The loser choice is completely indefensible. Do you really think two measly letters, a D and an M, actually count as stakes? Some people (not gunna name names but well know who they are) collect the drat things and brag about them, like they aren't just a symbol on their wasting their (admittedly fairly low-value) time on something they'll obviously be terrible at forever.
|# ? Sep 11, 2015 15:30|
|# ? Jan 27, 2022 20:53|
King of the DMs posted:
|# ? Sep 11, 2015 15:46|
The winner choice is completely indefensible. Do you really think two measly letters, an H and an M, actually count as rewards? Some people (not gunna name names but well know who they are) collect the drat things and brag about them, like they aren't just a symbol on their wasting their (admittedly fairly low-value) time on something they'll obviously be terrible at forever.
|# ? Sep 11, 2015 18:37|
Line by line, Screaming Idiot
Screaming Idiot posted:
Bullets screamed as Slide ran, but he was unafraid. Fear made you stupid, and stupid couriers died. Kinda like this, actually Slide leapt from one glistening catwalk to another, bathed in the golden hexagonal glow. He was in his element; the prey surrounded by hungry Wasps.
Goddamnit stop smirking, smirking is universally a jerk action and it doesn't make you a likeable but tainted anti-hero, it is just something pricks do
This story suffers from two key problems: it's dripping with cliché, and everything happens too late.
I literally imagine Slide wearing a trenchcoat. This is not a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm as bad for writing stereotypes as anyone else, but all this needed was some Chinese/Japanese lettering and the use of the word 'jack' and we'd have the full Gibson. No-one can avoid tropes, sure, but take one classic element and skew it something weird next time. Also stop saying neon, once was enough.
The closest this story has to meat is the choice at the end. It's not foreshadowed or anything – it just leaps out at us in the final third and expects to be a bigger deal than it actually is. The problem is that choiceshould be the meat of the story: it's where the character development has to happen, it's where we should care about what the protagonist does. In the end we don't. The majority of this story is 2000s-era free running. There's action but there's no reason to care.
Broenheim, I'm moving onto yours now, hold onto your hat or that god child you're devouring, whichever works for you
|# ? Sep 11, 2015 19:14|
|# ? Sep 11, 2015 20:30|
Line by line, Broenheim
I was wrapped around a rope as it was slowly got closer oh dear oh dear, this is not a good start to the water, dark fins circling underneath me. The Doppelganger looked at me, his dark mask void of any expression. Soon, the whole world would be covered in a mask, but not if I had any say in it.
Are you going for something here? With the terrible grammar, bizarre non-words and abandonment of basic punctuation? I have to be brutal and say that I don't think this was proofread or even skimmed once. It's really not good, which is a shame because I prefer it when you write good (a Thing You Have Done).
None of this even makes sense. Why do the sharks make collective decisions? It's not the silliness of the concept, the concept could work, it's just that you've run it through a meatgrinder yet you're still trying to sell it as ribeye steak.
|# ? Sep 11, 2015 20:31|
In, give me a
Edit: give me a loser instead.
lite frisk fucked around with this message at 21:47 on Sep 11, 2015
|# ? Sep 11, 2015 21:41|
Any chance you can settle this score once and for all?
Slow judging mediocre judging.
PoshAlligator vs Fuschia Tude: The Verdict
Both of you wrote stories with lovely shock endings that completely failed to land. One of you managed to populate your story with characters worth enduring the ride.
So how did you stack up? (Scale is 1-5)
Corsham's Best Ghost Hunters - PoshAlligator
Style 2: The dread said-bookism rears its ugly head more than once, there's too much load-bearing dialogue, and too much of it is unattributed, but everything is clear and while I don't think the prose elevates this especially, neither do I think it drags it down.
Structure & Pacing 2: The biggest problem I had with this story was the way it was paced. It starts out slow and meanders around, so that when we get a shock reveal suddenly dumped on us at the end, it's robbed of all emotional weight.
Characters 4: Everyone felt distinct, and felt just fleshed out enough to be a sketch of a real person, which is all I ask. By far the strongest aspect of this piece.
Prompt 3: Hits all the necessary beats I set forth in the prompt, but I wouldn't say it excelled with any of them.
Give-A-drat 3: This story is carried entirely by the charm of its characters. Good thing for you that's what I like in a story.
Killing Time - Fuschia Tude
Style 3: No obvious mechanical errors, at least nothing that really took me out of the story. Some of your dialogue's regionalisms threw me a little, but I can live with that.
Structure & Pacing 2: Another shock ending that doesn't so much shock as confuse, after a plot that just sort of takes its time wandering all over the place. You've also got some odd perspective shifts in places. It wasn't confusing til the end, at least.
Characters 1: You've filled your story with warm bodies, but I couldn't tell you a drat thing about any of them beyond the superficial. Finn: kid. Osi: foreign kid. Rae: Girl kid. Gran: VOODOO-GHOST-POSSESSED-MURDERER, apparently.
Prompt 2: Ghosts, sure. Indecision doesn't seem to play a strong role, and I'm not sure that mysteries are quite the same as secrets, in this context.
Give-A-drat 2: I wanted to. You've set up an interesting Kid Detectives horror premise but it just failed to land for me.
And so, using this
Fuschia Tude: 25
Detailed critiques to come this weekend.
|# ? Sep 11, 2015 23:51|
Week 125: http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=3059&title=The+Merman%27s+Package
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 03:43 on Sep 12, 2015
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 02:09|
Not in, pal. I have projects I have to work on.
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 02:09|
Not in, pal. I have projects I have to work on.
Then shut up and get out
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 02:11|
Not in, pal. I have projects I have to work on.
You're posting chatty bullshit, you're entered. Up to you if you fail or not. Pal.
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 02:13|
In, give me a
Week 101: http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=2374&title=Till+Death+Do+Us+Part%2C+You+First
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 02:55|
anime was right fucked around with this message at 05:59 on Oct 27, 2015
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 03:06|
In, give me one of each.
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 04:44|
In, give me one of each.
Week 81: http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=1706&title=Untitled and http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=1711&title=Wingmen
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 04:52|
Turns out this is my first week and I don't know how to get access to this
If anyone wants to pm me the promp that'd be great
lite frisk fucked around with this message at 05:27 on Sep 12, 2015
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 05:23|
Turns out this is my first week and I don't know how to get access to this
It would serve you well to read the posts at the start of the thread, Grasshopper!
Request an account through the Archive and we'll set you up.
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 06:03|
signups are closed
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 07:33|
signups are closed
Look at all these overconfident snots. Y'all are lucky you can't DM, because I forsee a lot of lovely rewrites. Losers are kicking your asses this week.
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 21:04|
It would serve you well to read the posts at the start of the thread, Grasshopper!
I've now entered a catch 22 limbo where I need Archive access to participate in Thunderdome for the first time, but I need to have already participated in Thunderdome in order to get Archive access.
Put in an account request anyway.
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 21:27|
You can find your story here in the meantime: http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3598931&userid=93646&perpage=40&pagenumber=3#post432160985
|# ? Sep 12, 2015 22:07|
Thank you for keeping me honest. Since I dragged my feet so terribly on this, I'm critiquing each Lust story.
Sins & Stones by Morning Bell
This was a nice story with a pretty interesting setting, but I can't shake two things about it that I don't like: 1) It's boring. Not in a sense of action, but the writing. It's not bad, it's not detached. I'd say it's even pretty accurate for the genre. Problem is, I hate that genre. So. That might just be on me. 2) I feel like you're covering far, far too much ground for flash fiction. The way in which the affair lead to this entire bloody uprising, etc, it's just sort of very Emily Bronte, you know? So, on the one hand, if that was your target: Congratulations! You hit it. I just don't like it. Oh on more thing: I like your word usage. You have a deep vocabulary (or a fine thesaurus).
Erection Factor: Zero. Maybe if I was into guys, but I doubt it.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Her Caged Song by dmboogie
I don't know, man, this is just ... pussy-footed. You know? It's something that's been bothering me an awful lot lately because, well, you just don't have that many words to really play with. So when you beat around the bush it's just annoying. Out with it already.
The keep’s holding chambers had never much been to Asha’s liking; too sterile and brightly lit. So?The juxtaposition of what she thought a prison ought to be
Do you see what I mean? If the words themselves were just, more ... I don't know, more interesting then I'd be intrigued enough by your loving coyness to read on. But instead my brain is like "PLEASE GIVE ME A DISTRACTION OH LOOK A FLY OH LOOK I SMELL COFFEE I SHOULD GET SOME OH LOOK I HEAR JURASSIC PARK FROM THE OTHER ROOM AND I SHOULD WATCH THAT WITH MY SON INSTEAD THIS STORY IS BOOOORING". Sorry, my brain is an rear end in a top hat.
Erection Factor: Zero. Where was the lust? Despite my very cursory critique, I did, in fact, read the whole thing, but didn't detect one hit of sexy musk.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The Opening of Rodeo Hercules by Benny Profane
This story was loving ridiculous. Too ridiculous. Was there a point other than to say "Heh, robots. Heh, jizz. Heh, who cares."?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Loomer by spectres of autism
I read this story probably three times. I think, if I remember correctly, because it was the first Lust story, and I truly did intend on reading them all at some point or another. This story was, okay. It was also rather pointless. The entire angle of the narrator addressing the reader in this wrap-around story of the reader trying to pick up the narrator at a bar, or whatever? That part didn't matter. At all. It didn't assist the story, merely added a level of confusion because you barely mentioned it in the beginning, and then return to it at the end, and by then I've been thinking about spiders and webs and then when I get there, to the end, I'm just all, "Huh? Oh. Right, yeah. Whatever."
Also I have to ask you this: Did you recently read Karen Russel's Reeling for the Empire? Because this story is awfully similar. Just curious. If you haven't, you should! It's very good.
Erection Factor: One (there are out of ten). Only because I felt the writing was pretty good.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Aptera by Hopper UK
This story should have gotten an HM, in my opinion. I liked it quite a bit. I've always been a fan of the sirens story. Nothing really too much say here, Hopper. I wish there was more, and I wish it was just a tad more "direct" (see my pussy-footing comments on a dmboogie's story.
Erection Factor: Two. Sirens are hawt.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Rainmaker by docbeard
This was ... confusing. They're in what's left of the Post Office, but then they're ostensibly outdoors and camping and eating beans heated over the fire but then they're instantly in a truck and the truck swerves and it's going to crash but no it doesn't. There's some stuff about dreaming, later, but really by the time the reader makes it there his head is swimming with odd breaks in logic and time and it just doesn't make any sense at all. I wouldn't mind an explanation at all. I wanted to like it, I think there's something there, but damned if I can figure it out.
Erection Factor: Confused.
|# ? Sep 13, 2015 00:32|
|# ? Sep 13, 2015 01:19|
Y'all are lucky you can't DM
i don't recall saying that. write well.
|# ? Sep 13, 2015 11:32|
With some of the loser influencing the re-write:
“Will you be my boyfriend,” Amy asked Luke, “if I carve you a castle?”
Luke stopped fiddling with his Lego pieces. He was always playing with them or studying his history books. Amy liked history too. She found it remarkable that Luke didn't mind that people knew he was fond of History. Luke McIntosh was a dream to Amy. Taller and older, attractive but not overly so, and intelligent.
“Carve? A Castle?” he said. “What are you talking about?” Was he amused? She was sure he was amused.
“Yeah. A castle. I'm going to carve you a castle,” Amy said. “You like them, no?”
“We'll yes, but... you're a bit young, aren't you?”
“I'm thirteen! And it'll be the best castle you'll ever see.”
“Carved, you said? Out of what?”
The bell rang. Luke gathered his Lego and his books.
And Amy made quick her exit.
After school, Amy sat alone on the bus. She tapped continuously until one of the other girls hit her and told her to shut up. At her stop, she jumped of the bus and ran to her house. She dropped her bag inside the door and wrote a note for her mom telling her she was going to Trish's, a friend who lived a few blocks away, and that she would be back later.
“What are you doing?”
Amy squawked and jumped.
“Hey, Mom.” Amy coughed as she turned to face her mom, who was currently hidden by a cloud of smoke. “I didn't think you would be home yet.”
“I had to come early,” her mom said. She puffed on her cigarette, replacing the recently dissipated cloud with a new one. “I have a friend coming over.”
“Oh, okay, Mom”
“So be quiet when he is here. I don't need you worrying another of my friends, okay?”
“I'll be at Trish's anyway.”
Her mom turned with a cough and returned to the living room where the blinds were closed and the curtains drawn. “Be quiet when you come back,” she said. “I don't want you startling him.”
Amy rushed to Trish's place and knocked. There was no answer. She knocked again. No answer. She looked in the backyard for Trish but she wasn't in and then Amy noticed that her car wasn't in the driveway. She sat on the porch and waited. The sun fell and the moon rose, but Trish still hadn't returned. Amy felt her belly rumble. She thought that she should probably get something to eat then head home. She had made her way to the street when she heard a car in the distance and saw headlights. She decided to wait. As it drew nearer, Amy could see Trish in the driver's seat and an unknown man in the passenger's. The car swung into the driveway and the two of them exited; both were laughing.
Trish spotted Amy and her laughter stopped. “Amy, what are you doing here? Have you been here long?”
“No. I just got here.”
Trish came and knelt in front of Amy.
“What can I do for you, kid?”
“Do you have a spare pumpkin I could borrow? I want to carve a castle for Halloween.”
“If you come back tomorrow, we can work on it together.”
“My mom wanted to help me with it,” Amy said. “Is that okay?”
“Oh. Yeah. That's fine. But are you sure your mom has time to help?”
“Of course, why wouldn't she?” Amy asked.
“I don't... How is your mom, Amy?”
“She's good. She has a steady job now and sees a lot of friends. So she's happy.”
“That's good...” Trish said. “Let's see what we can do about that pumpkin.”
Amy's stomach rumbled violently.
“Hungry, eh? I have some pie in the house.”
Trish stood and put her arm around Amy, ushering towards her house.
“I think I should go,” the unknown man said.
“Don't. We won't be long,” Trish said.
“It's okay. I'll call you later.”
He walked off in the direction they had come.
“How will you get back?” Trish shouted after him.
Her turned and shrugged. And then continued down the road with Trish staring at his fading silhouette.
“I'm sorry. I didn't mean – ”
“ – Nothing to worry about, Amy. Nothing at all.”
Amy was full of pie and carried a pumpkin at least double the size of her head as she made her way up to her own porch. She tried to wave to Trish as she reached the door. Her attempt made her giggle, and Trish smile. Trish waved and drove off. Amy winced; the lock seemed to scream as she turned the key. She entered her home and kept the lights off. She placed her keys on the table, put her pumpkin on stairs and removed her coat and shoes. She went to pick up the pumpkin but bumped it off the step and it knocked over the table.
“Shut up!” her mom screamed down the stairs.
“I'm sorry, mom. I –”
“Shut up and go to bed.”
Amy picked up her pumpkin and hurried to her bedroom.
Amy rushed home every day from her bus stop. She decided to design a castle before carving it. She spent many evenings drawing castles. She tried to recall the castles she saw Luke building, but couldn't remember much more than the turrets. She wanted gargoyles, drawbridges, everything. The more she worked on the castles, the more she lost herself. She forgot Luke, forgot his perfect castles. She wanted to carve a castle for herself. She designed impenetrable castles, ghastly things to behold, but with splendor hidden inside them. She would be a princess with a mighty castle.
Eventually the day came when she was ready to start carving. She had the perfect design. There were six turrets, two gigantic ones and four slightly less massive, a grand drawbridge drawn and closed, windows, one where her silhouette sat smiling, and grotesque gargoyles, who scared off the people who wanted to attack the castle but who were actually her best friends in the castle. She borrowed a knife from the kitchen and removed the insides of the pumpkin. She flushed the gunk away down the toilet. She returned to her room where her pumpkin marble lay in the middle of the floor, ready to be carved. She smiled and then went to work. She started with the easier parts: the outline of the drawbridge and the windows. But she left her window for later. She carved out the turrets next. She cut one of the large turrets too thin and it crumbled inwards. She cursed, but kept going. She carved her window and her shape next. She wasn't happy with it, but it was obvious that it was someone at a window so she wasn't too upset. Last were the gargoyles. She tried the first, but it was too much detail and it toppled inwards like the failed turret. The second she tried with less detail, but it fell too. She had space for one more. She carved it with so little detail that it looked like a miniature turret. She knew what it was though; her friend in the castle.
They didn't have any candles in the house so she tried to carve a hole in the bottom for her lampshade. She managed to fit inside, but she removed it when her room filled with the smell of burning pumpkin; she didn't want to upset her mom again. She climbed atop her bed, sat beside her window and gazed at her castle and entered it.
She sat in a room with walls of exposed stone. A hearty fire roared near her bed, which she sat atop. She felt safe and warm and fell asleep in her new bed. She awoke some time later feeling refreshed but famished. She ran out of her room, giggling loudly without any fear. And ran along the corridors towards the smell of freshly baked pie. Down the wonderful spiral staircase, through the grander than life ballroom, and down to the kitchen she went. She gorged on pie until she could take no more. She sat in the kitchen for a time, and then a thought came to her, “My gargoyle!” And so she ran to the ramparts to find her friend in the castle. She could make out its silhouette against the moonlight. She dashed forward, arms a wide. But she stopped before she reached it. It was no gargoyle, just a tiny turret. She made her way back to her room, she wanted to be warm and happy again. But upon her arrival she saw that the fire was now just a pile of embers. She returned to her bed and the embers went out.
“Amy! Shut up! Shut up and go to bed!”
She shouted her apologies to her mother and went over to her castle. And stamped on it until it was nothing but mush.
|# ? Sep 13, 2015 22:36|
Originally: Energy by sebmojo
This guy, he’s fresh off the boat. From where, I cannot say. Some remote island. One of those tiny nation-states you’ve never heard of that are represented by just two or three people during the Olympic Parade of Nations and you say to yourself, “I’ve never even heard of Tabouli. Isn’t that a chip dip?” Except that’s not right, either. His island is so remote that they wouldn’t compete in the Olympics at all. There’s probably a scant peppering of barely-human savages there, not a country so much as a casual gathering on a chunk of dirt in the dark blue sea. He reminds me so much of Queequeg that I call him that behind his back. I consider calling him that to his face; the odds that he’s read Melville’s masterpiece are quite slim.
His first day in the office, I can’t help but notice how poorly his button-up shirt fits him. “Big & Tall” stores aren’t made for guys like him, they’re made for flabby bikers and truckers. It’s tight like Saran Wrap over his back, the upper buttons of the front pulling apart like he’s got breasts beneath. There’s not an ounce of fat on him, I swear you can see the muscular definition beneath the lavender cotton/poly blend. The color, though, oddly sets off his dark olive skin and bright indigenous tattoos.
He’s been looking at me since a little before noon. No, I shouldn’t say “looking”. More like “leering”. It’s made me quite uncomfortable and I hope that soon HR will call him away to sign more papers or watch another sexual harassment video.
“Dirk,” he says to me. “Do you want … lunch?” He says the last word like he’s unsure of whether or not it’s the right word. I look at the clock. It’s well past 2 PM and I realize only just then that I didn’t even take a lunch break. I start to speak but my heart is in my throat. I try to think of some excuse, quickly, and tell him I have an energy bar. I should have lied and said I had plans with my wife. poo poo.
He thinks I’m lying, probably because his island instincts pick up on my fear. Or he can smell it, like a wolf. So I show it to him. One of many that I keep from a box of forty in my desk.
“Mr Dirk! That is not food! That is why Mr Dirk small like woman. Man need real food. Meat, Mr Dirk. We require meat!”
The next thing I know he is out of his seat and practically carrying me through the doors and into the summer heat. The brick-lined alleyway is a pizza oven. I can feel the summer sun cooking my skin. I wonder where he’s taking me.
“Do … do you have a place in mind? What sort of food do you like?”
“Mr Dirk show me,” he says.
“Mr, uh, Phburhuth, is it? Sorry, I struggle with the pronunciation. I don’t usually eat out. I don’t know what’s down this way. If I go out for lunch I go across the river. There are more restaurants over there. Please, Mr Purrbooth, where are we going? Tell me.”
“Behind blue box,” he says to me, and he juts out his chin as if to point to the dumpster at the end of the alley.
“That … that is not an eating place.”
“It is. Mr Dirk is food.”
I try to stop our quickening pace towards my fly-covered demise. My oxfords scuff on the worn asphalt.
“What do you mean?” I ask, and I don’t know why I ask, because it’s obvious.
“I hunger. I have not yet eaten this week. Man is best food.”
I crane my neck to look up at his black silhouette in front of the sun which is set high in the sky above us like an oven light.
“Whatever do you mean?!”
He stops. We stop. He grasps both of my shoulders and wheels me around to face him. His head tilts slightly to the side like a hound. He bends down to look me in the eyes and his brown cueball of a head eclipses the sun. He bears his teeth, half smiling, half menacing.
“I smash your head with brick and eat you,” he says. His eyes are alight with desire. I see a fine line of drool forming at the corner of his mouth. It’s all too clear he is serious. I panic, I try to think of something to say, some way out of this.
“I would distinctly prefer, Mr Furrbutt, that you do not eat me?” I don’t intend for it to come out as a question but my voice cracks and squeaks.
He can’t figure me out. He’s frozen for a moment. Miraculously, it seems I’ve stumbled upon some sort of salvation strategy.
“Why is not?”
“Because. Because … you can eat animals instead?”
He straightens up, grabs me again, the dumpster grows larger. A trash bag leaks a black liquid onto the street and it sizzles there. “No,” he says as he drags me along. “Only man.”
“Wait!” I shout. “You can’t do this. It is against the law.”
“Mr Pitherbuff, your employment. You are a junior paralegal at Fisk and Fisk. I am Dirk Fisk. I am your boss, firstly. Secondly, our business is the law. You cannot eat your boss. You cannot break the law.”
We stop again. His massive shoulders slump. “I don’t get money?”
“Worse. You go to prison. Jail. There … there is no sunlight in jail. No good food. You … you would wither away in jail. You would look like me.”
He gives my words serious consideration, and it seems he has given up. He says, “Mr Dirk, I hunger still.”
“I have plenty more energy bars back at the office, Mr --”
“Olaf,” he says. His eyes are a deep ocean of melancholy, like a man upon waking, whose dreams are no more. “Call me Olaf.”
|# ? Sep 13, 2015 22:44|
The Abduction Myth
Originally Broken Women by Drunk Nerds
“Izzy, it’s your round.”
Of course, he always tries to find a way out of having to buy his round. He might be the best tech I know, but he is a cheap bastard when it comes to drinks. I wasn’t going to let him get out of it. Not if he worked for me. He sighed, and headed toward the crowded bar.
I like to relax with a drink or two when a client actually comes through and pays for a job. Even better when it doesn’t take any “convincing” for them to send the credits.
“Declan Macross?” came a woman’s voice. I turned toward the voice. There was a woman in her 50s, slim, nothing special, although she did have nice threads. Not today, not interested.
“Wrong guy. Sorry.” I turned back to watching the wallcast.
“He said you would say that,” she said, “That’s why he gave me a pic.”
I sighed, and showed her my beer. “Look, can’t you see I am busy? And who have you been talking to?”
“Juno. He said you still owed him. Anyway, my name’s Chloe, I need your help. Someone has abducted my daughter.”
I am not the type to fall for a sob story, but it seemed like an easy job. And if it gets me out of owing that rear end in a top hat Juno anything else, it will be worth it.
We pulled up on the opposite side of the road and I turned off the lights.
“So, Izzy, what’s the deal?” I said.
Izzy explained that the decrepit looking building across the street was not what it looked like. Which was good, because it looked like a rat-infested crap-hole. Some of the places down this side of town catered to the well-off to have a walk on the wild side. Girls, men, ladyboys, and anything else someone with imagination can make with some body-mods.
“So you go in and ask for Cora. Once you are there with her, you convince her to come out and go home to her family.”
"That’s your plan? That what I pay you for? What if she won't?"
Izzy shrugged. "Plan B, I guess. You’ll figure it out."
Izzy’s info is always spot on, but he sucks at planning things. He is more of a think-on-your-feet kind of guy.
“OK, let’s do this.”
I was sitting, waiting in the room when she came in. She was quite a looker for a hit girl. Her draped sheer clothing offered an enticing view of naked skin underneath. She tried to look sexy as she came over to where I was sitting and sat down on my knee.
“I’m Cora, What’s your name, baby?”
I didn’t answer, so she just continued her pitch. “What’ll it be? We have a nice range of toys. Hammers, bats, pliers. And for those that like old-timey things, an antique golf club, if that's your style, honey.”
Hitgirls always creep me out. I know with quick-med, they can get right back to it, still, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t want to be beaten with a golf club by some under-endowed middle-manager with wife issues. Not all scars are physical.
“I am here to bring you home to your mother,” I said.
She leapt up as if stung. “I can’t go back.”
“I don’t really care,” I said, “I have a job. I bring you home, I get paid. It is as simple as that.”
She started to back toward the door. “Get out! Or I’ll call security.”
The dart hit her in the neck. Her surprise, and the sharp intake of breath gave me time to cross the room and cover her mouth before she could call out. They work pretty fast. She slumped against me after a few seconds.
“Izzy. Looks like it is Plan B,” I said aloud.
I opened the back door and dumped the unconscious woman into the back seat. I climbed into the driver’s seat.
“A police raid? Really?” I looked at Izzy and raised an eyebrow. “How did you manage that?”
“No. To be precise it was the sound of a police raid. Did you actually see any cops?”
I shook my head. “I saw a big rear end, modded prick with four arms. Lucky he didn’t see me though. Poor bastard. I hope he knows a friendly doctor.”
Izzy changed the subject. “Shall we deliver the package?” He hates knowing the details of a job. Just like I don’t care who he has to blow to get his info. As long as he gets it.
I started the engine and we headed back to the other side of town.
She started to wake as I carried her up to Chloe’s apartment. Izzy had called ahead and she opened the door as we came to the door. I dumped her on the sofa.
“There. One returned daughter.”
“Is she ok?”
“Just a little asleep, that’s all.” The girl groaned from the sofa as she gained consciousness.
I zapped Chloe my invoice for payment. The notification came through seconds later, telling me that she had paid it. A quick, easy job, and Juno’s favor called in as well. A good day.
“A pleasure doing business with you,” I said. “I'll show myself out”.
The bar was rowdier than usual, there was a lot of shouting and jostling people making it hard for me to concentrate. As usual, drinking was far more important than whatever stupid game was on the wallcast.
“She’s gone again.” I heard a familiar woman’s voice from behind me. I didn’t even turn, knowing who it would be. “She left a note saying that she has to go back, and to not follow her.”
I don’t know why she went back. Probably hooked on narnak, or something. Or maybe she just wanted a different life. She probably has a taste for it, and doesn’t want to give it up.
Cora didn’t want to be saved. It might have been my job to bring her home, but I can’t make her want anything different. No matter how much anyone pays me.
I looked down at my empty glass and back up at Izzy.
“It’s your round.”
|# ? Sep 13, 2015 23:14|
House Work and Road Work
originally: Yard Work by sebmojo, winner
The fire alarm chirps its low battery chirp. The battery's fine, it's just too drat hot. I ignore it. There's a mess of glass and whatever the lamp was made out of all over the bedroom. I wonder if I should even try to clean up. Chirp. The room tells a story for the cops, and I wouldn't want to make it any harder for them to read. Chirp. I pull the sheets off the bed, sending the fragments on top to the floor. I open up the two biggest suitcases on the bed and start packing. Chirp. Chirp.
Noises from out back interrupt me. I go outside. It's big man Dan out in his back yard like any other Sunday. I walk to the fence and see that's not quite right. He's digging a hole in the ground. Has Jack right there wrapped up in the curtain beside him, all in broad daylight like nobody else in the neighborhood can look over a fence.
“Dan, what...” I say. “We need to talk.”
“Nothing to say,” he says, barely looking up at me.
“But what do you think you're doing?” I say.
“Just go back in the house, Tracey,” he say. “Finish packing.” Does he think we're running off together?
I can't tell what he's thinking. It was a clear a case of self-defense as you can get. Dan's house. Broken window. Dan beat to poo poo. Jack's knife. A smart man would have called a lawyer, called the police, gotten off clean. A smart man wouldn't dig the world's most obvious shallow grave in his own back yard. But Dan was never a smart man, was he?
No, he's always been Dan the chump, everybody's favorite face at the poker table. Couldn't pick up a tell if it had handles on. Took him months to notice the signals I was throwing at him.
I stop watching him dig someone's grave, go back into the house, and stuff more clothes into the luggage. I force the bags shut and drag them out the door, just a few chirps away from throwing a cast-iron pan at that drat alarm. Put them in the trunk, get in the car and start driving. Just driving, no destination in mind.
He was always jealous Jack, but too self-assured to be paranoid. It took him a while to catch on. I didn't mind. Neighbor Dan was Dan the stud compared to half-staff Jack. It was when I told him that that he threw the lamp. Way above and to the left. Jack didn't have it in him to hit a woman. Then he remembered who he could hit. I didn't expect him to bring the knife.
I keep driving, still not knowing where to go. Some hotel somewhere? I don't want to be out of the state when the police come looking, so Mom's place is out. The plan was for Jack to put Dan in the hospital and the cops to put Jack in prison. Two-strike Jack couldn't jail, not for life, so he'd have been dead soon enough. The way things turned out was better, cleaner, quicker.
I pull over to the shoulder, get out of the car, stumble to the guardrail. My stomach lurches and I disgorge everything in it onto the grass. I kneel and shudder with dry heaves, wanting to leave every single rotten thing inside me roadside with the rest of the vomit and bile.
|# ? Sep 14, 2015 00:00|
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: TRAIL HARDER
Wafts of Caramel Carnage vape flared out Genghis Khan’s nostrils as he jerked the wheel around and slammed his massive truck into the Republican campaign bus next to him. The men inside ran up and down the aisles like ants during an earthquake, their shouts drowning in the roar of Genghis’s fiery steed. Their bus became lopsided, and another mighty bodycheck pushed it off the road, sent it tumbling down the slope like a discarded box of skittles. All that was left behind was the propaganda poster flapping in the wind, quoting Thomas Jefferson (“ALL MEN CREATED EQUAL”) followed by the call to vote “STALIN 2120”.
Genghis reached up and pulled on the horn.
Hundreds of cars behind him responded, their gleeful honks bathing the country road in cacaphonic cheer.
“Fools, driving right into a Democratic convoy,” Genghis said.
“To be fair, Mr. President,” VP Henry VIII said, “the red paint on our bus might have misled them.”
“That ain’t paint.” Genghis floored the gas pedal. Five hundred miles to go to the White House and Stalin had the lead, but they were getting closer judging from the increasing amount of Republican wrecks they left behind. Genghis’s heart raced in anticipation. It was more than bloodlust. It was vengeance.
Attacking a man’s fortress while he’s out stomping a civil uprising was such a bitch move.
“Stalin is a commendable general,” Henry said. He leaned in closer. “I once again recommend activating one of the other Genghis clones in the back.” His hand firmly grasped the back of Genghis’s seat.
“Didn’t work out too well last time we tried.”
“The Los Angeles incident was rather unfortunate--”
“Bullshit. L.A. sucked.” That wasn’t the point. The point was, if two or more Genghis Khans existed simultaneously their natural inclination would be to extinguish all other Genghis Khans by any means necessary. Of course, Henry counted on that. Genghis would deal with this after the race.
Their convoy plowed through Republican stragglers and scorched villages alike. Although the villages had been scorched a long time ago. By Genghis. But the bodies by the roadside were new. Stalin’s habit to take regular stops to have dissenters shot was well documented. It came as no surprise that the Republican war party eventually appeared on the horizon.
Their convoy was a pathetic host of bumbling machines, throwing up enough smog to make Beijing ask if it’s okay to open a window. The reactionary commie fools drove around in ancient cars because they didn’t believe in climate change, or change, and also Stalin was afraid of riding on nuclear reactor engines. The pussy.
Henry disappeared into the back of the truck to fetch his sword. Genghis blew the horn. The battle begun.
The rearguard of the Republican convoy fell behind to intercept him, hillbilly trucks flying the Confederate banner beneath the communist flag. Even today the ghosts of Bernie Sanders’s presidency haunted the country.
Genghis’s truck plowed through them like a bulldozer through a swarm of RC cars.
A massive explosion tore away part of the road, and multiple cars with it. Genghis held on tight and swerved, dodging the artillery shelling, and the carnage it left behind. Stalin’s counterattack had begun. Fights erupted between Genghis’s convoy and the Republicans left in his wake, vehicles exchanging gunfire, daredevil swordsmen boarding each other, dueling atop busses, cars and tractors. Genghis pressed on.
The Republican mobile headquarter was an indestructible fortress haphazardly cobbled together from multiple decommissioned Soviet prison busses, outfitted with massive artillery cannons, and sickles and hammers for flourish. It was a monstrosity of a relic, like Stalin’s ideas of worker rights.
Genghis activated the autopilot. His steed would stay on track so long as there was no curve in the road, and even then it would mostly be the problem of whatever came behind that curve. He leaned out the cabin. Bullets slammed past him.
Genghis pulled himself on top of his driver’s cabin, rolled out of the gunfire and drew his chroma-axe, a magnificent acid-edged mecha-weapon unfolding out of its cylindric shell in jerky motions. He caught the blade of an invading swordsman, bodychecked the fool off the wagon and cut through oncoming bullets mid-air as he jumped onto Stalin’s mobile fortress, pouncing on the men above like a raging tiger.
Genghis wrath was beautiful, and all-consuming. He danced through his enemies like a magnificent razor-winged butterfly danced through a field of daisies, dodging and weaving and nourishing the ground with the dew of the fallen. Henry fell in with him, wielding the Executor, a giant blade that fired neck-seeking razor discs. He distributed his own kind of justice. The decapitating kind. God bless the British.
A mighty roar stopped time for the fraction of a second. It shattered bones, muted the artillery cannons and made Genghis’s beard faintly quiver.
The communist warlord plowed through the masses on his giant bear, Republican soldiers flying off like pebbles in his wake. Genghis surged towards him. His entire being was consumed by the thought of ending this motherfucker. He barely noticed the Republican grunts that fed his axe. They could have just well thrown cotton candy at him.
The warlords collided, and the impact ended every sign of life within a radius of five feet.
Stalin’s sickle cut the air; his hammer compressed time itself. The man was a human jackhammer, and precise as a surgeon. Genghis ducked under the blows and knocked the bear out cold with the butt of his axe. He just couldn’t bring himself to kill an animal so magnificent.
Stalin landed with the grace of a Siberian steppe wolf, already on the pounce. They charged into each other, exchanging blows with godlike speed. To most others their duel was but a blur, a mirage of titanic wrath and battle prowess gracing their unworthy eyes with its otherworldly presence. To them, it was Super Tuesday.
They locked each other into a permanent state of assault and retaliation, blows and parries, bodychecks and dodges. This was their natural state, and for all they cared, they would remain in this state until they died of old age.
Henry’s razor disc flew in from the side. Stalin swatted it out of the air, and that gave Genghis the fraction of a second he needed. He knocked the sickle out of Stalin’s hands, sucker-punched his kidneys and swung his axe through the handle of Stalin’s hammer. Then he delivered an earth-shattering kick to Stalin’s balls that sent him flying.
The communist warlord fell to the ground, turned, gun in hand out of nowhere. Genghis kicked it away. He grasped his axe with both hands, lifted it high above his head, muscles bulging like raging mountains, a volcano about to erupt into the apex of ultraviolence, and someone to his side said:
“Sic semper tyrannis.”
The moment of Genghis Khan’s death was rather poorly timed.
The president of the People’s Republic of America jerked his head back along with the bullet that went through it, blood trailing behind his lifeless body. Henry turned towards the noise. He lifted his blade too late. Another gunshot, and his foot stopped working.
He went down like a sack of squash. His sword fell out of reach. He didn’t even bother. A shadow approached, and Henry shielded his eyes from the sun as the assailant stepped over him.
Republican VP candidate John Wilkes Booth gave off a toothy grin.
“Why do you run with Stalin anyway?” Henry said. “You do not oppose slavery.”
The man’s drawl was Southern, but also zombielike. “I don’t care about slavery. I just like to kill presidents.”
The loving irony.
Booth lifted his gun. “Looks like you’re the prez now.”
“Actually, I have a rather unfortunate announcement regarding that.”
“I have activated the other Genghis clones.”
And then John Wilkes Booth screamed, because he had a sword up his rear end.
Genghis Khan’s vengeance was swift, and excessively carnal.
Boothe’s body thrashed and gurgled, pounded by the rounds of Stalin’s gun. Genghis pushed forward. Stalin had no chance. It was one thing to go up against Genghis Khan, but it was another to do so without melee weapons, while an angry Khan clubbed you to death with John Wilkes Booth.
Time flies by when you enjoy yourself.
The world returned to clarity, and Genghis found himself standing over the mush that had once been two people. Henry was still on the floor.
“How many other clones have you activated?”
Henry swallowed. He threw another hopeless glance towards his Executor. “All five.”
“Aight.” Genghis gave him a hand.
“You… are not mad?”
He pulled Henry to his feet and turned to the victorious Democrats beneath him. Soldiers everywhere enslaved or murdered their defeated enemies. The Khan way.
“Nah. This race is over,” he said.
He put on a pair of sunglasses and stared straight into the sun.
“And I need a real threat to kill.”
|# ? Sep 14, 2015 00:03|
How Sy Lost His Hop
Flash rules: Modern day, Monopody
Once there was a world exactly like ours, except everyone had only one leg. Why? Well, why do we have two legs? It’s a hard question to answer.
In this world, there was a young man named Sy, and he was just a man.
Sy lived in a small house in a beautiful town. As a child, he loved to hop through the streets, everyone smiling and waving at him. He would hop through the playground in elementary school, hop through the hallways in middle school, and hop through the gym in high school. He loved to hop, but what he really wanted was to run. He had seen videos of rich people in the city, running with the help of a metal second leg.
Sy had a friend. Her name was Yuan and she had green hair. He had grown up with her, since before he knew of metal legs. She was like a sister to him, always willing to listen, sometimes cheering him up when he was upset. When he graduated high school and left his parents to go live on his own, she was there to greet him, helping him move into his new apartment.
One day, he told Yuan, “I saw it again.”
It was the metal leg, the thing that Sy wanted the most. He had watched every video, read every book, he could. If he could just get that, he could run all he wanted, anywhere he wanted, maybe even run to the moon and back.
“What color was this one?” asked Yuan, laying on the couch.
“Silver, with flames,” said Sy. He showed her a picture on his phone “Do you like it?”
There was silence as Yuan thought. Finally, she said “I guess.”
Sy hopped over to a chair and sat, “I want to move to the city.”
“I want to run, I need to run. It would be faster than hopping and I would love it.” Sy stared at the picture. “And I’ve seen how it looks on me in my dreams. I think I would look much better. I want to go the city and become rich, to afford it.”
Yuan nodded. “I want you to be happy. My sister, An, lives in the city. She can help you find a job and a new apartment. Her apartment is on Ocean Street.”
The next week, Sy set out towards the city. The masses of people scared him, as no one smiled or waved at him. They all just hopped along, ignoring everyone else. Sy got lost in the masses and did not find An’s apartment until night. When he knocks on her door, a woman with black hair answered, “Yeah?”
“Hi, I’m Sy. Are you An?”
“Ah, my sister sent you. Yes, I’m An. Come in, sit.” An let him in. He hopped over to a chair and sat. “So, you want a metal leg?”
“They’re expensive, you know,” An warned, “You could work for a long time before getting one.”
“I know. I’m willing to, though.”
An shook her head. “Yuan loves you, you know?”
Sy frowned. “What? Why didn’t she tell me?”
“She couldn’t tell you herself. She saw how much you wanted this metal leg, to go to the city, to run. She wouldn’t tell you not to. It’s not too late, though. You can still return to her.”
Sy thought silently. Then he said, “I will go back after I get the metal leg. I’m sure I can get it soon.”
An shrugged, “Okay, have it your way. I can get you some interviews and show you some apartments here in the city.”
Sy worked hard every day, saving money for the mechanical leg, but every month his money would go towards food and rent and he’d have none left to save. His hop became a limp. Yuan waited for him back home, but Sy never escaped the city, chasing his dream until he was just another one in the masses.
|# ? Sep 14, 2015 02:11|
August 8th is one of the muggiest days in recent memory in Queens. The temperature is 89 but the humidity is almost 90%, which makes the corner of 34th & Cicero feel like a human greenhouse: the moment anyone perspires, it immediately evaporates to create a thick, unbearable perspiration fog. Kelly Money-Walker’s hair, which she spent all morning coaxing with caustic chemicals and unsafe heat, is now completely unraveling. Her phone rings. She immediately swipes to the left; it’s her over-sensitive boyfriend who didn’t want her to leave the apartment in the first place. She wasn’t having it: not when she feels like a zit being squeezed. The more she stares at the crossing signal on the northeast corner of 34th and Cicero, the more she swears that time is standing still.
On the opposite corner stands Richard Cross, who’s holding his book bag like a nervous kid on the first day of school. His broad forehead glistens with sweat while his armpits are soaked right down to his elbows. He’s overworked at his understaffed job and his bag is full of sensitive project information that he and only he is entrusted to carry to the next presentation. All he needs to do is cross Cicero and step into the air conditioned office at 226 34th and everything will fine.
Standing in front of him are Lucy “LuLu” Fleur and Samantha “Sammy” Stratton. Friends since Kindergarten, these teenage girls are chatting with the high-pitched intensity of chickens, completely absorbed in their phones as they share Instagram photos and tweets like a pair of elderly women trading the juiciest gossip. The banter is as brittle as the screens of their phones, however: for the past few weeks, Sammy’s been spreading vicious rumors about Lulu online. As far as Sammy’s concerned, planting the seed that Lulu’s loving her boyfriend’s ex behind his back is even terms for her letting slip that she had lice and the months of physical and social quarantine she endured. Lulu knows, though. And the more they wait on the corner opposite of Kelly Money-Walker, the more the tension builds.
Kenneth Rivera is a part-time bike courier, ten minutes late as his muscles ache. The humidity adds on to his overheated body like a damp blanket, drawing sweat from every last pore on his skin from his scalp to his soles. Every breath hurts and the longer his body stays crouched over his bike, ready to snap forward, the more tempted he his to pedal ahead of the guy holding his book bag for dear life.
Martin Trapp fans himself with his newsboy cap as his body odor wafts behind him. No one knows how he copes in the unbearable heat without paying for the power for weeks but he does. He tells them that utilities are a racket with a capital R. He describes them as the type you see in a mob film: big, stocky types with short tempers, lousy attitudes, and limited vocabularies. He stubbornly refuses to pay for his power and instead he leaches power from the tenement gird. The heat is getting to him, even more so than usual, he’s convinced that the girl next to him, the redhead named Kelly who lives next door, is ratting him out. That bitch. He keeps one eye on her phone and one eye on the signal light and counting heartbeats.
Officer Lawrence Morian wishes he had eyes on the back of his head. He remembers the times his dad told him how the heat drives people crazy, how in his time on the beat he was always a little more cautious during the monsoon season when it wasn’t just the heat but the humidity that made everything that much more miserable for everybody. Morian feels the pressure build under him, like a kettle with its spout sealed, he knows that it won’t take much for it to burst. One hand on his radio and the other on his baton, he makes his way towards the crosswalk as it finally blinks “WALK”
Several things happen at once. Lulu lunges for Sammy’s phone as the two wrestle on the ground, devolving into hair-pulling and face-scratching, blocking Richard’s path. An agitated Kenneth takes off and crashes into Richard, causing him to drop his precious bag and scatter his presentation documents over the girls. Enraged, Richard retaliates by tackling Kenneth off his bike and onto his pavement in a flurry of punches and profanity. On the opposite end, Martin attempts to wrench Kelly’s phone away from her. Kelly screams at the top of her lungs as a few bystanders behind her attempt to pry Martin off of him. But like antibodies to a localized infection, the pedestrians on both sides swarm towards their incidents, inciting their frustrations into outright aggression as violence erupts. An overwhelmed officer Morian now has to make a decision: which side does he call backup for? Does he charge into the breach with baton and pepper spray in hand? Morian inhales and decides to split the difference. He immediately calls backup for both sides and charges towards the side with the cyclist. Sirens wail as angry motorists get out of their cars and charge towards the rapidly-growing brawl. Police signals blare that a riot is happening off of 34th and Cicero. Riot police from the local precinct arm themselves with helmets, riot shields, and clubs as they mobilize and prepare for yet another battle.
The skies above, once indifferent towards the misery and aggression of the people below, start to churn. Riot police assemble on the opposite end of the melee as an officer blares over a loudspeaker for the pedestrians to disperse. With middle fingers in the air, Kenneth flings a firebomb towards the police as they scatter from the flame. Shields forward and clubs at the side, the police march forward in a phalanx as both sides clash. Skulls are bashed, helmets are crushed, and blood is spilled. The pedestrians of 34th and Cicero, once completely apathetic, are now grabbing whatever implement is possible to use as a weapon against the police-bricks, bottles, and debris are makeshift weapons of resistance as the two sides clash again.
The rain starts softly as a fine mist and steadily cascades into a rolling deluge. The people below don’t notice at all, their aggression still roaring in their hearts as they’re too busy engaging in the chaos of screams, blood, and violence around them. The rain turns into a torrent but not even that is enough to quench the firestorm below. In fact, the rain makes conditions worse as the pedestrians are now slipping on the pavement and asphalt while the riot police wearing boots callously bludgeon them into submission. Horseback officers charge into the crowd with wild abandon to smash skulls like Civil War officers claiming heads with sabers. Looters raid storefronts and raid the insides. Tear gas grenades are launched and thrown back. Cars are overturned as the whole block of 34th and Cicero burns into the night sky.
|# ? Sep 14, 2015 02:45|
Hopefully this is enough of a rewrite - I figured since this story is a winner I should try to use what was there as a foundation, but I don't really know if that's what the prompt was asking for. Anyway I guess we'll see!
The Rooster's Last Stand
Original - They Shall Not Pass by Tyrannosaurus
“Guillermo, you fat mierda,” said the old man, looking at his hairy, bulging gut in the mirror. He looked more like a clown than a torero in his uniform. He turned from side to side, looking for a good angle.
“Don’t talk like that, grandpa,” Pablito said. It was true that Guillermo had once been a champion in the bullring: a handsome, fleet-footed caballero called “The Rooster.” He danced gracefully around half a ton of charging muscle with sharp horns, feeding off the adoration of the crowd. The red cape was an extension of himself, and his silver sword could put down a bull more quickly and cleanly than any other. But that was nearly thirty years ago. Now his hands tremored; they could barely guide a spoon to his lips. The boy climbed on a chair and helped Guillermo tighten his tie.
Somewhere far in the distance, an explosion of mortar fire rang out.
“You should have left with the neighbors,” Guillermo said.
“No.” Pablito shook his head. “I am your squire. You need me.”
Guillermo nodded. He made a face somewhere between a grin and a grimace and squeezed Pablito’s hand. “Very well, then. To battle!”
Their footsteps on the cobblestones echoed off the deserted buildings. Everyone who could have fled had already done so, leaving behind only the old, the weak, and the unwanted. Guillermo steadied himself on Pablito’s shoulder as they made their way through the maze of winding streets that led to the city walls.
Over the ramparts and across the stone bridge, clouds of dust arose. “Is that them?” Pablito asked. Guillermo nodded.
“Lean me up against that tree,” Guillermo said.
Guillermo waited in the shade for the army to approach. The armored vehicles and the pounding of feet grew louder and louder until the whole bridge was shaking. Guillermo rose to his feet. Pablito tried to help him catch his balance, but Guillermo stretched out a hand and stood on his own power. He walked slowly to the middle of the bridge and stared down the mighty army.
Several of the young soldiers laughed hysterically. “Look at this fat old cabron! He think’s he’s a matador, eh! Let’s see if you can dodge a tank, old man!” One soldier aimed his rifle at Guillermo. He stared, unblinking, down the barrel.
“Come on, get out of the way!” a voice shouted.
Guillermo had faced off against a hundred bulls and cut them all down. He had stood before thousands of people, and he knew the feeling of all those eyes upon him. But he had never stood before so many as this. And never in defiance.
“Hey, did you hear me?” the voice called. “Move, old man.”
“If you are a caballero,” Guillermo said, “come and make me.”
The whole army laughed riotously. Guillermo smiled. He slowly raised his red bullfighting cape, its gold leaf trim glinting in the sun, and gave it a twirl. A deliberate motion. A showman to the very end.
“The Rooster,” Pablito whispered, peering from safety with wide eyes.
“Ole!” Guillermo shouted.
Vigor and adrenaline surged through Guillermo’s old bones. He willed his tired limbs to snap into the traditional matador stance. It felt familiar. Comfortable. He stood on his tiptoes and clicked his heels. Another twirl of the cape, and he thrust his pelvis at the mass of troops, taunting them. Daring them to come closer. “Death stands before you!” he cried. “Come and meet him!”
The laughter died down. A hush fell over the soldiers as they exchanged nervous glances. “If this puto wants to be put down, let’s put him down,” called someone in the middle of the pack. But no one advanced, and a few soldiers took a step back as Guillermo took a step forward. “Will no one face me? Does no one dare?” Guillermo did a flourish with his sword and made a lunging stab at a young private, who fell on his backside despite being ten feet away. Pablito, using a branch as a sword, mimicked his grandpa and laughed with glee.
Suddenly, the hatch of a tank opened and someone climbed out. An officer, by the medals on his uniform. “I will face you,” he said.
Guillermo clapped his hands. “Ah, you are a man,” he said.
“I am,” said the officer, pushing his way to the front of the crowd.
Guillermo’s sword was a retirement gift, a silver estoque studded with semi-precious gems. He received it along with the ear of the final bull he slew. It was purely ceremonial, but it still had a sharp end. He held the sword straight out and looked down the blade as if aiming a long rifle. It was perfectly steady.
“You have these new weapons, but this is mine,” he said. “Ole!”
But the officer smiled and held up empty hands. “I have seen you once before, did you know that?” the officer said. “Long ago. My father saved his money and took me to the bullring. Just once. He gave me a rose to throw to you. He told me he had never seen one so magnificent as The Rooster. And you did not disappoint. You killed the bull in one stroke.” The officer took off his cap and tossed it at Guillermo’s feet. Pablito cheered.
“Unfortunately,” said the officer, “I do not see The Rooster standing before me now. All I see is chickenshit.” He charged at Guillermo and caught him in the jaw with a huge right hand. Guillermo tumbled to the ground. The world went white, and he could only just hear the whoops and jeers from the crowd over the ringing in his ears. He spat a mouthful of blood on the ground and thought of Pablito. He rose to his shaky legs. Held out the cape. Said, for perhaps the final time, “Ole!”
As the officer rushed in again, Guillermo feinted right and dodged left. By instinct from long ago, he drove the point of the sword under the officer’s ribcage as he passed, clear up to the hilt, piercing his heart. The officer slumped to the ground as Guillermo drew back his sword.
Pablito cheered in amazement. He had heard stories of The Rooster, but the hero of legend had nothing on the old man he knew as Grandfather. But they both knew the moment was fleeting.
“Pablito, run!” Guillermo shouted. A dozen shots rang out and half of them connected with the old man. Pablito took off and didn’t look back. But if he had, he would have seen that The Rooster’s cape didn’t show a single drop of blood.
|# ? Sep 14, 2015 02:51|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 03:26 on Jan 8, 2016
|# ? Sep 14, 2015 04:23|
Loser: http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=673 ("Breeze", Beezle Bug)
Mist (949 words)
Maria didn’t have to tell him when they had reached the ledge, he’d have recognized it from the number of steps alone. When she let go of his hand, the salt mist of early winter cut sharply into his moist palm. He inhaled, tasting the difference in air from the small room that had encompassed his existence ever since returning. He held it in as long as he could, but finally, inevitably, released it. “Take off the blindfold.” His voice was thin, shaking. “Please.”
“Kyle? Are you sure?” Maria asked. “Your mother told me that the doctor said-“
“I don’t care,” he managed. “I want… need to feel this.” After a sigh of resignation, he felt slender fingers working behind his ears, the knot loosening, then brightness and the pain of exposure. This, he thought, would be daylight from here on. He remembered that it would be cloudy this time of year, so there were still months ahead to prepare for the sun.
Below them, the surf crashed and gulls shared their plaintive cry. For the first time in his life, he imagined their fragile white bodies perched on the rocky shoals inches above the violent sea. She tried to take his hand again, but he pulled it away, clutching a tight fist against his mouth. He was acutely aware of his teeth biting into the knuckle. “I was sure I was going to die there,” he said when he was finally able to pull it away. “I never thought I’d get to stand here again. I never thought I’d get to see…” and the raw ironic munition of the word in his throat. “See you again.”
She put her arm around him, and this time he didn’t resist. “But you did. You made it back.”
“Plenty of us didn’t. It doesn’t really hit you until you’re home. When you’re there, you try to keep them in your mind how they were back home. Charlie Walker, you remember him? He and me, running over the fields, climbing trees together. That’s how I had to think of him when I was there. And then I’m standing here and I can see him the way he was, all tangled up in barbed wire, shot full of holes. Just staring like he could see some dark, terrible thing coming over the horizon.”
She pulled him closer. His pulse was pounding so hard he was sure she could feel it. “Richard Mason? Village cricket team? From the last time I saw him, he was forever bowling that perfect game he did that one summer. But I come back and all of a sudden he’s lying sick in the mud with trench fever, shaking and crying for his mother. Just before the gas shell hit and we all went for our masks. But no one could do a thing for him. And George…” but here he had to trail off. He had managed to avoid thinking about him all this time, but now, suddenly, the enormity of absence exploded within him. He could feel hot tears mingle with the spray of mist across his cheeks. George, year and a half younger. Waving goodbye at the dock. George, who would be called up himself not too much later. Who had died in the ruins of some obliterated French villa less than a month in county.
“It’s all right,” she said, but the words sounded rote, like a school prayer. “He was your brother, after all. He was so proud of you, when you joined up. We all were.” They stood there for a time. Finally, he broke the silence. “He would have been our best man.” She stiffened against him, and he was sure he heard her gasp. He hadn’t considered how much she must have been looking forward to the wedding, herself all this time. “The whole village would have turned out,” he said. “There won’t be many weddings now. So many of the boys are gone…” He felt something brush against his trouser leg. It must have been the blindfold falling softly to the ground. And now she was the one crying.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “But we still can-“
“George,” she sobbed. “He’s gone.”
“I know, it hurts me, too. I was his brother, you know.”
“No, you don’t understand. He and I were… close.” She sniffed. “I can’t believe I’m telling you now. Like this.” He could feel her loosen her grip, and he another image came, the one that had sustained him over there, kept him going, what he saw in the flash of white phosphorous: Maria, his Maria, sitting right here, at this overlook in the spring, in his arms. But now he was seeing it from somewhere else. Out in the sea, maybe, and it was his brother holding, caressing her. For the first time, he truly felt the damp chill of the sea breeze wash over him.
“I suppose,” he said eventually, mouth dry. “I suppose when someone is gone, one has to find comfort where one can. So I can understand, while I was away-“
“Kyle, oh Kyle, don’t you see?” She breathed deep. “You were the older son, so it had to be you, but… But George and I loved each other long before you left. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
A flatness covered him, flat as the gray shroud that hung, would forever hang, over his eyes. And yet somehow he held his arms out for her and she fell into them. It would never last, but here, in this moment, he could hold her tight, tight enough to hold out the mist and the ghosts of lives lost and lives that never were.
|# ? Sep 14, 2015 04:28|
Loser - http://writocracy.com/thunderdome/?story=980&title=Vambraces+at+Sea
With Every Stroke - 884 words
Lena struggled to remember the French her sister had forced her to learn. Did “prêt” mean “start” or “ready”?
“Lane five, prêt?” the official called. Their bowman gave a furious look and went back to focusing on the start. Prêt meant ready.
Lane six was occupied by the Jesuit crew. Sponsored by Vespoli and JL Rowing, they never went a season without entirely new gear. Every part of the equipment had a dull, black radiance. Carbon fiber woven together precisely to keep them fast in the water. This double had beaten Lena and Rama at the Three Rivers Regatta. Three entire lengths of a boat separated them from success.
“Lane six, prêt?” screeched the official, his voice warped by the microphone. Cynthia Geffs gave the slightest nod of her head. She was the fastest female in the US. Every rowing camp had been competing to get her to row for them. She settled predictably in Ithaca. Yale had treated her well and paired her with another perfect rower.
“Lane seven, prêt?” And with that Lena felt the boat shift to port as her sister turned to nod.
“Êstes vous prêt? Partez!” The sound of fourteen pairs of oars prying into the water muffled the last word. Lena followed Rama’s plan for their start; one stroke at half length, another at three-fourths, and another at half to get the boat moving. Lena’s oars bent as if she were trying to pull herself out of the water. She cheated a glance at the Jesuit boat and thought they were maybe a few inches ahead. Now she and her sister had to keep that intensity for the remaining 1,970 meters. 6:17.3 was what the Jesuits pulled at the Three Rivers. Rama couldn’t stop stressing that they’d be faster because this is qualifiers for nationals. Everyone always pulled faster times for nationals.
A white shed passed Lena on her starboard side. She had spotted this landmark during practice and determined that it stood at the course’s five hundred meter mark. Another hurried peek over her shoulder to lane six revealed that she and Rama had pulled a full length ahead of Cynthia. Rowing is the only sport in which the competitor can watch their foes disappear in front of them. Lena savored watching that sleek black boat lag behind.
“Eyes forward!” Rama barked. Rama was hard on technique. She had her sister row with her eyes closed, feet in the water, and sometimes with only one oar so they felt the boat move through their combined grace. Rama was power: 6’6” with broad shoulders that gave her a reach with an oar that few could compete with. Rama always hungered to row the single by herself, but she was too much power for such a small boat. Grace is needed to control the power so the speed isn’t lost. Lena’s job was to keep the savage motions of her sister under control.
Limp flags waved at the rowers from the shore. Halfway through the race, and the Jesuit boat was now two lengths behind them. Cynthia’s head flicked back every few strokes to look out for obstacles. Lena liked to think she saw resignation on her face. Lena and Rama neither went to a camp nor rowed with a team. They were vagrants in rowing culture. They didn’t even own the boat they were rowing in. It was on loan from the local high school team, who needed it driven thirty miles to their race after they got off the water.
Motion bled into Lena’s periphery. A hard blink and the images still floated in her eyes. Motion meant that they were passing the stands. Five hundred meters left. A sprint and they were finished. Though her vision was narrowed, Lena saw Cynthia’s boat pulling towards them. Her hat grew brighter as each stroke threw meters of water behind them. Lena and Rama were tricked. Cynthia had them think that they burnt out halfway through the race so they’d keep sprinting. Now they were still rested, and a fourth of the race was left.
Oarlocks groaned as Lena pushed their strokes per minute up two.
She risked the balance of the boat for the higher speed, but the Jesuits were gaining, and she knew they couldn’t create a distance between them. They could only hope to keep their competitors from passing before the finish. Rama growled as the splash of Cynthia’s oars sprayed them. Now they were only half a boat ahead.
Cynthia’s boat pulled up flush with Lena. With only a few strokes left, their worth would be decided by inches.
“Finish!” an official screamed.
Their boat glided to a stop, and Lena doubled over her oars. A darkness clouded her vision, and she couldn’t sit up without her lungs feeling as if they were pierced. Her breaths sounded like they belonged to someone with a sucking chest wound. Rama stood up straight and looked to the official to wave his flag. It went down and up. Up meant they lost. The Jesuits would move on to Nationals and they would have to wait another year to compete.
Light slowly filtered into Lena’s eyes again. Through the brackish water she saw their bloody souls sink, softly spinning as they caught the current.
|# ? Sep 14, 2015 04:50|
wordcount: 1470 (of mine, because I am a big, fat cheater - plus the original prompt said to Lem it up, so I am Lemming)
Textual Analysis of the Europa Fragment
Since its recent discovery in situ on the deserted ‘Europa’ station, there has been much discussion of and research into the fragment and how it relates to the system-wide extinction event. These efforts have not been in vain. I have combined the fruits of our xeno-archaeology with the text itself to provide some clarity
I am conflicted about how to feel about Jupiter. The biggest planet in the solar system could not fill the entire sky. I’d learned few months ago that pictures where Big Splotchy Orb reigned the night sky were camera tricks; a ‘lens thing’ that would impress viewers. In actuality Jupiter didn’t fill half my field of vision.
It is odd for a Terran to refer to what is in sight as their ‘field of vision’. Their medical and psychological texts indicate their concept of action would not locate the object of observation within the eye itself. More commonly, there is the focus on the external referent - in this particular case the ‘sky’ would be appropriate, as it indicates the upward direction of the ocular gaze.
“For every human being who looks up at this moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.”
The paraphrasing here is particularly problematic. The libraries of Terra show the original poem was martial in subject matter, and refers to a dead warrior lying on a foreign battlefield. In essence, the Europans are suggesting by association that Terrans look upon their world as a graveyard for their dead warriors. The irony is that this occurs shortly before the Terran dead are shot via rocket to a completely different world. Either the Europans have totally misunderstood the context of the poem, or something else is afoot.
The end of the speech confirmed my xenophobia. My ears can only interpret their English as from another planet entirely; the syllables they choose to emphasize were almost always the wrong ones. But their heart was in it.
It’s interesting to note that the word Xenophobia indicates fear, but there is no fear response in evidence. In fact, the response is almost entirely empathetic toward the Europans. There is, and not for the last time, a disconnect between expected behaviors and that actually in evidence.
They sincerely felt sad at the foreign corpses inside the coffins lining their home. Even though we suspected them. Even though we’ve attacked them. They spoke those words as if they mean something to us.
The referent confusion here is telling. ‘As if they mean something to us’. Who is the us? If it is Terrans, then of course the poem has meaning. Our archivists have demonstrated it has history, poignance, and countless quotations in times of war, peace and remembrance. But the worrying question is - what if ‘us’ is not the Terrans? What if they spoke the words as if they meant something to them, the Europans?
The main speaker started reciting the list of dead humans. I only recognized three names out of those 212. I hesitated on reminiscing about my relationships with them until their names had been spoken.
Another question. Why does the correspondent only recognise three names out of two hundred and twelve. How has he managed to exist on a human colony while only learning the identity of three of his compatriots? Is there no reporting structure, no hierarchy or chain of command that would familiarise the correspondent with more than this cursory number? The numbers do not add up.
The main speaker spoke out the name of a janitor I once shared a cheese sandwich with.
The main speaker spoke out the name of a monk who once asked me where the nearest restroom was.
Ignoring, for the moment, the unlikelihood of having a cloistered religious figure on a scientific expedition of 212 people, the suggestion that a crew member on a prefabricated station balanced precariously on the icy crust of an infinitely inhospitable planet would not know the location of the bodily waste disposal area is risible.
The main speaker spoke out the name of fellow laboratory user who died by ignoring safety precautions. My lab partner was always ignorant of such ‘bureaucratic non-scientific twaddle’.
I have no idea what to do during the recital of unfamiliar names. All I hope is that confusion can’t last 200 names; I must feel something by then. I tried to imagine the amazing paragraphs written by people on Earth to remember this tragedy. I then realized I can’t imagine well-written epitaphs.
This final sentence is also somewhat incredible, when you consider that the correspondent was only recently quoting the paraphrasing of one of the most widely mentioned epitaphs in Terran history.
I failed at imagining myself as the grieving family members.
I couldn’t push any water out of my eyes.
I looked at my boots and just went back to the memories of three months of preparation.
The juxtaposition here is extremely important. Europa is a thin, frozen crust upon a vast, oxygen rich ocean one hundred kilometers deep. That ocean is where the Europans presumably first developed sentience, science, and the drills that would break through into the more gravitationally prohibitive area of the moon’s surface. That the correspondent notices the lack of bodily moisture and immediately looks to the ground hints at a connection. That it evokes memories even more so. The dissociation between the emotional act of crying and the physical one of ‘pushing water out of my eyes’ provides further evidence that the correspondent is not entirely comfortable with the human condition.
The workers stood up from their chairs after the 212nd name had been uttered. They lifted the coffins and inserted it into the rocket. After several failed attempts at helping them they finally impolitely asked me to leave it to them.
Here the correspondent is trying to align himself with the Europans, but failing. Metaphorically he is struggling with his own nature.
I can’t feel sad. I can’t distract myself from not feeling sad by doing things. I’m the last man on this moon and I can’t act human. What can I do then?
There is never an explanation as to why the correspondent cannot feel sad. It is merely stated as fact. Terran neurological textbooks report that an emotionally deadened response isn’t unusual in extremely stressful situations. But the continual questioning of the correspondents humanity, and the fascination with ‘acting’ human, is telling in a broader context.
212 people. I am not familiar with most of them. How many females are there? At least two. How many are non-Singaporean? At least three. How many –ologies and –ologists are involved in this program? I have no clue.
Indeed, the correspondent is only familiar with 3 of them in total. It is almost as if he is dropping clues as to his lack of belonging.
212 pioneers. The first ones to discover civilization in Europa. The first ones to establish peaceful relationship with said civilization. Most of them are heroes. I should’ve lamented their deaths. It should not be hard for me to be sad over them. I should have cried waterfalls by now. I have the suit that allows me to do that without my tears freezing even in the minus 130 degrees atmosphere.
The narrative becomes increasingly confused. ‘We’ve’ attacked them, yet these are the people who established peaceful relationships. Europa’s surface temperature varies from 110K (−160 C; −260 F) at the equator and only 50 K (−220 °C; −370 °F). So what (or whose?) temperature scale is being used here? The facade is in danger of slipping.
212 friends. I couldn’t cry over the death of 212 friends. My heart was not warmed by the Europans’ attempts at Earth funeral. Everyone besides me had prepared the stage for my theatrical display of sadness. I couldn’t do it.
212 ‘friends’, of which the correspondent had self-admittedly met only three. How are they friends if he has not so much as shared foodstuffs with 209 of them? Here the correspondent openly admits to the theatrical nature of his emotional response. The correspondent's inability to emote here, combined with his earlier empathy with the Europan’s attempt at poetry, gives us the final piece of the puzzle.
Why couldn’t I?
Am I a psychopath?
Have my anti-social behaviour these past forty years shielded myself from human emotions?
Have I left my humanity on Earth?
It is by now, I hope, obvious that we are not actually dealing with a human as our correspondent. By definition, psychopathy would explain an absence of emotional response but it is not an engendered mental state and should have been screened out of any candidates for such an important expedition according to all military and quasi-miltary protocols uncovered for this final time period. Bereft of that meaning, we are left with the alarming possibility that the correspondent is, or feels, somehow responsible for the deaths of 212 Terrans. Even more disconcerting is seeing the sublimation of that fact into an attempt at a human consciousness.
What do these Europans have that I don’t? How could they cry at the deaths of people from an entirely different culture? It’s sickening. It’s annoying. It’s alien. They are empaths. They can probe into our memories and create perfect copy of our emotions. They are a hivemind that have absorbed all the culture from the literature we’ve brought. They don’t actually have solid forms; they are constructed from what we think humans should be.
Of course they’re loving not.
The presence of the grammatical non-sequitur is indicative of the rising level of confusion in the correspondent. What is now clear to us is perhaps finally dawning upon him. From this perspective, the Europans are everything the correspondent is not, empathetic, cultured, ephemeral. The correspondent, on the other hand, knows only that it is their job to be exist as human and can only see failure. It is not the Europans’ form, but the Correspondent that has been constructed from what we (in this case ‘we’ is the Europans) think humans should be. The correspondent is copy, or simulacrum, and one that is keenly aware of its own deficiencies as a copy. We begin to see it struggling to articulate this disconnect.
It’s just…the nature of living beings. Emotions. Sympathy. They all know how sad this should be.
So what is wrong with me?
The subtext has become text. it is impossible to see how the correspondent could be anything other than a Europan construct. And yet, he is so divorced from the proceedings, and the Europans so divorced from the human experience, that the the Europans own vanity about the reconstructive abilities plays out in their mind of the creation. What is wrong is that they have failed to provide their construct with a rudimental understanding of Terran emotional life.
I screamed. Thankfully, the tele-communicator inside my head-suit automatically cuts off noise above certain levels of loudness. No one can hear these screams of a confused man. I walked towards one of the coffins. This one bore the name of my lab partner. I kicked the coffin.
“What am I supposed to feel for you? Am I supposed to cry? Am I supposed to wail? What do you want from me? What do you expect from me?” I continued kicking the coffin that didn’t budge. “I don’t know you. I don’t know your birthday. I don’t even remember your last name! Don’t think I ever asked...”
One of the Europans pulled me away from the coffin.
“What am I supposed to do here?”
The levels of irony in this situation approach the asymptotic. After screaming and committing violent acts against objects, the correspondent demands to know what his emotional response should be! He seems unaware that he has just provided a perfectly valid one, albeit one that doesn’t fit with the Europan notion of the same. Perhaps the Europans are not as omniscient as they see themselves to be. Somewhat more sobering is the possibility that violence is their innate response.
The Europan suggested that I should pray them luck for their afterlife travels. Hah. Like I know their religion. Like I know anything about religion. Like I ever cared. The best I could say is “May you go to Heaven.” And it’s not like I would be able to say that sincerely.
Because the correspondent feels responsible for their deaths?
My eyes are still dry.
I cursed at this apathy. I cursed at my lack of social interactions. I cursed at myself. These useless curses can’t even lift my spirits.
The final coffin had finally been inserted into the rocket. Then the musicians began their magic. The ice under the rocket melted from the ignition. And soon they would soar towards the Big Splotchy Orb. The rocket would then explode in Jupiter’s atmosphere and send the ashes towards any of the coloured storms.
The rocket itself serves to remove all evidence of humanity from Europa. If it is true that the rocket headed toward the gas giant, then there would be no trace of humanity at all in this planetary region except for the sterile symmetry of the abandoned station. But the presence of Europan liquid on the dark side of lifeless Terra suggest that Jupiter was not, in fact, its final destination.
I watched as the rest of humankind stationed on Europa flew towards Jupiter. In about 41 hours I will be the only Homo sapiens left on Europa.
I am touched by the inadequacy of this supposition. In the absence of any other sentient beings in this solar system, we are still left with questions, the whos and the hows and the whys. Was the simulacrum a memorial, perhaps, or a zoological exercise? The fragment does not provide us with answers.
My eyes are still dry.
It is a source of some concern that there is no trace of the correspondent left within the station, nor of the Europans themselves. Others have postulated further third party involvement, but I suspect the answer lies beneath the crust of this moon, in some of the artificial structures the geological wave-probes have detected. However easy it is to hypothesise, it is also dangerous. A baseless supposition could catch the public imagination and inspire panic. Misguided xenophobia from a final-tier intelligence? Weaponised sentience? All triggers for widespread alarm.
Nonetheless, I feel this interpretation is sufficiently similar to prior encounters to warrant an immediate retreat and a system-wide cleanse. As for the Terrans, we have acquired their libraries and modeled their architectures. It only remains for us to shed a tear for the untimely passing of a young race that, in its innocence, mistook a pathological interest in empathy for the bonds of true friendship.
|# ? Sep 14, 2015 05:18|
Jass was cold. She was always cold, since the time that spring didn’t come. There were no clouds, but the sunlight was pale and watery, a shadow of the warm, golden stuff from before, the kind of light that wrapped you up like bear-fur.
Jass was hungry. They’d been surviving off birds, a strange species that had started flying south over their village. They were fat and slow, and flew close to the ground. They’d feasted on too many, saved too few, and now that the migration had ended their stomachs were paying the price.
Jass was hopeful. There were rings in the lake, spreading like raindrops in a puddle. They grew more frequent and stronger. The Seers had told her they meant the great mountain was ready to open up and spew fire to warm the world. She left her daughter with her sister and headed west, towards the peak of white and green.
When the ground shook again Jass tightened her grip on her spear - mittens still felt unfamiliar, despite the years of cold. She could see the beast in the distance, so far away that its feet were below the horizon. She was too far from home to go back for help, and the thought of her daughter hungry made the possibility of missing out on food unimaginable. She broke into a run, her long legs brushing against prickly shrubs, one of the few plants to survive years of privation.
It wasn’t long before she was close enough to get a good look at the beast whose footsteps made the world shake. It had legs as tall as a pine that bore a long body , a huge head that seemed to be merely a vessel for multiple rows of teeth, each as big as her head, and a long, scaled tail that whipped back and forth and sendt trees flying through the air. She counted herself lucky she’d brought broadhead arrows, along with her spear, several javelins, and a curved dagger sheathed in each booth. All this bronze was something but her real strength lay in the tiny phial of frog-sweat that hung from a leather lace around her neck. Her mother had given it to her after a scouting mission far south. The tiniest taste could bring down a bison. She hoped her daughter would grow up to use the precious liquor for hunting, too.
She approached the beast from the side. It’s tail swept back and forth while it raked at the ground with the gigantic horny claws on its feet. They dug great furrows in the ground, revealing the rich red volcanic soil. Jass figured there must be a pigger nest beneath them. She wondered how many piggers it would take to sate the hunger of a creature that size- certainly more than a nest’s worth.
There was no time like the present. She dipped the point of an arrow in the phial, notched it, and let fly at the things tail. The arrow flew true, but snapped and splintered as it hit, like it had been fired into a cliff-face. The monster didn’t notice.
She eyed the thing more closely. The tail looked like one of the softer parts. It’s flanks, it’s back were all covered in gnarled, calloused scales. A staggered ring of scars ran around one thigh- matching the pattern of its teeth - seeing two of the brutes fight must be a marvel.
The belly was lighter in colour, and looked softer than the rest of the skin. It grew lighter still as it ran up the things body to its throat, where Jass fancied she could see the faint trace of veins. She fired another arrow to test her theory. It didn’t splinter this time, but nor did it draw blood. It hung from the beast’s skin for a few seconds before falling back to the ground. The javelins might do it, but she wouldn’t be able to throw them high enough by half. She shrugged and glanced down at her knives. If these won’t cut it nothing will.
She studied the pattern of the whipping tail for a few seconds, then took a deep breath and ran. As she expected, the thinnest end of the tail came towards her at speed, getting faster as it curled outwards from the body. She grunted and jumped, her legs splaying front and back until they almost bent upward. She cleared it by millimetres. She had to work fast, the tail would be coming back again shortly. If it didn’t already know she was there it was about to.
Jass took the first javelin from the strap on her back and heaved it, hard, at the creature’s belly, and then the other. They didn’t fully pierce the hide, but the she didn’t expect them to. She ramped up one of the claw-dug ditches, sprang off the side of a boulder, and grabbed hold of the lower javelin’s shaft. She marvelled that it held her weight, and that it could be buried well past the tip and still not pierce the hide.
She gritted her teeth as the monster bucked. The javelin was flexible, and when the moment was right she pulled down, combining the spring of the wood, the lurching movement of the beast, and her acrobatic skills to fling herself upward, swing herself around the second javelin to come to a stop balanced precariously on the end. Now came the hard part.
She let go of the side of the thing just long enough to whip out her daggers and plunge them into its skin. She proceeded to work her way up its belly like a climber with a pair of ice-axes, using the brute strength of her lithe arms to work her way up a foot at a time. Her biceps vibrated with pain, so she bit off a piece of the side of her tongue, forcing more adrenaline through her body. Whenever the monster shook she held on with both hands, barely managing to keep her grip as she was flung up and down like a rag doll.
Up above her she could see the things arms. They were weak and stubby compared to the rest of its body, but they were still as thick as her body. It didn’t look like it had good control over them, but wild flailing was dangerous nonetheless. She had a good rhythm now, kicking up off belly-skin with her feet, and using the momentum to plunge the daggers ever higher. The scales afforded her some grip for her feet, too. Just as she was nearly out of the reach of its arms one flicked up, and buried a claw through her thigh. She screamed, but held on for a few tugs before the daggers were dislodged, her leg still skewered.
The monster beat her against its hide, trying to fling her back down to the ground to dash her against the rocks. It seemed unfair she would die this way, a thousandth of a meal to a beast that would make a thousand meals for her whole tribe. She felt the claw slip back out the hole in her leg, and shut her eyes as she waited for the impact.
The impact didn’t come. Instead of downwards, she had been thrown upwards into the sky, well above the creature’s head. It had seen this too, and when she opened her eyes and looked down she saw it’s bright orange eyes, the size of dinner plates, trained on her, and it’s flaring nostrils tracking her movements.
As she reached the zenith of the arc through the air, the thing opened it’s mouth. She felt like a kernel of popped maize, flicked through the air to be caught in her husband’s mouth to delight the children. She knew what she had to do. Ripping the leather lace from her neck, she held the phial of frog-sweat poison like a sling, closed one eye to get a bead, and then released it, sending it downwards a fraction faster than she herself was falling. It smashed on one of the monster’s many teeth, and disappeared down the black hole of it’s throat. She could do nothing but thrash her legs as she fell, but it was enough, as she caught a foot on the beast’s grey lip, and fell, spiralling, towards the ground. She landed with a thud amid the soft upturned dirt below, and fell unconscious.
When she woke everything was black. She wondered if she’d died, if this was limbo, but the smell told her she was still near the beast. In fact she was in a pocket beneath it’s neck- it had fallen in such a way she wasn’t crushed. The frog-sweat had worked fast.
Her leg was bad, but she thought it might take her weight after a little work. She pried her fingers away from her daggers- if she was going to make it back she’d want as little weight as possible.
|# ? Sep 14, 2015 05:34|
the predators' end in the long grass
our death comes now; she falls upon us both-
not hasty no, for she is forever --
through up and up the psychopomps in coats
of blue do dance and whirl forevermore.
and I who lies in coat of white upon
the muck that I, in haste, stained red with blood;
made mud of dirt in haste to hurt the beast
whose coat I sought to hang upon my wall.
through all and all with bowstring drawn, I sought
to slay the golden cub whose eyes of blue
sought mine; whose claws of bone sought mine and tore
my flesh -- yet stopt when I released my grip;
my arrow's fall was swift and strong, yet I
am filled with naught but pain -- my blood has fled
into the dirt with I alone to blame
|# ? Sep 14, 2015 05:41|
|# ? Jan 27, 2022 20:53|
based on "The Liar's Paradox" by Ceighk
Zeus is staring down at me, poised to smite me with a jagged thunderbolt. I’m telling Esau that I don’t want to eat the guy’s brain.
We’re standing in a parking lot. Near the wall at the end where someone’s painted a huge mural of the King of Olympus. He looks furious. Maybe he’s furious that Esau tackled a living person into the wall so hard he crunched like a cracker. The man slumped against the wall and Esau just reached in and scooped his brain out like he was making a milkshake. He’s offering it to me and I just can’t do it.
“Come on,” Esau says. “Brains are the best part.”
“You deserve it,” I say. “You killed him,” but the truth is I don’t want any of him. I don’t want his guts or his extremities or even the fatty skin. Right now I’m thinking, no, this isn’t right. When the ancient Greeks invented civilization they didn’t go around eating people.
“I kill everyone,” Esau says. This is true. Esau jokes that way back before all this he was some kind of manual worker and I was a paper pusher. Maybe his boss. Even in the post-apocalypse I’m still a parasite.
“I don’t think so,” I say.
“Without fresh meat,” Esau says, “things start to go bad for us real quick.” The man’s body is still quivering.
“Just not now,” I say, and when I turn away I can hear him gorging himself.
It’s a day later and I still haven’t eaten anyone.
I’m wandering through the streets, just thinking about my life. Who I used to be. Was I a good person? Or are Esau’s jokes rooted in truth? Did I exploit people? Was I a CEO of a corporation that used child labour? Covered up that smoking caused cancer? Funded bloody civil wars for cheaper fruit prices?
I’m wearing a tattered sweater, but it looks like it could have been nice once.
I’m distracted by my own thoughts so the shrill cry startles me. “Zombie!” I look down the street. Emerging from the sewers is the head of a guy framed by curly hair. His eyes have widened in shock. I’m already thinking that I’m not going to bother when I see him fumbling for something. Then it comes up and I’m running.
A shot whizzes past me. I’m going full speed but there’s definitely something off. I miss a step and stumble and almost crash to the ground.
“Zombie can’t even run straight!” I hear, but he can’t shoot straight either, missing me as I pick myself back up. Gunshots on my left, just my left for some reason. Odd stretches of time in between like he’s aiming, but he still can’t hit me.
I duck into an alley. The walls are streaked by faded psychedelic art. Spiralling rainbows and mutating animals. Deer caught mid-leap, flowers bursting out of their skin. At the end there’s a fence and I try to haul myself up it. I fall the first time, my hand tearing on the metal. Then I’m over it, collapsing to the other side.
“Man, that one could really move,” the guy is saying.
“Something’s wrong.” A girl’s voice. “Zombies don’t run away.”
“He saw me coming.”
“You absolute idiot. Running around shooting.”
I touch my right ear. It’s shredded.
But with my left I can already hear the moans in the air. The snarls. My fellow undead are on their way. The sounds of shoes on the pavement. A thud, probably someone running over a car. The two survivors cursing.
I use the fire escape to get to the rooftop, and I stay there for a while, watching them. They’re racing down the street, a whole mob after them.
This is how Zeus feels, I thought. Watching from Mount Olympus. Getting drunk on nectar, eating ambrosia and watching the whole human drama. But thinking about ambrosia makes me hungry. Maybe that’s why I’m so attentive as I watch them pop open another manhole cover and scurry down into the sewers.
“I’ve started stalking a couple of survivors,” I tell Esau the next time I see him.
“Hey, that’s great to hear,” he says. “You need me to hunt them down for you?”
“No, I’ve got it covered,” I say, and wonder why I started the conversation. He gives me the thumbs up. His thumb is bent because of one of his meals fighting back. I remember him ignoring it, casually snapping the brain in half and offering it to me. He held it out like you’d offer a canteloupe at a barbecue.
They stay out long enough that I’m pretty sure they’re not eating in the sewers. That makes sense to me. After that last trip they’re way more careful. But every time they stay in a store I think about them in there eating, taking turns watching out for zombies like me. Every day I think about smashing through the window, dodging through the aisles, crashing through the cereal or the asian condiments. But it’s a fantasy to start with and every day it’s more and more of one.
At the end I can’t run. I can barely walk. But I can remember my old life. It’s all I can think about. It’s so vivid that it’s like it’s happening all over again.
I’m in a room where the air conditioning is broken. A bunch of people who look like teenagers are staring at me. I’ve forgotten what I was going to say.
“The Cult of Lykaios worshipped Zeus through, uh,” I say. “Uh...”
In the back near the left side of the room, two students are making out.
“Cannibalism,” I say, “a belief in cannibalism. They mixed human entrails into their animal sacrifices. The legend was that if you ate the human parts as part of the ritual, you’d become a wolf monster.”
A kid in the front row is checking his phone. His eyes are glowing blue, reflecting the light of the screen.
My brain isn’t registering anything but these necrotic memories until the voice cuts through.
“It’s you! Sweater zombie! How’ve you been, man?”
“Uh,” I say, wavering.
“You don’t look so good,” curly hair says. He’s tossing something back and forth between his hands. I struggle to focus on it.
“You know, I was hoping I’d run into you again,” he says. “All day long we run from you guys. Constantly looking over our shoulder. It’s exhausting. I could use a break.”
What he’s holding comes into sharp relief against his pale hands.
“You’re really bad at this,” he says. “At being a zombie.”
Esau blindsides him.
It’s like he jumped off a building or something because he hits him at an angle. Curly hair is screaming. Esau’s hands and teeth are a blur of motion that my eyes can barely register. The screams suddenly stop and there’s only the sound of Esau eating.
There’s a sudden pop and he jerks in place. He spins around.
Now I can make out another shape behind him.
She got him once but he’s in good shape, been eating regularly. He dodges to the side and comes at her. She’s firing and he’s dodging sometimes, sometimes taking the hit but he’s still going. As he gets closer she’s hitting more but then he’s clawing at her savagely. The pops are muffled now. They’re struggling.
I’m slowly shambling up to him as they shake back and forth. When I get close I can see that she’s trying to keep his head away from her throat. He’s snapping and drooling like a rabid dog.
I grab him and pull him backwards. No, I don’t even pull him, really. I don’t have the strength to get him to do anything. He just looks back and she gets him in the brain, in whatever’s left of it. He’s looking at me and he dies. Dies again, I mean. The light that isn’t in his eyes goes out.
He collapses on top of me, so that I’m awkwardly pinned to the ground. I’m trying to shove him aside.
Like Sisyphus. So heavy.
But I manage it.
She’s just lying on the ground, staring at me. Blood is blossoming out over her stomach. Alizarin crimson, bold strokes.
Cronus ate his young, I remember. Then Zeus went in and carved them out. When I saw that mural it felt like he was going to do the same to me. Just carve out everyone I’ve ever eaten.
She’s lying there staring at me and I’m eating Esau, peeling away his rotted skin, digging into his belly.
|# ? Sep 14, 2015 05:46|