Draecember 2018: Tattoo

Image created by @rurukatt

Welcome to the second day of Draecember! (Do ignore the fact that it’s the fifth day in the month.)  Today’s theme was Tattoo.

A bit of background before I jump into the vignette – this story takes place very early after Kya and Letuus met Mikri for the first time.  There’s still a little residual awkwardness as neither of the draenei quite know what to do with this easily excitable gnome.  Also, this story is far more lighthearted than yesterday’s, thank goodness.

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Draecember 2018: Hugging Someone

Image created by @rurukatt

Happy Draecember everyone!  But what is Draecember you ask? Draecember is an event celebrating the WoW Draenei race (one of my personal favorite races in the game) through art and writing! It was created by the absolutely fantastic rurukatt, and you can find out more information about the event here.

This year, in the boundless amount of free time that I’ve had in college, I’ve decided to give the event a whirl for as long as I can! I will be posting my short vignettes and illustrations here on the blog.  Please enjoy this little bit of personal writing I’ve been able to squeeze in between college essays and reports!

Today’s theme was Hugging Someone.

(Small content warning: the contents of this story are a touch emotionally charged.)

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Short Story: TRAPPED (Part 1)

WoWScrnShot_080516_191028Today we’re breaking from the norm yet again; I’ve got another short story for you all! Because of the longer length of the piece (it’s nearly 6,000 words!) I’ve broken it up into two parts and placed this first part behind a cut.  Part Two will be coming soon so stay tuned!  And now, I present to you….

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Short Story: A Shield Against the Storm

WoWScrnShot_062716_230441So you know how, the other day, I mentioned that I had written a few short stories about some of my characters? Well, today I’ve finally worked up the courage to publish one of them!  This is a little piece that I’ve been working on for a couple months now about my main character, my draenei holy paladin Fussypants.  Without further ado, I present to you…


A Shield Against the Storm

CRASH!

There they were, armed to the teeth with murder in their eyes.  The cluster of orcs gathered into a line and prepared to rush the defenses.  She and the other defender tightened their grips.

CRASH!

Another flash of lightning and rain drops began spattering to the ground.  The line began its charge, picking up speed like a boulder down a hill. She could see the whites of their eyes, their tan tightly drawn lips.

CRASH!

The two lines collided.  Grunts and shouts filled the sodden air, shields smashed and weapons hacked. She raised her own shield just in time as a crude axe shrieked across its metal surface.  Its wielder, a particularly cruel faced orc with a wicked gash down to his chin grunted in exertion as his blow was deflected away. She raised her own mace and smashed it clean into his unprotected side.  The orc roared and stumbled away but before she could have a moment to celebrate, another axe flashed in front of her eyes before biting into her shoulder.  She turned to face this new foe and slammed her uninjured shield arm into the attacker.  This new orc too stumbled back but he had drawn first blood.  With a wild grin, he steadied into a battle stance and moved forward again.  Blue blood was splashed all across his weapon hand.

A horn sounded.

There was a pause and then the orcish line retreated to regroup again.  They left behind the bodies of the wounded and fallen, but it did not matter, they would be back for them.  She peered to her sides, through the now steadily falling rain.  The defenders’ line was reduced by nearly a third.  To her left and her right, allies had fallen. Puddles on the ground mixed with blue and red blood.  But they would not be broken.  The line would hold.

The horn sounded again.  The boulder began to roll back down the hill.  Anticipation and fear rippled through the air.  The orcs drew nearer and nearer until-

CRASH!

She sat up, sweat pouring down her face.  Before her brain had even caught up, she rolled out of the bed and grabbed her shield, falling into a defensive stance.

“…Kya? What are you- are you ok?”

This was no stormy battlefield.  Kya’s breath caught in her throat and then slowly released.  Heart still racing, she rose out of her stance and returned the shield. Fingertips pressed to her temples, she sat back down on the cot she had so recently jumped out of.

“Kya, were you having that dream again? You know, if you talk about it, that might help,” the pink haired gnome jumped down from her perch.  She crossed the small space of the tent to stand hands on her hips before her friend.

“No I- it’s nothing, alright?” Kya stared at the dirt floor, still rubbing her forehead.  The roof of the tent pattered softly under the rainfall.

“No, it’s definitely not nothing.  C’mon, talk to me about it,” There was obvious concern in the gnome’s overly large turquoise eyes.

“Really, it’s nothing,” Kya removed her hands and looked up to meet her friend’s eyes.  She tried to put a smile on her face, but the cold shiver still ran down her spine.  “Shouldn’t you be in bed anyways?”

“If I can just finish up this part of the tunic I’m making, it would be so much simpler to carry around with us on the trip.  I was thinking… hey wait don’t change the subject! I still want you to tell me!” The gnome eyed her friend.

“Mikri, it’s not important now, I’ll tell you in the morning. We really need to be getting some sleep anyways, tomorrow’s going to be a long day.” Mikri sighed and lost her intensity.

“I guess you are right.  But I’m not dropping this one, you hear me?”

“Yes I hear you.  Will you please go to bed now?”

“Fine fine, you don’t have to be so pushy!” Kya rolled her eyes as she fixed up her bed. Mikri launched into her own sleeping bag, rustling around in the blankets.

“I’ll get the lights,” the gnome called.  There was a snap from her side of the tent and the candles all went out as one.  The tent was plunged into darkness.

Kya listened to her friend turn about a few times before settling down.  She herself rolled onto her back and stared up at the darkened tent ceiling.  Above her, rain still gently fell.  There was a distant roll of thunder and the rain increased in response.  Kya let out a big sigh and turned back onto her side. She closed her eyes and drifted into the abyss…

Blood.  There was a lot of blood, everywhere.  Not all of it was hers but a terrifying amount of it was.  At this point, Kya had abandoned her weapon.  Her shoulder was raggedly bound up and the arm hung limply at her side.  Like a trapped animal, she scampered over ruined gates and carts.

She wasn’t sure where the captain of the guard was but it didn’t matter anymore.  The line had fallen. No, fallen was too kind a word, it had been shattered. Smashed.  Obliterated.  Kya continued her frantic retreat but not even she was aware of where her terror was bringing her.  She slipped in the blue puddles splattered on the ground.

Suddenly, she came to a very familiar place.  Her house loomed up before her, the once elegant windows smashed, the once tranquil garden torn up.  Kya turned to go but something stopped her.  There was someone in the house, she could feel it.

Fearfully, she pushed past the splintered door and into the foyer.  The rain no longer pattered on her shoulders but now it dripped to the floor in big sloppy puddles.  It was really getting everywhere, mother would certainly kill her for this.  Carefully, Kya continued down the ransacked hallway into the family room.

She had been right; there were three orcs smashing up the place.  Something primal within her urged her to charge over and hurt them as much as they had hurt her.  But instead, she clutched her battered shield and hung in the deep shadows.  The orcs continued their looting, rifling through her family’s stuff, crushing their belongings beneath heavy boots.  The group circuited around and entered the kitchen out of sight.  Kya let out a breath.  What now? Should she follow them or try to flee? Where even would she go?

From the kitchen came a grunt of surprise and a high pitched squeal.  The sound of stomping and weapons being drawn.  Sobbing and pleading.  Kya’s legs moved almost by themselves.

She entered the room with a shout of her own, bowling over the closest orc.  As the group slowly scrambled in reaction, Kya positioned herself between the orcs and their captive.  He was a young boy, not from her family.  But she recognized him from the village.  The child was white with fear, a line of blue from a small cut extending across his forehead.  Kya raised her shield to defend herself and the boy.

The orcs, now fully recovered stared at their new foe with vicious grins.

“Puny draenei.  We kill you and boy now!” The orc’s draenei was broken and guttural but the message was clear.  She wasn’t a threat.  None of them were.  Her whole race wasn’t. Nothing could stop the orcish war machine.  Kya gritted her teeth and strengthened her arm.

Smirks on their savage faces, the orcs advanced as one.  As before, Kya launched herself, taking the left most one by surprise.  Her shield smashed into his defenseless face and the orc snarled.  Kya spun around and raised her shield just in time.  Sparks showered as a spiked mace screamed across the shield. The force of the blow knocked her back, and the boy and she were now in an even smaller space.

Kya fell back into her defensive stance.  Bracing, she intercepted two more blows from the mace and a slice from the third orc’s axe.  But the first orc had not been stunned as much as she had wanted.  He stepped up beside her, a looming shadow and swung his massive warhammer down.  Kya tried to throw her shield up in time but she was too slow.  The orc pulverized the already weakened shield and the remaining force crushed into her chest.  Kya stumbled to her knees.

Now that the kill was close, the orcs were practically drooling with anticipation.  The one with the axe stepped forward for the honors, his massive arms tensing as he readied his swing.

“Naaru- grant me protection!” Kya gasped, throwing up her arms in a feeble attempt to block the blow.  The boy behind her had started crying.

CLANG!

A shield of pure light had appeared between the axe and the crouched draenei, completely blocking the blow.  Shocked, the group of orcs stumbled back.

Kya felt a newfound sense of strength surge through her.  The aches and pains melted away like ice on a hot day.  She stood up and in her hands appeared a shining shield and mace, similar to the one that had just saved her life. Invigorated, she once again turned to face the orcs.

“What is happening? What did you do?” The boy gasped, his voice cracking in wonder.

“The Naaru protect us!” Kya shouted and charged at the astonished group of orcs.  She slammed her shield into the first, bringing her mace around to pummel the orc’s other side.

“Go now! Run away! Get out of the village, run, run!” The boy paused for a second and then sprinted out of the room.  Kya backed up, blocking the exit he had left from.  With grim determination, she blocked the orc’s blows and dealt back her own.  With each weapon clash, there was a burst of bright light.

The orc’s enthusiasm had given away to confusion and for the first time, fear.  This was not what they had signed on for.  This paladin before them, this was not the easy battle they had been promised. Still, they were orcs and orcs did not flee from a fight.  Getting a grip on their amazement, they focused in on the prize.

At the same time, Kya began to feel her strength flag again.  The spectacular flashes of light began to diminish and her arms began to feel very heavy.  With one final blaze, the glowing weapons winked out of existence.  She stood, empty handed and exhausted.

The light of victory was back in the eyes of the orcs.  The one with the hammer triumphantly swung towards his now defenseless foe.  It crunched squarely into her light mail armor, throwing the draenei back into a wall.  Many things broke simultaneously within her.  Kya stumbled and slumped back. Her head dropped down momentarily to her chest before wearily lifting up again.

“At least… at least I gave the boy… time” Her chest hurt terribly but it was a faraway sensation, like a voice shouting from a distance.  Speaking of sounds, everything became magnified to her ears.  The clumping of the orcs footfalls as they came towards her.  The distant sound of fighting out on the street.  Someone’s faraway wails.  The rain on the roof.  The rain on the roof.  The rain on the-

The orcs stood around her now, apparently arguing over who got the honors.  Kya wanted to move, wanted to run away and hide.  To hide away from all this pain and fear and destruction.  Away from this crumbling world.  But she couldn’t move, couldn’t even lift a finger.  Through bleary eyes, she stared at the bickering orcs.  The one with the axe shoved one of them aside and shouted at the other.  It seems he had won this argument.

With businesslike efficiency, he walked towards Kya, rolling his shoulders as he went.  The battle axe was raised high above his head and then arced down…

…and down…

…and down…

…and down…

…and CRASH!

Kya’s eyes snapped open again.  The light of the lightning faded away as the rapid staccato of the rain beat upon the tent.  She fought down the panic in her stomach and resisted the urge to grab her shield as she had done last time she had woken up.  Small short breaths accompanied a racing heart.

With trembling fingers, she felt under her nightshirt at her shoulder.  The mass of scarred tissue was still there, marring the otherwise smooth surface where the bones connect.  Her hand moved up to her face and she clutched her lips and nose.  Breathe deeply, don’t panic, breathe.  That all happened a long time ago. You are fine now, calm down.  Calm down.  Breathe in and out.  In and out.

Gradually, Kya’s heart rate returned to normal.  Her breathing evened and the squeezing tightness left her stomach.  From the other side of the tent, she could hear Mikri’s soft snoring.  Kya blinked a few times and the storm continued to rage outside.  Stormy nights like this always brought back the memories.  There are some things buried so deep that only the piercing light and stinging rain can uncover.

But she made it through that once.

Kya could certainly do it again.

~FIN~

Yotaan’s Head Cannons

One of my fondest memories as a kid was back in Junior High.  Every couple of weeks a few friends and I would meet up.  We would sit around the table and play AD&D.  We started with level one characters and played enough to really develop them.

I had a cleric and thought he (then she – long story but basically in an adventure the character sat in chair that changed gender) was the coolest.  When we were not playing, I would imagine his backstory and were he came from.  I recall that he was a follower of Dionysus and therefore loved wine, a bit too much I think.   He even had a bag of holding that contained an entire wine rack!  During adventures he would drink and then make mistakes – such as sitting in suspicious chairs – that ending up being hilarious.  I created a personality and that I think was the best part of the game.

Fast forward to WoW – while there are RP servers and I clearly have RP’d in the past I didn’t have the full interest to dive in like I did with that cleric.  Plus, when I first started I played with a friend so naturally I started a toon on his server, a PVP server.  However, I did create mental backstories for my characters without realizing it.

WoWScrnShot_060516_131736Recently, Fussypants had asked me why I chose that particular face for Ayayron, she thought it was quite ugly and disturbing.  What surprised her and me was my immediate and fairly complete head cannon.

Ayayron was a regular human in life.  He had a humble profession and was not anyone important at all.  Unfortunately, like many innocents, he was dragged into the conflict between the Horde and Alliance.  He died horribly due to a tremendous blow to the face.  To this day, Ayayron cannot remember the details.   He does not know who did it or exactly what the circumstances were.

He was then raised into unlife by the Banshee Queen.  While most Forsaken have a fanatic loyalty to Sylvanas, Ayayron saw her as a means to an end.  Shortly after being raised, he had looked into a mirror and discovered the horrifying truth – he was missing the lower half of his face.  This was unacceptable.  Ayayron must rectify this and his queen has provided an opportunity for revenge.  He appreciates this but he now has a single ambition in unlife.

Ayayron will kill whomever killed him and he will wear their jaw to fix his face.

He will spend every day in his unlife exacting his revenge.

As it turns out, a few of my other characters have head cannon too, but not quite so vicious.

WoWScrnShot_060516_131106Yotaan the pandaren shaman (formerly Yotin the troll shaman) has always had simple roots.  He was first and foremost a farmer.  This was established years ago and I was very happy to get the Farmer title from the Tillers in the previous expansion.  He became a shaman because it helped his farm work.  Rain whenever you need it!

WoWScrnShot_060516_131522Heeaahww is an ugly little dwarf and grew up as an orphan.  If you look closely, he has features of both the Wildhammer clan and the Dark Iron clan.  He is the product of a secret relationship that went sour very quickly.  He was given up as a baby and grew up in Ironforge.  Heeaahww mostly kept to himself.  He became attracted to becoming a monk because of his personal duality of his heritage and hoped that he could manage it with monk practices.  He still struggles with it today.

The best part of AD&D was imagining your character.  In my mind I created an entire castle (with vineyards, of course) for my cleric.  (S)he had prized possessions, a personality, ambitions, and all those necessary bits to make a character alive.  I think that I have done this a little in WoW as well and that may be why I play certain characters at certain times.   What’s your head cannon?

This post was written entirely by Yotaan.

 

Fussypants Writes a Horror Story

He's sort of horror story-ish, right?

He’s sort of horror story-ish, right?

And now for something completely different, Fussypants writes a horror story!

Has I gone mad? No there’s a reason behind this!  I just got home from vacation and all of my time has been devoted to catching up on schoolwork.  In my English class, this meant I had to write a horror story (which was due today).  So I figured, instead of squeezing in a WoW article between all my schoolwork, that I would just post the story I already wrote for you all. No, its not WoW themed (that’s the really horrific part 😛 ), but I still think it’s kinda cool in a creepy, horror story sort of way.

So without further adieu, Fussypants presents….


 

Eaten Alive

They always told you that adulthood would be a fantastic thing. You would be free and independent, allowed to choose your own destiny. The world would be your oyster, and all you had to do was go out and pursue it. What they didn’t tell you about was the monotony. The mind numbingly dull repetition. You were one of the lucky ones who got a job. But stability granted you no relief from the endless drone of life. It wore on you, as endless as the ocean.

Every day was the same. He woke up, the alarm with its shrill insistent beeping. The shower was always cold and his shirts never as white as he hoped. Breakfast was the same cheap coffee every day. He caught the bus at 7th and Haviture, two blocks from his apartment. Fifteen minutes later, and he arrived at his job and his entire life.

The office building was a lifeless tan and unimaginative in design. It was as if the builders had all sat down and came up with as many boring and cliché elements to include before constructing. He didn’t look up, but he knew what was branded above the grimy doors. Pierson Law Firm. Even the name was bland.

Joined by the numbed masses, he trudged across the lobby and into the elevators. They slowly climbed, like old mules under the weight of all those people. At every floor, a tired ding announced their arrival. He got off at the 31st ding.

Every day was the same, and today was no different. He shuffled down the hallway of cubicles like a prisoner to execution. With a final sigh of surrender, the man lowered himself into his desk chair. The computer was switched on and slowly began to load. The Windows logo blazed across the screen, and he got down to work.

 

Several hours later, and he could no longer sit. His knees burned with disuse and his eyes ached. With a groan, the man stood up, and wandered over to the water cooler.

Now the water cooler was more than a simple place for refreshment. It was the heart and soul of the office. All gossip started here and all news came through it first. There were always two or three ‘condors’ there. A condor was someone who monitored all that happened at the cooler. No one could hang there without first earning the approval of a condor. And somehow, the condors never got in trouble for avoiding work. They were, despite their name, the top of the food chain in the office.

He meekly tiptoed over to the cooler. Today, the condors were two women from the larger cubicles and a man known as The Pen. All three were relatively powerful condors, but they were too immersed in their own conversation to notice the arrival of one lean, pale man in an ill-fitting work suit.

“I’ve heard that Boss is thinking of firing some of the dead weight around here,”

“Ooh, I knew the Firm was struggling, but I didn’t realize it was that bad!”

“What departments, do you think?”

“I don’t want to spread any rumors,” The woman lowered her voice, “but I personally think there will be cuts in the human resource department, also the tax, real estate….” The woman’s voice dropped even softer, and he could no longer hear her.

The cup rested, empty, in the man’s numb hands. His collared shirt suddenly felt like the tightest thing in the world, and he choked on the air. Before the condors could notice, he ducked away, back into the relative safety of his cubicle. Eyes wide with terror, he gazed unseeing at the walls of his cubicle. The company calendar hung next to the company’s mission statement. Our goal is to provide our clients with the highest quality legal services. We will not rest until every client has received the premier and professional service that they deserve. Will not rest… not rest….

Panic frizzing in the back of his mind, he committed himself even more to his work. The hours melted by, narrated by frantic typing. Endless lists of numbers blurred into one strip of glowing white. His nails clacked on the keys while his fingers jumped on the mouse.

BRRRRINNNNNGG!

The end of the day bell broke him out of his trance. From all around came the animated shuffling of dozens of people packing up and heading out. He stared at the screen, unable to comprehend the gibberish scrawled upon it. Then with sinking finality, he hit the grey submit box and packed up to head home.

The old mules carried him and all his coworkers down to the lobby. The man stared unseeing at the dull reflective walls. Unconsciously, he scratched at his cheek, rubbed his eyes, and played with his finger. The metal prison broke open and the people were released into the lobby. Like a zombie, the man stumbled out of the monotone building onto the waiting bus.

His apartment was dark. The man stood, staring into the darkness as reality poured into his soul. He might lose his job. The tiny shred of sanity onto which he clung. The life line which just barely kept him out of poverty. The stability that allowed him to wake up every morning. The man shook, and stepped into his apartment.

The fuzzy lights turned on, revealing a pile of envelopes that had been stuffed under the door. He reached down and snatched the pile. Junk. Junk. Catalog. Bill. Junk. Bill. Bill. Bill. He discarded the junk mail, and stared wide-eyed at the bills. As if staring at them could change the numbers inside. As if he could pay off his dues.

 With shaking fingers, he opened the bills. And stared. Those zeroes couldn’t be right. There must be some mistake. There was no way he could pay that much, even if he had twice the time to collect his money. He slammed the papers down on the table, and shut the door with a tremendous crash.

 Flinging off his coat, the man stormed into his kitchen. He ripped open the refrigerator, but found it pathetically empty. A scowl on his lips, and he turned to the cabinet. He snatched out the last Ramen noodles, partially crushing the plastic bowl. The kettle was filled, and he stared at the flames. He tried to compare them to his anger, but they were much too small and tame. His rage felt bigger, more consuming like a wild fire.

He stamped over to the couch, falling onto it with a grunt. The TV buzzed on, and its pale flickering filled the darkened room. News, something about a shooting. The man stared beyond the screen, completely ignoring the tearful testament of a mother. The story switched, and the announcer began to trill about the economy. Down, loss, spiral into depression. A business owner was interviewed, talking about how hard it was to operate, and how he’d have to lay off some workers if things didn’t improve. The veins stood out on the man’s forehead as he willed the business owner’s head to explode.

The kettle whistled its piercing scream, snapping the man out of his reverie. He rose slowly, and shuffled over. As the boiling water spilled onto dry noodles, the man felt his rage seep away as well. What was the point of being angry? What would that do for him?

The man returned to his couch, meal clutched in hand. He flipped the channels to one of those humorless comedies, and scratched his cheek again. Then, he began to eat.

Long after he was done, the man continued to stare at the television, willing his troubles to melt away like those in the shows. Always the same for them, half an hour later and all their problems were solved. Why did they get it so damned easy? What makes them special? A dark cloud descended and wrapped around the man, but still he blindly watched the blinking screen.

 

BRRRRINNNNNGG!

The man woke with a start. The TV still flickered, though the rays of dawn now cracked faintly through the shabby curtains. He jumped up with a start, and stared down at himself. Ramen was stained on his not quite white shirt. His pants were wrinkled and covered with cold noodles. And, scratching his cheek, he felt the stubble on his face. Another day, another dollar.

The shower was cold like it always was. His shirt was not as white as he would like, and the coffee was cheap and flavorless. But today was not the same. Several pimples had broken out on his cheek. A cloud of doom hung over him, and a sense of finality poisoned everything.

The bus was a little late, so he arrived at the building after he usually would. The mules only carried a few stragglers, and seemed to move much slower, as if they were tired already from today’s work. The 31st ding, and the man sprinted to his cubicle.

There was a note on the computer. You must fill the quota by today, or a meeting will need to be scheduled to discuss your work ethics. Thanks! ~Management. The man stared at the note like a loaded gun pointed at his face. Then, panic fluttering in his stomach, he sat down and began to type frantically.

It was a sea of numbers, and he barely could stay afloat. The numbers ate at him from the inside out and outside in. Forms upon forms splattered across the screen, all carrying one message. Doomed! You are doomed! Doggedly, the man typed on, all while sinking beneath the waves.

Too soon, the end bell rang. And still, dozens of forms needed to be filled. Thousands of numbers were unchecked. The quota was not filled. Not even remotely.

Empty. He was empty. A void, devoid of all sense of feeling. Like a man drowning in a pool, he could only stare at the quota. The unfilled quota. The quota that would lose him his job. For how long he sat, time cannot tell. But eventually, the dogged sweeping of the janitor brought him out of his trance. Fingers numb, he submitted the form and wandered out of the office.

The elevators carried him down, sinking into the lobby. His feet brought him out, out to the dark street. It had rained sometime in the day, and now the night was heavy with the wet orange haze. The sidewalks glistened orange. The air hummed with darkness. The sky, black and inky, glowed with the unearthly orange.

The bus had long since departed, so the man shuffled into the dim night. Humidity stuck to his clothing, and the gloom sunk in his mind. His cheek had really begun to itch, so he scratched absentmindedly. The orange buzz of the streetlights against the dark sky put him in a contemplative mood. With remorse, he questioned all that he did, and all that he stood for.

“Why is this job so important to you?”

“Because it provides me with the money to get by.”

“Get by to what? You have no end goals.”

“But if I don’t keep going, then I’ll fall apart.”

“And why is this a bad thing? You have no one to stay together for, no girlfriend or family.”

“….”

“Just fall apart. Give up. You’ve reached rock bottom and it’s time to end the race.”

“….”

“Just give it up….”

The apartment was dark. The man stumbled in, scattering the envelopes all across the floor. He did not notice, as he lurched about. Drunkenly, he lurched about before wobbling into the dank bathroom. He turned the lights on, and stared at his wide eyed, pale face.

His pupils were the size of coins. His left cheek was a swollen mass of red irritated splotches. His hair was disheveled and thinning. His shirt had been miss-buttoned, and was off kilter. And skin was pale as a skull. With trembling hands, the man opened up his medicine cabinet. He already knew which bottle to grab, and how many pills. He had calculated long ago.

A dozen pills rested in his hand. Their pearly white surface promised oblivion. And their promise was true. But there would be no going back. For hours, the man stared at the pearls. While they might seem white, they were truly black as death. But they were true.

A millennium passed.

The man did not move.

And slowly,

With soft motions

He dropped the pills back into the bottle

And returned it

To the darkness of the cabinet.

 

He felt a hundred years old. Aching bones and soul, he changed into his pajamas. He settled down on his hard bed under his thin sheets and stared at the ceiling.

“This job really is eating you alive”

He signed, turned over, and went to sleep.

 

BRRRRINNNNNGG!

The alarm shrieked, dancing all around. With purpose, the man rose. His shower was cold, his shirts never white enough, his coffee cheap. But today was not like other days. An air of purpose crisped the air. It was do or die time.

While in the bathroom, the man glanced in the mirror. He still looked pale, that was true, but there was a revival of life in his ashen cheeks. And speaking of cheeks, his left cheek had swollen to the size of a plum. It was turning a worrying black, and itched like a band aid on for too long. The man briefly flirted with the idea of going to see a doctor. But there wasn’t time, and certainly wasn’t money.

The bus dropped him off, and he marched with purpose into the bland building. The mules seemed energetic today, and the dings lively. At the 31st, he hopped off, and strode into his cubicle.

There was a note on the computer. Meeting in Conference Room B at 11. Attendance is required. ~Management. He rolled up his sleeves. It was do or die time.

With determination, he sat down and faced the numbers. The numbers streamed down endlessly, but he was ready today. Eyes focused, he battled the forms with vigor.   And in the back of his mind, he devised his plan. All the while, the hours slipped by.

11 ‘o’ clock struck, and way too soon. He wrapped up his work, and marched confidently to the conference room. A severe faced lady sat in the big chair, and his morale slipped a bit. But with bitter determination, he stepped in the room and sat down.

“Mr. Oliver is it?” It was not, “Please take a seat.” He was already sitting.

“The Firm has always valued its dedicated and hard workers. We pride ourselves in the fact that we employ loyal and diligent employees such as you, and we appreciate your many hours of dedication. However,” she paused, “In these trying times, difficult decisions must be made. And unavoidably, jobs must be cut. Here at the firm, we appreciate,” again, stress on this word, “the years of dedication you have provided. However, your recent works has not been up to par. And with the economic downturn, we cannot afford to have subpar employees.”

This was not at all going how it should be. The woman pressed on, emotionlessly ignoring the man’s shocked face, “I’m sorry Mr. Oliver, but we are letting you go. Please have your stuff packed and out of the office by the end of the work day.”

He sat there, drowning in the news. The woman offered no life preserver, no support, no comfort at all. At last, he was able to mutter something.

“I don’t get a chance to defend myself? I’m just… gone?” His voice cracked.

“I’m afraid so. The higher ups made this decision, not me,” The woman’s voice held no sympathy.

“I… I…”

“Good day Mr. Oliver,” With a curt nod, she stood up and strode out of the room. He looked in shock at the large chair she had just been sitting in. Fired… fired….

The man stood up in a trance. Unknowingly, he shuffled to his office, and slowly began to pack his things. There wasn’t much. Little stuff in his cubicle and no fire in his heart. He was cold and empty. Supplies in hand, the man wandered by the water cooler to the last time. The whispers of the condors followed him out to the elevator.

“Oh look, another one’s been fired,”

“Sucks to be him,”

The elevator carried him slowly down, a lonely ride to the end. Dazed, the man wandered out of the elevator, out of the building, and into the streets.

Somehow, his numb body got him home. Before he knew what had happened, he was at the door of his apartment. The apartment was dark, and the slits of light from the outside did nothing to penetrate the doom. The man wandered to his bathroom, peering brokenly into his reflection.

“They didn’t give you a chance. They didn’t even give you a chance. They ate you up and spit you right out when they were done. You meant nothing to them, and you never will,”

The man’s cheek was bothering him, but he ignored it in his broken stupor.

“They ate you alive, and left the bones to turn to dust.

His cheek began hurting more, a pinching and wriggling mass.

“They ate you alive…”

His cheek was a mass of motion. The man was drawn out of his stupor by the sudden pain. He glared at his face, and his eyes opened with horror. The skin under his cheek was moving, lumps squirming around the bulge of skin. The pain was unbearable.

“What is this?” The man nervously asked the mirror, raising a hand to scratch the lump

His fingers touched the blackened skin. The pain and motion suddenly froze, and all was still.

 

And then his skin exploded open. Thousands of tiny, somethings poured out, onto his face, onto his hand. The man screamed, and stumbled backwards. He stared in horror at the black specs skittering all about.

Spiders, they were spiders.

The man screamed again, and the spiders began to pour into his mouth, his nose, his eyes, his ears. He could feel their hairy bodies scraping the insides of his throat and ears and nose. They overwhelmed him, and he fell to the ground.

The spiders dug deeper into his body. All he could see were the spindly, hairy legs of thousands of spiders, all he could feel were their legs as they crawled into him. He tried to scream, tried to close his mouth, but there were too many, too many!

And then they began to eat. They ate at him, deep in his chest and his head. The man could feel as millions of tiny fangs as they dug into his flesh, tore at his body. The pain was incredible and they crawled down his throat by the millions.

They ate at him! They at him from the inside! He could not scream, could not fight, could not do anything but writhe on the ground as they crawled down his orifices. The skittering, thick, moving mass! Darkness and pain! Pain and darkness!

 

The spiders ate him alive, until there was nothing left but bones.