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Autumn Contest (Prose) – Hidden

 
 
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  #1  
Old 08-13-2013, 11:53 AM
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Default Autumn Contest (Prose) – Hidden


As the darkness creeps back into the world, and the days are dying, falling prey to Autumn’s biting wind. This seasons contest theme is Hidden, what will you find when you look? Good luck to all who enter.

Entries:

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: 2000 Words

Edits:

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.

Closing Date:

15th September 2013, 12 midnight GMT

Judging:

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 16th of September and close on the 30th of September 2013, 12 midnight GMT.


* * *


Recognition:

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; 08-13-2013 at 12:01 PM..
  #2  
Old 08-14-2013, 01:56 AM
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(Hallo-weird; Word Count 1906)

The Following is from the case files of Macmillan Investigations, which were turned over to the city after the events at the Ainigma estate. Names have been changed to protect the identities of the surviving family members.


I love this time of year. The weather is just starting to get reasonable. Its not too hot outside and the mosquitoes have quieted down. This is also the time of year that the people start making their preparations for Halloween, Thanksgiving and even Christmas. The kids are all back in school for another year of pretending to pay attention. And of course business starts picking up. Who am I, what do I do? I am Bryan Macmillan and I am a paranormal consultant, at least on paper. Autumn is the time of year when more people start seeing or even feeling things out of the ordinary. Most of the time its just their imaginations and I tell them that after an investigation. However there are times when what’s going bump in the night needs to be bumped back to bed, and that’s when I get serious. As a correlation to these sensations my business peaks during the Autumn months and I usually end up making enough to see me nicely through the year.

I’m reading a magazine at my desk with not much else to do until an appointment shows up. The article featuring some celebrity and their supposed relationship with a Faery noble. Most would think its just a bogus made up story in a grocery store tabloid. The truth is, I’m not at liberty to tell you that….I know, Mab its Court business not mortal. Sheesh! Do one job for them and they think they own you, granted I’m still working on that project, but it’d be nice if they didn’t yell quite so loud with their telepathic communications.

A knock on the frosted window of my office door tells me my next client has arrived. I get up and let them in. As I open the door I see a decidedly feminine silhouette through the glass. With the door fully open I extend my hand in an effort to shake hands with her.

“Welcome to Macmillan Investigations, I’m Bryan how can I be of service?” I go into my basic shtick of introducing myself to a potential client.

“I’m Terrie Ainigma, I called yesterday to set up an appointment to hire you to put a stop to the noises going on at my family’s estate.” She says as she grips her handbag tighter. I observe the quality of her wardrobe from the expensive pant suit to the extremely expensive pumps and I hear in the back of my mind a cash register chiming. Knock that off. I tell myself.

“Okay, Ms. Terrie,” I start as I pull out the chair on the client side of my desk for her. “How about you tell me about the situation that was too embarrassing to discuss over the phone.” I finish with a friendly tone.

“Well, Mr. Macmillan, like I said last night these strange noises first started about two weeks ago. When me and my family moved in.” She starts with her tale. “ We had just finished unpacking and having dinner. And, uhm I was going to take a bath. I had taken a <redacted to protect the client’s privacy> with me for uhm <redacted to protect the client’s privacy>. The water had just gotten to the right temperature and I was getting in when I swear to god I saw a face staring back at me in the bubbles. It spoke to me with a bunch of nonsense words.” She pauses to take a drink from the cup of coffee I had brought her while she was speaking.

“Can you describe the other incidents for me, you said there were five more that were upsetting for you.” I prompt her as I resume my note taking of the first encounter and my various observations about her as a person.

She goes into detail about the events as I ask questions about details at points in her story. At the end of her story I look back through the four pages of notes I’d taken. Looking up I see the absolute fear in her eyes of going back to what should be a safe place, her home. Great, play on my conscience, damn it now I’ve got to help her. Still going to charge her for it, but I’ll still help. Don’t look at me like that, I’ve never claimed to be a saint.

“Well as I said over the phone, my services aren’t cheap.” I say as she finishes her coffee.
“And I’ve done my research on you, Mr. Macmillan, you have a track record of success in this field. And so success naturally costs more.” she says with a tone of one who had already hired me.

“Well, You’ve got yourself a detective, I can come out to the house this evening and begin my investigation.” I say as she hands over the envelope with my retainer fee inside it.

Later that night with my equipment loaded into the car I head out to the suburbs, I know it scared me too. As I pull up to the gated drive I stop to hand the guard the note that Terrie had given me for him to let me through. After calling the house for confirmation he opens the wrought iron gate and waves me through. I follow the winding driveway through a small wooded front lawn towards the front porch of the large, not quite a mansion, house. I love having rich clients.

I get out of my car and meet the Ainigma family and staff who were waiting for me at the front steps. With my professional demeanor held in place I introduce myself to everybody.

“I think our younger sister was just seeing things from being over tired.” The eldest of the three sisters said.

“That is indeed, a possibility.” I agree, “but without performing a thorough investigation of the grounds and property it can‘t be confirmed.” I continue.

“Can you really claim that there are such things as ghosts and monsters?” She asks in a patronizing tone. I’ve gotten used to the skeptics over the years, and it gets bothersome having to save them from their stupidity. I know I shouldn’t talk about paying clients like that, but still.

“After being in this field for as long as I have, ma’am, I have absolutely no doubt that they’re still around.” I tell her. “and they’re just as dangerous now as they were back in the old days. Some are more dangerous than others now that this modern society isn’t guarding against most of them anymore.”

After our meeting and they leave for the evening I go about setting up my equipment around the house. I start with the infrared motion sensor cameras that feed back to a laptop positioned out in my car. After I get all the high tech equipment set up, I pull out some lower, but more reliable, tech equipment. A long slender cane carved out of solid bone. Don’t worry its centuries old, its donor isn’t missing it…I don’t think so at any rate. This cane when used as a focus can be channel the energy of the user and allow me to see what I might not be able to see with my normal sight.

Walking through the house I let the, for lack of a better term, spiritual magnet of the cane guide me through the house. I’m feeling out what are known as hot spots of spectral activity through the house. I start in the bathroom where Terrie had said she first encountered something. Looking through the lens the cane provides I definitely see a trail of something having been in there. Following this aura I find over the course of an hour the four other spots of where activity had taken place.

The trail leads from the last room into a cellar of sorts. I hadn’t placed any cameras in here because all the activity had been centered upstairs. But I did have a portable camera on a rig in my jacket pocket as I walked around recording my personal progress.

After descending the steps with a lot of caution I see what had been freaking the young woman out. Floating right next to the air ducts were several apparitions.

“Seriously these low-level spooks are what’s causing all this trouble.” I mutter. I had forgotten about one of the side-effects of the cane. All of the specters just snapped around facing me. The cane lets me see them clearly, but conversely it also lets them hear me when I speak.

They looked kind of annoyed at being called low-level. They swarm at me almost immediately gathering towards the cold light now radiating from the bone as it draws in the dearly not-so departed. I start backing away from them, for while I can handle exorcising these ghosts no problem, but while there are so many of them if I make another mistake like I had in forgetting about the cane’s communicative property this night will have just gone from mildly entertaining to the Ghostly Gang having another member.

As I am backing up the stairs I hear the front door open and close as the family is returning from their night out. Oh great, I think, I’ve got to protect them now too. The phantasms closest to me seem to glow with their otherworldly energy as they shove their vaporous arms towards me. I get shoved up the stairs and into the wall on the opposite side of the hallway with a rather impressive amount of force.

“Okay that does it, Casper, I’m sending you and your intangible friends straight to-” I get blasted again as I start talking trash. Okay I’ve had enough playing around. Terrie comes running down the hall after they had heard me crash into the wall. “Get ba-!” I start as I see her but not in time to keep from being blasted straight towards her.

We end up in a heap on the floor a few yards from the end of the hallway. I reach into my pocket and pull out the cardboard container of Morton’s and with an effort of will as I spread it along the doorway the next blast strikes the barrier that had just appeared to block the spectral energy.

As I drop into a meditative state focusing on my cane I use it to part the curtain of protective energy above the salt line. Stepping across the line full of annoyance at these ghosts who wouldn’t leave my nice clients, who had paid in advance, alone. Using the cane like a sword I begin fighting my way through the shadows. Eventually the battle ended with the sisters and the house safe. Or so I had thought. There came a loud groan from beneath the floorboards as I finished the last specter……

---The report was incomplete as of September 15, 20XX locations of the Ainigma sisters and Paranormal Investigator are currently unknown. ---

Last edited by Tau; 09-15-2013 at 09:37 PM..
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  #3  
Old 08-17-2013, 06:28 PM
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Default Autumn Prose Contest Entry

HIDDEN AGENDA
(2000 words)
Claire was simply floating with joy. She had found her dream man. At twenty-eight years of age, and having sampled the shallow waters of the man pool since she was fourteen, she had begun to despair. But Gregory was the one. She walked through the days with a near constant smile; she was more cheerful and friendly than anyone that knew her could recall. She was in Love. She wrote it in her mind as italicized and capitalized. He was handsome enough, although that was no longer her primary criterion. She had long since discovered that simply handsome men were not her type, too filled with themselves, too expecting of favors from life just because they existed.


But Gregory was not filled with himself. He worshiped her, was glad for any favors she granted. He was goodlooking enough, and apparently strong and and rich and funny and attentive and intelligent. She had bubbled over to her best friend, Katy, after the first night she spent in his arms.


“Oh, Katy, I cannot tell you how it felt, I have not the eloquence, the words. He is a marvelous lover. He attended to my needs before his own. I cannot remember when another man has done that. Sure, they are all about, ‘Don’t worry, babe, I will make sure you finish,’ before they start but forget that as soon as they get into it. Gregory made it all come true. Oh, I am blithering like a schoolgirl, like a freshly deflowered maiden rather than an experienced woman.”


Katy was of the same age, and perhaps a more levelheaded judge of both men and her friend.


“What does he do? What do you know of him?”


“He has some kind of business doing importing and exporting, I do not know. Not do I care. I want him forever.”


“Has he any family? Any people had had taken you to meet? Have you seen his checkbook?”


“Katy, it sounds like you don’t trust him, with all these questions. Of course I have not seen his checkbook, a gentleman would never show that to a lady. I believe he said his parents are dead, and he has no brothers or sisters. Besides, I don’t care about his family, I only care about him.”


“I have seen you this way before, dear, and I only want you to be sure. Where does he live? Has he taken you home for some romping sex?”


“I don’t know where he lives. He mentioned once that he has an apartment downtown. We have only had romping sex three times now, and that was always in an elegant hotel room he secured. Are you not happy for me?”


“Of course I am, it is only that I love you myself and don’t want you hurt. When will I get to meet his wonderful man?”


“He is picking me up tonight to take me to the theater. You be here at my apartment and I will introduce you. The theater. I cannot recall the last time a man offered to take me there.”


“You are very happy. You are a lucky girl to have found him.”


But Katy was suspicious. She was, she thought, far more practical and levelheaded than her friend. She was always skeptical if something looked too perfect. She would do something about it.


When Gregory arrived promptly for his date, and Katy first laid eyes on him, she formed an impression. Tall, slim, clean-shaven, clear eyes, strong jaw. But when he shook her hand, she felt a dampness that was unseemly in a man. His hand was dainty, almost feminine, and was smooth and damp. It felt icky to Kate. They quickly passed pleasantries and then Claire and her fellow left for their theater date.


Katy changed into working clothes, faded jeans and a sweatshirt, got a big floppy hat from her winter trunk, and slipped her revolver into her coat pocket. Then she waited until they were surely gone, got in her roadster and drove to the theater.


It was some kind of play about a man and a woman, some flighty piece of fluff. Katy knew nothing of plays. But it was popular and Claire had bragged about how hard it was to get tickets but Gregory had done it. Katy got bored and went into the stageside deli and had a few vodka Collins. When she saw the crowd starting to empty from the theater, she dashed back to her car and waited.


She followed their taxi to a local establishment that provided adult beverages and dancing. After a delay of perhaps an hour, they emerged, Claire clinging to Gregory’s arm and dancing along beside him. They took a taxi back to Claire’s apartment. He went in and, presumably after some romping sex, came back down in two hours. He got on a cross-town bus and Katy followed it.


He debussed at the lower end of town. He looked around when he got off the bus, but he did not know Katy’s car and she had the slouch hat pulled low across her face. He was afoot now and she knew she had to get on foot to follow him. She was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable. This was not a part of town where decent young ladies went except on college pranks and in large groups. This was the waterfront, where the ships came in and the tough men and their companion women hung out.


There was fog and the sound of a distant foghorn. She stayed back a discrete distance, noting that she could sometimes see water and ships tied at moorings between buildings. The area was nearly deserted, no people walking.


Gregory went into a tavern called The Young Mariner; she assumed a play on the ancient mariner phrase. Following him would get tricky here, indeed. She knew there was a crowd inside, could hear many raucous and profane comments from well-lubricated throats. She pulled her hat even lower and entered.


It was as dark as the inside of a cow, even though the night outside was already near black. But she could not stand around the doorway, that would be too conspicuous. She turned left and found a small table that was empty, with two chairs. She sat and looked down, waiting for her eyes to adjust.


A blowsy waitress with too much breast showing came over and said, “What’ll ya’ have, miss?”


A quick glance had shown Katy that most of the drinks were in mugs. “Beer, whatever you have on draft.”


“You expecting company?”


“No, I just dropped in for a quick drink. Take the other chair away if you need it.”


“Be right back. I’ll bring you some bar nuts.”


A few of the local tables, which were filled with rough looking men, had glanced and even stared at Katy. She ignored them. She saw Gregory’s outline across the room, at the bar. He was scanning the room with more than a casual eye sweep, looking for something or someone. She hoped it was not her. He had given no indication that he knew he was being followed.


One of the louts at a nearby table slid his chair over.


“Well, hello, honey. What’s a pretty girl like you doing in a dive like this?”


“I’m waiting for my father. He’s a longshoreman, real big. You may have heard of him, stomped a man to death for kicking his dog. He won’t like you messing with me.”


“Oooh, pretty and feisty. I ain’t afraid of any old man. If he doesn’t show, Bill Williams will be glad to see you home. Hahahaha.”


After ogling her a bit, he turned away with no further interaction. There were plenty of floozies in here, so they were not lacking for female company. Gregory seemed to have found who he was searching for. He walked through the tables to a small one in the corner.


Katy wondered that his dress did not expose him to some degree of scrutiny or disdain. He was dressed in a dark three-piece suit and had a bowler hat on. He was dressed differently from everyone else in the bar. But he got no particular notice. That was a real mystery.


The table he sat down at was occupied by a skinny man with a beard, and a plump woman. They clearly knew him, and he them, because they fell right into conversation, heads down, leaned in. The two already had a bottle and he shared that with them. Katy had no idea what they were saying and did not see any way to get closer without letting him see her.


She was gnawing with frustrated when the waitress came with her beer and a not too clean bowl partly filled with a mix of nuts and crackers and unidentifiable stuff. Katy wished now she had asked for a bottle of beer. The mug did not look like it had ever been washed. She paid so she could leave in a hurry if necessary.


She kept glancing over at the table where Gregory and his companions were in animated conversation, waving their arms about sometimes to make a point.


Katy thought, “Can I migrate over there, working my way, using people as shields, and get sat down at a closer table, where maybe I can hear what they are saying?”


The bar had many standing individuals, in groups of varying sizes, so she could keep hidden from Gregory. She did not worry about the man and woman seeing her; they did not know her. Moving through the room would increase the chances that some oaf would accost her; try to feel her up, maybe worse. She could only hope that the proprietor would not allow a full on rape or assault without acting.


She had come this far out on the limb; she felt she had to try it. She took her mug and stood, moving away toward the nearest clear path through the crowd. There was a table right next to the one Gregory was at, at his back, so if he did not turn he would not see her. If she sat with her back to him, he would probably not recognize here from her hair and pulled down hat.


She worked her way through the crowd, only suffering a few indignities to her nethers. Ordinarily, she would have lashed out at anyone that rubbed her ass or felt low down on her belly. But she was restrained by not being able to make a scene for fear Gregory would turn to see what the fuss was. So she endured some familiarities that she normally saved for her luckier boyfriends.


Whatever on Earth is it that makes these men think that pawing a woman roughly and briefly through layers of cloth will excite her sexually to some degree where she will lose control and agree to have sex with them? How stupid are they?"


She sidled the last few feet with her face turned. If Gregory looked back he would not see her face, only her back. Gratefully, she sank into the chair facing away from him and perked her ears up.


“Mumble, mumble, mumble,” it sounded like the other man was saying.


As clear as anything, she heard from Gregory, “She is falling for it, don’t worry. You just be there and have the bag ready when I ask for it.”


The woman said, “You just make sure you don’t start liking her. This wouldn’t be the first time you screwed up and got soft on a female.”


“Shut up. I know what I’m doing. Next week, we will be on a ship, rolling in money and laughing our way to Bermuda.”


Almost as if fate had decreed it, Katy spilled her mug of beer. It splattered on Gregory’s pants leg. He whipped around and pinned her with his direct gaze.
“You …? How did you ...? I’ll …”
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  #4  
Old 08-19-2013, 02:31 AM
Agatha Christie (Offline)
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Default HIDDEN DEPTHS (1,300 words)

It'll soon be my sixteenth birthday and Tom's showing loads of interest, but he never says anything. He stands opposite me in the corridor and grins. He waits for me to return the smile, then walks away. My heart beats so loudly whenever he's around. There's something about him that makes my stomach churn, in a nice way, of course. Whenever he looks at me, I want to flutter my eyelashes, pout a little, and smile coyly. But that's a bit flirtatious, isn't it? Ever since I was young, I was told that nice girls should be demure and not revealing.

I don't want to do anything more, not like Sandy, who always pushes down one side of her t-shirt whenever there's a special guy around. She looks across her bare shoulder, with head lowered and eyes raised, trying to look seductive like one of those old-fashioned film stars. I've also seen her sit cross-legged and pull her skirt up high. I'd never do anything like that.

Now in the corridor, everyone's chatting about the prom.

'What are you wearing?' Sandy asks me.

'Mum said she'd get me something.'

'Kate! Why do you let her do that? Why don't you choose your own stuff? You know she'll get you something weird.'

'I want to, but she won't let me wear anything really good. What are you wearing?'

'I've asked mum to shorten my red dress. It's dead cool. Fits everywhere. Shows up absolutely everything. It'll be real hit with the guys.'

I wrinkle up my nose.

'Sounds slutty. Doesn't your mum mind?'

'No. She always says that clothes are a good way to express yourself. You shouldn't keep your personality hidden. You should be proud of who you are. That's what she says.'

I'm confused. No one ever said that to me. Now I feel miserable having to wear one of mum's specials. It's bound to have long sleeves and a buttoned up neck, and it won't be above the knee, I know.

As we disperse, I catch sight of Tom. He's staring at me again and grinning. His mop of ginger hair looks more wild than ever. Wonder if he's been playing football? I smile back. He's walking away again now. I wonder why he never says anything? Perhaps he's shy. Sandy says he'll be at the prom. She knows everything the boys are doing.

It's amazing. Sandy's given me one of her dresses to try on when I get home. Wow! Better not let mum see it. It's not like any of mine. It's candy striped, bright pink and yellow, low at the front and the way the top's cut, it shows nearly all my shoulders. It's a halter neck, I think. The full skirt is short and it's got lots of frilly petticoats underneath.

I'd love to wear it but mum would never let me. I'll give it back to Sandy tomorrow.

The last few days have gone quickly and I'm glad. The prom's this evening. Can't wait.

I'm wearing a pale blue dress. Mum found it in the high street. She thinks it suits my blue eyes and brown hair. It's not bad, I suppose, round neck with a big bow, and short sleeves. I love the big shiny belt but it's still not as cool as Sandy's halter neck. Maybe Tom thinks I look drab compared with the other girls. Perhaps he'd say something if I dressed sexier.

Gosh, everyone's here this evening. I can see Sandy and Marge, Florence, Millie and Roberta. They all look so glamorous with their slinky frocks, red lips and high heels. I feel so ordinary in this blue dress.

'Kate! Kate!' Sandy's calling me from across the room.

'What?' I shout, walking towards her

''Come with me. Quick!'

She grabs my hand and drags me down the corridor.

'Where we going?' I ask, practically falling over my feet trying to keep up with her.

We go into the toilets and she disappears into the end cubicle, then reappears with a carrier bag.

'I hid it here the other day. Go on...put it on!'

I peer into the cavity. My hand goes to my mouth to stifle a cry of excitement. It's the halter neck dress. Oh my God! Should I put it on?

'Go on! Hurry! Tom will be here soon.'

Yes... Tom...of course. Yes I will put it on. I really want to make an impression. I rush into a cubicle and, with difficulty, wriggle out of the blue monstrosity and into the fantastic candy striped dress.

I look in the mirror. Wow! Just need a bit more war paint: brighter pink lipstick, more blusher and thicker eyelashes.

'You look amazing, Kate. Put on more eye shadow!'

I smear more sparkly purple all over my eyelids and up to my eyebrows. I walk back into the ballroom feeling like a sexy rock chick. When I look across to the juice bar I can see Tom with his friends. They nudge him and he swivels round. He's staring at me now. I smile first this time. I keep smiling but he's not smiling back. I can't believe it. He's turning towards the bar and ignoring me. His friends are nudging him again, but he's not taking the slightest bit of notice.

I walk quickly across the room and sit on a bar stool.

'Mango cocktail please,' I ask Mr. Hayton who's serving the drinks.

I keep peeking down the bar to see if Tom's looking at me, but he's not. Why? I thought this would be a good time for us to get together. He looks good too. Love the quiff and those groovy black jeans. Wait, who's this coming up to me? It's his mate, Grant. What does he want?

'Hi Kate!'

'Hi Grant!'

'Tom wants to know why you're wearing that stupid dress and all that make-up. He says you look like a badly iced cake.'

Crumby, what a bombshell. I glance along the bar. Tom's still facing the other way.

'What shall I tell 'im?' asks Grant.

I'm in a mess now. What shall I say? There's only one thing for it.

'Just tell him to look at me again in ten minutes.'

I rush back to the cubicle, put my blue dress on again, and wipe off some make up. I stuff the halter neck back in the carrier and hide it behind the cistern. Sandy can collect it later.

'Kate! What've you done?' Sandy looks horrified when I return, but I don't care. I can see Tom standing at the bar. He's looking in my direction again. Thank goodness, this time he's smiling. Yes, he's really smiling, and he's walking over. Oh my God! My stomach's churning. My mouth's going dry too.

'You look nice,' he says

'Thanks Tom. So do you.'

'That other dress was awful. You looked like a half-dressed birthday cake. All your lovely personality was hidden under that pile of stripy icing.'

He's laughing, but I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not.

'And all that make up. Looked like camouflage. Don't know why you'd want to hide yourself away like that. Come on! Let's have dance.'

I'm finding it difficult to keep up my smile. Fancy Tom thinking I was hiding myself away. That dress was supposed to be revealing.

Still, iced cake or not...it's been a real ice-breaker. I'll have to thank Sandy for lending it to me. Tom's taken hold of my hand now. He's squeezing my fingers. His arm's going round my waist. My heart's really pounding.

So that's what they meant about being demure. Yes, I get it now. If I look too showy, the real me is hidden.

Last edited by Agatha Christie; 08-20-2013 at 07:34 AM.. Reason: change final two words.
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  #5  
Old 08-23-2013, 04:54 PM
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1,996 words. (No italics or bold formatting.)

THE EXHIBITION

A long, silver luxury car stopped at the steps of the McMillan Centre for the Arts. Freda stood just beyond the top step, holding her portfolio to her chest. Her eyes were wet from crying, and her purple hair blew chaotically in the warm August wind. She watched blankly as the driver walked around and opened the passenger-side door. Rachael Emmanuel, the famous performance artist emerged, spread a hand over her embroidered silk skirt, and then made her way up the stairs.

Freda thought that she walked like a robot; every step as cold and calculated as the previous. The woman wore dark glasses and looked straight ahead as though no one else existed. A woman made wealthy for wearing meat dresses and screaming at cats. Freda looked down at her shoes and waited as the very important Rachael Emmanuel walked by. Minutes passed. She wondered what she could have done differently, how people could be so cold, so completely without soul, and how they could regard rotting meat and bad behaviour so highly.

A woman's voice broke through her thoughts.

"Freda Mitchell!"

Freda turned her head, and saw the Director's secretary, Christina, approaching her with an envelope in her hand. She shook her head vigorously, and ran down the stairs as quickly as she could, clinging to her portfolio.

"Miss Mitchell," Christina shouted, waving the envelope in the air. "Please come back!"

Freda hurried around the corner of the Arts Centre and out of sight. She pressed her back hard against a granite wall, just behind a Japanese maple with bright red leaves.

"Leave me alone", she whimpered. Freda shuddered and breathed heavily. Finally, she took hold of her self. Suddenly cool, growing angry, she made her decision.

"One day. You'll see. I'll be in an exhibition," she said.

She threw the portfolio to the ground and ran toward the subway station, crying.

Summer, fall and winter passed, and no one noticed Freda's discarded portfolio.

#

"Akihiro! Lunch is over," Scott, the gardener's foreman, shouted.

"Yes, boss," Akihiro, shouted back from his truck. He replaced the lid on his bento box and shoved it into his backpack, then ran to the foreman.

"You're a Jap. Go clear the maples on the east side. Japanese maples. Shouldn't be a problem for you, am I right?" Scott said. Akihiro glared at him for an instant, then quickly painted a smile across his face.

"Sure."

Akihiro began work cleaning the grounds under the string of maples, pulling his frustrations out through the rake. It snagged on something, and he tugged harder. Then he saw the black corner of what looked like a leather case. Freda's portfolio, damp and cracked from exposure to the elements, had finally been found.

Akihiro had to have it. There was something about it that made him feel sad and protective. Looking from side to side, as though he had stolen goods in his hands, Akihiro held the portfolio to his chest and hurried to his truck. He hid the portfolio in his backpack before rushing back to his work.

After the day, back in his little apartment, Akihiro set the damp portfolio on his coffee table and opened it. One look inside nearly brought him to tears.

"Ruined", he whispered.

He began separating the stuck together sheets of water-colour canvasses. Reds and blues, oranges and greens, yellows and browns – all smeared and running together, ruined by the rain and the melting snow. There wasn't enough room to dry them on his coffee table, so he set the remainder on his kitchen counters, the lamp table, on cleared shelves, and even on the floor. Thirty-six, 16x11 water-colour canvases lay around his apartment.

Akihiro sat on a stool beside his kitchen counter and stared at one of the paintings, gently fanning it with a piece of cardboard.

"Who are you," he said. "What happened?"

He hadn't expected the painting to answer, but he hoped that it would. Then he realized that the paintings wouldn't dry properly lying down, so he searched for twine to hang them. He found only a reel of green string, and nothing to hold the canvasses.

"I'll be back," he said, and rushed out the door.

#

The late March sun streamed through the high windows of the Art Centre main hall, illuminating red and orange banners hung on the back wall. The Centre Director, a trim man wearing a stylish, dark blue suit, approached the podium standing just in front of the banners. He reached into a side pocket and withdrew his glasses, looked at the audience, and put them on. He was addressing the employees and volunteers returning after the winter break.

"Another year begins, ladies and gentleman. We have an exhibition of the works of the Canadian painters, The Group of Seven, including additional works by their key members, Tom Thompson and Emily Carr. As you know, this is a real honour."

A round of applause lifted into the air and resounded throughout the hall. The Director smiled like a politician. After a short and prim speech on the importance of their work, the Director removed his glasses and returned them to his pocket.

"Welcome back, employees and volunteers alike. Enjoy the complementary cake and wine."

Another round of applause, and everyone began mingling and re-introducing themselves to each other.

"Christina," the Director said when he entered his upper floor office. "I'm surprised that you are not mingling with the others."

"Well," she said, smiling. "I prefer real cake and real wine."

"Oh, don't be so cynical, Christina," he said.

She had been examining a 16x11 canvas, and set it down on her desk.

"What is this," the Director asked, move to behind her to have a better look.

"It's a water-colour I've been keeping since last season. An artist left it last fall, after you rejected her work. I tried to give it back to her but she ran," she said. The Director took another look and harrumphed.

"No wonder she ran from it. It's hideous. Burn it."

"Of course, sir," Christina said. I will do no such thing, she thought.

Christina adored the water-colour. She didn't want to burn it and she didn't want to give it back, but she felt compelled to do something. However, fate may have already made the decision for her. She had not been able to find Freda Mitchell. Perhaps she is a vagrant, Christina thought.

#

Akihiro returned to his apartment with stronger twine and wooden clothespins. He stretched four lines of twine, and then hung the paintings to dry, resulting in four lines with nine paintings each.

He paced before each row of canvasses, looking for patterns in the smeared water-colour; only random patterns, only chaos. Finally, he sat on his sofa and sighed. Who had lost the paintings? How had they been left behind the maples? He felt drawn to them, and he felt deep sadness.

It was getting late, and Akihiro had an early start the next day. Exhausted both physically and emotionally, he crawled into his bed and fell asleep.

A sound awoke him in the night. He listened. It came again, like a wind through the trees.

"Hello?" he said. Wind again. "Who's there," he demanded. Nothing.

Bang!

Startled, he bolted up in his bed. It sounded like something fell in the living room. He looked around for something to use as a weapon. He had his father's pistol, but he hated guns. He saw his guitar hanging on the wall, and grabbed it as quietly as he could. He took hold of the neck with both hands and crept slowly toward the living room.

"I have a weapon," he shouted. Akihiro approached the corner of the wall that led to the living room.

Suddenly, a powerful gust of wind swirled through the living room and down the hall. He held the guitar up and crouched down. Rustling of leaves. More wind through the trees.

Bang, bang, bang, bang, BANG reverberated from the living room.

Akihiro fell back to the floor. He fumbled to find his cell phone, but he'd left it on the kitchen counter.

"Damn," he whispered. What is going on!

All was quiet. He waited and heard nothing for several minutes. Maybe just the wind knocking over the lamp, he thought. Or a neighbour's cat came in from the balcony?

Still no sound. Gaining confidence, Akihiro crept back toward the living room. Slowly, he turned the corner into the living room.

There, between two lines of canvasses, was the outline of a person in shadow.

"Gah!" he shouted, and then slapped his hand up against the wall light switch. Light flooded the room. The shadow was gone. There were only the hanging water-colours, and his table lamp smashed in the middle of the floor.

Akihiro looked up at the painting closest to him. Was that an eye? He leaned forward to take a closer look. It was an eye, and it blinked.

#

"Hello, Officer Daniels? Finally. This is Christina Blake at the Arts Centre. Is it acceptable to file a missing persons report on someone not in the family? I see. Yes, her name is Freda Mitchell. Pardon me? Ok."

Christina fidgeted with her phone in one hand and the painting in the other, and waited while the officer put her on hold.

"Yes, I'm still here. What? Oh my god," she said. "No, officer. She came to the office to display her artwork. No. Ok, thank you, Officer Daniels," she said.

She slid her thumb across her phone and set it on her desk. Christina held the picture and shook her head.

"You poor girl," she said.

Christina replaced the painting in the envelope, and slipped it into her purse. It was well after closing time, and she needed a drink. Maybe three.

#

Christina was awakened in the middle of the night to her phone ringing. She reached for it through sleepiness and a slight hangover. Who could be calling at this time of night?

"Hello," she said. "What?" Christina swung her legs over the side of the bed and put on her slippers with one hand.

"Yes, officer, of course. I'll be there as soon as I can.

Someone had broken into the Arts Centre in the night, but the officer had not given details.

As quickly as she could, Christina got dressed and grabbed her purse. She regretted her decision to drink an entire bottle of wine. Within thirty minutes she was walking through police line and into the Arts Centre.

"Ah, Miss Blake," an officer said as he saw her. "Thank you for coming. Just follow me. This should only take a minute."

The officer ushered her into one of the main exhibition rooms, cordoned off with police tape. There, in the centre of the floor, was the body of a young man in a pool of smeared blood. The room was dark, and Christina could not see clearly.

"Hey, someone get these lights on," the officer shouted.

"Do you know this man," the officer asked, showing her a picture.

"I don't think so," she said.

"Well, he was calling your name. His name is Akihiro Kashumi. He allegedly went crazy, murdered the Director, and pasted those water-colours on the wall with the Director's blood."

Christina looked up at the wall behind Akihiro. It was a mosaic of 16x11 canvasses, unclear in the dark.

"Why would he do such a horrible thing," she asked.

Suddenly, the lights came on.

"I don't know Miss, perhaps you can tell me," the officer said.

Barely hidden in the colours of the mosaic was the image of Freda's angry face, her eyes wild, and her lips in a vicious snarl. Christina froze.

"Well?" the officer said.

"My god. It's Freda Mitchell," she said.

Christina numbly removed the painting from the envelope in her bag. It was a self-portrait.

An eye in the portrait winked.
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Old 09-03-2013, 03:31 PM
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Old 09-14-2013, 04:45 PM
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