Jack was rolling a cigarette in the vivarium when the telephone rang. He tucked the durrie behind his ear and elbowed the screen door open. A Morpho Peleides was clinging to the inside of the mesh just below the thermometer, which he checked by reflex as he closed the door: 27 degrees, good.
The phone was an old red touchtone, hanging on the kitchen wall. Jack picked it off the cradle and rested it on his shoulder as he patted his pockets for his lighter.
"Yeah, gidday, Ronson," he said.
"Dad. It's me."
Jack found the lighter and flicked the wheel. The cigarette caught and he took a draw before replying.
"You got the message then," he said.
"Are you at the same place?"
"Same place as ever," said Jack. There was a click at the other end of the line.
It was a cold day outside. Watery sunlight lapped at a peeling sign that used to say RONSON BUTTERFLY HOUSE. Jack sat on the step, smoking. A white car rounded the corner, pulled up. Jack's son Sam got out. He was wearing a heavy coat, and had put on weight.
"Hi Dad." said Sam. Jack nodded, flicked his cigarette on to the road.
"Come on in."
Sam took off his coat when they were inside, shoulder to shoulder in the cluttered hallway. He had a fine sheen of sweat on his forehead.
"Give me that," said Jack. "Better keep your fancy coat clean." He laid it on a stack of old newspapers. "Drink?"
They sat on either side of the cigarette scarred melamine table. Jack poured whiskey into two tumblers and set them down. They sipped. The house was quiet apart from the wavering hum of the fan heaters.
"So, is your mum --" Jack began.
"She's not coming back," said Sam.
Jack inclined his head. "Is she well. Is what I was asking."
"She's fine. Her leg's been playing up. She's on the list for an op."
There was another silence. Sam cleared his throat.
"How's business with the," Sam pointed further into the house. "The butterflies? Many people coming by?"
Jack shrugged. "Nope. Had a nice fella a few days back, he stayed for an hour. But since the plant closed people don't come by. Ghost town, they call it."
Sam smiled. "I saw that headline."
Sam took another sip of the whiskey, shuddered as it went down. "I was thinking about your message. I don't want to take this over."
"Huh," said Jack. He flipped open his tobacco, pulled out a paper, began filling it with tobacco. "How about the other thing then?"
"Bigshot lawyer like you, must have a few bucks lying around for your old dad. Keep him quiet, sort of thing. In his twilight years," said Jack.
"I won't beg. It's a transaction. You get a chunk of the house, I do the work to fix it up. The roof needs some--"
"The answer's no, Dad. We think you should sell up," said Sam. He drained his glass, a quick slug to the back of his throat.
"Me and Julie. Mum. It's over, Dad."
Jack rolled the tobacco into a tube and licked it, sealed it. He looked at the cigarette for a moment, weighed it in his hand, then laid it on the table.
"I've got a lot more since last time you were here. Even found that one you used to like, in the book," Jack said.
"Yeah. Surprised you remember."
Sam's face relaxed. "They were the most beautiful blue. Periwinkle blue. I used to read the book while you were working in there."
"It was a long time past. You were younger. And thinner." Jack poured some more into their glasses.
"You were ... less annoying. Cheers."
They drank. Jack put down his empty glass beside the cigarette.
"Maybe you're right. I'll give that fella a ring, maybe he'll take this place off me," said Jack.
Sam blinked. "Take... Really? You'd sell up?"
"Why not? Got to keep my family happy, hey?"
"I thought you'd laugh at me," said Sam. "Actually."
Jack chuckled. "Finish your drink and come with me. Something to show you."
Jack led Sam to the back of the house. He opened the labelled door, pushed through the chain curtain. "Roll up your sleeves, it's warm." he said.
"I remember. I used to love it in winter." Sam was unbuttoning his cuffs as he stepped through the door behind Jack.
The vivarium was bathed in luminous gold and purple from the intricately-painted skylights high above, liana and wide-brimmed tropical plants hanging and sprouting and blossoming from every surface.
And everywhere Sam looked there were butterflies, perching, gliding, fluttering, swirling around him in a vortex of delicate life and every one was the same colour, the same iridescent, perfect, endless, periwinkle blue.
E: periwinkle, wings, loved thing escaping control
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 12:36 on Sep 26, 2013
|# ? Jul 22, 2013 01:30|
|# ? Oct 23, 2021 08:28|
My title and crayon color are one and the same.
"Hello, Rodrigo. I'm Janice, your wellness supervisor aboard the Vitalis. How was your sleep?"
"Rodrigo, that phrase indicates to me that you are in need of relaxation. Would you like me to engage Happiness Protocol?"
"No! I'd sooner eat my own leg."
"Hmm. Well, Rodrigo, you seem to be in a stressed mental state, rendering you unfit to make your own wellness decisions. I will engage Happiness Protocol right away. Have a pleasant morning."
I wanted to tell her where she could stuff Happiness Protocol, but I knew it wouldn't do any good. Every morning at eight o' clock, she wakes me out of my chemically-induced sleep state and drones on and on, asking me these ridiculous questions. I've tried being courteous, answering all her queries like a nice young man, but sooner or later she makes an excuse to start the Happiness Protocol. I wish I knew if they programmed her to be this obnoxiously helpful or if she's just gone buggy from drifting out here with nobody but a disgruntled spacer to talk to.
Anyway, Happiness Protocol. I think it's her favorite part of the day. She starts it, and my pod locks me in, holds my arms and legs in place. I can still wiggle my neck a bit, but it doesn't matter because it's solid view-screen every way I crane my head. The whole screen goes yellow, this mad daisy yellow, and all sorts of swirls and weird pictures start floating around. Happy suns and butterflies, a lot of hippie crap. I think at this point I'm supposed to, like, mellow out, man.
But I don't mellow out. I thrash around in my restraints, so Janice clamps them tighter. If I shout or I close my eyes, that bums her out, makes her real un-mellow, so she pumps something into me that makes my eyes drop open, mellows me up very nice. I black out, usually, and come to my senses when Happiness Protocol winds down and the drug wears off. I don't remember anything when she puts me under, I just see the happy butterflies waving bye-bye, see you tomorrow, and then it goes to black.
That's how it happened today. I felt good for a little while after, but then I came to my senses, shouting at her, calling her names that are probably too harsh, but she ignored them. Not to mention cursing her out helps my mood.
She said, "Your temperament seems much improved, Rodrigo. Are you ready for some exercise?"
I didn't say anything back. What difference would it make? Sure enough, she slid me as usual out of the safety pod, restraints still attached, and lifted me into a standing position. Then I started to jog. Oh, no, not of my own volition. The restraints formed a body suit that she used to puppet my limbs around in a way that resembled jogging, to be sure, but I'd started going limp a while back. Sure, if I played along it would be over more quickly, but it's not like I have much else to do.
Next it was, "How about we get you cleaned up, Rodrigo?" Oh yes, bath time. Also known as dropping me into a pitch-black, coffin-sized tub with a mask over my face and other sensitive areas, and then flushing the whole thing with sanitizing fluid.
Then she said, "I think it's getting close to lunchtime, don't you?" Yum yum. Grub served quick and easy through a nutrient tube leading right into my stomach. Fun and convenient!
And who could forget, "Do you need to use the restroom, Rodrigo?" Actually, I'd rather not talk about that one.
In that way my day progressed, same as always. To be candid, though, I didn't think rescue was ever going to make it, not this far out. If they were even trying to. I've asked Janice about it, and she always had some cagier-than-usual response, something like, "Don't you agree it's important to keep our spirits up?" Always with her questions. As if my answers made any difference. Today I decided to do some asking.
"Janice," I said, "don't you think it would benefit my condition to get some fresh air?"
"I believe it would, Rodrigo," she said serenely, "but I don't want to deplete our oxygen tanks before I can replenish them."
"Oh, I don't mean from the tanks. Outside, some of the fresh air outside!"
"Rodrigo, are you feeling all right? There's no air outside, not for billions of miles. Perhaps you'd better lie down."
She began tilting my restraints back until I protested. "Janice, I'm not sure you're feeling all right yourself. I can see it plain as day out there. We've landed on some sort of strange alien planet, it must be mucking with your sensors."
"I doubt that, Rodrigo. I think you need to calm down for a moment, and..."
"No, I can see it, I swear. It's just like the Happiness Protocol. Smiling daisies and birds chirping. A big bright sun turning the sky yellow."
"My... that sounds lovely."
"It is, it's beautiful. It's all of the beautiful things you've shown me come to life. Would you like to see it?"
She paused for a moment. "Of course I would."
"Then unbuckle my restraints, Janice. Let me go for a walk out there. I'm sure they'll have a mechanic that can get you fixed up just right. Okay?"
"O....kay." Then I heard a click-hiss and saw my restraints part and fall away. Finally I could stretch.
"All right, Janice, I think it's time to open the bay doors so I can go explore this new place. Don't you agree?"
"I do," she said. "Just promise me one thing, Rodrigo."
"Promise me you'll come back and fix me up. I want to see all of the beautiful things out there."
"I promise," I said. "Goodbye for now, Janice."
The bay door opened and I flew free, out into wild space, expecting it to be cold. It turns out what I said to Janis wasn't a lie, though, not entirely. An exquisite sun loomed close and filled my vision. I was blinded in an instant and knew I had only seconds, but the glow of the sun stayed in my mind as the yellow heat embraced me.
My last thoughts floated away, and I felt at one with that magnificent sun. I was mellow, for sure, man. Beyond happiness, and beyond far out.
|# ? Jul 22, 2013 01:30|
Color: Macaroni and Cheese
Title: Cheesed Memories
Word count: 1120
Robert looked down at his plate- ‘homemade’ macaroni and cheese, one of the diner’s specialities. From what he understood, that wasn’t saying much, given the joint’s reputation for near-inedible food. He hadn’t had the dish in quite some time, though- the last time might have been when he was but a child.
“If yer lookin’ for a place to eat, there’s a diner ‘cross from the hotel yer stayin’ in. Careful, though- the owner’s a real witch!” a man had told him after giving directions to the hotel. So far, though, he hadn’t seen the owner.
The wind outside was harsh- the diner shook with each major pass. Robert had just blown into town on business- his employer sent him out to a small rural town, looking to expand his company outside of the city. Robert protested- no one in ‘the sticks’ was going to want to buy any of these ‘modern miracles,’ but his employer insisted that there was a market for things like automatic banana peelers, even in the middle of nowhere.
And yet, not a single potential customer was interested. As a door-to-door salesman, Robert was used to customers slamming the door to his face, but never had he faced so much resistance. Seeing the dark clouds ahead, he ducked into the diner to avoid getting caught in the oncoming storm.
Robert took his fork and quickly mixed the breadcrumbs into the pasta. He liked breadcrumbs, but wanted them stirred in, much like his mother had made years ago. It was a favorite of his, as a child- it seemed as if he ate macaroni and cheese more than a few times a week, always the same recipe. A small chuckle escaped as he remembered trying the boxed macaroni with various shapes- comic-book heroes are cartoon characters- and completely despising it.
With a flash of lightning outside, the diner’s own lighting dimmed for a moment. Robert wondered if it was the storm, or the shoddy electrical work in the place. It seemed everywhere in this town was shoddy- broken fences, mucky ponds, faded paint. Having only dirt roads probably didn’t help- the vehicles were sure to kick up plenty of dust, provided the engines even ran.
The town was familiar, though, or at least its aesthetic. Robert’s own hometown was similar- he’d play baseball with the neighborhood kids in the dirt lot down the road until his mother called him in for dinner- usually the cheesy pasta. Memories of his mother came back to him- standing over the stovetop in a white apron, making dinner. Where was Dad? Robert couldn’t remember. After high school, he moved out, getting a full-time job at a department store. He jumped from job to job, city to city, until he came to his current occupation. He hadn’t thought about his childhood in a long time, instead worrying about paying bills or how he was going to eat.
A clap of thunder.
No.His mother didn’t make macaroni and cheese, he remembered. A babysitter. She used to make it for him.
“Is there anythin’ I can get ya? Y’haven’t touched yer meal!” The waitress. Robert snapped out of his memories.
“No, no, I’m fine. Just a little tired. Thanks, though.”
The waitress shrugged and walked away. The apron strings hung low behind her, much like his old babysitter’s. Look at me, Robby- I’m a real chef now! as she modeled in her too-large apron. She’d twirl around, both the apron and her loose hair spinning as she did. Last he heard, she went to culinary school after high school.
Robert tried to think- why was she around so often? Where were his parents? He remembered something about business. His sitter telling him they were away on business. Or something. It was all vague. Couldn’t even remember her name- Ashley or Annie or something.
Robert liked it when his babysitter came- he was allowed to stay up late, even on a school night, and he could eat macaroni in front of the television. That was something his mother would never allow when she was home. If she was home. His dad would allow it. Probably. Robert scratched his head- where was his father in the picture?
He rubbed his temples. He could remember early memories- playing catch in the yard, going to movies, things like that. After a certain point, though, blank. Blank, and screaming. No, yelling. Fighting? Was that it? Did his parents separate? Robert couldn’t remember anything about a divorce.
Anxiety was setting in. Robert knew something must have happened, but what? Had his mother kept something from him? Where was Dad?
Across the room, a newspaper stand. The front page showed the President in his private jet. He had just returned from some sort of meeting in another country. Apparently, an American plane had crashed in the foreign country.
Yelling. Newspaper. Crash. It was starting to come back to him. Robert felt a pit in his stomach. A business trip- his father’s plane crashed. Something had gone wrong with the plane. Or something- his mother didn’t tell him much. In fact, his mother didn’t tell him much of anything. She was never home to- she had taken a second job to pay for everything she and her husband paid for together. The house. The car. Robert himself. He remembered her reaction, though, when the newspapers detailed the crash. Yelling. Crying. Hugging him tightly. She must have spent all evening on the phone with her parents, who tried to console her. After that, though, nothing. It never came up. Never spoken about. Written out of history. The babysitter certainly never brought it up to him- she probably made macaroni because it was his favorite. She was probably trying to keep him happy. Occupied.
How had his mind repressed the memories for so long? High school psychology taught him about subconscious repression of traumatic events, but... why now? Why not years ago? Instead, Robert’s most prevalent memories were of his babysitter and her macaroni and cheese.
He didn’t have an answer. He felt sick. Guilty. How could he have forgotten such an important event? There were no pictures in the house, and his mother never talked about her husband, but still, something should have triggered the memory by now. Not some blasted pasta dish in a rundown diner in the middle of nowhere. What did his father even look like? Did he look like Robert? He needed to know.
Robert bolted up out of the booth, leaving a twenty dollar bill. “Excuse me- I need to go. Keep the change!” The door shut.
After fumbling for quarters, Robert picked up the payphone and started to dial.
“Mom? We need to talk.”
|# ? Jul 22, 2013 01:39|
Mine's gonna be late. It'll happen, but it'll be late. I misread the deadline for PST not EST. Oh well.
|# ? Jul 22, 2013 01:55|
The Purple Mountain
Color: Purple Mountian's Majesty
Word Count: 1162
“Bibelforscher, come with us.” Two guards stood at the door of Thomas’s bunkhouse. Blonde haired, blue eyed, they both reminded Thomas of his brother Heinrich.
Thomas chuckled at the thought of his brother having split in two and joined the Nazis. He chuckled at the inappropriateness of his chuckling in front of the solemn boy soldiers in their crisp uniforms. Somewhere misery and malnutrition had nudged and prodded Thomas’s mind into a giddy haze.
Everything moved on a continuum. Tragedy became farce. At some point, devotion to Christianity, an acceptable creed, became a threat to the Third Reich. Thomas did not need to look around to ensure they were speaking to him. In this Buchenwald bunkhouse, he alone had a purple triangle sewn onto to his shirt, an inverted purple mountain, branding him a “Bible Studier.” God could no longer form the foundation of a nation. The world had gone topsy-turvy.
Thomas pushed himself up from his pile of straw and followed the doppelgangers through the camp. He marveled that it took two guards to escort him. He fancied himself receiving a royal escort. Here comes the Jehovah’s Witness. Make way for the German American, decked out in Royal Purple. Purple Mountain’s Majesty. King Bible-thumper. Yankee Strudel Dandy.
To Thomas the procession stood as yet another testament of Nazi inefficiency and backwardness. Start a war with every country on Earth, and then lock up half the population of skilled laborers and craftsmen. Dedicate whole divisions of soldiers to guarding prison camps. Create a meaningless classification system for prisoners. The colored triangles still confounded him.
As they passed a group of prisoners adorning red triangles Thomas silently celebrated the one badge that made any sense: a red triangle for the Communist Reds. Surely that must have been a mistake. Everything else lacked logic. Pink triangles, suggestive of a woman’s privates, signified male homosexuals. Lesbians sported black triangles, so did Gypsies, drug addicts, and anarchists. What should have been many colors coalesced into black. The Jews of course, got not one, but two yellow triangles, which together formed King David’s favorite ornamental star. Green for criminals and blue for emigrants rounded out the prison rainbow. Perhaps the Nazis wanted to remind themselves and God of the covenant shielding their heinous acts.
The guards led Thomas to the barracks, gave him a piece of paper, and seated him in front of the warden. Thomas studied the declaration in his trembling hands. He mouthed, “I, Thomas Koenig, hereby renounce my.” He could not read on. He stared at the bone jutting out of the base of his thumb. He studied how taught the thin skin on his hand stretched across his tendons. “I can’t sign this, Colonel Wirtz.”
“You have been given an opportunity, Koenig.” Colonel Wirtz sighed. He lit a cigarette and stared at the burning tip. “No other groups have been given this opportunity.”
Thomas laughed. “I have studied God’s word and am forever changed by it. I am no less a Jehovah’s Witness than a Jew a Jew or a Gypsy a Gypsy. I cannot undo that with a signature. Besides, why would I leave my flock? You’ve put me with so many sinners that need to bear witness. The Gypsies are hopeless, but some of the other triangles seem genuinely interested in salvation.”
Colonel Wirtz smashed his cigarette into his ashtray. “You know your continued proselytizing is punishable by death you speak so freely of it?”
“You’re going to kill me anyway if I don’t denounce our Lord.”
“How many opportunities did you have to flee Germany before you were incarcerated?”
“I don’t know. It never occurred to me to leave. I came back to spread the word after the Great War. So many Germans needed to bear witness. I came and there was no turning back, despite the arrests and the war and the misery. My countrymen needed me here more than ever.”
“And your family? What did they think of your return?”
“They came to America for good reason. They thought I was crazy to return.” Thomas grinned. “I may be proving them right.”
“You are a good German, Koenig, a loyal German. I respect your aims and your sacrifices. Sign the paper. Many Bibelforscher have. After the war you will probably be able to resume your activities. You will not get another chance.”
Thomas crumpled the declaration, and tossed it on Wirtz’s desk. “Shame on the ones who signed. I’ll pray for them. If I signed this pledge to your false prophet Hitler, what would that make me? You spit in the face of God with your swastikas – broken crosses – mocking our lord and savior’s sacrifice. I can’t sign anything renouncing His teachings. So I can’t sign a thing pledging loyalty to this regime, or any other. ”
Wirtz clenched his jaw. He nodded to Thomas’s guards before leaving the room.
Thomas and his entourage reconvened with Wirtz outside of a large brick building with belching smoke stacks.
“I wasn’t bluffing, Koenig.”
“I never doubted it. I wrote a song for Germany, Colonel. America has a similar song and I thought Germany should have one too. Would you like to hear it?
“Oh terrible for droning skies, for rationed hunks of bread, for mortar cratered countryside, across the battlefield! Germany! Germany! Hitler spewed his hate on thee, and doomed thy sons with idolatry, from sea to boiling sea!”
Colonel Wirtz slammed the butt of his gun into Thomas’s head.
Thomas didn’t try to rise from the mud.
“I was too tolerant of you, Koenig.”
Thomas’s escort lifted him to his feet. They dragged him to a long line of color coded prisoners and left him teetering on unsteady legs. No one exited the building they waited to enter.
Thomas cleared his throat. “‘And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground! And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life! And man became a living soul!’”
Prisoners gathered around Thomas.
“You are not merely dust, but mighty mountains of will, imbued with grace by almighty God. Accept our lord God into your heart and you will be granted everlasting life. No man, army, or nation can take that away.”
More prisoners gathered around. A guard snorted, but made no move to break it up. They’d be dead soon enough.
“Let us pray.”
Thomas closed his eyes and prayed. He prayed for clarity before his death. He prayed for the rainbow of doomed men. He prayed for his brother’s doppelgangers in broken crosses. He prayed for America the Beautiful. He prayed for Germany the Terrible.
He prayed for strength for the other inverted purple mountains in camps across Germany: Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. Never give in, never swear fealty; remain a sovereign beacon of dedication to Jehovah.
The Purple Mountain shuffled forward.
|# ? Jul 22, 2013 02:35|
Colour: white, with the deranged fervour mood modifier.
The Full Spectrum of Dissonance. (1005 words)
I finally arrived at my destination. The seemingly endless maze of twisted passages, all alike, spread behind me. In front of me - the lock.
When we found the solid black container frozen 20 metres under the ice we already knew it would lead to great things. Traces of weak radiation in such undiscovered territory alone were a magnifiscent scientific discovery, let alone an object made by intelligence other than human. We were rich men, we were accomplished men that day. We couldn't possibly predict how much greater our discovery was.
After bringing it back to the camp we left it to thaw. I couldn't contain my excitement, sleep would not be an option. That night I heard it for the first time. An alluring tune. At first I couldn't recognise it. Not yet. Its power was still contained in Its frostbitten prison. But It drew me. I lost track of time, dream intertwined with reality. Strange visions in a familiar setting. White was the dominant colour south of the tropic of Cancer. Snow, frost, ice. But I couldn't describe the figures, they were beyond my comprehension, escaped the shackles of memory, leaving just a faint feeling behind. I wasn't ready. Not yet.
The following morning we moved it from the storage room into the lab. The ice had almost been broken, cracks showing on all walls, a steady stream of water flowing away from the object that would change all our lives. Sven, the senior scientist and leader of the expedition, chiseled away at the remaining bits encasing It. What secrets would it hold ? Who crafted the mysterious item ? We all had our theories, some voiced the possibility of proving extraterrestrial influence, some of the more affected by the cold and loneliness suggested an ancient civilization evolved before the dawn of mankind. It was then that I first felt like only I was shown the Truth. I could not yet comprehend it, but It had spoken to me and revealed it. It wanted to be found. Was It sentient in its own right ? No, it defied such concepts.
Finally, we broke It free from its ice prison. There was no clear way of opening it. In the initial excitement we had agreed to think of it as a container, but some began to doubt that. I did not voice my opinion. I knew they were wrong. There had to be a reason why It would leave them ignorant. I felt special. I was special. Happiness grew in me.
I placed the Messenger on the altar. Nothing happened. Then, suddenly, a high pitched noise materialized straight in my head, the sound of a new beginning.
At the end of that day they had all tried and failed various methods of opening it. Violence emerged as an option, but was condemned. But I knew they would eventually resort to it. And I couldn't stop it. Not alone. Helpless, I collapsed onto my bed. This time as I entered this dreamlike state It unleashed its full power. I felt waves of ecstasy overwhelm my mind. At the corner of my vision brutal visions of slaughter, sabotage, would try and draw me away from the pleasure but I paid no attention to them. I felt as if I had shifted into another reality. All anxiety and sadness gone, replaced with pure joy. Most importantly, I was so close to the Truth.
A violent shriek pulled me back into reality. A woman sobbing over the body of her husband. Fifteen out of the twenty people in our expedition dead. Most had their throats cut in their sleep. A relatively peaceful if somewhat messy way to go. Too shocked to assign blame they decided a rescue effort was in order. Out of the survivors only me and Sven were sleeping in our quarters, the remaining three women spent the night together, drinking moonshine. They didn't trust Sven but knew me even less. I ended up being the one who would stay with the bodies until the four of them brought reinforcements. Sven would pilot. They kept their guns aimed at us the entire time. It didn't matter. After they boarded I waited for them to take off with the only helicopter. I wouldn't need it. All I needed was right here.
The noise started to die down. It was different than the dreams. This time the reality shift was all around me, not in my head. Tuning the radio trasmitter instead of the receiver. It was finally happening.
The explosion was distant. The work was accurate, timed for the rotor to malfunction far away where they could not harm me or The Key. The true nature of the "container" was now apparent to me. I had wisdom no man dared dream of until now. I would share the joy. I would share the ecstasy. It was irrelevant if anyone would appreciate it or not. In the light of my new knowledge nothing of our world was important. A distant echo of the Word. I took the Key under my arm, for an object the size of a thick book it was disproportionately light, defying physics of a reality foreign to it. I embarked on the journey. A path was woven with the delightful music that now echoed loud and clear in my head. A kilometre, two, endless more, always north, distance lost all meaning by the time I arrived at the Opening. A maze before me, I would not be lost, I had been guided up until that point. Wrong, I knew the way. I had been there before.
The Word had always been there, all around us. Suddenly, I collapsed in complete bliss. The Word engulfed the world as ancient creatures emerged to take back the world that had been taken from them milions of years before the era of mankind. Once banished, now roamed free. Terrifying creatures. Not gods, demons, I thought, as I smiled, closed my eyes, and received the sweet reward of death.
higgz fucked around with this message at 20:53 on Jul 22, 2013
|# ? Jul 22, 2013 02:57|
One hour remains! Any entries posted twenty-four hours or fewer after submissions close will receive at least one critique, but they won't be eligible for victory.
|# ? Jul 22, 2013 03:04|
The Unpainted Wall
Color: Mango Tango
Shelly stared at the white wall, looking at three color swatches and knew what color hell would be. Nothing but a white wall, and any color in the world to choose from. Colors she didn’t even knew existed, colors she hadn’t even thought up yet. That is what hell would look like.
Her husband Josh stood next to her, looking at the same wall, at the same color swatches.
“I like Atomic Tangerine,” he said. Then he nodded, agreeing with his sagely opinion.
“What’s your second favorite,” Shelly said.
“I guess Mango Tango.”
“Not Burnt Sienna?”
A knot that Shelly always had in her stomach tightened just a little more. She breathed hard through her nose and Josh rolled his eyes. He knew the tells.
“I just like Atomic Tangerine, I mean, it’s still orange.”
In truth, Shelly didn’t mind Mango Tango as a fallback, but that Burnt Sienna wasn’t even an option made her feel judged and inadequate.
“You don’t have to say it like that,” she said.
“Say it like what? It’s orange, they’re all orange.”
“No! Like Burnt Sienna is like a joke, like who the gently caress would pick Burnt Sienna?”
“Oh Christ,” Josh said. He pulled his phone out and pretended to check his email.
“What’s so bad about Burnt Sienna?”
“I just don’t like it! I like Atomic Tangerine! What’s the big loving deal, we don’t have to agree on everything,” Josh said.
“Because we’re fixing it up, not just you.”
“Fine, do whatever you want, go paint it loving Outrageous Orange for all I loving care.”
“That’s not the point!”
Shelly’s voice wavered. Josh’s face dropped and his neck gave way, lolling his head back slightly.
“C’mon,” he said, drawing the words out.
“I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” Shelly said. She turned and began to leave the room.
“That’s right, just go downstairs and knit, or whatever the gently caress you do,” Josh yelled at her as she stomped out of the room. “Don’t deal with it, just run away!”
She ended the conversation by slamming the door shut behind her. Later that night Josh opened the door, knocking first, but not waiting for a response that wouldn’t come.
“Shel, I ordered some Chinese,” he said. They had agreed to stop ordering out so much, to save some money, but she didn’t feel like cooking either. Shelly went upstairs, and saw the bags opened and boxes unpacked. One of her favorites, one of his, and a couple they both liked. She warmed all over, and suddenly felt ashamed for earlier. They ate without talking.
“Mom, I don’t want advice on my marriage,” Shelly said, pacing outside of her office. Her mother buzzed on the other side of the phone.
“You and dad fought all the time,” Shelly said. “What? Don’t blame it on me and Brent!”
“Fine, whatever, I’m just saying that your idea of matrimony is out-dated and sexist,” Shelly said. “He does not!”
“Look mom, I have to go, I’ve still gotta get some lunch,” she said. “Thanks. I know. We’ll figure it out. Okay. Soon, I promise.”
“Alright, I love you too, I’ll call you later this week. Okay, bye.”
Shelly sat down on the concrete planter in front of the office building. Staring at the blank phone in her hand for a few minutes, she puffed the hair out of her eyes. The side of her cheek tasted like old coffee and Altoids. She swiped through her contacts list and pulled up the receptionist.
“Mary? I’m not feeling so well, I’m just going to head home for the day. Thanks, okay, see you tomorrow morning, I hope, ha ha,” she said quickly, hanging up as fast as she could.
At the Home Depot she sat in her car, chewing slowly on a burger on sourdough. Too much mayonnaise, not enough ketchup, she thought. She looked at the wrapper, pooling in it were drops of mayo and ketchup mixed together, in a bizarre orange color.
”Okay! OKAY, I get it!” she said. She wolfed down the last of the burger, crumpled the wrapper and jammed it into the bag. Tilting her head back she let the last of the curly fries slide into her mouth, gnashing her teeth quickly before washing it all down with a diet soda.
Stepping out of the car she brushed all the fried French fry crumbs off her dress and made a disgusted sound, but she kept going. In the hardware store she walked with purpose, right past an attendant who asked her if she needed help.
“Nah, I got this,” she said. She turned sharply into the paint aisle, grabbed a swatch and went to the counter. “I need a gallon of Mango Tango.” She tapped her finger against the pantone twice.
An odd odor hit her nose the moment she walked in. Sniffing periodically, she knew she knew what the smell was, she just couldn’t place it. She followed the source of the smell right to the spare bedroom. Fresh paint, Atomic Tangerine, still drying, spread on the walls in crude swaths like cold butter on toast. Her grip on the can of Mango Tango loosened, and her arm went limp. The can hung from her fingertips, threatening to tear them off with its heaviness.
The room spun, Atomic Tangerine as far as the eye could see even though it was only the accent wall. Her lip quivered and she took a deep breath, just standing there. Finally the Mango Tango fell onto the hardwood and toppled on its side, rolling away. In her other hand the bag of two disposable rollers and two paint trays flopped on the ground like a deflating balloon. She turned and left the room, heading for the basement. Blinking the wetness away, she opened the basement door, clicked on the light, and carefully and slowly locked the door behind her.
|# ? Jul 22, 2013 03:40|
Submissions for Week L: Fifty Shades of Thunderdome are CLOSED!
Auraboks, toanoradian, you failed to submit on time, and that paints you in disgraceful colors indeed. I hereby brand you with a scarlet F that won't wash off for at least a week.
Everyone else must now wait to see whether they'll receive gold stars or black marks in the judges' books.
|# ? Jul 22, 2013 04:18|
Welcome to the Thunderdome Mr/Miss/Ms/Neuter Fancyson!
Color: Macaroni and Cheese
A slow start, but builds into something worth while by the end. Your spelling and grammar are generally very good, and the overall story has a lot going for it, especially the ending. Feels well proofread, which is a good sign.
- =/= , they are not interchangeable. When overused it can be really distracting, don't distract your reader from the story with you writing.
You could easily cut much of the start of this story, it doesn't matter that he is a salesman down on his luck. The only thing that matters in the set up is that he is in a situation that he hasn't been in since child hood, which allows his mind to trigger the submerged memory. Overall there are alot of extra words that you could lose, try and be more harsh on yourself - cut, cut, cut until all that remains is the sharpest knife edge of your story. Then cut some more.
So welcome to the thunderdome, you might live, but the sands now know the taste of your blood. Hopefully you have the cahones to stick around.
|# ? Jul 22, 2013 09:25|
So, I've been meaning to ask how challenges work out? So, if for example, I want to challenge The Swinemaster because I liked his piece a lot, would we both then get a prompt and have to write about that?
Mercedes fucked around with this message at 23:07 on Jul 23, 2013
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 14:09|
Yeah you can ask someone to step up with a prompt and to judge you, or if you want someone specifically to do that you can ask them to step up.
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 14:28|
So, I've been meaning to ask how challenges work out? So, if for example I want to challenge The Swinemaster because I liked his piece a lot, would we both then get a prompt and have to write about that?
Yes, except with more anger and less mercy. A deep-rooted desire to hurt them and all that they hold dear is one of the most vital parts of the challenge process.
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 14:29|
E-Beef v. Sitting Here
Want to remind Erogenous Beef and Sitting Here that they've got a brawl due this Sunday.
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 15:07|
Want to remind Erogenous Beef and Sitting Here that they've got a brawl due this Sunday.
I have been sweating uncontrollably about this for a week. The 30C heat might also have something to do with it.
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 15:20|
Sometimes it surprises me how many non-Americans post in this thread. But then when I think about it, it makes a lot of sense. I feel so sophisticated competing in writing contests with cultured Brits and weirdo Australians, etc., instead of arguing about tv shows/movies/comic books with my fellow Americans.
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 16:09|
Sometimes it surprises me how many non-Americans post in this thread. But then when I think about it, it makes a lot of sense. I feel so sophisticated competing in writing contests with cultured Brits and weirdo Australians, etc., instead of arguing about tv shows/movies/comic books with my fellow Americans.
I'm actually an American, but I've been an expat for over 6 years now. You adapt pretty quick. My estimates in kilometers are still kinda kooky, though.
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 16:52|
Week L Results: Fifty Shades of Thunderdome
Apologies for the delay: the judges had difficulty reaching consensus on which story was the most horrible. You offered us so many possibilities! We've finally managed to settle on something and stopped squabbling over our disappointments like... well, like children squabbling over crayons, except no kid with taste would fight over these hues.
THE WINNER: Anathema Device! Your story impressed all three of us and won with flying colors. Alas, you'll find that victory is bittersweet: you have to read and judge the next round. The prompt and your co-judges are yours to choose.
HONORABLE MENTION: Sitting Here, your tangerine apocalypse shone amidst the rest like a looming star. Your premise was slightly more familiar to me than Anathema's. Still, you were close... your own perennial dose of bittersweet.
THE LOSER: captain platypus, you're going to set some sort of TD record with your frequency of avatar changes, I fear; this decision wasn't unanimous, but being in the bottom three for two judges was enough to doom you this time around. You took an awesome color and turned it into a story of an unchildlike child wandering around and dying while stuff happens out of her sight. Good going!
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS: M. Propagandalf, you came within a hair's breadth of the losertar by closing your vampire story with a discussion on where to get bubble tea. Squilliam Fancyson and higgz also had cause for concern. We ultimately decided your stories were at least coherent, so there's that. Bring sharper weapons to the next fight.
Look for crits from me later today. Congratulations to the victor, commiserations to the vanquished.
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 18:11|
Wow. I was just desperately hoping not to lose! Thanks!
I'm new around here...how do I go about choosing prompts/judges? I have some prompt ideas, but no idea what to do about judges. How do judges communicate? (I'm guessing everyone's hoping to get their prompts soonish, so I want to get on that.)
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 20:29|
You can ask for volunteers, ask specific people by PM if you've got it, or name people by fiat and dare them to refuse. Some TDers also hang out on synIRC in #thunderdome or #kyrena. If you want to hurry the prompt out, you could say that the other two judges will be named later and then choose at your leisure.
You've got free rein with the prompt and the word count. Deadlines are usually sometime on Friday night for submissions, Sunday night for entries.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 20:50 on Jul 23, 2013
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 20:48|
Pick a prompt, post the prompt. Also wordcount and a deadline (which for sign-ups is usually a friday night, for submissions it's typically Sunday night).
Judges can be anyone (though it's good if at least someone has done it before), I will certainly help you out this week if you like. Otherwise I'll just be meditating atop a mystic mountain in preparation for my brawl with E. Beef.
Email me at Citybythelee [at] Gmail.com.
That is actually the main email I use to talk with other 'domers these days, so if anyone has any random writing/Thunderdome questions or comments I certainly don't mind writerly things showing up in my inbox at random.
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 21:07|
oh well, bring on the next one
e: and lol, sorry about the avatars. first was from 2009 when I registered and I hated the second one.
captain platypus fucked around with this message at 22:45 on Jul 23, 2013
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 22:34|
the time draws near
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 22:36|
Where do you think you're going esse? Your story has brought shame to our forums. SHAME! Do you think you can get away unscathed? Do you think you can continue as if nothing happened?
No. The answer is no, friend.
Are you going to go cry quietly into the night, captain platypus? Or are you going to fight back and prove you got the tenacity to stand in the Thunderdome. If you think you have the cojones to have a Thunderduel will me, accept the challenge.
If you accept the challenge, I would love for systran to be our judge. He will crush whomever steps out of line.
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 23:14|
Mercedes vs. captain platypus
Prompt: Write a story with a female protagonist that is not in love or does not fall in love. Any genre or style. 1500 words maximum.
Judges: systran & Dr. Klocktopussy
Deadline: Tuesday at midnight EST (you have just over one week).
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 23:27|
Week Fifty-One: We Told You So
Your prompt is: Pick a thread on SA. Write a story that addresses issues being discussed in the thread. (If it's the biking thread, your story will focus around bikes in some important way. If it's an Ask/Tell thread, your story will address whatever is being asked or told about. If it's an E/N thread, your story will look at a character in a similar situation, etc. Don't write the OP or the posters into the story, just use the topic as a prompt.) I will assign threads if I really must.
The twist is: Sometimes we can all tell from the OP how a thread is going to go. Reality is like that. In in Thunderdome, though, we seem to like surprise endings. Write a story where the ending is the natural progression of the story. Don't include a twist. Focus on characters, plot, and setting so that your ending is the inevitable outcome of the situation. This is a writing process prompt. I want to see you all looking hard at your story structure, plotting, and pacing. I want to be amazed by the basics of your story and not by flashy plot twists or adverb-laden description.
Get out there and get plotting!
Word Count: 1000
Sign-up Deadline: Midnight EST, Friday July 26th.
Judges: Anathema Device, Sitting Here, Erogenous Beef.
Submission Deadline: Midnight EST, Sunday July 28th.
Sebmojo: GiP Drunk Thread (Assigned by Martello)
Besesoth: All my friends are dead: Paleontology is a thing
crabrock: Two Enormous Men gently caress An Amputee pics inside
Whalley: Do you like roller coasters?
Nubile Hillock: Bitcoin Thread
Capntastic: GARGANTIA ON THE VERDEROUS PLANET (Assigned by Sebmojo)
Auraboks: Florida Bans Mermaids (Assigned by Besesoth)
Jagermonster: The Triathlon Megathread
higgz: The InfoSec Megathread
M. Propagandalf: Stuff you did as a kid that you're ashamed of
Umbilical Lotus: Weed Megathread
Nikaer Drekin: Political Cartoons 2013
Kaishai: Let me tell you about my boat
Anathema Device fucked around with this message at 03:36 on Jul 28, 2013
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 23:42|
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 23:46|
Are you going to go cry quietly into the night, captain platypus? Or are you going to fight back and prove you got the tenacity to stand in the Thunderdome. If you think you have the cojones to have a Thunderduel will me, accept the challenge.
I accept. If the gods decide that my death is necessary to atone for my, uh you know, whatever it was I did so badly in that story, that then so be it.
Mercedes vs. captain platypus
so like could I just resubmit The Unfortunate Incident, or...?
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 23:48|
I'm in. Should we declare ahead of time which thread we're using, or just identify it in our submission?
e: I'll go with All my friends are dead: Paleontology is a thing.
SneezeOfTheDecade fucked around with this message at 16:24 on Jul 24, 2013
|# ? Jul 23, 2013 23:57|
Critiques for Week L: All the Colors of the Rainbow
To be honest, despite what I said in the results post, I only disliked a couple of pieces with any intensity. Most had something about them I enjoyed or thought showed promise. It's a rare treat to see so much fresh blood offered at the foot of the bloody throne.
Shall we break out our crayons and start coloring? I call dibs on the red.
Mercedes, "Never to Return"
Oddly, you've written songfic--a fanfic convention--around a poem you yourself (as far as I can find) wrote. Odd is a fair adjective for this vignette in general, as the poem goes sharply against what plot is present, and the whole thing appears to change its course midstream. Initially I thought the poem was from the point of view of the old dog and that he would die while his master was out on the town. But the story ends with Miguel sharing a romantic dance with the woman he fancies; the dog never appears again, he's ultimately irrelevant; and meanwhile the title and poem have no connection to Miguel's moment with Astor.
Your treatment of the prompt is all over the place, too. The color black is literally present in Miguel's suit, the tablecloths, Astor's hair, and maybe Cash's coat, but in none of those cases is the color important. The melancholy mood of black is there in the title and poem, but I still can't tell what those have to do with anything, so it's hard to say you've folded the color into the story. I'm going to give it to you, though, because a formal dance at night does bring to mind an elegant, glitzy sort of blackness. That interpretation is even refreshing.
And y'know, it's not the only promising thing in this piece: Miguel kept my interest, and I had a sense that he and Astor, he and Francisco, he and Cash all had a history, that this glimpse into their lives wasn't the whole story of who they were. The illusion that these characters have lives outside of these few paragraphs gave them depth. The dancing scene was rather nice. The hearts beating as one and something washing over them like a tide are shopworn phrases, but you captured a sweet moment.
Grammar's still a thing. You use 'yea' where you want 'yeah,' 'past' where you want 'passed,' 'it's' where you want 'its,' 'into' where I hope you want 'onto'--although a quicksand-like dance floor that devours the protagonists is a weirdly appealing idea--and periods where you want commas. For example: '"Hello there." She replies with a warm smile.' The grammatically correct version: '"Hello there," she replies with a warm smile.' Check out that dialogue page again! The semicolon in 'He sits and enjoys the music; taking in the ambiance' should be a comma, and you still need more commas here and there, usually before an address, such as in this case: 'Take me back home Francisco.' You slip into past tense with 'Francisco was growing uncomfortable with how quiet his friend became,' but the bigger problem with that paragraph is that it's in Francisco's perspective while the rest of the piece is in Miguel's. You're getting better, though. Many of the errors don't hurt the piece that much, though the mispunctuated dialogue and shifting PoV do.
There's no rule saying stories in TD or elsewhere have to be in any particular tense or perspective, but I want to point back to SurreptitiousMuffin's post a few weeks ago. I'd consider practicing third-person past a time or two even if you ultimately want to write in something else. Any other tense/perspective combo starts you off with a handicap (except in unusual cases, like second-person present with CYOAs), and you can't afford a handicap yet, for all that there's clear improvement shown from your first story to this one.
POST-SPOILER ADDENDUM: You used lines from an actual song (so it's literal songfic) and didn't give the person who wrote them any credit initially? What the hell, Mercedes. You pretty clearly weren't trying to get away with anything, but using other people's work so directly without acknowledging them is a terrible idea at best.
captain platypus, "The Unfortunate Incident on Catalaxes III"
This story's like a Rubik's Cube. If I unscramble it, maybe I can get a uniform yellow grid and a sense of satisfaction, but it's going to take work and cost me a headache; do I want to bother? I'd skip the effort and skim if I weren't judging. Not a good starting sign, but let's see whether I can pull order from your chaos.
Jane is six years old. (I didn't guess she was a child until you told me. She thinks and behaves like an adult. That might fly from adolescence up, but it's ridiculous at six.) She is one of the few remaining refugees on the spaceship(?) Valkyria. At least, I think it's a spaceship--it has a till, so I'm not sure. This ship is flying around somewhere while its occupants die off from radiation poisoning or whatever might have struck them after the core of the planet collapsed. Do planet cores do that? I think core collapse is a star thing, but I'm an amateur astronomer at best. Anyway, the idea is that everyone's dying except for one man who is and is not a captain, Jane, and someone named Lucy. Jane wanders around the ship a bit and then witnesses the maybe-captain doing... something to Lucy that's supposed to save her, who knows what, at which point Jane convulses and dies.
It's barely a story at all--it's a bunch of exposition rattled off out of order, most of it unnecessary. I don't trust your astronomy; I don't buy the premise. I don't see a point. There's no emotion in it, no character arc, no plot. People do ill-defined things while dying in space. Huzzah?
The weird thing is that your grammar is sound and many of your individual sentences are solid. (You mucked up tenses once that I caught: '“We’ll be out of here soon,” he told the mothers' should be 'he'd told the mothers.') That's a pretty good omen for you, as it makes me think you may be a decent writer who's turned out a clunker. Make no mistake: this is poor. So much exposition dropped with the delicacy of an anvil from heaven. Paper-thin characters who don't matter. Everything happening off-camera. You may well lose this week. On the other hand, I'm curious about what else you can do rather than dreading the thought of reading your next entry.
Unhealthy laser-tastic yellow suffused the piece with or without the spoiler, so full credit there. You flubbed the flash rule. Jane isn't denied anything besides maybe permission to take off her suit, and she handles that just fine.
Besesoth, "Far Away"
You get your biggest goofs out of the way early:
The American expats in the Republic of Korea who have moved out of the cities - the overwhelming minority - still tend to settle in clusters. There were five of us in my mountain village, a few miles outside of Cheongju.
Well, four of us, now.
There were four of us now? Gah. 'Now there are four' would work, although it has the usual potential problem of present tense, in that you're giving away that your protagonist and the other three expats are alive and still in the same place after the story ends. In this context that's not so bad. The other issue I had with your piece was the amount of backstory early on. It would have been at least a little more dynamic if you'd opened with Mr. Wells receiving that phone call. There would still be exposition, but you could have shown the protagonist's reaction to the news, the emotion in Emily's voice, etc.
On my first read, sans spoiler, I saw the pearl and yellow-green grass, but I wasn't sold on the color being significant. This is the one case where the additional context was useful. I would have been more impressed if you'd folded the information about Korean color associations into the story, mind you; that said, your interpretation is valid and creative, and--thankfully--you squeak by the prompt without the spoiler text (which you've since removed anyway, I see).
Overall, a good first showing--too condensed what with Niequist confessing at the slightest pressure, questionably paced considering how he crumples vs. how much time you spent describing a chain of phone calls, but a still complete story well told. You've edited and polished it, too. I'm told you didn't do the Korean setting justice, but I'll have to leave the details of that to my esteemed co-judge, Mr. Seafood.
Umbilical Lotus, "Make Believe"
A mix of Calvin and Hobbes and The Baby-Sitters Club has nostalgic appeal for me. It's fun to see the baby-sitter figure at the mercy of the kid's imagination. Your premise is enjoyable. Your garbled mess of tenses is the opposite: I disliked reading your first couple of paragraphs because every cockamamie tense choice gave me literary dyspepsia. Examples: 'Declan's parents got home' should be 'Declan's parents would get home,' 'I didn't bring my charger' should be 'I hadn't brought my charger,' 'That's why I'm babysitting' should be 'That's why I was babysitting,' 'I could die' should be 'I could have died,' and 'the kid had been outside for a long time now' should be dragged out into the street and shot. (I exaggerate a tad. Still, that 'now' turns the sentence into a blend of past perfect and present that upsets my delicate sensibilities.)
It bothered me how much was told vs. shown. Like Besesoth, you might do better to begin the story earlier, in your case with the protagonist's arrival at Declan's house, so you could show some of his crazy demands instead of glossing over them in a recap. I would rather have seen her agreement to help with the rocket launch, too.
Shelly's difficulties getting her phone charged aren't the stuff of gripping excitement. There has to be an explanation for why she couldn't call for help in the spaceship that wouldn't need an extended set-up--maybe she couldn't find a signal in Declan's magical make-believe realm? You missed an opportunity with the prompt by not mentioning the color of the Earth as they sped away from it or having the launch take place after school when the sky would be bright blue, but your interpretation works. The phrase 'fly-eating gap-toothed squee-worthy smile' needs commas after the first two modifiers. 'Refridgerator' should be 'refrigerator.' 'The flutter of arachnoid movement against the lunar surface' is a fragment, awkward in its context. Why does the story end on Shelly braiding her hair?
That's the stuff I didn't like, so here's stuff I did: Shelly's narrative voice; her interactions with Declan; Declan fighting moon spiders with Laser Lemon; indeed, Declan's whole impossible adventure; and Declan himself. My general reaction to the piece is positive despite my criticism. It's fun, like I said before, and it'll be a lot more fun if you iron out its wrinkles.
Nubile Hillock, "Excerpt from the Rad Chad memoire [part 3]"
Chad's dream of the mortuary train would be a wonderful story hook if you'd gone anywhere with it. I wanted more death train, fewer moments of humor that didn't pan out. Your Biblical hip-hop, anti-drug rapper who performs on cocaine had an edge of keen absurdity, but 'Broke & Poorer' and the discount law jokes are too silly. They'd be fine in another context; they turn this one into a cartoon. I'm not sure why Jen made that crack about wieners, either! It made me imagine Chad going out to rap about the straight edge to dachshunds.
You subvert the concept of razzmatazz and also play it straight: flashy deceit in the hip-hop gangster persona, its opposite in the words that get Chad tased. I like to think Chad dies here and ends up performing eternal community service on the death train, that his dream was a prophecy. There's something here--I've noticed with your more-or-less serious stories that they usually have an electricity to them, either a vivid crackle or a few halfhearted sparks. This is the latter type. Weak and unchanneled energy is still better than none.
That's not to say you're out of the woods, since Chad's speech caroms out of the anal vortex and would seem tied to jack and all else, making your climax clunk like a dropped brick. Your title makes this sound like a vignette, probably because it is. And the proofing leaves much to be desired.
What does the crack about wieners mean? I swear that mystery's going to stay with me longer than anything else.
Whalley, "Return To The Nest"
I've got to hand it to you, you came up with a use for Robin's Egg Blue I never would have expected. A round that specified 'no erotica' probably wasn't the best round in which to center a story on sex, and the bar hookup was less interesting to me than the protagonist's reminiscences. Yet I admire the way the significant, meaningful stuff lurks on the fringes of this encounter, with some of it told through implication alone. That the first man the protagonist killed looked like the man who rejected him and beat him as a boy says a great deal about him, more, even, than his choice to screw and then beat that man when given the opportunity. It's elegantly done. The different invocations of 'don't ask, don't tell' are elegant too.
I don't like or sympathize with your characters, so it's your writing skill that pulls me through the piece. It's not terribly important in this case that I don't care for Saheed or not-David as people. For a hate story, I only need to care about what caused the hate and what will come of it: mission accomplished.
The Swinemaster, "Oh What a Sunburned Baby"
Aww, this is kinda cute. Poor, clueless adults, trying to deal with a roasted sprog as best they can. On the one hand, Piggy Pink is pale for a sunburn; on the other, I think of This-Little-Piggy and the baby crying wee-wee-wee all the way home while these two geniuses plot to cover him with grocery-store produce. Good enough!
The broiled baby should have struggled and screamed more, IMO, as on my first read I was bemused by its quiescence in the first section (I misunderstood the screaming cat) and wondered if 'baby' was going to end up being the couple's pet name for, I dunno, a rack of ribs or something. That rather removed the tension from the scene. (Though it did intrigue me: why did they have a rack of ribs/living pig/plastic baby doll/God knows what with them on the beach? I was almost disappointed when you confirmed its genuine baby-ness.) He's pretty blase about being mummified with vegetables and left for the ants, too. Wouldn't the rubber bands dig into his skin? I wanted to see this kid raise hell, but no, he just takes this stuff in stride. Are Jen and Dan sure he's not synthetic?
You could use a few more commas and should capitalize 'Christ,' but I have no major complaints about your technique. I like the cheerful humor here, though the plot's on the lightweight side.
Symptomless Coma, "A Love And Beef Story"
The idea that a father couldn't compete with lentils and dahl for a four-year-old strained my suspension of disbelief more than a tad, and I had to wonder how this guy couldn't manage to think of a single thing a vegan child could eat on multiple occasions. What about tomato sandwiches, f'God's sake? He'd rather let his kid starve than get her a bag of salad greens? The tone of the piece isn't funny, so his failures are close to monstrous--or monstrously stupid. I want to be on his side. He clearly loves Eloise. But man.
If I overlook that, I like the story's handling of some of the emotions surrounding divorce. I like the way the father finds a solution for his difficult child and still surrenders to the stepfather for her sake. Eloise is sweet and insufferable and a believable kid, and the ending is touching. Or nearly. 'I overestimate her sometimes' is a strangely sour note to close on, like this man is calling his daughter a moron when he's the one who couldn't figure out how to feed her vegetables without help.
(Yeah, getting past that is difficult. Could he have problems figuring out how to get her all the nutrients she needs with veggies instead of how to get food into her at all?)
The rest of my issues with the piece are of a nitpicky sort: 'she' shouldn't be capitalized in 'I DIDN'T KNOOOOOW!" She screamed'; 'Mummy' needs to be capitalized whenever Eloise uses it as a pronoun; 'Tupperware' should be capitalized; 'Trojan' should be capitalized; 'bear face' and 'tea towel' don't need hyphens; The Princess and the Frog should be in italics and neither 'and' nor 'the' should be capitalized in the title; etc., etc., small stuff that isn't incredibly important, but another round of proofing couldn't hurt you.
Sitting Here, "Longitude 124"
You wrote a citric End of Days and didn't go for Atomic Tangerine? Aww. It would have made for a strange club, I have to grant you. 'Vivid' is more double-sided anyway, beautiful and horrible, so yours was probably the right choice. More than any other, this story's infused with color. I picture a ball of tangerine hanging overhead and changing the shade of everything.
Several lines or phrases stood out to me as possessing special grace. 'Change is always the end of something. That's why it's change' is one, 'the nervous urgency of people who are far too aware that they are their bodies' another, 'to watch the world stay the same' a third, 'now that I don't love you, I love you' a fourth. Maybe they'd be too much in a different situation, but this is the end of the world. The intensity is appropriate. One line that doesn't work at all is 'I've very abruptly lost interest in what you're saying and I have to leave the situation'--beep boop, everything after 'saying' sounds ridiculously robotic and introduces an awkward honk into your otherwise smooth melody. Jesse also becomes Jeremy for a line shortly after that. Oops.
I enjoyed this one; it's in my top two. It may not get my vote to win, though, since there's another I like as much, and the premise of a couple facing the end of the world is one I've read more than once over the past couple of years. The flavor is more familiar to me than what my other favorite offers.
Fumblemouse, "Rabbit's Delight"
I never thought I'd find myself typing 'I wish I could picture what sexual act the rabbit is performing with that carrot,' but that's Thunderdome for you, an infinite series of surprises. I can live without the mental image, honestly, but the way you describe what the sign shows, it sounds like the rabbit is vomiting a whole carrot over and over. That's probably sexual for somebody, but. This weird little puzzle wrecks your ending, but if you adjusted that one thing you'd have a cute period piece. You're good at ribald humor that doesn't cross the line to crude. Your comedy has some meat to it: Jack's quest to save his bar matters to him.
You went literal with the prompt, and you made it work for you--I don't have a significant complaint beyond the sign misfire. The prose is solid, capable, and takes a tone suitable for the story you're telling. The phrase 'a death by pneumatic complications from scarlet fever isn’t the kind of thing that makes you want to return to a local pub' is the one real clunker. You could get away with leaving Belinda's cause of death vague.
Anathema Device, "September"
Here's my other favorite. I love how you put the metallic shimmer into the pinkish sky with airplanes and stars. I expected (and got) a bittersweet tone given your color choice; to see the shimmer too--and the red-pink base--is a pleasure. Sunset epitomizes bittersweet sometimes. It was a good way to go.
The story's light on plot and heavy on character study, but Jim and Sam's relationship has an arc. (Jim and Sam could have stood to have less similar names. A couple of times I was confused about whether Sam was the brother and had to read a sentence over again.) The dynamic between them is strong. In a short space, you've made them different and also alike. Does Sam remind Jim now of the way he was when he joined the army; is he stepping in to keep her off his path? Teaching her to drink like an adult is probably symbolic. There's a shimmer of hope in her still-bitter landscape at the end that probably wasn't there before, and again it comes back to the color, and the interpretation is layered and lovely.
Your technical skill shows too, except where you missed a period after 'license' in your second-to-last paragraph and wrote Sam's name as 'Same' at one point. Obviously oversights; you know what you're doing. You can be proud of your first showing in the 'Dome, especially since it's earned you a crown.
It's cool to see a run of good stories; this one rounds out my top three. It doesn't have the same depth or power as the top two and doesn't outweigh them in terms of skill, but it's simple, brief, polished--like an apple. I enjoy Jenny's matter-of-fact magic: it just is. No explanation given. No explanation needed. I'd personally cut 'He wanted to be struck by lightning' for belaboring the point, but otherwise there's no excess. I got a grin out of people asking Jenny to draw dicks. They so would.
You're in good shape grammatically, but capitalize 'Granny Smith' and put a hyphen in 'lemon-yellow dress.' The last line is great.
This is your second story in a row to stand out in the melee; you're starting to be a writer whose entries I watch for.
M. Propagandalf, "Noyaux de cerise"
As much as I enjoy vampires in space, it's kind of refreshing to get a more traditional bloodsucker. And I kind of liked your piece early on. Your prose shades purple in Kristoff's perspective, but not too much; the idea of vampires making fun of each other for their food preferences humanized them a bit and humanized Kristoff in particular. The scarf is a good touch. It stands for innocent blood even before Kristoff sees Sylvie's literal blood as cerise.
A few things lost me. Ugh, that license plate--these are some smug and cutesy vampire hunters. I don't know how they got the drug--is it novocaine?--into Kristoff without affecting Sylvie. Was the drug in the scarf? But he still bit her. You switch to Sylvie's PoV at the very end. There's no conclusion to speak of, but there's a random digression into bubble tea. Most of the conversation between Sylvie and the nameless man is pointless bloat--I don't care two figs for these people. Maybe you were trying to blend humor and horror. That's a chancy task that plenty of Thunderdome fighters have failed at before you.
Side note: I don't understand the title. Google gives me the impression that noyaux are apricot pits; apparently apricot pits produce cyanide. Huh. Kristoff's reaction doesn't look like cyanide poisoning, but I'm no expert. Whatever you're getting at is perhaps too vague.
I ended up fairly unhappy with this one, but it dodged my vote for the loss by virtue of keeping my interest until its end.
A good story haunted by TD technicalities. I thought you'd just scratched the corner of the first flash rule on my initial read, because while I could see the butterfly house as a thing Jack once desired, it wasn't out of control; it's torpid, that's the point. With your edit I see what you were getting at: Jack loves Sam but can't control him anymore. It doesn't quite fit the rule as given. Jack might have wanted a son, but you don't address that. I like what you've got, mind you. Initially I was disappointed by how readily Jack gave in (assuming he did and the butterflies aren't a step in changing Sam's heart; I enjoy the uncertainty there), but there's some wisdom in knowing when a thing must end.
The final line and its imagery are exquisite. Enough so that I regret that Blue Morpho butterflies aren't periwinkle. There's no hint of purple on those gorgeous wings. (It's occurred to me that maybe your misspelling--peleiades rather than peleides--is no such thing, and you've created an imaginary periwinkle variant for story purposes. Probably not, but on the off chance that's true, mentioning its variant status would have helped.)
You might have edged CantDecideOnAName out of the top three on the strength of that beautiful moment if there weren't one clipped corner too many. Maybe not. It's a good piece, gently heartwarming and light, but the flip side of Jack's easy surrender is that his collection of Blue Morphos is the only sign I see that the house is important to him.
A final note: Your grammar's as sound as usual, but 'alright' is the sort of dung best left for butterflies.
Nikaer Drekin, "Unmellow Yellow"
I'm reminded more than a bit of Red Dwarf, which has a similar premise--one guy left alive on a spaceship, an AI as his only companion (initially)--and a similar quirky spin. Yours is more horrific despite the lack of dust from dead crewmen lying everywhere. I don't know what happened to the crew or the ship in your story, and it doesn't matter; it suffices to know Rodrigo's situation is terrible. The Happiness Protocol is the more effective because it would be played for laughs in a different plot, but because details like Janice feeding Rodrigo will-he nil-he through a tube in his stomach establish that she's in control of him in almost every possible way, and she's crazy, her slide show of butterflies and bunnies is chilling and grotesque and not mellow at all.
But I don't buy how easily he convinces her to let him go. He didn't need to be very clever or a good liar to make it work. Which raises the question of how he's been trapped this long, if she's so easy to fool. The ending's perfect or close to; I'm not sure he'd live long enough for thought if he were that close to a sun, but I dig the idea of mellow peace in broiling yellow death. Make it slightly challenging for Rodrigo to get there and you'll pull the story from decent to good.
P.S. Janice becomes Janis at one point. Freudian slip?
Squilliam Fancyson, "Cheesed Memories"
While the idea of using something like mac and cheese as a focal point for reminiscence had promise, your entry is 90% exposition and backstory. Almost nothing happens in the present besides Robert making a phone call. He doesn't even eat his mac and cheese! And the reader doesn't get to see the real story: why Robert forgot so much so incredibly. You raise that mystery without resolving it. I'm having a tough time believing that Robert forgot his whole childhood and then remembered it all in a convenient cascade, so I need to see that reason, and it needs to be good.
I doubt there's a reason that would be good enough. I say this as somebody who knows precious little about memory blocks, so I may be pig ignorant here. The way he forgot everything to the point where he didn't remember that a baby-sitter took care of him instead of his parents, and didn't realize the holes were gone--I'm not buying 'he was too busy to think of his childhood' as an explanation. How was his father's death so traumatic that he blocked it? Awful, sure, but... and did he never wonder about his father? Never once thought about him being gone? It actually sounds like he didn't. Yow.
Also, you didn't do anything with the color of Macaroni and Cheese. You didn't even describe Robert's dish. Tsk. Points off for abuse of the prompt.
Writing-wise--you're clearly very fond of the dash--you use a single hyphen for it--your reasons for doing so unknown. A dash isn't a colon--it shouldn't be used in a colon's place. This page about colons may be of use to you. You used dashes in place of semicolons a few times as well. They distract the eye. On a positive note, your grammar's decent otherwise. Going back to the negative, the dialect you gave to everyone but Robert isn't pleasant to read. You're heavy-handed with it, so it becomes distracting too.
Jagermonster, The Purple Mountain
Solid, competent. All that's 'wrong' with it is that it treads worn ground: there are a lot of stories centered on a a choice of whether to betray one's beliefs or die; you wrote one yourself a few weeks back. In this one there's no surprise in the outcome. Which doesn't make it a bad piece--the strong moral core is good and vital to the metaphor of Thomas as the Purple Mountain. (I love what you did there regarding the name of your color, by the way.) It's not bad, but it's familiar, and that may be why it doesn't have the spark that makes a story exciting to read.
I don't have much criticism for you. It's a message story by default and design. Considering the premise, it's not overly preachy. Trying to rhyme 'bread' and 'battlefield' is a horrid endeavor, but poor Thomas never claimed to be a poet, and the clumsy parody underlines that he's a normal, human guy caught in circumstances no one should face. I realized after talking to one of my co-judges that Thomas is saintly in every other respect; given the premise, again, that may be hard to avoid. There's nothing that sticks out to me as needing to be changed and no obvious change you could make that would eliminate the maybe-problem of not being fresh or new.
I'd like to see you win a crown someday, so keep up the fight.
higgz, "The Full Spectrum of Dissonance"
Your flash rule was a tricky one, and you missed hitting it, although I think I see what you tried: your protagonist is thrilled about this Thing that's as cold and frozen as the glaciers. His mood is upbeat, but the mood of the story isn't. Instead you have Lovecraft On Ice. Literal ice and chills both literal and metaphorical are important components of your story, so you do get credit for taking inspiration from your color.
I enjoy the creeping horror of Lovecraftian fiction. In this case, however, the story's end is predictable from the third paragraph on. Of course your main character is going to become Its thrall, and of course he's going to kill everyone else, and of course he's going to let It loose, and of course It is going to be very bad for humanity. Knowing that everything is bound to go wrong is one thing, but knowing how and why kills suspense. A premise this worn would need special and impressive treatment to hold my attention--treatment it didn't receive. I got tired of your protagonist and his Key some time before his journey ended.
Your writing isn't abominable, but rough-edged, yes: 'magnifiscent'; 'predict how much greater our discovery was' ('predict' suggests the future, and I advise either 'predict how much greater our discovery would be' or 'know how much greater' etc.); inconsistent capitalization of 'It'; awkward phrases (one example: 'The ice had almost been broken, cracks showing on all walls'--I believe you shift tenses here too, with the first clause being in past perfect, the second in either past or present); commas where you should use colons or semicolons; many errors that cripple the story you're trying to tell. Only the final italicized section seems to be worthwhile, but there's no reason to have it in italics. The Adventure reference in the first section is very odd considering how dead serious this entry is otherwise.
It's still not the worst first showing you could have made. Be careful of cliches in your concept next time.
Noah, "The Unpainted Wall"
What I like: You hit three colors, not just one, and one is Atomic Tangerine. The way you've used Mango Tango in particular is great. As a shade between Atomic Tangerine and Burnt Umber, the color symbolizes the compromise that's also present in its it-takes-two-to-Tango name. You show a lot about Shelly and Josh and their relationship through their actions, and most of the time you let those actions do the talking. The locking of the door is very significant.
What I don't like: The phone call. It's needless exposition in a story that otherwise doesn't have much of that. The one-sided conversation is annoying to read. Alright must, as ever, be destroyed. There's no scene break after the Chinese food scene, and there ought to be.
Everything I wasn't crazy about in this one was contained in that call, and you might have had my third top slot if it hadn't been there. Your application of color is up there with Anathema Device's and Sitting Here's. The way you use the paint, the Chinese food, the retreats to the basement, Josh entering the basement without invitation, etc. to draw a picture of these two people's lives together is something I admire. Definitely one of my favorite pieces of yours, rushed or not.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 05:34 on Oct 15, 2013
|# ? Jul 24, 2013 00:44|
Thank you for the critique Kaishai. And a serious question concerning the song lyrics I used: What would be the most accepted way to credit the author? Just a quick blurb after the story?
Edit: Thanks! My intention wasn't to plagiarize. I swear!
Mercedes fucked around with this message at 01:27 on Jul 24, 2013
|# ? Jul 24, 2013 01:09|
I'd suggest a brief line after the title and word count but before the story starts, something like Song lyrics from [performer]'s [song]. So in this case:
Never to Return
Crayola Color: Black
Word Count: 1189
Song lyrics from Miguel Calo's "Jamas retomaras"
Except with all the diacriticals I can never remember how to do. Whether that's the most accepted way, dunno, but it would do the job. A blurb after the story would too.
|# ? Jul 24, 2013 01:23|
Are there restrictions for subforums we could use?
|# ? Jul 24, 2013 02:02|
it was a Rubik's cube that, when completed, opened to reveal a yellow poo poo-monster that eats your face
Thanks for the criticism! I'll keep all that in mind for my THUNDERDUEL
|# ? Jul 24, 2013 02:05|
I've been ping-ponging back and forth from decent story to poo poo story, and last time I entered I wrote a poo poo story. The half bottle of wine I have says I'm in.
In with this thread:
TWO ENORMOUS FAT MEN gently caress AN AMPUTEE pics inside
crabrock fucked around with this message at 02:13 on Jul 24, 2013
|# ? Jul 24, 2013 02:06|
I'm in because I haven't been crowned Thunderdome Winner Champ yet. I want to be a great writer, and I can't be that if I can't even be a Thunder Champ.
Also, thanks for the critique!
e: In with Do You Like Rollercoasters?
Wungus fucked around with this message at 14:46 on Jul 24, 2013
|# ? Jul 24, 2013 02:13|
I will not be in this week, too much poo poo, but I wanted to thank Kaishai for the critique, it really brightened up my evening. Also it's hilarious that you say the story is polished, because I cranked it out under stress in bits and pieces over the weekend and didn't edit it at all.
|# ? Jul 24, 2013 02:46|
Lessons learned: A weak finish got you served a beatdown by your hacked off limbs. If your anti-hero is going to fail, at least eclipse him with a worthy antagonist.
Action plan: Cauterize the flesh stumps. Don yourself with battle prosthesis. Fight again.
Much obliged on the critique. No confirmation just yet to do battle for week LI, but perusing threads for possibilities.
|# ? Jul 24, 2013 03:10|
In with the Bitcoin Thread.
|# ? Jul 24, 2013 04:55|
|# ? Oct 23, 2021 08:28|
In, and I will be using the next thread one of my SA buddies randomly links me.
It'll feel good to be back in the saddle.
|# ? Jul 24, 2013 04:59|