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Old 08-09-2012, 10:32 AM   #58
lilbluecorsola
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Searching for time
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Talon87 View Post
The Tale of the Wishmakers:
lilbluecorsola:
You look down at your clothes. Your baggy jacket and jeans stand out like a sore thumb compared with the Arabesque clothing worn by the locals. You consider that perhaps the women are staring only because of your conspicuous dress. If only you could change into something a little more local, then perhaps you might blend in with the crowd and lose the guards. But how? Without any money, purchasing new clothes is out of the question.

That's when you notice the snakecharmer. Men, women, and children are gathered around his basket, watching as his Ekans slowly rises, dancing left and right to the tune of the flute. There's our ticket out of this mess, you realize. You whisper some instructions in Kief's ear, then set him down on the ground; and clearing your throat you try to catch the marketgoers' attention.

“Greetings! We are traveling entertainers! We, uh, have come from a faraway land in search of food and a place to rest. We have heard of your city’s hospitality, and hope you would be so kind as to help us. Please, er, enjoy the show, and any offerings you can hand to my… Um… Friend here.”

That was terrible, you worriedly think to yourself. A few people walking down the street obviously stop to look at the crazed woman in the strange clothes who is shouting something about entertainment and hospitality, but nothing that can rightly be called a crowd has yet to form.

*BARK!*

Lovable Kief comes to your rescue with a bark which draws attention away from you to him. A few people at the vendor across the street turn around to see what all the commotion is about. Two boys running down the street spot Kief and come to a halt in front of you two, their eyes fixed on the adorable raccoon-dog. This is the catalyst you needed. Now to send sparks flying ...

"“All right, Kief. Let's start with Charm to win the audience!" Kief barks in affirmation. He waggles his body looking like a cat ready to pounce, shaking his adorable tail left and right. He barks a few times with a happy grin on his face, his eyes twinkling in the sun. That grin, that waggling, ... you know where this is going. And for his grand finale, Kief rolls over onto his back and waggles on the ground, cocking his head up to look at the children. "*bark*?" The children lose it. Kief is so charming that they can't help but to coo and stare fixedly at his lovable antics. And it's not just the boys: several of the people watching from across the street put down the items they were contemplating purchasing and head towards your performance, the protestations and pleas of scorned vendors falling on deaf ears. A few more people who had been walking down the street towards destinations unknown are drawn in by the commotion. Gradually, a crowd is starting to form.

"Now, Kief! Use Double Team!" Kief rolls off his back and yips a confirmatory yip. And then ...! "Ahhh!" cries the crowd in surprise and delight. Suddenly there are not one but three Kiefs! No wait, four! No wait, five! The shadow copies of Kief begin to frolic around the performance area, running in between the legs of those closest to the front, play-wrestling with each other, and doing other cute things. The real Kief intermingles amongst them, sparing a quick look back at his trainer to see the look on her face. You're definitely pleased with how things are going. "Mommy, look!" you hear a small child say. "Look at all the doggies!" Some of the women from before are now gathered here too, their young children tugging at their gowns. Good, you say. Now to kick things up a notch.

"Kief, try and trick the audience into thinking you’re juggling your Devil Horns between the doubles!" you shout. "Huh?" the audience says in confused consternation. "Try and trick us?" "What's that supposed to mean?" "What's she trying to pull?" In your excitement you don't realize that by shouting this command out loud to Kief you've spoiled the trick itself. Kief looks back at you and barks disapprovingly. Oops, you blush. Quick, Jess, think! Think! What else can we try? you worriedly ask yourself, a trickle of sweat starting to form on your brow. Then it comes to you.

"Alright, never mind that one, Kief! See if you can borrow some fruit from the vendor back there!" You point out one of the vendors across the way, the one selling the exotic fruits. Kief barks an understanding "Got it!" and scampers off towards the man's stall. Kief looks up at the vendor with puppydog eyes. But the vendor merely returns his gaze with a look of solemn contempt of his own. "No money, no fruit," he seems to be saying with his stern stare. You shout over the tops of the crowd gathered round you, still watching the shadow clones frolic and play, "Kief! Show him you really covet just a few, and you promise to return them afterwards." Kief wags his tail and his butt just as before. But what worked on the children seems to have no effect on the fruit vendor. "Git! Git!" He leans over and waves an arm over the tops of his fruits towards Kief, trying to shoo the raccoon-dog away. As he tries to right himself back up, the force topples a few aspear berries. Kief lunges forward and picks one of the pieces of fruit up in his mouth and scampers back over to you. "HEY!" the shop keeper shouts angrily. "Sorry!" you yell back to him. Kief tunnels and dives through the narrow openings in between the legs of the crowd, a crowd whose size has now grown larger than you could've originally hoped for. "Good boy, Kief!" You congratulate him with a warm smile and a tickle of his chin as he drops the fruit at your feet. The shop keeper probably wouldn't want this back anyway now that Kief's toothmarks are indented in the skin of the aspear. In that case ...

"Use your tail to whip the fruit into the air, Kief!" "*bark*!" he yips happily. He picks up the fruit with his mouth, tosses it with a backwards jerk of the head towards his tail, and with a precise and powerful brushing movement he launches it into the sky! "Great! Now aim for the center using Pin Missile!" Kief focuses on the aerial aspear, his jagged fur startling to bristle even more than usual. Suddenly Kief looks more like a porcupine-dog than a raccoon-dog as his body is covered in erect needle-like quills. The aspear reaches the zenith of its trajectory, the sun glints off its yellow body, it silhouettes in the sunlight, and then ...! A barrage of needles fire from Kief's body, hurtling through space towards the berry in the sky! *TCH!TCH!TCH!TCH!* Several needles embed themselves in the fruit before one needle deals the finishing blow and cleaves the aspear in half. The two halves fall back down to the ground with a thud. The audience is impressed, "Ooh!"ing and cheering and clapping. A few coins start to be thrown your way. Things are going great.

"Okay, Kief! Rollout the clones while circling around and then make a U-turn flip back to the center!" Kief tucks his head in between his forepaws and brings both towards his hindlegs, rolling into a ball. The ball digs into the dirt and kicks up a small dustcloud before it veers off. Like a motorized bowling ball on a search-and-destroy mission, Kief takes out one bowling pin shadow clone after another. *POOF! POOF! POOF! POOF!* they go as one after another they turn to white smoke. After Kief has taken out the last of them, with his back turned to you, he leaps up into the sky, performing a backflip as he returns to the center of the performance area. The crowd cheers and claps. A few exuberant men loudly whistle. Some more coins are thrown your way. Good, good! And now, you confidently declare to yourself, for the big finish!

"Kief, it looks like the crowd's enjoying this. But now let’s really impress 'em by showing off your special move: Can't Catch Me! I’m sure that’ll get ‘em going!"

You were doing so well. If this were back home, Kief's special move would've probably gotten a standing ovation out of a crowd this enthused. But you're not back home, and what takes place next will be one of the first of many reminders of this fact. Kief doesn't sense the problem with the command either as he happily barks and scrunches his body together and closes his eyes. Suddenly there is a poof of smoke. The audience holds their breath and you clench your fist, victoriously grinning. This is it. As the smoke clears, what stands before the audience is not a normal-sized raccoon-dog like before. In its place appears to be a gingerbread cookie in the shape of a raccoon-dog about one-fourth the original's size. It looks as though Kief has been replaced by a gingerbread Zigzagoon! The audience gasps. Even had the trick gone no further than this it still might've been enough. But the trick does go further. For the Gingerbread Kief happily barks and starts to run about in circles. A few of the children are speechless. Maybe one or two are smiling, it's impossible to tell. Because any innocent wide-eyed wonder is soon masked by horror as the audience shrieks at what they've just seen take place. "AAAAAAAAAAAAH!" one of the people in the crowd cries. "WITCHCRAFT!" "A WITCH! SHE'S A WITCH!" The crowd forms into a dangerous stampede as men and women hurry away, the women clutching the hands of the children and dragging them off, and leaves you and Kief completely speechless. What ... what just happened?

"There! Over there!" You turn your head to see one of the fleeing crowd members talking to a man in a white turban and holding a large, glinting blade of steel. Ohhhhhhh shoot!, you think. The guards! She points over in your direction, turns back to the guard, then turns back in your direction and points again, pumping her arm so hard it looks like it's about to fall off. Show's over, you realize, as you scoop the Gingerbread Kief up into your arms and prepare to make a run for it. There's no time to grab any of the coins on the ground. You've gotta get out of here and fast. But how? Where?

"Pssssssssst! Over here!"

You see a long arm with spiderlike fingers sticking out from one of the narrow alleyways between two of the shops behind you.

"This way! Hurry!"

There's no time to think. With Gingerbread Kief in your arms, you make a run for the break in the wall. "After her!" "This way!" "She can't have gotten too far!" You hear voices behind you. You turn your head back to look and you see several of the guardsmen running down the street. It looks like somehow none of them managed to see you head for this narrow alley. You turn your head back around to face the owner of that mysterious arm. But there's no one to be seen. You look further down the alley and spot it once more: the long, slender arm beckoning to you from around a corner. "This way!" a voice rasps. "Quickly, now, quickly!" You run down the alley towards the arm. As you do, it slinks out of sight around the corner. You reach the corner, round it, and ...

"Hello."
"AAAH!"

The old woman startles you. Her dark bronze skin has been weathered by many years of abuse under the harsh desert sun; it is covered with numerous liver spots and tinier black freckles. She has two large warts, one on her long nose, the other on her right cheek. Her grin is toothless save for a few rogue incisors and other teeth here or there. And her eyes ... one is jet black, as dark as coal, so black you can hardly make out where the iris ends and the pupil begins ... the other is the tell-tale milky blue of one who's gone blind in that eye. You know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but still!

"Iiiiii'm sorry to have startled you, dearie" she smiles, her cheeks crinkling. "That was some trick," she says, pointing her walking stick at Kief. "Veeeeery impressive." After how the crowd reacted just now, you're not sure what to make of this old woman's compliments. She continues. "I've seen many trainers in my day, but none that can turn their friends into little cookies!" The Gingerbread Kief crawls up onto your shoulder with a start and peeks out from behind your neck at the toothless old woman, shivering. Her dark eye sizes you up while her milky blue one seems to point straight at Kief. "You're ... not from around here, are you?" You gulp. Who is this old woman? And how does she know you and Kief aren't from around here? Something tells you it's more than just the clothes. You jump with a start as the old woman leans forward and traces a long, slender finger down your spine. "Mmhmm," she says, her eyes dancing all over you. "Yeeees. Yeeeeees, you'll do quite nicely," she starts to nod approvingly, a serious but content look on her face. "Dearie," she asks you, "... how would you like to go home?"

How do you answer the old woman? What do you do?

Pokémon in the area:
a Rattata rummaging through trash in the distance

FFA Inventory:
none
Things were going well at first. The audience was eating up Kief’s antics, his double display. Jessica smiled, beginning to feel more at ease. A bit confident, even. That was her downfall.

She spoke her next words, not in a whisper, but a hoarse shout. More like a squeak or a squawk. Loud enough to be heard anyway. Those nearest to her looked aghast, and the news spread like wildfire through the crowd. She could heat rising to her own cheeks as she scrambled to extinguish the flame, feeling her throat stifle further under the pressure of self-imagined smoke. Things only went downhill from there though.

Kief continued the command to solicit the fruitstand, but when Jessica saw the seller would have none of it, she quickly attempted to abort the mission. She couldn’t weave her way through the throng though, not like Kief could slip easily between their legs. She called out, but it was too late. Kief had managed to snatch one of the pieces of produce and was proudly heading back with his prize. Jessica shouted an apology at the livid merchant, promising to pay him back. She gulped upon receiving an unrelenting gaze. They absolutely had to make some money now.

Luckily, their next few stunts went off perfectly without a hitch. The watchers were going wild, even tossing some coins their way. Jessica began to breathe easy again. With this, they could surely settle all their debts, and purchase enough local fare to fit in until they found a passage home. Maybe even a souvenir. A smile stretched her lips as she slowly gave in to greed. At this point, finishing with a big flourish should inflate the audience’s impression, and hopefully deflate their pockets…

In retrospect, she really should’ve had less faith in herself.

The reverse reaction to Kief, once licking crumbs and now composed completely of them, was immediate. Men shouted and stumbled back. Women shrieked and shielded their children, ushering away. Some even fainted. Many of them pointed and convicted her with the very word she had used to describe them… “Witch. Witch. Witch.”

Jessica stood frozen, not comprehending. She was the witch? How? Why? She was only trying to make them smile, and instead… She bit her lip, holding back tears as she hung her head, shaking uncontrollably. She wasn’t thinking of others, no. She was only thinking of herself. Stupid, stupid, STUPID! How could she have been such an idiot, so self-centered?! Each scolding was punctuated by a punishing punch to her leg, an old standby action she took whenever she was extremely angry, especially at herself. She even purposefully twisted her ankle until it popped, digging, dragging the side of the heel in the sand and kicking up clouds. Another physical outlet. Her raccoon startled as dust rained down him, having never seen his trainer act this way. Indeed, it had been years since she had resorted to such self-torture. Her arms gripped each other tightly, trying to prevent inflicting more pain to her thigh. Still, she would’ve nearly squeezed the skin above her elbows raw if not for the oppressive fabric suffocating her body.

A memory surfaced, then another, followed by a flood. The dam in her heart ruptured and water flowed freely from her eyes. Scenes she had tried hard to forget. Suppress. This wasn’t the first time the pair had humiliated themselves in public before. No, it wasn’t his fault. He was just following her orders. Only trying to help. At that time, her folly had simply led to embarrassment… But as time went on, it had cost her more and more and more. This was not the first time she had failed her friends, no. Failed to save others. Flashes of scenes, fluttering wings, screams, the smell of chemicals and burning flesh… Then there was blood on glass and steel and ice, and… Oh God. She was going to die here in this desert, wasn’t she? Alone and with no way to contact home. …Not that it would even matter.

She didn’t care if anyone saw her now, a crying, sobbing, self-loathing mess. No one was there to see her anyway. They had left her alone, just like the others. Stay away from the witch. That’s right. She wasn’t a hero, so therefore she must be a villain.

A bark stirred her to sanity, or at least some semblance of it. The guards were approaching, waving their wands of metal in the air. It took her a moment to register, to recognize the small sweet running around her feet, tugging desperately at her shoelaces to get her to move. The name framed in her mind. Kief. Kief! That’s right, she wasn’t alone. She had to get him out of here, at least. She cursed herself again for getting so wrapped up in herself. No, there’s no time for that, you fool! Act, don’t think. Just go. Go! She grabbed the gingerbread raccoon and made a break for it, even though she felt like she was breaking inside.

Where to go? Where to run? Nowhere, there’s no place you can escape. You know that. So why bother?

A long and slender finger summoned from the side, where shadows crept. There was no choice. Jessica moved towards it, as if tethered to the tip by an invisible thread. Following the spider’s leg. She slipped into the void and was never seen. The voices of the guards as they ran by were but distant now, as she searched for the source of the safety line. She spotted it a short distance away, beckoning from around the corner. She followed suit, and…

She screamed.

The spinner turned out to be a spinster. No, more than that. Jessica could feel more memories and the conditioned fear associated with them rising. Like water. She was drowning in it. She couldn’t breathe. Sinking, into despair. Then there was a bolt, of lightning, and the one who had tried to help her was dead, dead. Simply because she was too stupid to save herself on her own.

All of Jessica’s remaining reason crumbled. No, this couldn’t be happening. This was a true nightmare. It was the only explanation. Not only was she called a witch, but now she ran straight into one – or at least an old woman who looked more suited to such a storybook role than anything in the world. From the warts on her face to her mismatched eyes, one so dark that it could swallow the sun (or her soul), while the other lacked both color and light. Deep down, Jessica knew she shouldn’t judge by appearance alone. She tried to remember Greta, a pair of worn but gentle palms, working the field beside her own, picking plants in peace… But all she could see was Slowbro’s face, staring up at her in solid terror, mouth open as if to silently ask, “Why didn’t you save me?” And somewhere in the distance, a sinister cackle rang relentlessly in her ears…

The woman before her was speaking, but Jess could hardly hear the words over the echo of insane laughter and pounding of her heart. All she knew at this moment was that she had to get away. Her eyes roved for an escape. In the distance, they dimly registered a Rattata rooting through the garbage. Yes, that was what she felt like. A mouse caught in a trap. Pest. Vermin. Shunned by all. What an easy life it must be. Never keeping up appearances, only acting in self-preservation. She was the same right now. Doing what it takes to survive. Whatever it takes. She will survive. To hell with all the others.

For the second time today, the weak-willed girl considered giving up her guise (let alone her goal) of giving a damn and just going completely crazy. Hell, she was crazy. Spinning around, she suddenly began counting stones in the wall, as if hoping one of them would show a secret switch. Or maybe just to take her mind off the madness. Because that’s surely what she was experiencing right now. The laughter, she now realized, was coming from within her.

Jess felt a finger touch her back, sliding down the spine. She shivered and somehow managed to suppress a scream. Turning, slowly, she came face to face with her appraiser. Like a cow up for slaughter. Still, she only saw the parting of lips. As if remembering her own, she licked them. They were dry. There was something important here, something she was missing. She focused beyond her will, following the movement, but not the message. There was only one word that caught her concentration: “Home.”

“Home.” She repeated it absently. That’s right. Home. That was where she wanted to go. “But not that place,” she added in barely a whisper, her eyes blank but blinking mechanically. “My real home.” Her mumbling was incoherent to even herself. It was simply a mantra, another (supposedly) outgrown reflex – this time from early childhood. Completely devoid of meaning, but a comfort nonetheless.

Then it hit her. A moment of clarity – though one might say for all the wrong reasons. What did the woman mean by it, really? Maybe “home” was actually referring to the woman’s own abode. Just like that evil witch invited Jess to her house for “tea”… Only to trap her in a twisted maze. And not just her, but her Pokémon as well. Ah, that’s right. Her Pokémon…

In her haze, Jess had nearly forgotten Kief’s existence again, but now she became vaguely aware of the crumbs tickling her ear, shivering under the crone’s gaze. It was the same hungry look the witch gave Alice… Or at least akin to it in Jessica’s half-manic mind. An ugly old woman extending an invitation to two lost youths, one of whom was a gingerbread cookie… Oh God, the cruel irony was too perfect. Clever. Oh so clever. She chuckled softly to herself, the amusement becoming almost too much to bear. Then, just as abruptly, she fell still, and one could swear she even had a sickly smile on her face. Kief stared tensely between her and the woman, unsure who to be afraid of more at the moment.

At any other time, Jessica might’ve spared a moment of kindness to listen to the woman’s request in full, given her at least the benefit of the doubt. (Or rather, her inability to refuse would’ve forced her to stay.) But this was the last straw. She had dispensed with civility (and perhaps sanity) at this point. All pretense of politeness was thrown out the window. Besides, she had no more strength to spare for platitudes. Right now her brain was so frantic, panicked, she couldn’t come up with a single sentence to say that would make sense, nor did she care to. She needed as much breath in her lungs for her next move anyway. Any time spent chitchatting would only delay, distract. Draw her in deeper to the witch’s web. The old bat would like that, wouldn’t she? To watch her prey squirm, to dance to her delight? But no, Jessica wasn’t taking any chances, wouldn’t fall for the same trick twice. Not on her life, sister.

That, coupled with the fact that she simply couldn’t and didn’t want to deal with this dumb, this damn dream anymore, rendered her silent. Except for one word.

“NO!”

She shrieked, trying to shove the woman aside and make a run for it. It didn’t matter where. Anywhere. Just… Away from… From all this. She couldn’t take it. No more. Please please please just make it stop let me wake up I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry please just make it stop.
__________________




Time goes on
The clock hands stopped
The same way, repeatedly


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