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Members' Choice Voting - Sept - Dec

View Poll Results: Choose your favorite for Members' Choice!
Japan by KBR 1 10.00%
Queen of Hearts by RedLorry 1 10.00%
Buried by LurkingDarkness 1 10.00%
Demon Dreams by J. Newman 2 20.00%
Dry Fire by Fegger 1 10.00%
Ithaca IV (Prologue and Chapter One) by Heroshade 0 0%
Sex by Fegger 2 20.00%
The Princess of Kosovo: A memoir by Paratrooper82 3 30.00%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 10. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 11-17-2010, 10:05 AM
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Default Members' Choice Voting - Sept - Dec


Time for voting on the Members' Choice Nominations! Please vote for the piece you feel deserves recognition in WBQ as our Members' Choice Winner.

Voting will end at midnight EST on December 23rd.

Good luck, and thank you again for your nominations!

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Last edited by Tau; 12-15-2010 at 03:02 PM..
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  #2  
Old 11-17-2010, 10:06 AM
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Default Japan by KBR

In 1969
I woke up in Japan.
 
Childhood was wet and clinging to the tree
like a split cocoon
and I was all eyes and new
in a place of Legend.
 
That morning
shoeless
waiting
before a screen door of flawless silk
 
I heard the sound
of soft wood slowly sliding.
 
In the doorway
an Ivory comb
in a swirl of black hair
bowed me in
 
a single movement
two hands unfolded
to sweep a gesture
 
towards slippers
set so deliberately
my thought suspended
 
unable to move
I could only watch
the folding wings
of hands return
 
to the perfectly arranged
kimono
of soft gray silk
 
waiting.
 
 
In 1969
I woke up in Japan
 
and my thought fell into orbit around her.
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  #3  
Old 11-17-2010, 10:07 AM
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Default Queen of Hearts by RedLorry

The self-professed ‘Queen of Hearts’ sits on her plastic throne, biro in hand, trying to pen her wares; a new album to be peddled to the masses in time for Christmas.

Her agent, publicist and Record Company dog her on the phone night and day, demanding updates and reiterating deadlines. The phone’s incessant, shrill beep has become the sound of her nightmares, driving her to distraction and beyond. Until finally, she can’t take it any more; taking the offensive thing in hand, she lobs it through the window, into the garden beyond.

The Queen has milked the clichés dry, borrowed from Hallmark and taken Casablanca to the brink. Her mind is a mass of worry walled in by loneliness. Her inspiration has run dry. She stares, unseeing, at the paper to be filled. Ink must flow like liquid chocolate, scribing velvet words and warmth. But the empty page stares back, mocking her with its endless unfilled rules.

Manicured fingernails, glossy coats chipped, rake through signature black locks, normally soft and shiny, like the wing of a rook. Today’s hairstyle, however, is a scraped back ponytail, shanked by a rubber band. Greasy for the want of washing; wheat gold roots divide a sea of ebony; how different the queen looks when not entertaining her subjects.

Large spectacles balance on the end of a dainty nose betraying the nerd she once was (still is). A reminder of that desperate time when the high hopes of her parents were dashed on the day she said she wanted to sing. But the flames of hope (and greed) were reignited when their wannabe starlet actually found fame.

So now she writes ballads for lovers, makes her music, sings her songs and lays down tracks. Her magic words break hearts and reunite lovers; melodies speaking to anyone who has ever known love. Girlfriends want boyfriends to buy them. Boyfriends want… her.

The modern genius of her craft; concerts sell out in minutes, oceans of unknown faces, coming to adore her, worship her. The glittered peacock on stage, clad in Lycra and rhinestone, gyrating with an army of dancers.

She wins her fans with ease, men and women alike. All happy to pay their hard earned cash for her merchandise: t-shirts and perfume, ring tones and CDs. It’s that cash that lines her pockets, unlocks her houses, drives her cars, flies her planes… feeds her habits.

But for all this, all the hearts she has won, the Queen holds no one dear. There is no soft embrace waiting in her bower, no one with whom she shares secret smiles at gaudy parties. When loneliness overcomes, there are no arms to turn into. Not since the loving hand of her mother, in childhood, has anyone taken the time to mop her tears or tend her needs asking nothing but love in return.

How long until the truth is exposed? The Queen of Hearts is an empty shell. Somewhere out in a flowerbed, the phone chirps – again.
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Last edited by Devon; 11-17-2010 at 10:14 AM..
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  #4  
Old 11-17-2010, 10:08 AM
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Default Buried by LurkingDarkness

Some strong, offensive language in this piece.

Buried

By: Jody Liske
Thump

Thump

Thump

The soft dirt hit her body, making an awful sound that Hughie will never forget. Getting to the forest with his dead wife was not only hard, but awful as well. He buried her in an open area, avoiding roots and hard ground, somewhere where he would still be covered by the overlooking trees. He had covered her with two garbage bags, giving her body an eerie silhouette in the silver moonlight. The bed of his truck was full of his work supplies (he’s an ex-carpenter); his only alternative was the front seat. They drove in silence. He would occasionally look over at her, watching her head gently hit the window while they went over bumps.

Thump

Thump

Thump

Hughie tried to remember if anyone saw what he did to his wife. The neighbour’s lights were out when he got home. Besides, the neighbours can’t see the kitchen window unless they looked over their fence.

Did they hear her scream?

Possible, but they probably didn’t think anything of it. Krista screamed all the time, when she was
(Alive)
doing things she hated, screaming at people she didn’t like, yelling on the phone. Krista screamed differently tonight, it was almost innocent, almost like she was saying sorry. She was quietly hushed though, by the knife that slowly stabbed through her sternum. She twitched a few times after that, staring into her husbands
(Killers)
eyes. Hughie’s reaction was of pure excitement and joy, almost pleasure. He sat on top of her, putting weight on the knife, watching his beloved die.

Thump

Thump

Thump

He dripped sweat into her grave, hitting the garbage bag with a sound like when rain poured onto a window. Hughie looked at his watch, 3:24 am.

Damn, I’m slow.

He picked up the spade and took bigger shovel-fulls. He wouldn’t be doing this if the bitch hadn’t hit him. They would be sleeping in their bed, or possibly making sweet, but almost meaningless love. This was obviously not the case. She knows better than to fuck with Hughie after he drinks. He had never hurt her before, but in his heart, he wanted to rip out her intestines.

Thump

Thump

Thump

Tonight, Hughie was a little too drunk. He walked in to find Krista eating a bowl of cereal. She didn’t look up at him, only watched her cereal float in the bowl.

“Get the fuck out of my house Hughie,” She stirred her cereal as she talked, “Just get out.”

“What the hell is your problem?” Hughie snapped, raising his voice as he took a few steps toward the counter she was sitting at. Krista didn’t flinch, she didn’t even blink. She just sat at the counter, with hatred burning in her core.

“What’s my problem? WHAT’S MY FUCKING PROBLEM?!” She shoved herself away from the counter and walked toward Hughie. She was a small girl, only 5’3, and compared to Hughie, who stood at 6’2, she was miniscule. Nonetheless, she wore the pants in the relationship. She made all decisions based on both their well-being and health. Hughie kind of sat back, and watched while she worked.

“You’re nothing but a job-less prick Hughie!” She spat verbal poison as she spoke. “How am I supposed to get anywhere in my life with you?”

“Please Krista, I’m really not in the mood for your bitch games” He murmured, rubbing his temples.

“How dare you!” She screamed in his face. Her hand swiftly drew back and struck like lighting, right on Hughie’s left cheek. Being drunk and not expecting the sudden blow, Hughie was knocked off balance. He stepped back, trying to regain his composure, but tripped over their living room coffee table. Hughie hit his head on the burgundy coloured wall, blurring his vision. He opened his eyes, staring at his his wife, who was standing across the room. His vision recovered along with his rage and adrenaline. Redness filled his vision as Hughie stood up and charged his wife.

Krista’s eyes widened as her husband charged her. She tried to back away but he was too quick, he grabbed her throat. A fresh layer of pain shot through her neck as he squeezed. She stupidly grabbed at Hughie’s titanic hands, trying to pry them away from her throat.

She failed.

Common sense came back to her. She drew back her foot and kicked Hughie right in the balls. His expression of enjoyment turned to anguish, he let go of her throat, dropped to his knees and grabbed his balls. Krista seen the opportunity, but was too late to grasp it. Hughie seized her ankle, driving his fingernails into her milky skin. She screamed, trying to kick his hand off her ankle. Losing her balance, she fell on her back, hitting her head off the linoleum floor. Hughie slowly stood up, holding his testicles, wincing at the pain. The pain vanished when he set his burning eyes on his wife, rage filled his core. Krista scrambled to her feet, her head screaming with pain. She grabbed a knife from the rack on the counter, and stuck it out in front of her.

“Stay away from me Hughie!” Her voice was shaky but final. If he rushed her, she would stab him and kill him. Hughie knew this; he stood a few feet away from Krista, thinking about his attack.

“Get back!” She sobbed, swinging the knife helplessly in front of her. She was powerless. Her authority over her husband has diminished. She stood coldly terrified, backed into the corner of the kitchen.

“Not so tough now, are ‘yea bitch?” He took a slow step forward, not taking his eyes off his wife.

“Hughie, p...please!” She pleaded, holding the knife out in front of her. It shook furiously in her trembling hand.

“What’re you going to do, kill me?” Hughie cocked his head and smiled. Krista knew by his eyes that this wasn’t Hughie. His actual eyes were always full, always moving. The eyes that now stalked her were the eyes a killer. Cloudy, blank, and black.

“Hughie, you don’t know what you’re d...doing, please s...stop!” She was now shaking with fear. She tried to break to the right but Hughie met her halfway. He grabbed the knife with his right hand and her other hand with his left. Krista screamed. He ran her back into the counter, and swept her feet out from under her with his own. She fell to the floor with a thud. Krista tried to scramble to her feet but Hughie was already on top of her, his knees pinning her arms so she couldn’t grab at his aching genitals. She tried to let out a scream, but her husbands put his hand over her mouth. The force he was using kept her mouth shut and kept her from biting.

Hughie was filled with a sensation that was indescribable. A sheer type of enjoyment and excitement he had never felt before. He put the point of the knife on Krista’s chest, staring at her while he did. Krista’s screamed behind his hand; a scream that no one would hear. Smiling, Hughie applied pressure to the knife. It sank in. Krista tried kicking and kneeing him in the back, praying he would take his hand from her mouth. Her attempt was useless, he was determined, he wasn't going to get off her until she was dead.

He pushed a little harder, driving the knife two more inches into her bleeding chest. Krista’s muffled screams came to an abrupt stop. Her eyes widened, blood seeped from her chest. Hughie smiled and pushed harder.
A few more inches.

In the last few moments of Krista’s life, she stared into the eyes of her lover. Looking into the new Hughie, looking into her own, personal devil. Her eyes drifted off, and her soul was lifted.

Thump

Thump

Thump

The last of the soil filled the hole. Hughie dropped the spade and stared at the hill of dirt. He could feel himself coming back, the real him. Hughie looked into the sky, peering at the stars.

“Dear God, what have I done?” Hughie murmured to himself, closing his eyes.

He looked down at the grave of his wife, dropped to his knees, and screamed into the hollowing night.

The wolves howled in response.
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  #5  
Old 11-17-2010, 10:09 AM
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Default Demon Dreams by J. Newman

One

A metropolitan city hot under a sparkling sun.

Real hot.

Red hot.

Bangkok.

A city rich with temples and a dirty stretch of bars. A city populated by kind folk who worship a god who decided to do nothing but praise nothingness and sit down in the acquired position and watch the sun rot under a parched tree whilst the rest of the country go about their daily business, eating street foods, gossiping, drinking beer, hatching plans about the next sin knowing full well, once committed, that sin could be forgiven with a stick and a candle and a strange hand movement (kind of like a prayer) inside glittery dome-type buildings the Thais call Watts.

The city: A concrete jungle; a labyrinth of dead ends and failed decisions, blind corners of mischance, boulevards of wrong decisions, blocks of bad judgements. Concrete streets of possibilities that never lead to salvation, only onto more roads of chance that expire to avenues of nowhere where blind beggars gather and discuss the next best place to plead. Shady squares where hustlers hustle, hookers hook and dreamers dream.

Bangkok.

Where one comes to forget about the shattered hopes conjured by demons who brokered those special nightmares of betrayal, brewed those poisonous potions of deceit and concocted that longevity serum that sent them here to die young. Magnificent dreams fester into dull sad nightmares, reality interferes with the obvious fact that love conflicts with hate in a battle where Bangkok is the ultimate victor.

Always.

This is Bangkok. A terrible place to wake up in the morning and discover it all went wrong. The girl you’re in bed with is the wrong one. The right one was left behind somewhere during a mad period of hate.

Pandora’s cute innocent smile and her curly hair swept across her forehead, her frown that suggested kindness, but that was fake, the wickedness, her essence made her more attractive. Unique. The way her father used to wash her cruelly to clean away memories of her mother before they both died. Her memories, her being..

But Pandora wasn’t Monika.

Pandora isn’t here anymore.

Memories.

Only memories.

Monika, her smeared make-up, that beehive that lit that city like a vaudeville production on a great Bangkok night. She is here, yes. Is her soul here or is it only her body?

Who cares?

She is here because she is paid to be here because that’s what she does. She gets paid to be places and do things just like the rest of us.

But she’s a dark dingy blues gig to Pandora’s rock and roll opera. They both work the streets, sell themselves to the highest bidder in different ways.

She settles herself, sits up and smokes a snubbed-out cigarette plucked from the derbies in the ashtray. She looks like beauty burnt out, dog-ended, beehive haircut flopped down with the dull abandon of failure in the dingy Bangkok hotel room that we both decay in.

There must be somewhere else, somewhere better to be.

But there isn’t.

‘You know?’ she asks me.

‘I don’t know anything,’ I respond.

‘There is a secret in Bangkok?’

‘There’s many.’

‘Many?’

‘Many secrets, they’re like mosquitoes, they hover around and then bite you. Some make you mad, some just kind of irritate.’

‘But there’s a big secret Joe,’ she raises that left eyebrow.

‘I love your beehive in the morning and the things you do with your face, it makes me forget about things. Real things.’

‘Stop worrying about those ghosts Joe,’ she says.

‘What ghosts?’

‘The ones living in your room,’ she says.

‘Which ones?’

‘Up there,’ she points to an apparition on the ceiling. It’s a hungry ghost, the one that is in pain because of greed.

‘He’s okay,’ I say, lighting a cigarette.

We pause for enough time to think about it.

‘What about this secret?’ I ask Monika.

She speaks: ‘Here’s the deal: There are two ways to make people love you, one is a secret and the other involves cash.’

‘Is there a third way?’

‘Yes, but that’s real love which only happens on TV, in the movies, maybe in Europe or America.’

Outside on the street, the sounds of a street hawker selling something or other. It sounds like fish but it could be wicker brushes or those chopping boards they use for cutting meat.

I tell her: ‘I know this baby. My god, there was this guy just the other day got hooked like a Marlin, I mean real hooked. I saw it on the fishing channel. This dude was such a sucker his girl took him for millions.’

‘That’s just theatre. There are some girls that got like a magic spell.’

‘Tell me something I don’t know?’

‘A black magic spell.’

‘Voodoo?’

‘Yeah, they hook them straight out of the water and reel them in.’

‘You’re hitting me?’

‘No, it’s from up in Isaan, it’s a jungle potion or something they use.’

‘shit?’

‘It works.’

‘I’m sure it does. I’ve seen it work.’

‘you have?’

‘Yes, I’ve fallen for the odd spell.’

‘You have?’

‘Yeah, I am almost awake now. Tell me more?’

‘You should know about it Joe, you been on the scene a long time.’

‘I don’t know Monika. Tell me honey. I’m just a bar scene casualty. I know a bit about it, but not enough to cure it.’

‘The reason that you are here is because of..’ A fly buzzes around us, settles on a sore on Monika’s wrist, something she’s been picking at.

‘Because of what?’

‘A black magic spell.’

‘Who puts it on us.’

‘All of us.’

Us.’

‘Us?’

‘Yes. Women’
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  #6  
Old 11-17-2010, 10:10 AM
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Default Dry Fire by Fegger

She sits, emotionally bland,
Speaking mechanically;
Her right jaw, slightly misaligned,
From calcifications of former fractures;
And he is left-handed.
Lime-green circles about her
Distant, blue eyes indicate
That she has pleased him
This past week.
She believes that she
Is Improving, is better;
As the distance between
The necessary corrections
Is elongating, and she doesn’t
Nap as often.
He seems to love her more;
And frequently resorts
To audible amendments,
Or is too fatigued, himself,
To properly intervene
In her enlightenment.

She inhales, fidgets, re-adjusts,
To breathe without pain;
Calmly expressing accolades for
The strength, perseverance,
Of her son who doesn’t fail;
But weeps, in anonymity,
For her daughter who must
Have inherited her propensity
Toward weakness, malfunction.
Perhaps, over time,
He will see fit to guide
Their daughter with
Identical acts of love;
And she will be well.

She stares out the window,
Toward the windswept willow;
Catatonic, citing that
Past years, learning years,
Were resonating like the
Dry-fire echo of the
Empty Chamber in a game
Of Russian-Roulette.
The sound, repeated and
Sustained in dull memory;
The clicks that fed
The ugly tomorrows;
But her eyes sparkle as
She admits to a yearning,
For the strike of the pin
To fresh primer;
And she may only regret
That she will not hear
The Sound
Heralding her freedom.
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Old 11-17-2010, 10:11 AM
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Default Ithaca IV (Prologue and Chapter One) by Heroshade

Prologue
 
Pitch black darkness. That was all I had seen for the last thirty minutes. I don’t

know what it was about the Meledon Tunnel, but electronics didn’t seem to work

once you got so deep into it; that meant no night vision goggles and no

flashlights. Deveraux was a few feet ahead of me and I could hear him panting

as we jogged through the blackness, our dog tags jingling in unison as we fought

through the fatigue. How much longer would it be until we saw light? Or would

we ever see it again?


I’d exhausted all my ammunition, save for a single magazine for my sidearm, so I

had both that and my knife out as I ran. Even this far underground, I could still

hear the soft explosions of artillery shells pounding into the ground above us. I

tripped over something—I think it was a body—and when I hit the ground, my

knife disappeared into the nothing that had enveloped me. Deveraux either didn’t

hear me or didn’t know I had fallen, because he kept on moving. Pushing myself

unsteadily to my feet, I sped up so I could catch him.


There was a grunt and I heard somebody thud against the ground. A second

later there were two cracks of gunfire; the flashes that illuminated the tunnel

burned the image of Deveraux on his back pumping two rounds into an Ardellian’s

chest into my vision. In the split second of light, I saw another Ardellian coming

to catch up with his comrade. Before he could react to the gunfire, I trained my

sights where I thought he would be and fired. I heard him scream and thought I

saw him go down. Ignoring the wounded man, I pressed forward, hoping that

Deveraux would be close behind. This wasn’t a place I wanted to be alone. I was

relieved when I heard the sound of feet on dirt closing behind me and the

reassuring sound of my friend’s cursing.


“How far does this tunnel go?” I asked him through bated breath.


“Fuck if I know.” Great. The two of us continued onward. I never would have

thought I could run for so long, but I suppose with as many people as the

Ardellians had chasing us, it wasn’t so difficult. Still, I was sure my knees were

about to give way. The thumping of artillery shells hitting above us kept getting

fiercer; I thought the fighting was intense when I was on the surface, but from

what I was hearing now, I don’t think hell would be descriptive enough.

I heard a shift in the air, the kind you might hear when somebody runs past you.

There was another “Oof” from behind me and I heard Deveraux grunt “Son of a

bitch!” spinning around and aiming my pistol as if I could actually see what I was

looking at, I heard Dev and the Ardellian swinging and tossing each other

around. The dull thud of fists making contact with unseen targets went on while

I just watched—if you could call it that—and waited and prayed and worried. I

heard somebody’s back press against the wall followed by a sickening schhhlick

and a struggling, guttural cry; and then the noise stopped. I still had my gun

pointed at where I thought the sound was coming from.

“D-Dev?” I whispered anxiously.

“I’m alright. I lost my pistol though. Let’s go.” Shit I thought. One pistol with a

half-empty mag wasn’t going to do us much good if we got to the end of the

Meledon to find it crowded with separatist troops.

Another half hour went by before we saw any sort of light, and it wasn’t a bright

one. I imagine the only source of light out there was the explosions and the

cannon fire of the SO-AVs. With every brief flash of orange and red, the

silhouettes of the men guarding the exit became more and more descript. What

color are there damn uniforms? I kept thinking to myself. Their rifles were up as

soon as they saw us, but they didn’t fire.

“Stop! Stay back!” one of them demanded. There was another explosion outside,

and I saw the man’s face. More importantly, I saw his uniform; it was grey. The

E.E.F. troops had kept true to their plans for once. When they saw that we

actually weren’t trying to kill them—judging by the bodies piled up between our

two parties, I could see why they were surprised—they lowered their guns. The

man who had told us to stay back, a Captain if I was seeing correctly, motioned

us towards him. I stepped out of the Meledon to see the night sky ablaze with

combat. A wing of fighters roared overhead, shooting at something I couldn’t

see; a wave of tracers came from the direction they were headed and I could

vaguely make out what I assume was one of the fighters slamming into the

ground. The horizon was bright orange; the battle was going for miles.

“Where are you coming from, soldier?” the Captain asked me. Deveraux

answered for us.

“Fort Aristad, sir. The Ardies tore the place apart.”

“So I’ve heard. There anything you have to tell me?”

“No, sir. I think they stopped following us a couple of miles in. I guess they

figured we would run into their buddies over on this side.” The captain shoved

his helmet up over his forehead

“Well you boys got damn lucky. We just took this position a little under an hour

ago.”

“We ran into some of the fleeing Ardies.” I told the Captain, his name patch read

Stanson. “What’s the situation over here?” Stanson shook his head.

“It’s not looking good, Corporal. We’re losing entire wings of fighters and most of

our SO-AVs are focused on Daryl city. Are you boys the only ones to make it out

of Aristad?”

“As far as we can tell.” Dev answered solemnly. Stanson was quiet for almost a

full minute before he started talking again.

“We’re waiting on orders from command. Until then, you two rest up. We’ve got

reports of Ardellian movement to our Echo, so take it while you can.”

We thanked the Captain and he let us by. The camp looked like it had been

blown to hell. There were smoking craters every ten feet and there were men

sorting through the bodies and separating Ardellian from E.E.F. troops. From the

looks of it, taking this side of the Meledon had taken a huge toll on the E.E.F.

Dev and I found a small building with a half a dozen men standing guard outside

of it. They let us through and we stepped into what looked to have been the

command center for the base; there were rows of destroyed computers with

chairs tipped over behind the desks on which they sat. The Ardies were

destroying intel.

“Happy new year.” Deveraux said flatly. I looked at him for a moment before I

realized what he was looking at. The clock read 12:02 A.M. The battle had

passed into the year 2026. Exactly one year ago, I was at a high school party,

making love to my girlfriend. Now I was fighting a war on a planet I had never

paid much mind too until I came to see it for myself. I wondered what kind of

impact the war was having on earth, wondered if there were any separatists

there, if the fighting had really moved across the system like people had been

saying. I came to this system six months ago on my tour of duty. That was back

when there was peace; back when we were one nation.
 
 
 
Chapter One
 
Five months prior…

I had to crawl out of the escape pod. What the hell just happened? The entire

crew seemed to be running for the escape pods before the attack even

happened. All I could remember was hearing the alarms going off and seeing

massive numbers of ships out the hall window. Now I was lying on my stomach in

the middle of a forest with blurred vision and a cataclysmic headache.

I struggled to my feet, trying my best to ignore the bluish-black splotch on my

femur. The fore-grip on my rifle punched against my leg and snapped off when

we hit the ground. Moores and Hilbrand were kneeling over somebody.

“Packston, get over here and help us!” Moores yelled when he saw that I was

awake. I limped over to them and saw the person they were working on.

“What happened to him?” I asked dumbly. There were three gaping holes in his

torso, one in his neck, and the man was sucking down air faster than he

probably wanted to.

“Somebody didn’t have their weapon on safety.” Hilbrand said. “It went off when

we crashed.” The man lying on the ground dying was Jordons, the squad medic.

Fuck. “Packston, I need you to hold open his wound so I can clamp the artery.

That’s right Jordons, keep breathing, you’re gonna be okay, stay with me.”

Moores had his shirt off and pressed against the wounds on Jordons’ chest. His

hands were drenched with his blood. Doing as I was told, I dropped my assault

rifle and went over to help the two of them. There was blood spurting from

Jordons’ neck where a bullet had torn through his jugular. Nervous and trembling,

I dug my fingers into the bullet hole—Jordons screamed, or at least he tried to—

and pried the wound open. Hilbrand, who was crying as he shakily worked on the

only one in our squad who actually knew how to deal with a situation like this,

shoved a tiny pair of clamps into the medic’s neck. After a moment, the blood

stopped spurting, but Jordons wasn’t moving aside from the occasional jerking of

his hands. His eyes went blank, and soon, even his hands fell to the forest floor.

His head drooped sideways and his empty eyes stared right through me. It was

the first time I had ever seen a person die. I had to look away. That didn’t help,

because I diverted my gaze from Jordons’ body to the bloody, unrecognizable

carcass of somebody who’s safety belt had broken, sending them slamming into

the side of the escape pod when they crashed. Hilbrand was punching the dirt

and Moores went to go comfort him while they both tried not to look at the

Jordons’ corpse.

Somebody didn’t have their weapon on safety. That was what Hilbrand had said.

I looked down at my rifle on the ground; no red. There were two other guys from

a different squad still sitting in the pod. Both of them were still bound to their

seats by the safety belts, so they were sitting upside down. They looked pretty

banged up, but I was sure they were alive, so I ducked back into the overturned

ship and started to shake one of them. His eyes popped open and he babbled

something incoherently while he flailed his arms around in a panic.

“Relax, you’re okay!” I yelled, grabbing him by the wrists. He calmed down after

a minute, but he was hyperventilating. The patch on his uniform read Sanders.

“Where are we?” he asked. I just shook my head and told him I didn’t know

before moving on to the red headed guy next to him. This one woke up slowly.

He would have looked like a thirteen year old if not for the whiskers coming off

his chin. He looked at me, a lost expression on his face and then glanced down

at his safety belt. He undid it and fell onto the metal ceiling of the pod, which

was now covered with dirt and leaves that were kicked in by the wind. Sanders

did the same, only he managed to hang on to the seat and clumsily flip himself

onto his feet. Everybody else in the escape pod was dead, either from wounds

they’d received back on the ship or from their necks snapping from the impact.

When the three of us stepped back out into the forest, I saw Moores and

Hilbrand looking up into the mid-morning sky. I followed their gaze and felt my

heart drop. The Embargo, the ship I had come to the Ithaca system on, the ship

that was responding to a distress signal over this planet, the ship I had lived on

since I was out of basic, was coming down in blazing pieces. It rumbled over us,

sending huge pieces of debris flying into the forest. Moments after it

disappeared from view, we heard— and felt—the explosion. I could see the glow

from the fire even as far away as I was from the crash site.

“Should we go look for survivors?” I asked frantically.

Moores just stood up and looked the other way. The cruiser fell from high orbit.

We had our answer.

“Where to?” Sanders asked after finally catching his breath. Moores shrugged.

“We may as well just use eany meany miney moe at this point.” He said.

“The map on the command bridge said we were over Telesivad city.” Said the

red head. His name patch looked like it had been torn off at some point.

“That doesn’t exactly help us if we don’t know which way to walk, now does it?”

“Just saying.” Moores rubbed his eyes and picked a shotgun out of a pile of

leaves.

“Well, we aren’t going to get anything accomplished if we just stand here, and

I’ll wager that fire spreads pretty fast, so I vote we walk away from it.” There

was a grumble of unanimous agreement. So we started walking. We walked until

it was dark, and even then the forest fire that was raging somewhere behind us

lit the sky enough for us to keep going. We left Jordons’ body at the crash site

too. That always kind of struck me as wrong. The guy probably didn’t even know

what killed him. I looked down at my fingers, at the blood that was now dried

and cracked. I know it wasn’t my fault, but I felt guilty. Like if I had reacted a

second sooner he might not have bled out, or if I had just shifted my fingers a

little bit to the right, maybe he would have-

“Don’t let it eat at you.” Someone said. I looked up. It was Moores. He’d seen

me looking at my hand. “If you let it eat at you, you’ll spiral and you’ll never

climb out of it. You just have to put it behind you.” Put it behind me? How was I

supposed to put it behind me? I just watched a kid die with my fingers in his

throat.

“How?” I asked. I was surprised at the choking sound I made when I said it. I

didn’t even know him that well, now I was about to cry about him.

“Just forget him.” Just forget him. I tried to forget him. Anybody whose ever

been to war can tell you the same thing; you never forget.
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Old 11-17-2010, 10:12 AM
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Default Sex by Fegger

Oh Sex—you sweet obsession
Oft lacking in discretion
Retell of my confession;
And prosper from the tale.
In subtle, lurid poses
The scent of lilacs, roses
With lashes softly dozes—
Eloping, without fail.

The mem’ry of the linen,
Twisted, twirled and spinning
A touch is just beginning—
Release you from my Dream.
The curves I so recall
Of shadows on you that fall
How I yearned to have you all
Such kisses I would preen!

Ah Sex—elusive, fragile mate
‘Nother day, ‘nother fate
‘Nother sense of body quake;
Awaiting for the rapture.
Dowse the flame, another night
Has fallen to an empty plight
Perhaps tomorrow I just might
Have someone for a partner!
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Old 12-03-2010, 11:14 AM
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Default The Princess of Kosovo: A memoir by Paratrooper82

Kamenica, Kosovo in the summer of 1999 looked like any other Eastern European town from a distance: hundreds of crowded red-roofed homes idyllically surrounded by rolling green hills. A model display of serenity. Within the town, however, the obvious signs of recent tragedies quickly overwhelm the senses with disgust and pity: the smell of torched homes mixed with decaying animal carcasses; the sound of children kicking a soccer ball through glass, rubble and bullet casings; the sight of storefronts, concrete walls, and burnt-out vehicles spray-painted with Cyrillic slogans—all peppered with bullet holes. The excruciating atmosphere would've forced any reasonable person to quickly high-tail it back to the Macedonian border without looking back.

Most ethnic-Albanian owned structures in town received what the Serbian Army dubbed the “Sarajevo Shake”—a tank round directly blasted through the front door. Others were destroyed by masked Serbian neighbors living across the river, usually by resorting to the old-fashioned “torch-and-run” technique. Decaying animal carcasses had been stuffed down water wells, a ancient way of poisoning water supplies. Like most other towns and villages in Kosovo, Kamenica had just endured a vulgar war that had been waged on the population—a fanatical attempt to rid the Albanians from the Serbian province.


The population on the Albanian side of Kamenica was mostly made up of women and children. The majority of the men had been either been executed during midnight home invasions or killed fighting the Serbs in the mountains. Some men—if they were fortunate—escaped and were now working low wage jobs in other European countries. Boys, most of them younger than ten, stood around by the main road begging pedestrians for food in hopes of bringing a decent meal back to their mothers and younger siblings. It was a donkey-kick into adulthood and responsibility. Brutish-looking teens, male and female, prowled the streets and alleys in small gangs with contemptuous expressions; they were frequently seen bullying outsiders and returning refugees into buying black-market cigarettes and Macedonian beer. Even though the Serbian Army had returned to Serbia, and the paramilitary had taken off their masks and blended back into the population, the ramifications of post-war Kosovo was just beginning.

My platoon had taken over the town’s municipal building that was located on the main street in Kamenica Center. Conveniently, it was within eyesight of the Kamenica Bridge, the “clashing point” between the Albanian and Serb populations; tensions in town could easily be predicted by watching this man-made ethnic divide. Unlike most other buildings in Kamenica, the municipal building had been untouched by the war. Only a month prior to our arrival, it had been occupied by the Serbian mayor and his subordinates. Images of the defiant-looking Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, were still displayed in all of the offices. For my platoon, it was a pleasant upgrade from the rat-infested warehouse where we had just spent the last few weeks.

Our peacekeeping mission in Kamenica was simple but relentless; it turned out to be a vicious cycle that left us with little time for us rest. Long and apprehensive around-the-clock patrols, broken up by hours of guard duty, extracted all of our energy. Firefights between the two ethnic factions were a nightly certainty; deadly clashes that we had little power in preventing or stopping. The squad out on patrol would usually burst into the middle of the chaos like teachers responding to a playground braw, hoping to either chase away the combatants or arrest them. Most times, thankfully, the fighting would instantly cease when we were spotted, but occasionally the guns would turn on us.

Assassinations of politicians, war criminals, and zealous activists were also common. In the dawn hours we would sometimes ride around in a cargo humvee picking up bodies. A gruesome task, to say the least. Sergeant Armargo, known for his black humor in inconceivable moments, would sit up front and repeatedly shout the infamous line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “Bring out your dead!”


It was the humor that uplifted morale. One day, I remember, someone found a box of black Sharpie markers and thought that it would be a good idea to have a contest with the Milosevic pictures. Whoever could alter his photo the best would be awarded a week off from guard duty. The markers were distributed and everyone got to work. Images of the war criminal desecrated with absurd facial hair, demonic horns, and genitalia were proudly displayed in the main meeting room to await judgment day. The person selected to judge the contest was the local Albanian barber who used to come in once a week to buzz our hair. The platoon medic, Doc Rise, enthusiastically gloated for days that his “Milosevic Oompa Loompa” would, hands-down, be the winner. To back up this bold claim, he began taking people up on hefty bets. He even tried to bribing the barber. Finally the day came. The barber slowly walked back-and-forth studying each illustrated exhibit. He stopped at “The Sucker” portrait—a stern looking Milosevic creatively transformed into Mr. T—and broke out in a hysterical laughter. He declare it the winner and started doing his best “I pity the fool” impersonation in broken English. While everyone patted the grinning winner on the back, Doc Rise snatched up his picture, tucked it under his arm, and sourly stormed out of the room.

One moonlit evening outside of our quarters, I sat in a sandbagged guard post with Gus Canyon, an upbeat rodeo clown-turned-paratrooper from Kansas. Both of us kept an alert eye on the hustle and bustle of Kamenica’s main street—especially the bridge. It was getting dark, and we were preparing ourselves for the certainty of a firefight. Drunks passed by sputtering slurred Albanian phrases, offering us a swig from their bottles or a drag from their cigarettes. Mothers wearing short, scissor-cut skirts, who felt that selling themselves sexually was their only hope, attempted to put on a sophisticated strut as they passed by our post. Across the street, the usual group of children stood around harmlessly watching and mimicking us. Aside from the occasional attempts to sell us black market items, the kids left us alone. Sympathetically, we would often give them food. They would show their thanks with polite waves or nods. We always kept the little rascals back at a good distance. Nobody wanted to see the kids get hurt or killed if someone decided to take a shot at us.

It was then that I noticed an angelic young girl with a bashful, doll-like smile glaring at me. She was thin with short brown hair and was dressed in shabby, oversized clothes. Her left arm was cradled in a sling, which looked like it was made out of an old, stained T-shirt. I smiled back at her, pulled out a bag of M&M’s from my pocket, and walked across the street. She shyly accepted the gift with a little giggle and thanked me in Albanian. For the rest of the evening, she stood across the street admirably watching us. I thought nothing of it.

The days dragged on, and every day when we assumed our guard post, the cheerful little girl would be there waving and smiling at us. I would always have something for her, usually a candy bar or a small toy. I began to get a little curious about the girl and grew more concerned over the condition of her arm. One day I fetched Doc Rise and our Albanian translator, Zef. The three of us led her into the municipal building hoping Doc Rise could do something for her arm. She spoke to Zef for several minutes with little emotion, but I could tell by the look in his eye that it was a depressing conversation.

I knew everyone in town had a story, but this innocent little girl’s nauseating encounter with a local paramilitary death squad mercilessly tore through my heart like a dull jigsaw; little by little, each piercing detail slowly ripped out any little fortitude I had managed to retain in Kamenica. It was a story that had carried with me for a long time; a story that forced me into a low-grade depression for the remainder of my time in Kosovo. I couldn’t understand how someone so angelic and harmless could be tormented the way she had been.

Zef told me that the little girl, Majlinda, ran into her parents’ bedroom to tell them that she heard people downstairs. As her father tried to calm her down by telling her the noise was only a passing thunderstorm, three masked men barged into the room and shot him in the face. Covered with blood, she leaped onto her mother. One of the men picked Majlinda up and threw her against the wall, breaking her arm. Her mother was raped for twenty minutes while Majlinda was held down, screaming and kicking. When the men were finished, Majlinda ran over and embraced her mother. As the laughing men began to walk out of the room, one snuck back in and violently slashed Majlinda’s mother’s throat.

The next day, like clockwork, Majlinda was standing by our guard post smiling away at us with a fresh new sling, courtesy of Doc Rise. I noticed that she was holding a book, and I motioned that I would like to look at it. It was an Albanian written fairytale. She pointed to the cover that portrayed a young princess. She smiled for a few seconds and then pointed to herself. She wanted to be a princess. I handed the book back to her, and she ran along with a group of other young children.

As dusk approached that evening, and the fading sun began to disappear behind the green farming hills, sudden gunfire erupted down the road past the bridge. My squad was immediately ordered towards the ongoing battle. Serving as the patrol’s lead man, I walked at a brisk pace toward the sporadic gunfire. I panicked when I looked to my right and saw Majlinda. I motioned to her to go back, but she continued on with the squad. I began to shout at her, but she just kept smiling at me. I called Zef up to the front.

“Zef, tell this girl to beat it, will ya!” I shouted at him in my thick Boston accent. Without hesitation, Zef shouted at her. With a hurtful look in her small face, she began to walk back towards Kamenica Center. There was a possibility that we were walking straight into an ambush, and I wasn’t going to risk the chance of her getting shot.

The shooting had stopped minutes before we had arrived on the scene. In the middle of a field was the body of a man in his twenties. He’d been shot in the mouth, which made for a gruesome sight. His jaw was lodged in the back of his skull and a good amount of blood and mucus had been splattered on his white Adidas running suit. His face looked like a prop from of a horror movie. I thought of Majlinda and the final memories she must have had of her parents.

The next morning, our squad was tasked out to patrol the market. This was always a potential danger; it was the only time the two ethnic groups came together in conformity. Shootings, stabbings, and grenade attacks occurred frequently in Kosovo’s markets. In one booth, a sparkling blue princess dress caught my attention; I thought it would make a perfect gift for Majlinda. Maybe she could forgive me for snapping at her. For three American dollars, and a few side comments from my squad members, I purchased the dress. When I handed her the flashy dress, she was ecstatic. From that point on she would only be seen wearing that dress.

A week later we got the word that we were to hand Kamenica over to the Russian Army, a pro-Serbian/anti-Albanian force. The Russians had complained to NATO that they were being shunned and wanted a sector of Kosovo. Nervous to damage relations with Russia, NATO decided to sacrifice our peacekeeping efforts in Kamenica. The Albanians would once again live out their everyday lives in fear.

When Zef told Majlinda the news the night before our departure, she ran off in tears. I wasn’t the only one who felt horrible; she had grown on everybody in the company. The next day after we handed our posts over to a drunken Russian platoon, I began to look up and down the main street for her. I wanted to wish my little princess friend well, but she was nowhere to be found. A deep feeling of disappointment came over me when the time came to board the trucks. Suddenly, I noticed Majlinda running down the street, weeping and shouting to me in Albanian. When I jumped off the truck, she threw her good arm around me and handed me a picture of herself that included her parents. Majlinda was sitting on her father’s lap, both hands wrapped around her mother’s neck. Looking at the picture, it was obvious that Majlinda had gotten her big smile from her mother.


As the truck rolled out of Kamenica Center, she began to run along with it. I remember her sprinting as fast as she could, almost tripping on a curb. Eventually we picked up speed; I waved and waved until the teary-eyed little girl was out of sight. Taking a deep breath and feeling a lump at the back of my throat, I put on my sunglasses to hide my tears. I looked at the photo for a minute. When I flipped it around, in perfectly handwritten English, it read: “THANK YOU FOR MY FREEDOM!”

For my remaining time in Kosovo, I often thought about Majlinda. As depressed as I felt, she gave me a meaning to my duty in Kosovo. It was as if she suddenly went from being an actual living person to becoming a symbol of the innocent population of Kosovo, especially the children who were forced to grow up in that war-torn environment.

Eight years later, working as a correction officer in Massachusetts, I met a detainee who was being held for a faulty passport who was from Kamenica. Of course, the first person who came to mind was my little friend, Majlinda. Surprisingly, he claimed that he was good friends with her uncle. He even remembered the princess dress, along with the disappointment she felt when she outgrew it. He was just as shocked as I was. He couldn’t believe that I was the soldier who had given her the dress. He told me that she was doing very well and was preparing herself for a reputable academy in Italy.

That night when I got home, I pulled out my shoebox full of Kosovo pictures and quickly flipped through them. Finally, I found the photo I was looking for. It was Majlinda smiling behind a strand of barb wire. It was taken one evening at our guard post outside of the municipal center. She was standing with some other kids who were making funny faces. She had the same big smile that I remembered. Over the years, I would look at the picture and quickly put it back. It was too hard to take: the smile, the sling, the innocence. But this time I stared at it for a for a long time and reminisced: the long evenings when she would pleasantly stand across the street smiling and waving, her hopeful expression when she pointed to the princess on the book, and the exited smile she gave me when I gave her the dress. For the first time ever, I smiled back at the picture.
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