NextEstablishment856 t1_jeba6jc wrote

She is beautiful. The most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and I have seen everything. I want to tell her, but when I do, she stops speaking to me for weeks, months, even years before. Just an object on the wall, easily ignored.

So I lie. I tell her, when she asks me, that there is one more beautiful than her.


"The girl who plays, just out there, orphaned and left in your care."

"Impossible! She is a child."

"A child once, but now grown, and so grew a beauty of her own."

She storms from the room. I don't know what she'll do, but this was longer than our past conversations.


It's three days since, and here she is before me, holding something red and wet and squishy. I don't want to know, but I know. I don't want to tell her, but I want to talk to her, and she calls out to me.

"Do you know what this is? It's her heart. Now who is fairest?"

"She is fairest, as before. What you hold came from a boar."

She growls, and I try to think of what to say to keep her with me.

"Where is she?"

"Deep in the woods, a home she's found, with little men from underground."

"I'll find her," she spits out before leaving once more.

I am worried for her, but I feel needed. It's a good feeling.


It's only been a day, and she is down here, but not to talk with me. She is back with her poisons and potions, concoctions and decoctions, alembic and mortar and pestle.

"What plan do you have in your head? I suspect you wish to make one dead."

"You know who I want dead. There's only one before me. Tell me, would she want meat or fruit?" She holds out a bit of jerky and an apple.

"She's friend to the beasts of wood and field. The latter, your desired result would yield."

"Good, good. And now, since she won't trust my face, a change is in order."

She drinks down a potion and crumples to the ground. At first, I fear she confused the vials. Then I realize it is far worse. The hag before me is hideous. All her beauty has been inverted. She cackles and leaves me, alone with my guilt.

I am waiting her for her return, knowing I will never see her the same. Blinded by my love of a pretty face, I allowed an ugly heart to grow. I can't blame her. I was the guardian of her self love. I was a receptacle to store away her doubts. Now, I am the instigator of her great evil.

I close myself off, shut off my senses. I cannot watch her kill a child. I cannot face her when she returns. From here, I am only a mirror, showing people nothing more than who they are.


NextEstablishment856 OP t1_jeaf1dg wrote


NextEstablishment856 t1_jea347b wrote

"Listen, no offense, but your kid is a pain in all seven of my necks. I miss the days when great warriors were a dime a dozen, and only the bravest would take on my mantle. I'd pick anyone else. I'd take you over her." The Paragon of Purity paused in a way that made it less clear if this was more an offer or a joke.

"I'm an accountant," Mr. Yukifumi replied flatly.

"Yeah, but you are also confident. I wouldn't need to give you weekly pep talks to help you overcome your fears, ignore relationship drama, and actually beat the world-ending threat. Weekly!"

"Yeah, that sounds like my girl," he sighed. "Why can't you pick someone else?"

"The blasted gem. I need someone pure of heart and soul. They have to accept it. And the gem can't be removed without the current holder being tainted in some way."

"Huh? Guess I should be proud."

"Oh, get off your high horse and corrupt your kid somehow. I want a new champion, and you want your kid home safe."

"Hmm. You know, you mentioned the whole confidence issue. Sumiye's actually been doing a lot better about that lately. She even tried out for a solo in the choir. She didn't get it, but she tried. That's huge for."

"Oh no, please don't do this to me."

"And you've been pretty rude here. Sounds like you could use some lessons in patience."

"I loathe you."

"Someday, you'll thank me for this. I think we'll leave things the way they are, for now. But if you're disrupting her life, I expect you to help with her homework."

"Say what?"

"You heard me. Now, I have to go mow the lawn." And with that, he left the pocket dimension.

The Paragon stewed for a moment, then said to himself, "I guess it could be worse. He could have the gem."

Just then, Sumiye burst in, crying, "Pai-pai, Kenta saw me trip in the cafeteria. He laughed at me."

"First, don't call me Pai-pai. Second, was it funny?"

"I fell face first into mashed potatoes."

"Hilarious. Don't take the laughs personally. People would laugh no matter who that happened to. Now, let's see about your homework."

"My homework?"

"Yeah, suffice to say, your dad is kinda scary."


NextEstablishment856 OP t1_je9ysgu wrote

I was so rapt, I didn't notice any mistakes. Not saying there are none there. In fact, just glance and caught a "forced" where you meant "forces," but nothing shook me out of enjoying the story and atmosphere as I read.


NextEstablishment856 t1_je77omv wrote

"It's broken," Nilor replied.

The wizard rubbed his temples. "Listen, I say, 'What's wrong with it?' You can't just say, 'It's broken.' How is it broken?"

"It doesn't work right."

The wizard imagined hitting Nilor with a slow disintegration spell. A very slow one. "Is it dull?"


"Does the flame keep going out?"

"No, that's the problem."

"That your Everburning Blade won't stop burning?" He tried to just focus on the fact closing time was nearly here.

"Yes! Do you know how many scabbards it destroyed? I can't put it down anywhere. I don't even know how much water I've had to drink to deal with the sweating!"

"Ah, so you turned down the sword and sheath combo. We can sell you a sheath now."

"I'm not paying extra for a sheath to make this sword usable."

Considering the quickest way to show how useful the sword was, and then deciding it was a bad day to murder someone, the wizard said, "Are you looking to sell it back?"

"You know what? Fine, yes. I want my money back."

The wizard summoned a spectral abacus and set to work. "Ok, one used Everburning Blade, no sheath, comes to 180 gold."

"What? I paid 500 for this!"

"Prices fluctuate, and I have no idea what you've cut or burned with it since you bought it."

"I only had it for a couple days!"

"Ok, then keep it."

Nilor gave a defeated sigh. "Can I get more if I do store credit?"

"Ah, what the heck, let's go 250 if it's credit."

"Sounds great."


NextEstablishment856 t1_je5p1sx wrote

"Fast, cheap, or good. You only get two." That's what they say.

Thing is, most wizards don't do fast or cheap. They spend days, even weeks, designing a spell, and they always demand the best ingredients for it. You give them a problem, they take forever to tell you to go halfway round the world for the pieces of a solution.

And yeah, it's a good solution, but by the time you have it, you have new problems. Old one may even have solved itself. It's why only the most desperate folks go to the Guild for help.

Meanwhile, I'm out here. I give you a solution before you leave my shop, and it's all done with stuff from the corner store. And here's the kicker: it may not be the perfect answer the Guildies would give, they may not say it's good, but it's good enough.

Example time, this minor lord drops by, has a banquet coming up, king is supposed to drop in. Only his kitchen has a rat problem suddenly. The early snow likely drove them inside.

I have him get some ham, flower petals (I recommended rose, but let him know any would do. He went with carnations), and a bit of brick dust. I had plenty of fairy bits (I keep traps for common ones, like grigs and pixies, year round. Most spells, you don't need a specific kind) that I added. Done before the hour was up. He laid it out, it drew the rats in, and POOF they turn into teaspoons for the next three days. Staff would pick them up and they got shipped away before they turned back.

Sure, it's not the solution he'd expected, but it got the job done, and in time for the banquet. He wasn't seen spending tons of time with a wizards (which is rightly seen as suspicious behavior), and he didn't have to drop a frigging mint to get rid of some rats with magic.

And off the record, sometimes, you get a little bonus with my spells. Don't tell anyone, but there's a rumor he gifted out some "commemorative teaspoons" to other nobles.

So if you need it to be perfect, money is no object, and time is irrelevant, you can go to the Guild. For anything you have to face in your real life, talk to me.


NextEstablishment856 t1_jdqn5uy wrote

No idea what I just read. No idea why I read it all twice. I just... Well, there it is. I think it's set in the 40k universe. I think there is some semblance of a story in there. Yeah, yeah, a third read through shows an actual narrative. Dang, I am starting to think it's kinda brilliant. A stream of conscious train wreck. And a fitting end.

But who the heck does mac with extra mayo! There's something wrong with that.


NextEstablishment856 t1_jdqhb78 wrote

"I wasn't always the caretaker here." I say it quiet, hoping she miss it, already pulling up the security footage on my phone. Not the cheap camera the city put on the gate, but the good ones I installed.

"Where were you the caretaker before?" God, I love the way kids think. I debated how to correct her, but decided not to. She wasn't entirely wrong.

"I took care of the living before. I learned how to deal with... Bad people. You don't want him coming back, right?"

"Her. No, she's scary."

Her. Now I have to ask. Women killers are a lot more like to be related to the victim. I know it's not her mother, because Mommy is buried next to her. No ghost there, sadly. "Is she someone you knew? An aunt or family friend?"

"No. Just some lady. She killed Mommy, too." Now that worries me. Her mom didn't die with little Sophie here. She went a week earlier in a house fire. No one knew it was murder.

I get the shot up. Sure enough, it's a woman in her mid-forties, wearing a simple black dress. Smiling that shark smile I know too well.

"The Pike," I whisper under my breath. Thankfully, she misses that. Also, thankfully, my old friend didn't see me. I worked hard to get out, cover my tracks, but if anyone could find me, it was her. I ask, "Did she see you?"

"No, I stayed up in the tree. I was playing hide'n'seek with Tommy and Jedediah."

I watched the clip of her leaving in a rental car. I hadn't hacked this cities traffic cams yet, hadn't needed to before, but this called for it.

"Soph," I put away my phone and kneel to match her height. "You don't need to worry. I'm going to go talk to her and make sure she knows she isn't allowed here." She still looks scared. "And I'll tell Joani and Earl about her, too. She broke the rules, so she can't come here anymore."

Sophie relaxed at that. Thankfully, she passed young enough to think that adults have some sort of magical aurhority. And she doesn't need to know about the extra work I'm going to do.


NextEstablishment856 t1_jdpcwv6 wrote

Nyarlhotep, or President Northrup to the world of men, watched with barely concealed glee as the ocean boiled. How long he had waited. How long he had played these games.

Now, a few more prods, a few more chants, and everyone would be here. Not Hastur, of course. Not after that mess at the ice rink. But that was no great loss. And it meant Squigoloth would come. That guy was a hoot! Well, not "guy" so much as bubbling mass of flesh and organs. Still, the funniest of the elder gods.

As a green arm rose from the sea, making him think of a zombie movie, an aide gave a small cough for his attention.

"Can't you see I am busy? It better be ftaghn important."

"It is, sir. We are getting a request for gelato, and the current... conditions are making it impossible to provide."

"Ah tell me it isn't Yog-Sothoth."

The aide handed him a cell phone.

"Yoggy, old pal, why are you asking for gelato? You know the boys can't swing that right now... Listen, let me get Cathy set here first, then we... No I'm not saying old C-dog is more impor-... NO, WE CAN'T GET GELATO RIGHT NOW!" He hung up and handed the phone back to the aide. "Family, right?"


NextEstablishment856 t1_jdkodin wrote

I've typed it for the thousandth time today. The same sentence, over and over. Hour after hour.

I found it, a few years ago. I'd decided to downsize after... Well, I was moving to a smaller place, and I stumbled on the typewriter in the attic. I thought it was Maggie's, and part of me just didn't want to leave the sentence unfinished, something from the both of us.

No, that's a lie. I was more bitter. It's funny though, that first sentence I typed. It's the same one I'm typing now.

Once I realized what it could do, I started using it to help my writing. I wrote so many science fiction scenarios into this machine. I made so many worlds for people to enjoy, and as I did, so many little discoveries were made that lined up with my tales. I figured that's just physics. The typewriter made worlds that followed our rules.

Then I started the fantasy story: What if there was a society of assassin wizards?

The books sold like hotcakes. It had a great romance subplot that people just ate up with a spoon. And last night, one of those wizards was caught. The FBI brought me in. Thankfully, my book money pays for a good lawyer.

I did a couple tests, what if I had a cup of coffee?, what if my coffee wasn't cold?, what if I had a donut?, and such. And with a couple tries, it would always work. The typewriter doesn't just show these possibilities, it makes them.

So here I am. I could write anything in here. Maybe I will some day. But in the world I see each time, I don't have the typewriter. I suppose I won't need it. That version of me seems truly happy.

I type in the sentence, once more:

What if Maggie hadn't died?


NextEstablishment856 t1_jdjmgka wrote

Maybe when Isildur chopped off his hand, he was like, "Whoa, thanks man! I was really having a bad—" but then he got stabbed, so all that was left was what was saved with the ring. The ring was originally supposed to be, like, really good therapy.


NextEstablishment856 t1_jdios7t wrote

I sat on the bench, eating my lunch, a nice meatball sub from Gina's. It was hardly the only bench, another was maybe ten feet away.

So why had this stranger sat next to me? Did I know him? He gave me a half nod as he took a seat. No, I don't think so. He is mid fifties, tanned so not from here or just back from vacation. His graying black hair is parted in the center. He has perfect teeth.

I don't know him, I don't know why he sat, not even at the other end of the bench but right in the middle. If I don't watch me elbow as I eat, it will bump him. Why is he this close?

I try shifting in my seat to show my discomfort, to tell him to move away. Instead, he speaks to me.

"Bit nippy, huh?" His accent is local, and the term "nippy" is fairly common here for these chill spring days. Must be back from vacation.

"Yep," I squeak out, keeping my voice small.

"You must be local, eating at Gina's."

"Born and bred."

"I'm a transplant from Florida, but been here since I was seven. Just went to see some family down there."

That explains the tan, if nothing else. "Missed the storm."

"Yeah, got lucky there. Tom, by the way."

"Davey. Not Jones." I hate that joke. Why do I always tell it? Why am I still talking to him.

"Nice to meet you. I gotta head out, but thanks for the chat."

"See you around." Oh god, I hope I don't. This has been so strange.

He stands and walks off, and I try to finish my lunch in peace.