IV. Unnerved

IV. Unnerved

A Chapter by Writer #00

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IV. Unnerved


            Chad was full of sagely music metaphors.  I never found out if they just came to him on the whim or if he had some sort of Wiseman’s Words: Music Edition in his possession, because they were usually pretty spot on in terms of the circumstance.  For instance, once, while I was trying to play the first movement of Moonlight Sonata, my finger slipped during the triplet progression.  Instead of hitting the intended F natural, I let out this ghastly F sharp (which might not mean anything to you if you aren’t a secret classical music dork like I) and its half-step off sound startled me so much I lost my count.  The entire remainder of the piece was out of tempo, and I was shaking so ferociously from fear of disappointing Chad (though I don’t know why I was so afraid, it wasn’t like he ever became angry with me for anything…maybe that was why I was so afraid of being a disappointment…I don’t know, that’s introspective speculation that I can do at another time) that I couldn’t control the dynamics of the piece all too well.

            When I’d finally finished, I was blabbering apologies and excuses like Sasha on caffeine…or meth…which is an unbearably frightening and equally sad thought.  Chad waited for me to finish (which, by the end, I was practically in tears); then he went to the piano and sat down, closing his eyes and repositioning his thick glasses the way he always did before playing.  Soon, one of the most hauntingly beautiful and simultaneously bittersweet waves of harmonies and drops of notes I’d ever heard resonated from the hammers and strings of the piano. 

            “Do you hear that, Harri?” he’d asked in his whisper of a voice.

            “Yeah, it’s pretty…but not in the same way as Debussy’s or Ludwig’s music--“(I still don’t refer to Beethoven by his last name, well, except just now) “--What’s it called?”

            “It’s a German piece,” he’d told me, coming to the end of the first movement, “Das Buch der Hängenden Gärten by Arnold Schoenberg.”

            That’s not what I’d been asking, though: “I mean…the sound, what is it…?”

            “Ahh, yes, that’s the whole point of me playing this piece.  Atonality, or harmonies that aren’t based on a tonal center.”

            I’d had no idea what that meant, and I guess it showed on my face (Chad could read me pretty well, almost as well as Kami) because he soon simplified what he’d said: “Atonality is the sound made when random notes are played together.” (Which, now that I think about it, isn’t an accurate definition, but it got his point across to a six or seven-year-old child).

            “It’s like the F sharp you played earlier,” Chad had continued, “its sound collided with the A and that of the other notes in that measure, didn’t it?”

            I nodded, because that collision is what had brought my execution of the piece to the junkyard, but, if that was the case, how was it that Schoenberg’s piece sounded so ‘pretty’ (as I’d so artfully put it).

            “Because Schoenberg managed to see the beauty in atonality whereas all those classical composers before him viewed it with disgust; the bad end of music.  Sometimes, what’s terrible in one piece can be beautiful in another.”

            And that’s pretty much where I was going with that little back story.  How does it apply?  Well, seeing the pendant again was terrible in the moment…horrible, actually…completely mind-crushing…like I wanted to smash that little fish to pieces… ….  But, once that moment’d passed, Mrs. Diaz still let me lie down for another hour or so in the cabin--and Felix didn’t bother me (out of xenos, I suppose) because he was convinced my episode had been a result of not enough rest.  Voila, what’s terrible during one time can be beautiful in another…well, the pain itself still wasn’t exactly beautiful…but the result…you know, I don’t really know where I was going with this.  Moving on.

---

            Felix and I joined the rest of the team at one of the island’s beaches at around six.  Felix kept eyeing me as we made the little walk down to the shore, probably wondering if I was going to have another one of my “dizzy spells” (it’s what I’d told Mrs. Diaz and Felix), but he didn’t say anything.  Maybe he could finally sense my irritation, or his urge to help out was no longer as strong…maybe he’d just been trying to make a good impression (which, if this was the reason, would render him a failure in that department) and, now that he’d been with me for a few hours, decided to drop the unnatural act and just revert back to whatever state he was normally in.  Anyhow, aside from Felix’s occasional comment on the way the grass grew between the roots of a particular tree, or some other such observation of the nature, the little mile down (give or take a little) was pleasingly serene.

            As we got closer, we began to smell something like barbecue and smoke, which started a sort of conversation between us.  It wasn’t much of anything, more of a two-lined Q & A that went as follows:

Q [Me]: Hmm…what’s that smell?  Smells good.

A [Felix]: Coach Jung arranged to have his group throw a beach bonfire-barbecue type deal, y’know-- as an apology for what one o’ his group members said at lunch today about the new pitcher.

            To be honest, I’d almost forgotten about Mill’s remark from this afternoon.  Apparently he was in Coach Jung’s cabin, and the rest of his group’d been forced to help out with the apology bonfire as well.  I guess being in Felix’s cabin had its advantage.  Emphasis on the singular.

            The sands of the beach were illumined a soft blue by the two-foot tall bonfire blazing at the center of a circle of stones and pebbles.  The flames waved with the sea breeze, casting dark, blue-ish shadows over the shore and the people who treaded on it.  I’d done an experiment last year in chemistry involving flames, metals, and the spectrum of light (aka: the rainbow), so I knew that there was a type of copper chloride (either one or two) that had this sky-coloring effect on flame when the two made contact.  I wondered if there was some of the stuff naturally embedded in whatever kindling had been collected for the bonfire.

            “Cool, isn’t it, Catmouth?” Kami said, agreeing with my thoughts, and coming towards me with a few chicken kabobs and a slice of strawberry pie on her plate.

            “Um, yeah.  I was just thinking about that one lab in Mr. Tow’s,” I answered, smiling just because this was the first time I’d spoken to her during the retreat.

            “With the Bunsen burner?”

            “Yeah.”

            “And you were afraid to hold the metal over the flame even though you had, like, twelve-inch tongs,” she laughed, finding us a seat on a boulder near the bonfire.

            “Yeah, yeah, I know--but those flames--“

            “Correcton: that flame.  Singular.  One tiny, little flame.”

            “Tiny or not, it was menacing--nearly incinerated my hand.”

            Kami rolled her eyes, taking a bite of one of her kabobs and offering me one of her others, which I declined (I was still a bit unnerved from what’d happened with the pendant).  “You exaggerate, Catmouth.  It didn’t even burn you.”

            “You sound disappointed…  Had you been hoping for something like that?”

            “No!  What do you take me for, a sadist?!” she refuted through a few chuckles, then she lowered her voice (though it wasn’t like any of the other team members were listening to us), “So, why weren’t you here earlier?  Anything to do with your sleep paralysis?”

            I nodded, but I was hesitant to explain what’d happened.  I really didn’t feel like retelling what I’d just experienced.  I just wanted to enjoy this little barbecue with my friend and forget about the horror that awaited me behind closed eyes.  Kami could tell, too, because she didn’t press the topic and simply allowed our small talk and playful banter to blend with the voices of our team, the sizzling of the grill, and the crackling of the blue flames.

---

            Once it was dark, and the team’d all eaten and changed out of their swimwear, Mrs. Diaz and Coach Jung “strongly suggested” (which, in anti-subliminal speech, was synonymous to: “ordered”) the team stay for “a little ice-breaking around the fire”.

            “But, Coach, we all already know each other,” Diego, our second second-baseman (and fastest member), pointed out.

            “I’m sure there’s still more you boys can learn about each other~!” Mrs. Diaz beamed, “Until you’ve been in someone’s head, you can never know someone fully~!”

            Diego seemed to like this answer, because he sat back on his hands in a more relaxed manner; however, Coach still felt the need to remind us that:

            “None of you know Rosa and Rosa knows none of you.  We need her to assimilate into the team as comfortably as possible…so…does anyone have any ice breakers they’d like to try out?”

            No one offered anything, so Mrs. Diaz suggested a memory game in which each person says their name and one thing they like that starts with the same letter.  The person following each person will have to name that person’s name and thing before saying their own.  Yeah.  The way I just explained it made it sound much more convoluted than it really was, but you’re understanding it doesn’t really matter.  We played a game, that’s all you need to know.  It started with Young Cho, the back-up first baseman:

            “My name is Young, and I like…yogurt,” he said, passing it on to Mich, who passed it on to Phayton, who passed it on to Ali, and so on and so forth until someone messed up and the game ended.

            “That was pointless,” Kami whispered to me, “Rosa didn’t even get a chance to play.”

            “Ooookaaay~!” Mrs. Diaz proclaimed, standing up, “That was a blunder~!  Why don’t we try something else~?  Any suggestions~?”  She didn’t wait for anyone to respond, but pointed at Nate Wang and demanded a suggestion.

            “But…I don’t know any ice breakers,” he told her.

            “Oh, don’t be so shy, I’m sure you do~!  Just think back to other summer camps you’ve been to~!”

            “I haven’t been to any other camps.”

            “Surely you have, it’s an essential part of every child’s life~!”

            Nate just looked at her.  “Well, apparently I’ve been very deprived.”

            “Yes, apparently you have~!!  Now we just have to play a good ice breaker so that poor, depressed Nick--“ (“I’m not depressed, and my name is Nathan.”) “--can fill that yawning void in his empty childhood~!!”

---

            We tried a few more ice-breakers, one athletic game (which didn’t end well due to the dimness of light), and finally gave up, silently agreeing that Rosa would just have to make her own effort to assimilate into the team.  Unfortunately, though, just as we were about to leave the bonfire, Mrs. Diaz had the brilliant idea to tell ghost stories.  There were a few murmurs of disproval, some guys claiming they were too old for that kind of stuff, but Coach soon quieted us down and allowed Mrs. Diaz to take control.

            “I just hope this doesn’t last too long,” Kami whispered to me.

            “Yeah,” I agreed, thinking about how early we’d have to wake up for the training Coach’d planned for us tomorrow and every day this week, “and hopefully it doesn’t throw Sasha into another tantrum.”

            “Actually, I haven’t seen him at the beach all day,” Kami replied as Mrs. Diaz set the ambiance of her ghost story, “maybe he has a stomachache, like Weston.”

            I snickered at the thought of my brother rolled up in bed, moaning about how he shouldn’t’ve eaten so much.  Strawberry pie was his favorite, so he probably went all out the moment he saw it.

            And with that, I joined my reluctant team in listening the to the tale Mrs. Diaz had to tell, the flame of the bonfire painting portions of her face in shadow:

---

            “Many, many years ago in a harbor village, lived an angler and his wife, Merida.  They led fairly peaceful lives, the sea providing cool breezes and an abundance of food, which the angler would go out to sea for any number of days and return with a few net-fulls of fish.  During these days, Merida was left in the village to manage the home and take care of other necessities which the angler himself would be unable to do at sea.  She didn’t have anyone she considered a companion, and her only son, who was off to make his mark in the world, would only come once a year to visit for a week.  In short, she was often times rather lonely and rather consumed in daydreaming.  She didn’t mind being alone, as a matter of fact she found it much more appealing to her to have a flexible schedule that was not dictated by her husband. 

            “One day, while walking out on the harbor to stimulate her daydreaming, Meirda came upon a figure--white like seafoam and grey like rainclouds--caught in one of the many fishermens’ nets.  She peered closer and saw that it wasn’t a fish, though, but a gull, a small gull whose wing was twisted and tangled in the mesh of the fishnet.  It parted its tiny, yellow beak and let out multiple cries for help, but none of the passerby did a thing.  They were all too focused on loading and unloading their respective water vessels--merchants stocking up on provisions and making a few sales, fishers hauling nets of fish off their boats and dumping them into barrels--to even pay a passing glance to the poor, trapped gull.  So, out of pity and kindness, she retrieved a pair of sewing scissors from home and cut the gull loose.  It did not fly off, however, and Merida soon realized how truly damaged its wing was.

            “She took the gull home, buying a few fish from the market on the way, and made a sort of nest for it out of spare fabric and her husband’s torn sailor’s hat (which he had left with her to mend).  Over a couple of days, the angler’s wife fed and tended to the gull until, finally, the gull had been fully nursed back to health.  Upon doing so, the gull transformed into a man whose form was vaporous and whose eyes shone lambent like moonlight filtering through the surface of the sea.  Merida gasped, knowing what the figure was spontaneously, for she had heard about them in legend: a water spirit.  They were said to be the spirits of the ocean and those who lived in or of it.  Sometimes, they were rumored to change form and pass into the realm of the tangible for any of various reasons, but, most commonly, as omens.

            “ ‘What is it, spirit?’ the angler’s wife asked, her voice shaking fearfully.

            “ ‘Fear not, young maiden,’ the spirit answered, ‘I am Fylax, a spirit of the water, but I do not come to bear bleak news.  Contrarily, I have come to reward you.’

            “ ‘What do you mean?’

            “ ‘In my corporeal form many of these villagers passed me by, leaving me injured and trapped, but you--you stooped down to offer help.  Tell me, where is the man of this house?’

            “ ‘He is an angler.  He is often away from long stretches of time, but I am accustomed to it and can act as needed.’

            “ ‘I see, I see.  Very well, I will repay your kindness.  You looked after me, so I must look after you--‘

            “ ‘No, it really is fine.  I have taken care of myself for much time, now, and am content on my own.’

            “The water spirit shook his head.  ‘That is not acceptable.  I will pledge to be your guardian for as long as you live.  It is my word.’

            “ ‘Please, do not bind yourself to me.  Live free, not as my guardian.’

            “ ‘I have already bound myself with my word.  It cannot be undone.  I will guard you with all my heart.’

            “ ‘But, I am not the one who must be guarded.  If anyone must, it is my husband and his crew as they are out to sea.  I worry for them constantly, never knowing if they will return.’

            “ ‘Very well, I will also pledge to be the guardian of your family for as long as they live.  I will serve them with all my heart.’

            “The water spirit did not listen to Merida’s protests, and so she eventually accepted his promise and thanked him.  The water spirit vanished, promising that he would always be near, watching over her.

            “For a while, she went without hearing from the water spirit--she even began to forget about his promise to her--but one look at a flock of seagulls resting on the masts of docked ships, or soaring overhead in search of fresh fish, and the spirit would come to mind once more.  One day, while Merida was in the market, Fylax approached her in the form of a human.

            “ ‘I warn you,’ the disguised water spirit told her, ‘your husband will be returning in two days with an enormous fish.’

            “ ‘And what about such great news need I be warned?’ the angler’s wife asked, thinking of the finance catches like this might bring in.

            “ ‘This catch will be no ordinary fish, but one whose flesh will bring you and anyone who eats it supreme health so as to prolong your life and increase longevity.  However, when you eat it, make sure to not eat the head, but dispose of it as soon as possible.’

            “Two days later, the angler returned as the water spirit foretold.  He came home with something wrapped in cloth.  The object could barely fit through the door of their small hut, and the angler’s wife found herself becoming giddy with the thought of long life.  Seeing his wife’s joy, the angler laid the catch across the floor of their hut and slowly unwrapped it.  Once the creature was fully exposed, the angler’s wife screamed with fright, for what she saw was an eel the length of a tall man…and with the face of a woman!  Immediately, she remembered her guardian spirit’s warning, and ordered her husband to sever its head and toss it far out at sea.

            “So, before the angler could settle down and eat any of what his wife had prepared or any of what he’d brought home, the angler left the hut with the creature’s head wrapped tightly in a potato sack.  Unable to shake her fear that the catching of such a creature would bring bad weather, she asked the water spirit to watch over him and make sure he did as she’d requested. 

            “Merida waited for her husband to return.  She stood at the docks all day, only going home when the sun set.  Eventually, the water spirit brought her husband’s ship back, and when Merida found it empty, she gathered provisions (including some of the flesh of the creature he’d brought home) and a few of his crew members and decided to search for him.  The water spirit begged for her to stay, telling her that her quest would be fruitless, but she ignored him and he retreated into invisibility, leaving a map to the island somewhere on the ship.

         “The angler’s wife and her crew found the map soon after, and began navigating according to it.  Many of her crewmembers became lustful after her, but she remained loyal to her husband and managed to stave off any mild forms of mutiny (with the water spirit’s unseen help).  When she arrived at the island, she broke the crew up into groups to search it.  Gradually, as the days went on, her crew began to shrink in size--some of the men who left to search not coming back to the boat after dark.

           “Finally, once Merida realized all of her crew had gone missing, she followed their tracks until she heard the sound of music coming from a cove on the far side of the island.  Wondering if these inhabitants had seen her crew, she entered the cove cautiously, brandishing a scabbard, and found three sirens sitting in the dark, singing their song.  She saw the bodies of her crew piled in a corner and gasped.

          “ ‘You’ve killed my crew!’  she exclaimed, fear and shock gripping her heart.

          “ ‘Yes,’  they replied, ‘indeed we have.’

          Another thought filled her with dread: ‘My husband came here some time ago--we are looking for him--…did you…’

          “ ‘Yes, we killed a sailor who had appeared lost and confused some time ago.’

         “Enraged, the angler’s wife thrust forward with her blade, but the sirens quickly evaded her attacks.

         “ ‘Leave now, and never return, or we will have to murder you as well.’  They warned.

        “She ignored them, tossing her blade at one.  The siren caught the scabbard and flung it back at Merida with inhuman accuracy and force, stabbing her heart.  The water spirit, feeling guilty for being rendered useless by the sirens’ enchantments, transformed the loyal angler’s wife into a water spirit.

         “ ‘Why?!’  Merida proclaimed as she was resurrected as a ghost, “ ‘Why did you three kill him?!’

         “ ‘All of the people we have killed have been for good cause,’  they replied, now that Merida was no longer a threat.

         “ ‘And what would that be?’

         “ ‘Each of these men tried to take advantage of us, so we took advantage of their libido and lured them into our cove to be murdered.’

         “ ‘But my husband is a very noble man, he has been away from me for days upon days and never become a cuckold.’

         “ ‘Well, then, I suppose even the most loyal of husbands has his breaking point.  He forced his seed into me.  My sisters had to drive him off and, well, kill him.  I appologize, but we could not tolerate his behavior.’

        “Merida was furious, but not at the sirens; at her husband.  She searched the island for his ghost, but found nothing.

        ‘Has that cuckold moved on to Hell?’  she asked the water spirit angrily.

        “ ‘I’m afraid not, Merida,’  he replied, ‘for he ate the head of a gorgona which, though it kills one prematurely in this life, will also curse the eater to be reincarnated until the end of all life.’

       “Merida smiled darkly, filled with revenge.  ‘That will do.  I will find him in his new body and kill him, and when he is reincarnated again, I will kill that one, and when that one is reincarnated, I will kill him once more, and again, and again, and again, until the end of all life.  He will rue the day he tossed me away.’”

---

            “It’s said,” Mrs. Diaz finished, her voice low and eerie, as if all traces of the ray-of-sunshine Mrs. Diaz had been swallowed up by the tale itself, “that the ghost of the angler’s wife still roams the island of the sirens, searching among the people who stop there for the soul of her husband; trapped in the body of someone else.  And, inevitably, that person will always come to this island--“

            “W-wait a second,” Mill interrupted, totally killing the mood, “This island?  A-are you saying that…we are on the island where this ghost is?!”

            “Cooooooreeect~!” Mrs. Diaz dropped the creepy story-telling voice, but saying the same stuff in her normal voice was decidedly creepier.  “Icthyes Island isn’t only a great place for summer retreats, training, and swimming--it’s also the place where the ghost of the angler’s wife lurks in wait for the reincarnation of her next victim~!”

            Even though most of the team tried to hide it, they were seriously spooked by her ghost story.  Some of the guys (like Josh and Nate) even let out little startled jumps at the unveiling of the human-faced eel.  We sat in a nagging silence which, after hearing that freaky story, made every whisper of the night sound like the angler’s wife coming gradually closer to our one spot of light from the bonfire.

            “Okay!” Coach boomed, surprising us with his sudden noise, “I think it’s about time we all get some rest--breakfast starts at six and training at nine.”

            We just sat there, the darkness of the trails back to our respective cabins seeming to harbor all sorts of terrors.

            Coach grinned.  “Looks like Mrs. Diaz here did a good job of scaring you guys, eh?”

            In an attempt to prove otherwise, about half the team (including Cane, I realized) began to stand up and make their ways back.

            “There’s no way I’m letting Dale’s mom keep me up all night,” Henry murmured, standing up to return to our cabin, “Are you coming, Harri?  Or did that little kid’s story actually frighten you?”

            “Um…” the truth was, things like that didn’t really get to me.  I was just trying to avoid falling asleep--avoid those dreams--because, if stress induced sleep paralysis, then being in an unfamiliar place in the total dark would definitely trigger something.

            “Murder and adultery aren’t exactly something you’d find in a ‘little kid’s story’,” I pointed out, unable to think of something to say.

            Henry rolled his eyes.  “Well, hope you don’t get nightmares,” he said, about to follow Felix and the rest of my group, when Mrs. Diaz decided to say something else:

            “I just had a little thought~!” she told us.

            The team waited in anticipation.

            “Any one of you could be the reincarnation of the angler~!”

            “H-how would we know if we were?” Mill asked, not caring if everyone knew how concerned he was.  I guess he figured that, if there was a ghost, he’d want to know how safe he was regardless of how wimpy it made him appear.

            “I don’t know~, probably the same way any reincarnated person would know if they were reincarnated~:  having a subconscious memory from your past life~.”

            “If it’s subconscious, then how would we even remember it?” Mason asked, finding the flaw in that statement as he did with most things.

            “Well, for example, let’s say someone met someone else whom they promptly forgot~.  The memory of that experience was only suppressed, not entirely erased from that person’s mind.  It still exists in the subconscious.  Now, if you’d died and come back to life, what would be one memory from that past life you’d want to forget?”

            “Dying,” Mason answered bluntly.

            “Cooorreeect~!  Dying is a very traumatic experience that I’m sure anyone would want to forget… if they somehow still remembered it.  So, the memory of dying is suppressed into the subconscious until something from that past life triggers the memory again.”

            “H-how do the reincarnations usually die?” Mill asked, still trying to come up with a way to see if he were the reincarnation.

            “I’m not sure~,” Mrs. Diaz mused, casting a quick, almost undetectable glance at me, “I’d say, given the location, that the most common way the ghost would kill her husband would be by drowning him.



© 2013 Writer #00


Author's Note

Writer #00
So...here's chapter the fourth of SOS. Thanks in advance for reading and all that good stuff. I've been wondering about the way Harri narrates (all the parenthesis business) and if it obstructs the flow of the story or not. I meant it to add character, but perhaps its too much...I'm not sure. Your opinions are welcome~!

Also, some notes:
-The Moonlight Sonata I reference is the simplified version... I mean, he was only six-ish
-The Schoenberg piece translates to "The Book of Hanging Gardens"...if anyone was curious
-I'm not sure if passerby has a plural form...my Word processor marked 'passerbys' as misspelled, so I assumed it was
-cuckold is a husband who cheats on his wife (just in case you didn't know)
-an angler is a fisherman...angler's wife sounds more menacing to me than fisherman's wife...I don't know, that might just be me : )

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Reviews

Starting the chapter with classical music theme was a nice touch, seemed very soothing to me.

Answering your question about Harri's narration, it's fine except for one tiny thing (and I know you know what I mean, I've been bragging about it in almost every review, those damn backets).

It's a good question, does passerby have plural form? It's been bugging me for the same reasons for about a year.

No wonder "angler" sounds menacing - this particular word exists in German ;-) By the way, angling is a fishing technique using a hook, not nets.

Back to business now. I was about to whine that the introductions to your characters have been already made and now it's time for some action, but fortunately you threw in the part with the fairy tale about the angler's wife and saved your ears from my bitching. The fairytale part made me stare at the text with wide-opened eyes, just like back in the days where my dad was sitting by my bedside and telling me goodnight-stories. The tale about Merida seemed magical and eerie, great for building up the tension and epic foreshadowing.

I also begin having some suspicions about Harri, is he the reincarnation of that cheating b*****d? Don't tell me!

This chapter was really great. I began growing weary with introducing all the characters, thirsting for mysteries, blood and action, but the campfire tale saved the day, fueling the spark of attention.

Posted 6 Years Ago


Writer #00

6 Years Ago

Harri has a thing for classical music, so I try to include it now and then, glad it soothed you...I .. read more
Interesting story of the Angler's wife! Of course it will have to tie in with this current story after all! Sounds pretty dark and awesome! The boys and girl will definitely have an adventure with that evil thing. I do have a feeling Kami and Harri will get closer in a deeper relationship but maybe its just natural for Kami to tease like that! Sounds like a whole new scary adventure coming!

Posted 6 Years Ago


Writer #00

6 Years Ago

You bet! That story's definitely going to tie in, and I bet the ending helped you forget how : )read more

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Added on July 5, 2013
Last Updated on July 6, 2013
Tags: song, of, the, sirens, SOS, baseball, fantasy, ghost story


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Writer #00
Writer #00

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I'm participating in the Summer Writing Project through Jukepop.com, an online serial website, those entering had to submit a novella on Jukepop.com. The finalists will be decided by the number of +V.. more..

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