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Messages - Oxygen-Thief

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Story Critique / Useless Trash
« on: 07:14 PM, 08/27/18 »
  The inconveniences of daily life don't really come my way, mostly because I don't have many friends. A lot of my close family is dead, too. That’s fine though; I don't mind keeping to myself. People ask too many questions, if I’m being honest.

  I'm still professional. I'm friendly at work and go on a few dates every now and then. People are good for breaking monotony. If you work hard enough to keep few people close and many others away, you receive the blessing of fewer problems. It’s worked for me so far.

  About a week ago I was leaving for work only to find a trash can on my doormat. It was 6:30 in the morning, the sun had barely come out, and no one was around.

  The trash can was cylindrical with a plastic bag wrapped around the rim. It was something to put in your office, beige and unnoticeable. I could tell something was inside it, but I didn’t care at that moment.

  My mind immediately went to kids pulling pranks, which isn’t something to get upset about in the slightest. I set the can aside, and it was still there when I got home that afternoon. I expected it to be.

  Sitting on my porch swing with the trash can between my feet, I peered inside to see a stuffed animal cuddled in the plastic bag. Curious, almost amused, I pulled out the light brown grizzly bear. It took a moment to jog my memory, but the toy was mine nearly thirty-five years ago. I knew it wasn’t a new one, because the tag stitched to its leg read: To Mary, From Mom.

  The teddy bear was a gift for my fifth birthday, and her name was Coco. I threw her away in my late teens, although I don’t fully remember.

  My mother died a couple years back, leaving no one else but me to know about Coco. Not only that, but all the tears on Coco’s stomach and head were gone, with no stitches I could find.

  Sitting there in the afternoon heat, I looked around my neighborhood, thinking I could catch someone recording my reaction or something. All I saw were people walking their dogs or kids playing in the street. Everything looked as warm and welcoming as it always had in that community. Simply normal.

  I called the cops just so that whoever left Coco at my doorstep knew I wasn’t afraid of doing so. I even apologized to the officers for wasting their time, but they still assured me I wasn’t wrong in being anxious after I explained the situation.

  I wasn’t anxious at all.

  The police took the trash can as well as Coco, but I almost didn’t want them to. There weren’t a lot of things from my childhood I still owned. It was probably for the best, though.

  The week went by with nothing strange happening. The incident was nearly gone from my mind before I discovered another trash can. Same time, same position, same bag, same can.

  I stared at it for a minute. Not at the contents, just at the whole thing. For some reason I didn’t picture a person putting it there.

  I grabbed the trash can and went back into the house, slamming the door behind me. My racing heart told me to look, not my brain, which was telling me to call the cops again immediately. It wasn’t going to be anything bad—just more useless trash, because someone was fucking with me. That was it.

  Placing it on the coffee table, I looked inside to see something glint back at me. I slowly reached in and pulled out a knife I had forgotten about a long time ago. Crimson dripped heavily from the blade’s tip, as if it cut skin just moments prior. As if that blood didn’t just have fifteen years to coagulate into black dust.

  I recognized the chipped blue paint on the handle, and the American flag I painted on it in high school. That was the last feature I remembered seeing before throwing the knife into a river.

  Calling the police was not an option, at least for me. I thought about the trash cans I could find later, which had the arms or the legs or the other tools I used. As much as I hated them, they would have to stay keepsakes if they showed up in my life again.

Your Stories / Re: Serious Inquiries Only, Please!
« on: 01:52 PM, 12/26/17 »
Characters like this narrator are ones I will never get tired of. I love the amount of detail in their plan and how dedicated they are to it, yet there is that obvious desperation to justify their reason for wanting to 'live on' after death. This is so creepy but also very entertaining and well thought-out, very awesome story!

Story Critique / Rotten Apple
« on: 09:15 PM, 12/25/17 »
So I don’t really think this way anymore, but when I was a kid I used to believe houses were alive. My mother tried convincing me I had a guardian angel in heaven but that sentiment fell onto our home: its walls were a shield and its warmth was a hug for me. Up until my mid-teens I felt that way, until we moved for the first time and I realized I didn’t feel that bad about leaving our house behind.

Recently that feeling has come back somewhat. When I was younger, bouncing from apartment to apartment after graduating college, there was so much chaos in my life over being an insurance agent that I never thought about where I was living. People told me I was good at my job but my organization skills are not the best, so my living situations were never places to bring anyone home to. Tiny living space after tiny living space becomes very boring, so I decided to change things up a little.

The house I just bought, my first house, reminds me a lot of the grumpy old man I bought it from—standing under a cloudless sky, decadent and casting a judgmental shadow over the field surrounding it, as if it were angry that it no longer belonged to a wealthy family. Isolated and stubbornly alone, it was ten miles out of town, a wooden tombstone along the countryside.

I loved it nonetheless. That feeling coming back from my melodramatic childhood was pity mixed with admiration. The entire house felt like an old story waiting to uncover itself just for me. After I was guided through its musty hallways with rectangular scars of dust where family pictures once were, and its rooms of pea soup-green colored walls, I had made up my mind. Standing in the once-regal living room with natural light spilling on the floor, I looked over to Gerald, the old homeowner, and asked him, “I kind of love it? When’s a good time to move in?”

His eyes were grey and sharp, a challenge every time I made contact with them. “Whenever ya want,” he replied, “long as it’s in the next two months.”

We shook hands. I made a payment on the house a week later, and the deal was settled.

That was a few weeks ago and I don’t regret my decision at all. I had some friends help me move all my stuff in and with the gorgeous spring weather, the whole process was really  smooth. The feeling of living somewhere where I was truly comfortable and safe, that my life was in order, had come back after a long time.

Being a morning person, I could watch the sunrise every day from my kitchen table. In all the apartments I’d lived in there was never one where the windows were big enough to truly appreciate how the sky shrugged off grey sleepiness and turned into a pink mural of sunshine.

From the window I could also see the old wooden shed on the property, maybe five yards from the house. I had searched that broken thing a little and found nothing special about it, only that it was once for tools and the like. Some of my bigger, more rusty tools were in it now, though I used one of the many rooms in the house for storage since I lived alone and that was easier.

That shed was the only thing I didn’t like about the purchase. So I could really enjoy the sunrise every day and the pretty field outside when I ate my breakfast, I planned on eventually fixing up the shed or at least breaking it down. There was no use I could think of for it.

One morning my eyes were stuck on it. It was basically a smaller version of the house, resembling an elderly person with scoliosis—once tall and strong, filled with purpose, but now slowly crumpling to dust. Its makeup of dark grey wood stood out against the pink sky and yellow field.

Looking at the shed was just annoying. I had no neighbors to speak of but I couldn’t help thinking how ‘tacky’ it looked, as my mother would put it.

As strong as my eyes were glued to the old shed with ideas swimming around in my mind about what to do with it, the small dot that hopped from its crooked door crashed my train of thought. It was so sudden that I couldn’t identify whatever it was that just . . . flew out of the shed. It looked more like an underhand toss, but I could actually see the inside of it from my kitchen window and there was no moving figure. Maybe my attention was so heavy on the shed itself that there was a person or animal on my property, but I simply didn’t notice, like staring at a pretty flower at the park and suddenly realizing a person is walking right past you.

It was Saturday and I didn’t have to work so I put on my coat to go investigate. The chilly spring morning had given the flattened grass leading to the shed a light coating of frost, so my steps had a satisfying, rhythmic crunch to them. When I stood a few feet from the shed’s entrance, I scouted the ground for whatever had come out of there and my eyes quickly landed on an apple.

I nonchalantly picked it up thinking the weird instance must have been a fox or raccoon. Looking over the fruit I didn’t think a human would want to eat it considering it had clearly gone bad, looking like a person’s fingertips when they were in the water too long. When I turned it around in my fingers, I saw a bite mark that wasn’t animalistic at all though. It looked like any way a person bites into an apple, a large crater with little valleys inside where the teeth hit.

After inspecting the shed and finding nothing, I walked back to the house and threw the apple in the trash. I’m a little anxious despite the fact there hasn’t been any sign of another person around here, but at least I can actually enjoy my mornings now since I tore down that ugly shed.

“One . . . two . . . three,” I said, tightening my grip on the ice-cold handle of the storage unit door. Cleo did the same right beside me, so close that I could still smell the strawberry malt on her breath from when we met up at Inspector Moomoos . We lifted the sheet metal door together at the end of my countdown to expose an anticlimactic sea of cardboard boxes and wooden furniture.

While we both dusted our hands at the same time, I frowned. I noticed there was  a substantially higher amount of junk in the storage unit than there was the last time I was  there.

Cleo stuffed her hands in her coat pockets and began walking around the Fleming Storage Unit. I remained at the entrance and asked my twin sister, “Hey, Cleo, where did you get that extra stuff over there?”

She turned to me, confused, and saw I was pointing at an older computer model sitting on top of an unfamiliar wood table. It was closer to the entrance, in front of a small mountain of boxes and larger home décor pieces that had belonged to Mom.

“Ohhhh, uhhh . . .,” Cleo droned in response while picking at her lower lip with her nails, deep in thought. I put my hands on my hips, hearing all the commotion of people moving things into their cars outside like Cleo and I should've started doing, but instead was waiting for her answer. “Just some stuff I bought that I didn't need anymore? Guess I forgot.” Her shrug was unsatisfying considering Mom and Dad died only five years ago, and I couldn't see how Cleo wouldn't remember the reason for buying a computer.

My hands fell from my hips and my eyes rolled. “Well, are you gonna keep it?” I pushed as I started inspecting the tops of boxes, looking for years and labels. The cloudy mid-day sun only got so far into the ancient grave.

I heard Cleo bumping into things when she got back to searching herself. Out of nowhere, she laughed and said, much too late to my question, “Don't worry, I'll keep the computer, but how was I supposed to know the cops would find a dead body around here?” After her inquiry I could hear a box fall into Cleo's arms from one of the higher piles. The ones on the top were full of papers and photos, and I realized we would probably have to look through all the documents Mom and Dad never threw away from fear of identity theft.

“I guess you're right there,” I confessed. A sigh escaped my lips remembering the conversation with my girlfriend about why Cleo needed my help over the next few days. “Elaine definitely wasn't happy about it. The money I used for the U-Haul was supposed to be for traveling.” I took a moment to huff a little. “It's like that murderer knew all those plans would get messed up!”

I looked over my shoulder to see Cleo already taking boxes to her van with a dolly she brought with her. Figuring she was getting some of the family documents out of my hair, I decided to walk further into the trash abyss.

While I searched I thought about a lot of crap I'd be throwing away when I got home, or leave there for auction like the police said. My first target was made up when my eyes landed on Mom's empty vinegar bottles, her punishment for cursing while Cleo and I grew up. I glanced at Dad's baseball equipment which he forced onto us when my sister and I both really hated sports. Yeah, I thought, definitely the dump.

It became colder as I walked further into the unit. Powell was also chilly this time of year, only five miles south of Havre, but I guess I was still getting used to the dry iciness of Montana after being gone so long. The dust from all the boxes made me sneeze a little too much and I hugged myself to keep warm even though I was wearing a heavy jacket. I heard Cleo come back from her van, calling, “Cathy? Where'd you go?”

I heard the metal clang of the dolly as I answered, “I'm checking the back. Thinking of what to throw away or leave here.”

“Don't be too harsh,” Cleo replied breathlessly, probably lifting more stuff. “I bet Elaine would love to see a lot of stuff from when you and I were kids! You said she was a little sick, right? That stuff might cheer her up.”

“Yeah,” I responded while my eyes still strained to make sense of the cardboard city around me, “she got some food poisoning after we ate at a food truck. I remember the tin foil gave the burritos a weird taste or something.” I caught sight of a pile which didn't look like boxes, for once. All the noise Cleo was making didn't take my gaze from it.

“You mean aluminum foil,” Cleo corrected me, followed by the heavy sound of a box landing on another. “Tin foil stopped being made years ago, after World World II I think.”

My eyes rolled again, but I smiled too.“Nerd! Your history degree doesn't change that my girlfriend is sick.”

Cleo laughed at my insult, but I still stared at the heavily shaded metal pile embraced by a lazy half-circle of boxes I didn't remember being there before. It only took a moment of recollection to realize it was a bunch of parts from the truck Cleo and I had to share as teenagers. I recognized the rusting hood, the engine, and even the miscellaneous metal bits I didn't know the names of. By 'recognize' I actually mean I remember the sight of the parts after Dad crashed the truck and Cleo wanted to put the leftovers in the storage unit for whatever reason.

“Cleo, why are these parts still here?” I asked. I walked over to the pile of bullshit when she didn't respond, thinking she left again to put more stuff in her van, and so I began to read the box labels. The first one had Sharpie written along the tape: ART AND OTHER. I knew on-sight it was written in Cleo's cute cursive scrawl with 2012 scribbled in the top left-hand corner.

I thought about the art and stories we made together as little kids, all the way into our teens before Dad found it and thought we were mentally ill because the content wasn't good by his standards. It was 2005, we were fifteen and everyone was doing the anime OC thing, which was fun as hell from what I remember. There wasn't much Cleo and I wanted to do besides that and play video games trying to block out the yelling often heard throughout our house.

I expected to find a box like that since Cleo cared about that stuff way more than me, so much so that she continued to make fan fiction in secret after Dad threw out a bunch of it. What I didn't expect was the box labeled: CLEO AND CATHY'S VIDEO GAMES. Again, marked 2012, when Cleo and I were 22 and in our last year of college at MSU Northern.

Cleo still wasn't back when I ripped the tape off both boxes. The first thing I noticed between the two was sitting in the art box: Cleo's old blue and white umbrella. The memory of her buying it because it slightly resembled the Umbrella Corps. logo from Resident Evil was enough to make me cackle.

However, I spotted the long-forgotten silver treasure sitting in the games box and couldn't focus on anything else. Sitting cross-legged surrounded by enough laughter fodder between Cleo and I for the next one hundred years, I smiled down at the GameCube and tracked the list of 20 or so titles around it. Despite how happy I was to see all of the games again, I was pretty flabbergasted that my sister, who had created a Resident Evil 2/TMNT crossover fic with me when we were fourteen, simply hid all of them away in that dusty memory trashcan.

I didn't know what the hell Cleo was doing outside the storage unit, but the increasingly cold air became somewhat tranquil as I flipped threw games and artwork. It was the 11th of October on that day, and we had until the 14th to clear it all out so I didn't care if I was wasting a little time.

All time and sensation stopped, however, when I came across one of the OCs Cleo had made as a teen. The reason I remembered the picture specifically was because it was one of the art pieces that Dad found, and ripped apart in his own hands in front of us.

He was already pissed Cleo and I didn't like sports. The fact we liked anime and tried mixing it with video games we played on a system he regretted buying pissed him off even more. Mom didn't like it either but at least she didn't destroy the work of children in front of their faces.

The torn picture of my sister's character, Rose Wright, had been stitched back together with Scotch tape. Although the state of it was a little deformed, I could still make out the clear passion put into the piece: A blond anime chick wearing a hot pink Raccoon City Police Department uniform with too many straps and pockets to be practical at all. Her whole backstory was being a rookie cop straight out of training like Leon, who Cleo used to never shut up about being her dream husband.

I didn't remember Cleo repairing the picture all those years ago but nonetheless I was happy as day to see it again. In a voice a lot louder than intended, I called to her, “Cleo! Get your butt back in here!”

Frantic footsteps on grimy concrete followed. Cleo took a moment to find me amongst all the boxes but when she did, she became as still as some of the decorative statues lying around. Her expression was stony, looking as if her brain hadn't decided on surprise or fear once her dark eyes landed on the picture of Rose. I thought she was just embarrassed, both for the picture's existence and the fact she had kept it all these years.

I was having a blast, though. All the frustration of having to drive five hours back to my hometown because of a crime that was irrelevant to my life melted away.

“Dude, you kept all of this stuff?” I asked excitedly, still sitting cross-legged with papers strewn about me like a little kid with brand new toys to play with on Christmas morning. “We gotta split this up or something! Elaine's gonna lose her shit when she sees this, and oh, by the way, why's the GameCube gathering dust back here? If you're not using it can I have it? Elaine wants to play Wind Waker but never got the chance.

Obnoxiously I rambled on, high on nostalgia as if it were acid and gesturing like a Disney character while my sister had her mouth closed too tight. She was trying to find some words that wouldn't come.

“Heeeeey, remember when you wanted to marry Leon?” I asked, holding up an old picture of the character Cleo had drawn with special detail to his weird 2000s hair. She lightly flinched in response. “I mean, it's okay if you still do.” I laughed at my own stupid joke.

“And why did you keep the car parts?” I continued. Cleo got down on her knees to look through all the art while I stood up to inspect the pile of useless metal. “That truck was utter trash when we drove it and Dad of all people busted it up, so why are they here?” I finally noticed at that moment when Cleo was still silent that she would probably say something if I shut my mouth, so I did.

I looked over my shoulder to see her face shadowed with hair. She was holding the drawing of Rose a bit close to her chest, very still like she was before. Contrasting the cold weather, my cheeks reddened upon realizing something else was going on in Cleo's head.

“This took hours,” she whispered with claws of a sob threatening to poke through her speech.

A personal silence fell on us both. I could still hear people working outside but none of it could get past the memory my sister and I were experiencing. None of it could get past the sound of my father throwing around confused slurs and insults at us while ripping up our personal projects like they were unpaid bills. We were standing in the kitchen while he did so, standing close together for protection and I remember uneasy tears falling down Cleo's face.

Our parents died five years ago, but somehow they felt closer than my glossy-eyed sister right next to me at that moment.

I sat down next to Cleo and put a hand on her shoulder. “They were just assholes, man. Let's throw out all their shit and keep this for ourselves.” She snapped her head toward me and nodded quickly. Her eyes then flipped to the car parts with a growing smile on her face, small sounds of crinkling paper popping throughout the air as her grip strengthened on the picture.

“Yeah, they ruined everything,” she whispered.

We looked at each other one more time then continued to work with little to no chatter between us. After hauling stuff into our cars and my U-Haul until 5:30 pm when the facility closed, I slept over at Cleo's apartment where we hooked up the GameCube to her TV and played Resident Evil 4 until the tiny hours of the morning. She was a hell of a lot better with the headshots than me, just like old times.

The next morning around noon we decided to hit up Stars and Bards for the cabinet of Street Fighter 3: Third Strike that Gregg had in the basement. I guess we were just on a co-op kick out of not being around each other for so many years. Cleo beat me almost every time with Remy, no matter how much I used Urien which really should have sealed victory for me. After nearly slamming my own head into a wall when Cleo got her ninth win in a row, we chatted with Gregg a bit before heading back to Fleming Storage and finishing the job.

“I tried doing it again,” Cleo said randomly after I helped her move the table I hadn't recognized to her van, as well as the computer. “Writing, I mean. I gave up after a bit, that's why I put it there.” She nodded her head toward the near-empty storage unit.

“Well, keep trying. I'll read it,” I assured her. Her eyes lowered to the ground for a few seconds before she grinned at me.

She chuckled a bit, leaning back against the side of her van. “Okay, I'll try . . . and ask for your help if I want more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the plot.” Cleo's full-toothed smile was bright enough for that cloudy day where the sun refused to break past the gray clouds.

All that was left was stuff I agreed to take with me. Cleo and I hugged for a long time before we went our separate ways, and I was left alone to clean up the rest of the mess. I was okay with it after all the stuff we had to remember over those two days.

I sighed as I brought down the storage unit door, its final sound a low crash that echoed a little. A wave of relief washed over me when I climbed into my car and turned on the ignition to an 80s rock station laced with some static. Havre became smaller and smaller in my rear view mirror along with all the stress of coming back to that little town. With Limelight by Rush coming from the radio and the highway stringing me along a linear existence of calmness, a brand new feeling injected itself into my chest upon remembering that Dad burned the picture of Rose after he tore it up.

I've said what I wanted to in the story but I know there's room for improvement and the deadline is coming up on me like a thief in the night. Any critique is greatly appreciated and thanks for reading. This whole project has been one hell of ride.

This is a very unique setting with some creepy imagery, in my opinion. There's something about empty dog cages that's unsettling to me. So far the story is very gripping with interesting characters, and I like that the narrator is interesting in their own way instead of being merely a camera for the reader. There are quite a few typos though, especially near the end of this draft. Good luck with the rest of this story!

I totally get what you mean--I just kinda started writing the opening and saw where it went from there. I'm definitely cutting some of this because it's three pages long already lmao, and it's halfway through November!

I actually plan on having the fandom thing be a part of the story and connection between the sisters, but you're right, I need to find a better way to do it. Maybe more dialogue instead of exposition? Thank you so much for the response btw.

Originally, I had given no mind to the idea of driving five hours back to Havre, Montana just to clean out Cleo's storage unit. I used to forget I'd taken ownership of it when she died in 2014, and the extra $25 dollars a month didn't bother me since my job is alright. What did bother me was the fact that, when I opened the cold-ass padlock and lifted the screeching metal door, there was a bunch of crap in the storage unit Cleo never told me about.

It takes a lot to effect my temper. When the storage company sent the e-mail about the dead body and the police shutting down the place, my girlfriend Helaine was sick with mono. I didn't want to leave her (we tended to get really lonely when separated at all), but she was okay with it since she only needed another week or so to be fully better and she had our cat, Heart, to keep her company.

It was simple. Leave at 8:00 am on the 11th, be there by 2:00 pm, fill up the U-Haul and sleep at a motel or something. Wake up, grab some coffee and Sno Balls from a gas station then head home. I grew up in that town so I thought it would be easy to get in and get out.

Honestly, I didn't want to be there too long—not just because Helaine was sick but because it was a little painful to be in the same town your loved ones died in. Yet, from beyond the grave, Cleo just overdid herself and I had to clean up the mess.

So the last time I was at the Fleming Storage Unit facility was in 2012, when ownership bounced from Mom and Dad to Cleo because she was the oldest twin. Cleo knew I was moving to Wyoming soon so she didn't want me to worry about it. We were 22 years old back then and the death of our parents brought a roller coaster of conflicting emotions: They were never that nice, but some genetic curse of loyalty to ones' elders motivated us to keep their hoarded garbage in storage rather than sell it like we probably should have.

The Montana air became dry and cold by October. Vague sunlight of the cloudy day felt warm compared to the icy, ancient feeling of the storage unit. I zipped up my jacket, hugging myself as I walked about the cluttered space, remembering where everything was.

Beside the sheet metal door was a pile of dirty car parts, including a rusted hood, an engine and some miscellaneous metal scraps I couldn't identify. I smiled recollecting how terrible that truck was, how Cleo was so insistent on keeping those parts because they had “sentimental value”. Well, she wasn't wrong—I did smile at them after all, and that truck sure caused a lot of strong emotions back in the day with how much it broke down when we tried driving to school.

Next to the pile of car parts were a bunch of boxes full of stuff belonging to Cleo and I, as well as boxes of decorations which were stacked against the left wall of the unit. The e-mail from the company stated any stuff left behind by the 14th would be sold off at auction, so I began to wonder what useless junk I could get rid of. Definitely Mom's vinegar bottle collection, I thought, and Dad's baseballs.

Truth be told, there was nothing I really wanted to give away just for the sake of it, but what would I do with car parts and vinegar bottles? Nothing, except look like white trash. I always told myself I would never be like my parents.

Turning away from the car parts, there was an old computer, large and inefficient-looking, sitting on top of a round oak table in front of more boxes which I knew were full of family documents and photos. Now, that stuff wasn't there before. I could only think Cleo put it there for a friend or maybe she got back into writing fan-fiction with something she bought for cheap. Either way, I noted in my mind not to throw away the computer (only God knew what was on there), but the table could go.

As I continued to lose myself in deciding what I would take back to Powell and what to let the auction take care of, I suddenly remembered an item which I told myself earlier I would most certainly need to find.

Grinning, I carefully retraced my steps through all the junk back to the pile of car parts. Beside the pile, there were two random boxes stacked on top of each other, with Cleo's old umbrella leaning against it. Taking down the first box and setting it aside with a grunt, I got on my knees to tear off the other box's tape, which had Sharpie scrawled across it: CLEO AND CATHY'S VIDEO GAMES. Dust tickled my nostrils as I opened the cardboard time capsule, its walls bent slightly from years of weight.

The silver-colored GameCube sat tranquil, cuddled by 20 or so games which Cleo and I scratched to death with how much we played them. The game my eyes caught immediately was Resident Evil 4, which was probably in Cleo's top ten most valuable possessions. She had loved it even more than the Resident Evil Remaster from 2002.

I glanced back at the umbrella. Cleo had literally bought it because it vaguely resembled the Umbrella Corporation logo, even though the colored parts were blue instead of red.

I was a little angry with myself that I hadn't come for the console sooner, but I still  couldn't wait to take it back to Helaine and convince her to play the games with me. If she didn't like Resident Evil 4 then she would at least love Wind Waker. She always told me she wanted to play that Zelda game but never got the chance to.

With how special that system was, I closed up the box and took it to my car. I gently placed it in the back and got back to work with a clap of my dusty hands.

The next few hours I would quickly snap-check a box, close it and put it either in the 'take back home' or 'auction' pile. Within the U-Haul, I made sure all the items went from heaviest to lightest when stacked. I was actually thankful it was October; moving a bunch of stuff like that was really tiring. It would be worse if it was summer and I was sweating everywhere. Thankfully I spotted a restaurant at the plaza next door, so I made plans to get a drink before bed at a Super 8.

Near that oak table, I eventually found a box marked with the year 2013 in Sharpie. Written across the tape in the same marker was: ART AND OTHER. I recognized Cleo's cursive handwriting.

My mind raced with all the times Cleo and I made art as kids. Our parents fought or yelled quite often, so we played video games for hours on end in our room, then talked while making fan-fiction and fan-art. A lot of that stuff was original, to our credit. We had our respective fandoms: I stuck with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Legend of Zelda while Cleo was, unsurprisingly, a Resident Evil loyalist. Once we even collaborated on a Resident Evil 2/TMNT crossover for fun.

God, I hoped it was in that box!

Ready for some laughs, I lifted the box and found it was heavier than I expected. I  guess I pictured only what I saw in my memories—a bunch of papers with our colored pencils. Nonetheless I peeled off the tape, opened the box, and confidently looked inside.

The first drawing I saw was held together with Scotch tape, jagged veins making some semblance of an illustration that was ripped up. Despite the poor stitches, I immediately recognized what I saw: Cleo's original character that she made for a lot of her Resident Evil fan-fiction. I could see the year '2005' written in the top right hand corner of the paper.

Dad tore up the picture when he discovered it. He thought because we were 15 at the time that the poorly-drawn artwork was a sign of mental illness or something. Everyone was either an expert or a loser to him, nothing in between.

We loved imitating anime art styles back then, even for shows and games that didn't resemble the medium. It was just something everyone was doing. Cleo's Resident Evil OC, Rose Wright, was a blond anime chick who looked more like a Rurouni Kenshin character face-wise. There was some attempt at posing since Rose was incorrectly holding a 9mm pistol towards the viewer. She was wearing mock military attire colored in multiple shades of green, with too many knives and pockets added to her design to make any sense.

Cleo never told me she had kept the drawing for 9 years. I didn't know if she taped it up recently before she died or if she did it all those years ago, never saying anything. Even after Dad tore it up she talked about Resident Evil, about how much she hated the movies with every fiber of her being to the point where it got annoying, and how Leon was her dream husband.

After staring at the picture for a bit too long, I checked my phone. It was 5:30 pm now and the cold was becoming too much for me. The sky was also darkening quickly with a hazy orange sunset hovering above the grayish storage facility.

So this is definitely not done and I don't like it so far. Any criticisms would really help. Thanks!

The amount of detail in this story is great, and the Texan inflection in the dialogue gives the reader a good idea about what these characters sound like. A lot of the sentences are too short, though, and I suggest giving more descriptions of the environment, the weather and storage unit itself. That way it will feel more grounded along with the details you've already given. That said, the motivations of the characters and their reasoning for cleaning out the storage unit make sense.

The mystery about the psychology books belonging to the ex-husband is also intriguing yet realistic, I find.

I'm sorry if this came off as rude at all, since this was posted awhile ago and you've probably continued far into this story.

The first paragraph is quite hooking, and interesting, but it did feel like it was going off topic from the first sentence near the end.

I do want to say that the line, "Desperate men go to desperate measures. Very desperate men go to Havre, apparently," is pretty fantastic! It made me smile.

Fleming Storage Units WIPs / Re: Location Collaboration
« on: 01:09 PM, 11/ 4/17 »
Unit #44 here. A 27-year-old woman from Powell, Wyoming coming back to her hometown to take care of the storage unit since her twin sister (original owner) is dead. Gonna grab a drink at Marg Madness on the 11th after 6:00 pm, hit the hay at the Super 8, then play some Street Fighter at Stars & Bards the next morning before leaving Havre.

This first page starts out very interesting and stays that way all the way through, and I think the dialogue is well-written. The pacing is also quite good: I didn't get bored or overwhelmed with information while reading.

There are some issues with sentence structure, like commas in sentences where there could be periods instead. This didn't effect the quality of the story in my opinion but it made reading some sentences kind of awkward.

I'm genuinely curious to see where this story goes! Good luck with the progress.

Story Critique / Re: Grandma Gifts
« on: 12:21 PM, 10/30/17 »
There's a lot of character in the narrator, and I love the commentary on how kids have high expectations of birthday gifts from grandparents. The ocean theme is also wonderful, not something you see a lot in creepypasta.

The ending is great since it doesn't explain the grandmother's abilities at all, but the themes of the gifts she chooses still make it creepy.

  My wife and I used to talk over coffee on weekend mornings. Of course we also watched Netflix together on the couch or took walks, but I felt lucky enough to have married someone I could simply talk to to have a good time.
  Hope would make the morning brew, always giving me a little extra of my favorite creamer—hazelnut. Hers was always nearly black with only a few spoonfuls of sugar and a bit of milk. She insisted she liked her coffee that way, but I was pretty sure she only did that to save money on creamer due to my sweet tooth.
  Then we would just unwind talking. Despite our wedding and honeymoon, those morning hours contained some of the most pleasant memories I have with my wife.

  We had debates over the dumbest things, like which Yu Yu Hakusho character was the best since we both grew up watching it on Toonami.

  “No, no, no,” Hope said shaking her head, then sipped her coffee. “Hiei's the shit, man. Kuwabara's cool but he was so annoying sometimes.”

  “Hiei was a prototype Sasuke,” I argued, because it was true. Fictional characters who pretended to hate everyone else around them were the worst, in my opinion. Before she could offer rebuttal, I added, “Kuwabara's the best because he kicked ass but still loved his friends at the same time. Hiei just hated everybody. Now that's annoying.”

  My wife shrugged in response, grinning. “Yeah, good point. But I still love cool guys in black like Hiei. It's probably because of him that I liked Sasuke in middle school, actually.”

  Hope stared out the window for a second, recalling childhood memories while drinking her coffee in deep thought. I whispered, “Or because you had no taste.”

  Her cheeks reddened immediately. Trying to hold back a smile and failing, she lightly punched me in the arm while I laughed at her embarrassment. That little moment is very important to me, even if other people wouldn't think it as precious as walking along a beach, or romantic dinners lit by candles.

  Those mornings reminded me why I loved Hope so much. I wanted to remember her laughter like song lyrics, her hundreds of crooked smiles when telling stupid jokes, and her weird stories told with the crescendo of a moving train. I wanted to remember all of her without feeling sad, but I failed that when it happened.

  After three years of dating and three of marriage, Hope went missing. I had filed a missing persons report after she hadn't come home at the usual time or responded to my calls.

  It was dark out at the time. I knew her route home from work included a long, lonesome road with only a farm to pass amongst fields of corn. The police found her car abandoned on the side of the road, but they didn't find Hope. The only person nearby was the farmer whose property was searched thoroughly without restraint, but nothing suspicious was found on his land or in his house.

  With the help of Hope's family and social media, we started a search. We had help from friends and volunteers when searching the cornfields where she vanished. People close to Hope and I who were out of state retweeted posts I made asking where she might be, along with her face on every telephone post.That went on for a month.

  After two months, people started losing faith. I didn't, of course, but the police kept telling me when people were missing for as long as my wife, that typically meant they were dead.

  No, no, no, not my Hope. She was too young and strong for dying, and we had so much more time to spend laughing over stupid anime shit or our thoughts about the universe until death took us both. I needed to hear Hope laugh again. The silence in our house was crushing me.

  I refused to think it was over, but the third month came around and the search closed with Hope presumed dead. Not a single lead had turned up for three goddamn months. Her parents held a funeral, where there was an empty casket lined with forget-me-not flowers. Hope's whole family sniped me with stares because of my 'stubbornness'.

  The day after, I was lying around the house just waiting for her to walk through the door. I cried, thinking that even if she was alive, what if she was in a situation where death seemed welcoming? There was nothing I could do, a realization which kept me chained to our bed where I cried myself to sleep.

  The next morning was Saturday. Weekends made me depressed, so I was sleeping in until my eyes slit open and I instantly smelled something from the hallway.

  Any lethargy I had faded in an instant. I bolted to the kitchen where there were two mugs of coffee on the table, each mug our respective favorite: Mine a simple blue mug, while Hope's had a picture of Rei Hino posing in her Sailor uniform. I bought it for her on our fifth anniversary.

  I had thoughts about a break-in or sick prank, but accepting my wife's kindness was easier. There was something in the air that wasn't just steam from the mugs, and I was so desperate to not feel lonely that I just sat down and started sipping. Hazelnut, as always.

  For the first time in months, I smiled, though Hope was certainly dead now. Maybe she had gone last night or weeks ago, choosing just now to communicate. The nitty-gritty details didn't matter to me at the moment. All that mattered was that my wife was with me again, that I had some confirmation she still existed.

  My phone buzzed from the counter. I excused myself from the table and didn't bother checking the caller ID, answering with a calm,“Hello?”

  “Al Williams?” a deep voice asked sternly. The seriousness in his tone heightened my attention.“This is the Chandler Police Department. You need to come in, sir.”

  Assuming the matter was about my wife, I blurted, “Has Hope been found?”

  “Well . . .” the officer said. “Your wife is here, Mr. Williams. She walked in a minute ago with some other women, demanding to see you.”

  My entire brain shut off while my heart went ballistic. Just as the officer finished his sentence, I heard my wife's coffee mug shatter on the floor. A soft echo of laughter came from the empty chair next to me.

  It wasn't Hope's laugh, but a man's. He said in a voice that felt so far away, “She wouldn't shut the fuck up about you to the other girls. Quite the fighter, though.”

A/N: While I'm not totally sure, I think there are minuscule things in this one that aren't in the one I sent for the contest. The word count is the same, and I don't remember the changes. All I do remember is adding some last-minute editing before submitting it for UCA. Also this is probably too late but I'd love to hear what other people have to say about this. Thank you for reading!

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