I (and possibly one or more other judges) will be live critting stories via google hangouts. Details will be available in IRC a bit later today. I reserve the right to eject any random weirdos and/or creepers for any reason whatsoever. This is mostly incentive for the writers; the earlier you submit, the more likely it is you'll be able to watch us suffer through your story LIVE AND IN COLOR.
|# ? Jul 19, 2015 18:50|
|# ? Feb 2, 2023 17:41|
WEEK 151 CRITIQUES
Entenzahn—Man vs. Corndog
Uh…I’m not sure what this is, but I know it’s something.
I mean, when you look at this story through a certain lens, it’s incredibly touching: it’s this guy, a survivor of a nuclear war, who goes back to this abandoned amusement park and tries to capture some innocence from his childhood through this frozen food, and he’s willing to sacrifice his life in order to reach it, and then at the very end it was in no way worth it. You, in all honesty, could have won with this story, but you undermined yourself throughout with the tone you chose.
As the story goes on, it becomes more laughable. You start out with a great setting, described incredibly well, and then there’s the joke about fast-food places being like this before the nuclear war, which makes me exhale a little bit, because I’m less sure I should take this story to heart. And then the corndog talks, which destroys any pathos you may have had, because not only is it a talking corndog, it’s a talking corndog that’s designed to provide over-expository dialogue. Everything this corndog says kills the tension in the story by illuminating Senter’s thought process completely. You have written the worst talking corndog ever. Given the number of talking corndogs in fiction, you have also written the best talking corndog ever.
Thranguy—The King of The Crows Makes an Offer
I think the reason I was attracted to this story so much is because you did the most with the source material. This story was probably the best at conveying a sense of reality, even in the midst of fantasy, just through its strength of character.
I think this story deserved an HM because it was enjoyable to read, the characters stood out in a good way, and the story did a lot with an old premise. The one thing I wished for was more resistance from Georgina’s desire to trade her life away, so there would be that much more of a conflict, but as it was, there was just enough. But in the future, “just enough” might not be enough. Figure out where you can push the story further next time.
Lazy Beggar—look against, fade together
This story had the dark surreality I like, and there was a lot of tension in the way you wrote it. But there didn’t seem to be any opportunities to recognize character, so the tension really had nowhere to go at the end. It’s hard for me to care about these characters when I don’t have much of an idea what they’re like, which was the corner you painted yourself into with the conceit you chose. I still thought the plot was interesting enough to carry the story to the end, but in the future, focus more on building character—you were under the wordcount enough to provide more depth.
Benny Profane—The Hanged Man
The writing in this story was very polished, which saved you in a lot of ways.
My main issue with this story was that even though the characters and setting were well-constructed, I couldn’t see what their purpose was. There’s a lot of what in this story and not a whole lot of why. Why does Tom hang Abby? Why does the owl save her? Why does Abby come back to hang Tom, other than for some sort of empty justice?
It’s not that there was no logic to anything that happened, it’s that there was no real resolution or payoff, other than at the end where Tom gets hung by Abby. The characters don’t really interact with each other, other than to kill or resurrect each other, and I think that was what kept this as an okay story rather than a great one.
Fausty—Just A Widow
Plenty of deals with the devil this week, wonder what motivated that.
Anyway, this is a stock revenge piece, blank and flat. You gave me a whole lot of two-dimensional plot with no character whatsoever, but for what it was, it was competently done, and I was feeling charitable to whoever actually had the balls to submit a story, so guess what, you got off easy. Read more, and what’s more, think about what you’re writing, and why someone would want to read it.
If you participate in Thunderdome, it’s a good idea to write a story, not a character study. And if you absolutely must write a character study, write about a character who’s at least likeable. And if he’s not likeable, at least make him interesting.
This was not good, plain and simple. You could have salvaged it somewhat by including any sort of conflict, whether interior or exterior, but everything about this story makes me think that you were just trying to coast by on a character that you thought was dark and brooding, when in reality he was just “dark” and “brooding” and wholeheartedly static.
Grizzled Patriarch—Catch and Release
Nothing that bad to say about this story except the thing that you’ve probably heard tons of times before—it’s sort of missing a sense of warmth.
The characters you’ve created are like diamonds: shining, multifaceted, beautiful, and cold. It’s hard for me to get a sense of humanity from them, even though they look like humans and act like humans and make mistakes like humans. Maybe the lack of dialogue contributed to that. Actually, now that I think about it, I can’t remember a lot of stories that you’ve written that have featured communication between people, like face-to-face communication. Maybe that’s something to think about.
Great story, nonetheless. The ending was a bit off—the questions the narrator asked themselves at the end seemed a bit transparent. Glad you were here to make our final decision somewhat harder.
Sitting Here—Milkweed In June
I chose this story for the win because it was a novel concept, executed fairly well, and I just had fun reading it, plain and simple. Fiction’s first job is to entertain, and this story entertained in a lot of ways.
I do think that the sections with Milkweed were much better than the sections with June, but I subscribed to Broenheim’s interpretation that they weren’t meant to be complete parallels, and that the latter was there to serve the former. If a second draft of this ended up being longer, you could easily solve that problem. But Milkweed was such a great character, so intelligently described, that it didn’t matter all that much. It was a fun story to read, and you managed to write a story about souls being exchanged without involving the Devil. Thank you.
|# ? Jul 19, 2015 19:57|
It Runs in the Family
My Grandmother Nellie had a bottle full of water that would never empty out, no matter how much was poured out. It held about a liter and a half. She kept in in her refrigerator, and, when she was thirsty,she took it out and poured some into a glass. Then put the bottle back into the refrigerator and drank the water. She didn't tell anyone about it, not ever.
When Nellie passed and the family was cleaning out the house for sale, the bottle got put into a cooler along with the other contents of the refrigerator and went home with Uncle Marcus. Marcus unloaded the diet sodas and beers that Nellie had kept, strictly for guests, into his second refrigerator, down in his basement. He left the bottle in the cooler and the cooler in the basement and forgot about both.
At some point the cooler must have been jostled, knocking the bottle on its side. Either the cap loosened itself or water pressure made it pop off. Either way, water filled the cooler and then began to flood the basement. Marcus didn't notice until the water was more than a foot deep. He went down in galoshes to try and find the source of the water himself, and tripped over the cooler. This struck him as strange, as he expected that a cooler would float. He reached in, pulled out the bottle, and discovered its extraordinary property when he turned it over to try to empty it out. He thought about it for a few seconds before taking it upstairs. He dried the outside off, and put it in the main upstairs refrigerator. This, in his opinion, was not the sort of thing plumbers or homeowners insurance adjusters ought to know about.
The plumbers and repairmen were expensive, and the insurers skeptical about the unexplainable flooding. Marcus told the family about the bottle and Aunt Glorfindle, possessed of a recent windfall, bought it off Marcus for five thousand dollars. She started a business bottling and selling the magic water to those people foolish enough to believe such an absurd truth based only on the evidence of their own eyes. Three years later, she hadn't even recovered her initial investment, and so she sold it to Uncle Jebulon at a significant loss.
Jebulon was an ornery cuss, and he used it as a weapon. Leave the bottle overturned in a sealed container and the pressure builds up, eventually breaking the container open with explosive force. He used this setup in the post office where he worked and ruined thousands of pieces of mail. To his surprise he found the bottle intact and recovered it immediately afterward. After that, he got more cautious and more ambitious. Bury the bottle in the right place for a few weeks and, well, the sinkholes that took out his ex-wife's house and the East Indiana Federal Building are what you get. Of course, we didn't know any of this at the time. One day he came to our house and gave my father the bottle, saying that he didn't want to have it with him when they caught him. He was arrested the next week and is likely still in prison. The government won't say exactly what he's being charged with, citing several different national security statutes.
Dad was a scientist. He tried to study the thing. The water was unremarkable, not completely pure but with nothing to distinguish it from water from any natural spring anywhere in the world. He came up with schemes for turning the bottle into a perpetual motion device, but the waste water problem was harder to deal with than the small amount of power was worth. He had worked out some theoretical concepts involving steam or creating higher pressure, but the risk of breaking the bottle itself was too great. From Jebulon's experiences he knew it was durable, but these plans would have required it to be at least as strong as diamond. Since he had no idea what would happen if it did break – if it would just be shards of normal glass or if the water would flow forever with no way to stop it – he never put those plans into effect. He kept studying it until he was too sick to go on. His little brother, Uncle Yotzle asked for it then.
Yotzle took the bottle to one of the most drought-devastated parts of Africa and provided free water for the poor. This worked well for a short while. Then soldiers from the government came and accused him of operating an illegal well, stealing from the local water table. Soldiers from the largest faction of rebels moved to protect him, and the region erupted in a fresh round of civil war that lasted months, with every faction wanting to find and control the mysterious well with the crystal-pure water. Yotzle and his organization were all killed in the fighting, but after things calmed down a little, the American Embassy was able to collect his effects and send them to his next of kin, which was me.
The Bottle was in the box they sent. It was the first time I'd seen it empty. It began filling up as soon as I picked it up. My guess is that it only works for our family, which is probably why nobody managed to sell it to some rich collector of oddities. I plan to keep it in my refrigerator and pour a glass of water from it when I get thirsty. And maybe make the occasional cup of tea.
|# ? Jul 19, 2015 20:41|
WEEK 151 CRITIQUES
Thanks for the crit. Much obliged.
|# ? Jul 19, 2015 20:49|
Jackson wasn’t supposed to be upstairs. If he stepped too hard, the dry-rotten floor would give away beneath him; stood too tall, the protruding roofing nails would split his skull. This was how he lived, always hunched, middling between two faults. Before his mother had retreated to some place of bitter self-affirmation, she told him, “Jackson, you drag that drunk-rear end father of yours out of bed and make him get your winter clothes from the attic.” But when dad drank, no amount of shaking, shouting, or face-slapping could break him from his torpor. He was always drinking. Mom knew that.
There would be benefits to the separation: two sets of birthdays and holidays, two chances for first kisses and new friends in new neighborhoods, less parental meddling. Today, that meant inviting over his best friend, Will, instead of packing.
So while he waited for a knock on the door, Jackson looked through Buddy’s things. “Your grandfather could fix anything, Jackson,” his mother told him, “cook anything, and do anything he set his mind on. Be like Buddy. Don’t become your father.”
Jackson wondered how he could be or become anything, when nobody, not mom nor dad, would teach him.
“Jack?” he heard from below.
“Up here,” he called.
“What’re you doing?” Will asked.
“Just looking at old things,”Jackson said as he slid the cardboard box over to his friend, “Buddy’s military stuff,” he said, “flight logs, shell casings-”
“A pack of smokes! Wow man, you think they’re still good?” Will asked as he slipped the yellowed paper pack into the tight pockets of his baseball uniform before diving deeper into the box. “Are you coming to my game this afternoon? Valerie will be there.”
“Val’s all yours.”
“No way,” Will declared, “I know how much you like her.”
“You like her too, and you’ll actually be here in six months. As for the game, I can’t, mom says I need to have everything ready to go at six when she comes back.”
Jackson stared into the worn box as if the bottom ran all the way through the basement. “It’s crazy,” he began. “Seems like just yesterday both Buddy and Granny were here. Now there’s this.”
An odd, silent, discomfort fell on the boys.
Seeking desperately to break the moment, Jackson reached blindly into the box, grabbing a random item to produce, “but,” he said, “there’s also this!”
It was thin and long, a straight razor cased in mother of pearl and as elegant as the name engraved into it with sterling silver script, ‘Lucille.’ Opened, it may have been an alligator’s jaws, patient and hungry, and just as dangerous. While other metals in the box had rusted in the humidity, Buddy’s old canteen, his service pins, Lucille shone as brightly as the day she was first cut.
“drat,” Will said, “they don’t make them like this anymore.”
“What would you know about shaving?”
“My dad showed me last year.”
“You’re full of it!”
“Am not. Look,” Will said as he extended the blade and set it to rest against his tender neck. “You need to soap up really nice and-” Jackson noticed that Will’s hands were trembling. “Go,” Will took a breath to steady himself. “Against,” the blade edged through the stray hairs under his chin. “The grain.”
“Easy,” Will trumpeted as he flipped the blade into its guard.
Neither realized that Will had cut himself until the blood started pooling at his feet.
Thankfully, Jackson had taught himself to use the first aid kit in the kitchen. Wash with soap, sanitize with alcohol, and protect with gauze; it was simple, and they were finished right in time for Will’s game.
While the boys stood on the porch, speaking their goodbyes, Lucille sat in her sanguine pool, soaking it in like a sponge.
“Hit a homer for me?” Jackson asked.
“And a stolen base,” Will added.
Jackson rolled his eyes, “If you’re so confident, maybe you should give me two of each, goodbye presents,” he suggested with an outstretched hand.
It was a deal.
Jackson was in his bedroom, wrestling with sticky packaging tape, when he heard a banging on the door. His dad might have been bothered by the noise were he home, but he had left for the pharmacy an hour ago and probably wouldn't return for three more.
“Jack,” he heard, “open up!”
The moment after Jackson flipped the deadbolt, Will burst through the door, coated in sweat and dirt. Clearly, the game had been hard fought.
“You’ll never believe it, man! Two dingers! Two stolen bases! Who ever heard of a catcher doing that?”
“For real?” Jackson asked,
“Well, I did promise,” Will said.
“You could also promise to fly away like a bird. You’ve never hit a homer in your life.”
“I know, Jack! It was like someone swinging the bat for me; truth be told, it felt like it too.”
The boys fled to the farthest part of the yard to examine the blade.
“Was the name always this way?” Jackson asked as he fingered the onyx script.
“The handle wasn’t red before,” Will added with amazement, “Did the blood stain it?”
“That’s impossible; it’s waterproof. Will, you promised me those home runs.”
The two heard a car pull into the driveway and honk twice; Jackson’s mother had returned.
“So what’ll you promise me, Jack?” Will asked, “If Lucille is responsible, then you could have Val love you forever. You could fix everything with your parents and stay here.”
“You can’t make promises for other people,” Jackson said while closing his hand tight around the blade. “I have to go now, but I’ll always be your friend.”
“That a promise?” Will asked.
“Promise,” Jackson answered while ripping the handle from his fist.
They shook on it. Blood brothers.
Jackson pocketed the blade as he walked away. The injury was severe, but he would survive, and if his mother asked, he’d tell her that he cut himself in the attic.
|# ? Jul 19, 2015 22:08|
The Frame Job 998 words
Two years with nothing but impersonal Christmas cards and a refusal to commit to my wedding. And now, according to the hasty scrawls on a cheap postcard, he needed me more than anything. Why? I flew out at once – anything to bring back one of Christ’s lost sheep to the fold.
My knuckles rapped against the door, and I cast my mind back to our last angry conversation years prior - the restored cross necklace around my neck seemed all the heavier, thinking of Jake. The man who opened the door snapped me from my thoughts: all of Jake’s features were in the right place, but everything seemed so wrong, his eyes sunken and his hair grayed. I successfully managed to keep most of my things together from the shock, save for a single pamphlet - a haunting, yet beautiful image of Christ crucified on the cover. Jake stooped to pick it up, frowning as he stuffed it between my fingers.
“Never miss a chance, Fred?” he sighed, straightening his broken glasses. “Come in.”
I expected a rigorous debate. What I got was an hour of talking at Jake, the takeout forgotten in my attempt to elicit any sort of emotional response.
“You know I would do anything for you, Jake. I can help you check out this place...” I grabbed one of the pamphlets and opened it up, showing off all the happy little people in their happy little pews.
Jake held up a hand.
“Anything,” I said, not hesitating.
Jake tugged at my arm and dragged me back to the entry hall, refusing to answer any of my questions at his burst of sudden liveliness. My last question was nearly swallowed up in an attempt not to vomit, having expected the musty smell of attics everywhere when he lowered the steps – not the foul, unholy stench that washed over me. I braced myself, ready to bury a corpse for Jake.
Instead, the walls of the dim, poorly insulated room were piled high with pictures. Stacks of paintings, printouts, even the occasional drawing in crayon winked out at me from the piles. There was no sense to how they were arranged, beautiful portraits and landscapes mixed with terrifying and lewd images. Only one spot in the room stood out, a desk littered with notebooks, VCR tapes and a camera tangled in rope. Nearby, a tiny photograph of a forest hung on the wall, much too small for the chipped, wooden frame that displayed it.
“Jake – what is all this?”
He gave me no answer. Instead, he resumed his grip and dragged me over to the frame, shoving my arm through the glass. When my brain caught up to what exactly happened, I screamed and nearly tumbled into a pile of paintings from jerking back from the strange sensation. Pine needles tipped with dew clung to my sleeve.
“A portal, Fred. A portal. Infinite worlds. Dreams. Possibilities. Paintings. Pictures. Everything. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing!” His voice cracked as he pulled me closer. “The infinite! Your God is nothing. We could be gods! To create worlds!"
We stood there for a moment, the shepherd and the sheep listening to the howling wind. I opened my mouth to speak, but Jake saved me from blathering some irrelevant bible passage with the first of his sobs, the frail man slumping to the floor.
I searched my mind for any bit of wisdom for just such a situation - but came up blank. My fists balled at my side, not even realizing that I still held the Holy Church of Christ leaflet in my hand, the image of Christ and the cross crumpling in my fingers. Realizing the blasphemy I committed, I straightened out the pamphlet, going to great lengths to flatten out the face of my savior - and staring into his pained eyes, I found the beginnings of a plan forming in my mind. An opportunity to share Christ's love.
Whispering a protective prayer, I took the frame from the wall and switched the photograph for the smoothed pamphlet. Testing the surface of the glass once more revealed that not only did the portal work when off the wall but my own weakness – how I yearned to go through. To be so close, but so far from my Lord! I moved forward, frame raised over my head like some improvised murder weapon, only to have Jake look up at me at the last moment.
“Please, Fred. Stop it. The voices. The worlds. I've seen so much, I'm so tired."
I found myself paralyzed like a deer in headlights, the frame feeling so very heavy in my hands. Jake sat still as every prayer for his soul over the years went through my mind. The lost sheep, the last of the hundred was so easily within my grasp. Doubts slammed through my mind—
Can I be the good shepherd?
I would do anything for him.
For the lost sheep.
—I screamed as I brought the portal down—
Can the good shepherd force his flock and still keep their love?
—and snapped the brittle frame over my knee.
Tossing the broken thing of the devil aside, I slid to the ground and wrapped my arms around Jake, holding him close. Laughing, already wondering if I made the right choice, I realized that I was shaking even more than Jake.
“Come on, Jake,” I whispered, unaware of how much time we spent in that cluttered attic. “Let’s go get dinner, let’s get out of here. We’ll get dinner, my treat.”
“Fred?” Jake's voice seemed clear, more awake.
“No more talking about gods - your God or otherwise.”
"Yeah, okay. We'll wait to—"
I swallowed, the idea hard to process - but nodded.
|# ? Jul 19, 2015 22:24|
(In the archive)
docbeard fucked around with this message at 15:42 on Dec 28, 2015
|# ? Jul 19, 2015 23:16|
Fate’s funny. I mean, if you believe in that sort of thing. I didn’t used to. But of all the bases my husband coulda been put, they put him at Fort L.F.B. That’s just ten miles down the road from my grandma’s old farm. The farmstead was still in the family, but it had changed hands a few times between my aunts and their kids. We were never all that close to mom’s side, since her and dad moved away to the east coast before I was even born. They moved because dad was in the service, too. And I ended up with a military man, as fate would have it. When I told my mom the news, she said her sister Kathleen was getting ready to rent out the old house again and maybe I would be interested in just buying it outright. It was cheap as hell, and close. What are the odds?
The other reason we wasn’t that close with mom’s side is that my grandma, was, quote, “kind of kooky” (mom’s words). She used to tell my mom and aunts these crazy stories for bedtime, full of talking animals and palaces. She never read to them, just made up these nutty stories. But the thing was, she insisted -- til the day she died -- that the stories were true.
heard ur moving to gram’s?? my sister had texted me. hope u don’t catch somethin. they dont have loony bins anymore
lol i dont even think mom’s stories are true. prob just made it easier on her to … not see her for so long, yknow? I’d said back.
We … weren’t exactly welcomed by the Gales. They acted like we was snooty. Like we thought we was better than them for living in the east coast while they tended pigs and cows in the midwest. David would spend long, odd hours at the base, and I was left alone at grandma’s house. Even though there’d been renovations and a few of my younger cousins had started a couple families here, they left a lot of her stuff. Maybe out of respect, I guess. Mostly in the basement and the attic. Lots of boxes of old-timey farmhand clothes. I found an adorable dress, checkered blue (there’s another word for that but I can’t remember it) and I imagined my grandma wearing it around the dusty old farm when she was just little, a prim and clean dress of bright blue against a background of dusty gray, brown, gray.
I’d been telling my sister about some of the stuff I was finding … some of it was real weird. All together in this one box was some tin metal scraps, a red bow like you’d put in your hair, and just a bunch of … straw. I figured they must have used to use the straw to suck up moisture back in the day.
u should try and find her diary, my sister suggested. supposed to be just bonkers
lol dont u think i havent been trying?!
I didn’t find the diary until months later, because I had started to get bored of finding boxes with outdated shoes and old halloween costumes. She kept the diary for years, but she didn’t write in it all the time. There was some things about the depression, which was kind of interesting, and lots of, well, the usual, you know? Teenager poo poo. Drama. Pages of little doodles about some dog she had. She must have loved that thing.
But the rest of it was just as my mom had said. It got worse at it went on.
See, the thing is, grandma’s first diary entry is pretty obvious that she’s still a totally normal, sane teenager. Then she had this dream. Or a nightmare, depending on how you look at it, I guess. She wrote out, in pretty good detail, everything that happened in the dream. Wrote about how she killed not one, but two witches. And one of them witches had henchmen that were, like, a cross between a monkey and a bat. And they wore uniforms, like little mutant nazi soldiers.
But then, as time went on, she wrote more and more about the dream. Apparently, she kept having it. For several months, she had that dream every night. I can’t even imagine. Then she’d have variations of the dream, she’d wake up in a cold sweat, because she couldn’t kill the second witch. This second witch was one mean bitch. She set her one friend on fire and let her henchmen tear the other friend apart. She actually ate her little dog in front of her.
No wonder she lost her damned mind. I bet her folks would have taken her to a shrink if they lived in a city instead of godforsaken Kansas.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 00:34|
The Top, 893 words
John looked back at the passed out form of Mike on the couch, and felt a tinge of guilt. The beers and whiskey had done their trick, and his friend was all but dead to the world. Mike probably wouldn’t even realize his betrayal. And it was his fault, really - John had tried to do things the right way.
John reached out, and put the spinning top in his pocket.
Mike hadn’t realized the significance of the top when he brought it out. It was a small metal thing, like a toy out of a cracker jack box. Mike had been pretty buzzed when he held it up, and with a drunken flourish, he set it spinning. “My grandpa gave it to me. Old man claimed it was good luck.”
“That’s cool,” John had replied, looking down at his phone.
“Naw, man, look. It’s still spinning, right? Freaky.”
John had looked up then, and watched the top for a bit. After about a minute, he started a stopwatch. The top simply kept spinning. Mike talked about other things, and John had half-listened. Finally, around the 20 minute mark, John reached forward and picked the top up.
“What’s the trick?” he asked, turning it in his hands. “Magnets?”
“Naw, no trick. It just really spins,” Mike replied. “Here, you spin it, wherever you like.”
Two hours later, and it had still been spinning, and Mike was completely wasted. John pulled out his wallet and held up a fiver. “How much for it?”
“My grandpa’s top? No, man. That’s like… an heirloom. It’s lucky.”
“Seriously, Mike, this is crazy. I need to study it. For science.”
Mike laughed. “It’s just a top. Forget about it, John.”
“Yeah…” John said quietly as put the bill away. He poured a nice big glass for Mike, and a smaller one for himself. “Here, have a sip.”
“John, you dick, give it back!” Mike was standing at the front door of his apartment, pissed off as all hell, when John opened up.
“Mike! What’s up?”
“You know what’s up! Give it back! I told you, it was my grandpa’s lucky top.”
''Your top? Mike, I don't have it. Are you sure you didn't lose it at the party?" John tried his hardest to act natural, believable. He could feel the smile on his face - fake, misshapen. He was a terrible liar.
Mike stepped back, and shook his head in disbelief. "I thought you were better than this, John. Keep the top - it's worth more to me to know who my real friends are."
John watched him leave. He considered calling out to Mike, saying he's sorry, trying to explain. But the march of science was more important than that - the top was too important. He closed the door and went back to his home office. The stopwatch next to the top had just reached 38 hours, and John wondered how many video his camera could hold.
"Mr. Pearson, the reason we've called you into the office is this: your co-workers have issued multiple complaints over the last week, both for rude behavior and wasting valuable University lab time."
John rubbed his sweaty palms against his pants. "I'm sorry that I've been, uh, unpleasant. I'm just very close to a breakthrough with my research. I-"
"You called Mrs. Anderson a oval office, John. You called her that, because she wouldn't let you use her time on the spectro-analyzer to identify the materials in a toy."
"A top, sir, and it's extremely vital. What I'm doing now is going to revolutionize physics. Everything we know about angular motion and entropy must be wrong, the top proves-"
"Go home, John."
He blinked in disbelief, sitting still for the first time since he came into the office. He gripped his knees until his knuckles were white.
"You have three months of sabbatical built up. You are going to start using them today, John. You are going to go home, relax, and let whatever this is pass."
"But my research is-"
"A waste of time, John. A top doesn't spin forever, end of story. Get help, John. Get some rest. Marcy, please have Mr. Grayson escort Mr. Pearson out, then please send in my 10 o'clock." The security guard came in, and gently led John back to his office to collect his stuff.
"The world doesn't make sense, and I cannot abide that. All my research, all my investigation, has revealed one simple fact - the top does not obey physical rules. There is no trick, no explanation - it simply ignores the law of entropy. The unraveling from this point is as complete as it is horrible. There are no laws that govern this universe, and as such all science, all materialistic views of the universe are wrong. Chaos reigns, and all attempts to understand it are ultimately futile. My PhD is as valuable for knowledge as a roll of toilet paper. I don't want to exist in a place like that anymore. I will not be ruled by petty gods and capricious demons. Forgive me - I’m sorry."
John signed the paper, carefully double checked it for errors, then set it aside. He spun the top, watched for a moment, and sighed. He picked up the pistol, put it in his mouth, and pulled the trigger.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 01:33|
Hey guys, this is Schneider Heim's story, but he can't get on the forums before the deadline so I'm posting it for him.
The Ballpen of Truth
I check my English essay at home, and I find out that something's really wrong with my ballpen. Whatever I had written was replaced by the following:
I really like Julius Aquino, even if I couldn't care less about basketball. It's because he's in the top ten and he's really cute? idk
Cue Mrs. Abella's angry red remarks and a big, fat 65% on the paper. I wrote my thoughts about early American literature, but I was thinking about Julius the whole time. I look at my ten-peso black ballpen, bought from the campus bookstore after losing the last one. Thank goodness I haven't used it on anything else. Yet.
I find an unused notebook, and write my name in it. I close it, count to three, and open the cover. The text changed.
I don't believe this
Oookay. I try it a few more times, thinking of things I like: mangoes, math, and Julius. The page is filled with his name.
Pop quiz: If you find a magic ballpen that reveals one's innermost thoughts, what do you do with it? For me, the answer's obvious.
It's easy to steal the pens lying on his desk. Julius sits directly in front of me, and no one would ever suspect Maria Clara Ramirez, class topnotcher, to be capable of petty theft. Hah!
I stare at my newly-bought slumbook with glee, its first entry filled up with my own details, using a non-magic pen.
When Julius gets back to his seat, I tap the back of his shoulder with the slumbook.
"Hi. Wanna write on it?" I ask.
"I didn't figure you for a slumbook person," Julius says, smiling (kyaa!).
"Well, I guess I need to... know my classmates more, right?" His eyes are the color of milk chocolate. I try not to think of the implications.
Julius looks at his desk and frowns. "Now where are my pens..."
"Use mine." I pass the magic ballpen to him, and he quickly starts writing.
I think of learning Julius's innermost thoughts. What's his favorite food? His favorite subject? Does he have a crush? It would be really cool if he actually crushed on me, too, but let's face it--no one gives me a second glance. It's lonely at the top.
Julius presses the slumbook and pen back to my eager hands. It's as if his smile never left his face. I mouth a word of thanks and hide my grin until he's facing the blackboard.
I open the slumbook to his page. Sure enough, the magic ballpen altered whatever he had written there, turning them into the truth. All of the lines were filled with the same sentence:
I want to die.
I just stare at Julius's back, but he doesn't look back. The rest of the day is a blur. Julius recites a few times, finds a pen on his own, and eats lunch with his friends. I steal glances at him all day, but his smile doesn't crack. How? Why?
What would make him want to kill himself?
I text the driver that I won't be taking the school bus home. I run after Julius, who's walking to the tricycle stand at the foot of the hill.
I discreetly tug his sleeve.
"Ramirez? Need something?" He's surprised to see me.
I walk closer and say to his face, "Please don't kill yourself."
Julius blinks, his milk chocolate-colored eyes registering shame. He pulls me away. "How did you know that? I... I haven't told anyone."
I take out my slumbook and show him what he had written.
Julius's shoulders slump. "But that's not what I wrote."
"It's the ballpen," I say. I explain what it does, and Julius shakes his head, but he doesn't dispute me.
"Why shouldn't I just disappear? Dad wouldn't have to put up with a burden and a disappointment anymore."
I didn't know Julius had so many issues. What do you say to someone who's given up on living?
"Crepes!" I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. "The crepe stand at Robinson's has a buy one take one sale. We could split the cost, or I could treat you if you want! Just don't... don't do it..."
I'm not really good at this. But Julius's smile is back, and he's laughing softly, and somehow I don't need the pen to tell me how he's feeling. "Okay, let's have crepes."
"Promise me you won't kill yourself first."
The crepes tasted as good as I thought they'd be. I got a mango crepe and Julius got blueberry. We look like a couple, sitting on a bench in the center of the mall.
"I needed this," Julius says. He finishes the last of his crepe and sips his iced tea.
"So, can you tell me what's up?" I ask.
Julius winces. "I'm only playing basketball because Dad used to. I'd rather study, really. Maybe even beat your ranking."
"You've got a long road ahead of you, grasshopper," I say.
"Yeah. It would suck to lose the athletic scholarship, though... Dad's really gonna kill me for that."
"Then maybe you could turn it into an academic scholarship."
"Heh, that's a good idea." Julius checks his watch. "I need to go." He stands up.
"Let's eat crepes again tomorrow," I say. "And if you ever need someone to talk to... just give me a call?" I write my landline number on the crepe wrapper and pass it to him.
Julius takes out his phone, looks at the wrapper, and laughs. "This explains a lot. Use another pen?" He returns it.
The crepe was so delicious and I like you!!
I want to cry. But I write my number with my other pen. Julius saves it in his phone.
"Can I borrow the magic pen, too?"
"Sure." My voice is dead, and I'm prepared for the incoming rejection.
Thank you, Ramirez.
I break into a smile. "Call me Clara."
I can't wait to get home.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 03:31|
"Oh, let's stop," Catherine said when the sign for the Forgotten Treasures Flea Market rolled into view. Her friend Matthew groaned, but he waved his assent as she flipped on the turn signal, and within minutes they were surrounded by the artifacts of other people's lives.
Catherine steered a wide course around a table full of salt shakers, most of them shaped like the Campbell's Soup kids for reasons she didn't want to know. She brushed past a display of thirty-year-old soda bottles, unopened. "Hey, they've got paintings," Matt told her. He gestured to an array of paint-by-number horses.
"I did that kit when I was a kid." Catherine pointed at a cluster of brown and blue globs that failed to resemble a horse running on a beach. "Looked about that bad, too. What's this?"
On a nearby table stood a cobalt cylinder, either end capped with brass. Catherine picked it up, shook it, and heard it rattle. She grinned ear to ear and held the kaleidoscope to her right eye. Aqua, violet, peridot, and ruby glass fell into the pattern of a spoked wheel. A turn of her wrist, and the colors tumbled into a sunburst shot through with amber. Another twist knit a doily from color.
"Can I see?" Matt asked. She lowered the kaleidoscope.
The market broke into shards in her eye.
Catherine clapped a hand over half of her face. But when she brought it down, she still saw salt-shaker peach and linoleum grey and Matt's-hair brown as glints in a fractured circle. Her left eye perceived Matt's frown and her own trembling fingers. The mixed vision stabbed her gut with nausea.
The kaleidoscope dropped from her hand onto the floor with a crash of shattering lenses. Matt took her arm and guided her on out into the sunshine, which whirled into a lacy pattern interrupted by fragments of sky. She pulled free and doubled over, gritting her teeth against vomit.
Matt wanted to drive her to the hospital, but she convinced him to take her to her house--how could a doctor understand or believe that she had a kaleidoscope eye? Maybe after she slept, it would be gone.
Only it wasn't. Not that day, the next day, or the next week. Catherine's kitchen shattered anew whenever she tilted her head. The tree outside her front door collapsed into lozenges of chrome diopside. The half-finished painting in her bedroom exploded into shades and tints, and her brushes dried out. She didn't want to think of shape or color. She could still debug programs, and she distracted herself with her day job, working so many extra hours that her boss forgave her the eye patch that didn't strictly conform to the dress code.
"But you aren't happy, Cat," Matt said over the phone.
She'd told him her problem one evening, drunk--him and a few other friends at the same house party, and unlike them, he refused to avoid her. "I'm coping."
"Sure. Maybe. That's not the same thing. Look, how about a hike up Pinnacle Mountain this weekend? I'll bring my camera, you can bring a sketch pad."
"I threw them all out."
That left him silent for a good minute. "Okay. If you see anything you want to paint, I'll take a picture for you."
"I don't want to paint! Let it go." More silence; she said sharply, "I'll come on the drat hike if you promise to drop it forever."
"No deal. But--"
"Paint my portrait. You promised me once. After that you'll never hear a word about art from me again, cross my heart, hope to die."
Catherine closed her left eye and covered it with her hand to block out everything but peaceful black. But a promise was a promise, after all.
She went on the hike; she drew him pointing to a bird, sitting on a log, squinting into the sun, with a camera held to his face. Half a dozen pages were eaten by sketches of what her left eye saw. In moments when he was preoccupied, she lifted the patch over her right and drew his eyes as dots of beer-bottle brown in a ring of suntanned flesh, his pale blue shirt the spokes of the wheel. The crescents of white at the edges were his smile. She'd meant to paint him broken and reassembled out of spite, resentment, but her kaleidoscope eye couldn't make him ugly. Another six pages filled up with his patterns.
Which way should she paint him? What did she want him to see? Catherine looked at him with both of her eyes.
With new, soft brushes she swept oil across canvas, defining a face that wasn't a circle, though chin and cheekbones and hair were splintered. A thousand brown irises formed a ring around it. The teeth were white and blue. The shirt was blue and black and silver, his camera a pinwheel over his heart. Half-forgotten jubilation warmed her when she put the brush down: Matt grinned at her on the easel, and she grinned back.
Catherine took the bus to his apartment to give him his painting. He stared at it; he held it at arm's length; he turned it this way and that, as one might turn a kaleidoscope. "This is how I look to you?"
"Now, yes. More or less."
Matt glanced at her. "Am I allowed to say it's brilliant?"
"Forget the dumb promise," Catherine said. "Come to dinner with me."
They linked hands on their way out to his car, his warm fingers brushing against a streak of paint on hers, and her heart tumbled into a configuration worth lingering on for a while.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 03:41|
Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 19:29 on Dec 30, 2015
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 03:41|
Fairybread. 657 words
Jake is coming over to play today. I haven’t seen him in a long time. His mom always makes him go and visit his other two friends. They must be really important people because he’s there all the time. I don’t think he likes them much though because sometimes he cries whenever he has to leave to go there. Nanna's made some fairy bread then we are going to go play in the tree-house.
When I hear the knock at the front door I go running to answer it.
“Hi Mrs Windbourne. Hey Jake! Come in.” I say.
“Hey Tammy” says Jake
Jake looks different, he’s skinnier since I last saw him.
Nanna and Mrs Windbourne tell us to go outside and play. We take the lunchbox full of fairy bread with us and run out to the tree-house. My granddad built it for me in a big, old, macadamia tree before he went to heaven. There’s a hole in the tin roof and the floor always ends up covered in the fallen nuts.
“So what are we going to do in the tree-house today?” asks Jake.
“It’s not a tree house! It’s a spaceship” I say. I’m looking out the window at the sky. My steering wheel is long and rectangular, about the same size as a lunchbox lid. We didn’t notice that my tree-house until just now. But now we both see it.
“Ready for blast-off trusty alien friend?” I ask Jake.
“Why do I gotta be the alien?” he asks. He kind of looks like one, but I don't say that aloud.
“Because its my spaceship and I’m the Captain. You’re lucky. I tell him. "Aliens usually have special powers.”
We count down and blast off into space. The moon whooshes by and we’re flying past Saturn.
“Woah” we both yell as I steer around an asteroid field on the edge of the solar system.
“We’re off to try and find more alien friends” I tell Jake. “But we’ve being flying for a long time, be better eat something.” Our astronaut food is sweet and crunchy. When our bellies are full we continue our mission.
“Oh no!” Jake yells. He gives me such a fright.
“What is it?” I ask.
“Tiny, man-eating, space monsters!” He yells kicking at the little round creatures. “They have hard shells I can’t squish them!” The monsters roll about the floor, attacking and retreating.
“Hold your breath.” I shout “We’re gonna open the door and they’ll get sucked out into space.”
The airlock opens and all the little monsters are sucked out into the emptiness of space.
I look over at Jake. He’s grinning.
“Jake, you didn’t hold your breath!” I complain.
“I don’t need to, I’m an alien remember!” he replys.
“Aliens still need to breath stupid!” I tell him.
“No it’s okay.” he says grinning wider, the he shouts “Because I’m also a robot!” He lifts up his shirt to show a series of tubes and wires. I fall over backwards with a fright and he’s laughing so hard that he starts to cough.
We’re back in the tree-house now. But the tubes and wires are still there. Jake explains it to me and I think I get it. He’s not really a robot. It’s something to do with his other friends that live at the hospital. Their names are Luke and Mia.
Apparently the tubes will make him feel better and then he can come play more often.
Jake’s mom calls him in. He has to go see Luke and Mia now.
“Bye Tammy. It was good playing with you. Thanks for the fairy bread.” he says and starts climbing back down the tree.
I ask Nanna how long it will be until Jake can come play with me again instead of Luke and Mia.
She smiles a little bit but still looks sad.
“Soon I hope darling” She says.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 03:54|
“Ok, Smile!” Kiko pressed the button on the side of the camera. “I can barely hold this, I wish I had a selfie stick!” She pulled the camera back in, shaking it and pressing buttons along the sides. “Donna, can you try it?”
Donna took the camera and pushed forward through the crowds in Times Square. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to get a good shot, let’s see if someone else can take the photo.” She looked down and thumbed through the last couple of pictures. “Does something look off to you? I think the color balance is weird, my hair looks really washed out. Is this some kind of filter?”
Kiko’s face pressed up against hers as they looked together at the tiny LCD. “I don’t know how this thing works - I borrowed it from work.” They walked together into a coffee shop and sat down in a corner booth. Kiko smiled and lined up another picture. “It’s fine!” Snap, click. “She won’t even notice it - we’ll be back from this trip before she gets back from her conference.” She turned the little box over in her hands while they ordered coffee to take the chill from the winter air. “Something doesn’t look quite right here, take a look.” She handed the camera back over to Donna. Donna grimaced. “Why do I look so old in this picture?” She leaned in closer to the little screen, searching the picture “And doesn’t this shop look odd? There’s nothing out the windows. It’s all grey.”
Kiko stood up, and grabbed the camera from Donna’s hands. “I’ll try another shot, maybe I just don’t know how to use this thing.” Snap, click. Snap, click. Kiko took two more shots of Donna. She looked down at the LCD, gasped, and dropped the camera on the floor. Her face drained completely. “I’m… I’m… I need to go the bathroom, I’ll be right back.” She stiffly walked away, looking furtively around the room, before finally closing the single stall door and clicking the lock into place.
“What the gently caress?” Donna grabbed the camera off the floor, looking at the cracked screen on the back. “Kiko, what did you see?” She called. “Hey, I’m eatin’ here! You girls take it outside!” came a yell from a table near the back. She frowned and stood up, moving towards the door. Three bangs later and the small bathroom door was locked. “Kiko! What did you see? What’s going on in there? Are you ok?” She tried a few texts to Kiko’s cell and a phone call. No response.
Donna’s stomach dropped and a feeling of dread crept through her body. Fighting down a bitter taste in her mouth she yelled one more time “Call me when you get out! I’ve gotta go!” as she dashed out the door and back onto the crowded streets. She fought her way through the masses of people, searching the side street that would lead back to her hotel. A few hurried turns later, she found herself in a corner room lit with ambient glow of the city. Three more steps and she was at the desk already waking her borrowed work laptop out of sleep mode. She fished a cable out of her bag and ran the connection from the camera to the laptop. The words “D.A.R.P.A. Login” flashed on the screen as she pressed her thumb on a small scanner. Two clicks, into the camera’s on-board storage. She mashed on the trackpad racing over to the last image the camera had taken. Two more clicks.
A grinning ashen skull greeted her, with the remains of the coffee shop opening out to a blinding flash of a frozen mushroom cloud in the distance. She felt a bead of sweat roll down her back as she thumbed backwards through the photos. The flash and cloud slowly retreated as her skin covered her skeleton once more. The photos continued backwards, moving back with them out into Times Square. She looked old and the city looked different. Gone were the modern day trappings of advertisements and Broadway banners, replaced with foreign script and armed shapes on balconies in a grey haze. She landed on Kiko, no longer was her co-worker smiling, but rather her face was grim and her parka had been replaced with a uniform. She clicked through the series further and further and the images faded into white walled test room photos until she landed on the very first. It was digital, and had a series of block letters. “D.A.R.P.A. Experiment #AA3784 - Temporal Research Program - CONFIDENTIAL”
Her laptop let out a loud, long beep. A message appeared on the screen “ALL STAFF: MAJOR SECURITY BREACH - NATIONAL SECURITY RISK” She clicked her trackpad two times, Click. Click. A bright flash and a deafening boom shook the hotel, then the white light, and finally nothing.
This is my first time doing Thunderdome, or writing anything for like, five years. I get the feeling this is going to be rough.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 03:55|
The Beachy House’s Gift
Like most old houses, the Beachy House stood disjointed in time. Not just a weathered cabin in the South Carolina dunes, to Sandra the house remained new, the same place she lived with her mother and father, then just her mother, those endless summers. Other houses closer to the coast came and went, washed away by floods and hurricanes, replaced with bigger, newer houses. The Beachy House, miles from the coast, remained safe and isolated.
Walking barefoot across the Beach House’s always sandy wooden floor, Sandra too felt disjointed. Pittsburgh, and her ex-husband along with, seemed not just miles, but years, a whole different life away. Sandra also felt weathered and isolated as she examined dusty heirlooms trying to reduce her mother’s clutter, only to put them back down again, unable to part from anything that reminded Sandra of her. One piece of stood out from the rest, an eyesore of painted driftwood, covered in touristy pabulum. It read:
Her mother must have bought it at some souvenir shop in town to replace one of the mocking family photos of a dead husband and an absent daughter. The silly plaque stood out like a gaudy umbrella in an otherwise desolate shore.
Sandra lifted it off the wall, determined to get rid of at least one thing. She flipped it around to see which mass-shlock producer had made it. Finding the back blank, she flipped it around again. A soothing wave traveled up her arms, loosening her shoulders, and releasing the stress throughout her body. The years had somehow washed off of her like sand in the surf. She felt as if she could run the whole way to the beach, across miles of hot dunes and thick vegetation.
A knock shook her part way out of her trance. She wandered toward the door in a daze, stopping at the mirror. Her wrinkles had disappeared. Her skin shone smooth and dark with a summer’s tan. Designer sunglasses had replaced her blocky prescription frames. Her thick city waist had slimmed down to that of a swimmer’s. Her scrawny typist’s arms had toned to that of a surfer’s .
“Hello?” a familiar deep voice called from outside.
She lingered at the mirror for another few seconds still in disbelief. She touched her face to confirm her senses were in agreement, that this was really happening.
She opened the door to find Bobby Preston. The years had hardened his face and grayed his stubble, but standing on the Beachy House porch, he was the same boy who'd come calling day in and day out those decades ago. His sun bleached hair hung down to his bare shoulders. A scar started below his nipple curving out across his bronze chest then bent back to his rib cage above his tight stomach, the mark of his foolhardy heroism in saving a young swimmer from a shark years ago. His cut off jean shorts ended in frayed tendrils running down his hard thighs like thin grasping fingers.
“Oh,” Bobby said. “I thought Sandra might be home. I saw a car and thought – are you a new owner?”
Sandra stood speechless for another moment, remembering her change of appearance. “I’m a cousin of Sandra’s. The Doyle’s still own the house. Can I help you with something?”
“I’ve just had a day. Was hoping an old friend was here.” Bobby peered inside past Sandra, hoping to catch a glimpse of her.
“You can tell me.” Sandra offered a weak smile.
Bobby examined her young face. “I don’t want to burden a stranger.” His eyes became unfocused. “I tried to save it. Carried the drat thing all the way to the vet’s office. Boys told me I was wasting my time. I’m a fire boat captain, not a marine biologist. Still, a sea lion’s too beautiful a creature to give up on.” The corner of his mouth twisted down for an instant. His frown flicked upward and he revealed his white teeth as he shook his head. “Listen to me, going on to stranger.”
Despite his façade Sandra could see his pain. He hurt in a way only a strong man can, bored into like solid rock. Such devastation of something so solid sends shock waves through all those around. “I’m sure Sandra will be back soon,” she said.
He brightened a way a person couldn’t fake, his forced smile softening. “Please tell her Bobby stopped by. It would be great to catch up with her.” He turned and left without so much as asking the young woman's name.
Sandra watched him go, padding barefoot down the sandy lane. On her way back to the magical kitsch she stopped in front of the mirror. The fun she could have in this young attractive body. All she had to do was drive in to town and wait at the bar for the men to come to her. But, whatever pleasures stemmed from such an outing, would be cheap, superficial. They would be as out of place in her life as a piece of driftwood with a corny list of beach buzzwords in her sacred Beachy House.
She lifted the plaque from the wall. She flipped it around and sighed. She flipped it back. Her arms at once felt heavier. Her youthful posture gave way to her usual deskbound slouch. She placed the painted driftwood on the floor. In the morning she would take it the dump with whatever else she cleared out.
After disposing of the eerie, unwanted gift, she would go for a run. She would give the Beachy House a nice new coat of paint. Then she would call Bobby as herself, not some young impostor.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 03:56|
It'll be rough if you go around making excuses like this.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 04:07|
flerp fucked around with this message at 03:03 on Jul 27, 2015
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 04:14|
Two hours until submissions close!
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 04:59|
King and Queen - 944 Words
Tanner Dawson could only think of two possible conclusions. Either he had somehow been robbed, despite being present the whole time, or his great grandfather’s creepy sex dungeon ate luggage. Not for the first time, he lamented inheriting the cabin.
White bishop to e3.
He once again opened the door to the back room, proving to himself that there were no other doors or windows. He felt along the coarse wooden walls, hoping there might be some trap door. It hadn’t technically been a sex dungeon, but by all accounts his great grandfather got up to some weird stuff. Still, there wasn’t anything he could find. He retreated to the main room, and stopped at the chessboard.
Black bishop to g7.
There were two traditions Dawson men held to. The first was that they should play chess. The second was that the cabin was to be preserved as a way for Dawson men to escape their wives and children. Tanner was going to renovate and sell the cabin to fund a vacation with his wife. However, he did still play chess. It helped him think.
White queen to d2.
The chessboard was the most ornate he had seen in person. The actual board was marble set on top of some dark, wooden base - maybe cherry, complete with drawers for storing the pieces. The pieces were made out of some kind of heavy stone, though Tanner couldn’t even begin to guess what. He pondered black’s next move.
Black pawn c6.
He spent a moment considering how to shore up white’s defenses before shaking himself free. Aisha had gone to get takeout, and he at least wanted a solid explanation of how their stuff had disappeared by the time she was back. He moved again into the back room. He still couldn’t think of anything. Two duffels and air mattress should not have been able to leave the room. Desperate, he tried the trap door angle again, this time rolling the room’s throw carpet. There wasn’t a trap door, but something seemed off, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He went back to the main room.
White pawn to f3.
Something was wrong with the carpet. He knew it but he couldn’t place what. He walked back to the back room.
There was no carpet. Great grandpa’s sex dungeon claimed another victim. Or had it?
On a whim, Tanner jogged back to the board, undoing white’s last move, and nearly tripped running back to the back room. The carpet was rolled up, right were he left it. He sprinted back to the chessboard, his now-shaking hands trying to replace the pieces to their starting positions, and darted back to the door, throwing it open.
Inside were two duffels and an air mattress that had been rolled out, but not inflated. Right where Tanner left them.
“Oh my god.”
He tested a few more times. When the chessboard was in it’s starting position, the stuff was there. When the board was in any other position, it wasn’t. Sometimes there were other things though. The board state changed the room. The Dawson cabin was a mansion, with thousands of rooms and one door for all of them. What else did the house hold?
Tanner could just place pieces at random and see what came up, but that hardly seemed productive. Instead, he went for common opening maneuvers. It proved productive. Petrov’s defense led to a miniature library. The Queen’s gambit, appropriately enough, led to a room designed for sexual encounters. Despite his horror, Tanner felt some pride knowing that he had correctly called that he had inherited a sex dungeon.
When Aisha got back, he would re-visit selling the cabin with her.
He continued to explore popular opening strategies, and he continued to find different treasures. With empty rooms, he began to plan out different ways they could be used. Could they get electricity to these rooms? Plumbing? Even if they couldn’t there was still so much they could do.
Another popular configuration occurred to Tanner. His father’s favorite board state.
White pawn to f3.
Black pawn to e5.
White pawn to g4.
Black queen to h4. Checkmate.
This room had a beige, metal filing cabinet set at the far end of the room. Inside the cabinet were files pertaining to every combination on the board and what it led to. Every room that had anything significant inside was, presumably, recorded here. He combed through the list, enthralled.
The door to the outside opened up.
“Back, babe,” Aisha said, “and I found the Home Depot, so we can get anything we need for tomorrow.”
“You have to see this,” Tanner replied.
“Sure, just let me set dinner down.”
Tanner scrambled through the files, looking for any particularly interesting set of rooms to show her. Several moments passed. Aisha had not come into the back room. He looked at a few more viable candidates for a room. One apparently had art, though he couldn’t imagine his father or grandfather appreciating any fine art. Another moment passed, and Tanner turned to call to Aisha again.
“You really should come back here-“
The door was gone.
Back in the cabin’s main room, Aisha hefted the black queen. She didn’t play chess seriously, but Tanner had taught her a bit. Enough, at least to recognize a checkmate when she saw one. She never liked that players never actually captured the king piece once they won. She decided to rectify the situation. She placed the queen back on the board, then charged it straight at white’s king, sending it off the board and tumbling across the floor.
“Checkmate,” she said.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 05:19|
The minute hand crept forward one more increment behind its wire mesh cage. Someone once told him that they put the clocks behind bars to remind the patients of their lot in life; all locked up with nothing but time. Daquan had smirked at that; he knew the real reason boiled down to the staff not wanting people getting stabbed in the neck with broken clocks.
The voice sounded annoyed, but he didn't bother to look up from his cleaning. The ragged old mop slurped across the floor of his immaculate room one last time. He'd promised to tell them everything today. When he finished his story, they'd no doubt move him to an even more secure facility where he would be watched until he earned enough trust and privacy to kill himself. Unless he wasn't just crazy...
“We just want to know what happened to Cesar, Mark and Cassidy.”
Daquan wrung his mop out in the shower and switched on the electric kettle. The look on the investigator's face was hungry, almost predatory, but Daquan paid him no mind. He'd talk once he had a nice cup of earl gray to soothe his nerves, and if the cop got a little nasty for being made to wait then so be it.
“It's funny how everyone cares so much about Cesar and Mark,” said Daquan in between sips of steaming tea.
“It's hard not to care when two promising young men from good families go missing.”
“There's a lot you don't know about them.” Daquan set his tea aside and moved over to the open window. He closed his eyes and felt the warm sun play over his skin, bringing him back to the memory of that summer. “They used to feed her drugs, you know.”
“Yeah. They used to feed her drugs and take turns loving her. Sometimes they'd let me--”
Daquan smirked. “I forgot. You just want to know what happened to them. You don't particularly care whether or not they deserved it.”
A whisper of a smile touched the edges of the investigator's lips as he scribbled something down on his legal pad. “Fine, Daquan. I'll bite. What is it that they deserved?”
“The people that took them. The people that came out the wall.”
“They deserved the...people that came out of the wall?”
“I don't know. But they're coming back today.”
“Daquan! Glad you could make it! Waddle your lumpy rear end back here!” Mark and Cesar burst into laughter. They loved to needle him about his weight, but he'd put up with it for what they were paying him.
“Just show me this thing you've built and give me my money.”
“Not until you get it working.”
“Cassidy said all I had to do was take a look at it. So I'm going to look--”
“And then you're gonna fix,” interjected Cesar. “Or I'm gonna punch.”
“Fine.” Daquan pushed through the clutter, crawling over stacks of dusty chairs and under leaning towers of moldy boxes. “So, how exactly did you come across these plans?”
“Well, we're out of beer money so we were looking through my grandfather's garage for poo poo to sell, like jewelry and poo poo.” Cesar led him over to a low work bench with some machinery on it. “We came across this book. There's no title, no author, no nothing. I think my grandfather, like, wrote it or something.”
Daquan picked up a slim, leather bound journal. Inside were wiring diagrams, hand-drawn sketches and pages and pages of instructions. Without thinking he slumped down into the chair, examining the parts they'd acquired and comparing what they had to what was needed. “You've actually gotten off to a pretty decent start,” said Daquan finally. “I have to ask though; why me? I hate you guys.”
“This is just business,” said Cesar. “Pop-pop was an engineer. Whatever this is, it could be huge!”
“I know you know about this stuff,” continued Mark. “I know you can make this poo poo work.”
“So,” said the investigator after a few minutes of re-reading his notes. “If you hated them so much, why did you help them?”
“I was curious. I also believe I mentioned the payment.”
“And did the device work?”
“What do you think?”
The investigator sighed and dropped his pen onto the table. “I'm having a hard time with this whole concept of the people coming out of the wall.”
“You can ask them yourself in about five minutes.”
“No one went into the wall.”
“Mark, Cassidy and Cesar did.”
“That should do it.” Daquan straightened from where he'd attached the last of the wires. They made the rough outline of a door before looping back into the control box. “Ready?”
“Yeah, if you wanna get the gently caress back behind us instead of standing right in front of it like a moron!”
Cassidy caressed the switch with her finger for a second before pushing it home. The garage instantly flooded with blinding light.
“So, they just took them into the wall? Why didn't they take you?”
“They only said that the others deserved it. They needed to pay.”
“So, the people from the wall left those three charred corpses in that garage? Not you?”
“They were angels from the wall. God burnt them where they stood. They're coming to take me to heaven.”
“And there it is, folks. I think we're done here.”
Daquan disappeared from his room that night. When the orderlies came to take him to the maximum security facility, all they found was a charred mark on the wall and a slim, leather bound volume filled with wiring diagrams, hand-drawn sketches and pages and pages of instructions.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 05:44|
A Promised Land
(They were) Hoisted, contained over the riverbed, the Monster said he would skin them dead. I heard him speak on the priorities of the weak and helpless. Hopeful misdirection is honey to the flies of desperation, it was a promise; long have the stories been told of a city made of gold in the heart of this jungle. A promise it was: Bundle your things, gather your kin, we will find our salvation from this famine and abandon this infertile soil.
The mask of Ranu, God of Generals, was ceremonial, worn on holidays in celebration of the Gods that protected the people of Archino City. It was a dark red wood, with a sharp nose and deep eye sockets. Nobody knew why the mask had constricted as it had, gnarled wooden fingers extended, intersecting and digging into the back of the Monster’s head and under his chin. Or why when the Monster looks at you, the false eyes of the mask would always stare into yours, and then you lose what you were just about to say. Why blood would sometimes drip from the nose of the mask and the corners of the Monster’s mouth. Nobody knew why the Monster no longer slept, but instead looked up at the stars all night, and whisper strange words. In the mornings, he would say he had spoken with the Gods, and he would look into all of us, and we would follow him.
Stories of a quiet young lad were told with equal parts comfort and concern, for the first few years. But all stories have stopped being told long ago.
There once was a man from Archino, who was to leave for Dolode. Upon his departure he consulted the Gods on the safest way to travel. “Always keep an arrow notched,” said Kanoi, God of the hunt. “Follow the river, life will always be there,” said Maldine, Goddess of water. “A subordinate’s life is not his to keep,” said Ranu, God of Generals.
The Monster approached the traitors, who were enclosed in wooden hands over the river. They had conspired to take the mass of us away from the Monster, but he had spoken with the Gods, and so, as explained, they were doomed to fail.
Rock in hand he stepped to each of them, and broke them; Fingers, then hands, then heads. A whisper lingered in his ears, it’s for the best. Broken bodies were skinned and dropped in the river, it’s for the best. A proclamation to the rest of the camp, hands and face covered in blood, it’s for the best.
Nobody knows what’s best, so again the Monster leads us into the jungle.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 06:25|
30 minutes remain!
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 06:30|
crabrock fucked around with this message at 05:45 on Jan 1, 2016
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 06:36|
Everything in the house was crooked. At some point the basement had flooded, then dried out again, and now going from the front door to the bedroom was like walking across the deck of a sinking ship, sliding port to starboard.
They’d spent the last two days clearing rooms, packing things into boxes and scrawling the contents on the sides in black marker. Amy had gone back home the night before—coincidentally, the same time the beer ran out—but she would be back down later, she said.
Claire brushed a loose strand of hair out of her eyes. It was strange, being back in this house again. She thought everything would seem smaller, diminished somehow, but everything was just the same as it had been when she was a girl. Aside from the crookedness.
She hadn’t even known about her mother until was too late. Not a single call, no letter in the mailbox, until things got worse and the hospital finally had to get in touch. A stroke, on top of everything else. Amy found out first. She called and told Claire what the doctors had already told her: that soon the family would have to make a decision. “The family” – as if it wasn’t just the two of them.
When Claire asked if there was anything they could do, the anesthesiologist said, “We can make her comfortable.”
So now here she was, packing what was left of her mother into cardboard boxes. Here were her clothes, some so old that they’d gone out of fashion and come back in. There were the limited edition Christmas ornaments she mailed out each year, treating them like an investment, assuring everyone that someday they’d be as good as gold.
Claire told herself that they were only things.
Even Claire’s room was just as she’d left it. Always the tomboy, with the racecar bed and the checkerboard flag blankets. When she woke up, the alarm clock showed six-thirty. The bedroom door was ajar, and a thin razor of sunlight fell across her. For a moment, she almost expected to see her mother there, shaking her awake before the bus came. Up you go, magpie.
Amy stopped by after work. They cleaned until midnight, gave up, plugged in a stereo and found a deck of cards in the kitchen cupboard and dealt hands of gin rummy across duct-taped boxes.
“Have you packed up her bedroom yet?” Amy asked.
Amy got up and came back with their mother’s jewelry box. Together they sifted through it, laughing over the costume jewelry they used to steal. Enormous hunks of colored acrylic that you couldn’t even pretend were real.
“I can’t find her ring,” Amy said.
“Her class ring. The silver one, with the little bulldog on the side.”
When they could find it, Amy said she didn’t want to play cards anymore. She asked Claire if she was sure that she didn’t maybe go through the jewelry before she got there, didn’t happen to set anything aside—for instance, a ring?
Then there was yelling, cards scattered, a door slammed. Claire sat crosslegged on the living room floor, ringed by a galaxy of jewelry. She listened to Amy’s car pull out of the driveway, watched the headlights receding through the curtains.
A sound behind her made Claire turn. She watched it coming down the hallway, wobbling like a flat tire. A plastic yellow egg. It rolled into the living room, bounced off of the baseboard moulding, and stopped near her foot.
Her mother used to put eggs out in the yard for Easter. She’d fill them with candy and folded up dollar bills, then hide them in the crook of trees, in the switchgrass, under the leaves. Buried in the dirt, with just enough of the color showing.
Claire picked up the egg and rolled it around in her palm. She opened it up and looked at the ring inside. Silver, with a little bulldog on the side.
She thought about calling Amy back, telling her about the ring, but something made her hesitate, and instead, she put it in her pocket. Maybe tomorrow.
She held the two plastic egg halves. She thought about the last time she’d seen her mother. The nurse has escorted them to her room. That hospital smell, rubber and bleach. Her eyes closed. She looked gray, sunken down inside herself. Claire reached out and touched her hand, in case she might open it and seek hers, but she never did.
Claire got up and carried the plastic egg to the end of the hallway. She held the halves together, leaving a small crack. She spoke into it, filled the empty space with words she’d meant to say, as if she’d picked up the phone and found her mother on the other end of the line. Just a conversation put on hold.
Claire closed the two halves and set the plastic egg on the floor. She nudged it with her toe, watched it roll back down the hallway and through the living room, wondered where it would stop.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 06:46|
Submissions are closed!
We'll be finishing livecrits tomorrow afternoon, time tba in irc.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 07:02|
I'm not gonna evaluate how well you met the prompt this week (you didn't very well). I will, however, evaluate how well you wrote a story. As far as I can see, you didn't really tell us a story. As it stands, there's not really a resolution, and nothing really to get closure on. I guess, in a way, if the story is, "We moved back to a place I grew up and found my Granny's diary. We thought she was crazy and it turned out she was," then you accomplished that at least. But it doesn't really lead anywhere. That said, I liked it in a sort of way, until the end, when I realized that it wasn't going to go any place.
The whole "text message written how they were received" is something I'm not a fan of, unless the characters misinterpreting it or struggling to read it is important in some way, especially because almost all cell phones auto-correct spelling and lack of capitalization now (I know this from shitposting on my phone a lot). Additionally, the text message dialogue, at the end especially, doesn't really do anything, or accomplish anything.
Character wise, it seems like you have got the person searching for a diary, the sister, and the Grandmother. I guess I kind of got a feel for the mind of the person searching for the diary, but it was pretty shallow and superficial, and her motivations for digging through the attic and diary are kind of nebulous at best.
My comments throughout the story are in bold.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 16:51|
This is a good story, and it meets the prompt for this week. I felt like you laid on the sadness gravy a little too thick, though. The mother comes off as just mean-spirited and cruel for the sake of being these things, or maybe just vindictive. She pulls a 180 in two lines, though, which is weird. It read like, from the way the character had been presented, she would have flipped her poo poo and burned the dog in a fireplace. I'm almost certain this is where you were going to go with this story until you decided that that was even too much sad gravy for your dead Grandmother potatoes.
That said, I liked it and think this is one of the best things I've read in the Thunderdome. I'm mostly pissed at you because I am envious of your wordsmithing. You were actually able to get me to think, "Awww, how sad," at what is either the story of a boy with his grandma's magic needle, or a budding (and permanent) hallucination psychosis. I don't have any linecrits because I could not improve the way your story was written.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 17:07|
A Promised Land
I picked this story, in all honesty, because I saw it was the shortest. I thought to myself, "This is gonna be really easy. I can just pound this out and look like I contribute a lot to the Thunderdome." But this is without a doubt that hardest thing I have attempted to read. I'm not sure what is being said here or why. I could not force myself to keep track of who was saying what and why. I think that if you had used a few hundred more words to give the story from a different perspective, I could possibly begin to understand why you wrote it.
The prompt clearly states that you were to write a story. With characters and motivations and growth throughout. I don't even know that this qualifies as a collection of scenes. This is incomprehensible on two rereads. I guess if I had to give you advice, I would say that you shouldn't hide what you're trying to write about. You might have the most interesting story on the planet hidden in there (you don't). But because of the way it is written, I have absolutely no motivation to dig through and figure it out. There is no incentive in anything presented, no mystery deep enough, for a reader to go, "Oh, something very deep and interesting is happening here". That's in addition to the fact that nothing deep is happening.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 17:18|
A Promised Land
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 17:24|
If anyone is interested, we will be finishing our live crits via google hangouts starting at 4:30 PST (about 1.5 hours from this post). We only have four more stories to critique, so it will be a shorter session than last night's FIVE HOUR MARATHON. For links and information, join #thunderdome on synIRC.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 22:00|
I picked this story, in all honesty, because I saw it was the shortest. I thought to myself, "This is gonna be really easy. I can just pound this out and look like I contribute a lot to the Thunderdome." But this is without a doubt that hardest thing I have attempted to read. I'm not sure what is being said here or why. I could not force myself to keep track of who was saying what and why. I think that if you had used a few hundred more words to give the story from a different perspective, I could possibly begin to understand why you wrote it.
ow. Also thanks for the crit. Also, I am so sorry, to the world at large.
|# ? Jul 20, 2015 22:16|
Week 154 Results Post!
|# ? Jul 21, 2015 01:53|
Week 154 Results Post!
This is amazing and I love you.
|# ? Jul 21, 2015 04:07|
THUNDERDOME WEEK 155: IT'S TOO drat HOT
Your mission this week is simple. Set a story, in any genre, somewhere that is uncomfortably hot. This can be any environment, from an office building where the air conditioning has failed, to a desert planet, to anywhere during the summer. The heat need not be central to your story, but it should play a role; I do not want to see a bunch of irrelevant weather reports.
Things to keep in mind:
It is too drat hot for flash rules.
Write an actual story, with actual characters, who have actual development.
No fanfic, no erotica.
Make me give a drat.
1,200 words. Deadline to enter is 11:59 PM CST Friday July 24, 2015. Deadline to submit is 11:59 PM CST Sunday July 26, 2015.
Beat The Heat With:
spectres of autism
docbeard fucked around with this message at 22:49 on Jul 26, 2015
|# ? Jul 21, 2015 10:14|
Screaming Idiot wipes his head with a dirty towel and throws it to the ground. If one were to look closely, the greasy sweat stains formed into crude letters: IN.
|# ? Jul 21, 2015 10:39|
|# ? Jul 21, 2015 10:49|
|# ? Jul 21, 2015 10:50|
I have spent a lot of time locked in a hot car, so I am qualified to do this.
|# ? Jul 21, 2015 11:08|
|# ? Jul 21, 2015 11:09|
|# ? Feb 2, 2023 17:41|
|# ? Jul 21, 2015 11:19|