Thanks for the crit. It's probably confusing to anyone who didn't read the first story.
|# ? Jun 5, 2014 14:17|
|# ? May 25, 2022 13:51|
I feel the need to stretch my critiquing muscles, so the first three people to ask get line-by-lines.
I would like a crit for my most recent story for thunderdome. Sitting Here talked about punctuation, and that's one of my big issue. I'll crit somebody else's as well when I get back from school.
|# ? Jun 5, 2014 14:22|
Because I am a shitlord and forgot I was going on vacation to the mountains and would not have reliable access to a computer, I have conferred with my fellow combatant Surreptitious Muffin and he has generously agreed to postpone the deadline of our brawl to Thursday, June 12th.
Fanky C. Malloons
|# ? Jun 5, 2014 17:11|
THE ENTENJESER BRAWL OF THE MILLENIUM VERDICT
This was a close competition but only one of you will have to go on a pineapple diet.
The winner is:
|# ? Jun 5, 2014 18:36|
I feel the need to stretch my critiquing muscles, so the first three people to ask get line-by-lines.
|# ? Jun 5, 2014 19:42|
Write a story narrated by an older, matured version of the focal character. To make this more difficult for you, your focal character is a little girl faced with two equally-important responsibilities.
Kinapak the Ijiraq 1246 words
Eh, this is okay, but a closer examination shows a bunch of holes in motivation and some useless hair hanging off the story (i.e. Mama). You make good use of the weird car requirement. I don't see the two equally-important responsibilities. She's supposed to take care of her sister and ... where's the second one? Mama? That doesn't come through in the meat of the story.
This has some unclean parts and redundant/useless bits sprinkled throughout a nice story about a girl overcoming a bad upbringing, but the core of the story is strong. You didn't employ the fast-food thing as centrally as Thalamas employed the bus, but it's a decently prominent detail. The two responsibilities seem to be completely absent in the action of the story, though. This is more a story about a tension between dreams and circumstances, and predicated largely on the lying-dad twist.
Still, I felt it was the more skillful and enjoyable of the two stories, and that's the most important thing in my book.
|# ? Jun 5, 2014 21:23|
I'd like one. I've put a lightly edited version of the week we've just done in the Farm which could really do with a line-by-line.
My thoughts are up in the Farm.
|# ? Jun 6, 2014 02:37|
Your title is a mix of two words that don’t normally go together. Paired with the characters of Cassie and Marlena, two people who wouldn’t normally go together, you create a world around the ideas in the title and bring them to life. The story is detailed, the dialogue is natural, and the character interaction is clever.
You don’t do anything with it, though. It's a delightful slice of life, but that’s it, and ultimately it left me unfulfilled.
Nice job writing what you know; your research (or good old fashioned knowledge) added some interesting facets. I liked your beer references. Mainly, because I like good beer.
Reading this story the second time is more fun because (in my head) they both have Jersey accents from the beginning. That is all.
|# ? Jun 6, 2014 06:17|
Well, I'll be damned. Nice brawl.
I'm going on a road trip for the next two weeks and will not have any internet service for most it. See you folks for Thunderdome 99. T-wrecks: I'll write you a crit when I get back. Pick one of your stories - this brawl or another entry.
|# ? Jun 6, 2014 06:30|
Anyone want to trade with me?
I'd trade with you, but I haven't gotten one yet so you'd just be getting another random one from the pile. Probably a really terrible one since you're trying to circumvent Tyrannosaurus' rules.
I'm in by the way.
|# ? Jun 6, 2014 08:57|
Reminder to God over Djinn and Entenzahn: this is due in 35 hours.
|# ? Jun 6, 2014 10:59|
LOSERBRAWL SUBMISSION WOO (EDIT: Sorry for being late with this, tried to rush back from work as fast as I could. It's only twenty minutes- can I get a pass? )
Going Far (1112 words)
“-meanwhile, Erogenous Beef saves diddly squat because he's busy eating dicks. “
“Erogenous what now, sir?” the younger policeman asked.
“What? Oh, sorry, forgot you were new on the force,” Rick said, as they watched the forensic scientist work around the dead body. Around them, a crowd of journalists crowed and cawed, their chatter punctuated by camera flashes. “Roger grew up on a farm, and Hadley- you won't know him, he retired a few years back- made a crack about him being a cow lover. Couple that with the fact that he- Roger, I mean, not Hadley- talks like he came out of a textbook, and bam! Erogenous Beef.”
“A fitting moniker, considering how sensitive I can get,” Roger shouted back as he stood back up. “I trust you're not polluting the young man's mind too much, Richard?”
“See? Not even the sense to call me Rick like the rest of the precinct,” Rick said with a short laugh. “Just talking about how you've spent your bank account on every above-average man in the city, Rog, while I solve everything.”
Roger simply smiled and shook his head. “He's not exaggerating about that second bit, at least not by much,” the scientist told Alan. “He's got quite the knack for it.”
“It's not a knack, Rog,” Rick said, before pointing to his eyes. “A good pair of these'll solve just about as many crimes as your lab does, I'll tell you,” he said. “A good pair of ears too- I don't think you said anything about my being wrong on your extracurriculars.”
“Can you blame an old man for wanting to spend his twilight years with the only joys left to him?” Roger asked.
“I'm doing it right now, aren't I?” Rick said with a short laugh. ““So, Rog, what do you have?”
Roger shook his head. “Poor woman passed away from shock- if it wasn't a heart attack, I'll legally change my name to Erogenous Beef,” he said. “No shocker why, though- all those limbs in those dustbins,” he said. “There's a good lad, let it all out., he added a moment later.
“Hell of a first case, eh, lad?” Rick said, over the sound of the puking Alan. Some photographers, the younger ones, snapped photos of the retching officer. The veterans focused on the crime scene- there was a reason they had 'trusted sources' and the younger journos didn't. “How many more victims are we looking at, Rog?”
“...I beg your pardon?” Rick asked.
“None,” Roger said, nodding. “Look closely at the bins- not a single fly above them. The blood? Paint- so it seems the poor boy evacuated his belly for nothing.”
“Eh, any excuse to treat Alan to a pint or two, eh?” Rick said, patting the boy's back, when he noticed Alan staring. “What is it, Alan?”
“Saw s-someone behind me, while I was puking,” Alan said. His head was pointed directly towards the body, and his arms were crossed around his waist, which conveniently left him able to make pointing motions with his hand. “Looks nervous, started walking back as soon as he turned the corner and saw us. Blue blazer, red beanie cap with yellow stripes.”
Rick nodded. “Got it,” he said, before turning to Roger. “Right then,” he said, a little louder than usual. “I'll take the lad back to the station, shall I?”
“You're a horrible actor, sir,” Alan said, as they turned around.
“I don't have to be good,” Rick said in a near whisper as they walked off. “Just good enough. Good eyes, by the way. You'll go far.”
“Thank you, sir, though,” Alan said, his eyes widening. “I think he's going farther!”
Rick cursed and looked back- the man they were after had broken into a dead run. Resolving to take acting classes on the weekends, Rick sped off after him, Alan half-running, half-stumbling behind them both.
The man was fast, Rick had to give him that. Thing was, while he definitely had the edge in speed and knowledge of the area, Rick had stamina, experience and most importantly in his opinion, observation on his side. No matter how he twisted and turned, or what alley he climbed up, Rick always managed to catch sight of his back, or his footprints in the wet ground, his reflection in a mirror.
Don't gently caress around, Rick told himself, as he turned into a long, straight street, the perpetrator audibly panting. Don't let poo poo get to you, he told himself again, as he finally caught up with the man. And-
Tackle the bastard.
Bring him down.
Look up to the lorry's headlights.
“I said wake up, you lazy bastard.”
“Bloody hell, Rog,” Rick said, shielding his eyes from the glare with his unbroken arm as Roger pulled the curtains farther. “I thought you lot were supposed to have oaths against this sort of thing,”
“The Hippocratic Oath, sir,” Alan said, as he lay down a cup of tea next to Rick.
“Thanks, Alan, but if you're trying to get me to turn Roger, it's not working,” he said.
“Eh, it was worth a try, sir,” Alan replied, and waited patiently for Rick to respond while the older man cleared the tea from his nose. “So, we found out why he did it, planting the mannequin bits and all. Turns out he wanted to play a prank on his mate who was doing the rubbish collection. Mrs. Dorsett just had the bad luck to have forgotten to empty her own dustbin the night before.”
A cough from Roger drew both their attention. “That's one mystery solved, and quite tidily, I might add. The bigger mystery here is how you managed to miss a great big bloody lorry coming towards you in broad daylight.”
Rick sighed. “Well, we both know I'm not getting any younger,” he said.
“Oh, don't say that, sir,” Alan said. “I'm sure we'll be partners for decades yet.”
“Hear that?” Rick said. “Partners, he says!”
“Rick is up for retirement next year,” Roger said gently. “And he does intend to take it, lazy bastard he is.”
Alan nodded. “And you aren't, sir?”
Roger shook his head. “No, I'm not. Guess I love the work too much.”
“And I suppose it's hard supporting married life on one income,” Alan said.
“Yes, that's- wait, how did you know?”
Alan simply pointed at Rick and Roger's hands- or more accurately, fingers, where identical wedding bands were gleaming in the sun. “I guess I can see why Rick's retiring- a workplace relationship's hardly the wisest thing, and you do earn more than he does, so if anyone's got to stay back at the office, it's you.”
Rick and Roger glanced at each other. “See? Told you he'd go far,” Rick said, grinning.
CommissarMega fucked around with this message at 12:19 on Jun 6, 2014
|# ? Jun 6, 2014 12:17|
I'd trade with you, but I haven't gotten one yet so you'd just be getting another random one from the pile. Probably a really terrible one since you're trying to circumvent Tyrannosaurus' rules.
I'll probably take you up on this once you get one
|# ? Jun 6, 2014 12:53|
Loser Brawl gently caress YEAH! (I don't think we're actually late unless I've mistranslated the time-zones, it should be turning high noon in a minute by my count.)
Hydrogen interrupted part two (1342 words)
(Not actually a sequel)
It would not take much to ignite the hydrogen in the ship.
Maria tapped her foot in rhythm with the ticking of the bomb in her bag.
Tick tick tick.
Tap tap tap.
"Why does it have to tick?" She had asked when Johan first showed it to her. He had sneered and muttered in response.
Tick tick tick.
Tap tap tap.
There were fewer people than expected on the Hindenburg. Besides her only three other people were in the bar. An old bearded man, who had fallen asleep in his seat, another woman who sat smoking, and him.
The way his head jerked nervously as he glanced around the room, the expression on his face, even his clothes reminded her of Oskar. She could see his stress building, like staring back in time to what her brother was like before he met Elsa. The awkward hunch, the uncertainty in his eyes.
Tick tick tick.
Tap tap tap.
For a moment she considered approaching him. It would not be long now anyway, in these last few moments there was a strange freedom. Soon, none of it would matter any-more. Even if he wasn't her brother, she could sit with him and imagine for a moment it might feel like he was really there with her. The more she stared, the more she thought of Elsa, and how she had stole him away. She wondered if the man in the bar had an Elsa of his own, a mad whore enamored more with her own brand of radicalism than any real human emotion.
The hypocrisy brought her back to reality for a moment. How deep Elsa's hooks had sunk, to bring her to this point. Not for Elsa she thought to herself. For Oskar. Her hands shook, and for a minute she felt like she might fit.
Tick tick tick.
Tap tap tap.
She took a deep breath, and sighed. The feeling passed, it had been weeks since her last fit, but they had grown more frequent with age. After she had calmed, she glanced again in the direction of Oskar's doppelganger. Oskar had always been worse, his fits more frequent and more intense than hers, he had always needed her to look after him. Even after Elsa convinced him otherwise.
Tick tick tick.
Tap tap tap.
She wondered what it would be like to see him again, in heaven. She might tell him about this, and they would laugh. Sat upon a cloud, her head resting in his lap as they stared down at the earth below. 'He was just like you' she would say. 'So very handsome'. In the next life, there was no judgement, they could finally be together the way she had dreamed. Her eyes were drawn to the bag again, and the freedom waiting inside it.
Tick tick tick.
Tap tap tap.
She would grant Oskar's wish in this life, and in the next he could not refuse her. Her smile grew. With that Jewish whore rotting in hell, no-one would poison his mind against her. She rose from her seat, straightened herself, and finally approached him.
As she spoke, she moved towards the seat next to him. "Hello, do you mind if-"
"Excuse me- I just... My daughter, she went to the lavatory and she hasn't-... She's ill you see and I-"
She put her finger to his lips, he even spoke like her Oskar.
"Of course dear." She said calmly, his eyes betrayed a certain fear, and she withdrew her hand sharply. "I'm sorry." She said curtly. "I'll check on her for you."
His distressed expression turned to a small smile as he thanked her, and she turned to move to the bathroom. "Her name is Emma" He called after her, as she walked down the empty hall towards the bathrooms. Away from the bar, the only sound was the dull moan of the engine, her footsteps, and the ever present if quiet ticking of her bag.
Tick tick tick.
Tap tap tap.
She opened the door to see a young girl, unmistakably the gentleman's daughter. She lay, shaking violently, her head repeatedly smacking against the tile floor.
Tick tick tick.
Smack smack smack.
The surprise held her for a moment, but she was not new to the sight. She fell to her knees beside the girl, pulling her scarf and bundling it up into a soft ball, placing it under the girls head. She knew better than to hold her down, better to let the fit pass on it's own as long as she was in no danger of cracking her skull. The sound of her limbs flailing beside her, was a softer less violent sound than before, as she began to calm.
Thud thud thud.
Tap tap tap.
As the excitement began to wear off, and her own heartbeat slowed, Maria took a moment to examine the girl. The family resemblance was uncanny, if Oskar's daughter had lived, she would most likely look the spitting image of the poor girl before her. She smiled, reaching out to brush the girls disheveled hair from her face. The fit had ceased, and the girl looked as if she might only be sleeping, almost peacefully. Then she began to see another resemblance, the way her nose hooked, the squat frame. She had already forgotten the girls name, she had looked like family at first, but now she saw what she really was. In her mind, the name rang out like an alarm bell.
Elsa Elsa Elsa.
Tick tick tick.
The girl began to regain her senses, Maria lingered next to her, unsure. When the girl looked up at her, she put a hand gently to her shoulder and whispered.
"Shhhh, it's okay... You had a fit, it's okay now..."
"I'm sorry-" The girl said, attempting to stand. Maria found herself pushing against her, holding her down. "My father is-"
The voice was unmistakable, and Maria's hand moved to her throat. Elsa's voice, even from Hell the whore still taunted her. The girl was choking, Maria's hands tight across her windpipe, squeezing so tight her entire arms shook with the force.
It doesn't matter. She told herself. A few more minutes, a few more seconds, and it will all be over. Nothing matters anymore.
Tick tick tick.
The girls limbs began to flail again, but Maria had done this before and pinned one of the girls arms with her knee. Now she began to enjoy it. She had almost forgotten how good it felt to strangle Elsa, to feel her life slip away. A pleasure she had not expected to experience twice. Her heart raced. Oskar I'm sorry. For a moment it was him under her, she squeezed tighter, feeling tears fall onto the dying girl. I'm so sorry, I love you, I'm so sorry.
Shaking, she finally relented. Her whole body on fire, the girls now motionless sprawled across the plain white of the floor. Standing, Maria fought to regain her breath, her chest heaving, heart on fire. She blinked the tears away.
Tick tick tick.
Pant pant pant.
Any moment and it would be over, any second. God would it never end?
Tick tick tick.
Oskar could come at any moment, she prayed that God would take them all before he found them.
Tick tick tick.
Not Oskar. She felt he breath calm. He's not Oskar.
Tick tick tick.
"Emmy? Is everything okay?" Oskar's voice called, the door creaking open.
Tick tick tick.
Maria threw herself through the opening, pushing him back. "No don't- I'm so sorry, she was already-" The man cried out suddenly and attempted to push past her, but she had always been stronger than him. "It's okay..." She whispered, putting her arms around him as he fought her. She was happy for it to end like this. She closed her eyes, and Oskar was there with his arms around her, crying tears of joy. "It's okay.. It's over...It's almost over..."
PootieTang fucked around with this message at 16:19 on Jun 6, 2014
|# ? Jun 6, 2014 15:57|
I'd trade with you, but I haven't gotten one yet so you'd just be getting another random one from the pile. Probably a really terrible one since you're trying to circumvent Tyrannosaurus' rules.
|# ? Jun 6, 2014 17:53|
I kid, I kid. Please don't yell at me.
Mercedes fucked around with this message at 19:13 on Jun 6, 2014
|# ? Jun 6, 2014 18:41|
Loserbrawlers, I'll have your fates decided within a day or so.
CRITS PART 2
Use of your assigned last line: You know, it’s interesting that MOST people who got a female speaker in their first line (or their first line referred to a female) switched their protagonist to be male. Just saying. You’re not even the worst offender in that category, but it was something that stuck out enough to be noticeable this week. The phrasing is very sing-song storybookish, so it doesn’t quite fit the tone of the rest of the story, or sound like something a school age girl would actually say while crying in the bathroom.
Writing: I was entertained, which is the ultimate goal of storytelling, so good job. Your punctuation was off in some places, but this is the kind of rich, dense piece of frenetic WTFness that makes the reader forgive the odd missing comma or sentence that doesn’t parse quite right. There were bits I REALLY didn’t like, mainly at the ending.
Ending: The ending loses it. You switch to Chubby’s mom’s perspective at one point, and the dialog at the very end is approaching Lifetime movie levels of maudlin (until the very last paragraph, of course, but even though I thought was too much of a shift in tone for lil ol’ Chubby).
Use of your assigned last line: Pretty good. It’s a weird one to parse, but you made it into a clear picture.
Writing: This is mostly good but I hate hate hated the parentheses near the end:
He didn’t know where the words came from.
Everything in the parentheses is so obvious by this point that it made me flinch to read. This was otherwise an HM candidate.
Ending: Good, though I felt like the main character didn’t put up as much of a fight for normalcy as I would have expected. The phrase “He threw the little radioactive impossible whale-stone into the water…” made my eyeballs cross a little bit. Otherwise, I felt satisfied by the ending.
Use of your assigned last line: I like the instant contradiction. You have someone ordering a fine wine, but that someone happens to be a giant. Also lol at the use of your picture.
Writing: There is something kind of charming about the main character. He is scared shitless and wants to protect his restaurant from a giant, yes, but he also has pride in the food he makes. I was confused as to why the narrator was offended by a compliment on his cooking, though. Some of the descriptions of the various food items were a tiny bit much and made my eyes want to scan to the next action or dialog.
Ending: The ending was good. You upped the stakes enough that when the narrator accidentally causes the destruction he was initially trying to avoid, it felt like it was a worthwhile sacrifice.
Use of your assigned last line: This was the second story based on the last line of Fumblemouse’s Tatterdemalion. I like that Theresa played marginally more than a bit part this time. I felt like you incorporated her “cyclopean look” comment pretty well.
Writing: This is a lot of scifi stuff happening. But your characters are pretty innately sympathetic; they’re on their last gig (or so they think) before they finally get to go home. I think we all like characters who just wanna go home. The down side is, because you invoke that cliche, we already know that they’re not going home. I guess I didn’t really care about the inner workings of this mining facility or whatever. I would have rather read about a more human conflict.
Ending: The ending was either too obvious or reasonably clever. I change my mind every time a reread this. All in all though, there was an arc, and it resolved satisfactorily.
Use of your assigned last line: Pretty good image/first line combo.
Writing: This falls pretty solidly in the tradition of Rumplestiltskin and etc. I like that your main character is smart, but doesn’t have preternatural knowledge beyond her time/circumstances. I liked when she considered making wooden wings, but decided it would never work. I feel like there is a lot of detail in the beginning and less at the end, which I think you could have balanced out a little more.
Ending: I like this ending. It’s “happily ever after”, but you took the whole trope of saving [magical creature] and getting a wish granted and turned it around. Your protag is sympathetic, clever, and finally, assertive. This was another one that could have been an HM in a weaker week, IMO.
Use of your assigned last line: Pretty great. This sounds like something an adult might say to a kid in lieu of explaining that the whale would probably die. I thought you used it to springboard into your story pretty well.
Writing: Well, I’m not surprised that the writing is good. I genuinely felt Feelings while reading this. I enjoyed the slight hint of magic, with the girl being able to connect with the whale. I am of course a sucker for any reference to Washington’s amazing parks and wildlife, as a fanatical Cascadian nationalist. I think what kept this from winning was that it’s a pretty…...easy? emotion to evoke, for a good writer, which I suspect you are. I hope you keep Thunderdomin’, because for some probably perverse reason I really like the idea of seeing your writing wrapped around darker/weirder stories.
Ending: No complaints here. I wish you’d had more words to work with, I guess.
Use of your assigned last line: Guuuuuh you went the most pedestrian route possible with this one. I’m not saying that you should have done genre fiction, but you are about two But Thens away from an interesting premise.
Writing: So, as I was reading this I thought to myself that it was very similar to a recent entry wherein two ladies talk in an airport. But I had this nagging feeling, so I went and checked the archive and realized that it was YOU! YOU ARE THE BANAL SLICE-OF-LIFE WRITER WITH AN AFFINITY FOR CHARACTERS WHO ARE IN TRANSIT!
Ok so like look at this:
She pulled her phone out of her pocket and handed it to the man. He raised an eyebrow, turned it on, and asked, "I don't suppose you could unlock it for me?"
This is clear, well-described action. I particularly enjoy how you show us that they’re using a smartphone without focusing overmuch on it. But it’s so so so so mundane and boring. It’s good to be able to observe and convey that kind of detail, but for the love of god do something interesting with it.
When I said you’re missing a couple But Thens, what I meant is that you need to twiddle your knobs, as Sebmojo likes to say. Take your premise and tweak it in a couple of places until you have plot tension. You need about 30% more drama. Like, the kid’s coughing was a good opportunity, but that resolved itself pretty much as soon as Megan decided to drive them in her car. Nothing about Megan’s personal situation is very compelling either. She dislikes her apartment and can’t decide if she wants to live with her friend or not.
Ending: Since the protagonist isn’t in a very dire situation, the epiphany that it’s ok to ask for help isn’t very impactful. This whole thing is like a conversation I might have (and be bored by) with a friend over coffee.
Use of your assigned last line: lol. This story, as it is now, would be kind of hard to understand if the reader hadn’t also read the original.
Writing: Not your worst, not your best. It was good up until you got to Allison’s farm, and then it got kind of clumsy and less deliberate. There’s just too many little tidbits: Allison’s fate, her brothers polluting the stream, Prince’s memories of the stream.
Ending: I feel like Prince getting the poo poo kicked out of him after getting a serious stomach wound might have some serious consequences. I was lukewarm about his ending sentiment.
Use of your assigned last line: I’ve said this a lot this week, but I really enjoyed where some people went with their last line/image combinations. You built a character who I actually believed might be reckless enough to get in the car with a strange guy, and then let that guy cut on him.
Writing: Here is my least favorite part of judging. When I have to try to think of helpful things to say about your story. I liked it. There were a couple spots where it got a tiny bit too flowery for me, like:
I think it was the use of the word “void” that I didn’t like.
Tone wise, things were good. Imagery was great. I think what didn’t do it for me was………
Ending: ...the ending. Stories like this feel like little vignettes of weird. I’m not really sure what to feel at the end. I can’t make much of a projection about what this person’s life might be like now that he is caught up with Tom Sellecky blood cathedral guy, and that makes me ambivalent about it.
Use of your assigned last line: Uh, well, it doesn’t really make any sense. But you incorporated the basic idea as well as you could, I think.
Writing: I’m of two minds about this. There were some genuinely funny moments. I particularly liked:
Although, I think you could have ditched everything after “gently caress you”.
It’s not really clear how self aware these guys are. Like, I’m pretty sure that they know retarded people don’t necessarily live extra short lives (because obviously they know birds don’t live forever), but I can’t tell if it’s you being ironic or your characters being ironic, if that makes sense.
Ending: The ending made me lol.
Use of your assigned last line: It felt like you went the opposite direction as most people and worked your first-last line into a story you already had in mind, maybe? Either way, I think it fits well enough.
Writing: I like your terseness, but sometimes it borders on too terse. You need better transitions between past and present. I wanted to know more about what Franco got out of his exchange with The Bear. I think that would’ve made me have more feelings about Franco choosing to go into a bullshit suicide fight.
Ending: I like how you incorporated the bear line. As I said above, I just wanted a little more insight into what exactly Franco got out of his meeting with The Bear, because I think it would have given more meaning to his stoicism in the fight and subsequent death.
Use of your assigned last line: …Okay, granted, it’s a really hard one to work with. But i’m SURE there is some way you could’ve avoided actual Erogenous Beef fanfiction. Like, Beef is a cool dude, worthy of fictionalizing--nay, mythologizing--but not like this. Not like this.
Writing: Confusing, vulgar, absurd. Maybe I was just grumpy because this was the third story to feature LOL retards. Although there is something amusing about it. Faintly. The idea of these guys in the car just observing all of this and narrating it is pretty funny. Sometimes the writing was wonky, like this random example from the middle of an overlong sentence:
In actual terms, explain to me how a reputation can explode into a supernova. Metaphors have to make some sense.
Ending: ...and then they got his by a truck. I feel like the irony of that is too forced, what with the ending dialog talking about how driving while angry is dangerous, and harping on how Beef is oblivious.
Use of your assigned last line: You pretty much instantly reversed the emotion in the line (that Sarah is joyful), and gloss over what exactly caused Adam-2 to become estranged from the trio. Other than being #2, I guess?
Writing: Adam-2 seemed pouty, the dialog was kinda soap opera-ish. In a worse week, this might not have been a DM, but it was too much soap opera in the beginning and too many random details about Adam-2’s life too close to the end. Slinking back to Beijing doesn’t show a whole lot of character development. I would have liked it better if he had snuck off once they got to Spain, or whatever. Or if he’d met another Sarah clone who was single. Or something.
Ending: Like I said, Adam-2 doubtfully catching a train back to Beijing isn’t a very compelling ending.
Use of your assigned last line: I was really scared for a split second because I was going to read about two fashion merchandising professionals having a heart to heart. Thank goodness that wasn’t the case!
Writing: I thought it was clever how mundane you made the walking, talking mannequins seem. I don’t know how they work, and don’t care how they work. Because it works. I do wish I’d understood a little bit more about how they instill them with emotions, or what exactly they were being used for.
I thought you did a pretty good job with the relationship between Robyn and Shawna. It was cute, if not a little bit out of the blue. And like, did they have an ongoing bet that Shawna would kiss a mannequin of Robyn? That’s kind of an odd thing to bet on. Not huge obstacles to enjoying the story itself, but enough to leave me with more question marks than I would have liked.
Ending: Cute. Pretty much just what I said above. Also, I happen to know you wrote this in a pretty short amount of time, but it’s remarkably complete even so.
Use of your assigned last line: The was another restrictive one. Pretty much, someone has to be shouting about being a travel agent in the very beginning of your story. I thought making the speaker a drunk hanging off of a building was a good way to incorporate this.
Writing: This felt a tad rushed. You are a witty guy, and the dialog between your characters is mostly what carries this story. Sometimes I think the wit is too much, like:
“You’re drunk as a lord, on top of a very high building, engaging in behaviour that might loosely be termed risky. Seems to me you’re looking for something, so how do you know it’s not what I”m selling?”
I think what made this quote miss the mark is “might loosely be termed risky,” because it’s too wordy. And there’s a bit of that throughout the story.
Otherwise amusing, though.
Ending: The very ending was a little weird. I’m assuming he fell off the building and into Faerieland, and the thing with the cops’ lights swirling in a “mystical haze” was him going between worlds or whatever. It could have been a bit more clear what you were going for there.
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 22:40 on Jun 6, 2014
|# ? Jun 6, 2014 22:28|
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|# ? Jun 7, 2014 03:03|
God Over Djinn vs Entenzahn Thunderbrawl entry
The Snake That Bites Its Own Tail (2497 words)
The toothpaste tube lay on the bathroom counter like a run-over snake.
“Squeeze it harder,” said her Pa. “Try starting from the bottom.”
“I tried that. I’ve been trying that for a month.”
“Don’t be a worrywart. I’m sure there’s still plenty in there. Where’s your toothbrush?”
He pushed his chair in and walked into the house’s single bathroom and Augusta fled, the porch door that hung half off its hinges swinging shut behind her. The endless casseroles they ate for dinner kept getting less filling, the land kept drying out, and Aunt Miriam’s offers to buy the place kept getting more insistent. And through it her Pa smiled like a clown - squeeze a little harder, tighten your belt a little more, ignore Miriam. Then he’d vanish at night, drinking or whoring or God knows what, as if they weren’t in trouble.
It was as if the ground was crumbling away, and everyone just kept saying Don’t worry, you won’t fall. Augusta thought she might be going mad.
Out on the land she clambered over the fence they’d put up two summertimes ago. There were no longer any horses to be contained by it. There was the creek that marked the property line, and just on the other side, on dirt that as far as she could tell belonged to nobody, was a tree that only she and her Ma had ever climbed.
The earth at its base was churned in a way it hadn’t been three days before. Augusta knelt, hems of her jeans soaked from the crossing, and scooped it away. Eight inches down, she found a tin can wrapped in cloth. Inside it was a single hundred-dollar bill.
Inside of five seconds it was folded into eighths and stuffed into the pocket of Augusta’s jeans, there to join the handful of nickels she’d earned pulling weeds and the handful of dimes she’d nicked from her classmates’ desks. Heart pounding, she pitched the tin can into the creek and kicked dirt back into the hole.
August Greenwald was a big man and the giant was twice his size. His hand wrapped nearly all the way around August’s neck, and when he flexed his fingers they felt to August like calloused stone.
“I didn’t steal anything, God drat you,” said August. His palms were still scraped from clambering, a week before, out a second story window of this very house. The pictures on its walls had not betrayed the size of its owner.
“Oh, but you’re mistaken,” said the giant, and he palpated August’s neck a little more. “Lucky for you, it’s an easy mistake to fix. We’re going back to your house right now, and you’re going to fetch me that nine hundred dollars.”
Hard to lie with a fist tightening round your throat. August swallowed hard. “We can’t go back to the ranch.” Augusta would even now be finishing dinner without him. She thought he was doing some work for the neighbors.
The giant peered at him.
“Well, I got a kid, you know,” August said. “I don’t want…” He stopped himself.
The giant made a rumbling noise that was not altogether hostile. “I can understand that. I like kids. Got five of my own, none of em bigger than ten. All at my ma’s right now with the wife, of course.” The giant unwrapped his fingers from August’s neck. “Boy or girl?”
“Girl,” said August. “She’s ten.”
“Ah, girls. Mine never cause me any trouble.” The giant rubbed at his chin. “How about we make a deal? You go home and fetch that money for me. You have until, let’s say, Saturday at two.”
“Say hello to your daughter for me.” The giant’s handshake was surprisingly gentle.
Three hours later August leaned on the handle of his shovel. He’d dug up eight of the nine tin cans, or retrieved them from knotholes, or unburied them from the bottom of the tool chest that Augusta never opened. Yet although there was not an inch of earth on that ranch that he didn’t know, the ninth eluded him. He could have sworn it was under the oak tree where he once stood with his arm around Mary Helen’s waist and she said No, it’s going to be a girl, I can tell in my heart.
Nobody ever went there but him.
Money went through the ranch like a sieve, and all the business sense in the family had died along with Mary Helen. Augusta was too young to understand. He’d sooner starve than have her know they were in trouble. He’d sooner die than have her call him a thief.
The carnival had just stopped in town, leaving a detritus of three-color posters that got torn down by wind as soon as they were put up. August, peering at the one on the pub door an hour later, had a brutish idea. The athletic show was looking for wrestlers. August wasn’t exactly the scrappy local boy they were advertising for, but he was as strong as he looked and then some. He’d get his money, in the end. He went down to the carnival, and then left a note under the giant’s door on the way back: Give me until midnight Saturday.
All that week Augusta forced herself not to touch the bill. She worried that it might melt away into nothing. The possibilities reduced her to immobility, and she sat in the dirt on the playground, wondering if she could buy the horses back, wondering if she could bribe Miriam to leave her Pa alone.
“What’s your Pa’s name?”
She looked up. “None of your business.”
“His name’s Augie, ain’t it?”
“What’s it to you?”
“My brother saw him fighting at the carnival yesterday. He beat the snot out of Give-’em-Hell Bartell. My brother bet a dollar on him.” The kid wiped his nose on his shirtsleeve.
“Really?” August had forbidden her from going anywhere near the carnival. Full of degenerates, he’d said. Not the kind of people you need to be spending time with.
“It was incredible. Your Pa’s really strong. Do you want to come play football with us?”
“Yeah,” said Augusta, “He’s really strong. He could probably kill a man with his bare hands, you know.”
The giant’s wife was as small and fierce as he was large and gentle. It was her who intercepted the note that said Give me until midnight, and her who grew stormy and shoved the giant bodily out the door, saying How are you going to let a thief push you around like that? On Saturday morning, the giant parked down the road from August’s ranch and walked up to the door. He guessed that if you want to intimidate someone, it’s best if they don’t hear you coming.
August’s kid answered the door. There wasn’t a trace of whatever mother she may have had in the scowling eyes that looked up at him, in the wide full-lipped mouth. Her hair was half in a braid and half in mats and tangles.
“Yeah?” she said, crossing her arms.
She looked so stubborn and sullen that the giant almost burst out laughing. “Didn’t your Ma teach you to greet someone politely?” he said.
“Listen, kid. Is your Pa here?”
“He ain’t here and I don’t know where he is. Hey, how tall are you?”
The giant forced himself to snarl. “Look here, your Pa owes me a little money. You’d best tell him he needs to pay up right away, or he’s going to be in deep trouble.”
The kid stuck both hands in her pockets. Her cocky smile vanished, and she looked more worried than a kid had any right to. The giant thought of his own kids, three of them girls in matching pinafores, who couldn’t have been more different from this wild creature. He looked past her into the house, noting peeling wallpaper and ragged furniture.
“How much money?” she said, quietly.
“That’s between me and your Pa.”
“More or less than a hundred dollars?”
“A bit more.”
“Okay,” said the kid. “I’m sure he’ll pay you back.”
“Hey, kid, is this land for sale?”
She swung the porch door shut without answering.
The grass that on Friday had been churned to mud by every boot in Bainesville County, on Saturday had dried in the heat and was studded with crap: orange-peels, ticket-stubs, dropped pennies. Augusta, five o’clock sun on her hatless braided head, plucked onesuch penny from the dirt. The hundred-dollar bill in her pocket felt like it was already gone.
A red-faced man stepped around her. “Hey,” said Augusta, straightening up. “I was in line.”
He ignored her. “Ten on August Greenwald,” he said to the carny who lounged against the skirt of the wrestling ring.
“A good bet,” he said to the fat man. “Did you see him win last night? That man’s a wild animal.”
“Ten on August Greenwald,” the fat man repeated, holding out his cash. Wordlessly, the carny scribbled a receipt and stuffed it into the man’s hand. As the man waddled away, the carny made a rude gesture at his back. Augusta giggled, and the carny winked at her.
“What can I do for you, young lady?”
“I’d like to bet this on August Greenwald, please,” she said. She tenderly unfolded the hundred-dollar bill and handed it to the carny, who peered at it, then down at her.
“Awful lot of money to be walking around with,” he said. “Are your people around here somewhere?”
“Yessir. My Ma gave it to me.”
“And what’s your Ma’s name?”
“Mary Helen Greenwald.” It’s always easier to tell the truth, was one of August’s dictums. Augusta’s addendum: it was easier to tell half of the truth than none of it at all.
The carny looked surprised. “That Augie’s wife? Or his sister?”
“Augie’s my Pa.”
The man had a funny look on his face. “I didn’t think he was married.” He sighed. “I wouldn’t normally do this, but I don’t like to cause trouble between a man and his wife. If I say he’s going to take a fall, do you know what that means?”
“He’s going to lose,” said Augusta.
“Right. He won the last two nights, so this night we’re giving him a little money to let Give-’em-hell knock him around a bit. He’s not gonna get hurt or nothin’, don’t worry, it’s all just for the sake of the show.”
Augusta thought for a moment, as the carny thumbed through his receipt pad. She would have liked to see her Pa win. Finally she spoke. “I’d like to bet this on Give-’em-hell Bartell, please.” She thrust the hundred dollar bill at the carny a second time.
He laughed deep in his belly. “I like the way you think, kid. Ha! You’ve got some guts. Fine, I’ll let you make that bet. We already made so much tonight, ain’t much harm in it.” A pack of men and boys were already pressed in around the ring: shouting, sweating, eating peanuts, shoving each other, heedless and fearless.
August wiped blood from his mouth. Behind him, Give-’em-hell was growling at the crowd. Round three. In their first two fights they’d just swatted at each other, August’s wins prearranged. Tonight he was meant to lose, and Give-’em-hell’s blows had come harder and fiercer, as if he wanted to win fairly. August almost looked forward to crying uncle.
He turned outwards, leaning on the ropes, and looked out into the crowd. Faces swirled. His dazed eyes focused on one in particular: his daughter’s.
She was, he imagined, the only kid in the crowd not snacking on peanuts or popcorn from a bag, not clutching a goldfish in a bag of water. The only kid whose father hadn’t won her a stuffed teddy bear by playing ring-toss. And here he was, about to lose a fight to a short man with sloped shoulders and an ugly moustache.
She wasn’t cheering for him.
Something hit August hard from behind and pitched him forwards. He tasted blood. With a shout he spun and borrowed momentum from the taut ropes, launching himself into Give-’em-hell’s stomach with a fleshy thud. “Oof,” said the man, eyes widening in surprise. The crowd shouted.
August clutched at the man, finding purchase on one wiry leg. Then he braced himself and pulled, and Give-’em-hell collapsed onto his face. August sat on the man’s back and ruthlessly stomped down his limbs. The fight was over in seconds. The crowd was chanting something that might have been his name. A lot of men were going to make good money tonight, thought August.
The kid still wasn’t cheering, and August knew even before he hopped the ropes that he’d screwed up.
His nose and his hands were bloody and he could feel sweat running into his eyes. The people parted in front of him. He grabbed the kid’s hand and pulled her away, and she didn’t resist, and nobody was quick enough to stop them. They ran down the road until they hit the state highway and the running feet behind them had stilled.
Augusta scuffed through grass along the state highway. The both of them were still breathing heavy. “Why didn’t you lose?” she said. “You were supposed to.”
“Did you see that guy? He was half my size. How could I lose to him?” August grinned sheepishly. There was a long pause, the only sound an owl screeching somewhere off the road. Augusta said nothing, just stuck her hands in her pockets and hunched along.
“Okay,” August finally said. “How did you know I was supposed to lose?”
“I was going to make a big bet on you,” she said. “A huge man came to the house and said that you owed him money. I thought I would - but then a man told me -”
“How big of a bet?” said August. He thought that he already knew.
“A hundred dollars,” she said. “I found it under the oak tree.”
They walked in silence, lightlessness punctuated by occasional streetlamps. It was close to midnight. He pictured the giant waiting on the porch, a dark shape in darkness, ready to wrap a hand around his throat and squeeze.
“Do you want to know,” he said finally, “where that money came from?”
“Yeah,” she said. So he told her just what trouble they were in. It felt okay.
“Are you,” she said when he finished, “very good at stealing?” Her face was solemn in the darkness.
August laughed. It wasn’t quite what he’d expected to hear. “I suppose I am.” It felt like he was telling the truth. “I’ve never been caught, except for the one time.”
“Maybe we could rob Aunt Miriam, then,” said Augusta. “She has an awful lot more money than she needs.”
August smiled, and put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t get ahead of yourself.”
|# ? Jun 7, 2014 18:38|
I have to bail on writing a horrible short story this week, I lost my job yesterday and so the whole weekend must be spent lining up job interviews.
I like the exercise though, so I'm going to try to field a late entry Monday.
Best of luck, everyone!
|# ? Jun 7, 2014 19:08|
LOSERBRAWL SUBMISSION WOO (EDIT: Sorry for being late with this, tried to rush back from work as fast as I could. It's only twenty minutes- can I get a pass? )
This was a huge improvement on the original. I disliked that Alan was mostly just a plot device for the first part of the story; the young cop learning the ropes is something we've all seen before. I enjoyed when he got more competent, because if he hadn't noticed the suspicious guy at the scene, Rick wouldn't have chased the guy down, and wouldn't have got hit by the truck. It was unclear who the protagonist of this story is, though. It seems to be mostly from Rick's perspective, but the only person who really undergoes any development is Alan. Also, I wasn't always sure where characters were, physically, in relation to each other. But overall, a solid improvement on the the other losing piece.
Loser Brawl gently caress YEAH! (I don't think we're actually late unless I've mistranslated the time-zones, it should be turning high noon in a minute by my count.)
Again, this was an improvement on the original. I pointed out a couple of minor mistakes here and there, but my biggest problem is Maria's motivation. Okay so her good German brother went off with some crazy Jewish lady. Why blow up a German airship? I wouldn't have even bothered mentioning Johan, since he doesn't even answer the one question Maria asks him. If you're going to introduce a story mechanic (tick tick tick), and then you have your character ask why that story mechanic exists, you best be ready to tell me why the bomb ticks. Would have been better to not mention it at all, IMO, or make the ticking in her head. That could have added to the ambiguity of the guy on the airship, since we would already have known Maria was imagining things.
Bottom line, both of you improved on each other's stories, and both of you had a couple problems. I really don't want to give out a losertar, 'cause I think both of you really applied yourselves to the challenge and DID improve each other's stories. If I really absolutely HAD to choose (oh wait I guess that's what this post is for, shoot) one over the other, I would pick PootieTang's rewrite, because the action was more clear.
|# ? Jun 7, 2014 20:45|
Bernard trained his crossbow on the little girl as they approached. She just kept standing there, face to the ground, sniffling. A teddy bear dangled from her right hand. Bernard didn’t take his eyes off the kid. Next to him, he knew, Vicky would make sure they weren’t ambushed.
“How did you get here, little girl?” Bernard said.
She didn’t reply. Bernard took another step forward.
“Careful,” Vicky whispered. He nodded.
“Little girl, look at me,” he said.
The girl looked up. Her face was covered in dirt.
“I want my mommy,” she squeaked.
“Sure,” Bernard said, and got one hand in his pocket. He pulled out a silver charm and tossed it in front of her. “Just clutch this to your chest first, yes? Be a good girl.”
She remained still as a scarecrow. The silence was eerie. Unnatural. Not even the owls made a sound.
Next to him Victoria sucked in air.
“Bernard, what are you doing, doing? Don’t you see it?”
The girl had moved so quickly it had almost buried its claws in him before he pulled the trigger. An iron bolt shot out, xenon-glass tip burying itself in the tiny shoulder. The girl reeled back, screeching over its burning, steaming wound. It barely looked like a girl anymore. It was hairier, bulkier, with long nails and razor-sharp teeth. The shapeshifter was showing its true form.
Thunder ripped through the air as Vicky unleashed her sawed-off shotgun, but the shapeshifter jumped out of the way of the blast with more grace than his brutish body should possess. By the time Bernard had turned his head, Vicky was already flying out of the clearing deeper into the woods.
“Vicky!” Bernard yelled. He fired the second bolt, but the shapeshifter had already dodged before he'd made the decision to pull the trigger. In the same motion that Bernard let go of the empty crossbow, he took a step back and drew his silver sword from its sheath.
The shapeshifter looked at the silver sword, tried to pull out the bolt, then screeched at Bernard again. Then it ran.
Victoria didn’t know how long she’d been out, but when she came to there was no one in the clearing, and the forest was silent, except for the occasional sounds of nocturnal wildlife. She got up on her feet. Her shotgun had been knocked about ten feet further away and had broken from the impact against a tree. She picked up the pieces.
She began her wordless search for Bernard, but found nothing. No shapeshifter either. No corpses. She spent about an hour in the forest before her experience won out over the emotional attachment to her disciple.
The woods were a dangerous place to be alone at night. Even for a hunter. Especially for a hunter. Especially unarmed.
She went back to the town inn. They’d agreed to meet there if they got separated. It was a long walk, and the night had cooled off significantly. When Victoria finally opened the door to the old-fashioned bar, the warmth from within almost knocked her off her feet.
So did the sight of Bernard, casually sitting by the counter and sipping on a beer.
She walked up and he looked at her blankly.
“Goosefeet,” she said.
“Dustberry,” Bernard replied, and then they both smiled and she sat down next to him.
“You alright?” she asked.
“The shapeshifter got away,” he said, staring back down at his mug.
“But are you hurt?“ Victoria looked him over carefully. “And where’s your sword?”
“I lost it in the skirmish.” He turned the glass in his hands. “I was looking for you after I lost track of the beast. What happened?”
“I was looking for you,” she said. “Somewhere else apparently.”
They were silent for a while.
“Do you think we’ll get another shot?” Bernard said.
She frowned. “Maybe. I hope nobody has to die first.”
Bernard stepped out of the shower, rubbed his hair dry and wrapped the towel around his waist. He hesitated before he picked his toothbrush. They’d thrown theirs together. He reached for the one on the left and started brushing.
“Do you have any xenon-tips left?” Vicky called out from the bedroom. The inn was crowded, so they’d been forced to share a chamber. Separate beds, of course.
Bernard stepped out of the bathroom, brush in his mouth. His appearance seemed to fluster Vicky for just a second. Apparently his half-naked body had that kind ove on.”
“We won’t go back there unprepared.”
“If we wait too long, might be we don’t have to.”
And if we go too soon, one of us might be in for a big surprise, she thought.
Ever since they’d been separated in the forest, Vicky had been acting off. The way she’d been ogling him last evening, for instance. Her sudden reluctance to take care of the silver herself. She’d delayed the operation and made sure she had some alone-time while he was getting supplies. It was all very unlike her. An odd business.
And now somebody was following him.
Bernard was sure that the same pair of eyes had been on him since he’d left inn. He had a nose for that stuff. He took the long way to the store, more or less a sightseeing tour through the old town. The feeling of eyes on his shoulders only subsided when he entered the tiny shop. Sundry items were stuffed on shelves and arranged on tables.
“Greetings,” Bernard said. He tried to look casual as he peeked out the window on his way to the counter.
“What can I do for you?” the old man behind the glass diplay asked.
“Do you have any silver? Some cutlery perhaps? I need as much of it as possible.”
The clerk frowned. “You’re the second person to come in here today asking for that stuff. I should have charged more.”
“Someone else came here?” Bernard reined himself in as he spoke, picking his words slowly and deliberately. No obvious excitement. “Who was it? Can you describe them?”
The clerk moved his chin from side to side and looked to the ceiling in thought. “Woman. Dark hair. About your height. Athletic, if you don’t mind me saying.”
Bernard stepped back outside. It had begun to rain. He turned his head just in time to see something dark had jump back around a corner. He moved towards the alley behind it. A cloaked figure was running a few feet down. He pursued it.
They raced each other around half the town. Bernard’s feet tapped over cobblestone, splashed through puddles of mud and rain water, jumped crates and sacks of produce and other obstacles. He lost his prey at the town square. Everyone was wearing hoods and umbrellas in this weather.
“Where’s the silver?” Vicky’s voice had come from behind him. Her cheeks were flushed. She seemed slightly out of breath. Her shoes were wet, but so were most of those around him.
“They were out.”
She seemed to weigh those words carefully. Then she flashed a silenced pistol and quickly put it back in her pocket. Nobody else saw it. Bernard did.
“Salvaged some silver bullets,” she said.
“Hush now. Let’s take another look at that store, yes?”
The silver cutlery was on display right behind the glass frame. The clerk was nowhere to be seen. Of course. The shapeshifter probably killed him too.
“I don’t understand this,” it said. How cute. The fake Bernard still played innocent.
“Enough with the bullshit,” Victoria said. “Let’s finish this.”
There was a movement in the corner of her eye. She instinctively turned for it, just slightly, and the shapeshifter lunged towards her. A shot discharged. Even with the silencer it was still clearly audible, a heavy thud as if someone had just knocked over the cash register.
Bernard fell on top of her. He hissed. There was no smoke. No claws. The blood ran from his belly, seeping through between them, to her side, into the ground.
“You shot me. I can’t believe… Vicky…”
The realization hit her like another one of those shapeshifter punches. This one went straight to the gut.
“Oh God, Bernard. Oh poo poo. Oh God no.”
The revolver was still in her pocket, wedged between Bernard and her, when a shadow fell on them. She looked up into the grinning face of the store clerk. Only it wasn’t the store clerk.
It was something that looked like him, but with razor-sharp teeth.
|# ? Jun 7, 2014 21:58|
Might as well give me one, as I'll have to flake out of this week's 'Dome, thanks to some unexpected work falling into my lap
|# ? Jun 8, 2014 07:35|
Might as well give me one, as I'll have to flake out of this week's 'Dome, thanks to some unexpected work falling into my lap
That's what she meant.
|# ? Jun 8, 2014 10:44|
The Muse looks in the mirror. The brushing leaves around her are finished, and so are the faeries and the looming Globe overhead. Is it a Sun, a Moon, why is it so big and bright while the wood is so dark? I cannot answer. I can only paint. Right now, the Muse’s reflection is only a countour. I must paint. My brush dips and darkens and… what is this in the sky, by the Globe? A dark, smaller sphere. Descending from it is a long, flowing, formless… Shadow. It cannot be. It glides effortlessly among the thorny branches, and it goes ever so fast… so forward… to the Muse. No. I paint to keep this away. I must paint and I approach the brush in haste but – my eyes are caught. The faeries move. And they skitter and jeer around Her:
You loving bitch! You worthless good for nothing!
– and I stroke with the brush but – no. Too fast. Too far. Trembled the last second, no, can’t be…
The Muse lies stained, tainted under the writhing… I can’t look. Mustn’t. I turn my eyes to the Globe. Its light enters me, whitening… filling my head, pushing from the inside, pushing out… heart going fast, too fast as colors faint and the shapes I see dissolve… The Globe… Sun, Moon? it feels like Both… but can’t turn away… can’t look. mustn’t look. can’t –
What… how… I… lids flapping… head turning, scanning around… where are the lights? What happened? I must get up… At least I can still feel the cold floor. Yes, I can raise myself to a crouch… now, to straighten my legs just a little more, I can do it…
…legs fold. I grab something. But it is nothing. My back hits the floor, then my head… I clutch myself as the pain sets in. With half-closed eyes, I look to the darkness. It tells me nothing. I stare and stare but no. Not a hinting grain ahead. A cold burning inside grows and grasps. I sob.
Time passes until I’m dried of self-pity. I give my legs a fearful, slow try… they sway somewhat, but I can stand. Manage to support myself against something. With one hand, I feel my closed eyes, looking for a wrongness… but they are there, unharmed. Maybe this is just temporary… Perhaps in a couple of hours, I’ll…
No. One despaired heartbeat tells me not. I stumble in the dark, fumbling for unseen shapes… I feel one. Then another. Familiar shapes lead me in a chain until I feel the slickness, the curvature of my telephone. It brings me some respite, then some… shame. To ask for help… How many times have I asked for help, and none came? I keep my own problems away myself. My hands, though, are all alone now… The tight burning climbs to the back of my throat. I… lift the handset and dial blindly. Heart is pounding. Someone must answer sometime.
Thanks to him, I lie in this presumably very white hospital bed. He answered to my suffocated, stuttering, stupid little plea for help. Occasionally, fate is merciful and the helpful stranger doesn’t have a knife readied behind his back. Still, to hand myself so helplessly to anyone…
Sigh. I feel like trash. I’ve cried enough. Thrashed about some, insulted them – the male and female voices – after they explained what had happened; stress led to panic which led to a detachment of the retinae… Detachment. Why? In what way was I stressed? I was painting to keep the… bad away, then what? I don’t know…
Enough. Must rest. Just a little relieving, now…
The child is in his room upstairs, staring at the ceiling, paralyzed by terror. The mother is downstairs. The child fears his father’s return. He could come by at any second. Cold and hot inside the child.
Moments. Silence, tension.
The father announces himself with a slurred call. A warm, good-old-times call. The mother complains loudly; why does it have to be like this every weekend. Oh, I can’t take this anymore! The father tries to be silent, smooth; sshh it’s gonna be okay. I’m okay. c’mere my little princess; but the mother slaps him, no!. A tense void of sound. Only the child’s heartbeats.
The child diligently heeds his mother’s call; she is the last sacred thing these days. Everything blurs, quickly downstairs.
The child is behind the mother. At her, the father points a big kitchen knife.
This’s b’tween me and your stupid whore of a mother. Gebback to bed, y’ little poo poo!
The child hurries to the kitchen, whose entrance is thankfully beyond the father’s reach, and also grabs a knife. He returns and is now behind his father, pointing his knife to him.
Too late. The father closes in the mother.
Sharp screaming is dulled quickly as the child’s pupils widen and he turns back, runs and exits the house...
To the woods nearby. Cold, uncaring, scratching woods, yes…
But there the child can hide. And wait for whatever strange noises to go away.
It has been months. Each week, Dr. Vogel tries hard. Today, in the psychiatric ward, her beautiful voice says: you have to try. And keep trying, Gustav. Running from it is a time-tested way of actually making it worse.
And I reply, but how. I can’t sing. My fingers do not dance with the piano in the occupational room, they trip upon themselves. I don’t care for people. I don’t care for hearing words – I avoid words. Words only worsen it – they give my fetid thoughts additional timbres, the disgusting movement of lips… and then I’m left with the sounds, the bad sounds looping all night in my head…
So how, Doctor, how?
She says I still need to find a comfortable medium for elaboration. This tires me. I’m tired of searching. I return to the hospital’s dull days.
And dull weeks. These last few, I’ve decided to give up. Really just lie in bed, and accept the fate given to me, without questioning. It’s painful, but eventually the body just nods along.
Until it doesn’t. And the dreams worsen, and every waking hour burns coldly, shameful… And then there isn’t anything else to do but to call someone. To return to the program. To regard it sarcastically, to protect yourself.
This very moment I am undergoing occupational therapy again. I am by the table. Oh, joy, today I’m given… clay. Yes, the therapeutic effects of clay are very well documented. I make a clay pigeon. Hooray. A clay tree with a little branch for my little friend to perch on. I can’t see any of it. My skin is given the warmth and beauty of cold, dead clay.
I amputate another clump of what I suppose is a block when it hits.
In the dark chamber of the mind, I can birth them.
And my hands follow – somewhat crudely, of course, but decently enough…
I ask for a chisel. They give me a screwdriver. That’s not a problem. I make the four – five, actually, to be honest – limbed shape of a man, tighten the smaller parts with my fingers, carve, depress, and smooth with the screwdriver… My skin feels the details. They are satisfactory. I ask to someone beside me – does this look good to you? He looks good, yes.
Good. I tear him in two, laughing, and throw the pieces to the other side of the table.
It takes me a while to convince them that I am not going crazy, in light of my latest behavior. I am genuinely in connection with this form of expression, however colorless it may be. I haven’t felt like this in a while. Painting wasn’t bringing me this either. I still don’t remember how exactly I lost my sight, but I remember the struggle to push the bad feelings away.
I’m no longer struggling. Now, I return to my diorama. The Muse handles her mirror, whose reflection I painstakingly engraved… Beautiful. The faeries are propped on the trees, and they look quite lively. My huge Globe is a smooth setting sun I glued halfway through the edge of the table. I have given it a smaller Moon for companionship; it is carefully pocked and rugged. I must decide where to put it today. Along with the Shadow I hold in my hand.
|# ? Jun 8, 2014 12:33|
Ughfuck. The original plan for the LoserLoser judging was that Mojo and I collab and perform the songs that the entrants wrote, then everybody vote on them to see who came out on top. After a batshit insane week at work pushing me back a week, I got home, settled in for the weekend, then prompt undercooked some chicken which had me running back and forth to the shitter for days.
I'm sorry LoserLosers, but I won't be performing your songs. I could delay judgement another week, but honestly I reckon the entrants just wants to get it out of the way. Mojo has knocked together some good poo poo, but I'll leave that to him if he wants he wants to do with that, since I caved on my half. I've just gotta flake on this yet again. You'll just have to settle for a regular judging.
SMUG by PHOBIA
So it's like that Shakespeare sonnet where he's all "yo you aint perfect but I love you anyway" except taken waaaaaaay past the point of real-adult-relationship that made the original so poignant. This is basically a diss track. It's an ode to hatefucking. Either that, or it's some smug (lol) attempt to write an "anti-love song", as if there weren't enough of those kicking around at any one time. You did the exact opposite of what the prompt asked.
I dunno if you just got dumped or what bro but this is some overwrought, cliched poo poo. It's not really love either: it's weird desperate codependency. If you're still in a relationship, in the perennial words of E/N: sever. Bitch is clearly not good for you, and the terrible writing she inspires aint worth it.
Diagnosis: craaaaaawling iiiiiiiin my skiiiiiiiiiiiin, thiiiiis is not a looooovesooooooong
THE GIRL AT WORKSTATION NINE by DMBOOGIE
My God, I had a hell of a time trying to fit this to a rhythm. Mojo managed to make a nugget of gold from your bizzaro meter, but he did it by doing more of a spoken-word poetry thing than a song. There's that terrible dead meter and there's no chorus. gently caress's sake why did neither of you do what I asked? Phobia didn't write about love, and you didn't write a song. You can't just write a story and give it linebreaks.
It wasn't a terrible story and I did vibe off human affection between two people, so cookies there.
Diagnosis: the relationship is kinda sweet I guess but Jesus it fails completely and utterly as a song that goes with music.
DOCTOR, THEY'RE CRASHING
OK, OK, I'M CALLING IT: DMBOOGIE is the winner, PHOBIA is the loser.
we out bitches
|# ? Jun 8, 2014 15:00|
So I haven't had internet at my house since NZ's Friday night... and I'm a genius who only saved my story in Google Docs...
I'm totally gonna finish it and post it from work, but it'll be great to see how this goes with only like four hours to revise.
|# ? Jun 8, 2014 20:26|
"My daddy was the best drat reaper. He graduated from the whole heap when I was still just a fresh boneman. Momma said he was already gaining his flesh even while he was still working the pile. I'm gunna beat his record too." I skewered my pike into a moaning body and pushed myself higher, desperate to beat Braskull. "So you gotta slow down and show me some respect."
"Nah. Got better ideas. Plus, you’re not even allowed this high up." Braskull looked down at me and laughed, right to my face, as I struggled to free my pike. "I heard there was a third kind of soul, one what we don't never get in here. Your poppabone ever tell you about that while he was meating up?"
"That's not even true." I tripped on a struggling mound of flesh and fell flat on the bleeding stomach of a man passed out. I slipped my toe in his mouth for traction and started climbing again. "You shouldn't be up this high. You should go down to Mrs. Reeb. You don't have the heritage to be this high up the heap. I do"
A shout echoed up from the bottom of the heap, as if our instructor heard me mention her name. Braskull stopped climbing ahead of me and disappeared behind an overhang of bodies. I slipped my pike into my ribs and scrambled up with both hands. Soft moans sounded under my skeletal grip and I pulled myself over the edge. Braskull waited for me, crouched next to two bodies he'd pulled out of the surrounding wall.
"Everyone’s real tired of hearing you crack, Femuran. You think you're so good? Here." He pushed the smaller of the two bodies towards me. It mewled softly, blinking its eyes and moving in small uncertain terms. "The livers call this a chilled. You'll learn that when you get to your second year on the heap. I've been here five, so I'll take this bigger one. It's called a dolt. I'll still beat you, too. Then you gotta go back down to your class. It's the rules. Only fifth years get to climb to the top."
I clenched my teeth hard enough to make my jaw crack. "I know what a child is. My daddy told me all about them."
"You can't even say it right!" Braskull laughed at me, then hefted his pike in both hands and stabbed it into the stomach of his body.
I yanked my pike out of my ribs and stared at the child. Daddy said they just do some kinda automatic movement thing, and they aren’t supposed to be smart like us. Maybe he was right, but the thing still looked like it was trying to protect its belly. I had to go for the head first. My pike sloughed its face off into a little pile by my foot, then slipped into the neck. I made a bunch of little stabs and got the bigger bits of meat off, then got down to start yanking flesh with my hands. You gotta get all the chunks off to get the meatsoul off the bonesoul, or else you're just making a mess and momma won't let you come in for dinner. I felt pretty good when I'd worked down to the legs, only to look up as Braskull helped his new boneman stand.
"Hey, I know you can't understand yet, but I gotta point out." Braskull pointed at me, and his new boneman copied the motion. "That there's called a dummy. They ain't allowed up this high yet."
I sat back and tears stung my sockets. It wasn't fair. I was smarter than Braskull. I was smarter than everyone. He kicked his boneman at me and I got out of the way, letting it roll back down the heap. Braskull laughed at me again and went back to climbing. I kicked at the meat piling up around my feet, when I had an idea.
The meatsoul from my child wasn't enough, so I had to take some of the bits from Braskull's stack. I pushed it into my ribs and into my arms and into my head until I was all shaped like one of the bodies. I looked around to make sure nobody was looking, then started digging a tunnel right into the heap. I was going to scare Braskull so bad when he came back down, he'd have to tell all his friends I was the best.
I dug deeper. A glow started coming from the middle of the heap, but it didn't matter to me at first. All sortsa things around here glow. It wasn't until a cold wind tingled my headbone that I realized what the glow was. Nothing around here gets cold. I shrieked with excitement and dug faster.
I'd found a shortcut to life. I didn't even need to graduate no more. Momma would be so proud.
I dug and dug until the bodies around me turned into a weird brown crumbly stuff, then dug further. The brown crumbly stuff gave way all of a sudden and I started falling backwards into the hole, like gravity had changed up on me. I grabbed at some green stuff on the other side of the brown crumbly stuff and pulled myself to my feet.
There was all kinds of weird colors and temperatures around me. I tested out to see if walking worked the same in the liver's world. It was mostly right, but the meatsoul on my bones had a strange weight here. A little chunk of meat fell off my ribs when I tried out a bigger step. The air stung the exposed bone, so I decided I'd stick to shuffling.
The liver's world was lonely. I called out to see if anyone would answer, but there was no response. After waiting for what felt like an hour, I went exploring. There was a lot of little upright stones everywhere, and I shuffled into them more often than I meant to. Little bits of meat fell from my knees and shins where they hit. The air hurt on my legbone, and I shrieked in pain. I needed some kind of new meat to patch up the hole. Lucky for me, there was a building nearby. It was made of gross angles and boring rocks, but it was a building all the same.
Maybe there'd be bodies inside.
I'd almost shuffled up to the door when a body came out. It was smooth, and looked like it was made of meat, but covered in some kind of fabric. It saw me and screamed. I froze; the bodies weren't supposed to move around, and definitely weren't supposed to see me. I tried to tell it to calm down, but the meat in my headbone got in the way of my words. It backed away, screaming. I pushed my hand into my mouth and yanked the meat out of my mouthspace to talk, but the body had run into the building. I dropped the meat onto the ground and shuffled closer to the door.
"Please, I'm sorry, I just need some meat for my meatholes. Please come out," I called to the building. My voice echoed back at me, then I heard shouting. The body appeared in the door again, with a metal stick. Two other bodies came with it, one of whom was huge with meat. They must have heard. "Thank you."
The first body pointed its metal stick at me and I heard a big boom.
I finished writing my lines on the board. Mrs. Reeb crossed the room and unchained my legs from the desk. I rubbed at the bone around my ankles, sore from the weight of her manacles.
"How's your headbone?"
"Better." I rubbed the fresh cracks in my skull. "But it still hurts."
"It'll do that." Mrs Reeb crossed her arms. "What have you learned, Femuran?"
I didn't need to read my writing to know the lesson Mrs Reeb asked about. My quick time in the liver's world had taught me all I'd needed. "I shouldn't take shortcuts."
She unfolded her arms. "And why is that?"
I looked away, only to see Braskull laughing at me with his friends from outside the window. I looked at my feet in shame. "I don't know everything." Tears stung my sockets and I stared back at her. "I just wanted to be like my daddy."
"Oh, littlebone. Everyone leaves eventually." Mrs Reeb put her hands on my shoulders and touched her head to mine. Her sockets had more compassion than I expected. "There's so much to learn. You don't need to rush."
|# ? Jun 8, 2014 22:53|
When Anna came last at the trials again, Da had to think about how to save our bacon.
It was El's fault, but you couldn't blame the kid. Even if she did coddle Anna. They went for walks along the hillside when the weather was fine, and when it wasn't the two of them would be in the barn, huddled in the straw. Often, when she was younger, I caught them them playing with alphabet bricks, making words 'together'.
But whether Anna could read or not she couldn't work sheep to save her life. Dad had pulled some favours with the organisers down in the valley, had them go easy on her: it still took ten lads to haul the flock back out of the empty sheepdip. The sniggers from the others were the worst part; the word, departing down the dales in search of a laugh.
We started home as soon as the rain eased off. Da and I trudged through the thickening mud towards the farm, El riding behind. Anna didn't mind the little saddle. Da had made it for El's last birthday, and after eight long months she had yet to get bored of it. When she'd asked what it was made of, Da had told her “leather”. She'd gone and hung Anna's loser's medal off the pommel. It was already rusting.
“We can't keep on like this, Da,” I said. “Anna's a laughing stock. She can't work sheep.”
“Don't you talk about my friend like that! She can hear you, you know.” Eleanor stroked the animal's head. “I agree, Anna, it was very rude.” She cocked her ear. “That's right. My brother is a great big jerk.”
“I'm talking to Da, El.”
“Yeah, about Anna! She's the best pig ever and you're just jealous.”
“Jealous, of a dumb animal?”
“Quiet, both of you.” When Da spoke I bit my tongue. It hurt, and I nursed it quietly.
“This has gone on long enough,” he said. “Eleanor, we need to talk about Anna.”
She frowned. “Why?”
Da crouched down beside her. “The thing is, poppet, Anna's not been doing her job very well lately. We need good work out in the pasture because that's how we put food on the table.”
Anna grunted and El patted her again. “She's doing the best she can! She just needs a little more practice, that's all.”
Da put a hand on his chin. “Practice, you say.” He turned and caught my eyes, then looked back to my little sister astride her pig. “I just so happen to know of a school where well-behaved sheeppigs who are having trouble can go and study. It's a wonderful place with open fields and lots of very patient sheep.
“What I'll do is I'll talk to the people in charge over there and ask them to take Anna on. A special case for a special pig.”
I nodded. My sister looked at Anna, who was silent. Then she looked at Da. “She's not sure,” she said. “Can she have a day to think about it?”
“Of course she can,” said Da.
The envelope at breakfast surprised me. The postman had heard about the trials and made a bunch of sympathetic noises, but when I saw the return address I stopped listening.
The Sheeppig School of Excellence
“You having a laugh, Barry?”
“Don't shoot t'messenger, lad. It's got a stamp, I've got t'deliver it. Regulations being what they are, you know. Is it true that she-”
“Yes,” I said, and closed the door.
I walked back into the kitchen. Da looked up from his toast, and I handed him the letter. Anna was there, of course, under El's chair. El used to feed her off scraps at table: Ma had put her foot down on that though and these days we just put a fourth plate out.
Da straightened up. “Well, what's this?” With a flourish he slid out the contents and frowned at them. “Hmm. Hmmmm. Very interesting.” He passed it over to El. “Anna's been accepted into that special school I told you about! This is the best news we've had all season.”
El squinted at it. I didn't know Da could draw: the letters curled across the page in deep ink. “This looks really fancy, Da, how can we afford it?”
“Well, when I told them about Anna, they said that they were so sad to hear about her problem that they'd help her for free!”
“I'm not a baby, Da, I know things cost stuff.”
“El,” I cut in. “You don't need to worry about that.”
She pushed her plate away, reached down, and scooped Anna into her arms. “She needs to read it too,” she said, and, as she held it in front of the pig, I feared Da's work was going to get eaten all up. But all Anna did was stare, and grunt again.
“It's a really special place, Anna,” said Da now. “You'd be able to catch up on what you missed at normal sheeppig school, and then you can work again one day! What do you say?”
El looked at the pig nestled against her chest. Anna looked at the child curled around her. We looked at them both as the little girl whispered, and waited to hear back.
“Anna doesn't want to go.”
Da spread his hands. “But Eleanor, if she doesn't go, how is she going to become a better sheeppig?”
“She's not going.” El's tiny hand slapped the table. “Anna doesn't want to work sheep any more. It's boring and cold and she hates it, so she's decided to retire. She'll be safer with me anyway.”
“...is she sure?”
Da looked at me again. This time his eyes were softer. He leaned back, and I think I saw why.
“Well,” I said, ”What do we do now?”
Da stood up. “We get a new one.”
“He can be Anna's friend.”
“I'm sure he will be.”
“Anna needs a new saddle. Leather this time.”
“Wait for your birthday, Eleanor” he said, and that was that.
|# ? Jun 8, 2014 23:26|
To Commune with the Moon
Hey, Moon, look—another white tourist!
Shoot. I thought we were done for the season.
Hey, at least this one’s cute.
Are you crazy? Keep your voice down.
Oh, cool off. If she actually bothered to learn Lakota, I’ll eat a porcupine.
The girl in the white dress strode up to them. The wind blew her dark hair across her face, but she swept it away and stared up at the two men. “Pardon me,” she said, “but do either of you know English?”
Moon stepped forward before Cloud Chaser could butt in. “Yes, I do. My name’s Communes with Moon. What do you need, ma’am?”
When she heard his name, the girl’s face brightened. “Oh, it’s you! I’m so glad I finally found you! I’m Sharon, Sharon Mulberry. Can you help me speak with the spirits of the night sky, Mr. Moon?”
“Just Moon, please. That shouldn’t be a problem, though.”
“Oh, thank you! I’m sure they have so much to share with mortals. If any of the rituals involved are off-limits to outsiders in any way, you just have to say the word and I promise I won’t-“
“We take cash.”
* * * * *
When dusk fell, Moon led her up to the top of Mystic’s Peak. Moon could have walked the path blind, so he kept looking back to check on Sharon. Cloud was right, she was pretty cute in a hippy-dippy sort of way. A couple of times, when he looked back, he caught her staring at him. She jerked her head away each time their eyes met.
Further up the trail, she said, “’Communes with Moon’. That’s a lovely name, it’s just so… so whimsical, so poetic.”
He laughed. “Trust me, it doesn’t sound nearly as flowery in Lakota. If it did, I would’ve had it changed.”
She stopped and put her hands on her hips. Her eyes flashed, showing a glint of fire under the surface that he hadn’t expected. She scowled and said, “Well, I think it’s nice. Have a problem with that, Buster?”
He stopped, not sure what to say. “Uh…. no, not at all, Ms. Mulberry. Sorry.” They stood in silence for a moment, then Moon turned sheepishly and started up the trail again. He climbed up a high ridge, then turned back and reached a hand down to her. She took it and clambered up, not letting go even when they stood side by side again.
“Just Sharon,” she said, smiling. After a moment, she dropped his hand and started up the trail without him, until he remembered he was supposed to be leading their trek. He hurried to the front, just as Sharon was about to take a wrong turn that would have led them smack in the middle of a mountain lion den.
By the time they reached the peak, the sky was dark as an ocean of ink, the stars standing out like thousands of tiny white freckles. A nearly-full moon hung right above their heads. Moon unsheathed the spear tied to his back and held it out behind him. “All right, Sharon,” he said, “turn your back to me and hold on to the spear. The spear is the conduit—hold tight to it, and the moon-spirits will come through clear.”
“Okay.” Moon felt her hands grasp the spear. Her fingers brushed against his. “Moon, I just want to know… what’s it like? To have this power, I mean?”
He thought for a moment. “It’s like we’re both looking at the same wall. Only it’s not a wall, you only think it is—really, it’s a wide window. You can’t see the window, but if I open it for you… you can see what’s on the other side.”
“It won’t hurt, will it?”
Moon smiled. They always got like this, standing on the edge. So cock-sure about the universe’s great benevolence, until they were about to see it with their own eyes.
“No. I promise it won’t.”
He knew it was useless to let her stall any longer. He flexed the muscles in his mind, opening his hidden senses. A wave of sensations rushed through him and into Sharon. He heard a brief yelp, but she didn’t let go. All of a sudden, he saw four vast spheres arc through the sky, seeming to fill with white light until each one depicted a different phase of the moon. Moon and Sharon felt the full moon’s image shudder, and a voice called out, “Oh, hello! I didn’t expect to see you back here so soon.”
Moon smiled. “Hi, Full. I’ve got someone here who’d like to meet all four of you. Come on, say hi. Sharon, these are my friends Cress, Half, Gibby, and Full.”
Sharon stammered, almost dumbstruck, but said, “It’s a pleasure to meet all of you. I’ve got to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so wonderful in all of my-“
“Oh, darling, don’t get all flustered,” Full said. “I know the presence of a being as luminous as I can feel intimidating, but you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“Just listen to big-head,” Gibby said, “hogging the tourists. Why can’t you hippies ever pay attention to the GIBBOUS moon? I may be a slice shy of full, but I’m just as good as that blowhard.”
A peal of laughter erupted from Half’s direction. “There they go, squabbling as usual. What cards those two are! It makes me so… so miserable. Why can’t they just love each other? Is something so wrong about that?” Half burst into sobs, its image shuddering in the sky.
“Oh, no,” Sharon said, “I want to learn from each of you! I don’t mean to play favorites, I promise.”
“And of course the crescent moon doesn’t even get a hello. Typical humans. They never notice anything if it’s not flashing in their faces.”
Sharon turned to Cress. “Hey, my hello was meant for all of you. Please don’t think-“
“It’s all right, you don’t have to make excuses. Just talk to the interesting phases, by all means.”
“Don’t listen to him, dear,” Full said. “Classic size envy. It happens more often than you’d expect.”
“If the sap doesn’t like being around us, he can leave for all I care,” Half said. “That didn’t sound too callous, did it? I love the guy, don’t tell him I said that, it’d break his heart!”
“You want me to leave, is that it?” Cress said. “You don’t know how many times I’ve tried.”
“Oh, what,” Gibby interjected, “I’m not good enough for you? Too cool for the sky, is that what you are?”
“In case you’ve all forgotten, we have a guest,” Full said. “You’re all distracting her from my splendor, so if you don’t mind-“
“Oh, suck an asteroid! Y’know, if… if you wanted to do that anyway.”
“And the rational voice gets drowned out. Typical.”
“Oh, stop letting your own inadequacies ruin everyone’s day. I’ll have you know-“
“HEY!” Sharon shouted. “Stop bickering, all of you! Now, I hiked all the way up here with some important questions in mind, so if it doesn’t inconvenience you too much, I’d like the chance to ask them. All right?”
The night sky was silent for a moment, until Full spoke up. “Geez, you tourists get testy by the end of the season, don’t you?”
* * * * *
Back at the Lakota village, after a tense, quiet hike down the mountain, Moon walked Sharon to her car. With a scowl, she opened her glove box and started fishing through it for her wallet.
“Not what you expected, was it?” Moon asked.
She slammed the glove box shut. “I don’t understand. The moon always looked so… so beautiful! Nature’s supposed to be serene and full of wisdom, above all of this petty human nonsense, but they’re just as bad as we are!” She sniffed, and wiped away a tear. “I’m sorry, Moon, none of this is your fault, but… look, what do I owe you?”
Poor girl, he thought. He’d become so accustomed to the moon-spirits that he’d forgotten what a shock experiencing them for the first time must be for an idealist like her. Like finding out God was real, but also happened to be a fat, surly drunk in sweatpants and a wife-beater.
He shook his head. “Don’t worry about the money. The thing is, I didn’t realize it was wisdom you were after. You should meet a friend of mine named Gary, runs a 24-hour diner in town. He’s not too pretty to look at, but I promise there’s no better source of wise counsel in the whole United States.” He stuck his hand out to her. “Besides, I’ve been craving a stack of his pancakes. What do you say we stop in for a bite? On me.”
She looked at him and smiled, taking his hand in hers. She didn’t shake it, just held on for a while, her smile more radiant than the brightest moonbeam.
|# ? Jun 8, 2014 23:56|
I made it out of clay.
As soon as Grandma left for church in the sputtering old Ford, Rachel dragged her mother’s suitcase out from behind the enormous and ancient chest of drawers that had concealed it. She heaved it up onto a nearby steamer trunk, brushed away some of the attic dust that coated it, and flicked open the catches.
She paused before lifting the lid. If she was caught there would be punishment. She still bore welts from the caning she’d got when Grandma had caught her going through her mother’s letters. Grandma had burned them in front of her, calling her mother the Christ-killing Jezebel who’d stolen her son away from Jesus and gotten them both killed. Rachel had assumed that every other trace would be gone in short order - but then she’d found the suitcase, monogrammed with her mother’s initials, hidden away, forgotten and forbidden. Grandma had arrived home from church that day early, so there’d been no chance to investigate until the following Sunday, when the Jew-child was again locked in the attic to avoid violating the sanctity of the true Sabbath.
Rachel whispered a Hebrew prayer, and flung the suitcase open. Inside lay a small, silver flute, a Star of David on a thin leather cord, and four tiny drummers, made of what looked like wood. Rachel picked up the star first; holding it up to the window and watching it glint in the light. Was it her mother’s, she wondered? She could barely remember her mother, but in her mind’s eye she pictured a photo she had seen once, imagined the symbol beneath her mother’s cardigan. She put it around her neck, which made her feel safe somehow, and went on to investigate the other items.
She hadn’t seen anything so beautiful as the flute since moving to Grandma’s and beginning home-schooling. It was much better made than the brass loaner she’d learned on at her former Jewish Day School, which had the accumulated spit of generations of pupils flowing inside it.. Unable to resist touching this new treasure, she traced its smooth lines with a fingertip, then removed its cylindrical body from the suitcase, tapping with her fingernail and hearing the solid silver ring out. The keywork was gold and responded smoothly when she tried a few tentative presses.
When she lifted the flute to her lips the only other sound was the wind passing through the trees outside. She took a deep breath, pursed and then blew across the embouchure hole. At first she blew too gently, and she could barely hear the note, but soon she had the instrument's measure and a single C resonated in the air. Her middle finger tried a key, and the note changed in tone, soft and haunting. There was a bang, or perhaps a bang and its echo; Rachel jumped and the flute squeaked. Out of the corner of her eye Rachel was sure she’d seen the suitcase move. She placed the flute carefully on the bed, and returned to the suitcase, looking for the cause.
Inside the drummers stared at her, unblinking, as she untied the leather carry-straps sewn into the suitcase lining. They wore red painted jackets with white trousers, hats and piping, as if they belonged to a marching band, and each had a tiny bayonet fastened to its back. Across each hat, someone had scrawled the word ‘drum’ in marker pen. Perhaps, thought Rachel, it was her mother, in some graffiti-based teenage rebellion. Rachel placed the drummers on the floor of the attic, noticing that they weren’t wooden at all, as she had first thought, but some sort of clay.
But there was nothing behind them at all in the suitcase, and nothing left inside it, so Rachel assumed the fear of breaking Grandma’s rules had her jumping at ghosts. She stood among the clay marching dolls and picked up the flute. She decided to play an old klezmer tune she remembered. The notes came out slowly, as the fingerings reacquainted themselves with her memory.
The tiny drummers began to march around her. They weaved between her feet, marching in time to her playing and their own staccato rhythms. Rachel nearly dropped the flute in astonishment, her gasp of surprise a discordant note. At once, the drummers stopped in their tracks, mid step, mid-beat, each facing a different direction
Rachel, flute in hand, sped to a far corner of the attic away from the little clay drummers. They remained stock-still on the attic floor.
That seems crazy, thought Rachel, hunching a little beneath the curve of the roof. She blew a note from the flute, a long, sustained C, and watched as the drummers began to step in slow motion, beating time slowly until she ran out of breath and they fell still. Now the drummers were all facing her. She played more notes, returning to the tune she had remembered, and they marched towards her, smartly and with precision formation, beating out a complex tattoo. When they reached her they marched in a figure-eight, threading between her legs.
After a while, sheer repetition made even this magic grow old, and Rachel stopped playing. She picked up one of the drummers, and wiped at the word written on its hat with her thumb. It smeared easily, and vanished entirely with only a few rubs of her sleeve. She placed it on the ground, and began playing again. This time, only three of the drummers marched, the drummer with the clean hat just stood there, like the lump of clay it was.
Rachel went rummaging amongst the bric-a-brac of the attic, desperately searching for a pen.
Rachel sat on the steamer trunk, flute at the ready, the closed suitcase on her left and the band of three drummers arrayed near her dangling feet, listening to the sounds of Grandma’s arrival. The graunch of wheels on gravel, the slamming of the front door, the turn of the key in the attic lock.
Grandma came into view as she ascended the attic stairs, her bulk touching the sides of the bannisters. She saw Rachel perched on the trunk, and immediately noticed the star of David. “Take that off, Jew-child,” she said, her voice low. “It’s bad enough my grandkid’s got the blood of Christ-killers, now you want to flaunt it?”
“No,” said Rachel, clutching at the emblem. The Star of David grew warm in her hand, and seemed to quiet her rapidly beating heart.
“I said take it off! Would you like me to fetch my cane?” Grandma lurched towards her, and Rachel lifted the flute to her lips and played a single, clear note. As one, the drummers pulled the bayonets from their backs and pointed them menacingly, if inconsequentially, at the approaching threat.
“What’s this?” Grandma laughed, showing her teeth. “Jew magic? I guess the poisoned apple don’t fall far from the rotting tree. Get thee behind me, Satan”
The drummers showed no sign of getting behind anyone. They steadily advanced, and it seemed to Rachel that they were growing as they did so, or Grandma was shrinking. By the time Grandma was within bayonet range, they were all the same height. Grandma tried to push past them, but a poke with the side of a bayonet blade, or a nudge from the butt of the rifle kept her contained. “Deviltry!” said Grandma, as they formed a wall in front of her. “You want to murder your grandmother, Jew-child? Is that it?”
“I don’t think so,” said Rachel, lowering the flute. “You can see on their hats, they’re only here to ‘protect’ me.”
Grandma looked quizzically at the now immobile soldiers, then at the flute. She pushed past them and stared at Rachel, hands on her hips, blocking out the light from the single attic window. “You can’t play that flute forever, Jew-child. They can’t protect you always.”
Rachel flipped open the suitcase. Inside was the final drummer, tied up in its leather carry-strap, still moving, beating its drum and moving its legs. “Perhaps I won’t have to. Drumming and protecting are easily accomplished - but what if I wrote ‘kill’? Do you think it would stop when the music finished if its work wasn’t done?”
Grandma began to back down the stairs, looking for all the world like a frightened old woman. Rachel laughed and called out after her. “Want to find out, Grandma?”
|# ? Jun 9, 2014 00:30|
Every time I ask Jamal when he’s coming home he says The next time I have a break from school. When I ask him when his next break is he says I’m not sure, ask me next week. Hey, why don’t you come out here and visit me instead?
I want to more than anything else. But nothing good happens when I leave this town.
I walk to the 7-11 to buy a newspaper. When I walk between the two apartment buildings ate up by fire and weeds I imagine that I am a ship passing between cliffs. This morning there is an article about a man in India who has held his right hand up in the air for thirty-five years.
The newspaper says: He is enlightened: he no longer feels lonely or sad. God has taken all of these things away.
I look at the picture. His arm is shriveled and half rotted away. I look at it again. He has beautiful eyes. I am sitting in my recliner watching an episode of Days of Our Lives that I have seen four times before, when I put my hand up in the air.
My shoulder starts to ache. I remember the time I gave Jamal a bath in the sink when he was tiny and I went to pick him up and slipped. I wrenched my shoulder all the way out of the socket because I wouldn’t let him go.
Another episode comes on. The picture on the TV is fuzzy. Outside I hear a woman screaming You fucker! You fucker! I burrow down into my recliner. Sensations march up and down my arm: burning, pinching, stabbing, throbbing, trembling. The phone rings and I dive for it.
It’s a man who wants to sell me vinyl siding. “Sorry, I’m busy,” I say, and hang up.
I wonder how I’ll know when I’m enlightened.
It’s bedtime. I pull a couple of Charlene’s scarves out of storage and tie them to each other. It takes a long time to tie knots with just one hand. Then I tie one end to the light fixture in my bedroom and tie the other end to my right wrist. I lie down in the dark, arm hanging in the air, and listen to the neighbors’ music.
In the morning I wake up feeling hopeful. My arm has gone completely numb. The tips of my fingers are pale. When I untie it from the light fixture, my shoulder feels like lightning hit it. I almost fall down but I make myself stay standing. It takes an hour to put my clothes on and I get to the 7-11 late.
“You okay?” says the woman behind the counter. “You hurt your shoulder or something?” She has never spoken to me before.
I tell her about the man in India.
“That’s cool,” she says.
Now every time I go to the 7-11 she calls me Hindu Man. I am still a Christian, I want to say, but I don’t.
Jamal calls me to tell me he has a new girlfriend. She’s beautiful, he says. I ask if he’s going to bring her home to meet me someday. “She don’t want to go to East St. Louis, dad. She’s a nice girl.”
I look at my arm. It throbs. I stretch it further up in the air. “Okay, son,” I say. “I understand. Just tell me if she change her mind. I’d love to see her.”
I go to church on Sunday and they make me sit in the back. Keeping my hand up like that is a distraction, they say. We can’t tell nobody not to come to church, but you can’t be bothering nobody. We always have a picnic after church and I sit with Mary Ellen and Christine and they ask me about my son and I make up stories to tell them. Today I walk right by, feeling sick in my heart, and they don’t even say hello to me anyways.
I decide to walk home instead of taking the bus. I’m not free of loneliness or sadness yet, and I don’t feel like being stared at any more.
On the way home I walk through a neighborhood I don’t know. There’s empty cigarette packs and broken bottles in the street. I look around at this city that has gotten grimier even since Jamal left for school in August. I feel like I am the only man trying to do anything more than just live. I resolve to keep my hand up forever if I have to.
As long as I don’t move my shoulder too much I don’t get those lightning bolt pains. I walk by a house where half a dozen skinny teenagers are lounging out on the porch. The door is open and music pours from inside. There’s a big smiling dog tied to a pole in the front yard and as I pass by it leaps up and sniffs at me. I scratch between its ears with my left hand and it noses my pockets.
“What you doin?” says one of the boys. He is holding a bottle of Heineken and he steps in front of me. He’s got the same haircut as Jamal but a meaner face.
“Going home,” I say. I step around him and he sidesteps with me.
“What’s wrong with your arm?”
“Nothing. This man in India, he held his arm up for -”
“You mocking me? Put your arm down.” To the other boys on the porch he says “Look at this friend of the family doing a Nazi salute. The gently caress he thinks he’s doing.”
“I’m just trying to go home,” I say.
“Put your loving arm down.”
The kid looks a lot like Jamal did when he was fifteen. Skinny-armed in a wife-beater.
I step to one side on the asphalt. An empty bottle hits me in the jaw and I fall to the ground, still holding one arm up in the air. In the hospital they stitch up my face and put my arm in a sling and tell me that because I got no insurance there’s nothing else they can do for me.
I walk out of the emergency room door, take the sling off, and point my right arm up towards the sky. My shoulder makes a grinding noise. I take a bus to the Greyhound station, and I spend forty dollars cash on a ticket to Champaign. I’m so nervous my hands are shaking.
I think about the last time I took a Greyhound bus anywhere. It was the last time I left East St. Louis, ten years ago. Jamal and me went up to Chicago for a weekend, just the two of us, when Charlene was in the hospital. The whole way up he slept with his head on my shoulder. We stayed in a hotel and went on a boat tour and ate chocolate covered marshmallows at the Ghiradelli store, and took an elevator up to the top of the Hancock building where Jamal said “I think I can see where we live from here.”
And I said “No you can’t. Don’t be crazy.”
It was right around that same time, I worked out later, that Charlene died.
Nobody looks at me too funny on the bus. There’s already enough people mumbling and moaning and yelling on their phones and changing their babies’ diapers in the aisles.
The sun is just rising when I get there. Jamal’s roommate lets me in. He’s a big football-player looking kid. He’s in his pajamas and he says “Jamal should be back soon, he was at his girlfriend’s place” and goes straight back to bed, doesn’t even ask me why I’m holding my arm up in the air. My shoulder is starting to ache all over again with a hot burning feeling like pins being shoved into it.
I look around Jamal’s apartment. He’s got his football trophies up on a bookshelf. He’s got a lot of books, I notice. The place is cleaner than he ever kept his bedroom as a kid.
On his desk there’s a paper he’s working on. Looks like history. I start to read it and I don’t even recognize half the words.
I turn around.
Hanging over Jamal’s bed is a framed photograph from that weekend we spent in Chicago. The two of us standing in front of a window at the top of the Hancock Center, the sun setting bright behind us. All you can see of our smiling faces is our teeth.
I hear the door swing open. “Jamal,” I call out. “It’s me. I came to visit. Come give your dad a hug.”
He rounds the corner into his room, and I welcome him with open arms.
|# ? Jun 9, 2014 00:59|
What the Young Lady Learned
Deep in the Wickenmarsh, which skirts the peaceful waters of Mendelbrund Sound, under the wise governance of the Realm, the young Lady Embrielle Ambergris ground the remnants of a fat joint out on a rock.
“I hate him,” she said to the young Magistrix Jidya Annerswift, who sat beside her.
Jidya carved some slices off the gnarled root of a nearby tree, then rolled another smoke. The air around both girls was hazy, and Embrielle figured she’d never get the stink out of her dress. Not that she gave a poo poo.
“I know,” Jidya said, commiserating. She held her palm flat, then sketched a quick symbol across her skin with the tip of her blunt. Fire sparked to life from her fingers and she lit up.
“He says you’re a bad influence.”
Jidya snorted. “You were like this long before you met me, Bri. I’m just a convenient scapegoat.”
They smoked in silence for a while, trading puffs on the joint ‘til it was a smouldering roach. Overhead, fingers of spidery moss cast dappled shadows over their hiding place. Many of the stones around them bore arcane glyphs, evidence of Embrielle’s cautious magickal exploration.
“Does your dad know you’ve manifested yet?” Jidya spoke up after a while.
“Nah. Last thing he needs is to know that. He’d find a way to commandeer me for his stupid war.”
“It isn’t all bad, being a battlemage. You learn how to do some pretty awesome stuff. I can light just about anything on fire. And I can turn piss into whisky.”
Embrielle groaned. “Doesn’t sound all bad, but I hear enough about the loving war as it is. Only good thing about it is that as long as the King needs my father, I get to live in your bigass castle.”
“I like having you in my bigass castle.”
They shared a private smile, eyes red-rimmed, then dissolved into snickering.
“... I don’t drink it.”
“What?” Embrielle blinked her big, foggy blue eyes. That was a little far back in the conversation for her mind to process. Jheyroot smelled awful, but it was just what the apothecary ordered to help one forget one’s problems. Problem was the Lady Ambergris found she forgot more than just her problems when she smoked the stuff.
“The whisky. I mean, even if it’s whisky now, I know it used to be piss.”
Though that was a somewhat incongruous moment to be overwhelmed by emotion, Embrielle felt her throat go tight. It wasn’t fair, her father separating them. She wasn’t sure if he had his head further up his spellbooks or his rear end.
Fortunately, the Grand Magister of House Ambergris was so preoccupied with his wargames that he barely saw his daughter. That heated argument wherein he stated in no uncertain terms that she was to cease all contact with his delinquent pupil, the Magistrix? May as well have never happened, in Embrielle’s eyes. He could start preventing her from doing things by being around to prevent her from doing things.
“How are your sketches coming?” Jidya’s change of subject was skillful, and Bri was grateful for that.
“Well enough,” she said. “I think I’ve got the characters right for transmute metal, control metal, attract metal, and repel metal. Haven’t practiced much. I was afraid if I spent too much time in the test chambers Dad would notice.”
“We can practice here, if you like. He’s busy with the Admiral for the rest of the afternoon.”
Embrielle’s face lit up like a sunrise over the bleak peaks of the Grimfarrow Mountains.
“You don’t mind?”
“Of course not.”
Jidya passed the charcoal to her friend and they began.
The dark harbour was full of creaking, groaning noise, yet as far as Bri could tell the ships were unoccupied. There were four of them, three schooners and a grand frigate from the Mainland, sent by the Realm for her father’s training manoeuvres. He hadn’t been home yet; no doubt he was off swanning around with the Admiral.
She twirled the stick of charcoal in her hand as she crept up the ramp, stealing aboard His Brilliance Eternal. Her boots made nary a sound.
There was something surreal and unnatural about ships. She hated them. The slight rolling tilt of the deck beneath her feet, the heavy masts like manmade trees, the canopies of sails like tethered ghosts. Some might call her a landlubber, but that was fine by her.
These monstrosities dwarfed the oarships of the Sound’s local navy, and they had mainlander technology to boot: six tidy, squat-barreled cannons each. And not the long gun variety the locals used. These were smoothbore carronades. Powerful and expensive.
She let out a disgusted “ugh” to herself. I’ve heard him ramble about this poo poo so much that I’ve memorised it. Gods.
Crouching low, she crossed the deck to the closest of the cannons.
Am I really going to do this? She fingered the charcoal and caressed the cool cast iron of the barrel. The plan was simple: a couple of glyphs on each of the cannons and when fired, she’d control their ammunition, causing the cannonballs to plop harmlessly into the water. Harmless but endlessly embarrassing.
She peeked over one slim shoulder at the brooding bulk of Glimmerloft Castle, its stained glass windows like many watchful eyes. The eyes seemed focused elsewhere tonight, because no one was coming her way.
Her silent sabotage concluded without incident. Embrielle charmed each of the cannons with quick strokes of her charcoal and coaxing whispers. When she touched the iron, it warmed beneath her hand, eager to obey her, but she murmured, “Not yet.”
The annual defensive manoeuvre display by the Magisters of Glimmerloft drew crowds from far and wide. Embrielle lounged atop the ramparts, contempt twisting in her stomach. Her father spun this great magickal circle-jerk as a celebration of his students’ craft, but Bri knew the truth. Aside from being a presentation that glorified his personal genius, her father loved the manoeuvres because they perpetuated the culture of fear he so desperately thrived on.
Those people below her, they weren’t there to watch the show. They wanted to feel protected. They wanted to be oohed and aahed for comfort’s sake. The Realm would of course oblige that. And her father would don his robes and bluster down by the docks until the public’s fragile hearts were satisfied.
As these thoughts ran through her head, Embrielle realised she had learned more than simply magick in her secret sessions with Jidya and the way her father subsequently forced them apart. She’d learned disdain.
The manoeuvres did not go as planned for victim or saboteur.
The Sound’s oarships, laden with battlemages, fanned out through the harbour. The air about them twinkled as the mages raised their wards. Bri was too high up to hear the announcements from her perch along the parapets, but she could imagine it, could hear her father’s pontification in her mind’s ear.
The Realm’s schooners approached the oarships from further out, drawing closer and closer until they were parallel to the enchanted vessels. Bri saw the flash, the smoke, and the sparkle before the boom of the cannons reached her ears.
She balled a fist and willed the cannonballs toward her. The invisible threads of magick that bound her to the iron faltered. Something in the metal resisted her call. No matter how hard she pulled, the metal felt heavy and reluctant.
Magickal hell broke loose all over the flotilla.
Propelled by her spell, cannonballs rocketed from their barrels with supernatural speed and force. The ammunition whipped through the air, forcefully aimless, each ball several pounds of pinging iron that didn’t slow or stop no matter how many collisions it encountered. They bounced and ricocheted off the oarships’ defensive wards, then ravaged their own ships like a swarm of angry bees.
Embrielle flapped her arms, gesticulated wildly, and it did nothing.
The cannonballs swooped and dove, more osprey than bee now, and they peppered the decks of the Realm’s vessels with holes. One snapped a mast, then another plowed a hole straight through the chest of an unfortunate bosun. The ships’ crews scrambled for shelter, any shelter, and she could just barely hear the panicked screeches of spectators on the shore.
Eventually, one of her father’s battlemages dispelled the cannons. Their ammunition plunked harmlessly into the sea.
The young Lady Embrielle Ambergris had learned in her magickal studies with the Magistrix Jidya Annerswift that the glyphs for control metal and repel metal are very similar. A shame she didn’t learn not to study while high on jheyroot until it was a bit too late.
|# ? Jun 9, 2014 01:04|
The sign above the office door said “Nathan Reeves, Anomaly Adventurer”, and he tried his best to live up to the image it promised. With a synth-leather outfit and electrowhip on their hip, most people would be the spitting image of the adventure heroes of old. Nathan, much to his constant chagrin, was not. With his bright blue eyes, sandy blond hair, and soft facial features, he looked more like a kid who was straight out of high school than a seasoned explorer. Thankfully for the health of his career, the results he got more than spoke for themselves.
An incoming call alert on his holoscreen tore the slouching Nathan’s attention away from the news report he had been watching, which had been discussing a couple rookie adventurers mysteriously found dead in what was supposed to be a benign anomaly. The cold, professional voice started speaking before Nathan could launch into his standard welcoming spiel. “Hello, Mr. Reeves. I am a representative from the Yuliv Corperation. We understand that you’ve successfully completed several high-importance jobs for us in the past.”
Nathan nodded attentively, straightening up in his chair. The Yuliv Corperation was one of his best-paying customers, which of course meant that anything they wanted him to do would likely be exceedingly dangerous. “That’s true, Ma’am. What do you need me to do today?”
The representative continued, her words tinged with slight approval. “Good of you to get straight to the point. An hour ago, an anomaly emerged in the Delta-Three sector of this planet. Our scanners have detected a large deposit of valuable minerals inside this anomaly. Your task will be to locate and mark the way to this deposit in order to facilitate future pickup by our personnel. We do caution that this anomaly has been categorized as ‘deadly’.”
Nathan grinned. It’d been far too long since his last real job. “Nothing I haven’t handled before. I’m in.”
“A pleasure to be working with you. We’ll send the coordinates to you immediately.”
Nathan whistled softly as he caught his first glimpse of the anomaly below him. It wasn’t the oddest thing he had ever seen in his years as an adventurer, but he still hadn’t been prepared to see a giant Egyptian pyramid sitting in the midst of a vast, flat, plain. He carefully brought his ship to a landing a safe distance away from it. Anomalies tended to mess with the electronics of anything that got too close to it, and even now his radar was detecting another ship where there was nothing but empty space.
It didn’t take long for Nathan to uncover the pyramid’s entrance, once he reached the giant structure. After about half an hour of searching, he came across a section of the wall among the base that was colored slightly different than the rest. A minute of carefully feeling around it later, he pressed a portion of the wall in with an audible click. The discolored section slowly slid up, revealing a dark passageway that even the not-exactly-tall Nathan had to crouch down in order to enter.
Nathan activated his helmet-mounted flashlight and crept through the passageway, keeping a careful eye on the floor as he moved forward. Enigmatic as they were, every anomaly followed some sort of greater guideline. If you knew the rules and kept an eye out, you’d be perfectly safe through even the most nominally dangerous anomalies. Even now, Nathan hesitated before stepping over a segment of the floor that was raised about an inch higher than the others. An anomaly would never kill you without some sign of danger, but those signs could be hard to spot indeed for the untrained.
The walls around him were lined with a neverending series of Egyptian characters, but Nathan doubted that even the best Egyptologist in the universe could decipher meaning from them. The symbols were arranged haphazardly, tilted randomly, sometimes overlapping completely with other symbols or not even being fully formed. This, too, was common to all anomalies. They mimicked humanity’s creations, but failed to ever produce anything of meaning or substance.
Nathan swore. An adventurer had to be patient and methodical, but this pyramid was testing his temper dearly. He had come to a fork in the corridor, and had chosen to go left. That corridor had branched off into another fork, which branched off into another fork, which branched off into yet another fork. From what he could tell, systematically going down each and every fork, they all ended in dead ends.
The tedium would be bad enough on its own, but these empty corridors were still laced with traps, and Nathan had already had several close calls. Still, he couldn’t give up. The minerals could be at the end of any single one of the hallways, after all.
Nope. Three hours wasted, and nothing to show for it. Nathan groaned, leaning back against the wall of the original fork. Sometimes, you found unintentional works of great beauty inside of an anomaly. Most of the time, though, you got crap like that. Doors that lead to nothing but other doors. A passage that winds its way across a mile in order to take you to a place three feet from where you started. There was no rhyme, reason, or anything approaching rational design. It was rare, but not unheard of for there to be an anomaly that had to be outright drilled through, due to even the entrance being inaccessible.
With a sigh, Nathan got back to work, heading down the right corridor this time. Thankfully, there were no forks at all this time, just a long, featureless pathway devoid of even traps. Not thankfully, the corridor didn’t lead to anything but a deep, dark pit. Nathan swore again. Looks like he’d had the luck to be assigned an unsolvable anomaly. The corporation would still pay him for the portion of the anomaly he had mapped out, but nowhere near as much as Nathan would have gotten from locating the minerals.
“Aw, why so mad?” Nathan heard, and before he could turn around he was kicked hard in the back and sent hurtling into the pit. Desperately flailing about, Nathan managed to get enough of a handhold on the wall to stop his fall for a moment. He turned, getting his first look at his attacker. A woman with short, black hair, dark skin, and deep brown eyes stood there, aiming a revolver at him with a grin on her face. “Sorry, hon, but this anomaly’s treasure is mine for the taking. Now, be good and drop down, or I’m gonna have to use this pretty little gun of mine.”
Nathan broke out into a cold sweat. While he knew it was theoretically possible, the adventuring community was tight-knit enough to make anomaly poaching an almost unheard of crime. Even a rumour about you screwing over a fellow adventurer was enough to get you blacklisted from every reputable buyer. From the look in this woman’s eyes, Nathan could tell she wasn’t overly concert with repubility.
If he was gonna go down like this, Nathan sure as hell wasn’t going to go down alone. “Sure, Miss, but it’d be mighty selfish of me to have this beautiful ol’ pit all to my lonesome.” In the blink of an eye, Nathan reached for his electro-whip and lashed it towards his assailant. The whip curled itself around her leg, and the smug look on her face turned instantly to panic. She fired off a round at Nathan, but the whip pulling at her made the shot go high into the ceiling. Nathan let go of the wall, and they were both sent down into the pit.
Nathan was still alive. That was a start. Even better, the hired gun had been knocked unconscious by the fall. The floor beneath them was unbelievably soft, which was likely the only reason either of them were still alive. This, too, was not quite out of the ordinary. Anomalies could screw you over and save your life in the space of a minute.
That wasn’t all. After recovering enough to get his bearings, Nathan was able to see what, exactly, was in the chamber they had fallen into. Rich, sparkling minerals, spreading farther than the eye could see. He could see the tell-tale discoloration of an exit on one of the walls, too. Nathan grinned. Looks like he hadn’t lost his paycheck, after all.
|# ? Jun 9, 2014 01:20|
The Ocean's Daughter
Read it in the archive.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 00:17 on Jan 2, 2015
|# ? Jun 9, 2014 01:20|
How I Learned I Was Gay 1325 Words.
I squeezed the bar and pulled my shoulders back into the bench. Seven plates and then some. I drove my heels into the floor, imaging that I--and not the bar--weighed 380 pounds. I squeezed harder, willing the bar to snap in half, I felt strong enough to do it; my lats and my pecs and my abs and every muscle in my body flexed and signaled their anticipation. Then that massive weight was above me, pressing me down into the sweaty leather. I lowered it to my sternum; a chunk of iron more than twice my body weight threatening to crush me, and it felt so good. Then I exploded. All the protein shakes and early mornings and not getting to party, I channelled all of that discipline into the weight, and it rose straight up as if on rails.
Everyone cheered, but whatever surged through me was louder. The spotter took the weight from my hands, and I jumped off the bench. I saw Katherine cheer and smile, but Bobby got to me first.
“Bro!” is all he said, but I knew exactly what it meant, it meant ‘you just set a state record and I’m so loving proud of you.’ It meant, ‘we had trained hard together and sacrificed so much, but--God--it was so worth it, wasn’t it?’
Then Bobby gave me a bear hug, the kind where he tried to crush me. He wouldn’t crush me though, not today, not with the pump I had going after such a massive bench.
“I’m so proud of you, Chandler” Katherine said, but it sounded like a line from a bad movie. She must have see my disappointment, because she squeezed my bicep and said, “You’re so strong.” I had explained many times to her that the bench press was a compound lift, and that while the bicep plays a big role, it’s more about engaging as many muscle groups as possible. Maybe it’s just something girls could never understand.
“Thanks, babe,” I said, “clean and jerk is next, and it’s my most important lift, so I gotta get into a good headspace. We can celebrate after.”
Bobby and I practiced with just bumper plates. He needed work on his second pull, so I watched him go through a few runs. “Your grip is too narrow,” I said, putting my hands over his and forcing them out an inch or so, “try it like this.” He smelled good, but I dismissed it as nostalgia; I had a lot of good memories lifting with him.
The intercom announced the break was ending, so Katherine brought me some water and we moved to the staging area. I thought it was just me, but I didn’t like how her makeup looked. I could always see it as this separate entity existing on top of her face: her mascara was just a dried casing stuck into and gunking up her eyelashes, and her lipstick reminded me of little kids eating shaved ice and not wiping their faces off afterward.
“You smell good,” I said, it was one of the things I knew I could say to make her happy. A little bit of effort here and there would keep her off my back in the long run.
“Thanks! I’m trying a new perfume, I was worried it isn’t subtle enough.”
“No, it’s great,” I said, though she smelled like a spice rack.
I watched a lot of my competitors, and only a few were on my level. I could probably win the whole thing and go on to nationals if I got 260 on clean and jerk, which I could do in my sleep. I wanted to go pro though, so I needed to start making a name for myself before college. I decided to go for another state record and do 290. I had failed 285 last week, but after that bench and from the high I had, 290 felt in reach. Go big or go home.
I knew Katherine would tell me not to, but she didn’t even know how much I could lift. I guessed she didn’t even know how much a plate weighed. Bobby would support me, at least.
The judges called me up and announced I was going for 290. Bobby grabbed my arm, “290? Really, man? I want you to win this thing, do 280 and this is a done deal.”
Bobby had failed on his squat and wasn’t going to even place. “I can do this, Bobby, I don’t want to just win this little state thing, and I’m not going to win nationals with 280. I thought you were on my side?”
“I am, I am. Jesus though, 290?” He would never say it out loud, but what he wanted to say was: ‘You can’t even do 285.’
I just looked at him, daring him to say it.
“Okay, Chandler, just...uh...be safe out there man.” He ran back and left me alone before I could reply. He’d never told me to be safe, just to lift heavy and hard.
I stood in front of the bar and started my breathing. I needed perfect execution if I wanted to get this much weight off the floor and over my head. I saw Katherine messing with her phone, she probably wouldn’t put it down until I moved toward the bar. Didn’t she realize that breathing and getting ready was part of the lift? It might have even been the most important part.
The first part of a clean and jerk is just like a deadlift with wider grip, and deadlifting 290 was baby steps to me. I lifted it straight up as I locked out my hips. When the bar passed my waist I went into the second pull, the pull I had been helping Bobby with. The goal was to flip the bar from the thighs to the shoulders, to get the weight above my head as I sunk down into a squat position. I flipped the weight above my head and sunk down into a squat, but I overdid the flip and brought the weight too far backward. My body wanted to topple over, and I wish I had just let myself fall back right there, but I wasn’t willing to give up. I began to stand even as I struggled to stabilize, I made it about halfway up when the bar slipped straight out of my hand. I felt something hit my head as I fell, and my neck crunched. Then I felt a rush of warmth all throughout my body. Only my head hurt.
I heard Katherine screaming, but I could only hear her somewhere out of my field of view. I knew I shouldn’t move my head, so I only really saw the ceiling, and one of the judges above me. Then Bobby.
“Son, can you hear me?”
“Yeah, yeah, I think I’m fine.”
“Can you squeeze my hand?” he asked. I felt him touch my hand, and I squeezed.
“Good, can you wiggle your toes?”
“Sure,” I said, before I tried to. I couldn’t move my legs, let alone my toes. I tried to flex my glutes as if I were about to bench, but they didn’t respond either. I started to cry then.
“I can’t feel my legs.”
Bobby grabbed my hand. “You’re going to be okay man, you’re going to be okay. We’ll be lifting together again in no time.”
I didn’t believe him, but I ran my thumb along his palm, and it felt so nice.
“What the hell, man?” Bobby said. I pulled my hand away, realizing what I was doing.
“It’s normal during injuries like this,” the judge said.
I looked down and saw a rock-hard boner pushing up my onesie. It was the last and most important boner I ever had, the one that made me realize I was gay.
|# ? Jun 9, 2014 01:37|
A Dog is for Life (863 words)
“Come down, Indy,” said Friend. Indy jumped off the back of the wind machine and saw the Tree Place for the first time. The trunks reached up to the sky, and between the gargantuan trunks was a dense, lush brush. A bird flew out of a bush; Indy barked and ran after it, diving into the shrubs.
Yelping in alarm, Indy jumped back out. The bush had scratched his sides, and Indy wanted to be certain he scared this vicious thing away. He barked aggressively, but the bush just sat there in defiance. Friend made a happy noise, and Indy turned and ran back to him. The evil bush was forgotten as Indy panted and accepted Friend’s loving pets.
Indy and Friend walked up a clear path into the Tree Place. They wandered for a long time. Sometimes Indy would stop in the rushing water to drink and play. Other times Friend would stop and look through her box. Indy loved to explore, meet (and chase) new animals, bark at sudden movements, and generally get himself far ahead of Friend. When she called, he would sullenly return to her side only to dash ahead again a few minutes later.
The sun was bright and high up when Friend stopped and sat on a rock. Indy smiled and hung his tongue as Friend took the food from the bags on his back and poured it on the ground. He ate the food with gusto, dashed off to the rushing water, and returned even more excited. “Good boy,” said Friend, patting his back. She pour some water in her mouth and then shouldered her own bag.
After the meal, the path became much more difficult. The incline grew, only flattening out for a bit before resuming its climb up the mountain. Large rocks interrupted the path. In a short time, Indy was panting, hot and tired. Friend was wet and smelly, and they stopped regularly. Indy loved these breaks, as Friend would pet and praise him.
They came to a place where the trail disappeared into the rushing water. “Stay,” said Friend, and Indy laid down on a patch of grass and waited for Friend to return. Friend seemed upset when she returned, and Indy wanted to be a good dog. He followed her through some brush, dealing with the scratches and bites as he kept up. They reached the edge of the rushing water again.
A huge tree had fallen across the water and died. Friend jumped up onto the tree and began to walk across it. Indy jumped up behind her, following closely behind. The water below was moving fast just below the log, rushing through and over the rocks. Indy’s paws shook as they neared the center of the log, and he faltered. Friend kept going for a bit, then turned to face Indy.
“Come on,” said Friend. “Come, Indy.” Indy tried to obey, moving one paw forward, then another. Friend moved closer to him, reaching her hand out. One of Indy’s rear legs slipped. He dropped his belly to the log and frantically grabbed at the tree, trying to stop his fall - but it was too late. The water rushed up at Indy and consumed him.
He couldn’t swim, couldn’t smell, couldn’t see or hear. His breaths burned his lungs. Hard things hit his head, his sides, and his back as he tumbled under and through the water. It was hell, and then he felt his collar pull. The water rushed away from him, and Indy fell into the biting grass. He retched and vomited water onto the ground, and then coughed until he vomited up his lunch.
Friend’s smell was close by. Indy found her laying against a tree in the tall grass. Her arm was hurt, and dark water was running out of her head. She smelled like sickness. Indy nuzzled her, and Friend’s eyes opened.
“Indy…” said Friend. “Good boy.” Indy smiled and moved to accept a feeble caress from his Friend. She made sad sounds. Indy wondered if Friend knew she was dying; he wished he could tell her so. Instead, he gently licked Friend’s arm and head, cleaning off the dark water. At first, Friend made more sad sounds, but now her eyes were closed. Indy moved under Friend’s arm and snuggled close.
Friend stopped breathing.
Indy whined. He cried for Friend. As the light faded, small animals came to eat Friend, but Indy growled, barked, and scared them off. A large animal came through the brush, but it did not come near. Indy growled at it, just to be certain.
As the sun came up, some other people came through the trees. Indy barked at them, but they were not afraid; he growled, but they kept coming. One of them reached for his collar, but Indy snapped and the person pulled their hand back. Indy watched as they made sad noises. More people came. Indy tried to keep them away, but they loaded Friend onto a flat thing.
Indy walked right next to the flat thing the entire way down the path. No one else would hurt Friend. Wherever Friend went, he would follow.
|# ? Jun 9, 2014 02:01|
docbeard fucked around with this message at 15:41 on Dec 25, 2014
|# ? Jun 9, 2014 02:09|
Welcome to fail town, population: me.
|# ? Jun 9, 2014 02:13|
|# ? May 25, 2022 13:51|
Life happened in a whole bunch of ways. I'm out.
|# ? Jun 9, 2014 02:29|