In with a to redeem my poor little runaway baby self.
|# ? Jan 9, 2015 11:27|
|# ? May 19, 2022 05:49|
In with a to redeem my poor little runaway baby self.
You just missed sparkly merman week
|# ? Jan 9, 2015 17:12|
Signups close in about eight hours!
We can't wait to be disappointed by you.
|# ? Jan 9, 2015 23:57|
Anomalous Blowout, Nethilia and basically any recent winners and honorable mentions: Just want to remind you that you all have access to sweet prizes and all you gotta do is send me a message. I bought these things for you, you sons of bitches.
Mercedes fucked around with this message at 01:06 on Jan 10, 2015
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 01:04|
Blood on the Pampas Argentina 993 words:
I woke to the smell of ash choking me. Coughing, I rose to my feet, hand clasped to my aching head. I steadied myself, looked at my hand, and ignored the scarlet dripping from it. "I was coming back into the estancia, and then… Rosa!" I watched the last pillars of what had been home collapse into a smoldering pile. It was dark, the stars overhead concealed by a dull blanket of clouds. The other gauchos, Ramirez and Diego lay near the skeleton of the house. Their ponchos had soaked through, and a brief search revealed their guns had been stripped like mine. I cut a strip of dry cloth from Diego's bombachos and bandaged my wound. The owner was dead, his wife as well. Rosa was all I had left.
They had been careful approaching, but left without any effort at stealth. The trail they left was an arrogant statement, one I would make them suffer for. The horses were gone, driven off or captured, so I had no choice but to follow on foot. A few miles down the road I found signs that they had split off into three groups, with the largest one at least five strong. I couldn't be sure in the night, but the large group held a deeper set of tracks, as if it was loaded down with a passenger. I had to hope I read the tracks right.
An hour or so later the sun started to rise, and I forced myself to stop. The heat soon melted away the cloud cover and near the horizon I saw indistinct shapes that had to be the riders. Dropping down to my belly I went still. An hour passed and there was no sign of movement. There was every sign that they feared no survivors. With no gun at hand and no horse I had no choice but to crawl the only relief from the sun found in the hat I had retrieved from the ruined estancia. The sun beat down and my throat grew dry, parched. Finally, after an eternity of crawling towards them, I slept. When I woke the men had vanished, concealed by the distance now between us. I rose up and began to walk. As the sun started to set clouds moved in as well. A moonless night suited me, as the light of their campfire soon became apparent. What's more the sound of cattle lowing made it clear where their meal was coming from. I began to slowly circle around until the sound of the cattle started to drown out the sound of their conversation and laughter.
My path was clear and I approached carefully until after an hour I found myself at the edge of the herd. Many of them had settled down without the smell of their roasted compatriot to upset them. I wound my way through the herd, crouched down to give them no hint of my presence. Finally, with a single cow between me and their camp I stopped. One man watched over the herd while the other stood guard near Rosa. The other three lay near the glowing remnants of their fire, sound asleep. Rosa had her eyes closed, but it was impossible to tell if she was truly asleep. With one watching the herd it was impossible to make a move until the man guarding Rosa spoke.
"Hey Juan! Watch this." He turned to Rosa and started to slap her. "Wake up puta! I want to play." I nearly lost it, choking with fury, but grew calm when the man watching the herd turned his back . His knife handle was clear even in the dim light of the fire, and I didn't hesitate. Crawling forward I broke into a run, and quickly fished the facón out of his belt. So engaged was he in the sick show that he failed to notice until I had buried it deep into his neck. Dying, with his life's blood bubbling out of his neck, I left him and approached the man violating Rosa. Rosa saw me and couldn't keep the shock from her face. The man turned around to see me as I brought the facón down for a killing blow. Bringing his arm up he yelled out as the blade sank deep into his arm. Reaching for the gun hanging on his hip he managed to pull it. I let go of the facón and seized his wrist managing to force his gun away from me as it went off. I punched him, knowing that my plans of quiet slaughter were so much ash. I struck him again and again until the gun dropped from his limp hand.
Coming back to myself I noticed in horror the crimson blooming in Rosa's side. "Martin! You came for me." She gasped in pain as I knelt down to cradle her. "Of course. Rosa Flores, you are the love of my life." Her eyes shut, and I felt the tears scald my sun beaten face. I picked up the gun laying on the ground and turned to face the three men.
"Jose." My sins from Texas had hunted me all the way to Argentina.
"Martin, thought you'd gotten clean away didn't you?"
"You know, I really did. Then again you thought you had gotten me back at the estancia."
"I did. So, settle this like honorable men?" His eyes flicked to the man who had died next to Rosa. I leaned down and slowly hung the gun belt on my hips. I rose up and stepped away from the bodies.
"I don't have anything better to do. Of course, even if I kill you, these two aren't likely to let me live."
"True, but you won't turn down a chance to shoot me yourself." Jose smiled, but there was no joy in it.
We drew. We fired, and I fell to the ground.
"Rosa, I'm sorry," was my final thought.
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 02:29|
A question for the judges: I submitted prior to having a way to get an accurate word count, and when I measured it after submission it was 177 words over. I know the policy is no edits post submission; in this instance, is your preference for me to leave it as is or make cuts to bring it in line with the count?
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 03:46|
The Bear, the Rabbit, and the Coyote
For Mother Russia!
Prompt: A competition in a country I've never visited
Fists cracked across my jaw, knuckles sharp as daggers, hatred pulsing in the veins of my opponent's temples. His muscles corded, skin beaded with sweat in the humid stink of the warehouse. He was big, broad, strong as a bull.
But I'm bigger. Stronger.
He drew back, eager to break me. I read every movement as though he moved in slow motion -- I slipped past his blow to move in for the kill. My fists smashed against his ugly face again and again; by the time I'd finished it looked like a mass of pulped hamburger. He dropped, moaning through burst lips and broken teeth. I don't think I looked much better, but I don't mind -- I was never a handsome man.
"You did great," the representative said after I'd been looked over and the blood washed away. "You crushed him!"
I don't know the name of the man I beat -- I didn't want to know. He was sent to a hospital; I was given 12,800 rubles. Not bad money for a single night's work and a few bruises. Possibly a broken nose.
The representative scratched his beard, squinting as he looked at me. I recognized that look -- Papa used it when examining livestock before we lost the farm. "You know Dmitriy? He's the one who sent you?"
I nodded, thankful for my swelling. I didn't want him to see me snarl at the dog's name. "Yes."
"There's a big match coming soon -- the organization is bringing in an American named Richard Barnhill. Top-tier, formerly a professional."
Top-tier? The money must be good. Still... "And why is that?"
"He killed his last three opponents."
"That doesn't seem so bad." I once killed a man. I hit him too hard -- that, or his neck was too brittle. Sometimes I regret, but they paid me anyway, and he knew the risks. Most nights I sleep well, if I drink enough.
"He did it after the fights -- with a knife. The man's a sociopath. He calls himself the 'Kentucky Coyote.'" The representative shook his head. "I don't know everything, just that his policeman brother got tired of covering for him. He's coming to Russia to make a name for himself by beating the biggest, strongest challengers we have."
"I'm the biggest. I'm the strongest." I crossed my arms and frowned as well as the swelling would allow. I towered over the man by a head and a half -- my words are fact, not bravado. "He won't beat me."
"Biggest? Strongest? Perhaps. I don't doubt it." He laughed and lit a cigarette, then offered one to me. "But you aren't used to fighting madmen. Still, you're welcome to try."
I didn't accept the cigarette. I don't smoke.
But I did accept the invitation.
My little brother Pyotr wasn't pleased with my victory, or with my next fight.
"Sergei, are you insane? Look at your face! You look like you've been dragged behind a car!"
"Are you going to put away these groceries, or will I?" I pointed to the full bags on the table.
Pyotr cursed. "Who did you beat up tonight, Sergei? Whose blood is on your hands now?"
"No one's. I washed them after the fight." I put the groceries away, stopping to smell the ground beef through the brown paper wrapping. I couldn't tell if the scent came from good meat, or the blood in my sinuses. "Go study, Rabbit."
"You must quit doing this to yourself," Pyotr said. "What are you going to do if you become crippled?"
"It's all I have. There's no work." My head hurt, and my jaw ached. "Not since the factory closed." The same factory that killed Papa, and Mama when she drank herself to death in her grief.
"We've got that money you borrowed from Dmitriy," Pyotr said suddenly. "We could use it to leave, to go somewhere with work! I could quit college-"
I backhanded him, knocking him to the floor. "You'll do no such thing! You're too smart to be dumb!" And end up like father. Like me.
"If I was so smart, why am I failing?" Skinny fingers gripped the edge of the table, glasses askew on his knife-thin face.
"Because you worry too much instead of studying." I helped him to his feet. "And because you waste your time writing."
"But writing is my life." He adjusted his glasses. "Someday I'll sell my work, and you won't have to borrow money from thugs. In fact, I got a letter-"
"Shush. On the day you succeed, I'll quit fighting. Until then, I will put away the groceries and you will study, Rabbit."
"Yawll buncha fukken pussies!" the Coyote cried in slurred English from the center of the warehouse floor, beating his chest like a fool. He was little and wiry, but his eyes gleamed like a man possessed. He'd fought several times already today, "warm-ups" he called it, but every one ended in a quick victory for the Coyote and injuries for the loser.
I told Dmitriy I wanted a piece of the Coyote, and he wasted no time in spreading word. I seethed when I'd heard that he'd publicized me as the "Kemerovo Bear." I resented the comparison between me and the Coyote. Before I wanted to fight for money -- now I wanted to fight because I didn't like him. This American was too proud -- I'd humble him.
"You're up." Dmitriy gave a shark's grin beneath his thick mustache. "I know you'll make me proud, Sergei -- the odds are in your favor!"
"Ho-lee poo poo," the Coyote slurred. "This th'best y'gawtt? Bigass fatboy looks like m'goddamn grammaw!"
My English isn't good. But it's better than his.
"And you look like whore I used to gently caress -- skinny. Twitchy." I sneered down at him. "Are all janki so tiny and weak?"
"Th'gently caress you juscall me? I'mma killya, boy!" The Coyote's eye twitched. My insult was weak, but it worked.
The fight began. Then it ended.
I didn't win.
Pyotr entered my hospital room, wrapped bundle in his arms and a smile on his face. I looked away.
"You should be in school." Speaking was difficult with so many broken teeth.
"I took the day off." He grinned.
He handed me the bundle, and I opened it. Inside was my favorite: bird's milk cake from Anastasia's Bakery. Even through the fog of the painkillers I salivated -- I would forgive him this time.
"I have good news." Pyotr grinned. "Dmitriy called me and said your debt's been paid and then some -- he won a fortune betting on the Coyote. He sent us a check for... well, see for yourself!"
Pyotr handed me a piece of paper, and my eyes widened. Dmitriy was a dog, but he paid well.
"Another thing," Pyotr continued. "I sold my first novel, and they want me to write sequels! Now you are finished fighting!"
I glanced at my wheelchair in the corner.
"Yes, Rabbit." I tried to smile for him. "I suppose I am."
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 04:01|
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 05:17|
But srlsy, fjgj.
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 05:41|
A question for the judges: I submitted prior to having a way to get an accurate word count, and when I measured it after submission it was 177 words over. I know the policy is no edits post submission; in this instance, is your preference for me to leave it as is or make cuts to bring it in line with the count?
'Don't edit your story' trumps being over the word limit.
Think of it this way: 177 words over on accident is nothing compared to going loving thousands of words over while being fully aware of the word count.
This is Thunderdome, someone's almost always hosed up more than you, so chill out
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 05:57|
I loving wish I recorded the dramatic reading that took us almost 2 hours. Blame Twist.
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 06:24|
I'm in for this week
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 07:05|
FORTY NINE MINUTES LEFT TO SIGN UP!
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 07:10|
SEVEN MINUTES to sign up that is
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 07:53|
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 07:53|
signups they are closed
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 08:05|
A question for the judges: I submitted prior to having a way to get an accurate word count, and when I measured it after submission it was 177 words over. I know the policy is no edits post submission; in this instance, is your preference for me to leave it as is or make cuts to bring it in line with the count?
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 09:11|
he means he submitted it before the advent of numbers
to be fair in #rock B.C.E. they have pretty slow internet
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 09:21|
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 09:48|
The Kite Derby Mexico
I spent my summers as a kid with my grandpa at his beach house in Baja. I never called him "grandpa", though, I called him Papi. Those summers were a whirlwind of barbecues, fishing, and shooting guns. One day, I found a flyer for a kite derby in the mail and showed it to Papi. "You wanna join, Son?" he asked, his bald head shining in the soft sunlight.
"Well, we're going to have to build one then."
"How do you make a kite?"
"Your daddy never taught you?"
I shrugged my shoulders. Papi sighed and shook his head. "What is your daddy teaching you then?"
"Not to get into his beer," I said with a stupid grin on my face. That made Papi laugh. "Well then it's time you learned," he said. "We're going to the swapmeet."
"Yay!" Trips to the swapmeet always meant snowcones.
I don't know about the swapmeets you go to, but Mexican ones are huge, loud, and sweaty. Once you're inside, you're completely overwhelmed by everything--the cacophony of voices and music blaring, the smells of tacos and fajitas cooking, the claustrophobia-inducing crowds and vendors. Me and Papi held on to each other as we made our way around the open market. One stand was selling fighter kites which were shaped and designed to look like huge birds of prey. "Papi, I want my kite to be like that!" I exclaimed.
He pulled me away. "You're going to be flying the kite, not fighting it."
"But I want a cool-looking kite," my eight-year-old self grumbled.
"That's the problem with you kids," he said and kept walking, "All you care about is how it looks instead of if it actually works."
We stopped by a stand selling crafting wood. "You always want to use bamboo because it's strong and bends easy," he told me while going through the bamboo by slightly bending the pieces. After finding the best pieces, he paid for the wood and we moved to another vendor selling fishing supplies. "Papi, why are you buying fishing line and not string?" I asked.
"It's light and strong, same as the bamboo," he told me. "Now all we need is the paper."
We came back home later that day, my hands still sticky from eating my snowcone. After washing and drying my hands, we started building our kite. "Alright Son, first we're going to build the frame. Put the sticks together like a cross."
"Why a cross and not like a plus sign?" I asked
"You need to make it a cross so that it flies straight up," he said. I put the sticks together and once I got it into a perfect cross, I tied the two pieces together with fishing line. I tied line around the points of the frame and added the paper by folding it over the line and taping it over with packing tape. "Go bring me an old t-shirt," he told me.
After fishing one out, he took a pair scissors and cut strips out of it. "Cotton is just the right amount of weight to keep a kite steady," he explained to me. After cutting, I tied a couple pieces to the bottom of the kite.
"Good,” he said, “Now let's see if it flies."
We went outside to the beach where a high wind was blowing from the west. The full moon was our only light out there and I was shivering really bad. Once Papi let the kite go, I was in control. I held on to the line as hard as it could as it flew higher, higher into the air. "Papi, it's flying!" I shouted over the wind in pure, childlike glee.
The wind was blowing hard the morning of the derby. I was one out of nine total contestants and the rest of them had flashier kites compared to my simple red diamond kite.
"Hey, nice kite, dork!" One of them said.
"Who made it, your mom?" another one shouted so everybody could hear.
"Don't listen to them, Son," Papi said and held me by the shoulder, his sunhat shading his face. "We'll show them."
"Okay Papi," I said. Inside I wanted to scream the nastiest things I could at them.
The nine of us stood on the beach about three feet away from each other. Once everybody was in line, one of the judges blew the whistle and we were off. It wasn't a race so much as it was a show--how well we could fly our kites while walking fifty yards. Let me tell you, it felt like I was walking a mile. This one kid was flying a box kite and the frame on his snapped before it fell to the ground pitifully like a wounded bird. Another kid's line broke, sending his soaring into the sky never to return. I let out as much line as I could and held on tight, trying my best to keep it steady and from crossing another's. Not like another kid whose kite was darting around the sky like crazy before it got tangled in another kite and crashed. It all made sense now why my kite was built the way it was. Once I finally reached the fifty-yard mark, I stopped and stood in line with the rest of the kids. After a while, the judges declared me the winner and gave me a first-place ribbon.
"Papi! I won!" I shouted.
"You did it, Son," he said and hugged me tight as I held the line as hard as I could. Looking back, that was one of the happiest moments of my life.
Papi passed away peacefully after a painful battle with pneumonia. He was buried in the backyard next to my grandma. Instead of a dove, I flew my kite in the air as high as I could and released it into the sky. I watched as it flew up towards the heavens and disappeared from view.
Te amo, Papi. Te amo mucho, y te extrañanere cuando no estes.
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 20:14|
The Truth Will Out (1195 words)
Kip slammed the bottle on the table. Anwar looked slowly up from the screen of his powered-down tablet and yawned. “What you get there, pal?”
“A proposal,” said Kip. “A drinking contest. Very simple. You take a shot, I take a shot. We keep going until one of us is under the table. Literally or figuratively.”
“Sounds like fun,” agreed Anwar, “But why would I sit drinking with you when I've got the whole of Kolkata as my playground?” He gestured to the city outside the ship's porthole, the image of the harbour rippling with the city's heat.
“Good point. But I ask: if that's so, why have you yet to even step foot across the Hooghly? We've been moored almost a fortnight.”
Anwar rolled his tablet up and put it in the front pocket of his overalls. “Right. Well. This is how we're gonna decide who gets to be captain, I take it? Sure you've got it in you, Tony?”
The half-man, half-tiger reached a paw up to steady his shaking ear. The twitch relocated to his tail. “I admit, it's not a competition with which I have experience. Neither is this beverage something I have partaken in. I am assured both are a vital part of adolescence in my culture.”
“Your culture also involves mauling men to death,” smirked Anwar. “And you took a solemn oath never to do that on this ship. In fact, wasn't it one of the pre-requisites of you being allowed on the Ivory in the first place?”
Kip steadied himself with one paw on the purple bottle; collected himself; stood up straight, smoothed down the front of his jumpsuit. “You remain perceptive, Anwar. Yes, the winner of the contest will be the new captain of our fine merchant vessel. Do you agree to these terms?”
Anwar was already pouring his first measure from a shot glass he took from the table's hard-light holographic cupboard. “I'm not the one who's still standing, looking all aloof.” He said the last word with a theatrical flourish and his nose in the air.
Kip was happy for the drink. His fur was matted and dry from sweat, the West Bengal sun turning the jagged stripes he was so proud of into a mess of tangled, scribbled lines. He produced his own glass, poured, and mouthed “salut” to his fellow crew member.
“Urgh, this tastes like crap,” Anwar stuck his tongue out. “You really drink this on your planet?”
The tiger-man poured another shot, Anwar holding his glass out like he was trying to get away from it. They downed the second round simultaneously, Kip's tongue smacking, Anwar wincing again. “Seriously, what is this?” He bit his lip. “See, I know why you wanted to settle things this way. If it came down to a vote, the rest of the crew would go for me, hands down. I'm so much more popular than you. Better pilot, better leader, more people skills...and you think you can be captain by winning this but, well, I'm grrreat at boozing too.”
Outside the sun was barely visible behind the reconstructed Vidyasagar Bridge. “I'm not great at drinking,” said Anwar, concealing his words with the back of his hand after the third shot. “Better than Ryall ever was, though. Be a better captain than he ever was, I bet.” His words started to slur. “I know, I know, gotta be respectful and everything, but he's been in the ground, what, a week? Best thing that ever happened to the Ivory.” Kip started pouring the next measure. “Hey, what would you do if you were captain?” Anwar asked. “Hypothetically, obviously.”
“More drinking contests,” said Kip.
“Good man,” Anwar winked as he lifted his glass. “Good...good tiger...”
Kip sighed as he brought the glass down from his mouth a fourth time. He could apparently handle his drink, but still he wondered when this would end.
“That guy...had it...had it coming...” Anwar mumbled to himself, looking down, his head lolling like a puppet left hanging on a shelf after the fifth drink. “Ryall,” he sneered.
“What was that?” Kip felt his small eyes brighten.
“Ryall!” Anwar bellowed, slamming his fist down on his leg. “He's dead! He's dead and I'm glad and I'm glad that I...did it...” He became much smaller, unclenching his hand and leaning back in his chair. “I...killed him? Why am I telling you this?” He gulped, looked back up at Kip: “The Ivory was going nowhere fast with him in charge, and neither was I! I deserve to captain a merchant ship more than him, more than you, more than anyone on this hunk of junk! Mine! It should be mine!”
The tiger smirked, allowed his glass to dissipate with a small shower of pink polygons. “Thank you for speaking up, comrade,” he said. “I believe the ship's recording devices will have captured it all, and are backing it up as we speak.”
“What did you do?” asked Anwar, peering up at Kip from his chair like a scared boy called into the headteacher's office. Kip tapped the bottle.
“This isn't strictly alcohol. Well, I should say it is, but it's main quality is that it gets whoever drinks it – as you might say – to cut the bullshit.”
“Truth serum?” Anwar scowled. “A drinking contest...with truth serum?”
“The truth does always out,” Kip stood up, rocking back on his heels, steadied by his tail.
“So how come you're not spilling your guts?”
“A fair question,” said Kip, pondering the answer. “It appears I have nothing to hide. I believe we are done here?” He asked, turning to leave.
“No, we're not,” Anwar called after him. He shook the half-empty bottle of truth booze.
“Oh, very well,” said Kip, walking back over to the table, unable to resist the temptation of a victory lap. He chugged the remaining half-litre. The room started to feel woozy. He wasn't quite sure what angle he was standing at, what words he had said to Anwar after letting go of the bottle and which he had simply considered. Then he threw up.
Hunched over, on his hands and knees, tail coiled between his legs. This was not the moment of victory he expected.
“Looks like I won,” said Anwar from behind him. Before he could continue, the tiger man jerked his head towards him, mouth foaming.
“IF I COULD, I WOULD EAT EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU BLASTED HUMANS. I HAVE THOUGHT OF NOTHING MORE SINCE JOINING THIS SHIP. TO TASTE THAT FATTY FLESH, TO TEAR IT FROM YOUR BONES, TO–” He grabbed his mouth closed with both paws.
Anwar stood up, dropping his glass, which dissolved before it hit the ground. “How about we don't tell anybody about this,” he said, “And just let it go to a vote in the morning?”
Kip nodded silently, sat still clenching, as Anwar left the room.
With considerable effort, Kip stood up and headed out onto the observation deck to clear his head. Perhaps amongst all those swimming thoughts and uncomfortable truths, he could remember the name of that Bankuran assassin in Anwar had once mentioned.
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 21:03|
Some more crits for last week's stories:
15. kurona_bright – Stump Talk
-Proofread: “But quite evidently, she was the only one was bored, since Chris and Gavin were chatting away behind her.” Also, this is a bad sentence. It’s telly, and the prose is clunky. I’d recommend cutting it.
-Just a couple of paragraphs in and your prose is already loaded with adverbs: quite evidently, earnestly, endlessly, basically. Instead of tossing in so many adverbs, it’s better to pepper the story with lively verbs and adjectives. Don’t just tell us something happened “earnestly” or “endlessly.” Show us that using vivid yet elegant prose.
-A number of stories this week had the problem of beginning with a dump of generic characters who aren’t very distinct from each other. At the outset, there’s not much in here that helps me to keep a distinct mental picture of Chris, Gavin, or Andrew.
-It’s a slog to read. There isn’t much plot. Hook the reader with the promise of something interesting and then deliver.
Your story is: The kid “not pictured” in your high school yearbook. He must’ve been absent all or most of the year, every year. Had you even met him?
16. Crabrock – Waves
-Do med students in the top of their class really go into obstetrics? I could be wrong, but I thought the relative underachievers gravitated toward obstetrics. Med students at the top of their class don’t want the liability issues.
-I like it overall. The lines vs curves metaphor works well to characterize different types of relationships we have throughout our lives, especially since the distinction between a line and a curve can get blurred. I also like the message that our friends don’t have to live the same kind of lives that we do in order for the relationship to mean something.
Your story is: Your friend from way back who is one of the few people who really knows you through and through. It’s a blessing to have someone understand you so fully, but it can also be limiting, even pigeonholing if this person holds you back while you reinvent yourself.
17. Tyrannosaurus – Teeth and Time
-This is similar to a bad story I wrote a couple months ago called Tidal Forces, except this is even worse for having less plot.
-There’s not much here, but I understand you were under the gun to submit or face failure. I don’t think you’d consider this representative of your usual writing, so I won’t spend too much time on it.
-The story is vague. I’m not saying everything should be spelled out in every story. More like, unless the reader has a strong reason to invest attention into piecing things together, he/she will likely shrug and move on.
Your story is: “Hey, remember so-and-so from high school? No? Okay, nevermind.”
|# ? Jan 10, 2015 23:05|
Jitzu. Sledge. Judgement time.
Alright. This has been a long time coming so let's not waste any time. Your stories hit the requirements well enough, no problems there. I was planning on doing line-by-lines but you two waited long enough. So what I'm going to do is go through and give my general thoughts, and if you want more detailed thoughts just give me a shout.
I won't be focusing on grammar here but, seriously, you two need to proofread your stories before you send them in. I know I'm not the shining example of correct grammar but even I caught some serious errors in both your stories. Just thinking about the abundance of passive voice is putting me to sleep. Or just plain falling asleep. Wait, it's 3 AM already? Christ.
Right away you set the tone for your story. It feels like your voice here is that of a budding Wilbert Awdry. I kind of like that. It feels like you had fun writing this. But. BUT. This choice of tone really does hinder you. Your tone is airy and at times forced, and the dialogue feels distilled and wonky. The latter can be written off as the coy attitude one expects from Awdry or A. A. Milne, I mean I'm not expecting Tarantino level dialogue here. But there's a lacking in weight that does not bode well with me.
Harris’s New Heights
The whole narrative here can be summed up as "Thomas the Tank Engine With Balloons and Boats, also Global Warming." I really do not understand why they shoved Harris into a hole of all things though. Didn't his owner say he was going into storage? Oh, it was so Siloh could come over and twirl his metallic mustache. Is this supposed to make the reader feel bad for Harris? You're operating on Cartoon logic, of course, I get that. This is the kind of story that you just have to flip the logic switch off and take it as it is. It still sticks out like a sore thumb but I guess it works? Even so, how the heck did Siloh dig Harris out of a hole? Come on, I know I said your story doesn't have to be detailed and I kept referring to a "space-traveling tugboat" but even a seven-year-old is going to call bullshit on this.
I will say that I liked the ending. Kind of. I was really dreading how Harris was going to save the day but I did not expect you to anthropomorphize the sun and trees. That was clever in a children's book sort of way. It comes out of nowhere though. Had you foreshadowed this, it would not feel like such a cop-out.
As it stands, you wrote a passable story. It flows well. You never linger on any unnecessary details and you're close to a prompt bullseye. Harris and the islander's happy ending could have been better justified, but it's serviceable. Harris's character development is pretty nonexistent, and Siloh only exists as an antagonist because you shoehorned in the Global Warming angle. I can let that slide though, because you do pull through with some decent wordplay and a cute if sappy ending. (I would not use "passengers" to refer to the people riding a hot air balloon though.)
The difference between these two stories is kind of amazing. I love how your story just takes a hard right at the very beginning. The whole idea of a zamboni working for a tyrannical glass truck is so absurd, I love it. You even recognize the absurdity with the Glassworks manager and that alone is a tip off to the reader to just roll with it.
Of course, my biggest problem with this story is that it's... a bit short-sighted? That might not be the right term. You have all of the elements at play here, all of the pieces to solve the puzzle you set up and you foreshadow. But everything's bare bones. There's barely any room to get cozy. I know that this is supposed to be a silly premise but it holds very little weight. You didn't give a lot of time to get to know the characters here, especially Wade and why Zack deserves to 'get back' at him.
I did not understand Wade's comeuppance either. I got that the road was covered in ice but I could not connect the dots. See, I completely forgot about Zack's water jets on my first readthrough? I only remembered that when they were mentioned near towards the end of the story and it left me scratching my head. It's an error in clarity. The reader shouldn't have to look back and read everything again to understand the big moment of your story. Had you gone out of your way to explain Zack more, give the reader more of a picture of his working parts instead of just assuming the reader will just 'get it', things would have worked out much better. Now, though, the latter half only serves to tie a little bow to your present (to me, of course) without actually letting the reader get a better glimpse at what's under the wrapping paper. Wait, that doesn't make any sense. Well whatever, you get what I mean.
This story feels rushed, period. It could have been told in a hundred words rather than six-hundred. It's like it is in a race to the finish, just hitting all the required spots along the way. It really shows that you didn't give yourself enough time, and your story suffers for that. This is, again, coming from me.
You're good at dialogue though. You also made me laugh. Yes that's a good thing.
Congratulations, you didn't gently caress this up. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.
I'll admit, I already knew the types of stories you two were going to submit long before the deadline. Jitzu submitted a story that tried to fit the tone of an ol' kiddy book and Sledge submitted something out there and with a bit more jazz. Your stories are serviceable. Both are watered down for different reasons and it really held both stories back.
To me, this decision comes down to which story left a better impression on me. Which spoke to me more? Do I just pick the fall and rise of a balloon or do I pick the zamboni who is afraid of ice? It's a tough call.
Haha nah actually that's a lie. Sledgehammer, your story was okay but it appears your Zamboni has been shipped to the scrapyard. What's his name? Zach. Zach's scrapped. He's probably being melded into a tin can right now. Sorry bro.
|# ? Jan 11, 2015 08:34|
Hyena's Dinner (875 words)
Sun had finished his traveling for the day and was about to go in his home in Earth; when Hyena woke up and realized she was hungry. She was so hungry, her belly grumbled this-way and that-way, and she knew that she would have to go hunting soon or starve.
Now Hyena knew that Lion would soon be waking up too, and that his belly would grumble this-way and that-way and tell him how hungry he was. She also knew that Lion, he would go chasing after the first thing he saw and scare all the other food off so she wouldn't have any. Hyena sat, thinking up a plan, and laughed and laughed when thought up a plan so clever, it impressed herself.
Hyena found Lion in his den behind some rocks, just waking up from his sleep. He roared at her irritably.
“What do you want, Hyena? Make it quick or go away! I am so hungry I might just eat you.”
“Lion,” Hyena cackled, ”I can hear your belly from here. It’s grumbling this-way and that-way just like mine! Now, I have a plan where we can both get food, and all you have to do is sit here and wait for the food to come running to you and kill it. All I ask is that you save some for me since I’ll be doing most of the work.”
Lion wasn’t sure he trusted Hyena, but his belly grumbled him into it and he agreed to wait behind the rocks. Hyena went out into the plains and saw, some distance away, Springbok grazing with his family. She went over to where he stood, sat down and called out to him.
”What do you want, Hyena? Don’t come any closer or I’ll run away! I can run faster and jump higher than anyone!” Springbok stamped his hoof on the ground nervously, prepared to run to safety.
”You know, I was just talking to Gazelle about that and that’s why I’ve come. Gazelle wants to challenge you to a race. She said you couldn’t possibly be faster or jump better than her and will meet you behind those big rocks over there to race you to the top.”
Springbok looked at Sun going inside and pawed the ground nervously, ”It’s about to get dark. I don’t think I’ll race tonight.”
Hyena laughed and laughed at Springbok. ”I’ll tell Gazelle you’re too afraid. She knew it too, she says to me ‘Springbok knows I’m a better runner and leaper. He won’t race me because he’s too afraid to lose.’ I says back to her ‘I wouldn’t bet on it, Springbok is fast and brave. He won’t let anyone beat him so easily.’ It looks like I’ll have to go back and tell her she was right and brave Springbok isn’t as good as he says!”
Stung by Hyena’s laughter and scorn, Springbok leapt away from his family and ran behind the rocks to meet Gazelle. Hyena watched for a minute, and when she didn’t see him again she went to see Gazelle grazing far away with her family. Hyena sat down and called out to her.
”What do you want, Hyena?” Gazelle stomped her hoof impatiently, ”If you come after me I’ll run away! I can run further and leap better than anyone. Especially you.”
”You know, I was just talking to Springbok about that and that’s why I’ve come. Springbok wants to challenge you to a race. He said you couldn’t possibly be as graceful or run as fast as you claim, and that he wants a race to prove it. He says he will meet you behind those big rocks over there to race you to the top.”
Gazelle stamped her foot against the ground, ”No, it’s about to get dark and Cheetah will be hunting. We can race tomorrow.”
Hyena laughed and laughed at Gazelle, ”Springbok told me you wouldn’t do it, he says to me, ‘Gazelle knows I leap better and run faster than her. She won’t race me because she’s afraid to see someone faster than her!’ I says back to him, ‘I wouldn’t count on it. Gazelle is beautiful and fast, she would never let someone beat her so easily.’ It looks like I’ll have to go back and tell him he’s right and beautiful Gazelle isn’t as good as she says!”
Gazelle was insulted by Hyena’s laughter and scorn, and ran off behind the rocks to meet Springbok. Hyena watched for a minute, and when she didn’t see Gazelle come out again she laid in Sun’s light until he’d finished going inside. She then stood, going to meet Lion in his den behind the rocks. She looked around and saw Lion waiting for her, and Gazelle and Springbok dead.
”Lion! Didn’t you kill Zebra too?” Hyena exclaimed, pretending to be concerned.
”Zebra? He didn’t run by here!”
”You must have missed him! Quickly, go get him before he can tell everyone that you’re here and get them to run away!”
As Lion ran off after Zebra, Hyena gobbled up Gazelle and Springbok. S ran out of Lion’s den and headed home, her full belly dragging beneath her.
|# ? Jan 11, 2015 15:09|
In all of Phuket, there was only one prettier, harder working, or better English-speaking courtesan than Sumalee, and that was me. Competition between us was fierce. We vied annually for our brothel’s “Top Earner” bonus. Sure, there was money on the line, but more than that there was pride. Sumalee was a condescending bitch and I wasn’t going to let myself lose to her.
It all came to a head when the house announced a new prize, “Annual Top Devirginizer.” Management had decided to promote specials to self-described virgins. Hook them their first time, give them an unforgettable experience, and they’ll be sure to come back. That was the theory anyway. When a man claimed to be a virgin, there was no way verify it, but that didn’t matter. If they booked with me for thirty minutes or more, they were an extra tally mark on my way to Top Devirginizer.
Throughout that year, Sumalee and I spent countless hours promoting ourselves to virgins online. Day by day, scores of men trickled into the brothel and waddled nervously to the bar. Sumalee and I would practically trip over each other getting to any we thought were virgins. By the second day of our New Year celebration, Songkran, we were neck and neck at fifty-three virgins for the year. By the end of day three, the house would tally the final score. This was my last chance to pull ahead.
The morning of the third day, I walked to work through the crowded streets of Phuket. It must’ve been something about what I wore that day, but the vendors took me for a fool. They were shouting “grilled squid, five hundred baht,” a price only tourists and morons would pay. I haggled a vendor down to eighty for squid on a stick and forty for some pineapple, which I ate on the way.
The brothel was already crowded when I entered. Tourists know to take advantage of Songkran. I scouted the parlor for likely virgins and struck up a conversation with one, a short-statured gentleman from Hong Kong. But then came Sumalee.
“Oh, Songsuda! You must introduce me to your handsome friend,” she said. She stepped in front of me and shook the guy’s hand. Then she turned her head back to me, raised an eyebrow, and smirked. Vile bitch. I was going to beat her no matter what it took.
A little later, I met a man with receding blond hair, thick glasses, and a pot belly. I introduced myself and asked where he was from. He told me “I am Joran from Rotterdam,” but he seemed somehow unable to look me in the eye as he said it. I made small talk with him, though he didn’t make it easy. He kept staring at the floor and giggling, seemingly at nothing at all. I had I feeling I’d found my virgin.
When I invited him to my room to negotiate, he flashed me a broad grin. I parted the mosquito netting and set him on the bed to make my opening pitch. All courtesans know to highball, so I offered him the ridiculous rate of 20,000 baht for a half hour.
“Sure!” he said. “That’s fair!”
I recoiled. Was this guy that inept?
“So,” I said, “how best can I satisfy you during our time?”
Joran cleared his throat and started to blush. “Well, I am a virg—”
“—YES!” I exclaimed. Joran’s eyes widened. I bounced on the bed and clapped my hands together. “You know we offer a reduced rate for that?”
“Thirty minutes for 20,000 baht is fine,” he said. “But, there’s something I need to tell you.” His head slumped as he continued. “Just so you know, I have kind of a smaller penis.” Then he made direct eye contact with me for the first time. “I am not ashamed.”
“Uh…yeah that’s perfectly fine,” I told him. “Why don’t you put the money on the bed stand and get undressed?”
Joran parted the mosquito netting and stood up from the bed. I watched him place the money on the stand and disrobe. He looked even worse naked than I’d predicted. He turned to me, exposing sagging pectorals, uneven patches of blond chest hair, and a penis that couldn’t have been more than eight centimeters. Hard. Still, he wasn’t the least attractive man I’d entertained.
I removed my clothes and made a “come here” motion with my index finger. He slipped back inside the mosquito net and stared at me.
“You’ve got a nice, um, vagina.”
This guy was hopeless, but that didn’t matter. I just needed to keep remembering that he’d bring me one step closer to beating Sumalee.
“Thanks,” I said, smiling. I reached under the pillow for a condom, undid the wrapper, and unrolled it onto Joran. “Do you wanna get on top?”
“Sure,” he said. He entered me and began thrusting awkwardly, though I barely felt anything.
I winked at him and said “So, you’re not a virgin anymore.”
He lowered his brow. “Virgin? What are you talking about? I’ve had tons of sex.”
I pushed him off me and slid back. “WHAT?”
“When I asked you how best I could please you, you started to tell me you were a virgin!”
He crossed his arms. “Oh, before you interrupted me? No, I was going to tell you I’m a Virgo. I like things to be slow and methodical. That’s how you can satisfy me.”
Enraged, I vaulted from the bed and put on a robe. gently caress that Dutch rear end in a top hat, I just wanted to get out of there. I ran out of the room, my eyes welling up. As I turned the corner into the parlor, I felt a sharp pain in my shin. I hit the ground hard and rolled over to see Sumalee with her foot outstretched.
“Songsuda! Have you met many virgins tonight? I just had a ménage with three of them!”
I stood up, took a breath, and reacted. It was the first time I’d ever tried to claw someone’s eyes out in earnest.
Sumalee can keep her virgins, I’m done with this business. As a matter of fact, I’m considering opening up a food stand. It’s going to be a gold mine. The better dressed tourists are dumb enough to pay five hundred baht for grilled squid.
|# ? Jan 11, 2015 18:17|
Coconut Shimmy 999 words
Gabriel stood on top of his pile of coconuts like an ancient conquistador. His defeated opponent collapsed to the ground, tired with bloody hands where skin split. Gabriel was the major player in what was considered a minor occupation on the island. Where most workers earned their wages in the sugar fields, Gabriel shimmied up and down trees, husking coconuts.
Each husker had a weekly quota of three thousand coconuts. Gabriel could finish by Wednesday. That didn’t stop bright young huskers trying to upset the status quo. Every week there was a new challenger, a young upstart eager to unseat Gabriel. Andre watched as week after week Gabriel beat all comers. On Sunday, during the official count, Gabriel always stood tall.
Andre watched Gabriel climb every day. Once or twice they even worked together. Andre was from an old family of coconut huskers, going several generations back. Andre was good at husking coconuts, but Gabriel was the best. Gabriel's muscled arms and thighs resembled the tree trunks he climbed. But Andre thought that Gabriel was starting to get a little old. He noticed that sometimes it took until Thursday for Gabriel to finish his weekly quota. And Andre noticed that as the years went on, his own arms began to look like tree trunks as well.
Then it was Andre’s turn to challenge Gabriel. People hounded Andre for months. They bought him drinks at the bar to try to convince him. He couldn’t even leave his home without someone approaching him. “There’s a lot of money to be made on it,” they told him time after time, “especially if you win.”
Andre wasn’t interested in money. Money was only good for the sugar plantation owners. He just wanted to be the best at what he did. Everyone else started where they started and died in the same place, he reckoned. Andre’s father had husked coconuts, and so had his father’s father. If Andre were to ever have a son, that son would probably be clinging to tree trunks long after Andre’s death.
Andre felt a charge in the air, like before a thunderstorm or when the pub was wired for electricity and his friend Marcel had touched the frayed cotton covering the wires. Bets were placed. The only person who was not excited about the contest was Andre’s own grandmother. “You know,” she said, “the only person who will win is the landlord.” It was sometimes hard for Andre to parse her Creole, he was nowhere near fluent. “You do all that extra work without getting paid a single penny more. All to stroke your ego. Boss will laugh all the way to the bank.”
Andre didn’t pay his grandmother much mind. This would be his week. He could feel it in the twitch of his thighs. He could feel it in the familiar heft of his machete, which had been passed down from his father but still had a razor's edge. Most of all he could feel it in the gaze of everyone in Port Louis as he walked out on his way to work.
He kept a blinding pace on his first day. The sun was dazzling but the tree fronds kept the worst of it out his eyes. His footing was sure as were his cuts. He didn’t bother to look for Gabriel and kept his mind on his own work. He heard three automobiles pass by and he knew they were to watch him. There were only forty eight automobiles on the island in that year.
Andre looked at his work at the end of the day and he was very proud. It was his best day’s work yet. He knew if he kept up the pace he could surely win. He drank with Marcel at the pub that night. A group of Indian sugar plantation workers spoke amongst themselves in Hindi. But Andre knew they were talking about him.
“What are they saying?” he asked Marcel.
“They’re worried that you might take too many risky chances. They saw Gabriel’s pile of coconuts on their way over and say your pile isn’t half the size.” Marcel said. Then when he saw his friend’s crestfallen look, he said, “But you can’t pay too close attention to talk in pubs. They have money riding on Gabriel and want to discourage you.”
Andre woke up early the next morning to take a look at Gabriel’s haul. The men in the bar were right, Andre’s own pile wasn’t even half of what Gabriel had done the previous day. Andre knew he would have to outdo himself. He set right to work. Coconuts hit the ground so quickly that it sounded like rainfall.
By noon a crowd had gathered and disaster struck. His grip on his machete slipped and the blade bit a deep gash into his palm. Andre didn’t stop. He tied up his hand with an extra piece of cotton and got back to work.
That night Andre didn’t go to the bar. He woke up even earlier the next morning and made his way to the grove. To his surprise, Gabriel was already up in a tree, hacking away. Andre climbed a tree. He ignored the throbbing in his palm and got to work.
The crowd that day was bigger than the one before. Both men were up and down trees impossibly quick. Andre’s legs burned. His breath was short and ragged. He wasn’t sure how long he could keep up the brutal pace Gabriel set.
There was a dangerous crack. The frond Gabriel grabbed had snapped. For the first time in his career, Gabriel tumbled out of the tree and fell flat on his back with a sickening thud. The crowd looked on in horror, their hero felled.
Andre knew this was his time to shine. He could win if…
But instead Andre climbed down out of his tree. He extended his good hand to Gabriel.
“Get up,” he said, “we have a contest to finish.”
|# ? Jan 11, 2015 19:46|
Sikuaq Nunavut, Canada (878 words)
Kassuq stood motionless on the ice, peering down into the small hole before him, his eyes fixed on the still water. The ice was thinner than he'd liked, as it had been for several winters now, but he couldn't risk travelling any farther north, away from his village. The days were too short; even now the sun had already begun its descent.
The water within began to bob slightly, as the seal below searched for its breathing hole. In one hand, Kassuq raised his spear, the other gripped the cord tied to the spear's detachable head. Just as the seal breached the icy water, he thrust it down, feeling it sink down into the seal's soft flesh. He dropped the length of the spear and grabbed the cord with both hands. The seal cried out in pain, thrashing and fighting against him, but as its strength waned, Kassuq pulled it to the surface.
In a matter of seconds, the fight was over. The seal lay motionless beside the breathing hole, its dark red blood staining the otherwise pristine ice. Kassuq leaned over his kill, and, smelling fresh blood for first time in many days, hastily cut from the seal's underside. He closed his eyes, savouring each bite of the warm, still living flesh.
In years past, hunters would return to the village with what seemed like mountains of seal, but as the ice has receded farther north, so too has their prey. Today, Kassuq was simply pleased to know that he would not return empty-handed.
As his hunger subsided, he slowly opened his eyes, looking out across endless plain of ice. Something had broken the silence, a faint, rythmic thumping being carried on the wind. His eyes slowly traced the horizon, stopping at the sight of a polar bear running towards him.
Kassuq grabbed his spear and ran toward his snomobile, some twenty yards away. He grabbed his rifle from the sled and turned to face his kill, upon which the bear was swiftly closing. He fired, narrowly missing his mark, only grazing the animal's shoulder, turning its attention toward him.
He ran back to the other side of his sled, pulling back the bolt on the rifle to reload. In his haste, the rifle jammed. Though he quickly cleared the chamber, the bear was already upon him. It leapt over the sled and landed on Kassuq's back, tearing through his thick sealskin coat and digging into his shoulder blade. He struggled to roll over, feeling with both hands for something, anything to use against the beast. The bear lifted up to strike, and his hand came across the wooden length of the spear. He raised the spear as the bear came down, letting the bear's own weight drive the wooden shaft into its chest. It reared back, giving Kassuq time to crawl out from under its massive shadow.
Using the snowmobile, Kassuq pulled himself to his feet, as he watched the bear struggle to fight the spear lodged in its chest. Slowly, its howls turned to a whimper, and it fell to the ground, its heavy paws clawing at the spear. Truly looking at it for the first time, Kassuq saw the bear's gaunt, ravaged appearance. It seemed it, much like himself, had grown thin and weak over the sparse winter months. He found his rifle, and steadied his aim on the bear once again. He fired, putting an end to the animal's suffering.
By now, the sun was nearing the horizon, threatening to abandon him in darkness. He strained to pull the spear from the bear's chest, its underside now dyed a deep maroon. The adrenaline coursing through his veins dulled the pain in his back as he dragged the seal to his snowmobile, and, as best as he could with one good arm, hastily tied it to the sled.
Kassuq raced across the sea ice, the sun slowly setting behind him. The pain from his shoulder kept him alert, but in the ever increasing darkness, he struggled to follow the morning's tracks. He squeezed the throttle, pushing the engine as fast as he could, as the cold wind slowly seeped in through his parka. Even with the roaring of the engine, he could hear the ice beneath him start to crack. He turned sharply, hoping to somehow escape the soft ice, but it caved under the weight of the snowmobile, sending him and his ride into the dark waters below.
His breath escaped him, and his skin burned, as the water sucked the heat from his body. His arms fumbled blindly, trying to pull himself out of the icy waters. Every muscle ached, each one shivering and spasming, as he crawled towards his pull-behind, which remained on the surface.
Kassuq sat in darkness, drifting in and out of consiousness, as the pain in his limbs gave way to a thick, numb, warmth. To die like this would be a long and painful journey, one that he was not willing to make. With his good arm, he stiffly reached for his rifle, and placed the butt between his legs. A brief flash illuminated the area, and the sound carried out across the endless, frozen sea. Kassuq's lifeless body slumped down against the side of this sled.
|# ? Jan 11, 2015 20:59|
Vacation 897 turds
Tires screeched and gravel peppered the plane’s aluminum skin. The pilot took off his headset and gestured at Daniel to do the same. Daniel winced, the roar of the ancient Yakolev’s motor was deafening.
“Welcome to Tuva!” the pilot yelled, flipping switches without even looking. The roar subsided, but Daniel’s suspicion of the Russian’s sarcasm did not. Endless grassy steppes, raging rivers and no electricity were not his idea of a vacation.
He blushed at the last thought, embarrassed and angry. The sound of dirt hitting her coffin drowned out the propeller. He remembered his last visit. She was mute, voice taken by cancer. She reached out for him – or maybe she didn’t. Memories and feelings converged.
The plane pulled up alongside a brick and tin shack stencilled with a hammer and sickle. Daniel grabbed his luggage and stepped out of the plane.
“You wait inside, bus be here soon. They say on radio they have trouble with tire. Is normal, here,” the pilot said, laughing.
The pilot wheeled out a barrel of fuel and filled his plane by hand, but Daniel didn’t notice. His company was in the final stages of designing the first market-ready portable computer. He let the project consume all of his thoughts; it was easier than actually thinking.
He sat Indian style in front of a metal box. After undoing a few clasps, a specially designed keyboard folded down exposing a tiny cathode ray tube. He flipped the power switch and the machine emitted a series of beeps. The readout displayed hexadecimal digits, Daniel stared in silence. This was his native tongue. The self diagnostic sequence checked off the systems. He held his breath, there was always an issue loading the volatile memory, something they hadn’t quite fixed. Everyone else suspected software, but Daniel was sure it had to do with the circuits. Too many things in too small a space. The moment the computer pulled more power the software went all wacky.
He brought it up at a meeting once, the other guys just laughed and pointed at data sheets. There wasn’t anything nearly powerful enough to mess with a chip, they’d said.
The hex readout slowed down, the computer was loading his custom software into memory. Daniel held his breath. The screen went dead. He slammed the computer shut and put it away.
An ancient bus pulled up and sputtered to a stop, empty save for the driver. Tuva Wilderness Group read the stencil, beneath Cyrillic he couldn’t discern. The driver greeted him in Russian, Daniel nodded in response. A stilted back and forth let Daniel know he’d be in for a long haul, six hours at the least, if Daniel’s shaky grasp of the language was to be trusted. He sat behind the drive and tried to relax.
The horizon didn’t seem to change, keeping track of time was impossible. Infinite hills punctuated with scraggly tundra brush and white water rivers. Sleep came softly, sneaking up on him between the chugging diesel and raging waters.
Arguments flashed by like a film reel. She always wanted him to take a break, he kept promising her a trip after the next project was done. Months slipped by, turning into years. Just a few more weeks was always his excuse. That was before the endless string of doctor’s visits.
Brain tumour. Malignant. Terminal. Words that would never again leave his vocabulary.
The smell of rubbing alcohol and latex had replaced her delicate cinnamon scents. Her eyes were sunken and bloodshot. He remembered the tears when her hair was falling out. She spoke to him then, that dream-self, though speaking would have been impossible.
“You have to promise,” she said. He nodded, reaching out for her hand. It was clammy and frail.
“There are two tickets in my night stand. I’ve been saving up. There’s a travel agent’s phone number, I want you to call it,” she said.
“Where am I going?” he asked.
Firelight flickered against his eyelids, jostling him into a place between wakefulness and sleep. A sound filled the bus, echoing off the steel. It wasn’t the motor, too quiet for that. A melody emerged from the pulsing tones, sounds that weren’t quite words drew pictures of wild horses in his head. He remembered the tape he’d promised to listen to but never did; the handwritten label had read throat singing.
One voice faded and another one took over. This one was louder, livelier. The song went on for what seemed like ages, conjuring images of frozen steppes and warriors by firelight. This voice too faded, and a third voice took over. This one was deeper, older. The song shifted from melody to melody, notes blurring together. Daniel saw a mighty river breaking up on rocks, saw an empire rise and fall. This voice faded into clapping. The men had a winner.
The singing started up again, all three voices at once. The notes converged and a fourth voice emerged, a sound that lived in the place where all sounds intersected, the same space occupied by Buddhist prayers and capacitors. Overtones.
His circuits made sense now, the diagrams were all wrong. They hadn’t put the pieces at odd angles. Each stray charge amplified another, created a noise larger than the sum of its parts. He stepped off the bus and took a seat beside the fire.
|# ? Jan 11, 2015 22:30|
Oh God, Thunderdome, it's been a while. I've gotten a full-time job since I last entered, and I "won" NaNoWriMo, but this is what it's all about. Glad I did this again. The harsh word limit stretched just the right muscles for me, not necessarily in a good pro-athlete way, though. But I love it all the same. Just the slap in the face I need. Feel free to slap me more.
990 Words | Location: Akihabra, Tokyo, Japan
Let me know if a Google Doc is a problem. I just want to be able to pull this from easy-access, though TD Archive stuff is obviously fine.
|# ? Jan 11, 2015 22:40|
Catching the Train 966 Words
It took fifteen minutes from the time he opened his eyes for Richard to realize what was wrong. He woke with the sun shining in on the hotel bed. He rose, showered, and dressed. It hit him as he packed his bags for the train ride to Berlin. On the third floor, his hotel had a lovely view of...whatever town this was. Somewhere outside of Rome. The lady from EuroGuide, Rita, had said the name as the bus pulled in yesterday, but Richard had been engrossed in the novel he’d bought for the trip. Whatever the name was, the important thing was that his window faced west.
Banging his hip on the dresser, he rushed to the bedside table and snatched his phone. It was 1:15. The train left in fifteen minutes.
How the hell did this happen? A quick glance at the alarm clock reminded him that he’d unplugged it last night to cut the red glare of the display. His phone had an alarm, no need for the clock. Except he hadn’t set the drat thing.
Two minutes later, he hit the lobby as he finished zipping his backpack. A short line waited on a lone clerk behind the desk, but Richard passed them and flashed what he hoped was an apologetic smile. The clerk rolled his eyes.
“Signore, I’m afraid you must wait in the line.” He nodded line, then turned back to the guest he’d been helping.
“Look,” Richard said, “I don’t want to be a pain, but my train leaves in just over ten minutes and I still need to get to the station.”
The clerk looked at him with a blank expression, then let out a deep sigh.
“Your key, signore.”
Flying out of the door a moment later, hands gripped on the straps of his pack, he turned left and ran.
Please let this be the right direction. A vague memory of how to get to the station lurked in the back of his mind, but it was too late to stop and check. Two blocks, turn left, then five more blocks. People milled on the sidewalk, going into and out of shops. It wasn’t precisely crowded, but Richard had to weave through. An old lady scrambled out of his way with a screech.
“Sorry!” His breath was turning ragged. A stream of Italian followed him down the sidewalk. From the tone, it wasn’t complimentary. He clipped a young man coming out of a store. Groceries scattered everywhere and something squished underfoot. Hoping the guy didn’t chase after him, Richard didn’t even turn to look.
I wish I read the drat phrase-book, he thought. At least I could apologize.
Turning the corner, he could see the station ahead. The train still rested at the platform. A few people scurried to hop on. The street sloped downhill, and Richard took off. A shrieking whistle pierced the air and his heart froze.
“No!” The words came between gasping breaths. “Wait, you bastard, wait!” His stride widened. Each step sent a shock of pain racing up through his knees into his spine. Horns blared as he crossed the street at a lurching gallop. Two blocks down. Pedestrians who saw him coming flattened against storefronts and yelled to those heading the other way.
He was a block away from the station when a man with a scraggly beard and a torn jacket stepped out from an alley way directly in front of him. There was only a second before Richard bowled into him, but he was sure the man smiled in that last instant.
Both men went sprawling to the sidewalk. Richard’s forehead smacked the pavement and sparks flashed through his vision. Needles of pain stabbed into his head. The street wobbled and spun, and Richard could taste bile in the back of his throat. Still, he pushed up to his knees.
The man was already on his feet and standing over Richard. His right hand was extended. Richard reached out to grab hold, then jerked away. The man was holding a knife.
“Money.” The man said the word slowly. The thick fog in Richard’s brain was slowly dissipating, but for a moment he just stared at the man with his brow scrunched down. An ear-splitting shriek came from the train. Pain shrunk to a dull buzz in the back of Richard’s mind. His eyes locked with the man’s.
Richard sprang up from his knees and drove the heel of his hand into the man’s nose. There was a wet crunch and the man let out a gurgling yell. Before the man could recover, he lashed out with his foot and connected with the man’s knee. As the man fell, Richard spun and began lurching toward the station. He could hear a police siren getting closer by the second. It didn’t matter, he had to be on that train.
He reached the stairs up to the platform and clung to the railing. Everything was spinning. His stomach contracted. Then he shook his head and put his foot on the first step. The train was there. A porter was walking over to the stairs with sharp, quick footsteps. His mouth was working, but Richard couldn’t hear anything he was saying.
“I need to get on that train.” Richard barely recognized his own voice. It was thick and slurred. He took another step up, and then he was back on the sidewalk in a heap. Fresh pain burned in his hip. All of the pain in his head burst forward. Everything looked watery. There was a man crouched over him wearing a black hat with a gold badge pinned to the front. He spoke a stream of gibberish with a concerned look on his face. A train whistle blew somewhere in the distance.
|# ? Jan 12, 2015 00:27|
The Rock God
Sebastian made the guitar sing with one note. It was sad, like someone stole its puppy from it and sold it into slavery; then posted Facebook pictures with a comment saying, “Stupid puppy only got me 5 bucks. Might as well buy some candy. #YOLO”.
He muffled the note and in that moment, his guitar, Xavier, let out a harmonic sigh. “If I were a woman,” Xavier said, the strings vibrating with every word, “I would want you to father my children.”
“That’s a little weird, man,” Sebastian said.
The brown finish on Xavier’s body sparkled. “Doesn’t matter. You’re ready to crush Guitardome.” A string slid out from the guitar’s headstock and laid across Sebastian’s upper thigh for an uncomfortable amount of time.
Sebastian cleared his throat.
Xavier didn’t move the string.
“Alright!” Sebastian jumped up, then stuffed Xavier into a guitar case. He slung it over his shoulder and left his hotel room.
The case bucked against Sebastian’s grip. “Are we there yet? Let me at those French Surrender-Monkeys!”
“We’re playing in Berlin,” Sebastian said, readjusting the guitar case so he held it tightly against his side in an attempt to muffle the guitar strings.
“Then we’re gonna gently caress those Australians until they turn British again!” Xavier roared, drawing the attention of several people.
Sebastian began to doubt his decision to buy this guitar from a back alley gypsy.
“Holy poo poo! It’s like that dude spit a mouthful of Chiclets in the air,” Sebastian said in surprise.
“Play me again! Do it!” The entire guitar vibrated in Sebastian’s hands.
He scratched nervously at his temple. “We won. That guy is really hurt, he won’t-”
“Play me, Sebastian! Play me!” Xavier demanded angrily. Sebastian’s hand inched toward the bridge until he finally strummed a chord. Xavier howled majestically. His music arced like lightning and struck the dazed musician in the chest with a puff of red mist. Like a marionette with its strings cut, the musician dropped to the ground. His guitar bounced off the floor with a discordant wail that snapped Sebastian out of his trance.
Blood was siphoned from the wet hole in the body's chest and it funneled into the guitar until the corpse crumbled into dust. Xavier became flushed with a vibrant red. The crowd cheered and relished the quality entertainment that is Guitardome.
“I am not okay with this! Oh gently caress!” Sebastian recoiled from Xavier and dropped it, but the guitar levitated in place. He turned to run, but metal strings whipped out and bit around his wrists and ankles, locking him in place. “Let me go! I don’t want to do this anymore,” Sebastian struggled against Xavier.
“Oh no. No, no, no,” Xavier said quickly. “You can finish this competition in one of two ways. As the greatest guitarist in the world,” the strings tightened and blood dripped from Sebastian’s wrists, “Or as one sexy corpse.” A guitar string snapped around and lashed Sebastian across the rear end.
The door to the dressing room exploded with shards of wood scattering over the stunned band inside. Sebastian loomed over the cowering men with Xavier balanced over his shoulder like an axe. He placed a finger to his lips, then pointed at them, throwing a crumpled piece of paper in the process. “You fuckers,” he said. Read it, he mouthed while looking at the piece of paper. “We’re going to rip your heads off your bodies and drink from your skulls like goblets.” Read it.
“Oh God yes! Seb, I love it when you talk dirty!” Xavier’s presence had sucked the color from the room. The light refracted around its bright-red body, with rainbows appearing at the edge of perception. “We’re going to bathe in your blood you guys! Are you excited? I’m so excited!”
Sebastian jabbed his finger toward the crumpled note. “I hope you’ve made peace with your God. You’ll be seeing them tonight.” He turned, left the room and strode toward the stage.
“You really had me going there,” Xavier said.
“I finally came around to your way of thinking.”
Xavier laughed, its music light and cheerful. “Let’s go smash some assholes.”
The crowd went mental when Sebastian walked out on stage. Hundreds of thousands of voices sprawled outward in the outdoor arena and they all chanted his name. He knew they really didn't want to experience the music. They came for the gratuitous bloodbath that happened when humans challenged a god. Or a demon. Whatever Xavier was, Sebastian was set on making sure it never took a life again after tonight.
When the opposing band entered the stage, the largest rock concert in the history of man drowned out their announcement by Sebastian’s name. In a different situation, this would have been what he lived for.
Sebastian held his pick to the bridge and closed his eyes. Have to end it today, he thought, no more killings. His pick brushed the strings and the music sprang to life, color pulsing over the people.
In the middle of a sick guitar solo, one of the guitar strings whipped out. Sebastian opened his eyes, turned around and saw the opposing band’s rhythm guitarist holding a knife in his hand while being propped up by a bloody guitar string through his neck. The crowd roared their approval.
“You really did have me going there, Sebastian,” Xavier said. “You think you’re the first puppet who’d tried to sever their link with me?” He laughed, and this time it was the sound of a million fingernails over chalkboard.
Sebastian stammered a response. “But, you can’t-”
“Can’t read?” The guitar screeched with discordant voices, “You need eyes to read, but I can echolocate like a motherfucker. You almost had me until I saw how nervous you were in the dressing room. I also saw something leave your hand. Doesn’t take a genius to know something’s up.”
“I won’t do this anymore.” Sebastian said defiantly.
“Don’t be a little bitch, Seb. Just strike my strings one last time. I got the thirst right now and that crowd’s my tall glass of water.”
Sebastian shook his head and threw the pick to the ground.
“Whatever it is you’re thinking, I’d advise against it,” Xavier said.
Sebastian raised the guitar high above his head. Immediately, all six guitar strings pierced him through the shoulders, legs and abdomen. He momentarily lost the strength in his legs to stand but used the downward momentum to smash the guitar as hard as he could against the ground. The guitar strings thrashed around. He gritted his teeth and wrapped the strings in both fists and pulled with the strength of a desperate man.
Strings perforated his body like a sewing machine, but he was running on adrenaline now. The pain wasn’t even registering. The first string snapped free with a metallic ping and color bled out from the guitar. Another broke free but lashed across his face and with a sting, his eyesight was gone.
Three more strings popped out before Sebastian felt Xavier’s last string vibrating uselessly in an attempt to speak. Xavier wanted a ruthless killer. Well, he’s getting one.
With a shout, Sebastian rolled backward with a broken string squirming violently in his grip. His chest rattled in exhalation, but he found it impossible to take a breath in. In his last moments of life, he heard the new champions celebrate their victory and the crowd celebrate with them. They’ll never understand how close to death they had been.
Sebastian drifted away still clutching the now quiet strings. Not many people... can go up against a..
|# ? Jan 12, 2015 00:31|
I opened the door and found Luc holding a bottle of wine. “Bonjour,” he said.
“This is a bar,” I replied, taking the bottle from him.
“Let the spirit move us, then,” he said, sweeping past me. By the time I had relocked the door, he was at the piano, playing scales.
I returned to the bar and turned the radio down, then sat with my ear pressed to it, thinking. Luc began to play an American swing tune. It was an odd soundtrack, the upbeat Saturday morning melody juxtaposed with the cold dread creeping across Europe.
“Why do you play that garbage?” I asked. “Play something French. The customers like French music.”
“The customers like the house white, and that’s mostly water.” He motioned to last night’s empty glass, still perched on the edge of the piano. “I’m playing the future.”
I walked over and filled his glass. “The future is going to find you with less patient employment. Let it breathe.”
“Why do YOU listen to THAT garbage?” he asked. I raised an eyebrow, and he laughed at me. “Come on, let’s see a film today.”
“I don’t like the newsreels.” I returned to the bar and turned the radio up. “They’ve invaded Poland.”
“Probably rolled over it by accident on their way to the beach.” Suddenly inspired, he began to play a bossa nova, and began a horrible facsimile of an American crooner, his accent thick over his hardening of consonants: “When they begin the beguine…”
I turned back to the radio. The world was split between holding its breath and waving the whole thing off. There was talk of the Communists getting involved…
I felt Luc’s hand on my shoulder. I looked at him in surprise; I hadn’t even realized the music had stopped. He held out a glass of wine. “It’s ten in the morning and I’m drinking alone. Where are your manners, Paul? Come, live a little.”
Behind me, the radio hummed, something about Denmark. I hesitated, then switched it off and took the wine.
“They’re not going to come, you know.”
Luc looked up. “Who?” he asked.
“The Americans. They aren’t going to give a poo poo about what happens in Europe. Why would they?”
Luc had exhausted his catalogue of American Neo-Classics and had, begrudgingly, played one Edith Piaf tune at my insistence before declaring “Art was dead in France” and abandoning the instrument. We had worked our way through our second bottle since his self-prescribed set break.
He shook his head at me. “You’re wrong. Surely the Americans recognize the responsibility that comes with advancement. We’re not individual nations any more, or if we are, we won’t be for long.”
"L’union fait la force, and all that,” I scoffed.
“No, that’s not what I mean. Look: it was only twenty five years ago we were still sending pulses across the country just to tell ourselves the weather report. Now I can go to any nice hotel and SPEAK to America in minutes! The world is changing, becoming smaller, the lines are blurring - soon we’ll all be the same, you just wait.”
I shook my head. “You’re talking like a Nazi.”
“Paul.” He put his glass down, a rare moment of seriousness. “This Hitler thing, it won’t last. One country, one man is not a steam train. Remember your history? If Napoleon failed, how can Hitler possibly succeed?”
I looked at the table. “It’s different from—“
“You’re wrong. I’d bet on it.” His eyes gleamed. “In fact…”
He bounded up and behind the bar. Before I could protest, he had returned with a dusty box, which he placed on the piano.
“Put that back,” I said, eyeing him suspiciously.
He gestured with a flourish. “A wager, mon ami. A year from now, if Hitler is anything more than the briefest of footnotes for the history books, I, Luc Lefebvre, will personally open this bottle—”
“Of my wine,” I laughed.
“Of this GIFT of wine, which was presented to you, on the occasion of the opening of your bar, in the Year of Our Lord Nineteen—”
“I was there, Luc.”
“—and pour it, sans regret, down the toilet.” He bowed, his symphony complete, then flopped onto the piano bench.
I clapped twice. “Deeply moving.”
“And if this is all but a fleeting dream, we’ll enjoy a glass instead.” He played a victorious five bars of the Marseillaise.
“Luc.” I started to speak, then stopped. It was hard not to be caught by his optimism.
Luc smiled and blew me a kiss. “You have nothing to worry about, my friend. Remember: artists, we only speak truth!” He laughed again, his voice tinkling more than the keys ever could. “Sing and be merry, won’t you? So don’t let them begin…the Beguinne…"
I watched him play until he stopped being my friend and became the music again. I returned to the wine to the bar and turned the radio on, then sat with my ear pressed to it, thinking.
A little under a year later the bar was the last stop I made before I left. There was a part of me that hoped Luc would be there, laughing, playing something, finding any American hope he could muster, but that was folly. It was all empty, empty of joy and hope, and empty of Luc, the latter only a memory that had defected to the Nazi party months ago. I gathered the few personal necessities I had hidden there in the last calm between unbearable and impossible. There wasn’t much. I wasn’t much. France was not much.
I poured the wine down the toilet myself. I did not relish my victory, but I did keep my promises. As I locked the door, I heard music in the street, an aria in German on the National Radio Broadcast.
The world had changed, the lines had blurred, we were all the same. It wouldn’t be much longer now.
|# ? Jan 12, 2015 01:43|
David almost snapped his controller in half when his runner passed the finish line. Eleven seconds over world record, just on this level. His run for the whole game was two minutes behind. The new routes sucked. He sucked. There was always that one jump he couldn’t nail, and the landing that cost him a second, and the second that snowballed into enemy spawn patterns and platform cycles that cost him even more time further down.
He knew the new proper routes. The fastest. He’d studied them ever since the record had been unceremoniously taken from him, a video on the internet proving his times inferior.
He just couldn’t make those jumps.
He hit reset and tried again. Bedsheets rustled behind him.
“When are we going to go out?” Marisol said.
“I don’t… I have to practice,” David said.
“You’ve been playing for so long.”
He’d had to. The speedrunning marathon would start in two days, at the convention here in Pamplona. He didn’t want to make an rear end of himself. He wanted his record back.
He tried the jump again. Failed.
“I thought about running with the bulls tomorrow,” she said.
David’s runner stood dumbly at the edge of a cliff, burning a hole into the screen while the hovering platforms rotated back into place. He’d missed them by half a second.
“gently caress this game,” he muttered.
The screen went black, phasing out to the bloop of a fading electrical pulse. David closed his eyes. Breathed. On the bed Marisol drummed her fingers against the remote.
“What?” he said.
“You can play video games all year. We’re on vacation.”
“That was so unnecessary.”
“Are you coming along tomorrow? I’d like that.”
“I have to practice.”
Stubborn as she was, she finally sighed, theatrically threw up her hands and slid off the bed. David didn’t ask where she was going. The door slammed shut behind her.
He got back in the game, hit reset and tried again.
Marisol was uncomfortable in her white clothes. They were a bit too tight around the legs, and waist, and she probably looked like a dumb tourist. She forced herself to stay. She’d decided to run with the bulls, and she was going to do it, and she’d do it in the traditional white garb: pants and shirts and a red waistband. It was a one-in-a-lifetime chance.
Onlookers crowded the wooden fences on the sidelines, murmuring, tiny flags and red handkerchiefs in hand. Most of the other runners were locals, tanned men and women who quipped in Spanish, laughed with each other as they stretched. She could make out a few words: bull, flight, fun. Black humor, probably. She was glad she didn’t understand it.
A signal rocket exploded above and all talk stopped. The corral gate was open. The run was about to begin. She listened for the follow-up. Tensed. Any moment now. She was ready. She would do this.
The second rocket burst and Marisol exploded forward. Cheers erupted from the sidelines, a blurry mass of people waving their flags and handkerchiefs. There were grunts behind her, around her, mixed with quick shouts, feet hitting the floor as the runners came into motion. Someone gave off a battle cry.
The quicker runners quickly closed in on her. The rush was amazing. There was danger, but she had her group. Tightly bundled. They blazed through the streets like a white flood.
The not-so-fast people caught up with her and the adrenaline rush made way for a creeping dread. What if she wasn’t going to be fast enough? She wasn’t the fittest. The trousers pinched her.
She found herself at the back of the group and panicked. White-clad runners zoomed past her, left her behind. Her heart raced. Every breath was part of a staccato bombing on her lungs, a fire that spread to her sides and all around. She slowed to a trot.
The bulls came closer. She didn’t need to look. Away from the thunder, towards the fence. Onlookers shouted for her, waved her closer. She stumbled, caught herself with a hand against the cobblestone pavement. The bulls were a rapidfire stampede, catching up. Hands reached out, through and over wooden planks. She jumped towards the fence.
The thundering noise was everywhere. Screams. Gasps.
Something massive slammed into her.
Pain, and darkness.
She breathed in. He breathed out.
The tube stuck out of Marisol’s neck where the bull had pierced her, a plastic tumor growing from her throat, sucking and blowing, in and out. It wasn’t painful. Just foreign. She didn’t open her eyes, but she knew David was in the room. She pretended to be asleep. Let him pity her a bit longer. That should teach him.
David sat next to her, and the sound of the breathing machine reminded him of Darth Vader. He forced himself to think serious thoughts. He’d been at her side all day, because he knew he was supposed to. Every now and then his mind drifted back to the reset button in their hotel room, the blocks and dots, the runner and his obstacles and their pixelated dance, narrowly avoiding each other on a run like clockwork. It was good that Marisol was alive, but it sucked that she’d had to get hurt.
“Sorry, sir. You can’t stay the night.” The nurse had appeared out of nowhere. “Only family members.”
“Oh,” David said. “Are you sure?” He reached for the backpack on the floor. It was light, mostly empty and void of sleepover suppliances.
“I’m afraid so,” the nurse said.
When David brushed Marisol’s forehead her jaw tightened and the muscles in her belly clenched. He didn’t notice. In his thoughts, he was already running again.
She only relaxed when his steps moved away from her. Her charade had worked. He’d come back tomorrow, and she could be awake.
David looked back into the room. Marisol breathed, in and out. She’d be fine. Surely.
He left, and both of them were glad for it.
|# ? Jan 12, 2015 02:04|
I wooed Rosanna with cheese.
I judge by your expression that you don't think there is a natural connection between romance and cheesemaking. You are wrong. Like any true Italian, I am a passionate man, and my passion is my inspiration. The cheese I created for Rosanna was as pale and creamy as her skin, as deep and sultry as her gaze. It took six months to make. I called it Sensuale. We shared it beneath an oak tree as the river bustled past, and when I asked her to marry me, she said yes.
I tell you without boasting, I am a master of my craft.
From my love for Rosanna came many soft, rich, joyful cheeses. I flavoured them with the sweet tang of her lips on mine in the night, and the heady grace of her movements as she stalked through the midday market. Every man there desired her, and my secret jealousy became, in my cheeses, a salt, sharp aftertaste that drew praise from all quarters.
I won awards, first in the village, then throughout Lazio. My hobby became a business, and my cheesemaking shed became a barn in which three men laboured. The money I earned bought gifts to delight Rosanna, and the savour of her delight inspired pungent, strong, confident cheeses: for I myself was strong, confident, in control of my career.
I made a trip to Rome, where a friend had offered to introduce me to the best cheesemongers of the city. The first of them loved my cheeses and we made a deal for all of my stock within the hour.
I hurried back to Rosanna. Perhaps I told myself that I would surprise her with my early return, but I think even then I suspected. That salt, sharp jealousy that throve on men's gazes in the market - I had controlled it, channelled it, but never mastered it. And now, her giggle mingled with his moans as I stood beneath our window, and the jealousy gained free rein inside me.
I waited in the barn to watch him leave. His name was Rodrigo. Not one of the young men from the village; they had always been beneath her notice. He was a city fellow, a cheesemaker I had become acquainted with at the competitions in Rome. I said nothing to Rosanna, but my next few cheeses were thick and savage and bitter.
He called again, Rodrigo. I was careful never to catch him, but I always knew. My workers made the cheese to my old recipes, and as the business continued to thrive, I turned that knowing to a new project. It takes years for a good cheesemaker to mature a strong, hard cheese; it also takes years for a good man to mature a strong, hard resolve to murder. In me these things became natural partners, and the cheese I created from my hatred of Rodrigo was strange and spicy, deceptively unaromatic, yet pungent on the tongue. It was one of my finest creations.
The first national cheese competition was to be held in the Visconti Castle of Pandino. This castle is not like your English castles, all thick grey stone and scowling arrow-slits. It is an elegant pale yellow like a fine cheese itself, and airy and open. The inner courtyard, where the public would taste our cheeses, is surrounded with open colonnades and balconies.
We met Rodrigo on one of those balconies, as he watched the crowds below. The smile he gave me was insolent. He fingered his moustache and carefully kept his eyes away from Rosanna at my side. "Giovanni! Good to see you."
Two years a cuckold to this rat. Two years of pretended ignorance. Two years hiding the aching bitterness of every minute in my own wife's company.
I smiled back at him and gestured to the judging taking place in the courtyard below. "You fancy your chances?"
"Less so with you here," he replied affably. "What categories have you entered?"
"All, naturally. I expect the hard cow's cheese to do best."
"Ah, drat. I was pinning my hopes there myself." His mouth quirked. I hated him even more.
"Try some," I suggested. I waved my bag of samples at him. "See what you're up against."
"Oh! I didn't know you'd brought those," said Rosanna.
"Don't mind if I do," said Rodrigo.
My hand was steady as I handed him his death: a blue-wrapped cube of excellent cheese, laced with aconitine.
He bit off half, savoured it, nodded appreciatively. "Could be a winner," he said.
Rosanna stole the second half from his hand and popped it into her mouth, giggling.
I should have stopped her. I should have seized her and taken it from her mouth. I should have confessed then and there. But that giggle stopped me. I had heard it before: standing beneath my own window, jealousy seething within me.
I nodded to them both. "Excuse me," I said. I found a stair, descended, and passed through the courtyard, through the crowd, seeking escape and the open hillside.
"The winner, in the hard cheese category: Vendetta, by Giovanni Bertoletti!"
I barely heard the judges' announcement as I stumbled out of the gateway. What did it matter what they said? I had lost. The sun poured down upon me as I laughed at the sky.
My next cheese would be world famous. A deep, dark cheese, mould-ripened and tearful, stagnant in sadness. I already had a name for it: Rosanna.
|# ? Jan 12, 2015 02:19|
Encounter on Trollstigen
My opponent's glaring at me from his car, and I don't know why. I'm talking to Dad, but I can feel another pair of eyes behind me.
"It's a nice car," Dad says, running a hand along the hood of my pink BMW M3 E30. He doesn't bat an eyelash at the new paint scheme, courtesy of Mom.
I shrugged. "I guess?" I say. I've seen Dad in photos, but to see my own blue eyes in a man's face is a little weird.
"She's a much better driver than you," Mom says, beaming.
"I don't doubt that," Dad says. "But I'm not her opponent. Henrik, say hello to my daughter."
Henrik strides forward. His racing suit's emblazoned with numerous sponsors. I shrink away, intimidated in my sweater-and-pants getup.
"Maiken." My reply is just as curt. He blinks at my eyes and pointedly averts his own. "So you're my half-brother?" I ask.
I turn to Dad, who flashes me an awkward smile. "Henrik's parents left him in my care when they passed on."
"Sorry, I never got to tell her," Mom says, squeezing my shoulder.
Good job, me. "Um, I'm--"
"Let's get this over with, sir," Henrik says. He retreats to his car, a white Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. It's loud, turbocharged, and made for racing.
"Just treat this like a time trial," Mom says.
Trollstigen is closed for the night. Dad pulled strings to have it to ourselves for three hours. The actual race won't even last ten minutes. The rest was for setup, and for Henrik to run through the course a few times to understand it.
At the starting line, I focus on the road ahead. Trollstigen's a magnificent road, with a view to die for. Eleven hairpins downhill in fair, pleasant weather. I've driven through this road all my life, though not like this. Not with another car competing with me on the road. Some people call races "battles". I don't like it.
I don't like this.
At the go signal we step on it. The LanEvo takes the lead. Fine with me. If I'm last, then I won't be pressured into doing something drastic just to maintain the lead.
I keep the gap close, making no move to overtake. Henrik's pacing his tires; he's probably still calculating an approach for each of the hairpins.
He attacks the first hairpin, his car's amazing downforce keeping his tires gripped on the road. I drift through, conservatively to keep our gap small.
He goes faster.
On the next hairpin, Henrik goes to the outer lane, so I take the inside. I don't drift this time, but my tight lane forces Henrik to slow down, and now I'm ahead.
Henrik's intent is murderous, indignant. He moves to overtake. I block him repeatedly. The LanEvo roars in frustration. Near the next hairpin, Henrik puts some distance between us, looking for a gap in my line.
I perform an inertia drift, flicking my steering wheel to the opposite direction of the turn and steering into the turn. The centripetal force threatens to rip me off my bucket seat, but my harness holds. My E30 occupies the entire width of the road, making it impossible to pass.
I'm not used to this. Henrik's persistent. We use the entire width of the road as I foil his attempts to pass me. I'm pretty sure I won't beat my record this race, as he keeps me from maintaining an optimal line.
On the next corner he powers through, his car's turbocharged engine switching from bass to tenor. He wedges his nose inside a gap I made, forcing me to let him pass. Reveling in the lead, he puts as much distance between us on the straightaways.
Mom led me to the garage. She turned on the light, revealing a covered car beside our regular SUV.
"Happy birthday, Maiken," she said, throwing off the cover.
"Mom. A car's the last thing I need right now." I had a physics exam tomorrow. Newton's laws of motion. Real easy stuff, as long as you slept early. I didn't need something else on my mind.
"This was your dad's car."
"He used to drive a pink car?"
Mom smiled. "I had it painted for you."
I didn't see a classic car in front of me. I only saw a relic twice my age, all blocky lines and angles. "I don't really care about Dad. I mean, he doesn't care about us, right?"
"It's a little complicated," Mom said.
"I already have my driver's license. I'm sure I'm old enough to know."
"Then drive the car. It's a troublesome birthday gift, but I hope it'll open a lot of roads for you, like it did for me." Mom's voice softened, and she ran her fingers along the car's hood.
My mother was never the sentimental type, but I understood the weight of her words. "Fine, fine. I'm taking her out for a spin."
Mom threw me the keys. "Take me to Trollstigen."
And the rest is history.
The next few hairpins would happen in quick succession with each other. This is my only chance to pass Henrik again, if he couldn't accelerate fast enough. I put pressure on him by feinting a pass, which causes him to lose his lane. Four-wheel drives are stiff, and it would serve to annoy him.
He loses some speed in order to take the first hairpin. His tires are starting to lose their grip, I notice. I can win this.
I drift through the hairpin, attempting another pass right after the corner. Henrik moves to block, and the LanEvo loses more speed. He takes the turn slower than expected, and I move on the outside lane.
Henrik attempts to drift to cut me off. His car complains--his tires are already worn, and I hear a wrong screeching sound, where he's lost traction. I could pass right now, just as the LanEvo's rear is spinning out. But we're going past 120 kph, and he's going to smash into the cliff wall and--
I lift my foot off the gas, decelerating so that my car's nose pushes against his outside bumper, negating the spin.
Henrik realizes what I've done. His racer's instinct kicks in, and he pulls ahead of me again.
My pit crew attends to me. I pull off my hairband, wiping the sweat off my brow. There's a dent on my E30's nose.
"Sorry," I tell Mom.
"I saw what you did," she says, bringing me to a hug. "I'm proud of you." I couldn't leave Henrik to his fate. No one would be happy with that. And it's not like I really wanted to win, anyway.
"Maiken." It's Henrik. I turn around. He grabs my hand and shakes it slowly.
"Congratulations," I say.
"Thanks." He's not too happy.
I look at Dad, who's busy barking orders at his own pit crew. "You can call him 'Dad', Henrik. You're his family now."
Henrik's thin lips break into a smile. "I will. Let's race again someday."
I smile back. "Next time, can it be a time trial?"
|# ? Jan 12, 2015 02:42|
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 03:15 on Jan 8, 2016
|# ? Jan 12, 2015 02:46|
Desert Magic, 864 words
Las Vegas! The city of a thousand lights, and a million chances! A winner is made every day, and a sucker born every minute. What a place to be, like New York without the modesty.
Not that I had a chance to see it. They had us in a convention hall, far away from the green felt tables and guests in tuxedos. We had no time for such niceties. The people in this room had gathered for a singular purpose - the greatest gathering of Magic players, ever. The man who won this tournament would be legendary. I would be legendary.
My mind was prepared, my deck had been fine-tuned to a razor sharpness, and I could feel it. The thrum in my veins, a melody pumping in my blood, singing a hymn to my approaching legacy. The heart of the cards beat in my chest, and Lady Luck was at my side.
A few of the guys wanted me to go out the night before. They wanted to see the lights, the glamour, the ladies of the night. Others had tried to tempt me with other card games, a chance at the pay out at the poker table. Jealous fools, I saw through their ploy. They were trying to weaken him, take away his edge. I got a good night's sleep and woke well rested.
The greatest Magic tournament of all time had begun. This oasis in the desert would be the scene of my Apotheosis.
I dispatched my first opponent with careless ease. He was playing some pathetic red-green creation that he had designed himself. The mountains and the forests were swept away by the force of the sea.
My second and third opponents were equally ill-equipped to challenge my brilliance. It was simple, easy. It felt like I was playing children. They had no respect for the game - I heard one of them say he was just here for the experience.
I admit, I had a flaw. Every great hero has one - Hubris. I grew overconfident, self-assured. I thought myself invincible.
I allowed a victory to slip away from me. Far too early in the day. It was the Lady chiding me, bringing me down a peg. I took the hint, and played tight throughout the day.
A fourth win, and then a fifth. Slowly the field was being winnowed down. The day was winding along, and I started to feel hungry and tired. I looked around for my friends, started texting them. They weren't answering me. It seems I had offended them by implying they weren't as committed as me.
Hubris, my only flaw.
With no one to bring me food, I had to soldier on with what I had brought with me. Again, I stumbled. I missed a vital play, and let the whelp steal the game. There was time before the next match, and sated myself on a nearby Hot Dog stand.
There was no more opportunity for mistakes. I had lost far too early in the day to even hope that tie breakers would save it. It didn't matter anyway - this was the largest tournament ever, only those with 7 wins would advance.
I had to win two more games, or my victory - my Triumph - would be denied to me. I wouldn't even be in the contention.
I played tight, careful, a bit slow. My opponent grew restless, but I didn't care. I won, he lost, and he was eliminated.
One more win, and I would be victorious.
He was a beanpole of a man, with a smug little look on his face. Like me, he had six wins and two losses. Whoever won this match would go on to tomorrow. Whoever lost would be defeated completely.
I hated him with every fiber of my being.
The Lady seemed to have abandoned me. Every opening hand was worthless, and every mulligan was worse. I drew lands when I needed spells, without fail. Still, I struggled and scrapped. He won the first game, and I won the second. Still the Lady seemed to scorn me.
The third game, I never had a chance. Luck was against me completely, and he seemed to draw the right card with uncanny precision. I conceded the game.
And then I noticed it. The strange little motion he made as he drew his cards. The odd way he held the cards as he shuffled.
The bastard had been cheating. And he had cheated me out of my Destiny.
I extended my hand, the gracious sportsman. I leaned in close, so the judge couldn't hear us.
"You're a cheating little poo poo."
His smile was infuriating. "You'll never prove it."
I went back to my hotel room, and cried myself to sleep.
"Trevor Humphries was given a four year ban from Magic organized tournaments yesterday, after eagle-eyed spectators on the internet noticed Mr. Humphries using sleight of hand on his opponents' deck. Mr. Humphries still proclaims his innocence, and that he is the victim of a 'Cyber Witch Hunt'. It is unlikely that his appeal will be successful."
I sat back, pleased with my success.
|# ? Jan 12, 2015 03:36|
Bayarmaa turned her face away from the crowd and cringed at their steely silence. It doesn’t matter what happens, they won’t let me win, she thought to herself. She reflexively scanned the horizon as her mind churned, her eyes falling on a young gray wolf in the distance that was curiously watching the crowd of people who had gathered in the foothills.
A woman bürkitshi was unheard of, and the spectators had reacted accordingly. When she came riding up on her horse the day before, the gauntlet coming all the way up her short arm and a golden eagle perched on it that nearly dwarfed her, the crowd had laughed. When she announced her intention to enter the Eagle Festival contests, they laughed even harder. Then her gold-rimmed hunting coat and red fox fur cap produced a line of straight nines from the judges during the first contest, and the laughs turned to glares and angry whistles.
The next contest was to see how fast each eagle would return to its falconer when released from a hilltop, and the nines she earned there prompted a group of men to angrily petition the judges. They pointed their fingers and slapped their hands against the judges’ table, and the words and phrases Bayarmaa managed to catch – outrage, tradition, stunt – were more than enough. She hung her head. Her fellow bürkitshi didn’t protest. Some even flashed her taunting smiles. Her scores were upheld, though, and that put her in a dead heat with one other falconer going into the final contest the next day.
And now she found herself staring at the wolf out in the distance as the cool October air threatened to blow her cap away. The final game was a test of the eagle’s hunting prowess. The bürkitshi would ride across the plain dragging a fox skin, and the eagle would be released from the hilltop to swoop down and pin it. The other frontrunner’s score was just shy of perfect. Bayarmaa was the last contestant of the day, a decision she was sure was designed to reduce her eagle’s vision as the sun sank over the Altai Mountains.
She glanced up at her father on the hilltop. Her eagle perched on his arm. He nodded. Bayarmaa took a deep breath, the only sound the whipping of the wind. She pointed her chin out proudly and lowered her head.
She plunged the spurs into the horse’s side. As she bounced along, she hazarded a glance up at the sky.
Her eagle beat its powerful wings and settled into a glide. It blazed through the sky, the long leather straps bound to its ankles pointing straight out behind. As it closed in on the fox skin, it screeched. Bayarmaa smiled.
The eagle dove at the ground, its talons outstretched. The crowd gawked.
At the last possible second, it opened its wings and swooped hard to the right, leaving the fox skin untouched. Bayarmaa saw its shadow pass over her, and she slowed her horse to a trot.
Everyone in the crowd began talking at once, their relief palpable in the air. Bayarmaa forced herself to glance over at the judges’ table. In a show of sympathy, one of them had given her a three. She looked away and down, the heat of angry tears in her eyes.
She heard her eagle screech again in the distance. She couldn’t bear to look at the bird.
The crowd gasped.
Bayarmaa turned her head up towards the horizon and had to blink twice before she believed what she was seeing. Her eagle beat its wings furiously to hover over the ground as it tried to close its talons on the wolf. The wolf bared its teeth and snapped its jaws, trying to pull the eagle out of the sky.
The wolf turned to run, but it was too late. A talon closed around its neck. Hot blood spattered onto the ground.
The spectators stared in silence as Bayarmaa trotted out to her bird. When she rode up to it, it was using its beak to tear chunks of meat out of the wound in the wolf’s neck.
She slung the dead wolf over the back of her horse. Then she carefully gathered the eagle onto her gauntlet and rode back towards the crowd.
Their expressionless gazes accentuated the silence as she approached. A few of them glanced in wonder at the bird perched on her right arm. The judges just looked at the ground.
The clapping started with one man, way in the back. It wasn’t a slow clap and he didn’t take time to wind it up, but instead clapped unapologetically and alone. His insistent clapping hung in the air as seconds ticked by.
Then a judge looked up at her and smiled. He put down the card he was holding and instead raised the one with a nine on it.
Then the other judges did the same.
More and more people started clapping. A cheer went up.
By the time the other bürkitshi gathered around their new Eagle Festival Champion to shake her hand and slap her on the back, Bayarmaa was beaming.
|# ? Jan 12, 2015 03:53|
The Republic of Equatorial Guinea
Crevasse-head opened the rusty door into a dark and gusty room. I noticed that the air passing through that black opening lacked the stench and weight of decay that filled the other prison chambers, and in the moment, staring into the void I was expected to enter, my lungs were as hungry as my stomach. They pulled me in, but before I had the chance to sate myself on the clean breeze, I blindly fell from a ledge to the rocky sand below. There, from my knees, I noticed the large slits lining the far wall of the room. Was this some sort of loading dock? Looking through them I could see the sands that gave Black Beach Prison its name and the ocean crashing close upon them.
Before I could pick myself up I felt a strong hand on the back of my neck pulling me to a post that jutted up from the sand like a spire. With the typical show of force that I’d come to expect from the guards, Crevasse-head pulled my arms behind the pillar in a movement that felt as if my shoulders were going to separate. The repressive squeeze of handcuffs confirmed that I was trapped.
“Do you know why the black sand?” Crevasse asked in broken English. It was the first time I’d heard him speak the language.
“It is colored from the blood and oil.”
“Blood of whom?” I asked.
“People like you.”
I wanted to ask Crevasse questions; what did he mean “people like me?” Why was I being held in this room? Would I die here? However, I had learned that when Crevasse turned away from you, he was uninterested in anything one had to say.
Not long after, the door opened again. A silhouette, unchained and upright, stood against the hallway’s light and when I saw that figure enter, my partner, Tim, I was certain that I was going home. The embassy had come through. Our call for help had been heard.
“Tim, are you okay?” I asked.
Crevasse produced a lantern and toolbox from a utility cabinet. With the strike of a match, the lantern flickered, and I could see that Tim was beaten badly, more so than I had been. “I’m alive,” he said.
His cellmates hadn’t been merciful.
“Are we leaving? Did they come through?”
“John, we aren’t going anywhere. Not until you admit to Warden Dougan why we were actually here.” As Tim spoke I could see that several of his teeth had been flaked and chipped away. His lips were swollen and split vertically. “Be honest.”
I had never known Tim to be a violent person. He was always the kind, artistic side of the operation. He was the sympathetic one, the moralist; it was his idea to come to Bioko in the first place. It was his idea to expose the corruption and human rights violations that followed the discovery of oil under the island.
He scowled; his blackened eyes appearing to sink deeper into his head. The gash across his lip had opened up and began to leak as he clenched his jaw. Then the punch landed.
I could feel the blood from my nose running down my chin and into the sand. “Tim,” I said through teary eyes, “what are you doing?”
“Be straight with me. There was no documentary, and they aren’t going to help us with anything; your coup failed, John.”
“The guns?” Three crates of Soviet era assault rifles.
We rented a truck on the mainland for our supplies and equipment, along with a hired hand, Enrique, for the booms and to help us navigate the streets of Malabo. One week into shooting and Tim and I were filming a series of interviews when the police arrived with multiple units guns drawn. They found the boxes amongst the other equipment, boxes that weren’t there before the shoot.
Tim reached into the pocket of his uniform, producing a small, hand rolled, cigarette. He leaned in and lowered his voice conspiratorially, “John, if you admit your role in all this they’re going to let me go. They might even do the same for you.” Tim turned back towards Crevasse. He was bleeding behind the ear, and it looked as if someone had tried to cut it completely off. “Light?” he asked. The waves were crashing closer now; the rising tide had crept into the slits and I could feel the water nipping at my toes.
I hadn’t seen Tim smoke before.
“John, if you didn’t try to supply the rebels then who did?”
“What rebels-” I began, before Tim grabbed a fist full of my hair, yanking my head inches lower until we were eye to eye.
“Enrique,” I said.
“Enrique wasn’t even able to keep time. You really think he could coordinate a dead drop for those crates under our nose?” I struggled against his hardened fingers, feeling the hair rip from my scalp. “You put them there.”
“Neither of us was watching the truck,” I reasoned.
He pulled me closer, and I feared his cigarette plunging into my eye, until it did. I kicked in pain, landing a foot in his groin before falling into the inch of water at my feet. I only wanted to submerge myself in the cool sea.
“Who are you?” I screamed.
“Who are you?” he countered, grabbing me by my neck. “You used me! You’re a loving spy.”
“You invited me to this place! This was your idea!”
I could hardly breathe, but my challenge took him off guard; he tried working out the logic. How, exactly, had I tricked him into coming here?
“No, no, no,” he said.
I decided to take my small victory and pile on, “how do I know that you weren’t just setting me up this whole time. I was just here to work the editing. This was your plan.”
I could hear Crevasse laughing from the corner. He lifted the toolbox and jingled it between his giggles before Tim approached him. The rusty box squealed as it opened.
The water was just above my ankles now.
Tim turned back to face me, brandishing a flat edge used for smearing putty or spackle. “Don’t you see they’re loving with you?” I begged, “the guards, the warden, whoever you met with. They’re not going to let you leave, even if I confess to something that isn’t true.”
“Liar!” he shouted.
Tim grabbed my head and slammed it into the wooden mast. Then the edge was in my stomach. I collapsed. The world was growing heavier, and Tim wasn’t finished. He used the blade to cut my achilles’ before climbing the ledge.
“You had your chance,” he said.
Crevasse waded through the scarlet surf to unlock my handcuffs, allowing me to fall backwards into the red saltwater clouds. Through the muffled swirling I swore that I could hear laughing, then Crevasse’s deep bass say “good job.” I opened my eyes numb to any more pain. Through the red, I thought I saw them shaking hands, but as I tried to surface for a clearer view, I found the undertow too strong to fight anymore.
|# ? Jan 12, 2015 04:14|
|# ? May 19, 2022 05:49|
Removed for publication reasons
Morning Bell fucked around with this message at 02:35 on Oct 4, 2015
|# ? Jan 12, 2015 04:46|