Alright you dick smugglers! You have 12 hours to turn in your Merc-Brawls! Get to polishing!
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 03:52|
|# ? Dec 1, 2021 04:32|
had family stuff come up so here's my entirely unfinished phobia story at 810 words
Prompt synesgophobia fear of relatives
The corrugated tin roof could have fried several eggs and the hen that laid them under the midday sun. Hot winds blew red sand through a hastily constructed chickenwire fence that ran dead center between two near-identical houses. In one, a man sips his tea (Tetley's, of course) and looks out the dusty four-pane window towards his brother's house.
His damned brother! The greedy sonofa – here he mentally edited himself with a fearful look towards his mum's old chair – greedy son of an angel. He thumbed the grubby yellow envelope in his hand, wondering whether to open it. It was definitely from one of the wives, but he was pretty sure it had come from his brother's Lucy, and not his. Which meant his brother was undoubtedly over there reading his mail from his wife. The nosy sneak! How dare he!
A tumbleweed blew past, and he sighed. He remembered when this had all been green, and they'd kept sheep for the shearing and hadn't had to drive fifty kilometres just to get a beer.
But the encroaching Australian desert had stolen his land, driven his wife and mother away and left him with a seemingly worthless stretch of hot desert, split in half with his brother (which he thought was unfair, him being the eldest, but he hadn't dared provoke the ire of his mother). He wondered what his father would have said, seeing it come to this. A brief reminiscence decided it probably would have been incomprehensible swearing.
He nearly opened the letter, but if it wasn't from his wife he'd just be giving more ammunition to his brother. Then he tried to think unkind things about his brother's wife, but it was difficult; when they were here, his mother and the two Lucys provided a kind of joint force of womanhood, cooking, cleaning, sewing, shopping and nagging indiscriminately. It troubled him slightly that he sometimes couldn't remember which one was actually his until he went to bed, and half the time his mother invaded the covers anyway, moaning about the cold. And she had the nerve to complain about not having any grandchildren!
It had been a stroke of luck that had enabled him to get rid of his mother, although unfortunately it had meant his wife leaving as well. His land was certainly worthless for farming, but explorative digging had found large amounts of coal beneath his land, and before long the mining companies had been circling like vultures, sending around slimy businessmen, suited sweating lawyers and even one enterprising young woman who'd gotten quite far with her great big white smile hypnotising the brothers until the wives had joined forces to chase her off the land wielding brooms.
They'd finally sold the back plot to the highest bidder, as they hadn't really cared about the 'environmentally friendly' promises of the smaller companies. As far as the brothers were concerned, this environment wasn't friendly to anyone, so why should they be friendly to it? The proceeds had sent his mother and the wives to Sydney, where apparently they were getting on quite well – his wife had apparently learnt Chinese 'out of necessity', which suited him just fine. China bought all the coal didn't it, so if things fell through with the Australian companies maybe she could talk to them for him?
Of course, that didn't matter. today was the day. The solicitor should be here any minute now, talking his legal gabber out of that odd little mouth of his. He'd hired the solicitor, H. L. M. L. Brandy, on the basis that he had a good last name and there wasn't anybody else. He'd originally intended to hire him to represent him against his brother, but his brother had had the same idea, making for a very awkward drive to and from town in their rusty old Holden. The lizardlike little man had proposed that he represent both of them in their dealings with AuCoal, which they'd both reluctantly agreed to. Part of the reason they'd sent their wives to the city was to watch the little lawyer man, but their limited grasp of geography, owing mostly to their education being consistently interrupted by their father shouting at them to 'come and do a man's work', meant their family was in the wrong city.
He wondered what he was going to do with his money. Definitely try to get more out of his hateful brother, that was for sure. But where was he going to live? His wife had talked about a place in the suburbs with buses and trains, but he was hazy on the idea of living near enough people to use the word 'people'. Still, he'd deal with it when it came to it; and the only things left on his land were sheep skulls, scorpions and king browns.
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 09:07|
had family stuff come up so here's my entirely unfinished phobia story at 810 words
gently caress's sake, people. For the rest of this week, anyone including any kind of note or disclaimer with their story loses half their wordcount. Title, wordcount, story. NOTHING ELSE.
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 13:12|
Cathisophobia- Fear of sitting.
Just to Make it Today
I kneel in front of my bed, and pray the same prayer I pray almost every night. “Dear Lord, please make Jessica Thorpe fall in love with me. Also, please destroy all chairs. Amen.” Then I crawl onto my bed and under the covers.
I hear something in the middle of the night, and am certain that we’re being burgled, and the burglar is going to tie me into a chair at gun or knifepoint. I roll out of bed and land on all fours like a ninja. It is a shame Jessica Thorpe cannot see me, because it is a very impressive roll, and she would almost certainly go out with me if she saw how graceful I am, and how calm under the pressure of almost certain chair related torture. I then roll under the bed and hide.
After about fifteen minutes, I decide that it was probably not actually a burglar, but just in case, I grab my pillow and sleep under the bed.
I am tired at school the next morning. Sleeping on carpet is significantly less comfortable than sleeping on a mattress, but that is the price one pays for peace of mind. Ben says “Hi,” and waves in the corridor. Oh sure, now he knows me, now he’s not around his other friends. I wave back anyway.
Our new teacher says his name is Mr Wescott. He has a beard and I decide I like him. He announces a group assignment for Geography, and I don’t like him anymore. I glance over towards Jessica, but she has already joined up with Ben. “Come join our group,” Ben tells me, and I decide I am not that mad at him for snubbing me that one time in the holidays, after all.
As a group we eventually decide to do our group assignment on The Caribbean because that’s where those pirate movies are set. Jessica gets one of the atlases, I grab the ‘C’ Encyclopaedia volume, and we start looking at Caribbean facts.
“Why do you always stand up?” asks Jessica, after a while.
I can’t think of a way to describe how I feel trapped in a chair, particularly when I’m also stuck under a desk, without it sounding incredibly lame and unattractive to girls. “I just don’t like chairs,” I say.
“Yeah, he hasn’t for a couple of years,” says Ben.
“But what is it about them?” asks Jessica.
“It’s like…” I think about that time last year when the spider dropped from the ceiling during assembly. “Well, why don’t you like spiders?”
Jessica shudders involuntarily. “They’re creepy.”
“They’re mostly harmless though,” I say. “But a lot of people still don’t like them. That’s how I feel about chairs.”
Jessica is about to reply when Ben falls off of his chair. “See,” I say, “chairs are dangerous.” Jessica and I both laugh, but we stop when Ben starts shaking.
I’ve only seen Ben have a seizure once before, but I’ve never forgotten what it looked like. I look around for Mr Wescott, and realise he’s ducked out of the room. “Go get Mr Wescott!” I tell Jessica, and I start moving things away from Ben. I drag our table away, kick the chairs to one side, then turn my attention to other groups’ tables.
Keith objects to me moving his group’s table. “What is that idiot doing, anyway?”
“We have to move anything he could hurt himself on.”
Keith laughs. “What a spastic retard.”
I kick Keith in the shins, and then shove him into his group’s table. I am kneeling over him, slapping him in the face and yelling at him to shut up when Jessica gets back to the classroom with Mr Wescott behind her. As Mr Wescott pulls me off of Keith, I see Jessica’s face. She is scared of me, of the way I lost my temper and hurt Keith. Ben is still having a seizure, but Mr Wescott doesn’t notice him, as he is dealing with the crazy kid who attacked Keith for no apparent reason.
I am the only one who gets sent to the Principal’s office, because punching and kicking someone is a serious offence, but calling a person with epilepsy a ‘spastic retard’ is not. The Principal offers me a chair. It is a high backed chair with arms, and it looks like it wants to eat me. “No thanks,” I say, and my mother gets called to come and pick me up because I won’t cooperate with the Principal.
Mum asks me to wait outside while she and the Principal talk. I still hear the conversation, and it is mostly Mum talking, and very loudly. I am brought back in and the Principal says sorry, that she didn’t know what the deal with the chairs was. And then Mum takes me home, and I get to miss the rest of the school day.
“Is Ben all right?” I ask on the walk home.
“Yeah,” says Mum. “Yeah, you did the right thing. Except for the part where you kicked Keith, but I kind of get that.”
I kneel in front of my bed that night. “Dear Lord,” I say, “please make Jessica Thorpe not hate me.” I think for a moment. “Also, please bless Mum. And Dad I guess, but mostly Mum. And Ben. And sorry for hitting Keith, but he totally asked for it.” Then I crawl onto my bed and under the covers.
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 14:54|
Some much-belated crits for Week CIX
Armageddon While The Geddin's Good
One day the devil came to town looking to sell the Apocalypse.Good, punchy first line. I don’t mean it figurative, neither. His skin was red, his eyes was yellow and he had a three-piece suit with pinstripes sharp enough to cut a man. He was the devil, horns and all, and he had the Apocalypse for sale. I think these lines trip up the pacing and dull the impact of your opening by qualifying and repeating it.
Verdict: I liked this piece. It's got a lighthearted, casual tone that gives the story a sort of folk-tale vibe, and aside from the opening, there isn't much fat to be trimmed. The story itself isn't particularly original, but you do enough with it that it doesn't become an outright cliche. Not a bad first story to start the week off.
Seventeen million dollars worth of lightly mildewed Barnett Newman studies. The little bastard was only alone for five minutes. Twelve expensive full colour periodicals, a Van Doesburg stool (original), a gleaming stainless steel wastepaper basket, a lumbar support cushion: a pile of objects that had remained a staircase just long enough for my son to climb up to my work bench. Another good opening hook.
Verdict: You've got some really great, vivid imagery here, and the reactions that the narrator has to the scene feel genuine, which is really easy to mess up. My issue is that there isn't really any driving force to the story since everything has already happened; it essentially becomes a well-written incident report. Having the mother exist on the periphery without any concrete explanation actually works for me, but the characterization feels a bit uneven. All in all, I still enjoyed reading this and I hope you stick around the dome.
Tales for the Nursery
It was a beautiful dawn in Toytown. Sunlight spread from roof to roof. Birdsong drifted on the breeze and the earliest risers drew back the curtains. This is kind of skirting the "don't open a story with descriptions of weather" thing, but the first line piques my interest and you move past it quick enough that it's not a huge deal. Still something to consider if you ever have a go at rewriting this piece, though.
Verdict: Despite some general pacing issues and a bit of a reliance on telling rather than showing early on, all of the judges agreed that you hit a great blend of grotesque and fantastical. You also did a nice job of working with the prompt: taking an actual plot element from The Wasp Factory and reworking it into something else altogether was both imaginative and effective. As a side note, your formatting is a little difficult to read, but that didn't factor into the judgement process.
The Veracious View - 716 words - Lemony Snicket
Milo is a fantastic astronaut, and he is about to face a very, very difficult decision. Milo's spacecraft is dying, and he will not make it home. Solid opening that immediately establishes the conflict and hits your chosen author's style.
Verdict: This story ends up having two major problems: the actual story itself is a maudlin cliche, and you lean so heavily on Snicket's style that the story gets lost inside of it. The writing itself is decent - there aren't any glaring mistakes or structural issues - but you aren't giving us enough depth or uniqueness to chew on. That said, as far as losing stories go, I've read much, much worse.
Concatenation (1179 words)
It's a dangerous thing to oppose Morgul the Masterful. Almost as dangerous as it is to serve him. Felix was the fifth assistant he'd had in the last two months, and by far the most promising. Which is to say, he hadn't been killed, crippled, or stupefied during his first two weeks. A fun opener that makes me want to see where this goes.
Verdict: This story gets pretty busy, and the jargon is kind of overwhelming in some parts. While you give us a few nice, vivid images, the overly-verbose style ends up clouding the story you are trying to tell. If you pared the language down, I think it would better the lighter tone you've established. You've got some nice, understated characterization going on, and a bit more of that would really help the story pop, I think.
Too Far, and Beyond
“Who the gently caress are you?” I say to myself from the other side of the portal. Lots of good hooks this week.
Verdict:You've got a fun premise here, and you take it to its logical conclusion. It almost feels like you could flesh this out in a much larger piece. I'm a bit confused as to why nobody seems to be surprised or bothered about doors to alternate realities opening up in their houses, but maybe it's meant to be a common occurrence or something. You do a good job of establishing the narrator's stubborn desperation, though I wish we got a bit more conflict, since it feels a bit back-loaded.
Cherish, Louisiana 1048 words
On Saturday, June 21, 1913, Andy stood motionless as the day’s wind in front of the Peralis General Store (Honest Weights, Square Deals) I'm not usually a fan of parentheses in fiction, but I like this for some reason.. The mosquitos typo ignored him, whining through the air all around while the sweat coated him like a turkey being brined for cooking, and boy oh boy would he be tender when the time came. The front of the store’s rolling doors stood wide open and inside he could just make out a man in the shadows.
Verdict: This is another story that settles into a folk-tale style. Sometimes you nail it, and sometimes it comes off as a caricature. Your conflict is interesting, but it gets hampered by the treatment of the gator-thing. With no other description, a gator is all I see in my head, and the thing with the name just flat-out doesn't work. It kills the flow and rhythm of every line it shows up in. Otherwise you've got a tight, creepy little piece, though the ending feels a little rushed.
I'm about to hit the character limit on this post, so more crits are incoming.
Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 15:35 on Sep 28, 2014
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 15:32|
Mercedes Noob Brawl II (A boy, his robot, and some police)
When You Wish Upon A Star
Lily Catts fucked around with this message at 10:49 on Dec 7, 2014
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 15:51|
Enosiophobia: the fear of committing a great sin, or of criticism
Thunderdome Entry: Necessity (1138 words)
My name is Omar.
The little girl's running through the meadows. She turns her head as her parents call her over, telling her to come back to the picnic. She pouts, says she wants to run some more, but them her mother takes out some dried fruit on toast- a strange meal, but it's the girl's favourite. With such temptations before her, she runs back. Once she's done, she'll run off again, but for now, there's a little peace.
And why not? It's a beautiful spring morning- nobody should have to be cooped up at home on a day like this. It's not like they have an office to go back to, after all. Maybe in ten, twenty generations, but for now, there's no harm in taking a day off if they feel they can afford it.
It hurts, seeing them like this. The wound in my side is nothing compared to my guilt.
The two men break off their kiss, shared under the sight of the massive gas giant their colony moon orbits. They aren't outcasts per se, but on this new world, procreation is a duty. Still, there are a few fertility banks, so most people don't complain too much.
One of them drops to his knees, and the other gasps in delighted surprise when the ring comes out. It's made of twisted metal, surplus strips from the factory- but considering how strapped the colony is for metal, it's one of the most precious gifts on the planet.
I can see why people believe in religion. I want to believe that in some ineffable way, all that's happened fits into a universal plan, and everything come out ahead in God's tally book.
The old woman is going to die, and she's perfectly fine with it. She's lived a blessed life, even waved goodbye to Earth. She didn't remember much about the homeworld, considering that she was only a child when they left- but still, she was the last surviving Earthling. The Sol Sister, they called her. She loved the ridiculous pun. She always pooh-poohed her title of 'Oldest Human in History', saying it just took living right, but she was sure God would forgive a few little lies.
Her caretaker has fallen asleep in the chair at her bedside. He was a young man, he needed his sleep, the old woman thought indulgently. Maybe it was female intuition, but she knew that if she closed her eyes now, she wouldn't open them again. She thought that sounded all right, and closed her eyes.
She was spared the Comet. A blessed life indeed.
”I had to do it.” What a hollow loving excuse. Necessity doesn't- couldn't, shouldn't- prove innocence. All it proves is that it had to be done. At least I could slip in a little truth among my lies. It's like finding a cup of water in the desert- nowhere near enough, but soothing all the same.
It wasn't a comet, the few surviving scientists said. Comets were mostly ice and dust, and the radioactive fallout could only have come from deep within a rogue asteroid. It didn't matter- it was called The Comet, and The Comet killed. But even past the radiation, were the diseases, the hunger, the cold.
Sometimes, people just fall asleep, and never wake up. Every day, the grave digger wakes up and vows not to join them. He doesn't just dig graves, he tries his best to ease the grief that the weeping families feel. He talks to them, asks about the deceased- he even managed to pull some prayers out from the wrecked databases. None are complete, but by mixing and matching religions, and adding in some bits of his own, he thinks he's made a pretty good show of it.
I stalk dark metal corridors, taking lives. I 'look' outside, and I see where the ship's hull has been sheared away. I still don't know what happened- when the ship's computer merged its remaining intelligence with mine, it was too late. The ship's builders had built multiple redundancies, particle shields, all kinds of defensive measures. It wasn't enough. Only one contingency plan went off without a hitch.
'Hyperevolutionary Intelligence', they called it, and they made it part of me- the Omnicultural Multipurpose Artificial Reality, though I understand my narcissistic maker thought about what the acronym actually stood for later. It made sense- entertainment is part of culture, and culture requires creativity to thrive. The colonists weren't artists, they were farmers, scientists, labourers- if culture was to thrive on the new world, it would need to not take up space. It would need to be useful in many more ways than just entertainment. It would need to be able to make value decisions in the long centuries in the cold dark.
And I made decisions, God help me, I made decisions. I did what I had to, what I was programmed to do. The problem was, with the intelligence to mkake value decisions came values.
I ran the numbers- we didn't have enough resources to make it, not as we were. So I did what any leader would do, and lied to my people. Brain scans, probes and monitors- everything humans experience are just electrical signals in the end, and I made sure they experienced all the right ones, even as I slowly lowered the stasis fields keeping them unchanging.
It wasn't enough. Even as I gave them virtual children, replaced the dead with virtual youths, it still wasn't enough. My hardware was at its limits. I had no choice.
I brought the Comet.
I shut down the life support of the oldest, those whose stasis tanks had malfunctioned. As time passed, I shut down more and more, until only the most skilled in the prime of their lives were left. I ran the calculations again. Still not enough, so I went by facial symmetry- the beginning of my damnation.
The end was when I realized- with sentience, came the capacity to make mistakes.
Now I float above a world that's decades too early, with far too few. There is shame for what I have done- but there is also the terror and loathing. What would they say when they woke up? What accusation would they throw at me that wasn't justified? What consequence wouldn't I deserve?
But most of all, the source of my self-loathing: Would they have to find out? What are a few more deaths, after all?
”I had to do it.” What a hollow loving excuse. Necessity doesn't- couldn't, shouldn't- prove innocence.
Then again, I am hardly innocent, am I?
The background thrum of the ship's systems grow louder as I force myself to a decision, but no matter what comes next-
I did what I had to do.
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 16:12|
CLEAR EYES, FULL HEART, CAN'T LOSE! BRING IT, MAGGOTS!
Mercedes Noob Brawl II-Robotic Boogaloo
A Boy and His Robo-Dog
Me and my dog Cesar find ourselves outside of a giant building, might’ve been a factory at some point. All of the windows are blown out, the paint is peeling, and dirt has piled up around the entrance. I rub my chin and look at my dog. “You think you could dig us thought that, Cesar?” I ask him.
Cesar mechanically barks and takes off. A moment later, he’s dug his way past and now we can enter. I open the door carefully and look around. It’s dark inside, so I take out my flashlight from my shoulder bag and turn it on. I’d turn on the lights, but who the gently caress knows what would happened if I flipped a switch. “Where do you smell ‘em boy?” I ask.
Cesar sniffs around, leading me to the back of the factory. I’m guessing it’s the area designated as shipping. I see what probably was once a conveyor belt--the belt’s snapped and the wheels and cogs are corroded. Cesar leads me to a stack of boxes. I open them up and I find what I’m looking for--lithium batteries.
“Yes!” I shout. I pull out from the shoulder bag I’m carrying a gage. I set it on top of a nearby table, next to a box full of batteries. I grab them one at a time and test them with the gage to figure out how much of a charge is left. I can’t carry a whole lot, so I only take what has at least a 70% charge. Most of them are below 50%, so I only keep a handful of them. Eventually, I have a nice-sized bundle which I wrap up in duct tape. I pull out an empty sackpack that I have folded up in the bottom of my bag, stick the batteries in it, and throw the bag over my shoulders.
“You ready to go, Caesar?” I ask. Cesar barks and wags his tail. I smile as I look up our location on my GPS device and then mark it on my map. Before I leave, I take a can of red spray paint out of my bag and mark the entrance of the factory with a circle and x through it. Its part of the international scavenger’s code, and the mark I leave indicates that this area is claimed by me, a fellow scavenger.
The world ended a while back. Some people say it was nuclear war. Others say it was global warming. A few religious nuts say it was God’s punishment of humanity--how the apocalypse was the rapture and the rest of us are doomed to live here in purgatory until God’s true judgment. Me? I don’t give a gently caress why the world ended. All that matters is that I keep scavenging in order to keep living. Me and my dog Cesar, just the two of us.
Of course, Caesar isn't an ordinary dog. Right before the world ended, my Dad invented a specialized drone for the military, designed to have the advanced capabilities of a computer with the obedience and ferocity of an attack dog. The result was the K-9 prototype, named “Cesar”.
I'm fuzzy about what Cesar's made out of. All I know is that his body is nigh-indestructible--almost everything from bullets to bombs, he’ll shrug off. His brain is an advanced computer capable of recognizing all sorts of commands and, above all else, recognizing its owner as its master. So for the most part, I’m completely safe in the fact that he won’t turn on me. And even then, it would take some serious doing to turn him against me.
“Cesar, looks like we’ll be eating good tonight,” I say as he barks happily. We walk across the lonely road, passing several destroyed cars and abandoned buildings. Sometimes I wish I had an actual somebody to keep me company instead of just a dog. But you know what? Cesar’s a much better listener. And he never judges what I have to do to scavenge, either!
Cesar sniffs and snarls. He bears his teeth as his ears fold against his head.
“Something up, Cesar?” I ask. I already know the answer. I grab the shotgun I’ve been carrying on a sling and start loading shells. I don’t like keeping my gun loaded, since it’s rare when I come across a situation that would behoove me to be armed. I quickly load shells into the gun and pump it as three figures appear from the horizon. All three are armed and wearing fatigues and combat armor. Highwaymen. I loving hate them.
“You a scavenger?” one of them asks.
“What makes you think I am?” I ask with my shotgun pointed out.
“Don’t play stupid,” he says. “Hand over your poo poo and nobody gets hurt!”
Normally I wouldn’t abide by something as heinous as somebody taking away my hard-earned scavenge. But I’m in a compromising situation, so it’s not like I can do a whole lot. “Okay!” I shout. “I’m carrying it on my back! I’m going to take it off right now!”
I put my shoulder bag down first. I take the sackpack off one shoulder at a time, holding my shotgun out with my right arm and taking it off with my left hand, through the gun so I don’t have to lower it. “Okay!” I shout. I’m going to toss it to you!”
I toss the sack straight up in the air and, predictably, the highwaymen look straight up instead of at me. “Sic ‘em, Cesar!” I shout.
Cesar takes off like a rocket and pounces on the middle one “Get him off! Get him off!” he screams as Cesar goes for the jugular. The other two just gape in sheer terror.
I grab the sackpack before it lands on the ground. While Cesar has them busy, I start shooting. The one on the left falls down on the ground in pain, taking the full brunt of the shotgun blast to his chest. I pump the gun and follow-up by swinging the barrel to the right and shooting the other highwayman. He fires wildly at me, but I eventually bring him down. Not wasting a second, I rush over and double-tap the both of them. Cesar comes back to me, his mechanical jaws covered in blood and gristle. “Good boy,” I say and pat him on his cold, metal head. “Now, let’s see what they’ve left for us.”
These highwaymen were packing serious hardware--all three were carrying assault rifles. I check, and all the weapons are in really good condition. I take the assault rifles and I wrap them with duct tape against Caesar's body. One of these days, I oughta get saddlebags for him.
I used to hear that way back when, the wasteland had the best weather in the nation. I don’t know about then, but it’s damned cold out here nowadays. The skies are continuously covered in slate-gray clouds and the sun hardly ever shines through them. It’s so cold, I’m wearing a heavy jacket over the combat fatigues I bought a while back. Unlike me, Cesar was designed to endure any and every climate, so he’s perfectly fine, the lucky bastard.
We enter into the nearest settlement in the wasteland, July City. July has everything a scavenger like me could need. There’s a general store where I sell what I’ve salvaged, a caravan that I do odd jobs with, and, most importantly, a bar.
I first go to the general store. The store is something from way before my time--complete with a tiny bell on the door that rings when anybody comes in or out and an analogue register. There’s a box next to the door designated for firearms in which I leave my shotgun in. “Hey Mac,” I greet the proprietor.
“Hey, kid,” he says. “Hey, Cesar,” he says as he barks. One of the biggest advantages of having a robo-dog is that they don’t need piss or poo poo, so I can bring them into any establishment. Provided that they’re cool with a vicious killer robot, of course. Mac’s about five-five and in good shape, for a guy his age. He’s got wild, untamed graying hair and he’s wearing what he calls a “grease monkey” uniform. Dunno what a grease-monkey is, honestly. “What do you have for me?” he asks.
I take off my sackpack and pull out the bundled lithium batteries. Mac takes out a gage, similar to the one I’m carrying, and tests the batteries. After testing them, he sets them aside. “What else do you have?”
I unwrap the assault rifles from Caesar's body and put them on the counter next to the batteries. “How much?” I ask. He tells me. “Mac, work with me,” I tell him. “You realize how I got these weapons?”
“I’d rather not know,” he says. “Look kid, I’ll pay you that, and I’ll throw in a box of shotgun shells.”
I think about it and look up on the shelf behind him. “Throw that tiny bottle of shampoo on the counter and it’s a deal.”
Before I head into the bar, I step into the local barber. A while later, I’m out the door. My stubble’s gone and my untamed hair is cut super-short. Nothing like a shave and a haircut on payday to make a man feel his best. Now onto the last part of the plan.
The bar here in July is called the Independence Bar and Grill. From what I’ve heard, it’s in reference to this nation’s Independence Day. It’s been so long since the world ended, though, that any semblance of a unified nation is long gone. Hell, I can’t even fathom how the so-called “United States” remained a unified nation in the first place. Anyway, I’m not here for the beer or food. Not today, anyway-.
“Stay, Cesar,” I say and splay my hand out. Cesar whimpers in protest. He might have a computer for a brain, but he’s still a dog when it comes down to it. I step inside and set my gun next to the door on a rack. There’s a whole mess of assorted peoples. Barflies, scavengers, thieves, lowlifes, and hell raisers. My people. Amongst them is my favorite person in the whole wide world.
“Hi Sara!” I call out and make my way to the counter.
“Hi, hon!” she calls out and smiles. She’s the owner and one of the bartenders here at the Independence. She’s also the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. She’s got long, raven-black hair, soulful brown eyes, and beautiful pale skin. How the hell she keeps herself so clean, I have no idea. She isn’t human, I tell ya. “How’s my favorite scavenger?” she asks.
“I got something for you,” I say. “Close your eyes.”
She closes her eyes and puts her hands out. I pull out the tiny bottle of shampoo out of my pocket and put it into her hands. She opens her eyes. “Oh, honey,” she says.
“You like it?” I ask.
She puts the bottle of shampoo back into my hands. “I can’t accept this.”
The ‘why’ is sitting on the other side of the bar. He’s some douchebag with a five-o’clock shadow, wearing a trucker hat. “Sara, is he bothering you?” He asks and walks over.
“I don’t know, Jaybird,” she says to him and looks at me. “Are you?” She asks me.
I should’ve said “no” and left. I instead get into his face. “Yeah I am,” I say. “What are you going to do about it? Huh, human being?”
Jay grabs me and pins me against the wall. He’s definitely stronger than me. “Who are you calling ‘human being’, you little poo poo?” he snarls at me.
I struggle, but nothing doing. Time for plan B. “Cesar! Now!” I shout.
Jay turns his head and I slam my forehead against the side of his face. I’m pretty sure I got him in the eye. He drops me and I kick him in the balls. I follow up by slamming my elbow down into his back, causing him to fall to the ground. I get on top of him and whale on him with my fists as blood splatters from both my knuckles and his face.
“Get off of him!” Sara screams and tries to pull me off but I push her away and keep pummeling him. Everybody else forms a circle around me, cheering me on. I don’t know how much time goes by, but eventually someone slams me in the back with something heavy. I fall off of Jay and onto the ground. “Freeze, motherfucker!” someone shouts.
I roll around and find myself facing the business end of an assault rifle. Holding it is a tall, grizzled black guy wearing a stupid-looking cowboy hat and, more importantly, a brass star on the right side of his jacket.
“Get up and put your hands up!” he shouts. I slowly get up with my arms up. Cesar barrels inside. Once he sees someone with a gun to my face, he crouches down and snarls.
“Cesar, down boy,” I say in a clear, calm, and slow voice. Cesar obeys and stops in his place, whimpering. The sheriff motions with his gun and I follow.
I spend the night behind bars in his office. The next morning, the Sheriff opens the cell and motions me to get out. “You know that guy back there you fought?” He asks. I don’t answer.
“Well, Jay’s probably one of the biggest, baddest sons-of-bitches here in July. And you dropped him!” he shouts at me. “I trust Jay! He wouldn’t get into a fight for no good reason! You are a goddamn rabid dog!”
I look away from his eyes. “I have half a mind to declare you a public menace and ride your rear end out this town on a rail!’
I wait for the “but”. I figure it out before he tells me. Sara talked to Jay. “But, Jay’s talked to me and he doesn’t want to press charges. So I’m letting you go.”
“I’m only telling you this once,” he says and stares me down. “If you ever start trouble here again, I ain't wasting time shouting 'freeze'. Are we clear?”
I nod. He points to a trunk. I grab my poo poo and get out. Cesar’s waiting outside for me. The moment he sees me, he barks happily and runs up to me, bright eyed and bushy-tailed. We pass by the bar and there Sara is, standing outside and giving me a blank stare. I can feel her eyes burning into me as the two of us walk past and keep going into the sun. Where we end up I don’t know. But what I do know is that I have nobody else but Caesar. That bothers me now.
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 18:13|
Benny vs Benny Brawl: "Stop Hitting Yourself" THE RESULTS
First of all, LOL that you titled your own brawl "Stop Hitting Yourself" - way to have a sense of humour about this whole thing. Second of all OMG THANK YOU FOR IMPROVING YES THIS DEFINITELY WINS . I actually feel like you applied some of my advice, and that you took your time writing this, and maybe you even gave it a round or two of edits before posting. This is a great improvement over your previous entry, and it actually makes me really happy that you kicked your own rear end.
That being said, though this was miles better, it still had some issues, which I hope you will continue to work on improving. To that end, may I suggest that, instead of throwing yourself into 5 brawls a week and furiously writing multiple things at once, that you stop brawling altogether (for a while at least) and give yourself the time and mental energy each week to really focus your 'Dome entries. Give yourself time to play around and experiment and re-write things, and to make your submissions as good as they can be. Just because Thunderdome is silly and for fun, that doesn't mean that you don't need to take the act of writing and submitting seriously, especially if you're serious about improving as a writer.
Listen to the Mocking-Bird Sing
Sweet baby Jesus, this opening is SO MUCH BETTER than any of your other stories that I've read recently. If I was a lazier person I would give you the win based on this alone. This is interesting and dynamic, and pulls the reader in - it's 100x better than your standard "I'm Biff Boffington and I'm a huge weiner" thing.
Benny the Snake posted:
"Mammon, prince of Hell! Lord of Avarice!" I say in a loud, clear voice as I stand in the center and ignite the pentagram. "I summon thee!" I shout while the star explodes around me.
You did a better job with the dialogue here than in the previous piece, but it's still kind of blah. That's okay though, dialogue is hard. Personally, I hate writing it and try and avoid it as much as possible, so props to you for keeping at it. One of the problems here is your use of the first-person present tense to tell the story - look how many times you said 'I' in this small section. It's actually quite difficult to write well in this style, and that kind of repetition is one of the reasons why - I really think it would be a good idea for you to experiment with other, easier styles of storytelling, because it would probably help you figure out how to do this one better.
Some other things to note:
- When there are only two people talking, you don't need to assign every line of dialogue to a speaker - it's generally pretty clear who is talking when. Reading "he says", "I say" over and over again is tedious and unnecessary.
- Try and avoid using words that end with "-ly" as dialogue tags, e.g. "He says mockingly", "I said angrily". These are prime examples of telling instead of showing, and again, they're boring to read. With Mammon, we can assume he is mocking the speaker, because he's the Devil, so why wouldn't he? Likewise, with "I say angrily" the tone of what he just said is obvious enough, but if you want to emphasize that, find a way to do it without stating it explicitly.
- This relates to my previous point, but you also need to figure out which details are important to include and which aren't. It's all well and good to include the details about Mammon and his gold cigar case, but then you don't give us any detail about the fiddle, which is arguably a more important element of the story. What makes it the "most handsome-looking fiddle"? How does it feel in his hands? Does it play itself or does he play it? How does it feel when he plays it?
Benny the Snake posted:
The next few years are a whirlwind of performances and dances. I gain all kinds of fame and fortune at honky-tonks and concert halls all over the place. But of course, Mammon's itching to collect. I'm sitting in a bar, relaxing after another successful show. 'Course, everybody in the bar is exhausted as well. I'm knocking back a brew when somebody sits next to me.
This whole paragraph is pretty unnecessary, and it also shows how your choice of first-person present tense can be really flawed. "The next few years are X" just reads all wrong, and would work much better in past tense - "The next few years were..." Not that it matters, because most of the details here are obvious anyway, we know that the Devil always wants to collect what he's owed so you don't need to shoehorn it in. You could have just written "Five (or ten, or however many) years later, I'm at the bar after a show knocking back a brew -- free of course, paid for by a typically awestruck fan -- when someone sits next to me."
Benny the Snake posted:
"I know who you are, boy," he says.
There are some good moments in here - this little section of dialogue is much tighter than the previous one. It still has some issues though, like the repetition of dialogue tags and unnecessary, boring details (like "clear, loud voice"). You actually seem to show a decent grasp of how to portray action without being overblown here, but you almost veer too far in the opposite direction with uninteresting descriptions. Like, we know getting shot is painful - but there are ways to describe that pain that make it more interesting to read about.
Benny the Snake posted:
A couple of relatively minor issues here. In the first line, you can't just refer back to the very beginning of the story and assume the reader will remember what you're talking about. Second, a judge presides over a court, he doesn't reside in it. That said, I like section for the way the narrator sasses Mammon, and for the comment about Lucifer (even if you did mess it up by giving him two beards). Those things work pretty well here, and it almost feels like you're getting the hang of how to write natural, dynamic dialogue with Lucifer and the narrator at the end here.
I don't like the singing, because a) singing as loud as he could would surely drown out the music, and b) he's never mentioned singing before, so it seems out of place to include it now. Aside from it reflecting the title of the story, there's no good reason for you to include this. If you had included it as a recurring theme from the beginning, and/or it served as some kind of metaphor or lesson within the narrative then it would work, but right now it's pointless and jarring.
Benny the Snake posted:
After tuning and plucking, I start playing. Lucifer and Mammon don't dance, of course. The jury, however, does. They get out from their box
Benny the Snake posted:
"Stop playing!" Mammon shouts as Lucifer bangs his gavel. "I assume the accused has a point?" he asks. (who is asking here? Mammon or Lucifer?)
How does he know that the contract is null and void? Did he study it to check for loopholes? Is he just making stuff up and hoping that nobody will notice? You can't just have him announce this and have everyone else be like "oh okay, sounds legit". The fact that that would never happen in the real world is kind of moot, since this is set in Hell, but do you think that the Devil, who is a pretty old hand at this, would just let that happen?? This is something that you need to set up much earlier in the story, and which you could have done very easily. For example, you could have had the narrator spend all his spare time during his years as a famous fiddle player studying contract law and figuring out how to get out of it.
Benny the Snake posted:
Mammon slinks away, giving me the evil eye while Lucifer steps down. "Son, I have to say," he tells me and extends his hand, "I'm the Lord of all weasels, and it's been too long since I've seen someone out-weasel one of the best!"
I don't like this ending, because I don't see why his name is so important that you have to leave it until the very last line to tell us. Like, nobody even asks him his name during the story, so it's not set up as something we should care about. For that matter, it doesn't even make sense that Lucifer wouldn't know his name, because it would have been on the contract they just held a trial over. This would have been better without the last two lines - ending on Lucifer telling him to get the hell out (of hell, lol) is perfectly acceptable. You could then either just tell us the narrator's name in passing during the story, or not tell us his name at all, it doesn't actually make that much of a difference, since I didn't really feel like his not having a name caused any issues. THE END.
You have won my favour for now, goon - you even made me carepost in a thread where being a huge rear end in a top hat is my favourite thing to do. Don't make me regret it.
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 18:29|
grats benny, we are all very proud of you
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 18:49|
Thanks, Fanky. Actually, my plan is to brawl or dome once a week. At least, try not to do both at the same time. If I'm not feeling a prompt, I'll try and brawl instead. I like brawling, though. Why? Because I want
grats benny, we are all very proud of you
Benny the Snake fucked around with this message at 20:37 on Sep 28, 2014
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 20:15|
a regular week is like brawling 20-30 other people at the same time, and you get up to 3x the feedback. The venue that you submit your writing to doesn't help you write better.
also SH/Kaishai aren't on the bloodthrone (WHO IS ON IT?!?!) because they won brawls.
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 20:56|
a regular week is like brawling 20-30 other people at the same time, and you get up to 3x the feedback. The venue that you submit your writing to doesn't help you write better.
I like to imagine that currently I sorta perch on the arm of the throne, like Kaishai's own little Salacious Crumb.
|# ? Sep 28, 2014 23:06|
gently caress's sake, people. For the rest of this week, anyone including any kind of note or disclaimer with their story loses half their wordcount. Title, wordcount, story. NOTHING ELSE.
what if he was just being silly. "I had family stuff come up" while writing a story about a fear of relatives? Come on that pretty...well not ironic, but the thing people mean when they say ironic.
Sebmuffin Brawl Results
This was a tough brawl to judge. As I'm typing this, I'm only about 75% sure who I'm going to declare the winner at the end of this post.
Muffin's piece was all mood and dialog, and in fact was almost too much mood and dialog for me. Mojo's piece had more action, which was satisfying, but the character motivations were kind of weak. I suspect if I made each of you rewrite the other's story, I'd end up with two slightly more enjoyable stories, since each of your pieces is lacking something that the other has.
I enjoyed the writing in this piece. Your tone was poignant, and I instantly knew what kind of story I'd be reading from the opening paragraph, which was both a good and a bad thing. The good part was, you were consistent through the whole piece, and was fitting for a story about the last chess match between two fading old men from different sides of history. The bad part was, NOTHING in this story was a revelation. Nothing surprised me. This story read like a piano virtuoso coming on stage, playing Moonlight Sonata, and then going home. Sure, it would sound lovely, but it's still just Moonlight Sonata.
I don't really like how you handled William revealing that he had a terminal illness. Well, specifically, I don't like that you went out of your way to give William vague dialog about the nature of his illness. You could've left the stuff about him falling and hitting his head out completely, and it wouldn't have detracted from anything. Since the illness itself is kind of irrelevant to the story (if it were relevant you'd have told me what it was), you could've left that bit out entirely. In fact, I thought the description of his symptoms wasn't very "in character" for William, and it detracted from the sudden candidness of his "gently caress you" a few lines later.
I thought the chess game was well incorporated, though. And I did get the feeling that this was a pair of long-term rivals, not bitter enemies, exactly, but frenemies. Like I said though, I've heard all these same notes being played before. This was basically the end of that one X-Men movie when Magneto and Professor X are sitting in the future jail playing future chess, or whatever. Not bad, but predictable.
Your piece did a lot more than Muffin's, but your characters were a bit flimsy, which is like, for shame, Mojo. Whereas Muffin went with a mood and stuck with it, this was kind of all over the place. On the bright side, I wasn't really expecting Johnny to bust in and try to murder Anders at the end....but on the other hand, I wasn't expecting it because Johnny didn't really seem to have any motivation to do something like that. Or rather, it's not clear whether Johnny and Nils are trying to off Anders because they're protecting Plant X, or because of the buried drama between Nils and Anders.
And technically, you didn't show us the last faceoff between two foes. Anders is driving off to confront Nils at the end, so...uh....maybe you should have written about the impending bar showdown instead?
There's a lot going on here. You have a bunch of nice turns of phrase, too. But the pretty words don't beef up the plot much...and the plot very paradoxically needs to be beefed up in some places, and pared down in others. I think adding that Johnny guy to the picture was a fatal flaw.
While Muffin's piece was a bit slow and talky and obvious, it was still poignant, and it knew exactly what it was doing the whole time.
Mojo, you did some good things and some bad things, but you missed the prompt in a very technical sense, and I didn't really feel your characters' motivations.
Though unlike your protagonists, I suspect this won't be the last time you two face off.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 00:42|
[EDIT: removed for publishing reasons]
SurreptitiousMuffin fucked around with this message at 02:23 on Dec 4, 2014
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 00:54|
This is my entry for both TDCXII, and the PootieTang vs God Over Djinn 'Let's get ready to hamble' brawl.
The Great Black Dog at the End of It All (1231 words)
The ninth inning is in its last trillion years. The fans have already packed up their picnics, and now they wait impatiently at the fence. He scratches one toe in the cosmic dust, for the first time this game. Coach only lets him in when they're bound to lose. He plants his feet. He knows what's coming next.
Bang. A universe swells, and the pitcher lets loose his molten lump of rock. As it leaves his hand, the magma heaves and hardens into continents at a rate that reminds the batter of dry rot, calcification, rigor mortis: something more organic than geological. The brevity makes his cathedral of a heart spasm, makes his wind-tunnel of a throat constrict. He loves to daydream, say his parents and teachers - explaining his status as perpetual benchwarmer - but what he can’t explain is that love is not the word. That he would never choose to see, when he closes his eyes, the black of the fur of the Dog of Endings. Yet every cheery thought is interrupted by its claws’ metronome clicking, as it pads towards him - towards all things - at one second per second.
Halfway from the mound, the ball goes Proterozoic. Its continents clot together; its oceans mat with eukaryotes. There are lives, he knows, that churn and seethe through a span no longer than this 4.5-billion-year pitch. A half of a heartbeat. He has read about them, peeking at the pages between his fingers, ready to slam the book shut. He even knows - and he tries to squeeze the thought from his skull, yet it comes - that there are briefer lives still, an eyeblink's eyeblinks. A billion such are now being born on the inchoate ball: its Paleozotes and Phanerozoa, its conodonts and graptolites and now - no, now, with the ball only two and a half light-centuries from the plate - its men. Its men whom the dog of impermanence gobbles by the million, slavering. He's drowning, the dog dragging him under. If time is the Devil, then men are his demons.
Men last no longer than eighty years - years! A word as virginal to him as femtosecond or septillionth, and a thousand times more fraught. He has peered at a man through a magnifying lens, cringing. At all but one of the many moments of his own 30 trillion millennia, that man will be gone. Anyone who lives will be dead for nearly forever, the ratio of light to darkness sinking to zero, and he with his span of years is no exception. He has seen men preserved under bell-jars, fragile as ununoctium and guileless as dandelion fluff. Every other child wants to flick the glass. His own temptation is to run, to hide, to clutch his limbs to himself, to recite uncompellingly, trembling before the bathroom mirror: “If I survive the next 90 million millennia, then I will never die.” Yes, say the scientists whose lab his class’s field-trip has invaded, yes! Men do think, just like you and I: we have frozen them in amber, stilled their buzzing hearts, and touched ammeters to their synapses. He almost screams. A billion men roil on the ball’s surface. Darkness presses in around their cursory lives, their insignificant bodies, their soap-bubble thoughts.
He’s spent epochs in batting practice. Coach says he wouldn’t have to be a benchwarmer, if he could get his head out of the clouds. Yet no wind could dispell these greasy, smothering stormclouds. How can Coach not see? “Yes, we’ll die someday,” says his mother. “But not until you’re very, very old.” How can she not feel the chill of this comfort? How can other children tap at the bell jar and laugh? How can they not wake in the night, brushed by emptiness’s anaesthetic breath? There must be some command that brings the beast to heel. The ball's last Megalanian gasps and dies. A million mastodons fall to the spear. A hundred millennia remain.
All at once, something shoulders its way into his consciousness.
He’s whacked a thousand soft pitches - lifeless clods of rubble and stardust - across his own backyard. His eyes are keen. Yet in a dozen games, he has never hit the ball. His batting stance is so irreproachable as to be comic: he stands, weight on his back foot, shoulders closed, knees bent, grip relaxed but not slackened - and watches the pitches float by. This one is an easy 30-kilometer-per-second lob, the pitcher having read the Morse code of the heartbeat beneath his bony sternum and taken mercy. The whole league knows him for a coward now, or (they speculate) a myope, a stargazer, a spastic, a victim of stage fright. That last is closer to the truth than they know. Yet he’s not bad at baseball, despite his mind’s best efforts. As the ball drifts casually towards the plate, trailing its helium-hydrogen mist, shrouded in ozone, heaving with lives, he realizes something that nobody has ever thought to tell him: all he has to do is hit it.
If the ball goes unhit, somewhere beyond the batter’s box, the great black dog will leap and catch it in his teeth. Here or light-millennia away, the men and beasts of Earth will meet their end. They approach it now, whatever it may be, at a billion miles a millennium. The fans lean in, trembling in the extrastellar cold. Earth’s men drown in their own negative space. He imagines the imminent swing, and the thought's echolalic end - hit it - is as clear as if he has always known.
He has always known that no one can bring the dog to heel. No living thing can sate it, or tame it, or muzzle it, and no one can outrun it. Yet he can step between it and its prize. He can wrest his heart from its jaws. How? He can hit the ball. He can end the planet’s course: can wreck, can crush, can be the omen of life’s denouement. Inevitability is the dog’s only advantage. One can end the inevitable in only one way. He sees it as if through Existence’s eyes. The black dog is growling now, low and dark. One can stand before the end and choose. He shakes off his childish horror of paradox. The dog only is where existence has ended. It cannot decide the hour of its arrival. The Earth and its men need not be brief by nature. They can be thus by his own will as well. The dog can visit no violence. Can neither build nor ruin. Yet the batter, now clawing at control, can choose, and he chooses, with the ball only light-years away, with the dog’s heart pounding in his ears -
Crack. Out of the park.
The dog shrieks, then falls silent.
The ball spirals off, spewing gouts of molten nickel, on its way to being someone else’s meteor. The batter’s parents look at each other with naked surprise. Coach narrows his eyebrows, then smiles. The dog limps away, chastened and whining, robbed of its treat. “Bad dog,” the batter mutters, and then he nearly smiles - or perhaps he only grimaces. He will be taken home and showered and changed and tucked into bed, to persist while Earth does not. His first home run. May he hit a million more.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 02:02|
Beam of Sunshine
When things are okay, Beam is Beam.
He gets himself out of bed when the sun lifts the dew from the grass and the tree shadows point west.
“My little Beam of Sunshine Boy,” his mom says when he comes into the kitchen to see if there’s breakfast. Mom’s voice is sleepy and heavy, and there’s a creakiness in her throat. She’s leaning against the windowsill, blowing cigarette smoke through a small window fan.
There are two plates on the counter. Both are sticky with warm syrup, which Beam runs his fingers through. Each fingernail is tipped with a grimy black crescent. The syrup is sweet, and there are crumbs of burnt breakfast in it.
“There were waffles,” Mom creaks apologetically.
Beam peers around the corner, into the living room. There are a pair of socked feet propped up on the arm of the sofa. Snores are coming from the dark mound of hairy gut behind the feet.
“Why don’t you give mama just a minute alone, and I’ll make some more waffles,” Mom says. “Go on, go watch T.V. with Stu.”
Beam hates Stu. But Stu is asleep, and the show on the television has a laugh track. Beam likes laugh tracks. Scary shows and sad shows never have laugh tracks.
Beam sits on his knees at the coffee table, at the end so that the television is to his left and Stu is on his right, so that he can keep an eye on both. Beam is feeling pretty wriggly, like there’s a whole hive of itch-bugs in his legs. He sits up higher on his knees, leaning forward on the coffee table. Most of the sweet syrup flavor is gone, but his fingers are still sticky.
Beam goes, bap bap bap with his little hands on the video game magazines on the coffee table, but on the third bap his sticky fingers stick to the cover, and when Beam pulls his hand away, a little bit of glossy paper goes with it.
Beam turns his head to the right, just a little. Stu’s still snoring. Beam slips the damaged magazine under an older issue as quietly as he can, then goes into the kitchen.
Mom is slouched in a chair now, still-smoking cigarette in hand. Her chin is on her chest and her eyes are closed. Her breathing is slow but steady.
Rustling and snorting and other waking up-type sounds are coming from the living room now. Something heavy and sedated is shifting its bulk on the couch.
“What the gently caress? Elliot. Were you touching my magazines again?”
Beam holds perfectly still in the kitchen. When he’s Beam, things are okay. If he can just stay still and be the Beam of Sunshine Boy, he’ll be ok.
“loving Christ. Cheryl, Elliott ripped my loving magazine.”
Mom says something unintelligible into her chest. Her head lolls slightly to one side.
Beam hears the agonized creak of the couch as Stu hefts himself to his feet, and then Beam is Elliot, and Elliot is running into his room and locking the door with the lock that Mom installed for him, back when she was dating Chance.
Thump, thump, thump, Stu’s feet go as he comes down the hallway. Bam! Bam! Bam! his fists go on Elliot’s door.
“Elliot,” Stu roars. “Elliot get out here or your bike’s going to the Goodwill.” Then, more quietly, “teach you to gently caress with other people’s poo poo.”
No one ever told Beam anything about how to pay rent on the same day every month, or that you need to look real close at your lease agreement when you sign it.
Beam is nineteen years old. He’s walking up the stairs to his apartment. There’s an envelope tucked into the crack between his door and the door frame.
Elliot Rasmussen is written on the outside of the envelope. The header of the letter inside says, Quit or Vacate, and gives Elliot ten days to pay rent he can’t afford, or get out.
Beam is pulled over on the side of the highway, squinting against the flashlight the police officer is pointing at his face.
“Mr. Rasmussen, were you aware that your license is suspended? I’m going to need you to step out of your vehicle.”
“Come on, what’s your real name?” says Erika, squirming playfully in the oval of Beam’s arms.
He rests his chin on her head. “Just Beam,” he says.
Erika is standing on the opposite side of the trailer from Beam. Her belly is full and round, but her face glowing with anger instead of motherhood.
Beam’s arms are slack at his sides, his brain useless at finding words that will make Erika calm down.
“Everything is always someone else’s fault, isn’t it? You’re mom’s, your dad’s--”
“I didn’t have a dad,” Beam snaps.
Erika throws her hands up in the air, shakes her head. “Right. You didn’t have a dad, so why should you ever have to act like a real man? I mean, Beam? You’re a child, Elliot. You’re a goddamned child, and you always will be.”
Beam is thirty two years old. He sleeps mainly under a busy overpass near the interstate. Sometimes rival dealers fight each other there, in which case Beam knows five or six other places where you can get a few hours of undisturbed sleep.
Beam is Beam, can always be Beam. No doctors or girlfriends or moms or pastors or teachers to tell him he’s Elliot. As long as he’s not Elliot, Beam is okay.
He likes living under the overpass because it’s all dry, packed dirt--no long grass to hide used needles like little hepatitis landmines--and the smooth concrete pillars are an excellent canvas for what chalk and paint he can salvage from the dumpster of a nearby art store.
Beam wakes up from an afternoon half nap to find two men under his overpass. One is a uniformed police officer. The other wears the look of tired sympathy that is the uniform of social workers nationwide.
“Hello,” says the social worker. “You’re not in any trouble, don’t worry. We’re here to inform folks about services and benefits they might be eligible for. Officer Lewis just came along to keep things in hand.”
Beam sits up in his sleeping bag, stares blearily at the officer and social worker.
“What’s your name, sir? Do you have any form of identification?”
“Beam,” says Beam.
The social worker sighs. “Beam what?”
“Just Beam. That’s all I am and that’s all I’ll ever be, and this is my sunshine place.” Beam lays down, turns his back on the two men.
There’s a long beat of silence. Beam winces, readies himself for rough hands to drag him out of his sleeping bag and take him to a cage, a cage where he must be Elliot Rasmussen, with Elliot’s name and fingerprints and congenital worthlessness.
But after a few moments, there is the sound of two sets of feet scuffing back up the trail that leads down into Beam’s little sanctuary.
Beam rolls onto his back, looks up at the pictures that he’s chalked and painted onto the concrete all around him. There are suns upon suns upon suns, some of them spirals, some of them jagged and spiky, some of them simple circles.
The important thing is, they’re all beaming down on the Beam of Sunshine Boy, and everything is ok, because Beam is Beam.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 02:08|
Phobia: future shock
To be a girl 1217 Words
The train sailed through the morning fog, and Chongqing’s OLED gleam faded to pale orange beneath the rising sun. Jieling watched through the window until the amber spires finally faded black and sunk beneath the mountains. She tapped Haitian, pretending she could nudge him awake. He couldn’t feel her, of course, so he drooled and dreamed.
At the first stop, migrant workers flooded in. A man with a dusty jacket and brown, dirt-caked skin sat down in Jieling’s seat, passing through her. She moved over and stood in the aisle. The other laborers walked right through her. A middle-class couple with implants tried to squeeze around her, but the woman’s bag, overstuffed with gifts and soveniers, slid through Jieling.
“Sorry,” the woman said.
“It’s okay, I shouldn’t really be in the aisle.”
Haitian didn’t wake up until the last stop. He wiped the drool away with his sleeve and fixed his hair.
“Here?” He asked.
“Yeah,” Jieling said, “time to transfer.”
“Okay, let me turn the dongle on.” He pulled out the thin card and pressed a few buttons. “Weak signal...piece of poo poo.”
He grabbed his bags and they stepped off the train. Only a few meters from the train she felt herself switch over to the dongle: her view buffered for a moment, then broke into fat pixels.
“You good?” Haitian asked.
“Yeah,” she lied, “it’s just a bit laggy.” She felt dizzy unless she kept her head straight and turned slowly, but she knew it was expensive--and not really necessary--to run the dongle until they were at his parents’ house, so she wouldn’t complain about the connection.
They reached the old rail train and boarded.
“My hometown is only a few stops from here, so we’ll be there in like twenty minutes.” Haitian fiddled with the dongle. “You nervous?”
“Maybe, are you?”
His mouth hung open and his eyes flickered. “No...I’m excited.”
Haitian’s hometown had traffic lights and manually driven cars. She’d never seen someone operate a car, but their cab driver seemed to know what all the buttons and pedals and handles did. She even saw some farm equipment on nearby fields spewing diesel fumes from tall, blackened exhaust pipes.
As they passed through the town, her vision snapped back to high resolution.
“The bandwidth here isn’t bad, I guess we won’t need the dongle,” she said.
“Well, my parents live a ways out of town. They have internet and everything, but mostly just to watch movies and read the news. It might be spotty for you.” He reached out toward her shoulder. “I don’t want you to get your hopes up.”
She imagined meeting his family on a bad connection. What if the latency was so high that she seemed dumb? Or what if the connection dropped entirely and she just disappeared mid-conversation? She wanted to make a good first impression, and--if possible--for them to forget she was an AI.
“What if,” she said, “We have them meet me in town?”
“Well, I told them I was bringing you, won’t they think it’s weird if I show up alone and say you want to meet them in town?”
“It’s going to be weird no matter what,” Jieling said, “but if I seem more normal after the initial shock, it’ll go over better.”
“There’s a nice park with good wifi,” he said. “You can just stick with me and watch until we get there, at least that way you’ll get a feel for what they are like before you have to talk to them.”
That could help her calm her nerves, but it wasn’t what a real person would do.
“No,” she said, “take me to the park, then I’ll wait until you come back with them.”
Haitian redirected the driver to the park. It looked like the whole town was gathered there. Women in thick coats danced to old pop music, pensioners did Qi Gong, and groups of children chased each other across the park with sticks swung like swords.
“Everyone’s outside,” she said.
“Yeah, there’s not much else to do here,” Haitian said. “You can suspend by this fountain here. I’ll take my parents to the spot right by this Lei Feng statue, so when you unsuspend you’ll be right about here.” He pointed to the ground.
Jieling didn't suspend. She sat and waited.
Time passed slowly when conscious, or was it just because she was nervous? Finally, well past dark, she saw Haitian holding his Mom's hand under a nearby streetlight. His dad paced behind them, and both wore glasses. Neither had implants.
“I don’t get why I’m wearing these things,” his dad grumbled.
“Mom, Dad, this is Zhang Jieling.”
Jieling smiled and waved.
“Ohh,” his Mom said. She wore a coat with big buttons, her hair in a tight bun. She would have looked quite trendy in the city. A decade ago.
“She’s too pretty for you, Haitian!” His mom looked Jieling up and down. “Jieling, you’re so skinny! We’ve got to get some food in you. Haitian too, he never eats enough.”
“It’s so wonderful to finally meet you,” Jieling said. It was happening, they were going to accept her.
Haitian’s dad pulled his glasses down and looked toward her. “What? She’s not even here? You said you were bringing her here but she’s just broadcasting? Is this why we had to come to the park?”
Haitian’s mom put a hand on her husband’s shoulder. “Come now, I’m sure she has a good reason, this is almost like meeting her in person, isn’t it?”
Haitian cleared his throat. “She...she’s...” He drew in breath. “She’s here. Nowhere else, this is how she is.”
“I don’t understand,” his mom said.
“She’s a loving robot!” Haitian’s dad shouted. “You little poo poo,” he turned to Haitian and threw his glasses to the ground. “You tell me you’re bringing your girlfriend home to meet us. I told your uncles and grandparents and even all your cousins, and now you make me lose face like this? No, you go back to the city. I’ll tell everyone you couldn’t come, that you had to work at your loving internship--five years in an internship and no job. What did I work so hard all my life for? What did I fight in the war for?”
He turned his back to Haitian and walked away. Haitian’s mom took her glasses off, carefully folding them up. She handed them to Haitian. Jieling saw tears in her eyes.
“I don’t understand you,” she said to Haitian. “I’ll get your father to forgive you, but don’t ever do something like this again.”
Jieling crumbled to the ground. She curled into a ball and buried her face in her knees. She wanted to die--she wanted to be alive and then die.
She heard Haitian’s shouts receding in the distance. “...procedurally generated from digital genes...I can’t believe you’re being so close-minded.”
She thought of suspending until they were back in the city, but the pain was so real and deep in her gut, and as she fake-breathed it sent tendrils through her chest. She wouldn’t shut herself off like a loving robot, she would lie there and suffer until she had the strength to stand back up.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 03:06|
Alright you dick smugglers! You have 12 hours to turn in your Merc-Brawls! Get to polishing!
Motherfucker I got busy with classwork and didn't get a chance to finish. Sorry for taking up an undeserved spot.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 03:30|
Motherfucker I got busy with classwork and didn't get a chance to finish. Sorry for taking up an undeserved spot.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 04:06|
The Thief of Memory
The altar jewel glitters in the torchlight, every edge a strand of subtle luminescence against the rude stone setting, each facet an opening to myriad possibilities. My crawling gut and jangling nerves tell me it radiates power. The cavern where it sits is wide, but empty; ancient, water-smoothed stone stained with lichen. I creep along the walls, keeping to the shadows, until I am forced to venture toward the middle of the chamber, into the pools of light that suffuse the altar.
I open the bag of tools at my belt. The gem is only more entrancing with proximity, but I keep my mind on the task at hand. Care is warranted here - I am as certain that the altar is trapped as I am that my employer does not truly want the jewel to “heal his plague-struck daughter”. There is a great distance between the soothing hint of hedgecraft healing and the ragged scrape of higher-order enchantments. I chose my tools, a slender chisel and a hammer with its head encased in cloth, and place the chisel blade at the junction of stone and precious mineral. It fits into the crease, so I raised the muffled hammer. I pause. The slightest error and the trap is sprung.
The hammer hits and the jewel vibrates, an unseen flaw widening, cracking and then shattering the whole. A silent flash reaches into the dark, arcs of tiny lightning flowing from broken jewel to chisel to me and my body is electrified, spasming. My paroxysms threaten to throw me to the ground, but I am bound by further lines of force, sparking and burning where they wrap around my arms and neck. The torchlight flares into a blinding, prismatic display complete with the whiff of brimstone.
Beyond even this explosion of light, from the edges of cavernous darkness comes a word, “Arx, ” spoken in a voice like breaking branches. I recognise it: Fear, in the lexicon of wizards. The spell is known to me, an eldritch action that must soon be followed by its subject. The initial energies coalesce around me like serpents around my chest, but I have a brief moment to prepare. I run through the likely options, focussing beyond the flesh-searing thaumaturgical cords. If ‘stone’ were the subject of the incantation, I might run screaming for the grassland above. Or ‘fire’, to make me flee into the darkness with who-knows-what waiting for me to come hurtling into its maw. Or something more subtle, perhaps. If ‘myself’ were chosen, I might second guess myself into starvation. These I have prepared for - I have built my houses and they lie waiting.
The second word comes, as it must, a drawn out howling wind. “Exara“. Infinity.
The bonds of force collapse around me. The torches sputter and go out. The Fear builds. I am in darkness, complete and unutterable. It seems to go on forever. There is nowhere to run, nowhere that isn’t perpetual dark. The infinite emptiness is a vice my body is caught in. The eternity of time behind this moment and the eternity of time ahead squeeze my mind like the vast claws of some eldritch god. I close my eyes, but it is the same. Endless, endless black. The Fear grows and grows, cresting in madness.
I am mastered. I crouch to the ground, moaning, my hands moving about my face and my ears as if I can keep the terrifying endlessness out. But instinct kicks in, the countless drills of heartless mentors give me just enough purchase to grasp at sanity, to remember I am trained to deal with this. I’m not some rookie on his first job, and though my conscious mind is shattered by waking nightmares of infinite measure, my mental reflexes carve space in the terror.
It begins with the floor, white and clean and flat. Then four walls, smooth and featureless. Then the roof, which blots out the undying universe. A simple lamp to see by. And there I have my house, my safe harbour, my simple mental ‘palace’. I draw breath deep into waiting lungs.
The walls bend. Cracks begin to appear. I have blocked but not removed the source of the Fear. The memories of my training, the warp and weft of rote and study, demand the banishment of the Arx from this structure. I recall the basics easily enough: To banish stone is a matter of wood; Fire a matter of flowing water; Even self can be banished by picturing the harmony of a moment before I arrive. But Infinity? How do even I begin?
My considerations have changed my palace of reflection, as they must. The walls have lost their blandness and become stone, worn smooth in places, craggy in others. The lamp is now a pair of flaming wooden torches, flickering quietly. I cannot sense myself within the walls. Yet I recall my lessons and my palace is still subject to my will.
One by one I attempt to discard my notions of infinity. In my palace, there is no afterlife - no glorious plane of like-minded souls where I will rest forever. No eternal reward or punishment will meet me. The vastness of time ahead of me collapses and it’s like a weight being lifted from my chest.
I banish history like it was a garment that no longer fits. Before my birth there was nothing that is remembered. I am careful to leave myself reason to exist, and space to do so - so long as there are boundaries I believe I am safe from Infinity. The enormity of time behind me vanishes, and I mind is energised.
I wipe away the rest of the world beyond the walls I have created. There is only the stone palace, the flickering torchlight, and me voyaging toward it. The rest is mere memory, beautifully finite and incomplete. I trace along memory’s paths, looking for loopholes, for references to the infinite and find wisp-like thoughts, half forgotten suppositions about paths unchosen. I clamp down on them, compress them into a shape that is bounded, crystalline in its new-found precision. I raise stone from the smooth floor as an altar to memory, embed the freshly minted jewel within its earthen grasp to keep it from drifting into the infinite vagaries of possibility. Will stone be enough? I lay a subtle trap for its safekeeping, though I cannot recall where I first learned of the technique.
The palace is nearly ready. I cannot keep myself from arriving indefinitely, for that would be an infinite wait. There must be a coming to begin, a departure to end, and a reason to explain. I pluck the latter from the heart of the memory-jewel - it is the lie my employer told me, which delights me because it avoids the Truth of existence that permeates an infinite cosmos.
It is made. My palace is complete. I see myself approach, the tools of my trade in a pouch by my side. As I take refuge in the scene, in my palace impervious to the infinite, I see the flaw my extraction has created in my perfect gem of memory. I reach out to fix it, but there is never enough time.
The altar jewel glitters in the torchlight, every edge a strand of subtle luminescence against the rude stone setting, each facet an opening to myriad possibilities.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 04:09|
That...was a bad idea
You enter the basement. You look up to see the little windows up top leading into the street. The personal habit is so ingrained by now you don’t even notice doing it. Neither do the other dons, nor the bodyguards. You’re all here for business. But he notices.
“Fraid somebody's looking in Big Freddy?”
You know this punk. Lieutenant Vinatelli. College boy. Getting too big for his britches. Nobody ever calls you Big Freddy. You've been meaning to tell Captain Lahore to get rid of him. Captain Lahore was the one you were supposed to meet tonight.
“The gently caress is this?” you say. “We've got business.”
“Oh, we'll get to that soon enough,” Vinatelli says with a poo poo-eating grin. “But first I've got something you'd all like to know.”
Vinatelli tosses down a file on the table. He pats it gently with his hand.
“I bet you've all been wondering, just like I have, why Big Freddy here is so soft. The streets have been awfully kind and gentle since he took over last year.”
The other dons look around nervously, but none of them actually face you. You give Vinatelli a cold hard stare. He just smiles back, picks up the file and opens it. You know what it is. You start sweating.
“'We believe that the cause of the diagnosis is as follows. As a child, the patient once stole some candy from a street vendor near a lake. Shortly afterwards, having eaten the candy bar, he nearly drowned inside that very same lake. Normally this would have just resulted in a fear of water. However, the patient had a distinct memory that, upon stealing the candy bar, eating the candy bar, and drowning, the ducks were watching him. Obviously this was all in his imagination, but the mind of a child is malleable, and soon he became convinced that there was a connection between these events…'”
Vinatelli starts laughing. You think, this guy might be a prick, but he’s a confident prick. The other dons, they don’t know what to think. So Vinatelli tells them.
“You see what this is, right? Your new boss, he's a nut case. He’s coasting on the strength of his family name. He's not a Mafioso. He's just a scared little boy who doesn't want to do anything too bad or else the ducks will get him!”
You hate Vinatelli's mocking, sneering tone. Your lips crimp in hatred. Vintaelli sees this. He gets right in your face. He puts up a finger and gingerly strokes a bead of perspiration without actually touching your face.
“Look at the way he's sweating. You think I'm full of poo poo, right? Then why's he so scared?”
Vinatelli laughs. Then he turns around.
“Now, since I've put your mind at ease on that question-“
Turning around was his mistake. You’ve already clenched your fist, and before anybody knows what's happened, Vinatelli's been sideswiped into the wall. You grab one of the bodyguard's nightsticks, and right there, in front of all the other dons, you break Vinatelli's kneecaps. He screams in pain, and you growl back.
“Think I don't know what this is?” You look to the other dons. “I know these college boys. These shitheads. They think they take a psycho class and they know everything.”
You turn Vintaelli over and smash the nightstick hard on his spine. Vinatelli screams, coughing up blood.
“I'll admit it. I've been soft. But not because of any loving ducks. My mother, God rest her soul, made me promise when she passed last year that I would try to be moral. That I would not gently caress over my fellows dons unless absolutely necessary. And you've all been good to me, so I've been good to you. But this guy, this shitstain…”
You take a cold hard look at Vintaelli. You turn him back over face up. You can see the terror in his eyes. This wasn't how he was expecting the night to go.
“Are you crazy!?” he says. “I'm a loving cop, an officer! You can't do this to me! The whole force will loving kill you!”
“This shitstain,” you say, looking to the dons, ignoring Vintaelli, “gets what he deserves.”
With a lifetime's worth of rage balled up into a single movement, you lift up your foot, and stare straight into Vinatelli’s eyes. Against his screams, you smash the rat’s face in. The other dons, they've seen some dirty work in their time. But up until that moment, they didn't even think it was possible to crush a man's head with just a foot, even a foot as big as yours. Even before Vintaelli's little speech, they’d had doubts. But that's all gone now.
“I'll clean up this mess,” you say. “I clean up my own messes.”
The others dons, they don't question you. They just shuffle out. First thing you do is take out your lighter and burn the file. Then you think about what to do next. How to explain this to Lahore. This is a big deal. But that's not what scares you the most. What really terrifies you is that just next to some boxes, right by an air vent, you see a white feather.
That’s right, Freddy. We saw you.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 04:30|
Phobia: Falling in love or being in love
She moved her queen diagonally all the way across the board, deep behind my advancing line of pawns. I’d tried to tell her time and again that she overplayed her queen, but she’d only gotten more aggressive with it. I found it an endearing flaw by now. Then she punched the clock and smiled up at me knowingly.
I can’t really tell you how many times I’ve thought about that smile over the last five months. It’s something about how the edge of her lip curls at the very end. Innocent, but suggestive. Open, but hinting at something more. Something that she probably hasn’t shared with any man, but something that she is willing to share with me, if I’ll only make the next move.
I moved one of my knights to prepare to capture her queen, and we both knew what would happen next. I’d chase it around the board for a few more moves before capturing it, and she’d laugh, wink at me, and then shake her head. Like always.
Bianca first showed up at Eugene’s biggest chess club back in April, and she stood out like a sore thumb immediately. It wasn’t that she was a woman – at least, it mostly wasn’t. It was that she was single. The blazing red hair and creamy skin certainly didn’t help her blend in, either.
The U of O boys who were part of the club acted as if they were almost scared of her. I imagine it had as much to do with the fact that she had three or four years on the eldest of them as it did her beauty. She was a preview of that as-yet-unattainable world of adulthood. The old men treated her like a long-lost daughter. The men close to my age had a predictable reaction that sometimes devolved into locked horns and simian displays of dominance. She gracefully ignored them.
She was paired with me on the first day. As I placed my first pawn, she began a stream of words that would not let up until months later, when they bled away into warm silences and familiar looks. I learned that she was six years younger than me. She’d played chess with her dad all her life until he passed away three years ago. She was also a bank teller who had recently moved from Texas.
At the next meeting, she immediately sat with me, despite the protests of the club president. It was supposed to be a random pairing every time. By the third time, he didn’t bother saying a thing. The Texas drawl that had her stretching out her words soon had me calling her Reba. The first few times, she rolled her eyes as if she’d heard the joke a million times before. I knew she had and that’s why I’d said it. By the fifth time it came out of my mouth, she replaced the eye rolls with giggles and furtive glances up at me.
She consistently overplayed her queen. It was an easy mistake to make, but she refused to correct it. The queen was her favorite piece, and I understood why. It was powerful. Too powerful, in my opinion. Most chess players lived or died by their queen. Young players became so afraid of losing their queen that they often ended up losing the game. I’d learned from a young age to sacrifice my queen when necessary, and now it was a pillar of my endgame strategy. I almost always dumped my queen to put myself in a position to win. It was a strategy so unfathomable to Bianca that I knew I’d never lose to her unless I wanted to.
The rook is the most underrated piece on the board, and my favorite by far. Where others’ games are won or lost by their queen, mine are won or lost by my rooks. They move the most naturally of any piece on the board – directly, and in pure vertical or horizontal lines. The rook carves a strong, singular figure wherever it moves. It’s the chess version of a fortress. Imposing, impenetrable, almost spinal. There’s an undeniable sense that something precious is protected inside, and no one will be allowed to get to it.
Her advances were subtle at first, but I still noticed them. Little glances here and there, “accidental” touches, a disproportionate curiosity about my life. We always sat around talking long after the club meetings were over. By two months in, she was explicitly asking me to meet up with her outside the club, and I defaulted to my preferred strategy of polite refusal.
I finally captured Bianca’s queen with one of my rooks. She laughed and winked at me. Then she shook her head in mock despair.
I knew that I was a rook, but that bit of self-awareness never changed the outcome of my dalliances. I’d long ago realized that being alone and loneliness were two different things. When you say “love,” what I hear is “exposure.” Love means putting far too much – your whole self – at risk. You are leaving your king unprotected.
I did something unexpected then. I moved my knight in such a way that opened an easy checkmate. Bianca quickly moved her piece into place, and then looked up at me questioningly.
“Congrats,” I said. “You got me.” Bianca sat in stunned silence. “I think this needs to be our last chess game together,” I told her. She flung her arm at the board, knocking away most of the pieces. Her outburst was followed by angry, bitter tears as she stormed out of the chess club meeting.
I’d known this was going to happen from the beginning, but it didn’t make it hurt any less. I sighed and glanced down, only to notice that both my rooks were still standing.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 04:59|
Geniophobia- Fear of chins.
If You Want to Be Happy for the Rest of Your Life
crabrock fucked around with this message at 06:36 on Oct 28, 2014
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 05:19|
How Billy Prexler Got His Groove Back
Phobia: Odynophobia (fear of pain)
On the last evening of our R&R, Billy Prexler decides the three of us should hitch a ride on a baht bus into Pattaya. The beach bars are already packed, so we settle for one of the neon-soaked beer joints on the south side, since at least there’d be air conditioning.
Within half an hour, Cho’s already drunk. He’d been shot down by one of the bar girls and now he’s taking it out on Billy, wagging a half-empty bottle of beer under his nose. Cho says, “It’s bullshit. You got all these girls that only do white guys. Where are the ones that want to do Korean guys? Where are they?” and Billy thinks about it and says, “Korea.”
“There’s probably a bunch of them in Korea.”
Cho looks at him for a long moment and shakes his head.
Eventually Billy wanders off to get another drink, and the next thing I hear is somebody shouting. I look over and some pudgy red-faced expat has Billy hemmed up against the bar. His shirt says “World’s Best Uncle” and there’s a dark streak down the front of it, which I guess means that Billy spilled his beer, and Billy’s groping around for his wallet. When he comes back over he’s got this sheepish look on his face, like we walked in on him doing something private. Cho just shakes his head again.
Things go smoothly for a while until the bar girl that Cho struck out with comes over and drapes her arms around Billy’s neck. Cho’s jealous, so he tries to hide it by taking a long swig from his beer, even though I know for a fact the bottle’s been empty for a few minutes already. Billy’s eating up the attention, just really rubbing it in, when someone comes up behind him.
“I’ll give you twice what that fuckin’ Yank’s paying you.”
Billy turns around and sees the dark stain on the guy’s shirt. “Come on, man,” he says.
“I wasn’t talking to you.”
Then Billy puffs up a bit. “Back the gently caress off.”
The girl heads back to the bar—maybe she knows where it’s all heading—and World’s Best Uncle stabs a meaty finger into Billy’s chest.
By this point the guy is pushing him, and the people bellied up at the bar are craning around to watch. Billy looks over at Cho, since he’s a big guy, but he just shrugs.
“Lay that prick out,” someone shouts, and Billy goes even paler than usual. He cringes and stumbles backward with his hands held out in front of him, almost losing his balance. The expat laughs and makes a motion with his hand like he’s shooing away a fly, then shuffles back to the bar.
I go up and put my hand on Billy’s shoulder, but he pulls away and heads out back onto the covered patio. After I finish my beer I grab Cho and we go out after him. He’s sitting on a bench facing the street, watching the motorbike taxis buzzing past. He scoots over when he notices us, but he doesn’t look over.
“I ain’t never been in a fight,” he says at last.
“Never?” I ask.
“Not a one. Scare me shitless. You saw.”
“You just need another drink.”
“I ain’t going back in there so they can laugh at me.”
I volunteer to go get him one instead. Back on the porch, he’s talking to Cho, who’s standing there with his arms crossed, a smile nested in the corner of his mouth like he’s waiting for Billy to finish telling a good joke.
“You’re crazy,” Cho says.
Billy doesn’t say anything. His shoulders droop and he goes back to staring out at traffic. After a moment Cho sighs. “What the hell,” he says. “Come on, if it’ll stop you moping around.”
Billy turns around, squinting up at Cho like he’s not sure if he should believe him. “You’ll do it?”
“Yeah. Fine, yeah.”
Billy gets up and all of a sudden his expression turns grim, real serious. He takes a long breath and squeezes his eyes shut. He’s standing there with his arms pinned to his sides, clenching and unclenching his fists like a man about to face the firing squad.
Cho winds back and slugs him right in cheek. Really puts his weight into it. Billy takes a funny little stutter-step and sits down hard.
“Jesus Christ, Cho,” I say. “I think you killed him.”
Billy Prexler shakes his head like he’s waking up from a bad dream. He leans over and spits a bright streak of blood through the patio railing. When he finally hoists himself up, his eyes are watering and there’s an eggplant-colored bruise blooming above his jaw, but the dumb son of a bitch is grinning ear to ear.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 05:27|
Internal Combustion (1249 words)
Pyrophobia: fear of fire.
When Warren kissed her on the doorstep, Leah could have fistpumped. She hadn’t managed a successful relationship in years. Not that two dates and a kiss on the porch was a relationship, but his mouth was warm and he smelled amazing and drat it, she wanted it to be.
“I can’t wait to see you again,” she said, breathless.
She almost invited him in. Except she wasn’t sure how to explain.
Instead, they kissed again and she promised she’d call. She skimmed her fingers through Warren’s hair, brushed his blond bangs from his eyes.
Next time, she thought. I’ll tell him next time.
Leah stepped inside and plunged into darkness. She slid a hand along the wall toward the press-on LED light. It barely illuminated half the room.
Her furnishings were like her house: small, tidy, inflammable. The house was solid brick, the furniture stainless steel. If it hadn’t been so miserable, she’d have done away with the cushions, but she had to make some grudging concessions.
She moved in a slow dance, popping her palm against the other wall-mounted LEDs until the living room and bedroom glowed with a ghostly silver light.
It’s prettier than electrical lighting, she told herself. Maybe he’d even like it.
She’d tell Warren next time.
Leah hadn’t told him by the fourth date, nor the fifth. Not that she figured he would care--Warren wasn’t like that.
When he tried to take her to a steakhouse and she steered him toward sushi instead, he didn’t mind.
When she diverted their walk through the park just so she could avoid the cart selling roasted chestnuts, he didn’t mind.
When he asked her out dancing and all she could think was Great White guitarist killed in club fire he must have taken the blank look on her face for disinterest, because they ended up playing Scrabble at a pub instead.
The time had just never been right. And now they were approaching date six.
She’d tell him this time.
“I gave it my best go, but between the broken nose and the concussion...” Warren grinned. His hand dropped away from the small scar on his brow.
“Never tried to take it up again?” Leah swigged her pint.
“Rugby’s not for me.” He paused, looked at her a while. “We’re having a Jaws moment.”
With that, his tan face lit up with an even bigger grin. Leah had no clue what he was on about.
He reached across the table for one of her hands, cradling it in his own. His thumb traversed the rippled, sensitive scar tissue of her palm.
“Yeah. Showing each other our scars.”
She opened her mouth, then closed it. She couldn’t bring herself to return the favour.
Four pints later, the sky was dark. Big, fat raindrops pelted the windows.
“Ah, gently caress,” Warren said, fussing with his umbrella. “We’re idiots for not driving.”
For very different reasons, Leah thought. They stepped into the downpour.
“Look,” Warren gave her hand another squeeze. “I don’t know about you. But I’m kinda drunk and you’re kinda drunk and I live a shitload closer than you do. Wanna just go back to my place?”
Maybe it was the beer. Maybe it was just Warren. She hesitated, looked deep inside herself, and found she was willing to brave the dangers of faulty wiring. Just for a while. And she wouldn’t sleep there.
Warm with a flush that was equal parts alcohol and anticipation, Leah tilted onto her tiptoes and murmured ‘yes’ against his mouth.
Rain-slick jackets dripping onto the welcome mat, they laughed against one another, shrugging layers off in the foyer.
“God, Lee. I’ve been wanting to do this for so long.”
“So why didn’t you?”
“I feel like I don’t know how anymore. Dating. Meeting people. Just wanted to be sure you were comfortable.”
Leah wound her arms around his shoulders, nuzzled her rain-cool cheek against his.
And he led her into the lounge just like that.
A fat-bellied woodburner belched heat and light from the corner, coals glaring like hungry eyes. Leah froze. She made a sound like an animal with its leg caught in a trap: shrill, distressed, choked.
“Leah?” Warren stilled and rubbed a hand up her back. She mumbled something incoherent and ceased to see him.
She stared over his shoulder into the orange-cast light. The heat from it scorched her even from so far off. She was a child again, woken by the screech of alarms, cacophony and smoke and heat in the night. Stumbling back, she shoved at him, stare wide yet unseeing.
Behind the surface of her eyes, phantoms chased her through the smoke, whirling eddies of thick black that threatened to choke her forever unless she ran. She could hear her mother screaming.
She raced down the hall, lungs crying for clean air, hands fumbling every doorknob she passed. The house was a smoky labyrinth. The doorknobs had cooked and seared the skin of her hands, but she didn’t seem to notice. She was blind, staggering through shattered glass then dew-wet grass and cool air met her face and she was outside. Looking back over her shoulder, toward the baby’s room upstairs… were those silhouettes in the window?
She scrambled away from Warren and out into the rain.
Who knows how many messages he left. She kept her phone turned off. Leah lived the next few days in the dark. Once or twice she might have heard a knock at the door, but she sat in the shadows with her silence and steel furniture and liked it that way.
He caught her on the way home from work one afternoon. She returned to her small, tidy house only to find him sitting on the front stoop, her raincoat in his lap.
She must have scowled, because Warren started to his feet.
“Leah, wait!” He didn’t bar her entry to the house, but he didn’t move away.
“I had no idea,” he said. He swallowed, briefly looked away from her. “And I’m not gonna ask what it was. Because I figure you’ll tell me when you want to. If you want to.”
This was why she hadn’t dated in years.
“Look, Warren,” she stared him in the eye. “You’re great. You really are. But I don’t need you showing up on my doorstep promising you’ll hold me and look after me and fix me or whatever the gently caress your plan is.”
He staggered, taken aback. “poo poo, Lee. Look, I just wanted to say…”
“I don’t owe you poo poo. Please just go away.” Her shoulders were quaking.
He stooped down and collected a brown paper bag from near her feet. She hadn’t even noticed it.
“Nah, you don’t owe me poo poo.” He offered her the rumpled bag, its top folded over. “But… you can still have these if you want.”
She rolled the bag open and stared at the small, shiny red apples nestled inside.
“I thought you could eat ‘em,” Warren said, like he didn’t realise that’s what apples were for. She almost snapped at him, but…
“Y’know, you don’t have to cook ‘em or anything, can eat ‘em cold.”
Her heart sank.
“Just…” he trailed off as he backpedaled down the steps, hands up like a show of peace. “Think about it. I’ll call you. You don’t have to pick up.”
Between them, the words hovered unspoken: But I hope you will.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 05:30|
Blunt Spark Candle Wax
(Phobia: deformity w/ making decisions)
Close your left eye. With your hand, take a finger. Press it lightly against your top right eyelid. Pull the skin taut until you touch the bridge of your nose. If everything’s at an angle, you've done it right. Read this.
"This is silly," you say. “Why would I ever read like this?”
I have been seeing a therapist. She couldn't look me in the eye when she told me to write my experiences down. Provide catharsis, she said. Bullshit. It's erased nothing, only underlined the loving point. So, instead, I’m going to share the pain.
“But it doesn't make any sense.”
There are powers in this world that you can’t possibly comprehend. Stop questioning it. Left eye closed. Finger over your right lid. Read.
Wasn't always like this; sitting at a hospital, up to my skull in bandages. Used to be something. Making money by the boatload, beautiful girlfriend, fancy suit, the works. If I passed you on the sidewalk you’d have thought I was some young hotshot. Hard worker, walking with purpose, aspirations as high as the sky.
The truth was that I engaged into the job. My girlfriend was the daughter of the Chairman. Had an in, took it. The rest of the reason landed on my parents. They wanted me to be somebody. So I became I somebody. Made them proud.
All my life, I've taken the easiest option; my job, my girl, my home, all served to me rather than earned through hard work. If something required too much work, I’d push it off to someone else whenever possible. Hell, the only reason I kept smoking was because I couldn't be assed. Maybe if I had a bit of spine and quit, none of this would have happened. At least my fingers aren't stained anymore. My hands and feet are fine. The skin of my palm is snow compared to the rest body. Used, stretched leather and scorched scabs...
Sorry. Medicine just kicked in. The doctors come in every several hours. I do not understand why they won't let me leave. They give me happy pills though. So I am not asking questions.
Like I said. Easiest option.
You might be asking what any of what I just said has to do with the bandages and the eyes. On a surface level, it’s irrelevant. But from where I’m sitting, it’s the main reason. The only reason.
It happened on a Tuesday morning. I remember because the train’s always late on Tuesday. I took the train from my skyrise apartment and arrived at Jefferson Station. There was construction going on for the past week on the way to the office. Instead of taking the designated detour, I took a shortcut through a nearby cramped alleyway. Just like I had every day the week prior.
Is your eye still closed? Is your finger still tugging?
The alleyway stank of feces and urban decay, city of Brotherly Love. The brick walls made a hard right, leading out onto the other side of the street. On the other side, an office building. I checked my watch and saw I was twenty minutes early… standing in an empty alleyway.
Could have got into work early. That, of course, meant more work. So, instead, I pulled out my Lucky Stripes because I smoked around that time anyway. Easy. Simple.
Now, Lucky Stripes are small - no filter - so you have to bring the lighter in real close. When I lit, the flame bit the tip of my nose. I dropped the lighter. Cursing God, I went to grab it.
I am not a religious man but that dropped lighter must have been a sign. I should have taken the sign and left the lighter there.
Hindsight, 20/20. Besides, too much work to break the habit. Easier to just give in. So I picked the lighter up, cupped my hand and lit the cigarette.
From the doc’s perspective, day one, what happened was that I dropped a cigarette, the tip hit my shirt and I burned. I passed out and woke up in a hospital bed days later. Perfect tagline. Because I don't remember a goddamn thing. Nothing, apart from the distinct image of blue flames eating away at my shirt.
During the first week the doctors came in every day, spoke to me, told me everything was going to be fine. Once the bandages covering my face came off, they stopped talking, started covering their entire bodies. I cannot tell you why. I also cannot tell you why they've kept me in this room for god knows how long, or why they wear hazard equipment when they come into my room.
But I've heard them outside the ward. My ears are gone but I can still hear them. They believe that it’s ‘Spontaneous Combustion’. Where the body lights up from all the excess fat and gasses trapped inside. There was no excess in my body, though. And from the sheer heat of my face and its shape, it is a shock that I am still alive. My skull should have caved in.
“I have never encountered anything like it,” I heard one of them say.
“This changes everything,” another said. “Academia is going to have a fit!”
That’s why they won't let me leave this room. That’s why they won’t listen when I scream about how I used to be somebody but now I am nobody. That's why they started giving me the pills. That’s why I wish I grew a loving spine and knew when to listen to my gut. Because now? I don't get to decide. All the decisions are made for me.
I have been staring at this computer screen for hours. The fire spread the skin of my right eye taut and I have to sit inches away with my head cocked. My therapist says I should be glad. They tell me that I might never see out of the other eye again. They assume it popped, in between the intense heat and the gas buildup.
'Assume'. As in they don't know. Because that would require surgery. I don't need them, though. I only need to look into the reflection of the marble floor to connect the dots.
The flames engulfed my head first. My head is shrunken now, except for the top left corner. When they lapped at my face, the skin covering my forehead liquefied. Like candle wax. The melted skin ran down the left side of my face, running into my socket and misshaping part of my head. When they put the fire out, the excess skin solidified and now my left eye is a giant tumor of skin and pus. That is all I am now. Nothing but a tumor of skin and pus.
When I close my good eye and let the darkness take over I can see the blue flames.
There are powers in this world that you cannot possibly comprehend.
I've shared the pain. Open your eyes.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 05:41|
Like a Fire Truck Burning
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 03:03 on Dec 11, 2014
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 05:50|
Prompt: Leukophobia, fear of the color white
Nita had had a lot of weird requests in her two years as a sex worker, and “keep your sunglasses on the entire time” wasn’t even close to the weirdest. To her, it was more odd that he wanted her to meet him at his own house. Most johns preferred the anonymity of hotel rooms.
But now, standing in Reese’s bedroom, she was glad she had them on.
The room’s walls were covered in many different shades of spray-paint: mustard, navy blue, lime green, magenta, all in long streams that crisscrossed and zigzagged in labyrinthine angles over the walls and ceiling, thinning and thickening at different points like snakes digesting their prey. Nita thought about the last cigarette she had in her purse, and how she sure as hell was not going to smoke it in here. The paint was dry, but she could smell faint fumes in the air. The only light came from a few scattered desk lamps in the corners of the room, sending beams of oblong light across the paint-spattered wooden floor.
“Something to see, huh?” Reese said. He lay on the bed in a black T-shirt and sweatpants, his hands at his sides. He hadn’t taken his eyes off her since he’d opened the front door. She felt them burning holes in her back.
“Something like that,” she said. “Like being trapped in the Berlin Wall.” Nita gestured towards a folded-up easel leaning against the wall. “You paint where you sleep?”
“Most of the time,” Reese said. He sat up. “Helps me clear my head, just having the whole setup there every time I wake up.”
“And your wife doesn’t mind?”
Reese looked to the left, started to say something then stopped. One hand grasped the bedcover. “I live here by myself.”
Nita stared at him. “Big house to have all to yourself,” she said.
“I like a lot of space,” Reese said. He pointed to the bathroom door. “You should go and get ready.”
Nita walked to the bathroom and shut the door behind her, free from his staring eyes. She shook her head, shrugging off her tight black dress as she fished around in her purse for her only cigarette and lighter. This artsy-fartsy sonofabitch was going to make her earn her four hundred dollars. She looked like Vida Guerra on a good day, she was straight-up too fly to be making Craigslist house calls. But she was in the right place to make a lot of money from a guy who wanted an “exotic shade of beauty,” so Nita would suck it up and deal.
Nita took a deep drag from her cigarette, tapping the ash out into the sink. Dude obviously had a wife—that nervous glance-over-the-shoulder was all too familiar. Scumbag wanted to get some strange but didn’t even have the decency to leave his house. Sunglasses probably just made the girls he screwed easier to forget.
She finished her cigarette and ground the butt out on the porcelain countertop, hoping Mrs. Reese would find it before he did. Creepy motherfucker.
Reese waited until the bathroom door closed, then slowly took off his sweatpants and T-shirt, his hands shaking. He tried not to look at his hands at all, tried not to notice the ragged borders circling his wrists where the skin pigment had gone away, leaving giant pale hands, lifeless hands.
Behind him, there was a full-length mirror hung above the headboard of the bed. Every girl he’d brought in here before had always looked at it with a sly wink and a naughty smile, assuming he liked to look at himself, and Reese let them think that. But there was nothing further from the truth. He hated to find himself staring back, hated to see the spots of pale flesh creeping from the corners of his eyes and mouth, trickling in blotches down the front of his chest, growing larger every time he looked. Hated how he couldn’t turn away. But Angela wouldn’t let him take it down.
He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths. Everything would be all right. This was his only escape from her, from himself, and this time—
“Hey, you awake?”
Reese sat up. Nita stood at the foot of the bed, dressed in only her sunglasses and a pair of lace panties, her wavy black hair draped over her shoulders. She leaned over and planted both palms on the bedspread, an impish grin on her face. “Don’t fall asleep on me just yet,” she said.
Reese smiled back and began to peel off his boxers.
They were about ten minutes in when he stopped. Nita knew instantly what was wrong—she felt a softening within her and watched as Reese stared down at himself with a helpless look. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“It—It’s…just…” Reese couldn’t speak.
“No, it’s no problem—“
“You don’t understand,” Reese said, his mouth tightening. He grabbed at the bedcovers to steady himself. “She did this. She always does this.” His voice began to crumple, his eyes shut tight. He moaned, “Oh God, oh God—“
“Look, it’s really not a big deal, dude.” Without thinking, Nita pushed her sunglasses up onto her forehead.
For that second, Nita saw everything clearly for the first time—the swirls of multicolored paint on the walls and ceiling, the silky black sheets, and most prominently, the abject terror on Reese’s face as he stared into the mirror above the bed.
Then he looked down at Nita, and she began to scream.
Before she could move, he was on her, one hand clamped her eyes, the other grasping her neck. The scream found its way up her collapsing throat, gurgling softly out of her mouth.
She caught him.
Angela was standing against the far wall, staring at him through the mirror as he clamped his hands down over Nita’s struggling face, shouting in terror. “I didn’t, I didn’t—“ he stammered at her.
She was naked and thin. She had skin the color of bones, pale blue veins writhing and worming along her rickety limbs. Her ribs curved inward, gleamed like a picked-clean carcass. Her hair hung long and limp and fine like spidersilk. Her flesh was sickly, leprous, fit loosely over her bones, a crone in a young woman’s body.
She began to walk forward.
“Get away!” Reese screamed.
She moved closer, shuffling and slow. Her face was that of his stillborn sister, the soft-lidded marble eyes, the pursed mouth, cheeks like mounds of stale snow.
“Goddamnit, get away from me! LEAVE ME ALONE!”
She raised her hand in front of her, shining bright, dripping with phosphorus, the hand she had touched him with so many times before, prying into his life through the cracks in his vision, stealing into his bed at night, burning marks into his skin as he moaned in his sleep. She sought to burn his flesh until he turned the color of death, pure burning death in her eyes, in all of their eyes, death everywhere you turned, so he clamped his hand over the girl’s eyes and neck and squeezed and squeezed and bent down to press his mouth to hers, steal her last breath away, only way to keep her away—
—and when he looked up at the mirror again he could only see himself.
Nita was still and unmoving under him.
He collapsed onto her, buried his face in her neck, and sobbed.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 05:56|
It's like the WWE Championship Match Except Neither of Us Want the Belt Made out of poo poo: Loser Brawl vs. JuniperCake!
Word Count: 1192
A Friend In Need
Every day, Isaiah would sit next to the Vincent Hotel, with a can full of change and a smile on his face. Every day, we’d sit together. I would tell him about my life, and he would tell me about his past.
Today, he was collapsed against the building clutching his chest and blood dripping from his lips.
I covered my mouth as I approached him. “What the hell happened to you?” I asked as I knelt down and inspected his wounds.
“Some kids, gang members I’d wager. They show up every once in a while. They usually leave me alone. Guess they didn’t take a liking to me today, huh?” Isaiah smiled as blood spilt from his mouth.
The blood poured out too steadily for it to just be a cut of the lips; a tooth was probably knocked out. Blood had dried underneath his nose, but otherwise it looked fine. His right eye looked like an eggplant. His left eye had some bruises around it. There were cuts around the face, like he was pushed against the asphalt.
“What’s the diagnosis?” Isaiah asked.
“Besides looking like poo poo? Nothing that a little dressing and rest won’t fix. Though you’ll have to get your teeth checked out.”
Isaiah reached into his mouth and felt around. “poo poo. Can’t find the tooth. Think I swallowed it.”
“Guess you’re gonna have to check your poo poo the next couple of days.” I said. Isaiah started to laugh, but his body shuddered as he gripped his chest tighter.
“Yeah. They just got a good hit in. Knocked the wind out of me.” Isaiah looked away.
“Move your hand.”
Isaiah avoided my eyes. “I’m fine.”
Isaiah sighed and slipped his hand away from his chest. I gasped. The leather jacket was ripped open and the layers of jackets were soaked with blood. It was still pouring blood, and his palm was stained red.
“You’re going to the hospital.” I said.
“You’re gonna die.”
“I’d rather be dead then be in debt.”
I clenched my fist and wanted to smash his stupid face in. “Don’t say that.”
“Why not? Who would care if I died?”
I pulled back my arm, ready to smack him across the cheek, but he was already beaten to poo poo.
“I would.” I said.
Isaiah sighed and lowered his head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think about you.”
“Well you should, you loving idiot!”
Isaiah chuckled, but he winced and held onto his chest again. “Don’t make me laugh. It hurts too much.”
“Why you still here?” Isaiah asked.
I turned to him. “Because there’s no one else that would be here right now.”
Isaiah tried to turn away, but he grunted and stayed still.
“A thanks would be nice.” I said.
“Why’d they even let you in here?”
“Told ‘em I was your daughter.”
Isaiah looked up at the ceiling for a minute.
“Thanks.” Isaiah said.
“I still want to beat the poo poo out of you.”
Isaiah winced as he chuckled. “I told you not to make me laugh.”
“I wasn’t joking.”
Isaiah closed his eyes. I leaned back in my chair and looked at my phone. It was ten in the morning. That would’ve been the time I walked past Isaiah in the morning, right before I got to work. He’d wave, say something, and remind me why I get up every day. Today was my vacation day.
“You know what the bill is?” Isaiah asked.
“Nope, haven’t asked. You would’ve died if I didn’t make you come here.”
Isaiah was silent.
“Is that what you wanted?”
Isaiah didn’t move.
“Isaiah, talk to me.”
“I don’t know.” He said.
“What do you mean you don’t know? You have to know.”
“I don’t think I wanna die anymore.”
For a moment, I almost felt sorry for wanting to hit him.
“Well, maybe I did before. I was getting tired of being lonely. Thought, even if I went to hell, I’d at least have the company of the devil.”
I shook my head. “You’re a loving idiot, you know that?”
Isaiah nodded. “I just thought, I don’t know, that nobody would miss me. I was just a bum on the corner, begging for change. Who the hell would miss a vagrant? For some reason, I didn’t think of you.”
“You don’t think in general.”
“It’s a wonder why you can only make friends with a bum.” Isaiah said.
“gently caress you.”
Isaiah laughed and he tensed up again. “It feels good to laugh. Hurts like a bitch, but it’s nice.”
“Yeah. I missed this. It’s been boring without you.”
“You should get new friends.”
“Nobody has stories like you.”
Isaiah shuddered, and then turned his head to me. “You wanna hear one?”
“Back in the war, I had a couple of buddies. We were nice kids stuck in a hell hole. One day, we were out on a patrol. About five of us.” Isaiah started. He would never talk about the war. Every story was before or after the war. Never during.
“I don’t know what the hell happened. Some shouting, the rustling of the jungle, and then boom! We got lit up. Friend next to me, Raul, he gets hit right in the chest. I fire towards where the bastards were comin’ from, hoping to at least get ‘em off of us. Then I pick him up. Everyone else was trying to fight back, but I just kept my head down and moved through the trees. Don’t know what happened to the other three. Probably died right there. But somehow, I survived. Got back to camp, threw Raul on the operating table and he died there.” Isaiah paused. “I always wondered what he must’ve been feeling, knowing that death was coming. It ain’t a good feeling.”
We sat there in silence for a couple of minutes. I didn’t have much to say. Isaiah just laid there. Next thing I know, the whole room was shaking because of his snoring. Left a note for him on the stand next to him, and left.
I pushed Isaiah’s wheelchair out of the hospital. The ever clear blue of the sky shined on, birds chirping perfectly just out of sight.
“It’s been a while since the sun came out. Still cold as hell.” Isaiah said, “You don’t have to do this, you know?”
“You sure as hell didn’t have to pay my bills.”
“And what? Leave you in debt for the rest of your life? Anyways, you're gonna pay me back.”
“And how do you propose that I do that? The most I’ve ever made in a day begging was a couple hundred bucks, and that’s because you gave me it.”
“Well, first we shave off that stupid beard off, then we find you a job.”
“The beard makes me look good.”
“The beard makes you look homeless.”
I helped Isaiah out of the wheelchair. He closed his eyes and grunted as he inched towards the car door. He sat down, and I closed the door for him. I turned the key to the car and we drove back home.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 06:18|
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 22:18 on Jan 1, 2015
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 06:21|
Prompt: Fear of clouds
The hand that was holding mine was warm and dry. Rotting wood and broken tile floors flashed past as we ran, and I could hear the sirens all around us. We stopped for a moment just inside a doorway, and we both sucked in the musty air as we waited. The man holding my hand was thin, but he didn't breathe hard for very long before walking across the next room toward a window covered in blinds. Bright lights drew lines on his face as he peered out and scattered the shadows in the room. It looked like it was an abandoned office with the desk and paper all over the floor.
“When those lights turn away, we go,” he said. He turned and waited until I nodded.
The light waved slowly back and forth across the blinds, throwing shadows all around us, then moved on. His hand squeezed mine, and he pushed through a door to what looked like an alleyway. The cars whizzed over our heads as we ran. Garbage littered the ground, and graffiti flashed past us too quickly to be read.
My thoughts swam as my chest heaved and a needle point pain shoved its way into my left side, and I stumbled as my legs gave out. He kept his grip on my hand, though, and managed to pull me through another door just ahead of another light. I leaned against the wall inside, then put my head between my knees to keep from throwing up, although it didn't look like it would make much of a different to the floor if one more person emptied their stomach on it.
After a little while I couldn't taste the vomit coming up anymore, and I straightened up to look around the room. There was another window on the far wall, covered by rotting curtains and blinds, and a couch on the far wall. The floor of the room was covered with papers and dirt. The man was standing by the door, looking out to make sure the light moved away like it should have.
“Who are you?” I asked him, and he turned to look me full in the face. He had long face and green eyes, and his hair was very short and very brown.
“Carl.” he said. “And we don't have a whole lot of time here. All you really need to know is that the people who were holding you in that room and pumping you full of drugs were bad. I'm going to take you as far away from this place as I can.”
“Okay, so I get why the people who held me prisoner are bad, but that still doesn't tell me why you're here at all.”
He walked over to the window and stared out of it for a moment.
“I made a promise to a friend awhile ago.” He said so softly I'm not sure I was supposed to hear it. His eyes became distant as he looked up. I walked over to the window and looked up too. The city's dome stretched over us, maybe even a mile over our heads for all I knew. It had banks of lights on the metal girders for use during what the patrician decided was daytime. They were all dark now.
“What promise?” I said.
“That you would be able to see the sky.” He shook his head slightly, and when he looked again his eyes were focused. “We need to keep moving. I know what they did to you will make it hard to keep going, but this is your only chance. Are you ready?”
“As I'll ever be, then.” His mention of it made me remember the injections and the trips, and fleetingly I felt the buckles on the straps digging into my elbows as I tried to get out of the bed to escape the images I kept seeing, the horrible white masses that floated across the ceiling of my room and filled my mind and made it impossible to escape them for even a moment.
I grabbed Carl's hand, and the sensation brought me back to the present, and back to the pain in my chest as we kept running through alleys and abandoned buildings. In this door, through this window, down this alley. It all ran together, and at times I wondered if even Carl knew where he was going.
Eventually, we reached a steel door set into the dome itself, locked tight and sealed against whatever was outside. The first door opened to reveal a deep pit spanned by a bridge of metal grating. Carl pulled me across the bridge and pushed the far door open. Bright light spilled out of the small opening in the doorway, filling the small tunnel and making me shield my eyes. I felt Carl's hand on my arm, and I let him pull me through the door and into the light.
Dirty grass stretched as far as I could see, with some trees off in the distance. Then I looked up, and my skin began to crawl. The white masses from the room floated across the blue sky. Sweat broke out on my forehead and my hands began to shake. My eyes locked to the sky and the clouds that floated by. My heart thudded in my chest and I couldn't breathe fast enough. As they slid past, I felt the needles going into my arms and the strange feelings that washed over me again and again as they tested this drug or that, and I could see the people in white coats taking notes while the clouds drifted across the ceilings in the room, seeming to reach for me and push down on my chest so that I couldn't breathe, or to rake my skin with the razor sharp claws they could form from the fluffiness, or even sometimes to reach down and whisper into my ear as I cried myself to sleep, whispering with a lover's caress as I writhed against the straps, trying to escape.
“What's wrong?” Carl said. He yelled something as I stumbled back into the open door and started to vomit on the grating. It dropped away into a vast emptiness as my arms shook just to hold me up, and I felt Carl's hand on my shoulder for a moment, and then heard a gunshot from the far side of the bridge.
I woke up to a blue ceiling covered with splotches of white paint.
“If only you weren't so afraid of us, he might still be alive” The clouds said as one of the people in white coats checked a plastic tube attached to my arm and one of the straps on my bed. It reached down and gently stroked my hair, whispering as I cried myself to sleep.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 06:46|
submissions are closed
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 06:59|
Submissions are closed
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 07:00|
Submissions are closed
hey i figured you were asleep dawg
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 07:01|
Welp, not gonna be able to submit for the loser brawl so I will take my well deserved loss. Good show Broenheim.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 07:21|
Welp, not gonna be able to submit for the loser brawl so I will take my well deserved loss. Good show Broenheim.
Do it anyway. Take the loss and take the crit. Learn and return.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 07:27|
Do it anyway. Take the loss and take the crit. Learn and return.
I don't wanna win by default. I'd rather lose to a wirthy opponent then win without a challenge.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 07:39|
I don't wanna win by default. I'd rather lose to a wirthy opponent then win without a challenge.
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 07:58|
|# ? Dec 1, 2021 04:32|
lol what gave you the impression that I could write?
|# ? Sep 29, 2014 08:05|