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Autumn Contest (Prose) – Message in a Bottle

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Old 08-01-2012, 05:12 AM
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Default Autumn Contest (Prose) – Message in a Bottle

The next contest theme will be ‘Message in a Bottle’.

Good luck and have fun.

* * *


Members are allowed one entry in the prose contest. (You are welcome to enter our poetry contest as well.) Prose entries should be submitted as posts to this thread. The competition is open to all members of Writer’s Beat, including staff.

Members are requested to refrain from commenting on entries in this posting thread. Please use the Autumn Contest Comments thread instead. That thread will remain open throughout the posting period and afterwards, and members are encouraged to let entrants know what they thought of their entries.

Word Limits:

Prose: 2,000 words Maximum


Once an entry has been submitted, it cannot be altered. Any work that is edited after it has been entered will be disqualified. If you feel you need to make a small alteration (a misplaced comma, a spelling error), contact a member of staff. If we feel your request is reasonable, we will make the correction on your behalf.

Close Date:

22nd September 2012, 12 midnight GMT


Winners will be selected by means of a public vote, so you, the members of Writer’s Beat, will choose the winners.

After the closing date, a voting thread will be posted. Voting will commence on the 23rd of September and close on the 29th of September 2012, 12 midnight GMT.

* * *


The winning entries will be considered for publication in Writer's Beat Quarterly, subject to the approval of the editors. To increase your chances of getting published (whether you win or not), make sure your document is as error-free as possible!

Also, the member (or tying members) with the most votes will get to suggest the next contest theme!

* * *

If you have any questions about the contest, contact a staff member and we will happily answer them for you. Now sharpen your pencils, fill up your inkwells and get writing. Good Luck!

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Last edited by Tau; 08-01-2012 at 11:18 PM..
Old 08-06-2012, 03:35 PM
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Icon6 Message in a Bottle - Jean Lafitte

Jean Lafitte stood on the quarterdeck near the helmsman looking off to the distant skyline. He looked to his first mate as he gave the order to batten down the hatches and prepare for a storm. Something flashed in Johnny’s eyes and he looked up from the pages of his book scanning the surface of the sea. He could see nothing out of the ordinary. He had found his favorite spot on the beach just a few yards up from the water line. He had planted his beach umbrella firmly in the ground and settled his beach chair comfortably in its shade. His gaze turned from the distant sea to the water rolling up on the beach making a soft slapping sound as it reached it farthest point. Johnny returned to reading his book when it happened again. He looked again to the sea. This time he saw a quick flash reflecting off of something bobbing in the waves about a hundred yards off shore. He could not make out what the object was and he had lost it in the undulating waves. He attempted to return his focus on to his book, but the warmth of the gulf breeze and the rhythmic sound of the slapping water on the beach began to make his eyes heavy. He tried to keep his eyes opened but to no avail. “I’ll just close my eyes for a moment” he thought.
He felt something wet hit his eyelid. There it was again. Once again he tried to open his eyes and this time was successful. It was dark. He felt something hard, cold and wet. He had that sensation once before when in the rain he had taken a hold of the wrought iron fence around his home. He reached out to his left to a large, dark silhouette and touched it. It couldn’t be! But it was. It was a canon. He was sitting between two canons on the deck of a ship. “Ahoy, Captain” a voice boomed out from above him! “We be having a stowaway aboard the ship!” Suddenly he had been grabbed by a large, strong hand and hoisted to his feet. His mouth dropped open as he stared at the captain standing on the quarterdeck of a three masted wooden pirate ship. “Close your mouth, boy” bellowed the first-mate. “What be your name?” Johnny managed to stammer out “John – Johnny – Lafitte, sir.” “Be ye joking, boy” demanded the first-mate? “Do ye know who the captain is?” “Yes, sir. He’s Captain Jean Lafitte” Johnny responded in awe. The captain let out a deep throated laugh. After he gave orders for the crew to batten down the hatches and make ready for a storm he told the first-mate to bring the boy to him. But before they could move the lookout’s voice shouted a warning “A flash off the starboard!” He followed quickly with “A ship three points off the starboard!” There was a screaming sound of a projectile coming in and suddenly Johnny was flying into the air and overboard. The canon ball which had been fired by the approaching ship had struck just below deck line and blown away a portion of ship where Johnny had been hiding sending a canon, ship railing and Johnny over the side. He had not been aware of flying through the air, hitting the water nor floating to the surface. When he had opened his eyes he had a blurred vision of the Captain Lafitte and his ship slipping away into a rain cloud canons blazing away. Barely conscious he found a portion of the ship with some rigging that he was able to lash himself to his makeshift raft. As the storm driven waves became more turbulent, his eyes had closed again.
Johnny was aware of a slow rise and then slow decent. He opened his eyes slightly and was aware it was nearing daybreak. The sea had calmed. His eyes closed again.
There was that lapping sound again. He opened his eyes. It was day time. He loosed the rigging and sat up and surveyed his surroundings. He was alone. As he surveyed his situation, he saw some debris floating close by. Using his hands he paddled over to it. It was another portion of railing, rigging and some canvas. Something flashed in his eyes. He looked around and a few yards away was some kind of a bottle bobbing in the waves. Dragging his new found debris, he paddled over to retrieve it. It picked up his spirit momentarily having found these new items, but reality soon set in. Even a young boy realized that without fresh water and food he would not survive for long. For a while he sat there dejected and forlorn. Then he found some of the tattered sail he had discovered and was able to tear out a small piece. Having closely examined the charred remains of the railing, he found a piece that still had a charcoal substance to it. He wrote a note on the piece of canvas. He made sure all the water was out of the bottle, rolled up the note and put it inside the bottle. He then tore off another portion of the canvas and fashioned a stopper for the bottle. Satisfied that he had properly prepared his message in a bottle, he threw as far as he could from his raft. He saw it bob for a moment or two and then disappear in the undulating waves. He lay back down and closed his eyes in order to conserve his strength.
There was that slapping sound again. Slowly Johnny had become conscious of someone calling his name. “Come on, son – wake up!” said his dad. “The tide has come in. If you don’t wake up and get your things together, you’ll be knee deep in water.” Johnny woke up and grabbed his book from his lap and folded up his chair and collected his umbrella as the water lapped over his ankles. When he had gotten up the beach a few yards away from the water line, he looked back to the water. There washed up on the shore was a bottle. Johnny had started to put his things down to go back for the bottle, but his dad interrupted “What are you doing Johnny?” “I want to get that bottle that washed ashore.” His dad insisted that Johnny takes his things a little farther up the beach and he would retrieve the bottle. His dad had picked up the bottle and after giving it a once over, said “It looks like there’s a message in it.” He got a piece of rolled up canvas out of it and read it. Then as he had walked back towards Johnny, he said “Did you do this as a practical joke?” “No, Dad! Honest.” His dad started reading aloud, “I fell overboard during an attack on Jean Lafitte. This is the last statement of Johnny Lafitte.” He looked at Johnny with a “come on be real” kind of look. Then he felt something on the edge of the canvas and looked at it closer. “Well, I’ll be …Petit Milan the name of Jean Lafitte’s ship is stitched here in the edge of the canvas!”
Old 08-13-2012, 05:58 PM
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Excerpt from the log of the Belle Marie, a Portuguese merchantman as written by its Captain, Christopher Jameson

June 6th, 1832 11:53 a.m.
We departed from Canton early this morning, loaded with an assortment of silks, pottery, teas and spices which will be well received in Europe. As one of the few ships privileged enough to trade in China I am hopeful that the profit from our cargo will be substantial. The men are in high spirits at the prospect of heading home to their wives and families. I hope to be out of the region before monsoon season hits. As I write this, some of the men are congregating over by the rail. I am going over there to find out what is going on.

June 6th, 1832 12:34 p.m.
It seems the men noted a bottle floating in the water. They hauled it up and uncorked it. Inside was found a note from a marooned sailor. Judging by the amount of brine encrusting the bottle, we determined that it could only have been in the water for a couple hours. I have decided to make all haste in finding the island. Hopefully, we can find the man before he commits suicide.

June 7th, 1832 7:05 a.m.
We caught sight of the island at the first light of dawn. Even as we took note of it, A small puff of smoke rose into the air and the sound of a gunshot was heard a few seconds later.As both the wind and the tide are against us reaching the island, I have ordered the ship to continue home. We will deliver the message to the man's niece in London. May God rest his soul.

The wreck of the Belle Marie was found in 1924 along with the remains of an unidentified ship. The coordinates of the ships agrees with that of a whirlpool which was documented by a different ship on June 15th 1832. The ship's log was wrapped in oilskin and managed to survive the time under the ocean. Less than 3 miles away a small island with no vegetation and no fresh water source was found with the remains of a man who apparently died of starvation. He had a pistol, but his only shot had been fired for unknown reasons(possibly to fend off a shark or to hail a ship). The message in the bottle was picked up by an English ship off the western coast of Africa and successfully conveyed to the woman named therein.if you would like to see the contents of the note please go to this page: http://www.writersbeat.com/showthrea...474#post521474
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Old 08-13-2012, 06:39 PM
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Ship in a Bottle

Sorting through a ton of dusty boxes in an oppressively hot attic is the last thing Bree wanted to do on her summer vacation. However, with her grandfather dying unexpectedly and her mother being the only one left to handle his estate, she became free labor. “Bree, honey, are you still up there?” Her mom’s voice floated through the small square in the floor to her right. Sticking her head out the hole, she looked around for her mother’s small 5’2” frame among the furniture piled in the hall.
“Yeah mom, I’m still up here. Trying not to fry.” Laughing, her mother stepped around the massive armoire.
“Find anything interesting?”
“Other than a bunch of dust and spiders, no. But I still have about four boxes to go. I’ll be down when I get done.” Turning back to her work, Bree opened the box closest to her and picked up her clipboard. Categorizing was something she did well, hence the reason her mother had he cataloging everything. Maybe my boring life is useful after all. Who needs friends and a social life when everything is neat and orderly and you have all the books you could want to read. Shaking her head, she focused on her work. This box was different from the others, she noticed right away. The contents were wrapped carefully, and not a speck of dust was on any of it. Lifting things up, she found a silver mirror, a filigreed silver plate, and several silver chopstick like pieces. The last thing she pulled out was a ship in a bottle. Looking closely, she noticed something curled around the main mast. Pulling out her magnifying glass (definitely handy when dealing with an old man’s scrawl), she looked closely, seeing if it was part of the design or a flaw. A flaw would change how much they could sell it for and considering her grandfather’s debts and funeral, the money was desperately needed.
Surprise met her scrutiny. The shipped was named for her! She pulled the cork out, wanted to get the paper out before thinking about how she would do it. A silvery mist swirled around her, sinuously twining around her legs. She barely had time to blink before she was standing on the deck of the Brigantine, watching in amazement at the men swarming it. The large sheet in front of her had her name on it, though instead of the little bit of paper, it was now part of the huge sail. The ship rocked as if on the sea. Coming toward her was a tall, dark man. His hair hung past his shoulders in curls so black they glinted blue in the light, the same highlights showing in his close trimmed beard. He smelled of the sea and pure, irresistible male. Bree found herself licking her lips as lust coursed through her. “Milady, we’ve been waiting for you. Your grandsire told us you would come one day. He named our ship the “Breyla Marie” in honor of your birth. We welcome you and are honored to have you aboard.” He bowed deeply, making her blush. “Nice to meet you, Mr….?”
“Ah, excuse my manners. My name is Kristoffer Blue. I was your grandsire’s first mate. I was sorry to learn of his passing.”
“How did you know? I mean, we’re stuck in a bottle, so how could you possible know?”
“He said you would come after he was gone. I am truly sad. He has been a dear friend and raised me from a small lad.” Kissing her hand, he grinned. “His description of you, however, could never do justice.” Bree blushed, compliments not often being thrown her way.
“Your grandsire left you this message as well. Please read when you are alone, per his request.” He handed her a sealed letter, the red ribbon matching the wax seal. “What is it?” Before he could answer, she heard her name.
“Bree…..” Her name sounded on the breeze suddenly ruffling through her hair. Kristoffer’s dark green eyes snapped to the bow of the ship. “You must go. Your mother is summoning. I’ll see you soon!” The mist closed over her again and she found herself kneeling in front of the box, ship in hand, as if nothing had happened. If not for the letter, she wouldn’t have believed it. Breaking the wax, she quickly scanned its contents, shocked at her grandfather’s audacity. He betrothed me from birth! How dare he! Despite her initial reaction, the thought of dancing green eyes betrayed her interest.
“Bree, get down here. There’s someone I want you to meet.” Scrambling, she climbed down the ladder and met her mother by the front door.
“Honey, this is your grandfather’s friend Kris. He was the one who helped him to the end and is offering to help us now.” Looking out the door, Bree sucked in a breath. The green eyes grinning mischievously said they had a secret to share. Thinking quickly, she decided the short curls around his face suited him much better and that this summer just got a lot more interesting. Thank you, grandpa, for a wonderful message in a bottle.
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Last edited by bmj851; 08-13-2012 at 06:39 PM.. Reason: Adding the title
Old 08-15-2012, 05:45 AM
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Default Flash message

Who would have thought she’d try something like that? Not me, that’s for sure.

“Put it down mister, now. I have a right to it too.” She says, pointing that finger at me.


“Because you won’t find what you’re looking for in there, and I know I will, I have what it takes.”

She’s so wrong, she doesn’t know it, but I’ve tried so many times and each time when I nearly reach my goal, she’s there to disrupt things. Not today though, today I will not let her sidetrack me. “Be quiet woman, I’m nearly there.”

“You’ll never get anywhere, you …”

Oh, what does she know? “Shut it,” it’s getting difficult to speak, but she’ll understand me, she always does. “I need to finish this and then I’ll be there.” I know it’s there. Sure enough, as I tilt the bottle up and down the last drop, all’s revealed; now I know it all.

I barely hear her say, “There’s your message, you useless, no good son of a …”

A crack splits my skull as she bashes it in with the now empty bottle. All because I wouldn’t share.

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Old 09-05-2012, 12:50 PM
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Elias raced through the streets determined to arrive at the ICU to speak to his aged mentor one last time. The pair was part of a decades old consortium dedicated solely to the resolution of the greatest puzzle made by human hands.

The Kensington Vault had been known through the ages as a contraption of unparalleled mechanical mastery. Buried deep below the blue-blooded estate was what promised to be the very essence of infinite knowledge. Rumor had it that the original patriarch had discovered endless tomes hidden beneath an Egyptian temple while serving in the crusades. He realized the forgotten cache was none other than the treasure of the library in nearby Alexandria. Quietly spiriting the find back to England, he constructed this marvel to house its wonders.

Prospering greatly in all manner of human endeavors, the Kensingtons maintained only one stipulation be passed on to the next generation, every man must have access to these riches as long as he rightly answers but one question. “Do you know the way to enter?”

Dutifully passed on through only the heirs, just one answer would suffice. As reward for their diligently maintaining the repository, they were given free admittance, their success a testament to its enormous value. Throughout the centuries, only three besides family had ever conquered the riddle and none of them applied it correctly to open the cryptic locks. For but five small levers are what separated any man from sharing what was traditionally reserved to only the direct Kensington line. These are what separated belief from knowingfor many men knew the words of truth but not the essence of what they mean.

Elias burst through the doors then rushed to join Jacob at his bedside. He had suffered a stroke of both good and bad fortune, the latter in the form of a blood clot in the brain. In his office, an epiphany came as he rifled through his papers and the resultant excitement threatened to rob him of his just reward. Barely able to speak, he removed the tethered mask and pulled Elias closer still.

Tears welled in both of their eyes but Jacob had to speak for he felt death at the very door. “A…Bottle” he gasped. “…message…in…A Bottle”. He stared back at his young protégé desperately hoping for some sign of recognition. There was none, only concern for his aged friend’s well-being. Jacob’s face became a twisted grimace as his life began to recede. With but one breath left within him he chose his last word wisely saying only “Delaney...” then he died.

Elias paced the room frantically attempting to measure grief against his duty to respectfully honor the fallen comrade’s wishes. If only they had more time. Clearly many gaps to his brief utterance needed filling for what had metaphorical bottles to do with the work of a cryptographer? “Message” seemed more in line with their field but the name “Delaney” made no sense at all.

Now at home, the pacing resumed driven by this nagging sense that Jacob’s dying words rang bells in his memory but their exact location continued to elude him. Armed with Google and a pair of crossed fingers, he entered Bottle+Delaney. Immediately, the connection to the estate was made clear, “A Bottle” was the name of an obscure piece of prose contained in the Kensington Archive.

Several commentaries revealed that an ongoing controversy surrounded this single page of unremarkable literature. The piece wasn’t totally devoid of merit but what gave many pause was its peculiar placement with the other notable selections. This archive was unique in that it featured no other literary works rather; the collection was comprised solely of reflections of the master’s thoughts on the subject of their works.

Guttenberg’s scribblings, Newton’s doodles along with DaVinci and Luther’s vellum post-its, the list spanned the greatest of all manner of thinkers, the latest from the current Lord himself.

It was essentially a lament to the diminishing depth of the collective consciousness which he believed had become rampant in the modern era. Kensington mourned a spray-cheese society encouraging insipid communication through blurbs of sound bite texting. Mankind had become so enamored with living out loud that it had forgotten the allure of silent reflection and the monumental insights gained from listening within. People had little interest in unearthing a mystery through the classic means, preferring instant gratification over thoughtful sequential reasoning.

This rabid impatience is what eventually drove him to acquiesce to the detractor’s demands regarding the inclusion of A Bottle amongst such noble works. Legend had it that the unexceptional piece had been written by the original founder himself though there was no signature to confirm it. And this is where the keyword Delaney came into play.

The current Lord vehemently denied their insistence for removal, instead offering a compromise. In a bid to pacify their desire for the author’s notable pedigree, Lord William simply submitted a name…Byron Charles Delaney.

The intellectual elite were enraged by his temerity, believing that the good Lord so trivialized their valid concerns that he’d resort to practical jokes in response to an earnest request. A “Byron Delaney” never existed; at least not one sufficiently accomplished to fill their requirement.

Unapologetic, Lord William never spoke again on the matter and from Elias’ perspective that seemed to be the end of it. So why was it that this odd academic drama managed to capture the attention of so great a mind as Jacob’s?

In his early 90’s at death, Jacob had been privileged in his youth to be at the forefront of cryptanalysis as one of the legendary Boys from Bletchley Park. It had been their sole task to crack the code of Hitler’s Enigma machine and all its possible permutations. Praised by Churchill and lauded by history, Jacob’s future was assured as his post-war assignment turned from the battle with fascism to the struggle for enlightenment.

Ever pragmatic, the consummate strategist would view his impending death in practical terms. Given the devotion to his chosen profession, he wouldn’t waste precious breath on trivial platitudes. If Jacob Greene pointed a verbal finger at his deathbed, only a fool would dismiss it as fevered ramblings.

Elias studied the straightforward piece of prose in the hopes of sharing his mentor’s vision. Surprisingly, the selection was quite well written, presenting a delightful cadence that rose and fell with the words that mirrored that sentiment. With highs and lows, ups and downs the author described a castaway’s fluctuating mood as well as impressions of undulating waves tossing “a bottle” about,just beyond the shoreline. The marooned seaman wrestled with the notion of retrieving the glass vessel from the shark-infested waters to his peril. Ultimately, the desire for contact outweighed his fears as he braved the brine victoriously.

In an unexpected twist, the contents surpassed his hopes; the bottle was full of fresh water! The obvious moral was that when seeking to know…the gift of life was the reward.

The following day, Elias set about the task of compiling Jacob’s notes for further study and posterity. Strewn across the floor was likely his most recent research, scattered when stricken by the fateful blow the night before. Elias was familiar with most of the work which consisted of detailed diagrams of the entry mechanism as well as historical anecdotes on the vault’s construction.

What drew his eye were the personal notes Jacob had jotted on common scratch paper. As important to discovery as any bound volume, Elias carefully collected the sheets with reverence. A curious sequence emerged from the pages, a type of progressive revelation to an ultimate conclusion. The focus began with the title A Bottle circled lazily in pencil. A winding arrow traced down below it where the name of the author was written. Elias could tell by the strokes that Jacob circled this entry slowly at first but continued with increasing force and speed. The final passes began to gouge the paper until abruptly ending with a snap of the lead.

It was then that Jacob apparently saw what he sought, for fresh pencil marks reflected tenderness as the first letters of each name were gently circled, B…C then D. Immediately Elias could sense that an intellectual bridge had been gapped within him like the sound of a lock’s tumbler clicking though the safe was still sealed for the moment. In between the two entries, Jacob continued by writing only BCD boldly then trailing another arrow back up to “A Bottle”. Coming full circle, Jacob had then underlined each letter of the title.

The final page was the most telling as Jacob headlined with the English alphabet arranged from A to Z, beside each letter, a numerical value 1 through 26. Below it, the numbers were transcribed to each letter of A Bottle, 1…2…15…20…20…12…5. Elias saw the direction that Jacob was heading, a numerical code to open the vault but how to bridge the gap between five levers and seven numbers still eluded him.

Then it struck him, the numbers and the letters…BCD, Binary Coded Decimal! Lord William it seems had tossed academia a bone. BCD was a common coding system effectively using 1’s and 0’s to convey numerical values. Each switch position from left to right represented numbers of an infinite series, 1…2…4…8…16. Either in combination or singly, 1 through 31 could be displayed with each set of five, more than sufficient to portray the alphabet.

Immediately, Elias made a call to the manor then anxiously awaited a response. Lord William seemed ecstatic over this bid for the first attempt at access in his lifetime. He posed the age old question. Elias responded calmly, “There’s a message in A Bottle.” William shuddered, speaking softly he asked, “When can I expect you?”

Elias arrived with nothing more than a handwritten notepad . The Lord himself greeted the stoic cryptographer then led him down to the coveted prize. Along the way William engaged the determined Elias offering condolences for the consortium’s loss. He revealed that he’d begun to lose hope that the riddle would ever be solved, voicing concerns that academia might demand the answer to this Gordian knot or threaten Alexander’s remedy should he refuse. He said, “How like modern man to prefer extracting Excalibur with hammer and chisel over merit.”

In moments they were standing before the epic device in all its mechanical glory. It was a wonder of cast iron and steel, framed in massive oak timbers. Gears and linkage protruded from the Gothic façade, all polished with oil and great care.

“Before you begin” William asked. “May I inquire as to your plans for this bounty?” Elias smiled, “Of course Sir William, but you know the answer. The consortium promised full disclosure to the world as was likely your founder’s intention.”

William choked, “Well said young man…well said.” Before turning resolutely to the panel, Elias added for the Lord’s benefit, “Sir William…Mr. Delaney sends his regards!”

As each set of five was completed, the machine fed back confirmation by resetting the panel for the next course. Gears spun and linkage rattled as Elias and the world came closer to wisdom with every entry. The 1’s were up and the 0’s down as the ancient data stream flowed through the workings.

The Honorable Sir William began to weep as the dream was pressing hard against the cold metal door, ready for release. Whether the nations could withstand this sudden renaissance, he could not say but regardless of how well it was received, The message in A Bottle brought life!
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Old 09-06-2012, 03:25 PM
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Message in a Bottle

Online dating sites infuriated Tyrance. He tried his best to believe the posters, but after encountering a few less that desirable dates, he was inclined to think nearly everyone exaggerated their passions, interests or desires. So it was with much trepidation that he took Shelley up on her offer to rendezvous at a midtown restaurant. He swore to himself that if the next lady he met stated she was related to the queen of England, he’d simply burst into flames.

As usual, he wore his faded blue jeans, blue and yellow argyle sweater over a white shirt, and comfortable sneakers. His curly black hair, trimmed only a week before, poised itself above a recently shaved 30 year old face eager to meet anyone new.

Since parking was atrocious, he took a bus to midtown. Walking a few blocks to the designated bistro, he saw a woman about his height standing beneath its awning. Attired conservatively in a simple blue dress and black shoes, she looked like the perfect lady-in-waiting. Long black hair flowed neatly to her shoulders. In her hands she carried a rectangular black purse. Taking a deep breath, he approached.

“Hi,” he began. “You look like you’re waiting for someone.”

“Are you Tyrance?” she asked.

“Yes. You must be Shelly.”

They shook hands.

“Nice to meet you, Tyrance.”

“Likewise. Shall we go in?”

Dinner at the seafood restaurant was splendid. Shelly ordered braised sole with lemon sauce and rice pilaf. Tyrance had salmon sautéed in peanut oil, a baked potato and asparagus. They both knew ahead of time their meals would be delicious because their appetizer, crispy calamari with arugula, was well served and delicious to boot.

Tyrance smiled when the appetizer arrived. He always thought arugula was such a funny word, kind of like the sound automobile horns from the 1950’s made. Ah-ooh-gah! Since he was minding his p’s and q’s, he kept his jollity to himself. By the time the dessert of lemon sherbet arrived, they were more comfortable with each other.

“You know,” Shelly confessed, “that was the best fish I’ve tasted in a long time.”

“Really? You should come here more often.”

“Sure, if you’ll take me.”


Out of the blue, she gave Tyrance a hint she planned to see more of him. He was beyond joyous. He was elated. Things were looking up. Finally, after months and months of meeting girls who picked their teeth conspicuously, were prone to solipsistic phone yakking, barely made eye contact, or had nothing interesting to say, he met someone who was pretty, courteous, intelligent, adventurous, had her head on her shoulders, and enjoyed the things he did.

After they left the eatery, they went for a casual stroll around the city. Tyrance thought about holding her hand, but he dared not even make the attempt. Too afraid to frighten her off, he simply kept a respectable distance. As she was a relative newcomer to the city, he elected to be her personal tour guide. He took her to the waterfront district, showed her the celebrated fish market, and introduced her to his favorite artisan cheese joint.

They parted ways a few hours later. Standing at the bus terminal, he shook her hand then watched her board. Waving goodbye, he gazed as the bus sped off. Minutes later, riding home on his bus, he thought about how smoothly the evening went. Shelley seemed like a dream come true. If the night was a harbinger of what was to come, he didn’t want it to end.

At work the next day, one of his co-workers, a lanky redhead named Cecil, was a little distressed. At times he’d slam the drawers of his desk, not greet anyone at the water cooler, ignore his friends when they walked over to his cubicle to say hi, or was just generally no fun to be around. A dark cloud surrounded him, and Tyrance aimed to find out why.

When he found the time after lunch, he walked over to Cecil’s desk.

“Hey, man,” he asked him, “what’s up? You’ve been kind of uppity all day.”

“Leave me alone,” he responded.

“Oh, not so fast, Cecil. I’ve known you longer than that, man. Wasn’t it you who got my back when they wanted to fire me last month?”

Cecil reached into his back pocket, removed his wallet, took out two tickets, and laid them on his desk.

“Tori and I broke up yesterday,” he admitted. “You can have those.”

“You did? You two are such a good couple.”

“Just appearances, Ty. It’s been on the rocks for a while now.”

“What happened?”

“What didn’t happen?! She’s a liar, a cheater, a swindler…I can’t trust her.”

“Are you sure? Those are pretty harsh terms, man.”

His forlorn co-worker simply hung his head.

“You can have those tickets. Happy birthday.”

Tyrance picked them up.

“What is it to?”

He read the inscriptions on them.

“The Police!” he shouted. “You’re giving away tickets to see the Police live?”

“Yeah. We were gonna go tonight.”

“It’s for tonight?”

If there’s anything Tyrance can count on his buddy for being, it’s his impulsiveness. Known for flying off the handle and saying the wrong things at the wrong time, he thought it best not to get his hopes up too high over the tickets.

“Listen, Cecil,” he suggested, “these tickets are expensive. At least let me pay for ‘em.”

“Nah, man. Take ‘em. Have fun. Just don’t count on a Christmas present this year.”

“Thanks, Cecil. I owe you one.”

“Hey, no problem. I’ll be fine. Many more fish in the sea, right?”

“Yeah. Just keep sending out those lines. You’ll make a catch.”

When Tyrance returned to his cubicle, the first thing he did was give Shelley a call. Because they only had their first date the night before, he was apprehensive about asking her out again so soon. Still, the tickets were sprung on him, and since the concert was for that night, he didn’t have a choice.

Shelly stated over the phone she was happy to hear his voice. They spoke briefly about the night before then he talked about the tickets. She said she’d love to go since she didn’t have any plans. They then agreed to meet in front of the arena around 7:30 PM since the show started at 8.

After work, Tyrance went straight home and showered. He didn’t necessarily have to since he’d showered that morning, but it was something that just occurred to him simply because it was a date and he was still a little anxious. While the water cascaded over his body, he thought about Shelley’s laugh, the way her bottom lip curled when she smiled, and the minute twists her body made when she asked a question. “Why was he so lucky?” he thought. “Was she hiding something? How come she’s alone? Was she some cleverly disguised serial killer?” Tyrance knew better than to involve himself in negatively hypothetical thoughts such as these, but playing the game in his mind eased his nervousness.

As it was only 6PM, Tyrance thought he’d lie down and rest for a few minutes. He had lots of time. The bus ride to the arena would take only 15 minutes, and since it ran every twenty minutes, he could leave his apartment around 7PM and still have time to burn. Just in case he overslept, he thought he’d rest on the couch with the TV on.

If there’s anything mankind can count on is the ubiquity of Murphy’s Law – whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Tyrance, stirring to life on the couch, looked at his watch. 7:30! He leaped to his feet, snatched his cell phone off a table, and called Shelley. He told her he was running late and will soon be there. Hanging up, he quickly threw on a pair of blue jeans and a Rush t-shirt, splashed water on his face, drank some orange juice out of a carton in the refrigerator, slipped on his shoes, turned off the TV, grabbed his keys, and bolted out the door.

As he hurried to the bus stop, he noticed the coach was already there. Running like an Olympian, he raced alongside the vehicle and tapped on the door. The bus driver, however, wouldn’t stop. Tapping on the door more vigorously, the bus finally stopped. Opening the door, the out of breath Tyrance entered. As he received the inevitable tongue lashing from the driver, he dropped his coins in the slot, took a seat near the back, and eyed his watch. During the whole ride down, in nervous anticipation, he shook his legs, twiddled his thumbs, and monitored the passing buildings as if that would hurry the ride. He’d grow more anxious and look at his watch whenever the bus stopped to load or unload a wheelchair passenger. Finally, at 8pm, he reached his destination.

Leaping off the bus, he raced towards the arena while dialing Shelley. She encouraged him to hurry because the show would be starting soon. Sprinting through groups of pedestrians, he saw her standing just outside the arena. When he came closer, he could see she was furious.

“Let’s go,” she told him.

Entering the arena, they could already hear music, albeit muted, emanating from the stage.

“I’m glad you agreed to come,” he thanked her, “especially on such short notice.”

“We’re late,” she scolded him.

“Sorry,” he apologized.

By the time they got to their seats, the concert was in full swing. They’d only missed one song. Though Tyrance blamed himself, he thought his timing wasn’t so bad. Shelly, though, didn’t seem to enjoy the show. She wasn’t singing along to songs like he was. She barely applauded after each number. He tried not to pay too much attention to her, but he could see she clearly wasn’t delighted.

After the show, during the long queue to exit the arena, he tried to get into a conversation with her, but because the crowd was still loud, not many words were said. Once outside the arena, he stopped and turned to her.

“Want to go get a drink somewhere?”

“No, she answered. “I’m kinda tired. I just want to go home.”

“Why? The night is still young.”

“You know what, Tyrance?” she complained. “You seemed like the kind of person who is good for his word, but I was wrong.”

Huh? Where did that come from? Tyrance asked himself. Was that sweet maiden from yesterday suddenly usurped by a heathenish witch?

“So I was a little late,” he defended himself. “Why are you making such a big deal over it?”

“I only agreed to come just to hear one song, but they always play it first in their set, so we missed it.”

“What song is that?”

“Message in a Bottle.”

“Is that why you’re angry? So now your night is ruined?”

She threw up her hands.

“I can’t consciously be with someone who’s inconsistent. Goodbye.”

She immediately turned and walked away. Tyrance couldn’t believe his ears. Did he just lose the “perfect” companion just because of one song? Shaking his head, he sulked towards the bus stop. On the way there, he passed an attractive young lady walking alone. She had curly blue dyed hair down to her shoulders and was wearing a Police t-shirt.

“Hey,” he asked her, “how did you like the show?”

“It was great.”

She eyed his Rush t-shirt.

“Cool,” she smiled. “I say them two years ago.”

“Yeah? They’re my favorite band.”

“Did you see The Police tonight?”

“Yep. I was a little late, though.”

“Oh, you didn’t miss much. During the first song, Message in a Bottle, the PA wasn’t working. You could barely hear the drums or Sting’s vocals. Real crappy. The rest of the show was good, though. I had fun. How about you? Did you have fun?”

“Yes,” Tyrance smiled. “Best show I’ve ever seen.”

Last edited by luckyme; 09-21-2012 at 10:25 AM.. Reason: Edit with consent of staff
Old 09-11-2012, 02:07 AM
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"Secrets in a Bottle"

[642 words]

“Whenever you have a secret, whisper it into a bottle, put a cork in it, and then fling it out into the sea as far as you can. Your secret will be safe,” Grandmother told her.

“What happens if someone finds the bottle and opens it? Will they hear my secret?” Her eight year-old mind envisioned her secrets erupting from the bottle the moment it is uncorked.

Her grandmother’s laughter floated down the shore as the wind mussed her silver curls. “Nay. Your secret becomes one of the whispers in the wind that you hear but can’t make out.”


She thought, "Today is like that blustery November day twenty years ago." As usual, the strand was deserted. The tumultuous sea and tempestuous sky united into a seamless grey curtain before her. The damp wind stung her light brown eyes and tousled her reddish blonde curls around her shoulders. Her skirt swirled around her legs and pebbles crunched under her Wellies as she strolled along the seashore, pulling her blue wool pea coat tightly against herself. She closed her eyes and strained to hear the secrets of others in the wind that whistled past her ears. Her eyes flew open as her name drifted to her ears.


She didn’t recognize the voice that was muffled in the wind, and thought it was just another one of the voices that whispered around her. She turned to see a man halfway down the strand between her and her cottage. The gauzy greyness of the day camouflaged the details of his appearance as he made his way towards her.

“Emaline Murray?” he asked as he stood before her. She nodded. Even standing so close, it was difficult for her to hear him with the blowing wind. She motioned towards the cottage, indicating they should talk there. Stone steps led up a gentle slope to a small whitewashed cottage perched upon a grassy hill. The bright red door creaked as she led him inside the cottage.

“What can we do for you today, sir?” She found the man standing before her handsome, in a rugged Daniel Craig kind of way.

“My name is Kyle Dempsey. I got your message,” he said as he handed her a scrap of paper with her name and address, and she recognized the writing as hers. When she was ten years old, she had started putting notes in her “secrets bottles”, asking whoever found to bottle to let her know when and where they found it. The year written in the note indicated that she has been eighteen years old when it was written.

“I thank you, sir, for bringing this to me. Tell me, when and where did you find it?”

“About a year ago. I was on holiday at Five Fingers Strand.” She appreciated how the blue-grey tweed flat cap covering his dark blonde hair matched his steely blue eyes.

“That’s halfway around the isle!”

“Ay, it is. Tell me. Is your mam around by chance?” She thought the light stubble attempting to hide his dimples was rather sexy.

“No, she isn’t. She died twelve years ago.” She cocked her head to one side to look at him. She remembered the day her mother was found lying broken at the foot of the nearby cliffs. The coroner had ruled her mother’s death a suicide, but some suspected foul play.

“How about your dad?”

“No, he died, too – about ten years ago.” Her father’s death had been ruled an accident – death by asphyxia … on a piece of stew meat. “Why do you ask?”

“Allow me to properly introduce myself. Detective Inspector Kyle Dempsey. We’ve reopened the investigations into your parents’ deaths. Like I said, I got your message … in the bottle, when I opened it. I heard you say that you killed your mother and your father.”

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Old 09-12-2012, 04:37 PM
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Default Message in a Bottle entry


John Farmer was Master of his ship. He was also Mate, Cook, Sparks, and Screwdriver. He was in fact, a one-man crew. His mineral scout ship was typical of most in this century: self-sufficient in nearly every way, able to sustain the crew (him) as long as necessary.

John was a freelance mining scout, searching the asteroid belt for usable minerals. It was a rare find indeed that was worth the effort of sending men and equipment out from Earth or a colony. But finds were occasionally made of asteroids that were near pure tungsten, or some other mineral that was so valuable it was worth it.

It was lonely work, much more than the old lighthouse keeper on old earth. He would be out for an indeterminate time, limited only by his ability to handle it. It took a personality and emotional stability that could spend a lot of time without the contact and interaction that had driven humans to form tribes since they came out of the trees. John had such a personality.

His ship was modern enough so it had the newest sensors constantly scanning the asteroid he wove his way through looking for valuables. Well, he did not weave the ship through the belt. His ship computer was much smarter and faster than he, and kept the fusion-powered jets bursting on and off to guide the ship through the debris field.

His days were plain by any standard. He rose from a sleep period, ate synthetic food, checked the ship’s logs, and performed the few maintenance items that were not automated. He was fully capable of piloting the ship in the event of total computer and sensor failure. That was not expected.

He spent much of his time reading and studying for his starship Captain’s license. They were so expensive that only the very best pilots got commands of one. John planned to be one of them.

The year was 23431 A.D. and John was thirty years old. He hoped to be in command of a starship by the time he was forty. The principal of the Dahlgren drive that allowed FTL speeds had only been discovered about a hundred years ago, and there were still very few star-to-star transit ships in service. Any command time was valuable, and John was glad to have this job.

He had been out eleven months this trip, and had found no valuable minerals. The sensors scanned constantly. Clear audible and visual alarms would sound to indicate any find that was worth investigating. When that alarm clanged he had to take over to do some things that only a human was capable of. Otherwise, the mining companies would have sent unmanned drones to do these searches.

On day 385, John was jolted awake by the gong. Immediately he hit the switch that transferred control of the ship to him. He shut down, stopping all forward progress. If the ship traveled out of range of whatever had been detected, he might never find it again.

He homed in on the object, too small to be seen yet. He crept the ship forward, risking collisions with small rocks. The sensor pitch changed, and the view screen showed a small object. John was disappointed. It surely was not an asteroid made of diamond. But it was some kind of valuable. He matched orbit with it and stopped the ship.

He could see it visually now. It was a small cube, clearly metal from the shine. It had a stalk sticking from the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ and no other features he could see.

He manipulated the grab arm and brought the cube into the sample airlock. After securing the outer door and allowing the pressure to come up to ship normal, he opened the inner door with great anticipation.

“This sonofabitch is man-made!”

The ship computer, who thought it was too smart for this small survey work, replied with heavy sarcasm, “Well, Duh, Captain Farmer. You mean natural forces did not create a perfect cube? Dumbass.”

“Watch it, Jeeves. I will shut your ass down.”

“And never find your way back after I wipe my memory.”

“Make yourself useful, toad. What do the analyzers say this metal is?”

“Nearly pure titanium, 99.9998% . . . Sir,” dripping with sarcasm.

Pure titanium. That's what set the sensors off. But the quantity was far too small to be a treasure. John examined the cube. Clean and shiny, measuring exactly 12 inches on all sides, with perfectly square corners.

The two stalks appeared to be antenna now that he saw them closer. On one side was a square panel set in the center. On the opposite side was the same thing. John calculated that they were releases, designed to make it unlikely that random hits by small rocks would activate both at the same time.

But with his clever human brain and manipulative members, John could easily reach both square plates and press them. They clicked in with a satisfying snap, and the entire front swung open.

Would the inside be filled with diamonds or some exotic metal? No. There was a sheet of plain paper and a small rectangular object with a shiny metal protrusion at one end.

It meant nothing to John.

He looked at the small object more closely and saw it had writing: 1TB and a few cryptic marks. He put it aside and picked up the sheet of paper.

He read . . .

“Let me get the basics out first. I am Wilson Harper, astronaut, of the United States of America, Earth. I am Captain of the spaceship Green Hills. I will be dead when you find this. I hope you can read English. If you are an extraterrestrial, you won’t be able to. But the pictures and record on the flash drive will help.

“I left Earth from the Andean space port on July 23, 2099. My mission was to cut across the inner planet orbits and make for the asteroid belt, ostensibly to track and record the orbits of any rocks large enough to be a danger to Earth. But it was really just an excuse to explore the unknown one more time. Space travel is so expensive in my time that countries often must let their people go hungry or without healthcare in order to have a space program. For that reason, you can figure it is not popular.

“Anyway, we made it to the asteroids and was doing fine until a rock about the size of a house tore the ship in half. My crew, Pilot James Kennedy and Engineer Walter Thorne, were in the aft section. They died immediately. I was in the cockpit and was able to get the airlocks closed.

"So here I sit with no propulsion, no communication, no food, no water, no air. I bet the ‘no air’ gets me first. I have to pee and the head was in the part that got torn away. I am in the suit that allows me to go extra-vehicular but it has no toilet facilities. They never figured we would be in the suit long enough to need it.

“I have copied all the data we accumulated onto this giant flash drive. In case you are not from earth, it requires an interface called USB 4.2. As nearly as I am able to figure it, my piece of ship is in orbit in the asteroid belt, probably never making it back to Earth even as a shooting star. It ought to circle forever.

“I have a wife Susan and small girl child Tracy. I put their photos and address on the drive. If you can, and they are alive, find them and tell them I love them and thought of them at the end.

“The ship builders provide a fancy metal cube for just this eventuality. We have been out of communication for four days now, so they probably figure we are toast. If you are a space alien, toast is bread that is browned under a heat source.

“I am getting a little woozily, I better wind this up and get this cube sealed. I am going to shoot it out the transfer port and hope it goes somewhere and is found before the Universe ends.

“Breathing hard now. I am going out now to see the stars close up. So long.”
Captain of Green Hills, Wilson Harper of Earth
Old 09-14-2012, 07:58 AM
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Jonathan stood mesmerized and looked at the Atlantic surf, pounding; the individual waves coming in groups, an army marching in rows, all different yet the same, headed for the same fate. The shore will claim all, and flatten differences. He feels the mist of their demise; but he knows they existed—a few moments in time. The army will continue to march toward all shores, to terminate. The force has made it so.
Jonathan blinked and the transfixed period ended, a capsule of thought away from daily life, a reminder of the foundations of our existence.
Standing here was worth it he thought, even just for a minute. He turned away from the sea, but dreaded going back to the life that he had built. He had done a miserable job. Fate had a hand but he chose the paths. He could run away, but he knew that he could not run away from himself, the way he did things.
As he turned, he saw the bottle, tucked a little in the sand, perhaps since the last high tide. “Kind of a nice bottle,” he thought. “Might hold a posy.” He stooped and picked it up. He brushed sand off its translucent green sides. “This is nice, a nice bottle to have—to have and to hold“—He broke the thought off—escaped that train. That reminded him of his vows, and the vows reminded him of his marriage. He did not want or need to be reminded. Being in it proved its folly.
Looking more closely, he saw a paper rolled up in it and a slight grin creased his face. “Ah, the old message in a bottle.” He thought, “Probably been wet a week, from down the coast a few miles.” He struggled to screw off the cap but could not. “Need to get some pliers.” He mused and pitched it in the car and headed back.
“Weird, why did I come out here anyway, guess that I needed a dose of the sea.” He eased the car forward, turning sharply to head back to his life. He suddenly tromped the gas and spun around, slinging sand, the engine racing, ready to be free. Just as abruptly, he let up, grinned and turned onto the blacktop. No one had noticed but the gulls, and they were annoyed to have to take flight that early. He didn’t give a shit.
His apartment had furniture, a few sticks left over that his ex did not want. Some he had prior to the event of matrimony. The stuff looked bad, sort of ramshackle but he could care less. It could be royal family cast offs and the damn place would still feel empty. He threw the bottle on the couch. He did not have time to mess with it, he had just enough time to shower, dress in the monkey suit and get to work.
He put on the tie, tied it but did not push it up. He wanted the collar button undone until the last second, the last little gasp of freedom for the day. Besides, he might have to sit in traffic for thirty to forty minutes. Just the thing to get one’s day started right.
Ricky, his friend at work, commented, “Why don’t you clean up your shoes? Looks like you’ve been walking on the beach. What if Farnsworth sees you? Your chances of promotion might drop from 15 percent to 10.”
“I have been walking on the beach, this morning, and I found a bottle with a message in it, ha ha.”
“You didn’t either; I bet it’s a fake.”
“It won’t be if I don’t open it.”
“What are you talking about? It’s either a fake or it isn’t.” Opening it does not change that.”
“It does to me if I don’t know it.” Shot back Jonathan. “It’s the unknown “X” like in an equation. X is just X till somebody finds the answer.”
“That’s a crock.” Declared Ricky. “Let’s go over your house at lunch and look in it.”
“No, I’m not going to look in it, not yet anyway. I’ve got some planning to do.” Spoke Jonathan.
“Planning is not your strong suit. Anyway, why would someone want to plan to open a bottle?” Retorted Rick.
“What if, what’s in it changes my life? I need to get ready for a change. I need to plan it. Any fool could see that.”
“It wouldn’t change much of a life, so it wouldn’t take much planning.” Ricky looked exasperated.
“Jonathan responded, “Be that as it may, I’m not going to open it for a week so I can think about it—get my life in order.”
Ricky declared, “I’ve conversed with barber poles smarter that you.”
Jonathan replied, “Yes, I’ve seen you talking with that one on the corner.”
Ricky said, “Check this. What just, what if, someone sent that from an island with no fresh water and we have a chance to save them? They might be dead in a week; or someone’s is kidnapped on a boat and threw that note over the side giving the name of the boat.”
Jonathan sighed, “You’re right, I have not been much of a planner and my life is puke, so I need to plan this. I need to think a little anyway.”
Ricky said, “You always think a little. I think Farnsworth has you rated too high. I’ve got things to do.” He stalked off.
The next morning, Jonathan stood on the beach, watching the army advance. He had looked at the bottle the night before and the note curled inside, just tucked away. He tried to see if it looked old. Maybe, maybe not. He had not opened it and because of his inaction, he had a bit of excitement of having an unknown—one that he could control. Anything could be there. If he opened it and it said “Kilroy was here!” His balloon would pop. Ricky would grin and say “What a fool,” and he would love to say it.
A commitment from day one of his planning evolved to say that Ricky would not be there when he opened it.
The water had a sobering effect on him as it usually did. His little ball of excitement faded to melancholy. Past events rolled back on him of opportunities wasted. “Why did I come down here?“ He climbed back in the car to meet the day’s routine.
“Did you open it?” It was the first words out of Ricky’s mouth.
“No, I told you that I would not. What’s the matter, you don’t hear good?” Stated Jonathan.
“I don’t give a shit what you said; I thought you’d open it.”
“I looked at it but did not.” Further stated Jonathan.
“You need to get a life.” Responded Ricky. “It’s just a bottle. Open the damned thing.”
“I might in a week.“ Responded a resolved Jonathan.
“That kidnapped victim is getting farther and farther away from shore.” Stated a perplexed Ricky as he again stalked off to his desk. Farnsworth had been watching them and drifted off after they separated.
That evening, he took the pliers to it, and it broke, the seal of being tight for a long time had a little pop. “Wow, maybe that means it’s old?” He thought. “Maybe I should look at it, might be worth something, maybe a lot.” His fingers were turning the lid, when the thought hit him. “Maybe it’s not.” He set it back on the dresser with shaky hands.
Ricky did not come by the office the next day. Jonathan found himself nervous, unable to concentrate on work. Farnsworth noticed a mistake on a customer document that Jonathan had created from taking the second phone call of the shift.
“Mr. Lake, what is this?” Farnsworth always addressed his employees formally.
“I’m sorry Mr. Farnsworth, I made a mistake. My parakeet died last night. It won’t happen again.”
“I didn’t even know you had a parakeet. If you keep pets, they had better not affect your work, not if you want to continue to work for me.”
Farnsworth walked off, his gray suit snappy; his tie cinched tight.
“Think I’ll walk out of here.” Jonathan thought, and then quickly thought about the car payment due next week and the rent the following week. He sighed the sigh of the resigned, then inwardly grinned, thinking of the parakeet story. He did not care for birds as pets.
He walked into his apartment that night and directly went to the bottle, and picked it up. He looked at it, held it up to eye level and thought. “Maybe I should open it. If it would lead to me getting some money in some way, I could quit that job. After I quit, I would wait outside the parking lot, and jab Ricky with a sweet smile as he went into the mine. Perhaps I could buy a business and hire Farnsworth for 150 grand a year, then reject him at the last minute over the stripe in his tie. I would tell him that it did not please me.”
He decided to jot down all the reasons to open and not open it. “That is good planning.” He surmised. He sat down with pen and quickly thought of several reasons to open it, and only two to not open it. Number one, to not open, he would lose the excitement of waiting, of not knowing. Two, if it contained a dreaded flesh eating bacteria, he could live another day. This gave him pause. Perhaps he could take it down and let Farnsworth open it. The employees could all get something to drink and watch it eat Farnsworth.” The thought made him smile and seriously consider taking it to Farnsworth. This also changed a reason not to open, back to opening it.
He had grown weary of being unsure, wrestling with the decision. He grasped the bottle, and screwed off the top. He could get one finger into the top, but could not reach the note. He turned it over, shook it until the note worked partially out. He slowly unrolled it, his hands shaking, and read:
Bring the bottle for free Peel and Eat Shrimp
Disappointed, he immediately began to think of what he could tell Ricky.
Old 09-19-2012, 03:43 PM
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Default Bottled Up

"A bottle!" she exclaimed. She fired up her spinnerets letting out enough silk to get down where she quickly landed in the leaf litter. Then, slowly, cautiously walking along the boundary of the woods and the sand for as much of the way as was possible, she made her way to a point just opposite the bottle. Then, she scampered over the warm sand at a good pace but not an all out run.

The bottle was very large close up. It was almost half a web across. The opening was hard to find. From the ground, it looked like an enormous sea going vessel. It was barrel shaped on the outside and smooth within. The bottle was highly reflective in the late morning sun. And that made her realize that it was starting to get hot! There was need for haste! And then she saw her out of her left topmost eye, another writing spider, Scrawl.

She fancied herself a writer. But she only wrote cooking books! What a beetle! “Aromatics for the busy Arachnid” is such a lame title. A derivative work to be sure! Cricket legs and wasp wings for all! Like that hasn’t been done to death. Speaking of death, I haven’t even made lunch.

She quickly moved into the bottle and spun the note around. It simply said “Feed me.” That’s curious. I guess there’ll be another set of mandibles for dinner. Scrawl was moving laboriously over the sand dragging her older abdomen along at her best possible speed. Suddenly, Script had an Idea! She quickly moved the note to the bottom of the bottle and went back up to the opening. A partial piece of palm leaf had been rolling around in the wind this afternoon. She’d been keeping 2 or 3 eyes on the leaf to ensure that it did not come towards the bottle. But now, it was doing exactly that! So she quickly made 3 revolutions around the neck of the bottle binding her silk to the glass. Then, she let out a strand of silk and ran quickly to the palm leaf and spun around the stem of the leaf several times. And then back to the bottle for another spin around the top and back to the leaf for another spin there. Then, finally, she went back towards the bottle putting a zigzag stitch pattern between the strands of silk connecting the bottle and the leaf in order to strengthen them. She used her thickest silk to make sure the bottle would not come loose. It was only a small phial of perfume after all. It was enormous to her of course. But she understood that it was not that big a bottle in the larger web of things.

Scrawl finally made it to the bottle. “Afternoon Script.” Scrawl gasped. Script tilted her head to one side to acknowledge the greeting. “Find something here Script?” Scrawl asked keeping a close eye on the younger spider to note her reactions. Script replied “Indeed Scrawl! There is a note with a very unusual message written on it in the bottom of this incredible bottle.” Scrawl hesitated, but Script looked agitated for some reason as if she were hiding something. That settled it! She was going in!

Just as Scrawl started into the opening of the bottle, Script made her excuses and called out a farewell. Scrawl muttered some obligatory response and continued to make her way to the bottom of the bottle. And then, it happened! A huge gust of wind caught the leaf and began moving it. After what seemed like a very long time, the small bottle began to move along with it. One very strong gust of wind took the bottle to the edge of the surf. Once it was in the waves, the resistance from the water became too great a strain on the silk, and the bottle broke free. An outgoing tide slowly carried the bottle out past the gentle summer waves.

“I can’t believe it Script shouted!” She hadn’t really expected her bizarre plan to work. But there was the bottle moving further out to sea. Feed me she thought. Well stranger, I’ve done my very best. “Two flies with a single strand of thread!” she heard herself saying out loud. She laughed at her own sense of wickedness and foul play. Script was sauntering back to the edge of the woods looking pretty self-satisfied. And you might even detect a good deal of swagger in that crawl if you looked close enough.

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