Franchise fee for crumbl cookies

For fans of Crumbl Cookies!

2020.10.12 04:47 mastertev For fans of Crumbl Cookies!

Welcome to /CrumblCookies! We are a **fan-run** subreddit dedicated to discussing all things Crumbl Cookies.

2023.03.21 01:42 afraidofturtles On call - help!

I am currently a family assistant in a HCOL area. The family I work for wants me to be on call when one of the parents are traveling (1-4 weeks at a time). What should I charge for this? Hourly? Flat fee? I would appreciate any insight on what I should charge and how this would work.
Thank you!
submitted by afraidofturtles to Nanny [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:40 urmomtoldmebro Any tips on how to create "sexy girl" type fantasy races? (yes this is a serious question, I unironically want to know)

I found this sub when looking for WorldBuildingHelp and might as well ask here. First time posting here so let me know if this post is not appropiate for this sub (although the rules didn't say anything about worldbuilding advice).
I want to create a fantasy race that is primarily conformed by sexy girls, kinda like the twi'lek in Star Wars, the viera in Final Fantasy and the gerudo in Legend of Zelda (I know that these races are formed by more that sexy girls, but that was the original vision that made the race come to existence). Thing is, I don't really know where to start aside from "just make sexy girls".
If you need more context, the setting would be a basic medieval world, possibly arabic more than european (maybe they could be based on djinns?). The idea of the race is to somewhat be avatars of the destructive feminine power and the always-out-of-reach innocent beauty. They would lure men with their beauty and set them on covered trials to test their virtue and wisdom, killing or cursing them if they fail and marrying them or giving them treasures if they are proven worhty. You can think of something like Circe in greek mithology mixed with Durga from hinduism.
Any advice or ideas? I'm more intersted in their "mundane" or superficial traits that in the religious or philosophical symbolism (although you are more than welcome if you want to add to that!). I'm thinking on something similar to the already mentioned twi'lek tentacles and the viera bunny ears, wich are very simple but add a lot of charisma and sex appeal (they are the most sexualized races of their franchises for a reason).
Thanks in advance, and sorry if this question seems odd.
submitted by urmomtoldmebro to worldjerking [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:40 DepthHistorical4996 Desperate for help on mouse infestation

Tldr: tried everything to combat the mice but my old house may need a lot more than what I know how to do. What to look foexpect in a good exterminator?
I know this is long, but I am exhausted and desperately need some advice on where to go from here. Some background of my situation: I (26) recently moved back home to my 120 year old childhood home. It’s just been my dad and our two dogs here for roughly the last 7 years. Since moving back home, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the house as my dad has let it fall into terrible disrepair. Biggest among those being the mouse infestation. Before I moved in, when I would visit I would notice mouse poop absolutely littering every inch of the house, dead mice in traps that haven’t been checked in days, weeks, months, mice that would just run past your feet and on the countertops, and spots around the house that they clearly use to get in/out and nest around.
I’ve made a lot of progress on cleaning up and doing what I can think of for prevention. I’ve cleaned all of the existing mouse poop that I could find, laid dozens of traps that are constantly checked and replaced, placed those frequency plug ins around, used peppermint and other types of deterrents, laid out poison pellets, emptied and cleaned out some neglected spaces they may hide in, stuffed gaps with steel wool and foam insulation, replaced baseboard moulding, etc. everything I could think of doing myself. Cats unfortunately are not an option as our dogs are not cat friendly, and the dogs themselves couldn’t care less about the mice.
Now, I know I need to call an exterminator. I’ve been busy and hoped my efforts would at least bring the issue down from infestation to manageable (especially given that we live next to a golf course and have always had some level of issue with them). Luckily it has, I almost never encounter them anymore and only ever catch one every few weeks. Unfortunately though, I’m still finding evidence of them around the house pretty regularly. I have absolutely no idea how to properly handle this though. I don’t know what to expect from an exterminator and how to know if they’re the right one for the job or not.
It’s an old house that hasn’t been very well updated or taken care of for years. It’s built on a stone foundation that has been crumbly my entire life, an unfinished concrete basement that gives me the heebie jeebies still, and an attic with two storage eves that are rarely ever touched. Not to mention the kitchen cabinets that the mice will not stop literally chewing through every time I fill a hole in them.
I’m overwhelmed that the problem is way more massive that I can handle. My dad agreed to pay for whatever needs to be done as long as I can be there to set things up and manage it (he’s constantly busy with work), but I’m really afraid this is going to be insanely expensive and require extensive foundational and in depth work on the house outside of just an exterminator. Neither of us have a lot of money, nor do I really want to be responsible for massive home reconstruction for a house I’m only staying in until I can afford my own place.
I just want the mice to stop. Nowhere feels safe, nowhere feels clean, and no one can seem to give me real guidance on this.
submitted by DepthHistorical4996 to Oldhouses [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:38 SirLurksAlot_2021 📈 Daily GameStop Statistics Recap. March 20: Up 1.63‭%. MTD: Down 12.27‭‭‭%. YTD: Down 8.61%. Buy/Sell Ratio: 80% Buys, 20% Sells. Apes are hodling strong. BUY HODL DRS BOOK 🌙

📈 Daily GameStop Statistics Recap. March 20: Up 1.63‭%. MTD: Down 12.27‭‭‭%. YTD: Down 8.61%. Buy/Sell Ratio: 80% Buys, 20% Sells. Apes are hodling strong. BUY HODL DRS BOOK 🌙
Things are getting interesting! The streak of short volume above 70% is at 19 consecutive trading days. The borrow fee is still going up, and the number of shares available to borrow is very low. 🔥
Orders on Fidelity - See the screenshot below
  • Buy/Sell Ratio: 80% Buys, 20% Sells
  • Total Orders: 1.858
  • Orders per 1k volume: 0.42
Volume: 4,445,708
  • Down 12% from Friday
  • 98% of 90-day average volume
Dark Pools - source 1
  • Volume: Unavailable
  • Down ‭Unavailable% from Friday
  • Unavailable% of total volume ⭐ Down Unavailable‬‭‬ ‬‭from Friday
  • 30-Day Average: Unavailable%
Friday's Short Volume (not Short Interest) - source
  • Total volume reported: 4,085,260
  • Short volume reported: ‭‭3,202,690
  • 78.40% of total reported volume 👀
  • 30-Day Average: 69.56%
  • Borrow fee: 13.3% ⭐ Up 2.2 - See the screenshot below
Note: The borrow fee was 18.1% as of mid-day today. There were only ETF shares available to borrow after that time.
Processing img vg17rvmzryoa1...
  1. ChartExchange is still showing Friday's exchange data, so today's dark pool stats are unavailable. I searched for a second source, but could not find one.
For apes new to my daily posts, please see My perspective on GME buy/sell ratio from Fidelity and Retail Ape Sentiment: Analyzing 5 Months of Fidelity Buy/Sell Ratio Data for information about how I gather and use the buy/sell ratio stats as an objective measure of ape sentiment.
Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. I am just an average, crayon eating ape. Nothing in this post should be taken as financial advice.
submitted by SirLurksAlot_2021 to GMEJungle [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:38 spaceboys If they ever bring back [Spoiler], it should be in the last movie ever...

If they ever bring back Stu, it should be in the last movie ever, and maybe hint it in the movie before that...
I mean, there would be infinite ways to make it work, but imagine if he's barely alive like, can't walk, or talk by himself, something crazy like that states that he's not like completely alive or that his "death" had important consequences for him. And make him being the one behind every other Ghostface out there like spreading the idea on different ways, online, on the newspaper, financially or something crazy, I know it would be a cliche probably, but I don't know what else could be a good way to bring him back? Have you ever had an idea of how it would work?
What do you guys think?
I know many of you don't want him back ever but it's a classic, it would be awesome to close the franchise with the original two or something, idk
submitted by spaceboys to Scream [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:37 BroadIntroduction575 Clarification on Landlord's Acceleration of Rent Clause [Texas]

Tl;dr want to break lease and am unclear on how much it will cost. Relevant clauses in lease are confusing so I'm asking reddit
Hey everyone, first of all thanks for clicking on my post. I looked though the sidebar and this seems like the right place to post but if there's a better place, let me know!
I'm weighing the pros and cons of breaking my lease right now for personal reasons and am trying to figure out how much it'll cost me. Nowhere in my lease is there a direct lease-breaking amount, instead there are a few relevant clauses I've listed below.
From what is stated in the sections I've pasted below, giving my intent to move our prior to end of the lease immediately triggers all remaining rent due. However on the next clause, it states that I "shall remain liable for all rents due," which seems to imply I would continue to pay the monthly cost of renting until a new tenant is found or until my lease expires, whichever comes first. To me, this seems contradictory (e.g. do I need to shell out 6k right now or can I continue to pay 1k/month?). Additionally, I would be responsible for paying the costs to relet the unit which seems fair, although there is another contradiction between the 2 clauses: 1.23 suggests that the maximum is 85% of one month's rent, but 1.24 simply states it "shall not exceed one month's rent," implying it could be up to the full amount.
Also, in the event that no tenant is found, I would be on the hook for the entire remaining rent? This could definitely be the case but seems far more punitive than what I have seen in previous leases where there is a cost to break the lease that usually equates to ~3 month's rent. I understand that the landlord is expected to make a good faith attempt to relet the unit, so in a best-case scenario where a new tenant moves in a month later, I would only pay 1 month's rent + the reletting fee described above. But still, the risk in reletting makes it much harder to accurately budget for.
Thanks again for reading, I appreciate any and all advice!
  • 1.23 Acceleration of rent
In the event Tenant, prior to the end of the term of this Lease, or extension or renewal thereof, (i) abandons the Premises, (ii) gives owner verbal or written notice of intent to move out prior to the end of the lease term or renewal or extension thereof, (iii) removes property in contemplation of moving out, or (iv) is judicially evicted, all monthly rentals for the remainder of the lease term or renewal or extension period shall be accelerated automatically without notice or demand, and shall immediately become due and payable. For Example, if Tenant has a 12 month lease at $1000 per month rent, and commits one of the actions described above in (i)-(iv), having only paid $6000 in rent after 6 months, the remainder of $6000 unpaid rent becomes immediately due and payable.
In the event Tenant abandons the Premises under the above-mentioned circumstances, Owner reserves the right to charge Tenant for costs to lease the Premises to another tenant, an amount equal to 85% of one month's rent.
  • 1.24 Reletting of premises
If Tenant is evicted or moves out and all rent is not paid in full for the entire lease term or renewal or extension period, Tenant shall remain liable for all rents due, and shall also be charged for costs of reletting the Premises, which reletting costs shall not exceed one month's rent. Owner shall attempt to relet the Premises, and all rentals received from such reletting, if any, shall be credited against Tenant's liability for future rentals. Such reletting shall not relieve Tenant of Tenant's obligation to pay all rent due.
submitted by BroadIntroduction575 to legaladvice [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:37 Pupperochini Technology Development Fee Waiver

Fellow Breeze customers, as you may know, Breeze charges a fee called the "Technology Development Charge (Carrier Fee)"; this fee varies in price but for my particular flight out of Charleston it was $78 -- on a $114 base price flight. To learn more about this fee read here.
You can opt out of this particular fee by going in person to the Breeze Airline ticket counter between 11 am - 1 pm on Tuesdays. If you can make this extremely tight window you may think the transaction would be as simple as speaking to the ticket agent, paying for the ticket and walking away. Apparently not. At my local airport I arrived in person for the ticket agent to tell me to scan a QR code, fill out a survey form, and wait for my "request" to be processed off site and the confirmation sent to the ticket agent to be printed. If this convoluted process wasn't terrible enough it took ~1.5 HOURS~ for the request to be processed. Myself and others in line were astounded at the process and excessive wait time.
However, my painful experience was not in vain. I saved the survey link and am sharing it here: Technology Development Charge Waiver Form. Fill out this survey link between 11 am - 1 pm EDT on Tuesdays, wait for the text confirmation that your ticket has been successfully processed, and then pick up your ticket information at the Breeze Airline ticket counter. From my understanding, the ticket agent leaves as soon as all of the tickets have been processed for that day, so be mindful of that.
submitted by Pupperochini to BreezeAir [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:36 vintagepop Lactose/dairy intolerance causing itchy skin?

I've been to my gastroenterologist a while ago for super bad constipation and stomach pain, and after I took the medication he prescribed and stopped eating dairy/lactose, I felt 100% better. No more stomach pain or itchy knees/legs/elbows. Well flash forward a few months, I might eat tiny bits of dairy here and there (maybe a cookie at work or a wrap with dairy at a restaurant), but I'm eating like 90% healthy foods. My stomach pains have returned horribly, along with the awful itchy legs, ankles, knees, etc. Could this be a coincidence, or is skin itchiness actually correlated with a dairy intolerance? Has anyone else experienced something similar?
submitted by vintagepop to dairyfree [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:34 330Tea 14 pages guy is still mad

14 pages guy is still mad submitted by 330Tea to h3h3productions [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:34 thawingSumTendies Simplii Financial Referral March 2023 - $50 Referral Bonus for Bank Account/Line of Credit + Potential $400 sign-up bonus or $100 for Approved Mortgage 🇨🇦🍁 :D

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Provide the referral code: 0009280674 to a Simplii Financial mortgage specialist or broker when applying for a mortgage and must fund your mortgage within 120 days of submitting your application to get started.
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Order a foreign cash order of at least $100 within 30 days of receiving the referral email and get $25 bonus:
**In case my email is required for any of the referrals, please message me :)
submitted by thawingSumTendies to promocodes [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:34 DepthHistorical4996 Desperately need help with the mice

Edit: forgot to mention, cats are unfortunately not an option as our dogs are cat aggressive. The dogs also could not care less about the mice and are no deterrent 🙄
Tldr: tried everything to combat the mice but my old house may need a lot more than what I know how to do. What to look foexpect in a good exterminator?
I know this is long, but I am exhausted and desperately need some advice on where to go from here. Some background of my situation: I (26) recently moved back home to my 120 year old childhood home. It’s just been my dad and our two dogs here for roughly the last 7 years. Since moving back home, I’ve been doing a lot of work on the house as my dad has let it fall into terrible disrepair. Biggest among those being the mouse infestation. Before I moved in, when I would visit I would notice mouse poop absolutely littering every inch of the house, dead mice in traps that haven’t been checked in days, weeks, months, mice that would just run past your feet and on the countertops, and spots around the house that they clearly use to get in/out and nest around.
I’ve made a lot of progress on cleaning up and doing what I can think of for prevention. I’ve cleaned all of the existing mouse poop that I could find, laid dozens of traps that are constantly checked and replaced, placed those frequency plug ins around, used peppermint and other types of deterrents, laid out poison pellets, emptied and cleaned out some neglected spaces they may hide in, stuffed gaps with steel wool and foam insulation, replaced baseboard moulding, etc. everything I could think of doing myself.
Now, I know I need to call an exterminator. I’ve been busy and hoped my efforts would at least bring the issue down from infestation to manageable (especially given that we live next to a golf course and have always had some level of issue with them). Luckily it has, I almost never encounter them anymore and only ever catch one every few weeks. Unfortunately though, I’m still finding evidence of them around the house pretty regularly. I have absolutely no idea how to properly handle this though. I don’t know what to expect from an exterminator and how to know if they’re the right one for the job or not.
It’s an old house that hasn’t been very well updated or taken care of for years. It’s built on a stone foundation that has been crumbly my entire life, an unfinished concrete basement that gives me the heebie jeebies still, and an attic with two storage eves that are rarely ever touched. Not to mention the kitchen cabinets that the mice will not stop literally chewing through every time I fill a hole in them.
I’m overwhelmed that the problem is way more massive that I can handle. My dad agreed to pay for whatever needs to be done as long as I can be there to set things up and manage it (he’s constantly busy with work), but I’m really afraid this is going to be insanely expensive and require extensive foundational and in depth work on the house outside of just an exterminator. Neither of us have a lot of money, nor do I really want to be responsible for massive home reconstruction for a house I’m only staying in until I can afford my own place.
I just want the mice to stop. Nowhere feels safe, nowhere feels clean, and no one can seem to give me real guidance on this.
submitted by DepthHistorical4996 to HomeImprovement [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:32 squalay Suddenly no annual/card usage fee for BPI?

I got this BPI Edge Mastercard last Sept 2021 with annual fee waived for the 1st year. I started paying the annual fee last Sept 2022. This usually appears as “Card Usage Fee” on my statement and it’s always 110 pesos per month. For this month, I noticed that they didn’t bill me that 110 fee. Anyone else experienced this before? Or meron bang promo na di lang ako aware? For context, I also maxed out this card since I was in the US for 1.5 months. I don’t want to call BPI to inquire kasi baka nakalimutan(?) lang nila i-bill hahaha
submitted by squalay to PHCreditCards [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:32 IrishWeirdo Year Seahawks Franchise Update, Experimenting With Playbooks Did Not Go Well (Full Update in Comments)

Year Seahawks Franchise Update, Experimenting With Playbooks Did Not Go Well (Full Update in Comments) submitted by IrishWeirdo to Madden [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:31 meredithgreyoe [WTS] Aimpoint T2 + Reptilia 1.93" Mount New

My astigmatism says no to aimpoint apparently, so listing this package for sale. It's been mounted and stared at around the house, but has never been further than that. Comes with a fresh battery + original turret caps.
Package: Aimpoint T2 (~$800) + Reptilia 1.93" mount ($100)
Asking price: $775 (you get the T2 for cheaper than retail and a free mount, plus no shipping or tax fees) paypal F&F, zelle or venmo
submitted by meredithgreyoe to GunAccessoriesForSale [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:31 Rakkuken [PI] The Mystic

This is the second draft of a story originally written for and posted here. I wouldn't mind having some feedback in regards to the pacing and characterization.


Aulus tugged at the string leading from his hand to the neck of a stubborn goat. The animal bleated at him in protest and tried to continue chewing whatever weed had drawn it's attention. The young man tugged again and his charge relented to follow him up the narrow stone steps leading to the temple.
Man and beast were both clad in white wool. Aulus in a tunic and robe trimmed in gold. His cloven companion in the well trimmed fur of an albino.
It was that pale trait that made the animal sacred. It had never suffered an empty belly. It had never known a chilling night. It had been put out to stud to produce more of its kind. And now, as the horizon blazed with the coming sun, the holy creature was led to a holy place to fulfill its ultimate purpose.
The young man led his bovid prize past the looming temple of pillars and incense and towards a mostly forgotten altar. The table of carved stone sat near the edge of a cliff. Below it was a city of whitewashed stone and colorful roofs. In the dim of morning light the fields beyond the cities walls were a black sea leading up to the mountain.
That looming giant of stone and slumbering fire sat directly to the east. The city would not know the light of day until the sun had climbed the giants rocky slopes to sit upon its peak.
"I'm sorry little one, but today's the day."
Aulus knelt by the animal and set to binding its feet together. Front to front. Back to back. He needed access to the goats' underside.
"Each of us has a duty. A holy purpose given to us by the gods. It's time for you to fulfill yours."
He heaved the animal up and laid it upon the stone surface of the altar. It hardly fought him. The two had mimicked the act repeatedly since the animals birth. They had trained for that moment. Still, it needed to be bound. Their practices had always ended before the ritual began.
The horizon glowed in daylight. Only the mountain blocked the sun's life giving rays.
"Look down upon me as I look across the veil. Guide me to the knowledge I seek. For this favor I offer this beast unto you."
Red poured over him. Smoke from the mountains peak tainted mornings light. It stained man and goat as though they were already covered in blood. The young man threw off his robe to bare himself to the morning chill. His was a thin body. Lithe. Clad in pale skin and capped in a mop of black curls.
Aulus took up a virgin dagger. The ornate blade had never before seen use. Its sole purpose, its only duty, was to be used for two cuts. One edge was for the goats neck. The other, its underside.
With a prayer the young man did the deed.
He plunged his hands into the hot belly of the still squirming animal. There he took hold of and withdrew its intestines. Long organs were held up to the sky for inspection. Aulus carefully ran the still living tissue through his blood soaked hands. It was as perfect as the beast to which it was attached. Only when the animal before him lay still did he close his eyes and open his mind.
The sacrifice was a key. A push. A careful way into hidden spaces. The intestines served as both map and path. They were a leash for two.
In a world adjacent to his own Aulus found himself walking again by the albino goat. It crumbled at the throat and belly and its guts turned to mush in his fingers. Only by drawing more intestine from the beast could he stay close enough to follow it.
The pair came down the cliffside in a single step to find themselves in the city.
"Not here." Aulus had said without moving his lips. "We must go beyond the wall."
Another step and his guide had brought him to the fields. There he saw men in armor hanging in the air like tapestries. They shimmered as he passed them. Each transformed from a young man to a fierce warrior to a corpse upon the ground. He walked among the future dead and inspected each of their unreal tapestries.
Aulus dared not look up lest he be blinded. And he dared not look down lest he lock eyes with something else. Something below.
"One survivor. One man left standing above the rest. A son of our city. Favored in the house Carina."
The figure in the tapestry remained impossibly dark, as was expected. Prophetic sight was blurry at its center and sharp near the edges. Secondary details could be predicted with precision. But the focus of one's gaze could rarely be seen clearly.
A silent bleat echoed in the young mans mind.
"Times about up, then. Thank you for your service, little one. I've seen all I needed."
Aulus let the intestine slip from his fingers and opened his eyes. He again stood before the altar.


Aulus and Gaius shared wine and bread in the private chambers of a little villa.
"So you're saying I'm invincible?"
"That's not how prophecy works, Gaius. I'm saying a favored son of house Carina will stand above the dead."
"Which means that, as the only member of house Carina taking part in today's battle, I'll be the last man standing."
"Which also implies literally everyone else is going to die. You might still die! You'd just be last!"
The larger and more muscular of the two men paused to consider the words of his friend. He then smiled and continued donning his armor.
"Gaius, I've done more than read the entrails of a goat. I've watched the movement of birds. I've thrown bones. I've read the stars themselves. If battle is met today it will lead to disaster. Calamity. A chain of events ending in legendary devastation."
"To which I will be the last man standing."
Aulus snatched up his friends horse haired helm.
"Thousands dead, Gaius! Thousands! There are only a few hundred soldiers in the coming battle. Who else might die for your petty conflict?"
Gaius remained quiet as he finished his preparations. When he had finally dressed in blue cloth and painted steel he approached his oldest companion.
"Give me my helmet, Aulus."
"Take a bowl of wine and some figs instead. Leave your helmet. Leave your spear and sword and shield. Make peace. Talk to them."
"You might be wrong."
"When have I been wrong before?"
Gaius gave a wide, handsome smile.
"Remember the mountain? You had the whole city up in a panic at the waking of the giant and what happened? Nothing more than a little burp of fire."
"That was more complicated than you know, Gaius. I did something to the mountain to stop it from erupting. I changed the future."
"If you're strong enough to wrestle a mountain to submission then why don't you join us in the field today? Change prophesy again? We certainly couldn't lose with you at our side."
Aulus threw the helmet into his friend's chest. The experienced soldier caught it with ease.
"That did more damage than you know, Gaius."
"You couldn't do something like that again, then?"
The slight young man lowered his eyes.
"I can't claim to know much about your strange powers. I have no idea what you see and do. But I have a sworn duty to uphold."
"Not the duty talk again…"
"What's your duty, Aulus? What is your purpose?"
It was a concept difficult to describe. His experiences were beyond those of his fellow man. Few among the mortal races – oracles and mystics and shaman – had seen the things he had seen. There were no words to properly describe it.
"My duty is to keep the other things away. Everything else is secondary to that."
"Then do your duty."
Aulus turned to leave. He only toom a single step before a strong hand caught his arm.
"Aulus. You are closer to me than my brothers and will forever be welcome in my home. I will always value your council. That you are so concerned with my safety marks you as my truest friend."
Gaius spin his friend around and took him by the shoulders.
"And the people of this city are lucky to have you watching over it, even if they don't always seem to deserve it. But there's no helping this. Neither of us rules this place and, even if we did convince those above us to try for peace, there's no guarantee those men beyond the wall will listen. They are just as set on fighting today as we are."
He took up his helmet and covered his handsome face in metal.
"The best each of us can do is their duty."


A frustrated mystic watched from a shaded corner atop the city wall as a force of his peoples best soldiers marched out to meet the enemy.
Enemy. The word hardly fit the men waiting in the field.
Those gathered beyond the walls were soldiers from another city within the empire. Fellow citizens. The coming bloodshed wasn't part of a war but a ritualistic battle to settle some minor political dispute. It was an attempt to avoid interference by a distant bureaucracy and satisfy the bloodlust that grew in times of peace. It was a chance for soldiers to grasp at what little glory they could find.
It was a foolish waste of life.
Aulus considered what his friend had said about joining them on the battlefield. He knew words of power and the true names of things above. He could twist his mind in unusual directions. Speak in impossible tones. Were he to take to the field the rest of the cities soldiers could stay at home. But such awesome, terrifying power came at a price. Few men in history knew as much as he did about the things beyond. Each of them would rather die than risk using such knowledge.
Portents of the future. Careful observations made while making as few disruptions as possible. That was the best he could give dearest Gaius.
The soldiers formed ranks and waited before the enemy while representatives from each side met. Aulus noticed his friend leading the left flank, an honored position. Gaius wasn't hard to spot. He stood a head taller than his cohorts and his horse haired helm was more ornate than the caps and buckets around him.
The representatives parted and took up their arms. Horns echoed over the field as the two small armies marched toward one another.
Aulus closed his eyes and pushed his mind from his body. He could hear feet pressing into earth. The heavy breathing. The shouting. The blows against shields and the screeching of blades against armor. The screaming. The dying. He pushed himself further. He could smell the sweat and blood. Further. He could see the flash of steel in the sun.
With eyes closed Aulus could watch the battle from among its combatants. Ranks had broken. He could see Gaius strike down soldier after soldier in a brutal melee. His friend hurled his spear, drew his sword and hacked at the so-called enemy. Aulus could see the opening on his friends right side. His shouted warnings came not from the mind in the field, but from the body on the wall.
The mystic could clearly hear the blade slicing through the flesh of his friends calf. The startled yelp of a great warrior as he fell to his knees rang in the ears of a far away man. And the gurgle, that blood choked squawk his dearest friend gave as another citizen of the empire drove a blade into his neck, that sound drowned out the entire battle.
The secret observer launched forward to catch his friend. The stone of the city wall met his hands. He grit his teeth. He wailed. He forced his hands through the wall and open sky to meet his eyes, ears and nose.
He knelt and pulled his friend up from the blood soaked dirt.
Aulus pushed himself further. More than just his mind. More than just his senses. More and more of the young man was forced to exist on the battlefield. He cared not for what ripples his actions might make on the surface of reality. Consequences be damned. When more of him existed in the field than on the wall he relaxed his mind and let the lesser part of him snap to meet the greater.
Gaius looked up at him. There was still life in his eyes though only the faintest glimmer. It was there for but a moment, one fleeting instant. Life passed from the soldier. Reason passed from the mystic.
The whisper passed over the mystics lips and crept into the ears of those still fighting in the melee. That word carried with it a potent venom. Skin split. Tissues most sensitive liquified. No amount of clawing could dig it out. No amount of screaming could drown it out. Those closest to mystic fell convulsing to the ground.
The booming shout peeled back metal and evaporated flesh. Freshly exposed bone was then blasted to dust. The battle came to a stop as all eyes turned to the young man, his bloodied friend in his arms, a dozen men dead around him.
In only a minute Gaius, handsome and mighty, had been reduced to a bloodied corpse. In only a minute Aulus had thrice violated the natural order.
The world shuddered around him. Ripples cast by his actions ebbed out to draw the attention of the things beyond. The things outside.
"You're willing to throw your lives away for nothing? Fine. If you're all so willing to die, then die!"
Ripples weren't enough to draw in a predator. He needed a splash.
Eyes flashed and a group of men screamed as their bones lengthened and twisted into grasping, choking vines. Those who remained in the left flank turned to run, only to be stopped by those behind. The men from the center and right who could not clearly see the horrors being unleashed upon the battlefield. With a gesture of his hand Aulus exchanged the runners skin with glass. Their attempts to escape only shattered the thin layer protecting their flesh from the world.
That display was enough to send the rest of the foolish soldiers running. It was also just enough to break the surface. To tear the fabric of reality. It was enough to cause a splash.
The world turned to a blur as Aulus wept into the body of his dearest friend.


The duty of a mystic is to protect their fellow man from the things beyond reality. They calm disturbances in the surface of reality. They mend holes in the fabric of the universe. They do everything in their power to keep the things outside from looking in.
Aulus twisted his mind to force it into the other place. Once there he looked down and searched the murky depths. Lesser beings had already answered his call. They pressed upon the thin barrier between the real and the not. They squirmed their way through whatever pin prick holes they could find.
On the battlefield those beings of flesh and shadow crawled out of tight spaces. They emerged from beneath rocks and fallen bodies. From the spaces between a man's chest and his armor. From under the tongues of those few who held in their screams.
They scraped. They gnashed. They chewed. Everything they touched turned to paste, layer by layer. Aulus knew them to be bottom feeders. Barely thinking creatures that were almost omnipresent in the other place. He needed something more.
"Come on then!" The young mans throat produced tones both real and not. "Come and see this place! This world of dutiful fools. Come and show them what it means to die for nothing!"
Aulus locked eyes with something below. His words were as alien and unknowable to it as its own were to him. It pressed itself against the wound the mystics thrashings had left in the world and, with some perceivable effort, it forced its way through.
It came from behind motes of dust hanging in the air. The thing was the night sky animate. A dark, starlit mass that both crawled and flew over the battlefield. In its presence light dimmed, sound dulled, and everything, man metal and stone, withered. Whatever it fed on, whatever nutrient was vital to the unreal creatures survival, was also needed by real things to keep their shape. Everything it touched unevenly shrank away to be left as a smear of thin tissue upon the ground. Most unfortunate for those who suffered the creatures passing; the process was somehow not immediately lethal.
Aulus wept as the screams around him rose and fell. He pulled the horse haired helmet from the still body in his arms to again gaze upon his handsome face. The mystic held his lifelong friend tightly.
"Gaius, I'm sorry…" Words came between heaving sobs. "I should have tried harder to stop you. I should have tried harder to stop this foolishness. I– I should have joined you in battle. I'd have rather abandoned my duty to save you than to avenge you."
The world broke further as other things found their way through from beyond. Screams more distant rose to replace those of the now suffering soldiers. The things had reached the city.
"Aulus..." The familiar voice came from around and within the grieving young man. "Aulus, my friend. You mustn't do this."
"I–" Words twisted into a knot in his throat. "L-let them die."
"Aulus, please. You might think it a pointless death, and it might have been, but I died doing my duty. I stayed true to who and what I am..."
The implications of the dead Gaius' words crept up in the back of the young mans mind.
"It's too late. I've crossed too many lines. Done too much damage. I just… I just want to stay here with you."
"It's never too late, Aulus. Walk the path I have walked and you will find me beyond."
Duty. Aulus had a duty. He had taken oaths that now lay as twisted and broken as the men around him. Merciful tears obfuscated what he had done to the world. He could not clearly see what had become of the battlefield or what was happening in the city, but he could imagine what each blurry shape may have been. His gut twisted as imagination suggested what each shape might be.
Aulus closed his eyes, never to open them again.
"Gaius, my friend. I will walk your path. The path of duty. I will fix this..."
The young mystic laid his friend to the earth, stood tall among the twisted dead and forced his mind, eyes and arms into the other place. There he could see the damage he'd caused. He could run the idea of his fingers over the ragged edges of the tear. Physical laws had frayed like thread. Universal constants lay ripped and scattered. The wound he'd left in the world was grisly.
It was something he could mend, but the cost would be steep.
Aulus knew he would spend so much mental energy fixing the damage of his tantrum there'd be little left of him when he was done. Even then there were still horrors in the world, false things that had come through to explore the true.
He considered his options.
Imagined fingers took hold of realities tattered edges and pulled them further apart. The world ripped. It was a long tear that arced through the sky like an arrow. The sky quaked. The earth shuddered. The air itself howled and screamed as more and more of the real world was separated in what Aulus perceived as a clean rip.
His target was the mountain.
Aulus had long known the slumbering giant to be a waiting calamity. He regularly climbed to its peak to better see just how dormant it was. There was fire there. And ash. And pressure. So much pressure. But it was stable, he'd seen to that before with a prior violation of the natural order. One that had taken years to carefully mend. So long as nothing disturbed the mountain it would remain quiet.
The tip of the growing tear buried itself into dirt and stone. Somewhere deep below the surface of the Earth there came a rumble. A delicate balance had been disrupted. That was it. That was all it took. With one metaphysical poke the mystic had started something no man, monster or even god could stop. The mountain would wake with rage.
"Let those wretched things that stay here face the fury of the Earth."
Aulus slammed his hands in unusual directions to bring the clean edges of the tear together. Under his guidance the line separating the possible from the impossible mended as cleanly as it had torn. That repair wouldn't cost him much. Not when compared to what he would spend closing the ragged hole he'd created in his grief.
He pushed himself without regard for his own well being. Bits of the unreal were stuffed back outside. The edges of the tear were fused together. The things from outside gathered as their path home began to shrink.
"Back, back you fiends!"
A voice cut through the screams and howls and otherworldly sounds swirling around him. There was a grunt and the clanging of steel. A warcry most familiar.
"Aulus, I will hold them back! Do your duty, wipe these things from the Earth!"
The young man pushed temptation aside. He wanted nothing more than to open his eyes and look around for his friend. To see him moving, fighting, shouting, living. His minds eye could see him again embracing his dearest friend. His hands, both real and not, reached out in the hopes of again holding his friend.
Gaius was dead at his feet.
He'd died a pointless death. A foolish death. But it was a death he'd chosen for himself in the pursuit of his duty. Aulus would walk that same path.
More and more of himself was spent repairing the damage with each passing second. The wound closed. His mind fractured. The things around him wailed at the sound of spear and sword.
There came a vibration through the ground and an earthly sound mighty enough to challenge all the terrors from the beyond. The mountain had spoken. Though Aulus held his eyes shut he knew what he had done. He knew what was coming. It was not the peak of the great stone giant that had burst. Rather, the entire mountainside facing the battlefield and city had exploded.
Ash and rock and fire raced over lush fields and quaint farm houses. Those few horrors that had explored towards the mountain found themselves crushed and burned by the unavoidable reality that was the mountain. Unreal biologies and imagined matter meant little before such a demonstration of natural law.
Aulus meant little, too.
The wall of destruction obliterated his body in an instant. But still he worked. Flesh and bone were gone, but his mind and senses remained where he had stood to continue the task. Death would not stop him. No horrors or furious mountains would keep him from his duty.
A wave of scorching earth washed over the city. Merciful death for those who still somehow clung to life. Just destruction for those things that had no place in the universe. All the nightmares that had been made there were buried in stone and ash.
The damage had been undone.
First he had used his fears and insecurities. Then his unpleasant memories. Then his childhood. His family. Himself. Even Gaius. Aulus burned more and more of his own mind to fuel his work. When the task was complete he knew not what he had done or why. Only his duty as a mystic remained. Even that had started to unravel.
What was left of the young man was gathered in the embrace of a friend.
submitted by Rakkuken to WritingPrompts [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:30 laurenhallden Any way to review a red light ticket without a court date?

Hey all, I love hiking the beaches in winter in Ocean City and have visited for the last few years. This year, I got mailed an automatic red light ticket. The picture they sent is an image of my car stopped at the line like normal, while the car in the lane to my left is running the light. I checked the video online and yep, my car stops and the car traveling next to me runs it. My guess is that the camera couldn’t read his plate and they sent me the ticket instead?
I tried to return it with a nice note to please review the picture, my car isn’t the one in violation. All I got was a late fee added. Is there no way to get a human being to double-check they’re fining the right person? The paperwork says you may only request a court date, but it’s clearly not worth burning a vacation day and gas over. I live in PA.
I assume there’s nothing to be done but I figured I’d ask. Thanks for any tips. Otherwise I look forward to contributing to the budget of the state of MD!
submitted by laurenhallden to OceanCity [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:30 Nice_Razzmatazz_9463 My (18F) ex boyfriend (21M) says he misses me but hasn’t responded since I told him I miss him too, what do I do?

Hi there, Yes my ex is older then me but we met when I was 18 and he was 20 so please don’t go off about that part. My ex and I were together for 4 months and he was the sweetest most loving guy I’d ever met. We broke up right after his 21st birthday when his brother basically told him he looked like shit. My ex was working in construction 40 hours a week and traveling 4+ hours every weekend to see me (as I was in a different town for school). He was exhausted and felt like he had no time for himself which is why he ended things. He said he “couldn’t take care of himself so he didn’t feel like he could be a good boyfriend and take care of me” I obviously tried to convince him that this wasn’t the solution and I’d work to try and see him more but he ended things. (He also has a heart condition and had just had an emergency appointment and so he was stressed about all of that) When he broke up with me, he told me he loved me and would always love me. It’s been about 2 months since the break up and I was worried about him. I decided to text him (breaking our no contact since the breakup). The conversation went as follows:
Me: Hey… I just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing and make sure you got the package I sent. You don’t have to reply and can treat this like a voice mail.
Him: Do you want the honest truth?
Me: yes
Him: I cried when I opened it Him: I cried when I read the notes Him: I cried when I saw Cookie
(I wrote little notes in the box and since I didn’t see him for his birthday I included his gifts. Cookie was a Minecraft dog stuffy he gave me)
At this point I was crying and called my friend because I felt awful for making him cry. I had wanted him to cry when he opened it and sprayed my perfume all over his hoodies etc. my friend said I should tell him that and be honest.
Me: Do you want me to be honest?
Him: yes
Me: I wanted you to cry.. that’s why I sprayed perfume on everything. Because I was hurt. But I wanted you to know I cared.
I then didn’t hear from him after that so the next day I texted him this
Me: I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have reached out. I just wanted you to know I care about you and I want you to be happy.
Him: And yet that’s all I want for you Him: I’m sorry
Me: Are you happy tho? Are you doing okay?
Him: Yes and no Him: I’ve been trying to focus on work, I’ve been late a lot less I’ve been traveling less been able to save a little bit of money Him: But I miss you Him: Everyday
Me: Well that’s good that you’ve been able to focus on work. I miss you too.
After that he didn’t reply and it’s been 3 days. I don’t know if I should reach out again or leave him alone. I don’t know what to say. I love this man and I want to be with him but I just want him to be okay. I also don’t really understand why he would tell me he misses me but then not talk to me.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated as I really don’t know what to do.
submitted by Nice_Razzmatazz_9463 to relationship_advice [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:28 Eternal-Calm What do you think the unnanounced DLC is going to be?

SE still has 1 pack of DLC coming that they announced but didn't say what series or songs it will bring to the game. What do you guys hope that it will be?
Part of me hopes that it will be FFXVI's songs but that chance is pretty slim as the game isn't out yet. I'm hoping for Endwalker songs from FFXIV because they were absent from the XIV collection. I was thinking possibly Tactics Ogre, Bravely Default, or Star Ocean. There's so many franchises they could make a pack for.
Or do you think it will be extra characters? Every other entry in Theatrhythm gave extra characters as DLC and this entry might not be an exception. What characters would you want added? I think they should add Alisaie (XIV) and Jack (SoP). I'd love to hear what the community thinks !
submitted by Eternal-Calm to Theatrhythm [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:28 pndjr Caillou English Full Episodes Cookies for Caillou Cartoon Movie Cartoons for Kids

Caillou English Full Episodes Cookies for Caillou Cartoon Movie Cartoons for Kids submitted by pndjr to GCIVM [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:27 Jw-nofee Hey babies 😍 I'm a sugar momma here looking for a sweet sugar baby 😘 I'm paying now, no BS, no fee or whatsoever. DM me now

submitted by Jw-nofee to SeekingSugarBaby [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:26 PeteGoua AB wanting to change Title/home ownership from Tenant in Common to Joint Ownership

In Alberta. Looking to change our partner agreement on the residential title from the default Tenant in Common to a Joint Ownership for a couple of reasons.
Question: Can this be done with the online forms from the title web site rather than having to pay the legal fees? I see forms there but not sure if this is user friendly filings.
How to? And to complicate the scene ... we want to remove prior Memorandum of Agreement that stipulates some conditions.
How does someone know if it is a TIC or JO based on the pink certificate of Title. It is not mentioned on original piece of paper (title document sheet). While Mortgage specifies one thing but seems like it was changed from JO to each to an undivided half interest .
Many thanks
submitted by PeteGoua to PersonalFinanceCanada [link] [comments]

2023.03.21 01:25 Trash_Tia Every October 1st, the eighteen year old's in my town go crazy for one night. We call it The Teen Purge. (Part 2)

Dearest [BLANK]
I don’t want to say your name because then I will feel the need to say so much more and I’ll end up writing far too much.
Names are hard for me.
You lost yours a while ago, at least in my mind. I stopped calling you [BLANK]. You were just a monster.
A murderer.
I know you won’t read this but I’m putting this out there anyway. I want to talk to you.
I guess this is my way of… apologising. You’re the first in a long list of people I want to say goodbye to. I feel like you were the one who started this.
You were the one who opened my eyes to Littlewood’s curse. I’ve been so angry for so many years. I have felt so much fucking pain. Agony. The kind I can’t even explain. It’s like drowning, [BLANK]. I’ve wanted to kill you so many times, often dreaming about it the older I became. You stopped having an identity in my nightmares and became a faceless shadow suffocating my chest.
Ironically enough, [BLANK], we’re actually the worst ones. The class of 2022 really outdid all of you. I finally understand what it might have been like for you. I understand that craving you felt—to kill. To destroy. And that nothing would get in our way. We would kill parents, strangers, and children, until sunrise—until the curse was lifted and we were given back our souls, only to be hollow inside. Broken. I know what it feels like to be alone and abandoned by the ones you thought you could trust. I never knew where you had gone after you ripped our town apart. But I didn’t care. I wanted you gone, [BLANK], so I didn’t have to see your stupid face.
Now I know the truth, I can only wish you some kind of peace. I know it's impossible to think, even when part of me knows your fate, but I hope you got away from here.
I hope part of you is still planning to come visit me. Lastly, I hope you can forgive me for hating you for so long. I wish you told me. I know I was a little kid, but you could have told me what was going to happen to you. To you, Luce and Poppy. If you had, maybe mom might be here.
…Who am I kidding? If you didn’t kill her eleven years ago, I probably would have this year.
After all, it’s always loved ones.
Is that why you killed her, [BLANK]? Did she mean something to you?
Did I?
Anyway. Thank you for being there when I was a kid.
Thank you for making me laugh and spew milk out of my nose.
Thank you for killing my mother before I did it myself and surrendered the last dregs of my humanity.
I’ll remember you, [BLANK].
Not just the flashes I saw of you—the ones you put inside my head.
The times that mattered. You know, when we were friends. You do remember, right?
It was you and me against the world, [BLANK]! And it always will be. I promise.
Bee. <3
Was I having an aneurysm?
Pressing my forehead against the cool brick of a crumbling wall, I revelled in the stink of burning which was thankfully blocking out the horrific taste of skin slithering back up my throat as I heaved up the contents of my stomach. I was used to the stink of charred human flesh. After all, the town was burning and its victims were our feast. Our prizes. I chose not to look around me or take in my surroundings. I didn’t want to look at a town which we had ripped apart once again. I didn’t want to see bodies littering the roads and sidewalk, chunks of flesh and torso’s lying in unsuspecting places.
So many thoughts were alive inside my head, an endless hurricane of both nothing and everything colliding into a vicious void I couldn’t explain, couldn’t understand, couldn’t stop—and yet that thought in particular was the one which reigned dominant.
It had to be an aneurism, right?
I didn’t feel like I’d cracked my head or something had seriously gone wrong inside my brain.
I was burning.
I remembered googling the term in middle school when I had a shitty headache, and my aunt had dropped the word in conversation with the doctor.
"What if it is an aneurysm?"
He chuckled in reply. "It's just a pressure headache, Miss Levi."
Suffice to say, once I knew what an aneurysm was, I closed down my aunt’s laptop and crawled under my bed. Like I could hide from something like that. I remember reading it up on Web MD. Not exactly the best place to check your symptoms, but eleven year old me just wanted answers to the pounding pain which felt like someone slamming a rock onto the back of my head and temples.
Nausea and vomiting? Yep. I felt like my insides were attempting to projectile vomit my organs.
Stiff neck? Sort of. I felt stiff all over, my whole body aching like I’d just been through a meat grinder.
Blurred or double vision? My vision wasn’t mine. I was seeing things I shouldn’t—a world which wasn’t from my perspective.
Sensitivity to light? The sunrise was pretty harsh on my eyes. I wasn’t ready to see broad daylight and what exactly my class had done to our town. I never saw burning as a symptom. I never saw a never ending fucking inferno inside your brain, eating you from the inside, as a symptom.
I wouldn’t call it an aneurysm, but it definitely was something. I don’t know how to explain the immense pressure in my head, like something alive was bleeding inside my brain and latching onto me.
Burning. I was… I was burning.
Everything inside me was fucking burning, and I couldn’t stop it.
I couldn’t put this ferocious blaze out because it was inside my skull.
Despite being in denial, I didn’t feel like myself anymore. Like my soul had been forced back inside a body which didn’t belong to me; a body which had been twisted and purged of everything she was, and turned into a monster, pupiteered by the curse.
I was still running on adrenaline, a senseless and mindless craving ripping through all logic. It was still alive inside me, gritting my teeth together in a Wonderland Smile which I couldn’t stop, which was stretched so wide across my face my jaw felt like it was going to concave. I remembered flashes of my before. Before I woke up. Before Littlewood gave me my mind back.
I had brutally killed a woman and her husband, carving their eyes out and teasing them with their last breaths with the hope of survival, only to rip away their life before that hope could blossom inside them. It was hope suffocated by a despair which was so agonising that it bled inside me once my eyes were open and I was staring down at my own fists, at the woman’s eyeball’s squished between my blood spattered knuckles while the rest of her painted me like I was her canvas.
I had danced in her husbands remains, twirling to a song only I could hear.
All of that made sense. It made sense that I had been turned into a monster like the rest of my class and it made a sick kind of sense that I had been the one to hollow out a man’s body with my own hands. I had been part of 2022’s Teen Purge, a fate I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t ever escape. There were still so many questions I wanted answering. I wanted to know why the curse was triggered by a man-made substance we had been subjected to, and why Jun had been able to coherently text me before sunrise.
I had to… find him. Before he did something he would regret. No, I thought dizzily. Before he came to terms with what he had done under the influence. That thought was driving me crazy, but it was being pushed back, overwhelmed by something else entirely which was taking over me, enveloping me. At some point, I dropped my phone and smashed the screen. I didn’t know when exactly that was. Time was going so slowly. One minute I had been pushing myself into a stumbled run towards Littlewood’s scrapyard, motivated by Jun’s cryptic text before something inside me… snapped. I had a destination, an escape which was slowly building into a coherent plan—before I was… nothing.
I was nameless, a shadow teetering between life and death while my body and brain were burned alive. It was in my blood, my bones, my thoughts. Burning. I couldn’t control myself as I screamed into the air choked with smoke. Did it come from inside my head?
No. No, it was a fire which had been set across the road from me. My thoughts were tangled and confusing, and after a while—they weren’t even mine. The longer I burned, the longer I screamed into nothing, the physical presence which had forced its way inside my head started to multiply.
How am I supposed to describe this sensation accurately? How can I tell you this without sounding fucking insane?
It was… the feeling of being drowned inside my own mind, in bleeding memories entangled together which weren’t mine creating a storm inside my head.
Whispering voices fighting to make themselves heard. The unyielding force of dozens of thoughts and feelings taking over me one by one. Initially, I fought against them. I tried to push them out, because while they were seeping inside my thought process, parasites crawling into my brain, I was growing numb.
My own thoughts were turning obsolete, everything I was fading as my body became theirs. It happened slowly. I felt myself drop to the ground, still burning, the inferno in my brain and body growing brighter and brighter, numbed only slightly by my senses being snatched from me. I hit the ground, but I didn’t feel impact. Instead, the whispering grew less incoherent until there were voices. Real voices screaming inside my head. “Mother!” A girl’s cry rang inside my skull. It wasn’t the cry of a child, no. It was a teenager. “You don’t have to do this to us!”
She was my age. Her wail was enough to stop my attempts at prying away the voices, and I let go. I let each of them in. I let them bleed into me until I was nothing, and they were… something. The force of her rattled me until I couldn’t breathe, until I couldn’t force my body into a sitting position. Lying faced down on singed grass with no choice but to listen to them, a sea of tangled thoughts plunging me further into the dark, a wave of ice cold water enveloping my own sense of being.
As the nameless girl took over, spiderwebbing inside me, my senses became entangled with her. I wasn’t just hearing her. I was… I was feeling her. And within a single breath choked from my hijacked mouth, I was her. Her cry was mine, strangled and twisted, ripping from my own lips. This stranger. I could feel her writhing body pressed against something harsh digging into our back, aching arms pinned above us.
The smell of smoulder scratched the back of our nose, a panicking feeling turning our gut. In front of us was darkness speckled with blurred orange. Shadows with no faces. The girl wasn’t alone. Next to her were squirming silhouettes, and I felt a raging agony and frustration ripping her apart. She wasn’t alone. Those were her thoughts, and while she was terrified of her fate, part of her felt like she could die. As long as it was with them. Glimpsing a figure striding through the dark, a figure carrying a burning torch, I waited for her to talk.
I waited for her to cry out, for some kind of explanation for what I was seeing. Before I could, however, the girl and her memory was being ripped away—and I heard her fighting back, trying to reach out, trying to leach back onto me. Her prying fingers failed to grasp hold, only for a second mind to find its way inside me, harsher. Recent. The girl wasn’t the only one to try and use my mouth to scream.
Littlewood High’s gymnasium blossomed into my mind, followed by sharp clarity. This kid was far more hesitant to reveal to me who they were. They held back a little, only choosing to show me their point of view of tipping their head back as a wave of water came down, drenching them and the rest of their class.
Blood. That’s what I had thought. I thought it was blood drenching my face and clothes, gluing my hair to my head and pasting my eyes shut. It was blood that had been spilled and had already been spilled; the blood of my mother when I watched her gutted by Noah Sharpe. Somehow, that colourless substance which had purposely drenched us had forced that one thought into our heads.
We were covered in it.
That, combined with the images in our heads of smouldering flame enveloping flesh and hair, an inferno setting our bodies alight, was enough to drive even the strongest minds to pure insanity. And I was seeing it. I was seeing each experience. I was seeing the faces of loved ones driving them crazier.
I felt their attempts to regain control of their mind, but the damage was already done.
They slipped to their knees, their screams joining a symphony orchestra of cries around them-- and saw exactly what I did. Burning. Charred flesh and singed hair. Agonizing wails rattling their skulls until they were forced to join. Their hands were in their hair, gripping and pulling and tearing at their scalp—bloody fingernails raking down their face and a smile beginning to split their lips in half.
The Wonderland Smile, chasing away logical fear and pain previously grounding them in a reality they believed in. A craving was coming alive inside of them, a hunger to rid themselves of that pain—all of that blood. By making others feel the despair which had taken an unyielding hold.
It was getting harder to differentiate whose memory from who.
This time they were stronger.
I saw sterile flooring and running feet.
Everything was blinding white. I heard his gasps for breath, a nightmarish fear eating him up from the inside pushing him to run faster.
I recognised him. Not his psychotic laugher when he had kidnapped me a year earlier, but his struggle to keep breathing. Keep sucking in precious oxygen which felt so far away. Just like the others before him, while his being seeped inside me, I had found myself once again plunged inside a memory. This time it was someone I recognised. Not a stranger from past years, but a classmate just below me.
Tommy Nolan had an asthma attack in junior year. Second period math, he’d jumped up with a panicked look on his face, clutching his chest. I remember thinking his breathing sounded wrong, like it was a car-engine trying and failing to start. His face had been pale, trembling hands clutching at his chest.
Tommy wasn’t the kind of guy who would intentionally attract attention to himself. He was an introvert through and through. However, this was the type of thing he couldn’t hide away from or push people away. “I can’t breathe.” He’d managed to gasp out, before the teacher had escorted him out of the class and to the nurse’s office. What I felt wasn’t an asthma attack gripping his chest. It was pure panic and fear squeezing the air from his lungs and stumbling his already clumsy steps.
Tommy reached a corner and threw himself into a run which was cut short by rough hands grabbing hold of him and yanking him back. I didn’t see the rest of Tommy Nolan’s memory. At least, I didn’t see an escape or anything which hinted at where he was. I just saw the same. A coffin-like enveloping darkness. Restrained hands.
Raging fire.
I don’t know if it was Tommy’s splintered mind which had catapulted me from my own mind, or maybe he didn’t want me to see everything. Before I could grasp onto his memory, he let go. The whispering voices let me go, and I found myself pressed against grass wet with dew, an intense pressure in my nose and crawling around the back of head, blood pooling down my chin. I took a moment to gather myself. The sky was still half dark and half-light, pink and orange streaks taking over pooling black. Across the street, Lili Marriot was standing with the town preacher’s severed head clumsily forced onto a make-shift pike.
The man's eyes were still open, wide with horror.
She wasn’t moving, her scarlet hands still grasping the weapon for dear life. I got to my feet slowly, ignoring my own blood spattered hands. I didn’t think about the woman I had murdered, or her husband, as I hopped onto a trashed bike which had been abandoned on the side of the road. It was still usable. Sure, it had bits of skin stuck in the wheels, but it would work.
I pushed myself into a smooth pace which was normal. It felt normal, like every other morning when Jun and I biked to school. Instead of taking in the apocalyptic landscape around me, I focused on the road and finding my friend.
That morning, I saw a mix.
I saw kids who were waking up and finding themselves painted in their victims. I saw them crying.
I saw one girl slice open her own throat over the corpse of her little brother.
But I was also seeing kids still entangled in their own undoing, still tearing Littlewood apart. Under the last splinters of night, I saw my classmates around me.
But I chose to be ignorant. I needed to find Jun and saving the town's people who had been brought to the brink of despair was the last thing on my mind. Still though, I watched.
I couldn’t help it. There was a sort of morbid curiosity inside me once I had been freed from the curse, and then watching the rest of my class still in its iron grip. The varsity boys dragged an old man by his neck down the road, chanting the school anthem. One of them was wearing someone’s skull which had been ripped of its flesh, the remnants of a bulging eye still glued inside the socket. They wore their football jerseys, and somehow that made them even more terrifying. They were the perfect depiction of Noah Sharpe. Gen Z version. Littlewood's golden boy turned psycho.
Eleven years later, it had taken them too.
“REDHAWKS!” Their war cries bled into the dull sunrise, stamping their feet to a beat only they could hear. The old man was struggling, his face beet red, prying wrinkly fingers attempting to tug the tough rope cinched around his limp neck. But they weren’t letting go, only laughing when he let out a pained cry, begging them to let him die, begging to let him asphyxiate.
They ignored him, pulling his limp body across the road.
I could still hear their phantom yelling when I neared the scrapyard. Passing the diner, which was nothing but a blur of vivid orange, I saw a group of girl’s shrieking those horrific hyena laughs, diving into the flames and dancing in the smoke, entangling themselves in licking flames. Laughter twisted into screams and cries of agony mixed with a pleasure, a euphoria, I didn’t even think existed. I had felt it writhing in every soul which had bled inside me. The craving to die. When I squeezed the handlebars tighter, I felt something shift inside me once the stink of smoke had travelled into my nose and was choking the back of my throat.
Looking down at my palms, my skin had started to catch alight. No, I wasn’t seeing things. I could feel it, flames crawling up my arms, licking across my flesh and melting through my sweater sleeve.
I opened my mouth to cry out, and in the blink of an eye I was back inside that coffin-like tunnel drowning Tommy Nolan’s memory. He didn’t want me to see it, had pulled away before I could glimpse what exactly was in there. This time, though, it wasn’t Tommy Nolan strapped to a metal slab. It was me. I was closed in, suffocating on my own sobs, on curling smoke already dancing in the back of my mind. All I could see was fiery orange and red engulfing me, filling the tunnel. The thought hit me when my own body was writhing, dancing in vivid orange getting brighter and brighter, licking across my flesh in sharp rivulets, singing my hair from my scalp.
I was in an incinerator.
No… no not just me.
Tommy Nolan, and the nameless girl’s whose screams had rattled my skull.
All of us.
We were in an incinerator.
The shock of the vision, as well as all of our pain entwining into one pulled me back to uncertain reality. I didn’t even realise I’d let go of the bike handlebars before I was crashing down on rough concrete, smacking my head on the curb. Stars exploded in the backs of my eyes. But the fire was gone. Like it had never fucking existed. Except I knew it did. It had in Tommy Nolan’s memory, as well as my future. An endless fire which had ripped away our flesh and sent us plunging into the dark. It made me wonder about that first memory. The girl tied to the tree in front of blurred orange. Was that how all of this had started?
Did I see the first glimpses of Littlewood’s curse? When I pushed the bike off of me and checked my arms and legs for burns or signs of smoulder, there was nothing there. Fuck. Whatever had taken over my mind and crawled into my brain wasn’t letting go, but I found myself hanging onto them. My head hit the ground and I stared at the sky, at red and orange clouds which almost resembled the end of the world.
The sky, just like the ground below, had been set alight. Maybe it was the end of the world, I thought.
Maybe Littlewood was really falling this time.
I don’t know how long I lay there trying to catch my breath, trying to force my maple syrup thoughts into fruition. I was trying to shake my head of possible concussion, dislodging my brain from the puddle of fog it had fallen into, when I heard running footsteps.
Bare feet slapping against gravel. I knew what this was. I’d heard it as a kid, an animal-like herd of kids which had congregated into their own tribe.
I had heard them running past my house every year, and each time I thought they would catch me. I thought they’d crawl through my window like Noah Sharpe and his gang. But this was my class.
These were the kids I had been going to school with for years. The sound of their whooping and laughter brought me out of it, just a little. Twisting to my side, I glimpsed them suddenly. White canisters. The ones I’d seen in the school, the ones I’d seen being put into the sprinkler system. They were everywhere, dotted across the road, turned over on their head and leaking that same colourless substance onto cement and into the air. I wondered if they had been purposely placed.
“Help me! Oh god, please help me!”
Just ahead of me, a woman in her thirties was sprinting. Her expression was wild with fright, dark hair flying behind her in a whirlwind. I recognised the look on her face. It was exactly what I’d felt a year prior when I escaped Tommy Nolan and his gang with an inch of my life. The girl caught my eye for a fleeting moment and it looked like she might have found solace in me. Her mouth opened in a silent plea, her trembling hands raising above her head.
Before she realised what I was.
I had been so focused on looking at her face, I’d failed to see the mess of startling red painting the front of her shirt. She was screaming, sobbing into the wind. There was something wrapped around her left wrist, the entrails of some poor souls guts fashioned into makeshift restraints. Twisting around, the girl dropped to her knees and buried her head in the ground. “Don’t!” she screamed. “Please! Don’t!”
She wasn’t running, I thought.
Why wasn’t she running?
When the hysterical girl started to crawl across the ground, they appeared like animals, like they had been staying back, teasing her with the hope of survival. There were eight of them. All of them carrying lead pipes. The look on their faces was feral. Blood stained grins and empty eyes only seeing prey—only seeing another victim they could tear apart. I started to get up, started to plan my escape which was just to run and never stop fucking running until I was away from them. When more war cries rang out. This time from the other side of the road. Two separate tribes of kids advancing towards her. The second group were faster, and I recognised a face enveloped in the disgusting stain of red which painted them.
Jun. He didn’t look like Jun anymore. I could hardly even see his face through a coating of red smearing his cheeks and eyes which he must have done himself.
War paint.
Wielding a long thread of wire wrapped around his left wrist and trailing on the ground, my best friend joined the mass of kids closing in on the girl. His eyes were vacant and dark, empty of anything human. It was Noah all over again, except this time I wasn’t a frightened six year old. I could stop it. I remember getting to my feet. Movement. Several heads whipped around. I’d already caught their attention but their gazes barely strayed on me before going back to the girl. With my attention on him, I moved towards him, taking my steps slowly. Another kid crawled out of their hiding place behind a dumpster. This time they looked younger.
I didn’t even want to guess how old.
When half of the kids jumped the little kid while the others took care of the girl, I forced my legs to keep going, keep moving. But I stopped when the woman dived to her feet and made a run for it, pushing herself into a sprint. I watched Jun pursue her like a lion chasing after a deer with an almost supernatural speed. While her steps were stumbled and clumsy, his were calculated. I couldn’t move when he dived onto her back and brought her to the ground, her face smacking against cement with a meaty smack. She squirmed, fighting to get away, but he was already forcing the metal wire into her throat, wrapping it around and around until her face was turning red, and then blue, her mouth opening and closing like a goldfish.
The wire sliced cleanly into her flesh and red began to swim from her, startling pooling red I will never forget which stained his hands. I knew what he was doing. Squeezing tighter. Jun’s weapon wasn’t to asphyxiate and strangle. It was a garotte. And his prize was progressively more inevitable the more he forced the cutting wire through layers of skin until it met bone. “Jun!” I was yelling his name before I knew what I was doing. I don’t know how I got to him without breaking down, but when my face was buried into his back and I was sobbing his name, everything felt…. Right. Even if it was just for a little while. Because, like a fairy-tale narrating the clock striking twelve and a magic spell wearing off, a dazzling sunrise broke through the clouds as dawn hit, and the woman’s gurgling stopped. Just like the jerking movements of Jun’s hands as they struggled to cut through bone.
I watched him blink himself awake through my own tears. Swiping at his eyes, my best friend stared down at his scarlet hands, and then grasping at his own face, running filthy fingers down his cheeks, as if he could tear his own flesh off of the bone.
I wasn’t paying attention to Jun as he fully came to. I was staring at a little girl who had walked out of her house clutching a stuffed teddy bear and seeing the body of her mother on the ground. A numbness started to take over me, a heavy weight on my chest. I remember his warm arms were suddenly around me, and they were tight, so tight, almost suffocating the breath from my lungs. Jun’s body felt strange against mine, a trembling, rattling mass as he let out a gut lurching cry into my shoulder.
I had never heard him scream before. Jun had always hidden behind a bright smile which had finally crumbled under the curse.
“Did I…”
His words collapsed into a sob.
“Did I… do this?"
The metal wire was still attached to him, coiled around his wrist.
It marked him as a member of that tribe.
“No.” I whispered into the damp material of his shirt. "No, none of this was you."
He laughed, sputtering on a sob.
“You’re okay.” I said. “You’re okay. Just breathe."
An icy shiver ripped its way down my spine when his lips found my ear. “Do you… really want to outrun the asteroid?” He whispered, choking on a hysterical laugh. “Do you think we are worthy, Bee?” His tone darkened. “Is our suffering worthy?”
I shook off that comment for a moment, focusing on him. "You texted me." I said in a hiss. "How were you awake?"
Awareness bled into his expression, followed by confusion. "I… did?"
As if on cue, footsteps startled me, and Jun’s phone hit the ground in front of us followed by the curve of a heel splintering the screen. When I looked up, Ms Hawkins, our drama teacher, was looming over us holding a gun. It didn’t look like the usual gun I saw my neighbours use on wildlife. This one had a red coloured butt and fit perfectly into her hand. She shot Jun first. The bullet hit his arm and he sent me a helpless look, his hand going to the tiny dart stuck into his lower elbow, before dropping to the ground. The teacher kicked Jun onto his side, before twisting and pointing the gun between my brows.
I remember her pulling the trigger, but it wasn’t just aimed at me. It was aimed at every other soul which had entangled itself with me. Noah, his class, and the ones before hiThis had happened to every year prior to us—and I had a sickening feeling I knew what was coming next. I woke to a nauseating feeling of movement to find my head uncomfortably pressed against a bus window. Outside, a long stretch of dead road leading to nowhere. There were no signs, no civilization. Nothing.
It took me a disorienting moment to figure out I was on a school bus. The same school bus I had seen in thousands of other memories. Next to me, Jun poked me in the shoulder. He was awake and seemed with-it enough to talk.
Though there was a strange smile on his face which was twisting my gut. I turned around to face him and blinked rapidly, because my friend’s face morphed and blurred, twisting into hundreds of others. First, girls and boys in strange clothing like they were from the dark ages, and the distant sound of horseback—a carriage being dragged. I could smell wildflowers mixed with the stink of rot and excrement, hear the sound of birds and chains rattling around jiggling wrists. Then I was seeing strangers, each of them bearing clothes from different eras. I saw Tommy Nolan, and then Chrissy Lackey. Robin Chase.
Faces from previous years.
All blood spattered. All wide eyed, a haunting, hollow look on their faces.
Until Noah. Until I saw his face twisted with anger and pain and frustration. His hands went to his hair in a silent cry, and he was slamming bloodied fists into his temples.
Over and over again.
Fuck!” He gritted out.
“Get me off this bus! I don’t want to be here... I want to go home. I want to go back! Can't you see this is shady? Where are they taking us?"
“Hey! Hey, calm down!”
The voice was Poppy. Her shriek echoed in my brain, as the bus they were on collapsed into panic and Noah was diving from his seat, before being grabbed and restrained by guards, and shoved back next to Poppy. I felt her gentle hand on his shoulder. Poppy’s arms were around him, and Noah was relaxing into her embrace.
“We’re going to the Halfway House, Noah.”
Her soothing murmur inside my head was cut short when I sensed the coffin-like tunnel once again.
Getting closer and closer.
And his screams.
Ringing so loud in my head, horrifying wails of agony cracking my skull open.
I felt my own clammy palms press against my ears, the force of his cry becoming my own.
I was sweating and shaking, choking on stale vomit in my mouth, when Jun waved a wary hand in front of my face, and I found reality once again.
When my gaze found his, Jun had that smile again. He sat back with a sigh, pressing his head against the seat. “You got it, huh?” He chuckled. “Damn, I wish I did. I really wanted to be chosen."
I found my breath, swallowing whatever the fuck I'd eaten in the last twelve hours. “Got what?”
He shrugged. “Do you remember when I asked you if you would give your life to destroy an asteroid?”
I had to think back to that conversation which didn’t seem relevant until now. “Jun—”
He cut me off, his smile fading a little. “I really did want to see my dad,” he whispered. As he spoke, I found my gaze wandering and finding our classmates who were either asleep or staring into an oblivion only they could see. Jun sighed. “I imagined all of these scenarios in my head. That we would all come to the halfway house and heal and get better like all the other kids before us, and I’d jump on a plane and go and visit dad.” I noticed his hands were trembling in his lap. “But I’m a fucking idiot. I'm naïve.” He turned to me. “We’re just kids, right? What do we know?"
I was losing my patience with his cryptic words. “What are you talking about?”
“I was kidnapped like you,” He said softly. “Last year, the night of the Teen Purge. I never told you about it, because I didn't want there to be a time when I would have to," Jun pulled a face. "I forgot to close our gate so I rushed out to lock it up before I brought attention to our house. But I was too late. They were waiting for me outside. The bastards knocked me out with a bat, and I woke up on the roof of the school.” He dug his hands in his lap, choking out a hiss.
“I was the only one left, Bee. When I woke up, I was staring at the people she had pushed to their deaths. My hands were tied behind my back so I couldn’t move, or try to get away and this girl…” He trailed off, his gaze going to a stray raindrop on the window, “this girl was dangling me over the edge. Like I was bait over a shark tank. It was fucking freezing and I was only in my pyjamas, and I remember wondering if I was actually going to die.” The bus went over a bump, and I grabbed onto his hand, squeezing it as tight as I could. “I waited for it,” Jun whispered. “I waited for her to kill me, but she wrenched me back. And her eyes... her eyes were pitch black. Hollow.” His eyes filled with tears. “She was smiling. Smiling like it would thrill her to watch me fall like the ones before me. And she would have no fucking mercy.”
As if his words were a narration, I was seeing the vision for myself, like somewhere inside my head, the girl lingered. I could see it. I could see pooling darkness, a long way down. Jun, his arms tied behind his back, a single strip of duct tape over his mouth— while arms were wrapped around his waist, dangling him teasingly as he twisted and struggled in her arms.
Like I was seeing it through her POV, I glimpsed tangled blonde curls in front of my face, a carving knife slick red clenched in my fist. She held him tight, squeezing the breath from him.
“Long way down, huh?” Her voice was a cackle clanging in my skull.
I could see his wide eyes, petrified as she pushed him closer and closer to the edge.
Jun continued in a low murmur. “But… this girl didn’t push me. She didn't kill me. Instead, she… she pulled me close. I could… I could smell her rotting breath. But through all the black, whatever had possessed her... I could see that there was still something there. It was weak, but still alive. Before I knew it, I was on my knees and she was in front of me like she could see right through me. Like she could reach into my head and pull out every memory I've ever had." His voice trembled. "She asked me a question. And I’ll never forget it, Bee. Because it was what changed my way of thinking. Instead of being scared to die, I felt like I could finally embrace it.”
His words sent my gut galloping into my throat.
I saw it. I saw her yanking him back onto his knees and pulling him close.
"Jun Sato," Her voice from the memory echoed in my mind. "Would you like to hear something cool?"
“What?” I whispered presently, shaking away the vision. The girl was insistent on shoving her memory onto me.
Jun’s eyes found mine, and for the first time in the 17 years of the Teen Purge, I saw the Wonderland Smile in broad daylight. I saw insanity brewing in eyes which had been darkened far before Littlewood’s curse had snatched his mind.
It had been hours since the curse had let us go, and there it was, splitting my best friend’s mouth apart into a cheshire cat grin. It was exactly what I’d seen on Noah Sharpe’s face before he sliced my mother’s throat open and gutted her. But while Noah's expression had been a blank slate, a monster, I only saw tragic hope lighting up my best friend's eyes. But it wasn’t real hope. Real hope was wanting to survive. It was forcing yourself to keep going no matter what. What I saw was that craving I’d felt when I’d woken up covered in blood, the one emitting from every voice inside my head.
The overwhelming pleasure which came with the thought of dying—giving yourself up.
"She asked me if I wanted to save the world.” He said, his eyes twinkling. “How cool is that?”
I was losing him.
“What did you say?” I asked stiffly.
He smiled. “I said yes. What else could I say? She got this weird look on her face, this smile, which was both maniacal and yet unbelievably sad, it made me feel like I would feel it too. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.” Jun turned towards the window, this time, like he was refusing to admit it to my face. “She told me I will. Just like her, and the kids before her. That’s what the siren inside her head said. At that point I hoped I’d be able to save the world, and then visit my dad. I really thought it was as easy as that.” His lips twisted, eyes lighting up.
“But… then I understood what she meant. I finally understood, and I wasn’t scared anymore. How could I fear my own fate? She didn’t mean me saving the world, Bee. She meant me, and you, all of us in the past and present and future giving our lives for seven billion others. The world."
I had to stop myself from slapping him across the face. He was really choosing now to go off the deep end?
Whatever this girl had fed him was her own personal idea of death, which sounded like rainbows and cotton candy.
Jun turned to me with almost cartoon-like eyes.
“You can hear them,” he murmured. “the girl had that exact same look in her eyes.”
Swallowing hard, I fought to breathe. “What do you mean?”
“Haunted.” Jun said. “They’re telling you exactly what happened to them, and you can’t stop it. You want to pull them out of your head, but you can’t. They’re like a parasite taking over. They keep singing and you're ignoring them. But you need to listen. She told me to listen. If I was chosen."
I didn’t reply.
“Can you tell me?” His voice was small. “How does this end?"
Lying on a metal slab and staring at pooling black while flames licked across my flesh and set my hair alight, my body smouldering. Burning bright. That was how it was going to end. Like Noah and every year before us, we were going to burn.
And it made sense… right? Why wouldn’t a town permanently get rid of their youth tainted by a curse?
But it still felt like I was missing something.
And that something was getting closer as we approached the Halfway House.
"Bee?" Jun murmured. "Are you okay?"
Instead of responding, I pressed my face into his shoulder and squeezed my eyes shut. But closing my eyes was somehow worse. Like I was giving in to this supposed fate. Blinking them open, I turned to the window. Outside, Fall was taking over nature, and for the first time in a while I took a moment to take it in, breathing in the smell of wet mildew and crushed leaves drifting through the window and marvelling beautiful decay.
It's crazy how much you start to notice about the world around you when you know your time is running out. I don't think I'll ever look at a tree the same again. Jun was staring forwards, his eyes vacant, a small curl of a smile on his lips. I didn't trust it was his. Whoever this girl was had buried her way into my friend's mind, sending him into a trace. When I shoved him, Jun still turned to me and blinked, and it was still him. I had no doubt about that.
But it almost felt like he was looking through me, and what was inside my head.
Some psycho bitch had fucked with his head, and my first priority was snapping him out of it and bringing him back down to earth. Whether he liked it or not. In my cotton candy thoughts still half asleep from the tranquilliser, though, I was slowly conducting a plan to get the fuck out of there.
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