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Winter Contest (Prose) – Decadence

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Old 10-31-2010, 01:04 PM
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Default Winter Contest (Prose) – Decadence

Winter is fast approaching and with it the festive season. Rich dinners and wonderful parties, presents and family time, but there is such a thing as to much of a good thing. So this season’s theme is Decadence, in all its flavours and misdemeanours, enjoy.

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Members are allowed one entry in the prose contest. (You are welcome to enter our poetry contest as well.) Prose entries should be submitted as posts to this thread. The competition is open to all members of Writer’s Beat, including staff.

Members are requested to refrain from commenting on entries in this posting thread. Please use the Decadence Comment thread instead. That thread will remain open throughout the posting period and afterwards, and members are encouraged to let entrants know what they thought of their entries.

Word Limits:

Prose: 2,000 words Maximum


Once an entry has been submitted, it cannot be altered. Any work that is edited after it has been entered will be disqualified. If you feel you need to make a small alteration (a misplaced comma, a spelling error), contact a member of staff. If we feel your request is reasonable, we will make the correction on your behalf.

Close Date:

23rd December 2010, 12 midnight GMT


Winners will be selected by means of a public poll, so you, the members of Writer’s Beat, will choose the winners.

After the closing date, a voting thread will be posted. Voting will commence on the 24th of December and close on the 30th of December 2010, 12 midnight GMT.

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The winning entries will be considered for publication in Writer's Beat Quarterly, subject to the approval of the editors. To increase your chances of getting published (whether you win or not), make sure your document is as error-free as possible!

Also, the member (or tying members) with the most votes will get to suggest the next contest theme!

* * *

If you have any questions about the contest, contact a staff member and we will happily answer them for you. Now sharpen your pencils, fill up your inkwells and get writing. Good Luck!

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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Last edited by Tau; 10-31-2010 at 01:09 PM..
Old 11-21-2010, 02:26 PM
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Default Prose Contest Entry (Decadence) 1850 words

2420 A.D.
Author’s note: See the appendix for a glossary of archaic terms.

Today’s society is basically comprised of four groups. The majority, 80%, are the plugged-in, those that spend most or all of their time interfacing with the net. Next in number are the workers, about 10%. They provide the necessary maintenance and upgrades to the infrastructure that allow others to enjoy life. Then there are the antinets, those opposed to the net, but who use it for their own purposes. They are about 8% of citizens. The remainder are the roamers, the ones that never plug-in and drift through the cities performing mischief and criminal acts.

The antinets are the main antagonists facing society today. They persistently claim, using the very net they hate, that our society is decadent, slowly dying. This claim is made due to the fact that so many citizens no longer interact in person, but do so on the net. They say that the distant, solitary pursuit of life is harmful. They maintain that life is worse because many of the old institutes, such as marriage, personal interaction, worshiping a deity, and physical activity have disappeared. These critics, even though a tiny minority, are loud and receive disproportionate coverage of their viewpoint. A citizen can hardly access a newsnet without seeing a diatribe on how society is disintegrating.

This paper will present the opposing view, that today’s society is not decadent. That it is, in fact, the result of human progress. The author believes that the current state of society is the natural outcome of centuries of change. Consider this: at the turn of the 20th century, in 1900, there were no aircraft; there were no personal electronic devices; no ‘TeeVee’.

In a mere hundred years, these things and much more were invented. They were the result of electronic advances, miniaturization, and scientific research into human sensory receptors. This became a fertile ground for creators of devices catering to those senses. At first, only the ‘hip’ were ‘into the groove’ and had primitive portable audio units called ‘walkmen’. Some used early radio communication devices, ‘bag-phones’.

Because these devices were so cheap and socially necessary, they became universal. No citizen of Earth was left out: everyone was plugged in at least some of the time. At the same time, computer access to the ‘internet’ made all citizens believe they had something valuable to say. Soon there were a billion 'blogs’ that were read by nearly no one.

That was just the leading edge. These early devices required much human interaction: sitting in front of ‘screens’, operating keyboards, mashing ‘touch panels’, and other physical activities. That changed when scientists for ‘cell phone’ businesses found a way to link their devices into brain waves.

There had always been unscientific disagreement about whether close-range beams of radiation were damaging brain cells. As it turned out, that traffic was not one-way: the brain sent signals back. It was a matter of tuning the device to the user, and the physical controls were no longer needed.

Miniaturization made it so the devices could be implanted and driven by the existing electrical power of the human nervous system. No one needed to carry either a device or a ‘charger’.

It was not long before demand made it necessary for a multipurpose interface plug to be grafted onto humans to allow access to larger and more complex devices. The ‘Sex-O-Mat’ was one of the first and most successful. The early models were just pleasure center activators that users could plug into for a period of sexual delight unobtainable by human contact, at a billable cost, of course. The Sex-O-Mat revolutionized human behavior: there was no longer any need for sexual crimes (or contact), since the user could experience whatever pleasures they desired without harming others.

That device then became small enough to actually wear in contact with the lower body and engineers developed the ‘WasteAway’ app for it, where the device handled all excretory functions, emitting only water vapor and harmless chemicals. Humans had been forced to evacuate their bowels and bladders in special locations for eons. Now they were free. The toilet paper industry collapsed almost overnight, as did the ‘adult diaper’ business.

By the late 24th century, the change was complete. Humans were constantly plugged into their information portals, sampling pleasures and having most of their physical needs taken care of by their devices. Except eating: other than a few extreme pleasure seekers, people still surfaced briefly to take in fuel. And during these periods, studies showed that they were very cranky and liable to do antisocial activities. A few serious pleasure seekers during this time went on to starve themselves, unwilling to come up for food.

Some others never went under at all, and rejected the concept of infopleasure©, a term copyrighted by the Universal Needs Corporation in 2390. They stayed unplugged and wandered the cities, attacking those they happened upon. They became the roamers. These misfits are not the problem. Since they never plug in, their opinions are not registered. Their antics only affect a tiny percentage of citizens.

The final frontier, as it were, for personal interaction, was the food distribution system. After scientist’s reverse engineered all foods, to find, for example, what a ‘tomato’ had that a ‘cow’ didn’t, they were able to synthesize all nutrients into a single unit, patented by ‘Unifoods’ in 2350. Now, a single 100 gm. (3.5oz.) wedge of Allfood could sustain a human for a week. People had no need to leave their apartment holes, or a-holes, and many became sedentary. Water was supplied either by using the H-valve that was part of the multipurpose plug, which allowed sterile fluid to drip constantly into the users circulatory system, or by periodically surfacing to absorb quantities of fluid.

Themain point is that these users are not isolated. They are constantly plugged in, receiving and transmitting information to friends, acquaintances, and strangers as it occurs to them. This is the element that the antitechs dislike and fulminate about. They feel that a necessary element of human behavior is to socialize, to ‘pick lice’, as it were. Since humans are descendants of ‘monkeys’, the antis feel that the technology has destroyed the links that humans enjoyed over most other species. The author says you are wrong, vermin-breathed antis.

The technology that allows us to be connected into the world via our sensors makes us superior humans. A recent study found that the plugged-in have more contacts per time unit than the antis do. In addition, there is no physical violence as sometimes occurs in those that interact on a ‘face-to-face’ basis (a disturbing metaphor if there ever was one. Talk about decadent; the thought of a sensory cluster in actual contact with ones own. Yow).

In summary, note this: decadence is an analog term. What is or is not decadent resides entirely in each individual. One may consider sex without guilt to be a decadent, socially harmful activity. Another may consider that normal, but think that wandering the streets knocking people over the head is decadent. Since society determines what is and what is not, based principally on the number of participants, we must conclude that the antinets and roamer factions are full of shit (and still having to go to special locations to become less so), and that the majority group is correct.


Hip – term used to describe one that was ‘with-it’ or ‘cool’ in the late 20th century. It was generally a positive appellation unless applied to a conservative talk-show host.

In the groove – said of a human that had shown by their actions to be cognizant of the scene, one that was aware of the proper actions to take. Normally considered a positive term, unless used by a senior citizen.

TeeVee – one of the first electronic devices with both visual and audio elements. It was a large box that a social group gathered around to chatter and eat and drink. Normally, lice picking was not practiced at these gatherings.

Walkmen – a device for reproducing sound waves and directing it into the user’s auditory canals. They were largish, produced low-quality sound, and were fed by a module called a ‘cassette’, made up of magnetic signals imprinted on a fragile band of plastic.

Internet – one of the first efforts to provide humans with a universal knowledge and pleasure experience portal. It failed in the mid 21st century due to excessive fees by business and regulation by government.

Blogs – a personal place where humans that used the internet could vent their opinions and have no one read them. Generally thought to be a waste of server space.

Screen – what the early users used to view content. They were originally a CRT, a form of massive electron beam gun that emitted a stream of energy onto a fluorescent surface, producing primitive images. Later these became LCD’s, which were somewhat superior but which would still produce pig-eye if used for extended periods.

Touch Panel – a method if activating functions on early devices that required a human to press a finger pad into a sandwich of materials that detected the presence of the intruding digit and – sometimes – performed an action.

Cell Phone – the first individual communicator device. They were hand carried, or by some nerds, worn in a holster at the waistline. Coverage and drop-out were big issues.

Charger – a device that was used to provide power to another device. Early electronics used ‘batteries’ to provide electron flow to activate them. These batteries soon became discharged or dead and had to be plugged into another unit to recharge them. There was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over these batteries and charging them.

Adult Diaper – an apparatus worn to allow humans to defecate and/or urinate without having access to an excretory unit (a ‘toilet’). Initially used by worn-out humans or those with medical conditions, they later became fashionable with anyone that wished to not be interrupted by toilet trips.

Tomato – a bulbous growth that formed on a plant. Humans ate it and argued about whether it was a fruit or a vegetable. It was red.

Cow – a mammal of the bovine family. It had four legs and was grown and killed so its flesh could be exposed to a heat source and then consumed. An entire industry was formed to deal with them. There were two varieties of cow, one for ‘milk’, a substance much revered in those days; and ‘beef’, those grown for consumption. The ‘milk’ ones were often left outdoors to graze on a substance called ‘grass’. These cows are reported to have said ‘moo’ and the humans that passed them in their pastures said the same in an unsuccessful effort to communicate with the beast.

Pick Lice – an activity indulged in by now-extinct monkeys and other social primates. They would sit on their colorful ass-pads and groom one another, and as a side benefit, capture and eat any parasitic insects they found.

Monkeys – hairy ancestors to humans, they were prized for their masturbatory and feces-flinging abilities. They performed the lice pursuits noted above.
Old 11-26-2010, 06:05 AM
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I lie on the bed next to my sleeping friend and think about something agonisingly sharp. Something so wicked it could slit skin open as painlessly as if it was a zipper. I curl her hair around my finger and picture a knife so fine it would disappear if you held it sideways. She is so limp and content.

We stayed up late, talking. I'm good at talking. I can talk to anyone about anything. I can listen quietly and I can talk passionately, you know, saying "the right thing" whether it's a poignant remark or simply nothing. Last night, the more we talked, the more she directed a particular look at me. When I saw that she was ready, I had her.

I look at this friend of mine and I just think how disgustingly easy it was to make her feel that way about me. I undressed her while we talked and it was as if I was passing her cutlery for all she reacted. She was naked but she felt dressed for a winter's snow. I kissed her neck and pulled her close and she came so willingly, letting me do whatever I was thinking I would do.

As I play with her hair I decide that I love her. I feel this incontinent need for her. She's so sweet, and she's always herself - so sincere. Honest and vulnerable. I'm inches away from waking her with a kiss.

But I'm more in love with the girl who's coming round tonight. That one has passion which my friend here can't match. The way she holds my eyes until we're both smiling so hard we want to fucking eat each other. Ugh. But even she's nothing compared to my client, the one I took in the diner bathroom. That woman's energy and half-smile and self-righteous commitment to every good cause in the world distracts me from half the things I'm trying to do. I'd marry her if it wasn't so damned easy to have every other girl, if the feelings were for her alone and not spread out among many. I want her like a drunkard wants alcohol - intensely but emptily.

When I was younger I decided I'd like to play football. I was that lucky cross between athleticism and intellectualism, getting the best grades in class and hammering the dumbest, biggest bastards into the ground every time I was on the field. I went pro, easily. I've made millions - again - easily. I retired at the top of my game, not because of injury, but because I was bored. What's the point sticking around for the view at the top of the ladder?

Everything in my life has been there when I wanted it. Women. Bam. Money. Bam. Fame, admiration, food, cars, stuff. I'm forty now and I've had everything for a decade. Everything. And it's all worn off. The joy of success is dead. It's just something I've always had. The finest wine is my tap water. The most delicate flavours my staple diet. Beautiful, lovely women are mine whenever I want them. Fast cars are old bombs and my friends' pride in me a dead emotion I'm no longer moved by. I have so much of everything I have nothing. People are always talking about the cup being half full or half empty. I have no fucking cup.

My girl rolls over in her sleep, one of her warm breasts now pressing up against me. I could wake her and have her but I'm thinking about that knife again. There's nothing as sharp as I'd like but maybe maximising the pain wouldn't be too bad. Maybe I should use something dirty and raw and blunt and hack a hand or a foot right off. I should probably gag her first. I couldn't stand the screams. All the blood will be bad enough but the screams might make me wonder if this is as fucked up and disturbed as it sounds in my head. Why worry about something so transient as the pain when I'm contemplating what I'm contemplating?

The sight of her nipples and large areolas fights for my attention. Maybe I should wake her and have her again. But no, this love for her I feel is some useless, false thing. I don't really love her. I don't really love anything. It's just a weak, psychological cry for help I'm putting out to feel a little bit more... I don't know. I don't even know what. Being with these girls feels good in the deepest depths of the moment but it's nothing beyond that.

I slip out of bed and go to the kitchen. A chef would admire my kitchen. I wonder what's the best thing to sever flesh with. Here's something sharp. Meat cleavery type thing. Might take a couple of hacks. I wonder if I'll have it in me to strike more than once.

Now I'm getting excited. This is a new challenge. This is real. I've done a lot of things in my time but I've never hacked off a body part. Ha ha! Think of the repercussions! I might have to struggle through life a bit after this. I might not have everything I want anymore. I can't imagine anything much more blissful than a giant, fuck-off spanner in the works.

My friend is still asleep. Okay, I'm going to do this. I sit down on the stool beside my bedside table, a foot away from her. Maybe I won't gag her. What difference will it make, given what I'm about to do? Yeah, fuck it. Let's do it.

My heart is pumping. My breathing heavy and oral. Adrenaline is surging blindingly through my arteries. I look at her. I bite my lip, hard. Hard enough to make my eyes water. She's so innocent beside me, a sleeping child. Her arm is hanging loose over the side of the bed. My facial muscles are twitching now. I look away from her. Maybe I shouldn't let my own desensitised Hell take its toll on her too. Maybe I should have just had her again.

No. No! Let's do it. Breathing faster, beating faster. Three breaths per second now. I'm shaking. She's right next to me, asleep and unaware. Almost four breaths per second. I'm shaking so hard I don't know I'll be able to do this. I grit my teeth. I pick up the cleaver. Faster. Faster! My vision is darkening. No! I can't pass out now. I have to do this. I have to do it right the hell NOW!

I slam the cleaver down like car crash. It only cuts through half the forearm. My girl screams so loud I think my ears are going to bleed as the thud and the splatter wakes her up. My radius is completely halved, the ulna shattered and the distal half of my forearm hanging loose. My hand looks like it could come right off like a bandaid. The cleaver is sitting on my lap. I'm bleeding like a fucking motherfucker right now and I'm beginning to doubt I'll get in another hack. I collapse against my bed, sliding down onto the floor.

Things are an indeterminate blur for a while. I'm zoning in and out of consciousness. But as I lie there on the carpet, my arm a mangled, bloody heap, an image appears before me. It's her. She's crouching above me, wanting to help but impotent with fear. I look into her eyes and see such rich emotion I wish I could stare at it forever. It's beautiful. I finally have something new. I finally feel something. Something real. I have that pure awfulness which gives the good things context.

My vision is fading. The light dims. The volume is turned down and the record comes to its sighing end.

Right before I feel nothing, I at last feel something.

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Old 12-02-2010, 01:12 PM
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Peace, Greed, or Ignorance

The glitter of the San Fernando Valley laid below me. Decadence and deceit spread out like a stained sequined cocktail dress with a broken strap. Ninety percent of all legally distributed porn was either filmed or produced in The Valley.

Legally distributed.

I swallowed hard and looked around, trying to catch my breath. The midnight chill had turned my sweat cold even as it continued to pour out of my, well, pores.

Sirens blared. Dogs barked. All because of me.

The scene of the crime was The Junkyard, a gay bar in West Hollywood. The crime itself was murder.

Seven times.

The Junkyard had been the scene of another murder two years earlier. A murder/rape to be more specific.

The line outside was twenty deep. Leather reflected neon, begging for attention. I walked past them all including the doorman.

“Hey!” With a line that long, what could he do? Nothing could stop me.

I was Omega.

I breathed inevitability.

I glided through the crowd to the back bar. Lights dancing, bodies grinding, and bass thumping, I could feel the body heat of two hundred half naked men who were about to fear for their lives.

This was not a hate crime. Sexual orientation had nothing to do with it.

This was retribution.

One squeeze of the finger and the bartender fell back, knocking bottles of flavored vodka off the shelf before joining them on the floor. A moment of shock followed as people comprehended what just happened. By the time the screams overtook the music, I'd gotten off three more rounds, dropping a frozen security guard to my left, and another bartender who had his back to me at the register. The bullet hitting the second bartender exited and shattered the mirror in front of him.

People ran. They shoved. All I could think was, You'll buy him a gimlet, and then you'll let him die.

How romantic.

The old me would have never done this.

Another explosion, another security guard. This time right in the chest. I would have liked to watch him suffer for his sins, but I had more work to do.



Miss. I walked behind the bar. Another employee, crouched half under the sink, looked up just in time to see the flash. I wondered if he thought it was his life before his eyes.

The people trying to exit the front were falling on top of each other. A few of them even trying to climb over the pile of sweaty, squirming flesh.

The old me would have tried to save them.

Two shots towards the top of the mess, the first entered his thigh. He arched his back in pain and caught the second bullet right between the shoulder blades.

I turned around to see a black door with a small square window revealing a petrified face with eyes like softballs. They met mine and disappeared. The sign on the door said OFFICE.

“You are so fucking dead.I couldn't even hear myself over the house music.

I headed towards the door. Each step rumbling through my flesh. As I neared it, I coiled my leg and destroyed the lock with my boot. The door swung open and slammed against the wall, rattling the hinges.

Behind the cocaine covered metal desk, sat a thin, sweaty man in a finely pressed and tailored suit.

“The kid's name was Brandon”, I said. “I'd tell you to say hello for me, but I don't think you'll be seeing him where you're heading.”

All three shots entered his chest. A head shot would have been too nice in my opinion.

The old me went on hunting trips with an empty rifle.

Twelve rounds. Ten hits. Seven kills. All that practice had paid off.

The club was now empty, except for me, the bodies, and that incessant music. I stood admiring my work. I looked around and found the back exit. As I peeked out the door into the dim alley, I looked down and could actually see my heart beating through my shirt.

I did it. I had played the part of judge, jury, and executioner. In the eyes of everybody in that club, I was more real than God.

Running through the alley and the orange glows of security lights, I could hear the sirens fast approaching. I realized the gun was still tightly clenched in my right hand. I hit Rowena and headed left towards the reservoir, tossing it side-armed and crossing back to the other side in one smooth motion. By the time they even thought to look there, I would be long gone.

No fingerprints on the gun.

No residue on my hands.

I flagged a taxi heading west on Los Feliz. I had to break up my scent just in case they brought out the dogs.

“Sepulveda and Victory.” I handed the driver the $50 Michael had given me. “Now!

Without hesitation, the driver snagged the cash and hit the gas. I slouched down in the seat, peeking through the back.

All clear.

I caught the driver eying me in the rear-view. He quickly straightened his stare and kept driving. I tossed my gloves out of the window in the shadow of the 101 overpass.

Sepulveda and Victory. The plan was to exit the taxi at the intersection and meet Michael a block away. From there we would take the 405 south to the San Diego Freeway, stopping in Nestor, the last town before the border. Michael had new ID's, passports, and even a fresh vehicle waiting for us.

Then it was Belize. A small shack on the coast needed a couple of tenants. A few bucks would net us a small fishing boat and we'd be set. We would be free to spend our days catching fish, our nights chasing women, and our money on beer and tequila.

It was a simple plan with a simple life as the reward.

Sepulveda and Victory. I was out of the car before it came to a stop. Running down the street, the plan was again running through my mind.

I made it to the next block where Michael should be waiting. The same Cadillac that had once brought fear would now be my refuge. I stopped, breathing heavy once again, panning left to right. The lamplight illuminated the corner, but no Cadillac.

The street was empty.

The old me would have walked away from it all right then.

But I didn't. I became enraged. To anyone who didn't know me, I probably seemed stern, forceful, or merely preoccupied. The reality was, I'd been permanently set to destruction mode.

I trusted him, sacrificed everything for him and his cause. I should have known better. I resisted his manipulations at first, but I suppose captivity has a way of breaking you down.

I had set foot, alone, into a world I desperately wanted to know. Looking for something resembling truth, that's exactly what I got. With all of the force of the confusion I had run from and all of the truth the world would ever have to offer, it hit me as I stood alone on the corner in a faint glow.

Michael had to die.


My life revolved around death. In a way, it always had. Only now I was focused on being it's steward rather than simply trying to come to grips with what it meant to be a faint glint in the eye of a world gone seemingly mad.

I stood there for what seemed like hours. Cars and strangers passed by, all eventually fading away. If I was to deliver retribution, I needed to establish a plan. Michael had completely faded in his own right, though, and time had been kinder to him through the night. He was most likely already in a place I would never think to look. He'd outsmarted me for months the way it was. Who was I to think that would change?

Michael hadn't been able to cope with the loss of his son, so he did what he had to do in order to put it to rest. I hadn't been able to absorb the concept that people die. All of them. It doesn't matter what you know, or think you know. Nobody cares what you've seen. You can hide behind all of the luxurious distractions humanity's feeble collective “intelligence” can conceive, but you're still going to die, and nobody's going to care.

What I thought was their ignorance and greed, may simply be peace of mind, or lack of it. Either way, I just had to let it go.

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Old 12-20-2010, 01:56 PM
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The Liner
'The bloody security guards have disappeared.'
Frowning, Lewis Jameson looked up from the table he was serving. 'You what?'
'It's true. No sign of them anywhere,' replied his colleague.
'You're having a laugh, McGaffey,' sais Lewis. 'They boarded, didn't they?'
'Could you continue this conversation later?' quavered the elderly gent at the table. 'You've been poised with that bottle of wine for a while now. Will I ever get any?'
'Sorry, sir.'
Derren McGaffey passed Lewis, and whispered. 'You watch. We'll have a riot on our hands.'

'My cake's been nicked! Some thieving little minx has already started stealing. Where are them guards?' fretted Cook Cooke.
Throughout the cruise liner, all the coat hooks fell from the walls.
'That's not the worst of it,' said chief-chambermaid, Nancy. 'Fax just came through. Our pay's been suspended again.'
Groans, punctured by a shriek of 'Again!' from Cook Cooke.
'What're our bosses playing at?' scorned Derren. 'It's already been six months. I can't afford basic stuff. I'm fed up of taking home doggy-bags from the leftover buffet.'
'I'll talk to the captain,' said Lewis, resolutely. 'He'll know what to do.'

Turns out the captain was pretty useless, even locking himself in the control room.
'We've got a crisis here!' protested Lewis from outside.
'I know,' came the captain's muffled reply. 'I don't wanna get killed, do I? I'll come out when the security guards are found.'
'You might be waiting a while then. The entire ship is being searched right now, but nobody's hopeful. It's like they've vanished into thin air, to use a cliche term,' said Lewis, morbidly.
'Then I'll wait. I'm sure the staff are perfectly capable of coping.'
'Might not be so happy to, now our pay's been suspended,' pointed out Lewis. 'You hear about that?'
'Is that why you're locked in there? You're going on strike?' asked Lewis, panic rising. He didn't want to be adrift in the middle of the Mediterranean.
'You joking?' came the indignant reply. I wanna get home too, you know. I told you; it's for my safety. If the guard's aren't found, I'll abandon the designanted route and take us to the nearest port.'
'Well, I wish you'd help now,' said Lewis, becoming exasperated. 'Give moral support. You're supposed to be the captain. As soon as news spreads, the passengers will want to hear reassurance from someone in uniform.'
'You're wearing uniform.'
'It's not as fancy as yours. Oh, just come out,' pleaded Lewis, rattling the doorknob. It promptly fell off in his hand. He heard a clatter as it also dropped from the other side. Doorknobs throughout the ship did likewise. Lewis stared at the metal in his hands for a few moments. Then he raised his head.
'I hope you've got a toilet in there.'

When Lewis arrived back at the staffroom he was met with an interesting scene. Crimson was splattered on the carpets. Two waiters were sat with the stickiness over their faces and clothes, tissues clamped to various parts of their bodies.
'What's happened?' sighed Lewis.
'Eli and Perry decided to take their verbal sparring to a physical level,' said Nancy disapprovingly, dishing out tissues.
'He started it,' muttered Perry, managing to shoot Eli a dirty look despite having one eye bashed in.
'Look gentlemen,' said 70 year-old cruise entertainer, Mystic Marcus, (or Keith Chubb, to quote his birth certificate). 'We can't allow ourselves to fall apart just because some guards are missing. Let's pull together.'
Eli and Perry looked unenthusiastic, and Derren snorted.
Just then, Peter the Porter rushed in. He looked spooked. 'The whole ship's been searched from top to bottom. No guards. What's more, CCTV confirms they definitely set off with us.'
Silence descended while everyone processed this news. The quiet was broken when the staffroom phone rang. Nancy answered and spoke for a few minutes.
'There's been over thirty reports of doorknobs falling off,' said said, bemused.
Silence. There wasn't really much you could say to that.

'Oi, lad! Put that back!,' yelled Derren McGaffey from across the food court.
The boy in question hopped back from the sandwich shelf. He turned to scowl at McGaffey, pockets bulging with stolen foods.
Lewis sighed and walked over to Derren, who was currently trying to wrestle an egg roll from the boy.
'Give it up, lad,' growled Derren.
'Gerroff, you Irish twerp.'
'Leave him alone,' protested a blonde woman, running over. She fired a death look at Derren, before talking to the boy. 'Jonah, put that back. Go finish your bacon.'
He sulkily obeyed, and tromped back to his table in defeat. His mother addressed Derren.
'How dare you handle my son like that! Don't you have security for that kind of thing?'
'Not presently, madam,' informed Lewis. Derren flashed him a glance. Lewis shrugged. The passengers would find out eventually.
'You mean to say you haven't got one guard on this ship?' hollered the woman.
'That's right. You got a problem with that?' said Derren bluntly.
'How dare you,' seethed the woman. She pointed to his badge. 'I'll report your name to your managers.'
Derren's eyes narrowed. 'Bite me.'
He threw down his waiter's tea towel, and stalked off.
Several cupboard doors came loose throughout the ship, crashing to the ground.
'Sorry madam,' said Lewis, uncomfortably. He felt someone should apologise.

At the end of his shift, Lewis walked into the staffroom to find everyone congregated on the sofas. They were facing a chair which Derren was standing on. Tension weighed on their shoulders.
'...our managers are expecting us to work without pay. In addition, they're effectively making us law enforcers too! I'm through with working for nothing; not even a thanks.'
His speech continued much longer, and worryingly many of the staff were nodding along. Lewis swallowed. This wasn't good.

George heaved his old body from bed. Shuffling into his bathroom, he glanced at the rail. Observing there were no dry towels, he shuffled back out and over to the phone. He dialled reception.
Click. Someone had answered.
'Hello. Sorry to bother you, but could I have some more towels brought to my room?'
'Piss off.'
George wasn't sure he'd heard correctly, and was about to ask for clarification when the curtain rail fell on his head.

'Three concussions, and a stream of complaints regarding faulty furniture,' Nancy informed Lewis. 'Not to mention twenty complaints of guest mistreatment. Half the staff are still rebelling.'
Lewis swallowed. Things were getting bad. This method of protest couldn't possibly solve anything. But Derren had instigated it, and Derren always had his way.

In the ship's shopping mall, Derren was holding aloft a fallen curtain rail, intent on smashing the shop window next to him. A group of rebel staff were chanting encouragingly.
'Put that down. No need to get angry,' said a male passenger nervously. He kept his distance, eyes fixed on Derren's weapon.
'Where's security?' someone wanted to know.
'What do you care?' sneered Derren. 'We're the ones in uniform. That's all you need to know.' He drew back the curtain rail. Lewis, alerted by hollers echoing through the ship, rounded the corner.
'Whoa!,' he yelled. 'Derren, stop!'
Derren barely looked at him. 'Piss off, Jameson.'
'Stop this immediately,' insisted Lewis. But he sounded more like he was pleading than commanding.
'Why?' asked Derren, slinking over menacingly. 'What you gonna do? Where you gonna go?'
Lewis gulped.
'Nowhere,' smirked Derren. He drew his fist back and smacked Lewis in the face.
Lifeboats on the sides of the ship crashed through their metal casing and drifted away to sea.
Lewis lay crumpled on the floor, eyes wide and nose pouring. A grin still tugging his lips, Derren swivelled from his bleeding colleague. With an almightly swing of the rail, Derren knocked the shop window through, glass cascading and settling in a lethal pool on the floor.

The next few days passed in a messy blur of fear. Treatment of passengers had surpassed abusive, now frequently bordering on violent. Hysteria was rising. People locked themselves in cabins, only emerging to scavenge food from the looted kitchens and shops. Over were the days of being served by a waiter with a crisp bowtie. Now, one simply had to feed with the pack, eating what was available. Menus were trampled and cash registers upended. Doddery old fools still tried paying for their meals, seemingly oblivious to the chaos surrounding them.
The ship was disintegrating, both in a societal and a physical way. One couldn't walk along a corridor without a chandelier plumetting from the ceiling, or a window shattering of its own accord. Large parts of the ship started detaching too; several balcony railings, chunks of chimney. Like the guards' dissapearance, nobody could explain it.
Lewis, cowering in his cabin, dearly hoped the captain's wheel hadn't dropped off. These days, the captain wasn't speaking through the door. At least not on the times Lewis had bravely ventured down there. How did Lewis know he was still driving? Could insanity have taken him too?
Lewis would often look out his cabin window. The ocean stretched away into nothingness, like an unfurling carpet that would never reach its end.
Accidental deaths occured. Tumbles over the railings. People stabbed in kitchen scuffles. It was when these reports started to trickle in, that Lewis stopped hiding. He decided to look for the guards himself. The symbols of authority.

The boiler rooms downstairs were the logical place to start searching. Casting furtive looks around, Lewis descended the stairs. Once he was there, he wasn't sure where to start looking. But before he could do anything, he heard a quavering voice. Mystic Marcus.
'Looking for the guards?' asked Marcus from the shadows, jumping Lewis. 'You won't find them here.'
Lewis's eyes narrowed. Marcus had spoken in an informed tone. 'Do you know what happened to them?'
'Never mind me,' said Marcus, eyes glinting. 'Why don't you take this opportunity?'
Lewis's innocent brow furrowed. 'Opportunity?'
Marcus spread his arms. 'You can do anything you want now. Anything. Authority is gone. You may not get the chance to do something wild ever again.'
Lewis considered this. Maybe he should milk this experience? He always wanted to...no, no. He musn't fall into the trap.
'Do it,' hissed Marcus. 'For God's sake, whatever it is, just do it.'

Lewis stared down, anticipating. He was going to enjoy this.

Derren stared down, anticipating. He was going to enjoy this.

Lewis stepped forwards. He breathed a sigh of pleasure as he lowered himself into the warm, bubbling water. The spa had always been a luxery he's seen guests languish in. Lewis envied them, knowing he'd never be able to afford it himself. And now, here he was, in the middle of anarchy, enjoying a long, cool, unpaid-for soak.

Derren stepped fowards. Raised the knife, and plunged it into George's chest. Fulfilling a life's fantasy, and getting rid of another complaining passenger. All in one movement.
The pillars in the lobby collapsed and the roof caved in.

People standing at the city port watched as the luxery cruise liner approached. Gone was the white, elegant brilliance it had departed with. It was now a wreck, surfacing from the depths.
On board, staff and passengers froze. Trapped in immoral acts. Staring out the windows. Eyes disbelieving. The captain in the control room sighed with relief as he navigated into port. Lewis, drying himself off, smiled as he saw the brushstroke of land get bigger. Derren, a floor below, was also watching land's unforgiving approach. He caught a faraway glimpse of police uniforms. Clarity crashed through him, sweeping away madness. The knife slid from his bloody hands. He began to shake.
Old 12-20-2010, 02:14 PM
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Old 12-22-2010, 07:14 AM
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I entered the supermarket and grabbed a grocery basket, my eyes on the candy-section of the store as I made my way through the aisles. The previous afternoon, all the chocolates on display to lure in new customers had been eaten. Determined, I'd returned to have another try.

I was in luck.

"Would you like a bite, sir? Brand new Milka chocolate!" the lady offered me with a fake, bright, holiday smile.

"Oh! Why yes, that's very kind of you, ma'am," I said, and snatched a piece of chocolate off the tray she held out to me.

"Only 4.99 a box! A better deal you'll never find," she told me, leaning forward as if she was confiding in me about some deep, dark secret.

"Oh, I'd love to, ma'am. The chocolates sure are delicious. But I'm afraid I only have so much change, and I left my debit card at home."

"The deal lasts until Friday. Make sure to come back for a box!" came the cheerful reply.

"All right. Bye now."

"Goodbye, sir! Happy holidays!"

A polite smile at the saleswoman, then an apologetic one at the caishier for not buying anything, and I was back outside. I hurried to my car, opened the door, and leaned down, one knee on the backseat, to grab a large plastic bag. Out of it I pulled a fake moustache and applied it to my face, followed by a pair of glasses and a hat. Finally, I exchanged my blue jacket for a red one and kicked off my brown shoes to replace them with faded black ones. A cane and a pair of fingerless gloves as a finishing touch, and I was off again.

"Would you like a bite, sir? Brand new Milka chocolate!" the lady offered me with a fake, bright, holiday smile.

"Ehh, why not." A gruff, deep, shaky voice this time. With trembling fingers, I brought a chocolate to my lips.

"Only 4.99 a box! A better deal you'll never find," she told me, leaning forward as if she was confiding me in some deep, dark secret.

I leaned forward as well, a slight grin adorning my face.

"I'm sure. But I'm afraid my wife would have my skin if I brought a box of chocolates anywhere near the house. She's on a diet, you see, and you know how women can be..."

She backed off quickly as I moved closer, and smiled a polite, albeit rather disgusted smile.

I inclined my head to bid her goodbye, cast an apologetic look to the caishier for not buying anything, and made my way back to the car.

Whistling, I got rid of the moustache, hat and glasses. This transformation would take some more preparation.

A second plastic bag in hand, I disappeared in the women's lavatories of the mall next to the supermarket. When I'd first started my hunt for free pastries and candy, I could never decide whether to go into the men's or the ladies', because one way or another, I'd be the subject of many a strange look, be it as I went in, or as I went out. This time I was in luck, however. No curious stares.

Transformed into a woman, wearing thick layers of make-up to hide my square jaw as much as possible and walking on heels with a balance that no first-time teenager would be able to reproduce, I tic-tic-ticked into the store, a pink purse dangling from my wrist.

"Would you like a bite, miss? Brand new Milka chocolate!" the lady offered me with a fake, bright, holiday smile.

I was about to answer when a man stormed up to me.

"John! Good old Johnny Netherland!" he exclaimed. I tried to keep my cool.

"I can't believe you're still doing this," he went on. "I remember the good old days, when we'd go together, from shop to shop..."

"Shut up," I hissed in a low voice, forgetting that I wasn't supposed to have that low a voice as a woman.

The saleslady looked at me and blinked. She squinted and leaned closer.

"Sir?" she asked, hesitating.

"Yeah all right, all right," I said, taking off my wig with a defeated sigh

It was time for a new supermarket.
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