Surinical t1_je4wbda wrote

I would say the last bit is most likely true. The large differences between the worlds are edited in your memory as you're switched, but little but memorable things like cornucopia and poker hats are missed.


Surinical t1_je4rgax wrote

Thank you, friend. I'm glad the points I was trying to make came across. I like the way you took it with poker better, a subtle hint that this world was different than ours. All I meant was that young people wouldn't know those green transparent poker hats, a thing to add to show the haphazard nature of Marcus's 'research' he did after two redbulls at 2:00 in the morning.

Great prompt by the way, thanks for thinking it up.


Surinical t1_je4mzjz wrote

“Describe it, go ahead,” Marcus was dead serious, holding out a pencil. “Draw it even.”

“Well, I know I’ll fuck it up then,” Alex said, sparing the pencil a dubious look. “It's like a bowl of fruit, I remember grapes and an apple maybe.”

“But it's not a bowl, is it?” Marcus prodded with a smile, throwing the rejected pen and paper through the bedroom window before himself.

“No,” Alex answered slowly. “It was the old-timey thanksgiving wicker horn thing. A cornucopia? All the fruit’s spilling out of the side of it.”

“And what color is it?” Marcus asked as he stood, eager voice struggling to remain a whisper.

“Brown, yeah. For sure.”

“There you go,” Marcus said with a broad gesture, as though this somehow proved something. “All wrong.”

He held up his phone, a nerdy beacon in the darkness, brightness withering Alex’s retinas. It was a Google search for the Fruit of the Loom logo. It was just a pile of fruit.

Alex winced and rubbed his eyes. “You really came over to my house in the middle of the night to quiz me on underwear logos? They changed it, so what?”

“That’s the kicker. They didn’t change it, been that way since 1893. They still have the die press. There never WAS a cornucopia.” Marcus said, wide eyes pleading in that ‘see it now?’ way of his. “It's completely gone, can’t find it anywhere."

“Wait, what? No way. I distinctly remember that cornucopia. I even still have some of my kid clothes."

"If you find them, it'll just be the fruit."

“Okay, this is weird, I admit, but still not worth you coming over here like this.”

"Lots of theories but I had an idea," Marcus pushed Alex’s junk across the desk and laid down his paper. There was a branching line with a mentally unhealthy amount of notes scribbled every which way.

“This is a little intense, dude.” Alex furrowed a brow and looked his friend up and down. Hints of deranged was a good way to describe his look.

“Just wait!” Marcus traced the line from the right. “Based on when these things happened and looking for a common year, ‘the jump’ happened here, 2005. I looked back and I found the same sort of stuff fifty years before. It doesn’t make sense to us because we’ve had it the current way all our lives, but this one drives really old people crazy. 'A Friend in Need' made in 1903 by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, know it?”


“Yeah, you do, painting of dogs playing poker. Apparently, a lot of people remember one wearing a green poker hat.”

“What’s a poker hat?”

“No clue, but doesn’t matter. From 1955 and on, you can find loads of letters and even a news article about people talking about it. The stuff, usually based around something odd and memorable, is made at the start of a fifty year cycle and forgotten by the next, see the pattern?”

“Okay, yeah but it's just people misremembering. What else would it be?”

“Judgement, grouping by morality. That's why most young people you know are nice. We'll probably get moved up the line in 2055. And why there's all the memes about boomers and Karens, they were old enough in 2005 to be established assholes and get bumped down, whereas we probably got moved up, watching SpongeBob and minding our own business.”

“Okay, now you really do sound nuts, dude.” Alex looked at his bedroom door, considered waking his mom. Marcus didn't notice.

“Every fifty years, God or whatever pushes good people up in a tier of dimensions, probably a line of them, and bad people down the same line. Then he or it comes back, sees new people are born and moves them too. The world’s got shittier and shittier, nobody can argue that. What we call eras are just the time between jumps until a new load of shitty people from the higher dimensions get dumped on us. Generational trauma, sociopathic CEOs, it all stacks, man.”

“So, if I believed you and things keep getting worse. We’re low on the line.”

Marcus nodded eagerly, “Very low, near the bottom probably, but that’s not the crazy part.”

“That’s NOT the crazy part?”

“I found a way out,” Marcus said smugly, throwing a pair of whitey tights on the desk. "Get dressed."

The logo was there, plain as day. The cornucopia spilling with fruit, just like Alex remembered.



Surinical t1_janrke7 wrote

“What is it?” I asked, a foolish question. I stared down at the thing, the posioned promise of a life I didn’t deserve.

“What does it look like? I don’t care what your family will think, or mine for what that’s worth,” He said, impatient but tender, staining the knees of his slacks on the forest floor. This is why he’d been nervous all day, not something else.

The silver gleamed, drawing up the bile in my gut. I could smell the caustic air off the thing that he held in sweaty fingers, liable to slip and send the fearsome threat popping towards me.

“I don’t know what to say.” I wanted to embrace him, I wanted to weep, I wanted to sprint off into the trees. I stood there, waiting, heart beyond the human register.

His wasn’t far off.

“Maya, will you mar-”

“Don’t!” I yelled, surprising myself with the sharp tone. The hurt in his eyes was immediate and terrible. “I can’t take that ring.”

He looked up at me, facing twisting in his own warring mess of emotion for another second before hardening. “And why’s that?”

“I’ve let this go on longer than I should have, that’s on me. I can’t be with you. I can’t be with anyone, not like that.”

“You’re always saying things like that, like you’ve committed some great sin and the only solution is to deny yourself everything, forever.” I could smell the salt on him over the deer upwind. “I want this, I don’t care what you did.”

He reached out to touch me. I didn't protest, feeling his warm, strong hand.

A mad idea struck me. Give him some excuse, take the ring, coat it in lacquer or tell him I reacted to silver, hives perhaps. He’d have a gold one tomorrow. We could keep this going.

“Marcus, did implies it's over. My sins continue, unrepentant. Find yourself another girl. One that can give you what you want.”

“I want you. No one else. What are you doing that’s so bad you can’t be with me, start a family?”

“I’d tear the baby up in my womb before its heart beat. I’m the one that’s been killing the livestock, leaving the mangled messes.”

“What? How? Like a ritual thing?”

“Not really, I’m a beast, wearing the skin of a girl. An imposter.”

"A beast?" He let his hand drop.

"Yes, for many years now. I go from town to town, leaving when the suspicion is too great."

“There’s a doctor over in Novoberg. We can talk to him about these thoughts you’re having. My aunt-”

“I’m not your crazy aunt, Marcus,” I said, this time surprising myself with the chill calm in my tone. I grabbed the ring. The crackling of sizzling bacon came from my palm. I spasmed and dropped the smoking thing to the ground. A small fire started to catch on the pine leaves.

“I am not worthy of this life.” I held out my sagging hand, showing him the angry red circle. "Cursed, damned."

I stared, daring him to argue further. He looked away and I nodded bitterly. I ran. Tonight was the night, after all.

After a few breathless miles, I curled my sore body under a boulder. As sick as it was to admit, I craved the change and the clarity it brought. I focused on my breathing and tried to seperate myself from my thoughts, my mangled disaster of a human life. My pretend life. I slept until the cracks of my bones breaking woke me up.

I breathed the forest air, sweet and deeper in meaning than any song. There was no fear, no sadness, no concern at all. I could not recall why that was notable. I shook off the thin rags of the clothes I’d forgotten to remove.

I ran to the rhythm of my heart, planless save for the instinct of movement. I was limping on a front paw. I stopped to lick the wound, content.

I perked my ears up to a foreign sound. The yelping of the smelly ones, the smokey ones. I crouched low as I stalked. Stinking oil came from a fire it held as it twittered louder, scaring away any nearby food no doubt. That was fine. This one was larger.

I could never tell them apart, the faces a blurry hairless mess, but this one looked familiar and large, indeed. I crept closer, easily hiding from the yelling thing. Seeing its back, unaware and undefended, pulled me, begged me forward but I was still. I knew not why. I was going to let this go, the biggest meal in quite some time.

It turned then and stared at me, squawking again, softer. I rumbled deep as I stepped into his light. Brave idiot did not run, but I saw the awe in its eyes.

I stepped closer, sniffing his many confusing smells, not wholly unpleasant. He did not move. I let my hackles drop.

 A roar of thunder crashed above and the man thing flinched. I lashed out at the quick movement and sunk teeth into its leg, cold and weak as a doe. The metallic song on my tongue overwhelmed whatever had slowed me, and I thrashed with more vigor as it fell.

The cracks and tears of the man thing's unmaking competed with its shouts. Eventually it stopped, leaving only wet dripping softer than bird song.

I spit out something burning that had been tangled up in the mess of the thing. Tomorrow, there may be regret for this, but tonight there was only two feelings ringing through me, the hunger, deep as screaming black, and its sister, gulping eager satisfaction.

Forgive me.



Surinical t1_j25ym0y wrote

A few horror stories and movies are based around a monster that thinks it's invisible and the characters have to act like they don't see it while hiding how terrified they are, so I thought I would work that concept into this.

Dale shivers as the coyote approaches to show he somewhat can sense it, maybe as a feeling of being watched. So the coyote is what causes that hurry up and close the door feeling we get sometimes when it's dark and quiet.

There's not really much 'to get' that you're missing. I just thought it was an interesting concept.


Surinical t1_j25xeyg wrote

The coyote is the thing that hangs always out of sight. Not a reference to real science. The message is from some benevolent entity warning him to not let the coyote know he can see it or it will recognize him as an observer.


Surinical t1_j24p7jq wrote

“It doesn’t work that way.” Dale looked down at his phone, bored smirk spread on his tanned face. “Observer in physics terms means any system that is capable of measuring or detecting the state of a quantum system. Not to mention macro effects like you’re describing would never be-”

“Then I don’t know how to describe it,” I said. “It's like stuff doesn’t settle if I’m the only one watching. Here.” I took out a coin from my pocket. “Turn around.”

Dale pocketed his phone and stretched as he turned to face the wall. “Alright.”

I flipped the coin, muscles tensed like I was about to start mom’s miter saw. Washington's profile rolled through the air and then hung just above the ground, jittering in the chaotic cloudy mess.

“Okay, it didn’t land. Until you turn around, it's just like a disk of all the different ways it could land.”

“That so?” Dale said. “Assuming you aren’t lying, try and grab it.”

“I’ve tried that. It’s like grabbing it all at once but not at all, feels weird, like pressing my finger into foam.”

“Is one of the probabilities on its edge?” Dale asked. He reached to grab his drink without turning around.

I looked at the swirling zone, quarter face up and face down in a hundred different spots, almost making up a larger coin when viewed all together. My head hurt. I did notice one singular ghost of a quarter balanced up.”Yeah, actually. Just one.”

I reached out to touch it, just as Dale turned around. The coin condensed into the vertical one, just before toppling on its side, tails.

“Pretty convenient your little trick only works when no one’s looking, huh?” Dale said, shivering for a moment despite the warmth of the room.

“Yeah-” I started before I noticed something behind Dale, something inky black resting a snout on his shoulder. Dale didn’t react.

“What the fuck,” I yelled. Dale looked at me baffled then all around. The thing came into better view as he turned. It was surrounded by a miasma of dust and smoke, it looked like the dried mummy of a too big coyote covered in fungal blooms like deformed wings. It had eyes only for Dale.

Dale’s drink fell. I flinched, expecting the chaos, but only a few drops were out of Dale’s sight. I didn’t want to take my eyes off the creature. Dale stuck a hand through its face as it sniffed him to scratch his beard.

"What?" he said. "You're helping me clean this up, you know?"

My eyes were drawn to the few drops along the wall, dancing their quantum jig. They weren’t a mash of every probability like always. Somehow shimmering words lingered in the cloud of potential stains, just legible enough to read. I blinked twice then forced a smile back at Dale, the message rolling through my head. "Yeah, sure." I managed.

Don’t show it you can see it.



Surinical t1_iy8xpyc wrote

"Look around you."

"I've got an eye for a particular painting, Mr. Marques, a real one." Dale took the last pull from the cigarette before flicking it into a rusted can covered in dried dabs every shade of sorrow. "I couldn't care less about your racket of fake Monets."

"Careful doing that, a lot of shit in here's flammable," the haggard young man said, not looking away from the window he traced a finger over, alternating slow and fast. He was every stitch the image of a starving artist but there was something else behind the glazed eyes.

"Best get me out of your hair, then. Haven't had the pleasure of meeting her myself yet but word around town, there's a woman trying to off load some rare merchandise." Dale started up the next smoke with a cupped hand against the drafty apartment. "Real desperate, might owe someone big. You'd be doing her a favor letting me know."

He lazily flicked through the stack of canvases leaned against the brick wall while he waited for a response.

The young man had pulled a Polaroid from his pocket holding it like a knife pointed at his heart.

"One last treasure yet remained, the glorious, dynastic crown." Mr. Marques offered as he opened the window.

Dale did not feel like chasing someone down a fire escape, his back felt like it even less.

"To never lose was so ingrained, the king saw fit to join it down." The young man licked his lips and bit before bolting.

Dale hurried after just in time to see him not running down the stairs, but sailing along a faster shortcut to the asphalt. His neck met the metal side the dumpster with a resonating thud cutting through the quiet city night.

A distant dog began barking as Dale looked down at the sprawled artist. There was no growing pool of blood but by the angle of his head, he had certainly made his last counterfeit.

"Shit, what have I stumbled onto this time? First the art professor, now this."

The Polaroid was tucked between the window panes. Dale had to grab the grating to avoid joining Mr. Marques in his midnight dive as he looked closer.

Unmistakably, Gina stared back at him from the photo, that mocking haunt she could flick on in her eyes. A smear of blue paint marred her cheek.

The woman he had given 6 years of his life to, the woman that disappeared 6 months pregnant 6 years ago, was the art thief he was after. The engagement ring still sat in his dresser, never given.

He had seen some curious luck in his time but this seemed too much, like a crescendo of coincidences building towards almost feeling supernatural.

He took a draw on the cigarette before carefully picking up the Polaroid and laying it flat in his notebook.

He looked at the last work of art of the now late painter, medium of finger oil on glass.

It was a rather striking portrait of Dale himself. "Poor kid had some real talent," he said to the empty apartment. A white bird squawked from a cage in the corner. Maybe not empty.

Beneath the likeness were the neat lines of a message.

'Look around you. This is the last book in your series, detective. Spoiler: you die at the end.'

"Most suicide notes don't have a threat." But this all did seem very pulp fiction, didn't it? Too bad he couldn't get a follow-up question answered.

Dale looked to see the bird was watching him, big eyed like a watcher from another world.

"You tell me, Tweety. Is this all a detective story? One noir plot contrivance after another? Be a lot more meaningful than a high saddled drunk just trying to pay the bills, eh?"

In way of response, the bird plopped a white token to the newspapers below. Strewn below the cage were various slips of discarded mail. The cupid curve of a lipstick kiss stood out from the pile.

Dale picked it up, not surprised to see a address on it not matching the others. A love letter never sent. The convenient clue, framed and delivered as always.

He would have to be careful, he decided, only half joking. "If this is a story, my avian friend, it plans on killing me before it's done. We're probably already a third of the way along, too. Like any good thriller, the contract's signed, the clock's ticking, and the crucible's waiting somewhere ahead."

He tossed his cigarette into another can. With a woof of air, it caught in greenish flame, quickly spreading to the canvases nearby. He chuckled.

"The kid did warn me," he said as he fiddled with the hook to the cage. "Guess you're coming with me, Tweety."



Surinical t1_ixde5dz wrote

The smell of popcorn and fresh air greeted Jonathan as he stepped inside. The hat rack was curiously empty considering the crowd this evening, but he deposited his bowler just the same. How appropriate, he chuckled to himself at the seed of the joke.

Balanced against the wall was what looked to be a worn scabbard and sword and several other accouterments he didn’t recognize. He was careful not to trip on any of them as he turned a carpeted corner into the widest interior he had seen in his twenty-eight years.

He flinched then frowned at himself. He had surely thought he was free of the post-war skitters. Not just yet, it seemed. The crash echoed across the wide expanse of the fluorescent-lit building amid a flurry of squeaks.

“Strike!” a tall blonde man declared in triumph, shaking a bulging arm in the air, furs flitting about him. “Strike!” All he was missing was one of those winged helmets and Jonathan would have sworn he was a Viking right out of Wagner.

Jonathan politely pardoned and expertly excused himself through the listless and quite tall patrons crowding the waiting area. On tiptoe, he spotted a titular sign matching the bizarrely glowing one outside missing only the flickering lady kicking out a leg to send a line of pins flying that graced the parking lot.

Beneath ‘Green Maiden Pin and Inn’ a lovely young lady, green a bit herself with glow caught from above, stood cranking some shoe stretching device.

“Excuse me, miss,” he said, clearing the obnoxious gravel from his voice as best he could. Perhaps it would have been better if the hellish gas had just taken him alongside Patrick and dear Curtis. Better that than force others to submit to hearing this wheezing croak.

The young woman waited patiently for him to finish.

“Our vehicle is stranded up the road. I don’t suppose I might borrow a phone? Or if a handyman’s about that might accompany me back?”

A woman leaning on the bar to Jonathan’s right sneered in his direction, no doubt due to his voice. Her clothes were difficult to describe, in both material and cut.

“I’ll see what I can do,” the woman behind the bar said, finishing with her contraption and pouring a golden froth from tap to glass. “A drink while you wait?”

“Oh no, best I begin the night with a level head so that some might remain by its end.” He coughed. His voice did feel dry as bones. “It’s my stag night, you see. The lads are taking to a cabin up north for the weekend.”

“Then I insist,” the woman said smiling and sliding the same drink over to him. No one else at the bar seemed to take offense to this.

Another crash came as Jonathan brought the sip to his lips. He spilled none of it, thankfully.

“Ahh!” the burly man yelled again, this time holding up and shaking his small robed partner. “A strike for you! We are the darkest devils of these games, wolves upon the hunt! The hunt for pins! Strike!”

“Hey buddy,” a starkly handsome man in a plastic jacket offered Jonathan. “What’s your friend’s number? I’ll call them?" He held up a black tile of glass and rubbed his finger on it.

"Well they're not home. They are with the car. I'm hoping to reach a mechanic in whatever the nearest town is."

"Not working in this place anyway, sorry." The curious man pocketed the object.

"I would think not, uncabled from anything as it is."

The woman behind the bar laughed before taking a pair of shoes from the burly man and reaching for her device again.

"Tell me about it. They make their batteries worse and worse every year."

"Quite," Jonathan offered, having lost a foothold for the conversation he may have never had.

"Oh never mind," the man smiled, pulling out the tile again as it chirped like a field mouse. "Yeah I'll be right there. I couldn't find you guys! I'm in some bowling alley."

"Miss?" Jonathan asked again is the man worked back through the crowd.

The pretty woman held up an inquisitive eyebrow as she continued to work on the shoes.

"I do hate to trouble you again but have you worked here long?"

"Now that sounds remarkably like a pickup line for a man about to be married," she smiled as Jonathan's cheeks blushed from east to west.

"Oh, I meant no such thing. My apologies, I only-"

"I'm messing with you," she said, setting the shoes in a cubby aside a thousand brothers. "I've worked here my whole life."

"Why is it that the guests here all seem so peculiar in so many varied ways?"

"They're lost, in one way or another. This is a place you can only find when you're looking for something else, someone else, some when else."

"Hmm," he offered.

"Do you love your wife to be?"

"Of course I do!" Jonathan barked reflectively. "What kind of question is that? I mean I haven't spent a great deal of time with her but I'm sure once we're settled we'll…"

Another thin eyebrow begged. "You'll what?"

"Get along quite well. It's a matter of responsibility more than anything."

"There's more than one way a man might be lost," she said. A phone rang beneath the bar and she picked it up, balancing it between her ear and shoulder. She said nothing into the receiver as she nodded.

"And that was your friends. They managed to make their way into town and find a mechanic. They're asking to meet you back at the car. Think you can find your way back?"

"I do believe so, yes." He pulled out his wallet from his jacket pocket.

"You've already paid in full, friend," she said, grabbing his wrist. Her hand was cold as winter ground. "War wears it whet upon its tools and grinds to nubs the bravest fools."

"Indeed," Jonathan said, not sure if she was paying him a compliment or an insult. He pulled away and worked towards the door. "Thank you."

"Anytime you need us again, just don't come looking." The door slammed loudly behind him. He didn't flinch.

He began the thoughtful walk back to the car alongside a dark but straight, unforking road. Jonathan debated the path all the same.



Surinical t1_iu9dib3 wrote


Surinical t1_iu9a1lg wrote

"What would you like, sirs? I'm afraid we don't have a squid's menu." The suited man spread his arms wide, twisting his spindled cane.

With a thundering slam, a building fell around them, trapping the two aquatic villains. Trentacle thrashed wildly, knocking over booths and tables as they popped into existence.

"So it's the traitor we're up against?" Carp Captain scoffed. "Enjoying the taste of the heroes boots, Pundertaker?"

"Most certainly, at least I don't feel like I'm losing my sole. Aren't you going to ask where we are?" A 6 foot tall fly wearing a white jacket and dirty apron came from the back to stand behind the turncoat villain with his smug expression.

"Hell's kitchen? I don't know," Trentacle growled, snapping the beak on the front of his armor. "You're outnumbered. Doesn't matter what stupid-"

"It's a Die-ner, get it?" Pundertaker smiled and spun again as the pair groaned. The fly pulled out a spatula, a knife, a long fork and a whisk with its four arms. "Are you ready to dine?"

"I see why the heroes hated you so much," Carp said "This is just embarrassing and undignified. I'm guessing this clown is a fly cook?"

Pundertaker smiled, gesturing to the fly who buzzed and began to chop at Trentacle's arms. "You know what really is a shame is you can't murder people as a hero. This would be a perfect opportunity to lay down some carpet."

Carp swung a wild frothing haymaker. Pundertaker dodged back without much effort.

"I'm afraid it will be harder to fin-ish me, my fishy friend." He breathed out and spun his cane again. A chicken as tall as the fly crashed in from the ceiling and scratched at Carp with its foot, almost taking out an eye.

"How are you so powerful?" Carp asked. Body slamming the bird before being launched back to crash into the back.

"Not a fan of my Kick-en?"

A weak groan came from the store room.

"Enough!" Trentacle screamed. "I am the spawn of an elder god! I will not be thrown about by a child and his cheap jokes."

Long arms swirling, the squid-like villain shook and glowed with the bleached light of bioluminescence. Roaring started in the distance, rapidly growing closer.

Pundertaker sniffed, smelling the brine no doubt.

"Oh shit!" Carp said. You better be scared, Pundertaker."

"I think you mean ohcean, friend," Pundertaker said, drawing out a long saw from his pocket.

A wave crashed into the diner leaving it underwater. Carp laughed as the chicken and the fly both spasmed, swimming wildly through the door.

Pundertaker stood seemingly unaffected by the water, holding his saw. "Underwater but underwhelmed, I must say."

"So you can breathe underwater now too?" Trentacle said, swelling in size.

"Sea Saw, one of my first," Pundertaker said, slicing at the water in front of him. The ocean exploded in expanding walls boiling into the sky. Tentacle flopped flat, sliced cleanly in half.

"Ika, think I cut a little too hard there. No, Shashimi, so sue me?" he mumbled to himself. "Hold on, I'll get it."

"You killed him!" Carp screamed, punching at the man to no effect.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, villain, but…"

Carp looked down to see his fists had been replaced by block letters that spelled out the word fist.

"The heroes are definitely going to ring me out for that one. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pounding." Pundertaker stepped aside to reveal a semi truck was hurtling towards Carp.

"This Friday, learn to love again!" A deep man's voice came from the truck, clips from a movie were playing on a huge screen taking up the side.

"Trailer, yep, okay," Carp said in resignation. "Doesn't it drive you crazy, having to make puns to summon all this?"

Pundertaker smiled wickedly, raising his hand to summon a perfectly normal apple. "The puns aren't actually part of my power, they just make it fun."

"And laugh a little on the way there!" The trailer trailer slammed into Carp, launching him into the distance as it continued to describe what seemed like a lovely romantic comedy.

Pundertaker surveyed the damage as he bit into the apple. Once the full moon came out, he would summon the warehouse to help clean up the mess.