The shamefully late conclusion to Secrets Week so that I can finally start writing up last week's crits
Secret Week Crits 2: Electric Boogaloo
madpanda - The Virtual Folks Blues
This is a very, very hard concept to pull off effectively. Unfortunately, it didn't work here, and what I am left with is a story that is 90% narration of some dude playing WoW. Maybe this would have landed better for someone that plays a lot of MMORPGs, but that ain't me. The frame narrative here is too sparse to really have any impact, and the conclusion was both predictable and kind of nonsensical. The prose itself is solid enough, and I at least appreciate taking a risk and going off the beaten path, but by this point I've read way too many of these RPG / D&D stories in the dome and I don't think any of them have really clicked.
Paladinus - Circle of Lies
Hoo boy, where to begin. None of the judges could even decipher this plot at its barest level. What is going on? A kid who is also his own dad (?) gets a crappy present from his dad-self(?), then goes back in time to sleep with his own mother (?) so that he can give his own dad-self (?) a rough childhood? I dunno, man. I kept thinking I was missing something obvious, but after a couple re-readings nothing made any more sense and I couldn't force myself to keep looking. The prose is rough, the dialogue is stilted, and the characters are paper-thin. I don't know what anyone is doing or why they are doing it. I'm guessing this was supposed to funny, but you've got to focus on clarity because I can't laugh at a punchline when I can't find the joke.
Kaishai - One Thousand Wrapping-Paper Cranes
This has some nice human moments sprinkled throughout, and the prose is (as usual) very solid - even if it is more pared-down than your usual stuff. There isn't a whole lot I can say here; it's a tight piece that accomplishes what it sets out to do. The only thing I take issue with is that the pet birds kind of feel like a McGuffin for getting Gabe back into the house, thereby creating a bit of artificial tension that wasn't even necessary in the first place. It's still well-written to the point that I don't really care, but I figure I'd mention it. The last line is great and wraps everything up perfectly.
Ironic Twist - Wake
So, full disclosure, I had this tied for the win with SH and had a very hard time choosing between them, because you both told wonderful stories but approached them from two completely different directions. That first line is probably my favorite hook of the week, and the story maintains that level of quality throughout. Your prose is haunting and gorgeous, of course, and there are some really neat lines - all of the judges liked "Flick of the switch, flick of the wrist, sick of this poo poo." Things get a little more abstract toward the end, and while I didn't have any issue with a bit of vagueness, the other judges were scratching their heads a little, which is ultimately what ended up being the tie-breaker. I honestly don't what I can say that would be constructive on that front, because I usually disagree when people say your stories have clarity issues and this wasn't really an exception. Anyway, it's a great story and you should probably shop it around.
Broenheim - Watching It All Pass By
I really liked the atmosphere you built in this one - the "unjust, uncaring world" trope is well-worn, but here you play with expectations by showing us a view of heaven that is not uncaring, but simply helpless to respond, which is much more tragic. Your prose is mostly good, with a few stumbles here and there - "She looked towards the window, the sun having disappeared, and the moonlight struggling to enter her room." - is kind of clunky, for example. You paint the picture pretty well in broad strokes, though I think you could have used your remaining wordcount to give us a bit more characterization. Still a story that I enjoyed reading.
Tyrannosaurus - The Rumble
This is some good first person. This story has a great voice, and it's especially impressive given how easy it is for stories dealing with religion to tip into being either preachy or smugly cynical. I think you nail the narrator as a person who is genuinely confused and exploring the concept of faith. You pack a lot of characterization into a tiny space, though I wish the grandmother had a little more room to develop. The ending line is great - I always enjoy your sense of humor. The story does end up feeling a little like a vignette, but about the worst thing I can say is that I was disappointed that there wasn't more to read.
Sadistech - Pyre
It's always neat to see unconventional formats, and you use yours in a way that could work with a bit of polish. Your prose is strong, and you do a good job of giving the narrator a believable voice. The biggest issue is that not enough ends up happening - we get some broad sketches of scenes that have potential, but they are over as soon as they begin. The scene with the old vet is a great example - there is a ton of room for some great interaction / characterization here that you don't take advantage of. I was kind of expecting him to become more and more bold, breaking into places and coming close to getting caught - as it is, there really aren't any tangible risks or obstacles that the narrator is facing. It's a cool idea, and there is the germ of a good story here, so I'd say take it back to the drawing board when you have some free time.
Killer-of-Lawyers - Paleolithic
So this is a cool setting. The character being named First threw off at first, but then I saw what you were doing with it. Maybe introduce the name in a way that makes it more clear? Your prose isn't bad, but the action just feels kind of bland, like things are just happening but there's not any characterization or thematic depth to give them any significance, which makes it hard to get invested in the narrative. A little more time in the narrator's head would have gone a long ways, and I was kind of hoping the whole spirit thing would lead somewhere more dramatic. Solidly in the middle of the pack this week.
Djeser - Revolution
I like the way you take a kind of trite concept and then make it fresh somehow by dropping it into a relatively mundane situation. Your characterization is strong here; it's not easy to make a reader sympathize with two opposed characters, especially when one of them is a computer. The beginning is a little exposition-heavy, and I think you could set the scene in a way that is slightly more elegant, but that's kind of a minor complaint overall. The ending also fell a touch flat for me, but I'm not entirely sure why. When I look at it, it seems like it should work, but it's just missing the emotional hook to really send it home. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and AI stories are usually a hard sell for me.
|# ? May 7, 2015 23:25|
|# ? May 23, 2022 14:05|
DER GROSSESTE MANNSCHAFT: DER MUFFINKRITTENZUGENSCHAFT 2
Poison for the Mid Light - TheGreekOwl
Called this one as you because the weird end-loaded subject sentences ("went he to the house") look like a weird porting of Greek grammar onto English. Raventkult tells me I'm wrong there and he's actual-Greek instead of weird third-generation Antipodean immigrant so . Either way, it doesn't really work. It's technically correct English grammar, but so is 'buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo' and that doesn't exactly make for good stories. The register to poncy as hell, and does nothing but slow down the piece and make the protagonist sounds like an rear end in a top hat.
aaaaand here I'm going to intercept "SILLY MUFFIN THAT WAS THE POINT" with a piece of advice I feel like I've given too many times: if the whole point of your story is to intentionally be annoying, or to piss off the reader, or anything in that vein at all, write a different story. If the narrator is intentionally a really terrible person, there has to be some real payoff to it rather than "yes they are awful end story'.
So yeah. Terrible deployment of faux-sophisticated language, no plot whatsoever, ending in a dumb punchline. Thought for next time: don't try anything complex with the language. Keep it as stripped-down as you can. Also tell the protag should be likable.
Valley of Death - Mercedes
Dammit man I like your writing, but this was a bridge too far on the eye-rolling sillyness. That deadspan self-aware "hey we're not in a story" bullshit is hacky and overplayed. The ending came out of nowhere and made no sense. The whole plot was just confusing and hard to follow. Not your finest hour. Thought for next time: you're already pretty funny; you don't need to force it any harder. It comes off like a bad actor frantically mugging the camera. Thought for next time: just chill out and do your thing.
Everyone Has Their Demons - Broenheim
Not a bad story, but kinda got overshadowed by the guy who came along like five stories later and wrote the same thing but better. The pacing is a bit off in the first half, and I think that's what dragged you down. It's kinda slow and clunky and doesn't really go anywhere. That kinda mumblecore melancholy only works in shorts if the whole piece rolls like that. It needs time to grow and expand, and you just didn't have that much space to play around in. When the more fantastical aspects kick in (couldn't tell whether it was literal or a metaphor, but it didn't really matter so w/e) it was great but it took too long getting there.
Short version: tried to do two things at once, didn't really do the first one justice. Thought for next time: commit to a single pace/tone structure. You've gotta keep shorts pretty simple. The quiet/understated melancholy route can definitely work, but it needs more room to move.
Baxter's Second Hand Books - Bompacho
Christ, what an rear end in a top hat.
Okay, so I get that we were supposed to be sympathetic towards gramps, but it wasn't entirely clear the degree to which his son was an rear end in a top hat and that make gramps seem like an even bigger rear end in a top hat. Opinions from the judges varied: I thought the son was just gonna turn it into a cafe, and gramps was basically a lunatic. The others thought maybe there was a son/doctor plot to remove power of attorney from gramps and modify the will or something, but that really wasn't explained well enough.
You can be as coy and clever as you want about secondary stuff in the story, but the main plot through-line really needs to be hammered in with the subtly of a sledgehammer root canal. Thoughts for next time: write as if your audience are idiots and need the plot laid out as clearly and concisely as possible or they will miss it entirely.
The Doom That Came to Ipswich - ravenkult
We chatted a little in PM about this, and you confirmed all the judges' suspicions: that you kinda just ran out of words and weren't able to end that well. Overall this story was pretty high-tier, but you just couldn't quite manage to stick the landing. Try to expand on this one; blow it out to 2000-3000 words and see what happens. Language is nice and there's definitely some cool ideas here, but you weren't able to explore them well enough. I don't think that's entirely the wordcount's fault- there's a lot of bloat around the middle that could go. I did like it overall, but it got knocked down from the HM tower by a really strong closing pack. Thought for next time: the beginning should be good, the middle can be eh, but it is absolutely vital to end strongly.
|# ? May 8, 2015 02:05|
Christ, what an rear end in a top hat.
Me or the character?
Thanks for the judge-crit!
|# ? May 8, 2015 04:37|
Beef's Roulette Wheel of Eternal Discomfort
Flash Rules for the unwary:
Ironic Twist - Bella Italia! Italians are loving obsessed with themselves. They're almost as bad as the French. Therefore, you can't use anything stereotypically Italian in your story. This list includes, but is not limited to: espresso, pizza, Catholicism, Rome, and the Mafia.
Broenheim - The Moldy Oldy. For such an irrelevant little slice of nowhere, Moldova created some amazing Eurovision entries in the past, before everyone starting singing pussified love ballads about sad girls in snow. Embody the Moldovan Eurovision spirit. I want to see pointy hats and over-the-top masculinity in your story.
newtestleper - Latvia, huh? Guess what Latvians love doing while drunk? Nationalistic Russian karaoke. Draw from that lovely song and inject into your story adoration for the motherland, and drunkenness.
bigperm - Slovene fever! Know what the Slovenes are known for in Europe? Making lovely appliances. Somewhere in your story, a cheap, broken, and/or malfunctioning kitchen appliance must be featured.
Erogenous Beef fucked around with this message at 14:09 on May 8, 2015
|# ? May 8, 2015 14:05|
Spinning da wheel!
|# ? May 8, 2015 20:43|
Just over four hours remain to sign up! If you're vacillating, consider that the glories of Belarus or Spain could still be yours.
|# ? May 8, 2015 23:54|
Well poo poo, goons. I thought for sure you'd be all over these. I'm In with Belarus. I can only hope that one of you is tough and gorgeous enough to give Spain the homage it deserves.
|# ? May 8, 2015 23:58|
come on, i really want to know this guy's story
|# ? May 9, 2015 00:15|
Yeah sure why not. Spain me. In.
|# ? May 9, 2015 01:13|
Sign-ups for Week CXLIV are now CLOSED! Those of you who aren't performing, join us in the audience: it ought to be a heck of a show.
|# ? May 9, 2015 04:20|
In 2014, Switzerland posted:
No More Hunting Stars
Words: 1394 according to wordcountertool.com
Seb sucked in a long breath and held it thoughtfully for a moment. A cool breeze from off the bay stole in through the open window, and several fat rain drops splattered against his glasses. “Self confidence,” he said as he exhaled a steady stream of fragrant smoke, “is a fragile concept indeed. What do you think?”
“I am the hunter. He is the prey.”
“That means gently caress all.”
“Yeah. I learned it from this guy I know.” There was a click. Harsh fluorescent light bathed the apartment and gave everything a weird greenish hue.
“Hey! What'd you do that for?” Seb flicked his cigarette out into the night, watching the glowing cherry get caught by the wind and sucked up into the big nothing.
“I was enjoying the night, Walter.”
“Well I can't make dinner for the two of us in the dark.” Walt pulled off his blue silk shirt and tossed it carelessly into a corner. “Come on, Seb. Even the damned get a last meal.”
“Fine, Walt. Fine.” Seb cranked the window shut, grunting with the effort. The battered camber gave a last squeal of protest, and the casement finally wedged itself into the frame just as the rain started to pick up.
“This calamari is probably the best I've ever had,” said Seb, wiping sauce from his chin. “I appreciate the effort and all, but you don't have to feel guilty. It was my idea.”
“I know. That's the part that hurts.” Walt gazed at the man he thought he loved, letting just a taste of his emotions leak in around the edges of his eyes.
“Excellent.” Seb smiled and kicked his feet up onto the table. “I almost feel sorry for this guy. Who could say 'no' to a face like that?”
Walt poured himself another glass of wine, casting his gaze downward. You can't even see what this is doing to me he thought, wiping a lone tear on his sleeve. Hiding his pain in the dim candlelight was easy. Then again, Seb hadn't been doing much looking into his eyes as of late.
“Well, would you look at the time!” Seb tapped his watch crystal and rocked forward in his chair, drawing his dusty work boots off the table and onto the floor with a thump. Lighting a cigarette, he began pacing around the room. “Why don't we run through it once more?”
“Actually, why don't I throw my cute little blue shirt back on and you kick me out of here? We've been through this so many drat times already. We don't need to again.” Walt stood up and stepped closer to his lover, draping his arms over Seb's shoulders. “Or are you having second thoughts?”
“My heart has been well trained,” answered Seb. “Don't worry; tonight I'm gonna eat you up like I did that calamari.”
“Try not to let it get that far.”
Rain pounded down on the slick flagstones, and Walt nearly broke an ankle just trying to walk up the path, though the whiskey might also have had something to do with it. Seb insisted that he needed to reek like booze for authenticity, so Walt had gotten a small bottle of Black Velvet. Half of it ended up splashed on his left pant leg. The other half was in his belly.
It took several moments of banging on the front door before the light came on, but Walt knew as soon as he saw Mark's face that he had him in his pocket. “I...didn't think I'd see you again, Walter.” The older man let a shy smile cross his lips.
“Seb threw me out,” slurred Walt. He took another swig of liquid fire, throwing his head back and almost falling into the bushes. “A new religion that'll bring you to your kne-eeees!” He winged the empty little bottle out into the street. “I'm so...wet.”
“And dirty,” said Mark fondly.
“They threw me into the gutter, last place I left. Said I was 'being faggy'. The gently caress does that even mean?”
“Why don't you come in?”
“Yeah. Why don't I come in?” laughed Walt, putting his arm around Mark's shoulder. “Let's sit by the fire and drink tea, and you can tell me how foolish I was to pick Seb.”
“I thought it was my age,” chuckled Mark as he helped Walter out of his wet clothes. “I wanted to roar my feelings for you like a lion but – but I feared judgment. I feared your judgment. Of me. And my imperfections.”
“What's a little thing like age? What's imperfection?” Walt sat, naked, on a divan next to the hearth and poured himself a steaming cup of orange pekoe. “We live in a...in a society without love! The world is an angst ridden teen, mad and moody and full of lust!”
Then Mark was on him, knocking the cup from his hands and onto floor, touching him all over. “I, for one, love how philosophical you can be when you've had too much to drink,” he whispered into Walt's ear. “It really switches me the gently caress on.”
Walt kissed him, grabbing hungrily at his well muscled shoulders, breathing deeply of his victim's scent as he buried his face in the folds of Mark's robe. “And I love how slutty you become when you're sober. It really makes me want to do something...impulsive.”
“You'll wear it for me, won't you?”
Mark suddenly sat back, looking into Walt's astonished eyes. “I want you to wear it for our first time.”
“Of course. You've told me a hundred times how beautiful I look in it. There is one condition, however.”
“What is it, kumquat?”
“I get to wear them also.”
The eagerness left Mark's face. “You know I never remove them from the safe. They were my late wife's.”
“Mark, you're gay. Your late wife never meant anything to you.”
“Don't say that! I might not have wanted to bed her but I still loved her!” Mark leaped up angrily and stalked over to the sideboard to pour another cup of tea.
“Well, I love you.” Walt slid off the divan and wrapped his arms around Mark's barrel chest. “There, I've said it.”
“You've said it, yes. Do you mean it?”
Walt let his arms drop. “Want me to go?” He moved to pick up his wet clothes. “Want me to go? 'Cause you think I'm lying?”
Mark sucked in a breath and held it for a long time, reminding Walter of Seb. “Honestly, I've been wanting to see them on you for some time. I would have done it sooner but I just had this strange feeling that – that you were twisting the truth.”
“I wouldn't leave you alone.” Walt kissed the unfortunate man once on the lips, a light peck. “Why don't you get them out while I change?”
Walt lay next to Mark and thought of what he was going to say. I had to do it, Seb. You can't just say that to someone and leave them cold. Walt shook his head, anger at his own cowardice flaring inside him. gently caress it. He doesn't deserve this. None of us do.
“Did you get them?”
“Yeah.” Walt threw a thousand dollars down on the table.
“Where are they?”
“Back in Mark's safe.” Another stack of hundreds joined the first. “Pay off our debt and don't come looking for me.”
Seb's face crinkled up. “We're through?”
Walt laughed bitterly. “The gently caress did you think? That you could keep pimping me out to rich men so I could steal their lives away?”
“No!” Seb cleaved to Walt and grasped him by the shoulders. “This doesn't work without you!”
“Mark knows everything.” Walt pushed Seb away hard enough to make him stumble into the wall. “He still chose me over the police.”
“Are you loving stupid?” Seb swung his fist blindly at Walt, splitting his lip. “He was god-drat lying! We're gonna go to jail!”
“You might, Seb. You might end up in there because you refuse to think. But I won't.” Walt elbowed past Seb and out the door. “Find someone else.”
The driving rain hammered against Walt's face all the way back to Mark's but he didn't care. He didn't need to hunt stars anymore, to steal people's memories. He was free.
|# ? May 10, 2015 00:10|
Spinning da wheel!
Lucky you, I didn't have a chance to check the thread until now, so you get to play, but without a flash rule.
|# ? May 10, 2015 13:00|
I awoke on a Saturday morning to the sound of goats bleating from the barn, begging to be fed. “Who needs alarms when you have hungry goats?” I mused as I rolled out of bed. I changed into an old shirt and jeans before I went to the barn. It was rather early; the sky was still a dark purple with merely the faintest light peeking over the mountains.
Today seemed no different than any other morning for me, except for one thing: I would be taking a trip to the mountains. I baby talked the goats as I fed them. “Good morning, Sylvia! Are you getting along with Sam? And hello, little Timmy. You are such an adorable kid! You're such a good momma, Cleo! Watch out, Brian! Gotta get you fed so I can go!”
The goats' appetites sated, I hurried inside and prepared for my trip to visit the meadow that had been my mother's sanctuary. My only passenger this day would be her old Stradivarius violin.
”See how I've placed the violin on my shoulder, Jessica?” Mother asked as she prepared to play, her only audience being me and the oak tree we were nestled up against.
She smiled softly at me, “good, now, show me what I just showed you.” With that, she handed the violin over to me. I was almost too nervous to take it, as I feared breaking the precious instrument, but I swallowed my nerves and grasped the violin as mother had, placing it on my shoulder as if to play.
“Very good, now, pull your bow across the strings like this,” she explained as she pantomimed the motion of playing. I took the bow and did as instructed, and was rewarded with the sweet sound of a musical note.
“Mother! I did it!” I reveled, my happiness unfettered at my success. I felt like I had just won a gold medal at the Olympics.
“Well done, Jessica!”
My hometown grew distant as my old truck struggled up the hill. I drove in silence for a half hour as I thought about the times my mother had taken me to the meadow and the violin lessons she had given me there. This was the first time I would be there by myself, as I had lost my mother to a car accident just two months ago. I had felt truly alone ever since, as it felt like the goats understood me better than the townsfolk. I had always been an eccentric soul, and I was certain most of the people here looked down on me for being “weird”.
The drive felt longer than it actually was, but I eventually arrived. I pulled the truck over to the side of the road, and it sputtered with relief when I turned off the motor and got out, violin case in hand.
I walked down a path that led to a small creek. Even though my heart still ached from loss, I marveled at nature's beauty. I sighed and I sat down under that oak tree and listened to the creek's peaceful babbling.
I started to play once nature had soothed some of the hurt I was feeling. My hands crafted a beautiful song, the very first one I had been able to play on my own. I sniffled and whimpered as I yearned for the past and grieved for my mother.
“Don’t cry, my daughter,” my violin seemed to sing to me.
I gasped at the ethereal voice. “Mother, is that you?”
“Yes, my dear Jessica.” The violin spoke again.
I was stunned into silence. Was this really happening, or was I just hallucinating?
When I could think to speak again, my words flowed like a turbulent river. “Oh mother, I’m so lost without you! I just don’t feel like I belong here, but I don’t want to abandon your farm! Please tell me what I’m supposed to do! I miss you so much.”
The strings sighed. “I cannot say.”
“I cannot make that decision for you. You, and only you, have the power to make that decision.”
I cried, “but I don’t know if I can!”
“I know you can, my child. You have a strong mind and a stronger heart. Give it a little more time, and all will be clear. I have faith in you.”
“Of course I do! And don’t worry about little old me. No matter what you do, I will always be proud of you.”
I sniffed, and managed a small smile. “Mother… thank you… for believing in me.” I sighed, “I never got to say goodbye, but I guess now I can. Good bye, mother. I love you.”
“I love you too, always. Until we meet again, farewell.”
The song ended and the violin ceased to sing my mother’s voice. I sobbed from the intensity of the experience until my body ached with grief. Once I could cry no more, I trudged back to the truck and returned home.
Throughout the day, the experience repeated itself in my mind as I struggled to figure out what it meant. I was unusually silent as I fed the goats that evening, too distracted by my thoughts. Had I really spoken to mother, or had my mind played a trick on me? Even my dreams that night were dominated by what had transpired, and I woke the next morning with my mother's lingering voice whispering in my head. I shopped for groceries after feeding the goats, and, while I was there, I picked up a “houses for sale” magazine in the hopes I could find a new place that spoke to me.
Three days later, I went to Tina’s Cafe for breakfast, as I did every Wednesday. “Greetings, Miss Williamson!” Came the usual cheerful greeting from the server, a stout young man named Nicholas. “Feel free to sit wherever you like!” I faked a smile and quietly took a seat at the counter. “Would you like your usual, ma’am?” He asked me, and I merely nodded my head in response. I flipped through the pages of my magazine while I waited for my meal, my eyes glazed over with wanderlust as I looked at the beautiful houses inside.
“Thinking of moving?”
Surprised, I looked up, and saw an old cattle rancher I recognized from the weekly farmer’s market eating a couple seats away from me. “Oh, hello Mr. Adkins. I didn’t see you there. I guess you could say that. I don’t think I belong here.”
The older gentleman frowned. “Oh, that’s too bad. We’d miss you.”
I gasped, surprised. “You would?”
“Of course! You don’t believe me?”
I slowly shook my head as Nicholas returned, my food in hand, and spoke to me, having overheard the conversation.
“Aww, don’t tell me you’re moving, Miss Williamson! That’d be sad,” the server pled as an older woman chimed in, “your goats make the best milk in town! I can’t imagine living without it!” By now, half of the diners were paying attention, and some of them nodded in agreement. I fell silent as I ate my meal, my mind ablaze as I recalled mother’s words. Had I really been wrong about not belonging here?
“Would you like some more coffee?” Nicholas inquired as I finished my meal.
“No, thank you,” I responded with a polite smile. “But I would like a favor.” I held the magazine out for him to take. “I don’t think I’ll be needing this anymore, can you throw it away for me?”
Nicholas smiled widely, happy with the knowledge that I would be staying. “Certainly, Miss Williamson!”
I paid for my meal, and I could have sworn that everything looked brighter than it had in recent memory.
I returned home that morning with a renewed sense of purpose and the knowledge that I had made the right decision. Mother would be proud.
|# ? May 10, 2015 17:09|
This is, Jason thought, humiliation by proxy. He could feel it himself. Even through my anonymity, he thought, someone, somewhere, will connect me to this. He imagined having to talk about it. Yeah, I was there when that dude’s heart disintegrated.
The man was about mid thirties, had lost some hair, but still, he thought, a nice looking guy. Too nice to find himself in this moment, on his knees in the exit queue from the Love Temple, with a ring he couldn’t afford, on a vacation he couldn’t afford, in front of a woman, some make-up, who desperately wanted to be somewhere else.
“I’m sorry,” she was saying. “I just really wanted to go to Wacky World. I thought maybe I could love you if I gave it enough time. But I don’t. I’m sorry,” she said again.
The entire population of the car had spilled out and clustered around them. Maybe they had assumed this was some show the park was putting on. That’s what he had assumed when the dude got down on one knee. They were always doing these dumb shows. He was expecting some pirates to run out and kidnap her. He’d chase after them to the conveniently close stunt set, and have to prove his love by defeating them in a cutlass fight. But no pirates appeared, and besides, he realized, they were nowhere close to the stunt set.
He remembered the I Ching reading. Hexagram 1. The Dragon. Dynamic, arousing force.
What the hell, he thought. No one knew who he was in this dumb costume. He was simply Goofy Gus, the lovable boy sidekick of Wacky Willy, the talking cartoon dog. Goofy Gus had an IQ of -15 based on that one episode where he would repeat second grade unless he passed a test. In the end Willy had used his telepathic powers to feed him answers to all the questions. He got all the answers right but for the bonus question had written GET AWAY FROM THAT BONE with six exclamation marks.
Gotta stay in character, he thought.
“Gosh,” he said loudly. “I wish Willy was here so I’d know what to do. Where’s Willy?” he asked a small girl who was chewing bubblegum. She giggled and shrugged.
“Oh well,” he said. “Time for me to think for myself, like Willy always wants me to do. You guys,” he said, angling his comically round suit towards the couple, “seem sad. What’s wrong?”
“Five years of my life,” the man said absently. “Gone. Just like that. Will anyone ever love me?” he asked the crowd, with a sweeping stare. “Huh? Anyone?”
“God, Patrick,” the woman said. “This is why I don’t love you. Your self-esteem is terrible. How can I love someone who doesn’t love himself?”
“I didn’t use to love myself,” Jason said. “All the kids picked on me and none of the girls liked me. Then Willy showed me how to be confident in who I was. It’s easy! Do you want me to show you?”
The man was looking at the ring like he was considering eating it. “Sure,” he said. “Whatever.”
“You do it too!” he said cheerfully, pointing at the woman. “Everyone do it! Will you guys do it with me?”
The tourists were all laughing now, and the kids had bright smiles on their faces. “Do you want to, Timmy?” one dad asked his kid. “Yeah!” he shouted.
“I wanna do it too,” the girl said happily. “Okay, Sally,” her mom said. “I’ll do it with you.”
“Everyone!” Jason said. “The first thing you gotta do is think real hard. Think about all the things you like about yourself. Like this!” He jammed his oversized hands against his Goofy Gus head.
He was thinking, where is my life going? All the other workers are younger than me by at least two years. They’re gonna be developers or computer programmers or god knows what else, and I’ll be stuck here entertaining these idiots for minimum wage. gently caress, he realized, this guy may be a loser but at least he can afford to come here. He’s not in a dumb costume. This chump who’s getting rejected has more dignity than me.
If I proposed to Claire, he thought, she’d throw whatever drink she was holding in my face and then make me pay for it.
He looked around. Even the adults had gotten into it, thinking along with their kids. He wondered what they were thinking about. Instead he asked the kid called Timmy.
“What do you like about yourself?” he said, trying to force even more of a smile out of Gus’s manic face.
“I’m a good drawer,” the kid said, beaming.
“What about you?” he asked, pointing at the girl.
“I can eat six whole pies,” the girl said.
“That’s not true,” said her mom. “I mean, I don’t feed her that many pies.”
Now for the next phase, he thought.
“So, mister,” he said, addressing the would be groom, who was starting to look interested despite himself. “What do you like about yourself?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “I guess… I’m pretty good at magic tricks.”
“Really?” Jason asked, and now he was interested. “Show me one, mister.”
Even the woman was watching expectantly.
“I can make this ring disappear,” he said, and he quickly closed and re-opened his hand. “Ta-da. Look. Just like my life.”
His palm was empty.
Jason wasn’t sure which of them started the clap, Timmy or Sally. All he knew was that they were both clapping, and then everyone had joined in, the sound echoing off the Temple walls.
He was so flabbergasted that for a couple of seconds he forgot to clap himself. He started, hating that the two gloves slapping together seemed to create a vacuum of pure silence. I’ve had it, he thought, with this costume.
He said, “That was amazing! Now that you know what you like about yourself, you can finally realize that the things you don’t like about yourself don’t matter. You are the only combination of things that make you you in the whole world! You should like yourself because you are one of a kind!”
He told himself, listen to your own advice. It looked like the man was listening, anyway. His eyes were clearer and his breathing more measured.
“I guess,” the man said, and then he was smiling too. “If a cartoon character tells me something, it must be true, right?”
“Sam,” the woman said suddenly. “I realized something. We’ve got a whole lifetime to figure things out. I think I could give you another chance. We should go see the fireworks at Loony Lake together.”
And then Jason found himself. The dehydration that his suit induced had sent him spiralling into his unconscious. In his mind he saw Willy, barking happily. But it wasn’t Willy, he realized. It was Rustie, his old dog. You didn’t run away because you hated me, did you boy, he thought. Since his mom had told him that with a half empty bottle of bourbon in her hands, he had been searching for someone to take his place. To love him unconditionally. They took you away from me because they didn’t want me to be happy. But you still love me, don’t you? I’m gonna find you, wherever you are, and we’re gonna run away together, just you and me, away from this noise, this confusion, this entropy, all this nonsense that people put on us. Just me and you looking up at the stars. Finally I’ll see them without those bullshit fireworks blocking them out.
Come on, he whispered to the man, his words swallowed by Gus’s head. The man was wavering, and everyone was watching him.
“Forget it,” the man said. “Maybe I’m happiest by myself after all.”
And as the woman stared at him, her mouth hanging open, Jason gave the crowd a cheerful wave and began to walk away.
|# ? May 10, 2015 17:15|
Well, here we go:
The Black Mountain's Bell
The clapper hit the rim of the bell just once, but it echoed many times through caverns of black rock, bouncing off thick walls of rock, around stalactites, finding their way through cracks where stone turned to cracked mud, spreading out into the forest that grew thick and lush at the mountain's base.
She'd been sat on a tree stump awaiting the noise, her stomach working into a knot as the sun had begun to dip below the far horizon, casting the mountain's shadow high into the sky behind her, making the clouds look stuffed with rain.
The noise of the bell reached her, dancing in the air, mixing with the final rays of twilight.
She closed her eyes.
A clatter overtook the quiet of the forest. Something wet dripped on her nose and she looked up. Moonlight shone on the riveted, metal sheet above her, filled with tiny holes rimmed by a rust brown. She stood, stretched her legs, rubbing her thighs where the stone she was sat on had begun to dig in.
Dead lamps hung from the roofing, connected by sinewy, fraying cables.
She followed them outside, her shoes crunching on the gravel pathways between the half-forgotten buildings, pushing the tiny stones into the moist ground. Metal rods and girders stuck out the ground, angled haphazardly jutting into the silvery mountain mist. She moved around them, but in places they were so thick she'd have to detour through one of the crumbled buildings, before she could find the trail again.
She found it where she expected, in the grey, unassuming building with the wide warehouse shutters right at the foot of the black mountain. Heavy, they left grooves in her thin fingers. Illuminated in the patchy moonlight was the heavy steel door she'd have to pass through.
A few metres away from it was the metal frame of a glass case, the tiny sparkles around its base the only evidence of what had once been. The black lines drooped from the ceiling here, many from all directions, connecting to the mass within.
She crouched next to it, removing a metal stick from a holster on her waist. She flicked a button and it hummed lightly. She jabbed it forward, into the dark lump before her. Electricity sparked from where it touched against it, illuminating the red and purple thing, smoke rolled off of it, making her stomach growl.
It contracted slowly, weak. She zapped it again, and it grew in speed. The lights above flickered and shone. One light above the door turned green, and it jerked open an inch for every two pumps of its power source.
She poked her head back outside while she waited. The mist had thickened, the lights barely illuminating the compound. The moon did a better job. The buildings were now covered in a yellow aura, and that was all.
There was a grinding sound, metal on metal, a few metres away. Something in the mist seemed to move. Metal rods sliding up and down, blowing the mist this way and that.
Another light flickered on. Higher than the roofs. This one was strong, bright white, seeming to scatter the mist like a knife.
She ducked back inside as it swept over the entrance, casting the walls into a fleeting, long shadow, stretching to the now open entranceway. For a second the black stone was clear, the light failing to reach into the far into the dark, before being reduced once more to the thin, yellow aura of the pumping lights.
The grinding came again.
She dashed inside, not stopping until the black stone had swallowed her up, until the pulsing behind her ceased and the light would not be able to reach her. More grinding behind her, distant, but for how long? She’d need to be quick.
The tunnels twisted and turned, opening up into large caverns, stuffed with deserted equipment, metal and flesh forgotten as the minerals were bled dry, until only the black rock was left.
She didn’t stop moving. She took each split in the road as soon as it was upon her, as if the bell was still ringing and all she had to do was follow the noise. Simple. Just follow the directions. She could do it with her eyes closed. Perhaps that would be easier. Just close your eyes and imagine yourself doing it, sat on the stump, sat on the stone. But everything is easier in dreams.
One final junction, this time on a stone balcony in a circular cavern only a couple of metres up, the walls polished to a shine. In the centre, as black as the stone surrounding it, was the bell. Twice as big as her it was still dwarfed by the huge, half-sphere of a cavern, its surface, gilded with inscriptions, gold on black. This time she stopped. She knew to go forwards, but she needed to cease the noise of her footfalls in the thick air.
Something whirring. Had the heart pumped something even deep down here – had something else switched on? She closed her eyes. Listen.
It wasn’t coming from any of the tunnels, she realised.
It was coming from above.
A small patch of the ceiling exploded and a metal rod shot down, whirling, among the debris like black rain. More metal followed behind it, all wiry, slim interlocking parts – a squashed mesh cage expanding from the hole, the searchlight on it still flashing.
Her eyes followed the stone as they fell. Right above the bell.
“No!” she called out, dashing forward, leaping down to the cavern floor, ignoring her pursuer.
But she wasn’t fast enough.
Even as the ground came up to meet her the bell was set ringing. Not as strong as when it was supposed to ring, but ringing all the same. Small quick pockets of sound bounced about her. The smooth walls seemed to ripple, and her eyes felt heavy.
She lost her balance and crumpled to the floor. She couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer. They closed.
When she opened them again the dirty yellow lights had been replaced by a soft blue, the cavern dotted with mushrooms that glowed in the dark. There was no hole in the thick black rock that separated her from the mountain ground above, the jagged imperfect walls were unmarked by any unnatural touch.
The ringing in her ears began to stop. The bell itself had fallen silent, though it still rocked slightly in its cradle.
She couldn’t let the silence lull her. She leapt to her feet, drawing her electric stick from its holster yet again, allowing it to hum.
She dashed forward toward the bell, reaching the stick out in front of her. One touch and it was finished.
Two paces away something slammed into her gut, and she was pulled upwards from her midriff.
She didn’t slow, and was slammed against the rocky wall.
Her stick fell from her hands, and rolled next to the bell.
She began to pick herself up, then ducked instinctively. She felt the rush of air above her as something unseen swiped at her. Dashed right, to the slope that led back up to the balcony.
Something wrapped around her leg. She let herself go limp, then slammed back again, into something solid that wasn’t there. It freed her momentarily and she ran away again.
A cluster of the blue glowing fungus grew above the small archway. She reached up and grabbed it in her hands, using all the strength she could muster to tear it from the wall. It came free, but somehow it still felt attached to something. Good.
Jumping from the balcony once more she swung around the cavern on an invisible wire, her arc taking her away from her hunter, and over to her still buzzing stick.
She snatched it up and dove.
The bell shattered. Cracking and falling lightly to the floor.
She awoke in the smooth cavernous dome again, in front of the pieces.
More of the creatures on their rods surrounded her.
At least the dream was over.
|# ? May 10, 2015 19:34|
Saccharine and Gasoline
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” Victoria moved her gaze from the flowers outside the window to her husband, his head in his hands. She was the very image of Irish beauty, long red hair tied into a bun, looking divine even in her scrubs, as she prepared to leave for work. He was wearing his flame retardant gear already, his stout figure looking inflated by the thick attire. “No one would blame you if you took this year off – you lost your entire family in a single night only three weeks ago.”
Julien shook his head and furrowed his brow, “I appreciate the concern, but…” He was upset, the bruise in his mind, which was dealing with the failure that fell on the lap of the rocket engineers and launch commanders working for MilkyWays Colonial Corporation, still hurt when it was prodded. His mind had been on the race all morning, and he appreciated the escape from thinking about that horrific loss. “I’ll be fine; I need to do this. For them. This could be the year I win.”
Julien’s hands dropped and a smile played on his face, the first Victoria had seen in the last few weeks. His full beard was trimmed and combed perfectly for the event; it would be a shame to go out looking like three weeks of beer and washroom sink baths.
“I can win this year because of them. They all knew how important this was to me, and they will be cheering me on from beyond as they did in life.”
“It could also be your last year in the race, and on Earth! I’ve seen the kind of accidents that happen during that race. It’s horrible. Dr. Tellier has to prepare every year for all the people injured in the race, I couldn’t stand losing you.” Victoria set her coffee down on the counter, and walked across the room, placing one hand on his shoulder.
“It’s not a blood sport; it’s just that so many bad drivers enter every year ever since it was opened to the public. Besides, it’s already been decided, I’m going to race again this year – and this time I will win!” Julien relaxed at her touch, and turned in his chair, starting to get up.
“Okay, okay. But please be careful!” She shook her head and walked to the entryway, scooping up her keys in one hand and her clutch in the other.
“I will, I will be safer than any other year – I’ll remind you I haven’t had one accident in seven years!” He gave his wife a kiss on her forehead and gazed into her eyes for a precious second, before stepping out into the bright daylight. She left after him, and locked the door behind her.
In what seemed like an instant, Julien was lost in his thoughts with a steering wheel in his hands. The sun peeked over the concrete and reflected off of his sun glasses. It poured onto the asphalt and two unending green fields, creating the kind of heat which proclaims that summer has finally arrived. The fields themselves were dotted with outrageously yellow flowers on impossibly thin stems, standing as the only non-broadcast audience to the race during this leg, running smoothly through the outskirts of France.
The interior of the sports car, however, was host to an audience of sorts, in the smiling countenance of Victoria. “You’re a fantastic driver,” came her voice, crystal clear and soothing, through the speakers, “Julien; you’re going to win! I can see you on TV, they’ve got you in second place!”
The only response he gave was a nod, snapping back into the reality of the race. “I’m going to win this for them.”
“Honey, I’m going to let you go. I will see you tonight after you win!” She closed her laptop and left the Hospital break room.
Julien hit the flashing call end button and shifted into a higher gear as the light vehicle finished ascending the hill. Moments passed, and an impossible number of miles of flowering fields did as well without interruption. It was an internal eternity, before a turn finally rushed towards the vehicle.
The green fields had been supplanted by a lake to the east and a thick forest, lush with vegetation from the spring rains, to the west. The dull, “thwop thwop thwop,” of the helicopter blades above the racers could be heard reflecting off the thick trees that guarded the forest’s innermost sanctuary, as they headed north.
Julien’s mind returned to the road and the sight of a car only a few breaths ahead of him, and stole a glance at two more right behind him, competing for the honor of third place. They threatened to overtake him if he remained complacent much longer.
“It’s now or never,” Julien said to his invisible passenger, his eyes glancing at a race marker on the side of the road. Only a few kilometers remained.
He let his foot become lead – he hoped to overtake the first place car at this very moment. His entered a trance like state, forgetting for a moment that he had lost five brothers in an instant, focusing all his attention and energy on the car ahead of him.
The first place car was operated by a woman named Lindsey Bonheur, who had had quite a run for the past few years, finishing the yearly event in first. She saw Julien’s cream vehicle approaching on her right, and smiled inwardly. This was her moment to seal another race. If she could wipe out a driver who had over extended, the remainder of the race would be won – the chaos behind would do the work for her.
She began to slow down, ever so slightly, to let him catch up to her – to lead him into the trap. The insignificant slowdown seemed like preparations for the curve in the road, only a few miles ahead, and would’ve been a reasonable reaction by any driver.
But Julien could have been fooled by the deceleration, even if it weren’t for the turn that was approaching them. He swerved around her to the right, was starting to peak the car ahead of her. The metal of the barrier between road and lake threatened to attack his car, so tight was the maneuver. It was at this moment that Lindsey accelerated, and swerved into Julien’s left flank.
Julien was pinned between the other racer’s car and the barrier of the road, and the danger of his strategy became apparent to him. He began to sweat – to realize he may have over reached. His voice was surprisingly high when he spat out, “Are you trying to win or kill me!”
His eyes made contact with hers for a fateful second and he pushed back, turning the wheel to the left, hoping that although his car was a lighter weight that there was enough inertia to turn the tables on Lindsey’s dangerous strategy. The sun became clouded for a second, and the world dimmed as the shoving match played out. Millions of people watched, breathlessly.
No one sigh of relief was louder than the one that escaped Julien’s lungs when Lindsey’s vehicle was forced to relent, to break or face the consequences of being shoved and losing control – possibly right into the dirt shoulder.
“Finally!” He choked, eyes staring into his rearview mirror, ensuring that this was indeed the current reality of the race.
A three way tie was behind him, and he had reached First. The mountainous section of the race had begun, and there would be no opportunities for them to break into his position any longer.
On the podium, he stood looking as surprised as he was fearful only an hour earlier. Once the cameras had turned away, Julien realized that he achieved something fantastic. And then, at last, the agony escaped him. He hunched over, and sat down, defeated by sadness because he had nothing left to distract him. It dawned on him that he had lost the five people he had endeavored to win this for – that they would never see him with this trophy in hand, and the agony was divine.
|# ? May 10, 2015 19:36|
Shame of Shamus
Boom! Explosions! Action! That was the life of Shamus' father! Great with a gun, bad with social grace, he was the hero of his days! Boom! The smell of liquid propellant! The flying bloody shards of bone! Shamus killed, but, unlike his father, he never had to kill men. Times were different, men were different, but the beasts remained! Boom! The beast convulses! The hunter wins! But will Shamus ever be recognized the way his father was?
He knows he won't be! Muscles bulge and dark blood seeps into heavy gloves as Shamus pushes the dead drake on the conveyor belt, and the man knows he won't get praise for his days work! The viscous red fluid coats another layer on the lever as Shamus sends the meat down the line, and he knows that nobody cares but he. The reclamator whirs to life as the city would sprung to life for his father, yet nothing like that will ever happen to Shamus. Not naturally, at any rate.
“Your times will be different, boy,” said his father, a narrow smile stretching the canyons of wrinkles on his windswept face, “You will have my gun and likely my duster, but you won't hunt men and you won't be praised”. This might have not been the thing to say to younger Shamus, but his father was as frank as well known – and that was a great deal ,“It's the culmination of my work and the work of Fellows. Your world is different”.
That's why he left for Parts Unknown and that's why Shamus was making his way quickly down the streets. The people of this new world, Shamus' constituents, eloy given flesh, smiled and waved at him blissfully. Father knew he couldn't live in this world, not with the fire that lived in his heart and consumed so many, yet the hope was that Shamus could. And he did, for most part.
It was the reason why Father's gun was kept under wraps while in the city, a rule Shamus never broke but once. It was the reason why Shamus hid the goggles and the duster. His world didn't need hand-canons that risked shattering wrists and fired with an explosion that drowned out the biggest fight. It needed someone to think, feel and take care of things from time to time. And this was eating Shamus from the inside because he thought about taking care of things and felt bad because nobody cared.
The hololith came to life in his room, a purposefully sparse and archaic place in a city of soft colors, light surfaces and rounded corners. He sat in his drake leather chair and let the computer read the details of Simulation Alpharon.
“...unlikely event of three day long dispenser malfunction would make the constituents be 26% more aware of surroundings. In reaction to the hornbull break in – another unlikely event – they would remain motionless. It is extremely unlikely that this would provoke the hornbull to attack them. Again, an extremely unlikely set of circumstances...”
Unlikely, unlikely, unlikely. The computer couldn't judge intent, it was never meant to. It wouldn't dream of someone making a hornbull break a likely possibility. It wouldn't think that anyone would interfere with natural extremely shallow curve of dispenser failure.
It's not like someone wanted some recognition, for someone else to see the work they do. For someone – even an eloy – to see him as the one man who stood against the beast. A calm source of action against the backdrop of frozen terror. A tall figure in a duster that slew the beast. A hero who strikes with lightning and kills. Carve a name for himself just like his father did with his gun.
“You best hide it, Shamus, for they will be taught to fear it,” said the man who had a five score of spectres to his name yet never woke up screaming. Those were good words, yet sons don't always learn before it's too late. Three weeks did it take for the constituents to stop running away or worse, freezing in the street. Who knew they had such long memories? One even died trying to climb a tree to get away. And from what? From his father gun, holstered in the open while Shamus walked down the street.
And the hololiths gentle glow, that was the truth of it: it didn't matter what if he slew a hornbull – his flock would just see him as an another monster. Even is he wore his working whites, he would still be the beast with the gun. Hell, the crash of the one shot he'd need would probably stop a heart or two. The others... the others would spread terrified rumours, talk about it for weeks and months, hide till they starve, climb trees till they fall... Shamus' wards are really conditioned against violence.
Even if they weren't, his people aren't suited for praise. One of them paints a happy mural – all bright colors, tree, rabbits – and they congratulate him. Hooray, he painted a mural, it makes us happy, and being happy is good! So they smile little wider and hug a little longer, but it all stops in two weeks. Everyone returns to he status quo of playing in the streets, lounging in the pools and being happy. Such were the short lived heroics of their world, and the mural would be eventually cleaned up when Shamus got around to sending a robot.
At least they recognized Shamus when he went about his work, they were basically programmed to. Shamus meant that something that is wrong will be made right, and the eloys liked it when things were right. A clogged dispenser, missing paint, skipping music records – everything would be made better by Shamus' touch. It wasn't heaping praise and adoration, though he did get a rare amateurishly baked cupcake.
A gentle blip woke Shamus from his thoughts: some small things was amis with flock. His father made a name killing drakes, and hornbulls, and rip-reavers, and rift-raiders. Shamus' world was different and his fights were different. For now he was to wrestle a kite from a tree.
Sighing, Shamus stood up, wrapped himself in his work whites and turned to leave. A flick of the hand turned off the hololith, and computer saved the three-hundred-fifteenth iteration of the simulation.
|# ? May 10, 2015 19:41|
VERY BELATED RAVEN-OSAURUS BRAWL JUDGEMENT
Sorry, been kinda slow on this one. My life is all kinds of fun strange right now and I keep getting distracted. Anyway.
You both wrote Viking wizards who bring back the dead, with varying degrees of success. Multiple-winner Tyrannosaurus had better odds going into it, but it ended up being a lot closer than that. So, some thoughts.
RAVENKULT - NINE WOLVES
The more serious of the two pieces. As soon as I figured out it was a draugr, I was waiting for her to eat him. I always thought that was a cool piece of the lore- draugr eat the ones they love. That's a tangent though. Back onto the story, I feel like the plot makes excellent use of the wordcount, at the expense of description. Pacing's nice, arc works well, but I'm not sure I could picture any of the characters or the setting that well. I didn't even figure out it was supposed to be literal vikings until you brought up Lindisfarne. A little more time (both in description and action) with the characters and this would've been solid, especially the relationship between the wizard and his draugr. I'm now picturing you running into a giant wall that says "WORD COUNT" until your head is bloody, then cursing my name to the open sky. So be it.
A final note; you wrote 'planning' as 'planing' at some point. Always do an eye spell-check on top of the F7 one, as stuff like that can slip under the radar. Proofreading issues often a sink a story, but I'm willing to let a single one slide.
TYRANNOSAURUS- NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS
Seems to be going for the bittersweet/silly thing that Chairchucker and Merc sometimes manage to knock out of the park. Honestly, I'm not a fan of the dialogue. I could see a more modern way of speaking in a period piece, but that this modern. It helps to highlight the sweet relationship between the two characters, but it's also jarring and twee and ultimately damages the thing. This is called "The Juno Paradox". Dial it back a few notches and you'll hit gold.
Plotwise it's not as tight as Raven's; it has the emotional arc, but not a physical one as such. Also kinda lacking in physical description, which is surprising for you.
It's close. I felt like both stories had nice ideas but were a little thin on the ground. Both had strong characters, and managed to get a lot of information across in a limited space, but still not quite enough. Not bad stories by any stretch of the imagination, but could definitely use expansion. At the end of the day, one of you reminded me a lovely 2000s movie I hated and one of you didn't, so I'm giving it to Ravenkult.
|# ? May 10, 2015 21:51|
btw I'm probably going to be late this week. I would rather be DQed and lavish enough attention of the glory of Spain 2015 than half-rear end it to meet the deadline.
|# ? May 10, 2015 22:03|
Happy Mother's Day to the Thunderdome mothers...we have mothers on the 'dome, right?
|# ? May 10, 2015 23:05|
Happy Mother's Day to the Thunderdome mothers...we have mothers on the 'dome, right?
We're all a bunch of mothers.
|# ? May 10, 2015 23:39|
We're all a bunch of mothers.
Your mum's a mother!
|# ? May 10, 2015 23:44|
One Last Breath
I heard her breathing before I saw her, slow deep breaths in and out. I passed through the door and there she was, chained to a wooden post, inside an awry stone room. In the lungs breath, along a with tiny shrug, and the dim teal moonlight revealed tiny dots of sweat reflecting on her chest. Out the lungs exhale and she seemed relieved for brief moment, beneath the sweat, bruises, and red marks on a topless body. The smell of burned wood reached up to here, and the sound of a withering wind hadn’t stopped the entire day. It became evident through the dried blood that she had been beaten, by the chairmaker that brought her in. The chairmaker was like most of the village; peaceful, yet he knew how to hurt people he disliked.
This woman depended on me now, but she wasn’t my friend. She was brought in a few hours ago, intercepted her at the bridge about to leave the village.
She saw me, and she came alive with a gleaming chest.
“That mob stopped giving a poo poo; we need to do something, I’m begging you.” she said.
I hugged her, she feels joy for a moment, even if it hurt “That mob is my family, it’s my friends.”
“I know” she said.
A fire started and it burned down half of the center hall. Somebody got injured. They say she started the fire, so I instinctively I went for the one thing that made her get down to the point.
I pulled out a bottle of vodka, not a lot of it left, and popped the corkscrew open.
“I dont need it, I can get drunk without it” she said
“How?” he asked
“By talking to you” she responded, and in a toxic way we both laughed. “Give me a sip, I need to wash down the blood” I bought the bottle to her mouth with a great deal of difficulty. It wanst’ the nudity, she’s the only woman I’ve been this close before. Rather, seeing such a brutalized body disgusted me.
“You had problems long before I intruded “ I came closer to her this time, I smelled on her hair that strange aroma she always had. First time she came in to register for her home they didn't know what to think of it. A bitter-sweet creature she was, always talking of spoiled milk instead of strawberries. I was the only one to hear her, the only one to shelter her in the end.
“This people are not unknowing. I know they want to do good” I said.
“They’re a mass. I barked and your elders for being hypocrites.
“No, you did worse, you made noise and accusations against the town” she turned away at that as well.
“I know i’ve done wrong in the past, but I stand on that. They are dirty old men and women, don't’ believe them.” she turned her head away from me “But fraud and adultery cannot go unmocked, neither can their little wives continue propping up feuds.. I wanted them to know how wrong they were”
I paused, and she stared at me for a moment.
“Was it you?” I asks.
“I didn’t start anything, I packed and left the village after they told me to.” she says
I gave her another shot but the vodka was now ending. She was struggling to survive, I had to act with no pretense of knowledge or tolerance, I had to come to terms with her demise.
“I’ll admit,” she begun ”I’ll miss your voice, I’ll miss hugging you. Atleast you weren’t hostile.
They never realized it, did they?” She remained silent after that, and only stared at me.
I let the vodka down and I took hold of the chains. I pulled them even though I knew I couldn’t do anything. I lacked even the foresight to get her something to cover herself, at least withhold her confidence.
I sat down and begun the deep thinking. That wide open face of her’s told it all. She knew how non-existent her chances were, she was pleading for help. If I came to her defense atleast they would be willing to argue, but if I didn't do anything the trial would be short lived.
“I’ve always tried to make the situation better” I said.
"They called me a communist, a foreigner. Why didn't you tell them to be better than.” .
“You wont take pleasure to my words, I won’t be able to save you if I say why.”
“I am ready for every disappointment.“
I paused, and thought of the people I knew. We weren’t perfect or blameless, we never pretended to be that. But those that stirred trouble couldnt go unpunished, regardless of how right they were.
“I won't survive my family if I stand by you.”
She froze and sunk in.
“I’m alone in this prison then,” she said stately “You’re cowardly aren’t you?”
I nodded as I let her hand down.
She didn’t bother responding to that. She only blinked, and turned her head away to face the wall, the heavy breaths stopping. That motion send a cold shiver through me, and a terrible feeling creeped up on me as I put the vodka down. No, we didn't have childhood together, we only spend a few days on my home. Why did I sympathise with some radical.
I raised my hand and swallowed down the vodka as this terrible feeling of responsibility made me sweat. This was the first time I thought about what our elders did, they just wanted to feel young again. It left me staring back at her with bitterness.
“Don’t bother. I’m not afraid to die for what I believe in. Keep the vodka, its meant for people like you” is all she said to me, and behind me. I had left her in this hell now.
The footsteps of many people begun to be hearable. Murmurs followed, along with many other noises. They were here.
“I’ll be quick than. The fire won’t hurt me. Say goodbye to everybody I knew.”.
The door opened and a couple of people came, “Family before everything else…” she said, and I stood up as one of the long bearded Patriarchs approached her.
“I’ll let my last breath soon, I know,” she said to him.
“You are a parasite, but you’re content my child. We’ll give you your independence, I assure you.” she got unchained as the Patriarch begun praying, and she was brought topless through the group outside.
It was autumn. The wind scattered nightly leaves off the forest near the prison, as a silent group of people escorted a defeated outsider to her punishment. I tried to follow them but I slowed my pace down as they became distant to me. They and my surrounding felt like foreigners now. The people I loved fell for easy fulfilment and bad loves, regardless how illegal they were, and now they resorted to violence, just as she was. I gazed and sat through until they disappeared, but I couldn't move myself anymore.
I’m a coward.
Family before everything else? No, it wasn’t just the family, it was the whole village as well. This woman was sly, an outsider, unlearning and wild, but ultimately, she was right. She called out elderly hypocrites, she threw rice at weak bystanders, she disturbed people and in turn, they shouted at her from houses one by one until the town center told her to leave. Yet she was content with her reputation. She was content to get beaten by an angry people who believed she was out to hurt them.
A sudden gloom fell over me. The village was clean and the people were friendly, yet they saw traitors where patriots were. I grasped my fists, I frowned, I cried, and for a moment and I nearly fell down from a plunge into struggle, until the night’s cold got to my bones.
After that, after the smell of burned wood and the sight of broken glass, I wiped my face off with my hand and I begun to follow where the mob was going. We would survive this village,we would do with those that were corrupt.
The wind blew on autumn trees and laid them bare. The winter would strip them clean, but they would surely be blooming in spring.
|# ? May 10, 2015 23:45|
Contestants! Not quite four hours remain to complete your performances! Failure means keeping Jemini company in the land of nul points, forever.
|# ? May 11, 2015 00:15|
i won't be able to submit in time, mother's day weekend really complicated stuff. i promise to post my story about russian urban climbing & the granny cabal at some point.
|# ? May 11, 2015 00:50|
If you are reading this, then I have left. I am leaving for good. I am going to Austria, but most importantly, I am going away from you. I simply can not take your insanity any more. Yes. Your insanity. You are insane Mama.
You seem to get by. You have a career, I am sure. Although as your daughter of 19 years I feel like I should have some at least a vague idea of what it is that you do for a living. I don’t. Isn't that strange? I have no idea what you do for a living. I assume you do something, because you leave the house most days and we have food to eat and a place to live. I even had my own bedroom. Thank you for that at least. It let me stay far enough away from you that I could leave without feeling too bad.
Some of your crazy I could have dealt with. The meat candles, the cryptic whispers in the middle of the night “forever is never...” and the cloudy tea-juniper-soap mystery beverage you made me drink - all of those were at least tolerable.
The final straw was last weekend when you tried to set me up on a date. And then you decided to accompany us. Then you drove us. To an asphalt plant. I don’t care that it’s the nicest asphalt plant in all of Slovenia! When I asked you why you drove us, me and this guy who I've never met - Ignac, to the asphalt plant you just pulled out your flute and played it at me! What the hell were you thinking?
Also, I love how you made us get in the loving pit of sludge and swim around. I am sure that really impressed Ignac. Show him how loving gross I will get when my mom tells me to. You didn't tell me to bring a change of clothes either, but I noticed that you (who did NOT get in the sludge pit by the way) changed into your weird horse whipping suit while we were in the sludge pit. I had to throw away the clothes from that night. I guess I could have tried to wash them but as you may not be aware - our washing machine does not work. Remember how instead of getting it fixed you filled it with dirt and tried to grow a single stalk of corn in it? Yeah. I am so not going to miss you or your crazy.
So that guy you set me up with, Ignac? Gay. Super gay. Thanks mama. He did offer me some make up tips and asked if I was into stromming. I don’t know what that is. Needless to say, he hasn't called.
Mama, I am normal. I realize that you may not understand this, by capacity or willfulness one. I am leaving to have a normal life. I am going to get a job, and tell people what I do. I am going to answer their question not with a flute or dancing but with answers. I am not going to call or come home. I pawned all of your jewelry and have a enough money to make it for a while. I will not miss you. Do not try to find me.
|# ? May 11, 2015 01:13|
i won't be able to submit in time, mother's day weekend really complicated stuff. i promise to post my story about russian urban climbing & the granny cabal at some point.
If you submit within twenty-four hours of the original deadline, I'll critique your story with the rest. This goes for everyone. You won't be eligible to win, but you can still lose, and it's up to you to decide whether the feedback is worth the risk.
|# ? May 11, 2015 02:28|
Prompt: Moldova 2013
Flash rule: Embody the Moldovan spirit with pointy hats and over-the-top masculinity.)
A Million Things I Wish I Had Done
flerp fucked around with this message at 02:59 on Jul 27, 2015
|# ? May 11, 2015 03:22|
Love You While I'm Gone. 385 Words
"Wake up, Mr Jones. Wake up."
I heard the voice in the darkness, at the edge of my mind, but pushed it away. The voices weren't going to bother me today, here, at my bachelor party. No, I was going to enjoy myself, dead mad ghosts in my head or not. My wife was having a good time of her own, at the other speakeasy. We had... made an arrangement. The last time it wouldn't be adultery.
She was beautiful, the prostitute. A young and boxom woman, full of grace and life. My best man had chosen well. She danced like an angel. I ordered another shot of moonshine, and danced a little closer.
"It is an established fact that after two weeks, the likelihood of recovery in these situations becomes increasingly unlikely. You hear of those stories, of the two months, two years, two decades - they are very much the exception, and we must be realistic when dealing with the emotions and expectations of family members."
Shut up, I told the voice. She wore the flapper style, but it didn't match her. My wife-to-be was fashionable, she was thin and wore those neat little dresses. But that's the style today, but that's not what I liked, not really. No, I liked them Rubinesque - curvacous. And this woman had the curves to fit my taste.
"I'm sorry, Mike. I can't wait anymore. I can't... hold onto this false hope. We never talked about it, never really established what you would have wanted. But I'm guessing it wasn't this. But... I'm not going to lie to myself. I'm not doing this for you."
She led me into the back. I followed like a puppy, eager and expectant. She placed a small bit of opium on the night stand. She lit it and I let the warm fuzzy fill up my body. It felt like I was slowing losing the connections between my fingers and my brain. The booze and the music and the scent of a woman mixed with the black tar to create an amazing sensation. The last night of freedom - it was our agreement.
"No, he won't suffer. He'll just... fade away. After we remove the life support, things will take their natural course."
The orgasm was amazing, and I drifted off into a gentle, lovely sleep.
|# ? May 11, 2015 03:36|
THIS IS schneiderheim's STORY, NOT MINE. HE HAS A DUMB JOB WITH DUMB INTERNET.
The Final Siege of the Black Steel Castle!
Jasper woke up in the midst of two figures peering down at him.
"Hey, I'm not dead," he said, until the pain in his chest pressed down. His pendant fell to the side, heavy to touch.
"You were lucky," Agatha said, picking up the pendant. "This stopped the bullet from reaching your heart."
"I told you to bring the energy shield," Bernard said.
"Help me up," Jasper said. His two scientist friends lifted him to a sitting position. Jasper looked around. The building was in ruins, and the only intact part was the floor he was lying on.
Above their heads, the battle raged. Variant Fighters fought the Black Steel Castle's drones up in the air. The cloudless sky was bathed in sickly orange, petrochemical fumes further killing the ailing planet.
"My brother?" Jasper asked.
"In the Black Steel Castle," Agatha said. "He's controlling it, trying to ascend to satellite orbit.
"After which he'll be invincible," Bernard said. "The world's throwing all its VF squadrons, but it might not be enough."
"I'll stop him," Jasper said.
"We're grounded," Bernard said.
"You can use my jetpack," Agatha said.
"Really? You've never let anyone use it."
"It's now or never."
"Let's get to my jeep," Bernard said.
Bernard's Atomic Jeep was, like many of his creations, nigh-indestructible. They drove through the shattered landscape, 4x4 wheels skillfully navigating the roadless ground.
The battle raged on the ground. Black Steel Automatons fanned out of the Castle's perimeter, mercilessly firing laser rifles to anything that went near.
"So is your jeep immune to lasers?" Jasper asked.
"Only one way to find out!" Bernard said.
"Boys," Agatha muttered, leaning out the door and firing a bazooka. The rocket-propelled distortion grenade sauntered into a clump of Automatons, expanding into a mini-singularity.
"I didn't know you finished that prototype," Bernard said.
Agatha smiled. "Now I do. That was its first field-test."
"You mean you fired the RPDG even if you didn't know it could crush us as well?" Jasper said.
"Learn to live a little, will you?"
"I'm turning on the thrusters," Bernard said. He aimed the jeep to a small ramp and gunned the accelerator. Rocket thrusters activated, bringing the jeep into a crash course with the august wall of the Castle.
"All I need to do is jump, right?" Jasper said.
"You've seen me do it a hundred times," Agatha said. "Just do it. Either you soar or we're all dead."
"That's not encouraging at all," Jasper said. "Full--"
Bernard tugged Jasper down. "Save the world, man," he said. "And thanks for saving my life in the first place."
Jasper made a mock salute and jumped. The jetpack sprang to life, folding down aerodynamic wings to smoothen flight. Jasper went straight to the roof, where his brother would be. He landed, disengaged the jetpack, and rolled forward.
Richard sat on a throne, looking at the blighted sky with a despondent stare. He started on Jasper's landing.
"Ah, brother. How nice of you to join me."
"Is this what you were planning from the beginning?" Jasper said. "To take control of this ancient fortress and use it for your nefarious ends?"
Richard stood up, a machine pistol aimed at his younger brother. It barked sharply, and Jasper threw himself to the ground as the volley of bullets scratched the floor.
"Energy shield?" Agatha asked. "You sure you don't need one?"
"I don't," Jasper said. He breathed in, channeled the lost techniques of the Strongest Fist. With a punch, he deflected the very air caused by the Castle, throwing them off and interfering with Richard's weapon.
The older brother casually removed the magazine from the gun and exchanged a new one. Jasper didn't let him. His punch smashed the machine pistol into pieces. Richard pulled out his revolver and pulled off six shots.
Jasper's foot caught Richard in the stomach, kicking him off the walls.
"Fly!" Richard said. The silhouette of a mech towered over him, catching him inside the cockpit before it shut and the eyes glowered red. The Black Steel Colossus hovered above, its eyes glowing. Jasper leaped out of the way as its eye beams traced red-hot lines on the floor.
Jasper snapped his fingers and yelled, "Come! Burning Red Warrior!"
A lone spark in the misbegotten sky became a red giant as the Burning Red Warrior swooped in. Its chest tractor beam found Jasper and translocated him into the cockpit. The nano-mesh suit that Jasper wore underneath his clothes activated, and his movement was reflected on a gigantic scale.
The Burning Red Warrior took a stance, its fists giving justice to its name. "I regret it has come to this, brother."
"Do you?" Richard sneered. "Have you forgotten that we once shared the same master? I have all techniques of the Strongest Fist as well!" The Black Steel Colossus sank into the most impregnable stance of the Strongest Fist, Turtle Ancestor's Grave. "It's over, little brother."
"Not all, Richard," Jasper said. "For I've come up with the first new technique in its two-thousand-year history."
A gigantic metal fist cut through the space between them.
"What the--" Jasper started.
"We made it for you, Jasper!" Agatha's voice came in, having sought shelter in the ruins of DOME Base. "Dock with it!"
The Burning Red Warrior raised its hand and the mobile weapon docked with it, forming a bigger, hotter fist. Crimson flames ignited the very air around them.
"Jasper, the Super Heat Knuckle only has an operational time of one minute. Defeat your brother and save the world from extinction!" Bernard said.
"One minute is all I need." The Burning Red Warrior soared into the air and crashed down on the Black Steel Colossus fist-first. The floor shook from the impact, but the Black Steel Castle was made as humanity's mobile fortress for apocalypse-level events. Not even the first Giant Fighter could dent it easily.
"How could you be so strong?" Richard said, wheezing from the effort.
Jasper smiled. "I never let my heart grow old, brother."
"Nonsense! This world has gone to poo poo. We should be rid of it; rid of everything! I won't allow humanity's taint to spread across the cosmos!"
"You've been brainwashed by aliens, Richard! Remember who you are! My brother Richard, who gave me his ice cream when mine fell on the bench fifteen years ago!"
"What was the flavor?"
"Wrong! It was Cookies and Cream!"
A single tear slid down Jasper's right eye. "Then you are truly lost, big brother. Give me more power, Bernard!"
"If we give the Super Heat Knuckle more power, you'll die too, Jasper!" Agatha said.
"If that's what it takes to bury this fortress..."
Jasper heard Bernard's sigh through the channel. "Power to one-hundred and fifty percent."
"I won't let you!" Richard yelled. The Black Steel Colossus widened its stance, even as its hands started to melt from the heat.
The flying fortress burst into flames. Sections melted and peeled off, and the Black Steel Castle started to disintegrate.
"Surrender, Richard, please," Jasper said, the heat inside the cockpit rapidly increasing, its shielding unable to contain the extra power.
"Never!" The Black Steel Colossus opened all its missile ports. Before they could fire, the heat detonated them all. Pieces of Richard's mech scattered over the clouds below.
Smiling sadly, before he drew his last breath, Jasper punched the floor one last time.
Richard woke up in the midst of two figures peering down at him.
"So you survived," a deep voice said. Richard thought he remembered that voice from somewhere.
"What shall we do with him, master? I can end his suffering in a moment," a softer voice said, full of eagerness to do violence. Richard saw an arm draw back, fingers stiffened for a hand-thrust.
"No." The man stayed the woman's hand.
"What happened to me?" Richard asked.
"You killed your brother," the man said. "Now you must bear the weight of your sin."
"How do I atone?"
The man stood in the moonlight, revealing his grizzled features. "Train with us. We don't have much time until they come back."
"Help me up," Richard said, "master."
|# ? May 11, 2015 03:41|
It’s Not Always A Serpent That Makes You Sin
1400 words + 77 from Week 100
Tyrannosaurus fucked around with this message at 03:20 on Jan 8, 2016
|# ? May 11, 2015 03:43|
Barnaby Profane fucked around with this message at 19:17 on Dec 30, 2015
|# ? May 11, 2015 03:46|
Tiny Edible Things
It took four orderlies groaning and cursing to lift the man onto his cot. He didn’t look like a soldier. His swollen belly strained against a Belgian tunic, and the rest of his uniform had been cobbled together from others: drawstring breeches with mended knees, one boot French and the other German, hobnailed and stuffed with rags until it fit.
He’d come in with the last batch of wounded, men drowning in the fluids of their own blistered lungs. The sound of their breathing is like steam pipes bursting.
Albert frowned. The man hadn’t been exposed to any gas. He was blind; the flesh above his nose was a valley of clotted scar tissue, smooth and raw-looking. An old wound. No one recognized him. Albert addressed him in French, but the man said nothing. He tried Belgian, scraps of German and English, but the man only cocked his head.
Things went missing. Field dressings. Boot laces. Forceps. A box of syringe barrels. The blind man was eating them. Orderlies snuck him what they could, made a nightly spectacle of it, placed bets. He would eat anything, they said. Once, a newborn rat—delicate skull crushed between teeth, wrinkled pink flesh torn from bone.
The man sat hunched on his cot like a stuffed doll, ankles crossed and small hands folded in his lap. The entire ward stunk of blood and poo poo. Albert watched a black fly butting against the window. He did not like to be alone with him. He had a vision, a rising premonition, of the man turning to look at him with those puckered sockets. Catching him staring. Visiting the blind man made him afraid, the way a child, after being burned, comes to fear the pale blue glow of the stovetop flame.
Things went missing. Fingers and toes and shattered bone meant for incineration.
The man did not look up. His lips parted. He spoke slowly, in flawless, unaccented French. “I want to eat it all up,” he said. “All of it. Swallow it up.” A milky slug of drool formed at the corner of his mouth. The smell of his breath was syrupy, rotten, like perfumed meat.
At night, when he could not sleep, Albert imagined that he was only a head, creeping low across the ground. Tangled roots, smear of blood in the grass. He opened his mouth, his jaws unhinging and spreading impossibly wide. Clods of earth tumbled in. Black rivers of mud sluiced between his teeth. Men in dingy uniforms disappeared into his gullet, trailing concertina wire like the tails of comets. So many dead men.
He could feel the weight of them against his tongue. He was a swelling mass, scooping deeper, burrowing beneath the crust of the earth, until the imagined pressure of the soil above finally overcame him and lulled him to sleep.
|# ? May 11, 2015 03:48|
New Year, new thread!
Killer-of-Lawyers fucked around with this message at 17:50 on Jan 4, 2016
|# ? May 11, 2015 03:49|
Mr. War Criminal
Word Count: 1393
Country: Azerbaijan, "Hour of the wolf", Elnur Huseynov
Coming back for the night shift, Tiff was escorted to her usual place in the hall by the bodyguard on duty. Her employer sat in his chromed easy chair in the living room, feet tangled on top of the ottoman, boots still on. The spotlights outside the window cast shadows from the hairs on his chest and produced the illusion of thick fur. The smell of the room pressed itself into her mouth and nostrils, thick like pudding, pungent like old soil. A pipe rested in his hand on the arm of the chair, just about to drop. Around the corner, against a wall Tiff couldn't see, the pianist was finishing his last piece for the night.
It was a slow song, ruinously slow, and it dragged so that it was almost impossible to count. His fingers lumbered over the keys, and she felt the drum inside her ear twitch at the dissonance. Kendra came with a cold glass, early as always, and filled it with strawberry. She kept her eyes down as she walked back to the kitchen, and that brought Tiff's eyes down.
The fingers on keys finished abruptly, with a plunk from the left hand. The stool scooted smoothly over the polished floor, and their employer released the cloud of smoke he had been holding through his nose. Shoes tapped toward her, quickly but not hurrying. The pianist was dressed in a white knit shirt and pressed pants. As he passed, he dropped something into Tiff's glass. He left without turning, his shift over.
Tiff stared at the door, trying to pull him back through it with her gaze. The air started sizzling, and her eyebrows came together. She looked at the glass, where bubbles had started pouring from the center of the surface of the pinky liquid. She looked quickly across to her counterpart with the whole, a new woman tonight: Nora took Thursday nights off. The new woman had short hair that flared away from her face, and she had noticed nothing.
The sizzling died off, and Tiff wondered if she should do something.
Her employer raised one booted foot from the ottoman, then the other, and let both drop to the floor. He rose from the chromed chair chest-first, as though someone had stuck a hook behind his ribcage, and walked directly and gracelessly toward his room. As he stuck out his left hand for the whole in the other woman's hands, Tiff opened her mouth to say something, and he raised a finger, anticipating her.
"Leave it," he murmured, and walked behind his door, kicking it closed.
The other girl looked perplexed, but didn't dare breach her contract by speaking. Kendra entered again, eyes flashing hotly at Tiff, and she refilled the whole and left. The new girl wouldn't take her eyes off the glass, and so Tiff lowered her own eyes to her own glass.
It was three-fifteen when they cut the spotlights shining at the window. There was no commotion, no word from the ground level guards. It was probably a malfunction, the way the bulbs had flickered. They checked the dimmer.
Segmented thumps, like a stack of boxes toppling to the carpeted ground, came from the other side of the door. The door opened, and Tiff saw all three hundred pounds of bodyguard collapsed at the foot of the framed painting adorning the entrance wall. A pair of white patent-leather loafers stepped over the guard's boots. The man casually coming through the threshold came to maybe five feet. His black polyester windbreaker rustled against his white khakis as he shoved his hands into the pockets. He looked first at the new girl, then to Tiff. Behind him followed Nora, Tiff's fellow employee, in a black knit cap.
"Extravagance. Wasteful." Tiff has never heard Nora speak. She realizes this now, because her voice commands, with a smoker's rasp, that attention be paid.
"I'll get the Big Boss, shall I?" The little man scooted away in the direction of the bedroom. Nora indicated that Tiff and the other woman convene with Kendra in the kitchen. Tiff took her tainted strawberry in with her. Kendra was backing away when she saw Nora, and reversed tack. "Nora, what the gently caress is going on? What are you doing here?" Nora held up a gloved hand, and something crackled and sparked in the center of her palm. For a second, the air was a razor's edge scraping across skin. Kendra backed away, eyebrows squeezing together and hands out as if she were still deciding whether to fling herself toward Nora or the door.
Mr. White Loafers pulled their employer into the kitchen by the arm. He didn't struggle. He allowed himself to be positioned by the refrigerator, next to his employees. Nora aimed her glove, which Tiff now noticed had wires running up the shirtsleeve, in the direction of their employer. She removed a device from a zippered pocket and held it near her jaw.
"Thursday, Nine April, two thousand fifteen, just past three hundred hours. Target Ruslan Canavar, codename Mitzi, has been apprehended without the use of excessive force or ballistic weaponry. Agents Kilpatrick and Middeke on point. No casualties. Transferring to vehicle." She clicked the device off and missed putting it in her pocket. As she turned slightly and fiddled, the new milk girl made a lunge, running for the door. The short man caught her about the waist and flung her to the ground. Unnoticed, Ruslan Canavar, codename Mitzi, quietly took the glass of strawberry from its place on the counter and poured it from Nora's knit cap down her back and onto her face. Smoke poured from her body, and a sound like train wheels grinding in full stop against the rusted tracks burst from her mouth. She stumbled across the room and rammed into the refrigerator. Her counterpart ran to her, pulling a metal tube from his jacket and extending it into a baton. "Cut that poo poo now, you fuckin-- lame-rear end! I'll come for you! There's a squad on the way?" He was shouting, but his voice broke upward on the last vowel. His baton drew uncertain lines in the air.
Ruslan pulled a gun from the drawer next to the sink and tilted it casually in Tiff's direction.
"Do you know how much I pay these people?"
White Loafers panted through his teeth in response.
"I mean, you must. I was paying Agent Kilpatrick." Nora appeared to have passed out from the pain. The air smelled like a meat packing plant.
"They warm my milk with their bodies. They stand all night so that I have something to put me to sleep when my paranoia wakes me up in fits every half hour. This one even seems to enjoy it." He met Tiff's eyes with his for the very first time, and she was warmed by the crinkles at the edges, in spite of the situation. "These people are my very favorite people in the world. You threatened them. You hurt them. And you destroyed my trust in them."
He leveled the gun at Agent Middeke's head.
"The two of you get out of here. Take Tiff here with you."
Middeke didn't move at first. He made a show of eying Ruslan down, then pulling Nora or whatever her real name was over his shoulder. This proved a little difficult for him, however, and Ruslan waved Tiff over with a look that made plain his disdain for ineptitude. Tiff took the rest of Nora's weight on her shoulder, and the three of them shuffled to the door.
Halfway down the hallway, Tiff made a decision. She dropped down a little, putting most of Nora's weight on him, and pulled at his windbreaker, wresting after a few seconds the baton from the side pocket. She gave Nora a huge shove, and drove the three of them through the metal door leading to the stairs. She extended the baton into the small man's stomach, and he tumbled down the stairs stiff as a two by four. She let Nora roll down after.
Tiff opened the door with her whole body, and stood mirroring her employer standing in the doorway.
Air escaped from her nose, and she looked out the window behind him at the city, her home since birth.
She asked, "Where are we running?"
|# ? May 11, 2015 03:51|
This one is mine
A Probabilistic Route to Happiness
crabrock fucked around with this message at 14:25 on Dec 31, 2015
|# ? May 11, 2015 03:54|
It was 1985 in Bend, Oregon. Chris Shingle was in his senior year of high school--for Chris that basically translated to four years of extended shop and metal working classes--and totally, completely in love with Lacy Gerhardt. Chris had a big, blocky head and a face that hadn’t quite sorted itself out, which was probably why he felt more comfortable with power tools than conversation. Lacy got perfect grades, did all the extra credit, and was one of those helplessly likeable bookworm types. Chris resigned himself to watching expressionlessly from a distance until, through some oversight in scheduling, Lacy got put in shop class for her last senior elective.
Chris taught her how to use a tablesaw, and admitted he liked to watch the sparrows bathe in the school fountain. Lacy taught him phrases in Tolkien elvish, and confessed she always wished she’d been born an elf. Then they graduated, and Lacy got a boyfriend, and things went as these things tend to go.
Forty years later, Chris burped and settled deeper into the rubbery nest of his lawn chair. He scratched his loose, droopy belly through the fabric of his hiked-up sweatpants. There was a slight clink-clink of jangling metal in his pocket. If you’d asked him twenty years before, he’d have told you he would kill himself before he left the house in sweatpants pulled up to his ribs. But drat if didn’t keep all his bits tucked in, while leaving plenty of room for his guts to do their digestive contortions.
It was just after sundown on the 4th of July, and the crowd around him was thickening as people spread blankets and opened bottles of wine. Little kids waved blinding, crackling sparklers in the air, so that every time Chris blinked, the insides of his eyelids were covered in neon-green cursive afterimages. The high school baseball field had been temporarily repurposed as a fireworks viewing area, and everywhere he looked, Chris saw the white-blue glow of tablets and the winking LEDs of eye-modules. Kids in their GIF-wear. And yet the smell was the same; cut grass and a hint of skunkweed from a nearby swamp. The old concession stand looked the same, though surely it’d been refurbished since he graduated.
Then he saw Lacy. She was wheelchair-bound, and grimaced as some young niece pushed her over the uneven grass. Her hair was long and white and wild. It glinted silver under the field lights for a moment, and then she disappeared behind a curtain of teen girls in fluttering summer dresses.
Chris reminded himself to breathe again. He thumbed the two small metal pieces in his pocket. The last two things he’d been able to coax his hands to create before arthritis leached all the elegance from his fingers. There were no guarantees he’d have another chance like this one. But what if she was with her husband? Feh, Chris thought. They were all too old for jealousy, anyhow, both he and Lacy’s hypothetical husband.
He huffed and puffed and grunted and farted his way out of his chair. Every joint in his body complained that this sort of exertion was not on the schedule, that they’d been slotted for at least twenty more minutes of down time. Chris hitched up his sweatpants and set out.
The field lights went down and the music came up. Some orchestral number that Chris recognized as the theme song from some recent action blockbuster movie, bouncy and urgent and melodramatic. Without the stadium lights, the field was a black sea of white-blue and white-yellow stars and half-lit faces. Chris was a blind old eel in a sea of neon fish. He set his eyes on a fixed point near where he’d seen Lacy disappear and shuffled upstream against the throng.
The first fireworks blossomed into sparkling, melting dahlias in the sky. The crowd was bathed in high contrast pink light and black shadow for a moment before darkness settled back in like the tide filling a hole in the sand. Chris saw neon grey-blue afterimages instead of outstretched legs and picnic baskets. The toe of his birkenstock sandal caught the edge of some anonymous picnic accouterment and he pitched chest-first onto the ground.
BOOM! The next volley exploded with a crackle. The crowd cheered. All faces were tilted up toward the show. Chris wheezed; the fall had taken the wind out of him, and there was a breathless moment where he wasn’t sure he was going to get it back. He put braced both hands against the earth and pushed. At first, nothing happened. His arms were as useless as two particularly al dente noodles. But Lacy could be anywhere. He had to get to her before the end of the show, before it was too late to do what he should’ve done way back in high school shop class.
Chris got to his feet, slow and purposeful like some great standing stone being raised. He patted his pocket to make sure the two delicate metal ornaments were still inside, then set off at a jog--more of a trot, but he told himself he was jogging to stay stout of heart--through the delirium of shadow and sound and limbs.
He’d wait for the light of the fireworks--Boom! Crackle! Hiss!--and pick up the pace when he could see. In between volleys, it was blind luck that he didn’t take another fall. He could hear the wind rushing past his ears and pushed faster, pumping his arms and legs more vigorously than they’d moved in decades.
His breath was coming in thick, wet, raspy gulps when he found Lacy, who was face down in the grass near her overturned wheelchair. The young niece was shaking the old woman’s shoulder pleading, “auntie! Auntie! I’m so sorry, I couldn’t see to hole! I’m sorry!”
Chris dropped to the ground behind Lacy, gripped her niece’s upper arm in his knobby fingers. “What happened? Lacy!”
And just as the whole scene was getting really dramatic and the show was ramping up toward the blinding grand finale, two aid workers with MEDIC written across the fronts of their shirts shouldered through the crowd. They knelt down beside Lacy, whose white-grey hair was fanned out across her back like a gleaming river delta, and shone their heavy duty flashlights at her.
Chris could have died when Lacy picked her head up off the ground and looked around. The peered up at Chris, eyes all at once glazed over and lucid.
“But you’re not my prom date,” she said to Chris.
“We’re gonna need a stretcher in left field,” one of the aid workers said into his radio while his partner knelt beside Lacy and asked her about her breathing, if she was in any pain, if she could move her legs.
“But Levi is my prom date,” Lacy said to the aid worker. “Chris never asked me, why is he…?” She tried to sit up, but the aid worker pressed a gentle hand into her back.
“There’s a stretcher en route,” he said in an even, pleasant voice. “We’re gonna get you all gussied up and back out on the dance floor, young miss, don’t you worry.”
Chris sensed his chance slipping away. He jammed his hand into his pocket and pulled out the two trinkets that represented his most delicate work: a pair of ornate, tapering silver elf ears designed with small cuffs to secure them to Lacy’s ears. He held them out in his open palm, so the metal caught the dancing, elastic light of the last fireworks.
“I never did learn elvish,” Chris said. “But I always thought you belonged in one of those Tolkien stories.”
Lacy looked between him and the ornate ears. Chris’s heart hung suspended between beats; did she even remember that she’d loved elvish, and spent hours trying to teach Chris to love it, too? Did she remember the heavy-browed boy who’d taught her not to saw against the grain?
But then a slow, impish smile broadened her round, welcoming features, and a twinkle that had nothing to do with fireworks sparkled in her eyes.
She took the silver ears and said, “Diola lle, Christopher.”
Their hands touched and then parted, and then Lacy was rolled carefully onto the stretcher, and Chris was left sitting wet-bummed in the grass with Lacy’s despondent niece, but his chest was full and hale as though he were still the same seventeen year old boy he’d been when Lacy first melted his heart with her smile.
|# ? May 11, 2015 05:00|
Submissions for Week CXLIV: Doming Lasha Tumbai are now CLOSED!
Though I dawdled in hopes of seeing more Eurovision acts, it's time to face the truth: Cpt. Mahatma Gandhi, Wangless Wonder, Ironic Twist, Bompacho, and newtestleper have not made it past the semi-finals. In fact, they never even made it to the semi-finals. Did they have too much Austrian beer? SurreptitiousMuffin has been delayed, but hope remains he will appear on the stage eventually. SadisTech, you are the heartbreaker of the evening. Choosing the cleansing fire of over Jedward. For shame. You have two hours' leeway before I call Security.
In the meanwhile, let's have some Audience Participation!
The call for crits from all corners was so successful in Wizard Week that I'm going to try it too. The real fun of Eurovision is dishing about the performances! Why not read a few stories and share a few thoughts while you wait for results?
|# ? May 11, 2015 05:16|
I will do 5 crits this week. First come, first served. Quote this post if you want one. I'll try to have them done by the end of the day tomorrow.
edit: I'd really really like if the people I crit give at least one crit! I was super impressed with you bastards during wizard week. Don't let me down.
Sitting Here fucked around with this message at 06:28 on May 11, 2015
|# ? May 11, 2015 06:22|
|# ? May 23, 2022 14:05|
I will do 5 crits this week. First come, first served. Quote this post if you want one. I'll try to have them done by the end of the day tomorrow.
|# ? May 11, 2015 06:31|