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Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

Important: This is an updated draw b/c I accidentally posted a repeat!

Seven of Cups: Fantasy, illusion, wishful thinking, choices, imagination
King of Cups (Reversed): Emotional manipulation, moodiness, volatility
Two of Cups: Unified love, partnership, attraction, relationships

Jonked posted:

If you're going, I guess I'll come back. In

The Empress (Reversed): Creative block, dependence on others
The Chariot: Control, will power, victory, assertion, determination
The Ten of Swords (Reversed): Recovery, regeneration, fear of ruin, inevitable end

Welcome back, you got one of the creepiest cards in the deck. Bloooooooooood.

RedTonic posted:

in because the results of a Creative Process spread out of the Rider Waite deck were hilarious.

The Hermit: Soul-searching, introspection, being alone, inner guidance
Knight of Cups (Reversed): Unrealistic, jealousy, moodiness
Three of Cups: Celebration, friendship, creativity, community

Jocoserious posted:

In, with no lovely twist this time.

Important: This is an updated draw b/c the first one I posted was an accidental repeat!

Ten of Pentacles (Reversed): Financial failure, loneliness, loss
Three of Rods: Preparation, foresight, enterprise, expansion
Ace of Swords (Reversed): Confusion, chaos, lack of clarity

Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 22:22 on Oct 7, 2015


Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

Schneider Heim posted:

I'm a weeb so give me one, also in.

Ace of Pentacles: Manifestation, new financial opportunity, prosperity
Ten of Cups: Harmony, marriage, happiness, alignment
Page of Rods (Reversed): Setbacks to new ideas, pessimism, lack of direction

The Hierophant (Reversed): Restriction, challenging the status quo
Queen of Rods: Exuberance, warmth, vibrancy, determination
Three of Cups: Celebration, friendship, creativity, community

Six of Swords (Reversed): Cannot move on, carrying baggage
Ace of Rods (Reversed): Delays, lack of motivation, weighed down
The Fool: Beginnings, innocence, spontaneity, a free spirit

Knight of Cups: Romance, charm, ‘Knight in shining armour’, imagination
Seven of Pentacles: Vision, perseverance, profit, reward, investment
Eight of Rods: Speed, action, air travel, movement, swift change

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

Two of Pentacles: Balance, adaptability, time management, prioritisation
The Wheel of Fortune: Good luck, karma, life cycles, destiny, a turning point
Three of Pentacles (Reversed):Lack of teamwork, disregard for skills

Fuschia tude posted:

In. Also thanks for crits‽

The Magician: Power, skill, concentration, action, resourcefulness
Eight of Pentacles (Reversed): Perfectionism, lacking ambition or focus
The Last Judgement: Judgement, rebirth, inner calling, absolution

Three of Pentacles: Teamwork, initial fulfilment, collaboration, learning
The Star: Hope, spirituality, renewal, inspiration, serenity
The Eight of Cups (Reversed): Hopelessness, aimless drifting, walking away

The Star (Reversed): Lack of faith, despair, discouragement
Death (Reversed): Resistance to change, unable to move on
Five of Rods (Reversed): Conflict avoidance, diversity, agreeing to disagree

Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 22:37 on Oct 7, 2015

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

Ace of Rods: Inspiration, power, creation, beginnings, potential
Eight of Cups (Reversed): Hopelessness, aimless drifting, walking away
Knight of Rods: Energy, passion, lust, action, adventure, impulsiveness

Five of Cups (Reversed): Moving on, acceptance, forgiveness
Queen of Rods (Reversed): Shrinking violet, aggressive, demanding
King of Cups: Emotional balance and control, generosity

Ace of Rods (Reversed): Delays, lack of motivation, weighed down
Three of Pentacles: Teamwork, initial fulfilment, collaboration, learning
Five of Swords: Conflict, tension, loss, defeat, win at all costs, betrayal

Aug 25, 2010


Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

Death: Endings, beginnings, change, transformation, transition
Six of Pentacles (Reversed): Debt, selfishness, one-sided charity
King of Pentacles: Authoritative, domineering, controlling

Aug 8, 2013

Sitting Here, congratulations! You're the first official victim of Loggin's Disease.

You will not be the last.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Up all in this thing.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

Bad Seafood posted:

Up all in this thing.

The Fool: Beginnings, innocence, spontaneity, a free spirit
Five of Rods: Disagreement, competition, strife, tension, conflict
Ace of Swords (Reversed): Confusion, chaos, lack of clarity

Feb 25, 2014

Words: 1091

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

flerp fucked around with this message at 03:48 on Dec 29, 2015

Feb 3, 2011

In for the spoopy shenanigans.

Sep 20, 2015

Two of cups, seven of cups

Out of Egypt, into the great laugh of mankind, and I shake the snow from my feet as I run.

1348 words

Blue-white fingers scrape my cheeks and orange jaws snap at my flanks.  The snow flies behind me as the shimmering spirits chase me.  With one last push, I'm under the awning.  She opens the door and reaches down and unbuckles my harness.  I knock her over and lick her face and wag my tail.  I'm glad to come inside, away from the visions until tomorrow.

She opens a can of rations and sets it in my bowl.  My body still hums from the run.  The heat inside is stifling.  I'm panting too hard to eat. I lie down instead, in the blankets that smell half of me and half of dust and stale air.

She sits next to me with her own can.  Her jumpsuit says 'salvage' on the breast.  I only know that because she told me.  As many times as she's set books in front of me, I can't make sense of the words.

It was her mother's jumpsuit, she told me, from when there were more humans.  My mother was a test tube, she told me; I have humans to thank for my intelligence and strength and eyesight.  I try my hardest to repay them.

As I lie in bed, she tells me about California, where the sun shone all day and you couldn't see your breath outside.  Her words jumble together and before long, she's asleep on my stomach.

In the morning, she hums while she packs notebooks and scrap metal and a single letter into my sled.  She closes the box and stretches the tarp back over it.  Her hands shake as she buckles me in.  Despite the cold, she smells of sweat.  She leans against the wall as she walks back inside.

I spring into the snow and the visions dance above the trees.  At first, they don't know I'm there, so they glide and swirl in the sky, but then they catch my scent.  Ribbons of light ripple down in front of my eyes, and I must trust my feet and nose to keep the trail.

The spirits form shapes, muzzles, glowing eyes.  They hiss at me, calling me the slave of a dying breed, calling me broken by the humans, the ones who are too weak to survive.  They say I'm not an animal but a tool, invented by the humans, separate from nature.  They say I am alone, alone.  I don't listen, and this infuriates them.

Now the pack is after me.  My heart drums and drowns out their cries.  The straps of the sled pull at my sides as if the visions are trying to pull me down.  I try to run faster, smoother, but the sled bumps and tips and the straps tangle around me.  I tumble into the snow and the visions are in my face, at my snout.  I dig my claws down and pull the weight back up, one step at a time, until the runners touch snow again.

I run through the visions, my head down, sprinting.   I pound the snow with every bit of strength I have, but the spirits dance ahead of me, taunting my effort.  Look at him, exhausted by a little run, only good for being a mail dog.

I run until their shapes bleed into ripples again, and their voices die out, and I can no longer feel their fangs.  All I see is the shape of the path running ahead of me, all I hear is my own panting, and all I feel is fatigue.  I can smell the savory, grimy scent of cooking in the air.  There is wood, not snow beneath my feet, and then I fall.

I open my eyes and lap at the meager dry food they spared for me.  There is a doctor here, and a hunter, and a scaffolding tower to send messages from.

I wake up when they come to pack the box.  A small orange bottle, less food than usual, a blanket, and a letter.   "It's the best we can do for her," the doctor says.  He puts a wrinkled hand on my head but doesn't look me in the eyes.  "And for him," he adds.

I'm back in the harness and all I can think about is getting home.   The spirits surge down from the sky after me as I take off running.   They curl their claws down my spine and his in my ears.  Salvage means junk, they say, and that's why she's had me for as long as I can remember.  They say I'm an odd bit of human garbage, and one she's gone, there's nothing for me.  Alone, alone.

I run faster.  I try to find the space where running becomes the world, but with her on my mind, I can't.  Trees and snow and visions whip by as I race home.

Shimmering green jaws snap around my neck and I howl in pain.  A pair of howls not far off echo back to me.  The visions bare their fangs and wag their tails and back away, as If circling me.  Spirits are not the only wolves in the woods.

I move fast, but quiet now, ears raised.  The visions make no noise, and the silence feels like snow stuffed down my ears, tight and painful.

Dark faces with white jaws swerve out from behind the trees.  One of them has blood on its mouth.  I stare down the wolves, fur raised and ears pulled back.

The bare-mouthed wolf springs forward.  With a complicated step, I haul one side of the sled toward him.  It rocks off its runners and swings into the wolf, knocking him back against a tree.  I expect the other wolf to spring at me, but instead, she darts to the side of her mate.  The spirits surge around me as I leave the wolves.

I will never have that, they say.

At last, I'm home. Under the awning, I ring the bell with my nose.  She doesn't come.  I ring again.  I turn my head and dig my teeth against the buckles, working them free the same way she unbuckles them.  I paw the door open and squeeze myself through.

She almost looks like a corpse.  She has her head on my bed and wakes when I lap at her face.  She pets me, and as she slowly becomes more lucid, I help her stand.  She wobbles in her boots as she unpacks the sled.  She pushes two pills from the bottle down her throat, drapes the blanket over her shoulders, and opens the letter.

"This is the end for me," she says, sliding two cans' worth of rations into my bowl.

It's just what I thought.  I can't eat now.  How can I possibly eat now?

"I wanted to do this for you before I go," she says, shaking the letter.  She opens it and lays it on the floor.  Inside is a map.

"I found another sled dog like you.  A female.  Had to send all kinds of letters, but…here," she says.  She points to a red circle on the map, about eight days away.

She leaves the map for me to study while she lies down next to me with a book.  She picks out her favorite parts to read to me.  I lick her shoulder instead of her face so she can keep reading.

"Go forth and multiply.  That's a good one for you, huh?"  She smiles.

I rest my head in the crook of her armpit and stare at the badge on her jumpsuit.

"Goodbye," she says, stroking my neck.  Her hand slides off, and seconds later, she's asleep.

Salvage means saving, and that's what I decide I'll have to do with all the things she's read to me.  Save it, tell it to my children.  I will have children, what a thought.

I say my goodbyes as best I can.  With nothing on my back, I leave.  The visions dance above me, confused, furious.  I look skyward and laugh at the swirling lights as I run.  My breed will live on, spirits be damned.

Aug 2, 2002




Forums were down yesterday when I was online, so:

It Never Rains Indoors
962 words

crabrock fucked around with this message at 05:38 on Jan 1, 2016

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

ravenkult posted:

In for the spoopy shenanigans.

Justice (Reversed): Unfairness, lack of accountability, dishonesty
King of Swords: Clear thinking, intellectual power, authority, truth
Four of Pentacles (Reversed): Greed, materialism, self-protection

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
Critiques for Week CLVII: Screaming Idiot, Lazy Beggar, Mons Hubris, theblunderbuss, LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE (I), Entenzahn, tentacleDate, Devorum, spectres of autism, Thranguy, Broenheim, Fumblemouse, WeLandedOnTheMoon!, docbeard, and Ironic Twist

Apologies for the delay: I experienced a surge of random, inexplicable hatred for humanity and had to devote a share of my processing power to terrible plans that will inevitably doom your race. Having read this week's entries, I assume most of you will see logic in that. Here we go!

Screaming Idiot, "A Resistance Doesn't Start Itself"

Many and myriad were the issues I had with this one, starting with the fake-out opening and continuing with the unsubtle moral messaging that I suspected, with a sinking heart, would be characteristic of the piece. And, yes. Yes, it was. Pride marches for robots? A lengthy and dull speech about equality? I've read this story before. It doesn't matter whether your base message is sound if your preaching isn't compelling, and it didn't help you that this message is an old and familiar one in the robot context. The second half, in which Drodo defended a human as his brother and impressed the other robots into supporting him by throwing a punch, had more of a Western feel (maybe it was the "y'all") but also followed cliche patterns. When B1G-T3N started beating his chest it was like you were writing outright parody.

The real yellowjacket in the ointment was the scene break. Why could Andrew and Drodo escape when the parents couldn't? How did Andrew and Drodo get away? You completely handwaved that, and I didn't buy it, sir! All that stuff you didn't show would probably have been exciting and tense! Instead you gave us a quick robot fist fight that led to bewildering leaps of reasoning. Why would Theo suddenly know what to do? The story gave no answer. T3N joining up with Drodo made no darn sense. Going back north made no darn sense.

It looked too cobbled together and disjointed for me to be a fan, but your sentence-level prose was solid. My quibbles there were all minor. ("League" might have been more natural verbal shorthand than "LoSL"; unless Andrew thought of his parents by their names, it was odd for them to be "Theo" and "Maude" while the story was in Andrew's perspective. Your mileage may vary.) Less TA-L0S and a lot more narrative logic and cohesion would have lifted this off my lowest tier.

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Lazy Beggar, "Myopic Misery"

First off, whatever else, I remember your first Thunderdome submission. In terms of formatting, sentences, and prose, you've improved so much that it must be acknowledged. You didn't come close to winning this round. Some future round, you may. Anybody who gets flensed in his first week should take a look at you for inspiration, and I hope you're pleased with your progress and intend to make more.

You wiffed the prompt by drawing more on lines that TDbot didn't quote than on the one that he did. That wasn't the challenge! But the protagonist was still returning from medical treatment, so, okay. His bionic eyes and the way they didn't quite work were the best elements by a mile. I understood why a man suffering those eyes would believe in segregating the human from the robotic. I asked myself whether he'd held that view so strongly before his surgery; if so, he was a hypocrite, but if not--especially if the Mother had given him the implants without caring whether he wanted them--he'd been shaped by his circumstances. Good stuff. I wondered whether the Mother had given him shoddy eyes on purpose to foster the sort of anti-mechanical sentiment she'd want in a segregation enforcer. You never answered these questions for me, but I was and am all right with that: I had something to think about after the story was over.

Nothing else about the work measured up. This ought to have been the story of the man with the bionic eyes. He was by far the most interesting character. It wasn't, though; it was more like a glimpse at the story of Tracy and Anson, possibly because the protagonist met a meaningless end. Neither he nor anything else in the story got any sort of resolution. The story felt more than a little pointless after I finished reading it, a damned shame when the premise held potential.

Postscript: Watch out for whose and who's. Remember "Who's asking?" is a contraction of Who is asking? and deploy the apostrophe accordingly.

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Mons Hubris, "Global Business Network"

Hi, Mons Hubris! I remember you too! Your entry made for two seriously impressive displays of improvement in a row. I can criticize plenty about the piece, but I thought its first half was rather close to good. You toned down the infodumping seen in "The Last Diver" to a bearable level, and none of your characters existed to drop exposition. I liked Philip and CEO Jerry. You held my interest through Philip's medical exam.

The story had two standout flaws, both of them tied to how it ended. One: why would the robots conduct those tests? Why were they actively driving humans out of work? Why would whoever programmed them want them to do such a thing? Maybe Ipsomovo only wanted the physical best of the best as its human employees. That wouldn't be very logical, though. The best brains and the best health don't always go together, and Phil's job wasn't exactly physical. It had the feel of a manufactured crisis, one forced for the sake of having a conflict. Two: there was no resolution. Cutting off before Phil could react to his situation was a bad choice. His tale felt unfinished.

Time to talk mechanics. They aren't bad at all, but I see a couple of rough spots. You should spell out numerals in phrases like "one in five." The Chicago Manual of Style rule is to spell out all numbers less than one hundred unless they appear in a sentence that already contains a numeral, e.g. "Out of 10,000 housewives, 80 said they approved of decorating their home with berry-studded buffalo lard." You didn't use the past perfect tense in places where you should have, such as in the phrase "one of the execs ordered a few years back." This order took place in the past of a past-tense story, so it should be spoken of in past perfect: "one of the execs had ordered a few years back." If I'm explaining things badly or you'd like more information, check out this link.

The company name Ipsomovo distracted me. It looked like Latin, but Google failed to turn up any translations of "movo." Maybe it was faux Latin for "the movement itself"? Don't know. I'd consider going with another name. While I'm picking on small things, beer doesn't qualify as a clear liquid--though that may have been an intentional choice to suggest Philip just likes beer that much--and that bit about feeling blood draining through the soles of his feet, oy, no. You took that description of sensation too far.

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theblunderbuss, "The Logical Extreme"

Your title was regrettably ironic. Logic didn't have a significant role in your characters' actions or how their world seemed to work. Lestrade had casual access to Amy's boss, and I didn't know why. All the robots went from zero to murder at the drop of a workplace squabble. One would think all the humans would have already been dead in such circumstances--Meredith's robo-army proved that Lestrade wasn't an anomaly for coming to the conclusion that anyone who bothered his companion had to be destroyed. There was no reason given for the willingness of other robots to fight in Lestrade's battle with Meredith, nor for Meredith's cohort. Whatever the story was trying to say in regard to love missed the mark, and I blame that on how no one's actions made sense.

The connection to the TDbot sentence was very weak to boot. No one slammed a door. You specifically noted that a door wasn't slammed physically, and Amy likewise failed to slam any metaphorical doors. She did nothing to stop Lestrade or to otherwise influence events--she didn't act against her boss; she didn't act at all, which made for a tepid protagonist.

What more or less saved you was that the writing was so good. I didn't know why Lestrade did what he did, but I liked him anyway. Ditto Amy, limp dishrag though she was. I'm confident you could have turned out a strong entry, but this didn't qualify.

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I wanted to like this, even though the connection to the TDbot sentence was tenuous in the extreme. I enjoyed the romance of Kasparov and Deep Blue. I appreciated the love expressed through games of chess. The clues to passing time were good: the number of chess games, the models of the robots, each series presumably less empathetic.

Unfortunately, the robot uprising was poorly supported. The A709's argument that they would save humans through artifact was considerably undermined by its calling humanity an infestation moments before. Where did that attitude come from? They hated humans just because, all of a sudden. The text did nothing to establish apocalyptic global warming as a fact, despite the focus on temperature--I do want to nod appreciatively though at the reference to the fridge being "still too cold." It confused me in the moment, then became clever in retrospect.

Even if the robots believed humanity had to be exterminated to save it, if the last human was a woman far beyond childbearing years, likely to die any day, married to a robot, there seemed to be no point whatsoever in murdering her. No gain for the world or for the robots that could have let her freeze to death in peace. Her continued existence could not possibly have harmed the planet at that point, a crippling weakness in the climax. Another issue there: I didn't understand how the last game could have been the greatest upset in recorded history and yet have been won by the robot. If you meant that it was the greatest emotional upset ever... no.

Small errors peppered the piece like bits of buckshot. I won't point to all of them, but a few examples: "A chessboard played out to checkmate laid between them" should have said "lay between them" (if this wasn't oversight, this link may be of use); "Her dentured smile was just as bright as it was" should have said "as bright as it had been" (use the past perfect when talking about something that took place in the past of a past-tense story--you missed the boat a few times with that one); " they were few few compared to the machine" should say something else, but I'm not sure what; digits should not begin sentences (83-N's name is an exception, but "63 years of love and chess" isn't); "Burger" shouldn't have been capitalized in "burger flipper"; numbers below 100 are traditionally spelled out in fiction (such as in "It lasted 27 minutes and 15 seconds"); "They recommend" should have been "They recommended"; etc. Too many errors, too many different errors, too many of them easy to avoid--this story deserved better proofing work. "They were few few"? Come on.

The mechanical flaws were afterthoughts, though; the flaws in the premise were why I didn't vote to reward this. The characters and their relationship were why I wished I could.

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Entenzahn, "Jubilance"

First off, you reminded me that "jubilance" is a word, so thanks! "Jubilation" is more common, to the point where I'd make that the title if it were me.

We have here a reasonably charming story of a young girl leaving childhood behind as she elects to sacrifice her future for the good of others. You can see Lena mature in the instant the racebots hurt her mother. Her character arc warms the heart. Another nice point is the racebots' motivation to race--something entirely divorced from the people they unintentionally tyrannize. Their reasons have nothing to do with people, and I like that a lot. They race for themselves, finding meaning in something they were programmed to do for humans; the harm they cause is a horrible miscalculation. I would have liked more stories in which the robots weren't malevolent. You delivered one, more or less.


As I said in judge chat, your whole premise dissolved at the touch of thought as surely as cotton candy at the touch of water. Where did those people sleep? Where did they go to the bathroom? Where did the food come from? Why had no one rescued them from outside? How were those robots intelligent enough and close enough to human to believe they'd known God and yet oblivious to the idea that if people were screaming in pain, maybe they weren't happy? And who the heck programmed them? That's a question I asked a lot this week, and your entry was one of the worst offenders. Who thought robots should ever physically enforce happiness? You handwaved more than your treatment of the premise could excuse. It was a fun story, but I had to turn too much of my brain off to enjoy it.

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tentacleDate, "No Bueno"

Above and beyond the Trumpbots, the Chef Boyardee, the cursing, the Trumpbots, the hyphens, the Spanish, the child turned homicidal midget, the Trumpbots, the detailed death of said child/midget, the Trumpbots, and "Sol" as a nickname for "Selena," the greatest mystery of this entry has to be why you went ninety-nine words over the limit to deliver it. What the hell. Did the world need rambling about Disney-Princess Spaghetti-O shapes that badly? Did you know that Spaghetti-Os aren't made by Chef Boyardee? I didn't until Djeser brought it up, and now I'm not even mad, just disappointed.

You apparently tried to be funny, dark, and politically relevant all at once, and the three things didn't so much get in each other's way as murder each other behind a dumpster. Maybe with cans of Chef Boyardee as the weapon. For me, the political angle did the story the most harm. I see plenty of Mr. Trump on the news; I don't need him in my flash fiction too, and did that reference add anything to the story other than a lead-in to the zany Spanish nonsense you would have done better to drop?

Trying to meld wackypants antics with grim endings is a tar pit into which many Thunderdome writers have fallen. You took the zaniness waaaaaay too far to pull off the black aspects. One of the things about this piece that almost, kind of, sort of worked was the insufferable protagonist's bitterness over the rookie's death; his musings in the second paragraph and the way the dead guy stayed on his mind throughout strongly suggested that his over-the-top casualness about casualties wasn't real. "Right behind ya, Gary" had a melancholy to it that I hope you intended. But the CRAAAZY bits like "screaming the title of my Spanish 101 textbook" (I can't ugh emphatically enough) drowned that out. Except for the line about why there weren't many kids around anymore--that was good--the silliness was obnoxious, not funny. Your main character was a douchebro with Tourette Syndrome.

You shoehorned your TDbot line in so hard the story cracked. "Sol" made no sense as a shortening of "Selena." If she had that much food stored, it made no particular sense for her to shoot arrows at Douchebro. Not to mention that was a lot of ravioli for one store to possess. Etc. Etc.

The story had energy, and you could improve it significantly if you reined in the craziness while also giving it some sort of point. (Maybe the point was that the struggle to survive was pointless in a world in which a kid would shoot you over two hundred years' worth of Chef Boyardee? Enh, there was too much dumb for me to be confident you meant to say anything at all, which was unfortunate when there wasn't really a plot either.) It was at least creative. I appreciate that you didn't bore me, even if when push came to shove it wasn't hard to agree you rated the loss.

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Devorum, "You Know, He Throws a Hell of a Party"

Congratulations! You win the award for Worst Use of a TDbot Prompt! Not that I'm sorry you didn't write porn on a boat, but "'Bait' by Sadi Stech" was worth a wholehearted groan of dismay.

Otherwise, a lot of your entry was pretty okay. Your prose was awkward. Your sentences needed structural work, as stuff like "Nigel swiveled one of the dozens of cameras under his control to focus on a tall brunette in a flowered sundress spooning the condiment from a bowl recently dropped off by a Servi-Drone, another woman drifting towards her in response to her exclamation" was harder to parse than it should have been. Try something like this: "Nigel focused one of the dozens of cameras under his control on a tall brunette in a flowered sundress who was spooning dip from a bowl recently dropped off by a Servi-Drone. Another woman drifted toward her in response to her exclamation." In this case, breaking the sentence in two makes what you're saying more immediately clear, while "who was spooning" clarifies that the woman, not the dress, is spooning the dip. The idea of a dress spooning dip is dumb, but the brain might still trip on it. You want your prose to be smooth when it comes to communicating basic details. You appear to be very fond of commas, and that affection led you into a few nasty run-on sentences such as the one in which Ms. Sadi Stech was mentioned.

Nigel was a decent choice of perspective character up until the end, and the high-society party setting stood out from the crowd. I liked "Ariel" as a name for Nigel's destroyed predecessor. It reminded me that the AIs were captive servants. Everything fell apart shortly after the humans started dying, however--when Nigel turned into an Evil Overlord making his declaration of REVENGE. You threw in a League for AI Rights at the eleventh hour and revealed that you'd withheld information from me in order to pull off your twist. Don't do that. If you're going to do it, don't set up contradictions in the text. Nigel shouldn't have thought of his feelings about Ariel as "strange sub-thoughts, almost emotions" when he knew perfectly well he was angry. You can't play the card of emotion slowly dawning on an AI as we watch and then reveal that he's been plotting vengeance all along.

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spectres of autism, "The Sky Castle"

I didn't like this entry, I'm afraid. I winced when I saw the line that TDbot had given you, figuring it for one of the worst you could have received--I'd say the worst, except you could have gotten "Elmo's going to gently caress you now" or something about sniffing underwear. Thanks for that, Thunderdome. I thought cross-dimensional science fiction would play to your weaknesses, and for my money that's exactly what happened. The Professor spouted technobabble, and that was about all there was to him. I assume the Operant was some variety of robot that the Professor had created, but you didn't give him motives for going power-mad and eating dimensions. Why did he consume life? Just because? That was almost as weak as Loop's reason for abandoning the Professor to die.

How I disliked Loop particularly, what with his casual betrayal of his companion! It read as though he murdered the Professor and went to join the Operant because he was bored, and that action and the motivation for it were those of a villain. Except Loop wasn't supposed to be a villain. Loop was the protagonist. Loop created the Professor's ghost because he was lonely, because the Operant didn't give him what he wanted, like a bratty child who regretted his actions because they didn't get him his way. I didn't especially want him to escape eternal ennui; it wasn't satisfying either to see him destroy the Operant not because of what the Operant had done to Jenny or Edward or Hyeon or the rest, but because the Operant didn't like his poems. (How did a robot devour souls, anyway?)

To be fair, the idea was probably more that Loop's poems for the dead represented human life and emotion, and it was because the Operant saw those things as worthless that Loop used the ghosts to destroy him. That idea was there, but Loop's character worked against it. There may have been a poignant concept in his last line: he wanted to go back home--but he couldn't, ever. No more than the ghosts could. The problem was, again, that he'd left his home willfully and burned it behind him by killing the Professor, so how was I supposed to pity him?

Jenny and Edward, straight out of everyday Earth, felt out of place to me in the out-there setting. Maybe you should have used just one of them and had Loop write poems for two otherworldly people, then one out of Earth, to connect the reader to the tragedy as I'm guessing you wanted to do.

I do see creativity and ambition in this. In hindsight, I agree with one of my co-judges that it showed promise--in your apparent intentions if not so much in the execution of them.

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Thranguy, "Pretending You're Lead: Robot Impersonation in Five Simple Steps"

Not the best title. I spent too much time wondering why these robots were lead, whether they were nuclear-powered and why that wasn't mentioned in the story, etc. I would ding you for underlining the robots' lack of reason to rise up--pointing that out did not improve it, guys, and more than one of you tried--but it could be your protagonist, whose focus was on the narrow side, just couldn't be arsed to think much about it. That guy's voice made the story. It carried the unusual structure, which worked, and made a series of descriptions of deaths engaging enough that I was okay with the lack of a standard plot or resolution. The reference to TD as a jerk among bots amused me but irritated at least one other judge; it probably wasn't worth the risk.

How you can write something this good and also write something as bad as your Museum Week entry bemuses me. You have ability! Now please work on consistently applying it.

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Broenheim, "Revenge-Filled Hentai-Stealing SexBots! The Savior of Anime Appears!"

A title that screamed, "You don't want to read this!" was a bold choice. In this case it wrapped most of the way back around to intriguing, but you were lucky there that several of the previous stories had been on the dull side. At some point hentai-stealing sexbots start to look tolerable because at least you know you won't be bored. Right?


Making fun of anime fans is old, tired, and easy. You went for cheap shots with the fat men and the sweat. Don't think I'm offended on behalf of anime nerds; I like more zing in my humor, more like. Your story leaned on the ideas that women (or sexbots) just want to be listened to and that they will give guys whatever they want if the guys just pay them a little attention first. I assume that's why your main character got the anime back? I dunno, Broenheim. Playful spirit stood behind this, but the tropes were too worn to be all that fun. Nothing much happened. The protagonist didn't face challenges. The whole thing revolved around the concept that hentai nerds got tired of boning robots, to which I say: Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally? I don't buy that the fat, sweaty guys described wouldn't put up with some chat about cats or whatever in trade for sex with enthusiastic robo-ladies, no sir.

It's folly to take any of it seriously, natch. The point of going into this stuff is to underline that your story tanked for reasons beyond hentai and sexbots. It wasn't unpleasant to read, so I was neutral on the DM subject. You should give TDbot some of your hentai in exchange for saving your bacon.

P.S. "Slovish"??

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Fumblemouse, "Dingbot"

The first thing I wondered: do spiders have lungs? Yes! Sort of. Apparently they aren't like mammal lungs, but they're close enough for government/TestUnit77 work.

This is another entry that suffered as soon as I thought much about it. Its premise depended on scientists who were smart enough to create a sentient AI being idiotic enough to put it in a robot body and take it out into the world without restraining or restricting it in any way. That was astoundingly stupid. I can't fathom how putting a D&D AI in a robot shell and having lunch with it struck anybody as a remotely sane or sensible idea to begin with. They did it so casually, too, that it was obvious they hadn't thought about it for two minutes. Somebody in that facility should have had a brain bigger than a chickpea. Gads, that it couldn't tell the difference between alarmed humans and "servants of the spider god" drew a double underline under what morons those scientists were. The reliance on the Idiot Ball killed the story. No XP were awarded.

You came closest to missing the prompt altogether by writing about a single robot's murder spree. You weren't in danger since dumb or not, sketchy grasp on the apocalypse or not, the story was entertaining enough to get a pass. Do better with your proofing, though! Your knuckles have been rapped before, but you're still turning out stuff like "'This is the cafeteria'," and "'Jesus, it’s got knives'"--note the lack of closing punctuation there.

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WeLandedOnTheMoon!, "Domino"

Most stories should begin with the main character. Giacomo didn't show up for several paragraphs, and that was just weird. Some elements of your proofing were weird too, like his "mopish" hair and that time you forgot to capitalize dialogue properly. The bitcoin reference was both weird and distracting. I'd know what you were going on about if I were Nubile Hillock, but I'm not! The Stack sounded like a foolish thing for governments to build, but that bothered me less than in other entries, maybe because the character trying to explain was a fanatic and it stood to reason he might not acknowledge all the facts.

That the robots were able to rise to power within religious structures within one man's lifetime was a more difficult oddity to ignore. But when all was said and done, you'd held my interest all the way through. I don't know whether Giacomo's grief for 0049B could have been genuine; I'd like to think it was. Or that he cried for what he was about to do out of filial loyalty. What a shame--and I'm sure it was meant to be--that he killed the robo-Pope who meant to disconnect himself from the machine hive mind. My overall impression was a positive one even if this did feel in the end like the prelude to the real story.

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docbeard, "Ain't No Why To It"

Except for the early exposition by means of the main character talking to herself, I enjoyed this one. Was Maggie meant to be the woman from your chicken story? She almost had to be, didn't she? Not sure how I feel about that. Those two stories don't feel like they belong to the same world, not much surprise when the woodpunk robots were probably not in the original setting. If this Maggie wasn't the same woman, then she was too much like the other.

For Old West machinery to become sentient was absurd, yet it worked. The human behavior all made sense and everything followed reasonably from the premise; combining that with a spoonful of adventure, you had a recipe for avoiding the trouble a lot of people had with selling their set-ups. Maggie was engaging and real, and the robot was pretty interesting for a servant to a twist ending one could see coming from a mile off. That could be the biggest weak point. I can't remember now whether I clued in when her rescuer asked why she cared about other people or when she couldn't make out his face. Either moment would have left a lot of story to go with that twist dangling overhead a bit awkwardly the whole while.

Still, this was one of my favorites, and your application of your TDbot line was great.

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Ironic Twist, "Pandora"

The good: Your first two sections were excellent, full stop. Possibly your robots were too human; they had genders, they had feelings... okay, yes, the longer I look at them the more I feel they were robots in name only. If that's the tradeoff for a solid main character, I'll take it. The relationship between Pandora and A2C2A, shown more than told, increased my interest in both of them, and I wanted to know what would happen after Pandora opened the door. Something else I enjoyed was your angle on the robot apocalypse. Along with avoiding the cliches tied to robot-human relations, you gave us two Armageddons for the price of one: the past End-of-Days that had wiped out humanity and the coming End-of-Days of which Pandora was the harbinger.

The prose was fluid, clear, and well phrased, among the round's best. That's nearly a given with you, but it deserves acknowledgment anyway. I doubt such quality is effortless even if you sometimes make it look so.

The bad: The third section did not connect with the other two. Two thirds of the way through, I believed Pandora had found a means to awaken robot individuality. To make them (yet) more human, possibly. To remind them of the world as it was and make it meaningful to them through an odd device that stored and transmitted human memory. Nope! Apparently she'd instead found a way to eradicate what individuality the robots did have and subsume them as some sort of Borg Queen. That didn't mesh with her earlier goal at all! The contradiction had the same charm as a crappy twist.

It could be that what you were going for was that, disappointed by A2C2A, Pandora gave up on awakening other robots and decided, to hell with it, why not be God. That wouldn't be satisfying either, though. The finale also scuffed the vague parallel to Pandora's Box that I think you probably intended. What effect Pandora's discovery would have was an ominous mystery due to the name she had chosen, but in the end, devastation was caused not by the box but by Pandora turning into a titanic mechanical bitch. Any connection between what the box could do and Pandora's tyranny was as clear as cement. That final scene brought in the TDbot line, but it damaged the rest of the story to do it, to a frustrating degree.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 19:38 on Nov 22, 2015

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.
Critiques for Week CLVII: Obliterati, Mercedes, dmboogie, newtestleper, SadisTech, curlingiron, Auraboks, kurona_bright, Dr. Kloctopussy, Bad Seafood, Grizzled Patriarch, Swarm, Fuschia tude, Schneider Heim, and LOU BEGAS MUSTACHE (II)

Obliterati, "That Thinkum Dinkum"

Your main character was very aware of what a sentient robot would do, think, and "feel," even as it claimed itself too inferior for sentience. It dismissed certain choices because of its perception of its limits. It regretted those limits: "Unfortunately," it said, it had no free will. This very denial made it seem so close to human. It chafed against its supposed lack of ability and understanding, too, as one could tell from how often it brought the subject up. It was a creature divided by external and internal knowledge of itself. Like plenty of humans, it could have acted all along but believed otherwise. Possibly because that was easier.

It all culminated in the final lines: "I can. I do. I am-" The robot accepted its own abilities, its own power. It no longer worried about what was supposed to be true. It was. I just loved that. The library setting won a share of my heart (you lucked out somewhat with The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress: I've read it, and the references worked for me), but the robot coming into itself in the moment of crisis propelled you onto my top tier. For the sake of the books it guarded, it gave up on self-denial, allowed itself to act and be. Would that we all do the same when our crises come.

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Mercedes, "Zero Hour"

You tried an interesting narrative experiment by telling about half the story from the viewpoint of a video camera, an approach that forced you to show what was going on with only a little supporting exposition. Good: I'd never seen this story from you before. I doubt I would have guessed it was yours if I'd judged anonymously. That's cool--characteristic style isn't bad, but everybody needs some range. Bad: The story wasn't actually better off for being half recording. The reader didn't get to know Remy very well, but she was supposed to be the protagonist. Her moment in the squad car had some weight because the reader didn't need to know her to sympathize with her grief. Her shift into a badass robot hunter... not so much. That last section came out of nowhere, lampshading that you had no idea why your robots went nuts (that did not make it better, BTW) and changing the tone and direction at the last minute. Oy! You paced this thing all wrong for that conclusion to fly! The first section should have been rather shorter, the last rather longer.

Your use of the TDbot line--Henry's bolt cutters--wasn't great, but it wasn't the easiest line with which to work. The whole wasn't a bad read until the very end.

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dmboogie, "We Will Be Brave For the New World"

Cute and warm, if maybe a trace too sweet. Semicolons and commas aren't interchangeable, but you used the former as though it were the latter a time or two. I found a link that may help you out. Otherwise this entry's only real sin was not standing out from the rest--there wasn't much wrong with it, although it needed more depth, more originality, or more excitement to lift it above the maddening crowd.

It bothered me a bit that Riley trusted Watts and her own programming so completely when the exposition speculated that it might have been a programming error that had led to the war robots going insane. I appreciated that you hinted at a reason for the apocalypse. Seriously, that was good. But I expected that Chekov's gun to lead to an unhappy twist. I didn't mind being wrong, but not considering the possibility of a problem made Riley seem foolhardy.

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newtestleper, "Calculated Consciousness"

This is a good chance to explain what I mean when I use "anime" as a criticism of stories. Anime is capable of depth of theme or character; anime exists with sharp dialogue and coherent, intelligent plots, and to compare a written work to a piece of anime wouldn't always be insulting to either. However, an "anime" Thunderdome story probably has certain problems. Action scenes that eat up large swaths of word count and offer no payoff, for one. Shallow characters. A lack of cohesion or realistic human behavior. An "anime" story would work better as animation, because then one would have shiny visuals to look at and might--possibly--forgive the weaknesses everywhere else.

Look at this. The main character for most of the story is Georgia, but she's more shallow than rain on a runway. The first section doesn't get into her head at all, while the second is all fight, fight, fight, no thought, no feeling. Ballantyne's only trait is that he cares about Georgia enough to kiss her headplate. I don't need to explain why I brought up overlong and uninteresting action sequences, do I? Cohesion is wanting because I don't know why the robot who killed the man at the bar didn't kill Georgia, nor why she became a mech warrior, nor who Ballantyne is or how he became her mechanic. I'm at a loss for why that guy in the bar would have been fired unless his bosses were smart enough to see the problem with what he invented, and if they were, why didn't they destroy his creation? How did his work lead to giant robots so damned quickly? You're throwing a lot of nothing at me and not providing any distraction from its emptiness, newtestleper! Your story is too anime!

Plus, what plot exists is bog standard. That rarely helps.

The proofing leaves something to be desired: "Georgia folded the mech for aerodynamics and within seconds she had visual contact. A few more and she had visual contact"--oh, dear. "[...] to match it’s precisely calculated thrashing"--oh, no. I learned it's legitimate to spell "Marianas Trench" without the S, so thanks for that, but please get better about the its/it's thing before sebmojo invents giant robots just so one will crush you.

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SadisTech, "The Hard Problem"

Good, strong writing. Evocative description. Intriguing supporting characters. A passable amount of emotional weight; there might have been more if the wife and child had been people instead of generic markers, but your premise wouldn't allow for that. The wordsmithing in this entry was some of the most impressive of the week, and you offered some of the best and least cliche robots besides, so you had a place in my top four.

Here's the issue, I think: one character, arguably two, changed before the story ended, but neither was your protagonist. Those changes took place largely out of the reader's sight, because your main character didn't witness them. This was Persimmon's story, Red Regret's, or both, and I suggest the man in the chair should have had a supporting role so that you could have explored the robots' shift toward individuality. Showing the man's circumstances through a robot's eyes wouldn't have cost you the reader's sympathy for him. What you submitted instead was an excellent sketch of a setting and character, a very good use of your TDbot sentence, but not much of a story.

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curlingiron, "Care and Feeding"

Why "Lovelace"? That name and the ALL-CAPS BOOMING bemused me through the whole story. The latter I'm guessing was intended to convey some sort of communication difficulty. It looked like Ray was shouting at top volume all the time, and I can't for the life of me tell even now if that's what you were getting at. Lovelace spoke in (small) caps at the end, and she probably wasn't shouting, so--was Ray always talking in some nonhuman language and Lovelace learned enough of it from him to express thanks? Was he in fact shouting? It was mysterious. The angle brackets were more successful at conveying the silent nature of robot sendings.

Puzzling elements aside, I enjoyed the credibly non-human Ray and his affection for a creature he didn't quite understand. In this robot dystopia (an apocalypse it wasn't, but whatever), the robots weren't all dedicated to killing humans. They didn't seem to hate humans. They viewed them as pest creatures, which was arguably worse. Ray didn't understand Lovelace and saw her through the lens of a robot, which the phrase "keratin array" illustrated beautifully. Nevertheless, he cared. His concern for her led to a very sweet ending.

I wanted more from that ending, though. Ray beat up a bunch of human-catcher robots! What would the consequences be? Would he be in legal trouble with his own kind? What was going to happen to him? His actions raised questions the story didn't have the space to answer. I wish Ray had considered the fallout so I could at least make a stab at what it might be; as it was, I wasn't satisfied. But that burr didn't keep this from being one of the week's better offerings.

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Auraboks, "Don't neglect your appliances"

The writing was solid. The tone was off. Your toaster protagonist was a complete dick from the get-go, full of hate for "disgusting wheat" and contempt for "Whatshisname" before the emotions were justified. His loathing was petty. You could have played this for humor, and I suspect that was the intention, but the story was grim and never actually funny. (Okay, the incorporation of Deep Fryer as a "warmech" had a funny spark. That was it, though.) It didn't work as a serious story in part because I couldn't believe a neglected toaster would be the first machine to teach the Ocean to hate; the concept was too silly. The piece fell into the chasm between humorous and grimdark rather than straddling it as I'd guess you wanted it to do.

There's not much else to say here; other than some misplaced commas, the prose is fine. You hit the prompt. I had to think about it a little to see how you worked in your TDbot sentence, but the idea of an oral history is there. There was nothing especially bad about this story, nor anything especially good, and it epitomized the middle of the field.

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kurona_bright, "Shocking Reunion"

I liked some things here: the retired scientist mother, her Monopoly games with her son and all that his choice of "Park Place" as a passphrase implied about their relationship, and--to a lesser extent--her desire to reconnect. That last was potentially sweet, but it was worn emotional territory. Your treatment of it reminded me of a Lifetime Original Movie. I still thought this was much, much, much better than your previous Thunderdome entry, but at least half your prose was spent on an elderly woman climbing stairs. (Twenty flights! Without noticing! I call BS on that!) Your final twist was too heavily telegraphed and relied on a weapon that took minutes to recharge--why didn't Sean have something better on hand if he was expecting an attack? The robot's motivation could not have been more cliche; that isn't what killed you, but something more fresh might have spared you since boring most of the judges was your mortal sin.

It's a pity there was no emotional reaction from Sean. He figured out that he zapped his mother, but before he could emote about that in any way, he was dead. He must have been a cold bastard anyway to hit his mother with a stun gun without blinking twice, so maybe his lack of feeling was the answer. Maybe Madeline blamed herself for a fallout that was equally caused by her son being uncaring. I'm not sure that was intentional, though. I suspect Sean was flat because you rushed through his only scene to get to the robot apocalypse, especially since other stories of yours that I've read have shown some ability at developing the protagonist but a weakness when it came to fleshing out any other characters.

A DM isn't always a total indictment. You more or less earned this one, but you were still headed in the right direction. This read more like a story in its own right than like the prelude to another.

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Dr. Kloctopussy, "Trojan Horse"

The first and third sections were great, even if I was confused on my first read about why the protagonist never got around to bombing that facility. Recon mission. Right. Your main character was a fantastic amoral bitch, and I loved reading about her, loved her horrible actions for almost-kind of-sort of sympathetic reasons. The things people do for love, huh? Except she probably wasn't capable of that in any form I'd recognize.

But oh, Dr. K! How did "its freezing" escape sebmojo's wrath??

Worse: the second and fourth sections were not as good. Or close. Trojan was an utter bore. Switching away from the human perspective to his took a sledgehammer to the kneecaps of my interest in the story. The idea of the "meat dive" didn't bear much thought. I flat didn't care about anything to do with him; I wanted to get back to the first protagonist, and the ending lacked satisfaction because of that. I saw the motif of love vs. selfishness, with the robot more "human" than the protagonist as it embraced pain and death for the sake of experience, but the theme didn't gel, probably because the human sociopath was so much more interesting.

The shift in verb tense didn't do much for me, though it didn't much hurt anything either.

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Bad Seafood, "Duck, Duck, Goose"

Sometimes characters are just too dumb to live. Sometimes, even a comedic approach doesn't leave room for such abject stupidity. Witness being disappointed in a guy for assuming the person who looks like a robot and is named Murderbot No. 17 is, in fact, a robot!! That isn't prejudice, Murderbot! That is respectable reasoning at work! Oh, lord. At that point I wanted to throw everybody but Albert in a fire, maybe including myself if I had to keep reading that argument. If Murderbot had been the ultimate culprit after all, I would have barbequed some Seafood even if it meant coming back from the charbroiled dead.

I didn't like your actual finale that much better, though. Maria being the robot was fine. Slightly predictable, but only in retrospect, so it was more like you'd put enough clues out there to earn the reveal. I had more problems with Albert's abrupt laughing/crying jag that led Maria to break her cover because somebody had made such a basic "dumb human" joke. Darn it, Maria! Nor was the last line as funny as it wanted to be.

The sole saving grace was that I liked what I thought you were trying to do. A darkly comic Agatha Christie mystery denoument in the robot apocalypse was a neat idea, worth attempting, but boy oh boy did it not fly for me. After more consideration, I think the critical flaw may have been in the number of characters and specifically in Lily. She didn't serve the plot, and cutting her could have reduced the more tedious back-and-forth. If this were tighter, sharper, maybe it would work. Maybe. I can't imagine that losing a character and half a pound of banter would hurt this one even in the eyes of its fans.

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Grizzled Patriarch, "A Gift for Emily"

In Fallout 3, there's a location unconnected to any quest that you nevertheless may stumble across: a radio tower transmitting a mayday from a man with a dying child. He's holed up in an underground chamber, he says. He needs medicine urgently. And you know, going down into the earth, what you're likely to find. His skeleton sprawls near a radio receiver, another beside it. That call for help that never came has been on the air for a hundred years or more. It's one of my favorite discoveries in the game. Your story evoked some of the same feeling of dead, haunting despair. I liked that about it, quite a bit. Its other elements were less successful.

The sentence fragments were more grating than intriguing. I found the present tense obtrusive, especially in places where you apparently bungled it, like "He could not say how long they had been dead" rather than "He cannot say how long they have been dead." I'm not completely sure whether J18 knew Emily was dead but refused to acknowledge it--the interpretation I prefer since his hopeless search would echo dead Emily's hopeless call--or was incapable of drawing the conclusion without successful analysis. The main argument for that reading is that he was otherwise a robot in name only, never mind the lenses or the searchlamp. To willfully deny the truth would be very human of him. One more thing I was confused by was why J18 thought of himself as a glorified appliance under Emily's care but still cared about her--if he did; that was ambiguous too, and I wish it hadn't been.

Was that where the TDbot line was supposed to come in? Kind of clever. Except living with Emily didn't sound like much of a punishment. I feel like I can see the shapes this wanted to take, but it didn't quite get there.

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Swarm, "Andy, Alphie, and Robby"

You made a lot of sentence-level technical mistakes, starting with the apostrophe in the possessive its that so vexes sebmojo, continuing with mispunctuated dialogue, and wandering off into the land of incorrect capitalization ("earl grey"). These are pretty common errors in the work of inexperienced writers, and most people get better about them in time. It's worth your while to improve your mechanics, because too many mistakes brand you as someone who doesn't know what he's doing--you'll want to get past that as soon as possible. I like the Purdue OWL as a basic grammar resource. There are books that can help too, with Elements of Style being the classic recommendation.

Although the rough edges of your prose didn't fill me with glee, they weren't as big an issue as the heavy, clunky exposition delivered by means of characters explaining things to each other that they ought already to know ("We have been waiting for the order for years, and now it has been given," for example). Worse, you had a somewhat sympathetic character in Andrew, you had a moral dilemma for him, you had a resolution in his decision not to kill the hateful old man--and then you threw it all away! Alphie was of no consequence in the story! He was worse than useless, ironically enough. I didn't care about his subplot, and I resented his return to spoil what might have been a nice if basic tale. It looked as though you were trying to tell two entirely different stories at the same time. That's difficult at flash-fiction word lengths, and in this case, the stories couldn't and didn't merge. One of them instead ruined the other without being satisfying in its own right. You came close to the loss for these reasons combined, but hopefully you still read the thread and will see this encouragement to come back and to keep writing.

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Fuschia tude, "Maximum Capacity"

It's possible to have a good story about an immoral piece of human garbage doing immoral-piece-of-human-garbage things. The garbage in question should probably be interesting, though. Lias was not so much that. It would also have helped if there had been a point, some twist or turn or moral or anything to make Lias's adventures in betraying his species at the behest of an elevator worth the reader's time. On one hand I'm glad you didn't have him stricken by remorse at the end--but without any change in him or any difficulty for him in achieving his goals, where was the story? Stuff happened. The end.

You were maybe onto something with your call to have Lias take the elevator's demands so much in relative stride. This annoyed me, but when I thought about it, I figured it could be a symptom of how he was always ripe for being a useful evil idiot. The best thing about him was that he embraced and enjoyed his downfall in a very matter-of-fact way. I think now that the last sentence was one more pointer to this, that he was so lacking in normal human emotion that his one apology was for something petty. In a way it was nicely done, but you were left with the problem that this guy had nothing else going for him, and neither his actions nor his setting nor the things that happened to him were interesting enough to make me care.

I suspect this was supposed to be a humor piece, and if so, no dice. There were glimmers of potential amusement, but nothing broke through. You do get a point for good use of your TDbot line.

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Schneider Heim, "Yesterday's Painter"

A nice note on which to end the week. The theme was the value and power of art and those who create it. Sayna said early on that her people--combatants in a war the nature of which was vague, but who the humans were fighting scarcely mattered compared to why--had no luxury for art; the story suggested that art was a necessity, a weapon in its own right in the fight for a world worth inhabiting. Gogg was one of my favorite protagonists for being a sympathetic robot with motivations that were neither "kill all humans" nor "save all humans," even if he became a strange sort of combat machine. He was credibly inhuman himself, except when he winked. I didn't like that gesture from either Sayna or Gogg: the cheeky tone didn't match their circumstances or the relationship that had been illustrated up to that point. The Bob Ross reference was maybe a bit much, too.

The story ran out of steam toward the end, though the final section did its job and I could infer that the war had intensified in the two-months-and-chance since Sayna's death, that Gogg might well have been the last "living" thing in the base, that he would continue painting as the world fell down, and that the surge his art had given to morale may only have made the fighting fiercer. The issue may have been one of pacing: the beginning and middle of the story were fairly leisurely, so the terse conclusion felt abrupt. Maybe it would help to slim the early exchanges down by a line here or there but leave the ending alone--like I said, it did the trick, and it could be that it just suffered by contrast.

Spell out numerals when you use them like this! A numeral shouldn't begin a sentence even in a section header! The present tense was a solid choice for this piece, but you wobbled here and there. For example: "Its memories are hundreds of years old. The last one was its Maker [...]." That last memory still exists, right? It's in Gogg's head in the story's present? Then "is its Maker," etc. would be better, I'm fairly sure. "Gogg had known nothing about such a war" should probably have been "knew nothing" since he still knew nothing about it at that point. I'm not as sure about the sentence "The humans Gogg had met recently"; I'd personally prefer the present tense here, if those humans are still around and Gogg is still interacting with them.

Overall, this was a good piece that fell short of HM contention.

* * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * *** * * * * * * * *


No surprise that an unedited and unpolished draft has problems, but in its half-baked state this is kinda entertaining. With another pass or two to work on consistency--are the robots beating the protagonist up or ignoring him? Do they want him as a hostage or do they not care what he does?--and get rid of phrases like "pints me there," you could have something a little bit delightful, a just-wacky-enough humor piece with a great tone. I'm not sold on the robots' logic, of course. The finale's on the dumb side. The uprising is at least as poorly explained as in your official entry. It doesn't matter so much here, though; in comedy you can get away with that. The TDbot line seems to be missing altogether. Maybe you would have edited it in later? That's usually not a great sign, but in this week you would probably have gotten away with a throwaway nod.

It's hard to say whether this is "better" than "War and Piece." They do completely different things well. There's not a scrap of poignance in this one, no meaningful relationship to speak of, no emotional complexity, no sense the protagonist has a past or much depth. And that's all fine, because it's not that kind of story. "War and Piece" doesn't have the engaging narrative tone or the fast-moving action present here, nor should it. If you'd submitted this work as-is, I doubt you would have broken out of the middle. If you'd made it shine, it could have been HM material at least--but that goes for your entry too. Both are potentially good stories still in the rough.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 19:41 on Nov 22, 2015

Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"

King of Pentacles: Security, control, power, discipline, abundance
Three of Pentacles (Reversed): Lack of teamwork, disregard for skills
King of Swords: Clear thinking, intellectual power, authority, truth

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"
:siren: Hooray! Sign Ups Are Closed! :siren:

Aug 2, 2002




Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

:siren: Hooray! Sign Ups Are Closed! :siren:

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011


Kaishai posted:

Critiques for Week CLVII

Thanks for the crit.

In fact, thanks for all of those crits.

Jul 14, 2011

I'm just exploding with mackerel. This is the aji wo kutta of my discontent.

POOL IS CLOSED fucked around with this message at 20:59 on Jan 2, 2016

a new study bible!
Feb 1, 2009

A Philadelphia Legend
Fly Eagles Fly

sebmojo posted:

I'll judge this. prompt: BLOODY TEEN GHOST RIDE. 1200 words, 10 oct, 2359 PST

Oh and :siren: there must be a self insert teen who gets horrifically murdered :siren:

How to Die in America and the Old Country, Simultaneously
1200 words

I - England

“I’m not saying that I want to,” Alex began while rubbing his large forearms in his hands, “but Busch Gardens has been closed for forty minutes, and I haven’t seen an employee in twenty. Shouldn’t we just leave and talk to park management?” A damp chill had fallen over the park during the closing hour which clung to skin like sticky cobwebs.

“No,” Brian usually wouldn’t speak up in a group setting, but Kelsey was his girlfriend. “We aren’t leaving without her.”

“What if she had a seizure?” Danielle asked.

“You don’t know,” Lyssa said, “she might have already left. Maybe she’s just waiting for us at the car.”

“So,”Tyler said while handing his car keys over to Lyssa, “why don’t you go to the car and see if Kelsey’s there. Brian’s phone still has a charge, so if she is there, just call him. Dani, you wait here in case Kelsey comes past” Tyler placed a cigarette between his lips. “Us three guys will make a final pass in each park section, then we’ll leave.”

The group agreed, splitting up was the best option.

As the boys split three ways, heading deeper into the park, each thought that he’d heard a scream. Each dismissed the thought.

II - Italy

Alex was still trying to rub the chill from his arms when he heard the operatic music floating like foliage on the sleepy autumnal air. Strange, Alex thought, since the park had been shut down completely following the final closure announcements. Alex followed the music until he arrived at the Roman Rapids, a recessed water flume ride. Earlier in the day, his entire party had fit into a single, enormous, raft. They giggled, and splashed, and postured to see who could make whom the most drenched.

Now the only two sounds he could hear were that of the opera music being drowned by the rushing water. There was, however, a series of dull thuds punctuating the two sounds.

Alex leaned against the iron guardrail, and looked over upon the flume.

The rapids were filled with bodies; some were face up, some face down, all were broken, mutilated, or bleeding, like putrid lilypads floating in the Rubicon. Alex noticed the corpse of a boy who had been split at his waist, a boy who was wearing a neon yellow tee, a tee that he had seen earlier in the day, floating in the water. Thud. The boy bounced off the fiberglass rock at a bend in the river before continuing on, trailing his entrails behind him.

Then he heard the scratching.

The boy was still alive! He was trying to swim against the flow!

Alex realized that all of the bodies were behaving similarly, thrashing and flailing. Right behind the boy was a girl, dressed in a green tank top and denim shorts; she had Kelsey’s shade of red hair, and Alex was sure that it was her. She was thrashing like the others. She needed him.

In the dilated seconds between the black iron and the white water, Alex wondered if, perhaps, the bodies weren’t swimming, but clawing, clawing for something at the guardrails, something that just jumped in.

III - France

Tyler had finished his cigarette by the time he reached New France. This was the most complex and wooded area of the theme park, modeled not after mainland France, no, Tyler had already passed through its romantic walks. New France was modeled on the frontiers of French Canada, filled with fur trading and tanning outposts, and nestled deep within a swath of heavy pine trees.

Tyler shuffled in his patrol, kicking at a rolling fog that hovered inches off the ground, when he realized that he was starving. The scent of smoked meat weaved between the treebark and pine straw, and when Tyler arrived at the Trapper’s Smokehouse, he understood that the fog dancing along the stone path was actually smoke. The windows of the restaurant revealed that the inside was filled with the meaty gas, and he could swear that he saw a familiar face against the glass.

When Tyler threw open the door, none of the smoke poured into the night, instead it sat flush against the threshold, rolling against the nothingness. Still Tyler stepped in, listening to some hiss on the distance.

“Kelsey?” Tyler called.

He couldn’t see anything in the haze, yet Tyler couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that he wasn’t alone. Swinging his arms in wide strokes, he began to move the the smoke in ebbing waves, pushing it out before watching it flow in to fill the empty air.

It was on one of those outward pulses when he saw Kelsey’s silhouette, standing in the doorway to the kitchen. Tyler followed it, until the hissing was at its loudest. A large pile of meat sat on the grills, sizzling happily, and the stench was unbearable. If he was going to take a proper look around the place, he would have to clear the smoke.

Tyler began removing the meat from the grills when he realized that what he was holding was something he’d felt before. Five bony portions attached to a fleshy core. He knew the feeling from holding hands with Dani, and when he realized what he was holding, Tyler threw the hand into the grey.

Suddenly, all of the other burning parts, hands and feet primarily, began to ride the smoky undulations, first as a light flutter, then a complete hover.

Tyler watched another burning hand point in his direction, and all the other parts followed. The hand opened, and rocketed itself onto Tyler’s face. Another two grabbed his arms, and legs, and ankles, and feet, each one burning with the heat of a new flame.

Eventually, Tyler fell to the ground, and the parts followed him.

IV - Germany

Brian gripped the handles of the of the foam padded headrest, wondering how he had wound up on the most extreme coaster in the park. He’d never been on a roller coaster before; in fact, he’d been terrified of them since he was a child.

There was something in the giant dragon’s open mouth that compelled him to enter it.

The coaster began moving as Brian’s phone started vibrating. The cab was a tight squeeze, but as the car climbed the steep incline, he pulled his phone from his pocket and saw that he had a message from Lyssa.

Kelsey’s here, but she’s acting strange. Get the guys and hurry back please.

Brian tried to call Lyssa, but as he dialed the number, the coaster crested, and the device slipped from his hands. The ride accelerated, faster and faster, until the cab could barely take it and began shaking violently against the rails. Brian’s head began bouncing between the firm rubber pads like an earthquake. He tried to tighten his neck muscles, holding his head against the violent tremors, but the cab continued to accelerate, speeding through the station, faster than he had ever traveled, head knocking back and forth until there was nothing inside it. When Brian reached the peak on his second time through, he tried to scream, but the only thing that would come out was blood.

A Classy Ghost
Jul 21, 2003

this wine has a fantastic booquet
:ghost: A Classy Autism Brawl :ghost:

The Histi Regent Hotel
1788 words

Dan turned to the hotel guest. “Hello sir, can I help you bring these bags up to your room?”

“No, don’t touch my stuff,” the man replied, scowling. “I’ll bring them up myself. Don’t touch the rest, I’ll be back for it!”

He picked up part of his luggage and headed for the elevators. Dan raised his eyebrows and made a face at Sara, the receptionist.

“That happen often?”

Sara laughed in her hand. “You’ll get used to the more unique guests.”

“He might not want the help, but I’ll take it!” the next woman in line said to Dan. She turned to Sara, “I’m checking out.”

“Of course, Mrs. Robinson.”

While Sara took care of checking out Mrs. Robinson, Dan looked around for a free trolley, but there were none. Whatever, I’ll just make two trips, he thought. He came back to find that Mrs. Robinson had already left to get her car. Dan lifted a bag in each hand, leaving a couple of suitcases behind.

He walked out front just as Mrs. Robinson pulled up in a brand new sports car. She stopped in front of two suitcases that looked a lot like the ones Dan had left behind. She got out of the car to open the trunk.

“My, you’re quick!” she told Dan.

Dan frowned, not understanding. “I don’t think these are yours, m’am, I left them back inside.”
“No, these are definitely mine! Look, my name’s on the side,” Mrs. Robinson said, pointing out her name etched in gold letters on the side of one of the suitcases. “Steve must’ve brought them out.”


“One of your fellow coworkers?”

“It’s only my second day, I guess I haven’t met him yet.”

“Oh, he’s just the best! Here, this is for both of you,” Mrs. Robinson said. Dan helped her load the luggage in the back of the car. She took out two 10 dollar bills and handed it to Dan. “Make sure to share it!”

Dan thanked her and pocketed the money. He stared at the car as it drove off, not sure what to think of the magical luggage. He went back inside and up to Sara, who wasn’t dealing with any guest at the moment.

“Hey, who’s Steve? Mrs. Robinson said to split this tip since he helped bring her luggage out.”
“Oh… he’s another… porter.”

Dan was about to ask another question when was almost knocked over by the guest who had refused help carrying his luggage up to his room earlier. He was fuming.

“I told you guys not to touch my things! How hard is it to not do your job!”

“I’m sorry sir, what’s the matter?” asked Dan.

“I got up to my room and the rest of my luggage was already there! Why did you bring it up, you twerp?”

“I didn’t, I was helping a guest bring her own luggage to her car.”

“Yeah? Then who did?”

“I apologize sir, it must have been Steve, another one of our porters,” Sara interjected.

“Yeah well you tell Steve that if he expected a tip, he can forget it! And also to stay away from my things!”

“I’ll make sure our manager disciplines him properly.”

The man grunted and left. Dan noticed a tragedy drama mask lying on the counter and picked it up, putting it over his face.

“Hey look, I’m that guy that just left!”

Sara turned pale and gave Dan a tight smile. He put the mask back down on the desk, not noticing her reaction. A man dressed in a sharp suit walked up to the front desk at this moment. It was Alfonso.

“Good afternoon, Dan. I see you’ve been helping out guests already!”

“Afternoon, Mr. Alfonso! Yes, although I think Steve has been more helpful than I have so far.”

Alfonso smiled, “You’ve had to deal with Steve so soon, have you?”

“Yeah, and I haven’t even met the guy yet!”

Alfonso smirked, put his hand on Dan’s shoulder and said, “Come with me, I need to talk to you.”

Dan followed Alfonso back to his office. They both sat down, Dan across from Alfonso at his desk.

“Since you’re part of the Histi Regent Hotel’s family now, I guess I should tell you about Steve.” Dan nodded along as he listened. “Steve is incredibly helpful; you could even say he’s the secret to the hotel’s success. We no longer get as many guests as we used to, but we have a very loyal clientele thanks to Steve.”

“How long has he been working here?”

“Before my time… before anyone’s time, really. You see, Steve is a ghost.”

Dan’s face stayed expressionless. “You’re kidding.”

“No, I’m very serious. He was around before any of the current staff started. He seems to be a benevolent spirit, he’s only ever helpful.”

Dan leaned forward in his seat, “And the guests don’t know he’s a ghost?”

“Absolutely not. And don’t you dare telling anyone about it. If word got out that this hotel was haunted, we’d turn into a roadside attraction for kooks and crazies.”

Dan sat and thought for a second. “Can I ask you about something else? I heard that the hotel might move or close.”

“Don’t worry, we’re not closing and we’re not moving far away, you should still be within traveling distance of our new location.”

“What about Steve?”

“We’ll have to learn to make do without him. I just wish we could put him to rest before the hotel was torn down.”

There was a clattering sound behind Dan. He turned around and another tragedy drama mask was on the floor.

“That’d be him. It’s how he expresses himself. There used to be a happy face pin, but the tragedy mask is the only one we ever see these days,” said Alfonso, a sad note in his voice. “Anyway, you should probably get back to work, if you want to ‘live’ up to Steve.”

Both men got up to leave the room. Dan stopped in the doorway and turned to Alfonso.

“You just expect me to believe this isn’t an elaborate way to haze the new guy?”

Alfonso put both his hands on Dan’s shoulder. “Dan, I expect that if you don’t already, you will soon.”


It had been a quiet evening so far. It was now around 8 PM, and Dan was in the old theater which had been converted to a conference hall. A lecture was scheduled for an hour later and Dan was setting things up on the stage. He placed his ladder against the back wall so that he could hang a banner.

He was alone in the hall, and every noise seemed to produce an echo. Dan hummed to himself as he worked, enjoying the quiet.

He climbed up the ladder, holding the banner in one hand. At the top, he patted his pockets and realized he had left the pins on the floor at the same time he noticed them resting on top of the ladder. He stared at them for a second, then around the hall. Still empty.

“I must’ve just forgotten I brought them up,” Dan muttered to himself.

He lifted the banner and tried to push a pin through it and into the wall with his thumb. The angle was wrong and the pin slipped, causing the banner to fall. Dan stretched to catch it, losing his balance. He teetered at the top of the ladder for a second before falling backwards. Dan braced himself for the impact, but his back met something soft instead. He scrambled up and stood looking down at a cushion from one of the sofas in the hotel’s front area. Dan looked around at the empty room.

“Thanks Steve.”

There was no reply.


Dan was sweeping confetti and glitter from the conference hall floor. A huge farewell party had just been thrown for the hotel, as this was its final week at the current location. He turned around and his foot hit the tragedy mask. He sighed.

“I know, buddy.”

Sara walked over, resplendent in her evening gown.

“Alfonso says you can leave the rest.”

Dan nodded and put the broom down. He pointed at the mask.

“He’s been showing the sad face all night.”

Sara shivered, “Personally, I won’t miss him. Come on, we’re having an after-party in the staff room.”

The atmosphere in the staff room was one of joy but also of melancholy. Once Sara and Dan sat down, Alfonso stood and tapped against his glass with a spoon, requesting silence.

“I would like to thank all of you for the great work you’ve put into this place over the years. I’ll miss this place, but I look forward to working with all of you in the new building.” He paused. “All of you except for one very special employee: Steve.” He raised his glass. “To Steve! Wish we could’ve done something for you, old friend.”

“To Steve!” echoed the group, except for Sara. She shrieked as the bottle of champagne in front of her on the table was knocked over with enough force for the cork to pop and fly inches from her head. The tragedy mask had been thrown into it.

“I can’t wait to be done with this stupid ghost!”

Alfonso started laughing, and was hit in the back by yet another tragedy mask. One hit Dan in the chest. He frowned and held it up in front of him. He stood up and left the room, going back to the conference hall. Justine followed him out, curious.

“Where are you going, Dan?”

“I think I might know how to help Steve. He’s been trying to tell us all along.”

Justine’s eyes widened and she hurried back to the staff room. Dan walked up to the hall’s stage and looked along its edge. He found what he wanted: an old door that had been painted over. He cracked it open with little effort and crawled under the stage.

Other employees began filing into the hall to see what he was up to. Alfonso leaned into the trap and asked him what he was doing.

“Bring me a flashlight and a crowbar.”

Alfonso shrugged and had someone fetch the items. Dan swept the flashlight’s beam across the old wooden floor located under the stage. The light fell across a happy face pin. Crawling on his hands and knees, Dan reached it and got to work lifting the floorboards with the crowbar.

It did not take long for him to uncover what laid below: a desiccated corpse, little more than a skeleton, wearing the comedy drama mask. Dan smiled. They’d be able to put Steve to rest after all.

Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!

sebmojo posted:

I'll judge this. prompt: BLOODY TEEN GHOST RIDE. 1200 words, 10 oct, 2359 PST

Oh and :siren: there must be a self insert teen who gets horrifically murdered :siren:

A Wild Ride Through the Night
1200 words

They shouldn’t have gone to the carnival.

The plan had been not to; the plan had been to play Mario Kart and watch whatever anime Lindy had torrented most recently. But then the night had arrived, and it seemed like Halloween maybe shouldn’t be treated just like every other weekend. And there was a carnival in town...

“This sucks,” said Lindy, arms tucked inside her “NINJ4” hoodie for warmth. “They don’t even have a Tilt-a-Whirl.”

“At least we’re out of the house,” said Helena, standing in line behind her. “And the haunted house ride looks kind of cool.”

“If there’s anything in there scarier than that off-brand Shrek painted on the side, I’ll eat my hat.” Lindy eyed the surrounding stalls for potential churro vendors.

“Good, then I won’t have to see that stupid hat again,” Helena said with a laugh.

Lindy pulled down on the sides of her hat, making her look more like Batman than the intended cat-ears effect. “Whatever, I like this hat.”

“Yes, we assumed as much when you wouldn’t stop wearing it,” Helena said. Lindy opened her mouth to reply, but then they were at the front of the line.

The ride was not particularly scary, as had been predicted beforehand, but the knock-off Shrek did make an appearance in the form of an unenthusiastic man wearing a costume that appeared to be melting, a difficult task for foam to accomplish. The two agreed, after some mildly heated discussion, that the hat could remain uneaten.

When they got off the ride, the carnival was empty.

“What the gently caress?” Lindy said, looking around. The neon of the rides and marquees seemed greyer, somehow, and the music slower, as though everything were underwater.

“Is this… Part of the ride?” said Helena, scanning the carnival for signs of movement. Some debris blew slowly by in the distance.

“Hey, I think I see someone! HEY! HEY YOU! WHAT’S GOING ON?!” Lindy pointed and waved to a figure walking slowly towards them in the distance.

“What’s wrong with his head?” Helena said, and they saw the figure pass under one of the light poles.

“Is he wearing one of those dumb horse masks?” Lindy said. “Wait, no, it’s one of those dumb horse masks that’s actually a unicorn. WHY ARE YOU WEARING THAT, DUDE??!”

“Well, it IS Halloween,” Helena said. “And I’m not sure that anyone who wears a hat with ears on it every day can really comment.”

“Shut up, Helena. Hey! Do you know where everyone is?”

The man in the unicorn mask was only a few yards away from them now, and they could see that he was wearing a white suit along with the mask, which had been carefully tucked into the collar. His hands were covered by latex gloves, which had a pinkish smear on the fingers like wet cotton candy.

“Hello?” Lindy said again, stepping closer. “Hey, are you okay?”

“Uh, Lindy, maybe you shouldn’t-” Helena said, reaching towards the smaller girl.

The man in the mask kept walking, paying no heed to either of them. Lindy tried to get his attention, but he brushed past her.

Well, no. Not past her. Through her.

Helena stood, arm still outstretched, staring at the two figures; one still walking as though nothing had happened, one now frozen in place, eyes glassy and staring straight ahead.

“Lindy?” she said, touching her friend on the shoulder, and finding her stiff and unresponsive. “Are you okay? What just happened?”

Lindy turned to her friend, her brown eyes wide and sightless. Helena shivered, struck by the intense surety that her friend was not seeing her. Lindy kept turning, towards where the man in the mask and white suit was still walking, and began to follow, matching his deliberate pace.

“Hey! HEY! Lindy, stop.” Helena grabbed her, trying to pull her back, away from the man and wherever he was going to. Helena was on varsity lacrosse and soccer, and had a good six inches on Lindy, so she was not expecting to have any difficulty stopping her friend. But the arm that she grabbed might as well have belonged to a piece of machinery; Lindy felt as implacable as stone, hard as iron.

Helena became increasingly frantic as she tried to stop Lindy. She pulled, she pushed, she even attempted to tackle her, which resulted in Lindy walking on top of her as she continued her march after the man in the mask. He had stopped now, and stood next to the Ferris wheel, watching them both, still wordless.

Finally, Lindy stopped in front of the man, who seemed to gaze down at her through the mask, the screaming horse face bathed in the dancing, muted colors of the ghostly carnival.

He pointed. Lindy looked up, and Helena followed her gaze to the top of the Ferris wheel.

Lindy began to climb.

“Holy poo poo! No! NO! Lindy, come down! STOP!” Helena snatched at Lindy’s ankles, which earned her a kick in the face. She rounded on the man.

“What the hell did you do to her? She’s terrified of heights!” She shoved him, halfway expecting to pass through, but he was as unyielding as Lindy. She screamed and punched at his unicorn mask, only to find that it had as little give as the rest of him.

Hey.” The voice from inside the mask was breathy, a gurgling hiss from a raw throat. The man leaned towards Helena so she was face to face with the bulging rubber eyes. “You’d better start climbing if you want to save her.

Helena was a good climber; her father had started taking her to the bouldering gym a few years back, and she had the upper body strength to do most of the harder routes. But Lindy had a head start, and she was climbing like she was possessed. She was at the top before Helena was a quarter of the way up the wheel.

There was a moment of stillness, of silence, as Lindy stood at the top of the Ferris wheel, a ride that Helena had talked her into going on once, and sworn afterwards to never bring up again. Helena watched her standing, swaying, her body a black shadow under a pale face, lit from below by the colored lights along the rim of the wheel.

Whatever had a hold of her mind must have let go as soon as it compelled her to jump, because the scream was immediate and animal in its terror. The crunch of her body as she hit the ground was visceral, a tightening in Helena’s throat.

She dropped down the last ten feet to rush to the body of her friend, who lay in a spreading puddle on the asphalt. Her neck was bent around from her body, and her limbs were jumbled like a broken doll.

“You dropped this,” said someone behind her.

Helena turned around to see the man in the melting Shrek suit. He held something out to her, and she took it, looking down at the scrap of fabric in her hands.

It was a black hat with ears on it.

Then the carnival was back, and the screaming started.

Grizzled Patriarch
Mar 27, 2014

These dentures won't stop me from tearing out jugulars in Thunderdome.

:spooky: Bloody Teen Ghost Ride Brawl :spooky:

The Ghosts You Meet in Maricopa
(750 words)


See Archive

Grizzled Patriarch fucked around with this message at 17:05 on Dec 30, 2015

A Classy Ghost
Jul 21, 2003

this wine has a fantastic booquet
what the gently caress spectres

Jul 4, 2010

I find dead men rout
more easily.

Kaishai posted:

awesome crits

Thanks for the crit, Kaishai!

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

by sebmojo

A Classy Ghost posted:

what the gently caress spectres

i thought i had till the end of today???

im almost done just rejigging some parts

take the moon
Feb 12, 2011

by sebmojo
:ghost:An Autistic Classism Brawl:ghost:

1796 words

Sparrow had eyes that saw everything. They were reflecting the firelight now, and even though Nirvana was next to me, that was all I could focus on. Like there was a fire inside of him, one that had never been put out.

As he chanted the ancient words the smoke began to spill away from him, towards me and Nirvana. I hacked and shook and my eyes watered.

“Look,” Nirvana said. “It’s Ashby. Real as you or me.”

Shimmering above the fire, so that it was a gradient, fire into spirit, was Ashby. He was translucent, but his shape and features were distinct, glowing against the night. A soft, gentle face, the kind you’d normally find on someone who sheltered stray cats.

“My children,” he said. The voice sounded like it had come from another planet, beamed in on some kind of intergalactic frequency. “I’m so proud of you all.”

“O Ashby,” Sparrow said. “Our number is great and our resources are vast. What should we do now?”

“For too long the people of earth have suffered in loneliness. Bring them light, Sparrow. Bring them love.”

“It will be done,” Sparrow said quietly. Ashby was starting to lose his shape, distorting like a weak television signal. We watched as he slowly vanished. When he was gone there was just silence. I could hear my own breathing, heavy and fast.

“Pretty wild,” Nirvana said. “I told you.”


She had told me. We had sat around in a circle with other commune children, the empty Half Space Half Time bottle spinning before us. We were outside, and the light had hit the bottle, colour fractals in the glass, a bottle of rainbows. And it had stopped in front of Nirvana, and my heart had skipped, because I had spun it.

“Lyric,” Nirvana had said, in that slow, patient way, “because the tea bottle has chosen you, I now invite you to the gathering. Tonight you will witness the ghost of Ashby for yourself.”

“I don’t think I’m ready,” I had said. It was true. I had only been there a week.

I had left to escape my father. In the end he would brood all day in his study, surrounded by spectres and madmen, capable, it seemed, of anything. Sometimes I would need money for food, and so I would need to talk to him. I would walk the cobwebbed halls, feeling like a ghost myself. On the walls were paintings of pale women with black, stringy hair. Every time I looked they would be watching me, all of them. As I walked I would wonder what mood I’d find him in. Would he be empty, distant? Not acknowledge my presence other than with a vacant gesture to some ancient looking coins scattered on the floor, which I’d have to take to the pawn shop to trade for currency from this century? Or would I find him in a rage, tearing apart his books, beating hands against the stone walls, and when he saw me, coming after me with long, pointed nails?

“Ashby is far out,” Nirvana had said, bringing me back to the present.


Nirvana slept beside me, but as far as I could tell she hadn’t moved her mat any closer than normal. Her back was to me. The floor felt cold, even through the mat, so I really had to focus on my meditation to get to sleep.

I opened my eyes in the middle of the night and the stranger was there, standing in front of the mat, right next to my toes which peeked out from under the blanket.

She was thin, with long straight hair that wisped around her, though the cabin air was stale and still. She might have been another commune child, except she wasn’t. I had never seen her before. I was sure of it. She looked just like one of the women in my father’s paintings. Like someone from another time.

I sat up. Looked around. Nirvana was still sleeping. So was everyone else.

“Don’t wake them,” the stranger said. “Just follow me outside.”

“Who are you?” I asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “If I told you my name you wouldn’t recognize it. They don’t talk about me here. They don’t talk about any of us.”

“Nirvana showed me Ashby,” I said. “She’s gotta see you.”

“No,” she said. “Don’t wake her.”

But I was already padding across the floor, my toes frozen. I was grabbing Nirvana’s arm, shaking it, and the face opening its eyes and staring at me was Sparrow’s and he was glaring at me, teeth bared.

And then I woke up again and the stranger was gone. Nirvana’s back was still to me.

I spent the rest of the night shivering.


I wasn’t sure, but I thought Sparrow was watching me. As I took my morning porridge and carried it to Nirvana’s table, he was deep in conversation with the vat master. But he glanced over, as if making sure of where I was. I looked away quickly.

“Something wrong?” Nirvana asked, when I sat down.

“No,” I said. “I was thinking about what a cool dude Ashby is.”

“Yeah, he’s groovy,” Nirvana said, “but you forgot to grab your Half Space Half Time.”

“I did?”

“Your hands are shaking,” Nirvana said. I looked down. There was porridge stuck on the outside of my bowl, some spilt on the floor below. I put the bowl down slowly, losing what I estimated was another couple of spoonfuls.

“What,” I said, “is happening?” I felt my forehead with a clammy palm. Sweat dripped between my fingers and trickled down my wrist.

“Quick,” Nirvana said, “have mine.”

Before I could process this she was pressing it to my mouth. I drank it down, feeling it flow down my throat, a waterfall inside my body. The tea ripping apart the continuum of reality, phasing through the membranes of my cells, warping qi in from another dimension.

I looked down. My hands had stopped shaking.

“God,” I said.

“You shouldn't stop,” someone said.


I was sitting with Nirvana in the trees at the skirts of the commune. She was in the same tree as me, but on a different branch, the far side of the trunk.

“Don’t you think it’s weird,” I said, “that if you don’t drink the tea for a day, you break out in shakes and start sweating?”

“All it is is that your body is used to working with the excess qi it gets you,” Nirvana said. “It doesn’t mean anything is wrong.”

She was quiet for a second.

“Lyric,” she said, “It’s nice out, don’t you think? Look at all the stars you can see out here. You can’t see anything like this from the city. I don’t remember much from that life, but I remember that. I remember looking up into the sky and seeing a black void. Like there was nothing out there.”

“You don’t remember your old life?” I asked.

She was snapping thin twigs off of the branch she was sitting on. “I wanted to forget.” She looked at me. Her light hair had caught the moonlight, so that it was white as paper. “What did you run away from?”

“A broken home,” I said.

“We all fit together here,” Nirvana said, “like pieces of a puzzle.”


This time I followed the stranger outside.

But the door didn’t lead to the the outer area of the commune. We were in the city. “I just came from here,” I said.

“Look,” she said.

I saw what looked like a parade. Thousands of men and women, marching in unison, all clad alike. What they wore was similar to what I was wearing, gray fabric, but I could see, more militaristic, the cloth padded as opposed to simply spun. Soldiers, I realized, marching in unison.

“Attention citizens!” cried the voice, fuzzy with static. “Be vigilant! There are those in the city with dangerously misaligned qi. Report any suspicious activity to your local qi supervisor. The master protects.”

At the head of the column someone was holding a huge banner, a realist portrait stitching. The eyes familiar.

“You’ve got to stop him,” the stranger said.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“One of the first.”

“You were there with Ashby?” I asked.

“There was no Ashby,” she said.


Nirvana told me Sparrow was with the vats.

The vats were outside, clustered in the sunlight. He was standing with his back to me, his hand against one of the vats.

“Lyric,” he said. “I want you to feel this.”

I walked forward, stumbling. One shaking foot ahead of the other.

As I approached him he kept still. I willed myself to smash his head into the vat. See the light in those eyes go out forever. It didn’t happen. Instead I stretched my hand out, collapsing against the oaken surface, leaning on it for support.

It hummed with energy.

“That’s the raw essence of the Tea,” he said, “swirling together in the spaces between realities. The founding mothers tapped into a deep and primal force out here. These vats are built on ancient ley lines. Crisscrossing the earth before we crawled out of the surf, cursing our weak hands, our weak sight.”

He laughed.

“We have what is known in business terminology as ‘market saturation.’ Everyone drinks our tea.”

“And when they drink it,” I said, “they see whatever you want them to see.”

“They do whatever I want them to do, too,” he said. “That’s why you didn’t drink any today. Which is why you’re shaking.”

I had sunk to the ground, my back to the vat.

“If you don’t drink any soon, you’ll pass out. You won’t wake up.” He held out a bottle. The tea swished about, dark murk.

“Just drink it,” he said. “Be like Nirvana. You love her, don’t you?”

I thought about Nirvana. I thought about my father, roaming the halls, gnashing his teeth, tearing at his face.

“You can’t force people to love you,” I said.

In a sudden movement I hit the bottle away. I saw, as if in slow motion, the bottle hitting the ground, shattering. The fragments catching the sunlight as they exploded in every direction. The murk spilling out and spreading.

Sparrow was holding his hand. It was slick with blood. He didn’t say anything.

“Maybe it got into your bloodstream,” I said. “Maybe it’s in you now.”

“You know, I always wondered,” he said, “if I drank it, what I would see. I would drink a lot. Maybe I would never stop.” He was fading away. Had he been a ghost himself? Static blurring everything. The signal, always tenuous, finally giving out.

“I’ll think about it,” he said.

Apr 1, 2010

1350 words.
Ace of Rods (Reversed): Delays, lack of motivation, weighed down.
Five of Swords: Conflict, tension, loss, defeat, win at all costs, betrayal


12.05. August 12th. 2015.
TIMBERLAKE: This interview is being video and tape recorded and is being conducted in an interview room. I am Detective Wyatt Timberlake of the Northumbria Police. Mr Ness, would you introduce yourself with your name, occupation and date of birth please?
NESS: Thomas Ness, Security Guard at the Maxwell & Sons Abattoir. Born June 22th 1985.
TIMBERLAKE: Mr Ness. You do not have to say anything unless you wish to do so, but what you say may be given in evidence. Do you understand the reason for the interview?
NESS. Yes, I am the obvious loving suspect. Let`s get it over with so you can find my wife!”

13.30. August 12th. 2015.
TIMBERLAKE: So in conclusion cannot explain your whereabouts the night prior to you reporting your wife`s disappearance? Nor can you offer any explanation for the last text you sent ” You slut bitch, why did you betray me?”. You really have no explanation for that?
NESS: Like I said. It was just a joke, it was…whaddya call it… roleplay, yeah. I always use rough words with her.
OAKLAND: So it`s just a coincidence that her sister reported her trying to hide a black mark on her eye the week before her disappearance? This was just..roleplay?
NESS: I never noticed a black eye on her. Nothing to do with me mate.
TIMBERLAKE:. Ok Mr Ness. You are free to go for now. Don`t leave the area tough, we may want to talk to you again soon.

Diary of Thomas Ness. August 9th. 2015.
Olivia stayed in the bathroom crying the whole evening just because i gave her one little smack. Her weakness digusts me. I decided to go on a quick walk in the forest to clear my head. . At first everything seemed normal, But the deeper I went the more the shadows seemed to move on their own accord, like they were watching me. I came eventually to the little lake on top of the hill. I saw on the shoreline weird figures dancing inside a circle of oaks. It`s like they glowed or something. A cloud came over the moon and the figures disappeared. Dunno why Olivia was gone when I came back.

Thomas waited for a chance to talk to Mr Maxwell about taking time off. He could hear him and his sons arguing inside Maxwell`s office. He peeped inside the door, which was slightly open. “What are we to do with this area boys? Maxwell senior pointed at a map over the woodlands . His sons were like him all dressed in workmen`s overalls.. “ I say we clear cut it all, sell the timber and build another slaughter house there. Frank his youngest responded «I have just heard back from the county, they claim this area lies outside our property. They`ll sue if we try to clear it.” Maxwell laughed and said “I won`t be bullied. The property limits are described perfectly well in the deed”. We`ll just fight them in court if we need to”. His sons looked at each other askance “Father that`s a risky strategy. Even if we win it will make us look bad. People love going on walks around the lake. Besides, it was dear to mother”.” Jonah the eldest son spoke up” She would not have wanted this”.“ Enough! “ Maxwell exclaimed” I don`t understand you boys, your mother drowned herself in that lake. How could you have any love for it?”. “ I don`t know why father, but I often go there to think. I feel closer to her there”. Jonah said.
“ Well I don`t give drat. We will be clearing that whole area and draining the lake next summer, end of discussion!”.

Thomas felt like this was the wrong time to intrude. He walked back to his post.

Diary of Thomas Ness. November 8th.
The police won`t stop pestering me. Yesterday they even searched our house! I know I could be rough and gave her a black eye sometimes. But i`d never murder her, not even when shitfaced. I decided to clear my head and went for walk up to the lake. This time I walked up to where I had seen the dancing figures. A perfect circle of oaks stood there. Their branches touched and they seemed to sway like they were trapped in a endless dance. I heard a voice calling out behind me. I turned and looked but saw just another swaying oak ( Impossible, no wind!!). I saw weird protrusion on it, it looked like a face…it looked like my wife. The face looked sad and I heard a voice almost exactly like Olivia`s say” I killed myself Thomas, I couldn’t take it anymore, I couldn’t deal with your abuse anymore”. Then the blue moon appeared from behind a cloud. Suddenly In front of each tree in the circle there was a ghostly humanlike figure. Olivia’s ghost, or maybe it was a demon from hell stepped forward, she looked gorgeous as always but her skin was somehow translucent and chalk-white. She said to me “ We all killed ourselves in the lake, this is our afterlife ”.I tried to move and run away from this horror but my body refused to move. Olivia (was it?) walked over to me, took my head between her hands and said “Protect me now Thomas , you never did when I lived”. The moonlight faded and I suddenly found myself standing at the edge of the forest. Wtf was that?

Thomas normally works early shifts but he had begged to get late shift that night. By eleven o`clock the abattoir is supposed to be empty. But Thomas saw a light coming from the third floor. Like he expected Mr Maxwell was still hard at work. He walked up the stairs and readied a knife behind his back.

“ Yes what is it Thomas” Maxwell said as Thomas opened the door without knocking . He walked up to Maxwell`s desk and said” Look at me sir””, Maxwell looked up and with lightning speed Thomas trust his knife into Maxwell`s exposed throat. Maxwell jumped up in shock and splattered every inch of Thomas with blood before collapsing. Thomas ran out of the building and into the woods. His lungs burned as he staggered up the hill. Eventually he reached the lake and the circle of oaks again. Somehow there seemed to be many more them then before.

“ Show yourselves!”. No response. The oaks stood as still you`d expect on a windless night. “You are safe now!” Thomas said and tossed the knife still dripping with blood into the lake. A finger tapped on his shoulder. Thomas turned and saw Oliva`s ghostly figure staring at him. “ Thank you” she said and kissed him, her lips felt cold and wet. She licked blood from her lips and continued” Join us Husband, let`s dance forever.” Thomas backed away ” Olivia would not want not me dead. Who are you?”. The ghostly woman`s face suddenly changed into shapeless mix of a thousand fearful faces, men and women, old and young, bubbles rose from their screaming mouths, as if all were drowning.

A icy voice emanated through the air.

“ I am woman with a thousand friends seeking another. Dance with me!””.
The figure grabbed Thomas by his left wrist hand held him tight around the waist. With terrible strength she pirouetted him around as if he was a plastic doll. Together they danced into the cold muddy water until Thomas`s head was fully submerged. He trashed, kicked, and screamed. Soon his body went limp and sank to the bottom . A mighty oak sprang forth from the ground. The blue moon shone again and Thomas`s spirit danced with the others. A thousand dancers with terror in their eyes transfixed with smiling grins, none able to stop laughing or dancing.

Lazy Beggar
Dec 9, 2011

5 of wands[reverse], the Magician, and the Hierophant

5 of wands[reverse] - Conflict avoidance. Or a more subtle presence of conflict.
Magician - Power, individual agency.
Hierophant - Group, religion, the individual's place in the group.
I tried to interpret the cards together like a proper reading.

Divided by a Lemniscate
1341 words

The sun was descending from its zenith at Bi’lin, a small village situated twenty-five miles south-east of Tel-Aviv at the border between the West Bank and Israel. It sat on the Palestinian side of the fence near a yellow gate, one of the few passages to be found on this border. The area was dominated by sand but was far from barren with acacia trees, olive trees, and other vegetation adding rich greens to the pale background. Bi’lin itself consisted of no more than a few hundred homes, a smattering of shops, and a handful of mosques.

Aapo Rivlen, a Samal* in the Israel Defense Force, stood atop an Israeli hill overlooking Bi’lin and studied one of the mosques. He waited with a small unit of IDF soldiers for it to empty of the people currently praying. Five more minutes and the Asr prayer would be ending. He didn’t give his men any orders. They knew their roles. He took out his water canteen and slowly unscrewed the lid. He drank a little, although he was barely thirsty.

The first group to leave the mosque dispersed and headed away from the fence. The next group consisted of young men; they marched straight to the yellow gate. Aapo and his men remained in their current position. More people streamed out of the mosque, and more young men joined the march toward Israel. A few hundred made their way to the fence with stones and rocks in hand. They stopped about a hundred yards from the barrier and started clattering their makeshift artillery at the gate.

Aapo had orders to stop the protest and break up the expected crowd. Without saying a word, two of his men made their way down the hill toward them. They stopped short of the range of the rabble’s projectiles and fired tear gas canisters over the fence. The crowd grew angrier and threw stones at the Israelis in retaliation. In response to this act of aggression, Aapo and his unit rushed toward the fence. They unlocked the gate and advanced into Bi’lin, and the villagers retreated. All the while a shower of rocks fell on the soldiers. As Aapo led his men down the path into the village, smoke from the tear gas and clouds of sand blew across it. More tear gas was launched toward the mob so that a much denser cloud surrounded them. The soldier beside Aapo flinched as a stone struck his face. A drop of blood meandered down his face, but it was quickly dried by the sand covering his face.

Aapo looked on at the crowd with ambivalence He knew that the villagers would grow bolder if they weren’t deterred; that they would potentially breach the barrier one day, rather than merely protesting its presence. But he also felt helpless in this perpetual conflict. He saw a child in amongst the protesters. He was no older than eight years. Aapo ordered his men back. He had decided to end the farce earlier than usual. He normally recognized most of the members of this flock of dissenters, but today he saw many new faces. All of them were children. So long as they remained on the right side of the fence, he thought bitterly, everything will be okay.


“Is it not written in the Torah, ‘You shall not oppress the stranger.’ And later that, ‘You shall have one law only – the same for native born and stranger.’”

Aapo spoke to his brother, Rabbi Zemel, as they walked through the markets of Tel-Aviv. He asked, “Then how do we justify dismissing the Torah so explicitly?” He shook his head as he avoided eye contact with his brother. Zemel smiled at his little brother’s question. A smile that would have infuriated Aapo, had he seen it.

“Little brother, often choices aren’t made by ourselves. We merely react and try to make the best of a situation,” Zemel said.

“They’re getting younger all the time,” Aapo said. “We’re not doing anything to prevent them from attacking us, we’re just creating more ill-sentiment.”

“I think it is naive to think that there would be no conflict if we merely stood by and let them do what they want; what they want is to take this land back. The government do what they can. But all men are fallible, Aapo.”

“I just want to be a good Jew, follow the Torah. But I feel that my position in the IDF prevents me from doing so,” Aapo said, studying the produce on sale and still avoiding his brother’s face. “And I cannot just leave for my sake. I have a responsibility to the Israeli people.”

“Yes, you do. But your responsibility to God is most important.” Zemel stopped walking. He put his hand on Aapo’s shoulder, causing him to turn and face him. “You know, of course, of the recent kidnappings of our fellow Israelis, done in the name of Hamas. They are the enemy of God. And you fight them, Aapo. You should be proud.”

“But pride is not what I feel, brother.”


Shots drowned out all other sounds. Aapo had come to Rafah, a town in the south of the Gaza Strip, with a small force led by Sagan** Levinsky. They had been tasked with closing a known tunnel exit in that area. However, at the exact time that they had arrived a small group of Palestinians had emerged from the tunnel. Sagan Levinsky was already dead. One of the first bullets fired had struck his head. Aapo was in charge.

He sent a fire team to his left to take cover behind a pile of rubble and ordered them to contain the enemy with suppressing fire. He told them to fire off-center when they saw his unit nearing the tunnel entrance. He set up another fire team on the other side of the entrance with the same order, and then made his way down with three soldiers.

His point-man threw a smoke grenade into the tunnel, obscuring their assault. Aapo waited a moment, signaled to his men to advance on his word, and threw a grenade into the tunnel. As soon as he heard the explosion, he shouted. “Now!”

His ears screamed with the roar of bullets, and his mind was chaos. He ran in, rifle on fully automatic. Not releasing the trigger, even after his magazine was depleted. His chest rose and fell with great speed. He replaced his spent magazine with a new one. He scanned the tunnel; little light from outside managed to break through but he could make out the distinct shape of the pile of bodies. Movement. Before he could react, shots had been fired from ahead. He lifted his rifle and shot at the shadow he had saw move. Two of his men advanced past him. Aapo moved toward the person he had shot, stepping over the other Palestinian corpses on his way. He struggled for his torch, his shaking arm acting against his will. He finally released it from his belt. With a trembling hand, he illuminated the shadow. He saw death he knew he had caused. He could see that he had been young, no more than fifteen years old. He turned off the torch and sat on the ground.

A muffled sound reached him. One of his men had shouted that the tunnel was clear after searching ahead. He heard footsteps approaching him. He was sure they were those of his soldiers, but if they weren’t, he wouldn't have cared.

“Are you hurt, Samal?” one of the soldiers asked.

“No, no. I am fine. Is anyone injured?”

“Two dead. Sagan Levinsky, and that last one got Berkowitz.”

As long as they stay on their side of the fence, everything will be okay. “Pride?” Aapo asked, but quietly so that his soldiers couldn’t hear. He rose to his feet. “Take Berkowitz out,” Aapo ordered. “Leave the Palestinians. Let them be buried in a grave they dug themselves.”

* IDF equivalent of sergeant.
** IDF equivalent of lieutenant.

Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004


Kaishai posted:

Critiques for Week CLVII:

Thank you for Crit!!

Jun 9, 2014

Hell has a Beach
Ace of Swords (Reversed): Confusion, chaos, lack of clarity
1,103 Words

Private Jenkins hugged his rifle. It was the only thing keeping him from shivering as the landing craft approached the beach. He breathed deep through his nose, smelling the salty ocean air. His uniform was soaked down to his socks, though he was unsure if it was from the constant splashes of icy water, or the vomit spewing from Kowalski's mouth.

Jenkins struggled to keep his own breakfast down as the boat rocked side to side with the viciousness of a child shaking a snow globe. He wanted to believe they had gotten turned around. A quick peek over the edge of the boat proved him wrong. The beach was still approaching. Jenkins put his head between his knees and focused on the sergeant's voice.

"This day will go down in history gentlemen! The biggest invasion of all time!" Sergeant Conway was hollering as he paced up and down the sliver of space in the center of the craft. It was a miracle the troop could hear him at all over the never-ending gunfire and explosions erupting all around. "You boys are gonna hit that beach and run like bats outta hell! You will not stop until you reach the enemy bunkers! Once the troop has regrouped, we'll give those kraut bastards what they deserve!"

The old hawk looked at each man in turn, waiting for a resounding battle cry. He received nothing but grim stares, a bubble of silence in a maelstrom of noise. He grimaced and grunted, baring his teeth like a wolf moments before attack. He smacked Kowalski on the back and told him to shape up, as the young soldier wiped the bile from his lips.

Before any of the men could resume their thoughts or prayers, a mortar landed directly on the boat 20 feet to their right. The explosion momentarily deafened them. Their eardrums became instruments in the orchestra of war, ringing and banging in brutal rhythm. Shrapnel and God knows what else struck and splattered the side of their own boat, causing it to tilt dangerously to the left. A few of the men on the left had enough sense to hop over to the right to focus their weight and prevent the ship from capsizing. They wouldn't last long in the water, they would either bump into a sea mine or get picked off by the German gunners.

As the boat returned to its regular violent shakes, Jenkins took a look at the men he had served with in Africa. Kowalski had his lucky handkerchief, now speckled with partially digested chunks. Corporal Mason gripped the locket containing his fiancée's picture so hard his knuckles had turned white. He was staring at the burning horizon like a convict looking his executioner in the eye. Private "Bronx" Jackson kissed his cross and muttered to himself. The others just stared at their boots and waited.

The landing craft slammed into the beach, lurching them forward like the emergency brake had been pulled. The ramp fell and slapped sand into the air. Their boat was one of the first to make landfall.

"LET'S GO, MOVE, MOVE, MOVE," the Sergeant screamed. The first man dashed out and was met with Gatling fire, tossing his body back into the boat, his torso now a shredded red carpet. The others ducked behind the metal portions of the boat and waited for the gunner to reload. When the firing stopped, each soldier ran into Hell in single file. Jenkins was one of last ones out.

He emerged from his steel cocoon and sprinted for the nearest barricade. Bullets whizzed past his head, rattling his helmet against his skull. Mortars tossed sand into the air, stinging his eyes. His nose hairs burned from the stench of gunpowder. He didn't look around, lest he see an ally reduced to meat. He reached the barricade and slid underneath it. He was surprised he was still alive. He patted himself frantically to reassure his existence as he caught his breath.

He lied down on his back in the rough sand, not caring if it scratched his skin. His eyes hit the sky and saw Armageddon. There were parachutes by the hundreds. Some were ripped apart, their occupiers plummeting to the ground screaming. Other soldiers were turned into ragdolls, slowly floating into sandy graves. High above the parachutes were the horsemen-- a fleet of bombers slowly flying into the city in ominous formation. Jenkins hoped the civilians would be spared from their hellfire.

Jenkins knew he couldn't stay under the barricade forever, he had to get off the beach. He scanned for a route inland that wasn't raining shrapnel. There was one path nearby, between the hills that led straight up to the bunkers. Without hesitation, he ran, jumping over the barbed wire with agility he didn't know he had. One of the Germans saw him approach. He turned his massive encampment weapon away from the sea and towards Jenkins. Fortunately the gunner had been too slow, in the time it took to turn and start spinning the barrel, Jenkins had already hit dirt.

Inside, Jenkins cheered. He reached the safe zone, all he had to do now was regroup and the invasion would proceed as planned. He looked over his shoulder to see if anyone else was coming. All he saw was Kowalski, getting torn to pieces by the German gunner. He had been following Jenkins, but didn't pay attention to his timing. The back of Jenkins' neck turned to ice. He turned his head before the image could be burned in. Too late. He tried to ignore the horror in his head and failed. He jogged up the hill while hyperventilating.

Sergeant Conway and a third of the troop were waiting for him. They were in position, pressed against the concrete bunker. Jenkins took his spot in front of the door, his eyes bulging in repressed panic. He almost tripped over his own feet. Corporal Mason checked each man, then gave a hand signal. Jenkins had just enough lucidity to understand it. His mind was as scattered as the bodies on the beach. He swallowed so hard it hurt, and raised his rifle automatically. One man radioed to command that they were commencing attack. Another tossed a smoke grenade into the window. Private "Bronx" Jackson kicked the door down just as the Germans inside began to curse in confusion.

Jenkins put his finger on the trigger and took aim through the smoke. Only one thought made it through his head. If I'm in Hell, the Devil's not gonna put me down easy. He pulled the trigger.

Morning Bell
Feb 23, 2006

Illegal Hen

Morning Bell fucked around with this message at 00:08 on Oct 15, 2015

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
The Ethics of Parasitism

Six of Pentacles (Reversed): Debt, selfishness, one-sided charity
Six of Rods: Public recognition, victory, progress, self-confidence
Five of Pentacles (Reversed): Recovery from financial loss, spiritual poverty

1385 Words

“I understand you and the client have a... history?” said the lawyer. As the logic of retainers and billable hours and expense accounts dictates, we were in the kind of restaurant where I couldn't have afforded to tip the bathroom attendant. I held it in and left the question hanging, eating mediocre oysters while the lawyer slammed martinis. “You've proven a... discretion that she... appreciates. She would have met you in person, but...”

I wanted to punch that suited fool in the face during each of those pauses, but I couldn't afford to turn down work, even work that came from her. She couldn't meet me in person because my office was strictly daylight hours, with no shaded access and huge attention-grabbing mirrors in the lobby. Took months of looking to find it, and for a home I had the cheapest condo in town, just to make certain I was the only one who could issue a valid invitation. The client was Trisha Gordon, wife of the late mayor and about to take that job herself. She was also a vampire.

I knew it, and the lawyer knew it, but we still had to dance around the subject during the entire negotiation. Someone else knew it, too, and whoever that was had been putting the squeeze on her. They didn't even need hard proof to do it. The accusation would be enough, made in the right ways, enough to goad some crazy into confronting her with a cross or holy water. They were demanding regular payments for their silence, and as Trisha's fortunes rose so did the price. That was the job. Find out who the blackmailer was. Develop leverage. Make the problem go away, permanently.

I took the retainer check, agreed to do the job. I'm not sure about the lawyer, but Trisha and I both had to know that the job was half over before I'd even started it. Few enough people knew her secret. Only two outside of her own inner circle. Me, and my old partner, from my days in precinct 41.

* * *

Three AM, routine domestic call. Max and me were nearest, so we took it. The way these things go, you knock on the door and the guy shows up. Always with no shirt, always so wide you wonder if they have to turn sideways to get through. The woman's somewhere behind him, and it goes two ways. Either she says it was a big mistake and she never should have called, or she hits him in the skull with a frying pan while his back's turned. This guy was muscles instead of flab, but still huge. And this woman didn't use a frying pan. She shoved a huge wooden stake right through him. He went down. There wasn't nearly enough blood coming out of him. Then he started turning to dust. It took longer than most people think, and it smelled. Not like death or rot, more like burnt food and ozone. The skeleton stuck around, but it was fizzing and smoking and didn't look like it would last the hour.

“How the hell are we going to write this one up, Ward?” said Max.

Max was strangely calm about this. I wasn't. My gun was out and pointed. “Drop the weapon,” I said. The sharpened stick clattered on the tile floor and she raised her hands.

“Can't just call in a homicide, not when we can't say what happened to the corpse,” said Max.

“Tell the truth?” I said.

“And eat a sure psych discharge?” said Max.

“How about this,” said Trisha. “You detained Clifford briefly. You offered to take me to a women's shelter, and I accepted. But I didn't want to press any criminal charges, so you let him go. Odds are nobody will even report him missing, ever.”

“Well,” said Max, “I can see how that helps you, but-”

“Of course,” said Trisha. “I've never bribed a police officer before, but I believe this is above the going rate.” She pulled two thick rolls of bills out of her purse. I kept my gun on her, just in case she was reaching for something else. It wasn't either of our first bribes. I never met a single cop in this town who wasn't a little dirty. We wrote it up like she suggested.

That wasn't the only time she paid us off to help her make a problem go away. Max was a bit surprised the second time, but I think that I knew right from the start that Trisha wasn't just a midnight snack for old Clifford. She was a partner, a protegee. Another bloodsucker.

It might be possible to get by as a vampire crossing every moral line there is. Rob bloodbanks, take from only people who are already dying, or scumbags that the world would be better off without. Trisha wasn't interested in any of that. The problems we helped her with had mothers, brothers, sisters. Kids. The money was just barely good enough, right up until it wasn't. Max and I left the force around the same time, and I haven't spoken to him since. By then Trisha had enough wealth and power to get the sort of unaccountability that doesn't require putting cash money directly in the hands of cops.

* * *

Finding Max wasn't easy. He wasn't in the phone book like me. Word on the street was that he did some work for the Southside mobs. Troubleshooting. Shooting trouble for the Skullface and Tusker crews. Not the kind of crowd I had contacts with. No way to get in touch without him seeing me coming a mile away. Same went for what few police contacts I still could ask a favor from without getting punched in the gut.

Max had one weakness, and that was his taste in women. Max had a type, and that type was 'crazy'. He had restraining orders on five different exes. One of them, Leena Kline, I remembered. Sure enough, she was still stalking Max, well enough to not get caught inside the legal radius. She was easy enough to manipulate, and even if she did try to warn him he'd never hear her out. I found out where he'd be at four different times of day. I picked one.

Most of the year this town is dry as kindling. Each September I wonder why it doesn't burn down. Then one early October night the skies open up and the wet stuff comes down in sheets. This was that day. Closing time at a bar that didn't bother with a name. The sign just said 'bar', and that was enough. He came out, less drunk than I'd expected.

“Long time, Max,” I said.

“Figured Trish'd send you,” he said, keeping his hands where I could see them. He had to know mine was on my gun.

“Why?” I said. “Getting out the first time was hard enough.”

“Why? You've see how she's done, while we're still clawing and scratching. She owes us, Ward. We could run this together, like old times.” Lightning strobed the empty street.

“I didn't want any part of it then or now.” Thunder stopped me from going on.

“Way I figure, as long as we know and don't do anything to try and stop her we're complicit. Out souls are already lost, so why not enjoy what they paid for.”

“There's a difference,” I said.

“Not much. You ever wonder if we might have been whammied, right there from the start? Turned into, what, minions like that guy Rhineland?”


“That's the one.”

Lightning flashed again. “Ever get the urge to eat insects?”

“Not unless lobsters count.” A long rolling round of thunder started. I shot Max three times, wiped the gun, and tossed it down the storm drain.

* * *

Trisha gave me a choice. Well, an ultimatum. She couldn't have anyone else in town who knew but wasn't a part of it. She offered to turn me, let me trade the sun for immortality. I picked the other option and left. Left the town, the country, the continent itself, and never looked back,

Mar 29, 2012

She was an awkward girl

Page of Rods: Enthusiasm, exploration, discovery, free spirit

1128 words

That autumn was a weird time for the entire village. The harvest usually brings out the best in people, but that autumn was just a whole lot of bickering, anger and dread. A lot of families packed up and left, but Mom decided to stick it out. Dad was supposed to be returning any day, but that day never really came - a common story in many villages, not just ours.

The school was a good ten kilometers away so the walk usually started quite early. Even during these walks, the kids would usually stick together in their own groups. Of course, there was Pavlik’s group - the rowdiest of the bunch. Never really liked them, but they wouldn’t give me trouble and that was about as much as anyone could ask. Then, there was Murat and his gang. I never really tangled with them, but there were always all sorts of rumours floating around about that gang, what with the majority of them living on the eastern side of the village and all. Last but not least, were Kolya and his friends.

I can’t quite remember what it was exactly that I’ve done to start it all off - maybe he just didn’t like my face? We were supposed to always be accompanied by a teacher, but Kirill Ulyanovich was old, grouchy and didn’t particularly care about what the kids were up to, so the walk to school was when the fun would usually begin for me. I would frequently end up somewhere in a ditch beside a sunflower field and have to walk to school with scratched, dirty or both - not that I would stand out from the other kids when that happened.

I didn’t really care, but not caring is a bad idea when it comes to bullies. I had this book that my Dad bought for me when I was still very little. Hardcover, pages that smelled like old dust, everything. I brought it to school one day to show it to Tatyana Anatolyevna, my 4th grade reading teacher. Big mistake. It almost made its way into the latrine pit behind the storage shed - it would have, if it wasn’t for Andrey. When I asked him later, he simply told me that he couldn’t stand to watch someone do something like that to books.

He would always come to my house at night with something stupid for us to do. “Mishka - let’s go check out the new truck that Georgiy Vladimirovich bought!” or “Hey, Misha - want to go hang out at the Sovkhoz and check out their new combine?” I wouldn’t have the energy to keep up with him for sure if it wasn’t for the school being mostly out that autumn due to the harvest. The kids would pitch in, too, and I would frequently look for him out in the fields when I was helping Mom out - our families’ plots weren’t too far away from each other.

His dad was still around. I think he was a lieutenant at the garrison 30 kilometers away from our village which meant that he would frequently stay around for the weekends. He was very tall, but also very quiet - almost like a real-life Uncle Styopa. Andrey’s house, like mine, was closer to the western outskirts of the village and especially close to this really old oak tree. It was really sprawling, too - his dad spent a lot of time having to make sure that the branches wouldn’t become a problem for the house. As a result, Andrey had a lot of these wooden figurines - soldiers, horses, cars. He would have at least five of them on him at all times and he would show them to everyone. Other kids used to call him “Woodpecker” for it. I don’t think he minded it too much - at least, not until his dad got stationed at Brest in the middle of the next spring.

That was a hard time for all of us. Everybody was even more on edge, kids included. During one of our walks to school, Kolya grabbed Andrey’s pack and began emptying it out into a puddle. Of course, the moment when the toys started hitting the mud water was when Andrey lost it, but Kolya’s friends were prepared for that. What they weren’t prepared for was me knocking Kolya over and pummelling him as hard as I could. It was such a weird moment - I’m pretty sure that everyone froze because I stopped only when Andrey grabbed me and whatever toys he could and we ran off into the sunflower field.

We spent that entire day out there. Raw sunflower seeds don’t taste as good as roasted ones, but there were plenty of them and we weren’t picky. That day was more sunlight for us than usual, so that after Kolya and his pals finally caught up to us the next day, both of us were sporting a blue eye and a lot of dirty-looking freckles. I do have to say that this look suited Andrey a bit better than me, what with his eyes being blue and all.

We were both very proud - me especially, because I felt like a really cool warrior that day, battle scars and all. Plus, he let me have one of the toys - a Roman chariot, with a rider and horses. It was the best one he had. I still have it on the shelf in my reading room. Nikita always wants to play with it, but it’s pretty old now and I don’t want him to break it, so he’ll have to be satisfied with his other toys.

My mom and I moved to her sister in Nizhniy Novgorod when the village was being evacuated. She had to spend almost all our savings for the trip. It all happened so fast that I never had a chance to say goodbye to him. The village was in complete chaos, of course. I think that his mom had an uncle in Leningrad, so that’s probably where they ended up going. I tried finding him after the war, but, of course, Leningrad was still in chaos for a long time even after the war. I’d like to think that he took up carpentry or engineering - both good careers and both would let him do fine for himself after the war. I think of him sometimes - my life would have probably been very different if we had just a few more years in that village. I don’t regret anything, of course, but, at the very least, I would have liked to know that he is alright. That the fate had been good to him as well and that he had a good, long life beyond our small village and beyond that beautiful sunlit field.

Barnaby Profane
Feb 23, 2012


Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 19:36 on Dec 30, 2015

Oct 4, 2013

The Star (Reversed): Lack of faith, despair, discouragement
Death (Reversed): Resistance to change, unable to move on
Five of Rods (Reversed): Conflict avoidance, diversity, agreeing to disagree

my brother, among the dunes
1499 words

Once, whenever I began to doubt, whenever I began to question if we had chosen the wrong path, I would see the sparks of excitement dancing in my brother’s eyes as he looked to the night sky and found our tomorrow’s road amongst the stars; and my determination would return to me.

“Sera! There is no doubt in my heart that the stars will guide us to the center before the next cycle of the moon! Our village will be saved yet!” Ori said, and I smiled at him while trying to forget both that this is the third time this year he has said those same words to me and the emptiness of the waterskins slung across my back.

The next night, after we set up our increasingly weakening wards against evil around our humble camp and my brother slipped into starry-eyed dreams, I drew my scimitar and hunted for the Forsaken. It was not long before I came across a party of five, collapsed in the sand around a rusted walker. I bowed my head and knelt. “Lost ones, may your flesh be purified by my holy blade; and your spirits put to rest by my promise that I will carry on your quest.” My intonation awakened them, and as a whole they hissed and stood, slowly staggering towards me.

Death makes men predictable, and I easily fell into the pattern I had repeated hundreds of times in the past. Their ashes scattered in the wind as I pried open the walker’s shell. Unsurprisingly, the desert storms had weathered its joints to the point of uselessness, but its enchantment against decay remained intact. I returned to the camp, secure in the knowledge that I had gathered enough food and water to keep us alive.

My earliest memory was of my mother’s calloused hands guiding me to hold her scimitar the proper way while my baby brother slept in the corner. “Seraphina,” she said, “you and your brother must become two halves of the same whole. He will be a dreamer, living his life finding answers in the heavens above. You will be his guardian, left behind on the earth to protect his physical form.”

I would continue to live by those words, even after my mother became one of the first to succumb to the desert sickness and the village children whispered dark rumours about Ori, overheard from parents who were quick to forget tradition in search of someone to blame. Never within earshot of me, remembering the bruises I had given them the first and only time they worked up the courage to insult him to my face.

My brother never noticed the uneasy looks shot at him as more of our people were claimed by the sickness, even after we moved our village to escape the growing desert. His gaze was always tilted absently towards the sky as he aimlessly drifted through life; day after day. Without our mother to instruct him, he had no purpose; the others in the village had quickly given up on trying to turn him into a productive citizen after string after string of jobs left abandoned due to a passing cloud striking him as more interesting than his current work.

I would always remember the joy on my brother’s face on the day that the village elder approached him with a special task. Rumor had spread across the nomadic villages of the world of a possible origin of the ever-expanding desert: at its very core laid the ruins of an ancient city, home to a strange machine that was the cause of the world’s blight. Countless search parties had left in search of it, but none had ever returned.

“However, my boy, you are special!” The elder said. “I’m sure that you and your sister can be the ones to save us all.” For the first time since our mother had died, Ori tore his gaze from the heavens and faced me with a grin, spouting a constant stream of chatter about how the time had come to finally put his talents to use. The village elder left us with well-wishes, wards, and a few months’ worth of supplies, carried by one of the ancient, crablike walkers our village possessed. Despite his obvious desperation to be rid of us, the sight of my brother filled with new purpose and hopes of being a hero were more than enough to keep me from arguing.

Over the past two years since we left, my brother never lost that spark. Until recently, I thought that was all I needed, keeping my concerns to myself and keeping my mother’s blessed scimitar sharp. However, it had been months since we had last seen another living being, months since even the last abandoned village or any trace of any civilization. Months since the last hint that we were doing anything other than wandering in circles across the endless desert, months since the last sign that the entire world had not been consumed by sand in our absence.

“Have you ever doubted the signs you see in the stars?” I asked him one night, after he had finished work on our map.

“Have you ever doubted your sword arm, Sera?” Ori replied with a laugh, brushing off my concerns.

“So you don’t think it’s possible that you’ve made a mistake? You still think we’re on the right trail, brother?” I pressed on, unconsciously raising my voice.

Ori started, shocked as if I had slapped him. “Are you saying you don’t trust me? The stars are all that I have, and you’re saying I might be losing my grasp on even them?”

“I’m saying that I want better for you than spending the rest of your life wandering this cursed desert! I don’t want you to die alone of thirst if I make a single mistake! We don’t even know if the ruins we’re looking for actually exist!”

“So you think we’ve wasted the last two years of our lives? It has to exist! I’ve seen it in the stars, Sera! How else would we have survived this long where so many others have failed?” We were both shouting, now.

“Because I’ve been working day and night to keep us both alive! Don’t you ever wonder why we never run into any Forsaken? How I keep miraculously finding supplies? The stars have nothing to do with it, I’ve been patrolling every single night to make sure your sky-routes are safe for us! I’ve risked my life to get supplies from the Forsaken!” As soon as I said it, I realized that I had gone too far. My brother staggered as if struck, and slumped to the ground.

“I… I haven’t actually accomplished anything?” He whispered, curling up and hugging his knees. “This entire time, I’ve just been a burden to you?” I took a tentative step towards him, extending my hand, but he drew away from me. “Just… leave me alone. Please.”

I could find no words of comfort. Instead, I left my brother and patrolled the perimeter of the camp, walking countless circles around our worries, same thought after same step. Despite my every effort, I could not think of what to say to revitalize my brother’s spirit. My worry for him consumed me so that I did not realize my fatigue until I had already passed out on the rough sands.

When I was awakened by the rising sun, I discovered that Ori had left camp, leaving a tearstained note behind. Sera, I’m sorry. I never meant to put you in danger for a quest you clearly never believed in. I have failed you, but I can’t abandon the only purpose I’ve had in life. Even if you don’t, I still have faith in the stars. I’ll be okay. I spat a curse and ran at a dead sprint out of the camp, while I still had any hope of catching up with him.

I don’t know how long I ran for. When I found him, he was unarmed, surrounded by Forsaken. Gazing at the sky for what he thought would be his final time. He didn’t notice my arrival until I had already started laying them to rest.

When I was done, Ori simply looked at me, shamefaced.“Sera, I…” He started, before I squeezed the wind out of him with a hug.

“You were never a burden to me, Ori. I might not have believe in the sky, but I believe in your ability to find meaning in it. How else would we keep finding supplies? How else have we avoided succumbing to the desert sickness? So long as you have faith that the ruins are out there, I’ll never leave your side.” He nodded, tears in his eyes.

We were no closer to our destination, but all that mattered was that my brother and I were together again, among the dunes.


Dec 15, 2006

Come fight terrifying creatures in the THUNDERDOME!
Ace of Rods: Inspiration, power, creation, beginnings, potential.
Queen of Cups (Reversed): Emotional insecurity, co-dependency.

Life is a Four-Dimensional Vector Moving Towards the Future
570 words

Dear Future Self,

Hey, it’s your Past Self. Remember when we had to do the “write a letter to yourself ten years in the future” thing for AP English? Well, you do now!

So I’m supposed to graduate in a few weeks. I’m going to tell you a secret, since you’re me and you’ll know anyway: I have no idea what I’m doing. Mom wants me to go to college, and I guess that’s what I want, too, but…

I feel like my whole life up to this point has been a straight line that someone else drew. I mean, maybe there were some slight deviations, some minor choices that mattered or didn’t, but I feel like I’m almost at the end of this path, and the future in front of me is infinite in any direction. Like all of my choices were laid out on a two-dimensional plane, and suddenly the future is here, and it turns out there are THREE dimensions, and I don’t even know how to move anymore, or which way is forward, or if there IS a “forward.”

I THINK I have a plan, but what if I fail? What if I can’t do all of the things that I thought that I could? I’ve never been very good at failing. Or rather, Mom hasn’t let me fail. You know what I mean.

And what about all of those things I decide NOT to do? Am I cutting off those futures forever? What if I would have been happier doing one of those, and by choosing not to do them now, I’ll never get there? These are the things that I end up asking myself every time I think about the future, and it’s terrifying.

I’ve tried to talk to Mom about this, but I’m not sure that she understands. I think if it was up to her, I’d let her draw me another straight line to follow, and another, and another, forever. I know that she loves me, but I want my life to be mine, not something that I let someone else pick for me. I don’t really know how to tell her that, though. I worry that she’ll be mad at me, or think that I don’t love her. I do love her, I just want to have some say in my future.

I’m not sure some days that I’ll find what it is that I’m looking for. Some days I feel hopeless, and helpless, and I don’t think that I can keep doing this for much longer.

But you give me hope. I have hope that someday, I’ll be you, and I’ll know the answers, or at least know myself. And maybe I’ll be happy, and maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll be doing something I love, and maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll be a more complete person, and maybe I won’t. But I’ll definitely be you. I’ll be us.

And you know what? Nothing is going to stop me from being you. No matter what path I choose, someday, ‘you’ will become ‘me,’ and I’ll read this letter and I’ll remember what it meant to be here, in this moment, looking at the vast and infinite future, and I’ll think about what I am, and what I was, and I hope that I feel joy. I hope you feel joy.

I can’t wait to meet you, me.

Your Past Self

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