Literary Maneuvers April 2019 - "The Butterfly Effect"

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  1. #1
    Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Literary Maneuvers April 2019 - "The Butterfly Effect"

    "The Butterfly Effect"
    650 words, deadline 23:59 GMT, Monday 15th April 2019



    Introduction


    This month's prompt, as voted for by a supermajority of over 56% , is "The Butterfly Effect", for which you are to write a maximum of 650 words of fiction. Pick your own title, write about whatever you want, in whatever prose style and interpreted as you see fit, as long as it's related in some way to the prompt. You decide the best way in which to dazzle your readers - and the judges.

    The judges this month are, so far, Arachne, Megan Pearson, -xXx-, and myself, bdcharles. If you wish to join this month's panel (max of 4), please sign up for judging by PM or in the coffee shop. If you want to judge and I left you out, send me your scores before the end of the month. If you're listed here and don't wish to judge, please let me know at once.

    If you win, you'll get a badge pinned to your profile plus a month’s access to Friends of Writing Forums (FoWF) where you’ll have access to hidden forums. Pretty neat, eh?

    All entries that wish to retain their first rights should post in the LM Workshop Thread.

    All Judges scores will be PMed to bdcharles as soon as possible after the competition closes. Note: I will give judges 3 days into the next month to deliver their scores and then I will post with what I have.

    All anonymous entries will be PMed to bdcharles.

    Lastly, why not check out this ancient text on how to best approach this task.


    Rules




    • All forum rules apply. The LM competition is considered a creative area of the forum. If your story contains inappropriate language or content, do not forget add a disclaimer or it could result in disciplinary actions taken. Click here for the full list of rules and guidelines of the forum.
    • No Poetry! Nothing against you poets out there, but this isn’t a place for your poems. Head on over to the poetry challenges for good competition over there. Some of us fiction people wouldn’t be able to understand your work! Click here for the poetry challenges. Play the prose-poem game at your own risk.
    • No posts that are not entries into the competition are allowed. If you have any questions, concerns, or wish to take part in discussion please head over to the LM Coffee Shop. We’ll be glad to take care of your needs over there.
    • Editing your entry after posting isn’t allowed. You’ll be given a ten minute grace period, but after that your story may not be scored.
    • Only one entry per member.
    • The word limit is 650 words not including the title. If you go over - Your story will not be counted. Microsoft Word is the standard for checking this. If you are unsure of the word count and don't have Word, please send your story to me and I'll check it for you.







    There are a few ways to post your entry:




    1. If you aren't too concerned about your first rights, then you can simply post your entry here in this thread.
    2. You can opt to have your entry posted in the Workshop which is a special thread just for LM entries. You would put your story there if you wish to protect your first rights, in case you wish to have the story published one day. Note: If you do post it in the workshop thread, you must post a link to it here in this thread otherwise your story may not be counted.
    3. You may post your story anonymously. To do so, send your story to the host of the competition. If you wish to have us post it in the workshop thread then say so. Your name will be revealed upon the release of the score.




    Everyone is welcome to participate, including judges. A judge's entry will receive a review by their fellow judges, but it will not receive a score. Please refrain from 'like'-ing or 'lol'-ing an entry until the scores are posted.

    Judges: In the tradition of LM competitions of yore, if you could send the scores one week after the closing date it will ensure a timely release of results. Please see the Judging Guidelines if you have questions. Following the suggested formatting will be much appreciated, too.

    This competition will close on:
    Monday night 15th of April at 11:59:59 PM, GMT, on the dot. Please note any time differences where you are and be mindful of daylight savings time.

    Scores would be appreciated by the last day of the current month, at the latest, pretty please, cherry on top, mmm? Too much later than that and I will have to post with any scores that I have.

    Click here for the current time. Good luck!
    Last edited by bdcharles; April 15th, 2019 at 07:43 PM.


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  2. #2

    FEEDBACK (650 words.) Coarse Language Warning.

    FEEDBACK



    Tom Cromwell looked dead tired. His skinny fingers toiled over the keyboards. The six computer screens reflected eerily in his coke-bottle glasses. Other than his single bed, a chest of drawers and a chair; there was no other furniture in the small warehouse. The unpainted, concrete walls echoed every keystroke he made and the outside world was silenced, virtually non-existent.

    "Last chance," he thought. "I'm out of money and time."

    The Police gave him a day to move out and that was yesterday. His time-machine was worthless, unless it worked. He looked at the white coffin-shaped-pod and it hissed at him quietly. Carbon-dioxide vapor escaped the cooling-jacket overflows, drifting lazily downward and rolled across the floor.

    "Here goes everything," he thought, holding his breath.

    He knew he was stalling the inevitable and his finger touched the enter key on the master keyboard. The lights went out: Total inky blackness...Nothing...Silence...

    Slowly, his chin slumped to his chest, tears of failure welled up in his closed eyes. He sank to the floor with a pained sob, kneeling in the cold, lonely darkness.

    Click! His head shot up; eyes snapping wide open. He saw a dancing blue light emitted by the open hatch of the pod. A small golden haired girl sat up and leveled a pistol at him.

    "Time to die Dr. Cromwell," she said and looked down at the rolling green numbers on the skin of her left arm. "In one minute and fifteen seconds."

    He stood and walked toward her with hesitant, unsure steps, "How did you get in there?... Who are you?"

    "You don't have much time Doctor," she smiled sorrowfully. "Only one minute, to be precise."

    "And then you'll shoot me?" he said, looking at her across the top of his glasses.

    "Just Fuckin' with you Doc," she giggled, tossing him the gun. "Take a seat."

    Cromwell stared down at his own body and the pistol in his hand. An icy ball of fear churned in the pit of his stomach, for somehow, he was seated awkwardly in his chair in front of her.

    "How the hell did she do that?" he thought.

    "Compared to Creation, moving you and your chair is child's play. Get it?" she asked, grinning and pointing to herself. "Child's play...Me...A child...Ah, never mind."

    She tilted her head to the side. "You look sick, Doc."

    Cromwell felt the fear evaporate, replaced by a sensation of warm, overwhelming well-being.

    She asked, "Have you heard of The Butterfly Effect?"

    "Yes," he thought.

    "Good. But just to make myself clear," she said, sternly. "I can't allow you to travel forward in time. It would destroy the entire Universe because of feedback. Your little stunt would cause a minuscule ripple-loop in time, which would eventually consume everything. Similar to the effect of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil, setting off a tornado in Texas."

    "Feedback?"

    "Yes. Feedback," she said. "The future feeding back into the past, consuming itself endlessly, until there is nothing left. Think rock-band with a lousy sound-man."

    The Doctor heard a loud high-pitched-squeal in his head...Wincing...Deafened. He looked at her through his pained eyes and tried to speak, but the words were frozen in his throat.

    "They've been knocking for a while, Doc," she said. "Hope you didn't pay too much for that door."

    Hardwood splinters flew through the air. The door smashed back on it's hinges. The lock landed near his feet. Cromwell's confused eyes turned toward the armed Police officers: Their lips were moving, faces intent, the gun in his hand rose toward them.

    The high-pitched-squeal in his mind faded to a tranquil, serene peace. The golden-haired girl walked beside him, holding his hand with her tiny, warm hand.

    She smiled up at him, "Didn't hurt a bit, did it?"

  3. #3
    Duplicate
    Last edited by SueC; April 5th, 2019 at 02:06 AM.
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    No, I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  4. #4
    Toilet Paper Wings
    (650 wds)

    Toilet paper use is taught in early days. Acknowledging that every person in the world has a preference on texture and thickness, we may often find ourselves adjusting our own first choice, only because of what is available at the moment of need.

    Jonathan Drake was a fastidious man. He had been educated in the country's most prestige universities, and was able to provide a lengthy discourse on any period of history that may be discussed. As he was frequently sought after to speak at seminars and other esteemed gatherings, his curriculum vitae grew to look as if it could be published on its own merits alone.

    It would be no surprise to anyone that Jonathan was extremely persnickety about his personal appearance and his personal comfort. He was known for a sharp appearance and had suits hand- tailored by a small men's clothing outlet in Singapore.

    Jonathan Drake had no sense of humor to speak of. His upbringing, education, and accomplishments held little room for a quality he saw unnecessary to develop. Jokes from others fell flat in his presence, and colleagues soon learned to not even try. His life was predictable; he was organized and suffered no upsets. His days ran like clockwork, everyday. His morning routine began with sit-ups, a quick shower, shave and of course, his daily toilet.

    Jonathan knew of a company in Dubai that not only produced gold toilets, but also a toilet paper that left gold flecks on a bottom and was supposed to make one feel wonderful. While recognizing that the over one-million dollar price tag was too extreme, he nonetheless felt he deserved something similarly comfortable. The paper he routinely purchased was an ultra soft, cloth-like 4-ply and not made in the United States. He had to order it four weeks in advance of need.

    And so, when Jonathan had been invited to speak at the commencement exercise for Notre Dame University, he went prepared with two rolls of the pricey stuff in his carry on.

    In all the research anyone could do on Jonathan Drake, famed historian, there was never any mention of a sensitivity to broccoli. To be fair, even Jonathan was not aware, since he avoided that particular vegetable like the plague. Too messy; too green. It did, however, appear on his plate at the graduation luncheon and not wanting to seem finicky, he ate the little tree down with gusto.

    After lunch, while waiting for his turn at the podium, an alarming rumbling began in his lower intestine. He shifted on his folding chair, trying to dislodge whatever was making the noise, but it wasn't long before the sound became more audible. A colleague gave him an over-the-glasses stare. Even more alarming was the idea of going to a public bathroom to take care of the impending problem, but he had no choice.

    Taking small, hurried steps, Jonathan raced down the hall to the first men's room he saw. He let out a sigh of gratitude, realizing he was the only one there. Seated then, he felt a sense of immense relief as he evacuated himself.

    Only then did he notice the 1-ply, rough-textured toilet paper that was his only option to complete the job.

    Glancing at his watch, he unrolled yard after yard of the scratchy stuff and proceeded to do what he must. He quickly reassembled himself, glanced in the mirror as he washed his hands and sped out the door, back to the graduation ceremony.

    Like a skywriters stream, a long, white band followed him down the aisle and up to the podium. The room erupted in laughter and Jonathan, initially unable to determine the joke, soon realized that they were laughing at him.

    For the first time in recorded history, Jonathan Drake, historian extraordinaire, got the joke; and he laughed.

    "A funny thing happened on my way to . . . "
    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we'll see
    No, I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
    Just as long as you stand by me.


  5. #5
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  6. #6

  7. #7
    Member Bardling's Avatar
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    It Could Have Been Anyone

    It would have been someone, eventually. On the east coast of North America, it was a supply sergeant in an overrun outpost far through the Gate on another world. On the West Coast, it was discovered by Shamenka Jones, during her experiments at the Berkeley Gate Academy. In the Gulf, where the local Gate was dominated by the privately owned Civitas Militia, the person was a lowly contract worker named Tracy.

    Tracy was just a poor shard holder, scratching a living at the edges of greater things, minion and servant to richer and more powerful adventurers. She could summon a phantom servant to carry supplies or loot, she could skin an animal or gather useful plants. She hoped one day to earn a stronger shard, a real adventurer’s shard, something useful in a fight. Something that could make her powerful.

    Tracy sighed as she searched the knee high corpses of spiders for loot, her gloves stained with their black ichor. The group that had hired her were crueler than most. They seemed to take pleasure in insulting and brow beating her.

    A glimmer at the corner of her eye drew her attention. Light reflected off the edges of something embedded in a spider with a green and gold pattern on its back. She vaguely remembered it jumping at the big melee fighters face – mostly because of the girly screams. She held her breathe as she pulled it out.

    It was a shard.

    A dark grey crystal, seven sides tapering down to a sharp point. She had never seen a shard like it, which wasn’t surprising. Shards this deep in the Otherworlds were only for the rich. For a moment she contemplated stealing it, maybe even slicing it right here.

    It was too risky. It might be a monstrous shard, and people who sliced those died or wished they had. If she tried to sell it or identify it, her theft would be discovered. It was obviously not a low level shard.

    She stood up, the shard in her hand and turned around. Maybe the idiots would be pleased enough with her find that they would lay off her for a little.

    Instead, she was blindsided as her phantom stumbled into her and she fell down among the corpses and black ichor. Heavy footsteps passed her and someone even jumped over her as she screamed in surprise and flailed violently trying to get up. Her phantom disappeared and she saw the oncoming swarm. Her eyes wide, she rolled over and stumbled up to her feet and then into a run. The adventurers were already ahead of her, running as fast as they could, and she felt the cold claws of anger in her gut. They had obviously left her to be killed.

    In the back of her mind, she wondered if they meant to sacrifice her to slow the swarm of monsters down.

    And if they had done it before.

    Finally, she escaped. She endured the complaints and insults of her temporary employers in silence.

    The next day she woke in her cramped, dingy room. She prepared for a new day of scraping and crawling for her betters.

    And she found that her shard had changed.

    Instead of just summoning a phantom servant, she could summon a phantom spiderling too. Instead of a weak construct of magic, that could only carry supplies or at best act as a fragile meatshield, she had a summon that could fight.

    She had a way to find out what a shard could do, without paying the Militia’s fees. She had a compliant Guinea pig, that could use whatever abilities it gained to protect her.

    This was the beginning of the end for the Militia’s stranglehold on the Gate, and the start of the revolution against the tyrant called John Smith.

    It could have been anyone. This time, it was Tracy.

  8. #8

  9. #9
    Upon Wings of Passion.
    (645 words)

    A guard crumpled at my feet, his bones cracking upon the white marble bridge, now thick with blood. High upon the city wall my skeletal minions ravaged the ramparts, tearing flesh, delivering death. The bronze gate was asunder, their champion but carrion before it; soon the crows would pick his flesh from between his armour. I could only hope he was still alive when they did.

    I entered the city that I once called home, the city that taught me the power of pain. The city that I would burn. I focused to summon all of my power, my raised hand licked by purple flames, soothing my scars. Yes, every part of my body remembered how they tortured me, how they gave me the crimson scars that twist down my whole body; obscene veins that made others see me as if through a fractured mirror. The scars had made people hate me more, even though they were the ones who had inflicted them upon me; with stones, with whips, with brands. And all for helping some lepers with arts considered profane. And finally, they came with priests and flame. Upon the stake, I had looked through tendrils, yellow and red, to see the faces of the peasants baying for death, delighting in my screams, the nobles looking down from gilded parapets, impassive to my pleas, and the sanctimonious priests and their sterile fervour. I hated them all with a passion I didn’t know could exist, and my flesh had turned to fury. It was no longer flame that burned me, but something other. Power. But I could not control it and undirected it ripped me from that place and spat me beyond the city walls.

    In the scrabbled years that followed I learnt that light only exists to cast shadow. And in that darkness, I forged power. I ate sticks to survive when they nearly found me at Lorlock’s Forest. Kindling. I drank my own piss when they hounded me onto Teller’s Sea. Fuel. I ripped the heart from a witch hunter and reanimated his corpse by drinking his blood. Fire.

    Through the city streets I walked as winged beasts ripped about the night air and stone crumbled. Through a passage: two figures darted alongside me. A girl holding the hand of a young boy. They froze in my gaze, and trembled as I approached them, the girl wrapping her arms around the boy. Her brown eyes, wavering. Without thinking I raised my flaming hand to her – instinctively I knew she held something for me. Some memory picked at a loose thread in my violent tapestry. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach.

    “Please…” was all she could say.

    I remembered.

    I remembered when I prayed to silent gods that mercy was a thing. I recognised the courage it must have taken her to mumble even that one word. Fear looked different from this side: I would never have believed it, but it was even more ugly.

    Beside me a minion stopped, its starved fingers drawing blood from the throat of some peasant, but yet to seize death. It looked at me, as I imagine they all did, before folding to the floor. My fury gone, I could not sustain them. I took flight from the city, high upon wings of mercy, following the detritus I had wrought.


    Decades later and the city was celebrating the Battle of the Bridge. They boasted of victory, of how they had bravely slain the undead that had assailed them, the evil sorceress fleeing from their righteousness. Some even believed it. But those who still wake in cold sweat in the dead of night, those who wear the marks of spectral fingers, those whose dreams are strung in entrails, they whisper the question that haunts them. Why did she spare us?

    I like to think one woman in the city knows.

  10. #10
    Mentor Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    The Butterfly Effect (644 words)
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
    ~ John A. Shedd


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