Decay, November 18, 2022

This Show Case features six pieces submitted in response to our thirtieth Writing Prompt: Decay. You can see responses to each prompt in the drop down menu for the Show Case page. Try an item. They are all delicious. We hope they stimulate your mind, spirit, and urge to write. Maybe they will motivate you to submit a piece for our next prompt, which you can find on the Show Case home page.

And please share this Show Case with your family, friends, and other writers.

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REVELATA DYSMORPHOLOGIA

by Boris Glikman

It started out inconspicuously,

inauspiciously,

a small pimple

on the lower left of his back,

something no one

would ever give a second glance.

.

It didn’t even itch,

so demanded no instinctive scratching. 

.

But

it grew

and grew,

developing into

a small cyst at first,

then into a larger and larger one

acquiring along the way the powers 

of perception, cognition, speech, reason.

.

It became more and more dominant

in the running of his life ’til

there came a point

when he realised 

he had become

the boil.

.

He now was the awkward,

ugly lump of shapeless,

useless flesh that needed

to be amputated

at the soonest possible opportunity;

discarded with other medical waste,

or better still,

pickled and preserved

for eternity as a freakish

anatomical occurrence–

a talking, reasoning pustule

that apparently possessed

all the features of a well-developed human being.

.

He clearly saw how all this time

he had deluded himself

into believing he was a real person

who deserved love,

companionship,

all the rights

every member of society should possess

whereas

he was just a cyst

that somehow grew,

assuming the proportions,

the attributes of a person.

.

Woe is . . .

by SL Randall

Fount of Decay (Artwork by SL Randall)

Hope erodes 

Withers away,

A veritable fount

of decay …

.

Message Lost to Memory

by John Correll

“Captain Thornton.” General Musgrove strolled into his adjutant’s office.

“Yes, General.” The Captain held his hands together at chest level as if he planned to drink from a water tap or contemplated starting a prayer.

“Did Hanson send a message?” Musgrove examined the Captain’s hands.

“Yes, sir.”

“What are you doing with your hands, Thornton?”

“The message.” The Captain held up his hands, and Musgrove sneezed, blowing Dust into Thornton’s face. “Bless you, sir.”

“Just Allergies. And the message?” The General took out a handkerchief.

“You blew it into my face, sir.” Thornton stifled a cough.

“The dust? My apologies.” Musgrove wiped his nose.

“Yes, General. Hanson’s message.”

“Splendid. And what did the message say?”

“I’m not sure, sir.”

“What do you mean? Just give me the message.”

“I can’t, sir.” Thornton dusted his face and shirt.

“Hand it over. Chop-chop, man.” The General offered his hand in expectation.

“Sir, the courier delivered the envelope addressed to HQ, and as your adjutant, I opened said envelope and pulled out a sheet of paper.”

“Hanson’s message, excellent.”

“Precisely. I started to read this letter, and, to my surprise, the paper turned from white to yellow. As if it were decomposing itself.”

“Ah. One of Hanson’s party tricks; a decaying message. Splendid idea, what?”

“Not quite. You see, I was caught unprepared.”

The General pointed to Thornton’s desk. “What about that pen there?”

“Yes, but I couldn’t find my writing pad.”

“Oh.” Musgrove picked up a piece of chalk by the board on the wall. “And this?”

“By the time I noticed that sir, I was too busy trying to keep all the decaying pieces in my hands.”

The General picked up the envelope from Thornton’s desk. “Right. And you didn’t notice Hanson’s warning, in red, on this?” He slapped the envelope in his hand. “The warning stating that you have a pen and paper ready before opening?” The adjutant shook his head. “But, you do remember the message?”

“No, sir. I think the shock, sir. Gone. I can’t remember a word.”

Musgrove pointed at Thornton’s dusty shoes. “If you’re going to be a twit, Thornton, you should do so with spit and polish.”

Thornton glanced down and then stood alternately on one leg to wipe the tops of his shoes with the back of his pants. “I beg the General’s pardon. That was the message.”

“How did you become Captain, Thornton?”

“My uncle, sir.”

“The Earl? Decent chap. I chatted with him before the war at the Guard’s match. When was that? Thirty-eight, I believe. Well, there’s nothing for it. Get Hanson on the horn.” The General pointed at the luggage-sized box with a hundred dials and knobs opposite the chalkboard.

“The radio, sir?” The General nodded. “Me?” Thornton asked, and the General waved at the box. The Captain approached the radio and opened a manual laying on top. He leafed through the book, adjusted a handful of dials, flicked a few switches, and pulled a couple of knobs until the box squealed. He stared at the General for a moment, then picked up the microphone. “Rubber Ducky, this is Mamma Ducky, over.”

The radio responded, “Mamma Ducky, this is Rubber Ducky, over.”

“Major Hanson? Is that you?”

“Damn it, Thornton, what did I tell you about using my name over the radio?”

“Sorry, Rubber Ducky. General Musgrove would like you to send the message again.”

“You didn’t read my warning, Mamma Ducky?”

Thornton shook his head, and the General wrestled the microphone from his hand. “Listen, Major. Be a good man and send the message again.”

“Sorry, sir, but that’s not possible.”

“Say again, Major.”

“We shouldn’t send the same message twice over the same channel, sir. Jerry will cotton on to our ciphers.”

“Blast, Jerry. Send me the bloody message, Major.”

“I can’t, sir.”

“And why is that?”

“I’ve run out of self-decaying paper, sir.”

“Rotten piece of luck, Major.”

“Certainly, sir.”

“I’m certain the Prime Minister is anxious to have his request, whatever that may be, expedited as quickly as possible. Isn’t that so, Major?”

“Undoubtedly.”

“Just repeat it over the radio, Major.”

“Sir?”

“You heard me, Major. Or should I say, Rubber Ducky?”

The radio fell silent for a half minute, then Hanson’s voice returned, “I suppose there’s no harm in repeating the most urgent part of the message, sir.”

“I’m all ears, Major.”

“The PM requests a box of La Aroma de Cuba, or failing that, a box of Romeo y Julieta immediately, sir.”

“Say again, Major.”

“Cigars, sir.”

“Does the PM realize that there is a war on?”

“He’s enjoying it immensely, sir. Jerry took a crack at him on the bridge this morning. It took me ten minutes to get him to step down from the line of fire.”

“Jerry missed?”

“Yes, sir. Multiple times.”

“For ten minutes? Unfortunate.”

“Pardon, sir?”

“Never mind, Major. I’ll see what we can do. Thornton, turn it off.” The Captain flicked a switch, and the General placed the envelope on the desk. “Bloody, God-awful cigars. Captain, see if Field Marshal Montgomery can help.”

“He doesn’t smoke.”

“What? What about Bomber Harris or that American fellow, Eisenhower?”

“Cigarettes, sir.”

“What about that other American bloke, Colonel LeMay? I swear he puffed a cigar like the express to Glasgow.”

“Assigned to the Far East. Something about smoking Tokyo. There is General Patton.”

“You can’t be serious? Another American?” The Captain nodded. “I guess it can’t be helped. But Monty better not find out about this, Thornton. Otherwise, we’ll both be court-martialed. The Field Marshal despises that man.”

“Mum’s the word, sir.” 

https://www.cigaraficionado.com/article/a-gentleman-of-history-6006

.

Decay and Persistence

by Mellow Curmudgeon

Photo credit: Mellow Curmudgeon

Done with chlorophyll,

cinquefoil leaf still has ideals

from its long-gone youth.

.

A Man with a Plan.

by Mimi Speike

Based on a c. 1564 CE portrait of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester by an unknown artist, this one was once attributed to the Italian artist Federico Zuccaro

While Mary lived, Elizabeth’s life was in danger. She had not been able to bring herself to sign her cousin’s death warrant. For years, she had kept to her own well protected properties, but was now lured from Whitehall and Hampton Court by an old friend, who tweaked the vanity of an aging queen.

“Highness,” he teased, “shall it be said our charming Queen has lost the youthful taste for novelty? That our gay mistress is no more tempted by extravagant fun? I recall with pleasure the time we had nine years ago. I intend to top it. Wouldn’t you love to see what I have in mind?”

“I am an old woman,” she would reply. “The whole world knows it.” He was expected to vigorously demur. 

In her youth, Elizabeth had been striking: slender, pale-skinned, with masses of auburn locks. The years had done their dirty work. Her hair now grew in patches. She wore wigs, caked her wrinkled, pocked face with cosmetics, and seldom laughed. An open mouth revealed broken, blackened teeth. Seemingly oblivious to her decline, she play-acted nubile desirability. She demanded constant reassurance that she had not decayed, that a physical splendor still dazzled the eye and touched the heart.

She was, by inclination and necessity, a coquette. A pose of girlish caprice advanced a shrewd foreign policy. She dangled a matrimonial alliance before several foreign swains, playing them one against the other, buttressing the shaky security of her island kingdom.

She gloried in the pageantry of courtship, the compliments, the games, the presents, and dreaded the ultimate surrender that marriage required of a woman, the surrender of power. She placed no faith in the longevity of affection. Her father’s violent passion for her mother, the impetus for the rift with Rome, had turned into a rage to be rid of her.

Of all her suitors she never loved but one, and never was so cared for in return. They were well suited, lively, quick witted, audacious, similar in taste and temperment. But even if she were free of the burden of state, and had she not experienced at arm’s length enough marital discord to discourage her own foray into that uncertain realm, still she would not have had him. Subservience was hateful to her. By the laws of God and man, a husband was master, even to a queen. 

He was six feet tall, muscular, a handsome brute, relentlessly masculine. He was a man of whom it was said, no court in Europe could produce a more impressive figure. Everything about him radiated energy and ambition. Catastrophically proud, he craved power. 

She flirted with him outrageously. Her behavior scandalized the country. Insulting speculation ran rampant, but no pregnancy ensued, stirring new talk that she avoided marriage because of an inability to fulfill wifely duties from some physiological deformity.

Although she refused his repeated proposals, she periodically resurrected hope in his breast as a tether, to keep him by her side. The dalliance became a farce that amused the court and instructed every ambitious young man in how to get ahead.

If one would gain her patronage, he must court her as if she were a girl of eighteen, and honor her not only as the Queen of England, but as the Queen of Love. Her affectations: the ancient bared breast, the ridiculous simpering, must be applauded. The sight of a gap-toothed crone, complexion smeared with a quarter inch of the lethal white lead-based make-up of the period, must not engender other than an admiring fascination with the strange effect. Females of rank, other than the Queen’s own women, were unwelcome at court. Fresher faces emphasized her extreme artificiality.

Court etiquette proscribed a pose of faithfulness to the Virgin Queen. He who acknowledged other charms offended. If a favorite strayed, he was banished, his career damaged and possibly destroyed. Robert Dudley had known this punishment, and had wormed his way back into her good graces three times. When he pressed for marriage, she would push him away. Spurned, his eye wandered. Abandoned, her passion flared. He understood the irony of the situation. His reckless spirit both inflamed and infuriated her. He walked a fine line between accommodation and alienation.

Lately, she’d snubbed him. He was grown old, she whispered to her ladies, although they were the same age. Sycophants insisted she looked a good dozen years his junior. 

Despite his graying hair and growing corpulence, women still found him attractive. The court buzzed about his stable of mistresses. His uncontestable sexual vitality made her feel even more of a prune than she had. He had finally married, secretly. If that were to come out, it would be the end of him. 

His principal source of income was the monopolies he controlled, awarded at Elizabeth’s pleasure, up for renewal every five years. He was the son and brother of traitors who had been executed for their involvement in the Lady Jane Grey affair. The family’s estates had been confiscated by the crown. When she came to the throne, properties had been restored to her dear childhood companion. Everything he possessed was the result of her good will. 

In 1584, Dudley’s sole legitimate heir, able to inherit his title, died aged four. That loss sent him into a frenzy of despair. Despair became delusion. Delusion became genuine derangement. 

Therein hangs my fanciful tale of a desperate man with a desperate plan that, thankfully, never was implemented. Sly and John Dee shut it down, quietly. 

You won’t find it in the history books. Francis Walsingham himself never learned of it. Due to the dicey religious dynamic, and the fact that he and Dudley were friends and political allies of longstanding, they didn’t trust him to do the right thing.

.

Half Life

by S.T. Ranscht

Photo credit: NASA/CXC/SAO
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32 responses to “Decay, November 18, 2022”

  1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

    Thank you for such varied views of decay. It seems to be everywhere we look — except in the talent of our authors.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Boris Avatar

    Decay rhymes with ok.
    Which is odd
    as D-cay is never O-cay.
    Unless you are a carrion fly,
    in which case decay
    is the favourite meal
    of your day.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Perhaps radio-active D-cay is O-cay, too.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Boris Avatar

    Actually,
    I am okay
    with decay,
    as long as it is
    not coming 
    my way.

    Liked by 7 people

  4. Mellow Curmudgeon Avatar

    @ Mimi — Vivid evocation of the way governance by soap opera (aka monarchy) played out in the twilight of Elizabeth I.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Sandy Randall Avatar

    Decay is the way
    my thoughts fray.
    😂 a small sample of what a sudden flurry of activity in my life causes!

    Mellow,
    Decay and Persistence
    Indeed, the circle of life.

    I love your autumn photos. I’m glad you posted one here. It’s my favorite time of the year, though now frost has covered my world on a daily basis. Living on the peninsula of the evergreen state, I don’t get as many vibrant tree hues. The cottonwoods look half decayed all year long and the evergreens … well they stay green. This year the maples went from green to spotted yellowish brown. no pretty fire reds.

    Boris,
    REVELATA DYSMORPHOLOGIA
    I loved the imagery. It was a twisty journey through transformation to decay. What’s really cool is that your words as they are presented tell one obvious story, but can also be applied as analogy for a persons journey through life, wrong choices or a failure to understand their own bad behavior resulting in emotional or social decay. The analogy also applies on a larger global theme.

    John,
    Message Lost to Memory
    Though the secret message is the obvious decay, the ensuing breakdown in communication and purpose for being at war hints at a larger societal decay. Well done John,

    Mimi,
    A Man with a Plan.
    I like how you not only go for the obvious historical references, but the ones we typically forget, the all to human struggle with good hygiene and dental work. Bad teeth and the resulting bad breath makes me wonder how we ever survived long enough to have children! So often storytellers romanticize the beauty of those in the past, based on modern standards. Your realism to that era is fantastic.

    Sue,
    Half Life
    A beautiful description of fleeting love.
    Perfect use of a Supernova. Keep the space photos coming. Every night (when it’s not overcast and I am in the PNW so that’s typical) No matter how cold it gets, I love to star gaze. Orion has been prominent in the sky along with Jupiter. I just wish the lights of Seattle weren’t so bright, so I could see more.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Mellow Curmudgeon Avatar

      Thanks.  Autumn is my favorite season too.  Foliage pundits predicted a blah fall in 2022 for the Mid Hudson area, where I live.  It was much better than predicted, tho not among the best.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        It was less than stellar here, though I admit, I haven’t been to the Mt Ranier area to see if the higher elevation experience a better showing. Usually my little town does show a bit of fall beauty. This year it went from green in spring to august brown and now winter dead.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. Boris Avatar

      Sandy, thank you for your feedback and apologies for my late response.

      You have given me a new perspective on my poem and so, thank you for that. I have not looked at it that way before, but of course, it is open to all interpretations as I try to make my work have many different meanings.

      I actually have made a recording of this poem in a studio, for a planned collaboration with an alternative band. They were going to set it to music it, remix it, play around with it etc.

      It’s a four minute recording, if you wanted to take a listen.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Boris Avatar

      Sandy, your poem “Woe is..” presents some vivid imagery. I particularly like the final line. And the illustration is quite evocative too. I assume that the title of the poem is an abbreviated version of the expression “Woe is me”?

      Liked by 2 people

    4. Boris Avatar

      Sandy, the recording of that poem is actually my voice with added sound effects. Here is the same recording without the sound effects:

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        Boris!
        Thank you for these treasures. My entire world went from retiree with only Saturdays every day to complete chaos lol.
        Sanity is slowly returning and hopefully by this afternoon I can truly indulge myself in reading and writing again!
        I will respond better then!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Thanks, Sandy. My description has been groomed a bit, but every detail comes straight out of my bios and history books.

    Except for the part about Dudley’s derangement. His four-year-old heir did die in 1584. He had an illegitimate son he loved dearly, and raised with every luxury and consideration, but that boy was not able to inherit the title of Earl.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Mellow Curmudgeon Avatar

    @ ST

    Ingenious metaphor for love that is a flash in the pan.  Supernovas are indeed fleeting on a cosmic time scale.

    Are U sure U want the text to be in light yellow?  It is so close to the prominent white in the image.  Maybe light green would be more legible.  This does not seem to be one of the rare situations where a readability speed bump is wanted.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sandy Randall Avatar

      It is difficult to get readable text over a multi color picture. Sometimes you wind up with a 3-D affect that messes with the eyes. Some colors blend and some colors completely wash out.
      Although I agree with Mellow, the light green would likely work since it is not a prominent color in the picture.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Mellow, I apologize that the text is not the easiest to read, but it became a balancing act. I tried many different colors, fonts, and point sizes and Ariel Black in the brightest yellow I could find on a color globe turned out to be more legible than any of the others — even an almost neon green. It would have been easier to switch to a more faded, less detailed background photo, but none of them caught the visual drama I craved. I decided that the most problematic areas were one letter each of “New”, “thumping”, “fading”, and “rainbows” and context made the words unmistakeable, so I went with that.

      Now it occurs to me that maybe a better solution would have been to darken the white behind those letters in Procreate and then overlay the text. We live and learn.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        Sue, I had a similar issue with a picture I did. Even using procreate I had difficulty picking font color. I ended up using orange.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Mellow Curmudgeon Avatar

        Yes, superimposed image and text is a tricky business.  Too ambitious to just plop text before or after image?  Another possibility in this case would be to make a black rectangle as wide as the NASA image and about a third taller.  Then the whole image would have a black background and room for both text and NASA, one above the other.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

          That would definitely work.

          Liked by 3 people

  8. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Boris, an intriguing little story, but what intrigues me most is the structure. I can see varying the fonts, setting text on paths, playing all sorts of visual games to add to the message. You’ve put a bee in my bonnet. Very very interesting.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Boris Avatar

      Mimi, thank you for your feedback and I apologise for my late reply.
      This poem is one of a trilogy of Revelata poems. I will be submitting another Revelata poem to the upcoming showcase.

      And yes, you are right, I did employ techniques of Concrete Poetry in this poem, whereby the typographical effects convey an additional meaning to the words. Namely, the lines in the third stanza (which describes the cyst growing larger and larger) become longer and longer, while the lines in the fourth stanza (which describe the person growing smaller and smaller) become shorter and shorter.

      I made a recording of this poem in a studio, for a planned collaboration with an alternative band. It’s a four minute recording.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Sue, Ain’t it the truth! But if we’re lucky, if we’ve chosen well, love’s half-life continues to sustain us.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Yes, Mimi, even long-lasting love seems to lose its magical intensity over the years. I think its sustaining half life is made of the experiences that bind us.

      Liked by 4 people

  10. John Correll Avatar

    Sandy, what a marvelous flip of ideas. Should the fountain be spewing out oil instead of water?

    Sue, a beautiful twist on half-life. I, too, thought of radioactive decay. Then I spent too much time refreshing my memory about up and down quarks swapping orientation, stable vs. unstable atoms, neutron beta decay, etc. So I never got anything written.

    Boris, What a creepy Kafkaesque, with a touch of Poe story. You have a gift of touching the right nerve at the right time to send chills down my spine. There should be a warning sign.

    Mellow, a novel anthropomorphization of a leaf with the artistic contrast of red on green. Short and sweet.

    Mimi, a fantastic and compelling account of Dudley and Elizabeth, but what did Sly and John Dee do?

    PS.
    My story is based on an actual event. Special self-decaying bonus points if you can guess the year and month this story takes place. I can’t guarantee you will actually get the points since they might vanish in transit.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. mimispeike Avatar
      mimispeike

      What did Sly and Dee do? I write one step at a time, don’t worry about down the road. It will have something to do with Dee’s (supposedly) mystical powers. And Delly, a (supposedly) clairvoyant chicken will be in there somewhere.

      Outlines are for wimps. I write without a net.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        What’s an outline? 😂 It sounds strangely constrictive… or constructive… bah … I’m with you Mimi!

        Liked by 4 people

    2. Sandy Randall Avatar

      Thanks John! When I submitted it … I told Sue that it was a reflection of how I was feeling over the entire election process. It was very depressing… a decay like depressing…
      What’s even better… I accidentally knocked that picture on the floor without knowing it. My dog created a Banksy from it … I managed to save the pieces. So I think I will mount them as they have been re-envisioned by my dog and call it pooch art lol.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. Boris Avatar

      John.
      Thank you for your thoughts about my poem and apologies for my late response.
      Yes, this poem has been compared to Kafka’s work, in particular to “Metamorphosis” by other readers, but I think that it goes even further than Kafka; it outdoes Kafka in his own game, it out-Kafkas Kafka, so to speak, for it goes even further in the total annihilation and disintegration of the protagonist’s ego, identity and being, and the degree of self-loathing that the protagonist of this poem feels.
      I guess one of the things that I’m exploring in this poem is the nature of identity, how we all possess a shadow self, our dark self, where most of our self-loathing and negative emotions come from and in this poem that nebulous shadow materialises into a real solid entity.
      I made a recording of this poem in a studio, for a planned collaboration with an alternative band. It’s a four minute recording, if you wanted to have a listen. https://soundcloud.com/bozlich/masonik-revelata-dys-boris-wet

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Boris Avatar

    Mellow, the image and the words of your poem combine to create a poignant and powerful message of years gone by and lost youth.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Boris Avatar

    Sue, I just noticed that in your top paragraph at the very start of the page it says “Center” instead of “Decay”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Thank you, Boris.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. GD Deckard Avatar

    SL Randall,
    There’s a chant-like tone to

    “Hope erodes
    Withers away,
    A veritable fount
    of decay …”

    I imagine children singing it, much like they once sang

    “I had a little bird,
    and its name was Enza,
    I opened the window,
    and in flew Enza.”

    The scene “could fit” beautifully into a dystopian novel.

    Liked by 1 person

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