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  • Locked thread
Gau
Nov 18, 2003

I don't think you understand, Gau.


:siren: WeLandedOnTheMoon! vs. Broenheim: Around the World Brawl results :siren:

Broenheim featuring The Blood of an Emperor

You may have been at a slight disadvantage here because I'm rather familiar with and particular about representations of Chinese culture, but I doubt it. You have good and great sections interspersed with mediocre attempts at drama. I don't buy your protagonist for a second - okay, maybe for one moment. But that's it. Chinese people do not speak this way. The first three minutes of the hit Disney Animated film Mulan reflects Chinese culture better than you do. Your prose is choppy; work on tying sentences and paragraphs together while telling us a bit more about the characters and what is happening both in their heads and around them.

With a reworked ending and some thematic work, you'd have a decent story. As is, very little about this feels authentic or interesting. I like the dragon.

For much more critique, you can read your line-by-line.


WeLandedOnTheMoon! featuring The Kabbadi Raider's Path

Broenheim's entry was terse and unrefined; your entry was the complete opposite. Brevity is your friend. You seem to add words and entire sentences to your unending, tortuous dependent clauses with too many commas connecting thoughts, like a run-on stream of consciousness without the concrete and realistic tone that characterizes such writing, so it ends up reading like you are just scared shitless of putting a period in where you could possibly shove a comma. You even put commas, in the middle of sentences, because holy gently caress we might not have enough commas.

That said, your story grabbed me really well. I enjoyed the thematic ascension from Hell to the Blessed Realm. You need to imply or enumerate some of the cultural elements a bit better. Luckily your story was interesting enough that I looked some of them up (and was fascinated). If you had worked a bit more of this description into your story, I might have been fascinated without resorting to Google.

Your detailed critique will tell you a lot more.


Winner: WeLandedOnTheMoon! Congratulations!

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Nethilia
Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition


gently caress, I can write two or three stories in about a week. IN.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

*


:siren: :siren: :siren:

Avast, ye shits. Two hours left to sign up.

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012

GUM CHEWING INTENSIFIES


In :toxx:

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

In.

Gau
Nov 18, 2003

I don't think you understand, Gau.


Bad Seafood, how long does Cache Cab have to submit his story before he forfeits?

(Please don't forfeit Cache Cab. I want to trounce you fair and square.)

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Gau posted:

Bad Seafood, how long does Cache Cab have to submit his story before he forfeits?

(Please don't forfeit Cache Cab. I want to trounce you fair and square.)
As per Muffin's request that all brawls be pushed back a week, he has an additional week to make good on his somber submission. Since it is technically Saturday at the time of this post and I'm too tired to dig around for whatever the original due date was, we'll just say he has until next Saturday, July 5th.

Speaking of which, Tyrannosaurus, Muffin and I have been chatting in IRC and decided to push our own brawl back a week as well due to a series of events which may or may not have included getting drunk, getting a job, and the prolonged collapse of these esteemed forums.

crabrock posted:

oh cool, Seadoof has something for us to do. I'll be sure to ignore that.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkUVToIfrKg

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk







Bad Seafood posted:

As per Muffin's request that all brawls be pushed back a week, he has an additional week to make good on his somber submission. Since it is technically Saturday at the time of this post and I'm too tired to dig around for whatever the original due date was, we'll just say he has until next Saturday, July 5th.

Speaking of which, Tyrannosaurus, Muffin and I have been chatting in IRC and decided to push our own brawl back a week as well due to a series of events which may or may not have included getting drunk, getting a job, and the prolonged collapse of these esteemed forums.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkUVToIfrKg

Djeser: Can I push ours back a few days. Weds high noon pst should do it.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

*


I can't tell if it's my internet or the forums but if this gets through and you can tell time, signups are cloooosed.

Djeser
Mar 22, 2013


it's crow time again



sebmojo posted:

Djeser: Can I push ours back a few days. Weds high noon pst should do it.

I was going to ask this myself. Wednesday noon it is.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


Bad Seafood posted:

As per Muffin's request that all brawls be pushed back a week, he has an additional week to make good on his somber submission. Since it is technically Saturday at the time of this post and I'm too tired to dig around for whatever the original due date was, we'll just say he has until next Saturday, July 5th.

Speaking of which, Tyrannosaurus, Muffin and I have been chatting in IRC and decided to push our own brawl back a week as well due to a series of events which may or may not have included getting drunk, getting a job, and the prolonged collapse of these esteemed forums.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkUVToIfrKg

Neat. I'm expecting solid gold.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

:greatgift:Tyrannosaurus:greatgift:

Tyrannosaurus posted:

Spring
532 words
"Amazing Grace"

The hospital was to be quarantined until either the doctors found a cure or everyone inside the building was dead. There would be no leaving. There would be no outside contact. There would be no exceptions. This was all made very clear by the bullhorn broadcasts and the military guards. But, like all things in third-world countries, Don’t tell me. You’ve done a good job of creating a setting. Show me this is a developing nation instead. there was always room to negotiate if one had a good enough bribe. The tail end of this feels clunky.

Benito had a promise.

“They are going to try a new drug cocktail on some of the patients,” he whispered to a guard through a keyhole Ahaha a keyhole? in a backdoor, “I know where they keep the list. I will make sure your wife gets on it.” The bribe is interesting and believable.

And that was enough to get a letter out.

***

Dear Elena,

Do you remember what you told me before I got on the bus? You said to me, “Don’t die out there. Don’t forget about me.” I can say with confidence I have not forgotten! I have kept your picture with me everyday[sic?]. The one of us outside the butcher’s. You told me it was the best picture you had ever taken and I agree. Tripod on a timer? Never has anyone looked so beautiful next to so much dead meat.

I don’t think I will be able to get out another letter. I don't even know if you'll get this one. But, if you do, know that I am okay. Please do not worry, my love. I am at peace. I have had plenty of time to pray and I am not scared anymore. The pain is not so bad. This is sweet.

I will be waiting for you. I will introduce you to Jesus and to all the saints. We can embrace then and you can tell me how stupid I was for leaving. You were right as always, my love. As always. I should never have left you.

I’m sorry I’m for not sending back the photograph. It will undoubtedly be lost in my passing, but I need it. I need to see something beautiful. The pain is too much sometimes. And the ugliness of this place can be frightening. It can make you think horrible thoughts. A little inconsistent in theme and fact; he tells her the pain is not so bad and tries to comfort her two paragraphs up, but the opposite here.

I pray a lot. Second time this is mentioned. Pray pray pray. Maybe I think this disease is a good thing. For me, you know? I was not proper. I would not have lived a good life. No. This was part of God’s plan so that I might find His grace. Had I been a better man I would have never left our village. I would have married you.

Forgive me the pain I have caused you.

My heart forever,
Benito

***

There was blood and coughing and convulsing. And lots of pain. But as Benito lay dying he dreamed of Elena’s future and that made it almost bearable. In his imagination he saw her courtship to a handsome gentlePleased to meet you I’m a man of wealth and taste. He saw her wedding. Her children and her grandchildren. Her life long lived and full of joy. He smiled and was happy and then he was dead. He died without a clue that his final, beautiful thoughts were of things Elena would never get the opportunity to experience.

For Benito had sealed Elena’s letter and Elena’s fate with a kiss. Noooooooooo
The discord between the title of Spring and the shock of the first sentence is clever and drew my attention. You create an interesting setting that’s been done before, but you create a character and specific scenario that are unique within the setting.

The letter becomes the focus of the story. While I feel the brief change in voice partway through ultimately detracts from its effectiveness (whether from the wavering feelings of the protagonist or some other factor), it establishes a great character relationship and a backstory between Benito and Elena. I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Did he leave to do bioresearch and things went bad? Is he an innocent tour guide, caught in a terrorist attack?

But nothing happens. Elena dies. Does the world die, too? The payoff is weak sauce. Your song, Amazing Grace, is all about the revelation, coming to terms with what was right there all along. Benito does that in the letter, realizing he left behind the love of his life and now he has to set her free, which is a fine message, but it’s not horror. In the end, the writing is good, but the story lacks too many essential elements.

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


Without Mourning
890 words

Ana and I are going to Mom's funeral. She checks the underside of the car for stray cats before getting in.

You don't need to do that, I sign. They'll run away when I start the engine anyway.

I don't want them to be scared, she signs.

Shrugging, I start the car. Her citrus perfume mixes with the air conditioning. It's enough to make me sneeze.

Did I use too much?

I shake my head. Not your fault. Are you sure you want to come? You don't really have to.

My sister smiles at me. Maybe it's you who doesn't want to come?

I don't answer the question.

###

"Where are you going?" Mom sat before the dining table, her eyes shifting from me to my sister to our luggage. Her voice was flat and tired, having only come home after three straight days of working.

"We're moving out," I said, shooting Ana a glance. No turning back, my face said.

"Do you have a place? How are you going to pay the rent?"

"We already have one. And I'll work part-time."

Mom's forehead loosened. She leaned on her chair, a sigh escaping her lips. "Go ahead, then."

I was dumbfounded. "You're not stopping us?"

"It's probably best for everyone," she answered softly.

I gave Mom one last look before I walked out the door.

She was beaming, a smile fighting the rest of her droopy face.

She was taunting us. That we couldn't strike on our own. That we'll come back to her soon enough. But I'll show her.

###

People think of deafness as a disability, but Ana never let it get her down. In fact, I could say that deaf people are more evolved than the rest of us who can hear, who clumsily fall over ourselves with spoken words. We found a place near a deaf community, and she made lots of friends. It's enough to make me ashamed of myself. I found full-time work soon after community college. The hours are long, but it's better than living with Mom.

Our mother died without knowing a word of sign language. She was always working, working, working.

###

"Are you relatives of the deceased?" the priest asks. There is pity underneath his commiserating smile. Ana squeezes my arm.

"We're her children. Could we have... some time alone?"

The priest nods and leaves us staring dumbfounded at each other.

No one else came, Ana signs.

I'm not really surprised.

Her mouth turns up. I can tell that she's exasperated. But who could blame me?

I'm going to see her, she signs. She notes my face, and adds, It'll be fine.

She steps forward, leans over the casket, and bursts out laughing.

You need to take a look, she signs brokenly. She looks absolutely amazing.

I come over, unsure what to expect. Mom is smiling, her perpetually-set jaw relaxed. In death she looks far happier than she had ever been in life.

It looks so wrong on her, I sign.

Ana shakes her head, then laughs again. Sorry, Mom, she signs. She lights a candle and starts to pray. I hover near the door. I've stopped praying long ago.

###

I'm glad it's over. The smell of the earth was so overpowering I had retreat near the parking lot. I couldn't stand the service either. Even in death Mom found ways to piss me off.

Ana catches up to me smoking. She is holding a letter.

The priest gave me a letter from Mom. We should read it, my sister signs.

I shake my head. Mom's dead. I don't need to know her thoughts anymore.

Ana grabs my arm and leans on it, brandishing the letter.

I lower my cigarette and start reading.

To Matthew and Ana,

When Ana was diagnosed with deafness, your father said she'll never amount to anything. It may sound unbelievable to you, but I argued for her. Fine, let me raise her on my own. I don't need you, I said. So we had a divorce.

Shortly after that I learned I was pregnant with Matthew. One child, I could handle, deaf or not. Two, though? I honestly didn't know what to do. I thought about giving you away for adoption, Matthew, but what kind of mother keeps one child and throws away the other? So I stuck up for the two of you.

I'm not making excuses for my neglect. Nothing could ever justify it. I wasn't a good mother at all. I may have fed and clothed and sheltered you. But I never really raised you. I'm sorry you had to grow up by yourselves.

Matthew, you look so much like your father. I'm just thankful that you didn't grow up to be like him. I know you can take care of Ana more than I ever could.

Goodbye.

Your useless mother,
Regina

PS: Lung cancer. Don't ever smoke.


Clumsily, my sister grabs my cigarette and throws it as hard as she could. The wind picks up and blows it back at her, smoke and all. We start laughing.

Mom wasn't taunting us when we left that one morning. She was seeing us off.

"We'll be fine, Mom," I say to the air.

Ana looks up at me. My hand moves to sign, but I give her a smile instead. Mom's smile.

D.O.G.O.G.B.Y.N.
Dec 31, 2011

THUNDERDOME LOSER

The beautiful phantoms
897 words

*

A boy lived in a village surrounded by thunders, and they fell night and day. Fencing the village, were row after row of thick pointed poles two hundred feet tall, who, though far away from the huts and its inhabitants, still provoked much unrest with their ceaseless roar.

When the boy was of eight, he was taken to the shaman’s hut, where sat on a bench and waited patiently. He was ready to be fully rid of the thunders’ torment. He watched the shaman mortar a mix of herbs and cream into a ceramic bowl. The shaman thrust with such force that the boy heard a phantom.

Clop, the phantom made through the thick wax that covered the boy’s ears. It was dull and tasteless, but it did awaken the boy’s hunger for the faint beauties he had once heard in rare days, despite the wax.

He remembered how his mother used to change his wax, and even though she did it swiftly, the few moments were tasteful enough. He remembered, in a scarcely thundered day, the phantom the stonemason made when hitting metal on rock. He remembered the pain his mother gave when he tried plucking the wax.

The boy snapped back as the shaman finished mashing, and left the bowl and mortar on a table in front of the boy. He went to the back of the hut and brought out a wide leaf.

He laid the leaf on the table, and the boy noticed that tiny white maggots squirmed on it. The shaman lipped soundlessly to the boy:

You ready. Eight, yes, good age for infection. Lasts some, hurts some, but necessary. You strong as your mother, no problem.

The shaman then brought out a little tube, and filled it with clumps of the herbal mix, then a maggot, then another clump, and so on. He lipped please be calm and approached the boy, who did but stare at the table and breath widely, though slowly. The boy heard his own heartbeats.

The shaman’s nail went in the ear, and slowly scooped the wax out. The boy’s joy fought his own dread as the phantoms grew less dimmer, though accompanied by a dull hum. The boy’s heart went faster.
The shaman put the tube to his mouth and was ready to blow into the boy’s ear.

The boy’s shoulder jerked upward and the some of the pasty mix spurted on his face. The shaman aspirated the rest in a nervous reflex.

He choked as the boy ran and exited his hut. Outside, the boy’s mother was awaiting, but he kept running. As she saw him, her heart beat fast too and she had to scream, despite not needing her voice for years.

The boy heard and glanced back. The scream was an unusually complex sound, and the different articulations and tones it had, all in a single instant, amazed him.

His sight then fell on the expressions the other villagers made and he fled again, clawing at the remaining wax in his other ear. He ignored the growing rumbling of feet behind him and jumped over a fence, towards the outskirts and the forest.


*


The boy sat on a fallen trunk, watching the waterdrops fall from up in the canopy to the little lake’s surface. He had never heard it like that, so much of the water’s wetness faithfully translated in the air.

He thought of his mother. Oh, if she could taste them too. He wondered if it was fair to leave her worrying, but he pictured the squirming maggots and the flies leaving his ears and then the blankness.
Lightning struck the pole-line on the edge of the forest.

The unbound thunder surprised him. The thunders made phantoms day and night, so often they did not seem interesting, but now the boy thought himself mistaken.
He needed to get closer, however. The sound wasn’t at its right point yet.

He thought, I’m sorry, mother. Maybe I’ll be ready tomorrow, or maybe someday… I just need to taste them for a while.

He got up and walked; the way to the pole-line was wet and he enjoyed the clapping of mud sucking at his feet.


*


He remembered what the people in the village had said about the poles. Nobody really knew where they came from – some said they were there even before the village was settled, others thought the gods made them sprout overnight. But mostly everybody – especially the elders – agreed that they were ultimately to their benefit, for they kept the tyrants from the outside away and made living relatively peaceful.

He looked to the poles and the scorched earth around them, and waited.

Crraaaacckkk, bright and awesome. It tasted crisp and sounded as white as it looked, the huge waves entering his ears first whip-sharp then slow and thick.

They struck again. And again. So beautiful.

To his further amazement, the more he heard, the more he could distinguish another layer among the waves of the thunder. It had more patterns, more variations of rhythm and tone. It had sounds of unexpected familiarity among nature’s white beast. Some were aggressive, others sounded like a smile and others sounded like a frown and tears. They reminded him of his mother’s scream, and they went down, ever downward into the earth.

He understood why they’d want to take everybody’s hearing away.

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012

GUM CHEWING INTENSIFIES


Ursine Cuisine
896 words

Guadalajara was one of the most popular restaurants in LA. Inside there were large, family-style tables, cushy chairs, and kitsch-y items adorning the walls such as black and white family photos and ranching tools. The bar was tended by a self-proclaimed mixologist whose fake glasses and hipster mustache would've made him unlikable if he didn't make the best margarita in the area. There was a wide variety of items on the menu--from more traditional items such as burritos and tostadas to more exotic items such as cow brain tacos.

In the back was the kitchen were all the cooks, dressed in white, were busy working on their stations There was a whole spectrum of scents from the hot peppers being sliced to the carnitas slow cooking in pots. Guadalajara was one of the few Mexican restaurants which made two varieties of carnitas--pork and turkey. The turkey carnitas were especially popular for those who practiced kosher or halal diets or anybody else with personal objections to consuming pork. In stepped Marcus, the founder, owner, and head chef of Guadalajara.

“Chef,” a waiter approached him. “The patrons at table five send their regards for the albondigas soup.”

Marcus nodded. “Make sure table five gets something extra, compliments of me,” he said as the waiter nodded and left.

“Taste test!” He shouted out as he approached the station where stuffed peppers were being made. The cook presented a morsel on a small plate for him to taste. Marcus inhaled deeply through his nose and took his taste. He took a moment to let the richness of the cheese soak in.

“There's a little too much egg yolk in here,” he said. “We'll still serve this, but make sure you use one less yolk for the next batch.”

“Yes, Chef,” the cook answered.

“Taste test!” Marcus called out and moved on to the next station where the ground beef was being prepared. Flaring his nostrils, Marcus let the savory aroma of lean ground beef cooked with onions and tomatoes waft before taking a taste.

“Add one more clove of garlic,” he said simply and moved to the next station. “Taste test!” He called out and moved to the rice station as the new cook gulped. Marcus tasted and winced visibly. He turned to the nervous cook.

“What did you use for stock?”

“I-I used the powdered stuff in the back,” the young cook stammered. He expected his short and stocky superior to use his bodybuilder physique to throw him across the kitchen. Instead, he closed his eyes and sighed. “Ivan, is it?”

The young cook nodded. “You're new here, so I'm only telling you once: we never use chicken powder, we always use chicken broth. Unless we run out of broth, I never want you using the powdered poo poo again, understand?” Ivan nodded. He was then instructed to put the batch of rice into a catering container and mark it with an S to be delivered first thing next morning to the local soup kitchen.

“Chef!” A waitress called out. “A Mr. Lik wants to speak with you.” Marcus nodded, straightened himself out, and walked outside to greet a rich Chinese businessman as they greeted and conversed with eachother in Mandarin.

“Do you have the product?”

“I do,” Mr. Lik said. “But Marcus, how may times do I have to tell you that your payments are not sufficient? You cannot continue to supplement your payments with food anymore.”

Marcus smiled nervously. “But Mr. Lik, you know as well as I do that you're saving hundreds of dollars a year by eating in my restaurant pro-bono,” he tried reasoning with him.

“I can't pay for the chemicals with food, Marcus,” Mr. Lik said contemptuously. “Besides, we both know that your arrest for possession is just a simple phone call away.”

Marcus nodded slowly and smiled to hide the fact that he was screaming inside. “May I recommend the stuffed peppers?”

Later on that night, Ivan stepped outside for his break. After flipping through his smart phone, he noticed in the distance Marcus puffing from an e cigarette.

“Hey Ivan,” a voice called.

“Hey Mark” Ivan said as he sat next to him. “I didn't know the Chef smokes.”

“He has to, man,” Mark said.

“Why?”

“He's a mutant”

Ivan stared at him. “I ain't bullshitting you, man. The dude has a superhuman sense of smell.”

Ivan gave him a look. “Why do you think we call him The Bear?” Mark asked. “He always takes a deep sniff before he tastes anything and he could tell that you used powder in the rice. He smokes to keep his nose in check.”

“So why doesn't he have cancer yet?” Ivan asked.

“Know that Chinese guy Lik? He comes in once a month and eats here for free. The guy supplies him with specialty made e-cigs so that he doesn't get cancer.”

Ivan shook his head. “You sure Marcus is a mutant?”

“You could always ask,” Mark said.

“gently caress no,” Ivan said.

Mark shrugged and walked off. Ivan looked down at his phone. Could Marcus be a mutant? He sighed and shook his head. As long as he was getting paid, his boss could be a bear for all he cared.

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


A likely thing. A lovely thing. (894 words)

The odds that my ceiling fan will rattle itself loose and fall on me are one in eight hundred fifty. I stand up, hungover guts burbling, and turn it off. The odds that I’ll succumb to heatstroke without it: one in forty-eight thousand. It’s high summer in Chicago, the season of melting asphalt.

The only thing in the refrigerator is a half-full bottle of Canada Dry. What are the chances that, crossing Clark Street on my way to the grocery store, I’ll be mashed into a greasy smear by a driver too raged-out to notice? One in six hundred, thanks to the holiday traffic. I sit down on the kitchen floor and take a sip of tonic water. The chances of toxicity from the quinine are one in six million. Acceptable.

Have you ever tried to look at a sign without reading it? You can’t do it, any more than I can choose not to know what might happen. I always know the odds.

My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer. She told me not to fly out to see her. They’d caught it early, she said. The ten-year survival rate, for her type of cancer, was ninety-eight percent.

The odds she’d live to see another year were nine hundred ninety-nine out of a thousand.

Statistics mean nothing to the individual. Unless that individual is me. Each time they called me to tell me how well she was doing, I did more than hope: I was certain.

Then God rolled his thousand-sided die, and the thing in her breast spread tendrils into her lungs. The unlikelihood of it hit me like a slap across the heart. We had her funeral in Boston, the day after Memorial Day.

Anything can happen.

I packed in the dark to go home the next morning. The odds that I’d forget something were one in three, but I didn’t care. I was on the plane when I realized what it was, and began to care very much. The only Polaroid I had of my aunt in healthier days. The two of us, arms around each other’s shoulders. Now behind a nightstand in a cheap motel, a thousand miles away.

The odds that I’ll ever get it back? One in a million.

Somebody knocks on the door.

The odds of anybody coming to my apartment today were one in six hundred. The odds that it wouldn’t be the downstairs neighbor, trying to tempt me with cigarettes I’ll never smoke, were one in twenty-five. Yet this doesn’t sound like his imperious knocking.

I’m skeptical. But I have a morbid fascination with the improbable.

The guy at the door has an army haircut and a Cubs cap. He’s smiling like he just caught someone sneaking a candid photo. Self-consciously. “Are you, uh, Hannah Alper?” he says.

“Why?” I say.

“Oh, I’m Joe,” he says, extending a hand. “So this is going to sound crazy, but I found this down at the beach.” He digs in his pocket, and shows me my photograph.

I know the odds in the same way that you know that the sun is setting, or that your lover is holding your hand. What does a coincidence feel like? Well, what does the orange-blue of a lake at sunset feel like? Or the taste of strawberries? Or the sound of a cat’s purr?

I must be staring. “Aw, I’m sorry,” says Joe. “I knew it’d be too weird. I wasn’t being a creep or anything, I just showed it to my uncle, right? And he recognized you. He’s, like, your neighbor.” He gestures to the hallway.

“No,” I say. “No, it’s okay. You found this where?” It’s sand-scraped and damp, but our two figures are clear.

“Montrose Beach,” Joe says. “Like, buried in the sand. When did you lose it?”

I tell him: a thousand miles away, and more than a month before. He listens, wide-eyed. “Wow,” he says. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. What are the odds?”

By habit, I give my usual rejoinder. “The probability of anything that’s already happened is one hundred percent.”

“Wow, nerdy,” he says, smiling. “Although, I’m a statistics major, believe it or not. I’m going to use that the next time anybody says ‘What are the odds.’”

At that, I can’t help but smile.

You know, it’s funny. If enough things happen in the world, a few of them are bound to be one-in-a-million. Any given event might be nearly impossible. But nearly impossible things have a way of knocking on your door sometimes.

“Do you want an iced tea or something?” I ask.

An hour later we’re sitting on the kitchen floor, sharing the last half glass of tea. He offers to run out for more drinks. “I’ll be back in ten minutes,” he says.

“There’s a pretty good chance you’ll get hit by a car crossing Clark Street,” I say. “Like, one in a few thousand.”

He snorts. “Whatever. Here, give me your phone number. I’ll call if I get hit by a car.”

I raise an eyebrow, but I give it to him anyways. He winks at me on his way out the door.

The odds that he’ll come back are pretty good.

The odds that this will work out are one in a thousand.

The odds that I’ll give it a shot anyways? One in one.

crabrock
Aug 2, 2002


The Guardian
898 words


http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=2298&title=The+Guardian

crabrock fucked around with this message at 07:06 on Jul 1, 2014

PoshAlligator
Jan 9, 2012

When SEO just isn't enough.


Well, this is what I've got. I'm not 100% on it, but I may as well post it.

---

In Between
900 Words

Something drifted out of the vague blur of thoughts. A cracking. Rhythmic, over and over again. Each rise of the tremendous crack gave way to some something else. A rough gale. Tornado. No, traffic, realised Ryan. He sighed deeply, feeling his chest expand over the empty sheets beside him. Woken by the construction again.

As usual, he wasn’t sure exactly when he’d stopped dreaming, but he could already feel the weight of the hammer bearing down on his mood for the day.

He ruffled the sheets over his head, listening to the soft movement right next to his ear. He smiled. Then the cracking outside started up again. He threw the sheets to the end of the bed, hearing them crumple defeated, as he wished he could.

He swivelled himself so he was sat on the edge of his bed. He tapped the edge of his nightstand and moved to the familiar location of the alarm clock. He ran his finger over the bumpy ridges of the first button from the right, to the second, pushing down to turn it off. He hadn’t heard the horrible droning for days since the construction started. He didn’t know how good he’d had it, he thought, smirking.

He opened up his wardrobe, feeling the neatly tagged packages of clothing Janine put together for him on the weekends. Nice girl. Almost too chatty, but she always made the effort to look him in the face while they talked. He could feel that.

Ryan touched the doorframe to his bathroom as he entered, running his hand along the bumpy wallpaper, and stopping to grip the plastic screen of the walk-in shower. He twisted the dial, wincing as the cold stream of water burned his skin. He grew numb. Then the pellets of water grew warmer, the heat massaging his skin.

Fully cleaned he turned it off and stood in the silence for a moment. Something clittered against wood, just to his right, next to his face. He reeled away. Slipped on the wet tiles. He caught himself on the screen but his knee had already collapsed to the floor. He grunted in pain.

The things in the walls again.

Between the foot of the stairs and the kitchen he stopped. Sniffed. It was still there. The smell reminded him of marijuana, bringing to mind his younger days, the house parties he’d go to with Izzy. More her friends than his. Then, the strain that had always been on their relationship. Her having to always be there, to look after him, to guide him. Well, not any more. But there was something bad about the smell, something off. Decay. Sour. The sort that would hit him hard when he opened the milk after too long, his only way of knowing the expiration date.

“Gotta be something dead,” he muttered.

There was a loose panel under the stairs the decorator guys had forgot to fix up. He tapped it as he moved past it and into the kitchen, hearing the hollow tap of his house, reminding him of the spaces in between the walls. He had tried to convince Janine to have a look inside with the flashlight and see if it was something dead, but she was too scared. He’d phoned the housing people with her there, to demand the exterminators, but they blew him off as usual. “It’s probably just the construction scaring them about, nothing dead. It’ll settle down.”

He put the coffee on, as he usually did waiting for Jake to pick him up, sliding his fingers over the buttons on the machine, following the familiar map of grooves that would make it just as he liked. He stood in front of it as it brewed. The aromas would slowly build and make their way up to his nose. Coffee was a favourite of his. They say that 70% of taste is actually smell. Ryan believed there had to be a little bit of sight in there too. The roasting of the beans, that bitter, dark quality. When he waited he could swear he could see the whole spectrum of flavour in his mind’s eye.

Jake had helped him pick out the machine. It was a good one. They’d driven to the shop after work and Jake had helped him pick on out.

The machine clicked, and began to calm down, steam warming his face, condensation tickling his chin.

The quiet ticking again, in the walls.

He thought for a second about asking Jake if he could take a look for him. That’s what disgusted him the most. That he thought about it.

It’s not like he could be scared of the dark anyway. It was all dark to him.

He made his way to the loose panel and pulled it off. It flopped loudly to the floor. He squatted down, putting his hands on the edge of the hole. He patted a short way in front of him. Rough wood. A prick. Splinter.

Skittering moved away from him as he moved in.

He felt something soft, spongy, unmoving. It felt like he imagined mice to look. He’d been right.

He held it in his hand for a moment. Lifeless and rotting. The stench was unbearable. How did they manage? Living with the dead?

He took it out to the bins, making a mental note to pick up some humane mousetraps after work.

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

*


Just under seven hours remaining! Glad to see some entries rolling in already, including a :toxx:!

Obliterati
Nov 13, 2012

Pain is inevitable.
Suffering is optional.
Thunderdome is forever.


The Cost of Doing Business
(857 words)


I was finishing up a particularly biting memo re: employee retention when that bittersweet sensation hit me. I went limp. Slumping backwards, my leather chair tilting as far as it could go, I knew that Barry was using again. I'd told him before; not during work hours. It took me a while to ride it out, head lolling back and forth, the drool drippng down my chin. The memo was forgotten. Barry was letting the team down. This wouldn't do at all.

I took a deep breath, stood, and walked out into the cube farm, slick with sweat. As soon as my foot touched the cheap fuzz carpet, my staff made themselves busy like startled deer in a faeces factory. So it was that I passed through the office, trying not to breathe it in.

It was only midday, or midday already, and the fresh air wasn't helping. The sun cut into my eyes. It sliced across my skull and I sagged again. This just wouldn't do. I turned and walked back in, coming to the nearest cubicle and its occupant huddled over a screen. “Hey, kid. You're with me.”

As soon as I spoke I felt the change, and it was delicious. Heart rate accelerating, adrenaline pumping through glands and arteries, driving right into his brain. I expected nothing less than one hundred percent from my people. Poor bastard had to choose: fight or flight.

“Of course, sir.” I knew he could deliver.

---

Whatever it was Barry was doing, it had to stop. I say 'whatever', like I didn't know what he was up to. Technically I didn't, because I never said it out loud. Better this way. Entrepreneur Strategy for Business Success®: maintain plausible deniability.

I made the lad stop at a store on the way, and sent him in for a bottle of water and enough painkillers to bring down a horse. Popping four of them, I laid back in the passenger seat again. I could already feel their chemical tendrils reaching down my veins, approaching their target.

“That's better,” I said. “Now we head to my house.”

“...sir?”

“What do I pay you for, boy?”

“You, uh, you pay me to streamline our -”

“Just drive.”

“Mr. Adams,” he said, craning his neck to look at me, “are you okay?” Through my growing haze I could feel the edge of his serotonin spike: I grabbed onto it and focused.

“Perfectly. But if I fall asleep, wake me up. Drive.”

“I- Yes sir.”

Not a moment too soon, the car pulled around the final corner, into the merciful shade of the cypresses that lined my street. I stepped out and told him to wait.

---

As I stepped into the house, a wave of nausea crashed into me. I fell. Pushing myself back to my feet, I could feel myself shaking, my nervous system stuttering on and off in nonsense Morse. He'd taken too much, drat him. I needed to fix this before he strung us both out for good. I'd got lax with him, and look what had happened. It was time for a performance review.

I staggered to the stairs, grabbing the bannister for support. Each step was a little harder, a little heavier; by the time I reached the top I was on my hands and knees, crawling towards Barry's door. It was unlocked. The thick wood creaked at my touch, and it swung open.

Barry was in a bad way too. His matted hair was draped over his sunken face. He was lying on his side, shaking like he was possessed. On the rug beside him were the accoutrements of his trade: the needle, the spoon; the gleaming foil it had come in. Dozens of lighters littered his workspace, despite the clearly labelled Igniter Disposal Area easily within reach.

He'd done it this time. I crawled over, resting for a moment against his skeletal frame. He moaned, eyes closed. I didn't see any point in trying to wake him. With my last ounce of strength, I rolled him onto his back. “I'm sorry,” I said. “We're going to have to let you go.” I elbowed him in the stomach.

I couldn't feel it under the crippling euphoria he was still sharing with me, better than all the ones we'd had before, but I heard the spluttering, gurgling noise in the base of his throat rise, gradually, to the point where I thought it would spill from his mouth: but the sound grew lower again, falling away. With it went our connection, my investment flickering into nothing. He was a problem employee to the last.

I felt better already. I stood up and went back down the stairs. The kid was still sitting in the car where I left him, his nerves sending a shiver up my spine. I knocked on the window. He wound it down.

“Son,” I said, “I'm going to need a little help. Why don't you come inside? Cup of coffee?”

He came to attention. “I'd be honoured, sir!”

“Fantastic. I'll brew you up a lovely pot.” Together, we approached the house. A position had just opened up.

Obliterati fucked around with this message at 01:09 on Jun 30, 2014

Kalyco
Apr 4, 2013


(Redeeming myself from my :toxx:)

Study in Achromatopsia
(897 words)

The boys were born together, less than five seconds between the first gulping in air and the second screaming with new breath. As they grew, their parents tied red and green threads on their sons’ wrists to tell them apart. Arnold and Zachary were family names, but when the boys were old enough to understand this they started to call each other “Arny” and “Ary”, and the names stuck.

At five, Arny asked Ary about the strings. “Mine’s red,” Ary said.

“Red?” Arny asked.

“Yeah. Yours is green,” he said, pointing.

The next day, Arny asked his parents if he could have his brother’s thread. They smiled patiently and changed the colors.

The twins drew pictures together. At school, when Ary finished with one crayon, Arny picked it up. At home, Ary drew green trees, brown dogs, blue skies - Arny drew red houses, red flowers, and red birds.

A year later, the doctors said the word “achromatopsia” while their boys’ teeth chattered in a white hospital room. Arny looked at a bunch of pictures made of spots, and the doctors asked him to find the numbers inside them. Arny couldn’t do it. He fidgeted on the squeaky vinyl exam table they made him sit on.

School changed, after that. They put Arny in a different class, and they didn’t ask him to count blue circles or color pictures of dinosaurs.

“Where’s my brother?” he asked his teacher.

“In the other class. Don’t worry about him, you’ll see him after school,” she said.

Eventually things got easier. He learned to follow patterns in the black and white world instead of color, like that the red light at the top meant stop and the colorless light at the bottom meant go. He liked it when his mom packed tomatoes or peppers or strawberries in his lunch. Arny and Ary were still inseparable outside school, but during the day Arny was in a class with only a few other boys and girls. It stayed this way for years.

High school gave the boys separate classes, except for art. “Why would they do that, huh?” Ary said while they were walking home. “It’s like they’re trying to be jerks.”

“Hey, at least we have it together,” Arny said. “Just let me borrow your crayons.” They laughed. “Who’s the teacher?”

“Ms. McClairon. Bet she’s some gray-haired old lady with charcoal on her face.”

In class the next day, Arny sat with Ary, hoping that the crayon trick would work for at least a little while. Then the brightest, most beautiful thing Arny had ever seen in his entire life walked into the room.

Ms. McClairon’s hair was bright, bright red. Red like the heartbeat in Arny’s ears and the fire in his chest, sweet like strawberries and hot like peppers. Every beautiful thing he’d ever seen in the world flickered through his memory, pulsing with that red.

The first few days of class were hard. Arny didn’t understand some things Ms. McClairon talked about, “hues” and “compliments” and “tones”, but things like line and shape theory came to him quickly. When she looked over his shoulder and said his black and white sketches were “beautifully true to life”, he could feel the warm blush on his cheeks - red, hot and alive.

When class finished, his obsession didn’t. Everything in the black and white world was fodder for his hungry eyes, and they were insatiable. When he told his professors in college that he “specialized in black and white”, they nodded like they understood. He would go back to his dorm room with charcoal and graphite smudges on his face and clothes. He called his brother on the weekends – Ary had gone to an engineering school.

Arny had college romances, flickering shadows that never stayed long. He would sit and sketch, waiting for a red-headed woman to walk by, and drink up the color of her like hot honey. When his professors saw these single-color drawings, they had no criticism, only suggestions that he find other colors to explore. He ignored them.

His final semester was difficult, requiring a portfolio of his “most accomplished pieces”. Arny found no greater fulfillment than in his sketches of red-headed women, so he locked his doors and turned off his phone as he pursued the perfection of his vision.

Finished, he triumphantly invited his brother and family. He greeted guests at the door, anticipating his twin’s arrival.

Then in the crowd, she appeared: the woman on the wall, the woman in every drawing he’d ever done, his red-headed muse. He felt his heartbeat in his ears the way he had that first day in art class.

“Arny? Great to see you, man!” Ary was there, hugging him, smiling. Arny smiled back, trying to recover. “I’d like you to meet Erin. You remember Ms. McClairon, our art teacher in high school? Well she’s Erin’s mom, and we met freshman year. How cool is that?”

Arny didn’t know what to say, as he looked around at the showroom walls, perfect portraits of Erin in every single frame. Ary walked in, like nothing was wrong.

“How could you draw me?” Erin asked, awe-struck. “I’ve never even met you before…”

Then Arny saw her red shoe laces, her red watch, and her red nailpolish, and he knew. The blush came hot and fast, the color of her hair.

Teddybear
May 16, 2009

Look! A teddybear doll!
It's soooo cute!




Caeci Proditione – 831 words

What haunts me most is that I said nothing until it was far too late to say anything at all.

The boy had come to me for planning. He had heard of the blind scribe in the king's court, a still-trusted advisor who listened to the cries for change. He sought some sort of revenge-- his father killed in battle, his mother worked to the bone, his family suffering under the yoke of the royal's rule. When his mother passed and he was by himself, he sought to remedy the slights to his family.

Maybe I was exploitative. I nurtured his fantasies, fed his desires. I told him the layout of the inner sanctum-- a layout I had paced out countless times in the decades of service. I dictated the king's schedule, dawn to dusk, as he clattered about the stonework, barking orders and condemning men.

It has been a long time coming. The king's magnificent failings. His fruitless meetings with the colonels for years now, dismissing every report of a massacre with a soft, petulant scoff. His failure to issue an heir-- or, considering his constant scent of sex and rotating cadre of whores, a legitimate one. His brusque disdain led to an exodus from the court, as wiser voices fled to other realms. Before long those he trusted still could be counted in one breath.

I gave him the opening and distracted the king. An innocent fib to bring him to a secluded location-- an excuse to isolate him in his study. I had thought there would be no resistance, that he would be in and out in a moment, taking the king's final breath.

Except for the personal royal guard. Lord, I had not known about the guard. How many times had I brushed by one? How often had I thought them a decoration, or a visitor? Their silence and stillness was my downfall. The boy had barely time to silence the king before he was seized and sealed deep below the castle's depths. His cries of defiance still haunt me, interspersed with the faint, whimpering gurgling of the tyrant.

I visited him once, under the guise of praying for his salvation. His voice crackling, his spirit dimmed. He never mentioned my complicity. I sat with him, comforting him, preparing him for what was to come. Over the hours his voice steadied, steeled in acceptance of his fate. I said a prayer with him, held his cheek, and kissed his forehead. He had saved the realm at great cost.

The new king, the uncle of the tyrant, showed little mercy. A more competent man than his nephew, his decree was just but harsh. The boy faced the block within days.

I owed it to him to be there. I had fed this desire of his, then tossed him to the wolves. I stayed in the courtyard, standing before the block for hours prior to the execution. Praying for my lost liege, I fabricated. The whispers of passers-by termed it loyalty. With the events of the day, they would never know different.

With minutes to go, they brought him to the platform. The executioner bellowed out his name and his crime, now one and the same: regicide. The clambering on stage and the thump of knees on wood told me the end was near. He was surely staring at me. I would be the last he saw. I couldn't summon the courage to ask forgiveness for involving him, for using him as a coward would. The bustle of the crowd around me would mask my words; I would remain hidden, my role in the conspiracy obscured with his death. I opened my mouth to say something, anything, asking his forgiveness.

I felt the spray. The smell of the royal coffers and its thousands of coppers flooded me; the bitter, steely taste of my former ally stuck to my mind. The crowd roared around me. One of my last friends in the court took my arm and whispered a plea in my ear, urging that I tidy up and wash the traitor from my skin.

That acrid, stinging scent stayed with me for days, weeks, months. The finest meals and the strongest ales could not shake it-- a constant reminder of my deed, injected into my mind.

One day, when it had nearly faded, and when my guilt was washed away, the king rested his heavy hand on my shoulder, digging the royal rings into my shoulder to make his presence known. He thanked me for the guidance, my loyalty to the crown. He offered me an old title of the long-dead king, an earldom within the capital walls that had fallen into disuse. I smiled and nodded and gave all the signals of gratitude. I could not hide the guilt, the loathing in my intonation.

He didn't notice it. Nobody noticed my sorrow. Nobody noticed the roars of the crowd. Nobody noticed the scent of blood lingering around me.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh


Wide-eyed
899 words

Aiana plunges her hand into the pot of boiling water and then asks me if I’m cheating.

“Goddamn it, Aiana,” I say.

“That doesn’t sound like a no,” she says. Steam is rising, condensing on her arm-hairs. I move to grab her, and she swipes her other hand at my face. “Say something that makes sense,” she says.

“Aiana.”

“Aiana,” she repeats. “Brent. I love you. I hate you. You say something enough times and realize it doesn’t mean anything at all.”

Her long black hair is plastered to her forehead. Her eyes are like coiled springs.

“No,” I say.

“No?”

“No, I’ve never cheated, and never will.”

She raises her hand out of the boiling pot, holds it over the steam for a second, and then sticks it out in front of her, like she’s warding away something I can’t see. I stare at her hand, at the flesh made tender, cooked fingers curled in a tight fist around the hard-boiled egg. I see the valley the silver engagement ring makes between swollen skin.

Aiana lets go of the egg. It unsticks from her open hand and falls to the kitchen floor with a thuck. Her knees give way as it hits the tile and she sinks down after it like she wants to rescue it. I see her crying, and I sit down next to her.

“I’m sorry,” she sobs, her words thick and waterlogged. She won’t look at me. “I just—I don’t know anything at all. I look in the mirror every morning and expect to have a giant scar across my face, or a shaved head, or a missing arm. I’m a thousand miles away every time you walk into the next room. I’m floating in outer loving space.”

“It’s okay,” I say.

“Why?” she says to me. “Why is this okay?”

She looks up. I stare back.

“I love you,” I say, because I don’t know what else to say.

Now I’m sitting at the dining room table while she’s lying on the living-room couch, blasting some black metal music that she hates. Something that ends with -och. I don’t know how close I can get to her anymore. Still, I want to try.


When I get back home, the apartment is silent. I tiptoe into the living-room, holding the shopping bag against my side.

Aiana’s there, asleep on the couch, her hair tousled around her head like a swirling dark nest. I resist the urge to hold her, gather her up in my arms, do anything but what I’ve planned.

I walk over to the stereo, unplug her iPhone, and plug in mine. Aiana opens her eyes.

Gentle guitar riffs are filling the room now, the same soft and sliding notes we first heard over coffee two years ago. I remember how the music made everything feel like the morning after even though it was the afternoon. We can hear the steady t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t of the snare and high-hat, like a sped-up second-hand, keeping time as we move into a better future.

I sit down beside her, drape myself over her as carefully as I can. She’s watching me closely, hesitating halfway to a smile. I reach into the shopping bag and pull out the ground coffee. I rub some of it between my fingers and hold it up to her face. “Breathe,” I say to her.

She does, and I see something in her eyes change, something deepen. I can smell the burnt bread crusts, the juniper, the raw chocolate, the sweet smoke. I went through almost every sample they had before I found the right one.

I reach into the bag again, and set a punnet of raspberries down on the lip of the couch cushion. I perch one between my lips. She understands now. I hover over her face, watching her mouth slowly open. I move my lips and let the raspberry fall into her mouth, and then I dive in after it.

We kiss, our tongues circling around each other, cradling and tossing the delicate bowl of the fruit, feeling the sides collapse and expand, collapse and expand as the tartness slowly escapes, then a bit of pulp around the edges, then a bit more, until at last the whole thing scatters and floods as the tips of our tongues twirl and dance in it. Our eyes are open, and I can see the gold flecks in her green irises.

I pull back from her. She looks at me, watches me take something from my back pocket. I unfold the stethoscope in front of her, place the earbuds into her ears, and take her healthy hand in mine.

We both place the diaphragm over my heart, and I know she can hear what I feel: the steady pulses, almost in time with the second-hand cymbal of the music. A building tempo, slow-quick steps across static skin. I want her to know that I’m here, that I’m alive, and that I want her.

And as the song winds to a stop, I move the diaphragm over her heart, so she knows she’s alive as well. Even if I couldn’t feel her rapid heartbeat through her chest, even if I couldn’t hear her breath catching in her throat, I could tell how she is. Her eyes are fathoms deep, and she wants more than anything in the world to not blink.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


BLO OD E M PR E SS

of

THUDNER-DOME






An Old Lady's Time
893 words

Cassy is alone in her living room when time starts spiraling.

The air prickles with the silence of settling dust. A rectangle of sun falls warmly through the window and onto her lap. There is the rustic lavender musk of the potpourri on the coffee table.

Round and round time starts to go, a dog circling, looking for a place to die.

Cassy is familiar with the push and tug of time. How it congeals into now, then oozes with gathering speed into the next moment.

When her husband passed away, time had become slow and wide as the Ganges, so that there was space for her to grieve. At the funeral, when her ancient mother-in-law had hobbled across the church sanctuary to tell Cassy that the floral arrangements were all wrong, time cracked like a whip. Cassy had blinked and she’d been home, head full of memories that time had spared her the experience of.

But now, in the still-quiet comfort of her living room, time is turning. Like a whirlpool. Like a funnel cloud.

Cassy’s joints complain when she grips the arms of her chair too hard. The television remains off. Outside, a bird sings; its call is warped, its tone rendered flat by the suction of the growing vortex of time.

She can almost see it, just a few feet away from her slippers. The cream colored carpet recedes without moving.

Cassy considers calling--who? Emergency services? The president? CERN?

She leans forward in her chair until her back aches. Her sense of time is both like and unlike vision. There is no distinct color or texture to time, just a subtle distortion of the is-ness of things. Her carpet is completely solid, yet there is a funnel hole in the middle of the living room. Time is running out of the world, water draining from a bathtub.

There is the neighborly sound of laughing children outside: The Meyer twins, Cassy knows. Probably running back and forth, taking turns leaping over the sprinkler in their yard.

If she calls 9-1-1, some firemen will come and frown at her perfectly ordinary floor, then leave.

The mouth of the funnel is nearly at the toes of her slippers, now. The carpet is breathing and pulsing. The Meyer twins’ laughter is like a far off, detuned radio.

Cassy shoves to her feet, knees pulsing angry red as they accept her weight. She can go next door and say there’s been a gas leak, at least. She will tell the Meyers that there’s been a gas leak, and they’ll have to leave their house for a few hours while the gas company checks the pipes.

She’s never mentioned her time-sight to anyone.

People smile at her when she shuffles out to her mailbox. The Meyers will listen. Perhaps they’ll leave. Perhaps they’ll be safe from whatever unfathomable thing that is pulling time out of the world.

Cassy thinks this as she edges around her living room, back to the wall.

She knows that she will come back to what’s left of her living room. The rest of the world will be running from the hole in time soon enough. They will be pulled into it, their backs to the vortex, always looking for more time. Cassy wants to slip from now into not-now feet first. Eyes forward.

She has to sidle over the end table next to the front door on her bottom. There’s dust on the back of her dressing gown afterward.

Just as, out of habit, she stops to change into her gardening shoes; just as the time-twisted voice of Mrs. Meyers calls the twins in from the yard for dinner, the house groans. It groans and it sags inward, the floor dipping down in the middle as though the foundation is made of limp fabric. Cassy’s living room becomes a bowl.

It happens so fast that Cassy is thrown down into the vortex, into time, into whatever fundamental absence causing the house to bow in on itself. And now she’s fallen and she can’t get up. And the center of the house is still sinking, the bowl getting deeper, Cassy calling for help over the angry giant moaning and groaning of her home, no longer accepting, now feebly clawing at the steepening slope of her floor, now falling backwards into the maw of time.

-

“Dang shame,” says Inspector Judkins for the third time. He’s standing, arms folded, at the edge of an area limned by yellow caution tape. Beyond the tape is a roughly house-sized pit filled with what looks like beige kindling and bits of roof.

Mrs. Meyers is beside him, two young girls clinging to her legs. “But don’t you think we should leave our house until you’re positive it won’t get bigger?”

The inspector shakes his head. “This wasn’t your normal sinkhole. Rock and soil around here isn’t right for it. Naw, most likely someone tried to do some digging under the house and didn’t fill things back in properly. At least the lady inside was already a widow. Poor thing, must’ve felt like it was the end of the world.”

One of the Meyers girls stirs against her mother’s hip.

“Don’t worry,” says the inspector to the little girl. “It was just an old lady’s time to go to heaven.”

The house shifts slightly in its pit.

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009



BIG DICK NICK
A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly



Life Outside of The Eggshell
900 words

I blindly pawed up the length of my arm for the rubber hoses that should have been keeping me asleep, but the stench, like fire within my nostrils, was enough to destroy all sense of priority. Like having rose and lilac packed into my nasal cavity; it was enough to wake me from my chemical sleep. So with the snapping of tubing ringing in my ear like a gunshot, I pulled away from the bed. I could feel the blood running down my forearm like two racehorses.

“Lisa!” I screamed through panicked snorts.

“She isn’t here yet, Ivan,” Timothy informed me through the intercom.

I collapsed to the smooth, cool, floor. “What is that awful smell?” I asked.

“You can’t identify it?”

“Now’s not the time for a god damned quiz show, Tim. I know what Geraniol and Linalool it is; thats elementary identification. Who brought it in?”

I heard the whirring of air compressors pick up in the distance, and the flood of lilac and rose began to wash away in the neutral air filling The Eggshell. Suddenly, my vision returned.

“The intern had on some perfume, but I sent her home already, Ivan. I’ve also maxed out the air scrubbers to clear the air for you. Lisa should be here in a few. I’ll send her in.”

For the first time I noticed the slight gravel and nasal tones to his voice. They were new to the morning. “Thank you,” I said, “and Tim, plan on taking tomorrow off. I can hear you getting sick. Sounds like the flu. Want me to check a sample?”

“Thank you, but that won’t be necessary.”

***

Lisa had been my client manager and personal handler for the past month. She caught me cleaning the blood from the floor when she exited sanitation. “You’re up early, why aren’t you still hooked up to the SIM?” She asked while gesturing to the Slumber Induction Machine.

“Weird morning,” I said.

“It’s about to get weirder.” she told me, “Your first client wants to come in for a face to face.”

“Tell him no. You know the rules.”

“She is already in sanitation.”

“Turn it off,” I demanded.

“It’s Tessie.”

“I am not helping Tessie.”

***

Tessie always looked nice in green. “Thanks for helping me, Ivan; my sister is very grateful.”

Back when we both worked for the NYPD, Tessie was the first person I turned to when I lost all feeling in my body. I remember tripping over my own feet as I ran to the diagnostics lab, and a sound as audible as ripping paper, my own ripping skin, as I cut my elbow on the floor. After Tessie brought me a cup of coffee to calm my deadened nerves, I could taste the clove, toffee, and chocolate flavor notes like they were ingredients strewn across her lab table.

Six months later, after the final papers were signed with Reynolds Medical, I turned in my badge and opened The Eggshell, a diagnostics lab that was faster and more accurate than any hospital, because it had me. Soon after, I took to living there; New York is a loud, bright, stinky place, and my condition made tolerating it nearly impossible.

Tessie was my handler for the next four years, assisting me both clerically and, when my condition would leave me senseless, personally. In our free time she taught me chemistry. Those were good years; then she just upped and left.

“Of course. Lisa,” I asked, “would you mind?” She nodded and took her exit. I turned back to Tessie. “What do have for me?”

I could hear her heart racing in her chest as she removed the samples. “Blood. Hair. Saliva.”

“What symptoms does Erin have?”

“Vomiting, diarrhea, aches, and most recently, hair loss.”

I reached across the consultation table and held her hand. “Why did you leave?” Her skin lacked the warmth and resilience that I had come to know.

“I can’t talk about this right now, Ivan. I’m here for my sister. Please don’t make this any more personal than it already is.”

I looked into her eyes, noticing a slight yellowing to the whites around her china blue. “Before I help you, I have to know. I’m sorry Tessie, but it has to be this way.”

She slid away from the table. “This is it Ivan. This is why. Right here. You can be so short and stubborn and rude. That’s why I don’t want to be around you anymore.”

I marched over and slapped her. It was light hit, but the impact felt like slamming my hand in a car door. Blood trickled from her nose to her pink lips, and I kissed them. The taste was distinctive.

I had to ruin the breathless moment; “Radiation poisoning,” I whispered, “I’m sorry.”

One just doesn’t acquire radiation poisoning, damnit.

***

I thought about that afternoon as I adjusted my funeral suit a week later.

Lisa looked nice in black. “Ready to experience life outside of The Eggshell?” She asked.

The plan was to lose them right before the service started. With the help of some old contacts at the precinct, I’d be drat near untraceable by the time the reception started. I had saved quite a bit of money over the years, and I intended on spending every cent on finding the bastard that did this and making them pay.

“Let’s go, Lisa.”

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

I'll Meet You at the Station
(896 words)

Evangeline felt the train's approach as a point of heat under her skin, completing a path from the top of her foot, over her knee, to hip, to hand. Its warmth died slowly in the center of her palm. In front of her bench at the station, the engine blew off exhaust.

A man stepped out of the driver's cab after the passengers had drifted away, and he crossed the pavement to her. What sharp clothes, she thought. His navy dress shirt was as crisp as it could be after hours on the rail. How formal he looked, and how good. She flashed him her best smile.

He spoke.

His dark moustache partially obscured his upper lip, but she read enough of his words to figure out the remainder. I've seen you around here, haven't I?

She said, "Yes"--a vibration in her throat; a slip of air between her teeth--and signed, I like to watch the trains.

Of course he blinked. Of course he paused. But then his fingers formed a slow, awkward sentence. There's a good restaurant near here.

Evangeline tilted her head.

Can I take you to dinner? he asked.

Over linguine alfredo, he--Nicholas--told her about his born-deaf cousin. Over dessert, the crème brûlée sweet on her tongue, Evangeline admitted in swoops of her hands that she'd never ridden a train. She enjoyed them. She spent many Saturday afternoons at the station. But she was afraid.

Why? he signed, and she shrugged. How should she tell him that she couldn't face riding off the edge of herself? That as he scrawled his name under their bill, locomotives glided between her epidermis and bone?

When she hugged him on their next date, she inhaled the citric burn of his cologne, too strong--she sneezed. His laughter rumbled through his body and hers until she had to join in. Nick took her hand and pulled her to a public water fountain, where he drenched his collar along with his neck, then kissed her. His moustache prickled; she didn't notice for long.

Evangeline taught him more words during a picnic on the hillside facing the station. The diesel fumes would have spoiled the strawberries he fed her, only now the smell reminded her of him after he'd brought a train home. She nibbled his fingers, and she coached them into the shape of delight without telling him what it meant. They lay on the grass, and he sang to her, his breath tickling her ear, some melody she could never know humming through the cheek she cupped.

Nick wanted her to ride the train with him. Again and again he asked. Again and again he said, Don't be afraid.

I can't, Evangeline signed, but she still couldn't tell him why.

His hands were as warm as ever, but they held her less. Even when he was in town, sometimes she woke alone.

The trains are my life. Nick's fingers jerked out the words. I want to share them with you.

I can't. I can't, spilled from Evangeline's hands. I love you.

Both things were true. He believed only one.

On Sunday night, a stranger came out of Nick's cab. Evangeline sprinted to the man, tapped his shoulder. "Where's Nick?" He frowned. Evangeline formed words carefully: "He drives this train. Where is he?"

Transferred, she read on the stranger's lips.

She'd felt Nick pull away from the station--she must have--had felt him leave her without knowing, without marking it at all. He wouldn't be on the southbound freight train shooting through her calf, not in the passenger locomotive crawling across her scalp--would he?

The ticket agent told her in writing that Nick was based now at a station far from town. Beyond the mapping of her body, certainly. He would be bringing in a load of coal in a few hours. Evangeline dug into her purse. "A ticket. Please."

Aboard the train, the heat she'd known as a pinpoint, an indicator, crawled under every inch of her flesh. The conductor caught her elbow and led her to a seat; she couldn't feel her feet. Or any other trains. Their traffic had left her nerves for the first time. Don't be afraid, Nick said in her memory.

When she couldn't sense where she was going?

Don't be afraid.

Movement shook her bones. Evangeline pressed her forehead to the window glass and let the vibration remind her of Nick's chest as he spoke and laughed and sang. She rolled across the miles blinded, but slowly she opened her eyes to see the grass rushing by. Unfamiliar grass, unfamiliar ground, yet the train hadn't taken her from herself. It didn't have that power.

I'm not, anymore, she signed to the man who wasn't there.

The cool of sunset washed back over Evangeline when she stepped down from the car; the warmth lingered only in small sparks darting over and through her, locomotives drawing a new map on her skin. She leaned back against the station wall to wait.

The freight train roared in after dark. Nick climbed out of the driver's cab, and he saw her. They crashed into each other halfway across the pavement, hugging too tightly for breath, and when his lips moved against her ear she knew the words they made: I love you, too.

Thalamas
Dec 5, 2003

Sup?

Hunter’s Moon 900 words

In the pre-dream twilight I hear my family; the tinkling laughter of my son, bells in the desert wind, and the accompanying sigh of Karen telling him that daddy is here. Petrichor fills my nostrils, the earth drying even as the sun falls below the horizon of orange and red mesas, the colors and striations of the stone mirrored in the high cirrus clouds above. I turn, following the music of their voices, feeling the grit of sandstone beneath my feet, and spot them dwarfed beneath an enormous arch of rock, at least fifty feet high. Centered in the arch, the moon rises, pregnant with white light.

I look down and see an amphitheater for God spread out below: a gently sloping, sedimentary bowl, gradually angling into a drop that makes my knees weak. In the way of dreams, there is no running – I am there, and her arms are warm and soft and achingly good. Hunter nestles against my chest. Karen whispers in my ear, “October eighth.”

----

“Sir, are you okay?” The bitch is shaking me. Can’t she read the sign? If not for the sleep paralysis, I’d stop her, but for now all I can do is open my eyes. “I think he’s having a seizure.” Her eyes catch mine. They are glacial blue, watery, and she freezes when the realization hits her that I’m awake.

“Leave him alone, honey. It says here not to touch him. He’s got narcolepsy.”

Her cheeks burn red and she grabs her husband, leaving without another word.

The second hand on the wall clock ticks along in my peripheral. Waiting. October eighth. I’ve always had vivid dreams during episodes, most narcoleptics do, but rarely the same ones. My limbs start responding again.

“Falling asleep on the job again, Mike?”

“You know me, always taking naps in the middle of the store.” I flash a poo poo-eating grin at my manager, Hans. We’ve met up for cigars and scotch a few times.

He looks over the bottles of wine and liquor I have out on demo today. “Well, keep up the good work.” October eighth. I’ve been searching the internet. Utah is a long bus ride.

“Hey Hans, I’m going to need some time off.”

His eyes widen. “Pour us some of the good stuff, then. I’ll buy.” On an early Thursday afternoon, the shop is empty. I grab a bottle of Oban 14 year off the shelf and crack the seal. The cork pulls free with a squeak and a thwoop. “Is this about-” At twenty-five, Hans is a good kid. Nice intuition.

“Yeah.” I pour a couple of tots, liquid amber, fourteen years in the making. “To the youngest antiques.”

“To great tastes.” We tap the small, plastic glasses together and drink. The flavor bursts, but I look to Hans and wait. “Sweet, smooth. Peaty, but not as much as others. A little… salty?” I nod. “Honey and citrus.” Slower now, he sips again. “Oak and smoke. Another fruit. I give up.”

“Figs. It’s figs. Nice job picking up the notes of salt. You’ve got a good palate, Hans.”

“Thanks, old man. So when do you need some time off?”

“Soon. I’ve got to be there next Wednesday. I figure it’s a couple of days down and back, so all of next week.”

Hans rubs the back of his neck. “You’ve got the time, Mike, but…”

“I need it, Hans. October eighth. I’ve got to be there. Delicate Arch. I don’t know why, but the dreams have to mean something. They’ve been gone twenty years now. My son would be your age if he were alive today. Twenty years, my friend. I don’t know if I’m cracking up or what, but I’ve got to go.”

“gently caress it. We’ll cover for you. How are you getting there?”

“Well, I’m sure as poo poo not driving. Taking the Greyhound.”

“You know, I’ve never been to Utah if you want company. I can drive.”

----

In my dreams, it’s always empty; in reality, Arches National Park is anything but. Tonight, the sunset is thirty minutes before the full moon rises and there are people everywhere. After two days in Hans’ Geo Metro, I know all about his little boy, his divorce, his life and now he has an education on Billy Joel music.

“Here.” Hans hands me my water bottle. The trailhead marker reads that it’s three miles roundtrip, an elevation change of five-hundred feet. “You up for this, Mike?” I just start walking.

The rim of the bowl is crowded with people. Photographers with tripods. Families on vacation. The shadows change constantly and every time someone stands under Delicate Arch, the photographers yell at them to move. Food wrappers crackle. We wait.

And when the moon comes up it is to the left of the arch, not centered like my dream; the people fall into a hush, pure silence. It is beautiful, the Hunter’s Moon, the moon for which we had named our son, and I recall the few years we had together. It glides smoothly, a disk of pale ice skipping along a sea of black, each star a pulsing life in the Milky Way spilled across the Utah sky. But there’s no dream, no magic vision. Hans asks, “Was it like your dreams?”

“No, kid. But it was worth the trip. Let’s head back down to that brewery in Moab.”

Gau
Nov 18, 2003

I don't think you understand, Gau.


Bowing out for this week. Was going to kill my protagonist again and I've done than so much that my friends are becoming concerned about my mental state.

Nethilia
Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition


Vision of Love
(890)

http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=2308&title=Vision+of+Love

Nethilia fucked around with this message at 08:32 on Dec 4, 2014

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.





Filament (600 words)

http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=2309&title=Filament

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 23:56 on Dec 9, 2014

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

*


pssst

hey

did you know

that there's slightly under an hour left? GET THOSE ENTRIES IN.

Tyrannosaurus
Apr 12, 2006


A Sunflower in Watercolors on Canvas
405 words

-see archives-

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 02:57 on Dec 11, 2014

Anomalous Blowout
Feb 13, 2006

rock
ice
storm
abyss



It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars.

*


ENTRIES NOW CLOSED.

Populating a list of disappointing bitches now...

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)


I promised Teddybear a line-by-line last week, and here it is.

Humboldt Squid
Jan 21, 2006



Hey writing crew! Just posting to remind you all that once a thread's been archived\goldmined there's no way to delete content from it, so be careful posting anything here that you might want to publish later :)

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.


Humboldt Squid posted:

Hey writing crew! Just posting to remind you all that once a thread's been archived\goldmined there's no way to delete content from it, so be careful posting anything here that you might want to publish later :)
Consequently, if you're ever planning on submitting something you've written here, consider linking to an off-site host like Google Docs instead of posting it directly. This affords the rest of us the opportunity to read your verbal vomit while still giving you an out to erase it from our collective consciousness should it turn out some dude is actually willing to pay you for it but doesn't like the thought of your loser Internet friends reading it first. Clandestine!

Also, as promised, something special tonight/tomorrow after Anomalous Blowout names her replacement.

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012

GUM CHEWING INTENSIFIES


Schneider Heim posted:

I promised Teddybear a line-by-line last week, and here it is.
Would you please do a line-by-line critique of my current TD entry Helm?

God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Benny the Snake posted:

Would you please do a line-by-line critique of my current TD entry Helm?

Begging for crits before judgment even goes up is pretty poor form, Benny.

Phobia
Apr 25, 2011

I'm a suave detective with a heart of gold in hot pursuit of the malevolent, manipulative
MIAMI MUTILATOR
and the deranged degenerates who only want their
15 MINUTES OF FAME.


OCK.


Benny the Snake posted:

Would you please do a line-by-line critique of my current TD entry Helm?

Would you kindly do a line-by-line of my TD entry Benny?

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God Over Djinn
Jan 17, 2005

onwards and upwards


Phobia posted:

Would you kindly do a line-by-line of my TD entry Benny?

Benny, if you do this, I'll do a line-by-line of yours, and I won't even complain about it.

e: about having to crit you, I mean. I'll sure as hell complain about the story, but there's no getting around that.

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