Robert held his coat around his shoulder, trudging back to his apartment after another day of work. He noticed a thin man loitering around the building, looking lost.
"Can I help you, sir?" he asked, putting on his most helpful voice. It did not come easily, despite his service-oriented profession.
The man sized him up with eyes that did not belong to someone so infirm. He was weak, but his eyes knew the feeling of power, or once did. "Why thank you, officer. I'm looking for a man named Robert Walts, who lives here."
"May I know what business you have with Mr. Walts?" Robert asked, not dropping the charade.
"To give him news: Solveig is dying."
Robert felt the ever-familiar flare of anger through his body, and willed himself to reject it. It took him a second to calm his senses. He assessed the threat. "Why do you know who Solveig is? Who are you?"
"I need your help, Blake," the man said, smiling sadly.
That was a name Robert hadn't heard in ten years. It was also his real name.
"Come inside," he said.
Robert made themselves tea. Solveig sipped it gratefully, his thin arms trembling on the table.
"Who did this to you?" Robert asked. Why did you let them?
"No one," Solveig said. "It's my cells. They're dying at an accelerated rate. At first my powers disappeared, then my own health deteriorated."
"The Guild of Heroes could not help?" What use are they, then?
"Doc Merlin turned me away," Solveig said. "My condition is in the realm of science, he said, and any spell that could cure me would also exact a heavy price. And I'm not willing to pay that price, not when it could affect the ones I love."
Solveig shook his head.
Robert considered smashing the table, and consoled himself by tapping it instead. "I may be sociopathic, but isn't that what families exist for? Giving moral support?"
"I was inconsolable. I became a danger to Marla and my son, so I sent them away."
"This is all difficult to take," Robert said. He may have lived alone for ten years, lying low, fixing the world on a smaller scale than he would've wanted to, but he had made some progress. The little corner of the Earth he lived in was safer, and people could walk in the streets without fear shadowing their every step. But Solveig? How far could the mighty have fallen?
"In the end, I'm just human," Solveig said. "And look at you. It took me a while to find you. Marvel Marlowe worked on your trail for weeks. And it turns out that you're now chief of police in a country on the other side of the world."
Robert smiled. Marlowe, greatest detective in the world, flummoxed for more than a day. He was flattered. "I've had time to think while licking my wounds since The Demagogue. But surely you didn't come here to praise how I've turned my life around. You're calling in a favor from me to cure your condition?"
Solveig looked Robert in the eye. "I'm not calling in a favor. I'm asking you, out of the goodness of your heart."
Robert's muscles tensed. How like Solveig to consider only the best from the people around him! Long-quenched emotions swirled inside him, thoughts that he had now considered beneath him. Such condescension! Solveig had been the only one standing between him and world domination, all those years ago. What would he give for the man's power?
Robert took a deep breath. Just old habits. He had thrown away his pride, but it kept running back to him like a well-trained dog. "So I am your last, desperate choice," he said.
"I may be desperate," Solveig said, "but I didn't want to disturb your exile. I also feared that... my presence would make you revisit unpleasant memories. But I don't want to give up just yet."
"You've said enough," Robert said. "I'll help you."
"You can cure me?" Solveig said, his eyes regaining a shade of its old fervor. Lord of the Sun, Highest of Mortals. Such titles did little justice once you've seen his eyes.
Robert grinned. "But of course. How could I take over the world if I couldn't even save the life of one man?"
The subspace gateway closed behind them. Solveig gazed in awe at their new surroundings.
"This reminds me of your old lab," Solveig said.
"This is a good deal smaller," Robert said. "Only the most essential devices are here. Meaning..." He sidestepped the miniature black hole cage, the positronic shotgun, and the time machine jammer to reach a contraption that constituted a human-sized glass chamber on a dais, and a detachable control panel. He performed authorization checks and turned on the device.
"Is that... intended for me?" Solveig asked.
"I made this one to strip you of your powers. It works by overcharging your cells to effectively cause a short-circuit. It was initially supposed to transfer your powers to me, but I've scaled down and reformed, so I scrapped those plans."
"So if I don't have my powers anymore, that will give them back to me?" Solveig said.
"It should, theoretically," Robert said. "I have never tested it, because Solveig would never be so foolish to enter the chamber out of his own free will."
Solveig smiled. "Call me a fool, but I'm taking the chance."
"Then step inside."
Robert started the device, making final checks. "Feels comfy in here," Solveig said, his voice muffled by the reinforced glass.
"Try not to talk," Robert said. "I'm concentrating." He was torn between two equally attractive options. He had lied to Solveig--the transfer feature was built into the system since day one. Who wouldn't pass up the chance to take the man's powers for his own? He could usher in a new age of humanity that would no longer be ruled by base desires. All he needed to steal Solveig's powers was to set one tiny switch.
The switch was currently set to on.
And yet he remembered Solveig's words. He sought Robert's help because he trusted him. He believed that Robert had changed.
"After we defeated The Demagogue, why did you let me go?" Robert asked. He had fought Solveig many times in the past; eight of his teeth were synthetic.
"You helped me save the world, just as I thought you would," Solveig said.
Robert closed his eyes. Their first meeting, their first skirmish: We can save the world together, Solveig had told him. "All this time, and you still believe that?"
"Until I am dust."
Robert flicked the switch.
Afterwards, Robert made himself more tea. I'll need a new set of clothes, he thought. He would never send a naked man outside his apartment--it would be bad gossip.
You're welcome. He still tasted the words in his tongue, a gag reflex to Solveig's overwhelming gratitude.
He repeated the words, over and over. It was a habit he could get into.
|# ? Jan 4, 2015 16:26|
|# ? Nov 28, 2021 03:14|
Can anybody write critiques on stories? I've received a lot of great feedback on my stuff, and I feel bad not contributing. I've read so many good stories in Thunderdome that could have been great were it not for some minor issues.
Yes. Don't crit any of the weeks stories before judgment has been rendered,
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 20:12 on Jan 5, 2015
|# ? Jan 4, 2015 18:36|
Twenty of you have just under five hours left to bring old acquaintance to mind.
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 00:07|
Out of My Life
Nethilia fucked around with this message at 05:07 on Jan 1, 2016
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 00:24|
“FREEZE!” my partner yelled.
But the masked man didn’t. My eyes fixated on the matte black of the handgun as its cruel little eyehole gazed back. The shots sounded like firecrackers, and as I closed my eyes for what I was sure would be the final time, my mind flashed backed to a Fourth of July party from my childhood, the smell of freshly mowed grass lingering in my nostrils.
I opened my eyes, and Larry was already hunched over the suspect, who was bleeding all over the bank floor. I looked down past my outstretched gun at my body, and everything was still there.
“Call for backup, Rich!” Larry said as I ran up beside him.
Later that night, I started paying back my debt. Larry downed the beer in seconds, slammed the mug on the bar top, and let out an operatic burp that ended in the sound of squealing tires and earned a glare of consternation from the barmaid. Our cop buddies nearly fell in the floor laughing. Sandra looked embarrassed at first, but quickly found an appreciative giggle. She put her arm around Larry’s waist as he beamed at me and wobbled on his barstool.
“I owe you one, bud,” I said.
“Aww come on now,” he protested, “you fought off those dogs at that meth trailer a couple years back, saved my rear end. You’ve got a pretty nice ninja kick there, Miyagi.”
I cracked a grin at the memory of my own badassery. Then my mind whipped back to what happened a few hours earlier, and my smile evaporated.
“No, seriously, I owe you one,” I said.
“Cut that poo poo out,” Larry said. “You’d do the same for me in an instant.”
The other cops sipped their beers thoughtfully as silence swallowed up the room. Larry looked longingly at his empty beer mug, then his eyes snapped up to mine.
“I almost forgot,” he said.
He held out his hand, and in it gleamed two shell casings.
“A souvenir,” he said. “From the ones I popped that dumbfuck with.”
The shell casings clinked together on the end of my necklace as I used my arthritic hands to show Ramirez the proper holding technique.
“Now, you’d think that you should just split them up, but you’d be wrong,” I said. “It’s best if two cops subdue the man, he’s almost always the one doing the hitting anyway.”
Ramirez nodded thoughtfully as he chewed up the last bite of his burger. The radio squealed.
“Unit 28, please respond to a reported domestic disturbance at 223 Sandy Lane,” the voice said.
“Lookie there,” I said, smiling at Ramirez. “You’ll get to practice.”
He smelled like he’d bathed in gin.
“If we kin just get out to tha car, I’ll sleep it off,” he slurred pitifully.
I looked into the eyes of the man who’d saved my life three years earlier. His skin was sallow and his eyes were bloodshot, but somehow his uniform looked perfect. Sandra’s doing, surely. I remembered the makeup around her right eye at the wedding two years back, and my mind reeled. I still hated myself for not piping up about that one.
“Look, man, you know I’ll do all I can for you, but somebody is going to find out eventually. This is the third day in a row. We can sneak out to the car today, but what about next week? You’ve got to cut this poo poo out,” I said.
“Yurright. I don’t know why I do this to myself,” he said, and his eyes grew wet.
“Listen, why don’t you and Sandra come have dinner with Ruthie and me tonight? All we’ve got is soda and milk, scout’s honor,” I said, and gave a goofy backwards salute.
“That sounds great, Rich,” he said.
Then his desk phone rang. It was the chief.
I had dinner with my friend that night, but not my partner.
I knew the address sounded familiar. As we wheeled down Sandy Lane, a writhing ball of dread took up residence in my gut, its tentacles desperately trying to take the wheel and turn me back toward ignorance and safety.
We stopped in front of my old friend’s house. Ramirez waited expectantly.
“I’ll take the lead, kid,” I said, slamming the door.
We sidled up to the front door. I looked over at my partner. He flashed me a steely gaze, all action and muscle, but the bravado was proof that my comment had stung. I’d promised him I’d never call him that.
I knocked, and the only response was wind chimes.
“Police, open up!” Ramirez bellowed.
I knocked one more time, not expecting a response. Sandra or whoever he’d charmed lately had surely thrown some clothes in the car and left, and that meant Larry was passed out drunk.
“Not sure my knee can handle this one,” I said.
Ramirez’s kick almost knocked the drat door off its hinges. I stepped inside, and the living room looked nearly identical to the last and only time I’d seen it, fifteen years ago.
My son’s graduation party was long over, and all the guests were gone save one. Ruthie knew what was coming and had thoughtfully put the tissues out on the kitchen table before she went to bed. Now Larry was using them to drunkenly paw at his wet cheeks and runny nose.
“I don’t think she’s coming back this time,” he said between sobs.
“What Sandra does or doesn’t do isn’t the main concern right now,” I replied. “This lady goes to my church. She’s the real deal and I promise she won’t make you lay down on a couch and talk about your childhood or any of that bullshit,” I said, pushing the therapist’s business card closer to Larry.
“OK,” he snuffled.
“Call her office number and leave a message, and then I’ll follow you to the house.”
He invited me inside the house on Sandy Lane, and together, we poured all of his alcohol down the kitchen sink.
“When will it get better?” he asked.
“It’s one step at a time, man,” I told him.
He shook my hand at the door, and I pulled him into a hug.
“Thanks for everything, Rich,” he said, tears welling up again. We both knew this was it, I’d done all I could.
“It’s nothing, man,” I said. “I owe you one.”
The gin was out on the counter; a sickening moan was coming from the bedroom. I barked at Ramirez to stay put.
I threw open the bedroom door and had to force down the bile that rushed up through the dawning horror that enveloped me.
A pool of maroon spread out under Larry’s head, his face mercifully hidden against the carpet. His old service pistol was clutched in his right hand. Sandra, her hair gone gray since I’d last seen her, was on the bed, the covers a red mess and an angry hole clearly visible in her chest. She moaned again, and I forced myself to walk over to the bed.
Her eyes were hazy and wet, but as I got closer, they laboriously focused on me. The flash of fear and pain I saw there was quickly followed by a hard stare.
Oh God, I’m so sorry, I wanted to say. I tried as hard as I could, didn’t I? If it didn’t sound convincing to me, it’d be profane to her. But it was too late for any words. A final, ragged breath passed her lips, and then I was alone. I knew the tears would come later, the only question was whether or not I’d hide them from my wife.
I covered the bodies and had Ramirez call the coroner.
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 02:47|
Football and Fireworks
Jeremy Thompson shuffled over to the park bench and read its tiny plaque for the hundredth time. In Memory of Erin Thompson: Rest, Be Refreshed, Go forth. After giving it a polish with one sleeve he mumbled a prayer then eased his arthritic body down onto its wooden seat. He spent a moment watching a pickup football game at the far corner of the park, then fished around in his pocket for his packet of fags.
He was about to light up when a child approached the bench, and stood right in front of him. Jeremy guessed she was about ten. The knees of her overalls were caked with grass, her hair was tied in two ragged pigtails and a not-unfriendly grin was plastered on her face.
“Hello Jeremy,” she said. “Don’t do that, it’ll kill you.”
“Probably,” said Jeremy, lighting the fag and trying to recognise her. She did look familiar, he thought. Probably the grand-kid of someone from the local bowls club. There seemed to be more of them each year. He dragged on the cigarette, puffing a couple of times to get it good and started. “Do I know you?”
“Yup,” said the girl. “It’s me, Emily.”
“Emily, huh? Nice name. I always liked Emily as a name. Well, Emily, why don’t you run along now, show the boys over there how to play football and let an old man suck his lung lollies in peace?”
“Urgh,” said Emily. “Football? Seriously?” Her petulant tone made Jeremy laugh out loud, then cough as his chest complained at the exercise. “I’d much rather talk to you,” Emily continued. “It’s been absolute decades. How are you?”
“Hah!” said Jeremy. “Decades? Do you know how long a decade is, little girl?”
“Everybody knows that, dummy” said Emily, sitting down on the bench beside him. “It’s ten years.”
“And how old are you exactly?”
“I’m as old as my tongue and older than my teeth,” said Emily knowingly.
“Good answer,” admitted Jeremy. “Well, I’ve been…” He ran one finger gently along the brass plaque. “...dealing with things.”
Emily watched him closely. “Oh, Erin. Sorry. I heard about that.” She stared at her shoes a moment, then looked up. “You should tell me about her.”
Jeremy coughed in surprise. “You want to know about Erin?”
“Sure,” said Emily. She joined him on the bench, swinging her dangling legs.
“A fine woman, my Erin,” said Jeremy, dragging on his cigarette, looking at the trees in the distance. “Good looking, too. Well, I thought so. Talented. Played the piano. Read a lot of books. Imaginative. Said I was, too.” He smiled. “I met her at a dance - we used to have actual dances in those days - and I knew she was the one for me. Her parents thought I was rubbish, but she stuck up for me. Kept me out of trouble. When I was your age, I was always in trouble. Throwing stones and breaking windows if you know what I mean. There wasn’t a lot to do, and my ma died when I was young, so my dad was never in the house, working around town. We didn’t have your computer games and Facebook so we had to make our own fun.”
“We?” asked Emily.
“I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, but, before I met Erin, I had a friend. She was always over at ours, and I was kinda small, kinda shy, so she was always pushing me to get up to stuff. There was one time, I don’t know how she got the idea, but we bought all the rockets we could afford on Guy Fawkes night and then shot them at each other, playing war-games. It’s a wonder we didn’t blow our hands off. In the end, my dad said she was a bad influence or something, told me I couldn’t see her again. She must have gone to some other school. Her name was…um..”
“Emily,” said Emily.
“Yes,” said Jeremy. “How did you know that? Are you related?”
“You could say that,” said Emily.
“Really? That’s incredible.”
Across the field, a football traveled in a graceful arc toward them. It rolled in their direction, coming to a stop twenty feet away. “You gonna get that for them?” asked Jeremy.
“Why don’t you, old man?”
“Hmmph,” said Jeremy. “All right.” He threw his fag butt on the ground and eased himself up from the bench. The players looked at him expectantly, some laughing as he took a few doddering steps toward the ball. He took a swing with his leg and managed to connect. The ball rolled at a fair clip in the right direction. One of the players cheered as it returned to the boundaries of the match.
“Nice one,” said Emily.
Jeremy beamed as he returned to the bench. “Thank you. I’ve still got some skills. So, how did you say you knew Emily? She your grandma?”
“Nope,” said Emily. She slid from the bench in one movement and ended up cross legged in front of him. “Maybe it would help if I told you what I’ve been up to for the last few...decades.” She plucked some daisies from the field.
“OK,” said Jeremy with a laugh. He reached into his pocket and brought out his packet of fags, but Emily scowled at him and he put them away.
“Well, then,” said Emily. “When you left I was still young, very inexperienced, so I didn’t know what to do with myself. I sort of faded in and out of places, looking for something to hold on to.”
“Wait,” said Jeremy, sitting up and leaning forward. “When I left?”
“I didn’t interrupt you,” accused Emily. Jeremy sat back, chastened.
Emily picked more daisies and began threading them, starting a chain. “I wasn’t sure what there was for me, but I couldn’t find anywhere else to go around here. It’s quite something, you know, being born out of need and then having that need, that whole reason for being alive, just disappear.”
Jeremy looked at the plaque but didn’t say anything.
“So I just wandered. I found the gates to another country and sort of fell through them - it’s hard to explain. I found wars to fight, and men to love, and dreams to lose and a heart to break. I climbed mountains to visit castles and kings, and travelled deep beneath the earth to discover forgotten treasures and secrets. It was fun! But I was missing something the whole time. I didn’t know what it was, but I could feel it, like I was a jigsaw with a missing piece.”
“Well, that’s a strange story, young Emily, but..”
“I haven’t finished yet. After a while I came back here, pulled by something I think I’d forgotten, but I think I know now.” Emily looked up from her long chain of daisies. “It was you.”
“Me?” said Jeremy.
“When did you meet her, Emily, I mean?” asked Emily.
“What? I don’t know. I was young, and it’s been a few brain cells under the bridge since then. It must have been after my mum died.”
“Do you have any photos of her? Did you ever hear anyone else talk about her? Ever look her up and find any trace of her at all?”
Jeremy thought. Once a friend of Erin’s had set him up with Facebook and he’d typed in a few names, even re-made some connections with people who had long moved away, but he hadn’t even been able to remember Emily’s surname.
“You know,” said Jeremy. “I never did hear anything.” He chuckled. “Maybe she was some kind of imaginary friend.”
“Hello, Jeremy,” said Emily, offering the necklace of daisies. “I’ve missed you very much.”
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 03:00|
Touch and Go and Touch Again
Nasatya and Dasra first met in the eternal gardens on Brahma's chest, where the trees and flowers gently rise and fall with the eldest god’s deep, slumbering breaths.
They met again on Earth, as Woman-Like-Deer-Path and Tusk-Cutter-Man in the last glacial period. Their lives moved at the beautifully brutal pace of the paleolithic, sweating together on the hunt and between the bed furs.
They met again as Hephaistion and Alexander of Macedonia.
They met again in December of 1914, as Niles York--British infantry--and Anselm Krause--a German Sergeant--during a football game in no man’s land. When the call was given to go back to the trenches, York slipped a pack of cigarettes into Krause’s jacket pocket. Neither saw each other again that time; neither survived 1916.
“In 1967, Nasatya was called Susie Sometimes. She was twenty-two years old and lived deep in the heart of Zeitgeist, America, working at a nicotine-stained watering hole. Dasra, known then as Jack Dallas, would stumble in every night with his malcontent and electrified posse of post-beat, post-Kennedy poets, and they would thump their chests and exhale stanzas like smoke. Once, Jack leapt up onto a tabletop and started reading an excerpt from Story of the Eye, stomping over table after table, spilling drinks until his worn leather boots were slick with beer and liquor.
““...The horror and despair at so much bloody flesh, nauseating in part, and in part very beautiful, was fairly equivalent to our usual impression upon seeing one another,” Jack read in a voice like narrow thunder. As he finished and sank silently into his chair, the bar erupted with hoots and hollers and stomps. Susie Sometimes clapped fast and fervent. Jack noticed. When Susie bent over his table to gather the spilled glasses, Jack put a gentle hand on her wrist--”
“And then they sped off to Makeout Peak in Jack’s T-bird and vowed to go steady forever,” said Paris, and further silenced Helena with a kiss. Helena rolled away to the other side of the tousled bed, holding her notebook to her chest.
“I’m an idiot, aren’t I?” she said to the wall.
Paris scooted over, molded herself against Helena’s back. “You really wrote all that ‘cause of me?” she asked.
“You,” Helena said.
Paris waited. The afternoon light crept across the dingy room, making dust motes and cassette tape cases sparkle briefly.
“You make me feel like I remember things that never happened.”
“Am I your muse?” Paris said, her lips brushing against Helena’s ear.
Helena rolled over so they were eye to eye, nose to nose. Their breath was a singular thing, heavy and damp. “You’re more like a map home.”
Nasatya spotted Dasra by the green water at the Banganga Tank. The Mumbai skyline was a glass and gunmetal contradiction to the contemplative stone steps and placid waters in the foreground. Nasatya let her sandals clack on the steps as she approached Dasra. He didn’t look up from his tablet.
“It’s uncommon to see a young man come to such an old place,” said Nasatya.
“It’s a place to be away from my wife and stay out of trouble,” replied Dasra. His finger swiped lazily across the screen. Nasatya sat down several feet away.
“Have we met before?”
At that, Dasra looked up. Their eyes met. Nasatya breathed deep and felt the wordless rush of memories flow between them, as cutting and powerful as an underground river. It was the experience of catching up to a memory of the future, of tracing a wave’s path all the way back to the first shore it ever kissed.
Dasra frowned and went back to his tablet. “Sorry, don’t think so.”
Nasatya flinched like she’d been slapped. A stony cold crept down from her cheeks to her neck, and black spots swarmed at the corners of her eyes. “Are, are you sure?” she breathed. She’d watched him for weeks. She knew him. He was hers, and she was his.
“Are you going to faint?” He’d set the tablet down and was watching her with distant concern.
“I don’t know,” she said, leaning back against the step above her. The sky spun slowly on its axis overhead.
“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Dasra said. He was closer now. His arms were around her. He let Nasatya rest her head against his chest.
“Would your wife consider this trouble?” Nasatya murmured against the solid heat of his body.
Dasra stiffened, but didn’t push her away. After a long moment he said, “some think marital bliss is being together forever, never apart. You know wildflowers?”
“Well,” Dasra said, “try growing wildflowers if you’re always trampling down the soil. You’ll have a sad, barren garden. But let the soil stay loose, let it soak in the rain and the air, and your garden will surprise you.”
He gently detached himself from Nasatya. When their eyes met again, the alternating current of shared memory was still there, but subdued to a trickle.
“I leave my wife in the afternoon so she can surprise me when I come home in the evening. And she’s happy to see me after I’ve been gone, I think.”
Nasatya lowered her head. “It was my mistake,” she said.
When Dasra had gone, Nasatya sat for a long time by the Tank. Soon, night fell and hazy city light made the sky an inscrutable black blanket.
“Aah,” Nasatya moaned, her eyes closed. He was hers! She knew it the way her lungs knew air from water. She was his. He knew it, but was in denial.
The water in the Banganga Tank was black as the sky. She almost didn’t see the disturbance on its surface. Curious, she crouched down on the lowest step at water’s edge.
Enough, someone whispered in her ear from a thousand light years away.
Tears of relief poured from her eyes and fell into the growing whirlpool forming in the Tank. “My map home,” she whispered before springing headfirst into the churning water.
Natasha opened her eyes, found David already awake and watching her. The nanite and oxygen-laden isolation fluid drained away, leaving them slick and naked and still entwined in the dream tank.
Soft light and soft voices from beyond the plexiglass. The heaviness of her true body. The lingering sense of psychic overlap with David. Her mind processed these things at a snail’s pace, but David’s eyes were sharp and true and real, and they held her attention like a parent comforting a child after a nightmare.
The tank’s lid swished open. Soft towels descended from above, gently patting the pair dry. Any remaining nanites would, of course, have been remotely deactivated at the end of the sim, harmless as sand.
Natasha let soft-spoken caretakers help her up out of the tank and into a robe. She looked through the floor-to-ceiling windows, which afforded a penthouse view of the city beyond: whimsical towers with staggered floors and private forests for every household; the whole metropolis pulsing and thinking, alive with nanites. Nothing forbidden to anyone, no food or delicacy or entertainment out of reach.
In a word, paradise.
She looked back across the room, saw David accepting water from the caretakers. Already, her heart hurt to be near him again. She savored the feeling, the multitude of emotions. Romantic longing was a flavor she thought had left her palate when youth left her body.
David caught her watching him. Knowing passed between them, a private signal on a private frequency.
The garden on Brahma’s chest rises and falls; leaves flutter with his breath. Nasatya and Dasra duck mischieviously through the trees, an endless game of touch-and-go. Their laughter rises like incense to Brahma’s ears, and the eldest god smiles in his sleep.
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 03:12 on Jan 5, 2015
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 03:10|
anime was right fucked around with this message at 05:48 on Oct 27, 2015
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 03:25|
Decisions - 818 Words
Duran saw the ring laying on the table as soon as he walked through the door. He paused just for a moment before turning away and putting down his groceries anyways. The paper bag rustled as fruits and veggies were taken out and the wind chime outside his window tinkled quietly. The man standing in the shadows of the hallway made no sound nor movement. It was a beautiful, mild, spring day, and Duran began to sweat.
“I figured it was going to be you,” said Duran, talking down to the countertop.
“Yes,” simply said the man, taking a step out of the shadows.
Duran turned to face the man. “Ari,” he said. “You are still wearing those terrible suits.”
Ari raised an eyebrow. “This coming from a man with a closet full of Aloha shirts.”
Both men briefly gave each other tight, grim smiles, facing off across the thick, wooden kitchen table. Duran ran his hands over its surface, absently tracing the knots in the wood. “I don’t suppose this has a happy ending,” he said, and was not thrilled with how small his voice had become.
“Doubtful,” Ari agreed. “You closed that door five years ago.” He reached down and picked up the ring, sliding it onto his finger.
“Then why haven’t you done it yet?” said Duran, finally looking up at Ari. “Why didn’t you do it before I saw your ring? Are you punishing me?”
Ari snorted and shook his head. “I need to know why. You betrayed --”
Duran slammed his fist on the table. “You dare say that? You know what they were doing. What I did was right - the world had to know. I was duped into believing their lies by my own country and you say I betrayed them?”
Ari stepped towards Duran, his hands clenching into fists. “You betrayed me!” he shouted. “gently caress the country, gently caress the service, you betrayed me!”
Duran grimaced and looked back down at his hands. “I’m sorry --” he quietly began.
“You’re sorry,” shot back Ari, taking another step that brought his face fully into the sunlight. His eyes were bright and red-rimmed. “You never bothered to tell me.”
“I couldn’t get you involved,” said Duran. “They would have come after you also.”
“How noble of you, protecting me,” said Ari. “I thought we had something. It meant something to me.”
“It did to me also,” said Duran, and started to go around the table to Ari until Ari raised his silenced pistol and pointed it at Duran. Duran halted and wavered uncertainly. “Ari?”
Ari narrowed his eyes. “Liar. Just trying to save your own skin.”
“If you truly believed that, why are you still wearing our ring?” said Duran, and pulled on the chain around his neck until it revealed a copy of the ring Ari wore.
There was silence in the kitchen, the wind even halting as both men regard the other. Ari started to put down the gun. “You stupid bastard. Keeping me ‘safe’ wasn’t your choice to make. It was mine.”
“You’re right, I know that now. But this choice is my own. Do it, Ari,” said Duran. He reached out and grabbed the tip of Ari’s gun, then pulled it up to his chest.
“What?” said Ari.
“Please, just do it. They will come after you if you don’t do it, and they’ll find me eventually anyways.”
“No,” said Ari. “I’m not letting you take the easy way out. You’re running, just like you did five years ago.”
Duran smiled sadly. “Maybe. But this is reality, Ari.”
Ari pulled the gun back and holstered it. “We can make a better reality for us. But we have to fight for it.”
“I’m so tired Ari. These last five years…” said Duran, trailing off.
“drat you, fight for it. Fight for us!” said Ari. “Or was everything we had just bullshit to you? Isn’t it worth your effort?”
“Of course not! It was real, and it was the best thing I’ve ever had in my life,” said Duran. “But if we run, the only difference from you pulling that trigger right now is that we’ll both be dead.”
“Maybe. But we’ll have each other, at least for a while,” said Ari.
Duran bit his lip hard, not trusting himself to speak, and just shook his head. Ari reached up and brushed away a tear that trickled down Duran’s face. “When and how we die is not important. What is important is how we live our lives until that day, and who is a part of our lives.”
Both men slipped into each other’s arms, clinging to each other desperately. Their kiss was sweet and long, and rewound time for both of them back years to when they first found each other. When they finally pulled away, they regarded each other through misty eyes.
Duran smiled tenderly. “I’ll love every moment.”
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 03:40|
When You Need It Most
I wonder if Mister Hanrahan is still alive?
The things your brain dredges up when it's delirious.
It’s been hours since I fell. The rain abated, but I’m soaked through. I’d say ‘soaked to the bone,’ but then I glance at the shattered splinters of tibia protruding from my shin. Doesn’t seem so funny then.
I was due home hours ago, I think, but will anyone raise the alarm? And even if they did, the undergrowth is so thick. I can’t even see the trail overhead. Pain throws white sparks across my eyes when I try to drag myself up.
The first time Mister Hanrahan gave me one of his gifts, it was raining out.
Mister Hanrahan lived in the big split-level next door, but he was all alone and getting old. He had a big German Shepherd for company, at least. My mother never invited him over like our other neighbours, and since he was childless, I had no reason to know him.
I was trudging from the bus stop in the rain when I came upon him walking his dog.
“Alice, isn’t it?” He called me over. I had to crane my neck up to look him in the eye. He seemed just as wide as he was tall.
The sky had been bright blue when I’d left for school, so I didn’t have an umbrella. He offered to share his.
My mother always told me not to talk to strangers, but Mister Hanrahan wasn’t really a stranger. Neighbours don’t count.
He introduced me to his dog, Stella. She nuzzled my palm with her big wet nose and Mister Hanrahan let me hold her leash. We walked home together.
Looking back I can see how some people might have thought it strange, possibly a little creepy, but maybe I just grew up in a simpler time. Mister Hanrahan never made me uneasy. Besides, the walk was a short one. There was never a doubt in my mind that I was safe.
The rain battered the sidewalk, drowning out small talk. I kept close to Mister Hanrahan and thanked him when we neared his porch.
“Here, Alice.” He reached into his pocket. “I’ve got something for you.”
Mister Hanrahan had dark eyes, hooded with wrinkly lids. They sparkled when he said this.
How could he have something for me when we’d never really met?
He pressed a packet of dog treats into my palm, the wrapper slippery with rain.
“Oh, we don’t have a dog,” was the first thing that came to mind. Then I felt an immediate flush of embarrassment at seeming so ungrateful. “But thank you very much.”
He wrapped his big, leathery hand around mine and held it there for a second, forcing me to hold on.
“Keep them anyway,” he said. “You never know when they might come in handy.”
I never thought to bring it up to my parents. Children are careless with small things, so the dog treats went forgotten in my coat.
Evening games of hide and seek were common in our neighbourhood, and one night I found myself pressed against the exposed roots of a shrub, half-hidden by foliage. Jim Baylor was hunting the hiders, stomping loudly through the grass on the other side of the hedge.
On all fours, I crawled along the hedge line, head down, desperate to avoid being detected.
Something clattered around the corner of the house, and I crept toward the noise, thinking it might be someone else who was hiding out.
I rounded the corner on my hands and knees. A massive, mange-patched dog nosed through a rubbish bin. It snapped its head up, sniffing the air.
The dog’s ears flattened. Its whip-thin body bristled. It bared its teeth, fangs dripping with drool.
I scrambled back, awkwardly crab-walking away, but the dog followed, snarling, intent to defend its source of food.
My memory flashed to the press of Stella’s nose into my palm, the stink of her wet fur. And the dog treats in my pocket.
Fear-numb fingers slippery, I tore the packet open and threw the little rawhide chews at the canine’s feet, then took off running.
I never looked back to see if the dog ate them, but it didn’t follow me home.
A few days later I spotted Mister Hanrahan working in his yard, digging up weeds in his flower bed. I called over our fence to thank him for the dog treats.
His droopy face smudged with soil, he smiled at me, a big toothy smile like he knew just what I meant.
“That reminds me.” He stood from his flower bed, dusted off his knees, and approached the waist-high fence that separated our properties.
“I’ve got another gift for you.” He reached into his jacket and withdrew a small, cylindrical object, white plastic that shone in the sun. “Your friend Maggie has been looking for this.”
Maggie was having a sleepover at my house that night. How did he know?
He passed me the object, which had Margaret Ellis embossed across the side, a typewritten label.
An asthma inhaler. I didn’t even know Maggie had asthma.
I passed the inhaler to Maggie in my room that night, and she wrinkled her brow, confused.
“Where on earth did you get this? It’s been missing for like a week. Mom’s been panicking.”
My stomach tightened. For some reason, I didn’t want to tell her about Mister Hanrahan. I was afraid that if I told her, her parents might talk to him, and he might stop giving me gifts.
“You left it here last time you slept over,” I lied.
When Maggie awoke gasping and thrashing that night, the inhaler was right by her pillow where it needed to be.
We moved to California that summer, and I only got one more gift from Mister Hanrahan. I knocked on his door to tell him we were leaving. He answered with Stella at his side. I cuddled the dog’s furry face to mine and told her goodbye.
He said he had one last thing to give me, then retreated back indoors.
From his porch, I glimpsed the interior of his house: shelves stuffed with knick-knacks and souvenirs and little statuettes, cupboards overflowing with what my mom called “bric-a-brac.” Boxes were stacked from floor to ceiling.
He returned carrying something shiny and green, and he pressed it into my hand: a small toy lizard. The reptile was poised like it was climbing, tail curled up. A shiny ring of metal dangled off its snout.
“This little guy was my wife’s,” he said, turning it over to show me the belly, which was stamped with Moab, UT. The lizard’s mouth was open, like it was smiling.
“You take good care of it,” he said. “Never know when it might come in handy.”
I didn’t have any keys, but I kept it.
Eventually, I got keys: first car, dorm room, first house. The little lizard’s paint flaked off inside my pockets, spots of it wearing down to bare metal beneath.
I hadn’t known Mister Hanrahan had had a wife, but if he had and she’d passed on, it seemed disrespectful not to hold onto it.
Somewhere along the line, I noticed with a snort that the little reptile was hollow. A whistle. You blew right up his tail.
And now I understand why I remembered.
My hands are heavy with cold as I fumble the car keys from my pocket, where the little lizard jingles.
I put the lizard to my lips and blow. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I think I can hear someone moving in the trees.
Mister Hanrahan always looked out for me.
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 03:41|
Good Night, Miss Mason
(In the archive.)
docbeard fucked around with this message at 15:03 on Dec 28, 2015
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 03:42|
Izzie had just punctuated the first sentence in her email to her family when she noticed the bulge in the floorboards.
After the better portion of a bottle of Mezcal Alacran to go with her dinner of plasticky Boston Market chicken, Izzie had reached the point where she was entertained by the tricks her mind played on her.
She thought it’d be easier to send out the email while sauced, but the booze sharpened her senses instead of dulling them, made everything in the room stand out like bright spots on her retina. Especially the hatbox-sized lump in the middle of her apartment floor.
My treasured family, I come bearing bad news.
She hated the word "treasured" as soon as she typed it into her phone, but didn’t have the strength or sobriety to go back and replace it. “Treasured” made her feel like her mother, like she was going to sleep every night in a pile of stuffed animals shaped like her aunts and uncles.
Unfortunately, a wonderful woman and my mother, Estefania Villaluz, passed away five days ago on June 9, 2014.
“A wonderful woman and my mother” was deliberate, as was “passed away.” Izzie wanted to inspire movement in the minds of her family members, conjure images of her mother leaping through open gates and into the afterlife, even though most of them knew her mother hadn’t left her house the last four years of her life. Izzie had left before her mother had made it impossible for anyone to get in or out. Impossible for anyone other than her to know what her mother had become.
Izzie instead typed, She loved me very much.
That made her her mother, not a wonderful one.
Please send your thoughts and prayers to—
Izzie heard a groaning from the middle of the room. She looked up.
Her phone fell onto the futon beside her.
The bulge in the center of the room was now the width of a coffee table, about three feet at its highest point.
There was a slow breathing sound in her ears. It wasn’t coming from her.
She pushed herself off of the edge of the futon and took a step forward, her legs shaking. She could see the stained, tomato-colored throw rug sliding down the side of the bulging floorboards, splintering and cracking as it began to grow, filling the purposefully empty center of the room.
Her legs gave way under her and she threw herself back onto the futon, grasping her phone again. Her head was finally spinning. She laughed towards the ceiling, a dry crackling sound. Crazy poo poo. Time to sleep it off. She would finish the email in the mor—
There was a whooshing and a splintering, and suddenly she couldn’t breathe. Pain shot through her chest and latched onto her bent shoulders.
The futon bed had folded her up, pushed her knees into her chest as the bulging mass advanced against it. It now towered over her, blocking out the ceiling lights and casting a shadow over her straining face. Gaps between the wooden boards formed, revealing to Izzie what was inside.
Everything was inside.
Stacks and piles of unopened letters, family photos, rat-gnawed newspaper coupons and faded magazine clippings. Yellow coffee cans and filmed Tupperware containing foulnesses and superstitions. Old garden hoses and treadworn car tires and dust-ridden appliances that had towered over her bed as a child, had turned their house into a garbage maze.
Something shone through the packed mass—a gleaming silver iron with a snakelike cord that made the back of her head burn with recognition, made her taste charred fabric and burnt hair and salt dripping from her cheeks as her mother held her face against the ironing board and screamed prayers to a God Izzie vowed she would never worship, the heat in her mother’s binding arms pressing her down, down, into an ashmark on the floor, into nothing—
Izzie bit her tongue as the mountain of things pressed her legs against her lungs until her breath gasped out of her, until her head felt like it was going to pop off.
Then she felt the pressure release, slightly.
She turned to look at her right arm, trapped in the folded mattress, still holding her smartphone. She had hit one of the keys by accident.
Izzie gritted her teeth and continued to type with one twisted hand, finishing her sentence: —hell, where she belongs.
The mountain in the center of her apartment let out another moan, along with something that Izzie hoped was a death rattle. It shrank some more.
She wrenched her body up and out of the folded bed, took the phone in both hands. Her finger hovered over the Send button.
She began another sentence.
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 03:43|
Marcus pushed his cart down the aisle slowly as he looked for the powdered mustard for the holiday roast. It was the first time he had gone shopping since going off to college last fall. The usually noticeable yellow tin was nowhere to be found. Agitated he went down to the next aisle in hops it was with the cumin and other spices. As he came around the corner he bit someone hard with the cart. An oomph came from the man as he fell hard to the ground, a bag of chips tried to break his fall but were smashed to bits.
“Oh poo poo. I’m so sorry,” Marcus offered his hand to the man.
“I thought once was enough Marc?” And the man swatted his hand. It took him awhile to get to his feet as he drug a lame leg underneath him. Marcus recognized the brace on his leg. Black metal with red leather straps that kept the knee in place.
“Oh Lou. I’m sorry man, I was off in my head. I didn’t hear anyone.” Marcus said with dread hanging off every word.
“I wouldn’t think you’d mean to hit me. You’re an rear end in a top hat sure, but you’re not a sadist.” Lou grimaced as he tightened the straps on his knee. A breath came hot and quick when he was finished.
Marcus hunched over to pick up as much of the spilled produce as he could. He hoped that Lou would stagger away, but instead he slowly crouched down with his bad leg hung loosely to the side to help grab a two liter of soda. The thought to say he didn’t need help crossed Marcus’ mind though he knew better. Lou would sooner have his other leg shattered than have Marcus pity him.
Marcus unloaded what he had could grab in the cart and waited for Lou to drag himself back up again. Eventually his lame leg found its way back under him and he dropped the soda in the cart.
“Merry Christmas Marcus.” Lou said as he walked off. Whatever dignity he thought he had kept was slowly being drug behind him.
A clerk came over to sweep up the mess of chips.
“What was that all about?” He asked. Expecting the answer as pay for the inconvenience they both created him.
“We used to be teammates.” Marcus said.
“Wait. Didn’t he say you hit him?” The clerk asked.
“He did.” Marcus turned to walk away from the clerk as he said this.
“Oh.” And with that the clerk swept the rest of the crumbs up as quick as he could, no longer interested in killing time with the customer who maimed his teammate.
Guilt stung Marcus as he went out to his car. As he loaded the groceries he looked down the road to see a shadow limping along. He hadn’t gotten very far in the ten minutes since he left. Marcus wondered how long he had left to go.
With a choke the engine came to life. Marcus steered the car down the road, slowly pulling up behind Lou.
“Hey Lou, where do you live?” Marcus hung his head and left arm when he asked. The December air flipped his black bangs over his head as he crawled ahead of Lou.
“Other side of town,” Lou added quickly. “But I don’t mind walking.”
“Hop in the car man. I can’t imagine the walking is good…” And Marcus winced as he caught himself. He cracked one eye up at Lou to see if he had by some miracle run away.
“gently caress you and Merry Christmas Marcus.” Lou said andquickend his pace. The only difference between his walk and his run was he nearly collapsed with each step in his effort to run.
“Merry Christmas Lou,” Marcus said and drove away slowly at first. A crash happened and his rear view mirror snapped off. Dumbstruck at his mirror now hanging by wires from his care Marcus looked back at Lou.
“I still have a better arm than you ever did!” He grinned as he shouted this.
“Get your rear end in the car Lou.” Marcus said. It took a minutes but he didn’t want to ruin the moment by backing up to get him.
“Thanks for waiting Marc,” Lou rubbed his hands and put them in front of the mirror. “Sorry about the mirror.”
“Nothing some screws can’t fix.” Marcus said. The car sped ahead from the twinkling bits of broken mirror on the ground.
“Huh. They said the same about my knee,” Lou gave a poo poo eating grin as he tapped his knee proudly. “I don’t think they put enough in is the problem.”
Marcus sat in silence and let the joke hang there.
“So how’s my scholarship?” Lou asked.
Marcus pushed the car even faster. Main Street in his hometown never felt so long.
Lou kept quiet after that. Either satisfied with reminding Marcus of the damage he had done or hurt again by opening those wounds back up. Lou told Marcus when to turn for his house.
They idled there for a while. Neither of them knew what the proper goodbye to being locked into a car with someone you never wanted to see again was. Finally Marcus said.
“Merry Christmas Lou. I hope the new year goes well for you.” and offered his hand to shake.
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 03:59|
I'll also crit the first three people who ask for one.
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 04:00|
Yeah, I'm going to have to shrivel out this week. If I have tomorrow I'll try to get it in. No excuses. Judgement for the Jitsu/Sledgehammer brawl's happening tomorrow though no matter what.
(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 04:01|
Yeah, I'm going to have to shrivel out this week. If I have tomorrow I'll try to get it in. No excuses. Judgement for the Jitsu/Sledgehammer brawl's happening tomorrow though no matter what.
Okay, but Phobia:
Okay, I'm in.
I remember, too. You'll have a couple hours' leeway on the . No more.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 04:08 on Jan 5, 2015
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 04:04|
The Pearl, 1,258 Words
Joe would wake up early enough that he wouldn't have to talk to his wife. He would shower, shave, and head towards the kitchen. He'd have a light breakfast of eggs and toast with freshly ground coffee - he would dump out the rest of the pot when he finished. He would put on his suit, reach for his tie, and then remind himself that retired men don't wear ties. When he heard Sarah shuffling around in the bedroom, he would slip out the front door to his car, usually around 8 o'clock. In his car, he would take off his wedding ring and hide it in the ash tray.
He would reach the diner and order himself a coffee before the morning rush would start. There, he would chat with the other old timers who showed up. He was younger than them, and looked younger still. Sometimes he wondered if the waitresses believed him when he said he was retired. He wondered if the judgmental bitches thought he was lying, that he hadn't retired by choice, that he had been laid off. He saw them smirking, thinking that he was too old and lacking the skills to find another job.
He had earned his retirement, goddamn it.
He'd leave a five dollar tip, and get out before the lunch rush really started the full swing. He'd go to the library, and read about explorers and far-away lands. He imagined if he hadn't stayed in New Oxford. He imagined himself living in Johannesburg, or Venice, or some untouched island near Indonesia. He imagined if he had joined the air force, worked hard, and became an astronaut like he had always dreamed.
Then, around four o'clock, he'd return his book and leave. He'd drive home before rush hour, put his wedding ring back on, and return home. Sarah would be in bed again. On a good day she would have cleaned up a little bit. Most days it looked like she hadn't left the bedroom.
That's how most days would go.
But it was New Years, and the coffee shop and library were closed today. So he put on his suit, and he sat down to read a book.
It was eleven o'clock when the postman came. The dreadful chiming of the door bell destroyed his beautiful world, stealing him away from 1960's Moscow. The adjustment was so jarring that he didn't know where he was at first.
He heard Sarah desperately trying to get herself together. Joe easily beat her to the door.
It was a small package, but heavy. The postman needed a signature - the sender had paid extra for the service. Joe smiled, chatted with the postman, acted like nothing was wrong. He expressed his surprise that the postman was making his deliveries today. The package was bearing down on him, like an anchor around his neck. He imagined himself in the waters off Cuba, watching as the sharks swam above him. The postman wished him good day, and left.
Sarah was standing there, disheveled but dressed. Her eyes were locked on it. He watched her as she slowly opened and closed her hands. Joe was ready when she screeched and grabbed for the package. He easily balanced it in one hand and slapped her away with the other.
She crumbled, deflated into her clothes. He ignored her quiet sobs and went to the kitchen for a knife. The package had been secured taped, of course. Joe glanced behind him, to make sure Sarah wasn't going to make another grab for it.
Joe stared at the name on the return address. The name of the man who would have destroyed everything. No, that wasn't right. The Lover had destroyed everything, alright, and all Joe had preserved was the illusion of normality. Even if Sarah's body was here in New Oxford, her heart was long gone. He angrily crossed out the name with the knife, leaving little bits of cardboard all over the kitchen top.
Inside was jewelry - pounds of it, wrapped in neat little bits of paper and small boxes. Some of it, he recognized from when he had forced Sarah to give it back. The rest was new, different. He unfolded the letter.
The Lover told about how he never loved again, how every day he had tried to replace Sarah with women and drink. How every year, on the anniversary of their departure, the Lover had bought her a piece of jewelry and kept it. How the doctors had diagnosed him with cirrhosis of the liver, how his dying thoughts had been of her. How he had bought a special amulet, to ensure they could be together in another life.
Joe ripped the paper into shreds. The Lover wasn't in love in Sarah - he was in love with the image of her, the memory. She had been the one thing he couldn't have, the one thing denied to him. If Joe hadn't intervened, The Lover would have used her up and left her for some other woman. And what had he gotten in return, for protecting her? Nothing!
He grabbed big handfuls of jewelry, and threw them on the ground. He stomped on them, and ripped the delicate gold chains apart. The bastard! THE BASTARD! Even in death, He had to destroy everything.
At the bottom was a pearl the size of an egg, carved with delicate runes. He grabbed it, and slammed it to the ground with all his might. The pearl shattered, and Joe's life flashed.
"Whatchu thinking about, Joe?" Mary asked across the bar.
"What makes you think I'm thinking? Maybe I'm just enjoying the beach air."
"You ain't touched your margarita all morning, bub. I know you like to savor them, but the drat thing's half melted. After all that work I put into it."
"The best on the island," Joe said with a smile. "But you're right. I was just thinking about my ex-wife."
"Not a happy thought to have on New Years, Joe."
"Yeah, weird ain't it? About twenty years ago today. Found out she had another man on the side. I decided, hell with it, let her choose who she really loves, and if it isn't me, so be it."
"And it wasn't you?"
"Nope. Put a damper on things, you know? So quit my job, sell my house, and run off to play explorer."
"And now you're sitting on a beach drinking, letting your margarita melt. Seems like you got the good end of the deal, Joe."
"Yeah, I guess. But you've always got to wonder. How would things have shook out the other way, if-" He didn't finish his sentence. Instead, he made a sort of gurgling noise.
"What's wrong, Joe?"
"That's her, Mary." He turned away from the door, hid his face behind his glass. "That's Sarah."
"Your ex? The pretty blonde who just walked in?" Mary made a mischievous face. "She's looking pretty good for her age. 'Nough to shut you up."
"Don't you dare, Mary," he hissed.
Her head snapped up, and a look of shock crossed her face. No doubt about it, Joe knew she had recognized him. She was a bit more weathered now, but she still had that lively look to her. She smiled a genuine smile, and started heading over. Joe couldn't help but notice the missing wedding ring.
"Well, maybe this won't be so bad after all," he muttered to himself.
"On the house, Joe. Two margaritas coming up."
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 04:12|
Also going to have to throw in the towel this week, unfortunately. Still sick as a dog and I only ended up with half of a (lovely) story because my brain doesn't seem to want to work. Next week will be a toxx.
I'm also putting in a to have the rest of Week 123 crits and Week 125 crits up by midnight EST tomorrow, so I don't feel like a total fuckup.
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 04:12|
Stump Talk (1292 words)
Jane looked up at the sky, and thought about catching the snow with her tongue. That’d be more interesting than just staring at all the white around her. But quite evidently, she was the only one was bored, since Chris and Gavin were chatting away behind her. Figures. Why’d Chris invite her along on this walk if all he was going to do was flirt with Gavin and hold hands? She sighed.
The cloudy sky overhead gave off a soft grey light, and it brought back a memory – of Andrew on his knees by his tripod, telling her earnestly about how this light would be perfect for outdoor portraits. At any other time, that memory would invoke in her all sorts of sad and mushy emotions, but now she only felt a spike of irritation. After her fall quarter grades had been posted, her parents had endlessly nagged her about them – and between the lines, she could hear the sentiment: Andrew would’ve done better. And he would’ve attended Stanford, instead of just a state university. Basically, she had enough of thinking about Andrew for the moment.
She looked back, and saw Chris and Gavin making out between a pair of trees. Face red, she quickly focused on the snow in front of her, which was stomped flat with footprints. Another thing that irritated her these days – the trails in these woods had historically been seldom used, even by the locals. So back when her family still took regular winter hikes, all they saw was untouched, pristine snow that would crunch underneath your boots – not watery slush with yellow spots where someone’s dog decided to go potty. But a ski resort had been constructed nearby in the eight years since, and after that, her town had been declared an ‘ideal lodging spot’ with “gorgeous wintertime hikes” in a big-shot newspaper. The end result was that these days, reality didn’t hold a candle to her memories – Mom and Dad teasing each other while she screamed and threw snowballs everywhere, with Andrew alternately snapping pictures of them and the gorgeous landscape. Dammit, she was doing it again.
“Hey, Jane?” The question startled her out of the past, and she spun around so fast that her foot slipped on the slush.
“Ack!” She flailed wildly for a moment before Gavin came to her rescue. “Uh, thanks.”
Gavin looked amused. “You’re welcome.” He was handsome enough, she supposed. But Chris was devoted to him and they looked nice together, so she cautiously liked him. He nodded at Chris. “This is the spot, right?”
Chris grinned. “Yeah, it is!” When Jane shot him a questioning look, he clarified further, pointing at a pair of footprints heading directly off of the trail and further into the woods. “We were taking this trail yesterday when Gavin decided to go off-trail for a little bit. We found some really cool stuff!”
“Which would be…?” Jane asked cautiously.
“Just wait and see!” Chris’ grin just got wider, making her smile inwardly. Typical old Chris.
“Okay, then.” She said aloud. “I can’t wait to see whatever funnily-shaped logs you’ve arranged in lewd positions this time.” She smirked at Chris’ faux-outrage.
“Can you believe what she’s implying about me, Gavin?” Chris placed his hand over his heart.
“Judging from last night, yes.” Gavin’s grin was wicked, and Jane hastily started following the footprints in order to hide her blush.
After that, the conversation in the group flowed easier. Jane and Gavin swapped embarrassing stories about Chris – Jane sharing stories from when she and Chris still attended high school together, and Gavin from their semester at Berkeley. She still couldn’t shake the feeling that she was intruding on something private whenever they displayed open affection, though.
Finally, they arrived at a clearing. It was circular and empty, with little else visible except for a snowman, its top barely visible from its position behind a large snowy lump at the far end – presumably a snow covered rock or something. Jane frowned. This place seemed familiar somehow.
Chris grabbed her arm, making her jump. “C’mon, hurry up!” He said with a grin, and started dragging her over to the snowman, Gavin following them at a steady pace. When he finally let go of her arm, they were standing in front of an enormous hollowed-out tree stump – it must’ve been at least five feet tall. There was a gap in the wood wide enough to walk through, and the snowman from earlier could be seen through it. Her breath caught, and memories came back in a flood.
“Isn’t it cool?” Chris was lost in his enthusiasm, practically vibrating with excitement. “And there weren’t any other footprints or trash around yesterday, so this is like the first time anybody’s been here.”
“I’ve been here before.” The words came out without thinking. She looked up at Chris’ surprised face. Gavin’s expression didn’t change.
Chris recovered from his shock quickly. “Really? With who? A boooyfriend?” His voice turned teasing.
“No!” She snapped out. Upon seeing Chris’ hurt expression, she took a deep breath and clarified. “With Andrew.”
Chris’ face moved from hurt to pity. She turned away.
“Who’s Andrew?” That was Gavin now.
“He- He was my older brother. He died in a car accident right after his first quarter at college.” It had been a long time since she stumbled over those familiar words. She stepped into the stump, past the snowman, and up to the stump’s inside walls, crouching as she did so. She studied the wood carefully, lips pursed.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” Gavin’s voice was sober and sincere. Jane swallowed.
“Don’t worry about it. It was a really long ago.” She tried to sound light-hearted as she continued examining the inside of the tree stump.
Finally, Chris asked. “What are you looking for?”
Jane stood up and scratched her head. “Well, the last time – well, the only time – I was here, Andrew and I made a snowman like that –” She pointed at the snowman in front of her. “– and he also carved a message into the stump.”
Chris immediately squatted and started searching the stump walls, but Gavin asked, “What was it?”
Jane hesitated, and then mumbled, “Can’t remember. Probably something stupid like, ‘Andrew and Jane were here’.” She flushed. The last big thing they did together and she couldn’t even remember what it was. “This is stupid. Let’s go back.”
Chris popped up from where he was, and glared at her. “No, it isn’t. C’mon, with the three of us looking it won’t take long.”
That struck a nerve somehow. “I said, forget it!” She glared back at Chris, but Gavin’s voice interrupted them.
“Is this it?” He was pointing to something on the outside of the stump. Jane and Chris hurried around to his side – Chris clearly making an effort not to get in the way.
Gavin was pointing to a patch of exposed wood, in which a carved message could be seen. Jane leaned in and read it.
In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded. –Terry Pratchett
Andrew & Jane Collins, 01-05-06
She looked over at Chris, who was mouthing the words. He snorted. “Why that quote, of all things?”
She smiled weakly. “I think he was going to go for something sappy, and 10-year-old me didn’t like that and wanted something funny.” She stood up, looking at the stump. Another memory came back to her, and she took a deep breath and said, “Andrew said that the next time we came here we should build a little igloo, with the stump as the base.” She paused, feeling unsure. But Chris’ grin had returned to his face, and Gavin was smiling. “Would you like to do that?”
They chorused assent.
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 04:18|
crabrock fucked around with this message at 14:14 on Dec 31, 2015
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 04:50|
The Christmas Truce
Sitting in a trench over frozen mud and a cloudless sky, Marcus was desperately trying to light his cigarette. His lighter wouldn’t light, denying him one of the few creature comforts he had left in this Godforsaken valley. Another fellow soldier wearing green fatigues reached over with his lighter. Marcus leaned over and took a long drag. "Thanks, Sarge,"
Sergeant Wilson smiled. "Merry Christmas, Private"
Marcus looked up. "No poo poo?"
"Last time I checked, it's Christmas Eve," the Sergeant said and reached into his pocket to retrieve a pack of cigarettes and a new lighter. "Here.”
"Sarge, I can't-"
"Dude, come on," Sarge insisted. "It's Christmas."
Marcus nodded and accepted his comrade's gift. "Thanks," he said. Thinking for a moment, he reached into his bag next to his rifle to return the favor. Sergeant Wilson took the gift, a bottle of liquor. “Where’d you get this?” He asked
Marcus said nothing and winked. Sarge laughed and took a hearty swig out of the bottle and handed it back to him. "Merry loving Christmas, klepto."
Sitting at the bottom of the trench, their breath showing, the two found a golden moment of solace in the middle of no-man's land. "Why the gently caress are we fighting them anyway?" Marcus asked. "I mean, we live in the same goddamn nation, don't we?"
The Sergeant shrugged. "Beats the poo poo outta me," he said and took another hit from the bottle. "Dude, just don’t think about it. You're just gonna get more upset than you need to be."
“I guess,” Marcus shrugged and drank out of the bottle.
“Hey, how does that one Christmas song go? The one they sing at the end of the Charlie Brown Christmas movie?" Sarge asked.
Marcus grinned. "Hark-the herrrald an-gel siiiiiing, glory-to, the new-born kiiiiiinnng..."
"Peace-on eaaarth, and mer-cy miiiillld..." another voice from the other side of no-man's land sang back.
"Tom?" Marcus called out, recognizing the voice. "Tom McIntyre?"
"Holy gently caress!" From the other side of no-man's land, an enemy soldier wearing brown fatigues climbed over the trench. "Marcus Melendez! What the gently caress are you doing here?"
The two soldiers, only separated by the color of their uniforms, embraced each other. "What the gently caress are you doing here?" Marcus asked back.
Sergeant Wilson poked his head out of the trench. "What the hell is going on?"
"Sarge, meet Tom, Tom, meet Sarge," Marcus said.
"How do you know Marcus?" Sarge asked and hesitantly shook Tom’s hand.
"You mean Marky-Mark?" Tom responded with a poo poo-eating grin.
Sarge raised an eyebrow. "You have got to tell me this."
"We played football in highschool. I lost a bet and well..." Marcus trailed off with a sheepish grin on his face.
"He danced around the football field in nothing but his under-roos," Tom finished for him. "And he was wearing Calvin Klein's."
The Sergeant laughed. "That is the stupidest loving thing I've ever heard."
"Well Merry Christmas," Tom said and slapped him on the back.
As the day went on, something truly miraculous happened. Men from both sides of the battlefield crossed no-man's land to celebrate Christmas with their fellow countrymen. Regardless of uniform color or affiliation, these soldiers were united in the name of peace and love for their fellow man. At the Christmas service, led by a Chaplain, green and brown sat together on the makeshift pews.
"I'd like to quote from the Gospel of Luke, chapter two, verses eight through fourteen," the Chaplain said as he opened his Bible to the appropriate verse.
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified," he recited and paused for dramatic effect.
"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'"
"Suddenly," the Chaplain recited with his arms outstretched, "a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and to Earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'"
The Chaplain closed his Bible and smiled. "Looking out today, I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful and appropriate sight on Christmas," he said, tears running down his face. "Peace to all of you, and God bless!"
"Amen!" the congregation cheered.
"Now let us take a moment of silence to honor the fallen,” the Chaplain said and bowed his head. Every person present did the same, taking a moment to reflect on those who died in this senseless conflict and how long-lasting peace seemed within reach. After the moment ended, the Chaplain led his flock into carols.
In a nearby field, a makeshift football game was being played. Standing as referee the game was Sergeant Wilson, still wearing his green fatigues. He blew his whistle as the players stopped. "False start!" he barked.
"That's bullshit, ref!" Tom called out.
"Hey, lay off," Marcus reasoned. "That was a fair call."
"Yeah, because he's on your side!" another opposing player called out. Brown and green swarmed over each other like angry bees. Sergeant Wilson put two fingers in his mouth and blew a high, shrill whistle to get everybody's attention.
"Calm the gently caress down," he shouted. "I don't want anybody dying over this."
An awkward silence descended which was broken by sudden laughter.
Marcus woke up Christmas morning feeling strange. For once, he wasn't facing the day fearing for his life. He walked out of his bivouac to find Sergeant Wilson starring into the campfire about to light a cigarette. "Sergeant?" he asked.
The Sergeant looked up. "Something troubling you?" Marcus asked and gave him a light.
Wilson nodded looked back into the fire. "HQ gave us the order to evacuate. There's gonna be an airstrike."
"They're firebombing the whole drat field," the Sergeant said and shook his head.
"Sarge, we should tell them," Marcus said. "It's Christmas."
"I was thinking the same thing,”
Wilson and Marcus walked into the other camp where Tom was sharing a bottle of wine between his fellow soldiers. "Hey Marky Mark!" he called out. "Guys, this is the guy I was telling you about!"
"Tom, you gotta get outta here,” Marcus said.
"What are you talking about?"
"This whole place is gonna be firebombed, you need to evacuate now."
Tom's smile disappeared, replaced with a look of pure disgust. "You know, for just one moment, I thought that we actually had peace. Then you had to gently caress it all up."
"Hey this wasn't on me-"
"gently caress you it isn't," he said and threw the bottle down. "How the gently caress do we know that you're not leading us into a trap?"
"Who the gently caress are you?" Tom shoved Marcus. A scuffle broke out and as the other men tried to break them apart, a shot rang out. Tom died, a huge wound in his side, Marcus holding his sidearm. Before anybody else could move, Sergeant Wilson whipped out his sidearm and shot the remaining enemy soldiers present. "Move," he commanded, snapping Marcus out of his shock.
A whole column of green marched away from the field as bombs exploded and fires rose. Marching in line was Marcus with a thousand-yard stare on his face. “Sarge, you wanna answer me something?”
“What’s that, Private?”
“What the gently caress is so civil about war, anyway?”
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 04:51|
Teeth and Time
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 03:14 on Jan 8, 2016
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 04:56|
It’s 8:00am. The cobra slinks into the kitchen. “Do you mind if I borrow this,” he says. I’m non-committal, as always. He downs the eggs, five in a row, and promises to pay me back. I know better than to hold him to that. He’s a louse, and I don’t know why I don’t just kick him out. I wouldn’t even need to kick, I just need to string his four-foot long neck and stuff him under the door gap. But I do none of this; instead I try to finish making my omelet with what I have to work with.
“Charlotte’s back in town,” he’s testing me. “Good. Good for Charlotte,” I’m not burning my omelet over this. loving hell, Charlotte. Why are you back? Why do you ever come back? “Are you going to see her?” He says as he squeezes the TV remote. “I don’t know,” I say knowingly. I’m going to see Charlotte, probably soon, but it won’t be my choice. It’s been three years since the last time I’ve seen her, and if I have to buy a new car after she leaves again, I’m going to lose it. I mean it, I really am. “I’m going to have some friends over later. I hope you don’t mind,” He says. “Sure, fine, whatever.”
It’s 11:30am. I am losing my poo poo. Charlotte’s already here. Charlotte is already happening. “I need you to hold something for me,” she says, and shoves a box in my face that’s too small for the usual mess, but still filled with a copious amount of “I-don’t-want-to-know.” The box is stamped with her insignia, as she loves to call it. A rose in the shape of a swooping C, covered in thorns. In the center of the C are printed the words, “Electric Age Adventure Company.”
“No, please.” Every time I’m with Charlotte, I get exactly two words to beg with her. I really need to choose them more carefully. “It’s just for an hour. I promise. I’ll go and be back before you know it,” she smiles, kisses me on the cheek and leaves before I can say any more then “No, wait.” Two words, I need to plan this better. I watch her step out of the car, cross the street, and into the alley. Stephan is going to loving kill her.
It’s 11:30am, seven years ago. I’m on a bus in the hills of Ireland. The grass is a beautiful green, but that may be only in contrast to the never-ending overcast that’s common here. It’s quiet, but only one person tends to be speaking on a tour bus. Charlotte wouldn’t drag me to something like this unless she had something planned. “Hey Rocky,” she nudges me, “our stop’s coming up.” “Don’t call me Rocky. You can call yourself Charlotte, but don’t call me Rocky.” That doesn’t faze her, “I’m gonna make you love it someday, you know.” I know she’s going to try. I also know that “our stop” probably doesn’t mean that the bus will actually stop where we get off.
The bus is rolling down a curve when Charlotte breaks open the emergency exit. She immediately shoves me out onto the grassy knoll below. If I wasn’t used to this by now, I probably would have broken a rib, maybe a fibula. Instead, previous trials by fire (both figurative and literal) have taught me to distribute the force across my body, and to pray really hard that I don’t hit a rock. I hear the smoke bomb go off, see a bag fly out, and watch Charlotte leap out of the chaos like a deer in a NYC intersection. She lands with a somersault, popping up in a wide-armed stance. I also watch the bus coast to a stop some 120 feet (or, in this country, some 36 odd meters) down the road.
“We should probably go,” I say. “Excellent! I love the initiative Rocky.” Ugh. She picks up the bag, and the two of us start at a brisk pace. After a few minutes, I finally get around to asking where we’re going. She’s more than happy to describe her intentions. “Deep within these woods lay the ancient Druidic circles of Pulsiagen. Legend has that their power is as great as they are mysterious. We’re going to steal something from them. Anything, really I’m not all that picky.”
I’m dumbfounded, “We took a tour bus to steal from some Druids?”
“They’ll never expect it,” she explains, “much less so the eight mile hike we now need to make.” UGH.
It’s only two miles in before I notice that her bag is moving. In fact, it’s downright thrashing. “Charlotte,” I say, “What’s in the bag?” She grins, “My secret weapon,” and puts her finger to her lips.
“Charlotte, please. Your last secret weapon was a nitroglycerin bomb you barely knew how to use. I’m not moving until you pull out whatever is in the bag.” She sighs, “Alright Rocky, meet Stephan,” She says, and pulls a cobra from the bag. “And who says there are no snakes in Ireland.”
It’s 8:30pm. I am shoving a small box down a cobra’s throat. There are about 50 witnesses to this event in my 350-foot apartment, which is a large reason why I’m doing this. Also, for another reason.
“Where’s Charlotte?” I scream, and start looking for more small objects with which to choke a sentient reptile. He coughs, sputters, and hisses. It’s been nine hours that she’s been gone, and this is what my investigation has devolved to: Aggravated assault on a snake. I can’t handle this with her. I just can’t. My blood pressure goes sky high around her, but it’s never been this bad. I shouldn’t have to be responsible for. I should be okay to live here, to settle down after all the adventure, after all the stress and complication. I just want simple. And here I am strangling a snake. And that’s when I notice just how quiet it is around me.
I turn around and see her standing in my kitchen, on the other side of the breakfast bar. Stephan begins coughing up the box and slinks down wheezing. “Open it,” she says. I reach down and open the box, and inside it is a beautiful ring. It’s gorgeous, but it hits me. Three years, and nothing, but now she’s here, and she wants me to say two words. But I’m crying now, and all I can give her is “I can’t.”
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 05:00|
Submissions for Week CXXVI: Auld Lang Syne are now CLOSED!
Phobia, Grizzled Patriarch, chthonic bell, and ZeBourgeoisie couldn't remember the deadline, much less old acquaintances; maybe they're still locked in champagne stupors. Phobia has two hours to submit before his kicks in. Good luck, soldier.
To everyone else, thanks for showing up at the party! Expect results no earlier than Monday night, no later than Tuesday.
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 05:32 on Jan 5, 2015
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 05:09|
I'll also crit the first three people who ask for one.
You should prob start by critting your own piece,
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 13:25|
You should prob start by critting your own piece,
Crits are for anyone who wants to do them, chimp.
sebmojo fucked around with this message at 00:54 on Jan 6, 2015
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 20:06|
Crits are for anyone who wants to do them, chimp.
And they're also a good way to develop a painful awareness of the flaws in your own writing. Chomp.
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 22:47|
One of my crits has been claimed by myself. There are two more. I go line by line, I'm not lazy with it.
|# ? Jan 5, 2015 22:58|
Doing a line by line of your own story is pretty dumb! So I'll do a line by line of yours if you get my next one, you dingus
|# ? Jan 6, 2015 01:19|
One of my crits has been claimed by myself. There are two more. I go line by line, I'm not lazy with it.
you should crit nubile hillocks
|# ? Jan 6, 2015 01:21|
One of my crits has been claimed by myself. There are two more. I go line by line, I'm not lazy with it.
Hey I don't have anything I'm busting to get critted at the moment, but when I'm in a critting mood I just read some recent stories from the archives until I find one I feel I have a useful perspective on. All stories are fair game, don't feel like people have to ask you for them.
|# ? Jan 6, 2015 01:22|
I'll do your next one and your current one nubile.
And that's a good idea. I just like n to offer in case anyone really wants one. Thanks everybody.
|# ? Jan 6, 2015 01:30|
I'll do your next one and your current one nubile.
I wouldn't mind a crit on my story from this week unless you're already at 3, i'm not really following the math
|# ? Jan 6, 2015 01:47|
anime was right fucked around with this message at 05:48 on Oct 27, 2015
|# ? Jan 6, 2015 01:50|
sh: can win the thunderdome numerous times, cannot count to three
im a righter not a mather
|# ? Jan 6, 2015 01:52|
Week 123 Crits, Part 3
Fumblemous - Infamous Jack's
I liked this one. Your writing clear and carries a lot of descriptive weight. Your characters border on the cliche, but the set-up is interesting enough that I don't really care. All of the judges liked how you handled the surreal element: the empty suit is introduced, nobody thinks it's particularly odd, and then you use it to explore the protagonists hopes and fears in a really organic way. The section where her song is literally filling up the suit is great.
We weren't really sure how to take her line about the manager being world famous. My instinct is to read it as a joke, but maybe not? It makes it hard to tell if the protagonist is being playful or malicious in that moment, which is an important distinction.
What really held this one back at the end of the day was the way you handled the ending. You've still got some nice imagery, but the message is muddled. Did she get tricked into something by Jack? That last line makes him seem almost demonic, but I can't really get a handle on his motivations. Did he just want to watch her dreams crash and burn? Is the implication that she'll be forced to stay on at the club even though she deserves better? A bit more clarity here would have really helped. Still, I enjoyed this one a lot, and you were on the few people that nailed the surreal atmosphere. Nice job!
Jonked - Be Kind, Rewind
I got a couple paragraphs in before I realized what was going on here. It's an interesting gimmick, but it doesn't really accomplish anything. I thought for a second you had somehow managed to tell a full story both forwards and backwards, but that wasn't the case (not that I'd expect that degree of meticulous planning from a weekly contest).
Unfortunately, the gimmick ends up really harshing your clarity. It's surprisingly hard to force yourself to read everything backwards, and I feel like I ended up missing out on things that might have been under the surface of the story. As it is, the story itself is kind of bland. I was waiting for something to come out of left field or really shake things up, but it doesn't happen.
Your prose is mostly fine, with some awkward phrasing here and there. There's not really anything bad about the story, but there's also not anything great, so it ends up being a middle-of-the-pack story with a gimmick that annoyed the judges. Still, it's fun to try things like that sometimes, even if it's a whiff.
Benny the Snake - Last Call
You've written worse stories, but this one suffers from the same problems that most of yours do.
You are telling a story, but there's like, zero description, which makes everything feel really vague. Even your characters are described in really nebulous terms. Your dialogue is mostly exposition; you don't really use it to characterize anyone or provide any depth beyond "here is what is going on."
My biggest issue is that I don't care about any of the characters. It feels like you meant for your protag to be some badass rebel, but he's just a douche. He's killed people, threatens to kill his own father, and is basically stalking his ex, and I'm supposed to care what happens to him why? It's certainly possible to write a story with characters that aren't sympathetic, but it takes a defter hand than this.
At the end of the day, this ends up being a sort of "A, then B" story with a really hateable protag and heavy-handed dialogue. Not your best, not your worst.
Your Sledgehammer - Conversations with Bobby
This was a nice, well-written piece that skirted that line of sentimentality. You took an interesting approach by grounding a weird moment in a really normal situation, which is a risk that could have backfired but didn't.
You do a good job of making your dialogue feel "real". The conversations add character, sounds believable, and gives some insight into the conflict.
You did kind of show your hand a little early - it was pretty easy to figure out where it was going after the first call. The main issue here is that it feels like a relatively small payoff for how bizarre the inciting action is. Your protag basically just decides to quit his job and pursue his dream a little earlier, even though he was going to do it pretty soon anyway. I was waiting for a major upset - some major introspective moment or reappraising his goal - but things just basically go according to plan, which neuters the tension and sense of conflict a bit.
Not a bad story, but the surreal element almost went too far in the other direction, where it's barely even justified and doesn't really go anywhere compelling.
J.A.B.C. -Processing Error
First big no-no: opening a story with "protagonist wakes up." Alarm clock, dream, several paragraphs of the protag doing mundane things. Doing these things is actively working against the reader.
Your surreal element feels more like a spec fiction set-up, but that's not really how gravity works anyway. There's some interesting imagery and a lot of potential with the conflict you've established, but it's mostly squandered. Your protagonist is almost entirely reactive; he's basically just a pair of surrogate eyeballs for the audience, rather than someone that makes choices and takes action.
I was kind of disappointed by the fact that you ended the story the same way it started. Recursive narratives are a thing, but this one just made it feel like everything got cancelled out and nobody learned anything or changed in any way. Waving it all off as a dream basically means the entire story was a waste of time for both the reader and the characters.
Ironic Twist -Retreat
As usual, your prose is rock solid here. The intro does a pretty good job of teasing out some characterization and setting up the scene.
You stumble a bit when "Not-Alice" shows up. Not only is that a pretty awkward naming device, but the whole situation feels needlessly vague. Alice is her neighbor on the mountainside, but when she throws out "Not-Alice," it seems like she came from a typical white picket fence suburbia. Were they neighbors ten years ago in a different place, as well?
The protagonist's reaction to all this oddness feels kind of off, though I can't put my finger on why. She kind of just seems angry instead of being scared or really confused.
The ending is a great, gross image, but I'm having trouble parsing it. I feel like the typewriter's significance needs to be more established. Is it the reason for everything that is happening? Is it sending letters into the past / future? I think you ended up withholding just a bit more info from the reader than you should have, and as a result it gets a bit difficult to dig into the meat of the story.
Clandestine - Gold
This wasn't really surreal at all. It was basically just a sci-fi story with "aliens did it" as the basic premise.
You've got some nice imagery here, and your prose is solid. The set-up feels like it's going somewhere interesting, but then you pretty much pull the rug out from under the reader's feet. The alien twist feels totally divorced from the rest of the story, and it's just not satisfying. How did the aliens realize they found an alien fossil? Why bother giving them a "gift" after wiping their memory?
You've got the building blocks of a good story here, but the dots just don't connect. It ends up coming off as a cheesy X-Files episode instead of something surreal and meaningful.
Tyrannosaurus - A Series of Serious Beats
Obviously we all liked this story a lot. You made some bold choices here by going with a second-person PoV and approaching your humor with a sort of clinical detachment. Those choices really paid off, though.
The humor here is pitch-perfect, and it really complements the surreal course of events. The depiction of the sea monkeys is kind of odd, but I'm not going to nitpick realistic sea monkeys given the premise. You've got a really good sense of pacing throughout, and it does a great job of emphasizing the balance between humor and the actual gravity of the situation.
The protagonist does almost feel too clueless, but on the other hand it's probably just willful ignorance. You can see this kind of behavior in people all the time, refusing to accept the truth even in the face of a mountain of evidence, and the entire premise works as an absurd exploration of that concept.
Not much else to say about this piece, I think you accomplished what you set out to do here.
Boozahol - Career Change
This was another story that didn't really feel surreal at all. It's really more of a straight-up fantasy / urban fantasy story.
You open with some dialogue that feels fairly natural, but the context is basically nonexistent. The characters feel kind of aimless, and as a result they just kind of melt together. There's not really any conflict either: everyone just basically goes along with everything that happens for no real reason. The premise here should be really compelling, but it ends up feeling...boring, I guess?
The story was basically just an account of things that happened. We don't get a sense of anyone's feelings, motivations, etc. There's some humorous nuggets hidden inside of the story, but it's hard to care about most of what is going on.
Systran -The Amalgolem
Your opening is great and the premise is really strong. Right away I'm hooked and I want to see what the hell is going on.
Using multiple perspectives in such a short piece is risky as hell, but it kind of works somehow. However, I am left kind of wondering what the point of this golem was. These capitalists all come together and build an ubermensch out of their best parts, but why? Just so they can all experience earthly pleasures while they work? The golem itself seems to have just become a prostitute, but I'm not getting a sense of why this was worth people cutting off their own body parts.
The prose is clear, concise, and evocative. I'm still not sure what to think about the fact that I've now read a story that includes the line, "he'd kill himself after he came into his own rear end," but I'll be damned if I didn't laugh.
Bad Ideas Good - Family Troubles
You've got some cool imagery going on early in the story, but everything basically falls apart at the midpoint and it feels like you just slapped together pieces from multiple stories or something.
Once the box shows up I basically had no idea what was even going on. It went from a standard narrative to feeling very disjointed and meta. Someone mentioned that you just threw something together to avoid a failure, so that would make sense.
The dialogue feels perfunctory, and the characters come off as abrasive and childish. There's honestly not a whole lot I can say about this piece, just because it's basically half a story with some Thunderdome metanarrative shoved in at the end. The writing is competent enough, but there's not enough of a story to judge much else.
Week 125 Crits will be up shortly!
|# ? Jan 6, 2015 02:07|
Thanks for the crits, GP!
|# ? Jan 6, 2015 03:11|
Thank you for the Crit, Big Papi
|# ? Jan 6, 2015 03:22|
Week 125 Crits
Screaming Idiot - Cold Beach, Cold Beer
This was a fun first story for the week, and probably one of the strongest early entries I've personally seen. Definitely your best story so far, so keep it up!
Your prose is solid, and there are some nice images here and there. The merman's introduction sticks out, for instance. Dialogue is mostly good. It feels realistic, but edges close to being used for exposition in a couple of spots.
You've got pretty good pacing and the story unfolds naturally. The characters are kind of cliche, but they also have enough heart to elevate them beyond that a bit. It's a silly story, but the ending was a nice choice with some actual impact. I think there's a lot of potential here and you made me smile when I finished reading it, so nice work!
ZeBourgeoisie - The Lockbox
Pretty odd story, overall. Your dialogue is kind of on-the-nose throughout the story. “You know we can’t. It’s illegal here for gays to adopt.” That's a good example of an "as you know,..." sentence that immediately sticks out.
The way you approach the conflict here ends up just ringing false. A dude basically shows up with a magical McGuffin and the protagonist goes along with it. You did give him a strong justification for wanting to buy into it, at least.
You've got some nice imagery towards the end, but it kind of feels like the rest of the plot was just an excuse to have this gross-out at the end. Everything just comes to a head very rapidly and the characters don't have any time to breathe or act like real people. It also just one of those cases where you bring in these characters and just do something really mean-spirited to them. It's like how humor that punches up gets laughs, but humor that punches down just feels uncomfortable. I don't think that was your intention, but it probably colored my perception of the story a bit.
Chairchucker - Panda for the Masses
The first of our Rosa Flores stories this week. It's so short and goofy that it's kind of hard to critique. It's a funny little cliche joke about talking animals, with a sprinkling of TD in-joke. It accomplishes what it sets out to do, but it's not really a story or anything. Dialogue feels like it's just there to serve the joke and there's not really enough prose to judge one way or another.
Not really sure why there's rabbits at the zoo, especially next to a Panda enclosure, but I suppose I can suspend my disbelief here.
Nubile Hillock - The Bog
Rosa Flores appearance number two!
Your prose is strong and even though the humor is low-brow, I'm not going to lie and say I didn't laugh. "The alien bigfoots was beamin’ him up" and the bit with the business card were my favorites.
You actually managed to tell a story that made sense within the context of your humor, so I appreciate that. The image of a park ranger hallucinating about alien bigfoots and mermen because of offgassing is pretty good. The characters are pretty much the definition of cardboard, but that's kind of the point.
Entenzahn - Atlantis
I wasn't really expecting many serious stories this week, but I'm glad you submitted this.
Present tense is a risky pick in the dome, but you made great use of it. There's a nice, understated current of sadness running through the piece, and the unrealistic premise creates an effective mood. You do a really good job of layering characterization and using broad strokes to give the reader insight into the characters' though processes.
Evocative prose, and a creative take on your merman selection. The pacing feels a little jumpy, but beyond that, I don't have much criticism here.
Sitting Here - Of the Sea
Third Rosa Flores sighting!
Really nice prose, big surprise. The set-up is kind of cliche, and I was wondering if you were going to do some weird merman-based Walter Mitty story or something. You subvert expectations well enough, and the concept of an ancient merman speaking archaic Spanish was really neat. I feel like you could do something pretty creepy and dreamlike with that.
The issue I ended up having with this story is that it doesn't really go anywhere. A guy in a lovely marriage with Rosa Flores gets whisked away by a Merman, then he comes back to his boring, miserable life. Your tone kind of wavers between outright comedy and something more serious, to the point that it kind of meets in the middle and doesn't end up sticking the landing on either. It was still an enjoyable read with some really nice turns of phrase throughout.
Jonked - Beard
This was the first story that didn't explicitly feature mermen, which was a bold choice that worked for me at first.
This story just ended up kind of bellyflopping halfway through, unfortunately. There's like a weird Chuck and Larry situation going on, but then the protagonist ends up actually sleeping with his fake wife, and decides he's not completely gay, I guess? I don't know if he's supposed to be discovering he's bisexual, or if he's having a sexual identity crisis, or what.
I just feel like you end up glossing over the actual conflict that you set up, and so I'm left wondering what the point was. Is there a moral I'm missing here?
That said, you've got solid prose and the dialogue isn't bad. I'm just not sure what to take away from any of it.
Kaishai - The Merman's Package
This was a unanimous pick for winner. You basically embraced this week and gave us a merman bonanza. You've got it all: nice attention to detail with the small world-building elements, a clear conflict and narrative arc, energetic prose, merman cucking (!?)
It's not a terribly deep or provocative story, but that's ok. The characters all have motivations and unique voices, which is pretty impressive with so few words. Even though the conflict is inherently silly, you actually managed to imbue it with tension.
This was, for me, the only story that really nailed a balance between goofy and serious.
Nethilia - Walking Stereotypes
This is a cute story with a nice moral lesson at the center, but there's not a whole lot of meat on the narrative bones.
The dialogue feels kind of stilted throughout, kind of like the characters are speaking to an audience rather than each other. The plot is a little thin, but there's an arc to it and the resolution is satisfying. The bit where the mother asks Patrick's name got a chuckle out of me.
The last couple of lines do feel a little forced, but there's not much wrong with this piece otherwise, to be honest. It just feels like kind of a short story someone would read to their kids.
crabrock - Treasure Mountain
This was really fun to read, and I could tell it was fun to write. Like Kaishai's, you've got a good eye for subtle worldbuilding and lean, energetic prose.
I was impressive by just how much story you managed to pack into the world limit. It really feels like a whole adventure condensed into a bit of flash fiction, which speaks toward your talent for pacing and picking out the important bits.
The story reminds me of something I would have read in middle school, in a good way. Your prose is strong throughout and the opening does a great job of pulling me in. The only real issues I had were the relative lack of characterization in the first half of the story, and the fact that it was kind of a by-the-numbers plotline for the most part, even if it did do it very well.
kurona_bright - Man, I'm a Genius
This was pretty bizarre. Your intro actually did a good job of hooking me, but the story never went anywhere.
This kid lost his jacket, thought someone else stole it, and then realizes he may have been wrong after the principal makes the kid give it back to him.
The protagonist spends the entire story hemming and hawing about the jacket, but then you specifically mention several times that there aren't really any consequences if he did make a mistake.
Then he realizes that he did make a mistake, and that all he has to do to avoid trouble is...give it back. Your prose isn't terrible or anything, but the reason you lost is that you gave us one of the most mundane conflicts ever and then stated outright that there weren't really any stakes involved. It's just a kid panicking for a second and then realizing that there's no reason to panic after all. No matter how good your writing was, that wasn't going to make a compelling story.
|# ? Jan 6, 2015 04:09|
|# ? Nov 28, 2021 03:14|
Thunderdome Week CXXVI Results: Auld Lang Syne
The year could have had a more auspicious start. A lot of crap lurked at the bottom of the barrel, and the best of the bunch weren't flawless. Some entries were still pleasant to read, though, and I'm likewise pleased to give one of them the victory.
THE WINNER is Anomalous Blowout. Her work had that blend of good writing, good characterization, good response to the prompt, and good concept that can overcome a slight plot. We all liked Mister Hanrahan and his gifts. Here's a judge's gavel: you're going to need it!
An HONORABLE MENTION goes to Nethilia for an entry that may have had too many significant characters to flesh them all out within the bounds of the word count, but which was still an enjoyable family drama with a touching conclusion.
THE LOSER, surely surprising few who have read the story, is Bad Ideas Good. Not every week is Surreality Week, thank God. This was such a mechanically flawed mess of unexplained nonsense that one could almost lose sight of the tiny kernel of fun in its midriff--namely Charlotte plotting to steal from druids. I'd read a story that did something with that idea. I would prefer if someone else wrote it.
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS are thick on the ground, and the first goes to Cacto for blowing up all his characters and calling that an ending. leekster picks up the second for a boring story badly written. The third falls on Benny the Snake for writing about the Christmas Truce of 1914 but setting it in modern day for some reason whereof Reason knows nothing. Leaning on the Bible for a big chunk of his text and capping it all with a Guns 'n Roses lyric did him no favors either.
I still have crits to finish from Surreality Week, and I'll work on and post those first, but I daresay Entenzahn and Hillock will have sentiments to share in the meanwhile. Good luck, Anomalous Blowout! Happy 2015teen to Domers one and all!
Kaishai fucked around with this message at 06:41 on Jan 6, 2015
|# ? Jan 6, 2015 05:30|