The Return of Talking Time

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  #61  
Old 07-23-2011, 08:38 PM
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Prinnydood Prinnydood is offline
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Am I gonna have to double post? I believe I'm gonna have to double post.

I just planned and finished my story in the span of three hours. It's without a doubt, the most disturbing, disjointed, and altogether grossly-assembled thing I've ever written. Now you all have no excuse for not getting at least something done.
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  #62  
Old 07-23-2011, 10:48 PM
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I see no issue with double posting. The Let's Plays seem to do just fine.

But yeah, just a few days left, y'all!
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  #63  
Old 07-24-2011, 08:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Prinnydood View Post
The horrible truth: the extension is making me procrastinate even harder. But I'm gonna have it done for real this time.
I would never stoop to this kind of behavior. And would certainly never wait so long that a headache Saturday evening would mean I haven't written the second half of my story yet.

It isn't even 9:00 AM here. I'd better get crackin'
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  #64  
Old 07-24-2011, 02:41 PM
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Default The State v. Kerry Cunningham

It’s truly amazing what a person will do in order to maintain their sanity during an especially demanding time. While I wouldn’t dare compare the crushing weight of boredom to being caged up by a psychopath, I’m still left with the two very noticeable routines of tapping my foot against the rough courtroom carpet or scrutinizing my nails in order to keep myself from nodding off or flying off at the handle. The first had the added effect of sending ripples through my now ice cold coffee while the second gave me time to realize that the nail polish on my right ring finger was starting to chip—most certainly things I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. The dead silence of the courtroom certainly isn’t helping things move along any quicker nor is the stifling tension that’s choking the air courtesy of state prosecutor Jones and defense attorney Hanning.

In my line of work, I deal with patients suffering from mental illness. It’s not a glamorous job, but I’m not complaining. I never thought I’d ever be called into a courtroom and used as ammo in the case of The State v. Kerry Cunningham. I’m beginning to feel like no matter what I say or have said I’ll either be glorified or vilified for it—not that I’d stray from the truth while testifying in a court of law. It’s just that the truth in this case is so bizarre that I’m having a hard time not sympathizing with Mrs. Cunningham just a little bit. After all, I’ve seen a side of her that even the majority of people involved in the case haven’t witnessed firsthand. It makes me glad I’m not among the jurors charged with handing down the verdict that will determine the path of the rest of her life.

“All rise for the honorable Judge Nimley…” the bailiff began with his usual booming voice once the peanut gallery had finally completed their somehow organized skittering into the room. I’ve heard this routine about twenty times already, so I can’t help but tune it out and leave the next few motions my body performs to muscle memory.

I’ve already testified once for the state. Every day since I gave my testimony, during the introduction by the bailiff and ten minutes of legal goings-on afterwards, I’ve replayed it in my mind to make absolutely sure I didn’t miss or forget anything, or otherwise unintentionally commit perjury against myself.

I took my place on the stand, feeling much too intimidated to even think about glancing up at the judge. I made the unwise decision of chewing a piece of gum during the lunch break that day which ended up backfiring on me when its acrid taste started showing through after three hours of vigorous chewing. Out there was a sea of eyeballs all trained on me: the jury, the attorneys, the defendant, and the sizeable audience that really had no place being there, in my mind. Every time the trial was delayed even by nanoseconds because one of them decided to take their sweet time filing into the courtroom was another time my fingernails found themselves digging into my palm.

I could see Jones lining up the questions he wanted to ask me like bullets being loaded into the chamber of a gun. He had his trademark stone face on as he rose from his chair and began with the usual fare of making me confirm I was who I claimed to be: Barbara Schill, a psychiatrist practicing out of her own firm located near a simple coffee shop… whose product had gone cold on me that day as well, now that I think about it.

“Is it true that the defendant was sent to your firm for psychoanalysis on the day of September 9, 2004?” Jones asked.

“Yes,” I answered succinctly. It was an easy question, of course, as they all are during the first few minutes of testimony. He was just waiting for the chance to get to the more incriminating questions later on.

The state is still under the impression that Mrs. Cunningham was still in control of all of her mental faculties and thus was fully aware when she murdered her husband. She was brought to me in order to determine that and I found that, at least in the time she was with me, she was a wreck, for lack of a better word. Her hair was frayed and her skin was covered in welts which I would guess came from her never-ending itching habit. Only later, after she was run through a hospital, would I find out those were caused by a bout of mercury poisoning.

And that simple fact is where the case enters a snag. I evaluated her as unable to control her own mental faculties, and whether that was due to the mercury poisoning or not is impossible for me to say. The defense is trying to play that angle, yet it’s hard to believe after hearing what the police found—or I should say, simply saw—when they entered her home. There were lamps lined up on shelves all over her house. Not lamps that give off light, but “magic” lamps anyone would believe had been pulled straight out of a fairy tale.

She told me about the lamps and their purpose quite bluntly. She said she was trying to fix the “abomination” she had birthed into the world. My first thought went to her son, but from the pictures I had seen of him, he looked to be a healthy little boy. Mrs. Cunningham was withdrawn after explaining why she had the lamps. Up until that point, she had been surprisingly candid with me, but she then began repeating her trip to the antique shop where the blind shopkeeper had convinced her that they were indeed filled with magic—no doubt a simple task if her present state is anything to go by.

“And what of the notebook she had with her?” Jones asked, pulling me back into the courtroom.

The notebook was another curiosity. It seemed to me to be a diary of sorts. I remember the first entry being dated December 14, 2003. She was methodically going through her daily routine with every day beginning and ending the same way. A shrill scream would awaken Mrs. Cunningham in the morning and at night, just before falling into a deep sleep, that same scream would ring in her ears, just beyond her perception. She had taken care to document nearly everything she did during her day. In a way, it’s a perfect timeline of her descent into madness.

See, after a while, she settled into a routine: she would wake up, go to one of the many lamps she had purchased and proceed to rub it all day while praying that the “abomination” be fixed before going to bed and repeating the process again the next day. That went on for weeks until the final entry of the diary. To say that she confessed to killing her husband would be an understatement. Not only did she confess, she described in detail how she killed him, disposed of the body, and then went back to her routine like it had never happened. The very last line of the final entry read, “Farrah’s secret is now mine alone.”

I looked out into the sea of faces once again after giving my testimony. The jury understandably hid the confusion from their faces, but the audience was as blatantly floored as I expected them to be. It’s not like they hadn’t already been exposed to every minute detail about the case via the news for the last few months. There were a few people eyeing Mrs. Cunningham as she sat in her chair, bleary-eyed and distraught with fear. They saw it as an act to garner sympathy.

And why shouldn’t they have? After the skeletons were cleared from her closet, she could be seen as nothing but a monster. “Farrah” was her daughter, whom was quite clearly declared an “abomination” to me, and Mrs. Cunningham very nearly miscarried her in her own home due to her mercury poisoning. The “secret” was that Farrah now lives with severe birth defects and disfiguration thanks to her mother’s poisoning. She was kept in the basement chained up and otherwise treated like an animal.

When Farrah was discovered, it was clear she was too far gone for any hope at regaining a normal childhood. She’s now a ward of the state, her brother is now in his grandparents’ custody, and their mother has now been labeled as someone too embarrassed by their child’s unfortunate situation to seek the proper medical attention. Everyone is choosing to fill in the fuzziness between Farrah’s birth and her discovery as the period where her father was a knowing and presumably willing accomplice in Mrs. Cunningham’s scheme. It doesn’t take much of a leap of logic to assume that, after a time, the guilt gnawed away at him and he was killed because he wanted to get her help.

By now, most of the story has been laid out to the jury for them to assess. A few more days of hearings and the verdict will be handed down. I assume I’m still here just in case I’m needed to clarify anything in my testimony. Jones did come into the courtroom today with a look of victory on his face, and I guess I can’t blame him. I’m not silly enough to believe there’s any way that Mrs. Cunningham won’t be getting convicted for her husband’s death and the neglect of her daughter.

Maybe Mrs. Cunningham’s attorney knows that and is continuing out of either some misguided sense of pride or as a way to twist courtroom theatrics into earning his client a “not guilty” verdict. Now that the state is done pleading their case, the defense is going to have a hard time chipping away at the stigma brought up against their client. Obviously, barring some spectacular legal gymnastics, the confession is an undeniable smoking gun against them. Pleading guilty, in a weird way, may have been the only way Mrs. Cunningham could salvage her integrity after the thorough assassination of her character.
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  #65  
Old 07-25-2011, 05:19 AM
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Alex Scott Alex Scott is offline
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Everybody has all day today to finish/post their stories. I'll close it and start voting at about 10PM tonight.

Now go! Write! Poooooost!
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  #66  
Old 07-25-2011, 11:19 AM
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I seem incapable of squeezing everything into 1000 words. So, here, have 2000.

Alex's criterion paragraph is marked with an asterisk (*) to lessen the effort of tracking it down.

*****


Downtown Fox Spirit

It wasn't called a magic shop. The sign over the door stated "Pawn Shop," without even the proprietor's name to indicate that it was any different from the other pawn shops and payday loan centers lined up along the rubbish-strewn downtown street.

But Daniel knew better. He'd stumbled into the area drunk one February getting away from the heat and closeness in the club, scarcely noticing the gradual decrease in sound as he moved from the party district to the more obviously desperate one. Johnson's shop was the only one open at that hour, and Daniel had been drawn in to it first because its lights were on and because he was drunk. A week later, he'd gone there during the day on a Saturday to confirm its existence, since he wondered if he'd just imagined the place.

Over the next few years, as Daniel finished college and worked at his first full-time job, he and Johnson had become as close of friends as a shopkeeper and an infrequent customer could be.

It was apparent very early on that Johnson was blind. He navigated the shop easily, and unfailingly knew where each item was, whether in the shop or the storage area. When Daniel asked him if he had ever been robbed, Johnson replied "no" with unaffected confidence. He must be able to defend himself and his shop unassisted, as he had no bouncer, or even an obvious camera, in his shop.

Johnson's wife, knitting in the corner most of the time, would quietly move forward to assess books or other items where vision was needed, then just as quietly go back to her chair, but Johnson himself gauged the value of most things. One time Daniel had stood to watch as a shabbily dressed woman dragged a heavy wooden chair through the door. Johnson tilted the chair, sniffed it, sat on it, ran his hands over the surface of its rungs, then told her brusquely it wasn't worth the space it would take up. The woman's response was hard to read, but her leaving the chair in the middle of the shop said enough.

Another February came. The old mercury thermometer outside Johnson's shop read 20 degrees F, and the carefully dusted barometer was falling. Daniel knew already from the weather report that it would snow later that evening, but he had decided to take the train downtown and walk to Johnson's regardless. "Daniel," Johnson said, sitting up from his investigation of a metal object on the counter, impressing him as usual by knowing his step, or his breath. "It's going to snow. Why are you here?"

"Oh, the usual. Is there anything new?"

Johnson flashed a rare smile, the edges of his unseeing eyes wrinkling. "Look at this," he said, holding up the metal object, stroking its surface with his hands. "A magic lamp!"

It wasn't presupposing as magic lamps went, looking more like an ancient, battered tea kettle, something you might have used 150 years ago to heat water over a campfire. Daniel squinted at it, seeing nothing. He took off his gloves and turned the kettle in his hands in unconscious imitation of Johnson's motions, hoping to perceive what he had perceived. "Really?"

"Got it for next to nothing, too. Seller thought it was just an antique and I didn't tell him different. His loss, he should have seen there's no corrosion on it. More of a fox spirit than a genie in there, and it's been sleeping for over fifty years, but if someone can find a way to wake it up and speak to it…"

Daniel set the kettle back on the counter and swallowed. "How much?"

"For you, six hundred."

The potential of awakening even as small a god as this was cheap at five times the price Johnson was asking, and both of them knew it. But it never hurt to play at reluctance, especially when six hundred was as much as he had in any given month after rent. "I'll think about it. Anything else?"

"Found this one myself." Johnson pulled a petri dish from a drawer behind the counter, proudly displaying it to Daniel. What lay inside it looked like a piece of gum. "It's been chewed to death, but it still has two charges of an umbrella spell in it. Could come in handy on the way home. Only ten for this baby."

Of course, Johnson knew about Daniel's Spell Candy collection, which extended back to the '70s . Who knew if their charges had dissipated into the aether by now--the important thing was that they were unopened and collectible. Spell Gum was much rarer, even used, since it didn't come in colorful boxes like the candy did, and people tended to throw them away even with charges left because they didn't want to chew used gum. And it had been discontinued five years ago.
Daniel had wanted to use one of these forever, but didn't feel right opening one of his precious collectible boxes. This was the perfect opportunity.

While he was pulling his wallet out, a loud tapping and scratching came from the rear of the store. Johnson motioned Daniel to stay put, and went to investigate. After a moment, cold air from the open delivery door blasted through the shop, making both Daniel and Johnson's wife huddle in on themselves.

Shortly thereafter, the door was closed and Johnson returned to the shop. "How is she?" asked his wife.

"As well as you might expect. She lost the hat you gave her, so I gave her another one, and some of the food we bought for her. I wish she'd stay longer, but you know how she is."

Daniel's curiosity got the better of him and he asked them whom they'd been talking about. Apparently there was a little girl in the neighborhood, as wild as a feral cat. They called her Kitty. She knew very little English, was skittish, and was entirely alone in the world. Johnson had called Child Protective Services about her many times, as had other business owners in the area, and no one that had come had been able to find any evidence that she existed, not even footprints in the recent snows. She had a wild thing's instinct for avoiding capture. So Johnson answered the door when she knocked, fed and clothed her to the degree he could, and prayed that no one with unkind intentions caught her.

The sun was growing low in the sky. The street lamps along the street that hadn't been vandalized came on one by one. Tufts of half-wet snow were starting to fall from the sky. It wouldn't be long before the trains were running late or shutting down. Reluctant to leave, but feeling he must, Daniel paid for the Spell Gum and asked Johnson to hold the fox spirit until he came later that week, to which Johnson readily consented.

Daniel popped the gum in his mouth as he stepped outside, and enjoyed watching this corner of the world grow white as he walked to his station. The white wouldn't last long. It never did. But it was nice to see on a winter evening with a little dime-store magic to keep it off him.


****

Two days later, Daniel was surprised over his afternoon coffee at work by a same-day courier that came to deliver him a package. His work in an insurance office wasn't prone to such things. Even more surprising was that the package came from Johnson and was marked "urgent." Something was definitely wrong.

He made a brief, and possibly unconvincing, excuse to his boss, pleading a migraine. Then he half-bundled up, grabbed the package, and rushed out of the office, leaving his coffee to grow cold on his desk.

* Snow still lay thickly on lawns and roofs, but was already gone to grey slush on sidewalks and streets. The trip home on the Green Line was stressful. Unwilling to open the package until he got home, and feeling more uncomfortable the longer the contents were unknown to him, Daniel drummed his gloved fingers agitatedly against it as the train crept along on its snow-day schedule.

He blew out a fierce breath of relief on arriving at his apartment. He dashed to the kitchen and tore open the package as quickly and carefully as he could manage. Within it were a battered hardcover journal, a note, and the kettle containing the fox spirit. Trying to fight back fear, Daniel opened the note.

"Daniel, I'm sorry this is so sudden, but there's no time. By the time you read this I'll be gone.

"My rival has discovered me. This is one of his notebooks. You should be safe if you put it in a lock box.

"Please take the fox spirit, and check on Kitty for me if you can. --C. Johnson."

Daniel opened the notebook, and regretted it at once. The figures and words on the page were insane. Although impossible to read, except perhaps by the hand that had written them, they nearly caused him a real migraine to look at them. The drawings implied a world where he would never want to live, and whose impression would live with him for a long time, even as he slammed the notebook closed again. He wanted to tear the book, burn it, erase it from existence. But its pages resisted his efforts, and his head felt even more pain, when he tried.

*****

The book was as contained as it could be, Daniel having secured it at Union Bank within an hour after he'd opened it. He wanted to head downtown right away to Johnson's. He suspected Johnson would already be gone, but he had to check. He didn't call cabs often, but this time it felt important to save as much time as possible. He left the fox spirit at home, assuming it would be safer at home than on his person, just in case.

He knew within a block of Johnson's that something was very wrong. He asked to be let off early because of the crowd around Johnson's. Pedestrians, typically focused on their business with the pawn shops, or skulking out of sight otherwise, were gathered around, shivering and murmuring, the occasion giving them rare opportunity to socialize with each other.

Daniel pushed as far forward as he could. The windows of Johnson's shop had blown out, glass shards all over the slushy ground, but there was no other indication of violence. The interior was completely empty of stock, furnishings, or any evidence that harm had come to Johnson or his wife. Even the sign and the old thermometer were gone. Only the building, the husk, remained.

Maybe this kind of thing happened between people like Johnson and his rival all the time, leaving only stunned onlookers behind. Had a crime happened here, and if there had, would any witness come forward to speak?

It began to snow again. Daniel fished the petri dish out of his pocket. He felt the last charge of the Spell Gum dissipate as he walked back to the station.

Last edited by Rosewood; 07-25-2011 at 05:02 PM.
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  #67  
Old 07-25-2011, 02:02 PM
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Rosewood Rosewood is offline
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Oh, hell. All that typing, and I didn't use Alex's criterion.

Good luck, everyone.
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  #68  
Old 07-25-2011, 02:18 PM
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You've still got time to work it in there before the deadline.
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  #69  
Old 07-25-2011, 05:02 PM
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...and done! Nothing like bringing it in under the wire.
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  #70  
Old 07-25-2011, 08:12 PM
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Okay, I'm about to go to bed for the night, which means one thing: Entries are now closed! Voting is now open. We have four stories to choose from this time (including bobbywatson's from earlier). You have until late night next Monday, August 1, to send me your vote by PM. Winner gets the next round.
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  #71  
Old 07-31-2011, 11:50 AM
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Alex Scott Alex Scott is offline
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With one day remaining, I have enough votes to declare that Prinnydood is the winner! Congratulations, and good luck running your round!
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  #72  
Old 07-31-2011, 12:09 PM
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Prinnydood Prinnydood is offline
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Hot damn, I actually won one of these things! I suppose I have the honor of running the next round. It should be up in the next week or so.
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  #73  
Old 07-31-2011, 09:58 PM
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Congrats, dood!
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  #74  
Old 08-08-2011, 11:57 AM
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Round four begins!
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