I don't think I have time to finish this story. I'm gonna have to kill it.
|# ? Jan 31, 2014 20:20|
|# ? Nov 29, 2022 11:58|
Thunderbrawl Results for Sitting Here vs. SurreptitiousMuffin: John Williams Waterhouse
THE PROMPT: Write a story inspired by a Waterhouse painting. Sitting Here was given The Shrine to work with; SurreptitiousMuffin received Boreas.
THE WINNER: SurreptitiousMuffin by a slender margin--each was good in its way.
Sitting Here, your painting became a scene from a story of otherworldly magic, lush and dreamlike. The not-quite-finished feel of your otherwise beautiful entry kept it from outshining Muffin's work.
SurreptitiousMuffin, you had polish on your side. Your interpretation of Boreas is more compact, less literal; those qualities aren't inherently superior in my book, but you've made them work and delivered poignancy and beauty both. Though I found the choice not to give your characters genders--or in the case of the love interest, much of anything else--unfortunate, you deserve this win.
Sitting Here, "Of Roses"
Your story is a direct translation of your image into a narrative. Other than the vial around her neck, every element is straight from the painting: the terrace, the stairs, her skirts, the moss, the vases, and the roses. This isn't a bad thing; you've provided one explanation for what, exactly, the girl is doing, and possibly even for why the scene would be called The Shrine. The worshipful attitude of the boy both invokes that title and underlines the otherworldliness of your main character. The piece has the real/not real atmosphere of a dream, a sort of lushness in its imagery, and a very lovely turn in the final line that makes me want to know the mother's story. She has loved two people of the roses, and their thorns draw red blooms from her skin.
The raw material of your piece is more to my taste, strictly speaking. Muffin invoked a myth, but you come closer to having written one. Some of your ideas here are gorgeous. I enjoy the ambiguity up until the end as to whether the girl is deluded about her father and herself, though when I think about it I wonder why the father wasn't covered with roses when he died--was he, and the mother lied about it?
This doesn't have the polish of Muffin's work, though. It doesn't read like a final draft, although it's close. You repeat 'roses' so often that I started wincing whenever I saw the word. The period is missing from your final sentence. Referring to her stepfather as 'Mother's husband' after she's dead, when the story is no longer in her perspective, doesn't work--if you'd made him 'her mother's husband' at that point I think that would have been enough to shift the narrative view. Most problematic on the story level is that I have no idea why the chemist's son gave her poison for her suicide. He worships her; he's willing to do strange things for her; that's what I decided on my first read. But if he worships her, why would he help her kill herself? He knows that's what he's doing, right? He has to.
You needed another draft to make this all it could be, and that's probably not news. 'Terrible' is still ridiculous. Its rough edges tipped the balance in Muffin's favor, sure, but I'd consider sending this one out someday, after more polishing, were I you.
SurreptitiousMuffin, "The Vigilant"
The beauty of this piece is undeniable. In the second half especially, after the love interest's death, you braid lovely emotion with exquisite imagery and turns of phrase. Your theme of lighting the way home--and one could read home as either Heaven or Earth in the case of the firework sparks--is so poignant that it makes the story for me, though the invocation of Orpheus and Eurydice (especially this description of him: 'whose statue in the hall of heroes is made of cardboard and gaffer tape') is also well done.
The trick of making characters' genders ambiguous is one I don't much like outside of Choose Your Own Adventures or other second-person fiction, and it did nothing for me here other than make the love interest a total blank. No kidding, I kept picturing the protagonist running naked out of a field with his/her arm around a department store mannequin, one of those faceless, vaguely shaped white ones that may or may not have hands. It would have helped if s/he'd had any personality at all beyond always rushing forward and wanting to be shot from a cannon. Why should I care about the death of such a cypher? I do anyway because you show me the protagonist's depth of feeling--I care that s/he is bereft, if not that the mannequin is dead. I feel like the emotional punch could have been stronger with a glimpse of the lover's love for the protagonist.
Assuming there was any. Is that meant to be ambiguous too? Is the protagonist's faith the more tragic because s/he should doubt? Hmm. I would prefer this as a two-sided love story, I think. But that sort of ambiguity does add something: an alternate interpretation that sort of fits in with your story theme. If I doubt the characters' love, I get the reading of the story that's entirely tragic. If I have faith it was real, there's sweet with the bitter. And I'm officially overthinking this.
Your incorporation of your picture is the next best thing to perfect. I see visual links in the yellow flowers, the evening mist (her shawl), the meadow, and the night sky through which those sparks trailed (her dress--this one may be a stretch, but you get credit for every link I perceive whether you meant it or not). The woman of the painting could well be waiting for someone. The color palette is melancholy. You've put the colors, the feelings, and the details all to work.
Your prose is technically sound, but two things stand out for me in a bad way: you overuse colons: you have a colon within a phrase introduced by a colon, for Heaven's sake. You also use commas to join clauses even when the second one isn't independent, such as in 'They stole the sky for you, and lit the way home.' That may be a style choice on your part, but the look/sound isn't working for me. I 'hear' an awkward pause there; it throws me off.
The featureless love interest gave me pause in naming you the winner, but your story is still polished, skilled, intricate, emotional, lovely, and on time. Maybe it's not your best, but that's only because you're so strong in the first place, you jerk.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 08:53 on Oct 18, 2014
|# ? Jan 31, 2014 20:27|
THUNDERDOME WEEK LXXVIII: Past Glories
Manhattan, Upper West Side
2 September 2048
Jack said he was in her system. Her security was sexy, but he finessed it.
"Good," Bobby said. He leaned back in his chair, translucent code flashing across his vision. “Now disable the tracker.”
Jack was on it. Bobby switched display to a fighting game. The Big Bad Wolf tried to butt in. Bobby shut him up. The Wolf didn’t like that.
Now Jack wasn’t so sure. Something was wrong.
“What loving uh-oh?” Bobby paused the game and sat up straight.
Jack explained that Bobby was hardwired for tracking.
"Can't you kill the program?"
No, it was built into her system’s firmware.
Bobby dropped his head in his hands. “Goddamn it.”
“Come to bed, baby.”
Bobby clenched his teeth and set down the Dearborn Errant’s bolt. “Almost done cleaning this.”
“Forget the gun. Get in here and gently caress me!”
He left the handgun in pieces and walked into the bedroom. Vienna lay on her side across the California king bed. She held her head up with a palm and smiled. Five years back, when Vienna and Tristan Maskar first adopted him, Bobby would have been instantly aroused. Eyes drinking in her lush mocha curves. Now stifled the urge to flee. The Wolf snarled inside his head, laid a crosshair on Vienna’s throat. Fast ridge-hand to that spot, and she’d never breathe again.
Bobby pushed the Wolf’s rage to his hindbrain. Jack was quiet. He never had much to say about meat-things. Jill reasoned that if he was going to do it, she could show him Kama sutra techniques she’d found on the net. Mother Goose highlighted flaws in Vienna’s skin, cellulite on her thighs. Zoomed-in images peppered Bobby’s vision. Mother judged her overdue for her quarterly biosculpt.
“Shut up,” Bobby whispered.
“What’s that, baby boy?” Vienna cocked her head.
“Nothing.” He climbed into bed and her waiting arms.
Vienna lay on her back, staring at the huge Corning mirror on the ceiling. “God-drat.” She showed Bobby her perfect teeth. “That was incredible.”
“Uhuh.” Bobby faced away from her, not seeing the megalithic Downtown skyline through the huge smartwindow.
“Tristan will be staying at home tomorrow night. Wants to act like my husband for once.” Vienna gazed at Bobby’s tight-muscled acrobat’s body. She ran a finger along his spine. No response. “But you don’t have to bother sleeping alone. I have night-work for you.”
“Yeah?” The Wolf woke up, slavered. He liked night-work.
“Taler’s campaign is charging up. Start following her, shovel up mud.”
“Okay.” Sima Taler was Vienna’s competition for next year’s New York State Senator election, 27th District. She was a philanthropist. Her platform was stricter corporate regulations in Midtown.
“No footprints,” Vienna said.
Vienna’s bosom rose and fell, full lips parted, long lashes low over high cheekbones. The Wolf again urged Bobby to kill her. Predators should be free.
Bobby pulled on sweatpants, a hoodie, parkour shoes. The Errant went into a holster under his arm. He interfaced with the Corning mirror, left a message.
Went to Chinatown for noodles. Bringing you back veg lo mein. – Bobby
“You want me to open you up and slice some hardware.” Oscar Chang’s eyebrows were in his hairline. “You know what kind of heat your owners will bring?”
“I can handle it.” Bobby crossed his arms. Mother Goose catalogued every piece of equipment in the basement bodyware clinic. Jack probed Chang’s security, for fun.
“I’m not up for a suicide rip against Maskar Robotics.” He shook his head. “I’m not Japanese.”
Bobby waved. “We won’t do it here.”
Chang spread his hands. “Then where?”
“I got us a hotel room.” Jill pointed out that she’d actually booked it.
Chang laughed. “Woah, I’m not into that.”
“Shut up.” Bobby sliced the air with his hand. “Rip me there. Deal?”
“How long you figure until Maskar goons come for you?”
Fifteen minutes, Jill estimated. “Fifteen minutes. Enough time for you to scram.”
Chang wrinkled his brows. Then he stuck out a hand. “Deal.”
Bobby floated outside his meat. Images and code chattered through his mind. Chang drilled, cut, spliced.
They talked to him, the whole hour it took for the rip. Talked in colors, photo-particle amalgams, combat video clips, strings of exploit code. Bobby let them run on. Drifting on clouds of not-pain. Bliss.
Chang slapped him across the face. Bobby’s eyes, never closed, crashed into focus.
“Yup.” Chang had his equipment packed and looked at the door. “Before I leave, I gotta say. You got some primo augs in that scrawny body.”
“Why do you think Maskar wants to keep me so bad?”
Chang’s forehead wrinkled. “Not just that. Your headware agents. I’ve never seen code like them. All twisted up in your wetware. Like they’ve bridged memristors to synapses.”
Bobby grinned. “They don’t like being called ‘agents.’ ”
“I’m outta here. Good luck.”
The door smashed open. Four black-clad men flowed into the room like Coke into a glass. Submachine guns and optic eyewraps. Bobby shot the first from inches, suppressed Errant snapping like an angry dog. The Wolf howled triumph, guided Bobby’s free hand in a knuckle punch to the second’s temple. The man crumpled like foil. Third and fourth shot where Bobby was a half-second ago. He kicked off the closed bathroom door, hit the third goon in the base of the skull with the Errant’s slide. Bobby put another bullet in number-four’s forehead.
Two seconds. Four men dead. Bobby and the Wolf rejoiced together. The other three cheered in the back of his brain.
The autocab hummed across the George Washington Bridge. More Maskar people would be looking for him. The autocab had him riding under a hacked ID. Nothing to tie him to it.
Jack already stole a Delta ticket from Newark to Georgetown. They’d all be in the United Bolivarian Republic by noon.
Free of her. No more tracking, no more watching. Free. All of them.
|# ? Jan 31, 2014 21:53|
In with the 1980s.
|# ? Feb 1, 2014 01:57|
She was a fine cow indeed. Such a shame she was destined for the meat factory. Jim ran his hank over her flank and smiled, then dropped his pants. Fifteen seconds later, his screams alerted Farmer Brown, who sauntered over and laughed at the spectacle.
"Well waddaya know. Erogenous Beef can eat a dick".
I climb a pyramid of skulls. Blood King Sebmojo lies dead at my hand, and his Vizier Sitting Here is vanquished also. I am almost at the top, but two more stand in my way. Upjumped Princeling, your time has come.
Erogenous Beef, I'm calling you out. Brawl me, baby bitch.
|# ? Feb 1, 2014 02:09|
Hi, I'm trying to keep with my New Year's Resolution to write more so I want to participate in Thunderdome. I'm in with the 1900s.
Cartridgeblowers fucked around with this message at 02:55 on Feb 1, 2014
|# ? Feb 1, 2014 02:40|
Sign ups are closed
|# ? Feb 1, 2014 04:05|
I am cold blood.
I am kill.
|# ? Feb 1, 2014 05:45|
She was a fine cow indeed. Such a shame she was destined for the meat factory. Jim ran his hank over her flank and smiled, then dropped his pants. Fifteen seconds later, his screams alerted Farmer Brown, who sauntered over and laughed at the spectacle.
I will judge this.
|# ? Feb 1, 2014 09:29|
She was a fine cow indeed. Such a shame she was destined for the meat factory. Jim ran his hank over her flank and smiled, then dropped his pants. Fifteen seconds later, his screams alerted Farmer Brown, who sauntered over and laughed at the spectacle.
Oh, it's that time of the month for you, is it? Well, I can sate your needs.
Mojo, prompt us.
|# ? Feb 1, 2014 13:04|
Another Calvino quote: "Falsehood is never in words; it is in things."
1000 words, Saturday midnight PST.
|# ? Feb 1, 2014 20:14|
just make sure seadoof sits like across from me or something when we judge b/c he smells
|# ? Feb 1, 2014 20:57|
The Farce (996 words)
At eight I had only two desires. The first was for the fog-grey Schwinn in the Macy’s window, a window splotted with the nose-prints of a thousand speed-mad boys. The second was to see, just once, the Vigneau brothers win a cycle race.
From the first time I snuck in amongst the chiffonned gentry, I had loved those underdogs - Adolphe and Aubert - helplessly. That my last attempt had ended in a bum’s-rush from the velodrome only made me love them more.
Thus, when my father came home that Friday with three tickets to the six-day race, unrumpled and smelling like clean sweat, I was less skeptical than I might have been. “We’re about to make a lot of dough, Lillian,” he said, grabbing my mother by the waist. “I have it on good authority that ol’ Gormie and Duke are in a winning mood tonight. Go fetch your pin money.” He winked at me.
Gormie and Duke. The Vigneaus’ hard-boiled rivals were swept off by their entourage after every race, never signing an autograph. But to protest was to risk my ticket, so I packed into the trolley unspeaking. My father dickered with the bookie, my mother bought me a Baby Ruth; when my father returned, I hid it under my coat. He insisted on shaking my hand. I drew away with a quarter in my palm.
“Go bet that on Gormie and Duke,” he said, “and you stand to double it.” I gawped. A half-dollar would have the Schwinn on layaway.
Yet at the bookie’s window I hesitated. I pictured moustachioed Adolphe, galvanizing the crowd from his brother’s shoulders. Lanky Aubert, who had once plucked a two-foot splinter from his own thigh after a crash. I had threatened newsboys for a glimpse of their names on the sports page.
I glanced back at my parents. “Twenty-five cents on the Vigneaus,” I whispered. Then I hid the ticket in my unused watch-pocket.
The track shone orange, its corners pitched to forty degrees. “So they can take the turns faster,” I hissed to my father, who shushed me unseeingly.
Of the six days of a race - two-man teams trading twelve-hour shifts - these last two hours were the most fraught. The score-men raised their placards: 16,210 laps for the Vigneaus; five down for those brutes, Gormie and Duke. “Any minute now,” said my father, and settled in with his opera glasses.
Aubert, spokes and steel, flashed past with the pack. A long-haul strategy, then. If the finish came to a mad rush, wiry Adolphe could out-race his brother. But Aubert, he could ride as fast and steady as an Appaloosa ran.
Yet: Aubert was slowing.
It was barely perceptible at first. Riders sighed and sat back from the rivet. In Aubert’s wake they were tentative, unwilling to abandon their lazy positions: slipstreamed, plotting their next attacks unseen. But slowly Aubert slackened: bewildered racers slid past, glancing back, until the peloton shat him out like he’d been oiled.
A murmur arose. “What’s wrong with Vigneau? Is he ill?” His soigneur ran to the sideline with a flask of strychnine, but Aubert waved him off. I plucked at my buttons. Perhaps he’d pick up a better position when they lapped him. My father smiled greasily.
But Aubert was not satisfied to simply lag. He dawdled. In ten laps he was moving at a canter, and when the pack passed him again, he slowed to a trot. My father’s hand dampened my suit-coat shoulder. “What’s wrong with this little prick?” he asked. “Is he trying to make fools out of us?”
Aubert’s pace became parody. At each lapping he made sweeping gestures: after you, monsieurs. As he finally twanged into a mid-course trackstand - twitching on that verge between speed and stillness - the soigneur dragged Adolphe from their infield encampment by his armpits. They pantomimed like film stars. SOIGNEUR: Hands in air, supplicating. ADOLPHE: Head shaking, struggling to rise. “He’s been doped,” my mother whispered. “Those imbeciles doped him?” roared my father. “In front of five thousand people! This is a farce!”
“Ride, Aubert!” I howled with the crowd. And that Viszla of a man obliged us. He propped one foot on the handlebars, pedaling furiously with the other. Then a series of bunny-hops. Then he hobbled along like a child on a dandy-horse. Then, to wild applause, a wheelie. Gormie, unwatched, gained his twenty-fourth uncertain lap.
At the last straightaway mad Aubert clambered up - one foot on the saddle, one on the top tube - and stood, fists pumping. And in this absurd triumphant wobbling fashion he passed the finish line. Thirty laps back.
We roared. We leapt from the grandstand. I slipped my father’s hand and dove in. Aubert Vigneau, already tucked in a cloud of flash-powder. Gormie and Duke - the champions - giving their disquisition to a single journalist.
Aubert was salt-streaked collarbone to navel. “Yes, yes. I have ridden quite poorly indeed,” he was saying. And he was half-turned before a newsman grabbed his bicep.
“Mister Vig-now.” The name mangled. I cringed. “Aren’t you ashamed, to have engendered such a farce?”
And Aubert blinked, turning back.
“No.The only men who should feel shame,” he said, “are those who requested a farce and were angry to see one.”
My father never asked about that twenty-five cent ticket. In return I did him a courtesy as well, untacking my favorite poster (gleaming steel, Adolphe and Aubert with upturned cap-brims - “Vigneau and Vigneau, gone in a flash!”) and hiding it in my roll-top desk. I never did ask how much he made from Gormie’s win.
I believe Adolphe became a bricklayer. As for Aubert I do not know for sure. I have heard that he enlisted, though I reckon him too old for that by now. Nonetheless I check the dog tags of each long-limbed, reddish-haired body that comes through my tent. Honest men are rare enough as it is.
|# ? Feb 1, 2014 21:12|
[Set in the 2000's, and must include Daryoush Ayyoubi]
Aching (385 words)
Daryoush's eyes ached, and he rubbed the bridge of his nose between his fingers, trying to clear his head. All of him ached, but at least this was something he could handle, and it served as a momentary distraction from the task that was staring him down. The task, and the entirety of both teams, not the least of whom being the steely-eyed goalie standing across from him, whose unflinching stare threatened to bore right through him.
Daryoush's eyes ached, and he pulled his gaze away, down to the ball sitting at his feet. It would be either a weapon of glory, or an instrument of catastrophe, all based solely on his next action. One ball, two men, three seconds on the clock, and fourty thousand fans watching this moment from the stands. Only God could say how many more would see the broadcast, see him illuminated by the floodlights that bathed the field in an artificial day.
Daryoush's eyes ached, but his soul ached more, not for fear but for yearning. He would not back down. Time, which had seemed to bear down on him only a moment before, slowed to a crawl, the seconds he had becoming the hours he needed. Daryoush knew this man, knew how he blocked, and knew there was only way to proceed.
Daryoush's eyes ached. So he closed them. He shut out the world, until it was just himself, his goal, and a single man standing between them. As he pulled his leg back, he could feel judgment. He could feel the fear and the expectation and the biting, clawing knowledge that if he failed, no one would ever let him forget it. And as he swung his kick forward, he could hear their screams. 'Don't fail, Daryoush Ayyoubi,' They said, in every language without uttering a single word, 'Don't you dare fail.' Daryoush's retort was the roar of cheering fans as the the ball connected with the net.
Daryoush's eyes ached. He had been sweating so hard for so long that there was barely any water left in his body for the tears of triumphant joy his heart was demanding. There was still a fight ahead of them, the kick had only tied the game, but for Daryoush, win or lose, this night was his triumph.
|# ? Feb 1, 2014 23:16|
[superbowl tomorrow, here's my 1940s entry!]
Carter sat down heavy on the stool and caught himself on the smooth grain of the bar. His collar was open and his shirtsleeves were rolled up to the elbow. He was already a little drunk. It was 3PM on a Tuesday afternoon. Franklin raised an eyebrow at him.
“Drink.” Carter closed his eyes and his corneas darted back and forth behind the lids, hoping to find the words he needed written inside. “…’aneed another.”
Franklin looked him over. “Why aren’t you at the factory?”
“Quit.” Carter opened his eyes in a flash of insight. He began to fish around in his pants pocket while he talked. “They told me I should get out. Called me a drunkard and a deadbeat.” He frowned as he pushed the pocket to its structural limitations and found nothing. “I hadn’t even gotten my morning nip in me yet.” He turned the pocket inside out and revealed mothballs and holes. Blue lint fell to the floor by his stool. He stared, confused, at the inside of his pants. “So’s I got nothing now.”
Carter abandoned his search in the right pocket and started in for the left. Franklin watched him. “So where have you been, Carter?”
“Tony’s. I had enough from the severance pay they tossed in the gutter after me for twelve fingers of whiskey.” He was deep in his pocket again. “Where the hell is my wallet now…”
Franklin picked up a glass and held it to the light. “You tell Myra yet?” He scratched at a spot.
The question stopped Carter, and he thought, putting a blue thumb in his mouth. “Mmm. Reckon I don’t have to. She gave me the boot Friday. Same quarrel.”
Franklin stopped his examination of the glass midair and looked at his friend. Really looked at him, for the first time in maybe ten years. Carter was halfway to bald; his skin was pale and sickly where it wasn’t already permanently stained. He had arms and legs like a horse from hauling denim, but they sat odd and dangling on his too short frame, which sagged in the wrong places. His eyes were his only saving feature, a piercing green that today were clouded with liquor and deep blue sadness. He put the glass down. “Jesus, Carter.” There weren’t a lot of words.
Carter shrugged and tried a smile that landed eight miles from convincing. “So I could use another drink, old friend.”
Franklin nodded and moved the glass in front of him. “Water it is.”
Carter frowned. “Something a trifle stronger than that, I’d think.”
Franklin shook his head. “I have responsibilities. I don’t put you out to walk home after a bottle of rye, and I don’t cloud your head when you need your wits.” He reached out and patted his friend’s arm before turning for the water pitcher. “And you need your wits.”
“Franklin.” Carters voice barely broke through his lips, was almost swallowed by the silence of the empty room. Franklin turned back to him.
He cleared his throat once, twice, then licked his lips, forming wordless syllables before his voice returned. “I’m fifty-three years old and all I know is putting color into poo poo that don’t need coloring. I got no practical skills; I never been to war, and I never went to college, and I’m too old and too drunk to play at either now. There ain’t nothing to be sussed out there, I saw the writing on the wall quite a whiles away.” He looked dead into Franklin’s eyes. “But what I can do is drink. I’ve always been mighty good at that. And I need a win.” He pushed the water away from him. “Don’t insult me with that.”
Franklin looked at him for a long moment before he shook his head. “I can’t.”
“What are you, a preacher? Do your drat job!” Carter slammed his fist down onto the bar, knocking over the glass. It rolled off the bar and fell to the floor, shattering. The two men stared at each other for a long while.
Finally, Carter scowled and dropped his gaze. “I need a win.”
“What you need is a nap.” He cursed and threw the towel onto the bar. “All right.” He placed both palms on the wood and looked up at his friend through narrow eyes. “You go in the back to my office, and you sleep it off. When closing time comes, you help me clean this place, top to bottom. You may not know much, but you’ll drat well know your way around a broom at the end of the night. I will give you three dollars for your help. If, at that point, you still want that drink, the money is yours to spend.” His eyes did not waver from the defeated face in front of him. “Good?”
Carter nodded. “Thank you.”
Franklin reached into his pocket and offered a key. “Here’s your win.”
Carter smiled, genuinely, as he took the key and stood up. “I reckon it just might be.” Franklin nodded in the direction of the back before snatching up a dustpan and hand broom.
Carter shuffled his way through the back door, past the office, past the bathroom, and straight to the stockroom. He slid the key into the lock, turned it, pulled open the door, gripped the chain for the light in his hand and tugged. An old bulb filled the room with pale light. He closed and locked the door behind him, grabbed a bottle of whiskey off the shelf, and settled into a mop in the corner. He pulled out the cork and drank deep. It tasted sweet.
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 00:04|
(640 words. Set in the 1910`s)
The Parthian Shot
Northern France, September 1914.
Cold winds shook John`s rackety little biplane as it flew across the German lines. His thick duffel coat was barely enough to keep hypothermia away. The cold bit into his flesh, numbing his hands. Too bad the army had emptied his flask. He could bloody well need a mouthful of whisky right now. Not only for the warmth, but also for his nerves.
It was all a bit confusing figuring out what role airplanes should play. So far, the British government had decided to rely on rich volunteers who could afford to bring their own personal planes. Rope, glue and a few nails held the machine together. His only weaponry was as Smith and Wesson, fresh from the factory. This too he( or rather his father) had to pay for himself.
Beneath the thin layer of clouds the stream of German troops appeared to flow endlessly from the northeast. Already it was apparent that the defense of Mons had failed, these were all supposed to be columns of British soldiers marching towards Berlin. HQ would not be happy to hear this. In fear of their rifles he didn`t dare to go any lower.
The plane tilted one wing awkwardly towards the ground to allow John to take a snapshot. It was not easy to concentrate on both photographing and flying at the same time. John wished he had bought a double-seater back in May.
Then suddenly, in the far distance a grey cross could be seen hurling towards him. It was a german plane, approximately 1000 meters away and 100 meters above him. John pulled out his gun and yanked the stick back so as to ascend. Instinctivly he felt like the Kraut should not be allowed to get the drop on him.
The Kraut had seen him and steered his plane intently towards John. Now just 300 meters away the planes started to circle one another, no man would allow the other to get behind him. Rising in a corkscrew motion John and his prey came quickly came dangerously close to one another. Both the Kraut and John had their pistols drawn. At least they are as unprepared for aerial combat as we are John thought to himself.
Bang Bang! Two bullets pierced holes through the sailcloth on John`s left wing. His breathing quickened and John suddenly felt time move very slowly. One wrong bullet could tear apart this whole machine apart he tough. The blue sky seemed almost painfully bright, but nowhere could John see his enemy.
He tilted the plane leftward to look down; the German was going into a dive. The coward was running away! John turned the plane quickly and went into a dive as well. The Kraut was not going to get away, hell no!.
Hans Huber was pleased to see John`s shadow following his. The ground was only 500 meters down and approaching fast. With one hand ready to yank back the steering stick Hans leaned upwards and fired his revolver , he had no time to aim. The bullet grazed Hans`s tailfin and tore through a wooden propeller blade before planting itself firmly inside John`s skull.
Hans had no time to notice this as he leaned back to level his plane at the last minute. The mournful thud hammering vibrating from behind felt satisfying. Hans came back around to check the results. The foolish English plane had crashed into a meadow. Black smoke rose from the smashed wreck. It had worked. Hans had finally made his first kill.
Hans was pleased. He felt powerful knowing he was the first man in his squadron to kill an enemy air scout.
If this doesn’t earn me a medal, then nothing will!
Hans almost feared the war would be over just as it was getting interesting.
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 00:25|
The Son of Bloody Sunders 963 words, flash rule: gotta dinosaur
John Sunderson, Jr., swore at the back of the posse as another pan dropped from his overburdened ankylosaurus. He called for the group to stop, hearing laughter as they continued trotting forwards, their cheap horses more comfortable to ride than his own huge beast. He slid down the hard, scaly hide of the ankylosaurus, his belt catching on a horn and neatly upending him face first onto the cold ground. Dusting his pants off with frost-stung palms, John reminded himself again that the indignity of travelling with these illiterate, near-outlaws would be worth it when he reached the new settlement of Seattle.
Scooping the pan from the ground and tucking it into the back of a bag lashed to the still-walking ankylosaurus, John spat at the ground again and cursed his family's name. Anywhere had to be better than California, had to let the child of Bloody Sunders work inside the law. He pulled himself aboard the “luxury” creature and continued his march.
"We'll camp up here tonight, if Sir Dinosaur approves." Michael Bernaldi, a rough Italian, called from the head of their small procession. Jack shivered as Michael flashed a gap-filled smile his way, raptor claws rattling on his vest. Only one kind of man showed how good he was at taking down dinosaurs, and Jack found his hands tensing on his reigns. "Union’s gotta have a camp near."
As if on cue, muffled cannon booms rolled past the dismounting men, followed by a roar of a distant brachiosaur. John slid his hand inside his bedroll, wrapping his fingers around the lever of his brand new Henry rifle. He'd managed to keep the weapon secret from his travelling companions; Henry rifles were Union-issue only, and a voice in the back of his head said that nobody in his present company would make as civilized an offer as he did to obtain it in the first place.
"Baby John there seems to be on edge; maybe he should take first watch with the Italian. If he can lower His Majesty down from that ‘saur." Three-Fingers Ben flourished a bow before removing some dried wood from a saddlebag on his horse. Ben had grown up around John, but despite their similar ages, they were hardly friends. As a young teenager, Ben lost a finger in the four-against-twenty gunfight that killed John’s father; while they walked in similar circles, John and Ben had become two very different men. "You going to beat a good old Union boy to death with your blankie if he comes trying to draft a deserter like you, huh?"
"Reckon I might." John knew the words; you don't learn to speak from Bloody Sunders without picking up a thing or two about sounding tough. He just cursed that he hadn't inherited his father's voice; rather than speaking with wood cracking in a fire and the rumble of a triceratops, his own voice sounded more like one of those yippy Mexican dogs. He spat and resigned himself for another long night of jumping at ghosts while everyone snored.
John reached the settlement of Seattle late the next day, almost an hour behind his impatient companions. The trip had been safer than John expected. He cursed under his breath; he'd assumed the rifle would be necessary and had no idea what to do with a Union gun now that he'd reached his new home. He slid carefully from the ankylosaurus and wrapped a hand around its bridle, figuring it’d only be polite to meet folks on foot. He set off down the surprisingly empty street, bedroll tied to his back, looking for someone else with a dinosaur hitched to a post; someone else of means.
A woman's scream sounded from the inn as John drew close. He found himself loading a handful of bullets into the breech of his rifle before he realized he'd drawn the weapon, dropping a few useable rounds on the ground. He breathed in deeply, feeling the slight head rush gun oil always gave him. He almost tripped over an arm as he drew closer to the inn; a quick glance revealed a Sherriff’s badge on the corpse's chest. John pocketed the badge and calmed himself, his father’s gun fighting lessons looming out of memory.
Michael Bernaldi and Three-Fingers Ben were the first to drop; John fired twice from across the street and took each one between the eyes, straight through an open window. The men inside shouted at each other as John felt his blood begin to rise. He ran across the street, popping two more quick shots through the next window and hearing someone else crash to the ground inside. He kicked in the door and quickly fired four more times, planting bullets cleanly in four foreheads. Something stung through his ear as John leapt over a table, firing three more times into a vaguely familiar face. He listened briefly for movements in the small bubble of calm he created before rolling sideways and aiming the Henry at a woman held hostage in front of another familiar face; he just managed to pull the gun up and to the right enough as his finger closed to send the bullet through her abductor’s beard, leaving a trail of red on the wall behind. He spun and pulled the trigger one last time as a sound echoed over the bar to his left, only to thankfully click empty as he realized he was aimed at a barkeep. John lowered his gun.
"Sorry, feller." He surveyed the carnage around the room; eight bodies, the whole party he'd travelled with since California. He fingered the badge in his pocket and felt a smile tease at the corner of his lips. "Name's John... Mason. Seems you folks might need a new Sherriff."
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 01:00|
A Town Called Freedom 1900s (1905 specifically), 937 words
Let me tell you about Freedom, Mississippi. There ain’t one person here who stepped out of this town in forty years. Forty years the three families that run the houses have sat upon on their porches and for forty years they lied to us. I know this because my pappy taught me to read. Ain’t much to read around here, sure, but at least I know.
No stars tonight. It’s perfect. I reach for something that can hold me.
It was something like five years ago now that the salesman came to town. The McGhees and the Robinsons and the Pelletiers were real suspicious of the man. He had a fancy carriage and two horses of his own that he drove into town with. The salesman had a thick mustache and a hat almost as tall as he was. He told the men of the families that he wanted to sell them a wonderful new device. It would make cleaning so much easier: a motorized dirt sucking machine that would turn an hour long chore into a few moments of time.
Mr. Pelletier was the first to speak up, with his French accent pouring out of his slimy mouth like gumbo. He told the man they had workers to clean the houses and they didn’t need to buy no fancy pants motorized machine from England. Mr. McGhee was a bit nicer, asking the old fellow to stay the night as they considered his offer. I poured them tea and the salesman’s glance met my own.
I pull myself up. Ground’s below me now. Foot seems to fit right in between the wood.
That night as the salesman slept in his little room next to Mr. Robinson’s three youngsters, I found myself unable to sleep. I was curious, you see. It was another thing that set me apart from my peers in the town. I wanted to see the metal dirt sucking machine myself, especially since it was me who had to clean their filthy floors most times. Mr. McGhee’s oldest was on watch that night and he was always easiest to sneak by.
Near the stables I found the salesman’s carriage. On the side was painted in big, gold letters: “MARVIN’S MARVELOUS MECHANICAL MAINTENANCE.” Seems he was a travelling salesman, but I’d only heard about them from my pappy. In my twenty years in Freedom I ain’t never seen a traveler of any kind come into town. I wanted to know more, so I did what came natural: I opened the door.
Tip of the moon’s peeking out from behind the magnolias. I can almost peer over the side now. Didn’t know there was a stream out here. Probably good fish inside.
I searched inside the carriage and found a box in the back full of various metal parts: hoses and wires and even some tiny wheels. Nothing I recognized, anyway. In the front were a smattering of papers – they were a light golden color and had dark printed text on them. In the middle of a few of the paper strips were photographs, another thing I’d only really heard about. On a few of the papers in big letters was written “The Daily Clarion-Ledger.”
I read through the papers as if a man possessed. Some of the papers talked about a word I’d never heard but when I read it I couldn’t help but say it aloud.
It almost sounded like the name of our city, but it was more personal. It felt good to say. I kept reading and hours passed me by. As I heard the first rooster crow, I stuffed as many of the papers as I could in my overalls and snuck back to bed.
Part of my hand reaches out past the top of my climb and for the first time I feel the air of another world. I’m halfway there.
Later that day the masters gave us three bags to bury in the garden. One of the bags had a protrusion not unlike a top hat. A few of us knew what it was, but what could we do? Disobey out masters? It was the first time I’d ever thought of such a thing. A few of the others chopped up and burned the wood from the stables. The metal parts were buried, too. The horses were fed to us, uncooked.
Each night from then on I read as much of the papers as I could, in secret of course. New words and phrases filled my head: “Freedmen.” “Emancipation.” “Civil War.” Apparently that had ended almost twenty years before I was born. The President had died. Why didn’t they tell us these things? As I absorbed more information, I started forming more questions. This kept up until finally, tragically, I realized I knew the answers.
I’m almost over the fence when I hear a whispered shout. I look to see dear Rose, bless her heart, who breaks her back every day for the masters’ ungrateful brats. She looks at me with longing eyes.
“Alouishis,” she calls to me, “you’ll come back for us, right? You promise?” I look down at her weathered face. I’m above her but still the same.
“With a goddamned army if I have to,” I reply.
When my feet hit the ground, I’m free. For the first time in forty years a man from Freedom is free. I cross the stream and walk the countless miles towards civilization. When I come back, I swear in my bones that none of my people will be lied to again. At long last, Freedom will have some truth.
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 04:18|
T Rex you dint add me to the sign up roster. <>
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 05:14|
That's because you didn't sign up
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 06:04|
This is a story. It has 689 words.
It was summer and the sun was high in the sky; it was bright, yellow, and killing me. I didn’t know exactly how long I had left, but it would be long enough.
There was only one tower left. I’d been building them for about three months, which is also why I was going to die a little sooner than might otherwise have been the case. The smart play, one might argue, would’ve been to do the construction at night, but my night eyes weren’t that great. Not like some of the younger ones who’d grown up underground. Only some, though; not my Ben. Didn’t have enough generators to spare to light up the area, either. I would’ve still gotten the work done, but it would’ve been a matter of years or even decades, rather than months.
Of course, others might argue that the even smarter play would be to just stay underground. I didn’t really have a convincing argument against this point of view. Still, my work was almost done, although I’d gotten to this point by standing on the shoulders of giants – or, more to the point, stealing from the laboratories and factories of long dead billionaires.
I plugged in the last circuit; it whirred in a worrying fashion. I frowned and pulled it back out again. Ah, it was a circuit from a home sanitation unit. I’d heard they did that. It was nothing to worry about. I plugged it back in. Only one thing left to do.
A two hour hike saw me at the central control tower above the entrance to what I now dared to hope was only a temporary home. Well, for some, anyway. I plugged in my laptop and ran some diagnostics. All towers were communicative.
It was six months ago now that I’d found the laptop. It’d been in the basement of a suburban home; one of those really fancy basements that was intended to work as a shelter. It looked like it’d probably served in that capacity just fine until they’d run out of canned food. It was rare to find a working laptop that also had a working power supply, but it was what was on the laptop that was the biggest find. It was the thing that would fix the sky.
And also contribute to killing me.
I opened the program now. It didn’t have a name; whoever owned the laptop had apparently named it Amos or something, although they’d spelt it wrong. Amos didn’t have a ‘t’. I adjusted some settings and told it to activate, then went underground for a bit.
Apparently I’d collapsed about two hundred metres inside the entrance. I was discovered by the first hunting team of the evening. I awoke to see Karl peering down at me. “You’re gonna have to give up these day time trips,” he said. “I told you they weren’t good for you.”
I smiled. “Don’t worry, that was the last one.”
“Good,” he said. “About time you gave up on that idea.”
I shook my head. “No. I mean it’s done. Any further work or maintenance can be done at night time anyway, now that they’re all powered.”
“OK, well you’d better get some rest. You’ve got a very small visitor waiting to see you when you’re feeling a little better.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “I can see him now.”
Karl showed Ben into the room. I reached my arms out to him and he latched onto me. “Are you OK, mum?”
I smiled and kissed his forehead. “I’m fine, sweetie. Just tired.”
“Dr Karl says it’s the outside, that the sun’s bad for you. You aren’t going to go out there anymore, are you?”
“Nah, my work’s finished.”
“It’s complicated, honey. Maybe when you’re older someone will explain it.”
It’s a shame that it won’t be me. It’s a shame that I won’t get to see his face the first time he goes outside, sees daylight that doesn’t kill everything under it. But see it he will, so I can’t be too bitter that it killed me to make it happen.
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 11:10|
A story about triumph set in the 1420s told before or after its own crux in the third person as an allegory on the war on drugs (I think)
The Filth Queen
The iron scorched her skin and Jane screamed. The pliers wrapped around her finger and she pleaded. The fist smashed into her mouth and she cursed. But she didn’t break.
“Admit your heresy, whore,” the Earl would spit, and she would spit back at him. He tortured her more out of hurt pride than zeal, she knew. It gave her a sense of satisfaction worth the all the pain in the world.
The sunlight was gone when they threw her in her cell. She knocked herself against the wooden door, but it didn’t give in. She did the only thing she could do. She prayed. The air was thick with the wails and pleads of prisoners.
Her interrogations grew less frequent. Sometimes the Earl didn’t even bother to attend. Instead, some inquisitor would preach to her about her role in society and other moral questions as she suffered. She hoped they would grow bored of her. She prayed for freedom.
She broke when they threatened to destroy her right hand.
He had saved it for last, the Earl told her that day. He had known it would make her confess, and he laughed as she did. He laughed even harder as she asked for her sword back. They kicked her out on the street, but not before they hurt her one last time.
Her rags rubbed against the brand on her neck as she limped out of the castle into the big town below. She didn’t pray that night. She slept in the city muck.
The mud of the slums caked her robes. Jane absently opened and closed her mangled left, trying to focus on her thoughts through the wails of her empty stomach. Begging in the good districts hadn’t worked. People recognized her. “Warrior Whore”, they called her. The inquisitors and their watchmen would always keep their eyes on her, hoping for a relapse.
Among the other branded, she at least had peace. There were many criminals here, but they usually took their business to the better parts of town, where it was worth it. Guards only ever came during raids, looking for signs of heresy or other illegal activity. Every night there would be screams and the sound of steel on steel and people would disappear. They were replaced quickly.
A hooded figure approached and Jane stood, steadying herself against a wooden shack. He asked if she wanted to get her hands dirty. “I only have one,” she said, “but it will do.”
The big man sized her up and laughed. “Come to collect, eh,” he said. “You?” She flexed her mangled left as he approached. “Don’t think so.”
He lunged. She buried a knife in his heart.
She had won fights before, but never killed. As the man slithered to the ground, his eyes wide open in shock, his mouth gaping, his stupid, ape-like expression frozen in his final moments, Jane realized that she liked what she saw.
The leather harness felt good on her skin, like old times. Her hair was cut to short stubbles and with the right stride and the right amount of dirt in her face she looked like any other mercenary boy as she paced through the streets and back alleys of the better districts.
She entered a dark cul-de-sac. Two people were loving at the end, behind an armored guard. She didn’t break her stride. The watchman challenged her. She wrapped down her collar to reveal her brand. He noticed her mangled left and cursed, unsheathing his sword in a hurry. Her eyes gleamed with delight.
By the time the watch had tracked the source of the screams, they only found a dead inquisitor and his dead bodyguard.
Her sword was crude and unbalanced, but she buried it in the watchman’s neck regardless. Another took a desperate stab at her. She swatted his spear away, took a quick step forward and opened his throat. With a grunt, she pushed the man’s quivering body to the ground.
Her friends hadn’t fought quite as well. Branded heretics bled in the mud between the bodies of armored city guards. But more had survived, and they cheered as they realized their victory. Today, the Earl would learn of another disappeared raiding party.
She sent her people back to work: the branded, petty criminals who considered her a savior in their desperation; the whores, who had grown sick of their cruel patrons; the cutthroats and mercenaries and lunatics who respected her boldness.
The Filth Queen, they called her now. She took them all in, and she made good use of them.
The Earl had brought guards, as did she. There was much to discuss; a partnership that could only benefit everyone, he insisted. He’d even sweeten the deal, he said, as he put her old sword on the makeshift table between them.
She ignored it. “I am happy to fight you.”
The color went from his face. Was that not her sword, he asked. Did she not know who she was talking to, he demanded.
She gave him a smile like curdled milk. “I am talking to the Earl of Wengton, sinner in a city of heretics. This is not my sword. It belonged to Jane of Kyrie. You have killed Jane of Kyrie.”
She went past the crate with her sword on it, looked straight at the Earl who backed away just slightly. “I tolerate your presence because your policies swell my ranks and your dead equip my soldiers. I am, in a way, indebted to you. But neither have I forgotten.”
Her sword stopped short of the Earl’s wrist. He screamed, stumbled, fell back on his rear end. His guards drew their weapons, but she and her gang just laughed, laughed until the coward Earl disappeared from the ruined shack. She let him take her old sword. She didn’t care. He would return, but she didn’t care. She was the Filth Queen, and this was her city.
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 13:20|
I have to withdraw with my 1950's story half finished. The viruses win this brawl. Will post in the redemption thread when I can.
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 13:27|
I am also sick like a little wimpy babby and must bow out like a little wimpy babby.
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 14:53|
The Filth Queen
I liked it.
More illustration of the mangled left hand may have helped. It was ruined for swordplay and instantly visible, but not removed entirely? It's the injury that broke her because they threatened the same for the right hand, but all that's described is pliers on her finger.
The "fell back on his rear end" in the last paragraph felt a little jarring, like, contemporary common language. Fell back off his seat might fit the style better. I could be wrong.
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 16:47|
Mervin the Organiser.
The year of our Lord 1056. The forces of Gruffydd ap Rhydderch and Ælfgār, Prince of Mercia, unite for their final attack on Hereford to deliver swift justice and either to take back the city or put it to the torch. Two chiefs who are to lead their warbands in a flank attack on northern walls meet here, on a pleasant pasture where the river bends defending them from the enemy’s possible pre-emptive strike.
‘Alright, Michael. For once you’re on time,’ a Celtic chief greeted his Saxon counterpart and extended his hand for a handshake.
‘Jesus Christ, Brian! You’re supposed to be in persona once you have your kit on. Start being just a tiny bit authentic, will you?’ whispered annoyed Michael. He always thought of himself as a hardcore re-enactor and nothing could irritate him more than breaking the character during the event. After a deep sigh Michael continued in a convincing Mercia dialect, ‘I welcome thee and thy people. I am Eastmund and I command yon warriors under Ælfgār. My lord and your lord both do…’
So many times have Brian been accused of only being into re-enactment to impress women, so many times he, a history major, had to take the flak for a little bit of banter during the event. Before Michael could finish Brian (who was still holding his hand extended) interrupted him.
‘Hold on, hold on. I’m getting sick of this nonsense. Who the bloody hell do you think you are? Just look at your mail. Chainmail leggings in the 11th century? Get off your high horse, you silly jubbly.’
No one has ever called Michael a jubbly before. He’s travelled to the Napoleonic era twice, he’s fought in Byzantine-Ottoman Wars, he’s even met one of Columbus’ brothers and no one has ever had the audacity of calling him out on anachronisms in his kit.
‘Now listen up, you ponce, the fact that they’re first mentioned in the 12th century manuscripts, doesn’t mean they weren’t known before,’ yelled back Michael and drew his sword out of the sheath. ‘Have at thee!’
This type of conflict is always bound to attract interest of other re-enactors which is never good on the event. It was the time for Mervin, the steward for this gig, to interfere.
Mervin was rather new to being an organiser, but through many years of being a commoner, he’s learnt all too well how heated can be discussions around authenticity. Who’d want to travel two thousand years back in time only to find a fast food chain restaurant instead of a village tavern?
‘Halt!’ Mervin now stood between two chiefs with his hands over his head, and everyone had to listen to what he’s got to say, ‘Friends! We all know why we’re here. A battle is at hand, a real battle. For centuries before us, our predecessors had to re-enact most of the events with wooden swords and portable toilets. For centuries our hobby was nothing but wishful thinking, a stretch of imagination. But we all have paid the price, it has cost us a lot of effort and money to get here and we should stay united in the face of our enemy,’ it was as if orchestral music started to play as Mervin was talking. It all felt so cinematic, so grand and epic, complete with a true battle speech: all eyes on him. With even more enthusiasm he continued, ‘Let’s forget about insignificant details just for one day and remember that the only thing that really matters is that in an hour we move out and we crash opposing forces. And nothing can go wrong, because that’s history and we are the ones to make it!’
The music wouldn’t stop playing inside of Mervin’s head. In fact, it wouldn’t stop playing at all.
‘Did you bring your phone with you?’ Michael now showed no sign of anger, but rather spoke with complete bafflement in his voice.
‘Sorry for dissing your mail, Mike. Compared to this it’s the A incarnate. Christ almighty, it’s the worst gig I’ve been to,’ said Brian frowning. Suddenly he had a brilliant idea on how to save this wreck of an event, ‘You know what, lads? There’s a village nearby with the best cider in this era. Who’s up for it say “aye”!’
‘Aye!’ bellowed warriors back.
In ten minutes all soldiers have left the camp.
‘Mum, I told you I would call you after we’d have won, why would you do that? Why?’
It was over for Mervin the organiser. Now it’s back to being Mervin the commoner for him again. Could have been worse, though. They could have taken group’s beacon with them and he could have been stuck here for quite some time before another group could pick him up…
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 19:15|
“It’s just like plowing a field,” Private Amalya Nadel said to the assembled Pakistani villagers as she followed behind the Fallout Vacuum. She knelt down and stuck a Geiger prong into the dirt as the machine plodded along its programmed course. “You’ll need to run it over any soil you intend to plant crops in.”
Most of the men had stopped listening to her. Instead they followed the tractor-sized vacuum.
She showed Elder Kamran, the only one left listening, the toxicity reading. “Not only does it scrub 99% of radiation from the ground, but it’s also powered by it.”
Kamran’s skeletal body trembled as he hunched over his walking stick. “And is this gift, like the others, free of charge?” Kamran asked, looking at and speaking to the translator nestled in Amalya’s ear. “I wonder how much Israel will give before it expects to collect.” The old man punctuated the question with raised eyebrows of thin stubble as he met her eyes.
“All we ask in return is that you remember who came to help. The machine itself is actually aid from Korea. These supplies are the last that we’ll deliver, unfortunately. We ship out soon.”
“To another village?”
A smile crept across Amalya’s lips despite her best efforts to maintain a professional demeanor. “Home.”
“Back to your bubble?”
Amalya studied his pock-marked grinning face. He hadn’t meant to wound her, but a familiar feeling of shame flushed out her joy. Her two year tour had done little to dampen her memories of her exultation twisting to horror after the Shi’a Caliphate’s warheads detonated “harmlessly” against the Israeli Defense Grid.
She gritted her teeth as she recalled the footage of millions dying in agony from the fallout. The Caliphate Generals, like the Japanese a 100 years before, couldn't believe a technology existed that could defeat them. So they had ordered another suicidal strike, blanketing most of the world, especially the lands to the East in more radioactive poison.
She began packing up her supplies. Her father’s voice reverberated in her head. You should have fled to the U.S. or E.U. rather than be conscripted to thanklessly salvage broken nations and atone for others’ apocalyptic belligerence. At least it’s over now.
“I didn't mean to upset you,” Kamran said. “We do not blame you for this.” He placed a withered hand on her shoulder. “We are grateful for everything you've done.”
She silenced her father’s selfish counsel. “I’m just overwhelmed with this decision before me. Some of the other soldiers in my unit are thinking of reenlisting. Some want to join an international brigade.” The reports of the apathetic, isolated Americans unplugging from the net and their VR games to pitch in mocked her. “My Government still won’t send aid or deploy troops to the former Caliphate states.”
Kamran rested his chin on his cane. “And you wish to join them?”
“I’m ready to go home.”
The laughter of young villagers drifted over as they passed a soccer ball back and forth with IDF soldiers. The children doubled over and wheezed after each kick.
“They couldn't even stand when your unit arrived,” Kamran said. “They were dying. We were all dying. Your medicine and machines strengthens them daily.”
“You are very lucky to be out here so far from the cities.” Her hand reflexively dropped down to her sidearm. “I am sure you will have your fair share of bandits and warlords who will try to horde supplies and intercept the drops.”
“Do not worry about us when you leave.” A squadron of drones passed by overhead taking samples of the radioactivity in the atmosphere, scrubbing fallout, or both. Kamran closed his eyes and waited until the distracting humming subsided. “You have done much for this village, and I’m sure for many others too. No one will blame you if you want to rest, to return to your life. You have the strength and the ability to choose.” His eyes still closed, he smiled.
The villagers who had gathered for the Fallout Vac demonstration returned. They propped up their elder with sickly white, red inflamed, and dirt-smeared brown hands. They muttered thanks and farewells to Amalya before shambling back to their homes.
Shimmering streaks of unnatural greens and silver mixed with the soft orange and violet rays of the sunset. Amalya thought of home, and made her decision. She returned to the IDF barracks to pack up and ship out with her unit for the last time.
One week later Amalya stepped off the transport craft. Her thick soled boots protected her feet from the irradiated sands of the Republic of Iraq, former province of the Shi’a Caliphate. She joined the crew of Chinese and American and A.U. volunteers constructing radiation scrubbing irrigators. Under all her protective gear, she didn't miss the weight of a gun on her hip or back.
So close to ground zero the sky oozed unnatural metallic hues, intensified by Isreal’s electromagnetic shield to the West. The same image that had flashed in her mind with Kamran appeared again. Multicolored stick figures holding hands ringed a crude globe. “Tikun Olam,” - “Heal the Earth” - scrawled in a rainbow hovered above the world. The mural on a wall of her grade school seemed like a laughable fantasy to her even as a child.
Amalya flipped down her helmet’s visor against the bright sun and radiation. Humanity had to fight to the brink of annihilation in order to join together to claw their way back. They set their colors in the clouds, a man-made mockery of God’s rainbow, reminding themselves and their progeny – never again.
Israel had won the war without firing a shot, but its true success came in setting the example of unleashing its armed forces in a humanitarian Diaspora across the world. Amalya delighted in the thought of returning home one day. In the meantime, she dragged heavy equipment across the salvageable wasteland, and promised herself to see mankind’s victory through.
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 19:38|
The Worst Story, According to Earl
Earl tightens his clammy hands on the wheel and relishes a few more seconds of safety by counting down from ten. Looking around the apartment complex once more, opening his door, and climbing out from the black interior, he feels like a rusting mechanical spider. Shuffling as fast as he is able, Earl makes for the door, enjoying the jingle the silver coins make in his coat’s pocket. Today is the day. This last fifty-seven cents is all he needs to hit his goal.
Earl opens his door, apartment 101 B, chosen when he moved in fifty years prior due to its prime location on the first floor. This apartment gave Earl the strategic advantage of spending as little time in the apartment’s common area as possible.
Now safe inside, Earl leans against his closet door and exhales relief, kicking his loafers off, shaking a little in his legs. He breathes heavily, savoring the smell of old books lining the walls - something that always calms his nerves. It’s been years since he’d actually spoken to someone, and he wasn’t sure how he’d react if he were greeted in the hall.
Earl pulls the coins out of his pocket and drops them into the third of five change-filled jars sitting on his counter. There is a jar for every week day, and its corresponding grocery store. Hanging from the counter in front of each jar is a chart that Earl uses to track how profitable each lot is. After all these years - almost thirty - Earl has scrounged together five thousand dollars in parking lot change. He wonders for a moment if he’ll miss his routine of wandering up and down the rows, spotting those shining mercury coins, burning in the sun. Sure, he’d miss that moment of discovery. Beginning the laborious process of working his puppet body low enough to pick the coins up, however, he would not.
Yes! Today is a day of great change! After depositing this money, Earl would be able to finally send a message to the past! Earl takes down the framed newspaper hanging over his computer. After all this time moving toward something, he’d finally arrived, and it felt truly incredible. “Send a Message to the Past With New Technology,” the headline read. That was when Earl had first started saving.
Earl was never a rich man. For many years, he’d been too frail for most jobs, and too antisocial for everything else. For decades, Earl paid for food and rent through nothing but buying and selling collectible books online. He read almost all of them, and wrote reviews on consumer websites. Aside from collecting change and watching his savings grow, the thrill of a scathing criticism or the joy of recommending a truly great story were his only pleasures in life.
Fifty years past now, Earl had gone to local book clubs, but just ended up in the parking lot, obsessing over how he would introduce himself. He sat until well after the meeting was over, only driving away after deciding he’d be back next month. That, next time, he would be able to go inside. It only took a year or so to give up on that. But now, he’d be able to send a message to his past self, and everything would change.
Later, Earl sits propped up in bed, his message flying through time and space to a year long ago. Like a child on Christmas, he’s unable to sleep. He’d chosen to send it to the day he’d arrived home after graduating college. He remembered checking the little cupboard hidden in the back wall of his closet. He never stored anything there, so he wasn’t sure why he’d even thought to check. Of course, nothing had been there. That was where the message would be though, when his past self checks the cupboard. “Go join a book club. It’s important to your future,” the message would say.
Over the years people had called the technology a hoax, as it was nearly impossible to prove that these messages were going to the past at all. Earl believed though. Perhaps a new version of history would be created at the moment his younger self found the note, and he’d venture off towards a lifetime of fulfilling book criticism. Perhaps he would go to sleep tonight and his memories would fill with lively debates between fellow enthusiasts. Perhaps all of those book reviews he’d submitted online would be replaced by long afternoons sitting with friends, sipping wine, and debating what the author’s intention was in writing the story. It was with these thoughts in mind that Earl drifted off to sleep.
Earl awakes the next morning feeling refreshed, like he’d had a particularly wonderful dream, but couldn’t remember the details. He puts on his clothes, his hat, and walks outside, not even realizing until he’s out the door that he’s on his way to gather change. His key is already in the lock by the time he realizes he doesn’t need to do that anymore. Well, now what do I do instead? He thinks to himself. It’s at this moment that the young man who lives in 103 B opens his door and steps outside, stopping when he notices Earl.
Earl understands his surprise, realizing that the young man has not seen anything other than Earl’s coat slipping into the depths of 101 B. The man is clutching The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. Earl remembers reading it, and the review he’d written for it online. “That book,” he begins, surprised to hear his own voice. Honestly, Earl couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually spoken to someone. “That book is the worst god damned thing. Save yourself some time and don’t bother with that garbage.” Oh yes. It is as sweet as he imagined it would be all these years. Feeling fine, Earl decides to head for the library and see when their next book club meeting is.
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 20:30|
Decade: 30 AD
Word Count: 882
“I’m Jesus. Look at this bitchin’ halo,” announced the Son of Man to the moonlit garden he knelt in. The birds chirped in the night as if in response to his proclamation of greatness. “Shut up,” he tough-talked the animals. “You chirp again, I’m gonna miracle you into a fish. I’m talking to my Heavenly Father.”
The clouds parted and sunlight punched physics’ figurative face as golden light shone upon Jesus. He knelt to the east and pressed his palms together, tilting his head at just the right angle.
But then Judas, that snitch-bitch, jumped out from a bush behind him and said, "I'm a traitor, Jesus! I’m taking you out and I'm gonna be rich as fuuuck!"
"Not as long as I draw breath!" said Jesus, turning his halo backwards and flexing his holy muscles, back-lit by the sun. He dropped down low into a carpenter stance and punched all ten of the attacking soldiers with one glorious fist. They turned into delicious raisin bread and fell to the ground. “Looks like your men are loafing around.”
Judas tore off his tunic and it floated on the wind. He faced Jesus - sweat shimmering off his skin because he was also back-lit by the sun. His eyebrows arched as he shouted, charging his foe. Jesus met him head on and their fists collided. Manly secretions shook off their bodies as the sonic boom cleared the garden of any curious birds.
A single blood droplet rolled down Judas’ face. “Not so strong are-” He was thrown back from the clearing with the force of a thousand blessings.
Jesus parted the garden and walked on top of a roaring river because he’s a bad-rear end savior and that’s what saviors [/i]do[/i]. As Jesus walked out of the garden, Judas was waiting - furiously pumping his legs, keeping the pedal powered gyrocopter equipped with a rapid fire ballista hovering in the air.
With sharp snaps of the taut ropes, the bolts shot through the air - but before they connected, Jesus miracled the projectiles into wine. He opened his mouth and drank his fill, not wasting a single drop. "You'll never destroy humanity!" He said, dabbing the corners of his mouth with his thumb.
"Destroy humanity?" Judas cocked his head to the side. “Dude, I just wanna get paid.”
“Wait, so this assassination attempt is because you wanted money?” Jesus miracled a pile of rocks into a mound of gold coins. “Dude, all you had to do was ask.”
“Don’t bring your logic into this argument!” Judas pulled a baby out from behind him and held a knife to her throat. “Give yourself up, or the babe gets it!”
"My only weakness!” Jesus fought against the urge, but self sacrifice won out. “I shall die, so that babe will live."
“Excellent. Nail him up to this conveniently placed crucifix, minions!" said Judas. Soldiers grabbed Jesus and stuck him up. Judas laughed villainously.
“That’s a great laugh, boss,” said Minion A, “gave me the chills.”
“Kiss rear end,” said Minion B.
“You’re a tough bastard to kill, Jesus, but I know of a way to get rid of you.” Judas grabbed a torch from one of the throw-away characters and lit the bonfire that just so happened to be gathered under Jesus.
The fire caught and spread; engulfing humanity’s Savior in its embrace. Jesus' hair shriveled down to his scalp and his skin turned a leathery black, but he didn’t cry out as he died. He was a stoic badass to the bitter end.
Later that minute, Judas and his men dumped Mummy Jesus in a tomb and sealed it with a boulder. Judas walked away - slow and cool - but was thrown to the ground when the tomb exploded and a mummified Jesus floated in defiance.
“Zombie Jesus!” Judas drew a scimitar from a henchman’s belt and he pushed himself back up to his feet. “I’ll put you into the ground for good!” He dashed in, swinging his sword in a wide arc.
Flourishing himself like a flamboyant rapier, Jesus parried Judas’ attack and forced him back with his relentless assault.
Sparks flew from Judas’ weapon as he struggled against Sword Jesus. He blocked a vicious strike that sent him reeling into the blood thirsty crowd that just happened to be there. He reemerged with bloody scratches and bite marks, holding Mary Magdalene hostage. "Give yourself up Jesus and I'll spare this babe!" he said, his eyes mad with desperation.
"Your tricks won't work this time, Judas!" said Jesus, dropping in the plank stance. "MIRACLE!"
Mary Magdalene exploded into holy water, and before Judas could react, Jesus flew right through him, severing the torso from the rest of Judas’ body. “Blood of the Lamb, bitch,” said Jesus, shrugging the linen off his body. Naked, black, and not one bit embarrassed, he teabagged Judas’ corpse.
Mary Magdalene blinked back into existence, wearing a badass halo around her head. “Oh Jesus! My hero!” They then did it, planting the coffee seed that - in nine months - will inherit the earth.
“The nigga of man is out,” said Black Jesus. He left Mary Magdalene totally satisfied and floated up to the sky to join his father for which art thou in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 20:37|
Decade: 30 AD
Your genius is misunderstood.
|# ? Feb 2, 2014 22:22|
Love the Machine
When I contemplate the nature of the relationship between myself, the machine and my sister, we three agree that there can only be two; my sister, therefore, must perish. The duality of the nature of my sister is inexplicable: she is a creator, and as well a destroyer, why is she not sole creator as her imperious gender would imply? But then again, is this duality present in myself too?
This conundrum vexes me so, how can man love something more than one’s blood, but that is the very nature of this problem. My family starves, and my sister does not work, or create, or prosper. She crusades! While I am bent over my scribe’s table, copying legal documents to provide what I can, she conspires and slinks away into the night. She is what Lord Byron has warmly called The Luddite.
Oh lament and woe, but I do love my sister. As does our entire family, and why should they not, but why do they love us the same, when I am the one who works to provide real food? I do not see what she sees: the raging metal behemoth, consuming individuality and belching iniquity. She tells my father of how the machine will destroy his cobbling business, leather and sole pushed into the conveyors and gears to produce his expertise in a fraction of the time. Destroy his cobbling business? How absurd, that the machine could do anymore damage to my father’s gnarled and calloused hands that his own business has not done. She whispers those deceits to him as he lay in bed at night.
And yet she stands at my face when we argue. She has no reverence for me, as we debate what I call progress, she calls enslavement. I fume, as loathe as I am to admit that she riles me so, and she looks upon me with eyes meant for a child!
“How can you not see past our own pitiable mire, that it is just and right that we may be sacrificed for the greater good?” I shout at her. That there isn’t enough hands in the world to clothe the cold children, but how does she not see that there could be?
“Oh Teddy,” she says. “I admire your candor, that you may only be swayed by the empirical, and I shall demonstrate the righteousness of our cause so that you too can once again be swayed.”
As though the decisions I make for myself are not tempered in reality, or that my wisdom is somehow not derived from the same existence that we both float through. Even as she swathes herself in cloak and dagger, traipsing into the night for clandestine meetings, I find myself paralytic, waiting by the upstairs window for her return. I worry truly, as Merchant Twill, who has been worked into a lather at the possibility of sabotage, has put a bounty on Luddite heads. In this midnight vigil, I am struck with a vile thought.
I find myself outside a warehouse. Pressing my ear to the wood I can hear their training, their speeches, that they should swing hammers not of construction. I also hear their earnestness, their fervor; what my sister calls righteousness.
And I realize my sister truly believes in her cause, that she is saving my family, me included. That to deny the wave of chthonic iron and fire, to deny them with their own elements, that she can quell the necessary devastation of our family. She wants to save me, because she loves me. It is because she loves me that she looks at me with eyes round and hopeful, like I am a child still yet to blossom truly. I am gripped by a sinking feeling, drowning in myself. I love my sister, I love her, I love her, I love her! But I am drowning.
This is a horrible world, truly it is, and I might not save my family, but I must prevent the destruction of hope.
I could not fetch or wait for the thugs and mooks of Merchant Twill; their arrival would be marked with an empty warehouse and I standing there like a stork on a stump. In the moment, I wondered if my sister would see the humor of it all, that she has finally spurred me to action. I lock the barn doors with a length of chain and sturdy padlock, and search for where the dockmaster keeps his oil reserves. The warehouse ignites faster than I had dreamed possible, and I shield my ears, as though this is mere accident, and I am as inculpable as I am oblivious.
Twill places in my hand a writ, signed and notarized, proving that even in black acts and unspeakable deeds there can be honor. The bank will provide the enclosed amount, ensuring that even in obsolescence my family will be fed and fatted. That my younger siblings should never know stain nor grit. That my mother will always have a warm bath to relieve her rheumatism. In this I wonder did I do the right thing? Does the horror of my betrayal being revealed speak towards my guilty conscience? To this I say nothing. There are no words to truly encapsulate my hollowing. I have been fed into the machine and I have come out efficient, utilitarian, and reborn.
Alice was my sister, and I believe I did love her, but as thus she has aligned herself with the destroyers, she in turn is destroyed. I have cast aside my humanity, ironically as such to save my family, and in this turn of events have I realized that at the core of my being does not pump blood, but the ichor of the machine. I do not love the machine, and I do not love progress; I have become the catalyst, I am the machine.
|# ? Feb 3, 2014 00:36|
Je Suis Désolé Decade: 1470s; Word count: 990
“Quickly, the spoon! Before the guards return!”
Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, peered up from his heap of rags and soiled hay towards the man in the cell across from his.
“Give it here!” The prisoner had his whole arm through the bars and was gesturing frantically. “Come now, some of us still want out of here.”
Lord Henry dropped his gaze and pulled his knees tighter to his chest.
“Pardon, I did not realize m'lord wished to stay in bed today.” the prisoner spat, but the Duke was unresponsive. Were it not for the ponderous rise and fall of the Lord Henry's emaciated chest he would seem a corpse.
The prisoner took a strand of hay and rolled it between his thumb and index finger until it was a tight ball, then flicked it at the Duke. The nobleman flinched when it bounced off his forehead.
“Still with us, Henry?” the prisoner mocked. “Pity. I am sure there are scores who would rather see Henry the Cruel rotting in the ground. Is there anyone who would mourn you?”
Lord Henry shot the prisoner a murderous glare.
“Did I strike a nerve? None of your men liked you. We hated you. No surprise you were left for dead at Barnet.”
The Duke pushed himself up onto his feet. He moved slowly, wincing as the old wound in his side ached.
“Word in the camp was your wife had no love for you, and your daughter-”
“You shut your filthy mouth, peasant!” Lord Henry bellowed.
“There's the 'Bull' that we knew and loathed!”
Lord Henry fished through his bedding, trembling with fury. He found the spoon and brandished it at the prisoner. The tarnished utensil's head had been worn to sharp nub from years of scraping against stone.
“You think you can tunnel out of here better than I? Insolent poo poo. If I could bury this in your eye I would!” His knuckles went white as he clenched the spoon.
The sudden sound of the chamber door silenced the two men. Lord Henry tucked the spoon into the tattered rags he wore as footsteps drew near.
“Are you Duke Henry Holland of Exeter?” the newcomer asked. The man was dressed in the red and gold-trimmed uniform of the tower's guard, but his accent was French, and in all of Lord Henry's years imprisoned he had only been spoken to a handful of times.
“I am.” the Duke replied wearily.
“C'est épatant! You have not been an easy man to get to.”
Lord Henry furrowed his brow in bewilderment.
The newcomer began going through his key ring, trying each key to find the right one to the Duke's cell. “I am to get you out of here, monsieur le duc.”
Lord Henry reached through the bars and grasped the man's doublet, “Do you have word from the outside? What of my wife? Of my daughter, Anne?”
“Je suis désolé. Your wife received dispensation to divorce you and remarried the Yorkist Sir Thomas St. Leger. And your daughter-” the Frenchman looked up from his key ring and met the Duke's eyes, “She passed during childbirth. Her infant followed her shortly thereafter.”
Lord Henry reeled as his knees threatened to give out on him.
“Voilà!” exclaimed the Frenchman as he found the right key for the lock. The door screeched as it swung open, “Let us go, monsieur le duc.”
Lord Henry tried to find the words to respond but none came. He staggered out of his cell in a daze.
“Wait! Take me with you!” the prisoner in the opposite cell pleaded.
Lord Henry's lips curled into a wicked sneer, “You were wrong, I do still have friends.”
“I said what I said to get you up, to keep you going!”
“Mark me, when I return there will be a reckoning between us. Enjoy this hell until then.” The duke grinned as the prisoner began babbling out a desperate plea, but the Frenchman interrupted the prisoner.
“We must hurry.” The Duke nodded and followed the Frenchman to the exit.
“Bastard! This is why no one has any love for you!” the prisoner cried out.
“Je suis désolé.”
The Frenchman lead Lord Henry through dank, winding corridors of the tower. The Duke followed closely, not letting the Frenchman stray further than arms reach for fear that he would vanish entirely.
“Who sent you for me? Was it the Earl of Warwick?”
“No, the Earl died at Barnet.”
“Then Margaret of Anjou?”
“Imprisoned and not my employer. Essayer à nouveau!” The Frenchman stopped and appraised Lord Henry, who stared back in confusion.
“Vraiment? I admit it is not an obvious guess, monsieur le duc. I was sent by Sir Thomas St. Leger and your former wife.”
“Why would they send someone to rescue me?”
“They did not. They sent someone to see that you die in a failed escape.”
Lord Henry's bewilderment was banished when the Frenchman's hand reach for his sword. The Duke's hand grabbed for the spoon in his rags as he lunged at his would-be assassin. The next moments were a chaotic blur of fury and motion. The two collided and there was a struggle brief. When the fighting finished it was Lord Henry who stood triumphant over the body of the Frenchman.
Lord Henry immediately set about stripping the man of his uniform. Disguise donned, he started for the exit, but after a few steps he stopped and turned back. He made his way back through the desolate halls towards the cell of the man who had been his only companion for more than two years, the keys jingling with every step. There was a silence between the two men when Lord Henry returned, a silence which Henry broke first.
“Je suis désolé.”
|# ? Feb 3, 2014 00:39|
Flash Rule: Whatever happened to Eddie Aikau?
The Many Ends of Eddie Aikau
Eddie Aikau battled the choppy current, his stocky limbs cutting through the waves. He was straining to reach the white speck of a cruise ship on the horizon. The lives stranded behind him gave his weary body another burst of vigor. The thought of them drowning alone rattled hollowly in his brain, so he focused on it, convinced himself that he could prevent that tragedy by staying the course.
Every time he bobbed his head up to breathe, he also made sure to squint upward to the boat. To lose sight of it now would mean death both for him and the rest of the expedition’s crew, so even when the sunlight reflected off the waves and stuck his eyes like daggers, Eddie still stared through. What shocked him, then, was one particular breath where he looked up and saw straight ahead easily, eyes resting on the distant, white hull.
Eddie stopped his progress for a moment, bobbing in the surf and noticed an immense blot of darkness spreading over the water in front of him. Panting, he tilted his head back and saw a mile-wide disc gliding like a glacier over his head. In another moment, the center of the disc hung over his head and the entire object halted at once.
A circle of light opened above Eddie Aikau, and a beam stretched down and yanked him out of the water. His body dripped saltwater as the choppy waves seemed smaller and smaller, when-
“Bull-poo poo, Robbie,” Herman said as he took a swig of Bud. “You a fuckin’ idiot? UFOs aren’t real. I didn’t know you were some kinda wacko conspiracy nut-bag?” He sighed wistfully, gulped down some more beer. “No fuckin’ way.”
Robbie pounded his fist on the table. “Hey, what the hell do you know about extraterrestrials? You think it’s all some Close Encounters thing, flashing lights and happy music kinda poo poo? And then they invite you on board outta mutual respect? No, my friend, these UFO visitors thought Eddie was a superhuman. They’re doing all kinds of tests on him right about now. Poor guy. He didn’t deserve that.” He finished off his scotch and slammed the glass on the bar. “Hey, another, please?” He turned to his left. “Bernie, what do you think about it?”
Bernie shrugged. “Dunno. I’m no expert on all this paranatural stuff, I… ah… eh…” He trailed off, punctuating the sentence with a gulp of his whiskey sour.
“What the gently caress do you think Bernie has to say about it?” Herman interjected. “I’ve lived by the ocean all my life, and I’ve seen some things, take my word for it.” He paused. “In fact, I don’t think you’ve got a bad idea of it, Robbie, but you’re thinking of things in the wrong direction. Listen:
Eddie Aikau battled the choppy current, his stocky limbs cutting through the waves. He’d been swimming for an hour or more with the little resort island in sight, but it didn’t seem to get any bigger. All of a sudden his muscles locked up and he found himself sinking wide-eyed through the ocean. Gills popped up on both sides of his neck. Oh, he thought. So it’s finally time.
He clutched onto the shame and regret he felt at having to leave the other expedition members, but it was no use. Try as he might to thrash them about, his arms remained free-floating, dangling above his body. Eddie tried to imagine how Atlantis had changed during his decades on the surface. He hoped that they would still remember him, just as he was sure that the human race would keep his name in their minds.
He couldn’t wait to see everyone. He beamed at the thought of all the stories he could tell.
“What the hell is that poo poo?” Robbie said.
“Do your own research, Robbie-boy. Do some thinking for yourself, and maybe you’ll change your mind.”
“By research, you of course mean ‘gabbing with the homeless winos down at the wharf’, I assume.”
“Well, pardon me, but at least the oceans sustain life. How does the lack of air work for those space aliens you were on about?”
“I know what happened to Eddie,” Bernie peeped.
Robbie raised his eyebrows. “Well then, Professor, how about explaining your theory?”
Eddie Aikau battled the choppy current, his stocky limbs cutting through the waves. Aching, straining, he pressed on until time tore open right in front of him.
Unable to curb his momentum, Eddie tumbled through the temporal vortex. Somehow he felt the years fall away, heard a distinct light zipping sound as modern history whizzed by his ear, droplets of water flying off his body into the nothingness, until…
The vortex dumped him with a flourish on the other end. Eddie splashed back into the ocean and bobbed, the veins in his head pulsing. The world spun until he focused on a spot of black bobbing wildly in the water. He snapped into action, whipping forward like a seal until he reached the thrashing thing.
The thing was a man, one with a coarse black beard and a heavy black coat. The coat had soaked up so much water that it was dragging the man down like a lead net. Eddie tore it off and hauled the man up.
It was only then that he the huge old ship looming close by caught Eddie’s attention. He kicked toward it, the man’s thrashing slowing to a halt, leaving only his steady, waterlogged breaths.
“So, wait,” Robbie cut in. “He saves the captain’s life and he just… makes Eddie captain? Is that how that works?”
Bernie said, “Yeah. I think so.”
Herman stared Bernie down for a long moment. He sighed and said, “Sure, works for me. Bartender, another round for my pal Bernie here! On me!”
The bartender slid Bernie another whiskey sour. Bernie beamed.
|# ? Feb 3, 2014 00:51|
Kenya 1963, 917 words
You had heard the proclamation nearly a week after it had occurred. Your neighbor, the old grandma down the road, told you. You smiled, wished her well, and went inside. I don't know what reaction she expected, but it wasn't the one you gave her. Perhaps she wanted you to break down in tears, or raise a cheer to an independent Kenya. Instead, you grabbed three shillings and your pocket knife, and waited for evening. I waited with you to see what you'd do. The air was cool in the middle of winter, but you didn't seem to feel the chill. Soon, the shadows creeped across the fields. You got up, and I followed you.
You walked down the road towards town. I heard a dog howl off distance, and looked off across the plains. It was too gloomy to make it out, but the wretched creature sounded lost. I stopped for a moment, listening to the wind, and almost missed it when you turned down the road to Chief Ochuka's house. I wondered what business you had with that man, here under the cover of darkness. You knocked on the door, and I stood close behind you to hear your words.
He was a fat man, with a tailored shirt, and yellowy eyes that shined liked diamonds against his dark skin. I could remember the way his breath stank. I stood besides you as you stared into his eyes, patient but resolute. The Chief stared back, but for all his sins, he was an honorable man. He broke the silence first, saying that there was talk of a Human Rights Commission to investigate war crimes. You replied that you had given your word, just as he had given his. He sighed, and nodded towards the car. He said that it would be a long trip. You didn't say anything.
He drove with the music playing, while you stared off into the night. I sat on the roof, my legs dangling down between you. The air felt so cold, and sharp as daggers. I thought I heard the dog howl again, over the sound of the truck. I thought it sounded closer. Even as we drove further and further into the country side, it seemed to follow us. The night was so dark, and the stars looked so cold.
Eventually, Chief Ochuka turned down an abandoned and lonely road. The only marks were the overlapping tire tracks, and I wondered how many times the Chief had come here since that day. I wondered if he made the trip so that he wouldn't forget, and wouldn't break his word. I wondered if you noticed.
He stopped in front of the grave, unmarked and unadorned, just a bare patch on the ground. You got out, and the chief handed you a shovel. You dug quickly and efficiently. The years may have slowed you down, but you had always been a farmer. You knew how to move around some dirt. The Chief sat watching you from his car, smoking a cigar. I sat on your dirt pile, watching you dig.
Soon you uncovered your precious treasure. The nine bags were black with no symbols of any kind, and fastened shut with a heavy duty zipper. You opened one, and looked at the man inside. He had been dressed in the prison overalls, mostly rotted away into scraps. The face held no features, being little more than ugly brown bones. The cause of death was obvious, the bullet to the back of the head leaving a jagged hole. Any jewelry or other valuables had been looted.
You pulled the bags out and laid all nine open in front of you. The Chief shifted in his seat to watch more closely. You took your pocket knife and cut the palm of your hand. It was a small wound, but it bled freely. You sprinkled the blood across the bones. I stared as the one set of bones sucked up the blood greedily. You sprinkled more on the bones, just to be sure. Then you told the Chief that you had found your son's body. Blood would recognize blood.
The Chief had enough human decency to help you drag the body bag onto the bed of the truck. The two of you rode back in silence, not even the radio. I laid down next to the bones, wondering if I should feel something about having them in my sight. I didn't feel anything, even staring into the holes where my eyes had once been.
We reached the farm once again, and the Chief helped you drag the body from the truck. You thanked him, and he didn't say anything in return. He simply looked away, got in his truck, and drove off. You slowly dragged my body over to the grave. I remember how I watched you dig it, so long ago. You gently lowered me in. Morning was beginning to break by the time you had finished burying my body.
You smiled, staring at the grave marker with my name. Patriot and Beloved Son. I heard the dog howl again, but he wasn't alone anymore. A whole chorus of the creatures to praise the coming sun. The warm rays spread across a free Kenya. You went inside, and soon we were both at rest.
|# ? Feb 3, 2014 01:04|
I was going to introduce this with some self-deprecating bullshit but then I realized nobody wants to hear my worthless excuses.
Downsizing, 965 words
I threw a small stack of cardboard into the fire. It took a few moments for the discarded boxes to smolder and shrivel, pleasantly-colored ad copy and glossy photos of tiny televisions giving way to ash and carcinogenic smoke. The man didn’t seem to mind my intrusion, and when I took a seat near him on the slightly-warmed pavement he nodded a vague acknowledgment.
For a good long while we didn’t speak or interact, just sat beside the fire in quiet solidarity. I let my eyes wander the alley and glanced around at discarded pizza boxes and overstuffed garbage bags I was sure I had seen before. Inevitably, though, I found my gaze coming back to the man’s coat. It was the kind of thick, ratty garment that was only more charming for the wear, and I found an odd kind of entertainment speculating about the rips and stains and patches covering its surface: those look a bit like teeth marks, that could be from an animal attack, that one might even be a bullet hole. I made a point not to stare at his arm, which he held at an awkward, uncomfortable angle that clearly wasn’t of his choosing.
It almost startled me when he first spoke. “You ever have much interest in robots?” I couldn’t say I had, so I just shrugged. He seemed put out and went back into silence.
I think he was just desperate to talk at someone, because after a few more moments he spoke again. “Used to be they didn’t know how to fix themselves.” I nodded, not entirely without sympathy. He looked like one of those.
“Weren’t always so fancy, either. I remember back in the old office—when I still had an office, you know, back when a fella could still get paid—we had our own miniature fleet of those cleaning robots. Little Roomba things, or whatever, the kinds your boss’d get once he figured he was tired of paying the janitor. They were pesky little bitters, ‘cause we had a lot of ‘em and it was never very long before they needed tending to, but they did their job and we just had to put up with it. ‘Course, it was more-or-less inevitable that some joker—Jerry, I think was the guy’s name—got the bright idea to stick a camera on one and drive it around under the women’s desks. It was the boneheadedest thing I ever saw, especially since nobody was wearing skirts in the first place, but when you’re a young man in engineering you still act like girls got cooties and we weren’t about to scare him off of bein’ the world’s dumbest dumbass.
“Jerry got himself fired, not that you’d expect any different, and suddenly them little custodian bots weren’t much more popular with the brass than they were with any of us. I’d been eyeing up some of the administrative robots we had running at the time, these big industrial lifters with real beautiful, intricate mechanical arms that’d lift a cow with the kinda sweet, smooth, pinpoint precision no human could ever be perfect enough to match. They were tall, flexible beasts, and I was sure I could get ‘em to do something finer than shelving away old backups and running inventory—something like cleaning, and better than our old bots could too. Only problem is, there was just too much of ‘em. They had the dexterity for the job, and I’d already done the prototyping to prove it, but they just weren’t maneuverable the way I needed. Reaching the arm into the little nooks and crannies your Roomba’d get to was a tight, finicky task, and with so many moving parts it was a real tough time getting them lined up fast enough to make it worth the trouble, even in a closed test environment. I never even dared trying to put one out into the field proper, though I’ll admit I considered it every time I got to feeling the office could do with a good bit of smashing up.
“Where I got lucky was when one of the rigs had a nasty run-in with some loose wiring out in the far corner of storage where no human would ever have a reason to go. The poor girl shorted out near half of her servos and wound up busted enough that the company didn’t see much reason to get her repaired. I managed to convince the engineering head to let me take her out to see a friend of mine who ran this small, grimy in a charming sort of way machine shop just a few blocks down. It took us a couple weeks of reverse-engineering and a lot more careful metalwork than I ever wanted to do, but we managed to bust her down to about five or six smaller units with a handful of her joints and a makeshift hand grip on the end. They weren’t as articulate as the original, but they were a whole lot more manageable, and within the month I had them wired up to do all the work of our old fleet with a third of the maintenance. It was a lot of hard work on the overhead, but at the end of the day we could do a better job with fewer resources, and best of all we got to dump all those dumb little cleaners in the trash where they belonged.” With that, he finished his story and sat in the quiet night for a few moments more before speaking up once again. “I always wondered if that was a metaphor for something.”
I looked at him for a moment and leaned back, resting my hands against the cold ground. “I wouldn’t read too much into it.”
|# ? Feb 3, 2014 01:44|
Read it in the archive.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 23:42 on Jan 1, 2015
|# ? Feb 3, 2014 01:54|
After cocking my Winchester rifle, I pushed aside the frilly lace of my bonnet and gave a quick nod to Wild Bill. The townfolk had gathered to see a proper show, and I swore my aim would not falter again.
Bill held out an empty beer bottle for a moment, then flung it high into the air. The rifle was heavy in my hands when I pulled it skyward to trace the flying glass, glinting against the noonday sun.
I fired once; I fired wide.
It was that damned bonnet, blown into the both of my eyes by a rapid southern breeze, that’d been spoiling my aim. Not that I cared to be seen wearing any kind of garment with frills and the like, but even a woman born with a rifle in her hand ain’t exempt from doing up like a proper lady.
Still rudely intact, the bottle bounced into the dirt, winged only just at the neck. It was my first day onstage and my third miss, and the crowd spared no small heap of jeers for it.
A big man’s voice rose above the rest. “I done told y’all womenfolk can’t shoot!” he shouted from the first row, cackling amongst his wretched confederates, all-alike poking each other in the ribs. He grabbed at his crotch and called up to me, “Why dontcha stick to handling a piece like this’n here, little miss?”
My face burned to crimson. I figured myself to be fired from the show already, having missed all my shots, and so thought nothing of letting the leering prick know just what I thought of, well--his prick.
“I’m afraid, sir, that I am accustomed to a weapon of a more considerable caliber,” I called out.
Now they were laughing at him, though I hardly needed to turn my head to know Wild Bill would be shaking his massive, fuzzy head in disappointment, surely scratching my name off his flyer.
So much for Annie, the Lady Sharpshooter.
Inside the tavern, the din of drinking glasses and poker chips mixed with shouted bets and foolish calls. Louder still was a thumping piano tune that had set my head to aching from the very moment I planted myself at the cornermost barstool.
My cheeks were already flush as roses by the time I raised a third cup to my lips, and I admit to surprise when Wild Bill come to set himself down, with a thud, on the barstool next to me.
“Thought I might find y’here,” he said to me, waving over the barkeep with a thick-calloused hand.
“Wasn’t looking to get found,” I muttered, staring into my cup. “Come to fire me in person, then?”
He’d ordered some kinda fancy Mexican beer, and began to sip on it. “Well, I’ve got to, haven’t I? Though hell, that was as big a payin’ crowd as I’d ever had--I ‘spect most come to see you. And boy-howdy,” he chuckled, “that were some zinger at the end.”
Then he pulled his red, bushy eyebrows into a frown. “Though, showcasin’ a sharpshooter that can’t shoot-sharp...”
I sighed and drained the last of my cup. “I get it. Any room in the act for a dancin’ girl?”
Before he could reply, the doors to the tavern swung wide, and standing there was none other than my unseemly heckler from the first row. He straight-lined towards us, his footsteps heavy with both drink and a slighted manhood.
He arrived with nostrils flaring. “If you had a lick of brains, whore, you’d-a quit this town the moment you made an rear end outta me,” he spat, pushing aside his waistcoat to reveal an ivory-tipped Colt revolver.
Bill moved to grab my Winchester from where it lay on the bar, but I had already clutched it into my hands. And no sooner than I had gotten to my feet and turned to face him, than the music had cut away, blanketing the room in a gawking sort of quiet. When the big man saw my rifle, his beady eyes bounced in their sockets as he roared in laughter; most in the bar saw fit to match his amusement.
“Now look here, pard--” Bill started, before the man raised a trembling hand.
“Stay yourself, old-timer,” he snapped. “I’m thinkin’ the lady here owes me an hour’s time in bed for my unease. There’s all manner of better use for that mouth.” He dragged his eyes, slowly, over the sight of my body. “And for the rest of her, too.”
“You’d sooner scare me out of a bed than into one,” I said, my voice loud but with a slight quiver. My palms began to slicken with sweat.
His face darkened as he thumbed the snow-white handle of his revolver. “It’s either a bed or a bullet, darlin’.”
Slowly, I pulled the bonnet from off of my head, then dropped it to the floor. I saw Bill’s knuckles whiten around his beer.
“Care to wager I’ll miss a fourth time?” I said.
Though the big man hadn’t yet gone for his pistol, Wild Bill, bless his heart, couldn’t bear to sit out. He raised his arm up high, beer bottle clutched in-hand, hurtling downward towards the big man’s skull.
I exhaled and time came to a crawl, like everyone but me were moving underwater. My hands flew on their own, leveling my rifle and tracing the path of the bottle.
I fired once; I fired true.
The glass exploded, leaving only a jagged bottleneck. Glittering shards and dark ripples of beer rained down onto the big man’s head and into his eyes, like shooting stars in cooled molasses. He still hadn’t touched the metal at his side. He stood frozen, before raising up both hands slowly, eyes wide.
The music resumed; Bill shook off his wet hand and then began to grin.
“Come on,” he said to me, laughing. “And bring the rifle.”
I left that damned bonnet behind.
|# ? Feb 3, 2014 02:32|
I got about halfway through my story and then got super sick. Trying to finish it now, but I don't think I can given current conditions. Will try to post in the redemption thread when I'm done.
|# ? Feb 3, 2014 02:44|
I was told that Leslie could acquire the hard to find, which is how I found myself at a backwoods intersection outside of Clover County. The dilapidated tar paper shacks dotting the landscape reminded me of my mother, and the old blues songs she used to sing. The leaves skating the autumn breeze reminded me that she was gone.
“Chris,” she’d say, “the world can beat you down, but there’s always a way.”
The deal was simple; I would give him 200 thousand dollars in cash and he would give me an untraceable car and a house in the middle of nowhere where I could escape the data of the connected world. Leslie would drive my car at least a hundred miles north before leaving it in the bottom of a river.
Leslie was twelve minutes late, and in that time the missed call indicator on my dashboard blinked one hundred and thirty one times. My dad started calling once I hit the city line and was still doing so. Stubbing out my cigarette, I answered. His face faded in on the console.
“Dad,” I said.
“Chris, what in the hell are you doing? The condition sensors are showing cigarette smoke in the cabin; are you smoking?”
“Do you think I’m stupid?” he asked. “I can see right here that you’re alone- zero passengers. Your biomonitor is spiking, your dopamine levels are higher than normal. Jesus, Chris, I can see the smoke in the car.” He lifted his tablet, showing me all the data and video at his fingertips.
“Then why ask in the first place?”
“What did I tell you about cutting that poo poo out?” he replied.
“Is that all, dad?”
“No, allow me to ask a question that I can’t answer. Why are you in Clover?”
“I’m leaving.” I declared, punctuating my statement with a drag on my last cigarette.
“Where are you going?” my dad asked.
A magenta sedan, more rust than red, pulled up behind me.
“Christopher, come home.” my dad said, “We can go over the data from your last chemistry exam. I have the print off here.”
“I can’t, dad.”
I flipped the switch and the car fell silent.
Pulling out my pocket knife, I disabled the camera in the wheel with a quick pry. Disabling my biometer would be a more difficult affair, but I knew that the device that made my father rich, now implanted behind every child’s ear, was originally designed to be embedded in a shoulder. A quarter of an inch into mine, I found the chip. Plunking the chunk of flesh into the empty cigarette carton, I threw it onto the passenger seat. The seat warmer would do good for feigning my body temperature until the chip recognized its separation and disabled itself.
The cabin was glorious. I didn’t mind the thin walls, faulty wiring, leaky pipes, and water stained floors, because it had everything I wanted, but what was most important was what it lacked, internet. The garden space, workshop, and grazing area meant that I could live out my isolationist fantasies for a long time here. There wasn’t much time for admiration; it was getting cold, and there was work to do.
I went out back and began chopping firewood. The ax was heavier than I’d imagined. At first, each clumsy chop just splintered off to the side, flaking the wood. I soon found the rhythm and was splitting logs in two or three swings. In the silence of that cold afternoon, I experienced a clarity that I’m not sure I ever had before. Without the noise surrounding me I didn’t know what to think about. I found myself thinking about the girlfriend I left at home, the sustainability of my current situation, and returning home. Getting an identity chip replaced was possible, but I’d face hell from the government and my father for removing it. Right now, i didn’t care.
I cooked my food on an open fire that first night and fell asleep counting the stars.
If there was one thing I wasn’t prepared for, it was the pollen. Spring brought a host of new cultivation options in the garden, but it also brought about hay fever, night sweats, and horseflies. I was laying in my bed when I heard the sound of wood cracking under a heavy boot. There were multiple feet now. Men were entering my home. I rolled out of bed and grabbed the hatchet that I kept in my bedroom since that first week in the wilderness. “Leslie,” one of the men said.
“Okay Chris” One of them shouted. “I heard that you might be hiding out here, so I came to get you. I know that you’re a good guy and I’m a good guy too, but I have a gun and I will shoot you if you do anything stupid. So come out.”
They tied me up in the living room that I spent the winter repairing. The man that was shouting called himself Mark and told me that he was expecting a handsome reward for finding me. From his conversations with the other men, I gathered that Leslie was probably dead. As I sat there, wrists rubbed raw from the rope, I eyed one of Mark’s partners.
“What are you looking at Rich boy?” He asked with a sneer.
“Nothing,” I said, “and I’m not rich. This is all I have.”
“Bullshit!” he shouted, crushing my face with the butt of his pistol.
I could feel the blood running out my nose and soaking into the gag wedged in my mouth. Mark placed a sack over my head, leaving me with only my thoughts and the taste of iron invading my tongue. I leaned back, appreciating the chair I made two months ago. I leaned forward, pressing my foot into the floorboard that had creaked up until a week ago. Silence. This was the world that I had built, and I did a fine job.
|# ? Feb 3, 2014 02:56|
|# ? Nov 29, 2022 11:58|
I liked it.
Shut the gently caress up, Donny, You're out of your element!
|# ? Feb 3, 2014 02:59|