Every morning she rose in the east, resplendent in crimson and white and gold, her radiance lighting up the sky. She was beauty; she was fire; she was life.
One day, when I was very young, my mother took me to the roof of one of the old skyscrapers, and together we watched her appear on the horizon. "She," my mother said, "is the only reason we're here at all. Without her, we wouldn't have morning or evening or daytime. Just night."
I didn't understand at the time, but every day thereafter, I was awake at dawn to watch her. I never quite knew why. Maybe I wanted her to notice me. Maybe I wanted someone to be there for her, to acknowledge what she did for us. Maybe it just became a habit. Doesn't really matter.
The years passed. My mother died. But I was always there at dawn.
I don't know when I stopped admiring her and started wanting her, but I do remember when I first realised. It was a cold January. I sat on the roof of the old bank, dangling my legs over the edge. Alex sat beside me, resting her head on my shoulder. I was watching the sky, and she was watching me.
"You'll go blind if you keep that up." It was intended as a joke.
She laughed. Her voice was beautiful in those days. "You'd say it was worth it, wouldn't you?"
And that was the moment.
I'd never much cared for the library. She had no great love for books, and the windows there were frosted to protect them from her. It was dark inside, and the air smelled of age and rot.
"What're we looking for?" Alex asked. Her voice echoed. "Do you even know?"
"Flight," I said. "I'm going to learn to fly."
She cocked her head, waiting for me to say something else. Her face fell when I didn't. "You're serious."
"You do know what they say about not getting too close to --"
It took her a while to answer. She didn't think we'd find anything, of course. If she had, she'd never have gone along with it. "Okay, fine. Why not. What's there to lose?"
A long time ago, humans took to the sky in machines, horrible grinding things of wood and iron and bone. There were plenty of books about them, but the last thing I wanted was to build myself a cocoon. So we read further, about the early days of this quiet, dark world, and we found the stories about how humanity first stopped trying to master the world and started trying to… absorb it. Become one with what was left of it.
Myths and fables, of course. Men made of stone and women of wood. But in some of those tales the heroes flew, and there was one common thread running through them all.
Fire was light. Fire could be carried by the air, fanned by it. It made sense, and it made more sense the more I studied it. When I had read everything there was to read, I moved on to practical research. I lost my hair and blistered my skin in the process. I burned down the library, in the end. Alex was more upset about it than I was, when I told her, weeks later. No one else went there anyway.
One day in autumn I snuffed out a candle and my arms became fire.
The first time I flew, I was in the air for seven seconds. I was fire, carried by the wind. I was air and light and sky. I could see her, high above me, and I could already imagine the ecstasy of being beside her.
I broke both my legs when I hit the ground.
Alex carried me into her house and laid me on her floor. Her son started crying when he saw me. He was... one, maybe two years old? I couldn't blame him for it. I was a mess.
She laid her hands on my torn skin and knitted my bones together. I hadn't known she could do that. I told her as much, when I could speak again.
"I've been studying too." She tried to smile. "I thought you might need this." A nervous pause. "Look... you have to stop this. It's destroying you."
"Destroying?" I said. "I flew today! No one's done that in... in who knows how long." I smiled up at the ceiling. "No, I'm closer than anyone's ever been. I can't stop here."
She was silent for a long time.
"I won't be around to watch you." She said it casually, like it meant nothing. "We're moving on. Javier wants Sam to grow up away from the city."
"Don't worry," I said. "You'll be able to see me when I'm up there."
She never replied to that.
It's the coldest winter in years. The sky is cloudless, so soft a blue it's almost white. She's at her zenith now. Ice covers the empty street, sparkling with her light.
"Any last words?" Sam asks. He arrived this morning, unannounced. When I asked him why, he just said that someone ought to be here to watch. Never said how he knew today was the day. Strange boy.
I stand in the centre of the road and spread my arms.
"Keep an eye out," I say.
Wings of white flame unfurl from my back, pair after pair. Sam shields his face from the heat, but I hardly even notice it. I feel the air around me chill as I steal its warmth. I smile.
I strike the air with every wing at once, and I am aloft.
The city retreats beneath me. The sky rushes closer. She rushes closer. I spread my wings wide, catch the wind, level off beside her. She is glory and warmth and light and everything that is good in the world.
She turns her head towards me, and I cannot breathe. But her burning eyes stare past me, and she looks back towards the horizon. Nothing has ever hurt so much.
Is this all I am? Am I still beneath her notice?
Anger rises. I focus, drawing into me all the energy I can. I burn brighter and hotter. The air freezes. The daylight dims. I am the brightest body in the sky, and she will acknowledge me.
I turn back to her, triumphant, and my heart stops. She's looking at me, but her mouth is open in surprise, and her fire is streaming into me. I realise too late to stop it.
Her wings fade, one by one. She drops from the sky and I catch her. Her skin is cold and she weighs nothing. The light from my eyes plays across her face as she smiles at me.
"Your turn," she says, and she turns to ashes and slips through my fingers.
I watch her tumble towards the earth, so far below. The world stretches on forever. I tear my gaze away from her, turn back to the horizon.
I am beauty. I am fire.
I am life.
|# ? May 18, 2014 21:08|
|# ? Dec 3, 2021 04:05|
“What is our tower?” cried Overseer Ekker to the crowd assembled on the expansive tower roof.
“Our tower is our home,” replied Jacob, along with the others around him.
“What is our home?”
“Our home is our fortress.”
“What is our fortress?”
“A heaven within hell,” the people chanted, but Jacob had his eyes on the sun, and he barely mumbled the lines anymore.
After the morning assembly, Jacob took a few minutes to look down from the battlements, leaning against a barrel that probably contained oil or tar. Many of those were stored here. The giant tower overlooked a landscape of lush forests and rivers that glittered in the morning sun. The mountains in the distance were tainted blue from the fresh air.
Someone slid in next to him and he knew it was Therese. Their fingers brushed and he took her hand and squeezed it gently, keeping his gaze on the landscape even when he felt her eyes on him.
“They say the outside world is corrupted, but what do they really know?” he said.
Therese didn’t reply.
“If that is hell,” he straightened himself and motioned towards the sight beneath them, “what’s the point of staying in heaven?”
“Home,” she said, and he frowned.
Back in his carpenter’s shop, floor sixty-seven, where he mostly fixed broken chairs for the commoners on the lower floors, he took a small block of wood from the inventory and carved a gear out of it. It would replace the broken one in their ventilating system. He had to work carefully, for new wood was hard to come by, and even what little Jacob got, he had no idea how the Overseer acquired it for him.
In the evening, he retired to his study, lost in-between his books, tales of the world outside and tomes of machinery and physics and, recently ornithology. There were small machines and toys all over the desk, carefully created from scraps of wood he’d snuck out over the years of work.
He started when a hand grabbed his shoulder, but its skin was soft and the touch gentle. He smiled.
“Therese,” he said.
“Are you busy?”
“Look at this.” He moved aside to show her a tiny apparatus on his desk. It had the faint outlines of a bird, an elongated, curved piece of wood with two wings extending from it’s center, broken up into rectangular sections, the tips connected to the middle through pieces of string. He flipped a tiny switch on its back multiple times and with each motion the bird flapped its clattering wings.
“It’s, uhhh.. nice. Can it fly?”
Jacob waved a hand. “It can’t move its wings on its own. And even then…” He stroked his chin. “I know little about the actual workings of flight. Have you, by any chance--” He left the sentence unfinished and looked at her expectantly.
She hesitated, then dropped a book into his lap. “I snuck this out.” With a look around the room she added: “You should hide these. We’re going to get in trouble.”
“Ah! ‘Physics and the Laws of the Air by Edward Potbotty’.” Jacob nodded and flipped through the pages. “This is excellent! Surely I can build a machine with this. One that will get us out of here.”
She folded her arms around her chest and looked aside. “Sure.” Jacob barely noticed the resignation in her voice. He had already lost himself in the tome.
“You haven’t seen anything unusual?” asked Overseer Ekker, walking around Jacob’s study as he spoke. He picked up one of the older toys and turned it between his fingers. “Wood is rare. When we look at what you have received, and what you have produced and what you have in your inventory, well, the numbers don’t add up. Much less so than usual, at least.” He put the toy down.
“Of course, that is not the only thievery we have recorded. We’re missing fabric, and certain… forbidden articles have been lifted from the vault. You wouldn’t know anything about that?”
Overseer Ekker snorted, and with a brief nod disappeared from the room. As soon as the door slammed shut, Jacob let out a curse and hurriedly scribbled a message for Therese to meet him at the roof. He opened his false bottom chest, pulled out a sack from in-between the hidden books and prototypes, and hauled the final set of machine parts up the stairs.
Darkness covered most of the oversized tower roof. Few torches scarcely illuminated the faraway battlements, throwing flickering shadows of barrels that dissipated into the shadow along with the faint voices of chatting guards. Jacob snuck to one of the barrels and lifted the cover, retrieving the rest of his machine parts. He lined them up on the floor and began to work in utmost silence.
He felt a presence. It wasn’t Therese.
“Thief,” Overseer Ekker said, and Jacob’s limbs stopped working. There was silence. He was suddenly aware of the cold night air. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead. The Overseer could kill him for this. But after a while, Ekker merely said: “Go on.” And Jacob went back to work, moving as if through quicksand.
All night he assembled his machine. It had ended up looking a lot like his tiny bird figurine, with a light frame instead of the heavy midsection. Pedals below would power the wings, and the wings were made from fabric and hollowed-out, pointed wood to save weight and minimise air-resistance. It had a handle to hold on to, as well as strings and fabric slings to securely transport two people.
The sun was rising by the time Jacob was almost finished. People had trickled in for the morning chant and more than one of them gasped, even cooed at the sight of what they considered an abomination. He didn’t turn to face the angry murmurs, staring to the ground as he went back and forth between his parts and the machine.
Therese was there too. She didn’t join him.
When he was done, the Overseer’s harsh, unyielding voice thundered across the battlements: “Jacob, you have taken from your brothers and sisters, to build this aberration, to flee from your home, your tower, your heaven. Your punishment will be appropriate. You will use this machine, and you will be cast into the hell outside. I pray you will fail, for it will be a gentle death.”
Without looking up, Jacob extended a hand toward Therese. Time slowed to a crawl. After what felt like a year he realized that she wouldn’t come.
He sucked in air and turned around to strapped himself to the machine. It was incredibly light, to a point where it felt like an extension of his body. He took a step forward, then another, then he ran. His heart lurched in his chest as he jumped. He glided for a second, then dipped down sharply while he slipped into the pedals. Then his legs moved the pedals and the wings of his machine flapped, and he soared through the air, straight towards the rising sun.
From behind the tears in his eyes, it looked like hellfire.
|# ? May 18, 2014 21:46|
I must join the ranks of the dishonored dead. The spirit was willing, but the flesh decided to spend the day ill and exhausted.
|# ? May 19, 2014 00:06|
Black Holes - 1010 Words
“Local System Cruiser Sturm und Drang to Penrose skiff To Boldly Go, come in.”
“This is To Boldly Go, reading you loud and clear Sturm und Drang.”
“Looking real nice from where I’m sitting, Ellen. Everything green on your end?”
“Differential sails are nominal. Everything else within expected range. I look like a butterfly carrying a brick. Flattery won’t get you anywhere, Sturm.”
“Acknowledged. Projections show you have a two minute window until you won’t have enough spare Delta-V left to abort. Still happy to go through with this?”
The word contained more conviction than Ellen Algerias felt. Happy was the wrong word entirely to describe what she was experiencing, some thick concoction of terror, thrill and gritted determination.
Who said you couldn’t have fun at 103 years old?
Without graphical-assist, the view from her cockpit was black. A vision-filling starless abyss. This was the ultimate form of that primal fear of the dark, the kind where children cry for nightlights in their bedrooms. But it wasn’t monsters hiding in the darkness she was afraid of: it was the darkness itself.
Crossing Delta-V threshold in 10...9...8…
“Computer, disable countdown.”
The point of no-return passed in silence, and her nerves settled in that contradictory way that nerves tend to when you no longer have any choice.
From the breast pocket of her loose denim jacket, she extracted a smokeless cigarette and lit it. She picked up the ancient cap that sat on her lap, the faded UNSA logo still faintly visible. She wedged its crumpled unstylish form on her head.
“Computer, re-enable graphical assist.”
Neon green, blue, white lines sprang into life before her, the overlay plotting current trajectory, Boyer-Lindquist coordinates, astronomical bodies, and numerous other bits of jargon she could hardly remember from lectures half a century past. She had eyes only for the convergence of lines - the oblate ergosphere, the Schwarzchild radius and the event horizon.
The sound of the Sturm und Drang comms officer came through her console, fuzzy and strangely distorted.
“Our telemetry indicates that your thrust levels will be going too fast for our transmissions to reach you soon, Ellen. Now would be a good time if you have anything you’d like to pass along.”
In case you get broken down at an atomic level and shat out as radiation were the words left tactfully unsaid.
“Wish me luck, Sturm.”
“Good luck, Ell…”
The transmission petered into static. At that moment, in the empty silence, only the dead were further from human contact than her.
“Computer, what is my current velocity?”
3192 km/s, rising to a projected maximum of 3824 at ergospheric threshold at current radiation pressure levels.
Mind-bogglingly fast. Yet with no points of reference, she felt strangely static. Not even smears of starlight to convey a sense of motion. Breaking speed records wasn’t like how it used to be in the days of old. Out here, there was no wind to sting your eyes or course through your hair.
It might have been thought that space travel would bring with it new frontiers, freer frontiers, for pushing the limits of speed. Like the whole universe was almost one infinite, unblemished salt flat out there just waiting for us blaze across it. But with the advent of the FTL Disjunction Drives, that dream had vanished into thin air. Mankind was able now to move impossibly fast, all without ever truly moving at all. Speed had become an irrelevance. The universe moved for us, not us for it.
So ended the era of the speed pioneers. It was unlikely anybody had travelled faster than Ellen was right now in decades. But she was planning to be the fastest. As her great-grandfather had been once, she would be again.
Approaching event horizon
“Prepare to release Penrose payload.”
Confirmed. Payload primed.
Ellen watched the lines come together on her nav-screen, an intertwining of soft-blue and white.
There came a clunk, the first tactile feedback since she had fired the detachable boosters at the start of her gigantic run-up, as the hyperdense osmium mass she had trawled all the way with her fell from the bottom of the skiff and beyond.
Penrose payload delivered successfully.
Infinitesimally, the supermassive Kerr-Newman black hole lost a fraction of a fraction of its angular momentum. But that fraction applied to her frail craft was a surging tide. Following the edge of the event horizon, the crushing gravity of the black hole did the rest, starting to drag her round in a languid arc, accelerating the whole way.
6000km/s….9700 km/s….24,000 km/s…
The sound of the computer’s drone faded into indistinctness. A hissing noise filled her ears, but she couldn’t work out whether it was coming from inside or outside her own head. How fast had they been before the D-Drive? What was the record?
...irregularity in port dorsal sail…
The whole craft began to rattle, like it was made of plywood and canvas, thrown into a buffeting gale.
She shouted over the hiss that was now deafening. And at that moment, her skiff crested, and she saw stars, thousands and thousands of blurring bright lines, more brilliant than she had ever seen.
The soft-blue of her nav-screen read 112,000 km/s as her skiff corkscrewed, and the stars fell away from view once more, tantalising. Was it fast enough? She looked to her withered hands and smiled, knowing that it was.
Pitch blackness returned to swallow her screen, and she was face to face with the darkness. The hissing stopped abruptly. The lights in the cockpit winked out. And then she was in the arms of the darkness completely, slipping her fingers around it.
In its embrace, she pressed her form into it to feel; to listen. But between her fingers and in her ears, all she found was-
|# ? May 19, 2014 00:43|
FmubbleMoskve v SmittingDere Brawl Judgment
You are both wily and wordwise. But I want to have my cold, rust-spavined emotion cogs stirred. Give me an epic love story themed around 'straight lines meet at infinity'. Make me care about every character. No genre restrictions.
Suited up, tools ready. Let's go to work.
The Euclidean Gambit
Joy in Motion
Both of these were epic love stories, both of these had straight lines that met at infinity, both were monstrously clever (and both were often clunky), but only one made me care about all the characters.
And, really, what the gently caress else matters?
The winner, by a fingerwidth, is Sitting Here.
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 09:55 on Jun 1, 2014
|# ? May 19, 2014 01:40|
FmubbleMoskve v SmittingDere Brawl Judgment
|# ? May 19, 2014 02:04|
Every time I woke up I swore it was real.
When my eyes opened, I lay in bed and felt the weight of gravity pressing down on my bones. The air was still because he’d closed the window. My muscles prickled all over and threatened to fall back asleep without the rest of me. My ribs ached.
When I told him about it in the morning, he would say that I’d been dreaming again, that I was stupid for believing. I told him that I knew this was true, and agreed with him, and pressed my hand up against my side where my ribs still ached.
“That’s what he said?” she asked.
“Mostly,” I said.
“Just because of your dreams?”
“I just told him about this one. It’s starting to happen more often, and they feel so real when I wake up.”
She slumped back into her chair. Her dark eyes and artful makeup judged me in a way they wanted me to know was for my own good. “What do you want to do?”
I couldn’t answer. Most times I didn’t need to. Rachel would keep talking just to fill the space.
“He was like this even before you started dating, remember? You haven’t fixed him, you haven’t fixed yourself, it hasn’t worked. At some point you need to abandon ship, Amber. Maybe these dreams are telling you to get rid of him. You know, like everyone else in your life for the last year.”
“I didn’t want to fix him,” I said, “just wanted us to be broken together.”
“You’re not broken! It’s not working, and you’re suffering for it,” she said. She swallowed the rest of her eight-dollar coffee and stood up. “You’re moving in with me next week until we can kick him out. No, don’t argue, it’s happening.” She picked up her fair-trade, hand-made handbag.
“I’ll help you get through this.” She walked through the coffee-shop door and out into the city streets as if she’d just won a boxing match.
I sat for another few minutes, thinking about when I’d met AJ and how we’d gotten together. Two jaded hearts had made such sense, then. It still made sense to me now, after his diagnosis, medication, therapy. When Rachel talked about it I just felt like an idiot.
The sun was setting. I bought an extra cup of coffee to avoid going home and went for a walk in Central Park, watching the light bounce off the west-facing panes of glass in bright checkers. I tried to feel the way I felt when I did it in the dreams: push through the ribs, press against the ground, push it away and fly through the air above it.
When I got home to our fourth floor walk-up AJ didn’t say hello. I made dinner for myself, set out a plate for him, said “I love you,” and “good night”.
“gently caress you.”
I went to bed. He wasn’t always like this.
“What do you want to do tonight, sweet heart?” he asked.
I rolled over at one in the morning to AJ naked, lying next to me. He smiled and tucked his long artist’s hair back behind one ear.
“Sorry I didn’t say goodnight earlier,” he said. “I wasn’t in a good place.”
“It’s ok,” I said, like I always did.
“Do you have a little energy left from your long day teaching freshman what the difference is between Ionic and Corinthian columns to get a little frisky tonight? I could stand to cut loose for a bit.” I could feel him pressing toward me through the blankets.
I rubbed my eyes. He was good to talk to when he was stable. “I almost flew again, today,” I said, wanting to try again. “I could feel it, right when the sun was going down.”
“What?” he said. “Your dreams again?”
“Dreams don’t feel this real. I just need to push a little harder, that’s all. Like if I pressed harder against the earth, I could just push it away. Just push it away and fly above it.”
He rolled off the bed and stood up with a childish huff. “Maybe these dreams are just your mind telling you that you’re a skinny broke chic working at a nonsense job and your subconscious wants to run away.”
I’d been fat when we’d met. I hadn’t had a job when we’d met.
He walked back into the living room and I rolled over and went back to sleep. Again, I dreamed of flying.
When I woke up, I could taste ozone and my lower ribs ached. AJ wasn’t on the bed beside me or in the living room. I made breakfast, showered, and went to the university to teach the two classes I had that day. I told people that I’d hurt myself moving furniture when they asked why I moved tenderly. They all secretly wanted to know if AJ had finally hit me – he never would. On good days, he was too kind. On bad days, he was too smart.
I spent most of my classes talking about the temple of Hera on Samos, the first of the Ionics. Three hundred students and the room might as well have been empty.
After class I went to my department head’s office. I was up for tenure review next semester. We were old friends, he’d been one of my professors when I’d started my undergraduate.
“I wouldn’t worry, there’s just a lot still up in the air,” he said.
I laughed. “I’ve been dreaming of that. Flying dreams.”
He laughed in kind. “Maybe they’re telling you that you should start looking for another place to go!”
The pain in my ribs sharpened.
He continued to laugh, but the message was clear. The whole way home I tried to think about job hunting, but instead I found myself trying to push against the ground through my still-aching ribs.
“You’re useless and I hate you,” he said.
I sat there and rubbed his shoulder like I always did. He was crying.
“I hate you! You’re-!”
“Did you take your medication?” I asked him.
“gently caress you, and gently caress your medication! You’re the crazy one, all those stupid flying dreams. You just want to run away from me, I know it! You’re pointless job and your evil friends are fine, but it’s ME you want to run away from!” he grabbed my arm and shoved me off the couch, then ran out the door. He hadn’t taken his keys or put on shoes.
The sun was setting. I waited in the apartment for the sunlight to fall from the sky. When it did, I stood in the dark, and walked toward the window.
I felt the empty space calling me. Push harder, I thought. Step out the window, push hard, and the earth will fall away.
I packed a bag, left my keys, remembered my shoes. The first step was the hardest. Push. Push harder.
And the earth fell away.
|# ? May 19, 2014 02:35|
Mike Uplink was thrust into the world with a camera in his hand and a dream in his heart. It was his first day on the job, and the wrapping paper dotted cellophane that he arrived in was piled in the corner of Billy’s bedroom. He knew his mission.
“To assist Billy and the rest of the Gun Force Generals defeat the Dred Nation and secure the planet for another day,” he said with a salute. Billy’s fingers guided Mike into a resting position. One hand grabbed Captain Gruff, the oldest and most experienced member of the GFG, the other grabbed Hotshot, the most talented general in the bunch. Under Billy’s guiding hand, Hotshot had racked up the highest number of successful missions in the company’s history. He was the favorite toy.
“Captain,” Hotshot said, “I’ve almost locked up the entire Dred Nation singlehandedly. Why are we bringing another rook onboard?”
“He isn’t a soldier, dangit,” Gruff said, banging his hand on the desk, “he’s a reporter.”
“Well actually-” Uplink began.
“A reporter, huh?” Billy slipped Hotshot’s sunglasses onto his plastic face. “Say Captain, don’t you think that a reporter is, well, a little lame?”
“Yeah,” Gruff said, “But Uplink’s who he got, so Uplink’s who we got.” For a moment, everyone seemed disappointed. “Anyway,” he continued, “word has it that Dred Nation has a secret wilderness fortress where Irongrip and Heartstopper are holed up with a few grunts. If Uplink can find that hideout for us then we can finally the Dred to bed!”
“I’ll do my best, sir.”
“I know you will,” Gruff said, “that’s what GFGs do. You’ve got a mission tomorrow. Get some sleep.”
That night when everyone else was asleep, Uplink slinked off to the tackle box where Billy kept his GFG accessories. He was only a communications officer, but Uplink alway dreamed of being a real soldier. He picked up Hotshot’s gun, but the grip refused to fit into his plastic hands; they were designed for a camera and a microphone, and Uplink knew it. A real soldier uses guns and grenades, he thought, before turning his attention to the dossiers on Irongrip and Heartstopper. Uplink thought about Irongrip’s strong, metal hands. Then he thought about Heartstopper; her dark hair was long and enticing, and she knew secret kung-fu moves that could stop a beating heart inside a person’s chest cavity.
They met in the backyard the following morning in the shadow of a launchpad that Billy had set up just like his father taught him. Charles “Charlie” Clinton-Cadsworth, the resident demolitions expert, sized up the massive vessel.
“Captain Gruff, it appears that Billy has managed to fit an E class engine into a C class fuselage.”
“In English, C4,” the captain demanded.
“Well, the engine is too drat big for the body, sir. If this thing manages to take off without exploding outright, the force of the engine is likely to throw it off course; there’s no way of saying where this puppy’s going to run.”
“Well this is the best that we’ve got,” Gruff said.
Billy pulled Gruff and Uplink aside. “Look,” Gruff told him, “in case you haven’t figured it out already, you are going up there. A few days ago Dred Nation shot our spy satellite down. Now this satellite was instructed to send information directly to our processing server, which means that if we don’t act quick, Irongrip will reverse engineer the data flow, and he’ll be knocking on our front door. You need to go up there and identify the location of the Dredfort so we can take them out. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir, but what do I do when I land?”
“You hide. You ain’t a soldier, dangit.”
Minutes later, Uplink was tied to the model rocket with a heavy wrapping of bailing twine. He held his camera in one hand and his communications beacon in the other. He watched Billy move the rest of the GFG’s away from the launchpad before laying the switch on the ground. He watched Captain Gruff hobble over to the button, then he flipped it. For a moment, Uplink’s vision was blurred by the shaking, then it was blurred by the pressure bearing down on him as the rocket whistled into the air. Uplink tried to open his eyes or point his camera at the ground. Wide sweeping motions, he thought, scan the area for the base, but the g-forces were too great. Uplink cracked his eyelid just enough to see the ripping wind tear the camera from his hand. Then, at the apex of the rocket’s ascent, Billy’s wrapping job gave, and Uplink slipped out too.
He said a silent prayer as he tumbled back to the earth.
The first impact was a crippling blow delivered by the branch of an old oak tree to Uplink’s back. The second was a mirrored shot to his gut; but through both crushing impacts, Uplink held onto his communication beacon. He only let it go after finally hitting the dirt.
The tangle of branches was spinning. Or was he? Uplink sat up with a groan as he struggled with the question.
He turned. Heartstopper.
“I think he did.”
He felt a cold hand on his neck. Irongrip.
Turns out that Irongrip also must have had iron arms, because with the tiniest grunt, he lifted Uplink over his head. Uplink was still reeling when he passed out.
He came to in a cardboard cell.
“Morning,” Heartstopper said. She was as beautiful as her picture, but she was dangerous, and she was the enemy.
Uplink scooted to the back of his prison. Through the bars he could see Heartstopper sitting at a makeshift workbench, repairing a piece of mysterious machinery. Along the far wall was a collection of weapons, large and small.
“Relax,” she said, “if I wanted to kill you you’d be buried in that field where we found you.”
“Then what do you want?”
“Right now? To talk.”
“And later?” Uplink asked.
“Later,” she told him.
“I’m not the one who’s locked up right now, so why don’t you answer my questions.” Heartstopper tossed her hair to the side. “What’s your affiliation with the Gun Force Generals?”
“Gun Force Generals?” Uplink asked, playing dumb.
Heartstopper pointed to the AK47 patch on his arm, "now remember, I can kill you with a single touch, so why don’t you just drop the act.”
“Oh, yeah,” Uplink said, covering the patch with his hand. “I’m the new guy.”
“You are the new guy, who the GFGs didn’t feel the need to arm as they sent you into a suicide mission over our headquarters?”
Irongrip entered the room holding Uplink’s communications beacon. Heartstopper approached the cell, “well, the way I see it, you owe us a favor for not leaving you for dead, Uplink.”
“Join the Dred,” Heartstopper commanded as she offered Uplink his video camera. She had wires smaller guns into the sides.
He took it.
“Good,” she said. “Now I believe you have some friends to call.” Uplink did, and now he had the chance to show off what a hot shot he was, as well.
|# ? May 19, 2014 02:53|
Alight, Good Soul (1125 words)
Jamie Ballard sat behind me in the sixth grade, and she used to pull the feathers out of my wings. It was a game: she’d pull, I’d turn around, and then I’d be in trouble. It wasn’t any better on the playground. “Come on, Peter!” they’d say. “Fly for us!” It’s probably worth noting that my name isn’t Peter. On worse days, they’d call me Tinkerbell.
“You’re not that different, Ike,” my mother would say. “You’re a little boy too. Just try to get along and play.” I’d stare into my meatloaf and nod.
“I’ll tell you, son,” said my father, “you smack those bullies one good one, and they’ll never bother you again.”
“John!” protested my mother. She placed her hand on mine and looked into my eyes. “Bullies are just people who are hurting inside.” She smiled sweetly. “Really, you should feel bad for them.”
“It’ll be better when you’re older,” said my father. “Adults don’t act this way. You’ll find your own way to earn respect.”
I’d heard this before, of course. I don’t understand why parents say these things to their kids. What was I supposed to do, look at the kid who pushed me off the top of the slide and say “I’m sorry your daddy hurt you?” Uh-huh. That would earn me another round of hell.
We had this conversation on almost a daily basis. I’d once heard my parents arguing about whether or not to send me to a private school for people with Human Wing Mutation. My mother objected; even I knew we didn’t have that kind of money. I was certain I wouldn’t fit in there, either.
When I’d walk home from school in the snow and rain, I’d wrap my wings around me to keep out the cold and wet. I felt like maybe, if they were just a big bigger, just a little thicker, they could keep out everything else. It would just be me, safe from the pain and ridicule.
The rest of the time, my wings just got in the way. They’d bump and knock things over. I’d get mud and gravel in them and have to preen for hours. The worst part, though, was that they didn’t even work for their obvious purpose. With these wings, I couldn’t fly.
I’d seen people with HWM on TV, beautiful people with wings like an eagle or a dove. I read the Hero Hawk comic book religiously. I wanted nothing more than to be like them when I grew up. While they soared above the world, I was stuck on the ground. I think that’s what eventually got to me.
So, here I was, standing on the second-story roof of my school, looking out on the playground. My body had begun to change, muscles and hair sprouting from the unlikeliest of places. My wings surprised me with their new span.
I can do this, I thought. It’s finally my time. I can fly.
I beat my wings a few times for practice, then stiffened them like Hero Hawk did when he wanted to just glide. For the first time in a long while, I really smiled. I ran and swan-dived off the roof. The wind filled my wings. My heart soared. I was flying.
I woke up in a hospital bed. I’m sure I would have been in a lot of pain, but they’d already put the IV in my arm. Even more than when I’d jumped, I felt like I was above my problems. I struggled to focus, and found my mother’s face.
“M-mom?” I stammered, my tongue too big for my mouth. “What happened?”
“Oh, honey,” she said. Even if I couldn’t see her tears, I could hear them in her voice. “I wish you’d talked to us.”
“There was no reason for this,” said my father. “We should have taught you better.”
I twisted my face in confusion. “I don’t understand,” I said. “I was flying. How did I end up here?”
“You have a concussion,” said my father. He shot an accusatory look at my mother. “You can explain it to him,” he said.
My mother took my hand in hers. “Ike, you...you don’t understand,” she said. “You might not be able to fly.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Your dis-your gift, it’s rare,” she explained. “Humans aren’t built to fly. We’re too heavy.”
“But...I’ve seen it,” I said. “Hero Hawk flies!”
“Hawk Hero is a comic book,” said my father. “The truth is, we should have told you this sooner. Some people with your disorder can glide, but most spend their lives just like you. On the ground.”
Even through the medication, I could feel my anger growing. It burned through my heart and into my face. I yelled; I don’t remember what. I wanted them to go, to never speak to me again. They obliged me and left.
The doctor came and went. So did a psychiatrist, who wanted to make certain that I hadn’t been trying to kill myself. I thought it was obvious that what I wanted was actually quite the opposite.
When I’d come home, my parents introduced me to a website for people like me called “Grounded Angels.” They thought it would be helpful for me to share my experience with others who had the same problems. I saw a counselor and moved schools. None of it helped.
Most of the Grounded Angels wrote long, impassioned diatribes at each other about how their depression was natural, society was wrong, and the bullies were just haters. It was okay that we couldn’t fly; we were angels even as our feet remained on the ground. My counselor tried to sell me on the idea that Things Get Better. Someday I would Grow Up and find my Self Esteem and People Would Love Me For Who I Am.
I was smart enough to recognize these lies; I’d been fed them by my parents for the better part of a decade. I dreamt of flight, of that moment when my wings caught the wind. I overheard my parents discussing surgery to remove my wings. I could go to college on a fresh slate, unburdened by my “gift.”
I unfurled my wings in the wind, gazing out my future from this height. Graduation was just weeks away. Beyond that, I could see my life. Even if I had my wings removed, they’d done their damage. I’d never be like other people. I was too damaged to pretend. Extending my primaries, I leapt from the top of the water tower.
Never to touch the earth again.
|# ? May 19, 2014 03:55|
Always Bet on a Lady's Luck
The battered Lady's Luck listed dangerously to the side as at least one of her engines spewed smoke. All the life pods had already been dropped onto whatever lay below the cloud layer below, leaving only the skeleton crew behind to try and evade the pirates aboard the Osprey. She had pulled along side the wounded pleasure liner and was disgorging her boarding party.
“Toad, you check the galley, I don't one piece of silverware left behind when she goes down,” said the gaunt officer
“Yes sir! Muledy Sir!” The squat little man ran off to the kitchen to rummage through the useless crap.
Muledy turned to the rest of his squad and said, “The rest of you have a more important job, There's a safe in the Captain's quarters that you are going to grab. I don't care what you have to do but get me what he has hidden in there or I'll leave you behind with this heap of junk.”
The men nodded and ran off toward the front of ship and the officer sighed as he strolled toward the captured prisoners near the gangplank connecting the two vessels. “You folks gave me a lot more trouble than I'd hoped. Now why don't you make it easier on yourself and just give me that combination to your safe.”
A crewmen, a cook Muledy guessed, spoke up, “Sir, I ain't got nothin' to do with this sir, just let me go please.”
Muledy strode up the cook and kneeled down in front of him. “You don't have anything to worry about, if you captain just gives up the combination to that safe.” Standing up, Muledy looked at the captain in his gaudy overdressed outfit. Despite the rarity, he had managed to scrounge enough fabric or die together to make a pure purple dress uniform, hat and all. “Well, what will it be?”
The captain spit in Muledy's face and said, “You pirates can go beg your gods, you'll never get in that safe.”
Standing up and wiping the spit off his face he grabbed the cook and hoisted him up. As he walked him over to the edge of the ship the cook struggled and nearly pulled away but Muledy called for a couple of his own crewmen nearby to hold him in place. Muledy turned back to the captain again.
“Is this is really what you want?” he asked.
The captain regarded Muledy with a stare that would have turned a lesser man to stone, but didn't say anything. “Alright then,” he said and kicked the cook over the edge. Muledy looked after him and saw him tumble into the clouds below. “He's going to have a long time to thank you for your caring attitude there captain. I'll give you some more time to think about it, but when I come back you'd better be ready to talk.”
He strode off to see how progress was going in the captain's quarters.
Things were not going according to plan. Not only was the captain keeping his mouth shut, despite knocking a couple more of his crewmen over the edge, but the progress on the safe was going slowly, to put it generously.
“You've been at this for two hours and you still don't have it open!” Muledy shouted at the groveling crewman near the captain's bed.
“Cap'n we're almost there but the safe has three dif'nt layers we've had to cut through, it's like a safe in a safe in a safe.”
Muledy looked over to it, the two previous doors were already cut through and open, and the final door was nearly done.
Just then, an explosion boomed from the back of the skyship and the Lady's Luck listed even further to port.
“Godsdamnit,” Muledy said.
A runner dashed in from outside and said, “Cap'n the port engine gone out completely, She's goin' down. We need to get back to the Osprey before it's too late!”
The rest of his crew dropped whatever tools they were working with and ran out the hatch, leaving Muledy alone in there with the safe. He cursed and grabbed the torch, lit it and worked with a feverish urgency that only comes when a man is facing death.
Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, Muledy finished the final cut and the door swung free from the force of gravity and the tilt of the ship. He reached inside pulling out a gold bar, and tossed it aside, then found what he was looking for. He palmed the small vial of quicksilver-like liquid and rushed out the hatch and sprinted for the gangplank back to the Osprey.
As he rounded the corner he saw the Osprey was moving away from the Lady Luck to starboard and downward. She was already almost into the clouds. Still though, it was close enough the ship for a well timed throw to reach it he thought...
Muledy screamed at the top of his lungs, “You godsdamn loving shits. If you're going to leave me take this!” The crew on the deck looked up just in time to see him throw the silver vial over the edge into the abyss. It tumbled end over end right toward and empty spot in the deck when Toad leaped to catch it at the last moment. Muledy fell to the deck as the Osprey slipped below the clouds and the Lady's Luck continued to tilt further.
Toad sat down on the end bed in Muledy's cabin and patted the occupant on the leg. Muledy's son Saltar, still ashen pale as ever didn't stir of course. No one with the blight stirred once they started showing it unless they got treatment. Toad handed the silver vial to the ship's surgeon who used it to fill up a syringe and inject Saltar. After a few moments Saltar stirred a bit and mumbled “Daddy, I want to go outside and play...”
|# ? May 19, 2014 04:05|
My Time Amongst the Beasts
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 02:54 on Dec 11, 2014
|# ? May 19, 2014 04:11|
Because I've been sitting in the airport for the past 3 hours (delayed flight) and all my electronics are about to die because I forgot to bring a charger, I won't be able to post anything until I get back - which is likely past the deadline. Sorry!
|# ? May 19, 2014 04:33|
And the stars look very different today
crabrock fucked around with this message at 07:01 on Jul 1, 2014
|# ? May 19, 2014 05:23|
The Kite Flying Blues
Flash Rule - 900 words
So I'm staring straight into the sun when a thought slaps me across the face; if I raise my left foot, right now, I’ll fall. I’ll hit the ground harder than that Guido motherfucker I caught Casey with.
I imagine colliding with the concrete and I have to step back so I I don’t get any puke on me. ‘How retarded are you?’ I hear you asking. Good question. Like, I’m jumping, so who cares if I vomit on my shirt? Whatever, my intestines growl as I finish. I reach into my pocket and pull out the photo of me and Casey.
Doesn't matter how salty I am, she’s the prettiest drat girl in the world. ‘She’s way out of my league’, I remember telling myself one night, years ago. ‘No way am I getting with her.’ Guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I caught her in bed with a roasted beefcake.
You might be thinking Casey’s why I’m up here, like she’s the anvil that broke this camel’s back. Ain’t exactly true; try a perfect, lifetime-long storm of straws and a liberal arts degree stained with ketchup. Casey was the only reason I didn’t jump a year ago. Without her, I've got no direction. There's nothing holding my back. So. Why not?
But... C-Christ, not sure what's worse; how high up I am or how it’s nowhere as high as I imagined. I figured I would get thirty seconds of freefall, at least. From this high, I’d be lucky to squeeze out ten.
I need a smoke. I reach into my back pocket and pull out the carton. It’s empty. Cursing, I ball it into a wad and chuck it. A sudden gust of wind sends it flying southbound, and when I follow it with my eyes, I catch a glimpse at a kite as it’s about to take a nosedive.
... Wait, a kite? Why is there a – Jesus!
I drop to my knees, out of sight. There’s a park across the street from the apartment complex, I saw it when I first came up here. Clearly I didn’t ‘see’ it, because I didn’t notice the kid.
This girl, she waddles over to her misshapen kite and starts bawling her eyes out! A woman in a straw made comes over to her. She sits on her haunches, rubbing the kid's back. The girl turns and buries her face in her mother's shoulder, and I'm tearing up too because holy poo poo I almost killed myself in front of a kid!
Now a guy in a polo shirt's coming over! Pretty sure he can’t see me, but there’s no way to know for sure. He squats down too and says something to his daughter. I can't hear the girl crying anymore, but I see her clutch her mother's sundress and nod. The guy smiles, takes the kite and stands up. He starts fiddling the plastic sticks holding the kite together. After a minute, he examines it, nods, then holds it so his daughter can see.
And this girl... she just flashes the cutest smile I've ever seen. I smile too, even though I'm still blubbering.
The girl reaches for the kite and her parents laugh. Father hands his kid the twine and picks her up while the mother holds the kite. Once she's settled on his shoulders, the parents move around a bit so that they're facing at the right angle. Father says something just as the wind picks up again. The mother nods and quickly lets go. Man, that puppy starts soaring almost instantly. The girl's facing away from me, but I see her bouncing and pointing and I hear her giggling. I laugh too.
So I'm watching this father making his daughter giggle when she was crying a minute ago, and I realize something; I want to be him. I want what he's got. I want to be a father.
No. Scratch that. I've always wanted a kid. I just never knew it. Something about that scares me, even more than wanting to kill myself. With suicide, I know how it's going to play out. With this, I...
gently caress. I mean, I feel like a piece of useless poo poo, yeah, that hasn't changed. But seeing a couple making their daughter happy like that, it makes me want to grin and bear it, even though that's what I've been doing for years. I haven’t smiled this much in ages, certainly.
So I force myself away from the ledge. Then I reach into my pocket and pull out the picture of Casey. I start folding the edges, one over the other, until I make myself a plane. Then I throw it Casey flies, flapping her creased wings into the cold air. Another gust caries her away, and I watch her soar until she's only a speck in the blue sky. I sigh. A couple of bucks at the one-hour photo shop and a thousand painful memories, all gone with the wind. Feels bittersweet.
I don't know where I'm going after this, but I have my destination, and that's all that matters.
As I turn to leave, I see a cigarette on the ground. Must have fallen out of my carton. I crush it with my heel. Good day to quit.
|# ? May 19, 2014 06:02|
I wring my childhood memories for any thoughts of vultures. I can’t imagine ever seeing one here, despite the fact that I had stopped at this stop most mornings for the better part of a decade.
The only coherent memory of a vulture I can recall is an image of a newspaper clipping magnet-bound to my father’s fridge, the single comic panel ripped from the Far Side. It depicts a vulture hunched over a cowboy’s corpse, the bird wearing a ridiculous coat and ten-gallon hat. The brim covers his eyes and rests atop his beak. He says something witty to the other vultures surrounding the corpse, but the birds are not amused. I can’t remember what the vulture says, but it must’ve been funny because the comic was on the fridge for some time.
These vultures, the ones now perched across the I-8 from me, look like pudgy, complacent extras from The Outsiders. The wooden fence the birds are weighed upon cants 90°, presumably from repeated applications of avian girth. Clods of clay upend the point of intersection between the fence and sand. There are four birds in total.
The two smallest vultures occasionally peck each other, scraw, and fidget. The largest of the birds rests, inhaling audibly. But, it’s the fourth bird that gives me pause. It leers, immobile and unblinking. Both wings, four feet from tip to end, are fanned open, exposing a layer of white plumage. The remaining feathers are opaque. Its neck lacks the expected pink gizzard and is instead scabbed with mottled skin, wrinkles raw with burn. It has a hollow nasal cavity, the exterior lining linked with fleshy sinews that connect to a curved beak. The vulture’s eye socket secretes a caked buildup of silver skin that surrounds a distended brown iris. The iris itself engulfs a dilated, black pupil. It blinks, then resumes staring.The largest vulture exhales, wheezing softly, still asleep.
I’m doubtful of the birds’ capacity to attack me. Aren’t vultures the dictionary definition of the scavenger?
I consult the OED; the last thing I need is the Tippi Hedren experience. The dictionary is located in my suitcase, buried beneath the accrued weight of four years. It takes a minute of searching to locate it. It’s beside a zip-loc stuffed with toiletries but under a history textbook, the cover showcasing a monochromatic image of Harry Truman’s gargantuan head. His smile is gleefully schizoid as he brandishes a newspaper stating his defeat. I pull P-Z free from the baggage, step down on the overstuffed case lid, and clamp the restraints. I flip to V.
My second hand copy of the OED is disgusting and ragged. The spine’s threads splay outward, but a thick layer of duct tape keeps the pages from vomiting onto the highway. My eyes drift past vulnerary to a page break. I enter yak territory. Back to vulpine. I redouble my search.
It takes a moment, but I realize that page containing vulture is missing. I close the book and place it on my luggage. What other words have I lost? The only two that come to mind are vuvuzela and vulva. It’s trite and melodramatic to think of some waylaid words as lost pieces of my identity. I bury the thought.
The vulture is still staring.
I’ll never understand the romantic sentiments attributed to the vulture, nor will I understand the disgust. Constant representation via skeletally winged, hooded reapers, or of mourning fatales, sun-drenched, black veil and coiffed shoulderpads slumped in consumption, or of potbellied spectres embodying a ravenous, inevitable truth: the debtor’s due come home to roost— our vultures are overwrought with moronic imagery. When I stop and look into this vulture’s eye I see the same sad, bulging, unsexy yet stoic eyes that I see within all birds. Captivity changes nothing inherent in the eyes of winged things. Vultures are utilitarian. To plumb the metaphor is to waste breath.
I glance at my watch. The bus is late.
Even in the shade of the bus hutch, the heat is pervasive. Salted perspiration runs down my nose and collects upon my lip. Strands of cirri languish above, ambling against an expanding blue. The horizon is stretched paper-thin. Its steady line occasionally broken by far off stone formations, diffusion causing the small spires of earth to undulate and ebb.
I consider an infancy that I do not remember, but have rather been told of. How my father, waiter extraordinaire, worked three jobs and lived in a motel for four months to save up enough for two small bedrooms outside the city limits. How, during that time, I was raised by my grandmother, a woman who spoke only in an archaic— now extinct— dialect of Spanish-Basque. How she staunchly insisted that colonies of Martians lived within the center of the Earth. How, despite his oppressive work schedule, my father still managed to take me to library for an hour each Sunday. I have no idea what he could have possibly taught me in the library; his pidgin has always been sublime and his writing remains rudimentary.
These unconfirmed memories of youth hold no vultures, and neither do the scant recollections that follow. The vulture’s metaphorical existence seems, to me, indicative of an idyllic adolescence that has begun to buckle and strain under the weight of petulance. Of complacency I could not possibly hope to cash. I don’t know if the birds have settled here in my wake or if they have always existed, but I know that one day the lilting fence of prescriptive analysis that I have erected will plummet, and that on that day I am truly hosed.
But a vulture isn’t a metaphor; the definition is irrelevant.
I glance across the highway. They haven’t moved. The vulture that was sleeping wakes. It inhales. It yawns. I recall the caption regarding that first vulture, the one wearing the hat, from my father's Far Side clipping. From across a festering corpse, to his companions, the vulture exclaims, “Hey! Look at me, everybody! I’m a cowboy! … Howdy, howdy, howdy!”
It isn’t very funny.
I glance at my watch. The bus home should arrive soon.
|# ? May 19, 2014 06:28|
Given To Fly
It was first period at school and Jeremy was running across the hall as fast as he could like a deer being chased by a pack of hungry, bloodthirsty wolves. Worse than wolves, they were sixth graders. A wolf would rip your throat out and that would be the end of that--a sixth grader would humiliate you in front of everyone and throw you back in the wild so he could do the whole thing over again the next day. Jeremy was in full flight mode as he was one of the unfortunate ones born without a fight mode. He made a hard right turn and almost crashed into another classmate before he dove into a broom closet to hide. He could hardly breathe and the dust was irritating his lungs but he didn't dare reach for his inhaler, as the slightest sound would give him away.
“Hey Jerry,” Alex called out. Jeremy hated being called that. “I can see you, you little bitch!” He called out. It didn't matter if the door had a lock--Alex would just call an adult to have the door unlocked and give Jeremy a head start to begin the mad chase again. Jeremy grabbed a broom handle and stuck it out in front of him like a spear. Alex threw the door open as a scared Jeremy held his broom handle at him pathetically. Alex sneered and grabbed it out of his hands.
“Jerry you little poo poo,” Alex said as he closed the door behind him, took the broom handle out of his hands, and held it like a bat. “Don't-you-ever-hold-something-at-me-again!” He shouted while whaling on him. Alex was smart enough to hit him in the back, chest, and legs so that he wouldn't leave any obvious bruises.
“Hey, what's going on in there?” An adult shouted. Alex propped the broom handle against the wall. “Don't say a loving word or I'll use a bat next time!” He told Jeremy in a harsh whisper as he turned around and opened the door.
“Nothing, Mr. Garcia,” Alex said. “We were just horsing around is all,” he said trying to look as innocent as possible.
“Well get going, you're late for class,” he said as the wolf became a fox and scattered leaving a scared deer behind.
“It's Jeremy, right?” Mr. Garcia asked. He nodded. “Son, I keep telling you that you have to avoid him. You're not purposefully running into him, are you?”
Jeremy shook his head and pulled out his inhaler to take a dose. Mr. Garcia sighed as if he was forced against his will to do his job. “Well, get going or I'll have you marked as tardy.”
Later on that day, Jeremy got off the school bus and went home. Inside he heard his parents shouting at each other in the living room.
“You can never be satisfied with anything, can you?” His father shouted.
“What am I supposed to do?” His mother screeched. “I can barely afford to pay for groceries! And you still can't make enough money at that goddamn warehouse!”
“I'm helping to make payments on this house! I'm helping to make payments off that new car you had to buy!”
“But you never learned a trade! You're still working at the warehouse making poo poo pay because you never went to school! You're failing this family! You're failing me!”
“You know what your problem is?” His dad asked. “Your problem is that you've never accepted me for who I am! I'm making an honest living trying to support this family and all you do is give me grief for it!”
“It's because you've never pushed yourself to be any kind of success! You're too drat complacent for your own good and we're suffering for it!”
Jeremy threw his backpack on the porch. His parents heard the noise and stopped arguing. “Honey,” his mom said before he turned around and ran away from his house as fast as he could. “Jeremy!” She called out as he kept running away. He had no idea what they were arguing about and he didn't care. He raced to the only place where he could find any solace.
Near his house was a cliff overlooking the ocean. There, Jeremy would lie down on the soft grass and slowly drift away to sleep with the cawing of seabirds and the rhythmic crashing on the waves against the cliff as his lullaby. It was there, and only there, that he would dream about flying. In his dreams, he'd stand up and, after lifting his arms to the sky with his hands as fists, he would lift off from the ground and catapult himself into the clouds. Higher and higher he'd fly, punching past clouds and soaring towards the sun. His eyes would water from the wind streaking into them but he would never lose his breath or have another attack. He'd soar through the clouds, high above the fields and cities below him. He would laugh and cry as he flew as high as he could, trying to reach above the skies and into the stars above. After reaching as high as he could, he'd dive straight towards the ground bellow. With the adrenaline racing in his veins, he would see how close he could get to the ground before he'd shoot back up at the last second. Here in the skies was the only place where he found any kind of peace in the world.
One day, Jeremy had enough of it all. He had enough of being chased by his bully at school and he had enough of his parent's incessant arguing. But most of all, he had enough of how he couldn't do a drat thing about it. He returned to the cliff where he found peace and stood at the edge. A cold wind was blowing from the west and it made his hair stand on its end. After a brief moment of reconsidering his actions, he closed his eyes and stretched his arms out, ready to make a swan dive to the craggy rocks and churning waters below.
Jeremy stopped. He heard something behind him. He turned around and saw a sparrow standing on the ground looking straight at him. Jeremy could tell from its coloring that the bird was female. She tilted her head as if she was asking him a question. “Are you okay?” Jeremy could hear her saying. He nodded at the bird. The sparrow chattered excitedly and then started flying around him, singing the most beautiful song he ever heard. Jeremy started crying. He didn't know why and he didn't care. The sparrow finally flew towards her nest to take care of her chicks. Jeremy wiped his tears and took another dose from his inhaler. He knew what he had to do.
Jeremy returned home later on that day. He didn't worry anymore about what would happen the next day at school. Whatever would happen, would happen. But he wasn't scared anymore.
|# ? May 19, 2014 06:44|
Nethilia fucked around with this message at 08:28 on Dec 4, 2014
|# ? May 19, 2014 06:54|
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 22:14 on Jan 1, 2015
|# ? May 19, 2014 07:24|
First Under Heaven (1,037 words)
Tsengri shivered in the evening calm, wrapped in a loneliness he knew to be purpose. Three days out from the clan’s encampment. He’d never taken his horse so far.
“Child. Do not stray. If you get yourself lost I am not going to look for you.”
Kojiten’s tone was sharp, his manner coarse. Tsengri had taken an immediate disliking to him. He was nothing like the shaman who had blessed him as an infant – the kindly old shaman he was preparing to replace. How such a thoroughly unsociable man had achieved the title of first under heaven was beyond the boy entirely. Nevertheless, he had come recommended. His father decided he would suffer his tutelage.
One by one the stars filled the night sky, the lanterns of creation, all eyes under heaven. Off in the distance the mountain range loomed, a shadow of the gods draped over the steppes.
Kojiten slowed his horse and dismounted. His hand at the nape of the animal’s neck, he spoke to the boy without turning his head.
“This is the place. If you’d like to make yourself useful you can set up camp.”
Tsengri sighed, exhausted from the day’s ride. From dawn till dusk, they’d stopped only for the moon.
The night air hummed with crickets. Tsengri drew closer to the fire, the smell of cooked meat soothing his fatigue. Across from him sat Kojiten, brow furrowed, arms together. His right hand was bandaged, his right eye a vacant blue.
“To the south sleeps the mountains – the stairway to the gods. Should the heavenly lords accept you, they will see you to the top.”
It was enough to jolt Tsengri awake.
“To the top!?”
“An arbiter of heaven is prepared for all things.”
”You never told me I’d have to climb a mountain!”
Kojiten gave a dismissive snort. “No man has ever climbed that mountain.”
“Then what was the point of dragging me out here? I can’t do this!”
“Then your father has wasted my time.”
Tsengri’s mind swarmed with questions, but he knew without asking Kojiten would never answer. He’d said more in the last few minutes than the past three days. His bowl empty, the man fell asleep.
“The first under heaven…I can’t believe this.”
Sleep came slowly to Tsengri. Under the blankets he tossed and turned. The old shaman spoke of the mountains with great reverence, but not even once had he ever mentioned climbing them. Tsengri shut his eyes, his expression troubled. His dreams were filled with the laughter of his brothers.
A cold wind swept through the camp, the faint scent of embers lingering in its passing. A whisper of warmth found its way to the boy. A small voice in his ear – it told him to awaken.
Tsengri peeled his eyes. There in the remnants of the fire pit, a shimmering figure stood before him. Tsengri’s eyes snapped open. He leapt from his blankets, his hand at his belt for a knife that wasn’t there.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
The spirit looked to be a youth, though Tsengri couldn’t tell if it was male or female. It had no face, no distinguishing features. Its voice was silent, a mere echo in his heart.
Tsengri made his way over towards Kojiten, the spirit watching him all the while. He attempted to wrest him awake. Kojiten refused. He mumbled in his sleep. Then Tsengri heard the horses.
Without a sound, the spirit had mounted Kojiten’s horse. With a click of its reins, the animal took off. Tsengri threw himself onto his own horse. He dug in his boots and took after the horse thief.
The two thundered across the steppes, all alone in the whole of creation. As it rode, the spirit reached up and plucked a star from the night sky, and traced for itself a long flowing robe – pale blue, translucent, bristling with feathers. Satisfied, it tossed the star over its shoulder towards its pursuer. Tsengri tried to dodge it. It knocked him from his horse. He braced himself for impact. Instead, the world grew smaller.
Tsengri found himself lifted into the air, his traveling clothes outlined in brilliant blue vestments. The spirit had dismounted. It joined him in the sky. Tsengri looked about, his heart awash in awe and terror. The spirit took his hand and caressed his face. All fear drained away.
The spirit swept towards the mountains, the boy in its grasp. The spirit climbed higher, and Tsengri saw the mountain top. Here, in the kingdom of the clouds, the world was pure, unblemished snow. The whole of the wealth of the southern emperor could not have hoped to match it.
Beyond the horizon, at the edge of the world, the sun had begun to rise. Tsengri raised his arm to shield his face. He grasped at air. He felt himself falling.
Down, down he plummeted. He had to stop himself. A small outcropping of rock caught his eye. He reached for it and cried out, his hand sliced open on its surface.
Cradling his arm, the world fell into darkness.
“Up boy, I said up. UP.”
Tsengri felt a sharp smack to the side of his head. He opened his eyes. There was Kojiten, and the campsite, and the horses. The sun hung high in the sky overhead. Kojiten released him, and the boy fell back into his blankets in the grass.
“Wha-what was that?” Tsengri’s breathing caught up with him all at once. He put his hand to his face and felt something wet. He pulled his hand back and saw blood on his palm.
Kojiten silenced him before he could say another word. Rummaging through his kit, he produced a roll of rough bandages, identical to his own. Applying them to Tsengri’s hand, for the first time ever, he asked him a question.
“Why did you reach out? Did you not want to die?”
Tsengri watched transfixed as Kojiten wrapped his hand. When the man had finished, at last Tsengri spoke.
“I…didn’t want to leave.”
Kojiten nodded. He took the boy by the arm and hoisted him to his feet.
“We are not returning to your father’s. Today your training begins.”
|# ? May 19, 2014 07:59|
The wind has risen, much like flatulence on a winter's day, and all that remains is to cluster around the burning remains of your flights of fancy and count the cost.
Submissions are closed
Results may take a while as we appear to have three judges from three different ends of the earth.
kurona_bright, for having an excuse relevant to the prompt, you can have an extension - you've got until we get ourselves coordinated, so probably this evening (UK time).
|# ? May 19, 2014 08:06|
Ironically I have to take a DQ because I'm packing for an early flight. Oh well, gonna finish the story tomorrow and post it anyways because this thread has finally got me writing again.
|# ? May 19, 2014 08:39|
Entry for my Brawl with crabrock. Did I screw up the high noon thing? Sorry seb. It's either post now or be late tomorrow.
Oh, and preliminary judging report from the Far East- for the most part the stories were not so bad that they made me angry. I'm tentatively considering this a good week.
Friar John had just sat down for his afternoon copyscripting. It had been another tedious day of prayer, instruction, and simple meals, but it was the copyscripting that really let him get in touch with his spiritual self. He was so engrossed in the work that he almost didn't notice the arrival of his old pupil. But then, David had slammed the door open rather violently.
"Hello there," Friar John said with a smile. The lad had really grown up over the last few years. His clothes were torn and his features rugged. David now sported a vertical scar over his left eye. Friar John was pleased to see that his former student had found the life of adventure he had so dearly wanted.
David threw a large scroll on the floor. He stared at Friar John with intense hatred.
"What does it say in the scroll?"
"You weren't supposed to remove it from the temple," said Friar John.
"Answer the question!"
David clenched his fist and punched the hard stone wall. It cracked visibly and David's knuckles were bleeding. He did not notice the pain.
"Believe in yourself," said Friar John.
"'Believe in yourself'!" yelled David. His eyes took on a menacing, insane look. "Four years! I wasted four years of my life looking for this scroll! Do you have any idea what you've done?"
"I only wanted you to be happy," said Friar John. "You desired a life of adventure, so I gave you a quest. And surely, with all the hardships you've faced, you know now that you're capable of anything."
"No, no, no!" shouted David. Spotting a nearby stool, he grabbed it and broke it into several pieces off his knee, leaving fragments all over the floor.
"I wanted that scroll so I could fight the Empire," he snarled. "Every day they produce more machinery, gather more territory, threaten our homeland and everything in it! I told everyone I met that if we could just get the scroll we might stand a chance. People gave their lives to help me find this scroll. Lords lent me the aid of their private armies. And all of this was so you could tell me a fairy tale? Why!?"
Friar John closed his eyes and took a breath. However, he did not stand up.
"David, be honest. Did you really think an old scroll would help you defeat the Empire? You desire conflict and the thrill of battle, and I gave it to you. Given time the Empire will crumble of its own accord. Meanwhile all we can hope to do is enjoy life on our own terms. And you have been happy haven't you?"
"Happy?" said David. "One kingdom threw me into a lion's den because I said one word of their holy prayer incorrectly. A pirate crew conscripted me for a year and I had to gamble my way out. I almost lost my eye trying to gain favor with some idiot who insists on fencing duels without masks! All for that drat scroll!"
"I know you too well David," said Friar John, shaking his head. "Any other life would have bored you. You always did want to be a hero."
"And what am I supposed to do now?" David said. "The Empire comes even now to kill us all and we're not ready. Our chance has been squandered."
"Do what the scroll says," Friar John replied. "Believe in yourself."
David stared at Friar John, no longer with anger, but with a sense of sheer emptiness. He fell to his knees, laughter mingled with tears.
"I used to think you were amazing," David said. "I had this fantasy that I would come see you again and we would take on the Empire together. But you don't...you don't even have any idea what's happening do you? Do you even know how to fight?"
"No," said Friar John. "God instilled within me a gift for helping others unlock their potential. But I? I'm satisfied tending to this monastery."
David's arms and legs felt limp, but he forced himself up and walked out the door. He took one last glance at Friar John, then decided not to say anything.
Friar John went right back to work. He was never quite sure how good a job he was actually doing, copying these ancient texts, written in a language he didn't understand. But then, it always was the process that mattered to Friar John, not the results.
|# ? May 19, 2014 09:19|
Copied From My Handwritten Notes (a Flight Away) (1197 words):
Natasha squinted at the departures screen from the table she was sitting at and sighed. The first long-distance trip she took in years and her connecting flight was delayed by two hours – meaning that she would touch down in Seattle much closer to midnight than she’d have liked. She slumped back into her chair and looked around, trying not to think about what James might be doing at the moment, about the fight, and about the ease by which he just cut their relationship off. All those white-picket-fence dreams, slaughtered in an instant.
Her gloomy thoughts were interrupted when she noticed somebody strangely familiar at a table nearby. She looked exhausted – dark circles were beneath her eyes – and she was glaring at the book she was holding. While Natasha was trying to figure out why this person seemed so familiar, the stranger turned a page and looked up.
Natasha flinched away from her piercing gaze and hastily focused on the empty granola bar wrapper in front of her. Steps from her left came closer, and Natasha looked up, ready to apologize, even though she didn’t quite know what to say.
But the other person spoke first. “Are you Natasha? From La Mesa Community College?”
Recognition struck Natasha. She gasped and said, “Jane! I haven’t seen you in years!”
Jane grinned. “It has been a while, right?” She gestured at the seat opposite Natasha. “Can I sit down and talk? Do you have time?”
Natasha grimaced. “I have plenty of time. The drat plane’s late and my flight’s been pushed back till 10.”
Jane relaxed and she laughed. “You get used to it after a while. How have you been? I mean, I haven’t been to Greene since I transferred.”
“I’m…” Images of James forced their way behind her eyelids. “I’m fine.” Natasha scratched at the back of her neck and tried to change the subject. “So how about you? You were trying to become a newscaster, weren’t you?”
Jane smiled, but it seemed a bit forced. “Yeah, I was. I’m working at the local station, and I’m hoping to get a promotion soon.” She leaned forward. “How’re you and… um, what was his name? Johnny?”
Natasha’s hands clenched. Jane’s eyes flickered down at the movement and she hastily said, “Not that you have to tell me or anything. Where are you headed?”
“Seattle,” Natasha replied. “I’m looking for a job there.” The image of her elementary-school diary flashed through her head – she had found it while rummaging around in her old room after the break-up. Today we talked about what we want to be and I said I wanted to be a cook in the Space Needle because we ate there last summer and the food was really good. The ‘really good’ had been underlined about five times in glittery purple ink. “How about you?”
Jane froze. “W-well, it’s–” Natasha waited for her to speak and Jane stared at the table. “My niece passed away. I’m going to her funeral.”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”
Jane rubbed her eyes with a hand. “No, it’s fine.” After ten seconds of excruciatingly painful silence, she said, “You’re going to Seattle, correct? I’ve stayed there for a year. Do you need any help?”
Natasha grabbed for the lifeline offered to her. “Yeah! I’ve never lived there before. Do you know where I can get a good apartment?” Jane stared at her. “Is that a no?”
“Why on earth-” Jane cut herself off. “You’re flying to Seattle and you haven’t decided where you’re going to live?”
“W-well, I was going to stay in a nice hotel-”
“Do you have a job waiting for you in Seattle?” Jane demanded. It was sort of amazing, how quickly she transformed from a distraught aunt to this intimidating person.
Natasha tried, “I’ve sent out a dozen applications?” It didn’t seem like a good idea to mention that almost half of them were at fast food restaurants. To be honest, this whole idea – running away to a new city, to start a new life – didn’t really sound like a good idea after the initial rush.
Jane sighed, and all of those doubts were swept away in a sudden flash of red. Natasha stood.
“Natasha!” Jane exclaimed. “What’s wrong?”
“Look, I know this was a stupid idea, okay? But James broke up with me and I realized where I was. All I’ve been doing for the past two years was spending eight hours a day behind a cash register at the local supermarket!” A small part of Natasha noted that she wasn’t crying, thank God. “And I realize that I had wanted more as a kid, that I wanted to work at the loving Space Needle, and I-”
Jane placed a hand on Natasha’s shoulder, startling her out of her rant. She looked around, and saw several strangers suddenly become incredibly interested in their sandwiches and hot dogs. She flushed and said, “I’m sorry.”
Jane replied, “No need for that; I think I understand.” She guided Natasha back down into her seat, and took her own seat as well. Then she pulled out a piece of paper and a ballpoint pen and started scribbling something down. “You do have savings, right?”
Natasha grumbled, “Of course I do.”
“Sorry, just checking. How much?”
Natasha mumbled a vague estimate of her checking account balance, and then asked, “What are you doing?”
“Giving you my help. I’m friends with an good landlord, so at the very least, you won’t have to pay for a hotel room. Here’s her address, her phone number, and… you do have a cell phone, right?”
“Good. I’ll send her an email about you after the-” Jane paused, swallowed, and resumed scribbling. “After. I also have a couple friends who might be hiring at the moment, so you’ll have a couple more options to help you get on your feet.”
Natasha watched Jane’s pen rapidly move across the paper. After a while, Jane cleared her throat and spoke again, saying, “Also, here’s a list of grocery stores near the apartments my friend owns, so you won’t have trouble finding food.” She gestured with the pen.
Natasha’s throat felt tight as she forced out the words, “Thank you so much. I don’t know how to repay this.”
Jane beamed. “Like I said, no need! Somebody really helped me a similar way a bit ago, and I’m just passing on the favor.” The intercom came on, calling for a Jane at gate 61, and she froze. “Crap! My flight!” Jane grabbed her bag and ran off, presumably towards her gate. She called back, “Make a copy, just in case you lose my sheet!”
Natasha waved back, but before she could reply, Jane was lost in the crowd. She gazed out at where Jane had been, then turned to the scribbled notes on the table. She checked the departure screen. She had plenty of time, so she might as well. She pulled out a pencil and a slightly crumpled piece of paper, and got to work.
|# ? May 19, 2014 10:55|
After 7 weeks in a row without a win, loss, or mention of any kind, I'm ready for a little R&R in Bartertown, so I'm taking the week off from writing. Gau's getting the first of his 3 crits this week (assuming he doesn't punk out like last week). Who else wants one?
Not writing anything sure is a funny way of getting better at writing. But, whatever, I'll take one of your crits and I'll pick a fight just like you asked.
Yo, THALAMAS, come at me babby bitch! Let's THUNDERBRAWL!
Beef's agreed to judge if you ain't too scared.
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 11:58 on May 19, 2014
|# ? May 19, 2014 11:53|
Write about the things that disappear when you close your eyes. 150 words.
|# ? May 19, 2014 12:04|
Months old crits are my interprompt. and my antidrug.
Authenticity: A Story for Children (1196 words) I am not a child
Well, the prompt was "make something that isn't normally contagious be contagious, and you picked "viruses." Which I hate to break it to you, but them poo poo is contagious yo. Sure your viruses do stuff that they don't normally do (make people want specific brands, or fall in love with each other, or whatever plot device you need them for), but that wasn't really the prompt.
secondly, your main char does pretty much ONE thing in this story that isn't just a passive reaction to things being done to him, and that's order the virus from Betty. Betty, the girl who loves Zlika (and has made a virus to make Jay fall in love with Zlika again, and one for people to like Jay). Why is she doing these illegal, unethical things to bring 2 people together when it sounds like she wants them to be apart? it doesn't make any sense to me.
Also the relationship between your two chars is really weird. you don't focus on it for most of the story, so i'm left really unsure of what the feel/think about each other (it doesn't seem to be very positive). then i'm unclear of when each person is ordering/taking their virus. did zlika only order the love virus in response to being infected with jay's virus?
why do these viruses seem to hit suddenly? the whole "modifying behavior from viruses" is really shaky, scientifically. I know you went with the scifi theme, but this seems like near future, and we're nowhere close to that level of control (we don't even know how antidepressants work, and we mostly just throw drugs at people to see if they'll somehow work.) you woulda been better served by an implant that recognized certain bodily responses and injected dopamine into the blood, or something. Or oxytocin. There are oxytocin inhalers that you can use that basically make you a more social person. they use it on kids with autism. in a lab setting, it makes somebody super trusting.
furthermore, you flouted the other prompt rule and made this story about love. You literally made love contagious. It's like you read the rules and said "gently caress you," and threw poop at us. That's not very nice.
|# ? May 19, 2014 13:10|
Entry for my Brawl with crabrock. Did I screw up the high noon thing? Sorry seb. It's either post now or be late tomorrow.
Yeah, high noon PST is also "watch a bunch of undergrads squirm when they first lay eyes on their final" time, so I have to post early as well.
crabrock fucked around with this message at 07:02 on Jul 1, 2014
|# ? May 19, 2014 13:51|
Sick bro. I even have a four-day this weekend, so maybe I'll actually do some real writing instead of planting my hairy asscheeks on the keyboard and making GBS threads something out.
|# ? May 19, 2014 14:14|
they're p hairy btw
|# ? May 19, 2014 14:15|
The human relationships in your story about the shallowness and inauthenticity of human relationships are inauthentic and shallow! Also I'm a Scientist and that means my dick is like at least this big
|# ? May 19, 2014 15:40|
Hi. My name's "A story," I don't think we've met.
Erogenous Beef has made several long posts about this topic in this thread, so I will cut it down to the berries and leave out the twigs.
All stories must have a few basic things, which you'll see all tie in together.
1) Characters I care about. I know nothing of these guys other than they work in a place with computers, are capable of dreaming and cussing, and touch their face/hair a lot. Even some lines like "My baby daddy lives in China!" establish something. Just not wanting to lose your job isn't enough motivation. There has to be something drastic at stake here. Or if you want it to be the whole job angle, then jobs are impossible to get and when you lose your job you're outcast from society. whatever. but anything to turn your characters into PEOPLE. saying "oh man my wife will be real mad!" is nothing more than a boring tidbit. does he love his wife? despise her? stay late at work to avoid going home? does he have nightmares when they have a fight? does she disagree with him politically? just ANYTHING that tells me more about your chars and sets up stuff for the story.
2) motivations. Once your chars are interesting people, give them a goal. These guys didn't even want to stop the outbreak, they just watched it and threw their hands up in the air and were like "gently caress it!" your story gets 3000% (actual, real math and not a number i just made up) by having them come up with a plan and execute it. "If i can just upload this scan of my dream last night, it will all be fixed!" something to work towards. even if in the end they fail "oh no, that was a dream of me having sex with a dog, this made the problem even worse" at least they DID something.
3) ACTIONS. the actions your characters take should result from their motivations, which come from who they are as people. chars that just sit around emoting are BORING. they should spend the whole story DOING something (and sipping coffee doesn't count, unless it's like mind-blowing coffee). the stuff they do can get interrupted by CRAZY THING but then they need to do other stuff to try to fix that. the most basic story is dudes are doing something, something changes thing, dudes try to adapt by doing other thing and restores some semblance of normalcy / fails due to character flaw. Readers want to read about characters doing poo poo, even if it's the wrong poo poo. even if we're like "no! don't split up! The black guy is gonna die!" it's better than "oh hey, lets sit around to be killed."
4) Exposition. And this isn't something we have to say too often, especially in a sci-fi story. But drat dude, let me know what the heck is going on here. I can't glean everything from your dudes talking. they know poo poo i don't. this is their life. they're going to leave things out. you need to fill in all the stuff i'm missing. that's your job as the narrator.
You've been absent since you submitted this story. I hope you come back and give it another shot.
|# ? May 19, 2014 16:15|
"You just didn't get my story!"
|# ? May 19, 2014 16:38|
"You just didn't get my story!"
Oh for some reason I thought the correct response to that sentiment was a brawl, nvm then
|# ? May 19, 2014 16:46|
i was like "i don't remember reading this one." then i remembered: i literally fell asleep reading this the first time. gonna let you in on a secret: that's not good.
sigh. don't know what to say. your mechanics are a mess (dialogue goes in double quotes " "), and your pacing is a mess. your structure is a mess, and you say so much superfluous junk you have twice the words you need.
you need to look up some basic story telling things. there needs to be one main char, he needs to have an overall goal, and needs to take actions towards that goal.
neither of your characters seem to care for much. it's like a meeting they needed to have, and neither really cares about. then in the end it was all a joke... OR WAS IT? who knows. you came in way under the word count, and submitted within the first half of the entrants.
Try harder next time.
|# ? May 19, 2014 18:40|
THUNDERDOME XCI - OUR FINEST HOUR CRITS, PART II
what do you mean I should have been done with these a week ago
GreatBacon - One Last Job
The lack of any real detail about your main character does this in. Basically all I know about him is that he's been at this for a while and that he's quite old (he doesn't even have a name!). You don't give us any details about the job either. All in all, it's really rather difficult to care about anything going on here, and I didn't.
Thalamas - Land of the Setting Sun
I only realised after I got to the end that the earlier half before Mae-hui reached the residence was superfluous, but I realised at the time that the dream sequence was. You could have cut... well, basically all of this, which would have given you some words to spend actually fleshing out your characters at the residence. You wouldn't have had to rush the end quite so much, either.
Just for the record, I have no idea what sort of gun an H&K MP7 is. I appreciate that it doesn't really matter, but still.
docbeard - Archival
Short on actual characters, but I didn't mind this one. I was honestly confused as to what was supposed to be so special about Elena and husband at the start - why is it their deaths that trigger this whole sequence of events, and what's up with the specific protein? I expected this to be explained and it never was.
The Scouts personalities' seemed surprisingly human, compared to the other AI you have here. If that was intentional, the contrast was a bit jarring. I'd have liked them to be a bit more obviously Different.
Sir Azrael - Fog of War
Your first paragraph here doesn't give Grassadonio's death much impact, and TBH you could probably condense it all into a single sentence and it'd read better. The perspective switch in the middle completely caught me by surprise; why isn't this two scenes? The dialogue felt clunky throughout, especially the Korean squad's.
Really, there's not all that much going on here, and I didn't feel like the characters were interesting enough to fill it out. Two squads facing off, one shoots first, the other shoots back. That's... basically all there is to take away from this.
Kalyco - Pura Vida
I never really got any sense of the character relationships here, especially Ethan/Karen - that one comes across like he's just leering at her and she basically doesn't give a poo poo but still puts up with him. With that, the ending where the two of them both sleep with other people they also don't seem to care much about just doesn't carry much weight.
D.O.G.O.G.B.Y.N. - Mike and Doug
Okay, so I can kind of see what you were going for here, but... this was basically incomprehensible. It read more like an account of a wild hallucination than an actual story; some barely-described things happened, often in rapid succession, with no obvious cause or reason connecting them. I guess this is probably what a true-to-life dream sequence would be like.
I had this as a strong candidate for loser because I simply could not follow what was going on, which, let's be honest, is a bit of a black mark.
V for Vegas - Requiem for a Clown
This is unfortunately going to be one of the less helpful crits here. I thought this was decently written, though as both my fellow judges have pointed out it could have benefited from a thorough proofread to catch the scattered punctuation and grammar slips. But… it didn't really have much of an impact on me, and I'm not entirely sure why. Possibly because I wasn't entirely sure what the moral was? I dunno.
Like I said. Not hugely helpful.
Fumblemouse - The Secret Origin of the Midnight Brotherhood
I enjoyed the clash between the superhero and the mundane here, though some of the jokes went a bit far (the JusticeNissan in particular got a smile out of me, but Fortress of Frostitude was pushing it, and the Skyrim call-out at the end just didn't work for me). The mention of Morning Glory kind of comes and goes without fanfare, and could probably be cut - it doesn't seem necessary. I noticed a handful of typos throughout, but nothing that really detracted.
Reminded me very strongly of Kick-rear end. Possibly a bit too much.
Some Guy TT - A Hero's Tale
I'm actually not as down on this one as the other judges were. The basic idea - the war "hero" telling children to stop glorifying his kind and their exploits, because War Is Hell - wasn't bad, though the ending muddied it a bit and I finished no longer sure whether that was the intention or if Lee just told the story because it helped him get over it. You describe him at the start as "quite pleased with himself", too, which doesn't really mesh with what comes later. This could probably have done with a good read through to make sure that everything was aligned with the point you wanted to make.
Kaishai - Ave Maria
This was well written, but seemed like it lost its way somewhere between the start (good) and the end (also good, in isolation). I didn't understand why he chose the Virgin Mary as his subject, and I think I was supposed to. The protest and controversy at the end never really felt like it brought the story full circle; I wanted the end to tie back into the beginning, and it didn't.
This could have been a candidate for winner, but it left me ultimately unsatisfied.
PootieTang - The Boasting Bastard, Backed into his Bunker at the Battle of Buggered Britain
If you remove the fact that this stars Churchill (and so we have an exciting contrast between the popular conception of the man and his portrayal here), there's really not much in this - imagine a version starring Generic Drunk General and Generic Subordinate to see what I mean. Grant isn't really a character, he's just the straight man to Churchill's drunkenness, and Sir Winston isn't enough to carry it.
Grizzled Patriarch - Mutiles
Another one I don't have much to say about here. This was pretty solid. The premise was interesting and your language fine, though It started to feel a bit awkward towards the end that the sculptor was never given a name, and the tense shift in the final paragraph was a bit jarring.
Other than that, carry on. Definitely one of the stronger entries.
The News at 5 - Back Up the Stairs
Djeser and Beef both said basically the same things here, and I'm going to reiterate them. A guy decides to rob a house, apropos of not much, cocks it up, murders a couple of people, and gets away with it. That's not a story. We at least need a motivation, or something.
During the actual robbery he comes across as way too much of a professional in the way he talks, and some of the events just don't make sense - how big is this house if the father can get out of bed with a shotgun in the time it takes our great hero to sprint halfway down a hallway? How did he get away with it?
Also, I wouldn't say this really counts as much of a finest hour.
crabrock - Just One More Thing Before I Leave
Implausible, but fun (and if 'implausible' is the worst I can find to say, then we're grand). The scientist-accidentally-unleashes-AI-on-world premise is a bit played-out, but this is an entertaining enough take on it, so. The going-on-vacation conclusion seemed like you just weren't sure how to end it - the relevant part is the news bulletin, but the rest is just filler and kind of gets in the way.
You have a fine line in rat puns.
Phobia - Empty Victory
You swing wildly back and forth between present and past tense throughout this. The main character is (intentionally) a complete arse and, while I get that the point is that he gets his comeuppance at the end (or after the end, at least), that does make this a bit of a slog to get through, what with us seeing things through his eyes and all.
As Beef mentioned, you overuse the really short paragraphs here. They can work really well to punctuate the action and highlight specific moments, but you need the contrast for that. If everything is short and snappy, nothing is.
kurona_bright - Unceasing Downpour
There isn't really any conflict in this, or even much happening at all - a girl is nervous about singing, but everything goes okay, and then they all go home. Talking about how there were hurdles they had to overcome isn't particularly compelling when they've already overcome them, and TBH I didn't find the details of how they chose and adapted the song interesting in any case.
I'd much rather have seen more focus on the girls than the performance. Flesh out Robin and Marie, and tell me more about the relationship between them.
|# ? May 19, 2014 20:06|
this is another story that i'm going to be easier on, because you had an interesting infection. Although, people still cut the mullets, and since styles are kind of like a contagion, i feel like you only got about half the prompt right, even though you tried to explain that away.
oh no. he's gonna catch mullet fever.
I think you accomplished what you wanted to with this story, maybe. in that i just read it as a silly story. A little "look at this silly idea I had." You tried to shoehorn a message at the end, but it felt forced, out of place, and wholly unnecessary. If you're gonna do a joke entry, go full joke.
you randomly forgot to finish a sentence. happens to the best of us. more often to the worst of us. edit edit edit.
|# ? May 19, 2014 20:45|
|# ? May 19, 2014 21:02|
The answers you seek are up your own butt. I'm sure you'll be seeing them shortly.
|# ? May 19, 2014 21:33|
Can't you read? I've got a busy loving week!
Why we can't have nice things.
Why would I be scared when you can't even do a push up?!
How do you even reach the keyboard? I bet you have to have someone help.
I'm gonna feel real bad putting your species back into extinction. Real bad. Honest.
That being said, I really do have too much on my plate this week. I accept as long as the deadline is two weeks out. Otherwise, I won't have enough time.
|# ? May 20, 2014 01:46|
|# ? Dec 3, 2021 04:05|
CRABROCK WINS THE FIGHTBRAWL BY FIVE FISTS AND A HALF-FULL BOTTLE OF JACK
|# ? May 20, 2014 02:03|