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The Learning Curve

Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by yugoslavia, May 13, 2015.

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  1. yugoslavia

    yugoslavia School Kid

    May 12, 2015
    Drowsy Mountain

    The mountain's peak sloped up in a crooked knot, reaching high over the wilting oak forest that fought to stay upright on craggy land as blustering wind knocked them each which way. The sky was a deep gray, saturated with brown tones of earth and a yellow, late-afternoon haze that permeated the clouds. Where the mountain and the clouds met high over the forests and villages below, the mountain's silhouette became dark and ominous, casting a shadow that covered the landscape below.

    Zinnia clutched her stone-gray shawl as she climbed to the rocky ridge just above the forest's tree line. Removing the head covering knocked greasy jet-black bangs into her eyes, brushed away by a cautious hand as she carefully examined the mountain above.

    A deep breath entered her nostrils, tilting her head back to face the sky. She shut her eyes and exhaled.

    She uttered:

    "Rayquaza...I'm afraid I still don't understand why I'm here... Why you left me here..."

    Her fingers clawed into a dirt deposit, finding a grip with her palm on the stone face that jutted from the dirt. Slowly looking up, Zinnia traced the path mentally, seeing the gently sloping path ahead of her as it followed into a much steeper path, and then a veritable wall of rock. She looked down briefly to where her feet were and then back up to what was immediately ahead of her. Gritting her teeth, Zinnia eased her body down onto sprung legs, fully extending her arms from where her hands gripped the rock, and then leapt up, pulled by her arms until her body had been hoisted over the initial hump. A quiet groan and wince of pain came from her when her chest landed on the stone surface, rucksack on her slapping her equipment into her beneath her shawl. She shifted her ankle to make sure that the flat arch of her boot had found a grip along the rock edge. Finally, Zinnia extended out both her arms and legs to support her off the rock face gently, giving her a chance to breathe, and then climb forward.

    Zinnia grunted. She clawed at the ground, trying to push herself up onto the rising slope.

    "I certainly haven't lost faith in you, or your cosmic plan for us. I haven't. I pray not as a request or as someone so ungrateful would... And while I would deem it a question, it really serves as a confession, a confession that I know I don't have all the answers, and that I don't expect any, but I don't understand. Why am I still here?"

    The shawl and rucksack sank with each step. Torn edges fluttered in the thick winds. Zinnia's hair battered against her forehead and eyes, caught over her eyes and sticking to the moisture that formed around her open mouth as she fought for air.

    Through the cloudy mists that covered the landscape atop the mountain, the thumb-like rock formation crowing the mountain as its point came into view. A small path led up to it and around to the jagged cliffs at the front. Beyond the rock formation nothing could be seen as the path faded into the dense fog.

    Zinnia crawled, half-using her hands for stability to find the ledge dividing the slope from the walkable surface. With a single, sharp pull, Zinnia pulled her center of weight over. She still crawled with her hands though her legs were half-extended. The rocky surface was short and filled Zinnia with fear, as she was having a difficult time keeping her footing on the bumpy surface. Her hands quickly found the rock formation, quickly searching for hand holds in the rock, bringing herself upright and standing straight. A sudden slip in her boot's grip on the floor made her panic, and she quickly brought her body closer to the formation and hugged it tightly. She paused, realizing she had lost control of her breath and let it skyrocket, she clung to the rock and continued to wait.

    Eyes shut, Zinnia continued:

    "Nothing makes sense in the slightest. I continue doing my tasks without any interference other than the barriers I create by myself, and I perpetually make more barriers. I need an out. I ask your help daily and I fear that is all I ever come to you with, but this is an outcry; I need an out. I cannot do this without you. I can't. Please, Rayquaza, this task is greater than me."

    Taking another deep breath, Zinnia eyes snapped open, staring into the fog ahead of her. A solid red beam of laser light cut through the fog. Zinnia's arm released from her hold on the rock, stepping back slightly from the rock as she held her arm out in front of the rock's other side. A sliver of red light appeared on her arm. She stepped closer to the other side of the rock, sending loose dirt from the rock scuttling down over the thin cliff, finding a secure piece of the mountain to shift her weight onto. Closer to that side of the mountain brought the trees below into better view, as well as the distance between where she stood atop the mountain and the forest she had left to get up to the mountain. Zinnia caught herself looking down and refocused on the task at hand and looked at the laser point on her arm. She moved the arm out from under the laser, where it reappeared on the rock.
    Zinnia smiled to herself. Though she couldn't see the cliff below where she was on the mountain, she slowly lowered herself to sit on the edge of the short rocky ledge she had been standing on. Her legs slid out over the ledge. She leaned forward, looking down to the cliff below, judging the distance. About ten feet, likely less.

    "Faith... That has been the crux of this journey, at least from the beginning. If I lose my faith in your plan and yourself, Lord Rayquaza, I might have lost the entire mission."

    Pulling herself up gently, turning so that she rested on her hands and knees with her legs dangling over the edge of the cliff, Zinnia lowered her weight slowly. Her knees slipped out from under her and dropped her hips onto the rocky edge. She winced, biting her lip and sealing the pain deep inside her.

    "Perhaps you should have chosen a better servant, one who's faith determined the outcome of this mission... Alone..."

    She counted down to herself slowly. When she reached '1', Zinnia dropped her hips over the edge, hanging on by just her fingers as they sank deeper into a crevasse in the rock.

    Sighing to herself, Zinnia continued.

    "Here goes."

    Her fingers released and she fell down from the ledge she was on. Though she fell in a pencil dive towards the ground, Zinnia felt her body slowly tipping forward in the near-instant ten foot drop. She landed on her heels, legs sucking into her body as they collapsed together at the knee to save her fall. Rolling forward on the toes of her boots forced the blunt of the fall onto her palms.

    Zinnia winced and held back a gasp of pain. The pain shot through her palms and up every finger as her hand cramped. The fight to keep her gasp in check failed as she let out a quiet whimper. Her eyes fought back tears and shut. She couldn't bear to look at her palms.

    Opening her eyes, flipping around her hands to see the wound, she looked at the gash and sighed dejectedly. She stared at the open gash where no blood poured out, just twin slashes of cut skin revealing the gray flesh beneath.

    "This curse... Oh... Oh this task... It must be a curse... This feeling that it is a curse will never go away... My lack of understanding makes it a curse..."

    Zinnia forced her searing hand down and away from her. Biting her lips as if it'd stop the pain in some way, she forced her weight onto her hands again to pull her legs underneath her. Once she did she still struggled to stand upright, dizzy from the intense dose of pain, clinging the wall beside her. She stared ahead the opposite edge of the cliff she was standing on, muddy red eyes flaring as she saw the man.

    The man was a hiker, still in the traditional hiking equipment, fallen over onto his backpack unconscious. A thin layer of gray dirt and dust coated him from resting there so long. His limbs were splayed lazily, like he had been caught by the sudden fit of sleep and fell into it immediately.

    His hat had rolled and caught on a small rock that jutted from the ground, just by Zinnia's feet. She picked it up, inspecting the small dust-covered buttons that lined the fabric strap of the brim. Then, she looked over at the hiker.

    She knelt beside him. Two of her fingers sank into his neck as she took his pulse. A brief smile flitted across her as she confirmed pulse.

    She recited:

    "For the men and women asleep, for the world asleep, one will not rest."

    The wind howled even louder, catching on the rocky walls of the mountain. The fleeing sunshine of the overcast day flickered against the rocks.

    As she put the hat back into the hiker's backpack, Zinnia looked up to the rock wall. The rocks flared red as they reflected sunlight. Zinnia froze as she watched this, as in the corner of her eyes everything light touched began to glow red. Slowly, Zinnia turned over her shoulder, looking to the sky.

    The overcast clouds had parted, but something filled them. The thick haze of red dust poured in from the atmosphere. Over the horizon thick downpours of dust and debris rained down from the sky in dark red streaks. The outline of the sun overhead through where the clouds parted warped with the rush of dust, even darkening as the dust clouds intensified and became thicker. The town below was battered by waves of dust that rolled through the town and rushed through the forests to other towns. A rolling sea of static dust hung through the streets below and turned the streetlights into halos of bright red. Soon only tall buildings and treetops could be seen in the cloud.

    Miles away, a thick concentration of dust moved in towards the mountain at high speed, moving like a cloud, directly towards the side Zinnia and the hiker were on.

    Zinnia snapped out of her stupor, looking down at the hiker. Bracing her arms, she stooped over and slung her arms beneath his, pulling up sharply. Zinnia met with at least 250 lbs of dead weight, stopping her sharply, but as the roaring wind of dust seemed even closer she pulled again. His legs straightened and dragged over the rocky floor, and Zinnia quickened her pace as she backed them both away from the cliff.

    Behind her a tall dark crevasse loomed, offering some semblance of shelter. A pile of rocks filled it, but Zinnia quickly got to work kicking them out. She propped the hiker's shoulders up against the crevasse and pulled his legs in to the side so that he was mostly protected. A moment of pause filled her as she realized the crevasse in the wall had been filled and there would be no room. She quickly continued by pulling her shawl off of her shoulders, undoing the metal latch around her collar beneath a folded flap of the shawl, stuffing it beside the hiker. She opened the hiker's backpack and rifled through, eventually finding a dark green wool blanket. She knotted the top corners of the blanket and shoved it into a smaller part of the crevasse so that the lower half draped over him without suffocating him.

    As Zinnia went for her shawl, the cloud hit. An oceanlike roar filled her ears as pounds of dust slammed into the wall. Clusters of dust exploded and knocked the dirt off the rocky cliff floor, surging up in waves and filling the air, knocking dust from the high cliffs towards the mountain top and hanging in the air. Dust from the sky poured endlessly and rained around the mountainside.

    Though she eventually got her shawl up over her face like a mask, enough dirt had entered her nose, mouth and lungs to make her cough and wheeze. The overwhelming sound and choking sensations made her drop to her knees. Dirt battered and rushed around her.

    The mountains stopped and trapped the red dust on the side by the town. Though dust continued to rain down even on the other side, the wind trapped the dust up against the mountain.

    "It could be hours... Days... I was never promised anything by you... This storm is surely the sign of you fighting the war we wished was waged, but is surely a war that gets harder... This is early in the day for you... Rayquaza... Forgive my expectations... My task will be impossible..."

    Zinnia's fingers cramped from holding the shawl like a mask. She knew that she was close to the edge of the cliff, though she could not see it. She couldn't see the hiker either, and thoughts of concern began filling her head. With one hand holding the shawl, Zinnia crawled on her hands and knees towards the hiker blindly, fumbling over shifting dirt and the rocky surface beneath.

    The burning sensation from before in the gash on her palm flared. The dust in the air was seeping into the wound. She let out a cry of pain as the searing pain returned to her hands. Her arm collapsed beneath her abruptly, rolling onto her side. The shawl fell away and landed on her chest, barely caught as her arm reached for it. The sound of wind outside of the shawl was ear-shattering. Her eyes stung with an intense pain, even without opening them.

    She rolled to the side, catching herself on one hand. Her legs were limp with the pain that surged through her body. Her foot didn't land on solid ground, instead dangling off the cliff. In her painful struggle, Zinnia had slid back several feet unknowingly. Her one hand covered her eyes as she tried opening them, immediately getting dust inside of them. She shrieked briefly with pain and closed them, but again forced them open. She looked down behind her, seeing the short distance from the cliff she had moved to. The hiker was still safe and unmoved.

    As Zinnia tried pulling herself up again, a second blast hit. She felt as though her eardrums had shattered. The warm gust of wind and abrasive blast of dirt and dust grazed her and made every inch of exposed skin on her arms and shoulders burn. Her face burned hot with pain.

    Though Zinnia felt herself slipping backwards, fighting to keep herself on the cliff's edge, she felt a dizzying, tingling sensation start to tear through her body. It was like a song, a song playing loudly in her head, ringing in her ears, infectious in tune and inescapable.

    Zinnia blacked out.
  2. yugoslavia

    yugoslavia School Kid

    May 12, 2015
    Oakwood Motel
    The ringing slowly faded. As she woke, Zinnia felt her senses slowly melting back into reality and her surroundings.

    A cold, cooling sensation filled her backside. It tugged down at her clothes, it made her head heavy. It made every single limb heavy and motionless with exhaustion. The more Zinnia thought about it, the more Zinnia realized she was soaked. Her exhaustion was the only thing keeping her from jolting upright.

    Zinnia opened her eyes. She was staring at a completely dark sky, a portion of stars poking out through a closing cloud bank. A section of roof obscured the sky.

    The lapping pool water around Zinnia brought her attention to her body, half submerged. The cold water felt good after the burning sensations of pain and the hot dusty wind. Water filled her ears and kept the sounds of outside muted and calming. Bringing her head up to see brought her legs down further into the water. The aching sensation in her neck was immediately put on pause as she felt herself sinking. She immediately righted herself on two feet and stood up, stopping her body from tipping into the rest of the pool. She was submerged just barely past her shoulders. Water poured from her soaked hair, dribbling down her face. It didn't stop her from scanning her surroundings quickly.

    "Saved... Saved from my own ignorance... A prayer answered... Lord Rayquaza, you are surely no stranger to miracles. Today you have made me no less a stranger..."

    Zinnia's heavy, relaxed breathing was cut off as she remembered: the hiker. She paused, realizing her failure.

    Something about the pool caught her attention. She scanned the area.

    "The motel... Of course... The town below Drowsy Mountain, the town... Alpine Town... This is the motel. The one across from the school."

    She turned in the pool, drifting slightly, the loose trash and old leaves from years of being poorly maintained swirling around her. She looked up to the mountain behind her, rising high over the sea of trees.

    The mountain was directly in front of the staircase in and out of the pool. The internal lights from the pool were the only light aside from the moon, and they led directly to the staircase away from the deep end, and Zinnia was in the middle. At the edge of the staircase, on the walkway between the gate and the pool, the hiker rested flat on his back. His backpack was resting upright against the gate. The dark green wool blanket shielding his face earlier was tied to the metal support of the metal arm rail that lead into the pool, draped over his face still.

    "You still give me ways to lose my breath. You still leave me awestruck. You find new ways to make me fall in love with you again. You find new ways to remind me you are here. You are here... You are alive..."

    Zinnia walked to the end of the pool, dragging her limbs through the drag of the pool water. As her body rose through the water her clothing stuck to her body, soaked full of water, chilling her body when the night air hit it. Water spilled out of the open seams in her boots as she stepped out.

    Kneeling beside the hiker, Zinnia took pulse. He was still breathing, still asleep.

    Beside the hiker, folded up neatly in a pile, the stone gray shawl rested. A folded piece of paper that had been in her pocket rested on the very top of the pile. Zinnia picked it up and unfolded the page.

    She read:

    "331A, Oakwood Motel, Alpine Town. The man must have the key. Check if married."

    Beneath the folded page, a brass key rested, on a keychain. A metal-rimmed paper tag on the key read '331A'. Zinnia refolded the paper and tucked the paper and the key in the soaked pocket of her shorts.

    Several rows of cubbie cabinets with abandoned swimwear and backpacks inside lined the iron fence closest to the apartments. An extra tall cubbie was stacked with old towels, kept safe in the shadow of the mildewed roof. Zinnia lightly dried herself as much as she could, getting the greasy mess of black hair somewhat dried. The red elastic band keeping the length of her hair in a small bun beneath her hair sucked up more soaked hair, pulling the hair over her ears back. She brushed the soaked bangs to the side to clear her eyes. The insoles of her boots squished like sponges, soaked to the brim with water. The night air made the lightly dried clothes on her searingly cold.

    Zinnia tossed the towel aside. She stooped down to the hike, propping the gate beside him open with a foot, wrapping her arms under his and pulling him like he did on the mountain. She left the shawl and backpack behind.

    The path outside of the gate looped around towards the parking lot. Ahead, the tall rows of apartments lined with iron staircases loomed.

    The crawling pace that Zinnia kept by dragging the hiker went on.
  3. yugoslavia

    yugoslavia School Kid

    May 12, 2015
    Whisper Hills
    The blisters had already formed. Taking the boots off dried Zinnia's feet but not her boots. She followed the wide asphalt path home, the only sound beside the wind being the wet slapping sounds of her bare feet.

    She had already passed the sign that said 'Whisper Hills' after walking for twenty minutes from the motel in Alpine Town. By now the mountain was barely visible over the horizon, buried in a sea of trees. The moon had moved into the gap in the clouds that had yet to close and lit the path ahead. The silence of the forest, no animals or wildlife, just the rustling of trees in the gentle evening breeze haunted the air.

    A small stone staircase took Zinnia off the asphalt path, taking her on a thin concrete path through a grassy field. The path bent through patches of trees and small sections of forest, until a town clearing appeared. The concrete path became sidewalk to dirt roads and small blocks of part-suburban, part-rural community areas.

    Zinnia wandered through the empty, lifeless suburbs, eventually reaching a single-story home at the end of a dirt path.

    She wandered up the empty concrete driveway, passing the small gravel path to her door, instead going to the garage door. She gripped the handle to the door, lifting it by the unused lock and sliding it up with ease.

    In the center of the garage, resting on flattened newspapers, a large generator with several cables running out of it

    Zinnia stepped into the dark of the empty garage. She stepped between the workbench along the wall and the generator in the center of the floor. Setting her boots and shawl on the bench and putting a plastic red jug in her hands, Zinnia kneeled down to the side of the generator, removing the cap on the main tank of the generator and pushing the black nozzle of the jug into the fuel tank, pouring gasoline into the inside. She replaced the cap on the generator. Stepping back, Zinnia took the cord from the generator into her hand and pulled hard. The generator roared to life. An electric hum filled the home.

    She walked to the far corner of the garage and checked the valves on the water heater. An electrical input gauge jutting from the water heater's main body showed the red needle slowly rising as power entered it. Zinnia cranked a red knob on the side of the tank's body. The rushing sound of heat in the tank rose from the base of the tank.

    A sharp pain rose in her palms. She looked down, seeing no scars. She looked up at her boots as they rested on the workbench.

    The doorway into the home from the garage was at the back of the garage against the wall, leading into the hallway. A light flickered on in the hall and caught Zinnia's attention.

    Zinnia picked up her boots and shawl from the workbench and walked onto the driveway. She pulled the door down until the garage was closed.

    She followed the path from the driveway around to the unlocked front door. Taking one last look at the neighborhood, Zinnia stepped inside.
  4. yugoslavia

    yugoslavia School Kid

    May 12, 2015
    The fridge opened with a muffled chunking sound. A small blue light from inside filled the room, a sliver of light cutting through the musty darkness of the kitchen. The fan inside buzzed even louder with no barrier between it and the room.

    Very little food filled the fridge. A half-eaten loaf of bread, a crusty carton of eggs, a sparse bag of apples, a spoiled pint of milk, several beer bottles, and an old bag of premixed salad on the verge of wilting. A makeshift cardboard divider in the bottom right corner of the fridge was soaked and collapsing on itself, propped up by the mostly melted bags of ice inside it. Several rags had been stuffed in the freezer door above the fridge, already soaked and dripping onto the linoleum floor.

    With the fridge door wide open, Zinnia clicked the flashlight in her hand off, putting it on the counter face down. She grabbed the loaf of bread from the inside. The door was left open as she walked away from the fridge, heading to the cabinets that lined the wall opposite it. She grabbed the toaster from the topmost cabinet, unfurling the coiled power cable from the silver toaster body and plugging it into the wall. A few slices of bread sank into the slots on the toaster and she clicked the lever on the side. A small light on the side glowed within its amber housing.

    Zinnia returned her attention to the cabinet she had open, looking to the soup cans on the top shelf, pausing as she read the worn labels. Her gaze shot down to the toaster timer, and then back to the fridge. She grabbed the flashlight, walking out.

    At the end of the dark hall a door hung half open. As Zinnia got closer, the white metal of the washer and dryer glowed back at her flashlight.

    Gritting her teeth, Zinnia pulled the washer out from the wall and then the dryer, wincing from the high-pitched whines of both sets of rubber feet on the linoleum. A thick cloud of dust behind both machines released like a sneeze. Aluminum tubes attached to both machines expanded from where they were hooked up to the wall like slinkies.

    The dust that drifted up and clung to the floor wrinkled Zinnia's nose, but she ignored it, squatting between them. She found the thick power cables on one, ramming it firmly into the corresponding outlet. A small shower of sparks erupted from the dust that ignited in the outlet, stinging the hairs on her arm. She held her tongue, being more careful with the second one. She waited until she heard the gentle hum of power coming from both of the machines, then stood up and stood back. The dust that collected on her hands she wiped on her moist shorts, kicking the dust that clung to her feet off on the sides of the machines. A sigh of relief escaped her.

    As Zinnia was going for laundry detergent beside the machines, she flinched and froze. Something popped in the kitchen, a quiet ding echoing down the halls. When she remembered the toaster she breathed. Her heart still raced. As a consolation, she started to hum at a near whisper. She picked up the detergent, setting it down on the laundry machine with a clang.

    The fridge door was left open, and the kitchen had cooled down significantly, the floor frigid. The smell of burnt toast filled the room and traveled down the hall. Zinnia emerged from the dark hall, swiping the slices of bread, sinking her teeth into the crispy surface of one. Beneath the sink, Zinnia opened the cabinet and pulled a water bottle from a torn plastic package, taking the cap off as she chewed.

    She passed into the living room from the kitchen, through the sparse decorations and the empty carpet space. A small, beaten, ugly pink couch pushed against the back wall, beneath a small window. A tall reading lamp with a moth-eaten lampshade stood between the couch and the corner. Immediately opposite the couch was an old tube TV, the screen dusty from years of disuse, only a small scrubbed area appearing on the gray surface where Zinnia had wiped the dust away once a long time ago. A magazine and several newspapers had been stuffed underneath the TV, hanging over the drawer of the tiny cabinet that had been the TV stand for so long. A thin cable dangled over the side of the cabinet, plugged into an outlet in the wall, the only thing remotely on the old walls, aside from cracks and deep pitted marks of misuse. The bottom third of the walls were lined with thick wood slatted panels, painted with oily white paint and thick gloss.

    Opposite the kitchen entrance, an old half-destroyed end table rested, pushed against the wall, resting on stacked books where a leg had been destroyed. Several papers, a book, a clock, and several photo frames covered the small and uneven table surface.

    Zinnia, standing in the center of the room, stared at the end table, where the moon outside colored the wall it rested against with bright blue light. She stared at the one particular photo. She walked to it, scanning the photos that surrounded it with thoughtfulness, idly picking up the one she had been staring at.

    The first was a photo of her parents, though the top of the frame had been smashed in and destroyed. The part with her parents faces had been smashed in and warped beyond recognition, torn in places, making up the top third of the photograph. Her parents bodies were still recognizable, especially the part where their hands were being held. Zinnia as a very young girl stood beside her mother, holding her hand with one of hers and clinging to her mothers' leg with the other, her face half-covered by her skirt. At the top of the photo, where her parents faces once were, several newspaper clippings that had been stuffed behind it poked out.

    Swallowing, Zinnia flipped the photo of her parents down.

    The next photo was a photo of Zinnia, taken several years ago. It was her, young and fresh-faced, beaming wide beneath thick black sunglasses, her faced sunkissed and bright red. She stood in the entrance of the plane, on the staircase used to exit the plane, her arms weighed down with bags. Above her, the sky was a bright shimmering blue.

    Several other photos lined the table. One of a Whismur, looking nervously at his stubby feet in Zinnia's shadow on a bright summer day. One of the bright jungles in Hoenn, bright green trees blocking out the sky, and a small hut in the corner of lower corner of the photo.

    Finally, she slowly turned the one in her hand up to face her. Staring at it made her knees weak, her heart race as it dropped into her stomach, threatening to vomit the little she had eaten. The toast dropped from her hand and bounced limply on the carpet. She backpedaled limply, suddenly sinking down to sit on the carpet. Leaning back pressed her into the cold fluffy of the couch behind her.

    It was a picture of Zinnia and a man beside her. The bright red print in the bottom right corner indicated it was only a year old. It was a portrait shot, a closeup of the two, both barely containing their smiles. Zinnia was overjoyed in the shot, her smile wider than it had ever been before, her eyes bright and full of life, slight color in her cheeks. Her hair was shorter, but still messy and covering her eyes, but clearly not bothering her in the picture. Her cheeks looked fuller, she looked less gaunt than she had when she looked in the mirror. She genuinely looked happy. The man looked happy too, smiling just as wide, his head half buried in Zinnia's hair.

    Zinnia rubbed away the dust from his face, staring with a sense of wonder. After some time, she looked down to the center of the photo: his hand rested on her shoulder, and her hand rested over the hand.

    A thick swollen lump had formed in Zinnia's throat, one that caught her by surprise. All at once, she realized how tired and sore her limbs felt, her head sinking back into the cushion behind her. The fight to keep her eyes open and staring at the ceiling quickly became a losing battle, and she shut her eyes.

    Her throat cleared again. Her mouth opened, forcing oxygen into her searing lungs.

    "You forget sometimes, don't you?"

    Zinnia sniffled, pulling the soaked collar of her shawl up to her nose as she fought a sneeze. A gentle stream of tears pooled over her eyes, rising between shut eyes.

    "You really do. You were always so dumb... You could be so smart sometimes, but oh gosh, you chose to be dumb... So many, many times..."

    Raising her head just slightly, Zinnia gazed down at the frame in her hand, her head rolling forward just slightly, limply, to see the photo. It rested in her lap, her hands unable to pick it up any more than it could be helped. Instead, she rested the frame beside her, resting her head on its side to stare down at it.

    "Didn't you know I had to do this? That it was so, so very important? Imperative? I told you... I told you so many times I was going away. I had to. I told you so many times, did I not?"

    Zinnia rolled her head away, staring at the ceiling. A brief smile formed on her lips.

    "Of course you knew. That's what you told me, after all."

    She turned back to the photo, squinting and staring at it, a slight aggravation in her eyes.

    "And you would always tell me the same way too. 'Zinnie, you nag too much'. 'Zinnie, you think I don't care'. 'The opposite is so true. I love you, baby, I do'."

    She scowled.

    "I hated when you called me 'baby'. Did you know that? You always said it in that way that just ripped my ears apart. 'Baybay'. What did you think that would accomplish, cowboy? You already had me. You didn't have to try and seduce me any more than you already had. It worked, alright? I loved you."

    The silence in the room suddenly felt colder. A choke in Zinnia's throat stopped her. Her eyes shot open, staring up at the ceiling and then down at the photo. The silence dragged on, prodding at her, twisting her insides.

    "I guess I forget too."

    Zinnia took a deep breath.

    "I'll forgive you for everything. I'll never need you for anything again, but I need one thing from you right now."

    Hot tears trickled down Zinnia's cheeks, leaving wet trails and streaks of worn dirt on her battered face.

    "I need to know if you knew why I left. If you understood.... I need you to know... I need you, too..."
  5. yugoslavia

    yugoslavia School Kid

    May 12, 2015

    The washing machine door shut loudly, the little metal tab clicking and holding the door shut. At the top, the old dusty soft-button console displays and LEDs flared to life with an old electronic chime. The metal knob cranked hard and the correct time was set. Finally, the engine inside roared to life, water splashing on the insides, clothes sloshing and slamming into the aluminum walls.

    Zinnia tightened the rope around her bathrobe, the wooly towel-made piece of clothing draped loosely around her body and clung to her waist. After checking the time on the washer briefly, she stepped out of the washing room, heading into the main hall.

    It was a short walk to the closet, the door still slightly ajar. The lone blue hanger hung on the rack, pulled far away from the empty white hangers that had been shoved against the wall.

    As she searched blindly through the dark of the closet, her foot skimming the floor and all the stacked objects inside, Zinnia muttered to herself quietly.

    "Surely this thing came with slippers."

    She felt something fluffy, sliding it along the carpet out of the closet, bringing it out into the dim light of the hall. As she had wished for, a pair of slippers, the blue matching the blue of her robe. Satisfied, she slipped her feet into them, stepping away from the closet and shutting the door. She immediately paused and stood, somewhat confused. She sighed.

    "Slippers... Of course this house is clean. Why else would I need them if not to go out? Of course I can't go out. I have nowhere to go. Besides, not in this condition. Is this not a compromise already? Oh stars... I didn't need these..."

    She walked past the hall, eyeing her soaked boots as they dried in against the hall walls, beside the door.

    "I need to relax."

    The flashlight switch clicked on again, shining down the short sublet of the hallway, where the length of the hallway ended and curved around, the side of the house opposite the kitchen and to the side of the garage. She entered, a large bathroom space inside, tiled and spacious, curving around a central curved sink opposite a large bath and shower. Despite a good period of disuse, it had only begun to show signs of age.

    A haunting reflection of Zinnia appeared in the mirror as she shined the flashlight in the, her ragged appearance showing, floating into focus as she approached it. Her face looked gaunt, tired eyes boring into her own, dirt and mud trickling down her cheeks. Her hair was a frayed, awkward, ragged mess.

    "Relax... Listen to me! Ha... I'm losing touch with myself, aren't I?"

    Zinnia stepped around the room idly, gazing at the clean walls and decorations, taking it all in with a sense of wonder. As she avoided the mildewed rim on the floor around the toilet, she approached a painting on the wall beside it, appreciating it beneath it's aged glass, turning and approaching the rest of the room. She stepped onto the rug of the bath and leaned over to see inside. It hadn't mildewed like the toilet had.

    As she slowly rose from leaning over the bathtub, something brushed against her hair. A lightbulb, suspended by a thick extension cord, dangling over the bathtub. She paused, a look of realization coming onto her. She gave a brief look to the clean insides of the bathtub.

    "Perhaps it wasn't the worst idea I've had. I've had it before..."

    She paused, staring up somewhat awkwardly at the hanging lightbulb. Finally, she turned away, heading towards the sink.

    The flashlight rested upright on the sink counter and cast a halo of unfocused light on the ceiling. Zinnia stepped towards the mirror and past the light, inspecting her reflection. She reached beneath the counter and pulled open a drawer. As she watched her reflection, she pulled a small, thick knotted hairband, rolling it over three of her fingers and stretching it to a warped 'O'. She pulled her hair from the damaged one that formerly kept her curling hair in a small bun. Wincing as she tried to pull it together near the nape of her neck, Zinnia finally gave up trying to restore it with the much thicker band, pulling her hair to the side and creating a bun there, the loose ends her old bun afforded were no more. She took a small metal clip from with in the drawer and pulled her bangs to the side and out of her eyes.

    Zinnia paused, staring at her slightly cleaner appearance, but something else was on her mind. She turned briefly to the lightbulb after staring at it over her shoulder for several seconds, watching it stay still and hover over the bathtub. As she thought about it more, shifting her weight and standing posture, she felt her the thin sole of her slipper warp on something and gazed down at what she had stepped on; a thick black cable, exactly like the one that held the lightbulb up.

    A black trail of cable ran across the bathroom, looping up to above the shower curtain and dangling down to the bulb by some kind of staple in the ceiling. The rest of the trail led out into the hall.

    Zinnia took the flashlight and walked carefully back out into the hall, following the cable as it wrapped around the corner where the sublet began and the rest of the hall continued. Somewhat hunched over as she walked, she moved the flashlight ahead. The cable ran into the kitchen

    The weatherproofed surge protector lie on the counter, hooked up the former toaster, several other extension cable, and the slackened cable in Zinnia's hand, the one that lead into the bathroom.

    "I must give credit where credit is due. Though there is much I have done in the preceding... Weeks? Weeks... I must assume that there's a reason I don't remember this... This sweet action of yours... Rayquaza, whether or not this is divine providence I must thank you. Not of necessity, but of wonder, thank you."

    Shifting the cable also shifted the surge protector. Something plastic and metal rattled beside it, knocked by the surge protector.

    Zinnia groped blindly for whatever had been placed beside it, despite having a flashlight. The look on her face suggested it wasn't something she'd ever seen or known to be in this kitchen. She felt the plastic box casing, somewhat hollow, rattling with the insides of... Something. She picked it up.

    A tape.

    Zinnia turned over the white plastic casing, a slight feeling of nostalgia and familiarity, though she couldn't place the time or place where she had found it. Then, all of a sudden, she froze, feeling a slight flutter in her chest.

    The tape.

    She flipped it over immediately, finding the worn plastic lettering that read 'This Side Up'. A smooth and glossy section on the matte plastic could be felt under Zinnia's thumb. Backpedaling slowly, Zinnia stood with her back to the window, catching a sliver of moonlight on the tape's surface, where she could see the smooth section with enough lighting. The blue marker writing, the word 'Forever' inscribed on it.

    Clutching the tape to her chest, Zinnia let out a heavy sigh, suddenly at a loss for breath. A small smile formed at the corners of her lips as she breathed and thought to herself. Once she had given herself a moment to process her find, she pulled it up to her vision again, beaming.

    "Divine providence indeed..."

    Zinnia skipped forth, a slight spring in her step, crossing the kitchen in only a few bounds.


    She paused for only a moment, then turned her head down the hall she had just come from. She walked speedily down the hall to the end, reemerging in the bathroom and opening the drawer just below the one she had just opened. She pulled an old tape player and headphones from the drawer, setting them on the counter.

    Her eyes lit up when she clicked the 'ON' switch on the tape, a small red diode flaring in the casing. A tiny whirring on the inside sounded when the large square 'PLAY' tab clicked in.

    "Oh Rayquaza! Rayquaza, Rayquaza... This... This is providence! Oh goodness, why ever does this surprise me? This is incredible! Amazing!"
  6. yugoslavia

    yugoslavia School Kid

    May 12, 2015


    From the empty street, Zinnia walked, following the center of the bare unlit road.

    She walked with a skip, walking a winding path she made up as she walked along, humming aloud to herself. The headphones clinging to and cupping her ears pumped out tinny sound at a loud volume. The night wind swayed the skirt of the bathrobe and made the thin headphone cable flutter. Loose locks of greasy black hair swam around her forehead, an idyllic smile on her lips.

    She hopped up onto the driveway of the house once again, taking a few hop-steps and heading into the darkened open garage, knocking the leaves that stuck to the bottoms of her slippers. Slipping past the purring generator, she stopped her approach to the door, doing a small turn in place with the music. She paused, taking a small break from her dance, staring into the darkness of the far corner of the garage. A glint of moonlight reflected back at her on the polished surface of a water heater.

    Zinnia walked slowly into the corner, careful not to step on loose scraps and other tools, heading to the heater. A dense musty smell rose up to her nostrils and gave her the urge to wheeze.

    By moonlight, she found a knob on the front of the tank. Cranking it slightly did nothing. Resetting the knob, pausing for a moment with a slight frown, Zinnia hunched down to the cinder blocks that the tank rested on. She removed her headphones and rested the thin metal band around her neck and the collar of her robe. Turning the switch just below the tank, Zinnia heard the gentle whoosh of natural gas flooding to the lower chambers, the dial above her indicating that pressure and heat were rising inside the chamber.

    Zinnia kept her headphones off as she stepped into the house, though the music still played. She hummed along, singing loosely and under her breath the lyrics she knew when they came up, walking with the slight groove in her step returning.

    In the kitchen, she cracked the fridge open just slightly, removing one of the amber-colored beer bottles from the fridge. Setting it on the counter, she reached up into the cabinets above and pulled down a single white candle and its jar.

    "A moment of personal silence... Without the need to speak, pray... Narrate."
    Zinnia chuckled, faintly smiling. She pulled the beer bottle from the counter, setting the ribbed edge of the cap in the palm of her hand. She clasped her hand around it and turned the bottle quickly. A loud hiss and a bit of smoke rose from the opening. Tossing the cap into sink, Zinnia pulled her empty hand up to her lips, suckling the teethed indent the cap had left on her hand, now sore, the worn caliced heel now dripping with fresh beer. She took a pause from tending to her hand and downed some of her drink. She pulled the candle jar by the rim under her finger, heading down the hall.

    "Unwinding is good, good. Very good, I must say."

    The bathtub 'H' knob whined, hot water pouring into the polished bathtub, splashing at the metal stopper in the bottom before splashing onto the pooling water.

    In the bathroom, Zinnia pulled a small matchbook from the drawer beneath the sink counter, flipping open the paper lid and pulling a match from the inside. She struck the match, the room flaring up with warm orange light from the tiny source. With dextrous fingers, Zinnia dipped the matchstick into the jar and pressed it to the wick. As soon as she tipped it the flame tip rose towards her fingers and caught on the wooden length of the matchstick. Zinnia winced and pulled the matchstick up, quickly shaking the match and extinguishing it. She stuck her singed fingertips in her mouth and wet them. After a moment, she grabbed another match and tried again.

    Just before dipping the match inside, Zinnia held the match at the rim, leaning down to see the inside of the jar. A puddle of water filled the inside around the wick. Mildew and growths formed around the rim of the candle. A rotten smell filled the inside.

    Zinnia nearly burned her fingers again as she stared at the inside. Quickly putting the match out, Zinnia folded the matchbook and slid it back in the drawer. As she thought, she wandered to the bathtub, gazing down into the water as it foamed up, reaching in to check the water line through the thin layer of foam. As she did, she knocked her head against something; the lightbulb.

    The lightbulb knocked about, it's metal pull-string rattling against the metal housing. Curious, Zinnia stared up, holding the bulb delicately at the base and stopping it from swinging. She clicked on the light.

    The room filled with ample lighting, bright yellow light somewhat swinging still and casting shadows from releasing her hands. It wasn't as ambient as a flickering candle but it was close enough.

    Zinnia slid the 'Hot' knob with a squeak.

    "A quiet night in it is..."

    A folded towel slid against the base of the bathtub, pushed by Zinnia's foot. The robe dropped beside it, the tape player resting atop the towel.

    Zinnia slipped a leg into the water, testing up to her ankle. She sighed, the warmth making her skin tingle. Slipping into the water ever so carefully, Zinnia sank into the water, and the slid down so that the water came up to her neck and her shoulders barely poked above the foam. Her knees and toes were the only things visible above the water line.

    Leaning back, she undid the bun below her hair and let the length of her hair slip into the water past the nape of her neck where it usually rested and past her shoulders. She slipped down, her head dipping beneath the warm waters for a moment. Rising back up, the entire length of her hair was soaked and dripping into the water. She pulled it all back over her head and sighed with relaxation. She wiped the loose dribbling of water from her nose and blinked water from her eyes.

    Beside her, the tape player buzzed quietly as the gears inside turned. Zinnia unplugged the headphone cable and let the tiny internal speaker take over, the music echoing through the dimly lit bathroom.

    She giggled.

    "'Wanna take a bath?'"
  7. yugoslavia

    yugoslavia School Kid

    May 12, 2015
    The tape player had stopped playing a long time ago.

    The water in the bath has lost it's warmth, now lukewarm, but Zinnia was still in it. She was half asleep, eyes either closed or staring up at the porcelain walls ahead of her. The sound of the wind rocking the house was putting her on the verge of sleep, though she tried to stay awake. She was too relaxed to force herself to leave, but still too sleepy to stay. At her best guess, it was 2 AM.

    Almost silently, Zinnia started humming again, smiling.

    A sharp breezy gale knocked the house hard. She could hear windows rattling in different parts of the house. The waters in tub rippled silently.

    Zinnia opened her eyes and stared up to the ceiling. Something had caught her attention, the light flickering in the room. Above her, the light bulb swung cautiously, warping the light in the room. The smile on Zinnia only faded for a moment. When she realized she had taken a pause in humming, she picked up right where she had left off.

    She reached over the tub blindly, her wet arm cold and exposed. She felt for a tall glass bottle, her beer, nearly toppling it over, but eventually picking it up in her hands. It felt light, inspiring a frown from Zinnia. Squinting with one eye, she could see through the amber surface a layer of dark liquid remaining towards the bottom. She pulled the opening close to her lips, a task harder when she was as tired as she was. Finally, lips aligned with opening, she downed the remaining beer.

    Sighing, Zinnia set the bottle to the side, this time letting it fall over. She pulled her arm beneath the water and continue to lie. Her gaze returned to the light bulb over head, once again swinging.

    "Mm... 'Wanna take a bath'?"

    She repeated the quote to herself, laughing quietly.

    The house rattled again. The light bulb swung overhead at an even more violent pace, the cable creaking.

    Zinnia thought about the light bulb, lazily staring up at it. She clutched her naked stomach, the warm burning feeling in her throat passing down to it. The foaming surface of the water had long since fizzled away and her body, though obscured by the murky water, looked and felt largely unguarded and exposed. An outline of her naked body barely visible through dirty water and dim lighting. In her mildly drunken, exhausted state, she felt somewhat dumb about it.

    The rattling happened again. Zinnia's eyes darted up to the light bulb. Her sense of helplessness increased, watching the bulb swing side to side. Her breath tensed.

    The staple holding the light bulb cable to the ceiling came out. The light bulb dropped into the center of the tub, still lit when it hit the water. The cable came snaking after it and felt beneath the water too. Finally, the glass bulb snapped and shattered, the light fizzling out and the room going into the darkness.

    Zinnia screamed, fighting to pull herself from the tub but suddenly loosing control of her limbs. Her whole body felt like it was tingling, like the bones beneath her skin were wobbling out of control. The feeling spiraled out of control and shot into pure, unadulterated pain. She felt sharp shocks rip through her skin like it was cracking through. She screamed and thrashed in the water, her arms and legs banging against the walls of the tub involuntarily to the point of breaking the skin. Her whole body burned.

    The only sounds she heard were her own bloodcurdling screams, the splashing of water, the incredibly loud banging of her limbs on the bathtub walls, and the roaring song in her ears, overwhelming her senses and filling her mind as she blacked out.
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