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Messages - Slimebeast

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1
The Slime Pit / Re: Where's the war?!
« on: 04:26:11 PM 11/10/17 »
Oh, hi Lippsyl.

2
The Slime Pit / Re: Where's the war?!
« on: 02:38:21 PM 11/09/17 »
Slime is the same number of letters. Slimy is, too.

3
Hell Rising / Re: Suggestions
« on: 03:51:09 PM 11/01/17 »
Well, I mean every year we've had events and I'd add new drops and occasionally new enemies/bosses, and it'd have like zero effect. :|

4
Hell Rising / Re: Suggestions
« on: 03:44:18 PM 11/01/17 »
You say that, but we had fresh events for years on end and no one came back for them. <_<

XD

5
Creepy Media Picks / UCA: Mario is a Monster
« on: 01:08:55 PM 09/01/17 »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBtNRP3mMeU" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBtNRP3mMeU</a>

6
Slimy Stories / Re: Tea and Necromancy
« on: 02:02:54 PM 08/29/17 »
Feel free to use my stories for whatever as long as they're properly credited and not used for money. :)

7
Hell Rising / Re: Suggestions
« on: 05:45:24 PM 07/27/17 »
We're also working on a body suit that will puncture your skin in real time to simulate injuries.

8
Hell Rising / Re: Suggestions
« on: 02:00:30 PM 07/27/17 »
Sledgehammer - (Infinity%)

O_O

9
Hell Rising / Re: New player needing help
« on: 06:59:09 PM 07/18/17 »
Yes, a Vampire would need to turn you. You don't need to be revived to human, just killed by a Vampire with vamp infection.

10
Hell Rising / Re: Ello!
« on: 02:15:57 PM 07/05/17 »
If bugs/etc. come up that are breaking stuff, it'll be addressed - by one of us, at least.

I also tend to change things like the event drops for Halloween and Christmas.

11
Hell Rising / Re: Ello!
« on: 01:48:09 AM 07/05/17 »
It's almost completely not being worked on. It's 10 years old, which is hard to believe. O_O There may be minor things here and there, but it's pretty much "this is what it'll be". XD

12
Slimy Stories / Re: JTK
« on: 05:07:04 PM 06/19/17 »
It done got posted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e70hPW0pUEI

I wrote this because a couple friends were rewriting the story.

13
Slimy Stories / Re: JTK
« on: 04:19:36 AM 06/14/17 »
This was done for a thing. You'll see.

14
Slimy Stories / JTK
« on: 04:19:17 AM 06/14/17 »
   I'm a nice guy. I try not to judge people on their looks or immediate behavior, and for the most part I like to think I've always been that way. There have only been a few exceptions to this rule. Mostly the random gibbering homeless people or ranting religious zealots. People you pass on the way to work, and don't want to get involved with. The one I remember most often, however, was Jeffrey Jones.

   I went to school with Jeff. Mostly. I don't want to get ahead of myself, here, but it'd be more appropriate to say I spent about one school year with him. We were both freshmen at the stale, white-and-blue high school that seemed more like a prison or a factory than a place of education.

   Jeff was fucking weird. Not in same way as someone who's way too smart or way too stupid, or a boy who's way into drama class. He was legitimately strange as a human being. Off. Wrong. He was tall and lanky. Almost as tall as his brother, Louis, who was two years ahead of him. I guess you'd call him “Goth” or “Emo” or whatever the term is. I was never into conformist subculture, but I'd label him that way due to the stringy black hair, one side of his head shaved, and the fact he didn't seem to own clothes in any color other than black.

   Jeff barked at someone. Legitimately barked like a dog. Some kid gave him shit for his whole My Chemical Romance thing, and Jeff did his best Cujo impression right in the guy's face. It wasn't just a momentary scare tactic, like he drew a blank on how to handle the situation. Jeff barked loud, and long. He didn't stop until the other kid turned and walked away, Jeff barking at his back like a lunatic.

   There are plenty of examples I can still recall at this point. At one point, we were given an assignment to write an essay about a "historical duo". The problem wasn't that Jeff picked more recent figures. The problem was that he selected Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Someone must've told the teacher what was up, because she never called on Jeff to present his essay in front of the class. That was the end of it.

   The most telling thing was Jeff's notebook. He left it behind in class, one day, and someone decided to go through it. From what I heard, it was full of bad drawings of demons and terribly written "fan fiction" where Jeff teamed up with movie villains. He envisioned himself as the badass martial artist who earned the fear and respect of monsters and hardened killers. Instead of treating it like yet another red flag, kids were content just using it as a source of mockery.

   I guess the real roadblock, though, was Louis Jones. Jeff's older brother was a pretty proficient player for our basketball team, the Haymakers. (Named long ago by a farming community with no idea of the secondary definition.)

   Students wanted to stay on the good side of Louis and his clique. Teachers knew that the majority of the school's budget actually came from sporting events. Local authorities... well, the information would never make its way up to them, so I guess they can't be blamed. Jeff could do pretty much anything he wanted, short of murder, and he knew there would be no real repercussions.

   I wasn't exactly an angel, of course. I mean, as much as I tried to give people the benefit of the doubt, Jeff really strained my patience. Girls would cross the hallway to avoid him. Not because he would accost or annoy them, but because he would leer at them. That alone almost seemed more distressing to female students than the awkward, hormone-fueled antics of other boys. It's difficult to explain... it was a look that almost seemed to say, “You know, if I did it, no one would listen to you.”

   I don't know what caused this behavior. I have no idea what kind of home life Jeff and Louis had, but it was obvious their parents had remarried. Louis was like a younger, more lithe Shaquille O'Neil, and Jeff was more of a Rob Schneider. Someone you wouldn't be afraid of, or even give a second look, if not for the overt attempts at looking and being edgy.

   A couple friends and I decided to take Jeff aside and talk to him, one day. It was a huge mistake, and while we knew it would probably be fruitless, we were high on teenage melodrama and saw ourselves as saviors of the student body. Maybe even of Jeff himself.

   “Jeff.” I called out after lunch, drawing his attention before he went back into the school building. He was always the last one back. You know, to be fashionably late, I guess.

   “You need to stop messing with everyone.” My friend Troy chimed in as Jeff stood toe-to-toe with me, arms folded.

   “I don't mess with people.” Jeff whispered in a put-on, gravelly voice. “People mess with me.”

   Keith, the third of our ill-advised Musketeers, laughed. Jeff instantly turned, cocking his head as if he hadn't clearly heard the boy.

   “What's funny?” Jeff snarled, “Do I look like a joke to you? Do you not recognize darkness incarnate when it stands before you?”

   “Man, what's wrong with you?” Troy drew Jeff's attention back off of Keith, who was visibly shaken, and clearly falling for the paper-thin tough guy act. “Are you, like, literally crazy, or do you just like scaring everyone all the time?”

   It was a clumsy retort, but it worked well enough in the moment.

   I'm not blameless for what happened. Not at all. I don't want this to seem like I'm stacking the deck against Jeff, here. He was obnoxious, threatening, and on occasion, violent. However, that doesn't excuse how we reacted when he made the hot-headed mistake of shoving Troy to the ground.

   Keith and I were frozen in shock for a moment. In an instant, Jeff was in Troy's face. The next second, Troy was on his ass, and Jeff was barking at him. If we weren't so shocked by the sudden turn from argument to assault, we might've been able to collect our thoughts. We could've just helped Troy to his feet, made a useless report to the Principal, and went on living our lives.

   That's not what we did.

   I was the first one on top of Jeff. I tackled him to the ground, hard, as if he had killed Troy instead of just shoving him off-balance. I think he was screaming as I punched him repeatedly in side of the head. The shaved side. Keith was with me in a flash, kicking Jeff in the leg and hip. I didn't even know Keith was doing this at the time, in the rush of adrenaline. Before long, Troy was back on his feet, and, apparently feeling that he should join in since he was the one who had been shoved, he delivered a single stomp to Jeff's stomach, crushing the breath out of him.

   The fight... or, I guess, the attack... lasted for mere seconds. It was a brief display, showing Jeff that he might be able to fuck with the other hundred-plus kids at school – but not us. Never us. We felt like the only ones who actually put morality over popularity.

   Ironic, I know.

   The funny thing about that day, if you can call any of it “funny”, is that we never got in trouble. Jeff didn't tell a soul. It's almost like the influence his brother had over the school went both ways. Maybe Jeff didn't want Louis coming back at us and risking his future. Maybe he was just embarrassed to admit that “darkness incarnate” was left wheezing and crying in the school courtyard. I'll never really figure it out.

   The up side of the whole thing was that Jeff was an absolute dream for the next couple months. No leering at girls, no taking things that didn't belong to him, and no barking. The gossip at the time was that Jeff finally got reprimanded by the faculty... but Troy, Keith, and I knew the real reason.

   The next big controversy was a shake-up in the yearbook department. A couple of the kids running it were caught giving students unflattering placeholder names. "Slutty Sarah", "Nick the Nerd”, “Fatass Felix”, stuff like that. They were reprimanded harshly, and it seemed like that was going to take root as the year's “big scandal”.

   Everything seemed to be normal as Halloween festivities approached. This was at the start of our Sophomore year, and nobody really paid attention to Jeff anymore. Louis was free to be head of “Respectful Costume Day” without being tacitly involved in borderline felonies. And yes, in case you would ask, it used to just be “Costume Day” until a “mariachi band” arrived a couple years prior.

   I'll give you three guesses as to who Jeff dressed as, that year. If all three of your guesses weren't “The Joker”, then I've failed to accurately explain this guy's personality and behavior. Of course it would be a crude attempt at mimicking a deceased actor's psychotic tour-de-force.

   Now, when I say he came to school dressed as the Joker, I don't mean exactly. For the most part, his clothes were the same. Black, ripped jeans, black boots (with elevated soles), black shirt. With the addition of a black trench coat, black and white face paint, and red lips, his everyday outlandishness almost seemed to make sense. Almost.

   I was talking with Jane, my girlfriend at the time, when we both fell silent just to watch Jeff skitter past. She was dressed as Jesse from Toy Story, and even tipped her hat to Jeff as he stopped briefly to flash us an unbalanced grin. I didn't notice the prosthetic scars on his cheeks until that very moment... but at least he wasn't giving her “the look” again.

   For some reason, seeing Jeff made up like that caused me more shame than anything else. I was Heathcliff the Cat. It was an old sweater and orange pants my mother had “striped” a while back, and it still fit pretty well, so it seemed like an obvious choice. (Jane thought I was a tiger, and I went with that.)

   For the rest of the day, all I thought about was whether it was okay to find Jesse sexually attractive or not. It was one of those school days that's just wasted due to the spectacle of it all. You can't take a report on WWII seriously when comes from the mouth of a bad “Tony Stark” cosplayer.

   Then, the fire alarm rang.

   Everyone in the class room laughed immediately. We'd been waiting for some sort of prank or unscheduled “event” in the lead up to Halloween. Still, the teacher got us up and out the door in a regimented line. Dracula behind the Green Ranger behind Gomez Addams behind a zombie cheerleader. It was hilarious.

   It wasn't until we were in the hallway that we heard the screaming. It wasn't prank screaming. Not even one of those lame Halloween sound effect CDs. It was real, bone-chilling shrieking. From multiple people. Many, many people.

   The teacher told us to continue to the exit as her high heels click-clacked in a jog down the hall and around the corner. We were all silent. Other students from other classes had joined us, now, and the one thing we weren't doing was walking to any exits.

   The screaming continued. The sound of a window breaking, like someone had fallen or jumped through it. Anything else was drowned out by the din of the fire alarm.

   “Someone should go see what's up.” suggested a disembodied voice.

   “We gotta go outside. The firemen will help them. We can't.” said another.

   “Fuck this. Fuck it, man.” a third helpfully added.

   Some kids broke from the group and went to leave the building. Others stayed right there on the spot, ready to run once they saw what exactly was going on. I, in one of my trademarked bouts of unbridled altruistic stupidity, made my way toward the panic.

   As I left the others behind and rounded that corner, I saw the source of the commotion.

   Jeffrey Jones.

   He stood to one side of the body-strewn hallway, his head angled away from me and toward the teacher who had just ordered us to safety moments before. She crawled on the waxed, faux-marble floor, blood trailing after her. I could see the glint of a knife still wedged in her back, between the vertebrae.

   I let out an immediate scream. There was no time to stifle it. Upon hearing the nose, Jeff turned to me. I'll never know how he singled it out of the echoing cries already filling the building.

   Jeff had added some accessories to his costume. Among them, a feather boa from the heavy-set girl I'd seen dressed as Lady Gaga... a loose necktie I recognized from a senior dressed as his own dad... and a distressingly familiar cowgirl hat.

   The makeup on his face had all but vanished due to sweat. In that moment, even from that distance, I realized that the cuts on his face weren't actually prosthetic. They were as real as the viscous blood on his hands, arms, chest, and legs.

   Jeff started to walk toward me. My first instinct was to run. I would've done just that if not for the injured girl who saw this as her opportunity to escape. As soon as she stumbled to her feet, steadying herself on a locker, Jeff reached beneath the bag of a nearby trash can and pulled out another knife with masking tape still stuck to its blade. Within an instant, he had cut her throat for a second time, and this one stuck.

   I was already running toward the girl by the time he grabbed, then dropped her to the floor. I don't know if I yelled at him to stop, or if I let out a primal noise. All I know is that I retrieved a fire extinguisher from the wall, and hadn't even considered the fact I was about to attempt to bash in the head of another human being.

   Seeing me coming a mile away... or maybe just hearing my less than stealthy approach, Jeff reached above a locker and retrieved yet another taped-down butcher knife. He must've been hiding them around the school for weeks. It's insane to think no one randomly found them.

   So that was it. Dual-wielded kitchen cutlery vs. a crude, red metal bludgeon. It would be an inelegant, cumbersome, and messy display that would most likely leave the both of us slowly dying in a detestable heap.

   Fortunately for me, that was the moment Louis finally stepped in and attempted to handle the train wreck his brother had become. I didn't even see where he came from, my tunnel vision blackened to all but the menacing figure that had been casually strolling my way.

   “Jeff!” Louis boomed, “What the fuck are you doing?!”

   I stopped. Jeff stopped. The world stopped.

   “Rapture.” Jeff replied cooly, “Judgement day."

   “I don't understand!” Louis all but cried out, his face twisted up into a knot of emotional torture. With thick arms outstretched, he slowly approached Jeff, who refused to look back at him.

   “I'm judging the sheep for their sins. Their stupidity.” Jeff offered back.

   Louis finally reached his brother's side, taking a cautious stance. He took Jeff's hand and removed the knife with no real resistance. The blade clattered to the floor.

   “And sheep...” Jeff continued, finally looking his brother in the face with a blank, loveless expression, “Are are only good for slaughter.”

   Louis had approached Jeff from the side. It only took a moment for my mind to register a crucial mistake. He hadn't seen Jeff's other hand.

   “He has another knife!” I shouted.

   Instead of looking to Jeff's hand or backing away, Louis turned his attention to me as if he had no idea what I was shouting about. It was one option I never would've accounted for. With a single, fluid motion, Jeff planted the knife in Louis' neck, releasing a shower of crimson-tinged profanities from a sports deity suddenly made frighteningly mortal.

   “Shh...” Jeff sneered as Louis leaned against him, sliding to the floor, “It'll be over soon. It's like going to sleep. Shh.”

   There would be no more inaction on my part. No more standing around like a fear-gripped child who was waiting for any given excuse to avoid what had to be done. I was raining down steel blows on Jeff before he even realized I was after him again.

   He crumpled to the floor, but I didn't stop. This wasn't like the courtyard after lunch. This wasn't an overreaction, and I was more sure of myself at that moment than at any time before or since. Jeff had to die, and I was the one who had to save the world from his continued existence.

   I broke several fingers while trying to use the fire extinguisher for unintended purposes. One when it got caught in the handle, and others when they were presumably pinned between the metal and Jeff's skull. Most of the details are still shrouded in a haze of panicked fury.

   The numbness wore off quickly, giving way to stinging pain. I could no longer keep a solid grip of the weapon, and trying to wipe my own blood on the orange-and-black sweater only covered my hands in more blood than had spattered there.

   Jeff dragged himself slowly, trembling fingertips pressed against slick floor. I could only fall into a sitting position and watch, panting, as he made a slug trail of gore toward a bench. I knew what would be there. Another blade, taped to the underside of the seat. I didn't care. He'd be dead soon. He'd have to be. Maybe I would be, too. I couldn't even hear the fire alarm anymore and considered I was having an eerily calm heart attack or stroke.

   Before Jeff could reach the bench, a strong fist grasped his pant leg. Louis. Jeff's hands scrambled to regain traction as his brother slowly, painfully pulled him back toward him. The two lay there as Louis held Jeff's faltering body in a tight embrace.

   I knew it wasn't out of love. It was simply the only way to keep him still.

   Later, I'd find out that Keith and Troy had been among the first kids to actually evacuate the building when the alarm rang. No one outside knew what was going on, and Police were on the scene quickly... but not quickly enough.

   Jane was dead. So were over a dozen other students and staff. So was Louis. So was Jeff.

   We didn't go back to school for an inordinately long amount of time, until the board figured out where to send everybody. I didn't see Keith again, and only saw Troy in passing since our schedules were entirely different at the new location.

   The only sense of normalcy after this incident came when our yearbooks arrived. Since most of the students had spent years together at that school and the events surrounding the school year's termination were “highly unusual”, people requested the yearbooks still be sent out as a much-deserved of keepsake. The well-intentioned idea was to remember the good rather than the bad and “memorialize the victims”. There was a big argument about funding and budget needs, but in the end, family and concerned citizens successfully shouted the school board down.

   When I cracked open that book, a sense of bittersweet reverence fell over me. There was Jane. There was Louis. Complete with quotes beneath their pictures... ones their parents thought they would've picked.

   The yearbooks were recalled right away. We didn't get new ones. I don't know who did it, or why. Just another sick joke from a random chucklefuck on the Yearbook committee, I guess... but there he was, staring back at me from the page.

   Jeffrey Jones. Amateurishly photoshopped into a white-faced, red-lipped mockery of himself.

   Beneath the picture: Jeff the Killer ~ "Go to sleep”.

15
Slimy Stories / Red Apple Snacks
« on: 03:10:53 AM 05/21/17 »
Red Apple brand snack foods aren't made with apples. I mean, I guess that's probably obvious to most people, but as a kid I assumed they were. Even when the bag said "potato chips" or "sourdough pretzels" right there in bright lettering, I still didn't give the actual ingredients a second thought.

That's one of the main reasons Tracy Zackowski made fun of me from second through fourth grade. There were other reasons, but they're not important to these events and I'd rather not publicize them, anyway. One fateful childhood conversation in the sandbox lead to a protracted argument about whether or not Red Apple brand pork rinds were made of apples.

I was on the wrong side of history, naturally, but at the time I thought the other kids were incapable of reading the words right at the top of each package. "Red". "Apple".

Tracy and I walked the same way home from school, and every day it was the same routine.

"Cottle's is coming up." He would say it casually, at first, referring to the small gas station and market that sat in the middle of overgrown brush between the school and our homes. The first warning changed now and again, "Let's go to Cottles," or "Have you been to Cottles this week?"

It didn't matter if I walked ahead of Tracy, or if I lagged way behind. He'd run to catch up, or wait until I came to him. As we'd walk closer and closer to the dreaded Mom & Pop store, he'd get more and more excited. Questions would turn to demands. "We have to go to Cottles, they have something you want."

The store was a bit run down. I guess some would call it creepy, especially if they had to stop for gas in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night. We only saw it during the day, however, so to the both of us it was just a familiar landmark. One that had morbidly fascinating deer carcasses in full view whenever a hunter paid to have their kill butchered.

The main issue was the vending machine. The obnoxiously loud, humming behemoth barely fit between the entrance and the front window. It was always stocked to capacity with a certain product I'd become way too familiar with.

Red Apple snacks.

Every time I passed the place, Tracy would erupt in laughter. He'd point me to the machine, sometimes even push me toward it, all while telling me to "Get me a bag of apples". It wasn't funny the first time, and I could barely keep from screaming my head off when years passed and the joke didn't let up.

Once, he even handed me a quarter and told me to get anything I wanted. When the joke was over and the jeering laughter finally stopped, he demanded it back. I think it was the nonsensical nature of it all that bothered me the most. He refused to let a long-defunct running gag die a peaceful death.

As that time passed, many things in the neighborhood changed. A residential project began construction near the school, the farm near my home was sold to a Saudi Arabian businessman who simply wanted it shut down and left abandoned, and a family with three daughters around my age moved in next door. The changes weren't necessarily all good or all bad... an abandoned farm made for great kickball games... but the fact that things were changing so rapidly in the first place made my young life seem hectic.

The biggest event, though, one that rocked the entire county, was the murder at Cottle's Market. I didn't know all the details then, and I still don't know them, now. Civilized people didn't speak of such things, apparently, and local news had too much respect for the Cottle family to publicize the events.

All I knew... all I know... is that Mr. and Mrs. Cottle were killed in some unimaginably brutal fashion. A way that caused my father to go pale when he heard. A way that made Mrs. Panteleon so sick to her stomach that she clutched a wastepaper basket in her lap, just because one of the kids asked her about it.

It was a fair few months before I was allowed to walk home past Cottle's Market again. Even then, that told me that there had been no arrest or capture related to the murders. Looking back on it, I was allowed to walk home again around the same time Kirby, the school janitor, stopped coming in to work. He'd always been a weird person. Unkempt. Fidgety. Someone on the peripheral of any given situation. I could never tell if he was humming or just talking to himself.

I can only assume Kirby was somehow brought in for the killing. I had seen him outside Cottle's at one point, shirtless, scratched up, and hauling pig carcasses in through the side door. Obviously, he'd been given extra work helping Mr. Cottle with his butchery service. It would be easy to railroad him. I don't even think he would've necessarily understood what was happening. Not with mental clarity, at least. If that's what happened, they made a mistake. A very big, very bad mistake.

It was getting dark when Tracy and I left the school musical. It was Little Shop of Horrors. I had wanted to be the Dentist, but ended up as one of Audrey II's nameless offspring at the very end of the show. Since my Dad worked nights and my Mom was still an unrepentant alcoholic at that point in time, I guess they wouldn't have been able to come see me sing, anyway. Not that any of us could carry a tune.

"Cottle's is coming up."

I stopped in my tracks. I had only been allowed to walk home again for a few days, and I assumed he had given up the gag out of fear due the gruesome murder. I was wrong, of course. He had simply forgotten about it until that moment.

"Have some respect." I snapped back, quickly brushing past him.

"You know what I could really go for?" Tracy giggled.

There was no point to it, anymore. No more "comedy" to wring out of it. He had gone from immaturity, to bullying, to what now seemed to be outright sociopathy. I tried my best to ignore him, to not give him the reactions he was trying to pull out of me.

"Do you have any quarters?" He asked.

"Fuck off."

"You cussed. Now you owe me." Tracy acted as if I wouldn't know what he was going to say I owed him. Red Apple chips. Red Apple shoestrings. Red Apple whatever. A proud product of Faceless Co. There was no conceivable way on Earth I was going to be surprised by anything at that point.

At least that's what I assumed.

As we passed Cottle's Market, Tracy and I both froze. There was no need for one of us to ask the other if we saw it. It was an immediate and simultaneous reaction. Our eyes locked on the vending machine.

The building still had a fluttering, tattered length of crime scene tape stuck to a doorway now left off its hinges. The shattered front window was long boarded up, with the shards of glass carefully swept away. Where there had once been a brownish-red smear from the building to pump one, there was now nothing more than a slightly darker patch of worn pavement.

It would've been nothing special to look at, anymore, if not for the humming, brightly lit vending machine. It was still as empty as I'd last seen it... except for the glossy apple in the C5 slot. The fresh, shining, red apple.

Almost as immediately as I had been transfixed by the sight, I turned to Tracy and punched him hard in the upper arm.

"No!" I shouted, "I'm tired of your stupid jokes! We're gonna fight!"

It wasn't the most eloquent challenge, but it got the point across.

Tracy just looked at me, rubbing his arm absently as a huge, smarmy grin spread across his face. It was like watching a cartoon wolf salivate over an unsuspecting hen. All at once, Tracy sprinted to the vending machine, his hand shooting into the pocket of his jean shorts. He drew out a handful of coins that glimmered in the fading evening light and jammed one into the machine's coin slot.

"What are you even doing?" I called over. I was finally ready to fight Tracy. To the death, I imagined. The fact that he was running away, but not out of fear of being beaten, confused and frustrated me.

Tracy turned back to look at me, the vending machine's light making him all but a silhouette.

"You're gonna eat it!" he sang, laughing, "I'm gonna make you eat it!"

Shaking my head, I started to walk away as Tracy punched the corresponding code into the number pad. I heard the beeps, then a thunk, then Tracy's annoyed groan. Looking back for what I thought would be one last time, I saw the apple wedged against the glass. It had failed to drop properly.

"Good," I muttered to myself, still fuming, "Lose your stupid quarter."

Then, I heard the shriek.

It wasn't a yell or a scream. It was a piercing, sharp, echoing shriek that reminded me of the squirrel my dog found and ate during one ill-fated Thanksgiving.

Looking back again, I saw Tracy on his knees at the foot of the machine. His arm was in the take-out port, up to the shoulder. He had reached in for his purcharse, but now appeared to be stuck. He frantically gestured for me to come over.

This time, it was my turn to laugh. I pointed at him, making sure to drive home his embarrassment.

"Help me, you idiot!" he called, "I'm caught on something! It's caught in my skin!"

Rolling my eyes, I made a purposefully slow, plodding trek back toward him. I didn't even consider leaving him there to rot, since helping him out might change his opinion of me. If it didn't, I'd at least have something to hold over his head. Mutually assured ridicule, I guess.

He shrieked again.

Even from the road, I could see the spatter of red as it exploded inside of the machine. I could hear the sharp plink of liquid bursting against glass. Tracy's head lolled to the side, and his feet kicked out from under him in an involuntary spasm. I dropped any selfish thoughts at that point and started running to him.

Tracy looked up at me again in what I can only assume was a moment of regained consciousness. Silently, weakly, he reached his free hand out in a pleading gesture.

Then, the sound of cracking bone sent a shudder through me. I blinked reflexively as Tracy's head, torso, and legs appeared to file themselves away in the crimson slot. It happened so fast that the rapid blinking has forever burned the memory into my mind as a grisly, awkward, stop-motion film.

By the time I reached the machine, only the sound of a mechanical hum remained, and only Tracy's limp feet protruded. One of his Hexalite shoes came off in my hand as he fully disappeared within.

I banged on the machine as hard as I could. I kicked at it. I threw rocks. However, the glass... now fully opaque with blood... didn't even suffer a single crack. Something dropped to the bottom with a wet, sickening thud, and though I didn't dare open the gore-flecked slot, I knew it was an apple.

A very, very red apple.

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