something more substantial than the ocean just randomly being gone.
God drat I hope you are joking. Whoooosh.
Sunday, 26 December 2004
|# ? Mar 9, 2013 11:13|
|# ? Oct 6, 2022 20:22|
Clearly you have mistaken the sound effects. It's more 'fwoom'.
Or byuuur, fjuush or ما شاء الله, in Aceh.
some of my best fish friends are muslim, it's okay
|# ? Mar 9, 2013 12:03|
Coyote 739 words
They were gonna bust out, him’n Crow. Pay a Coyote to take ‘em to the nearest city. No more picking the Heap for scraps and running the still in the off-time.
“Hey, you ready?” Crow shouted from the other end of machine room. Dean rechecked his harness, reminding himself not to look down. They were seventy feet up, strapped to the hulking remains of a scrapped orbital miner.
“Yeah!” He braced himself and looked away.
Crow’s torch roared to life. Metal sizzled as she cut through the transfer coils’ last brace. It came down with a crash, sending up an enormous cloud of dust. He tied a rag over his face and rappelled to the ground.
Dean stared at their prize. The coils were massive and mostly intact; Crow said the metal in ‘em was worth a shitload. She’d been right the last few times they were out; the Lot-Lord’s eyes almost bugged out’a his head when he saw the stuff she brought in.
“I wouldn’t breathe too close to those” she said, already behind him.
Crow dropped her rucksack and sat down. Her gear was tightly packed, like always. Dean tore through his bag looking for the gas stove.
“Don’t bother, Coyote’s never late,” she said.
Crow lit a bent cigarette with the torch. Staring at her mirrored goggles, Dean saw the flame incinerate the Heap’s endless garbage dunes. He wondered what the city’s horizon would look like.
“How they get across all this?” Dean asked.
“They got these tracks, like, tank treads.” Crow exhaled a cloud of smoke. “You ever see a tank?”
“Yeah, once. The same night they chased us out of the last Paradise. poo poo. How the hell the Coyote’s run those things between cities?” Dean could tell she was looking for something on the horizon.
“I don’t fuckin’ know. I wouldn’t be out here if I knew that kinda poo poo.” She crushed the last bit of the cigarette with her boot.
Dean saw it now too, thin grey tufts of smoke floating up from the valleys. Soon, he heard it, like the buzzing of a scrapper’s saw. A set of rusted stacks popped out from behind a hill; the thing vaulted the peak and landed heavy, suspension groaning. It was like a slum truck, but dropped lower and riding on big, loose tank-tracks. The treads threw up roostertails of torn-up plastic and rusty metal as it steadied and zeroed in on them.
The thing skidded to a halt, Crow was already shaking hands with the driver. Dean couldn’t see him too good through the metal mesh covering the windscreen. He could see her pointing at the heap of coils, then at him. They nodded, shook hands.
“Alright, he’s gonna load it then pay us the difference. You’ll get your half through me,” Crow said “Go over there’n give him a hand, would you?” she added.
A hydraulic crane lifted the coils onto the flatbed. Dean helped strap it in place with rusty chains. The driver was bald and pale, with pock-marked skin. Big tinted lenses on a woven headband covered his eyes. He wore security fatigues, but the markings had been torn off. He didn’t speak English.
Dean was already climbing up onto the truck when he heard footsteps.
“Here’s your cut.” Crow was reaching into her vest when he turned around.
She aimed the rattlesnake gun at his chest; the shot blew him off the truck. Pain exploded in his lungs; he tore at the skin, ripping his shirt. He convulsed, trying to catch his breath. He saw her lean over, smoke still coming out the stubby barrel. Another shot echoed through the Heap but was drowned out by the turbocharged roar of a motor.
The world was getting fuzzy, the pain was building up in the back of her neck. She could feel the cancer growing new axons, connecting up the nerve endings. The engine’s drone and white-noise clatter of garbage under tracks carried her into another vision.
White light poured out of the gas station, everything was grainy. She kicked open the door and unloaded both barrels into the cashier. The slugs tore right through him, blood splattering across cigarette display. She reloaded, taking all the data creds he had and sent a slug through the strongbox. Someone came running from the stockroom as she was stuffing fistfuls of cash into her coat. She raised the gun again and fired.
|# ? Mar 10, 2013 02:35|
The night before Battle 974 words.
Henri announced his return to camp with an ear-ringing smack to the back of the young boy’s head.
“Where's my dinner?”
Roger’s cleaver missed the rabbit's neck and stood vibrating in the block. He tore his gaze from the end of his sliced thumbnail and looked up into his master’s smirk.
“It will be ready very soon, Sir.”
“I should hope so, you Buffoon!” Henri turned to his two companions, “You recall my sister’s useless son? He cooks as bad as an Englishwoman, but at least he’s better than one of those heifer Norwegians.”
Robert let out a deep belly laugh that made the fire’s flames shake, while Williame the Gaunt sneered at the young page.
“I expect a good supper, boy. We are not rampaging Northmen.”
The squire turned away from the new arrivals, his scarred shoulders itching as he bent to bank the fire. Roger hated having to entertain his Lord’s guests.
The knights drew close to the fire to discuss a favorite topic: the merits of French whores compared to English harlots. Henri was of the opinion that a Norman girl’s fire could not be bested, and Williame said that he could not imagine bedding a dirty English slattern.
“No you whoresons, you are wrong. The English beauties have lovely soft thighs and pale fat teats, far superior to bony French arses!”
After Robert had gone into such detail on this subject that Roger’s ears began to burn they began to educate the squire on his culinary incompetency.
Among his many defects they commented unfairly upon his rabbit skinning ability, and his technique for chopping vegetables was ridiculed with limp-wristed flapping. As Roger became more vexed he made more mistakes, and for each he was punished with kicks and gales of laughter. After he had dropped the cooking pot for the third time, Williame slapped the flat of his sword against Roger’s posterior, sending him sprawling to the ground, and raised it for another strike.
“Enough, enough. I may have need of my page soon. If he cannot stand how will he put my armour upon me?”
Roger blinked back the tears that had sprung to his eyes and Henri motioned his friend to sit back down by the fire. Then the squire scrambled to his feet and fetched more wood as the men went to work again.
“Squire, I have heard that your Grandfather was so ugly that he married a sow,” said Williame, “and that his son, your father, was born with trotters. While you are clearly as repulsive as your grandsire, have you inherited anything from the dowagers side of the family? A curly tail perchance?”
Roger knuckles whitened on spit but he managed to reply through clenched teeth. “No, sir.”
They compared his head to a turnip and his hands to those of a harlot. They said that he was as well endowed as a quail and doubted that he would ever lie with a woman, even were he the King of France in a Babylonian brothel. His bow was taken up and roughly tested, and the arrows that he had carefully hewn, fletched and sharpened strewn around. Robert was just saying how Roger’s mother had lain with donkeys when Henri rose threateningly - she was his sister after all.
Finally, well after light had broken and fled from the Autumn sky, the broth was boiling. Above the pot rabbits were stabbed from neck to haunches and their fat burst and dripped into the spitting fire. The greasy rabbit fragrance mixed with the stew’s spiced incense, and a seductive perfume rose from the food. Roger fetched his last pieces of real Norman bread, crumbled it on top of the broth and sat back on his haunches admiring his work. Perhaps this might save him from the rod.
Henri and his accomplices had been silenced by the sight and smell of the food before them, and when Roger at last announced that it was ready they lept forward. The men passed the ladle between them, slurping the rich soup and tearing chunks of meat from the rabbit with their hands or teeth.
“Sir Knights, if there is one thing that an excellent meal such as that requires, it is wine.”
A man holding a large jug suddenly appeared within the light of fire, his shadow stretching back into the darkness. Henri eyed him suspiciously but nodded for the man to continue.
“Perhaps you brave knights would have the the generosity to share some of your fine fare with a hungry scout in exchange for some wine. One who has just escaped Harold Godwinson himself, no less!”
Henri leapt to his feet and threw his arm around the tall scout’s shoulders, and guided him into a suddenly vacant chair. Roger picked himself out of the dirt and sat by as the stranger was treated to the choicest parts. The four men passed the sack around in excellent spirits; even Williame began to smile. The newcomer informed group that the affair was no longer a Ménage à trois: the ragged leftovers were racing south to meet the Bastard in battle. The three knights cheered with anticipation but Roger’s stomach felt like he was at sea again. He had spewed over the side of the small boat while Henri laughed all the way to Pevensey.
He was not like the boisterous knights, who clamoured for war. Roger may feel sick at thought of fighting, but even he fantasized about winning fortune upon the battlefield.
The others continued to discuss the coming events, but Roger was lost in the names and complicated inheritances. While they talked of Haralds and Harolds and rightful kings, he saw himself riding in bright armour and thrusting a silver lance through a king’s head. He oiled his bow, waxed its string, and sharpened his arrows until the points were like needles.
|# ? Mar 10, 2013 12:08|
WELCOME TO...THE SPIDERDOME - Word Count: 817
“I am being careful.”
If anybody needed to be careful, it wasn't him. The way Barry kept fidgeting like that, you'd think he was addled. Essentially he was - but whatever. He just needed to stay loving still. It was goddamn distracting that's what it was. The way he kept trying to leer over his shoulder, gently caress gently caress, couldn't he just get off his case for one second?
“Barry, back off man. You've got hands like cerebral palsy. Just let me do my thing.”
Barry sunk back like a wounded puppy, at last. He needed peace for his art. The tools of his trade – credit card, syringe and tweezers – were all laid out. He was delicate and precise with them, like a spider weaving a web. Yeah just like that.
drat. This was not the time to be thinking about spiders. Subconscious betrayal thinking about spiders at a time like this, that's what it was.
“Barry, tell you what. Can you do a spider check? Do it real sneaky like though, and don't make any breeze for chrissake. And if you find one, don't show me or tell me. Just kill it 'kay?”
Barry sounded a little dejected. He'd get over it though, if he hadn't forgotten already. Besides, that was what he got for being a nuisance. Spider-duty.
Yeah now he couldn't stop thinking about spiders. Great.
Barry rose from the floor and made a breeze. His carefully crafted lines wafted a little over the factory floor, losing definition. His eye twitched and he wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead. He corrected them wordlessly with the patience of a Zen master raking a sand garden.
With the tweezers, he laid out a geometric array. Red pills, green caps, blue lozenges and every type and colour in between. This was his palette. It was tapestry, a map of future thoughts, a story in pharmaceuticals, a Fauvist suicide note. Euphoria in orange plastic crested white dunes of nameless compounds. Gelatinous rivers of existential fulfilment flowed down valleys of introspection and tearful childhood memories.
From above it looked like a flower. A simplistic child's drawing of a flower doodled in primary colour crayons. But from ground level, approached from the canvas itself, it was a landscape. An inhalable, edible landscape.
Barry clomped back breezily so he stuck his hands around his creation jealously, attempting to shield it from Barry's ignorant breeze-making.
“Aren't you done yet?” Barry whined.
“Yeah, I'm done, I'm done.”
He smiled regally at his own creation. This was it, the psychical haymaker he'd been looking for. Forget slipping the surly bonds of earth, this, this would make you soar, rise and fall, crash into the surface of the loving sun. You'd be consumed in an inferno and frozen in nitrogen, you'd remember the future and forget the past. No matter that your physical form might not make it out the other side. It would be happily shed on the path to a higher plain. Barry probably didn't appreciate that.
“Can we do it now? Can we?” Barry tugged at his jacket.
There was no reason why not. He didn't like to watch Barry do it though. Hated to see him do it in fact. It was like watching a philistine defacing an old master. It was an uncomfortable experience.
Together, but facing askance, they lay down on their bellies. The process itself was one of artistic expression. The inhumanity of man. Very powerful stuff.
There was a momentary pause when both of them licked their chops in anticipation. Then they wiggled forward like worms. They were a pair legless truffle pigs, snuffling and snorting and gobbling all at once. Fat tongues dragged across the cold floor, nostrils flared and molars cracked down on technicolour capsules. It was a writhing two-man orgy of art.
The bitter chemical taste bled into burning fingertips, pupils drank in liquid air and his teeth bit into melt-in-the-mouth concrete. He smelt honey, reached forward, and sucked the thorny tongue of Aphrodite.
And there he was again, in the gallery. Smug grin plastered on his face, Armani suit and Jimmy Choo brogues, posse of admirers lapping up his words and arm draped round some impressionable art-school girl.
A touch on the hand - that disgusting old critic. But something was different. The touch wasn't the usual clammy old skin - it was furry and soft.
The critic stepped in front of him, filled his vision. It was not Roger Mountbatten Esq., not by a long shot. It drooled and chittered, mandibles glistening in the gallery lights. The posse was gone, the art-school girl disappeared. Furry legs shred their way through critics suit and pinned him down. He screamed.
Barry watched the tiny spider crawl into James' gaping mouth, burst into tears, and laughed.
|# ? Mar 10, 2013 14:11|
When/if I Grow Up -- 956 words
A burst of light tickled Calan's eyes and dispersed into the night. The mage-artist bowed and looked at the hollow-eyed children with a radiant smile. It faded away as he watched them rise and shuffle away into the night. Calan's stare lingered on him for a moment before it returned to the veo calf in his lap. It was young yet, large-pawed and ungainly, and yet it nearly covered his body with its bulk.
The calf chattered a weak burst of sound cut off by a harsh wheeze. Its ribs heaved against his chest with every breath. Calan made soothing sounds at the young animal and Nanda hushed him with a sharp click of her tongue. He glared at her beneath his eyelashes and stroked the veo's keratin scales. She turned her attention back to a group of grim soldiers that in low voices. The light from their campfire flattened her into a vigilant silhouette.
"You don't have a name," Calan said. His confidental whisper was lifted by a hint of wonder. He had swaddled the calf with care in a soft blanket, its colors still bold beneath a coat of soot and dust. He moved to tuck the it under the animal's chin and felt the weak flutter of its pulse against his fingertips. The pink skin around its eyes faded further into white with each struggling breath. "Nanda?"
"Hm?" she said. Nanda craned her head in his direction. The majority of her attention remained focused on the soldiers. The mage-artist had moved on to a new group a short distance away from Calan's side. The man's gesturing hands conducted symphonies of light, image, and sound. Merrily colored caravans sparkled their way across the night sky. The light cast the weak and struggling animal in brilliant hues of red and blue.
"I think Dalni needs water." Calan said. Nanda turned to him and her wide eyes gleamed at him against the darkness.
"What did you say?"
"Dalni. I think she's sick. Her breathing is strange," Calan said. His unsteady voice found strength and held firm. He squared his tiny shoulders and held his head high. Nanda's eyes darted between the veo calf and Calan as her face mouth worked in silence. Tears brimmed at her eyelids and gathered at the edges with none willing to be the first to jump.
"Cal!" in a moment Nanda was kneeling in front of him. She shook his shoulders with white-knuckled fists. "Listen to me. You insult her memory by giving her name to an animal. An animal!" she spit on the ground. "Mama would weep at the shame of it, and haven't we all wept enough?"
Calan glared over her shoulder and his mouth worked into a sullen scowl. Nanda shot him a contemptuous look and returned to eavesdropping. Calen stuck out his tongue at her back and fussed at the veo's blanket. His chin trembled as he sniffed and cuffed at his eyes with the back of his fist.
"Dalni," he whispered. He shot a quick and fearful glance at Nanda's back. She was lost again in the soldiers's conversation. Calan relaxed and stroked the veo's long snout. He drew the animal close, struggling with its weight. "Dalni."
His eyes drooped and fell as the night grew colder. The frantic energy of the camp found no rest and he recoiled in his sleep at every nightmare sound. As the sun broke the night's frigid reign with its cruel heat Calan awoke to find the calf still and unmoving. He regarded its stiff body with a glassy stare.
"Nanda?" he asked. She stirred in her sleep. "Nanda?"
She sat up and rubbed her eyes. They focused on him through their haze and the fog cleared as they settled on Calan and the dead beast on the ground beside him.
"I think Dalni is dead," he said, confusion in his voice. He looked up and his eyes filled with tears. "Dalni is dead."
"Oh, Calan," Nanda said. Her voice cracked and the levee gave way. "I know, Calan, I know." She leaned back and brushed the tears from his eyes and gave him a watery smile. "It will get better if we keep moving. I promise."
Calan buried his head in her chest and each quaking sob jarred the animal's body further from his lap until it slid into the dust. Its body kicked up a cloud of sand and dirt that swirled in the air and settled on their tear-streaked faces and on its wide and unseeing eyes.
"Hey," said a soft voice. Calan looked up and blinked with blank eyes at the mage-artist. In the morning light Calan could see the man more clearly. His rounded face was unbroken by stubble and next to Nanda he seemed so much smaller than he had the night before. He smiled and held up his hand, a request for a moment. The mage-artist made a few ritual gestures but for a tiny burst of small sparks they had no effect. He sighed and gave Calan an apologetic smile.
"It doesn't always work," he said. Calan fixed him with an impassive stare and the mage-artist shifted under its weight. Calan extended his hands. His fingers wiggled in the air and called forth a flickering ribbon of light that coiled and wound between his fingers.
"It's a snake," Calan said. The young man laughed and Nanda smiled as she brushed the hair out of Calan's eyes. The mage-artist glanced at her in silent inquiry and she nodded assent. He moved to gather their meagre posessions. Around them the people of the camp were rising and packing as they gathered their lives in preparation for the day's first bloodied steps into the desert.
|# ? Mar 10, 2013 16:35|
Visitor -- Word Count: 911 never forget
I wanted to get some cooking done before poo poo hit the fan, so I locked my doors, turned off my phone, and turned on some Michael Bublé. I was elbow-deep in a bag of carrots when someone knocked on the door.
"Jesus Christ," I said, and opened the door. It was Jesse. I shut the door and went back to the carrots.
He knocked again.
"I'm not here," I said.
"Very funny. Let me in? Charlotte? Please?" His voice cracked.
I have a heart, you know? So I let him in.
"You washed your hands today?" I asked.
Jesse looked at his hands. "Yeah, but - "
"Here. Chop these onions. What do you want?" I asked.
He was cutting the onions horizontally. Idiot.
"These onions are terrible," he complained. "I don't get why you keep putting them in everything. And they stink."
"Yeah, well, at least those onions don't sleep around," I said.
"It was one time - "
"No, one person. Multiple times."
I flipped the onion around and made him cut it properly. We didn't say anything for a while. I wanted to drown out the loud bullshit going on outside, so I turned up the music.
"Sorry about your mom," Jesse said quietly.
loving rear end in a top hat. Just when I'd gotten my mind off of it.
I thought, It's not fair. She was supposed to outlive me. She was always telling me about how she was going to see me grow up to be president, the first unmarried female president, and I'd get caught hate-loving some Republican senator. And then she was going to send me articles about that, and videos of animals doing people things, and…
I said, "Thanks."
"I saw her on the news. They used a really good picture of her."
"That picture sucked, her outfit was tragic. I told her if she was gonna wear mom jeans she could at least have the goddamn sense to not tuck her T-shirt into it."
I missed the carrot and sliced into my finger.
"Motherfucker," I explained.
"Hold on, I got some bandages." Jesse rifled through that stupid man purse he brings everywhere and pulled out a crumpled Band-Aid. It was one of those tiny round ones that doesn't do poo poo.
He handed it over. "It's all I have," he apologized.
"Whatever." Better than nothing. "Get yourself a drink if you want."
Jesse went over to the cabinet and I salvaged as many of the carrots as I could. He grabbed a plastic tumbler and filled it with red wine. He also brought one for me, which was nice I guess.
"So," he said.
I didn't respond.
"I know I said some terrible things," he continued. "And I did some terrible things. And I really want to patch things up between us, y'know?"
He put his hand on my arm. I reached for the olive oil.
"What do you want?" I asked.
Jesse took a deep breath. "I left my coat over here," he said. "The green one. The one with the pockets, remember? It's my -- it was my brother's."
"The one that smells like cat piss?"
"I think I burned it."
His shoulders sank.
"Joking. I was joking."
"Is it still here?" he asked.
"Yeah, I think. It's hanging up in the closet in a plastic bag, I think I was trying to quarantine it."
Jesse went over to check and I finished off the zucchini. He gazed at the jacket for a moment before putting it on. It looked good. Still smelled like poo poo, but it looked good on him.
"Did you wash this?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. "I even used the fabric softener."
"I'll have to get some of that. This feels nice."
I looked out the window. It was stormy and lovely and loud out there.
"You don't need to be out in that mess," I said. "You can crash here if you need to."
"I don't wanna make you do that."
"No it's cool. You can sleep in the tub. In the morning, it'll be light out, it'll be a lot safer."
I put the tray of vegetables in the oven and checked the timer. I had a few more minutes before the sautéed greens were ready.
"I dreamt about you last night." He pulled at the frayed hem on his jacket. "It was a few weeks from now. All of this had blown over, things were getting back to normal. And we were back together. It was nice. I was wearing this jacket."
I didn't know how to respond so I just kept staring at the saucepan.
"Do you think there's any chance that could happen?"
"Huh? Oh. I dunno."
"I missed you," he said.
"That's why you came over? Cause you missed me? Cell phones still work, y'know." I needed wine.
"Yeah, well, sorry I wanted to talk to you in person I guess. Nobody's seen you in like a week. We were worried."
I put my drink down hard on the counter. Wine splashed up over the rim. "Sorry I wasn't feeling too social after my mom got killed by some - "
"Oh, my god! You're always like this. Always."
"Your name sounds like a girl's and Blade Runner sucked," I said.
Jesse rolled his eyes. "I'll call for a ride," he said, and headed out the door. "Your food smells like poo poo, by the way."
"Now that is just rude," I said to no one.
disclaimer: Blade Runner does not actually suck
|# ? Mar 10, 2013 17:19|
Inside Tears - 573 words
Maria was annoyed. This meeting had taken far too long to arrange. Sure, he travelled a lot for work, but that shouldn't goddamn keep you unavailable to your wife for three months—though the "wife" portion won't be for long.
They had arranged to meet with a lawyer at a small café downtown. The stress and annoyance was getting to her; Maria lit a cigarette as she hopped in her Mazda. When she got close to where she was going to park, the road was blocked by protesters. Some kind of hippie sit in? Nevermind, she though as she tossed her cigarette out while detouring to the lot.
As she walked towards the café, she wandered through a bit of the crowd, laughing at the grammar and spelling on their signs. She went inside and spotted her lawyer then went down and began to chat with him.
"You have all the papers? What's the plan with regards to the house?"
"You'll have to sell it I'm afraid. Since this is a 'no fault' split, the co-owned assets need to be divided evenly."
"And our dog?"
"Either one pays the other half the cost or you share him. Pets are property, not children. Custody isn't an issue."
Maria sighed and wished it didn't have to be like this. They had worked well together, her and Bashir. She wanted to have kids with him, move out to a suburb, live a peaceful life. She imagined what her children would have been like, a girl and a boy. She would have taught them everything she knew of perseverance, of hard work and following rules. But ever since his brother committed suicide, Bashir hadn't been the same.
His brother had been a young man, full of promise, but with no direction in life. He had lived with their parents since high school, and hadn't held down many jobs. He also had a history of mental illness, and didn't have high hopes for the future.
Because of the suicide, Bashir had been distant from her, his family, everyone. Thrown himself into his work. She tried to get him to go to counselling, to talk to her, but nothing worked. Which is why it had to come to this.
There was some shouting coming through the window, so one of the managers went and shut it as Bashir walked through the door. Dressed to the nines, Maria noticed he was sporting what seemed to be a fresh black eye.
"What happened to you?" she said with the slightest hint of concern.
"Someone saw I was wearing cuff links and a French cuff shirt, started pestering me about what I did for work. I refused to answer and a small group mobbed me. As I was trying to get away one of them punched me in the face. Nothing too bad."
"Are you okay to do this still?"
"It's got to be now. I've been putting it off for too long."
They went through the paperwork under the gaze of the lawyer who acted as a medium between them. A couple hours later, they were done.
Maria turned to Bashir. "I still wish you well, I want you to know that."
Bashir then walked out of her life, onto the street littered with ziptie clippings. Tears formed in his eyes, though if asked, he would have claimed it was from the smell of the tear gas.
|# ? Mar 10, 2013 21:12|
We've had eight submissions so far. If I wind up having to evaluate the other eighteen blocks of deathless drivel during the two precious hours of "me" time I get during the work week, then I will be very upset and also possibly set some of your homes on fire while you sleep.
|# ? Mar 10, 2013 22:08|
8 hours remain.
|# ? Mar 10, 2013 23:00|
“Weather's rough and getting' rougher, ma'am!” said Dorter over the sounds of the storm, as he dogged down the hatch behind him. He turned towards Barret and ripped off a salute in the sudden quiet. “Everything that should be down is down, everything still up is proper secured.”
“Good man,” Barret said, idly tapping her chin with her sea pipe, the one she wouldn't mind losing. “Any new orders?”
“No ma'am. Three hours out at this rate. Rest of the fleet's beginning the dive,” said Gerta.
“Well then. Take us down with them and put it on auto when we hit cruise depth. Dorter, get some coffee ready. We'll sit when it's done.”
They arranged themselves in a cramped circle, the auto-pilot chugging them along under the surface. Three chairs, three cups of coffee, three wisps of steam dancing into the air.
Gerta went first. “It's a year from now, and I'm dead,” she said, taking a sip. “I died today. Dog's being taken care of by the boyfriend and has utterly forgotten about me. Boyfriend's probably found someone new and better looking. He sold off some of my paintings to make rent and it turns out that I'm supremely talented. I'll be featured in a gallery exhibition and people will loudly curse that I was taken to soon from this world. It's a year from now, and I'm famous.” She was grinning by the end, trying and failing to hide it behind the cup.
Dorter was frowning but Barret let it slide. First timers tended not to take it too seriously.
“It's a year from now, and I'm dead,” he said. He was staring into his cup. “I died today. Kids are doing fine. Benefits are going to a trust fund so the ex can't get her paws on 'em. My brother got the old house and the property and moved his family there. My nieces play on the swing all the time.” He shook his his head briefly. “Fool wouldn't take money from me while I was alive. It's a year from now and my family's doing fine.”
Barret was silent for a bit after he'd finished. Gerta was looking slightly more solemn and she wanted the feeling to sink in.
“It's a year from now, and I'm dead,” she finally said. “I died today. I died doing my duty. I died following orders. The operation was successful.” She looked straight at Gerta, caught her eyes and held them. “It's a year from now. I'm not a hero. I've got a nice empty grave with a nice marker over it.” She shrugged, leaned back a bit. “People remember that I died doing my duty.”
They were all silent, after that. Sitting and thinking about a future without them, as they carried on under the waves towards it.
|# ? Mar 10, 2013 23:12|
Driving past Joe Marsh's yellow grocery store, Roger took in the sight of Joe trying to wrestle its ancient pinball machine into the back of his pick-up. Boards for the windows leaned against the truck's back tire. Roger's mood ticked down a notch further before he even pulled into the cemetery drive.
He guided his Ford into the parking lot of the little church, sliding in between the two cars already there. Roger closed the car door with as little noise as he could manage and walked along a row of graves. Most of the granite stones in the yard were old friends to him, as were no few of the people lying under them, particularly in one of the sections that would be thick with flags come Memorial Day. He paused by Billy Hurnsey's stone and slapped the top affectionately.
And there was Don, sitting on one of the folding chairs Henry had left beside the newest, half-filled grave. The gravedigger knew the two men's tradition by now.
"Where is he?" Roger asked, falling into the chair beside his old friend.
Don stuck out the deformed claw he had in place of a right hand. Roger grunted, gripped it firmly, and shook. Don grinned, and Roger smiled back despite himself. "Gone to try and badger a last beer out of Joe," Don said. "Bud's not good enough for him." He leaned and fished a white-and-red can out of the cooler at his feet, then offered it to Roger.
Roger shook his head and took the metal flask out of his left pocket. Don looked at the flask for a moment, then the pit in the earth. "Guess it wouldn't be much trouble to run you home," he said.
"Thanks." Roger sipped his bourbon. He considered the headstones within his line of sight--except for one; his gaze jittered past that one, moved quickly to the next-youngest grave on the grounds instead, where his attention lingered on the soil already sinking in after months of weather.
Don followed his glance. "Been a while since the last one. Everybody's got better places to be anymore. Even dead."
Don shifted; his chair squeaked. "Did you ever meet the boy?"
"I saw him visiting Shirl once," Roger said quietly. "We didn't speak. But... I went to the viewing last night."
He dimly remembered confused looks from a herd of city strangers. Far more clearly he saw again, with his mind's eye, Shirl's eyebrows and Shirl's nose on her son's dead face. "Awkward as hell."
"Don't guess he'd be here either if he'd lived longer. Not married yet... lucky bastard." Don gulped down about a quarter of his can.
The bourbon loosened Roger's tongue. "He should have been my son."
Don put his beer on the ground and squeezed Roger's shoulder with his good left hand. "Nope. You belong here, even now, like me and Henry. Shirley never did."
"She does now," Roger snapped--and regretted it, but Don didn't pull away. They sat together without speaking. Drying leaves rattled on the oak in the northwest corner. A beetle scuttled over the heap of dirt still waiting to cover a dead man. The town road showed through gaps in the cemetery's wrought-iron fence, empty, grey, and soundless.
In his memory, Shirl whispered, "Why do you have to stay?"
He let his eyes drift at last to the rose-pink stone beyond the dirt pile. "I might as well," Roger murmured to the granite and the sleeper beneath. "As long as you're here."
A grimy hand clapped his left shoulder hard: Henry's. The gravedigger held out a can of Heineken, and he tapped it against Roger's flask. "Cheers to the dearly departed," Henry said.
"Cheers," Don said, repeating the gesture with his Bud; metals clinked dully. "Shouldn't look backward for too long, Rog. It's not good for you."
Roger took a pull of bourbon and regarded the open grave. "Backward. Forward. Sometimes they look the same from here."
|# ? Mar 10, 2013 23:52|
Return to the BlackCat. 870.
A cry went up from the bow of the launch. Dinni snatched back his hand from where it had been trailing in the water. ‘Ma hand. Ma hand,’ he cried. He held it up. Fingers pruned from sitting in the water, skin turning black from sunburn.
‘Your hand’s fine idiot,’ muttered Graw.
‘I thought. I dreamed a shark bitten it off.’
Graw cuffed him over the ear. ‘Keep your damned fool hand out of the water then.’
The excitement over, the rest of the men lay down into whatever slivers of shade they had been using to cower from the sun. Silence washed back over the small boat, broken only by the ocean’s low swells that breached against the hull. The constant slap of water only drove the agony of scorched throats. Salt rimmed eyes stared at the flat horizon.
Linnaeus crouched at the gunwales, staring at the half-ration of water in his cup. He took a small sip, but the moisture was soaked up immediately into his cracked tongue like water into a dry river bed. His thirst burned unabated.
A fist slammed into his shoulder, jolting the cup out of his hand and spilling the water into the mix of saltwater, piss and poo poo sloshing around the bottom of the hull.
‘Outtameway,’ snarled Graw as he clambered past.
Linnaeus stared at the dropped cup. Twelve hours until the next ration. Twelve hours in the ovens of Hell. He curled up against the side of the launch and began to tap his head against the planks.
Looking down at the keel, Linnaeus saw the hatch. Of course, he thought, why didn’t I think of that before. He glanced around, the rest of the men were lying like the dead. No one even looking in his direction. Slowly Linnaeus uncurled and crept over to the hatch. He unclasped the latch, lifted it open and slid inside.
His slipped down the ladder into the darkness below. His foot came down onto the soft mud of the floor of the BlackCat. The bar room was empty now, with its tables and chairs all awry as though a crowd of people had just seen a commotion on the street and rushed out to see it. The only person left was Riley, still standing behind the bar polishing a glass. Linnaeus stumbled over to him and took a seat.
‘Gods Riley, am I glad to see you.’
‘Good to see you too, sir. What can I get you?’
‘Beer Riley. For the love of God, a beer.’
‘Very good, sir.’
Riley pushed a tall frosted glass of ale across the bar. Linnaeus snatched it up and drained it off. He slammed it back down on the counter.
‘Of course, sir.’
Linnaeus lay his head down on the cool copper plating of the bartop. Outside, a fish swam by the window.
Linnaeus reverie was interrupted by a dull thud from above, followed by gradual steps of a person climbing down a ladder. His ladder. Linnaeus sat up and turned around. In the dim light of the bar he saw Graw standing in the BlackCat.
‘Well, well now,’ smiled Graw. ‘So this is where you’ve been hiding you little snotnose.’
‘How did you get in here?’ asked Linnaeus. ‘No one else can come here.’
‘I’ve been watching you I have,’ said Graw. ‘Here barman, gimme a drink. Dry as a bull’s bum going up a hill backwards I am.’
‘Of course, sir,’ said Riley.
Graw eyed Linnaeus over the top of the glass as he drank his beer. He finished it and set the glass down on the countertop.
‘OK you little poo poo, let’s get some rules straight. From now on, you never come here without me.’
‘Shut it. And you’re to bring Thommo and Ballast down here as well.’
Linnaeus looked at Riley whose brows furrowed slightly. ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea,’ said Linnaeus.
‘You don’t have any more ideas, alright? You do what I tells you to do.’
‘Mister Graw,’ Linnaeus swallowed. ‘More people can be dangerous. This place is unstable.’
‘I said shut it. Now, I’m going to have a nap. Don’t leave until I say so.’ Graw plodded over to a couch on the side of the room and lay down. Linnaeus sat at the bar.
‘I’m not sure your friends will be up to the standards of Management, Mr Linnaeus,’ said Riley. ‘We have a policy about membership you know.’
‘I know, Riley. I know.’
Linnaeus sat watching Graw as he slept. It was with a mixture of relief and dread when he finally woke up.
‘Gods noodlelegs. My head’s spinning.’
‘I told you, this place isn’t quite right. We can’t stay here too long.’
‘Alright then, back up the hatch.’ Graw stumbled over to the ladder.
‘You first Mr Graw,’ said Linnaeus.
‘No, sir,’ sneered Graw. ‘After you. I insist.’
Linnaeus took hold of the ladder and began to climb back up. Back up to the light, the heat, the sun, the agony.
A cry went up from the bow of the launch. Dinni was yelling, holding up a bloody stump. A shark had bitten off his hand.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 00:18|
I had a dream like this once.
Just a Blur, 898 words.
The agent left the package at a table in a crowded restaurant for me to pick up. I've never seen what the agent looks like, his body vague, blurred like an artist was in the process of airbrushing him from existence. My relationship with the agent begins, and ends, with his deliveries of the packages. Before the waitstaff can clean the table and snatch the package, I swoop in and distract them while I palm the package, then I speed to the bathroom.
The package is a hard plastic palm-sized case, and I grasp opposite corners and give it a slight twist which causes the case to first creak and then crack before shattering and sending plastic splinters flying into the air. Inside the package is a small, folded red paper, with a name and an occupation printed in the center. I toss the case into the trash and flush the paper down the toilet, then leave the restaurant.
I have to be careful traveling on the streets, following myself to make sure that what will happen, doesn't happen. I see myself getting caught at a Watchers' checkpoint, make sure I don't travel down that alley, avoid the rush of the crowd on main street where it's most dangerous. I have to stick to walking along the border of the city, where the road seems to pulsate and stretch out to infinity. Nearing my target's location, I stop at a nearby coffee shop while I watch myself enter the building and then not come out after the usual twenty minutes. The entire time I'm there, I notice that somebody, a blur wearing a familiar uniform, is watching me from a booth near the back of the coffee shop.
I enter the building and make my way to the floor my target is on, and after listening to the door for a minute, pull out the needlegun and kick that motherfucker in. The target isn't in the first room so I creep around the suite, until I find the only door that's closed in the entire place, where I suddenly have a flash of opening the door and seeing the target standing over my body. gently caress that, so I guess where he is and fire my needlegun into the door, sending sawdust flying everywhere as the gun pulps the door and, from what I can see, the target.
The door collapses in on itself and I walk in, carefully stepping over my own body, and stand over the target. I pull a little device out of my pocket and stick it on his forehead, pulling the restraints over his head and tightening them, and push a button on it to start the procedure. A little yellow light blinks on the device. I wait for the procedure to finish while sitting against the wall beneath the window, avoiding the slowly spreading pool of blood. It's completely silent in the building.
The yellow light flips to green and when I reach over to the target's head a white spotlight floods the room, and then I notice the heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. The Watchers found me. On an impulse I grab the target's body and hold him against the window, which immediately explodes from all the gunfire from the street. A sharp pain erupts from my right shoulder and I push the body forward, out of the window, while I fall backward to the floor. I have just about enough time to scramble out of sight when I see one of the Watchers turn the corner, and jam the gun into his chest, holding the trigger. His chest caves in and his back explodes and I kick him out of my way.
I find the backdoor and take off into the city's numerous dark back alleys.
“This is Control, what's the problem?”
“I got ambushed by the Watchers. What the gently caress happened?”
“Good question, did you trip over them along the way?”
“Did you recover the device?”
“No, I threw it out the window along with the target. I kinda had more important things on my mind.”
“That's no good, the device is vital to all of our operations in the city.”
“Well too loving bad.”
I blindly made my way to the edge of the city, relying purely on luck to avoid the checkpoints. As I'm crossing an abandoned highway, just in sight of infinity, I see a spotlight come on in the distance. There's a low rumbling all around as the light races toward me, and then it's joined by two other spotlights before it washes over me. I have just enough time to reach for the needlegun in my pocket before I'm hit from all directions, all at once. My body explodes and I can see the needlegun flying through the air before falling over.
When I come back to consciousness, the Watchers, wearing their stupid uniforms, are standing above me. It's then that I realize that their faces aren't just out of focus and blurred, like somebody erased it out of a picture. No, it's not that at all. They have no faces, no features, just a blur. Just a hint of the underlying menace. Then one of them pulls a curious little device out of its pocket and places it on my forehead.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 00:40|
Recovery 913 words.
There was a lake-house thirty-five miles or so out from the city, where his folks took him during the summer of twenty twenty-something, when he was just barely too young to refuse. He met her the night he arrived, her family had invited everyone around for a barbeque out near the water. He was sat right by the edge skimming stones at the gulls, and she walked up to him and opened by saying her parents had dragged her all the way from the far side of the country for some Save-The-Trees bullshit that they conned tree-huggers with. Family image sold better, they said. Dragged, by the way, in a massive RV built for six even though there were only the three of them, assholes. He laughed, and said his name was Mark. She sat next to him and said her name was Jessica. Then she picked up a rock.
They looked across the lake and together they saw a man, alone, looking back towards them. A man ragged, exhausted, with his eyes wet, bloodshot, and catching the glint of the stars.
“Bet I can hit that perv staring at us”, she said.
And with the monotone whistling of the machine by her bed, that was that, she was gone. He stayed for a moment, ten, fifteen, in the illusion of silence he had created for himself. He had gotten lost, leaning over the bed and staring into her now-frozen eyes. Waiting for a blink or a twitch to let him know that he should stay a little longer. He could see through them, a little. On the other side was the face of her husband, ragged and exhausted, the fault lines dragging across his forehead, his eyes wet, bloodshot, and... starting to swell? Huh, he figured he could skip his meds for the day, given the circumstances, but maybe he was mistaken. Where had he-
His chest tightened and he coughed, once, slowly and heavily. He cringed in pain, like his sternum crawling out his throat and he was afraid it might get all the way. And then, again. He leant up and stumbled back onto the chair by the bed, stopping just barely before he threw himself onto the ground. The whine of the machine struck straight through his head, and she faded out of focus.
Not today, he thought, gently caress no not today. Gimme tomorrow or at least let me go a week or two ago, but do not let me get this close and then kill me at the last minute.
He closed his eyes and tried to stay calm, uncut fingernails digging into the armrests as his chest heaved inwards once again. And then, just as suddenly as it had started, he felt the tension in his body break. He tentatively reached a shaking, wiry hand into his trouser pocket, pulled out a tangled clump of white paper and elastic, unfurled it as carefully as his nerves would allow, and then wrapped it around his face, covering his mouth.
Leaning back into the chair, his eyes fluttering back and forth between the light fittings on the ceiling as they blurred and split, he breathed as slowly and as carefully as he could. The combined forces of relief and exhaustion. Soon, without meaning to, he had fallen-
He was roused gently, by the chill of the night air and the occasional scritching of a ladybug on his cheek. Snapping his eyes open, he saw the vague shapes of leaves shaking above, starlight blinking in and out from behind them, the first he had seen in such a long time. He could just about glimpse a crescent moon in his field of view, with diamond edges tapering to terribly fine points. He thought about reaching out to it, worried he might prick his finger, and felt it was worth the risk.
He hitched his chest. The air was thinner and lighter than he had gotten used to. He inhaled, and before he realised what had happened he had done as much as he needed. His lungs were straining as though they had to make this one breath count, as though he would have to hold it forever. And as he raised himself upright, twigs cracking underneath and ladybug tumbling unnoticed down the front his tattered suede jacket, it finally sank in that he had made it. Back. To when those assholes hadn't thrown their oil in the water, when someone could walk through a city without having moneybags' dick pissing smoke into your face at every turn, and when there wasn't a god drat wall of poo poo between this rock and the rest of the universe. He knew that others would be able to follow him when they found out what he'd done, how he did it, but he didn't care. There would maybe be only a few hundred of them, an even thousand, tops. Not nearly en-
He was standing in the lake, his feet just barely below the water and the water just barely below zero, staring across at a silver hair of smoke as it drifted from a few people just around the water, huddled around a crimson glow, up and into the speckled black sky. And just as he saw it break past the tops of the trees,
of the trees,
the tops of the trees, he was knocked to the ground by a round, flat pebble.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 00:56|
Off Base (970 words + 2 in the title)
Jimmy banged on the roof of the car, watched the MPs drive away and then marched towards his brother’s house, hiding a box wrapped in yesterday’s supermarket circular under his jacket. As he climbed onto the porch, Monica opened the door, frowned at him, and slammed it shut. Her voice pierced the wood.
“Howie, I don’t want a soulless killer in this house. He’s going to poison our son.”
“Sweetie, just go get ready, please.” Howard opened the door, smiling. “Hey, Jim.”
“She’s happy to see me, huh?” Jimmy hugged his brother.
“Ecstatic. Come on in.”
A blur in Superman pajamas collided with Jimmy’s legs. “Uncle J, uncle J!” The boy scrambled all over Jimmy like a dog chasing a cat up a tree. “Did you bring me something?”
“For God’s sake, Grady, say hello first.” Howard rolled his eyes. “Sorry, he’s at that age.”
“How’s it going, dude?” Jimmy knelt down, grinning. “You been good?”
Grady nodded. “I got all As in school and I won the science fair and mommy’s teaching me violin and—“
Jimmy ruffled the kid’s hair. “That’s real good, dude. Here.” He held out the wrapped box.
Grady squealed, grabbed it and sprinted away into the house.
Howard eyed Jimmy. “That better not be another shooter. You know Monica hates them.”
“Well, it can babysit as good as I can. Besides, if I’m gonna be here all night while you two make out, I gotta bring something I wanna play too.”
“Just the same, do me a favor and take it with you when you go?” Howard glanced towards the stairs. “Honey, are you gonna be a while?”
A shower hissed on upstairs and Howard rolled his eyes. “Drink?”
Jimmy nodded and followed his older brother into the study. Simulated gunfire rang out from the next room over. Howard shut the door, opened a cabinet lined with a dozen scotches and poured them each two fingers. They clinked glasses.
Jimmy sipped his whisky and walked over to a picture of a tall, silver-haired man in dress uniform. Rest in peace, Dad. He followed a line of portraits, men smiling in navy blues or olive drab before the flag. The photographs ran all the way down the wall and onto the next, first in color, then in silver and grey. Jimmy traced a finger back towards modern times, following a litany of countries: Germany, Korea, ‘Nam, Iraq, Poland, and, beneath Dad, Germany again.
Howard emptied his glass. “You’re gonna be up there one day.”
“You know I had to put these all back up last week? Monica replaced ‘em all with Desiderata and the Lord’s Prayer.”
Howard winced and finished his second scotch. He studied the dregs. “You wouldn’t believe what it took just to get her to agree to let you babysit. You’ve been through the respawners?”
A wave of nausea knotted in Jimmy’s gut and he swallowed hard. “Only twice. Brazil ain’t as bad as the Baltic right now.”
“She keeps going on about how you lost your soul in the tubes.” Howard sighed. “She’s been watching those TV preachers—“
“Dude, gently caress those guys.”
“Look, I say thank God for those tubes, or else Moscow’d have our rear end in a barrel. Pardon my French.” The shower upstairs cut off. Howard set the glass down and headed for the door. “Well, I’m glad you’re here. Just don’t let him stay up too late and take the game with you, okay? We’ll be back at eleven.”
Jimmy shrugged. “Your house, your rules.” He hid in the study until his brother’s car purred out of the driveway, then followed the roar of war down the hall to the den. “Hey man. How is it?”
“It’s the greatest, uncle J!” The boy sat transfixed before a wall-filling TV, strangling a plastic controller. On the screen, men in BDUs rushed around, shooting rockets and bullets at other, similarly-dressed men.
A cloud of dust rolled through the frame, obscuring the fight, and a twinge pinched Jimmy’s stomach. It was almost too real. “Can I join, dude?”
A smile flitted across the boy’s face and he handed over a second controller, switching the game to split-screen mode. His sister-in-law needed to join the modern world and buy another TV. Maybe as a Christmas gift…
An hour later, Jimmy laid down the plastic. “Well, I’m licked. How’d you get so good?”
“I play at Tommy’s house a lot ‘cuz Mom doesn’t want us playing cool games.” The kid pointed at the screen, face glowing. He launched into a lecture on game mechanics, describing the arcane machinery behind gore points, brutality streaks, head shots.
“Okay, dude, chill.” Jimmy hustled the blabbering kid away from the den. “Let’s get a Coke.”
“See, uncle J, you’re healing too much, your death count was really low and you gotta stop caring about that, you just gotta respawn—“
“Dude, what?” Jimmy frowned.
“Dying is faster than healing, Uncle J.”
Jimmy stopped dead, ears ringing. Bile rushed up his throat, he coughed and ducked into the bathroom.
“Are you feeling bad, uncle J?”
“I’m cool, dude. Just a sec.” He breathed slow, closed his eyes. He saw the inside of a tube, smooth glass beaded with sweat and blood, air thick with warm steam. He drank some water from the tap, wet his face, and slouched out into the hall.
“Do you wanna play some more?”
Jimmy checked his watch. “You ever been to the science museum?”
The boy’s eyes lit up, then he frowned. “But, curfew…”
“You leave that to me. Go on, get dressed.”
As Grady bounded up the stairs, Jimmy returned to the den. He shut off the television, slipped the game disc back into its case and hid it into his jacket.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 00:57|
I was sick all week and did this at the last minute.
Last Night at the Club (728 Words)
“Ey Mike, you came! Nice pants.”
“Hi Logan... what’s wrong with my pants?”
“Never mind. Come on let’s queue up.”
They got in line and Logan talked to two girls in front of him about things Mike did not understand. After a few minutes they were near the entrance. “So what was it about my pants? It’s not like I’m wearing dad pants.”
“Eh... you know, dad pants are not a static thing. What are dad pants to you are probably like... grandpa pants to me and--”
“gently caress. I’m wearing dad pants.”
The two girls Logan had been talking to each locked eyes with the bouncer before going in. The bouncer scanned Logan’s eyes and let him in.
Mike asked the bouncer, “Can I pay with my phone? I don’t have lenses or anything.”
The bouncer sighed. He yelled to someone inside, then told Mike “You’ll have to wait off to the side while we pull out our old scanner.”
Mike leaned against the wall and checked his phone. Twelve missed calls from his ex father-in-law. gently caress him. He put his phone away without checking the news. He knew what it would say: 237 days left.
Mike entered the club, but was unable to find Logan. Mike went to the bar. He didn’t really know why he was here; Logan had told Mike he was going to help him “Jab some millies.” There were some older women here, but Mike didn’t think he would be jabbing any of them tonight.
After Mike’s third or fourth drink, Logan brought over some of his friends and made introductions. “This is Mike, my boss.”
“I’m not your boss anymore.”
“Okay, so he quit today... but the internship would have landed me a nice six-figure job or some poo poo, so I’m trying to find someone for him to bone.”
“Ey douches, check this out,” said a lanky kid with a popped collar. Most of the group’s eyes lost focus. They were silent for a few moments. On a cue that Mike couldn’t see, they laughed. Mike noticed a girl looking at him.
“You don’t have lenses either?” Mike asked.
“Oh, I do. I’ve seen that video before so I just closed it. So, you’re Mike? Logan told me what happened. It’s poo poo.”
“My mom did the same thing. It’s kind of hosed up to leave her kids behind, but I don’t really blame her.”
“Well, my wife took our kid with her. I didn’t tell Logan that.”
“You guys had a kid?”
“We were going to...”
“O... that’s bad timing.”
“I’m Aubrey, by the way”.
Mike and Aubrey danced and drank and snorted some coke. He jabbed her in the bathroom stall and never saw her again.
“So you boned her?” Logan asked.
“Honestly, I didn’t think you’d even jab a millie, but you pulled a girl younger than me.”
“Good for me, I guess. So... what kind of job did you think the internship was going to get you?”
“I dunno, with your recommendation letter maybe I’d have started at like 60k? I didn’t care that much about the pay. I just was talking big in front of my friends. I mostly remember thinking what it would be like... getting to take a job anywhere I wanted and then just starting my life there. You’re lucky you got to do that even if it ended as total poo poo for you.”
“When I was your age, we thought by now we would be mining asteroids and living on Mars. It could have been different if we had went that way instead of having cat videos beamed into our retinas.”
Mike tried some more drugs--drugs that he had never heard of. He jabbed a millie. He talked to people nostalgic for their futures and to people who planned to go the way of his wife. Mike left the club at dawn and passed out in his car.
He woke up around noon in the backseat. Eighteen missed calls. 236 days left. He messaged his father-in-law: “I’m coming over tonight to plan the funerals. I guess you already heard she was pregnant. Sorry for not picking up.”
angel opportunity fucked around with this message at 03:38 on Mar 11, 2013
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 02:29|
Good Night 1000 words
Her new bedroom was awfully small, Katya decided, staring at the low ceiling that made the narrow room feel like a cave. Nothing about this house was as good as their old home, not even the bedtime stories. “The doll told Vasilissa she must walk through the forest until she met each rider in turn: the white, the red, and the black. Once she met the black rider she would see the house of Baba Yaga. Then-” Katya perked up for the first time since her mother had begun the tale.
“Mama. Are they soldiers?”
“Who?” Her mother looked puzzled.
“The riders. They are white, red, and black like the armies.” Katya tried to sound respectful, but all the time she and her mother spent together now had made the little girl increasingly dissatisfied and impatient. Mama was easier to love as a delicate and distant treasure, when she was always busy shopping, entertaining, and visiting friends. Here there were no friends and no money, or so Katya had overheard.
“No, Katerina. They are dawn, dusk, and night. Did Olga never tell you the story of Vasilissa the Beautiful?” It was Mama’s turn to look frustrated and annoyed, which pinched at features usually smooth as a doll’s.
“Olga told it another way.” Katya’s nurse had always rushed to the good parts, not wasting time on the boring stepmother. Olga used a cackling witch voice for Baba Yaga that was deliciously terrifying, too.
“Ah. I see.” Her mother saw nothing important. Katya smoothed the creases from her unfamiliar blanket and imagined Olga’s black eyes lit with zeal while the round-faced maid embellished her description of Baba Yaga’s house in gory layers of detail. Her mother droned on about the little doll’s instructions, her interest devoted to the clothes characters wore or the furnishings the heroine was to clean. The bones of Baba Yaga’s house were crusted with gobbets of flesh in Olga’s version. Mama would never think to describe in the confidential tones of a witness how Baba Yaga would use the grease rendered from her lovely victims to fuel her lamps.
Katya wondered for the hundredth time why Olga could not come with them (probably there was no space for her, not like their old house with all its rooms full of things too precious to touch) when Mama’s tale was interrupted. The little girl sat up, anticipating against logic her old nurse had somehow met them in this new city. Alas, no. It was only her aunt.
Katya did not like Mama’s sister, Maria. She was too sweet to Mama and Papa but never sweet to Katya when they were alone together. “Sister, you look so tired from having to care for this girl by yourself,” Aunt Maria chided. Katya tried not to scowl at the exaggerated concern for Mama’s health or the pointed remarks about how detrimental lack of sleep is to one’s appearance. Her vanity prodded, Mama would be off to her mirror and her bed in moments.
“Go to sleep, Katerina,” Aunt Maria ordered curtly as soon as Mama had done sighing and allowed herself to be swept from the room like a cobweb.
“But, Mama was in the middle of a story,” Katya protested, knowing the little rebellion would be anticipated though futile.
Aunt Maria’s face had been cast from the same flawless mold as her mother’s but in ice rather than porcelain. “You are old enough to read yourself to sleep if you insist on a bedtime story.” She sneered down delicately at her niece. Katya knew better than to argue further. She rolled over and sulked, waiting for her aunt to go away.
Katya lost that battle, sliding into a dream instead where she was Vasilissa and her aunt the two-faced stepmother. There was no doll in her dream to be fed in exchange for housework. Instead Katya/Vasilissa found herself trying to keep the house clean or else it would shrink around them. But the house shrank no matter how hard she scrubbed, and her aunt/stepmother gloated over how upset Papa would be when he came home to them.
“I am so glad you are home, Jules,” Aunt Maria simpered. Katya’s Papa still wore his coat. He took her aunt in his arms and kissed her like she had never seen him kiss Mama.
Katya blinked the last sleep from her eyes, feeling sick at the turn her dream had taken only to find that she no longer dreamed. Her heart began to patter like racing feet. She wished she could run, but she feared revealing herself. Katya shut her eyes, hoping they had not seen her wake. Where would she run? Not to Olga’s room to escape the nightmare. Here she had no refuge from the whispers and the rustle of fabric and the muffled noises of whatever was happening in the gloom a scant distance from her hard, narrow bed.
“Run away with me,” Maria demanded, stealing the idea of escape as though she plucked Katya’s thought from the air.
She wanted to hear Papa’s answer but was terrified to learn it. She balled her small hands into fists. Papa would not leave his only child, but Maria would never want to take her. Katya could not think what would be more terrible.
Katya could not stand to wait and hear what he would say. She sat up and croaked, “Papa?” In the dim light she saw the pair spring apart. She rubbed her eyes hard, as if she were still clinging to dreams rather than erasing what she had seen. “You came to say good night, Papa.”
“Of course I did, my little Katya.” He cleared his throat roughly, bending to kiss his daughter on the forehead. “Sleep well, my love.” His whiskers tickled. Katya let him hug her while Maria slipped from the room. She clung to him then, returning his embrace as tightly as her short arms would allow.
“I will, Papa,” she lied.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 02:51|
Old Uncle of Old Street
Part of the 'Memory of the Future' Series
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday there would be a bit of a commotion on the normally-destitute Old Street. An old man would always set up shop there on the street, to the delight of kids, students, or tourists alike. He would sit on a purple foldable chair, letting the visitors look over the assortment of miscellaneous goods on his table. His collection was seemingly endless; one day he would sell arrowheads with various engravings, on the other sculptures made of bones or bone fragments. It was hard to imagine how the old man got his hands on the objects that he was selling. He was affectionately known as the Old Uncle of Old Street.
Unexpected from his skin colour, the Old Uncle was not Asian but Middle-Eastern. Of course, he couldn’t speak proper English, but none of his visitors seemed to have problems. They would pick up few objects and Old Uncle would try to explain its origin, but nobody paid attention, perhaps due to his slurred speech and almost meandering tone. It also seemed rather pointless; a wooden replica of the Pope’s throne complete with a wooden sculpture of the Pope was still an interesting figure no matter which Pope it was.
Far more interesting was Old Uncle’s history. He legally moved to this country 60 years ago with the help of his aunt. At first he did odd jobs at the post office and the supermarket, but he then became a truck driver. From here he managed to obtain an education on public health, giving him the chance to work at the Ministry of Public Health. His job at the Ministry was his last one, as he remained there until he retired 10 years ago. It is surprising how he remain employed for that long and his leader at the time denied any allegations of bribery or nepotism. And now, in his retirement, Old Uncle maintained his stall with the help of his aunt’s granddaughter, affectionately known as Uncless.
I sat down with the granddaughter for a short casual interview. Because he was old, she often dealt with the calculation and the accounting and often translating or re-explaining Old Uncle’s description of his miscellanea. She was a 34-year-old kindergarten teacher with long hair and pale skin. When asked where Old Uncle obtained his collection, she refused to give an adequate answer, saying only that Old Uncle had many friends from many countries due to his penchant for writing letters.
After the interview I took a look at Old Uncle’s stall. I saw the name of the stall, “Shop’o’Stuff”, scribbled on yellowing paper in excellent, almost mechanical, cursive. Every day the table would have a few themes, with the major theme having the most objects. On that particular day the major theme was very small replicas of famous paintings, like a stamp-sized Mona Lisa or a band aid-sized Pollock, or, perhaps the most interesting one, Washington Crossing the Delaware, on a piece of card stock the size of your average smartphone. Although I had spent only a few seconds looking at them with a magnifying glass (both Uncless’ and mine), I could testify that each of them was exquisitely drawn to an almost magical degree. I asked Uncless what talented artist could have made this and why had nobody heard of him, and she could only shrug, saying that Old Uncle knew only that the artist was Dutch.
Other things on the table include ropes of squishy eye-like beads, sculptures of dragons made out of bottle caps and books cut into shapes, like To Kill a Mockingbird cut into a bird (not a mockingbird, shamefully) or The Very Hungry Caterpillar into the shape of a fat worm. Remarkably, the books can still be read. I spent many hours just reading some Gaines.
It was easy to see why people like Old Uncle’s little shop. The sheer variety of widgets and doodads would surprise everyone but the most experienced of museum visitors. It was more than just unique looking gubbins, as jars of various foreign perfumes and small musical boxes covered with almost-excessively woven quilt would delight the other senses. Old Uncle was lucky that his extensive network of pen pals allowed him to meet talented artists from other countries. One would wish he would also display some knick-knacks from native craftsmen as well. This table would truly be in the memory of the future generation.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 04:00|
The Magician's Apprentice
Raspiro took the center ring, and the crowd went wild. Julian flung another shovelful of dung into the bin. Fragments of the performance drifted out to the elephant pens, where he labored ankle deep in straw and manure.
"Ladies and gentleman, tonight is your night. When you leave this tent, your world will have changed beyond your wildest reckoning. Your very self will be a stranger to you..."
Julian knew the monologue by heart. Everyone who travelled with the circus did. His shovel bit through the heaps of offal like a blade, with such force that his old calluses were torn open to weep puss.
"...but ours is not a voyage into the mystical, and any perception of the paranormal is simply a product of your imagination. When you are in this tent, you are scientists. The phenomena you are about to witness will test your grip on reality, but rest assured: It is all just an illusion."
There came a prickle, the feeling of an invisible hand just barely touching the little hairs at the nape of his neck.
"Celest," Julian said without turning. "Shouldn't you be inside taking notes?"
"You and I both know the show well enough to perform it ourselves now, I think," she said, and Julian felt the warmth of her hand, flesh this time, on his arm. He shrugged her off and stalked to the far side of the enclosure. The murmur of the crowd rose and fell like waves inside the big tent, every man, woman and child cooing in daft rapture of The Great Raspiro.
"Julian." The simple sound of his name, innocent and breathy.
"No." He grunted the word through gritted teeth. "I know what you're doing here."
"What am I doing?" Her voice was closer, almost at his ear.
"You come here, you wait until I'm rear end-deep in poo poo. And then you try to use your goddamn soothsayer voice tricks on me, tricks that he taught you."
"You've been avoiding me. I had no choice."
Julian laughed despairingly and turned around then, regretting it as soon as he saw her. Even in the muck, her boots and the hem of her gown were pristine white. When he met her eyes, though, there was no glamour that could conceal the tarnish of the circus on her soul.
"I don't usually keep company with people that look at me like I'm a trained monkey. And I know how folks look at trained monkeys, believe me."
"Julian," she said plaintively. "You could out-think anyone in that audience. You could go be a scientist, or a politician, or--"
"I'm not going to cheat by inventing the television thirty years ahead of schedule. You knew drat well what could happen when you let me follow you here, and you know I'm going to be mucking pens and stables until I die."
"You now imagine that you are of one mind and one soul, each and every one of you transcending your physical form to become one. Deep in this meditative state, imagine that self, that whole, flowing into the ring, filling it with your essence..." The magician's voice echoed.
Celest shivered and looked toward the big tent. "I don't like this part, you know. He makes me practice it on the smaller crowds, and it just feels wrong. I'm not a total monster yet."
Even Julian could feel it, like a fishhook in the center of his forehead. Raspiro reeled in the audience, and took from them whatever it was that the circus needed to carry on for another week or month or day. Souls, maybe. Dreams. Julian didn't like to speculate.
"You're not a monster yet," he said. "But you're not the woman I married, either. Here--I want you to look at something." Julian reached into his shirt and produced a small velvet bag, ornately embroidered, that hung from the chain around his neck. It appeared large enough to hold little more than a pocket watch or perfume bottle. The bag was Julian's one concession to magic; like a rabbit from a hat, he pulled a cellphone from an impossible space.
"You brought a phone back with you?" Celest's serene air of composure flickered. "Raspiro forbade us anything like that. Emphatically."
"'Forbade,'" Julian spat. "You don't even talk like you anymore. Look." He shoved the device into her hands. "If you can remember how to use it. I've pulled up a photo, maybe you'll recall being in it." Celest stared down at the picture on the screen, her face cast in pale, unnatural blue light.
Two people smiled back at her, a man and a woman. Julian looked ten years younger, and Celest....
"You were Amanda Meyers. You loved cats and sketch comedy. You wore skinny jeans and band T-shirts. You were my beautiful, funny wife. No charms. No glamours. Just you." Julian was shaking. "And now you're his. And we can't go back. We'll never go to another rock show. There were so many things. So many things."
What Celest would have said, Julian never knew. From the big tent came a thunderous applause, and the audience began to file out into the night. Some went to waiting carriages, others in dreamy-eyed throngs on foot. They murmured to each other in reverent tones, and why not? Raspiro was an exceptional man, capable of exceptional things.
"I should go," Celest said quietly.
Julian snatched the phone back. "No doubt," he said. "I'm sure your presence is required elsewhere."
"Yes," she whispered. "He's sorted out that I wasn't watching tonight, I think." Goosebumps stood out on her skin.
"Well go, then. I've got a lot of poo poo to muck through, if you hadn't noticed."
She turned and went, not fast enough to conceal how her face crumpled as she left him.
It was only later, when he fell exhausted onto his cot, that Julian remembered the mud that had spattered her gown as she fled to Raspiro.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 04:10|
Second Day of the Rains
In a wide open courtyard, the priestesses sang blessings as the rain poured down. They stood in a circle around a shallow pool, their red robes turning black in the rain and their eyes closed, ecstatic. From the shadows of an arched corridor, Hajani Faroud watched them. His face was impassive.
"So, Cowman, you return. With news I hope"
Burk stood dripping beneath another archway. "Yeah, did at dat. A whole bunch a news...and, uh, dis." Burk pulled a chuck of dark rock from his pocket.
"The Shard. Excellent. You surpass my expectations, Burk," said Hajani and extended his hand.
"Good good...Burk glad dat you is pleased." He made no move to hand over the Shard. "But...Burk's been tinkin too. He's been hearing lots of stuff about dah … dread star and all dat. He wonders, what your priestess or goddess or whatever, what she's gonna do about it?"
Hajani stopped, hand outstretched. His eyes flicked to the left and right, then back to Burk. He smiled.
"But of course - these are dark times, yesno? My answer is ... not simple. But I appreciate that neither are you, my friend. Was smart question, huh? Smart, thoughtful. So before Hajani am giving smart thoughtful answer, perhaps Burk answer him this - what to stop me nodding to people there, there and there and taking Shard off Burk?"
Burk shifted uneasily.
"Dat had crossed Burk's mind. But Burk came anyways, cos Burk tink...Hey! Hajani have a smart answer to this...Hajani don't wanna be eaten by dah dread star, his soul ripped out and all dat. Cos dat is whats gonna happen, lessen dese tings is stopped...Hajani - you seen dese things ? You seen dem up close ? Felt dem sucking at you, felt dere hunger ?" Burk looked a little grey, a greasy sweat across his face. "Burk has."
Hajani nodded. The smile dropped from his face like a closing window.
"Yes. Yes, I have seen the bodies. Cold flesh, even in the hot sun. The insects will not touch them, you know? They just ... lie there until the priests come. Eyes wide, empty."
He chewed his lip, gestured down the colonnade. "Walk with me."
Burk glanced around, saw armed men withdrawing into the shadows, grinned mirthlessly. As an unseen drum began to play the priestesses in the courtyard started turning in place, chanting a single phrase. Burk's steel shod feet tapped a counter rhythm as they paced down the pillared walk.
"Burk, I think you are smarter than you look, eh? Handy thing to be. Hajani could learn from you, hey? So you maybe understand me when I say truth... difficult commodity to come by in this town. I tell you what I think is true, you take it for what you think it's worth. But in the end, who is going to decide what's really true? The one who is left standing, ha?"
The pair stepped into a wide open space, empty, a low broken wall along one side bordering empty space. The desert was far below, washed in soft tones of ochre and caramel through a misty haze of distant rain. Hajani leaned on the wall, pulled out a small silver flask, unscrewed the lid, hesitated. "Drink?"
"Tanks..." Burk sniffed at it, shrugged, and took a slug. "Hooooweeee! Dat's nice!" Burk sat against the wall, clumping the Shard on the edge of the drop. "You know anyting about Cow Man gods ?"
Hajani shook his head carefully, eyes on the Shard.
"Dey is right cunts. You know, once a year, dah priests dey cut throat of girl, bury her in bog, just to keep Gods happy. Gods never do nuffing good for us...dey just do bad, so we got magic and stuff so they don't notice us, to keep em happy...make em stay away. Must be nice to have God that wants to save everyone, neh?
Hajani accepted the flask back, took a swig. "Yes. But I think you know that is not always good to rely on nice. What was your word? Interests. That's the coin to count when you go home of a night." Hajani pointed upwards. Above their heads the Spire of Zathar receded into the warm wet air.
“Fellows who built that, they had interests. No gods, from what I hear. Just interests. They started this whole mess, dug a real deep hole for themselves, put a lid on it because it suited their interests. That lid be about to break, yes? Lid has someone holding it shut, somewhere up in there.
“Calipha, she been waiting a long time for this. Belief, you see? People round here think kind of like your fellows – want the priests and priestesses to keep the badness away. If we get it right the spire thing takes that, uh, assabiya… yes, “belief” and makes it into nice new lid. Lasts maybe another thousand years, maybe longer. I won’t care, guessing you won’t neither. Calipha, she gets to not die, we get to not die until it’s our proper time, and we all have big parties and lots of money and plenty of pretty ladies in the meanwhile, is all good neh?”
Hajani turned back, looked out over the desert. Above them clouds of cool mist billowed, buffeted by the wind off the sands.
“So what you think, Emir Burk? That a smart enough answer for your smart question?”
Burk laughed, and stroked his mustache. "Emir Burk". He laughed again. He scooped up the Shard in one huge hand and tossed it to Hajani. "I tink I like the sound o dat."
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 04:23|
30 minutes remain.
All you stragglers best get fired up.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 06:30|
987 words + 1 word title
Pension was late this month - again. Lousy bureaucracy - never works as intended. I should've never bought those bonds - would've stayed rich, never would've ended up here. Maybe that way, Kolya wouldn't be gone, either.
Martha has already gotten her check - something she just couldn't wait to brag about this morning. Annoying woman - the next time her sink clogs she'll have to look for someone else. I'm tired of being the building's gopher - been doing this for years, and all I get is ungratefulness and spite.
Boris Arkadyevich has been up to his devilry again. I'll have to look up if "Castling" is real or something he just cooked up to weasel out of a mate. Hogwash, I wager, though I finally convinced the old goat to try checkers tomorrow. I've been getting too worked-up over our games, that should let me calm down a bit.
"Never played a game in his life," he says. "Must be beginner's luck," he says. God forbid I'll play anything with him again!
Pension check was in today, and not too soon - Boris Arkadyevich reminded me about the visit. Every year it happens, and every year I forget. I'll have to go down to the City to get the usual - chairs, plates, cots and whatnot. Thank God for the program - our building never had enough of that stuff for the visits and it was complete chaos every year until three years ago.
The line was absolutely horrendous today - couldn't they spend a little more money on us? Always cutting corners, the tightwads. Nobody helped me load the stuff either - a bunch of young bucks and all they do is stand there, slack-jawed, while we do all the work - just as usual. The City is going to hell, or, maybe, it's just the price fixers getting rich off of the visits. Kolbasa is getting more and more expensive each year, and they got rid of the veterans' discount - how is a man supposed to feed his guests nowadays? I'm out of stamps, too, but, at least, I have the pension. Still, they should do something about that - got to write the Mayor about it.
Everybody's nervous, as usual this time of year. The militia is out and about, too - the visitors get a bit rowdy, occasionally. It's like it's in in the air, or something. Even Boris Arkadyevich was out of sorts today - I won twice, which is more than I usually do. It's odd - every year the day comes and goes and life goes on. What's there to worry about? It's not like there's something new to say, something new to learn, and, yet, everyone's like a hamster before a snake - enthralled and useless. I wish I could just leave for the day, but the rules won't allow it. Besides, it's rude to let others handle your burden. Martha did, two years ago, and we know how that turned out. Just get through the day, and it'll be over before you know it.
Spent the day mucking about and polishing the coins. They help keep Dad occupied, and he always loves the new additions, although he loves the stories behind them even more. He looked good and was cheerier than usual. I'm guessing that he's finally getting used to the situation.
At about nine, there was a whole lot of shouting from Martha's apartment. Annoying woman - year after year, she just can't keep it down. I had to go and calm her down a bit - her husband just stood there with that apologetic look on his face. What a sad, sad man. Not my business what happens between those two, but I just wish they would finally square it away.
Just like the last year, Lada asked me if I "wanted to know." Hah. Her "memories", as she calls them - what's the point? I refused for so many years, yet she keeps asking me over and over again. It doesn't even make too much sense. She would know what I'd say without asking me anyway, yet there she is, that sad half-smile of hers, her eyes full of pity, year after year. Rubbish, the lot of it. I've gone on for this long, I can wait. I don't need her pity, either.
Kolya, now that's who I worry about the most. He isn't taking this very well, not at all. Getting more and more distant - there's simply no talking to him. He just sits there and stares past me like a blind dog without a bone. Can't blame the youngster for wanting this to be over and done with, but I can't help but worry that it's more than that. I wish I could help him - Lada doesn't seem to care too much, and I don't think she ever did anyway.
Before she left, Lada told me to not worry about Kolya. "He simply has a hard time adjusting to everything," she said. "You can't help him," she said. I couldn't take that - had to leave for a breather. They weren't there when I came back.
The Twenties' 5-zloty coin arrived today. What a shame - it missed Dad just by one day. Boris Arkadyevich's visit went fairly smoothly, or so he says himself. Tried to get me to tell him about mine in detail, the old devil, but I know how that game goes. Martha came by - wanted to thank me for help yesterday. Silly. Better not forget to pick up the new tap tomorrow, otherwise I'd look like a fool, showing up at her place with nothing. If she wants to pay for the job, I won't take the money. It isn't proper, and I'm just doing what's right - we all need help, sometimes.
HellishWhiskers fucked around with this message at 07:08 on Mar 11, 2013
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 06:40|
Further Orders (988 words)
Augustus stood despite the heavy seas; straps anchoring him in place as the boat pitched over the swells. Through the bridge window he could just make out frothing white tempests where the freighter had gone down. He lowered his hands into the upper range of the pressure control wells on the helm.
Through the cable attached to the base of his skull his consciousness expanded, not only perceiving the systems and monitors of his boat, The Red Sea, but to numerous other nodes far beyond the gray water of the coast.
Pers struggled to reconnect the side-scanning sonar array below. She wedged herself up against a bulkhead and reached between the ribs.
"How many?" Augustus asked as if he stood beside her in the hold.
"Three more." Sweat beaded on her face.
Imam suspended upside-down from a harness over the starboard rail near the bow. He pulled at a roll of expanding patch wrapped around his arm and stuffed it into thin, burnt lines in the hull. The bow dipped and a large wave crashed over him just as Augustus found a good view.
"Red Sea, we have Bellboy in route from Apple Hill. ETA five minutes." Control cut into his stream.
"Roger," Augustus replied. "Pers, how fast are we sinking?" The draft sensor was offline, or he would have known.
She twisted her head and glanced at the plate. "Sump's fallen behind. 'Bout a meter."
"Stay on it Imam." Augustus focused his mind for a moment on the charts and depth finder. "Moving to the lee of a nearby mount. See if I can't calm things down a bit."
Imam didn't reply.
"RedSea, Commander Sumner taking drone seven. Concix available. ETA three minutes."
Augustus responded by lowering his hands further into the pressure wells and engaging the crawler controls. He switched on a yellow indicator for the Commander as his consciousness expanded to include the small robot approaching in the tail of the drone. He opened his third eye. Through the small glass window on the rear hatch he watched the thick, muddy sweep of the bay scroll by. After a diagnostic, he switched the indicator to green.
Pers sloshed through a half-meter of water and shoved another sensor into a bracket. Imam pulled himself up to the rail, moved his tether, and flipped over once more. The peninsula that separated the bay from the sea skimmed by the hatch. Augustus twisted his control jets into drop orientation.
The sea frothed and churned to the southwest.
"Dropping in three...two...one...mark."
Augustus watched the hatch fly open, and felt the spring-loaded mount shove him off the dock. He tumbled once, saw the drone curling northward and The Red Sea powering over a tall swell, then fanned his jets to orient Bellboy nose-down for entry. The crawler didn't transmit the water temperature as sensation, so Augustus only felt the impact when he hit the surface. He twisted into a horizontal position. A quick check showed no change in status across the board.
"Port array complete." Pers stood knee-deep on the boards for a moment taking in their predicament. "Gonna see if I can seal anything at the waterline from inside."
"Roger." Augustus enabled the side-scanning system, rotated Bellboy toward the wreck, and powered forward. The initial scan returned garbage, so he ran a calibration as Bellboy approached the bubbles rising from the freighter. He angled downward and cut the jets, allowing the crawler to sink to the bottom.
The freighter came into view, lying on its starboard side. A steady stream of robots crawled from a hatch and dropped over the hull to the sand below. They turned and marched slowly toward the beach.
As he transmitted this to Control, the side-scan revealed a giant field of two-meter tall objects, arrayed on the silty bottom and approaching the shore.
"Copy both images Red Sea. Your new orders are to water-recover Bellboy and torpedo the wreck." Confirmation codes accompanied the orders on the border of Augustus' vision. "Do not engage hostiles."
Augustus jetted off the bottom and spun toward The Red Sea and the surface. Pers stuffed expanding patch in two long, horizontal gashes in the bow of the tug. Imam hauled himself up on deck.
"Arm the tubes." Augustus watched Imam catch his breath through the window. He waved an arm to acknowledge the request. "Then scoop the crawler."
Bellboy raced through the dark, cold water.
"We're getting ahead of it." Pers called from below.
Imam pulled the cover, twisted a lock, and switched a mechanical lever to arm each of four torpedo tubes on deck. He ran to the back of the boat and lowered a net into the water with a small crane.
Augustus could see Imam from two angles when he popped to the surface. The net dipped and he jetted into it. He powered down as Imam hauled Bellboy from the sea and secured it in a cradle. "Crawler recovered and locked-down." Augustus spoke to Control. He lifted his hands to the shallower register in the well and felt his perception narrow accordingly. He waited for the right moment, then turned toward the freighter. "Hold on," he warned his crew. The Red Sea shook violently, and a wave washed the deck. Augustus released the torpedoes, two at a time into the sea.
"Torpedoes away." He spoke to Control and crew and turned The Red Sea northwest into the swell.
"Roger Red Sea. Return to port for further orders."
Augustus set course and pulled his hands from the pressure wells. He unclipped the straps that held him and pulled the cord from the back of his head. "Here it comes." They braced for the blast wave.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 06:41|
The Garrity Incident
Ruth Bower, private eye, and Alan Grey, her assistant, turned off the damp sidewalk into Clicks’s place. Above the door, a UFO in fritzing neon intermittently lit the fogged up windows. The bar was originally part of a space-themed casino, back when orbital island Atlantis could seriously be advertised as a pleasure destination. The casino had long-ago been divided into tenements, but the bar survived, supporting each new wave of immigrants. Bower headed for the long formica counter, not bothering to remove coat or gloves, edging aside bundled-up aliens big and small. Alan made his way, less gracefully but more apologetically, behind her.
"What's up, Clicks?" she asked the Mantis behind the bar. She’d heard his real name once, and agreed with most of his customers that “Clicks” was close enough.
"Wanna beer?" Clicks asked through his voice box. "They're cold this time."
"Of course they're loving cold," Bower said, "everything is cold." Clicks waved his antennae and clicked a few times. Bower suspected he was saying something sarcastic.
"Hot Toddies" Bower said.
"What the hell is that?"
"I don't know, saw it in a book. Anyway, as you like to remind me, you're a bartender. Figure it out." Clicks made another sarcastic gesture and turned away. “Bring them to the table,” Bower directed Alan, “it’s best I talk to Dvinsk mysekf first.”
Dvinsk was sitting at her usual table. He stood up, his blue-furred body towering above her, and gave the fluid, upward elbow wave of the Okhtor. She warily eyed the pulsating green transmitter in is ear. The transmitters kept all Okhtors on Atlantis informed of the ever-fluctuating consensus of the Okhtor Council. Obedience was mandatory. What came through the transmitter would determine the outcome of this meeting as much as anything she had to say.
"You are known, Detective," he spoke in ritualistic greeting. Bower felt a small trickle of relief. Recognition meant consequences for anyone who harmed her.
As usual, she punched Dvinsk in the arm as hard as she could, cop style. He grabbed her wrist and flipped her over the table. She had been expecting this, since it was how Dvinsk normally responded. They wrestled for a minute before he pinned her in a choke hold. She capitulated quickly and tapped his arm, but he didn't relent.
"God drat it, Dvinsk, you win, I'm tapping, I'm loving tapping!" He met her eyes and she thought she saw sadness in his serene, otter-like face. It occurred to her that consequences could be good or bad.
“You should not have gone back to the police, Detective,” he said. “The Okhtor council will not be betrayed.” And then, too quietly for the transmitter to pick up, “You disappointed me.”
“What are you talking about?” Bower spat. She curled in her knees to drive a solid kick into the sensitive reproduction nodules on Dvinsk’s belly. It was a low blow, but her sense of honor came second to staying alive.
"Alright, that's enough." Alan appeared behind Dvinsk, his taser jutting out from under a tray of steaming drinks.
Dvinsk froze, his transmitter ear flicking forward and back slowly, then gave a hearty laugh and released her.
"Ho, Detective," he said. "It isn't like you to cheat."
"gently caress you," Bower said, sucking for air. "Dvinsk, this is Alan, my assistant" Alan set the tray on the table and slid into the booth, keeping the taser pointed at Dvinsk under the table. Bower gave him an approving nod and sat down. She lifted her drink and felt the warmth against her cold hand. It tasted of rotting gasoline, but at least it was hot.
"So, an assistant? Has the Detective has finally found someone she trusts?" Dvinsk wiggled his little ears as though he were making a fine joke.
"Stop being ridiculous, Dvinsk," Bower said with a sour frown. "Why hell are you trying to kill me, anyway?”
“You abuse my trust, you sell us to the police.” His face and voice were tight, as though he could still snap at any minute.
"I’m just investigating the stolen filtration system parts" she started in.
“What do you know?”
“Why are you working for the police again?” Dvinsk asked, his fists trembling.
“Are you loving kidding me?” Bower exploded, “First you get me fired from the force, now you insist that I’m working for them? Give me a break.”
“The police say Okhtor’s stole something, and here you are, their little pet with the Okhtor friend, asking me to give you all the evidence they need….” He started to stand, but she interrupted him.
“Jesus, Dvinsk, I’m not working for the police! I’m working for Farmer’s Bureau—informally of course.”
“The insurance company?” He sat down again. “Why?”
“The merchant, Garrity, he had an insurance policy on the stolen”—Dvinsk snorted—“on the parts. I know a girl in the office, she called me, said the cops were dragging their feet.”
“Hmmm,” Dvinsk tipped his head back and pretended to be thinking, but Bower knew he was listening to the transmitter, waiting for this new fact to be discussed, debated, assimilated, acted upon. She patiently nursed her drink and kicked Alan in the shins whenever he started to open his mouth.
“We purchased some parts from Garrity last week. He said the original customer refused to buy their entire order, and he would give us a good deal.”
“No, the parts are all worthless, made poorly, of inferior materials.”
Bower nodded. “Wanted it both ways. Money from you and Farmer’s.”
“Exactly, and the police, well you know they don’t mind an opportunity to blame us for anything.” Dvinsk said, nodding.
“But he forgot about Farmer’s,” Ruth said. “They aren’t willing to look the other way when it comes to their money.”
"You'd think the police would be more interested in investigating something stolen from AtlantisCorp," Alan said thoughtfully. Bower rolled her eyes and Dvinsk shrugged his massive shoulders.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 06:49|
Submissions are closed.
Purple Prince, Greatbacon, JuniperCake, and Honey Badger have failed, letting down children's hospitals across the country.
To the rest of you I say stay tuned.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 07:10|
It'll be another 12 hours before I can get to the stragglers, so until then, the rest of you should sit in a corner and think about what you did.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 10:45|
Got it, thinking about your mother.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 12:03|
Got it, thinking about your mother.
|# ? Mar 11, 2013 15:51|
The judges have convened.
Some Strange Flea, you managed to hit both the prompt and the flash rule with an equal measure of grace and style. You also managed to pull off a time travel hat trick without making it feel like a hat trick. For this, victory is yours. Lest you feel too comfortable however, Sitting Here was your close second.
Meanwhile, in the pit of despair, CancerCakes' finds his own clumsy attempt at genre fiction wallowing in the sea of its own regrets. Your characters were barely characters, your dialogue barely dialogue, and you only ever really snatched at the hem of what we were getting at, though at least you tried. For this you lose, though it would be within WilliamAnderson's best interest to know just how close he was to taking your place.
Crits to follow. Some Strange Flea, the stage is yours.
Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 03:22 on Mar 12, 2013
|# ? Mar 12, 2013 02:33|
Concerning my flash rule and the phrase in question: a quick Google search would've turned up a quote from Comrade Krzhizhanovsky himself more or less summing up its implications:
I live in such a distant future that my future seems to me past, spent and turned to dust.
Brief but poignant! Implications: uncertainty, displacement, detachment. All themes that are common and easy to work with. But I guess that, for most of you, five minutes' research just can't fit into a schedule so full of Robert Jordan and desperate, lonely masturbation, so what I got were over a dozen variations of a generic flash-forward, several people who actually gave a poo poo, and several others who ignored the rule entirely. Sigizmund's ghost is angry and I am the emissary of his wrath HOLY poo poo CRITIQUES
Ohhh, why do the early submitters never seem to edit. There was so much redundant description in this that it turned comical by the third paragraph—you spent four or five sentences on Gary’s discomfort where one would have done fine. The language wasn’t nearly enough to add spice to the punishingly dull scenario, you went at the prompt with the subtlety of a train wreck full of clowns, and I wasn’t satisfied by your interpretation of the flash rule. Thunderdome is a cage match, not a race.
Love Lost and Found in Phuket (Steriletom)
I’m immediately leery of stories that use recent tragedies (say, a decade or so) as a lynchpin, but I can get over it if the language is strong enough so that the tragedy doesn’t feel like a cheap shortcut. This story’s language was not strong enough! Your tone whipsaws all the gently caress over the place in the first couple paragraphs (“horked up a mouthful of phlegm,” “…nerd, mouthbreather, or freak”) in a way that felt intentional, but you didn’t bother adjusting the story’s overall tone to match; as such, the tone changes sound less like playful asides and more like someone intermittently screaming in your ear over some other melody. Most of the imagery was flat-out telling, the characters didn’t develop much of a connection, and you used the Phuket incident as a quick way to resolve the prompt and not much else. On the plus side, the final image was nice, and you at least made a token effort at the flash rule.
Coyote (Nubile Hillock)
Going by the names, I guess this is a Native American myth re-contextualized as gritty sci-fi or something? Didn’t see any direct allegory, but it’s an interesting idea if that’s what it actually was. The language was competent and your take of the flash rule was a little more creative than “I am thinking of something that will happen in the future, now I have stopped thinking, back to story,” but there wasn’t much of a denouement; I had to keep re-reading to find out if I was missing anything bigger, but nope, she just caps the guy and takes off. You had room for more of a conclusion; you should’ve let the story stretch a bit.
The Night Before Battle (CancerCakes)
The opening dialogue made me smack my forehead so hard I almost saw stars. Either this is a magic mind-control spell cunningly disguised as a bad story, or it’s just a bad story.
A gentle guideline for you and others—character should come before concept. Because solid characters can enliven even dull plots, whereas stories which run by force of concept alone are exceedingly rare and sure as loving poo poo won’t be found here. The characters in this story were slackjawed marionettes dribbling farcical dialogue with no context, no conviction, and no conclusion; why should I give a gently caress about this kid’s paradoxical yearnings for the glories of war even in the face of its participants’ abuse if you just make the kid a dead-eyed straight man for the comically racist knights? Your imagery was fantasy boilerplate and your interpretation of the flash rule was generic speculation on a character’s future. Go to a dungeon.
WELCOME TO…THE SPIDERDOME (Jeza)
You had fun writing this and I had fun reading it. The language was bouncy, the tone light, and it was the first submission of this batch that did the flash rule justice. Not entirely sure how it meets BS’ prompt, but I still thought this was one of the stronger pieces, evidenced by the fact that I’ve got so little to say about it.
When/If I Grow Up (Beezle Bug)
The prose was limp, lifeless, and unforgivably sloppy (“It faded away as he watched them rise and shuffle away into the night,” Jesus Christ, it takes about three minutes’ overview to catch and erase repetition like that), you drop way too many named characters in such a short span and don’t bother characterizing any of them, the way you meet the prompt is blunt and unremarkable, and you seem to disregard the flash rule entirely—but what really bugged me about this piece is how token the fantasy elements seem to be. You dedicated several sentences to hinting at how fantasy animal the veo calf is, and the incredibly clunky phrase “mage-artist” surfaces and re-surfaces, but what about the fantasy setting benefitted this story? What would have been lost if the calf was just a calf and the mage-artist a normal itinerant magician (itself a more interesting concept)? Do you know? Do you even understand what I mean? Do you even have thumbs? SHOW ME YOUR loving THUMBS
Visitor (pug wearing a hat)
This was one of the better attempts at meeting the prompt; there are hints of Bad News going on outside, which lends extra gravitas to Charlotte forcing Jesse to leave, and the fact that I actually remembered their names proves well enough that these characters actually had personalities. The tone went too far in places—there was no need for that italicized self-monologue when the narrator is already making direct comments to the reader—but overall, this was a fairly solid submission.
Inside Tears (WilliamAnderson)
This had “last-minute entry” written all over it, along with a whole lot of unremarkable words. There’s a ton of irrelevant details in here for the sake of padding, the prose itself is so dead that it’s starting to stink, the characters are cutouts, the prompt is token, and you either ignored the flash rule or implemented it so badly it became invisible. You’d have probably been better off not submitting at all if this is the best you could do on short notice.
An interesting concept that nicely hit the both the prompt and the flash rule and sketched out three serviceable characters in under 500 words. Well done, I’ve got a soft spot for prose this brief and tight. The language wasn’t remarkable, and the ending line was fairly weak, but there weren’t any really sour notes; you could have given this a little more polish to eliminate repetition (the “It’s a year from now” restatement didn’t really work). Still impressive, given that most short-short pieces are a product of the writer either rushing in under the deadline or just not giving a poo poo.
The second-youngest grave was dug months ago? Must be one hell of a low mortality rate in that area.
The prose in this one was serviceable, if a little awkward (opening a story with a participle tends to make me wince), and the characters were blue-collar archetypes whose dialogue got a little corny at times in its attempts to sound pithy. You probably could have excised Joe entirely, since his appearance at the start of the story creates the assumption that he’s going to be one of its primary actors and not just a brief image. The tone also felt a little too casual on my end—given the subject matter, it could have been more terse and reserved. These are all nitpicks instead of devastating issues, though, and you get bonus points for an interpretation of the flash rule that lands almost right on top of its source material.
Return to the BlackCat (V For Vegas)
This was the first entry that might have taken the prompt a little too far. The sun is unnaturally strong and everyone’s on a boat and there’s a hatch that seems to open up into the loving Overlook Hotel oh lord me head is spinning. There are larger events going on, all right, but they’re so much larger I couldn’t get a clear picture of what the hell they were. The dialogue had personality, though there were some clumsy images (at one point you literally compared water to water, come on, man), and you gave the flash rule a little more consideration than most. Despite all that, though, the plot was so murky I couldn’t develop much investment into what was going on.
Just a Blur (0 rows returned)
Oh man what a totally badass secret agent, he kicks down doors and shoots the bad guys and doesn’t even care. This read like a video game cutscene put to prose, which means it fails as a story right out of the gate, but on top of that your pacing was muddled and the dialogue was quite bad. There was no need for all those comma splices. What did periods ever do to you?
Recovery (Some Strange Flea)
A poignant little story with prose crisp and clear enough so that I could catch every insinuated detail with little trouble. Your opening line was a little cluttered (you probably could have cut the exact distance from the city, exact numerical details are rarely important outside of highly technical imagery), but the rest of it was strong throughout, and this was another submission that incorporated the flash rule into its whole structure, rather than just a throw-away image. Aces.
Off Base (Erogenous Beef)
At first this looked like a competent, unremarkable domestic piece, but when I realized what it was building up to I groaned out loud. The kid suddenly turns into a mouthpiece for ominous dramatic irony and video games are a central metaphor and God, it’s just unbearably kitschy. It might have played off better if you’d have just kept the kid’s mouth shut for the latter half of the story and let the description of the games’ events speak for themselves; instead, the story does a sharp ninety-degree turn and becomes completely compromised by its message. You didn’t seem to bother with the flash rule, either, but the hamfistedness of the premise and its execution is what sank this in my eyes.
Last Night At the Club (systran)
You said you rushed the story, so I’ll rush the critique. Terrible dialogue, missing punctuation, first half-dozen lines of the story are about pants. Get it away.
Good Night (BarbarousBertha)
Oh, baby, these dialogue attributions are lousy. They run on for eternity and have some downright puzzling adverbs as well (how does one “sneer delicately,” one wonders). The prose in general was pompous and stiff, full of run-ons that did little for the rhythm, and recurring imagery like the house shrinking never goes anywhere. No sight of the flash rule, either. A Russian family in exile can be interesting if, again, you focus on the characters, but you were apparently more interested in trying to make everything sound like a period play.
Old Uncle of Old Street (toanoradian)
This story came off as a real missed opportunity. You base it around the knickknacks in Uncle’s shop, but your imagery is as stiff and detached as a loving coroner’s report. The plot, such as it was, went nowhere, and a lot of the details seemed to be completely extraneous (so the guy reads Gaines, but what does it meeeeaaaan). Also, I didn’t get the point of the signature. Also also, I felt vaguely annoyed that you kept paying lip service to the flash rule by quoting it verbatim twice without ever bothering to examine what the idea meant. If you’d gone full-blast on the purple prose and just drowned me in descriptions of Uncle’s gewgaws for six hundred words, you’d have probably ended up with a much better piece than what you have here.
The Magician’s Apprentice (Sitting Here)
A fantastical premise with solid imagery and a human core to draw the reader in. Good heavens, it’s not even my birthday.
This story hummed along smoothly enough so that any bumps or niggles in the language didn’t make much of an impression on me. The only real issue was its length; this concept really feels like it needs more room to stretch. I’d recommend revisiting it later and seeing how far you can push the story without the word limit to get in your way. Even then, you clearly took the effort to hint at the larger premise, and knocked out the flash rule in a way similar to Some Strange Flea.
Second Day of the Rains (sebmojo)
This was nearly all exposition from stem to stern, and lacked any clear beginning or end. I also wasn’t thrilled by your dialects—they occupy some uneasy middle ground between Salman Rushdie and blackface—and since the story is mostly dialogue, that’s not a good thing. Your imagery besides that was solid, but this piece still isn’t a complete story. It’s a fragment of a chapter of an Arabian Nights knockoff that might or might not have legs in its complete form.
Also, extra spaces and missing punctuation. I expect better from you, dude.
Oh God, the hyphens, they’re coming straight at me, I had a dream it would end this way
Seriously, I don’t love hyphens, I just tell them that to get them into bed, but when you find yourself abusing a punctuation mark to this extent you should really backtrack and break up some of those clauses with periods and such. They loving wrecked the pacing, which is a shame, because the story itself isn’t half bad—it’s badly in need of some editing to trim out the extraneous sentiments, and it needs a stronger conclusion, but the tone is unwavering and captures that weary Russian charm too well for me to hate the piece outright. This is really one that you should get back to later. Maybe it’s just because overbearing gloom gives me a great big hard-on, but I see potential here under all the hypens.
Further Orders (swaziloo)
Once again, a story that treats its characters like set dressing for an uninteresting concept. You provided nearly 1000 words of bland prose about a guy who is brain-piloting a submarine without giving anyone a reason to care. No sight of the flash rule, your description plodded dully along (I don’t need to know about every bump and jolt this guy felt), and you used the phrase “his consciousness expanded” twice, which bugged me.
The Garrity Incident (Dr. Kloctopussy)
This wasn’t a story, it was a fragment. No rise, no climax, no denouement, just vague noir in a vaguely sci-fi environment with a lot of vague dialogue. I had no idea what was going on because the plot was relayed in this back-and-forth between Detective Cutout and Russian Otter Man and neither of them provided any reason to get invested in events. Also, you were missing punctuation everywhere. After holding off for this long, you could have at least taken the time to edit.
Oxxidation fucked around with this message at 02:45 on Mar 12, 2013
|# ? Mar 12, 2013 02:40|
You know what they say fellow Thunderdome losers:
You should lose your first 100 games of Go as quickly as possible.
|# ? Mar 12, 2013 02:50|
Thanks for the crit, but just wanna make sure you know I'm referring to a different type of coyote
|# ? Mar 12, 2013 04:08|
But I guess that, for most of you, five minutes' research just can't fit into a schedule so full of Robert Jordan and desperate, lonely masturbation, so what I got were over a dozen variations of a generic flash-forward, several people who actually gave a poo poo, and several others who ignored the rule entirely.
Didn't even notice there was a flash rule. Who the gently caress is Oxxidation anyhow? Oh, the new guy. A judge? Well, poo poo.
For the record, adding a flash rule typically applies to people who sign up after you add the flash rule. Those of us who signed up before your post, Oxy, may not have noticed that you changed poo poo up.
|# ? Mar 12, 2013 04:40|
Flash rules have always applied to everyone unless specifically tailored for a select few.
Didn't even notice there was a flash rule. Who the gently caress is Oxxidation anyhow? Oh, the new guy. A judge? Well, poo poo.
I even said Oxxidation might step in and stir things up in my OP, which he did. You really should have expected this.
|# ? Mar 12, 2013 04:49|
I deserved every single word of that and it was all completely true, I actually had to laugh because the writeup was so spot on. I have thumbs, I will show you them someday
|# ? Mar 12, 2013 05:25|
Homegrown crits like momma used to make.
Noah - Downhill
You manage to say an awful little here with an awful lot of words. The whole things reads dull, probably because it is dull, focused on the lives and times of dull people.
Steriletom - Love Found and Lost in Phuket
First of all your title would flow better with Lost and Found reversed.
Secondly, since I caught some chaff for "The ocean just randomly being gone," this is probably the best time to sit everyone down and explain what I wanted from this prompt, that being a larger sense of narrative interwoven with your smaller, more personal story, but without dominating it. Instead you told me a story about a dude who falls in love with the prostitute his buddies bought him, only for them to walk outside and, oh dear, tsunami, I guess this is happening now. Though to your credit your ending-ending was strong. Very strong.
That aside I really didn't get much more out of this than I've gotten out of every other time I've read this story. Not only does the tsunami feel stapled on to the last half of the story, it's also the only real thing that grants the story any sense of novelty.
Nubile Hillock - Coyote
Stuff Happens about sums this one up. Not a whole lot of nuance to it, though some of the language and the character voice is nice. Has a lot of confidence, which is something I can dig in a shorter story, but it doesn't do enough with it.
CancerCakes - The Night Before Battle
H'oh boy, this one.
Ignoring the general clumsiness with which you tackled this prompt and how many sentences of it could do with a rewrite or omission, it is ultimately your characters and dialogue that fail you. Not a one of the people you've populated your story with is anything more than paper thin, and what dialogue you attribute to them frequently isn't even attributed or actual dialogue. Recounting the gist of what someone says works a lot better when trying to capture the general flavor of a much longer sentiment than when you're basically just telling us exactly what they said but without the quotations. Your protagonist Roger, who is the closest of all your characters to actually being a character, comes off as merely pathetic instead of sympathetic, and his sudden yearnings of the glories of knighthood come off as just that: sudden. Like you were wrapping up your story and realized your protagonist needed another dimension to lean against lest the whole piece fall over.
Jeza - Welcome to the Spiderdome
This is beautifully written for how little sense it makes. It's got a good personality but left me feeling more than a little schizophrenic; until you named the other guy James in the last sentence I thought this whole thing was Barry talking to himself and sending himself out to do things, while still somehow being there. Looking back on it now, if you had just bothered to name both your characters near the beginning and continued to refer to them as such, you could have avoided this.
Unfortunately, even if you had, it wouldn't feel like a smaller story tucked inside of a bigger one. As a stand-alone thing it shows some promise, but in this week, in this Thunderdome, it failed.
Beezle Bug - When/If I Grow Up
Lots of fantasy window dressing that does absolutely nothing to accent the piece, which in and of itself is very basic and muddled. I don't have quite the same distaste for genre as Oxxidation has, but even I know if it adds nothing to the story you should probably dump it.
Pug Wearing a Hat - Visitor
Lots of saying and explaining and attributing going on in this one. When you've got good dialogue you don't really need to attribute much of it, and more often than not you'll be accenting your words with actions instead of reiterating that people are talking.
And thank God you included that disclaimer at the end there or you would've been waltzing on some pretty thin ice.
WilliamAnderson - Inside Tears
I really need to reiterate how close you were to losing this one.
Between your saltine prose and your characters I couldn't even begin to care about, you went a step below just tacking on some larger narrative and paid it minimal service or consideration. But even excluding the prompt this isn't a story I would have any desire to read or any interest while reading.
Benagain - Sitting
I liked this. It's crude and a bit unpolished, but I liked it all the same. This would probably be my favorite take on Oxxidation's flash rule except that I can't help but feel it doesn't really get at mine; it's still a little too vague in that department. Still, you managed to introduce and distinguish three characters from one another in a relatively compact amount of time, and even made me care about them a bit.
Kaishai - Gravesite
Nothing about this piece stood out to me, which I guess could be taken two ways. Nothing in it really irritated me or came off as wrong, but none of it struck an accord or felt like it was anything more than what it was. I will say I actually think the casual atmosphere could be used to intone a certain familiarity or even comfort with death, but you don't really push it that far or even take it in that direction.
V for Vegas - Return to the BlackCat
Had to go over this a couple times before I decided I liked it, and believe me when I say that's not a point against you. More often than not I like a thing the more I have to mull it over, and I ended up liking this, or at the very least appreciating it. You quickly and succinctly set up the nature of the beast, that being the sun, before settling in on the lives of our poor bastards. Although their names and even their personalities sort of blend together after a bit, I actually think it works to magnify the nature of what they're up against, the heat and the sunstroke. Unfortunately, you've still got a lot of rough spots what need ironing out, a lot of rough dialogue and description, but prettied up I think this could've been a stronger contender.
0 Rows Returned - Just a Blur
Have you ever just turned on the television and caught a single scene from some B movie action shlock right before they cut to commercials. That's how this whole thing reads.
Some Strange Flea - Recover
This is another one I had to read a few times to get a good bead on it, but I suppose your victory speaks well enough for itself. You've got some clear, powerful moments here and some solid writing to carry them, and the way it all loops back on itself works great. I especially admire what you did with the last sentence cutting it up into scattered fragments presumably as the stone hits. Wonderful.
Erogenous Beef - Off Base
Heavy-handed as they come without even the common courtesy of dressing it up in a velvet glove. This piece doesn't deserve much else to be said about it.
Systran - Last Night at the Club
I was more interested in whatever it was your protagonist was avoiding doing with his father-in-law (planning a funeral?) than anything else that transpired in this story.
BarbarousBertha - Good Night
Stiff and unnatural prose, but you already know about that. Instead I'm going to complain about how the larger story and the smaller story in this case are one and the same, rather you've just presented a small piece of a bigger puzzle, and very little in the way of characterization that makes us care about what that bigger puzzle actually may look like.
Toanoradian - Old Uncle of Old Street
Old guy sells odd stuff he gets in the mail. Doesn't really do anything or go anywhere, but it's competent I guess.
Sitting Here - The Magician's Apprentice
This was originally my favorite to win before I read it and Some Strange Flea's piece again. No shame in coming up second though. I actually think my favorite bit about this piece is how there's clearly some element of time travel at play, yet the exact nature of it is vaguely defined enough to be one of several distinct possibilities. Your characters are human and your set pieces are better than you may realize. I don't think this was cut too short, but I would like to read more of it.
Sebmojo - Second Day of the Rains
Two guys talk and share mostly the same voice doing it. There really isn't much of a story at work here, not on the greater end of the scale nor the lesser, and what little you do imply of the former most directly feeds into the latter, which I would have preferred you avoid. These are not two people in the middle of their own story set against the backdrop of a larger one, these are two people literally just discussing the larger story in the place of any of their own.
To your credit though this is one of the few times I've read a verbal accent and not hated it, so good job there.
HellishWhiskers - Distance
You know - there's just something about this piece that really bugs me. Can't quite put my finger on it - but I'm sure it'll come to me in time. I'll keep you posted - okay?
I actually thought this one started off strong but lost its way a bit as it went along. The sharp and short prose near the beginning lends itself well to the quick and dirty thoughts of someone recounting time in between being irritated at the people he lives with. I think if you did this again with a sparser style all around it would come across much more fittingly.
Swaziloo - Further Orders
Everything about this washed over my eyes like getting dunked head first in an aquarium filled with gasoline but still being able to make out the huddled schoolchildren on the other side of the glass. It was dull and plodding and awash in things happening for no particular reason I actually cared to find out about.
Dr. Kloctopussy - The Garrity Incident
As a general rule of thumb, the most interesting thing about any given non or inhuman character should never be the fact that they're non or inhuman. Your characters are more flavor than substance, and your story isn't anything even substantive at all.
Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 16:13 on Mar 12, 2013
|# ? Mar 12, 2013 07:17|
Looking back at it I think I wrote the prompt I wanted, rather than the prompt I got, and deservedly lost for it. If someone could throw me a line by line either here or by pm it would be greatly appreciated, I'll throw one out for them or someone they choose if people don't mind a crit from a double loser.
I think I gave myself a hard task in trying to get across that it was the night before the Battle of Hastings, 1066, one of the most important dates in western history, without any exposition (obviously I failed at that too, so no complaints). Bring on next week.
|# ? Mar 12, 2013 09:57|
Thanks for the critiques, I was a playwriting major so I don't have a lot of experience writing prose. I'll watch out for the dialogue attributions next time.
I'm glad/surprised you didn't hate it!
|# ? Mar 12, 2013 11:57|
|# ? Oct 6, 2022 20:22|
Jeza - Welcome to the Spiderdome
I take your point about it not feeling particularly within a larger story. I tried to gesture as to the context that led up to the story but it didn't stop the whole thing feeling like the definite end of a narrative thread and basically just tacked on. I'm glad it felt schizophrenic though - that was the idea - but disappointed that I ended up making the characters indistinguishable. I did try and go through and excise every instance of what I saw as character confusion, because I wasn't willing to sacrifice the whole 'in his head' vibe for the more clinical and uninteresting NAME DOES THIS OTHER NAME DOES THAT y'know? I'd hope if the flash prompt hadn't been there, a reader might more quickly latch onto the fact they were separate people.
And yeah I had fun writing it Oxxi. Serious angsty depression gets to critical levels in TD sometimes.
|# ? Mar 12, 2013 12:31|