class to have it happen to him.
“Well, Bill, get going!” Derek spoke with encouragement.
“Thanks Derek!”
Billy hobbled around the corner up the steps to his two-story home; swinging the door open his excitement could not be contained any longer.
“Mom, mom!” He erupted slamming the door shut. “It happened, it happened!”
“What happened?” His mother asked from another room.
“It grew! It grew!”
“Congratulations, your dad would love to hear, he’s in the study.”
Billy hurried into the study where his father sat in a high back chair before a fire that popped and crackled.
“Dad,” Billy prodded.
“Yes, son, I heard,” his dad spoke with excitement. “Congratulations! It’s not everyday that a young furry’s tail grows. Take it out and give it some room.”
Billy reached into his pants and pulled out a long red and black tail that swayed behind him for the first time in his life. His eyes shone with endearment and the smile on his faced did not betray his emotions.
“Yes, my son, it is a fine tail.”

:D :lol: :bash:

12-11-2003, 00:52:48
It was growing, what had started out as little more than a minor inconvenience had now reached critical mass. And in the end it all happened so frighteningly fast. For the last two hundred years or more the network had successfully used spin and manipulation to effectively control the liberationists, or at least throw them off the scent. But since the early fifties the left wing media had started to gradually expose what was happening. Sensationalist reporting, initially from those brain-dead hacks in the gutter press, and after a time even some of the broadsheets had started to pick up on the story, until finally questions had been asked in high places. And so the recriminations had begun and ill-considered cover-ups had been hurriedly assembled. Subtlety had been was what was required, in these situations as in everything. He had preferred to practise his control from the shadows, reaching out to all corners to exercise his influence with unseen fingers in a myriad different pies. They had never been able to grasp just how effective a low profile and quiet, inexorable progress could be.

Instead a few of his more hungry contemporaries had been tempted by the essence of fame, and had positioned themselves smilingly in the media focus, only to find that before long everything would come crashing down around them. Like some exotic deep-sea creature trawled up from the abyss, to sparkle briefly under a merciless spotlight before exploding under the strain. The fools.

The intensive farms hadn’t even been needed at first, but an exploding population had meant that before long they had become ever more prevalent, until the battery methods were finally perfected. The extremists had railed against it of course, citing horror stories of overcrowding, violence and even cannibalism, but they had been easy to isolate and contain, at first anyway. It was the later involvement of the bleeding-heart liberals, and more recently even the traditional centrists, that had begun to put the network in danger.

Although privately he agreed that conditions in the farms weren’t what he would choose to live in, he would never allow himself to say so publicly. There was always the small selection of carefully groomed model institutes available for media scrutiny if pressure got too severe, and once oil had been poured on the waters it had been a simple enough matter to slip back into their accustomed way of doing business. With his skills he could easily have become a politician, and been an exceptionally successful one, but it was far more satisfying to remain an anonymous figure in the background, where he could wield real power.

The animal rights campaigners had been little more than a joke at first. Then they had become a mild source of irritation, and finally a maddening itch – he felt he could identify now with the amputees who complained of phantom pains and sensations in limbs that had been long ago ruined and incinerated. To tear open the stitches and scars and plunge his fingers deep into the raw flesh beneath – the grief and pain would almost have been worth it for the bitter relief. But over the recent months they had become the bane of his life, both highly professional and damnably effective – indeed it was their action that had precipitated the crisis he now faced.

In the past they had made many attempts, most of them futile, to break into the farms and release the occupants. Usually the guard forces were able to repel them, and in any case those they managed to release usually perished quickly in their unfamiliar freedom. The few hardier ones that flourished often went on the rampage and decimated the indigenous population, a consequence that the campaigners never seemed able to grasp. On other occasions the livestock would be completely panicked by the sight of their would-be saviours, and in that state even these normally docile and compliant creatures could be incredibly dangerous. They had been known to kill the rescuers through a combination of ignorance and downright terror, and had been observed organising themselves into fierce packs, and even fashioning crude weapons.

Ignorance seemed to be the underlying theme, for both the erstwhile rescuer and for the livestock. The campaigners would drone on about cruelty and the right of the animals to express themselves through natural forms of behaviour, rather than being confined within the bounds of the farms for their entire lives. In response to the growing public unrest the network had tried to improve living conditions, they had acted entirely reasonably, to the extent of even providing diversions to help keep the stock entertained until the inevitable happened and they were scheduled for harvest.

A rueful smile tinged the corners of his mouth, but failed to reach the rest of his inscrutable face. He, more than most, had earned the right to indulge himself in a few moments of reminiscing before he gave the ultimate, fateful direction. His thoughts meandered back to the chaotic days when the more avant-garde thinkers in the network had dared to suggest that perhaps the experimental food programme had been misconceived, and that the livestock comprised not just dumb animals but sentient beings, that could be educated and trained to perform some simple, menial tasks. A less controlled man might have allowed himself a quiet chuckle at that thought, but he was nothing if not self disciplined. In fairness some of the animals, albeit a tiny minority, had shown some aptitude for thought, and a very few had even earned their freedom. Short-lived and carefully monitored, but freedom nonetheless. Naturally this had opened a Pandora’s box of ethical and moral questions, and there had been strenuous clamouring for all the training experiments to be closed down, but in the end common sense had prevailed and a small number had been allowed to continue. Fortunately the network had been able to sufficiently muddy the waters with economic and social arguments to prevent the liberals’ dream of widespread access to the schemes; the majority of the farm population still lived in a state of almost zero stimulation, eating and breeding and fighting, basically just surviving on only the barest of inputs – inputs carefully fed into their environments and always closely scrutinised by the network, it went without saying. Until their time for removal came around, of course.

But now the liberals were finally going to get their way, although he wasn’t so sure that they would be pleased by the changes they had wrought. He rather thought not, and that they might find the cure ultimately more painful than the disease. The entire experiment, his life’s work, and that of many in the network before him, had been deemed an expensive failure. The shortsightedness of them amazed him, he truly could not grasp how they failed to understand the immense value of the work being done in the intensive farms every day. Their drives for openness and morality sickened him, and they had pushed the project outside his sphere of influence. It was drifting away from his control, and that could not be allowed to happen. The alternative proposals had already been surreptitiously put into place, even before the propaganda had gained them widespread acceptance, and they were now ready to go live. The battery farms had been scheduled for closure at the last meeting of the network’s governing council. Oh yes, of course a few would be allowed to remain functional, as a palliative to those who had devoted so much, but they would be the merest shadows of their past glories, little more than overblown small-holdings, reluctant monuments to a time that most insisted should now be forgotten. Everything else would be torn down and destroyed. And with a final cruel twist of the knife they had assigned him the distasteful task of orchestrating this destruction.

He sighed, leant forward and pressed the intercom button on his desk. Asked for the first of the demolition contractors to be shown in. Whilst he waited he opened the red-bordered dossier that detailed how the closures were to be implemented, and turned to the list of doomed locations. The entries were brief and to the point. The first one read ‘Intensive Farm Y-328A, production status: 8,008,278 livestock held. Location: North 40:45:13 degrees, West 73:58:51 degrees. New York City’.

self biased
13-11-2003, 12:20:01
(part one)

It was growing light outside again. Cory couldn't remember how many times it had done that. Three? Four? Or was it seven? It didn't matter much at this point. There wasn't going to be anyone coming for him now.

He looked out the window, and dared the sun to come up. To spite all of his will, a golden orb began to creep up from underneath the horizon. The sky was gray, mostly, with the west a dingy blue-gray and the east a mottled orange-gray, but it was still all gray to Cory's sleep deprived eyes. He took a swig of a water bottle that was at his side. There were things floating in it.

As the sun crept so painfully into the sky, it cast a meager light into the room. It first shone brightly into Cory’s blood-shot eyes, and worked its way down his thinning face. It had been about a week since he'd shaven, the stubble was fierce, and bits of food were stuck in it. His lips were cracked and bleeding at the corners, and his tongue crept out to moisten them. Continuing to fill the room, the light revealed Cory's hands, and almost shaven scalp. Through his neurosis he had picked a variety of sores on both, but the raking on his head had torn loose larger pieces of skin revealing bone in a few small spots.

With ever more bravery the light swept into the room, glinting off of a patch of frost that had accumulated on the window. Cory sat in a corner, between a desk heaped with papers and a handful of open jars, mostly empty, but a few filled with fluids of questionable origin, and a blown out La-Z-Boy recliner whose manufactured color had long since been lost. Both the desk and the chair had been pushed several feet from the wall. He himself was dressed in a grubby white t-shirt, stained with blood smeared from his hands, and decrepit denim shorts, also shamefully stained. There was Cory, hugging his knees in the corner, and absent-mindedly trying to claw a hole to his brain.

There were other items strewn about the floor. They were largely used up sharpie markers, but there was also a small pile of feces, a large kitchen knife stuff tip first a few feet from a circle that was etched into the floor, and various wadded up papers. The circle was seemingly perfect and plain. It had been cut into the wooden planks below the linoleum. In the very center was a tattered picture of a pretty girl with blonde hair and green eyes, smiling.

The walls were covered in handwriting. It was neat and meticulous in most places, except the bottom left corner of the eastern wall. Cory stood, wobbling significantly, and rummaged around on the desk. Finding what he was looking for, he grabbed a few dozen crinkled sheets of paper and a jar filled with a brownish-red liquid. He looked down into the jar and tried to swirl it around. Cursing, he set the papers in the recliner, delicately, and prodded the congealed surface of the jar's contents with his left index finger. With a barely audible crunch, his finger penetrated the surface and stirred the crunchy stuff into the liquid. Cory withdrew his finger from the mixture with it coated to the second knuckle. Religiously, he swabbed his finger clean in his mouth, savoring the taste.

"Mmmm... Still good," he spoke. The words were hoarse, and would have echoed, but the room seemed to soak up the sound.

Taking a conservative sip from the jar, Cory snatched up the papers he left in the chair with something that was almost vigor, and proceeded to stagger across the creaking floor to the north wall. Setting the jar on the floor, he stood on an upturned wastepaper basket and drew himself up towards the ceiling. He placed his finger at what could only be the start of the sprawling work, and began to mumble. The words weren't nonsense. Incoherent babble didn't carry this kind of power. Cory's gaze went rhythmically from the paper to the wall, reading aloud the words he'd written.

The day wore on, and Cory worked his way from the eastern corner of the north wall, westward. Occasionally he'd sip from the jar. He sighed as he started at the top right of the east wall. The sun had traveled to the other horizon already, and was illuminating the eastern wall. This was the part he hated, and at the same time loved. He looked into the jar with interest; there was more left than he thought there would be. Taking a healthy draught, some of the liquid spilled over his lips and into his beard.

Invigorated, he began reciting the texts again, with a stronger voice. He glanced down and began to sweat. While still reciting the litany before him, Cory began to fear what might happen when he got to the bottom, where the words started to come alive. He hadn't managed to finish saying them yet; he'd always choke on the last few syllables. Then the sun would go down, and Cory would sit in the corner like the failure he knew he was.

The sun began to descend to the horizon. Cory quickened his pace as his voice raised a few decibels; he was nearing the end of his recitation, and this time he wouldn't fail her. Giddy, he reached the last three lines of the work, where the writing seemed to writhe. These were words that didn't want to be said. But fuck that. Cory was gonna say 'em.

He was shouting now. The words squirmed under the pressure, and refused to be said. Spittle flecked off of Cory's chapped lips, as he began to stutter. The last syllable refused to be said. It hid from him, lurking behind the flaking paint of the walls. Cory drained the last of the jar's contents, dribbling the majority of it on himself. Choking, he spat and covered the wall before him with the rust-colored liquid, and then wiped his mouth with his forearm. Mouth agape, he saw the final word, silhouetted in the ichors he'd spewed. The sun's final rays glinted in Cory's eye as he drew in a breath and screamed the final word. The sun dropped below the horizon, and its last light fell. Cory went back to his corner and waited, hugging his knees and staring out the eastern window.

The sky went form gray to black, with no avail. Cory hated the dark these days, but when he closed his eyes, there was only more dark for him to see. He shut his eyes tightly and wailed, slamming his fist into his temple repeatedly. He collapsed for a while, spent, and whimpered.

self biased
13-11-2003, 12:21:19
(part two)

“Shush,” came a soothing voice.

Cory opened his weary eyes to a pale blue glow that filled the room. It had worked! She sat there naked, legs crossed, inside the glowing circle. He took in her beauty. She was hairless, which he was told to expect, but he recognized her eyes set up on her angelic cheekbones. Cory let his gaze slide down her body. It crept from the nape of her neck, down her perfect breasts, to the flawless skin of her belly, and to the heaven that was waiting between her legs. She shivered.

“Come over here where I can see you, Cory,” He stood, and unsteadily made his way to the center of the room, careful not to break the circle. She stood to meet him, and reached out and almost caressed his cheek. “Oh, honey, why did you do this? Did you miss me?”

He nodded. The circle grew brighter and cast its illumination throughout the room, as she examined the walls from her spot in the circle.

“It looks like you’ve been busy.”

Cory nodded again, and appeared to remember something. He went shaking to the desk and flung papers off of it. He came back with a sweater box tied with a white silk ribbon.

“A gift… For me?”

He nodded fervently, and fumbled to open it, nearly falling over in the process.

“No, no… I’ll open it later. Cory?” He gave her an inquisitive look, and the circle began to dim and change to a light purple. “Cory, what did the man say not to do until I showed up?”

“No go ‘leep?” Cory’s voice was still blown out from the incantation.

“Yes, Cory, not to go to sleep. You fucked up, Cory. This is all your fault. Look at me!” she shouted, exasperated, “Fucking look at me!” she brandished the knife that was previously stuck in the floor not far from the circle, which burned a deep magenta at this point. Helpless and panic-stricken, he watched her plunge the knife into her chest starting by the collarbone, and he winced at the sound of the bone cracking. But there was no blood. She continued to saw toward her navel. After setting the knife gently between her feet, she stood facing him and opened her chest to him. “Look, Cory! I’ve got no fucking heart, Cory. I’ve got no fucking soul, Cory,” She gestured to a spot in her chest cavity that was vacant.

“There’s Rules, Cory. You know that. Just because you found a fucking loophole in the system to bring me back, doesn’t mean you can ignore the Rules. Did you ever think? Huh? Did you think that I just might have been happy where I was, Cory?“ He cowered before her, whimpering. “Will you cut that fucking noise out? God damn you. How could you be so selfish? How? First you do all this,” she gestured towards the walls, “and then you fucking fall asleep afterwards? I can’t just go around without a soul, Cory. There’s no fucking “Souls ‘R’ Us” around the corner!” Her voice came as a whisper: “Do you know where people without a soul go, Cory?”

He shook his head, terrified.

“Nowhere, Cory. They don’t go anywhere. I was somewhere wonderful until you had to come drag me the fuck back to this shit hole. But I don’t intend on staying here, Cory.” She closed her ribs as best she could, and stooped down to pick up the knife. She smiled softly, and the circle faded to its original color. ”Come here, honey. There’s a way to work this out.”

Tears were now flowing from his already dehydrated eyes as he stood. He didn’t really have the energy to even weep right now, but the salty water poured like a fountain down his ravaged face.

“Come give me one last hug before I go.”

Cory took a step towards her in his sleep-deprived haze. As he crossed the boundary of the circle, it flashed fiery reddish orange, and she lashed out with the knife. He never saw it coming. She spilled his intestines onto the floor and he slumped into her. Carefully, she slid her hand up the wound in his belly, and rummaged around in the cavity like she was looking for a lost set of keys. Finding what she was looking for, she plucked the bothersome fruit, and examined it. The heart was still beating. Opening her chest, she placed the heart inside her, and shuddered, closing herself back up.

Holding her chest shut she walked over to the desk, and peered into the last jar of fluid.

“For fuck’s sake, this is mine!” she said to herself. “Thought you were being clever, eh?” she asked, looking over to the still twitching body. “Oh, well. No matter now,” She stirred the liquid up with her hand, smeared it over where she had cut herself, and drank the rest. Satisfied that she wouldn’t fall open, she let go of her sternum, and started to look for something to cover herself up with. She spotted the gift box, just to the right of the body. She opened it up and pulled out a delicate black lace teddy.

“You stupid fuck,” she spat bitterly, and kicked Cory’s shell. “Nothing like being practical. Hah. At least you can take comfort that I’ll always carry a part of you with me, Cory,” she said, and fled into the night.

21-11-2003, 00:11:05
(You want a knock-off? You can have a knock-off.)

It was growing now at a rate that was actually visible, and Jane leaned back after examining herself in the mirror for what must have been the thousandth time, chuckling quietly to herself.

It hadn't been funny at first -- it had been downright terrifying, truth be told, to a woman who was nearing menopause and for whom the words 'mammogram' were not merely a theoretical concept but a way of life. Two of three sisters and numerous other relatives had been diagnosed with breast cancer -- one when it was far too late.

But it hadn't been a mammogram that had caught the strange growth. It had been the self-exam, religiously performed once a week.

At first, she had thought it might be a pimple; it seemed to only be on the surface and anyhow it was a bit off to the left of her breast, not directly on it. But within days, a hard, reddish lump had formed, and she had started to worry.

She had scheduled an appointment with her ob-gyn that morning, but the woman had not had an opening for several days, and in the meantime, it had continued growing.

Now, though, it was clearly reaching its final stages, and Jane's appointment was a mere three hours away. She wondered what the doctor would say, how she would react -- or if, perhaps, she should cancel the appointment altogether.

She knew what it meant, the growth, unfurling, details filling in before her eyes. The third nipple, the classic sign. Perhaps the other women in her family had not had cancer after all. Perhaps it was something else.

And as she gazed out the window to the ripening moon, she thought, perhaps, she heard laughter -- and underneath, the invitation.

21-11-2003, 03:41:46
It was growing. All along his left arm, he could especially feel it. A hot, throbbing pain, shooting through him. In all the various pains he felt, his left arm troubled him the worst. It seemed to be twisted oddly under him.

Laying on the industrial plate textured decking of the cruiser, his life's blood was pooling around him. He could feel the cold metal under him, warming from the heat of his body, of his blood, of his life.

He started, and stared, and stared; he wasn't conscious that he was staring. He was aware of very few things. Considering the amount of what was formally his personal thinking matter that was scattered on the walls, and of the minor amount that had leaked out of his head and unto the blood drenched decking, it was amazing he had any awareness. The shot that had came from behind had done a very good job of pushing its way out of the right side of his forehead, making a very nasty mess. What little of the world he could see was off somehow. But with what little of his thinking brain was still working, he couldn't work out what was off. Just that something was off.

And the pain--- it kept growing, and growing, and growing. He wanted to get up, to get out of the sticky pool, and especially to straighten out his aching left arm.

Eventually, the pain became too much for what was left of his awareness to stand. It had to get away from the pain. The pain, it was beyond tolerance. It had grown so much, there was no room left for anything else. The pain! The pain! The pain! So his awareness simply --- stopped.

Immortal Wombat
26-11-2003, 23:19:58
It was growing rather more serious than I had ever intended. That was the last though I remember having before the world ended.

It all started so simply. It was a bit of fun, no real harm intended, just an attempt at blurring the line between the internet and reality a little. Or so I thought, when I started the thread entitled: "New Forum Game: Spark Off an International Incident". After some lengthy discussion as to the intended participants, targets and procedure, we got to work. It was decided that Finno-Swedish diplomacy would be the easiest to hijack, with both nationalities being fairly prominent communities online, and potentially fractous enough that we could reopen some old wounds. Also, we had both Finnish and Swedish people on hand to do the necessary translation. Loathe as I was to spark tension between two nations I actually quite liked, for the most part, we had the perpetual conscience-easer that it was well funny.

After some hefty groundwork over a couple of months establishing our moles in some of the more respectable messageboards, we set a strike date, and launched an all-out forum war from a Swedish message board. Now, Finns may seem docile, but you try attacking them. Oh boy. The fiercly patriotic little trolls responded so vigourously that our moles became the voice of reason rather than the instigators. Now our targets had been chosen very carefully, not only because they were fairly major hubs in the scandanavian networld, but also because it was suspected that one of the posters (on each board) was in reality, a minor politician. By luck more than planning on our part, it turned out that both gentlemen had somewhat fiery tempers, the kind that are so easy to set off with a heat-seaking insult, and an HTML grenade. So despite rapid moderator action on both sites, enough ammunition got through the flak barriers to begin a minor feud between these two unnamed persons.

We had completed phase one. The next step was to get this private disagreement into the public awareness, thus completing our goal of crossing out of cyberspace. After the firefight, a fair number of our moles were banned from the relevant messageboards, both natives, and foreigners (we ran a few experts through local routers and IP masks to give the illusion of nationality) alike. The couple that did survive as non-combatants were our main weapon in phase two. They became for a while, determined sycophants of the 'important' posters, and were allowed, eventually, access to some of the more specialised private forums. Some flag-waving and double-agenting later, and the feuders were agitating in their own countries.

Then the shit hit the fan. Finland went public with something that had only ever been hinted and whispered about. The Plan To Take Over The World (tm). Which is where we began to panic. The majority of us were for the idea of calling the whole thing off, turning the carefully documented plan over to the Swedish and Finnish authorities, and apologising, thereby preventing what the Finns were calling by a name that translates roughly as "Anglo-Apocalypse".
But the diehards figured the Finns were bluffing, and that The Plan To Take Over The World was an exaggeration. Posing as Swedish diplomats one final time, a message along the lines of "Bring it on, Suomibitch" was shuttled around Sweden for a while, then emailed to the Finnish PM. He did. In a way, our little experiment had been an overwhelming success. Certainly overwhelming.

The rest you know already, I'm sure. It was in the news, no, it was the news for years. It's in every history book printed since. Or at least, the official version is in every history book printed since. It probably isn't far off the truth. And our part at the beginning of it all? Whether we were the innocent (or relatively innocent) trigger, unwitting collaborators, or coincidental bystanders we may never know. Nobody in the Grand SuomiConspiracy ever gives statements about intentions present or past. I know one thing though: that's the last time I start a new forum game. My spamming days are finished.

09-12-2003, 15:05:42
It was growing. He could hear it, feel it. Every day the crowds outside the prison were growing and getting louder. Step by step their confidence was growing, since the authorities were hesitant to act as oppressing as they had in the past. Like when he was thrown in jail for spreading leaflets questioning the actions of the government. He’d expected to rot away in prison, but somehow his capture had sparked off a larger movement of protest. Who’d have thought his name would become the subject of so much political turmoil. Songs were sung in his name, poetry written about his heroic struggle. The world was trying to contact him, political leaders wanted to befriend him, business men wanted to be sure they could do business when democracy was restored. But for now he was still kept away in his prison by a dying regime.

He had noticed that his guards were getting nervous as well, mixing in a friendly word in between the brutalities. Trying to save them selves, he thought grimly. He honestly hoped the revolution would be a peaceful one, but he secretly wouldn’t mind a small lynching party on some of his guards after his liberation.
Lying on his bed, hands behind his head, he heard the whistles and drums of the people outside. Since a few days it would go on for 24 hours a day. He smiled when he thought about how much fun they must have out there, working on an ideal, being heroes for the whole world, and probably trying to get laid in the process. People would think back in 20 years and feel this was their finest moment. He felt envy he couldn’t be there outside, but it was an even bigger pride to him that because of him the people were standing there. Already he felt melancholy for when the struggle would be over. He had read stories about freedom fighters in other countries who were so disillusioned about how boring democracy was. Nothing left to fight for, no more adrenaline rushes from facing the oppressor. But all that was for much, much later. Now the country had to be free and the damage the regime had caused to be undone. He would have his hands full on that one for a long time.

The door opened. Two guards ordered him out of his cell in a hurried voice. Trying to stay calm he got off his bed and walked into the hallway. After tying his hands behind his back, the guards directed him to one of the interrogation rooms he had been many times before. His heartbeat rose as he entered the room, once more repeating the demands he had secretly written down in his cell. Running by them one by one, he hoped he hadn’t missed something that would backfire later. Behind the blinding lights, there was a whole committee behind the table. They’re going to make it official, he thought triumphantly.
A voice behind the lights asked his name. He gave it, proudly. The voice then went on to say he had was found guilty of activities undermining the safety of the country, promoting terrorism, followed by a long list of more crimes he was found guilty of. But he didn’t hear those anymore. His heart was beating so hard in his throat and in his head that he could hardly breathe. This wasn’t right; this was not how it was supposed to go. Something had gone wrong, this could not be happening! The voice came back to him. “The court hereby sentences you to death by firing squad, effective immediately.”
His heart and mind were racing, but he couldn’t think or move. The guards picked him up from his chair, but his knees trembled too much to support his weight. He was dragged by the shoulders out of the room and brought outside. The firing squad was already waiting, smoking a cigarette while waiting. While he was chained to the wall, he heard the sound of tanks in the streets, the rattling of machine guns and cries of pain, fear and anger. When he was blindfolded, the last thing he saw was the firing squad getting in position. Finally he regained some strength, stood up and shouted ‘Stop! This is a mistake, you’re shooting the wrong one! Can’t you see, there’s a revolution starting!’ His cries didn’t stop the soldiers from following the orders to aim, and fire. Ten out of the twelve bullets hit his body, and he collapsed, hanging in his chains. The commanding officer walked to the body, pulled out his revolver and gave him a neck shot. The force of the bullet made his body twitch for the last time. Outside the noise was moving away as the tanks cleared the square of the protesters and the last resistors were either shot or arrested. The officer looked down on the body below him. ‘No revolution this time, boy’, he said.

11-12-2003, 13:09:13
It was growing. She touched at it gently, wincing as she made contact with the purplish-yellow bruise that had spread across her thigh. At the centre there was a small cut, still wet.
‘Are you hurt Princess?’
At the sound of the male voice she blushed unconsciously and quickly readjusted her skirts. She turned round to find the imposing figure of Sir De Corcy behind her.
‘No, no I’m fine. Just got a little bump from that thing’s tentacles, or whatever they were’ she said.
‘I saw, your highness. But if it needs treatment, I can have one of the men bring the bandages and healing ointments to you.’
‘No, really it’s fine. It hurts a little, but it’s just a bruise.’
‘Good. I-‘ he hesitated, ‘I wanted to say sorry about your handmaiden.’
The princess’ eyes grew wet and she turned slightly away from the knight.
‘Thank you.’ She managed, her voice trembling.
‘She was a brave girl to come on this journey. I shall ensure she is properly buried on our return.’
‘Yes, yes of course.’
‘Well, for what it’s worth, I may not know what that thing was, but I thought you showed great bravery and skill in battling it, your highness.’
She seemed to regain her composure at these words and looked back at him, her eyes wet.
‘Thank you Sir De Corcy. Please, you really needn’t spend your time worrying about me.’
‘Perhaps, and I know you have quarrelled with your father about it. But you must surely understand my position. If you were to come to any harm-’
‘Yes, I know, I know. But please leave me be now.’
‘As you wish. We plan to ride again in two hour’s time. You might want to try and get some sleep in what is left of the night.’
‘Yes, thank you, I will try.’
He bowed and walked from the grassy slope she was atop of back down to the men. She stared down at the camp, where they had started two small fires. Would they scare away any other creatures in the area, or attract even more dangerous ones, she wondered. She felt the bruise again then, as she thought of how the thing’s vine-like arms had whipped her from her horse. The landing had stunned her but she recalled somewhat vaguely the following events, how she had drawn her sword and fought the creature off as the others came to her aid. Only at the end had she realised poor Milly was dead, her neck broken by the whipping arms of the fiend. She had known the girl for years, and she always had been a most headstrong young woman, like herself. ‘Oh if only father hadn’t forced me to take her along!’ she said to herself. But it was precisely because of such tragedies that this mission to their neighbours, to win support for a proper fight against the Fiends, was necessary.
‘Well, I have survived a combat engagement with a Fiend!’ she thought to herself. Despite her sorrow she felt a flush of excitement, and thought of her father again, who could never accept that she was born to be a warrior. ‘When he hears of this maybe at last he will understand,’ she thought, and then tiredness was upon her and she lay heavily on the grass, her cloak wrapped around her, and fell asleep.

She was woken by the sound of De Corcy’s voice.
It was still dark, but the first light of dawn was beginning to touch the sky. There was a light mist in the air. She looked up at the knight and saw that he was crouched down beside her.
‘Good morning, Princess.’
‘Good morning Sir de Corcy, you may.’
He laughed and stood up.
‘Well it is good to see lack of sleep has not dented your humour. If you will make yourself ready we will leave in a few minutes, Princess.’
She nodded and he bowed and walked back down the slope.
She moved to rise and winced as she felt the pain in her leg. It was worse than the previous day, and she wondered suddenly if it was more than just a bruise. Turning away from the camp she unwrapped herself from her cloak and pulled her skirt aside to examine her leg. She looked in horror as she was confronted with the sight of a large green-black stain across her entire thigh. Where the creature’s vine-limb had whipped her leg, the cut was gone, and had healed over with a greenish scab. Something didn’t feel right about it, but she had to move now.

Snowmane, her white stallion, neighed happily as she walked, somewhat uneasily, towards him. She vaulted up onto him, feeling heavy with tiredness and pain as she did so. All around, the sound of tack and harness rattling and armoured men moving broke the still morning air. She was soon caught up in the hustle and bustle of their leaving and by the time the company rode forth the pain in her leg had passed out of her thoughts.
But that day they rode through the heart of the Konigswood, and the light of dawn was soon a memory, shrouded beneath the great, dark trees. The air was thick and musty and the Princess felt the pain again then, not just in her leg but throughout her body, a throbbing pain, greater than any she had known before. She placed her hand on her leg and felt something, beneath her skirts, something unnatural.
Before she could check it further a great cry went up from the forward riders and suddenly Fiends beset their party from all sides. The Princess drew her sword, her mind a feverish whirl, but Sir De Corcy was at her side and slapped her horse’s rump to drive it on.
‘Ride! Flee!’ he shouted, and her horse bolted suddenly, as the entire party fled. Their passage through the forest, pursued by the Fiends was but a blur to her, her eyes blinked for consciousness and sweat dripped from her brow. Her hands, pale and moist, dropped her sword and slipped from the reins and suddenly she blacked out and fell from the horse, never again to see the light.
Seeing her fall De Corcy wheeled around and shouted for the party to follow suit. The Fiends were almost upon the Princess’ recumbent body.
‘For the Princess!’ He shouted, and he and his knights charged their foes, overwhelmed as they were by the Fiends’ numbers and the darkness of the forest.

Several days later, the King and a force of his bravest knights rode into the heart of the forest, searching for the missing party. As they pushed deeper they eventually found that which they feared most, the first bodies of their comrades. A strange light shone through the trees ahead, and as the King and has party emerged into a clearing they were confronted by the sight of piles of bodies, both their own and of the Fiends. To the King’s despair his daughter was nowhere to be found, but amongst the bodies of the fallen knights a golden sapling stood. A great light grew forth from it and all around it the dark forest recoiled and was replaced by fresh new trees, fertile earth and fresh air. The King gazed at the sapling, and it’s light softened, though none but he could bear it, and he saw his daughter’s sword lying at it’s base and he realised that his daughter had passed from the world and that in this sapling it lived on.
From that day forth the forest was ever a safe place for humans to pass and hunt, and the Fiends shrank from the place and went who knows where. The sapling grew into a tree of great height and size and was known throughout the lands for the good that it brought for many an age.