Jem J. Sarmiento
Goes by the name "artsybarrels" on the internet, Jem J. Sarmiento is a digital and traditional artist who is currently invested in improving her pixel art and writing skills. She has worked on different kinds of commissions since December 2016. Jem has also made several small games that are very personal to her.
Short Story - Crust
You can hear someone crying from a distance. You see nothing, though. Just the void.
Frankly, you were scared of the void. It was lonely.
There's nothing here.
Just you and the senses that serve no purpose.
There it is again!
You can hear someone crying from afar. You try to shout out to them.
"Hey! Are you alright? Where are you?"
You look around but there was nothing.
You are afraid, that is, until you hear it speak.
"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. Please forgive me."
"When will I ever be content?!" it wailed.
"Please... just please. Find me."
It kept crying.
You start crying as well. Things are getting weird. Pools of tears flow from your eyes. You see a tiny glimmer of light.
You feel like you're drowning.
It's still crying.
Was that your voice just now?
...or someone else's?
For now, you just want to get out of here.
You open your mouth to yell for help but nothing comes out. You can't stop crying and you're slowly being pulled away from the light.
I don't want to drown. I don't want to die. I don't--
You wake up.
As you try to clean up the tears that are welling up on your face, you feel a hard surface under your fingers.
It was a mask, maybe one made of clay.
Before you could stop to wonder where the mask came from, you are called by your big sister, Menive.
“Lia! Wake up and help me harvest!”
You pack up your things and put the mask in a small bag that you always keep close. It keeps your belongings safe and sound. The small bag contains a notebook full of drawings of different creatures you’ve seen and some that you’ve made up. You also carry the knife that you hide from your sister. Menive tends to have “problems” that she can’t control…
Of course, your art kit is in here too! You may not be the best artist in the world but you still try. You at least have your family to appreciate your art.
You slowly leave the house. It was another beautiful day in the town of Okbuta.
Your family owns a small farm. Here, you live a simple and happy life.
You walk towards your sister and give her a hug, even though she was obviously frustrated by how long you’ve slept in.
“Sister, can’t we eat breakfast first?” you ask.
“We are harvesting breakfast, Soralia,” Menive says as you look over to see some distressed adults having a discussion.
They seem to be holding clay masks similar to what you woke up with.
“Some people died in accidents because of falling asleep. There was some kind of ruckus. It’s like the whole world suddenly went to sleep and then masks just appeared on their faces,” Menive tries to explain.
“Don’t worry I didn’t let them take ours because I thought it would be cool to paint them. We still don’t know where they came from though. It’s creepy but interesting at the same time!” Menive begins to do some harvesting again.
“So where’s yours?” you ask your sister. “It’s in our secret hiding spot. I kept yours on your face ‘cause I thought it would be funny.” Menive laughs and you pout.
While harvesting, you strike up another conversation with your sister. You tell her about the dream you had earlier. “So… I woke up crying earlier.” “What? Why?!” “Don’t freak out, sis. Mama might hear you.”
You told Menive about how you felt like you were drowning in this void, and that there was this small glimmer of light you were trying to reach.
“It kept calling out to me. It felt like it was crying for he-” before you could finish what you were saying, both of you heard someone scream.
It was your neighbour.
“HELP! PLEASE! SOMETHING’S OUT THERE!!”
That was all they could say before they turned into dust.
As the dust was blown away, a creature emerged from behind the cloud.
It was pitch black, with so many eyes and mouths, protruding arms and three pairs of large wings. You’ve never seen anything like this before. It was appalling and hideous. You feel a chill down your spine as you watch it gulp something down. Its eyes were looking at everything. The creature seemed like it was searching for something.
Everyone was screaming. You hear a thud on the ground behind you, it was an old book that had fallen to the floor.
“Kosta, hide the children!” your dad commanded.
You quickly took the book and put it into your bag. You ran towards the house and into the secret basement with your mother and sister.
“Mama, what about Papa?” Menive asks as she starts to shake from fear. “He’ll be fine. He and a lot of our neighbours used to fight in the war so it’ll be alright. We’ll be alright as long as we stay here.”
Your mother hugs both of you tightly.
Meanwhile, all the other adults brought out weapons and tried to attack the creatures. Some threw the clay masks at them as well.
“Foolish mortals! Willfully throwing away your lives, I see?”
More of the creatures came down from the sky and started eating the masks. The attacks were useless.
“What the-?” a number of people start to turn into dust. They weren’t after their fragile bodies, after all. “Tasty and exquisite, as usual! Hahaha!”
Your father’s body froze as he had an epiphany.
“Stop throwing the masks! KOSTA, PROTECT THE MASKS! DON’T LET THEM EAT IT!”
Everyone in the basement was frightened. Only silence came after the shouting. You started feeling nauseous.
“Mama, did Papa just-?” Kosta covered Menive’s mouth as she began to cry. Those probably were your father’s last words. You don’t know what to say. Your body felt cold. So cold.
“Mama, where is your mask?!” you asked without hesitation. Your mom smiled, trying to hold back tears and caressing both of you, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry… I love you both very much. Please take care of each other.”
Kosta turns into dust. You’re both crying.
There was silence.
“There’s supposed to be more here, right?” a horrid voice from upstairs was talking.
“I don’t see anyone though. Maybe we ate them all.”
“Oh well, let’s just look for more”
“Those must have been the creatures. What’s going to happen now? What are we supposed to do? I’m scared. I want Mama and Papa back…”
“There’s no one left… There’s no one left…”
Menive keeps repeating this to herself as you try not to cry too loudly. Both of you sit there for an hour or two. You try to comfort your big sister as much as you can. At times like this, you have to be tough or else she’ll... she’ll…
You don’t even want to think about it. Tears are still flowing. You keep wiping them with your scarf but they won’t go away. More time passes, you check your bag to distract yourself. Your sister, still weeping.
You take out the old book that you saw earlier. “There’s no one left, Lia… What do we do now? There’s no one left...”
You move closer to your sister and cuddle her as you distract yourself with the book.
“A picture book, huh? I can’t understand the other words but there’s a message on the first page that I can read. Though it only says, ‘please come find me’…”.
“Those creatures… they look like the ones that I used to see. Maybe they’ve been messing with me all this time. We need to get rid of them. I need to kill them with my own bare hands, Lia.”
Menive, who was shaking from fear earlier, is now seething with rage.
You hug your sister tightly. Menive examines the book as well. “Where did you get this from?”
“From the farm, during- ...during the attack.”
“Some of the places here look familiar, Lia. I think it might lead us to something.”
You look at your sister straight in the eye and whisper, “It’s too dangerous to go outside!”
“We’re safe as long as the masks are safe. Do you still have yours with you?” Menive asks, and you nod.
“Good.” Menive starts packing up.
“We’ll have to avenge mom, dad, everyone…” she says. “But isn’t your mask in our secret hiding spot?” you ask.
“Yes, that’s right. That’s why we need to run. Now.”
Safe. For. Work.
Mark never really liked getting distracted during work. He wanted to get things done as fast and as efficiently as he can. His table was especially tidy to keep his workflow all good. Nothing could ever stop him from writing using that old computer of his. Not even his wife, Josie.
Josie had a plan that night though. She wore some new fancy lingerie and showed it to her husband. "Like what you see?" her husband glances upward to look at her.
"You might catch a cold, dear." Mark gives her his jacket, sits back on his chair, and smirks.
Tentacles. Suction. Saliva.
This is Hana's first time eating some alien cuisine. Her family just recently moved to the planet Grufonze from Earth and their new neighbors cooked a whole buffet for them once they've settled in.
Hana tried to look for something familiar within the mountain of food. A dish with small green and yellow tentacles moving violently catches her eye. It reminds her of a live octopus.
Feeling determined she gets a plate and starts slurping in the tentacles. Unfortunately for her, the suction cups get stuck in her throat. Saliva drips down as she gasps for air.
"YOU HAVE TO COOK THEM FIRST!" an old neighbor yells.
Wires. Broken Faceplates. Garbled Robotic Speech.
"How long has it been since you visited me?" he asked. She tried to answer but her voice kept breaking. He couldn't make it out. Even her upgraded vocal cords wouldn't work properly anymore.
"It seems like you only visit me when you get into big fights. Please be more careful next time. I don't want to see you like this." he brushed the hair from her broken faceplate. "Let me get that." he removes it and the wires underneath were exposed to the harsh single light flickering from above. She reaches out to his hand. He caresses hers, it was cold.
"I don't want to lose you again."
Night. Boat. Glimpse.
My grandpa loved telling stories. He would never shut up about his tales from when he was a young sailor. They can honestly get tiring sometimes but there's one story that I don't mind hearing over and over again from him.
It was about a gorgeous night when the moon was full and the waves were gently rocking their boat as his friends slept. He was looking over the sea as it glimmered when he heard a beautiful maiden's song. "She looked exactly like your grandma." he sighed before grandma enters the room and exclaims "That WAS me, you twat!"
> Under Construction
> An unusually squeaky clean toilet. You wonder who had the patience to clean it up this good.
> It's a piece of bread! You finally found some food but as you inspect the bread it seems like it has molds already. Bummer.
> This potion is expensive so it better work!
> You smashed the chest in front of you before realizing that you got a suspicious key earlier.
> The food she made looked horrible but its smell is incredibly appetizing. Would you like a taste?
> You equipped the Sword of Justice. You started to feel like a noble even though you're still wearing a potato sack.
> He said the compass would bring you to the thing you want most. You wondered if it's just broken.
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