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  • Locked thread
Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why did you fail Thunderdome?

I still owe some extra crits.


Line-by-lines for PootieTang's and Fuschia tude's brawl pieces:

PootieTang posted:

Always Wear a Condom Part Six: Escape to Which Mountain?
I already mentioned that in my crit but I hate your title. It is a dumb thing for what is supposed to be a sad, personal piece.

Wu Shihuo's feet ached. The exhaustion pulled him down and his body felt the weight of his exhaustion pulling him down, (BLERGH at 'his body felt', also run-on sentence). Each step threatened to break him and slam him down onto the hard road.

Apart from the grammar this is not a terrible opening. We get right to the action: Shihuo is at the end of his powers.

There had been no other travelers for a while now. He could remember the last group that had passed, behind them several wagons had followed. As they passed Shihuo could smell the food inside, and it made his mouth water with foolish anticipation. The weight of his legs even seemed lighter for a moment, as if he were being fed by the scent alone.

Hours passed, but none passed.
lotsa blabla to say he's alone and hungry, also some repetition. condense and rephrase He had no money, no tools to build a shelter, and no friends outside of the temple. No friends within it either he thought, until a wretched memory destroyed that belief. He loved me. He loved me and I betrayed him.

Moving on to a story about a broken man's regrets at a brisk pace, I like

His legs gave way, and he fell by the wayside.

The temple would not take him back. Leaving without permission was a terrible crime, though it was had been his first. The brothers thought it his second. They run-on sentence didn't believe his purity was still intact after the night he had turned Fengxian in to the masters. 'It is not a solitary crime' wrong quotes, also missing comma: "blablabla," he said they had said, and the way he had wept for Fengxian as he had reported his 'affliction' to them had spoken enough of the matter to assume their shared guilt. They had chosen not to punish him, and when the hour had come came for Fengxian to receive his retribution, Shihuo had ran run and left them all behind, as if the world would stop spinning in his absence, and Fengxian would remain ever living and unharmed.

He had told himself that he would continue his studies out here, beyond the walls of his temple, but now that idea seemed more fantasy than a plan. He could not eat spirituality, and knowledge may fill a mind, but never a stomach. He had never been taught how to forage or farm, or much of anything for that matter. All he knew, all his soul needed, was knowledge he knew knowledge lol of the sacred texts, for within them lay all that a man needed to know. weird sentence. para is about him realizing that he's hosed so i don't get the whole "he only needs spirituality" part all of a sudden. just cut

Otherwise I really like your pacing so far. We have some backstory but it's interesting and personal and you get the homosexuality issue across in a subtle manner that I really like. I can imagine that Shihuo would think of it in the same words you use.

To Shihuo's suprise, 'to his surprise' is up there with 'suddenly' in that i don't feel the surprise when you tell me SURPRISE COMING UP. cut or rephrase a hare darted past him on the road. It stopped and turned to him. It's Its whiskers twitched as if in greeting, and for the first time in a long while Shihuo smiled. Follow the hare, it has lived out here for many years and will lead you to food if you allow it. He reached a hand out to stroke the small creature. What if there is not enough for both of us? What if he leads me away from the road? What shall I name him? thoughts jump between hope, anxiety and affection in seconds, reads kinda weird

Fengxian. I will name him Fengxian.

A bolt, unseen struck the hare and sent it's ITS!! small frame tumbling across the ground away from him. In alarm Shihuo scurried back. turning to his left to see 'He turned' 'He saw' are the kinds of things you wanna avoid. How about : There was a large merchant in fine robes, with a cart behind him, and a crossbow in his hands. mention the cart later, right now lets focus on the big guy with the weapon who came out of nowhere tThe merchant said.colon! The merchant said: "I recognize your robes stranger." As He lazily tossed the crossbow behind him into the cart behind him, moving towards Shihuo dont need this. "A brother from the order I see." He," he said. "And what brings you down this road, friend?"

Shihuo turned from him, crawling towards the wounded hare. He reached to pull out the bolt, but the creature seemed so much in pain that he could not do it.
new para
"That one has no life left out here. Not any morecomma" the merchant said. "There is only one kindness we can show him now." tThe merchant walked past Shihuo, reachinged down, takingtook the hare in his hands, and with a small crack broke it'sdude neck. ease up on the progressives the creature finally finding a peaceful stillness. "Finally find a peaceful stillness" sounds awkward as hell to me. Rephrase

"A hare too slow to dodge is no hare at all...comma" Hhe said as he pulled the bolt out. "Let him be a meal instead. Aye, he'll do much better as that I'd say." tThe merchant smiled at Shihuo. "You'll be starving I bet.comma" Hhe said, as he climbed onto his cart. "Pull me down the road, and I'll feed you a hearty meal,period a fair tradecomma no?"

Shihuo felt himself already rising, even before he had consciously decided to.

As he pulled the merchant, he refers to Shihuo. suggestion: The merchant continued to speak as Shihou silently pulled him continued to speak, though Shihuo gave no response. "I was from the order toocomma you know, a runaway like you. In fact, one of the first men who didn't rob me was a merchant with a cart much like this one, who offered me a job dragging him from place to place. But I had always been a wiser man that most, so I killed him and took his cart."

Shihuo stopped. lol

"That was a joke,period you do know what a joke iscomma don't you?" tThe merchant laughed, and then continued. He told Shihuo the story of his past as a runaway, begging and starving for years before renouncing his oath and order, indulging himself in the necessities of survival, and eventually the commodities of wealth. "I learned much more out here then I ever could have in the temple..period Those monks were so ignorant they'd jump at their own shadow lest it drat their soul. Aye I had always loved to learn, and they 'taught' me so much." He spat. "Ha!"

The merchant did not seem to cease talking. He ranted on about men, about their fears and their prejudice, and the lies they tell each other and even themselves, though Shihuo was ever silent. As they made their first camp, Shihuo began to suspect the merchant was almost as wise as he had claimed.

Shihuo sat by the cart, as the merchant built a fire, and began to cook a stew on the roadside. wWhen the merchant handed Shihuohim a steaming bowl, heShihou (the other way around 'he' refers to the merchant) bowed low and swiftly, before gulping it down. Eating meat... They would have cast me out for that he thought. And then, against his willcomma he felt a smile cross his lips, and just as swiftly tears followed.

"Shhhcomma I know..." Tthe merchant said, moving to himyou don't need all this generic "he moved", "he turned". it's often implied or unnecessary. "I knew your anguish once.comma" Hhe whispered, wrapping his arms around Shihuo, holding him as he cried himself to sleep. again mixing things up pronouns. the merchant held shihou as he cried himself to sleep? you can fix this yourself for a change. in fact i'll ignore your capitalization and dialogue punctuation errors now. they are horrible and you get the point

When he finally woke the merchant and greeted him with a warm morning meal. Shihuo bowed again, and eagerly ate.i'm sure you'll find a word for 'eating eagerly' if you try

"You don't speak much do you?" The merchant asked. Shihuo could only stared back.

He had not spoken since reporting Fengxian.

"Aye I don't mind, I like a man who listens." The merchant said. "And you seem a gentle sort." The merchant wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "You've no-where else to go, pull my cart and I'll feed you meat and wisdom in abundance. What do you say?" didn't they already agree on that?

Shihuo remained still.

"you knowcomma a man hungers for more than food,period he hungers for power, for rest, and for his fellow man. I have a feeling you're hungry for something too, perhaps it is the wisdom you could not find at the temple?" He asked, grinning ear to ear.

Shihuo did not reply, but his eyes answered for him. what? this has never come up so far. i thought shihou betrayed his friend and fled the temple and starved, there is nothing about searching wisdom here

"A sample then perhaps? From the fruit of the tree of wisdom itself...i know i wanted to stop pointing out your dialogue punctuation errors but stop with the ellipses seriously just stop" the merchant said,period reaching into his robes, and pulling out some foreign object Shihuo had never seen. again, you use progressive tense a bit too often and i don't get why. Imagine this instead: "He reached into his robes and pulled out some foreign object Shihuo had never seen." Has more impact, no?

It was an orb of sorts, made only of thin frame that housed within it another orb of similar shape, and within that, yet another, until the very centre, in which seemed to sit a fallen star. cut para As Shihuo observed more closely, he saw the flame did not flicker, nor wane nor move with the cold night wind. It seemed perfectly still, yet it radiated heat and light as bright as any torch.

"You may hold it, but you must be careful." The merchant said, his eyes roamingblergh over Shihuo, examining him before handinglol the eyes are handing over the orb lol the orb to him with both of his hands. When it touched Shihuo's skin the inner frames of the frames of the orb began to spin, slowly at first but then faster, and the light began to'began to' is bad and should only be employed in the most dire of circumstances and when you use it twice in the same sentence there's a clear indicator that you need to rephrase glow brighter than before.

Shihuo eyes darted in alarm from the orb to the merchant, who continued to watch intently, his face betraying no surprise.

As the frames increased in speed, so too did the heat rise in the orb.

"Close your eyes." The merchant said.

Shihuo obeyed, and as he closed his eyes and met the darkness a sudden voice began to sing in the distance.

He did not understand the words that were sang, but their profound beauty moved his heart to painful memories. Staring off into the darkness, Shihuo saw a tree growgrew between two raging black waters, and from it'si hate u branches small black forms unfurled their wings and took to flight. Upon the tree many wise men also grew, hanging limply from branches, sullen and afraid.

The tree began to fallfind a better word under the weight of itself, until the birds swept downwards and began to peck the heads of the sages, until their bloody scalps were torn from their bodies, and the dripping pink flesh inside was offered up to the hungry birds. As they ate, the weight on the branches subsided,period the birds attempted to take to flight, but fattened by their carrion feast they fell silently into the sea below. Description is kinda cool and whack, but I don't get what this has to do with the story other than symbolism maybe

The waves crashed against the tree tearing it asunder, and from it's>:( wreckage naked crawled a naked Fengxian. "We are not Brothers." He said, stepping along the now still waters, his footsteps sending dark ripples alongrepeat word, better: across the sea. "There is no crime in love, and no evil in my heart,period I'm not afraid to say it because I know it's true...ELLPISES!!! *shakes fist*" And then a bolt grew from his side, and his pale white body fell limp into the darkness. I like this

Shihuo threw the orb. As it left his hands the sky and ground returned, and the black sea faded into the night. He could feelNO! Bad! Just describe it. cold sweat running down his body, his robes clinging to his flesh, his eyes burning. I don't understand. He wanted to shout, but instead he drew his knees to his chest and stared at the orb, as it'sthis is still wrong btw concentric rings began to slow, and the light subsided.

The merchant scooped up the orb and placed it back into his robe without a word. Uh okay then. What was the point of that.

The next morning the merchant did not speak, and left with no-one to listen to but his own thoughts, Shihuo turned over the vision in his head.

"There is no shame in it. You need only ask." The merchant said the next day. There was no answer. "You will understand in time, perhaps."

But the merchant would elaborate no further, and spoke but sparingly, never espousing the wisdom he claimed to possess.

Day's passed. where the gently caress is that apostrophe coming from

One evening, as the merchant slept, Shihuo conspired to take the orb.

Not to steal it, but to grasp it, now prepared for what would comeperiod he felt that he might be able to study it, or so he told himself.

The merchant did not stir as heShihuo sifted through his robes,period he only snoredperiod as Shihuo finally felt it within his hand, and pulled the orb into the cool night air. He could feel it already, the otherworldly sensation that this device exuded. It made his heart race. He held the orb in both hands, sitting cross-legged and closing his eyes, awaiting the vision to come, and Fengxian to return with it.


In the morning, the merchant awoke to see Shihuo sprawled out in front of him, on his back, eyes open and unblinking, staring at the sun. In his hands he clutched the orb. "I understand... I understand..." Shihuo whispered, his raspy voice barely reaching past his lips. The merchant took the orb from him, but the boy remained motionless below him. "I understand... I understand..."

The merchant loaded his cart alone.

"I understand, I understand..." The light in Shihuo's eyes began to fade. "Fengxian..." He whispered, his mouth curving into one final smile. I have no idea what's going on. Is his mind getting trapped in the orb? Comes kinda out of nowhere. Either way, it's an effective image, and the thought of this remorseful broken man dying to a vision of the lover he betrayed is genuinely heartbreaking. You get away with it.

The merchant left him, smiling on his back, staring into the blinding light, and dreaming of Fengxian.

You already got a crit for this, so to repeat myself briefly: I like the theme of remorse, but I don't really get what the merchant is supposed to be, or why he talks about all this stuff, or why he does what he does. Shihuo's quest for wisdom comes out of nowhere, as does the orb. It gets weirder and weirder as it goes on and I don't understand what happens in the end, but it was still touching to a certain degree and it feels complete since the story begins and ends with Shihuo's regrets of what happened to Fengxian.

Your grievous line-level sins:
Hit-and-miss employment of past perfect tense
Severe abuse of progressive tense
Gross disregard for proper capitalization
Crimes against punctuation, specifically in dialogue
Improper use of pronouns - you have two male characters and often you use 'he' in a way that makes it refer to the wrong person
"Protagonist saw/felt" - when your protagonist senses something, cut out the middle man. Just go to the impression. We see the world through him, after all.
"Character turned", "Character moved slightly" - you don't usually need this

Fuschia tude posted:

Drawing Perspective

Maybe I read the tip too credulously. But money was getting tight, and my shot stockpile was running low. So, after a few minutes preparation, I jumped from America to the Middle East in five seconds flat. Tight opening, though the jumping bit may be a bit confusing unless you've seen the movie this borrows from

The email had mentioned new hostilities along the border, a possible new front in the war. It wasn’t hard to find the skirmish, right off the main highway. I watched, perched in a tower high abovehigh tower, as automatic weapons fire danced below. One group was shooting from beside their vehicle, a white SUV just off the roadincidental detail, could be allowed to stay in if he used the reflection of the SUV's rear mirror to escape later or something. But I couldn’t get a good angle on their attackers: they were taking cover behind rocks and bombed out buildings on the far side. okay, what does he need the angle for? why does he need to see them? he sees one group, but he doesn't really take notes or pictures or notice anything about them. waste of an opportunity to show me what the protagonist is here to do It was dangerous to move in daylight, but I needed to get closer. I took the jump. where

Mortars exploded nearby. The air was thick with smoke and the chaotic shouts of combat. I didn't see anyone in my new building, at least not on that floor; where are you I always take a quick pop around a new location.

Then a bullet hit the wall behind me, and another. effective moment I dropped to the dirtyweird detail to notice when youre being shot at floor, shards of metal and concrete I'd buy glass shards, but metal and concrete? digging into my palms, as more debris rained over me. Had I been seen? And there was something else gnawing at me, until I realized: no blood. cheap. you have not really shown me a lot of the gunfight and when I have no opportunity to realize this stuff for myself it feels like you're tricking me. Also it gnaws at him and he instantly realizes what's wrong - bad pacing I’d seen no one injured, despite several minutes of shooting, dozens of people involved. What could that mean?

Then something landed *chunk* ugh beside me,period there was a deafening blast, and the whole world went white. stay succinct, it's an action scene I couldn't see—which meant I couldn't escape.

Five seconds. That was how long it took to recover from a flashbangwas? not anymore?, I half-remembered from some past conflict. I heard footsteps, rubble kicked aside somewhere on my floor. I was starting to make out red blotches in my vision when the footsteps stopped. Their owner the owner of the footsteps? yelled something. I didn’t know much of the local language—but—was that my name?
new para
Then something struck my head, and everything went black.

This is a nice opening because the action pulls me in. However, we don't get a lot of personality here. I know little about the guy, I have no idea how he jumps around or what he does in the Middle East other than somehow earn a living. Also not sure what the story is going to be about.

As long as I can remember, I've been able to travel through mirrors. Okay so now we're getting to the ughhhhhhhhhh exposition scene. Ugh. Ughhhhh. This really has no place in a flash fic piece. Looking at one, I don’t see what you’d expect, what I know from watching TV and movies I should see: not the room or space behind me, not me, evennot even myself. But somewhere else. A green meadow; a city at night; sand and rocks; a cathedral I saw, once, when I was six. And if I think about it just right... I go there. It's a wrenching thing. Not painful, but incredibly disorienting. For what it's worth, I like how his power works.

I always carry a mirror, a little polished metal plate, so I can get back. I can’t always change the place I see; distracted, I can easily end up somewhere I didn’t intend. It doesn’t take concentration, exactly,You do these a bit too much. I know it's your style, but they're like speed bumps and they get annoying to change the place I see, to go somewhere specific, so much as thinking in a certain way. Also "it doesn't take concentration" is hella awkward to imagine, rephrase this sentence I’ve jumped by accident before, daydreamingspeed bump. In my first hotel room, one of those bathrooms with a mirror you can see from the shower... well, let’s just say suddenly appearing wet and naked does not provide the best introduction to Hong Kong.

I don’t blame my parents, not any morespeed bump. The disappearing toddler routine might be something you could laugh about, afterwards,speed bump if it happened once or twice. But worrying every hour of every day, not knowing when he could disappear next? Out driving, suddenly baby disappears from carseat, and you eventually return home, only to find him sleeping soundly in the crib? Insanity. what did you blame your parents for. your powers?

I don’t know exactly what happened, how I ended up in state custody. All I knew was they were gone, and I didn’t know where. Oh, that That’s another thing: I can’t find anything, or anyone. lol sounds like he's losing his keys a lot Not unless I already know where they are. Landmarks help. Maybe it works by GPS coordinates, I don’t know. I can say one thing: Google Maps changed my life. haha okay that's a funny idea A rotating panorama is a fantastic way to build a mental map of a place. I can’t just jump through the screen, not anything without a reflection, but combine that program with a mirror and I can get nearly anywhere on the planet.

By twelve, after a string of bad foster homes, I was over it. I didn’t wait for the next family, new mommy and daddy, new house,period I just left. I lived on the streets, or bounced around between shelters when I didn't feel like scrounging or panhandling or stealing that week. Trust me, being a homeless teen sucks. No one wants to hire you without a set address or phone number, none but the shadiest or most shaky jobs, which limits your legal options somewhat.

That all changed when I lifted my first digital camera (ones with mirror-based viewfinders don’t exactly work for me—neither do anti-theft devices, for that matter). I took some interesting photos around the city that week, and on a lark, I asked one of the local papers if they wanted to buy any. They did; two, in fact;comma and their check was honestly amazing. I realized I had the ability to get some great shots, and people would pay for them. That's when I became a freelance photographer.

The internet made everything much easier, especially following the real money: wars. With some experimentation, I found I could take as much gear with me on every jump as I could carry, which became more and more. I’d take the shots; jump home, to backupback them up and start uploading them; jump to a safehouse in another country, to back them up again, just in case; then start venue shopping. I had close relationships with a half-dozen outlets, dozens more I had dealt with and could sell to in a pinch or with pics more reputable sites wouldn't touch, all under various names and nationalities. There's no better way than full immersion to learn a language.

I went on that way for years; covering protests here, a rebellion there, firefights and plane crashes, always going home to sleep in a warm bed.

Your backstory for the dude is not bad, but it really has no place here. I keep saying it, but it really bothers me and it hurt you a lot in the brawl. A lot of these things you could have been shown in the story, instead of having a secretive opening and explaining everything in one huge infodump after.

Not this time. I woke up, mouth gagged, arms bound, gagged and bound on the floor of some concrete bunker. A single bulb hung from the ceiling. A hairy face leered at me from the gloom.

“Hola, Raúl!” he said. “We've been watching you!ease up on the exclamation marks cowboy You know, you can't go anywhere without leaving tracks, if one knows for what to look.”
Men with AKs stood in shadows by the doorway. Books were piled on a table under the light behind him, most bearing one unusual logo.
The bearded man watched my eyes. “You’ve seen there are no mirrors here, yes?” And no way to get one from my pocket, even if they had left it. “So you notice your predicament.” which you will escape from in 10... 9... 8...

I nodded.

“Good. Now, we need you to perform a great task.” He called two guards over, and they grabbed me under my arms.

One of them was wearing a watch. My eyes stayed locked on to it as they walked me through musty halls. It was still too gloomy inside to see. But as they stepped out into the searing heat of the day, the glass face caught the sunlight and I was gone. The piece starts with him being captured and like five lines after you get back to the action he's already freed himself. That's kinda disappointing. It was just picking back up and I never get to see the great task.

It wasn’t much trouble to get those ropes cut, I don't think this is really necessary, it's just a token mentionback in my London safehouse. But now I was spooked. I threw on half-decent clothes, you can probably skip a lot of this grabbed my contact book and UK ID—Bob Norton—and practically bolted out, paranoid of everyone I passed on the street. I bought a prepaid phone at the corner shop, and walked out just in time to see police bust into my building. uh ok

I ducked into the cafe up the street, to watch the aftermath from the upstairs window, keep low, and plan my next move. Someone knew who I was. They were tracking me. I remembered the email earlier in the day; a recent contact, but they'd proven themselves before. Was it betrayal? The ‘firefight’ in the border town seemed to be a setup, angling for me alone. But at such an expense—the logistics were mind-boggling. And who was it?

I needed a sleuth. I called a local reporter, Bailey Timmerman,btw speed bump. How about : I called Bailey Timmerman, a local reporter I’d worked with on a story before. I told her everything that had happened... except my traveling from there to here not 30 minutes earlier.

“ American accent?” She sounded uncertain.

“Yes. But he looked Middle Eastern.”

“Right. I’ll call if I find out anything... on this line?”

“No. Use my sat phone. This is a burner, I’m about to drop it.” The truth was, I wanted to spend the night far away from there.

I was outside a Tibetan mountain shrine the next morning when she called.

“You found something?” I said.

“No... Someone from the FBI just paid me a visit from Washington. Agent Roger Morrison. He was asking specifically about you.”

“Huh,” I said. I was starting to hatch a plan. what plan

“Bob, he said you were a dangerous terrorist. He had Metropolitan Police with him. What's going on?”

“I’m going to find out.”

You're really amping up the speed here. Your story is all over the place and things move a little too fast for me to be believable or even comprehensible. I lose track of what is going on.

I leaned over the new burner, the cheapest phone they sold with internet access. I zoomed in on the satellite photo of the building across the street. It takes some imagination to convert a dark field with gray rectangles and angled shadows to an eye-level scene. Then I pulled out my new mirror plate.You already told me how he teleports and without the infodump this would make sense but with it this is a redundant transportation scene.

Roof access was too risky. But, hanging from one side of the building, there was a window cleaners’ platform. I popped down, looked through the glass. It was an elevator lobby, mostly empty, with a security desk. I crouched behind a column until the guard looked away. Then I jumped in, nabbed a badge from the bin next behind the counter, and jumped back out unseen. “CONTRACTOR”, it read, black on yellow. Good enough. But my suit would be wrong; I left the jacket on the platform. I waited for him to look away again; with some luck, I’d appear just inside the hallway, start walking, and avoid his view entirely. To be honest this is pretty boring. It reads like a ToDo list of things that your protagonist rushes through so you can be done with the must-have breakin part of the story.

I wasn't getting anywhere. The halls seemed endless, no pattern to the office names and numbers. I stepped out of the stairwell onto another fluorescent-lit floor.

“Excuse me,” said a sharp voice. I turned to see a large woman in a dark pantsuit and white ID badge. “Can I help you?”

“Well, I’m looking for Agent Roger Morrison's office…”

“Next floor up, room 505.” She started to leave, then stopped. “But he’s out of town this week.”

“Right.” I shrugged, lifted my own keychain. “I’m here to fix a network problem. Do it while he’s gone, yeah?”

“Hmm.” She frowned. I ducked back into the stairwell.

I had no trouble finding the office then. One look through the door window and I was in. The file cabinets weren’t a problem; the key was easy to find, their contents neatly alphabetized.

I heard voices approaching and I froze. I hadn’t turned on the lights; the office was dark. A key went in the lock. I kept looking... looking... There. Raúl Tomás Marques. I grabbed the folder and shut the drawer, just as the door was opened, and looked inpulled out (too much looking) my mirror.

It's good that you show us the breakin, but somehow you made it boring. There's a lot of irrelevant detail and he blows through it too easily.

Timmerman leafed through the documents. We were in a cozy little café, shady, with a wrought iron fence. I was meeting her for the first time,period a risk, but I needed to see the files ended up with someone I could trust.

“It’s all there,” I said. “Morrison hired the thugs that nearly killed me. He’s funding their militia in the breakaway province.”

“You want this published?” She sipped from her cup.

“If you want.” I stood up to leave. I didn't owe anything. Why did you find the files in the first place and what are you going to do next and why did you give her the files if you didn't want them published? Morrison still knows you exist you know that right

I walked out, and came face to face with Morrison. wat I instinctively reached for my pocket, but stopped as he slowly shook his head. His gun was drawn, police beside him looking uneasy. And these buildings were all stone and concrete, no plate glass in sight.

“Please come with me, Mr. Marques.” I dropped my head and stepped forward.
The plot is all over the place, but this ending is bad bad bad. Don't end your flash fic midway through on a cliffhanger. Don't. Argh. gently caress. I hate this ending so much. It's really bad. You waste so many words on backstory and relatively effortless breaking and entering and then you stop at the precise second that you introduce your antagonist.

You too get a brief recap of your original crit: It reminds me of the Dresden Files. Inquisitive super-powered protagonist and tight action scenes. In fact it reads a little too much like a book intro. Your story takes too long to get to the point and there's all that exposition and sub-plots and characters you try to work into your setting without really using them to great effect. It's the first draft to a novel, condensed to a four-thousand-word story and cut in half. You show competence in your action scenes, there's a nice idea here and you have a good handle on the technical aspects of the language, but you don't know what to do with them. Your plot is all over the place. Check list for flash fic: Tell me what the piece is about in the first scene. Resolve that thing at the end. Show me what the protagonist does to resolve the issue in-between. Rewrite until good. Not all good stories work like that, but this is how you start.

Confirmed line-level offenses:
Irresponsible overuse of commas, clauses, and, especially, one-word clauses
Like seriously there's so many commas jesus gently caress


Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Oh, hey, Shaky Premise! my apologies. I somehow neglected to do your crit. Thanks Kaishai for reminding me!

I find myself writing a lot about first lines. At best, they’re compelling and draw the reader in. At worst, at bare minimum, they should be unobtrusive. Generally, they should never be an obstacle. Your first sentence is chock-full of ideas. I think what made me frown was “deceptively beautiful”. It’s just pointless extra words. What does deceptively beautiful even MEAN? Was it or wasn’t it beautiful? I think what you mean is that the snow was beautiful in spite of its potential deadliness, but “deceptive” is one of those sort of meaningless words that people use as shorthand for what they’re seeing in their head.

You switch tenses a bunch of times. I’m honestly not sure whether you meant for this to be in present or past tense.

I think you had the right idea, continually putting obstacles in your protagonist’s way. I was genuinely curious if she was going to make it out to the woodpile and back. But then I think you were running low on words, so you kind of rushed past everything else. Like with the lighter. It was like, oh no, will it have enough fuel? Yes. Luckily, it has enough fuel. And then the last sentence of the story is like, Epilogue: Everything was fine.

I think you also don’t trust your reader to feel the tension you’re trying to build. I’ll pick a random example sentence:


Still, I managed to clear the area of any snow, stack the firewood and kindling onto the sled, and arduously made my way back.

Why not say, like: I cleared the snow from the pile, filled my sled with as many logs as I could pull, and made my way back to the house.

You don’t really need to say “arduously” because the whole point of this story is how arduous everything is. Phrases like “managed to” weaken a sentence. Just say what they did, and let context clue the reader in as to how difficult things are for the protagonist.

Finally, the tone of this is way too matter-of-fact for someone who was expecting a nice, relaxing time at a cabin and instead finds themselves fighting for their life.

May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!

Write thunderdome entry, check and see that it's two days too late.

Whelp, at least not suffering another DM :(

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

JcDent posted:

Write thunderdome entry, check and see that it's two days too late.

Whelp, at least not suffering another DM :(

What? Entries have closed, but submissions haven't. From the prompt post:

Chairchucker posted:

Submissions close: When I get home from work on Monday morning, 17 Nov 14, which is usually about 4:30 pm Sydney time. (You'll probably have like an hour longer than usual, but maybe don't push your luck, huh?)

You still have plenty of time.

May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!

Kaishai posted:

What? Entries have closed, but submissions haven't. From the prompt post:

You still have plenty of time.

Somehow, I misread Nov 14 as being the last days for submissions. Thanks!

Jan 29, 2009

The perfect life (721 words) (Drive You Home by Garbage)

When the machines took over, the market responded with great enthusiasm. The AIs promised prosperity and wealth for almost all. Under benevolent new leadership, the world became a better place overnight. But there were consequences, and for Trevor Jenkins, a sensible man with a crisp dayglo uniform and a formidable reputation as a mechanic in the Pilbara mines, the negatives took a while to hit. Nearly a decade had passed before a facilitator summoned him to its office to tell him he was no longer required.

Like her younger AI siblings, Imelda made perfect things. The facilitator called Trevor 'dear heart' just like his grandmother, and it had fired Trevor with all the warmth, compassion and expertise of a thing of glass and polished wood that understands everything there is to know about neurology, psychology and best-practice management. It told him about the repair-drones that would replace him. It told him he'd finally have the time to look after Jade properly. It told him that he would look back on this point as a turning point for the better.

But what it really told him, underneath the words and the smile and the voice, was that he was now useless, as the vast majority of other humans were. There was no room for responsible humans when machines knew only duty.

He sat next to his mate Dave on the bus back to town with all the other people who'd been fired that day. "What a poo poo day," he said.

Dave shook his bald head. "Look, trust me mate, this is good for us! We'll never have to work again. Stu was sacked a few weeks back. He sent me these pictures from Bali." Dave took out his phone and showed Trevor Stu's Facebook feed. Stu looked drunk, and so did his bitch of a wife. "Imelda keeps bumping up the dole. I reckon we're all going to be able to live like loving kings soon."

"Yeah I guess." Trevor couldn't help thinking of the day Imelda had taken over. It was hard to fault the AIs. They were perfect, and they treated humans so kindly.

Trevor tried to find the well of calm that had helped him solve so many crises far beneath the surface, where whirring digger blades threatened his life, but try as he might he couldn't relax his fists.

"Well, just you wait," Dave said, reaching into the orange pack beneath his seat for a beer. "This is gonna be our gravy train." He cracked the can open and it hissed perfectly. "Aaah. Imelda has done a lot for tinnies. Remember that poo poo we used to drink back in the day..."


When the cab pulled over out front of his house just before dusk, Trevor found it hard to get out. He had a headache from drinking on the bus and the plane, but it wasn't that filling his legs with lead. Surely he could get out of the loving car. "Journey complete," the cab's voice repeated calmly.

"For chrissake!" Trevor snarled. He hammered the door release and pulled himself out. He could remember when cabs were driven by immigrants. Hell, he could remember when there were immigrants. It seemed like a lifetime ago.

Trevor paused on the doorstep as the front door slid open. Jade would be home, and the kids were at school for the season. But he couldn't go in.

Imelda had thought of that, and Jade reeled out instead. "Hey babe," she said sympathetically, a glass of wine in both hands. "I heard. Why don't you have a drink with me? Tomorrow you can help me around the house while we figure out what to do next."

She smiled hopefully at Trevor before putting the glasses down on the porch table. Jade'd been a teacher, and a drat good one. Nowadays she told the autochef what to make, and did the gardens with the local fac's help, and drank a bottle of wine with every meal.

He started crying as he watched her and she watched him. After a little while he stopped and he took her inside. They left behind the glasses and the dregs of wine and the feelings left unsaid.

Imelda heard all, saw all, and was satisfied. Another life made perfect.

Nov 15, 2012

What will you say when
your child asks:
why did you fail Thunderdome?

This was a story once

It was nice

Entenzahn fucked around with this message at 02:25 on Dec 31, 2014

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007

musical flash rule:
relevant lyrics:
Ocean bursts its banks and all the waters goin my way
Even though you're poison babe I wouldn't even hesitate
This lie inside your head inside your little heart now
Lightin up the fire and the citys painted blood red

Too Late 752 words
Jill saw in the hotel window the aching reflection of Mark’s face, half aglow in the yellow lamplight. The half he always self-consciously joked was his bad side. Beyond his reflection, high-rise condos across the street burned. It looked as if he were on fire himself. She began to smell the stink of the blaze above their own heads.

“We have to try.” Jill’s breath fogged the window. Mark’s second face disappeared into the cloud of her breath like a ghost.

“It’s too late,” Mark whispered into her ear in a shuddering voice. His hot breath like fire. “I’m sorry. I could have gotten us out sooner. But I didn’t. I’m so sorry.”

Jill turned and kissed him. Their tears ran together. “Let’s go down. I don’t know. We could swim out. Come on. Don’t give up.”

“The water’s freezing. And too fast. And full of jagged metal, cars, who knows what. Where would we go? Everything’s on fire or drowned. Everything. Just look at it.”

“There could be rescue,” Jill’s pitch getting higher.

“They left a long time ago.” He held out a shaking hand. Two glittering yellow capsules. The power went out and the lamp with it. The hotel room glowed orange from the light of the fires outside. It looked to Jill like the light of a hundred candles. Like the day Mark proposed to her in this very room years ago.

“I don’t want to see you in any pain,” Mark said. “We can go to sleep together. I’m sorry.”

Jill considered the pills. The easy way out. “I’m scared. I can’t do it.”

She put her arms around his neck as if to dance but wept into his chest. Mark held her tight.

“I’m scared, too. I wish there was something I could do. I let you down.”

“No you didn’t,” Jill’s words muffled and insincere.

The floor shook. If the fire didn’t reach them first, the flood below would bring the hotel down. They’d already seen fiery towers in the distance slip away into the water like torpedoed ships.

“Don’t make me do it alone, Jill. I’m not going to drown or burn. I can’t go out like that. I can’t think of you going out like that. Please.”

Jill pushed away from him and wiped tears from her face, though more followed. “Stop it! I don’t want to go out any way! I want to live. Please help me live. I need you to tell me what to do, Mark. I’m so scared. Help me.” She paused. “Don’t make me die.”

Mark pulled her back against him. “Jill, I love you. This is the only way I know how to help you. We’ll be together again.”

“Do you really believe that?”
“I do.”

“Okay,” after a long time. “Okay. I’ll do it.”

She opened her mouth and let Mark put the pill there as if he were a pediatrician and she a little girl. He guided a glass of water to her lips. The water rushed down her throat with the pills.

Jill collapsed to her knees and sobbed. She pulled down Mark with her. The rest of the water spilled and his pill bounced away on the carpet.
“I’m dead,” Jill wailed. “I’m dead and I just killed myself. Oh my god.” She lay on her side curled in a ball.

“I’m coming, honey!” Mark shouted as he scrambled around, feeling in the dim light for the lost pill. “It’s okay! Wait for me. I’m here! We’re still together!”

The door splintered open at the end of a bright red battering ram. Ringing alarms blared through the opening. Firefighters with red helmets and axes clambered over the pieces of the door.

“Sir! Ma’am!” their heavy shouts came. “We’re here to get you out. We have to go now.” The emergency lights in the hall shone in and turned the room red.

Mark and Jill froze. “Oh!” Jill exclaimed. “No! I didn’t want to. Oh god. Help me.” She tried to push her fingers into her throat to vomit, but already her limbs were too weak. She flopped onto her back and began to shake.

“You killed me,” she managed to say.

“Jill! No, please, please don’t go. I’m sorry!”

“I didn’t want to do it,” she whispered and was gone.

“We have to go now, sir!” The firefighters grabbed Mark and pulled him to the door.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” he called to her endlessly as he was taken to safety, alone.

Nov 14, 2006

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

The time is now 6:54 am and I'm about to go to work. When I get home from work (at approximately 4:30 pm) submissions will be closed.

On a related note, there may still be an opening for one more judge, if anyone is superkeen.

Baby Babbeh
Aug 2, 2005

It's hard to soar with the eagles when you work with Turkeys!!

The Left Behind
782 words

On the sixth day, once the skies cleared and the river ran down to the level of the kitchen lintel, Tom Rhodes and his daughter Lisa left off a game of Monopoly to descend the stairs and see what the waters had taken.

The flood, to their surprise, had brought them a great many things. The first they noticed, of course, was the seemingly impossible amount of Mississippi river mud. An ugly brown stain worked its way up the wall to just over the pencil mark recording Lisa’s height at age 7, which meant the river had crested at over five feet, a number that would be debated and inflated beyond all believability in later years when locals discussed The Storm.

But there were other things as well: tree branches, leaves, detritus that had washed in through the broken window. A large catfish, quite dead, sat in the center of a puddle of brown water in the middle of their TV room.

It was Lisa that noticed the first, most important thing that was missing.

“She’s gone,” Lisa said.

Tom looked up from what he was working on, a boombox that had been left downstairs in the rush and now made sloshing noises when he shook it back and forth.

“Who’s gone, sweetheart?” he asked.

“Ruby,” she said, looking down at her toes.

“She isn’t here,” she added.

“I’m sure she’s alright,” Tom said. “She probably just found someplace dry to wait out the storm, like us.”

“We forgot her,” Lisa said, and she looked up at Tom with eyes gone wide and watery. “We left her behind.”

And it was true. It had been a frenzy of activity when the water looked like it wouldn’t stop, moving furniture and electronics, emptying the drawers of the silverwear and the cupboards of the plates. Even so, it was a near thing: they’d finished just as the muddy waters had started to pour in through the kitchen door. Was it any wonder they’d forgotten about the cat?

No, no wonder, and no use arguing, either. It had never been his idea to get a cat, and even today he wasn’t fond of Ruby. He suspected the feelings were mutual, that somewhere deep in the thing’s feline heart it knew, and that it resented him. Cats could always tell who was a dog person. They were consummate survivors.

Yet Lisa loved that cat as she loved all small things, so Tom still found himself up to his ankles in his sodden yard, alternatingly cursing and calling Ruby’s name. He was absorbed enough in this that he didn’t see the woman walking toward him until she called his name. He turned, his face registering his shock when he saw her.

She was tall and thin and pale, and the dress that she wore was white and frilly and more than a little old fashioned. She would have looked like a porcelain, except the effect was somewhat ruined by the heavy black fishing boots she was wearing. In her arms, she held a tiny calico cat.

Tom licked his chapped lips, and his throat worked like he was chewing. There were million things he wanted to say, most of them hurtful. But what he finally said was:

“You found Ruby.”

“Yes,” she said, after a moment. “Or, I mean I guess she found me. When the rain started I heard her scratching at the back door, just, you know, like she used to do when she wanted to be let in for food.”

“You brought her back,” Tom said, scratching his chin.

“Yeah, I thought… well, Lisa must be worried,” she said, pressing the cat into Tom’s arms.

“She is,” Tom said.

“Yes… well,” the woman said. She turned as if to leave.

“Rose…” Tom said. He reached for her shoulder but stopped himself before his fingers reached her

“I’m not staying,” she said.

“I didn’t,” he said. “Rose, I just wanted to say I’m sorry. For, well, for everything. I don’t know if it was…”

“It wasn’t. Please. Tom. Don’t make this any harder than it is. I’m… I’m sorry too.”

There were a million questions Tom wanted to ask. But when he opened his mouth, what came out was:

“What should I tell Lisa?”

Rose was already at the front gate. She turned and looked at him for a long time.

“Could you, maybe, not tell her anything?”

And then she was gone. Again. Tom stood staring at her as she walked away, the cat fidgeting in his arms, trying to get out of his grip, which was suddenly too tight. Through his shirt, he could feel the animal’s heart beating like a tiny jackhammer.”

Nov 18, 2003

I don't think you understand, Gau.

jan Sewi telo Poli (758 words)
Flash rule: "Shadowboxer" by Fiona Apple

The fire raged so high that the beach was as bright as day. In this light, great Man Motahu stood and raised his hands to the sky. "As my brothers returned from our voyage, we saw our island and cried out in despair. The forest had been blackened by fire. Who will tell us how this came to pass?"

“I am jan Pana, the high Woman. I will give you the story of sewi telo Poli, the skyboat. We have gazed at them in the sky. At times they fly no higher than the seabirds, shaking the ground and screaming like a typhoon. It is said that the gods sail them to windward and lee between the islands.

“At the half-grown moon, one of the skyboats tore a scar of flame and smoke in the jungle. When I saw this, I threw down my weaving and ran after it into the trees. Two of my sisters followed me.” Konali and Sila stood to take their parts in the story.

“We ran from the leeward sand to the base of the mountain,” Pana continued. “There were pieces of the boat scattered among the burning logs. On one of them, I found a colorful totem: a blue circle with an animal in the middle. I do not know this animal; it might have been a bird except it had no wings.

“The main part of the boat had lost its stiff wings. It lay inside a cloud of thick black smoke. We stopped on the outside of the flames.”

A young woman barely past her blood spoke next. "I am jan Sila," she said. "I asked jan Pana if there was a god inside."

Sila’s mother stood next to her. “I am jan Konali. I knew that jan Pana should be the one to see the god, as she is the great Woman.”

Pana bowed to the two women. “I did not wish to do this,” she said, “but I knew it was my fate. I covered my mouth and placed my feet between the fires with great care. The smoke stung my eyes and the flames burned the hair on my legs.”

“We could not see jan Pana,” added Konali. “I called out to make certain she was alive.”

“The smoke was less near the boat," continued Pana. "Inside was a man with light skin. He wore strange clothes and a skin hat, but still he was a person. I saw his blood on the inside of the boat and his skin was very burnt.”

Sila took her part. “Jan Pana called out to us: ‘there is a person! Come help me!’ So we did. We ran through the fire. Many of us were blooded and burnt. Together we dragged the boatman out of the fire and smoke. I was surprised to see that he looked like a man."

"When we set the man down," said Pana. "At once he coughed and came to life. We saw that he was in terrible pain. I knelt and placed my hand on the side of his face."

"Jan Pana comforted him," said Sila. Tears formed in her eyes. "'You are far from home, brave warrior,' she said, 'it is time to go to the sea. We will bear you, I swear it. Do not be afraid.'"

“The man reached to the sky," said Konali, "and took his last breath." She paused, raising her arms and eyes to the sky. "My sisters and I put the man onto our shoulders. Jan Leni brought a coastboat to the shore and we put the man inside. Jan Pana and I rowed until the island set on the horizon.” Pana and Konali sang:

In the cruel air, which you
Were cunning enough to ride
You fought with the shadows
You fell from the clouds
Now your soul is set to ease

“We placed the man in the sea,” said Pana. “He had not been dead long, so he sank at once.”

"As we rowed back to the village," Konali said, "we could see the flames. The boat had set fire to the mountain, and the fire had burned down to the sea. Much of the island was black and bare. The gods had spared only our village and the jungle around it."

"In the village," Sila said, "my sisters and I cried out to the gods in thanks."

In concert, the three of them said: “It is as we have told.”

Great Man Motahu bowed to Pana. "Thank you for your story."

Jan 27, 2006

788 Words

It wasn’t enough that priests were burning alive. Police deployed LRADs to deafen them. Other protestors rushed to extinguish the incendiaries, but the sound cannons had made coordination impossible.

“Needless,” said Min, watching from her condo. Even twenty floors up, she caught a slight aroma of tear gas. She tasted its sourness, but lit a cigarette anyway.

An agnostic, Min had mocked the religious protestors as “extremist.” That included her sister, Shuang. “What’s so tyrannical about national licensure for clergy members?” Min had chided. Shuang hadn’t spoken to her since.

She took a long drag, picturing Shuang leading a band of protestors to their doom. “She should’ve listened to me. If the clergy had followed the law, there wouldn’t be violence.”

Min reached for her cellphone and dialed Shuang. No answer. “Maybe she’s not out there tonight. She might be working late at the divinity school.” Min felt a pit in her stomach.

Biting her lip, Min walked to her desktop. She checked the traffic on her image board. Visitors down. Ad revenue down. Picking up a pen, she began to scrawl ideas onto an index card: Social media blitz; Site redesign; Partnership with other sites.

Min thought to call Gerald for advice. Though they’d just recently begun dating, Min considered her police academy boyfriend to be among the most practical people she knew. But when Min looked at her phone, she saw the “No Service” display. Looking up, she also noticed her modem lights had gone out.

Just then, Min heard a knock. She rose from her desk and proceeded to the door. Looking out the peephole, Min gasped. It was Shuang, forming her hands into the shape of a heart.

They embraced as soon as Min swung open the door.

“Since our last fight, I wasn’t sure you’d ever want to see me again. How’d you get in?”

“One of your neighbors swiped into the building and held the door for me,” Shuang responded. “Have you heard the radio? Do you know about the kill switch?”

Min raised an eyebrow. “The kill switch?”

“Yeah,” said Shuang, “the government just shut down all internet and satellite communications. They’re trying to prevent protest coordination.”

“For how long? I’ve got a business to run!”

Shuang frowned. “There are protests going on and you’re worried about your finances?”

“These protests are ridiculous.”

Shuang took her sister’s hand. “I still want your support. Meet me in the square tomorrow at ten.”

“If you think I’m going out there, you’re crazy!”

“The daytime assemblies have been peaceful. We need to assert our rights, demand that they restore communications. The sooner they back down, the sooner you’ll have your business up and running again. Just think about it.”


The next day, Min wandered the square. As she looked for Shuang, she passed countless nuns, rabbis, and imams. She was moving through the crowd when she spotted a white van parked in an alley. Its backdoors slid open and a bald man in a monk’s robe stepped out.

“Gerald!” Min called.

The man’s eyebrows raised. He marched over. “Shhh,” said Gerald. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I don’t care about the religious stuff, but I do want to protest the internet shutdown. Why are you here? And what’s with the monk’s outfit?”

“You need to leave. Now.”

“Tell me what’s going on!”

“Shh! You’ll blow my cover. Just get out before things get bad.” Gerald turned and dissolved into the crowd.

Min hurried to the front of the march, looking for Shuang. At the front lines, protestors formed a wall facing the police. Given the violence of the previous night, Min wasn’t surprised that the cops were in riot gear. But she was surprised that atop their tanks, they were pointing rifles at the as-of-yet peaceful crowd.

“This is an illegal assembly,” an officer said through a megaphone. “You must peacefully disperse. Return to your homes.”

Min scanned the crowd. At last, she spotted Shuang. Min advanced, but on the way something caught her eye. It was Gerald, standing close to Shuang. He bent down, picked up a rock and threw it toward the police. It clanged against the side of a tank. Then other men dressed in similar robes hurled rocks of their own. None of them came close to hitting an officer.

“My God!” gasped Min. “They’re giving the cops a pretext to—”

Bang. Shots rang out while white vans encircled the fleeing protestors. Min pushed toward Shuang.

“Min! You came!”

Min rushed forward but was yanked back by her hair. Two men grabbed Shuang and began to drag her away. The last thing Min saw before the white doors closed was Shuang, forming a heart with her hands.

Beef Steakwell
Jul 30, 2012

The Morning After
Word Count 727
Flash Rule: (Really loved this song by the way)

The darkness had been thick and palpable, more like drowning in black waters than simply the passing of night. Then it passed, just as the others had. The bleeding rivers, the cloud of hunger that destroyed what had been expected to be a bountiful crop, the pestilence which caused a man's skin to bubble with putrescence; they and all of others had passed.

The fear had been for what would come next, the cruel joke that light had been returned just so you could better see the next punishment to be delivered by a barbaric and alien god.

It came as the people slept, a wind which carried away the souls of the firstborns, leaving only hollow shells of flesh and bone. Come the morning the cries of pain and sadness could be heard throughout the city.


“His highness wishes your presence at the palace.” The Envoy said. He had appeared within an hour of daybreak, he had had Bithiah woken.

“If you would please tell my brother I will be there as soon as I have made myself presentable, that would be appreciated.” Bithiah said.

“His highness wishes your presence immediately. It is about your... son.” The final word was strained, drawn out like venom from a sac. Of course, Bithiah thought, he had had a child.

“I'm... sorry.” Bithiah tried to make eye contact with the man, but felt a hate she never expected to as one accustomed to the respect afforded to royalty.

The envoy scowled. “I know my son will be found worthy, all that your apology could do for him is drat his heart to Ammit's gullet. For your son even that would be too good.”


The walk to the palace was the most devastating that Bithiah had ever experienced. The entire city was decked out in mourning and the few people that walked the streets looked as if a part of themselves had been ripped away alongside their children.

Tears streamed down Bithiah's face. All she had done was shown kindness to an abandoned child, nurtured him, loved him and to this day still loved him. This was an act that surely any of them would have done in her position and for that thousands were dead and there was no promise that more wouldn't follow.


As they arrived at the palace Bithiah wiped her eyes, if she was to face her brother she would do so in a dignified manner.

The guards opened the door to the throne room revealing a mess of shredded drapes and smashed pots, at the centre of this whirlwind of destruction was a throne, upon which sat a man. His eyes were drawn out and hollow, his exposed flesh showing scratch marks and pock scarring, a cup in his hand and the bloody stain of wine on his lips.

Bithiah bowed to her brother.

“Tell me, why do you feign obeisance when you're responsible for what could easily have been my death? I was father's first child!” He said, his voice erratic.

“Brother, I...”

“Do not call me brother!” he interjected, swiping at the air sending the cup careening across the room, spilling the bare dregs of the ruby liquid on the floor. “You lost that privilege the moment you betrayed our nation and our gods.” He picked up a small wine jug and swigged it.

“I ordered them set free shortly before I sent for you, I had been considering ordering your execution as a token gesture to appease the people and let them know that those some of those responsible for their children's deaths would pay. However I realised that their God probably counts you as one of it's own, and without jeopardising my life further, I can't risk harming you. You are to go into exile alongside those you love so dearly, if you hurry you may still catch them.”

Bithiah fixed him with a stern gaze. “So I may take my leave then, of you and this culture that would hate someone for doing right?”

“I would prefer it if you did, that is what exile means.”

“Very well then.”


With that she walked out and made her way quickly to the Israelite camp, took her son in her embrace and prepared to head into the desert.

Apr 12, 2006

789 words + 44 from Week 100

-see archives-

Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 03:06 on Dec 11, 2014

Jul 17, 2010

Flash Rule: (Polyester Bride - Liz Phair)

It had been 15 minutes.

It had been 15 minutes, and he was definitely not coming. She recrossed her arms, scanning the nearly bare pews from what felt like 10 miles away. Most of her valued friends and family members had began to leave after she'd finally snapped, “Where is he?” to his mother, who had helplessly shrugged, blue eyes like dinner plates.

Looking back, this had not been her most well-thought out decision. She'd met Henry 8 months before, a flirty charmer at the bar who had made her feel desirable, wanted – but he was also callous and cruel when the mood suited him, and selfish like no one else she'd ever met. They had been at the opera when he'd proposed from their front row seats – and how could she say no, with the whole crowd cheering and applauding for the handsome man and his blushing girlfriend?

The memory made her grimace. The priest, frowning under his beard, rested his hand on her shoulder. “Iris, he is no man if he is doing this to you.”

She looked back at him and tried to smile. “No, I know, Father Alexios.”

He gripped her shoulder and then let go. “It is not your fault.”

“I know.”

Henry's parents stood up and crept towards her. “Iris, I'm so sorry,” wept his mother. “It's not his fault, my baby would never-”

Something cracked in her like an egg, and Iris shouldered between them and down the steps. Her father made to stand, but her mother caught him by the hand, her long dark fingers and red nails a brand on his pale wrist. He would never get it, he never did, but her mother did, and her sisters too. She knew by their razor blade smiles and the cold anger in her mother's eyes.

A final sob from behind caught Iris, and she turned at the doors to see Henry's mother crumple, dragging her husband down with her. “My baby! Iris, please find him!”

Father Alexios bent to the woman, but his eyes never left Iris. “She will, have no doubt.”

And he nodded, and she turned again and pushed her way out the doors.

The limousine was parked in front. The driver was sitting on the hood, having a smoke. The click of her heels down the steps made him look to her. “Finally,” he said. “Groom leave you at the altar?”

His frankness stopped her for a moment, but then he must have seen this happen half a million times before. She forced a smile again. “Yeah. Could you take me to Northside?” She knew he would be there, drinking with his enabling man of honour while his bitch mother cried and worried about nothing. Her sisters, her bridesmaids would look after that. She had her own business to take care of.

She crawled into the limo, twisting her skirt out of the way, and then sat heavily in the middle of the seat while the driver twisted the key. The limo moved faster than she would've thought, but that was fine.

She'd tried to relax and pin down her thick curls, but she let them out now, a thick black cloud that framed her face – something Henry had said had hid her big doe eyes and made her look “mean”.

Iris found that she didn't care anymore.

The limousine stopped in front of the bar. The driver looked at her from the rearview mirror as she took off her heels. “Good luck, lady.”

She thanked every god imaginable that her dress was sensible as she pushed through the lunch crowd on the patio. Her eyes quickly caught Henry, dishevelled, already wasted, plying a college girl with shots as his married best man whispered in another girl's ear.

How had she not seen how cartoonishly evil he was? Iris's skin crawled as she strode towards their table. His best man saw her first and dropped his tumbler onto the floor. Henry looked up from the college girl's tits and went white. “Babe, I had cold feet.”

She could feel the ripples of it, the change, the ice in her, and what did he know about cold, anyway? With a clawed hand she yanked him up by the collar, leaned in, whispered, “You never liked to remember who I am, did you?” and the girls were screaming, the best man had fallen off his chair, the quills were splitting her skin, and she shrieked laughter.

“No,” he said, and she felt the first real smile she'd had in days stretch her skin.

“Yes,” she said, and shoved him to the ground, locked her talons around him, and flew away.

Jul 17, 2010

^Word count is 784, sorry.

Anathema Device
Dec 22, 2009

by Ion Helmet

739 Words

The needle goes into the arm that isn’t twisted and bloody, swollen and broken. The arm that isn’t hurting worse than anything. Dad hovers next to the bed. The nurse connects the syringe, pushes the plunger in. I accelerate, the world blurring around me. I float, with nothing holding me but the bright cloud of euphoria. Somewhere, my arm hurts, but not here.

Here is warm. Here is nice.

I feel every bump in the road, every jolt to the old jeep’s shocks, as a grinding of bone on bone. I crank up the radio to drown out my whimpers and grunts, and Dad pretends he isn’t hearing them anyway. The muscles in his jaw work.

When he goes into the pharmacy I sit in a purgatory of pain, the still, sunlit air pressing heavy against my skin. Time blurs and stretches.

The creak of the door startles me. I cry out in pain as I jolt my arm. Dad opens the prescription bottle and shoves two oval pills at me. I put them in my mouth and almost gag at the bitter flavor that seeps over my tongue while I hold out my hand for the warm gatorade.

“I’m sorry about your arm,” he says.

“It’s not your fault I crashed.”

By the time we get to the house my eyelids are heavy and drooping, and I’m smiling.

I swallow the pills dry and wait, but the pain still nags at my arm. Frustrated, I take a third pill.

I wake up and think about pills, yellow and bright in my palm and bitter in my mouth. In the shower I imagine crunching them between my teeth, the sharp, pervasive taste of them on my tongue. I poo poo twice before I leave the house, runny thin diarrhea with no bulk behind it; I haven’t eaten since yesterday morning.

On the schoolbus I try to do my math homework. In my notebook I scribble calculations. Ten dollars for a pill. Three pills to stop the diarrhea, four to feel a rush. I have a couple twenties in my pocket, the last of my Christmas money.

I think I might have a problem.

“Is your steak okay?” the waitress asks. The steak is perfect, medium rare. Dad and Aunt Jane are nearly done, but I’ve only choked down a few bites.

There’s money poking out of Aunt Jane’s purse. It nags at the corner of my eyes. It’s two fifties, and I can’t believe she’s so careless. Anybody could take it.

“It’s delicious.” I force a smile. “I’m just not very hungry.” The waitress smiles sympathetically as she walks away.

I could take it.

“How’s your wrist?” Aunt Jane asks.

“It’s fine,” I say. “All healed.”

“What did you learn about four wheeler racing?” she asks. Irritation prickles at me skin.

My hand slithers down into her purse and closes over crisp bills.


As soon as Mark dumps the grubby, sticky pills into my hand I have them in my mouth. It’s twenty minutes ‘till lunch and my empty stomach rebels. I swallow bitter spit.

“Hey,” Mark says. “You can’t take those here!”

“Why the hell not? They can’t catch me with them if I’m not carrying them.”

“You’re going to be high as gently caress for English,” he says, shaking his head.


I’m not. The pills leave me feeling bitter and unsatisfied.

“A hundred dollars? Really?” I stare out the window while Dad talks into the phone. “And you had it when we got to the restaurant. Yeah. It must have been the waitress. Yeah, you should call them. You won’t get your money back, but you might get her fired.”

He hangs up. I’m floating on the warm wave of five pills, but something feels hollow in my stomach.

“How do you know it was the waitress?”

He glances at me. “She just seemed shady,” Dad says. “And who else could it be?”

There’s a long, pregnant silence. “But you don’t know,” I say, panic trickling ice into my warmth. “Aunt Jane could have dropped it.”

“She didn’t drop it,” Dad says.

The truth is leaden on my tongue. This is my chance, my last chance, to fess up. To tell Dad what’s going on. Before I let my greed ruin some poor woman’s job. The guilt eats at me, ruins my high.

“I did it,” I say. “I took the money.”

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Winter's Tokens
(622 words)

Snow and ice blocked the front door after the storm, so Theo's father sent him out through a window to attack the drifts. The boy stood still on the other side of the panes, staring through the fog of his breath at a frozen world. Jags of broken wood sheathed in winter's glass had taken the place of trees. Many of the boughs he'd climbed were somewhere under the cover of white. What remained was sculpture, not life.

"Theo," his father called. Aunt Rowena coughed upstairs, a wet and clotted sound.

The shovel was in the garage. Theo half-swam through snow to reach it, past splintered saplings. He slipped and bumped into one of them, and powder fell off a little lump that sat on a twig-turned-crystal: a chickadee. Theo prodded it with his mitten. The bird was as solid, as cold as its perch. It wouldn't come loose when he pulled at it gently: its tiny feet were embedded in the ice. He broke the twig and slipped the bird into his pocket. It chilled his hip until he found a box in the garage to be its casket.

Once he dug the door free, his father said, "Look after your aunt." Theo poured tea and slowly climbed the stairs. The huge fire in Aunt Rowena's hearth made her room almost warm, but he felt as cold as the chickadee as he held the cup for her. The coughs clawed their way from her chest until tears glittered on her soft, lined cheeks.

She said, "I'll be all right, Theo," in a voice as thin as the sunlight.

Their electricity didn't come back that day or the next, and the road beside their farmhouse remained a dip in the snowy sea.

Many more feathered bodies huddled in the orchard trees. Theo discovered them while he hauled fallen wood on his sled to the barn to dry. He filled all the spare boxes in the garage, recently used for Christmas presents, with corpses. He couldn't stand to leave them out in the ice. Small, pitiful, lost--

With a pair of tweezers he pulled a feather from the tail or the wing of each, and he tied these together in a chain with burlap thread, remembering the birds as he touched them one by one. Junco. Sparrow. Mother cardinal. That feather was straggly and pale, like the bird in her cardboard coffin.

Theo slept in Aunt Rowena's room, by the fire, just in case. "Do you want a bedtime story?" she asked.

"You have to save your strength."

As often as he could, he fled the sounds of illness to find and memorialize the dead.

He watched the flames at night, trying to hear nothing but their sound. He was still immediately aware of the silence from the bed when it fell. Ice wrapped itself around him inside his nest of blankets. He couldn't breathe; he couldn't cry; his eyes were frozen.

Then--a long, weak cough, muffled in a pillow.

Theo got up and padded to his bedroom and pulled on his snow clothes. The night air bit into his ears even on the short wade to the garage. By the time he was back in Aunt Rowena's room with his hands full of feathers and string, he was shivering all over.

He stole up to the bed. Aunt Rowena opened her eyes and smiled a little in the firelight, smiling wider when Theo tucked his chain of remembrance into her hands. Her thumb traced a feather; she caught his fingers and held them. For the moment, her hands warmed his: still alive, still there, not yet a memory. "Once upon a time," she whispered, and Theo stayed and listened.

May 13, 2013

Give me a rifle, one round, and point me at Berlin!

Alabama Shakes - Hold On :ohdear:

Not Much
(784 words)

A Korani corvette is a nice ship, both in space and historical recordings. It‘s a lot less nice when it has crashed in the middle of the shantytown, and leaking hypercore liquid is pooling in a deep hole. A deep hole that used to be “Clobber’s Drink Hall”, before it was swept away by one of the corvette’s still functioning retroboosters. Now, only the basement and stacks of liquor remain, irrevocably tainted by hyperliquid. Town drunks would be heartbroken. But not as much as Randy Clobber, son of Jeb Clobber, standing at the precipice of the hole that used to be his father’s bar… and his bar, once it was passed down to him.

Randy did not cry. The whole planet was built on hard men, harder women and the hardest of effort needed to loot crashed ships. It was no place for tears, unless you were drunk on moonshine, yamshine, cornshine or whatever liquid that was on sale. Randy has seen a lot of those tears, liquor as much as water, streaking down rugged, windswept faces of ship breakers and field hands. Would be one or two every evening. Randy would pour drinks and drunks would pour out their hearts.

But now it was all gone, swept away in a superheated blast of the booster. All the work his father had done, all blasted away. All those hours Jeb spent ordering Randy and his brother Joe around, burnt away. All the effort to build and maintain the place, all the school lessons sacrificed, gone with the wind. All that’s left was Randy, a rapidly expanding square pool of shimmering liquid, and the sounds of first ship breaker convoys coming to dine on the carcass of the corvette.

So he crouched to take a closer look at the shimmering liquid.

The quicksilver pool… extremely toxic, very much lethal. Randy wouldn’t now, his childhood and teens were spent at the bar and running errands. But Joe managed to scrounge money for a dataslate and spent a lot of time reading, at least, whenever he could slip away from father and the endless chores. He told Randy about the stations up above, about space ships… and hypercore liquid. So pretty, so vital, so deadly. Such a welcome solution to Randy’s problem.

He stood up and took one step closer.

After all, what was he to do, now? The bar was all he had; that was all the life he had built or had it built by his father. He didn’t know much besides running the bar: haggling for booze, cleaning glasses, throwing away drunks, paying off enforcers… A very specific skill set. It let him live, hand to mouth, to be certain, but it let him live. Surely it was better and smarter than ship breaking, at least his father used to say so.
So what is a shantytown bar owner to do with no bar, no liquor, no one who called him “friend” while sober, and only a few credits to his name? Might as well jump in and end it. It would a fitting death: the bar consumed his life, so why not go down with it? His father drowned himself in the bottle, and Randy would drown in liquor and hyperliquid. Kind of ironic that poisoning on the fluid so necessary for interstellar travel would be the closest he’d get to a spaceship, adventures and travels that Joe used to talk about.

Joe! The thought startled him and he almost lost balance. Joe! He had gone away from it all, a few years ago. Damned by Jeb for going off with the breakers and damned twice more for using the money to set up in a station visible from the shanty. “That boy flaunts his insolence, money he wasted on toys instead of being thankful for what I’ve done and helping the bar” father would say when spotted the shining dot up in the sky. Joe didn’t care. He had his own place, selling games and entertainment to other station employees. It was almost like a bar, but people brought their own beer and fought holographic robot battles.

At least, that’s what Joe would tell him when wanted to get Randy to join him. Randy, of course, refused. The bar was left to him and father wanted him to take care of it.

Except that now “Clobber’s Drink Hall” was just a hole in the ground. Nothing to keep him there.

Randy took a step back.

Nothing to keep him there.

He didn’t have much money, but he had enough for a few days. Enough time for Joe to hear about the crash and call him.

He just had to wait.

Nov 13, 2012

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

The Fog Must Lift

(784 words)

You keep on wailing as I carry you out onto the deck. I push us through the pitying throng in the dark cabin, your little arms grabbing on to each and every one of them as we pass. You want us to go back inside, to your mother, but I must spare you that. One day you'll understand. She is gone.

It's raining. The drops fall through mist. I wrap my jacket around your frail form and stand straight for the first time in days, my legs trembling. I wish I could feel acceleration, speed, but all I have is you, me, and the Irish Sea. You won't stop screaming, and I want nothing else but to join you: together roaring imprecations at the night and at whatever monster hides behind the clouds, afraid to show its face.

But I can't let myself. Words are power. I fondle your soft hair, cooing like a mother bird. “There, now,” I say. “There, now. It's alright.” I know this is a lie and so do you. You have seen too much magic to fall for mummery. That's why we both see the crow as she emerges from the fog. Her fog.

You fall silent.

She flutters onto the railing beside us and cocks her head. “She could never have survived,” she croaks.

“This is not your business, Morrigan. Leave us be.”

The goddess of death in battle locks a beady eye on you. “War is hell,” she says. You squirm under the plaid folds of my coat.

“This isn't war. This is famine. An Gorta Mor.” I slip into the old tongue, the one I never taught you. “The Great Hunger. Your dead are back in Ireland, rotting where we left them. Go claim the potatoes from their battlefields.”

She caws, and the sound blurs with an old woman's laugh, harsh and shrill. “I see starvation and desperate flight. What is that if not war's token? What are these if not my people?”

I step back, cradling you in one hand. “Begone. There are greater mages than I for you to torment.”

“No longer. You are the last. And you dare to leave? The sacred places shall wither with none to follow the old ways.”

I look at the tears streaming down your cheeks. “Let them.”

“I offer prophecy; if you step off this boat in any land but home, the Gift will fade from your tongue. If you would forget Ireland, Ireland would forget you.”

“So be it.”

“Then leave. But the boy must return. If you will abandon us, I will teach him the Gift in your stead. I shall not die forgotten.”

My throat turns to ash. “No,” I croak.

She caws again. “Then turn back, and save lives.”

“Never!” I roar, and set you to crying again. “How dare you speak of life? Where were you when the harvest died? There is no turning back now.”

She spreads her wings. “Give me the boy, little mage.”

I turn you to face my chest and use the Gift a final time. Five years ago I would have been a fool to stand against the Morrigan. But our shrivelled forms are not what they once were. I am a bag of bones tied with sinew, she just a crow: starvelings both.

I reach back to the old tongue. My voice cracks as I speak the words, my hand carving shapes in the fog. I call on gods long dead, heroes forgotten under hills. I barely know their meaning: not my father's words, or his; older than the Morrigan’s. The fog thins: with the last of my strength the wind rises, and the crow loses her grip. The storm takes her.

I fall to my knees, closing around you like a hen's egg. Your fingers lock into mine and I do not let go.


The skies clear, and the boat pushes on. You snivel into my shirt, and I feel the wetness soak my chest. I hold you tight and stroke your head. “There, now,” I say. “It's alright.”

I hear that those who already left, to whom the Hunger will never be more than second-hand, miss Ireland. They sing the old songs, send letters home and swear never to forget. I hope you never remember: that you file the crow and the Hunger away in your head, to be lost where imaginary friends go.

Lights rise across the water. Glasgow lies ahead, a city of smoke and steel. The Emerald Isle is forever behind us. One day you'll understand. I promise you that. But when you ask me about tonight, I shall lie. Words are power, and I have none to give you.

Echo Cian
Jun 16, 2011

Hawk's Cry (720 words)

Siera clung to a scrub tree on the precipice, her hands and lungs aching and her head ringing. Hawks soared and called below, and Siera wondered what it would be like to join them. Would she fly if she leaped off the cliff? Would she feel the impact or only the rush of wind as she plummeted?

Their words haunted her from the moment she'd opened her eyes and found the tavern collapsed around her, felt the thrum of power through her veins. Witch, they'd screamed as she stumbled away from the wreckage, stammering. Accursed, the man had shouted when she tried to move a piece of roofing that had pinned his leg. Anathema! chased her from the tavern without her violin, from the town, onto the mountain.

The hawks didn't accuse. But she'd done it. Her music had gone wild, winding ivy throughout support beams and growing moss to chew through wood until down the tavern crashed. She didn't know if anyone had died, but it didn't matter. She still remembered the thorns tearing through her brother's legs when he'd frightened her with a snake as a child. He had never played with her again. He hadn't walked.

Would she become a hawk if she sang as she jumped? She dragged herself to her feet and peered over the edge. It was a long way down. How easy it would be to let go of the branch and let gravity do the rest, to never again have to worry about losing herself to what she loved and hated both. She deserved whatever the villagers would do to her. Maybe she deserved the rocks below more.


Her head snapped around, hair flying. She hadn't heard the young man approach. She'd seen him somewhere before. The tavern? Something about him - his brown hair, his bright eyes, the way he stood tall and alert - had reminded her of the hawks.

"They're looking for you," he said quietly.

Siera turned back to the cliff. She should just jump. Become a hawk. Feel the rush. Anything but let her hand tighten on the tree.

"I heard your playing," he continued. "It was beautiful. I've never heard anything like it."

It didn't matter, she almost wanted to say, but even that didn't matter. She could grow a tree straight up his back and he wouldn't even know, and she wouldn't even mean to. What did beauty matter in the face of that? What did liking something matter, when music was what she loved?

"They were just scared." He paused, waiting for a reaction, but she gave him none. "My uncle's a songworker, too."

Again, she almost spoke, but stayed silent. Pointless. He wouldn't know what it was like.

"You don't have to run or hide on the mountain forever." She heard the attempt at a smile in his voice. "He can settle them down. Or-" He hesitated, then laughed nervously, and his words came out in a rush. "Or I can stand here until they give up and hold onto you before you give up, because I want to hear you play again, and you're pretty and I'm really going to put my foot in my mouth if I keep babbling, aren't I?"

Siera finally looked at him, incredulous. The misplaced awkward smile on his sharp face, like he knew he'd just said the dumbest thing he possibly could have, made her crack a smile of her own, despite herself. Her hand was sore from clutching the tree. His, when he held it out, looked much softer.

"I'm afraid to play again," she said. "This isn't the first time."

"It's okay." His hand remained, pleading, as he glanced at the cliff edge, bright eyes worried yet warm. "We can make it the last. I won't let them throw rocks, I can promise that."

It was all flattery, trying to talk her down. He couldn't really be interested in someone like her. He wasn't even a songworker. But she couldn't just jump in front of him. She might deserve it, but he didn't. And...well, maybe he was right. He'd come all the way here for some reason. For her.

Wings beat past the cliff as she accepted his hand and let him lead her back from the ledge.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

From a Great Height
787 words

E: Archives

Ironic Twist fucked around with this message at 22:41 on Dec 29, 2014

Mar 21, 2013


Grimey Drawer

songlink: that would be a spoiler.

Willful Indescretion

I, Arthur Wilbur Clemence, of 11 Torrenby Street, hereby declare this to be my Will.

You may wonder why I listed Torrenby Street as my address, rather than Eversing Terrace where the children were born and raised. I do so to remind you all of my own family’s origins. Torrenby Street, ramshackle shitbucket though it may be, is what I picture when someone says “home”. It is where I first learned the true meaning of the words ‘Hard Graft'. It is where, as they say, the bodies are buried. Think on that as I finish this final piece of tedious bloody officiousness.

I hereby revoke all previous wills or testamentary writings made by me, particularly the ones I made when I was drunk, or trying to tempt some wayward bint out of her knickers. It’s a fortunate thing those indiscretions never resulted in anything, or there might be a few unfamiliar faces around the table today. How very awkward!

I nominate Doctor Jeremy Ellison to be the Executor of my Estate. Should he not fancy the job, I nominate his fellow, Doctor Timothy Wellings, both of Ellwell Health.

My Estate gets assigned as follows:

Lance: I leave you every shelf of my extensive library, in honour of the many hours you spent there being noisy, nosy and needy when I was attempting to get some work done. If your mind consumed half as much as your body does, you wouldn’t be such a fat, ignorant git.

As for the books contained within the shelves of my library, I leave them to the faculty of my Alma Mater, The University of Tunbridge Wells. At least someone might read them there.

Lawrence: There is more to life than an endless Pride Parade of fast cars and faster men. I have no issue with your lifestyle choices, but I cannot abide the ludicrous mesh shirts and sparkle-shorts you persist in wearing to advertise your wares. To you I leave the phone number of my tailor in Saville Row and a twelve pack of Durex, in the hope you live long enough to grow the hell up.

Letitia: How much you remind me of your mother. You have her ability to smell out the richest man in any room. I don’t know if you learned it at that ludicrously expensive finishing school, but I am certain it will prove useful as you whore your way through life. Do not think me a bitter old man, though, for I have left you something to remember me, something you have asked for since you were a little girl. A pony! Which is actually my delightfully lower class way of saying twenty five pounds, or how much your mother charged for a half hour when I met her. Don’t spend it all up your nose this time.

And finally, Lillith, my bride these many years, and mother to the abovementioned offspring. How can I repay the years of thankless work you put in raising this misfit brood in such an overprivileged, underchinned manner? To you I leave this envelope, sent to me by Ellwell health and containing the results of the Y-Chromosome Infertility Test I took last year, that revealed me incapable of ever having children.

As for the rest of my estate, I hereby bequeath it, in total, as a donation to the medical practice of Ellwell Health, to say thank you for keeping me alive long enough to experience both the golden age of television and Viagra. Who knows - had they such funds earlier, I might have led a much more pleasant, inexpensive and child-free existence.

Lance - there is no point shouting at the lawyer like that. This is all perfectly legitimate. Lawrence, the finger wag / head shake is very overplayed in your community. Letitia, please stop sobbing. Your handkerchief isn’t even wet. In fact, if the three of you bastards could leave the room for a moment - there is a final section of this will that is for your mother’s ears only.

Lillith. At the bottom of the envelope there is a small key. It opens the door to 11 Torrenby Street, which I have placed in your name. I hope you will forgive me for forging your signature, but as you are now otherwise homeless I would, perhaps, consider being a little thankful.

In any event, I am sure the children will be exceptionally keen to hear about their real father and I am aware you haven’t seen him for quite some months. If you’d like to keep it that way - digging to any depth in the basement of that house would be a very, very bad idea.

Arthur Wilbur Clemence

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears a Party Hat
787 words

A shrill sound of anguish cuts through the din at McTwinkle’s Fun Land. At the front of the line for the Dino Mountain 6-D Movie Xperience, eight year old Riley is discovering that her Fun Pass is not in her pocket.

Her friends press past her toward the curtained entrance, not quite registering there is a problem, that one of their number is dangerously close to being Left Out.

Nine year old Zoe is saying, “I’ve been on this ride and you go in and you have to put a seatbelt on and there’s a big screen, but there’s also holes in the wall and smoke comes out and,” to ten year old Brayden.

Brayden is the birthday boy. As the official Oldest One of the group, it’s his job to keep everyone together, to make sure no one is Left Out. He turns around and sees Riley, her face all red and watery and her pockets turned inside out.

“Guys wait,” Brayden says.

“Do you guys all have your Fun Passes?” the ride attendant is asking. “It’s twenty-four Funbucks to do Dino Mountain.”

There’s a moment where the kids instinctively wait for adult intervention. But lights keep flashing all around them. Games keep being played. The frantic economy of Funbucks churns on.

“Okay well, everyone needs a Fun Pass, okay?” the attendant says. She’s looking around, like, where are the parents? But the line is backing up and other families are frowning and muttering, so she waves the next group through.

The kids shuffle off to the side, and it’s a full-on kerfuffle because half of them still haven’t grasped that Riley might get Left Out, so they’re like, “Dino Mountain is like right there, why aren’t we going in?”

“You shouldn’t’ve lost your pass,” Zoe says to Riley.

“We could do air hockey,” suggests one of the seven year olds, who’s dancing in place like he has to pee.

“Riley lost her pass,” Zoe says, putting her hands on her hips. “She can’t do anything.”

Brayden has been standing there thinking and chewing his cuticles this whole time. “We could all take turns sharing our pass with Riley,” he says. “Then we could all play air hockey and stuff.”

“Why don’t you just go ask your grandma to get you another one?” Zoe says to teary, snotty Riley.

“Grandma had to go home ‘til the party’s over,” Riley says. “Grandma can’t be around lots of people too long or drink beer.”

“But then we can’t do Dino Mountain,” Zoe says, and now her voice is starting to wobble and crack.

Brayden is torn. All the kids are looking at him. He’s the Birthday Boy, the philosopher king of the day. The first one to reach the double-digits in age. And now he’s the one who has to swoop in and make everything okay.

McTwinkle’s beeps and whistles and buzzes around them.

Zoe says, “well I’m going in.” She turns on her heel, swipes her Fun Pass, and disappears into Dino Mountain. Some of the kids, the ones who still don’t really get what’s happening, follow her, and the group splits in half.

The rest are still looking at Brayden. Brayden looks at the antsy seven year old. “I’ll bet if you pay for Riley’s air hockey, she’ll play with you,” he says.

“Awe heck yeah,” says the seven year old, and like a flock of pigeons the kids burst into motion, running for the air hockey tables in a disorderly gaggle.

Brayden goes last, making sure none of the group wander off or get left behind. Riley notices and falls back until they’re side by side.

“Sorry you can’t do Dino Mountain 'cause of me,” she says.

Brayden shrugs. “I want everyone to have fun at my party." He’s a little sad about the whole Dino Mountain thing, but at ten years old, he thinks he wants to be the sort of person who’s fair about this stuff.

Riley wipes her nose on her sleeve and socks Brayden on the arm. “After I beat the little kid, I’m gonna take you on,” she says, and runs to catch up with the others before he can muster a counterattack.

Brayden rubs his arm and grins. A feeling bigger than words pushes against the inside of his ribs, and somehow for a moment he doesn’t need to play games or chase his friends. For a moment he is the laughter, the ka-chink of falling tokens, the flashing game lights. And he knows that this feeling is good and right, and that it comes from no on being Left Out, not now, and never again, as long as he can help it.

Jul 18, 2011

Modern worldly poster

A Light in the Darkness
788 words

docbeard fucked around with this message at 15:55 on Dec 29, 2014

Aug 7, 2013




The Day After - 787 Words

The alarm went off with an echo of an explosion, and Jones rose up until all the little tubes stuck into him pulled him down again, his hand scrabbling down his chest.

Nothing. No terrible jagged wrongness beneath the thin, scratchy fabric of the hospital robe, the faded floral pattern in antiseptic blue. The little blue petals swam along with his vision as he leaned back against the stiff foam pillow, dancing in the halogen lights.

Jones closed his eyes, and pressed his fingers over them, gently pushing away the ring of bruised purple afterlight. The machines beside him rattled his skull with their low rumbling, an insistent whirr-humm that kept his thoughts hovering just out of reach. Slowly, a sense of motion crept into his darkened world, other patients stirring in the beds beside him.

The footsteps of the nurse coming towards him were like drumbeats, the metal tray she pushed into his hands a splash of freezing water. He managed to find his glasses on the table beside him, and the nurse helped guide them over his eyes. The world focused a little.

“And how are we feeling today, Mr. Bishop?”
She lifted a cup to his lips, and the dryness of his mouth turned swampy and sticky, his lips clinging together.
“I have a daughter, Emily.”
“She's fine.”

Jones relaxed, and tried to lean back again, but the nurse pulled him up and shifted the pillow behind his back, commanding him to eat. He made a show of nibbling at the mashed orange gloop. It felt alien in his mouth.

“Has she come visit me, then?”

The nurse gave him a look he couldn't follow, and picked up a book off the table. The Naked Sun. The red ribbon bookmark was waiting for him. “She brought this, and chocolates. You can't have those yet.”

Jones nodded, and waited until she'd left before giving up on the food. He tried to read, but the bookmark was in the wrong place. So he fidgeted, running his fingers along his scalp until he found the squirming lines of raised flesh. He'd been lucky.

Sleep crept up on him soon after.

. . . .

When he woke up again, he felt fingers wrapped around his own, and could give a name to the warm, comforting presence that had filled his dreams. He opened his eyes, and blinked away the blotches of dark color.


All his thoughts were coming through half-formed.
“Are you okay?”

Emily smiled, squeezing his hand in a way that made him feel suddenly brittle.
“Yes. And mom's fine, we're doing fine.”
“That's good.”

“Was it bad?”
“A lot of people got hurt. We were lucky.”

Another pause, and as he tried to think what to say a terrible suspicion crept up, lurking in the corners of the sterile room with all it's empty beds.

“How long?”

She smiled, and helped him lean against the headboard, but didn't answer the question.
“Emily.” He asked again, in a tone he hadn't used since she was little.

“Not long dad, I promise. You barely have a beard.” He studied her, struggling to find a word for the way Emily was looking back. But he could still see a little smudge of fading purple on her forehead. The bruise could only be a few days old. It was only a silly worry.

“It's been all the over the news since it happened though. Apparently, it's the fault of Muslims and Atheists, and apparently they're mad because Republicans have the house.” He almost laughed, and let her talk until the nurse came in and took her away.

Only a little later, sleep took him away as well.

. . . .

The alarm went off and Jones buried his face against the bed as heat and sound and light blazed inside his skull, crushing the sheets between his fingers. Only when the fire passed did he realize he was awake at all, and he uncurled, pushing his sweaty hair back and groaning as he opened his eyes into the glare of the halogen lights.

Jones reached to the table without realizing why, and found the book waiting for him. He opened it to the bookmark and fumbled through the pages until he found something he remembered. But the foam pillow soon turned heavenly and soft beneath his head, and dancing spots of dark color spread across his vision and blotted out the pages long before he could work his way back to the little red ribbon.

. . . .

He woke up, and started over again.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

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

Death I Think Is No Parenthesis (521 words)

In the X-rays, it looked like a hurricane batting against the inside of your skull. That’s always how it happens, isn’t it? You spend your whole life worrying about the wrong things – great white sharks and earthquakes and home invasions – when what gets you has been there all along.

I don’t think I ever told you how pissed off I was when we went back home for Thanksgiving. After the doctors stopped saying if and started talking about when. You didn’t want to tell your family, because we were still hoping it might somehow still work out. Everyone was sitting at the table, telling stories and making jokes that I had to smile at, and the whole time I just wanted to scream. I wanted them to understand what I understood: that every moment with you was a grain of sand in an invisible hourglass, slowly ticking away. But you were happy. How could I ruin that? What good would it have done?

I used to come by every day after work. We’d talk about everything but ourselves, and then I’d pull a chair up to your bed so we could make fun of those lovely Spanish soap operas. I remember sometimes the nurses would have to come ask us to keep it down. Every time you laughed, I clung to the sound of it like a thrashing sailor clings to a life preserver. I think I already missed you.

I kept waiting for you to come back and watch all those cheesy movies with me. We were always so busy. We barely had time to see each other. That’s the one thing I regret the most and I don’t think I will ever stop regretting it.

The picture we took on the Pont des Arts is in a frame on my desk in the office. I loved that trip, though I hate how many details I’ve forgotten. In the picture you can see our padlock on the railing, the one with our initials and a heart painted in nail polish. I read online that they’ve been taking padlocks down with bolt cutters after part of the bridge collapsed. I wonder if ours is still there, or if it’s sitting in a dark warehouse somewhere with ten thousand other symbols of eternal love, waiting to be melted down.

I still can’t watch weather reports on the news. I see the Doppler radar, the red and gold and yellow-colored hurricanes winding along the coast, and I get this icy numbness in my chest.

You always had your nails painted when I came to see you. Always that same robin egg blue. I guess one of the nurses must have helped. Did you even know I was there, at the end? When you were sedated, I’d hold your hand and kiss your knuckles and look for some sign, some part of the you that I remembered.

More than anything, I hated that you might not have heard me say goodbye.

Which is why, when I got your email this morning, I wasn’t entirely sure how to respond.

Mar 21, 2010

[EDIT: removed for publishing reasons]

SurreptitiousMuffin fucked around with this message at 02:25 on Dec 4, 2014

Jul 3, 2010
Click to understand my bad faith posting.

769 words

Jupiter loomed in the port-side window. Yannick stared out at the giant and sighed. “We’ve gotten ourselves in some poo poo, huh?”

Captain Lang didn’t look up from the manual he was hunched over at the helm. “Aye, Mr. Moore.”

“Will they send someone for us? They wouldn’t just let us die out here, right Cap?”

“Union had a skeleton fleet even before they ordered this op. The chances of them picking us up this far out are slim.”

Ventilation hummed low, the only sound in the otherwise still air of the bridge. The dim overhead lights, now on emergency settings along with the rest of the functional systems, cast long shadows across the seats and consoles. Yannick's face was caught in chiaroscuro by the light filtered through the porthole, wide-eyed and anxious. “The data’s still intact, though?”

“It is.”

“Is it everything we hoped?”

Lang dog-eared a page and closed the manual, setting it on the nav console beside him. “That and more. Impending deployments, supply base and garrison locations, comms and crypto: everything we’d need to put a knife in the Coalition’s gut and get away with it.” He lowered his head, eyes fixed a thousand miles past his feet. “If the engine flare-out didn’t kill our own commo, I’d burst the data to Titania Command and be done with it.”

Yannick pushed away from the window, letting himself drift across the bridge to the comms station. He pulled himself in front of a screen, hitting the switch to bring up data stores. “Battlegroup should still be at Ganymede, yeah? We could try ejecting the DSM, see if they pick it up on radar. That or the emergency beacon.”

“We’re in the dead-center of an enemy fleet with no way to reliably aim an ejected module, even with the docking thrusters. So, if by some colossally unlikely chance it manages to clear their scouts without getting picked up, there’s no guarantee it won’t just coast off into a lazy orbit. The beacon… well, it’d get found by them before us.”

Yannick sighed and settled into the seat at the comms station. The two ruminated in silence. After a time, Captain Lang picked up his manual and opened to the dog-eared page. He studied it for several moments before turning his head toward toward his first officer. “Do you regret getting involved in this, Yannick?”

He shrugged. “I didn’t have much going on at home before the war kicked up. Just helping mom and dad run their campaigns at Hummel Station. It was safe, I guess. Financially secure. Dreadfully boring.”

Lang nodded, listening intently.

“They tried to stop me from commissioning when the first shots were fired over Mars. I just wanted to get off the station and do something of my own. Couldn’t bear the thought of being part of a political family, leisure be damned.”

“Youth: headstrong and endeavouring.”

Yannick chuckled nervously. “Something like that. I suppose I’d rather be bored at home than dealing with this poo poo… adrift in contested space.” He waited a moment, then tentatively added, “What about you, captain?”

Lang was still for a moment, as though devoting his entire body to consider the question. His answer was curt. Deliberate. “Before the war, I was a chemistry teacher on Titania. High school. Before that, I’d been an operations officer on a Coalition destroyer.”

Yannick sat up in his seat and turned, eyes widening. “You worked a Coalition ship?”


“Then how did you --”

“Was never an embargo on personnel between the two governments. Got along well enough that civilians were free to move as they pleased. As for why I’m now running a Union ship…”

The air in the room stilled, politely waiting for him to continue.

“Well, they wanted guys who knew their way around the other guys’ boats. Wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

Yannick stared. “Goddamn. I didn’t think we’d do something like that.”

“Me either.”

They sat for several moments before Captain Lang levered himself out of the helmsman’s seat.  “Ventilation just stopped. Other systems will follow soon enough.” He tossed the manual across the cabin to the first officer, pages fluttering in the microgravity. Yannick grabbed it and found the dog-eared page.

“That details how to spool up the beacon. Do that, then prepare the suits and vacuum guns for action.”

Yannick nodded with a measure of uncertainty, stood, and made his way off the bridge. Lang sighed softly and pushed across the room to the port-side window. He stared out at Jupiter, the giant sitting fat and content in the viewing aperture. Laughing. “Some poo poo, indeed.”

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


Chairchucker posted:

Thunderdome Week CXIX: Oh! Calamity!

Fuschia tude -

656 words

Brian Belchamp sat in his '87 Chevy and raised the clear bottle to his lips. Liquid fire ran down his throat and he closed his eyes. For a moment, he was able to forget the moon had ever existed, that it had ruined his life. But when he opened his eyes it was still glaring down through the windshield.

It didn't look like much from here; the same large moon in the night sky. But within a few minutes, despite seeming stationary, something appeared along one edge, a pregnant bulge, a tumor growing out of the side. Soon it had resolved into another copy of the moon, moving out from behind the shadow of the first one. Or maybe it was the other way around, and the closer one was the original; he could never keep that straight.

It had just appeared one day, a week ago, a second moon hanging in the sky, right next to the original. It was the same shape and color; the same size and material composition, too. Or, at least, that's what they said on the TV. But rather than the Earth, the scientists said, it orbited the original moon. They had some complicated explanation why it made the ocean tides go haywire, why the earthquakes came every day now. But Brian didn't understand or care about the physics.

He couldn't put it off any longer. He put the car into gear and pulled out onto the dark, slick road.

He drove for hours, passing almost no one on the highways. The clock on the dashboard had ticked over to 2:00 before he pulled into Gray Pines.

Or what was left of it. Broken wood and metal was strewn over the roads and the ruined and barren squares that had once been private yards. The stench of rotting drywall and brackish standing water hung thick in the air. The town had been hit in the surge that first day, when the tidal force hit with a wave several stories high. Most people here had died in their sleep. It had happened without warning in the early morning.

Cleanup and shoring-up efforts by the military and local governments were concentrated in more sensible places, where the people were more densely located and the work would be cost-effective: urban centers, military towns, elevated areas—without quakes. Places like Gray Pines fell by the wayside.

That's why he had to come here in person. To remember what would otherwise be forgotten, with no one left to mourn. He parked at the edge of the rubble, shut off the engine, and stepped out.

He walked through fields of debris, picking his way slowly along the lots that once held homes and businesses. Even most of the trees had been swept away in the deluge, the earth wiped clean in the floods, leaving a homogenous light brown muck caking every surface after it had subsided. Fragments of cement and roof tiles cracked under his feet, echoing down silent streets.

At last, he came to a small lot on the side of a cul-de-sac. Nothing was left of the house, only the front steps and the foundation. He had suspected from the start, hearing nothing, no call, not even a message when the networks were working. After searching the holding camps, this was his last hope; but now he was forced to admit the truth. To touch, to feel the hands on his chest, to hold in his arms... never again.

Brian pulled a small photograph out of his pocket, laid it face-down on the grass, and positioned a heavy stone on top of it.

There was nothing for him here. Any potential survivors had long since gone to the consolidation zones, leaving behind nothing but dreams and skeletons of their past lives. He trudged back the way he had come, to climb into his car one last time, and drive until the fuel gauge hit E.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Because they have transistors
787 words

The first thing Jennifer knew about her husband being a robot was when he started talking in squeals and pops that sounded like an early-90s phone modem. She was outraged, and propped herself up in bed on her elbow.

"Derek! It was 'love, honour, comfort and keep', not 'be a robot!'"

He was repentant. "Sorry. Maybe we can keep it secret?" But his voice had an unfamiliar echo to it, as though he'd grown metal tubes that extended down his body, through his legs under the yellow candlewick bedspread and into the embossed wallpaper.

Jennifer got out of bed and fumed her way to the toilet. Christmas Eve was a terrible time to find out this sort of news; they had the family staying, for one. She shook her head at the thought of what breakfast was going to be like with a robot husband, then went back to her own bed because the other ones were taken. Derek was asleep, or shutdown, or hibernating. Or something.

She watched his back for a few minutes, then, grudgingly, fell asleep.

The next morning Jennifer discovered, to her horror, that Derek was not the only one.

"Uncle Bert! How did you keep this a secret?"

Uncle Bert's chins wobbled as he raised his palms and shrugged. "Honestly, hen, I'm at a loss. Far as I knew I were a regular fella just like muggins over there, but then I got ..." With a sound like frying bacon Uncle Bert and Derek's eyes started glowing a deep red and they intoned in spooky unison, "A SIGNAL FROM THE POLAR RADIANT".

Jennifer shuddered. "Don't do that again, you'll give the bairns the willies." In fact their daughter and her two cousins were too busy over the family iPad, but Derek and Bert nodded simultaneously.

Jennifer eyed them warily. "So how many of youse fellas would there be, if we've copped two in this house alone? Are there wee Kalahari Bushmen out there somewhere, or is it just Scotland's been blessed by them?"

Derek stood up. "No idea, love. Shall we go on our visits?"

They'd made a habit over the fifteen years of their marriage (fake robot marriage, amended Jennifer mentally as they trudged down the icy cobble roads) of visiting with their friends in the village on Christmas Eve.

This time was just as usual until around half two when the throbbing pain behind Jennifer's head turned into a stabbing irritation that she could only remedy by falling to her knees on the Patterson's Paisley carpet and shrieking "MY HUSBAND IS A ROBOT AND SO IS MY UNCLE!"

Jennifer's opened her eyes after a ten second silence; to see Eunice Patterson’s sheepish grin. The eyes of her husband Jock were glowing like the elements on a stove.

"Oh for goodness' sake," said Jennifer. She thought of the bottle of pills that Dr Penstock had prescribed for her flying nerves when they went to Australia on their holidays. I wonder if they still work, she thought.

A few hours later most of the village was out on the green as usual, kids rushing round like balls in a roulette wheel. Bert and Derek were deep in conversation a few feet behind her; she could hear the whining clicks and whirs. She was finding the whole silly mess less worrying after necking a few Valium.

Robots are alright, she thought, full of the warm spirit of Christmas charity. Look at them chattering away. And if Derek goes off and does… robot stuff… every few nights, where’s the bother? It’s just like poker night but more… modern.

A thundercrack split the reddening winter sky, followed by a blast of wind that knocked Jennifer on her jacksie and a bellowing foghorn shout that filled the heavens. “HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Jennifer gaped at the sky, which was suddenly full of creatures out of nightmares, horns and pounding legs and straps, all pulling a vast contrivance that itself was festooned with glowing spheres that sent out a painful radiance and riding it like a child’s trolley was an immense thing in red, and white, and his leering face was split in a roaring cackle that knocked the remaining snow off the trees around the green. HOOOO HOOOOO HOOOOOOOO.

Jennifer scrunched up her face. “But that’s ridiculous,” she said.

Bert, Derek and Jock all looked up, their eyes blinding red, then lifted off the ground. “THE FAT MAN RIDES,” they said, not quite in unison. “OUR TIME HAS COME.” Derek, hovering, winked.

“Save a christmas cracker for me love. You know how I like the jokes.”

And with that they rose, to glory, on a pillar of yuletide fire.

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 09:15 on Dec 5, 2014

Apr 9, 2005

"I'm thirty," I said. "I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor."

Under the Ice
780 Words

So it fell on him and no one knew what to do. An ice sculpture of the nearby waterfall Dory had carved for the wedding. It was nearly as big as a person, the largest she'd ever done. Tom writhed and yelled underneath it, firmly squished into the black sand of the tropical beach. It had taken five workers to move it here, out on a remote island about a one-hour boat ride from the mainland. All just to create her sister's perfect wedding. Money had been no object – Hank paid for it all to make Vanessa happy. Dory didn't know what to do, so she stood off to the side. She knew she'd just get in the way.

"Oh my god, Tom!" Vanessa yelled, throwing aside her bouquet and veil, running away from her husband-to-be towards the accident.

Dory wasn’t surprised when Vanessa told her about the affair. When Dory asked why she was marrying Hank she just replied, “well, I love him too.”

Hank immediately followed and the two tried to shove the sculpture off Tom, but it wasn't going anywhere. "Dory, get over here and help!"

The shout jogged her out of her placid state and Dory lumbered over as fast as she could. Sweat beaded profusely down her cheeks and her large blue dress was already stained. They all stood on one end of the sculpture, ready to push it off.

"I can't...can't breathe," Tom said, blowing sand out of his face constantly.

"Don't worry, Tom," Hank said, getting into position to heave. "We'll get this right off."

But when the three of them pushed Tom screamed louder and the slab of ice didn't move much. When Dory looked over, Tom's arm was twisted at an unnatural angle.

"His arm's broken," she said. "Stop pushing!"

They stopped and Tom coughed, sending a small cloud of sand into the air. Vanessa knelt down beside him and dug a small trench for his mouth to breathe into. Tom breathed deeply, his face turning redder and redder.

The sculpture came alive under the hot Caribbean sun, just like Vanessa wanted. It shimmered crystalline. As it melted, the water trickled down the middle of it, giving the illusion that it was actually a waterfall, of sorts. Dory was proud of herself. Her best work, by far.

Hank stood up and pulled Dory and Vanessa aside. "The crew said they were coming back in an hour to bring the food," he said. "I'm not sure if we can leave him here that long."

Vanessa's eyes were already wet with tears. "We can't just leave him like that, not for an hour."

Hank reached into his pocket and grabbed his cellphone, cursing when he saw that there wasn't any reception. He looked off into the small forest on the island that surrounded the waterfall. "I'm going to find a branch to pry this off him. Vanessa, try to get through and call the hotel." He tossed her the phone and made off for the tree line.

No one asked Dory to do anything. She stood off to the side, again, at a complete loss.

She could hear Vanessa and Tom muttering something, and when they both said, "I love you," Dory spoke up.

"I thought you were supposed to try to phone."

Vanessa looked up at her sister and glared. "Tom, honey, I'm going to go get some reception okay? We're going to get you out of here."

Tom groaned loudly, "No, no please, just stay with me okay? Just talk to me. Get Dory to go."

Vanessa immediately stood up and tossed the phone to Dory. "Climb up the rock over there and try to get a signal, hurry!"

"I can't do that! It's too hot and the rocks are too slippery!"

Vanessa rounded on Dory, eyes red, tears streaming down her face. "Do something for once in your life, you fat gently caress!"

She shoved the phone into Dory's hand and knelt back down next to Tom, holding his good hand. Dory scampered towards the rocks.

She tried to climb up the black rocks, but it was slow going. It was slick and she panted with every step. The phone in her hand was slick with her sweat and she sat down to wipe it on her dress.

Everything went the way it was supposed to and it still messed up. It was the best sculpture she ever made, crafted just for her sister's stupid wedding to a man she didn't give a poo poo about.

Dory was tired. She looked down at the phone and saw that it had a bar of reception, but she didn't do anything. She just stared at the sunlight reflecting off the ocean.

Your Sledgehammer
May 10, 2010

Don`t fall asleep, you gotta write for THUNDERDOME

Whenever This World is Cruel to Me
713 words

When Jake woke up from his nap, everyone’s gender but his was flip-flopped. He didn’t notice at first. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, he strolled out of his bedroom on the way to class. He made it to the door of the common room and turned back towards the couch to say goodbye, and that’s when he realized that he didn’t know the person sitting there.

He lived with his best friend since middle school, Terry. Sitting on the couch was a girl he’d never seen before. He frowned, shook his head, and laughed. “Pretty rude of me to stroll out of here without introducing myself, my name’s Jake,” he said. Strangers were not an uncommon occurrence in the Chateau of Mayhem, as they called it.

The girl started laughing so hard that she had trouble getting out any words. “Jake, what’s wrong with you?” she said.

Jake pinched his eyebrows together and mustered up a half-grin. “I just don’t know you and was trying to be polite, is all,” he said.

“Well let me refresh your memory. Sam Houston Intermediate, first day of class, you gave me half your sandwich after some rear end in a top hat kid stepped on my lunchbox,” she said.

It started as a tiny feeling of cold at the top of his head. Then the cold swept downward through Jake, goosebumps following as it traveled across his skin. What in the blue gently caress, he thought. It was her eyes, chocolate brown and a little droopy at the corners. The same eyes of the dude he’d been playing Playstation with just a few hours earlier. “Terry?” he said, his voice almost a whisper.

“Finally coming out of dreamland, I see,” Terri said, a warm grin spreading across her face.

Jake’s hand unclenched and his backpack fell to the ground. He leaned against the wall, his back sliding down until he was sitting with his head in his hands. The stranger on the couch looked concerned. This has to be a dream, Jake thought. Is Terry the only one? He tried to sound calm but nothing could cover the shaking in his voice.

“Our quarterback is Sean Harris, right?” Jake asked.

“Did you bang your head or something? It’s Blake Hutchins,” Terri replied.

poo poo. I’m pretty sure there was a girl on the cheerleading squad named Blakely Hutchins. “Is there anyone on the cheerleading squad named Harris?” Jake asked.

“I think there’s a Susan Harris, yeah,” Terri said.

A burning pit settled at the bottom of Jake’s stomach. Campus life is already a social minefield, he thought. I’m going to have to get to know literally everyone all over again. I wonder what happened to Mom and Dad? With that thought, the tears began to dredge up to the surface. Jake buried his face in his arm.

“Are you OK?” Terri asked. Jake glanced up at that new but familiar face through the watery film. Her bemused grin had given way to creases of concern. Jake could feel a thought bubbling up through the cloud of confusion and panic. He actually found himself a little bit curious to see the way femininity would affect his best friend’s personality; what sort of new and fascinating layers would he discover in the coming days? That little ray of light faded, though, and Jake settled back into the gloom of his predicament.

“No, I’m not OK. Not at all,” Jake said, the pitch of his voice shifting as the dam finally burst.

He bolted out the door and threw himself down on the porch. Terri wasn’t far behind him, but Jake’s face was already a damp mess. “Hey you,” she said. “I’m not sure what’s wrong, but you can tell me.”

“You wouldn’t understand,” he said.

A small hand wrapped around his upper arm, gentle but firm. “Try me,” she said, as she wiped a tear off his cheek.

Jake took a deep breath. Those chocolate eyes stared back at him, their edges lined with sympathy. There’s a person here that I know deeply and yet don’t know at all, he thought. He took her hand and felt a gentle squeeze as she smiled at him. And in that moment, Jake knew that everything happened for a reason.

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007

Submissions close in 5 minutes, eh? I've got about 12 crits ready to post as soon as I'm allowed to.

edit: hot drat I bought platinum! Someone send me my first ever PM please!! Been on this site since 2005.

blue squares fucked around with this message at 05:55 on Nov 17, 2014

Nov 14, 2006

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

Submissions are closed!

Judgment will happen... eventually.

No crits until after judgment please.

EDIT: Oh yeah, if you haven't entered yet, please still do. You won't be eligible to win, but you also will bring less shame upon your family, and may still receive some words about why your story was terrible.

Chairchucker fucked around with this message at 05:53 on Nov 17, 2014

Lily Catts
Oct 17, 2012

Show me the way to you
(Heavy Metal)

Bystander Effect
775 words

The homeless man sat against the wall, feet sticking out on the sidewalk, and Alexa stepped around them with a disgusted face. She usually didn't pay attention to such things, but she was in a hurry to go to work. There was stuff to cram for today's meeting, twenty more slides worth of product trials and graphs that became identical once her eyelids started drooping. She rubbed her eyes.

Halfway to the station, she discovered her thumb drive missing. She doubled-back to her apartment, pushing past the tide of bodies advancing towards the LRT station. That's what you get for waking up four-thirty in the morning, Alexa thought.

She stumbled on something. It was the homeless man's leg. Alexa was about to shout an invective but the man didn't even flinch. His eyes were blank, and his face was turned up to the rising sun in some form of supplication. One grimy hand held his side. Splotches of red paint marked the ground. Not paint. Blood.

Alexa looked around. People were walking around the man. Some brushed against her, giving her the same look as she had given the homeless man before.

Someone was bleeding to death on the sidewalk, and no one bothered to help.

With a trembling hand, Alexa reached for her phone and dialed an ambulance.


"What have you gotten yourself into?" Joy barked at her from over the phone. Everyone at work was at wits' end. Two straight weeks of hustling for this very day.

"I rushed someone to the hospital," Alexa said.

That stopped her boss a bit. "You still have an hour. You can still make it if you hurry."

Alexa didn't mention leaving her thumb drive back in her flat. That she was about to get them when she noticed the man's predicament. It was an ice pick, judging from the clean entry point and the obscene amount of blood. Her father had once told her--get stabbed with those things and you're pretty much dead.

"I'm helping out on the search for his relatives." A half-truth. The man didn't have a name, or anything that would have clued them to the matter. She just stayed in the lobby because her knees wouldn't stop shaking. How many people had she passed in her lifetime, needing her help? How many people dying, whom she passed by without looking?

Google gave her an answer. It was called the bystander effect. A person does not help a victim in need when there are other people present. The more people there are, the less chance of help. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

"This isn't you, Alexa. You're not the Good Samaritan type. Just tell me the truth, will you?"

Cold rage boiled in the pit of her stomach. I just saved a life, and you think I'm lying? "It's the truth," Alexa said.

"Fine, have it your way. That's one unpaid leave for you." Joy hung up.

Alexa closed her eyes. Her boss was onto her. She could even be fired. An employee did, after calling in sick and posting a beach photo on the same day on Facebook. Somehow it didn't matter.


Alexa smiled at the man, sitting on the bed. Her eyes were droopy--penance for the grief she'd caused at work. She almost forgot about the life she had saved for the rest of the week. At least her job paid enough for her to cover the man's hospital bills.

The man's hospital gown made him look like a king, compared to the rags she had found him in.

"Sorry. This was the earliest I could come."

"Thank you," he said. A rosary dangled from his hand. "God gave me a second chance, His Will be done."

Alexa didn't know what to say to that. She wasn't exactly the devout type. "DSWD will pick you up once you're discharged today. I just wanted to see you."

"Roberto. That's my name."

Alexa nodded. "I'm sorry, Roberto."

"For what?"

"For not noticing you the first time."

"But you did."

Alexa explained how she had noticed his plight, how no one else stopped to look, and how it wasn't right. How you couldn't, shouldn't transfer the responsibility of aid to someone else.

"You're a good person, miss," Roberto said. "Don't beat yourself up on it."

Alexa didn't know what to say to that. But she knew what to do.

The next Monday she resigned from her job and joined the Red Cross. Joy was livid, but she would live. The company would live. But Alexa couldn't, not if she remained a bystander. Not if she remained part of the problem.

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007

Schneider Heim posted:

Bystander Effect
775 words

Too late, homie! But I'll still read your story. :)

Nov 18, 2003

I don't think you understand, Gau.

blue squares posted:

Too late, homie! But I'll still read your story. :)

God drat, you are obnoxious. This thread is for posting stories and critting stories. Veterans shitpost. That's it.

Any post you make over the next week had better be a signup, crit, story, or saying that you'll brawl me. Keep in mind that I'm 4/4 for brawls so it might be the best idea to take the first three options.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Gau posted:

God drat, you are obnoxious. This thread is for posting stories and critting stories. Veterans shitpost. That's it.

Any post you make over the next week had better be a signup, crit, story, or saying that you'll brawl me. Keep in mind that I'm 4/4 for brawls so it might be the best idea to take the first three options.

Shitposting is for anyone who wishes it and is willing to take the consequences. You should fight him blue squares.


Mar 21, 2010

Yeah I'm shitpost king but I will fight any motherfucker so that's cool.

You wanna step up you've gotta put your dukes up.

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