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Mostly writing stuff, be warned. I... have nothing else to say.

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These people are a hell of a lot more talented than I. Go, look at whatever they've done.

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It's a misty, gray dawn. Waves roll upon a craggy shoreline, jagged basalt dropped as if by a drunk in a wavering line that only barely prevents the tons and tons of black water from sinking the cracked and muddy land beyond like so many boats. In the distance thunder crashes and lightning tears into the surface of the sea, sending shards of light crackling along the coastline for each brief moment that the sea met the sky. Then they'd ebb away, gray-black shadows overtaking almost everything. But there's still a light, like a flashlight shining into the inky blackness of space.
There's a structure dug into the muddy earth. It's seventy feet tall, and seems to the naked eye to creak and shift in the cruel oceanic winds. Crystallized salt coats the brickwork, and it seems as if a wood facade had been erected at one point to make the building seem more “modern.” It's long-since rotted away. All that remains are termite-eaten boards that sway precariously in the wind and some eroded wooden boards embedded in the mud at the building's base.
Despite the wooden front's deterioration, the condition of the structure is remarkable – after almost a hundred years, the brickwork has remained relatively uneroded by the grasping hands of the ocean nearby. The color of the bricks used to be red-and-white, but now it's more of an understated brown-and-gray. If you squint and cover one eye you can almost make out what the building looked when it was first put together. The land was just as damp and muddy back then as it is now.
Remarkably, the windows have never been replaced. There are three of them, spaced facing inland in fifteen foot intervals starting from the seven-foot door at the base and ending before the beacon. Despite their relatively undamaged appearance, the windows are coated in a film of mud and salt, especially the lowermost one. It's unlikely that anyone could see out of them from inside, and it's equally unlikely that anyone could or would ever clean any of them – they're high up and the winds aren't kind to those in unwieldy positions, such as ladders. Furthermore the dirt's been there so long that it would take a sander to clear most of it off, and the windows aren't exactly in such prime condition that they could withstand prolonged stress. And they'd just get dirty again, after all.
The beacon sits atop the structure. It's the most precarious in appearance, and seems to twinge and shift on the rounded brick circle that separates it from the building's main body. Panes of glass, four the same in size, fill in the gaps between this base and the pointed tip of the beacon. Between each of these a rectangular horizontal slab is fixated, guarding them from one another and guiding them along the height of the beacon. Atop the roof is a study in endurance perhaps even more impressive than the building itself – a weather vane topped with a rooster spins madly on a metal strut. There's no roof access from within, which either means that the rooster has been there since the building's construction or that it blew in from a storm and embedded itself exactly in the roof's center.  Either way, the rusted metal animal spins madly but stays in place, some sort of stubborn willfulness to survive forged into the pig iron that fills its core.
Light spouts weakly from behind the panes of glass below. Unlike the rest of the building the swivel light is (relatively) new. It's automated, spinning back and forth on a 197º circumference, just wide enough to sweep perfectly match the curve of the coastline. The rays streak out to sea, or at least they're supposed to. But on a day like today it's as if the light-absorbing darkness has gnarled, grasping fingers, much like the ones grasping the tin rim of the searchlight housed within the beacon.
Protected from the sea or not, the tin is corrugated just like the weather vane, if not more so. Rust marks run down the sides, circling the gigantic light bulb in Rorschach patterns. The beams it puts forth didn't used to be so murky, but the bulb hasn't been touched in ten years, and replacements can't exactly be found anywhere. It fizzes and pops frequently, sparks spurting forth from time to time. It's a good thing the whole building has been doused so thoroughly by the torrential rain that it couldn't catch fire if a dragon vomited on it.
The fingers twitch at each echoing thunderclap, the middle finger rubbing against the second knuckle of the pointer finger where a purple cigarette burn is set into wrinkled skin. He can still remember what caused it so long ago.
The hand twitches again as the sky ignites. Long ago, longer than it seems to the hand's owner, the sky would burst white every few minutes, whether it was cloudy, clear, day, or night. Then no one came to visit him any more.
He turns away from the sea, glancing once more at the searchlight to make sure it continues to rotate back and forth. Its light is weak, but he knows it'll stand out from the nebulous blackness that is the coast. That, or it'll be mistaken for just another star. If there's anyone out there to do so. Kneeling down on the floor, he threads his hand through a bronze-gold latch on the ground, raising a five foot by five foot trap door.
Even now he sees the need to take care as he descends. The stone walls around the ladder are swathed in shadow, and the three windows that let light into the hallway on those few rare occasions when the sun worked up enough confidence to peek through the clouds were bleak and empty. Just like he knew, in his heart, that the seas were. After so many years he knows exactly where each rung is, but all it would take is a minor misstep for his death to be a certain thing. Eventually his foot found purchase, and his body relaxed as he released the ladder. Something about it always made him nervous – the darkness was always present there, and he'd never thought it prevalent to set up any lights while he still could walk without a cane. Now it was beyond too difficult to make the long trip into town. And now there certainly wasn't any reason to, after all.
There's a single door at the end of the ladder-well, which leads to a room. It's not much larger than the average bathroom, but there are enough amenities to live by. There's a mattress sitting against the corner to the right of the door, gray sheets loosely draped in a heap over it. Across from it, next to the door on the other side of the room, a small cedar desk sits. Cans of food, some empty, some unopened, sit upon it in a jumbled mess alongside a small notebook. A sink and a toilet, rigged up with corrugated pipes, are set into a small hollow in the wall. A bare bulb is suspended from a wire slightly off from the center of the ceiling, spraying light and shadow in flickers across the room. Though all of the furnishings look as if they were set up in just a few minutes, they've actually been there as long as the man in the doorway is. Speaking of him, he's walked into the bathroom to splash water on his face. The filtration system hums, not too loud, but not as quiet as it's supposed to be – he needs to go into town again soon to replace the filter, a task he does not relish in the slightest.
Into the dirty mirror above the sink he peers. A gaunt, ancient, ebony face is reflected back at him. His white hair is short, almost shaved, and stretches into a similarly thin beard that circles his face. There's a wicked scar, the shape of a scythe, that whispers its way from above his left eyebrow down to his chin. Other marks of age, purple blotches of liver spots and reddish marks that seem to have no explanation  are hidden or otherwise spaced about his face and body. He is a thin, tall man, though the mirror doesn't reflect that. A thick single-breasted coat and a pair of baggy cargo pants obscures the majority of his figure, and over his mouth and nose is stretched a once-red bandana. He pulls it down; the air within this part of the lighthouse isn't as thick with dirt and dust from the flaking walls.
For a time he sets down on the mattress in the corner, trying to conjure sleep from out of the Void. But there's no hope for it. His mind ebbs with too many thoughts. When was the last time he saw another living person? Or even heard one? Before he threw the radio into the sea he'd still heard the recordings of almost-human voices, but after twenty years they had only seemed mocking. Now, though, he couldn't convince himself that it was worth it. Even the tone-deaf, monotonous drum-beat words of the computerized voices calmly warning the populace not to panic about the widespread death and destruction now so many years in the past would have been welcome at this point. Foggily it started in his memory that there had once even been other things on the radio, but they no longer registered in his memory. There had been other forms of media, but those he had never taken much interest in when they'd worked at all. Now they were like so many giant, fragile, expensive boulders.
He felt his body lift, felt himself slip the bandana back over his nose and mouth. Apparently, he was going out. At an age like his you did what your body wanted to do, even if it didn't make much sense. His cane had fallen to the floor, and he stooped to pick it up, hearing something in his back make a popping noise. Underneath the desk in a place that only now his mind was letting him recall a dusty umbrella, patterned with polka dots of every color, hid. He reached down and picked it up as well, opening and closing it experimentally. It worked. Over his shoulder he slung it, as his feet carried him to and out the door.
The rain came in small rivets, spattering his unprotected head and neck as he opened the umbrella. His heart pulsated. The last time he'd been outside of the lighthouse... he couldn't remember. It was whenever he disposed of the radio, which was certainly a long time back. After that he wasn't sure what kept him inside. He had enough food, enough water to last. While he was uncertain about any dangerous pathogens or chemicals circulating in the air, if there were any they weren't multitudinous enough to prove harmful in the brief few hours he's been outside since the Whatever-It-Was happened.
His feet carry him past a broken-down and corrugated (of course) hunk of metal on concrete bricks that might have at one point been a car. It looks strange and foreign against the weeds and tall grasses that have threaded their way through the car's internal components. He glances at it a moment, then walks on. Was it there the last time he walked this road so many years ago? It's impossible to remember.
There's little else alongside the cobblestone road, which is even more overrun by weeds and other stray plants than the car's husk earlier. No one else would move so far from the cities into the semi-swampland that makes up the coast. Just him.
Before he knows it, his feet scuff against rough asphalt. They continue to move, unsatisfied with merely reaching the city. Unperturbed by his strange urge to revisit the place, he looks around. It's not a large city by any stretch of the imagination – more a village, if you could even call it that. “Brookedale,” a wooden sign, broken at the middle point, declares. It's not on any maps. Not even the maps that the town's gas station sells include it.
The buildings in town are tiny, huddled together things, as if trying to escape the rain themselves. The aforementioned gas station is the smallest among them, and in the worst condition. Once its walls were plaster, but they've long since eroded away into broken-down, flaking, barely-present masses. A lonely but resilient pump slumbers beneath a tiny sheet metal roof. He eyes it for a few moment but walks on.
There are a few empty shacks, some that have fallen apart in the constant drum beat of the rain, some that are little more than wood planks and twisted bits of rusted metal.
What catches his eye is the tallest building in town. It's used to be part of a Catholic church, put together long before he or the lighthouse. Ironically enough, it's in better condition than any other building in town. It's pointed and neo-Classical, a rectangular thing with a single cone sticking up from its center. The other two sides are flat and free of any adornment.
Towards it he walks. Now that he's closer he can see that half of the window frames are free of glass – the other half, the bottom-most ones, are boarded up. For what reason, there's no easy way to tell.
He approaches, his progress suddenly hampered by his knee as it pops out of its socket. With a few grumbled curses and a few stomps of his leg, the bone slips back into place. It doesn't even hurt any more. It's a thirty-year-old injury that he got falling down the lighthouse's ladderwell. It's a good thing he just landed on his leg and not his head – necks are much harder to relocate. And of course he would have needed... someone to help him if he couldn't move...
He shakes his head, and continues on toward the ex-church. Something sticks out to his eye. Behind the set of boards that are nailed over the front door there is an old, yellowed paper that looks as if it might flake apart in his hands were he to try to manipulate it. It's amazing it hasn't already, what with the tearing winds and the driving rain. The words on it read “NOTICE: PLEASE REPORT TO STATION ALPHA – EMERGENCY. DO NOT TAKE ANY PERSONAL BELONGINGS.” Below the words was a computer-drawn map, painting out a destination slightly north of town – at least, he thinks it's only slightly. But curiosity draws him. He heard the warnings (he suspected; they were all in different languages), sure, but never was he able to pick up anything from American stations. Always assumed they'd all been obliterated. But this...
He limps on the asphalt – the only road out of time, luckily enough, only goes north – his ancient heart pumping along like a spastic drum. Could there still be anyone out here? He thought they'd all been eviscerated in the light that engulfed so much of the world so long ago. For after that no more ships had crept through the waves, no planes in the sky, not even a tourist or vagabond drawn to the solitude of his lighthouse. It was something he enjoyed for a time, but when reality struck, and when he realized that he missed her evermore now that there were only his thoughts to remind him of what people were like... It seemed ridiculous to think that the best way to get over her was to seek out a life of solitude. Over the years he rationalized plenty, but in the end... Did he miss her? Did he miss everyone? Difficult questions, and pointless ones, after all. Why were they sprouting up again now anyhow?
Engrossed in his own thoughts as he is, he almost walks into the chain-link fence that sits in his way. It's old and hasn't held up well to the harsh weather – as if it was only intended to be useful for a short amount of time. Using his cane, he pushes one of the supporting posts over without much effort at all causing the rusted chain-links to flake apart. Over the collapsed bit of fence he steps, surveying the scene.
The scene before him is small. There are two concrete buildings sitting close together, able to withstand the rain despite their obvious impermanence. It appears as if the fence that he walked through earlier encircles an area much larger than the building should have needed, implying that at some point there might have been something else contained within. Whatever it was, it's not there any more.
He approaches the closer of the two buildings first. It's smaller than the other, about three-fourths of its size, though other than that it looks exactly the same. The building itself is perfectly box-shaped: there are no windows, no physical characteristics save a small door on the side closest to him. It looks like it's a metal frame with two panes of glass separated by a metal bar. Or at least there was glass in it at some point – the top one's gone, shattered by stray debris. Or perhaps well-aimed debris – he can see a fist size hole with a spiderweb of cracks spinning away from it in the bottom pane. Behind it sits an emerald glass bottle, amazingly intact. The door, however, is locked, and the tumblers still bar his entry – somehow. Threading his hand through the class, gentle as anything, he grasps the knob and turns it. The hinges of the door squeak in protest but give eventually, and the door falls inward with a crash barely registering over the roar of the storm. The man closes his umbrella and stoops to pick up the bottle. He can't read the label – it's gotten too dark out, and his eyes are far too old. Back when he was younger, in his “drinking days” he might have been able to identify it by touch alone, but he's calmed down far too much from those wild days so long ago.
The rest of the room is shrouded in shadow, but he can make out... shapes. What stands out most of all is the desk in the center of the room upon which something that looks a lot like an old computer. But there are other things around the room, things that stand out in flashes of color that even in the darkness of the room register in the back of his mind and send icy tendrils up his spine. Clothes.
He doesn't want to be here. His chest contracts; the air is crushed from his lungs. Again his feet move on their own, and he stumbles backwards, only barely evading falling until he steps on something that crunches and rattles like a twig. For a moment his mind wheels at the prospect of sharing a room with what must be fifty – if not more -
The air seems colder outside than it was before, perhaps because of the umbrella now hanging loosely at his side. As he runs the stars blink at him, mocking, offering no explanation or solace. The rains have saturated the earth, and chemicals that have sat underground, undisturbed even by the harshest storms before this begin to bubble to the surface. Rocket propellant. But the man has no way of knowing this, knowing what ammonium nitrate or phosphate smells or looks or feels like.
He's back at the lighthouse, now, and runs in. The door sways in the wind behind him, and he strides across the floor, slamming it shut, feeling the breath escape from him in billows.

Thunder echoes across the sky. A ship, hardly sea-worthy, made of metal and shaped like a tube as it is, floats in the ocean. Its fuel supplies, gone. The other ships shot into the cosmos with it, gone. All of them eviscerated by asteroids or starved to death or knocked off course. A last hope for humankind, they thought. But home is still here.
The ship is swiftly sinking – they need to find land. There's a mass to the east, but it's dark and hard to spot. No light shines from it. Not any more. Valiantly the few crew members who survived the landing
send the ship in the right direction, but with no way to clearly tell where the coast is jagged rocks cut into the fragile steel hull, and the entire twisted metal husk sinks, with the five conscious and two-hundred cryosleeping passengers sinking along with it. Inland about a mile, a man in a single-breasted coat jumps from the top of a lighthouse seventy feet into the rocks below, believing himself the last survivor of humankind – now rightfully so. In the mud the lighthouse sits, barren. Funny how such an archaic piece of architecture could have been the one thing to save the future.
The Keeper
Head hurts way too much for me to separate this into paragraphs, kids, so I apologize. I hope it's coherent and you can get what I'm saying. I'm going to bed now.
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:iconthirdpersonsymphony: is evil, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

You can tell a lot about someone by the music they listen to.
Hit shuffle on your iPod/Phone/iTunes/media player and write down the first 10 songs. 
Then pass this onto 10 people (personal philosophy dictates that I shall not do this)

Alllright, let's see here, from random-arse Spotify playlist that has a buncha random music I picked up on a whim we've got:


Faith, Hope, and Broken Glass by Mr. Lewis and the Funeral Five
Some Velvet Morning by Firewater (A cover, if I'm not mistaken; it sounds good though)
Intro by Goonies Never Say Die
86 TV's by I Am Kloot (I've concluded that I don't like them that much, but again, it's an ok song)
Dance of the Veil Nil by Humanwine
All the Answers by Summer at Shatter Creek (I don't like this song, but I like the band)
Six Days At The Bottom Of the Ocean by Explosions in the Sky (A song I really like on an album I really like by a band I really like)
Singers and the Endless Song by Iron and Wine
Vagabond by Beirut (A hit by Beirut, I think)
Swayze by Diego's Umbrella

I get a little weird about my music, and my music is already pretty weird as I'm sure you've guessed. Wish I had a bit more of a mix rather than like a billion albums by eight bands, but the regular music on my Ipod makes my head spin in an unpleasant sense sometimes.

I tag the dog. It's It! Everybody run!
“You won't live much longer. A few days, tops. Then your two or three still-living family members will have to fly out to watch your funeral. And of course your friends – well, they would. If you had any.”

“What a cruel thing to say.”

“I'm a cruel person.”

“I know,” she said, her fingers tracing an inchlong spot on her thigh where a wound long since healed had once been hewed by reckless, drunken hands. She always did whenever Matthew was around. The night she'd formally decided things wouldn't work out between them. This was the first time she'd seen him since then.

He sat in the chair off to her right, his back to the window into the hospital hallway. On the phone sitting in his lap he tapped away, eyes unfocused, awareness dulled by drink even now. His hair was greasy and matted. “When was the last time you bathed?” she asked.

“What does it matter?”

She shrugged. It didn't matter to either of them.

A nurse, stocky, aged perhaps forty, dressed in a shade of blue-green that reminded Laila of the pills they'd given her early in her illness, the ones that had made her head spin so much during dance practice that she would collapse after any prolonged action. Upon her return trip to the emergency room she learned she was allergic to the medication – which was, incidentally, the only kind of medication available for a condition as rare as hers.

The nurse eyed Matthew. “Visiting hours have been over since eight, sir...”

“Fuck off.” He didn't look up.

The nurse's eyes flashed, but only for a moment. Then her eyes shut tight as she rubbed her temples and made a mental note to steal a few extra painkillers from one of the pharmacy medical cabinets later.

She checked a band around Laila's right wrist and left the room as quickly as she could.
After a few moments, Matthew turned his phone off and looked at Laila. “Something to say about that?”

Laila just shrugged. “Why are you here, Matthew?”

“Pete mentioned you were in the hospital, so I decided to see if you were still alive. I guess Pete was too busy to come see you himself.”

“Oh.” She was silent a moment. She considered telling him not to call Pierre Pete, that he despised that nickname, but she decided against it. “Did he find a new partner yet?”

“Of course. Some French chick. Dances like a drunken elephant, but something tells me he didn't exactly pick her for her dancing skill – especially if he's trying to pick someone like you. Got all the equipment except the feet, if you know what I'm saying.”

“Huh.” It was all she could think to say. Pained tears burned at the corners of her vision, and she felt one shimmer its way down her face. She turned on her side, brushing it away into the pressed white fabric of her bed.

“I suppose I should have expected that.”

“Yes. You should have.”

“Is there something you get out of knocking people down?”

“I just cement peoples' hypotheses.”

There was a sound from outside. A man sharing stature and complexion with a brick wall entered the room. He pointed at Matthew. “You. Outta here. Now.”

He looked at the large man for a moment. “Alright.”

“Was this guy giving you trouble, lady?” the big man asked.

“Yes. But at least he came to visit.”

The man's brow furrowed, but he spoke no more as he pushed Matthew out of the room.
The light flicked off, bathing her and everything else in semi-darkness. Monitors and electric readouts continued their displays, tracing patterns of light on the ceiling, on the walls, timers awaiting the inevitable.

They reminded Laila of the metronome her first instructor had owned, beating out a constant tick-tick-ticking, counting the moments she could spend enveloped within herself, when she could let her body work and her twisting, spiraling adolescent mind have a few-minute rest between lessons in this or lessons in that. Both parents had grown up in poverty, both united and enriched by dance, both wanted to spare their only daughter from a similar fate, both agreed on what to force her to do or learn, and soon they could agree on little else. Both had married countless times since then though never for long, both plastered walls with pictures of their own faces, sculptures of themselves. They'd last seen Laila at her final ballet dance a month ago, where she'd fallen to her knees in the midst of the performance and vomited in spastic retches, spattering her white dress with splotches of orange red, turning Pierre's meticulously cleaned spats, the ones he cared for so, the ones he'd bought when he was twenty off his first paycheck at some dive on the outskirts of Madrid, into a matching pair of ruined dreams. The entire room, the four-thousand rich spectators, the two-hundred peering at them from backstage watched, aghast, amazed, disgusted at how quickly something so beautiful could devolve into something so hideous.

They reacted eventually, but no one moved to help. The spectators gravitated away – some in disgust, some in contempt, some in pity. No one backstage told any of them to leave, no one called for the show to end, no one so much as turned off the burning spotlight fixated on Laila and Pierre as she knelt and he rubbed a hand across the ruffled fabric that made up the back of her dress.

When she finally finished, and was little more than a sobbing mess on the ground, Pierre placed a hand on her side and half-walked, half-carried her offstage. Not so much as a second passed before the owner of the theater, demanding to know what drugs she was on and shouting that she would never work in that town again. The woman was right. Laila never danced in that town – or anywhere else – ever again. And she never would.

Her parents disappeared without so much as calling to ask what had happened to her on that night. They could care less; as far as they were concerned, she was a a disappointment through and through.

Laila found small twinges of enjoyment as she envisioned the surprise, perhaps even the guilt they might feel when the truth of the matter came out, when they and the other rich bastards who had pinned her down as another basket case, another young Icarus flown too close to the allure of fame and fortune and all the vice that came alongside it. Little would they have guessed that it was actually a rare degenerative disease ravaging her body. She would die and they, the compassionless, might feel a pang of guilt for part of a second. An equal tradeoff.

They weren't all compassionless, she had to remind herself. Pierre, despite everything, had always been with her. She still found herself shivering as she thought about the night they'd spent together the day before that catastrophic evening. It had started out as a practice, a final rehearsal, but been beset by a case of nerves that she now knew ha d more to do with her illness than anything else. She'd never been nervous before; she'd done at least forty public performances with Pierre before this one, many in front of much larger crowds than that she was slated to tomorrow. But Pierre hadn't questioned it. He'd retrieved a bottle of wine that he'd intended to give a friend of his as a gift and the two of them passed it back and forth, taking turns. Eventually he placed a hand on her back, rubbing back and forth, while he spoke to her of his childhood in Madrid. At one point his hand had slipped, brushing past her right breast in an action that she still wasn't sure was an accident. A pink tint rose in his cheeks, and he stuttered an apology – something Laila had never before seen him do. He had a tendency to follow through with whatever he did, whether it was accidental or intentional in its initiation
Almost without input from her brain, she reached out, taking his hand in hers, and slipped it under the soft black fabric of the front of her blouse.

When she woke the next morning he was gone. I should have expected this, she thought to herself. But as her grogginess dissipated, she became aware of the wool blanket around her shoulders. It certainly hadn't been there last night, but then warmth hadn't been much of a problem. The floor had been cold, ice cold, but she hadn't noticed it for long.
The sound of paper crumpling alerted her as she shifted off her stomach. There was a note from Pierre taped to the blanket's price tag. In it Pierre apologized for leaving, saying that a relative had fallen ill and had needed him at the last minute. But Laila had talked to him at length about himself during their recital practice and recalled that at one point he had said that he hated his family and hoped to never see them again. It didn't surprise her. No one ever stayed for long.

Her head, the only part of her body tethered to a sensor with any kind of leeway, shifted toward the window outside. Night dwelled over the parking lot as if uncertain whether to stay or leave; the pinprick lights of headlights and street lamps shooed it, but it nevertheless remained, watching, waiting.

As she looked out the window, Laila caught sight of a young girl in night clothes walking hand-in-hand with a man in a suit. The girl looked about seven or eight, and her pajamas were imprinted with cartoon animal faces that triggered recognition in the back of Laila's mind. Her hand that wasn't holding the girl's hand was clasped around the wing of what looked like a stuffed white dove. The man wore a hat and suit – both gray – reminded her of those that someone from the government in a 40's movie might wear. In the glare of the streetlights she managed to make out that his face was sunken, skeleton-like, and that the skin under his eyes glistened with fresh tears.

The girl looked into Laila's room, or appeared to – the tint of the glass would make it impossible for her to see anything. For a moment, the weak light outside seemed to illuminate a patchwork of scars and sutures across the girl's face and bald scalp. Then the illumination waned as the man in gray gently placed a hand on her shoulder, and the two of them walked out of view.

Laila was able to contemplate the duo for only a moment before shrieking pain erupted all down her back. Her legs spasmed, her shoulders twitched, her teeth tore her lip open. Hardly had she cried out before one of the computers she was connected to chirped out a three-note warning and made a noise like a garbage disposal. The wall behind her vibrated, and the pain stopped. Morphine. She knew she was using too much, knew that soon the hospital would have no choice but to take her off the medication. Then she'd be able to feel her organs shutting down.

Her first few nights in the hospital were spent about a week after her catastrophic final performance when severe pains all over her body but mostly down her spine. She'd driven to the hospital, swerving and almost crashing several times. When she finally did arrive she waited a half hour with an annoyed night nurse, her vision fading in and out, tendrils of pain like some sort of octopus from hell tearing through her back whenever she shifted more than a centimeter. When she finally was called she managed to stand, take two steps, and black out.

When she woke up cold hands were on her bare back. There was a prick, then a blinding flash of pain, then more blackness.

The second time she woke she found herself in a hospital room with a tall, gaunt doctor wearing spectacles and blue scrubs standing over her. He began speaking to her before she even became aware of her surroundings, dropping the bad news in her lap like a sack of dead animals. He said in his calm, deep voice that neither he nor any of the other four expert physicians brought in to see her in the past week had any idea why, but all of her vital organs save her brain were shutting down and slowly falling apart. They had perhaps two weeks to find a cure before her internal organs became unsustainable my machinery, and the chances of finding one for a condition so rare were slim at best. Then he left.
They'd pinned it down to something spinal, hence the source of the pain radiating from that area. Beyond that, nothing had been discovered.

Only Matthew came to visit in her first days of consciousness. On the first day he brought a hooker and left disappointed that the two of them weren't allowed to use one of the empty rooms. On the second he came to the hospital drunk and stole an entire bottle of painkillers slated to be given to a cancer patient.

Laila had grown up with Matthew, though “with” was probably too strong a word. The boy had never had much interest in dance (which boggled the minds of his parents) or anything else they forced him to do. Their two families had grown close only because of the two couples' similar interest in dance. Laila's family danced formally in front of crowds, whereas Matthew's family had won several gold medals in one Olympics – one by his mother, one by his father, and two by his older sister. All three were baffled by his disinterest in dance, not understanding that it was less specific to the activity and more specific to – well, everything. Romantics bored him too, though that hadn't stopped him from seeking out an incredibly ill-fated and embarrassing relationship with her that had lasted almost a year. And yet, still he stayed with her in her final days, if only to look over her shoulder at her past and tell her that both she and everything that she had ever done was stupid. He was the only other child she had interacted with during her entire childhood. In spite of himself and herself, she wished he hadn't been forced to leave.

The pain struck again, sharper than before, so sharp that Laila's vision swam and her lungs failed as she tried to gasp. Another garbage-disposal sound emanated from behind her, followed by a whirring noise. As suddenly as it had started, the pain stopped. Somewhere in her back they'd put a set of drains in for both lungs, the waste tubes snaking their way out of her body somewhere below her shoulder blades. It was tough to pinpoint anything more than that – couldn't move her hands any more than slightly to check, or she'd risk disconnecting the spiderweb of IVs that snaked their way out of arteries and veins and into the wall of electronics behind her. Morphine stopped the pain, sure, but it dulled the senses and the mind and probably had a score of other long-term side effects a well. It was almost a good thing she wouldn't have to worry about the long-term. Almost.

Laila spent the night awake, wracked by spasms of pain and spasms of reflection in alternating volleys. She drifted off to slumber as the sun began to peek over the horizon, but her mind still would not rest.

She was effortless, weightless, and at first she thought she had died. But then her awareness returned to her, and she found herself in a dance hall – a dance hall she recognized as the one her final performance had been at. But she didn't feel sick to her stomach nor sick of body at all. She felt like love, like a manifestation of grace, like there was no one watching her as she danced, alone, in the center of the room.

But there were. Thousands of adoring eyes, fixated on no one but her, no one but the girl from Norway who no one knew. She could see the grinning faces of her mother and father in the front row, sitting together, their hands clasped together. Even Matthew was there, looking at her with a half-smile that she had only seen him wear when news of someone else's death reached him. And then there was Pierre, her partner, dancing just as freely as she herself, so freely that she hardly noticed that he was separate from her, for he was just as graceful, more beautiful, more -

“Laila.” he said, his voice echoing. She tried to answer, but her throat tensed and choked and tears welled at the corners of her eyes instead.

“Laila. Wake up. Please.”

She found words. “What?”

The scene began to fade into pinpricks of white light, as if she were rubbing her eyes while they were still open. But Pierre's face stayed. Relief flooded it.

“It's...” another man, her doctor, interrupted him. “Your heart just stopped beating for almost a minute.”

He pressed a few buttons on one of the consoles behind her. “I managed to start it back up in the nick of time, but...” he stopped, rubbing his upper set of teeth against his bottom lip. “I'm afraid you... you may not have much time left. Your body's condition is degrading rapidly, and I fear that no matter how much we try we'll only be able to forestall the inevitable for so long, unless we discover a cure in the next few days.”

“We can talk to you later in private about what you think the best course of action will be – whether there are still any affairs you need to clear up just in case we can't cure you. It will be your own decision, of course, as we haven't... been able to reach your family.”

Laila nodded, her vision still clearing. “Can I make one request at the moment?”

“Certainly.”

“Can I ask you to leave, doctor?”

The doctor raised an eyebrow, and his eyes shifted from her to Pierre and back again. His expression softened ever so slightly. “That's fine.” He rubbed a hand across the nape of his neck and turned towards the door. Before he left, he turned toward Pierre. “I'd tell you to behave yourself and to not move her around too much,” he said, “but... well, she might as well have a bit of fun.” Then he left the room before Pierre could do anything more than blush.

“Does he know about our - “

“Doctor-patient confidentiality. But they may have asked about my sexual past. It is protocol, after all.”

At the expression on Pierre's face, Laila felt her lips twitch into a half-grin. It was the first time she had done anything close to smiling since she'd entered the hospital.

“Were you wondering where I was?”

Her eyes slid to the parking lot window. “Matthew came by earlier.” Her eyes shifted back to Pierre and she watched his brow furrow, his thin, Spanish nose twitch as if he'd been bitten by a gnat. “He said you were busy 'preparing' with a new partner.”

Pierre snorted. “Hardly. And Matthew's certainly known for his honesty. I mean, it isn't like he would say something to hurt you just because he thinks it's funny. Of course not.”

“At least he came.”

A motor revved outside as Pierre twitched. The man Laila had seen the night before, the man in gray, was just leaving the driver's seat of a black car parked in such a way that she could only see its rear from her position.

For a few moments he disappeared off to the left side of the window. When he returned he was pushing a small metal cart with a black bag of some sort on it. Then he lifted the bag, draping it over his shoulder. It seemed rather unwieldy, but didn't appear to be large – it looked to be about half his size. With some slight difficulty he managed to put the bag into the rear of the truck and shut the door. Then he faced Laila and looked her directly in the eyes, his skull-like face the epitome of sorrow. Laila, aware that the windows were tinted, still found herself nervous and broke eye contact, but not before noticing the small, stuffed dove he carried in the crook of his arm. Then he got back in the driver's seat and turned the car to leave – passing by just long enough for her to note that the vehicle he drove was a hearse.

Pierre followed her gaze and looked out the window, for a moment, but his glance soon returned to Laila. “I didn't come because I couldn't... I've been wrapped up in my own affairs. I... retired from dancing, you see.” He sat down on the one foot of the bed not covered by IVs, machinery, or Laila's body.

She turned toward him, causing one of the consoles behind her to bleep a warning. “You're serious?” He nodded, lips drawn tight.

“All because of me?”

It was his turn to twitch his lips into a half-grin, though there was nothing resembling joy in his eyes. “I couldn't go on. My thoughts were too focused on... well, you.”
Silence fell over the room. Pierre massaged his wrists, looking at the floor.

“I don't have long. You'd be better off just forgetting about me. It doesn't make sense for you to forfeit everything you've worked so hard for just because of me.”
“No. It doesn't. But I don't give a damn.”

“I don't want to be a burden on your conscience.”
For a moment, Pierre opened his mouth as if to argue. Then a flash of realization hit him, and he stood, striding across the floor and drawing the blinds to the hospital, then the blinds to the parking lot.

“What are you-”

“Take my hand.” It was thin, carefully manicured. She stared at it. “Do you not see the wires connected all over my body?”

“I see what needs to be done. And I think you do, too.”

She hesitated. Then, with a sigh, she reached out and took his hand. He pulled, and she matched his strength, feeling the tubes and wires tear away, some out of her body, some out of the wall. Several panels began to blip out warnings, warnings that rapidly began to grow in tone. Pierre released her hand, propping her up against a bedpost, and tapped several buttons behind her. The beeping stopped. Laila was already too overwhelmed by agony to question him. Pierre located the morphine IV as it lay on the bed and forced it back into one of the holes still in her arm. The dosage would increase automatically in response to stimulus, but there was only so much in the IV.

More wires disconnected, but the morphine made the wrenching of the needles from within her feel as if someone were tugging on hairs.

And then she was sitting up, the hand clasped with Pierre's damp with sweat. His face seemed to radiate light.

“Are you ready?”

Her voice shook. She mouthed the word, but no sound came out. A gentle hand was placed between the tubes in her back, and she felt the air woosh by her.

“You're far lighter than you should be.” The words echoed.

“I haven't been eating.”

Pierre nodded. “Can you stand?”

“I don't know.”

Her legs met ground, though it felt cold and far away. She was aware of her legs buckling, but the hands caught her before the ground could rush up to meet her.

“I suppose I'll dance for both of us, then,” the man said, blazing in blooms of different color. The room spun and light flashed as the angel rocked her back and forth, side to side, carrying her, holding her, shouldering her pain, comforting her.

“It doesn't hurt any more,” she whispered to him as the corners of her vision flickered, colors blurring into monotone. The angel just smiled, saying nothing. She felt her head loll backwards, felt the hand disappear for her back, replaced by a warm, cushy sensation. Then she didn't feel anything at all.


The doctor removed his hands from the sheet, draping it back over the patient in the bed.
He turned to the young man he'd ushered in earlier. “How did you know to turn off the alarms?”

“I was in med school for a little while. It didn't work out.” He didn't look up from where the needle for the morphine IV lay on the ground.

The doctor nodded. “This wasn't quite what I meant when I told you she could have some fun, earlier.” The man stared at him, just long enough for the doctor to start feeling embarrassed, then his gaze returned to the floor.

“I won't contact the police. It was an accident, even if you did tamper with the machinery. If legal action's taken I'd be happy to shoulder the burden – it was my fault, after all. But the girl was suffering far too much. No one deserves to be kept alive when in such pain, even for the sake of science. “

“Thanks.”

The doctor nodded again, and left the room, closing the door behind him. He walked for a bit and approached the secretary next to the elevator. “Send a coroner to Room 1040, please.”

The secretary’s head snapped upright. “Room 1040, doctor?”

“Yes, Room 1040.”

“What happened? I thought-”

The doctor sighed and shook his head. “I don't know for certain. He... I think it was her boyfriend was with her when the monitors stopped responding. When I came to investigate, the patient had passed, all of the faculties keeping her alive and reading out her vital signs unhooked.”

Agape, she stared at him. “You know they'll suspect you. You were against keeping her for observation from square one.”

“Perhaps. But she served her use. I've agreed to shoulder whatever legal costs rise against the hospital, to take the blame, but I suspect there won't be any. Her family was long alienated, and her other contacts so few and far between that they didn't even know she was ill.”

“Hm.” The secretary looked displeased. “Did you at least tell him that we managed to develop a cure? That all of her suffering wasn't in vain?”

“Are you joking? That boy looked so heartbroken I didn't even have the heart to tell him about the research being done. And I certainly don't intend to now.”

“That's a real shame,” the secretary sighed. “A real shame.” The doctor just shrugged. “Nothing to do about it now,” he murmured. “You know as well as I do that the decision was the right one, no matter how cruel.”

The secretary said nothing more, and the doctor bid her farewell before turning down the hall to the elevators, already thinking about where he would go for his lunch break.
On his way out of the elevator, he bumped into a man, knocking over the thin metal trolley he was pushing.

Apologizing, the doctor knelt and stood the trolley up. But the man, who was garbed in a matching gray hat and coat, just looked at him.

“They are all flying away,” he said, his voice wavering. Then he turned to leave, pushing his cart before him. The doctor made out two odd-looking tattoos of what appeared to be hand scythes on either of his wrists. Then he disappeared behind the elevator doors.
For a moment the doctor watched, contemplating the coroner's strange words. Then he shrugged, and left the building. But the sight before him made him pause.

Thousands of small, white birds, perched on the cars and street lamps in the parking lot, stared at him. Then, almost as one, they took flight, a giant white cloud that dispersed and flew apart in a thousand different directions. And then they were gone. They were all gone.
Crippled Dove
I wrote this in a notebook I carry with me most places - the whole story. Of it I'm not sure about the ending, not sure if the final paragraph needs to be there. I might edit it out. Something about this I like, despite some of the weird diction and story design. It might deserve a re-write.

I have no idea what any of this means.
Loading...
You guys are swell. No, seriously. I was talking with a friend of mine today and was surprised when she commented about my writing style, when I had no idea she even read my writing at all. I talked to another friend later and she said, "Oh yeah, plenty of people read what you write. Buncha people in (redacted) class do." And I took a look, and lo and behold there's at least 40 views on almost everything I've put up.
Now I am aware that a lot of this is repeated views or perhaps my own as well, but even if each person opened up the story five times A. that's still eight people and B. I appreciate that too. Up until this point I based whether people were reading solely on who commented rather than on the number of views on each story, and thus thought that only four or five people saw each story.
So in conclusion, thank you for looking at all. I really appreciate it, and feel like a right idiot for complaining that no one looked not-so-long ago. Again, you guys are great. The support keeps me goin', and all that.
So in recent days I've been absent in putting things up. This is for any number of reasons, but at the moment I've been bashing my head against the whole "self-publishing thing" and I finally made some progress yesterday. However, I am now stuck again. You see, while I normally prefer to do everything associated with my literature, I've been made to realize something over the years: I suck at art. However, my book needs a cover design, and I need to commission someone to do it.
So, basically, what I'm asking is... anyone of you watcher folks have experience designing book covers, or know anyone who does? I'm not exactly made of money and therein can't exactly afford a $1,700 front cover (Why do these prices vary so extensively?!) but I have some saved up for just such an occasion. The process is filled with a bunch of small pitfalls and annoyances, so if I would like to talk to work with someone who has experience with designing book covers before. The book itself is 5x8 thus far, and runs about 217 pages. I'm trying to publish through CreateSpace -this is a self-publishing measure, but it is important to me.

Thanks for reading. Any suggestions are appreciated.
:iconthirdpersonsymphony: is evil, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

You can tell a lot about someone by the music they listen to.
Hit shuffle on your iPod/Phone/iTunes/media player and write down the first 10 songs. 
Then pass this onto 10 people (personal philosophy dictates that I shall not do this)

Alllright, let's see here, from random-arse Spotify playlist that has a buncha random music I picked up on a whim we've got:


Faith, Hope, and Broken Glass by Mr. Lewis and the Funeral Five
Some Velvet Morning by Firewater (A cover, if I'm not mistaken; it sounds good though)
Intro by Goonies Never Say Die
86 TV's by I Am Kloot (I've concluded that I don't like them that much, but again, it's an ok song)
Dance of the Veil Nil by Humanwine
All the Answers by Summer at Shatter Creek (I don't like this song, but I like the band)
Six Days At The Bottom Of the Ocean by Explosions in the Sky (A song I really like on an album I really like by a band I really like)
Singers and the Endless Song by Iron and Wine
Vagabond by Beirut (A hit by Beirut, I think)
Swayze by Diego's Umbrella

I get a little weird about my music, and my music is already pretty weird as I'm sure you've guessed. Wish I had a bit more of a mix rather than like a billion albums by eight bands, but the regular music on my Ipod makes my head spin in an unpleasant sense sometimes.

I tag the dog. It's It! Everybody run!

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:iconcertly:
Certly Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the Fave. Like the avatar.
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Razgriz-3 Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2014
Ain't no thang. I'm glad you like the avatar that I blatantly picked from Project Zomboid and did not make myself. I like your kinda-pixely style.
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chandler0 Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2014
Thank You for fave! Hammertime!
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:iconrazgriz-3:
Razgriz-3 Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2014
I liked the piece; good on you.
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Suuno Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014
Your writing is really good! * v *
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:iconrazgriz-3:
Razgriz-3 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014
Well thank you! Dunnae how you found me, but I always appreciate a kind word or five.
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:iconsuuno:
Suuno Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2014
Lol sorry if I was stalkerish xD I just found your work when I saw your comment on some drawing :D
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:iconrazgriz-3:
Razgriz-3 Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2014
No no, I always am happy to have someone a'looking, but I'm always curious as to through what channels I was discovered. I dunno why, actually.
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cyanita Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for the fave!
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Razgriz-3 Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2014
No worries.
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