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HaitianDivorce
Jul 29, 2012


systran posted:

HaitianDivorce vs. Jeza
Martial Arts of some form must be a part of the plot.

Here goes nothing.

Roaches -- 1599 words

So. You want to know what happened on Liberi: The Descent, right? That's why I'm here?

Yes, I mean Liberi 7. It's a joke.

Alright then. I'll try to make sure we both enjoy this as little as possible.

Started at Hermes Station. Tuning up my bird with some aftermarket parts--

Yes, that's it.

No, civilian models are not available. I imagine your paymasters knew this.

No, I do not care to tell you how I got it. You said no fun. But. Like I said. Your paymasters contacted me. Needed a replacement pilot fast. I could always use the money so I was signing the contract down in the local office in an hour.

Yes, I left immediately. Hard to make a living in my line of work if everyone knows you're unreliable. I have to keep it a secret, y'see.

One week transit. Manual control, if you have to ask. I like the stars. They don't ask so many questions. And coming out of stasis messes with your reflexes, y'know? Dumb question.

Anyway. Arrived at Liberi 7. Met with the crew where they'd set up base on some moon no one had bothered to name, introduced myself. Pretty standard helium mining op, almost all automated--guess I'm lucky drones can't fly as well as us yet.

No, I figured it was pirates. But instead I get introduced to the Good Doctor. "An expert in xenological biology," I was told--

Hmm? Right after I landed they started giving me the tour, brought me to where they had combat training--exercise a little, keep muscles strong, y'know? ...Of course you don't.

Anyway, they had two guys at it, padding and sticks. Looked pretty even-matched. Then one guy gets in close, so the stick's no use, uppercuts the guy's chin and throws him to the ground in the space of a few seconds. Then he takes off his helmet, sticks out his hand and introduces himself as Doctor Teus.

Oh, I shook his hand and told him I was looking forward to working with him. Asked if he was the guy who communicated with that 'living' asteroid before they blew it up for monopole magnets.

Eventually the station supervisor dragged me away, told me the rest of the story: they weren't having issues with pirates raiding their shipments, they were having issue rounding up anything to ship. Something down in Liberi 7 was sabotaging--well, that makes it sound like they had finesse. Something was breaking their mining drones down there. In the atmosphere. Of a gas giant the size of Jupiter.

Sounded weird to me, but I'm just a pilot. I know stuff can develop down in there, but I'd never heard of it being anything smart. Just floating microbes. I figured they'd missed something, and honestly when I wasn't ferrying the Good Doctor down to sites where they lost drones I just tried to tune up any of their satellites they'd let me.

You want to hear about those trips? Alright. I remember figuring it wouldn't be an issue. Bird's rated for a thousand atmospheres. Get the Doctor into a pressure suit, jetpack, tether, taser. Take 'im down, head to where the drone was last heard from, see if we could find anything left.

First few times we didn't find anything. It was just me and him circling through wind and storms over some featureless expanse of sky. We figured the drones fell towards crush depth.

Most of the time we talked. Places we'd been. People we'd met. Women. He was having a fling with one of the satellite techs. Our "adventures," if you want to call them that. He told me about how he'd once tried to catch a specimen, a big lizard-thing, and it turned around and spat acid on him. Had to get a whole new hand. And I thought my implant scars were nasty.

Eventually, yes, we found a drone limping along. Big helium zeppelin barely holding it together. Reported it, then got as close as I could and let the Doctor loose. Meanwhile storms below were sending a bit of chop my way, had to pull back and keep at a safe distance.

Not two minutes later he's talking about his finds--ragged puncture marks, tracks, even a crude tool like a sharpened stick or stake. Then he goes makes a noise, sort of a gasp, and he's quiet for a long time. Couldn't raise him. Pulled around but I didn't see him fall and his tracker told me he was still there.

"Teus?" I ask again. "Doc? Say something, lemme know you're alright..."

There's a burst of static and he's laughing. "Come here," he says, and he shoots a flare up from near the back of the engines. "Take a look at this."

I manage to swing my bird around and go to find him, though I can't get too close--storm, you gotta remember. I manage to hold her steady and with a bit of a boost he makes it, but I can see out the cockpit he's got something in his arms. And then he strolls in and sits down and he has this overgrown hissing cockroach in his arms like it's a baby.

Well my first reaction was the same as any spacer's; try to space it. When I couldn't I just cursed.

He hushed me, told me to just report the find in while he doted on it. "Look at this," he whispered. "An intelligent, social, tool-using society developing in the atmosphere of a Jovian giant. I never imagined I'd see one." And in his arms the thing just kinda clicks its mandibles together and spreads its wings all content-like.

We got it up to the station no problem. Teus gets it into isolation, starts observing it. "You can't see it anymore," he said, "the light in here's wrong--but it's got these markings, probably show up under heavy ultraviolet, to distinguish itself from others, maybe tattoos. Oh, and listen to what it's saying--one sound, repeated, then another different one." He turned to the super and asked, "Do you think it'd calling names? Probably never had a solid floor beneath it--"

The super raised a hand. "So, these are... pack hunters?"

Teus nodded. "Yes. Parts of its body look underdeveloped, it might still be a juvenile--maybe downing a drone, or participating in doing so, is a coming-of-age ritual. And when this one failed, they--"

"So could we track it back to where it came from?" The super was biting his lip, very angry eyes. Any relation?

Teus nodded. "I imagine he wants to go back to his home as much as I want to see it."

Eight hours later we were doing just that. Teus threw open the airlock and our little friend flew away fast as he could. We'd planted a tracker on it and started to follow.

Mostly that meant I dropped the bird fast as I could.

There was a storm below us, and sensors detected things in it--more cockroaches. Teus almost pressed up against the window to get a better look at them.

Soon as I got too close, though, they dropped down through the storm. Looked like a challenge to me.

So I flew the bird down through the storm's eye. Straight vertical drop. The Good Doctor barely got his harness on in time, I don't think I told him the plan. His face sure looked red, though I imagine that was just all the blood.

Down below--wow. Giant living clouds, kilometers wide. Forests of floating plants. Far below us, something like a whale bigger than most space stations. I wish I'd taken a picture of Teus' face.

His friend and the rest of his--swarm? Flock? Murder?--headed for one of the bigger clouds. We got closer and saw it's had all these structures on it, trees they must grow tools from and little wigwams and a big mound Teus thought might have been for burials. Then out of it all these roaches fly out of it, get real near us. Some stuck to the fuselage; you could see their gaping, drooling mouths and spiky teeth.

Teus ate it up though. "What do you think we look like to them? To a child everything a parent does seems magic, but they figure it out eventually. We must be like--"

One of the roaches lights up, screeches and plummets. You could hear gas pop and fizzle out of its lungs.

I think it was Treus', actually.

More followed though. I imagine those satellites your people wouldn't let me touch had orbital lasers mounted on them. Charming.

Teus looked at me, eyes narrowed and brow knit. "Do something," he hissed.

I felt the pit of my stomach drop like in freefall. Couldn't give him an answer so I just shrugged. Nothing for me to do but sit and watch.

So the Doctor came out of his harness, got in close, threw an elbow right to my temple. Was dazed and out long enough for him to get a jet pack and pressure helmet on me and boot me out the airlock.

Last thing I saw of my bird was it flying up towards those lasers. Hung onto one of those plants for dear loving life until you people bothered to send someone to check out my beacon.

He did what to it? poo poo. I thought it would have survived a collision like that.

So he's dead?

That's great. Do you intend to compensate me or are you just going to boot me out on my rear end?

Yeah. Thank you for your time too, rear end in a top hat.

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Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.



I just realised I wasted a perfect opportunity to call one of my characters Major Tom, curses!

Erogenous Beef
Dec 20, 2006

i know the filthy secrets of your heart


Chairchucker posted:

I just realised I wasted a perfect opportunity to call one of my characters Major Tom, curses!

I dunno, Captain Jack was good, if underutilized.

CancerCakes
Jan 10, 2006


Black Griffon posted:

:siren:THUNDERBRAWL ENGAGE:siren:

CancerCakes vs. Jagermonster

Pick a picture from the PYF Awkward/Ugly thread and write a story about "a day in the life" of the chosen unfortunate(s). I want something that's either hilarious or has a genuine emotional punch. Anyone can write lazy sarcastic satire about a sweaty nerd, you have 450 words to give me something more.

Word oval office: 450
Due date: 23:59 GMT, Sunday April 28 (sooner is better)


Metastasis (450 words)

That evening Jaime awoke to find himself transformed into an abomination. He winced as he felt a protuberance pressing against base of his spine, and he looked down in shock at his new bright pink skin that glared in the dull basement.

It wasn’t a dream: his lair was as he remembered it. A lava lamp cast a sickly, undulating chemo-glow on the beanbag where he lay, surrounded by his own filth: dirty plates, electronic parts and sticky bottles of off-brand coconut rum. Next to him was a freshly ripped open package. The Simpson’s clock next to his Fullmetal Alchemist poster showed 9:15 - he had missed the WoW raid. He was wondering if he could join before his Guild Leader noticed when he heard a voice from upstairs.

“Jaime? Are you there?”

“Go away!” he tried to say, but his new skin covered his mouth, making his answer inaudible to his sister. The handle rattled and he moaned loudly, not wanting his sister to see him like this.

“Stop whacking it you wierdo and get up here, I brought pizza.”

He stood up and looked at himself in his webcam. Where he had once seen a thin boy with a straggly neck-beard he now saw a beautiful pink pony. A growth resembling a mane extruded from the top of his bright pink body stocking, below it two huge useless eyes concealed his bug eyed stare. A door slammed in the house above, and Jaime tensed as his father’s heavy footsteps threatened to break through the floor.

“He come out of there yet?”

“I’m sure he’ll surface for pizza.”

That moment Jaime resolved that he would not go upstairs. He didn’t want pizza, he wanted his mother’s lasagna. For the next few hours he occupied himself marvelling in his new body, especially the tail, while reality tv and crying radiated down.

Finally he had to go upstairs, having run out of empty mountain dew bottles and socks. He crept up the stairs, quietly unlocked the door and peaked out. There, just a couple of meters away, was the bathroom.

He darted forward, closing the door behind him. Just before he reached safety he was pulled off his feet, smashing his face into the floor and making stars appear before his eyes. His tail was trapped.

“What the gently caress are you wearing, boy?”

Jaime was startled from his temporary torpor, and he strained to free himself. With a final tug he lost all the hair on his new tail and scampered on all fours towards the kitchen door. As he crossed the threshold he heard his father’s howl.

“Your mother’s turning in her grave, boy, turning in her grave.”

http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3537719&userid=0&perpage=40&pagenumber=36#post413904570

CancerCakes fucked around with this message at 21:45 on Apr 28, 2013

CancerCakes
Jan 10, 2006


Thunderdome entry: colliding civilisations, JuniperCake vs. Cancercakes
A misunderstanding must be a driving point in the plot. Junipercakes must write a non-cliche happy ending.

913 words

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

The house had become a warzone.

When Jessica and Robert had spent their first Christmas alone in their own house the compromises had been sensible, and agreed upon over a bottle of wine. A couple of presents would be opened with breakfast in deference to Robert’s traditions, while the day itself would be set to Jessica’s strict timetable, which meant presents after a late dinner. Television, the mind killer, would be banned by agreement. The best dishes of the colliding cultures were chosen, and the weaker ones relegated to boxing day. They had thought that in their own house, they would set the rules. They had three lunatic children for god’s sake, they could cope with some rational adults for one day.

It soon reached the point where Jessica and Robert were, in between breaking up petty bickering, arguing over whose bright idea it had been to invite both families.

Their painful naievete had been shattered as soon as Robert’s mother had asked why the traditional wreath was not on the door. And then her own mother had stabbed her in the back, categorically stating that she would not be opening any presents before the Queen’s speech, and then descending into hysterics when she found out that she would not be watching the old bird calling for unity in the face of hardship in HD at 3pm.These early salvos had been aimed at the peace keeping forces, and as a result there were only very minor casualties to the rules and egos.

The rocking chair “misunderstanding”, (the air quotes always accompanied by smiles and rolled eyes) was the flashpoint that could have started the open hostilities.

The day had begun with Robert’s religious family dragging him and the kids to church, while Jessica had a glass of sparkling wine with her breakfast. Her father had settled into the beautiful carved rocking chair in the living room and held court, while the rest of her family staked their claims to the best seats. So it was that the godly returned from church having ceded the best territories, but having gained the moral high ground.

“Do you believe in God, Gerald?”

Jessica’s father had looked up at his opposite number, wobbling with his weight on a walking stick, and smiled. He rocked backwards as he considered the question.

“Well, I suppose I believe in a god, something more than what we can experience. But I don’t think it makes much difference to what ever it is if I mumble some words in some freezing, dreary pile of stones.”

“But you must remember that Christmas is all about the birth of Christ.”

“Christmas is about family.”

There was a pause as both men regarded each other, looking for weakness. Nicholas, leaning on his stick, was painfully aware that he was fighting at a disadvantage - his ankles ached and his wrist shook as he gripped the crook of his walking stick.

“I must commend you on your choice of seat, I sit there whenever I visit Robert.”

With that parting shot he had made for the kitchen. He knew that while his joints were weakened by age, his opponent had another affliction. Settling down to wait he studiously ignored the living room and picked up a peeler.

“Muuum I’m hungryyy...”

“Dinner will be ready soon dear, go and play with Daniel.”

“But I don’t like Daniel.”

“You can still go and play with him Rebecca, don’t bother your mother,” Nicholas gently told his granddaughter. As she slouched away in her Reindeer dress her mother called after her.

“And don’t eat too many sweets, or you won’t want any turkey!”

The kitchen was a hive of activity, with various people peeling, chopping and boiling ineffectively while Rebecca did all the work. Nicholas quietly, slowly and carefully peeled a single potato, waiting for his chance.

Gerald had begun to clench the rocking chair’s carved arms, and was grinding his teeth. The potato had long ago lost all its skin and blemishes, and was now being pared down to simply the essence of potato, slice by slice. Finally Gerald lifted himself from the rocking chair and strode towards the toilet. Nicholas clutched his stick and wobbled to his feet.

At that moment one of the many impotent kitchen helpers sliced his finger open as he julliened the carrots at the exact same moment that Robert’s mother tried give Jessica the “secret family gravy recipe” for the sixth time.

Jessica cracked and screamed them all out the kitchen, and the crowd streamed between Nicholas and the prize. He finally managed to reach the door to the living room as Gerald emerged from the bathroom. The house went silent, as everyone realised that the balance of power would be decided in this moment. Who would be sitting at the top of the table, carving the turkey, tasting the wine. The battle of the patriarchs.

Nicholas broke first, his lack of acceleration meant he needed every head-start he could get. He reached the middle of the rug as Gerald accelerated around corner into the room. Everyone held their breath as they drew neck a neck. With a huge leap Gerald sailed majestically over Nicholas’ failing dive, and struck the back of the chair while his opponent landed in the seat. With a huge crack the chair fractured, sending both men sprawling on the floor.

In each others faces they saw mirrored surprise and anger. And they began to laugh.

Some Strange Flea
Apr 9, 2010

AAA


Pillbug

i can't even

Some Strange Flea vs Canadian Surf Club
Must involve a lost technology

The Fall - 1446 words

Richard woke up in an unfamiliar place. His first breath was sharp, deep and filled his chest with something almost like air. Something heavier, wetter, and with a touch of heat to it. Inhaling it was uncomfortable. Not painful, certainly, but something that would take a bit of getting used to. There was a deep droning in the distance, soft and steady, but much closer and more prevalent was the sound of whispers. Not one, or two, or even a dozen. More than that. He could tell that somewhere nearby was a crowd trying to keep itself quiet, and failing.

“SSSH”, one voice hissed abruptly above the others, all of which followed along as it fell back down, but only for a moment. Richard opened his eyes and found himself looking at an empty sky. No clouds, no stars, no specks of brightness. All he had to confirm that his eyes were not, in fact, still closed, was the flickering glow of a flame to his right. He rolled his head over and saw a row of torches running alongside his side, stretching from his head down to his legs.

Richard sprang upright. The whispering snapped off, replaced with a quick gasp from the crowd and then silence. Expectant, anxious, fearful, perhaps? He saw that he had been laid on a stone slab, rectangular, not much bigger than he was, with torches running along three sides. The platform gave way to a drop of just a few feet onto the ground below. He was covered in white robes, a small hood crumpled behind his neck, and a brown rope tied firmly around his waist.

As he turned his head to the left, his eyes met upon another pair, staring back. This set was black, beady, and resting on the front of a large, round head which in turn stood upon a narrower stump of a body, like a light bulb. It had a short, stubby pair of legs, and matching arms. Its face was entirely smooth save for two small impressions. Richard thought them to be nostrils, but could not be sure, and if it had a mouth, he could not see it. From somewhere within it came a soft glow that shone through its pastel blue surface and revealed an intricate network of hair-thin lines that ran throughout its inside, like cracks through glass.

He pulled his eyes away and turned around to see another one of these creatures. And then another, and another. Dozens, hundreds, thousands of them. Red, yellow, green, purple, white, running outwards and upwards, in wider and wider semi-circles, until they were just pin-pricks in the distance, a technicolor horizon meeting a jet black sky. They looked at him as he sat, legs dangling from the altar in the middle of the amphitheatre, and they were all silent.

“He has come!” bellowed a deep voice, harsh and commanding. “The Slider has descended from the darkness above to deliver us from the End of Ages! Rejoice! Rejoice!”

The crowd erupted in excitement. The colours that spread in front of him turned into a churning whirlpool of lights and screams of joy. He heard the Hallelujahs, the All Hails and the Praise Be's. A red creature strode toward him, bent down on one knee and said (as far as Richard was able to attribute voices to creatures with no visible mouths), “My Lord, may I approach?”

Richard noticed how its one knee and one foot sank slightly into the ground he was kneeling on. It seemed firm, but not entirely stable. He then realised that he was unaware how to address whatever it was that was standing in front of him, or indeed whether or not it could even hear what he said. After a moment's pause, he replied, “Please, come forward... Sir? Sorry, what is your, ah, how would you like me to...” No, that wasn't right. They were expected something here, Richard couldn't break character right off the bat. Whatever it was they thought he was, it would not say "like". Prefer, maybe? Ah, Shall! “How shall I address you?”

That seemed to have worked. The bulb righted himself and walked towards him, leaving a trail in the ground which slowly filled itself in from beneath. “My Lord, I am Cardinal Granger, the most senior member of the Church of the Sixteen Ages, Keeper of the Scrolls of Cupertine, and General of the Black Guard.” He paused. Richard stared at him blankly. “Forgive me, your Holiest of Holies, for my impertinence but, alas, we must proceed with haste. If you would kindly follow Captain Jenson,” he gestured to the blue Bulb that was standing by the altar, “we shall prepare for the rest of the ceremony.” Jenson bobbed his head towards Richard and walked around the back of the altar, continuing on, away from the crowd, towards an opening in a wall which led into darkness. Above the opening was a solid black pillar set into the face of the rock, but it towered three, maybe four stories above it, with a small balcony around the base. Richard hopped off the altar and stumbled, the ground giving way a little beneath his feet. He attempted to regain his dignity, feeling the mass of eyes focused intently on him, but realised that they were unlikely to care and walked briskly towards the entrance of the caves. Touching the rock walls on the way in, he discovered that they too, like the ground beneath them, was somewhat less than solid.

---

“Thanks,” said Jenson, in a far less regal tone than Granger had outside, “for going along with that.”

“Sorry?”

“Back there. Thanks for playing along with the show. I really appreciate what you're doing for us."

“Wait, none of that was true?”

“You thought it was?” Jenson seemed genuinely confused, as though the story's falsehood was obvious from the start.

"Why would it not be?" They stepped through the doorway and torches flared up on each wall, with more springing to life as they continued on, through the light and up a slowly spiralling staircase. The sounds of the crowd outside began to fade away as they ventured upwards together, the deep humming getting louder. “Why else would I be here?”

Jenson stopped, and turned to face him. “Because a lot of people do believe it, Richard.” He sighed. “And they're scared. The Monolith up there will finish the Last Hymn and fall silent soon, and they fear what comes next. The Hymns came before even the oldest of them, before the people they love, before their families, before the two kingdoms and before even the two walls they were built upon. Everything they could possibly know or care for came after the Hymns started. Sixteen Hymns for Sixteen Ages. They don't want to find out what happens when the last one ends. But it will, soon, and we can't stop it.”

“And you don't think I can either?”

Jenson turned and started to walk on.

“I don't think you need to.”

---

Richard looked out over the balcony and across into the crowds. Behind him was the Monolith, the drone pulsing from it, reverberating inside his head, down into his stomach. Granger was down below, facing the crowds. He spoke once again, his voice amplified to be heard all over the stadium, but still barely audible on the balcony. “And now! Befor... is Excell .......... Salvation upon us ........ ymn The Fifteenth!”

The crowd stood up as one and began to sing. Richard leaned over the balcony but was unable to hear a word. Not that it mattered. If the hymns were based on what was coming out of the huge thing behind him, he doubted it would make much sense even if he could hear it. But he wanted to hear them anyway. Their Hymns represented not only the end of an Age, but also the beginning of something new. There were fifteen of them. Fifteen songs that carried not only the sorrow of loss but also the hope for change, for progress, for forgiveness. Surely he could hear just one, just a piece of one?

And then he did. Just a little. But enough.

....lieving.

Hold on to that...


And then, he remembered all at once. He remembered losing something. He remembered having his arm down the back of the sofa. He turned towards the Monolith, its black sheen towering above him, and pressed his hands against the lower-right corner. It lit up. The crowd fell into silence as they saw a civilisation's worth of awe, and of wonder, and of fear, collapse into three words:

Slide to unlock.

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


quote:

JonasSalk vs. magnificent7
800 Words or less. loving deal with it and loving make the words COUNT (pun intended).

These Aliens Are Full Of poo poo - 800 Goddamn Words

“Sir, Bandit One found something.”

Lt. Bass watched the quadracopter’s videofeed as it approached a brown box with wheels, crawling across the ice.

“Can you zoom in on it?” Captain Sanders asked. “Could be one of ours, but I don’t show records of another rover in this area.”

Bass shrugged. “Maybe it’s Chinese? I tried radio, but got nothing. It looks like a refrigerator box on eight wheels. No markings anywhere except that big white circle.”

“Can you land Bandit on top, there?”

Bass shot a glance at Sanders. “On that thing? What if it’s not one of ours?”

Sanders shrugged. “It’s probably an old NASA rover, running on autopilot. Land the bandit on it. That’s an order.”

“Yes sir.”

Bass hesitated, then craned his neck around to an empty chair.

“When does Coretta return? Shouldn’t we get her opinion first?”

Sanders looked out the portal and saw an astronaut scooping dirt with a shovel. He flipped on the radio and said “Dr. Coretta, we need you here. Now.”



Despite Coretta’s concerns, Bandit One landed gently on the box, and wiry antennae began to scan its surface.

“Sensors on.” Coretta reported. She turned up the cabin’s speakers and heard a gentle grinding.

“Shh!” Sanders said. “What’s that?”

“An engine sir, or gears. Something mechani—“

WHUMP! exploded from the speakers, and then silence.

“Dr. Coretta, how can we communicate with that thing?” Sanders asked.

She shrugged. "Bandit is made to collect data, nothing else. Maybe, we could use the rock hammer?”

“What, morse code?” Bass laughed. “Do Chinese even know morse code?”

“Maybe you’d rather walk the 50 kilometers over there and introduce yourself?” she asked.

“Calm down you two.” Sanders said. “Use the hammer Dr. Coretta. Lightly tap. A single tap.”

Bandit’s hammer made a “TAK” sound, like a spoon on granite.

Silence.

Capt. Sanders said “Well, that didn’t—“

WHUMP WHUMP.

Dr. Coretta used the controls to tap the hammer twice.

After what felt like an eternity, the speakers began a thunderous BUDBUHDUHDUHBZZZBRRRRBDDD.

Sanders hands flew to his ears.

Coretta turned down the volume and said “I’ve got the computer checking for recognizable patterns. Nothing’s coming up.”

Finally, the buzzing stopped and the cabin fell silent.

“What do we do? How do we reply?” Bass said.

“Pi.” Sanders said.

“Pie what? Food pie? That pie?”

“Math. You know? Pi? 3.141? Just broadcast the first four numbers. Math. They’ll know —.”

Whump whump whump. Whump. Whump whump whump whump. Whump.



Twelve hours later, the rovers were communicating, using a translator hacked together by Dr. Coretta. It was a slow process. She typed a message, which translated into rapid taps of the hammer. The rover responded with buzzing that translated back to english on her monitor.

“They’re from another galaxy. They came here to test if the planet is inhabitable. They’re testing the ice, like us!” Coretta smiled to Sanders in excitement.

Sanders looked out the viewport and said, “How many of them are there?”

She shook her head. “They won’t say.”

“Don’t tell them there’s just three of us. Tell them we’re in contact with our own planet right now, and — “

“I already did. I mean -- I said we’re talking to our home planet about our own tests for terraforming.”

Bass bit his fingernail. “Did you tell them we have guns? Or… lasers? No, wait. Say we have laser cannons!”

“Threaten them?” Coretta laughed. “Our robot mosquito is perched on their motorized tortoise, and you want to start a pissing contest?”

“Just as a precaution.” Bass said, pulling at the nail with his teeth.

The speakers buzzed briefly.

“Their tests show they can’t survive here. They’re preparing to head home.”

“Oh, like that? That’s it?” Sanders stroked his stubbled chin. “I don’t like it.”

Bass spit out the finger nail and said “Look sir!”

The three of them crowded around the monitor. The rover slowly turned to the right.

Sanders said, “tell them our results are inconclusive too, we’re going to teleport to our mothership and then hyperspace to our home galaxy.”

Coretta blinked at him. “What? That doesn’t even make sense.”

“We’re not prepared for this, Coretta! We can’t even get word back to Earth for another 2 days. If they think we’re not technologically superior, they’ll follow us and —“

The speakers buzzed.

“Sir, they say they’re preparing to hyperjump home.”

“Son of a bitch!”



For another hour, the crew of Spaceship Clinton watched the videofeed as the rover inched across the martian polar ice cap. Twice, the rover’s wheels got stuck on the ice.

“These aliens are full of poo poo.” Bass said. “They can barely maneuver that thing.”

Coretta said “Them? We’ve barely got enough fuel to return home, and Bandit’s battery cells are almost dead; it can’t fly back.”

“Shame we can’t attack them.”

“Shame” Coretta said.

magnificent7 fucked around with this message at 17:42 on Apr 29, 2013

Canadian Surf Club
Feb 15, 2008

Word.


Going to be That Guy for this week and pull out. Bit of a medical emergency in the family over the weekend and I'm dead tired now. Will try to cook up something special for the next round.

JonasSalk
May 27, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER

quote:

JonasSalk vs. magnificent7
800 Words or less. loving deal with it and loving make the words COUNT (pun intended).

Missed Opportunity - 742 Words

“Go talk to her,” Dan said, “say something. Say anything.”

“No,” I said back, my voice dripping with an urgent trepidation.

“Why not,” he asked.

“What would I even say,” I replied.

“I don’t know. Say something. Say anything.”

-

Of course, it isn’t that easy. It never is. What do you say to a creature you’ve never met. A creature totally unknown to any of your kind. Who are you to presume that you could ever be worthy of its time?

I was no one. I was nothing. She was everything.

She was walking right towards me. Not in my general direction. No. She was walking right towards me. My heart was beginning to beat faster, my stomach was flip flopping. Did she have some airborne disease? Did my death loom in front of me, growing closer with every passing step?

I felt a nudge at my back. Dan was pushing me forward, toward what might be my death.

“Say something to it,” he said.

-

I walked forward and met her halfway. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Her hair spread out down her back, the bottom part coming together in a braid. Her eyes were a light blue, and they seemed to laugh at me. Wait, no. Not at me. They laughed at some joke that I couldn’t hear. A joke that I was desperate to know. Her mouth was red, and succulent. I wanted, for some strange reason, to wrap my lips around them and never let go.

She broke the ice first.

“Hello,” she said, “my name is Kathy. I am a Female.”

When she said her name, a bit of the tension seemed to ooze away from us.

“Well,” she asked.

“Oh,” I said, “my name is Raz. I am a Male. Pleased to meet you.”

I was pleased to meet her, but I had not wanted to say that. I had wanted to be coy, but my tongue got tied and those words came out instead.

Now she was looking at me strangely, like she couldn’t believe I could speak. I knew the feeling. Up until she spoke to me, I had not been sure she would be able to speak at all.

“Who are you,” I asked.

-

Her name was Kathy and her people lived beyond the Valley of Curves. They had only recently made that place their home, and she was part of an exploration party meant to find out how safe the area was. There were hundreds more of her people, waiting just beyond the curves.

With this first contact, we silently agreed to return to our friends.

My friends were waiting for me, jumping out of their clothes with excitement. As I moved closer I could see their faces sag with relief. They had been unsure if I would make it out of the situation unscathed. Only now did I realize that my stomach had stopped flopping and my heart was no longer beating faster than the light of a clear moon.

“Well,” one of them asked me, “how did it go?”

“There are more of them,” I said.

-

That night our war council met and decided what must be done. The creatures were beautiful, and probably filled with all sorts of magics. They must be caught and taken and brought back here. They must be properly cared for.

I was not so sure about this for I had spoken to one of them; she had not seemed in need of our help. When I tried to voice this concern I was shot down. This was still the war council and I was a man of the second rank. My voice carried weight among boys and old men, but not among the fighters. They who are the best of us.

So, it was decided that we would strike that night. Under the cover of darkness, we made our way through the valley of curves and then beyond it. We struck hard and fast, but they had been waiting for us. They had been ready. We came in among them, pouring from the mouth of the valley where the bend had been most pronounced.

The battle went swiftly, and many of us did die on both sides. There were no terrible magics that night, but there was a terrible gnashing of teeth, and in the end, neither of our sides proved victorious. The field was strewn with the dead and dying.

JonasSalk fucked around with this message at 01:13 on Apr 29, 2013

Fumblemouse
Mar 21, 2013


STANDARD
DEVIANT


Grimey Drawer

Fumblemouse vs Noah

Must involve a prophecy as part of the plot

Wordcount: 1560

simDesert

“Wanna check out my new toys, Boss?” asked Stevens, waving a pair of black, plastic goggles at me as I passed his desk.

“Sure,” I said, grabbing them for a look. They weren’t transparent and the visor fit your face so that no light would get through. The arms curled back in a spiral with some sort of earbuds in the centre. “Is this work related or are you just goofing off?”

“Bit of both. These are VR specs. Latest thing, someone figured how to make them so they don’t cost your grandma’s kidneys.”

“Brilliant. You could watch porn all day and I’d never know. Except for the gigantic goggles.”

“Welcome to the 21st century, eh? Nah, this is just an extension of the Nuke Sim. You know the imaging module, for checking out the blast impression visually? I hacked it so it renders a stream in stereoscope. Works like a charm.”

I put the goggles on over my head but there was only darkness, so I lifted the visor up to my forehead. “This will just be simDesert, only in 3D?”

“Plus whatever structures have been established for the sim. But you’re missing the point. Once we set the environmental parameters, we spin up the sim to a crazy level of detail. Atmosphere, molecular bonds, photons, it’s all there being modelled. Then we throw enough processing power at it for the exothermic nuke reaction to happen in near-realtime. And with these...”

It took me awhile to cotton on to what he was implying, but when I did I got a chill up my spine. “...we can stand in the middle of virtual ground zero?”

“Bingo. C’mon, grab a keyboard.” He waved at a nearby desk and clicked his mouse a couple of times. “It’s all set up. WSAD to move.”

I took the seat, and placed one hand on the keyboard in front of me, then lowered the goggles until they sat comfortably on my eyes. Just like that, I was there in a desert - a vast red plain that seemed to stretch out in front of me forever. “That is something else!”

“Turn around,” said Stevens.

I turned my head. Behind me, three hundred or so metres away, stood the outskirts of a small town made from hundreds of buildings of wood, concrete and glass. Bungalows mixed with skyscrapers and townhouses as if an architect’s toybox had been emptied and the toys placed upright where they fell. In front of it all, a cactus with googly eyes was looking straight at me.

“Went with some rudimentary western avatars I found online for positioning,” said Stevens. “Figured it would be helpful - and thematic. You’re a tumbleweed, but you can’t see yourself, and you can’t actually interact with anything, because that would stuff up the sim, ”

“Colorful and practical. Good man. So the buildings are ground zero?”

“Not today. Think it’s a couple of klicks past the far side of town - this should be the best view though.”

I experimented with moving via my keyboard and found it relatively natural, though I was glad the F key had a raised nub to find if I lost contact. Turning my head didn’t affect my movement, but allowed me to take in the environment. I don’t know what I had expected - a bunch of green squares and a pterodactyl like in those early 90s VR documentaries, perhaps - but I was quite impressed by the verisimilitude of the actual experience. The housing materials looked uncannily accurate. I did a few experimental whooshes past buildings, then commenced racing around the impromptu streets of Fakeville.

“So when are the fireworks?” I asked.

“Ten minutes away. The sim is still spinning up. There’s too much complexity with the modelling for it to be a quick copy/paste, not to mention the variations in props and physical conditions. Gets a little faster each time though - I’ve got genetic algorithms within the sim constantly trying alternative solutions for set-up.”

One of the houses had a wheelchair access ramp. I sped up it, kept going past the edge and got some air. I even whooped a bit and then just when I thought I was landing I kept going downwards. When I stopped my descent, I faced desert rock.

“What’s this?” I asked. “ A hole? A Mine? You got creepers in here too?”

“What?” asked Stevens.

“I think I’ve fallen down a hole. Did you make an up button?”

“There’s no holes,” said Stevens. “Implemented the map myself. One sec - finding your coordinates.”

“Nah, hang on, I turned around and it’s a tunnel. I’m running along it now. There’s some pictures, what, badly drawn penises? Jeez, Stevens, stay class...WHAT THE gently caress IS THAT!”

Shambling around a corner came a creature that looked for all the world like a worm made out of fingers. I came this close to screaming, and closer to retching.

“Stevens, even if you are not loving with me you are so loving fired right now, you sonofabitch. That is disgusting.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” asked Stevens as the creature turned and waved some fingers with bulbous knobs attached. “Got your twenty, heading your way.”

I backed up to the start of the tunnel. Another fingerworm had shown up. They both stood there and wriggled like two mounds of insane jazz hands. A cactus descended from above, googly eyes looking first at me then straight down the tunnel. “Holy Jesus, mother of God,” said Stevens.

“What are they?” I asked as one of the fingerworms began rubbing itself up against the wall. “Can they see us?”

“Don’t have the foggiest what they are. Christ, they’re ugly. Um, they shouldn’t be able to see us - we’re not actually interacting with the Sim, remember.”

I moved forward, just a little, and the fingerworms moved back. “Looks to me like they can see us.” I approached them again, Cactus Stevens following me, and again they moved back. I kept on until I reached the point where they had been...wriggling. “Look at this - here on the wall. It’s like some cave drawing of a cactus and a big, spiky ball. Is that us?”

I whipped the goggles off my head and looked across the desks at Stevens. “I swear if this is some kind of joke I will have your arse broken. Have you been mucking around with the sims.”

“Couldn’t if I wanted to,” said Stevens, lifting his visor. “The repository is like Fort Knox. Every semi-colon of that code has been peer reviewed until we ran out of security cleared peers.”

“What about your genetic algorithms?”

“It’s not that sort of genetics. It just keeps a subthread going looking for alternative solutions to a known problem.”

“And that problem is...”

“Well, getting the sim to spin up faster, allocating the near infinite amount of data to a definitely finite amount of memory.”

“So, it’s memory management.”

“Guess so, in a way.”

“Your loving memory management is drawing pictures of us.”

“Yeah, that’s not a very good solution.” said Stevens, ever the engineer. “Should be better next iteration.”

“You mean after they’re all nuked?”

“What? Oh. Yeah. That’s harsh.”

“Harsh? It’s practically genocide! I mean - is this a whole new species, some new kind of digital life?”

“Well, they’re not actually alive, are they?” rationalised Stevens. “They’re some weird software aberration - a visual interpretation of data, a, I dunno, a process avatar. They can see us, probably ‘cause we’re accessing memory, but it’s not like they cook and build fires - that would have shown up in the readouts. Plus they only live a couple of hours tops. They’re just bugs, no...mayflies. Mayflies with pencils.”

“So, it’s just a glitch? You’re sure?”

“Yeah. C’mon. It’s like Clippy the old Word Processing PaperClip. ‘You look like you’re trying to Simulate Fission - need a hand?’ Haven’t you always wanted to nuke him?

“I have,” I admitted. “I have always wanted to nuke him.”

“There you go,” said Stevens. “We’re T-minus 2 minutes and those Clippy bastards will burnt finger food. God, weren’t they disgusting, though?”

“So disgusting," I agreed. "Wanna have another look?”

“drat straight.” We flipped our goggles back on.

More fingerworms had joined the other two, forming an undulating mass of unease. One of them was pushing something forward, toward a collection of other building materials gathered on the floor; a perfect orb of molten glass that touched one of two small, thin sticks, which in turn lay next to a curl of flexi-pipe and two bricks lying side by side with a third perpendicular between them.

“Presents?” I asked, but Stevens wasn’t looking at me. His googly eyes were staring at the walls.

“You know, those aren’t dicks,” he said. “On the wall, those aren’t badly-drawn dicks. They’re loving mushroom clouds. They know what’s coming, they know what’s going to happen to them.”

“That’s insane. I thought you said...” But I never finished the sentence, having caught a glimpse of the offerings on the ground from the right angle to see the objects become letters that spelled out ‘Help’.

The fingerworms raised themselves up as far as they could stretch, and began to sing in unison through mouths I couldn’t see. It sounded like burning. And then it was.

Fumblemouse fucked around with this message at 03:00 on Apr 29, 2013

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

systran posted:

Auraboks vs. Nikaer Drekin
Auraboks: You must write horror. Nikaer: You must write something whimsical and the inciting incident must occur within first 100 words.

Forward, the Pixie Brigade!
(1,599 words)

General Mandrake was there when the first tree fell. Even from the Nettle Cafe's perch on one of the highest leaves, she could still feel the shudder as the chainsaw buzzed through the broad trunk. Tables and chairs skittered wildly around, jostling the wood pixies out of their frothy morning drinks and scattering them outside. They gathered in a cluster and watched as their homes were whisked out from under them and fell away into dust, the trees they rested on carted away to become premium lumber.

As the other pixies wept and lamented the brusque ignorance of the loggers below, Mandrake's neon-pink blood bubbled with rage.

"We've stayed quiet for too fuzzing long, sir!" she spat at King Fraxinus. "We can't keep losing our homes to the humans over and over again." She grimaced. "I respect the decisions you've made, your highness, but it's become clear that we need to plant our feet and show the humans who we are."

"My dear Mandrake," the King said, "the rules are there for a reason. Nobody knows what would become of our way of life if the humans found out about us."

Mandrake's wings flitted, lifting her up. She paced through the air in front of Fraxinus. "You have a standing army at your command, highness. You have a brilliant, capable, bold, courageous, stunningly beautiful general to lead them." She got down on her knees and looked up at the King. For dramatic effect, she let out a tragic sigh. "Please, sir, let me go to war! It's been my dream ever since I was a tiny pixielette. We could crush their skulls, maybe even take one or two prisoner. Think of the possibilities! One push now and we could live in harmony and security, forever!"

The King stared at her for a moment, an eyebrow cocked. He tugged on the half-inch beard that flowed down to his waist and shook his head. "I don't know quite what to do with you, Mandrake. I made this army so that you could feel appreciated, but all this talk of combat and bloodshed... well, pardon my Dwarvish, but it's just plain mucked up." Mandrake tried to interject, but King Fraxnius raised a hand and looked away. "Until you cool that temper you've got, I'll have to disband your army."

Mandrake's wings twitched, jolting her into the air. Clumsily, she stood up and stretched her shoulders. Not taking her eyes off the floor, she mumbled a "yessir..." before shuffling out of the reception hall.

In the atrium she found her First Lieutenant, Zing. Zing's face brightened when she saw Mandrake and she couldn't help blurting out, "So? How'd it go? You got clearance, didn't you? Tell me, Mandy!"

"What did I tell you, Zing? Never call me Mandy. You call me that one more time and I put your full name on the official army roster. We'll see how you like being called First Lieutenant Zingiberales."

Zing rolled her eyes. "But you got clearance, right? We're going to war?"

"Yep. His Majesty gave the okay, so I want you to get the troops ready to meet at dawn, my place." She clapped Zing on the shoulder, letting loose a slight shower of pixie dust. "Those sapsuckers don't know what they've got coming."

********************

The forty-one soldiers of the Grand Pixie Brigade stood at the edge of the observation deck circling the aviary. They basked in the glow of sunrise, groggy but unafraid to meet their destinies. Beside each warrior was a hummingbird, adorned with a tiny saddle and harness, with a pin attached to each beak. General Mandrake stood at the head off the group, sunlight glinting off her brushed-copper armor. Zing beamed at her, one foot already in her hummingbird's stirrups.

Mandrake puffed up her chest. "Today," she said, "will be known forever as the day that pixie-kind brought an end to an era of oppression. The humans who, through their lumbering, careless nature, have viciously attacked our way of life..." She paused to let the poetry of this injustice sink in. "Intentionally or not, they have long been a bane to pixies everywhere. But now, my brothers and sisters, we rise up! May the blood of these tyrants flow, and serve as a gooey, crimson warning to the rest."

Oh, bangles, she thought, this is good stuff! She wished she'd had the foresight to commission an Official Military Scribe to record her speeches for future history books, but it wouldn't be too tough to paraphrase them later on.

"Now," she barked, "all of you, mount your birds. I can see the last worker arriving." She looked back over her shoulder, at her magnificent, loyal troops patting their hummingbirds and readying their swords. She drew her own and swished it through the air before pointing it ahead, leveling it with her azure mount's beak.

"Charge, everyone! Dive, dive, DIVE!"

The hummingbirds pushed off, streaking downward as their pin-bayonets cut through the breeze. Mandrake's teal hair streamed back, her goggles pressed into her face. She heard the buzz of the first chainsaw revving up and veered towards the beefy man wielding it. She extended her sword and felt it shudder as it made contact. Zipping away, she banked her hummingbird and spun around to survey the damage.

Fizzlesticks! Just nicked him. She didn't see any blood gushing from the wound, either. The man glanced down at his flannel shirt, eyeing the new tear, but didn't even let out a yelp. Oh well, she thought, that was only the first pass. These people die from eating mushrooms, for Amanita's sake, they could hardly be expected to stand up to cold steel.

She looked out over the battlefield and saw the pixie cavalry whipping past the lumberjacks, the brutes slapping their arms and legs and wincing at the sting of the pixies' arsenal. Gritting her teeth, she dove in close to a thick-necked blond one in an attempt to slit his throat. However, he jerked his head aside and Mandrake merely clipped his earlobe in passing.

She zoomed down and coasted along the grass, hummingbird wings droning in her ears. Craning her neck up, she saw that only ten, maybe fifteen of her glorious Brigade were still in the air. A freckled man in overalls swatted Zing out of the sky. She heard the First Lieutenant's distant scream as she tumbled down and plopped into a puddle.

All right, that was a feather too fluking far. If they were going to treat her army as seriously as they would a pack of drunken bumblebees, she would have to sting where it counts. She climbed steeply toward the biggest worker, the one with the curly, black beard. Spurring her hummingbird on with fierce kicks, she sped into a blur and rocketed right toward center mass, straight for his careless black heart.

The bayonet stuck him. The sudden stop flung Mandrake forward, and she clutched onto the man's flannel shirt.

"Ach! Son of a gun!"

"Jeez, Gordy, what the heck are these things? They look sorta like big wasps."

"Sting like 'em too, Earl. Look, this one's still pokin' outta my chest."

"Jeez. Think you should pull it out?"

"Yeah, prob'ly I should."

He yanked the hummingbird out. It jerked wildly in his hand before ruffling its feathers and zipping away.

"I think that was a bird, Earl. Any birds you know got stingers?"

"None I can think of. That one sting ya, Gordy?"

"Sure as heck did. That was a doozy."

"You bleedin', Gordy?"

"Yeah, dang, I'd better check."

Gordy patted the area around the sting and brushed against Mandrake trying to lower herself back to the ground. He plucked her up, gripped her gingerly and motioned for Earl to inspect his discovery.

"It's a little lady, looks like!"

"Hey, she's got wings, like a little, what'sername, uh... Tinkerbell type deal, huh?"

"You think? Man, my kid's into all that fairytale whatchamacallit. You think she'd like this thing as a pet?"

"Well, it were me, Gordy, I'd send that thing to National Geographic, get a nice fat commission. But little girls love that fairy stuff. Give that to her I bet she'd be over the moon."

He thought for a moment, then clapped Earl on the back and started toward his truck. "There's a reason they call you the brains in this outfit, bud!" he called over his shoulder.

Mandrake tried to kick the rough hand trapping her, but none of the pudgy fingers shifted. She heard the door of the vehicle clunk open. There was a flash of light and then everything went dark, the latch of the glove box door clicking in place above her.

Well, fusspot. Some glorious debut, General, she thought. She lay back against a few napkins and closed her eyes, not like it made any difference in the stark black of her prison.

Wait. That was what she was in, wasn't it? A prison. That made her... a prisoner of war! That was one of her most cherished dreams, after being a beloved general, of course. How exciting to fall into enemy hands and perhaps even endure the brutal torture of her captors. They would prod her feet with hot pokers and pluck every hair from her head, but she would not despair. The armistice would be signed, someday, and her family and friends would embrace her with such joy and relief. She would not be fed often, maybe a half-thimble of gruel once a month or so, but her spirit would always be full.

This was going to be fun.

Nikaer Drekin fucked around with this message at 02:05 on Apr 29, 2013

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch


Noah vs Fumblemouse

Must involve a prophecy as part of the plot

Title: One Small Box
Words: 1598

Up and down, the dingy bobbed. Frederic Cainaz fingered the keyhole of a small oaken box, wrapped in chains. Heavy about his neck, the chains wrapped in one continuous, unbreakable tangle, constantly threatening to choke him. Sores dotted his face from exposure to the sun. If he could just open that drat box, he would be okay.

Frederic stared at the blue sky. No clouds. That much was reassuring, though he wished for some kind of shade. All he had when his crew sent him adrift were the clothes on his back, and the box, his damnable box, that they chained to his neck. If they had only had faith a little longer, he thought. Just a little longer, and we all would have been richer than the King of Spain.

His linen shirt was wrapped around his head, occasionally he would dunk his head into the sea, a cool reprieve. He wondered if he should give himself another dunk, or just let the heat take his brain along with his body. A large rock tumbled into the dingy, narrowly crushing his knee.

Wrapped in vines and twine of sorts, the rock was sizeable, perhaps the size of a toddler’s skull. Frederic looked at it, too weak to be startled.

“Well, that’s new,” he said. Now what was God punishing him with?

The tethered rock pulled, catching the majority of its bulk against the side of the dingy. Turning, the boat began to move, but Frederic lay still. He heard voices, faint and muffled, but distinctly man.

“It’s about time, Marty,” Frederic muttered. His First Mate, Marty, loyal if meek. Surely his skills in talking his way out of punishment had convinced the men to come back for him. The familiar sound of wood crunching up against wood reassured Frederic, even as the jostling hurt his burnt skin.

“First thing’s first, I’m quite parched,” Frederic said, waving his arms like bulrush in the wind.

Ansa?” a voice came from the other boat. “Ansa tuga?”

“Ansa tuga? What? Did they finally cut out your tongue, Marty?” Frederic said, sitting up. In front of him was a small canoe, with three men, brown as coffee, stood looking at him with blank faces. No, not blank, Frederic realized, faces of awe.

They chattered to each other, a mix of guttural sounds and phonetic syllables. At first glance, Frederic assumed them Maori, they were always shocked at Whites, but this language was nothing he had ever heard. Uncertainty crept into Frederic’s belly, and he clutched the box around his neck tightly.

The men’s chattering increased in pitch and rapidity, one of them hopping slightly, rocking the canoe back and forth. They were yelling now, and only now did Frederic eye the harpoons in each of their arms. Nets, spears, paddles, probably cannibals, Frederic thought. That’s fate, Frederic decided. To be a stuck pig to some hungry cannibals. At least they won’t get much out of me, he laughed. He leaned back, the sun pulsing bright in the sky. Closing his eyes, he relaxed, and fell asleep.

Water dribbled on Frederic’s face. Soft, spongy material dabbed him. Ah, yes, bath houses in Ensenada, the perfect place to relax, he thought. His eyes shot open, he was not in Ensenada. He could see only that he was in a tent, a hut maybe, in the dim light. As his eyes adjusted he saw pictures along the ceiling. Charcoal drawings, twisting and swirling in an incomprehensible pattern spanned the entire roof of the structure.

A hand reached out, holding his forehead. She was the color of burnt honey, with glassy green eyes. Frederic was speechless, the cracked skin of his lips and mouth notwithstanding. A moan started to burble up, but she shushed him. His eyes re-focused on the drawings and he keyed in on one particular. A man, the figure clear, his head wrapped in cloth that stuck up like a thumb, and holding above his head a box. His eyes moved side to side, seeing the circular story on the ceiling.

”No, no, no,” Frederic mumbled. “That’s not me—“

The woman shushed him again. Her hands moved across his skin, soft as cream, and he relaxed again. She spread a poultice across all of his sores, and they burned effervescent for a moment and then cooled like ice.

“Mella,” a voice called from outside the tent. She turned, and began to say something, but Frederic drifted back into a daze of sleep and nightmares.

***

Frederic sat on the beach, drawing shapes into the beach with a stick. In the other hand he held the box dangling from his neck. He chewed a sugary weed in his mouth. The woman, Mella, as he learned, moved through the sand with no footprints. She knelt next to him.

Frederic shook his head. “Don’t do it.”

She put a hand on his back, he wanted to recoil but her touch was addicting. He closed his eyes and grit on the sugar-weed. Mella’s eyes rolled back into her head, her neck tilting back and mouth agape. A flash of pain shot through his body, like a bloated, infected pustule but all over, and then a pop of relief.

Frederic gasped. This process he would never get used to. Mella’s emerald eyes came back to front, and she sucked in a breath, as though she had forgotten how to breathe and remembered right before it was too late. Hurt spread over her face.

“Don’t look at me like that!” Frederic shouted. “What do you want expect?!”

Her face went blank, and she got on her hands and knees, bowing in front of him.

“Christ, stop it. Stop!” He said standing. Mella rose back up, surprise on her face. Warm shame filled Frederic, making him blush. Dropping to a knee, he grabbed her hands. “Please, come with me, we can leave, you don’t have to stay here.”

Mella pulled her hands back. She moved quickly away, leaving no footprints behind her. Frederic snarled and fell back into the sand. Drifting high above the island was a tiny wisp of smoke. Rolling waves of numbness crested over him. It was time.

At the base of the volcano he stood. Machete in one hand to help him clear a path up, around his shoulder his satchel. Stuffed with citrus, tack, dried meat and a packet of mysterious powder Mella had given him, this satchel was supposed to save everyone. Part of the sacrifice. Just one little box, and some meager portions of food. That was all they had asked of him. He felt like someone had hit him on the elbow, and that sensation radiated through his entire body. He had to urinate, but his muscles tensed. His fingers hurt from digging into the little box chained around his neck. Just one little box. Behind him the whole village. He stepped into thick foliage.

Frederic ran knee deep into the water where the dingy had been moored. Chopping the vines that tethered the boat to a nearby palm, he hauled himself in. Throwing the crude machete down onto the floor, he scooped up a paddle and furiously went to work. After fighting into the ocean, he turned. The towering pillar of smoke from the volcano extended into the heavens, blotting out the sun.

On the beach was Mella, how she caught up to him, Frederic didn’t know. Even as far from the shore as he was, he could see her face. The sadness of inevitability weighed on her who visage. Frederic stopped paddling. He watched her, she was still as a statue with arms wrapped around her body.

She had to know this was what was going to happen, he thought. I asked her to come with me, she knew this was going to happen. She knew everything. Why is she standing there? Why is she just standing there?

“Swim! Swim to me!” Frederic shouted. He waved his paddle. She didn’t move. Frederic ran his hands through his hair, and looked around. Taking in a breath, he paddled the boat around.

“I’ll come back for you,” he shouted. As he started to paddle back to shore, Mella turned and walked towards the trees. Frederic stopped. In moments she was gone, into the tree line and out of sight. He rummaged through the bag on his shoulder and pulled out the powder. It was like clumpy flour. He spread it over the chains on his neck and dunked into the water.

Bubbles and sizzles spewed from the where the chains had been coated. Pops splashed onto Frederic’s skin, burning him as well. Terror paralyzed him, perhaps this was Mella’s parting gift, no matter what he was not to survive this island. But the corrosive powder subsided, breaking a link in the chain. All at once it slid off his neck, landing in a heap at his feet. Finally unbound from the chains, the box lid opened. Embedded in the velvet lining, a brass compass sat.

Unadorned in etchings or trappings, the compass was ordinary at best. Mundane, lacking the flavor of even a children’s toy, the compass didn’t even point North. The compass pointed away from the island. Frederic nodded, of course it would, he thought. He turned the boat around again, and paddled. As the compass needle turned slightly, Frederic turned the boat and continued on. Every so often he stopped, put his hand over his eyes and looked out, seeing nothing, he would continue to paddle each way the needle pointed.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


I just got home from something that took much longer than expected, but for once I actually have a close-to-finished piece. It'll just be a few hours late, because five seconds after I hit Submit Reply I'll be asleep.

kazakirinyancat
Sep 8, 2012


systran posted:

kazakirinyancat vs. zakucat
Plot must involve a cat.

First Alliance
1,043 words


I followed the sounds of battle through the forest. The shrieking voices of goblins were umistakeable to me. The foul creatures would not dare enter our forest unless they came in force. If they were massing for an invasion, it was my duty as a sentinel to learn as much as I could. I felt rage build up in my chest at the thought of those unclean creatures in my home. I climbed a tree and leapt onto the branches to give me a better view and to hide my approach.

I came upon a clearing where the bodies of several goblins lay. Four of them remained standing and surrounded their enemy. I was confused at first as they were not fighting an elf like me. I had never seen a creature like it. It had dark hair like the elders but its face was unmistakably young. It wore strange clothing that glimmered in the sunlight and wielded a long weapon that shone just like its clothes. I could not tell if they were made from a rare stone or the polished bones of an animal like my own weapons. Whatever the creature was, it was not fond of my people's enemy. It cleaved the head off of one that approached too close. Its weapon was as strange as it was marvelous.

I leapt onto another branch to get a better view. I thought at first that it was an unforunate that had been ambushed or a fool that challenged the goblins on its own. Either way, it was trespassing and I would have killed it along with the goblins had I not seen its true purpose. Near its feet lay the body of a great black panther. It was keeping the goblins from the poor cat's body instead of leaving it to be devoured. That made me pause and wonder about its reasons. Because of that I only took three arrows from my quiver.

I aimed carefully and let fly. It helped that the goblins stood still, perplexed at how to approach their enemy. My arrows made them forget that problem and they fell face first onto the ground. The creature with the shiny clothes stood dumbstruck, becoming even more confused after I leapt down from the trees. I had nocked another arrow and kept it pointed at the creature, ready to fire if it attacked.

"What are you?" I asked. "What are you doing?"

It looked at me with a confused expression and lowered its weapon. I managed to get a glimpse of its ears and they were shockingly short, as if they had been cropped.

"I mean you no harm." It said. "I was protecting these cubs from them."

It could speak! That fact did not surprise me as much as the fact that I could understand it. Its words had a rough edge to them and its voice had a low and unrefined tone, but I could understand. It slowly stepped to the side to reveal that there were two panther cubs cowering beside their dead mother.

"I could not leave them. Panther's are the emblem of my family and these monsters would have eaten them or worse."

It had protected creatures of the forest but was not one of my people. This was unheard of. As far as we knew, there were only us and the monsters from outside the forest.

"What are you?" I asked again. "What do you plan to do with these cubs?"

"I mean to care for them. They will not last long without their mother."

It even knew the panther's way. Anything vile would not have concerned itself with the ways of another. Though I still kept my bow ready, I decided to take the first step.

". . . I am Freya. Of the Moonleaf." I said. "What manner of tribe do you come from?"

It smiled. I pulled tighter on my bowstring out of reflex.

"Krista Kirschtein. I don't know if it is the same as a tribe but I come from the kingdom of Trost."

She kneeled, placed her weapon on the ground, and stepped away from it.

"Peace unto you. Would you honor me by lowering your weapon as well?"

Her name and her tribe's name sounded hard and rough just like her accent. Yet, she was willing to offer peace. Was it all a ruse? My thoughts were interrupted when the cubs started crying. My attention shifted to them and in that instant, I realized that I made a mistake. I took my eyes off of Krista and that would have given her enough time to attack. However, no attack came. She was still in the same place, her hands raised with her palms facing me. There seemed to be some truth to her words so I finally lowered my weapon.

After we fed the cubs, we talked at length about each other's nature. We had many things in common yet the differences were glaring. I was awed by the existance of large tribes outside the forest, which she called kingdoms. Krista herself was perplexed about how elves like myself lived in the forest. Her people had thought only goblins and other monsters came from here.

Our discussion was interrupted by the sound of several more goblins that approached. We both readied our weapons but before we could make any plans, new voices were heard.

The goblins shrieked and were silenced. From opposite sides of the clearing, the forces of men and elves emerged and met for the first time. The humans carried banners with the image of a panther in a fighting stance. The elves were accompanied by fully grown panthers that stood ready beside the warriors. Both sides regarded each other with the same confusion and wariness that Krista and I had done. A mistake here would quickly cause a bloodbath.

Krista and I nodded to each other. She said that it was lucky that we had met first and away from our peoples. My eyes drifted towards the two cubs that slept at our feet. I couldn’t help but think that more than luck was at work but I kept silent. We turned towards our people and bid them to take the first step towards each other.

Auraboks
Mar 24, 2013

...huh?


systran posted:

Auraboks vs. Nikaer Drekin
Auraboks: You must write horror. Nikaer: You must write something whimsical and the inciting incident must occur within first 100 words.

Thin (1110 words)
The party of four trudged through the black-leaf forest for days, stopping only when their bodies demanded rest or it grew too dark to see. There was little conversation among them – Hudson had barely said a word since the crash, and the others weren't keen on talking, either. Even Dr. Malik had run out of complaints after the first day, and Carter was busy hacking away the undergrowth so they could keep moving.

That left Blaine as the only one with anything to say, and he didn't feel like talking to himself.

"We just need to get out of the woods," he had said on the first night, when they were still at the crash site. "Then we'll radio for help. Someone might hear us."

The only humans who weren't lightyears away were the charred and broken corpses left in the wreckage. No one had a offered a better plan, though, and they all wanted to get away from the oppressive stench of the dead. They'd been walking since then, every step taking them further from their lost comrades and deeper into the unknown.

"Maybe we should go back," said Blaine as the sun was setting on the third day. "It was a stupid plan anyway."

"It was your idea," said Carter. "Shut up and keep walking."

"But what if–"

"Shh!" Hudson injected. "Listen."

They stopped and fell quiet. Straining their ears, they heard a low, droning hum, like a distant swarm of insects. It rose and fell in intensity, sometimes stopping abruptly only to begin again seconds later.

"Where's it coming from?" Blaine asked, shifting uneasily.

"Native insects, perhaps?" Malik said. "I'm surprised we haven't seen any, actually."

"No, I meant where?" Blaine gestured at the woods around them. "The trees?"

"Oh. Yes, that seems likely. A thick canopy like this is an ideal habitat for many forms of life, you know. Not just insects!"

"Fascinating," said Carter, going back to work on the undergrowth. "Let's move on, we've got at least another hour of daylight."

Malik kept blabbering about bugs and xenoprimates, but no one bothered to shut him up. Here was a man talking about his passion, and it was a welcome reprieve after the heavy silence of the past few days. The humming sound was soon forgotten, drowned in endless exposition about double-jointed mandibles and hyperflexible exoskeletons.

It was not until the group made camp that they noticed the hum again, louder this time. They each woke many times during the night, noticing each time that the sound had drawn closer still before falling back into an uneasy sleep.

When the red sun finally rose, none of them felt rested. The hum was loud enough now to drown out conversation, requiring the group to yell at each other if they wanted anything said.

They made their way through the forest in single file, glancing around nervously whenever the hum receded or grew in strength.

Hudson, who took up the rear, was the first to go. The hum fell quiet, Blaine looked back, and Hudson was just not there.

"Hudson?" he shouted, leading the others to stop as well. "Get the gently caress back here, you're not being funny!"

Carter had a more realistic outlook. "They're coming after us," she yelled. "We need to move!"

And move Blaine did, though not by choice.

A pair of arms, no thicker than Carter's own but thrice as long as he was tall, came down from the canopy. Quick as a snake, they wrapped their spindly fingers around Blaine's throat and pulled him up into the trees before he had a chance to scream.

The hum stopped again.

"Run!" Carter yelled, and took off into the undergrowth.

The noise came back, deafening, and Malik sprinted after her. He couldn't keep up for long, however. In his mad rush, he soon tripped and fell into the black growth that covered the ground. Something wrapped itself around his throat and lifted him off the ground, into the blackness above.

Malik tore at the thing's fingers, trying in vain to loosen its grip so he could breathe. To his surprise, it worked – the thing willingly moved one hand to lift him by the armpit instead. The other soon followed, and Malik could breathe again.

He couldn't see the thing dragging him, only the long arms stretching into the dense foliage ahead. He heard it, though – it was making that same droning hum which had followed Malik's group the past day. It carried him for what seemed like hours, never letting Malik touch the ground or see the sky. He was too tired to fight it, and resigned himself to whatever plans it had for him.

Eventually Malik was brought into a clearing, and could see his captor clearly for the first time. It looked like a human, with its arms and legs stretched out to grotesque proportions. The head was small and squished, and on its sides were enormous ears. Its face was eyeless and noseless, the only features its two mouths. One large and full of teeth, the other a smaller opening from which the hum seemed to originate.

Malik had little time to admire it, however, as it dropped him on the ground and leapt back into the trees. Its hum faded into the distance, and Malik realized he was not alone in the clearing.

There was Hudson lying on the ground, his neck twisted at an impossible angle, and Blaine, with bulging lifeless eyes in a face blue from asphyxiation.

Malik didn't run away, though he knew he should. It seemed pointless, now that he was alone. Nowhere to run to.

Hours passed, and he could hear the hum coming again. More than one of them, it sounded like, but Malik still could not bring himself to move.

A dozen of the things entered the clearing, the noise almost unbearable. They brought a surprise though. One of them dragged a battered-looking Carter up to Malik. It dropped her in front of him, and waited.

With trembling hands and one eye on the thing towered above, Malik brought two fingers to Carter's neck.

No pulse.

Malik slumped back onto the ground.

"Well?" he asked the thing. "Aren't you going to kill me too?"

In response, it pulled back and vanished among the trees. Its friends followed, and silence once again filled the clearing. The things did not return.

Later, as Malik was dying of starvation, he wondered if the things had really meant to kill them, or if the whole thing had been some giant misunderstanding. The idea seemed funny to him, and he died with a wheezing laugh.

------------------------------------

Why the gently caress am I writing at 4:30 in the morning. I hate myself. Next time, I sure as poo poo am not waiting until Sunday to start writing.

Steriletom
May 11, 2009

My inability to write has angered the ghost of Thunderdome! Beware my example, lest you be haunted.


I've been busy with wedding stuff the last few weeks; what's up with my new avatar?

Not that I'm complaining. The standard loser avatar is horribly put together.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


HA HA HA kill me.

Life And (438)

I can still remember the taste of that autumn. The air there was crisp and cool to the tongue.

Josef was tired. He’d spent the night digging. Refusing our help, ignoring our concern. It was his idea after all. That’s why he had to do it. I don’t know why I was ever surprised.

Karl had opted to break into the medical supply closet. He was never much for words, but he seemed to understand. He returned with rolls and rolls of bandages. All of us knew that father wouldn’t miss them. Unlike Josef, he was not adverse to assistance, and I did what I could to help him prepare the body.

“Do you think it’s an angel?”

It was the first thing he had spoken all day, and what’s more a repeat that he’d asked me last night. I don’t know what he expected me to say. It looked like no angel I’d ever seen.

In the evening it fell like a star to the earth. We gathered in the forest to fish it out of the pond. Its wings were white and soft and feathered, but its body was black and spindly and coarse. With a face like a barn owl’s it looked to the heavens, extended one finger, then started to die.

When Josef was eight he found a dead bird in the attic. In five years time his response had not much changed. He declared we would bury it, and snatched up a spade.

The angel weighed little when we pulled it from the water, yet its body weighed down as we lowered it to the earth. Karl had decided to leave its face open. I reached down to touch it, and closed up its eyes. After we climbed out, Josef started to shovel in the dirt. He wouldn’t let anyone else do that either. Amidst the sea and the rain of crumpled leaves, he completed our island, our naked mound of earth.

The three of us stood back and examined our work. Josef and I argued over what we should say. Did we want to invoke God? Did angels even believe in God? We argued for awhile as we were wont to do.

It was Karl who silenced us, face bowed palms together. He simply said please.

“Please look after your son.”

Shortly thereafter the three of us left, only to return in a few months time. The world then was thick with snow and ice, yet our island alone remained bare and exposed. Then came spring, and with spring came flowers, and the flowers that grew there never have died.

Kleptobot
Nov 6, 2009


quote:

Jagermonster vs. Kleptobot
A game of some kind must be significant to the plot.

This one came out extra pulpy. Hope you like some pulp in your word juice. And an ancient version of chess.

-----------
An introduction to Shatranj (WC: 808)

I remember that when I first opened my eyes that evening, I half-expected I had shuffled from this mortal coil and into the Heavens. After all, there was nothing but sand when I closed my eyes and made peace with my Lord, and when I awoke I felt myself on top of a heavy rug. And yet I was not dead, for I saw a large, swarthy savage draped in light-colored garments and his young charge draped in smaller clothing of similar comfort sitting across from each other. They were moving carved figures across a small wooden board.

Looking back, I suppose if that man wanted me dead, then he could have simply left me to the whims of the desert instead of offering me shelter. However, at the time, I was quite afraid of this savage. What was he doing, and involving such a young boy in his ritual? Was it some sort of witchcraft? A malicious plan? I was unsure. I tried to locate a weapon with which to defend myself. Unfortunately, the only weapons within my reach at that moment were my two fists, and I had no idea if I could properly defend myself against this savage with those alone.

Strangely enough, the man never did attack me, but instead poured a glass of some dark, thick, bitter liquid he called “caghwa.” He took a sip of it himself, as if to show me it was not poisonous, then refilled the cup and handed it to me. After a moment of hesitation, I closed my eyes and downed the liquid in one gulp. Dreadful stuff, really, but whatever it took for that savage to look upon me as a friend instead of an intruder that necessitated overly brutal measures.

Shortly after I sipped that concoction, this savage—the larger one named Mubarak, I learned after struggling early on to understand his words—returned to his board and continued conversing with the child. I rose to my feet, quicker than I expected, wondering what was so appealing about this board compared to a civilized person such as myself. Mubarak might not have understood my language, but he did understand my gestures, and said, “Shatranj.”

I'm not sure what that was supposed to mean, but he gestured to different figures on the board, naming them as he did. “Shah,” he pointed at the tallest one, then to a few more pieces in decreasing size. “Firz,” “Rukh,” “Alfil,” “Faras” and “Baidaq.” All laid out on the table, all with different amounts of value, much like a general of a miniature wooden army. Perhaps this was Mubarak's way of planning an attack on an enemy of his own, but then why invite the boy to help him plan strategy? I chuckled at the thought.

Mubarak stared at me for a moment with that dark face and haunting eyes, and I feared that his patience had finally run its course. But instead he turned back to his board and moved a piece forward several spaces, the one he called Firz. The boy muttered something and knocked down his piece, the one called Shah. I would later learn that was the most important piece on the board, the equivalent to the King riding into battle with His Army. Without the Shah, there was no Army and thus no battle left to fight. After the two of them exchanged some words, the boy ran away to another tent nearby. It was just me and Mubarak left in the tent.

Mubarak picked up the fallen pieces of his wooden army and arranged them into two rows, one full of Baidaq, the other an assortment of the pieces. He gestured me to sit down at the spot where the boy had sat earlier. I assumed he meant for me to play a round with him. My first attempt at playing this game of Shatranj with Mubarak was mostly mirroring his movements while we tried—and failed—to make small talk between moves.

With our wildly different languages it was as though neither of us were human, but at least we managed to trade our names with each other. Perhaps this would lead to an amicable relationship of sorts down the line, but for now, I had to endure the embarrassment of being in this man's debt. With the sun setting on that endless desert for the night and no immediate means of returning home, learning Shatranj was the least I could do.

I look back on that day and wonder if it was real, being the sole survivor of that expedition and winding up in the care of some wandering tribe of noble savages. It all seems so distant now, but then I remember the gift I acquired from them—the man's Shatranj set—and know that at some point in the future I shall venture that way again.

zakucat
Dec 8, 2012

I want you to steal it. And I'm going to watch you.

kazakirinyancat vs. zakucat

Going Home (1600 words)



He carried her body through the forest.

Several days and nights were spent trying to get through the labyrinthine maze of overgrown foliage that blocked out the sun. The air grew heavier with humidity the deeper he went, and Hadrian's skin seemed never to run out of water to sweat out. Yet his thirst threatened to overcome the pain and exhaustion of carrying her dead weight. The trudging of his soles was muffled by age-old dead leaves that, he thought as he mourned his own loss, never had anything to mourn them. He still had his memories. He wish he didn't. Not anymore.

But at the very least, he would never soil her memory by leaving her to rot in this damned place, forgotten. He was going to get back home. If there was still home, and if he could even live long enough to dig her a grave with his bare hands. It was the least he could do for Charlie, the now stiffening corpse that hung over his shoulder. The body that used to overflow with anxiety and care over her missing brother was now devoid of anything except, perhaps, the resignation that her brother was as dead as she was right at that moment.

#

They were told that the city was long lost to black disease. That they better be thankful that the good old Mayor was giving them a lift to the nearest inhabitable area, not yet touched by the outbreak. That they would be fine.

They only realized, hours after they were stuffed into the ship along with a few others, that their idea of "nearest" was probably hundreds or thousands of miles away. That the ship they were sent off in was not at all seaworthy, and they should drat well consider themselves fortunate to be washed ashore still alive and breathing and in some remote island that was crammed full of leaves and forest and poo poo. They could make do.

Or so Hadrian and Charlie thought. Even young Eli who was only a few months shy of his twelfth birthday, who was strong enough to make it with them to the shore. They could start anew. Even if all the others didn't make it. They could do fine.

#

Hadrian's foot got caught by a rock and he stumbled over, his body trapped between the mossy forest bed and Charlie's pungent body. He pushed himself up, his arm trying to dislodge his load. Can't give up now. Can't bloody well give up now. Have to--

A piercing sound cut through the silence of the forest. Hadrian's shoulders jerked, his mood abruptly switching from desperate grief to that of alertness. He listened intently. It was a man's voice, speaking with an unfamiliar language peppered with so much glottal stops that Hadrian couldn't even begin to try to romanize it in his head.

Adrenaline flowed through his body, and Hadrian managed to pick himself up, hoisting Charlie up to his right shoulder. "Who's there?" he called out, voice hoarse.

It took a few seconds before a reply shot out, in the same unintelligible tongue.

"I just--I just need to get out, please," he choked out. "My Charlie, she--"

His words stopped dead cold as he felt the cold, sharp tip of something metal press against his nape. The man speaking was right behind him now, tone sharp and threatening. At that moment Hadrian was almost to the point of crying.

#

Charlie had interrupted his search of edible food with hysterical yelling. "Eli's not here!" She had run up to him, tears streaking her grime and sweat-caked face. "He's missing!"

"Calm down," he had told her as he set his gear down, rucksack only barely filled with mushrooms and berries. He would have to find out a way to determine if they were poisonous. Eli heading out somewhere was the least of his worries, as they hadn't had anything to eat since they boarded the ill-fated ship. "He's gonna be fine. He told me that he'd help find food."

"He told you what?" Charlie's eyes widened. "Hadrian, he's just a kid!" She wrung her hands. "Why'd you...why'd you let him run off like that?"

Hadrian had assured her that Eli will turn up soon. That he himself hadn't encountered anything dangerous other than deer. That it'll be good if Eli would be man enough to try and hunt one down.

He was not surprised when Charlie's palm hit his face, hard.

What did surprise him was how Charlie just ran into the forest pell-mell, shouting for Eli, with no regard to her own safety.

#

They prodded him to a settlement set in wide clearing that lay in the middle of the forest. It housed dwellings constructed out of bricks and stones, with the largest building in the center towering above all the others. Hadrian, his hands bound, was led to that largest building, flanked by two natives clothed in leather bound with twine.

Wrapped in cloth was Charlie's body, carried by two other tribesmen trailing behind Hadrian and his escorts. Hadrian briefly wondered if these people had the power to bring dead back to life, but the though was quickly superseded by his appreciation that they brought her along with them.

The interior of the building was sparsely decorated, save for wooden furniture and large swaths of brightly-colored cloth draped all over the floor. There was a dais set at the end farthest to the entrance, decorated with more of the same cloth.

A red-clad woman sat on the dais, with a calico cat purring contentedly on her lap. She had a small smile on her lips, eyes sharp and feline-like. She beckoned for Hadrian to come closer, and his captors responded to this by throwing Hadrian onto the drapery laid out in front of her.

Her predatory eyes took him apart effortlessly with their gaze. She talked briefly, her face still holding the same reserved expression.

Hadrian assumed she asked him a question.

"I need to go back," he said, drawing the words out slowly as if hoping they would understand him. "Outside the forest. In case rescue comes. I need to go back to the shore." He then pointed his finger towards the roll of fabric that contained Charlie. "I need to bury her. In our land."

Hadrian thought he spied a brief flash of concern on the woman in red's eyes as her gaze landed on Charlie. "Please, let us go," he pleaded once more.

This time, the woman spoke to the cat as she rubbed its chin. The cat purred. Then she addressed Hadrian, and all he could do was nod.

Moments later, Hadrian was thrown into what seemed to be a prison, but without Charlie's body. "Please!" he shouted as the guard locked the door behind him. "Let us go! Please! Give her back!"

The woman in red shook her head, sadly, as if she understood his words.

#

"I'm hungry," Charlie had said. It was already past sundown and Eli was still nowhere to be found. Hadrian had no fuel on him, and so they had to stay put for the night. "Can't you make a fire with rocks?"

"Can't. The rocks are too damp," came his swift reply. He already tried as how the science books he read as a kid said so, but after four tries still couldn't manage to make even the tiniest spark.

"Oh."

Without warning, Charlie fished out a mushroom from his rucksack, and chewed on the mottled cap. "This is hideous," muttered Charlie after swallowing.

"Charlie. I don't even know if they're poisonous. I thought of testing them--"

"Then why'd you pick them up?" Charlie muttered. "You expect me to eat raw mice?" She pointed at the few that lay on the ground near their feet, bludgeoned by desperately-thrown rocks.

"I thought of testing them on a live animal we could catch, alright?" Hadrian said, finding himself irritated as well. "I can't catch mice alive."

It didn't take long for Charlie to go into convulsions. She died soon after.

#

If only he wasn't too full of himself. If only he stopped Eli from going off. If only he tried harder. If only...

Hadrian punished himself in his thoughts as he lay in the darkness. He killed Charlie. It was stupid of him to carry her around, like a selfish boy refusing to let go of his toy. Charlie probably hated him for it.

He dug his nails into an arm, until his skin bled.

Light flooded the inside of his cell and a guard led him out into the night. He spoke alien words that Hadrian paid no heed, and let himself be led towards a yawning pit, large enough to throw people inside. He got himself ready to be pushed in, and his guard must have sensed it, for Hadrian was quickly pulled back and away from the edge of the drop. He directed Hadrian's attention beyond the gaping hole.

Charlie's now bloating body was laid out on the edge, the woman in red towering over her, eyes flashing in the scant light of the dark. Her mouth moved silently, as if in prayer.

Then two men came up from behind her, and pushed Charlie's body into the pit.

It was then that Hadrian was allowed to come nearer the edge. He then beheld her body slowly devoured by the hundreds of cats contained in the pit, a legion of little nicks and bites, tearing off flesh from bone.

Charlie's home, Hadrian consoled himself. Charlie's gonna make this her home.

Impermanent
Apr 1, 2010








blackswordca vs. Impermanent
Handicaps/disabilities must be important to the plot.

Yesterday Upon the Escalator
(1350 words)


I felt in my pockets for the rest of the stuff, and after a couple seconds of flapping my arms around, realized that I had left it in the car. Tony was over by the crane machine, looking at the stuffed animals.

“Steve, you ever think all those little dudes are just fuckin’,” said Tony.

I did a spin that was definitely more graceful in my head to see if there were kids around. There weren’t..

“No, Tony, I can’t say that I’ve ever thought that,” I said.

“Man, you should, it’s like a movie. They’re poundin’ it,” he said, staring at the dolls. He leaned slightly on his artificial foot.

“I’m gonna get us some pretzels,” I said, figuring that he was in one of his intellectual moods and wouldn’t want to be bothered. It was hard to tell if he was higher than me or just showing it a lot more, but playing the who’s-higher game always made mine worse, so I dropped it. Sometimes he did this kind of thing because he wanted us to get food, but didn’t want to walk across the mall. I had been lucky enough to go to college after high school, and he had gone to the army.

The mall was kind of a piece of poo poo. We wound up gentrifyin’ more and more since they put the airport in, and the mall’s clientele seemed to be exclusively tourists who came in during the spring and then disappeared as soon as it got hot. Everything was beige. The ceiling was beige, the carpets were a kind of milky white beige, and the ornamental faux-stone columns that carried up through the bottom floor to the top floor were off-beige.

This is not to say that we hated the mall. We loved it. Tony and I were the mall’s most loyal disciples - we just were not so crass as to go to there to pillage it. We lived off the land, staying there for days, sometimes falling asleep in Tony’s car nearby when we were too stoned to drive home. Most of the cashiers at the starbucks in the bookstore in the mall (a nested structure, proof that it was living - the mall had cells, baby stores nurtured inside its stores) I navigated through the place with the constellations firmly in mind - right at the intersection of the LEGO store and the H&M, straight on til’ GAP.

The food court smelled like every food court in America: a potpourri of processed food, a slurry of shakes. When the flavors all are put together the common denominator is the smell of a low, meaty growl, like the brown of all the colors mixed together. The Pretzel Palace was the only place both of us could agree on being untainted by the funk that surrounded the court, and it was as I was ready to get in line when I saw it: behind a small boy in a cornflower blue basketball jersey, the door.

That same gray door with the grate on the bottom half. Tony and I had, in our teens, found it while we were trying to get free gumballs from a machine that had been installed in front of it. It was just an empty room. A lost space. We wound up setting up a bean bag chair in there, a Gandhi poster, and christened it the chill out zone. Then I went out to the college towns, and by the time we came back they put up a new machine in front of it and we had figured the room had been removed or repurposed. But there it was.

Not making any sudden movements, I drifted towards the the door. Either they had not put up a new kiosk or whatever yet (it was a great spot for that kind of thing, right near the entrance of the court) or the machine that had been there wasn’t, so I put my hand over the door knob, pressed my fingers, and creaked the knob clockwise. And it opened. The blue beanbag was still on the floor. The Gandhi poster still on the wall. Everything was as it had been.

I pulled my phone out to call Tony, when I saw I had no bars. That was fine, though. I walked into the room and saw that the plaster on the other side of the room was chipping. White flecks had spilled onto the grey carpet, and I pulled at the white flecks to find the shape of yet another door knob.

The doorknob felt old, so I turned it slowly, and used only a little of my weight to push it open. Outside was another food court. It was definitely a food court by smell alone, but it was a different one. Ours didn’t have a Chick-Fil-A, or a Subway. Most importantly, it was definitely just after eight at our mall, so the sun shouldn’t be so bright. And there wasn’t a skylight over the food court. And we don’t have a patio.

A lady in a minnesotan accent must have seen me staring, and she came up to me and said, “Do you need somethin’ fella?”

“I just, like, didn’t know we had two food courts.”

“Ah, no, honey, there’s just the one. Are you thinkin’ of the two-story mall over in Barstow?”

“Ah, no, I’m thinking of this one here in Asheville.”

“Asheville? No, honey, you’re in Lancaster, California.”

I stood there for a moment, absorbing that information.

“Really? I always wanted to go to California.”

“Well, ya did it. Good on ya.”

I doubled back, running into the room and flung the door open before slamming it behind me, when I saw the kids, must have been six, all dressed in designer clothing, all tugging on the bean bag.

A pause drifted through the room. I coughed.

“So do you kids, like, want the bean bag?

They looked at each other, and then the tallest one said, “Are you a shopper?”

“Ah, well, no. Kind of? I’m just a guy, basically.”

“Do you want a discount,” another one said.

“Uh, no, it’s just that that’s my bag, and this is sort of mine and a buddies’ room.”

Silence, and then, “Is this your store?”

“Uh, no, it’s just a place we hang out at sometimes.”

This spurred some rapid discussion among the kids. They were basically all around the same age, with the youngest around seven and the oldest about ten. They looked too different to belong to the same family, but they all talked the same - a weird mishmash of different accents and, well, a lot more “amazing’s,” “deals” and “right for you’s” than I had ever heard kids throw out.

“We would like to buy this bean bag. We can offer great value.”

“Okay, kids, you know what? You can take it. It’s a - a free sample.”

“Free sample? Thank you for shopping,” the kids all jumped on it, smothering each other to lie down on the thing.

“Yeah, okay.”

--

“Steve, how long does it take to get a pair of pretzels? You have to rub one out in the bathroom or somethin’? That’s what I did.” Tony was sitting on a bench near the front of the mall, massaging his legs.

“It was just an experience, you know what I mean?”

“Yeah I do. A high experience. I kinda thought I was more gone than you, you know that? I guess not,” he grabbed his pretzel from my hand.

“Yeah, you know, that kind of thing.”

I sat for a minute, watched him eat, and decided to risk it.

“Do you want to go to the other mall tomorrow? The one out near Brevard?”

“Why? You love this place. I love this place. This is our place.”

I shifted on the bench next to him, “I just wanted to, well, I’ve got a theory.”

He sat there for a second, ran his hands through his hair, and said, “Well. gently caress it. Okay.”

And that’s how the whole thing started.

perpetulance
Mar 24, 2013

THUNDERDOME LOSER

perpetulance vs. crabrock
Perpetulance: Your theme is "gluttony."

Word Count: 957
A Feast Divine


My servant pulled the metal lid from the final course of the evening. It was to be a surprise, something our chef discovered while tending to our garden after the rains. In the dim candlelight, I could not make out what the object was, but the guest closest let out a throaty gasp. It looked like a pile of worms.

I was served a single one no longer than my hand, and about as wide as my smallest finger. It lay there cold on the plate, as if waiting for me to consume it. I had eaten many strange things before that, of course, but never a cold worm by itself. Still, our lead chef was a master of his arts, and I was inclined to trust his expertise. The knife slid easily through the worm's body, leaving a trail of a green fluid behind it on the plate. The odor hit my face, and I was entranced. I took the soft tip into my mouth. It was divine, transcendental. With every bite, the wetness caressed my tongue, invoking memories of every feast I'd ever eaten. It made them feel inadequate, as if they were the cuisine of a mere child. Without noticing it, I ate the entire worm.

We all looked at each other in shock. A man called out to learn what he had just eaten. Our chef smiled and replied, “Avori”.

I summoned him to my quarters that night after our guests departed and my wife had taken leave to her study. Micheal entered my quarters with a smile on his face, and soon told me his story.

He had been working in the gardens to keep some of the plants from drowning in the rains, when he noticed a peculiar worm dead in a pool of water. He only thought to dispose of it, but when he picked it up, he accidentally squeezed the connecting segments until they burst a fluid on his hands. It smelt unlike anything he had ever encountered before. He tasted it, and then took a bite of the worm, finding ambrosia.

Micheal searched for more of their kind. He followed a tail in the sand back to a depression under a bush. A hive, he told me. He harvested some of the worms to take back for experimentation, soon discovering the preparation he had used for our night's festivities.

He invited me to view the enclosure in our kitchen. The kitchen was a monument to the culinary arts. Micheal and his two assistants perfected the most delightful recipes for my guests, but nothing previously had compared to that night's meal. Next to a wall filled with cooking texts was a cage filled with the little beasts, the Avori, ready for our next party. Micheal reached his hand into the tank to prepare one, grasping it by it's tail. As it dangled in the air, I could swear that its wiggling formed a sine wave. He submerged it under the water until it stopped writhing. He sliced it open, and the green juice flowed our just as it had during our meal.

Apparently the only way to make them truly unique was to drown them.

The party was a success. We were the talk of the town, with everyone raving about our own special delicacy. Another was scheduled the the following week.

-

I awoke the night before the feast feeling a strange compulsion. Slipping out of bed, careful not to wake my wife, I put on my robe and snuck out to the kitchens. I marveled at the ugly creatures my servants had collected in the cage as the meal grew nearer. A few worms moved close together in their writhing, separating from the mass.

Head to tail, head to tail, they seemed to form letters. First W, then they moved until they formed a wide H, then an Y. Why.

The mass, spent, formed back together. I yawned and returned to my bed, certain the event to be random chance. Like clouds in the sky, I must have only been trying to put meaning to a random event. I soon found myself back in bed next to my wife, and then asleep.

Our guests arrived the following day, and I presented them a magnificent feast of drowned Avori. Plates filled with worm corpses left the kitchen only to be returned clean. By the time they were finished they were barely able to breathe, much less walk to their carriages. Once they departed, the countess and I retired to our bedroom. She lay there, face slack, imagining the succulent taste of the worm.

A feeling overcame me as I lay there, imagining their flavor. A draw to be near them, to touch them, to hold them in their tank. I soon found myself in the kitchen, my hand reaching toward the tank, only to spot the mass organized and still. The Avori began to form letters as they had before, at a faster and faster pace. W-H-Y WHY STOP WE FEEL WE ALIVE.

I rubbed my eyes as they continued their sinuous motions. Their bodies contorted in unison with one another, forming letters and sentences on the box grating. WE FEEL THINK STOP.

Blinking, I moved my hands toward them. And then suddenly, I could think of nothing but the intoxicating taste of their flesh and the cold orgasmic sensation as they moved down my throat. I grasped them in my my hands, and submerged them in the water.

My chef assured me we could breed them for sale, if only we could find their queen. I approved his plan for the coming month to produce the Avori. Thinking worms? I must have been out of my mind.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's time....to DIE!"


Torn

Laney and Salim cruised down Loop 360, windows down in his mom’s old Volvo, cranking some techno poo poo he claimed was the next big thing. It wasn’t on the radio, and that was good enough for Laney. They traded ideas for the coolest spot to drink the Lone Star tallboys Laney had lifted off her stepdad, Rich.

“Let’s go up to the radio towers by my old place,” she said. “There’s a culdesac that’s like right under them. We can just chill and watch the lights blink.”

“I thought you didn’t like that neighborhood. I mean, since the—“

“It’s fine.” She interrupted before he could say the words—since the accident where your dad died. “It’s been three years. I’m fine. Let’s go.” She turned up the radio so he couldn’t argue, but as they reached the intersection, she felt her stomach twist and buried her face in her arms.

“Are you ok—what the hell?” Salim exclaimed. “Did you see that?”
“See what?” Laney asked, slowly raising her head. Of course she hadn’t seen it. Was he loving with her?
“I don’t know, there was a weird…shimmer,” he said.
“Oh come on, it was probably just a reflection or something. It’s twilight, the light is loving with you.”

She was ready to keep ribbing him, getting her confidence back after the shock of driving past the scene of the accident, when she gasped.

“Stop!” she screamed, “Stop, Salim, that’s my dad!” she pointed frantically out the window at a man turning the corner. Salim hit the breaks, but they’d already past him. The car skidded to a halt among a sea of honking horns. Salim pulled into the strip mall they were passing.

“What the gently caress, Laney, now who’s seeing things now?

“gently caress you Salim, he was even wearing his old Astro’s hoodie. They’re not even a team anymore. Who else would wear that?”

He shook his head. An old hoodie seemed more common than a return from the dead, but he knew better than to argue with Laney when she got like this. He accelerated through the parking lot, back to the street the man had turned down.

They searched for half an hour before Laney would give up.

“gently caress it,” she said, “let’s go have our beers.”

“Alright,” Salim agreed patiently, tapping at his GPS. “Let me reset this thing, this wild-goose chase got us off course.”

“It wasn’t a wild goose chase!” Laney cried. “It was definitely my dad!”

“Of course,” said Salim distractedly. “That’s funny, it can’t seem to find us.” He shook the box ineffectively.

“You always think technology is better than memory,” Laney said, “Go up to Willow St., that should cut back to the Loop.” They drove in silence until Willow ended in a barricade and darkening forest.

“What the gently caress?!” said Laney, banging the dashboard.

“I’m going back,” Salim announced.

“Back? Back where?”

“To the shimmer.”

Salim drove back, carefully retracing their route to the strip mall and then north on Loop 360. Even Laney could see it this time, a softly glowing arch over the south-bound lanes and half of the far left lane going north.

“That’s right where…” she trailed off.

“I know.” Salim looked grim. “We’re going through.”

“But it’s on the other side!” Laney flinched as Salim jerked the wheel to the left. A semi was barreling straight at them. She braced for the hit, the crunching metal and glass again, she screamed.

They careened through the arch and Salim jerked back to the right as the semi jumped back fifty feet and then swept passed them, it’s low horn blasting. They pulled over to the side and Laney opened the door to vomit on the shoulder.

***

It was all over the news the next day. Thousands of rifts had appeared across the globe, opening on to a strangely similar but different world. The President told everyone to remain calm, they were investigating, diplomats were being sent, things were being handled. Stay on our side and stay safe, he warned.

But Laney couldn’t stay. Her dad was over there. She took the car without asking.

Through the rift and down too familiar and unfamiliar streets until she saw her old house, painted green now, but definitely the one. Her dad’s old Stingray was in the driveway, crouching smooth and sleek as new. Not the mangled wreck she’d seen through sheets of blood on the side of the highway. She got out of the car.

At the sound of her door closing, a pair of legs trolleyed out from under the car.

“Can I help you?” said her Dad. He rolled out the rest of the way and looked up at her. His mouth slackened and he stumbled getting up. “Laney?” he whispered.

“Dad!” she cried and ran to him. He pulled her into a crushing hug and she buried her face in his chest, tears soaking through his T-shirt. When she finally pulled away, she looked up and met his red-rimmed eyes.

“I died here, didn’t I?” she asked. He nodded.

“Where’s Mom?”

Dad shook his head sadly. “We split up, after you…after the accident. She blamed it on the car.” He pointed at it. “I couldn’t give it up. I’ve been rebuilding it ever since. She thought it was…perverse.”

“That sounds like Mom,” Laney said. She checked out the car. She’d always loved it, couldn’t wait until she was old enough to drive it. “It looks great.”

He smiled proudly. “It’s nearly finished,” he said. “Want to help?”

***

Laney spent the rest of the summer in two different worlds. Fixing the vette consumed so much of her attention, that she barely noticed the growing tensions, the increased paranoia, her mom’s announcement that she got a new job, guarding the border.

Overnight, the barricades were erected and all non-military, non-diplomatic cross-dimension travel was banned. Her own mom turned her away from the rift, and threatened to lock her up if she ever mentioned crossing or seeing her dad again. So Laney thought it was appropriate that it was her mom’s job that allowed her to slip across again, smuggled in the trunk when her mom escorted some big-wig for a meeting.

It was midnight when she knocked on Dad’s door, but his face was mask of horror, not delight when he saw her.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded angrily.

“I wanted to see you! I thought you’d want to see me, too!” she tried to stop the tears, but couldn’t. He yanked her into the house and hugged her.

“Of course I want to see you, but I can’t. It isn’t safe for you here.” He looked around, as though an answer would congeal out of the showers.

“How did you get here?”

“I hid in mom’s trunk. She’s a border guard.”

He nodded. “That might work then. Get in the car.” She obeyed. He joined her a few minutes later, pushed his old Astro’s hoodie into her hands. “Put that on and keep your face hidden.”

“Do you see your mom?” dad asked as they pulled up to the check point.

Laney looked around. “That’s her over there,” she pointed. Dad nodded and nudged the Corvette toward her. Her mom saw them then, and the anger in her eyes was deep and cold. Dad rolled down the window.

“Lis,” he said quietly, “please, I need your help.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” she hissed at him.

Laney leaned forward and pushed back the hood of his Astro’s shirt and looked at her mom. Her mom’s anger crumpled off her face and for a moment she looked totally shocked and open.

“Laney,” she whispered, and reached out, brushing Laney’s cheek. But then the anger crept back, feature by feature, even deeper and colder than before.

“I have to get her back across,” Dad said.

“Did you have to put her back in that car.”

He looked at her squarely, set his jaw, and said “Yes, Lis, I think I did. I think that’s why I’ve been rebuilding it all these years.”

She looked startled, then sad.

“You know what it means, then?”

He nodded.

She turned to Laney again, anxiety twitching in the corners of her mouth. “How is your Mom now, Laney?” she asked.

“Good,” said Laney. “She got a better job, got remarried, guy named Rich.”

Laney’s other Mom nodded slowly.

“Merger then, probably.” Her and Dad exchanged a look. They both looked like they were about to say something, but then her mom punched the button that lifted the barricade, and they were shooting through.

Her dad laid on the accelerator like he was racing for his life.

“Dad, what did she mean by Merger?” Laney asked. But before her dad could answer, the squealing of breaks filled the air and Laney was thrown to the side by the impact and the last thing she heard was crumbling metal and breaking glass before her head hit the window and everything went black.

***

She opened her eyes and blearily registered her moms' two faces, torn with identical worry. Another blink, and there was only one, cradling her head, asking if begging her to wake up, to be okay.

"Dad?" she asked.

Her mom shook her head no.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME







This is dedicated to Giorgio A. Tsoukalos

Lithic Reduction
1500 words

I jogged along behind my clan-brothers, watched them shrink as my pace slowed. Frozen earth drove pain into my heels, like running over flint chips. I growled low in my throat, but cold and exhaustion were not frightened away so easily.

Step, step, step, breath, step, breath. Until it burned to breathe, until my feet and legs were beyond numb. I was the last sister alive; even full-bodied, sturdy Deerskin had collapsed, unable to eat enough for both herself and the child in her belly on our long flight from White Steppe. Horn-Keeper had been still and blue one morning, HoldCub died gurgling when she couldn't catch her wind after a day's run. Blood had dribbled down her chin, dark red, and her flesh had been frost-on-stone grey.

Somewhere behind us, their bodies lay alone under small cairns, far from White Steppe and the guidance of the ancestor stones. I ran, left them further and further behind.

The rhythm of my steps faltered. Up ahead, my brothers were little more than specks of movement on the spine of a low, sparse ridge. I slowed to a trot, then walked.

One of the tiny figures on the ridge paused for three heartbeats. I whimpered and limped back up to a ragged jog. A picture formed behind my eyes of a young mammoth, injured and keening as its clan fled our ropes and spears. We ate well that night, and many after. More pictures came, of hearth and clan and the scent of animal skins beneath the great bones of our wooly steppe-brothers.

I tossed my head, blinked away the images, and found myself walking once more. My clan-brothers were gone, far ahead down the lee side of the ridge. I whimpered again. Hunters died hunting. Mothers died birthing. Weak children died, as weak children do. But to be left behind! I fell to the ground, legs dead with cold. Stones bit the palms of my hands through my furs. The shock of new pain swept the pictures from behind my eyes, and the world around me grew clear and sharp.

Move-follow-go-go-follow-brothers-move-go

The small voice urged me forward on hands and knees, and in that way I followed my brothers over the crest of the ridge.



I scented smoke before I saw them. Camped in a strange, bowl-shaped cleft in the lee side of the ridge, my clan-brothers leapt up from the fireside when they heard my shuffling approach. Only Tusk came forward to help me to the fire. The others watched, and from their faces I wondered if I had been meant to catch up at all.

"She is daughter of my mother," said Tusk as he threw his sleeping fur over my shoulders. "And it is known that children do not come of men alone. We will not leave her."

The others grunted and lowered their eyes one by one.

Night fell. We gnawed on strips of dried meat, what little we had been able to salvage when...

I tossed my head. Pictures blossomed behind my eyes like blood on snow. Lights in the sky. Lights that burned, that turned brothers and sisters and children into ash and left a smooth, smoldering pit where the hearth-house had been heartbeats before.

Dropping a fresh kill, running to defend hearth and kin, but it had been too late. Screams. Bodies that hissed and popped like roasting meat.

"...skin. Calfskin. Little Tusk." It was the sound of Tusk's special name for me that brought me back from the storm of pictures. He gently pried my hands from my face, wiped the cold tears from my cheeks. My clan-brothers stared into the fire, wordless, but their eyes were watery and bright with the reflection of flames.



"Lights!"

I was on my feet before I recognized that I was awake. Tusk and the brothers were kicking dirt over the fire, making water on it, anything to choke the telltale glow.

I saw them then, three stars weaving across the sky like a fleeing herd of deer. Raining more terrible light down on something out on the far-off horizon.

"Calfskin, get away from the fire. Go out into the dark and hide. I will come for you." Tusk didn't wait for my reply, just shoved me out of the camp and into the exposed, frigid night. I ran. My legs burned. I fell, again and again. The lights in the sky came closer, silent as a hunting owl. I stumbled into a boulder at the top of a small hill and crouched there, searching for some sign of my brothers' pursuit. There, seven dark shapes pelting from the dark cleft where the fire had been. They scattered. One of them veered in my direction, but fear of the lights stopped me from calling to him.

There was no shelter on the sparse plain. Some of my clan-brothers hid in the shadows cast from the hills in the moonlight. Some ran, maybe in hopes of escape, maybe to draw attention away from the rest of us. I never knew. The burning light rained down, and the whole plane was lit as bright as day again and again.

There was no shelter, except the small divot beneath my boulder. In ten heartbeats, the lights were gone, and then there was no clan.



I was never going to leave that boulder. I wanted to die there, to join my kin in the breast of the earth. The small voice urged

Food-water-go-go-find-water-find

but without my brothers, and most of all without Tusk, there was no why or how. Food gave us life, and life was to be shared with the clan. We gave ourselves to each other in the hunt, at the hearth, between sleeping furs and in the pain and joy of child-rearing. I was alive, with no way to live.

My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. My face was raw from wind and grit. Pictures swam in my head, no longer distinct from the empty plain around me. I could feel the ancestors opening the way into the breast of the earth, feel the still, cool darkness beyond which my clan was waiting for me.

Huge, rough hands lifted me from the boulder. I couldn't open my eyes, but the chest I rested my cheek against was warm and broad and soft with downy hair. An ancestor, bearing me down to my kin. How could I have mourned them? The passing was gentle, like being cradled in my mother's arms again. I would see her soon, touch her face, look into her smiling eyes...



Low grunting. The smell of earth and stale fur. Warmth. Someone had cleaned the grit from my eyes and stripped the furs from my stiff, swollen feet. I looked up and saw stone. A cave? Had I passed through? But the pain. There was no pain in the breast of the earth. I was alive. Had one of my brothers come for me?

At the mouth of the cave was a fire. Two figures hunched there, squat and wide, cracking nuts and tossing the shells into the flames. Every so often they would toss a whole nut into the fire, and laugh when the shell burst with a sharp pop.

There faces were broad, eyes set far back beneath a shaggy brow. Thick brown hair covered their bodies and fell down their backs in tangles.

"What place is this?" I asked, pushing myself into a sitting position. The pair turned toward me, identical wide-eyed expressions on their flat faces. Fear? No. Something, something that reminded me of my mother, of warm bodies pressed around the fire.

One of the strange folk crawled over to me, eyes never leaving mine. I shrunk back down into the furs, but with one deft move he had gathered me up, skins and all, and gingerly waddled to the front of the cave. I blinked in the sunlight.

Caves dotted the length of a canyon, connected to each other by narrow beams of stone. More of the dark-haired folk, many more of them, toiled and socialized far below. They were shorter than my clan-brothers and sisters by a full hand, at a glance. But wider in the chest, with long, muscular arms and short, stocky legs.

I looked up at my caretaker, found him gazing down at me with soft, shining eyes. Home, his face said. The small voice inside of me agreed.

Lights wove lazily overhead, and sometimes the horizon was bright with their burning rain. But the canyon was different. The folk of the caves hailed them when they passed, and painted pictures of shining circles on the walls of their homes.

There were hunts. There were hearths to warm, children to rear. We gathered. We sang. Their words were not mine, but the simple duties of living were the same. The lights kept their vigil, and in the peace of the canyon, I gave the gift of my life to their children.

monkeyboydc
Dec 2, 2007

Unfortunately, we had to kut the English budget at the Ivalice Magick Ackcademy.

Yikes, twenty minutes late. Feel free to disqualify me but, if not, here's my entry.

Thunderdome XXXVII
Thunderbrawl: Nyarai VS. Monkeyboydc
Prompt: Story must use poison as part of the plot.

The Beach Bum and the Sea

Words: 1,593

“I’m telling you man, it wasn’t an otter.” I take another pull off my bottle of coke. It’s mostly rum actually, I don’t remember the last time I drank straight soda. Maybe the rum is the problem, but this kid is starting to piss me off. Trying to cool off, I lean back and sink my hands into the sand. It was real hot out today and the sand is still warm, but just under the surface, it’s nice and cool. “It was too big to be an otter.”

“Maybe it was a walrus or something dude, did you ever think of that?” I think the guy said he was seventeen. Regardless of how old he is, he’s wearing a tank top with the armpits drooped down almost to his waist. He’s tuning an acoustic guitar that he’ll soon use to try and charm his way into the panties of one of the three girls I found him sitting with when I stumbled across their bonfire. Young or not, he’s definitely a douchebag.

“A walrus? I know you’re not from around here, but there aren’t any walruses in Oregon. All I’m saying, is I’ve seen something weird out in the ocean around here a few times and I don’t know what it is. That’s all.” It definitely wasn’t a walrus. I remember seeing those eyes the first time, like a cat’s, glowing yellow-green out in the ocean. How many times has it been now? Three? Four? No one else is ever around, just me, when all the bonfires along the coast have burnt down to red, dying suns. It’s only for a second, and then it’s gone, but I know what I’ve seen, even if no one else ever sees it. I don’t want to get into an argument with this kid; I drain the rest of my rum and coke.

I stand up, pitch forward a little more than I mean to, before stumbling to a bunch of beach grass that’s grown up taller than my waits. Even with only the sunset behind me to light what I’m doing, I can tell how brown my pee is – like muddy water. It’s been that way for months now, no matter how much water I drink. gently caress it, nothing I can do about it right now. God I’m drunk. Zipping up, I jog back to the campfire and crash into the sand. “Hey, you know, this is where I had my first drink, when I was a little younger than you guys.” No one’s listening, but you know, maybe they are. I roll onto my back and stare up at the clouds floating through orange and blue.

Yup, right on this beach, whiskey and water. Nasty, but it’s all I’ve ever had so it’s fine by me. After a few drinks, I feel like the warmth pounding in my head and chest is on the same tempo as the pulse in the tide and the heat radiating off our bonfire. We keep chucking driftwood into it building it bigger and bigger, forcing our circle to scoot back as it gets hotter, me, the guys from home, my buddy Matt, and then a bunch of randoms we met earlier. One of the girls asked me if I wanted a drink earlier and we’ve been passing the bottle back and forth ever since. These trips we go on during summer are always amazing, but ever since everyone moved away, and I moved to Oregon, we don’t do it anymore. I don’t see any of them at all anymore actually.

I can’t get enough of it, the way the night accelerates. Nothing is dull or far away. Soon, every light pulses and spins like a thousand glass fireflies, contracts and shrinks to a single point like the picture on an old TV after you turn it off. It’s something new every time every time. It’s great every time.

I’m being pulled, someone’s got my wrist and is dragging me up the beach. How’d I get so wet? It’s hard to see what’s going on through the murk and foam that keeps washing over my head and up my nose. The sand is still wet but the ocean is only swirling around my feet now. It’s all stars and black now and whoever had my arm let go while I was still hacking up salt water. I sit up and the world spins so hard I almost tip over again. Something is slipping into the waves – a tail? “Hey!” It stops and the waves recede into the ocean again, revealing something that is definitely not a person, it stares at me with glowing green eyes, like a cat’s.

It has something that falls from its head that resembles hair, but the individual strands are too thick and flat – like seaweed kind of. Its face is a little too angular and elongated to look human, but aside from that, and its giant tail, it looks a lot like a person – it even has some very human, very exposed knockers, but it doesn’t seem too worried about that.

Are you okay?

It’s in my head, and it’s not exactly words, but like an idea that’s just occurred to you. “How are you doing that?”

It’s how we speak. Underwater, it’s difficult to communicate with sound.

“Can you make sound at all?”

Yes, but it’s not used as our speech normally. She – it – whatever it is opens its mouth and lets out a sound like a thousand bottles scattered along the beach while the wind whips across them.

“So I’ve – seen you out here before.” I start to shiver, probably sobering up.

I know. You sleep here often.

“I pass out here often, yeah.” I laugh, but this mermaid thing doesn’t seem to get the joke. “Hey, do you want a drink?” I remembered I have a flask in one of the pockets on my shorts. I pull it out of my pocket and hold it out.

She pauses, then pulls herself further up the beach (she doesn’t walk on her hind legs, but scoots along with her hands and legs, dragging her tail behind her). Sure. She struggles with the cap, I open it, and she takes a drink. She grimaces. It’s hot.

“Yeah, it definitely is. It’s whiskey. Hey, I don’t want to be rude, but would you like to tell me where you came from?” We talked until the sun started to rise behind me. She told me about huge civilizations deep below the ocean where they build poo poo out of pearl and coral and sandstone and communicate with telepathy. We agreed to meet again the next day, she’d tell me more then.

Working at the Shell station sucks, especially when I’m hung over but, I’ll be honest, the prospect of learning about mermaids makes the day go by a little quicker. I take a few pulls off my flask, steal some Doritos and, before I know it, I’m off to the beach again. I’m not drinking as much either, which is probably good – it’s hard to fend off the shakes with so little though so I find myself catching up when I meet up with the mermaid, drinking my whole day’s normal portion during our nightly conversation.

“A giant crab? How giant is this crab, Ariel?” She told me I wouldn’t be able to say her name, so I started calling her Ariel. She’s confused why, but I finally give up trying to explain Disney to her.

Bigger than a bus.

“What? Holy poo poo! That is fuckin’ fantastic.” I’m pretty hammered tonight. Brought some 100 proof vodka for the special occasion, Craziest Animal You’ve Ever Seen Night. We started theming our nightly conversations. I take a long pull off the bottle and pass it towards her.

No thank you. I don’t like that kind very much. Are you feeling okay?
I can’t hold myself up anymore and I’ve slumped over onto my side, though I don’t really know when – can’t even focus anymore. Saul, what’s wrong? She pulls herself a little closer and leans over.

It’s like there are fish hooks inside my stomach, pulling in all different directions. My stomach clenches, convulses and vomit pours out into the surf, but there’s black in it too. It swirls around and mixes with the bubbles, past Ariel and into the ocean. I try to apologize, but vomit again – there’s more blood this time, all black and sticky.

Saul, what’s going on? She’s obviously concerned, but there’s very little emotion attached to telepathy, just a sense underlying the general idea. She’s really freaking out.

“Hey – “ more puke and bile. “Hey, bring me to your house.”

You can’t breathe underwater.

My stomach convulses but there’s not much left in it, just a thin stream of hot stomach acid and blood. “Fine. Just do it.”

I think I’m about to pass out, then she grips my ankle and drags me down the beach, into the water. We pick up speed and soon I can’t tell if I’m falling through water or air anymore. For a while, it’s pitch black, but then I become conscious of huge glowing shapes in the black – creatures I don't recognize swimming past me. There’s a city, bigger than anything I’ve ever seen and glowing brilliantly before dimming,then growing dark, like the picture tube in a busted TV. Finally, something new.

EDIT: hosed up Italics tags

monkeyboydc fucked around with this message at 04:39 on Apr 29, 2013

Jeza
Feb 13, 2011

The cries of the dead are terrible indeed; you should try not to hear them.


Monoculturalism - Word Count: 1571


April 24th

The first thing people notice about Monsieur Dreyfus is his hands. Not necessarily the look of the things, though they were exceptionally delicate and feminine even for a Chinaman. It is the way they move. They follow graceful curves in long sweeps, as if adhering to some mathematical path that cannot be perceived. He tells me that he unconscious of doing it, that it is merely another facet of a greater conservation of movement, painstakingly learned by rote and repetition. I am not sure whether I believe the man. Not that I am branding him a liar, indeed I am unsure whether his honour system allows such things, but perhaps that he is hiding behind false modesty. Nevertheless, it is quite engrossing simply to watch the man traverse a corridor or perform the simplest manual tasks.

As a man of science myself, it intrigues me to see such a fusion between Occidental rationalism and Oriental spiritualism, if it is what I ascertain it to be. It grieves me greatly to say that he has turned down my invitations to perform his morning rituals before a canvas with a marking implement. Every time he smiles at me and declines politely with flawless manners and equipoise. Naturally, this only fuels my suspicions further. As hard as it is to detect humour in the man's face, I think he derives some amusement from my frustrations. I catch a flicker of a smile when he catches me watching him intently at the dinner table or while he meditates in the courtyard from my bedroom window.

Whenever I worry that I may be obsessing over nothing, I find him mapping a cubic function while drawing upon one of his diabolical opium cigarettes, as if the very air itself were a Cartesian plane, or using his fork to plot inverse tangents. What is worse is that I know from rumour that he spends much of his leisure time in the company of men like Cauchy and Poncelet – one of the only things France possesses that Britain ought to be envious of in recent times, prodigious mathematicians.

I digress. I realise I have given nothing of what I, a British Envoy, am doing frittering away my hours ogling at mysterious orientals. I am here to lend my expertise, and I use that term as lightly as possible, in Eastern affairs to our erstwhile ally France. A Chinese delegation is in Paris, the first time ever in such numbers, to discuss in earnest the future of their two nations. France, as ever, is the first to adopt the fashions and styles of a place and then the last to establish proper relations.

Monsieur Dreyfus is merely the intermediary and translator between the two. I am told he came over some thirty years past as a stowaway from Macau. He meets his ends as a teacher of the martial arts to foppish French aristocrats and as a tour guide for the rare Chinese mainlander that arrives upon French soil. I have wittered long enough on my current preoccupations. I anticipate the discussions to begin proper in a day or two once the delegation have had their fill of the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe.


April 25th

There has been a tragic hiccough before negotiations have even begun. One of the Chinese delegates apprehended a street urchin attempting to relieve him of his belongings along the Champs-Elysees. Unfortunately, the diplomat has taken grave offence at this and has relayed his desire that the culprit be executed, as is the custom in his native land. This surprises me not a little, as though I do not doubt that it is his honest desire, Chinese diplomats are usually the very image of tact in such circumstances. I conjecture that their real wish is to see that daunting creation of Monsieur du Guillotin in action.

The French Constitution, bathed in blood and blood once again though it is, does not permit it. The delegates cannot easily understand such innovations in political system, inconceivable as they are to those of hierarchical Asiatic descent. I fear this shall become a sticking point and the talks will founder before they even start, and then I shall be left at quite the loose end. I am under no true obligation to meddle in the affair but I intend to offer my counsel to Jean-Paul, who is my liaison in such matters. I shall suggest that they offer up a demonstration of their guillotine as a remedial measure to placate the Chinese curiosity in their contraption.

April 26th

I write here again surprised by the turn of events. The French have found some convenient loophole in their sacred constitution and have expedited the trial. I am unsure about how I feel about the development. I think I would have rather seen some wretched murderer dragged from the Bastille for their purposes. Such subversion of the rule of law is so typically French that I fancy myself sitting here at my writing desk in the very shadow of the Revolution itself. Despite my reservations however, it should certainly mean that negotiations are on track to be conducted.

Incidentally, I happened to witness that man, Monsieur Dreyfus, supplicating himself before his countryfolk and entreating them in his opaque native tongue. About what I cannot truly know, but my heart suggests that it was on behalf of that boy who will soon feel the cold pragmatism of diplomacy come down upon his young neck. I pray I will not seem a blind patriot to say that such a thing would not happen in England.

April 27th - Morning

Fine and sunny. With little else to divert my attention this morning, I watched from gallery of the Ministère de la Justice the hasty trial of that unfortunate thief. I call it trial, but the truth was more that it more closely resembled a summary notice of execution. The whole thing was quite the debacle. Two attendants had to remove a shrieking woman, whom I took to be the boy's mother, from the stands. It leaves one with a sour taste in the mouth to see such a thing.

April 27th - Evening

I returned to my lodgings to find a letter upon my desk. Upon perusing the contents, what do I find? An eloquent plea from none other than Monsieur Dreyfus asking me to intervene in the matter. Rarely have I read such an impassioned defense of Western ideals. He wishes deeply that the resolution be bloodless and that in time, his compatriots will adopt such enlightened views as those prevalent in Great Britain. In exchange for my aid, he cryptically offers 'ce que je désire' – that which I desire. I find myself hardly able to resist – I shall sleep upon it.

April 28th

I visited the Chinese ambassador and with Monsieur Dreyfus as interpreter, I made a good deal of promises I daresay shall never be kept. The man had at first been confused, then delighted at this mad Englishman making tangible policy concessions in exchange for the trifling life of a child, from a foreign land no less. Once the Foreign Office learns of my errant deeds they shall have my head on a platter. I find myself not caring.

Jean-Paul expressed his gratitude for whatever it was I had done to restore normality, thought I did not let on any details.

April 29th

Today Monsieur Dreyfus came to my room with an inkstone, a gigantic spindle of paper and a calligraphic brush. His demeanour was of one oddly resigned though I could not tell you why. I spent two whole hours entranced as he danced around before that vast canvas, painting spirals and waves and fractal patterns the likes of which I have never seen. Some were instantly recognisable, the easy undulations of sine and cosine and half-forgotten memories of quadratic and polynomial matrices, yet on top of those were many more that were alien to me. Who knows what secrets lies behind their lines? I intend for them to return with me to London post-haste for examination.

One thing only snags in my mind. When I offered him my hand to shake on our mutual agreement, it was not as it should have been. I cannot shake the jaunty motion of his arm from my mind's eye. It see and feel it clearly, a handshake of brittle fingers bent behind arthritic joints. The handshake of a frail old man. He bade me farewell and fair limped from my chamber as a man who had forgotten his cane.

I cannot banish this thought that something was lost in the transition from man to paper, that I have perhaps taken something that was not made to be shared. I fear I may have put the man's spirit under my microscope and in doing so have rendered it impotent. I feel as a doctor who has removed some vital organ from a cadaver only to discover that the corpse was a man merely sleeping, yet has not the skills to return it. What profitable course is left to such a surgeon?

Only to dissect the organ and attempt to rectify the deficiency. The talks are delayed and I have been recalled by the Foreign Office even faster than I had imagined. My carriage to Calais departs tomorrow at dawn and I shall be in London before May blooms.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


ugh.

Flash Rule: My theme was "blame."

There's Nothing You Could Have Done
(1,058 words)


Dave pulled into the parking lot of the hardware store just as the sky began to darken. Several weathered protest signs slid around the bed of his pickup. The store was empty. He scratched at his stubble as he traipsed up and down the aisles.

The sound of a circular saw died down and Kevin walked in through the back.

“Hey Dave, didn’t expect to see you in here; figured you’d be at the rally in town. Especially today of all days.”

“When I was a kid I’d run outside and watch it cross the sun every time,” Dave said. He inspected a box of nails, but set them back down. “Now it’s just a reminder that another 6 months has passed. It’s time for me to move on. The only thing that matters right now is protecting my daughter.”

Kevin smiled. “Well I’m glad to hear that you’re getting back to your old self. Did you see the new report that just came out, said the virus came from birds? I know it won’t fix much, but maybe it’s something worth thinking about, at least?”

“I read it.” Dave held up a box of staples. “Hey, you got these in an inch?”

“I can check,” Kevin said. “But what’d you think?”

Dave shrugged.

Kevin continued: “Well, I always wondered, why didn’t people start getting sick until fifteen years after it showed up? And if they were going to attack, why would they be broadcasting that countdown?” Kevin said, pointing to the muted TV screen showing protestors outside the state capitol building.

All of the twenty-four-hour news channels displayed a little circle icon that had been filling up like a clock over the years. Scientists said that the static emanating from the orbiting structure were fractions of pi: what they coined “a universal loading bar”. Right now it looked like it was about 11:55.

Dave rolled his eyes. “I don’t know what they have planned, and anybody who claims they do, like that bastard right there,” he said, nodding toward the presidential candidate motorcade on the TV, “Is a drat fool. But we’re supposed to believe that after they show up and we get the worst disease in modern times that it’s just a coincidence?”

Kevin picked at his nails. “Hold on while I go check on those staples,” he said, and disappeared into the back of the store.

The sun peeked out again and the daytime gradually returned.

Dave grunted: “Good riddance.”

“Hey,” came Kevin’s voice from the back, “Why don’t you come over for dinner tonight? My wife bought a whole case of steaks that I need help getting rid of before they spoil, and my daughters would love to meet your girl.” He walked out with the box of staples. “She’s twelve, right?”

Dave stopped at a car battery display. “Almost, but sorry, I don’t have time for that. I’ve got a lot to do. How much are these?”

“Well, think about it anyway. Those are about $50 each.”

Dave walked up to the front. “I’ll take a dozen of them, and these” he said, tossing a box of razor blades on the counter.

Kevin nodded. Usually when people came in looking to buy a large quantity of batteries it was because they were up to no good.

“That’s a lot of batteries,” Kevin said. “What are they for, if you don’t mind me asking.”

Dave didn’t answer immediately. “Well, I don’t want to be rude, but I’d rather not tell you.”

“Oh, ok then. I guess I’ll get a cart and load these batteries up for you.”

Kevin watched Dave drive away as the object moved away from the sun and back toward the horizon. His hand rested on the store’s phone. Twice he picked up the receiver and set it back down. Sure Dave was a little weird, but he wasn’t dangerous. Was he? They’d known each other for years, even before his wife had been taken by the epidemic. Nah. Kevin leaned on the counter and turned the volume up to hear the Senator’s plan for what his administration’s plans would be. This was the president that would have to deal with whatever happened when the timer ran out.

Dave finished hooking the batteries up to his new solar power bank. That should give his house the juice it needed when the aliens took down the power grid, he assured himself. He hammered the tacks into the carpet at the top of his stairs where his daughter had tripped and almost tumbled down. He took a long hot shower and shaved his face. He kissed his sleeping daughter on the forehead, walked past his sister snoring in the room next door, and got back into his truck.

The crowd was large and rowdy, but Dave pushed his way through to the front. The Senator read from his teleprompter and the spectators cheered. Most of them. He paused until the roar died down. “My opponent would have us meet these visitors with the full might of the U.S. Military,“ the crowd booed, “While I say we need to prove to them just how far humanity has evolved and treat them with respect and dignity!”

After the Senator wrapped up his speech, his Secret Service detail tried to usher him into his waiting car. “Nonsense!” he scolded them. “If I want to show the people that I’m not afraid of our visitors in the sky, how can I show fear of the people down here on Earth?” He walked over to the police barricade that held back the rally attendees. As he made his way along, shaking hands and posing for camera phone pictures, his security pleaded with him to come back to the hotel.

Dave held out his left hand. The Senator grabbed it. “You would kill us all,” Dave said, and held on tight. He raised his other hand and pushed the barrel of the gun against the senator’s chest. “I’m sorry,” he said, as he pulled the trigger.

Kevin stood up and grabbed his hair. “No. No, no no.” He looked at the phone he had picked up earlier and knocked it to the ground. For the first time since the craft had appeared in the sky, Kevin was afraid. On the TV, the clock ticked another minute closer to twelve.

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.



Fast judgin's good judgin', argh where's my prompt you jerks.

Jagermonster
May 7, 2005

Hey - NIZE HAT!


Didn't get it done this week. Sorry, Kleptobot. Looks like you can go against the other duelists whose partners were no-shows though.

angel opportunity
Sep 7, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Here are the revised match ups that I had to make since so many pieces of poo poo signed up and didn't submit. I did these blind without reading the submissions (except for Cancercakes). I will have my judging done by tonight, but I cannot speak for the other judges since they don't speak to me.

Sitting Here vs. Some Strange Flea
Cancercakes vs. Kleptobot
Impermanent vs. monkeyboydc

edit: The post for this week's prompt has been edited with the revised match ups, the shitheads who didn't submit, and the people I am judging. I don't have the magic vodka bottle whistle that summons Bohner handy and I haven't heard from Martello all week so who knows when the gently caress we will have a winner.

LINK TO PROMPT: http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3527428&userid=0&perpage=40&pagenumber=58#post414755821

angel opportunity fucked around with this message at 14:24 on Apr 29, 2013

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


systran posted:

Here are the revised match ups that I had to make since so many pieces of poo poo signed up and didn't submit. I did these blind without reading the submissions (except for Cancercakes). I will have my judging done by tonight, but I cannot speak for the other judges since they don't speak to me.

Sitting Here vs. Some Strange Flea
Cancercakes vs. Kleptobot
Impermanent vs. monkeyboydc

edit: The post for this week's prompt has been edited with the revised match ups, the shitheads who didn't submit, and the people I am judging. I don't have the magic vodka bottle whistle that summons Bohner handy and I haven't heard from Martello all week so who knows when the gently caress we will have a winner.

Two things - first - you're doing an incredible job and thank you for doing this. I'm sure I speak for all the pieces of poo poo when I say thank you.

Second, when you update the prompt and post a reply to let me know, (and this is REALLY a maybe if ya think about it kind of a thing) could you post a link to the original prompt? This thing goes so fast sometimes, the prompt gets lost 5 or 10 pages back.

It's not necessary, I can put in the effort and all that poo poo, but, figure, hey, since you're AT that original post, you might be able to copy a link to that one... and... I know it's a stupid idea I'll shut up.

Kleptobot
Nov 6, 2009


So do I have to resubmit my story to fit the edited prompt now or is it grandfathered in under the old one?

angel opportunity
Sep 7, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Heart

You DO NOT need to resubmit. I am just re-matching your existing submissions with other people who got shafted. DO NOT edit your story, your existing flash rule stays in place and you are up against whoever else and their existing flash rule.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Birdseed - 1167

Menacha's captains rode the solar winds out of Lyria's Reach, and with murderous haste they crossed the stellar gulf and saw at least the storms of Uhara stretch far from pole to pole. Amber bands of gruesome fire pulsed around Uhara's equator, and as elderwood hulls touched atmosphere, Menacha called out to split the fleet and scout both hemispheres. The clouds grew thick around her ship andø she exchanged a few last words with vice admiral Athons before the scry went dark. They were deep in it now, the fires of Uhara forced silence.

They broke the cloud layer over the southern hemisphere after an hour. The sea beneath bore vicious waves, but Menacha was worse than any defense the oceans of Uhara could conjure up. When they were a few hundred meters over the surface, Menacha broke a seal and opened the door to the upper deck. Rain and wind filled the cabin, but she walked out and closed the door behind her. Alone now, no crew, no scry. The rest of them would scamper out when they hit the sea, but she carried her impatience like a seal of honor. It had led her to this planet in the first place. She grabbed a rope just before touchdown, and she didn't notice the crash that rocked the ship. As the crew streamed out from the lower decks, she stared at the sea, wondered where the search would start. Behind her, masts rose and sails unfurled, and without her orders, the fleet moved.

The southern fleet spread out and began the search. Somewhere on Uhara, the last of the divine fire hid. On every ship a hundred seers chanted prayers to the Dragon, hoping to see a glimpse of the fire. Half the flock was already blind from the light, but that made it even clearer that the fire was close by. Menacha had seen the fire herself. Any other woman would have her brain burned out from the sight, but Menacha was bound by a higher purpose. To the west, wisps of land rose from the fog, and they found their first defenders.

-

The northern fleet was found by the defenders, and that spelled their doom. They dove from the skies and rose from the sea, bringing with them the fires of Uhara like so many lances. Vice admiral Athons rode his ship close to the largest Defender ship, and with a roar he focused every seers mind on the scry in his chamber. Elderwood splintered against the metal hulls of the defenders, and the vice admiral threw himself from the deck onto the other ship. With broken bones he dragged himself onto the deck, and prayed that his last sight would be sent through the scry to Menacha. A man stood over him, clad in armor and with a strange sword, but just a man.

-

The fishing village barely had time to raise the alarm before they were wiped out. The few guards gave up their weapons once Menacha's flagship landed in the main square. Four hundred soldiers leapt from the ship and dragged the villagers from their homes, and in the skies, two score ships with kept watch. Menacha roared and cut down the unarmed guards, the image of the northern fleet burning on the sea clear in her mind. Once every villager had been collected and put in the square next to the flagship, all nine hundred of them, a thousand seers surrounded them, electric arcs leaping from swords to ground as they chanted, and with a yell, nine hundred hearts stopped and the divine fire was as clear to Menacha as the sun.

They took the fleet over the mountains to the heart of the world, a charred wasteland radiating out from a brilliant point. On the surface so close to the center, water boiled and sulfur spewed from vicious vents, but the ships of Lyria's Reach were built to ride the fires of suns. Menacha gave the orders to unfurl the sails, and with greater haste and the strength of the fire they rode. Above them, the equatorial band burned bright, and as the earth blackened below, weaker minds began to scream. So close to the fire of the gods, only the strongest wills could survive. Menacha stood strong at the bow, will alone keeping the heat at bay by will alone. What remained of her crew cowered below, protected by iron and wood, but broken still.

Like a ship breaks atmosphere and welcomes the void in silence, Menacha's fleet broke the ring of fire and met the last of the Defenders. In hidden tunnels and strange gates they'd all flocked to their last refuge, to protect their most prized possession from the strangers. Menacha spread out her mind and calmed the souls of her broken crew. On every ship the Lyrians woke from the divine nightmare, and prepared to meet the Defenders. The fire which had broken Athons' fleet raced towards Menacha, but a wave of her hand forced it back. As a thousand Defenders were obliterated in the blink of an eye, Menacha realized that she was the only one who could ever complete this task. Only Menacha. Furious bolts raced from the fleet and picked off the Defenders, and slowly but surely, they lost faith, broke and fled.

The inner sanctum of the fire was calm and cold, and the last few Defenders stood there, heads bowed. Menacha touched down on soft grass, and stepped into the garden of the gods. In the center of the great circular chamber that held the garden, a single mechanical bird flew from flower to flower, resting now and again and watching the invaders. Menacha ordered her crew to stand down, and alone she approached the bird, reached out a hand and took it from its perch. It didn't protest, and Menacha held it like a child, close to her chest. All the way back to the ship, she spoke to it and listened to its answers the last of the Defenders begged and cried, screaming in a strange language. Had Menacha understood them, she would have known that they begged for entrance, but she wouldn't have granted them passage anyway. Not out of spite or anger, but because of what she knew came next.

The band was already dim as she drove the fleet from Uhara. The heat was only a shadow as they broke the clouds, and the moment they broke atmosphere, Uhara died. The bird had gone quiet, perhaps out of anticipation. They fled the dying planet and when she knew the moment approached, Menacha held no speech. Almost done, nearly there.

Menacha opened the door to the void, and the cold welcomed her. She floated out, holding the bird close. She whispered one last thing. A request, a prayer.

The fleet and half of Uhara turned to dust as the bird escaped cold lifeless hands, and the Dragon finally freed fled to feast on Lyria's Reach.

Black Griffon fucked around with this message at 19:33 on Apr 29, 2013

angel opportunity
Sep 7, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Chairchucker vs. Bad Seafood
Auraboks vs. Nikaer Drekin
JonasSalk vs. magnificent7
perpetulance vs. crabrock


I am just going to keep going back and editing this post as I finish the critiques. If your name is above just bookmark this post and check back to see if I have finished your critique yet.

These are just critiques, I will only do a line-by-line if you specifically ask me to. Feel free to ask for one if you think it will help you. I have a feeling some of you just didn't have time to edit and I only want to bother nitpicking all the horrible punctuation mistakes if you wre legitimately unaware of how bad your punctuation was.

Chairchucker

I still really want to see you try. The imagery here was wonderful; I went to sleep thinking of an immaculately dressed vampire standing on a spaceship while reading an etch-a-sketch through the window. The premise was interesting and you succeeded in being funny whenever you tried to do so. My issue is that you too often sacrifice plot and pacing to go for jokes. The entire timezone and Van Halen reference stilted the beginning of your story and had nothing to do with the plot. All of the other ridiculous elements: The etch-a-sketch, the humans being put at ease by how well the space vampire was dressed, the vampire not wearing any protective clothing, all of those elements served the plot and were also hilarious. The timezone and Van Halen poo poo, by contrast, was just tacked on and accomplished nothing other than being funny. I'm glad that, aside from the timzone/Van Halen poo poo, you had a clear narrative arc that had tension and made me care about what was going to happen.

The abrupt ending was a successful joke and very Chairchuckeresque, but I think you could have improved this by having more happen for the ending and by ending on a more dramatic note.

Bad Seafood

I didn't really feel this one. You had so many punctuation errors and it looks like you wrote near the last minute, again. The lower the word count, the better each word needs to be. The opening line is TALKING ABOUT THE WEATHER in a way that doesn't have anything to do with the plot, unless you want to argue that it relates to the plants growing at the end.

Some bad lines:

"and what’s more a repeat that he’d asked me last night"
"The angel weighed little when we pulled it from the water, yet its body weighed down as we lowered it to the earth"
"Karl had decided to leave its face open." It's beak or its face? What?
"face bowed palms together" How can you not put a comma here? Is "Face-bowed palms" the subject of the sentence?
“Please look after your son.” I'm pretty sure this should be "Your son."

Nothing much is happening here and there is no tension. The numerous punctuation errors overtake the minimalist tone you are going for; if 438 words are not clear and if using language such as, "as we were wont to do," doesn't flow effortlessly, then the 438 words fall flat. The ambiguity of whether it's an alien or an angel doesn't really work because I'm not invested enough to care either way. Your sloppy punctuation in general makes that "your" vs. "Your" distinction hazy: Are you trying to leave it lower-case so that it's intentionally ambiguous, or was it another punctuation error?

Your flow is also too choppy due to many pairs of simple sentences that should probably be combined. Your ending feels tacked on and doesn't really expand on the plot; it could be a good ending to a stronger story, but it wasn't a good ending to this one.

I'd like to see what your writing would look like if you spend more time polishing.

Winner: Chairchucker. Let me know what avatar you would like to give to Seafood or yourself.

Auroboks

Do not ever say "INJECTED" again for dialogue. I think you meant "interjected," and if you did mean to have him "inject" his thoughts into the conversation, then that is horrible.

I find it very difficult to track four characters when I am writing a short piece like this. I had issues reading yours: I thought the whole thing was from Blaine's point of view, but then he dies and I guess it's not? If it wasn't from Blaine's point of view, why did you include, "Here was a man talking about his passion, and it was a welcome reprieve after the heavy silence of the past few days"? The man talking was Malik, and Blaine was the only one who said he wished someone would talk, so why is the narrating voice expressing Blaine's desires and then switching to Malik's later on?

Weak lines:
"They brought a surprise though." O, how fun!

"More than one of them, it sounded like, but Malik still could not bring himself to move." Is he too lazy to move? Is he hurt? What is the connection between hearing more than one and still not wanting to move?"

Malik never feels like doing anything and we don't see why. It comes dangerously close to, "I watched some freaky trees and decided I didn't want to see them anymore" from a few weeks ago. The aliens are dragging the characters around and the characters aren't doing anything. In all of the words you used telling us that Malik doesn't want to do anything, you could have had him do something. I would have liked to see more dialogue between the characters rather than just people getting killed.

I liked that the arms stopped strangling him when he tried to pull them away because it implies that they probably don't mean to be hostile. But wouldn't everyone have tried to pull the fingers off their necks? Isn't that a natural reaction to being strangled?

I like the idea of the ending, but not the execution. You implied that these aliens may not intend to be hostile with the way they handled Malik, but you could have worked that in earlier and dropped more hints early on and then ended with one more ambiguous clue. If you had implied this idea rather than just said it in internal dialogue, it would have worked a lot better.

You hit the prompt and the flash rule, but work on your pacing, your perspective, and what you do with the words you use.

Nikaer Drekin

I enjoyed reading this and it was indeed very whimsical. I loved the faerie swear words and the overall cute factor. The whole thing read very clearly to me, which is more important to me than it is to others. The battle scene could have ended up being a confusing clusterfuck, but I read it and had a nice mental image of what was happening. I liked this line, for example: "The hummingbirds pushed off, streaking downward as their pin-bayonets cut through the breeze. Mandrake's teal hair streamed back, her goggles pressed into her face."

I feel like you could have cleaned up the exchange between Mandrake and the King a bit. There was a bit too much going on there, for example: "I don't know quite what to do with you, Mandrake. I made this army so that you could feel appreciated." I don't see the need for this line as it explicitly says to Mandrake that she is being humored and there is no followup later with the King. You could probably have cut out some of the buildup with the King to either develop some other aspect or to have more happen during the battle or the ending. Maybe more dialogue with Zing during the battle or having the King join in somehow would have been a better way to spend the words?

The ending was okay but I am lukewarm on it. It keeps the whimsy going, it's cute, and it feels in character for Mandrake, but it comes off slightly unmotivated and a bit of you thinking, "How should I end this?" The dialogue between the humans made them seem incredibly oafish, which I think you were going for. Maybe making them less oafish would have made the faeries seem even more cute, or maybe it would have killed your whimsical feel. I'm not sure myself. I think Mandrake should have been carried off as she was and then you could have ended with the faeries perspective rather than Mandrake's excitement at being a prisoner.

Winner: Nikaer Drekin

Jonassalk

This is an improvement over It was Cold in the Freezer, but I still didn't like it.

The premise could work somehow, but it didn't work here. The strongest part of this is when the two are meeting each other. Some of the ideas during that are good and some of them work. After the meeting you have way too much boring exposition.

"My friends were waiting for me, jumping out of their clothes with excitement." Why are they doing this? What?

The "Valley of the Curves" is such a painful and bad name. A valley implies a curve, so the name is stupid even without the "women have curves" subtlety.

"We struck hard and fast" Why not strike... HARD AND DEEP? Because it's their first time with women, I guess?

"We came in among them, pouring from the mouth of the valley where the bend had been most pronounced." This sounds disgusting.

Your metaphors feel mixed and you are implying some sexual stuff but they are "dead and dying". If you had went all-in sexual metaphors and upped the humor, you may have been able to pull off this premise. Alternatively you would have needed some very convoluted sci-fi type setting for this to be at all plausible. As is, it doesn't really work.

The entire end battle just reads as boring exposition/narration rather than something actually happening. I don't think a battle was even called for... you could have instead implied the battle and built up tensions during the initial contact, which is what worked best out of all the ideas in here.

Props though for having pretty good punctuation and no horrible errors. Keep trying.

magnificent7

Your title sucks. When I read it my head was all like WUMPPAADOOP. While I was reading this I found the whole thing, especially the bad science, very ZERRRMMMmmmmbbppzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, but after I saw the ending I felt much more ZEEP ZEEP YEEEMP!, as I felt the ending was unexpected and actually quite clever: What had been bad science suddenly made sense. Some of the science was still WOMP WOMP wommppp though, as there is no loving way that initiating contact with pi could lead to communicating complex terms to each other over the course of a few hours. Also the three taps, one tap, four taps code for pi would only work if they used a base-10 system... I guess they did?

This line was MYEEnnngunk: “Pie what? Food pie? That pie?” I'm not laughing. No one is.

Are these astronauts the same guys who were chopping down trees in Drekin's story? Why are they so dumb? You went for a lot of humor here but only the twist was funny. Even though the dipshit protagonists and the horrible science were the only thing that threw me off enough to not see the twist coming, the twist still was pretty funny. You need to either up the humor throughout or try for a more serious tone if you choose to rework this later.

Winner: magnificent7

perpetulance

This was good and you Nikaer Drekin barely beat you out for the overall winner among the people I judged. You had less "issues" than Drekin, but I liked the feeling and personality in Drekin's enough to overlook some of his shortcomings and slightly prefer his submission. You needed to make it as long as it was to build the suspense and execute your idea, but I feel that you could have done slightly more with the words that you used. You escalated the incidents of the worms forming letters: They said more the second time, BUT they said the same idea in more words. I knew what they were saying the first time they formed the letters, so the second time didn't really add anything or up the ante. You had two or three scenes of people eating the worms, and every scene just showed that they were delicious. I think you should have upped the gluttony more rapidly and to a greater extent. The protagonist did reach a higher level of gluttony at the end, but I would have liked to see more gluttonous devouring with each subsequent meal. As written, nothing quite escalates as much as it needs to to fill out the 957 words.

Despite my complaints above, I enjoyed this story and thought it was a cool idea. The take on the prompt was unique, you hit the flash rule quite well, and your writing was not bad. The ending was acceptable and worked, but I think pushing it harder (along with everything else) would have made for a stronger piece.

crabrock

This isn't set in stone rule which I can't remember how to phrase exactly, but you should follow it until you are badass enough to break it (you aren't): Your first sentence should make me want to at least read the next sentence or ideally the rest of the paragraph, the second sentence should make me want to read the next paragraph or maybe even the rest of the story? I can't remember how this rule looked when I read it and it stuck for me, but seriously your first sentence needs to hook me and your second sentence needs to sink the hook in deep enough that I can't get it out. Let's see how your first two sentences do:

1) Dave pulled into the parking lot of the hardware store just as the sky began to darken.

Who is this Dave guy? The hardware store has a parking lot? A hardware store... Woah! The sky is beginning to darken!? If you write "The sky began to darken" you might as well write: "Something bad is going to happen in my story;" it falls just as flat as explicitly saying that. Until you get really good at writing opening lines, err on the side of making it way more exciting and gently caress trying to be suspenseful. Something like, "Dave was on his way to assassinate Senator LAST NAME, but first he needed to buy some nails." would have been way better. When you give away what is going to happen in your opening line, you force yourself to create drama and tension by other means. How is he going to assassinate him? Why does he need nails (make the nails relevant to the assassination)? Why does he want to assassinate him?

2) Several weathered protest signs slid around the bed of his pickup.

This would be OKAY somewhere else, but not as your second sentence. You have already failed to hook me with your opening sentence, and this is just giving me a minor plot detail that just isn't exciting enough to be your second sentence.

The premise just didn't fall together for me. You did reveal the setting and circumstance of your world through dialogue, but the bird flu or whatever coupled with the doomsday clock didn't work very well. Any alien intelligence that could travel to our planet and rig something like that would not need to preface their attack with a bird flu that killed some people. The bird flu details didn't add to tension; they just muddled the plot. A mysterious countdown would be enough to make people start protesting and rioting on its own. If you really want to have something happen before then, a bird flu is just not interesting.

Going back to my suggestion to give away the ending and build tension in another way, let's pretend you already did that and changed nothing else. Where is the tension here? If we know Dave is going to kill the senator, is anything else that is happening compelling? We might wonder, "Why is he buying all this stuff?" He's buying it to keep his family safe after he gets taken out by the secret service, but wouldn't his family be safer with him there? Why does the majority of the story have to take place in a hardware store? Is this the most compelling build up that could happen? Between all the dialogue about the plague and buying random items from the hardware store, not enough happens.

Your shooting scene has too big a contrivance about the senator walking among the crowd. You spent so many words justifying why Dave could just walk up and shoot when you could have used them to make Dave do some MacGuyver assassination with all the random poo poo he bought in the hardware store or otherwise made the ending more exciting.

I think your entire hardware store scene could have probably been condensed down to Dave listing off all the items he needed in one utterance, Kevin asking him to dinner, Dave saying he had something else to do, and maybe some very brief banter about the doomsday clock as Dave checked out. You could have made that scene very short and fleshed out other scenes and maybe added another interesting scene.

Winner: perpetulance

Overall Winner from my crits: Nikaer Drekin
Overall Loser from my crits: JonasSalk

My overall winner will be judged against the overall winner from the other judges' choices to determine the final winner. I have perused some other entries, so even though you won here, Nikaer Drekin, I don't like your chances overall.


angel opportunity fucked around with this message at 22:52 on Apr 29, 2013

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


systran posted:

Your title sucks. When I read it my head was all like WUMPPAADOOP. While I was reading this I found the whole thing, especially the bad science, very ZERRRMMMmmmmbbppzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, but after I saw the ending I felt much more ZEEP ZEEP YEEEMP!, as I felt the ending was unexpected and actually quite clever: What had been bad science suddenly made sense. Some of the science was still WOMP WOMP wommppp though, as there is no loving way that initiating contact with pi could lead to communicating complex terms to each other over the course of a few hours. Also the three taps, one tap, four taps code for pi would only work if they used a base-10 system... I guess they did?

This line was MYEEnnngunk: “Pie what? Food pie? That pie?” I'm not laughing. No one is.

Are these astronauts the same guys who were chopping down trees in Drekin's story? Why are they so dumb? You went for a lot of humor here but only the twist was funny. Even though the dipshit protagonists and the horrible science were the only thing that threw me off enough to not see the twist coming, the twist still was pretty funny. You need to either up the humor throughout or try for a more serious tone if you choose to rework this later.

Winner: magnificent7
Thanks for this. Sadly, I'm not 100% which twist you're talking about. With only 800 words, I couldn't point out how ill-equipped both sides were for the First Contact. So instead, I felt like the ending was way too ambiguous - WERE they aliens? Or were they the Chinese? Or was Dr. Coretta just making poo poo up? I would have liked to push one of those options, but again, I was too caught up in trying to insert believable science into the story. At what point is it possible to just give up on explaining the science, and push the plot/characters/scene harder instead?

Also - I get that you're saying something about my all-caps sound effects through out the story, but I'm not sure if you're saying it sucked or it was refreshingly awesome.

magnificent7 fucked around with this message at 21:06 on Apr 29, 2013

JonasSalk
May 27, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER

I think you're getting dubstepped at.

angel opportunity
Sep 7, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Heart

magnificent7 posted:


Also - I get that you're saying something about my all-caps sound effects through out the story, but I'm not sure if you're saying it sucked or it was refreshingly awesome.

Maybe once or twice would have been appropriate but you overdid it.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


I didn't really want to finish this prompt but felt obligated to since it was vs. somebody. I hated this story with every fiber of my being and it is one of the worst things I've ever written.

Nikaer Drekin
Oct 11, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2020

VICTORY! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKO0RrM7LvI

Well, sort of. For now anyways.

Thanks for the crits, systran- Yeah, I went into this going "pssh like I'll have to go any further then 1200 words" and then it got to the point where I had to squeeze that last paragraph in. I like Mandrake a lot, though, so I'll probably explore her character further in the future. Maybe in a rewrite/expansion of this piece, maybe a new one- either way I'll keep your feedback in mind!

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JonasSalk
May 27, 2012

THUNDERDOME LOSER

Another loss for my belt. Thank you for the crits, systran. Now I gotta rewrite. And expand.

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