ok, in, but you're not going to like it.
aimin' for that loss
|# ? Dec 6, 2014 02:20|
|# ? Jan 22, 2022 02:58|
This is my first Thunderdome. So, I just post it in here when I"m done?
First off, there are far too many grammar issues in this story, especially for one submitted over 24 hours early. Proofread. Aloud.
There’s just not much to grab the reader here, and a lot of missing information. What did making the dead character an ex-wife instead of current wife do for the story? I can’t figure out why you made that choice and then didn’t tell us why they split up or what they still meant to each other.
Biggest thing lacking in this story was emotion. Second was motivation. It’s written in a “this happened, then this happened, then this, etc.” kind of way. The story needed more detail and more information on what the dog(s) meant to the protagonist.
Also, cut the 9-1-1 call. It adds nothing to the story.
I loved this story on the first read-through. The opening was confusing, though you were going for that, I think. Still, being dropped into a situation with bombs going off, a line or two more about what the background is would have helped me orient myself to who the main character is and why there are bombs going off. I couldn’t tell if they were in the middle of a warzone or if they were living under some oppressive dystopian government.
The pacing was excellent, and I was completely drawn into your little world of the training school. I also liked the ending, though again it was hard to picture what was really going on.
You had a good mix of childlike diction and horrifying context, but a stronger difference in the language between the “hatted” and “non-hatted” parts would have been a bonus for me.
Why you didn’t win: this story is great on a first read, but there’s not much beneath the surface. It isn’t as rewarding the second time through.
The opening to this is fantastic. I love the imagery of the floating thread and Ertie is a great character. Unfortunately, the story gets weaker when the horror elements begin. There are some… not plot holes, but “why didn’t the character just…?” moments, e.g., when the shuttle first arrived, why didn’t the two people just explain the situation and leave?
Ertie was the only character with any characterization, so her offscreen death was disappointing. The ending I just didn’t quite understand.
You tried to take on a complex and heavy subject like PTSD—-something difficult to explore in 50,000 words, much less 500. So the portrayal here is pretty much all surface level, like what someone would know about PTSD just from watching TV. My main problem with this piece is the lack of a story; there’s no real beginning, middle, end. The characters don’t have any goals. To me these are vital components that make something a story and not just a scene.
I’ll try to point out a few things why it didn’t work for me:
“I don’t even give a poo poo.” Never a good way to start a story. If the main character doesn’t, why should I?
The meeting and relationship with the girl is very important to your story having an emotional effect on the reader. To make a reader care about the death of a character, the character should be presented well (obviously). But everything with the girl is told in after-the-fact summary. She has no characterization. So when she is dead, I don’t care. And that’s ultimately why your story failed. Before you can kill a character, you gotta make us like her.
The story tried too hard to be sad.
This was a tough one for me. The writing itself is hands-down awesome to read. I like the words you pick and the order you put them in. However, I had to read the thing three times to make any sense of it, and even then, I still really had no idea what I was reading. I think you focused on making your sentences sound good and the piece as a whole suffered for it.
I was really high on this story and it was almost my winner. Great job. Very well written and an intriguing premise. I have to agree with my fellow judges that the switch at the end, from the stars speaking only of history to suddenly talking about the protag’s father, the switch was confusing. Why did that happen? I wanted to know. Great job, though. I was fully engaged reading it.
I wasn’t as high as my fellow judges on this one, though I still liked it, for one simple reason: neither of the girls, at the start, are on Mom’s team. So neither of them make the complete emotional journey from loving Mom to not. If the younger sister had been totally on Mom’s side, then the reader saw her disappointed so much that she went all the way to the other side of the spectrum, the story would have had a much stronger emotional impact.
You have excellent dialogue, though. I wish I was as good.
This story made no sense and the overuse of the word snow was incredibly annoying. When I finished I had no clue what happened with the dealer. Nothing else to say here.
This reads like the opening scene to something longer. It was good, and I liked reading it, but it just ended. Very well written. I liked Gavin. But for me, there wasn’t enough information, and the ending was disappointing. I wanted something else to happen. I wanted to know what finding the girl mean for Gavin as a character. I wanted these things because it was a good piece.
The beginning was interesting, but the end let me down (like a LOT of entries this week). I was curious about what was happening here, but I couldn’t figure out the purpose of the bird blinding, and the ending felt like you wrote a much longer story and had to cut it down. Everything happens too quickly, and it was melodramatic.
I loved this piece and found it very touching. The little details about the partner, the details about the old man’s house, all were very well done. Even though I knew what was coming, I was invested in it. For such a short piece, to get an emotional reaction is tough. Well done. This was an HM candidate for me. Also, great choice for second person.
The main character here felt like something a teenage boy would write and think he just wrote the coolest character ever. Instead, he comes off as flat and confusing. And boring. I didn’t know why he was in the asylum, why he refused to speak. This information is really important, and you didn’t give it.
Benny the Snake
My biggest complaint here is the jarring disconnect between tone and content. We experience the main character go through an incredibly difficult night essentially in real-time, but the writing is all calm and clear. As the night went on, the grammar, spelling, and clarity should have begun to slip. And the resolution is a little empty because, as Sledge pointed out, making it through just one night without drinking isn’t exactly overcoming addiction. However, it is a first step, and probably more symbolic, so I get that and didn’t count it too heavily against you. The depiction of addiction itself, though, seemed to be written by someone without any first-hand knowledge of it (which is probably a good thing, for you). Decent. Not the worst, by far.
Thanks for the Lifetime Movie in short story form. This felt very, very low-effort, especially coming from you, so my crit is, too.
Awesome! Well deserved winner. I was very drawn in to your story, and especially your fantastic, symbolism-rich descriptions of the terrain.
Solidly average for me. There is a lot of meandering here, useless filler information. Focus on tightening up your pacing and giving descriptions that tell the reader things about the characters. Nothing about this one is jumping out at me as GREAT or BAD. There are some comma splices throughout.
I liked this one a lot, until the end. I keep repeating myself with this comment. Everything about the beginning was delightful. Fun dialogue, cool little space details. I liked it a lot. But then the main character’s girlfriend cheats on her, and she doesn’t seem to care. I was disappointed in the story just fizzling out instead of having a big climactic moment.
The loser. Oh man. I hated this story. It actually made me angry. Here’s why:
1. show don’t tell. There are a lot of moments (e.g., “he pleaded, tried to explain his life and his recent actions”) that should have been shown (i.e., written out with dialogue) instead of just relayed as in the example above.
2. There’s no story. there’s a set up, an action taken, but no resolution. Boring.
These are hugely basic elements of writing. It wasn’t the weirdest, or the worst written, but it failed in ways that should have been very easy to pick out.
A story about a bored person being bored. You didn’t HAVE to write that just because of the song. I didn’t like this piece because the story was told through the main character’s POV, and he was bored. That makes me bored.
However, it wasn’t terrible. There were a lot of interesting ideas. It’s clear you put a lot of thought into it, I just don’t think you chose the best character to tell a story of the world you envisioned.
Pretty good, but predictable ending. All we know about the protagonist is that he’s an ex-con. Needed more characterization. I
blue squares fucked around with this message at 03:17 on Dec 6, 2014
|# ? Dec 6, 2014 02:42|
I could never get used to the rain on Venus. It always rained, every day, for 24 hours a day. The people who lived here said they could tolerate this kind of weather. The deep yellow sky like the color of mustard gas with air so moist it felt like you were living in a sauna. And the nonstop rain hitting me in the face. I found out after a few weeks that I didn't need to take showers anymore. Most people didn't own a shower, they could just stand outside in the nude with a bucket and some soap. The people who could stand it, that is. Those who couldn’t? Well, the rain had a detrimental effect after a while. The slow perpetual drips hitting your face day after day could drive a man mad. They called it “going wet.”
So why was I here, then? I’m a delivery man. An intergalactic courier of sorts. I’d picked up some cargo from Europa. They’d paid well, and I didn’t ask questions. I just needed to drop it off and be on my way. The location was the Magellan, a dive bar for riff-raff, bounty hunters, and other scalawags of all sorts. I’d been there before, but this time was different. The cargo had been marked FRAGILE, and it was packaged like I’d never seen: A small container, about the size of a duffle bag with a handle. It had some mechanism that prevented me from peeking even if I wanted to. But like I said, I don’t ask questions.
I parked my cruiser on the dock outside Magellan. It was pitch black aside from a few red lights illuminating the loading bay, leading a path to the bar’s entrance. I could hear the music and shouting coming from inside, like a siren’s song leading those out of the rain. I’d already gotten soaked by the time I made my way across the dock. I was greeted by a large Cambrian bouncer. He stood around ten meters tall, his thick shell making an excellent defensive weapon in the event he had to remove unruly guests. He looked at me with those three beady eyes and squawked.
“Easy, big fella. The name’s Captain Jackson. I’m just dropping off some cargo.”
I handed him a slip of paper. He grabbed it with a pair of pincers and inspected it, then waved me in. Finally inside from the rain, I could remove my coat and dry off. I could still feel the sensation of the rain on my face and shoulders, pulsating like phantom limbs. I took off my jacket and helmet and put them on the seat next to me. The package I laid down by my feet. It’s best to keep it safe and secure until I make the drop. The bar music was loud, but I swore I could still hear the rain on the roof, like a nonstop white noise machine. At least I was out of it for now.
The bartender was a small Venusian. Short and stout with a slender head and big black eyes.
“What’ll you have?”
Thank god he spoke Terran. My Venusian was rusty at best.
“I’ll have a Greyhound,” I told him. I looked around the bar. There had to be at least fifty people in here of all sorts. Skeevers, blowers, skunkers, raiders it was a who’s who of people you wouldn’t want to meet in the back of an alley. The entire bar hung with a slight mist, created by the moisture from outside.
The door to the bar kicked open. It was two Venusian security officers. They looked around the bar with nervous and focused eyes, and then they finally zeroed on me.
“poo poo,” I muttered to myself. I’d been busted before; this wouldn’t be the first time. But this cargo seemed to be extra dangerous. Where would they send me now? Mars Prison Colony? Pluto? I don’t think I’d survive Pluto.
They rushed over to me, shoving past a small Martian nursing a drink.
“Jackson?” one of them asked quickly, “Are you Thomas Jackson?”
“That depends on who’s asking,” I said with a smile. Maybe I could talk my way out of this one. I leaned back on my seat and took a sip of the Greyhound. The Venusian had made a nice blend this time. One part Vodka, one part Grapefruit juice. Probably harvested from the south side of the planet. The rain made them grow extra ripe this time of year. It went down easy.
The other officer looked at a photograph, “It’s him,” he said.
The officer shoved past me and reached down to my feet.
“Whoa, whoa,” I said slyly, “I’ve never seen that before.” Maybe he’d buy it. Maybe I’d escape this time. They lifted the case up and put it on the bar stool, shoving my helmet and jacket onto the floor. They tried opening it without success. One of the officers pulled out a crowbar. They pried it open. I guess we’d finally see what cargo was so important. I glanced over one of their shoulders. It was an infant, blue in the face. Didn’t look to be moving. One of them rushed outside with it, but it was no use. That thing had to have been dead long time ago. I’d been carrying it in my cargo hold for months. Why would someone send a baby? I heard the bar patrons muttering.
“Holy poo poo.”
“Was that his son?”
“Oh my god.”
“He must have gone wet.”
The other officer shoved me against the wall. I felt the cold steel of the handcuffs go on.
“You loving monster,” he whispered in my ear, “You’re going to go down for this. Your own loving kid.” He grabbed me forcefully as he moved me out of the bar. The patrons stared with blank, empty faces. I didn’t protest. What could I do? The guy was clearly wet. I’ve got no kid. I’m Captain Jackson.
|# ? Dec 6, 2014 04:57|
Crabrock, you get Zombie!
And with that, submissions are closed. If you missed the cut off, we still need a third judge...
|# ? Dec 6, 2014 05:20|
Week 121 crits part 1 of 3:
Your first sentence is clunky and confusing. I had no clue whose voice was undercutting what. I'm not sure who or what "..a voice that threatened me with it's youth" is referring to, or what exactly that means.
This week's trope was "sticking a tragedy where the plot is supposed to go." Someone remembering a deceased ex-spouse isn't really a plot. I have no idea why the mother hates the narrator. I have no idea what his ex-wife was like, other than I guess she liked the Beach Boys. But really, she could've liked any band/song, and it wouldn't have affected the story at all. But death and implied family drama, like I said, do not equal a plot.
Basically all I know is that the narrator and his ex wife met when they were younger, were attracted to each other, got married, got divorced, and now the ex-wife is dead. There is apparently some family tension but who knows what that's all about?
Final score: Sad old Brian Wilson
Nice first line. However, you submitted with plenty and time and words to spare, and I think this felt sparse and almost incomplete because of that.
I thought some of the descriptions in the first part of the story had some nice descriptions. I particularly liked: "I saw him lying in cold grass. The kind of grass that snaps as you walk over it. If you lied down on that grass, it would stab you before giving way. It resists but ultimately collapses when something bigger overwhelms it."
That bit made me think the story was going to be about, like, someone who wants to do the right thing, but ultimately gives in and takes the easier path. Or someone who is prevented by circumstance from doing the right thing. And you do sort of go in that direction for a little bit. Then you cut to the end of the story, when the narrator leaves home. He finds a neglected dog, adopts the neglected dog, and names him after a Beach Boy. That's all well and good, but it doesn't really resolve the mood or ideas you set up in the first bit.
I really wish you'd developed this a bit more.
Final score: Melancholy but unimpressed Brian Wilson
This was cool and weird. I really do wish I'd had more context about the world, though. I think you could have sacrificed some of the weirdness to give us just a little more information about why these young people (kids? teenagers?) are forced into becoming super soldiers.
You are good at writing believable kid voices. I'm thinking of your story Wingement from LEGO week. So that was cool.
I would legit read a longer short story about the atrocities committed/experienced by helmet-controlled underage super soldiers. It's not like it hasn't been done, but I think you have a good voice and a sardonic enough sense of humor that you could make it work. Good job.
Final Score: Fire hat Brian wilson
I would eat a hat if it meant I didn't have to read one more docking sequence/atmospheric entry in Thunderdome. But ok.
As soon as you mentioned an A.I., I knew we were gonna be dealing with an A.I. gone bad. Why didn't Ertie and Leah bolt back to the ship as soon as things started feeling weird? Why were they evidently the only people on the ship? Where there seriously only four people there? How does this station not have, I dunno, tech support to stop this kind of thing from happening? And then, to round off the tropes, one of the residents gets made into food. Kidney pie indeed.
The only one with any characterization is Ertie. Leah is just there to be the young person who survives. The other two characters are just there to be the hapless victims/people who give exposition on the A.I.. Ertie, at least, is sympathetic because she's behind the times but clearly very concerned for Leah. It actually felt in character for her to sacrifice herself to make sure Leah got away.
The Beatles reference makes me think that you weren't trying too hard with this one.
Final score: Disappointed-in-you Brian Wilson
This was another story that replaced the plot with tragedy. It's not badly written, but all that happens is: daughter comes home, has PTSD. Not much characterization beyond that. I guess maybe you're making some point about how simulated violence desensitizes kids, and meanwhile there are people out there being hosed up for life by war. Ok. That's a real thing that happens, but there needs to be a story. This is kind of a vignette in the life of a military family.
Final Score: Brian Wilson frowning at you in black and white
A dude recounts his wife's death after, presumably, he shoots himself in the head. Again, a tragedy is not a plot. Some of the writing feels more like a forums post than a story. Like: "As we dated, I learned she was an astronomy major. I was myself a biology major, but we both appreciated having someone to geek out to about science."
The murder itself seems really pointless, something straight out of a bad Batman adaptation.
And then the protagonist dies at the end. It's a fairly easy way to end a story, suicide. It's tragic and the narrator can think poignant thoughts or have their final doubts and then poof! The story is over without having to meaningfully resolve anything.
Final score: Brian Wilson not enjoying being touched by Sting
First off, regardless of whether my interpretation of your piece was correct, I thought you captured the mood of the song really well. Both are kind of poetically apocalyptic. TY for not disappointing me.
So I interpreted this as a take on the biblical apocalypse. I couldn't sort out whether the Lucky Hundred were supposed to be people surviving the tribulations, or the people left over after that, or what.
I thought Samantha was kind of a version of the Woman of the apocalypse. You call the beings outside of the house "Grand Host of Heaven," but I got the impression they were actually maybe like Lovecraftian beings returning to earth after to execute a long-term plan to make it their kingdom, or something.
The writing itself was great, and none of your phrasing was unclear...I just admittedly was second guessing whether I understood the story after I read it.
Final Score: Brian Wilson at the mixing board probably hearing the voice of god or some poo poo i don't even know
More in the next couple days as I come out of the brunch stupor that I'm currently in...
|# ? Dec 7, 2014 04:13|
"brunch stupor" being some kind of millennial code phrase for "high as gently caress"
|# ? Dec 7, 2014 11:53|
Mark Zak: Snow Job 1000 words
Mark cleared the countertop, trying not to barf. Two days ago there’d been a wicked kegger but now the hangover was kicking in. He emptied half a bottle of Cristal into a box of OJ and chugged it. The Zakphone rang.
“Dudebro you got a new assignment!” Carl yelled over speakerphone.
“It the cops again?”
“Naw, private job. Kidnapped retard or something. You better check these out.” A Facebook page opened up automatically.
“Ho-lee-poo poo…” A slideshow of D-cup beach pics took up the entire screen. Mark furrowed his brow, stopping the slideshow. Nose job, fake cans, no tan lines, real gold. This chick had money.
Mark mashed his truck’s remote start and heard the diesel rev up. Clouds of black smoke drifted past his kitchen window. He smirked and flexed his broceps, the smoketune wasn’t cheap.
“Yo Carl, send me the GPS bullshit.”
He missed the ski lodge on-ramp by a few hundred feet so he slammed the ebrake and ripped a pickle right across the ditch and into the opposing lane. A semi trailer honked and skidded into a Prius. Mark flipped them both off. He tore up the gravel road leaning on the horn the whole way before sliding into a handicap stall.
The D-cup brunette was waiting.
“Don’t you think you should pa-” she started.
“You wanna see your tard brother again or what?”
“I’m so glad you watched the video!” she said, eyes welling up with tears.
“I only saw two interesting things on that youtube bullshit,” he said, staring at her breasts, “but poo poo, I need a drink.”
She moved up real close, running her hand across Mark’s chinstrap beard.
“If you get my brother back maybe we can get a drink, maybe you’ll see some interesting things?”
Mark heard the hiss of a silenced submachine gun a split second before one of his truck’s tires exploded. He pushed the girl away, vaulting into the bed. Bullets lodged themselves into the armoured tailgate. He grabbed his duffel bag and snowboard then mashed the truck’s starter. Clouds of diesel poured out the oversized stacks creating a smokescreen.
“Fuckin’ run!” he yelled, but the girl was already gone.
He caught up with her at the ski lifts.
“The line’s huge! They’re gonna kill us!”
“Naw, watch this,” Mark said.
“Hey rear end in a top hat, my girl’s retard brother got stuck at the top of the hill so we need the next chair up.”
“You’ll have to wait in line, sir,” the acne ridden teen stammered.
“Like gently caress we do! You wanna be responsible for the death of some fuckin’ downs kid ‘cause he cracked his idiot skull on your hill? What if he chokes on a pinecone or something?”
The attendant tensed up and reached for his radio. Mark pushed two snowboarders out of the way and threw the girl onto the seat. The punks ran up and tried to pull him off, but he maced them both. He could hear ski patrol sirens as the lift carried them up.
“It’s this way,” she said, pointing with a ski pole, “They’re holding him at the old lodge way off the trails, I’ve only been there once before.” She pushed off down the hill and slalomed between the trees. Mark flipped his goggles down and followed.
He lost sight of her between the pines, but followed her tracks no problem. The hill here was silent, shielded from the noise and crowds of the resort. Mark contemplated her titties, jiggling beneath the tight fitting ski suit.
A rope went taught from between two trees, kicking up snow and hitting Mark square in the chest. He grabbed it and flipped himself over like a gymnast but way less gay, his Kevlar snowboard catching a barrage of bullets.
“IS VASILY!” shouted a large Slav with a badly scarred face. He dropped the gun to the ground and revved a snowmobile that lay hidden in a drift. The machine exploded out of the snow with the power of six hundred horses, the Slav grinned as he careened towards Mark.
Mark pushed off and ducked low, trying to gain as much speed as possible. He weaved tight through the trees, wishing that bitch could see him being totally boss. Vasily followed, not fazed in the slightest and using his considerable girth to steer the machine through impossibly tight corners.
Mark slipped his hand into his jacket and grasped the canister of mace. He aimed it directly behind him and squeezed the trigger. There was a weak hiss. He swore, chucking the canister aside. The motor whined more intensely now, a skid clipped the back of his board. He unclipped his emergency vodka and handed it to the Slav.
It was genetically impossible for Vasily to resist. He took the bottle and downed it in a few powerful gulps, the liquor taking effect almost immediately. Mark wove between two trees, narrowly skirting a ravine. Vasily was no longer in control of himself, the machine took the turn too wide. He gunned it and cranked the handlebars but only succeeded into putting himself into a flat spin. The machine flew off into the precipice, Mark heard it clip a tree. A muffled explosion sent bits of fibreglass and metal raining down into the snow.
Mark skidded to a stop just outside the lodge. No ski tracks meant he’d beat her here. He clipped himself free of the board and held it like a riot shield. With one powerful kick he knocked the door free of its hinges and stormed in.
“YOU FUCKERS GIVE UP THAT GOD DAMNED TARD RIGHT NOW!”
Something hit him in the back of the head.
When he came to the girl was standing over him, berretta aimed at his head. Her snowsuit was pulled down just enough to reveal a wool sweater tucked into leather trousers.
“I never even had a brother, you idiot.”
“Who…who are you working for?” he asked.
“Well that’s a good question, isn’t it!?”
|# ? Dec 7, 2014 14:39|
I'm out. I spent the most of Sunday doing a report for work and MS Word just ate the last 4 hours' worth of written stuff. I'm going to bed and continue that tomorrow because I like being paid.
|# ? Dec 7, 2014 14:49|
Less than 11 hours left!
|# ? Dec 7, 2014 18:21|
A thin man in a black tuxedo glided through the living room and into the kitchen. He swung open the liquor cabinet and mixed himself a Black Russian whilst whistling a tune from La Boheme.
“What a cold little hand! Let me warm it for you.” he exclaimed after grabbing his wife’s hand.
His wife snapped her hand back. “Don't be stupid Jerry.”
His wife stared coldly at their children and sighed. Her daughter sally flicked from channel to channel while johnny squealed and wriggled with an out stretched hand in protest.
The door bell rang and the man found his way swiftly across the room. “hello, welcome, welcome, how do you do?”
A stern looking old woman peered around the door and into the room beyond, “Mr Smith I presume. I'm Agatha Cumberbatch, where are the children?”
“Oh yes, they're just over in the living room watching television, I'm sorry to hurry but we're running late as it is. We must head off.”
Agatha gave a curt nod and headed with purpose into the living room and stood crookedly in front of the television. The children's heads simultaneously bent to the left following Wile E Coyote to his inevitable end.
“Excuse me, children!” exclaimed Agatha as she pulled the power cord mercilessly from the wall.
“That is enough, come over here and introduce yourselves to me.”
“My name is Sally and I'm 9 and a half and this is my brother Johnny, and he's an idiot. Who are you and why did you turn off the television?”
“Listen to me young lady, your parents have left me in charge and I wont put up with any nonsense. Now sit down at that table while I organize an activity for you both.”
Johnny looked forlornly back at the television as him and his sister made their way to the table. He knew that the wild bunch was on soon.
“Your tiny nimble fingers are much better suited to the tricky bits than mine” Agatha decreed as the children got started on their task.
Johnny clumsily threaded a needle pricking himself and drawing blood immediately. “How long until we can watch television?” Johnny cried out
Agatha who had made herself a drink was sitting comfortably in the living room with her back turned to the children.
“I'm just getting a plaster” Johnny said in his sweetest voice. Agatha said nothing. Johnny carried his chair to the kitchen where the medicine cupboard was. He then grabbed two green sticking plasters and four blue pills that were covered in glad wrap. His mother usually took two at a time when she wanted to go to sleep so four would certainly work. He bobbed down below the kitchen bench and began crushing the pills with his palm until they were powder. He then scraped it together in a pile and scooped the majority up into his hand.
“You're an idiot.” whispered sally as johnny crept past her heading for Agatha. Johnny crept towards the old lady as silently as he could. His heart began to race from the excitement. Agatha was so focused on her knitting that she didn't even notice johnny slip the powder into her drink and before long she was out like a light.
Johnny glided through the living room and into the kitchen. He swung open the liquor cabinet emulating his father. “What a cold hand!” He sung mockingly as he poured himself a Black Russian.
Johnny sipped at his drink and felt very satisfied with himself. A wave of euphoria began to wash over him. He sat down and as he stared at his sister Sally flicking from channel to channel he began to scheme. He would never be able to watch the wild bunch while Sally was around but with her out of the picture he would have complete freedom.
Johnny grabbed a handful of wool that was in Agatha's lap and wrapped it tightly around his hands. He crept towards Sally and flung his hands in front of her neck and pulled back as hard as he could. Sally reacted quickly to the attack ,however, and held the remote up taking some of the pressure off her neck. The two children fell backwards violently. Sally screamed and flailed her head around smashing Johnny in the face and causing his nose to bleed. He relaxed his choke hold and Sally broke free. “You stupid idiot!” She screamed kicking him repeatedly. Johnny reached around for anything near him that he could swing at Sally. Her kicks became harder and Johnny started to feel woozy. Sally jumped on top of him. “You idiot! You idiot!” She was wilder than he had ever seen her. Johnny felt the cold surface of Agatha's empty glass that had fallen to the ground during the fight. He grasped it tight in his hand and swung it at Sally's head. The glass smashed on impact, knocking Sally out and cutting Johnny's hand. He lay back exhausted from the fight. “I did it! The television is mine!”
|# ? Dec 7, 2014 21:30|
Amber (1000 words)
The sign said ‘A Better Future’ and I wondered for the first time if it was a lie. I was coming to Cape Canaveral as a passenger, and as I joined the milling horde inside I was nervous. But Jane was beside me, and that was a comfort.
“Relax, Craig.” She took and squeezed my hand. “We’re going to be fine.”
“I know,” I said and ran my other hand through my hair. “But there’s got to be a reason all those protesters are outside. Maybe they’re right.”
She laughed softly. “For gently caress’s sake Craig, you would have quit years ago if you ever really believed that.”
I loved the way she swore. It surprised me every time, despite all the years. And she was right. I wouldn’t have worked here for so many years if I’d known that it was wrong. But knowing isn’t the same as thinking, or suspecting.
I wasn’t sure, and I looked around rather than responding. The place was teeming with people from everywhere in the world. It looked like an airport, one of the really big pre-war ones. Shuttles left every few minutes, but it took months to fill the ships we ancients were sent away on.
We were moving at a steady clip though, and in no time we’d reached the front. My colleague and best friend Marty was at the gate, wearing the ridiculous orange tie I’d bought him a century ago when ties were in fashion. He smiled at me, but it was a strained smile. “You should have run, buddy. You know we would have helped you hide. It seems like only yesterday you were showing me the ropes.”
“Marty, if you think we would run then I’m still showing you the ropes.” Jane and I held out our phones for Marty and the last of our earthly lives was deleted with a tap on his console. I felt hollow, but Jane let out a sob and I held her until she was done. Marty gave us the time. He was a good man.
“It’s okay, Jane.“ I said. “This isn’t the end. We’ll have contact with home for a few months yet.” She said nothing, just held me tighter.
Marty nodded at me, tears in his eyes. “See you out there one day, Craig.” I forced a grin and hugged him over the counter. I remembered when he joined as a fresh-faced 20-year-old, and now his great-grandkids were having babies. It wouldn’t be too long before he headed out himself.
“See you soon buddy,” I muttered.
We went through the security gate, never to return.
The shuttles we rode in were sturdy things that seated 50 or so in neat rows of racing chairs, an ancient strapped into each one. Jane was to my left and that’s all that mattered. After a few hours a nurse came round and put us all into hibernation. As the slidedeck had explained, the shuttles couldn’t carry enough food and water and air to keep us all awake the whole time. So we would sleep long enough to reach the ship, and then stay awake until we left the system.
Turned out that was a lie.
I woke up and I couldn’t move. I felt the hungriest I’ve ever felt, and as thirsty as a desert. Everything had an orange tinge, from the orange bulkheads to the orange steel floors, and I looked around for Jane, straining my eyes as my head was held in place. I caught a glimpse of her to my left and my heart slowed. She opened her eyes as I watched and went through the same panic. Her mouth was wide open and she too was tinged with orange. “Hey tiger,” I said.
Or tried to. My mouth, my throat, everything was full of stuff, and I panicked again.
She held me in her eyes and watched me unblinkingly, and somehow that calmed me. But something must have gone wrong. Why didn’t they wake us up? We were supposed to be fed in hibernation, not just shoved in orange goop and left to rot.
At that moment the pressure around us began to lessen, and I could hear a sucking noise. Excruciating, terrifying minutes later, I could move, and I clambered forward to Jane. We held each other there and coughed up our guts – a sticky orange slime mixed with bile and blood. We’d been reengineered to be tough, but was this the reason?
After a while we could talk, but it turned out we had very little to say to each other. We’d survived and we had each other. We were alone in the room, and we sat there awaiting our fate. We’d both lived long enough to not bother speculating. It felt like hours sitting there, but there was no escape. The walls were smooth and uniform, and the floor and ceiling were the same steel plates.
That is, until a section of the room slid away, and Marty stepped in. He had a bizarre-looking phone in his hands and one of his eyes was missing, a ragged scar covering the socket. He was still wearing that stupid tie, but it was cased in plastic now, frayed and torn and with scorch marks at the base.
“Finally!” He grinned. “You have no idea what I’ve been through to find you guys. You were on the last ship sent, you know. They tried to scramble your destination, but we tracked you down. We’ve been looking for all of you for ages now. God knows what they intended, but they sent the ships to all the nearby systems and just landed them on the nearest rocky planet. Didn’t wake anyone, or do anything. You’ve been encased in that poo poo for centuries.” He paused. “But you probably don’t care about that. Come with me. Let’s get some food into you.”
We followed him out into the daylight of a new world, our time in amber finally over.
|# ? Dec 7, 2014 21:30|
Here lies 'Feedback'
It had a boring opening.
Entenzahn fucked around with this message at 02:15 on Dec 31, 2014
|# ? Dec 7, 2014 21:53|
Frozen Apple Red
997 words. Prompt: Jack Rose
It just wasn't the same.
I couldn't place it. The way the soft ambers seemed to warp the deep reds. Or maybe the way that it just didn't seem to settle in my eye.
I put the palette down on the table and stepped away from the canvas. In front of me I could see blue hills against a red alien sky. In the foreground was a man in shining silver and one of those old astronaut helmets, ray gun pointed up and body in pose. Why do sci-fi heroes have those old helmets, when their suits are nothing like an actual suit? And how would a ray gun even work in a heavy environment that could diffuse the beam?
No. Don't lose track. Just paint.
But that sky. That awful, orange-red sky. It taunted me with how simply wrong it was. Was it the way the paint lay thick enough to cast shadows? Was it how it just never seemed to shade correctly?
I need to get out of this apartment, I told myself. I made a call to my publisher, put on my coat and made my way down the street. The November chill roared at me head on, making my face sting and eyes water in response. It wasn't much of a walk, I told myself as I continued to trudge forward in the wind.
I finally pulled aside into a small cafe a few blocks down as the owner of the place gave me a smile and a wave. I sat down and waited as the owner came over with some sandwiches and coffee. I'd been enough of a customer to not even need to order anymore.
The bell above the door rang again and Ruth stepped inside, her brunette hair done in a bun that rested against the fake-fur lining of her old parka. She spotted me and made her way over quickly, curtly. I could tell that she was at the end of her rope dealing with the upcoming annual and that my call hadn't helped her disposition much.
“So, what is this about?” She asked, waving to the owner. She'd been in here a lot as well.
“It just doesn't look right,” I said, taking a bite of my sandwich. Ham, mayo, slight bit of hot sauce. Familiar. Good.
Ruth sighed and hung her head. “Look, we'll both go up and see what it looks like. Hopefully that can give one of us some idea of what needs to happen to get this cover ready.”
Another bite. “After lunch. I haven't had anything to eat today.”
“You keep running yourself ragged like this, and it's easy to see why you can't get it right,” She said, leaning back as her own order came forward. We ate in silence after that, another unremarkable day settled on top of mutual worry.
We made our way back up to my small apartment, opening up the door into a room on the edge of chaos. Around my work desk there were books upon books scattered. Reference material strewn about or pinned up on walls. Only with a guest did I really notice just how messy I'd let it get.
She moved wordlessly towards the easel, tucked away in a corner with a long-necked light hanging over it. She'd turn on the light. Then she just stood there. Staring. Judging, taking in each stroke and splash, each color. I moved to the kitchen to bring a pot of water to boil.
I poured a cup and headed back into the front when she turned around to look at me. “I don't see the problem.”
She couldn't be serious. It was right there! “The sky is off,” I told her, holding back my consternation. “It doesn't look right.”
Ruth took another look at the painting then looked at me with that gaze you see when you're afraid someone is losing their minds. “It's kind of thick, but that makes for a decent effect.”
“It still isn't right,” I defended myself, handing her a cup of tea that she promptly set aside and forgot about. I took my seat in front of the easel and fixed my eyes on the alien landscape once more.
“It's this new paint,” I explained, holding up my palette to show her the offending mixture. “They didn't have the usual brand that I buy, so I've had to use some substitute and mix it together. As you can see, it's not right.”
Ruth gave me that look again and shook her head. “I can see your point,” She started.
“I sense a 'but' in there,” I cut her off. Her body tensed, uncomfortable with being interrupted. I let her go on.
“It's just what we need. I know you see something wrong here but it shouldn't be stopping you dead like this.”
I wanted to show her the paint again, try to get her to understand. She continued, “Right now I'm two stories, a fanletter page and a cover away from the next issue. We have a week before the printers start talking about pushing back dates.”
That explained why she was in enough of a hurry to meet with me. I looked back at that painting, back at that rose-colored sky that taunted my gall to use something different.
And it looked so small now.
I nodded and looked back up at Ruth. “Let me put the final touches on it,” I told her. “I can have the digital scan to you by the time you get back to the office.”
She smiled that small, modest smirk of triumph. “That's more like it,” She said, turning to head out of the apartment. “I'm holding you to that promise.” The door clicked shut, leaving me alone again with the painting. I readied the finishing brush, smelled the fumes of the gloss, and looked at the painting.
It just wasn't the same. And that was fine.
|# ? Dec 7, 2014 21:53|
The Orange Tundra
Those cheap plastic schoolbus windows never worked. Half the students were going to catch cold or get frostbitten or something if Danny couldn’t yank it shut. He’d already embarrassed his son, Matthew, by piling extra coats and hats onto him to keep the boy warm; Matthew’s face burned bright red and he looked like a hermit crab sticking out from a lumpy shell. With a final heave, Danny slid the squeaky window up and closed, but the effort unbalanced him and he slammed face first into the plastic hard enough to leave a quickly-freezing spot of blood from his nose. The kids laughed. Another typical Mr. Hill goof up. Matthew burrowed deeper under the coats in shame.
Danny accepted the driver’s offered napkin and wedged it up his nose. Not too bad. He looked to the back of the bus to see if Mary, the parent volunteer, had noticed and laughed along with the kids. But she was caught up in separating a rambunctious pair of boys driven to violence by the long and cold drive into the Canadian tundra.
A year after their first meeting at the parent-teacher association, Mary could still knock Danny off course and leave him floating in her eyes like a hopeless castaway. Staring at those hazelnut eyes and her warm, dark skin made him feel as if gravity were fading.
“Mr. Hill?” a female student asked. Danny didn’t hear her. He felt light on his feet as he watched Mary laugh and pull the combative boys apart once again.
At that moment the bus driver came around a corner and found traffic at a standstill and mashed on the brakes hard enough to lift Danny into the air. The bus stopped all around him and he tumbled forward until he wound up in the stairwell by the door, confused about which way was up and why one of his legs was behind his head.
By the time he sprung up again, the kids were roaring with glee and even Mary couldn’t suppress a smile. The driver parked them along the
side of the road. Hikers from other vehicles were heading up the ridge to get a view of the spectacle that the class had come to witness. Heavy cloud cover and the thin mist lingering at the top of the ridge hid the sun and made telling the time of day impossible.
“Okay, kids,” Danny said, “now that the, uh, show’s over, let’s go for the hike.” Danny made brief eye contact with his poor son, the only student not laughing at the hijinks.
“Count off as you come out,” he said and stepped out. The children debussed in relative order. They chirped and chattered with one another and pulled their colorful down jackets tight as they left the heated interior and felt the cold wind blast them. Mary stepped out behind the last straggler.
“None of the the munchkins jumped out the windows, huh? Boy would I be in trouble!” Danny said to her and did his best to smile normally.
“What?” Mary replied. “Oh, um, no. Everyone’s here. We’re very excited. Thank you for setting this up. Hey, Tyrone, stop that!” She returned his smile and hurried to her son, who had already joined Matthew in some puddle-splashing mischief. Danny shook his head in self-disgust. He always said something stupid around her.
He corralled the children and once they’d been arranged in a single file line, indicated the misty ridge, peppered by brightly-dressed hikers. “Let’s go.”
He took the lead and marched them to the head of the trail. They were all eager to get to the top and see the strange phenomena beyond, but Danny kept them at an easy pace for the long climb.
When they weren’t far from the summit, Matthew and Tyrone began a race to the top. “Hold on!” Danny cried and tried to hurry after them, but he lost his footing and slipped into a patch of mud. Of course, he thought. Mary noticed.
But once Matthew and Tyrone arrived, they stood transfixed along with the rest of the hikers. Danny and the class, and Mary of course, caught up with them at the peak.
Stretching off to the horizon before them lay the orange tundra, the sight that drew crowds to the remote north since its discovery a few months ago. A luminescent orange fog hung over the ground in the valley, swirling here and there, little eddies spinning and disappearing.
“What is it, Mr. Hill?”
Without taking his eyes off the golden glow, he said: “Nobody knows yet. See those tents down there? They’re full of scientists. Trying to learn about it. Where it came from... what it means.”
They paused for a while, even the rowdiest in the class enchanted by the otherworldly sight. No one spoke. A miniature tornado in the mist swirled up in the distance for a moment and subsided.
“What I think, though,” Danny said, “is that as winter comes, and as our part of the Earth begins to tilt away from the sun, the land is storing up extra sunset for itself, so that it can pass the winter in an eternal twilight. There’s a line in Ulysses, about the ‘meeting of the rays’ of sunlight. That’s where we are now, I think. Where all the rays end up. It’s like time has frozen, if only up here. Everything these days is in such a rush. Out here, there’s a calm. It soothes your spirit. And here, the world has locked itself into the most magical time of day: sunset, when there’s still time for anything to happen, when wishes come true, when lovers kiss, when the nights you remember for the rest of your life begin.”
Some of the children gave him funny looks, some ignored him, but Mary met his eyes and her glittering teeth shone bright in the gray day. She didn’t say anything, not then. But she held his gaze. And he knew.
|# ? Dec 7, 2014 22:48|
A Public Service Announcement: Loose Lips Sink Ships
“Agent Orange, quickly, you must help the children find out where their wholesome American beef and pork come from,” said Chief Commander John F. Canned-Peas.
“That’s an affirmative. I’m initiating Operation: Ranch Hand,” said Robert Steinberg into the phone. He leaned to the side to replace the phone. What was usually a simple task now required elaborate choreography. Robert leaned too far and his high-center of gravity made him tip over. The orange padding softened the fall as the director of cinematography shouted cut.
Stagehands reset the scene and Steinberg, dressed as a giant orange wearing a trench coat and trilby, repeated his line. The costume only exposed his arm past the elbow and Steinberg struggled to replace the phone on the receiver. A hangover exacerbated everything. He let the phone fall to the desk. It bounced to the side and fell. It dangled on its cord as the director of photography shouted for the second time, “Cut.” Robert sighed.
After 11 unsuccessful takes, Robert finally accomplished this simple task. He began to walk off set as stagehands prepared the barn scene.
Robert walked towards his assistant who began peeling off the costume. Stage lights caused Robert to be drenched in sweat. He gagged at the stench from the costume. His formerly dull nausea took on renewed vigor as Robert raced to the bathroom.
“Christ, Bobby, have you considered not drowning yourself in liquor the night before shooting?” asked Peter Abelson, the project’s producer whose position with the studio was secured only through nepotism.
“Have you considered not seducing high school kids into your lovely car?” asked Robert.
“So moody today,” Peter said. He placed a piece of notebook paper on the sink, “I need you to finish this.”
“What is this, an outline? You were supposed to prepare an entire treatment!”
“I’ve got stuff to do. Just finish it up and maybe I’ll remember you when I hit the big times.”
“Making PSAs for the Department of Education is not the way to get onto Universal’s short list, especially when you don’t actually do anything. This town’s got plenty of ‘Big Ideas’ guys.”
“Yeah, but none of them got a smart Jew writer as desperate as mine.”
Peter reached out to pinch Robert’s cheek. Robert swatted the hand away. Peter left with what Robert thought was the smuggest grin he had ever seen. Robert yelled out after him, “You could at least give me a writing credit you little poo poo!” He dried his hands and picked up the piece of paper. The goyim gave me five loving sentences to work with, Robert thought, I deserve better than this. But he didn’t leave the restroom without the paper.
Down at the club, Robert sat with sheets of empty paper in front of him, a Perrier at his side, and a newspaper in his hands. The headline ominously declared: “Vietnam War Escalates, More Soldiers to Be Drafted.” Robert, busy feeling indignant about America’s actions in Asia, did not notice the beautiful woman taking the seat opposite him at the table.
“Hey stranger, got a light?” she asked. A cigarette rested between her smooth fingers and painted nails.
Putting down the paper, Robert opened and closed his lips while he struggled to come up with something to say.
“Is that a yes or no?” the woman asked. Robert retrieved his lighter and fumbled to open it. After Robert finally managed to light the cigarette, the woman took a deep drag and exhaled smoke rings. “You’re Robert Steinberg, right? You work for one of Norm Abelson’s golden boys.”
Robert failed to hide the surprise and the disgust on his face. “I work with his nephew, not for him.”
“Rumor is you’re starring in his new production, some sort of government project. Maybe you could buy me a drink and we could talk about it.”
Robert wondered who would be talking up this new project, but decided not to question providence. He left the table and returned with a martini and Perrier. “Nothing for you,” she asked.
“No,” he said, remembering the bender from last night. He’d had more than enough to drink for the month. But, he thought, his quota for waking up beside beautiful women could use some work.
Robert talked at length about the project. He was happy to have such a receptive listener and one who seemed to share his enthusiasm for himself.
“So, Peter Abelson comes up with the ideas and you just flesh them out?”
Tired of playing second fiddle to a spoiled brat, Robert nearly shouted, “I’m the guy behind it all. I come up with all the ideas. I’m the one who decides what makes it to screens across America! I’m in charge, not Peter Abelson!”
“That’s very interesting,” is all she said to that. She stood from the table, “Excuse me, I need to powder my nose.” Robert leaned back in his seat, satisfied with fictional importance he bestowed upon himself.
Two large gentlemen wearing ill-fitting black suits approached Robert. “Sir, you need to come with us.”
“We’re with the Department of Defense. You need to come with us.”
They escorted Robert outside where he saw his female companion leaning into a limousine window speaking to somebody. She looked up to the two gentleman and nodded her head. They then dragged Robert to the limo and shoved him inside where he found a military general bedecked in medals and a soldier holding a pistol.
“W-what’s happening? What is all this?” Robert stammered.
“Shut up! Tell me who you work for!” yelled the general.
“Liar!” The general smacked him.
“We know you grandfather’s from Berlin. Who’s your contact there?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m just an actor!”
“You Communists disgust me. Who told you about Operation Ranch Hand, who told you about our herbicidal warfare program? Who told you about Agent Orange?!”
Robert could only think about the gigantic orange suit reeking of body odor. Then he vomited.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 00:10|
Sundowner - rum, pineapple juice, and bitters
Victoria could see the contract on the other side of the cruise ship dining room, across the tables filled with the newly wed and the nearly dead. Her little black cocktail dress stood out among the pastel ruffles of the elderly and the off-the-rack numbers of the honeymooners. She felt like an expensive hooker in a cheap hotel bar.
As always she’d received a manila folder with nothing but a photo and an address. She matched the photo exactly, right down to the tufts of facial hair, the too-shiny costume jewellery and the prominent wart on her nose. She was sitting with a couple, holding the lady’s spray tanned wrist and tracing her palm with a fingernail. Why anyone would want to kill a crone shyster like her, a mere cruise ship entertainer, she had no idea. Much less why they’d pay what her employers charged. Still, it wasn’t for her to care. She only had a few left before retirement.
All of a sudden the contract stopped and furrowed her brow, then turned and looked directly at Victoria. The couple leaned in, worried about their life lines. Victoria’s face remained calm. There was no way she could know, and she knew she was convincing when she played it off like she was watching the band. Still, she couldn’t help feeling she’d been sprung.
Victoria set an alarm for 3 am. Tomorrow there was a stop at St Maarten, a chance for the contract to escape. Tonight was the night. She wasn’t happy that circumstance had decided the time for the kill, but you couldn’t always expect to be in charge in this business.
She slept terribly and dreamed of contracts past. They’d never been anything but marks on a ledger before, but that night for the first time they played on the backs of her eyelids. There were dozens, sad and faded, but a few stood out. There was Mousey, she’d hosed up and given him time to beg. She heard him still crying about his kids. Then there was Egashira, she’d had to suffocate him with a pillow when she’d dropped her knife. His last breath had sworn revenge, and here he swore it again a hundred times over. Dozens more echoes from her past drifted through her slumber.
She woke in a cold sweat, still dressed from earlier, ready to act. As she made her way through the cramped crew quarters she was stopped by a sailor emerging drunk from a cabin.
“What you doing, babe? You know you gotta pay for your drinks in crew?”
“Sorry. The drummer from the band told me to meet him down here.”
“Jason, you lucky sonofabitch. Down that way on the left.” She winced as he stumbled off, but the sea was loud enough that she didn’t think they’d have alerted the contract. Besides, where was the old woman going to go exactly?
She found the right door and picked the flimsy lock in seconds and readied her stiletto. In one fluid, silent movement she slipped into the room and closed the door behind her.
It only took a few seconds for her eyes to adjust, and as soon as she could make out the body she pounced, driving the stiletto into the place where the head meets the back of the neck. Or at least should, as instead of the satisfying click of a thin blade separating vertebrae she felt only the hollow pop of cotton being pierced. Then the lights came on, and she heard a door swing open behind her.
The contract had stuffed herself into the tiny cabin wardrobe. She held a silenced pistol, with long red fingernail on the trigger.
“How did you know?” Asked Victoria in a whisper.
“You know it as well as I do honey,” she said in a deep Caribbean patois, “it came from the spirits.”
Victoria waited for a few heartbeats. The woman was waiting for an answer. “So you can you tell the future, can you?
“Ain’t no-one who can tell the future, honey. I just talk with dem who passed.” She smirked, jutting her grotesque and hairy chin.” Oh you don’t believe me? Den answer me a question, would ya? What’s my name?”
Victoria had no option but to keep her talking. Perhaps she’d make a mistake. “I don’t know your name. I don’t know any of the names of my contracts. What does it matter to me what your names are?”
“Well what about Mousey then? What about Egashira? You get their names when you done em in?” The smirk broke into a horrible grin. “Or did dey introduce themselves tonight? I tell you honey, I done some bad things in my time. You wouldn’t be here if I ain’t. There’s a lot of dead folk who wanna make it real tough for me when it’s my time, that’s the truth. That’s why I ain’t done myself years back.”
She paused for another few seconds, and the grin turned into a piteous frown.
“But I ain’t got nothin’ on you. The spirits, hoo boy, dey bay for your blood. I tell you honey, you wanna stay alive as long as you can. You wanna give dem spirits a chance to forget what you done to ‘em. And you sure as hell don’t wanna make a spirit outta me. You live a thousand years, I ain’t ever forget.”
Victoria looked back at the Woman. “So we make a deal. We both get off tomorrow. You disappear, I tell my employers you’re dead. Neither of us have to run, neither of us have to face… whatever I saw tonight.”
The crone’s wizened face softened again as she mulled over the proposition, and the gun lowered slightly. That was all it took. She didn’t even get to squeeze off a round before Victoria had snapped her neck.
I’ll take my chances with the spirits, she thought, and counted one more contract off her ledger.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 00:20|
Hashing the Killtag
I sat in the darkness of the tiny room, poking at the device. The clock was counting down. Thirty seconds.
“How do you work this drat thing?” I couldn't see any buttons: just the flat glare of a screen. Twenty seconds. I flipped it over and tore off the back. Ten. I took a sip from my glass. Five. I furrowed my brow. Three; two; oh, hell. I drew my pistol and blasted the smartphone into scrap. A klaxon blared. The lights thumped on. The speakers crackled. “Mission failed.”
The door slid open. K entered the cramped testing chamber, striding across the tiles with the confident air only desk jockeys could manage. “That was awful, Smythe. You won't remain a double-oh agent if you can't unlock a phone.”
I drained the martini. “I deactivated the bloody target, K. Mission accomplished.”
K sighed, fussing with his dinner jacket. It was slightly too small for him. Our top scientist couldn't discover his own chest size. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, and held it in front of my face. “Do you see this, hmm?” I did. It was like all the others. Letters, numbers and exotic punctuation scrolled across my vision. “This 'tweet',” said K, “contains viral Chechen terrorist memes. You didn't stop it in time. If this weren't a training scenario, they would now be loose. The physical phone,” he said, slowly, “is not the priority. You can't just shoot it.”
I slipped my hipflask from my right shirt pocket. “Still, that's one phone that won't be twitting terror men again.”
Before I could take a swig, K yanked the flask from my hand. “Maybe you're just too old for this.”
“Like hell I am. I'm the best agent you've got.”
“Sadly true.” He sat down opposite me and tossed a file onto the table. There was a photo: a young man staring into a phone. His ridiculous goatee screamed 'international villain'. “The target calls himself '@Chaos' on the dark Twittersphere,” said K. “His organisation plans to post a series of coded hashtags that will detonate a dirty bomb inside the internet.”
I reached into my left shirt pocket and pulled out another hipflask. “That sounds... bad?”
“Very bad.” He snatched the second hipflask and tossed it away. “Paid for by Uighur separatists. It'll irradiate every computer in the world.”
“Why? And how?”
“Does it bloody well matter, Smythe? Just stop that tweet. Your flight is in fifteen minutes.”
I flicked through the file. “Where's the ticket?”
“It's on your phone.”
Despite an argument at the checkin desk and two injured flight marshals I made it to China, which was apparently where all the cutting-edge things went to happen. The co-ordinates were for a bar in a gentrified part of Shanghai, with lots of bright new skyscrapers and impressive panoramic views. I decided to take a stealthy approach, so I ploughed through the wall in my Aston Martin DB7-12 with the Corinthian leather. I stepped out past fallen masonry and crushed hipsters. Drawing my gun, I grabbed a survivor and pressed it to his temple. “Talk! Where's the command centre?”
There was a cough behind me. “I think there's an app for that.” I dropped the worthless mook and spun towards the voice. It was @Chaos alright, perched on a bar stool and surrounded by computers. He held his iPhone 7 with crystal finish aloft like a detonator. “Don't do anything crazy, man. I'm livestreaming right now.”
“I don't know what that means,” I said. “Why do this? I've dealt with some terrible plots in my life but this is the worst.”
He tilted his head quizzically, his lanky hair piling up on his shoulder. “...what?”
“Don't play games with me. MI6 knows all about about your dirty bomb out there on the interweb. Who are you working for? The Uighur Front? The People's Army of Uighurstan? Chinese double agents? Who?”
“I have no idea what you're talking about.”
“Of course not,” I said. “Your reign of Twitter terror is over.”
“Hey,” he said, “I don't work for anyone. I just run a coffee shop in Camden. Giving oppressed peoples retweets isn't loving terrorism.”
“It is when you're using it to irradiate every computer on earth.”
“When I'm what? Man, that isn't how computers-”
“Spare me the 'why I did it' speech,” I said. “I don't give a drat. Just hand over the phone. You're not sending out that tweet.”
The terrorist brandished it like a pistol. “You're too late, secret agent. All ready to go. I just need to press a button.”
I pulled out a third hipflask and took a swig of the crisp Absolut vodka inside. I felt young again. I took aim and pulled my patented wry grin. “In that case, I'll have to take you down...load.”
“That doesn't make any sense-”
I fired. The first shot disintegrated his state of the art phone, available from all good retailers. The glittering fragments scattered in slow motion. The second struck a computer screen, which fizzed disappointingly.
“'Share' that,” I said.
“Christ, dude, that's even worse-”
I fired again. I turned around and walked away. The job was done, but one thing was missing. I had some timed mines in the back of the car. I could still exit like a professional.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 00:45|
How would I describe Oma? Batshit insane is the best descriptor I can come up with, but even that doesn’t do it justice.
The house often looked like a hurricane had ran through it. Mom and Danielle’s tampons would be strewn around the living room and kitchen. Oh, and the spaghetti and stew that would be left over in pots and pans for days to rot, attracting hordes of flies.
The flies must have loved us, seeing Oma as some benevolent God that brought the rotten harvest. When we ran out of toilet paper, for example, she kept a bucket of washrags in the bathroom that we all had to use and rinse. The flies really liked that one.
Danielle stayed in her room all day, knitting most of her wardrobe. That girl could and would loving knit, because it was cheaper than buying ready made clothes. Hats, scarves, pants, panties, sweaters, you name it she made it herself. All of her pocket change was spent on yarn to clothe herself with.
I, on the other hand, was content to just laze about in filthy, rancid clothes for days. And why wouldn’t I be? Oma’s lifestyle made it easy to get used to filth.
Now, I gotta admit, I’m to blame as well. I squandered most of my SSI checks on lotto tickets and steam, but they felt like my only escape from life with Oma. It’s not like I got to see most of my checks, anyway. Oma took over six-hundred of my seven-hundred dollars every month.
The worst thing I remember about Oma, however, was how she screamed. She called the house a shithole, and blamed everyone, excepting herself, for it. Whenever someone tried to clean or tidy the place, however, she screamed at them for doing a subpar job of it and told them to gently caress off.
Oma loved telling people to gently caress off, next only to calling people shitheads.
The lagoon wasn’t too far from our house, and I would walk there every day. Walks helped me cope with the lovely living conditions, and Danielle would often join me on them. She mostly did it to keep herself from stabbing someone with a knitting needle, although she liked my company as well.
“Take the garbage out, shithead!” was the sound that that fateful day.
As I tugged the maggot-infested trash out of the house, I felt overcome by a need to go for a walk. I could hear Oma bumbling about outside, breaking a few cups in the process and screaming at mom about it.
As I walked back up from taking out the trash, I slipped into my wet shoes to travel down to the lagoon. Oma screamed at mom and mom tried to reason with Oma as I just slipped out of there.
The water of the lagoon shined a bright blue as I approached it. Almost content with how my day was shaping up, I couldn’t help but sing a little tune to myself.
“If I needed someone to love, you’re the one that’d I’d be thinking of.”
Then, from the shoreline, I heard an unexpected reply.
“If I needed someone.”
I didn’t know what to think. Danielle wasn’t around, but I swore I heard a female voice sing along with me. On a hunch, I continued singing.
“If I had some more time to spend…”
“Then I guess I’d be with you my friend.”
While this was a bit freaky, I couldn’t help but find it kinda cool. Someone on the shoreline must have been a Beatles fan to have known that song. The fact that they were a girl also helped reassure my confidence. Wearing dirty clothing tends to not attract the ladies.
I climbed the embankment to see who my singing buddy was. As I approached the water’s edge, I saw her.
A woman floated happily in the water, a wide smile on her beautiful, pale face. I walked up to her, my confidence melting away.
Her singing echoed in my ears as she pushed away from the shoreline, deeper into the blue waves. Although I felt nervous, I poked a tentative toe into the water as the woman beckoned me to follow. It was then I knew what to do.
The solution to my life’s problems was right in front of me, swaying in the waves. No more Oma, no more filth, no more lotto tickets or Counter-strike. All that would be left for me would be simple bliss.
I didn’t have to think twice as I jumped headfirst into the waves. That’s when everything went to poo poo.
I felt the water turn boiling hot as the woman raced back to me, her beautiful gaze replaced with the wrinkled, spiteful face of Oma.
“Stupid rear end in a top hat,” she hissed as I dodged her tackle.
This mutant version of Oma grew more disgusting by the minute. I gawked at her aged body becoming ever more wrinkled and skeletal. Despite this, she vigorously attempted to tackle and drown me.
Her next tackle connected. I felt trapped in Oma’s chokehold as she began to descend into the waters with me.
Oma howled in pain as I felt her grip loosen. I made a hasty retreat to the shoreline, unable to fully comprehend what had happened.
When I came back home, the place was swarmed by EMTs. It didn't take me more than a second to know what had happened as they carried out the bodybag.
The house shaped up after that. Eventually we drove the flies and roaches out, and we’re more or less happy now.
Even with Oma gone, I still like to go on walks around the lagoon’s shoreline. I had long since dismissed the demonic Oma encounter as a vivid mirage, but that changed today.
There, embedded in the sand, was a bloodied knitting needle.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 01:10|
Karoshi (434 words - Harvey Wallbanger)
His toes sink into the wet sand. Salt stings his nostrils; peppers his hair. Water snakes down his back like the first caresses of a nervous lover. I nibble my fingertips, though not from the hunger.
He does not know that I exist.
I wonder if he exists.
Another wave comes crashing down.
Stubbornly he gets back up. His eyes blink uncontrollably, stalwart marauders opposing his quest for mastery. I delay the next wave so I can take a closer look.
The stormclouds part and the moon grows larger. His naked body is lean but muscular; the kind you'd see on a classical Greek sculpture, except with wavy blond hair. Because I am capricious, he has several scars. It pleases me to know that he is not ashamed of them. My time with him is the only thing that has been pleasing, lately.
He whispers her name, though he knows he will never see her again. I wince. The room wobbles.
A boulder pulls free from the cliff at his back, glancing his shoulder. He stumbles at the unexpected impact, but he does not cry out even as his nerves scream their displeasure. Salt mixes with blood, but the fire kindling his veins is smothered by the tungsten of his will.
One hundred waves. No matter what.
His skin is cold and clammy and his throat aches for the water he refuses to drink. He will not count waves that don't reach his torso, so there he has stood since morning. He has thirty-seven left to go. The force of his determination captivates me, but his predicament pains me.
Who am I to cause him such agony, when he has done nothing to deserve it? I must find some way to reward him, though Edward insists this be a tragedy. The suffering is intolerable. I know that I should sleep, but I can't bear the thought of leaving him injured and alone. I, too, will persevere.
"What will you tell her next of kin?"
"Heart attack. Malnutrition. Exhaustion. Kids these days work themselves too hard."
"You don't think it was suicide?"
"No. We found a tape of her notes. Most of it had recorded over itself, but the last bit survived."
"What a shame. She was so young."
Harvey stood on the porch, watching his grandchildren play in the sand. Sylvia sat behind him, admiring the scars on his arms. Each one had a story behind it, and she never tired of hearing them.
She never could figure out what she'd done to deserve such a perfect partner, but she was grateful nonetheless.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 01:10|
One moment of carelessness and suddenly I’m stranded in an arctic wasteland. The old fogeys at the tavern warned me, told me the dogs would keep going with or without me once they were deep into the run. I bet they’ll all have a good laugh at my expense when an empty sled passes through town. For now, all I need to do is follow the sled tracks east and I’ll be okay.
The snow is deeper than I thought. The drat dogs left me without snowshoes and now each step may as well be uphill. That’s alright, the wind has picked up and the struggle will keep me warm. I can’t wait to fling open the tavern door and share a laugh with the veterans about this venture.
The wind has become unforgiving. It sails through me and chills my bones. The sled tracks have already been filled in by gusts of loose snow. Luckily, my jacket held a small compass to guide me through the rest of the journey. Now that I’ve had time to mull it over, I think I’ll order tomato soup with grilled cheese at the tavern. Maybe I’ll get a hot chocolate for good measure.
No matter how hard I try, I cannot control the spasmodic shivers throughout my body. I have to place the compass atop the snow to gain an accurate bearing. Each of my fingers and toes feel as if they were being crushed by pliers. The dogs have probably made it to town by now. I can almost hear the tavern’s laughter echo through this furious wind. I must be close now, another half-mile and I’ll be lounging beside a roaring fire with a hot soup.
The cold has gripped me so solidly that I have stopped shivering. My hands have lost even the tingling feeling of numbness and I dropped my compass somewhere along the line. No matter, the sun is waning now and I need only to walk away from it to travel east, towards the tavern. Any moment now the town will be within sight—a mote of dust specked upon this boundless tundra. I wonder if they get T.V. reception during storms like these. Something like Three’s Company or I Dream of Jeannie would be a delight.
The sun has disappeared and left me aimless. The wind gusts so strongly that it threatens to steal my breath. Blood runs through my veins like chilled syrup. What a stupid and treacherous journey this has become. I can only hope that the town has sent a party to rescue me.
A light! The tavern is near, I’m sure of it!
I try to jog, but my legs crumple like columns of ice. The snow cushions my fall but creeps in between my jacket and exposed skin. I should conserve my energy, the locals should find me soon. I need to rest, just a nap to regain my composure.
I wake up in the tavern foyer, propped up in a wool chair before a fireplace. Someone has wrapped a fleece blanket around me and placed a bowl of soup and crackers beside the chair. The crackling fire breathes warmth and comfort onto me while the tomato soup trickles vitality into my core. I imagine this comfort is only matched by that of heroin, and I begin to nod off.
Burning heat snaps me from my sleep. My eyes open to see a rage of flames escaping the fireplace. The blanket I’m wrapped in begins to burn and I struggle fiercely to stand without stepping into the inferno. I stand, throw the blanket into the fire, and move beside the chair. My clothes are burning, they’re engulfed in flames and fusing to my skin. I tear away at them until I’m naked. I’m still burning. Dear god anything to stop the flames, somebody please help!
In a flash, I am back in the icy maw of the arctic. My clothes are strewn across the barren landscape. I look down and see my fingers are blackened with frostbite. I feel nothing, no pain, no fear, and no desire. Too weak to continue, I am content to lie down in the fluffy embrace of the snow and let the howling winds entomb me.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 02:21|
To drown in her arms
Cyrnak slipped the Zolpidem into the second Cyprus cocktail as the bartender headed away. He waited while it dissolved, giving Ara a wave over his shoulder which she returned with a grin and a wink. He observed her coolly; bright lipstick, teased blonde hair, a red dress of patterned silk. The flimsy garment was tied around her neck, exposing her freckled shoulders, and was short enough to show the long expanse of her thigh.
Slut, thought Cyrnak, merely a fly in his web. He picked up the glasses and deftly wove his way back to their small table beside the door. As he sat, he placed the spiked drink in front of her, leaving the unadulterated one for himself. “Two Cyprus,” he said. “Did you know this was the favourite drink of King Farouk of Egypt.”
“Really?” asked Ara, raising an eyebrow.
“It was - but not for the reason you might expect.” Cyrnak met Ara’s quizzical gaze head-on. “The magic of the Cyprus isn’t in its construction, nor in the quality of its ingredients.” He took a slow sip from his glass without looking away from her, tasting the liquid then licking the residue from his lips.
“Is that so?” Ara’s eyelashes fluttered. A fly’s last struggle. She matched his sip, maintaining eye contact. “Mmm, that’s gorgeous! What’s in it?”
“That’s the thing; nobody cares how it’s made, nobody really minds how it tastes. There’s a thousand different recipes, but there is only one truly important thing about a Cyprus. Do you know what that is?”
“No,” said Ara. She took another swallow.
“Do you want to?”
“Know? Yes!” She giggled and took yet another sip, longer this time. One hand absentmindedly played with her hair, then supported her head.
Cyrnak allowed himself a grin as he watched her body relax. “The most important part of a Cyprus is...”
He paused, enjoying her anticipation.
“...that it looks like iced tea. Nobody knows you’re boozing it up. It can be drunk in public by presidents and popes. Or even Muslim royalty like old Farouk. It is the poison of alcohol in a harmless disguise. I find that fascinating.”
“You’re very knowledgeable about...about poisey stuff,” said Ara, her voice slurred. She took another drink and managed to spill it as she put the glass down. “drat,” she said. “Oops.”
“You okay, sweetheart?” asked Cyrnak.
“I’m feeling very wrong all of a sudden,” said Ara. “I’m sorry. I don’t know...I should...
“That’s fine, baby,” said Cyrnak, standing and moving toward her. “C’mon, let’s get you out of here and into a cab.”
Cyrnak threw a few tens on the table, then put his arm around her and helped her toward the door. She seemed to get heavier with every step, but Cyrnak was able to get her into a cab before her legs gave way entirely. He gave the cab driver his own address.
“She all right?” asked the cabbie
“She will be when she sleeps it off.” Cyrnak stroked Ara’s hair.
When they reached the apartment building, Cyrnak pulled her out of the cab and towards the elevator. Ara fell toward him constantly, making her almost steerable. She leaned against him and the stained carpet walls as the elevator rose. She hung on him as they stumbled their way along the hall. Inside, she lay down on his oversized couch, not moving, and only occasionally groaning.
“Come into my parlour,” said Cyrnak, locking the door to his apartment and then sitting beside her on the couch. His mouth was dry, but his excitement was palpable and tumescent. “Let’s get you out of those clothes.” He reached towards her, and was surprised to find that her hands were already behind her delicate neck, searching for the tie at the back of her dress. Cyrnak smirked, pleased by her compliance. He watched as she found the knot and fumbled to untie it.
The knot came away. Ara grunted and then drew the strands forward over her shoulders. Beneath the patterned cloth were rough brown hairs on almost leathery skin. Cyrnak snapped his hands back against his chest, as far away from her as possible. Ara kept tugging at the silk, exposing more of herself. Two long, broken limbs appeared, stick-thin and covered in bristles. These rippd off the alabaster skin of her shoulders and arms, exposing two more of the thin, brown, hirsute arms that had too many elbows.
Cyrnak ran for door and pulled at it several times before he realised it was still locked. He searched his pockets for the key, but realised he’d placed it on the table beside the couch. Turning, he saw the vast bulk of Ara’s body, supported by six hairy limbs, plus her two human legs which scratched at each other as if wanting to be rid of their enclosing human skin. Ara’s sweet, smiling, heavy-lidded face drooled atop the abdomen of a giant spider. She moved toward him, each leg with its own rhythm, and at the rear of her something glistening wetly. Cyrnak screamed when she pounced, pinning him with two legs and the pedipalps that protruded from her neck. Another leg pushed his mouth shut.
She whispered his name then, bright lipstick slurring the syllables. Her seventh and eighth legs, still wearing their human skin, reached forward and pulled at her long, blonde hair with her toes. Cyrnak saw her face lift off, saw the eight eyes beneath staring at him with an unrecognisable intensity. She kissed him, her fangs sinking deep into his jaw as she injected him with her loving poison. Cyrnak felt her fur against his face, until his arms, legs and mouth went numb. Her hind-limbs picked him up and spun him as her spinneret gushed her love, surrounding him. She wrapped him in its silvery disguise, covered every inch of his poisoned body so completely that his nose and mouth could draw no breath and he drowned, paralysed, in her many, many arms.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 02:29|
Gray Area 996 words. Wolfram
"You seem to have attracted some attention."
"Fujiwara Mori, one of your employees, has listened in on some of our calls and is investigating our arrangement. Deal with him."
"I'll take care of it."
He had said his name was Mr. Gray. Yamada had taken him up on an offer eight months earlier. He honestly couldn't remember most of the conversation that night, and thought that, perhaps, that was for the best. All he knew for sure was that he woke up the next morning with a nasty hangover and an undecorated, dark gray ring on his finger.
Yamada was, as any sane individual would be, suspicious. He had the ring tested by someone down in the metallurgy department of Aburagawa Industries, the corporation he worked for. The results came back saying that it was a hollow tube of tungsten carbide, a generally unremarkable ceramic. There seemed to be something in the tube, but Yamada had them send it back to him before they cracked it open to find out.
Once every week or two, Gray would call Yamada and give him a little bit of information. What to say to a particular person, where to be at a certain time, those sorts of things. Yamada rapidly ascended the corporate ladder from his middle-management position to being on the board of directors.
During one of these calls, Yamada asked Gray what his end of the deal actually was. He could hear the smile in Gray's voice when he replied,
"You answer to The Consortium."
"You fired him?" This was the first time Gray had shown surprise.
"He was getting too close! I had to do something!"
"I meant for you to try to bring him on board! Make him indebted to you! Make him not want to expose you! He was just suspicious before, now you've given him grounds for a vendetta!"
"...Oh. Well." Yamada floundered, "Uh, in that case, I'll just fabricate some reason to have him thrown in prison."
"We don't have enough clout in the justice system here to be able to count on pulling that off." Gray suddenly sounded very tired.
"Fine. I'll hire someone to kill him and-"
"No, if he survives the attempt, it would be too easy to connect it to you and make him even more determined. This calls for something no one in your world would belive exists, much less think is connected to your company. I'll send an agent. Make sure you wear your ring." Gray hung up without waiting for a response.
"Right," Yamada said sarcastically, "Like I can't handle this myself..."
As a member of the board of directors, Yamada had access to all Aburagawa Industries' facilities, so he had no trouble getting into Mori's office. It was, as he expected, vacant and messy. There were empty instant ramen bowls and candy wrappers strewn around the room. It looked like he had left in a hurry, with a half-eaten bag of dried seaweed on the desk and his computer still running. Yamada sat down in Mori's cheap, sweat-stained desk chair and logged onto the computer with his own credentials. Once logged in, the computer loaded a media player program by itself.
"Ah, Director Yamada." A contemptuous voice came from the PC speaker. Yamada jolted upright.
"Good evening. Or whenever. I don't know when you'll grow a pair and try to investigate my office yourself. You really thought firing me would get me out of your way?" Yamada tried to move the mouse, but found the cursor locked in place.
"You're going to stay there while I get my information out. I want you alive so you can be interrogated. I'm sure the government would love to know about this 'Mr. Gray' fellow."
Yamada ran for the door, but it was locked, no longer responding to his keycard. He ransacked the drawers in the desk and filing cabinets, but couldn't find anything suitable for forcing a metal door open.
"I'll see you on the news, Director."
Yamada screamed in wordless frustration as he picked up the keyboard and flailed around with it, destroying Mori's PC. Before he could get back to try the doorknob again, the door buckled inward with a resounding clang! Yamada backpedaled, his eyes open wide. The door swung lamely on its hinges before flopping down to the floor. A creature stood in the hall outside. It was shaped like a man, but had no head and appeared to be made of cement.
"Consort located." A low voice ground out from inside of it, "Searching for target."
"Target?" Yamada stammered, his voice two octaves higher than normal, "You mean Mori? I think I know where he is."
The golem stepped aside and made a surprisingly fluid gesture for Yamada to lead the way.
The maintenance tunnels were a leftover from the cold war era and had never had much security. Thus, to Yamada, they seemed to be the perfect place for a fugitive ex-employee to hide and use the company internet to leak information. Broad shouldered and standing ramrod straight, the golem had to nearly walk sideways to fit.
The tunnels were sparsely lit, with large dark spots between fixtures. In one of these spots, only a few feet before an open fire door, Yamada discovered a tripwire and gracelessly fell flat on the ground with his hands outstretched. The door slammed down and crushed his fingers. Yamada screamed and kicked, but couldn't free his hands. The golem wedged the ends of its fingers into the crack Yamada unwillingly created, forced the door back up, and walked through. Yamada pulled his hands to his chest and curled into the fetal position.
"Woah! What-" Someone cried out before being cut off with a quiet squitsh.
Yamada lifted his head to look and saw the dark gray shards of the ring sitting in the doorway.
"No Consorts present." The golem's grinding voice broke the silence as it turned to Yamada, "Eliminating witnesses."
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 02:33|
(Caribou Lou-Bicardi 151, Malibu Coconut rum, pineapple juice)
“Alright, whelp,” my Father Silaluk said quietly. “The rest of the hunting party in the distance,” he pointed out towards the horizon. I could faintly see a few other figures stalking a herd of caribou grazing on the tundra grass. “Once they spook the herd, they’ll corral them towards us and that’s when we start shooting. You understand?”
I nodded and got my bow ready. My Father was the finest hunter in our tribe, and that day was my first hunt. Looking back, there was a healthy amount of trepidation in my motions and fear that I would let my Father, and the tribe, down. We were both crouched low underneath the high grass and as I looked back at him, I wondered why he never told me how he got that rough scar on the side of his face. I shivered--it was almost winter, but it wasn’t the cold air that made me do so.
“There!” he whispered. Against the rising sun, I heard our other tribesmen whooping and hollering at the top of their lungs, scaring the caribou into a panic and causing them to run. Father grabbed an arrow, the tip made of sharpened bone and hawk feathers attached to the back, and drew his bow back. I did the same. After an agonizing moment of eternity, the caribou stampeded right in front of us.
“Now!” he cried out as he let his arrow fly. As I let mine fly, I made a silent prayer to the spirits that my arrows would strike true through the dust and dirt flying in the air. I saw my arrow strike the flank of a young caribou. Stumbling, it regained its footing and kept running, narrowly avoiding being trampled underfoot. This was good, because a trampled caribou was almost completely unsalvageable.
"Stop!" Father shouted over the din of the caribou stampeding. When the herd had passed, my father put his hand on my shoulder. "Good work," he told me. "Now we track."
We followed a loose track of hoof prints and blood further into the harsh tundra landscape. Caribou hooves are like horses in that they are whole and not split, unlike the antelope’s. We came to a small hill where bellow was our prey--a young caribou, mortally wounded with my arrow in its flank. I drew my knife, ready to finish it off. My father put my hand on my shoulder again.
"Wait," he told me.
"Something isn't right."
At that moment, I don't know what possessed me, be it over-eagerness or simple, youthful recklessness. Whatever it was, I got up and made my way towards my prey. "Don't!" Father said, but I ignored him.
There was a certain macabre and eerie beauty to the mortally wounded animal. Looking it in the eye, I wondered what was the last thing any of us saw. I was about to slit its throat when I heard a low growling behind me. I froze and slowly turned around. Crouching behind me was a vicious wolf. To my left and to my right I found more. I was caught between my flight-or-flight instinct and at that moment, I knew if I ran, they would pounce and kill me. At the top of my lungs, I screamed all sorts of obscene words and sounds, hoping to scare them away. Instead, the largest, the alpha, pounced on me.
I shoved my arm in front of my face to protect myself, to keep him from ripping out my throat. The alpha sunk its teeth into my arm as blood and spit sprayed in my face. "Father!" I screamed pitifully at the top of my lungs. I heard a whimper as the wolf on top of me stopped biting and slumped, an arrow in its side. I heard somebody shouting, wolves barking, and then I felt a great weight being rolled off my body. My Father helped me up, put him against me, and helped me walk across the barren plains of the tundra. Our medicine man did the best he could, but I still bear the bite marks on my arm. It's there as a reminder of my foolishness.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 02:40|
Afterwards, the highway patrol blamed the accident on the leftover black ice. Before he was fired, the salter operator said it was a slip, a several-second hiccup in the highway salter’s output along the stretch of I-94 near Black River Falls, Wisconsin. It left a sheer and dangerous patch for the bus’s wheels to skid over, sliding into the oncoming lane and clipping the right fender of a Lincoln Navigator the same color as the hazardous ice.
There were so many things that could have gone wrong at that moment. Fortunately only one of them did.
Everyone was fine, because Greyhound buses were built like tanks, and Lincoln Navigators were built like smaller and more luxurious tanks. The worst of it was the mild whiplash the 25-year old driver suffered as his head slammed safely into the side airbag. When the police and paramedics arrived, everyone was on their feet and out in the night air, shivering from the last gasps of winter, answering questions and getting once-overs from the medical team. As they were let go, they filed back into the unmoving bus, rubbing their hands together and calling their families.
Just as the men in blue were wrapping up, someone noticed that the old man’s seat was empty.
When the police questioned the bus driver, he told them that the man had been frantic, insistent that he not stop.
“I kept telling him that we had two flat tires, that the police were going to show up any minute,” said the bus driver. “And he just kept saying, No, we have to keep on going. Put it in neutral. Keep on going, keep on going. I have to get to Virginia.” The bus driver coughed, spit on the side of the highway. “I don’t know what his deal was. That was the first thing he said to anyone since Eau Claire.”
Then the officers questioned the others on the bus, who all said the same thing. No one had seen him leave. No one had heard him talk. No one knew what his name was.
“Eric, maybe,” said one toothy woman rocking a three-month-old in her arms. “I ast him and he mutter something. Poor ol' guy, no one shoul’be out in the cold this late at night.”
The gritty snow crunched under Edward’s boots as he followed the highway east.
“One foot follows the other,” that’s what Edward had been taught. Lean forward. Lean forward with your head and the rest of you will follow.
That’s what he’d learned as his unit advanced toward the shores of Normandy, salt spray hitting them in the face as the boat rocked over the breaking waves. Keep moving.
Always keep moving.
You stop, you die.
This was back before he thought about death. Even on that boat, death didn’t seem real, like something he could grab, put his finger on. It was only months later, his back leaned up against a birch tree in the snowy forests near Antwerp, when he took off his gloves and pressed his hands together and couldn’t feel a thing. Then he felt like he was touching death.
Death was winter. Death was a slow falling, a snowflake drifting down, then motionless on the ground.
He held his hands out in front of him and shook them, rattled them like cage bars as he walked. It was a habit he’d picked up years ago.
When the war was over and they’d finally sent him back across the Atlantic, he thought about death again. Death in the shape of a mimeographed form letter, a visit from brass that his wife would never receive.
Instead, she would receive him. Maria, slight and spindly and smelling like brown sugar, waiting on the shores of Virginia Beach—she would feel his arms around her, his warm and strong hands.
And they were both warm, for a few years, for many more after that.
What had changed?
A lack of closeness, of body heat, brought on by their situation. Bills coming in and nothing else, and nothing leaving the house but angry sentiments and the hot carbon dioxide that accompanied them. What else? The broken china? The faltering sex drive? The invisible other man in his bed? The one waiting around the tight corners of his home, ready to drive a steel bayonet through his heart?
Asking a question was always easier than trying to answer it.
When he heard about the logging job up in Fargo, he was happy enough. More snow. More of a reason to get the blood flowing in his legs and arms, a reminder of when he had kept the end of his life at the other end of a long, pointed stick. There were days, sure, when he couldn’t keep the chill out of his house at the edge of the woods, nights with local women who couldn’t hold a candle to what he had lost. But he kept the bitter taste out of his mouth, and told himself spring would come if he waited long enough. And it always did.
Then, as he was pushing sixty-five—pushing it to the back of his failing mind—he received a letter in the mail. The one he’d thought his wife would get. The we-regret-to-inform-you.
An invitation to a hole in the ground, a body descending.
And the walls of his cabin home flew apart, and the cold rushed in.
Edward held his hands out in front of him again and shook, kept shaking until they could feel again.
He would keep walking. Until he couldn’t feel the rest of himself, or until spring arrived—whichever came first.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 03:03|
Not too bad (872 words) Gunfire
A hundred shots are fired every second and in every possible direction. It's Freedomfest 2026, the largest, loudest, and most fatal time of celebration in America, and I have a mission. I've waited long enough. Tonight, I'll show her.
I make my way through the crowds, looking for my target. A few stray bullets hit my chest, but they're low caliber and barely a distraction. Wouldn't have been more than flesh wounds even I weren't protected, but what kind of idiot goes to Freedomfest without a bulletproof jacket?
"Hey, kid!" someone says, and grabs my shoulder. I flinch, but he doesn't try to drag me away. Instead, he presses a revolver into my hand. It looks brand new, like it's never been fired.
"Happy Freedom! Have a complimentary gun courtesy of U. S. Arms!" the man says with a smile. "Bullets are five bucks for a fistful over at our booth!"
He moves on, handing out guns like cheap candy to anyone who's not already armed. I've never even touched a real gun, let alone owned one. After some fumbling, I manage to check the cylinder. Bullets not included. I decide to keep it anyway. Maybe it'll give me some courage. It won't fit in my pocket, so I just carry it in my hand. Tonight, that actually makes me less conspicuous.
Finding her takes longer than I thought it would. After nearly two hours of searching, I'm almost ready to give up. Go home, lie down. Make sure I didn't get grazed somewhere. I don't have to do this tonight. But I know she's here, somewhere. I've seen what goes down at her house during Freedomfest, and I know she wouldn't stay there. A muzzle flash lights up a nearby alley for a moment, and I'm proven right.
Ana sits on top of a garbage container, staring into the sky. She's short and slender, her dark hair tied up in a haphazard ponytail. Torn jeans and a ragged kevlar vest. Perfect in every way.
Okay. I'm prepared for this. I just need to walk up, say "Hey Ana! Fancy running into you here!" and see where the conversation goes. Try to get her somewhere we won't be interrupted. I've got enough charm to pull it off. Worst case scenario, I'll do it right here. I doubt anyone will be paying any attention to us; too busy shooting, reloading, or dodging. Here goes.
"Hey-" I say, but the rest of my sentence is drowned out by the cheerful ratatata from a passing band of machine gun enthusiasts. It throws me off, and I just stand there, mouth open and hand half raised in greeting. Looking stupid.
"Hi, Rico. Didn't think you'd be here," she says, smiling. "Did you sneak- hey, you got a gun!"
My parents really don't like Freedomfest. They lock themselves in the house every year, and Ana knows it.
"Yeah, I did. Do. Have a gun and snuck out," I say. "Hi."
"Cool. Let me see?"
I hand over the revolver, and she gives it a quick once-over, 'tch'-ing in disappointment when she checks the cylinder. She doesn't give it back, and I don't ask her to.
"I actually came because I wanted-" I'm interrupted by a stream of bullets hitting the wall above us, sending a rain of powdered brick down on our heads. "-to talk to you. Can we go somewhere more quiet?"
"Sure," she says. "You're better company than my own thoughts, anyway. This way!"
She hops down from her container perch and motions for me to follow. We walk in silence; I'm to nervous to say anything and Ana... she's tossing my gun back and forth between her hands. I have no idea what she's thinking. She leads me to the hill on the east end of town, maybe fifteen minutes' walk.
"This is far enough, I think," she says. The cacophony of celebratory shooting has faded to a steady murmur of popping sounds beneath us. "So what'd you want to talk about?"
"Oh! Right. So, the thing, what I wanted to say is..."
Not as smooth as I'd hoped I would be. At least the fluttering in my stomach has stopped now that I've started talking.
"...that for the past couple of... this past year..."
For gently caress's sake, stop rambling!
"...I've just been feeling that, maybe, actually definitely, I've had, you know..."
Oh god, I really wish I had some bullets so I could just shoot myself. Three more words! I can do this!
"...feelings. For, uh. You."
There's a long, long pause. Hours. Or seconds, but there's no difference.
"Okay," she says.
My heart can't decide if it wants to stop or run at triple speed. "Okay?"
She's smiling now, a real smile, not just a polite one. She grabs my hands and looks me in the eyes. My face is on fire and the butterflies have woken back up and are more energetic than ever.
Ana kisses me. A peck on the mouth, really, but that's more than I ever dreamed of. Explosions rock the air, but I only see them out of the corner of my eye.
"Someone brought out the rocket launchers," Ana says, without taking her eyes off mine.
We stay there, holding each other and talking, until the harsh sounds and lights of Freedomfest are overtaken by a gentle dawn.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 03:17|
The Strongest Man in Cuba
481 - El Presidente
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 03:06 on Dec 11, 2014
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 03:24|
670 Words - Monkey Gland
A nurse enters the waiting room to save me. She’s a plump woman, mid-forties, with false skin and dagger-like teeth. “Mr. Tashake, the doctor will see you now. Would you please follow me?”
I feel each synapse firing in my brain as it tries to control my body’s constituent parts. Reshaped rhino bones are pulled by deer sinew and sculpted crocodile muscles. Each joint creaks and moans as I lumber toward her. My heart sucks blood with each tremendous beat.
The nurse leads me to a back room with drab walls and laminated advertisements for body modification. In one, a jogger smiles down at me unaware of the cartoon cheetah superimposed over his body. On the opposite wall, a portrait of a man with golden irises is emblazoned with the words, “EAGLE EYES: SEE WHAT YOU’VE BEEN MISSING.” It’s not clear whether the intent of the image is to intimidate or inspire. I want to look away from the image, but I’m a prisoner in my own skin. The heart beats mercilessly in my chest.
“Ah, Mr. Tashake, it is good to see you,” says the doctor as he enters the room with corrosive geniality, “Everything been going since the surgery? Enjoying the new parts?”
My mouth opens and, for a moment, I imagine bile gurgling out of it like a fountain. Instead, I hear myself say, “No, doctor. I’m afraid I don’t really feel myself.”
The answer is incomplete, but it is the best I can muster. Like most people, operations are a fact of my life, whether it be to replace a broken bone with a stronger alternative, or change out an old skin with transplantations. My eyes are reptilian. If you cracked open my ribs, you would find something distinctly avian. The sound of blood pumping fills my ears.
Replacing the heart had been a mistake. It knew that the doctor had robbed it of its owner and punished me for my complacency. The heartbeat irregular in my chest, unwilling to follow orders. At night, I could hear it whispering in low guttural tones to my lungs, to my muscles. The body turned against me. My brain became aware of each bodily process, each blink, and each breath.
I am a foreigner in my own skin. Every movement is like lifting rotten carcasses.
The doctor nods, looking down at his clipboard. His skin is drawn so tight over his flesh that each muscle movement can be seen. I focus on the gentle throbbing in his neck, the suggestion of a beating heart. His jugular is so thick that it might pop if given enough pressure.
He turns the page and scribbles a note. “I’m sorry to hear that. Can you describe in what way you feel unlike yourself?”
“I feel detached.” I say, struggling to keep composure, as the doctor turns another page. I urge myself to look away as he traces his maggot fingers over the file. “I’m not… connected.”
“Well, some disassociation is common in individuals that have undergone extensive modification. I can prescribe you something to help with the anxiety, or sleeping pills if you are having trouble sleeping. Did you have anything in mind?”
For the first time I look into his swollen, frog-like eyes and disassemble him as I have done to myself. I tear out his stolen ivory teeth and repurposed jaw. My mind’s eye rips off his genetically modified skin, his tendons, and the pig fat. I remove each stolen part and in the end find nothing human. There is only one path to salvation.
“I need you to cut them out, doctor. These aren’t my parts and I want you to cut them all out of me.”
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 04:25|
Time is an Ocean but it Ends at the Shore
Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 18:36 on Jan 1, 2015
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 04:36|
excerpts my shame journal
crabrock fucked around with this message at 19:23 on Jan 1, 2015
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 04:43|
Come on, come on, get in while the gettings good! You've got 10 minutes to submit!
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 04:49|
Caju Amiga - 992 Words
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 04:51|
Category 5 Jerk (992 words)
While Ms. G explained the nature of bitwise operators, Gloria glared daggers at the back of Eric Kane's head and reflected on just how well he hid his nature of complete jackass. Keep a safe difference from the douchebag, and he would appear to be just another one of the vaguely-handsome, scruffy-bearded frat boys littering the campus. Get a little closer, and anybody who had a thing for slightly jerkish guys would feel a distinct spike of lust. But get too close, and Kane's façade of decency would simply disappear, as if it were blown away, and the unfortunate victim would discover the nastiness, the arrogance, and the complete load of hot air kept just under his skin. Gloria was speaking from experience here.
A sequence of ones and zeros flashed up on the projector screen, and Gloria scribbled them down into her notebook. The responsible section of her brain told her to add some clarifying comments to avoid spending a half-hour deciphering them later, but she ignored it, and focused instead on the diatribe she was building in her head. It was going to be a thing of absolute beauty, and once she was done with it, Kane was going to be on his knees begging for forgiveness.
After the lecture finished, Gloria packed up her materials in record time. She didn't really feel like combing the entire campus for the aforementioned jerk, after all. Not worth her time. She scanned the crowd, looking, and… there! The target was exiting through one of the side doors near the front of the lecture hall – which wasn't a problem, since she had already scouted all the possible exit routes and their destinations. She stepped out of another exit, taking a turnabout route. Didn't want to give Eric advance warning, after all.
But when Eric finally stepped out of the building near her hiding space, he had acquired a friend. Well, more like his only non-fraternity friend – Curtis Pall – who held the distinct honor of being the only person that Eric Kane didn't swear at. This was a bit of a problem. Gloria liked to think that she had a decent relationship with Curtis, and she wasn't quite willing to unload her expertly-constructed tongue-lashing on Eric in his presence.
Clearly, the only solution here was to follow Eric around until Curtis went away.
Gloria swore as she fumbled one of her pens in her rush to pack up, causing it to roll underneath a row of seats. She needed to keep track of where Eric was, after all, since the last go proved unsuccessful. She stuffed her notebook into her backpack, and having accomplished that, turned around and – came eye-to-eye with Eric Kane. His face looked rather stormy, like – like…. a tropical storm? Either way, crap. Talk about intimidating.
She reached out for the pen he was holding. "Thanks." Even if she couldn't quite summon up the nerve to begin her verbal takedown, she managed to make her voice curt rather than tremulous.
He dropped the pen into her palm, and growled, "Stop being such a loving creeper, you hag."
By the time Gloria had caught her breath back, Eric was already leaving the lecture hall. Building up a good head of steam, she grabbed her backpack and stormed down to the front door, which had just closed behind him. She shoved the door open, jabbed him in the back, and hissed in his startled face, "What the gently caress's your problem?" In the back of her mind, she noted that they were drawing stares.
He snarled back, "Look who's talking – you were stalking us for an entire hour on Tuesday! So what the gently caress's yours?"
There it was – the perfect opening for her to start The Rant with. She took a deep breath and readied her response, feeling the calm before the storm.
"What's my deal? What's my deal is the way that you treated me like complete loving trash when we went to the movies last month!"
His laugh cut off her next sentence. "Oh my god, that's really what you're so pissed about? It was just a goddamn date, geez."
She gritted her teeth and yelled, fighting back tears, "That was my first date! Nobody ever asked me out before!"
He was just about to respond when a calm, level voice cut him off. "What in the world is going on here?"
Oh, great. It was Curtis. He walked up and saw her, saw Eric, and put the pieces together. "Eric, I thought you said you were going talk with her about this, not make her cry." The tone of his voice conveyed utter disappointment, and Gloria noted through her blurry eyes that Eric's demeanor had softened considerably.
What was even stranger was Eric's reply to Curtis – it wasn't yelled, or growled, or snarled – it was mumbled – the words garbled enough that she couldn't make out what he had said. Curtis whispered back something and then shoved Eric towards her.
Eric said in a low – possibly sincere – tone, "I'm sorry that I made you feel like poo poo on your first date by showing up late, making fun of your dress, and calling you an idiot when you said you liked the movie."
Gloria blinked in surprise. She looked up at Curtis, who nodded encouragingly at her. She sighed, all of the anger draining out of her. "I'm sorry I stalked you and Curtis for two hours on Tuesday after lecture." The watching bystanders began to applaud, and Gloria fought down a blush.
They both looked at Curtis, who beamed at both of them.
Well, that certainly explained why Curtis seemed to be the only thing Eric Kane's eyes saw on Tuesday.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 04:55|
It was half past two A.M., and the party had reached that terminal period where the voices started to get lower and the smiles started to be fewer, and the conversations began to circle around themselves in ever tightening spirals, getting closer to the things that nobody actually wanted to say. Everyone was tired but nobody wanted to be the first to leave — not tonight, especially. It was an untenable situation, one Morgan solved by getting up announcing her was going for a cigarette. He posted up at the railing of his mom’s boyfriend’s patio and stared out over the valley as he smoked. When Brett and Johnny joined him he offered them the last two Camels from his crumpled pack.
“Meant to ask, how’s Amy taking it?” Brett asked, lighting it up and blowing out a long stream of blue smoke into the crisp night air.
“I dunno,” Morgan said, shrugging. “She don’t like it I guess. But she’s starting at Long Beach in the fall anyway. And it’s just 18 months.”
“poo poo man,” Johnny said. “You’re lucky you got someone waiting. And it ain’t like a fine bitch like her ain’t got other options.”
“gently caress you,” Morgan said, punching him in the arm.
“Ah, man, no, I mean it. Like, it’s special what you got, you know?” Johnny said.
“Jen and me broke up,” Brett said.
“poo poo man, really?” Morgan said.
“Yeah,” Brett flicked his cigarette into the darkness. “Said she didn’t want to wait. Anyway, I think it’s been a long time coming. Think it’s just her excuse.”
“poo poo,” Morgan said. “I’m sorry dude.”
“gently caress that bitch anyway, man,” Johnny said. “You can get a much hotter bitch than her when you get back. You’re gonna be an American loving hero, bro.”
“Yeah,” Morgan said. “gently caress her if she won’t wait.”
“Hey, you know what. We should take a picture!” Brett said suddenly. “Not just you, the whole group. We aren’t going to be together like this again for a while.”
They all of them piled together on the porch, drunk and tired and young, their skins jaundiced and unhealthy-looking in the wan glow of the porchlight, their eyes unfocused from the flash. Some of them were smiling and and some of weren’t don’t, some had their mouths open, cut off mid-obscenity by click of the camera’s shutter. Johnny still had his cigarette and it hung from his lips like a loogie — he had one arm around Morgan and the other around Brett, who had hastily run into the shot before the flash went off.
“Please?” Morgan typed, regretting it almost the instant the word popped up on the screen. It sounded so weak, so not how he wanted to sound. In the darkness behind him there was the sound of footsteps and muffled conversations — it was nearly lights out, but a base like this never really slept. Somewhere, off in the distance, someone laughed.
“I don’t know,” the response came at last, and then another right after it.
“I’d feel weird”
“I miss you,” Morgan typed quickly, hitting enter.
“I want to see you,” he typed right after it.
“It’s not weird for me to want to see you. Just one photo. I’ll never show it to anyone, I promise.”
“Okay,” the response came at last.
A message popped up on his screen: “Amy2487 wants to send you a file. Yes? No?”
Morgan breathed out hard. He turned and looked behind him, but there was only the back wall of the comms tent, and the darkness beyond it. Hand shaking a little, he reached to click the box.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 04:58|
T here are many things to remember when you cut out their your tongue. Your tongue is not like a finger; it’s a muscle that is attached to your jaw. The stump will suffer swelling under normal circumstances, which will make the bloody tissue bloat and close your throat shut. To avoid that, you have to work quickly, so that shock will settle in and you can have a chance to cauterize the wound.
At least, that is what WebMD told me. I am out of my element and I cannot stop shaking.
I waited several hours by Eleanor’s grave. No one showed. I have only caught glimpses of them out of the corner of my eye since.
T he medallion sits on my dresser. It stares into me with the burn of a thousand suns. I stare back, biting on my tongue. Whether the blurriness in my peripheral vision is from my own fledging insomnia, I can no longer tell. I do not want to consider the notion that it is the medallion's doing, but I cannot help it. I am a man of science, yes, but I now know that there are forces in this world that I cannot comprehend. I sit there, for hours, just staring, tongue burning.
D ecorated human skulls lined the walls of the temple. Rubies, effigies, daggers, and masks, all scattered around. They were not strewn about like mere trash; they were arranged in a foreign fashion around a decaying statue, alien but premeditated. Only Eleanor knew the pattern well, and she, like the rest of the excavation crew, was too awestruck to notice the statue. The medallion dangled, as if lying in wait, from the hand of the statue.
I put the bottle of bourbon to my lips. It is empty. I smash it against the heater, still in the medallion's line of sight. It’s jagged teeth pressed into it’s obscene tongue. It is mocking me, telling me I cannot do it. It is not lying, though. I cannot do it. Not without alcohol, to dull my senses.
Eleanor used to say, in that coy way of hers, that when she was drinking her favorite cocktail was the Bloody Aztec.
Funny. A loving riot.
R oscoe held the medallion in his gloved hands. He grinned, dangling it between two fingers when I spoke up.
“Put that back,” I said.
Roscoe ignored me, instead handing it off to Elenaor’s open hand. “Pretty. Figure it’s cursed, though.”
“Really? There is no such thing, all of that haunted stuff is mere Hollywood trite.”
Eleanor giggled. I still hear her laughter in my dreams abhorrent and booming and I always awaken, pillows stained with tears. “Well, Roscoe may be onto something. There are signs of blood on the face of this.”
I shook my head. “A-Are you certain, Eleanor? Wouldn’t such things evaporate?”
Eleanor shot a very pitying look, clicking her tongue.“Evaporation? Charles, blood and water are two different things. Didn’t you take science in middle school?”
“I suppose, though who even remembers what they learned from middle school? All I remember is that I could never stomach dissecting frogs. Thought I would get blood in my eyes.”
“That explains quite a lot, actually. However, I highly doubt this necklace will ooze blood at you - And could you hand me that brush? There’s something etched onto the back.”
M y hands move on their own. The voices are too loud and I am too drunk to think. I open the drawer. I take out a pair of sheers. I turn on the burner and heat a knife. I look back at my computer one last time. I’ve been shuddering and cursing to myself leading up to this, but I do not scream when I squeeze my fingers and press the dull sheers down on my tongue! I can feel the blood seeping out of my mouth and onto my clothes and it feels like an eternity! And it burns, it is a good burn! And when there's a pop and my tongue hits the floor with a wet slap oh Lord, what a riot, I started laughing!
”I haven’t heard from Roscoe in a few days. I think he might have come down with an illness.”
That is what Eleanor told me, the last time we spoke. There was no signs of her untimely demise in her voice. Concerned, yes, but more for our friend. She told me she was going to visit him, that she would call me later. Despite myself, I asked her about that necklace.
“I’m not quite sure. We lost it soon after Roscoe found it. It’s a shame, really.”
Even then, the notion of the medallion occurred to me. The difference? I could brush it away like dust from my shoulder. I clicked my tongue and waited for her to call me back.
They found Eleanor’s body in Roscoe’s bathtub, up to her neck in crimson water. Death by asphyxiation. She wasn’t like Roscoe though. She died when she stuffed her own tongue down her throat. They found Roscoe's body days later, on the same day the medallion appeared on my dresser.
One of my neighbors must have heard me laughing because the paramedics arrive soon after. I show them my tongue, look, look at what I have done! I beat the curse, don’t you see? I have beat it! I have escaped with my life! But they do not understand me because it’s all garbled but I still laugh when they grab me! As they tie me back into the stretcher I manage a tiny glance at my dresser! The medallion is gone! I cannot stop laughing! Oh god, it is so funny!
Hollywood trite, indeed.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 05:00|
Prompt: Four Score
I could see him across the flat, dry earth from miles away. He walked the Salt Flats like a slug, melting, waxy, and indistinct. A mirage, I figured. As I got closer, the details emerged from the haze. Shredded jeans, a white cotton teeshirt yellowed by weeks of sweat and exposure. He carried nothing but a guitar case slung over one shoulder. Closer still and I realized he was a boy no older than fifteen or sixteen.
He glanced back when he heard me coming but never stuck his thumb out or anything. He didn’t even look over as I passed him. I couldn’t help myself, though, and pulled over anyway. He climbed into the truck without a word.
“What’s a kid your age doing walking the Salt Flats?” I asked.
His only answer was a wan smile. Mussed hair, filthy cheeks, and weeks old peach fuzz rounded out his bedraggled look. His eyes, however, looked fresh and new. They were the color of topaz and had an otherworldly haze to them, two little blue pools of impossible depth with who knows what lurking beneath. I don’t know how to describe it, but he didn’t feel like a person, you know? The way he looked at me probably should have scared me.
“Where you headed?” I asked.
“Wendover, just ten minutes down the road,” he croaked. “I’m Gabe.”
“Dan,” I said, and shook his hand. “Where you coming from, Gabe?”
“The desert,” he said. That uneasy smile again. “Where are you headed, Dan?”
I could have told him all of it. The soul-sucking Wall Street trading job, the failed marriage, and my grand escape. Days spent on I-80 headed away from a life that I didn’t want and that didn’t want me. My daydream about staking out a little farmland somewhere and living like a monk. I was afraid it’d sound ridiculous and childish even to a fifteen year old, so I kept my mouth shut.
“California,” I said. “I’m taking a little vacation of sorts.”
“Just a vacation, huh?” he said as he stared at me.
I tried to control the goosebumps but failed miserably. Five more minutes and we’ll be there, and then he’ll be gone, I told myself. I kept quiet for the rest of the trip but he kept right on staring, like he was looking right through me.
We made it to Wendover and I pulled over as soon as I could. Gabe climbed out of the truck and slung his guitar case over his shoulder, then looked up at me and gave me a brilliant smile, and all the dirt seemed to disappear from his face.
“I didn’t believe him at first, but he was right about you,” he said. “He wanted me to tell you some things. Said you were on the right track, just keep moving in that direction and he’ll make sure things get taken care of. You’re going to look back ten years from now and see this move as one of the defining moments of your life.”
I felt tears welling up. “Who?” I asked.
“You know,” he said. He glanced up at the sky and then back at me. Another huge grin and then he turned his back and walked away.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 05:00|
Paul Versi had only been in Eastern Europe for an hour, but he was already starting to hate everyone. First, the old Polish woman at the Paris train station who had to show pictures of her extended family and tell their life stories in her halting English. Then, the fat man with the terrible body odor who occupied the other side of his railcar for the better part of the day.
Travel could be exhausting, but usually—despite today's irritations—he enjoyed it. It provided a welcome distraction from the merger negotiations. And this four-day mountaintop retreat meeting with the other management should be amazing—for the scenery, if nothing else.
Paul looked up from his business paper with narrowed eyes as two tall men entered. They each wore close cropped hair, dark clothes with striped undershirts, and overpowering cologne. The skinny one grunted as he shoved a couple of bags into the ceiling compartment. Then he collapsed in a seat across from Paul, staring at the businessman with a blank expression.
Paul turned his newspaper page, pretending not to notice.
The big one was still standing by the door, picking his teeth with a knife. His build was solid, not fat but broad-shouldered, with an upturned nose and a hungry look on his face. "Stop that," he said, his brow furrowed, and slapped his arm across the skinny man's back.
"Sorry friend," the bigger man said, reaching an arm out towards Paul. "This man, he is sometime idiot. I am called Rott," he said, leaning forward, his arm still outstretched.
Paul nodded and looked back down at his paper.
The tall man sat down without missing a beat. "My friend, his name Laszlo," he continued. "What about you?"
"Paul," he replied. Didn't look up this time.
"Good. Good great," Rott said, rubbing his hands together. "So we friends now. Let's celebrate, huh, Laszlo? Get the drinks!"
So the skinny man climbed the seats and went rummaging in their bags above.
"You ever have drink Shandy?" the big man asked.
Paul shook his head.
"No?" Rott's eyes went wide. "Is special of this region!"
Laszlo popped open a bottle of beer and began pouring it into a mug.
Rott took another bottle from him and topped up the mug with its dark liquid. He stood up to offer the stuff to Paul. "Try it. Is good, man. You like it."
The mug was smudged and dented. It smelled like cheap beer and some kind of sickly sweet soda. His head started to swim just at the thought of drinking it.
"No thanks," he said. He didn't like the big one's grin.
Rott shrugged and the two began mixing and gulping down the stuff. The singing started soon after.
Paul wanted to climb into bed and disappear. This was supposed to be a sleeping car, and they were still hours away from his destination. But it was futile. When he asked them to please be a bit quieter, they acted like they didn't hear, or didn't understand. Paul was starting to think otherwise. When he turned off the overhead lights, Rott let loose a stream of unintelligible syllables and slapped the switch back on. Laszlo found this hysterical, laughing in long, high-pitched yelps like a hyena.
Paul retreated back behind his paper. He had read the stories twice already. But he didn't want to take out his laptop in sight of these two. This would be the perfect time to get some work done, too. But he found something unnerving about those two, the skinny one especially.
Laughter interrupted his thoughts. Those two were passing a phone between them and laughing. He saw Laszlo stand to get a picture of Paul's luggage above him.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Paul shot up.
The skinny man froze with a dumb expression on his face.
"No no no," Rott said, and stepped between them. "Is no problem. Is for blog. People like, is very funny. I give you blogsite?" He looked hopeful.
"No, that's all right." Paul deflated back into his seat.
"Oh, you not liking blogging?"
"No, I don't have a phone..."
Rott frowned. He wasn't buying it.
"...that's, uh, configured for a data plan out here. In this country. I'm really just passing through. I just got on a train in France this morning, actually. I've basically been travelling all day." Why did he say all that?
This time, it was Rott's turn to stare. He nodded. "OK! I write you blogsite with paper."
After a minute's searching, Laszlo at last pulled a scrap of paper out of their things, scribbled on it, and passed it over. All Paul could make out were two periods in the middle of illegible scratches.
"For when you find computer in year two thousand, HA! HA! HA!" The big man laughed, too loud, too long, once more.
Paul shrank behind his paper. Then he realized what had bothered him about the skinny man: he perked up every time Paul seemed about to doze off. He decided to test this, let his arm move slowly to rest by his side, eyes nearly closed. And sure enough, Laszlo was up and making a beeline straight for his laptop case. The laptop that held documents about the company's inner workings, that their competitors would love to get their hands on.
There was the distant squeal of brakes as the train approached its next stop. Paul could barely think; surprise was his only weapon. He was acting on pure instinct and adrenaline. As the train banked around a last turn, he used the shifting momentum to shove into the skinny man and grab the case, hit the wide man in the jaw with it when he stepped forward in shock.
He ran out the door and into the hall, through a near-empty car, reaching the doors just as they were opening. He didn't know where he was, but he stepped onto the crowded station.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 05:00|
Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. Thunderdome Week CXXII officially comes to a close.
Jonked fucked around with this message at 05:11 on Dec 8, 2014
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 05:04|
Write up to 5,000 words on why the judges from a few weeks ago, the week where all three failed to crit anyone, are all total poo poo.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 05:23|
If you mean Calamity Week (25 words)
If you mean Calamity Week, Djeser did give crits, Chairchucker did not, and there was no third judge.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 05:34|
|# ? Jan 22, 2022 02:58|
They are poo poo because I got my first hm with a really personal story and I want to make it better and I want people to write nice things about me because I was super excited and happy the end.
|# ? Dec 8, 2014 05:35|