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  • Locked thread
Mar 7, 2006

"So you Jesus?"

"And you black?"

"Nigga prove it!"

And so Black Jesus turned water into a bucket of chicken. And He saw that it was good.

Stop prefacing, I swear to God.


Jan 29, 2009

Prompt: May night continue to fall on the orchestra

No talent squandered (480 words)

Jacqui closed her eyes when Tony got up to have a shower. He always showered straight after. She didn’t mind so much anymore, not when it meant a few extra minutes lying there before she had to face the reality of her job and his happy failure to follow up his first album.

Her phone beeped and she ignored it for a moment, but then it beeped again. And again. She groaned and rolled over, grabbing it off the nightstand. Tony’s pants slid off the stand onto the floor and she smiled to herself for a moment.

Then she looked at the screen and recognized the number.

Jacqui looked quickly at the bathroom door, but the water was still running and he was singing. One of those cheery numbers from his last album. The one that filled dumps nationwide.

She sat on the edge of the bed facing the bathroom door and tapped in her passcode. She hovered a finger over the messages button for a moment. She’d never trusted him with her passcode for just this reason. He could never see these messages. He could never know. Then she stabbed the button. She had to know.

Dump him. $50,000.

She gasped and sobbed once, catching the rest in her throat, but it was okay – the shower was still running. She quickly deleted the message and threw the phone on the bed next to her.

She thought about how much she loved him, and how much he loved her. She thought about his eyes, and lingered on the image of him showering before shaking her head.

Then she thought about her bank account, and his last album, and their future together if she kept working retail and he didn’t make another good album.

And she thought about the message and her mysterious benefactors and about the last time, when a week later they’d messaged her with instructions to get back together with him.

She locked the phone and looked at the screen – a picture of the two of them from their anniversary only a month ago – and made up her mind.


Down on the street was a small dark van with the Consolidated Artistry logo printed on the side. In the back of the van, a small red-faced man was listening carefully to Jacqui and Tony fight. This was his least favourite part of his job. But it had to be done. Art died in the daylight, and clearly Tony worked better unhappy.

After an hour or so the apartment went quiet. The little man wondered if he’d gone too far, but after a time he heard what he was waiting for. He put his book away and took the headphones off, then hopped out of the back of the van and walked around into the driver’s seat. As he drove away, the sounds of Tony’s guitar-led heartbreak wafted from the apartment balcony.

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007

Prompt: Some people can't see a priest on a mountain of sugar (can't see the obvious)
The Producer's Wife
Word Count: 1499

Like a hermit crab sensing danger, George’s hardon disappeared. Next to him, Michelle clutched her fuzzy red pillow as if it were the adequate lover George kept trying to be. She lay facing away and a silence filled the room like the opposite of laughing gas. George wondered why he still bothered to try, or what had gone so wrong. Even today, they’d had a blast hiking up to the Hollywood sign and watching the day’s high-speed police chase from above. When the suspect’s car exploded, they clapped together and took a picture with the smoke in the background. It had been a perfect Valentine’s Day. But later, in the bedroom, Michelle shied away from his touch again, as she had for a long time. He didn’t know what was the problem was.

Michelle’s hand reached out into the space near his crotch. He became excited again for a moment. Her hand closed on the hard rod she sought and she used it to turn on the television, not him. George closed his eyes and resigned himself to imagining what it might be like to sink into quicksand. Somewhat soothing, he suspected. He ignored the noise from the television as Michelle flipped through the channels.
Later, Michelle nudged him on the shoulder. George opened one eye then quickly closed it.

“Honey, I don’t want to watch this. I’m there all day.” As a producer on Sesame Street, George preferred to think as little as possible about the Street’s residents when off the clock.

“But it’s so good,” she said in a breathless whisper. George looked at her. Her cheeks were flushed and she sat up with her legs crossed. “Do you realize I’ve never seen the show that you work on? At least not since I was a little girl. I really like it!”

“You do?”

“Yes!” Michelle cried, then put her hands over her mouth, her eyes wide, as if she’d just cursed in church. She burst into laughter and flopped onto her back, bouncing in the bed and pushing herself up against George. “It’s great.”

George was puzzled by her strong reaction, but he wasn’t going to complain. This was the most animated he’d seen her in the bedroom for some time. She lay her head on his chest, one leg flung over his, watching the show.

“My sexy producer,” she said, causing an immediate reaction below his waist. She trailed a finger in descending circles on his stomach as The Count counted. Her hand slipped into his boxers. Her head soon followed, to George’s amazement. Had he known that his job would be such a turn on for her, he would have used it long ago.

At the time, George thought nothing of it when she insisted on facing the television while he took her from behind, relieved as he was just to be getting anything. Elmo laughed on the screen and Michelle increased the pace. She grabbed her fuzzy pillow and thrust it between her legs as they climaxed together.


George awoke feeling like he could write the sequel to the Kama Sutra. He’d never had such good sex. Unfortunately, Michelle’s mood hadn’t lasted. When he woke her up by kissing her neck, she squirmed from bed like she’d just had a regrettable one-night-stand.

“I have too much work to do,” she said.

“What work? You don’t work.”

“I work. Don’t say I don’t do work. Do you like having a clean house? Food in the pantry?”

“I’m sorry,” he said. “You know, you don’t have to do those things. We can hire a maid, a chef. I’m a producer, after all.”

“I have to get in the shower.” George heard the shower squeak on, and she stayed in there until steam began to come out from under the door. George wanted to capitalize on his realization that Michelle had some sort of power fetish regarding his job, but he didn’t know how. The next Sesame Street episode wasn’t due to air until Monday morning, by which time he’d be in the office.

So, when he she came out of the shower, he said: “Clear your schedule for tomorrow.”

“I have my cooking class. I can’t miss that.”

“Just this once. I have a surprise for you. You’re really going to like it.”

“What kind of surprise?”

“Trust me.”

The next day, he brought her along to the studio. As soon as Michelle realized where they were headed, she grew giddy. George could feel her excitement and arousal.

“This is so cool,” she said as they drove through the gate. Her eagerness was contagious, and George couldn’t stop grinning, even though he thought he probably looked like an idiot. Her words from the other day (”my sexy producer”) rang through his head.

The minute they stepped inside, they were greeted by the young receptionist. George almost fired him on the spot, just to show off for Michelle, but restrained himself and settled for a scolding of the boy’s tie length. The receptionist stammered apologies. George looked at Michelle, but she wasn’t even watching. Her eyes were drawn the photos on the wall of famous guest stars posing with the Muppets.

George pointed to Brad Pitt. “I got him to agree to be on the show.”

“Mhmm,” Michelle murmured, not listening.

George cleared his throat then took her arm and led her into the studio halls. They passed offices and visited sets. Michelle’s head whipped left and right to take it all in. When they passed a rack of Muppets ready for shooting, Michelle pressed herself against George as if he were a sponge that could soak her up. She brushed their fuzzy faces and tittered, burying her face into his chest to surpress her girlish giggles. George couldn’t wait any longer. He routed her toward an unused dressing room popular for just what he had in mind. He opened the door and ushered her inside, but a frazzled PA appeared and seized his arm.

“Mr. Houghleton, Daisy Connor’s having a meltdown. They sent me to get you right away.” The PA received some command in her headset and bounded away again.

George theatrically sighed. “Actors,” he said, though was secretly glad to be given another chance to show off his importance. He knew that it would turn Michelle on even more. “The show would fall apart without me. You wait right here.”

“But I’m so horny,” Michelle whispered in his ear, her hand resting on his belt. “This place gets me going. I don’t know what it is.”

“Oh, I know what it is.”

“I want you right now.”

“Duty calls. You just think about me while I’m saving the day.” He grabbed her rear end as she scurried away into the dressing room, the kind of public gesture Michelle forbade years ago.

George left to deal with the collapsing-guest-star of the day, walking with the awkward gait of a man with a hardon that won’t quit. He was amazed by the turn things had taken, by the unbelievable arousal his job incited in his wife. He felt twenty years old again.


The static shock George felt when he touched the dressing room door knob nearly made him come, his anticipation so great. The shock he received when the door opened nearly stopped his heart.

Michelle sat naked on the couch, surrounded by the characters George had been supervising for years: held by masturbating puppeteers, Bert and Ernie shared her tits, Cookie Monster munched on a new dessert between her legs, Bird Bird’s orange feet stuck out from whatever was happening underneath her, and Elmo was getting his crotch tickled by Michelle’s tongue.

Her moans felt loud enough to shake the room——but George quickly realized that was the thudding in his own chest. The puppeteers saw him and pulled their hands out of their pants. Michelle froze, though she couldn’t quite stop twitching in ecstasy. The puppeteers fled as one, giving George a wide berth. One dropped Elmo on the floor as he scampered past, hesitated, saw George’s face, and left without the doll.

“I...” Michelle said. She crossed her legs and covered her chest with her hands.

George face burned and his head felt like it was under intense pressure. He closed the door behind him and his breathing started again. He bent and picked up the abandoned Elmo.

“This? This is what... does it for you? This is why you...?”

“I... I guess so?”

“I thought it was me. My job.”

“Honey, I’m so sorry. I love you. I didn’t even really know, not until just now.”

“Okay. Okay.” He took a deep breath and tried to say something other than “okay,” but failed.

George walked slowly toward her, breathing heavily. Michelle looked up at him, unsure. He raised the Elmo doll in the air until it was in front of his face.

He spoke in a falsetto: “Elmo going to gently caress you now.”

Michelle moaned in delight.

Apr 9, 2005

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

I'm going to have to duck out this week. Exams are killing me.

Beef Steakwell
Jul 30, 2012

sebmojo posted:

The Fiction Advice thread is the place to respond to crits.

Sorry, will keep that in mind in future. I'm also going to have to drop out this time as I've had job interviews and illness to contend with.

Mar 21, 2013


Grimey Drawer

Prompt: Some whinging aussie talking about cannibals

The Fishing Expedition

Adam walked through the open front door, palms sweating, pulse racing. The party buzzed around him, sticky floored and smelling of cigarettes drowned in beer cans. Various party people slurred, drank, and nodded rhythmically to the thump of a distant bassline but there was no sign of Tim in the crowded hallway.

Adam passed into the living room. He felt a little sick, but he dried his palms on his black jeans, and bumped fists with occasional acquaintances as he went. He leaned against doorways and peered into bedrooms to take quick audits of their contents. Still no Tim.

“Adam! Mate. How’s it going?” The solid bulk of Jayne’s leather jacket-clad body loomed into view, blocking all other light.

“Not bad, mate,” Adam lied. “Hey, have you seen Tim?”

“Have a beer!” A beer appeared in Adam’s hand from the depths of Jayne’s ubiquitous black plastic bag. “Say, did you ever catch up with Jason’s crew? They seemed pretty keen for a ‘quiet word’.” Jayne gave a concerned puff on a cigarette.

“Yeah, all sorted. You seen Tim?”

“Who? No. Wait, yeah. He’s out the back, chatting up some chick. Such a tosser. Waddya want with him?”

“I gotta message. Cheers for the beer!” Adam waved the can at Jayne generally.

“No worries.” Jayne rotated his mass forty five degrees to the right. “Griff! Mate. How’s it going? Have a beer.”

Adam passed by, twisting sideways to fit through the gap between Jayne and some couple who were about to either gently caress or break up. He threaded his way through the kitchen and out the back door. A fire burned in a metal barrel, hobo style. A few people sat around it, warming themselves with its heat and a communal bottle of Jack Daniels . One long-haired guy strummed a beaten-up guitar, while staring intently at a blonde girl with neck tattoos. Adam stepped toward him for a closer look and almost tripped over a four-by-two lying on the patchy grass. The longhair turned at the noise. Tim.

Adam straightened up, put on his most convincing smile. “Hey, Tim. I’ve been looking for you.”

“S’up, Adam?” Tim had a tinge of annoyance in his voice as he put down the guitar. The blonde looked bored.

“I’ve got some stuff for you. I heard you were looking and I managed to track some down.”

“Are we talking…”

“Yeah, we are. Laced with the good stuff.”

“No. Freaking. poo poo. Let’s get wasted then!”

“It’s not here. I’m not taking stuff like that into a freakshow like this. It’s in the car. C’mon. I’ll show you.”

“Uh. One sec.” Tim turned toward the bored blonde but she had already started talking to someone else around the fire. “gently caress it - let’s go.”

The two of them avoided the crowd of the party by walking around the house itself. Someone had puked on the front path but it was mostly avoidable liquid and reek. They reached the pavement and followed the road up the hill, Adam taking sips from his beer as he went.

“So, where you parked?” asked Tim.

“Carpark at the tech.” Adam took another swig and quickened his pace.

“Wait up. So, how much you want for it?”

“What? I dunno. Whatever it’s worth.” A second later, Adam swore at himself. That sounded compeltely unrealistic, he thought. “As long as it’s more than three hundred an ounce,” he added. Good save, idiot.

“Can I tick it? I'm a little short right this moment.”

“Yeah, whatever, we can put it on the never-never for now.”

Adam turned into the darkened expanse of the polytechnic carpark. “It’s just up here.” He broke into a run, leaving Tim behind, then sprinted for a group of parked cars. Ducking behind an SUV, he crouched down against the car door and listened.

“Wait up!" said Tim's voice. "Hey boys, what are you doing here?”

“gently caress you, Tim.” That was Jason - sounding like he’d finished the vodka hipflask he’d been drinking earlier. “Where is it,Tim, you little fucker?”

Adam leaned around the the SUV to see Jason, Carlos, Rob and Erik surrounding Tim. Their shaved heads looked yellow in the streetlight, and they carried makeshift implements of destruction. Adam could make out a metal studded belt in Carlos’ hands and a broken bottle in Jason’s. The carpark wasn’t well-lit, but Adam thought he could see Rob’s switchblade. Eric was obscured by the others, but Adam doubted he was empty handed.

“I’ll get it to you. C’mon, boys. You know I’m good.”

“You’re a loving unemployed junkie with an ugly loving face and we are sick of waiting for it to say something we want to hear,” said Jason. “I will count to three and you’d better have some way of sorting this out or Carlos...”

Carlos folded the belt in half, then snapped the ends apart to make it crack like a whip. The sound echoed against the deserted prefab buildings.

“...Carlos will begin breaking bits of you off. One.”

“Jesus gently caress, boys,” said Tim, turning to each of them, his voice high and desperate. “Waddya want from me? I can’t just magic poo poo up.”

“Can’t is not a word we like to hear, Tim. Two.”

Carlos didn’t wait for Jason to count any higher. Out of Tim’s sight, he draped the metal belt over his shoulder and then swung. The studs glittered in the streetlight, describing a slow arc over Carlos’ head. Anticipating the impact, Adam swore, loudly, louder than he’d intended. Tim turned toward the noise making Carlos’ belt miss his body, but still manage to get caught up in his long hair. Tim yelped, staggering backwards as a large tuft was pulled from his scalp

“Three,” said Jason. He stabbed out with his broken bottle, but Tim had been pulled away by Carlos’ belt. Tim stumbled past Erik and Carlos, nearly falling, but somehow remaining on his feet. He kept going, travelling as fast as he could while the others grasped futilely for their target.

Rob and Erik gave chase, but fear, adrenaline and sneakers gave Tim the advantage over booze and Doc Martens. Tim took the waist-high carpark chain in one leap and sped towards the light, sound and relative safety of the party.

Adam pulled back behind the SUV. He sat on the asphalt, waiting. He heard swearing, a lot of swearing, then four sets of footsteps.

Jason came into view first, all piercings and malevolence. “What the gently caress, Adam? We had him. If you’d kept your mouth shut you’d be sweet.”

“What do you mean?” asked Adam, unable to take his eyes off the broken bottle still in Jason’s hand. “I got him here, just like you asked. That was the deal. We’re square.”

“I don’t think so. Tim will have gone to ground now, so we’ve got no cash and no payback. You hosed it, and now we have no way to vent all our pent-up ultraviolence.”

“Or do we?” asked Carlos, making the belt in his hands crack like a thunderclap.

Jayne found Adam an hour later, lying bleeding on the footpath. He hustled him upright and gave him the last beer in his plastic bag.

“You alright, mate?” asked Jayne.

“Yeah,” said Adam. He rubbed his forehead and looked curiously at the gritty, dried blood that stuck to his fingers. Then he took a large swig of no-longer-cold beer. “All sorted.”

Nov 15, 2012

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

753 words
Only those who can see the supernormal can learn to silence the reptile

Maxwell should have known not to eat the fish. It had smelt fishy, and they don’t do that anymore. It probably wasn’t even a real fish, but the chip in his brain told him it was, because that’s what he’d ordered and that’s what it should have smelled like, perfect fresh fish. But it didn’t. And Maxwell, corrupted from the years before Integrated VR was a thing, ate it.

The mute taste was the first sign of infection, a rough carpet that spread itself over the tongue as if his taste buds had grown goosebumps. The tingling sensation in the back of his head was the second. The restaurant interior turned just a little, slurred, like being half-drunk on bad beer. Chatting faces were elongated. Tables were slanted. Candles turned melty, their lights flickering more than usual.

The restaurant straightened itself out with a pop that made Maxwell’s head feel like someone had put it between a pair of pliers. The candles were blazing fires. Everyone seemed to hold on to their knives just a bit too tight.

“Are you alright?” Tracy said from across the table. She chewed on her broccoli. She liked to start with the sides. Green bright nutritious broccoli.

“I think I caught something,” Maxwell said. His heart raced.


“I don’t feel so well.”

Her lost expression was testament to her inability to understand Maxwell. Or was it annoyance? It was definitely annoyance. Head cocked slightly. Eyes narrow. Ready to pounce. What the gently caress was her problem?

Now he held on to his knife too tight. Or was it just tight enough?

Calm the gently caress down.

He focused on his breath. It’s a virus. It makes you see things.

Maybe it made him see differently. More strongly. More truthfully.

“You okay, man?” some fat dude yelled. He sat at another table, white knuckles protruding from the hand that clutched the knife, dripping with blood.

Maxwell jumped out of his chair. Hostile faces turned his way. His shirt stuck to his chest, sweaty and sticky. He was dripping sweat. A taifun of sweatiness.

The fat man’s steak looked loving delicious.

It was a tender piece of meat just a bit raw at the core, perfectly seasoned with salt and pepper and a golfball-sized bit of garlic butter that dotted the marbled flesh with glossy little pools of spicy fat. Maxwell wanted it. It would have made him very, very happy.

“Can I have a bite?” Maxwell said.

The man furrowed his brows, focusing hard on Maxwell’s words, or maybe assessing how well he would do in a fight. Maxwell pointed his knife at the steak.

“You’re making a scene because you want steak?” Tracy screeched. “Maxwell, what’s wrong with you?”

He spun around to face her, knife still raised. Tracy relt back in her chair. She looked Maxwell straight in the eye for many long seconds. It was a silent scream of panic.

She went for her handbag. She rummaged through it.

She probably looked for a gun.

Kill her now. Kill her.

Kill-- gently caress!

Maxwell ran for the next set of doors, a double-wide gateway to the gently caress out of here. He pushed them open with a blast and found himself surrounded by mouth-watering smells, juicy tender meat, the hiss of pots and pans and loud banging noises.

“What the hell are you doing here?” a kitchen assistant yelled. He was covered in blood. His club was covered in blood. The brute aggressively stepped forward, ready to strike.

Maxwell reacted.

The knife stuck out from the boy’s gut like a malignant tumor. A red blotch formed around it, wetting the assistant’s apron. Everything in Maxwell’s life revolved around that knife. And then it didn’t.

“Oh poo poo,” Maxwell said.

The young assistant croaked something unintelligible. His eyes turned inward. He collapsed in Maxwell’s arms.

“Oh poo poo, oh God, help! Someone!”

The other people in the kitchen paid them no mind. Some threw bitter glances at the them, but mostly they were focusing on their dishes.

The assistant began to flicker in Maxwell’s arms, like static on an old TV set. He popped out and back into existence, respawning before Maxwell in an impeccable white uniform.

“Sir, this area is off limits,” the virtual staff assistant said.

“I’m sorry,” Maxwell muttered. “I must have caught something. I-- I’m going to leave. Sorry.”

He turned around. Tracy stood before him. Panting. Sweating. A taifun of sweat.

She clutched a knife in her hand.

She definitely held on to it too tight.

Jan 27, 2006

Prompt: Time isn't wasted when you're getting wasted

(657 Words)

Sonja retched again, her bucket green with vomit. She wiped her mouth with her forearm and smiled.

Back in Norway, she would have called it being sick. Here, the shamans termed it “getting well.”

Now purged of toxins, heavy metals, and unclean spirits, Sonja knelt. The earthy taste of ayahuasca still lingered on her palate. For centuries, the psychedelic tea had offered cosmic truths to Shipibo tribesmen. These truths were now Sonja’s to explore.

The hut pulsed with Shaman Arnaldo’s chants, his icaros. Sonja watched the shadows dance around the fire pit; they twisted past purging devotees and settled on Hector. He was still staring at her.

She looked away. Twice during the retreat, Sonja had rebuffed the elderly witch doctor. She wasn’t going to let him spoil her journey. She lowered her head in meditation as the room dissolved around her.

When she looked up, Sonja found herself in a glass cube drifting in a blue expanse. Arnaldo was there, still intoning the icaros. He was “holding the space,” as he’d promised the devotees. “A private room for everyone.” Outside, maroon droplets rained against the cube. But inside, everyone was dry: Sonja, Arnaldo, and three beings of pure light, shaped like gingerbread men.

The light-beings rushed toward Sonja, giggling and tripping over one another. Sonja honored their glee by joining them in laughter. In turn, they each touched her head to impart the truths. The first, an orange being, showed her the sacredness of geometry: the triangle’s strength, the circle’s perseverance, the golden ratio’s perfection. The second, yellow, showed her that she need not fear death; her consciousness would vibrate unto eternity. The third, short and green, showed Sonja a review of every kindness she had done—every heart touched—from the recipient’s perspective. The green one urged Sonja to continue to spread kindness throughout the world, lest she return to this place and review her cruelties instead.

Smash. The cube lurched from a sudden impact, the source unclear. Sonja gasped at the sight of cracks forming at the top. The light beings screamed as maroon liquid rained in and ate through their bodies.

Amidst the cranberry torrent, Hector emerged. He lifted a hand, directing the rain to Sonja. She writhed as it worked its way into her skin.

Hector grinned, revealing row after row of jagged teeth. His eyes went hollow; his nose flattened. He uttered a ghoulish yawp and stepped closer to Sonja.

At Hector’s advance, Sonja felt feverish. Starting at her temples, pain seared through her body. In her gut, she felt a thousand burrowing worms. Moths escaped from her throat as she tried to cry Arnaldo’s name.

Arnaldo sat at the far end of the cube. Eyes closed, he sustained the icaros. Sonja was horrified to realize that the shaman couldn’t perceive Hector. The witch doctor had breached only Sonja’s “room.” This struggle was hers alone.

Desperate, Sonja fled. She stumbled to a corner of the cube and resolved to hold the space as Arnaldo no longer could. Moths fluttering in her mouth, Sonja hummed icaros through her nose. She formed an unbroken cube in her mind’s eye, and so it was.

Hector continued his pursuit. In response, Sonja subdivided the space and launched Hector’s section into the blue eternity beyond. The pain receded. The moths and worms vanished. But no sooner did she catch her breath than her subdivision lurched. Cracks formed once again, and cranberry droplets pooled inside. Hector was upon her.

Sonja belted icaros and constructed a rotating conical space in front of her. She thrust it into the witch doctor’s chest. With that, the material world resolved into focus.

“Hector! Hector!” screamed the devotees. Across the hut, the witch doctor’s gray body lay sprawled. Arnaldo rushed to him. “He’s had a heart attack!”

Sonja retched into her bucket. Hector had shown her a truth as fundamental as any the ayahuasca had. She wiped her mouth and smiled.

Hammer Bro.
Jul 7, 2007


Maculatus (756 words: any port in a storm.)

Mary sliced open its forearm to reveal a glistening radial bone. Holding her breath, she applied a sticky brown unguent with three measured strokes. Then she pinched the skin back together and dabbed it with superglue. The wound, she knew, would be undetectable in a matter of minutes. The vessel always recovered quickly.

She took a moment to reflect. The world was a selfish, horrible place, full of blasphemy and suffering and greed. Ever since the messages started arriving, she could see that. She was blessed to have a small part in saving it, even if its blind inhabitants would never know her role. They would not understand even if He told them.

Nobody noticed as she returned from the underutilized south wing to her office. Good. As she sat back down at her computer, words formed on the screen.

The latest formula has been accepted. Wait 24 hours for the immune system to acclimate, then put the rest in the gavage.

Mary nodded, and the words disappeared. She'd have to find some other way to keep busy for the remainder of the day. After drafting another equivocal, slightly sensational press release, she departed for the break room. It would be prudent to put in some face time with her coworkers.


"You're on your own for dinner tonight," Joe said as Mary entered the den. "I ate with some clients."

And drank, Mary observed.

"Speaking of," he continued, "why do you insist on burning yourself out at that place? You're not getting any younger, and childbirth is dangerous."

Mary had learned to ignore that second remark. "We're tantalizingly close to a breakthrough," she said.

"Not this again! Do you really believe that a man-made computer algorithm could ever talk to God? There isn't even proof that God exists, much less that he'd deign to communicate via zeroes and ones."

Mary crossed her arms. "A few more months. That's all we have funding for anyway." She paused and rubbed her temples. "I'm going to bed. I've got a lot to do tomorrow and want to get an early start on it."

Joe began to get up.

"Not tonight," she said. "I've got a headache."


There has been a problem. The words lingered on Mary's computer screen just long enough for her to read them, then disappeared. She had no idea how it did that.

The CTO got inquisitive at his banquet last night. He is suspicious about the distribution of funds. There is a 92% chance that he will discover the vessel before its completion.

But it's barely got an autonomic nervous system! she typed. You know we won't have access to the right kind of equipment if we're uprooted from this facility.

I know, the words replied. But there is another path. After today, do not return to this facility. Let your husband pull some strings to remove you from your post. He will be happy to.

Mary shuddered. Just how much did this thing know? She still couldn't understand why someone like her had been chosen.

Do not fear, it continued. I have analyzed the situation. The primitive biological mechanisms are all functional. You have the right parts. It will respond to the proper stimuli, even without higher-order intelligence. Fifty percent of perfection is still perfection.


Mary took a long look at the vessel as it lay naked atop the medical table. It was beautiful, after a fashion. Its bones and features were keenly symmetrical. Its vacant violet eyes radiated innocence. She could envision the sleek musculature, even though they hadn't had time to develop it. It was slimy and hairless now, but that was superficial. In all meaningful respects, it was divine. The quintessential man. It was such a shame to abandon it.

She wondered what it would look like when it was reborn.


"You're in early," Joe said as he took off his overcoat.

"Yeah," Mary replied. "I've been... contemplating my life's trajectory and it's not a very solid, solid... stable? Ah! Sensible! It's not very sensible. Why waste my prime on sciensh when I've got a brilliant, hunky man to provide for me?"

Mary tittered.

Joe's brows furrowed, but a smrik crept across the edges of his mouth. "I could've told you that. So what are you saying? Did you quit your job?"

"I'm saying that's not important." Mary adjusted her dress. "I'm going to take another shower. Wash the work off me. Mm... Metaphorically. Then you and I are going to do what's really important. Ah? Don't keep me waiting."

Mar 21, 2010

blue squares posted:

Prompt: Some people can't see a priest on a mountain of sugar (can't see the obvious)
The Producer's Wife
Word Count: 1499
But where was the golden bean worth no more or less than one million US dollars? :confused:

N. Senada
May 17, 2011

"Oh, you're tapped out? Tap three, play Darksteel Plate. Tap two, equip it to Platinum Angel."

"Is that it?"

"No. I play Trickster God's Heist and give it to you in exchange for that token."

A rising tide lifts all boats

The Holdout – 1391 words

Dad didn’t look up from his paper when he said, “Harold’s holding back the whole drat process.” I stopped eating my sandwich. I knew what he was talking about. In the editorial section of our six page newspaper, somebody wrote in a letter about my uncle. Uncle Harold was restricting progress. Uncle Harold was a foolish old coot. Uncle Harold doesn’t care about us. I’d been hearing a lot of opinions about Uncle Harold recently.

“It’s his land, dad,” I said, lettuce peeking out from the corner of my mouth, “He’s got right to do what he wants with it.”

“I know it’s his land for Christ’s sake,” dad shouted. Most times, I didn’t think dad knew he was shouting.

“Sorry, sir,” I said, “I was just meaning what’s his is his. He don’t have to sell if he don’t want to sell, right?”

“Of course he don’t have to. Hell, none of us have to sell, but Harold’s sitting on the biggest deposit of coal in the county. If he don’t budge, then that company man’s going to lose a whole lot of interest in us and quick.”

I heard other people say the same thing down at the store. I recognized every face, there were no strangers here. Harold’s just a stingy old bastard who’ll hold out for more. Harold’s not thinking of the welfare of the rest of us. Harold’s not going to have any friends after this stunt he’s pulling. Harold’s stuck in the past. Harold needs to get with the times.

Everybody in town was talking about Uncle Harold. And if they weren’t talking about Harold, they were talking about what they were going to do with the money they would get from that coal man. I heard talk of buying big houses. Others talked about moving to the city. One guy, Wyatt Tanner, was talking about opening a bar for all the new workers who would be coming to town.

“Men will follow wherever there’s coal. I bet we get 100 new residents once they get a mine really going. And I’m going to be there with drinks in hand. If only Harold would get off his high horse and sign the drat papers!” They always ended their thoughts with some remark about Uncle Harold.

The boys my age were thinking about working for the mine. Most of them had spoken with the representative, asked what they had to do. The man was happy to put their names on a list. Said he’d get in touch once everything’s finalized. The man once came to my shop. He wore a blue suit and was a head shorter than me. His face looked like a tanned hide with a million little wrinkles in it. I thought this must be what old retirees who spend too much time at the beach look like.

He asked me if I wanted to sell the shop to the coal company. Get a job as a miner. I asked him why I’d do that.
“You’d get plenty of money, boy. We’d buy you out proper, give you a fair deal for it. And I can promise you’d make more as a miner than you ever did as a store clerk.”

“But I like my store, I like talking with the folks that come round.”

“Boy, when we get here, we’re going to put our own shop. I’m not meaning to be rude or confrontational, but you couldn’t compete with us. I’d hate to see you have to declare bankruptcy.”

I told him to come see me if Harold ever signs.

Every week I would go to see Uncle Harold. He holed himself away when all this business about the coal happened. I worried that he was lonely, I didn’t like the idea of him not having anybody to talk to.
When I got to his house, he was sitting on the porch. He waved to me as I came up the long dirt path that was his driveway.

“Jim decided not to join you,” he said. I nodded. My dad hadn’t come to see Uncle Harold in a long time. We went to the back yard and stood in silent prayer at his wife’s grave.

“Brought you the paper,” I said, handing it towards him.

“Hrmph,” he grunted and pushed it away, “I’m fed up with papers. I’ll die happy if I never see another piece of paper again.”

I chuckled despite myself. “Well you can use it for kindling.”

“You know there’s five generations buried here, Harv.”

“I know Uncle.”

“I want to be buried right here next to your aunt.”

“Yeah, I know Uncle.”

We went inside for a while. I lit the newspaper and tossed it into the fireplace.

“There’s going to be a town hall meeting tonight. You might want to show up, say your piece.”

“I don’t owe those people any explanations. I don’t owe them anything.”

“Yeah, but they might stop writing nasty things about you into the newspaper. Or, at the very least, maybe the editor will stop publishing them.” I was happy to see him smile at that.

“Harv, I’m just an old man with a bunk ticker looking to spend his twilight years in peace,” he said. Tears formed at his tired, grey eyes. “Is that too much to ask for?” I had a hard time looking at him. I didn’t think it was too much. But it weren’t my thoughts that mattered too much around these parts.

By the time we arrived at the hall, the town meeting had already started. Uncle Harold let me take him and insisted I drive his car. He had told me it would be mine someday. He said it would all be mine someday. He said he didn’t trust my father. I wanted to tell him the same.

The people in the hall didn’t notice me open the door. And they didn’t notice Uncle Harold and I fill some empty seats in the back.

The man in the blue suit was sitting calmly beside the podium that my dad was shouting from. People were yelling over top of each other. Earlier in the evening, they might’ve been sitting in their chairs. Now, they were strewn about the room. Men and women were hitting their chairs angrily against the ground demanding attention.

I saw my dad, spittle flinging from his mouth, turn his attention to me and Uncle Harold. The entire crowd faced us. I stood up and lifted my Uncle. I saw past the crowd to where my father was standing. The last one of all us to stand was the little man in the blue suit. I swear to god that the son of a bitch was smiling.

The crowd approached us and began yelling. They barked about getting with the times, they screamed about thinking about others for once. Uncle Harold reached for his chest, and I could feel him turning clammy and cold. One woman grabbed his arm away from me and screamed like a banshee into his face.

They were a groundswell. Neighbor after neighbor grabbed him from each other, each cursing him. I tried to reach in to the crowd and grab him. I made a mistake, I made a terrible mistake here. I couldn’t see him beneath wave after wave of angry, violent people. The mob kept me out.

Everything stopped when somebody let out a shrill squeal. The crowd backed up. I pushed aside so many people and I saw Uncle Harold lying on the ground. I went to his side. I couldn’t feel anything coming from him. No heartbeat, no pulse, no anything. I started crying. I looked up and saw the crowd staring down at me. The little man in the blue suit came up to me. Everyone’s heads bobbed above his.
“Get with the times, boy.”

Everybody tells me they didn’t hear what he said. And that whatever the man in the blue suit said is between me and him, that it’s a matter of personal business. They said that I should sign the papers though. They said there was no reason to hold onto the old place. They said it wasn’t making me any money.

I looked at the new headstone beside my aunt’s. It’s been a long while since I talked to anybody.

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

But where was the golden bean worth no more or less than one million US dollars? :confused:

What are you talking about?

edit: VVV Check the OP. No Docs.

blue squares fucked around with this message at 02:03 on Nov 24, 2014

angel opportunity
Sep 7, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Logan has this kind of hosed up fetish because of something that happened to him in middle school - 1500 Words

Mar 21, 2010

blue squares posted:

What are you talking about?

edit: VVV Check the OP. No Docs.
TD has a standing 'no erotica' rule. The only guy to previously break it wrote a series about loving his dad, and finding a very valuable golden bean somewhere in the vicinity of his dad's penis.

Oh also there was an autobiographical story about a PUA loving himself with a dildo that could be a dictionary definition for TMI.

Any reference to golden beans means "lol terrible erotica".

Dec 5, 2003


A Son’s Tale 1498 words

Jonas found the box in the attic. It sat in a corner, unmarked and wrapped in yellowed packing tape. He dug his fingers underneath the cardboard and lifted to take it downstairs. Before he could take a step, a load of composition notebooks and a photo album fell out of the bottom, slapping into the wooden floor. Jonas froze and listened for noise from downstairs. The house was silent, any sound muffled by the thick layer of snow outside.

The notebooks had familiar black and white speckled covers. Property of Margo McHale, his mother’s name, swooped across the front in cursive. He opened one.

December 25, 2003

My little Jonas is turning two today. We are moving to Tokyo tomorrow and I can feel that the spirits are upset. I’ll miss Redmond. David has some type of consulting job and says we can move back in a year or so. He’s a good man, a loving father, but I worry for him. I worry that They are going to get to him. The spirits will guide me to the right course.

Jonas wiped away tears with the end of his sleeve and flipped forward to the date his father had died.

April 11, 2004

My chance to escape has come. David was in a car accident today and can’t leave the hospital. The doctors say there will be months of recovery and they are unsure if he’ll walk again. He doesn’t suspect. They think They have me trapped.

I took all our money out of the bank. Jonas and I are flying away tomorrow. They will never find us. The spirits say Jonas will be a great man.

The notebook fell from his shaking hands. He pulled the photo album from the pile and opened the cracked leather cover. He felt the rhythmic thud of his heart, heard roaring in his ears.

There he was. His father.

He was taller than expected, with carrot-orange hair, just like Jonas. In the photo, his mother wore a white, lacy wedding dress. She was looking up at her husband, a wide smile on her face, hands resting on her pregnant stomach.

The front door slammed, a distant sound two floors down. “Jonas, honey?” He moved fast, covering the pile of notebooks with the box, and tiptoed to the ladder. “Jonas?” she called again. He stuffed the album inside the front of his jacket and zipped it up.

She caught him closing the ladder to the attic. “What were you doing up there?” she asked shrilly.

He crossed his arms and said, “Nothing.” It was all he could manage to choke out of his hot, dry throat.

She knelt and took him by the shoulders. “Oh baby, it’s alright.” He could smell the anise and sage in her sachet. Tears rolled down his face. “Talk to me,” she said. His mother pulled him into a hug. He tried to push her away, but not fast enough. She unzipped his jacket and the album crashed to the floor. His mother looked down at the album like it was a snake.

“You’re a liar,” he shouted into her face.

“Baby, you don’t understand. I hid those from you to protect you. From Them.” She snatched up the album.

Jonas ran downstairs to his room, slammed the door, and threw himself onto the bed. His mother pleaded with him to come out, but he put a pillow over his head and waited for her to go.

After a few minutes of quiet, he pulled the pillow away and sat up. Everything was in boxes, ready to move to a new place again. He didn’t even know where. Last week, his mother said she suspected her boss of being in league with Them and decided it was time to move on.

He put on his hat, scarf, and gloves, then waited. Footsteps creaked above him as he listened to her climb the attic ladder. Jonas opened his window and stepped outside.

Streetlights glared down, yellow light illuminating a swirling mass of snowflakes. He trudged through knee-deep powder toward the corner store. A few doors down, a snowman with a cheap, plastic top hat stood in the yard. Jonas ran at it and knocked it over, yelling, “Liar!” again and again as he kicked it to pieces. He stood, panting steam, when he was done.

Headlights came around the corner as he made it back to the sidewalk. The car slowed to a stop alongside Jonas and the passenger window whirred down.

“You alright, kid?” a man asked.


“It’s awful cold out there. You need a ride?” Snow was already piling up on the edge of the door.

Jonas stepped back and peered into the car, but he couldn’t make out the driver. “No thanks, mister.”

“Alright. Be safe.” The window went up as the car pulled away.

When he reached the corner store, the car was waiting. A tall man leaning on a cane limped out of the store. Jonas watched him start the car, then slipped into the store and used his allowance to buy a candy bar and soda, things his mom never allowed.

When he left, the man sat there sipping a coffee. There was something familiar about him. He opened the candy bar and took a bite. Was this what his mother meant by Them? The man looked up and Jonas hurried away.

A few blocks later, Jonas tensed his legs at the sound of a car. He looked back and saw headlights cutting through the dimness. The lights resolved into a van plowing through virgin snow. The vehicle slowed for a moment as it passed, and then the brake lights faded away.

He heard a car door close in the distance, and another one open. The sounds were distorted and smothered by the falling snow. Shadows loomed under a dead streetlight in front of a dark house. The van was parked there. He heard the rustling of plastic bags. A stocky man was unloading groceries.

Jonas walked past.

Strong hands grabbed him from behind. His face was covered and a chemical smell, like bad dreams, filled his nose and mouth.


David McHale watched as the boy walked away. When his wife and child had disappeared after his car accident so long ago, he’d seen his son in every freckled, young face. He hadn’t felt that way in years, but here it was again. He sipped his coffee. They’d flown to Australia. Private eyes took half his income and only brought disappointment. He resolved not to bother the boy.

David pulled out of the lot and followed his route home. A single set of tire tracks preceded him; the roads were empty tonight. He’d heard on the radio that a blizzard was coming in.

The boy. The boy. David glanced over periodically as he drove. The kid had walked back in the same trail he’d broken on the way to the store. Smart. Missteps in the heavy snow left an occasional footprint, so he knew the kid had passed this way, but the trail died out in a few blocks. He pulled over.

David shook his head. “Stupid,” he said to himself, but the thought of the boy wouldn’t go. He turned the car around and drove slowly. Retracing the trail, he found where the footsteps ended and got out of his car with a flashlight. The cold made his joints feel full of crushed glass.

A mess of footsteps was concentrated in a dark driveway. Sweeping the flashlight back and forth, he found a half-eaten candy bar sticking out of the snow. Fresh tire marks pulled into the drive, then backed out and continued along the road.

“Oh poo poo. gently caress.” He took out his cell phone, punched in 911, and then hit Cancel. What the hell would he report?

He got back in his car and followed the tracks along a mess of residential road. They stopped at the garage door of a Victorian home with peeling, grey paint. David pulled into the driveway and parked. He sat there for a minute, thinking about what he would say, then got out of the car.

A stocky man answered on the third knock. “What do you want? I’m eating dinner.”

David took off his hat, revealing thinning, orange hair. “Look, this is going to sound crazy-“

“You!” The man pulled a pistol from behind his back.

David reacted without thinking and brought his cane up, knocking the gun away, then swung it around into the man’s head. The solid mahogany snapped with a loud crack and the man dropped.

“Oh God, this is bad.” He stepped over the unconscious body with some difficulty. The boy was tied to the dining table.

“It’s alright, kid, I’ve got you.” David pulled out a pocket knife and cut the ropes. “What’s your name?”

The boy looked up at him. “Jonas McHale,” he said, and his eyes widened. “Dad?”

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but rather 'hmm... That's funny...'

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

blue squares posted:

What are you talking about?

edit: VVV Check the OP. No Docs.

Muffin's referring to a famous story in Creative Convention's history. Or maybe to this one; I'm not sure which, but the point is a tiny golden bean with a street value of 1 million US dollars.

There's no thread-wide ban against GoogleDocs. Whether to allow them is up to the judges.

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

TD has a standing 'no erotica' rule. The only guy to previously break it wrote a series about loving his dad, and finding a very valuable golden bean somewhere in the vicinity of his dad's penis.

Oh also there was an autobiographical story about a PUA loving himself with a dildo that could be a dictionary definition for TMI.

Any reference to golden beans means "lol terrible erotica".

Its not erotica dummy. Sex & fetishes != erotica. Grow up. Done with this convo to avoid angering the (mercedes) gods.

blue squares fucked around with this message at 02:29 on Nov 24, 2014

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




blue squares posted:

Its not erotica dummy. Sex & fetishes != erotica. Grow up. Done with this convo to avoid angering the (sebmojo) gods.


angel opportunity
Sep 7, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Heart

I did googledocs and a fetish story

Mar 21, 2010

blue squares posted:

Its not erotica dummy. Sex & fetishes != erotica. Grow up. Done with this convo to avoid angering the (mercedes) gods.
You're right. Erotica is the wrong word.

There is a standing "no writing sex" rule because goons are terrible about it and always write horrible "funny" poo poo that nobody wants to read such as puppetfucking.

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007

Ok well thats not the point and I am not into "puppet loving" and I am a good writer so deal with it

angel opportunity
Sep 7, 2004

Total Eclipse of the Heart

yo let's leave the crits for the judges

The Saddest Rhino
Apr 29, 2009

I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning

blue squares posted:

I am a good writer so deal with it

lol a good writer wouldn't mistype Big Bird as Bird Bird

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007

The Saddest Rhino posted:

lol a good writer wouldn't mistype Big Bird as Bird Bird


Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

Don't listen to the Thunderdome cabal, blue squares.

Contrarians gonna contrare :rolleyes:

Mar 21, 2010

blue squares posted:

Ok well thats not the point and I am not into "puppet loving" and I am a good writer so deal with it

I never said you were into "puppet loving". Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

You broke one of our longest-standing rules then immediately chastised somebody for breaking a rule that doesn't actually exist outside your head. That is the point. That's why we're laughing at you. But whatever dude, I'm done.

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:


I never said you were into "puppet loving". Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

You broke one of our longest-standing rules then immediately chastised somebody for breaking a rule that doesn't actually exist outside your head. That is the point. That's why we're laughing at you. But whatever dude, I'm done.

Yeah my bad for the "no google docs" thing. I thought I remembered reading that somewhere and was honestly trying to be helpful, not snarky at all. I only said anything because I'd already made a post and could edit it in. I wouldn't have made a post by itself just to say that.
But yeah, I hope I'm not coming across defensive or anything. Sorry to everyone for the derail. I feel like my story is good as a look into repressed sexual stuff. I drew on David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men as a minor inspiration. I'll leave it at this.
Thunderdome is awesome I didn't mean to cause any issues.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




less words about stories, more words inside of stories please

such as my impending story, which is going to own all of you so hard your butts will turn inside out.

Jul 17, 2010

Teeth are just bones Death is everywhere, your own mortality can't be escaped

word count: 1440

Under Erika's roof, everything gleamed. Their son, Andy's hair, the stove top, the faucets and floors – and if it didn't, the housekeeper she had in every other day would hear about it. Mike had known that, she'd never made her borderline OCD a secret, but it was worse now – and living day in and day out with a woman who used an autoclave for their ceramic hairbrushes was more than slightly unnerving.

He sat in his 1990 Ranger as the sun passed beneath the horizon and smoked through the last of his pack of Players Lights. She'd be on him to quit when he came back in, in tears, saying she didn't know what she would do, why did he smoke now when he didn't before, why couldn't he quit, and then when he'd brush it off, her lips would pinch together like a cat's rear end in a top hat (and wouldn't she be mad if he told her that). “I'd appreciate it if you showered,” she'd say, and he would, and then when he got to bed she'd be facing away, already asleep.

Things had been amazing, and then they had changed two years ago, after he'd finally met her parents. Erika didn't talk to them or about them, hadn't since before he'd met her, but then her aunt, Jackie, had called in a panic one night after the kids were asleep. Mike had rubbed Erika's shoulders as she'd shakily said into the phone, “I'll come.”

They got a last minute flight to the States, leaving the kids with a friend, and Erika had slept with her head on his shoulder. She hadn't wanted to talk about it, but on the last half hour she had finally taken his hands and told him. Her parents lived in what had been a beautiful three story house, but it was filled to the brim with garbage. They'd started hoarding when she was in grade school, and she'd moved to Ontario with her aunt in 10th grade after she'd found her lost cat dead under a collapsed stack of milk crates.

Her voice had shook when she'd said she couldn't even imagine how bad it was now. They spent the night in a shabby hotel room next door to her aunt, who woke them early to make the drive to Erika's childhood home. The sun was out but the clouds had been swollen with rain.

It had been a tense drive; Erika's aunt was sweet but easily upset, and Erika was wound tighter than he'd ever seen her. She'd sat in the backseat with him – when her fingers had locked up around his, he'd known they were close.

The house had stood in front of them, a wooden monolith towering in a neighbourhood full of squat, sprawling bungalows and two story stucco McMansions. The grass had been tall, and as he'd stooped out of the car, Mike had seen old toys peeking out. On the steps, a crumpled Burger King bag had rested on top of a cracked shingle. Curled around the house was a rickety fire-escape.

Jackie, shaking like a leaf, hadn't bother to knock, and after a moment, Erika had followed, squeezing Mike's palm and then letting go as he'd entered the house behind her. Inside, it had been dark, the air humid and heavy. As he stepped, he'd heard crunching and resolved to not think about it. They'd tromped together through the landing and what would've once been a parlour if it hadn't been full to the ceiling with discoloured cardboard boxes and then mounted stairs carpeted with stained, dingy clothing and ancient cigarette butts. Mike had recognized a paisley shirt draped over the railing that he'd seen Erika wearing in a photo of her from grade school and grimaced.

On the second floor, the smell had been worse – sweeter, cloying, and under it the distinct scent of piss. They'd stopped in front of a door as the smell of ammonia got overpowering, like it was coating the inside of his nose. Mike had watched with trepidation as Erika's aunt rested her hand against the door. Christ, had he hoped that she wouldn't open it. “This is where they kept the cats,” she'd whispered. “They're gone now. Animal control has them.”

Erika's lips had pinched together as she nodded. Thankfully, they'd moved on through the narrow hallway until they came to a second set of stairs. Jackie had stopped them again. “This is where it gets bad, okay?” Out of her purse she'd pulled face masks. Numbly, Mike had hooked it over his ears. These steps had been covered in fast food wrappers and cans. In the better light, he'd seen a few roach carapaces, strewn artfully about the wrappers. He'd wondered sickly if those had been what was crunching under his feet downstairs. As they'd climbed, the air got thicker, damper, sweeter, and again at the top they'd stopped in front of a door that the smell had been emanating from.

“This is where they stay now, mostly. They take the fire-escape in and out.” This time, Erika's aunt had knocked.

Silence. She'd knocked again. Even through the mask he had barely been able to breath.

And then, a muffled bellow. “What?! Who's there?!”

Mike hadn't even been able to tell whether it was a man or a woman. Erika's aunt had yelled back, “It's Jackie and Erika! Can we come in?” Erika'd looked back at him, terror in her wide dark eyes, and he'd tried to smile, but of course she couldn't see, and he 'd squeezed her shoulder and pushed her forward, and then they'd went through the door.

He didn't know, still didn't know what had happened in there, hadn't been able to hear anything but muffled voices, but after, he'd been hustled out by a white-faced Erika. Outside, it had began to rain, and they'd stood at the bottom of the fire-escape steps, knee deep in thick grass, and watched as a gargantuanly fat man had stumped out. Under his arms he was supported by Jackie and a thin, wraith-like woman with Erika's black eyes.

At the bottom of the steps, the man had, red and wheezing, offered a cracked hand to Mike. “I hear you married my girl.”

“Yessir,” Mike had managed, sodden to the bone. The stench came off of the other man in waves, stuck to him like soaked clothes. He was wrapped in a heavy blanket stained dark and grey.

The woman hadn't said anything at all, only stared, and Erika had turned away. “I think we need to get you to a hospital, dad.”

He'd snorted, still blotchy and wheezing. “I'm fine, just hungry -” and then he had fallen, and the blanket had sloughed off, and Mike could see his legs, and -

Erika's dad had been wearing white compression socks, but the skin over them had been black and swollen and cracking, splitting away from his leg, shiny and – the stench had been unbearable, sweet and cloying and rotting – and Mike could smell it right now, in his truck, even over the cigarette scent, could see his fingers swelling and blackening, ready to burst like fat berries, and the smoke slipped out of his hand and onto the floor.

His head cleared. He stamped it out, thinking. After they'd rushed her father to the hospital, she'd washed her hands 10 times in their hotel room, and he hadn't known what to do. She hadn't cried, had brushed his hands away. She never cried about things that mattered. Not anymore.

But. Would she cry about him?

She already did, Mike suddenly knew (thinking of her red, puffy eyes every morning, of the wet spots on her pillow), every night after he was asleep, about the smoking habit he'd taken up this last year. She was terrified – of the black legs and the ghost of her mother, about the different kinds of death, about how it encroached on every space.

And he knew that he was terrified too.

He showered upstairs quietly and when he came downstairs, she was using the Waterpik on Andy's teeth, singing a nonsense song at the kitchen sink. He watched quietly, and when they were done Andy grinned at him. “Read me a story?”

Mike smiled back. “Go get ready for bed, you fart.”

Erika turned as Andy ran away giggling, and Mike closed the distance between them. “That was my last cigarette,” he said into her hair, and then, “We're not going to die yet.”

She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed hard, and his heart swelled.

Benny the Snake
Apr 10, 2012


New Arcadia

1042 words

Prompt: You can't make an omlette without breaking a few eggs.

New Arcadia

One of the first things built on the western farming settlement of New Arcadia was a gallows. While seldom used, it became a constant reminder upon its citizenry that the rule of law was constant and violators would be punished with extreme prejudice. Today's execution was a demonstration of that constant.

John Stanford made the long walk onto the gallows as he kept his eyes down, away from the assembled crowd where his neighbors and families were. Next to the executioner was Sheriff Ferguson, New Arcadia's lawman. Nobody dared to say a word as the grim specter of death was about to descend.

"John Stanford," Sheriff Ferguson boomed, "for the repeated crimes of water theft and conspiracy to commit water theft, the sentence is death by hanging. Do you have any last words?"

John remained silent, lifting his head only to see his wife and family one last time. To see Mary and her golden wheat hair. To see his boys, Johnny and Fred, who shared their mother's golden hair but had his soft brown eyes. He thought of his eldest Johnny, barely 16 years of age and now he had to become a man too soon. He thought of his youngest Fred, still in school and Mrs. Marston's brightest pupil. He thought of his wife Mary, and he wept. For he would never see her again and he would never see his boys grow up into the good men he did his best to teach them to be. John closed his eyes and shook his head. Sheriff Ferguson nodded gravely. The executioner slipped a hood over his head before putting the noose around his neck. The executioner then went back to his post and pulled the lever. The trapdoor fell. John fell and, with a sickening snap, the rope hung tight. The silence finally broke with the sounds of anguish and sorrow coming from John's widow and his youngest son. Only Johnny, the eldest, stood firm. For he was now the man in the family, and he now needed to become the rock for them to find refuge upon in the middle of the sudden chaos.

* * *
Sherriff Ferguson sat in his office, not a proud, assured arbiter of justice. Not a protector of the people of New Arcadia, nor a servant of the same people who elected him as Sheriff. Instead, he was Frank--a graying, unmarried man who, at this moment, did not find solace within his convictions or even a higher power, but instead at the bottom of a bottle of whiskey. Somebody knocked on the door. "Yeah?"

In walked a string bean of a man with sandy hair wearing a badge similar to his except for the word "Deputy" where "Sheriff" would be. "Sheriff Ferguson?"

Frank gestured towards the chair in front of his desk. Shutting the door behind him, the deputy sat down in front of his superior. "Sheriff, you mind if I ask you something?"

Frank shrugged his shoulders. "Was that necessary back there? To execute a father for water theft?"

"We're currently in the worst drought in the city's history," Frank said without looking up. "As Sherriff, I am to enforce the new water rationing order."

"I'm aware sir, but execution seems extreme."

He looked up. "Morrison, is it?"

His deputy nods. "Do you know where the word 'decimation' comes from?"


Sherriff Ferguson leaned in and grasped his hands. "The word comes from a particular ancient Roman practice, hence the Latin prefix 'dec' meaning ten. After a particularly heinous offense," he said and placed ten coins on his desk, "the commander of a legion of troops would have ten of his men draw lots. The one who drew the odd lot," he removed one of the ten, "would be executed by the remaining nine. The process would continue until a total tenth of his men were killed."

"Sir, are you suggesting that-"

"What I'm saying, deputy, is that it is my responsibility to maintain order. To enforce the laws that keep us safe and keep the peace. And if I have to execute a tenth of the people in order to do so, then so be it."

* * *

Next to his sons, John Sanford's pride and joy was his family's wheat farm. Years of hard work yielded vast and bountiful harvests. But now, the fields were That night, Mary and her eldest son Johnny were arguing. "You're abandoning your family, Johnny."

"I'm not abandoning you, mother," Johnny said while inspecting his late father's revolver. "I'm fighting for our future."

"By throwing your life away for some asinine motion of revenge?"

Johnny said nothing. He holstered his father's revolver, grabbed the scattergun from the mantle and went out towards the stables.

"Johnny, if you step out that door, you will no longer be a member of this family. I've already lost one, I will not lose another."

Johnny said nothing as he left the front door, leaving his mother beside herself in grief for her dwindling family. Waiting for him at the stables was his younger brother Fred. "Johnny, why are you leaving us?"

Johnny stopped for a moment. He needed to choose his words carefully, because his brother was too young to understand. "Did Mrs. Marston teach you about War of Northern Aggression?"

Fred shook his head. "Well, way back, filthy Yankees marched down " Johnny recited to his little brother. "They were stealing our land and our crops. They were destroying our homes, killing our brothers and fathers, and raping our mothers and sisters."

"What did we do about it?" Fred asked, completely entranced by his brother's words.

"We rebelled. We fought back. We raised arms and fought our Northern oppressors. We rode hard across the plains. We filled the trenches with their stinking, rotting bodies."

"So you're going to war?"

Johnny nodded. "I'm meeting the rest of the homesteaders. We aren't going to stand by and let that carpetbagger deprive us from the water we need to grow our crops and provide for ourselves. We aren't going to stand by and let him kill us like dogs."

"But Johnny," Fred sobbed, "who knows if you'll ever come back."

Johnny saddled up. "Fred, I'd kill a hundred men if it meant saving you and mom."

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007




Inspired by: There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly

1500 words

“Celia,” Emmett said gently. “Watching isn’t going to make them grow any faster."

Celia crouched in front of a big mound of dirt, her hands and jeans caked in mud and petroleum. When she looked up with him, she had the expression of a seven year old who’s just been told to go to bed on Christmas Eve.

“It was a pain in the rear end to get everything,” she said. “Now it’s hard to just...leave it all alone.”

“Just remember, this isn’t like a lab or controlled environment. There could be contaminants,” Emmett said.

“Oil spills don’t happen in ideal lab conditions,” Celia said. “They happen out here in the real world. So if I can make this work, maybe anyone could. And then, who knows?”

“If you think so,” said Emmett. He stooped to kiss her on top of her head. “I’ll be inside. It’s spaghetti night, don’t forget.”

“Yeah,” Celia said absently. She settled down on her knees in front of the dirt pile. The grass was cool and damp beneath her legs. The twilight smelled thick and loamy.

After a moment, Emmett went back to the house.

In the dark, the pile was unremarkable. But Celia knew that inside, a knot of oyster mushroom mycelium was unfurling. Reaching. Searching. Learning how to metabolize the crankshaft oil she’d saturated the dirt with.

The guy at the mushroom farm had asked her, “are you a microbiology student, or something?” and Celia had said, “no, just a hobbyist.” The guy had frowned, but they’d sold her the mycelium anyway, probably figuring she’d kill it.

She couldn’t even see the dead earthworms on the pile’s surface anymore. Celia felt a little bad about letting the worms die. But without proper equipment, she had no other way to measure the petroleum saturation in the soil.

She’d spent all afternoon and evening shoveling dirt from her truck onto the tarp, then inoculating it with the oyster mushrooms. Then the crankshaft oil, poured over the mound like sacred water on a burial cairn.

“Dinner’s ready,” Emmett called from the back door. “You can’t stay out there all night, you know.”

At the kitchen table, Emmett said, “so I was thinking we’d maybe go down to Portland this weekend.”

Celia frowned. “But I have to be here.”

“You said it could be weeks before anything important happens.”

“Wrong. It could be weeks before I can put the next batch of test worms in. Anything that happens between now and then could be important.” Celia looked across the table at Emmett until he shrugged and looked down at his plate.

That night, Celia dreamed of little machines pruning colorful globules off long, sinuous threads. Some of the globules were left behind, seemingly at random. Celia followed the machines from thread to thread, passive as a movie camera. If she could just decipher the pattern of the pruning, she would understand, and then, and then--

“Celia,” Emmett said.

Celia’s eyes snapped open. For a moment, all she could see was blue sky. Emmett leaned over her. He looked angry.

“Christ, I thought you’d wandered off in the night, or been abducted, or I don’t even know.”

Celia sat up and looked around. The dirt pile was on her left, the house on her right. By her left hand, a small cluster of white oyster mushrooms had sprung up overnight. The dream lingered on the tip of her mind, a dewdrop dangling from a leaf’s edge.

“This is too much, Celia. You’re obsessed with this. With a pile of dirt!” Emmett said, wrapping his arms around her. “You’re freezing. You need to get inside and under a blanket.”

Emmett pulled Celia to her feet. Her hand came away from the grass with a faint ripping sensation. White threads dangled from her palm and fingers.

Emmett saw.

“What the hell?”

“I guess I’ve been inoculated,” Celia said dreamily. She could see where the threads had somehow wormed their way under her skin like intrusive veins. “Maybe it was me the robots were pruning.”

“Okay. I’m taking you to the hospital,” Emmett said, pulling her toward the house.

Celia jerked out of his arms. “I’m fine. I feel good. Like a kid again.”

“Listen to yourself! You sound like you’re on mushrooms, not growing them. And that poo poo in your hand?”

“Did you know,” Celia said, inspecting the mycelial threads in her skin, “that fungus can sense us? Mushrooms sprout where people walk. It knows when we’re around. Maybe it’s ready to talk.”

“Or,” Emmett said, inching toward her, “you handled some bad mushrooms, and now you’re delusional. Which is more likely?”

“Emmett. If you stop me from doing this, we’re done.” Celia’s voice and eyes had gone cold. “Help me. Be part of something bigger than yourself. For once.”

Emmett flinched and looked down at his feet. After a long moment, he said, “I’m calling 9-1-1 if you collapse or start thinking you’re Jesus or something,” and went back in the house.

Celia spent the day with the pile, circling it, inspecting it. She would kneel down, scoop up the oily dirt, taste the veritable bisque of hydrocarbons. Emmett watched her through the window.

When night fell, Celia came reluctantly back into the house.

“Look at me. Listen to me. I’m fine. It’s just exciting, is all. You’ll see,” she said as Emmett herded her into the bedroom.

She woke up just after four in the morning. She’d been dreaming of the tiny machines again, tending those long threads covered in clusters of colorful blobs. And then woosh! She’d been hurled from the close, dark world of threads, out into some massive place where unknowable things move like distant titans through an unfathomable space.

Celia opened her eyes. Something twinkled on her pillow. Her eyes felt like they were full of grit. She blinked and raised her head. The stuff was smeared across the pillowcase like luminescent ash.

She crawled out of bed as quietly as she could. Emmett snored, wrapped in a burrito of blankets.

Celia closed herself in the bathroom, went to turn on the light, but stopped when she caught her reflection. Her face was covered in the glowing dust. She leaned in closer to inspect, her heart pounding.


The thought came unbidden, the word ringing clear as a bell in her mind.

The spore was concentrated around her nostrils, and at the corners of her eyes and mouth. She exhaled sharply, and a faintly glittering cloud puffed out in front of her face. She gingerly touched her nose and eyelids, turned her head from side to side.

Beautiful. For all. For sharing.

A picture of sleeping Emmett appeared in her mind. She felt a pang in her chest. He was going to be so scared for her, she knew. He would see this as a sign that everything was wrong. But it was right, all right.

Aching languor like a good drinking buzz filled her chest. She was naked. She ran her hands down her body, feeling and touching her anatomy as though it were new to her. Her hands left a faint, glittery dusting of spores. It was a good body, she thought. It would last a long while, as far as human bodies go.

And there was much work to do.

The image of Emmett popped into her mind again, insistent.

Beautiful. For sharing, the voice in her mind pressed, piercing and childlike.

“I could use a helper,” Celia said out loud.

She made her way back into the bedroom, climbed onto the bed so she was straddling Emmett. He grunted in his sleep.

She leaned down until their noses were touching. She brushed his lips with hers. He sighed at her touch, and reflexively tilted his head up to deepen the kiss. His lips parted slightly.

Celia exhaled twinkling revelation into his mouth. He coughed, and she exhaled again, pushing more spore down into his body.

Then she fell onto the bed beside him, smiling. She could feel herself unfurling inside of him, and him inside of her, and both of them inside of the saturated mound of dirt outside. A glorious web of feeling and knowing.

When she opened her eyes again, it was past dawn, and the sun shone warmly into the bedroom. Emmett sat on the bed looking at Celia with shameless wonder on his face. They stared into each other’s eyes until the shadows shifted and the light from outside turned the yellow-gold of afternoon.

When eventually they stepped outside, hand in hand, the oil-saturated mound was covered in grass, clovers and other lush, green things. When they knelt down to touch and taste, the soil was as rich and clean as Eden on their tongues.

Celia sighed with joy. Spore glittered in the sun as the breeze caught it and carried it away.

Dec 19, 2007

Please send help.

Head Space
All children are artists.

A trigonal tessellation surrounds and encapsulates a supine lying Arthur. He lived in a dome, one that he bought after landing a job as an architectural designer. It seemed like a novel idea, but after three years, he began to hate the cavernous space.

The sound of the doorbell echoed from every surface twice over. Arthur answered the door, it was Teddy, one of his friends from college that interned and worked at the same firm.

“Hey, good to see you, come on in,” Arthur said as he stepped aside.

“Thanks. I was just downtown fetching some last minute party supplies for Jan’s birthday and figured I’d stop by to invite you.”

“I’d like to, but I’ve got a floor plan that really needs finishing by Monday.”

“The Edmunds client? Maybe I can help.”
“I’d rather not-“

“Have you started?” Teddy said, raising his eyebrows in disbelief.
Arthur realized he’d been revealed but stammered, “Long story short, I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“Alright, hey, I’m not here to twist your arm or anything. I partly showed up to make sure you didn’t go all Howard Hughes on us. If you change your mind, the party starts at six.”

“I’ll keep it in mind.”

Just as Arthur was about to close the door behind Teddy, he finished, “It’s mostly Jan’s friends. I could use the company.”

It was one o’clock and Arthur decided he should make good on his word and start working. The problem was, every time he sat down to work, he’d make a rectangle and think, “That’s a stupid rectangle. People would laugh at that rectangle. You don’t get paid for rectangles like that.” He felt like he’d expended all of his remaining energy on last month’s designs.
He stared at a blank white computer screen until his mind was numb enough to check his email. He found a message from the lead architect:
I’ve had some time to present your preliminary designs to the Edmunds client. 
They say that it doesn’t fit the concept they had in mind. 
The client says they want something “more organic and fresh.”

We’ll go over the details at the Monday meeting.
Arthur’s neck went limp and he his shoulders slouched over his keyboard. Whatever work he may have accomplished wasn’t going to be organic, so he decided to go on a walk.

The autumn air was refreshing, and despite clear skies, he felt less exposed outdoors than in his home. He walked a sidewalk that led from his suburb toward town; trying to find any source of inspiration that he could. To Arthur, the buildings along the path were just a person’s time and name. Maybe if he looked hard enough, he’d see a brick at the base of a building with a name etched into it—a claim to the design by some architectural monolith who churns out four-bedroom homes for a living.

Before he knew it, he’d arrived at the edge of town. In sight was a drug store, and he started to give up on finishing any work and decided to take up Teddy’s offer. He picked out a bottle of white wine based on the shape and label and then headed back home.

The party had already began by time Arthur arrived at Teddy’s. He didn’t know many people there, and apparently Teddy didn’t either since they spent most of their time alone on the back porch reminiscing about their time in college.
“What made you buy into the whole dome home thing anyway?” Teddy asked.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was living in a noisy apartment complex, there’s economic benefits, and I had just landed my job at the firm.”

“Did it pay off?”

Arthur paused for a moment and said, “No, I don’t think it did. When I look back, it seems like everything happened at once—school, the house, the job—I was just focused on making a living for myself.” He took a sip of whiskey and let it burn in his mouth before swallowing. He continued, “It’s hysterical, you know, how quickly I blame naivety for a hollow life when all I want is to go back in time and enjoy myself.”

Teddy stood up, finished his whiskey, and said, “I think what you need is a little perspective. Let’s take a walk. Meet me out front.”

Arthur shrugged and took a path around the house to the front while Teddy went through the back door. He waited for about five minutes before Teddy exited the front door. Teddy was wearing a black backpack that made metallic clinking noises as he walked.

“Where are we going?” Arthur asked.

Teddy proceeded past Arthur and towards the nearby sidewalk, “Don’t worry about it, just enjoy the air. Let’s go.”

They walked for fifteen minutes, well beyond the suburbs and then along the edge of the town. Whenever Arthur protested to turn back, Teddy would reply simply, “Beautiful night isn’t it?”

They arrived at the foot of an old decommissioned water tower. There was a rusty barbed fence surrounding the structure, but a human-sized hole was peeled back by previous trespassers. A central support descended from the center of the water reservoir down to the ground. At about knee height a smaller pipe jutted out horizontally and Teddy crawled inside.

“Listen, Teddy, I’m not sure what your plan is here, but mine is to not get arrested.”

Teddy stood up inside the vertical pipe, “You’re not going to get arrested,” he pulled a flashlight out of the backpack and illuminated a ladder within the pipe’s interior, “Trust me.”

Arthur muttered curses, but crawled through the pipe anyway. The climb seemed to take nearly as much time as the walk there. When they finally reached the top, they were inside the emptied reservoir. Teddy’s flashlight revealed a rainbow of scatological graffiti coating the tower’s interior.

Exasperated, Arthur huffed, “Alright Teddy, what’s going on?”

Teddy dropped the backpack and then yelled until his lungs were empty. The cacophony made the whole water tower ring.
Arthur clutched his ears, “Jesus Christ Ted, I get enough of that poo poo when I’m at home.”

Teddy laughed, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” He moved to climb a smaller ladder that exited the side of the water tower and beckoned Arthur to follow.

They emerged onto a catwalk which encircled the spherical reservoir. The air outside was brisk and the vastness of the night sky dwarfed the town’s dimly lit buildings.

“Monuments to miniatures,” Teddy said. He held his forefinger and thumb to his eye and squinted, “Look, they’re not so big. You can even squash them if you want.” He simulated crushing the buildings by touching his fingers together.

Arthur played along with the charade. It was somehow comforting to feel larger than a building for once.

Once they’d gotten their fill of appreciating the view, Arthur finally asked, “What’s with the backpack?”

Teddy smiled and chuted himself back into the water reservoir, Arthur followed. Teddy opened up the backpack and emptied a swath of spray paints, acrylic paints, and brushes onto the floor. He gestured towards the reservoir’s interior and said, “Make whatever you want.”

Aug 2, 2002

Pete Zah posted:

Please send help.

Mar 21, 2010

Training Wheels

Craig fell. Again.

It was the bicycle. It wouldn't stay straight since dad took the extra wheels off. Every time he tried to move forward, the back wheel would fishtail all over the place and take the rest of the bike with it. Craig hit the hot concrete cheek-first. “Chrrrrrp chrrrrrrp” said the cicadas, “chrrrrrrrrrrrrp chrrrrrrp.” They were laughing at him and he knew it. His face hurt. Mum's roses sat in their soil bed on his left, and the yard to his right. Forward and down the slope was the road, where the big kids took their bikes.

Dad knelt down and hooked him under the arm, then hauled him to his feet. “Bit of a tumble, aye?” dad said. He clucked his tongue and smiled. Craig didn't get it. Did dad want him to hurt? Was dad an rear end in a top hat? That was the second-worst thing you could be. Assholes didn't buy you ice cream or tell you stories before bedtime but on the other hand Good People didn't put you on a spinny-wheel deathtrap and push you down the driveway with a big happy look on their face.

“I want the wheels back,” said Craig. How had his friend turned into an enemy so quickly? His dad and his bike. The world had gone all crazydumb when he wasn't looking.

Dad chuckled. “You've already got two,” he said.

“Dad, I'm serious!” said Craig. A big grin split Dad's face. A sort of contentment filled him from his belly to his balding head, and he took in a deep breath. He paused. For a moment, he looked out over the beautiful summer's day and his son, and the bike. Then he exhaled. “Hello serious,” he said, “I'm dad.”

Clearly an rear end in a top hat then. Maybe even the other word.

“Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaad,” said Craig. “Chrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrp,” said the cicadas. Craig bet the cicadas didn't have to deal with badword dads and worseword bikes. He bet they got to live in the trees and hang around all day and not have to do anything. They didn't have ice-cream but they had the stuff that's inside trees which is probably nearly as good to them. The sticky stuff. Sap. That was it: sap. Like Craig was a sap for getting on the two-wheeled bike of death.

He kicked the bike, and his dad's smile disappeared. “C'mon,” he said. He wandered over to the bike and pulled it upright, then slapped the seat. Craig grumbled, and got on. He gave the pedals an angry kick. The bike rolled forward a little. It wanted his blood. A car rolled by on the road ahead. Its windows were big dark eyes and its wheels were spinning lamprey mouths ready to gobble him up.

Dad pushed the bike. Craig screamed as he flew forwards down the driveway, the garden a red-and-white blur beside him. He hit the road with a bump. The car had passed, and he was out on the tarmac cycling-

He looked down at his feet in the pedals, then up at his hands on the bars. The spokes of his wheels went clickaclickaclickaclick as they turned. He pushed the handlebars to the left and the bike curved back towards the driveway. Dad's smile was so big, it was gonna take the top of his head off.

Craig smiled too, then he put his feet in the pedals and he rode back to his father.

[556 words]

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

Ironic Twist
Aug 3, 2008

I'm bokeh, you're bokeh

On A String
1430 words
(Proverb: As the dog said, “If I fall down for you and you fall down for me, it is playing)

E: Archives

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

Oct 17, 2012

Hullabalooza '96
Easily Depressed
Teenagers Edition

A drowning man will clutch at a straw

Nethilia fucked around with this message at 08:35 on Dec 4, 2014

Nov 13, 2012

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

Future Perfect
1290 words

There is hope as long as your fishing line is in the water

We'd only been living together for two months when the time traveller first broke into our house. I was in the studio, painting. His machine, sleek steel and chrome, crackled into existence in a corner. The fizzing of its entry scorched the wallpaper. We'd only just put that in.

I reached for my phone and dialled for emergency, my husband, anything: but all I got was a thick buzzing sound. With a hiss, a door swung open on the side of the shimmering box.

“Don't you come out,” I said. “I've got a gun and I'm not afraid to use it.”

A croaking laugh came through the door. “No, you don't,” said the voice. It was a man's: it quavered like paper in the wind. “I'm not here to hurt you. Please don't be afraid.”

“Too late for that.”

There came shuffling from inside. Slowly, a man emerged, hobbling, from its unfathomable interior. His graying hair had retreated up his scalp. Stepping into my studio, his misty eyes widened.

“This is a good painting,” he said. “I like what you're doing with the colours. I wish I knew how it'll look when it's done.”

“Did you break into my house to give critique? My husband will be home soon and-”

“He won't be home for hours. He's tied up with the relativistic calibration. Something of a knotty problem, I think.” He leaned forward, so close I could smell his old man's musty breath. “He's having a hard time right now.”

“Why are you here?”

“I just want to talk about you, Rosie, and your husband. I don't have much time: the machine can't hold me this far back for very long.” He drew a breath. “I know he's... hard to put up with lately. It's his work. He needs to stop working on this project of his. I need you to stop him.”

“Why do you care?”

“I have a vested interest in this timeline.” He stepped back into the box. It began to hum. He moved to close the door behind him, but he turned around. “You can't tell him I was here. I'm not sure what happens if the paradox gets too strong.”

“What would I say? That he broke time and space to tell me to stop him from doing it?”

He started, and then smiled. “I should have known you'd figure it out quick. You were always the smart one.” He closed the door, and the machine slipped into nothingness.


John came home from the lab around nine. I had tried to move things around the living room to hide the traces of the visit: I'd stacked my easel, painting half-finished, in the alcove. It couldn't really cover the burn marks, but I should have known he wouldn't notice. He didn't really care about the studio. It was my space and that was that. Besides, his mind was elsewhere.

“How was work?” We weren't bored of the old clichés yet. I didn't understand theoretical physics any more than he did brushwork or the fall of light on a canvas, but slowly we were teaching one another.



He ran a hand through his thick black hair. “You know how we're trying to break light speed? We're still having really basic issues. Every time we spin it up, relativity kicks in.”

“So? Isn't that what you want?”

He sighed. “Look, the university wants a time machine, right? It can't have one until we can get the simple stuff to work. drat fool idea, but we've still got to make it happen.”

“Guess they figure it's cheaper than the history department.”

“This isn't funny, Rosie.”

I sat back and forced a smile. “I know, love. But you're home now. You can relax.”

“Like hell I can,” he said. “This is big. If we get this working, we're the kings of creation. There'll be nothing we can't fix.”

“That's not how the world works, John. Not people. Not us.”

“It's time travel. Even if the first attempt doesn't work out, we can just try again later on in the timeline-”

“John, this is too much. You're stressing yourself out. Couldn't you take a break? I'll stop the painting too. We could go somewhere.”



He pushed out from the table and stood up. “The only places I want to go are the past and the future,” he said. “I'm going to look at the field strength equations again. I can't deal with this crazy talk right now.”

I knew he'd keep trying. I did love that about him. He had drive.


I didn't see the traveller for a month after that. It helped that it was a busy time. I had an exhibition coming up and I was behind schedule. John was working long hours at the lab. That helped a little. I didn't have to think about it.

Instead I focused on the colours. In the autumn, the midday sun poured through the studio windows at just the right angle. I'd chosen a rust brown for the metal, and the clock face was an off-white shade that glistened in the sunlight. Reaching for fresh paint, I heard a churning of air behind me. I turned, slowly.

The traveller had a cane now. He leant on it to support his fragile weight as he limped into the studio once again. He looked as if he could be blown away by the breeze coming through the open window.

“It didn't work,” he said. “The timeline hasn't changed.”

“I tried,” I said. “But I can't reach him.”

He turned a lip and shrugged. “Sounds about right. Don't blame yourself.”

“I can try again. Maybe-”

“You don't have to. You should get out while you can. Before things get worse.”

I walked over to him. I think I wanted to check that he was real: I reached out a hand, and took his. It was cold, like all old people's hands are cold, but I could feel his laggard pulse push itself onwards, accelerating as best it could.

“This cycle will only happen again,” he said. “And he will find that he can't fix everything.” He gently eased out of my grip and walked back into the machine, stooping beneath its lintel.

“Wait,” I said. He turned around. “Maybe- maybe I'll see you again.”

He smiled again. It was a smile withered by age and wrinkles, but it was the same as the day I'd met him. “Perhaps,” he said. “I hope so.”

The machine twisted in the air and was gone. I turned back to the painting. I didn't get much more done, but I managed to brush two black hands onto the canvas: five minutes to midnight.


John was late home that night, but I was waiting for him, bags packed, paintings rolled.

“Rosie, what's all this? I'm sorry I'm late again, but we had to-”

“I don't care what you had to do, John. Please, just listen. You're slipping away from me into this machine, you know that?”

“That's ridiculous.”

Time travel is ridiculous.”

He spread his hands across the table, reaching out for mine. “Rosie...”

I pulled back. “It's me or the machine, John.”

“But we're so close. I can taste it. A couple more years... we'll have a working prototype, Rosie. Can you imagine? I'll have all the time in the world to make it up to you.”

“This isn't an equation. You can't just solve for love.”

“I'll find a way.”

“You'll have to do it on your own.” I said. “Good luck with the time machine.” I walked out of the room, the house: I left my studio behind, and slipped out on the streets. I waved down a taxi.

I know he'll keep trying. That's what I'll love about him. He'll have drive.

Your Sledgehammer
May 10, 2010

Don`t fall asleep, you gotta write for THUNDERDOME

699 words
Experience is a comb nature gives us when we are bald

Sometimes I could almost make out a face on its surface, a sort of cocky death rictus. Nature’s last laugh.

“It’s definitely getting bigger,” I said, squinting up at the night sky through my telescope. “What did the news say the latest projection was?”

Eric offered only a dull grunt, unable to tear himself away from the computer screen. The impish grin became rock once again as the meteor rotated away from human eyes, the only life below capable of interpreting the dark metaphor of its features. The other side of it wasn’t nearly as interesting, so I turned to Eric.

“About a month, right? Give or take a day or two,” I said. Eric ripped off the headphones and glared at me.

“Dan, why can’t you just go skydive or gently caress all day or blow your life savings in Vegas like a normal person? You’re really harshing my buzz with all that meteor poo poo,” he said. I held in a laugh.

Eric glowered at me through a curly red beard that unwittingly blunted his masculinity. Below that, Che’s impenetrable mug, the shirt still caked with dried blood from the arrest that concluded Eric’s last treesit. After a week of panic and denial when the news broke three weeks ago, Eric had settled into a hedonistic routine that never really lived up to what he was aiming for. He was always sunny in the mornings, chattering about the bucket list items he was going to tick off that day. 9am would give way to an hour or two of internet porn, 4pm would find him drunk or high, he’d follow dinner with a furious bout of switching between texting every girl who’d ever graced his contact list and swiping right over and over again on Tinder, and the night would conclude with what was currently occupying him, getting through the boatload of games he’d bought during Steam sales. Not that different from a college routine that wasn’t being affected by impending Armageddon, really.

“Don’t you want to know more about what’s going to do us in?” I said. “The dinosaurs never got that privilege. There’s something kind of poignant about it all, I think.”

My routine had not changed much, save staring up at it every night. Each week had brought a new layer of meaning. When the initial depression still had its hold, I kept thinking about that old pseudoscientific, quasi-mystical truism about us being the Universe looking at itself. If that were the case, then the Universe decided to black out its own eyes, and I couldn’t say I blamed it too much. However, I’d come to look at it the last few nights as a seed of sorts. It would bury itself in the soft earth and blossom into a nightmarish tree, its bark made of stacks of bodies and its leaves a sickly green of purest human suffering. But maybe the fruit it bore would eventually nourish something or someone, and there’s a little shred of hope in that thought, isn’t there?

Eric looked at me like I had spiders crawling all over my face. “You’re spending too much time with that drat devilscope, you know it?” he said. “I’m getting worried about you, man. You should come get high with the drum circle people tomorrow night.”

Eric had spent the entire first week with the drum circle, until they finally realized that their collective kumbaya power couldn’t drive the meteor away. “What do they think about all this?” I asked.

“They think Mother Nature is a cranky bitch,” he said as he turned back to his game.

I closed my eyes and could see it, scraping the ocean floor as it kicked up a killer cloud of dust and steam, a giant nail on a chalkboard. And that’s when I felt a key clink snugly into a lock in my mind, and then I understood.

“You know what you should tell the drum circle?” I said.

“What?” he muttered.

“The dust cloud this kicks up will solve global warming.”

The tapping at the keyboard stopped and ten minutes passed by in utter silence. Then Eric shut the computer down and went to bed.

Oct 30, 2003

by Nyc_Tattoo

A Natural Cricketer
1394 words
A man with a hammer sees every problem as a nail

Crack! Dan took two steps down the pitch and hit the ball on the half volley, back over the poor bowlers head. The ball went over the white painted boundary line on the second bounce, and we cheered as the umpire signalled yet another four runs. He took a few steps then doubled over, leaning on his bat. Sure, it was hot, but he looked terrible even so, sweat streaming from his helmet in thick rivulets.

Despite this he still looked so comfortable when he batted. His usual fidgeting stopped and for a moment he’d be perfectly still and calm. He bowled well too, fast and accurate, but unlike batting it exacerbated his tics and aggression. He’d kick the ground and mutter as he turned to run bowl, and sometimes it seemed like he he’d rather hit the batsman rather than the wickets.

He was our star player, but when Bundy had first suggested he join our team I was skeptical.

“We're soft, We need a bit of mongrel,” was the pitch “and I think he's okay now.”

When we were all at school together Dan’s name had been spoken in hushed tones. His Dad had been the leader of a bikie gang, and there was a rumour he’d put a kid in hospital when he was in primary school. Our team was basically a bunch of nerds, so none of us had ever had much to do with him except for Bundy.

I remember giving him a lift to the first game he played for us. When we pulled up outside his flat I could see him getting his stuff together through the one window that wasn’t boarded up. He ripped the tags off a bright white shirt and pants and stuffed them into a shiny Slazenger gear bag. The brand new equipment stood out against the stained, coffee coloured wall behind him.

I honked the horn and he came out wheeling the bag behind him. He saw Bundy leaning forward from the passenger seat and I saw that broad gap-toothed smile for the first time. He was pretty rough, with his shaved head and gothic script neck tattoo barely covered by his popped collar. The smile softened this, so wide it showed his gums, ridiculous and warm in equal parts. He was easy to get along with, chatting openly with Bundy and I in the car on the way to the park. The conversation came around to his tats.

“I loving hate them. Except this one.” He said, pulling back his sleeve to reveal a small pink pony on the inside of his wrist. “I let my daughter choose it. She’s the reason I got off drugs.”

A few weeks later one of the guys had his first, a wee girl. Dan brought him a 6 pack of bourbon and cokes in congratulations. “They’re the expensive ones, the eight percenters.” he said “Drink ‘em before she gets home from the hospital, you won’t get a chance otherwise. You’re a lucky man.” There was a touch of sadness there. Dan didn’t really get to see his daughter.

His plan had been to slum it with us for a season in 3B, then move to second grade to try to get into the premiers. That was four seasons ago, and it wasn’t for a lack of skill he was still with us. We didn’t see him outside of cricket, but he was a great mate on the field, at least until this summer.

For a start he hadn’t been coming to practice, which was only kind of unusual. Then he had a few bad games and dropped off the radar for a few games, no call to say he wasn’t coming, no text, nothing. Then today he turned up out of the blue. I could see his smile from across the park.

He was amped to play, so we put him in to bat first. His break sure as hell hadn’t made him rusty. He was as focused as I’d ever seen him, though his uniform looked like it could use a wash. He’d taken twenty minutes to get his eye in, then just started unloading. In no time he’d got fourty runs, and he hadn’t even looked like getting out.

Then he’d started flagging. The runs kept coming but he was moving slower. When he raised his bat to celebrate getting fifty he looked like he could barely lift it, like he was going to topple over in the breeze. Then he bent back down to bat and was fine again.

I looked at him doubled over his bat. “He looks pretty sick” I said to Bundy, who’d been lying in the grass, quieter than usual.

“I don’t think he’s sick, mate.”

He used his foot to lift the flap of Dan’s gearbag. A glass pipe sat nestled among the protective gear, the bulb blackened with residue.

“Oh poo poo. What’s he on?”


“Jesus Christ, I didn’t mean what score.” I did a double take. “Wait, really?” This could be the first hundred for our team this season, a rare milestone in the our grade. He was one good shot away from it.

The whole team watched from the sideline as the bowler started his run up. They’d brought their quickest guy back on, but that hadn’t stopped Dan so far. He bowled a slower one, and Dan swung hard, but the impact sounded hollow as the ball came off the toe of the bat. Still he got a big piece of it, and we all stood as it looked like it was just going to make it over the boundary on the full. But it faltered in the hot northerly wind, and the fielder took a good catch just inside.

It wouldn’t have been entirely out of character for Dan to throw his bat in anger, but despite his pale face and shaky hands he still had his focused batting look on as he walked slowly off. We went onto the field to congratulate him on his score, but he ignored us, staring at something on the sideline.

When he got to his gear bag he opened it and picked up the pipe. He gripped it hard, his knuckles pale, and looked at it. This lasted a good ten second before he threw it as hard as he could into the air. It seemed to hang there for an age, the tube spinning around the bulb in a drunken arc. He took his bat brought it round in a textbook pull shot, clipping the tube of the pipe and shattering it. A thousand little shards of glass caught the sunlight, as bright as fireworks.

That’s when I saw them. I didn’t recognize the woman, but Dan had bored us with enough pictures of his girl that she was easy to pick, even though she was heaps older than when they’d been taken. I looked at Dan, looking at them. The sweat had been joined by tears. He looked heroic as he introduced us. We gave them some space, sent the next batsman onto the pitch, and the game continued.

“What the gently caress is that?” The woman yelled, her voice breaking into a squeal.

I turned and saw her pointing at the crusted bulb of the pipe, jagged where the tube had been smashed from it.

“It’s nothing. Please don’t worry. I’m fine. It’s fine. Please.”

I’d never heard him beg like that before. His daughter started to cry.

“You said you were off that stuff forever. You loving loser.”

“Don’t go. Don’t take her from me again.” Panic was replacing sadness in his voice.

“Just gently caress off. Four years and then this. You’re never seeing her again.”

She sounded really mean, but I could understand it. It was a pretty hosed situation. She turned and started walking off, and Dan just stood there. He looked like he did when he got out, just totally focused, totally in the zone. She’d got maybe a dozen steps away when he started walking towards her, dragging the bat behind him. She hadn’t a clue he was coming for her, and when the bat hit her she dropped like a puppet with the strings cut.

Bundy and a couple of the other guys tackled Dan before he could take another swing. I kneeled to check her pulse while his daughter bawled and bawled.


Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

Posting on behalf of Grizzled Patriarch whose Internet is currently whack.

Pipes (659 words)

Bennett was going to learn his lesson, one way or another. The first water balloon exploded next to his feet, only splashing his sneakers, but the second struck home. A dark blotch spread across the front of his flannel shirt. Todd let out a shrill hoot from behind the hedges. Beside him, Danny lobbed bars of soap like a slinger loosing stones. They arced across the street, blunt, white missiles fragmenting against the pavement.

One of the bars bounced off of Bennett’s shoulder and he cried out, but didn’t turn away. He stood there in his soggy shirt, lank blond hair plastered to his face, water mingling with the tears that dripped down his cheeks.


Every Friday, Bennett’s dad pulled him out of class early to help sell roadside fruit from the back of his pickup. They’d sit out off of the interstate all weekend, Bennett sprawled out in a frayed lawn chair like a napping grandfather. Sometimes the heat was enough to burst melons on the vine, and then they’d switch to grapefruit and oranges. Once, Todd’s mother caught his dad buying watermelons from Wal-Mart.

Wherever Bennett went, the smell followed, sweet and rotten, like fruit left out to spoil in the sun. His fingers, grubby with pulp and citrus oil, clung to everything he touched, glued together the pages of his spiral notebooks. Exaggerated gagging noises followed him through the hallways like the wake of a passing ship.

The week before, as a prank, they’d gotten ahold of Bennett’s locker combination and smeared the inside of it with roll-on deodorant. One of the administrative assistants made him stay after school to clean it out. That was Danny’s idea, after Bennett borrowed his favorite mechanical pencil and returned it so sticky that Danny had to throw it away.


On the third day of Bennett’s absence, the principal made an official announcement. Reported missing, the tinny voice on the intercom said. If you have any information…

The sun filtering in through the classroom window suddenly felt too hot against the back of Todd’s neck. He shot a quick glance behind him, saw Danny mouth the word under his breath. poo poo.


Danny was talking through mouthfuls of cereal. “What if the cops come looking for us?”

“The cops aren’t going to come looking for us,” Todd said. “It’s not our fault he’s gone.”

“Maybe he ran away. Maybe we pushed him too far and he snapped.”

Todd didn’t say anything.

Danny dumped his cereal bowl in the sink and started to rinse it. “Hey,” he said. “I think your sink’s clogged.”

Todd got up and flicked on the garbage disposal. It made a grinding, buzz saw sound that rattled all the dishes piled in the basin. A red cloud bloomed in the milky water and drained away. A low groaning sound drifted up from the pipes, then the frantic scratching of tiny claws.

“Jesus, man,” Danny said. “I think there was a rat in there.”


That night, after Danny left, Todd lay in bed and imagined rats worming around in the pipes that coiled through the drywall. Fat, ugly rats, with oilslick fur and tails like twisted rope. He got up and padded barefoot to the bathroom. Mostly it was an excuse to turn the lights on. He considered taking a shower, then settled for a glass of water.

The water left a bitter, syrupy film on Todd’s tongue. He squinted into the glass, gorge rising as he noticed the pink particles swirling on the surface like motes of dust. He extended a trembling hand and turned on the faucet. A thin stream of water trickled out, tapered away.

There was a wet sound as something oozed out onto the porcelain. A phlegmy mass the color of uncooked meat, threaded through with strands of blond hair. Then he noticed the smell. Sweet, and rotten, like fruit left out to spoil in the sun.

Exactly like that.

Prompt: A bulldog can whip a skunk but sometimes it's not worth it

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